Friday, December 23, 2011

Limited edition

Today, I read an article where there was some violence surrounding the sales of Air Jordan sneakers.  People were physically beating each other and some shoppers had to be calmed down with pepper spray because of these new pair of sneakers going on sale.  The reason for the frenzy is that they are limited edition sneakers which mean only a certain number are made, so no more will be made once they are sold out.  Unfortunately, I did not partake in the festivities known as "beat up your fellow shopper for a pair of sneakers."  I may also add that they were much more expensive than a normal pair of sneakers.  Let us come to our senses here, these are SNEAKERS!!!!!!!!!  They go on your feet.

Another example of limited edition items comes in the form of Lego building blocks.  One year, Lego made a limited number of a Star Wars Star Destroyer set.  It was initially sold at three hundred dollars.  The very next year, it was selling on an online auction site for ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!!!  Never been opened, just being sold in mint condition.  Allow me to put this into perspective.  THIS IS A TOY!!!!!!!!!!! It was meant to be played with.

Then there are those who buy comic books right off the press and preserved in plastic.  Forever preserved.  At this point, it might as well be in amber.  I can appreciate artistry that goes into drawing the pictures, but these are printed by machine and not drawn by hand individually.  Again, THIS IS A COMIC BOOK!!!!!!! It was meant to be read and provoke thought.

Sure, I can accept that one man's trash is another man's treasure, but has the world completely gone mad?  I can understand assigning value to things such as diamonds, Rolex watches or even Corvettes, but sneakers, Lego blocks and comic books?   Have we completely lost our way as human beings?  Where is our self-estseem?  Where is our dignity? 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

wrong place, wrong time

Often, when tragedy strikes an innocent victim, the pharse, "wrong place, wrong time" is used.  What happens if the person is waiting for a bus, the bus arrives on schedule and he gets on, but a plane falls out of the sky and hits the bus?  Then, the phrase, "wrong place, wrong time" would not necessarily apply to this situation.  The phrase is usually applied when a child is at a store buying a carton of milk and a robbery takes place and the child is injured.  Wrong place, wrong time.

Where am I going with this?  Is there a right place, right time?  For example, let us take the case above where a child is buying something in a grocery store and a robbery takes place.  Let us swap out the child and say that a pedophile is in the grocery store buying a carton of milk and the same events happen, would that be the right place and right time?  Being that it is a pedophile (and most pedophiles project such nice personalities), people would say still say that he was at the wrong place and at the wrong time.  Then when they find out he is a pedophile, their perception will change that he was at the right place at the right time. 

Let us take it one step further, would the robber who fired the fatal shot be rewarded for ridding the world of this menace?  Then in this case, the robber would be in the wrong place at the wrong time, because he only wanted to rob the store and not shoot a pedophile.  But let us replace the pedophile with just any type of fugitive with a bounty.  Would the robber be eligible for the reward?  The fugitive would be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and so would the robber.  But in this case two wrongs probably made a right, but for who? 

We should just settle that things happen and the rightness or wrongness of the place or the timing is purely subjective.

Monday, December 12, 2011

holidary cheer...

For the past two years, it seems that every year when I decide to take my children on the subway to see the model trains at the train museum at Grand Central Station, we end up in the midst of SantaCon.

SantaCon, the time of year when fat, ugly white people ( yes, I have not seen any diversity in the participants) dress up as either Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, an elf, reindeer or some amalgamation of all of them.  They meet up at some place in NYC and start drinking.  Most have already started drinking before they hit public transit, so the are pretty loud and rude. 

It is a good thing that my children belive that Santa Claus is a fictional character, can you imagine what it would be like to explain this debauchery to a young child who has his or her hopes pinned on the story of Santa?  Actually, it is already quite difficult to explain the fat, ugly white people to my children and why they are so dressed up and loud. 

SantaCon is one of those rare (and we are very thankful that it is rare) occasions that people feel the need to dress up as some fanatasy character.  The other two occasions that I can think of are Halloween and ComiCon (or some variant like TrekCon or StarWarsCon).  Those costumes are made for people who can wear them, and because the characters are cartoons, no living person is supposed to be wearing skin tight suits.

If I was to start the war on Christmas, I would start by eliminating SantaCon.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

in this holiday season...

So, on Black Friday, there was this one incident where a woman used pepper spray at a store to gain an advantage over the other shoppers in order to get a video game console.  Despite all of the security measures (camera, guards, etc), she was able to escape undetected.  A few days later she turned herself into the police and decided to "face the music".  Quite admirable, considering that no one died and only twenty people experienced a good deal of discomfort with being exposed to pepper spray. 

The policed examined the case and the best they can come up with is possibly charging her with a misdemeanor.  Considering the behavior and bloodlust for a video console, a possible misdemeanor is close to nothing.  As the saying goes, "it's not like she had killed anyone."  Then again, if that is the nicest thing that anything can be said of anyone, it should not be said at all.

A week has past since she has come forward and admitted to subjecting fellow shoppers to pepper spray.  Now, she has filed a lawsuit against the store for inadequate security which had prompted her to use pepper spray to protect herself and her children from the surrounding mob.  I hope the error of her ways is obvious to everyone. 

First, considering all of the hype surrounding Black Friday events, it is unimaginable that any sane person would not expect a mob at most of these stores.  Second, she brings her children with her to such an event.  At this point, I think child protective services should really look into that home situation because any parent that would expose children to such a dangerous situation should be visited by child protective services.  Third, it is really a display of ingratitude at its worse when one decides to sue the store for inadequate security.  The fact that she was able to carry pepper spray into the store without being search may indicate that the store should review it's security protocols and search everyone at one of these events, it will also prevent a mad rush for items on that day.

In this holiday season, we have a blatant display of indecency, bad judgement, greed, lack of consideration for others, and most of all ingratitude. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A man has got to know his limitations

I believe that Dirty Harry said that in one of his movies.

Today, Jon Corzine testified in Congress about the demise of MF Global.  He was quoted as saying, "I simply do now know where the money is."  He is referring to the 1.2 billion dollars missing from the customers' accounts at MF Global. 

Some people find that surprising and frankly appalling that he does not know how he lost that much money or the status of customers' funds.  Why is that surprising?  He does not know where all the money of  New Jersey tax payers went during his tenure as the governor of that state.

Before he was hired at MF Global, did anyone read his resume, especially the part of how New Jersey was in worse financial state as he ended his term?  It is not as though he made the state more fiscally responsibile or turned a profit in that state.  Everyone emphasizes the fact that he was successful at Goldman Sachs...well, that was two jobs ago.  In between, he was a as United States Senator and the Governor of New Jersey.  I want to point out that he did not make any of those organizations better.  One can make the argument that there were 99 other Senators that he had to work with and it was diffiult, but at Goldman, there are hundreds of other partners and that is a successful company.  And when he did get to run the show as the Governor of New Jersey, he did not fare any better. 

Here is a guy who was just riding the wave and after it was over, it was over. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Black Friday

The day after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday, signals the first day of the Christmas shopping season.  This has not become a sport, a very violent one.  Much like the presidential primaries, every vendor wants to be the first one open their doors for customers. 

In recent years, some malls and stores have opened at midnight on Friday and have attracted customers with deep discounts on a select number of items.  So, after Thanksgiving dinner, people would drive out to these places and stand in line or wait in the parking lot until the doors opened at midnight.  It is quite a spectacle.  Other stores, opened later in the wee hours of the morning with the same enticements.  Because of the frenzy, there would be throngs of people at the entrances and when the store was opened, a mass of humanity (and I use the term very loosely, more biological than philsophical) would rush into the store and grab whatever was marked down. 

As in any scenario where a lot of people are trying to squeeze into  small space, injuries (sometimes fatalities) do occur.  People have been trampled by this rush, sometimes store employees or even shoppers.  Comparatively, the running of the bulls in Spain seem safer because the bulls will only knock you over and the rest will try to avoid you.  What kind of people (again, I use the term loosely) would just step over a person who was knocked down and grab a discounted appliance?

That was last year, when some people were trampled to death in the mad rush, this year, people were robbed in a parking lot (seemingly unrelated to shopping, yet, if you sit in a dark parking lot with lots of money, you will be robbed).  One person employed the use of pepper spray to get to the front of the line for a video game.  If there is anything that video games have taught us, it is the proper use of pepper spray to disperse large crowds.  In one other instance, a grandfather (50 year old or so) was slammed to the ground by security because someone accused him of shoving a video game (yet, another video game) into his shirt.  The explanation was that he was trying to secure it for his grandson, whom he had brought along, because others had wanted this item as well.  There were other stories this past season of shoppers rushing into a store that was not even scheduled to open and then looting the store as the employees hid and called the police.  What is going on?

Some people blame the retailers for causing this frenzy by marking down items well below any sane price.  Are retailers really to blame?  I saw this one video where a shop offered waffle irons for five dollars and that caused a fight.  WAFFLE IRONS!!!!!!! We are talking about WAFFLE IRONS!!!!!!!  Has everyone lost their minds?!?!?!!??  Even for five dollars, all you can make are waffles.  The economy is in a free fall and spending five dollars on something like that is considered a deal?!?!?!?!?!?!

A friend once told me that if you wanted to slow traffic down, you did not need to cause an accident, all you had to do was to throw a mattress (it does not matter what condition) on the the shoulder of a highway and you can cause the greatest traffic jam in the world because every single car would slow down just to look at it.  I scoffed at the comment until one time, I slowed down and looked at a mattress that was on the shoulder of a highway wondering how it got there.  Just like everyone else, I slowed down and looked at it.

I cannot blame the retailers for this frenzy on Black Friday.  The mass hysteria about buying last year's technololgy at cut rate prices is from the consumer.  The general consuming public is not smart enough to see that the stores wait until this time and then start to unload inventory to goose their year end numbers.  The warehouses are empty so that by February, they can be filled with the newest items in fashion and technology.  The public just eats up this crap that is dumped on them. 

All explained by economic behavior and the theory of games.  The notion of utility and what people will pay for  certain things.  Of course economists can explain it more techinically, but in the end, P.T. Barnum is righ, "there is a sucker born every minute", and I will add that these suckers are the result of multiple births. 

Retailers know that the more money you give, the more money they have.  .

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Post Office

The United States Post Office is considering a new cost cutting measure...they plan to eliminate 1-2 day service, so that people will have to wait 3-5 days for their mail.  I am not quite sure how this makes sense, does this mean that they will sort mail slower?  Or are they scaling back on delivery? 

Currently, the mail gets delivered six times a week, Monday through Saturday.  This means that the mail truck makes a delivery everyday.  If I put a letter in the mailbox on Monday to send to someone uptown, they would usually get it by Tuesday, maybe Wednesday at the latest.  The theorhetical work flow is that mail is picked up from the mail box, brought to the post office, sorted and then put in them mail truck for delivery.  How would it work if "next-day" delivery was eliminated?  Would that mean that pick up from mail boxes would not occur on a daily basis?  Or would that mean mail would be sorted slower than usual?  Or would the mail truck skip a building or two every day?  How is money saved?

Cutting back on services or innovation will not save anyone any money.  Cutting back on this type of service will only prove a disincentive to use the services. This is almost like flushing the toilet every third time instead of every time.  (If you worked in my office place, every third time would be nice for the men's bathroom, since it doesn't look like anyone flushes at all...nor does anyone else seem to wash their hands, let alone use soap, but I digress.)  Flushing the toilet on every third use would save water, energy and be good for the environment (nature and such, not the bathroom environment).  But water conservation via the reduction of flushing only annoys people. 

In order to save water (and also for hygiene) someone invented automatic flushers.  I do not know exactly how auto-flushers work, some tell me it is the change in water pressure evidenced by the deposit of wastes into the "receptacle".  Others tell me it's the change in the light pattern presented to that little red "laser" sensor.  Still others say it is a combination of both.  Regardless, I like it and it works.  The toilets are flushed in a timely fashion and everyone is happy...except for the guy who dropped his phone into the bowl, but then again, auto-flush or not, he would still lose his phone. 

Auto-flushing is where innovation and technology have come in to save the day.  Although I doubt that people would stop using the bathroom because they would have to flush manually, this type of automation has improved the experience of bathroom usage.  How would this apply to the post office? 

The post office would have to innovate to make it relevant.  How will it do that?  Let us consider the post office alternatives, Federal Express and United Parcel Service.  These two companies acutally come and pick up your parcels and letters.  And if you need it to be somewhere in the next day, all you have to do is to pay a little extra and the delivery is practically guarantted.  The post office does have some services where mail is picked up.  In our office, mail is only picked up when other mail is delivered, which is once a day at about noon time.  Allah help the person who does not have their letter ready when the poastman comes by.  FedEx will pick up when you are ready.  It is true that FedEx and UPS charge a bit more than the United States Post Office, but they are giving us a service.  Instead of cutting back service, the post office can actually provide more service and make it more competitive with companies liked FedEx and UPS. 

FedEx and UPS are a bit more entrepreneurial as well, I think they pay by the number packages delivered and picked up.  The USPS also has more resources than the two private companies, it even has it's own police force.  There are so manything that they can do besides cutting service where it does not seem lke it will save any money, rather, it will just be viewed as an inconvienence for everyone.  Even if service remains the same, it is a bad public relations move, because everyone will think they are even slower, when they may be operating well within their time frame.  They should focus on improving their service, not necessarily delivery time, but flexibility, unlike the other private delivery services who only deliver when the recipient is not home and then force the consumer to trek all the way to the warehouse during work hours to pick up the package. 

The MTA...that is another organization that has wasted alot of goodwill from it's riders.  That discussion will have to wait until another time.

Monday, December 5, 2011


The Occupy Wall Street movement has spurred some interesting sister movements around the country.  Note that all of the other occupy movements name the city, not a specific street.  For example, there is Occupy Boston, shouldn't that be Occupy Beacon Street or Occupy Milk Street?  There's Occupy Philadelphia, shouldn't that be Occupy Market Street?

The protestors of Occupy Wall Street have emphasized that this is a leaderless movement and it's by the people, for the people.  But it also shows that New York City is a very different city than any other city in the world.  People in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Boston seem to be angry at the city whereas, the people involved with Occupy Wall Street seem to be angry at policy makers in Washington DC and bankers who worked on Wall Street.  There is a basic financial and economic injustice that just bothers them.  Their anger may be misdirected at the bankers, but it's palpable. 

Another hallmark of this movement is that if you place a city behind Occupy, you will have a protest.  This morning I saw someone with an "Occupy Detroit" logo on their bag.  If I have ever agreed with any of the protests, it is with Occupy Detroit, because that is a very good idea.  With people leaving Detroit, the best thing that can happen to that city is for it to be occupied.  It's a good thing that  their baseball and football teams are doing well, but they certainly do need more people in that city to spur some economic development, so yes, please, everyone OCCUPY DETROIT!!!!!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

It gets stranger....

Let us consider this....
I suggest that we go out to dinner at a nice out-of-the-way-for-everybody, Japanese restaurant that is known for it's sushi.  So, everyone gets there and we start to order.  I order ..... STEAK?!?!?!?!?!?  And you order..... STEAK!?!??!?!?! Going around the table, no one orders sushi.  For drinks...... no SAKE!?!?!?? 

I think that if everyone wanted a non-sushi item, then a non-sushi restaurant would be more appropriate, unless the non-sushi items at this place were considerably cheaper than at steak-servoing restaurants.  Yet, the steak at a Japanese restaurant is much different.  There are many places where one can overpay for Kobe or Waygu beef and there are lots of places where Kobe and Waygu are prepared better without enduring the trip to an out of the way place....that is unless you do not want to run into anyone you may know. 

If one had something to hide, going into a neighborhood where the probability of seeing someone who may know is lower than staying in the neighborhood where you work is the better choice.  Yes, this is just me stirring the pot.