Passing grade in feining kiss-ass

I had to go into work early Friday after having the previous two days off.   The reason for this was a change in my schedule due to the arrival of a VP of the company for a little ‘look-see’ and ‘press-the-flesh’ the executives do before major holidays.  Most of the time they’re ensconced over in Buffalo, much like the executives were in Syracuse with the last company I worked for.  They only ventured out for what they deemed ‘important’ dates, and the places they go have to ‘spruce-up’ and make nice for them, so they can see how the other half lives.  Except they never get the full measure (and they know it), because no one tells them how things are really going.

So to me, it’s a dog and pony show.  And it always has been.

The only time I’d ever been impressed with the manner in which an executive ever visited places was when I was working for the previous employer, and there was a hired gun brought in from California (it soon turned out to be an enormous clusterfuck, but it started out promising).  His method, at least in the beginning, sidestepped the normal method of pre-sprucing places for visits.  He would go to the stores he wanted to visit, or send in people that just shopped there, didn’t interact with the store management, and took notes on what they saw.  Who they spoke to, how they were treated, everything.  So when he went back in, in his official capacity, he could see through all the hoopla that was put in place to dazzle him.  And it worked.  He could say ‘Well, I was here last week on this day, and this happened, and I saw that, or one of my people saw this or that, experienced this thing, and why is that?”  Sure, maybe a ‘gotcha’ moment, but at least it wasn’t him showing up unawares, seeing everything looking pristine, and then walking out of the place thinking everything is great, when it never is.  These sorts of visits infuriate me.  But, I’m not allowed to say anything.  So, I don’t.  I glad-hand, make nice and get them out of my department.

I’ve worked for three different companies, and these visits are without a doubt always the same.  Spending an inordinate amount of time and money to create a visage for someone to see.  They’re trying to convince them everything they see is just fine, if there are fewer hours to work with, that’s swept under the rug.  Any other problems, same thing.  Just make nice and go on with business, as if that makes any sense.

I guess I just don’t understand the nuances of corporate executives.  If was running a company, I would want to know the crap along with the good stuff.  So I could fix the crap and make things better for not only the customers that make my business go, but the employees who are on the front lines.  But no one wants to do that.

As expected, we got word the execs were pleased with what they saw.  So, the show goes on.  And the overall problems remain.  Naturally.


Time Wasters

I’ve been playing video games since they first came out with Pong.  I’ve never really been all that adept at any of them, but when console video games came out, I, like many in my generation, spent a good deal of time plunking many quarters into the games through my teens and even into my twenties both in college and after.  When online gaming became the norm, and video arcades started to close enmasse, I still played, but with about the same amount of good fortune, except with some of the games, (usually the ones on Facebook) it again ended up costing me a good amount of money trying to come out ahead.

Which of course is the whole point of these games, to make money for their developers.  From Mafia Wars to Boom Beach, in order to get ahead, you have to end up paying a bit in order to advance the game.  Otherwise what can take mere minutes if you cough up $$, may end up taking days, if not weeks to accomplish.  The companies bank on your lack of patience, and are ready to take your money in the form of credit card payments, through your smartphone, and it’s easy money for them to gobble up.

For the most part, I don’t really play too many online games, for that very reason.  I have a low threshold of patience when it comes to waiting for something to occur, and that can be costly, considering there are usually millions of others experiencing the same thing, and paying for the privilege of getting a little bit ahead.  It’s big business, and I’m just a little fish in their pond.

Over the weekend, I was looking through Facebook and a paid ad caught my eye for a game called ‘Castle Wreck‘.  It appeared to be a very simple game, you get a cannon, and cannonballs, and fire them at castles, attempting to destroy them.  I’d been looking for a game like this for some time, where the object was pretty straightforward, and it plays into my male proclivity for both slapstick comedy and cartoon wanton destruction.

I flipped over to the Google Game Store and looked up the game, of course there’s a free version as well as a paid one.  I tried the free one to start, just to see if it would appeal to me.  Right off the bat, the ads were annoying.  Play a level, then wait 30 seconds for an ad to play.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  After about ten levels, I found I had a knack for the game, and I actually liked it enough to cough up $3.49 for the paid version.  Having the ads excised definitely made it much more appealing.  Although, on any level, after you’ve exhausted your initial complement of cannonballs, you can ‘buy’ three more by watching a 30 second ad.  But if you can’t successfully pass the level with that, there’s no more to be had, you have to reset the level and try again.

In the past two and a half days, I’ve managed to get to level 200.  Of course the game is a bit slow in loading sometimes, and I’ve been reset down 30 levels twice, which was a bit frustrating.  I checked online to see how many levels there actually are in the game, and the highest one that’s mentioned is Level 414.  Apparently as one gets close to that, the castles get harder to knock down, and there are some people reporting the game is glitching there, causing the level to be unwinnable.  I too have been experiencing some quirky behavior in the game, though I haven’ t written to the developers to mention it yet. The game was first listed on Google Play Store and the iStore around February, so its pretty much still in its infancy, compared to some of the other games out there.

Hopefully there will be some decent upgrades in the future.  At present there only seem to be a total of five separate castle designs, with a bonus level being the same design over and over.  There are no ‘points’ awarded for finishing levels, after ten or so levels you can choose a different variation on the cannon you’re using, but a lot of them are fairly silly designs.  I’ve gone back to the most basic one that I started with, because it doesn’t have anything fancy and blinking.  No distractions.  All the better to be able to aim and concentrate on the castle destruction.

I expect if it doesn’t get updated and changed, I will be tired of it after a week or so.  Since it only took me fewer than three days to reach level 200, its likely I will max it out by the weekend.  All the levels are replayable, so that helps, at least somewhat.  Should be interesting at any rate.


The search for a new vehicle is over.  We decided what we’re going to be driving for the next three years.

Wednesday, [my day off] was designated as vehicle exploration and selection day.  Our lease is up on the 2016 Ford Edge this coming Monday, and since we’ve been cooling our heels for the last month and a half waiting for Ford to get off their collective ass and get the Edge ‘pre-inspected’ before turning it in, our forays into vehicle shopping have been limited.  Add in the fact for the third time in a row, it was ‘my choice’ as my wife has for all intents and purposes not really cared what car we end up driving, so long as it has the right number of ‘bells and whistles’ features to make the experience of driving/riding more pleasurable and less of a hassle.  Things like a sun/moonroof, heated seats, driver and passenger protection in the event of a crash and so on.  If it’s a ‘beater’, we’re not interested.

We’d been to several different dealerships over the last month and a half, we looked seriously at a Subaru Forester (we’ve leased two already), but the salesperson we spoke to mentioned that they’re a hot commodity this year and finding one that was available was going to be very hit and miss.  They’re almost to the point of being like the Prius was when it first came out, everyone wants one, and there’s a limited supply.  So as he was looking at his computerized inventory, he was seeing he had more coming in (he was actually looking at July and August’s expected deliveries) but for the most part they were all spoken for.  I tried sitting in an Outback, but the same thing happened that did in 2010 when we leased that Forester, it was too cramped. Just felt like I was boxed in, in the driver’s seat and no one wants to feel like that when they’re driving.  At least I don’t.

There are a couple of local satellite dealers under the same name here where we live, and we leased the Edge from one of them in 2016.  We’re known to them, so we’ve been browsing on Sundays when there are no salespeople available.  Sure we can’t get into the vehicles, but we can nose around, look at stickers, take pictures and then do some more investigating and perusing at home on the computer, which has helped.  It’s allowed us to eliminate a lot of possibles and narrow down what sort of vehicle we’d end up getting.

With that in mind, our focus was on the Nissan brand, either in a Rogue, Pathfinder, or the mid-size/crossover version, called the Murano.  Pathfinder has been out a long time, but it’s a hefty large’ish size vehicle, and seats seven.  Rogue and Murano were the more likely candidates, but seeing as I’ve not sat in either one, or driven them, it makes more of a difference when you get behind the wheel.

In the morning, I finally got the roto-tiller fixed and I was feeling pretty pumped about that.  Around noon, my wife came out into the backyard where I was tinkering with one of the outdoor hoses and noted that I needed to get inside to get my shower so we could head to the dealership.  I gathered my tools and hot-footed it inside, zoomed upstairs and got my shower out-of-the-way, coming down in time to get out the door around 12:35.  As usual, she wasn’t expecting me to be so quick about it, so we both puttered a bit and finally got going at about 1 pm.

The drive down to the dealership is about 40 minutes, and we chatted a bit on the way there about what we were going to say to the sales people and more importantly what we were not going to say, at least in the beginning.  Many people have suggested that the interaction between you and a salesperson is a war of sorts, they have a set pattern they follow to get information from you in order to sell you what they want to, and you have to be savvy enough to know they’re not necessarily there for your best interest.  They’re there to sell (or lease) vehicles, you’re a means to the end of getting money into their pocket.  So you have to approach the situation in that manner, rather than in a friendly one, because in spite of their friendly demeanor, they’re not your friend.  At best, they’re an associate in a transaction, and best to remember that when you’re getting involved.

Driving onto the lot, we noticed someone looking over a Nissan truck, I didn’t get the model but our quarry was on another part of the lot anyway.  Driving down the rank closest to the road, we saw that they were Rogues.  Lots and lots of them, probably 50 or so of them all in a row, from one end of the dealer property to the other, extending all the way to the service department.  After driving through the rank from one end to the other, we didn’t see anything that piqued our fancies, so we went down another row, and saw that they were sedans.  Going back to the Rogue line, we concentrated on the other side, and discovered that indeed they were Muranos, so we discussed where to stop and park.  There was a distinct lack of salespeople on the lot, (as we discovered later they were in the dealer building where it was air-conditioned) so we parked and started looking at one of the Muranos closest to where we stopped.

A salesperson pulled up in a Rogue and parked it, then asked us if we had been assisted.  When we said no, he engaged us, asked us what we were looking for.  He did make a point to mention he didn’t have a lot of time, as he was looking after another customer, so at that point, I figured he was going to walk away and do that.  But he stayed with us, peppering me with questions about what we were interested in doing, whether we wanted to buy, lease or what, and what vehicles were in our price range.  After about the third round of Q&A, he reiterated that he needed to attend to his customer, to which I said we were fine on our own, and he departed, calling out over his shoulder that he was going to send out one of his co-workers to assist us.

Which he did, another fellow came out to where we were at, introduced himself as Doug and I introduced myself and my wife.  By that time we had started to look at several of the Muranos that were present, and were mostly looking at the stickers on the windows, and specifically seeking out the particular features the wife would want as definite requisites for the vehicle we’re going to be driving for the next three years.  I had been looking online a day or so ago and found one that was a gun-metal type color (Gun Metallic was the actual color option) and it just happened to be the premium version of the model.  It had all the features she had been desiring, so I had written down the VIN #, and other information and of course left the piece of paper home.  In the interim, we were looking at a black model in the same price range and Doug suggested if we wished to test drive that model, we could grab the key fob, hop in and drive it over to the dealer building where he’d get license info and we could zip out to see if we’d be at all interested in leasing it.

We took it out to onto the nearby Interstate to wind it out a little, and it performed very nicely.  My wife tried out the air-conditioned passenger seat (it had both cooling and heated options) and opened the moonroof.   Before leaving the dealership, I didn’t adjust the mirrors and immediately regretted it, since I needed both on the Interstate.  It didn’t take me long to find the controls for the side mirror, and thankfully it was pretty much the same as the Edge, so I had it adjusted in short order.  I didn’t mess around with the sound system, since I was busy trying to maintain my distance and keep going with the flow of traffic.  Even for a Wednesday afternoon it was pretty busy on the road, so I got off at an exit about 5 miles down the road, and turned about, heading back.  Once we got back to the dealership we got down into the nuts and bolts of the whole thing.

Seeing as I had no driven the Murano, I wanted to be able to compare it to the Rogue.  The salesman and I went a little round and round about that, since I just wanted to sit behind the wheel to get a ‘feel’ of the vehicle and he was more concerned with color, style, version and so on.  I finally had to stop him and just say I wanted to sit behind the wheel and it didn’t matter what color it was if it didn’t appeal to me.  He agreed and opened one up for me to sit in.

As I feared, it was a similar experience to the Subaru Outback I had sat in back in 2010 and a few weeks ago.  Pretty cramped space in the seat and the cabin of the vehicle felt pretty small as well.  So from several options we seemed to be coming around to one.  And then we went inside the dealership to figure out which ‘one’ was going to be the best option….

I’m off to bed, I’ll continue this in the next post.