Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees...

There's a train of thought that has been traveling through my head for quite some time now. It first popped up about 7 years ago, when I went to Tokyo for a couple of years to do some work for a group whos name need not mention here. While I was there, I noticed that my fellow missionaries broke down into 2 broad but distinct categories: the liberals and the conservatives.
First, for a definition or two. When I say liberals and conservatives, I don't mean it in a political sense. Instead, I mean it in a loose/strict sense. The liberals ranged from those who were on a mission because of all the wrong reasons and so they spent all their time goofing off to those who were wanpaku (Japanese, lit. like a little boy) to those who were doing things for the right reason and good people, but they wanted to enjoy themselves so they acted like most men would when put together with a bunch of other men - there was lots of horseplay, practical jokes, and so forth. The conservatives ranged from those who were majime (Japanese again, lit. a stick in the mud) to those who were anal about lots of things to those who wanted to enjoy themselves, but were just very straight about it.
I fell on the liberal side ever so slightly, and as such I was one of the many who deplored The Pharisee. When I say Pharisee, I don't mean the guys with phylacteries who strictly observed the law of Moses (a precursor to today's ultra-orthodox Jews), but rather one who strictly observes any set of rules or commandments. It was slightly perjorative, but what way is there to really describe these types? I suppose that overly anal retentive may work, but it just takes too long. Anyway, there was a constant battle between these two groups - not a real battle, but more a battle of minds.
The regular guys would be just having fun, goofing around, talking about life, and being regular in every way that you could expect from young men. The Pharisees on the other hand, tried to erase the past, like some sort of neo-Khmer Rouge/Jacobin/Commie-Nazis. When they started their mission, that was Year Zero and nothing happened before then. They never talked about anything other than the here and now. In addition, they couldn't just obey the rules we had, but they had to make up their own rules too. The thing that got me thinking of this was a letter from my brother who is in Minnesota on a mission currently. His prez doesn't want them to take any pictures that are unbecoming of a missionary. First, what does that mean, and second, why? That's just a little harsh. Second, why not let them loosen up? They'll have more fun and be happier as a result and that will get better results. So what's the deal with that? Thoughts?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Nick Burns, My Company's Computer Guy

While I wouldn't call Jimmy Fallon a comic genius, he was right on the money with his impersonation of your average company computer guy. I actually see him every day in my office. He's supposed to take care of everything computer related, but instead he likes to pawn things off on others (i.e. me). While I'm sure that he does a lot of work on the weekends and at night when people aren't here, I see a pattern developing.
The Boss: Sorro, will you come over to my house and install x on my computer?
Me: You should have Nick Burns do it, that's his job, and if anything goes wrong with it, he'll blame me.
The Boss: I would, but Nick told me to ask you.
And so the pattern goes on. Then of course, because you're actually doing things without his sanction, as he empowers everybody by doing not much, you do something that he doesn't like, so he gives you a verbal smackdown. Of course, there's no reasoning with Nick Burns, because you don't want to suddenly have your computer explode, so it's a Catch-22.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Revenge of Doug Warren

Nope, this isn't a post about the lastest Star Wars movie - although I probably will say more about it at some point in time - but just a bit more about Doug Warren. I've had to go waste another 4 hours of my life the past 2 weeks. I think that in general people have finally realized that his training sessions are a lot like having sex with a eunuch - there's a lot of movement, but it's not going anywhere. Fortunately, if things go as I think they may go, we're going to get this guy out of here and actually stop wasting lots and lots of valuable time.

"[Best] Movie Ever" - Comic Book Guy

It isn't often I get so excited for a movie that I'm about to pee my pants, but Revenge of the Sith made me question my bladder's iron constitution. Admittedly I'm a pretty big nerd about Star Wars, but this movie was just freakin' awesome. There were a few scenes were the acting was a bit overboard (which I attriubte to the fact that the scripts were kept from the eyes of the actors until the 11th hour), but other than that it was everything and more than I hoped it could be. For anyone has managed to be absent from existence for the last decade ROTS puts the final pieces of the puzzle in place as to why young Anakin Skywalker turned to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader. My absolute favorite scene in the movie (and in the running for best scene of all time) is the moment when Vader, now masked, takes his first ominous breath. According to Box Office Mojo ROTS grossed an amazing $303,949,700 worldwide in a mere 5 days. In North America it grossed $158,449,700, Western Europe pushed $56m, even Serbia rolled in with $62,284 (thanks Serbs). If you haven't been out to see it, I can't urge you enough to get off your can and get to the nearest theater, afterall 300 million people can't be wrong.

Forro's Girl's Restau-rant

Written by: Forro's girl
Last week my boyfriend and I were enjoying dinner at a local sit-down Mexican restaurant. While chatting casually and eating our nachos, we were rudely interrupted with an obscene version of Happy Birthday being hollered at a table 15 feet away. Loud clapping and some tune that neither sounded like Happy Birthday, nor resembled anything previously rehearsed, suddenly drowned out all attempts of relaxed conversation.

Disgusted, I rolled my eyes and complained to my boyfriend about these restaurants that find such a scene witty and comical. Of course, my comments went unheard drowned out by a military sound off version of Happy Birthday. I took this moment to myself (trying to disregard the noise consuming the restaurant) to look around. I saw an embarrassed birthday boy being screamed at by restaurant personnel, parents trying to keep control of their children as they attempted to groove to the annoying “tune,” and a boyfriend across the table from me that suddenly seemed separated from me by a Spanglish sound barrier. The cherry atop the fried ice cream was the baby on her mother’s lap that lost her balance and nearly lost her life because the mother used both hands to plug her own ears.

Who defines this as merriment? Who wrote these lame songs? The fact exists that Happy Birthday is a copywrited song, requiring that restaurants pay the rights for permission to sing it in their restaurants. They are too cheap to pay for it so they write their own crap. But really who cares? Who cares if it is somebody else’s birthday? In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “You lived another 12 months without dying. Congratulations.” Birthdays are a time for celebration but not for over-exuberance and downright annoyance.

It’s obvious that the wait staff doesn’t care to sing the songs either. Their walking and clapping from the kitchen to the table with a loathing look of “I-should-go-apply-at-McDonald’s-because-at-least-they-don’t-sing-there,” presents the wonder of who really thinks this is pleasurable? In my opinion it’s almost as cool as all the pathetic and ridiculous buttons worn by the employees at a popular international food chain.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Don't Ever Count the Bronx Bombers Out

One thing I haven't talked much about is my love for the Yankees. The main reason is because they have stunk up the AL East, but they're on a tear now. I know that there are probably more Yankees haters than Yankee lovers out there, and everyone was reveling in the collapse of Steinbrenner's $200 million roto league team. Nevertheless, you can't count them out yet. Sure, they're older than dirt, but they needed a bit of time to gel, get some players healthy (or at least have them contribute), and give everybody hope. While I don't think this win streak will continue indefinitely, watch for them to still make the playoffs, although unless they show this kind of play in September, I wouldn't bet on them being the MLB champs just yet.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Quick Freak-out

So I went to lunch today and I got a call on my way home that I needed to get some MiniDV tapes and set up a camcorder to record a seminar that one of our nurses was conducting today. Well, I said I would, then went home to lunch. I was there for no more than 20 minutes when I got another call from the same person saying that the nurse was wondering where her recorder setup was. Well, I still had a good half an hour before it was needed, so she should have held on for a bit. Then, while I was on my way back to the office, I got another call, this from an exec saying basically the same thing. Well, I told him essentially the same information. All was well, and so I got to the office and headed in, and I got a call from another exec asking essentially the same question. That's 3 calls in 20 minutes for something which was set up and ready to go before she even got in the room. It was absolutely ridiculous!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Follow Up on America West

If my rant about America West this morning wasn't good enough, I recently found out that it was timely as if ripped from the pages of this morning's paper. My father-in-law is a consultant and he was on a trip to do some training with ConocoPhillips and he had the misfortune to be on America West. He was going to be routed through Las Vegas, then to Dallas where he would have a 5 hour layover (during the night) and get on an American Airlines flight to his final destination. Well, he got to the airport and found that for no apparent reason at all, America West had cancelled his flight. They booked him on the next flight to Vegas and confirmed that he wanted to be on the 12:40 am-ish flight to DFW. Well, they didn't confirm it. He got to Vegas and they wouldn't let him on the flight. So there he was, stranded in Vegas. He thought that they had then confirmed him for the first flight to DFW in the morning, so he checked into a hotel and slept for a bit, only to wake up, go back to McCarran International Airport, and find that they did the exact same thing to him. Long story short, there were no flights to either DFW or his final destination available until he went down to the Continental counter where they did their best to get him to where he needed to go. They got him directly into where he needed to go, no thanks to either America West or American. This is especially disheartening with all the news about America West and US Airways possibly merging. I have been bequeathed Gold status on US Airways because of my American Express Centurion card, and now I find out that the airline I got status on is one I will probably want to avoid like the plague. Fortunately, I still have Delta and Continental status, so it won't be as bad, but I do have a request for the good people at American Express: please replace US Airways with United! Sure, they're both on death's door and in bankruptcy, but at least one isn't going to have America West hosing their passengers!

Back Again, for a bit

I have been out of town again for the past few days...we took a family vacation to Flagstaff, AZ. I know what you're thinking - you've never heard of a family vacation to Flagstaff before. The reason behind it is because my wife's brother got his Masters' Degree from Northern Arizona University and so we went down to see his commencement and spend a few days down there with him and his wife and son. All-in-all, it was a lot of fun, but it's more driving than I've done for a trip in probably 10 years. If it weren't for the Grand Canyon, it would have been a lot more direct of a drive. Instead, you have only a couple of options from Utah - you can cross the Colorado River just below Lake Powell at Page, AZ; you can cross at Navajo Bridge, about 10 miles south (but unaccessable from) of Page; or you can go to Las Vegas and cross in front of Lake Mead at Hoover Dam. What makes things even tougher is that that's the easiest way to get there. Last summer my wife flew down there (she didn't drive because I couldn't go, so in gas and wear/tear on the car it was cheaper to fly) for a few days and, when you add in the time waiting at the airport, it actually took longer to fly there.
Okay, a quick story about that. Unfortunately for everyone, the only airline with service to Flagstaff is America West Airlines. They fly those little turboprop puddle jumpers from Phoenix to Flagstaff - and that's the only service. There's nothing else. So I drove her to the airport at 6 in the morning for her 8 am flight. Well, as is typical for America West, she was delayed. Her flight didn't leave until after 10. It was delayed for some reason or another, causing her to miss her connecting flight in Phoenix. When she finally got there, she ran to her new connecting flight, which she barely made, but which was also promptly delayed as soon as it was out on the tarmac and not at the gate. I can't think of a worse fate than being on a turboprop aircraft with no legroom, little air conditioning, and in the middle of a Phoenix summer. After an hour of torture, she was able to go to Flagstaff. Final time spent travelling: 10 hours. Then her flight back was delayed in Flagstaff, then her connecting flight to Salt Lake was delayed, then they lost her bag in the process too. Again, it took about 10 hours to get back here. You wouldn't think it'd be quite so difficult, but such is travel on America West. This, of course, is in contrast to 8 hours of driving each way. The moral of the story: Flagstaff is far enough away from everything that it's tough to get to any way you travel.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

An Engaged Guy's Worst Nightmare

I've been too busy traveling and getting ready for Star Wars III to really pay attention, but what about this story? The girl up and ran away from the guy she was engaged to. First of all, she should have just cancelled the wedding instead of staging the whole kidnapping thing, and second of all the guy should move on. It's pretty clear that she's not going to be marrying him anytime soon. I know it's easy to say and hard to do, but unless he wants to be known as the guy that she keeps running away from, it'd probably be best for him to move on. In the words of Mark Rumsfeld, "Why don't you take your balls out of your wife's purse; make a stand for once in your life?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I Get Results!

If you remember all my consternation some months ago about the word specialists, I thought I'd just update you on the situation. Long story short, specialists will not be part of the new company name. Sing praises to the gods of common sense!

Sorro < Hitler?

I had a disagreement with one of my employees yesterday, and very long story short, after he/she walked out, I had some discussions with upper management, after which they sent in HR to smooth things out. We had a long talk, during which the HR person asked my employee to name one good thing about me. Now, you wouldn't think this would be too hard. For example, Hitler was an incredible motivator. Stalin and Chairman Mao both led their countries to make great strides in modernization, moving from peasant class societies to industrial ones in very short periods of time. Even William Henry Harrison was nothing if not eloquent.
Despite how easy it is to come up with at least one good thing about anybody, this employee couldn't come up with one good thing to say about me at all. The HR person even said that they'd accept "Sorro combs his hair nicely" or anything at all, but this employee didn't want to make any effort at all. Suffice it to say, the situation is developing.

Friday, May 06, 2005

An Open Letter to Michael Dell

Mr. Dell,
Hi, how are you?
I really like your company, I do. The computer I'm at right now is a Dell, my laptop is a Dell, and I work on a Dell. Nevertheless, I'm sick and tired of the calls from your financial division. Fortunately, I don't get them at home, but I do get to deal with them at work. Our payments aren't always at Dell on the due date as a result of our A/P cycle, and that's where my beef comes in. Almost immediately after that due date passes, one of your Indian reps gives me a call asking where the money is. I proceed to give him/her the check information, including what check number it is and when I sent it out. Of course, it takes several minutes to get things right, because the reps you hire don't speak good enough English, or else they aren't used to American accents, but that's beside the point. For most companies, that would be enough. They say thanks for the payment, and end it there. For your financial division, however, that's just the beginning. They then proceed to press for an additional payment to "save me from finance charges." After all, you can't wait for the check to be processed through your mail department - it's got to be right this second!
I give your rep the information to the bank account, because 200 dollars being late by a day or so is just murder for a company with $50 billion in revenues. It takes several minutes because I have to keep repeating myself, trying to speak as clearly as possible so that I'm not misunderstood by your guy in Bangalore. Finally, the transaction's done and I don't have to pay interest, right?
Wrong! I now find out that on my next bill, I'll be charged a "convenience fee" of $15 for the privilege of not getting charged late fees. Strangely, that $15 fee is more than I would have paid in interest. Also interesting is that I'm actually saving you money by doing it this way - it costs between 1-5 dollars to process a check and only $.60 to do an EFT. Therefore, I'm being charged for saving you money. Strange how that works, isn't it? Take the charge off my bill, stop bugging me, and maybe give me a new computer with that Pentium Extreme Edition 860, and we'll call it even.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Yeah, I've Been Sparse

I've been on the road for most of the past month - first on business to Washington, DC; then to Japan for my honeymoon (we're late, I know, but such are the vagaries of weather and redeeming free tickets from the airlines. In addition, Forro hasn't exactly shown up much either, it must have something to do with school, or a bad case of scurvy. Anyway, hopefully they'll pick up again after my diatribe against Doug Warren. I'll probably regale you with some travel tales at some point in time, you lucky person you!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Worst Consultant of All Time

Well, I just had the least productive morning in the history of mankind. Well, maybe not quite - but it was up there. We have a consultant coming in now who, in theory, is supposed to teach us all about Total Quality Management. In theory, that's great. I think a lot of companies can benefit from it, as demonstrated by places like Toyota. Nevertheless, to implement TQM, you first have to learn what TQM is, and this is where our consultant, Doug Warren is having problems. I was in this meeting for two and a half hours this morning, and maybe heard 5 minutes total about what TQM actually is and what it does. The rest of the time, I heard nothing more than factual inaccuracies. Really, to call them that is being generous. It was more like out and out BS. I think the easiest way to do this will be to break it down by subject.


Apparently I got stuck in a time warp back to the 80s, because as far as Mr. Warren is concerned, Japan is the boogeyman.

Factual Error 1

Japan is the best economy in the world!
Actually, that is false. According to one of the best internet reference sites out there, the CIA's World Factbook, Japan's GDP was $3.7 trillion, and grew at 1.9% last year. Meanwhile, the "inferior" US was at $11.5 trillion, and grew at 4.4%. By every economic indicator, the US' economy is better. There isn't any disputing that, and actually the US has been pulling away from Japan, so the gap is getting wider.

Factual Error 2

Total Quality Management (well, the Japanese implementation of it) and W. Edwards Deming were the cause of the fall of the Soviet Union!
Really? Why hasn't anybody pointed this out before? Certainly Japanese textbooks would toot this horn if they felt that it was the case. Of course, it's a lie. I think that liberals and conservatives can agree that Deming and the Japanese had very little to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. Instead it was (conservative opinion) Reagan or (liberal opinion) Gorbachev who caused it. Nope, according to Warren, we should be paying homage to Deming because he's the greatest man in history!

He has this irrational view of Japan as some sort of Superman, when anybody who has lived there, or even seen the movie Lost in Translation would know that it's not exactly paradise.

World History

I really don't know where to begin with this one. Perhaps I'll just give you a broad sweep of The World According to Doug Warren®, which is even less accurate than Mel Brooks' History of the World.
Okay, so the reason that our history comes primarily through the Greeks and Romans is becasue The Man is keeping Northern Europeans and their TQM achievements down. That's right! The Goths, Vandals, Vikings, and other assorted Barbarians were actually TQM masters, but the Romans kept them down. This was in part because of Charlemagne, who was an English general that the French appointed to be emperor of the Roman Empire. He moved the Roman capital to Constantinople and started the Crusades, which can be learned about by watching the movie Sahara (yes, Clive Cussler is now a noted historian!).
Then we found out that The British started out in 449 AD when the Mongol hordes under the combined leadership of Genghis Khan and Atilla the Hun pushed the northern Europeans out on an island (England). There, they practiced TQM and moved to New Foundland, where Henry VIII broke away from the church, became the leader of it, and defeated the Spanish Armada. Following this, he colonized the American continent. He also, along with nomadic peoples from elsewhere, drew up the Magna Carta. Then the king of England decided to have a war with France, which he won, which made him the king of France. Samuel Adams (the brother of John Adams) didn't like that, so he wrote a letter to the king. The king then said that they couldn't cross the Appalachian Mountains because all the land out there was his, so Sam Adams wrote 7 more letters, and then got the colonists to start the Revolutionary War. Following this, the Romans ended up in the South and the Northern Europeans in the North. Well, Abraham Lincoln read the Magna Carta, decided that the South wasn't following it, and started the Civil War, which apparently the South won (because they were the Romans, and as we all know, The Man is still keeping TQM down).
I'm not going to do a point by point rebuttal, because none of it is true, and all those Wikipedia links should rebut just fine for me. Then in his CV, he has the gall to call himself a historian!

Final Thoughts

He also fluffed himself more than anybody this side of Donald Trump. Of course, Trump can back it up, but Warren can't. Take a look at the electronic version. Try as I might, I can't find anything about how influential he was, being a political appointee, a powerful member of the Nixon advance team, and so forth. In addition, he's written a history (supposedly non-fiction), a book (that will be bigger than Harry Potter), and a musical. I could go on, but I think you get the point. This guy was a meatball! And I have to listen to 6 more sessions of this!