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.