Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dedicated Follower Of Fashion

As many of my readers will know, I'm not a Dedicated Follower Of Fashion as the old Kinks song said (1966!), but I have been known to start a trend. For example, when I worked for a large software house in London in the early 80s, I was the first person there to wear a double-breasted suit. I know these were popular in times gone by, but had been side-stepped by the 60/70s. Within a year, nearly everyone was wearing them. (I rue the day that I cannot buy such a suit these days, unless I pay a fortune, and my main usage of suits these days is regrettably to attend friends' funerals.) I was also the first to attend a social 'do' wearing a shirt and tie, complete with a suede vest (waistcoat to the Olde Worlde) and no jacket. However, on the other side of the coin, I once met my then wife, who asked me, "Did you get dressed in the dark this morning?" My ties are still revered in Florida, where ties are rarely worn (see below).
Now all this started me thinking about fashions, trends or fads. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, it was de rigeur to walk around with a Filofax. One then looked significant. It was vital to walk into a meeting holding one of these, and drop it (noisily) on the table before taking a seat (again noisily). This established the person's importance and credibility within the hierarchy. For those who don't know, a Filofax was a leather clad 'folder', which had room for notes, names/adresses, a calendar, credit cards and pens, essentially a personal organizer. Numerous companies set up training seminars entitled Time Management. I was sent on one of these, and after three days, I realized I would have been better off clearing the crud off my desk. I was given a Filofax at the end which I threw away in disgust. I should have kept it, some of these are exchanging hands at over £100 ($165) these days.
The next fad that I noticed was the need to carry a small (designer label) bottle of water into meetings. I suspect this gave the holder a few moments to suck on the contents (sometimes not water) while thinking up an answer. I found that women used this device far more than men. I don't see it so much these days.
I also noticed the growth in 'marketing terminology'. My old boss always told me to 'think outside the box'. I still haven't found out what the box is. There was always the line, 'let me run this up the flagpole' as a way to introduce possible new ideas. This marketing jargon was not new, but if one wanted to establish some credibility, one had to use the latest. I spent hours poring over this web site
which gives you all the latest buzz-words.
These days, what I see at meetings makes me cringe. There is always some idiot with a dark cauliflower in his ear. My wife has complained about my deafness for a while now, but these things are ridiculous. Ah, as always, willing to learn I'm reliably informed that these are cell/mobile phones. Why it is necessary to wear one of these in meetings is beyond me. I've even seen people in the street wear them and talking to themselves. All I can say is that they must be more important than me.
The latest fad is for men to turn up to presentations/customer meetings and other important events under-dressed. I've just had a meeting with a VP of one of the largest US corporation who turned up in a suit with a shirt that hadn't been ironed, sweat stains almost to his navel, and no tie. The first thing he did was remove his jacket to display 'dark stains' and 'whiffiness'.
I'm told that this is 'normal' these days and I shouldn't be so 'stuffy'.
My old IBM sales manager once told me that it might be 100 degrees, but 'you will keep your jacket on at all times'. I guess I'm old fashioned. The UK is so different to the US. A/C is not prevalent over here.
I wonder what the next 'fad' will be.
Here endeth today's lesson.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Wonderous Things

My wife and I ventured West last weekend. To a place called Weston-super-Mare (the 's' is in Lower Case by decree of some regal being back in the 1700s). It rained. It is summer over here after all. I recall taking Rik and BLS there in my yoof, but it didn't rain then. Last weekend, we stayed at the Royal Hotel. In the Princess Diana Room no less. It's one of those British hotels where there is no A/C in the room, and if you wish to turn around, you walk back into the corridor, turn around and re-enter. There were legs on the 'large' bed which could cripple someone with 20-20 vision. Outside, they'd obviously had a minor problem when a concrete slab had come adrift, and the repairer obviously didn't have 20-20 vision. See picture.

There are several things in this world, nay Universe that amaze me. One of them is one's Credit Rating. Now anyone with a desire to live on this planet must know that a high Credit Rating is paramount. In the US, these are classified as, 'very poor (320, which is the lowest one can get), poor, not too good, average (all of these will NOT allow one to get a mortgage, even at 20% per annum), better, even better, leading eventually to 'excellent' (850), which is about where the bank will pay your monthly mortgage and smile sweetly in the process. According to statistics, about 38% of the population of the US are in the sub-400 category. In other words, you're screwed when it comes to getting any credit, except if you pay through the nose.

Now, this brings me to the crux of the matter. After many years in the doldrums in the US's credit rating system due to an errant wife, and many regular phone calls, I ended up in the mid-500s. Today, I'm in the 800s. Wowee! If only I had a mortgage! But woe betide me when I get to the UK. Not having had any kind of 'record' in the last seven years (their maximum, despite not living here for 24 years), this denies me the status of a 'decent risk'. The UK does not have the US version of a Social Security Number. Actually, it does, but this is not used for credit rating purposes - that would be against our 'uman rites.

But, I despaired not as I received a letter - not an email - from none other than Capital One offering me a Credit Card here in the Queen's Realm. They said that as I had 'failed to qualify for a Credit Card', they could help. How did they know I had failed, when I'd never applied for one? I digress. I was offered a credit limit of £200, which translates into about US $350. And this service would be available at 'only' 34.9% p.a. interest rate, and I could draw cash against it. I worry as to what the majority of cash-strapped people will do to relieve the effects of redundancy, unemployment, late mortgage, car payments or whatever. Suffice to say, I dumped the 'application' in File 13. Fair Issac have a lot ot answer for. And I find myself even more annoyed that I sold them a mainframe about 7 years back.

Here endeth today's lesson.