Category Archives: Business

The Vasa Syndrome

Header photo credit: Peter Isotalo  A 1:10 scale model of Vasa’s  elaborately decorated stern.  

On August 10, 1628, The Vasa, a brand new war ship commissioned by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, set off on its maiden voyage from Stockholm. It got about a mile  into the harbor when a mild gust of wind tipped it over and sank it, killing about 30 sailors. It wasn’t salvaged until 1961. Quite a bit of the remains of the ship and much of its fittings and cargo are on display in a very popular museum in Stockholm.

The Vasa Syndrome is a term used today to describe modern institutional or business failure due to poor communication, unrealistic  goal setting, and lack of adaptability by management. Gustavus was off fighting a war in Germany and Poland, but kept making changes to the design of the ship, insisting, for example, that there be 84 bronze cannons when the ship could only hold 36. He wanted it built quickly, with elaborate decorations and carvings that showed off his grandeur and greatness on its multiple decks, the height of  which made it unstable in the water.  It was tested for stability in the water and failed the test, but was allowed to sail anyway.  It ended in disaster.  It seems things never change.

What are your experiences with the Vasa Syndrome? Got any good stories about boats?

Nothing on a Stick

Well, we did it.  We found a fair food truck that had three of our favorite things and that wasn’t too far!  It was up in the Costco parking lot in north Minneapolis, so if you don’t count my having to backtrack because it turns out the 46th street ramp onto 35W is closed, it only took about 15 minutes to get up there.

We shared an order of cheese curds, an order of French fries and a bag of mini donuts (although I probably had more than half… YA likes them but not as much as the other things).  We sat in the car to eat and watched other folks wander up to the truck for their orders.

It was quite pleasant except for the fact that seven hours later I was still not interested in food – still not hungry.  If a half order of three items filled me up that much, how in heavens’ name do people eat so much at the fair?  I never get cheese curds or French fries on my solo fair days since I don’t have anyone to share it with, but even so, if you add up what I do consume on my own, it’s quite a bit.  I expect that the increased exercise from walking all over the fair is what keeps me from getting too full.  Since my only exercise yesterday consisted of the stationary bike for 30 minutes and the dog walk for just 20 minutes, my fair food kept me full all day.  Guess that means that without the whole state fair experience, I should probably stay away from too many food trucks this summer!

How are you getting your exercise in this summer?

For Sale?

I’m not sure what motivated me but last night I clicked on CNN.com.  I know, I know… what was I thinking?  It went against my ostrich imitation of the last couple of months (head in the sand), but something drove me to it.

But amid all the bad news, there was an interesting bit.  Apparently when asked a direct question about whether the U.S. is still interested in buying Greenland (despite it definitely NOT being on the market), a straight answer was not to be had from the Secretary of State.  Here’s a link to the story, which is kinda funny:  https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/22/politics/trump-buy-greenland-pompeo/index.html

I don’t really have much to say about this (since it is so beyond absurd that “absurd” isn’t a good enough word) except that I think I might prefer for us to get a tropical island instead.

What do you think?  If we have to buy an island, which one to you think we should put in our shopping cart?  

Chaos

Monday will be a day of reckoning at my work place. It is the day we move to our new building.  There are approximately 80 offices that need to be emptied and moved to the new building.  Over 300 boxes of patient records will be moved.  All the omens predict chaos.

The renovations at the new building are not complete. There still is no internet. Some offices don’t have electricity yet. The  new office and waiting room furniture will arrive on Monday just as the moving company will be moving in all our computers, boxes, filing cabinets, supplies, and everything else we are taking with us.  It will take all week for the new furniture to be installed. The cardboard boxes that we were provided with from Walmart are reluctant to let tape adhere, so I foresee bottoms crashing out of boxes as they are moved. Somehow, in the midst of this, we have to attend to our crisis and emergency clients, and see clients via telehealth from our homes.

I am responsible for four offices, including two offices in which we give people tests, my play therapy room, and my personal office. I filled 45 rather large boxes with books, test manuals, toys, office supplies, paper tests and test kits, four computers and their monitors, and our telephones for each office.  I also had to label each piece of furniture with the  number of the new offices to which they are to be delivered. We didn’t have the new office numbers until last Thursday, so I spent Thursday and Friday feverishly labeling my boxes and furniture. I am thankful that a psychometrist and another psychologist from the Bismarck office are coming on Wednesday to help me unpack and set up the testing offices.

The move has been a physical challenge for me.  The boxes are heavy. I removed bulletin boards that were screwed to the wall while standing on top of desks.  I had to disassemble a large room divider for one of the testing rooms.  Monday morning I have to go to the new building and remove two unnecessary desk peninsulas that are attached to the walls in the testing rooms so that there is room for the Psychology filing cabinets. The construction company says it isn’t in their contract to do so.  I better not lose my purse, since that is where I stored all the nuts and bolts and filing cabinet keys.

There is no one to blame for this.  Our regional director worked hard to get the movers, furniture delivery, internet installation, and building construction to align with the deadline from the college that owns our old building to be out by July 20.  It is hard to control the outcome with so many different working parts. I am hopeful that by the end of the week things will be back to normal.

What is the biggest project you have been involved with?  Do you plan or follow others’ plans?

This is a follow-up to my rant about my car dealership about a year and a half back.  I complained that they tried to sell me tires when I really didn’t need them yet.

Fast forward to last week when my car (Brekke) started making noise – it sounded like something was stuck under the car and was only audible when the wheels were in motion.  And it was variable – some times louder than others.  The last time I had a car noise like this (back when I had Civetta the Civic) it turned about to be brake pads.  In addition to the noise, the check tire pressure light went off again – it was finally time to think about new tires.

But I didn’t really trust the dealership to do tell me the truth or charge me fairly – such a sad state of affairs.  Back when I complained about the dealership the first time, Anna (I think it was Anna) mentioned that she’d had good luck with a car shop near our house.  That reminded me that another friend had also said good things about them.  It took a few days to get Brekke in to see them, but they had a spot yesterday.  When I described the noise, I did mention brake pads (and then kicked myself on the way home).

I was completely bowled over when they called me mid-day.  The brakes and pads were fine for now – no need to replace.  Turns out that another consequence of the pandemic is that newer cars with metal brake pads are not getting enough use and getting rust build-up, which then makes noise.  They cleaned it all up.  Then we talked about tires and agreed upon which ones and getting them aligned.  When I went to pick up the car, the mechanic said to be sure to send in for a rebate on the tires and got me the right form so I didn’t have to print it out off the internet.  Very nice service.

They could have easily told me the brake pads were bad and replaced them – I would never have known the difference.  And they certainly could have tried to soak me for much more expensive tires.  So I am entirely satisfied and although I hope I don’t have to go see them again any time soon, I’m thinking that they are my new mechanics!

Have you gotten any outstanding customer service lately?

Mulch Madness

My mother did some gardening, but not a lot – the occasional rose bush but it was never a grand passion.  She never asked me to help with anything in the yard, not even raking in the fall.  None of my grandparents had the gardening bug either, so I’m not sure where I got the flower fever.

My plan of more flowers/less grass has pretty much come to fruition – there is hardly any grass left in the front.  Although the more flowers/less grass situation does come with an unforeseen circumstance – mulch!  We use a lot.

And in the more interesting turn of events, YA has made it clear that SHE is in charge of the mulch.  She has opinions about what kind is best (cypress), how many bags at a time I should get (definitely 6), where it goes in the yard and who should be putting it down where (I get the boulevard, she gets everywhere else).  This year she put down some of that black tarp on the northern side of the front yard and covered it with mulch as well.

Now we’re waiting for mulch to be re-stocked at the nursery – they were out yesterday morning – the latest repercussion of shelter-in-place – lots more folks are gardening!

Any gardening surprises for you this year?

It’s Ringing

This past Solstice, one of YA’s gifts to me was a Ring doorbell – you know, one of those doorbells that has a camera in it.  This gift falls into the category of a gift for herself rather than a gift for me.  YA does a lot of her shopping online, so she worries about packages left on our front porch.  Installing this thing required drilling holes into the stucco, so it was very easy to put off at first.  Then it ended up in a box in Nonny’s room and I was hoping a little bit that it would be forgotten.

But thanks to shelter-in-place, YA is stuck in the house and looking for projects.  I resisted a bit by not being helpful but YA was persistent.  She went to the basement and got the drill, looked up directions on YouTube, got out an extension cord.  Then she realized that we should really move the mailbox over a few inches, so she had to collect up the tools to get this done as well.  But eventually I couldn’t put it off any longer, so I drilled the holes for the Ring and then drilled new holes for the mailbox’s new location.  YA has done the rest, including putting the app on my phone.  I guess I still get to pick my own ring tone.

What technology have YOU succumbed to?

Brave Volunteers

I was happy and proud to read the other day that Minnesota has the second highest rate of volunteerism in the country, bested only by Utah.

North Dakota ranks 15th.  Husband decided that he has sufficient free time to volunteer at our local food pantry, and his first shift is next Thursday.  He will stock shelves. Our church donates the produce from our garden to the food pantry.  Suzy Kapelovitz, a nice Norwegian girl from Reeder, (a really small town in southwest ND), who married this Jewish guy who ran some sort of business in our town in ND, and who has spent her life here helping others, is the head of the food pantry.  She is in her 70’s. She confirmed his shift.  He is to stock shelves. I foresee volunteerism in our future,

Why do you think Minnesota has so many volunteers? What have you volunteered for?

Our New Pastime

I read an article the other day in which the CEO of King Arthur Flour said that baking has become the “new baseball” in this country.  Yeast sales are up 300% across the country compared to a year ago, and King Arthur has engaged an extra mill to assist in meeting the demand for its flour. There is enough flour to go around. The problem is that most of it is in 50 lb bags not suited to the average home baker. They are scrambling to get it into 5 lb bags and out to consumers.  People are baking out of panic, boredom, and as a way to obtain some comfort right now. I think there has been an increase in the purchase of vegetable seeds and plants for the same reason. I hope that people continue to bake and garden after this is all over.  I think we could use more national pastimes.

What would you like to see as “the new baseball”?  What are you doing for comfort these days? 

 

The Milk Man

I signed up for home dairy delivery (a milk man) when YA was two.  As a single parent, “running up to the store” isn’t as simple as it sounds, and it felt like we were always running out of Yo-J or milk or eggs.  When a neighbor mentioned that she used to have a milk man, my ears perked up.  I contacted Kemps Home Delivery and two days later, I got a call from Mike.  He started deliveries the next week and he is still bringing us dairy and other assorted food items every week.

There are about 50 milk men in the Twin Cities area and Mike has been in business for more than 40 years.  He loads up his truck every morning at the Kemp’s warehouse and then hits the road.  I leave my order form (and payment for the week before) on the front door.  He gets those items I from his truck, puts them in my fridge, gives the dogs and cats a treat and leaves a blank order form with the amount of the order for me to pay next week.

Mike’s wife, Suzie, does the office and phone management and both of them are as nice as can be.  They have grown kids and two grandkids, who feature in the yearly holiday newsletter.  Every Thanksgiving, they help manage and run a project called The Thanksgiving Free Store.  It’s just what it sounds like, food and other necessities provided for those in need, absolutely free.  They spend the year raising money and getting donations, things like socks, backpacks, warm clothing, coats and food, lots of food.  I’ve been supporting this effort for quite a few years now.

Mike is pleasant and personable.  If I’m home on a Friday when he delivers, it’s always nice to have some conversation with him.  I’m one of his last deliveries of the week, so he is never rushed when he’s at my place.  When we first started deliveries, he used to leave my items in a cooler on the front steps, but after a couple of months, I gave him a key (he has a HUGE keychain).  I figured if we got robbed with no clear break-in, the cops would look to anybody who had keys first; I doubt Mike would want to put his only business at risk for anything I had laying around!

For the last couple of months, I’ve been worried about Mike.  The Kemp’s warehouse announced (without much warning) that they would only be open four days a week because there were only a couple of milk men delivering on Fridays.  We got our delivery changed to Tuesdays (not a big deal) but I started to think that maybe the milk man business was dying out.  Although Mike is close to retirement age, it would be better for him to retire when it’s good for him rather than for his business to shrink away.

Well, I don’t have to worry any more.  As someone who delivers food to your house, guess whose business has grown dramatically in the last three weeks?  In fact, the demand has grown so much that Kemps is thinking about re-opening the warehouse on Fridays.  And since Mike works alone, social distancing isn’t a problem; Suzy asked folks to re-instate the cooler system a couple of weeks ago, so Mike doesn’t even have to come in the house right now.  As soon as he drives off (Guinevere always lets us know when Mike is here) we go out and get our items out of the cooler.  The only ones really suffering are the animals, who don’t get their weekly treat from Mike!

Are you having anything new delivered to your place these days?