Microsoft Excel

#706: Additional Complaint

GETTING MORE TALE #706: Additional Complaint

I used to tell the store owner and his second-in-command, “We are only using about 10% of what these computers are capable of doing.”  They were great for inventory and point of sale.  We eventually started using them to print out header cards for CDs.  It seemed like the owner and those beneath him weren’t interested in getting the most out of our computers.  I think they saw potential abuse as “toys” — gaming and chatting etc.

That wasn’t what I was driving at.  I used to have to maintain a sales log.  It was a big blue book full of pages for bookkeeping.  It was handy because the boss could open it up and have a quick look at what sales were last night, last week, last year, and so on.  We kept track of our purchases and free CD giveaways in the log book.  At various points in time, I was maintaining multiple log books.  I had one when I was in charge of the store website.  Whenever there was a staffing issue, and I had to cover at another branch for an extended period, there was another log book.

It always irked me that we were not permitted to use Microsoft Excel instead of (or even in addition to) the sales log.  There is one thing I have always sucked at, and continue to suck at:  adding up a large column of numbers.  The reasons for this are two:

  1. My big stupid fingers are always mashing the wrong buttons on a calculator, and
  2. When I stare at numbers too long they all start to jump around.  2112 looks like 2121, and so on.

My suggestions to use Excel for the log book were always shot down.  For all I know, 12 years later they could still be using the big blue log books exclusively.  We did use Excel to calculate the values of our inventory, so I didn’t get what the big deal was.

It really pissed me off one afternoon in the store, when I was struggling to add up the numbers for month end.  The weekly totals were off, so I had to find where.  I had a system for finding these kinds of problems and part of it was manually adding up all the days’ sales.  Every time you start adding a large series of numbers and the phone rings or someone asks a question, I tended to lose my place.  So it took a while.  And every time I added the numbers, I was getting different results.  I’d been at it forever and couldn’t figure it out.

They’d just given me another staffer who would be helping in the afternoons when I used to be alone.  I asked him if he wouldn’t mind checking the sum, to see what total he would get.  He did and that’s exactly when the Store Bully walked in.

“Mike, why are you getting Dave to do the books for you?!” she yelled.  Of course, out of context, it probably looked that way.  But she wouldn’t even let me finish a sentence, and when I finally did, she said my story was “bull”.  She made her comment that the new guy wasn’t to be my personal servant.  Is that what she thought of me?  And of course this went on my annual review.  I protested it again, but she didn’t want to listen.

Dave didn’t get to finish adding that column, so I never found out what total he would have got.  Imagine how easy it would have been if it was just Microsoft Excel.

Some of the people at the Record Store who were in positions of power were, unfortunately, troglodytes.  They didn’t use computers regularly and were closed to ideas that didn’t come from preferential personnel.  It was a rock and a hard place for me.  They didn’t want to use computers to do the books, but I got “caught” getting someone to check my math.  As if it’s highschool.

Actually, it was a lot like a highschool.  And I wasn’t in the popular clique.

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REVIEW: Rush – Chronicles (1990)

It’s the final instalment of GREATEST HITS WEEK! All week we were examining some pretty cool greatest hits albums.  I saved the best for last — one of the very greatest, Greatest Hits albums ever. Once again, thanks to Aaron over at the KMA for the idea (which I stole).  For his original Greatest Hits Week, click here! 

If you missed a prior review, here they all are:

Monday:  EXTREME – The Best of Extreme: An Accidental Collication of Atoms? (1997)
Tuesday: JUDAS PRIEST – The Best of Judas Priest (1978/2000 Insight Series)
Wednesday: JUDAS PRIEST – Greatest Hits (2008 Steel Box)
Thursday: HELIX – Over 60 Minutes With… (1989)


 

RUSH – Chronicles (1990 Anthem)

Yeah, oh yeah!
Ooh, said I, I’m comin’ out to get you
Ooh, sit down, I’m comin’ out to find you
Ooh, yeah
Ooh yeah
Findin’ my way!

I just can’t stress how important this album is to me.  I had always followed Rush, and been interested in what they were up to.  I had never taken the plunge and bought any albums.  I wouldn’t have had a clue where to begin anyway.  In July 1994, I was hired at the Record Store thus kicking off the exponential growth of my music collection (and tastes).  With birthday money, I finally acquired my first Rush:  Chronicles, the massive 2 CD set that was released for Christmas of 1990.

For my first listen, I didn’t play the whole thing from front to back.  I picked out the songs I liked best, and programmed the CD player.  I revisited favourites like “Tom Sawyer” and especially “Subdivisions”, and then the next day, listened to the whole thing.  One song jumped out at me immediately:  “Red Sector A”.  Holy shitballs!  “The Temples of Syrinx” was the next one that grabbed me on second listen, along with “Freewill”, “Limelight”, “The Trees” and “What You’re Doing”.  I had feared Rush would be a bit over my head if consumed in this quantity, but it turned up to be just my poison.

Even though Chronicles is the first Rush “greatest hits” compilation, and has arguably been replaced by the three volumes of Rush Retrospective, I still think that it is a perfect entry point.  I think back to my early experience of trying to figure out where to start with this band.  They seemed to have a lot of different sounds over the years.  I know today that anybody looking to buy their first Rush album can comfortably start with Moving Pictures.  But what about those who want a little bit more music than that, in the form of a detailed sampling?  Then Chronicles is the one.

Appropriately, Chronicles goes chronologically which works for a band like Rush.  Their evolution over the years has been very natural and organic, not at all jumpy.  That makes for a smooth listen.  Each studio album gets two tracks, with a few exceptions:  Moving Pictures is represented by three, while the most recent Presto has one.  Additionally, 2112 has one track, albeit actually the first two parts of “2112” itself.  The neat thing, though, is that for its time Chronicles actually had three rare live tracks too.  Back in the early days of CD, they couldn’t get as much music onto the disc as they can today.  “What You’re Doing”, “A Passage to Bankok”, and “Mystic Rhythms” were all cut from their respective CD releases for time reasons.  They were released on Chronicles, on CD, for the first time ever.  All three are brilliant versions, especially the electrifying “What You’re Doing” from All the World’s a Stage.

I was hooked.  Using the tracks and liner notes from Chronicles as a guide, I began adding more Rush to my collection: 2112, Signals, Moving PicturesA Show of Hands, plus the more recent Counterparts and Roll the Bones too.  I see no reason that new fans today can’t use the album as a gateway the same way I did.  It’s still in print, even though the more recent Rush compilations are readily available.

There are minimal exclusions missing from Chronicles.  Some notable songs are absent, such as later singles “Superconductor” and “The Pass” from Presto.  This isn’t hard to understand.  Rush wouldn’t have wanted to compete with the current studio album they were still promoting!  The price is the only issue.  Even after all these years, Chronicles is still found for over $20, unless you go for a used one, much like I did!

5/5 stars

RUSH CHRONICLES

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#359: Autodidacticism

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Me after my first week or two at my current job in 2007.  Iron Maiden shirt!

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#359: Autodidacticism

I was very excited to begin my current job, back in 2007.  I was hired as sales coordinator for the “custom forming” department at a steel company.  I would mostly be dealing in railcar parts (weighing anywhere from 4 lbs to 3000 lbs each) and shipping them all over North America (and once even Dubai).  It wasn’t all new to me, but a lot of it was going to be.  I was replacing someone on a maternity leave, before I was hired on permanent in 2008.  She was absolutely meticulous and had a real talent with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.  I was inheriting all this and I hadn’t much experience with Excel.  I used it at home for budgets and whatnot, but upon seeing my predecessor’s work, I realized I knew relatively very little about it in reality.  I had to self educate very quickly.

What does this have to do with rock and roll? asks the bored reader.  I’m getting there!

I learn by doing, so I sat down with Excel for a few nights to get myself up to speed.  I began making some spreadsheets and familiarizing myself with the software…I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to make a spreadsheet of!  Then it hit me: let’s make it fun.  Let’s chart all the different official Kiss albums!

It actually ended up being a lot more fun than you might think!  I added an on-the-fly (but somewhat arbitrary) album rating system and then calculated the mean and median ratings.  I added up studio vs. live. vs compilation albums and made a pie chart of them.  I made it look as visually appealing as I could.  In my job I would be creating spreadsheets that went to VP’s and the president of the company, so I wanted everything to look perfect.   And it was fun to do.  This is obvious, because looking at it today, I even kept updating it into 2008, a full year after I made it!

My final observation is that when I abandoned this spreadsheet in 2008, I apparently hadn’t yet learned that the Kiss Alive! 1975-2000 box set had an iTunes bonus track, because that information is omitted here.

Yeah, I’m a nerd!  Always have been, and hopefully always will be!

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