Category Archives: Society

Christmas in July

Here we are, almost half way through December and speeding towards Christmas. As I get older, it seems as though the holiday season gets faster and faster, and glides by so quickly that I hardly have a chance to notice it, much less enjoy it. It feels like Christmas 2014 was just a few weeks ago. And yet here I am perched at my kitchen table on December 13th at 10:25PM, writing a blog post I thought about writing back in November, and that I started and never completed writing on December 9th. Time really does fly by.

When I was a kid I used to love Christmas. That’s not to say I don’t any longer. I absolutely do. Christmas is the only holiday I like more than Halloween, especially now that I’m creeping away from my college years. But when you are a kid, you really really love Christmas. Everything about it is so magical. Everyone decorates their home and the neighborhood is lit up with Christmas lights and decorations. We bring beautiful, fresh cut, woods scented trees into our homes. An come that magical morning everyone meanders their way to the tree, surrounds by amazingly adorned boxes and ribbons. We sit around a lit fire place , drinking coffee and cocoa and spiced cider and eggnog. We sing carols. We listen to the same old Christmas songs. My favorite was always the Little Drummer Boy. In fact, listen to this beautiful rendition of it while you read this blog post, because I was listening to it while I wrote it.

When you’re a kid, Christmas truly feels like it lasts forever. And that’s because, relatively speaking, it sorta does.  When you’re 5 years old, one more year is literally an extra 20% of your total life. When you’re 29? 40? 50? One year, relative to the time you’ve lived, feels like a commercial break.

As a child I remember seeing Christmas decorations in stores earlier than normal, and thinking nothing of it. When I got older, I started really noticing. I used to think it was weird to see it before Thanksgiving, and just this year I recall seeing it as early as pre-Halloween.

I’ve always heard people gripe about how Christmas stuff comes out on shelves earlier and earlier each year. This year my first thought was to do the same thing, and gripe. But wait. Just wait…. Maybe, just maybe, this is a good thing. As a kid the holidays seem to last forever and that’s partially because we have no responsibilities. We don’t have bills or jobs, or obligations. We’re out of school for a month with nothing to do but play and have fun and soak in the holiday spirit.

We’re usually so busy making Christmas, we often forget to slow down and take the time to enjoy Christmas.

But as an adult, I do have responsibilities. A ton of them. And a demanding job, and taxes, my fair share of bills, and dozens of obligations. On top of that, we’re (adults) the ones planning events, driving, decorating, buying gifts, and coordinating these massive family events that youngins can enjoy. As adults, we’re tasked with bringing the magic, so that kids can enjoy it. There is no winter break for adults. We’re usually so busy making Christmas, we often forget to slow down and take the time to enjoy Christmas.

Christmas-de-stress

I am now making a deliberate effort to hit the breaks and enjoy the season. And I slowly start to realize that maybe Christmas in November, Christmas in October is a good thing because it gives us all more of an opportunity to let the holiday spirit truly sink in. In this day and age of political correctness and faith shaming, I am happy to still see Christmas large and alive this time of the year, even if in it’s corporatized, secularized manifestation. A little bit of Christmas, a plastic Christmas, is still better than no Christmas at all.  Maybe what this world needs is a little more Christmas. As I get older, and time flies faster, I welcome Christmas in July.

Maybe what this world needs is a little more Christmas. As I get older, and time flies faster, I welcome Christmas in July.

I want to thank everyone for reading this far. I want to thank all those friends and family members and absolute strangers who read my blog posts regularly, follow me, share my posts, and encourage me to keep writing.

Thank you God, for the opportunity you have given all of us, myself included.

Merry Christmas everyone. I love you all.

99 Homes: Movie Review

A little late I know, but better later than never, right?

99 Houses was a very different movie from anything I have ever seen. It stars Andrew Garfield, the short lived Spider-Man star. It also stars Michael Shannon, the guy who played General Zod in Man of Steel, but you might also mention him from a dozen other works like 8 Mile, Iceman, and Boardwalk Empire.

The story is about Dennis Nash (Garfield), a young blue collar man trying to single handedly raise his son and his mom in a rough economy, in the midst of losing their home. That wasn’t a typo.  Dennis practically raises his mom, who acts more like an irresponsible 19 year old daughter who dropped out of high school and is going to a trade school, than a mother.

Nash loses his home to the bank, and his eviction is overseen by a strict, no nonsense real estate developer, Rick Carver, played perfectly by Michael Shannon.

After initially losing his home, Nash despises Carver and naturally sees him as the person responsible for his misfortune. However a chance encounter with some of Carver’s home-flipping laborers turns into small time, small paying labor jobs. In short time Dennis Nash has a lucrative career not only working for his former nemesis, but along side him.

In the trailers, Shannon’s character was portrayed as this evil, corporate, heartless business tycoon who steps on the innocent, hard working little man Dennis Nash, for his own greed. After all, that is the song being sung by almost everyone in the country these days, regardless of your political affiliation. The narrative being painted today is that homeowners are all saints who have done no wrong, and financial institutions are all secretly owned by Hitler death squads.

You definitely do sympathize with Garfield’s character. The movie pulls no punches in the heart area, when you are forced to watch this dad get kicked to his hands and knees, and struggle to support his family.

But interestingly, over the course of the movie the character I really took a liking to, was Shannon’s character Rick Carver. Yes, I liked the “bad guy” more than the “good guy”. Was the guy a stone cold hard ass? Yes. But he was also a smart, hard working son of a bitch. He was also a loving father who wanted nothing but the best for his children. But he also did everything he could to teach Nash how to earn, spend,and invest his money properly.

Without spoiling the movie too much, this is perhaps the most interesting part of the film. Despite our cultural views of bankers, businessmen, and wall street, this movie attempts to show you a different angle, and in many ways approaches a paradigm shift between the contemporary views of “good guy” and “bad guy”. In fact, I didn’t think Carver was the bad guy in the movie at all until a hiccup at the very end of the movie, but again, no spoilers here!

Our two leads did an amazing job. You forget about Garfield’s most recent web slinging hurrah and you really do see him as a father trying desperately to make ends meet for his family. His grief, his stress, and his struggles are portrayed perfectly, and you feel every ounce of emotion Garfield brings to the set.

Michael Shannon of course needs no introduction. This actor has always floated in that narrow corridor between A-list and B-list actor. He acts better than most A-list stars but just could never get the cinematic boost needed to rise into full stardom. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have thought of a better actor to take on the roll of the tough as nails Rick Carver. Shannon’s intensity, and rigidity make him a one man force of nature, and his presence on screen is heart stopping.

I highly recommend 99 Homes to anyone who wants to see a genuinely well written, well casted, well acted, and well directed movie. No negative feedback about this movie whatsoever. 5 stars.

Jews Agree with Ben Carson

I was pretty confused when I learned that the media was making a big deal about a comment Dr. Ben Carson made recently about how the plight of the Jews would be have been more favorable, and that the Holocaust could have possibly been diminished had Jews had firearms in the 1930’s and 40’s. A lot of people are treating this as Ben Carson’s big gaffe, like it’s some foot-in-mouth comment akin to Joe Biden telling women to “just get a shotgun”.

What’s more surprising, is that people find his comment surprising. Let me explain.

I’m Jew…ish. My mom’s a Jew. I occasionally went to temple growing up. I do own a couple yamakas that I save for the occasional Passover or Yom Kippur dinner. I was raised with Jews growing up.

But then I also spent a month in Israel as part of a religious trip shortly after graduating college. While I was there I also spoke with dozens of rabbis, and rabbinic scholars. I spoke with pizza maker Jews, taxi cab driver Jews, bartender Jews, mom Jews and dad Jews. I even went to the official Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

Guess what. They all have guns. And they agree with Ben Carson.

Almost unanimously, Jewish people acknowledge that part of the reason why the holocaust was allowed to get as out of control as it did, was that no one did anything about it. No one slayed the holocaust in its infancy. That no one, including the Jews, opposed the Nazi’s until it was too late. That Jews were powerless to stop the harassment, the badging, the confiscation, and the vandalism. They were powerless to stop the thuggery, the detainment, and ultimate genocide of their own people.

In fact, Jews have a saying – Never again. This isn’t like the “never forget” Americans say come September 11th. Forget isn’t a Hebrew word. Forget is not in the Jewish vernacular. Not forgetting something is easy. We Jews have one of the longest known histories of any people on this planet. It’s not because we have a short memory.

Instead the Jewish challenge is to never again, let such atrocities happen. Atrocities are not avoided with the pen. One cannot simply grab a pen, draw a circle around a problem, and expect to contain it. Rapes are not avoided with pleas of mercy. Holocaust are not avoided with diplomacy. Lest we forget, the Nazis were voted into power.

Like it or not. Agree with it or not. Whether it settles well in your political stomach or not, had Jews been armed, it’s possible the holocaust as we know it, would never have happened.

I was on the internet reading some stupid ass posts, and one Richard Hodge sarcastically wrote “Yes Genius. Jews with a few pistols could have easily defended themselves against an army that almost took over the world.”

To quote and paraphrase some of the more intelligent folks who replied, were these Jews who were rounded up and murdered better off without guns, or would they have been better off with them? The 9.5 million Jews living in Europe in 1933 would have constituted only a “few”? The Warsaw uprising is a good example of how armed citizens fought hard to defend themselves, but it was too few too late. Realistically speaking, a few million Jewish people with a few million pistols (and the ammunition to go with them) back in the mid-1930s might very well have changed history as we know it.

The world didn’t wake up one day to a fully militarized and entrenched Nazi Germany. The wave of a magic wand did not suddenly teleport millions of Jews to death camps. The holocaust happened one day at a time, one train at a time, one door knock at a time. Movements, even the Nazi movement, take time to build momentum. And enough armed people with the will to act, could have stopped it in its tracks, had they acted soon enough.

So although some might feel that the comparison is inappropriate, does not mean that the basis of the comparison is not solid.

Thank you, Dan Mcpherson, Andrew Haraldson, and Randy Leever for letting me bum your quotes.

Thank You, and Paying It Forward

This will be a quick post as I have work this morning but it’s past due.

Last weekend I was taking my dog Major into the self-groomers at Petco Unleashed for some father son bonding time. I’ve been there about 3 times before with Major, and this was nothing special. Except that this time Major decided to leave a present in the trunk of my Xterra before we got there. Being as I didn’t get him as a puppy, I suspect he’s 9-10 years old now and even though he’s not quite yet incontinent, car trips sometimes leave us with a steamy mess of Major.

Last weekend was also blazing hot, about 96 in La Mesa, so when I arrived at the parking lot of Petco I had to clean up the mess as quickly as possible. Naturally Major had lost his footing during the ride and managed to get it everywhere. I had no one to hold the leash so I tied him to my rims while he rested under the Xterra for some shade while I cleaned up the mess. I was short on cleaning supplies, and was having a lot of difficulty.

Then backup arrived. A woman approached me in the parking lot, nice as ever, and saw I was having some difficulty. She had three kids with her to boot. It was a hot day, and I was a stranger, covered in filth, accompanied by a menacing looking dog. For convenience, for fear of being assaulted by a strange man, or bit by a huge dog, she could have continued on her way, but she approached anyways and asked if I could use any help.

We chit chatted for a minute or so. She understood my situation as she was a dog lover, and had just gone through the horrible experience of euthanizing two older dogs herself, earlier in the year. She hustled to her car, and without being asking she returned bearing gifts. She had a full roll of paper towels and a pack of baby/cleaning wipes. It wasn’t a steam cleaner but it was 100x better than what I was working with, and it spared me a lot of stress, embarrassment, and sweat as I sat there in the sizzling blacktop parking lot desperately trying to clean crap out of my car, with my poor dog trying to escape the heat by hiding under it.

It was incredibly helpful, and my day could have been a lot worse had it not been for that lady’s help. To the unknown mother of three who helped me and more importantly, helped my dog when we needed it, THANK YOU SO MUCH. You made my day. You made my week. And I will always remember and be grateful for what you did.

Paying it forward

Last night I had the opportunity to pay it forward, and maybe coincidentally, or maybe by fate, I happened to be with Major again when it happened.

I was taking Major on his evening walk, and there was a guy across the street crawled under his car, clearly working on something. He had his front tires jacked up, and whatever he was doing you can tell he looked a little flustered. The sun was setting and though the sky was still rosy pink and orange, it was dark out, and I could only imagine how dark it was under the car. I didn’t think too much of it, and went on my walk.

About 40 minutes later as our walk was winding down and I was going back home, I saw the guy was still out there, under his car. It had gotten much darker, and he was holding his cell phone in his mouth as a makeshift flashlight. His wife/girlfriend sitting on the curb next to him.

I took Major inside and grabbed this funky kick-stand flashlight thing. It seems gimmicky and like something I never thought would serve a purpose, but it earned it’s stripes last night. I walked out and approached the couple and asked if he could use any help, and handed him the flashlight. The man, already flustered, had a slight sigh of relief when he no longer had to wrestle with his wrench while balancing a flashlight. I crawled under the car with him to see what he was having difficulty with. Turns out all he needed was a 3/8 inch socket extender, which I have an army of. I ran back home and a minute later the guy was making some real progress on replacing his water pump. He said he could take it from there.

I woke up this morning and the flashlight and tool were sitting next to each other right by my front door, and the car was gone. Hope it all worked out brother.

Gay Marriage, Get Over It Already

Holy shit. If you read the comments sections of any article dealing with the recent gay marriage decision by the SCOTUS you would think they had just passed a law legalizing rape or something. That is how virulent some people are when taking to the message boards on major media sites. And I’m talking left leaning sites like MSNBC. And it’s not just news sites. It’s all over facebook too.

When I started this blog I originally intended to write about ‘controversial’ things and hot topics like gay marriage, weed, or firearm ownership and it sorta turned into a blog about movie reviews. I kept at it because honestly talking about Guardians of the Galaxy is way more fun than arguing with people about bullshit, but enough is enough already.

I’ll admit that I don’t usually give racism a full shake because nowadays hating on people based on their race is so socially shunned that people have simply become closet racists. But I gotta tell you, I am pretty fucking shocked at how anti-gay people still are, especially here in the U.S. Granted, I did not think the entire country was one giant San Francisco, but it’s not exactly a Disney movie out there either.

Here are some broad categories of reasons I’ve found people use to justify being anti-gay. I’ll show why they are wrong, but even better, I’ll do it using their own reasoning against them.

Religion

Some religious people are anti-gay because they claim it’s against God’s will. God looks down on homosexuality and we know because they bible tells us so. Arguing with Christians about this is pointless because they believe this in their soul of souls. So don’t argue with them.

To simplify things, let us play along and say there is for fact a God, that this God looks down on homosexuality as a sin, and that homosexuals are condemned to hell. Let’s say this is 100% fact, written in the stars. God came down from heaven last week and told everyone live on CNN.

Sharia law rioters in the UK- er…. I mean, Christians?

All that being said and known, why would religious people worry themselves about gays, or if gays were getting married?

Joe fucks Steve, Joe marries Steve, Joe and Steve go to hell. How does this concern Billy Bible?

If Joe and Steve go to hell, it’s not like Billy Bible gets dragged along for the ride, so what does he care what gays do or who they do it with, so long as everyone is a consenting adult?

I can understand being against things like murder, or rape, or theft, because these things have victims; the person who was murdered, raped, or robbed. But who exactly are the non-homosexual victims of homosexuality?

Homophobes

It’s hard to discern who is antigay and who is full blown homophobe but I am very perplexed specifically by people, especially men, who are always vehemently against gay dudes.

Gay dudes are a straight bachelors best friend, his guardian angel.

I mean fellas, come on. Every gay dude in existence is one less competitor in the world of heterosexual dating for men.

When I was 21 and single, it would have been nothing short of a miracle if half the male population decided they liked pole instead of hole. After all, less straight men means more straight women for the rest of us guys!

“Thanks gay dudes!” – Actual straight men everywhere

My thought here is that guys who are always complaining about gay guys are just jealous that others had the courage to come out of the closet before they did.

Mental Disease

Then there is a whole crowd of people who think, or at least claim to think that homosexuality is a mental disease or illness. Honestly, who the fuck knows. I’m not a doctor. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but either way I don’t see how it matters.

Actual post clipped from MSN, no doctored. Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge in new tab.

Again, let’s just play along with this crowd for the sake of argument. Let’s say we establish without a doubt that homosexuality is a mental illness. Okay, now what?

Do we now hate on people because they have a mental illness?

Do we now prohibit people from getting married because they have a mental illness?

Mama said don’t wear white after labor daaayyy.

The people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to hate on gays or prohibit them from getting married, would they feel the same way about people with other, currently established mental illnesses?

Do they share this same hatred for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia? Would they be okay with prohibiting people with Tourette’s from getting married?

These people are another case of homophobes in denial, and they try to cover it up by playing doctor.

It’s a Choice

When the mental disease card gets overplayed, some people regress to sexuality being a choice.

Usually when this card gets thrown down on facebook or on the internet, the entire discussion becomes some stupid drawn out debate about whether or not people choose to be gay or straight, or if it’s innate.

But those arguments are fucking stupid. Because again, what difference does it make?

Whether you choose to be, or are born a Republican, an introvert, a homosexual, or left handed, what difference does it make?

People choose their religion and we don’t use that as a basis for discrimination.

I mean really, what’s the argument here? “Homosexuality would be okay if that’s actually the way you were born, but since you chose to be gay, fuck you. No marriage for you.”

The Misguided Small-Government Advocate

This one is perhaps the most frustrating because their stance on being against gay-marriage is supposedly rooted in some sort of anti-government libertarianism gone awry. It’s particularly frustrating to me because I’m libertarian.

A lot of people misinterpret libertarianism as being anti-government. True, a lot of libertarians are anti-government but that’s more of a symptom of the cause. The root of libertarianism is about keeping the government out of other people business. This means keeping the government out of your pocket, out of your church, and out of your bedroom. It just so happens that the only proven way to accomplish this is to have a small government.

I recently got into a bit of a debate with a friend of mine on facebook about the recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, and he said “Notwithstanding sexual orientation, I still don’t understand what the government is doing sticking its nose in marriage in the first place.”

I was a little confused by this comment because it misunderstands whose nose is in whose business.

The recent ruling wasn’t pushing the government’s nose into marriage.

The ruling was pulling religion’s nose out of marriage.

So while the church and it’s followers cannot prohibit gays from getting a legal marriage, the state cannot compel the church to perform gay marriage ceremonies.

Religious Marriage vs. State Marriage

My friend then went on to say “Marriage should remain a religious ceremony.” To be honest I don’t even know the term to describe why this thinking is incorrect. It’s almost like some form of anterograde amnesia, where the sufferer has the inability to learn new information.

Yes, marriage is a religious ceremony when we’re talking about in the context of religion.

But the same word “marriage” can also mean the merger of any two things, such as “The United States is a shining example of the marriage of capitalism and democracy.”

Marriage has also been adopted by the state for legal use which can mean any two people getting married. Not just a man and another man, but also a secular heterosexual couple who gets married.

For some reason though this seems to result in some sort of mental short circuit for some people. They fail to grasp that religious ‘marriage’ and state ‘marriage’ are homonyms, or “one of a group of words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings”.

Disguising Anti-Gay as being Pro-Religion

One of the more well-known claims that has lost some popularity in the past couple years is the whole argument of gay marriage ruining the sanctity of marriage. This can be shot down with my homonym argument above, but let’s take a detour for a second.

The whole premise behind this is religious people thinking that two gay dudes getting married is somehow against god and against the church.

But why then don’t religious folk make the same huss and fuss over two atheists, a man and a woman, going to the local court house to get hitched, when this clearly is an example of a non-religious marriage?

For decades in the US, secular couples have been having non-denominational and non-religious weddings. Why does gay marriage make it on to their radar?

Misinterpreting the Supreme Court’s Ruling

Of course, the whole cause of this recent hoopla is Obergefell v. Hodges which will no doubt be in our kids history books in 15 years, alongside Roe vs. Wade and other landmark decisions.

Up until now legislation and court rulings on gay marriage have been at the state level. You’d think a ruling from the mother fuckin’ Supreme Court would finally lay the issue to rest but it hasn’t.

Many people are now claiming that the SCOTUS overstepped it’s bounds, as this person here posted on MSNBC.com,

Actual post clipped from MSN, no doctored. Click to enlarge.

What people fail to realize is that the Supreme Court didn’t make a new law. They simply stated that any laws that allow marriage discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are unconstitutional, based on laws we already have in force, i.e. the law of the land, our constitution.

Conclusion

When you boil it down most of the arguments against gays or against gay marriage are pretty stupid. By that I mean none of them are so complicated that they even merit a Socratic seminar. Half the arguments can be won by using their own belief system against them. The other half can be dismissed with “yeah, and?”

I’m fucking tired. It’s like 11:57pm and I’m pooped.

To the gays of the U.S., congrats. You should celebrate. After a long and grueling battle, 8,000 gay pride parades later, you’ve finally won your right to get a gay divorce!

Gotcha!

Gotcha! -Buddy Christ

Good Riddance – Firing Bad Customers

In the 80’s and 90’s some clown came up with the new slogan for corporate America that will go down in infamy, “the customer is always right”.

There is of course no shortage of incompetent labor in the American workforce, but anyone who has ever held a job also knows that more often than not, the customer is usually wrong.

I appreciate my customers immensely. But the fact remains my customers are usually wrong too. Even the ones I love. Even the ones I’m related to. Even the highly educated well-to-do beach front homeowners with degrees from prestigious schools are usually wrong when it comes to insurance.

And that’s 100% fine. It’s normal.

If they knew everything about insurance they’d be insurance agents. And if I knew everything about medicine I wouldn’t need a doctor.

Knowledgeable or not doesn’t matter, I love my clients and do everything I can to give them the best service available.

The point of the washed up corporate slogan that the customer is always right was of course not that customers are literally always correct in their assumptions or actions, but rather that you as a business person motivated by money should bite the metaphorical bullet, swallow your pride, and do whatever you can to appease and satisfy your customer. But even that notion is becoming obsolete.

I have an inside joke with a close friend of mine: Everyone’s money is green. True statement. The point of this was that green is the color that triumphs all. The color of your money matters more to business owners than the color of your skin. Money matters more than your political leanings, your culture, your religion, your sexual preference, your economic standing, your education level, your language, your nationality. And by all accounts this is true.

But in recent years I have appended that statement with another truism: …but some people’s money is greener than others.

Yes you should do what you can to make your customers happy. After all, happy customers are profitable customers.

But we’ve all heard another equally popular notion, that of the 80/20 rule. The rule goes that 20% of your customers will make up 80% of your problems. The exact figures might not be accurate but the gist of it is that some small, insignificant number of people are responsible for the vast majority of complaints, grievances, screeching voicemails, and wasted time that you experience.

If you’re a business owner, if you’re in sales, if you have ever had a job, you know this to be true. There’s that one client who always complains her food is too cold (or too hot). The habitual late payer. The guy who never checks his mail and claims he never got the bill you know sent him. The liar. The fraudster. The person who leaves a 5 minute long voice message that conveys nothing remotely important. The customer who returns half the clothes they buy with a stain on it.

Whatever your business, whatever your trade, you’ve undoubtedly had to service this person.

Customers make you money but they also cost you a little too. After all, customers are investments, and investments don’t come free. Making customers happy means investing some time, effort, and maybe some money in them.

Let us pretend you have 10 customers who all spend about the same amount at your business every year, whether it’s on pizza, clothes, insurance, or snowboarding equipment. 9 come in, say hi, smile, find what they are looking for, pay, and go on about their way with the occasional inquiry, and even rarer complaint. These are the good customers. The ones you would do anything to keep. You call them, and spend the extra time with them to make sure they are super satisfied with their experience, because you love hearing from them and want them to keep coming back. These are the customers you go to bat for, bend over backwards for, and jump in front of a train for, because they are worth it.

But then comes 10. There is always a number 10. This client walks through your door or you see their name on your call ID and suddenly it feels like the never ending Monday. You know it’s nothing good, it’s never anything good with this client. What is it they want to gripe about this time?

You have always put up with this person because you are worried about losing their business. You force a smile and want to keep them happy so they keep coming back, but you shudder with dread every time they actually do come back.

I can go on for pages about bad customers but I don’t need to. You know who your bad customers are. You know them by name. You could spot them in a police line-up. You could recant their phone numbers by heart. You can catch their scent from a mile away. Think of all the time you have spent dealing with these clients and their endless barrage of problems, usually self-inflicted. Think of all the hairs turned gray. Think of all the innocent staff under your watch who have been ripped a new orifice by these customers…

And now, think about how much more profitable it would have been to have used that time and effort acquiring new clients, or helping other clients who are wonderful to work with.

Enough with the façade. End the charade. Don’t wait for your bad customers to fire you.

Fire your bad customers.

Everyone’s money is green, but some people’s money is greener.

You don’t have to make a scene about it. Firing customers can be subtle. Be frank and open with them, and let them know that for whatever reason, your organization might not be the best fit for them, and recommend them to some other businesses that can help them.

In fact, do yourself a double favor and recommend them to the competition.

Arguments Against Minimum Wage Hikes

This is by no means a formal thesis on my stance against increasing minimum wage. Sorry, no statistics, no numbers, no conclusive studies from universities. Just reasoning, common sense, and personal experience.

As always, I have to give a stupid disclaimer. No, I do not think that everyone who earns minimum wage is an idiot, or lazy, or a bad person, or deserves a shitty life. That’s not my opinion. But it doesn’t affect my stance on the issue one bit. Sorry, pulling no punches this time.

Why am I against increasing the minimum wage? Read on.

Employees are Expensive

When people think employment they think of words like company, enterprise, corporation, which all have negative connotations and stir up imagery of monstrous evil entities with gazillions of dollars just laying around. I work for a corporation, and it employs two people, my mom and me.

Expensive personFor many businesses, labor is a HUGE expense. I don’t know percentages. And it doesn’t matter what percentage of operating costs are for labor, but it’s big, and relevant. How do I know? Go to any small mom n’ pop business in your local neighborhood. How many people do you see working there that aren’t owners? 1? 2? None?

If labor costs were the drop in the bucket that Wage Hikers make them out to be then every business on Mainstreet would be flooded with employees. But they aren’t. Because employees are fucking expensive.

And were not just talking their hourly or salary, but also their benefits, their PTO, workers compensation, and then paying unemployment once they no longer even work for you. Then, you add on top of it that employees these days are usually lazy and check their social media accounts for 4 hours, spend an hour in the bathroom, and do a half ass job the remaining hours, you realize that you’re paying your employees 8 hours for 2 hours of work.

Labor Costs Outpace Consumerism and Revenue

The big “counter attack” to the point above is “Well if employers pay workers more, then they can afford to buy more and then more people buy from that business and the business makes more money, and so then it all works out.

The premise is horrible for a multitude of reasons.

  1. It assumes that business revenue will increase. Big assumption. Higher labor could mean higher product costs, which could very well result in less customers, less sales, and therefore less revenue.
  2. It assumes that business revenue will increase immediately. Labor is an upfront cost. Meaning even if business will improve weeks, months, or years later, business can’t write I.O.U.s to their employees and wait for that increased revenue to come in. I have to pay my staff NOW. For many businesses they simply do not have money laying around to pay their workers more. It’s not a matter of fairness or equality. It’s a matter of accounting and budgeting.
  3. It assumes that business revenue will increase for every business. Even if certain businesses do see an increase in revenue, it will not be all businesses. The only businesses that will do better are those which hire low wage workers and whose consumer base is also low wage workers. So for example, fast food joints and movie theaters. Businesses that hire entry level workers but attract well-to-do clientele will not benefit from this at all. So the majority of businesses that cater to homeowners, the housing industry, contractors, real estate, will see their labor costs go up without a coinciding increase in volume or revenue.

People are Hired Based on Merit, not Circumstance

Yeah, yeah. Such-and-such lady is a single mom with two kids and she works four jobs and still can’t make a decent living at the current minimum wage, feel bad, yada yada.

And? Since when are people paid based on their circumstances, and not on their merit? What difference does someone’s sob story make? If and when I ever hire someone, the only thing I will care about is what can you do for me? How are you going to make me more money? Why should I pay you X amount? Now prove it.

If anything else mattered, people wouldn’t send in resumes and applications when looking for a job. Employers would ask candidates “How shitty is your life?” and then pay then commensurate with how shitty of a life they have. But that’s not the way it works because it doesn’t matter.

People Aren’t (Always) Worth Minimum Wage

LA recently increased their minimum wage to $15 per hour. A landslide victory for underqualified workers!

pay

Sometimes I consider hiring someone to help me out with simple tasks like writing thank you cards. My penmanship is absolute shit. I can barely read my own handwriting so that seems like a task worthy of being outsourced. Plus, it takes me forever. Why spend 5 hours writing thank you cards which is maybe $10 work, when I can writing policies which is $200 work?

Okay, so a card writer to work for three hours tops. What qualifications do they need?

  1. Good penmanship
  2. A pulse

That’s it.

Why the hell and I am going to pay someone $15 per hour to write thank you cards?

It Ruins the Pool of Candidates

Building on the previous point, not everyone is worth $15, $20, or even $10 per hour. Fact.

But having a lower minimum wage made it easier to distinguish between different tiers of workers when looking for someone to fill an opening in your business.

A $10 job attracted $10 workers. A $25 job attracted $25 workers.

Let’s say I was looking for an entry level position, again, to write thank you cards day in and day out. That’s their only job. It’s a $10 job, meaning the job is so simple that there’s no benefit to me to pay more than that, regardless of how qualified someone is. I post an opening on Craigslist and get a dozen or so people interested in the position. Let’s review the competition:

Candidate 1 – Very Overqualified: One girl is a grad student who expects $20 per hour. She’s got a bachelors in business administration and very qualified in her own right. Fair enough. She is worth $20 per hour, but my labor is not. I won’t pay $20 for $10 work. Pass.

Candidate 2 – Slightly Overqualified: This girl is still in college working on her undergrad. She doesn’t have a whole lot of experience but she’s working at it, and has good handwriting. She’s also bilingual. She’s worth $15 per hour. But again, I have a $10 job, so she is slightly over qualified. Pass.

Candidate 3 – Quality Match: Then comes some woman, 40 years old. Never graduated high school. Dropped out and had 2 kids. No college. Monolingual. But she does have great handwriting and low and behold, she has a pulse! We have a winner! But, oh shit, I forgot. Minimum wage is $15.

Now I am forced to pay someone $15, even if it is to do $10 work.

You would think this is a victory for the Wage Hikers. They think, “Aha! Andrew is now forced to hire this woman worth $10 per hour to work for him and pay her $15 per hour! Buahahahah! Our misguided plan has worked, and now low skilled people can get jobs paying higher wages! BRILLANT!

But hold on one second… that’s not exactly how it works…. Read on.

It Screws Low Skilled Workers

You can pass a law that increases minimum wage, but you can’t snap your fingers and improve the work force in a flash.

Minimum wage or not, I’m not going to hire a $10 worker for $15 per hour. For $10 per hour, Candidate 3 would have been a great choice, and she would have got the job. She’s worth $10 per hour, and I was willing to pay her $10 per hour.

Gun to my head, if I am forced to pay someone more money, I am going to find a worker who is worth it. Which means sorry Candidate 3, I’m stepping over you and moving straight to Candidate 2. True, I didn’t originally need to someone with college experience and who speaks two languages. However, if I am going spend a certain amount of money I am going to get every ounce of employee I can and sure they are worth every dime.

Example: If I was forced to spend $50,000 on a car, I would not have bought my $25,000 Nissan Xterra. I would have made sure to get a car that was worth the $50,000, such as a Land Rover, or fully loaded Jeep Cherokee.

The minimum wage changed. The candidates did not. When you raise the minimum wage, employers are going to stop hiring entry level workers and go straight to more qualified people who in their eyes would have been worth $15 per hour prior to the wage hike.

Employers are not going to suddenly stop thinking logically, and pay more money for the same labor. If they’re forced to pay better wages, they’ll get better workers, and they’ll fire their current work force without hesitation. Every candidate whose labor is worth less than the new minimum wage is going to have a very hard time finding a job and keeping it.

Conclusion

The long and short of it is that increasing minimum wage might help some people get paid more. But others will lose their jobs and either be replaced, or the employer might just decide to do without their position. It hurts the very people it intends to help. So it’s bad for employees.

It will also reduce consumption, and making hiring more difficult, so it’s bad for businesses.

Prices for goods and services will go up, so it’s bad for consumers.

When someone is bad for everyone, I don’t

 

Disclaimer

This blog, article, whatever you call it has been on the back of my mind longer than any other I’ve written. A blog about how in modern society we have to give a god damn disclaimer before doing or saying anything. Most people will probably read this article and doze off three lines in so how do you start such a blog without first giving a disclaimer? Seems almost ironic that I would need a disclaimer to write a blog throwing jabs at disclaimers.

Basically, the gist of my angst here is that you can’t just be honest any more. You can’t just say what you think any more. You can’t just say the obvious any more. No matter how blatantly fucking obvious, or benign, or trivial something is these days, we all have to give disclaimers beforehand for fear of being shamed out of town, because we’ve fostered this atmosphere of wussiness.

I mean ordinarily, I would have been inclined to say at the beginning of this blog “Warning, this blog is about to use foul language. For those of you with children eyes, turn on the Disney Channel instead”.

People have to give disclaimers for practically everything they do. Here are some common examples you’re exposed to every day, whether at work, at home, during the holidays, or out in public.

  • What you say: “I can see your point of view, however it’s my opinion that…”
  • What you mean: “I heard you. I’m about to talk, please don’t hate me.”

 

  • What you say: “Before I begin, I want to clarify that I didn’t vote for Bush…”
  • What you mean: “Don’t hate me, I’m not Republican.”

 

  • What you say: “….oh and by the way, I’m Mexican.”
  • What you mean: “Don’t hate me, I’m not racist.”

 

  • What you say: “No offense, but…”
  • What you mean: “You won’t like what I’m about to say, please don’t hate me.”

 

  • What you say: “Excuse me, can you please lower your voice. I can’t hear the movie.”
  • What you mean: “I paid $12 for this ticket! Shut the fuck up before I shove my foot up your ass!”

 

 

You might argue these are niceties. But I think it’s really just pussy footing. Sometimes I wanna just blurt out “Offense intended. That’s a stupid idea.” There’s being flat out rude, and then there’s being flat out ridiculous, and I feel like the pendulum has swung very far in that direction. Even when something isn’t rude we’re afraid of coming off as rude because as a society we’ve slowly but surely been getting thinner skinned. So many people have such delicate sensibilities, and it seems like every issue is a hot topic of controversy for someone.

I’ve been told not to talk about politics even when I am with like-minded people in public, because some random person I’ll never see again might overhear and get offended. Gasp!

But exactly that’s the root of it. People being offended. Us being offended. Have we all always been so easily offended? Did we always use to cower when something of controversy was said amidst a mixed crowd at a dinner party? Do we dare not raise out glass in agreement with the stranger across the room for fear of earning some random bloke’s enmity? What happened?

Whatever fucking happened to straight shooters? Whatever happened to people who know what they want and say it. They just fucking say it for the sake of saying it? Whatever happened to Eminem? Clint Eastwood, Winston Churchill and George W. Bush? What happened to not giving a fuck?

To quote the great Marshall Mathers, “Whatever happened to wildin out and being violent? Whatever happened to catchin a good old-fashioned passionate ass whoopin’ and getting your shoes, coat, and your hat tooken

We give disclaimers for almost everything. It’s expected that you do, and rude if you don’t. If you just go off and say what you want to say, without first lubing up the sensibilities of the people around you, you’re bound to create some friction, and some enemies.

Because of this, a void in communication has been created. There are certain opinions, certain ideas, certain offensive truths that dare not be spoken for fear of offending someone and permanently landing yourself on their shit list. No more getting invited to couples charades. What has filled this void, is lies, false pleasantries, groupthink, blind obedience to, and agreement with those whose sensibilities might be offended. We’ve catered our thoughts and speech to the lowest common denominator of the emotionally volatile.

Starbucks caught a lot of flak for starting up a dialogue about race. That’s all, let’s just talk about race. Howard Schultz never told his employees to don a white hood and start setting crosses on fire, but that’s how people reacted to it.

When you baby a kid, he turns into a baby. So let’s stop treating everyone like babies. Let’s toughen up. Let’s be bold and speak what’s on our minds. I’m not saying go out and be rude, but let’s stop acting like the simple act of disagreeing is rude. Let’s stop acting like being individuals, and thus have individual thought, is an offence. Am I asking you to stop using disclaimers? Well…

Generation Complication: Play

Work is important, and so is play. Often times it feels like even leisure activities manage to become a new source of stress and complexity.

In this post I’m not referring to large scale or important events like traveling overseas, weddings, graduations, funerals, and so on. These all do require massive planning, coordination, reservations, and cost sharing.

Don’t Make Fun Events Stressful

In short, don’t make otherwise fun events, stressful ones.

Growing up, my parents would make me and my siblings all wear matching outfits and pose for our annual Christmas photo. There was always a rush to get dressed, a rush to the photographer, a lot of yelling, a lot of tension, a lot of my sister and me getting grounded for – gasp – not having authentic smiles.

Then stress would manage to sneak itself into the holidays themselves. Every year without fail my siblings and I were rushed to open our parents presents, then immediately whisked off to Grandma 1’s house, and then plucked out and flung over to Grandma 2. There was never any breathing room and the experience sucked the life out of the fun.

Christmas-de-stress

Traffic accidents, funerals, IRS audits, cancer in the family, and Piers Morgan evoke negative emotions, and rightfully so. But not everything needs to be a stress fest.

Your family’s annual Christmas photos should not be stressful. Christmas and Thanksgiving should not be stressful. A trip to Disneyland should not be stressful. A vacation should not be stressful. Camping, road trips, beach trips, going to the movies, parties and casual get-togethers should not be stressful.

If you’re stressing out over something that’s supposed to be fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Don’t Over Plan

I’ve witnessed people of all walks turn leisure activities into stressful activities, and simple days at the beach into overcomplicated logistical nightmares.

As a kid in the 90’s I didn’t have a cell phone or social media account, but miraculously I was somehow able to hang out with my friends after school, on weekends, and during the holiday breaks between semesters.

My mom did have a cell phone, but not everyone did. And before texting was popular and Facebook was even a whisper, somehow her and all her friends and relatives managed to coordinate parties just fine, without the endless game of ping pong that we now call planning a party.

Please don't....
Please don’t….

These days, planning a party or social outing requires no less than 87 text messages, satellite imagery, and four carrier pigeons. Where are we meeting? Can we move it back? Whose car are we taking? Who’s driving? Who’s coming? Where are you parking? What are you bringing?

Having fun yet? Remember, keep it simple, stupid.

You Only Need One Chief

Democracy sucks sometimes, especially when it comes to festivities. A lot of people like to weigh in or change something about an event for no other reason than they get to feel like they were in control. If you schedule something for Saturday they’ll ask to move it to Sunday. You schedule it for 2pm, they’ll insist it get pushed to 4. You plan on everyone meeting at your house, they want to get picked up. You already have a static plan in place, but they insisting on altering it in some way. There are always going to be people who attempt to swim against the tide. Don’t let them steer you off course.

I remember the good old days when planning went like this “This is the time. This is the place. We’ll find out who’s coming when we get there. I’m leaving my place at 11 if you want to hitch a ride. Hope to see you Saturday! Oh, and bring some friends!”

When hosting, be the chief..
When hosting, be the chief..

Don’t be uncompromising where it’s easy and convenient. 15 minutes here or there won’t kill you. But once the original planner is feeling like this is no longer what they wanted to do, it’s gone too far. Pick one chief to lead all the Indians.

Hosting Simply

When it comes to hosting a party, especially at home, here’s a simple tip. More is better. Expecting 10 people? Prepare for 20. People may bring a friend, or at the very least an empty stomach. My mom and dad are notorious for running out of red wine at their house parties and I always get stuck on a liquor run. You’d figure after all these years they’d learn we have a family of alcoholics and simply double down in the wine department.

When you throw a party don’t be conservative. Expect to throw down some mullah and don’t expect to make it back. You wanna be the host with the most? It’ll cost ya.

Costco
When hosting events, Costco is your best friend.

If someone’s friend or significant other decides to tag along, it shouldn’t throw a major wrench into your perfectly planned watermelon-slices-to-people-ratio.

Besides, if you over purchase anything, there’s no reason you can’t eat hotdogs, artichoke dip, and red wine for the next two weeks. The meal of champions!

Attending Simply

Bringing a little something to take the pressure off the host is always appreciated. Of course what you bring depends on the nature of the party, and if you’re sticking around or simply poking your head in for a quick visit to show face.

Attend Simply
Someone invite this guy to the party!

Whatever it is you bring, make sure it fits the party.  Go with the flow and bring something that would please the crowd. If you aren’t sure just call ahead of time and ask what the host is running low on. For summer parties you can never go wrong with beer, ice, and chips.

Don’t be RSVP Hell-bent

This isn’t me saying that people should never expect others to RSVP. Sometimes there is a place for it, sometimes it really doesn’t matter, so pick your battles.

In my humble opinion, people are too RSVP oriented nowadays. This means that with any social gathering, regardless of the cost, scheduling involved, nature, formality, or urgency of the event, they fully expect everyone to affirmatively say “Yes, I am going.” Or “No, I am not going”. The days of “Hey we’re throwing a party, hope you can make it!” seem to be long gone.

It used to be this is what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, and whoever shows up shows up. These days you have some party planner up your ass and around the corner “Are you coming? Well are you?! LMK! Did you RSVP? Did you get my evite?! LMK ASAP!” As if your attendance will make or break the plan.

If someone can’t make it or doesn’t show up, miss them, but don’t harass them. There will always be a next time, and it’s not worth souring friendships over party attendance.

Thank you, Dos Equis man!
Thank you, Dos Equis man!

Generation Complication: Work

Through experiences with friends, high school, college, jobs, more jobs, and a career, I’ve learned some valuable things. Have you heard of Keep It Simple Stupid, or KISS? Simplicity truly is king, and it’s been lost on this generation. In this two part post, I’ll go over simplicity in Work, and in Play.

Work

I remember in college my friends and I had visions of grandeur. Every juicy idea we had was the big one, the idea that would turn us all into multimillionaires overnight and before we knew it we’d be throwing Gatsby style parties and posing for the cover of Forbes. We’d talk about going international, but would always gloss over the parts about going local. We praised all these bells and whistles our company would offer alongside our flagship product. Unfortunately those bells and whistles didn’t yet have a bike.

Before you set out to conquer the world, conquer your neighborhood. Whatever it is you or your business does, whether it’s brewing beer, grilling burgers, or producing cars, come up with a money maker or winning strategy, lock it down, and hone it in.

Americans are raised being told “you can be whatever you want when you grow up” and while that’s not patently untrue, it should be amended to “it’s possible to be whatever you want when you grow up, and it’s going to take some time”. This cliché reassurance parents give their children has resulted in many young adults believing that all they need to do is throw themselves into the wind, and success will simply follow.

The 9th Symphony wasn’t Beethoven’s first and only draft. There was the iPod before there was ever an iPod 2, 3, 4 or 5 – and it sucked. But it sold. But what did Beethoven and Steve Jobs have in common? They were both willing to put their nose to the grinding stone.

Your first restaurant’s menu won’t be a mile long. Your first invention won’t have a million features. And that’s fine! The big players in any industry didn’t spring up overnight. The good stuff takes time. It requires practice, experience, trial and error, success and failure. Allow yourself to be small and nimble in the beginning of any new venture. This gives you more agility and flexibility when it comes to reacting to unexpected situations or a changing market.

Don’t worry if your product only comes in two colors. Sell a few, save up, regroup, and when you are able to, come up with a bitchin’ third color.

So whether you are an entrepreneur or work for the man, expect to struggle for a little while you find your bearing. We don’t live in a vacuum, so be prepared to put in your dues and work well with others, as well as learn from them.

Keeping it simple is a good idea. But first, try starting simple and see how that goes.