I Have a Gripe

November 24, 2016

Make Thanksgiving a “Shop-Free” Zone

Filed under: Economy,General Annoyances,Values — alvb1227 @ 4:40 pm
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I always thought one of the best parts of Thanksgiving is that it had nothing to do with shopping. Other than food shopping and picking up a bouquet of mums for Mom, it was about family and friends, sharing a meal, watching football, and taking a nap. Many volunteer at shelters, serving meals to those who are not as fortunate or may be alone. It is a day to be thankful for what you have.

thanksgivingThen a few years ago, some executive genius decided that stores should be open on Thanksgiving. It wasn’t bad enough that the day after you were thankful for what you have in your life, people would do battle with thousands of others for a good deal on a television at the crack of dawn.

My guess is that they thought this would help boost sales when the economy wasn’t great (not that it is awesome now). I remember going to Kohl’s a week or so before Thanksgiving and asked an employee about opening on the holiday. She told me that they had to be in two hours prior to the store opening, so it completely killed her day. I felt really bad for her and the rest of the employees. I haven’t stepped in a Kohl’s since.

Now you have stores like Kmart that don’t even wait until the afternoon. They are open all day. Shameful.

I do not shop on Thanksgiving or black Friday. I encourage my readership to skip shopping on Thanksgiving. Instead, I encourage you to support stores that stay closed today so their employees can enjoy a holiday with their families.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

July 8, 2014

The American Dream & Happiness

Filed under: company interaction,Economy — alvb1227 @ 12:24 am
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I plugged in my headset at the gym today at lunch and listened to a section of Outnumbered on Fox News. The topic? A USA Today study that has determined a salary of $130,000 is required to live the “American dream.”

The discussion jumped around in an attempt to answer the question “why.” Topics included tax policy, student loans, social engineering, a lack of free markets, and housing prices. What really got my attention was when Harris Faulkner, a favorite of mine, tied in the concept of happiness, citing studies that once a person reaches a $70,000 salary, their level of happiness doesn’t change. She was able to turn the entire discussion to happiness and what makes an individual happy as far as their own personal American dream.

The discussion turned again to jobs and what makes a person happy in their work. A point was made that people often focus on their job as their source of income instead of a way of making themselves happy. This is a subject that has always fascinated, and frustrated, me.

In recent years, whenever this topic comes up, the standard answer is “just be happy you have a job.” Yes, I completely understand in this harsh economic market anyone who has a job should just be happy and keep quiet. However, year after year, as this rotten economy goes on, when are we as a society allowed to say “yes, I want to be happy in my work as well as make money?”

Think about it. A full time employee spends on average 40 to 45 hours a week (minimum) at their place of employment. That equates to approximately 25% of your time during the week (including sleeping hours) at your job. You generally spend more time with your co-workers than your family. Why shouldn’t we strive to be happy at work?

Now I  can go down a rabbit hole here and ask why employers choose to treat their employees poorly, especially in a bad economy, but I won’t.

I simply ask this – at what point in our working lives are we allowed to want more than just a salary?

April 30, 2014

What Ever Happened to Shop Anyway? Part Two in a Series

When I was in middle school students would do a rotation that included five different areas: wood shop, print shop, sewing, cooking, and music appreciation. I absolutely LOVED print shop. One of the first assignments we had was to create a ruler all the way down to a 32nd of an inch. It certainly wasn’t easy, but every time I come across someone who doesn’t know how to read a ruler, I think back to that assignment. Later on, we learned how to make a printing plate and we had to cut a print block out by hand. We learned why it had to be backwards and about the overall printing process. I absolutely fell in love with print! I still have that print block somewhere down in the basement with my other special things from school.

I also took all the other requirements. I made a napkin holder in wood shop, a pillow in sewing, and how to make a perfect omelet in cooking. As far as the music section – well, anyone who knows me that was far from my first or last introduction to music.

All of these classes were important. And while I didn’t become a professional seamstress or carpenter, they taught valuable lessons. Today, however, more and more schools are dropping shop classes in an effort to cut budgets, focus more on standardized testing and prepare students for college.

I grew up in a generation where many of my friends’ parents did not go to college. Those parents were proud to say “my child is the first in my family to go to college.” I remember being told as a child that college was the only way to get a good job.

While compared to college costs today, what my college bill was sounds like chump change, at the time it was certainly a lot of money. Today for a decent public college a bachelors program averages $30,000 per year – what two years at Seton Hall cost in the late 1980s. In today’s economy, what middle class family can afford that?

A few days ago I saw a story on Fox News that discussed the lack of skilled tradespeople are in short supply and can pay quite well. They also cited a statistic from the Manufacturing Institute that over 600,000 manufacturing jobs went unfilled in 2011. This is causing some states to rethink bringing shop and skilled trade classes back to high schools.

When I was in high school, there were multiple skilled non-college-prep programs – auto shop, wood shop, beauty culture, mechanical drawing, and more. What used to come out of that wood shop (what I would see most often because it wasn’t far from the band room) was simply amazing!

Not every student should go to college or needs to go to college. And more importantly, that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart. It means quite the opposite. Jobs like mechanics, pipe fitters, and welders to name a few are jobs that require critical thinking and creative problem solving skills. At the end of the day they can look at their accomplishments and see what they built with their own two hands.

I always loved the show Made in America. Hosted by John Ratzenberger, he would go to different manufacturing facilities all over the country to highlight all that is done in our nation. He has become a spokesperson of sorts for American manufacturing and skilled trades. He has even testified before Congress on the importance of supporting American manufacturing and vocational education.

Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs is an organization sponsored by The Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association that helps promote skilled manufacturing trades as a career option. Their outreach is an important option for kids who are deciding what they should “be when they grow up.”

So what am I trying to say? Simply this. College isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the answer for everyone. Look at the underemployment numbers of the last few years. How many college grads do you know that are taking any job they can because they can’t find a job in their field of study. And most of those jobs do not require a college degree. Skilled trades jobs are challenging and provide great wages. Just another reason to think beyond what has become the “typical” life plan for many.

January 27, 2014

The NEW JERSEY Super Bowl

I love football. And even though my team isn’t in it this year (they were robbed by bad calls in Seattle), I was looking forward to watching the game taking place in my home state. Note the use of the word “was.” My gripe? The fact is everyone from advertisers, to the news media to the NFL seems to have forgotten that the game is actually in New Jersey – not New York.

From the moment I saw the logo with “NY” listed first, I knew we were in for an uphill battle. The Verizon commercial deciding if Terry Bradshaw or the little girl will go to New York sent my blood pressure to the stratosphere. And as much as I love Bradshaw, I turned off the post-game activity the moment he asked about how Seattle feels about going to New York.

Um, you realize if they go to New York they will miss the game, right?

The teams are landing in NEW JERSEY.

The teams are staying in NEW JERSEY.

The game is being played in NEW JERSEY.

New York is shutting down Broadway for a huge NFL/Superbowl event. Meanwhile, the parties in New Jersey were denied use of the logo by NFL.

Seriously?

As expected, New York will gain the majority of the financial windfall that comes with hosting a Super Bowl, meanwhile, New Jersey will get stuck paying the bill for security and logistics. It reminds me of co-hosting a party where one person does all the work and the other person, just because he or she is an extrovert, gets all the credit. Meanwhile, you’re out a ton of money and are stuck cleaning vomit out of the carpet.

Just like Rodney Dangerfield often said, “no respect.”

November 10, 2013

Just Say No to Shopping on Thanksgiving

Filed under: Economy,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 4:08 pm
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I am not ashamed to say I love a good deal. I clip coupons. I comparison shop. Most importantly, I hate paying full price for anything. However, I do draw a line – Thanksgiving weekend shopping.

I absolutely hate the idea of “Black Friday.” People waking up before the crack of dawn and fight the crowds in an attempt to get a good deal. Now, retail has taken it one step further and many have decided to open on Thanksgiving itself. It is often the ultimate display of bad behavior.

Many stores opened at midnight last year. Well, now many more are opening on Thanksgiving. I was at Kohl’s this week and while chatting with an employee I was told they are opening at 8:00 p.m. and managers need to be on site two hours earlier. I find this completely offensive. When do these employees get to spend time with their families?

Thanksgiving is a completely American holiday that has been all about family time for generations. Watching football, playing board games, and of course, a wonderful meal. People donate to food pantries and think about those who are less fortunate. This push for more and more retail activity during this time of year says two things to me.

First, it says we are moving for and more to a gift-based society instead of remembering what this season is all about. Christmas and Hanukkah are supposed to be celebrations of faith and family. Now it is about beating someone else out for the hot toy.

Second, it tells me that the economy is still very weak. I started seeing commercials, store displays, and “pre-Black Friday” sales at the end of August. Pretty soon we are going to start to see promotions year round!

It is just ridiculous.

I call on everyone to let these retailers know that this is not acceptable and stay home on Thanksgiving and enjoy your family.

September 27, 2013

What Ever Happened to Loyalty?

Filed under: Celebrity,Economy,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 1:38 am
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“I’m just enjoying being here, and I’m going to enjoy the last day, being here with all these guys. Nobody said I’m leaving; nobody said I’m staying. I haven’t decided anything yet.” ~Robinson Cano

I have enjoyed watching sports since I was a kid. Whether it was football on Sunday or sitting with my Uncle Sonny on Saturdays as we ate the olives that were supposed to be for Sunday’s salad while we watched baseball. But I really can’t believe what professional sports is now.

I grew up watching Bradshaw play for the Steelers and Mattingly play for the Yankees. They played for the same teams their entire careers. They believed in loyalty and fans rooted for a team and typical working-class people could actually afford to go to a game or two during the season.

Fast forward to today…

Now, there are mega-stadiums with ticket prices that are just beyond reality. Tickets for a NY Giants game run from $110 to a ridiculous $725 and the cost to just park your car starts at $30. And why not? You have professional sports players like Robinson Cano of the Yankees expecting a $305 million for a 10-year deal, and if the Yankees don’t cough it up, he’ll just go somewhere else. Period.

Um, any of these guys ever hear of loyalty?

My husband and I will on occasion watch a Yankees game and always discuss how many empty seats there are behind home plate.

Now the capitalist in me says that they should  be able to charge what they want for tickets and players’ salaries should be based on what teams are willing to pay. But I have to say this is just so beyond reality it is offensive.

A large number of these guys can barely put two sentences together intelligently and speak like they have marbles in their mouth. In the football off season this year NFL players were arrested or charged with crimes at least 37 times, including 10 players accused of driving drunk and a murder indictment for ex-New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez, according to an article in USA Today.

Way to be good role models guys.

My beloved state will play host to the Super Bowl this season. I really wanted to get tickets figuring this is the closest I will ever get to see one in person. Do you know how much it will cost for nosebleeds? $3,000! So much for going to the game.

What happened to fathers taking their sons to a baseball game?  Can anyone afford this any more? I am guessing this is why minor league ball is becoming so popular. People can actually afford the prices.

There are lessons that can be learned from sports – being a good winner, a gracious loser, teamwork, fair play, work ethic, the list could easily go on. Unfortunately, all too many players today are about greed, excessive lifestyles, a lack of education, and a complete lack of respect for the law.

Oh yeah, and a lack of loyalty.

Like I said, way to be good roles models guys.

October 26, 2011

OWS: Open the Way to Socialism

Filed under: Economy,government,Politics — alvb1227 @ 11:28 pm
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When I watch the coverage of Occupy Wall Street (also know as OWS), I hear things like “it isn’t fair.” “I am the 99 percent.” “Share the wealth.” OK, I’ve had it with OWS.

First, let’s all face it – life isn’t fair. Is it fair my mother-in-law died from breast cancer in her 50’s after leading a clean life? Is it fair my beloved Uncle Sonny died before he got to retire? Is it fair that people with zero scruples get ahead? No, of course not. Does it bug the bejesus out of me? Absolutely. But life isn’t fair. The sooner you learn that the better of you are.

Second, learn to rely on yourself. If you don’t think you can handle the bills of a fancy private college, then DON’T GO TO THAT COLLEGE. Don’t wait for someone (or the government) to rescue you. Do you know when I finished paying off my college loans? After I was married 10 years. I  moved home with my parents after I graduated college and left a year and a half later when I got married.

Don’t make your happiness reliant on someone’s else punishment or misery. The OWS crew wants to “punish” the “rich” because the protesters have it tough. If all you are doing is waiting for karma to come around to your satisfaction, you’ll be waiting a long damn time. Let’s think about this. They want to punish the rich and the wealthy and redistribute those funds to others. So why would someone want to succeed if all that will happen is the federal government will take that money and give it to someone they feel is more deserving? This will do nothing but create a sea of mediocrity. This is the very definition of socialism.

Finally, yes, the economy is different. Yes, you have to think out of the box. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Wozniak, and the beloved late Steve Jobs everyone is praising as of late all made their own way. They weren’t born into wealth. They were creative. They looked for opportunities. They are examples of the greatness American can provide, regardless of their background.

OWS is really Open the Way to Socialism if you ask me.

August 6, 2011

POTUS, Congress and the S&P

It was announced last night after the markets closed that the S&P downgraded America’s “AAA” rating to “AA+,” claiming a variety of issues, including the political tone in D.C. and lack of specific plans to reduce the nation’s debt, to name a few. There was push back from the Obama administration, citing a potential “math mistake” in S&P’s calculations, however, the rating agency still moved ahead with the downgrade.

Now, in my opinion, there is plenty of blame to go around. You have the Congress, which is about as organized as a kindergarten class; you have our “Deflector in Chief,” who is the champ when it comes to blaming and delegating to everyone else; and finally, you have the S&P, who didn’t see the recent recession coming and thought all the questionable mortgages that got us in trouble was a great idea.

Here’s the best part of the whole mess – China took full advantage of this opportunity to lecture us on how we manage our bills. We are borrowing from our enemies and giving money to countries that hate us. Does anyone else see an issue with this?

What we should really do is take a hard look at where our funds are going and make a conscious decision to help our citizens FIRST. We also really need to look at the tax code and both really have everyone “pay their fair share,” to steal a phrase from our President. Right now, 51 percent of all citizens do not pay income taxes of any kind. So, our country is expecting 49 percent of the citizens to carry the load for everyone. This is an impossible task. By moving to a flax tax, everyone is truly part of the solution.

We also need to really address and develop a real immigration policy. Illegal immigration is a huge suck on the economy that is unnecessary.

So, where is everyone right now who should be handling this issue? Well, President Obama is at Camp David and Congress is on summer break. Awesome. Here’s an idea – how about you all come back to work, check your egos at the door and do your job!

July 15, 2011

The National Debt and Common Sense Solutions

OK, it is time for all the boys in D.C. to put their big boy pants on and use the common sense God gave them to resolve this budget issue. I have some suggestions; some are easy, some may take a bit of a spine, but they ultimately make sense.

First the easy ones…

The politicians keep talking about not being able to “cut checks.” I realized that they aren’t just using this figuratively. They are LITERALLY cutting checks! Who still does this? Transition over payments like Social Security and the like over to direct deposit.  How much could that save just in paper, printing and postage? If someone insists on getting a physical check, charge a $10 fee.

I mentioned previously about using technologies like secure Sharepoint instead of (again) wasteful spending, such as printing out the budget.

Now some tougher, but still common sense solutions…

First, MOVE TO THE FLAT TAX. Approximately 45% of the American population do not pay any taxes. That same 45% also utilize the largest majority of government resources. Everyone should pay something in taxes. While we are a very compassionate country, we need to switch from giving a handout to giving a hand up. By simply handing out money and/or services without actually helping to acquire something, those individuals are doomed to staying on the bread line. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Social Security needs help…a LOT of help. If you are under the age of 40, you should have the opportunity to opt out. Additionally, if you are under the age of 40, raise the retirement age to 67. When you reach your retirement age, you should get only what you pay into Social Security. If you didn’t work or pay into the system, then you get nothing. Period.

Take a hard look at “pet projects” to see which are working and which are not. Every project has its own set of fans, so some will be tougher to cut than others, but again, people must start to use the common sense God gave them.

Again, these are just a few places to start. Look at some of my other national debt common sense solutions to learn more.

What would you do?

June 3, 2011

Christie and the Chopper…Ahhh, the Hypocrisy!

This week, a story surfaced that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used a State Trooper Chopper, not once, but twice, to see his son play in a baseball game. There are multiple levels of hypocrisy here.

First, and most obvious, is the so-called champion of eliminating waste in government spending using a state chopper as his own personal joy ride. What is even more ridiculous is that a car took the Governor and his wife 100 yards to the bleachers after they got out of the chopper. In my opinion, this is the ultimate “I’m the Gov. and I don’t care what you think” moment.

Second, I find it fascinating that he has his son enrolled in a private school (Delbarton). Now, as a parent, you absolutely have the right to place your child wherever you think is appropriate. More often than not, however, politicians have their children enrolled in public school to show they have a belief in the public school system. Well, it is no secret Governor Christie has absolutely zero respect for the work teachers do. Yes, I know; “it’s not the teachers he hates, it’s the union.” What I say to that is it all rolls downhill. His negativity towards unions is easily picked up by many of the masses and spreads to the overall opinion of teachers at large and for quite a while, he really didn’t distinguish between the union and the teachers.  But, hey, if you have $26,500 a year to spend on tuition for Delbarton…

Finally, what bugs me the most is his lack of understanding that this was completely offensive to the public at large. I mean, can I borrow the chopper to drop in on my niece’s spring concert? Must be nice to have that at your beck and call. He has agreed to pay for the use of the chopper, not because he understands it was wrong, but to get the press and his constituents off his back.

Maybe the Governor should try going back to school himself and try to learn about responsibility and economics again, among other subjects.

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