Thursday, June 29, 2006

Walking In My Shoes

As I've mentioned before, I've been heading into the gym about 3 days a week. Pictured above are my running shoes. Notice anything funky about them? Probably not. You see for some reason, shoe manufacturers have this idea that we want shoe laces that can wrap around our ankles multiple times. (For some reason it reminds me of going skating as a kid.)

Usually, I tie them normally and tuck the bow loops (and anything that would drag on the ground) in next to my ankles. Sure, that's probably going to rub, chafe and cause problems but there isn't much else to do other than breaking out the scissors and tape. I just wish this was the problem with only this pair of shoes. It seems my tennis shoes and a few others have this problem. If I was running the shoe company, I'd probably say, "Hey, we are wasting money on laces... let's shorten them." Just one of life's oddities, I guess.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An Eyeball View Of Corporate Reinvestment

Working for a big company is quite different than working for a little one. One of the things that stand out most between the two are how they go about saving money. Both types of companies will look at labor to see if they could cut hours. But one thing that I notice most often is reinvestment. Some of the bigger companies, when trying to cut deeper than labor, will avoid spending funds on repairs to materials, delay shipments of replacement materials or allow a substandard level of service. Most companies would rather avoid the latter but let's look at laser eye surgery as a subtle example.

Each company uses a specialized blade to cut a flap over the cornea prior to the laser being employed. This expensive blade can be sterilized for reuse but each reuse dulls the blade more. Some companies will use the same blade 3 times, some may use it more and a few use it once and toss it. Every reuse of the blade cheapens the cost of the procedure but increases the risk of a tear of the flap. So one could save money by not replacing the blade and taking a chance on customer dissatisfaction (with a longer healing time and higher chance of infection.) So in this instance putting money aside to replace materials improves your chances of a successful operation. But, this happens in many industries. Tires have to be replaced in auto racing. Sandpaper has to be replaced in carpentry. Sprinklers have to be changed in landscaping. But of course, cutting the costs of any of these items increases hazards, shoddy products or water waste. Have you ever seen a lack of reinvestment in your industry?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Last Read: Neuromancer

It is rather intriguing that my interest in 'cyberpunk' started way back at the end of high school yet it would take me well over a decade later to read William Gibson's Neuromancer. I actually remember gathering with a few friends to play a roleplaying game (ala Dungeons & Dragons) based on the world created in several of these novels. Heck, I was also really excited in 1993 when Billy Idol released his Cyberpunk album (which included the video for "Shock To The System" which gave a nod to the genre -- yet wasn't critically hailed with guitarist Steve Stevens not part of the project and Wendy and Carnie Wilson adding background vocals.)

With a lot of doubts going in, the book was actually a pretty quick read. I could see many people, that were reading it when it was released in 1984, getting lost in the technological terms. I was also amazed at the uses of the words "cyberspace" and "matrix" which of course have broader appeal today yet mean pretty much what they were intended. (Actually, there is a very interesting breakdown of the similarities between Neuromancer and The Matrix which is worth viewing.) Also noteworthy was the mention of Johnny Mnemonic. Yes, it seems that Gibson wove the character of Molly Millions into a trilogy of stories about the seedy futuristic area called the Sprawl... including this one. If you remember the name, Johnny Mnemonic, you may also recall the 1995 movie starring Keanu Reeves. That may be the only negative that I had about the book as I could not separate the character of Case in the book from the thought of Keanu Reeves (the description just fit him.) Overall, very good book and one that I'm a little shocked they haven't attempted to convert to film (as the video game in 1988 stank and looked more like Leisure Suit Larry.) Here's hoping that I find a few more books that I may have bypassed that excite my imagination.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Doomsday Vault

There has always been a fear of the annihilation of humankind. Plague, global war, global cooling, global warming, judgment day, etc. But, what if not everyone perishes? It seems that a lot of other people have considered this.

As we speak Norway has broken ground on the doomsday vault. If the seeds of all the world's plant life (some 3 million is what they expect) were able to be housed as a form of Noah's Ark, maybe survivors could revive them at a later date. Kind of reminds me of the Lost World idea and maybe a vault containing DNA from many animal species can also be held for future generations. Anyhow, my question to you is: If there was only one herb that you could keep from disappearing from existence, what would it be?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day '06

Happy Father's Day to all that it applies to. Looks like I'll be joining my family at Lindo Michaocan (I probably mentioned the terrific Mexican restaurant to you before) to celebrate.

Went over to Dad's yesterday to help get his Tivo working (it had trouble getting an update but I think we have it fixed now.) It actually was a pretty good day. We made some chicken tacos, ate pistachio nuts and dropped off some flowers for someone he knows at the hospital. Sometimes, I do really miss living there at the house with him. It'll be 3 years since I moved into this house in about 2 months. I still can't believe that it took me moving in with him back then for me to me to understand him and consider him my friend. I guess as bad as some child-parent relationships can be, they can improve with time and maturity. I'll stop by his house on the way to dinner just to make sure we fixed everything yesterday and see if he wants a ride.

Meanwhile, yesterday I set up a new MySpace page. You see, I had one set up for networking and music information gathering but I had several personal friends that wished to keep in touch. So, I decided to to set up the new page but don't expect the little blog on there to overtake this one. Just a way to separate business and pleasure.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Life Update - 061606

Remember several months back how I looked longingly at the gym being built just blocks away from my house? It opened... months ago and I've been timid about going in there. I think some of it is: If I wake up at noon-ish, is it better to go to the gym then or after work (1 am)? This and pure laziness have been on my mind as I pass the amazing complex daily on my way to work. So today I threw caution and calories to the wind as I walked through the doors with my trusty iPod. I had the tourist gaze working (stopping in the most inappropriate spot and heaving my head to and fro to take in my surroundings) as I made my way to the cardio area. After 45 minutes over there, I headed over to the weights for another 15 minutes. This is my new start. Now to create a habit of it.

I was also made aware by my neighbors that someone was shot while refusing to give up her purse across the street from my house... directly across the street. I heard a little bit about it yesterday as I was running off to work, getting the mail and talking to someone on the phone. So today, after the workout, I decided to get the whole story. The lady will be in the hospital for a week. I just worry about her 11 year-old daughter who saw the whole thing and is staying at her grandparents house with her brother until things calm down. When things do, I'd like to drop some food off or ask if there is anything I can help with.

Been eating healthier. My Tivo picked up a show on FitTV talking about the revamp of the food pyramid. So, I'm working on eating more carrots, peas, cantaloupe, whole grains, brown rice and smaller portions. So far so good. More Triscuits, less Pringles. More peanuts, less gummi/cinnamon bears. The hardest part will be working this into whatever is available to eat at work but so far, so good.

Mom's recovery is going well. It's amazing to listen to someone all your life and tell the difference between how they are feeling just by noticing changes in their voice. For so long, my mother has been going through health issues and after her latest hernia surgery her voice is perceptibly higher, lighter, livelier and ready the new day. I think Mom has rediscovered herself and this can only lead to good things to come. I'm extremely proud of her.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Martin Math: On The Road

You've been hit over the head since Monday with the name Ben Roethlisberger. Yes, he's the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Yes, the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers' first round draft pick was also first quarterback to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. I also know that right now people are still saying how idiotic it was for him to have been riding his motorcycle like he normally does -- without a helmet (which isn't against the law in Pittsburgh.)

What I'd like to talk about are car accidents. I have figured that I've been at the wheel for 4 or 5 in my life. Automobiles tend to be the most standard and safest vehicle on the road excluding NASCAR which in my mind gives them a fair risk factor. So in Martin Math (5 accidents times 1 risk factor divided by 6570 days of driving,) I can find my daily chance of getting in an accident (.0761%). Of course, I don't see myself increasing my risk factor by driving a motorcycle. Cyclists often get lost in blind spots easily, ride between cars lanes, ignore posted speed limits and sometimes use the breakdown lane as a place to show off the art of the wheelie. No wonder why they often say they aren't respected on the road by other vehicles. But even with my percentage chance of getting in an accident being that low, I probably will have another accident in my life and probably wouldn't want to go through it without the safety of a seatbelt/airbags/windshield... then again, I don't make millions of dollars a year either.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Setting A Date For Swift Justice

Whether you've listened to him or seen him before, the picture you see is of R. Kelly. I'd like to think that he is staring at a throng of reporters wanting to know why it has taken over 4 years for him to go to trial for 14 counts of child pornography and having sex with a girl who may have been as young as 13. I doubt that was the case though. I'm sure it was a publicity photo for one of the 5 studio albums that he released (2002's Best Of Both Worlds, 2003's Chocolate Factory, 2003's Happy People/U Saved Me, 2004's Unfinished Business and 2005's TP.3 Reloaded) or 2 compilations (2003's The R. In R&B Collection Vol. 1 and Remix City Vol. 1) since the charges first surfaced in February of 2002. Yet, I'm not disturbed by the money he has made since the charges on album sales or tour ticket sales.

What I do find a bit unsettling is that a trial date has still not been set. I can't remember if I've seen the heavily downloaded video which spawned the original lawsuit but that could be because it is taking prosecutors longer to bring this case to trial than Def Leppard takes to record a studio album. I personally don't know if he is guilty or not but leaving it in the public consciousness for so long creates a stigma (which hasn't hurt his record sales) that may make trying him in court more difficult. But, let's put this another way. Michael Jackson turned himself in, was put on trial and cleared of charges all between R. Kelly's 2002 arrest and now. Oddly enough Kelly worked with Jackson on the yet to be released charity single, "I Have This Dream," for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Although through our rights we are granted a "quick and speedy trial," I am left to wonder how long one should have to wait for redemption or conviction in front of a jury of their peers. Then again, I haven't heard R. Kelly complain.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Cold-filtered Inebriation

You have to love thermochromic ink. Think about it. How often have you grabbed a canned beverage and thought "this isn't as cold as I hoped." Essentially, this new area in design for the classic aluminum can has been out for about a year but I haven't seen many companies make good use of it. If you look at the photo on the right, one can of Coors is cold enough to drink and the other isn't -- this is noted by the color of the little mountain at the bottom of the can. I mean, no one wants a warm beer (unless you are desperate or in college) but most want a consistent level of freshness. There is also another reason why I mention this.

You see, I tend to fall back on Coors Light when I'm drinking. Sure, I like many other beers and some wines but I actually like the taste of a good cold Coors Light. And the process for brewing beer at the Coors brewery is "a unique cold filtering and sterile-fill system that stabilizes the beer at its freshest point without heating it by pasteurization." Remember all the Coors commercials where they rave about "ice cold Coors" or the Coors train seemingly bringing snow with it? There's a reason. You see, heat pasteurization kills the good bacteria fermenting the beer. (I was lucky to taste a beer right from a brewery prior to the heating and cooling... it is amazingly much tastier than the end product.) Coors just brings it to a very low temperature so it remains inactive. Early on this method limited growth of the chain nationally as it needed to be distributed cold also... and possibly another good reason for them to consider that little temperature guide on the can. Did I mention that they were the first to introduce the two-piece all-aluminum beverage can in 1959? Personally, I will only grab mine from the store refrigeration unit. I do need to look to see if some stores actually sit some of the cases out in displays (which would kind of ruin temperature control.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Interactive: Not My Job, Man

I was reading a book recently and stumbled upon an interesting statistic. Essentially, when we hit 45 years of age we are entering our prime earning potential years. By that time, the average wage earner has held about 9 jobs. I thought about it for awhile and I'm right in there (a bit early in my life, though.) Dishwasher, cook, tennis pro, security, bus person, casino change person, car rental runner, valet person, auto detailer, head of computer-operations, belldesk relief supervisor, hotel employee... I'm sure there are many others that I can't think of at this moment.

I've talked about entry-level/minimum wage jobs before. But, what I find interesting are those that don't take the skills they learn in those first jobs off into another position somewhere else. Sure, if they do well in their position, they will be promoted from within (I call promotions new jobs as they require new or extra responsibilities.) So, today I thought that I'd ask you: How many jobs have you held so far?