Month: November 2010

Celebrating the Holidays….Jetson style!

As traditional as the holiday season is, I was jolted into how far technology has changed it at my home, and quite possibly yours as well.

Like most we enjoyed the traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings. As always it was a fantastic meal. As the day lumbered on with all the other trappings that go with the event such as movies, football, and more. I was walking across the living room when something just struck me that at first I never really gave a second thought. I was walking across the house wearing a set of wireless headphones listening to a news program that was coming out of Asia. This broadcast was playing on my computer where the visual portion was playing on  HD monitors in my office. My mother in-law was with us for the holiday. She flew in from New England for the holiday and was watching a television show that was being recorded live  so that she could pause every so often to see if another family member had called without missing any part of the show. The call she was waiting for was not going to come over the telephone. That would come over the computer via Skype where they could converse face to face seeing that the other was in Costa Rica. My wife at the same time was sitting in the room, but she was on her iTouch surfing the net, and emailing, and texting her friends. Moments before we ate, we had a face to face video chat with her brother back in New England in real-time. We were showing him how the house was decorated for the holiday and such. All in real-time via a mobile phone.

It hit me like a ton of bricks how we now take a lot of the conveniences of today as if they have always been there. Just think, it was only a few years ago there were no such things as DVR’s, Smart-phones, Live Streaming video, High Def, or wireless anything. But now we seem to act like it’s always been like this. It’s all just simply amazing when you really give it some thought.

So in that spirit is where I truly found thanks. Not only for the blessings I have in my life such as family and friends, but also for being able to have the other blessings that I now take for granted.

Now if we  can only get that flying car thing happening, that would be something.  Maybe next year.

Mark

Texting the World Away

I am amazed on a daily basis watching how many adults ( never mind the teenagers) who seem oblivious to their surroundings. Seemingly intelligent people walking with their heads down flailing away on a keyboard built for ants trying to alert the world on some sort of social networking platform what they ate for dinner, if they just showered, or posted their 2,375 picture of themselves in a compromising pose or situation. They Tweet, Twit, Post, Paste, Share, Spread, etc.,etc.,etc. But ask them a question about a relevent subject that might impact their future, and all you’ll see is some form of soul-less expression of bewilderment. You know that look, it’s the same one you get when one of these clueless figures walks straight into you almost knocking you down as they’re tweeting, texting, posting, pasting, sharing, or talking. Do they say sorry, or excuse me?  No…you’ll just get that animatronic look that says ” Were you not watching where I was going?”

This is the attitude now coming from people who put more effort into exercising their texting dexterity than they’ll put into educating and informing themselves. It’s even becoming apparent there’s something a foot when you start seeing it parodied on TV. One of my favorite commercials currently running that brings the point home is where a a person is viewing the Christmas decorations on his neighbor’s house. He texts the owner making backhanded insults on his phone, yet he is standing right in front of him. After two or three one liners the home owner yells at him saying..”Look me in the eyes!”  That one little quote sums it all up for me. No longer are people addressing one another face to face. There is no conversation, no interaction, no listening, only people stating comments oblivious to any true discourse. People are losing the ability to interact face to face, and I feel it’s a troubling new reality.

The trouble with this new reality of communication is this. What are you going to do when the power is out or the lines are down? Talk? Think? Write? Hope you remember how…It’s not the same as riding a bicycle. You stop using the former skills, and you’ll look pretty foolish once again needing training wheels.

But then again, when the power comes back on, just post the picture of you trying , you’ll remember how to do that right?

Mark

The Holiday Shopping Experience…more pathetic than ever

Cutting right to the chase I am not a Grinch, actually I love the holiday season like most, but as of late it’s hard to be anything but annoyed when you go to any store recently. One of the most glaring things both my wife and I notice on a disturbingly frequent basis is how messy stores have become. At some of the more famed holiday retailers who are synonymous for putting on the holiday cheer it’s not only pathetic, it’s down right disgusting.

Retailing has been an art form since the dawn of time. Put your merchandise in the best possible spot, and if there is a theme to be exploited, exploit it, pure and simple. That formula has worked brilliantly, but now…not so-much. The main culprit? Bottom line  numbers only mentality, no more empathy for the season. Playing Christmas music over the store speakers while allowing the atmosphere within the store to seem like Bastille day is not what the holiday season is all about.

Here are just a few particulars that I see with glaring regularity that are not only obvious to all, but are darn right pathetic.

1. More than one seasonal decoration up at one time. Seriously, can you take down the witches and skeletons before you put up Ole Saint Nick?

2. Can I please find at least 1 item on a shelf that is priced?

3. If you’re going to send me coupons because you value my business, please don’t send me a 50% off any single item only to find that there is only 1 single item I can actually use the coupon for.

4. Does anyone go through the shelves any longer to straighten out the merchandise? I’ve seen more organization in a kids closet than in most stores.

5. If every transaction seemingly needs to be approved by a manager, can you either hire more managers, or allow staff to possibly make a decision?

6. If you’re going to decorate, then decorate. Putting up decorations that are left fallen down, or came unglued from the wall and are dangling like a rope, or even worse, look like you rummaged through the lost and found bin of holidays past, please stop. Nothing would be better than the something you have up. Trust me on that one.

7. Make it a punishable offense of maybe life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if a customer approaches an employee to ask a question, and they are either texting or talking on their phone only to say  ” Hold on I’ll be with you in a minute.”

8. Clean the store, clean the store, clean the damn store! I have never in my life seen such filth in so-called upscale retailers. The first thing to cut is the cleaning crew when trying to hit numbers, and it not only shows, it’s on full display.

9. Buy one get 2 free, only to see the next week buy 3 get 7 at half off, only to be replaced the next week with buy 1 at regular price and 50% off the next then 75% of the next 2 is really putting my math skills to a test. It also leaves me with the feeling every time I come back that I really didn’t get a bargain, as a matter of fact, I think I actually got hood-winked and payed more than not on sale prices. Just makes me feel cheery when that happens.

10. Why have this charade of ” Black Friday” only to see it offered before the date as a  “Pre-Black Friday” or some other foolish new stunt. I’m needing a day planner just to keep up with the sales planner, and as far as I’m concerned, they can’t plan.

I could go on and on with this list, but you get the picture. The holiday shopping season has been morphing into some ugly monster for decades. It just seems to be so revealing lately that it’s too hard to gloss over any longer.

Maybe that’s why they leave the Halloween decorations up so long. To remind us of Christmas shopping past, because the holiday spirit of late is frightful.

Mark

 

“Pass the Champagne!”

We’re getting close to end of another year. It’s been a sobering experience for any of us whom try to see the forest through the trees. The more one looks at things that don’t make sense, the more senseless it is to try. Forget trying to use your experience over the years, or for that fact any experience you’ve garnered over time. No one cares, and no one seems likely to care unless it all falls apart. Call me sentimental, but I remember a time when critical thinking mattered. It seems oh so long ago when it had relevancy, but for now it’s just talking the yarns of Ole. Maybe at sometime the resulting hangover will serve as evidence that staying too long at the punch bowl is not healthy. But as long as the bubbly is pouring I guess who is to say different. Besides, when everyone is inebriated with high hopes of never having to deal with a crisis again because they are now more sure than ever they know just what to do this time, well I guess you just pass the champagne. So let them toast to their new-found ideas, and out with the old and in with the new because we are oh so much smarter now…..

Remember when the USA was the engine of growth around the world and if GDP was under 4% it was a bad thing?……How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when we thought unemployment above 7% for any length of time was considered bad for the stock market?…..How foolish we were back then….pass the champagne!

Remember when we thought that the engine of growth for the world would be free market capitalism?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when it was a bad thing if a government nationalized a corporation?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when we thought spending a billion dollars was a large figure, and a trillion was near impossible?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when nearly 15 million people unemployed was a bad thing for the economy, and would hurt spending?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when if you took out a mortgage you would have to pay it back, regardless if there was a typo?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when if you were in foreclosure it meant eviction not a rent free time period to be exploited?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when keeping interest rates too low for too long would mean you were creating bubbles in the economy or bring on inflation?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when the US dollar was something you always thought would have value no matter what?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when monetizing the government’s debt was  something that was considered the same as paying one credit card with another and crazy?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when praising anything like what’s being toasted now was considered the babble of a bunch of drunkards?

There’s a great deal to be said for staying sober in my book.

Mark

Wrong or Early?…The Perils of Forecasting

If you would like to be revered as the “All knowing” just forecast what you believe to happen and have it come true. If you want to be shunned and mocked, do the same but with the opposite results. If you want unconditional reverence, my advice is get a dog.

Forecasting is done by everyone. We do it all the time when talking with peers or friends. It usually takes the form as an opinion rather than what can be explained as a forecast. You give some type of answer based on what you think will happen and if it does so be it, it was just an opinion. That same scenario changes dramatically when it goes from opinion to advice. Opinions are worthless and cost the same, everyone has one, but advice is usually paid for and has some form of actionable details contained within. Most people treat opinions and advice as equals. That’s foolish, but that’s for another column.

Whether you own a business or run one you need to forecast. Even if you are just planning a one day vacation, you’ll do it. However what most fail to predict, or neglect to calculate into any forecast is this…If a forecast event happens later than anticipated, was the forecast truly wrong? This is where most get it wrong in both business and life.

Problem with forecasting is most take it out of context. It’s a forecast of what might happen, or what should happen, or based on historical data points what is likely to happen. It’s not an all-seeing what will happen. All one needs to put this into perspective is think about your local weatherman. Look at all the scientific knowledge, computer models, historical data, radar systems, and much more at their disposal and look at the results. How accurate are they really? I give them the benefit of doubt most times, but if ones misses that thunderstorm call by saying afternoon and it comes in the morning? Look out is all I’ll say.

For months I’ve written on these pages that I believe there is a terrible storm brewing on the horizon. I’ll be the first to say I have been wrong in how soon I thought it would land, but I have not changed my original thoughts or calls for what I believe is coming. Many have said I just don’t understand the “New Normal” we are in. Some have said, “Why don’t you just admit you’re wrong.” All are fair points, all might have some validity to them, but I keep looking at the data points which most who are calling me wrong not only wont include, but even worse, act as if they never happened. I might be wrong and so be it, but refusing to look at other possibilities based on hard data is just nuts.

If you think there just might be some validity in the thought of early vs. wrong I’ve included the most recent cover of Barron’s below. As far as everyone is now concerned the stock market is healed and better than ever. Based on this alone, you should be readying the plywood for the windows.

Just a forecast from your lonely weatherman.

Mark