Monday, April 19, 2021

4718 So Many Surveys, So Little Time


 We are inundated with surveys online and on the phone. Sometimes door to door. If placed in a line, the pile of collected data will soon reach Pluto.  Or at least it will give space aliens an easy-to-read pathway for their flying saucers to Area 51.


Here’s a one-sentence Wessays survey: “Do you think anyone reads the data and if they do will do anything with it?”


Answer if you like.  But here’s a promise: I won’t read your answer, just put it on the path for saucer navigators.


Who wants to know whether you’d recommend Sonic or Dairy Queen as a venue for your next divorce celebration?  Or if you enjoyed your latest experience with Walnut Springs National Bank where you went to plead for more time to pay this month’s mortgage, along with last months and the months before?


What will happen to Suzie Bell or Billyjo, your friendly virtual assistants from Bloatware Customer Service?  If Suzie or Billyjo did a good job, will they be taken off probation for their usual automated nonsense to your questions?  Yes, robots and software can be put on probation just like real boys and girls.


“Limiting your response to your recent call to Customer Service Agent Henry in San Jose (who really isn’t Henry and really is in Bhopal), how satisfied were you with …” this is followed by several rows of areas in which “Henry” was asked to solve a problem with your new Bloatware Package of Important Programs. Check the appropriate boxes.


The question they never ask whether you waited for an hour before you got a live body?


Another question they never ask: On a scale of minus five to plus ten, how did you like our music on hold?  There never is a box you can check that says you aren’t a fan of the instrumental cover of the medley of Meatloaf’s Greatest Hit.


Maybe this is all wrong.  Maybe people really DO read these things and act on them. Here’s an example.


Scene: The Boardroom at Bloatware LLC. 



--Chairman and CEO Octavius Bloat and Director of Surveys 

--Automata Bloat-Wingtip, his adult daughter.


ABW: Dad, this fellow Henry in San Jose is getting a lot of positive feedback.


OB: Fire his ass before he asks for a raise. And make sure you do it before the end of the quarter.


ABW: Ok.  Do you have his address in Bhopal?


OB: I thought he was in San Jose.


ABW: You ordered me to close the San Jose office two months ago.  Everyone in customer service is in either Bhopal or Manila now.


OB: No, I don’t have his email. Check with Human Resources. Now, what about the reaction to our music on hold?


ABW: Everyone hates it.


OB: Good. The more hangups in disgust the fewer customers we have to deal with.


ABW: They hate the waiting time, too.


OB: Same answer as before.  Wanna grab some lunch? I hear Sonic has a new kind of bacon cheeseburger.


ABW: I wonder if they have Meatloaf.


Keep filling out those surveys.  Octavius and Automata really listen.  And they act.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


Friday, April 16, 2021

4717 A Fresh Look at Podcasts


NPR remains the best sleeping pill on the air. But it has a new competitor that is nipping at its heels, the podcast.  


Podcasts are usually long form reports on topics that deserve short-term coverage.  Sometimes, they’re done by professionals with credentials.  But like blogs, anyone can make a podcast and somehow, somewhere, someone will listen.  Your mother and probably your significant other or prospective significant other will sample your work.


The possibilities for serious listening or viewing are endless. What ends up being endless is the time you have to spend listening to get to the point. Most of them are too long.


There are several popular formats. Most podcasters follow one or more of them.


THE SELF-ANOINTED AUTHORITY: This is the favorite of people who believe others pay him insufficient attention.  It’s a chance for the uncredentialed pundit to explore, expound and expectorate on or about any subject. The easiest and most common topic is politics because the sun never sets on that game.  Someone’s always in play and guesswork and speculation are as good as hits and runs.


THE IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW: You finally met the world’s leading expert on anything.  Often it’s the Self-Anointed Authority of the previous section.  You get the chance to draw him out in a little less time than it would take to read Robert Caro’s series of books about Lyndon Johnson.  Alternative: get a bigger hard drive. You’re going to need it.


THE MAKE BELIEVE TALK SHOW:  Michael Savage is trying this.  It is not working. The few who listen are only there because they expect the guy to explode like an angry boil and they haven’t craned their neck at a decent fender bender in weeks.


THE FAILED STANDUP COMEDIAN: When the crowds fall silent at the comedy club, these guys know they have to do something about their acts.  Earth to failed standup comedians: No one cares. The crowds remain silent and short-lived as an ice cube in Phoenix in August.  But drier.


There are some blogs and bloggers who can be useful on an ad hoc basis.  Here are two.


THE CHEF: You’re Significant Other has invited your future inlaws to dinner.  You know they’re big fans of, say, ambergris.  You have no idea what it is, let alone how to make it.  You can be sure there’s a video on YouTube.  It will last 30 minutes.  The first ten will be about its history in Colonial America.  The last ten will recap the first ten.  In between will be the recipe.  Surely, your future inlaws are worth the effort.


THE DIY MAVEN:  This form can actually be helpful. Handy Harry will teach you in words and pictures how to fix a leaking toilet or wire a light switch or cast a fishing rod or improve your golf swing.  But these are not areas that most of us need. Still, it’s nice to know they’re there.


We have long been under advice ranging from suggestion to pressure to turn Wessays into a podcast.  We continue to resist, feeling it’s better to bore you or provoke thought in 500 written words than it is in 20 minutes of drivel that can either put you to sleep or make you angry enough to destroy your brand new expensive blue tooth earbuds.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Mini 014 Law & Order Organized Crime Review

Law & Order Organized Crime is the first TV series in memory to jump the shark in its debut episode.  With Christoper Meloni back on the force as Det. Elliot Stabler and a cast of unknowns, the Dick Wolf Organization paints a picture of a NY Police department in metamorphosis. Stabler doesn’t evolve.  He’s still the same rootin’ tootin’ unruly cop who may have been the height of TV fashion 20 years ago but who now is more like a potential feast for Internal Affairs when all he used to be was a snack.

The story pits Stabler against a mythic gang boss who wants to be the “Bezos of organized crime” by monopolizing the retail end of the business.  The story is complicated by the death of Stabler’s wife and the tailspin into which he and one of his children are thrown.

Since most of the series is in the can but not previewed to us privileged characters who sometimes get advance looks as the plots thicken and thin, we can’t say if Stabler calms down in the next several episodes and goes on to do what this brand always did well: give us a nice package with the case solved in the 37 minutes not reserved for commercials in a 60-minute drama. But that doesn’t look like the direction in which it is heading.

The producers appear to be using the soap opera model in which you will catch the storyline even if you tune out for a few episodes.  This does not work with prime time drama.

Monday, April 12, 2021

4716 Prince Philip

I always felt a little sorry for Prince Philip even though he had the second best job in the world, Consort to the Queen. I mean, what’s the guy really gotta do?  Stand around while the photographers photographed Liz?  Say some really awkward stuff and get away with it? Attend a few thousand events.  Look royal. Stately.


Queen Elizabeth is said to have told her father King George VI that Philip was “the only man I could ever love.”  That’s Liz all over. The right words in the right order.  “I could ever love” is not the same as “The man I love.”  But she’s the queen and who would dare diagram her sentences?


The whole idea was that Liz had to get married and make a baby or two so the gazillion-year reign of the Windsors would not halt with her.  Unthinkable!  So they found the right guy.  Philip. Descendent of Greek royalty following a historical precedent that royals from various countries should marry for the preservation of national alliances. Related to Lord Mountbatten. Swings a mean polo stick whether atop either a horse or a bicycle. All the right credentials.


But once Prince Charles was born, the stud-service aspect was fulfilled. There was an heir to the throne.  The crown would continue. 


Okay, maybe churn out another prince or princess in case Chuckie was a total jerk or died or abdicated once crowned. Cover the bases. That box got checked off.


What to do with this guy once his biological mission was fulfilled?  Give him a desk, some stationery, a telephone. Trot him out at public events.  Name him to the boards of some charities.  But basically, leave him alone.


That leaving alone part?  That didn’t work out all that well. For all his royal look, he had both a mean streak and embarrassing things fell out of his mouth and onto Fleet Street at an unexpected rate.  


Her Majesty might have warned him about his bad driving and his bad-mouthing.  But divorce? Out of the question, even if she might have considered it. 


Appearances are important in this context.  And how would it look if Elizabeth started throwing his clothing and his stationery and his telephone out an upper floor window of one of their castles?


If there’s anyone whose picture should be next to Stiff Upper Lip in the Oxford Unabridged, it’s QE II. And it’s a good thing, too.  Scandals are part of royal DNA. But we’ve come to times when social media can spread word of them everywhere and instantly.  She’s the one with the tough job. In our view, she’s handling it pretty well.


I mentioned that Philip had the second-best job in the world. What’s the first?  Easy answer: Ex-president of the United States. Say and do what you want, when and where you want. The pay and benefits are decent. There’s no heavy lifting (except for Carter who built houses.) The hours are short, and the Secret Service still watches your back.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


Thursday, April 08, 2021

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

4715 The New Office


Time to re-think the office, especially if you have a decorating budget and are planning in post-pandemic terms. Recent trends go in two different directions.  There’s the IKEA look with its stark lines and emphasis on the thin and flimsy.  And there’s the Dragnet look which was modeled after a police precinct interrogation room. 


The Ikea look is modern and functional but tends toward the wobbly and is hard to assemble.  The instructions come from the same countries of origin as the pieces.  So you can choose between Swedish and Vietnamese.  Translations not included.  Of course, you may want no assembly required.  In which case the Dragnet look may be more your taste.


Don’t be fooled by those battered precinct desks.  If major musical instrument makers can sell new guitars and pianos that are intentionally made to look like they’ve been through shooting wars and bus crashes, so can desk makers. In one case, you can even get a reclaimed mahogany desk with names carved into the top and drawers full of new-old-stock lint and dust.


But before you go furniture shopping it’s wise to think a bit about what your office is supposed to accomplish. If it’s efficiency, we suggest a third look, the phone booth.


The phone booth is ideal for small spaces or large numbers of employees and anticipates further pandemics by being sealable.  Phone booths have doors, unlike cubicles and battered desks. They keep gossip to a minimum. They’re tall, so plenty of room for shelves, but not too much room.  They’re portable if you’ve found it’s cheaper to move than pay rent. They’re easy to clean.  And they’re cozy.


Your CFO has a hoarding problem? No problem. There isn’t room for much storage so she’s going to have to decide what to keep and what to throw.  In most financial offices, keeping too much stuff leaves you open for criminal charges with police get warrants to search the place.


Here’s something many offices can eliminate: the conference room.  Have your in-house meetings via booth-to-booth Zoom or closed-circuit TV.  They start on time, run shorter and end faster.  Plus you can always turn on the cameras to see who’s sleeping on the job.


Use the typical conference area to put up a garden shed with a refrigerator, a coffeemaker and a microwave.  They make ideal breakrooms.  And they, too, are portable.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


Monday, April 05, 2021

4714 The Plasticarians


Say, someone tells you steak is nothing more than the recycling of cows.  Even the biggest meat eaters would say that’s nuts, and it is.  Cows, after all, are alive.  They breathe, they (occasionally) move.  They go “mooooo.” 


So, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” doesn’t apply to cattle ranches.  But what about plastic.  Plastic is made from carbon and oil and such.  Oil comes from... plankton?  Dinosaurs? 


So when Alexander Parkes made the first plastic in 1855, was he fooling around with what we now call celluloid, or was he creating life in a test tube?


The Plasticarians think the latter.   When your grocery bags no longer are useful, do you recycle them like cows?  Or do you give them a proper burial, either in a landfill or your back yard.


It may take them millions of years to come back in an equally useful form, but they WILL come back.


Do plastic objects have souls?  Ask any practitioner of Voodoo and you’ll get a “yes.”  And they’ll tell you the same about logs, little stuffed dolls, statues and drums.


So when you’re finished with the Glad Wrap or the grocery bag or the water bottle and you just casually throw it into a recycle bin somewhere, do you know what happens to it?  


Maybe it goes to the landfill.  But maybe it’ll be cruelly tortured by being melted down and made into something else.  There’s no way you can be sure unless you bury it yourself.  While burying a human corpse in your backyard is illegal in many places, burying a zip-lock bag is not.


Would you tear a six-ounce soda bottle from its two liter mom?  Not if you think like a Plasticarian.  Are you sure the bottle of liquid detergent and the bottle of liquid fabric softener that sit on your shelf have not fallen in love?


It’s a good thing Guinness and Newcastle Ale don’t come in plastic, else there might be a mini war between the Irish and the British at the bottle melting factory!  These also deserve proper burials.  And not in the same place.


Time to organize!  Prevent the abuse and torture of plastic.  Eliminate the death penalty.  Keep families together.


And while you’re doing that, please pass the recycled cow.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


4718 So Many Surveys, So Little Time

    We are inundated with surveys online and on the phone. Sometimes door to door. If placed in a line, the pile of collected data will so...