Insights into business, society, and life in general

Archive for May, 2009

On The Computer

“He’s on the computer again.”

“All you ever do is spend time on the computer.”

“All the time these kids spend on the computer is a waste.”

Ahem — is it? A waste? Is being “on the computer” a bad thing? 

First, let’s get this “on the computer” term straight. 

Does it mean playing games?

Does it mean surfing sites aimlessly?

Does it mean IMing with friends?

Does it mean hours spent on Facebook and MySpace?

Does it mean checking out babes and hunks on dating sites?

ANSWER:

It means all of the above and MORE!

Now let’s explore this concept a bit more.

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Pen Perfection

I am quirky, and proud of it. One of my quirks, probably more accurate to call it a passion, is pens. I doubt there is anyone out there who is as rabid connoisseur of pens as I am. Seriously — you name the pen, I have a comment. When it comes to my own pen selections, I have been on the never-ending quest for the perfect pen for years. To satisfy me, the feel has to be EXACTLY right! The tip has to come out a certain dsitance from the barrel, the barrel has to be a certain diameter, the ink has to be smooth — no blotches, no skips, and of course — it has to smell! I am nose oriented, because nothing thrills me more than the smell of ink on paper. Then there is the diamter of the nib — I despise anything over 1 mm, and depending on the type of pen — gel, ballpoint, or rollerball — I prefer a .5 or .7.

Notice I did not mention fountain pens? So many people swear by their fountain pens, but I just was never able to go there. Yes, I tried, but either the nib wasn’t right, I got ink all over everything, including myself, or the thing scratached on the paper, which to me is like fingernails on the proverbial blackboard.

Be aware that over the years I have bought and or absconded (doctors’ offices and such) with hundreds of pens. The prices have ranged from $1 to $100. But most have been in that relatively “cheap” range of $6 (package of 4 or 5) to $25.

So now the question becomes: have I found the perfect pen? And the answer is – sort of. Sort of? Well actually, more like the perfect brand within which lies several options that are true winners. 

But first, the runner’s up.  Before I make the grand pronouncement, I must tell you that I have tried every major brand name pen out there. I won’t list them here because they are indeed lovely pens, they just didn’t make the neurotic Mary Anne cut. So what did make the cut, in Number 3 position: Foray pens! Foray is the house brand for Office Depot and a mighty fine pen they indeed make. My favorite is the retractable, big barrelled black and blue, medium point. I think the medium is actually more like 1mm, a bit beyond my specs and therefore the number 3 slot. But these pens write smooth as silk and feel comfy in the hand.

Number 2? Another house brand — a theme perhaps? This one is the Staples Xeno and it comes in both retractable and stick; I prefer the stick. I think another 1 mm, but smooth and great smelling!!

And the Grand Prize goes to yet another house brand: Office Max’s Tul brand pens. These are a major wow, in my most humble book. They come in ballpoint, gel, and rollerball, with ultra fine, fine, and medium tips. They come in stick and retractable, and I just plain love them all.

So there you have it. I have come out of the closet about my pen fetish and I hope you enjoy my little piece here if not the recommendations.

Sears: The Icon Falls

sears-logo.jpg

Sears sucks. Sears is another of the falling American icons. Sears is falling because it is mired in a cesspool of rigid policies that don’t account for the reality of its defective products purchased in good faith by unfortunate customers.

Here’s my story. (Promise, it’s short). I bought a lawnmower from Sears two years ago. Since then, I have had this lawnmower in for repairs — four times!! Here is the basic problem — it spews, I mean SPEWS blue smoke from both sides of the carburator, it backfires, it leaks oil all over itself, it sputters, it stalls — there’s more, but got the picture?

So, four times, each time pleading for a new mower. No, I was told repeatedly — it must be sent to the repair center, now in PA (used to be one here locally, but you know all about cost-cutting: screw the customer, make the bucks), and not until it was sent in the fifth time would replacement be considered. The warantee on the thing was good for two years – so that was an okay thing. But there was also this thing called winter where the lawnmower was stored away all snuggly in the backyard shed from early November through end of April. 

I took it out this year on May 4th, after having put it away for the winter directly from its most recent repair. Unfortunately I never used or tested it before using it for the first time this spring. Ma bad. Guess what? It’s ever WORSE than ever. And guess what, Sears REFUSES to do anything about it. And guess what again? I will NEVER buy another thing from Sears again, and I hope you don’t either!

Major Screw-up

Man oh man, did I screw up. Here’s what I did. I finished calculating all my grades two weeks before the due date. I finished them, submitted them into the campus Banner system, washed my hands, and turned my sights to survival mode. I won’t kid you, this is probably one of the most difficult times of my life. My income level has fallen into three-digit level and I kid you not. I spend my days on the phone with the mortgage company, the electric company, the phone company, and a host of other assorted companies, pleading, begging, and doin g what I have to to keep from becoming homeless. All I can say is thank you to these institutions who are unfailingly willing to bend as far as they possibly can. 

In the meantime,  my 20-something daughter is teetering on the edge of life — literally. Every day I wake up and say, “Is today the day I’m doing to get the call no mother ever wants to get?”

Back to the grades — every so often a kid comes along who complains about his grades. I had one of those kids this year. The week after I finished and had the whole mess handed in, he contacts me because he thinks he got a B+. Can you believe it??? Even worse, in reality, I gave the kid an A- because though the points indeed added up to a B+, I exerted my professorial liberty because he was a good student. Well, the thing got all out of wehack, miscommunications up the wazoo, I ASS-umed he had gotten the actual grade, he hadn’t, still — complaining about a B+?

He went to the department chair and shared with her a series of communiques we had had, in some of which I was professional, but short. I took the stand that the grades were in and that was that. When I heard he went to the chair, I flipped, and of course, I also was not happy with her handling of it, part of which was my anger-skewed view, part of which was valid. I again communicated via email, professionally, but, shall we say, pointedly. 

Now, had this personal crap not been going on, I would have handled this much differently. I would have taken more time with this kid when he contacted me, dealt with his question, made my decision, and moved on. Perhaps he still would have meandered on to the chair, perhaps he wouldn’t have. 

Perhaps, perhaps. Maybe, maybe. Whatever, I inserted my personal emotion into a situation where it DID NOT belong. This was wrong. And so I was wrong. Mea culpa.

Beware of Belgians Bearing Books

My friends: be careful, be safe, be wary and err on the side of taking care of yourself. I am coming down off a nightmare. It is a nightmare, and I have no one to blame but my foolish self. About 6 years ago I met a man on one of those dating sites, the scourge of civilization IMHO. And of course, fool that I was, I feel for this European, seemingly wealthy, worldly, SINGLE (ha) man. So now you know. I didn’t, and that’s the pathetic part. Took me 6 months to emerge from my denial to finally realize the guy was married and I was merely his daliance.

Well, did I gather my skirts tight and head off into the sunset? No, no, no!! Can you believe it?  I hung on  because the guy had also “hired” me to do a myriad of writing, selling, and managing duties for his multitudious stable of websites. But the proverbial handwriting was screamingly evident not only in my personal experience with the lying lech, but also in his unstable and crazy business approach.

Bottom line: he was cheap, he lied, he used people, he had no business sense, and he was as bipolar as I’ve ever seen a human being.

Now, here are the stupid things I did, and the positively wretched thing he did: I never insisted on a contract. I trusted the ass. As a result, I had no employee status, no severance arrangements, no benefits, no specific performance expectations, and now I think you have the picture. So, one day, I got an IM, and that was it. Shop shut down, door closed, end of story, buh bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am really venting here, guys, but I do hope you can learn a little something from this:

  • Do not trust
  • Get a contract
  • Be firm and strong
  • Keep personal crap out of it