Saturday, June 26, 2010

Song of the Day: Third Eye Blind - Motorcycle Driveby

Great song. Great band. Enough said.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kill the Scabs!

Today we bring you another glimpse into the union mentality. It's not pretty. I have previously explored this in a couple posts (Self-Destructive Unions (Is that redundant?) and Are Unions Good for the Economy?) but they are nothing compared to this.

First some background: Back in 2005, the Northwest Airlines mechanics went on strike but lost their jobs when they and the airline could not reach an agreement. Northwest hired replacements. Northwest later merged with Delta, and the new airline took the Delta name.

Back to 2010: Jesse Stygar, a Delta mechanic in Minneapolis who had lost his wife to cancer two years ago and was raising his 12-year-old son alone, was killed in an accident at work. The union's take on this story?

Check out (where they conveniently do not retain the following comments, but a local talk show host saved the page when the posts were up). Five years after losing their jobs they still cling to their hate.

"So this scab is dead? GOOD! Hope the motherf**ker suffered."

"please let me be the first to piss on your grave"

"Looks like the downsizing of the SCAB workforce in MSP will be expedited sooner then later!"

"Now if only another 800 or so SCABS would die, the would be better off!"

"I'm sorry to hear it wasn't Pete Swartz, but at last a good reason to finally use my flight benefits at the new SCAB-AIR. I will be taking a hot steamy dump on your grave. I hope your family reads this."

"Jesse Stygar One less Deltoid scab"

"Piss on the bastard, I hope the SB suffered."

"Dead scab! Tin roof Busted! he he he he he he"

"Another one bites the dust, uh uh another one bites the dust, uh uh"

"Steak, baked potato, and asparagus at our house tonight. Celebration!!! Feeling giddy here, light hearted. Karma got him Hope he had kids. Piss on him"

"The scab didn't give a sh*t about us. He stabbed thousands of honorable people in the back."

"Pictures we want pictures"

"Pretty good natured person here, but wish I could've seen it happen."

"Sounds like the gear door got him in the head. I wonder if his eyes popped out?"

"He'll forever be in Purgatory. Being a liar and cheat, backstabbing traitor he can't make it into heaven and the devil says don't send him down here. I don't want him"

"A high five to all honorable this day"

"I wonder if another scab closed the gear door on his head?"

"Those gear doors will git cha. They don't give a sh*t if you are honorable or a filthy betraying scab coward."

"Another dead scab!!!!"

"Let someone else turn the other cheek, have forgiveness. I have no feeling for the traitor, why should I."

"I look forward to pissing on SCAB Jesse Stygars grave!!"

"Hey lets picket this scabs funeral and then have a everyone take a dump on his grave."

"My eyes nearly went white with joy when I heard the news. I am not a vindictive person, but the scabby deserves no mercy, no quarter, no pity."

"I wish it would have been a scab that I knew."

"Watched the news tonight, they talked about how little Joey lost his mom to cancer two years ago and now Delta killed his daddy. Well this is called KARMA little Joey."

"Another one bit the dust. The song fits the scabs. Other scabs have died before this guy. Roger baski, Al berger to name a few. You f.u. you die!"

"News of SCAB Stygar's death bothers me not in the least. Kind of like when Ho Chi Minh (leader of North Vietnam) died. It reduced the number of the enemy by one. Sure do hope more SCABS make an exit in this manner ... Sure do hope they list the cemetery because that is another grave I have to water the flowers on. Do not worry, I will not be alone and I will wait in that long, long line to urinate on Stygars grave. I still hate all scabs."

"The bad thing about a SCAB is the puss that oozes out when it dies."

"it's name was SCAB."

"as his rib cage was crushing and his organs were busting .....was he thinking this was a good idea rip"

"They forgot to write, ' Jesse crossed a NWA mechanics picket line in 2005 and is a SCAB and is hated through out the USA by 1000's of honorable mechanics that loss their jobs do to his actions. REST IN HELL SCAB."

"Moral to the story..... Dumb Ass, If you don't know the piece of equipment does not care for your safety and your fellow SCABS don't care for your safety...You F&CK UP.....YOU DIE... BYE BYE and welcome to HELL where you now reside. Don't forget to turn in your change of address form."

"Not all scabs are bad. Jesse Stygar is a good scab and a true leader. He leads by example. All scabs should follow is example."

"Another dead scaab,,,,, damm the luck"

"I think you should make the dead scab ' scab of the week'"

"Maybe the little boy won't grow up to be a scab like his old man."

"The scab got what he had coming."

"I request that the family of the dead scab show some dignity and do not bury his traitor ass in Rosemount. We do not need to disgrace this fine city. However, if they choose to bury him there, I will have found a new place to walk my dogs for their potty breaks! RIP Judas."

"Many of these posts are written by people ate up with hate. I'm one of ya! That is just the way every scab should go."

"Fu*k him, he was trash"

A day after a man died. They post anonymously, of course. "Dedicated to the Honorable" their web site says. Right.

Oh, they also maintain a scab list. Why? The only possible reason is to encourage harassment and intimidation.

What is wrong with these people?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gambling on Welfare?

Where do you even start with a story like this? When money is free, people waste it. And we can't have the stigma of "food stamps," can we? Please.,0,6190326.story

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear: "It is reprehensible that anyone would use taxpayer money for anything other than its intended purpose." As if government doesn't do that every day.

Search Stories

Here are some fun "search stories" from Google.

Also note the link to create your own Search Story...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


People are doing some really cool things with Google Maps and Google Earth nowadays, some of which I've posted about before (Scale of the oil spill, May 10, 2010).

In this case, a picture really is worth 1000 words. Check out this map of London, showing exactly how far you can go via the London bus system in a given amount of time, from any location:

Note that the above link uses the new Styled Maps feature in the new Google Maps API v3, which allows you to make your customized Google Map look different than everyone else's! (That's for you programmers, by the way; I have no idea how to use an API.)

Here's another one. This one is better in some ways because it apparently updates itself automatically, based on "GTFS feeds from transit agencies." That is, it is not a static, pre-generated map. If a transit agency changes its schedules, these newer maps will change accordingly. (Hey, I'm no expert here, I just enjoy the advances that technology brings me.)

What do Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Toyota have in common?

While in college in Milwaukee I worked as a banquet waiter at the Pfister Hotel. Today I am going pass on some of the most important wisdom from that period of my life.

We did a lot of weddings, obviously. See the Pfister photo gallery, and click the Weddings tab to see some pictures. (I like the second photo in that album, which shows the Imperial Ballroom, which happens to be where I waited on Julia Child.) Or check out the Pfister Hotel wedding link.

Anyway, I worked hundreds of weddings. At many of those weddings they would ask the guests not to clink their glasses to get the married couple to kiss. Rather, they asked the guests to stand up, as a table, and sing a song with the word "love" in it. Over the years I worked there I heard LOTS of different songs. But these are my two favorites. Remember these if you are ever asked to sing a song with "love" in it!

1. I Love What You Do For Me, Toyota!
This was a very popular commercial slogan when I was a waiter. Here is another commercial, with this slogan. The people in the ads would always jump in the air during that jingle, so I encouraged the people at my tables to jump as high as they could. This song has the advantages of being very short (not much/any singing required) and it makes everyone in the room laugh!

2. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
This one is very clever. When I would suggest this to my tables the reaction was always the same: Where does it have the word "love" in it? So everyone at the table would take a few minutes and try to remember the lyrics, they'd figure it out, then they'd rehearse, and finally stand up and sing it. Of course, when they did the whole dining room would be scratching their heads trying to figure out what the heck this had to do with "love." Of course, the punchline, the word "love," is delivered right near the end of the song. Some people didn't figure it out, and then when "love" was sung the whole dining room would clap in approval.

So, I'm not saying this is the most useful advice you'll receive today. But I hope it amuses you as much as it amuses me!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rita, 54545, USA

It an earlier post, Engage your team, I linked to an article that discussed some lessons for managing a team. I went on to discuss one of my best bosses and some insights I learned from him. I mentioned that he was one of the two best bosses I ever had.

Today I will talk about my other "best boss," Rita Ehrich.  Unfortunately, I learned late last year that she had passed away in April, 2009. Even so, this is not a sad story.

I worked for Rita at a restaurant called Ehrich's Bavarian Inn. Here are a couple links. Maybe you don't care, but I do. And it's my blog.
Map of Ehrich's (now Swanberg's) Bavarian Inn
Street View shot #1
Street View shot #2
Street View shot #3

I learned of her death on the funeral home website and from the local paper where she lived. I posted the following to both locations:

I worked as a waiter for Rita and Bill at Ehrich's Bavarian Inn during the summers of 1988 and 1989. I was just a punk kid back then looking for a summer job to pay for college. I went around to all the restaurants in the area, seeing if they needed another waiter. Rita was the only one who said yes. She came out, looked at me, moved her glasses down her nose, thought a minute, and said: Yes, I'll hire you. Snap judgment, just like that.

I don't know what she saw, but she had a great crew working for her. I've never had so much fun on a job.

First night I was there, Rita asks me what I wanted for dinner. I didn't know how to respond. I asked, what are the options. She looked at me like I was stupid and said, "You're a waiter, you've seen the menu!" or something to that effect. She treated her employees like kings. She ordered special brats one time--only for the staff, too good to sell to the customers, she said.

She had pontoon boat parties for the staff twice each summer. She stocked those boats with food and liquor--good stuff, too. One time we had two boats. Old folks on one boat, young kids on the other. We decided to moon the old folks boat and tipped it so much that the nose of the pontoon boat actually went underwater.

Everybody knew Rita. She once bragged that she had a friend in the merchant marine (or Navy?) who would send her postcards from anywhere in the world with this address: "Rita, 54545, USA."

She was unique and she was special.

Not sure who will read this. But if anyone I worked with reads this, this is "The Professor" (as she called me).

Rest in peace, Rita.

Now here's the cool part. After I sent the above, the local paper ran this story:

Aug. 28, 2009

Some of the most interesting and heart-warming e-mails that come across my inbox are the ones responding to an obituary. You learn these great stories about people and the imprint they have made on the life of others. And you realize once again that it is rarely the big flourishes, the awards or the accolades that matter and that others remember; it's the stuff of everyday life.

Here's one about Rita Ehrich, 75, of Bargersville, who died earlier this year.

[At this point they printed my comments as written above.]

It gets better. Rita's relatives saw this in the paper and loved it. I got a call from Rita's niece. It was really cool to talk to her. Turns out that this niece is the daughter of Rita's sister, so she's on Rita's side of the family. They never understood the relationship between Rita and Bill (nor did any of us who worked for them).

And I found out one more thing. It is Rita's family who lives in Indiana. Why is this interesting? Well, in all the time I worked at Ehrich's I never saw Bill win a single argument with Rita. She was THE BOSS. Anyway, for some reason I thought that when they retired they moved down to Indiana because that is where Bill's family was from. That Bill finally came out on top. Well, not true! They moved there to be close to Rita's family. So Bill never did win an argument with Rita! Rita's niece and I both laughed about that.

I'll close with some additional thoughts that didn't make it into my short version. Isn't this blog post too long already? No, it is not.

Rita went back to Germany every year. Brought back gifts for the staff. I still have a German beer stein from her. And remember, I was just a punk kid who worked for her for two summers.

Rita told us that her restaurant was haunted. Whenever something would go wrong she would say, "There's Rudy again!" Rudy was the guy who she and Bill bought the restaurant from. She's probably haunting it now.

Rita probably cooked the best food I've ever eaten. Sauerbraten. Hungarian Goulash. Spaetzles. Even Shrimp Chowder soup, every Friday. People would come in just for that soup. I can still smell it. People would complain because it would run out so early. Everyone knew she cooked it only on Fridays. But it would run out at 6p sometimes. Only a few people at dinner would even get it. They would say, "Where's the shrimp chowder?" I said, "You're too late." We'd ask her why she didn't cook more. She said, "My recipe only works for this size pot. Tell them to get here earlier!" She was a piece of work.

Rita was a old German broad (and she was broad, if you know what I mean). Tough as nails. Making spaetzles and wiener schnitzel is hard work. Her forearms were huge. She went on vacation to visit Scotty (her son, who was in the Coast Guard in Alaska one summer) and left the restaurant in our hands. Couple of the cooks, strong young guys, had to do the work she did. And they were amazed at how their bodies ached. You have to squeeze the dough through little openings to make these noodles. The guys were amazed at how tough it was. Rita did it constantly.

Rita's only serious flaw that I knew of was that she was a Bears fan.

She disagreed with me about flag burning, too. I said that it's freedom of speech if you burn your own flag (not someone else's, of course). She didn't like that one bit. She loved the U.S. She lived through the bombings in Germany in WWII as a little girl. She'd tell us stories sometimes.

Rita ran the place, she was Queen of the kitchen. Bill ran the bar. He would come back to the kitchen to complain about something sometimes and she would yell at him and chase him out.

Rita was diabetic. She wasn't a skinny person, so that probably had something to do with it. It killed her to not be able to drink with us, on the pontoon parties particularly.

Picture the scene. Manitowish Waters is a chain of lakes, all connected. Big resort area. You get on a boat and you can cruise the whole thing. We'd load up in the morning and cruise/drink/eat all day. Rita knew people all over the area. So we'd ride our boats over, tie up, and visit. Sometimes we had to make a bathroom stop. We'd hit the beach in a desolate area. Pontoons hit the shore and we're all running off in the woods to piss. Girls, too. Quite a scene.

Anyway, one time Rita did drink too much--not too much to get drunk but enough that she had a problem, a serious one, due to her diabetes. She was pretty delirious. She could have died that day. But, of course, she didn't.

Ehrich's was exactly 34.75 miles from my dad's house. Most of the time I drove it. But when my dad couldn't spare a car, I stayed in Rita's guest house. That's what kind of person she was.

So I'd stay there. Walk and get ice cream between the lunch and dinner shifts. Shoot baskets. Do laundry at the laundromat across the street at night. Lots of swimming, of course.

When I did drive home at night in late August, heading almost due north, I would sometimes see the Northern Lights. Brightness would vary, depending on the night.

From Ehrich's I would go north on W, to Winchester. Pass the Bear Bar. Left (north) on County O. Cross into Michigan onto Chaney Lake Road. Where Chaney Lake Road heads nearly due north, heading home at midnight, pitch dark, trees surrounding both sides of the road...

That's when I'd see the northern lights. Between the trees. Not as bright as some of the pictures you can find online, because maybe I wasn't far enough north. But beautiful nonetheless. They were like wide, watered down, water color brush strokes in the sky. Mostly vertical.

I miss those days.

Finally, whenever I go through a salad bar and I see that they have blue (bleu?) cheese dressing, I still hear Rita's voice saying "stinky cheese dressing." Every time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My, how times have changed (adult content)

I've been torn as to whether to post this or not, but it is just too brilliant. I can't resist.

This XKCD comic is hilarious.  It is entitled "Swimsuit Issue" but really it shows just how much times have changed.  (I think I'm getting old!)

If you're a parent, how do you deal with stuff like this? I'm torn between laughing and crying. Strange sensation.

P.S. Have I mentioned that there is nothing funnier than XKCD?  Oh yeah, I think I have.   ;)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Song of the day: Geographer - Kites (plus some music business commentary)

Heard this song on another of my sources for independent music: Iodacast (they used to call themselves the independent online distribution alliance, but I don't see that on their web page now).

As I've discussed before, this is not your father's music business anymore. You don't need to get signed by a major label to "make it" in this business. There are so many channels out there. If you're still listening to FM radio and buying what's popular there, you're missing a LOT. I don't even bother to listen to the radio anymore.

Just a talking phone, she said

Kids sometimes say the most simple but profound things. Pearls of wisdom.

The other day we were looking at cell phones in the store. My daughters love to do this. It's just a matter of time until they get their own. Anyway, Crab Leg was looking at one of the more basic phones and she told me, "That's just a talking phone." Dismissively. Almost contemptuously. Wouldn't want to be seen with it.

Just a talking phone??? My, how times change.

I had to remind her that we didn't have cell phones when I was a kid. We didn't have cordless phones. We couldn't even buy our own phones in the store (had to get them from Ma Bell). We had to dial our phones, not press buttons! Go ahead, ask your kids why we say "dial" the phone and see if they know.

And now the phone I have in my pocket has a 1 GHz processor in it. (Remember when that 486 with a 66 MHz processor was a BIG DEAL?) It shows YouTube videos. It does e-mail. It surfs the Net. Wirelessly, while driving down the road. It's miniscule (4.7" x 2.4" x 0.45"). Amazing when you think about it.

Here's another anecdote. A co-worker related this story about how times have changed--but are perfectly normal to our kids. At dinner he and a friend were discussing something but they got stuck when they didn't have a piece of information.

As they pondered, his daughter asked him, "Why don't you ask your phone?"

He asked his daughter, "That's a great idea, what made you think of that?"

She said, "Isn't that what you always do when you don't know the answer?" She had seen him do it before. Perfectly normal for her, but still new to us.