This Month’s Company I Love: Rickshaw Bagworks

You can’t use a JanSport backpack once you graduate.

I needed a brief case.

Do you know how expensive nice brief cases are? You’d think they all came filled with gold. So I was searching around for a decent brief case and stumbled upon a 50% off coupon for this Rickshaw Handbags website. They aren’t leather, but have some nice fabrics and 100% fully customizable. Fabric, color, trim, inside color, everything. Down to the color of the logo. With the coupon I could get one for $50. Seems legit. So I got one with a velcro pocket inside for my calculator and pencils (nerd alert).

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End of story? Nah.

I guess I had to wait a little longer for my bag to arrive. They are hand made daily, and I was in no rush so it’s whatever. But when my bag came about 3 weeks after I ordered, it included a second velcro pocket inside.

I unzipped it and found a hand-written note apologizing for the delay.

I don’t know what these pockets cost them or how often they give them away. Heck, they may just include it in every purchase hoping somebody blogs about it. Who knows. But this sort of proactive customer service should be noted. It just makes me love this made-in-America bag even more. I’d have easily paid retail for it.

I’ve kept the note in my bag ever since. When I reach in for my highlighters while CPA studying and feel the note, it gives me a little extra motivation. Maybe one day I’ll use my CPA to run a business. If so, I hope to have customer service as good as Rickshaw. It really does make a difference.

Getcha one here.

This Month’s Company I Love: Fortel’s Pizza

It’s tough out there for business these days. Not only is the cost of compliance and taxes through the roof, but most businesses have to deal with the worst people in the world: the general public. If anyone’s worked retail (I consider a bank branch retail), you know. It’s extremely frustrating and some people just plain suck (and smell). I’m sorry. It’s true.

The media is always quick to jump over a business when it does the wrong thing, so I’m going to try (TRY!) to honor a business each month for doing the right thing. Some may be huge corporations, some may be corner shops. I’m just going to give a little shout out to a company I’ve stumbled upon that’s doing it right.

Fortel’s Pizza has a handful of locations around St. Louis and not only is their pizza delicious (I laugh at Imo’s). Their wings are pretty fire too. One is a pitch and putt away from my apartment. I like to go there Sundays and get some ‘za and wind down my weekend.

84942About a month ago my power went out for a few hours on a Sunday but my craving didn’t. I headed over to Fortel’s to find they were still cooking pizza. In the dark. With a flashlight. I only had a little cash and their registers were down but they said they’d still take my Groupon. Well turns out my Groupon was only good for a different location. We discover this after my pizza and wings were already cooked. (I ordered a large specialty pizza and wings to get above the $20 groupon – judge). I offered and IOU or a check, but the dude said don’t worry about it. He just gave me the food for the few bucks I had and said come back and see us. I told him he just made a lifelong customer.

In business and life, (cue cheesy music), you can’t always predict how things are going to play out. When the lights go off, you can either sit there and feel sorry for yourself in the dark, or keep on keepin’ on. Fortel’s could have easily closed their doors when the power went out. Further, they could have not given me food when it became clear I couldn’t pay. I don’t know about the dozen other people that ate pizza there in the dark, but I won’t ever forget the simple kindness I was shown.

Like I said. Life long customer.

New Country for Young Men (and Women)

I did a post a few years ago when I started getting into country music. Well, this is a post how I’m getting out of country music. At least the kind on the radio.

I’m getting so frustrated with the country on the radio now. Literally every single song is the same. Don’t take my word for it.

Kinda funny. Kinda ridiculous. Very sad. Not every song in that video is terrible, but it’s all so played.

You know who else is sick of country singers on the radio? COUNTRY SINGERS ON THE RADIO!

Zac Brown said Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night”  is the worst song he’s ever heard. “If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, daisy duke song, I’m gonna throw up.” – Zac’s words. Not mine.

I get it. It sells. Once Florida Georgia Line came out and started killing it with only those types of songs, everyone jumped on. Country people like it because it reminds them of their life, and non-country people like it because they can pretend they live like that. And again, it sells. It’s still getting old. Don’t be satisfied with it. Demand more.

If you’re getting a little tired of the same old country songs on the radio, or if you’re just simply looking for more music, you should check these bands and songs out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Turnpike Troubadours

Matt Carpenter’s walk up music currently, these guys are from Oklahoma and are simply phenomenal. My favorite band the last 6 months. I’d throw them with Country, Alternative, Rock, Red Dirt, and a little Bluegrass. Don’t be scared of the genre “bluegrass” either. It’s not just your uncle’s banjo ramblin’ on constantly. Okay, maybe a little, but the genre has evolved with modern music beautifully. They’re coming to St. Louis in July after I tweeted at them and told them to. I’ll be there front row.

Songs (links open in new tab): Gin, Smoke, LiesLong Hot Summer Day (Carp’s Walk Up); 7 & 7Every Girl.

Railroad Earth

These guys are more bluegrass, but again, don’t be afraid. They have plenty of alternative rock in them. I saw them in January and they can shred! It was one of the best concerts I’ve been to. I’ve had over 10 songs featured on my favorites in Spotify for a full year. Out of about 70 favorites total. Unprecedented for my music library.

Songs: Mighty River, Lone Croft Farewell, Hard Livin’.

Pat Green

Most of you country fans have probably at least heard of Pat Green, but he doesn’t get near the attention he deserves. You’ll know Wave on Wave and probably Carry On. I pretty much survived my last college semester on Carry On.

He’s like your cool uncle that will tell you crazy stories from college, then turn around and give you some of the best damn life advice ever. I rarely tweet out song lyrics, but I make exceptions for Pat. The lyrics just speak to me. Need motivation? In It For The Money. Ready to party? Here I Go (he’s probably sober in this video). Beautiful Sunday afternoon? Poetry.

In conclusion, the internet and streaming music has greatly enhanced our ability to listen to a whole plethora of new music. While I’m still am a huge fan of free AM/FM radio, it gets too repetitive.

Don’t be satisfied with it.

Open your ears to the wonders around you. That’s what I think I think you should do.

 

Honorable Mentions: Josh Abbott Band, Randy Rogers Band, Casey Donahew Band (lotta “bands” right?), Donna the Buffalo (they’re weird, but awesome), Stoney Larue, Rob Baird, Jason Isbell, I could go on and I’m probably missing some of my favorites.

I got to give a shout out to my buddy Kevin who’s from Oklahoma. Not sure if I would have discovered the magic of red dirt country without him.

St. Louis vs. Kansas City: The Final Argument

I grew up halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City. I went to college halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City. I played hockey in St. Louis in grade school and in Kansas City in high school. I lived in Kansas City for 10 weeks last summer. I’ve lived in St. Louis for 10 weeks now. I am the only person who can settle this argument once and for all.

Let’s get it on.

Downtown: 

It may be dying but it’s not going down without a fight. St. Louis still has Wash Ave, the stadium(s), and now ballpark village. Soulard is walking distance (trust me, it is), and I still think the drive downtown seeing the arch is about as pretty of a drive as you’ll see into any downtown. Kansas City’s is small and easier to get around, but just doesn’t have much to get excited about. And who doesn’t enjoy a little St. Louis crime to keep things interesting. Just don’t cross the river. Louie scores first.

(KC 0 – STL 1)

Nightlife: 

St. Louis has more places and better to go out, but that’s doesn’t necessarily mean it wins. Every time I’ve gone out in Kansas City, I’ve ran into people I know. Some people may not like this but I do. St. Louis has more variety and more cool neighborhoods to go out. It’s got more of the big city feel. Wash Ave and Soulard might as well be a hundred miles away from each other and that’s awesome. Kansas City doesn’t have the P&L advantage (if there is one), now that Ballpark Village is opening in St. Louis. If I’m visitng one city for a weekend, I’d pick St. Louis. I’ve been too busy to explore everywhere here, but Westport wins against Soulard and others. It literally is a continuation of college, and who doesn’t like that? For the time being at least…

Kansas City ties it up.

(KC 1 – STL 1)

Neighborhoods/Places To Live:

This is even tougher because I haven’t lived in either place long, but I had to do this post now to be fair. Here’s my take: Kansas City has awesome diverse neighborhoods of the city. River Market, Art District, Plaza, Westport, Downtown, Waldo… all are awesome and unique. But because St. Louis has the size advantage, it wins. St. Louis is made up of over 80 different municipalities . Before I lived here I had no idea about all of the areas that weren’t downtown or a place with a hockey rink. Pretty much every town has its own personality, its own little downtown, and its own charm. Kansas City is doing great with all its unique areas, but St. Louis has at least three times as many areas.

St. Louis takes the lead.

(KC 1 – STL 2)

People: 

I haven’t met everyone in both towns, but because Kansas City does have that small town feel, it gets the advantage here. It may sound crazy, but I also enjoy the amount of kU fans in KC. It makes it feel like the rivalry is still alive. I don’t feel the same pride driving around with a Mizzou sticker in St. Louis as I do in Kansas City. I love all my St. Louis friends to death, but the high school continuation is real.  St. Louis is a great place to live and grow up and come back to. It’s also a great place to move to and start a career. But the fact that certain girls won’t talk to you unless you went to a certain high school is just ridiculous and really says a lot. I’ve never had that happen to me, of course, but I’ve heard multiple times. That just doesn’t happen in KC.

(KC 2 – STL 2)

Career: 

My jobs were completely different two cities, mainly because it’s tax season now, but I’m not just talking about me. St. Louis is a bigger city with bigger companies and more worldwide HQ’s so there will be more opportunities, but Kansas City has Cerner which employs half of the midwest, or so it seems.

Push.  I know that’s lame but it’s my blog so deal.

Beer: 

St. Louis is a beer town. I don’t care who owns Budweiser or Boulevard or whatever. Boulevard and Schlafly are a push, and St. Louis just simply is a beer town in a way Kansas City isn’t.

St. Louis suds pull ahead.

(KC 2 – STL 3)

Food: 

I love love love Kansas City BBQ, but the Italian here is real. I’m not even a huge fan of Italian but it’s that good.

Kansas City by a rib.

(KC 3 – STL 3)

Stuff to Do: 

I’m not talking about exhibits at the museums, I’m talking about stuff we actually do. In two weeks we have Mardi Gras and St. Patty’s – two of the biggest parties I’ve ever been a part of. I may be just not be aware, but I can’t think of one event in Kansas City that even comes close. Manhattan, KS has some big parties but you can’t count that KC, sorry. I think there’s some cow festival that’s fun? First Fridays I’ve heard are a good time but none of my friends when I was there made an effort to attend so you don’t get it.

Not just because of Mardi and Patty’s – St. Louis just has the size and wins because of what comes with it (parks, shops, neighborhoods, events, etc.). KC does have the best antique mall I’ve ever been though. Not enough.

(KC 3 – STL 4)

Sports: 

Rams. Duh.

But seriously. I’ve had the downtown vs. suburb stadium discussion many many times, and I simply don’t know the answer. As a Cardinals fan, I think I may enjoy Royals games better because of the tailgating and the low expectations. Idk. And I can’t stand how St. Louis doesn’t stand behind the Rams and the self-anointed “best fans in baseball” crap. I’m trying to be level headed here. I’ve never been to an NFL regular season game, so maybe if I go to a Chiefs game this year it will change. But you have to look at where you would want to be if all Missouri teams sucked and if all Missouri teams dominated. The answer is St. Louis both times. The Blues might tip it East.

Speaking of, HOW BOUT THEM BLUES MY LORD!?!?!?!?!

The Greatest Show on Turf helps seals the victory.

Decision: St. Louis, 5-3.

Right now in my life personally I probably would prefer Kansas City – just because it has the nightlife and people and I have a few more friends there. But if all my randomly picked categories are weighted the same, St. Louis wins. Perhaps solely because of the size but in a bar fight I’m picking the guy who has 30 pounds on the other.  I’ve had a blast in St. Louis so far – even while studying for the CPA and working 60 hours a week. I love living in here now and I don’t see myself moving any time soon.

But if the Rams leave, that all changes.

That’s what I think I think.

What I Think About Obamacare

Better open the windows. It’s gettin’ political. 

I’m going to begin by saying I have not read the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. If you have, 1. God Bless You. 2. I’d love your opinion on all this.

I have gotten my information and opinion just like we all do, through discussions among friends and family, personal reflection, a few lectures in college, wikipedia, and the media – which we all know is totally level headed and unbiased.

It’s important to establish that, all things aside (mainly the deficit), universal and/or affordable heath care is a good thing. Patient protection is a noble cause that is worth pursuit by our lawmakers until it is fulfilled. Obamacare is extremely ambitious, and attempts to meet this important and lofty goal. I think it’s taken us in the right direction by opening up serious discussions on the subject.

I’ll first try to let you know what I think about the individual side of Obamacare, then we’ll tackle the business side of it.

I think the individual mandate has gone okay so far. People are getting covered. Sure the website failures were embarrassing for the administration, but I really only have two problems with the individual side of Obamacare.

  1. Tax or Penalty? I’ll have neither please. Adding another tax is bad. I don’t dislike the tax because I think most forms of current tax are crippling to society and should be repealed (we might get to this on a later post), but because if you have truly affordable health care that people want to participate in, you shouldn’t need a tax to make people sign up for it. People should want health care because it’s a good idea, not because when you calculate a penalty it’s financially beneficial. It’s cheating by the administration IMO to claim any success when people are forced to sign up. It’s the same as saying “We now have the more insured drivers on the road than ever before.” Yeah, because when you get pulled over you get a ticket if you don’t have insurance. Similarly, you get a ticket when you fill out your tax return for not having health insurance. Moving on.
  2. People shouldn’t lose their insurance. Premiums for individuals are going to go up, that’s just going to happen when you try to expand care to the entire population, but nobody should be forced out of a plan they already like. The number of people who have lost their insurance depends on whether you ask FOX or MSNBC, but it’s happening.  Blame the insurance companies or Obama, I don’t know who. If people are forced out due to higher premiums, and have to check out the marketplace, that sucks, but understandable. Premiums go up. But nobody should completely lose coverage they like. Ever.

Oh the marketplace. I’m not going to talk about technological problems that should be, and hopefully will be, solved. The individual healthcare marketplace by itself is a FANTASTIC idea. It is the most American part of the entire bill. Companies competing for your business when you have access, freedom, and ability to compare plans. YES! COMPETITION! FREEDOM! AMERICA!

I think the marketplace would work beautifully without the last two pitfalls. Let’s get it working so we can see the impact! On to the business side.

By the way things are going, we aren’t going to see the impact of the employer mandate until Obama is out of office, but I can tell you right now it’s not going to be pretty. It’s already an absolutely brutal environment out there for small businesses (FICA taxes alone costs self-employed over 15%. Some industries have a profit margin of 2%. Good luck with that.). This isn’t looking like it’s going to help, no matter how many times you change the definition of “small business.”

I fundamentally disagree with most of the business mandate because it is taking away a fundamental freedom that businesses should have. Obamacare tells businesses it needs to provide a certain amount of health insurance to full time employees and it can only charge those employees a certain amount.

Think about it.

The federal government is telling American businesses: You must provide this service, and you must charge this price. Or we’ll fine you.

I don’t own a business yet, but I don’t think I’d take kindly to the government telling me what I need to provide and what I need to charge for it – regardless of the costs to me.

That’s my main beef with the business mandate, but there’s another nugget that I dislike, but also find a little amusing.

Obamacare places a 40% excise tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans – ones with premiums over $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. Every dollar over that amount costs $1.40. The funny thing about this is – think about it with me – What two groups of employees typically sacrifice salary for better benefits, many times including these Cadillac Plans? Unions and government workers. What two groups of employers almost universally support democrats? Exactly – unions and government workers. Obama threw some of his main supporters under the bus with this 40% excise tax –  which is a big reason he delayed this feature too (union bosses wanted him to put an exemption in for unions, but that’s pretty much blatant political collusion). The problem here is that a huge chunk of the revenue was supposed to come from this excise tax. The other problem is employers just simply stopped providing these plans to avoid the tax. Big problems people.

As much hooplah we’ve heard about Obamacare, I don’t think repeal is an option. People have already signed up and benefitted. Heck, I have benefitted. I’m able to free load off my parents’ insurance for another two years. Sweet deal. Thanks Obama. Seriously.

What we need to do is enhance the marketplace and make it work like, you know, a marketplace. When companies are competing fairly for our business, we all win. Significant changes need to be made on the employer side. I’m not sure if I even understand why the employers were messed with in the first place. Everyone who had insurance through their employer seemed happy. If you didn’t have it offered to you, well okay, go to the new fantastic fully functional marketplace and provide yourself and your family with a plan that works for you. Any time fines are involved, employers know they can charge a premium because you’re forced to buy. (Get it? Charge a premium? har har har political puns har har).

There are many other sides of this to consider, from doctors, to the baby boomers, to pre-existing conditions, but I just wanted to shine a little light on a few of the aspects.

In conclusion, real dialogue needs to happen in Washington to fix this law, and I truly believe it is fixable. Republicans needs to stop talking about defunding, and start talking about rewriting. Democrats are beginning to sense some major unintended consequences, and will deal before the midterm to keep seats.  If the president can change the law with a stroke of a pen, I hope congress shows the ability to with a stroke of good dialogue.

What will happen? I have no idea.

In conclusion, there are fantastic intentions, and some very good parts about Obamacare. We just simply need to alter what needs altering, and empower what needs empowering. If it were up to me, I’d drop the fines, enhance the marketplace, scale back employer mandates, and take baby steps. Which still may leave a funding problem, but we can get there people.

I know you have opinions on this one folks. Where did I go wrong? Please tell me. This civil dialogue is what keeps America going. But as of now, that’s what I think I think.

Sochi: Sport, Scandal, Society.

The best part of the Olympics, in my opinion, began today with the hockey tournament. I love it because I love America and I love hockey, and I love when America actually cares about hockey.

But how will these Olympics be remembered: sport, scandal, or societal storylines?

Most would hope for sport – what happens on the field, er, I guess ice or snow. But when you think about it, of all the Olympics played in history, how many are actually remembered for excellence of the athletes? I can only think of two off the top of my head. Michael Phelps in 2008 (not Mark Spitz in Munich 1972, see later) , and the Miracle on Ice. I’m sure in Canada, it’s 2010 games, but nobody cares, Canada. One could even argue that the Miracle on Ice wouldn’t be anything if it wasn’t for circumstances outside the rink –  The Cold War, and the USA boycotting the Moscow Summer Games. As the quote from the HBO documentary about the game goes, “The circumstances surrounding the games were so extraordinary, it can never happen again.” – Al Michaels.

It takes something very extraordinary to an Olympics be remembered on the field. I can only see that happening if Russia or the US win the hockey in a thrilling game. Shawn White choked. Shani Davis choked.  MAYBE one could argue the tie in women’s alpine skiing will be remembered, but how many of you just thought to yourself “There was a tie in women’s skiing?”

Will the games be remembered due to scandal? Maybe. The outrageous cost of the games. The slum-like living situation for journalists, (or what they make seem like slum-like). The technical difficulty in the opening ceremony? It takes massive scandal to be remembered. Even the judges scandal of 2002 is kind of forgotten. The games that come to mind is the terrorism in Atlanta 1996, and Munich in 1972. Both of those are earth-shattering, life-ending scandals. I can speak for everyone in that we hope that doesn’t happen the least bit. There’s already been wind of a judge scandal in figure skating again, but likely won’t be remembered after the games.

How about the games being remembered for its impact on the world society? It’s possible. Putin wanted this to be Russia’s welcome party to the world society, and it will happen to some extent. It has shed some light on issues in Russia, mainly it’s treatment of homosexuals. I don’t think that’s going to have a huge impact, however. Those issues need more much than two weeks in order to gain enough traction to affect real change, especially in Russia.

Plenty games have been remembered for societal reasons. Jesse Owens in Berlin in 1936, 1968 Black Power Salute, and China’s coming out party to the world in 2008.  There are a few things those games have that Sochi doesn’t. Firstly, they were all summer olympics, which is a much bigger games and spectacle. Secondly, the statements in ’36 and ’68  were done by the athletes, not protesters. Owens didn’t even do any explicit statement. He just kicked ass in front of Hitler. The Black Power salute was a simple gesture after they kicked ass in their sport.  In China’s case, idk I just haven’t gotten the same feeling from Sochi as a “Russian coming out to the world” party. Beijing was magical.

The only way this game will be remembered for societal reasons is if a Russian athlete wins a gold medal and instead of grabbing the Russian flag, they grab a rainbow flag.

In which case, I fear for their life.

My point is, these Olympics probably won’t be remembered in ten years. And if they are, it will probably be for something that happened outside the athletes’ control.  I had no intention on ending on this depressing point, but here I am. Does this mean we shouldn’t watch the Olympics or be excited for them? Not at all.

But I do think it’s time we stop spending over $51 Billion of taxpayer’s money on the games to impress the cameras. I think it’s time we let the sports do the talking. I think it’s time we stop  use the Olympics as a platform for political and social change. There’s so much good that comes from the games, why shift the focus to shortcomings of the world?

When the eyes of the world are watching, let them watch the athletes.

Will it happen in the future? Probably not.

That’s what I think I think.

USA ALL THE WAY

My Own Personal Bowser

I’m graduating on Saturday, which is one of the most exciting, long awaited, events in my entire life. I am a part of the unique 11-semester plan. Because of the structure of the Mizzou Accounting school, I’ll be getting my minor, major, and master’s all on the same day.

That means, if I, for whatever reason, didn’t finish this semester, I go home with nothing. That’s very unlikely at this point in time, but so goes the structure of the Accounting program.

I still need to fight Bowser though. If you’re unfamiliar with the Super Mario games, #1 –  Bowser is the boss at the end that you must defeat in order to win the game, #2 – Where have you been?

My Bowser is the CPA Exam.

Yes, I’m excited about graduating, moving to St. Louis, and starting a job, but the CPA is just looming. It doesn’t matter how many stars, coins, lives, degrees, jobs, etc., without beating the boss, the CPA, my ceiling as an accountant is low.

I’m taking the exam in four parts, starting in January. I’ve already begun preparing, and this boss is going to be a doozey. Mizzou has prepared me well, but nothing is given.

So long story short, I’m excited to be graduating, but I may not be able to show it until I pass the CPA in a few months. If and when that happens, then I’ll celebrate. But as of now, there’s work to be done.

And Becker (my review course) knows there’s work to be done.

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