You found me (not that I've been hiding) and, yes, I realize this page was built in Blogger, but I'm really not using it as a blog. Occasionally, I'll post a note in the space below, but not too often.

However, I do blog regularly and invite you to check it out. If you're looking for me, I'm probably logged in to Facebook right now. I also tweet a lot.

Twitter is where I make most of my noise...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How to lose my business in 10 minutes or less....

I've been getting swamped by advertising proposals lately. One quick way sales reps dig themselves into a deep hole is by including our logo in the proposal. It's not that they lifted the logo from our website that annoys me, it's the fact that they stretch it to fit a space in the document but fail to maintain the proper dimensions.

If you can't get my logo right in the presentation you're sending to me, how I can be certain that you'll be able to look after the integrity of my brand when exposing it to complete strangers?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Beer and BBQ...

In case you're wondering why I don't post here very often, it's not because I'm not blogging. On the contrary... since August, I've been putting the majority of my blog efforts (and liver function) into developing another project, Hops & Hickory.

It's taken awhile to add content, mostly because each post requires a bit of 'research'. However, now that it's starting to achieve critical mass, I'm ready to share it.

So, if you enjoy good beer and barbecue like I do, I encourage you to check it out. I'm always making tweaks, and suggestions are always welcomed.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Taxed

Recently, a handful of my friends became fans of a Facebook page advocating the revocation of the tax-exempt status of churches if they engage in political action. I challenged one of them on it, and after an initial dismissal and subsequent goading, we actually had a reasonable debate (although much of it focused on business taxes). He made some good points, but I'm still adamant that using taxation to silence politically-active churches sets us down a dangerous path.

I should preface all of this by saying that I neither belong to a church nor provide financial support of one, making my position purely one of principal. Taxing them puts no strain on me whatsoever, as I don't have a turtle in this fight.

That said, here are my reasons for thinking it's a horrible idea:

1) A lot of very good non-profits (particularly those in the health field) are heavily involved in political action. If you start taxing churches, you might as well tax them, too.

1a) Political action could become tough to define. Does lobbying against stem cell research make a church subject to taxation? If so, then does lobbying in favor of it also make the Alzheimer's Association subject to taxation?

1b) What about schools? When professors engage in politically-charged blathering, should the institution get a tax bill?

2) The idea could be viewed as racist; inner-city churches have long been a hotbed for political activity.
Churches act as a rallying point within minority communities.  

3) Taxation shifts power, giving influence to affluence. Poorer churches would be forced into silence while those with financial backing can afford to have a voice. Imagine a community where a political issue is divided along income lines (a stretch, I know). Under the threat of taxation, the churches in the affluent community can weigh in on the issue (creating the perception of widespread support for their side) while essentially sending the message to the poorer churches, "go ahead, say something (and face financial consequences)". The civil rights movement would have been bullied into non-existence.

4) Either tax them all or don't tax them at all. Otherwise, you put the government in a position of monitoring the activities of religious groups (I told him, he can break that news to the Muslims). Enforcement of an if-then policy requires monitoring, and is subject to interpretation, the combination of which leads to intimidation, which leads to persecution. It would get ugly, fast.

5) I really don't support taxing organizations or businesses, anyway, which set off a secondary debate that I'd love elaborate on in another post.

If you use taxation to keep churches from engaging in politics,you run the risk of giving the government a workaround to the First Amendment. Selective enforcement could very well be used to shape which religious viewpoints are 'acceptable' and which aren't.

And that is a very dangerous path for this country to tread down. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Plight of the Inter-Office Envelope

Today, while sending out a pile documents, I couldn't help taking notice of some of the horrible things my coworkers do to inter-office envelopes, the unappreciated workhorse of corporate communications. Actually, I can't blame my coworkers specifically, since I've witnessed the same abuses in other companies.

Anyway, the entire concept of the inter-office envelope is fairly simple. It's covered with lines, where you write down the name and department of the recipient, insert your document, then tie it shut with a little string fastener. The next person is expected to cross off their name, and then re-use the envelope in the same manner as the first. If you get an envelope where your name is filling the last spot, throw it out (or recycle it, if that's an accepted material).

Simple, right? Apparently not.

Today alone, I saw the following:

  • Envelopes that were stapled shut instead of tied, making them difficult to open, often to the point of rendering them nearly un-reusable.
  • Envelopes that were severly torn, probably by someone trying to open it through staples.  Yet, somehow not torn enough for the last recipient to discard.
  • Envelopes that were completely filled, and therefore useless.
  • The worst is probably the person who took up the entire envelope writing out one oversized address.

Honestly, I don't think I saw a single envelope that was used the way it was intended.  

I wonder, is there anything that gets less respect than the lowly inter-office envelope?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Not so golden opportuity

I'm amused by all of the "buy gold" commercials I'm seeing on TV lately. They're everywhere!

I have to laugh. If gold is at an all time high, it's not time to buy, it's time to sell. The reason they're advertising isn't because gold is a good investment for you, they're advertising because now is the right time for them to dump it on you and turn a profit.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What are the Odds?

I got a good chuckle out of an article in this morning's News & Observer Lottery player gets 2 identical tickets, protests). According to the N&O, a lottery player became upset because she bought quick picks on the Pick 3 game, and received two identical tickets.

I find it amusing. She thinks it improbable that the two randomly-generated tickets could be the same but plays because she thinks she just might have a chance to win. Anyone with a basic understanding of probability should know that the odds of the next random ticket being identical to the first are exactly the same as the first ticket's odds of winning.

All Hail the Math Tax.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

One Step Closer to Freedom

The title for Alison's car arrived this week along with a small refund for overpaying what was left on the loan with GMAC. That's one more debt retired!

Currently, we're without a car loan or any credit card debt, having focused on knocking out one after another. That just leaves the mortgage and 3 student loans standing between us and debt-freedom.

Hate Walmart? Shut Up and Work Toward Something Better

I'm tired of hearing people bitch about Walmart. I fully support their right to go with whatever business model they think works best for them. Personally, I hate the place. I don't shop there because out of their service, prices, products, store atmosphere and the convenience of their locations, not a single one of those elements is attractive enough for me to be willing to accept an inferior level of the others. I don't complain about it, I take my business elsewhere.

If you choose to do business with them in any capacity, that's your choice. If you don't like it, choose something else. Exercise your options, and if you don't like the options you have, work to create more.

The Walmart Experience is the sum of what is universally, minimally acceptable by the company, its employees, its suppliers and its customers. People shop there because there is something about one or more factors of the experience that makes Walmart more attractive to them than any of other options available. People work there for the same reason. Walmart's management makes business decisions because each decision is better for the company than any other choice the company has. Vendors do business with them because its a source of revenue they've determined they can't do without.

No one is required to shop there. No one is forced to work there. No one is obligated to supply them. If you think you have no other options, you need to re-evaluate your own situation and make changes in your life or your business to create more options and opportunities that work for you.

Here's a challenge... if you don't like Walmart, make Walmart Avoidance a motivator. Strive to improve your own situation and reevaluate your consumer priorities so you don't feel the need to shop there. Keep building your job skills and become the kind of employee that doesn't have to work there. Continually work toward developing quality products that consumers want and retailers want to carry, so that you can capitalize on that demand and dictate terms of vendor agreements that are more favorable to you. Focus on a factor of the shopping experience where you can blow Walmart out of the water and attract away customers who value that one factor more than anything else Walmart can provide. Reward good competitors by not only doing business with them, but by referring business to them.

If we can channel all of the negativity toward Walmart and turn it into self-serving positives, we can create an economic force much bigger and more powerful than Walmart can ever hope to be. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Misguided outrage and missed opportunities

Does it matter that the President wants to address the students of the nation?

Don't spend too long thinking about it. The answer is no.

No, what matters is what he says. What matters is how your kids' teachers handle it. What matters most is what YOU do.

Will you, too, listen to the speech and point out to your children where you disagree with Obama, and why?

Will you engage your children in conversation to find out what goes on in their scholastic lives, what their teachers discussed? Will you point out what was only opinion and assure them that it perfectly OK to disagree?

Will you take the President and teachers to task and hold them accountable for presenting as fact what isn't?

Will you also build your own credibility by pointing out that, despite your disagreement on his positions, there are points where he was correct or where your opinions are aligned?

Will you teach your children to gather facts and not rely soley on the opinions of others or information that is spoon-fed to them by the authority figures in their lives?

Will you, regardless of your own political leanings, teach your children to think for themselves, even if it means they might form an opinion that differs from your own?

Will you teach them not to stifle the free thoughts of others?

If not, you're missing an incredible opportunity.

-- via BlogPress


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cats Should Come with a Snooze Button

Seriously. Cats need a snooze button.

Ours like to get up exactly 30 minutes before the alarm goes off. Not a problem in itself, but they don't just wake up and putter off to be cute while waiting for us to wake up. No, they're noisy. Abby in particular likes to shake the blinds, knock things onto the floor, chase the other cat, Scarlet, and paw at the edge of the bed in such a way that it not only makes a loud, FLICK, FLICK, FLICK noise, you also feel it.

I'm certain it's on purpose. When the rest of the 6 a.m. symphony fails to get me out of bed, she resorts to hopping into bed and bathing herself next to my head.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to cling to those precious last moments of rest with the sound of cat butt being licked within inches of your ear?

Exactly.

It has to be a domestic cat thing. That crap wouldn't fly out in the wild. Turn on Animal Planet. Go on, I'll wait....

OK, it's on. What do you see? Lions chasing zebras. IN THE DAYLIGHT.... right? Right. What you don't see is the lion batting a TV remote around the floor while the zebra is trying to sleep. It simply doesn't happen, because if it did, then Animal Planet would have tons of footage of pissed off, tired zebras chasing lions at dawn, looking for their snooze buttons. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beware of this common Facebook scam

This morning, I received a chat message from one of my Facebook friends claiming that he and his family were stranded in London after being robbed at gunpoint. The scammer claimed that he needed me to "loan him a few cash" in order to pay for his hotel bill and a cab to the airport so he could get home.

Unfortunately for him, I was already aware of this fairly common ruse. In fact, he wasn't the first FB friend to have his account hacked by this same scam. If I had to guess, I'd say he had a password that was easy to figure out.

When I asked him to verify his identity, he of course only provided information that was readily available in his profile. When I countered by asking how we knew each other, he immediately logged out.

Protect yourself by creating a hard-to-guess password and keeping some information about yourself out of your online profiles. If you are approached by a "friend" in need of help, always verify their identity. 

Be vigilant.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Go

OK, I think this is ready to go. Still making minor content & design tweaks, but it's as ready as it's going to get.

Charting Discourse

It's nice to see the editor of our local rag calling out my Congressman ( Can't take the heat? - Columns by John Drescher - News & Observer ) over his refusal to hold town hall meetings during the summer recess.

Yeah, people have been obnoxious. Then again, that's just what we see on the news. It's easy propaganda for the media to grab a YouTube clip of the most ridiculous people at a meeting and present that as "what we're up against". I counter with, for every irrational yahoo whose sound bite makes it to the newsreels, there are hundreds more of us who are fed up with the course that this government has charted, but too civilized to get any attention.

Perhaps if,  instead of hiding, our 'leaders' would host more public meetings, those of us who are capable of presenting a rational and civilized counterargument might actually get heard.

Rep. Miller has always made himself accessible whenever I've asked to meet with him. Of course, I'm not the type of yahoo who makes it onto the most-forwarded list of YouTube clips. But, as Drescher puts it,
"If you can't hold your own with Joe Sixpack from Roxboro, should you be in Congress?"
As obnoxious as some of them are, Miller and his colleagues represent those people, too, and they're every bit as entitled to voice their opinion as I am. Perhaps if the news focused on us instead, the circus might go home and we might be able to finally have a constructive debate.

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All systems go

OK, so...I'm doing this blog thing again, and I think I'll be more committed to it this time. After conversations with Kris Kovacs, it didn't take much for him to convince me that I needed it. After all, I'm an opinionated bastard who likes to write, I'm always connected and I'm already sharing most of my thoughts online anyway.  At the very least, I can more thoroughly flesh out some thoughts that are simply too long to tweet.

I'll officially launch it once I have a bit more content in place. I think it'll be easier to stay on it this time. I'm too plugged in now, and recently downloaded and tested the BlogPress app for my iPhone. That alone gets rid of all excuses.

Why blog? Clearly, I think I have something to say. I'll likely get political. I can't help it; I'm passionate about personal and fiscal responsibility and that drives a lot of what gets me fired up. In the end, I'll write about what's important to me.

I want to use it as an opportunity to share what I know... and more importantly, what I learn along the way. I hope you'll return from time to time to find out what that is.

Hops & Hickory