Sunday, June 29, 2008

An Amazing Physical Feat

A friend showed me this video clip. NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant, promoting his new tennis shoe, performed an amazing stunt (as shown in the first part of this video). The stunt inspired a sports commentator to perform his own similar feat (albeit with drastically dissimilar results).

Be sure to watch through the first 2 1/2 minutes or so (at least).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How Much Per Pound?

Shawna found this news video online the other day:

I watched it and it got me to thinking that this must be an extraordinarily expensive diet (although the guy has a pretty sweet ride; he can probably afford it). At any rate, I, having a desperate hunger for worthless bits of information, wondered how much this diet must have cost the guy, so I started doing some mental math.

I figured that he probably eats three meals a day. If the average McD's meal is $6, then he's shelling out a cool $18/day (quite a lot when you start to add it up--ESPECIALLY if you're Shegazelle!).

I was right. This guy's McDonalds diet is expensive! In a six-month period, he shed about 70 lbs, or about 3 lbs a week (give or take). That eighteen bucks per day rolls up to $126/week, or an INSANE $42 per pound lost!

But is it really that expensive? I did a little web research and put some numbers to a handful of other popular diets, and found that comparatively this is one of the "cheaper" diets out there!

I compared "The McDonalds Diet" to Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and a handful of other programs, and found that "The McDonalds Diet" is one of the LESS EXPENSIVE weight loss programs out there (second only to NutriSystem, which comes in at $34.27/Lb at 70 lbs of weight loss at an average loss rate of 2 lbs per week). The killer program is "The Zone", an extremely exclusive weight loss program only available in select metropolitan areas. It'll cost you, if you decide to get in "The Zone", a whopping $95.17 per pound to lose that same 70 lbs (at the rate of 2.5 lbs per week).

I've shown the breakdown and comparison below (you'll have to scroll over in order to see the whole thing; Google Docs is amazing, but it has it's weaknesses):

There are two morals to this story, I think.

First, the weight comes cheap (it's pretty easy to put it on); but losing it is VERY COSTLY!

But the more telling thing, I think, is this weight loss program phenomenon. People all over the country are jumping on some program or the other (or making up their own off-the-beaten-path program, like this guy), and paying dearly for it. They aren't buying weight loss though; they're buying discipline. Rather, they don't HAVE discipline, so they're supplementing it with something that'll take off the weight but not be so "uncomfortable."

The truth is, the BEST weight loss program is pretty basic: eat things that are healthy; avoid foods that are high in fat/sugar/carbs (pick your poison; a quick note: the low fat/sugar/carb/etc foods are typically less expensive than the alternative, which says a lot, I'll bet, for the weight management value in Shegazelle's menu); don't be a glutton--leave some on the plate and stop before your buttons start popping.

You see my point? That's no fun. So, instead, we sign up for programs that'll let us eat Ho-Ho's that are specially formulated (and extraordinarily expensive) by some weight loss guru, so that we don't have to "go without". And we pay dearly for them.

All in all, it says much about our society.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Twisty Towers

This is an absolutely amazing architectural feat!

I saw this on Yahoo tonight, and watched it over and over again. It's a revolutionary concept--one that seems to defy all the laws of traditional architecture.

You might not know this, but I'm an architecture buff; I design homes (sometimes). It's one of my passions. This just amps me up!


The Oddest Search Terms

How bored must a person be to google "quarters in nose record"?

I pay attention to the various referrals to MyndFood; of all the search engine referrals, the most popular theme is bubble gum (that is, more folks are referred to MyndFood from search engines by typing in "bubble gum" than via any other topic). A very close second though is "quarters in the nose", or some variation thereof.

Do these people not have a life?

I mean, occasionally, I jump on the Net, hop over to Google, and type in random phrases just to see what'll pop up (like "carrots and grasshoppers"; or "how much magenta is in the umbrella?"; or "i have this sharp pain just in front of my belly button" [which, incidentally, informed me that it's likely I'm pregnant; shows how much Google knows...]). It's fun to use randomly phrased search parameters to springboard a good Web surfing session. But "quarters in the nose" is probably somewhere in the bottom 5% on the global list of all search term combinations, ordered by probability of actually being used. NOBODY in their right mind would just randomly search for that!

It's a good thing though, in that it's sending folks to the site.

Which reminds me: if you haven't already seen the video, check it out below, and email a link to this post to everyone in your address book!

As always, thanks for dining!

Yeah, We Found 'Em

I forgot to tell you that you can quit looking; we found them.

The dogs.

The next morning, actually. Shawna called super early and woke me (Ha!) and told me that she'd called the pound, and some guy had called and had picked them up. They gave us the number, so I called the guy; he was in Reno for the day, but he gave me his address and told me where to pick them up.

The ill-mannered dogs had strewn garbage all over the poor guy's backyard; I'm glad nobody was home when I went to pick them up, 'cuz the guy might've asked me to pick up all the garbage.

Then, later that day, the guy calls me and asks if "the little one has had her rabies shot."

"Um...ya. Why do you ask?" When in doubt, always go with the answer that you think they're wanting to hear.

"She bit me when I was trying to get her in the car last night. Just wanted to make sure it was safe!"

Scared me a bit, but I called and checked and she has had the shot, so it's all good.

At any rate, this is a huge thank you to some guy (named Reid) who I've never met, who saved our dogs (at the expense of a chunk of flesh torn from his hand, and what appeared to be the aftermath of hurricane Rita after making her way through a landfill in his backyard).

Saturday, June 21, 2008


For the first time, I think that I might disagree with Tony Woodlief. His post today called "The End Times" is insulting (I think), as I routinely groom my eyebrows (although not typically while in traffic, and usually not using the rear view mirror).

Is he implying something about "men" who trim their brows? I do; I even wax them from time to time (although I don't typically "shape" them; it's more of a rough "mow" job).

Which doesn't make me any less a man, I shouldn't think (although Tony seems to disagree).

Or does it? I, personally, have always been an advocate of wholesome grooming habits. Perhaps true manliness requires personal habits slightly more reminiscent of our neanderthal ancestors.

Or perhaps I'm just hypersensitive and grouchy. In which case, you should just ignore me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

In My Day

I was working late (too late, I think), and before signing off to get in bed, jumped over to the web to check the news headlines.

I wish I hadn't.

Today's top news stories? Gas prices are so high that stations can no longer afford to take credit cards; global warming is causing flooding in the Midwest; mentally ill defendants may not defend themselves; scientists think they've created a "super" mosquito that can combat malaria; Muslim women barred from speaking in a public venue; in four years, the world population will have exploded to 7 billion people; 33,000 people committed suicide in Japan last year.

That's what shows up at the top of the list. Even the positive stuff--like the malaria-fighting mosquito--is thinly veiled bad news; namely that there's a world plague that we're actively fighting. There's nothing positive there. In fact, reading the news in it's entirety anymore is enough to make anyone naturally inclined to pessimism (as I am) sit back and wait for utter destruction, for the Apocalypse to overtake us (it's bound, after all, to happen at any moment).

It's truly depressing that all we can find to talk about in our world today is this. Either the world has rapidly become a terrible place to live, or the news agencies have taken to peddling utter hopelessness (as I say that, I get this feeling in my gut that it's one of those things that one begins to say as they age; you know, one of the statements that typically begin with "back in MY day...", in which case, I'm HORRIBLY depressed because it means I'm FAR older than my already depressingly horrid age).

At any rate, allow me, for a moment, to embrace my inner senior citizen, and say, "In MY day, they had POSITIVE news every once in a while." But then, I'm reminded hundreds of times EVERY day that today is NOT my day. Tomorrow probably won't be either. So, let the news be what it'll be.

I just won't be reading it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bathroom Break

I decided, today, to follow the lead of some woman I ran across (rather strangely) while in San Francisco last week.

I was at a dinner in a hotel meeting room, and I'd stepped out to use the restroom. I was standing at the urinal when the door opened and in walked a woman, about sixty; she reminded me a little of my Grandmother, with that coiffed blue 'do, the satiny-ruffled blouse, buttoned to the neck, and the practical flats that might've been purchased in 1962, or yesterday (who can know?).

She walked past, mumbling to herself, and I thought, first for an instant that, perhaps I was in the wrong restroom, and I was instantly mortified. I quickly realized, though, that, despite the fact that this IS California, San Francisco no less, we've not yet begun installing urinals in women's restrooms. She was in the wrong restroom. Perhaps she didn't realize it, but in hindsight, I don't think that's the case; while I didn't point out to her that she was in the restroom with the blue triangle on the door, she did see me, and it didn't seem to phase her at all.

It was, I admit, a bit strange standing there in the men's restroom with a matronly woman in one of the stalls just a few feet away. I was embarrassed (although I'm not sure why; it was she who was intruding). I rushed to wash my hands (as she whistled her way through her business there in the stall), and rushed out of the bathroom. I suspect she decided that privacy--mine AND hers--took a backseat to her impatience, as there was a line to use the women's restroom.

I was saying, though, that I've decided to follow her example--not in using the men's restroom; I've been doing that for a few years now. In using the OPPOSITE restroom; at least at work. Because our restroom has a perpetual smell that is just unbearable. I've taken to moistening a paper towel and tying it about my head, covering my nose and mouth, prior to risking the stench. It's absolutely horrid. And I don't know why.

It's a clean restroom (relatively, at least). And the toilets and urinals are regularly flushed (I check them all often). I honestly cannot fathom the source of the foul smell, but it's so bad that I've gone and decorated the restroom with those hangy, good smelling Christmas tree things that you hang from your car rear view mirror (the restroom looks like a scene from a cheesy horror flick--the one where the dead body has been stored in the back bedroom for 27 months).

It's not working though. So I've worked up an exclusive timeshare agreement with the women in the office: I get exclusive use of their restroom three times per day. They were hesitant, at first, but I offered them the right to use the men's restroom five times per day, in return. All I had to do was point out that, in making this agreement, they were effectively getting the best of the company, since they were, in doing so, receiving additional bathroom breaks without any decrease in salary (yea...they're not the sharpest knives in the drawer...I hope none of them read this).

At any rate, as uncomfortable as it is, it's to the point where it's worth it. I only hope none of the guys catch me walking out.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


We went to San Francisco yesterday. Mother and Dad were up visiting, and so I thought we'd make the drive into 'Frisco and take Shawna to eat somewhere nice--as today is her 26th birthday!

That's right; she's 26 years old today!

And so we spent part of the day there in the City by the Bay and then went to one of our favorite restaurants for a late lunch overlooking the water.

I wanted to do something nice for her, and it's one of those restaurants where, if you let them know that there's a birthday girl in your party, they'll bring the entire staff out to your table, clapping and whistling and catcalling, and make the honoree stand on a chair while they sing a rowdy rendition of Happy Birthday.

I thought she'd appreciate that, so I mentioned, quietly, to the waitress, that it was Shawna's birthday. She grinned at me conspiritorialy and scurried off to round up the troops.

Dad must have let the cat out of the proverbial bag, though, because somehow Shawna caught on.

In hindsight, it's a good thing, too; because come to find out, she DOESN'T enjoy that kind of attention! You learn new things every day!

At any rate, she escaped without being mortified by 40 rowdy waiters singing Happy Birthday at the top of their lungs.

BUT, it's not just everyday you turn 26!

So, I want your help, faithful partakers of this sumptuous fare. Do this:

-Push your chair back and stand up (make sure you have a little room).
-Climb up on the chair (standing).
-Clap loudly, on tempo, all-together now: clap-clap-clap-clap-clap...
-On the count of three, sing together that Disney version of Happy Birthday, at the top of your lungs. Ready? 1....2....3!

Today is your birthday,
Have a Happy Birthday!
Today is your birthday,
Have a Happy Day!

-Scroll down just a bit, click on the comments link, and leave a birthday wish for her!

Happy Birthday Shawna! I love you!

Friday, June 13, 2008


I haven't served up anything sweet lately so I thought I'd post some demotivating posters from Technically, now that I think about it, they're probably bitter-sweet.

If nothing else, I'm sure Shegazelle will enjoy them...

Thursday, June 12, 2008


The dogs ran away the other night.

I was late getting home (from the meeting out of town where the speaker thought I was German). Shawna and the kids were out of town visiting Papa and Grandma, so I was home alone. I read for a bit, cleaned up the house (it's true, I tell ya), and then settled down sometime around 1 AM to go to sleep.

I closed my eyes, and the cool, peaceful night began to overtake me. I started to drift off into the that quiet oblivion...


My eyes shot open! My heart began to beat triple time:


I jumped out of bed, ran to the sliding glass door, and yanked the door open

"Rowy! Chloe! C'mere girls!" I called


I ran to the garage and grabbed a container full of food. I'd forgotten to feed them for a day (or two); perhaps they were passed out over on the side of the house. I ran around, food in hand, and stopped short. Nothing.

There was, though, a nice sized hole under the fence. Flashbacks of Shawshank Redemption: maps drawn on the backs of cat posters inside the dog house; holes dug in the dead of night, the dogs alternating--one digging, the other as a lookout; dog bones and spare food stored away under the dog house.

They were gone.

I ran inside, put on a pair of jeans, a shirt and some slippers (shaved and put some gel in my hair), grabbed my keys and cell phone, and ran to the car. I called Shawna as I started the car.


"Shawna: It's PJ!"


"Shawna: It's me! Are you awake?"


"Shawna: They're arresting me!"


"Shawna: Please! Wake up!"


"Shawna: The dogs ran away!"

"What?!?! Oh my goodness! What happened?!?!"

"They're gone Shawna! I don't know what happened! I'm going to go out and see if I can find them right now, but they're gone! They got out under the fence! What are we going to do?" By this time I'm almost crying, if for no other reason than I know the kids absolutely love the dogs, and I can't bear the thought of being the guy who was on watch when they escaped.

"PJ! Calm down! It's OK!"

I'm driving up and down the dark streets, windows down, sobbing out the windows at the top of my lungs: "ROWY!!! CHLOE!!! C'MERE DOGGIES!! LEX AND GENTRY ARE HOME!! COME SEE 'EM!!"

"PJ!" Shawna's yelling at me by now. "Pull yourself together! Calm down! Listen: turn around, go home, get some rest, and we'll call the pound in the morning! You've got to calm down though!"

I pull to the side of the road, put the car in park, dig around in the back and find a plastic Target bag. I try inhaling and exhaling into it, but it just gets all slobbery and sticks to my mouth.

When I get done coughing the plastic out of my tonsils, Shawna convinces me to go home and get some rest. We hang up at a little before 2 AM, and I go back into the house, tuck myself back in, and cry myself to sleep.

It was a restless sleep (fueled, I now think, by the two energy drinks I had on the way home from my dinner). I dreamt.

I dreamt of waking early the next morning. Of rising, full of hope that I'd be able to track down the prodigal canines of the family. Of rushing through a shower and shave, throwing on an un-ironed shirt, grabbing my keys and rushing out to the animal shelter.

Of arriving before they opened, and waiting at the front door as an elderly woman walked to the door from somewhere deep inside the shelter and unlocked the glass door with a skeleton key she selected from a key ring the size of a spare tire.

Of rushing into the shelter, and up to the tall desk, raised on the other side, so that when the dour woman finally shuffled her way from the front door back around to the business side of the counter, she was able to look down over her horn-rimmed spectacles, and give you that cold look that, coming from one like her, chilled you to the bone (because it reminds you of that horrid dream you used to have when you were a kid; the one where the woman who looks just like this one started cackling and chasing you, and as she chased, she grew, until by the end of the dream, just before you woke, the you/her ratio was the rough equivalent to the ratio of James to the giant peach, and you woke sweaty and whimpering, certain that in the next instant she would simply stop running and just roll right over you).

And this dream, of me standing there in the animal shelter, is suddenly as real as real can be. And I'm trying my best to explain to the woman what has happened, and how my kids really need their dogs, and I just can't seem to get the story right, and it's getting worse because the woman who I'm afraid is going to, any minute, start growing, just stands and looks at me, not saying a word.

And then she does.

"What makes you think, Sir, that you DESERVE these dogs," she asks, disdain dripping from every word.

"They''re my dogs, Ma'am," I reply, meekly.

"You don't DESERVE dogs, Sir!" she says, voice booming about in the dark cinder block room. "You let YOUR dogs run away!"

"I didn't 'let' them run away, Ma'am; they got out."

"What do you MEAN, you didn't 'let' them run away? They ran away, didn't they--SIR?"

Now she's emphasizing the "sir", as if guys who let their dogs run away don't even deserve to be called Sir.

"Um...yes, I guess they did. But I didn't LET them run away. I even checked the gate before--"


I'm on my knees in front of the raised bench, and suddenly she's got a curly gray wig and a long black robe on, and she's holding a wooden gavel in her hand. Her voices booms out loud and long as she bellows: "FOR THE CRIME OF LEAVING YOUR GATE OPEN, I NOW SENTENCE YOU, MR. GREEN, TO LIFE WITH NO PETS! GUARDS, TAKE HIM AWAY"


"NO! NO! I DIDN'T leave the gate open, I didn't..." I'm still thrashing around, and fighting the guards, when the sun wakes me, and I realize that I've got the sheets wrapped around my left wrist, and I'm beating at the pillow with my right hand.

I lay there for a moment and catch my breath, letting the morning sun beat on my face. Thinking that I've got to cut back on those energy drinks.

A Foreigner

Then yesterday evening I was at a business event, and after dinner I went up to the speaker to commend him on a fine, thought-provoking speech.

He thanked me, then asked me if I was German.

"Uh...German?", I asked, confused.

"Yes. Are you from Germany?"

"I...uh...I have some German blood. Is that what you mean?"

"No. Are you from Germany?"

"No. I'm not. Never been. Why do you ask?"

"You LOOK German," he said. "I've done a lot of work for German companies. I could have sworn you were one of them."

"Why?" I asked.

"That checked shirt. And those pinstriped slacks. And the trendy shoes. That's how THEY dress."

First from San Francisco. Now from Germany. What is this?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Deleted Scenes from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

From Where?

I was at the teller window in the bank today when one of those "personal bankers" stepped over and mentioned that she thought she had some products that would be of interest to me (incidentally, banks, as best I can tell, don't provide products; they provide a service--or, perhaps, various services). At any rate, she pulled me over to her desk area for "only a moment, Sir; I promise."

As I sat down at her desk, she looked at me.

"You're not from here, are you?" she asked.

"No," I replied, and told her where I was from.

"Oh, really?" she said, surprised. "You ARE from the Valley then, are you?"

"Ya," I said, a little confused.

She just looked at me for a moment.

"Why do you ask?" I questioned, a little uncomfortable.

"Well, because you don't look like you're from here."

"Oh," I said, not sure how to reply. "What does that mean, exactly?"

"Well, I don't know. Looking at you, I thought you were probably from San Francisco," she said.

What does that mean?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Ohio Democratic Representive, Dennis Kucinich, called yesterday for President George W. Bush's impeachment. His announcement was accompanied by a list of more than two-dozen charges associated with Bush launching the war against Iraq that he intends to submit on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

I think that, probably, Kucinich (who ran an unsuccessful bid for the White House last year) is just frustrated that Bush so successfully copied Kucinich's trademarked oversize-eared, strange-squinty-eyed, salt-and-pepper-comb-over look, and has parlayed it to such enormous political success.

Dennis Kucinich

George W. Bush

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Decline of Civilization

It appears as though my college alma mater isn't the only learning institution that can't spell. Timothy Freeman, principal of Westlake High School, near Cleveland Ohio said today that he's embarrassed that the 330 graduates of the high school received diplomas certifying their "educaition".

Freeman said that the diplomas were sent back once to correct other spelling errors; nobody caught the mispelling of education on the first pass, and nobody rechecked on the second round to ensure nothing was missed.

I don't know that I'd call the two incidents a pattern (and the word "graduate" misspelled on a college website is nowhere near as egregious as misspelling "education" on a high school diploma), but it does seem worrisome, that learning institutions seem to have such a hard time getting the words right.

It's a societal trend, I think. I wrote, some months ago, about a phenomenon that I call TXTing-lish--that horrible language that TXTers use to send messages, in which nothing is fully spelled, and words are purposely spelled incorrectly (in order to shorten them). We have come to accept misspelled words as a norm.

Lest you think a college website and a few hundred high school diplomas are no more than anecdotal, consider this: the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) published the results of a study this year in which they found that 35% of newspaper readers find spelling or grammar errors in their newspaper at least once per week. 21% see them almost daily. A newspaper, every word of which is written by a professional writer, and double-checked by an even MORE professional writer. That's startling.

There has been a gradual degradation in the overall spelling ability of our population. The Scripps National Spelling Bee has, since 1925, been the granddaddy of all spelling bees. It's open to students, nationwide, through eighth grade, and routinely attracts the very top spellers across the country. It's winner is generally accepted as the national spelling champion.

The Scripps website lists some general statistics from 1988 through last year. Some selected data is shown below:

The startling truth is that, even though the bee has steadily grown in number of contestants, the number of words that the contest goes through has declined rapidly. In fact, in 1988 there were an average of 4.68 words used per contestant. By 2007, that number had declined to 2.23 words per contestant. In twenty years, the number of words that each contestant is able to spell correctly (on average) has declined by over half!

What does all this mean? Is it a result of this TXTing-lish? Are our schools just not teaching as well as they used to? Does it matter? Christine Urban, president of Urban and Associates, stated in the ASNE article describing the results of their study that:

"Even seemingly small errors feed public skepticism about a newspaper's credibility."

The report went on to say that:

"Each misspelled word, bad apostrophe, garbled grammatical construction, weird cutline and mislabeled map erodes public confidence in a newspapers ability to get anything right."

And that's true isn't it? How comfortable would you be with sending your son or daughter to Westlake High, home of the best "educaition" in Ohio? You see? You don't realize, but it matters. Yet we're doing nothing about it if our children--the BEST of our children, those who make it to the national spelling bee--have regressed by half in the last twenty years. With the advent of TXTing-lish, and ever diminishing educational standards, where will we be twenty years from today? Will the language even be recognizable?

There are some standards worth adhering to. There is much to be lost by allowing the standard to flag when it comes to our language. I wonder, sometimes, if those ancient languages that we found engraved on the Rosetta stone weren't lost over time in much the same way as this? Did someone relax, say "it doesn't matter", stop pushing the kids to get it right? Then, one day down the road, wake up and realize that there was no longer any common language?

I recognize that it's not, in most minds, an imminent threat; I mean, how can I be talking about misspelled words being a threat while Osama bin Laden still lives, right? And I also recognize that many will feel that I'm overreacting. But consider this: according to Wikipedia, "writing is considered a hallmark of civilization and appears to accompany the rise of complex administrative bureaucracies."

Could it be that with the fall of a written language comes the decline of the associated civilization? When one considers that the entire basis of a civilization--its codes of conduct, its social and legal hierarchy, its laws and method of recording ownership of property and its primary method of transferring information--is entirely dependent upon a common language, it would follow then that in the sudden absence of that common language, the civilization would erode into anarchy.

This utter decline in the quality of our language is, in my opinion, far more dangerous to our long-term security as a civilization than is some unseen terrorist who hides in a cave in some middle-eastern desert. It's far more dangerous than undocumented workers picking grapes in our agricultural areas (although, one might say that those workers, many of whom speak no English, contribute to the overall decline). It's more dangerous, even, than homelessness and many communicable diseases. For without an intact language, there is no civilization for those threats to tear down.

What, I ask, have you done to reverse this horrible decline? You and I are, when all is said and done, the guardians of the language, and thus of our civilization. The decline can be blamed on no one but you and me and the countless others like us. It can be reversed, though. From this point forward, consider your every word--spoken or written--and say them well. And as you write, write well. Spell each word correctly, place each punctuation mark appropriately and build sentences that are meaningful. Spend the time that the language warrants to ensure you do it justice. Email this post to everyone you know. And teach your children well. Cause them to respect our language, to spell correctly and speak and write appropriately.

And in doing so, we'll save our society.

A Fast-Food Lesson

A recent scientific survey has shown that 58% of the fast-food eating population prefers, given a choice of fast-food restaurants, In-N-Out. 34% of the respondents prefer McDonalds, and 6% say that Carl's Jr is their first choice in fast-food.

That's an overwhelming majority--58%. But let's table that for a moment, shall we? And let's put our collective thinking caps on and brainstorm just a bit.

Imagine with me that you were charged with building a brand--a fast-food brand. Your charge is to take the brand to the top; to make that particular brand the overwhelming favorite. Quickly: list the things that are vital, in your mind, for the brand to hit the top of the chart.

  • The restaurant should offer a variety of foods: burgers, salads, burritos (if you can make them fit), ice cream, shakes and cake.
  • The restaurant should offer foods to suit every type of meat eater: the beef eaters, the chicken eaters, fish freaks and vegans.
  • The restaurant should offer food with multiple price points: have some cheap stuff (a dollar menu), some mid range stuff for the masses, and a high priced section (like the six-dollar burger stuff).
  • Multiple sides: offer french fries, onion rings, zucchini, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, biscuits and cole slaw.
  • Mass produce and pre-package the ingredients: maximize the economies of scale by mass purchasing and producing various ingredients--like french fries.
  • Make it SNAPPY: get folks through the place as quickly as possible; use microwaves and pre-cooked foods as much as possible to make it happen.
  • Kids Meals: have a kids meal with cool toys to attract the children (for when mom and dad say, "Joey: what do you want to eat tonight?").
  • Advertising: advertise obsessively; TV, radio, magazines, newspapers--any media available, have your logo somewhere.
  • Franchise it Baby: offer franchises to everyone who'll pick one up. After all, you get a cut off the top of everything.
Did you come up with something similar (albeit not as well written; that's OK--we can't all be as good as me)? Go back through my list though: In-N-Out, your acknowledged favorite, doesn't do ANY of this. Yet they're ALWAYS busy; they're everybodys favorite.

Why is that? Are kids meals bad? Do they push people away? Is advertising counterproductive? Do people not want choices? Do people not like the idea of a dollar menu? On the contrary: people enjoy these things; they enjoy them immensely. They value them. But there's something they value even more.

It comes down to two timeless principles that apply to ALL business.
  1. Stick with what you know and are good at. Focus on that, and on that alone.
  2. Execute flawlessly, every time.
People like choices. They relish the idea of having a choice. But each choice dilutes the focus that should be directed toward further perfecting that which we're good at. Every time we add something else to the menu, we run the risk of diminishing the quality of the things we already do well. Consumers despise that. We cannot be good at everything. Someone at the In-N-Out corporate offices somewhere decided long ago that they were good at hamburgers and fries. One type of hamburger, and one type of fry. So they were going to maintain their focus, not try to reach some sector of the population with a soy-burger, or to reach kids and picky women eaters by releasing a chicken nugget meal.

And people like consistency. They're willing to pay for it--both with their money and with their time. How many times have you driven by an In-N-Out where there were 12 cars in the drive through, and the line inside is clear out to the glass doors? It's the norm at In-N-Out. Have you noticed that very few people complain about waiting at In-N-Out? Conversely, I'm disgruntled if I have to wait more than 5 minutes at McDonalds. Consistent quality--execution--is worth something to people.

You see, the truth of the matter is the best fast-food business model is a universal model: focus on what you do best, and deliver on that without fail. The success will follow. You can't duplicate the type of success that In-N-Out has seen by adding items to the menu, or by pushing customers through a little faster, or by offering items for .99 cents.

McDonalds and Carls and Burger Kings (and certainly KFC) could learn something from In-N-Out: scale down the menu; focus on your core, those things you do well; do them well ALL the time, EVERY time. That's it. Why don't they? Why can't they take a page from a book that's already been written, and written well? Why do they insist on continuing to pursue their own strategies (to no real positive end)?

And why don't more of us take the same advice? It fits in our personal and professional lives as well: don't try to be something you're not; focus on what you do well, and do it consistently well. The value will follow; you'll be rewarded.

That's a guarantee!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Classified-Help Wanted

Looking for interesting and creative topics to use as reading material. The ideal candidate(s) will act as an Editor to the writer(s) of MyndFood, providing topic selection, guidance and, gasp, even constructive criticism to the writer of this esteemed journal.

If you think your topic warrants inclusion on MyndFood, send me an email or leave a comment, and I'll give it a shot!

That's right, fellow diners: I want you to act as an editorial staff. Give me a topic or two to write about, if you dare; let me try my hand at writing what I'm TOLD to write. It'll be good for me--a challenge!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Identity Stealing

As if there weren't already enough marks against it, ABC reported recently, after an interview with a Senior Project Manager from Symantec, that identity thieves have set their sights on MySpace as their new hunting ground.

According to Jody Gibney of Symantec, research shows that over 91% of phishing attacks in the last year have been through one of the two top social networking sites--MySpace and Facebook. As banks and other financial institutions, over recent years, have cracked down on their online security, hackers have found it increasingly difficult to access the information that they need in order to commandeer other's identities and borrow or steal money in their name.

So they've turned to everyone's favorite networking sites. What do they expect to find there? You'd be surprised.

First, the open, trusting environment found there in the world that is "MySpace" precipitates "loose lips". That is, for some reason, as MySpacers chat or talk or email, they develop some measure of trust amongst each other. They sometimes talk about things that they should probably not talk about, send information they probably shouldn't send, and store information they probably shouldn't store. It all becomes fair game.

Sometimes it's information as simple as birthdates, birth city, gender, age, physical attributes, place of employment, etc... This data opens doors of information throughout the financial world. Additionally, many users are too stupid or naive to realize that using a single password for every site you visit on the net is dangerous business. Hackers somehow have ways of determining your password. The odds are, if they can determine your MySpace password, they'll enter it into a computer somewhere and use it try to access ALL of your banking and personal financing.

Finally, MySpace is nothing more than an elaborate network of people conversing with each other. The sheer number of connections from user to user is enormous; the opportunities to spread the "data mining" and "shield gathering" bug about are countless.

I have to ask myself, again, what GOOD can come of MySpace?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Energy Rush

Energy drinks aren't all, I've concluded, that they're cracked up to be. I've recently taken to drinking the overpriced, addictive things. Someone told me I was drinking too much soda, that it was unhealthy, so I started supplementing my soda intake with them. They've got to be healthier, I figured: they're chock full of taurine and guanine and many other natural (and, thus, healthy) ingredients.

They've had an interesting affect on me. I don't rush out and mow the grass, while washing the car and changing the oil (all in record breaking time). In fact, they make me tired.

But they kick in when I fall asleep. My energy drink fueled sleep is packed full of wildly energetic dreams. Yesterday we were working around the house (primarily physical type labor--which I'm not particularly good at or fond of), and I, being a non-physical labor type guy, tired quickly, so I popped a nice cold energy drink and chugged it. It wore me out, so I grabbed another. By the time I was done with the second drink, I was falling asleep at the kitchen counter.

So I called it a night and went to sleep. By the time my eyes closed, I was already dreaming. I dreamed, first, of me singing--wildly and energetically--just as a guy hopped up on Rockstar's would.

Then I dreamed of me jogging in a park, tennis shoes and sweat-stained t-shirt testaments to the fact that the energy drink was doing it's job. Apparently, though, the karaoke set and the jog through the park didn't flush the Red Bull from my bloodstream, because then I went to the gym, hopped on the elliptical and then spent some time on the weight machine (hefting over 200 lbs, which puts the whole experience smack in the middle of the surreal, because me lifting anything over about 90 lbs doesn't currently exist in this reality). I closed out the night with about 20 laps in the swimming pool.

I woke up exhausted. Those energy drinks do that to you--give you a false rush, and then you dive bomb after you've expended all that phony adrenaline.

Terrible things. I wake up, almost relieved to be awake, but have to ingest another of the dreaded drinks just to keep myself awake. What is it, do you think? Is it possible that the drinks get your adrenaline moving, and the adrenaline rush keeps your mind going all night? It's just so bizarre that the drinks don't really seem to give me any real energy, but the me of my dreams gets so much of a rush from the things that I can't get any rest while I'm asleep.

An interesting paradox, isn't it?