Cash is king

I’m fascinated by deception. Not only the lengths to which deceivers will go, but the mental gymnastics that are necessary to actually figure out what they’re up to. It has all become very, very clever. And few businesses are as clever and creative as the automobile industry. Illegible fine print flashed across the TV screen for 3 seconds. Top-of-the-line models shown with bottom-of-the-line pricing and a “Model shown is the GLX series, pricing for the GLC series”, disclaimer.

A friend recently bought a new Toyota. He regaled me with tales of his prowes in getting a “great deal” on a lease. “One percent interest” he exclaimed. “And they gave me $2000 for my old beater!”, he continued. I asked him about the actual price of the car. He said it was $28,000. A few days later, I saw the car in the paper from the same dealer. It showed the 1% lease interest and a “cash price’ of $24,000.

In other words, if you lease the car, the price on which all calculations are based is $28K, but if you have cash, they’re ready to sell it to you for $24K, a $4000 difference.  In other words, the real interest rate isn’t 1%, it’s really whatever percentage it would be if you added back the additional $4000 you’re paying to get the 1%….probably something like 5-6%. Hell, if you have a good bank line of credit, you could buy the car for about 3%!

No wonder they gave him money for his beater!

Animal handling done right

It’s encouraging to see large-scale animal handling done “right”. I’d like to believe that this is the rule rather than the exception, and that the rare exception is what we see in the “secret” videos by animal rights groups. Tough to know which is which. Either way, even when done right and vetted by the leading animal rights scientist, it gives a real appreciation of the lives we take in order to eat. We are moving to eating a lot less flesh and more vegetables in keeping with emerging health, environmental and cultural knowledge.

Stacked

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I’m not a food historian so can’t quite say when it happened, but if I search my memory, I vaguely remember it being sometime in the 1980’s (a lot of things in my memory are vague about the 1980’s, a time of braincells cauterized by young kids and relentless work ambition): Food that used to be presented separately on the plate, began to appear stacked one element on top of another.

At first it was cute and trendy. Then it began to invade every meal at every restaurant; ingredients that made no sense on top of each other, created a confused mish-mash of flavours. This trend has largely continued unabated. A couple of months ago my wife attended a conference and I accompanied her to the wonderful Fairmont Chateau Montebello hotel. I won’t soon forget the lunch at the main restaurant, where a lady in her sixties lambasted the server for bringing her a steak stacked on top of French fries, with no room on the plate to cut the steak without mashing into the fries. She caused quite a scene and I could tell it was one of those “cashing in your trading stamps” moments where years of frustration are released upon one hapless person.

Yesterday I had lunch at the Forest & Stream Club with a client. The food was excellent as always, but my poached salmon was stacked on a thick bed of mashed potatoes with carrots and asparagus piled on top. It made no sense. I had to deconstruct the plate in order to eat the food. Fortunately, their plates are quite large and there was some room to do it.

Some foods work well stacked because their various flavours combine to create something where the whole is more than the sum of its parts….the classic in that regard being the hamburger. If you were to separate the components of a burger onto a plate, well, it simply wouldn’t be the same taste; the burger relies on each bite having some of every one of its parts in it…it’s a gestalt!

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But it makes no sense to pile a steak on fries, a salmon filet on mashed potatoes and carrots, etc. We spent two weeks in France last year and thanks to my friend Stephane Gabart, got to dine at some of the best local restaurants in the Bordeaux region. I am happy to report that most of the time the food was either minimally stacked or not stacked at all. And when there was any stacking it made sense from a food combination perspective.

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Facebook deconstructed

I’ve been active on Facebook for a couple of years. It’s taken about that long to figure out what it’s good for and what it’s not (for me). Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve been pretty active on FB; something she considers an almost utter waste of time. She uses it primarily to see what the “kids” are up to, including our own and our friends’. In fairness though, in order to really understand FB, you have to be very active on it for at least a couple of years in order to discover its real strengths and weaknesses. Here’s my assessment of these:

Strengths:

  1. The most significant is the daily news feed from sites I’ve “Liked”. These include news sources such as The Economist, The Lancet, The New Republic, Slate, etc., as well as hobby related sites such as Gear Patrol, TED Talks, The Daily Meal, etc. Working at my desk most of the day as I do, it’s pretty easy to check the FB feed with a flick of the finger on my Mac desktop. I immediately see the latest news and interest posts from sites that I have selected as relevant. In essence, FB becomes a fully customizable personalized news feed that updates constantly. Brilliant.
  2. The second wonderful use of FB is keeping up with kids and friends. I’ve never felt that it replaces personal contact via phone or in person, rather, it enhances these by making them more meaningful if you already know what they’ve been up to and can ask more salient questions when ear-to-ear or face-to-face.

Weaknesses:

I’ve frequently been engaged in lengthy discussions about a variety of topics, some superficial, and others much more profound. FB works OK for the former, but very badly for the latter, where body language, tone of voice, etc., are all absent and can easily lead to misunderstandings. Also, the presence of “trolls” who enter the conversation with personal insults, makes the entire experience unpleasant. Plus you can spend a whole lot of time and not really arrive at any conclusions or change of position on either side of the debate. This time element can be very significant.

New strategy:

I will continue using FB for its strengths and maybe even the occasional casual discussion. I will no longer engage in lengthy debates that really don’t serve much purpose, bring out the trolls and waste time. Overall though, I must say I like FB, especially when used appropriately and to its strengths.

The dangers of virtuality

I have spent 20 years building my consulting firm. It is entirely composed of intellectual property (IP) built on 40 years of experience; the first three in a clinical setting, seventeen as a corporate manager, and the last twenty in my own business with several partners and associates.

The entire repository of this lifetime of work resides on a number of hard drives; one on my desktop, a second in the form of Apple’s Time Capsule, and another on a portable device squirrelled away in my safe deposit box at the bank, updated a few times a year.

I also use a remote cloud-based backup server, Carbonite, which updates and backs up all my files every night.

This IP is in the form of documents, presentations, templates, etc., as well as tens of thousands of emails to and from clients and colleagues. Above and beyond my IP, my repository also includes, on a personal note, some 20,000 photos; a lifetime of photographic memories.

I tell you all this because the recent push by every tech equipment maker to move everything into the “Cloud” scares the shit out of me. True, it is very convenient to have everything in one remote place easily accessible from any location. Yes, I believe the various vendors take safeguards to protect not only access to the data (how’s the working for ‘ya Target?) but also the data itself through multiple copies at different locations (maybe). But, I’m pretty sure none of this is for my benefit in the end. In fact, it’s all about creating a constant revenue stream for the vendors by renting something that I could just as easily own, i.e. storage. It’s like leaving your tires at the dealership for a fee every time you change over from Summer to Winter.

Millions of people the world over use Gmail or other “free” email services. Google just introduced Inbox, a new email service with a more modern interface. Nice. But where are my emails? With Google. If I fail to pay my monthly storage fee (once I’ve exceeded the limited “free’ amount) oops, sorry Mr. Steve, “No money, no honey” as the hookers used to say on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn.

So I use Gmail and other cloud storage for access from remote places; yes, it’s pretty handy. But I also make sure that the core of all my work is safely stored on multiple devices that I own, can touch and see.

Unforeseen reaction to the iPhone 6 Plus

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I just got my new iPhone 6 Plus. I love it. My iPad3 has already been passed down to my wife, who passed down her iPad2 to my son, who sold his iPad1. This is the natural order of things. I am iPad FREE, as Maxwell Smart used to say, “And….loving it”. The iPhone 6 Plus is just the right size for me. Big enough for easy reading of books and magazines, small enough as a phone. Apple’s decision to finally enter the phablet market is obviously paying off as the iPhone 6 is breaking all sales records; quite the achievement for a company with a constant string of new “records” with every product it launches.

So much for the good stuff. As usual, in every silver lining, there is a cloud. I brought my iPhone 6 Plus to a workshop in Quebec City earlier this week. Everyone who saw it immediately reacted the same way: “Oh, is that the new Samsung Note?”. Yup…after paying $1200 for the jewel of smartphones…everyone thinks it’s a Samsung. Good thing I’m not attached to status! :-)

And this is funny: The first thing everyone does when they ask to handle it, is flip it on its side and see if it’s bent. The power of the internet!

Confessions of a tablet hater

I was going to title this “Confessions of an iPad hater” but I realized that it’s not the iPad I dislike but the entire tablet format.

A tablet is neither phone nor laptop. Almost impossible to type anything beyond a brief note or email; can’t read more than 2-3 pages of an iBook before getting a headache; and little stability on a desk or airplane tray. Pretty big for listening to music. Not bad for watching movies. Despite having an iPad, I find myself using the iPhone for most of the tasks the iPad is supposed to be good for.

I bought a MacBook Air with a 13 inch screen for presentations. I like it. Not much more weight than my iPad and it still fits in my small Tumi briefcase. I’ve ordered the iPhone Plus “phablet” and am hoping that will take over the video and reading roles of the iPad. Then the iPad goes to my wife or #1 Son as Charley Chan used to say.

Bye bye Google Chrome

I don’t know if it’s part of a larger competitive strategy to discourage those on competitive technology platforms, but I’ve noticed that both Microsoft and Google’s products are not quite as friendly on Macs as they are on PC’s and Androids. I’ve been on Google Chrome for Mac for about a year and it has become very glitchy through its various “upgrades” over that time.

Most recently, YouTube videos launch or don’t launch with no apparent and discoverable rationale. This last week, when I print a web page, only half the page prints, whereas if I do the same on Safari, the whole page prints. Weird stuff like that. So today I took the plunge and switched to Safari. If you’re going to drink the Apple Kool-Aid, you might as well finish the last crystals at the bottom of the glass.

For the record, I’m not a big Safari fan; I find the “minimalist” approach to toolbars somewhat stressful on my 61 year old eyes and fingers. I’ve ordered the iPhone 6 Plus and all my friends are critical about the large size. Hey, I’ve got big hands and ever worsening eyes, I’ll manage!

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