Thursday, January 16, 2014

10 lines we might be in

Our neighbors across the pond call it queueing up.  In America it's called getting in line.  Seems like queue is the proper term, but in any case, it's basic economics.  When supply is scarce and demand is high, there is just one thing to do and that is LINE UP!

10 The DMV - If you don't drive anything motorized, you have never had to stand in line to get your drivers license or get it renewed.  That could be a lot of people.  People in big cities will sometimes never learn how to drive.  If you live in a fairly urbanized country, you will have had to stand in line for this privilege.  In America young teenagers will experience their first Government bureaucracy here where you take a test that has several driving related questions who's math equivalent may well be 'how many is 1?'  You then may take a live test where you have to demonstrate that you are at least serious enough to not act like an idiot while someone official is watching.  After that, it's just another line or 2 to get your picture taken and BANG.  You are driving with the full permission of the state.  yay.

9.  The Emergency Room - Holidays bring out the best and the worst in us.  Often during a holiday, there will be a bumper crop of injuries and no doctor's offices open (after all, it's the holidays!).  Now you may not be standing in line specifically, but you most definitely are in line.  You wait your turn until they take your information.  In some countries, the IDEA is to have a long line and a bothersome process. That way, you'll only stand in line if you are REALLY sick.

8.  Concert Tickets - So you hear that the Foo Fighters are coming to play in your local Olympic Stadium.  Sure, there are a lot of seats, but how many of them are the GOOD seats?  Not many.  So you stand in a LONG line of equally fanatic fans to get the best seats.  In order to increase the lines, now a lot of ticket vendors will give you a number and then draw numbers for the good seats.  This increases the line, but shortens the duration in the line since nobody is picking seats.

7. Theme Park - This is the essence of standing in line.  From buying your tickets to riding the rides.  Much more of your time is spent in lines than on the actual rides.   It became such a problem that over the years, theme parks have devised numerous methods to keep people moving to rides.  First the graduated ticket book system by Disney, where the now famous 'E' Ticket was born.  Well, this turned out to be not so great because it just created lines at the ticket booths as well as the lines.  Then they went to the fast pass.  This helped quite a bit.  Now they have smart phone apps that tell you where the crowds are so you can go to the least crowded areas.

6.  Black Friday - The day after Thanksgiving.  Isn't it interesting that the day after the day originally instituted by America as a day of observing general gratitude comes a day unofficially dedicated to observing gluttony.   Well with this gluttony comes the deals from the stores that offer 'for the first 100 customers' deals that seem too good to be true.  These deals have prospective customers standing in line for over a day to get a shot at the goods.  I've given up standing in that line long ago.  The deals are attractive, but unless that line has a ride at the end of it.  I will decline.

5.  Airline Security Check - This line is probably one of the most consistent lines you will stand if you travel.  Designed to be orderly, and protect your security, it tends to be neither.  The TSA are there to rifle through your things and scan you for dangerous items.  I have heard the TSA in the airport referred to as security theater.  the TSA is the most long lasting annoyance that the 911 terrorists have left us with.  We add up to 30 extra minutes to our travel time because of it.  On the good side.  Airports have made waiting for flights a bit more bearable.  I remember back in the day when airports had a news stand a few chairs and mostly open hallways.  Thanks terrorists...ya jerks.

4. Gas Station - Ok, Ok, there really aren't lines at the gas station.  Except way back in the 1970's there were horrible gas lines because of a gas shortage.  Another economics lesson there, but I won't go into it.  Bottom line was there was very little gas and lots of cars.  People started installing extra fuel tanks in their cars so they could fill up as much as they could when they did finally make it to the gas pump.  If there was a shortage of gas then...why isn't there almost no gas now?  hmmm...

3.  Celebrity Signatures - Talk about shortages.  All celebrities are the same.  One of them, lots of us.  As a result they charge money for a signature or a picture because there is only one of them.  That's a line wherever they seem to go.  These celebs include but are not limited to.  Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Cameron Diaz, Santa Claus.  Folks seem to line up for any of them.

2.  New Tech - It seems this is a happening for any geek, it just depends on your flavor.  For me, it was the Nintendo Wii.  I waited all night with my son in sub 0 temperatures to finally get a ticket for the console.  For others, it was the Iphone, or the Xbox360, or the Playstation 3.  If the tech is anticipated enough, there are lines at the mere suggestion of availability.

1.  Food -  If you have been to any buffet, and you probably have, you will wait in line for the good stuff.  Usually deserts.  Even on a cruise ship, when they take the covers off of those chafing dishes, it's time to queue up!  Funny thing is, when you go back for seconds.  there is usually hardly any line at all.

There it is, another 10.  Only just.  Tune in 2 weeks from now, and I will regale you with yet another decade of things I think about.  No lines here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

10 Gambles we don't know we are taking

Life.  So brief and fleeting and yet so long for some.  A series of memories and then you yourself become a memory.  But this isn't to talk about dying, this post is to talk about what we do while we are living.  There are many things said about life meant to be introspective and meaningful.  Maybe too many things.  The one thing I know about life is that it is not much more than a series of risks.  Often we do not consider these things to be gambles, but you are risking up front for the chance of some kind of return.  The key is to minimize these risks so life is more manageable.

10.  I'll just get that real quick - This is the thought in your head when you are trying to reach something that is up just barely out of reach.  The noodles on the top shelf.  That last box of Christmas ornaments.  The often unused garden implements.  Instead of getting a ladder or a step stool that would be very sturdy, you decide to stack up a couple of paint cans and give it a try.  The problem is, your balance is good enough that you will have a lot of close calls before you finally take a tumble.  Just take the time to get the step ladder.  It will pay off in the end when you aren't in traction.

9.  Driving.  -  Driving is so much worse for us than flying or any other form of public transportation.  It's really obnoxious.  Driving kills more people than guns do every year and yet we don't hear much about limiting who should drive.  It's not even a guaranteed right.  Yet we do it every day without giving it a second thought.  Well this year, make your driving a little better.  Cut out your distractions.  Dump the texting, don't answer that cell phone.  Just you and the ambient radio should be good enough.

8.  New prescriptions - This one is interesting because it's from a place we trust.  We have our own FDA that evaluates and determines if a drug is ready for public consumption.  Your doctor will then in turn prescribe it to you for your chronic high blood pressure, or your high cholesterol, or some other malady you suffer from.  Well by now you have seen those commercials for various drugs.  The exceptions and warnings are longer than the commercial!  MANY drugs will have adverse side effects in a very small amount of the population.  Guess what?  YOU are a small amount of the population.  Maybe this new drug is you breaking the odds.  Probably not.  Am I telling you not to take things your Doctor recommends?  Of course not, it's just a risk we all take,  just watch the commercials.

7.  Fresh - What's better for you than fresh food?!?  The folks at your local organic fresh grown range fed grocer would tell you nothing.  The problem is, even with as many checks and verifications there are of your fresh foods, they can still have some bit of bacteria in them that make them somewhat less than safe.  Sure this is no different than going to your regular store and buying fresh produce there?  Fresh food you make yourself in your own garden?  Yeah, that's full of bacteria as well.  Sure you cleaned it off as well as you could.  Most of the time you'll be fine with any of these things...most of the time.  Don't even get me started on sushi.white

6. Gifts - Why are gift cards so popular?  Because giving REAL gifts.  The kind from the heart are so difficult.  What if they don't like it?  What if they already have one?  What if What if What if???  On the other hand, the venerable white elephant gift appears to be the thoughtful gift that people don't have a problem with...why?  Because nobody knows who the recipient is so there is no blame and good or bad even the losers win.   So maybe all gifts should be white elephants... hmmmm.

5.  Vocation - When you are young, you have to decide what job or field you will eventually end up in as an adult.  Of course you don't have to decide in which case life decides for you, and usually the job life hands you sucks and has something to do with the food services industry.  So you decide to train in a vocation.  The problem is, you don't know if it's one you will like or be good at until it's probably a bit too late.  Sure you can change to a new career, but will it be the one you like?  I do have one bit of advice.  Do what you love for a job and you will learn to hate it.  Just do something you are good at and make your hobby the thing you love.

4.  Vacation - Just a little time off from your workaday world.  For me, the ability to sit at home and do what I want to do is a pretty good vacation.  But what about seeing something new?  What about having an adventure?  Well there is the risk.  You've never been to ______.  But you've seen pictures.  Well if you enjoy the good and bad of an adventure, then a vacation to a strange place is just the ticket.  Because the most memorable vacations are the ones where things go wrong at some point.

3.  The Movies - A little escape, that's what we want from the movies.  A good story told in an interesting manner.  The previews come on and you think 'Oh, that looks interesting, I think I'll see that when it comes out.'  Then you go see it and it's horrible.  Some people will actually get up and walk out, some will actually ask for their money back.  That's fine, but you still can't get the time back.  More of us just put up with the show.  You hope it's good, best make the best of it.

2.  Shoes - When you are young, you don't really care what shoes you wear.  You just put on whatever you got at the store and you didn't care much as long as they looked ok.  When you get older, shoes are more of an investment.  You would like very much for a pair of shoes to keep your feet from hurting.  Sometimes you get a pair of shoes that slowly makes your feet feel worse and worse over time.  Not all at once of course, but at one point you will realize it.

1. 401k Retirement - Sure this one is obvious, but it bears mentioning.  An investment is something you put your hard earned money into and expect a return that is greater than the amount you've put in.  There is not an investment brokerage around that does not indicate that any money you risk can possibly be lost.  Most of us have seen this first hand. If you do the math on this it looks something like this Investment = Gamble. As the market has gained it's recovery one can only wonder how long before the next round of losers.

Not my best this time around, but it's the first of the year.  I'm sure it will get better in 15 days.