Thoughts on: Messin’ with stuff for the sake of messin’ with stuff

Okay, I’ll admit it. I got up on the wrong side of the keyboard today and I am not feeling my usual self. I think what is galling me today are people who want to change things just for the sake of changing them. Sometimes we like to have a little stability in this world – what’s wrong with that.

One guy who knows what I mean is right-wing webmaster, extraordinaire, Matt Drudge. Now I don’t buy into Matt’s particular brand of politics, in fact he and I are polar opposites in that arena. But one thing you have to say about the guy, he knows how to run a website. One look at the Drudge Report and you’ll think that it’s 1993 again and you’ve just logged onto the internets with your brand new Gateway 386 using a 300 baud dial up modem. He’s kept that same format for years and has been very successful with it. Oh I know, recently he’s been sneaking in some color glossies, but he’s still got the same gazillion links to every online newspaper and syndicated columnist in existence. Republican, Democrat, Tea Partier, or Earth Firster, we all end up at Drudge, and he’s taken it all the way to the bank.

Another guy who knew something about leaving things alone was Henry Ford. The famous Ford logo with the scripted company name ‘Ford’ was first devised back in 1912 and although it underwent numerous changes throughout the years, it remained very much the same. So much so that the logo on the 1927 Model A is almost identical to the logo on my 2006 F-150 truck. The logo was on a brief hiatus from the late 50’s until 1976. Since ’76, however, nobody has messed with that famous logo (although it was put up as part of the collateral needed to secure government funding back during the precarious auto bailout days, but that’s another story).

So there you go – two good reasons to leave stuff alone.  I could actually go on and on, and I probably would if I thought it would do any good, but it won’t. Now let’s talk about people who just cannot leave stuff alone — like the owners of the Miami Dolphins football team. They want to mess with stuff. Now EEOTPB is not a sports blog, not by any means. God knows there are enough of those out there. But as a Dolphins fan, I have always felt that one of the more endearing fan-facing elements of the team was its logo – the happy dolphin in a football helmet. It was well,…fun. And football is supposed to be fun isn’t it? It’s certainly not work, or why would we spend time and money attending the games.

The old helmeted dolphin that adorned everything team related, from players helmets to fans bar-b-q grills is being replaced by a sleek new dolphin. This new dolphin is not even wearing a helmet. A dolphin that looks sort of …logo-like. It looks like it was conjured up by some Madison Avenue ad guys who have no intention of venturing past New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium to attend a football game.

Most notably missing, to me anyway, is the fact that the new dolphin doesn’t have any eyes. The eyes, with an ever so determined expression on the old dolphins face gave the logo its character. This new dolphin is sleek and fast looking and not to be trusted. It looks as slick and insincere as a New York used car salesman. So maybe putting eyes and a mouth on the dolphin was a bit too sappy for the ad guys. Maybe it was too cartoon-like. All I can say is that I personally liked the cartoon-like old dolphin, because he (or she, gender is not readily apparent when one is dealing with dolphins), painted a likeable face on the team – a team that needs all the likeability it can get in light of the past few disappointing seasons.

If you want, check out these links to the old logo, versus the new logo, and by all means feel free to weigh in on this virtually inconsequential issue.

I told you upfront I got up on the wrong side of the keyboard…now I gotta run…there are some kids walking on my lawn and I have to go yell at them…

Thoughts on: Mayor Bloomberg and the goings on up in New York town…

How often have we have heard a politician described as a guy you’d like to have a beer with. This means that the politician in question is a working-mans’ kind of guy – you know, humble, down-to-earth, honest, and concerned with the welfare of the humble, down-to-earth, honest , voters. It ignores the fact that there are just as many obnoxious, lying, cheating, wife beating, dog-kicking, dirt-bags out there drinking beer as there are wine drinkers, martini drinkers, or Mountain Dew drinkers (maybe not Mountain Dew drinkers – they are in a category by themselves).

In spite of being an extremely sexist remark (I have never heard a female politician referred to as a gal you’d like to have a beer with), almost every politician on the market today wants you to believe that he is the kind of guy you’d like to drink Miller Lite with.

Me, I am not anxious to drink anything with any politician – even the ones I have voted for, and especially not those who are currently serving in office. And that goes for you too Obama. I saw those shots of you and Biden guzzling suds in the Rose Garden back before the election, so there you go, right on message – they’re guys you want to have a beer with.

Well, there is one politician I wouldn’t mind having a 10 ounce decaffeinated iced tea with, and that’s Mayor Bloomberg of New York. This is because I believe that he is probably one of the very few billionaires who really cares about us (not just New Yorkers who he represents, but humankind). With an estimated wealth of 22 billion dollars, Mayor Bloomberg could be cooling his heels in the Hamptons, Palm Springs, or the Swiss Alps, but he’s not. He is right there in New York City, concerned about the citizenry’s exposure to second hand smoke, trans-fat in their French fries, and oversized Big Gulps.

By now, news of the Mayor’s failed attempt to limit beverage sizes within the environs of New York City has undoubtedly reached, and raised the hackles of every nanny-state fearing American in even the furthest flung burg’ in the U.S. From some of the blog posts and other news sources I have read, you’d think the good mayor had broken out a dog-eared copy of the Communist Manifesto at a City Council meeting and tried to collectivize the city restaurant industry. “Freedom rings in New York City,” cried one online source. Right I say, don’t mess with my God given right to knock back a three gallon pail of diet Pepsi if I want.

So if you weren’t following along, the ban was scheduled to go into effect on March 4th. The day before, it was struck down by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling, who went on to take Mayor Bloomberg to the woodshed for having the audacity to suggest such a ban. From what I hear, the mayoral beat-down was warranted, as it unfairly targeted some businesses while allowing others to slide. From everything I have read, it seems like a good thing that the ban was overturned. I mean, what business is it of Mayor Bloomberg’s if I pop out of my size 46 jeans. They sell some great looking roomy sweats at Target, Let Freedom Ring.

Not to be deterred, the Mayor is back in the news today with a proposed display ban on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Under this proposed ban, NYC business owners would not be able to display tobacco products in their store. Prominent advertising and display of countless brands of cigarettes on the wall behind cash registers is, of course, a staple of every convenience store in the U.S. (and in most other countries). Under the Mayor’s proposed ban, in New York City, such products would have to be hidden under a counter, or behind a curtain, or somewhere else out of sight of the purchasing public. The intent is to prevent impulse buying.

This ban reminds me of the way in which hard liquor was sold in the mid-western state where I grew up. In that state, way, way, way back when, liquor was sold in ‘State Stores’ (now there’s a commie term if I ever heard one). There were no aisles of liquor in the State Store. Instead, there was a large board on the wall of a sparse ante room that listed every type of liquor in the store, along with its price. Patrons wrote their order on a pad and handed it to a State Worker’ behind a window, who disappeared into a back room where the order was filled. The order was returned to the customer in a plain paper bag. Whether or not exposure to display cases of hard liquor prevented so called impulse buying, it is hard to say. Perhaps one is more likely to pick up another half gallon of Captain Morgan if one is wheeling a shopping cart down a supermarket sized aisle at ‘Liquor City’, than you would in the fairly antiseptic State Store, but there is unlikely to be much impact on over-consumption, or abuse.

The same goes for the proposed ban on tobacco displays. I suspect most tobacco purchases are addiction driven rather than impulse driven, but who knows. Smokers are in more disfavor these days than are soda drinkers. So the tobacco display ban falls into the dust bin of somewhere between ‘who really cares’, and ‘what harm can it do’, and I sort of agree. No one is saying how many packs of cigarettes you can buy…you just have to remember to buy them.

In the mean time, I applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to make us all a little healthier. It makes me feel better about billionaires in general, just knowing that they aren’t all arrogant, bombastic, self-promoters whose idea of  fun is to host a reality show in which they get to fire people. As my grandmother might have said, were she here today, “that Mayor Bloomberg, bless his heart, he means well.”

Thoughts on: The TSA’s decision to allow small knives on airplanes

When I first heard of the Transportation Safety Administration’s decision last week to allow passengers to carry small knives on airplanes, my knee jerked and I had a reaction — “what the hell are these guys thinking,” I said out loud. Then I recalled something that happened to me a few months back.

My wife and I had just returned to Florida from a trip to New Jersey. Our flight had taken us through both Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood International airport, and Newark Liberty International airport. We’d just gotten home and I was in the process of unpacking my carry-on bag, when for some reason, I opened one of those zippered exterior pockets, even though I hadn’t recalled packing anything in it. You know those pockets, they’re too small to stash a magazine, and too big for a cell phone, so they are rarely used.

“Hey, look what I found,” I said to my wife. “Right here in this seldom used exterior pocket in my recently landed, carry-on bag.” Well, I said something like that.

“Isn’t that your ‘road corkscrew’,” she said, recognizing the dangerous instrument immediately. She looked at me like I’d just pulled a loaded Glock 9 out of the bag.

Now just a bit of background – my ‘road corkscrew’ had been missing for quite some time. I had purchased it in an outdoor store in Springdale, Utah, just outside of Zion National Park, years before. It had a really nice wooden handle with a corkscrew that snapped securely into place when extended, not like those cheapo $1.99 throwaways you can pick up by the beer cooler at 7-11. No, this one was nice, and it had served me well. I had taken it on camping trips, business trips and road trips. Anyone who has ever found themselves staring down an unopened bottle of chardonnay in a remote Econo-Lodge in central Nebraska, on a rainy night, after a long day on the road, will appreciate the value of a ‘road corkscrew’.

Anyway, the other end of my road corkscrew’s handle contains a folding knife. Not a locking blade knife, but a very sharp knife. It can make fast work of even the toughest lime – its blade is just a bit under 2.5 inches.

“How long has that been there?” asked my wife. I could only shake my head, because I had to think about that one.

For the record, neither my wife or I are frequent fliers. We are far from it, but we do make, on average 4 – 6 trips per year by air. But, as nearly as I could determine, this instrument had criss-crossed the United States multiple times in my bag, passing through not only Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood International and Newark Liberty, but McCarran International in Las Vegas.

This isn’t a knock on the TSA. These guys have a huge job on their hands, and in spite of the bad rap they get for strip searching us, rummaging through our bags and confiscating our shampoo, they’re all just trying to make sure we all get to our destinations in one piece. So for that I applaud the TSA.

I also am well aware of the fact that the biggest weapon in the 911 hijacker’s arsenal was one of surprise. It think it is highly unlikely, if not downright impossible, that an airliner will be taken by anyone with ‘road corkscrew’, or a pair of nail clippers. What I do see, however, increasingly, are unruly passengers. Justifiably, the folks most upset about this new ruling are the flight attendants. They have to deal with the surly, obnoxious and most often inebriated passengers. I’m talking about the arrogant jackass who just polished off six rum and cokes at the airport bar and is enraged when the flight attendant refuses to serve a seventh to him at 35,000 feet.

It seems to me that keeping this ban in place just makes sense. I mean, we are already scanning and confiscating an assortment of other items. Until someone ensures me that an air marshal is riding on every flight, then the sky is a rather lawless place to be–and just for the record, my ‘road corkscrew’ will be traveling in my checked bag from now on, or it will be staying home.

Thoughts on: Yahoo’s C.E.O, Marissa Mayer, pulling the plug on home workers

Last week, when I heard the news that Yahoo’s C.E.O., Marissa Mayer had decided to end the company’s work at home policy, it hit a nerve. As a home worker myself, although not for Yahoo (but for a company just as large), I had to go digging for the reason behind Ms. Mayer’s decision. It didn’t take me long to find it. It seems her decision to terminate the Yahoo work at home policy was based on data gathered by reviewing company VPN records. Without going into the more arcane details about VPNs, they allow workers to access company resources when they are in a remote location (like home, a hotel room, Starbucks, etc.).

Apparently, Ms. Mayer didn’t like what she saw in the VPN data report. Home workers were not accessing the network with the same fervor as their cubicle dwelling counterparts. There was no mention of any other indicators of declining productivity – such as missed delivery dates, delayed projects or late reports. (That may well have been the case, but it was not mentioned in any of the online articles I reviewed.) It appears that quite a number of Yahoo work-at-homers simply were not, well…working. Who could blame Ms. Mayer for doing what she did. Confronted with such data, she hit the problem with a large hammer – gather your laptops you work-at-home slackers, and report to the office tomorrow at 9, and don’t be late (or something to that effect).

Now I know what some of you are thinking…those of you who go to work every day to do things like put out fires, arrest criminals, teach children, build roads, attend the sick, minister to the masses, cut lawns, plow fields, drive the big rigs, and sell beauty products door to door – you people are probably saying to yourselves, “those cry baby corporate drones are a bunch of whiners. Somebody makes them change out of their bathrobes and report to work in an office, and they act like it’s the end of the world.”

In some cases, I might agree with such thought, as some of us are whiners. But most work at homers, including myself, will tell you that spending your day chained to a computer in you own home isn’t as inviting as non-home workers believe it to be.

Some years ago, when I told someone that I worked at home, I would get one of two reactions, one being, “you are so lucky. I wish I could find a job like yours,” or, “oh I see,” wink-wink, “you’re working from home,” with the wink-wink emphasis on the word ‘working’ – catch my drift. As years passed, and more and more companies allowed, and in fact encouraged, workers to work from their homes, the novelty apparently wore off. Today when I tell someone that I work from my home I rarely get a response of any kind.

So here is what I have found so far, based upon several years of home work:

First – I find that I work longer hours than I did in my cubicle back at Corporate. Since I have been relieved of the time consuming task of preparing for, and driving to, an office, I can spend that time…working. And for the record, I have never worked in my bathrobe.

Second – home work is lonely. Occasional face to face time with co-workers is mentally healthy. Everyone needs to complain now and then, and we need someone to listen to us and nod, and tell us that they have been feeling the same way about the way management has been off-loading more work on those of us left after the last layoff…blah, blah, blah…you don’t get much time to complain sitting in a room by yourself with a laptop.

Third – and this is a huge giveback to The Man that  flies completely under the corporate radar: Nobody gets sick anymore. Or at least they don’t where I work. Back days of yore, before I worked at home, I could spend those occasional days when I didn’t feel ‘up to par’ on my couch, feet propped up with a box of tissues in hand, watching daytime TV. It was called, ‘calling in sick’. Not so today. It is not that people don’t get sick, of course they do, but the bar has been raised on what warrants complete and utter absence from work.

Last week, shortly after I logged into work from my home office, an email popped up from a co-worker. The subject line read: “Still not over the flu – will be checking email throughout the day.” That email arrived a little before 7 AM. I knew that my co-worker had been suffering with the flu for a few days, but every day she dutifully logged it to check her email, and every day she continued to ‘work through’. I called her at 4 PM and she was still online.

“I thought you were going to get some rest today,” I said, “you must be feeling better.”

“Feel like crap,” she responded, “I’m going to lie down in a little while.”

One email had led to the next, then a series of instant message exchanges with our London office, followed by a conference call with the development group in San Francisco, and the entire day had melted away.

So there you have it – my communique from the work-at-home front line. I am not here to defend Ms. Mayer’s lay-about, home workers. I certainly don’t have enough information to say her decision was wrong. Indeed it seems she had a very good reason for herding the sheep back into the corporate fold. I am wondering though, if the same work habits that made these people ineffective home workers will simply follow them into the office.