Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Does corporate culture matter?


I know that you typically turn to this site for my witty witticisms, crude/hilarious cartoons and leaked pictures of my abs*. I thank you for that. 

But today I want to talk about culture. Corporate culture. Actually, talk is a misnomer. Rant is what I want to do. I want to rant.

There’s a lot of lip service given to corporate culture. Heck, there’s a lot of time and money and energy given to it as well. In all likelihood, you’ve probably heard something along these lines:

“We’re creating a culture of success.”
“We want to foster a camaraderie culture.”
“Here at Corporation X**, our goal is to implement a culture of caring.”

If a corporation truly embraces and commits to these virtues—even at the sacrifice of potential profit—then I have nothing to rant about.

But that’s the rare exception, isn’t it?

How many companies are brave enough or honest enough to face the hard truth that the culture they think they have isn’t the one they actually have?

I’ve worked at and worked with a wide range of corporate clients and I’m continually disappointed to see how many have a culture of fear***, whether they intend to or not. Buildings packed with people too afraid to make a decision one way or another. Boardrooms filled with people unable to share their honest opinion. Cubicles staffed by people who are forced to suffer inhumane indignities under the guise of efficiency.  

These corporations would probably even describe their corporate culture in positive terms: “extremely collaborative”, “very creative”, “pretty fun”.

But can a place be “extremely collaborative” if its employees are siloed off in different departments?
Is it fair to say a place is “very creative” if you can’t even paint the walls the colors you’d like?
Are places that block employee access to websites, like ESPN or YouTube, “pretty fun”?

To me, culture is the cumulative alignment of words and action.

Every time a corporation implements a policy that is counter to its predominant culture, it isn’t being honest with what it is. Now, that can be a good thing if your culture is one of fear and you’re actively working to change that. But it’s a bad thing if you think you’re at an innovative company, and yet nothing ever seems to change.

Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to work in an industry that values casual attire, occasional swearing and male-patterned baldness. Which, knowing my jinx track record, will mean that I’ll have to start wearing toupees to every corporate client meeting.

*What? Those haven’t leaked yet?
**If there’s actually a “Corporation X” out there, my apologies in advance.
***I do find it interesting that “culture” is a wholly white-collar luxury. Maybe I’m over simplifying things, but when I worked as a dishwasher at a family restaurant, I didn’t care what the “culture” was. I knew that I was making four bucks and hour and if I didn’t get the dishes out fast enough then customers wouldn’t have a plate on which to eat. If “sloppy and humid” is a culture, then that was it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I fixed an iPod (sort of)


One of my coworkers left an iPod on the free table—discarded and disregarded like so much ephemera—and it inevitably made its way into my possession. As I've mentioned before, I like to fix things*.

Earlier this year, my lawn mower would start and then quit immediately. So I did a quick search online and was able to find plenty of helpful advice, including step-by-step videos. Granted, some of the advice and videos were better than others, but I was able to disassemble the carburetor on my lawn mower, clean it, reassemble it and get it started again. Thanks Internet!

I mention this willingness to dive into things because it reminded me of something I read about Steve Jobs. Now, I’m no Steve Jobs, but in the outstanding book, The Pixar Touch, there’s a story about how Steve started learning about electronics at an early age. He would get disassembled radios and learn how to build them from the ground up. In the book, he says that the experience took away the mystery of electronics as this mystical, magical, unknowable thing.

So when I came across this non-working iPod, I saw it as a challenge to overcome. I tried a hard reboot and that failed. I did a reinstall of the operating system and that seemed to work. Huzzah! But then battery wouldn’t hold a charge. Ah-ha! One problem: How to get to the battery? Answer: the Internet. I found a helpful site that showed me how to open the case (basically jam a knife inside and pry) and disconnect the battery. From there it was just a matter of matching part number to part number, getting a new battery for about $15 online and reassembling the whole contraption. Unfortunately, part of the screen was damaged in my zeal, but overall, I have a working iPod again for $15. And I gained the confidence in knowing that if the screen stops working entirely, I’ll be able to fix that, too.

*As opposed to “people” or “relationships”

Monday, November 28, 2011

I made sushi*

*Not for Thanksgiving.

Someone call a mohel, these guys need to get cut. 


Missouri Rolls. Take that, California.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nope.

I'm on holiday today and tomorrow. For my international readers, my apologies. For my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things I’m Thankful For


·      Kung-fu movies
·      Hot chocolate with marshmallows
·      America Freedom
·      Hot oil thumb wrestling contests
·      Forgiveness
·      People related to me
·      People not related to me, but who act like they are
·      Stock dividends
·      Practical jokes on people who look like me, but who aren’t me
·      Calling out hypocrites publicly
·      Milk, when shot out of a nose (not mine)
·      Hugs that lasts a few seconds too long
·      Hybrid Monster Trucks

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top 5 Pilgrim pick-up lines


5. Thou surest know how to buckle a hat.
4. Is thy name “giving”? Because mine name is “thanks”.
3. Would thou likest to book passage on mine ship? ‘Tis the May de-Flower.
2. I haveth rocks, but they be not from Plymouth.
1. Care to feast thine eyes upon my horn o’ plenty?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Yep, I'm a logo.

We had a chili cook-off at work and some co-workers and I decided to make the hottest chili on Earth. We called it "waiver chili" and had actual waivers to sign. We also had a warning sign and the art director who designed it decided to have fun with my trademarked visage. A sort of Jolly That Tad Guy. I like it because it says, "stay away", while also saying, "avast ye mateys", which, as you know, I say quite frequently*.

*almost never

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Top 5 things I look for in an independent coffee shop.


If you’re thinking about opening a coffee shop, or even frequenting one with any, um, frequency, I encourage you to learn from my experiences.

1.     Make it big. I go to coffee shops to be around other people. Small, hole-in-the-wall shops just mean that it will be the barista and me. Awkward.
2.     Use your front window to put the loners. I love the bar-style seating that runs along many front windows. I can sit comfortably and not feel guilty about taking up a whole table.
3.     Offer free Wi-fi. If people are abusing the bandwidth, kick them off. Otherwise, charging for Internet access is antiquated and cheap.
4.     Figure out your refill policy. If you’re going to offer a “bottomless mug”, make it convenient to get a refill. If you’re going to charge per refill, state it clearly on your menu and don’t charge an initial price that’s out of line with other shops.
5.     Keep it clean. When a place is crowded or messy, there’s a short window of time before I decide to just move onto the next place. Having a person on staff to quickly clean vacated tables is like rolling out a welcome mat just for me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: The Little Engine That Could by various authors


The Premise:
A little coal-powered engine believes in itself so much that it makes it up to the top of a steep hill.

The Good:
This heartwarming and inspirational tale is most likely based on a true story. It glosses over the unseemly aspects of railroad building to let the reader focus on the tale of triumph and the power of positive thinking. The Little Engine’s mantra “I think I can” is catchy and should be memorable for most readers.

The Bad:
The physics in the book are dubious, at best. The reader is asked to suspend belief as a smaller engine with less torque is able to out-perform larger, more powerful engines based on “willpower”. How many pounds per square inch does “willpower” produce? And, really, who decided to lay down tracks at that steep of a grade, anyway? It seems as though the author(s) did little-to-no research and instead decided to bend the science to fit their needs.

The Verdict:
Read it before bedtime. While preachy and highly inaccurate, the book’s repetition of “I think I can” is rhythmic and repetitive enough to lull the reader to sleep.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Boiled Peanuts

When I was a youngster, I invented the peanut butter & butter sandwich*. In high school I lived off of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. I can de-shell a bag of peanuts at a baseball game faster than piranhas can skin a whole cow. Reese's peanut butter cups and Reese's pieces are a favorite, plus I like roasted peanuts and love Thai peanut sauce.

But "boiled peanuts" was a first. Apparently it's a Southern thing because they have vendors selling them at football games and everything.

And I have to say ... not my preferred method of peanut-y goodness. Peanuts without the crunch are like Peanuts without Snoopy--sure they're fun, but they lacking that extra something. And they're soggy. Really soggy.

So the next time someone offers you a cup full of boiled peanuts**, tell 'em, "thank you for your well-meaning, but misplaced, Southern hospitality".

*Not even Elvis was that gluttonous
**All the time, right?

Friday, November 11, 2011

What it’s like to do stand-up comedy.


Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Oh no.
Oh no, who?
Oh no, I crapped my pants on stage in front of everyone I know.

You really don’t need to read any further. But you’re a literary lot, so I’ll give you a brief glimpse behind the laughter.

The first time I performed stand-up comedy was in the fifth grade*. It’s true: this isn’t some revisionist history. My elementary school held a talent show and I performed a routine that was essentially a parody commercial. I don’t remember the details—I never wrote it down—but it involved kitchen tongs and one of the product benefits was stealing candy from a baby. It was a crystalline moment. For the first time I had had the spark of an idea, grabbed onto it, worked it around in my head and brought it fully formed to life on stage. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway) the routine killed**.

What didn’t kill was my first foray on stage during college. I wrote a routine. Practiced it in private. Performed it in public. And died an agonizing, lingering, sweaty death. It was like getting dumped by a girl, but you’re naked and everyone you know is there laughing at you while they punch you in the stomach until you cry. And then they laugh at you for crying. This was before YouTube, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Luckily, a year or so later, a good friend pushed me to take a comedy class with him. It was a weeklong session with 15 or so participants. Everyone developed a routine and tried out their material in front of the class. People gave positive feedback and we had about two chances to tweak our material before the final test—a 5-minute routine performed at a local comedy club in front of a friendly audience made up of family and friends. It was both awesome and horrible.

Here’s how it broke down:
3 people were hilarious (myself, my friend and one other guy)
7 people gave a good effort and had a decent joke or two
5 people were painfully, embarrassingly unfunny

But all of the people tried and it was a great learning experience. As such:
·      You are going to be nervous. Probably the most nervous you’ve ever been or will be outside of a wedding or a second wedding to a person none of your family or friends approve of***. The only way to combat that nervousness is to KNOW YOUR MATERIAL.
·      You will want to PRACTICE and then practice again. And again.
·      If you think you’ve heard a joke before, you have. DO NOT STEAL JOKES.
·      Try to be funny without swearing or being “outrageous”. Yes, some of the funniest comedians work “blue”, but the best can be funny without relying on sexual, religious or offensive material.
·      Prepare for the unexpected. There could be technical difficulties. The place could burn down. But if you keep your wits about you, you could joke about how you started the fire … by lighting your own farts. 

Thank you. Tip your waitress. Try the veal. I’ll be here all week.


*It might have been sixth grade, in case anyone is writing a biography of my life
**I wasn’t new to the spotlight. I was essentially the lead or a major speaking part in every one of my elementary school’s productions. I doubt a VHS tape exists, but trust me, my rendition of “Tilly” in “Tilly the Tooth”, a play about dental hygiene, in second grade had gravitas. The pathos I displayed for brushing and flossing put many an area dentist out of business. Or so I assume.
***You know of whom I speak

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What it’s like to be bald.

 
Being bald is no longer the embarrassing affliction it once was*. Thanks to the tireless efforts of virile bald men, baldness is now on par with having a tattoo—you’re outside the mainstream, but pretty much everybody is doing it.

If you think you’re going bald and wonder if you should shave your head, do it. You won’t regret it.  It’s like pulling off a Band-Aid: the faster you do it, the more hair you rip out.

Now, full disclosure: I don’t straight razor; I use clippers with no guard. There are advantages to both. Using a razor will give you a closer shave, but it’s more time consuming and you run the risk of getting in-grown hairs (or so I’ve heard). Using clippers is easier, but the results aren’t for everyone. Whichever method you choose, you’ll have to shave at least twice a week, if not more.

And as the fine folks over at ShootPaul.com have established, “Tad is bald and susceptible to dents on his head”. This is the first thing you discover: every little scratch, bump, bruise, dent or zit is magnified tenfold. Bang your cranium plugging in a cord under your desk and it’s a week of “Greetings Gorbachev! How’s Russia?”**.

And that brings us to the second thing you learn: you’re going to need a lot of hats. In the summer, it’s baseball caps for sports, straw fedoras for lounging in the sun and even lightweight running hats for, well, running. In the fall and winter months, it’s a cavalcade of knit caps, toques, stocking caps and the like. The only time you don’t need a hat or cap is when you're swimming or showering.

Which is the best part of being bald: efficiency. Shampoo? Nope. Hair-dryer? Not in my house. Sleeping in until the last minute? Yes, please.

So the next time you find yourself calling someone “Cue ball”, remember that they are a real person with real feelings***. They just don’t have follicles on the top of their head.

*It’s called evolution. Get used to it.
**Proper response: Dos vedanya, Comrade!
***Wait, what? There’s a lesson here? My apologies, I did NOT see that coming.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What it’s like to grow a thick, luxurious beard.

Let’s face it: growing a beard isn’t for everyone. But READING about growing a beard IS! Especially when it’s my beard.

The decision to grow a beard is not one to be taken lightly. In fact, here’s a quick quiz to determine if you are ready for the awesome responsibility of fulltime beardsmanship.

1.     Are you a woman?
2.     Have you ever used the word “manscaping”?
3.     Will you look like a terrorist?
4.     If you had a beard, would you give it a name?
5.     Does food caught in the beard become the property of the beard owner?

If you answered any of the above questions, for any reason, then you may want to reconsider growing a beard.

For the rest of you, the first thing to know is that “growing” is not the same as “letting go”. Sure, every man can accumulate a few days’ growth without worry, but linger too long in the unkempt zone and you run the risk of unbearable itchiness. For the uninitiated, this itching kicks in after about a week, primarily in the dreaded “neck beard” area. So the best thing to do is to shave the neck and cheek areas regularly.

Most people assume that’s it. That whatever hair comes in at that point is a beard. Those people are wrong. A thick, luxurious beard takes one extra step—evening out. My hair grows faster on my right side than my left. If I just let it grow as is, it’d be an unruly mess before week’s end. So what to do? Buy a decent set of clippers, with guards, and trim—yes trim the beard—regularly so that all of the hair on your face is the same length.

Now, some of you may discover that your hair comes in at a different color, is patchy or just plain grotesque. That’s okay; just don’t dye it. But do try different styles. Have a bad moustache? Try the Abe Lincoln. Don’t like the sides? Turn your beard into a goatee with sideburns. Missing hair on one side of your face? Maybe a beard isn’t for you after all.

Thankfully, the only thing I have to worry about with my beard is how many lusty wenches** can run their fingers through it at once.

*Yes, I get that “beard” is a slang term for a person who acts as a cover for a closeted homosexual. But I’m guessing if you think that’s funny, you probably can’t grow a beard anyway.
**Sorry, sometimes the beard takes on a pirate dialect.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What it’s like to do the Warby Parker home try-on.


My glasses of ten years* broke a year ago. And it just so happened at the worst time possible: before my insurance kicked in. Okay, maybe not the “worst time possible”. That seems a bit extreme given the current economic climate. How about, “it occurred at an inconvenient time”? Much better.

So my glasses broke and a friend of mine recommended I try an Internet retailer named Warby Parker. They sell designer frames, with prescription lenses and shipping, for $95. Plus, they donate a pair of glasses (it’s not clear if the glasses are from their collection) to someone in need.

So I went to their site, uploaded a photo and decided to go with a pair of black, horned-rimmed glasses named, the “Huxley”. After a year, they are working just fine.

But that got me to thinking … maybe I should get a back-up pair, just in case? However, since my situation wasn’t as dire, I decided to use their “home try-on” option. You log in, select five frames and they ship the glasses to you for free.

I chose the Felton with a fade, the Digby in a whiskey tortoise matte, the Huxley in sandalwood, the Roosevelt in Bondi blue and the Wiloughby in striped chestnut.

Then I created criteria for judging based on whether they “enhanced”, “diminished” or were “neutral” versus my current frames. The categories were as follows:

Handsomeness
Cool Factor
Desire to punch me
Desire to make out with me

Some frames faired better than others, with the Digby and the Felton coming out ahead. It was a fun experiment and free, too. All I had to do was put the frames back into their original packaging, use the provided mailing label and drop the whole thing off within 5 days at a UPS shipping location.

*Giorgio Armani’s

Monday, November 7, 2011

What it’s like to repair a set of blinds by yourself.


This weekend, I saved myself roughly $75 by repairing a set of blinds all by myself.

And when I say blinds, these were no ordinary blinds. Nay! These mammoth slats were eight feet across if they were an inch. And unwieldy suckers, too. Many a man’s spirit had been tangled and choked to death by the terrible taut threads that raised and lowered the mighty contraption, like the boom holding a sail on a ship in a storm. But one of these ropes had frayed and snapped with over use, like a diabetic clerk at a candy factory. The machine had thrown a cog. And the dream of blocking or diffusing light with the turn of a wrist was nary a memory.

Three paths lay before me:
1.     Custom order a new set of blinds for $150
2.     Hire a repair person to come out and repair the blinds for $70 plus materials
3.     Do the job myself

Most people would choose 1 or 2. But I’m not most people. My parents* instilled in me an unwavering belief in my ability to figure out and solve a problem, given enough time and resources.

In this case, I hopped on the Internet, ordered some 1.4mm nylon cord, lived a fulfilling life until the cord arrived, stripped out the broken cord, threaded the new cord through the slats, tied off both ends and finished in about a half hour total. If we factor in materials ($7) and time ($70), I saved $150 by not replacing the blinds and $75 by fixing them myself. Add to that the feeling of accomplishment ($314,767) and a job well done ($685, 233) and I’d say that “what it’s like” feels like a million bucks.

*That Dad Guy and That Mom Lady