Saturday, February 21, 2009

Economy?

Here's our nearby regional super mall center court on a rocking prime-time Saturday night.



We're in trouble.







Tuesday, February 17, 2009

To All My Valued Employees...

...There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges. However, the good news is this: The economy doesn't pose a threat to your job.

What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country. Of course, as your employer, I am forbidden to tell you whom to vote for -- it is against the law to discriminate based on political affiliation, Race, creed, religion, etc.

Please vote who you think will serve your Interests the best. However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interest. First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story.

This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You've seen my big home at last years Christmas party. I'm sure all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life. However, what you don't see is the back story.

I started this company 12 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living space was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you.

My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn't have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business -- hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the Nordstrom's for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the Goodwill store extracting any clothing item that didn't look like it was birthed in the 70's.

My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don't. There is no "off" button For me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, ****, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to me like a 1 day old baby.

You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden -- the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations... You never realize the back story and the sacrifices I've made. Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn't.

The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for. Yes, business ownership has is benefits but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:

I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don't pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes. I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him. Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time. On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my "stimulus" check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check?

Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country. The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? That's nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy. Here is what many of you don't understand; to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn't need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.

When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don't defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the mud of America are the essential drivers of the American economic engine.

Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change you can keep. So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your SUV, and your child's future. Frankly, it isn't my problem any more. Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire.

You see, I'm done. I'm done with a country that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.

While tax cuts to 95% of America sounds great on paper, don't forget the backstory: If there is no job, there is no income to tax. A tax cut on zero dollars is zero. So, when you make decision to vote, ask yourself, who understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn't? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of saving your job. While the media wants to tell you "It's the economy Stupid" I'm telling you it isn't.

If you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, steamrolled the Constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me in South Caribbean sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

Signed, Your boss,

Michael A. Crowley,
PE Crowley, Crisp & Associates, Inc.
Professional Engineers 1
906 South Main Street, Suite 122
Wake Forest, NC 27587

_______________________________________________________________





Monday, February 16, 2009

There Is A Time For Everything…

What a wonderful group of verses from Ecclesiastes. It had special meaning for me this past Friday. It continues…

“…and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.”


We moved into our Leiper’s Fork TN home in the spring of 2003. The builder hired a group of stone masons to create some wonderful dry stacked stone features around the house. A couple of beautiful floor to ceiling stone fireplaces, a massive stone chimney, and a good portion of the front of the house with a stone wall.

The results of all that stone work, besides the beautiful architectural structures created, lay in piles down by the creek. Mounds and mounds of stone shards and pieces, some piles three feet high, discarded at the creek’s edge. They were the bits and pieces left over as large stones were chipped and shaved to fit just right without grout or mortar. The massive weight of the stones that fit together perfectly create the stability and strength to support each additional stone above.

One of my favorite parts of the stone work is the keystone’s in each of the fireplaces. Loose stones held up by hand in an arch while the master stone mason fits in the keystone (the architectural piece at the crown of an arch which marks its apex, locking the other pieces into position).


Several years ago I found a discarded stone shard half buried in the yard. I was on lawn prep duty the summer after we moved in to remove all the rocks and stones I was hitting with my lawn mower. There was something about it that struck me. It was amazingly well formed, having been chipped away from a larger stone and breaking off in an almost perfect angles. It was a bit larger than an iPod shuffle, and almost as smooth on five of the six surfaces.

I stuck it in my pocket, and later set it down on the brick retaining wall on our back porch.

There it sat for almost six years. I remember seeing it every once in awhile, picking it up and feeling its smooth surface, and then setting it back down. If we had a pond I would have tried to skip it on the water.

A few weeks ago Michelle and I hired by brother-in-law Josh to do some work around our house. Little things have been slowly breaking, chipping or falling apart. We also had a nasty leak in a pipe running down between our closet wall in the master bedroom and the drywall was soft and wet. Time for some fix-it work.

Josh and I walked the house, inside and out, and wrote down every little thing that had to be worked on. Paint chips, dry-wall cracks, loose crown molding, doors that didn’t close properly, window and bathtub caulking, and much more. Amongst the long list was grout/mortar repair work on our front stone stairway.

The stone repair work was the last thing Josh worked on. He found some grout that was close to the original color and set about filling in all the old grout that had disintegrated and fallen away. He did a great job and it looked wonderful except for one spot. At the very top of the stone stairs, in the corner, was a gap where the grout had fallen out. I asked Josh to fill it in, but he said it wouldn’t stay. The gap was too wide and deep, and there was nothing there to support it. He could put some in, but guessed it would come out within a few weeks or months.

He said if I had a rock or something that would fit in there he could make it work, but doubted we would find just the right size and shaped rock to fit in the gap.

It hit me. While I hadn’t seen or touched that stone on the back porch in a year or two, it came to me in an instant. My memory of what it looked like seemed to match the gap in the stairway. I told Josh I might just have the right thing and went out back to get the stone.

I handed it to him and he gently fit it into the gap. If a jeweler had custom cut that rock to fit the gap with diamond cutting instruments it would not have fit better but for a tad bit of extra length. It fit the width and the height perfectly, and blended into the color scheme of the rocks on the stairway- which are slightly different than the rest of the stonework around the house.

The job was done, and I couldn’t help but think about that little bit of discarded stone. Thrown away by a master craftsman because it was useless in his eyes, and picked up by someone else and held, waiting, until the just the right time.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1 quoted above, there is a line in verse 5: "a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them."

As this world seems to crumble and press around us, as we wonder if tomorrow will find us without a job or income, and in some cases, a home, how wonderful it is to know that God has a place for us. A use, in his time. And if we are willing to surrender to Him, to allow Him to fulfill His plan for us, we may find that we fill the gap or complete the work in someone else’s life to His glory.





Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama Supporter Failed

Christians take a bold step when they affix a fish on the back of their car.

They tell the world they are believers, and the world watches closely. Mainly to see if they cut other drivers off, speed, flip birds or in other ways act hypocritical (which is just one of the reasons I don't have one).

Obamians take the same risk. The true believers that have Obama08 stickers on their cars are telling the world they believe in Obama, and follow in his ways and teachings.

This morning, about 20 minutes ago, a true believer pulled out in front of me. There on his dirty Mercedes Benz station wagon back window was his badge of belief: Obama08.

He was speeding AND had at least two grossly under inflated tires. Isn't this in violation of the dear leader's directive to solve our foreign oil dependance by driving the speed limit and properly inflating our tires?

And it was belching exhaust.

What about the dear leader's insistence that we get tune-ups? Also, he had a back light out and blew through a red light.

At least he didn't have a fish on his bumper too.





Monday, February 09, 2009

Don’t You Hate Those Sappy Email’s From Family and Friends?

I sure do. But, my Uncle Tom hit me with this one and tears welled up. I’m so thankful for the men and women in uniform that serve this country. God bless them all!

Largest Re-enlistment Ceremony - Ever
I'm sure you already know about this. It was shown over and over on TV, right?

OK, so maybe it wasn't shown over and over, but surely it was shown on TV at least one time, wasn't it ?

This was the largest re-enlistment ceremony ever held in military history. The ceremony was held on the 4th of July, 2008 at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad , Iraq . General David Petraeus officiated. This amazing story was ignored by the 'mainstream' media.




For those who have been in the Al Faw Palace, you'll have a better appreciation of the number of people crammed around the rotunda supporting the re-enlisting soldiers.

American men and women volunteering to stay longer in Iraq, so that when we leave, the new democracy will have a chance of surviving, is the exact opposite of what the media wants you to think about Iraq. If only a bomb had killed 5 civilians in a marketplace - now that's the kind of news the media is eager to tell you about.

A pizzeria in Chicago donated 2000 pizzas that were made and shipped to Baghdad , and were delivered on the 4th.

The media did report that 2000 pizzas were sent to Iraq on July 4th... The only part they left out of the report was the event for which the pizzas were sent.

I can't help but wonder... What would the opinion of Americans be if they weren't getting such obviously biased 'news?'

Pass this on and we will do the work for the Media






Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sir Alexander Fraser Tyler Was Right- We’re In Big Trouble

Here’s an interesting quote that rubs up against every fiber of my being, my whole lifetime of being taught, and believing, that democracy is an almost perfect form of government:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.

It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury.

From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy,

...always followed by a dictatorship."

- Sir Alexander Fraser Tyler

So there it is.

We have reached the tipping point. I truly believe now, for the first time in my life, America’s greatest days may be behind her.

As anecdotal evidence, I put forth these advertisements flooding the internet (see image).

We’re in big trouble.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Kingdom For An Empty Middle Seat

The week before last I jetted west to work out of my LA office for a few days and took the last direct Southwest flight from LAX to Nashville Friday night.

I checked in online the previous day (right at the 24 hour mark to make sure I got an “A” boarding pass), and with A35 in my hand was confident I would have an empty seat beside me to spread out and get some work done during the 3 1/1 hour flight.

I had confirmed the flight had about 20 or so empty seats, and my standard strategy in these cases is to find another large person in an aisle seat and secure the window seat near him/her. For strategically thinking Southwest frequent flyers that have to work on the plane, there is quite a bit of thought put into seat selection:

1. If you can hold it, always take the window seat so you’re not getting up constantly for others to go bathroom, and you’re not forever getting wacked in the side by people passing by and their luggage.

2. Confirm whether the flight is full. If it is, look for a couple already seated in aisle and middle seat that are thin. Take the window.

3. If the flight isn’t full, look for a single person seated in the aisle seat that is the LARGEST person available, thereby creating a very small space for the middle seat and encouraging boarding passengers to “keep on walking.” DO NOT take a window seat in an empty aisle, as a couple may board knowing they will have to have an aisle and middle seat between them, and choose your row.

4. Once seated, place your backpack or carry-on in the empty middle seat while moving both your feet under the seat in front of the middle seat. For boarding passengers that might be thinking about taking the middle seat but are too timid to ask if the seat is being saved you increase the chance they will “keep on walking.” Also, by reserving the under seat space in front of the middle seat with your feet, you have a place to put your carry-on when seating is done and still keep all your leg room in front of your window seat.

My strategy tends to work well unless there is some unforeseen circumstance that throws a stick in the spokes. And that’s what happened on that fateful flight home.

Just before the door closed a group of 4 men boarded the plane. They were all friends, and all very drunk. They stumbled down the aisle laughing and talking wildly while looking for seats that where near each other. All that was left were middle seats, and they settled on my general area.

The largest amongst them claimed the middle seat next to me, and plopped his big sweaty and drunk body next to mine. There were empty middle seats (next to much smaller/thinner people than I ) in front of me, behind me, and across from me. But no- he had to pick my row.

For 3 ½ hours I was treated to loud drunk story telling, the smell of whisky and sweat, and a sickeningly hot and wet body pressed into mine while I tried to read a few scripts. Horrible, horrible flight.