Dollar Store


Pondering the past decade or so,  I can’t honestly remember my first dollar encounter. Dollar stores have become second nature; more prevalent than corner groceries, dollar stores crept into the market place like stealth bombers. The lure of inexpensive wrapping paper, household gadgets and craft supplies presented themselves as the bee’s knees. My dollar marriage soured around the time a cheap “energy saving” dollar store lightbulb burst into flames. Burst may be a bit of an exaggeration – it was more like toxic smoke spewing from the coil as alarming heat snaked it’s way to the business end. I wasn’t  surprised, I was mad at myself for being stupid – you get what you pay for.

Dollar stores have become one of the fastest growing businesses in North America. Once upon a time people wanting to invest in a franchise looked at fast food – move over hamburgers – dollar stores now trade on the stock exchange. Not content with gift wrap and plastic tubs, they fancy themselves as grocers, pharmacists and home décor specialists. There was a time when WalMart meant the end of small retailers – now Wal Mart has dollar stores to fear.

The web is ablaze with stories on WalMart; debate over the percentage of goods made in China surface every other day. Wal Mart may have started the cheap at any cost craze – dollar stores close the deal. Dollar stores have become such a way of life, I see no turning back.

I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry; consumers have become so stupid, all that matters is the sticker price. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone that suicide nets are being installed in Chinese factories – conditions being so abhorrent, workers jump to their deaths rather than face another day. Nary a thought is given to banned chemicals or pesticides in food products – as long as that bag of garlic powder or honey bear is only a dollar, everybody is happy. Dangerous levels of lead in children’s toys or cosmetics – who cares, it only cost a dollar.

http://mjperry.blogspot.ca/2012/02/interesting-facts-of-day-dollar-stores.html

Poverty, Disease, and Pollution


If society could adapt to change as readily as marketing firms, the world would likely be a different place. Not for the faint of heart; advertising requires cunning and the ability to disregard conscience and morality. Success granted to those able to put their finger on the prevailing social winds.

Social media is the ad man’s wet dream. Hit “Like” on Facebook, print coupons, sign up for free offers; not only are we doing half the work for them – our actions are tracked and analyzed. It gives the expression “finger on the pulse of the nation” a whole new meaning.

These days poverty, disease, and pollution satisfy the corporate bottom line. Buzz words like ethical, organic, environmentally friendly, and fair trade line the coffers. Philanthropy for profit, a resounding success. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken.

Known as “strategic marketing” or “cause marketing”, companies attaching themselves to social issues put smiles on shareholder faces. In 2006 the “Red” campaign was launched to raise money for Aids in Africa. Championing the cause were Bono and Oprah. Virgin, Converse, Dell, Armani, Motorola, Apple, and the Gap all sold “red” products with a portion of sales going to Aids relief. That year a reported 18 million dollars was donated; over 100 million was spent on the ad campaign, and profits for companies involved skyrocketed. Granted, they raised some money. Call me cynical but ponder what the 100 million they spent on advertising could have done. If conscious of anything other than profits, a true act of charity would tell the story.

Corporate branding with tragedy has become a slick, calculated marketing strategy. I fail to find anything ethical about this illusion. All I ask is that before going out of your way to purchase these socially branded products; you stop and think. If you believe in a cause; find a reputable charity and donate directly. Send the ad men back to the drawing board; profiting from tragedy is despicable.

Call Me Crazy


Call me crazy, I won’t care. A week or so from now I’ll find myself in Battleford, Saskatchewan, and I couldn’t be happier. I grew up in the country; my rural childhood had seasons, wildlife, and something I perceived as isolation. Aside from the occasional rocking thunderstorm, and the time lightning struck and demolished the tree next to our house – it lacked extremes.

Canada is a very large country, a place with vastly different weather patterns. My farm childhood pales in comparison to that of the prairies. I grew up with lakes and mountains. I lived in a valley, surrounded by fruit trees and sagebrush. Sure it snowed, but never enough to halt our daily march to the school bus, or heaven forbid – issue a “snow day” at school.

In my early twenties I spent a winter working at a hotel in Grande Prairie, Alberta. This is the place responsible for my fascination with weather extremes.  I barely had time to wrap my head around the sun peering just above the edge of the horizon for a few hours each day, when terms like ice fog and snow rollers entered my vocabulary. Ice fog was my first lesson in the wonder of very, very cold weather.  I  knew about block heaters for car engines, you plugged your car in at night to keep the engine fluids from freezing. I didn’t know that despite this, at -40 or -45 degrees Celsius a coin still had to be flipped each morning to see who had to go out and get the thing started. I had no idea my car tires would become flat where they sat on the ground, and that everyone thunked along the road until their tires warmed up. I had no frame of reference to ponder temperatures so cold , water vapour in fog would form ice crystals that hung in the air. Barely able to catch my breath; snow rollers assaulted the house. Far from scientific my explanation of this phenomenon is summed up as high wind blowing across the prairie picking up snow, this snow forms balls, pushed by the wind and growing as they roll along,  they smash into the side of your house with a rather astounding thwack.

Officially hooked on weather, I sought it out rather than waiting for it to come along. While extremely cold weather seemed to offer the most excitement, I wasn’t picky. Any weather rush would do.

Hail storms fueled my hunger. Driving through “tornado alley” in the states gave me goose bumps. One night as we drove across South Dakota a tornado was visible between the lightning flashes. I see my first flash flood as if it were yesterday. We were at the Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border when massive thunder clouds started to build on the horizon, within minutes the wind was blowing sand  with such force it stung. All around me people scrambled for cover as hail and rain fell with force beyond imagination. I didn’t move, I couldn’t take my eyes off a red rock cliff; transformed into a muddy waterfall. Out of nowhere an old Navajo man appeared, he talked to me, explaining why mother earth had sent this storm. Never before or since have I felt as “spiritual” as I did that moment.

Last summer in Cuba, tropical storm Emily passed over Havana. Sitting at the edge of our hotel’s roof top pool, I felt the storm before I saw it. Oblivious to the pounding rain, wind, or frantic appeals by hotel staff to clear the roof; I smiled as funnel clouds formed, dropping down and retreating, teasing me with their elegance and power. The hotel staff literally pulled me from the roof as lightning lashed with a fury that surprised and rejuvenated me. Deposited in my room just in time to witness a lightning bolt strike the building next to us. Every hair on my body stood on end, the building rocked as deafening echoes bounced off the battered city. It was incredible, one of my best days.

So now I’m off to Battleford. A tiny blip, planted squarely in the centre of the Canadian prairie. A place where freezing rain, blizzards, and wind chills are a fact of life. I’m going to visit a place where weather changes in the blink of an eye, and best of all; a place where the endless sky, unobstructed by mountains or city lights will give me a front row seat to auroras. The northern lights show will hopefully be the icing on an extreme weather shot in the arm.

Snow Rollers –

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=snow+rollers&view=detail&id=D9A8786E6C9339F090D5DA14BBF3CA44637AEB1B&first=1

“Egg”splanation


My “wish list” the other day included one hoping consumers learned the difference between “free run” and “free range” eggs. I thought it unfair to leave that dangling. We pay premium prices for free run, free range, and organic. I laughed out loud when the egg question was explained.

In Canada, “free run” chickens are still confined to massive barns, never see the light of day, and are given nesting boxes to lay their eggs. To claim “free range” producers have to let the hens have access to outside the barn once a day. To be clear; we’re not talking flinging open the barn doors onto a grassy meadow – all they have to do is provide an “opening” for a prescribed amount of time.

Organic chicken deserves a serious ponder as well.  Any illusions to a “Sunnybrook” farm existence should immediately be tossed in the compost bin. Poultry is certified “organic” as long as it wasn’t feed antibiotics or animal by-products. Commercial producers can still pack thousands of birds into airless barns; still force feed them round the clock. I guarantee,  commercial organic chickens have never seen the light of day.

There is absolutely no difference in the nutritional content of eggs. Free run, range, or plain old eggs; it’s all the same. Falling for slick marketing ploys designed to feed on social conscience, only puts egg on your face. Organic chicken, free from antibiotics is not a bad idea; provided you suspend romantic notions of birds blissfully scratching around a grassy field.

Stop and think before you buy. Shop at farmers markets if you want eggs laid by happy chickens. Otherwise, save your money and demand unregulated marketing nonsense stops.There truly is no end to the ingenuity of mankind. Marketing is alive and well; human nature dictates no shortage of those willing to line up for “snake oil”.

Free range egg barn.

Forbes List Best and Worst Jobs 2012 – A Matter of Opinion


Few people have the option of life without work. What motivates our career choices, and how many are happy with their job? Do we abandon dreams for money, or was money our dream? Do starry eyed ambitions crush under the realities of life? Does our job fulfil our lives, or does it burden us with resentment and anxiety?  Are we over qualified and underpaid, or happily punching the clock pursuing our passions? Do we follow our own path or pave someone else’s?

Forbes has a list of the 10 best and worst jobs in 2012. I’m no expert but my guess is there are some happy Lumberjacks (worst job) and unhappy Software Engineers (best job).

Best jobs – Software Engineer, Actuary, Human Resources Manager, Dental Hygienist, Financial Planner, Audiologist, Occupational Therapist, Online Advertising Manager, Computer Systems Analyst, and Mathematician.

Worst jobs – Lumberjack, Dairy Farmer, Enlisted Military Personnel, Oil Rig Worker, Newspaper Reporter, Waiter/Waitress, Meter Reader, Dishwasher, Butcher, and Broadcaster.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/05/15/the-best-and-worst-paying-jobs-in-america/

Halliburton


When Dick Cheney stepped down as CEO of Halliburton to run with George Bush, he received a 33.7 million dollar package. On top of this, he caved to public pressure, selling 30 million dollars in stock options. During Cheney’s time as CEO, the number of subsidiary companies set up in off shore tax havens went from 9 to 44. One subsidiary named Halliburton Products and Services Ltd.,was set up in the Caymen Islands, as a way to avoid U.S. sanctions on doing business with Iran. During the same period, federal taxes paid by Halliburton went from over 300 to 85 million dollars a year. As hard as I ponder, I find it hard to swallow Cheney’s statement – ” the government has absolutely nothing to do ” with his or Halliburton’s financial success.

http://www.halliburtonwatch.org/about_hal/chronology.html

Senate Democrats And Republicans Hold Policy Cmte Meetings