What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. One Day Shipping. I have no idea why Amazon even pretends to offer items for “one day shipping” any more. Of the last three items I’ve purchased that touted this speedy service, exactly none of them arrived when “expected.” When I’ve been lucky, the items may have shipped by the expected arrival date… although one of those never arrived at all and had to be reshipped, arriving a full week after I ordered it. At one time, Amazon was practically synonymous with “logistics,” but mostly now I think they just make shit up as they go along.

2. Anti-intellectualism. America has a long history of anti-intellectualism. I could give you someone examples, but since we’re currently living through one of them, I’ll save you the trip down our collective memory lane and hope that you’ll just accept that I’m telling you the truth. Maybe the space program in the 60s was an exception, but I suspect that was more because those with the right stuff were billed as test pilots rather than engineers – though in many cases they were both. I know the historical backstory of why Americans have a long tradition of hating the smart people in the room, but I’ll never quite understand why we can’t get the hell over it. 

3. Peak savings days. Local electric companies are quick to hand out a few pennies savings for those who are willing to swelter a bit as afternoon temperatures hover in the mid-90s. All that really tells me is that increasingly, the local electric grid hasn’t been built out to meet actual demand for its product. Personally, I’d prefer to pay them a few pennies more during off-peak times so they can build a bit of excess capacity rather than sweating all the way through high summer. A little personal comfort feels like something well worth paying for, but maybe that’s just me.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. No paper towels. I’m all for environmental responsibility where it makes sense. I recycle. I’m replacing all the light bulbs in my house with LEDs. The new water heater I installed is ridiculously efficient (and has the price tag to match). Some things, though, are beyond the pale. I know that keeping old fashioned paper towels in your public restrooms is a hassle. They’re expensive, they end up all over the floor, and they become bags and bags of trash to be disposed of… even knowing that, I just don’t care. All I want to do after taking a wiz is wash my hands and be able to dry them. The underpowered, barely functional “hot air dryer” just doesn’t cut it since I don’t have 43 minutes to thoroughly dry my hands each time I used the facilities. Public restrooms are an unfortunate necessity. I don’t expect them to be gold plated but for the love of Pete, I’d like to be able to dry my hands.

2. The demand side. Given my predisposition towards fairly conservative economic principles I can safely be called something of a supply sider. Watching the US Coast Guard show off the nearly half billion dollars wort of cocaine and heroin interdicted last month, though, I’m not sure the who “drug thing” is something that we can fight principally from the supply side. As long as there’s a demand, the suppliers are going to find a means and method of supplying that demand – at an increasingly high cost on both sides. I’m not enough of a libertarian to think that flat out legalization of everything is a good idea, but it increasingly strikes me that to get after the issue with drugs means going after it on the demand side. Pouring increasingly large amounts of money into chasing the supply would seem to only garner continuingly middling results. I have no idea what the answer to the demand side is – treatment, sure, that will work in some cases. Start letting the addicts drop dead, or what I like to cheerily think of as letting Darwin have his due? OK, maybe it’s hard medicine but perhaps best in the long run if it means that subset of the population is no longer thieving and whoring and begging, which might help alleviate the impression that every city and small town in the country is well along the process of turning into a filth ridden hell hole.

3. The NFL. Stories are popping up on a number of news sites about the ratings hit the NFL has taken this year. Some sources are blaming the weather, others the rise of “activist” players. As someone who hasn’t watched a professional football game from start to finish since the late 1990s, I don’t really have a dog in the fight, but I can make a few observations. First and foremost, the NFL is a ratings driver. It’s not in danger of going out of business any time soon. With that said, the league would be well served to remember that despite the outward appearance of a nation of fierce team loyalists, the product they offer is entertainment and it’s subject to the same market forces that influence every other competitor out there trying to put their hands on viewer’s wallets. There has probably never been a time when there are more and better entertainment options available to the average American consumer than we have today. The fact that a game run by billionaires, played by millionaires, and marketed to the great swath of Americans who think of themselves as middle class is losing some of its grip on the market shouldn’t in any way be surprising. A good first step in bringing fans back into the fold would seem to be to making sure the paid performers don’t offend their viewers by dragging politics into what would otherwise be a nice mindless Sunday’s entertainment. Don’t put a stick in the eye of the people who you want to hand over enormous sums of money feels like it should be Rule #1.

The search is on…

This little project to find a new and improved Casa de Jeff is beginning to get serious. How you know it’s getting serious is I’m altering the long-established Saturday routine in order to fit in meeting with a realtor and checking out a few potential houses. Between now and then I supposed I’ll have to firm up my list of must have options and the list of things I’m willing to trade away. Right now the must have list is pretty short – 1+ acre, 3 bed, 2 bath, and not in needing a gut-to-the-studs renovation. The willing to trade list includes central air, garage, and basically everything else. I like to think I won’t be picky or overly demanding, but I think we all know that’s a pipe dream.

Judging from the few places I’ve driven past to eyeball in the last few weeks, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that the dollar doesn’t stretch as far here in the Baltimore/Philly exerbs as it did in West Tennessee. I’m doing my best to adjust my expectations on fit and finish accordingly… on the bright side for you readers, very soon you’re going to be able to play along with my little game of taking pictures inside other people’s homes and wondering what the hell they were thinking with their design and decorator choices. That’s always a treat.

In the meantime, if I seem to get in too much of a rush, feel free to remind me that there is absolutely no timeline associated with reaching mission complete on this project. The plan is mostly to keep plugging away at it and hope I know it when I see it.

Stock out…

I’ve been reading alot of articles in the last 12 hours about how strange it is that the new iPad hasn’t appeared to sell out on launch day like the previous two models have. If the lines I saw yesterday were any indication, I don’t think it says anything at all about demand for the new device. I suspect, and it’s purely my conjecture without any actual supporting evidence, that it has less to do with demand and more to do with who’s at the helm of Apple, Inc.

Steve Jobs, hallowed be his name, was a master showman. He excelled at sales and building drama surrounding every new product. Constrained supply at launch was every bit as much a marketing tool as print and television ads. Tim Cook, by contrast, is a master logistician. His specialty is filling the supply chain so that the products get to the right place, in the right quantities, at the right time. He’s spent his career doing his best to avoid stock outs, as they tend to show a point of failure in the supply chain. I’m not saying that one approach is better or worse, because either way Apple, Inc is walking away with a giant bag of cash.

As a half-assed one time logistician myself, I can certainly understand and appreciate Cook’s approach. In the long run, I suspect having the product on shelves and available to customers on demand is a superior approach to sales than cranking up the hype machine to full tilt. You’re selling an iPad, a device that almost sells itself. You might have needed the hype for v1, but now that you’re miles ahead of the competition and gaining ground, it’s all about meeting demand.

Forgive me my blasphemy, Saint Steve.