Sunday, June 29, 2014

Charity is what you do with your own time and stuff, not your employer's

Cracker Barrel is in the news again. This time for firing a worker for giving away a corn muffin. (Story here.) The worker had been there 3 years, and this was either his 3rd or 5th such action, depending on whether you take his word for it or Cracker Barrel's.

This caught my attention because the underlying offenses all appear to involve taking for himself or others what isn't his to take or give. Whether having a soda on duty when doing so is not allowed, or giving away a restaurant's food, seems to me the underlying issue is "Who pays?" for the lost time and lost food and drink. In my opinion, unless otherwise agreed, it's the worker's responsibility to work during working hours and to pay for anything that the company normally sells but he or she consumes or gives away instead. The worker here says he'd have been willing to pay for the muffin if asked, but after multiple such warnings, why did he think he needed to be asked?

Charity is great, but giving away others' time and stuff without their permission is theft, not charity.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tips for Moving with Pros

We just moved from a Chicago suburb to Orange County, CA, using Allied Van Lines pro movers. We chose them over United Van Lines only for their $1K lower bid, having learned in a previous move that no matter what we did to cut costs later, the estimate is what we'd have to pay.

Better Business Bureau rates movers, so don't bother with anyone not top-rated on their site. Also, June is prime moving season, so get your request in early.

Before you get your estimate, get rid of absolutely everything that isn't worth $2 a pound to have with you at the other end, and physically separate that which will be moved from that which won't to help the estimator get it right.

We sold lots of furniture to the buyers of our home, and gave away tons of other stuff to friends, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the "trash fairy" (guy who cruised the neighborhood weekly just before the weekly trash pickup.) That saved us thousands of dollars, and allowed us to comfortably fit into a home here that is 1/3rd smaller than our former home. That in turn pays because now we can clean it ourselves easily with the help of a Braava 380T mopping robot rather than needing a house cleaner, all of whom here appear to work only under the table - a way we are not willing to pay, both for moral reasons and to avoid being billed for their social security decades hence.

Most boxes we packed ourselves, using inexpensive and effective boxes and supplies from Lowes, plus hand-tearable 3M packing tape from Amazon subscribe-and-save. The movers packed the china and other breakables, and the little big furniture we kept. (Cheaper to buy a new bed from Amazon than to move an existing one, though like pulling teeth to find anyone willing to take a used mattress.)

Anything we truly cared about rode in one of our two cars, and fit easily as there isn't all that much we couldn't stand being without. This included a safe of ammo in one car, and a safe of guns in another car. Keep them apart and very clearly unloaded when crossing multiple states, and keep both safes entirely out of sight.

Something that helped the drive a lot was a set of Motorola Family radios. There are large parts of the west where no one's cell phone works. But we didn't find anywhere we couldn't talk on the Family radios. Made coordinating stops and turns a whole lot easier.

We shared cell #s and emails with our driver - this vastly eased coordinating a move-in date and time, especially when it turned out our new street was unexpectedly scheduled to be torn up during most of the originally-planned move-in delivery window.

As another commenter suggested, ditch the printed books and go with Kindle versions before moving. Someday when you are living in a single room with only a bed and chair, you'll still have your entire library on a Kindle. Only exception is books you must have in printed form to be useful, such as those necessary for recovering from an EMP attack.

Similarly, I made a good digital photograph of every important bit of artwork, and now use those as daily-changing screensavers on our PCs, with only those our son still wants to inherit someday actually going up on walls at the new place. We also got a good high-speed scanner, and reduced several file cabinets worth of old papers to a small portion of our ReadyNAS storage system that is both locally and remotely backed up.

In the end, nothing at all broke, our movers were skilled and never even hinted at a tip, and pre-paying via credit card worked out perfectly.

Only change for next time, hopefully never, is that my wife now wishes she'd just let the pros pack all the boxes, regardless of cost. But the pros actually advised against that.

All in all, a great move, and I'm happy to recommend Allied-affiliated Reebie Storage & Moving Co. (

In the end, it's all just stuff, so lighten your load before you move.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Deja Vu

Yesterday, our pastor (Bill Hybels of Willowcreek Community Church) preached for week three of Willow's annual Celebration of Hope series about helping the poor. It was the first sermon I've ever heard by Bill in which I didn't notice him mentioning either God or sin. (I could have missed something. Listen for yourself here:

It was a surprising omission to me because Bill's first question was "Why are the poor poor?" Bill offered several possibilities. He did not, however, offer the obvious Willow answer - because we live in a fallen world.

I was glad to see Bill then note the plight of the extreme poor has improved in recent decades. But I was surprised to see no credit given for that to the era of freedom beginning with the fall of the Berlin wall, nor to the resulting wave of free enterprise.

Next, Bill mentioned how he and Willow evolved from only offering compassionate help to the poor, to also supporting justice, and recently becoming involved in politics.

The example Bill offered was of recently writing editorials, meeting politicians, and attending demonstrations to solve the problem of illegal immigration. As usual, nothing was said on behalf of applicants for legal immigration, who wait years for a decision.

The new focus on justice and lobbying over compassion is a huge switch for Bill and Willow, but deja vu for a retired United Methodist pastor. Forty years ago, we in the UMC tried the same thing. For example, Bread for the World ( told us we could raise more money to feed the poor with one vote in Congress than from any number of individual charitable gifts. Theoretically true -- but not magic. Unless a majority of voters agree, members of Congress seeking re-election won't long support any idea.

When I first attended (in 1990), Willow had a different approach, called "Life by life." Rather than lobbying politicians, Willow built individual relationships. This resulted in such sights as Congressman Bobby Rush attending a Willowcreek Leadership Summit, and Bill's monthly visits with then-President Bill Clinton.

There is value in both approaches, but hearing the UMC argument coming from Bill's mouth left me wondering who now reaches people life by life?

Like many reaching the end of a career, Bill has recently become more willing to express controversial sentiments, coming out as a Democrat, much as I came out as a Libertarian on many issues after retirement. But part of me would like to return to the days when pastors were more careful not to drive off half a congregation by too fervently supporting only one side of a controversial issue in which major parties disagree and Biblical truth is elusive.

Update:Here's a contrary view from today's news, noting that George Soros is funding a group in which our pastor's spouse is involved. That's the conservative equivalent of telling a liberal something was funded by the Koch brothers: