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Last Visit 2011-01-17 23:04:23 |Start Date 2004-11-03 18:51:40 |Comments 1,935 |Entries 529 |Images 250 |Videos 22 |

09/06/07 07:58 - 88ºF - ID#40976

iPhone price update

Apple, if you don't already know, lowered the price of their $600 iPhone to $400. For those of you who already own an iPhone, Steve-o is offering you a $100 store credit, so go find out how you can claim what is yours!

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.
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Category: work

09/05/07 07:32 - 86ºF - ID#40958

What We Do

Probably the most complicated question I ever get asked is, "what do you do?" This isn't the sort of question that I can blurt out three syllables to give a good answer. Since I was asked to describe my job in a journal entry, here it is!

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.
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09/03/07 02:44 - 75ºF - ID#40912

You Honk We Drink

I already wrote a journal entry today (see below) but I couldn't ignore these guys if I wanted to... they are set up directly across the street.

image

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.

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09/03/07 12:57 - 75ºF - ID#40908

Labor Day

Just remember, its only temporary. Unless you are un or underemployed (you know who you are), tomorrow you get to return to the grind and today is simply an oasis. Keeping this in mind, even though its cloudy outside, enjoy it!

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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08/28/07 11:26 - 74ºF - ID#40778

iPhone Hacked

Today's top story on Yahoo! -

Supernerd George Hotz, 17-year old whiz kid and future brain mechanic, managed (with the help of some online collaborators, no less) to unlock his iPhone so that he could use T-Mobile, or most of the other networks for that matter. What did he do? He traded his modified phone for a car and 3 new iPhones. The party he traded his phone to say that there are no plans "on the table" to commercialize this. *COUGH.* Sure pal, sure.

In any case, bravo George! I love it when kids are too smart for their own good and then parlay their know-how to their benefit like this.

Oh, Elmwood Art Festival - glad its over. I look forward to the festival but dealing with the annoyance of it all brings out the curmudgeon in me. Its fun for the first couple of hours, until strangers decide that your private residence is a perfect place to park their lazy asses to lick an ice cream cone and can't bear to walk the 250 feet to the pre-prepared food tent, complete with seating. Not to mention that the trash that people leave behind is ridiculous - who drops plastic wrappers in a rose garden and walks away? In general its a pain in the ass, but the neighborhood cheerfully puts this show on every year. One year I came home only to see a drunk guy passed out on my porch, with his friend sitting there with him telling me, "its cool man, its cool." No it isn't and get the fuck off my porch!

The good things involved gelato at Dolci, a couple fresh-filled canolis for (e:jason) and I and a new ashtray that I bought for $6. I got a pulled pork sandwich at Fat Bob's stand, which came without a bun because they ran out by 2PM. I have to say, the meat was completely flavorless - Fat Bob's Smokehouse is a joke. Dolci claims that they are the only place in the area that fresh fills canolis on a regular basis - is this true? There were some other items at the food court that looked interesting - I'm sure that this was well-received by the visitors. My only request - can we sort out this problem w/not serving alcohol? All I wanted was some sangria mixed with ice and I came home with an ashtray and flavorless pulled pork in a cup!

For once I was actually enthusiastic about some of the things I saw at this festival. A woodworker was demonstrating his skills making items using a pedal-powered saw - how cool! This guy was attracting a crowd of spectators and the kids definitely enjoyed it. Also, some paintings and other pictures I saw were truly impressive and not as obscenely priced as in the past. I saw a painting I wanted - $75. Unfortunately for the painting I'm about to buy a Chelsea FC home shirt, hehe. Planet Love had their hippie t-shirts, and other places had tie-dye items. I found myself admiring some of the different ceramic items - if I had a place for this stuff they would have made for excellent room decorations. I felt that some of the ceramic items were far too expensive, however. $16 for a ceramic mug? You're having a laugh! I saw a t-shirt I was so tempted to buy that I'm sure you saw if you walked the festival - Keep Elmwood Freaky! Ahhh... irony.

I was most pleased to see multiple areas where music was being performed - SORT YOURSELF OUT ALLENTOWN ART FESTIVAL! You cannot have a proper street festival without live music being performed - period, end of story. Generally I enjoyed the festival this year and we did have some great weather on Sunday to properly enjoy it. While I do complain about the problems that having this festival on my block brings along with it, there is a certain amount of pride in having an opportunity to show off your neighborhood in this way. You have to prepare for this festival - buy up all the beer and food you can get, park your car somewhere legal, don't expect to move your car unless you leave late at night, and just enjoy the two days.

Oh, and Mike Niman was hanging outside the front of my house on Saturday. For a guy on government salary as a professor, for Christ's (and everyone elses) sake couldn't he manage to clean himself up a little? It reminded me of that hilarious picture of him taken in the back seat of a cop car after being arrested by Buffalo's finest - during an altercation involving Critical Mass. That was the funniest thing the Beast ever published... hate to give them credit but cheers!
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08/24/07 10:13 - 77ºF - ID#40705

Various

This morning during the drive to work I wondered to myself about the decorations in my bedroom. They are spartan, to be polite about it. I never spend active time in there. I do have some artwork and various things given to me by friends, but in my own opinion probably the strangest thing in my bedroom is the Swedish flag I have hanging behind my bedpost. This leads me to the question - am I better off keeping the Swedish flag up, or am I better off with nothing at all on that wall?

Michael Vick. Unless you live by yourself under a rock you know that a famous athlete named Michael Vick is facing some time in the pokey for being part of a dogfighting ring. The entire thing is very disturbing to me and I worry that this is going to spiral out of control.

The federal government has proof that he financed and provided facilities where these pitbulls would fight each other to the death, and the losing dogs would be hung/stabbed/sliced/beat to death if they weren't dead already. I think its a fair implication that he attended these fights, but some of the allegations against him made by his "boys" that are singing like canaries to avoid max sentences themselves are affecting what the public think of him unfairly. His "boys" say that he participated in these dog killings himself. There is absolutely NO proof of that besides what these highly suspicious, completely uncredible (if thats a word) "witnesses" are saying. Yet, what do the people believe if you set out a poll? People believe that he killed the dogs himself with his bare hands, or with a chain, or with a bat. You can thank PETA for that, since after hearing these allegations that he personally killed some of these dogs they have launched a full scale assault on the Atlanta Falcons. I fucking HATE that organization, but that topic is for an entire journal entry of its own.

This brings me to a larger point. By no means am I defending Mike Vick - its obvious that he is at least guilty of facilitating this entire thing and will almost certainly be facing jail time on a federal sentence. His football career is over, despite what the Atlanta NAACP thinks - they believe that he should return to the NFL after serving his sentence. They also feel that this is racially motivated, naturally. The very existence of the NAACP relies on the perpetuation of the racial divide, which is a sinister fact.

The larger point is that we cannot trust the legal system in combination with the media. The Duke case made it blatantly obvious that this is true - those kids got completely screwed over by their own school, were castigated, impuned, maligned, and for what? They were innocent and it was proved that the prosecutor was merely pursuing this case, despite any credible evidence, to try to propel him to a re-election. The legal system, the media and Duke University failed spectacularly. Now we are in a position where Michael Vick, the biggest star of the biggest sport in America, is being accused of additional horrendous things by, frankly, a bunch of thugs and the public and the media are lapping it up as if the words came from the lips of God himself. When will they ever learn?

Vick is a son of a bitch for thinking that any of this was okay, and for facilitating this horrendous activity. There is absolutely NO proof that he killed a dog himself. Did he provide the money, the animals, the trafficking and the facilities? It looks that way. Should he go to jail if/when he is found guilty of what he is charged against? Obviously. Should people be calling him a dog murderer? In an oblique sense, yes, but in the manner in which he is being accused? No!

This is exactly what the prosecutors and the media want, and the media is 100% guilty of perpetuating all of this. Because people believe almost anything they see on television, people think that Michael Vick participated in killing 8 dogs. All of this is based on the word of a couple of idiots who actually did a lot of the dirty work themselves and are desperate to lessen their own prison time. This is how the legal system works in America - generally speaking, the people who are most guilty are simply bait used to try to capture a bigger fish. This is incredibly wrong - people in America should be judged solely on their own guilt, based on the facts of the matter. Instead, the media sees itself fit to serve as judge and jury in the court of public opinion regardless of the facts. We live in an incredibly depressing time.

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08/13/07 02:05 - 69ºF - ID#40507

Drama Girls

Drama girls that participate on this site - you know who you are. I'm declaring a full assault on the utter and complete fucking BULLSHIT spouted on this site.

There has been a contingent on this site that have approached me "offline" to release the hounds and tell some of you hapless females the truth. So - I've decided to do so. I will do so completely uninvited... a few of you are so in need of a straight guy to give it to you double barrels, unfiltered, real and raw, that I can't stand to sit by and watch/read any of this anymore.

Sometimes, you simply need to hear that you should give it up - that he obviously doesn't want you. Sometimes you need to hear that chances are, if he isn't calling back, its because he's seen enough and has no interest in pursuing it further, unless it means he can get some sex from the deal. Sometimes, some of you don't realize that you may have nothing to offer the guy, yet have impossible, unrealistic expectations. Once in a while, you are actually right and the guy is a turd.

You want to know the truth? Ask me before I tell you. There are some ladies reading this right now that may be thinking I'm talking about them, and chances are you are correct - if it is so I'll say it. I want to do this because, for those certain ladies I'm talking about, I think you're incredibly sexy, attractive women that need to be told two things. Firstly, that you're fucking sexy and any guy would be lucky to have you, if they bothered to dig deep enough and can live with any personality conflicts. I think you are hot. Secondly, and this is the hard part, that your attitude needs to change if you don't want to be single or constantly in and out of relationships when you're 40. While I can't guarantee success with relationships, what I can guarantee is that you'll get uncomfortably blunt yet necessary information that will help you along in your quest to find someone relatively permanent. If you don't ask me, chances are I'll volunteer this information anyway as you post puzzling relationship-themed entries in your journal. As you realize that I was right, you'll rue me but secretly admit that you're glad that somebody told you.

You are going to get help, whether you like it or not. The time for wondering and guessing is over. The reason why you struggle is because nobody is telling you what you need to know. Be mad at me if you want, but just know that if I didn't think you were worth the effort I wouldn't bother saying anything at all.

I want to tell a not-so-secret secret right now about the Ho sisters. There is a lot more than meets the eye with these two fine ladies. One is the older sister who tells it to you straight, and the younger sister is the one that nobody realizes has a lot more depth to her than people bother to try to find out about. I thrive on learning what makes people tick. Ladies, what is so wrong about starting out with who you are, rather than who you imagine the guy across the table wants to meet?
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08/09/07 03:14 - 76ºF - ID#40454

Yawn.

I'm tired. WHO'S WITH ME?!
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08/08/07 11:55 - 81ºF - ID#40441

I just got headhunted!

I can't believe this, but a recruiter from Bentonville, Ark. just called our office to talk to me about quitting my job and going to work for a New York-based contractor to "Uncle Wally." Basically what they need is someone who knows their way around Retail Link, which is an in-house, web based utility that allows "Uncle Wally" to talk to its customers.

Straight up, after talking to this guy about my background for a few minutes, he asked me directly what terms it would take to get me to quit my job. He also told me that he would have something lined up that was good enough to make it impossible to ignore.

I know that these people are recruiters and they get paid on their ability to deliver qualified candidates, but I thought it was the damnedest thing that he was calling me directly at my office, while I was working, to get me to quit!

What he doesn't know is that this piece of fruit is ripe for the picking, but why give up that information to a recruiter right away? I prefer to see what he's offering before showing any cards.

In any case, my coworker says that I should at least listen to what he has to say. His company hires people that have had direct experience with Wal-MartcoughcoughcoughUNCLEWALLY, so I figure at the least I'll keep his company in mind when I'm going to jump ship and want to move. The typical position his company hires for have salary ranges between $60k-$140k, and if I can develop a good rapport with the recruiter, even if I don't take this particular job, I'm sure he'll consider me in the future.
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08/06/07 03:17 - 83ºF - ID#40409

Market Meltdown?

A guy that I think is absolutely brilliant, a market savant - Jim Kramer - practically shit his pants on national television last Friday afternoon by going on a belligerent tirade over what he views is the Fed's complacency concerning a potential upcoming major market collapse. See it for yourself here -



Its obvious that this guy thinks that we are in for some major league economic trouble, and his solution is for the Fed to cut rates. Some people are put off by Kramer because of his rough around the edges approach to his show, but keep in mind that this guy has been in the market for 25 years and personally managed hundreds of millions of dollars for Goldman Sachs. If he wasn't such an insider I wouldn't be alarmed.
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paul said to lilho
Congrats on love. So you are a a taxi driver now?!...

libertad said to joe
Haha, I love that pic of me and Mike. Laughing is good!...

libertad said to joe
That's for sure a gaping hole! ...

joe said to joe
Okinawan!...