Monday, August 12, 2013

Letting a Cartoon Explain Obamacare

Screenshot image of Visual Stories' page hosting the video explaining Obamacare
As I came across the No Highs, No Lows, Must be Bose animation I included at the end of my last post, I also found this very simple explanation of Health Insurance and the Affordable Care Act.
The video presents what would otherwise be a complex concept within an accessible context. It compares health insurance with auto insurance. It also explains why Obama must force low risk citizens to participate. The angle is based on economics. Thus, it reflects my beliefs on the matter. I hope that you find it helpful.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Increase Your Creativity - A Tail of Failed Promises

Beauty shot image of "Increase Creativity", "Ignite Imagination and Insight" by Kelly Howell
THIS WILL MAKE YOU CREATIVE. Well, at least that is what Increase Your Creativity by Kelly Howell seems to promise. From its title, one would think that this recording shares the hidden secrets of the art of being creative. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
As a voracious business information consumer, I often supplement hard books with audio books. In general, I find audio books to be just as good as those of the regular page-turning kind with the added benefit that they can be consumed while driving. Thus, I do not think twice about buying anything from the business or self-help section in the bookstore in either form. Boy, was I disappointed this time.
As I begun to play what I thought was an audio book, it took me several minutes to get past the shock that the narrator was notably absent. After I realized that the terrible introductory music that's generally used to start audio books was in this case the main course, I was dumbfounded.
As someone who has been extensively linked to music at both personal and professional levels, it is very difficult for me to get past the point that the long notes contained in this recording would have a different impact on my brain than music from an improvised Jazz quintet, for example.
How was I to get to a creative state? For one, I have always found it much easier to day dream or enter a state of trance when listening to "real' instruments. Hearing synthesized or fake music, which is what this recording packs, is rather distracting to me.
Moreover, it is my empirical conclusion that tonality is inversely related to the state of detachment from reality when listening to music. Let me explain.
There is a fantastic saxophone quartet from San Francisco, California called Rova. All their music is completely improvised. While the musicians start and end together, not one of them follows any other during the song. They all fall on their own unrecognizable dissonance as each saxophone jumps from note to note. To me, Rova defines cacophony.
Yet, listening to their music live immediately takes me into LALA land. Endorphins kick in so rapidly that I begin to drift into a day dream almost as soon as they start playing.

In a way, their atonality is unpleasant. Yet, my subjective visceral response is fantastically vivid. It would seem as if the disorderly nature of my body's activity would resonate with the unlistenable noises they make. The experience is pleasurable in a odd sort of way.
On the other hand, Increase Your Creativity has a very tonal, albeit slow; a character that immediately annoyed me. It was not engaging at all. I know that it could be argued that it is not my kind of music. Nonetheless, I remain with the impression that the recording would exclusively provide its alleged benefits of boosting creativity on those who have just consumed illicit drugs. But for someone in the hyper aware state I live in, the recording seems like pure hype. I hated it as much as I can't stand people who waste their life consuming such drugs.
If this recording is a serious attempt at creating a tool that delivers its stated promise, I certainly doubt it. While I am happy being the statistical outlier, I revert to feeling that the recording is rather a piece of garbage. I would instead suggest that you enrich your collection of music and that you invest on a very good audio system. In that way, if your creativity doesn't improve along the way, you would at least enjoy the ride.
Photo image of two cartoon characters at the high end audio shop discussing the problems with Bose
Must Be Bose

On a separate note and while I am on my ass-kicking mode, I will end by suggesting to stay away from Bose. In the professional audio world, everybody has a saying: "No highs, no lows, must be Bose". To insiders, Bose is for the ignorant wealthy who prefers to impress their friends over listening to real music. There, I said it. I have knocked two ugly birds with one post.

Book Title: Increase Creativity
Book Subtitle: Ignite Imagination and Insight
Author: Kelly Howell
Publisher: Brain Sync
ISBN: 978-1881451501

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Tragic Story of a Great In-N-Out Burger

Photo of IN-N-OUT BURGER's outdoor sign as visible from a highway exit
The Sign
IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY, TRY AN IN-N-OUT BURGER ASAP. YOU WILL LOVE IT. Unfortunately, In-N-Out Burger, the book by Stacy Perman, is not quite as tasty.
I very much looked forward to reading about this company. As the purveyors of fantastic and savory burgers, I was hoping to find a few great lessons from the narrative of the business story behind the company. Instead, I found a terrible tail that started with laborious stubbornness and ended with pure greed. I was probably better off not finding out.
While the big fast food names were being built, In-N-Out Burger refused to grow. The author claims that this was due to some ethereal commitment to quality. To someone like myself, a professional who believes that growth from such minuscule market share does not have to be tainted by poor quality, it looks as if the founders were incompetent at managing their dilemma. After all, today they are much bigger than they originally were; all while still keeping product quality robust. The same could have been achieved much sooner, had they been either more ambitious or smarter. After all, they were neither the first, nor the last managers to face a growth constraint.
I am not saying that, as a society, we need another large fast food restaurant. What I am saying is that we need one of much better quality than the others. In a way, In-N-Out Burger let their fans down due to poor leadership.
beauty shot of the In-N-Out Burger Book by author Stacey Perman
In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perman
The author also demonstrated her lack of business acumen as she tried to hype the company's story. At one point, Stacy Perman clarified that founder Harry Snyder was a micromanager before anyone knew what the word meant. Just a few paragraphs later, she described how he too was great at empowering employees. Unfortunately, this is not what micromanagers do. By using the micromanager description she was attempting to depict a leader with passion and confidence. But such managers micromanage because they second guess everybody else's decisions. They feel to be the only ones who have any sort of knowledge or understanding of business. Thus, employees end up having to double check every decision they make to safeguard their head. Rather than being empowered, these employees are terrified by a larger than life tyrant; which is not uncommon in family owned businesses.
At another point of the narration, the author tries to suggest that the company had a culture of hard work and simplicity which were reflected in the stores. Yet, Rich Snyder, the founder's son and company president after 1976, turned their headquarters into an overstated expression of luxury. Sorry but there was no Wal-Mart story of austere headquarters here.
Photo of a DoubleDouble In-N-Out Burger over the company's red serving tray and next to french fries
A DoubleDouble
Finally, the book fails by getting stuck with the usual platitudes about what's generally claimed as the essential ingredients that make a business good.
While it is a great recollection of the beginning of Californian suburbia and the start of those American icons like the NHRA and the many fast food restaurants from the time, it is of very little added value to any business leader.
Besides, even the author struggled to match the tragic family infighting lead by Burger Princes Lynsi Torres that occurred at the end of the book with the rosy picture she was portraying at the beginning. This was not a good business book. Stick to their burgers.

Book Title: In-N-Out Burger
Book Subtitle: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules
Author: Stacy Perman
Publisher: HarperBusiness
ISBN: 978-0061346729