Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sustainable for whom?

I just picked up some oatmeal from the company cafeteria. They've just switched to more environmentally friendly cups, plates, etc. Yay.

The paper bowl I just carried back to my office is green and white - a very soft friendly green mind you. It's called an "ecotainer". Clever! It's got a little slogan on it: "making a difference one cup at a time". Well don't I just feel like a swell guy!

No. I don't. I feel like an idiot because I just walked back to my office with piping hot oatmeal burning my frickin' hand!

It seems to me that "not burning hands" would be one of the basic design principles of a bowl. Along with "holds stuff in it".

So here's where the environmental ethos runs into a brick wall for me. I do care about the environment. Really. And I am willing to do certain things to keep it clean. If my jeans look to you like I've worn them 200 times without washing them, just know it's my abiding love for Mother Earth that is responsible. But products have to work. Period. They have to at least capably perform their basic and defining functions. Cars have to safely get people from one place to another. Cleaning products have to clean. Coffee cups have to insulate the hand from the burning hot coffee.

Oh sure, there's a warning on this bowl: "Caution: Contents Hot". OK. First of all, how they know what the contents are baffles me since they sell empty bowls. But anyway, NO! You don't get to sell a product with a warning that disavows the basic functionality of the product. You cannot take a sieve, call it a bowl and slap a warning that says: "this product doesn't actually hold stuff in it." That's crap! Yes, I know the oatmeal I just put in the bowl is hot. Oatmeal is supposed to be hot. And bowls are supposed to make sure my hand doesn't get burned.

So I'm asking you environmental folks to go back to the drawing board with this nonsense. Honestly, I do care about the environment. But I'm not really losing sleep about it and I'm not really willing to go very far out of my way to help out. I'm just not. Deal with it. And there are many many folks out there that are in this camp. Probably the vast majority of people. I would like to use more environmentally friendly products. But please go back and figure out how to make these products work. I'm OK with not cleaning the countertops as often. Heck, it's a great excuse. (Yeah, I just don't want to use harsh chemicals. They hurt the seals.) But I'm not OK with deciding to clean the countertops with one of your green products and finding it ineffective.

I would rather you gave me good ideas on how to use less stuff than push products my way that suck.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I don't really know what to say, but it feels wrong to me to let this day pass without acknowledging the terrible event on 9/11.

I don't want to do this in a partisan way. Like most people, I have some partisan leanings and I have a worldview that informs and is informed by my perspective on 9/11. But I want to acknowledge 9/11 without generating any controversy or strife.

So all I will say now is that I truly hope for a world where this sort of thing does not happen. Both the 9/11 attack and the aftermath. It is such a waste. Of time, energy, money. And, perhaps, most importantly, of human potential.

Our hearts and minds should be devoted to more noble pursuits.

One day...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jer979: Marketing Messiah

You gotta love Jer! Check out his recent blog post on how he deftly concluded a meeting with some Jehovah's Witnesses at his door by offering them some very good marketing advice.

Any of you in the religion bidness should get in touch with Jer. He can help!

And Jer: Perhaps now that you have hung out your shingle, you should go knock on their door :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A constitutional amendment

I recently posted a critical new piece of social legislation that you must all follow. See my original post here.

My dear friend Tawana has pointed out a flaw in the original legislation so I am amending the rule. This amendment is effective retroactive to my original post. [Tawana's critical counterexample was a person we both know whose first name was "M." It wasn't short for Matilda or anything like that. Her name was just "M." And it worked. I consider it a fine example of innovation.]

It's not that you are prohibited from having a letter or initial as your first name. It's that you are prohibited from doing so if you are going to use your middle name as an official part of your name. [If you have a middle name as a contingency plan should the three name thing become the ticket to a life of luxury or simply a requirement to get on a life raft, then you're in the clear. In such a case, the middle name is not an official part of your name.]

I will now illuminate the rule with some examples. Let me start with L. Gordon Crovitz from the Wall Street Journal. [I am using Crovitz as an example for the sake of consistency with my original post but let me state on the record that I enjoy Crovitz's writing and I'm sorry to have to pick on him here. I will eagerly transition to another example momentarily. And, of course, it is my sincerest desire that Gordon drop the "L."]

As you can see from Crovitz's name, he is using a middle name, Gordon, as an official part of his name. So his use of "L." as his first name violates the rule. Jan Michael Vincent also uses his middle name as an official part of his name but he is in full compliance with the law because he uses "Jan" as his first name and not "J." I'm sure you can tell immediately that "J. Michael Vincent" would be a heinous affront to decent society. Of course, "Michael J. Fox" or, even "Michael J. Vincent" would be OK per my original post because the letter is used as a middle name and not the first name. [Note: While "Michael J. Vincent" would be in full compliance with necessary regulation, I cannot assure you that such a person would be functionally equivalent to Jan Michael Vincent. I daresay he wouldn't.]

[In case you're wondering who Jan Michael Vincent is, well I'll tell you. He is a "virile, handsome and square-jawed youthful star of the 1970s and 1980s." Check out this picture of him. It's not entirely clear to me that he is, in fact, square-jawed (I invite comments on this critical question) but you will distinctly see that this man is not burdened by the angst of having a socially proscribed name.]

I'm sure most of you have an intuitive sense of the evils of the letter first name in the pre official middle name position. But there may be some of you who are arriving from distant shores or who are just awakening from a coma and still feel mildly disoriented and who are confused as to the reason for this very important prohibition. So let me explain.

When you have a letter as your first name followed by an official middle name, it's as if the letter is there to warm us up and get us ready for the real thing. It assumes that we need to be eased into someone's name because, well, we can't handle names. YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE NAMES!

Well I tell you (and I think I speak for the entire platoon when I say this) that I don't need to be warmed up. I speak English. I know names. Just hit me with your real goddamn name from the start and drop the preamble.

Another reason for this prohibition is that the letter first name is a bit arrogant. It makes a statement that the owner's name is so goddamn important that if your attention happened to be somewhere else for a nanosecond and you missed the first phoneme of the name, it would be a catastrophe. First of all, don't be so damn arrogant. It's wrong. And even if you want to be arrogant, at least educate yourself on the phonemic restoration effect. People will most likely manage to accurately interpret your name even if they weren't paying attention to the first letter and you didn't include a warmup.

Well, I hope this clarifies matters for everyone. You all owe my wonderful, beautiful friend Tawana a debt of gratitude.

It's called "hurricane season" for a reason

My heart goes out to people whose homes and possessions are destroyed or damaged by hurricanes. But I'm really tired of seeing news coverage of hurricanes in the U.S. It's ridiculous already.

These hurricanes happen every year. And we even know pretty much when they're going to happen. It's called "hurricane season." So why the hell do people live there? Is "hurricane" not a scary enough word? What if we called it "really awful and scary shit is going to happen and destroy all your stuff and kill you season?" Would that get people finally to move to a place that nature has not designated as a person-free zone?

This all reminds me of Sam Kinison's approach to ending world hunger.

And I'm still perplexed by the insistence of the media to pretend that these hurricanes are news. Why don't they have stories every day about people's difficulty seeing outside between the hours of about 8PM and 6AM?

Monday, September 1, 2008

At least I made sense

Check out Business Week's Innovation site. I am now a featured commenter. Scroll down about midway and look on the left side. Sorry about the photo. I didn't have much to work with. But I think the point I made is a pretty good one. I was responding to some point about why VCs are more innovative than big companies.