Philosophy 102 – How The Game Is Rigged – Projections

Anyone who has ever run a business knows that one of your highest costs is people. That’s why so many business are putting so much effort into getting rid of them. Automation, robots, services you have to perform yourself and pay somebody else for and so on. But the funny thing is how many of those businesses rely on people to buy their goods and services. So they all run around shooting each other in the foot and wondering why it hurts. They figure if they cut somebody they will save money and if the other guys business suffers from lack of customers then that’s his problem. Of course they all think the same way which is where all the foot shooting comes in.

If you are like me, a boomer who’s parents grew up in the 40’s and 50’s you have no doubt heard something like this; ” If you just work hard and be a good employee and loyal to your company you will be successful” I’m here to call BS on that one. My father used to tell me that you need to get a job and stay there. That’s what he did. It didn’t work. There is a reason that young people move jobs so often these days. When they get a better deal they take it. They have already learned what it took their parents and grandparents years to learn or never learn at all. The game is to get as much as you can regardless of the consequences. The days of company loyalty to it’s employees are gone, as is the reverse. If you have to fire 5,000 people to bump up your stock price so you can buy that third house in the Hamptons, so be it. “It’s just business, I’ve worked hard and I deserve to get that new yacht, Mercedes, (Insert goody here). This is nothing new by the way. Greed has always consumed mankind. The only real difference is the methods. In today’s lesson we will learn about projections.

For my money projections are the worst thing to come down the pike. I admit that for some businesses projections are important. You need to be able to project work output in your factory so you know when and what amounts of parts and raw materials to buy to keep things humming.

I’m more talking about what we’ll call Corporate Projections or Sales Projections. For one thing most business people suck at making them. Let’s face it, when we are talking about sales projections we are really talking about a guess. It should be an educated guess but often it is not, at least not completely. In my experience I have seen the projection used and abused more than anything I can think of. People like to make their bosses happy. One way to do that is with rosy projections. The key thing seems to be with many to “over promise and under deliver”. It gets them a pat on the back from the happy CEO who may even give you a raise and a promotion. The problem is that they usually come back to bite somebody in the ass. At those times when I had to make performance based projections for something, I practiced exactly the opposite, ‘under promise and over deliver’. The initial reaction was so so, but I always beat my projections which makes people happy. Go figure. Unfortunately it’s not the CEO or the guy who came up with the rosy projection who pays the price when it doesn’t happen. It’s always the employees. This comes in several forms. In the businesses I’ve worked in it is usually a salesman. A salesman will typically say ANYTHING to get a sale. So your sales guy goes to one of your clients and says “We can get this project done in two months!” Often without ever talking with the people who actually have to do it. Sometimes they will talk to those folks, but if they don’t get an answer that they like they will just change it. They thing about projections is they more often have the ability to hurt rather than help. I worked for a company once who had made some very lofty projections based on very little other than hope. At the time I argued against using this hope. For my argument I was told I was just a “naysayer”. This company went on to spend a tremendous amount of capital on inventory based on these projections and as a result when they didn’t come true, a lot of people lost their jobs. As the best boss I’ve ever had once told me “Hope is not a strategy.”
Sometimes projections can have a silver lining for the company. Not for the employees mind you but the company. This is generally only true for privately held companies. Public companies get punished by the market if they don’t hit their projections, or even more importantly, the market’s expectations. The silver lining works like this. ” Yes, we had some aggressive sales goals this year and while we did beat last year’s numbers we still didn’t reach our projected income so there will be no raises this year. But you can rest assured that the people who actually failed to meet their goals for the year will get a bonus.

So next time you are in a company meeting and the powers that be start talking about projections, just take it with a grain of salt and read between the lines.

And remember, you DO have choices.

We spent a few days exploring Joshua Tree. I loved it. As much as I love the lush green forests of the northeast I have a special place inside me for the wide open spaces of the west. The sheer enormity of it is mind boggling. 792,510 acres to be exact. As far as the eye can see in some places. If you are interested in that kind of thing it’s a geological wonderland. Giant rock formations just pop up out of the desert in the middle of vast flat lands. Gigantic alluvial fans created by ancient ice age rivers seem to flow out of the mountainsides. I just love this kind of stuff.
If you have a 4WD vehicle there are even more things you can see. There are a number of 4WD only dirt roads crisscrossing the park. They claim to be unmaintained but they appeared to be graded to some degree. There is a bit washboard in some places but I’ve seen much worse. At least where we went we didn’t have any serious ruts to contend with.
We stopped by the Cottonwood Visitor Center and purchased our Interagency Pass which will grant us admission to the majority of federal parks in the US. It’s pricey at $80 but when you figure that a day pass to JTNP is about $30 it’s not too bad to have if you are traveling.
On our last day we went to Keys View in the park which gives you an outstanding view of the valley with Mt San Jacinto in the background. It still amazes me to see snow on the mountain while you are in the desert next to Joshua Trees and cactus.
I would really like to come back here at some point and explore even more of the park. You could take several weeks and still not see it all, especially if you do a lot of hiking.

Clash Of The Geezers

While we were in Cibola we went to the local transfer station and ran into the same lovely lady there that we had seen several times running the Quartzsite transfer station. She is very nice and fun to talk to. To their credit they will take trash from anybody visiting the area because it is much better than having people just chuck it in to the desert. Not that we would ever do that. So we got to talking about Quartzsite during the show. We must have been lucky because she said that there was often a line to dump your trash. We always got right in when we were there. She said that she runs into quite a few rude people. Anyway, apparently a few days earlier there were too nonagenarians in big Class A coaches who both thought that the other had cut them off in line.

 

Let me just take a moment to say that you probably won’t be winning any McArthur Genius Awards if you go out to dump your garbage at the Quartzsite Transfer Station while driving a 40′ Class A. There is not nearly enough room there if everybody did that. You take your toad down, dump your stuff and head back to camp. Well apparently this was SO important to both of them that it came to fisticuffs!

Really?! For starters you guys are older than dirt. I can say that because I am currently exactly as old as dirt. Secondly, you are no doubt both retired so what’s the rush? The beauty of the whole thing is that you no longer have to stress over stuff like that. If you are still doing it you are doing something wrong. I still get a little antsy in traffic but if my big task for the morning is taking my trash to the dumps I think I can stand an extra five minutes wait. People never cease to amaze me. If you are that age and can’t be disappointed a little without flying in to a rage please do the world a favor, take your megabus and go home. You are not meant for the fulltime RV life. The rest of us are out here trying to relax and have a good time.

Joshua Tree

We spent a few days exploring Joshua Tree. I loved it. As much as I love the lush green forests of the northeast I have a special place inside me for the wide open spaces of the west. The sheer enormity of it is mind boggling. 792,510 acres to be exact. As far as the eye can see in some places. If you are interested in that kind of thing it’s a geological wonderland. Giant rock formations just pop up out of the desert in the middle of vast flat lands. Gigantic alluvial fans created by ancient ice age rivers seem to flow out of the mountainsides. I just love this kind of stuff.
If you have a 4WD vehicle there are even more things you can see. There are a number of 4WD only dirt roads crisscrossing the park. They claim to be unmaintained but they appeared to be graded to some degree. There is a bit washboard in some places but I’ve seen much worse. At least where we went we didn’t have any serious ruts to contend with.
We stopped by the Cottonwood Visitor Center and purchased our Interagency Pass which will grant us admission to the majority of federal parks in the US. It’s pricey at $80 but when you figure that a day pass to JTNP is about $30 it’s not too bad to have if you are traveling.
On our last day we went to Keys View in the park which gives you an outstanding view of the valley with Mt San Jacinto in the background. It still amazes me to see snow on the mountain while you are in the desert next to Joshua Trees and cactus.
I would really like to come back here at some point and explore even more of the park. You could take several weeks and still not see it all, especially if you do a lot of hiking.

Havasu Blues

Have you ever gone someplace and immediately wish you hadn’t? That’s been our experience with Lake Havasu. Just to be clear this has nothing at all to do with Lake Havasu itself. It’s a cool little city in the desert on a really excellent lake. In some ways it reminds us of Lake Champlain in Vermont, except with better access.

One of the downsides of Vermont is that every piece of water bigger than a puddle is surrounded by second homes of the rich folks from Burlington, Boston, Montreal etc. Sadly, Lake Champlain has become more and more polluted, not from these vacations homes as much as from runoff from farms which spurs the growth of aquatic weeds. In some places when you go swimming (if you dare) you come out looking like you conjured up a gillyweed suit from Harry Potter. There are some people who won’t even swim in the middle of the lake but I never had a problem with that. The 3lb lake trout growing on my back is testament.

Lake Havasu

But as always, I digress. Our dealings with Lake Havasu began before we got here. We can usually scope out sites on line at places like Campendium.com and Freecampsites.net. To begin with there weren’t very many BLM spots around. There are 3 in the area. This would normally be two more than we need but not in this case. We should have been tipped off by the fact that two of three had no actual reviews on them. Now we know why. It was around 3PM when we hit town and we were pretty tired. Of the two that had reviews they both listed nothing more specific than that the places were on RT 95 in Lake Havasu City. That’s a little like saying something is on I10 in Arizona. It’s a very long road that goes through the center of a very long town. We passed the first two of them but they were very close to the road and didn’t look good. After floundering around for a while we finally found the other one and decided to drive in and check it out. It was a very small area to begin with almost no spot that was anything even approaching level. The ones there were already had people on them. Everybody was crammed into a little area because it was the only possibility. As the government plans on selling off huge swaths of BLM land to companies who will keep campers and sportsman away, I can only hope that the areas in Havasu are sold off first. They really aren’t good for much anyway. I’ll be writing more about the pending sales in another post later on. As someone who uses and knows many others who use that land all the time I’m not happy about it.

But of course I digress. As I always say to my wife, I am a stream of consciousness writer. Tangent should have been my middle name. So after our scouting we decided we were too tired to do any more that day and called the local state park, called oddly enough Lake Havasu State Park and see if we could get in there. Their regular sites were all booked up but they had room in their overflow area for dry camping. We said that was fine and went to the park. We figured that at least we could get a level spot for the night. The dry camping area here is a parking lot. We were wrong. There are NO level spots in this parking lot. You could get seasick just walking from one side of it to the other. There are a couple of places that probably aren’t too bad but of course those had people in them already. So we picked the best of the worst area’s and started to set up. Our leveling system immediately started chocking and wheezing. It doesn’t like to extend it’s legs too far so usually we put some leveling blocks under the rear ones which are usually the problem. So we did that as usual but kept getting an “out of stroke” error message. This is the systems way of saying it’s too far out of level for it’s legs to adjust for. Problem was that we had already put blocks under there and they were nowhere near fully extended. Hmmmm. Anyway we said we could live with a little out of level for the evening and deal with it tomorrow. Fast forward to tomorrow. I go outside and try leveling again. This time I get a completely different error message that I had never seen before. I turned it off and on again and got still another one. Very perplexing. After messing with it all day I finally gave up and called a local RV place to set up an appointment for four days hence. I’m not sure I’ve ever used the word hence in a sentence before now, so yay me!
I’d like to take a moment to fill in some of the time spent waiting for our appointment. The first night was fairly quiet as it was a Friday night and not a lot of people there yet. The one good thing about the spot we picked was a nice view of the lake. At least it was until somebody parked right next to us with a giant motor home and completely blocked it. I’d say this is a 10 acre lot. One of the things we have found out while boondocking is that you could be in a 50,000 acre BLM area all by yourself and the next person to come along will park so close to you that you could reach across and shake their hand from your living room. I’ll never understand this. If I wanted to be packed in like sardines I would just go to an RV park. Anyway after he settles in we begin to hear the roar of an engine from the boat ramp right near us. This particular ramp is supposed to be for PWCs and Jet boats ie no propellers. So of course this guy shows up in his full on drag boat with an engine that could propel our RV at 300 mph. If he had just loaded up and gone that would be one thing, but apparently he had motor issues because he spent the next two hours right there revving his motor up and down, up and down, and once in a while gunning it to full bore for 10 to 15 seconds. If you have ever heard a racing boat motor up close you know that it is loud enough to shake the walls. I was seconds from going postal on this guy when he finally gave up the ghost. Two friggin hours! The next day we were happy when the motor home left and we got our view back. Right up until another guy pulls up on the other side with a rig that looked like he had drug it up from the bottom of the ocean somewhere. No problem. Whatever. I don’t care what it looks like. Then came the smell. He is sitting there 10 feet from our front door smoking the most vile cigar known to man. I’ve smelled good cigars before. I still don’t like them but they are at least tolerable. I have no idea where this thing came from but it smelled like unholy crap. It took him about two hours to finish it at which time the entire park had to be fumigated.

Now RV folks will know that if need be you can move your hydraulic levelers up and down by hand cranking them or using a drill. I had to get the RV hitched up again so I had to do both up AND down on the front legs and bring the back ones up. Even with a high speed drill this takes a ridiculous amount of time. I had two fully charged packs for my Dewalt drill and drained them both twice to get it done. I was still out way after dark doing the last bit of the last leg. The manufacturer says you can do this with a socket wrench. Unless you are very young and willing to spend the majority of your 20s or 30s getting just one leg extended I would not suggest this method.
So while I was on the phone with the RV repair place they suggested that I take the little keypad out and put it back in again to reset the system. What I didn’t know was that the guy who put this wiring together was mad at himself that day and only left the tiniest bit of wire coming out of the wall to connect to and as soon as I pulled the face off it pulled all the wires out of the wiring harness as well as a ribbon cable to the face plate. Excellent! I spent several hours while my battery packs were charging trying to get this thing back together, to no avail.

Off we go to the RV repair place the next morning. The guy looks in there and says “You pulled the wires out of the harness. That’s bad.” I proceeded to tell him that I hadn’t done it for my own amusement but that the wire had been short. I forgot to tell you that after I pulled it out I traced that cable back and found that on the other side of the wall there was about 10′ of wire bundled up with a zip tie that he could have taken an inch or two out of to make that touch pad easier to work on if need be. So of course the RV guy says “What do you mean short? There must be 10′ of wire there”. I just knew this was not going to be a good day.
A couple of hours later come to find out that the “brain” (my word) of the system is shot. Amazingly this is one month after it is out of warranty! Who could have guessed it? Of course. Because this IS Lake Havasu after all. A new brain would cost $540 plus installation. Swell.

The Brain

Back we go to the park. BTW it is really hot this whole time but being a good neighbor I don’t want to keep my generator going all the time so we just sweat it out. Not that OUR neighbors had any issues with running theirs at 7 AM.
The next day comes and we go to hook up again. By accident the battery door on the front of the RV was left open. I backed into it and ripped it right off it’s hinges. Excellent. We arrive at the RV repair place and I advise them of my stupidity with the door and they say they will look at it. The place has a little area outside with a table, chairs and shade overhead so we settle in for the long haul. Turned out it was only about 3 hours for everything plus the two they had put in troubleshooting it the first time. Total damage $1,1000. Ouch! Good thing we’ll be camp hosting this Summer so we’ll have a little money coming in for a change. Up to this point it’s been a steady outward flow.
Our projected budget going in to Havasu looked something like this:
Camping – $0
Food – $150 +/-
Total: $200

What it actually turned out to be:
Camping – $ 175
Food – $ 225 – We went out a couple of times when we were too exhausted to make anything from messing with the levelers all day
RV Repairs – $1,100
Total: $1,500
So we overshot our goal a little. About 650% or so. Not bad.

This morning we happily left Havasu and headed for Joshua Tree. We arrived here this afternoon and aside from difficulty finding a level spot it has been uneventful. We really hope the next two weeks here will be just as uneventful. We could really use a break

Cibola Surprise

For me one of the coolest things about traveling is that you’ll never know what you will run in to. Today I met a guy named Art. He was walking around the BLM land handing out flyers to the campers for Taco Tuesday at Karl’z Sand Shack. And the Sand Shack is exactly what it says it is. A little shack on a dusty desert road that serves a pretty big array of foods from tacos, burritos, burgers including a BBQ Bacon Onion Ring Cheese Burger and various other sandwiches and even does breakfasts of pancakes, bagels or a breakfast Quesidilla that feeds 4.

 

The Guest House

We also found that one of Karl’z neighbors had what could only be described as a “guest house” out front. Because nothing says desert like a boat.
Art was a veritable encyclopedia of local knowledge. He regaled us with stories of the days when General George Patton’s tank troops used to train here for deployment to North Africa during WWII, and left bombs in the desert where you can still go out there and dig up. They did not use explosive but the bombs were filled with some kind of white powder that would come flying out when they landed. Some folks around here have gone into the desert to dig the up to use as yard art. He talked about the wildlife and how the coyotes eyes were always watching you even though you can’t see them. According to the government there are a lot of mountain lions around here but Art says he’s never seen one, however, the lady who runs Karl’z Sand Shack has a picture of one she took in her front yard.
Art also let us in on the history of the “Hippie Hole” which got its name in the “hippie days” when hippies would go down to the swimming hole and “smoke their pot and have all sorts of naked shenanigans going on”.

I’m not sure how many hippies there could have been in this town of 32 year round residents but anything is possible. Unfortunately when we went there the only thing we saw without clothes was a couple of ducks.

 

I tried to convince Olga to take her clothes off and do some shenanigans but she was having none of it.


There used to be 10 gold mines in the mountains around here and back in those days people would come to town to get three things according to Art. Water, food and laid. Apparently Cibola was quite the little thriving western frontier town complete with its own brothels.
All this happened before we even went out exploring for the day. You just never know what is going to happen when you wake up in the morning, which I find way more attractive than waking up every day and going to the same old job making someone else rich.
Life CAN be good, interesting and fun. You just have to get out there and do it.