Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another Sign You Are Getting Old, Part XLVII

In the opening scene of North Dallas Forty, a professional football player played by Nick Nolte painfully gets out of bed. As he slowly rises he finds he can barely move since pains and cramps have taken over his body. As he feels each part of his body in pain, he flashes back to the play the night before where he was hit, knocked over or tackled.

Whoever wrote that scene must of played football because it's really like that after the night of a game. Your body is just one big ache and you can barely move or get out of bed. The sad part is that I am experiencing this sort of pain all over again - and I haven't played football in 20 years.

No, the things that are giving me cricks and pains are things that my body used to laugh off as hardly exercise: biking, long distance runs, yoga (which is basically stretching), and Tae Kwon Do, which is not much more than macho aerobics. And unlike Nolte, I usually can't figure out what I did that is causing a certain pain - all I know is that I wake up with a stiff neck, a sore joint or a leg cramp. I'm not sure what might have caused it. But I do know that aging has something to do with it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Maybe This is What Work is Supposed to Be

Back when I first entered the work force, I thought to get ahead that I had to do pretty much the same thing that I did in school: put my head down, go to work and put in long hours. I figured that the hard work would be noticed and that I would move ahead quickly.

Boy was I naive. All I did was create a situation where management piled on work without giving me rewards.

Now that I am older and wiser I spend up to half my time dealing with issues that have nothing to do with satisfying customers or creating corporate value: politicking, networking, stroking egos, managing conflict. And this is in a job where I am content to stay at the level I am at. I am not bucking for a promotion - I am doing this just to stay where I am.

But I am starting to figure out that this is what work is all about - at the higher levels anyway.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Some Good Advice

A friend reminded me of a quote from The Italian Job:

If there's one thing I know, it's never to mess with mother nature, mother in-laws and mother freaking Ukrainians.

The last part is especially true.

Google Wishes Its Chinese Overlords a Happy New Year

The Google logo today celebrates the Chinese New Year:

Of course the logo they really want to use looks like this:


More "I love oppressive totalitarian states" Google logos can be found at Michelle Malkin's site, which is where this was one found.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Why Doesn't Amazon Accept PayPal?

I'm sitting in on $40 in Paypal from a recent sale, and I have ~$30 in books I want to buy. Since Amazon and Ebay aren't really competitors (on a large scale, anyway), it would seem a logical link.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Starting with No

Everyone knows about "Getting to Yes" and "Win-Win" negotiations. What if all of that is wrong?

My instructor in my negotiating class is none other than Jim Camp, author of Start with No. His whole premise is that nearly every U.S. business person has been conditioned not to negotiate, but bargain. And this ultimately hurts your position in any transaction where the other side can take advantage of this knowledge.

I have noticed this issue in overseas negotiations where I know that "win-win" is, well, foreign to the other side. I don't even try it. However, there are actually negotiating schools in the U.S. specifically tailored to take advantage of "win-win" people, and have purchasing departments as their largest clients.

Camp doesn't teach how to "win" against win-win, but creates a whole new system for approaching negotiations. And the basis of this system is that giving the other party veto power - the ability to say no - is the key for moving negotiations forward. In fact, taking away that veto power is a sure fire way to have a difficult and ultimately unsuccessful negotiation.

Jim's approach in the seminar has been to break down our thought systems, or as he says, "make you feel uncomfortable", which he was successful in doing since he is putting out ideas that go against standard business practices. I am not going to go into extreme detail of his system since if you are curious you can buy his book, but here are a few interesting points from today:
  • All decisions are based on emotion. No ifs, ands or buts. This was one of his first points and the one that I argued with him the most on. The logic side of the brain will rationalize the decision, but the actual decision will be based on emotion.

  • NO is a decision. Once an adversary says "no" they will move out of the emotional side of the brain back to the rational side and you can move negotiations along. This is why he says to "Start with No" in your negotiations. "No is the beginning of negotiation."

  • One thing I really agreed with him on was BATNA* - Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement and a staple of Getting to Yes. All a BATNA does is allow you to negotiate with yourself.

We spent a good part of the day creating tools and going over examples (which are also in the book). Like any seminar I think there will be items that will be valuable, along with some chaff that I will end up throwing out, but so far it has been an interesting experience.

* UPDATED Sept 2007 - After taking a similar seminar from the authors of "Getting to Yes", I realize that the BATNA concept was not what I thought it was, and Camp is using it differently than it was meant.

Negotiation Seminar

My company is sending me to a two day negotiation seminar, so for the next couple of days I will be posting pointers and tips from this valuable course here on The Window Manager for free....as long as someone out there makes it worth my while.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Japanese Sushi Humor

Reporter in the field Rorschach sends in the following link to a humorous video about sushi in Japan. It takes a while to download, but it is a pretty funny take on the national dish from a Japanese perspective. People who have never been to Japan won't get all the jokes - some of what they say is real, some of it isn't - but it is still humorous even if you have never been there.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Mmmmmm....Whale Meat

A posting on eating whale at OTB reminded me of a previous post I did on this - Edible Political Correctness - about the time I ate whale meat in Japan. I wouldn't seek out whale meat on my own, but as an "honored guest" at a Japanese business dinner, I would have insulted my host by turning down the very expensive delicacy.

As proof of this outing, here is a picture from four years, forty pounds and a few goatees ago. That's real whale meat in the foreground - maybe harpooned right in front of a Green Peace dingy if I was lucky. The picture must have been taken after drinking most of the sake in the big-@ss jug on the other side of the table.



As stated previously, this is not something I would seek out, and quite frankly I didn't find the taste that different from beef. And the blubber was almost inedible. So I don't know why anyone would choose to eat it - except to piss off Westerners. So part of me thinks that taking me and my group to this restaurant was maybe a test to see how we would react. So I went with the flow and enjoyed myself. The whale was already dead.

I have also had horse in Japan, which is indistinguishable from beef if you ask me, and which I have zero problems eating. They are bred after all, which is not something you can say for whales - and the only problem I have with eating them. If the Japanese could figure out a way to breed them, then the number of people who object to eating whale would fall to just the extremes who think whales are more intelligent than humans, which is true in the case of people who believe this.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

International Flights: Time to Start Packing a Flask

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer. - Homer Simpson

The WSJ this week (paid link) has an article on something I noticed on my last international flight: U.S. airlines have stopped giving away free drinks in coach on overseas flights.

Their excuse is they want less drunks on the flight, but it's really about cost cutting. I have no complaints about doing this for domestic flights. I never experienced free booze in coach for domestic flights anyway, and the flights rarely last more than a few hours - five tops. But being crammed in coach for 12 hours and not giving away free booze? At that point I wouldn't worry about the drunk people on the plane, but the stone-cold sober ones about to go postal.

On my last Continental flight to Israel I went dry, but on the way back I broke down started shelling out bucks for booze. The better solution is to stick a flask into my carry-on and pour a wee dram into a coke or other beverage when the stu isn't looking. Of course I'd have to finish the flask during the flight so I wouldn't have to declare it when I go through customs.

The other solution is to fly foreign flagged airlines, who not only still pass out booze in coach for international legs, but largely give away free booze on their domestic legs as well. Alternatively I could fly business, but my company's current policy is to pay for coach tickets only, something everyone from EVPs on down are trying to change.

So it's time to dig out that flask I got for being a groomsman at my brother's wedding all those years ago...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Dreamsicle Martini

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the need to clean out the liquor cabinet - to make room for more booze - is what made me experiment and come up with this.  This tastes exactly like a Dreamsicle, and doesn't have the fat or calories of other Dreamsicle recipes out there, which use ice cream or heavy cream:

  • Two shots Rose's Mango Twist Mix
  • One shot vanilla vodka
  • One shot premium vodka (The Director recommends Kettle One)
  • Shaken, not stirred. Pour.
The secret is the blend of vodkas. Using all vanilla vodka is too much, so cutting it with a premium vodka makes it just right.

Friday, January 13, 2006

If You're Commuting in The OC...

Here's a cool website Mrs. Director recommends. Run the cursor over the dots to find out what is happening at that point.

I Look the Same - Except for the Poofy Hair

In an earlier post I tracked racked down current pictures of girls I used to date and made fun of how they look today. I was able to be smug since I claim "I look the same today" as I did back in high school.

In preparation for my upcoming 20 year high school reunion, I was asked to put together a "then and now" photo comparison, so I was able to put this claim to the test. Comparing a prom photo and a recent pic from my vacation in Mexico, I would say that I look pretty much the same - except for the 80's poofy hair:

Maybe I have a few more lines in the face, but I would say it is a pretty good match for 20 years.

In light of this comparison and the earlier post on my exes - and based on other obvervations I have had - is it fair to say that men generally age better than women? Or this just an individual thing?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

This Includes Me

I just finished a Diet coke - and had it while I was working!!

Seven Percent of American Workers Drink on the Job

I think this headline, if taken literally, would be a much, much higher percentage. Since when does "drink" always mean alcohol?

The New Search Engine for the Terms: Surrender, Coward, Irrelevant, Has-Been

Europeans Plan Their Own Search Engine

Monday, January 09, 2006

I Went on this Thing?

My neighbor, who works for Disney, got the Director family into Disneyland for free on Sunday. We spent some time at California Adventure, where I decided to give myself nausea try the thrill of the largest coaster in any Disney park: California Screamin' (what a clever pun, huh?)

The thing that got me interested in the coaster was the take-off. It isn't a slow ascent and drop. Instead, it is a sudden 4 second acceleration to 55 mph on a strait-away right on the boardwalk. It looks cool, and is what sold me on giving it a try.




What I didn't notice - because it is cleverly hidden inside a mouse-head logo, is that there is a giant loop in the coaster.


I didn't know it was there until I was already going 55 miles an hour and about to enter it:

Me: This thing has a LOOP?!

12-year old kid next to me: YEAH, MAN!!

(The reason I was sitting next to a random kid is that I was in the "single" line. Mrs. Director wasn't crazy enough to go with me).

I guess if I had watched the entire ride instead of being mesmerized by the take-off, I might have noticed it. Actually, the loop was pretty tame on my stomach. And huge drops, of which this coaster has two, didn't bother me either. It's the sudden side-to-side-to-side-to-side that goes, well, ad nauseum, that gives me motion sickness, and the back half of the ride had plenty.

All-in-all, however, I managed to walk off under my own power and wasn't totally green. It was a fun ride and something I recommend.

Photos courtesy of Roller Coaster Database, which has other pics and facts on this ride, as well as others.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

How to Get a Lower WSJ Subscription Rate

Ignore them. Here is the sequence of letters I got:


July 2005

Dear WM,

Your subscription to the Wall Street Journal is expiring in a month, and in order to avoid missing a single issue, you need to renew now! For only $211 (plus California sales tax) you will get in depth news coverage, hard hitting opinion articles, and our brand new Saturday Edition. Don't wait, send us your renewal notice today!

Sincerely,
The WSJ




August 2005

Dear WM,

Please note that your subscription has now expired. As a courtesy we have extended it for another month. Please get your renewal notice in the mail today so you won't miss a single issue!

Sincerely,
The WSJ



September 2005

Dear WM,

Look, you're busy. We're busy. We're all busy. But can you please get us your renewal notice? Look, we'll cut $20 off the price, okay? At $190 this is a steal. Let us know soon!

Sincerely,
The WSJ




October 2005

Okay, bud, we warned you! You're cut off. No more paper for you! BUT if you want to come back, we let you have it for, um, $175? Come on, NO ONE gets it this price. And I am doing it because I like you.

Get back to me,
WSJ




November 2005

Dearest WM,

After being together 18 years how could you do this to us? We kept you company at breakfast, entertained you on long flights. We were with you as a young college student and were beside you as you progressed through the business world. And now, after nearly two decades, you just toss us aside?

It's those blogs, isn't it?

We know. A man around your age starts looking for a little excitement and you think blogs are the answer. They're new. They're fresh. But they're empty calories. After a few months you'll miss the depth and maturity we provide.

Tell you what, you have your fling, and when you're done, we'll still be here. And we won't hold it against you. Just think of that as you stare at a driveway without a paper and eat breakfast alone tomorrow morning.

Sincerely,
WSJ




December 2005

Dear Mr. Manager,

I must apologize for the last letter. Our subscription manager got a little carried away.

I know a man of your success and intelligence will not be swayed by emotional arguments, but by cold financial calculations. Tell you what: $59 for six months. Final offer. You have ten days to respond.

Signed,
WSJ Managing Editor


At this point I accept the offer and mail them a check. Today I got the confirmation:


January 2006

Dear WM,

Welcome back! You're morning paper will start delivery again on Monday.

Sincerely,
The WSJ


So all you have to do is hold out longer than they do.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What Is It with Ebay "Crashers"?

I put an old video camera on Ebay this week. Within two hours of posting the auction I received three messages asking if I would sell it outside the auction format: "What would your Buy-it-Now price be?" or "What would you sell this to me now at?" Yeah, right. They think I would sell it to them below what it might get at auction at so THEY can auction it at a higher price later?? No thanks.

The last time I auctioned something six months ago I got only one of these, so this sort of strategy seems to be picking up some steam. My guess is that some "Make Money on Ebay" book came out saying to buy things on Ebay outside the auction and then sell it at auction later - so these messages are now more common. On my last auction I responded by saying No Thanks, but now I will just ignore them.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Brand Trivia of the Day

The first decaffeinated coffee brand "Sanka" came from the French term Sans Kaffeine.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'm Feeling Smug

Total weight gain during the holidays: 0.0 lbs.

Monday, January 02, 2006

It's Finally 2006

When I was younger, whenever New Years came the thought was "I can't believe it's (fill in the year here)" Now it's "It's finally (this year)".

Part of this change is that I now spend the last six months of the old year thinking about nothing but the next year: strategic analyses, sales plans, forecasts and all the other fun things that are required at work. In fact, I get so used to using the next year, that I sometimes use the it when speaking about the current year (sort of the reverse of what everyone does on their checks for the first month of the new year).

So "2006" comes naturally to me, but 2007 does sound strange - at least it will until June or so when the whole planning process starts again.