Friday, July 27, 2007

Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.

My experience is that Canadians often tip minimally, and the service in Canadian restaurants reflects this.
Americans tip better than Canadians, but they also expect better service.

So when Canadians visit the US, the wait staff are annoyed with them because they tip 8%.
When Americans visit Canada, the wait staff are annoyed with them because they seem spoiled and demanding.

Low- or non-tippers often get tetchy about being made to feel obligated, and excuse their (in)action by saying that it's the restaurant's job to pay the staff enough so the customer doesn't have to tip. As if all contextual clues as to proper behaviour are irrelevant except the fact that a particular price was printed on a menu.

Lemme explain how it works: if you didn't ever have to tip, the restaurant would have to pay the staff more. Who do you imagine would pay that extra cost? Correct: you would. It would be built into the cost of every dish, instead of added at the end of the bill for you to see the way many places do for large parties.

Imagine you non-tippers got your way, and all the prices were higher to reflect the decent wages waiters now made. I guarantee your dining experiences would be less enjoyable, because waiters would have much less incentive to give you good service.
Now imagine someone comes along and says "A lot of your meal experience depends on your server. In recognition of that, we're going to pay them less, reduce the cost of your meals, and let you pay the server directly, in proportion to the meal cost and in reflection of his/her service." You'd be tickled. Or at least, I would.

Now, if you receive lousy service, say something. And don't tip if you don't want to. But if you got good service, the right answer is 15% -- suck it up and pay it, MacTavish.

Related note: tip jars for service that is minimal (ringing up a donut) are stupid. The service person's contribution to the transaction is miniscule. I regularly ignore those, and feel under no obligation to contribute anything other than a few coins if I find it convenient.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Important things

Flight of the Conchords are a "folk parody" duo -- they remind me of kind of a modern version of the Smothers Brothers. They have a series on HBO, of which I have seen 1/2 an episode and thought it was inspired. This song* is pretty representative. (Thx to Nerdygirl and Erik.)

This (Barats & Bereta) always warms my heart.

Q: What's the difference between Canadians and canoes?
A: Canoes tip.

Q: Why couldn't Hellen Keller drive?
A: Because she was a woman.

*Children alert: song has one F-word.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

One other thing...

Samantha has been feeling sick off and on for almost three months.
She ate some canned soup that had been around forever, and the next day felt really sick to her stomach for several days. Not sure if it's related.

But since then, she's been feeling sick to her stomach every couple weeks or so. Hannah took her to the doc, and he gave her something for her symptoms and told her it probably wasn't what she ate...

I'm getting worried tho. I overheard a conversation recently that went like this:

Woman #1: How's your husband doing?
Woman #2: He was sick for a while -- felt lousy for weeks. Then I took him in and they tested him for [some bacterial-sounding thing I don't remember] and he had it. The doc gave him [some treatment] and it put him right in a couple of days.

So my point is that I wonder if anyone who reads this blog has any ideas about intestinal infections that are hard to kick and/or require specific treatment. Any ideas appreciated.

PS. There's also the teenage factor...
Dad: I'm sorry you don't feel good, honey. Are you eating healthy and getting enough sleep?
Sam (dismissively): That won't help...

PPS. Yes, I already thought of that possibility, too.


The proper way to show people pictures on your computer is to cue them up, then give control of the "next" button to the person looking. If you had a pile of printed photos to show, you would hand them to the person, not make them look over your shoulder as you shuffle through...

I rented a Hyundai Azera a couple weeks ago. Not since the first time I drove a Camry have I been this impressed with a new (to me) car. Handled nice, controls were easy, I think it looks pretty nice for a sedan. For under $30K, and with Hyundai's vaunted warranty, I would buy this car.

Standing at the checkout counter in Marshall's last week, I say to the clerk "You should see how good I look in this jacket. You'd be stunned."
She says nothing. Her expression doesn't even flicker. Into the sound of crickets chirping, I say "Or not..."
Every time I think of it, it makes me smile.

I saw a billboard recently advertising DWI defense. It said:
DWI defense institute. Drink. Drive. Go to jail. Another gov't lie.
I'm all for innocent-until-proven-guilty, and for people getting the defense they deserve, but this seemed a little over the top to me.

My parents have been spending several months a year in Ukraine since about 2002. One thing about Ukraine (and Russia) is that they make do with fewer first names than we do*. Every other man is named Boris, Victor, or Vasyl; all women are named either Svetlana, Jalya, or Lyuda. I'm exaggerating of course, but I noticed my parents identify people based on what they do more than using their patronymic (eg, Ivanovich) or actual last name. So they talk about "Svetlana English Teacher" and "Vasyl Student" or "Victor Mechanic", etc.
Which if you think about it is exactly how a huge percentage of last names were formed in English: John Farmer, John Carter, John Wright, John Smith, John Webmaster, John Database Administrator, etc.
I may not be totally right about those last two, but you get the idea.

*I've heard this explained as resulting from the communist discouragement of Individualism (ie, who do you think you are, with a special name that makes you stand out?)...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Not Really About Harry Potter

Went to Borders Books Friday night for the great unveiling of the 7th Harry Potter book. It was a madhouse. But since this is an upper-middle-class region of the Bay Area, it was controlled madness – people were actually pretty orderly and well-behaved.

I assume you want to argue about the apparent class-ism in the last sentence, so in a fit of prolepsis, let's go:

Understanding that generalizations are seldom useful and often hurtful when applied to individuals, let me say that my experience is this: speaking in generalities, people with a little more money are more tightly bound by conventions of polite public behavior than those with less money.

This might be why:

1) the more money you have, the more you have invested in the status quo, including conventional standards of social etiquette.

In fact, I don’t see how it could fail to be this way.

In the first place, we will support and defend a system that works for us. Consider petty crime: as the saying goes “An empty stomach is a poor political advisor.” I’m not saying that I *know* that poor people commit more petty crime than rich people; but I’m at a loss to explain why they wouldn’t.
I feel frustrated when people who are well off pretend that the reason *they* would never steal is because they’re so enlightened and morally superior. It’s all very nice and convenient and self-serving to believe that, but the fact is that the risk/reward quotient for theft (for example) is dramatically different for poor people than it is for rich people.
A lot of people were born on third base and think they hit a triple.

2) But back to manners: as the most basic challenges of life (food, shelter, etc) are met, humans have to invent other things to care about, to make their lives matter, and to separate themselves from the hoi-polloi. So you have folks getting their shorts all balled up about wearing white after labor day, or using the wrong fork; that kind of nonsense is a luxury not everyone has time to care about. This trend can extend to lots areas having to do with manners/etiquette.

3) For some folks, life is one long struggle and they’re in battle mode from the moment they wake up. If your home life, neighborhood situation, etc dictate that you have to fight to get your needs met, you won’t take the same amt of time worrying about politeness and order as someone might who’s more privileged – whose basic needs of life are met with less effort.

So the result is that (in my experience) more well-off folks tend to be more “orderly” and a little more reticent about expressing their feelings frankly than less well-off folks are. You might call it politeness vs. rudeness, or you might call it insincere pretense vs keeping it real. I can just say this: I’ve seen higher-income folks “telling it like it is” (ie, arguing, being loud/pushy, etc), but I’ve seen even more lower-income folks doing it.

Rich folks may screw people out of their pensions, destroy lives, treat their domestic help like crap, or lock their insane grandmother in the attic, but when it comes to public behaviour, you’re still less likely to see a fistfight at the opera than you might at a NASCAR event or an inner-city basketball game.

In addition: all else being equal, people who “don’t know how to act” will tend to be less successful than those who understand how to get along well with others. IOW, being poor may not make you an ***hole, but being an ***hole will tend to make you poor. This means that – again, all else being equal – exceptionally rude people will tend to drift down in income level, coming to rest with lots of normal people who are perfectly polite, but just happen not to have money.

This is not to say that one standard of public discourse is intrinsically “better” than another – any approach is most reasonably measured vis-à-vis its effectiveness in helping an individual operate in his/her environment.

Neither does it imply that people with less money have less class (in the sense of “high quality or integrity”) or are necessarily less considerate of their fellow human beings. On the contrary, one might argue that they would be *more* considerate, since a less well-off person might be more attuned to how much we all depend on one another. My personal feeling is that the rich are more isolated, less concerned for their neighbors, but they use better manners while ignoring them.

Nonetheless, I can picture my fellow egalitarians frothing at the mouth as they read this. This is because I have presumed to suggest that something most consider a Good (in this case, “politeness”) is not somehow magically spread equally among all income levels. We want to believe that personal choice alone dictates how “good” (ie, honest, kind, compassionate, industrious, whatever) we are – that context is NOT formative, or at least, that our environment only affects us in ways that have no impact on things we consider to be “qualities”. This is stupid thinking, and you’re lucky I’m here to help you with it.
Consider: we accept that “power corrupts…”; in fact, “rich people are immoral” has lots of takers. I think we should be able to take on the idea that *all* context tends to inform behavior – and that reasonably-well-off Sunnyvale-ians might be more orderly than people elsewhere – without sliding down the slippery slope into “Poor people are bad people.”

You’re welcome.

Monday, July 16, 2007

there's a lot of things i don't know

I am one of the world's most ignorant people when it comes to popular music.
Or more accurately: I have a certain level of general knowledge -- not enough to be a jeopardy champion, but enough to occasionally win at Trivial Pursuit against smart people. But when it comes to music, a graph of my knowledge looks like falling off a table.

As a young person, I didn't buy albums and I didn't watch MTV.
The result is that I know songs, but not who they're by.
I know the names of artists, but can't tell you what they sing.
I don't know the names of the artists in a particular band.
I seldom recognize anyone's voice.

For example:
I can sing along to Carolina In My Mind, Fire & Rain, Sweet Baby James, You've Got a Friend, How Sweet It Is, etc.
And I know James Taylor is a huge folk/rock singer from the 70's and onward. I can even picture him in my mind with an acoustic guitar in his hands.
But I didn't know until 5 minutes ago (looking at a CD) that those were James Taylor songs.

I know who The Rolling Stones are, but Satisfaction is the only song I know as theirs.
I can't name you a single song by U2, Eric Clapton, or the Grateful Dead.

I know the names of artists/groups from my HS/college years and before. Off the top of my head: The Who, Yes, Chicago, Foreigner, Boston, The Eagles, Rush, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne, Carly Simon, REM, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sex Pistols, Bob Seger, Prince, The Clash, The Police, AC/DC, Bob Marley, The Righteous Brothers, ZZ Top, U2, Tom Petty, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Crosby/Still/Nash/(Young), BeeGees, David Bowie, Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Grateful Dead, on and on and on.

Out of that group above, I know Running on Empty was Jackson Browne, and Maggie May was Rod Stewart.
Other than that, I can't name you a single song by any of those artists/bands. I recognize the songs readily when they come on the radio -- I just have no way to file them in my head according to artist because I have no previous association.

This is occasionally a source of frustration for me, and now an occasion of boredom for you. OTOH, people are often incredulous when I confess my ignorance, so maybe in some small way this entertains you and makes you feel better about yourself...

Just one other thing

I can't stand Nancy Grace.
She is arrogant, patronizing, pandering, self-aggrandazing, and manipulative.
If she were a man I'd punch her.

Okay, I feel better now.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Boring news section

Visit with Dallas client went okay. I think they feel okay about what was delivered, but then in the past they've been smiles to me while complaining to my boss, so I guess I'll have to wait to know for sure.

Flew back to CA today. When my brother arrived at the airport to pick me up in his white van, I tried to put my bag in the back but the door wouldn't open. So I went around to the front and some stranger got out of the passenger seat. Because, of course, it wasn't my brother's van. In fact, it wasn't even the same make/model. But it *was* white. The guy in the car behind laughed out loud when he saw me backing away from the startled stranger getting out of not-my-brother's van. And it *was* funny -- I was laughing too. The stranger just looked confused.

Thing that doesn't matter section

Went to a restaurant as part of a party of three. They apologetically seated us at two adjacent tables-for-two rather than use their one open table-for-four. Their reasoning is that they want to be able to seat a larger party there if one shows up. To me, it seemed stupid. Make sure your customer who's already here is inconvenienced (ie, can't sit together) so that an imaginary larger party who may or may not exist can sit together without having to wait. My brother says I'm just cranky.

Links section

Brandi Carlile is a singer I like now, thanks to Jay Are.

The end of this clip is a song I'd like to learn. (Thx to Sooze.)

Things you didn't want to know section

I believe that if all the stalls in the restroom are full, it's okay to use the handicapped* stall. IOW, it's not like parking places.

Yesterday I woke myself out of a sound sleep with the noise of my own farting.

*insert current PC word here

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Apropos of nothing

I wish to go on record as being against Diet Coke in plastic bottles. DC is bad enough in a can, where it occasionally tastes cold and refreshing (compared to, say, sand). But in a bottle, it's just this side of disgusting. Maybe I should get more sleep instead of whining about the deficiencies of various caffeine-delivery vehicles.

It could happen that a client tries to say "If the totals turn out..." and instead says "If the turtles tone out..." You should not laugh if this happens.

My Dallas client has asked me back for at least one more visit, so that's where I am now. This time I'm taking an approach that involves showing up on time for meetings, just to see how that works.

My flight out here was scheduled for a 3:20pm departure, but mechanical problems delayed us until 9:55pm. I finally got to bed at 4am, which made the first day of my new show-up-on-time program less convenient than it might have been.

Three wks ago I ate at a restaurant here. I sat at the bar and ordered a mini-pizza and drank a light beer. Last night I went back to the same restaurant; the bartender looked at me and said immediately "light beer in a bottle?" That guy is either Rain Man, or he needs to get out more.

Last night I dreamed I got involved with a girl who looked a lot like Camila. She came to my parents' house for Xmas. Then Camila called and said she'd like to see me again, and she came also. So they were both there at a big Xmas party, neither knowing the other existed, but sure to twig as soon as I approached either one in the presence of the other one. I was still trying to figure out how to get rid of the new girl when I woke up.
Okay, that was only interesting to me. But I typed it, and by golly I'm leaving it in.

That is all at this time.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Thought for the day

Excerpted from Scott Adams' blog:
Rounders Vs. Accumulators

Most people have at least a few big problems in their life. But the vast majority of life’s problems are the little kind. There are two ways to deal with the little problems.

ROUNDERS: This group rounds things off. A problem that’s a two on a scale of one to ten gets rounded to zero. If a rounder has five problems that are all about a two on a scale of one to ten, he’ll tell you he has no problems.

ACCUMULATORS: Accumulators add up all the little problems until they equal one big problem. If an accumulator has five problems that are each a two on a scale of one to ten, that feels like having one problem that’s a ten.

Rounders are generally happy, because they perceive their lives to be mostly problem-free. Accumulators are often miserable because “nothing is going right.” ...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

things that make you go Hmm...

Foil top of vaccuum-sealed coffee can:

Holes in the middle of it...

On the other side, a square sticker covering the holes...

My best guess as to what it's all about: maybe this is how they do the vaccuum sealing -- seal the foil onto the can, poke holes in the foil, put the can in a low-pressure area so most of the air inside goes out thru the holes, then slap the sticker on.
Anybody got any better ideas?

Monday, July 02, 2007

speaking of funny...

I think this is hilarious. It has all the stuff I like: humor, accents, and hot latina women good-natured cultural kidding.
Thanks to Si for sharing…

still alive

My daughter suggested that I used to write funny stories, and also post some of them on my blog and why don't I do that any more.

The answer is that I'm very busy and my life right now is very boring. Sorry about that.

For the sake of the 3 people who still read this blog, I'll post a cartoon I liked, from

Also: my hockey team that usually loses has posted two wins in a row, including last night's game where my line* scored all five goals in a 5-2 effort. Great was our status in the locker room, with many kudos heaped upon us plus guy stuff where people pretend to be angry that we hogged all the scoring and disparage us and our heritage. A good time had by all.

*For those who care: a "line" is three forwards (a center and two wingers) who play together -- we would typically get on and off the ice within a few seconds of each other, etc, so we stay together as a unit...