Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review - Sam Walton Made in America - My Story by Sam Walton with John Huey

Only took about a week to finish this book. You can see that Sam Walton wasn't trained as an author as he uses everyday language in his book. Written shortly before his death from bone cancer it is filled with anecdotes from his life and a generous amount of recollections from friends, family and colleagues. No, it's not just Sam Walton's book.

Would you believe that Sam Walton started off with a newspaper round? He was the best seller of newspapers and recruited others to do so which created some sort of a foundation for his selling abilities. He was a more than capable amateur sportsman but had a minor heart condition that perhaps stopped him from going further.

Sam Walton new the value of a dollar. Of that you can be sure. During WWII he married Helen Robson, from a reasonably well-to-do family, whose father advised Sam regarding setting up a business early on. It turned out to be remarkably good advice and he loaned some money towards setting them up.

At the conclusion of WWII Sam went to work for J.C. Penney, a large retail company. He worked there for three years before deciding to buy a Ben Franklin franchise. Now, you all know that franchisers want the franchisees to purchase their goods and resell them. Sam, knowing the value of a dollar, would find a distributor close by who could offer a better deal and so would purchase from them and pass on the savings to his customers. It did mean that the franchise wasn't too pleased with him but it meant that the business did well. He went on to create Walton's Five and Dime stores before Walmart came to fruition in 1962. The business was borrowed heavily for and Sam had his head salesmen as partners, albeit for minimal shares.

Much of the success for Walmart came about because the stores were situated in country towns of 3-10,000 people and were able to soak up much of the demand because prices were low, stock was available and the locations were well planned. Sam Walton flew his own plane, out of 18 owned none of them were new, to a site and viewed it from overhead. He's note the roads, competition and proximity from his distribution point (as far as possible). Then, if he spotted some land he fancied, he'd land the plane and seek out the land owner and make an offer right there on the spot. Once a new store was operational he would back-fill the smaller towns in between this new store and the distribution centre with additional stores. Great tactic and probably the only person to conduct business in this manner.

The early business success, in part, was due mainly to the location of his franchise close to the border in Arkansas with Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. It meant that he could sell in four states with differing competition in each state and didn't step on too many toes. Stroke of luck or masterstroke?

Some of the sales that they had to attract people were amazing. Tractor mowers that sold for $449 were purchased, in bulk, for $175 and sold for $199. Who could resist a bargain like that? Or how about 3600 packets of bulk washing detergent piled up some 15 feet and 100 feet long taking up a whole aisle to get people in through the door?

There was a definite culture at Walmart. Saturday morning meetings were held and people were made to attend. If the shoppers were busy on the weekend and shop staff had to work then the managers would work also. Sam Walton would be in the office at 4 am check the weekly sales figures for all stores some three hours before the staff meeting. That's dedication. If a new store was to be opened the management team worked 16-18 hours a day and had, generally, three weeks to pull it off. The people were pushed seriously but gained from an early profit-sharing scheme. How would you feel if eight of you were forced to share a hotel room or four or five slept on the floor in a manager's accommodation to save on costs? The Walmart executives did it because they knew that money wasted on looking after them was money that their customers had to find. Or maybe it was just Sam Walton who knew that.

Sam played tennis most of his life and he loved to shoot quail. He was never one of the white-gloved brigade and took his own dogs. Imagine the surprise of some very well-to-do shooters who invited him one time and met him at the airport with their Mercedes Benzes. Sam hopped out of his plane with five dirty bird dogs and hopped into their pristine vehicles. Not too many more invitations were forthcoming.

I love the way this book was written. Think what you like about Walmart and the culture of the shoppers but it's no wonder that Sam Walton was a success. He was one of the most driven individuals of the 20th century and his books makes great reading.

Journalistic Skills Sadly Lacking

Great news story surrounding a British climber who survived a fall of around 300m in Scotland. Pity the journalistic skills are sadly lacking. Does the guy have a name or not? Is he 35 or 36 years old? Or was the piece written before the photo was taken and he became known and he, Adam Potter, had a birthday in the interim and the editor is therefore at fault?

In any case, the highest mountain in the UK is Ben Nevis and not Sgurr Choinnich Mor so there's no forgiving that fluff.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Time To Retire Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting has been a great servant to this nation when it comes to cricket. Not without his share of controversy and Ashes failures he has been a great and enduring batsman. I don't consider him to be one of the best captains that we've had in my memory of test cricket although he has had a great deal of success. Anyone with Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Hayden and Langer in the team is going to have a modicum of success. I don't put that much down to his captaincy. I guess that the decline in his form coinciding with his promotion of Swisse Ultivites is quite humourous.

Swisse ad - Perhaps Paul Collingwood takes Swisse. He caught Ponting regularly enough. If you don't believe me take a look at the video below.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Devastating Floods Hit Perth

Cyclone Bianca just passed by. She dumped a bit of a rain. Don't worry about the floods in Queensland or Victoria. We've been affected by devasting floods right here in Perth. Where it doesn't rain during summer. Oh the humanity!

Take a boat with you when you cross a flooded street (just in case).

Ok, so the cyclone is still out to sea and likely to cross the coast south of Perth but we have a heavy shower whereby the airport received 20mm of rain in about an hour. Most of it came down in the first 20-30 minutes. Perth itself only received 7.8mm. So we must have gotten somewhere in the vicinity of 15-20mm where we are and just take a look at the devastation. Don't forget us in Perth when it comes to handing out the flood levy money Gillard!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Australia Day 2011

Had a pretty decent Australia Day this year. There were lamb chops for lunch, cricket on the telly, played cricket in the park and watched the fireworks down by the Swan River. All in all a good day.

P.S. Forgot to mention that I had to call the fire brigade because there was a fire just down the road.

Australia Day fireworks (Lotto Skyshow) on Swan River, Perth

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Think That A Refund Is In Order

Why do we purchase clothes lines? To dry our clothes of course. I think that there is a particular model that is not going to work as designed and people should be asking for a refund. It's from a news story in Qld from the ABC.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hunter Caught In The Act of Play

Our puppy, Hunter, enjoys a bit of play. Sometimes he has to amuse himself and one of his most enjoyable activities is to go into the bathroom and play with the bowl. I caught him in the act today but it took him some time before he realised that he was being filmed. Aaw, so innocent.

Hunter at play

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Funny Names At The Pizza Shop

Went to pick up a pizza from Dominos tonight. There was a funny name on the board and it would be another eight minutes before their pizza was ready. The name was HAYWOOD YABLOWME. I've seen BATMAN before and can just imagine the guy coming in and asking to collect a pizza. "Name?" The response would be "I'm Batman." I thought that Haywood was a surname rather than a christian name. Blame the Internet whereby you can order online and put in any name that you like in anonymity.

Trip Down South 2011

Day 1

Interesting drive from Perth to Busselton. There was an upturned vehicle on the Kwinana Freeway that slowed the holiday traffic from 100 km/h to 30 km/h. Police and firies in attendance.

Detoured to Pinjarra for lunch to the famous Pinjarra Bakery & Patisserie where they charge infamous prices.

Stopped at a roadhouse for a driver change. Miky had her first experience at driving on country roads. Almost had a go at off road driving also. Country roads are not as smooth as city roads. When the dual lane became two way at 100 km/h that was a real experience for her.

Checked into hotel and walked to local IGA, at great risk of sunburn and skin cancer (it was a three minute walk maximum), and purchased hideously overpriced goods including bananas, Coco Pops and yoghurt. I was reminded that I always purchase these items when on holidays. Had a swim in the indoor pool followed by 20 mins of tennis. Drove into town and bought beef saaga at Goa Curry and a pizza from Dominos which was conveniently situated next door. Nice dinner.

Day 2

Early morning walk along cycle/footpath near the beach. Plenty of sticky flies about. The Boy stayed in the room and watched cartoons. Had breakfast outside the room. Followed this with mini golf. I destroyed them on the mini golf course but lost the championship to The Boy, Miky was 2nd, that we held on the putting green.

Headed into town for lunch. Ate at Star Sushi and Noodles - very nice food. Quite warm in town. Found Woolworths and did more shopping.

Miky and The Boy rested whilst I went to the Pioneer Cemetery. On the way I found a Japanese garden from Busselton's sister city, Sugito. The Pioneer Cemetery, which was proclaimed in 1856, is in a bit of disrepair. There were a number of wooden crosses and one wooden headstone whereby no writing was evident.

Back into town for some swimming goggles as the shops close at 4pm on Sunday. Sportspower had one cheap set and I grabbed them. Can't believe that I forgot to bring my own from home. Headed down to the Busselton Jetty, which is closed for repairs until next month following a deliberately lit fire last year, for a few photos. It's the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere.

Back to the hotel by 4:30. Dropped in at the drive-in cinema to check the prices and movies showing. Had a shower and joined the others in the pool for nearly two hours. The new goggles worked much better than my old ones. Shower after the pool and then we played squash. We were planning to finish off our tennis time but somehow our booking had been erased and all of the courts had been booked. They offered us the use of the squash court instead. So squash it was. Cooked our meal and ate outside. Nice to be able to do that.

Day 3

Miky was up at 5:30 to go for a walk. The Boy and I slept in until eight. Dunsborough was the destination this morning. It's only about an 18 minute drive and reasonably pleasant. Called in at the tourist info centre but as we've seen enough lighthouses and caves there wasn't much else that took our fancy.

Drove, searching for Castle Rock, but went too far and turned up at Bunker Bay. Continued until we reached the start of the Cape Naturaliste walking trails at Shelley Cove and parked the car. The view of the limestone cliffs and boulders on the beach was fantastic. There were crabs in the shallows and I found a stumpy tail lizard also.

Walked to Point Marchant where a lookout has been constructed. Lovely view. Spotted a black snake on the way back and took a photo. By the time I had taken the photo after trying to line it up in the viewfinder it had disappeared so I hot footed it out of there.

Took the car to Bunker Bay and was very lucky to score a parking spot. Very busy place on a warm summer day. Had drinks at Bunkers, a licensed cafe, and they brought me a banana smoothie instead of the choc milkshake that I had ordered. I didn't complain about the order, as my drink was better, and then my original order came out. Got to have two drinks for the price of one. Happy hour! Spotted a young couple doing their own version of a cocktail, sex on the beach, in full view.

Had a walk along the beach and I can honestly say that the girl would blow away any of the contestants in America's Next Top Model that we saw last night. She was stunning.

Returned to Dunsborough for lunch. Chicken Treat for The Boy, Peko Peko sushi for the wife and Squid Lips (WA Top 5 fish and chips shop) chili squid and chips for me. Back to the hotel for a sleep. Quite warm again today.

Took The Boy to The Nautical Lady Entertainment World to ride the waterslide for an hour. Miky went shopping. Bought some food for tea. Had a shower before going to the indoor pool for one and a half hours. Tea and clothes washing. Whilst waiting for the clothes dryer we looked at the stars. I saw a meteor. Gosh, stars were bright down by the beach.

Day 4

Morning walk to the west of the resort to check out some of the new two storey houses. Some people certainly have some money. Had breakfast and packed everything up to travel to Augusta. A duck came inside our room when we left the door open.

On the road and headed to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory which includes free tasting. The Boy played some cricket out the back with other kids. When he got a turn to bat he clouted the bowling which surprised me. Had some food at the cafe and bought some chili chocolate.

Took a back road, which was only one lane (Harmon Road South), and enjoyed the roadside vegetation. Something that you don't get in the city. Pulled into Margaret River for lunch and a wander around. After the chocolate factory we weren't hungry and had one meal, a Hawaiian from Chooks, between us.

Bought a fluffy frog and a Linkin Park CD/DVD. Asked about a workman's shop for safety glasses as I'd just broken my sunnies and received some helpful directions. The lady at the place pointed out her $45.50 sunnies but said I could try just down the road where I picked up a pair for under $10. Work safety glasses they were so I bought some for The Boy also.

On the road again this time to Hamelin Bay. Drove through the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Park and found the bay ok. But we were tired, the car was full of our gear and coupled with the fact that we would have to put sunscreen on we couldn't be bothered staying. Decided to have a swim once we'd arrived at Augusta. All the campsite were full and there were tents everywhere. Very popular spot.

Continued on to Augusta and the YHA where we had booked a family room. Played pool whilst we waited for reception to open. Walked to IGA for groceries and stopped at the tourist info centre first. The lady said that Flinders Bay would be good for swimming and snorkeling although as the wind had picked up it would be a bit sloppy. There was also a lookout where the sunset could be viewed. She even looked up the sunset time for us.

After shopping we bought a boogie board for The Boy and went to Flinders Bay for a swim. He loved his boogie board and had fun making sandcastles. The water was a bit choppy and it's quite a rocky area so it wasn't great for swimming at that time of the day. Able to do some body boarding too with some nice waves.

Just had time for a shower before heading to the lookout. Arrived 20 minutes early and it was a bit cold. Nice sunset though. Came back to the YHA and on the way saw a rabbit, a kookaburra and two kangaroos along the road. Drove quite slowly I can tell you. Didn't want a kangaroo popping through the windscreen to say hello.

Had tea and played pool and Guess Who? It was interesting to be surrounded by people from different nationalities and hear all of the languages too.

Day 5

What a busy day this turned out to be. Checked out of the YHA at 9am and went to the Leeuwin Lighthouse. Not that we had any need to visit it anyway. The Water Wheel and the surrounding rocks were much more interesting. Spent 20 minutes or so down by the water.

Drove back through Augusta to Karridale and turned off to Pemberton. Miky wanted to drive as she was bored sitting next to me in the passenger seat. At Pemberton we visited the bakery and had pies and a quiche for lunch. It would appear that all country towns bake pies for lunch. Ducked out to the 61m tall Gloucester Tree which I climbed but The Boy was too young to attempt. Man, it gets scarier the older you get to climb that tree. I bruised my shin by using it to put pressure on the metal spikes to ensure that I wouldn't slip. Wonderful view and there were two bushfires on the horizon. I can see why it was used as a lookout for fires.

I drove from Pemberton to Walpole. Bit of challenging driving with the windy and tree-shadowed roads. Bought water and ice cream from the local servo and tickets to the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk from the Walpole visitor centre. Not enough time to visit the Dinosaur Museum and Reptile Park which had been on the agenda. Took the slightly corrugated road to the Giant Tingle tree which is 25m in circumference. Little bit further down the road to the Valley of the Giants. They're not actually the tallest trees in Western Australia but they're impressive anyway. We did the walk once and Miky asked if we boys wanted to go again. She doesn't like heights so we went again. Other material on display wasn't that interesting but the stroll on the the Ancient Empires Walk was ok.

I drove to the nearest parking bay and Miky took over to drive the rest of the way to Albany. Whilst trying to get our bearings we came upon our hotel. Checked in (nearly 6:30 by this time), unpacked and then went out for tea. Miky had sushi, from a Chinese shop that didn't provide chopsticks, and I bought fish and chips.

Day 6

Buffet breakfast to start the day. Did a modicum of shipping and bought squid bait. Drove to Frenchman Bay, past most of the natural sights to see, for a spot of fishing and snorkeling. The Boy had been waiting all of his school holidays to go fishing and had bugged me to do so in Busselton. Gee, the water sure was cold. Clambered over the rocks very gently so The Boy took his sweet time. Few nibbles but no fish caught. Hindsight says that the fish were too small for the hook and bait we used. The Boy spent more time getting to and from the fishing spot than he did actually fishing! I started climbing the rocks to get to where some fishermen were but dropped my thong, stubbed my toe and soon realised that it was too dangerous on top of rocks so decided to climb down and just go swimming.

Grabbed the snorkel and had a decent swim. So much sea grass, a few shells and some small fish. The fishermen were in a really windy spot and the wave were pounding. Had a sea grass fight with The Boy which was great fun. The shower outside of the toilet block was warm and strong - fantastic. Went back to town for lunch.

Headed back to Frenchman By area to view the blowholes which weren't working the best because the wind was coming from the wrong direction. The Natural Bridge and the Gap were the next sights on our list. Beautiful with some decent waves in action. Last sightseeing was the Albany Wind Farm with 65m high turbines with 34m blades. Looked like acrobatic dancers doing cartwheels and War of the Worlds aliens. Big whooshing noise. So many flies about the place. Lookout view was great.

Back to town. Next to our hotel was a vet clinic so we asked if they knew anyone with poodle or Maltese cross dogs. She, Amy, had a friend, Val, who had two pups. I rang a few vets and pet centres but didn't come up with any other leads.

Val was ok with us coming to her place. The pups that she had, Maltese x Shih Tzu, were only six weeks old. We were happy to take one but it had to have shots tomorrow as that's when we were leaving. No more thoughts of staying another day. Drove into Dog Rock, fantastic rock on display, and through to Middleton Beach before buying dinner in the CBD.

Day 7

Buffet breakfast again. Not the most exciting I've enjoyed but filling all the same. Pineapple wasn't too good. May have been a flood-affected Queensland pineapple. Packed up the car (forgot my pillow) and settled the bill. They accidentally tried to charge for breakfast on three mornings when we only stayed two nights but I happened to notice.

Drove to Godfreys to buy a vacuum cleaner filter as I knew we'd arrive home too late for shopping and it was really necessary to clean up when we returned as I'd set off three roach bombs before we departed. Drove through Middleton Beach and up Mt Clarence for the summit view and War Memorial. Amazingly windy up there. Kept on the tourist drive to the replica brig Amity. An amazingly tiny vessel where the middle deck only came up to my chest. Into town for building sightseeing and a drink at a cafe. Rang Val about the dog to say that we could collect at any time. She must have still been at the vet's. She rang back during our cuppa. Out to Val's place to collect the pup. The Boy still hadn't made up his mind and he and the missus had quite a discussion. He wanted the male dog and the decision was left up to him therefore the male it was. Hunter is the name that this ferocious 6-week old pup has had bestowed upon him.

Four hundred kilometres back to Perth. I drove 50 kms to Mt Barker before we stopped for lunch. Had a gold medal-winning garlic prawn and rice seafood pie. Yes, seafood pie. I had it because it was so unusual and it was bloody outstanding. For $5.50 it should be too. Miky wanted to drive and she reached Kojonup (100 kms) before we swapped. Only 255 kms to Perth.

We rested at Williams for a drink. Bit of a convoy of traffic which did make the drive more enjoyable. Took us five and a quarter hours to travel in total so that wasn't bad time with all of the rest stops. We did 1220 kms in our one week down south.

Trip Down South 2011 Photo Album on Facebook.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back From Holidays

I've been gone for a week on holidays. Not that too many would have missed me. I'll be telling you all about it soon enough. Got a few photos to edit.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Ashes Prediction - Spot On

Anybody remember my prediction for this Ashes Series? Does 3-1 to England ring a bell? Holy heck. I was right. Wish I'd had a few bob on that.

Australia's Saviour As Captain?

Australian cricket needs a new captain to save them. No, I'm not talking about the appointment of Cameron White to replace Michael Clarke who stepped down as T20 captain for Australia. That's a cop-out from someone who has been recognised as a leader and he walks away from one form of the game and he's not even 30 years old yet. Clarke's not leadership material IMHO.

I've got the answer. Australia should go after Andrew Strauss. Ok, he's South African who now calls England home. But he's married to an Australian girl. Surely we could rush through Australian citizenship before the next test match in August. If cricket-loving John Howard was still prime minister I'm sure he would support it.

Next problem would be getting Alistair Cook and Jimmy Anderson to become Aussies too.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Nearly Got Into Trouble Today

On the bus ride home this afternoon some six youths, aged about 12-14, got on the bus and headed to the back seats. They were very loud and quite uncouth. No need for that sort of language in public. I was sitting there reading my book with my bag in the vacant seat next to me. A short while into the trip and one of the little punks moved to the seat behind me and proceeded to put his hand over the seat in front of him and near my bag. Well, I stopped reading but kept the book in front of me but watched him out of the corner of my eye. He pretended to carry on some conversation with his mate but I'm sure he was just waiting for an opportunity to try to knock off something from inside my bag. And I was just waiting for his hand to touch my bag as I would have smashed his fingers against the window and then quite possibly have grabbed his wrist to put a lock on him and cause him some real pain.

After we passed the stop before mine I put my bag on my lap and pushed the button to tell the driver that I wished to alight. My suspicions regarding the boy's actions were pretty much confirmed when I moved my bag and he immediately changed seats to a position further back. His voice sounded a little pained also. As I tagged off I just stared at the boys to see their faces and to let them know that I understood their little game. As the bus drove past all six were staring at me and three of them gave me the bird. Need any more proof that they were up to no good?

Damn, I wanted to smash that little punk. Trouble is he has to make the first move. And I really don't know if they have any concealed weapons. The cops won't bother doing anything unless they have actually broken the law. Blind Freddie could see that they had the intent. He's got it coming to him some day though and he's certainly headed down the wrong path. Bit of gang mentality evident but there are so few followers - all these idiots behave stupidly for some reason.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Definitely Not A Smartphone

My wife's phone is quite ordinary. It allows her to make and receive phone calls and send and receive SMSs. It's certainly not a Blackberry, HTC Desire or iPhone which are almost computers in mobile phone size, aka smartphones. Who wants to pay $1000 for a phone or $80-100/mth for a plan?

The proof this morning that it's not a smartphone came when it informed us that the date and time could be automatically updated, as it had detected that these details might require updating, to Jan 4th 29:29. Um, no thanks. I'd rather stick with the 24 hour clock. It makes a bit more sense.