Monday, August 30, 2010

Run It Like A Family

Many politicians - from both sides of the isle - have suggested we run our government like a business. I don't agree. Business is risky and 90% of businesses fail within the first year. Our government should not be taking such risks. My suggestion is to run the government - at all levels - like a family.

The first order of necessity for all families is to ensure that everyone has food, water and protection from the elements. Next we need to ensure our families are educated, get proper medical treatment and have protection from things that might harm us. Families must do all of these things and many more within their limited budgets. Sometimes unexpected emergencies pop up a so it is advisable for every family to have a bit of savings set aside to handle these situations. At the very least, it is important to keep your credit in good standing so that you can borrow a bit of money if needed. Even so, you must have a plan to pay back that money. If your family doesn't have credit available, you may need to find other sources of income - perhaps a second job. Families do whatever they have to do to get through the hard times.

Now, I will admit some families are run better than others. Some have more spending power while others barley get by. Over all though, I think you will find that most families make it through somehow. Failure is not an option for most families and it shouldn't be an option for the government either.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Party In My Head

I always have to chuckle at those folks at the gym who get so caught up in their music they can't help but wiggle. Occasionally I realize I'm "that guy" and today was one of those days. Last night I dug around and found some good gym music and downloaded almost 30 tracks onto my smart-phone (still a Treo - no Evo for me yet). These were all very catchy Pop-y dance tracks that you can't help butt wiggle to - at least a little (Hey - that's punny!). What amazes me is that the sound from those tiny ear-bud headphones is so real, intense and three dimensional - yet a person standing next to me might not hear a thing. I heard those "Big House" echos that make a dance club seem enormous - yet it was all just inside my head. It seems like magic to me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hidden Gems in the Factory

While all my favorite sitcoms are on their summer break, I decided to watch something different. So I turned to the Science channel, the learning channel and other educational spots and I watched shows on space exploration and shows with "Mega" in the title and my new favorite - "How Do They Do It?". I've learned a lot so far and there is still a good month before my mindless comedy shows return. So what exactly have I learned? Well, first and foremost, there a lot of people in this world WAY smarter than me. The accomplishments in science and technology are just astounding. But there were a few other lessons as well:
  • It takes constant 24 hour processing to keep up with the demands of today's population.
  • We tear up and process huge chunks of the Earth to filter out just a few grains of precious metals and other things used in manufacturing.
  • We use massive amounts of energy to heat things to melt out the good stuff or bend it just the way we want.
  • We have created some amazing and enormous machines with intricate parts to make many of the things we take for granted every day.
  • Despite the amazing machines we have invented, most processes still rely on a few very talented individuals with very specialized skills that can't be duplicated by machinery.
This last one is what I find most fascinating. No matter how we try, the human factor can never be eliminated from the manufacturing process. It takes a human taste bud to know if the brew is perfect. It takes a human eye to pick out tiny imperfections in nearly perfect objects. It takes a precision human hand to load the delicate machinery with needed supplies or guide the machine to the perfect spot. It takes a human ear to know the difference between a perfect note and one that just sounds good.

I've worked in manufacturing facilities most of my adult life and I've seen these special people. In my last job I knew a man who loaded a machine that made boxes - for all the 13 years that I worked there. He was very good at it. The sad part is that I know management probably felt that he was unmotivated because he didn't want to move up in the company. And they probably paid him very little for his specialized job. Still, he was content to do the job he knew he could do well.

Management always tends to overlook these gems in their workforce. In their eyes it should always be the goal to advance to the next level. I've been a victim of this concept of "promote until your useless" theory of management. In my last job I was considered unmotivated because I didn't strive to move to the day shift where the "real" workers were. I was content to stay in my second shift position where I knew I was most useful. I accomplished on a smaller scale what a whole team of people did during the day - and it made me feel very important. Had I allowed it, they would have moved me to the day shift where I would have been unhappy, promoted me into a management position where I wasn't comfortable until finally I would have became an unhappy and unproductive employee. No thank you. I stayed in my job and shift where I was comfortable - and my meager wage stayed basically the same because of it.

The point of this article may be getting lost in my rambling but it is merely this: Management needs to recognize the value of their specialized employees - no matter how menial their job may seem. Without these specialized skills, your product quality will suffer. Quality is worth spending money on in the form of merit raises beyond the standard 2 -3 percent. Management needs to recognize these "gems" in their workforce the same way a documentary film maker recognizes them and pay them appropriately. The next time you are given a spreadsheet and asked to make cuts in the workforce, you might want to ask why someone gets paid seemingly more than they should in the position they are at before you blindly cut that job to save money. It's quite possible their supervisor has already recognized them as a "gem" and you would be a fool to lose them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Anchor Marriages

There are two hot topic issues in the news these days. Immigration law and Gay Marriage. But did you know the two are very related? Yes, Immigration law is yet another right that gay couples are denied because their unions are not recognized the same as heterosexual couples. A foreigner who legally marries a US citizen also becomes a US citizen. Not so for gay folks. If we happen to fall in love with a foreigner we have no hope of making that person a US citizen by marriage law. In fact I know many couples who have had their loved one forced to leave the country with no regard to their loving partner. In other cases gay people have been forced into scam marriages with someone of the opposite sex in order to gain citizenship. This is not only illegal but a real violation of the sanctity of marriage. It need not be so.

It is important to realize that marriage law covers many areas of a couple's lives. It is far different than religious beliefs in that everyone in the USA is bound by the same laws - or at least they should be. And these are important laws - hospital visitation, tax law, property management, child care and yes, even immigration. When it comes down to laws (not religion) everyone in the USA needs to be treated equally.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Do Not Agree!

We need to get back to an era of accountability. I am tired of signing lengthy legal agreement forms every time I try to install software, get a procedure done at the dentist or even accept a job offer. Most of these documents start with a phrase indicating the document can change at any time without notice - which in effect renders them entirely useless to begin with.

If I'm installing a software program on my computer - I expect that it has been thoroughly tested and will not harm my system - or else I can have some legal recourse with the developers.

If I'm having a root canal operation done on my teeth, I expect that the Doctor is fully trained and certified and will operate to the best of their ability and if they fail to do so, I can hold them legally accountable.

If I start a new job, I do not expect to give up any and all rights to find a different job sometime in the future. I do, however, think it is fair to agree not to immediately work for a direct competitor, but it is grossly unfair to even imagine that the company I currently work for owns my ideas and inventions. Those are mine!

I am certain I am not the only person who is tired of all this legal nonsense. And I know I'm not the only one who has written about it. But what can we do?

Currently we only have one option to stop this insanity - but it would take a huge effort by the entire world. We need to stop blindly signing off on these idiotic agreements and subsequently not do business with companies who require them - even if it is free.

You need me to accept all terms in this agreement before I install this software? Sorry - no deal. No sale. No way. Imagine how that would affect Microsoft alone!

You want to own my ideas and inventions just because I work for you? Sorry - the job market is tough but I do NOT agree. But I am a very qualified and dependable employee - am I not worth hiring anyway?

You want me to sign away all my rights to legal recourse before you will start my root canal. Well it really hurts! What choice do I have? But if you mess it up - I'm still going to sue and the lawyer and judge should realize that document was signed under duress and is not binding.

Somehow I don't think I'll have much luck with any of this. But maybe we as a society can somehow get these agreements to be deemed unfair if not unconstitutional. We must fight back - in the courts if needed. There should always be an implied code of accountability to those who are doing business. Just like we expect that the food we buy at the grocery store will be free of contaminants - without having to first sign a waver, we should also expect all other goods and services be similarly accountable.