Just Another Blog
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Someday I'll be a proud parent and be able to drive around with this bumper sticker (noted song is here) which I found at Catherine's where I was browsing after seeing that Missy had given her credit for pointing out that Beck is a blogger.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Pictures and Poetry
I put together my first photo essay ala Tony Pierce. Click through the pictures to see me and friends skiing and riding at A-Basin this past Sunday.
Ok that takes care of the pictures; now here's some poetry.
There once was a man from Tikrit,That was my late entry in the Saddam birthday poetry contest put on by Michele. I'm too late to win, but go check out the other entries. Ryan's treatment of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is particularly good (you already know the original author, right?).
Friday, April 25, 2003
Interviews with American Income Life
(alt title = American Income Life Sucks)
I was supposed to go to my third interview in three days today with American Income Life, a subsidiary of Torchmark. I had sent them a resume at the beginning of April in response to a posting on Monster. On Wednesday morning I received a call from them asking if I could come in for an interview. I obliged and scrambled to look up what I had applied for that I was about to go interview for.
The ad stated that it was a management track program starting in sales with no cold calling ever. I Googled the company and did a bit more research to find out that they focus on selling life and supplemental health insurance to labor union and credit union members. During the interview I learned that a separate PR division forms relationships with unions and then sends out direct mailers on union letterhead to members advising them of a new available service. Interested parties are encouraged to fill out and return the postage-paid postcard. The sales team then focuses solely on these leads. I was told that management possibilities were available within 60 days of start for those with high potential and a willingness to work hard. Tom Young, the interviewer, explained that this was step one of a three interview process and asked that I return Thursday for step two - a group interview.
Thursday I returned to join aproximately 18 other job seekers for what was more of a presentation than an interview. Mr. Young explained to us how easy their system was and encouraged us to think in terms of salaries of $100,000. Of course, if we wanted to think of $200,000, half a million, or even seven-figure salaries, that would be all right too because it was well within the realm of possibility if you had the potential and were willing to work hard. The group interview provided three different chances for anyone who wasn't interested in making that kind of money to get up and leave the room. Nobody left. After the group session we were each reunited with the person with whom we had originally interviewed. We were told that we would have five to seven minutes to ask any questions that we might have or that we could use the time to really sell the manager on our qualifications, potential, and willingness to work hard to achieve financial success.
Instead of selling myself, I asked about turnover and talked a little bit about the compensation structure. Never having worked on commission before or completely understanding the concept of annuitized life premiums, a lot of the comp talk went above my head. I left, however, with the distinct impression that because of my potential and willingness to work hard I could easily expect to make $80-100,000 my first year and probably into the $200's by my third year as long as I maintained my willingness to work hard. I was told that the managers would meet later in the afternoon, and they would decide which applicants would then come back for the crucial third interview. Perhaps not surprisingly, I received a phone call last evening inviting me back for the third interview where some more questions would be asked of me and I would have the chance to get clarification on any outstanding concerns that I still had.
I went to bed last night pretty excited about the possibility of soon having a job. But I couldn't sleep. I am enamored with thoughts of making six figures a year, but I never really thought insurance sales would be the career for me. Still, this wasn't really sales like being a broker is sales. There is no need to ask everyone that you know if you can manage their money. There is no active networking trying to get your business card into as many hands as possible. There is no screwing the customer while pretending to have their best interests in mind.
Wait a second...
That's it. That's the problem. The customer. What about the customer? In two interviews and a phone call and in casual conversations with some of the other employees, the customer was never mentioned. There was no talk of superior service or even of service standards. There were no surveys mentioned showing why they were better than any other similar company. There was no talk of educating the customer. There was no talk of always doing the right thing. There was no talk of philanthropy. There was no talk of community relations or good will toward men or anything. There was only money.
Customers were merely the source of the money. Customers were a captive audience due to their membership in a union. Customers were something to be exploited.
I fell asleep hoping that I would recall my concerns in the morning. This morning I awoke and started to prepare for my final interview and an almost certain job offer. I got on the internet and researched the financials of American Income Life Insurance's parent company, Torchmark. I was surprised to find a stable company with impeccable financials. Financially, there is little doubt that TMK is an industry leader with a lot of growth potential. Next I went to the commentary portion of the annual report which focused praise on the strong reputation of AIL within its niche market.
Now I was torn again. I still suspected that I could quickly make six figures with the company and on top of that the company is robust and growing which leads me to believe that the monetary upside may have been even greater than I first imagined. But I was still more than a little concerned.
I started to imagine working as a salesman. Where is the day-to-day challenge outside of simply setting appointments? Where is the opportunity for intellectual growth? What could I hope to learn on an ongoing basis once I had already earned my life and health licenses (which would cost me three days and $300 of my own time and money to get, by the way)? What benefit am I really selling to this niche market?
I expanded my Google search for information on Torchmark and AIL by throwing in the keywords lawsuit, fraud, and scam. I found that adding these terms returned a lot of hits. I reviewed dozens of the hits to find all of the following issues. Consumer groups note that the primary product offered by AIL, commonly known as burial insurance, is itself largely a scam. Customers pay monthly premiums over the years that soon outweigh the benefit of the policy. They would be better served by some simple financial planning or a good home economics class. The company founder has ties to Hillary Clinton with regards to the Hubbles and Whitewater. The company is under investigation in Florida for racially biased policy pricing. The largest agency in California is being investigated for systemic fraud and corruption. Veteran and retired agents get screwed out of their vested renewals because the company forces new agents to sell new, replacement policies to existing customers (a sales source never mentioned in any of my meetings thus far). The final straw for me was the list off complaints on the Rip-off Report. Everything that these strangers from other parts of the country said were right in line with my experiences so far.
So screw it. I am not going to take a chance and work for this company. I called and asked to speak with Tom Young. He was not available. This did not surprise me as each time I was in the office and waiting to speak to someone, I had the opportunity to observe the receptionist. There was not a single call that was put through to the requested party. There was no voice mail available, only her to take a message. She was obviously running interference for the entire office (and as big as she was, whoa, she created plenty of interference). I left a message that I needed to cancel my appointment and that no, I did not wish to reschedule at this time. I left my number for Mr. Young to call me at home. I hope that he does so that I can explain my concerns and hear his rebuttals.
I am deeply disappointed not to be getting a job any time soon. I will now have to redouble my search efforts and try not to let this bother me too much. To wrap up and to summarize and to hopefully improve this post's position on the search engines I leave you with the following impressions I have been left with.
American Income Life sucks. This is a scam. American Income Life is a bad company to work for. Tom Young at American Insurance Life in Denver is a liar. AIL will cheat you out of your money. AIL sucks. The American Income Life interview process is a scripted scam. The agents at American Income Life are corrupt. The managers at AIL are even worse.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
The Wings are gone in four. Graeme called it - sort of - in the comments here. They're a good team that Colorado should have played in the second round, so I'm glad to seem 'em out. Bring on the Blues! Now I just hope that ESPN will sign Brett Hull to a short term contract to do announcing or color commentary or just pre-game and intermission commentary. That would be the best thing that could come of this. After all, the Wings are a great team filled (for another few months anyway) with amazing talent and personalities. Some of that needs to stay on the air. It's just good for hockey.
Don't worry. There aren't going to be any mouse ears inscribed on the Cup. Dallas will run the Ducks in 6 games. The Avs will struggle against the Blues, and that series will go 7 games. The Western Conference finals will be exciting, but the play will turn pretty rough in games 5 and 6. Unfortunately, I think the Stars will prevail and go on to play the Devils who will ultimately drink from Lord Stanley's Cup after an awesome exhibition of the goalies against Tampa Bay and then against the Senators who will handle the Flyers.
I hope I'm wrong about all of this. I hope that the Avs will play the Senators for the Cup. We'll see over the next couple of weeks!
Update: Boy, lots of Red Wings and hockey discussion over at the Fark forum where I found these two images. The first was done by Farker Sens. The second appears to be from CBC Sports, but I don't know exactly where.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Don't Look Like I Expected
You know how when you only know someone by voice or by their writing and then you meet them or see a picture for the first time, they never look like you quite expected? Well, here's a blogger project matching pictures to blogger names. Boy, none of these guys look anything like I pictured them.
Monday, April 14, 2003
A Note on France
In the US when we approach unemployment rates of 6% and growth rates slow below 4%, we start to worry about recessions and depressions. Heck, the whole world starts to worry. In France, unemployment is always (it seems) in the double digits. Growth rates are sub-2%.
In the US assimiliation is encouraged to such a degree that we print its mantra on our money. Even the terrorists who come here to kill us and threaten our lifestyles, first assimilate and enjoy the riches of our most successful nation. In France, the country feels overwhelmed by their immigrants. Fear of the Muslims tempers political and social thought and planning. A similar sense of xenophobia brings increasing violence to Jews who have lived for generations in France.
And it doesn't look like things are going to get better any time soon in France.
I recently rented Blue Crush even though I had seen it in the theaters. If you like big waves and Hawaii and girls in bikinis, I strongly recommend this movie. The DVD extras show some neat making-of shots and the viewer learns that the lead, Kate Bosworth, actually did a lot of her own surfing shots after learning how to ride specifically to gain the part in the movie.
But none of that was really supposed to be my point here. My point was going to be to tell you to check out this picture. Did you know that once a year there is a huge wave that travels backwards, up the Amazon? The Pororoca is a once a year wave that flows for hundreds of miles. And this guy surfed it. Man, why aren't there scores of surfers lining up to catch this thing each year? Yeah, it's not that high, but it goes on and on and on. It's good trivia too.
A mixture of caffiene and alcohol could be an effective and cheap prophylactic against brain damage in stroke victims. The cocktail concoction conjures thoughts of Irish coffee as medicine. The experimental drug is called caffeinol. Now if they would just create an over-the-counter modification which I am tentatively going to call tetrahydrocaffeinol, all of our Sunday mornings would sure be nice.
I know you've all been following the war and the related geo-political implications of our actions overseas (and if you're not, you should be). Here is a great online tool to measure your knowledge of Mideast geography focusing on the locations of the countries in the area. See how much you know and realize how much you don't. I was pleasantly surprised by my performance, though I'll admit pretty thorough ignorance of the north-eastern African countries. I nailed the conflict region and its surrounding countries other than switching Jordan and Syria, which was a stupid mistake.
This is a great teaching tool. If you've got kids, give them a globe and give them this link and let the learning commence. I haven't explored the other offerings of RethinkingSchools.org, but if this is any indication of their overall content quality, then they're probably a great online educational resource.
Sex in Scandinavia
Salmon, saunas, erotic aquaparks, low population density: it's all available in Scandinavia and leads to plenty of wilderness recreating.
Mountains and romantic woods, picturesque lakes and meadows always inspire northern [and western -- Ed.] people for having outdoor sex. It never occurs to anyone that someone might catch them making out. The population density in Scandinavian countries is very low, so there is hardly an opportunity for two Scandinavian hot-blooded couples to find themselves in one and the same spot.I'll have to keep all of this in meind if I ever get a job and can plan a vacation. In the mean time, at least I have an idea of what to cook for dinner.
This is the story that got me thinking about putting up that last poll. It also explains RIAA's position at the top of the list. The article is largely a rant against RIAA and their tactics, but along the way it provides some good reasons why you too should hate and fear the mafRIAA. If you want more in-depth coverage of their corrupt tactics, go read Aimee Deep and follow her links. Might as well check out her super-hot pictures for the troops while you're there too.
Since We Last Spoke
Yeah, I know. I haven't written or posted jack here in a week -- again. Since we last spoke, I skiied some really bad snow on a really nice day at Vail with Vince, got sick, slept alot, got better, got weird bruises on three of four limbs, had an interview that wasn't, and generally oscillated between feeling like my world is on the verge of collapsing in on me and feeling like my world is on the verge of coming together in some sort of perfect harmony. Who knows where the hell I really am? But I go back and forth all of the time now. It's either panic and despair or carefree and propitiousness.
I've also bookmarked a couple of stories that I intend to mention. Hopefully I'll do that here this morning, but I have a bunch of other stuff to do today too, so who knows. I guess it will depend on the degree to which I can convince myself the sky is / is not falling.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Those Freakin' Frog Suckers Be the Death of Us All
"Hating Yankees too much; Those beret-headed nuts; They can stick the Eiffel Tower; Straight up their butts." -- French People Suck by The Meatmen
This item over at the Command Post is drawing lots of comments on whether or not the French are ultimately our allies. I vote no, but some guy living in France and calling himself General Patton disagrees. I suspect he's just making the same, crisp, 180° heel-turn that some of the French pols now seem to be executing. I've been drinking the French wines out of my cellar, and I have no plans to replace them.
Especially good in the comments was this from spin:
The problem I (and other Americans) have with France is not that they disagreed, but that they attempted to build a global coalition of disagreement, speak on behalf of all European countries to the frusteration of those European countries that supported us, disrupt attempts of NATO to defend a possible attack on Turkey and organize a situation in the security council optimized not only to defeat a US-UK-Spanish proposal but embarass the US at the same time.That about nails it.
The Qok of Umm Qasr
This story has been out for a couple of days, but I keep forgetting to link to it. It's an inside look at some of the long and hard camera work being done by ABC's 20/20 embeds.
It Is Not a War on Islam
This BBC story via Random Jottings:
By Sarah Oliver
More Snow Photos
Here are some mind-blowingly awesome snow pictures. They are quite different than the ones I have posted over the past season. The patterns and symmetry and variance that form just from a drop of water is simply stunning.
Brand Marketing Strategies
Marketing is an area of business that I find myself more and more interested in as time progresses. This is largely due to conversations with my brother who is a sales and marketing guy. I guess my real interest is in the psychology of advertising and the dynamics of interactions between clients and providers.
This is an interesting article on perceived relationships between customers and sincere versus exciting companies. For those of you still at Merrill Lynch, it's interesting to consider in light of the MLDirect marketing campaign (if you can even consider the limited promotion a campaign). How many more clients could Merrill have attracted if they had highlighted the new product as exciting instead of sincere and trustworthy? Could such promotion have made support jobs more interesting and exciting and led to better employee retention (assuming retention of employees is still a stated goal at Merrill).
I could probably write a whole paper on the failure of the strategy and the lousy implementation of the product. But sitting around writing such papers doesn't pay the bills. Of course, this silly blog doesn't help in that respect either. I know this comes across as pretty bitter wtih regards to my former employer, but I'm not really upset. I like to think that I am looking back now with a clearer head at possible missed opportunities.
Sunday, April 06, 2003
Hooray for Hockey!
Well, how about that? Everything went exactly as hoped. Avs won. Canucks lost. Forsberg had a goal and two assists to take the scoring title. Hejduk scored his 50th goal and won the Maurice Richard. Naslund had no points. But I was wrong about Anaheim coming to town. It's going to be Minnesota. Now, things get interesting.
Crime and Punishment
Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment isn't mentioned anywhere in this article about sniper suspect Lee Malvo, but it seems to be very much the modern tale. Malvo doesn't appear to just be some stupid, punk kid. He's haughty and arrogant but no dummy. He took his perceived missions seriously and planned accordingly. He is without remorse and doesn't seem to fully appreciate how he was captured. Malvo prepared his body and mind through meditaion, limited calorie intake, multi-vitamins, and working out at the YMCA. This is the proverbial interesting look inside the mind of a killer.
Saturday, April 05, 2003
What's at Stake Tomorrow
For Avs fans, tomorrow is a huge hockey day. The Avs play the Blues starting at 1:00. The Canucks play the Kings starting at 2:00. If the Avs win and the Canucks lose, the Avs will win the Northwest. If the Avs lose or tie or if the Canucks tie or win, the Avs will stay in 4th place in the West and the Blues will stay in town for the first two games of the first round of the playoffs. If the Avs can pull off the win and the Canucks blow it, then St. Louis will head to Vancouver, and the Mighty Ducks will come to Denver. The Ducks have beaten the Avs in three out of four games already this year.
Even more exciting than the team standings are the individual races for goal scoring and total points, and again, that all comes down to the Avs and the Canucks. Forsberg has the assists title wrapped up already with 75. Add in 28 goals and he is in 2nd place with 103 points behind the Canucks' Naslund who has 104 points in the race for the Art Ross Trophy. Naslund has a lot of impetus to add to his point total as he is currently in second place with 48 goals to the Av's Hejduk who has 49 goals in the competition for the Maurice Richard Trophy. Additionally, both players would love to have 50 goal seasons. With 46 goals and in third place, the Canucks' Bertuzzi isn't out of the race either. It's not hard to imagine Naslund setting up Bertuzzi four times and having one take the Richard and the other the Ross. On top of all of that, Naslund and Forsberg are the two most talked about contenders for the Hart Memorial Trophy presented to the league's most valuable player. Expect it to go to whoever's team wins the Northwest division.
The Avs face a tougher Blues team compared to the Canucks - Kings matchup. Naslund and Bertuzzi will probably still have a period and a half or more to play when the Avs finish. Naslund and Bertuzzi will thus have the advantage of knowing what Forsberg and Hejduk were able to accomplish. Man! Tomorrow is going to be some exciting hockey. Unfortunately, I feel like I need to be excited now because I don't think Avs can get by either Dallas or Detroit to get to the Western conference finals. Out in the East, I like the Senators' offense, but I really like Brodeur's defense. He makes the Devils awfully tough to beat over a seven game series.
Hooray for hockey!
I don't have a good feel for the legal significance of this, but US District Judge Julie Carnes has issued an opinion that the killer of JonBenet Ramsey was likely someone other than her parents. The opinion was part of a libel case and unrelated to a criminal proceeding.
Tony, I think you might have some money coming to you now.
"It Sure Beats Having to Shoot Them"
That was the comment from one Marine on the warm reception his group received as they made their way through Aziziyah about 50 miles southeast of Baghdad. He and his comrades were offered soft drinks, cigarettes, and the occasional flower by the town's people. I've seen similar comments in the past two weeks from American soldiers. We wish we didn't have to shoot them. We realize it's not a fair fight, and if our troops had their way we wouldn't fight. In some areas though the Iraqis just haven't figured out how badly outclassed they are, or they have figured it out, but there is some maniac asshole still loyal to a dying regime that has a gun pointed at his own men's backs commanding them to their deaths. The US forces have done an absolutely outstanding job of demonstrating through their day-to-day actions that we are indeed the good guys in this conflict. Perhaps that is the lasting legacy of VietNam: we must and we will conduct our military operations in such a manner that no one can say that we did not follow the strictest and most just guidelines for war.
Friday, April 04, 2003
Here's a Fark story about a cop who likes to play piggy back. I know another cop who likes to play piggy back, but that's much too long and too sordid a tale to tell here.
Hickenlooper for Mayor
Via Vince: The Rocky Mountain News has endorsed John Hickenlooper in the upcoming Denver mayor's election. It's a glowing review. It is interesting to read about all of the right things that John has done along the way. Perhaps he has more lofty aspirations should he make it first to the mayor's office.
Puck 1 -- Teeth 0
Toronto got a scare when captain Mats Sundin was hit in the mouth with a clearing attempt by teammate Richard Jackman midway through the opening period.
Buy that Man a House
Maybe we should start a fundraiser to buy this guy and his family one way tickets to the United States. He's the guy that was so instrumental in the rescue of Pfc Jessica Lynch. The more we find out about his undercover operation, the better it gets.
Anyone want to bet on when the made for tv movie on the ordeal is going to run? Could they turn it out and air it before the war was over? My wager is that it airs the 2nd Friday following the US officially declaring Baghdad under coalition contol. Any takers?
I went over to my brother's for some rotisserie cooked leg of lamb and a very nice 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape (remember, always drink Rhone wines with lamb). (Also, if I haven't told you before, the George Foreman rotisserie grill is a fabulous, fabulous product. You've never tasted lamb like that!) Anyway, after dinner we flipped on the tv and stumbled across a Jaime Foxx stand-up special on HBO or Showtime or something. It was pretty new as there were jokes about Osama and Bush. But the funniest parts of the routine were his tales about other celebrities he had a chance to meet. He talked of having made jokes in the past about Mike Tyson and then having to turn on his heels when they ended up in the same club together. He aptly described Mike Tyson as the pit bull that suddenly appears with out a leash. Damn, that dog's big! Is that your dog? Who dog is that? That dog doesn't look very safe. It was so funny as it seemed to describe Mr. Tyson so well. Unfortunately, this story isn't translating into writing very well. Keep an eye out for it on the tube, or maybe look on Kazaa. Some funny, funny stuff.
Also from the Post
See too this story about how we are quite literally bombing them into submission. I do feel sorry for these kids. They've got guns pointed at their backs and tanks pointed in their faces. We'll make sure that doesn't happen to their kids.
Is it even a War?
I commented earlier today that I didn't think the war could possibly being going any better than it is. This article (via the Command Post) asks if the Iraqis aren't fighting, whether we can even call it a war. There's a nice evaluation of the tactics or lack there of that Saddam has used so far. One point not addressed that I would have liked to have seen covered is whether - or to what degree - the US psy-ops tactics may have played a role in certain military leaders not following Saddam's orders. I think that in a couple of weeks when most of the fighting has wrapped up, we'll begin to hear more praise for the role our intelligence operations played in the days and weeks leading up to the invasion of Iraq. But that's just a hunch. As I also commented earlier today, I'm no intelligence analyst.
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Makin' 'em Nervous
Former CIA director James Woolsey on US operations now and forthcoming in the lands of Abraham:
"As we move toward a new Middle East," Woolsey said, "over the years and, I think, over the decades to come ... we will make a lot of people very nervous."via HobbsOnline.
IM @ ACI?
Instant messaging is taking off in the corporate world. According to this article, one of the main reasons is that the, "use of public service IM bypasses most of the enterprise data security measures currently in place." Security features that log all of your in- and outbound emails while editing for obscenities for example.
It's pretty easy to turn off the logging feature available in most of the IM clients so as not to leave a trail. I guess the biggest issue is whether corporate IT monitors or prevents the download and installation of these programs.
I'm a big fan of Trillian for its wide range of features and ability to communicate across different platforms. I'm considering the $25 full version because of all the cool plug-ins. It appears that you can pull in RSS feeds and play WinAmp and all sorts of other neat things. It appears that nearly everything I regularly use my computer for can be handled through the Trillian 1.0 interface. Neat.
This link is safe for work, but I would advise you not to click on it.
Link via Tanya.
If you're tired of nothing but the war coverage on the internet and tv and radio, I recommend taking a little time out of your day to check out Gizmodo. It's a fun way to keep up on all of the latest high tech gadgets that are coming our way. Lately, I feel like I've been in a rut with the internet. I have 100+ links in my favorites, but it all seems to be the same, boring stuff. Gizmodo has a clean, fresh feel to it that is appropriate of its subject matter. Stop by for something new and interesting.
You and Your Policies Are Gay!
A 12 year-old has been suspended from school for arguing that a call that went against him in a school yard game was, "gay." I think that is gay. If you would like to tell West Middle School Principal Jody Mimmack that she and her policies are gay you can call her at (970) 243-9040. Let her know that you think she and her policies are gayer than Elton John.
Brian Griese is preparing to sign with the Miami Dolphins. He'll have to play back up for Jay Fiedler, but it will hopefully be a good fit. Fiedler is 31, and may not have more than a few more years as a starter in him. I liked Griese as a Bronco, but I think that it's neat that he'll get to play in Miami where his father was such a hero. Good luck to him there.
The Avs missed a big chance to improve their standing last night by losing on a night that Vancouver could only muster a tie. The Avs still have a chance. If they win their last two and Vancouver loses it's last game, then the Avs take the Northwest. If Vancouver ties or wins it's all theirs. And to keep things even more interesting, the Avs are still neck and neck with the Blues for the fourth place spot in the west should Vancouver prevail. It may well come down to the final game of the season on Sunday when the Avs host the Blues. I might have to go find a bar to watch that one. After all of that, things will then start to get interesting as the playoffs start. Hmmm. Is it possible to do a hockey playoff pool? Or does it get too confusing with the reseeding process that hockey uses?