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Free phone Fri, Sep 30, 2005
I think it's funny how we as dumb people are totally consumed by offers for free things and mail-in rebates.  I'm, of course, no exception.  I always look for deals.  What's even funnier is the fact that we actually believe that something's free.  Have we forgotten TNSTAAFL?  Take cell phones, for example.  There's always a great deal on cell phones when you sign up for a new 2-year plan.  If you've ever looked at buying a brand new cell phone before your 2-year agreement was up, you'd realize how good this deal really is.  You can't get a cell phone without a plan for less than $100.  You can't even get a used one for that price.  But somehow, when we sign up for a 2-year contract, we get a free phone.  Here's what really happens:  that $200-$300 for that brand new camera flip-phone goes directly to your bill.  You say, "No it doesn't.  I pay exactly what the offer says:  XX dollars per month with XX thousand minutes."  You're right.  But the cost of those phones is factored into this monthly price even before you sign up.  So instead of paying reasonable prices for something like low-quality, unreliable cell phone service, we're forced to pay a minimum of $40 a month (if we're lucky).  But don't worry, you get 5000 minutes with that.  I don't friggin' care.  (Random math proof:  If there are 30 days in a month, 24 hours a day, and 60 minutes per hour, that's a total of 43,200 minutes per month.  There are about 8 days of weekends in a month.  That's 11,520 minutes.  There are 9 hours of "nights" for each weekday.  That's 11,880 minutes.  So in any given month, there are about 19,800 minutes of talking time that you can be charged for.  If you used all 5000 minutes on a cell phone plan, you would have talked on the phone for about one-quarter of the total amount of time available, not including nights and weekends.)  I'd much rather pay half that price for half the number of minutes.  Heck, I'd pay $30/month if I could get a reasonable amount of minutes (I know T-Mobile has this; their network isn't big enough).  The other humorous part about this is that we think, "Wow, Motorola is so nice.  They give away free phones."  Wrong.  No company would give anything away for free.  You could say it's because they're big, heartless machines who chew people up and spit them out.  But it also makes all the sense in the world to not give things away for free.  That's how profits work.  But I have to direct my anger towards something, so I'll choose the thing that has the least chance of finding out and coming to beat me up.  "I hate you VerizonCingularT-MobileMotorolaSamsungMicrosoft and I only use your stupid service because it's convenient.  As soon as something better comes along, I'll drop you in a heartbeat." #technology

Weird noise maker Fri, Sep 30, 2005
Along the same lines as long talker, loud breather, close talker, and man hands, I have yet another addition:  weird noise maker.  Many places I go, there's invariably a person sitting next to me who makes weird noises or does something strange.  There's a guy in my grad class who intermittently makes some sort of throaty, guttural noise.  I would feel bad for him, but I think it's intentional.  I mean I think he's doing it to clear his throat or breath through his ears or something.  But I don't really think he's clearing his throat because he doesn't make that "Sorry I make weird noises, I have an esophagus inflammation and I'll die if I don't make weird noises" face.  So I'm forced to stare inquisitively at him every time he does it, just in case I can somehow deduce what exactly he's doing. #psychology

Advertising part 2 Fri, Sep 30, 2005
I found this article about an interview with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, concerning advertising. 
Bezos:  Amazon is well positioned to offer a low-priced service of high quality, and we wouldn't have to pay heavy marketing fees.

In fact, this is a general thing that we've done that has been very helpful to our business. About three years ago we stopped doing television advertising. We did a 15-month-long test of TV advertising in two markets - Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis - to see how much it drove our sales. And it worked, but not as much as the kind of price elasticity we knew we could get from taking those ad dollars and giving them back to consumers. So we put all that money into lower product prices and free shipping. That has significantly accelerated the growth of our business.

WiredIs this a trend?
Bezos:  Yes, more and more money will go into making a great customer experience, and less will go into shouting about the service. Word of mouth is becoming more powerful. If you offer a great service, people find out.

WiredIn the magazine world, we rely on ads. Should we be terrified?
Bezos:  I'm not saying that advertising is going away. But the balance is shifting. If today the successful recipe is to put 70 percent of your energy into shouting about your service and 30 percent into making it great, over the next 20 years I think that's going to invert.
Now that makes me happy.  Here's a guy who's the head of an unbelievably successful company, and he's talking about not advertising on TV.  Instead, he would opt to put his money into lower prices and free shipping.  Will you marry me, Jeff Bezos? #entertainment

Productive Fri, Sep 30, 2005
My boss at my old job used to say that he wouldn't leave his desk unless he had at least 3 things to do.  That way he would maximize his productivity.  Like he wouldn't go to the bathroom unless he had 2 other things to do along the way.  That sounded kinda crazy at the time, and now it sounds absolutely absurd.  I didn't know if I'd eventually become like him, but now it looks like I definitely won't.  I'll leave my desk for the sole purpose of finding something to do.  I don't need a reason.  I'll come up with one. 

I used to do the whole "I'm important because I'm carrying something" thing at work.  I've found that it's extremely successful in all working environments.  Just get a clipboard or a folder with some papers and carry it around with you.  It always looks like you're doing something.  It's better than that person who walks around with nothing in their hands.  It looks like they're just walking around to find someone to talk to or to use the bathroom (unproductive). 

Every job I've had is all about "milking" (some say "melking") a job so that it takes longer than it needs to.  That's just how things work.  Some days will be really busy, but other days will be completely void of work.  So you have to learn how to "pace" yourself, i.e. work slow enough to eat up a bunch of time, while still keeping the appearance of being productive. #business

ING Thu, Sep 29, 2005
ING Direct is the best thing on the face of the earth in the history of anything.  I've never been more satisfied with an apparent scam in my entire life.  Here's what they offer:  an online savings account with a 3.40% APY; no fees, no minimum balance requirements, no catches.  Seriously.  There's probably some sort of overdraft fee, but I haven't encountered that yet.  But I know from experience that all the other things are true.  And the savings rate has increased 6 times and by 1.05% since the beginning of the year. 

It's a pretty good deal, but it's not like you'll make thousands of dollars in interest.  You'll probably make around $10-$50 per month, depending on how much is in your account.  But when you're too scared to invest in the stock market and want easy access to your savings account, this is the way to go. 

If anyone's interested, I can refer you, and you get $25 and I get $10.  Once again, there's no catch. #money

Under God Thu, Sep 29, 2005
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy and originally read, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  In 1924, the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution changed the Pledge's words, "my Flag" to "the Flag of the United States of America".  In 1953, the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic men's group, campaigned to add the words "under God" to the Pledge.  On June 14, 1954, it was signed into law. (link)

On that note, I'm not surprised that people want to take the words "under God" out of the Pledge.  They weren't there to begin with, and they were added during a time of national fear and patriotism.  And who recites the Pledge?  Kids.  So a lot of parents don't want their kids to feel obligated to say something that the parents don't believe. 

And when you think about it, it's just not true:  we're not a nation under God.  We might have been at one point, but even that's questionable.  And even though the vast majority of people in our country claim to be Christians, it doesn't mean they actually are.  This is because the idea of a "Christian" has changed from being a follower of Christ to believing in an idea.  Belief in an idea doesn't define a person.  Actions and words do.  So when we recite things that make us claim that we're "under God," it understandably makes people uncomfortable.  So in a sense, I'm glad people want to remove these words from the Pledge.  At least they recognize that their words don't reflect what they believe. 

At the same time, I have to admit that I'm at least slightly unhappy that we're removing God from our schools altogether.  It's just another reason for me to send my kids to a Christian school or home-school them.  We'll see. #religion

Puddles Wed, Sep 28, 2005
The best part of my day occurs as I'm driving out of my place of work.  I drive past some buildings right next to mine and I drive through a little parking lot that almost always has a big puddle in it.  So I speed up to about twice the speed limit and splash the puddle all over the place.  Then I swerve back and forth so that I leave a funny water trail.  This is the best part of my day.  How did I get a driver's license? #travel

Blogger Wed, Sep 28, 2005
I used to use Blogger.  It's a really cool idea, and it's really simple.  The problem is that it uses a clumsy system to publish individual files, meaning that each time you make a change to a template, the entire site must be republished.  Google bought Blogger in 2002 from Pyra Labs (Meg Hourihan).  The reason I mention this is because Google is the best company in the history of the universe.  I drink the Google Kool-Aid.  And I think Google will eventually change Blogger to put themselves in a position to take over yet another sector of the internet market.  They either need to do something with a database and stuff like that, or they need to reinvent the whole personal publishing machine.  I'm sure it'll be cool. #technology

Advertising Wed, Sep 28, 2005
What's the deal with advertising?  Although I absolutely hate how it clutters up websites and slows down internet connections, I have to admit that it's an unbelievably successful business.  As long as there are big fat companies who like to dish out money in the hopes of gaining new clients and users, advertising will be a successful industry. 

But what I don't get is how advertising is successful.  I understand the big ones like car companies, cell phone companies, internet service providers, etc.  But the overwhelming majority of the ads I see are for unfathomably stupid things like "What's your Credit Score?" ... "Deep Discounts for Military" ... "Refinance Now.  4 Free Quotes!" ... "Get Cash or Fly - 0% Intro APR".  Ok, so maybe I'm interested in checking out my credit score.  But I can do that for free!  So how is there any money being made?  Or maybe I'm interesting in a 0% APR credit card offer.  But when I click on the link, I'm sent to some no-name credit card or financial company, at which point I go to someone a little more reputable. 

So obviously we have a problem here.  I know I don't click on these links or pay for any viable service from these advertisers.  So who does?  IDIOTS.  ABSOLUTE IDIOTS.  And they're everywhere.  It's your neighbor who just got a computer.  It's your dad who just retired.  It's your friend's grandma who just learned what a computer is.  These are the people that are fueling the advertising industry. 

So the next time you're not exactly happy with all the ads on the internet, thank your local idiot. #entertainment

Tags, labels, categories (1) Wed, Sep 28, 2005
Flickr, del.icio.us, and Technorati tags.  GMail labels.  WordPress categories.  I think the future of operating systems and file storage is with this method, hereby known as TLC (tags/labels/categories).  The major advantage of this method of organization is that a user doesn't need to store a file is just one folder.  Many different labels can apply to a single file.  For example, let's say I have some financial information stored in some Excel files.  Instead of organizing my files like this:  c:DocumentsPersonalFinance and c:DocumentsWorkFinance, I can just assign tags to the files such as personal, work, finance, excel, etc.  Now when I'm looking for my financial files, I can opt to show all files with the "finance" tag.  This would show all my financial files, both personal and work-related.  Or maybe I want to keep personal and work separate, so I only show files with the tags "finance" and "personal". 

My prediction is that the next major advance in operating systems and/or file storage will be with this.  And I have a feeling Google will come up with it. #technology

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