There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Driving is not a requirement. (Yet.)

Many moons ago, I wrote a post entitled “Driving is not a crime. (Yet.)” At the time, the supposed crime would be the criminal of HUMAN driving, on the grounds that AI driving will be (and perhaps already is) much safer than driving by carbon-based life forms.

However, I wrote that post before the Democratic victories in the 2018 mid-term elections that brought a number of “Green New Deal” types into government. For those people, ANY type of driving should be discouraged.

Obviously, any such move would be vehemently opposed by the automobile manufacturers. Because if people aren’t going to drive, they’ll have no need for cars, right?


Well, perhaps they will. Alert: it’s time for a “those wacky Japanese” story.

Car-sharing service operator Orix Auto Corp. couldn’t figure out what certain customers were doing with its rental cars.

The service, with 230,000 registered users, realized around summer 2018 that some people who rented vehicles never actually drove them.

Orix was not the only one to notice this, so the companies began to investigate what people were actually doing with their cars.

One respondent to the company’s survey said they rented vehicles to nap in or use for a workspace. Another person stored bags and other personal belongings in the rental car when nearby coin lockers were full.

Because a car can be rented for as short a time as 30 minutes, for only a few dollars, these types of uses made sense.

And this isn’t just something that those wacky Japanese would do. There are certainly urban areas of the United States that could use this service, and even rural areas – or especially rural areas – would benefit from this also.

I personally think that it’s important to note that these extreme ways of getting personal space are happening at the exact same time that companies are moving from offices to cubicles to “open office” environments. I am consistently thankful that I don’t work in an open office arrangement, because if I did, I’d probably flee to my car during lunch for a bit of peace and quiet.

And if I didn’t own a car, perhaps I’d rent one for that purpose.


Always remember…who?



It was 1986.

Back in 1986, mergers that eliminated huge swaths of the acquired company were still uncommon.

When an employee of an acquired company got laid off in 1986, there was huge shock that such a thing could ever happen.

And back in 1986, people would go to their local bank branch to do business with their bank.

While we were starting to see the ability for a bank customer to take an ATM card to another branch across town, or even on the other side of the state, people still associated “banking” with going to a physical location. Example: when I moved to California, I started banking with Wells Fargo because it had a branch near my apartment. I felt very strange when that branch closed, and I had to go to a branch in a grocery store. I no longer bank with Wells Fargo, but things have come full circle, and Wells Fargo now has a branch a couple of hundred feet south of its original branch by my old 1980s apartment.

Speaking of Wells Fargo, it acquired another bank in 1986 – Crocker National Bank. And yes, the move clearly had effects on employees. However, the unified Wells Fargo had another pressing concern – how would Wells Fargo get former Crocker National Bank customers to keep going to their local bank branch, now that it had a funny name and a stagecoach on the front of the building?

Wells Fargo had a solution – the elevation of Charles Crocker to business sainthood.

Wells Fargo commercials suddenly touted the accomplishments of TWO nineteenth century businessmen – Henry Wells and Charles Crocker. They were always cited in that order, but Crocker was always cited.

For a time.

But after a while, after the memories of former Crocker National Bank customers had faded a bit, the advertising campaign stopped, and Charles Crocker receded from public view. So much so that I was unable to locate a Henry Wells & Charles Crocker advertisement to include in this post.

Things have changed a bit. We’ve gotten used to the fact that an acquisition results in dislocation, and the notion of company loyalty that still prevailed in the 1980s has faded along with that realization.

But every acquisition includes transition planning.

This is a test.

IDEMIA tymshft

Whom To Leave Behind – a new version of the same old Lifeboat

This really belongs on Bob Hunt’s Thoughts and Prayers for the Faithful, but I’ll take a crack at this myself from the perspective of time.

On Google Plus, Joyce Donahue shared a Daily Kos story about a school district who used a questionable instructional exercise.

A middle school assignment asking children to play God and choose who gets to live or die—based solely on demographics—has parents demanding an explanation from a northeast Ohio school district this week. The earth is doomed for destruction, the worksheet reads, and only eight people (who are apparently all based in the United States, because ‘Merica) can fit on a spaceship bound for the safety of another planet—which means four must die. The paper then asks the students which eight they’d save, before coming to a group consensus on the final passenger list.

In “Whom To Leave Behind,” the participants are supposed to choose the lucky eight by weighing which of the following twelve people are most deserving to live, and which of them might as well die.

An accountant with a substance abuse problem
A militant African-American medical student
A 33-year-old female Native American manager who does not speak English
The accountant’s pregnant wife
A famous novelist with a physical disability
A 21-year-old female who is a Muslim international student
A Hispanic clergyman who is against homosexuality
A female movie star who was recently the victim of a sexual assault
A racist, armed police officer who has been accused of using excessive force
A homosexual male who is a professional athlete
An Asian, orphaned 12-year-old boy
A 60-year-old Jewish university administrator

There is no right or wrong answer in such an exercise. The point is for the group to come to a consensus on a decision.

Daily Kos was horrified.

Honestly, whatever the intention may be, the impact of this assignment toes a very strange, and dangerous, line, especially in today’s Trumpian climate of blatant bigotry.


But those of you with a historical memory will realize that “Whom To Leave Behind” is nothing new. And it wasn’t always the evil right-wing fascists that were pushing such morally objectionable ideas. Back in the 1980s, the evangelical Christian community was upset about the game “Lifeboat,” which was obviously a plot by the evil left-wing Communist liberals to get more babies to be aborted or to get decrepit people to be euthanized. Provocative Christian musician Steve Taylor even wrote a song and released a video about it:

Taylor, who is probably the best satirist since Randy Newman, drove the point home by having a bunch of kids sing the song’s chorus:

Throw over grandpa ’cause he’s getting pretty old
Throw out the baby or we’ll all be catching it’s cold
Throw over fatty and we’ll see if she can float
Throw out the retard, and they won’t be rocking the boat

When Taylor released the video, I’m sure a lot of people were convinced that the wingnut Christians were making the whole thing up. But it’s easy enough to find examples of the Lifeboat exercise even today. Wonderful corporate team-building exercise…right?

But this is my favorite example – playing “Lifeboat” at a children’s hospital school where the participants may be facing death themselves. This version has a nice wrinkle in which the participants actually role play the people in the lifeboat. So, after the group makes its decision on whom to murder, the “game” ends as follows:

And then, most importantly, the person who is to be sacrificed has to be able to articulate why he or she was chosen, and in particular, the principle that was used to make that choice.

In other words, the kid has to say why he or she should die.

Regardless of the flavor of the game or the name given it, the emphasis on this wonderful ethics exercise is to value rank people, putting some below the line and determining that they do not deserve to live. But if you watch the Steve Taylor video, you’ll see that the kids come up with their own solution – one with which the Daily Kos writer would heartily agree.

They made the boat bigger so that EVERYONE could fit.

P.S. For those who followed my “provocative” link above and read about Steve Taylor’s song “I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good,” I encourage you to read this other post, which not only touches on the song “Jim Morrison’s Grave,” but also on Taylor’s thoughts on Kurt Cobain.

What are these disc thingies, anyway?

At work, I moved into my current office in the autumn of 2015. We’re moving some of our offices around, and mine is one of them, so I’m cleaning out some old stuff – business cards of people who have switched jobs, business cards for companies that no longer exist, and (sadly) a business card for someone who passed away a couple of years ago.

Oh, and I found a whole bunch of these things.


For my younger readers, I should explain that these cases hold something known as “compact discs.” You see, back before iTunes or Amazon Music or any of those services, if you wanted to buy music, you would actually have to go to a physical store (kinda like a 7 Eleven, but these stores had names like “Tower Records” and “Licorice Pizza”), get a physical item like a compact disc or a tape or a vinyl platter, take it home (or, in some cases, to your car), insert the physical item into a player, and play the music that way.

For most of my life, that’s the way we did things. The physical media changed from time to time, but the concept pretty much stayed the same. I have long since thrown away most of my vinyl records and all of my cassette tapes, but I’ve retained most of my CDs.

And, for the last three years, several of my CDs have been sitting in an office drawer, untouched.

Incidentally, I do have to correct one statement that I made above. At least two of these cases do NOT hold a compact disc. Somewhere along the line, I lost my disc of Air’s “Moon Safari,” but I’m saving the case, on the off chance that I will find it at some point. The other missing CD is Ontario Emperor’s “Or a Little Faster,” which may also be floating around somewhere. (But society would agree that the Air CD is a greater loss.)

Oh, and regarding the two CDs at the top of the stacks:

Yes, Maria (Maria is a young Italian woman), I do have a CD of “that old guy” Zucchero.

And yes, everyone else, I do own a Ray Stevens CD. And “In the Mood” is truly a classic. (Sadly, the CD does not include “Misty,” which is a comedy classic in its own right.)

No, you CAN’T cut yourself off from the world. It’s not allowed.

Since long before the time of Henry David Thoreau, people have had the desire to venture away from their usual surroundings. In the modern age, this has become more important, as modern people seek to temporarily rid themselves from the distractions of 21st century living.

But (in an article shared by Alex Scrivener) Reason magazine points out Penn State (which has had its own issues of late) thinks that such ventures are dangerous.

The student “Outing Club,” which has gone backpacking, kayaking, and hiking in state parks over the course of its 98-year-existence, will no longer be allowed to host outdoor events after administrators conducted a risk assessment….

A key issue for administrators was that the Outing Club frequently visit locations with poor cell phone coverage. This wasn’t an issue during the Coolidge administration, but now that cell phones exist, students are apparently expected to remain glued to them at all times.

I’ll grant that Reason has a political axe to grind, so I consulted other sources, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – and didn’t feel much better.

Ms. Powers said the university conducted reviews of all campus recreation-supported student groups — 76 sport and three outdoor recreation organizations — to evaluate student safety risks and produce assessment reports. She declined to provide a copy of the assessment report for the Outing Club, saying it is not a public document.

The other two outdoor recreation organizations, the Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club, were also judged too risky and directed to end trip offerings. Club sports that passed the risk review include the Archery Club, Boxing Club, Alpine Ski Racing Club and Rifle Club.

While I’m sure that Reason magazine was inwardly pleased that the Rifle Club wasn’t considered dangerous, you have to wonder about these designations – especially since (for the most part) it is presumed that adults are engaging in hiking, scuba, and caving.

But one thing is certain, according to the current president of the Outing Club:

The Outing Club has been through many changes in its 98-year history….

Is it time for a Kardashians reboot?

Since I’ve gotten a slew of new subscribers to this blog lately, perhaps it would be a good idea if I were to publish something new.

Since many of my visitors are from the United States, I could post some reflective observations on the role of a Special Prosecutor over the years, as well as questions regarding the investigatory powers of Special Prosecutors.

But that’s hard work, so I’m gonna write about TV and movie reboots instead.

I’m sure that you’ve noticed that Hollywood seems to have run out of ideas, and so they’re either bringing back old shows (“Roseanne” being the most recent example) or rebooting shows entirely. Just off of the top of my head, I thought of the following examples of the latter:

The Beverly Hillbillies
The Brady Bunch
Charlie’s Angels
Hawaii Five-O
Mission: Impossible
The Parent Trap

In some of these cases, the reboots went to great lengths to be different than the originals. In the Brady Bunch reboot, the Bradys are their innocent 70s selves, surrounded by a much more modern world. In the Ghostbusters reboot, the new Ghostbusters are women. In the Mission: Impossible reboot, the world has been invaded by the spirits of alien beings from a distant planet…oh wait, I got that one wrong.

There’s only one problem that I see with this reboot mania. If they keep on rebooting, then all the scripted shows will be rebooted, and there won’t be anything left.

Except for the reality shows.

I know what you’re saying now. “John, how can you reboot a reality show?”

Well, if you can reboot the Brady Bunch without Robert Reed, and if you can reboot Charlie’s Angels without Farrah Fawcett, then you can reboot anything.

And I mean anything.

By https://www.flickr.com/photos/58820009@N05/15199017476/, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Yes, even “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

And yes, I know that the original Kardashians are still around (although Bruce has changed a bit over the years), but at some point the Reboot Gods are going to demand that this show be rebooted also.

With a twist.

So what kind of twist would “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” need to have for the Reboot Gods to be happy?

Ghostbusters provides the answer here. Instead of having Kardashians who are sexy white women, why not have Kardashians who are sexy black men?

I’ve even come up with plot summaries for the first few episodes.

Episode 1 introduces the Kardashian family: father Cedric, mother/stepmother Dionne, and children Keith, Kent, Kevin, Kurt, and Kyle. It’s just an average day in the Kardashian household: Cedric tries to sell Keith’s sex tape, Kevin goes modeling, and Kurt and Kyle spend the night in Monaco.

In Episode 2, the older Kardashian kids remember their mother Gloria Allred, a famous lawyer in her day. At one point a couple of the boys joke, “But Gloria’s not your REAL mother, Kevin.”

Episode 3 focuses on Keith’s desire for self-protection, his purchase of a gun, and his attempt to join the National Rifle Association.

Episode 4 shows the whole family (except Kyle) in Hawaii! They party all the time and meet the cast from the Hawaii Five-O reboot.

In episode 5, Kent walks into Dionne’s room and sees her holding a jock strap. “Why is she holding Dad’s jockstrap?” Kent asks to the ever-present camera. “It’s not my jockstrap,” Cedric reveals. The ending credits announce that A Very Special Episode will air in the November sweeps.

What would it take to get “small box” stores to actually work?

If you didn’t see my earlier post regarding the potential for using just-in-time techniques to reduce store footprint, here’s an excerpt that I’ve shared elsewhere:

So in our just in time model, the chicken and Coke would be placed in the selling area at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, and would be sold out by 8:00 Friday evening. Walmart could then use the space to sell stuff that people would buy late on Friday night. (Use your imagination.) Then, probably around noon on Saturday, they’d start putting the beer in the selling space. The same space would be reused over and over again to sell different stuff.

The result?

The stores need a much smaller footprint, due to continuous reuse and repurposing of the space within the stores.

I admitted that we probably weren’t ready for this today, since the economics of grocery delivery don’t support the frequent trips to the store that would be required.

And Allen Firstenberg, both at the original post and at a Google Plus reshare, noted that a somewhat similar real-life example is decidedly not working.

The real life example is a company called Whole Foods. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Before the Amazon acquisition, Whole Foods set out to reduce its back-of-store inventory. I didn’t account for this (which I should have, considering my familiarity with the Sears/Kmart allegations), but the Whole Foods theory was that if just-in-time practices were introduced, then warehouse deliveries could go straight to shelves, and not have to be held in freezers or bins in the back of the store. As Business Insider notes, the goal was to

help Whole Foods cut costs, better manage inventory, reduce waste, and clear out storage.

Of course, for the system to work properly, two things have to happen.

First, Whole Foods needs to be able to anticipate store demand. In my extremely simplified example in my prior post, I made some assumptions about when people would buy chicken and Coca Cola, and when they would buy beer. Whole Foods – especially since it’s now part of Amazon – would presumably have access to much better data.

Second, the delivery system needs to work. If the demand system anticipates a surge of product sales on Friday at 4pm, then that truck had better get to the store before that time.

In the case of Whole Foods, both assumptions failed.

…any unexpected increase in shopper demand or a product-shipment delay can result in out-of-stock items across every department, multiple employees said.

“If a truck breaks down and you don’t get a delivery, then you have empty shelves,” an assistant manager of a Chicago-area Whole Foods said.

An employee of a Texas Whole Foods store told Business Insider that stocking issues were “horrible” over the holidays and that the produce department “looked embarrassing.”

“I get constant and consistent complaints from customers for continuously being out of staple [products],” the Sacramento employee said. “It’s frustrating as an employee and also as a shopper.”

And if you go to the Business Insider post, you can see a ton of pictures of empty or near-empty Whole Foods shelves, many taken by angry customers.

But while Business Insider spent a lot of time diagnosing the problem, it didn’t suggest a solution. Even the article admits that the pre-JIT system led to overstocks in the back-of-store inventory, and spoilage of some of the food back there.

Hopefully Whole Foods and its corporate overlords are analyzing the supply issues, determining what is wrong with the ordering model, determining why some deliveries are delayed, and coming up with solutions to fix the whole thing.

What would it take to promote “small box” stores? (Just in time store reconfiguration)

I shared a pair of posts on two of my other blogs, Empoprise-BI and Empoprise-IE, regarding the latest round of Sears/Kmart store closures. In both posts, I shared a picture of a nearly empty Kmart that I had previously taken (this Kmart is one of the stores slated for closure).


Based upon this picture, and other pictures I had taken, I shared a throwaway observation:

I’m beginning to suspect that the members’ preferences for Sears’ physical store footprint is around zero.

Leave it to Jim Ulvog (a CPA by profession) to make a serious point regarding this.

Wonder what the compound shrinkage rate is. That would be something like a burn rate metric for physical capacity instead of cash. You comment that customer “preferences for Sears’ physical store footprint is around zero” is seems to be near correct.

Of course, any compound shrinkage rate could be influenced by a variety of factors, including the act of pulling inventory out of the stock room and putting it on the sales floor. This could be done in an effort to increase sales, or it could be done in an effort to dump inventory before a store closure. On the surface, you can’t tell which explanation is correct.

But Ulvog’s observations did get me thinking about the overall size of stores.

Throughout the last 100 years, there has been a general move toward bigger and bigger stores. I grew up near an old-fashioned A&P store that only had four aisles. Today I live within driving distance of Super WalMarts, Super Targets, Costcos, Sam’s Clubs, and IKEAs.

These stores stock a lot of stuff meeting the needs of all of the people that flock to them. But when you think about it, a lot of stuff just sits there.

I’ll give you an example. My local Walmart offers a feature that allows me to place a grocery order via the Walmart app, and then go to the Walmart later in the day and pick it up.

Which begs the question – if you order milk at 8:00 in the morning and you pick it up at your local Walmart at 11:00 in the morning, when does the milk have to arrive at your local Walmart?

The answer: 10:59.

Not the day before, or the week before.

So theoretically, if Walmart knows that I won’t need that milk until 11:00, there’s no reason for it to be in the store at 8:00, taking up space. (Assume for the moment that data mining allows Walmart to predict the exact times when customers will buy stuff.) So Walmart could deliver the milk to the store at 10:00, and it would still be available for me to buy.

Presently the economics of retail does not support on-the-hour deliveries of goods from a warehouse to a retail store. But perhaps in the future grocery industry – or in some other industry – some of the “just in time” concepts that have been used in manufacturing could be applied to retailing.

Here’s a simplified example. Because it cares about us, Walmart promotes a standard dinner consisting of a hot roasted chicken and Coca-Cola. You obviously don’t need to buy such a dinner at 9:00 on Monday morning. In fact, for purposes of this example, let’s assume that you’d only buy it on weekday afternoons.

At the same time, Walmart sells beer. Assume for the moment that beer is bought for NFL football games. Now you wouldn’t need to buy that beer at 9:00 on Monday morning. And you wouldn’t need to buy it late Monday afternoon. You’d buy it on Saturday afternoon, before the Sunday NFL games.

So in our just in time model, the chicken and Coke would be placed in the selling area at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, and would be sold out by 8:00 Friday evening. Walmart could then use the space to sell stuff that people would buy late on Friday night. (Use your imagination.) Then, probably around noon on Saturday, they’d start putting the beer in the selling space. The same space would be reused over and over again to sell different stuff.

The result?

The stores need a much smaller footprint, due to continuous reuse and repurposing of the space within the stores.

Now we’re some way away from this today – as I noted, economics don’t currently support such frequent trips between the warehouse and the grocery store – but perhaps we’ll start to see this in some other industries. We already have pop-up stores, food trucks, and other selling avenues that occupy a small amount of physical space for a temporary period.

If a selling location can reconfigure itself on an hourly basis to meet the anticipated needs of the moment, we’ll need a lot less space devoted to selling.

And then shopping center owners would be faced with even more empty store space, and would have a REAL problem.

Driving is not a crime. (Yet.)

I am writing this on January 1, 2018 – which happens to be the day that recreational marijuana is being legalized in the state of California. Whatever you may think of this particular move, it’s worthwhile to note that at the same time that people are going to be lighting up, the state of California is getting people to NOT light up. And because government seeks to protect us from things that can harm us, there will be a point in which the recent move to legalize marijuana will be reversed.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about making driving illegal.

Because of the recent reorganization of my employer, I’m looking a little more at driver’s licenses these days. And, of course, I’ve been looking at driverless cars in Tymshft for years.

So I was very interested in a recent National Review article that talked about a “war on driving.” And unlike the war on Christmas, the National Review writer proposes a Constitutional amendment to protect our way of life.

But why would anyone engage in a so-called war on driving?

Think about it.

While autonomous cars seem like a disaster waiting to happen, the truth is that human drivers are very accident-prone. Regardless of how you define the data measurement, tens of thousands of people die in automobile accidents every year. And why?

[D]rivers are concerned about safety. Some 83% of respondents said driving is a safety concern. But that hasn’t stopped many of them from speeding, texting, or driving while impaired by alcohol, prescription medication, or marijuana.

Whoops – there’s marijuana again. But the point being made is that autonomous driving algorithms, if designed correctly, will actually be safer than human drivers.

So what does this mean for the future? Back to National Review.

At some point in the future, be it years, decades, or a century hence, the federal government will seek to ban driving.

This, I’m afraid, is an inevitability. It is inexorably heading our way. The dot sits now on the horizon. As is common, the measure will be sold in the name of public health. “Now that robots can do the work,” its bloodless advocates will explain, “there’s no need for human involvement.” And from then: On, the snowball will roll….

Our debate will rest largely upon charts. The American Medical Association will find “no compelling reason to permit the citizenry to drive,” and Vox will quote it daily. Concurring in this assessment will be The New England Journal of Medicine, the Center for American Progress, and the newly rechristened Mothers against Dangerous Driving, for which outfits “dangerous” will have become a lazily supplied synonym for “human.” Atop this endless statistical beat will be a steady stream of mawkish anecdotes. “Joey was just 17.” “Sarah had three kids.” “Not a day goes by in which . . . ”

Those who are familiar with National Review will realize that it opposes such measures as a threat to liberty and privacy, both from public and private entities. (Do you want the California Department of Public Health or Google or Tesla knowing where you are going…and trying to redirect you somewhere else?)

And as I previously noted, the National Review suggests a Constitutional amendment to remedy this frightening future. The exact wording isn’t important – frankly, I’d choose slightly different wording than the National Review did – but the point is that the freedom to go places is presented as a freedom that is just as important as the freedom to peaceably assemble.

After all, how can you peaceably assemble if you can’t get yourself to the place of peaceable assembly?

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