Monthly Archives: April 2008

-{Note: For those of you not familiar with this blog, I give fictional names to the places that I’ve lived. Colosse is the large southern city that I was raised in. Deseret is a largely Mormon state out west where I lived in a rural portion of for a few years, living in a town called Zarahemla and working in a town called Mocum. Estacado is the inner-southwestern state that I currently live, living in the decently sized city of Santomas and working in the smaller city of Almeida}-

I stopped by Wendy’s this morning to get a biscuit sandwich and breakfast burrito and for the fifth time in my last seven visits to this particular Wendy’s, they got the order wrong. There’s a McDonald’s on my way to work that gets it right only half of the time, leading me to go a bit out of my way to another Mickey Dee’s that manages to get it right a good 80% of the time. By “getting it wrong” I don’t mean that they forgot to hold the ketchup, I mean that I ordered something and they gave me something else entirely.

One doesn’t generally expect much from barely-above-minimum-wage fast food workers, but living in Estacado has dragged my expectations below the floor. In Colosse it’s not a whole lot better, but in Colosse it’s limited to certain demographics (age, gender, and unfortunately race) that are most likely to work a fast food counter.

In Estacado, though, the problem seems different. The attitude seems to be fine. Employees of all colors and demographic groups are on the whole a lot more pleasant, but far more incompetent. And the incompetence seems to affect all ages, all races, and both genders. Not only is the fast food workforce in Estacado more diverse, but so is the incompetence. So much so that I can’t dismiss bad service as being the product of a bored high school kid or stressed out single mother or whatever. It’s just universal.

To be honest, I never noticed how bad the service back in Colosse was until I got to Deseret five or so years back. Clancy, who arrived in Deseret well before I did, noticed the exact same thing. They get what we ordered out to us relatively quickly and usually with a sunny demeanor. Doesn’t matter whether they’re just out of high school or pushing forty. Doesn’t seem to matter if they’re Mormon or not. Doesn’t even seem to matter if they’re even from Deseret originally. In some ways you’re less likely to get worse service in a service restaurant than you are a fast food joint.

I’ve been pondering why it’s all so different in Deseret compared to Estacado and Colosse and I’ve come up with a theory. In Colosse and Santomas-Almeida, there are a lot of career opportunities available to those that want to take advantage. I’m not talking about easy tickets to the middle class, necessarily, but jobs that pay at least somewhat decently that are leaps and bounds better than fast food or convenience store work. If you cut your professional teeth in customer service, there are a fair number of places that you can move on to once you’ve demonstrated the ability to show up to work sober on a regular basis and (mostly) avoid getting fired or impulsively quitting jobs every couple of months.

The same may well be true in Deseret’s capital city of Gazelem, but once you get out past the suburbs it becomes a different story. To take an example, getting a clerical job with the county or a DMV job with the state is a sign of lacking ambition or desperation in Colosse and Santomas, but working for the government seemed to be a crowning achievement in Zarahemla and Mocum and are thus really difficult to get. With the shifted goalposts, working at a fast food place isn’t nearly the humiliating experience in Deseret that it is more prosperous cities. As such, the types of employees that fast food establishments get out there are several cuts above what they can expect to get here or back in Colosse.

To take another industry, call center employers absolutely love Deseret. Out there they can manage to get well-spoken, reasonably educated and dedicated workers for considerably less than it costs them to get worse employees in Colosse. Some guys I talk to have speculated that there are so many call centers out there because Deseretians don’t have accents. I think they’re wrong, not only because they do have accents (though like midwestern accents they’re easier to understand than other ones) but because I don’t think it’s a matter of accents so much as it is a matter that they can find high school and college graduates that speak so well and have a fair amount of intelligence salivating at the prospect of working for $9/hr.* and much less likely to find a better opportunity elsewhere to move onto.

So that’s pretty much my theory: fast food workers here are the dregs of employable society. Fast food workers there are folks that would be able to take advantage of better opportunities if they live anywhere else.

My wife Clancy has a different theory. She thinks that Deseret is different because of the Mormon work ethic. I’ve commented on the industriousness of Mormons before, but from the lowest positions on up everyone at my job out there was trying to find ways to improve the company even as the company expressed as clearly as they could that they didn’t care what the underlings thought about anything. The same was true to a lesser extent when I worked at a phone bank out there. I’m not going to say that the Mormon employees out there were perfect because they weren’t, but by and large they seemed more intent on making the most of whatever situation they were in than any other group that I’ve worked with.

The Mormons’ family values also often create family structures that are more dedicated to bettering themselves than I’ve seen elsewhere. Though I never attended a Deseretian school, I definitely got the impression that a lot more kids went there to actually learn than elsewhere. I suspect that they managed to create an atmosphere that affected non-Mormons, too, as well as Mormons that would just assume screw around at school. It’s not as much fun being a class clown when few are laughing. Not having gone to school with them, a lot of this is speculation. What isn’t speculation is that by and large people out there that graduate high school manage to actually come out with an education.

Clancy’s theory and mine aren’t mutually exclusive and in fact compliment one another. If the Mormon culture produces a lot of really good workers and the local economy can’t absorb them, you end up with a lot of potentially great employees stuck working in drive-through lines.

As I’ve commented before, if I was the entrepreneurial type and wanted a great place to start a business (and there weren’t some cultural considerations), I’d look pretty strongly at Deseret.

* – I’d be remiss if I did not point to this post, wherein my employer had a candidate that was a thesis away from a masters degree in computer science, taught collegiate classes, had impressive internships, and a good attitude for an entry-level programming job and refused to pay her a penny more than $9/hr. That was less than the other programmers made, but what they determined was the least they could get away with paying her. She took the job and was excited about it.

Category: Market

Last week I introduced y’all to Quicktime Alternative and Real Alternative, which are great substitutes for installing the Quicktime and RealPlayer software. I mentioned that they both come with Media Player Classic. I’m sure that some of you are familiar with MPC and that the rest of you are asking why you would want to install yet another movie viewer on your computer?

The answer lies not in what MPC has, but rather what it does have. It doesn’t have much of anything that you don’t need and because of that, it is one of the lightest and most efficient movie viewers out there.

Not all of my computers are new and not all of them have a whole lot in the way of resources. As such, playing movies in more complicated software such as Windows Media Player, DivX Player, or Quicktime can sometimes tax system resources to the point that playback is affected. You ever have to close an application because you’re watching a movie that’s skipping? I do with some applications, but almost never with MPC. Don’t ask me how I know this, but you can actually have several MPC windows running several videos simultaneously without incident.

MPC also doesn’t change or install any system files on your computer. It’s a standalone EXE. You just put it where you want it and click on it. As such, it doesn’t hijack any extensions. The downside to this is that if you want to associate video files with it you have to do it manually. Once you do that, though, double-clicking on a video within Windows Explorer will be just as quick and uneventful as double-clicking on an image or document (compare this to WinAmp, wherein by doing so you may accidentally clear your playlist or other applications where you have to wait for a large application to load).

There are downsides, though. In addition to having to set the extensions manually, you also have to handle shortcuts for yourself (though, if you install it with Quicktime Alternative or Real Alternative, it will take care of this for you). The biggest drawback is the interface, which is plain to the point of being inconvenient. They essentially lifted the skin from an old version of Media Player (mplayer2.exe) and haven’t deviated much from that. That makes things like playlists unintuitive. Also, while it can play DVDs, the lack of an intuitive DVD menu leaves me using Nero or PowerDVD to play DVDs.

Part of me wishes that they’d improve on these fronts, but that would lead the program away from its most lean, mean self. I may only want a DVD menu and better playlist function, but other people would want other features and before you know it we have a clone of Windows Media Player. The good news is that it has the capability to do most of what I want it to do, but it has a steeper learning curve than most applications when it comes to advanced functions. On the other hand, when it comes to just opening a video and playing it, it’s as simple as it gets.

Category: Server Room