Monday, March 26, 2007

Is It Friday Yet?

It’s been one of those weeks.

And it’s only Monday.

Here’s a little bit of wisdom for you. Nothing new or earth-shattering. Just something that, after a day like this, I think it’s good to be reminded of.

#1. Never, ever, ever compromise your integrity. As the saying goes, “There are some things money can’t buy.”
#2. If you’re wrong, admit it, ask forgiveness, and move on. Goes hand in hand with #1.
#3. More often than not, an apology will go farther towards resolving an issue than anything else.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by. Have a cookie

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Religious Discrimination Rears its Head in Minnesota

You know, there are some things that when you read it, you think “Why on earth is this a big deal?!” That was exactly my thinking when I read the following news article from the Star Tribune. (you can read the article in its entirety here:

Customer Service and Faith clash at registers

Beryl Dsouza was late and in no mood for delays when she stopped at a Target store after work two weeks ago for milk, bread and bacon. So Dsouza was taken aback when the cashier -- who had on the traditional headscarf, or hijab, worn by many Muslim women -- refused to swipe the bacon through the checkout scanner.

"She made me scan the bacon. Then she opened the bag and made me put it in the bag," said Dsouza, 53, of Minneapolis. "It made me wonder why this person took a job as a cashier."

In the latest example of religious beliefs creating tension in the workplace, some Muslims in the Twin Cities are adhering to a strict interpretation of the Qur'an that prohibits the handling of pork products. Instead of swiping the items themselves, they are asking non-Muslim employees or shoppers to do it for them.

It has set off a firestorm of comments -- more than 400, as of Tuesday evening -- on the Star Tribune's community blog, People called the newspaper from as far as Tokyo to voice their opinion. It remains unclear how many Muslim cashiers in the Twin Cities are declining to ring up pork sales….

Target released this statement in response: "Providing guests with consistently fast checkouts is a key, fundamental part of our business and our guest service commitment. As always, we continue to explore reasonable solutions that consider the concerns of team members while ensuring that we maintain our ability to provide the highest level of guest service."

Some people see the Muslims' actions as evidence of an unwillingness to adapt to the American workplace, and to the society as a whole.

"It's about one ethnic group imposing its own beliefs on the rest of us," said Manny Laureano, 51, of Plymouth, who plays trumpet for the Minnesota Orchestra. "It goes against the whole idea of this country as different groups of people who came together to create a single culture."

Now you would think that, based on the subsequent firestorm that has erupted, that these employees had whipped out a sword, shouted “Alla Ackbar!” and threatened to chop heads off if pork were ever purchased again. No, they simply refused to compromise their own religious beliefs and either got the customer to scan their own item or called another employee over to have the item scanned. Now many people are basically demanding that Target practice religious discrimination (without saying as much) by either firing employees who don’t want to scan pork or moving these employees to other positions regardless of the fact that having someone else come over and scan the item might inconvenience the customer by maybe two minutes. And of course, there are all the arguments of “Well, they shouldn’t have worked there in the first place” or “See?! See!? Muslims are taking over America!! Ship them all back!!” But let’s stop and consider this for a minute.

Suppose that you’re a Christian and work as a cashier at Barnes and Nobles. It is your deeply held religious conviction that pornography is reprehensibly wrong. Because this is your belief, you have requested of your manager that whenever someone purchases something such as a Playboy magazine, that you not be required to ring it up. The bad news is that you cannot stop them from purchasing the magazine. The good news is that the law is on your side. Unless it creates an undue hardship on the employer, they are required to provide reasonable accommodation, which might mean having the employee standing next to you ring up the purchase. You would not be imposing your beliefs (and suggested by the guy quoted in the last paragraph of the article) by doing so, simply standing firm and not letting others impose on you.

Although I do not agree with the Muslim’s beliefs regarding pork (mmmm, bacon!), I certainly applaud them for not being willing to compromise. (Besides, is it really all that inconveniencing to have to scan and bag your own pork?! Please.) Civil rights laws are in place for a reason, and as a Christian, it scares me to think what can happen should things like this escalate to a point where religious discrimination isn’t frowned on any longer. Preventing discrimination based on religious beliefs (or other factors such as gender, race, etc) is, I believe, what contributes to making America the great nation that it is.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

So what DOES it mean, anyway?

{=IF(ISERROR(INDEX(DownRoute,SMALL(IF(DM=B$33,ROW(DM)-ROW('Route Information'!$B$25)+1,ROW('Route Information'!$B$37)+1),$A36),4)), "",(INDEX(DownRoute,SMALL(IF(DM=B$33,ROW(DM)-ROW('Route Information'!$B$25)+1,ROW('Route Information'!$B$37)+1),$A36),4)))}

Since I’ve had a few requests as to what this formula means or does, I thought I’d try and explain. In a nutshell (where did THAT phrase come from anyway?), this formula looks at one set of data in a spreadsheet, matches that data to another set, and pulls a certain occurrence of that value. For example, in this case, it looks for a District Manager’s name in a range of cells (“DownRoute”) and then returns the occurrence of that name that is set in cell $A34. If $A34 says “2”, it looks for the second occurrence of the name and then returns the value in column 4 of the range. The formula performs similarly to a VLOOKUP formula, with the exception that a VLOOKUP formula can only return the first occurrence of the requested value. The end result of this particular usage is that it returns the start and end dates for when a particular district manager is on route so as to track the total number of days he or she is on route. Cool, huh?

Coinage Mayhem

Here's another funny piece of satire from our friends at The Wittenburg

Godforsaken Coins Flood Market, Cause Rampant Godlessness

The US Mint has announced that a production error caused approximately 50,000 gold George Washington dollar coins lacking the words, "In God we Trust" to pass into circulation. The magnitude of this crisis cannot be overstated, although we are determined to try.

If Americans can't consult their coins to learn anew that they trust God, what are they supposed to think? Simple: Maybe there is no God to trust. Or if there is a God, maybe we can't trust Him. Or maybe that's our Creator pictured there, sporting wooden teeth and powdered hair. Oh, we just won't remember Who to trust anymore, and then... well jeepers, what's the point of it all?

Not surprisingly, this mistake has instantly unleashed a tidal wave of wanton and Godless behavior by the holders of the atheist coins. Satan is jingling in their pockets, and the ever-suggestible American people are reacting accordingly.

Retreat centers are throwing open their doors for all-night drug and sex parties; cherubic schoolchildren are cutting the heads off their neighbors' prize tulips; dazed shopkeepers are abandoning their wares and boarding buses to the Palatial Palace Casino.

One elderly gentleman was interviewed as he entered The Secret Garden adult video store. "I always thought it was in God I trusted," he shook his head ruefully. "But when I checked my wallet this morning, I learned I was mistaken. Oh well, excuse me, I have 75 years worth of wild oats to sow."

In a frantic effort to recall the errant and filthy Lucre of Lucifer, the Mint is offering rewards for the return of the gravely misleading money. 50,000 Americans will soon be recompensed with coins proclaiming, "We trust you, God! We really trust you! Boy, do we, Americans, trust God!" To accommodate the extra verbiage the new coins will be 5 inches in diameter. Vending machines and pay phones may be a challenge, but the giant size XL moolah will be a handy reminder of Him in whom we Trust.

If all of the Devil's Dollars can be retrieved, there is hope for America. Dens of iniquity will empty, nuns will return to their nunneries and monks to their monkeries. Little cherubs will continue to murder flowers, but hey – what are you gonna do?

A host of organizations, the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, People for the American Way, AARP, the Royal Order of the Odd Fellows, the Jerry Lewis Telethon production team, and the entire congregation of Calvary Assemblies of God in Wheaton, Ill., have set collection centers outside Wal-Marts across America. Other groups are joining hourly.

Spokesperson Stan Mooneyham, released a joint statement to the national media:

"Please, give generously. Our corporate soul is at stake here."

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


I am a data analyst. This means that I get my kicks out of staring at numbers all day and trying to figure out what those numbers are telling me. This is rather funny because during my younger years (“I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled!” [T.S. Elliot]), I didn’t like math at all. So needless to say, it is my firm belief that Microsoft Excel rocks. I can’t imagine a more productive work day than to work through the logic of multiple formulas with multiple nested formulas and to have the end result be exactly what you are wanting it to do. Take the following formula for example:

{=IF(ISERROR(INDEX(DownRoute,SMALL(IF(DM=B$33,ROW(DM)-ROW('Route Information'!$B$25)+1,ROW('Route Information'!$B$37)+1),$A36),4)), "",(INDEX(DownRoute,SMALL(IF(DM=B$33,ROW(DM)-ROW('Route Information'!$B$25)+1,ROW('Route Information'!$B$37)+1),$A36),4)))}

Believe it or not, that entire thing is one formula in one cell. And the cool thing is, I actually know what it does! Add to that another complex formula that feeds off of this one and it is a thing of beauty when the right result is computed. A few months ago, I went out and bought John Walkenbach’s “Excel 2003 Bible” and have used it many, many times. At one point, I sat down and started reading it from the beginning just to make sure I didn’t miss anything basic and I found to my delight that I had! Way cool. And now, whenever I’m trying to do something in Excel that I KNOW can be done but don’t know how to do it, I simply look it up in this book and wah-lah (“that’s French, that is.) On the rare occasion that the answer isn’t in the book, Google is the next best thing.

My coworkers are starting to worry about me after hearing excited mutterings whenever a formula has all the bugs out. It’s an analyst thing – they wouldn’t understand.

And yes, I have learned to embrace my inner geek.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Dad Stuff

You know how you sometimes hear of how some dads have this little routine that they do with their children and the children just think it's the greatest thing? I've always been kinda jealous of that and wished that I could come up with something creative that my children could remember. Well, without really realizing it, it happened.

Before we brought Carlos and Jeremiah home, Sarah and I had been working on our Spanish, trying to get some phrases down to help Carlos' transition. Among them was the phrase, "Estaremos siempre aqui para usted" which means "We will always be here for you." I can't remember what the other phrases were, but ever since the first day we were united with our boys, I have told Carlos that phrase every night. "Good night. Love you! Estaremos siempre aqui para usted!" [and out goes the light.] Carlos has asked a couple of times why I say that, but hasn't really shown interest or that this was something special to him.

Until a few weeks ago. Or rather, until I finally realized a few weeks ago that it was.

Carlos has spent the night at Oma's house several times now and even then, before he leaves (or before we drop him off), I would always tell him the phrase. Of course, he is always excited to go to Oma's house and so the last time he went, he jumped in her car, got his seat belt on, then looked up at me and said, "Papi, can you tell me what you always tell me?" I knelt down, gave him a hug and said, "Carlos, estaremos siempre aqui para usted." He got this big grin on his face and said "Si!" And off they went.

That made my day knowing that hearing those words wasn't just a routine that he half-listened to, but it was something that had become part of our father-son relationship. It's a constant reminder to him that we will indeed be there for him. I hope he still wants to hear the words 10 years from now since I plan on saying it to him even then.