Month: February 2013

Big Red Button or Time to Panic!

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Nothing says “push me” like a big red button.  One of the office supply stores even created a big red button that says “EASY” on it, to advertise how they can simplify your work life.

One of the data centers that I was responsible for had such a button.  It was covered with a little plastic rectangular box that said “emergency shut off” on it.

I have been in many data centers during my career.  There were several that had a big red button by the door with it sole purpose to release the magnetic latch on the door, to open it.

Like any other location, security in a data center is paramount.  Not only are network security firewalls and such important but physical security as well.  Only those who needed access to the data center, could access it with their security card.  Not even the CEO had access as he did not need it.  Their entrance was logged and in fact throughout the building one could forensically track any employee’s movements as this card was necessary to gain access to just about anywhere.  With the technology available today, I could design such a better system, but that is beyond the scope of this document.

One day, a vendor was visiting with a proposed solution to a problem.  Like any other vendor, if access to the data center is required, they are escorted at all times by one of, if not more of my staff or me.  The data center was in the middle of a retrofit and redesign while keeping the company running in parallel.  (This is much like changing the tires on a race car while it is moving down the track.)  On their way out of the data center, just as quickly as anything, the sales guy in front reaches up to the left of the door pops the cover open and pushes the big red button!  By the time that the sound of “NO” had left my lips, there was an eerie quite in the room.

The chain of events that this action triggered, were phenomenal.  Lights went off, the air handling unit went off, the Battery back-ups clicked on and for the moment; it looked as though the carefully engineered back-up power supplies were working.  I should mention that the look on this guys face was priceless, and I am just about certain that he had to change his shorts afterwards.  It dawned on me that no one had tested this button, and nobody knew where all of the circuit breakers were; well almost no one.  As I was the one that specified the power requirements for this data center and oversaw the installation of the new transformer, I knew where the main breaker was.  Within moments I had most of the power back on however; there was one legacy system that was still not on main power.

In another closet in another part of the building were still more circuits for this room.  I did not have a key to this and getting building maintenance involved was time consuming as they typically think like union employees; (don’t care if the place is on fire, when it is time for a break, they take it.)  Before the UPS was totally drained for that system I had gained access to that closet and found one tripped breaker.

I had inherited a mess of a data center that was put together on a shoestring budget.  Not because the company could not afford to do it right, their boss was cheap beyond reason.  They had cut corners at every place they could, including splicing old type 3 wires to cat 5 wires and running 16mg token ring over it.  They could not understand why 5250 and 3270 traffic would constantly be garbled and why connections to the server would be dropped frequently.  When I say spliced, I literally mean wires twisted together and a wad of electrical tape stuffed in the wall and or ceiling.  (Another story)

It did not take me long to get that circuit changed over and documented with everything else.  I also got to check off the list “test emergency shut down.”

Moral of the story; if you have a big red button, find a time to test it.  Secondly make certain that the button is labeled in big white letters on a red sign etc EMERGENCY SHUT OFF!

I am a stickler for documentation, which IT personnel are loath to do.  A living document should exist within each and every company that explains the ins and outs of everything, so if need be, someone else can take over.  It is part of the audit process for a disaster recovery plan and is one of the deliverable s.

-Best to you and all those that you care about!

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Choctaw Casino Grant Oklahoma

Choctaw Casino and Hotel, Grant Oklahoma

http://www.choctawcasinos.com/Grant.aspx

http://www.city-data.com/city/Southwest-Grant-Oklahoma.html

http://www.library.ca.gov/crb/97/03/Chapt6.html

http://www.don-williams.com/

http://www.thescooterstore.com

As Texas has not figured it out yet, there is plenty of revenue to be had by allowing Casinos for anyone wanting to throw their money away (be entertained by blinking lights and noises).  Currently one must either travel to Oklahoma or Louisiana or further.

Don Williams was playing at the Casino in their attached “event center” just a few miles north of the Red River in Grant Oklahoma.  We purchased the tickets a month and a half in advance and the seats were a mere 5 rows back from the stage.  The seats were off to the extreme right of the stage so watching the entertainment meant turning your head at a constant 30 degree angle.  The floor of the “event center” is not raised in the back meaning, the further back you are, you will most probably be looking at the back of someone’s head or worse, a cowboy hat.

We arrived early with a budget set aside for gambling.  We found parking close by as someone was leaving however; there is ample parking if you don’t mind the walk.  They do have a shuttle bus that is working the lots.  They also offer Valet.  I noticed police on bicycles checking the lots every few moments. The building was pretty full at 3pm on a Friday.  There is smog inside as they allow smoking inside the building.  Within minutes of being there my eyes started watering and nose starting running so I was off to the room to take some Benadryl.  While the smog was not as bad as some that I have been in; if you are not a smoker beware.

All of the “one arm bandits” are computerized; simply meaning that there is probably more to it than simple “random results.”  My guess is that not only are these things computerized, but they all attach to some sort of master server that keeps up with what is going on and who is doing what and at any given instant the owners/management know what is going on to the penny.  The good new is that they are heavily regulated by the state to make sure that the games are honestly run.

If ever I were to describe a ZOMBIE, it would be “the people sitting at those machines” for hours on end transfixed on spinning wheels, blinking lights, and noises.  I am not a betting man but, I would think that your odds of winning would be better playing something that was not computerized, like Black Jack, Keno or roulette or even Craps. I also noticed that the Scooter Store was well represented there as the average age of the gamblers had to be in the high 60’s.

The prose were that this was a clean well run establishment with security everywhere.  There are hundreds of cameras, watching every thing.  I felt fairly safe there and I would bet that if someone had picked a pocket, security would know who it was before they reached the parking lot.

The cons:

There are only two places to eat there so getting in to eat was an ordeal.

The Drinks, if they had alcohol in them; I would never have known it.  Stick with bottled beer if you want something other than soda or water.

Soda was complimentary and self serve however; they only allowed you to get it in those small Styrofoam cups which hold about 8oz. including the ice and of course those things do not biodegrade easily or quickly.  While I am not a “green freak” I would like to see them come up with a better solution.

As far as our gambling experience, knowing when to stop is key. We broke even, if not a little ahead on the money spent playing the machines.

As we were leaving the next day we watched people leaving who had been there all night.

The concert was good and Don Williams was as good as ever.  They played less than 90 minutes, and it was to a sold out house.  Interesting side note; people were taking video, pictures and what have you and it was evidently allowed!  Here too there was enough security to handle a small mob.  I think that if I ever want to change careers, being a security person for the event center would be cool as you get to go to all of the concerts!

No review would be complete without talking about the room.  Finding a non-smoking room you need to go to the second floor as there is no smoking allowed on that floor at all.  The bed was a little firm for my taste.  The TV was an older flat screen regular definition.  If you are used to high def this will get your attention.   There is no refrigerator in the room and the biggest disappointment of the room was that there was no Wi-Fi.  As well as no Wi-Fi, there was extremely limited cell service on ATT.  We were on the edge network with one or two bars if you stood by the window.

One would think that the owners would have more pull with ATT and others to improve performance for their guests.   There was local internet in the room if you brought a laptop with a cable.

The one thing that was noticeable in that it was odd to me was the smoke alarm.  It had not one but two different “bright” LED’s that would strobe every few seconds.  Every now and then they would stay on for one or two seconds and then go back to blinking every few seconds.

If you wonder why I am mentioning this here is why.  When you pull the curtains and shut off the lights, those led’s in that alarm are noticeable big time!  It is almost as if (and I am exaggerating) they were landing lights on a runway.

I also should mention something about the food.  We ate at the restaurant that was not a buffet.  The staff was confused at best and the line was very long.  There were empty tables and I overheard one girl telling the hostess not to sit anyone in her section for another 5 minutes as she could not get to them.  The hostess doubled as a busboy so this was very confusing to me in that the whole place seemed to be so polished and so well run as far their operations with everything else.  The food was not something that I would recommend.  It was several steps down from Chilies, if you like their food.  I ordered the fish and chips.  The fries were cool if not cold; and the fish was soaking in oil and warm.  If they were not over burdened, I would have sent it back.  As it was I ate a few bites and left it.

All in all I would go back.  I would bring with me some small bottles of whatever I wanted to drink that could be added to soda.  I would bring my laptop instead of an iPad and a network cable as I am not a gambler.  I would make certain that I got the more expensive seat for the concert and I would shop early.  I also think that I would learn more about non-computerized games as mentioned above, so I could gamble if I choose to with odds that are easily calculated.

As far as eating was concerned, I might be inclined to valet park and just drive into the nearest city and see what I could find. I would also make certain that I had plenty of Benadryl and I would make certain that I brought a plastic bag to put my clothes into when I returned back to the room as to not get the smell of cigarette and cigar smoke in the room or on my clean clothes.  I would also not wear anything that needed to be dry-cleaned as to keep my laundering bill down.

One last mention here and that is about the staff, very friendly and very helpful.  I realize that this Casino is a major employer for an otherwise severely impoverished area of the states for both Oklahoma and Texas.

If you are one of the ZOMBIES that I mentioned above, (which by the way I mean no derision or disrespect) or just someone like me has a casual interest in slot machines, this link is fascinating!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slot_machine

–Best to you and all those that you care about!

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Windows 8 First Glance

Windows 8

Even as management, I still enjoy messing with new technology.  If there is a new gadget I must at least see it, but most probably have it.

Having said that I have a lab at the house with different Pc’s Routers and such that I mess with as time permits.  As time was running out to get a “cheap” copy of Windows 8 pro to evaluate, I bought one to put on a PC that was sporting “Vista.”

While I would compare Vista to ME as in the “not very well thought out” category, I have been happy with Windows 7 and 8 seems to be on equal footing.  I have installed 7 on several PC’s which were at their end of life cycle as they were dog slow with XP.  Windows 7 makes them viable once again.

Pro’s: runs well on 2 gig or ram with a 2.8ghz processor.  Machine indexed at 5.4 because the video card rates a 3.5.   All in all, the machine is responsive.  Windows defender is included but I am not sure how that compares to Eset Node 32.  My hunch is not to well.

Cons: One of the secrets of Microsoft’s success is its GUI.  Once you get the basics of “start and find the program” even the slowest grandmother can be sending e-mails in no time. 8 has the e-mail icon on the start page so that might even be better. Intuitive software is key to their success story.

After a few moments of playing with it, I had no issue doing what ever I wanted to do.  That is me; someone who can install UNIX and mess with it.  Since I have been doing this since DOS was 1.0 and before Good old Al invented the Internet (cough), I cannot judge adequately how others will perceive it.  It looks as though it would do well with a touch screen device.

Huge Con:  I added some memory to the machine and 8 promptly crashed.  It went into a loop of trying to repair itself and crashed again and again.  It would not even boot in safe mode.  With all of the normal tricks tried, I re-loaded 8 from scratch as it would not even let me repair it.

I am not sure if the additional memory which came from Crucial http://www.crucial.com/  has issues but, I had to remove it before I could even get the PC to go into the defective loop.  The Bios recognized the extra memory but, the machine did not like something about it.

I have used Crucial for years and have promoted them as their hardware scanner works well for the non-techie person and even for someone like me.  Anything to make life a little easier deserves to be supported.

As your mileage may vary, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and experience with 8.

-Best to you and those that you care about.Image

Love Boat or The Cruise from Hell

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After the recent “cruise from hell” many of the people that I know have categorically stated that they will never set foot on a ship.

One can either choose to live their life or not.  One can stay in the house and have their groceries delivered and never go outside or, one can take chances by leaving their home and going and doing the things that “normal” people do, and that includes going on a cruise.

The positives of a cruise far outweigh the possible negatives.  Packing once, waking up in a new port of call most every day, having luxury food, entertainment and accommodations, without having to fool with going through the airport to get to all of the different locations.   The airport with the added security of the body scanners and awkward pat downs by people with an unknown intellect and zero sense of humor, vs. waking up in a new place every day after dinning late, seeing a show and or gambling if that is your desire.  Choice is pretty clear to me.

The simple facts are that “living” is a terminal condition.  I tell people all the time that life is not about the destination, but the journey.

One of my favorite people of this era was Steve Irwin.  He may not have lived to a ripe old age but, he lived his life!  In the 44 years that he was here I would venture to say he lived more than most of us will live in 80 years.  He lived with purpose and conviction and a moral compass that is not easily matched.  We all should be so blessed to live like that.

The cruise from hell was not really all that bad in that no one died.  Yes, people were inconvenienced but they were on their way back to port when the engine had issues.  They had done all that there was to do other than take the last leg home.  The crew was well trained and managed the situation very well from what the media reports.  The people were refunded the cost of the cruise, were given an extra $500 and a free cruise in the future.  They also have a story to tell.  While we live in a litigious society, if I were on the jury with the facts as I understand them now, I would not find for them as they signed agreements stating what their legal recourse was before they ever got on board.  I realize that this is harsh; I am sorry that they had such a bad last few days but; it is like living on the golf course, the view is nice but you end up with a few stray balls in your yard, or the occasional busted window. It is in fact the “rub of the green.”  Unless negligence can be proved, I think that they were treated fairly.

That boat makes 44 voyages a year.  1 in 44 went south and by south, I mean badly.

Now having said that, if I were on the “Concordia” I would sue as that was pure negligence.

Bad things happen.  How we manage the situation I think is a test of our character.

People are killed in accidents every day.  While airplane travel is safe, accidents happen and people die.  The simple facts are that there are risks to everything that you do.  These people were stuck on the deck, sleeping under sheets stretched out like tents, having to share a bathroom with several hundred people.  Yes that sucks but, they are alive to tell the story.  Our soldiers, our children overseas are going through many times worse situations than these folks, should they sue?

I used to travel a lot for business.  Once on a flight to California I was looking out of window and noticed fluid coming out of the wing.  I called the flight attendant and quietly showed her what I was seeing.  She thanked me and within moments the captain showed up, put his hand on my shoulder and leaned over so he could see out the window, looked at me and said nothing.  His looks were all the communication that I needed.  He patted my shoulder and quickly disappeared up the isle.  Within moments we were doing something known as “S” turns to loose altitude.  We ended up spending the day in Scottsdale at the airport while they repaired the plane.  After finally landing in California that evening, the Captain was standing in the door to the cockpit, he reached past the flight attendant by the cabin door and shook my hand as I made my way to the door and said “thank you.”  He and I and a select few; knew what had transpired that day.

I don’t know how that flight would have ended had I not called attention to the fluid coming out of the wing.  That did not stop me from flying again however.

While I would not take up motorcycle riding as I have a rather keen understanding of statistics, I would not be worried about taking a cruise or flight.

-Best to you and those that you care about.

Customer Service

Customer Service

Throughout my history as a business professional, one of the things that I have to offer consistently is superior customer service.  Think about this; when someone calls me they are in a fix as something is broken.  There are a myriad of emotions in play from anxiety to anger.

As the guy who is going to take care of all of their problems the first thing that I have to do is understand where they are coming from.  Then listen to them and take notes.  This helps me to remember the points of the discussion and if in front of the customer, it helps them to calm down as they see me doing something.

These are some of the things that I would make sure my technicians carried with them into the field.

I truly believe that we as a country are drifting away from giving a damn about clients.  It is almost like we are the post office or the phone company; we are all that there is so we just don’t care about your problems.  But wait!  We are not all that there is.  The phone company has competition as does the USPS.  Granted e-mail, FedX and UPS, are not the end all of competition, but it is a start. Vonage and Magic Jack to name two, are good alternatives and much less expensive then the phone company, not to mention the cell phone.

Competition drives us to be good at what we do, and that includes customer service.

Exploring new shopping places as I like to do from time to time, I had occasion to shop at a place called Central Market.  http://www.centralmarket.com  The layout of the store was well thought out.  There were people who came up from time to time to see if I needed any help and here is the biggie; they not only bagged my groceries but they carried them out to the car and put them into the car for me.  When I tried to give the guy a tip, he refused it politely!  While their prices are a little higher than that of Wal-Mart, or Kroger,  the service was excellent and the choices were fresh and plentiful.  With people offering help that cut down on my time in the store and time is money!

A lot of you are most likely not old enough to have ever purchased gasoline where it was pumped for you by a friendly attendant.  While they were filling your car up, they would wash your windshield, check your oil, and other fluids and check the air in your tires.  At the end of the transaction you might get “green stamps” or even a dish or other some such give-away as a token of their appreciation for doing business with them.  While I too am not old enough for this to have happened to me; I do remember vividly this very transaction process with my parents.  I also remember how nice they were and how they really seemed to appreciate the business.

In stark contrast today, if you do need anything other than what you can do outside at the pump, there is a strong likelihood that the person behind the counter will speak limited English and really wont give a damn if you like the product or not.

I was in a Kroger a few years ago when they first put in the self-checkout machine.  I was appalled by this for several reasons.  First, I want that little bit of customer service when I patronize a store. Secondly, those kiosks hardly ever work flawlessly and unless you are only buying a handful of items, they are a pain the rear.  Lastly and this is the part that I really wanted to drive home, these things are taking jobs away.  I remember that night vibrantly as not one checker was at his post.  When I found someone he directed me to the self-checkout.  I told him that either he checked me out or he could put all of the groceries in my cart back from where they came!  Begrudgingly he went to his register and checked me out!  What an idiot, a lazy star-studded blazing example of the entitled society that we have raised!  Not only did he not want to do his job, he was trying his best for me to do his job and was incensed when I called him on his attitude.

I think we need to vote with our feet or in this case, with your pocket-book.  I will happily pay a little more for a little extra service.  I actually like to be told to have a nice day!  Do you really feel appreciated when a machine says thank you on the screen?

The world in which we live changes daily; some of those changes are for the better; and some not so much.  Society needs to dictate to the business world, what is acceptable and what is not.  Like sheep we all too often simply roll with it.  We forget however that we are the boss.  I have to provide superior customer service to keep my customers coming back time after time.  We the consumer should expect that and demand that from the different vendors that we frequent.  You do that in a myriad of different ways but the best way; the way that they will listen to, is to spend your money where you get the best value for it, including customer service.

If there are places that you like to shop because of the customer service, send a message and I will post it.  Consumers need a bill of rights, not only when they are flying but when they are spending their hard-earned money on anything from products, service or otherwise.

-Best to you and those that you care about.

Scam of The Day!

Scam of the day!

Every day someone somewhere tries to embezzle money from someone.  If not some Nigerian trying to get your bank account number so they can give you free money, than someone somewhere through e-mail tries to get the unsuspecting, to click on a link that is not what they think it is.

Through the years I have received e-mails from all sorts of alleged government agencies telling me that I need to click here to resolve some complaint.

If you have a business like I do, and you have a website, you are more vulnerably because you are more visible.

As I have explained to people for years, the government would not contact you via e-mail.  Still I get computers in here that have been infected by someone clicking before thinking.

Today I got a rather unique e-mail from PayPal or so it would seem.

Looking at the e-mail notification one thing pops out at me immediately in that, it is flagged urgent.  PayPal does not flag things as urgent.  The perpetrator of this hoax wants to get my attention.  Secondly I have set up rules which automatically move certain e-mails from certain people. Upon receipt they are put into a specified folder arranged by who they are and where the e-mail is from.  This was my second clue that something was amiss, as this was in my Inbox, not in the folder where it should be.  So why didn’t the rule work, it was not from PayPal.

Looking at the e-mail itself, it looks fairly normal at first glance.  Notice it says that I sent $149 dollars for a watch to someone on eBay and that the shipping address is somewhere in New York.

I do purchase things on eBay, as do a lot of people, and it would not be unlike me to buy a watch for a $149.  Firstly, I did not buy a watch so now I am looking at this e-mail a little more closely and see that it is to be shipped to someone in New York!

Someone not paying too much attention to this would quickly see the link that offers you “dispute resolution” and then click upon it.  That is the gotcha and most likely the intent of this ruse. They want you to click on the link. Hovering over the link you will quickly notice that it does not go to PayPal or eBay.

Looking at the link, I really have no idea where it would take me or what it would do to my computer, if anything.  The trick here is not to be a victim of some nefarious person or people.  It may very well be a link to some website that tries to sell you something and they are driving traffic to it by disreputable means.  It could however be a link to some site which will infect your computer with some type of Trojan or malware or both.

One other trick that I will share with you is this.  As well as having good anti-virus software running and updated at all times, have a user account set up that does not allow administrative privileges on your machine.  Use that account for your normal daily computer use and only use the administrative account when adding or changing hardware and or software on your computer.  The virus and or malware may very well be limited to whatever rights that the user that got it, has.  If the user has no rights to modify the way a program behaves, the virus might be limited to those rights as well.

Remember that not all anti-virus software will protect you from all attempts to hijack your computer.   Not all viruses are created equally. The more sophisticated the virus, the more intelligence or (computer smarts) on the part of the user is necessary.

-Best to you and those that you care about!

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Asteroids and Meteors Oh My!

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As a writer of science fiction, I was rather amused by the media trying to get “science savvy” calling on “experts” to explain the events of the last day or so.

The one theme that was consistent with all of the explanations was that the meteorite in Russia was not connected to DA14.

One writer pulled out her “slide rule” and gave us a lesson in probabilities and statistics leaving us empirical evidence that the Russian meteorite was simply a coincidence.

A small light show in the middle of the night, I would have bought as one can go out and watch the stars and on most any given night see a “falling star” or two.

When we have an event like the one in Russia at the same time that we have a huge rock flying by earth at a mere 17,000 miles away; I find that hard to stomach that it is a “coincidence.”  I was willing however to let it go as this is their field of expertise.

Last night the 15th of February we had another event similar in nature happen over San Francisco.   The reporter with a minor in math will most probably need to revisit her table of mantissa, as statistically speaking; the odds of these events having nothing to do with DA14, just went astronomical (pardon the pun).

We need to look at how these rocks are formed in the first place.  Exactly like this planet that we call home, they were first formed from “dust.”  Static electricity is most likely the cause of the first clumping of dust until the clumps became large enough to have some sort of gravity, even micro gravity.

In the scheme of things, speaking in an astronomical time frame, we have rocks, than we have larger rocks.  Those rocks now have substantial gravity and they pull in even more “stuff” until they are the size of planets.

Not all rocks make planets but because of gravity anything in orbit around another spatial body is in fact falling.  The planet we are on is falling; as well as the other planets in our solar system.  Because of the speed and the angle of our “fall” we are instead in orbit around the sun as the moon is in orbit around us.

Rocks in space are falling as well.  Many in fact are in an orbit between mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt known as “the main belt.”  Within this region of space reside many such rocks and even some dwarf planets.  There is another belt called the Kuiper belt which Pluto resides in.

These rocks and planets all have gravity and every now and then some event happens to cause one to fall or be knocked out of its orbit.  As there is nothing to offer resistance to such a rock it does not take long to pick up quit a bit of velocity on its way toward the sun.

My theory is that these rocks with their own gravity carry other smaller rocks with them that may very well have been in some sort of orbit around them.  I think that is what we experienced this February.  I believe that DA14 had some “friends” that it carried with it on its way towards the sun, and that is what came in to our atmosphere over Russia and San Francisco.  There may have been more that hit us that we don’t know about.  ¾ of our globe is uninhabited as it is covered with water. There is no stellar detection grid “yet” so we really have no idea if there were more or not.  When statistics do not make sense, you need to look for another answer.

There is an upside to this.  If my theory is right, this gives credibility to the “tractor” scenario of adjusting the orbit of other spatial bodies.  If those other rocks were indeed in orbit around or gravitationally attached to DA14, a moving larger rock, then we can and should proceed to figure out how to build such a tractor, and test it; as it is simply a matter of time when another life ending event such as the rock that killed the dinosaurs will happen again.

-Best to you and those that you care about.

Grapevine Texas and Dining

Dining In North Texas

They claim to have invented the Margarita….

If you are close to Grapevine Texas; this is a must try..  http://www.esparzastexas.com/

I first went to this place when they were operating out of a small wood frame house that had been retrofitted as a restaurant.  It was a favorite escape from work to eat here and catch a flavor of Tex Mex that is head and shoulders above the rest.

Every time I go, the food just seems to get better.  The wait staff is friendly and courteous and the food is always served at the correct temperature; and just like you expect it.

When you go, pay attention to the architecture for just a moment.  You will notice that by design there is probably not one square angle in the place.  The floor is not quite level and I don’t think the walls are exactly at 90 degrees either.  This all adds to the charm.

Over the years the place has grown in size and popularity.  I generally make a night of it when I go to the Runway Theatre also in Grapevine http://www.runwaytheatre.com/ .

There are lots of things to see and do in this town which has also grown by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years or so.  As it is so close to DFW one could actually spend some time here between flights! Check out the visitor’s information.  https://www.grapevinetexasusa.com/Default.aspx

If you are in need of other information, send a comment.  I have lived in the area for a very long time.  –Best to you and those that you care about!

Dining in North Texas

Dining in North Texas

It is no surprise to anyone that knows me; I enjoy eating out.

Today I wanted to talk about a Mexican Restaurant that I take clients to often called 7Salsas. http://www.7salsas.com

Today I took a client there early; as to get in and avoid the usual rush.  After parking and walking up to the door we discovered that the place was closed.  Somehow or other the city damaged a water line feeding the row of restaurants and shops thus putting them out of business, on Valentines day.

The lady that greeted us quickly explained the issue and handed us three discount tickets for their sister restaurant, Salsas Mexican Grill.  Upon arriving there, the parking lot was pretty much filled to capacity and I was afraid of a wait.  We made our way through the line to learn that you place and pay for your order, get your own drink and have a seat.

I typically avoid places like this for several reasons.  When I am taking a client out to eat I don’t want them “fending for themselves.” This was not much better than a fast food place.  With food prices being what they are, this food should come with a smile and lots of service.  I over tip, but I expect good service.  If you simply want to grab a quick lunch and get back to the office; than this place might work out for you.  The place was crowded, the isles were narrow and instructions as to what to do were lacking.  I had to ask as I thought that maybe we were in the takeout line.

I wish that I could rave about the food; I can not.  I have had Mexican TV dinners that had more flavor.  The chips were not warm, and when the food was delivered it was cool around the edges and barely warm in the middle.  In stark contrast to 7

Salsas which I would give a strong 8 out of ten; I would give this place a 3.

To their credit they were trying to recover from an unfortunate turn of events and very possibly on a normal day their food might have been better.  They made good on the coupons and tried to make up for the inconvenience, the food was not impressive.  We all ordered the special of the day which I thought would make it simpler, perhaps it was too simple.

Look for more reviews, as I am either impressed or stressed about dining places and other places that I try in the area.  –Best to you and those that you care about!

Did you really want that raise?

Did you really want that raise?

Whenever your company ends its fiscal year; a few months before that your boss’s boss will request budgetary needs for the next fiscal year.  After your boss justifies and negotiates those needs he or she will receive some sort of dollars in the form of a budget to work with but, probably not what she was asking for.  In that request will be money for salaries including raises and bonuses.  Many times, the budget may include things like square footage that your department occupies with a cost per square footage.  This even includes a share of the light bill, telephone, software and computer cost.

There is also something called the “burden.”  Simply put your salary not only includes what you take home but what the company has to pay in taxes on your behalf, as well as insurance of different kinds, social security and yes the square footage of your cube or office.

I know one large company that has its workers telecommute a few days each week and two people share one desk when they are in the office.  And by a desk I mean a very small cube.  The proximity to one another is so close that a flatulent individual could take out half the team!  In all seriousness, someone coming to work ill could easily affect the whole team.

Companies live or die by their Profit and loss statements or P&L.  Where the government simply prints more money, ( I use the post office as an example currently $15.9 billion deficit)  a real company has to sell its products and or services at a high enough profit to stay in business and to pay you the employee, keep the lights on, the rent paid and afford to pay for the supplies to continue to produce whatever it is that your company does.

Companies have a set range of what they will pay for whatever your title is.  Once you start making too much (generally from longevity,) you pop up on the radar screen.  While the scale is a sliding scale it does not slide as much as inflation.  In the information technology industry the window actually went down over the last few years because of outsourcing “cheaper labor” and H1B workers who are brought in by the tens of thousands.

Lobbyist petition the government to allow more and more H1B workers into the country each year as their mantra is “that no one in the US can do the job.”  That is not true and any visit to a job fair will wake up those who pettifog the H1B issue.  There will be thousands of people waiting in line to submit their resume’s for a half dozen jobs.  If the lobbyist were truthful they would say that there is no one in the country who is willing to go from a six figure salary to $30K per year.  That is not even a true statement however as I have met many X programmers and IT types who are working at the hardware store and yes Wallmart for less than $10 an hour.  As far as business is concerned, people are expendable.

The review is a tool.

This tool in the most esoteric of realities is a dialogue between you and your boss.  The review is designed to point out areas that need improvement, areas where you are meeting expectations and areas of excellence.  This is also the time that expectations are set for the next year.   The review is written in such a way as to assign some subjective quantitative assignment to you, rating you as a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1to 5.  If there is vertical growth potential or you are the Green Lantern or Wonder Women, than you may get a 4 or 5.

One of my bosses’s had a personal philosophy that there should be some 1’s or 2’s on everyone’s review as “no one is perfect!”  That was the most abhorrent, vile, disgusting flagrant use of the review as a tool; to screw people out of a decent raise.  To take a nit and make more out of it than it, for the sole purpose of lowering ones overall score is simply wrong! But, people do it.

Your survival at any company requires you to do whatever it takes to move up into that next pay grade.  If you don’t or there is not a place to move up to, your time will be limited to how much you make and how valuable you are to that company at that pay range.

There is something called a KPA or Key Personnel Assessment.  Some larger companies will hire outside firms to audit their payroll and personnel, make recommendation and then out of the blue announce a layoff of several hundred to several thousand employees.  If you have been in your job for many years and have not moved up and are not Superman or Wonder Women; you should be dusting off your CV.  If you are outside that range, your boss has to justify your existence to his boss who does not know you from Adam, or care.  It is kind of like buying a shirt at Wall Mart vs. Dillard’s; same shirt, same brand same quality just half the price.

The only way that you want to be on any radar screen is, because you are a super hero!

His boss will take a more pragmatic approach to your employment.  If he can replace you with a young college kid or someone from another country on an H1-B that can be hired at significant cost savings; you will need to find a new gig.   At the end of the day it is about the bottom line, what you bring to the table every day vs. how cheaply you can be replaced.

We as humans take this personally.  I don’t know how you could not take it personally especially with men.  There is a difference between the sexes other than the obvious.  Men identify who they are with what they do.  If you are the type of person who will do what it takes to get the job done, sacrificing your personal life for the company, a lay off will affect you more than an hourly person who simply puts widget A on block B for 8 hours.  I am not saying that they won’t be affected; it just will not be like the former example.

When you get your review and you know that you have busted your hump and your review is loaded with criticisms, get out your CV as you have reached that glass ceiling and are no longer a “good deal.”

I was once asked if I would take a lump sum bonus instead of a raise.  That should have been a huge clue.

I used to have to re-write my reviews for my people often and make them worse than what they were as my boss wanted to use that money for other people and or things.  My department was not valued as highly as the programmers.  Foolishly, his logic was that programmers create and are therefore “creating a product.”  The support staff is simply a necessary evil.  Since their programs were not for sale; just part of the infrastructure they were of no more value than the people who network everything and keep it going.

The moral of this story is; if you get a 2% raise, simply thank them, turn around and leave their office showing as little emotion as possible and be thankful that you were not one of the people getting let go, or riffed.

At the same time, if you have been there for several years, shopping the job market would be a good idea.  It is much easier to get a job if you are working. The simple facts are that you get the best deal when you negotiate up front; during the hiring process.  Once after you are “one of the staff” you become just a cog in the machine.  While I realize that this sounds a little de-humanizing; one should never expect to get the jollies at work.  Few people really enjoy what they do for a living.  If you wake up in the morning and spring out of bed and cant wait to get to work because you love what you do that much, you are in the minority.  They exist and I know people like that however; the majority just goes through the motions.  –Best to you and those that you care about!