‘Slow Down, You’re Moving Too Fast’, or ‘Life in the Fast Lane’?

A grocery store in Scotland is giving its customers a choice when they checkout, and it’s not ‘paper or plastic’.

Tesco, a British multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer, has instituted a “relaxed checkout” lane on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at its store in Forres, a town about 40 kilometers east of Inverness,

Tesco, working with Alzheimer Scotland, wanted to make make life at the checkout less stressful for some of its more vulnerable customers, and has trained its checkout staff to identify any special needs of customers and operate at a speed that suits them.

Wendy Menzies, of Alzheimer Scotland, said: “We welcome this new pilot scheme which will help people with dementia to feel confident in continuing to shop independently in their local community for longer.”

And people with Alzheimer’s are not the only ones who could benefit from this pilot project. “We have people with social anxiety issues, depression, autism, learning difficulties or just basically a mom with three kids who just wants to take it easy when they get to the checkout,” Kerry Speed, a Tesco customer assistant (cashier) told BBC News. (the irony of her last name is not lost on me…)

This approach could also possibly benefit those shoppers who are in more of a hurry, since the people who are in more of a relaxed mode would choose the slower lanes, thus theoretically speeding up the other lanes.

As Aaron Saltzman, of CBC News points out, there are all sorts of techniques and advice out there on how to get out of the grocery store faster.

But what if it’s all wrong?  What if the best way to move faster is actually to let others slow down?

To me, it’s a genius solution to the problems associated with checkout lines.

 So which checkout lane would you choose?

To help you with your decision, I’ve included two classic songs to put you in the right mood…

Slow down, you’re moving too fast…

Life in the fast lane…

The Power of Twitter

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) raised approximately $4 million.

This past weekend it raised $24 million.

That’s right. In one weekend the ACLU raised six times the amount that it typically raises in a good year.

What was behind the jump in donations?

President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven majority Muslim countries.

The ACLU was one of the organizations that had filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqi refugees, prompting the stay, according to the WSJ.

Celebrities and venture capitalists jumped in to help, using Twitter to encourage people to donate to the ACLU cause, and pledging to match whatever their followers pledged.

Fred Wilson, a well-known venture capitalist in New York City, posted the following to his Twitter account yesterday:

The link in the tweet goes to Fred’s blog post, where he provides a bot more detail:

Brad, Amy, Joanne, and Fred have been inspired by Chris’s $150,000 match offer yesterday and Albert and Susan’s $15,000 match offer today. So we are joining together (the four of us) and joining the movement they started and doing a $20,000 match offer on ACLU donations today.

(Note: Brad is Brad Feld, a venture capitalist in Boulder; Amy is Amy Batchelor, an author; Joanne is Joanne Wilson, an angel investor. Brad and Amy are married to each other, as are Fred and Joanne.)

At the end of his post, he included the following update:

Update: We maxed out on our match after about an hour this morning. Patrick Collison picked it up and will match until he maxes out. You can tweet your receipts to him here. Thanks to everyone who participated. It felt good, really good, to do something like this.

Brad Feld (the Brad mentioned in the post above) is also a venture capitalist, and sent out his own update about the fundraising, after taking a rest:

When I woke up, Amy said “we did something good while you were asleep.” I had well over 100 tweets with ACLU receipts, Fred had started a spreadsheet of all the matching gifts, and we had blown through our $20,000 match. By the end of the day, we were over $90,000 of matches with more coming in so we stopped counting and, with our $20,000, were easily over $100,000 to the ACLU in one day, which started with Fred’s blog post.

Not bad, getting people to raise $90,000 in less than a day, and then matching those pledges with $20,000. It certainly helps that Fred has close to 600,000 followers on Twitter, while Brad has close to 300,000.

When asked what it would do with all of the donations, the ACLU responded by stating that the organization would use the funds to fight for the rights of immigrants, as part of a seven-step plan to counter the Trump administration.

I think this clearly shows the power of social media to play a key role in social causes, and it reminded me of the Ice Bucket Challenge that was so successful in raising money for ALS. (The Challenge raised $115 million in eight weeks.)

And coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal had a story in today’s paper about an art exhibition at the International Center of Photography Museum titled, Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change.

Confining themselves to the impact of social media on recent political activism, the curators, led by Carol Squiers and Cynthia Young, examine the climate-change debate; the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe; gay and transgender identity; the Black Lives Matter movement; Islamic State recruitment propaganda; and the right-wing fringe during the 2016 election.

It’s interesting to see that social media can be used for doing good, like making people aware of injustices or for fundraising purposes, but also for nefarious reasons, such as ISIS recruitment propaganda and promoting fringe movements.

While many people may complain about the overuse of social media, I think in the big picture, the benefits of such tools outweigh the costs.

So I’ll continue to follow Fred and Joanne and Brad and Amy, you never know what game-changing tweet they might send out next.

A Musical Annotation of Bruce Springsteen’s Autobiography – Born to Run, Part 6

This is the sixth in a series of blogs in which I plan to go through and “musically annotate” Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run”. This involves going through the book page by page and listing the artists, and when possible, providing a YouTube video of the artists and songs that Bruce mentions as among his favorites.

Here are the previous posts:

Here is the YouTube playlist of all  songs/artists mentioned in Chapters 41-48; you can access any particular song by clicking in the top left corner of the screen and choosing the desired video. I also have a listing of the songs, which can be found after the video. In those cases where Bruce just mentions a musical group, I randomly chose one of that group’s songs to include in the playlist.

Disc three of Tracks is mentioned, so here you go:

One Song, Two Words, and $175 Million

Talk about milking something for all it’s worth.

Dieter Meier, a 71-year old musician from Switzerland, and Boris Blank, his partner in the band Yello, are the creators of the iconic song “Oh, Yeah” that made its debut in the classic 1986 film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Since that debut, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the song has appeared in several films:

  • The Secret of My Success
  • She’s Out of Control
  • K-9
  • Not Another Teen Movie
  • Soul Plane

TV shows:

  • Glee
  • South Park
  • Saturday Night Live
  • Eight episodes of “The Simpsons.”

and a video game:

  • Gran Turismo 4

It has also been used in commercials for Twix bars and Hondas.

As the song began to have significant financial success, Meier proved to be just as savvy with investing his earnings as he was with writing lyrics. He used the royalty proceeds as seed capital for his investments, which now include the following:

  • Mr. Meier own a large stake in BVZ Holding AG, a railway company that takes tourists on trips to the Matterhorn.
  • Mr. Meier is the second largest stakeholder in Orell Füssli Holding AG, the company that prints Swiss francs.
  • Mr. Meier invested in Swiss luxury watchmaker Ulysse Nardin, which was sold to the French firm Kering SA in 2014 for an undisclosed amount—before a decline in Swiss watch exports.
  • Mr. Meier owns about 250,000 acres of land in Argentina, which he uses to grow grapes for wine and raise beef cattle.
  • Mr. Meier, along with partners in Switzerland and Germany, owns six restaurant
  • Mr. Meier recently acquired the rights to a patented extraction process for cacao beans, and he is planning a large chocolate factory.

A Swiss magazine estimated his net worth at $175 million.

Not a bad payday for a song that has the following lyrics:

Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Oh yeah
The moon, beautiful
The sun, even more beautiful
Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Oh yeah

Beautiful
Oh yeah
Oh yeah

According to my calculations, that’s $7 million per word.

Which makes this blog past worth about $2.4 billion, but out of the goodness of my heart, I am sharing with my loyal readers for free.

Oh yeah.

This Is One of the Most Upsetting News Stories I’ve Read in Quite Some Time

This is a story about one of the world’s most iconic, and profitable, companies.

And while the company certainly has a mind for business, it seems it has no heart.

Jim Dwyer had an article in The New York Times today about a man, Ryan Matzner, who came across a trash bag outside a big Nike store in the SoHo section of Manhattan. Since he was on his way to a party, he could not take the trash bag with him, but planned to stop back on his way home from the party.

Later that night, accompanied by a friend, Matzner did indeed go back to the trash bag, and found it filled with shoes that seemed to have never been worn. However, upon closer inspection, each shoe had been slashed from heel to toe, rendering them unusable.

The couple then found another bag that contained slashed T-shirts and sweaters.

What was behind this destruction?

According to a Nike spokeswoman, “A small amount of product at our Nike SoHo store did not meet our standards to restock, recycle or donate so it was disposed of.” She did not explain why the shoes and garments were slashed before being thrown away.

The situation reminded Matzner of a story he had read seven years ago about clothing retailer H&M. H&M would discard new, unworn clothing from its store on 34th Street, but would first render the clothing unwearable using blades and big hole punchers. (After the column was published, H&M vowed that it would donate unsold usable clothing to charity.)

The article goes on to note that many retailers will destroy garments that cannot be sold in order to prevent expensive brand-name products from entering society at low or no cost. Some companies simply do not want their products — or even knockoffs of their goods — to be worn by people who are obviously unable to afford them. (emphasis added to highlight the obnoxiousness of it all).

The article also notes that millions of dollars in counterfeit football jerseys, knit caps, windbreakers and related gear are seized by the federal authorities before the Super Bowl. By federal law, such merchandise must be destroyed, a requirement that corporations lobbied for after refugees from Hurricane Katrina were given counterfeit garments being held in a government warehouse. (again, emphasis added, but you have got to be kidding me – companies actually fought to keep perfectly fine clothing out of the hands of people whose lives were ruined by Hurricane Katrina?! I wish I knew the names of those companies so I could be sure to never buy anything of theirs again.) As one legal commentator wrote: “After all, these companies did not spend millions of dollars in high-end advertising only to be associated with ‘shelter chic.’” (again, the level of callousness is beyond the pale).

Dwyer also mentions that in 2009 the New York City Police Department destroyed tons of new, unworn clothing seized in counterfeiting raids.

I find all of these examples to be incredibly wasteful and inhumane.

I am sure that these companies are aware that there are people who could desperately use some new clothing and shoes, yet it seems as if they are more concerned with maintaining their brand image than in helping such individuals.

I would find a company that went out of its way to donate its unused and unwanted clothing to those in need more attractive, and would be more willing to support such a company.

So two big thumbs down to Nike and other companies that have adopted such practices. I hope that today’s story in the New York Times will bring to light such practices, and force the companies to stop such practices.

This seems like a no-brainer, and shouldn’t require lots of discussion.

So Nike, here’s a chance to do the right thing, so Just Do It.

*photo courtesy of Lauren Wagner of the New York TImes

I Wonder What Their Story Is

We live within a four-minute drive of the local hospital, which also has a large medical office building attached to it.

I drive past these buildings several times a week, usually on the way to the gym or Dunkin’ Donuts, and I often try to look at the faces of the people walking by and wonder what their story is.

Are they employees? Is the person a nurse, a doctor, a medical technician, a pharmacist, an administrator, a food services worker, a maintenance worker, or security? Do they all realize how important the work is that they are doing; do they enjoy the work that they are doing?

Are they going in for a doctor’s visit? If so, are they about to get some life-changing news when they see their doctor? Will it be good news, like a pregnancy or cancer remission? Or will it be news concerning a serious illness?

Are they at the hospital to visit a friend or loved one? Will it be a happy visit, or one that leaves the person feeling a bit depressed?

Is it a salesperson, hoping to close a big deal that day?

Or a volunteer?

When I think of hospitals and doctors’ offices, I tend not to think of them as happy places. Usually I’m thinking illness and pain and sadness.

So when I drive past these buildings, I try to remember to offer up a silent prayer of good luck to everyone I see, as well a prayer of gratitude for my health and the health of those I love.

It only takes 30 seconds to drive past the buildings, and I know that in five minutes I’ll forget the faces of those I saw, but those few moments serve as a great reminder of how precious, and fragile, life can be.

Is a Person’s Salary Always Justified?

One million dollars per year.

For an assistant football coach.

In college.

In a memo released today, assistants at University of Michigan set a new standard for college football coach salaries, with three — offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, defensive coordinator Don Brown, and passing game coordinator and assistant head coach Pep Hamilton — each making $1 million for the next three seasons. There are also bonuses that each coach is eligible for each year. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh made $9 million this year, overtaking Nick Saban, Alabama’s head coach who made $6.9 million.

The first thought I had when I saw these numbers was “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

But then I thought about it for a while, and my second thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

After finally calming down, I thought, if the school is willing to pay that much, then the salaries must be justified.

While many people may argue that they are underpaid for the work they do, is it possible that there are people who are overpaid?

Here are some examples of some of the highest paid people in recent years.

David Tepper, a hedge fund manager, made $4 billion, in one year.

Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo earned $88 million in 2015.

Comedian Kevin Hart earned $87.5 million in 2016.

Are all those earnings justified?

Some people may say that if they can earn it, then they must be worth it.

But I have a problem with that argument.

I’m sure part of my problem is jealousy; I certainly wouldn’t mind earning $4 billion in one year. But that’s only part of it.

I just finished reading the Grapes of Wrath, and while the story is set in a different time, the issues are still highly relevant. There were significant differences in wages between the haves and the have-nots back then, and significant problems for the have-nots to become part of the haves. Those problems still exist today, and are perhaps even worse.

I’ve written a few times about the Ovarian Lottery, and I’m convinced the biggest predictors of financial success are when, where, and to whom you were born. And all of those factors are pure luck. Think of a basketball player; they tend to be much taller than the general population, but as they say, you can’t coach height – it’s pure luck.

Certainly it takes more than just being born lucky to become successful; hard work and talent are important traits as well. And while there are individual cases of financially successful people who have not won the ovarian lottery, the odds of doing so are quite, quite slim.

So if that is the case, it’s hard to make an argument that high salaries are justified when a big determinant of such high earnings is luck.

I am sure there are football coaches as qualified as the three Michigan football coaches, but are only earning five figures doing similar work. But it could be that because of circumstances outside their control, they didn’t happen to be at the right place at the right time to take advantage of such an opportunity,

I’m also bothered by the fact that such a salary is being paid at a college. I’m certainly not the first to express outrage at how much money is committed to college sports; these salaries just add more fuel to the fire.

If the primary mission of a college is education, why are coaches usually the highest paid employees at many colleges?

So while it is an impressive feat to be paid $1 million as an assistant coach, that doesn’t mean it’s justified, or that it’s the right thing to do.

Sugar ba ba ba ba ba ba Ahh Honey Honey

It’s one of my all-time favorite songs, Sugar, Sugar, by the Archies.

And one of my favorite TV shows growing up.

I remember many a Saturday morning eating a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats and watching The Archie Show, which debuted on CBS in September 1968 and lasted for one season. A total of 17 half-hour shows, each containing two 11 minute segments, were aired. Here’s a description of the show from Wikipedia:

The show revolves around 17-year-old Archie Andrews and his teen-age pals from Riverdale High School including: his best friend and food fiend Jughead Jones, wise-cracking Reggie Mantle, beautiful, spoiled-rich brunette Veronica Lodge, and attractive, blonde, girl-next-door tomboy Betty Cooper. On the show, the friends appeared as a bubblegum pop band featuring Archie on lead guitar. The Archies had a real-life #1 hit single in 1969 with their song, “Sugar, Sugar”, written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim.

A typical episode started with the first Archie story, introduced by Archie and occasionally a different character. Next was a “dance of the week” segment starting with a teaser, then after the commercial break Archie introduced the dance, followed by the song of the week performed by The Archies. After that was a short joke followed by the 2nd Archie story. All 17 half hours were presented in this format.

I don’t recall the show having such a set routine, but in hindsight, it’s probably something that made the show even more appealing to me.

Fun fact: The Archie Show contained a laugh track, the first Saturday morning cartoon to do so..

So what motivated me to write about a show from almost 50 years ago?

Well the CW will be premiering a new show this week, Riverdale, in which clean-cut Archie gets an edgy makeover, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a description of the show from ew.com:

Set in the present day, the Greg Berlanti-produced drama will follow Archie (KJ Apa) and other beloved characters from the comics as they enter their sophomore year of high school while dealing with a murder-mystery.

“It’s definitely Archie, but a little darker, a little more complex and a little weirder than you might remember from the digest you bought at the supermarket,” executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told EW at San Diego Comic Conearlier this year. “We’re saying it’s a little bit like Archie meets Twin Peaks.”

The eerie promo teases a rather buff Archie, parties, plenty of high school drama, and also features shots of Veronica (Camila Mendes), the new girl in town competing with Betty (Lili Reinhart) for Archie’s affections. Flashes of ambulance lights and yellow police tape tease the tragic death of “high school golden boy” Jason Blossom, which kicks off the series.

It certainly doesn’t look like the show I remember, but I still I may have to pick up some Frosted Mini-Wheats and check out the first episode.

 

Please Make These Nightmares Go Away

I had the dream again last night.

I was on vacation with my wife and youngest son, and we had decided to go on a group tour of a local beach (in hindsight, not really sure why you would go on a group tour of a beach) and somehow I got separated from the group (again, in hindsight, not sure how you can get disconnected from a group tour of a beach, but everything seems plausible in a dream).

Well a couple of minutes into the separation, I found myself smack in the middle of a watering hole for alligators (or crocodiles, I don’t really care to know the difference, they both represent the thing I am most scared of in life). The photo above gives you an idea of what I was dealing with.

I tried to stay calm, and it seemed as if the alligators were content to jsut leave me alone. So I thought if I could just quietly find my way out of here, I would be ok. Unfortunately, as I was walking, I disturbed a baby alligator (unlike most baby animals, this was not cute) that was trying to sleep.

Apparently the alligator’s mom did not take kindly to this, and started coming towards me. She had also somehow beckoned all her fellow alligators to join in on the stampede. I started running, and in a flash I magically found myself back on the beach with the tour group. When I tried to explain to my wife where I had been, she wasn’t buying it. I tried to take her back to where all the gators were, but I couldn’t find them.

It  was just about then that I woke up from the nightmare.

This is the second dream I’ve had about alligators in the past month or so, and while I can’t recall what triggered the previous one, my guess is that last night’s dream was caused by that frightening video out of Florida showing a behemoth of an alligator at some nature preserve.

While the sighting has sparked an increase in visitors to the park, in my case, it’s sparked an increase in my fear of such creatures, and in the number of nightmares it looks I am destined to live with.

And to make matters worse, while I was putting this post together, I came across this story of a dental nurse who became an alligator catcher. As if I already didn’t feel like a wimp for not wanting to be within 100 miles of an alligator, here’s a young woman who loves alligators, and has caught a 900 pound one and released it back into nature. It looks like I’ll have to start taking more Scottish showers.

kissalligaotr

I’m hoping that writing about alligators is a way for me to confront my fears and as a result, the nightmares will end.

But I’m curious if there’s any deep meaning to such dreams.

Is it my subconscious telling me to not move to Florida when I retire? After all, the presence of alligators is one of the things that changed my mind about possibly retiring to Hilton Head.

Feel free to laugh at me, but we’ve all got our fears.

Some people are scared of snakes.

Some people are scared of alligators.

Some people are scared of running out of money during retirement.

Some people are scared of writing a blog and having no on read it.

Some people are scared of not having enough followers on Twitter.

Me, I’m scared of all those things.

 

A Musical Annotation of Bruce Springsteen’s Autobiography – Born to Run, Part 5

This is the fifth in a series of blogs in which I plan to go through and “musically annotate” Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run”. This involves going through the book page by page and listing the artists, and when possible, providing a YouTube video of the artists and songs that Bruce mentions as among his favorites.

Here are the previous posts:

Here is the YouTube playlist of all  songs/artists mentioned in Chapters 33-40; you can access any particular song by clicking in the top left corner of the screen and choosing the desired video. I also have a listing of the songs, which can be found after the video. In those cases where Bruce just mentions a musical group, I randomly chose one of that group’s songs to include in the playlist.