Monthly Archives: November 2007

Your Moment Of Zen

Yesterday, after panicking over where to have this wedding, I got to thinking about a place I knew about, but I had only been there twice for an early drink with friends.  The place is called the Zen Restaurant, and it used to be a Pargos, which was poorly run and eventually closed.  Now, it has been renovated and doesn’t even look like the same building on the inside.  I met the Owner and we talked for about an hour and eventually settled on a fair price on the reception.  I was so impressed with him that I felt compelled to tell y’all about it.  Like me, he took over a closed chain restaurant, remodeled, and made a successful business out of it.  He has no corporation behind him, he spent his own money, and he spends upwards of 70 hours a week running it.  Few people have the balls to do this in the restaurant/bar business anymore.  I just wanted to say that he made himself available almost immediately, and was eager to help us get this event planned.  If you are ever anywhere near the Rivergate area, stop by, try out his menu, or perhaps go late and enjoy the music and dancing.  I know I wish him and his crew nothing but success.

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Shameless Plug

Ok, maybe not.  Maybe just a little Proud Daddy Post.  My daughter, Supermousey, had a history assignment.  She decided to write about the Terra Cotta Soldiers, and wrote a nice paper about them.  Then, for extra credit, she took some modeling clay and fashioned 11 different models complete with cloth capes, and weapons she borrowed from her little brother.  I am quite proud of her effort.  I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what they were.  Bridgett and NM will have a field day with that.

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Cheap, Not Chic

A very close friend of mine has decided to get married.  I could write 10,000 paragraphs as to why I think this is (for him, and yes, for her) a monumentally stupid idea, but not without invading their privacy.  I only offer that as a disclaimer because it will be evident to you readers that their impulsiveness is just the tip of the bad idea iceberg.  Anyway, I love these people, so I am asking for help from the internets about this wedding.  Naturally, money is a major concern.  Long ago, when they approached me about holding the wedding here, I was more than willing to offer the property, and even build a small “chapel” and rent the tents and chairs for them.  However, December seems like a bad time to do this.  So, we need an affordable place to hold both the ceremony and the reception, and I need a band with a sense of humor that will do this gig relatively cheaply.  (More than I can convey here, I want a very cheesy cover band ala the “Wedding Singer”)

I called two friends last night when I got the news, but got their voicemail and left a hurried, cryptic message that one of them thought meant i was mad at them.  I wasn’t.  I was excited (reservations about the event notwithstanding) and wanted advice.

So, any ideas?  I may have to fly Magniloquence out here to help…

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Customers First

Employees second. Vendors third. Shareholders fourth. That is Costco’s business model, somewhat, but not overly simplified. Even in a State like California, where many of it’s employees are unionized, they continue to beat Sam’s Club in profitability. Costco pays even non-union employees nearly twice as much as any of their competitors, even during lean years. As a result, their employee retention rate is the best of any retail business. More productivity, more sales per square foot. Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco, pays himself a whopping 350,000 dollars a year. Care to know what Walmart pays theirs? Around 5.3 million. Costco pays nearly 94% of their employees health care costs, even part-time employees.

“Wall Street is in the business of making money between now and next tuesday, we are in the business of building an organization, an institution that we hope will be here 50 years from now. And paying good wages and keeping your people working with you is very good business.” (Jim Sinegal)

I posted this partly of of frustration at not being able to succinctly write down my thoughts about business ethics, and the future of Americanized capitalism. So, it occurred to me to just highlight some people and companies that actually serve as possible models to save us from this dangerous race to the bottom.

I’ll talk about Publix on Wednesday…

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I Can’t Help My Commie Leanings

OK, I’m wondering about something.  Do you have kids that have, or will have a gaming console?  If so, wouldn’t it be nice to have a network of people you knew that had the same system, so you could trade out games?  I’m shocked at the prices on these kid’s games.  49-99 dollars seems the average, and, well, how many games can you afford?  Like most families, this year will be lean with respect to the Christmas budget.  My kids are still young enough that we enjoy splurging a little for them, but I’d like to know if there is merit to the idea of sharing games, either with friends, or through some enterprise you join, and pay a small fee.  Does this exist?  I’m going to ask my friends what system they have, and float this idea out there, particularly if they are purchasing a new system this year.  I need to get Ivy on this, she’ll know…

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At My Age, I Don’t Buy Small Trees

Thats quote from T. Boone Pickens, the 79 yr old multi-billionaire oilman and now, college philanthropist. He was responding to a question from Bernard (nobody cares about his politics) Goldman as to whether his 165 million dollar gift to Oklahoma State University was part of a 5 year plan to produce winning football teams. He’s saying that he wants to change things around fast, to see an immediate impact in the win/loss column.

Heres the deal. Pickens donated the 165 million to his alma mater for the purpose of building a Xanadu-like facility for the University’s athletes. Beautiful new stadium, 3 separate practice fields, training rooms equipped with latest and best of everything, including waterfalls, 72 inch LCD televisions and a fully stocked juice bar. The idea is that better facilities will attract better recruits, which will bring in more fans, who will give more money to the University.

His Management company is overseeing how the funds are disbursed, and charging no fee for doing so.

He “suggested” that the golf pro at the University be named Athletic Director. He was.

The new Stadium’s name? You guessed it, T. Boone Pickens Field.

Pickens has stated that the 165 million was essentially a ‘down payment”, and that he would spend “whatever it takes” to see Oklahoma State University become a college football powerhouse.

I’ll start by saying that I believe the man has the right to spend his money however he pleases.

That said, I’m wondering what a 165 million dollar investment in say, the science department might have produced in a few years? Perhaps a cure for the common cold? A cure for AIDS? How about a totally clean and abundant fuel?

Also, Mr. Pickens has said that if the time came to pick a new University President, he would “definitely be involved.” Has he purchased this right?

There are a handful of professors and students that are opposing his efforts, (I love their chances) but its an understatement to say that they are a tiny minority in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

I’m of the opinion that if he gave the money with no strings attached, I have no problem with it, though I would have been impressed with matching funds for some other departments. Right now, I’m wondering how long before the team mascot is morphed from Cowboy to say, Roughneck? Will the school someday be known as T. Boone U. ® ?

What say you?

H/T:  The best show on TV, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

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Upset Pick of The Day

Buffalo over the Patriots. Bet the ranch.

Updated:  Ok, We’ll double down next week.  ♥

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The Thin Blue Line Isn’t Supposed To Be Electricity

I’m probably a day or so behind on this story, but I decided to chime in anyway.  One of the most distasteful elements of working in law enforcement was the siege mentality that forces cops (and nurses, sometimes, particularly those who work in big-city ERs) to adopt an us vs. them perspective and apply it to everyone they encounter.  There have been good movies about it.   Normal, healthy camaraderie soon descends into paranoia and a gang- like set of ethics.

Recently, I had a shouting match with an ex-cop over the use of force.  It starts in the academy, this notion that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DO ON YOUR SHIFT IS TO GO HOME.  Well, of course it is.  When Ginger or Rachel or Andy finish work, getting home alive is just as much a priority to them, I’m sure.  They agreed to brave the freeways to get to work.  They agreed to navigate the dangerous gauntlet of leering Hispanic men in order to get their ham biscuit. (In fact, Ginger, I hear, navigated it multiple times) My point is that whatever risks they encounter as part of their day are just that, part of their day, and they make that trade when they accepted employment.  Of course I’m not intending to diminish the real risks police officers take as part of their jobs, but it is important to note that they are not conscripts, they joined willingly and with the full realization that this job carried the possibility of physical harm.

Since that is the case, I made the point to this guy that it is a policeman’s duty to take a bullet for an innocent person.  He literally became enraged when I suggested that I’d rather see a cop killed over an innocent bystander because that is part of job:  stand between me and danger.  It’s not heroic, its expected.  When a civilian risks his life to aid someone, thats heroism.  When a cop risks his life to aid a civilian, he is simply fulfilling his contract.

No one wants to see a policeman hurt or killed, of course, and I don’t mean to suggest their lives mean less.  But this notion that it is possible to do police work without possible injury is ridiculous.  There is training, there are procedures, and yes, there are tools to assist police in carrying out their duties.  One of these is the taser.  I hated it the minute I saw it.

Watch that video again.  four cops, one guy.  He was breathing heavily, and on the tail end of a tantrum, possibly due to illness, but the point is that he was not advancing, he was retreating. 

Now, he’s dead.   He’s not the first, he won’t be the last.

In my opinion, weapons should be defensive tools, always.  Once the suspect advances towards you, well, unleash the hounds.  But just because a disoriented man who cannot communicate with you is trying your patience, or not obeying your commands fast enough, you are not entitled to incapacitate him or her.  If you must subdue, wait till you have sufficient numbers, then do so physically.  This reliance on sophisticated weaponry is embarrassing, and dangerous.

We seem to have morphed into a society that too quickly dismisses the rights of those who do not immediately submit to authority, or that have broken the law before.  But thats another post, for another day…

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4 Apples= $5.87

Yes, thats right.  After my chores, I went food shopping so I could prepare myself and the family a collection of my favorite foods.  While I was out, I decided to stock up on Holiday supplies, mainly stuff we use to make gifts for friends.  Anyway, we all like to eat apples and peanut butter in the morning, in fact, its a hard and fast rule that fruit is required in the morning.  Mostly, its bananas, pineapples, melons, and of course, apples.  Well, cantaloupes were fetching 4.99 each, and have been for awhile, so I passed and went over to bag up some apples.  I put four apples in the sack and continued shopping.

Over at the bread counter, loaves that only 2 months ago were .99 cents were now $1.33.  Thats a thirty percent increase.  Artisan bread, (I believe thats the catchy term for bread with poppy seeds or sunflowers seeds on it ) brought $3.89.

I usually do the household food shopping.  So I notice price increases. It makes a minor adjustment for our family, but I got to thinking about those families with alot of kids to feed, or, with just two but without our income.  Fuel for their car has gone way up, and of course, that affects the price of nearly everything shipped to the stores.  Utility costs are up, so heating and cooling is much more expensive.  Our property taxes increased pretty dramatically last year as well.

So, of course, THAT got me to thinking about what lower income people face in this economy.  It is time to pay car insurance premiums for us, and I remember when I applied for insurance the questions were more invasive than when requesting a loan.  Thank God for our stellar credit rating, or I’m not sure we would have been insurable at any price.  It should be noted that we both have spotless driving records, and have had for over 35 years.  If we had financed these cars, we would be required to have full coverage, as it is, just the liability premiums are quite steep.

I wondered yesterday to a friend about the big push by practically all companies to get you to sign contracts.  Cell phone.  Home phone.  Cable or satellite.  I don’t do it, but I think many people don’t have any choice.  Its almost as if these companies want the leverage of trashing your credit rating if you don’t keep their services.  If a guy loses his job, or suffers some economic hardship, he is legally bound not to just pay for services consumed, but to continue to consume them.

Its no secret that wages are down, so even two income households aren’t making what a single earner could not that long ago.  I’m aware that television and internet and cell phones are not necessary to live, but again, if someone makes the decision to re-prioritize his spending, he may in fact be unable to cut some services without severe penalties.

It just bothers me.  I’m not sure what the answers are, except to say that financial literacy and basic contract comprehension is key, and I believe our schools let us down in this area.  Your parents can’t teach you what they don’t know.

All I know is when I got to the cashier with my apples, they totaled $5.87.

I left them there.

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My Time

I know what 3:05 in the morning looks like. I can describe it in detail, every color, every sound, even, somehow, how the air feels. Its way too late to go to sleep, way too early to get up, yet, here I am, staring into the harsh blue light of my laptop. This is the time of day my body has chosen to get started, sometimes it takes a minute or two for my mind to catch up. I like 3:05, it has become a friend, a reliable, steady presence in my life.

I’ll go make some coffee, which, if I time it right, will stop brewing just as the first bit of light reaches this place, and I will step outside and welcome it by sipping my coffee and blowing smoke rings.

The horses will know I’m there, and come up from their campsite to stare at me until I decide to give them their sweet-feed and block of hay.

The older dog has heard me by now. He’ll slowly stand up on his tired bones and join me, no matter how much his body complains. The other dog is already at my side, hoping that today is a day I brought a treat out for her. One cat will climb out of the chimenea, the other will come in from the barn, and my posse will be complete.

Soon it will be time to roust the children from their bunks and get them ready for school.

I find that I am pretty protective of that space of time beforehand, though. I don’t want anyone else up, yet. Not even today.

EDIT:  Just found out I have to share this day with Condi Rice, Joseph McCarthy, Yanni, Prince Charles, Claude Monet, Robert Fulton, Brian Keith, Veronica Lake , Jaraharlal Nehru, and McLean Steveson, and others.  Damn.

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