05.16.08

A chicken in every pot

Posted in at 12:50 by RjZ

That’s what politicians used to promise in the old days. They’ve gotten a bit more extravagant nowadays. Check John McCain’s latest commercial here. If you’ve got time, read the speech, then come back and see my version.

My fellow Americans, I want you to know what the United States, and the world, will look like after I am president for four years. I know that I’ll have to work with those lazy bums in congress to really make all this happen, but I am pretty sure I can make it happen. Here’s how things will look:

The world’s super powers, terrorists, and developing nations each finally conclude: ‘yeah, we really can just get along.’ World Peace. Hooray!

Thanks to my policies, we befriended aliens who’d been watching out planet for decades. They have traded in their anal probes and are sharing advanced technology to solve our energy problems. Hooray!

With all the money we’re saving by not fighting any new wars (remember, World Peace), public school teachers are finally paid enough to attract and keep the finest educators. Smarter kids are developing new flying cars that emit zero greenhouse gases. Hooray.

FHM magazine’s sexiest woman of 2008 realized I am irresistible and started flirting with me on my blog. All the attention was embarrassing so I had to block her.

Yup, my fellow Americans, that’s the way it’s gonnal be in four years after I am elected president. Clearly, my vision for America is much better than that McCain fellow, so, vote for me, won’t you?

I figure if a world of wishful thinking will work for McCain, then it ought to work for me. And, if you’re reading this, Ms. Fox, don’t worry, I won’t block your comments.

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05.14.08

Whom will you please?

Posted in Society at 16:42 by RjZ

What’s the best way to run a business? Is running a business about pleasing customers or making money? I think every business person worth their 401K retirement plan would not be able to ignore making money. You can’t please customers for long if you’re broke. Many would say that pleasing customers is the only way to make money, and from a marketing perspective, I’d agree. You’ve got to fulfill some need or want so that people will trade their money in for your product or service. If you’ve successfully met that need or want, well, you’ve got a satisfied customer. Except the question becomes a little stickier when the business we’re talking about is a publicly traded company.

Publicly traded companies have two kinds of customers. Consumers, who trade that money to have their needs or wants satisfied, and investors, stock owners, who make money (a need or a want) only when the company’s stock grows. I think this is what’s happening with Yahoo vs. Microsoft. Yahoo chief, Jerry Yang has rejected bids from Microsoft, claiming his company is worth more than the tendered offer. We won’t know if that’s true until the Yahoo’s stock climbs above $31 per share. It’s around $27 at time of writing.

Meanwhile, investors are going nuts. They see an opportunity for each $27 share to gain four bucks over night and, let’s face it, Microsoft and Yahoo make a pretty reasonable pair. Microsoft (still) owns the desktop market, they rule the server and business world, but they’ve failed time again expanding their business into the internet. Yahoo, on the other hand is second only to Google in search and still has the biggest market share of banner ads. Their web 2.0 application such as Yahoo Mail are excellent (much better than Gmail if you ask me). Microsoft has some pretty impressive innovations on tap (who knows if they’ll ever come to fruition) one using flickr (a Yahoo property) photos in some amazing ways. Synergies are good in business. They can mean one plus one amounts to three. Worth noting here, though, flickr, mail, and yahoo search users aren’t really Yahoo’s customers; they don’t pay the bills. Advertisers are Yahoo’s customers.

So, yeah, I get it. Except I don’t (directly) own any Yahoo or Microsoft stock and from where I sit, I feel for Mr. Yang. How is Microsoft’s culture going to blend with Yahoo’s? What value will the consumer see as a result of this merger? Even the flickr innovation I mentioned above likely works nearly as well with two separate companies (flickr’s APIs are available.) Microsoft hasn’t done much for me lately. New versions of office seem little improved from the older ones (understatement) and companies are resisting Vista like it was the black plague.

I’m not sure the merger does much of anything for pleasing customers. Which brings us back to the opening question. Easy for me to say, no shares and all, but while we read about investor revolt as Mr. Yang and his board walk away from some easy money, it seems worth asking again: what’s the best way to run a business? Isn’t it customers who ultimately pay the bills, even in publicly traded companies.

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05.09.08

Inspiring technology?

Posted in at 8:12 by RjZ

What an amazing little device. With the processing power of an eighties era mainframe, and a multi-billion dollar satellite system backing it up, this new wrist mounted fitness coach is going to propel me to new heights!

When I moved to hiking and rock climbing Mecca: Boulder, Colorado, I promptly realized that, if I was going to take advantage of it all, I was going to need some work. After living just above sea-level for a few years, I picked up running so that I could manage the hiking at altitude. Eventually I found hobbies that didn’t hurt so much but after not one but two sprained ankles last year (maybe the new plan wasn’t so good after all) and an unmistakeable sign of age: a back problem, it had been a while since I’d actually pretended to do any exercise.

This season, I started early and was feeling pretty good about myself. My pace on a local 10 K trail was slowly improving and was already pretty admirable. I was starting to think maybe I might be able to keep up with, maybe, someone else; or, even pass someone on a trail sometime. Alright, that last part is just wishful thinking, but running supposedly releases all these endorphins, so that’s my excuse.

Gadget lust and a 40% off sale at the local outdoor store were just the gentle nudge I needed for me to pick up a nifty little GPS watch that could track my pace, heart rate, elevation, calories, distance, location, and maybe leading economic indicators. You’re thinking silly toy. I prefer to think of it as inspiring technology.

So I strapped on the heart rate monitor, cinched up the wrist strap and hit the trail. Things didn’t start out so well. It seems the smart-ass little computer insisted that my pace wasn’t exactly as fast I had thought it was. Maybe I was a bit tired after the bike-ride the day before. (Did I mention that crazy watch told me I was about to die during the ride? It warned me that my “heart rate was too high.” It wasn’t for once; I was coasting downhill and the monitor lost contact somehow.)

Huffing and puffing along, the nagging little wristwatch suddenly squeaked “it’s a been a mile!” A mile? that’s it? I’ve been running for a while already it must have been more than a mile. Doesn’t matter, I’ll check it all out on the computer when I get back. Just keep running. I pass by the trail sign which claims I’ve gone 2.4 miles, but this moronic ‘fitness computer’ seems to think I’ve passed just two.

On my way back and my legs are getting stiff but for some reason, this lying piece of silicrap on my wrist seems to think that was only five miles, instead over six like the nice sign said. I finished the run. It wasn’t my best run, slower than usual (the damn watch made sure I didn’t forget that!) But the real problem is that my race worth pace wasn’t looking so impressive. If this path really is five miles instead of six, then running it in under an hour isn’t all that big of a deal.

When I got homе, I plugged the lying bastard GPS into the computer to investigate. 5.1 miles. I uploaded the data to another program. 5.1 miles. There it is. I’d been living a lie. Sweet delicious lie where I am fast and athletic. Six miles in under fifty minutes is pretty good. Five miles in the same time isn’t. How is this going to inspire me? No wonder it was on sale! Stupid evil technology. Mean, rotten, GPS wristwatch says all the panting is for nothing and I’ll never get faster. The watch lies I tell you, it lies.

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