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Posts Tagged ‘business’

So, you may not believe this, but I know Wisconsin’s Secretary of State, Doug La Follette.  I could call him to have lunch, and he would probably say yes.  You see that thing on the floor?  Yup, that’s a name and I just dropped it.  You see, I love name dropping.  I get to name drop so rarely that any time I get to state a relationship with someone of importance, power, or influence, I jump at the chance.  Trust me, the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is about as true as life gets.  And if you drop the right name at the right time, it is amazing what opportunities will open up for you that you never thought possible.

JJ, JT and some boob. Best Super Bowl Halftime EVER!

Depending on the venue will determine what names I am able to drop, and some names are more worthy of dropping than others.  I also never drop a name unless it makes sense to do so, and/or the situation requires it.  I don’t just walk into a room and say, “You know, Janet Jackson was at my high school graduation and heard me sing” – True story.  Now, if someone is telling a story about a famous person that was at their high school graduation, then I now have my ‘in’ to tell my Janet Jackson story.

So, today, when I was given the opportunity to drop a name, I was giddy as a school girl. About a week and half ago, my wife, Leah threw me a surprise birthday party.  Lots of people showed up, I was 95% surprised, and it was very cool.  And although I was not expecting any presents, I got a few.  One present was a gift card to one of my favorite restaurants, Tozinos.  Now it just so happens that the owners of this restaurant are my friends and are the ones that gave me the gift card.  They have several restaurant locations, and I drive close by one of them every weekend when I drop off and pick up my son from his mom.  Unfortunately, when I drive pass this restaurant it is either in the morning before it opens, or mid-afternoon and too early for dinner.  But, everytime I drive by when I am hungry, I almost always stop by to eat.  Today was one of those days.

I had just landed at Chicago O’Hare from Portland, Oregon.  I picked my son up from his mom’s house and was heading home.  I was starving.  I had my gift card in my car and was ready to get some pizza and broccoli salad, one of my favorite items from this restaurant’s buffet.  I handed the cashier my gift card and she attempted to swipe it.  It would not work.  She tried everything and the card would not register on her computer.  She finally told me “This is an invalid card.”  “Are you sure?”  I asked, thinking that this card is from the owner.  She finally said, “Sorry?”  And then she gave me a look as if to say, you got screwed, and said “Who gave you this card?”  “Perfect”, I thought.  I told her, “Who gave it to me?  Who gave it to me?  I will have you know that the very proprietor of this establishment bequeathed that card unto me.  The owners of this restaurant are personal friends of mine, and so you will show me some respect.  I will have you fired unless this matter isn’t resolved post-haste.”  I don’t know if I used those exact words, but it was something along those lines.  The cool thing about this situation was that the woman was clearly nervous, which I thought was awesome.

The woman talked to her supervisor, and then called the corporate office and left a message on my friend’s voicemail.  At this point, I’m thinking, I may have overplayed my “I know the owner” card.  Because at the end of the day, it really wasn’t a big deal.  I texted my friend, and he said that he would get the card fixed, but in the mean time, he gave me something far better than a gift card to a restaurant, he gave me a story.  And I love stories.  It is the gift that keeps on giving.  My son and I finished our meal.  Upon leaving, the cashier wanted to reassure me that she did everything possible to resolve the matter.  I told that she would get to keep her job, for now.  She kissed my ring and then we left.  All in all, the dining experience could not have gone any better.  Hmmm, who knows, maybe I will make a visit to the state capitol.

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My sister used to own a restaurant.  It is a good thing that I never lived anywhere near it.  Even when I visited the restaurant I didn’t expect to pay.  My thought was always, “Don’t you know who I am?  I’m your boss’ brother.  I’m your boss uncle.  I’m your buncle.  So fry me up some shrimp, or I’ll fire your behind!  I’m just sayin …

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So, I hate to do this, I really do, but I have something to say.  First of all, I hate Fox News, but more on that later.  Unless you live under a rock, you may have noticed that Wisconsin has been in the news lately.  Now, if I were a supporter of conspiracy theories (which I am) I would say that the Governor Walker is trying to destroy unions to eliminate a powerful supporter of the democratic party.  And that he is trying to set precedent for other states to eliminate collective bargaining on his way to create a Republican Super Power or Empire and take away free will from the American people.  I would only say this if I was a conspiracy theorist (which I am).  Why else would he not accept the unions agreement to have employees do EVERYTHING in his bill, accept the loss of collective bargaining?  I’m just sayin.

Am I biased?  Of course I am.  Just the mere fact that I have a PhD, a democrat and an independent thinker makes me biased on this particular issue.  The whole thing is asinine.  Does that make me an elitist?  Probably, and I am OK with that.  Here are the facts:

January 2011 – Walker signs bill providing tax breaks for those with health savings accounts.  This is reduced state revenue, how will it be made up?

January 2011 – Walker signs bill giving tax breaks to businesses that relocate to Wisconsin in their first two years, and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011 and would lower state revenue by an estimated $1 million over two years.  Will this be made up by stimulating business? I don’t know.

Are these bills bad?  Depending on your perspective, but my issue is that he has spent the first month in office reducing state revenue and then proposes a bill that increases out-of-pocket expenses of a specific population of Wisconsin while simultaneously attempting to severely reduce collective bargaining.  Also, keep in mind, these cuts to pay proposed in this bill does not even scratch the over 3 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) deficit for the next budget cycle.

Finally, to why I hate Fox News.  On Fox News, it was stated that Wisconsin Union workers make “89,000 bucks” in salary ($51,000) and benefits ($38,000), while non-union workers make an average of $48,000 ($38K + $10K).  The next night they corrected their previous statement, by stating that it is really $81K for Wisconsin versus $66K for everyone else.

Firstly, I hate inaccurate news! (And no I am not saying that Fox is the only news source that gets things wrong.)  Because no one listens to/hears the correction.  It just fuels the stupid commercials I am seeing that somehow these union workers have gotten over on the system.

Secondly, the comparison is not that simple.  If you believe the first set of numbers (the incorrect ones) you would be inclined to think Wisconsin union employees are receiving an unfare advantage.  You might even think this with the accurate numbers, but even the real numbers would be misleading.  Why? Because education matters.

According to the US Census Bureau, 17% of Wisconsin residents (25 years and older) hold a bachelor’s degree.  A bachelor’s degree is required to be a teacher in Wisconsin.  So, the real question is, does a person with a bachelor’s degree in the public sector make more than the private sector equivalent.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, that answer is no.

So, like most political issues, many people are being misled by inaccuracies or national pundits comparing apples to oranges as they miss much of the crucial details that make comparisons have true meaning.  Now Walker may never raise taxes, which will make a lot of people happy, but when he cuts streams of state revinue (like taxbreaks) where is the money going to come from to cover that loss, if not taxes?  Wisconsin union workers will not have their taxes raised, but they will be paying more next year.  Is there a difference?Sorry for this political rant, but it had to be done.

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Last week I was in Walmart and saw a HOT female employee.  Of course, the first thought had been “Is she really hot, or just ‘Walmart’ hot?”  See “Beauty is Relative” for more detailed explanation. But it got me thinking.  Is beauty really that much of an advantage in the work place.  THink about it.  Think about all the jobs that you would never ever want to have, for example, gas attendant, Walmart employee, fry cook, janitor, or garbage collector.  Now, don’t get me wrong, these jobs are important and if you work in one of these jobs, please forgive me for what I am about to say, but people with these jobs are never good-looking  (See?  Sorry).  You know this is true, because when you see a good-looking garbage collector it will seem weird to you.  The only explanation I could give for the Walmart employee being hot, assuming that she was indeed hot, was that she was foreign and just moved to the country.  That would be the only explanation that would make sense to me.  I’m just sayin …

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So, over the Thanksgiving holiday I had a conversation with my sister about the importance of college.  It is really an ongoing conversation regarding the importance of getting a degree over starting your own business.  For example, Bill Gates is often brought up as a successful person who never went to college.  The irony of using Gates as an example is that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation may give more money to help students, especially minority students, go to college than any other foundation on the planet.  He even has a blog to encourage students to finish college (http://www.gatesfoundation.org/foundationnotes/Pages/bill-gates-101011-improving-college-completion.aspx).  Nonetheless, our conversation has got me thinking what is the value of a college degree?

The focus of the conversation over the holiday was my nephew, my sister’s youngest who recently graduated from high school.  He has an interest in videography and is making plans on how to break into some sort of video business.  My sister owns her own business and has probably not worked for someone else in 30 years.  I am a professor, so it should be no surprise to my readers that I am pushing my nephew to attend college.  It is interesting, in many ways I feel as if we are fighting for my nephew’s soul.   Who will win?  The promise of financial freedom? Or the tried and true stability of the promise of an education?  Inspired by our conversations, I have decided to write this blog.  What is the value of college education?

Independence.  One of the biggest lessons I learned in college was how to live on my own.  With the safety net of home and parents limited (eight hours away in my case), I could not just run home every time I needed help or was struggling.  I was forced to figure out things on my own, and these lessons were invaluable to my development, both emotionally and spiritually.  I do not think I truly learn about MYSELF until experiencing college and being on my own.

Multi-tasking.  While in college one must study, work (I worked 20-30 hours per week), socialize, and juggle other important miscellaneous activities and still be successful.  This is a skill that I can’t stress enough to its importance.

Social Skills.  I have never met a more variety of people than I did attending college.  My experience was especially diverse at Berkeley, my alma mater.  To this day I remember having amazing conversations with my atheist friend, Connie.  We would get into knock-down arguments over God and religion and then after go for lunch or dinner.  It taught me how important it was to have friends that thought differently than me.  This is something I think most people are missing from their lives.  Trust me, it is important.  I do not want to be surrounded by people who think just like me.  It is not enriching, nor growth inspiring.

Exposure.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  One of the largest advantages to college is to be exposed to different subjects and ideas.  There is no other forum that a person can take classes and talk with others about economy, history, science all on the same day.  When I entered college I was planning on becoming a lawyer, but through various experiences at Cal, I learned that I loved animals and started the pathway that I am currently on.  Most students change their majors multiple times, but it is their opportunity to explore that I think is most valuable.

Higher Probability for Success.  The fact is that most people require a Bachelor’s degree at minimum to obtain a successful job.  Is it possible to be successful without a degree, of course, but the Gates stories are rare.  Even owning one’s own business is a risky adventure.  Most businesses fail in the first two years.  In 2008, 15.5 million people claimed to be self-employed and their median personal marginal federal tax rate was 10 percent, which is an income range of $0 – $8,025.  Only 4.1 % of the self-employed were in the marginal tax bracket of 33% or more (Taxable income of 164,550-357,700 for 2010).  The bottom line: being successful via less traditional means has a lower probability of success.

Finish What you Start.  This is my number one reason for going to college.  It teaches you to finish what you start.  The reality is that a Bachelor’s degree is not special.  It will not prepare you for a job any more than anything else, but what it will do is show a potential employer that you can finish what you start.  Think about how important this skill is.  Can you think of people in your life that don’t finish what they start?  Of course you can.  It might even be you, but this is a crucial skill.  The ability to overcome adversity to finish a task can not be overlooked or underestimated.  Having a degree says something about a person, and that’s a fact. 

And no, it doesn’t have to be a degree.  But we are impressed by people with accomplishments.  And being the best at Call of Duty doesn’t count.  So, get your degree, it is a wonderful accomplishment, but more important it will teach many things along the way.  Is it the only way, of course not, but if you find yourself not doing much these days, or wondering what to do next, it is not a bad way to go and you just might learn something.  Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

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No matter what it is that you do, I hope you love it.  Do what you love and things will be alright.  I chose Berkeley because it had the most beautiful brochure of all the college material I got.  It wasn’t till after I got accepted to I realize that it was a good school.  Probably not the most intelligent way to pick a school, but it worked out and speaks to my personality.  I’m just sayin …

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