Tag Archive for Not Sarcasm

Could you do this?

No Cell Phone, No Facebook, No Computer Access, No Wifi For 3 Months & You Get $3 Million, Could you do this?

Challenge Accepted!

Recently I saw a very interesting post on Facebook, a text image as that seems to be the norm these days.

At face value I don’t see anything difficult in this.

In the stream of comments someone included using the computer for work. Yup, I still could do this and it’s not because I don’t use a computer at my job, I do… A lot. As in every minute other than in a meeting in another room.

All the while I’m using my phone to listen to music or podcasts. Use of my phone starts and continues on my commutes to and from work while I ride the bus. Then, when at home I generally hop onto my desktop, laptop, tablet, or Nintendo to play games or code some personal stuff while the TV is on. I’d say I’m connected, but I could do this.

I believe the true idea includes no laptops, desktops, tablets, phones, game consoles, or even TVs – smart or not. Yeah, I could still do this.

If the intent of this meant all computers this proves difficult as to live without computers includes: most cars, paying with debit/credit cards, grabbing cash from the ATM (but you still could get cash from the banker I suppose as they are using the computer), etc.

So where would I have to draw the line? In my mind I was getting down to the nitty gritty, stuff people may not realize have computers like alarm clocks, microwaves, refrigerator… Oh crap, food! I gotta keep my food safe to eat. But after thinking about it I could still do it by eating lots of vegetables (I prefer most of them raw anyway), some breads, and meats I pick up (after riding my bike to the store) and cook immediately on my pretty basic grill.

The only catch I came up with, I would need up to a month to transition my duties at work to another person as I would not leave them high and dry.

Take away: As the great Barney Stinson would say ‘Challenge Accepted!’

USPS Saturday Solution

Every few years I hear in the new how the Post Office needs reform because it’s in the red, going in the red, or can’t get out of the red. The only ‘solutions’ I ever hear are closing post offices permanently and/or close on Saturday – close post offices, stop delivery, etc. Closing post offices will help, but by itself it’s not enough, and there is always a bunch of whining about which offices to close. The ‘Saturday’ solution isn’t enough as it will just delay more drastic measures needed later.

I have three particular ways the Post Office can cut costs and compete with the non-government-aligned delivery services. And no, I don’t have exact figures because I have no desire to do the research.

The first is to stop the defined benefits pension plan and move to a defined contribution pension plan (e.g. a 401(k) vs. a traditional pension). Then, once in the black, the USPS would be allowed to offer 401(k) matching as an incentive.

Many municipalities have passed laws to change their pension programs such that all new employees have to actually contribute or the organization say it will contribute X and be done with it. Those with the current plans keep them. Perhaps some people can figure out an equitable way to convert current defined benefit to defined contribution plans, but that would be a bonus to this idea.

Immediate savings: minimal. This is more of a long-term fix.

My second idea is a ‘Saturday’ solution, not to close offices on Saturdays or stop delivery on Saturday, but to cut residential delivery to just Saturday. Post offices would keep their current Monday through Saturday hours.

I don’t know about most people but I don’t send much mail. And the majority of mail I do receive I can do without or get all at once. Of the mail I do receive, 10-15% is actually for me or my wife – letters, bills, magazines, or packages. Everything else is either a catalog (just because I ordered from you once it doesn’t mean I need a regular mailing), promotions from business I am a customer of, postal patron mass mailings, or some other form of junk mail.

All bills I’ve ever received could easily have waited until Saturday to be delivered and the next Saturday to be sent. Currently, however, most of my bills I get are electronically paid. For the few I still receive in paper form there is no need for me to turn it around in less than a week.

As a residential customer if I need to send something out on a Tuesday I see no reason I shouldn’t have to take my mail to the Post Office, FedEx, UPS, DHL, or whomever else is in the delivery service. Some people even have the unusual luxury of postal service pickup at work.

Immediate and long-term savings: employee count, gas use, wear and tear on vehicles, actual number of vehicles needed.

My third idea is for business delivery to be cut to Monday through Friday. It only drops one day from their route, but what would they get in six days that they wouldn’t get in five?

As many bills are paid digitally or automatically they aren’t waiting for a large portion of money. And, considering mail is delivered faster now than it ever has been before, they won’t miss that sixth day of delivery.

Immediate and long-term savings: employee count, gas use, wear and tear on vehicles.

The most difficult part will be the downsizing. As I’m not a total cold-hearted jerk I suggest using natural attrition to initially get the employee count down. Unfortunately, natural attrition likely won’t get the employee count down fast enough, so other measures would need to be taken. Companies do this all the time, so there are ways to do it.

Take away: “When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight”*, there are options: FedEx, UPS, etc.

* FedEx, circa 1978-1983

You Went to MIT… Big Deal

Several years ago I learned MIT has some video learning courses you can watch without paying the tuition. And, as I’m kind of a nerd I decided to watch some of them. Which ones? A finance master-level class, solid state chemistry, principles of chemical science, and a few others.

I’ll admit I don’t comprehend everything said as I’m not paying full attention – so it’s just as if I were there – but I’m also not reading the book, studying, or going for a degree so it doesn’t really matter. In one of the classes a multiple choice question was asked, with equivalent answers:

Q: Which of these equations equal 1?
a. 2 – 1
b. 2 / 2
c. 0 + 1
d. 5 + 6 – 10
e. a, b, and c are correct
f. a, b, c, and d are correct

Of course the question was much harder, it is college. Results… 30% of the students said e and 58% of the students said f. The teacher felt that because e is a subset of f, that most of the students got it correct. But doesn’t selecting e imply that d is incorrect?

Following her logic, as a, b, c, and d are each correct and if you add up the responses to a, b, c, d, e, and f everyone technically got it correct; the only way to not get the question correct would be to either not answer it or writing in your own answer (um, not an option in multiple choice).

For multiple choice questions I was always told to choose the ‘most correct’ answer when compared to others. In my example a, b, c, and d are all as correct as each other, e is more correct because you recognize several are the correct answer (though, implying one is incorrect), and f is even more correct than e because you recognize all are correct.

Heck, when I took Calculus in college I had quizzes with five questions I had to take regularly. We never have ‘All of the Above’ as an option, just three to five options and sometimes a ‘None of the Above’. The catch? We had to select ALL answers which were correct. That means solving the problem, and then solving each answer to see if they were equivalent to the problem. If I got two of the three options correct I still missed the problem.

Take away: it’s OK to tell students they’re wrong if they don’t give a full answer.

Thanksgiving Travel Pains

As I watched the news last night there was the normal discussion of traffic due to the holiday. But it’s not just from the number of vehicles – cars or aircraft – but also because of ice cold rain or snow. I’ve come up with two possible solutions to ease Thanksgiving traffic.

The first is by far the easiest: change the month of Thanksgiving to a warmer month, perhaps August when there isn’t anything else really going on. The same amount of people will be on the road or in the air, but no ice rain or snow. Bonus: as most kids are out of school families can travel across multiple days vs. a mad dash on Wednesdays. This leads to a second bonus of slightly lower airfares!

The second solution is a bit more complex and takes the spirit away… Each state is assigned a particular week in November for Thanksgiving. This leads to less traffic per week and possibly cheaper airfares, however, if your families live in states whose Thanksgivings don’t match up then planning would not be fun.

Take away: when trying to sell one solution, give a second more convoluted solution and people will flock to the first.

Online Dating

A coworker recently said, with some reservation, that he is doing online dating. Five or so years ago when I asked my best friend how he met his girlfriend at the time, he was hesitant to admit it was via online dating.

Some odd years ago people thought it was odd if you met your significant other at a bar or a club, but why not? It’s no different than meeting them at church or the gym. That is, you’re both [likely] participating in an activity you enjoy. If anything, I find it odd if you met your sigificant other just walking down the street or standing in line at the coffee shop.

Internet dating opens up the dating pool to someone who could be perfect for you and lives two minutes away (and you never bump into each other or do but don’t talk) or on the other side of town or, for the really adventurous, another city or state. Online dating increases the chances you’ll meet someone with the same interests and views as you but your lives just wouldn’t ‘naturally’ intersect.

Granted, this means your match would have to be on the same dating site as you, which is no different than going to the same church, the same bars/clubs (on the same night), the same gym (at the same time), etc.

I understand the stigma around online dating, but I don’t see why my best friend was nervous to tell me that. Not only do I see nothing wrong with online dating, I think it’s the greatest thing to happen to dating since… ever. If I weren’t married I guarantee you I would try online dating.

I would even try speed dating at least once, but I don’t think it lends itself well to my high-functioning aspergers[1]. It’s the multiple 3-5 minute conversations with someone new.

Take away: it doesn’t matter how or where you meet your better half, just that you meet your better half.

[1] As diagnosed by my wife (she has a BSN).