The thoughts that were thunk and the goings on of my life.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Thanks for Saving Us!

"Halloween, adding to safety. "Kids across the nation will soon rejoice," said Upton, because they'll have another hour of daylight trick-or-treating."

Yes, cause that's what every kid wants. To have a nice bright Halloween. It's so much fun to run around outside in the sun saying Trick-or-Treat!

I wish they would just ditch the time change in general. Why don't people just realize that time is an arbitrary unit that dictates our lives. Oh well. At least we have congress tackling this important issue for us.

Sorry for being a bit MIA lately. Harry Potter came out this week, I'm working as much as normal and a certain person has been taking up a lot of my time. Harry Potter was great, and other things are even better.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Aggie Bucks. Meal Credit!

I just tried to eat lunch at this neat Italian place. Went in, ordered my food got to the line and I handed her my credit card. She said, “We don’t take Credit, only Cash or Check.” I asked if there was an ATM or something and she told me about one across the complex, over the street, in the shopping center about 10 min away. So I walked out of the restaurant and bought food elsewhere. In today’s world owning a business and not accepting credit (or at the least debit cards) is completely asinine. No real portion of the economy has run on cash in years. Cash is going to go the way of land lines and VCRs. Yeah, they can be useful in certain situations (power outage, cheap recording), but to limit your business to only one form factor of life-blood (money) is ridiculous and will quickly kill the establishment.

There are those that think that credit cards cost businesses too much to use. While there are definitely certain costs involved it’s not nearly proportional to the costs of NOT having such a system. Think of the situation today. They had a customer (me) who wanted a product. The customer used their services and products inducing labor and materials costs on part of the business. By only accepting cash they made it to where I couldn’t pay them. They lost the labor, they had to destroy the materials (or give it to an unwitting customer), and they didn’t earn any money from the sale. Instead of earning $10 they lost about $5. That’s a gross loss of $15 for one person who wanted to be a customer! Plus they won’t gain any of my business again, over the course of 2 days that could be a $25 from a single person. Imagine how many other customers they lose in any one day simply because they are the victims of poor business management. This quickly adds up to $100s or $1000s of dollars which could easily be the difference between a place being profitable and going under.

Another overseen issue is in the checkout the customer who is about to make a purchase is more likely to spend more if they don’t feel like it costs them more. In my case, had I had cash, I would have bought just a sandwich and drank some water. With a credit card I wanted to buy my sandwich, a glass of milk, a brownie, and some chips. Accessories are the areas where real profit can be generated in any industry. Just look at cell phone accessory stands in the mall, girls getting highlights in their hair, the entire jewelry industry, option packages on cars, fries and drinks at McDonald’s, and the grand daddy of them all…movie theatre popcorn. Each of those items produces huge margins and accepting credit cards increases the likelihood that your customers will purchase those objects which cost the business the least and earn them the most. By only accepting cash you doom your business to only earning the bare minimum even in the best case scenarios.

All of these topics of pure monetary assets don’t take into consideration the extra risks inherent with cash. In a credit system all that is available from the sale is a piece of paper indicating the transaction. If they use cash you have a liability on your hands that you have to protect and increase your chances of being the victim of a robbery. All pain and no gain for your business.

So for those of you running businesses out there, be smart. Accept credit cards! To not do so is foolish and means that you do not understand how the world of business works. I hope this Italian place learns how to begin accepting cash…too bad I’ll never get the chance to eat there, it looked really good.

Then again, it could be that this Italian joint was run by the mafia, and the real reason they only do cash is that the whole business is just a front.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Illusions of Security

I’ve been waiting for a long time to rant about this one, so now’s my chance.

What is it about airports that people feel such a need to be ‘safe’? The whole aura of safety is really just an imaginary presence. Items have been black listed from passing security, but in reality those will never do any harm.

On the way back from LA the other week I had an airport baggage checker pull my bag aside because there was a ‘deadly’ weapon contained within. He proceeded to search my bags to locate this lethal device and slowly honed in on it. Granted, I didn’t have anything different in my bags than I ever have had on flights before, but this time I was ‘safe’. After some searching, and unzipping of pockets he found it! Yes, the deadly nail-clipper set! He carefully looked at the scissors with the ½” blades and rounded tips…whew, those aren’t deadly, rounded tips save the day. He then looked at the toenail clippers, safe. Fingernail clippers, safe. Uh oh, what is this deadly weapon? A nail file!?! He pulls out the ‘dangerous’ 1” blade sticks it in the air, looks at his boss and says, “Do you think this is ‘safe’?” No, that could kill somebody. We’ll have to confiscate this and dispose of it or you need to check it in your bag that’s already checked on the airplane.

What do they think I’m going to do with a 1” nail file? Walk up to the captain and say, “Captain, you are going to die as soon as I’m finished filing my way to the roots of your cuticles.” Yes, I would be a dangerous man, no pilot can bear the thought of having a proper pedicure while in-flight. I could hijack the plane and take it wherever I wanted just with my amazing filing technique. Plus since the file was metal it wouldn’t go dull like those sandpaper filers that women carry with them. I could take over the world one flight at a time while simultaneously eliminating all in-flight pedicure competition!

That’s just ridiculous, that file couldn’t hurt somebody if I WANTED them to! It made me think about how many tons of ‘deadly’ weapons have been pointlessly confiscated by airline security over the past few years. Then it made me think about something a little more devious. What are the real weapons that I have with me? They took away the thing that I really least consider to be a weapon. So let’s take a look at the truly lethal weapons that were completely ‘safe’ according to our great airport security personnel.

First let’s look at what I’m wearing:
  • Jacket: Strangle somebody to death with one of the sleeves.
  • Watch: Wrap around fist use like brass knuckles.
  • Aggie Ring: Gold Knuckles.
  • Shoes: Use hard soles to whack someone upside the head.
  • Shoelaces: Strangle people. Tie something onto end and create a mace.
  • Tie: Strangle people, tie people into chairs. Business men are impervious to the strangling action of this device.
  • Belt: The most deadly of all. Leather strap can be used for strangling. Buckle can be swung around to beat people. Strap can be wrapped around fist for superior fighting ability.

  • Now let’s look in my bag:
  • Handles: Made out of metal, snap off use 2’ long pieces of metal to beat and stab.
  • Suit Bag: Hold over person’s head and suffocate them.
  • Book: Serves as defensive shield and bludgeoning device.
  • Ethernet Cable: Once again strangle and/or tie someone down.
  • Laptop: Kick apart, use shards of computer board as very effective knives for slashing.
  • Compression Sack: Filled with clothes packed very densely, serves as an excellent club.
  • Soda Can: Drink, twist, pull apart, slice things open quickly, belch loudly in people’s faces.
  • Suit Hanger: Wooden. Can be snapped. Now I have two strong stabbing weapons. Top of hangar can be a club. Hanger part of the hanger is strong metal, could rip out a trachea.
  • And of course there’s my Nail File, which can round off sharp corners from people's nails.

  • Even with all of these weapons it doesn’t even mention the fact that people can use their own bodies as deadly weapons. Hands, fists, elbows, foreheads, knees, shins, feet… Every one of those can and has killed a person in the past. Anybody that’s ever seen an action movie could probably tell you at least 30 ways to kill somebody with their hands alone.

    What I really want to show is the fact that of all the things on the plane I could use a plethora of devices as weapons. Most of those weapons mentioned above would be MUCH more deadly than a simple nail file. So why is it that we remove harmless items from flights? Is it to make things safer? No. The entire airline industry is wrapped up in the guise of making things safe. People feel more comfortable because they are being searched and they think they are somehow protected by all of the extra precautions. Security in airports is really equivalent to the blinders you see on horses downtown. The security doesn’t eliminate the threat; it merely keeps us from being nervous because we can’t as easily see potential threats. But that sense of security blinds us into not seeing what is really there.

    No amount of security will ever make anything safe. Taking away people’s property when it is of no real danger to those around them is a ridiculous means of providing a false sense of security. The sad thing is that most people are dumb enough to believe that this security actually protects them. The real truth of the matter is that if you want to hurt somebody you will find the means to do so. The only dangerous thing on any plane is the minds of the people going into the aircraft.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    The Dose Makes the Poison

    Sometimes I feel like there’s too much to do in life. It feels like there is so much out there that we must see and feel and touch and do, but there is only so much time. And the time we have we’re often too tired to really pursue what it is that we want. Right now I’m in Boston and I know that this is an amazing place, great sights to see, amazing history to absorb, a culture to delve into…but at the same time I’m so tired from my day that I can’t really take the time it needs to do everything.

    If only business vacations could eliminate the business portion, then they would be just about perfect. However, after working my ~50 hours that I will this week I’m pretty worn down, especially considering all of my work time is running around talking, thinking about how things best work and helping people learn. Teaching is not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s really neat to see people begin to realize their dreams by learning more. Okay, maybe not their dreams, but at least become better at what they hope to do…that’s cool.

    The real problem is, there’s so much to do in this world; however, in my spare time I just want to do nothing. But I know there’s more to do out there, so I feel obligated to get everything done that can possibly be crammed into my 24 hours. I don’t want to be one of those people that sits around in life and says, ‘Shore glad I sat on the porch that one summer. I got to see six squirrels making babies and once had a dragon fly land on me…durned thing only had three wings and kept flyin’ aroun’ in circles all afternoon.’ Or, ‘I’m glad I spent my entire life’s earnings on pot. I used to just think I was somebody and I would try to do things, but now I FEEL.’ What do you feel? ‘I don’t know.’

    So my life is spent somewhere in the limbo between doing too much and never appreciating life and doing too little and wishing you had actually accomplished something. I don’t know where things should end up. I guess the hardest thing for me is to just admit that sometimes it’s okay to just let something slide, to take a break, to do nothing, to zone out while thinking about nothing. It doesn’t automatically make you a loser. Once again I see that this aspect of life is bounded by the realization that anything in the proper proportions is good.

    Monday, July 11, 2005

    Oh Thank Heaven

    …it’s 7-11

    Sometimes it seems like the things that we rely on most in life are the very things that keep us from enjoying it. Granted we think we are enjoying it, but it really just keeps us too busy so that we are entertained and/or productive, but not fulfilled.

    So I’m out teaching a class for my company in Boston, and within 1 hour of class starting all of the electricity went out. Normally I wouldn’t mind this too much and would welcome the break, but as it is I’m supposed to be teaching a class by using power point presentations on a computer to display how to use a program that can only be run by a computer that requires electricity. As you can see this does produce a bit of a problem when the electricity goes out. I thought I found a workaround though and hooked everything up to the back-up power supply, but then that went out too. I tried writing a few things on the board, but you can’t really write a new display for every new window that they might see. It really helped me to appreciate our computers and how much information is packed into such a small space. Programs today are amazingly efficient and give users more power than they can ever really fully utilize. But the Achilles Heel is that all computers need power and without it, all of the handy features are as useless as boobs at a gay bar.

    It was kinda funny cause I really didn’t know what to do. How can I really teach them anything? Should I just cancel the class? Would I need to refund them for not being able to teach? We found a few solutions (which involved 15 people hovering around the 1 laptop in the room and me being on my knees trying to read upside down on an LCD display) and it made me realize how great these people really are. They could have been punks and just said, “No, if you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all.” Instead they were very considerate and tried their best to learn what was possible in that environment. For this being Boston, I’m really impressed at how nice everybody is that I meet (plus I’m getting a really cool accent!).

    The lack of electricity really reminded me about who people really are. It seems like I all too often isolate myself in an electrically charged force field. My iPod keeps people from talking to me on plane flights, my internet lets me be a lurker on friends’ blogs (like most of you are), the news keeps us from having to talk to people in our area, radio prevents us from whistling our own tunes… Granted each of these components is great in its own respect if used properly, but electricity does really serve to make us harder working…and the more you work, the less you interact.

    Today when the electricity went out and it reminded me of a time when that happened at A&M. It was seriously one of the most memorable moments of my college career. At first people got really upset and wanted to be able to continue what they were doing, many people in labs were upset that they weren’t like Jesus (they didn’t ‘save’). Then classes started to wonder if they would ever get power. Finally around noon word got out that a big slice of Texas was without power and would be for the day. Classes were cancelled, a slew of bleary-eyed grad students slowly stepped outside into the sun. People wandered aimlessly, not really knowing what they would do. Slowly people just kinda meandered and found whatever entertained them most. People were finally relaxed. They realized there was nothing that they could do that was school related, so they just spent time together. The student center was filled with people just chatting with one another, residents came out of dorms to sing and play guitars, sports fields filled up with Frisbee players, and I realized that life without electricity really isn’t that bad. Take away our power and people slow down, stop to think, stop to spend time with those around them, and almost everybody I knew (even those that lost papers) were happier because the power had gone out. Me, I just tooled around, walked to various people’s houses, pondered on things that I hadn’t had time to do before, hung out with friends that needed to be seen, just enjoyed the people and things around me.

    Then for some reason the power came back on, and the roaring sound of work came rushing back towards me. No more excuse to enjoy life, just a desire to get more done before I had more work assigned…and that’s the way it still goes.