Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I think we got something here...

About 2 years ago, my family had a dilemma.  We were struggling to find something "athletic" for our daughter to do.  See, her brother has always been a natural athlete.  He played, at one time, baseball, soccer, basketball and football.  He just trasitioned from one to the other with no problems.  our daughter, on the other hand, really struggled with finding a sport. Now, when I say sport, I use that term loosely.  We tried soccer (she HATED it), t-ball (didn't care at all), basketball (tough for a girl to stay focused at her age) and, yes, even cheerleading.  Now, to me, cheering doesn't count as a sport (bring it on) but it was something mildly active where she got out of the house and did something with other people.  She eventually grew tired of it, and we certainly didn't want to deal with the politics of cheerleading for the rest of her life.  So, we thought we were out of options.

Until we found swimming.  We found out there was a small group of swimmers that meets at the high school near our house, and we thought that would be great. Her grandmother was a swimmer, and I was always in the pool growing up, so it seemed like a natural fit.  So, we signed her up.

Let's just say she took to the water like...well, a fish to water.  She loved it.  She enjoyed the people, the swimming, the exercise, pretty much everything about it.  So, we were loving it...and she started doing meets.  We didn't know what to expect with the meets...they can be overwhelming at first, but we stuck it out.  She would swim her three or four events and we would go home.  Her favorite part about swim meets was going to Subway afterwards, which is our "tradition".

Then she started winning...a lot.  I won't say that she was destroying the field, but she was placing in 75% of her events.  And it happened again...and again.  All of the sudden, I am going from "hey, this is a neat hobby" to "she might actually be good at this"!

Her last meet, which is called a "CHAMPS" meet (think of sort of a district meet), was a few weeks ago.  She was competing against some of her strongest competition ever.  There were a million kids there, and it was crazy.  You may recall my previous post about it.  Anyway, she did great.  She won a few of her heats (which is all we ever ask her to do) and we left, knowing that it was a good meet (and yes, we went straight to Subway).

Well, we found out yesterday that she kicked some serious butt.  A first, a fourth, and a fifth place in her division.  So, needless to say that I am extremely proud of her.  Hopefully, she will continue with this attitude and enjoy herself at the same time.  My only goal is to prevent her from burning out on it (which will be tough as she practices 4 nights a week).

Rejected Dilbert Comics

Rejected Dilbert Comics:
Scott Adams of Dilbert comics wrote about this cartoon strip that got
rejected for some reason. I wonder why ... Link
- via Tastefully

Stephen Fry discusses Tourette’s syndrome with a lady who suffers from it

Stephen Fry discusses Tourette’s syndrome with a lady who suffers from it:
Ok, just a quick warning....if you are at work, don't listen to this video.  It is an absolutely fascinating look at a woman who has the rare type of Tourette's Syndrome where they actually swear.  Seriously, there are probably about 100 F-Words in this video, but only one of them counts (you will see what I mean).  A great look into how she is trying to rise above her disability and help others who might be afflicted.

As Chazz Micheal Michealson would say, it is mind-bottling.

(via Reddit)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dream Time!

I had the weirdest dream last night, which by itself isn't all that odd. What is weird is that I remember it.  I am usually terrible at remembering my dreams.

I was filling in as baseball coach for a team my son used to play for.  I got there, assumed the third base coach position, and realized that we were playing with a very large van an U-Haul trailer in the middle of the field.  This apparently fazed no one, so the game continued.  With a runner on first, one of the players hit a ball up the middle, which should have scored two runs, but the umpire decided to call them both out. I got into an argument with the umpire and threw steamed rice on him.  This was not odd because there was a very large pile of it at home plate.

This is when I realized that it is hard for me to yell in dreams because you apparently need your lungs to work to yell properly, which I tried to do.  Unfortunately, this also causes one to wake up, realizing that you are yelling to your bedroom, "You are just trying to create an two-out situation". The dream ended there.  Thankfully, no one was in said bedroom to hear me act like a crazy person.

Dreams are fun.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This is flippin' awesome. Real? Who cares.

4f58d5150a68e Letter from child to local weatherman is insane, awesome

Being a kid, he also included a drawing of the enslaved unicorn, too.
weather letter 640x382 Letter from child to local weatherman is insane, awesome

Explosive grind...

  • My wife types oddly.  She is a hunt and peck type of person, but she complicates it even farther by how she capitalizes letters:  She hits caps lock, types the letter, then hits caps lock again.  I will never succeed in changing that behavior
  • Speaking of typing, my son has to be able to type 40 wpm to pass a class this trimester in school.  I would be happy if he just types out the words "you" and "are" instead of using letters.
  • It is amazing to me to see people on twitter be two absolutely different people without any idea that they are doing it.  I see messages that basically say things like "If this person messes with me, I will seriously beat them up and I don't care about what happens (saltier language is usually used)".  8 hours later, I see "God is great. I love my family. Being a Christian is amazing".  You kind of need to pick one message and stick to it, don't you think?
  • Wife and I are going to try a bed and breakfast this weekend.  I am a bit nervous.  Any thoughts?  I have never been to one, and I am afraid that it will turn out like in every sitcom I have ever watched.
  • Speaking of sitcoms, my wife and I watch an episode of King of Queens every night before bed.  I have seen every episode about 20 times by now, and they are still consistently great.
  • I could tell you that I don't want the new iPad (I am still rocking the first version), but who would I be kidding?  I guarantee that the first time I see that retina screen, I will fall in love.
  • Make sure to watch the second episode of Awake on NBC tonight.  I went to HS with the guy who wrote it.  He needs a successful tv show...too much talent there to waste.
  • I was in Chicago this summer and met a lady from California who worshiped the Casey Donahew band. I went to HS with him too...played little league baseball with him for years.  Good guy.
  • I also went to HS with an Olympic Volleyball star (Stacey Sykora), the fiddle player for Big and Rich (Shawn Bailey) and an American Idol (Kelly Clarkson).  Not a bad run for a little high school in Texas.
  • Shopping for umpire gear sucks.  Hardly anywhere carries it locally, and that is the kind of stuff you need to see before you buy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Braum's: A 20-year Problem

As time passes, it is clearer and clearer to me that not everyone has read Steve Jobs' biography.  I just don't see how any executive in a large company can read that book and not be inspired to make changes to the way their company does business.

My first case study would be Braum's.  Braum's has long been known for their great milkshakes, premium type groceries and some pretty good food.  In my experience, they have also been known to have the dirtiest, unkempt restaurants in America.  This is not a recent phenomenon, either.  I can remember being a kid in Burleson, TX and thinking that this restaurant needs a good cleaning.  This was only reinforced when we ate at our local Braum's in Euless.

First of all, the design decision to make the floors a dirty shade of brown was most likely the worst decision since the Cue Cat.  I am sure that somewhere someone thought that if they make the floors look dirty all the time, they wouldn't change if they were actually dirty.  So, even the cleanest of restaurants look dirty.  This Braum's was a disaster.  There were no napkins at the station.  Ketchup was EVERYWHERE.  Straw wrappers littered the floor.  Tables were unwiped.  There was melted ice cream on chairs.  This was only the beginning.

I realize that making food, especially liquid food like milkshakes, is dirty work.  It is next to impossible to keep it spotless.  This Braum's took it to a new level...the entire floor behind the counter was wet.  Which means that every time an employee walked out from behind the counter, they tracked dirty water across the restaurant.  There was literally a track of dirty water from the counter exit throughout the entire store.  Both trash cans were overflowing with trash, and on top of the trash cans were dirty towels and a spray bottle of cleaner.  Please don't get me started on the restroom.  There is a difference between a restroom that isn't clean because the trash bin needs to be emptied and when it looks like the bathroom hasn't seen a mop in three days.  Mold stains on the urinal don't exactly inspire confidence in the cleanliness of the kitchen.

The amazing thing is that people just kept coming in, which is a testament to Braum's' food and ice cream.  People love that place.  Imagine the kind of brand that Braum's could be if they would just pay attention to the little things.  I realize you get happens to every business.  But, imagine if you hired someone to work during the busy periods whose only job it was to clean tables, empty the trash, wipe down the ketchup station, etc.  This person would probably make 7 dollars an hour and be glad to work 20 hours a week, and you won't ever have to worry about this kind of problem again.  When was the last time you went into a Braum's and said, "Wow...these people are sitting around doing nothing!"? Probably never.  It seems that they are consistently understaffed, which creates problems.  Our local Taco Bueno employs a special needs teen who does nothing but cleans tables, wipes the salsa bar, and empties trash.  The restaurant is spotless, and it shows their dedication to making their customer's experience a great one. Plus, it creates a much needed job for someone who might have trouble getting one otherwise.

Another frustrating thing about Braum's is that they try to do two things at once...a mini grocery store and a restaurant.  They have a separate checkout counter for the groceries, which consistently pulls someone away from another duty to ring up someone who is just picking up a gallon of milk...which means you always need an extra headcount just to make sure those people don't get pissed.  Why not combine the registers and leave a dedicated person there?  Problem solved.  Even the newer Braum's, which are a little better designed, have this problem.  You will see someone standing at the grocery line, waiting for someone behind the food counter to walk across the restaurant to ring them up.  Insanity.

The final nail in the coffin for me, and this will probably keep me out of Braum's for a while, is the craziest thing I have ever seen. When you walk into this particular Braum's, the first thing you see to your right is the mini-grocery store.  What is the first item, closest to the door?  Is it awesome ice cream?  Nope...Is it Braum's' delicious cheese (Braums has AWESOME cheese)?  Nope.  The first thing you see when you enter Braum's is a 4 pack of toilet paper.  Yep.  Toilet paper.  Some executive in Braum's' hierarchy decided that they couldn't possibly forego the 55 cents of profit that selling TP would bring in.  Never mind that the first thing that your customers think of when they walk in the door is taking a dump.  You are selling toilet paper in a restaurant!!!!!!  Imagine if you walked into a Sprinkles cupcake store and they had tampons on display....that is the same impression that your customers are getting.

The hardest thing about this is that the employees were GREAT!  The girl behind the counter hand delivered our milkshakes to our table. That was awesome.  She was sweet, and it appeared that everyone behind the counter was busy but not unhappy.  The guy ringing up the customers was friendly and professional.  It just seems that there is a lack of management at a local level who is accountable for the cleanliness of the store.

So, back to Jobs' biography.  If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it as you will see why Apple has become the biggest company in the world.  By never compromising what makes them great, Apple has done things that were considered impossible 10 years ago.  It also serves as a pretty good guide to other companies on how to create customer loyalty by doing the things you do well and nothing else.  It is clear that these messages aren't making it to the executives at Braum's headquarters.  It makes me sad, too...because I liked Braum's.  I just don't know how appetizing their food sounds after having such a bad experience.

Monday, March 5, 2012

People...hating people...

This last weekend was swim meet weekend.  My daughter has only been in swim for a little over a year now, and this was the first "Champs" meet that we had been to.  Basically, it is like the big swim meet at the end of the season where everyone tries their best.
Our first indication that this was going to be a trying weekend was that when we got there, on time, we discovered that the meet was running about an hour late.  That sucks, but it is understandable.  These organizations that put on these meets find it very hard to turn away people who want to pay for the meet, as they need the money.  It does create quite the headache when it comes to scheduling all these last minute swimmers, though.
This minor inconvenience set off a chain reaction of craziness for the whole weekend, which is not the focus of this post.  What I really want to focus on is how inconsiderate people can be when they are only worried about themselves.
We have all been in a situation where there are crowds.  I tend to focus on making sure that people all have an equal shot at taking care of themselves, but apparently this is not the overwhelming attitude when it comes to most other people.  I usually sit there in amazement as I watch people do things as if they are the only person in the world.  Before I get into specifics, let me set the stage:
This is just an example of what they considered "leg room"
We were at the Grapevine Colleyville Natatorium, which is a nice, but small, venue.  There were WAY too many people for this little building.  Imagine three or four hundred swimmers, each of them with a mom and/or a dad, and probably siblings, packed into a building about the size of a decent gymnasium, but with a gigantic swimming pool taking up the majority of the floor space.  The bleachers were poorly constructed.  There was about half the normal space to maneuver around between the benches.  Lastly, either the air-conditioning wasn't working or it hadn't been turned for the most of the day, it was a sweltering 85 degrees or so...with 500 people in a small building.  Here are some of the things I witnessed:

  • People parking in fire lanes (there was a perfectly acceptable, HUGE parking lot about a 2 minute walk from the natatorium
  • People saving ENTIRE rows of seats with bags, jackets, etc. and no one sitting in those seats all day long
  • Parents letting their children run wild all day long, with no concern whatsoever (this included one boy who made it his mission to destroy every tree outside of the building, where a lot of people went to get a breath of fresh air from time to time)
  • People putting bags, etc. in the aisle so you had to walk around their bag to get out of the bleachers
  • People setting up folding chairs wherever there was floor space, blocking pretty much every exit down to a single file line that had to turn sideways to get through
  • At one point, a race official came to open a set of doors to let some much needed air in the building.  As soon as he walked away, a woman closed the doors because she was cold. 99.9% of the people in that building were dying, and she couldn't get it through her thick skull that there was anyone else in that building besides herself
  • Parents not telling their kids to towel off before they walked up the entire set of bleachers, dripping water on every single person and thing they came close to on the way up
  • My wife and I actually got a kick out of watching people open the doors to cool the building off, and watching that same woman return and close them.  It probably happened ten times throughout the day
It just seemed to me that if everyone in the building just gave half a crap, it wouldn't have been near as bad, but it seemed as if everyone was only concerned about themselves.  Now, I will say that no one was rude, and there were no incidents, but it just amazed me to sit back and watch how internally selfish people can be.