Wide World Of Sports (As Of Today)

Initial Disclaimer: I know where this posting starts from, I don’t know where it is going (which makes it pretty much a typical rant).

I am a spectator in the game of life. Last night, I watched “my” team’s kickball game at the park. Delta Force won their first game of the season (Go Delta!), despite the fact that they only had about two-thirds of their normal squad. Fact was they only had 10 players (the normal amount on the field at any time) evenly divided between men and women (a mixed couple team layout, each team required to put roughly half of each on a game’s lineup). They played their best game of the season winning 5-2.

One of the principle players absent last evening was watching his daughter’s last lacrosse game (I think she’s in middle school, but I get confused about kid ages…). Also in the park were a couple of adult softball leagues (the park has 6 diamonds). The city of Lansing also has a class A Minor League baseball team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays and nearby an American Professional Soccer team (designated a Tier 4 league, for whatever that means). Michigan State University is here (technically in East Lansing, but it meets CEFGW* standards) to provide Big 10 level excitement. There’s dozens of high schools in the area, each with the normal regimen of sport teams. And each of the dozens of golf courses and bowling alleys in the area have their allotment of leagues, bringing together testosterone, alcohol, and competition nightly.

So, on any given day, I have dozens of choices where to go to witness competition in the realm of physical battle. From the youngest T-Ball game to the highest echelon of college/semi-pro sports I can spectate to the point of exhaustion. (Please note, I do not consider myself a “fan” as I don’t have a close enough relationship with any of the teams to generate the rabid, zealous devotion that the shortened form of the word “fanatic” requires. Thus the term spectator.)

So, has it always been this way, or am I just more sensitive to the multiplex draws of sports participation in my waning years? Thinking back to my childhood, it was typical (expected?) for young boys to play little-league baseball. High school sports involved baseball, football, track and field, wrestling, and (in the larger schools) swimming. (Oh, yeah, there was basketball, too, but I have a serious aversion to the game so it slipped my mind there for a moment.) My mom’s family were avid bowlers so she was on a league and my dad played golf weekly on a team with a couple of co-workers. Flint (a city about 40 miles away from home) had a minor league hockey team and some of my dad’s friends played “slow-puck” hockey (no serious violence allowed, as the average player age was 40ish), but apart from these examples following sports was done on the radio, listening to teams far away.

A common complaint heard frequently in my circle of influence is “we can’t attend the [INSERT MEETING NAME HERE] because [INSERT CHILD NAME HERE] has a [INSERT SPORT EVENT HERE] game…” followed by a sigh. These people don’t (necessarily) have substantially more children than the families in my youth, but it appears there are SIGNIFICANTLY more opportunities for participation than ever before. I suspect the reason our economy is as robust as it appears to be is simply the result of purchasing vehicles for transporting kids to and from their sporting activities (and the resultant petrol purchases propelling these mini-vans). As I recall, I only had two games a week and maybe as many practices, but I rode my bicycle to and from these events. Twice a season my parents would come to see a game (was OK with that, as I was a horrible player overall, but the team ice cream cone treat afterward made it worth while).

Raising my son in the 90’s was trips to the swim meets, but since practice was at the school and he was there daily anyway there was no extra involvement. It didn’t feel substantially more excessive than my youth. Apparently that changed with the incoming new millennium…

With my disability/mobility issues there are really few options available to me at this time to “participate” in sports, so I am content to spectate. I just need to figure out how to assess and prioritize which events I will be attending to capitalize on my limited resources. Usually, I decline most offers to attend (which frees up about 22 evening hours a week) but have accepted the role of nominal mascot for the kickball team.

There’s really not anything on TV on Wednesday nights anyway….

Phred

post 72 of n

(*Close Enough For Government Work)

Advertisements

A Single Serving Of Alphabet Soup

Our government is great when it comes to making acronyms. I use a few myself, mostly caryover from my time in the Navy (CEFGW meaning “Close Enough For Government Work,”  as in “this bolt meets CEFGW standards” and DORD for “Department Of Redundancy Department,” where we actually had a rubber stamp made for our fun). There’s a couple I’ve been considering lately that I want to comment on: WMD and MAD.

Weapons of Mass Destruction is fairly recent (at least in general usage) being invoked in the interest of finding nuclear weapon development in the middle east. The concept, of course, goes back a long time and has been used in nearly every world war. Not limited to atomic weapons (although they provide the biggest “bang for the buck”), air-fuel bombs, white phosphorus weapons, jellied petroleum devices (NAPALM) and even the “carpet bombing” runs of conventional weapons could be considered WMDs based upon the level of destruction resulting from their use.

As terrible as these weapons are, I am actually more concerned in massively constructed weapons causing minimal (or no) destruction while causing extensive personnel casualties. Weapons in this category might allow an attacking force to take possession of a local essentially intact after taking out combatants and civilians in the area. Most of these weapons would fall into the CBW class (Chemical / Biological Weapon) of producing death. Toxic nerve agents, for example, could be dispersed and make an area impassable without total protection for weeks to months. Simply walking to your mailbox a week after surviving an attack could be lethal. Biological weapons may be slower but perhaps more insidious, as the amount of global travel could spread a pandemic weapon far beyond the initial deployment area. Again, going to the market to replenish supplies could bring home a bigger package than what has been purchased.

Switching gears for a moment to consider the idea of MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction was the principle device used in the cold war against Russia to prevent nuclear war. The basic idea was to provide a “second strike” capability such that when an enemy launched an initial attack, there would be (more than) enough weapons available to launch a counter-strike that would cause at least as much damage to the aggressor. The concept was to “persuade” a potential foe launching a preemptive strike would be futile as the resulting devastation from the counter attack would not be worth the projected gain.

Growing up in the 1960’s with the mandatory air-raid alerts and practice drills in the school hallways was a quarterly (occasionally monthly) reminder we were only a moment from horrific death from above.  That the launch never occurred is a (kind of) proof of the validity of the concept.

Today, I fear the concept no longer is valid. To have an effective projection of MAD requires both sufficient weaponry (and it’s staging) to make such an attack feasible, in fact virtually certain) and the determination of the highest members of government to make the call. I suspect America in 2015 fails on both accounts. The military has been substantially gutted in its size and power, and our leadership has given little encouragement to suppose a willingness to “pull the trigger” to deliver a knock-out blow to any conceivable enemy. Even a couple of decades ago we projected enough power to give any potential attacker pause, but today….

Even more disconcerting is the rise of terrorist attacks independent of an official nation-state sponsor. Should a massive attack occur (say, in September?) when there is no clearly defined enemy, where would we focus the MAD counterstrike? Even if there is a hypothetical devastating nuclear attack against a single target (the most likely terror strike) and the country of origin could be positively identified, what would be a “correct” response? Would it be rational to wipe a nation from the face of the Earth to retaliate against a single loss? Does a “tit for tat” destruction of one of their cities give a large enough incentive to cease forever making foolish decisions? Would 3 cities, or 10% of their population, or 30% of their national resource production capability? And would the powers that be make the decision?

I don’t know. I doubt if anyone does. But the concern of a WMD without the balancing effects of MAD lead ultimately to a WTF realization.

World Terrifyingly Frightening.

Phred

post 58 of n

How To Get Ahead In Business

I have “discovered” there is three ways to get ahead in business (speaking now as an employee rather than an entrepreneur or independent contractor) that pretty much describes what you must accomplish to advance up the “ladder of success.” You advance by using PUSH, PULL, or SUCK.

Push is the idea of being promoted by your peers. Working well together in teams, sharing credit for success and accepting blame for your failings, your teammates insist that superiors move you upwards in the organization for the benefit of all. Often found while working in the presence of Leaders (rather than Managers, see Why Nobody Plays “Follow The Manager”) it is the most satisfying and least common method of rising in your career. Your advancement is based on what you do.

Pull occurs when you have a benefactor somewhere in middle or upper management and they have a vested interest in your career. (Note: “vested” may not mean “personal” interest. It is possible the shadow broker has chosen the pawn in play to enhance his own fiefdom rather than to benefit the victim’s career.) Not restricted to familial relationships (but a family “friend” is often a good source for this advancement method) a secret, closed meeting somewhere generates a ripple in space-time that propels the target’s career forward in a non-linear fashion, often to the dismay of more talented (and worthy) peers, who are left to try and understand why they were slighted for the promotion. Truth is many (if not most) people using advancement by Pull are at or near the event horizon of the Peter Principle (often it is the last Pull that truly demonstrates the effect has already occurred). Your advancement depends on who you are.

Sadly, the last method is the most insidious of all. Suck requires the person to prostitute their ideas, ethics, and actions to any and all members of the higher echelons of the company. They will polish apples, salute any and all flags run up flagpoles, follow any and all orders and declare their eternal “yesness” for any idea. They will “kiss” [REDACTED] as often as is necessary to be seen. Their motto is “it’s not what you know but who you blow” that get’s them advanced.Your career path depends on how willing you are to….

It would be funny (in a pathetic way) if it weren’t so demoralizing to see these leaches advanced over the people doing the actual work without getting the credit due. Even worse is to eventually be a subordinate of a person that successfully activates Suck as their preferred method of advancement. They often reciprocate within their circle of influence, providing potential proteges with the opportunity to skip vast amounts of effort, watching as their career launches into the loftier regions of the company. You can end up making (and fetching) a lot of coffee over the years.

Of course, you could also spit….

Phred

post 51 of n

Why Nobody Plays “Follow The Manager”

In a meeting this week we were discussing the idea of “servant leadership” and what it would look like. It got me thinking and I shared with the group my experience of the difference between management and leadership.

Managers work primarily with “things.” They hold the world view that problems are things that need to be fixed. Usually, this will result in the assignment of a person to take care of a problem with the idea “who can get this done in the best (fastest, cheapest, most efficient) way?” Making the problem go away is the focus and driver in decisions. A manager is threatened by the success of his subordinates, knowing if they get “too good” at their job they might be advanced to management, possibly sending you out to pasture.

Leaders work primarily with “people.” The paradigm in view is problems are opportunities to let others grow and improve. A leader will be directed by the thought “who can benefit the most (learn new skills, enhance existing talent, stretch self confidence) from working on this project?” Short term efficiency can be sacrificed for long(er) term growth and capabilities from the team members involved, resulting in a greater net value over time. A leader is encouraged and delighted in the success of his people. By building strong replacements it allows him to move into other areas to grow and advance the company even further.

This does not mean managers never work with people or that leaders don’t fix things. It is more where the driver for the actions come from. A core philosophy that views the company as the product or the producer, the cake versus the baker. Both are needed and valuable, just which is ordered first differs for each style.

In my career, I have mostly worked for managers. These were average, normal, even good jobs where I felt good after putting my 40 hours in, to enjoy my weekend and go back on Monday. I think most bosses in America fall into the manager slot.

A couple of times I had the incredible experience to be slotted under a true leader. These people were the ones where you would walk barefoot through burning glass shards to put in your 60 hour week, then despair of having to leave at all. There was no feeling of being a cog in a wheel in a machine. Rather you felt as if you were the most important element of the whole organization.

There was a recent news article about the CEO that cut his salary and raised the minimum wage in his company to $70,000 a year. Whether this is a good or bad decision is not the point in this blog. It is optically clear to me this man was a leader rather than a manager. He demonstrated focus on the people rather than the company (alone). This is the most extreme example I can remember, but it sure sounds like the kind of person I’d like to have worked with, long before this decision. I think a closer review would reveal other people-driver choices (as opposed to company-drivers).

It’s easy to follow a leader, they are out front encouraging you to get up there. Following a manager is not so easy, they’re likely at their desk pointing the way for you to go. If you are a high(er) link in the food chain of your organization, then you can determine what kind of supervisor you will be, one who leads from the rear, or from the front.

When you work for yourself, your choices are more limited, as it depends not only what kind of person you are as a director but what kind of person you are directing. In my consulting firm (BNI/SAR) I am required to manage, not to lead.

I have (am) the worst employee known to mankind…

Phred

post 50 of n

Patching Potholes On The Highway To Hell

I am fond of using phrases and proverbs incorrectly, usually with some kind of kink. For example, I am often heard referring to someone “running around like a head with their chicken cut off.” Proverbial phrases often carry a some kind of pithy saying that has a general or universal application or meaning. This post’s title comes (indirectly) from the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I suspect that, with all the traffic on that road, there are a lot of potholes to fill.

One saying that bothers me is “it’s not the gift but the thought that counts.” The thought may have been intended, but the lack of thought is what’s visible. Buying a peanut butter ice cream cake for the birthday of my son (who has life threatening allergies to both peanuts and dairy) would not be a “nice thought” but about as stupid an action as it is possible to conceive. Administering epinepherine while driving him to the hospital might actually be a thoughtful intent after carrying out such a blunder.

The phrase that I find myself using more and more often these days (and it might be original, since I don’t remember ever hearing it in the distant past) is “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Most commonly it in in some interpersonal relationship context where a story is being told about an action taken by a third party (not currently present) having ongoing consequences that were unexpected or undesired. Often it involves one (or more) of the three drivers of rock and roll: sex, drugs, and rebellion against authority (or one of the country and western parallel vices: adultery, alcohol, or agitation directed against law enforcement).

I could say a lot more about this but…

Phred

post 49 of n

The Dream Is Over…

There are a lot of sad folks in the area around here as the dream is over for a national championship. It was fun while it lasted, but we lost and that’s it.

Reality has a way of sneaking up behind and biting you in the soft parts on a regular basis, say, constantly. You wake up and look in the mirror only to find you are not as young/smart/good looking/talented/ rich/famous/wise/desirable/lovable/[your favorite driver here] as you thought/dreamed/wished/wanted/needed/desired. You are what you are, only a day older than you were just 86,400 seconds ago.

This is (can be) a good thing. Because you are able to look in the mirror means you are still alive and therefore able to make a change, which can make a difference. Funny thing about time, there exists only an incredibly tiny area where you can actually affect change, the NOW. The past is fixed (at least as far as we can detect…the makers and users of the time machine have been incredibly careful about not telegraphing its existence) and the future is an imaginary construct that will never actually cross our path (when tomorrow gets here, for example, it will be now, just like it occurred today, and yesterday, and…) so we are really just stuck with this one, continuous now.

Using the right point of view, this is extremely powerful. So much so there will be enormous push back against anyone willing to live fully within the moment. By not spending energy worrying about some now not yet current, you have increased the reserve you have to invest in this now. If you can avoid dwelling upon outcomes resulting from previous (but no longer current) nows enables you to bring increased focus on the exact now you can influence (the only one in fact).

What tremendous power it is that lies within your grasp! By being fully in the now you can make a conscious decision to do exactly what needs to be done. There and then, in the only point of time you can influence. You can choose to eat or not eat, to say or not say, to invoke strong emotion or remain neutral. You can really drive the direction of your life rather than to hurl along on whatever path the inertia of dwelling on the NOT NOW has you drifting in (at best a sort of autopilot in an ambiguous direction, at worst a blind hurling towards the impending cliff of disaster).

Wake up! The steering wheel of your life is truly in your hands and you can turn (or go straight, too) at will. You just need to be here, now. You can win.

Unless you follow the [REDACTED]… sorry.

Phred

post 42 of n

You Must Be At Least This -> Tall To Read This Posting.

I am the youngest person living at my apartment complex. We are an age-restricted location where you must be at least 55 years old to live here. I moved in on my birthday, so by definition I am the youngest person (for me to reach the average age I need to live here about another 30 years, give or take a couple). It is a nice, quiet place to live. There are weekly and monthly events that the occupants can take part in, from a coffee klatch on Tuesday mornings to (age appropriate) exercise workouts on Friday before noon. It’s pretty much like living in any other apartment except there are fewer noisy parties and ambulances visit considerably more often.

One activity that occurs with considerable regularity is the discussion of names in the obituary columns of the local paper. Since many (perhaps most) of the residents have lived in the community 30 to 70 years (or more), they recognize many of the names listed in the paper. I am an import, so I am clueless about the locals and the ongoing change in the demographics of the area, but I am not clueless about the passing of time. My awareness comes from the national news broadcasts each weeknight.

Just about each week there is a brief reference to the death of someone reasonably famous on the nightly news, along with a brief description of the person’s life or reason for fame. The most recent was the passing of Robert Schuller, the tel-evangelist. I am not disturbed or affected by his death apart from the recognition of the name and some of his history. For much of my life, the obits named on the programs were just noise. Some might recognize them, but no one in my circle of influence (well, maybe mom and dad, but you get what I mean). With my advancing years, I find the names of the dead to be more recognizable than before.

A long time ago, I was presented with the “habit” most people do when faced with the death of someone, comparing the dearly departed’s age with my own (thus seeing how many years I might have “left”). Recently (last decade or so) the result of this formula is depressing if not outright terrifying. Some of the numbers have negative signs before them, suggesting the victim (obviously) died several decades before their time. That the difference in our ages is progressively getting smaller each passing day is a sobering reminder my plan to see the American Tri-centennial is less likely than when I watched the Bi-centennial from the deck of my ship (one of the national broadcast locations was the flight deck of the USS Constellation, CVA-64, where I served as a TV repairman).

Occasionally (increasingly frequently, sadly enough) I am made aware of the passing of someone I had the opportunity to know personally. The names on the school reunion lists shrinks over time, and while I do not attend, I am still aware of the shrinkage. I have fewer friends and relatives today than a dozen years ago and will be astonished to find the same number a dozen years hence. It is just a fact of life, even with the amazing advances in medicine and technology this millennium. They may be moving the finish line further from the start, but it is apparent it is not advancing quickly or far enough.

I remember when my son was too small (read: young) to go on some of the rides at the fair. Eventually he grew tall enough, and the whole world was opened to him. Now it is his daughter that has the sign restrictions to deal with. And so on.

When I meet with the folk for our Tuesday coffee, I am keenly aware of the passing of time. All are widowed (only a single couple still resides here, and I think they are the oldest residents here) and many are the last family members still above ground, having outlived both spouses and siblings. It gets really hard around the major holidays, to recognize that we neighbors are the only people in the world left to care. A few have older children (most older than I am) that might visit or call, but the greater share of the branches in the forest of lives living here have few leaves left on them. And it’s late autumn, with winter fast approaching.

I had the opportunity to share a nearly 10 hour car trip with a couple from my church this week, traveling to and from Chicago to pickup the wife from a hospital there (she suffers from debilitating migraine headaches and spent over a week in-patient trying to bring relief to her condition). As a result, I spent the next day in bed from the pain of riding in a foreign car (not my own, so not sized to fit well) and being confined for so long a time. It was totally worth it to see the interaction of the couple upon reuniting, and when she came home to her daughter. I would do it again. And again. And again, as needed, to keep connections linked.

Which reminds me… I need to take a trip to see my family and link local connections, too. Guess I’ll buy a ticket and get in line.

I could use a hug anyway.

Phred

post 41 of n

The Answer Is NOT Three

There was a commercial in my past that continues to haunt my life. It was of a boy asking an owl how many licks it takes to get to the middle of a Tootsie-Pop sucker. The owl says “lets find out” and starts licking. “One…two…three…CRACK…Three!” He bites the sucker after the third lick and proclaims the answer as three since he is unable to resist the temptation to rush to the treat in the center.

I have a confession to make: I am a victim of my choices. A willing, sometimes eager participant, but a victim never the less. You see, I am possessing of a compulsive personality trait that nudges me toward actions that (in the long run) are less than optimal. As a result, I am an overly large person (allows me to make the “valid” point that “I carry a lot or weight in this [any] organization”) that knows the ultimate result of poor lifestyle choices (and even cares about the choices) but still makes them anyway..

I am not as strong a person as I like to tell myself I am. I live alone and have “complete” control of my surroundings, so I should be able to do what I want and enjoy the freedom of my choices. Instead, I am compelled to follow the Pavlovian programming of nearly six decades of historic influences. I want to go in one direction and find myself several miles off course, drifting further away as the tides of history drag me out to sea.

I was not abused as a child, nor was I raised in a (abnormally) dysfunctional home (I believe we are ALL from dysfunctional homes, some are just more dysfunctional than others). My younger sisters and I lived with both of our natural parents (no abandonment or divorce related issues) in a small(ish) town about 50 miles from here (in [REDACTED]). We were raised in neither affluence nor poverty, being raised in a rather middle class environment. We had everything we needed, much that we wanted, and were, in general, pretty normal and happy.

And yet, I have fuzzy memories of denial and hoarding (probably skewed by a childish point of view – of course I WAS a child at the time, but…).  I didn’t get to eat cookies and ice cream  when I wanted. I had to share, and sometimes (often? always?) had to let my siblings go first (because I was “older” and by extension “more mature”). I had to go to bed before I wanted to and couldn’t watch what I wanted to on TV (sometimes I could sneak downstairs late at night to watch TV when spending the night at grandma’s house, as long as I kept the volume way down). I had to do chores and clean my room at the most inopportune times (like when my mom told me to), and wash the dishes far more often than my sisters. It just wasn’t fair.

Now I am an adult and am empowered to make my own choices without needing to get input from others (the kid has grown up, married, and moved away, and the wife left, divorced me and remarried years ago). Or so the theory states. Yet when I am confronted with a choice of actions the ghosts of the past haunt me and shove me in directions I don’t necessarily want to go. I often finish the bag of cookies now rather than leave some for tomorrow (lest the invisible sibling hordes steal them away in the night). I will eat beyond satiety to make sure I get “my share” and won’t have to go without by others consuming what could have been mine. I buy things I don’t need (but think I want) to drown out the echos of “no’s” from my childhood . I stay up late to play video games and sleep in late because I can (now). My sink is full of dirty dishes (clean ones are in the dishwasher when I need them), clean clothes in the hamper from the last laundry run (dirty ones in a heap pile stack in the corner) and the bed is made twice a year (whether it needs it or not) for the annual inspections. In short, I do what I want and am miserable as a result.

What I really “want” is to be able to enjoy eating my cake without the hassle of making, baking, and breaking down the process afterward. I want to be fully indulged in my selfish desires without the downsides of effort or repercussion. I am insane (along with a large percentage of society). I read and apply (briefly) suggestions and rules from books, web pages, and media presentations about how to organize, simplify, and enhance my life, to acquire great habits and positive lifestyle changes and break self-destructive behaviors that damage my self esteem and physique. I have a juicer, rice steamer, and vacuum food saver to improve my choices in eating and storing healthy foods. (I do NOT have a Nordic-Trac in my basement. Never went down that rabbit hole, although I DID have both a treadmill and a personal gym at one time.) I have yoga and tai-chi videos, shelves of self-improvement books, follow several (many?) blogs and sites about health and fitness.

I am neither fit nor healthy. I don’t juice, steam, or suck air from the packages I put in the freezer. I am about as flexible as iron and as gracefully balanced as a still top. in short, I am only a good intention. I am a really, REALLY bad implementer of change. I have asked for answers and wisdom from others and have heard the CRACK of my desire to make hard changes shatter to get to the yummy center of self-indulgence. I lack the patience and perseverance to stick to actions long enough to implement real change, preferring instead to continue along the path of pain and weakness, whining all the way.

Yet, this project (the blog) has been different (so far…). I have been able to continue to keep up the 3-a-week schedule (barely) for over a month. This is nearly a record for me to keep up an activity without a fat/sugar/calorie-laden treat dangling on a string before me as an encouragement to continue. I may not be losing weight (except the reduced fat in my typing fingers) or becoming an Olympic athlete from this activity, but the success provides a glint of a shimmer of a shadow of a possibility that I can accomplish other dreams as well. So it is (at least in theory) worth it. I may actually be able to overcome temptation long enough to become a better, more positive person. It is worth the attempt. But maybe the announcer in the commercial got it right at the end after all…

“The world may never know.”

Phred

post 40 of n

Q&A: What Do Girl Scout Cookies Have In Common With Viagra?

I failed my first business in 1993. I was in a partnership providing small and medium businesses with computerized accounting software products and services. We did serious research and provided a couple of marvelous products to our clients. We did sales, setup, and training, and were able to assist companies in making intelligent decisions regarding their needs and how to address and meet them.  It only took us 6 months to drain our resources to the point where the partnership required dissolution and we went our separate ways.

What went wrong was we failed to adequately market our product. We did not generate enough sales to maintain our business (wonderful as it was) and we died from insufficient cash flow. About 9 of every 10 new businesses travel down a similar pathway within the first three years of operation. In a small business seminar I attended (a couple of years before my fiasco) the idea was presented most small businesses are made of two people coming together: someone that knows how to do/make something, and someone that knows how to sell something. Unfortunately for these people, there needs to be a third person that knows how to run a business (specifically how to manage the money, both incoming and outgoing).

We (probably) should have known better, but failed none the less. We knew how to sell and how to use the product. We didn’t know how to market it (well enough). If we had been better at marketing we would have had a larger group of people to provide goods and services for, and then we would have had a larger group of people to shower us with money…

It was shortly after this trauma in my (business) life that I came to despise the Girl Scouts. Not the individual participants, they were still cute and adorable, but rather the devious and insidious marketing methods of the parent organization. Specifically, the cookie sales machine. My ex-sister-in-law was involved in the supply channel of cookie distribution and it came to light the $5.00 box of cookies would net less than 75 cents for the local group (and that did not include the copious amount of money spent on gasoline to haul the cookies from distribution center to troop home and again to the various sucker’s customer’s location). Shame on you, Mr. Ouaker!

It quickly became known in every office I worked in I was the curmudgeon to avoid like the plague when it came to kid-based fund-raising activities. Band-based citrus fruit, troop centered candy bar sales, pack pitched popcorn tins, in general any and every possible method of squeezing cash from the associates of parental units was utilized in my various workplace locations. In every case, I was identified as the LAST person to ask as it would invoke a ten-minute rant about the evils of “guilt-driven” marketing practices and when (read:if) the victim was able to escape they would be wiser next time. The number of such encounters decreased in frequency quite quickly (to the relief of co-workers in adjacent cubicles, being subjected to the anti-sales pitch several times in any given time period), eventually diminishing to winning lottery ticket occurrence regularity.

It was even worse when my son reached marketable age. I explained to his band director in person that he would not be productive in the fund raising activity of mercilessly pleading with family to buy endless quantities of needless materials thereby  funding the parent company (less a trickle for the local school system). I said I would rather write a check to the band (where every penny was given to the project) than spend (read: waste) my money buying an inflated product, only a mere pittance of which would befall upon the needy students involved.  I was not very popular in several circles (other parents, their kids, or my son himself) but I was confident I had secured the moral high ground.

So, how does this rant connect to the “little blue pill?”  There is a great similarity in the current marketing procedure for pharmaceuticals presented on television and in magazines to the little-league candy bar sales of old. Rather than putting in the required effort to market and sell your product yourself, you enlist the efforts of grossly underpaid amateur staff to hawk your wares to the general public. In the fund raising process, it is the children (or more often in my experience, their parents) plying on the associated guilt of “I need you to buy this in order for me to be able to: go to camp/win a bicycle/get a t-shirt/keep from being beaten up by my peers….” In the slick multimedia marketing presentation from the drug companies, it is the patient (or rather the customer) plying on the associated guilt of “I need you to prescribe this in order for me to be able to: avoid searching for bathrooms/obtain and maintain an erection/lower my cholesterol/eliminate frequent heartburn/help me breath easier/eliminate painful intercourse/reduce bladder leakage….” In essence, the patient has become the unpaid sale representative of the drug companies.

In the past, agents would be sent to the doctor’s office to provide samples and encourage physicians to prescribe a companies products. Now, (potential) customers are encouraged to pester their doctors for prescriptions to relieve conditions they were not aware they “were suffering from” until watching the TV. And if you act quickly you might be able to get your “first” prescription/month’s prescription/year’s prescription free (or at reduced cost). Why pay for an employee to distribute your wares when you can have the snake-oil purchasers do it for you (for free)?

At least the cookies came directly to your door….

Phred

post 39 of n

Name Calling In Soda Culture

I have come to understand where I am changes what I get when I ask for something from a “native.” I have lived most of my life in Michigan, apart from a brief stint in the Navy where I spent a half year north of Chicago and a year in California. So I was under the (mistaken) understanding that everyone did things the right way (that is, the way WE did things). HAHAHAHA!, What a foolish idea.

Take tho process of ordering a beverage with your meal. Here we drink pop, defined as a sweetened, bubbly drink usually served over ice. Different flavors exist and each restaurant usually only serves options from one of the major brand suppliers. So if you chose a cola, root beer, lemon-lime, orange, or a citrus flavored beverage at one establishment you get a Pepsi, Mug, 7-Up, Crush, or Mountain Dew. At the eatery next door your beverage is a Coke, Barqs, Sprite, Fanta, or Mellow Yellow. Purchase a ginger ale beverage and you get a Vernors. Iced tea comes straight up (although you can have a sliver of lemon added if you ask) and unsweetened (the way nature intended). Simple and straight forward.

Except for most of the other 49 states and hundreds of other countries on the globe. Ask for a pop some places gets you a bloody nose or the senior male member of the family. A soda comes without ice cream (my first real job was as a soda-jerk in a soft serve ice cream stand… and I was the only employee other than the owner that could make a proper soda, according to a number of loyal customers) and results in one of the (again, brand specific) beverages listed above. To make things even more confusing I have been in places where asking for a coke evokes the question “what flavor?” (and they don’t mean plain or cherry). Apparently in Canada and the southern US diabetics order iced tea at their peril (my first adult trip to Toronto involved a shocking slurp of tea-flavored sugar syrup from a fast food establishment… most of which ended up on the windshield).

The year in California was one spent in a wasteland without Lay’s potato chips, Kogel’s hot dogs, or Miracle Whip salad dressing (this was in 1976, things have changed since then, but the trauma remains). I have never been inside of a Waffle House, being forced to take starch-based breakfast food at the International House of Pancakes instead.

So many names for the same products (or maybe a variety of products with the same name… confusion reigns in either case). There is indeed a strong sense of culture shock when you move beyond the hundred-acre woods for the first time.  Usually there is enough information exchanged eventually to place an acceptable order. Using the worst-case scenario, pointing at the menu and asking for “one of these” will allow for an unexpected adventure not (necessarily) soon to be forgotten (a favorite ploy at establishments offering world cuisine not commonly found in rural mid-Michigan). I keep Maalox in the glovebox just in case…

So when I travel (not all that often, nor all that far anymore, I must sadly confess) I have learned to accept (if not embrace) the challenge of dealing with nomenclature regarding the local “pop” culture. To make life easier, I eventually just end up with a glass of ice water with my meal, and a cup of coffee with desert (I like pie). But I am reasonably sure of one thing.

Ordering a caffeine-laced-carbonated-soda-beverage in most places results in a blank stare.

Phred

post 38 of n