Sunday, January 22, 2012

Celebrating the 4th

This past week marked the 4th month that Jen and I have been together, and to mark the occasion I though I would do a little something special, so I did a little investigating online and found that I could send her flowers if I went to an FTD florist.  Apparently you pick an FTD affiliated florist in your location, place the order and then they send the order to an FTD affiliated florist in the location that you wish to send it.  With that in mind, I walked over to Oliver Flowers in downtown Pittsburgh after work on Wednesday and by Thursday afternoon this had arrived on her doorstep.  (Thanks to Jen for providing the photos, and btw, Happy Anniversary!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Karaoke Friday - Inspirationally speaking

One of the things that Sammy and I do at work is, when we are putting away a grocery order, we will bust out into song.  Not good son, but are sad sack version of taking a product and find a way to make fun of it with a bad musical or cultural reference.  As a result, there will be times when we are putting away, say, tampons, and The Clapper commercial will come to mind (Tamp on, Tamp off, Tamp on Tamp off,  the tampon).  Another such musical selection is below, where the chorus gets replaced with such things as "Beans, Beans, Pork and Beans" or "Cheese, Cheese, Mac and Cheese".  But rather than do a video of Sammy and I singing (badly), I thought this time I would go to the original source material.

Lyrics | Cher - Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves lyrics

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Neverending Thread 2012 Edition

Anyone who has been around the page for a little while knows what this is about, for those that don't the concept is relatively simple, every year I start a blog thread and in it I list all of the books I have read for that particular year.  Rather than do a blog for each book, I just add each new book to the comment thread below.  The books listed herein with not be reviewed by me, nor will they be recommended or panned by me, unless they are exceptionally good or bad.  Far better people than me write reviews, so I just provide a link to the book (usually Amazon) and you can read up on the book as much or as little as you like.

I tailed of a little bit toward the end of 2011, only because I had my attention somewhat diverted between 4 different books, all of them open but none of them completely read, I hope don't fall into that trap again this year.  I would rather finish off those four books, then either get new ones or read the two I got for Christmas (the new Stephen King does look interesting), but for now I can say at least one of the four that were open are now shut.  So the first entry for 2012 is

Monday, January 16, 2012

My story

A fascinating question was posed to me at work today, at least fascinating as far as I am concerned. As I was bringing stuff up from the basement to stock the coolers, I was walking by the deli counter at work when Clare asked me the following; “Matt, if you were to write a book, what type of book would it be?”

Well, first, I don't consider myself much of a writer. I guess I am, but only in the broadest sense of the word, I do write, so in that regard I guess I am a writer, but calling myself a writer is akin to calling galoshes footwear. Technically they are, but I doubt anyone would mix them up with anything resembling fashionable footwear, likewise while I do write, nobody will mistake my scribblings with anything remotely close to being an actual writer.

So I guess the fact I was even posed the question to begin with was a bit startling, but as I mulled things over in ye olde cranium I realized that if I were to write a book, it would probably be non fiction, just because I don't believe I have the creative energy needed to create something out of whole cloth, I am much more equipped to relaying facts and ideas that are already in existence. Maybe providing my own unique spin or interpretation on those events, but it would be something that had some basis in reality.

The more I thought about it, the lazier I realized I actually am. I am just not one for a lot of research, I can do it if I have to, I know I have that skill set from years of doing talk radio, running down numerous leads, facts, rumors etc. and being able to get a decent enough handle on them to ascertain their relative truthiness. But it is an arduous task, and when I write I try to be as unarduous as possible. Which means whatever I write a book about, well, it would have to be a subject which I know plenty about. And really, what subject do I know more about than me? So I guess if I were to write a book, then that book would be an autobiography.

There are a couple of problems with that though. The biggest being, is there really a market for it? I admit when I blog, if people don't read that is okay, I write first for me and if people want to come along for the ride all the better. But when you get into actually writing a book, that is more like work and with work is an expectation that there is an actual market for that which is being created, otherwise why do it. And I don't know if there is a market for an autobiography of a manager at a newsstand. The other main problem I can see is that much of what I would consider “book material” is already here for free, and who really wants to pay for things that they can get for free? I know I don't. So I guess in the end, the book I would write is the book that will never be written.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The new year

Good morning kids. Well I guess we got our answer, I decided to not do another Multiply 365, after contemplating the idea for a while I just decided that I really didn't have the motivation to make another attempt, and life being what it is these days, I don't want to try to force out an y sort of writing that just isn't there.

That doesn't mean the page will be empty, there will still be stuff popping up here from time to time, but those times will be based on when I ant to write as opposed to an artificially created deadline on my part.

Still, since the last time I wrote, plenty has happened and I would be remiss in not telling you some of it at least. For instance, last year I spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the register system at work, and all of the problems that went with it. For those who are new to the page, allow me a brief recap. But first let me take a bite of my lunch, since I am at least starting this blog from the Squirrel Cage, and on the menu today is a hot roast beef sandwich with french fries and gravy over everything. I do believe the word I am looking for is yum.

Anyway, the register system. The system we use at work is called Ultimate Retailer and our setup consists of 5 computers, 4 on the sales floor and one in the office. The way it works is pretty simple, you scan the barcode on the item at checkout, or you input the items identifying number (SKU) and the price pops up on the screen. How that works is that all of the product information has to put into the system, so you start by selecting a new item, at which point the system will generate an SKU for the item. If the item has a barcode, you can scan it into the system in the appropriate box, as well as adding an item description, assigning which department the product belongs to (pop, candy, groceries, tobacco, cigarettes, etc.) and the price of the item. The system will recognize a SKU or barcode only once, so you can't have duplicates in the system. As I told you previously, for those that paid attention way back when, the first problem I had with the system was that the person(s) who had my job before me failed in this task miserably, they were erasing the automatically generated SKU and in that box putting the barcode instead, then they would also try scanning the barcode into the box for the barcode. Because the system will not use the same number twice, it would then alter the barcode in some fashion, usually by either dropping a number from it or changing one.

My first task then became to eliminate all of those records that were incorrect, a lengthy process because each record had to be deleted individually, so I would work on that project whenever I had time and the store was slow, because once I started deleting items from the office, the entire network would go into a lagging state where it would take much longer to ring customers out upstairs.

We had purchased the system and software from a local vendor, SCR Systems, and when we would mention the problems we would have, they would show up to do a service call, which consisted of them showing up, saying everything was fine, and then asking for a check for their time.

Needless to say, that didn't help with our problem. So I poked around on the web and found the people that actually created the Ultimate Retailer Software and handed that information over to management, suggesting that we might have better luck dealing with people that have created the software to begin with. After contacting them, we learned of our first major problem, the software we were using was a full two upgrades behind the one that Ultimate Retailer currently offers, something you would think SCR might have told us in any of their number of visits to our store, but opted not to.

That should solve the problem, right? Not so fast Cochese. Because the actual hardware that SCR sold us didn't have enough available memory to run the Ultimate Retailer software. It would run the program okay, but we had to cut back on using some of the features. Mind you, many of those features we really don't use anyway, we don't keep an actual store inventory in the register system or anything like that, so we could get the software to run on the system we had, just not to it's fullest potential.

With the new software in place, I set about deleting all of the incorrect records in the system, with the thinking that I would delete them, then go upstairs and begin the arduous process of taking one of every item we sell, checking to see if it was in the system and scanning at the correct price, if not I would either have to add the item or change the existing record. But the process of just deleting all of the mistakes was a long one, I am not joking when I say I spent well over 24 hours just sitting in front of the office computer deleting records, one at a time, from the system.

This is where the available memory problem kicks in, while deleting items with the updated software cut down on our lag problem at check out, deleting an item from the office and getting the registers upstairs to recognize that an item was deleted was not an instantaneous thing, it would take time for the registers upstairs to recognize the changes. On top of that, in order to get the software to work on our computers, one of the features we cut back on was the record keeping aspect of Ultimate Retailer, so it would only keep a log of what took place for a day before deleting the record and starting a new one. So as I am just deleting items left and right in the basement, the registers upstairs were choking on all of the changes being made. Then midnight would come around and poof, any changes that weren't accepted by the registers upstairs were just lost to them, so now I had the office computer back to where it needed to be to move forward, but the ones on the sales floor were still replete with many incorrect records.

Again we contacted Ultimate Retailer and explained our new problem, they gave us three solutions, we could 1) buy new computers/registers for the sales floor that could actually run the software, 2) we could delete all of the data again by hand from one of the registers upstairs, basically meaning I would have to redo everything I had already done downstairs, but do it from a different terminal, or 3) do a data transfer, taking the office computers information and transferring it to the other registers on the sales floor, but to do that we would have to shut down the entire system, an idea that becomes more problematic when you are open and making sales 24 hours a day, since the data transfer would take roughly 30 minutes or so. Since #1 involves spending money and #3 involves hindering our ability to make money, management wanted me to try #2. #2 wasn't a good idea, the available memory upstairs was so slow that it would take 5 minutes just to delete one item, now figure in that the process took 24 hours when I was working on a relatively good computer in the basement and you see the problem, I would be deleting stuff forever and a day just to get the system to where it needs to be.

So Brian finally opens up his wallet and opts to buy new computers/registers for the sales floor. Of course, this story can't have a happy ending yet, so who does he buy them from? SCR, the same assclowns that fucked us in the past. They were making some ridiculous demands from the start, they wanted paid before they did anything, they didn't want to stick around to see if the system actually worked, etc. but finally an agreement was reached and they started putting in the new computers. Literally one of the first things I asked them was, when you are installing these new units, are you using the database in the office computer as the master record? Yes, yes, that is what we are doing, blah, blah, freaking blah. Except it wasn't what they did at all, they just swapped out terminals and transferred the existing records from the terminal they were replacing, mistakes and all. So we still had mistakes, we just now had faster access to them. Yay us!!!

The problem was finally solved when we contacted the Ultimate Retailer people again and went ahead and had them do the data transfer from the office to the sales floor, shutting down the entire system while that took place and leaving me to run a manual cash register for the entire time that they did it. I ran the manual register simply because I know how incompetent some of our cashiers can be, they regularly get a line running out the door with three registers, with one they easily could have had a line going around the block. So I ran a manual register for almost an hour, no one else ringing customers to help me, and ijn the course of an hour I rang almost $500 in sales. Mind you, our normal cashiers are lucky if they can do $1000 in an 8 hour shift.

But for now it would seem the system is finally running close to where it should be, we still have an issue here or there, but most of the bugs seem to have been worked out.

Of course, as I type that I realize that I am out of food here, lunch is done, I barely scratched the surface on all of the things I have been meaning to talk about, but I assume they would like it if I vacated my table so that some newer customers can have a chance to sit down and have lunch as well, so I will stop here and come back in a bit.

And we are back!!! Miss me? Don't lie, you know you did. Excuse me while I try to get all comfy under a blanket. While having lunch out today was probably a good thing, it also meant I was outdoors longer that I really needed to be, and with the weather the way it is here today (I do believe the proper word is cold), it is taking me a while to warm back up. The lunch was very good however, so it was worth the trip. Plus I didn't even have to ask, I had barely sat down and had my laptop open to begin this blog entry when glass of iced tea appeared on the table without me even asking. That constitutes a 40% gratuity right there, for any of you waiters and waitresses out there looking to find a way to make an extra buck or two when I visit your establishments.

I still have a few other things I need to get to in this here blog, like the change meter,which I haven't updated in a couple of months almost. Not that there is much new to tell, another $2.21 gets added to the total, so our first number of the new year is $318.13. Still have a ways to go to ever get to the $400 mark, but it's a start I guess.

While I did shut down the 365 project this year (thanks again to everyone that commented over the course of the last year) some things like the change meter will be sticking around for another year. There will probably be a neverending thread again, as soon as I actually finish a book. I spent the last part of last year with 4 different books open at the same time, I am now trying to focus my energies on knocking those 4 out one at a time, and so far so good. I managed to knock off 100 pages or so in one of them this week, which isn't quite my normal reading pace, but it is better than I had been doing. I will also continue to add the hockey videos, I started working on catching them up over Christmas break, and there are though I still have a few weeks worth of highlights that need to be added before I am back to where I need to be. And the BFT/TITIT blogs will be back, as needed. Just haven't really needed one recently. Then again, I have put myself in a cocoon of ignorance regarding all things political any more. There is lots of noise out there, but little actual insight.

Speaking of things political, people whop have been around the page a couple of years, or have bothered to look past whatever has popped up on my page in the last couple of entries, know that before my time at Smithfield News I was employed as a radio show producer, working primarily on political talk shows of varying philosophies. Of course I was laid off from that job a little more than 3 years ago, as the station was changing formats, going from political talk with local hosts, to a business talk format with mostly national programming, save for one person who was buying time to be on the air. Well, I think we can go ahead now and call that format flip a failure, the station has gone back to political talk (though all national programming) after spending 3 years doing business talk and getting absolutely nowhere with it. In the 36 months since I had been away, the station made the ratings book one month, when it posted a .1 rating, the rest of the time the audience was even smaller than that, so small that Arbitron couldn't measure it. Of course they still have the one guy buying time, but with numbers like that, it says more about his ego than it says about it being a good business proposition. And of course their abject failure warms the cockles of my heart, because well, that's just the way I roll.

Something I can guarantee you this year, besides there being no 365 project is that there will be no hidden blogs either. No Easter eggs as they would be called in DVD terms, anything I write for public consumption will be just that, for public consumption, nobody will get left out.

Okay, I think I have prattled on enough for one entry. Maybe this will help make up for not writing in a while. But for now I think I am going to take a nap, after all I have priorities here.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Yes, this is nothing more than a test. I have been doing a little tinkering with the page, so this is just a test to see if everything I have done I have done properly. If not, some tweakage may be in order, but for now this is only a test.

Our inspiration (the title for this blog)

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