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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Coffee, Cream, Kitty

...so I get a huge mug of coffee this morning, throw in a generous amount of cream, place it on my nightstand and climb into bed again JUST as Evil Kitty launches a full-out attack. In slow motion, I see her leaping for my foot, claws extended. And as time slows to a crawl, I react by leaping back, my hand connects to my coffee mug, and coffee explodes in all directions as EK bolts out the bedroom door. Half an hour later, I got to finally try my coffee.

My dogs and I are constantly looking at each other as if to say "What just happened?!" Just now I threw myself down on the bed as I was talking on the phone and she bit my heel and darted off! I howled and then tried to find her to kill her but she was too quick for me. The funny thing is that most of the time she adores me...except when she doesn't!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Job Hunting Ain't for Sissies

Job Hunting Thought for the Day: When they tell you "Bring a resume and wear proper business attire" you know it's an entry level job. Any professional already knows this and doesn't need to be told.

I once had openings for instructors and interviewed candidates who looked great on paper. One morning, a woman (who was in her 50s if she was a day) showed up in a miniskirt with unwashed, unkempt hair, no stockings, bruises on her legs, and hollow eyes and yet she had a stellar resume! Perhaps if I had bothered to check her qualifications, I would have found that it was nothing but lies. But I was very glad I hadn't advised anyone to wear proper business attire, because it allowed me to weed her out immediately.

The key to interviewing is to minimize the amount of people who come before you. You don't want to waste your time with just anyone: You want to pick from a small group of people who are the best fit for the position you're advertising for.

Incidentally, that goes both ways.

I got a call from a woman this morning. It was canned and went something like this: "Hello [insert name here]. How are you today? That's good. Well, [insert name here] my boss saw your resume and wanted me to call you immediately. Are you still looking for work, [insert name here]? Wonderful. Our company is 50 years old and we are looking for both sales and management positions. Does that sound like something you'd be interested in, [insert name here]?"

I stopped her at that point. "Hey," I said in a kindly manner, "It's pretty obvious that you're giving me a canned speech. That means that you're calling a lot of people, and that means that you have a high turnover. So I'm assuming that your sales positions are commission only, right?"

Startled, she admitted it. "OK. Well that's something I'm not interested in, although I really appreciate the call," I said to her.

Look: A company pays commission-only when they're selling a product they don't believe in and/or they're exploiting their workers. There are gullible and well-meaning people who fall for this, obviously, or Amway would never have been successful. But I am not one of them. I will only work for a company that truly believes in what they're selling and I believe that, with my background and qualifications, I am entitled to be paid a fair wage.

Sometimes there's a variant: The company pays its sales force commission-only but promises an eventual spot in management if they're "willing to make the sacrifice up front." That means that many people make that sacrifice and it never pays off. After all, not every salesperson can be a manager. This method is employed locally by a "marketing" franchise that works for Home Depot and has their people hoofing it throughout the store all day, trying to upsell customers into allowing Home Depot designers into their homes.

Which brings me to another point: There is apparently a trend that's surfaced where companies are renaming themselves as a "marketing" company, when all they are is a churn-and-burn that gobbles up fresh-faced rookies, works them hard, and spits them out. I suspect sometimes the owners/managers themselves are often kindly people who don't fully understand what they're doing, but the likelihood is that they simply turn a blind eye.

Then there are the companies that give you a phenomenal title, bring you in as the new star player, and then you suddenly find yourself working phone sales in a noisy room under the glare of cheap industrial lighting.

I had this happen to me once, and then I discovered that it was a business run by Scientologists. Scientologists are famous for exploiting workers because bad management skills were taught and codified by the head of their religion, therefore it's actually a part of their faith. You will always be happier working for anyone else, because even Satanists will most likely be using proper management techniques rather than the infamous and ineffective Wise Management that is touted by the Scientologists.

Hey: In the workplace, I don't care if you're a Scientologist. I don't care if you're Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, or if your deity is The Flying Spaghetti Monster. But if you bombard me with your faith and I don't agree with it, nothing good can come from it. That's why the EEOC was invented. Secular employers need to remember that. If you want your brand of religion in the workplace, fine: Hire only those people that agree with you.

My specialties are marketing, public relations, and business-to-business sales. But I live in Florida, specifically the Tampa Bay area, where the majority of jobs are low-paid service jobs unless you're an illegal immigrant who's getting paid under the table: Then your job is an even lower paid service job. But if you have a degree or do white collar work, competition is fierce and many people are willing to settle, even if it's just temporarily. That's never a good idea.

Ultimately, job hunting is very much like dating. If you find the company is not a good fit, walk away or you'll regret it later.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The World's Most Unusual Dollar Store

When I was a teen, I well remember my mom saying once "I am not the kind of person to commit suicide. I am the kind of person to cause others to commit suicide." She was kidding. I think.

Mom is a unique cross between Martha Stewart and a Marine drill sergeant. Ask anyone. They'll tell you I'm right: If they dare. So when we started to plan for Easter, and I mentioned that I wanted to invite another family, she was more than happy to invite them: She loves to entertain. When I asked if we could add another last minute guest, she was happy to do so.

And yet, never being a slouch at using a situation to her advantage, she called me this morning to say imperiously "Because you are adding people to my guest list, you are now my slave. Go find me a tablecloth. It must be 144 inches long and be pale pink or green or something Easter-y. Bed, Bath and Beyond will have it. Do you have a coupon? If you don't, come on over and get it."

Seeing a long trip to the local mall to battle yuppies for the latest in pastel tablecloths the size of a football field, I tried suggesting an alternative: The World's Most Unusual Dollar Store on Ulmerton Road in Largo, Florida. There's a reason it's called that. When you first enter the store, you're hit by a curious mix of mothballs and incense. It's cavernous and slightly dingy, chockfull of "bargains" such as rows of expired food, large and eerie dolls, and huge flags that are likely to shred when the first blast of wind hits them.


It also has a seedy rattan chair that's been spray-painted white. The forbidding handwritten sign warns everyone that they're not allowed to sit on the slightly frayed cushion, but can rent out the chair for a mere $30/day with a $100 deposit:


Apparently they buy things no one else wants in large quantities, and then try to sell them. Sometimes I'm amazed at what they decide to put out on the shelves. This entire shelf held nothing but about 70 copies of a soft porn movie called Erotic Aquatics 2. It appears to have been filmed in the late 80s, which is about the same time a lot of their food seems to have been manufactured. OK, I'm kidding about the food, but I once looked over their food aisle and found that there were items that had expired by years, not months, but years.


Their sheer volume and assortment of plastic tablecloths is astounding. And they can produce the tackiest themed table decorations this side of Jersey Shore: Snookie would be in heaven.


So is it any wonder that I went here in search of tablecloths?

There's always hope.

I found a cloth one. Only one. It was sitting there sadly, thrown in amongst the shower curtains and plastic bed covers. It wasn't 144 inches. It wasn't pastel. And yet I stood there longer than I should have, trying to calculate how I could make it work so that I could avoid the crush at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Giving up, I went once around the store, past the mass produced plastic figurines with paint bleeding haphazardly down their features, past feather boas and cheap lace trim, past the handbags that they import for $5 and sell for $55.

Returning to the sole table cloth, I looked down a nearby aisle and saw an assortment of placemats. Many were plastic with bright gilding, fit for a sit-down dinner with the cast of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Other plastic ones sported Catholic characters in lurid 3D with blazing halos. But among all those exuberant placemats were these demure cloth ones:


Excitedly, I called mom and sent her this photo. Twice. And both times she didn't get it. So I walked resignedly to the front of the store to ask the tired, petite little sales clerk if I could return them if they weren't what my mom wanted. No, I was told. I could only get store credit. Reasoning that I could always spend the store credit on a cheap samurai sword reproduction for one of my young cousins, I bought the placemats.

Once I arrived at Mom and Dad's, Mom looked over the placemats critically. "Here," she said, thrusting one at me, "Take off the top and let's see how these look."  So Mom arranged them about the table and declared them to be satisfactory, as she fretted over the table's finish which wasn't quite perfect and needed to be polished to a warm gloss.

"Well that's taken care of," Mom finally said after a great deal of agonizing. "Now...what shall we do for a centerpiece?"

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Yes: You're a Pothead and Yes, it's a Gateway Drug


OK, my friends. If you post this, here's how we read it: "I am a pothead trying to legalize weed so that I can get it easier and cheaper than I can get it from that guy who's always hanging out at the gas station."

And apparently you've been smoking it so much that logic escapes you.

"Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?" - from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Your meme is known as a non-sequitur: It's an invalid inference based on something called Irrelevant Reason. I know, I know: Let me boil it down, OK? In other words, the first part of that argument doesn't prove the last part. Allow me to explain:

Let's assume that you smoke pot (an easy assumption to make, obviously) and you are claiming (hopefully truthfully) that this is the only illegal drug you consume*. We are faced with a couple important points:

1) You may eventually move on to the harder stuff.
2) You might be the exception to the rule.
3) You cannot claim to be representative of any group. You are merely a part of a particular group (potheads).

According to this recent Yale University study, pot really may be a gateway drug. Sure, I've seen all the indignant posts claiming that pot isn't a gateway drug - in fact, "it's as safe as mother's milk!" Even Time Magazine once claimed that this was a myth that wouldn't die. And yet, the controversy remains because evidence continues to mount which shows that it is, indeed, a gateway drug.

Those who churn out positive press for The Marijuana Machine will screech that it's not the only gateway drug. I agree completely. I also think that cigarettes and alcohol can be the gateway into hardcore drug use. But I'm not talking about alcohol or cigarettes today: I'm talking about pot.

I could get into all the problems that arise from pot, such as how repeated studies show that it causes brain damage. But it's enough to say that I am simply offended by these childlike attempts to say that it's harmless.

*Although it's now legal to consume marijuana in some states, it's still against Federal law in all states.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Eat "Real" Food Trend

What's wrong with this picture?
 

Let me give you a hint: It's completely incorrect.

Here's how this misinformation is spread. First, the statistics SOUND impressive. That is, until you ask yourself this question: Where does that 80% "food" come from, then? Outer space? Do we have a secret import treaty with Mars?

That food on the supermarket shelves exists today because we now have pasteurization, safe canning practices, and we've discovered certain food preservatives that aren't harmful to our health but keep some foods fresh for a longer period of time.

The food on the supermarket shelves is a substitute for taking home the basic essentials and making it ourselves. We no longer have to buy the flour and other ingredients to make the bread, unless we want to. So instead of shelves of flour, we have shelves of bread. That bread isn't a threat to our health and it isn't something that recently sprung into being. It's the result of the food manufacturers giving us what we want: Time saving alternatives.

Now yes, of course there are some things that may not be healthy alternatives: Artificial sweeteners, for example. But there we also have disinformation. I still hear people talking about how artificial sweeteners turn to formaldehyde in your blood. That's patently ridiculous, of course. If it were true, people would die instantaneously after their first can of Diet Coke. But the rumor itself won't die, no matter how many scientific papers are written to counteract it. However, artificial sweeteners may be associated with cancer and neurological damage, so I will agree that they're best avoided. Stevia seems to be a healthy alternative to sugar. For now, at least.

The real question to ask, though, is: Why is there a trend to shun processed foods?

Well fear usually produces a desire for solutions. And the people who are promoting THIS particular meme are The Farmacy and thankyourbody.com. When you go to thankyourbody.com, you see it's a private site, intent on building a name for themselves and disseminating dubious nutritional information. In their FAQ they write "Thank Your Body, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com." In other words, they are looking to earn money through advertising, and they also sell various products. The Farmacy is more up-front and sells all types of goodies geared toward the health-conscious who want to avoid 'processed' grocery store foods and other hobgoblins.

Now there is no doubt that some processed foods really aren't good for you because we tend to overindulge. High fat / high sugar / high salt foods aren't healthy for anyone and if they're easier and cheaper to indulge in because we no longer have to make them ourselves...well, it's obvious that the consumer who lacks self control will overeat them if given the opportunity. But don't get someone's lack of self-control mixed up with the product itself. It's OK to eat a little ice cream: It's NOT OK to eat a gallon in one sitting. Over-consumption isn't the manufacturer's fault. They supply, we demand.

Great-Grandma didn't have the advantages we do. GG also didn't understand germs, hygiene, and many other things that we take for granted. And don't fool yourself: GG didn't pop into the store to grab some sausage. She made it herself in a grueling process after her husband slaughtered the hog...and her sausage was no healthier than Jimmy Dean's. In fact, it was probably a heart-attack-on-a-plate.

Of course fresh fruits, whole grains, veggies, and quality protein is best for you. But don't walk in trembling fear down the supermarket aisles. That bag of Doritos isn't waiting to snatch your little children away from you and donuts aren't luring your husband down the highway to hell.

If you want to take a precious piece of old-fashioned wisdom away with you, try this instead: "Moderation in all things."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arugula

I am fully convinced that Rapunzel's mother traded her to the witch for arugula, and I can't really blame her.

If you want to experience heaven-on-a-plate, chop up a few eggs, some honey baked ham, mix them into arugula and add blue cheese salad dressing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Aborted Babies Burned for Fuel

The Washington Times is reporting that aborted and miscarried babies were burned for fuel in many UK hospitals.

I am confused: Why should this matter in the least if an aborted baby is just a lump of non-baby flesh? I'm surprised they're not putting the fetuses in formaldehyde and selling them as a novelty item in Spencer Gift Stores.

Surely this should come as no surprise to anyone. Did they expect that the hospitals were giving them proper funerals?


According to abortion stats in Wikipedia, a full 1/6 of the world's population has been aborted since 1973.