Sunday, October 19, 2014

25 Stories About Work - "Don't Hang Up" and the Recruiter from Detroit

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

Champaign, early 1990's

As I graduated from college in the early 1990's, I went through the interview process on campus. About half the companies really liked me and about half the companies hated me. I guess I was a polarizing interviewee but who knows I had little idea about what to expect in an interview or how to behave. I do remember buying a suit with my mother for about $400 which seemed like an astonishing amount of money at the time.

In addition to the on campus recruiters, I also fielded some phone calls. Looking back before the age of cell phones it is amazing that anyone ever got in touch with anyone else - they must have called me in my dingy hellhole of an apartment in the 5 minutes that I happened to be there in between class, prepping for the CPA exam, and going out drinking. I guess we had an answering machine but I'm not even sure about that and my roommates at the time weren't exactly the most reliable.

I was enamored with the idea of work and getting the heck out of Champaign so I was like a happy puppy when anyone called. The joke is that I would select the last recruiter to call. One day I did receive a call: Hello. I'd like to talk to you about a job opportunity in the transportation industry, he said. I was interested. I was always interested. Then he said something I'll never forget.
The job is in Detroit. Don't hang up!
The recruiter combined both sentences into almost a single thought, with urgency, because he apparently was used to people instantly hanging up as soon as they heard the job opportunity was in Detroit.

I didn't hang up. But I surely did not pursue that opportunity. Because it was in Detroit, of course. No wonder that city went down the drain...

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Night Flyover Country

Tributosaurus Plays "One Hit Wonders of the 80's" at Copernicus Center in Chicago

Tributosaurus is a Chicago cover band that has been around over a decade and has covered an astonishing range of songs and artists. When they cover a song they go to great pains to sound as close as possible to the original song - this usually involves multiple guitarists to do overdubs which are tracked in the studio, horns, strings, and an array of drummers, synthesizers and backup singers. Here is their web site and they are a lot of fun. I have seen them do XTC, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, and most recently the "One Hit Wonders of the 80's" at Copernicus Hall at Jefferson Park in Chicago (it is a few blocks off the blue line stop; we took the train and walked).

Here they are at the start of the show. Later they bring on the horns, the strings, more backup singers, and more of everything. It was a lot of fun - they played a lot of forgotten songs like "This Beat Goes On / Switching to Glide" by the Kings which got the whole place rocking (it was a huge hit in Chicago) and also Dexy's Midnight Runners with real banjo players.

The show was great with a lot of fun energy. The crowd was up and dancing for most of the show. My significant other thought they needed more songs sung by female singers - they just did 99 Luft Balloons (she looked great in hot pants) and I Want Candy.

Highly recommend that you go out and see them when an artist you are interested in is being covered. You will definitely get your money's worth!

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Thursday, October 16, 2014

25 Stories About Work - Office Hoteling and the Elusive Consultant Desk

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

Chicago, the 90's...

When I first started out as an auditor I had a tiny cube that consisted of just a desk and a chair with a big phone in a giant warren full of other cubes. There was a big bay window that let in the sun and lights far overhead. I didn't know anything and was happy just to have a place to call my own.

How accounting worked at the time was that you were assigned to clients and were "on the road". If you were in the office you charged a code for down-time and struggled for something to do. You could take a training class, do research in the library, or more often than not you'd be assigned some sort of drudgery administrative work. Most of the time I ended up photocopying our audit files when clients transitioned to new auditors, which is much more work than it sounds because you had to dis-assemble the work papers, copy them, and then re-assemble the files again. The copier tended to regularly jam and you soon learned how to take that copy machine apart, as well. Not a good use of a masters' degree...

After a while the managers learned who was good and who wasn't and I was constantly busy as a result. We worked and traveled all the time and often I had overlapping clients, meaning that tasks I couldn't complete onsite piled up for me at the little cube while I was at a different client. This was before any concept of telecommuting and we didn't even have our own laptops. The only way to get work done was to show up at the office (on Saturday or Sunday, since I traveled all week) and do the remaining tasks.

One time our office engaged in some sort of ISO process and they decided that having a "clean desk" was mandatory. So the (usually worst) staff that were in the office packed up everyone's desk and sent it off site so that when the office tour occurred, my little rat cube was completely clear. Thus when I showed up on a Sunday a couple of weeks later to follow up on some annoying task from a parallel client, all of my papers were gone and that was an entirely wasted day. The fact that I still remember this over 20 years later shows how angry I was at this bureaucratic stupidity.

In the late 90's I was a manager when a different firm I worked with went to "office hoteling". This plan is designed to save on real estate costs and you reserved a cube or office depending on your needs and level if you were in the office. The logic is clear - since most of the staff are out traveling with a client and are rarely in the office, why spend all that money on idle real estate - just give them a space when they are passing through and be more efficient as a result.

At the time, however, my experience with office hoteling was miserable. I was on the road all the time but had a couple weeks down time so I reserved an office in Chicago. It turns out that I made some sort of clerical error in the ordering and a woman (who presumably was in the office a lot, because she seemed to be a dolt) kicked me out of that office and made me sit in a cube outside. At the time I was relatively new and trying not to make waves so I let it happen. Then she picked up the phone and I could hear her multi-hour conversation about the annoying "Behind the Music" TV show on VH1 and all of her personal errands as she prattled on all day long. Glad she kicked me out of the office for that.

One element of a consulting firm is "group cohesion". Although you were part of a much larger firm, you tended to only know the few people that you worked with on an individual engagement. Thus while there may be thousands of people at the firm, you might only know a handful and since communications were abysmal you survived on scraps of gossip and myth. This situation was far worse for someone like me that entered as a higher level manager - many others crawled through the ranks and made connections and understood how everything worked "behind the scenes".

Given the hoteling culture, however, it was impossible to make any NEW connections. I went around and tried to talk to my adjacent office mates or go to lunch and they were all heads down and trying to get out of that office as quickly as possible. At least when I had my tiny cube in the rat warren I knew adjacent people and we could commiserate or figure out what was going on. The very act of attempting to reach out was viewed with suspicion - we were just random souls waiting for the next job and what was the point of even trying to talk to someone. In my head I think that office hoteling contributed to the downfall of that firm, but likely it is just my old-school need for order, cohesion, and some sort of overall plan for everyone, which that firm clearly lacked. Office hoteling certainly didn't help, however.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Fill'er Up!

One of our big expenses is fuel. We spend much more on fuel each week than we do on food and food is costing more each trip to the grocery.

Usually I fill up three times a week and with hunting season now included maybe 4-5 times. This week unleaded fuel dipped below $3/gal in northern Indiana. From what I am being told it go as low as $2.50 before the Christmas gouge.

Without getting into why the price is dropping a fill-up isn't making me grit my teeth as much.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FanDuel Analysis

So while watching your favorite team this year, you have no doubt seen some yokel spouting about how much money he won playing on FanDuel.  I think my favorite ad is the guy who says he won SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Through this post I offer an analysis of FanDuel, try to dispel some of the myths about it and tell you how it works - and how it doesn't.

For those who don't have a lot of time, I will give the short version first.  It is just another way to gamble, and it is likely rigged, similar to everything else in the world.  For those who would like some details, you can read on below.

FanDuel is a website that lets you play fantasy sports with real money (or free, if you prefer).  In most cases, their rake is 10% (more on this later).  I actually looked into investing in the company, but it appears to be privately owned by some venture capitalists.

I signed up for FanDuel because the guys at Over the Cap, a site which I read religiously, set up a league there.  It is a 50/50 league (more on this later as well) and they got a small royalty for people who signed up using their code.  It was the least I could do, as I have learned a lot about the NFL and in particular the salary cap from that site.  I set up an account and deposited $100.  You can also cash out instantly through PayPal, which is very nice.  With some of the older online poker websites back in the day, you had to wait for a check from some indian tribe (where the servers were hosted) and that is a joke, of course.

First, I would like to give a helicopter view of the site, and then I will drill down into some statistics.

Up front, how did FanDuel even become legal?  Well, in 2006 there was a carveout in the "Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act" that allowed for fantasy sports to be played for money across the country.  It is considered a game of skill, and therefore got the exemption.  Of note, FanDuel is still illegal to play for real money in Arizona, Iowa, Montana, Louisiana and Washington.  In short, FanDuel uses the "pari-mutual" model, where all of the bets are collected, the house takes it's cut or vig, and the rest of the money is used as winnings.

The site is very well made and works quickly on a PC or my phone.  I was looking for an app but realized soon that it doesn't appear that they have one - their site works seamlessly depending on the device.  That was pretty cool.  Also, the results are pretty damned fast.  I had a fantasy team playing last Sunday, and the time it took between my guy scoring and the site to be updated was around a half minute.  They must have some very good server power on their back end.  They have hired Stats, Inc. to do their numbers, so I imagine that company has some good servers as well.

One thing I really like about FanDuel is that there is basically no long term commitment.  They offer no season long leagues.  If you feel like playing, you play that week.  If you don't, you don't so there is no need to keep up all season long on all of the (dumb) league stats and injury reports.

The interface is very easy to use, and is graphic rich. 

I funded my account through my PayPal account (I never trust gambling websites - more on this later, as well) and it was set up instantly. 

FanDuel is very up front about their rake.  It works like this (from this page):

General Leagues

Buy-InRake %Odds Equivalent
$1 to $5010%-125

Guaranteed Prize Pool Leagues

Buy-InRake %Odds Equivalent
$1 to $210.4%-126
$5 to $1010.5%-127

To keep it simple, I will just talk about the "General Leagues" as that is the easiest to get the mind around and I will, for now, ignore the odds equivalent, although that is part of what I am going to get to further down in this piece.

I would imagine (although I don't really know) that the vast majority of the business that FanDuel does is the smaller dollar leagues, in the $1 to $50 category.  I am guessing this because the number of these leagues on the FanDuel website is WAY larger than the more expensive ones.  So as you can see, the FanDuel rake is 10%.  The league I participated in with the Over the Cap guys was a 50/50 league.  This means that 50% of the people get paid, and 50% of the entrants do not.

Simple math time.  In the Over the cap league which I played last week, each player had to pay $2 to enter.  There were six entrants, so the total prize pool was $12.  The payout worked like this:
First place - $5
Second place - $3.50
Third place - $2.30
From this, as you can see, the prize money totaled $10.80.  The total entry fees were $12.  $12 - 10% = $1.20.  $12 - $1.20 = $10.80.   FanDuel earned $1.20 for this league with their 10% rake.

The Over the Cap league was a "salary cap" league - we were allotted a certain amount of money and had to pick players.  I don't follow the NFL that damned closely, so I just went to some website, found some recommendations and picked those players.

So now it was Sunday and it was go time.  As I mentioned before, as the action started, the stats in the league began to update very quickly.  It was interesting to watch the points pile up and see who was in what place and how many guys they had left to play.  That said, fantasy football is probably one of the stupidest things ever invented and makes you start to cheer for outcomes and things that you wouldn't normally do.

Even though my wager was extremely tiny, I was playing for pride, so I was shouting at the TV for Cutler to throw to Martellus Bennett, the Bears tight end, on every play, since Bennett was my tight end.  At one point my wife said "STOP SAYING THROW IT TO BENNETT".

At the end of the day, I was in third place, which was in the money, but was in trouble because two teams behind me had their quarterbacks left to play (you choose a qb, two rb's, three wr's, a tight end and a defense) and one guy also had a receiver.  Well, both of the guys had Eli Manning, sadly, and he laid a giant egg in the game Sunday night.  So Monday night, I was still in third, ahead of a guy who had Brian Quick of the Rams at wide receiver.  So, of course, I am sitting there Monday night rooting for Quick to get injured.  Quick has been hot lately, but the Rams qb didn't throw it to him at all so I was safe.  I won $2.30. I basically got my entry fee back, plus $.30 profit.  My account the next day showed that I indeed had $100.30 in there. 

But wait!  I forgot that when I signed up, I received a "double up bonus up to $200".  Upon reading the fine print, the deposit bonus is paid in real cash at 4% of the entry fee of the contest you enter.  So, $2 x .04 = $.08.  Indeed, I had hauled in another $.08 - making my grand total in my account at the time of this writing $100.38.  So, in the end, I had won thirty eight cents for my fine work, and some pride.

Now that you understand sort of the lay of the land, know that FanDuel offers fantasy hockey, baseball, hoops and has other types of leagues.  They even offer college leagues.

The glass always being half empty to me, I decided last night to poke around a little bit.  I figured very quickly when some yokel is on TV telling me that he won six hundred thousand dollars that there is a scam in there somewhere - and it appears to be the case.

First, the odds.  If the 10% rake sounds familiar to you gamblers out there, well, it should since it is close to land based sportsbooks.  If you go to Vegas or Reno or work with a local bookie, typically you will wager $110 to make $100.  This means that you have to win 52.4% of the time to break even.  Anything lower and your gambling money will slowly wither away.

At FanDuel, the best odds are playing in a head to head league.  That means that you are playing against one other person.  One wins, one doesn't.  But remember, you are still losing that 10% rake every time you play.  By the math, this means that you need to win 55.5% of the time to break even (I will save you the math on this one, just trust me).  So in reality, you are paying an up charge vs. a land based casino or bookie for the convenience of gambling at your house or on your phone.

So some of you may think you are smarter than "one other guy".  But as I mentioned earlier, the glass if half empty to me.  So I started poking around the internet a bit.  Surely as the sun rises in the east, there are a lot of scams out there.  FanDuel allows you to "clone" your lineup and set up as many challenges as you want against others.  If you are just a guy having fun and you are up against a guy who studies fantasy stuff all day while he is supposed to be working, you are at a serious disadvantage.  Further, there are things online popping up indicating that there are actually pros that are getting and paying for information directly from team staff such as trainers or other handlers as to the condition of athletes.  I have also seen stories of the "gatekeepers" of information getting a cut of the pot.  This is a big problem. So you may think you are up against some dude still living with his mom sitting around on his sofa with the online name of "12BudLights" but in reality you could be playing against the FanDuel equivalent of Warren Buffet.

Just like local guys can get the good information on their local college team from people they probably know and try to cash in on it, I have a sneaky suspicion that information networks are already set up to try to game FanDuel.  It was quickly found out that online poker website players were using things like Skype to tell each other what cards they had to pin down the other sucker at the table and then split the winnings.  While a scam like that isn't as easy to replicate on FanDuel, information is always king when betting on sports and always will be.

In the end, I think FanDuel is fun if you want to get a bunch of guys together and have some fun in a private league.  But it is in essence just another (dumb) way to gamble and it is just a matter of time before you start reading about the scams that will eventually come out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Great Video - Lots of Bass

Here is a great video from a band called "Death from Above 1979". They are a 2 piece band with a bass guitar tuned to be kind of like a regular guitar and a drummer / singer. Have to love the economy of this. The bass player also was in a bunch of other groups including MSTRKRFT which put together some other great stuff. Check it out.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I Still Get Real Letters

Gathering in a private remote rural environment to Celebrate Peace, Love and the Second Amendment© is easy for me to take for granted. Having the ability to do so is out of the reach of most Americans for many reasons, none of them good.

Once a year we open up our farm to share the Gunstock experience with others. Many years ago it was just a few hunters tuning up for the upcoming season during September. Then it grew when I invited friends from Chicago who legally owned firearms but had no place to practice with them. After joining this blog we opened it up to Carl and Dan and their relatives and friends.

Soon other close acquaintances of the bro who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights and enjoy a country cookout afterward helped Gunstock to grow to what it has become. This year was no exception.

The other day a letter addressed to me arrived in the mailbox. Yes, in the old school mailbox. The one that sits on top of a post near the road in front of The Country Bunker™. 

I am publishing this letter of thanks from this first time participant who brought along his boys for a first time shooting experience. It is the first time anyone has taken the time to send a thank you note. A handshake and a thanks is usually enough so it's kinda' special to me.

You're welcome fellas. It was a pleasure to have you there. See you back next year.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

25 Stories About Work - New Mexico Is Part of the United States

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

El Paso Texas, the 90's...

I supported a financial analytics system for a utility based in El Paso, Texas. Before I visited El Paso for work I knew virtually nothing about the area, the economy, or the people. One of the most interesting and unexpected benefits of my career was the opportunity to extensively work in areas of the USA that I never would have visited otherwise.

One thing I did know is that 1) Texas has its own electricity grid that 'walls it off' from the rest of the USA called ERCOT 2) the El Paso area was "outside" of that grid. Thus while Texas may be its own separate country in their mind, El Paso was something else entirely.

Another realization when you are working in El Paso is just how damn big Texas is. It can take longer to drive from El Paso on the western side of Texas to Houston on the eastern side of Texas than to drive from El Paso to Los Angeles. It was also extremely hot and the sun was blazing; some of the women brought umbrellas to shield themselves from the noon-day sun.

The managers I met in El Paso said it would likely make more sense for El Paso to be part of New Mexico, rather than Texas. Many of the managers lived in New Mexico. A funny story they told was how many Americans believed that New Mexico was NOT part of the United States, and stories like this were collected in the back page of a local magazine and they were often hilarious.

While flying to New Mexico one day I sat next to a gentleman that was frequently in El Paso for business. At the time, Ford Expedition SUV's were all the rage. He said that the last three times he visited El Paso, he selected an Expedition from the local rental car affiliate, and the car was stolen (and likely driven over the border into Mexico). I didn't ask him why he was so stubborn and kept renting them.

While shopping in El Paso or eating in a restaurant it was common for wait staff to first address you in Spanish and then switch to English if you didn't speak Spanish. I was usually working with someone from El Salvador so he took over when we met people that spoke no English at all. This happened occasionally.

At night you could see Juarez over the border, and people seemed to traverse the border frequently. Juarez was booming at the time, and El Paso's economy seemed stagnant. Things have changed greatly in the 20+ years since I worked in El Paso and I think things have reversed.

We drove out to Cattleman's Steakhouse, a restaurant with a large outdoor area that also doubled as a movie set, about 35 miles outside of El Paso. I remember driving through the desert which was a trip since it really seemed to be the middle of nowhere.

As I wrote this article I realized that one of the few pieces of original art that I have ever purchased came from a small shop in El Paso - it is called "The Long Haul" and I paid $20. At the time when I was there the Mars Volta was big and there was a burgeoning art scene...

Cross Posted at Chicago Boyz

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Gunstock Vll

Another Gunstock has come and gone, I believe it was Gunstock Vll, seven years running as an official LITGM blog event and I would like to thank all who attended especially those who contributed in helping set up and take down.

Harold came early to dove hunt and then pitched in as well. Recent addition Don "The Sausage King" provided logistics, tools and spatula duty. Thanks fellas.

Carl came with a crew of seven including his pops as always, his buddy John and some young nephews learning to shoot for the first time. My cousin Mike showed up with his young son and they had a good time shooting .22LR's Both are new shooters.

I like to call Gunstock "A Celebration of Peace, Love and the Second Amendment" and this year we introduced even more young folks to the pleasure of safe, lawful firearm use.

Dan was in attendance this year and had one gun table all to himself. This boy has some collection and uses them all. No vault princesses in that arsenal.

Since i use the farm often I didn't shoot much at all instead using my time to direct traffic, pay attention and look out for everyone's safety. At the peak we had over two dozen participants.

I brought the crossbow for others to try. All were impressed with the accuracy and ease of use. This could be the year it puts some meat in my freezer.

The corn poles were a big hit. It's more interesting to shoot at reactive targets that present audio or visual results. In the past I stuck potatoes on the spikes but this year the corn was abundant so….we made popcorn.

This year I laid out two shooting land with tarps to the right of each. Since I am homeloading any spent brass is going into my recycle bins. The tarps worked well and would have worked better had the stiff wind not lifted them a few times.

The only brass left behind was some .22LR and a few stray casings we were unable to spot. In total I grabbed 810 9mm, 375 .40S&W and 132 .38spcl. In addition to all this once fired brass I now have thousands of casings to stuff over the dark winter months.

Thanks to all who attended and braved the brisk wind and late morning chill that showed up. Maybe next year we'll move it back to September.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Steel Panther and Judas Priest in Hammond, Indiana

Recently I saw Steel Panther and Judas Priest at a casino in Hammond, Indiana. This is the 40th anniversary of Judas Priest and they are touring to support a new album which is great because then they aren't just a nostalgia act.

In this photo you can see the trouble with metal. It is almost all dudes, with a few wives and girlfriends thrown in. Sometimes I watch Art Mann on TV (his stuff is on you tube too) and he always berates guys for not liking country music - he says that there are 4-5 women there for every guy and you have to like those odds. On the other hand, these metal fans never give up, and at least a few bedraggled souls will keep going until they leave this mortal coil.

Dan and I are big fans of Steel Panther but they are definitely an acquired taste. Everyone else I was with left after watching like a song but hey, it's their loss. Steel Panther used to be a Van Halen cover band but now they play originals and just amp up every cliche to 11. I find their stuff to be totally hilarious and they have great onstage banter and their videos and interviews are awesome. Plus they are pretty good musicians, too. Check em' out on the intertubes.

Judas Priest came on with the laser light show and sounded really good. They have a younger guitarist to replace one of the founders and he was full of energy and played a lot of the solos. They needed some youth because the band is in their 60's.

You can't have a Judas Priest show without Rob Halford on his motorcycle. He is getting a bit larger in the waist but still sounded great. He also was good with the crowd and everyone loved him. He really knows how to talk to and appreciate fans and people shouldn't forget that this is important, especially if you want to last 40 years in the business.

The aftermath. Cheap beer and cups everywhere. The Horseshoe in Hammond is a decent place to see a show except they had like one mens bathroom (it seemed) near the general admission section which is inadequate given the flow of alcohol through the place. At the end of the night after the show was over they got the cops and the staff to herd everyone out of the show area so they could clean up if was very funny we were herded out like cattle.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Saturday Night Flyover Country

Ducks In A ROE

Because I am a sucker for a bargain this item caught my eye…and I can never have enough camo apparel.
When the Duck Dynasty program was new, fresh and hot and I was working at The World's Greatest Outfitter any merchandise emblazoned with anything Duck Dynasty flew out of the store. T-shirts, duck calls, apparel and even ammunition that were decorated with the visage of a family member or a logo were typical items making a profit for the Robertsons, Discovery Network and all the retailers that carried items. 

Soon items not related to duck hunting at all including pillows, bedsheets, air fresheners and just about anything possible that could have Duck Commander images had them. DD items were everywhere, even next to the beef jerky at the mini-marts. Hell, they may have a DD beef jerky product for all we know. A lot of people made a lot of money off this program, real American dream stuff. The timeliness of the program coinciding with a strong push by the anti Second Amendment and anti-hunting crowd. It brought this odd country way of life into many mainstream homes with youngsters. The charm of these wealthy bayou hunting lifestyle bumpkins and their strong family values provided a powerful contrast to the myths spread by political opportunists and in my opinion that is what made this program so successful. It also made the Robertsons political targets.

When I realized how powerful the Duck Dynasty property was during the Christmas season two years ago when customers who had never entered the store before were coming in to buy anything with Duck Commander or Duck Dynasty on it. I recall grandmothers with their granddaughters asking me where the duck calls were and if we carried one model in particular - The Uncle Si. It came packaged along with his trademark sweet tea cup. The Uncle Si call was by far the most popular and that shelf peg was usually empty.

There were many styles of duck calls being sold by Duck Commander some using cast members as sub-branded calls. The Duck Commander brand of calls were not the top choice among true waterfowl hunters some paying upward of $200 for calls manufactured by names unknown to the general population like the sought after "Zink" brand of calls. Granny and the kid didn't care, they didn't even want to kill ducks, they just loved Uncle Si and the program concept. I bet a lot of parents wanted to cram those calls down Willie Robinson's throat on that Christmas afternoon. QUACK!

Last week I was doing markdowns on hunting items in our store that were not selling and there it was on the sheet - a Duck Dynasty Realtree Camo Hoodie that once sold for $49. and was being mark down once again, this time to $4.97. I and a few other coworkers snapped them up at that bargain price. Never would have paid the full retail of $49.99 or any of the other previous markdown prices.

Thanks for the bargain basement hoodie sweatshirt Willie. You made millions and I got a deal. It may say Duck Dynasty on the front but I doubt if the deer will ever notice it on me sitting 17' high in my tree stand.

25 Stories About Work - Brooklyn Before Gentrification

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

Brooklyn, New York City, the 90's...

I was assigned to do a regulatory audit of a large utility in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1990's. At the time Brooklyn was nothing like it is today. When I got off the plane at LaGuardia and hailed a cab...
Me to the Driver - I want to go to Brooklyn. The Driver - Hell no, I'm not driving to Brooklyn
After I finally convinced a cab driver to take me to Brooklyn (with much New York style yelling), when he dropped me off in front of the office building, he would whip the wheel around as fast as he could and do a U-turn right in front of the facility and high-tail it off to the highway to get out of Brooklyn. They couldn't get out of the neighborhood fast enough.

The utility was based at what appeared to be the only newer office-type building in Brooklyn. There were NO hotels that you could stay in Brooklyn at the time. We stayed in Manhattan and took the subway to work every day. We seemed to be the only boring white accountant-type people in suits going TO Brooklyn in the morning and we were the same distinct minority returning to our hotel every evening. Our partner onsite was kind of distracted so we had to stay on him to get out of work at 5pm so we weren't taking the subway at night because that seemed to be a dicey proposition.

Whenever there is a strike at a utility the union guys who read meters and make service calls walk off the line and management comes out to do essential tasks (along with other people that they hire). Thus the management people that we spoke with had harrowing tales of visiting completely dilapidated and burned out homes throughout the borough while they were on strike duty. Management seemed to live everywhere except Brooklyn and it made sense why - there were even a few who lived in Pennsylvania and made epic commutes to and from work daily.

One manager talked about a scam where people wrote checks to the utility to pay bills and often they used a 3 digit acronym rather than spelling the whole utility. He said one of the customer service agents took those first three digits and added a last name and opened a bank account themselves under that combined name and took the checks and deposited them, running off with the money. We laughed a lot because that seemed like a scam that was doomed to fail after a while but a bit clever.

There were no cabs in Brooklyn. You had to hire a "car service" which was usually a completely beat up Chevy Impala or the like driven by someone who spoke zero English. They usually had no idea how to get to the airport so I had to give them directions. A few times I was very scared that the car would literally fall to pieces while we were driving; they were probably old taxis that had given up the ghost and given a second, desperate life through this method

One Monday morning when I was flying in I felt dizzy and ill and when I got onsite in Brooklyn at the only standing office building I came down with the flu very badly. I kept throwing up in the stall and getting progressively weaker. I was the only person onsite from my company and didn't know the client people well enough to count on them to take care of me so in the few minutes between throwing up I somehow got back to Manhattan (probably via the subway, I don't remember) and arrived at my hotel early. For some reason I remember this clearly - the band Rancid was pulling up and their hair was spiked up and they had real "rock chicks" with them in miniskirts and fishnets and covered with tattoos right when I arrived. They said my room wasn't ready yet so I told the clerk "that's fine, I will just projectile vomit onto you" and amazingly they got me a room right away. I just sat in there and was sick for a few days and then flew back to Chicago. That was not a productive week at all, obviously.

Today Brooklyn has changed immensely and seems to be almost completely gentrified. I even have friends that I visit there and it is quite charming. It is amazing to think of all these changes that have occurred since I first went there in the early 1990's.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz