December 21, 2011

How to Make Sure You're on the Right Career Ladder

My friend Charlie once told me, "Whenever you switch jobs, make sure you're switching to a career ladder you're excited about being on."

In short, a pay raise should not be your #1 requirement with a job move. A lateral move, even one slightly downward, might make sense if it's to a ladder you actually want to be on.

His advice clarified something I had always instinctively understood. For instance, my first high school job was at a golf store. It was intentional. I thought I was going to be a marketing major in college, and thought having golf experience on my resume would be beneficial and look more professional than my friend who worked at Chuck'E Cheese.

(Note: At the time, I was under the impression that guys in marketing golfed all day. That's largely why I chose marketing. 7 years into my marketing career, I have NEVER golfed for business.)

Does your current job look great on the career ladder you want to be climbing? If not, it's time to jump to a new one.

December 19, 2011

Do Children Really Need a Middle Name?

We didn't give my daughter a middle name, because we couldn't think of a good reason to do so.

When explaining this to people, we actually heard the argument, "But, what will she fill in the blanks for 'middle name' on government documents?"

Yeah, that's not a good enough reason for me.

I understand the middle name if you're trying to honor someone (but not honor them TOO much by giving them the first name). I understand the middle name if you want to be able to call them something different when you're especially angry with them. I understand the middle name to prevent confusion if your child's name is John Smith.

But, in all likelihood, our daughter is the only Daylia Olsen in the world. And there was no reason to give her one.

December 14, 2011

Some Lines Are Worth the Wait

I sat in the waiting room for 45 minutes today - and didn't mind too much.

After all, the doctor I was waiting for is one of the nation's leading pediatric urologists - and I value his opinion tremendously, because I love my daughter. There's no real alternative, so I was happy to wait.

Now, if this wait had occurred at my dentist, or for a hair-cut, I would have been furious - or just left. The commodity/alternative value of a product or service is directly proportional to my patience in waiting for it.

For instance, when my friend Jarrett and I visited Chicago's famous gourmet hot dog stop, Hot Doug's - I actually liked waiting in a line that started outside. It validated my decision to drive there - even more than the food did.

Some lines are worth the wait.

December 12, 2011

Miracles, Reason and Tim Tebow

I like to think of myself as a man of reasonable faith. And I simply don't know what to do about this Tim Tebow thing.

The odds are simply unbelievable. 6 completely crazy come from behind wins in the past 7 games, deep in the 4th quarter, from a guy most professional analysts don't think has the talent worthy to be a backup quarterback in the NFL.

What are the odds? Well, ESPN actually ran the calculations. It's 0.0007 percent. 1 in 137,000. It's miraculous.

And that's where this gets confusing. Because one of the reasons people don't like this guy is because he talks about his faith in Christ...a lot. Like, all the time. More than preachers on Sunday

So after seeing these statistical impossibilities come out of nowhere, and happen week after week after can you not wonder?

In the same way that stories of individuals who give up their lives to build wells and spread the gospel of Christ in Africa die in plane crashes on the way there makes it difficult to believe in God, this is the kind of thing you see and are convinced God is real...and really loves his boy, Tim.

December 06, 2011

Let's Never "Agree to Disagree" Again

Agreeing to disagree means that both sides are ok with the other person leaving the conversation a moron.

As a perpetual student of the enlightenment, I find this unacceptable.

Either I'm wrong, and if so, I truly desire to be convinced otherwise.
Or you're wrong, and I need to find the right logic that triggers your head to reason.

December 05, 2011

I Trust You Blindly

This morning, I drove to work down a 2-way street. I was in one lane, going 50 mph. You were coming in the opposite direction, going 50 mph.

At any second, if you chose to, you could have instantly ended me. With a slight turn of the wheel.

Yet, I am not afraid of this. I trust you. And this whole thing only works because of that.

We trust that the morons aren't monsters.

December 02, 2011

The Arrogance of Blogging

I am forever grateful to the readers and contributors of this critical-thought community.

Because when you think about it, anyone who blogs is completely arrogant. After all, here's the rough thought process one must take before deciding to blog.
"Not only are my personal thoughts interesting enough for me to want to privately journal them - possibly reflect on them at a later time - but I am so insightful/eloquent/creative, that the world MUST have access to the depths of my mind."
And while my arrogance is no different, this blog is. This blog requires debate. Questioning. Prying. Conversation. It's the only way it works.

And together, I hope we have all become smarter because of it. I know I have. And I am grateful to you all.

Thank you.

December 01, 2011

The Most Talented Speakers Often Have Nothing Worth Saying

Vernon Smith, Nobel-Prize Winning Economist, on economist Irving Fisher; December 2011 issue of Reason Magazine
"Fisher was a very clear writer. I remember a student once asked Leontief in class why there was no school of economics built around Fisher. And Leontief said: Well, it's because he wrote so clearly - everyone could understand what he was saying." 
This is a powerful truth. Because all too often, the most brilliant people are poor communicators. And the most talented speakers have nothing to say.

But, to be both? Those are the individuals who will change the world, because they are the only ones the world can understand.

Instead, we take the "intellectual giants" and read their books over and over again, confusing their lack of brevity for brilliance.

November 29, 2011

The Incredibly Limited Selection of Sirius Radio

With my wife's new Kia Soul came a complimentary 3-month trial to Sirius radio.

I was really excited. Planned on falling in love with it.

No longer would I be limited to the personal tastes of my local radio stations. In this world of limitless channels, I would finally be able to find ones that match my eclectic taste.

I couldn't. Sirius' channel selection is incredibly small.

2 Christian stations in total. Both worse (less hipster) than my local Chicago options.
2 Indie Rock stations in total. Both worse (less hipster) than my local Chicago options.

What's going on here? How can satellite radio be so limiting? Offer so little control and personalization?

What am I looking for that I was hoping Sirius would be?

Oh...thank you, Spotify.

November 28, 2011

A Local Story That Has Left Me Shaken

This weekend, my wife and I heard a tragic story about a local home health therapist that has left me wrecked.

A home health therapist is a physical therapist who travels to people's homes for their therapy sessions, when it would be difficult for the patient to get to the clinic on their own.

When she arrived at the house in a relatively dangerous part of Joliet, she was confused for someone else, shot multiple times, and killed.

At her funeral, her 1-year old child attempted to climb into the casket, in order to be with her mother.

It is the worst story I have ever heard. It left me sobbing and shaken. And I still don't know what to do with it.

My relatively amazing circumstances have left me forgetting that monstrous things still happen - just minutes from our house.

Lord, save us.

November 23, 2011

Kindle Fire: My 1 Week Review

One week into my new Kindle Fire, I thought I'd give a hasty review - in case it influences any of you looking to grab a tablet on Black Friday.

I bought (rationalized) the Kindle Fire for the interactive books. Specifically, the trailer for Alice in Wonderland won me over. I loved the idea of my daughter interacting with books in a way I never could. I was equally excited with the educational app possibilities. In short, I think the Kindle Fire is going to be her teacher in a few years, so I wanted to get a jump on it.

The problem is that, since the Kindle Fire is so new, publishers haven't created a whole lot of awesome interactive e-book content for the Kindle Fire yet. But that's sure to come....I hope?

Until then, it's a fun toy for me to play around with while my wife is using our laptop. Streaming video (Netflix and Hulu Plus) works and looks great on it.

I assumed I was going to be reading a lot of e-books on the Kindle Fire. After all, it's a Kindle. But, the Kindle Fire uses an LCD screen, rather than the new e-ink technology that more deeply mimics a book. I personally can't read large amounts of content on a PC. And in the same way, I can't read large amounts of content on my Kindle Fire. That's a bummer I wasn't expecting.

It's not intuitive like Apple products are. It took me a little while to figure out how everything worked. I was able to figure it out eventually. So, no long-term issues. But, it's not Apple easy.

It's a cheap and more portable laptop replacement for $199.

November 22, 2011

Short Attention Spans and the Evolution of Communication

"Kids simply don't have the attention span they used to."

But, I'm not sure we're entering a new world of A.D.D. Perhaps we simply have more entertaining options.

60 years ago, the most boring radio show in the world would beat out anything else going on. 30 years ago, the most boring TV show in the world would beat out anything else going on.

Choice has forced us to compete in the way we communicate. Choice has made television better. It has made movies better. It has made books better.

Yet, we teach the same way we did 60 years ago. And we preach the same way we did 60 years ago.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in all his eloquence, couldn't command my full and undivided attention for 40 straight minutes. Who do you think you are, trying to do it?

November 21, 2011

Irrelevant Interview Questions: Where Did You Go to College?

A few years back, when Bradley University's basketball program made the NCAA Sweet 16, my resume instantly became more interesting - for a few months at least.

And Boise State's recent football success has made my friend's degree from that institution much more valuable than it was back when he graduated.

More recently, Penn State graduates from 30 years ago have been instantly downgraded, now and forever.

So, with all that bias that has no bearing on your abilities as an individual, if I'm a hiring manager, I don't want to know where you went to school.

November 18, 2011

Haiti Doesn't Want Your Free T-Shirts

Today's reminder to stop doing good stuff, and start doing great stuff comes from an article sent in by loyal reader, Chris Stapel.

Every year, before the Super Bowl, the NFL prints 100,000 Super Bowl Champion hats and sweatshirts... for what will end up being the losing team.

Those clothes end up being worthless. So each year, the NFL donates these clothes they can't rightfully sell to World Vision for global distribution - to clothe the poor. And right now, some kid in Haiti is wearing a Chicago Bears: Super Bowl 2006 champion shirt.

Awesome, right?

Here's the problem. It costs World Vision, on average, 58 cents to ship and distribute each shirt to Haiti. For less than that, World Vision could actually purchase secondhand shirts in these same developing countries. World Vision could clothe the same people, while financially supporting (rather than damaging) these local economies - all for LESS money than they're currently spending giving out stuff for free.

November 17, 2011

Going for it on 4th Down vs. Fear of Being Fired

This past week, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith decided to go for it on 4th down and a foot, deep in his own territory, rather than punting the ball away to Drew Brees and the Saints.

They didn't make it. The Saints kicked a field goal to win the game. And ever since, Mike Smith has been widely ridiculed for "not playing the odds"... even though he absolutely did.

It wasn't the odds he went against. It was public opinion. And this public opinion has been shaped by coaches trying to avoid what Mike Smith is going through right now.

You see, if Smith had punted the ball, and still lost, he wouldn't have been blamed.

You don't get fired for getting beaten. You get fired for losing. You get fired for going for it, even when it makes complete objective sense, and you fail.

And so most coaches play by those rules. More than that, most of us play by those rules, thinking our job description is "try not to get fired." We never go for it on 4th down, to ensure we'll never get in trouble for failing.

But fear is a sucky motivator. And it's time for the wusses to get fired.

November 16, 2011

Where are the Modern Day Philosophers?

Why are we still studying Plato, Aristotle and Socrates?

We've had 2,000 years to build off where these guys brought us. So, where are their successors today? Even Freud (a "modern-day" philosopher) died more than 70 years ago?

Are the modern day Platos out there, and we're simply laughing at them - only to worship them after they're dead?

November 15, 2011

I Don't See the Leaves Laughing

I don't see the leaves laughing.
I don't see in poetry anymore.
Too much non-fiction, I guess.
Now, I see cause and effect.
Victims of their own circumstance.
The romantic language of Main St. vs. Wall Street gets lost on me.
I only see the truth.
But, there was truth in the leaves laughing.
Perhaps even more of it.

November 14, 2011

Entrepreneurs, You Didn't Miss Out on Facebook.

5 years ago, after witnessing Facebook's success, I remember a couple of my friends talking about how they were going to build their own social network.

How stupid does that sound now?

The entrepreneur in us wanted to mimic Facebook. But what the entrepreneur in us should be more excited about than ever is that Facebook has already been built. The foundation has already been laid for you. Everything and everyone is already here.

It's never been easier to build whatever you want. Just do it on Facebook.

November 09, 2011

Choosing Restaurants at Random

My friend recently recommended a restaurant in China Town. Excited and intrigued, I asked how she found it?

"Oh, a few years ago, we just decided to drive down to Chinatown and randomly picked a restaurant."

By sheer odds, this is probably the worst possible way to stumble across a great restaurant.

Now, back in high school, when driving around was a top recreational activity, my friend Kevin and I used to randomly drive in a direction - and half an hour later we would start looking around trying to find a place to eat.

We thought this tactic might help else discover hidden gems. In truth, we ended up looking for any place that sold pizza, and never hit any real winners.

Today, the high school versions of us might still drive the half hour, but then pull out their phone, go on and find the best rated local restaurant based on hundreds of local reviewers. Still get the adventure. But, you increase your odds of hitting a winner.


Terrible and even mediocre restaurants are going to die out. Because getting the optimistic drive-by customer isn't going to happen anywhere. Location next to the highway is going to matter less and less. Because now I can know there's a 5-star alternative just a few blocks away.

November 07, 2011

The Future of Education Will Be Personalized

Over the last few months of posts, I have hinted about what I believe to be an upcoming revolution in traditional education. Many of you have asked me about this - what I think the future of education looks like.

More than ever, I'm convinced the future of education will be personalized.

The current classroom environment forces teachers to teach to the middle - teaching at the level that engages the most kids possible. In this model, some kids get left behind, while some kids are bored into apathy.

What if the role of the teacher changed? What is the teacher presented a concept - let's say long division. Then, the class would be instructed to use their tablets (each kid would need one in my world) and the accompanying adaptive learning software that quizzes at the pace of the individual.

The students who "get it" right away would be challenged with more and more difficult problems. For the kids struggling with this new concept, the software would ease up until they start to get it - or alert the teacher that Billy could use some 1-on-1 direction during this personalized learning time.

The best and brightest would be challenged like they should be. The struggling students would get the additional 1-on-1 assistance they need.

Teaching is personal. Technology is getting us to a place where it can be.

November 04, 2011

Don't Start a Blog. Start Writing Sentences.

Out of all the blogs you read, this one is probably the shortest, right? That's intentional. Because:

1) Most blogs can't keep my interest past a single mouse scroll.
2) This blog is specifically designed to provoke thought (including my own), not to do your thinking for you.
3) This abbreviated format has kept me motivated to write 5 posts a week for more than 5 years.

The reason most people who want to blog, don't do so, is because they think they don't have enough to say.

And I wonder if our 3-page minimum requirements in school killed us for what writing really is. Because not once did this minimum requirement make your essay better. Merely longer.

So, don't blog with minimum requirements. Don't write a post. Write a sentence. The random you have on your mind right now. If after you write it down, you are inspired to explain, do so. But, don't feel you have to. Sometimes, it just makes it worse.

November 03, 2011

We've Been Sleeping on Metal the Past 70 Years

Last week I walked into a mattress store.

Our 6-year old innerspring was waking us up with back pain each morning, and the mattress store owner informed me that "memory foam" mattresses now make up 80% of his sales. I used to write for Sealy at my old ad agency, and even I wasn't aware of how giant this shift to memory foam had recently become.

Apparently, after 70 years of making beds out of metal, we decided there might be a more comfortable option. 

1 week into my new memory foam mattress, I'm convinced we were right. What's wrong with us? What else are we currently doing for no other reason than that's the way we've always done it? What's the next big thing we're going to look back at and wonder what we were possibly thinking over the last 30 years?*

*Answer: It's the food we eat.

November 02, 2011

I Am a Music Sexist

Are you a music sexist? Have you ever even thought about it?

I just realized that 95% of the bands I listen to have a male vocalist. Don't get me wrong, I could listen to Regina Spektor and Adele all day long.

But, odds are, if I'm listening to it, a dude's singing it. And I'm not sure how awful that makes me.

November 01, 2011

Famous for Pornography

Yesterday, when the tragic news of Kim Kardashian's divorce hit our office, it didn't take long before the jokes started flying. And then, one individual said, "How did she become famous in the first place?"

I sat back, waiting for someone else to remind the room of the embarrassing fact. One individual said, "I'm not sure." Another, "I think she's a singer."

My jaw dropped.

They didn't know?!? This girl gets famous for a sex tape, and can get the majority of the world to forget that's how she became famous? It's simply incredible! It's baffling!

So, I went home and told my wife the story, and she wasn't familiar with Kim's salacious past, either. In fact, she said, "I just thought she became famous for the same reason Paris Hilton did."

My jaw dropped harder.

These women are PR geniuses. I've never seen anything like it. Maybe I can turn a string of robberies into the starting fame I need to launch my music career? Because apparently, no one will remember the former?

October 31, 2011

Halloween, Dental Floss and Religious Tracts

The adult in me is tempted to ruin Halloween for my neighbor kids.

After all, as my diet has improved over the years, I am torn with providing an ever-increasing obese child population with another two Nestle Crunch bars.

Am I aiding and abetting their poor health - akin to giving liquor to an alcoholic?

But, then I remembered Halloween as a kid. How excited I was all day to start my neighborhood trek. How wealthy I felt the next day with an overflowing punch bowl full of sugar, worth more to me than gold.

...and how much I hated the lady who gave out dental floss and religious tracts simply to make a point.

Halloween is magical. If you want to try to change the system, splurge and get cups of awesome tasting fat-free frozen yogurt for all your trick-or-treaters...yeah, that's right. You don't care that much. So, just be generous with the Nestle.

October 27, 2011

In a World of Perfect Information, Does Your Company Exist?

In a world of perfect information - if people knew absolutely everything about your product, pricing and competition - is your company still in business?

You don't have to be the best. You can be the closest. You can be the cheapest.

But, your reason for existing can't be consumer ignorance. It can't be because your customers haven't discovered the better and cheaper offering you simply can't compete with. Because that ignorance is going away.

October 26, 2011

How to Actually Lower Health Care Costs

Heart bypass surgery currently costs $100,000.

I understand how universal health coverage plans to reign in the gross inefficiencies that take place in health care right now. I understand the theory behind broadening access and actually lowering costs. I really do.

But, if the plan doesn't incentivize people to better health OR financially penalize individuals for preventable healthcare costs caused by lifestyle choices, I have no idea how we expect to lower our total costs of healthcare in a game-changing way?

And isn't that the goal?

October 25, 2011

The Hot Fish in an Ugly Pond

(Disclaimer: looks aren't important, blah, blah, blah...)

You meet someone for the first time. You get to know them as an individual - outside their regular life. You don't know their friends.

And when you meet them for the first time - you're shocked. Because...well, they don't look like each other.

You see, some girls have decided to be the hot fish in an ugly pond. Rather than struggle with evolving and uncertain social roles, they have chosen to align within a group where there is a clear alpha female - themselves. Everyone is more comfortable with this. The hot fish likes the attention. And the ugly fish can delude themselves into thinking they're part of the hot group, while never really fighting for the alpha female role.

This grouping may be subconscious. It may be intentional. But now, you're going to start noticing it everywhere.

October 24, 2011

How to Avoid Foolishly Arguing With a Fool

If you foolishly find yourself in a debate with a fool, ask them this, "What evidence could I present you with that might convince you that you are mistaken?"

If they are unable to come up with an answer, you are unable to continue in the conversation.

October 21, 2011

Kia Soul vs. Prius: Eco-Friendly Challenge Pt. 5

This is Part 5 of a 5-part back-and-forth between my friend Jason and myself as we compare the eco-friendliness of the Kia Soul and the Toyota Prius.

(Eric's response)

Right. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison. After all, I didn't buy the Kia Soul with eco-friendly dreams. I didn't think my purchase was helping save the world. But since that was a significant reason for buying your Prius, my question remains - is the Prius the most eco-friendly choice you could have made?

I just want us to weigh these relative "goods". What economic combination of car buying and charity would do the most "good"?

If your first and foremost goal is long-term environmental protection, is the Prius the best use of your resources? Probably not.

If you enjoy the Prius' design ingenuity, and are hopeful it also stems social good, well done.

October 20, 2011

Kia Soul vs. Prius: Eco-Friendly Challenge Pt. 4

This is Part 4 of a 5-part back-and-forth between my friend Jason and myself as we compare the eco-friendliness of the Kia Soul and the Toyota Prius.

(Jason's response)

I had many reasons for getting the Prius. Its eco-friendliness was simply one of them.

Without the Prius, the national and even global trend toward sustainable energy sources for motor vehicles would be much smaller. People make fun of the Prius being a "statement". But it is. The Prius is a front runner for environmentally-friendly vehicles, leading the way to the next stage of sustainable vehicles.

The Prius opened up the market for the Nissan Leaf, Chevy EVO, and the expanded line of Prius plug-ins.

It's not just about my vehicle being less environmentally destructive than yours (although in many aspects, it is), but by supporting the Prius, I am helping convince automakers of the market for good.

Your Soul can be thrown into a basket of hundreds of other cars merely abiding by governmental regulations - slightly more eco-friendly than a similar car built 5 years ago.

And doesn't your Soul only follow your $/good argument if you spend the difference on micronutrients?

October 19, 2011

Kia Soul vs. Prius: Eco-Friendly Challenge Pt. 3

This is Part 3 of a 5-part back-and-forth between my friend Jason and myself as we compare the eco-friendliness of the Kia Soul and the Toyota Prius.

(Eric's response)

Yesterday, Matt's comment brought up a point I wasn't sure if I wanted to touch on this week. Specifically, total energy costs/mile comparison figures. It's a good argument. It's an important argument. It's just not the one I was planning to make.

This argument (see pgs. 10-11) points out that in terms of total energy costs over the life of a vehicle, the Hummer H3 costs 1.95 cents/mile. The Toyota Prius? 3.25 cents/mile. (Note: the overall winner is the Scion xB at 0.48 cents/mile) How can this be?

These figures take into account the energy necessary to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose a vehicle from concept to scrappage. It's an even more expanded version of how Jason got us to think past only a vehicle's "miles-per-gallon" impact yesterday. And hybrids currently add the significant drilling and energy costs of manufacturing, replacing and disposing additional batteries, electric motors and more complex power packages.

The reason I didn't want to make this the crux of my argument is because I can see this getting better over time as technology improves (hybrids are relatively new). And in a perfect system where companies are charged accurately for their third-party pollution costs when mining, these costs would be reflected in the cost of the vehicle production and therefore, the vehicle purchase price. Plus, with global oil production staying stagnant and oil demand increasing exponentially (China/India), higher oil costs in the future may help even out these numbers.

So, here's my argument. All things being equal, if your true goal when purchasing the Toyota Prius is eco-friendliness, is this the greatest use of your dollars? For instance, most studies show that it takes 15 years to make up the premium cost of the hybrid with your savings on gas. So, from a strict personal economic analysis, it's break-even at best.

Would a used gas guzzler you could get for $6,000 less be a more eco-friendly choice if you sent a $6,000 check to the Sierra Club?

October 18, 2011

Kia Soul vs. Prius: Eco-Friendly Challenge Pt. 2

This is Part 2 of a 5-part back-and-forth between my friend Jason and myself as we compare the eco-friendliness of the Kia Soul and the Toyota Prius.

(Jason's response)

It's not just a miles-per-gallon game. When you're comparing the eco-friendliness of two vehicles, you also need to think through the amount and type of raw materials necessary to produce the vehicle, and the vehicle's respective weight effect on road maintenance.

Unfortunately... the Soul's 2,778 lb curb weight actually slightly edges out the Prius' 3,042 lb curb weight.

You also need to take into account the origin of manufacturing and how far the vehicle needs to travel to reach its destination and the environmental costs of that. The Prius is made in Japan, whereas the Soul is made in South Korea - a slight distance edge to the Prius.

Miles-per-gallon is just the simplest comparison. And all else being slightly equal, the mpg environmental cost-of-driving analysis helps the Prius reign victorious.

October 17, 2011

Kia Soul vs. Prius: Eco-Friendly Challenge Pt. 1

This is Part 1 of a 5-part back-and-forth between my friend Jason and myself as we compare the eco-friendliness of the Kia Soul and the Toyota Prius.

My friend recently bought a used Toyota Prius. He is a consistently eco-friendly guy (puts more miles on his bike than he does on his car, is a vegetarian, and loves the Prius' design ingenuity).

I recently bought a new Kia Soul, which offers a similar design, but not nearly the miles-per-gallon benefits.

The used 2008 Toyota Prius cost my friend $17,000 and gets 48 highway mpg.

The new 2011 Kia Soul cost me $16,500 and gets 31 highway mpg.

Who made the more eco-friendly purchase?

Note: If you can guess what the crux of my argument will be, you win a point.

October 13, 2011

Mattress Shopping is Stuck in the 90s

When I purchase a commodity, I want it for the lowest price. When, I purchase a non-commodity, I am looking for the greatest total value (quality/cost).

As the democratization of information has evolved, and with the help of my friends at Consumer Reports, this has made my purchasing decisions over the last 5 years extremely rewarding.

But, today, I am in the market for a mattress. And I am learning that, unlike nearly all other retail purchases, consumers have no power in the mattress-buying process.

It's uniquely impressive. These mattress companies have figured out how to avoid the ability to comparison shop altogether. For example, when Sealy sells a mattress through Sears, they might name it Ultraplush 2100. When Sealy sells the exact same mattress through American Matress, they name it ComfortMotion.

I can't figure out how to objectively determine the best quality sub-$600 king-size mattress out there. It's infuriating. It's brilliant.

Any advice?

October 12, 2011

Good vs. Great: A Primer in Economic Morality

Note: This post was originally published on The Humble Libertarian.

Justin, my good friend and loyal AOANE contributor, has agreed to pressure me (and I him) into focusing in on some of our passion projects. To figure out if there really is something big worth pursuing, and then actually pursing it. So, I am trying to clarify my "$ per good" charitable argument, and looking for you smart folks to try to internalize this argument (which, by now you're more than familiar with) and help me figure out how to tighten it up. Note: the political preamble was designed for the political reading audience.

(original post)
"I personally care more about eliminating real poverty in the world than the relative poverty of America's lower class."
As a Presidential candidate, you could never get away with this statement. But, as an individual, it's hard to disagree with the ethical argument here, isn't it?

You see, our political arguments are currently caught in a morality debate - which I think is fair game. But, libertarians keep getting caught in situations where their non-support in something "good" ends up looking evil.

You don't want the 30 year-old man without a major medical policy to have his cancer treatments covered by the government? You're a monster.

As a fellow monster, I want to have this debate. But, to do so, it becomes necessary to mainstream the concept of "good" vs. "great" in a world of finite resources. For instance, buying popcorn to support a Boy Scout troop is a "good" thing. Buying wrapping paper to support youth football is a "good" thing.

But, as an individual charitable person - how are either of these in your top 200 list of priorities? Yet, these are the ones we support. Over micronutrients. Over malaria nets. Over clean water.

We have gotten so caught up in doing good things, that we have stopped focusing on doing the most good per $.

You don't have to lose the morality argument just because you're unwilling to fund national social programs. You just need to explain the ethical and economic superiority in not doing so.

October 11, 2011

Stop Using Big Words When Debating

Note: This is a political video concerning the #OCCUPY movement. You may disagree with the editorial slant. But, there is a valuable lesson to be learned here.

The people being interviewed in this video are smart. Undoubtedly very smart. In fact, they are likely thought leaders during their private conversations with friends. Yet, when they are presented with opposing viewpoints from people who actually know what they're talking about, their big words sound so incredibly empty.

And this video made me realize I do this, too.

Not intentionally. In fact, it's become subconscious. It's a way of getting the other person in the debate to submit to you - to realize they're up against an intellectual giant, and to back down. It's alpha dog, pack leader behavior for intellectual debate in the 21st century.

And we need to stop doing this.

Because when you enter debates trying to "win", you will cling to false presuppositions even after they're called out as BS. Your goal in debate should not be to be "right", but to determine what "right" is.

October 10, 2011

The Chicago Marathon and Genetic Intelligence

People don't like the idea that some kids may be born smarter than others. That they inherently have more intellectual potential.

More than just "not like" the idea, some dismiss it altogether as nonsense.

Yet, no one could watch the Chicago marathon yesterday and believe that, for whatever reason, Kenyon and Ethiopian genetics are not a distinct advantage in running marathon lengths at a sprinter's pace.

Some kids in your class are Kenyans. They are genetically designed to run intellectual marathons. This doesn't mean expecting less out of your other kids. It means expecting more out of some.

October 07, 2011

Where is the New Candy?

When I was a kid, 20 years ago, they were still inventing new candy. It seemed like every other month, a new colorful wrapper appeared on the shelves.

Oh, the excitement! I couldn't wait to try it (for 50 cents, minds you)- even if it was a loser (had coconut in it).

Now, I can't remember the last time I've seen a new candy bar on the shelves that wasn't just a new shape of Reese' Peanut Butter Cup? Where has Willy Wonka been?

What's the last new candy bar you tried, and what did you think?

October 06, 2011

How Steve Jobs Redefined Marketing

Marketing (definition, pre-Jobs)

Understanding your product's competitive differentiation, and best selling this angle to your audience.

Marketing (definition, 2011)

Analyzing consumer need and re-designing your product to better match it.

October 05, 2011

What if Whole Foods Became a Not-for-Profit?

What if Whole Foods became a not-for-profit?

What if CEO John Mackey had a personal belief that the world should have ever-increasing access to organic food, and his #1 business mission became to mainstream an organic diet?

Is a not-for-profit the best way to achieve this goal? Or does his current for-profit strategy achieve this better?

I really don't know. Maybe the cheaper pricing a not-for-profit could offer also means they wouldn't be able to expand nearly as quickly? Maybe Whole Foods needed to be a for-profit to become what it is, and now, it could consider becoming a not-for-profit?

Either way, the optimist in me thinks that not-for-profit retail is going to be the future.

Clothing. Grocers. Organizations with a desire for individuals to have better, healthier lives.

Wouldn't you feel better shopping at one?

Help me think it through. And join our All Opinions Are Not Equal Facebook page. I think it might make conversations easier. I'll explain more soon.

October 04, 2011

Things Always Get Better

"I miss the technology from 10 years ago."

No one ever says this. So, why do we believe in the fragility of the human experience? Why do we live in constant fear that one man, one company, one "evolution" is going to walk us off a cliff we will never be able to re-climb.

Life is better than it was 10 years ago. 100 years ago. 1,000 years ago. 10,000 years ago.

Things get better. Always.

October 03, 2011

There are 3 Types of Football Fans

1) Greco-Roman Blood Thirsty Savages
These guys hate every yellow flag thrown. They dislike the NFL's growing rules to prevent helmet-to-helmet contact. They want to see guys get flattened. They want to see the big hit. They want to see the car flip over. They want to see the lion eat the Christian.

2) The Ex-High-School Player
These guys think they know what they're talking about because they played a year and a half of high-school football, and can name the two different defensive formations they had to learn to stop an opposing quarterback with a 15-yard maximum arm range.

3) The Stats Guy
These are the guys who wish they could have been on the high school team, and are mad because their physical inability outweighs the fact that they "understand" the game better than 99% of the meat heads on the field. These guys end up working at ESPN.

And then there's me.
These are the guys who don't really know what they're looking at. They like football for the same reason they like Monet. It's beautiful. But they can't explain why. They live for the kickoff returned for the touchdown - the breakout run - the one-handed grab. The constant barrage of action, and the possibility of "wow" on every play gives Football no equal.

September 30, 2011

Charity Water's September Campaign

Last September, we had the privilege to help out Charity Water as part of the 30 Days. 30 Bloggers. challenge. And this year, we're looking to help out in a big way again.

In 5 years, Charity Water has brought clean water to 2,000,000 people in 19 countries.

And as proud as they are of that fact, they're not happy with the pace. In fact, they're looking to change the game completely - rather than just continuing to fund project construction, they're looking to purchase the actual drilling equipment themselves!

Specifically, an FS250 Drilling Rig that can dig 80 wells in a year and bring clean water to 40,000 new people, each year. Which would mean that in 10 years, 100% of the Northern region of Ethiopia could have access to clean drinking water.

Plus, if we can help buy the one rig, a matching donor has agreed to buy a second!

Buying popcorn to support the Boy Scouts is a good thing. Buying wrapping paper to support youth football is a good thing.

This is a great thing.

100% of your donation goes to providing clean water, with 100% transparency of where your money goes.

Go visit Charity Water's September Campaign site right now.

Watch the video. Cry like I did. And then join them in changing the world.

September 29, 2011

Baby-Free Dining

It looks like we're slowly on our way toward my life goal of an airline providing baby-free flights.

Because in Pennsylvania, McDain's Restaurant has banned children under 6 years of age from their upscale casual eatery.

It has made a lot of people angry. It makes me, who, this past year, had to endure a fussy infant at the nicest steakhouse in the area - on Valentine's Day - very happy.

Many of you claimed my opinions on infant prejudice would change after having a kid.  They have not. I love the idea more than ever. And apparently, so do a lot of people.

His business has grown by 20% since making the switch.

(Note: I apologize for the programming problems when leaving a comment - I am trying to implement Facebook blogging/commenting integration and will let you know when everything is sorted out)

September 28, 2011

Moneyball Explains MyGofer's Failure

I read Moneyball 3 years ago, and it completely transformed my decision-making process - toward what I hope to be ever-increasing objectivity.

And yes, sadly for you Randians, Moneyball opened my eyes in a way the Fountainhead never could. So, I couldn't be more excited to see the movie adaptation of this book - which is getting widely praised.

But I think I just realized why MyGofer, the personal shopping service I use whose unpopularity I have posted my incredulity over several times here - isn't a success.

They get something wrong in my order every week.

Now... I save two hours a week. Despite my frustration, Moneyball logic tells me its worth it. So, I sing its praises. But most people can't see past the fact that if they shopped themselves, they'd get everything right. And so they give up on MyGofer.

When a company is relying on a completely objective populace for their success - they need a movie like Moneyball to change the way people see the world.

September 27, 2011

Creating a Civilian War Memorial

Author Sebastian Junger postulated an interesting idea recently in the New York Times.

Create a Civilian War Memorial, dedicated to the more than 100,000 civilians and counting who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq so far.

Whether you ethically believe in our role in these wars or not, it would show the world we recognize the horrific sacrifices made by the Iraqi and Afghani people over the past decade.

It also might force us to realize the very real horrors of war we don't always see.

Great idea, Mr. Junger.

September 26, 2011

Let's Redefine Gambling

If you're the best poker player at the table, is it still gambling?

Because the word "gambling" - the negative connotation - presumes an overly risky situation, right?

Whereas, buying a house, investing in mutual funds - these are "investments". These are either popular or historically safe enough financial decisions not to be associated with "gambling".

So, at what level of risk should something be considered "gambling" - in the negative sense the word currently conveys?

September 23, 2011

You Are Not a Coal Miner

You are not a coal miner. An 8-hour day is no longer, by definition, twice as valuable as a 4-hour day.

You now live in the knowledge economy. You are judged by the value of your creation. Not the mass of it.

September 22, 2011

How Do You Tell a 6-Year Old Why 9/11 Happened?

How do you tell a 6-year old why 9/11 happened?

Think about it for a second. How you do simplify it for them?

Ok, now be honest with yourself. And ask yourself if that's the same reason you think 9/11 happened?

I addressed this topic yesterday with a guest post at the Humble Libertarian. Go check it out.

September 20, 2011

It's Society's Fault

But, "society" is not an entity. Society is not out to get you. Society is not what's wrong with society.

But, people exist. And cooperation exists. And the combination of those two things is what society really is.

September 19, 2011

It's People

By sheer probability alone, don't you think that someone, somewhere, probably in China, is working on developing Soylent Green right now?

September 16, 2011

Comcast Customer Service Surprise...

Two years ago, my interactions with Comcast employees had me loathing the company that consistently tops user polls of the most hated brand in America.

This week, I had an incredibly pleasant and overall positive experience with Comcast.

Here's my theory. Two years ago, Comcast didn't have to provide good service. In thousands of towns across America, they were it. The only game in town. The only player. You didn't have a choice if you wanted cable Internet or cable television.

Today, you're starting to have a choice. Securing an Internet or cable connection through a different wireless company. Opting out of cable all together for Hulu Plus, Netflix and other online streaming services.

Two years ago, Comcast could call your bluff when you threatened to cancel. Today, they can't.

So, they're nice to you now. They have to be.
(...insert trite close about how capitalistic competition makes everything better)

September 15, 2011

The Non-Utilitarian Skinny Tie

I have a design problem.

I pride myself in being a design minimalist. I believe that the the most beautiful design is the most utilitarian design. I believe in functional beauty.

Yet, I love skinny ties. I wear them at least once a week in a job position that doesn't require them.

My idealistic design beliefs say I should lose it. What say you?

September 14, 2011

Charity Water Says Thank You

Last September, this blog was part of the "30 Days. 30 Bloggers." fundraising challenge for Charity Water, in which we were able to provide 573 people in the Central African Republic with clean water for the next 20 years.

Charity Water put together a thank you video, in which they specifically thanked us at All Opinions are Not Equal. Really sweet of them. Can't say enough about this organization.

CHECK OUT OUR THANK YOU! (the link skips straight to our mention)

September 13, 2011

Circumcision vs. Sharia Law

Oh yeah, we're going there today.

Let's pretend you've never heard of circumcision before. And you just found out that some religious group is cutting the penises of their infant boys.

Umm...what? How is this not illegal?!?

We give religion some HUGE cultural leeway when it comes to raising children...unless they're Islam.

...yes I know it's not the same thing.

September 12, 2011

The Children's Hospital's Reception Area is Ugly

During our relief-filled visit to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago last week, I was surprised to find the children's area to be so dingy and unattractive for such a prestigious institution.

And the more I thought about this, the happier it made me. Reception aesthetics apparently fall very low on this not-for-profit's priority wishlist, which utilizes the latest in life-saving technology every day.

This is a perfect reminder not to spend resources doing "good things" and instead focus on the "most good per $ things".

I credit the Copenhagen Consensus Center for their continued efforts to politically popularize this concept, and urge you to check out their latest project, Rethink HIV.

September 09, 2011

Higher Ed Still Hot?

I work in higher education, for a private university that has achieved record enrollment numbers each year over the past 3, coinciding with the worst economic drop in the past century.

This isn't just my school. It's a trend across higher education. And it's really confusing to me.

Because as the economy gets worse, parents should be finding it harder and harder to help put their kids through college. And yet, simultaneously, they're seeing that individuals without higher degrees are the biggest victims of unemployment right now.

September 07, 2011

The Death of Self

Many religions promote self-improvement.

Is Christianity alone in promoting self-destruction, the very death of self?

September 06, 2011

Shakespearean Fraud

Until very recently, I had assumed that people in the 16th century actually talked like Shakespeare wrote them. And that only in the past couple hundred years had we devolved into plain-spokenness.

I am a moron who didn't think that assumption through.

Turns out that plain-speak has been the norm for millenia. But during the Renaissance, there was a desire to return to high civility - to hierarchy - to nobility. But, this was an attempt at culture creation. Not the reality of the culture itself.

It's like your friends who still go to Rennaissance Fairs on the weekend. It's playing dress up. It's faking a British accent.

It wasn't real - even back then.

September 02, 2011

Plus Size Clothing Stores

There are a couple exclusively plus-size clothing stores for women that have popped up around my area.

Designed specifically for women sizes 14 and up, these stores offer moden accesible fashion that better fits the plus-size female. They don't shy away from stating who they are. "Plus-size clothing" is in the store's headline. Plus-size models are plastered on the windows.

Here's my question regarding this business model. Are girls, especially younger girls, going to be slightly embarrassed to be seen coming out of these stores by people they know? Are they going to be embarrassed when someone asks them where they got their beautiful sweater?

I know these stores exist precisely because the mainstream brands are awful at this segment, often, sadly, by intention. But, is this the solution or a gateway step?

I'm prepared for the "how dare you! Girls shouldn't be ashamed of who they are!" comments, but if you can, let's avoid those, pretend I'm not evil, and actually address the question I'm presenting.

Are teenager girls going to be ashamed to be seen in these stores? And if so, is this the long-term solution to modern, fashionable plus-size clothing?

September 01, 2011

If You Could Be Known for One Thing?

Let's say you meet someone new for the first time, and you can choose what impression you leave them with. But, only one thing.

For example, once you leave the room, you want them to say more than anything, "He/She was _____."

What would that one thing be?

After thinking hard about this, I was surprised to realize that mine is "funny". I want people to think I'm funny more than anything else. More than intelligent. More than sensitive. More than musical.

I want to be a clown. I want to make you laugh.

What's your thing?

HAPPY UPDATE: For all You God-Beggars Out There

We are very relieved right now. After a long day at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, the surgeon thought we might be able to wait until our daughter is 9 mos. old and just do the 2nd kidney surgery - when it's a lot safer (less painful) for her! Still praying to avoid this next one.

Appreciate your support more than anything.

August 29, 2011

For all You God-Beggars Out There

For those of you who don't know, my newborn girl is scheduled to have the first of two sets of kidney surgeries tomorrow. And we just learned that they're going to be doing an ultrasound before the surgery - just to make sure that nothing major has changed their game plan.

Now, that would be an ideal time for them to see that the problem had miraculously disappeared, wouldn't it?

That's what we're praying for, and for any of you God-beggars out there, we would appreciate your begging more than anything in the world.

I'll be back on Thursday with an update.

August 26, 2011

When Boonies Get Money

When boonies get money, they don't change.

They just have a bigger backyard fireworks show on the 4th of July.

August 25, 2011

Why Real Football Fans Lose Fantasy Football Leagues

I love watching football. And I don't really understand a thing that's going on.

There's 22 men on the field at a time. People who really know football watch all of them. They look at formations. They watch the war between the guards and the tackles. They watch how the corner plays off the line. They predict offensive play calls and the defensive response to them. They watch football like its a chess game - because it is.

I only watch the ball. That's where the action is. That's where the excitement is. I like seeing huge runs, big hits, and diving touchdown passes. And it's really odd that I love a game so much in which I have no real idea what's going on.

But, because of this, I will beat you in fantasy football this year.

Because knowledge of the game has distorted your view of specific players. I base my valuations on nothing but statistical evidence. I will draft better than you do, understanding the Adam Smith comparative advantage of picking the last good player at a specific position over picking the best at another because of the depth that's there.

You understand great players and why they're great. And if we were managing an NFL game, I would beg you to take the reins. But, Fantasy Football is a behavioral economists' dream. And I will beat you this year.

August 24, 2011

Create Systems. Not Silos.

"When I try to do everything on my own, too little gets done. When I empower those around me, I am surprised by how little goes wrong."
Over the past two weeks, my entire outlook on work has shifted dramatically. My plan had been to determine the most valuable and necessary tasks at my University I could personally take charge of, and exclusively focus my energy there. It's the 80/20 rule. Determine the 20% of my workday that creates 80% of my value as an employee, and spend as close to 100% of my time on these tasks as possible.

With my manpower alone directly responsible for the value of specific initiatives, I can get 40 solid hours of this amazing work done in a week.

But what if instead, I created systems?

What if instead of my control freak nature which feels I have to personally reply to every comment on our University's social networking sites - I empower others around me, much closer to the specific questions being asked to interact with. What if rather than re-writing every page of our 2,000 page site myself, I create a navigation framework and outline based on Web best practices and ask department chairs to fill in the holes.

Will the results be slightly worse than if I had done it myself? No, because the quantity getting done will be 10-20x what I could have done on my own.

Sometimes, we work so hard to prove ourselves invaluable to our organization. But if we're really looking to create value, we set up systems that won't immediately die upon our departure.

August 23, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Have Sex Before Marriage

If your first sexual experience is with a hooker, you just might "fall in love" with her. The physiological power of sex is so convincing, you might overlook the fact that you keep paying her cash afterwards, and confuse this physiological pleasure with love.

It's the same reason you probably said "I love you" to the first person you slept with. Looking back, did you? No. A more accurate admission would have been to say, "I'm addicted to you."

Your friend finally breaks up with a girl that was so completely wrong for him and says to you, "What was I thinking???"

Sex is addictive. But, if your goal is long-term relationship, you really need to wait until marriage. Because over the long term, it's much more important to be addicted to the person.

August 22, 2011

3 Days. No Cell Phone.

Last Thursday, I came home from work realizing I had left my phone charger behind. I bring my phone charger to work with me because I have an Android smartphone (that I love), but that can't even make it through a single workday on a single charge.

So, how was I going to get through an entire weekend without it? I simply couldn't. I'd have to drive back to work and get it. Unless...

I simply turned my phone off, and turned it on twice a day to check voicemails and texts.

That's what I did. And it was a freeing experience for me. Because the always-on feature is really only necessary for emergency situations, and I was with my wife all weekend anyway. So, I was never going to need to be the first responder in an emergency.

It felt very 2002'ish. It felt good.

August 18, 2011

I Refuse to Talk About the Weather

Eric: "Hey, have you ever seen the movie, The NeverEnding Story?"
Kathleen: "No, why?"

At this point, I ended the conversation. Many people would have continued, simply because they enjoy talking. Completely oblivious to the fact that the individual has admitted having no frame of reference to the subject at hand - and would assuredly be disinterested in the story's remainder.

I refuse to do this, and I think this is why I have so much frustration with interpersonal communication.

I don't want to talk in the trivial. I don't want to listen to your commentary on the weather. I only want to talk about our overlapping passions. Behavioral and post-modern economics. Political and theological liberty. Emergent musical theory.

I don't just want to socialize. I want to think.

Note: for those of you who have seen the film, my podcast co-host got to interview Atreyu the other day. It was awesome.

August 16, 2011

Reluctant Runners

I had an opportunity to guest post on the amazing comedy + running site, Reluctant Runners yesterday, "a site for people who love running - just not while they're doing it."

So, today, I'm going to send you over there to read it. It's probably more funny than what I would have written here anyway.

August 15, 2011

The Difference Between Me and a Serial Killer

Have you ever thought to yourself how you could probably kill someone and get away with it?

You know who else thinks like that? Serial killers.

Now whenever a friend enthusiastically tells me how much they enjoy the television show CSI, I can't help put have the same slight feeling of nausea I would if I spotted, "How to Make a Homemade Pipe Bomb" on their bookshelf.

CSI teaches us what not to do. What mistakes not to make. Now, I just need to develop some intense hatred toward an individual or group. Because I'm confident I could get away with it.

My Baby Turned Me Into a Narcissist

For the past 8 weeks since my daughter entered the world, I have engaged in conversations with others - not really paying attention to what they're saying.

Because I don't care.

I can't. My insomniac head is completely drained of any remaining empathy. It's all been used on myself. Our daughter is, statistically, a horrifically fussy child. And we have also learned that she will need two serious kidney surgeries within the first year of her life.

Because of that, I haven't cared what's going on with those around me. And it makes me feel horrible. I listen to their stories, thinking to myself, "that's awful!" but without "feeling" awful in the slightest.

Is this what Californians feel like all the time?

August 10, 2011

Sad Lessons I Learned from the London Riots

I recently read a story about a scientific researcher who bought a small sustainable farm out in rural Northern California in case of a overwhelming environmental disaster.

He wanted his family to be safe - just in case.

If I've learned anything from the riots taking place this past week in London, one of the Top 10 cities in the world, it's that after a global catastrophe, he'd have people storming his land, looting his storehouse and setting fire to his livestock within an hour.

To prepare for a global disaster, don't buy a farm. Buy a lockable bunker.

August 08, 2011

Your Friends Must Live Within a 10-Mile Radius

One of my close friends is moving to Madison, WI. Just 2 years ago, she moved back to Chicago from living out of state, and I was so excited. We could actually be friends again. But, in the past two years since her return, I saw her only once...on her wedding day.

3 years ago, another close friend moved back even closer to me. From Nebraska, to a Chicago suburb just two towns over (30 minutes away). I've seen her 3 times in those 3 years.

These are close friends. Well, at one time they were. But, if you don't live within a 10-mile radius, good friends become great acquaintances.

It's why we should all live in a giant house together.

August 04, 2011

Books Should All Have Multiple Authors

Whenever I read one person's opinion of a topic I'm unfamiliar with, I'm quickly convinced they're right. After all, the author has posed a feasible answer to the problem. And I'm left unaware there are multiple ones.

Recently, I read a book, co-authored by 5 individuals. Ch. 1 consisted of the 1st author's thesis. Ch. 2 consisted of the remaining authors rebutting his thesis. Ch. 3 consisted of the 2nd author's thesis... and so on.

By the end of the book, I was so much more intellectually edified and had so much deeper a grasp of the issue than if I had read any one of the author's opinions alone, accepted it blindly, and been on my way.

All books should be written in debate format. So should all blogs....

August 03, 2011

The Nonvolution of Society

Scientists build upon the best science from the prior generation. Engineers build upon the best designs from the prior generation.

But I still see fathers at the park yelling at their kids for crying while trying to learn baseball precisely because they're so scared of letting down their dad.

Why aren't the rest of us learning from the best examples of morality and parenting, and evolving too?

August 02, 2011

Handing out CDs at a Concert

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of going to see Bon Iver at the beautiful Chicago Theatre.

On our way out of the show, there was a guy handing out CDs of his band, free of charge. I started thinking about how smart this was. This guy was marketing directly to people that spend good money going to see live shows - the exact market a working musician depends on. I was so impressed by the brilliance of this move...and then I listened to the album.

The CD was close to the opposite musical style of the performer we had all paid good money to see.

Good idea guy. But next time, wait 'til Korn plays here.

August 01, 2011

Angel Food Cake vs. Devil's Food Cake

Until this weekend, I never really made the connection between Angel Food Cake and Devil's Food Cake.

And now that I have, I can't really get past the idea that it's kind of racist, isn't it?

July 29, 2011

What Do You Think of Elance?

As a freelance writer, people often ask my opinion of services like Elance and ODesk. And my answer is always the same.

It completely depends on whether you're looking for employment or looking to outsource?

Elance, ODesk and other professional recruitment/freelancer sites are commodity-based competitively-driven races to the lowest possible $/hr rate. As an American professional, you're not making money here outsourcing your creative talents. Because people looking for resources here are looking for the cheapest option. And the dude in the Phillipines quoting $4/hr is always going to win.

Now, on the other hand, if you're interested in outsourcing any of your professional or personal life, or have a business idea and don't want to go broke giving it a try, these services may be perfect for you.

July 28, 2011

Evidence-Based Gambling

Yesterday, we discussed the recent push of "evidence-based practice" within the medical community and questioned how ridiculous it was that this is only a recent push.

Today, we talk sports.

"Moneyball" or "Sabermetrics" is the idea of objectively valuating athletes and situational decisions in sports based purely on statistical outcomes.

Some people hate this. I recently had this discussion with a friend of mine who said, "Stats are useless. I don't need to see stats to know how to manage a game."

I countered with, "Well, if you're making the right decisions, the stats would back you up. The stat guys are on your side."

He retorted, "No, I don't need them."

I said, "But what if I showed you stats that proved objectively, over time, you were wrong? Would that change your mind?"

"Absolutely not."

This friend of mine thinks his intuition as a sports God is vastly superior to anything statistical measurement or science could calculate...

Does that arrogance remind you of any doctors you know? Now, this is all starting to make a little more sense.

July 27, 2011

Evidence-Based Practice

Did you know that "evidence-based practice" is a fairly recent concept in the medical world?

Seriously. Also known as "empirically-supported treatment", the concept of choosing a course of treatment based on statistically significant and supported data has only recently surpassed intuition as primary decision maker in the medical community.

Why do you think this is? More on this lunacy tomorrow.

July 26, 2011

What You Make: Yearly vs. Hourly

"What do you make?" should always be answered as an hourly rate.

Let's say you make $35,000 a year. And you decide to switch jobs for a nice 20% pay bump up to $42,000/yr. That's a hard increase to turn down. A number that might take you 5 years in annual mini-bumps at your current company. So, you switch, knowing that the new job is going to be quite a bit more demanding. In fact, you are now consistently putting in 60 hours a week. Whereas, at your old position, it was a pretty regular 40.

Are you getting paid more at the new position? Sure, if we're looking at annual income. But, we shouldn't be.

60 hrs/wk x 50 wks/yr = 3,000 hours
$42,000/3,000 hrs = $14/hr

40 hrs/wk x 50 wks/yr = 2,000 hours
$35,000/2,000 hrs = $17.50/hr

Sure, that $7,000 bump is a lot. But, it's not a pay increase. And there might be a more efficient way to increase your income.

July 25, 2011

I Am Going to Hit a Kid With My Car

I am going to hit a kid with my car.

Driving through my subdivision this summer has become a constant game of chicken. I'm not sure if children are getting dumber, or if there's some sort of leak in our drinking water. But, the children in my neighborhood speed out in the middle of the street - completely blind - all the time.

I am going to hit a kid with my car. The odds have determined it. The only question is, when? And how fast will I be going?

July 22, 2011

Hope is Passive

Hope is passive.

I can't seem to get this idea out of my head. It hit me one day like a brick. The idea of hope as merely "wishing". Passive laziness.

Help me understand "active hope".

July 21, 2011

Loving the Unlovable

Here's my problem with Jesus.

It's super easy to love the lovable; the polite; the meek; the well intentioned.

It's the jerks I can't stand. The cynical. The arrogant.

I am commanded to love the very people I can not even like. It seems impossible to do?

July 20, 2011

There is No Population Problem

Ok, I'm sick of hearing this constantly spouted, so let's try clearing this up today.

There is no population problem. Not a real one at least.

Thomas Malthus' Population Theory was based on the false assumption that an increase in personal wealth would increase the child rate, increase the population and obliterate our food supply. Theoretical, this appears to make sense, because a higher standard of living would provide you with more money to raise more children. Yet, pragmatically, this has has proven to be utterly false. As personal wealth increases, the child rate goes down.

Yet, many continue to fear this and cite this, despite the overwhelming evidence to the problem's nonexistence.

There are indeed negative consequences of tight urban living, specifically in terms of pollution. But, there is no population problem. Human ingenuity is the solution. For that, we need more humans.

July 19, 2011

Vegas Doesn't Want You

Vegas doesn't want you. They don't want your $200 weekend of slot money. They don't want your $12.99 buffet money. They don't want your $89 hotel money.

But it would be a really creepy ghost-town place to hang out in if only the super-rich came. That's why they need you.

But be assured, you are not wanted there.

July 18, 2011

Facebook is Broken

People ask me why I'm not putting more baby photos on Facebook. And they don't like my answer, which is, "Because the vast majority of my 'friends' don't want to see them."

But, it's true. Because my Facebook friends aren't actually my friends. They're anyone I've ever encountered who asked to be my friend. In fact, I have come to think of it as more of a networking tool than a real communication device. Which I am rightfully aware is awful.


Here's why Google + is amazing. For those of you who haven't heard, Google Plus is Google's latest and greatest attempt at social. My favorite part about it is Google Circles. When you add a 'friend' on Google Plus, you put them in one or multiple groups. Friends. Family. Co-Workers. Church People. Any group you want to customize. When I want to share a photo of my daughter, I can select which people see it on their wall.

For this and this alone, I love Google +. As Facebook becomes less and less entertaining, I am excited to have a new choice.

July 15, 2011

Hitler Was a Vegetarian

Did anyone else know that Hitler was reportedly a vegetarian? It makes my head explode! Check out this quote from a German Magazine back in the day.
"Do you know that your Führer is a vegetarian, and that he does not eat meat because of his general attitude toward life and his love for the world of animals? Do you know that your Führer is an exemplary friend of animals, and even as a chancellor, he is not separated from the animals he has kept for years?...The Führer is an ardent opponent of any torture of animals, in particular vivisection, and has declared to terminate those conditions...thus fulfilling his role as the savior of animals, from continuous and nameless torments and pain." Neugeist/Die Weisse Fahne
Can you fathom the idea that Adolf Hitler found the destruction of animals so barbaric and distasteful that he simply could not participate in it? Yet...

July 14, 2011

Busyness Can Still Be Laziness

I like getting to the end of my inbox each day.
I like getting to the end of my Google Reader (RSS Feed) each day.

It provides me with the illusion of a hard day's work, while actually avoiding work altogether.

July 13, 2011

The Cosby Show: Continued

Loyal reader Jason sent me an e-mail after yesterday's post.

It turns out that just hours after posting, WGN 720 interviewed Ben Shapiro, author of Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, and asked specific questions about the Cosby Show. The following are are Jason's thoughts.
"Shapiro argued that almost every sitcom in modern television entertainment has a liberal bias, but that the Cosby Show was one of the few accidentally right-leaning shows of its time. The first main point he made was that the family had to be minority, in order to portray that all minority families in America could pursue the American dream. The second point (criticism) was that the Cosby's wealth meant the family never had to deal with small everyday obstacles (financial hardships) and allowed them to be happy and get along."
Jason also sent a link to the archived program show. If you are specifically curious about the Cosby discussion, skip to the 2/3 point.

Critics on the right had Liz' same complaint from yesterday. But critics on the left who claim the show is too "unrealistic" can't really get around the fact that's incredibly racist, isn't it?

July 12, 2011

The Cosby Show

Two months ago, I found the entire series of the Cosby Show available on Netflix instant streaming. Since then, I have watched all 201 episodes, and largely nothing else.

The show ran from 1984-1991 and holds up extraordinarily well over time. In fact, today I make its claim as the greatest television show of all time (Specifically the first 4 seasons. After the kids started going to college, we lost all of the amazing parenting examples week after week, and it became more or less, a straight sitcom).

Unlike today's sitcoms, the show portrays a family you want yours to become - not one even more dysfunctional than yourselves that you can feel good laughing at. The children are loved unconditionally, disciplined strictly and always polite. And like I have claimed many times on Martin Luther King Day, I believe that Bill Cosby had a bigger role in civil rights for my generation than any other man.

He made a black family aspirational in 1984, and turned them into the most watched show on television.

Here's my question. Could a show like this succeed today? Because TV needs it.

July 07, 2011

Must Have Been All That Fresh Air

Why does being outside in fresh air make you tired? It doesn't make any real sense to me. And yet, I "feel" that rule to be true?

Anyone know the science behind this? (Yes, I Googled it, but the results were unsatisfying.)

July 06, 2011

Future Eric

In the mornings when my wife and I run through our neighborhood, sometimes we see a couple 40 years more experienced than ourselves riding their bikes together.

The irrational part of me has decided that those people are "Future Eric" and "Future Kathleen".

Somehow they are now living in their past, and are just messing with us.

I'm pretty sure working on the QED Podcast has been messing with my mind. Or perhaps I simply like believing it because they look super hip for being that old?

July 05, 2011

Chris Hansen: Potential Predator?

Let's start off the week by making you mad at me.

You may have heard the reports that Chris Hansen of Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" fame, was recently caught on video tape going to dinner with a woman 21 years his junior. This report by the National Enquirer (which although a tabloid, accurately broke the John Edwards affair) claims a long-term and secretive romantic tryst between the two journalists.

Let the cries of hypocrite come raining down. But, let me speak briefly first.

1) There's no hard evidence here. Perhaps there will be. Not yet.
2) If this is true, adultery is not the same as pedophilia. This women is significantly younger than him, but not a minor. She's 30 years old.
3) A while back, when I was researching the Internet hacker group, Anonymous, for our QED podcast episode on the subject, the message boards were covered with individuals hoping to start a rumor about Chris Hansen getting caught having sex with a minor. They thought it would be hysterical. The popularity of this news story shows they were right. Perhaps it's true. Perhaps it's a false rumor.

Now, to the stuff you'll really get mad at me for. I brought up this argument two years ago, but here we go again for our new readers. I don't exactly understand what Chris Hansen is arresting these guys for. They're being charged with "soliciting a minor over the Internet." But, that's not what's happening. They're "soliciting an adult pretending to be a minor over the Internet."

I'm not sure how having a sexual conversation with an adult can be a crime - regardless of "intent". I'm not saying these guys aren't creep shows. I'm just wondering how they're doing anything illegal?

July 01, 2011

Confessing An Affair To/With a Therapist

I wonder how many psychologists are having affairs with their patients?

Here's how I got there. To an individual in therapy, the psychologist is their refuge. An escape to truth from the purgatory that is their life. The one person they're honest with. Their priest. The one hour a week they feel free.

How could they not fall in love with this person?

Aside from the obvious restraint and oath preventing reciprocation of this love by the therapist, it has to be happening on a comparatively massive scale, no?

June 30, 2011

Don't Make Money. Make Awesome.

I have officially given up on get-rich quick schemes. Since I work in the world of Internet Marketing, I stay pretty close behind the thought leaders in the industry, and closely follow their grandiose and innovative visions for making money online.

So, last summer, I launched a Website. The idea was to use my marketing prowess to rank highly in search results for people looking for information on 3D televisions (remember, this was last summer) and direct them toward different online purchasing options, making a small commission on each very large purchase.

I still think it was a good idea. But, I gave up on the prospect really quickly. Why?

Because I had no passion for evangelizing 3D televisions.

Making a lot of money on this idea would have required a lot of work. And I wouldn't really be providing any real value to anyone. I would simply be a barely helpful middle man. I wasn't really interested in helping individuals make better purchasing decisions. I just wanted a cut off their purchase.

I will no longer do things just to make money. I will only do things worth doing, and figure out a way to monetize them.

June 29, 2011

I Am Sexually Screwed Up

I entered my pubescent years in the late 90s. Just before the real technological revolution occurred. Before Google. Before Napster. Before Ellen came out. My childhood took place in a bubble that no longer exists.

As an 8-year old, if I had a question, I asked my 8-year old peer and blindly accepted whatever garbage was spat out. Today, an 8-year old asks Google.

My father never had "the talk" with me. Well, that's not exactly true. One day when I was 12 years old, we were pulling into our subdivision when he finally sputtered out (after acting extremely awkward the first 20 minutes of our car ride), "Do you know what a scrotum is?" in the same tone of voice Mr. Rogers used to ask children if they know how crackers are made before the video transition to the cracker factory.

As a young Christian boy, I grew up thinking sex was bad. I probably wasn't specifically taught that. But, it was the impression I was left with hearing lots of warnings and nary a positive example of sex. Even in college, I remember a period of time when I argued that sex may have been divinely designed strictly for procreation purposes. Now, as a married man, I still struggle reconciling my confidence in the design of sexual enjoyment with my ingrained negative impressions as a child that "sex is bad".

Recently, I had to ask my wife anatomical questions about my new daughter. I wasn't quite certain exactly what was what.

I am a product of my environment. I am sexually screwed up. And even with my awareness of this, it's probably permanent.

June 28, 2011

Moses Was a Murderer

Exodus 2:11-15
11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” 14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”
So to recap, Moses was a murderer! In fact, if you look at the black marks on most of the historical figures we deem "good" or at least "good leaders", doesn't it seem as if the majority of them were murdering adulterers?

So, why is it that when I watch the news, I see a mug shot of a 21-year old kid arrested for murder and think to myself, "He is pure evil." Yet, as a Christian, I absolutely believe in the rehabilitation and restoration of man.

Am I simply a product of our culture who doesn't even try to rehabilitate those in our prison system? Or do I simply not believe in the restoration of murderers despite thousands of years of evidence to the contrary?

June 27, 2011

Leaders Should Be Arrogant, Right?

It's time to hearken back to your Sunday School lessons folks. Because we're talking Moses today and tomorrow. Don't worry agnostics. We're staying broad. It's just that I just heard an interesting sermon this weekend that got me thinking.

When I look for a leader, both within the Church and in the corporate world, I look for inner strength. I look for confidence. I look for vision.

Yet, God picked Moses, the meekest man on Earth to be leader.

Perhaps God is better able to work through people who trust, not in their own abilities, but who have an overwhelming trust in God's?

Now, this is personally convicting for me, because I am just about as arrogant as one can get. Because I compare myself with the mediocrity that surrounds me. Rather, Moses compared himself, not to others, but to the perfection of God, and said, "I am nothing."

So, should we change what we're looking for in a leader?

A Christian Approach To The End Of Life

 Note: This post has been contributed. Unsplash - CC0 License Talking about the end of life isn’t a popular topic. But it is something that ...