Job Interview Strategies – Take Two

I just found this old post that I wrote August 2008 – literally 15 years go. Even though the world has changed a lot since then, job interviews are still the same.

Yes, many today are online, and that changes the perspective for a number of my points, but many are as true today as they were then.

So here is that post again:

Focus on the Objective

If you are called for an interview, the company has decided it is interested in you. They already have your resume, you have made it past the first round of eliminations, and at least on paper you appear qualified. They called you in because they want to get to know you. They want to know what you are like to be with. Do you live up to the impression you made with your paperwork?

Keep this in mind when you go into an interview. You are qualified. You have the right education. None of that is all that important now. What is important is that you show that you can do the job, and that they like you. Who wants to work with somebody they don’t want to be around.

Focus on that, and make sure everything in your interview is consistent with that objective.

Look Right for the Job

Make sure you appear congruent with the job you are applying for. Lawyers wear suits and have neatly trimmed hair. Rock musicians wear blue jeans and tie-dyed shirts. Marketing professionals wear suits, dresses and stylish clothes. Computer programmers wear blue jeans, but when they go for interviews, they wear suits.

Take out your earrings if you are a man. Cover your tattoos. Remove visible body piercing objects. Now is not the time to show your individuality. Do not wear too much jewelry. One ring is ok. Do not wear bracelets, whether you are a man or a woman. They get in the way when you shake hands and they jingle and thus distract.

If you don’t have a suit, now is the time to buy one. You don’t need many. Just one good one. That counts for men and women. You always look good in a suit.

Unless you are applying to be the creative head of an Internet company or record label, make sure you are clean shaven and properly groomed. If you are a woman, makeup is ok, but make sure it’s understated. The interviewer does not want to notice your makeup.

And no matter what the job, no cleavage, short dresses or unbuttoned shirts for men.

Walk the Walk

Remember that the first impression you make is usually the final impression. The scary part is that if you are walking from the lobby to the office, and it takes 30 seconds, you have just passed or failed the entire interview before you have even taken a seat.

Therefore, when the interviewer meets you in the lobby and takes you back to her office or a meeting room, make sure you stay with her. Don’t fall behind by walking too slowly. Make sure you wear shoes that allow you to keep her pace. I personally always test my interviewees by walking fast and watching if they keep up. I don’t tell them that, of course.

Politely decline coffee or water or any other refreshments you might be offered. Those would simply distract you. And getting them would divert valuable attention from you in the first 30 seconds. Every second should focus on you.

Find Something in Common

People like people who are like them. So when you enter somebody’s office, find something you have in common with the person. If they have artwork in their office, and you know anything about art, ask. If you see family pictures, and there is something you can relate to, comment on it or ask a question about it. Better yet, if you can determine that you have mutual acquaintances, or you share a hobby, or you went to the same school, or you grew up in the same town or state, that is wonderful. Engage the person with questions about this subject you share. People love to talk about themselves. And they automatically like you, because, after all, you are just like them.

Remember that above all, your job, as you enter the interview space, is to find something in common with the person and note it. This is easier when the interview takes place in the person’s office. It’s harder in a conference room or other neutral space.

But try, try hard, because that alone can make the interview.

Prepare Answers

Study your answers to the questions you should expect. Some basic questions are:

  • What are your goals?
  • Where do you want to be five years from now?
  • Why have you left your last job (if this is not your first one)?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • Why should we hire you over somebody else?

Prepare answers to those questions, write the answers down, and read them every day. They should become completely effortless.

After every interview, immediately write down any questions you were asked that you didn’t feel comfortable answering, and then prepare a stock answer. This way you expand your wealth of responses and with every interview you become more prepared.

Prepare Questions

Most interviewers will expect that you ask them questions. You need to have questions prepared. There is nothing more deflating than to interview somebody that does not have a question.

Make sure you express interest in the company. The more questions you ask, the more they answer, and when they are answering, they are doing the talking, and you are doing the listening, and that’s how a good interview should be.

At the end, the interviewer will simply realize she enjoyed talking with you, and it won’t cross her mind that she did all the talking.

Most people like to talk, and talking is much easier than listening. So, have lots of questions you can fire off, so you can do lots of listening.

It will be a successful interview.

Questions Not to Ask

There are some questions that you should not ask.

1. How much does the job pay? – This is not the time. You’ll figure this out later after they decide they want to hire you.

2. How much vacation do I get? – You want a job, or do you want vacation?

3. Do you have casual Friday? – Duh.

4. What are the benefits? – While this is not an unreasonable question, I recommend that you hold it for later. It’s premature, takes the focus away from the objective, and is awkward. When they offer you the job, you’ll have plenty of time to negotiate the benefits.

Be Honest

Don’t fake anything. Don’t make up anything. If there is something you don’t know, about the company, the job, a subject, anything at all, don’t lie. The interviewer will know. You will look like a phony.

There is nothing wrong with not knowing something. Freely admit it, state that you will find out, or ask them. They will be flattered that you asked.

Always be honest about everything, your education, your grades, your previous salary, the reason you left your last job. If you get the job, the truth will come out. If you were deceptive, you will be embarrassed. If the interviewer does not like your answer, or the truth, you really don’t want to work there anyway.

So always be honest.

Ask For the Job

Before you leave, always ask for the job. You would be amazed how many people interview and never ask for the job.

As the interviewer, it is very easy to give the job to the person that actually states that they want the job and that they are excited about it.

If there are two candidates, both fully qualified, both nice, both would fit into the organization, the interviewer will much more likely offer the job to the person that actually asked for it. Very, very simple.

Before you leave, at the latest when you shake hands, explicitly ask for the job: “I think I’d be great in this position. I would like that job. I am looking forward to hearing from you real soon.”

What interviewer can then ignore you after that?

Ring and a Trip to Costco

Today I went to Costco to buy, among other things, a Ring doorbell. It comes packaged with an indoor camera as a bundle. At the store, they have a display where you simply pick up a card, pay for the card, and then go to the Costco merchandise cage where a staff member takes your card, checks your receipt, and gives you the item.

And that’s what I did. The package cost $179.99. This is the box the clerk gave me. It seemed large and heavy for what I thought I was buying. Also, it seemed oddly non-retail.

But I didn’t question it much, took it home, and opened it up.

I took out one of the boxes inside, and to my surprise, there were three more. Each one of these is a doorbell/camera bundle.

I took out my product, this time from a slick retail package like I’d expect from a high tech product and proceeded with the setup and installation.

I think Costco needs to train its staff better, particularly those who manage the cage with the high value items.

Tomorrow I am going back to Costco to return the $720 worth of merchandize I took out of the store without knowing it.

Book Review: Crucial Conversations – by Joseph Grenny

There are actually five authors listed: Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Emily Gregory.

Crucial Conversations is a book about tools for talking when the stakes are high, whether in a business environment, or in personal relationships. It consists of three parts:

Part I: What to do before you open your mouth

Part II: How to open your mouth

Part III: How to finish

It starts with descriptions on how conflicts arise and provides techniques and strategies to prepare for conversations that create results. Loaded with anecdotes and examples, it illustrates the various points and strategies and guides the reader. There are a lot of processes outlined by acronyms, which all made sense when I read them, but which I could not remember afterwards.

I learned a lot from the techniques it provided and I found myself nodding and agreeing. But the book became monotonous as it went on for 268 pages. This kind of self-help instruction could be provided in a 30 page article just as effectively, but of course, you can’t make money writing 30 page articles. You make money writing a full book.

If you have found yourself in struggles communicating with people at work or in your personal life, reading Crucial Conversations may just make the difference between walking away bewildered und unsuccessful, or resolving a conflict to the satisfaction of all participants.

If you are a fairly fast reader, you can work through this book in a few hours and then later put it on the shelf, so it’s there as a manual to quickly thumb through before you have to have one of those crucial conversations.

Most Hated Corporations

I just stumbled on this Reddit post:

Which company could go out of business tomorrow and it would be to the betterment of this world? : AskReddit

There are over 5,000 answers as we speak, and just scrolling through casually, here are the winners by a large margin:

  1. Nestle – this is by far the top of the list
  2. Ticketmaster
  3. News Corp (Murdoch, Fox News)
  4. BlackRock
  5. Meta (Facebook)
  6. Mega Churches
  7. Church of Scientology
  8. Monsanto

Of course, the list goes on for thousands, but as I scroll, there is a consensus:

Nestle. Ticketmaster. Fox News.

American Airlines Sucks

I hate to say this, but American Airlines sucks.

I have flown over 2.5 million miles on American over a period of about 30 years. I was in the top elite tier (Executive Platinum) for many years and the Covid travel crash bumped me off and now I am a “mere” lifetime Platinum member. So I still get some perks.

It’s always been bad and challenging to claim travel credits with American Airlines. Here is a post I made 11 years ago about how their travel vouchers are almost impossible to use. It hasn’t gotten any better – maybe worse.

A couple of months ago my wife and I were in Croatia on vacation. We flew on American, but the connector from London to Zagreb was on their partner, British Airways. We had a layover in London Heathrow. While I am at it, do not get me started on Heathrow. I HATE HEATHROW, everything about it. When going to Europe, I always try to avoid it as a stopover, but that’s another rant for another time….

While in Croatia, my wife tested positive for Covid a few hours before we needed to board our flight home out of Zagreb. She was not allowed to get on the plane. Since business and other matters required that one of us get home, we separated, she stayed marooned in a Croatian hotel for what turned out to be another 9 days, while I went home while I could – while I tested negative. The agent for British Airways told me that in order to get a flight credit, I’d better call my airline before I boarded, so I would not lose her part of the ticket. I called the elite desk for Executive Platinum at American Airlines, and after a two minute tape on how I should go online it told me that they were closed. It was a Saturday afternoon in Croatia, so it was very early AM in the U.S. Then I made another call to the general reservation line, only to get the same message after listening for a few minutes to their drivel.

Now mind you, American’s main reservation line is advertised to be open 24 hours a day, which is what I’d expect from a major airline. People don’t just need help on the phone with the largest airline in the world while it’s business hours in Dallas, Texas.

Eventually, I just had to board my flight home alone, wait for the weekend to pass, until I could get an agent on the phone during normal business hours in Dallas. It then took about an hour with that agent to get about $450 of credit back for her portion of the abandoned ticket. That credit is now in an account in the American Airlines’ system.

I have since tried to use that credit three times for three other bookings, but have not been successful. While the website says I should be able to use a credit when I pay for a ticket, it does not work.

As you can see in the screenshot above, there are two buttons at the beginning of the payment process, where you think you might be able to use your credit. When you click on either of them, it gives you this message:

Not very helpful, right? Why is the button there in the first place if you are not able to use it? When you click on “Contact Reservations”, you get to this screen:

The phone number shown at the yellow arrow is the main reservation line. At the red arrow, you see it’s open 24 hours a day. This is the number I have been calling. When you call this number, you first have to listen to about 2 minutes of bullshit stuff, like how much easier it is to go to their website, and then it finally tells you they are closed! On a Saturday afternoon at 3:00pm!

I just bought my third ticket at full face value without being able to use the flight credit I have on the books. My crime: I am not calling during normal business hours Dallas time. So in order to use my credit, I need to wait to book my next flight at just the right time, on a weekday (while I am working) and be prepared to be on the phone for an hour, first waiting to get an agent who can help me — they are all so busy all the time — and then fumble my way through applying the credit I have on file.

Maybe I need to take my travel business to another airline after 30 years of loyalty to American?


A Tale of Two iPhones

The iPhone 6 came out in September of 2014. I bought the iPhone 6 Plus on April 23, 2015. It was the top of the line on the market then and I paid $500 including tax. I bought the largest version since I wanted to be able to do all my Kindle reading on the phone, so I didn’t need another device.

I was successful with that, and the iPhone 6 has been a rock-solid companion for me ever since. It was sleek and thin in design.

About a year-and-a-half ago the battery started failing, so I went to a local shop, and for less than $50, I had a new battery installed. It was like new.

I use my phone for calls, texts, emails and, most importantly, reading books. Everything worked fine.

Then one day, my work required that I use the phone for two-factor-authentication (2FA), which means I have to use it to log into my computer. The app for 2FA could not be installed on the version of iOS on my phone. So – I was left with no choice but abandon my perfectly-working phone just so I can get a new one that supports that 2FA app.  Of course, all my workmates had been laughing at me for using a five-year-old phone, but I couldn’t help it, it worked fine, and it did everything I needed to do with it.

I bought the iPhone 12 Pro Max. With tax, it set me back $1220.-. Pretty expensive for something I don’t really need or want, but have to have.

When I got it, I noticed that Apple had let the design go. My old phone was thin and sleek and weighed only six ounces. The new one was about the same size, but a bit thicker, with an edge around it, rather than curved edges easy on the hands. And it weighs eight ounces, which is noticeably more when you hold it in your hand a lot when reading books.

The 12’s claim to fame is the new camera system, which uses a concept called Lidar to take pictures. Supposedly it can capture spatial information better and make pictures more three-dimensional. Not something I need but I get.

However, I noticed one thing that I could not believe at first: When you lay it down flat, the camera lenses stick out, and it does not rest properly. See the quick video I shot:

Steve Jobs, who chastised engineers for sloppy work inside computers – things users never saw – would never have accepted a product with a major design flaw like this. I call it a design flaw, because I want a phone that I can lay down flat on a table without it rocking.

I bought a case for it, which cures the rocking problem, but it makes it even heavier and bulkier. Steve Jobs used to sneer at cases. He asked why you would cover up something as beautiful as an iPhone with a case?

My iPhone 12 Pro Max works fine. I am enjoying battery life that lasts me four days of use, and I can run my 2FA app. I can read. I paid $1220 for what I would call a poorly designed product, so poor that I am motivated to write a blog post about it.


The End of the Age of the “Superjumbo” Airliners

Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline and the second-largest in Europe, recently announced that it is retiring all eight of its Airbus A380 planes. Emirates operates 115 such planes, the largest fleet in the world, and it predicts the “end of the era.”

While the large planes are comfortable, they are not efficient, are too costly to maintain and to fly. Smaller widebodies, like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787, both with only two efficient engines, are much more economical, and being smaller, more versatile. This trend started long before the start of the pandemic, but with air travel now just being a shadow of what it once was, the fate of the world’s largest planes is sealed.

The Boeing 747 had a life of over 50 years and 1,558 were built since 1968. According to travel data firm Cirium there are about 500 747s still in service, of which only 30 are flying passengers. More than 300 fly cargo and the remainder are in storage.

Airbus only built a total of 242 A380s, about half of which went to Emirates. Airbus has already retired the plane.

I have never flown on an A380, and now I probably never will.

I have flown only three times on a Boeing 747. One was my first ever flight when I was just 18 years old. The second time was in England in 1989, on a short-hopper from London to Manchester. Yes, a commuter trip of less than an hour on a 747. It was full of commuting businessmen. And the final trip was in 2012 on British Airways from London to Chicago, and I reported about it here.

To put this into perspective, I am a very frequent air traveler, and I have flown constantly since my youth at a rate of 100,000 miles a year or more. With American Airlines alone I have logged more than 2.5 million miles, and that’s just one airline. If in all these thousands of flights I have only THREE flights on superjumbos, and if I am a good example, it’s not surprising that the era of the large planes is over.

Farewell, A380.

The Formation of the American Oligarchy

When the Soviet Union collapsed almost 30 years ago, the assets of the country, its industrial base that had been neglected so long, was grabbed up by a few young, enterprising, creative and possibly criminal individuals. Some say there were less than twenty of them. They, and their successors, are now called the Russian oligarchs. The majority of the economic power of the Russian nation is consolidated by very few people, all under control of the central government, which is headed by an apparently corrupt and possibly murderous leader: Putin. Russia, in my opinion, is a nation state run by organized crime.

In the United States we were better than that. However, in the recent couple of years I see very similar developments. Radical deregulation is fueling the stock market, which is not a surprise. The Obama regulatory environment had throttled the economy. One can argue one way or the other. I personally believe that while we’re riding high on the economy right now, and while the super rich are getting richer, the middle class is doing “just ok.” A tax saving of a few hundred dollars funds one more trip to Costco, which is not a huge improvement for the middle class. But eventually our children and their children will regard the Trump era as a time when their fathers enriched themselves forcing them to pay the bills. The reckoning for today’s boom time will come.

We’re also massively adding to the national debt now. The debt payments are about to exceed our military expenses. While the conservative world was furious when Obama added to the debt, now it does not even get mention. All of a sudden, the debt is not important. After all, the economy is so great, it’s going to pay for it all. I do not believe this is going to work, but only time will tell.

Meanwhile, the buffoon in the White House is overloading us with so many scandals, we can’t even focus on them anymore. When Obama wore a tan suit, the media went crazy for a few days. When Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress, she was castigated. There are nude pictures of our current First Lady on the Internet and nobody seems to take note. We were not numb to scandals, and the media needed something to write about.

Trump does outrageous things every day that my moral compass that does accept. However, there is so much, the list is so long, it’s drowned out. While we’re not able to pay attention, the billionaire class, some of them in the White House and Cabinet, are openly lining their own pockets with corrupt activities, every day. The country is being looted and polluted. The American tax payer is being raped. And we are numb.

An oligarchy is quickly forming, where a very small number of very rich people control the entire economy and the political system.

Is that making America great?

The Little Apple that Dreamed

April 1, 1976 was the day I reported to military boot camp in Leipheim, Germany. I was a 19-year-old boy and the service was my first real job. No man ever forgets the day he goes into the military. I remember it fondly.

On April 1, 1976, that very same day, on the other side of the world, in a garage in Palo Alto, California, another boy, this one 20 years old, by the name of Steve Jobs, along with this engineer friend Steve Wozniak, founded Apple Computer.

Four years later the military discharged me, and I got ready to go to college, for math and computer science.

Four years later, on December 12, 1980, Apple launched its IPO, selling 4.6 million shares at $22 per share. The shares sold out almost immediately and the IPO generated more capital than any IPO since Ford Motor Company in 1956. Apple was worth $1.2 billion.

Then in 1997, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. Microsoft and its many partners in the personal-computer market were eating Apple’s lunch. Then they called back Steve Jobs.

Today, 42 years and 4 months later, exactly 15,554 days after that auspicious day of April 1, 1976, Apple became the first company in history to reach a market cap of $1 trillion. Nobody had ever reached that before. Exxon, which for decades was the most valuable company on the planet, is at $338 billion today, almost exactly a third of Apple’s value.

Congratulations, Apple. You are an inspiration to all entrepreneurs, and I must admit there have been many crossroads in my career and the life of my own company when I found myself asking: What would Apple do now?

The Trump Circus and the Stock Market

I am tired of Trump supporters telling me that Trump is a brilliant business man. He is not. He is a failing business man who routinely files bankruptcy when he can’t make his businesses work, stiffing his creditors and workers. He is a con man who spent his entire career sucking money out of the middle class to enrich himself. Trump University is just one example.

Trump knows the game of the rich class, and he is putting on a circus for the middle class to distract us from what is really going on. The ultra rich, and the corporate world, are benefitting from what is going on quietly behind the scenes while we’re all distracted by the dazzling magic show of blunders and corruption and outrageous stagecraft at this rallies.

He puts on the Immigrants are Evil public show, knowing fully well that none of his facts make any sense, immigrants have nothing to do with the problems of America, because he knows we can only be angry about one thing at a time.

It’s the deeds of Congress and his cabinet behind the scenes that we should really be worried about. Here are just a few of them:

  • Dismantling National Parks or opening them to exploitation by mining and logging.
  • Removing consumer protections imposed on banks and credit companies.
  • Instituting tax cuts that favor businesses and super wealthy individuals and are largely meaningless to the middle class.
  • Neutering the EPA, whose mission it is to protect the public from corporate pollution.
  • Dismantling the Department of Education and pushing our public funds to private for profit schools where we have no control over the use of the funds.
  • Increasing the military budget and thus feeding the military industrial complex. The increase of $80 billion this year alone is more than the entire military budget of Russia.
  • Removing civil rights protections.
  • Removing all our work toward research and protection against climate change. This is the worst crime of all, since it’s going to take decades to fix, and our grandchildren get to clean up the mess. This is a crime against humanity.

Watch the hand behind his back, not the circus in front of our faces.

We, the middle class, are getting hurt and exploited everywhere along the way. The debt is skyrocketing. Some day we will have to pay for all this, and Trump won’t be around to help with it.

Corporate America is doing great and the middle class is not getting the benefits. That’s why the stock market is rising.

When it all comes crumbling down, the rich aren’t going to be affected much. They’ll still eat and travel in helicopters. It’s the middle class that will lose everything – once again.

Trump will long be gone by then.

We will still be here.



A Tale of Good Billionaires

Recently I found this one in my social media feed from an unidentified person under @SunsetSocialist:

I’m really sick of being told that there are “good billionaires.” Hoarding billions of dollars for literally NO REASON while most human beings starve to death is an action so evil that it’s almost unparalleled. They’re all moral monsters, plain and simple.

I am not a billionaire. But I am aghast when I read SunsetSocialist’s drivel.

Having money is “hoarding?” How much money do you have to have before you are a money hoarder? A hundred dollars? A thousand? A hundred thousand? A million? A billion? Does SunsetSocialist get to set the threshold just above his own net worth, so he is not a hoarder, but everyone wealthier than he is?

And what’s with “most human beings starve to death?” That is just not accurate.

Global Poverty Facts

Here are some statistics that show the scale of global poverty and its devastating effects.

1) 767 million people, or 10.7 percent of the population, live in extreme poverty with less than $1.90 per day.

2) 2.1 billion people live on less than $3.10 per day.

3) 328 million children are living in extreme poverty.

4) At least 17 million children suffer from severe acute under nutrition around the world. Severe acute malnutrition is the direct cause of death for 1 million children every year.

5) Every single day, 1,000 children under 5 die from illnesses like diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera caused by contaminated water and inadequate sanitation.

— source: Global Poverty and Hunger

While I do think it is tragic that 10 percent of the world’s population live in extreme poverty (and one might call that “starving to death”) I do not think it is my job, or my neighbor’s job, or some billionaire’s job, to feed those people. We give what we can. My question to SunsetSocialist is: How much does he give from his stash to feed the global hungry? What percentage of his income does he contribute every month? After he tells us that, he has a right to suggest how much an unnamed billionaire should be contributing. I suspect that most billionaires are already contributing percentage-wise way more than SunsetSocialist does – but I am speculating.

I just read that Phil Knight of Nike gives away $100 million a year, every year. Really, really evil!

They are all moral monsters.

Aha, all of them. I wonder how many billionaires SunsetSocialist has actually met, and would be qualified to judge for their morality?

Billionaires are people. There are going to be good ones, and not so good ones. I choose to judge people by their deeds, by their actions, by their legacy, and not by some label.

This reminds me of a post I wrote about three years ago about vilifying billionaires. Here is the link again. I stand by every word I wrote then.

There you have it, SunsetSocialist!

The Endless Life of Zip Disks

Today, when I was looking for file folder tabs in our supply room, I noticed in the very front of one of the shelves stack of three Zip Disks, 100MB, still in the protective shrink-wrap, like new. I am not sure how they got to the front of the supply cabinet, but there they were.

I started the company in 1993, a full twenty-five years ago. Zip Disks were “super floppies” with high capacity, great in the years before Windows 95 even, when we were still working with Windows 3.11 (Windows for Workgroups). They were made by Iomega, and first came out in 1994 with the 100MB version. Later they had larger versions, with 250MB and then even 750MB. The ones on our shelves were the early type, with only 100MB. I still remember buying a zip drive for my main computer, in 1994, when I was the only employee. It felt like heaven to be able to store 100MB on one drive for backup purposes. I imagine I went to the “computer store” and bought a box of the disks just for good measure.

Somehow, through all the years, and the many office moves, and several office managers responsible for the supplies, and hundreds of current and former employees, these three Zip Disks survived, unscathed, in the front of our supply cabinet. Nobody ever thought that they were older than the Internet. Nobody ever thought that our company hasn’t had any working Zip Drives for at least 20 years.

I took this picture.

And then I threw the disks in the trashcan. Good bye, old friends.

Amazon’s Mysterious Ways

Yesterday I received a slip from the U.S. Postal Service at my door. It indicated they had tried to deliver a registered package. I didn’t expect any registered mail, so I was curious.

I went to the post office, stood in line, and eventually got this package:

Odd. I didn’t order anything from Mumbai, India. I don’t know anyone at the American School Of Bombay. And especially not anything that would require registered mail.

Then I checked the back:

This didn’t help either. The description said it was a Vector. It was checked as a gift. And the postage to mail it was Rs 131. When I looked that up it was 131 Indian rupees. A rupee is about $0.015. So mailing the package cost him about $1.96.

I didn’t want to open this. All I could think of was anthrax or a bomb or something else nefarious. I had just moved to this address. Who would even know what it was. And particularly Scott Amitron in Mumbai. I decided to let this sit there unopened until I figured it out.

Then it dawned on me. I checked my Amazon account:

Sure enough, the last time I was on Amazon it showed me a razor handle. Like men are wont to do, I am stuck with the type of razor and blades that I used 30 years ago. I won’t upgrade to the fancy razors of today, with five blades and twenty-dollar handles. I just like my old Atra Plus double blades that have worked for me for decades, even though the blades are hard to find and my one remaining handle is getting pretty rusty and sketchy. So when I saw this replacement handle, I clicked on it and ordered it for $4.90, free shipping.

Not in my wildest dreams did I think that somebody in Mumbai in India would then fulfil my order and send me a razor blade using registered mail and pay 131 rupees, packaging and handling not included.

I could have gone to the local drug store and bought a razor and spent a lot less time than I did waiting in line at the post office to sign for a registered package from India.

Oh, the mysterious ways of Amazon and global commerce.

I can’t wait to try my brand new Mumbai razor tomorrow morning.

Trump, the Brilliant Business Man – and Myself

The Trump phenomenon still baffles me, and I assume it always will. The man looks incompetent. He speaks like a fifth-grader. When he reads his speeches, like the joint session of Congress speech earlier this week, he looks wooden and stilted. Everyone praised him for looking presidential. To me, he looked fake.  His actions are not congruent with what he says, most of the time. His plans are vapor. He talks about things that make no sense. He makes false statements, knowing fully well they are false. He doesn’t care about the average, middle-class citizen. To me, all this is completely obvious. I can’t believe that others don’t see it too.

Trump supporters don’t seem to see this. It’s baffling to me. There is one thing that all Trump supporters eventually say that justifies everything else that’s going on:

Trump is a brilliant business man, he has had great business success, and he will use that skill for the good of our country, if we only give him the chance.

That’s the argument everyone makes, and it is the core of their justification.

Well, I don’t agree. He is not a brilliant business man, just like Russian oligarchs are not brilliant business men. I think he is simply very good at manipulating others to do his bidding, and to “use the system” to his advantage.

I am a business man. I would not call myself brilliant. But I have run businesses for most of my career, and the last and current one for over 25 years now. I have created hundreds of direct jobs over the years. I have created more than $50 million of direct economic activity in the last 15 years alone, and probably generated several times more indirect activity as a result. I don’t have an airplane with my name on it. I fly coach. I am not rich. But I have been productive all my life, and I have been honest.

I have never filed for bankruptcy, either personal or in business. I have never “used the system” like Trump has several times. Every contractor I ever engaged got paid exactly what the contract said I would pay him. Every time. I have never been sued by anyone. When the market crashed, due to reckless dealings on Wall Street by Trump cronies, and due to bad regulatory oversight by our government, my real estate dropped to 35% of its value in 2008, and for the past nine years the property still has not recovered the value I paid for it at the time. It’s still upside down today. I have paid my mortgage every month, on time. Financial advisors have told me to walk away from it over the years. But I pay my mortgage because I wrote on a piece of paper in 2004 that I would. I could have “used the system” and been what Trump calls “smart,” but my honor and integrity is more important to me than being smart and rich.

Trump, the brilliant business man, does apparently not see anything wrong with “using the system” to shed his debt when he makes a bad deal, or when economic conditions work against him. I do.

When you file for bankruptcy, you are making other people pay for your losses. There is no more favorable way to put it.

When you don’t pay your contractors what you promised to pay them, you are using other people’s money to enrich yourself, and you are using bully tactics to intimidate them into settling. This is not smart or brilliant, it’s simply reckless.

This may work in business. Trump has an airplane with his name on it. And I simply go to work every day. But I don’t believe it works when you lead a country.

When we screw this up, everyone pays for our mistakes. If we are wrong on global warming, and if we’re creating hell for our grandchildren, they pay. They may curse us, but the will pay. When we see nothing wrong with polluting our rivers with toxic coal residue, and people downstream are poisoned, so people upstream can have jobs, those downstream pay. They may not like it. See what’s going on in Flint, Michigan. They may not like it, but they pay.

Is Trump really such a brilliant business man?

I am a business man, and I would be ashamed if I had used Trump’s tactics, like filing bankruptcy four times, like not paying income taxes for 20 years (which we can only assume he did), like suing contractors who worked on my buildings, like sexually assaulting women in my employ. I am proud that I was not a brilliant business man, I guess.

But then, I don’t have an airplane with my name on it, I don’t have luxury properties all over the world, and I don’t get to ride on Air Force One for my vacations, at $3 million of taxpayer money per trip.

Do you see why I am baffled?

The Apple Cart, the Orange Cart, and Paul Ryan

Well, Speaker Ryan, the problem as I see it is this: The Republican-controlled Congress, from 2000 through 2008, and then again from 2010 through 2016, has not done one thing to deal with this problem of healthcare in our nation. The Affordable Care Act may not be perfect, but it’s one hell of a lot more and therefore better than the big NOTHING the Republicans provided in all those years in control.

Now, if you get to work and produce a healthcare product that works, that’s less expensive, that covers preexisting conditions, and that does not kick millions of Americans off what they have now, GREAT. We will all welcome that.

So, please, refrain from upsetting the apple cart until you show us the orange cart – pun intended.