Just Monkeying Around

Rhesus monkeys are usually seen in zoos. Their most natural habitat is in southeast Asia. However, not this particular monkey. This young macaque had been roaming the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida for over three years. That’s right, three years.

The monkey had been wandering around St. Petersburg and hanging out in local trees attempting to avoid Wildlife Rescue and Rehab. It remarkably succeeded in doing so for three years before being caught by authorities. The monkey was shot with two tranquilizer darts by a wildlife employee. The mischievous monkey, in a last stitch effort, consciously yanked the first dart out of its body before finally being taken down by the second.

The monkey caused quite a stir when it bit a woman on the neck. It was deemed dangerous as a result and has been tried to be captured ever since. The monkey became somewhat of a sensation in St. Petersburg, garnering a Facebook page in the midst of the chaos.

Since its capture, the monkey has been examined for disease and will be found a suitable habitat in the coming days.



Top 5 Career Lessons

Top 5 Lessons for My Career

1. Being a Beta

You need to take responsibility yourself in knowing about the industry. Invest yourself in whatever you want to do. Surround yourself with it. Immerse yourself in its daily practices. We are like farmers, they grow their own crops, we grow our own careers.

2. “Hustling

As things continue to move faster, as technology continues to grow and grow, people need to be programmed to step out on a ledge. Make yourself vulnerable. Take risks. Try new things. And most importantly have the ability to keep up with the changing times. If you don’t have “hustle” then you are already at a disadvantage in the business world. You limit yourself from possible breakout opportunities.

3. Combining Skills

Scott Adams says that “It’s unlikely that any average student can develop world-class skill in one particular area”. Instead, in order to maximize your worth in the business world, learn to develop an array of skills. It is simpler and more valuable to be able to conquer several tasks fairly well than to spend time attempting to master one task. In this day and age, the more you know how to do, the more valuable you are to companies looking to hire.

4. Write What You Love

“Revealed: What I Learned Working at Business Insider” taught me something. Write what you love. Some of your most prized stories, and ones that you think are going to be sure-fire hits, don’t turn out that way. Story popularity is virtually impossible to predict. Keeping readers in mind is very important. However, write what you care and feel a strong passion for. Don’t hold back your feelings, and always be honest in what you write. You may be surprised at how writing about your own personal excitement can yield large followings.

5. Read Before You Write

In the Pringle Lecture, Nate Silver talks about how one of the most fundamental mistakes in writing is not reading. People think that writing is merely typing out words or staring at a cursor until words appear. However, reading is step one in the writing process. And you should learn to read everything, from blogs to scholarly articles. Reading gives you more knowledge and allows you more material to write about.

These are all lessons that I will take into account as I prepare to enter the business world.


Bill Squared

Bill Simmons and Bill Barnwell work side by side in the blogosphere. Both are columnists for the ESPN affiliated Grantland.com, who cover a vast array of sports related topics. Both are talented writers with a master in sports knowledge. Both sculpt obscure sports information into easily readable prose. And both tie for the ever-so-coveted prize of being my favorite blogger.

Bill Simmons, also known as the “Sports Guy”, is exactly what his nickname prescribes him to be: a sports guy. He has extensive knowledge on sports, but when it comes to his blogging, he doesn’t have a specific concentration. One day he will write about the travesty that was the NFL replacement refs and the next he will be posting about LeBron James’ quest for basketball immortality. I think what makes me enjoy Bill Simmons so much is that he is a Boston sports fan through and through. He is not afraid to show his unending love with Boston sports in his blogs and podcasts. Being a Boston sports aficionado myself, I can relate to the trials and tribulations that the Sports Guy experiences with his sports teams.

Bill Barnwell has no widely known nickname like Simmons does, but his contributions to Grantland sure haven’t gone unnoticed. Unlike Simmons, Barnwell does have a set focus: the NFL. He blogs nearly daily about all that is the NFL. He delves into topics and teams and players to examine and predict what could, should, and will happen with them. His writing style is very passionate and bold. His posts are lengthy but are worth the time to read. Although less well known than Bill Simmons (he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page!), Bill Barnwell is equally as valuable to my sports infatuation, leading me back to his blog posts time and time again.

Tow Truck Trust: Ernie’s Monopoly

The meeting room was stuffy on June 24th 2009 as three university officials watched Ernie’s president Frank Fournier scribbled in cursive. He finished writing his signature and it was official, Ernie’s Towing was to become the sole towing company of UMass Amherst for the next three years.

Michael Brennan, UMass Parking Manager, Sandy Anderson, Director of Campus Service, and John Martin, Director of Procurement, all authorized the marriage of Ernie’s Towing and the university. The agreement between the university and Ernie’s Towing was reached on July 24, 2009. The contract spans from August 1, 2009 to June 30, 2012.

However, the specifications of the contract say, “In addition, if all parties are in agreement, the contract may be extended for two additional one-year periods with all terms and conditions to remain the same”. So as a result, Ernie’s Towing will remain the sole towing company of the university until at least June 2013.

Ernie’s was not simply handed the towing privilege, it had to outbid at least five other towing companies for the job to represent UMass Amherst in towing services.

Edward Blaguszewski, UMass spokesman, said: “University bids out towing services. As with all contracts at the university, there is a public bidding process. Our procurement office develops the specifications in conjunction with parking services, which manages towing”.

“One of the biggest reasons they got the bid was because they were only going to charge $75 for a tow and then $30 dollars for the next 24 hours. All of the other bidders went right to 105 dollars and then tacked on an additional 30,” said Blaguszewski.

They price of towing in the state of Massachusetts is regulated by the state. You can charge zero dollars up to $110 a tow in the state of Massachusetts according to Department of Telecommunications and Energy (DTE) regulations.

According to the contract, the bid evaluation criteria include distance of towing company’s storage facility from UMass, response time for university towing calls, available hours of operation, quantity and quality of towing equipment, as well as the cost of towing and storage.

As part of the contract, Ernie’s is required to have Bodily Injury Liability Insurance with no less than $500,000 for each person. The insurance covers Ernie’s in the case that they cause an accident and harm someone else, and it covers medical costs of the injured.

Generally speaking, Ernie’s Towing has fulfilled the campus expectations of the university since it became the lone towing company of UMass Amherst in 2009.

However, that is not to say they have been flawless. There was a large miscue in campus towing on Labor Day weekend this year, move in weekend, in the North residential parking lot 44.

In the incident, Ernie’s towed more than 180 illegally parked cars from lot 44 during move in weekend. Ernie’s ushered them to its Amherst facility and to another, larger, car compound storage facility. Students, employees, and families all had to pay the fee of $105 to get their cars back.

Junior Paul Pettine, who was involved in the Labor Day towing incident, doesn’t blame Ernie’s Towing: “They [Ernie’s] were just doing their job, I couldn’t really get mad at them. I was angrier at parking services for telling me I could park my car there [Lot 44] when obviously I couldn’t.

Not everyone saw Ernie’s Towing in the same light as Pettine did. Nick Lyons, who was also involved in the Labor Day towing incident, said the Ernie’s service was horrible: “It literally took me two hours to get my car back. It wasn’t even on site. I understand they were busy but I mean come on, 2 hours? That’s just ridiculous”.

“Angry reactions are going to happen when 180 cars are towed and students are being charged upwards of a hundred bucks for it. The tow company can be as great as possible but the mere fact that their cars are being towed is going to make people’s blood boil,” said Blaguszewski.

Blaguszewski admitted that the North towing complication was the university’s fault and that Ernie’s merely “did what they were asked to do” and that it was a “mistake that shouldn’t have happened”.

All cars towed part of the incident had their parking fine waived and were reimbursed for the towing charge.

These people were lucky to escape such towing fines. Statistics show that parking violators are learning their lesson.  According to the contract, towing numbers have been declining since 2005. From the period of July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006, 2,189 tows were made. July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007 saw 2,028 cars towed while July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008 had nearly 1,000 less tows than the previous year, with only 1,053.

Michael Brennan, UMass Parking Manager, has been proud of the constant descent of towing numbers for the campus: “We are now down to maybe 700 [tows], I think last year we towed a little over 700 cars. We are probably on track to do 700 again this year”.

Parking services works in conjunction with Ernie’s Towing.  Brennan claims that parking services often gets blame for escalated permit prices and towing fines.

“We don’t make one cent off of towing or citations. The money goes into a financial aid scholarship fund, which goes back to students,” said Brennan.

Parking services makes its money off of permits, visitor fees, and an assessment. The assessment is a costing model, meaning everyone pays his or her fair share, “The parking model here is based on how much revenue you collect, and how much you put back into the system to fix it up,” said Brennan.

A collective bargaining agreement is in place with all employee unions at UMass Amherst. The model is salary based, so every time someone receives a raise, the parking permit fees go up. So students aren’t the only ones who the price for parking permits.

With higher prices on permits, people are more apt to violating parking requirements. This is where Ernie’s comes to the university’s aid.

Ernie’s has fourteen different tow trucks including six self loaders, four two car flatbeds, one flatbed, one service van, one service truck, and one wrecker. It has twenty-two employees.

5 Vital Features of Towing Services

Finding a towing service that is consistently reliable is important for those days where nothing seems to be going right with your vehicle. Here are some of the key features that towing services need to be mindful of, for not only the sake of their clients, but for their own sake as well.

1. Price- The price for the towed should be reasonable and stated upfront by the employee. Often times prices are negotiated depending upon the distance towed. A fair price will keep customers calling and develop trust with the towing service that is not easily replaced. And let’s be honest, who likes emptying their wallet for towing services? Nobody.

2. Speed-Likewise nobody likes waiting for hours for the tow truck to show up. The time it takes the tow truck to respond to distress calls is vital. The longer it takes a towing service to respond, the more likely the customer will call another service the next time their car breaks down.

3. Safety- It may sound like a nit picky thing, but the safety of the towing service matters to customers. If a part of a truck is old and rusted it may lead to customer dissatisfaction and worry about the safety of their precious vehicle. The last thing anybody wants, including the towing service, is for their car to fall off the tow truck due to a safety malfunction.

4. Employee Skill- The skill of the employee can be quite crucial in customer satisfaction. The employees are handling the customers’ cars. The more they handle the cars with care, the more satisfied the customer will be. It shows that the towing service cares about its clients and their vehicles.

5. Reputation- The reputation of a towing service is important. If a service has a bad reputation then customers are less likely to use it when their car needs towing. It requires just a simple Google search for a customer to easily weed out the good from the bad towing services.

All of these are vital features that every towing company should hope to excel in. If these 5 features are demonstrated at the highest of levels then customer loyalty will follow.

A Spectacular Towing Feat

Today, the space shuttle Endeavor reached its destination at the California Science Center, where it will forever be adored by visitors. The shuttle, which flew to space an astounding 25 times between 1992 and 2011, was towed from LAX to the science center by a Toyota Tundra truck. It is quite unimaginable to think that a pickup truck, albeit one that has 270 horsepower, can tow such a massive specimen.  Not bad for a truck that ranked 5 out of 10 for 2012 Full Size Pickup Trucks.

So why the Toyota Tundra? Why not any of the four higher ranked full size pickups?

The California Science Center is why.

A loyal partnership between Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc. and the California Science Center currently exists in order to provide support for public education through exhibits and programs. There is currently a Toyota Tundra on display at the science center in an exhibit dedicated to the physics of leverage. The new Tundra that towed the shuttle will soon replace the current exhibit one. The combination of the shuttle and the platform it laid upon weighed an amazing 80 tons. The journey to the science center from LAX took over two days and required excavating to welcome the shuttle through the streets. Such welcoming included tearing down trees and poles, prohibiting pedestrian use of sidewalks, and the moving of telephone poles and wires.

The shuttle will forever be an image of national pride as one of the most successful technological advancements in the nation’s history. It will go on display at the California Science Center later this month as will its workhorse, the Toyota Tundra that escorted it all the way from LAX to the science center, in an unbelievable and famous towing feat.