2/26/08 - Nothing Important

So I've really had nothing important to write about. I did have a very horrible customer service experience basically for all of last week, but I really don't care to write about that because now looking back on it, I think I blew it out of proportion. I also realized over the weekend, that I expect too much out of people for the most part. I expect the best out of people, no matter the situation, and I need to give people more slack. I'm really going to try to work on that.

Another reason I haven't updated is because we are going to be getting internet at the house pretty soon (see: Friday), and I am in the process of moving over my blog to Blogger.com which will make it much easier for me to maintain. I haven't had time to work with the formatting and I'm still trying to import all my previous posts as I would like to still have an archive. As soon as we get internet, I'm going to try to dedicate some time each night to getting it up and going. I also think I'm going to set one up for Cristi (since they are free), and I might even start a website for Makenna. I guess I could use the web as my own version of a scrap book. Also, in regards to archiving my website, I'm going to try to archive my old, old website where I had all the Lean Cuisine reviews, heck, I might even start doing those again.

Not only are we getting internet on Friday (if not sooner, depending on when they turn on the service), we also went ahead and signed up with Dish Network to get satellite television. It worked out that the package we got came bundled with a DVR for an extra 2 bucks, and I jumped all over that. I've already used it like crazy, it's awesome. Basically, the only downside I can see by going through Dish instead of Comcast is that the receiver only works on two tvs which splits the dual tuner to the two televisions. This causes problems only when attempting to record a show and watch a show at the same time. Also, if I want to get tv in the office or workout room, or any other room for that matter, it's another five dollars for every two televisions. I setup several recordings this morning so I'll see how that works tonight.

Over the weekend, I finally beat Gears of War and I've now started back to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I believe I'm well over 50% complete on Veteran (the highest difficulty) and I'm hoping to complete the game by this weekend. That way, when my new games come in (Forza 2 and Marvel Alliances) I'll be able to devote my time to those. I also have a few achievements to get on NCAA Football 2007 before I can file that one away. I'll be playing that when I get too frustrated with COD4.

This past Saturday, was a very long day. My dad came over at 9:00 in the morning to help me with several projects I need to finish before Makenna comes along. Cristi was wanting a table to use in the nursery next to her rocker/glider. Instead of forking out $200 to get a table to match the rest of the furniture, we decided it would be cheaper to use wood we already had, nails we already had, and tools we already had to make something that was exactly what she wanted. We also needed to install a shelf in the closet of the nursery to increase storage. Since baby clothes are only about a foot long, there is a lot of wasted space in the bottom of the closet. Last, but not least, we needed to hang some shelves on the walls to also accomodate more stuff. After taking measurements and discussing designs, we got to Home Depot at about 11:00 (our motto: measure 3x, cut once, and then second guess yourself). We spent about an hour in Home Depot because both of us like to look at every tool in the store before actually buying the stuff we came in to get. We are both guilty. From there, we made it over to my parent's house to get a few more materials and tools that my dad had and then finally back to my house to put everything together. Cristi was nice enough to pick us up some KFC while we got started and then we sat down and watched the Razorbacks play while we ate. From then until about 9:00 that night, we were measuring, cutting, sanding and assembling things. All together, I think we sat down for a total of about 30-45 minutes and I wouldn't have changed a thing. We still need to hang some shelves on the wall, but the table and shelf in the closet turned out better than I could have imagined.

I guess there was more for me to talk about than I thought.

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2/15/08 - Gatorade, getting sick and toast

First off, I've been sick for basically the past week or so, which has left me to being able to keep down Gatorade and that's about it. My wonderful wife stopped at Harvest Foods on the way home from work the other day and found, believe it or not, my beloved Lemonade Gatorade. She got a half gallon container and three 32oz bottles. This was of course all they had on their shelves at the time and seeing as how it was packaged in their old labels, I can only assume that they had been sitting there for quite some time.

Now, on to some interesting news, I have consumed all of the Lemonade Gatorade and was needing some more gatorade in general so I headed down to the local gas station and what do I see...a new product, one that I had never seen before, but had heard about. It's called Gatorade Tiger. This particular flavor is called Cool Fusion. It was yellowish green in color and was next to lemon-lime so I just assumed that it was Lemon-Lime, only with Tiger Woods on the label. The first few drinks were not what I expected as it was not quite lemon-lime but very close. Now, I don't consider myself a very picky eater/drinker, but I was very pleased with myself when I actually read the rest of the label, and I quote, "One part mind. One part body. All parts cool. That's what it takes to come through in the clutch with millions watching. it's what makes tiger, tiger. cool fusion. flavored with one part key lime. one part lemonade. always cool. it's in tiger woods, is it in you? formulated for tiger woods"

Yes, you read that right, apparently, Tiger Woods and I have very similar tastes when it comes to Gatorade. And, I have to say, it's one of the better flavors I've ever had. I can't say that I like it more than Lemonade, but considering I can't find Lemonade anywhere, I might have to get used to Cool Fusion. And yes, Gatorade still has Lemonade as one of it's flavors on it's website, and I have seen it in a Walgreen's in Conway, in the new packaging, but only in 32oz bottles. I believe I mentioned it before that as quick as I can go through this stuff, I need it in the gallon jugs, and I would like to get it highly discounted.

After being sick all week, and coming back to work today, I was very excited to find out that our yearly raises and bonuses were being handed out. Now, I'm not going to retire on the raise and bonus, but it is definitely a large enough amount that we will be able to pay off our truck (which we were almost done with anyways) and be able to get the rest of Makenna's stuff without having to break the bank. This is of course what we will be doing this weekend, hopefully after Cristi gets off from working Saturday afternoon and before we head off to Conway to have dinner and watch a movie with some friends from Sunday School.

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2/7/08 - McDonald's Postmortem

So today, I will attempt to wrap up the McDonald's experiment with all of my findings, insights and life lessons I've come away with. I really wish I could have kept the experiment going longer than just the three weeks, but time is a very valuable thing, and I did not feel that what I was giving up was worth what I was gaining, both in regards to finances and life lessons. On top of that, I would have really liked to have made better use of my time during that time period. During that three weeks I was employed, I only worked on average, 2 days a week. When I applied, I let him know that I could work every day from 6-close and weekends, I could work all day, but didn't want to work Sunday mornings. I did have to change that and have Wednesdays off, but left six days a week that I was more than willing to work. They chose to schedule me every Sunday night, and then a day or two during the week. That was out of my control, and I'll touch on that in a second.

The first thing that I learned, and the main reason I started this, was that it is not difficult to put together a sandwich. I did mention the first day or two of work, that I was struggling, but that was simply because I couldn't remember what went on the sandwiches. Once I realized that there were two charts in front of me of what the sandwiches needed, I quickly started learning everything and only rarely had to return to the charts to make a sandwich. There were a few times where the condiment guns where not very accurate, but by using either the piece of cheese or meat to spread the tartar sauce/ketchup/etc. this could be remedied with virtually no time lost. I guess this is what I was expecting to find, the actual task in and of itself, separated from outside forces, is a very simple task that a trained monkey could do.

What I failed to truly take into consideration going into this experiment is that my whole basis for doing this was to determine what the sandwich making process was like. I did not care about how the drinks were served, how an order was taken, how the floor should be mopped or how the grill should be cleaned. I was actually surprised to find that there was actually quite a bit more to the job, than simply putting meat and toppings on a piece of bread. As part of my deal, I did not focus on any of the other parts of the job and only really cared about the sandwiches. I know for a fact that several of the guys I worked with were as frustrated with my ability to clean a serving tray as I was with their ability to put together a sandwich. For this reason, I realize that I was no better than anyone else at "doing my job".

Another thing that I found contributes to ugly sandwiches is the training process and constant correction from management and the front counter. McDonald's might be unique in this process (I don't plan on trying another fast food joint for comparison) but it appears that the main focus on service is speed and accuracy. Presentation is very low on the priority list. I do believe that if asked off the record, management, including corporate, would agree that 15 sandwiches with cheese hanging off the bread is more important than 10 sandwiches put together nice enough to be photographed assuming the same time period. From a monetary position, this makes sense. Customers do not pay extra for the sandwich to be perfect, the company should attempt to serve as many people as possible as long as the order is accurate. I blame this philosophy more than anything else for unacceptable quality in sandwich making.

Another thing I found is that a career at McDonald's (or on minimum wage) is no way to live. My entire life, I have never worked for minimum wage (I was working for $.25 above minimum wage for this experiment) and have actually never come close. I believe I worked for $7.50 for a year, but at the time, min. wage was hovering around $5. I say that only to say that I have always been able to find jobs that paid well and so never considered what it would be like to live on such small wages. In the time I worked there, I made roughly $220. This was after deductions by the government. Because I was working so little (not by choice), I was not making enough for Uncle Sam to care about getting their cut in taxes, the deductions were FICA and something else, I forget. Assuming that this was my primary source of income, there is no possible way I could have survived. Cristi and I, in gas alone spend somewhere between $350 and $400 on gas alone every month. Our cell phone bill hovers around the $70 dollar mark and I've never paid less than $300 for rent per month. A lot of the people I worked with on a regular basis constantly complained about not getting enough hours and begging others to be able to work their shifts. This surprised me, but after thinking about it more, it makes complete sense. In order to survive in today's society, at minimum wage, I can only imagine you'd have to be working two full-time jobs.

In return, I feel this has truly given me ample ammunition on explaining to our kids how important it is to have a college degree, a high school diploma at the least, and a simple desire to take your life to the next level. Many of the individuals I worked with, including one of the crew managers, who I know from conversation was making right around $7 an hour, had the knowledge, organization skills and people skills to at the very least gotten some sort of job as an office manager, secretary or something outside of crew trainer at McDonald's.

With all that said, let me see if I can summarize everything in a short paragraph. I enjoyed every minute of my experiment and truly wish I could have spent more time doing it in an attempt to gain even more insight. What I have come away is a better appreciation for what the average worker goes through. The sandwiches I get that are not put together from this point on will still frustrate me, but I will understand that there are several reasons that could have caused it. I will have a better respect for many of those individuals in a fast food worker position simply because I greatly respect many of those people I worked with. I think McDonald's is a great job for those in high school, or those people trying to get back on their feet from a down period. I do not believe that it should be a career job for anyone, ever. If you want to be a manager, then be a manager, don't start low and expect to work your way up. Surprisingly, after having worked there, I now want to eat there more.

I would like to extend a thank you to all those people who have followed along in my adventure and provided feedback and other comments. Hopefully, someone will come across this who deal and learn something from it. Whether or not that happens, I believe I have come out of this a better person and so every second of this was worth it.

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2/4/08 - Super Bowl

I know I've still got the McDonald's thing to wrap up, but I'm still working on that. I pick up my last paycheck tonight, so I'll be able to have a more accurate summary then. Since that is not ready, I wanted to post about the Super Bowl.

In regards to the game, I wasn't excited about either team winning and was hoping that the game would either be cancelled or end up in a tie somehow. Since I knew that neither of those were going to happen, I had to pick a team that I wanted to lose less. That team was the Giants. I figured that with the Giants, I only hated one player (the cry-baby, sissy-boy that is Eli Manning) whereas the Patriots I hate all the players except for one (Junior Seau, although I still like to think of him as a Charger). And besides that, I hate Randy Moss even more than I hate Eli Manning, so I guess that kind of puts me as a Giants fan for the night. Last night, one of the guys did make a comment worth noting. Since he had money on the Giants covering the spread, he said that he wasn't real confident since "he had the Little Mermaid at QB." As I'm sure everyone has read, the Giants did in fact win the game ending the Patriots bid for the perfect season. This was, of course, another reason I wanted the Giants to win. I was very pleased with the game, especially the end of it as there were several lead changes. The play of the game had to have been when Eli Manning escaped from the pocket as it collapsed and threw what I believe was about a 40-50 yard pass where it was caught on the guy's forehead. Sorry, can't remember the receiver's name, but the next play he almost made another nearly impossible catch.

I do believe I can honestly say that this is the first year in quite some time that I was more interested in the actual game than I was the commercials. There were a few good commercials, the only ones I can remember was the baby on the webcam. Of course, the problem is I have no idea what the product was they were selling, I do believe it was some sort of Financial planning service, or retirement plan. The other one I remember was Pepsi Max with everyone falling asleep and nodding off. Of course, the halftime show was a huge flop as far as I'm concerned. I had no desire to watch it, but no other stations were carrying any sort of half time entertainment, so we were stuck watching Tom Petty attempt to get through his setlist. We all agreed that it would have been great for them to show the Pepsi Max commercial right after the show because it seriously looked like he was about to fall asleep about half way through Free Fallin'.

Outside of the game and the commercials, I always enjoy the Super Bowl party. The past three years, I've hosted a small "party" which included hot dogs, cheese dip, chips and some sort of dessert. Nothing exciting, but a pretty good reason to get together with friends. This year, Wes and Roxane hosted the party, and did a great job. It was great because one of the guys from high school who I haven't seen in probably five years or so was there, as well as my old roommate who I've seen maybe two or three times in the last couple years. Outside of bringing up old stories from back in the day, and just generally goofing off, we had a chance to play some video games, which is about all we did in high school. The problem is that I'm still bitter about the experience. I hate losing, really, really, really hate losing. I don't care who I'm teamed up with, I don't care who I'm playing against, I feel like I should be able to win. We decided to play NCAA March Madness 07 which seems like a great game. The problem is that I've never played it before. It didn't take long to get it figured out, but by the time I figured it out in the first game, we were already down 10. The second game, we lost by one and should have won but I believe I had a turnover in the last few seconds to ice it. I'll take blame for that, but there were several other situations where I had no control over. The last game was beyond frustrating as our team decided to not only miss layup after layup, but we also blew a fast break dunk. I quit about half way through the 4th quarter and am still pouting. Even after all that, I still had a great time, the food was great, and company was beyond enjoyable.

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