Monday, November 23, 2009

A Time for Thanks

This week families gather for Thanksgiving. It’s been a tough year in so many ways, but there remains so much to be thankful for.

Not the least of which are the freedoms we enjoy to gather, to speak our minds and to live and work in peace.

Let’s be thankful for the men and women of our armed forces who have volunteered to protect these freedoms, often making the supreme sacrifice in doing so. Remember them this week and every week.

Let’s be thankful for so many organizations that help out the needy who otherwise might go hungry or without warm clothing or shelter. Whatever you can spare to help these organizations in your community will be greatly appreciated. The need is bigger now than ever before.

Thanks to our own employees here at Video Professor, Inc. who, through their Seasons club, organize an annual food drive for a local nonprofit, the Jefferson County Action Center, which gives out two tons of food a day to the needy. As soon as the food drive is over, they start work on gathering gifts for the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program. I know so many of you are involved in similar projects where you live.

Americans are so generous, and they don’t get nearly enough credit for it. But you don’t give for recognition; you give because you care.

Let’s be thankful for technology and social web sites like Facebook® that allow us to hook up with new friends—and catch up with old friends—to share pictures, videos and what’s going on in our lives.

While many of us will get a few days off to enjoy the holiday, there will be police, firefighters, doctors, nurses and so many others who will be on duty. Let’s be thankful for their dedication and service.

Finally, let’s all be thankful for the spirit that is uniquely American. This nation has gone through tougher times before and has always snapped back. We are a nation of great people.

Yes, there is so much to be thankful for.

I wish you, your family, your friends and colleagues a most happy Thanksgiving 2009.


John W. Scherer

John is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.

You can reach him at

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Water Cooler now has a plug.

There once was a time, especially in the workplace, where the water cooler or coffee pot (depending on one’s needs) was the center of conversation, usually Monday mornings.

It was a place to share news and gossip as we “gathered around the water cooler.” The water coolers and coffee pots still exist, but just to serve beverages. Talk and gossip have moved online to web sites like Facebook® and Twitter®. Business-style discussions and exchanges of opinion can be found on sites like LinkedIn®.

It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t use these sites. We all create our own circle of friends, peak in at others, find old friends and make new ones.

Instead of pulling pictures from our wallets, we post them online. We don’t have to tune in to blooper shows anymore on television because we can post them online instead.

When it comes to sports trash-talking, there’s nothing like Web 2.0!

One colleague here keeps her Facebook circle of friends pretty much limited to friends from her school days. “It’s like having a class reunion every day” she said. It’s the best description I’ve heard about social media.

There is a dark side to all this, however. People have a tendency to say things online, especially anonymously or using a pretend identity, that they wouldn’t say to your face. Others will try and exploit their “friendship” with you for personal gain, or even more nefarious activities.

Generally, it’s all pretty terrific but, like anything else, look both ways before you cross any digital road. Pick and choose your friends wisely. Always remember that once you post something online, it’s out there pretty much forever.

Part of the HR process these days when evaluating potential hires is searching these sites to get a sense of who you are. Keep that in mind before hitting the Submit button.

Like anything else, when used properly and responsibly, these electronic versions of water coolers are great fun.

Let’s hope it stays that way.

John W. Scherer
John is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.
You can reach him at

Monday, November 09, 2009

College Football and Computers: A BCS Mess

There’s hardly a part of your life where computer skills can’t help you be better at what you do, both at the office and at home. We’ve been teaching just that for 22 years here at Video Professor.

With one exception, however: college football.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how computers should factor into who should, and who shouldn’t, play for the national championship. The folks at the Bowl Championship Series do, however, and it provides no small amount of grist for sports pundits, reporters et al.

The BCS combines a labyrinth of polls and computer rankings to decide the best teams in the land, and who should play for the various games in the Bowl Championship Series.

Computers compute. But they have no heart, no soul, no true passion for the game. Sports is about passion. (And heartbreak!)

I follow a weekly “bracket” each week at

Okay, it’s put together by SI’s own pundits and scribes, but it’s close to what could be a legitimate play-off system, which could really go toward deciding a national champion in college football.

The idea of a play-off system in college sports isn’t a new one. It exists in many sports, not the least of which is the fabled NCAA basketball tournament.

A journey that starts with 64 teams and then narrows down to the Sweet 16 and then to the Final 4. (Sorry, I can’t embrace the “Great 8” yet.)

In the NCAA basketball tournament, everyone gets a shot. When it comes to football, it’s a case of the have’s and the have-nots. Great teams can go undefeated, but because they play in “non-BCS” divisions, they have no shot at knocking off a Florida or Texas.

President Obama likes the idea of a play-off, and he has an ally from the “loyal opposition” in Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Let’s hope the NCAA figures out a way to make it work before the government tries. NCAA “reform” would make the current arguments going on in Washington pale in comparison.

Every NCAA Division 1 conference should have a champion. That champion should have a shot at becoming the national champion.

The decision should be made on the playing field, not inside a computer chip. Or, worse yet, Congress.

John W. Scherer
John is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.
You can reach him at

Monday, November 02, 2009

To: Congress

November 2, 2009

To: Congress
From: Taxpayers
Subject: Notice of Employee Misconduct

As we approach your biannual review, we thought it important to notify you of several deficiencies. We deem them serious, and unless immediate efforts begin to remedy the situation, we will be forced to notify you that your continued employment may be in jeopardy.

We should remind you that this is what you agreed upon when entering into employment with us.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

According to our legal department, this may not actually be legally binding, but we consider it at the very least, morally binding.

Here are the key areas that concern us most:

Budget Management
As of September 30, the deficit for the 2009 fiscal year was $1.42 trillion. This is up from $459 billion from the same period a year ago. The overall budget deficit is well north of $13 trillion, an increase of $3 trillion from a year ago.

You have indicated several times that you inherited a significant deficit from the previous management, but you also promised that you would work toward decreasing that deficit, not increasing it.

Here are just a few of literally thousands of examples of what we feel are wasteful spending. They have been brought to our attention, and we’re sharing them with you here:

· A tattoo removal program in San Luis Obispo County, California ($50,000)
· The Fort Union Trading Post bike trail in North Dakota ($500,000)
· The Center for Diabetes and Obesity at West Virginia University ($2 million)
· An effort to combat "Goth culture" in Blue Springs, Missouri ($270,000)

Individually, these items might not sound like much, but these projects and ones similar to them are up 14 percent over the last year.

One major project several departments are working on is reforming our existing health care system. Your original target date for completion was set for last August, but your latest reports to us indicate the end of the year at the earliest.

An area of concern appears to be an issue of competitiveness and personal agendas versus shareholder concerns. We also note that follow-up questions we’ve had since our employee-employer meeting in August are not being returned. Our “open door” policy rules are also not being followed.

These are issues of great concern, and it is management’s perception, at least, that you are driven by personal ego and lust for power rather than putting shareholders first.

Job Creation
Unemployment rates hover around the 10 percent level and have been steadily increasing. When you budgeted stimulus funds, we were promised job creation. Your report of 10 percent unemployment rates also appear to be understated due to the significant number of people who have given up searching for work, or who no longer receive unemployment benefits. True accounting puts the number in the region of 17 percent, a number which, like us, I know you must consider very serious.

The solutions, at least to us, appear easy. You must make every effort to loosen up the housing and credit crunch. No one sector of our economy employs more people. You must also free up credit to responsible borrowers and small businesses. Banks have the money; they simply are not lending it. Again, we stress that money should be lent only to responsible borrowers, which make up a huge majority of shareholders.

Your responsibility is not to create jobs but to let the private enterprise system work freely, which creates jobs. Simply put, get out of the way of those who know more about the economy than you do.

Personal Conduct
When we hired you, and as you stated in your earlier declaration, there was at least an understanding on our part that you would conduct yourself at a high level of decorum, ethics and personal morality.

There appear to be several areas where you have fallen short. Areas such as paying taxes, personal conduct issues and the like. While you may simply consider these “errors” or “lapses of judgment” we disagree. We will be paying especially close attention to personal conduct rules leading up to next year's employment review in November 2010.

There are also numerous and documented examples of name-calling, behavior expected from two-year-olds, but not from you, an employee of the United States of America.

It’s our hope that you take the above criticisms in the most positive of ways, and that they be guidelines to improve your overall job performance prior to next year’s employment review.

We must, however, inform you that your work is deemed unsatisfactory at this point, and unless significant improvements are made quickly, your employment with us will be in serious jeopardy.

Action Items
Return constituent calls, e-mails and letters.
Return to an open door policy, rather than trying to hide.
Please post legislative items for shareholder review at least 72 hours prior to voting on them.
Act like “grown-ups.”
Put your employers first, yourself second.

Again, it is management’s hope that you will carefully read and review all the above concerns. Your employment with us is, again, in serious jeopardy. We look forward to reports back from you detailing your actions for improvement.

Yours truly,

The Citizens and Taxpayers of the United States of America
Report filed on behalf of the above by:
John W. Scherer
CEO & Founder
Video Professor, Inc.
If you have any questions, please contact him directly at