Monday, May 30, 2011

The Cost of Salsa

Me: Is it reasonable to spend $27 on shipping for $50 worth of salsa?

Jeremy: Is it reasonable to spend $50 on salsa?

Good point. Probably not.

Last summer when I was out in St. Louis my cousin, Mark, gave me a few jars of salsa. He has a new business with his girlfriend, Debbie, and they specialize in pickles and salsa. I don't really like pickles. I offered to pay Mark for the initial jars, but he wouldn’t accept my money. I recognize that buying salsa from someone 2000 miles away is not the most practical idea. However, I wanted to support the family business, the salsa was great, and I like salsa.

I e-mailed Debbie and found out the salsa came in mild, medium, hot, atomic, and “the bomb.” This is Missouri so I wasn’t sure any of it was going to be really hot. However, I had a feeling “the bomb” may be a little much for me, but I still wanted to try it.

I e-mailed in my order, “Okay, I'll take no mild, 4 medium, 3 hot, 2 atomic, and 1 Bomb.”

Debbie handled the business side of things so all my communication was with her. (This was probably good for the business, because Mark probably would have continued to give me free salsa.) I told her that I was going to be out of the country for a couple weeks so there was no rush on my order.

Like a young boy on Christmas morning I excitedly opened the boxes sent from Troy, Missouri. Also like a young boy on Christmas morning I was surprised by what was inside. I received three jars of “the bomb,” some jars labeled “extra hot,” (which I didn’t even know was a choice), no jars of medium (which was my largest request), and two jars of sweet fire relish (not sure why). Also, one jar of the “extra hot” broke in the shipping. I couldn’t figure it out. The only thing that was consistent with my order was that there was indeed ten jars.

I called my sister for advice on the situation. She noted that I was paying for it like a regular customer, so I should have the same expectations I would from any other business. I should expect certain things-- like receiving what I ordered. Good point.

It seemed she remembered that I liked hot salsa and just put together a box for me. She added that she thought I would enjoy the "sweet fire" and it was one of her top sellers. Apparently, order specifics are not necessarily the priority.

For compensation I asked her that she send me four jars of the medium salsa. She writes back, “how about I send you four jars of the medium and one hot?”

Um... okay. I ended up with enough salsa to last me a while (a while ended about two months ago).

So it was time for me to order more. I e-mailed Debbie again and put in a new order for ten more jars. It took me a while to send her the check. So when I finally did I e-mailed her to ask if she still had my order.

She responded, “I keep all my e-mails so I have you order.”


I waited a while and no salsa arrived. I checked each day. Still no salsa. Then one day I get a voicemail from my mom in San Jose with a perplexed tone in her voice, “Kevin, you just got a large box sent here from Troy, Missouri. It is really heavy.”


She sent my salsa to my mom? How does that even happen? She has already sent me two shipments here in Sacramento. And I just ate tacos all weekend with Pace Picante. It will be another month until I’m in San Jose. I wonder if the e-mail I sent her last summer with my address was one of “all the e-mails” that she kept.

So let me know if you want a jar from my next order. It is $8 a jar, and it will be here-- eventually.

By the way… The “sweet fire” was excellent.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pic of the Week

Experiencing such a pleasant drive last weekend I was inspired to take a picture while driving alone in my Chevy Aveo. This is somewhere between Long Beach and San Diego.

Thought of the Week

When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before.
--Mae West

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Craig and Vickie

When I was 17 years old I wrote this poem for my sister and her husband, and I read it at their wedding.

Craig and Vickie

As soon as they met they knew it was right
I sure am glad they went to the show that night
Craig didn't know going to a movie was going to get him a wife
And "Clear and Present Danger" isn't describing his new life
So they exchanged numbers and planned the next time to meet
And it just so happened that Craig lived right down the street

Now I know a lot of you are having trouble with the nae
Don't feel bad because nobody says it the same
Even family members disagree
But I think we have decided it's "Musni"

Now I know the living situation has been very odd
'Cause we never know who's living with Ginny and Rod
Understanding this is just a little tricky
Craig moved in and out went Vickie
Then Vickie came back for a her final stay
All this was while Derek was away
Now Craig had moved out, but it was okay
Because we saw him more often this way
Now Derek's home, so I guess we got a good deal

But we still see Craig and Vickie when the need a good meal

Both of them have been without jobs, but now it's cool
Cause Craig's working at Apple and Vickie's teaching school
But they did have to tell the Jeep good-bye
It's gone now, but hey, let's not cry

Craig will be a great husband; he's sensible and stable
And now that he's with Vick, we got his pool table
Craig and I have bonded, and he's a terrific guy
Whether it's playing pool, or skiing, or just a quick "hi"
Or sometimes we discuss the new Deep Thought
Flippy and Hambone, it's a good story, the rest I forgot
Acutally Craig and Vickie are perfect for each other
Listen to how she describes my new brother
He's helpful, encouraging, and believes in what I do
He's very patient with me, and he's very clever to
He puts gas in my car, and he even cooks
He doesn't always hear, but at least he always looks
Craig is just the opposite of what I'd call a Scrooge
And he's quick to comment when we're feeling "huge"
He even convinced Vickie to join the gym
And nobody else could have done that but him
Craig, I'm glad you chose my sister, I'm really glad you met her
And to tell you the truth, she couldn't have done any better

Before Craig popped the question, and got down on his knees
He asked my parents for permission, and they said, "take her, please!"
All joking aside...these are two of the most wonderful people I know
And it will be great to watch their marriage grow

When you look at Vickie, you see a friendly face
She's accepting to everyone, of any culture or race
When she puts her mind to something it doesn't take long
Because she's committed, determined, and head strong

Now Vickie's been my sister about my whole life
I guess I never really pictured her as being a wife
Now she's teaching students that are as old as me
So I guess she's not the girl that she used to be
I remember back when she used to tell me the bad stuff she did
But of course that wasn't much cause she was such a good kid
Now Vickie's always been my sister, but she's my friend too
And Vickie, I want you to know...that we all love you
And today your family isn't telling you good-bye
But we want you to know that Craig's one lucky guy

Pic of the Week: Josh

At Karri's Wedding.

Thought of the Week

"If you're clever you'll get the last word. If you're really clever you won't use it."
--Stephanie Riordan
(Giving marital advice to her best during the toast at the wedding)

Friday, May 20, 2011

The End of the World

Tom Tolbert on the radio yesterday:

"We have the rapture happening on Saturday. I think it is going to happen at 7:06. I'm not sure am or pm, but 7:06. I'll go ahead and pick that time for our pool."

"I'm not sure how I'm going to collect the money, but we'll figure that out later."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Favorite Player

September 1st, 2010. The score was tied 1-1 in a huge pennant race game. The Giants bring in rookie Darren Ford to pinch run at first base. Who? Darren Ford? He had been called up from double-A that morning. After a missed flight connection he finally made it to the game sometime during the 2nd inning. Lincecum bunts him over to second. Now in the 8th inning, during his big league debut, Ford represents the potential go-ahead run.

On the next pitch Jimenez throws it in the dirt. It squirts about five feet from Olivio, the catcher. I literally didn’t know one baseball player that would even try to advance on that pitch, but that was because I didn’t yet know Darren Ford. He’s fast. Real fast.

Ford breaks for third. Olivio comes up firing and throws the ball into left field. Ford pops up and races home giving the Giants a 2-1 lead. Darren Ford, welcome to the Big Leagues.

Most baseball fans I know could tell you their favorite player as a kid. Mine: Will Clark. As an adult sometimes people ask me that same question. Who is your favorite player on the Giants? Depending on the year I would have answered something like, “I don’t know. Jeff Kent? Maybe Jason Schmidt.” It is hard to say a favorite player, but there are definitely certain players that command my attention. Bonds at the plate, Lincecum on the mound—there are certain players you don’t want to miss. Let me add to that list: Darren Ford on base.

Last week the Giants had Mark DeRosa and Andres Torres both return from the disabled list on the same day. I remember texting Gio at the beginning of the game when I heard the news, “The Giants kept Ford on the roster!” That very night Buster Posey gets a lead-off walk in the ninth of a scoreless game. Ford comes in to pinch run and steals second without a throw. Shortly after he scores the winning run on a Cody Ross base hit.

As I write, Darren Ford has two career major league hits and six runs scored (most of those runs were game-winning runs). He is like a secret weapon in a close game. I’ve literally said to my friends during the game things like, “If we can just get a runner on we can bring in Ford.” Being down 3-2 in the 8th has never been so fun.

Back in 1987 I would have told you my favorite color is blue, favorite food is pizza, and my favorite baseball player is Will Clark.

“Who’s your favorite player?”

24 years later, I’m ready to answer the question again.

Bay to Breakers 2011

I took this picture this morning at the race.

Thought of the Week

Baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical.
--Yogi Berra

Friday, May 13, 2011

Konerko and Betancourt

Even if you don't like baseball you will want to watch a couple plays that occurred this week. Awesome.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Teacher Apreciation

Last week was teacher appreciation week. Although I didn't get much from my students my friend Matt did send me this thoughtful card:

Sunday, May 8, 2011


It is not a steadfast rule, but I have a general policy: I don’t answer the phone if it is a number I don’t recognize… unless I’m in the car. Then I really don’t have anything better to be doing, and I don’t use a Bluetooth, and breaking minor laws can often help avoid boredom.

One day I get a phone call in the car and an abridged version of the conversation went something like this:

“As an avid investor would you be interested in learning more about some great investment opportunities?”

“I don’t know.”

“How about a company that invests in oil?”


“What about a business that invests in rare stamps from the 1930’s?”

“Probably not.”

“How about a company that specializes in making environmentally friendly electrical decisions?”


(The conversation continued this way for several types of businesses. Trying to get through the list so I could figure out where this was going I started to get less particular.)

“What about a firm that sells additional appendages to robots living on other planets?”


“Okay. Thanks for your time. I’ll give your information to all of those businesses so they can contact you about investing in their companies.”

“Wait. What? Don’t… Hold on… Uh… Um… Bye.”

Since that call I’ve had an increase in unrecognizable numbers contacting me. I’ve even answered a few times.

“Can I speak with Kevin Burrill?”

“This is him.”

“If I made a quality presentation would I be able to convince you to invest $80,000 into a highly profitable gasoline and oil company?”

“I teach math.”

Last Thursday morning I wasn’t in the car, but I did have supervision duty before my first class and about 10 minutes to kill so I answered again. This time he did a sales pitch letting me know that I needed to buy in his company because recently the CEO has been buying up shares, and “who knows the company better than its CEO?” I didn’t know the strength of that argument, but I did understand that 200 shares at four bucks a share was a lot less money than 25 grand or 80 grand. So I decided to take a gamble and agree to buy 200 shares.

Later I reflected on this purchase as I had somehow I managed to buy 200 shares in a company I literally knew nothing about. I didn’t know the name of the company, or even the industry. Who does that? All I knew was the CEO has recently been buying up the shares. I assumed I wasn’t the second largest owner.

Then the salesman called me back to let me know he needed the check within seven days of the order. However, all the information was mailed to my parents house, the address associated with this sales list. My parents mailed me the documents, but it wasn’t going to be in time. I’m been extremely busy at work. Finally, I wrote him and e-mail saying to just cancel my order, because I didn’t have time to take care of this, and basically I was talked into buying shares in a company I knew nothing about. He called me back upset and said, “Did I do something wrong? Your e-mail made it sound like I shoved stock down your throat.” It did feel like that a little, but he asked me to send a positive e-mail back so it would be on record, and to not e-mail him anymore. At Raymond’s request I did send back another e-mail, but I was still skeptical.

Also, he uses his full name. Raymond.

Finally, Friday night I went to Steph’s house and together we reviewed all of the documents. There were several shady things in the document. My birthday was off by one digit. My social security number was off by one digit. My address was my parents’ address. Some of my general information had been changed or never discussed. I had told him on the phone my net worth was basically nothing. Yet, the box that was checked for net worth said $100,000-$500,000. It said I was a frequent investor with at least ten years experience, and my preferred choice of investments was speculation. So basically the information ranged from accurate, to exaggerated, to flat out wrong.

Plus we looked up a picture of Raymond and Steph added, “He even looks like a weasel.”

So I texted Raymond early Saturday morning and he called back immediately from his office. I openly expressed all of my concerns, and let him know I was hesitant and new to this entire process. He continued to respond as a complete salesperson. He had an answer for everything. He was a good talker. He used techniques like consistently rounding off the numbers in his favor. I’m not saying he was a liar, but definitely a manipulator, and a salesman. I mean just last week he convinced me to buy 200 shares in a company I knew nothing about: this guy was good.

I took the aggregate of all this information. Documented typos. Manipulative tactics. Fabricated information. A broker that I didn’t trust on the phone, that asked me not to e-mail in the future, and looks (and acts) like a weasel.

So I did what any reasonable human would have done at that point. I let him talk me into 800 more shares and immediately sent him a check for five times the original amount.

Anyone have a bridge they want to sell me? I may be in the market.