Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Parties - Bah Humbug

Last Friday, the Curmudgeon at the Second Effort Blog wrote a Blog titled:
Avoiding disasters at office Christmas parties. I was planning to leave a comment on his Blog but decided not to do so, because my comment would have been longer than his Blog on the subject.

I try to avoid all Christmas parties for fear that I will make an ass of myself. I have done so in the past. Unfortunately, I could not avoid the office parties. Since the mid 1970’s my office parties were always held in a Restaurant/Night Club; because that was my office.

I will now relate a Christmas party story that should brighten up your day by allowing you to laugh at the foibles of others. It took place in 1978.

My partners and I would close our Restaurant on the third Monday in December for the employee Christmas party. The party would begin at 5PM with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails; a full dinner would be served a 6:30. Management would do all of the cooking and serving. We’d get a bartender from a nearby Bar to serve the drinks. At 8:00 everyone would adjourn to the cocktail lounge and the Band would start playing at 8:30.

Between the band’s first and second set, the Secret Santa gifts were distributed. This year I was chosen to be Santa; in full costume.

The job entailed sitting on the bandstand’s edge, calling out the recipient’s name, handing them the gift, and then making a witty comment about the gift. The band gave me a microphone so I didn’t have to shout; it was a large lounge.

Putting a microphone in my hand is a very dangerous thing to do. I suddenly become a cross between Don Rickles, Lenny Bruce and Rich Little. I always wanted to be a professional comedian.

I’d pick up a gift, call the person to the stage (they would sit on my lap), ask them what they wanted for Christmas, make a witty comment, hand them the gift, they would open the gift and I would make another witty comment. The entire process would take about 3 minutes. With 30 gifts to pass out it took an hour and a half.

After 10 minutes I was parched and asked the next recipient bring me a beer on her way to the stage to receive her gift. After 2 beers (in 15 minutes) my comments became wittier. People were laughing. This spurred me on to make even more witty comments.

About half way through the passing out of gifts, I was now drinking Grand Marnier with my beer. I became very glib as well as witty.

At last I was down to the final 4 gifts. The next gift was for a stunningly gorgeous young cocktail waitress in her early 20’s. I called her to the stage saying “sit on my lap and we’ll talk about the first thing that pops up.” She also was a little toasted at this time.

She came up and sat on my lap and gave me a big kiss (tongue and all). I then said “Wow, and what do you want for Christmas little girl.” She then grabbed my crotch and said “I want this.” I smiled and said “I would love to give it to you.”

I had forgotten that my wife was sitting at a table just 20 feet away. She stormed out of the Restaurant and went home. My partner and his wife also left.

After I gave out the last three gifts, I went to the bar and had a few more drinks and danced with several of the female employees (thank God the cocktail waitress had already passed out). One made the comment that she had always thought that I was a “stuffed shirt”.

This party caused my first trial separation with my wife. We separated two years later.

Did I learn a lesson?; of course not.

In 1981, I was in self exile in Chicago; the woman that I was seeing invited me to her office party. It was at Kelly’s Pub on Chicago’s near north side. I managed to embarrass her with my Christmas party antics. The end of another relationship!

The Beach Bum

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Paying Your Fair Share

For several years a good friend has been telling me to watch a television series named Boston Legal. He told me that I would like it. I said OK, but never did watch it. I rather wait until a program goes into syndication (if it’s good it will). This way I can see several episodes each week or even each day.

Last week on a local Tampa Bay TV channel I watched an episode of Boston Legal. It was a second season (2006) episode named “Stick It

In this episode the William Shatner character (Denny Crane), said to the James Spader character (Alan Shore) “Do you have any idea what would happen if the little people stopped paying their taxes?”

Shore answered “The rich people would have to start paying theirs

Crane responded “exactly.”

This is the same thinking that got us into our current bailout mess. Let’s screw the little people. And by little people I mean the people that are 90% or more of the working population (many of whom are now unemployed).

In the early 1990’s a friend from the 1960’s wrote a book titled “Beyond Revolution”. He advocated that we not pay our Federal Income Taxes. He was a hypocrite because he always paid his taxes. But it was a good concept.

In the mid 1970’s I wrote a thesis concerning the dissolution of the IRS and replacing it with a Federal “Ad Valorem” Tax. This was not a fresh idea, as there have been proponents of a graduated user tax for decades before I wrote my paper. I just had a different approach to the subject (300 plus pages worth).

I could write about this topic, ad infinitum, but I won’t because I am currently in a state that is commonly referred to as being “half in the bag” (so please forgive my bad grammar). It’s rapidly closing in on midnight (the point at which the reasoning part of my brain no longer functions), and the time that I usually fall into “the arms of Morpheus”.

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Right Man, Wrong Cabinet Position

How ironic it is that on the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President elect Barack Obama has named retired General Eric Shinseki (who was as born in Hawaii to Japanese-American parents) to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Personally, I like this guy, because, at the cost of his job, he stood up against the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq.

However, I don’t think that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should be a former high ranking military officer. But if it must be a retired General or Admiral; Mister Obama made a good choice. General Shinseki is a Viet Nam Vet who led his troops in combat. He wasn’t a desk jockey officer.

But I feel that he would be better suited to be the Secretary of Defense. In his June 2003 retirement speech, Shinseki admonished those who display "mistrust and arrogance" in military leadership and warned against over-committing the Army.

But if I were the President elect the person that I would chose for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, would be one who never rose above the rank of Lt. Colonel or Navy Commander. Preferably a Doctor who spent his/her enlistment time in a military or VA Hospital. Or perhaps a retired CPO, Gunny or Master Sergeant, that had spent time with his troops rather than performing administrative and command functions.

Although I don’t believe that General Shinseki is the right person for the job, I do believe that he will do an excellent job as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Playing with Numbers

Last week I read that spending (last weekend) in Retail Stores and online was 3% higher than the past year’s sales. In addition the average consumer spent 7% more than they did during the same weekend last year.

The article coupled these facts with the fact that the on sale (deeply discounted) items on Black Friday were less expensive this year. And that this was an indication that consumer confidence was coming back.

I love facts, figures and statistics. Why? Because, they are easy to distort to suit one’s needs. The Government and the Media do this constantly. The bad thing is that many people believe it.

The question that should be asked is; why, in an uncertain economy, have people increased their spending.

My answer is simple.

Let’s say that last year during the first 27 days of November I consumed 100 gallons of Gasoline at an average cost of $3.29 per gallon. This equals $329. And that this year I used 95 gallons (I learned how to conserve during the $4 per gallon July) at an average cost of $1.89 per gallon. This equals roughly $180. Therefore this year in the month of November I’ve spent $149 less than last year (all other things remaining the same).

Wow, now I have more money in my bank account.

Now let’s say that last year I spent $350 (very close to the average) over the Holiday weekend. This year I spent 7% more or roughly $374. This means I still have $125 more than last year, at this time, in my bank account.

Therefore I haven’t increased my spending. I’m actually spending less than I did last year. I’m just diverting my dollars from one sector of the economy to another.

The Beach Bum

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Never Give A Sucker an Even Break

In one of his movies, W. C. Fields said that his grandfather's last words, "just before they sprung the trap", were "You can't cheat an honest man; but never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump."

Big Business and the United States Government (Strange Bedfellows) seem to be using this quote as their motto.

I consider myself to be an honest man and yet I’m being treated as sucker and a chump. My mistake was to trust our Government to make the right decisions. Therefore, I am a sucker and a chump.

But I’m not alone, over 90 percent of our population fall into the Sucker/Chump category. I like being in the majority, but this is one majority that bothers me. I don’t want to be in this majority, but I’m trapped and cannot find a way out.

My Dad always used a phrase about my spending habits; he said that “I was throwing good money after bad money”. Dad never said that to the “powers that be” in Washington. He should have!

Now the Big 3 Auto Makers are looking for a Federal Bailout Handout. Their CEO’s are even willing to reduce their pay to $1 per year.

Phooey! They (the CEO’s) just want their shares(those additional compensation words after their posted salaries) in their respective Companies to be worth more money or at least be worth something.

We are being told that we must invest in America. I have invested in America; I bought US Savings Bonds. As an honest man, I never looked to make a quick or an exceeding high profit on my investment.

Honest men, as a general rule, do not get conned by a con man.

But, obviously, they do get conned by their elected officials and their government. We are all suckers and chumps.

The Beach Bum

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Give Every Man His Dew

Yesterday I received a flaming email from a good friend. Among other things he called me a lazy so and so. I cannot disagree with his assessment. I have grown lazy during the past 2 years. But I prefer to think that it is; I do what I want to do when I want to do it.

My friend is the chief Librarian at an undisclosed Maryland University. Before that he was a High School teacher. He has dual Masters Degrees (History and English) and a Doctorate in Library Science. In other words, he has spent most of his adult life as a teacher and a professional student. Basically he’s an egghead with a very dry sense of humor.

I facetiously call him Marion the Librarian (A Music Man reference) in our emails.

A mutual female friend once called us the “Odd Couple”. She said I never blinked and he never smiled.

In years past, when I lived in Maryland, he usually bought a bottle of good Irish whiskey for us to share on the celebration of the anniversary of my birth. We would sing (or at least attempt to sing) traditional Irish Folk songs. The true test was singing Johnny McAdoo after 4 pints of Guinness Stout and 6 shots of Tullamore Dew. If we couldn’t sing it, we’d call it a night.

So why did he flame me?

About 10 to 12 weeks ago he sent me a test that he designed for incoming Freshman. It was comprised of 125 multiple guess questions on various subjects. He called it a cultural literacy test. He wanted to use me as a control subject for his test. I felt honored.

Most of the questions were easy to very easy, like Jeopardy for 6th Graders. Some of them had pictures of world famous Landmarks and some had pictures of classic Artwork. I knew the answers to most of the questions without reading the choices. I was stumped on 5 or 6 questions (two were life science questions and another was concerning the metric system conversion), but I made an “educated guess” (I picked the C answer).

I enjoy taking tests and basically I have nothing better to do with my time. However he sent it in an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file. I have an Acrobat Reader which allows me access to the test, but to send him the answers to his questions, I would have to use MS Word. Or worst yet, print it out and send the results by snail mail. Either way this would be a massive pain in the buttocks, so I never sent him the results.

We spoke on the phone last night; I called. I told him of my results of taking his test. Too easy! He agreed saying that the incoming Freshmen that took the test averaged 76% correct. He also told me that he intentionally made the C answer the least correct answer. I told him that if he sent me a bottle of fine Irish sipping whiskey, I would collaborate with him on next year’s test.

The Beach Bum

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