high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A bountiful harvest of drivel

This past weekend brought with it one of those splendid annual opportunities to get outdoors, see some fall foliage, and engage in some "back to basics" endeavors, courtesy of a traditional autumn harvest festival.  At these festivals there is a standard array of activities regardless of where you go.  Some of the classics are basket-making, metal-working, and whittling in one form or another.  Basically, the festivals provide an opportunity for certain individuals in society to show that they, unlike you, could still survive on the frontier if need be, and you are reminded that you ought to respect these people and learn from them, as some day you may find yourself in a situation where "the old skills" are relevant once again.  All of this is quickly forgotten as you move on to the booth selling country-style pies, and the sound of gleeful mastication punctuates the certainty of your doom should you ever get stuck in the wilderness for more than three hours.

Is that real anger on the face of the pioneer? If so, it's probably
because he knows there is a pretender in his midst.
The activity I was most looking forward to at the harvest festival was apple butter stirring, not because I'd ever done it before or developed some great fondness for it, but because it had been awhile since I'd gone to one of these festivals, and the activity that stuck out in my mind and that I associated with festivals of the past was people standing around a bubbling cauldron, stirring apple butter with a giant wooden paddle.  The festival we attended did not disappoint, and we not only found the apple butter stirring station and sampled its product, but also participated in the stirring.  While the few minutes of stirring that we performed was enjoyable enough, and accompanied by much fanfare and pomp, I did not envy the poor sap (who was inexplicably not at the maple syrup station - ha!) whose job it was to watch over the apple butter cauldron for the better part of the day.  Because here's the thing about the olde skills like apple butter stirring: While they may require a knowledge that is now rare, and may bring a high amount of personal satisfaction when you've completed your task at the end of the day, they are not what you would call "mind-blowingly exciting."  In the case of apple butter stirring, imagine standing at your stove for 11 hours, stirring a pot, and occasionally throwing in some spices.  Now imagine that the pot is much bigger, and it's over a fire rather than sitting on the stove.  Now imagine that you're wearing a big floppy pioneer hat, and yea...you've pretty much got it.  This is probably why the festivals that exhibit apple butter stirring only occur once per year.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

An HR presentation is only as good as its dueling banjos

As a supposed Master of Human Resources, one could assume that I have a relatively extensive knowledge of the Human Resources field, and furthermore, that I would hold strong opinions about certain aspects of Human Resources.  While the first of these two points is highly disputable, the second is more sure.  I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I have strong opinions about many aspects of Human Resources, and will not hesitate to hold forth on those opinions if they should be solicited.  Most of them go something like "You don't need a Human Resources degree to figure that out."

Arriving late? What part of 'high noon' didn't
you understand?
However, there are some Human Resources practices and trends where my perspective could more easily be characterized as positive or negative.  In the "negative" category are things like resumes, and the 40-hour workweek, and team building.  These things all warrant disdain, skepticism, and scorn.  If I had enough pull in the Human Resources community to make a change as momentous as enacting a shorter workweek, or had the genius to develop a team building activity that actually resulted in a group of individuals bound together in one common purpose, I would be very proud.  And rich.  And I'd probably put both accomplishments on my resume.

On the other hand, there truly are many "positive" concepts within Human Resources, and one of these is flex time.  For those not familiar with the idea, flex time is easy to understand.  Basically, you can come into work later than others, or leave work earlier than others, or work a few hours on weekends, or generally do whatever you want in terms of hours as long as the work gets done.  In other words, you can have that less-than-40-hour workweek, and only feel like you're cheating the system a little bit.  It's a great arrangement, and runs contrary to the traditional idea of 8-5 workdays.  Certainly there is still a place for standard shifts of 7:00-3:00, 3:00-11:00, and 11:00-7:00, as some industries must operate on strict schedules, but for the average office worker, flex time is the gift that keeps on giving.  Workers are more productive, happier, have more control over their lives, and to top it all off, the common phrase "I'm going to flex my time today" is, in some inexplicable way, much more palatable than other phrases like "We're creating an environment of empowerment."  Probably because it doesn't smack of highly processed bullshit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Probably not a good investment of your time

We shall begin this blog post as we do every blog post, with a look at the day's stock market news, courtesy of Stock Market Today...

The downturn in the market has nothing to do
with economic conditions, and everything to
do with people finally acknowledging that a
bull would never beat a bear in a fight
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (known to friends as "The Dow," or to really good friends as "DJ") finished up 1.25%.  It was bested by both the S&P ("Stealth & Power") at 1.33% and the Nasdaq ("The Nasty Nas") at 1.57%.  Some analysts interpreted these outcomes as a real clash of the titans, being decided by only a few hundredths of a percent, but wiser investors saw these numbers for what they really were: a classic case of one market standard taking a dive in the 5th round and letting others win in exchange for under-the-table bribes.  Needless to say, the dirty money is delivered in cash, not stocks.  In terms of individual stocks, the big winner on the day was Transcept Pharmaceuticals. The big loser was Leapfrog Enterprises, a company that "designs, develops and markets a family of innovative technology-based learning platforms and related proprietary content for children of all ages at home and in schools around the world."  Silly Leapfrog!  People don't want education!  They want drugs! Finally, among commodities, Corn had the most positive change at +2.19%, while Silver lost out with a 1.6% decline, leading to immediate speculation that the Olympic Committee, in preparation for the 2012 London summer games, had abruptly scrapped tradition and suddenly invested in a new second place finisher's medal.  More specifically, an edible one.

Of course, this is all "tongue-in-cheek" commentary (whatever that means).  I'm no market analyst, and Stock Market Today was just the first site that came up on a Google search.  In fact, I only bothered to link to them because the various percentages I've noted were legitimately taken from their site.  You'll have to forgive me for getting carried away in my fervor.  You see, I'm in an investing mood.  For some time now my savings account has essentially sat dormant, gaining next to nothing in interest per year, but I finally woke up and realized that those finances have not earned a rest, and must be put to work.  It's like having a teenage son who has grown over time, and suddenly you look and see that he is bigger than you realized, and he is loafing on the couch.  So metaphorically speaking, I'm taking my teenage savings account and telling it to get a job, for the love of God, and to start bathing more regularly.  Time for Savey to start earning its keep.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Guilt and validation, please, in the eggshell finish

Now that the summer vacationing is concluded for the year, things have settled back into the typical pattern.  Running in the morning, working during the day, working on the house or taking care of other tasky things in the evening, cooking a meal when possible, and reading before bed.  Then, after pretending to go to bed, slipping out of the house in my leotard and fighting crime through the night.

How am I ever going to know which color to choose?
This week was a bit different than the normal week in that Monday was Labor Day, so instead of going into the office I stayed at home, and Nate and I got some painting and trim work done on the porch.  The decking on the porch was a bit rotted, and rather beaten up in general, so we tore it off and have since replaced it with new cedar decking, as well as new columns to support the roof.  While we're not going to paint the cedar, we did paint the new columns and the ceiling.  Of course, any time there is a painting job at hand, some decisions are necessary about which color paint to use.  For our primary color, we chose Roycroft Vellum.  You could say that Roycroft Vellum could just as easily be called "cream," but that would be neglecting the many other slight variations on a basic cream color that you can purchase from Sherwin Williams.  Allegorically speaking, Sherwin Williams has a really, really, really large box of Crayolas.  And the crayons are breeding.

For the accent color we chose Craftsman Brown.  Or as Nate likes to call it, Inoffensive Brown.  But seriously, what exactly is "Craftsman Brown" supposed to describe?  Is Craftsman a generic term, or is it the name of a specific personage?  You know, like Craftsman Brown is Encyclopedia Brown's blue collar brother, or Farmer Brown's wayward son who didn't want to raise corn anymore.  Is there an Unskilled Laborer Brown as well?  Who comes up with these names?  Was the color Craftsman Brown inspired by something in particular, or were the Sherwin Williams folks just lightening/darkening a basic brown by different degrees and dubbing the resulting colors with the first word that came to mind?  If I had a microphone, and a trenchcoat, and a cameraman, and I saw a Sherwin Williams executive climbing out of the back seat of a nice car with tinted windows to make their way into an office building, I would totally harass them with these questions.