Camp Nanowrimo

2013-Participant-Campfire-Square-ButtonApril 1, 2013 is a very busy day. It is Opening Day for Major League Baseball, it is April Fools Day, and it is the first day of Camp Nanowrimo.  Now, normally, I would not be too excited about that this year, especially since April is when I traditionally do Script Frenzy. In June last year, I reported that the Office of Lights and Letters had decided to terminate the annual script writing contest. So I was not particularly looking forward to April this year.  But lo and behold, as part of the April CampNanowrimo, you can write a script!  From the official FAQ:

Former Frenziers and scriptwriting novices unite! To determine your word-count goal for a script, just take the number of pages you'd like to write and multiply it by 200.

So, I am going to have to put my mind to it and see if I can find the bandwidth to write a script between all the other work that has to be done.  I do like the art of writing a script!

Wal-Mart Shows The Way

Wal-Mart doesn’t have enough bodies to restock the shelves (Bloomberg)

While the article is about the loss of business by Wal-Mart to other cost conscious retailers, that fragment caught my attention.  Further, Wal-Mart says the problem is not stock:

Our in stock levels are up significantly in the last few years, so the premise of this story, which is based on the comments of a handful of people, is inaccurate and not representative of what is happening in our stores across the country

So, if the stock is there, why is it not on the shelf? Especially with the unemployment rate at 7.7% (est), roughly 4.8 million people are looking for work. But Wal-Mart cannot find enough people to get stock on the shelves? I find this baffling. But only slightly.

Clearly there are a couple of factors at work, but I cannot exactly come to any conclusion which one is having the most impact. It could also be a combination of factors. Here are my thoughts. First, those looking for work are not looking for a minimum wage job.  They are professionals, with mortgages, student loans, and credit cards to pay off, much less be able to feed and clothe their families. Second, I am willing to be that if Wal-Mart is paying minimum wage, it is only just paying it. In those areas of the country without a stated minimum wage, they are paying much less.  Which makes it hard even for those willing to accept those jobs to make ends meet.  Third, they cannot find skilled workers. I have said this before, but there are a large percentage of the population that simply are not able to function in our modern society.  Either because of illiteracy, and in this case I mean being unable to either read, write, do basic math, or use basic tools like scanners and registers, or because of work status. Not all immigrants are illegal, but most human resource departments do not have the proper training for evaluating the documents that are needed to get a job, and thus they are turned down, rather than put the company at risk.

And yet the companies, including Wal-Mart, will not invest.  As stated further down in the article:

Adding five full-time employees to Wal-Mart’s (WMT) U.S. supercenters and discount stores would add about a half- percentage point to selling, general and administrative expenses...about $448 million a year.

Half a percentage point, which would be passed onto consumers who are barely able to pay the prices of these goods in the first place. Which really is the bottom line. If they raise their prices, people will not shop there, further increasing the flight. Or so the business logic goes. I do not buy it though.  I believe that most people would rather pay a little more for good quality goods, and good service, rather than the lowest price. I would argue that the chickens are coming home to roost.

Wal-Mart is discovering that lowest price is not the be all and end all of retail success. Sadly, this comes at a point when they have almost entirely crushed out of existence all of the potential alternatives. Leaving the shopping public with few, if any, alternatives.

A Wintry Mix?

Snow on the trees

Snow on the trees

Early this month, Washington, DC was paralyzed by a monster snow storm. I think we got an inch of snow. Maybe. Now some to the west received considerably more, but most people got maybe an inch.  Schools were shuttered, the Federal Government preemptively closed and people rushed out to get milk, bread, and toilet paper.

The trees through the Arch

The trees through the Arch

Since then, there have been two wintery mix events. The first one dumped three to six inches on us.  Last night, we got another two inches.  Yes, two events, described as wintry mixes have delivered more snow than a predicted Snowmageddon.   Which begs the do I get a job where I can be factually wrong, more often than I am right and still keep my job?

Enjoy the pictures.

I Do Not Have A Bucket List

Two items came into conjunction this morning.  One, a tweet:

What's on your bucket list? My list included being on Jeopardy.... Life is short- Live your dreams!

The other a text:
...hospice says he has a week, maybe two.

One of my friends is going to be on Jeopardy, the other is likely to be dead of cancer by the end of the month.

I am of that age where most would consider it middle age.  I have lived about half my life, depending on who you listen too, and based on my genetics.  I have been fortunate that I have attended more weddings than funerals.  But that might be changing.

What is on your bucket list? I do not have a bucket list.  Those that know me would agree I am not one to make lists.  Of any sort.  I do not have a to do list, I am barely organized enough to make grocery lists, or "things I need for the radio" lists.  I am not a list person.

So not having a bucket list is not a surprise. But I do admit that perhaps, just perhaps, I have not fully lived my dreams.  Come to think of it, over the last year, I have barely been living. Existing perhaps, but not living.  It is tough to do more than exist when you are under the hammer for getting things accomplished because of huge financial penalties hanging over you and your company if you do not deliver on time.

But, on the other hand, if I were to die today, I am not sure I could say, "I wish I had...".  And that is really the point.  I am not going to sit here and be falsely philosophical. I remember a discussion around the camp fire that went something like, if you had a $1 million, what would you do?  Of course, the things that were put forward were the usual - travel, help, etc., but in the end, the result was, "so what, really is stopping you?"  Because it isn't the money.  This is not exactly true, but to a point it is.  Over the weekend I helped out the Marine Corps Marathon Program Office with their 17.75K run.  A number of people said "Thank you for coming out this morning."  As a volunteer, that is our payment.  And having total strangers thank you for helping is a great feeling.

So, if you are keeping a bucket list, let me ask these two questions: Why, and why are you not knocking things off it?  When your ticket it punched, it is too late to start knocking things off your list.

Life is short.  Live your dreams.  Today.