August 2007

I’m currently taking a class on Total Quality Management, which is a business practice based on the idea that if you improve the quality of every facet of your business, the end result will be lower costs and higher profits. The class discussions have me thinking a lot lately about the quality of work I see in businesses I frequent. Take for instance, lunch. I’m not as conscientious as I should be about making my own lunch. Even though I usually would rather bring lunch than buy it, I’m most often too lazy to make a lunch at night. I end up buying a sandwich at one of three places near my office. The first is my daily coffee shop, Espresso Royale. I like their coffee. The staff know me and know what I want. And they make good sandwiches. They’ve earned my continued patronage because they achieve quality in all aspects. But they don’t always have sandwiches available. On those days I can either go next door to Subway, or one more door to Silver Mine Subs. I’ve written about Silver Mine Subs before. Of the two, Silver Mine is far better. The staff at Subway (the one near my office, at least) are usually dour and act like it’s such a pain to have to make sandwiches. Their final product reflects that. The sandwiches are usually skimpy and poorly made. On the other hand, the staff at Silver Mine are usually quite friendly and even jovial. They joke around a lot and work quickly, but their sandwiches are always well made and generous. Accordingly, they have earned my repeat business.

This past winter my beloved BMW 740iL blew out its coolant expansion tank. The expansion tanks and radiators in the BMW 4.4 liter engines have a design flaw which causes them to crack every 70k miles or so. Poor quality in an otherwise high quality car. Because my expansion tank blew right down the street from the local BMW dealer, I had the car towed there. I normally have my cars serviced at Isringhausen Imports in Springfield, Il, but that was 80 miles away. So despite my better judgment, I let the local dealer work on my car. I should have paid the extra to have it towed to Springfield. My car was in and out of the local dealer’s shop every day for the next two weeks. In the end I feared they had damaged my engine so badly that I traded the car in on a newer X5. At Isringhausen, of course. Isringhausen has always done quality work, they always find me an almost new loaner car, and they’re quick to address any concerns I have. I always feel I’ve gotten a fair deal from my salesman, Jeff Colman, from whom I’ve bought 3 cars. Isringhausen exudes quality. The local dealer has lost my business forever.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling a $4 sandwich or a $40,000 car; quality will keep people coming back and ensure a continued income. I’m just amazed that so many businesses lacking in quality manage to survive.

A couple of weeks ago I was depressed about the Yankmees closing to within 4 games of the Red Sox and I pontificated/prognosticated about the inevitability of the Yankmees sweeping the Sox during their upcoming series this week and assuming first place in the AL East. Well, I was thankfully very wrong. The Red Sox brutalized those other Sox this weekend and the Bronx Bozos are collapsing before my smiling eyes. And so the Bosox will go into the series with an 8 game lead. Even if the Pimp Stripers do sweep (which is looking doubtful now), the Sox will still have a 5 game lead.

And so here I sit munching away. Doesn’t taste too bad. Sort of like chicken. Pass the mayo. 😉

EDIT: So I wasn’t completely off base. The Yankmees did in fact sweep the Soxs.

Today we stopped by the 2007 Showcase of Homes at the new Lake Falls development at the corner of First and Airport in Savoy. These are some really gorgeous homes. Of course they’re all furnished by professional interior designers and they all have state of the art entertainment systems and very high end kitchens. Several of them had movie theatres with 20′ wide screens, projectors hanging from the ceiling, and superb surround sound systems. These homes are all in the $600k range, which isn’t too bad considering what they’d run in other parts of the country. Any of these homes would run over $1mil if they were in New England. The landscaping around some of these homes was way cool, too. One home had a long series of waterfalls with a deep pool on one end. I can’t see ever owning one of these castles even if we could afford one, though. We wouldn’t know what to do with so many rooms. As it is we spend most of our time in just three rooms in our home (bedroom, kitchen, living room). I guess we could charge admission and show movies.   😉

I bought Sarah a Nokia 770 this week. For around $140 on Amazon, it was a no-brainer. It works like a PDA, but it’s Linux based and has only basic functions such as web, email, contacts, and calendar. It connects to the web either via WiFi or a Bluetooth phone connection. Unlike other PDAs I’ve used, connecting to wireless or a phone with the 770 is quite simple and the interface enables you to choose between multiple connection options. The screen is bright and roomy and you can view webpages full screen or zoomed in. It’s a little bigger than your average PDA, but it’s quite light and will fit in a purse or inside jacket pocket. It charges up very fast, too. Quite the gadget. 😎

Nokia 770

EDIT: BTW, I first noticed these cool little toys after seeing a deal on Reseller Rating’s Homepage Deals. Great site to check every now and then.

Another summer is almost gone, although you’d never know it from the weather. Still hot as a sauna. We had a nice break from it this past weekend during our trip to New England where it was drier with temps in the low 70’s. And with the end of summer comes the horde of students descending on both Champaign-Urbana, where I work, and Charleston, where we live. It’s the dichotomy of academia that students, without whom it would not exist, are the primary complaint of those who work there. It’s the old “can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em” issue. It seems those relationships always offer enough benefits to make them worthwhile.   😎

I am myself a student again. I started the Master of Science in Technology program at Eastern Illinois University this summer and I have one class this fall. I had planned on taking three, but I have quite a few major projects at work planned for this fall, so I decided to cut back to one course. The two courses I took this summer were no-brainers, but they did require a lot of reading and that took up more time than I’d expected. I still hope to be able to take at least two courses in the coming semesters so I can finish up this program in less than three years. We’ll see.

Newsweek has an article about the unit my nephew serves with in Iraq. Words can’t even begin to describe how proud I am of this kid. I have been in awe of him for most of his life. He exemplifies courage. He doesn’t brag, he isn’t a loudmouth, he doesn’t bully anyone, and he is the least threatening looking person you’ll ever meet. But God help you if you’re stupid enough to pose a real threat to the men he serves with.

That’s the sound of the Yankmees slowly but surely catching up to the Red Sox. Incredibly the Sox are still the only team in baseball with a .600+ record. Just goes to show the parity in the league. But the Bronx Bozos are on a roll and the Sox can’t afford mistakes or mediocrity. You’d think after all these years of being a Boston sports fan I’d be used to the roller coaster. Still makes me queasy, though.   😐

For a couple of weeks, anyway. My two online summer courses finished up this past Friday. Wish I could say they were worth it, but considering the cost, I think I got short-changed. I’m hoping the classroom course I start in a couple of weeks is more substantial, else I’ll be looking for another program.   😐