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Friday, March 30, 2007

Peppermints Improve Test Scores

Bad breath is a huge turn off. It gives an instant impression that someone doesn't care for personal hygiene. However according to this article, "those with halitosis are blissfully unaware of their condition" while "people convinced they suffer from bad breath actually have odor-free mouths". Certainly there is some kind of psychological reason for all of this. Perhaps those without bad breath have noticed someone with horrible breath that is unaware that they have bad breath and as a result become paranoid that they might have bad breath and be unaware of it too.

Regardless, there is a new movement not only to increase the rate of fresh breath, but to increase test scores as well. At first glance, and even second and third glance it seems to be a bit of a stretch, but according to this article by the Washington Post, there seems to be something to it.

Now whether or not there is some magical power in the smell and taste of peppermint is yet to be determined. It may be attributable to the Hawthorne Effect, where people knowing that they are being observed perform better. Even if they are being observed under poorer conditions their performance would improve.

Regardless of the reason, the benefit is better performance and better smelling breath. It sounds like a win-win to me. I only wish this informatoin would have been out during my school days. I had a few teachers that had terrible breath and loved to get real close when they talked. BLEEGCHH!


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Because I Do Look Good

I've mentioned a couple of times recently about running for an elected office and made it pretty clear that it isn't going to happen. However, leave it to the creativity of our Music Pastor to come up with my campaign slogan if I ever change my mind.
Thanks Jared! If I ever run, I'm making you my campaign manager.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

If It’s Broke Don’t Ride It

As I was leaving our nation’s capitol Thursday, the weather turned to spring and I got to thinking what a beautiful day for a bike ride. The cherry trees were in blossom around town and the light breeze lifted me as I breathed in fresh air.

Unfortunately my 2:30 flight didn’t allow time for a bike ride, but I did have the chance to reflect on what I learned on our legislative trip. I think what was the most eye opening and troublesome is that I became convinced that our system is broken. Maybe I was already convinced, but it just became a reality.

Take for example the issue of immigration. If pressed, I have an opinion about it, but that’s not what this is about. This is about things that are broken.

Immigration is certainly a hot topic for America and the upcoming elections, but also a perfect illustration of a broken system. The US Chamber of Commerce briefed us Tuesday on their involvement in the issue. There are an estimated 12 million “shadow workers” in the US today. These are people working illegally, many of whom pay taxes, but none the less are in our country illegally. How do we fix this problem? Many suggest we absorb them by making the process easier to immigrate legally. Not providing amnesty and granting them immediate legal status, but providing a grace period of sorts whereby they can process through immigration and become legal citizens.

Oh, what a splendid compromise. That sounds like it would work so wonderfully, but guess again. Presently, the United States allows for 65,000 legal immigrants to be given citizenship per year. In case your wondering 12,000,000 divided by 65,000 is 184.6 years. While we may be used to government working slowly, that’s a little much unless shadow workers are okay with waiting for their great grandchildren to be the first citizens of the United States in their family.

But have faith! Our government isn’t made of idiots. They can do the math can’t they? Obviously they can because they are raising the limit from 65,000 to 215,000 legal immigrants per year. That cuts the number substantially by 70%, from 184 years to a measly 55.2 years. Much more acceptable I think. Oh yeah, but did I mention that presently there is such a demand for legal immigration into the US that the 2007 quota has been filled, and the 2008 quota is almost filled and this without any influx of shadow workers being added to the daily workload.

I’m sure though that our hard working and dedicated immigration officers are quite capable of picking up the extra slack for the next 55 years or so and double their production to accommodate the shadow workers. In case you’ve never met a government worker, let me explain sarcasm… Continuing with my sarcastic remarks - because the process of legally immigrating takes the sponsorship of a business, which is already quite costly, and our government understands the concept of economics, immigration decided it would raise the price of immigration in hopes of limiting the number of applications. It all makes perfect sense now doesn’t it?

We want 12 million illegal immigrants to become a legal part of our working class, yet it will take 55 years to immigrate them all if our government increases the proposed capacity by 100% and the current capacity by 662%. Meanwhile we can’t keep up with the current rate of immigration at a mere 15% of what it would take to accomplish in 55 years. That doesn’t even take into account things like population growth. Certainly as a worker, today age 30, has children and grandchildren, the 12 million shadow people will grow too. As the day passes and the sun sets, the shadow will grow longer.

It kind of reminds me of walking along the sidewalk on a beautiful day and seeing a bicycle leaned up against a light post and thinking to my self, “what a great day to ride a bike, I’m going to go hop on that one and take a spin around the block.” Then as I walk up to the bike, I realize that the bike has a flat back tire, is missing the front one altogether, the chain has rusted in half and the seat is missing. No matter how nice the day it’s not very realistic to think I’m going to be able to pedal down the driveway and past the blossoming cherry trees, enjoying the sunshine.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Been Looking Forward To Being Home

Monday night and I just got back home after spending 7 days in DC and 4 days at Copper Mountain. I love skiing and it was so much fun being up their with my hot ski-bunny wife and two thrill seeking boys, but I have been looking forward to being home and I am so very glad to finally be home, sit on my couch watching TV in my house and planning on going upstairs and sleeping in my own bed. Life as a rock star isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I do have a good couple weeks planned for blogging. After struggling for a couple of weeks with subject matter, I spent a good hour on the plane ride home outlining my upcoming posts.
Looking forward some more, here's what you can expect:
  • Our broken government
  • Unions on the rise
  • How fresh breath means increased intelligence
  • Why customer service must be company wide
  • And hopefully I'll bring you a totally gross and disgusting story that will make your stomach turn. But, I'm waiting on approval from the source.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Check Please!

It's now Monday evening and I'm crossing things off my list like crazy. In the same order of my last post, here's how I'm doing.

  1. We saw as many sites as humanly possible. My feet hurt so much from walking.
  2. I've eaten at 5 Guys Burgers and Fries (gut bomb burgers that are ohh so good). Then I ate at Fogo De Chao a Brazilian Steakhouse which was incredible. It was delicious meats of all kinds on an all you can eat basis. My God I didn't know I could eat that much. It's only Monday and tomorrow is the Indian embassy. I'm not a big fan of Indian food, so it will be one of my "try something new" things.
  3. When I spoke to my wife today she actually said, "I saw a Subaru today that I liked."
  4. Uh... yeah.. haven't even opened the book. Tomorrow I promise!
  5. I've made some good inroads with a lobbyist that I'll need for a later project as well as some great people from back in Colorado that will definately be good political allies in months to come.
  6. Not exactly 7 hours last night, but 4-1/2 is kind of like 7... until the alarm clock went off.
  7. My wife and I experienced something new together, but I'll keep that secret because somethings are more fun when only 2 people know and the second thing - see number 2
  8. After sitting in presentations from 8:00am to 5:00pm, my mind is on overload. I learned about how the Vietnam Memorial was created, how pollsters do their job, how the General who is #2 over the Iraq war thinks, how Nevada's Congressman makes tourism work for his state, how lobbying works, how appropriations happen in DC, and how an Indiana Congressman tore his knee up skiing in Colorado. I also learned that I REALLY don't want ot run for office. Thanks for the vote of confidence Betsy, but I tell myself I'm an idiot enough. I don't need half the world helping me out.

Tomorrow I'm off to see the DLA and beg - I mean respectfully ask for money for a program we're starting. What's another half mil in a federal budget?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gone, But Not Forgotten

I left Thursday morning on my way out of town to fly with my wife to Washington DC. She's returning next Monday, but I'll stay on for business until Thursday. Then on Thursday I fly back to Denver and meet my wife at the airport so we can drive up the mountain to do a little skiing at Copper Mountain until the following Monday. Then finally I'll be back home and able to sleep in my own bed.

I'll make sure to post as often as I can about my adventures in DC, both personal and business. As I was running around packing and double checking my lists of what I need to do and pack I created a list of what I want to accomplish in DC.

1. See as many sites as possible with my wife
2. Eat as much good food as possible
3. Convince my wife that a Subaru is the perfect choice for our next vehicle
4. Finish reading and write a review for at least one of the two books I was given and get it posted (good book - not enough time)
5. Make some "political connections" with some of the other 70 plus people traveling to DC on this trip
6. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
7. Experience at least two new things
8. Learn as much as possible


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Valuing Employees

We all know in theory how important it is to take care of your employees. We study leadership, we work to improve managerial skills, we learn to communicate in their style and reasons why we should show them appreciation. The book shelves are filled with books on employees, but (and answer honestly) how many actually practice what we use?

I've heard statistics that something like 95% of the people who attend a seminar never practice what they've just learned and I thought what a waste and then wondered if I was part of that 95%.

Well, feeling convicted about this today, I decided that our balmy weather is the perfect opportunity to appreciate our staff who has been working incredibly hard. So, we're having what I call an "anti-snow day". It's not my word, but I like it so I'm using it. In the event that the weather becomes too nice and the majority of the work is getting done, the office should be closed. When I heard they are giving free ice cream out just up the hill it seemed like a natural fit. Go get some ice cream and then take off to enjoy our first beautiful spring like day.
What have you done recently to show your employees you value them?


Monday, March 12, 2007

Differentiate Yourself As Well As Your Product

I would argue that what we wear on the weekends, while important to our self-esteem is not nearly as important as what we wear during the week.

In a shallow sort of way, we tend to look first toward the outward appearance and make an initial judgement of what that person must be like before ever meeting them. It is for this reason that I say what we wear on the weekend isn't that important.

On the weekend we play. We hang out with friends and have a good time. Our friends are people we already know and whom we are already acquainted with. Therefore, our level of fashion isn't that crucial because a true friend will still like you, even if you wear moderately nice clothes, but not high fashion.
However, during the work week, you are interacting with people that you don't know well, if at all. For this reason, I think you have to continually put your best shoe forward. Of course you still have to dress to fit the career, but even a stuffy banker can spice things up a bit with a shirt that isn't a button down oxford. This shirt maintains professionalism while exuding style. This shirt is professional, but a little stuffy and looks like every other banker on the block.

So, if the concept is to differentiate your product to be different than the rest so your product gets remembered, why would you dress like the rest so your product is remembered, but you're not?
Just make sure that what you are being remembered for is a good thing and not something else like this guy I ran into last week. If low rider jeans are in, then I think we all agree high rider polyester is out.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

In Rememberance Of...

I'm on my way out of the office to head back to Iowa for a funeral. Deann's grandpa passed away earlier this week. While death is never fun, this was somewhat of a relief for her family. Her grandpa was 95 and in the beginning stages of dimentia, so while no one wanted him to die, no one was sad that he's gone to be in a better place. I figure if I've lived for 95 years, I will have had a good life and will probably be ready to move on.

The trip should bring good memories and lots of new stories. Some I won't be able to blog about, but let me just say the Klever side of her family is wild and crazy in many, many ways.

While thinking about funerals, I came across this article and though, "WOW! There's a side to funerals you wouldn't normally considder." It's about a company in England that custom makes coffins. They mention the cockpit of an airplane, a dog sled, a skateboard and an egg as some of their designs.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Politics And Politicians

Last night I watched Man of the Year with Robin Williams. I find him continually funny, the trailer made me laugh out loud, and I think politics can never be made fun of enough, so I was anxious to watch.

The movie was typical Robin Williams with the first half being non stop laughter and the second half more serious with a message. I give it a high entertainment value, but don't watch it if you can't laugh at what you politically believe in.

The movie made me stop and think about running for politics again. I've thought about it, and have had near random strangers tell me I should, but I just can't quite bring myself to agreeing that it's a good idea.

Then today, I went to our local Chamber of Commerce's city council debate. It was another confirmation that watching politics, and especially making fun of it is a great idea, but being a politician... not so great. So, I left the debate full from a great breakfast of eggs, sausage and fruit and reflected that while local politics are the most important and often easiest arena to get involved in, I'll stay involved with voting, but not active participation for now.

One thing I can't quite figure out is what my campaign slogan would be. One guy during the debate kept saying my name is... and I'm running for city council because I want change for the better. (YAWN) I'd need something catchy like, "My name is Matt Barrett. Vote for me and I'll give 20% of all my kick-backs to charity!" Think I need some help on that. Any ideas?

If the mood ever does strikes me, I did discover that I don't have what it takes to be a crooked politician... according to this anyway.


Monday, March 05, 2007

My Brief Bout of Performance Anxiety

As I mentioned earlier, I am writing a column for our local business journal. Two and a half years ago, I started writing this blog with mixed intentions, but the reason leading the way has been to improve my writing skills. So after a couple of years of practice I felt up to the challenge and jumped at the chance when asked.

However, I didn't realize how insecure I was about my writing ability until I went to click "send" on the email with my article attached. I felt like that junior-high kid ringing the doorbell to take his date to the first school dance. Fortunately the editor wasn't as intimidating as Mrs. Klien was and I got good feedback from him.

Trying to self diagnose and treat my nervousness about this, I naively googled "Performance Anxiety" thinking I must have anxiety about this whole situation and temporarily forgetting that performance anxiety is more closely related with another problem... Uh... so, moving on...

So, I found an article written by a musician of all things, that talks about performance anxiety from the standpoint of getting up on stage and performing, and not from that other perspective. Not an exact match to what I was doing, but a lot closer than the alternative results Google gave me. Here are his six steps to overcoming performance anxiety.
  1. You have practiced to the best of your ability
  2. Don't judge what just happened, or is about to happen
  3. Don't second guess any one's reaction
  4. Be the performer, not the observer
  5. Before performing, focus on only the one most important thing
  6. Enjoy it

So if you're on your way to a public speech, performance or whatever causes you stress, keep these in mind. It thought it was pretty good advice.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Getting Caught Up

Let me first apologize on my gross inconsistency in blogging lately. Though vacation was the cause of one week, I have no excuse for the week before or after, but not having an excuse never stopped me from giving one.

Vacation is great! Coming back from vacation sucks!!! I came back with a sun tan that started to peel, a bruised heel from playing sand volleyball, somehow I was two pounds lighter and I had 147 unread emails. So while life in Can Cun was great, coming back wasn't so great.

So before I hit the blogging world with the full force of my genius, I'll ease back into it with my life in bullet points.
  • I think I had a little writer's block, but feel it's leaving now.
  • My department at work is getting audited, but I'm really not stressed about it.
  • My assistant is VERY stressed about it.
  • We set up a 55 gallon fish aquarium for my boys as a combined birthday present.
  • I now spend every evening hypnotized by the bubbles and fish.
  • I love Lost and loved Hurley driving that VW van last night with Three Dog Night blasting on 8 track. Just a hunch, but I think that the song is somehow symbolic of what is going to happen on the island soon.
  • I have 85 minutes of video from our vacation and planned on editing it and putting some up for people to watch, but then realized I don't have the software needed to edit on a Mac. I guess I'm off to buy some software.
  • I actually attended a Mac user group meeting and it felt oddly strange as I sat with other people cracking jokes about Windows users and had to fight the urge to defend them.
  • I was asked to write a column for the local news paper on business and have a week to get it done. Now I'm feeling the writer's block come back... Any suggestions???