Sunday, March 16, 2014

10 Indicators of quality

Quality.  We all want it out of whatever good or service we have.  For some reason we think that we deserve the best.  Well, I got news for you.  You don't.  You deserve average at best, maybe a little worse.  Fortunately, that's what we all get usually.  But this is about Quality.  How do we decide what has quality or not?  Often our parents tell us what something of quality is.  We believe that like we believe everything else our parents tell us until we find our parents a less than reliable source.

1.  Made in the U.S.A. - I remember as a kid, this was a mark of quality.  It was how you knew something was built to last.  If it said made in China, it was junk.  Now if you had parents that came from other countries, you also gained an allegiance to that country's quality as well.  Apparently Finland makes good rifles.  But that's not all.  The made in mark also bears quality if it's struck from Japan or Germany.  Back in the 80's and 90's the cars that were built to last were Japanese/German.  Anything American built had better be a Truck.  That stereotype has lasted so long that even though the quality ratings have really evened out among most car manufacturers, it still remains.

2.  Hand Crafted - If something made in the U.S.A. is good, being hand crafted is even better.  Wow.  Made by the hand of a loving artisan.  Sure, I paid top dollar, but I got QUALITY.  In the old days when everything was made by hand because how else could you make it, there was a different phrase of both quality and effort.  Made from scratch.  Meaning all original ingredients or parts.  A cake made from scratch was of course going to be worlds apart from any pastry made out of a pre-mixed package.  You know, those little Chinese finger traps are hand crafted.  They don't last too much beyond the birthday party you got them at.

3.  Quality materials - This takes more time to decide and it is one of the most learned estimations we make.  Book cover?  Leather = high quality.  Furniture?  Leather and wood, the darker, the better. Toys?  Wood.  You are dealing with all wooden objects?  Teak or Walnut trumps Pine or Balsa.  Above all, avoid cheap plastic.  While I've often had things made of cheap plastic, I've never owned anything made of expensive plastic.

4.  If someone famous said it was good, it must be. -   Celebrity endorsements have been a long standing ingredient in advertising.  Sometimes they start to believe their own press and start endorsing other things that they aren't directly paid to do.  If a celebrity I like says something is good, it's just like a friend telling me their personal experience.  I've never sat on a bench seat that was finer than when it was made of rich Corinthian Leather.  Thanks Ricardo.

5.  Digital - Obviously anything recorded digitally will beat the socks off of anything recorded the other way.  That other way is analog and it's how our ears hear.  Doesn't matter though.  I know that anything worth it's salt in the sound waves, are being recorded digitally.  This came around as a way to sell these CD's all the kids were playing.  Shiny disc's that had the same sound over and over and over.  No more having parties at the first playing of a record because that will be its best play.  No more polishing diamond tips and wiping off turn table areas with special cloths.  Now of course we are slowly letting go of the CD as a medium, but the digital recording still remains.

6.  German Engineering - One of the many stereotypes that nobody seems to be complaining about.  If you are German, it is assumed that you must be a good engineer.  Along the same lines as if you are tall and black, you must be a good basketball player, or if you are Jewish, you make a good investment banker or jeweler.  Yep, stereotypes one and all.  Doesn't stop German car companies from saying 'German Engineering' in nearly every commercial they aired from the 80's to the turn of the Century and beyond.  Even other stereotypes have benefited from their German roots.  The Amish are just the Germans that lead a selfless life devoid of convenience and technology and make good space heaters. Also count on the Swiss to make watches and clocks.  In America the Swiss, Germain and Austrian countries should have been called Germauswiss.  Because we kind of think they are in the same place.

7.  Disney - You know Disney has never made a bomb, ever.  Nope, not one.  Just because you are a household name, doesn't make you a good household name.  You need to have quality associated with you.  Disney has it in spades.  What, you're going to bring up the 80's for Animation?  Sit down.  The black hole?  Shut up you.  Failed attempts at a historical theme park in Virgina?  Messing up the legal system by claiming copyright on characters that should have been in the public domain decades ago?  Hey, you can't control the quality if you can't control who owns the characters.  Bottom line is, when it comes to entertainment, you look to Disney.

8.  All Natural Ingredients - I love this one.  It appeals to the idiot in all of us.  When you hear all natural, you envision some straw hat wearing farmer straight out of The Grapes of Wrath hand picking each ingredient and placing them in his canvas bag, talking to the honey bees along the way and stopping for a moment to wipe the sweat off of his sun drenched brow and drink a swallow of well water from a ladle.  Now THOSE granola bars have quality.  Never eat anything you can't pronounce!  We have whole stores dedicated to this bit of quality assumption.  Brimming with food that looks smaller and spoils faster than it's 'big box' counterparts.  But you know it's got quality!

9.  Swiss Chocolate - Chocolate has a quality marker.  I'm afraid Hershey's isn't it.  Hershey is to Swiss chocolate (notice one has a name brand, the other couldn't be more general) as a Yugo is to an entry level Nissan.  No real comparison.  Of course, there are the Belgians, Germans and Dutch with their own chocolates.  There are those that still prefer Hershey's brand and once Hershey bought Cadbury (English) they got a lot more candy recipes.  I on the other hand tend to prefer Swedish chocolate.  So this whole point is lost on me.  I only know that if you are looking for Cocoa they didn't call it Swiss Miss just because it rhymed.

10. Longevity - Often, when we have no other means of determining a product or service's quality, we will go to the longevity of the company offering it.   Companies know this.  That's why you'll see something on the company front that says EST 1998 or something like that when they are young to tell us in a flurry of mixed phrases, 'Hey, we're not just some wet behind the ears Johnny come lately, we've been around the block and this ain't our first rodeo'.  Companies that have gone on long enough go from being recognized, to being household names.  If you are lucky, your brand name will become THE name.  Kleenex is a good example.  A while back a refrigerator was called a frigidare not a refrigerator.  Now it's just a fridge.

Well, I hope you find this blog of some quality.  If not, then you'll have to put up with quantity.  But not that much.  in another 15 days or so.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

10 ways to know if you are playing team politics.

From time to time I get on about team politics.  By team politics, I mean a person that has identified themselves as a member of one political group or another, so strongly that they can scarcely see the good in the opposition or bad on their own team.  They do this instead of weigh the planks of either platform and decide if that party's platform more closely resembles their thoughts than the alternative.  The problem with this, is the parties start to respond to this kind of behavior by doing things that better the party instead of better the country.  I have rarely written much about politics, but I feel this needs to be said because if we can't orient ourselves to the betterment of our nation instead of our pride we will find ourselves with an increasingly unresponsive government much like the one we enjoy today.  For those of you that aren't politically minded, politics aren't the only thing people play teams with.

10.  I wish I'd said that! - When you hear the other side say something that makes a good point, instead of giving them the credit for a well thought out point you resent your own side for not having made it.  Because when you are all in for one side, you are only about points and nothing else.

9.  They are idiots - When you are rooting for a team, you have to pick apart the opponent one way or another.  The vague estimation of their intelligence is the easiest way to promote your team by tearing them down with no specific proof.  It's just here say.  After all, they MUST be idiots, they are playing for the other team.  But assuming that someone is stupid OR smart based on one or two events or phrases makes you the idiot.

8.  They are great people! - Much like studies that have a theory they are trying to promote, scientists often look at data with a skew in interpretation towards the outcome they are looking for.  We do the same when we start looking up people we either side with or are against.  We will mentally cull all the information that does not support our assumptions about that individual.  They are evil bastards or saints.  I would suspect that in this world, most people have a bit of both good and bad in them on BOTH SIDES.  Our job should be to promote the good ones not the team no matter who they have on it.

7.  We never argue - If you can't look at the flaws on your side's players, you are probably a team cheerleader.  How can 2 parties possibly have all the answers for all of the people in our country on either side?!  Of course they can claim to, it's their job to proclaim that they are the last word in governance.  If we get back to the idea of representative government, we realize that some things we should support are actually claimed as ideological points on the other side and they should support some of ours.  Not because they are giving in on their ideological ground, but because it's what is the most right for our country.

6.  I always vote - This one is a bit more tricky.  If you always vote, but you rarely look into the candidates or the issues you are voting for, this means you are letting someone else tell you how to vote.  You are the water boy/girl for that team.  An important thing to always bear in mind is BOTH SIDES see politics as money and not much more.  Sure, once in a while there are people that are actually idealistic about public service, but that usually only lasts until the first lobbyist's campaign check.  Voting without researching what you are voting for because its 'your right' is like grabbing a gun and shooting it off into the air without thinking that it probably has to land somewhere.  Often, that bullet will land harmlessly somewhere where it doesn't matter much, but there is a remote chance that that bullet will matter a lot.

5. Serves them right! - Cheering when the opposition to your party is caught in something dubious is at best counterproductive.  It shows that what is being done doesn't matter nearly as much as that they were caught in the act of something.  Well, if your side hasn't been caught in enough situations with their collective pants down, then maybe it's fair to do so, but even then, it's not charitable.  But THEY aren't charitable with us so so so so.  Yes, I know.  YAY TEAM.  *yawn*

4.  Well, you have to put the situation in context. - Looking deeply on your side to try to find a plausible reason as to why your side screwed up, and justify it.  The deeper you look and the more websites you try to find to justify your position, the more you are just buying jerseys on behalf of your team.  Try to think why you can't take your bad news on face value like you do in number 5?  Hmm...

3.  The important thing is who's fault it is - This one is pretty special because it usually happens when two team players face off in a grand show of who's team is best.  Usually by taking one issue and then following it down to who's fault the failure is.  What is interesting is, there are SO many issues to choose from that Government has screwed up.  Who wins?  Both Teams!  Who loses?  You do.  What might be even more interesting is what can be done to fix any given problem.  Often I've found that the problems are much more complicated than the one liner antidotes that I have heard (or even given myself).

2.  Well, at least we aren't THEM - Oh the 3rd party.  The enemy of my enemy, should be my friend right?  Not in this case.  When a 3rd party candidate shows up, many people complain because they will split the vote of the candidate they are most like giving the other side a plurality victory.  This has happened a few times in our history and it wasn't THAT bad.  What concerns the team player is that it's not fair to have another team on the field.  It's just not done.  If a 3rd party is not a part of the system, they are not a part of the inside knowledge that politics is a show for the people not unlike professional wrestling.  A 3rd candidate is like a different franchises wrestling crew.  Who likes them?  They are horrible.  They don't know what they are doing. We need professionals.  Well, if politics is by the people and for the people, I would hope that we have fewer instead of more professional politicians.

1.  You don't even know the story, but you're sure they are wrong.  - Fox news?  Must be that stinking Republican Channel.  MSNBC?  Gotta be those tree hugging lefties.  Instead of looking for sources for the story, team players look for the stories outlet as a guide as to weather or not it's actually factual.  I've done this myself from time to time and have found that I'm missing on really cogent points of view.  I may still not agree with them, but to see them intelligently put together in a way that is informative is not the purview of any one news outlet or even a reporter.  Everyone is allowed their version of the truth.  This is not to say that the press is not the BIGGEST bunch of team players out there.  They are.  Make no mistake.  When it comes to political punditry, you can see pretty quickly that the press is not an outside observer of the machine, but rather an integeral cog.

Just remember kids, Bigotry,  is ANY time you paint with a broad brush your anecdotal judgments on to the canvas of an entire group and assume they are valid.  Play nice.  We should be people first, political animals 5th.  See you in 15.