09/19/07 10:15 - 57ºF - ID#41191
Don't taze me, bro!
09/11/07 01:27 - 69ºF - ID#41050
I hate wanting to do something but not being able to.
Anyway here is me today "keeping it real" (real suburban, anyway) in the parking lot. Daddy needs to shave.
09/06/07 07:58 - 88ºF - ID#40976
iPhone price update
I know I haven't done a beer review in a while (shame on me) - but now is the time, ladies and gents, to go seek out an Oktoberfest. Not just any, though - go find one from Munich. These are the authentic Oktoberfests - there are only six brewers allowed to serve beer during Oktoberfest and those are Paulaner (which I'm drinking right now), Spaten, Augustiner, Lowenbrau, Hofbrau and Hacker-Pschorr. Paulaner and Spaten is available at Consumers - although Spaten is only available as a 12-pack this is ok... they serve this stuff in liter mugs in Europe!
Oktoberfest's 200th Anniversary in 2010, or the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Ugh... I dunno.
09/05/07 07:32 - 86ºF - ID#40958
What We Do
Corporate Social Responsibility
This is the industry that we are in, although I just refer to what we do as "social compliance." In a nutshell, our industry kicked off when Kathie Lee Gifford got into trouble about 10 years back for being associated with a sweatshop in Honduras, which was manufacturing goods for Wal-Mart. As a result of the media exposure and pressure from labor activists, the industry was launched and now virtually every major retailer in the world either has their own auditing department or hire a company like ours. Companies do this because their reputations can be quantified in dollars, so investing in this sort of endeavor is a way to certify that their products are being ethically sourced. Companies like Nike have their own auditors. Other companies hire us because we are independent and therefore our evaluations have a bit more credibility - we are not affiliated with the company that is being audited nor are we directly affiliated with our clients. This is a very niche type of industry - most of the companies that do independent auditing are small and we all know each other.
The Buffalo area is home to one of the most accredited and well respected independent monitoring firms in the world - the company I work for! My company is the primary, preferred monitoring firm for several large retailers that you all are commonly familiar with, dozens of private manufacturers that are seeking certification to a worldwide independent standard, and most recently several major universities. We are accredited to perform audits on behalf of the Fair Labor Association, Worldwide Retail Apparel Production, SA8000 (the top standard), ISO, C-TPAT (this is a security audit program designed by private industry and the Department of Homeland Security), among others, and not mentioning the individual standards that certain major retailer clients write for themselves (some are weaker than others).
Our company has offices in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mexico, and of course Buffalo. We have auditors in several countries - having locals is incredibly important and we try to do so as much as possible. It cuts down on travel costs, which my boss loves. We have to travel in order to do our job - this brings us to countries in the entire Western Hemisphere, but we mainly work in North/Central America, the Carribean and Asia. Probably the foreign countries we do most of our work in are located in Central America and Asia, but we also do loads of work in the continental United States - personally I've been to 32 states and counting. I've been through the airports in almost every major city in the United States - my favorite airport is the one in Buffalo, since it means I'm home and not somewhere else! My favorite places in the United States are Seattle, Southern California, the desert and Texas.
We are social compliance auditors - we are paid to visit factories and verify whether or not the facility we are visiting is adhering to labor and health and safety laws as applicable in the locality we are in. So yes, we are familiar with the laws in all the states we visit, individual provinces in Canada, or whatever country we are in, as well as an entire criteria of soft issues such as harassment and abuse, forced labor, child labor, discrimination, collective bargaining/freedom of association and the like. We meet with members of management ranging from production managers all the way to the CEO. I explain to them exactly how the audit is going to work and what we need - because this is done as a contractual obligation for these facilities to sell to our clients they give us access to a wide variety of sensitive information. We examine employee files, payroll information, company policies and a laundry list of safety documentation to determine whether or not the facility meets the standard we are auditing to that day. We are interested in knowing if pay records and time records match, if any illegal deductions are being taken out, if inappropriate disciplinary actions are being taken by the employer, if the workers are being paid on time and legally, if workers are working excessive hours and a host of other things that are too many in number to mention in this already long paragraph. What we see and hear dictates where we probe next.
We interview employees at random and in private, with no interference or participation from management - here employees are given the opportunity to tell me what they like and dislike about the company they are working for, and it gives me the opportunity to verify things we may have found during document review or possibly learn about a potential problem to look for. As a rule we dress casually - we find that workers are more at ease when we're wearing jeans. We also do a health and safety inspection of the plant - in the US the facilities are bound by OSHA but in other countries the laws may be weaker, so almost invariably the standards we audit to include some aspects of OSHA as well as other basic health and safety criteria that, in some cases, go above and beyond the written law.
I'm leaving an extraordinary amount of detail out here, but you get the idea. We assemble a ton of data, create a snapshot of the facility and provide to our client reports that indicate how good or how poor the facility was. We do have some latitude in interpreting the standards that we are auditing to, depending on the issue, but for the most part these are very rigid, very strict standards that must be complied with. As a contractual obligation of doing business with The Big Gray Box, for example, you *must* clear an ethical standards audit to sell to them. If they are not satisfied, they cease accepting orders from that particular manufacturer that is giving us trouble. Typically just the threat of such a thing gets these facilities to beg us to revisit them as soon as possible, and yes, they give us what they wouldn't give us before the minute we walk in. I've audited companies as small as 3 floor workers, all the way up to large corporations with $150 million in accounts with our client. These companies give us an enormous amount of respect, and we have to use our authority discreetly. Depending on our judgments these companies could be set to lose millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs so it is to their benefit, although they see us as intruders, to go through with the audit. In the past, unfortunately, because a facility was firing employees a dozen at a time for even mentioning unionization, the facility had to close because they lost business with our client.... and 800 people lost their jobs. You can see that we have to strike a balance at times, but first and foremost our concern is for the worker and we approach our job professionally.
Generally, we are there to assess the facility to determine if the workers are getting what they are legally entitled to, that nothing is being taken away from them without their consent, that they are being treated ethically and with respect, that their basic human rights are being respected, that nobody is being abused or wrongfully treated, that workers aren't being overworked and that the company is providing to its workers everything that they need in order to be productive but most importantly safe. Like I've mentioned, we work off of individual company standards and independent global certifications. As a company policy, we also pass on "best practices" everywhere we go - we occasionally see some really great things that we tuck away and pass on to other companies if we think it would improve their situation.
Believe it or not I'm summarizing. If you have a question about an individual topic, ask away - I'll be as specific as I can. Unlike a lot of latte sipping pseudo-intellectuals that complain about worker mistreatment and lack of rights in Guangdong province, I'm at the front line of workers rights and sandwiched in between the workers, the companies that hire them and the large retailers that buy their products. I have an insiders look and a privileged point of view regarding these issues. We actually are the ones that visit these "sweatshops." I can tell you who deserves their reputation and who doesn't, the worst thing I've seen, the coolest items I've seen being made (my job is sometimes like a daily field trip), what I like about my job/what I hate about my job, the limitations of our industry - you name it I'll try to answer it.
09/03/07 02:44 - 75ºF - ID#40912
You Honk We Drink
Don't forget about these guys!
UPDATE: (e:felly) asked... so here we are 5 hours later. They got rid of the big sign because it kept blowing over... har har har.
09/03/07 12:57 - 75ºF - ID#40908
Today I'm grilling corn on the cob! This is something I love to do. Why? Because grilled corn on the cob is effing delicious.
Our grandmother was admitted to a hospital in Jamestown on Wednesday, and nobody back home (including my father) bothered to tell me about it. Well, this isn't entirely accurate - my father called me while I was at work in Toronto, I couldn't check my messages, and when I did and called him back, he never bothered to return my call. I found out she was sick from my brother, who called me just as I pulled up to my office. How rude! In any case, she is okay but has been diagnosed with some sort of heart condition that will require her to be less active and to keep in mind that she needs to take rests when she does do things. She is 79 and up until now she's never been prescribed any kind of medication outside of a mild happy pill (she's a worrier).
So, we drove home on Friday night and I visited her at the hospital while Jason had his fantasy football draft. I brought her some dark chocolate from Fowler's but she was too tired to eat it... they ran some tests and shot that slightly radioactive fluid through her veins to detect clots or other problems. The good news is that she is out of the hospital - I feel better with her being able to sleep in her own bed. She complained about the hospital food - I understand the need for budget restraint but for Christ's sake, can't we feed these sick people something decent if they are holed up in a hospital bed? I saw her food - its borderline prisoner quality.
My general impression, obviously, of seeing my grandmother in a hospital bed was disturbing and I didn't like it at all. This was the same place that my grandfather died, and seeing my other grandparent in a similar situation reminded me of the sad fact that one day my brother, my father and I will still be together but will feel very alone. We had a highly unorthodox situation in our household growing up, but it allowed me to effectively have three parents (my dad, my grandparents) and so she is, for all intents and purposes, my mother.
The positives outside of seeing my grandmother out of the hospital was being able to hang with my hippie father and go to local farmer's market - its Jamestown but Anderson's off of Foote Ave. (if you are ever in J-Town for some reason) blows away the bullshit going down on Bidwell (or anything else around here) every weekend. I got some fabulous sweet peppers and some jalepenos. I don't know what to do with the jalepenos but I wanted them anyway - I am usually confident that I'll find something useful to do with them! Any suggestions for recipes for stuffed sweet peppers, or what to do with the jalepenos, are more than welcome. We also bought some homemade granola and some other things, but of course included in our little farmer's market adventure was the corn on the cob. I wish I could have literally bought the stand - there was so much great looking local produce along with some other local treats. Weg is local but its still ultra corporate - its nice to stuff the cash directly into the farmers' collective hands for once!
I made a recipe for escarole and bean soup with sausage that is in the fall Menu Magazine from Wegman's - it turned out great! It looks just like the picture - I did not take a picture of my soup but if you look in the Menu Magazine, there you have it. We have plenty of leftovers, but I'm sorry to say that its all spoken for! Oh, and while shopping for ingredients for the soup I pulled the :paulomatic trick of asking nicely for two flavors of the gelato - I tried the coffee and the "Tahitian vanilla." I must say - it was good but the gelato at Dolci is far creamier.
Happy birthday to those of you that I missed the wishes for - have a great week, starting with todays fleeting yet enjoyable cloudy oasis!
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