Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Koch Brothers Reach Out to Me

Yesterday a guy walked into my office, introduced himself as working for the California Small Business Association and would I mind, as the owner of a small business, taking a short one page survey so the CSBA could approach the legislature with "solutions" during the next legislative session.

I didn't like the looks of the guy from the get go. It was cool yesterday, California jacket weather and he had on a neatly pressed white shirt and tie, no jacket. My first thought was, where is his jacket?
He looked cold and had a semi-hipster goatee that he was just a little long in the tooth for. Add to the mix that nobody wears ties in Southern California, but I digress.

The first question he asked was on the "over-regulation" of business in California and how it slows things down for business owners like me. I said from my experience with the regulators, the problem is that not enough people are working at the agencies I have to deal with. He was surprised at my answer. I told him that the occupational licensing branch of the DMV has only one inspector for the northern portion of LA County and all of Ventura County and the inspector is responsible for all facets of transportation, from car dealers, ambulances, transmission shops,driving schools and anything having to do with wheeled vehicles. The office the guy works out of in Van Nuys has 15 cubicles and 3 employees. My licensing was slowed not because of inefficiency but by too few employees. The same with the DMV office in Sacramento. This asshat's response, "the DMV should be privatised!"

He continued on with this gem, "California has over 1,000 regulatory boards and Texas only has 110, do you think California would be better off with a regulatory scheme more like Texas? I answered with a question of my own, "Would you rather live in Texas or California?" He didn't know what to say, so I continued, our growth is as good or better as Texas in most categories and better in businesses of the future. If Texas wasn't propped up by the oil and gas industry they'd be dead in the water, don't you agree?" Once again no answer from me or from Mr. Goatee.

The next question was about "Obamacare"? I said are you referring to The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? Goatee Man was stopped in his tracks, I actually don't think he knew the name of the bill. I told him based on the experience of business owners in Massachusetts, I thought it was a good thing. He looked puzzled. I added, "it's the law of the land, pal."

He then asked about the power of Unions, my answer was, "do you mean those organizations that 12% of the workforce belong to?"

The questions went on, all phrased to to get a response that fit the the goals of the organization taking the survey, they weren't looking for opinions from small business owners, they were looking for support for their goals. The organization behind this CSBA group is ALEC or the American Legislative Exchange Council. An anti-regulation, anti-tax, anti-union, anti-environment, anti-public school, anti-government national organization funded by the Koch brothers hiding behind these so called local business and government groups. The goal is to gut any and all regulation and laws that billionaires like the Kochs don't agree wtih.

The Koch brothers point man didn't make any points with me.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bristol Farms Adventures

We shop at Costco and Von's, but mostly at Costco, because I like having a year's supply of toilet paper and paper towels on hand. 

Occasionally I go to Bristol Farms, a high end grocery store. Why? Because of the really good meat, fish and their superb bakery. How high end is Bristol Farms? Amy's organic soup is a dollar more a can than it is at Costco, Knob Creek Bourbon is 9 dollars more a bottle than it is at Von's.

One Sunday morning at 8, I was in line behind a rather bummy looking guy, long white hair sticking out from under a baseball cap, ratty sweat shirt and faded jeans. He was dressed pretty much like I was. He was having trouble with his pin number, so much so he called home and asked what it was, no luck there. I thought I recognized his voice, he turned around and it was Sam Elliot.

Sam had a pound of bacon and bottle of orange juice and he was screwed, no cash and a forgotten pin number, Sam looked at me and said 'How fucked is this?" I bought his bacon and juice for him. Shook his hand, gave him my card and I got the money back a week later.

Another time at Bristol Farms, The Cakes and I were followed by this person, up one aisle and down another.

Heather was with her Mom and daughter, Heather looked pretty rough. The next week she was arrested for DUI. We've seen Heather at Costco, too.

Here's another Bristol Farms shopper:

And another:

Richie Sambora, Heather's ex and Jon Bon Jovi's guitarist. He really looked like shit, but his Lamborghini was nice!

We used to see Lenny Dykstra all the time:

Not so much anymore:

Here is a guy who should be in jail and isn't. (I only see him at the gas station)

Angelo Mozilo, ex Country Wide CEO.

That's the latest update from sunny SoCal! 80 degrees today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Old, Tired and Cranky

I worked 50 6 day weeks last year, including New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve, so far in 2013 I've had one Saturday off. I was thinking about this last night while reading David Halberstram's book on Bill Belichick, "The Making of a Coach"


NFL coaches work massive hours with little or no time off. They say, the coaching staff has a soft period after the draft and free agent signing period in the spring, the rest of the year it's 7 days a week, 12-14 hours a day. They do it because they love it, they live it and it's their life. There is an anecdote in the book about Bill Walsh the revered 49's coach. Walsh was out with his wife on their anniversary, they were at a fine Bay Area restaurant, he was staring off into space and his wife said, "What is it Bill? 3rd and 8?"

I understand that mindset completely! All the years I was in radio, I was consumed by it. I took a 5 day vacation one summer to paint my house and I listened to the radio all day while I was on the ladder, I'd climb down and write a thought or a note and then get back up and paint the damned eaves. There was hell to pay when I got back to work the next week, I learned more about my station in 5 days of using it like a listener than I ever did going to endless meetings.

The problem with being consumed by your work is the rest of your life goes to hell in a hand basket, you neglect your wife, your kids, the rest of your family, that part sucked. The good part was I liked my work a lot more than my neighbors liked theirs, so I didn't sit around and bitch about my job like they did. I only had one neighbor who liked his job as much as I did, he was the starting center for the Patriots. In radio the only way to get away from your job was to drive far enough away to lose the signal and most of my career the stations I worked at had huge signals, you'd have to drive all day to get away from them and a few had night signals you could get from Massachusetts all the way to Florida. I was one of those radio guys who just couldn't shut the damn thing off. I cared, too much.

Now, I don't listen to radio at all, I don't miss it either, you know why? The people involved in it don't care anymore, about anything. I can hear it.

Radio was the original "free" medium, the original wireless medium, access was easy, in the 50's you could buy a small, pocket sized box, with an ear bud for a couple of bucks and like magic you had news, weather, sports and entertainment anywhere you went. The cost? A few commercials. When I got into FM we ran 6 minutes an hour of commercials, today it's 20. I wonder who that is good for? Certainly not the people who use the medium. I think it's only good for the people who loaned today's owners the money to buy the signals in the first place.

I love my new thing, DRIVE! Driver's Training. I like the families, I like the kids and I love it when we turn out a great young teen driver. I love it when we can help a Senior get his or her license back and get their driving squared away, it's is a small, rewarding business. Are there shit operators in this business? You bet! I know how bad they are because we end up re-training some of their students and just like in radio, they don't care.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, "Jesus, I'm 67 years old and I'm busting my ass all day, everyday and my face shows it." Then I think how worn out, tired and beat up I'd be if I had spent my life doing some shit I didn't care about and had to drag my self off to a job I hated.

I took some classes at Harvard Business School years ago and there was a lecture about internalizing and externalizing work. The happiest people find a job they can internalize. So I may bitch about the hours from time to time or be whiny about how tired I am at 11 at night. In retrospect I think I've been fortunate to have spent most of my life doing something I really liked and enjoyed doing. Even if I did have to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with an incredible number of genuine assholes.

There is an episode in the book about Belichick's first meeting with the Giant's defensive players after Bill Parcells hired him to be the Defensive Coordinator. Belichick was standing at the podium,  when he started the meeting the players were screwing around talking and laughing. The ignored him completely. Belichick pounded on the podium and said, "You fuckers were 5 and 11 last year, so if you don't think you have anything to learn, get the fuck out, now!" They shut up and won the Super two seasons later.

I have been in that meeting so many times in my management life, you wouldn't believe it, if I gave you a list!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Yosemite Trip February, 2013

After you drive through the tunnel on your way to Yosemite Valley, this is your first sight of the spectacular valley!
 I took this about 9:15 in the morning, El Capitan is on the left, Half Dome is in the center of the background and Bridal Veil Falls is on the right. There is very little snow this year in the valley much to the concern of the Park Rangers. We had superb weather, mid 50's in the daytime, 25 at night.
The Cakes had never been to Yosemite, I hadn't been there for years. She was moved to tears by the beauty. The last time I was there was in summer when the Valley is bumper to bumper. This time we had the park to ourselves. (almost) The lack of traffic and so few people made it possible to see things with out being shoulder to shoulder with the crowds, it was quiet, peaceful and breathtaking.
The Park Service now uses all electric buses for shuttles, if you go, use them. They are free!
We owe, Galen Clark for lobbying President Lincoln to set aside the Yosemite region as a preserve, we owe John Muir for his efforts in publicizing and expanding the park and we all owe the CCC for building the trails, bridges and the stone walkways and walls like the one in the picture.
As we walked around I thought about what the valley would be like if it had been left to the developers and what it would be like today.
"2 acre Yosemite Meadows Lot, perfect for your summer dream home or year 'round retreat. Direct view of Yosemite Falls. This is one of the few remaining undeveloped, buildable lots in the highly sought after "Falls View Development". $3,999,000.
Gorgeous 5,000 sq foot home at the base of El Capitan located in one of the Yosemite Valley's most prestigious locations. The home features 5 bedrooms. 7 baths, heated pool and a 4 car garage plus a lovely 2 bedroom guest house. The El Capitan neighborhood maintains a private bridge with 24 hour security for your peace of mind whether home or away. This architect designed home was built in 1959 from the last of the old growth Sequoia trees and has been just been completely renovated to high standard. Offered at $21,565,000.
I think we dodged a bullet, don't you?
I thought it was interesting after Bush signed the bill that let guns in our National Parks, there are now signs on certain buldings and exhibits that prohibit carrying guns. There was a big one on the doors to the Yellowstone Visitor's Center Theater and Museum.