Here I Stand

Here I Stand

Monday, February 4, 2013

Military Patches from WWI

Little help in the Military History department: I recently received, among other items, these two patches from my mother – they are from World War I, and I am curious as to their origin. One is clearly British or Australian, but I am not sure which regiment or outfit it belongs to. Nearly every male in my family at the time went to the Army and fought in WWI, but  family legend (possibly resulting from this patch) is that a great uncle went over before America’s involvement and served with the British. Preliminary research hasn’t yielded much as to identifying these two patches, so I figured I would turn to the internet to try and get some information. I know that there are quite a few subject matter experts out here, so I figured I would ask.

British or Australian insignia - anyone have any ideas?

Diamond "R" patch - White lettering and border, black or dark blue background. Any thoughts or information on this one?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why the World Depends on the United States

Why the world depends on the United States (and the national debt isn’t really THAT big of a deal)
There has been a lot of talk in this election year about how so much of our national debt is owned by China that we are now in their pocket. Couple that with the mountain of debt that we have racked up – trillions upon trillions of dollars, and many people, especially in the far right wing category, would have you believe that the country is doomed. Now I am not saying that the vast national debt is a good thing, or that we are spending so much more than we are bringing in is a acceptable, but in the grand scheme of world economics and politics, it is really not that big of a deal.
The truth of the matter is that the world depends on the United States – true, China and a few other global powers are gradually eroding that dependence, but it is still there. A basic understanding of global economics tells us that there is a subtle balance in the world of monetary policy and international trade. I have posted before about how a decreased value of the US Dollar could actually be a good thing for a struggling economy, as it invites more foreign investment – firms looking for good deals, and American imports seem less expensive. This is of course, temporary, as any major shift in pricing is, and will be balanced out as the wave of investment and exports gradually drive the price of the dollar back up. Anyway, I digress.
China is a world power for many reasons, but primary among this is their international economy. Who buys all of the stuff that they make? India, Brazil, Europe, yes, all of these countries, but mainly the international economy of China is supported by the United States. Our rampant consumerism drives the world economy. Our oil usage, rivaled only by China’s, keeps money flowing to a part of the world that has really no other resource. Our largest export is financial services – we manage the money of most of the world (shame on you for thinking it was Swiss bankers this whole time… it is actually on Wall Street, and commissions on almost all of those trades go to US pockets, and pay US taxes) China is investing in the US not because it wants to exert influence over us (it does, but no one really has that power beyond a few concessions that their presence on the UN Security council would have gotten them anyway) but because it has a vested interest in the United States, and in its continued success. No, they are not actively rooting for us, but neither do they want to see us fail. Global hegemony does not really benefit anyone, and no one but a naive and childish tyrant would seriously pursue anything like that. Fortunately, the only ones out there who might think it is a good idea really can’t do anything about it.
Everything in the world is based on the US Dollar. Sure, things may have appeared to have shifted to the Euro in recent years, but look where a lack of monetary policy and nationalized economic regulations have gotten them? Dropping continuously in value until the Euro is currently not much higher than the Dollar – that exchange rate is basically artificially inflated anyway, and only because the US really doesn’t feel like arguing the point.
And the US credit rating… who does the World Bank think they are downgrading us like that? The truth of the matter is that all commerce in the world is based on the idea that the United States will pay its debts. This downgrading is pure posturing on the part of an international body that only exists at the whim of the United States anyway. If the United States all of a sudden went bankrupt, or, more realistically, declared that it could not pay its debts, the global economy would see a major hiccup. No one would really know what to do, and the result would be a debt forgiveness on a massive scale just to keep the US afloat, and supporting the global economy.
There has been talk of China “Calling in their debts” or owning more land in the US than the US government. Both of these scenarios are preposterous. China and other countries make too much money off of our debt, and the major stock holder of the United States has and will always be, the American people. Look at the number of treasury bonds and government securities that are bought and sold on a daily basis. Some are, of course, bought by Chinese companies and investors, but the majority are purchased by private citizens of the US like you and me (typically through proxy’s like mutual funds, 401(k)s, managed pension plans, and the like) if, for some inexplicable reason, China were to say “okay, pay up” the United States can, and probably would, simply answer “no”… and without any real recourse or action that China could take. Sanctions would be ruinous for both our nations, and military action is so futile and out of the question it barely merits mentioning. The same goes for the Chinese government owning land in the US. It is an investment to them, not a proprietary issue. They do not own us, and we have not been mortgaged to China.
I apologize if this appears xenophobic. It is only meant to be truthful. If America fails, the world fails, and the market has a way of correcting itself to keep anything like that from happening.
Am I frustrated by rampant spending at the expense of future budgets and infrastructure? Absolutely! Do I think that we can go on hemorrhaging money the way we have without some recourse? Of course not! But neither do I fall in with the doom sayers, cynics, and partisan politicians who would have us believe that our country is in its death throes due to a national debt. We are able to continue borrowing money on the international scene because we are a good investment. The day that stops being the case is the day we have slipped so far that we are no longer a credible world power. In this dire situation, which under a worst case scenario, would be many terrible decisions and no sooner than several generations from now, we would be forced to work with what we have, using the resources of American ingenuity, worth ethic, and capitalist values to pick our country up by its boot straps and once again gain prominence. This would be a terrible and extremely painful situation, that would take years to recover from – maybe even a generation or so, but it would not destroy us. We would get through it and thrive once again. That is just how we do things.
Though it is certainly ill advised and a poor idea, borrowing and spending money we do not have will not destroy this country. The only thing that will do that is when we fail to produce, when we fail to show our worth as a nation, when we are no longer held in awe and esteem – because make no mistake, we are. Even by our enemies. When foreign powers stop lending us money and stop investing in our infrastructure; THAT is when we need to worry – not when we are extended a seemingly endless, and potentially foolish, line of credit by the world at large.
The world depends on the United States. It has for nearly a century. If we fail, the world fails. Both the great depression and our current recession have had an impact on a global scale that prove just that. Of course, there are rivalries, intrigues, plot twists, and manipulations galore, but ultimately, we are all in this together.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bad Business Decision of the Day: Carl's Jr. CSU-Long Beach Student Union

Bad Business Decision of the day: Carl’s Jr. CSU-LB Student Union
After work and before class the other day I went to Carl’s Jr. At school to grab a bite to eat. I ordered my food and asked for a small coke. The guy informs me that they are out of small cups, and they can only sell me a medium. Well, if they are out of small cups, through no fault of my own, should they not offer me a free upgrade? This seems logical, as it is clearly the responsibility of the establishment to provide what the customer wants, right? Apparently, this is incorrect. I was informed that the cashier cannot do that, as then they would be “losing money” on the deal, because clearly, the $.30 difference between the cost of a medium and the cost of a small eats too much into their profit margin. This makes sense… until you take into account that the profit margin on soft drinks is already ridiculously high, and one of the largest money makers for the fast food industry, and restaurants in general. There is typically a 5-600% markup on even a small coke.  This is the reason many fast food joints put in self service soft drink fountains – it streamlines the business process enough that they are still turning hire profits by allowing their staff to concentrate on speed of service and food processing (which has a dismal margin of around 6-8%) keeping in mind the free refills that this offers, it still does not erode profits enough for it to be regulated or controlled at the local level.
The free refills are of note, as I would have received roughly the same amount of coke no matter what size I purchased or was issued. The question then becomes, am I willing to pay the marginal cost between the small and the medium, for a product that is already marked up and I am loathed to pay restaurant pricing for in the first place? The answer is no, no I am not. I take a water and leave. The cashier, and likely the manager as well, who instructed him to try and sell people medium drinks instead of the smalls they requested are being penny wise and pound foolish – they missed out on a sale of $1.69 in order to push a sale of $1.99. They are left with only the sale of the very low margin food, without the extremely high margin soft drink to augment it. Moreover, with the marginal rate difference between what I wanted and what they tried to sell me, and the loss of the sale, it will take six more sales of an inflated medium soft drink (meaning people who wanted a small, but are willing to pay extra for the medium… not people who are buying a medium anyway) in order to make up for my one lost sale. They completely missed the big picture on this, and in the extremely low margin world of fast food, losing sales can quickly be compounded.
Customer loyalty is one of the most important features in the restaurant industry – it is far cheaper to keep a customer than to create a new one. I am not saying that I will never eat at a Carl’s Jr. again, but I was a bit disappointed in the lack of customer care. I will admit that the amount of ownership, however misguided, exhibited by the employee was impressive, but when you set up shop on the campus of a highly rated business school, be prepared for critiques of your business.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Know your Suit!

Know your suit! Peaked vs. Notched lapels
If you’re like most men, you pick your suit based on how it looks and how it fits. You know what you like, and you know what feels good, but that is about as far as many of us ever go. In truth, it is not necessary to know all of the how’s and they why’s and the what’s that go into the makeup of what you wear. After all, there are people who make a career out of worrying about this sort of thing so that you don’t have to. But remaining completely ignorant of what you put on your back is akin to knowing nothing about the car you drive. Unacceptable! Any self respecting man ought to be able to open his hood and explain the basics of how the internal combustion engine works. The same should be true for one’s attire.
I am not saying that a man should tailor his own cloths or know the ins and outs of bolts of cloth, but being able to tell a tailor what you want in how you dress will not only gain you a knowing smile and a nod, but also make the entire process of bespoke clothing far more enjoyable and simple.
Volumes could be written on the intricacies and nuances of a well cut suit. I will not bore you with such a tome. Instead, I’ll offer a few pieces of information to keep you informed, possibly adding on at various intervals to keep things interesting. We can begin with what is often the first thing noticed about a suit, yet rarely actually noted: The lapels.
There are two major types of lapels that one typically sees on a suit, the Notched lapel and the peaked lapel. Sartorial purists will note that I am omitting a shawl collar. Though a smooth, and clean look, the shawl collar is far more prevalent on tuxedos, and only very rarely on a suit or sport coat. As such, it is not germane to this discussion.
A lapel is notched when its line is broken by a deep V cut into the side. These are identical on each side, and usually around a third of the way down the lapel.
Notched Lapel
A peak, on the other hand, does not offer a smooth line, and contains a cut in the fabric where a barb or peak points upward from the lapel. These types of lapels were far more common back in the day than they are now, but they add an air of formality to a suit.

Peaked lapel
Upon inspection – because yes, I had to look – every suit in my closet has a notched lapel. This is the standard, go-to cut of a suit these days, and while you don’t have to go out of your way to find a peaked lapel, they are much less common. A peaked lapel is a throwback to the days of the wider collars, and can be seen adorning some double breasted suits. This could serve well to an add an old fashioned or classic flair to your attire. They are just as likely to be found on a tuxedo jacket as a shawl or notched collar, and the ridged lines of a peaked may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Wear what is right for you, but know what you wear, and why.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Comisario Tequila Anejo

Comisario Tequila Anejo

Tequila, like many hard liquors, has gotten a bad reputation from ignorant young people who don’t know how to drink, or appreciate a good spirit. Good tequila, and especially an Anejo, is not to be taken in a shot glass, and certainly doesn’t need a chaser. It deserves to be sipped, savored, and caressed, to be appreciated and enjoyed. Comisario Tequila’s oak aged Anejo is one of the finest of such tequilas that I have had.

With a deep gold color, and an immediate nose of pepper and agave, the Comisario Anejo lets you know right of the bat what you’re getting into. The nose is fierce and stinging, which gives way to the familiar bite that we all know comes with tequila. Where this anejo differs though, is how it smooths out in your mouth. What begins as a sharp tingling gives way to a soft, smooth, warming as it slides down, leaving behind notes of pepper, caramel, and oak.

Berger & Argenti Mooch

Berger & Argenti Mooch

The Berger & Argenti Mooch is a cigar that has been in my humidor for quite some time now, and I had just never had occasion to smoke it. I am not overly familiar with B&A cigars, and truthfully was just introduced to them by a brand rep less than a year ago who goes by the name Cigar Man Andy (look him up, you won’t be disappointed) I had smoked a few with him on occasion, and although good, the light hearted and pleasant company kept me from paying too much attention to my smoke, and this may be why I always thought of the Berger & Argenti sticks as good cigars, but not particular stand outs. The Mooch, however, has redefined my opinion of the brand.

Light in color, with a Connecticut shade wrapper, the long, lean Mooch was light and soft to the touch, giving, with hardly any oils. The pre light aroma was nuanced and delightful, with notes of cedar, caramel, heavy cream, and coffee.

The cigar lit up easily, with a light, easy draw that was open and smooth. There was an immediate wave of flavor, though layered, and subtle. The medium bodied smoke contained a complex taste of toasted sugar, cream, and toasted almonds, though without being nutty. This cigar was smooth and sweet, while mild and nuanced.  Far too complex to be a beginner’s smoke, despite its light and flavorful smoke, the intricacies would be lost on those not already accustomed to the leaf. Paired with a decent Chilean Carmenere, I was careful to keep the wine and the cigar separate, else the one influence the other. This is a smoke that will definitely have to find a place in my humidor, and would be a good way for intermediate or advanced smokers to refine and expand their palette.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why Hiring a Veteran Could Be The Best Thing You do for Your Business.

According to the latest numbers by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Businessweek, there are nearly half a million unemployed veterans in the United States. The unemployment rate for this highly respected and qualified subset of America far exceeds that of their same age, race, and educational demographics that have not served, and this is truly a crime. The unemployment rate for veterans age 18-24 is over 30% as compared to 15.3% for non-vets in the same age group. What is worse is that the trend keeps going. More and more veterans are becoming unemployed, all while more and more non-vets are getting jobs. This is a huge pool of untapped talent that many employers simply have never even considered for their open positions. True enough, it can be daunting for an interviewer to look down at a resume laced with bullets points about, well, bullets. I mean what does leading a fire-team in combat, being honor graduate from a long range reconnaissance course, or writing training plans for an infantry battalion have to do with honest work in respectable society? Quite a bit, I assure you. In fact, hiring a veteran could be the best thing that you could do for your business.
                Lets overlook the obvious advantages – the $2500 tax credits that can be applied to your company’s returns for hiring a soldier, the federal programs covering a percentage of your newly employed veteran’s salary, the vocational training programs to ensure your new employee is well versed in the most up to date business practices, or the myriad of state and local programs designed to aid and reward businesses that employ veterans. Any CFO or Human Resources director worth their weight would already know this, and right or wrong, let us assume that they do. Lets also overlook the moral obligation that we, as a society, may, and ought to feel toward those among us who raised their right hand and pledged to give their life, if necessary, supporting our nation during a decade of war. These men and women come home from enduring unimaginable hardships and are often ostracized, labeled, mistrusted, and cast out by the very society they have been fighting for. We can overlook this obligation because of course our readers would have the moral fortitude to do the right thing, take a chance, and offer more to our returning veterans than a half hearted “thank you for your service” that drips more of disdain and pity rather than admiration and respect. All of this should go without saying, and to be honest, employing a veteran is its own reward. This article, however, is about the skills and experience that those who have served can offer to the modern business world.
                I have said in the past the translating military skills and experience into civilian jobs requires a bit of creative interpretation, but this does not mean that one has to use their imagination or make things up. What are some of the most basic qualities and characteristics that employers say they want in the people they hire? Show up on time, work well in a team, take responsibility for their actions, get results, actually do their job… oddly enough, there is a large portion of the employed population for which these simple characteristics are completely foreign.  I am not going to deign to make assumptions about the current crop of entry level employees, but what I have observed in the business world from the entitlement generation is not promising. 
                Don’t get me wrong – I have been fortunate enough to work for two Fortune 500 companies, including my current position, and the level of dedication and competence by the vast majority of their staff is exceptional. Veterans cannot fool ourselves into thinking that our military service gives us a monopoly on hard work and drive in today’s society, because that simply is not the case. There can be no resting on one’s laurels, and military experience is no substitute for knowledge base and required skills or prerequisites.
                But at the same time, much of what we offer is intangible. They are necessary additions to the successful function of any business, and while often overlooked as a given, they are most certainly not. There are many similar essays out there on the leadership qualities of veterans, and how they can help push a business to the next level. There are even more on veterans’ stellar performance under pressure, and how the rigors of combat shape them into steady, confident citizens. All of this is well known. What is not often discussed, though, is their resourcefulness, their drive and determination, and the fact that for most of us out there, failure is simply not an option.
                A veteran will do what it takes to get the job done. If they aren’t familiar with a computer program, they will learn it. If they’ve never driven a particular fork lift, they will figure it out. If a deadline is looming and everyone at the office is too tired, a veteran is the kind of person who will put on the coffee, pound and energy drink (possibly a Rip It), and get the job done, whether they are particularly vested in that project or not. In the military, we train to standard, not to time, and there are two ways to do anything: The Right Way, and Again. This “Good enough for government work” stereotype comes from bureaucracies, not from the uniformed services. If we are wrong, people die.
Blind obedience is also a myth. There is this ridiculous concept that men and women in the military do what they are told, no matter what, and cannot function without orders. It is true that those who have worn the uniform see the world slightly differently than others, but we see challenges to be overcome, and problems to be solved. We are intelligent and resourceful, creative and confident. If there is an issue, we will deal with it, and not rely on a supervisor to tell us how.
                We show up on time. We work late if we have to. We don’t complain (because hey, it could ALWAYS be worse) We do our jobs, and we know the duties of our superiors, so if necessary, we can do their jobs too. We don’t get rattled, we don’t get stressed, and we set an example for those around us. As GEN George Patton famously said “I am a soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight” – the same is true today, both on and off the battlefield. Veterans are not used to failure, and more often than not, it is simply an unacceptable outcome.  There are many in the business world that are willing to “Take a loss and move on.”  Not us. There is a reason why those who wear the US Army’s Ranger Tab declare that they will “Fight on to the ranger objective, though I be the lone survivor” – Veterans don’t quit. This is not to say we cannot recognize a bad decision or situation. After all, the first rule of battle for hundreds of years has been to “never reinforce failure.” It means we consider a different approach, a different angle, or if our position IS untenable, we still find a way to complete our objective. Being tactically flexible is not something that is taught in business school.
                The learning curve for veterans is far shorter than with other demographics. Most of my evidence is anecdotal, and taken through experience, but there are dozens of surveys and statistics that show veterans as being better students in college and with a quicker grasp of foreign concepts – be it a foreign language, or a computer program. Veterans learn quickly, and they figure things out on their own. They do what they need to do to get the job done, and more often than not, they will surprise and employer.
                Far too often I have gone into interviews and been told “Thank you for your service, but you’re not what we’re looking for” with a resume that is far more business oriented than many I know. Some employers see military service as a liability rather than the mark of distinction that it truly is. They don’t see that a solid veteran in their position can lift up those around them, and bring the entire team to a higher level. 
                 If you’re a veteran, then you and I both know that your real resume is written on your face. It is in the set of your jaw, and the firmness of your handshake. It is in how you carry yourself, and how you treat those around you. I know that you can, and will, get the job done, but it will take more than that to get hired. It is up to you to put those skills on paper, and to convince someone of it who may have a very disillusioned view of the world you have come from. It is daunting, but it is not impossible. If you are an employer who cannot see beyond the stigmas and stereotypes of the uniform they used to wear, then in the long run, it is simply your loss, but right now, as our nation stands today, it affects us all. Besides, hiring a veteran might just be the best thing you can do for your business.