Sunday, June 28, 2009


Billy Mays, the high energy infomercial pitchman is dead at 50.


For many, Mays was the annoying, high decible noise coming out of their television. For many, he was the reason to change the channel.

For me, he was the ultimate salesman, a salesman’s salesman. If you ever wanted to give a class in sales, he was the master.

Selling benefits of what he was pitching, by the end of his spiel, he had you believing you could improve your life, live longer, happier, cleaner, have perfect children, make your husband look like Brad Pitt, and make you look like Angelina Jolie with just three equal payments of 19.99, plus S & H.

Billy Mays was the voice of our times. He worked around typical retail selling methods, bringing products right to you, in your home, in your pajamas, while nobody else was looking. You didn't have to go to the store. You could buy it now.

If you could chop it, slice it, peel it, clean it, wax it, cook it, hide it, spray it, Billy could make you buy it. In fact, he was able to convince people to buy not millions, or tens of millions, or hundreds of millions, but over a billion dollars worth of stuff they never knew they needed until Billy told them they did.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

happy birthday, Cortney!

It’s my baby girl’s birthday.  She’s 24.  I don’t know if it’s polite in society to reveal a woman’s age, but I just can’t believe it.

If ever a child gave a parent reason to be proud, she’s the example. 

Today, she lives 800 miles from home near Washington, D.C.  We visit each other as often as we can, but I still miss her. 

Funny, I don’t worry about her.  I know she’s capable and uses common sense.   Whatever she does, she’s going to be OK.  I know it.

I have lots of recollections of a try-hard person who persevered when many would have quit.  That, probably, is what I am most proud of.   When a wall was too high to climb, she would disassemble it, brick-by-brick, until she could walk through it.  She’s always found a way to the other side.

So, there she is, a young woman, making her own life, her own friends, and her own experiences.  I’m proud of you Cortney, and Happy Birthday!

killer queen

I’m a small town guy, always have been. I’ve always been very comfortable doing guy things, playing baseball, football, basketball. While I’ve quit drinking, I never had a problem saddling up to the bar and having a few. I sang in a barbershop quartet for years. You might say, I’m a guy’s guy.

So, why am I going through all of this? I am, and always have been, a fan of Queen, the glam band of the 70’s and 80’s.

The complexities of their jam-it-down-your-throat rock classics, melodic operas, and whimsical compositions made them a unique blend of blind-drunk, rock and roll and classical genius


“Killer Queen”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and “Tie Your Mother Down” were the soundtrack of my formative years. And, what made them great were the killer pipes of Freddy Mercury. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t sing.

Shortly after Elvis Presley’s death in 1977, I was at a Queen concert. It was full of flamboyance, lights, strutting, and pyrotechnics. At the end, the obligatory lighters came out en masse, waiting for the encore. It seemed like forever.

Then, the lights came on with Freddie Mercury in an Elvis Jumpsuit doing a tribute set. You could close your eyes and hear Elvis. And, when you opened your eyes, you could see Elvis, full of gyrations, complete with the silk scarf being thrown into the audience. It was pure entertainment.

And, why am I talking about Queen today? Because I see a chance for a renaissance.


Watching American Idol this year, Adam Lambert burst on the scene, full of bravado and talent, and the king sized voice that can fill an auditorium. If ever there was a perfect fit for Queen, this is it. Hopefully, they’ll both see it.

the role of a lifetime

A few hours before the death of Michael Jackson was announced, Farrah Fawcett succumbed to cancer. While Jackson’s death was a surprise, hers was not.

I’m trying to figure out why Farrah Fawcett is “important” to remember. It seems her body of work was, well, her body of work.

377744328_7241c21961_o She was the last of the pin up girls. Never really thought of as overly talented, her slightly tousled locks, perfectly straightened teeth and beauty queen body adorned THE poster in almost every teenage boys bedroom in the 1970’s.

Early on, she recognized her role in Charlie’s Angels to be about the poster image, women in tight fitting clothing and high heels fighting crime, a sort of soft core reason for boys to watch TV. She wanted more.

But, more never really happened for Farrah. She spent the last 30 years of her life trying to find meaningful work. And, to some degree, she did. But, nobody noticed, until her final role.

Toward the end, she took her battle with cancer to a very public place - TV. For a very uncomfortable hour, she, her friends, and family described the grueling process of the fight against this monster, and her will to live.

Her dignity was never soiled as she went through the agony of pain, small victories and real life moments. Her emotions, and the emotions of those around her, were real and raw. It was humbling and courageous at the same time. This was important.

It seems in her death, Farrah found the role of a lifetime. Bravo! Farrah.

Friday, June 26, 2009

a shooting star

Michael Jackson was the same age as me. That’s about all we had in common.

While he was singing “ABC” and “I’ll Be There”, I was on the playground, maybe mowing the lawn, and starting my paper route.

When my parents came into my room, they said goodnight. When Michael’s father came into his, there was terror.

I wasn’t big into music when I was a kid. I think my first recollection of Michael Jackson was from school dances. While his music was in the background, I was trying to be cool.

Over the years, Jackson continually broke new ground in entertainment. MTV basically became relevant because of his changing of the music video from performance of the band, to a massive dance production with plot and theme.

I’ll always feel sorry for Michael Jackson. A guy whose childhood was stolen from him, he seemed to try to grasp those missing pieces in adulthood with his Neverland Ranch and association with children.

I doubt he ever had a playmate as a child. The lyrics from “Ben”, about a relationship with a rat, become more haunting in reflection.


As a sort of real life Benjamin Button, Jackson got more childlike over the years. Starting out as a child sensation, people couldn’t believe the talent and maturity coming from that child. As he aged, they couldn’t believe the childlike nature of that man.

A tragedy? I guess. A part of me wonders how his life would have turned out without all of the fame, fortune, then lost fortune. A part of me wonders if this star was destined to burn brightly and then flame out in the end, with the creativity completely used up.

Society and hangers on pushed and pulled and stole the essence and creativity of this musical prodigy. One could argue Jackson was our generation’s Mozart.

The torture of his life is over. Rest in peace, Michael.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

happy father’s day


This is my dad.  His name is Vern Erdman.

He’s seen a lot in his 88 years.  His teenage years were spent in the depression, his early years World War II, his working years through the enormous growth of America, and his retirement during the technology boom.

Dad is a plain spoken, farm raised, heart-of-America man.  There is nothing fancy about him.  He never had a big job and never sought out the spotlight.

I could always find Dad.  He was always whistling or singing.  He was also always working.  There wasn’t a lot of idle time.  But, he was happy.  If I wanted to be around him, I would help him with chores.  There’s something about the bond of a father and son working together.

Political correctness was and is not practiced in my parents’ home.  Saying what you think is part of survival.  Knowledge is a requirement.  Visit my father and you will be engaged.

The topics from my visit a week ago ranged from gay marriage, abortion, the economy, Obama and people wanting too much.  Bill Maher has nothing on this guy.  When I was 16, my virginity was discussed at the dinner table.  Nothing is off limits.

Dad has two radios going on most of the time.  He roots for the Brewers, Badgers and Packers, against the Yankees, Bears and Cubs.  He follows the stock market like most people follow the weather.

He can’t see anymore.  His hearing is limited.  He’s had health issues that would have killed many men several times over.  But, believe me, he misses nothing, and hasn’t felt sorry for himself…ever.

I’m a lucky guy.  The model for my life has been in front of me for my 51 years.  Thank you Dad, and Happy Father’s Day.

boring, but true

When I started working on making furniture fit in boxes that can ship via UPS, a lot of people looked at me like I was crazy…for a lot of reasons.

But, one area where I feel most proud is reduced effect on the environment by our logistics. Are you bored yet?

Our packaging makes our sofas 72% more efficient to deliver (138 per container vs. 39) than standard sofas. And, because we ship directly to the consumer instead of standard methods, we create efficiencies never considered before.

We cut out the retail delivery truck and the consumer shopping trips. Our reduced package size, plus out truck friendly packaging saves big time. When you deliver one of our sofas from factory to consumer, about 3.5 gallons of diesel fuel is used. When you deliver a standard sofa manufactured in the U.S., an average of 13.3 gallons is used (I've got the supporting math).

So, when you’re looking at a piece of furniture, do you consider the impact of all of your decisions? We think saving nearly 10 gallons of fuel is a big deal.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

a refreshing thought

In watching “Meet The Press” this morning, Vice President Joe Biden was asked what advice he would give to someone running for public office. He said this; “Be willing to lose over something in which you believe.”wpa8e27427[1]

What a refreshing thought.

truth telling

Charles Barkley on being criticized for swearing during a TNT broadcast: “If me saying b.s. on television after midnight is going to push your little damn brat over the deep end, you’re just a crappy parent.”


Amen, Charles. And next time Charles, tell us what you're really thinking.

Stolen from Sports Illustrated.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

a plagiarized story

In a small town in the United States, the place looks almost totally deserted.

It is tough  times, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

Suddenly, a rich  tourist comes to town.


He enters the  town’s only hotel, lays a $100 bill on the reception counter as a  deposit, and goes to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick  one. PJ19[1]

The hotel proprietor  takes the $100 bill and runs to pay his debt to  the butcher.

The butcher takes  the $100 bill, and runs to pay his debt to the pig farmer.

pig-farmer-400ds0622[1] The pig  farmer runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel.

FLINN_FEED_MILL[1] The supplier of feed  and fuel takes the $100 bill and runs to pay his debt to the town's  prostitute that in these hard times, gave her "services" on credit.

Hooker-018[1] The hooker runs to the hotel, and pays off her debt with the $100 bill to the hotel  proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she  brought her clients  there.

The  hotel proprietor then lays the $100 bill back on the counter so that the  rich tourist will not suspect anything.

At that moment,  the tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms, and takes back his $100  bill, saying that he did not like any of the rooms,  and leaves  town.

No one earned anything.......... However, the whole town is now without debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States Government is doing business  today!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

tough times

The headlines in the newspaper constantly remind us that we’re in tough times.


Today, there were two stories that made me wonder when this will end. One was of a long time furniture retailer, Plunkett Furniture, in the Chicago area. They are just one in a series of significant businesses that have called it quits, or have had it called for them in the past few years.

Plunkett’s is (was) a very nice retailer of upscale products. The high end has been particularly hard hit by this recession. These are people who tried to run a business the right way and just ran out of cash. They are not the exception.

There are a lot of nice people who have had to close their doors after decades in business. What used to be a reliable way to make a nice living, put your kids through school, pay some taxes, and give something back to the community, has now turned into the tourniquet yoke that chokes them into submission. And, it’s happening too often.

The second story is the announcement that Simmons Bedding produced a $492.2 million loss for their prior fiscal year on sales of just over $1 billion. This is the antithesis of what happened at Plunkett’s.


It seems that Simmons has been bought and sold and bought and sold and bought and sold like it was some sort of house being flipped after a remodel. Only, these guys never remodeled, except on the balance sheet. All they did was show cash flow and profits and try to make a killing.

Instead of bringing innovation to their product line with some of the profit, these schemesters took all of the profit to inflate their balance sheet without reinvesting in the company. They were milking the cow, but deciding not to feed it.

The banks had cash to loan and profits to make. And bankers needed to make deals under any circumstances. These guys saw dollar signs. This was a deadly combination.

Today, Simmons is mired under a pile of debt that makes the federal government look miserly. Most of that $492.2 million is the inflated value (all borrowed) of the company being erased to bring their balance sheet back in order. The only problem is, they owe and they owe it now.

There are real victims here, the employees that showed up for work everyday and gave the only assets they had, their sweat and their time. These are the people that put their flesh against the product with pride for a paycheck. And now, that seems in jeopardy.

Expect to see Simmons right next to GM, in front of a judge, asking to have their debts released.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

real capitalists

Buried in yesterday’s news was an announcement by the Chinese government that they would be increasing the Value Added Tax rebate for exports leaving China starting June 1.


Why is this important?  China has a relatively complex tax system that requires a 17% tax on goods sold business to business in China.  Instead of a sales tax, they collect their money this way.  For exports, they offer a rebate to encourage foreign trade.  A few years ago, the rebate was 13%.  They moved it down to about 8% for furniture products.  Now, it’s 15%.  That is a 7% direct tax credit for goods being exported from China. 

Assuming internal raw materials account for 70% of the cost of an item coming from China, the 7% credit represents a 5% decrease in the cost of goods being exported from China.

With very Ronald Reagan type thinking, the Chinese are looking to expand their economy by taking in less tax money per transaction, but creating more transactions.  If this move is revenue neutral, the Chinese win because they have fewer people receiving public aid and they grow their economy.  They also receive more income tax.

It seems like the Chinese are better at this capitalism thing than we are.  Whodathunkit?

would you buy furniture from this man?


I wouldn’t either!


Have you ever tried to stay awake on purpose? You know the feeling; When you want to sleep, you stay awake. And, when you want to stay awake, you fall asleep.


Unlike my earlier post where I couldn’t sleep, I’m doing everything I can to stay awake. I drank about half a gallon of Coke. I’m wide awake, but feel like I have anvils hanging from my eyelids.

So, I’m working both a caffeine and sugar high at the same time. I’m wondering when I’m going to crash. I hope I’m not standing. The fall could be ugly. Seismologists will wonder what happened, why they couldn’t predict this quake. They’ll all be in therapy before the day is out.

Why would a 51 year-old (no that’s not me in the picture, but add wrinkles and you’re close) want to stay up all night?

That is the beauty of working with factories in China, especially when something goes wrong, and believe me, something did go wrong (no, nothing related to Angelo). With all of the technology we have today, we can work in real time and solve things through photos, IM, Skype, and video. For some reason, we haven’t figured out how to solve the time issue of being on the other side of the world.

And, if they screwed up, why am I the one staying awake?

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Norman Lear was featured on the CBS news magazine “Sunday Morning” today. He delivers a powerful message, tolerance.

archie bunkerThe creator of Archie Bunker, Lear strives to expose the fear of bigotry, that the bigot is fearful of change, change he, or she doesn’t understand, and the need to be careful that we don’t become bigoted of the bigot. Huh?

I spend a lot of time talking to people about politics, social issues, religion and all of those things you’re not supposed to talk about in polite society. But, I think that’s the only way you really understand people, how you break down walls. Impolite as it may seem, this exercise gives me perspective to understand.

Bigotry isn’t just about race, but religion, science, environmental issues, age, ideas and more. Really, how could there be global warming? It was cold yesterday. How could he know anything? He's only 10 years old. My God is the one. Your's is not.

Those of us “enlightened” people need to also understand the bigotry of intolerance of the bigot, and their ideas. They have ideas, too. And, they believe their ideas are right, sometimes very right. Huh?

Now, exactly what does that mean?

It means we must embrace the consideration of ALL ideas. That means we must talk to people with whom we disagree. We must consider why they think the way they think and find a way to understand their circumstances. Maybe they have a reason to think in a way that defies reason to us. Huh?

To dismiss the ideas of someone with whom we disagree, no matter how wrong they are, might make us....... intolerant. Huh?

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Last night, I decided to become one of the millions of people who chose to watch “Up”, the Pixar animated movie distributed by Disney.


Since it’s been out a week, I thought it might be easy to get a ticket with maybe not so many little kids around me. You know, sticky stuff, crying babies, running around, and all that stuff that make it a little difficult to watch the movie.

So, I went to one theater, sold out. Then I went to another, full house, but not sold out. This is the second week!?

I’m not going to get into the specifics of the movie; I’ll let you discover that for yourself. But, let me tell you this. When the lights came up in the theater, it was mostly adults and older teens. And, during the movie, there was genuine laughter, tears, characters you cared about, and more.

And, for a little less than two hours, I was transported to a place and introduced to people that didn’t exist in my mind before last night. They are etched in my mind forever, now.

Monday, June 1, 2009

monday morning

On a normal Monday morning, I leave my home about 7:00 a.m. for a two plus hour trek to my office in Melrose Park, IL. I’ve tried all kinds of different times, but this seems to turn out the most reasonable traffic, and ultimately wastes less of my time.

This morning, while I was just coming out of some road construction, there was a police squad car bearing down on me at breakneck speed. Of course, the first thought was he’s coming after me. But, I pulled over and he sped on ahead.

A few minutes later, I saw several squads surrounding three coach style buses. traffic was moving behind them, but none was really passing. They seemed to be setting the pace for traffic, but not going any faster. At the time, I was wondering if we were watching a “Speed” movie in real life.

But, then one squad car peeled off and another took its place. Periodically, the squads would block off all lanes and the buses would change lanes. It was the weirdest thing.

When the highway became more than four lanes, traffic began to pass on the left. I was one of those people. I rubbernecked to see what was going on. In the window, I could see some camouflage clothing.


Then it occurred to me. These squad cars were an escort for some new Marines going to the airport, presumably to some hell hole in the Middle East. Their lives were going to change forever. This was their send off.

I couldn’t help but wonder what each of these people was thinking, about the families left behind, and their dreams. Was this what they thought would happen when they signed up? How would they cope with the coming days, months, years?

With all of that said, I want to say thank you to all of you and Sempre Fi.