"Nothing should ever really be considered disposable unless it's fully biodegradable."
Popularity is a good trait to have for a product that is being sold. It means more people know and like the object and that usually means more money. Popularity happens because something in a popular item strikes a chord with a large number of people. Before long, seemingly everybody has seen a certain movie or read a certain book. The fact that so many people like it means it has some basic positive attributes but maybe not much else. And those positive attributes tend to be shared with many other popular things.
I find that I tend to like non-popular things more than the ones everybody says I’m supposed to like. It could be my psychological complex about being unique that drives me to not like what others like. Hopefully it’s something more. Unpopular items have characteristics that few people appreciate. I appreciate them more simply because their characteristics are different. Maybe it’s my way of supporting people who think outside-the-box, like I tend to do.
Not liking what everybody else likes has its issues. I can’t relate to what everybody is talking about when it comes to the latest book or latest Apple device. Even if I wanted to see, read, and listen to what everybody else has owned or experienced, I wouldn’t know where to begin as I am so far behind. Do I start with The Godfather or the latest comicbook superhero movie that I'm supposed to like? I get sick of the hype and the arrogance around something being so popular that I “must” see it. That’s OK, there are many other things to talk about.
The advantages to liking what few others do is that I can buy items like used CD’s for less money. Nobody else wants a CD by the Devlins or Whale… but I do. (Few people want to buy CD’s in general.) Liking what others don’t like takes you to the fringes and helps spur creativity. If I only watched what the masses did, I’d be exposed to the same things they’re all exposed to. Those stimuli have given society what we already have.
Another aspect of this tendency is that I find undiscovered diamonds in the rough. In doing so, I get the satisfaction of sharing with others something that they didn’t know about before. Finding the new and the obscure does take effort. Doing what everybody else does is mindless. It’s easy and it’s less risky.
As I’ve said before, “The road less traveled is the road more lonely.” But I’ve also said, “when you blend in, it’s as if you don’t exist.” I’ll like what I like and I don’t care who else likes it or that I don’t like what others like. It’s too late to change now anyway.
It’s time that the lone author of Things I’ve Noticed makes his election time statement. It’s the least I can do and I think it can be more effective than phone calls and door-to-door campaigns thanks to the power of the internet. This 2010 U.S. election may not seem as important as the one in 2008 but it is crucial that we as a country stay on course out of this long difficult road back to prosperity, peace, and decency. Keep in mind that we were led astray by the policies of Bush into an unnecessary war and the worst financial crisis in generations. Ask yourself, what went right during the Bush administrations? Environment? No. Economy? No. Foreign Policy? No. Health Care? No. Immigration? No. World reputation? No.
Obama and Congress started in a hole so large that it will take more than two years to come out of it no matter what. They have had two years to stop the bleeding and they have successfully done it. People say the stimulus didn’t worked, but I shudder to think where we would be without it. Government spending does create jobs. If there is a highway construction project money sponsored by the government, there need to be contractors, workers, managers, and engineers that are paid to do the work. It’s ironic that some of the stimulus money went to states with Republican leadership who are more than happy to accept it while criticizing the stimulus plan as a waste of money. This type of stimulus is necessary and those who complain about it tend to be ones who support going into further debt with tax cuts and war spending.
It’s up to businesses to start hiring people instead of squeezing the workers they have left after all the lay-offs with increasing amounts of work. Large companies are generally hoarding cash, earning record profits and not hiring. There is always uncertainty in business but it seems many business leaders have a vendetta against Obama. There is no better time to grow your human resources than when labor is cheap and the pool of skilled candidates is large. And it should be remembered that people without jobs make poor consumers. Who will buy all the stuff that companies sell if 20% of our people don’t have jobs? (On a side note, it’s interesting how nobody seems to be giving Obama and the Democrats credit for the stock market’s recent rise. It’s also interesting to see that the TARP program which was necessary to prevent a catastrophe may actually lead to a profit for the government (according to Bloomberg).
Our largest problem is that we tend to elect the politicians that tell us what we want to hear. We can’t have all the services and support network with social programs like unemployment benefits and Medicare, Social Security without tax revenues to pay for it. Given that the economy is slow right now, people are earning less and governments are getting less tax revenue. The tax cuts for the rich must end. The rates were much higher before and the economy still grew. Jobs were still being created. I haven’t seen it proven that the Bush tax cuts led to job creation and many jobs were created under Clinton with higher tax rates. Don't forget that the wealthy often pay lower effective tax rates than middle class people because they have more deductions. It takes money to save money on taxes. If it is corporate jobs, then the taxes only impact the private taxes of the execs. This has no bearing on whether their companies hire new employees. Corporate tax rates are different (and much lower). And very few owners of small businesses will be affected since few of them make over $250K (although Fox News would like you to think otherwise). Those who say higher taxes on the upper brackets are a disincentive to earn more money are just reaching for excuses to protect the wealth of the rich. Wealth disparity is the highest it has been in a long time. Besides, the jobless don’t really need to concern themselves with income tax brackets if they don’t have jobs. All the people getting wealthy by not hiring you can at least support your unemployment benefits.
Democrats stand for personal freedom, Republicans stand for corporate freedom. We all know the damage that corporations can have on the economy and the environment when left to do as they please. Republicans want to legislate to impose their morals on our diverse people and control what a woman can do with her body while letting the “free market economy” continue its assault on the middle class.
Let it be known that Obamacare is better than Republidontcare. Regardless of your religion, agnosticism, or atheism, there is nothing more merciful and graceful than helping others. It’s amazing how we teach kindergarteners to share and then forget how to do so as we get older. Those who oppose health care for all tend to be the ones with jobs and health insurance. They should remember that healthcare costs are the cause of a large number of personal bankruptcies. None of us should be happy that a child in the most prosperous nation on earth has to suffer from a lack of medical care. Preventative medicine and health care for all might be expensive but they are cheaper than having uninsured patients go to the emergency room or having people unnecessarily getting sick from not getting check-ups.
Environmentalism has taken a back seat to other issues of the day but if we revert back to a Republican Congress and/or Senate, the earth will suffer and our health will suffer while the rest of the world’s countries will begin to disrespect us. Environmental technologies can spur the economy. They can be exported throughout the world and bring money into our economy.
My thoughts have been somewhat disjointed but I wanted to make sure I made some points that are in my mind. The Republican “Party of No” has nothing but a bag of tricks that has proven itself not to work and the Tea Party is unrealistic and often doesn’t make sense. (I jokingly call it the Stupidi-Tea Party). Please vote on Tuesday and please support Obama and the Democrats. Their vision has only begun to take effect and it takes time get out of the hole to get to real change. Change is difficult. It takes sacrifice and plenty of patience.
Obviously, people have to work to make a living. Whether it’s working for one’s own business or for a company, people have to somehow get to work from where they live. The nature of a person’s commutes says a lot about people. I personally choose to live within 20 minutes of work. Since I’m living alone and not in my house, I was able to choose to live in an apartment within a certain distance of work and other parts of town where I like to hang out. Family people in which both spouses work often have one person driving further than the other out of necessity. But I’ve noticed that many people will sacrifice a large percent of the time in their lives just to live in a nice house or in a certain part of town where large plots of land are affordable or where it’s cooler.
I find it ironic because the fact that a commute is long takes away from time to enjoy the place that is the reason for the long commute in the first place. Of course there are budgetary concerns such as the price of housing near work and the price of gasoline. Those figure into the equation as well, but people don’t realize that the wear and tear on the vehicle, the gas expense, and the value of the time used to commute can exceed the savings in living far from work. I just don’t understand people who commute 3 hours each way to get to a job. How do they have time to see their family and friends, work out, or partake in a hobby? Time is all you have to make something of your life. If you use a significant portion of it to drive to and from a job, it’s non-value added, except for perhaps getting to enjoy driving your vehicle and some music. Driving is not exactly the safest activity either. Many long commutes involve stop-and-go driving which is annoying, (and bad for your car). Those who commute on trains or buses can at least catch up on sleep or read, but then they have to sit next to strangers and catch the bus or train on somebody else’s schedule. This is not always doable with some white collar jobs that have non-fixed hours.
In the end, it’s all about priorities. Some choose living circumstances over time. With our poor economy and housing market, many people’s hands are tied as they can’t sell their homes to move closer to work. Often school districts and quality of education dictate where they live. When people have the choice though, I don’t think people don’t “run all the numbers” on time and true costs enough when they decide where to live.
I ask myself why it has such an effect. I know Saabs aren’t the best cars in the
world, but their combination of characteristics are endearing and build
loyalty. The 1997 Saab 900 was the only
product I’ve ever tried that made me an impulse shopper. I ended up buying one and I still like
driving it, don’t think I could ever sell it.
So there is the product aspect, but there will always be competent cars
produced by somebody else. Sure, they
won’t have that same Trollhattan magic, but many other vehicles would be
satisfying to own and operate. That’s
not the only reason why Saab fans are so fervent and gathering around the world to rally around
their favorite car brand. What makes the complete brand? It’s what the brand stands for and how it
does so with style, consistency, a feeling that it generates with every
interaction one has with the product, communications and service from the
company. It really represents what us
Saab owners are all about, as does any choice of vehicle. We like to consider ourselves, unique, intelligent,
not-too-pretentious, practical, and considerate lovers of driving and
cars. We become attached to our vehicles and
find it hard to part with them. But we forget
that every company selling cars is a business first and foremost. And it’s sad.
GM will do with Saab what they think is best for their shareholders. Saab may go the way of the defunct brands like Oldsmobile, Eagle, Studebaker, and Edsel for business reasons only. It’s all about money, but that’s not a good enough answer for those of us who are passionate about Saabs. We are part of a tight-knit community that helps each other with issues and advice, networks for jobs, and are supportive to each other in a way that may be unsurpassed by other vehicle owner groups who are often too large or too immature. There are some Snaabs out there who think they’re too good for other non-Saab owners or don’t acknowledge others who also drive Saabs because those others are cutting in on their uniqueness. But overall, Saab fans want Saab to survive and to continue to produce products that keep us safe, provide utility and pleasure in our daily lives. So on behalf of Saabsters everywhere, GM, please save Saab! There are many people who will not forgive you if you let Saab die. Many of these people have pledged to never buy another GM product if this happens. Whether you keep it or sell it, keep your loyal Saab fans in mind. It is a business, but there is something called customer goodwill that may help you in the future. And besides, if Saab goes away, Saab owners will instantly lose thousands of dollars of resale value until some of our cars become rare classics. More important than the money, we will lose a friend of a brand and a bit of our identity. A brand is a terrible thing to waste.
Job losses have been staggering as employees have been treated more like numbers than at any other time in history. Apparently, some companies think work can get done without people. Well, at least they think they can squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of those who are still employed. When the market turns around and the pendulum swings the other way, employees will take advantage of the situation. Turnabout is fair play.
As far as consumption goes, this economic crisis has taught me that although it’s good to invest, remember to also buy the things you can cherish or hold onto, whether they are experiences or objects that mean a lot to you. And diversify like crazy, not just in the U.S., not just in stocks and bonds, but in commodities, foreign companies and other areas you might not have thought of before. And don’t get greedy. Nothing goes up forever so cash in as you need to as you get older. Nothing goes up forever! What’s great about saving money when times are good is that it allows you to buy and spend during economic downturns when the deals are great and nobody else is buying.
It appears that we’ve avoided a depression, (and I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet), but we should never forget the lessons we can take away from this last year of economic mayhem.
The last time I checked, my height was 5’8 and some fraction of an additional inch. By American standards, this is slightly below average for a male. But I like my height. I’m tall enough that I can see over my office cube walls, I’m taller than most women, (except maybe here in the Twin Cities), I can fit in any car, feel comfortable on any plane seat, and I never hit my head on a door frame. To clarify, I have nothing against my taller friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. I’m not "heightist". But we live in a world that judges people on height. Society in general doesn’t share my affinity for not being tall. I and many others pay the price every day. Research shows that taller people make more money, and get elected more often than shorter candidates. They’re often seen as better leaders just because of their physical stature. But, everybody knows that some short people, like Napoleon and Gandhi were great leaders while some tall people like George W. Bush were clearly not.
Heightism is especially apparent on the dating scene. I can understand that a woman would want a guy at least a couple of inches taller for that whole protector masculine male / feminine female effect, even though a lot of short guys can kick taller guys’ butts. And many of them want to wear heels without appearing taller than the guy, but I’ve come across women that are scarcely above 5 feet tall who only want to be with guys that are 6’0” and taller. That’s like being prejudiced against your own kind. Perhaps they’re just trying to compensate. Regardless, wanting a guy over a certain height constitutes filtering a potential mate over one purely physical trait. I thought women wanted nice guys that could make them laugh. I’ve been mistaken all along. Sociological research shows that height is the number one factor women use to judge a man’s suitability as a mate. I could ask for a minimum measurements of a certain female physical feature, (if you know what I mean), and that would totally not be OK. (For the record, I wouldn’t do that.) I’m not sure where this double standard came from. I know that not all is roses for tall people though. In my research, I've found that shorter women are preferred by men. Tall women have to compete with the short women who only want tall guys. (They must really hate that). And to be fair, tall men can be discriminated against too. Certain jobs don’t have the space for too much height.
In the athletics arena, height is an asset in almost every sport. Us shorter people resort to playing soccer which still holds advantages for tall players when it comes to headers. One can make up for being short by running fast, or having good jumping ability or long arms, but it’s not the same. I always used to joke that if I was as tall as Shaq, I could be a great basketball player too, (and I would have a much higher free throw percentage). There’s also interesting research that shows that taller people are slower to react to their surroundings, so maybe we have one slight advantage. I tend to root for the underdog, so I’m often cheering for short people like Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues who played professional basketball in the NBA and were 5’7” and 5’3” respectively. We need to develop a new sport where being shorter is an asset, one besides horse racing.
In a way, I’d like to congratulate tall people for having won a kind of genetic lottery. I envy tall people without wanting to have their height. Maybe guys should be the ones who wear shoes with taller heels. Contrary to what one might think, I don’t have a complex about my height. But height is obviously an issue with others, so I have to be aware of what factors might be working against me. I’m lucky I’m not shorter. Perhaps I’m just jealous of the free pass tall people get in so many avenues of life.
With all the news about the hurting auto industry, loans from the government, bankruptcies and acquisitions, people tend to lose sight of the fact that the whole automotive world, (something which has been a big part of my life and the lives of millions of others), has been turned on its head. Sure it may not seem like a big deal, but this is arguably the largest and most important industry on the planet. The products people buy from it touch our lives daily, inspire us, and allow us the ultimate freedom, mobility. Cars and trucks are aspirational objects that we often depend on do to just about everything else in life, we judge people by the vehicles they drive, and some people dedicate their lives to careers or hobbies revolving around vehicles.
From the corporate perspective, let’s put it this way, there is hardly a single manufacturer or automotive brand that hasn’t gone through substantial change in the last 5 years, and the pace has recently accelerated. GM, the formerly largest corporation on the planet that sold almost half the cars we bought in the U.S. is a much smaller version of itself and in financial desperation. There are a lot more competitors and other factors that made this happen, but that’s just the beginning in describing our upside down automotive world. The second largest American car company, Ford will probably take over as first, the third largest is now mostly owned by Italian auto company, Fiat, part of which GM owned in the 90’s and sold at a major loss before turning it around. Fiat, (or its Alfa Romeo division), hasn’t sold vehicles here in more than 20 years and now they have control over many of Chrysler’s old dealers. Even crazier is the fact that GM used to own part of Subaru, and now Toyota owns part of them. BMW used to own Land Rover, sold them to Ford and now Tata, (a huge company in India that sells everything from tea to telecom to steel), bought Land Rover and Jaguar from Ford. So a company from a country that was a British colony now owns one of Britain’s historical car brands. Had enough craziness? Well, BMW owns MINI which was purely British, but even more importantly, they own the British ultra luxury brand Bentley while Volkswagen owns Rolls Royce. Then there are the Swedish car companies. Saab had been owned by GM for quite a while, but they just sold the brand to a small Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg. And now it’s reported that Geely, a Chinese company with a not-so-great safety record is looking to buy the Swedish brand Volvo which is known for safety. In the last 10 years, we’ve lost the brands Eagle, Geo, Oldsmobile, and Plymouth. What’s going on? I feel like I’m in a blender. GM has closed down Pontiac, also sold Hummer to a Chinese company, sold Saturn to Penske who’s associated with racing, Hertz, and AutoNation. The latest news says they plan on selling cars from many different international companies under the formerly all-American Saturn badge.
As if this wasn’t all enough, another Indian motor vehicle manufacturer, Mahindra and Mahindra is going to start selling cars here and Tata is planning on bringing the groundbreakingly low-priced Nano over. GM’s European division Opel has been sold to both a Russian investor and Magna, a Canadian parts supplier. Think about it. A parts company owns a car company. I don’t know whether I want to buy a Chinese Volvo, an Italian Chrysler, a Malaysian Saturn or an American Chevy. I do know that I would rather support the U.S. auto industry to keep more jobs and profits in our country. So, now that my beloved Saab brand is Swedish again and not owned by GM, I doubt that I will buy another new one. I think I’ll be buying a Cadillac, Chevy, Ford or Mercury. But those Fiats and Alfa Romeos do look pretty cool. And I could support my home country a bit more by buying an Indian Jaguar, but Jaguar is not really my style. Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagen are doing alright with their government-sponsored health care and pensions that reduce costs to the company for vehicle production. But there’s news there too. Mercedes dumped Chrysler and Volkswagen is largely owned by Porsche. Honda is doing OK given the circumstances while Toyota is hemorrhaging from perhaps trying to grow too fast. At least the Japanese car companies can thank their government for not only health care and pensions, but for currency manipulation and trade restrictions. All we need now are for the French to bring Citroens or Peugeots to the U.S. and the car market free-for-all will get more confusing. As it is, I’m in an automotive daze. I’m waiting for the dust to settle and I don’t know what to make of it yet. Maybe I’ll just build my own car, (or buy a bicycle).
My first post of 2009 is about people doing what they're not supposed to do or not doing what they're supposed to do. I'm not talking about New Year's resolutions. Everybody talks about those. Rather, I'm talking about actions that are taken every day, ones we must deal with because they lead to results that are undesirable. They affect what society has to do. I would say that many of the daily activities in which we partake are done as a direct consequence.
If this was an ideal world with respect to how people behaved, there would be a lot more unemployment. If people were honest and didn't steal, we wouldn't need locks, safes, computer security systems, or policemen. Just think. Life would be easier though. You would never need keys, could move your friends car or take care of their house while they traveled without any prior planning. We wouldn't have any security hassles at the airport, wouldn't need to sign when we used our credit cards. You could have left your cookies un-licked at the school cafeteria table without worrying that your friends might eat them. On the business side, contracts would be much shorter. We would need far fewer lawyers. (Such a shame). Kids wouldn't have to be taught to not talk to strangers and parenting would be immensely easier. Hitchhiking would be an interesting, stress-free experience. My personal utopia angle on this is that we wouldn't need computer passwords, (which have ruined my life)! Could you imagine? The world would be so much more efficient.
On the flip-side, we would have to find other jobs for all the people that design and manufacture security cameras or for any people whose duty it is to secure or protect someone or something. On a different front, most people in white collar jobs have to do a lot of follow-up. This is only because other people don't do what they're supposed to do as expected. If everybody did their job like they're supposed to, there would be fewer managers to oversee what we're (not) doing.
But life would be a lot less interesting if everybody was forthright and did what they were supposed to. There wouldn't be any funny criminal stories in the papers. We wouldn't sharpen our senses in sniffing out spam. We wouldn't have as much to complain about and we'd probably be more vulnerable to dangerous wild animals or aliens. I say that it's good that there are people who don't do what they're supposed to. It probably leads to innovation and great ideas both in trying to perform illegal activities and in trying to defend against them. It probably accounts for a significant portion of our economy.
I'm not advocating that you don't do what you're supposed to do, but next time somebody steals your Garmin out of your car, maybe this post can help you laugh it off. And in this bad economy, many of us should feel fortunate that we have jobs. Many of them depend on human dishonesty.