Understanding the numbers.

Daimnation quoted this Ottawa Citizen article regarding the daily food allowance for residents of long term care facilities in Ontario:

Never let it be said that Ontario’s Liberal government doesn’t care about the elderly. Earlier this month, the province increased the daily food allowance for people in long-term care by 11 cents. That’s right, a dime and a penny. That means the nursing home your mother is in now has $5.57 cents a day to feed her.

How could anyone provide three nutritious meals for so little, you might ask. Not surprisingly, the long-term care homes can’t. The daily amount should actually be $7, the Dietitians of Canada say. The dietitians told the provincial government that last year, but it didn’t act.

Even at $7 a day, the province’s nursing homes would be stretching to provide three main meals, three snacks and drinks.

Now I’m no happier with the Ontario Liberal government, but until recently my wife was the cook at a daycare and she pointed out that numbers like that were not all that far off. At first glance $5.57 looks like an embarassing number, but in fact, $5.57 is 80% of the recommended $7.

My wife spent about $350 per week on food, or about $70 per day to feed a hot meal, two snacks, and drinks to about 75 children.That’s about 93 cents a day. She suggested that seniors wouldn’t eat that much more than active children so the numbers would be similar. Providing three full mails, three snacks and drinks should still be possible for around $5. And the food she bought was all health-conscious with a menu approved by a nutritionist so she wasn’t cutting corners. Meals included chicken, beef, turkey, liver, and fish, all bought fresh every week.

The article itself suggests how small the numbers are after it paints the scary picture:

The extra money would let the nursing homes feed their 75,000 residents such things as one scrambled egg and one sausage link for breakfast (34 cents) or a banana at lunch (29 cents). At dinner, a baked potato and sour cream (27 cents) would be possible and a tuna sandwich would be affordable for an evening snack (34 cents). We’re not talking filet mignon and lobster here.

It is difficult for the average person to understand what the numbers really mean when articles like this are all they have to go by.

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The profit motive.

I’m halfway through reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand so this post by Kathy Shaidle was unusually timely:

"People seem to believe that, if you’ve been successful and made a lot of money, you’re somehow obliged to give back by making donations to this or that cause, program or people. Giving back is not only a nonsensical idea but a dangerous one, as well. It reflects ignorance about the sources of income and at the same time provides fuel for demagogues and charlatans (…)

"In our society, there are people who should give back. These are the thieves and social parasites who live forcibly at the expense of others. They prey on their fellow man. Some do it privately through theft, fraud and robbery. Others use the political mechanism whereby Congress enriches them at the expense of others. If giving back means anything, it should apply to thieves and social parasites, not those who became wealthy by serving us."

She even quotes Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations:

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

As Kathy suggests, the idea of "fair prices" is meaningless. The only fair thing is to trade value for value.

David Miller’s quote is especially interesting:

…despite being a successful and savvy businessman, his motives were always about more than the bottom line. His philosophy was to keep prices reasonable so everyone could afford to shop at his store.

Ensuring that everyone can shop at your store is all about the bottom line. The more people shop there the more money you make.

What I want to know is, if Ed Mirvish’s fair prices make him a hero, then why do Wal-Mart’s low prices, and the fact that it forces the competition to lower their prices make it evil?

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What Do I Want?

I was sitting this morning having a cup of tea thinking about what I wanted. So I asked Google, and of course it had an answer for me. It just goes to show that Google knows everything, even if you don’t.

Perhaps Google actually knows better than we do.

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A good idea stands the test of time.

I’ve read the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. And I just finished reading The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, written about half a century ago.

Out at dinner with a few friend and happened to mention that, and one friend looked at me and said that The Secret was really just The Power of Positive Thinking rewritten.

Sure enough, if you subtract the religion, and add some quotes from current popular folks like Jack Canfield, that pretty much accurate. And there is no shortage of books or people saying pretty much the same think, from people like Napoleon Hill on to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

It just goes to show that you can repackage a good idea and it will sell, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is is a new idea.

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They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

I decided to wash my ceramic floor at midnight last night. So what surprises you more – that I was doing it at midnight, or that I washed the floor myself?

There was a brand new sponge mop in the closet so I decided to use it, remembering my mom using a similar mop years ago. I had probably done about 10-15% of the floor when the sponge actually started to separate from the base – on its first use! And I noticed that the wringer handle was just cheap plastic that would flex and break if I pushed too hard.

I did manage to finish the job with the sponge mop, but it’s probably destined for the trash. Sadly, I can recall a time when products were built to last. When folks talk about saving the environment they rarely mention the whole aspect of products that are built to be used and thrown away, which must be a huge contributor to the damage we do to the environment.

I’m going back to my string mop. Nothing to break or replace, and it just works perfectly every time.

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7/7/7

Yes it is the seventh day of the seventh month of 2007. For some reason I can also clearly remember 7/7/77 – the seventh day of the seventh month of 1977.

I’m sure there is some cosmic significance to such dates, though it escapes me right now. But I guess it’s a good a day as any to buy a lottery ticket.

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Arctic Monkeys Smarter than Al Gore

From Wizbang:

Rock group Arctic Monkeys have become the latest music industry stars to question whether the performers taking part in Live Earth on Saturday are suitable climate change activists.

"It’s a bit patronising for us 21 year olds to try to start to change the world," said Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, explaining why the group is not on the bill at any of Al Gore’s charity concerts.

"Especially when we’re using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting. It’d be a bit hypocritical," he told AFP in an interview before a concert in Paris.

Bass player Nick O’Malley chimes in: "And we’re always jetting off on aeroplanes!"

Large parts of the band’s hometown of Sheffield were flooded at the end of last month after a deluge of mid-summer rain that some blamed on global warming. Two people were killed.

But the band wonder why anyone would be interested in the opinion of rock stars on a complex scientific issue like climate change.

"Someone asked us to give a quote about what was happening in Sheffield and it’s like ‘who cares what we think about what’s happening’?" added Helders.

"There’s more important people who can have an opinion. Why does it make us have an opinion because we’re in a band?"

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Retaining great people.

Marc Andreessen explains in a nutshell how to retain great people, and perhaps why you company can’t:

Companies that are winning — even really big, old ones — never have a retention problem. Everyone wants to stay, and when someone does leave, it’s really easy to get someone great to take her place.

Companies that have a retention problem usually have a winning problem. Or rather, a "not winning" problem.

[...]

All the raises, perks, and HR-sponsored "company values" drafting sessions in the world won’t help you retain great people if you’re not winning — not even the $6,000 heated Japanese toilets in all the restrooms, the $30,000 Olympic lap pool out back, and the free $4 bottles of organic orange juice in all the snack rooms.

He also addresses my absolute favorite company solution to the "not winning" problem – creating a group focused on innovation:

Don’t create a new group or organization within your company whose job is "innovation". This takes various forms, but it happens reasonably often when a big company gets into product trouble, and it’s hugely damaging.

Here’s why:

First, you send the terrible message to the rest of the organization that they’re not supposed to innovate.

Second, you send the terrible message to the rest of the organization that you think they’re the B team.

That’s a one-two punch that will seriously screw things up.

And then of course there are the companies who aren’t winningand really don’t care about retaining staff, because it’s the staff’s fault they aren’t winning, right? Those are the companies you should run from, as fast as you can.

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Over 1 million served.

I commented yesterday that even with a few problems, the iPhone activation situation was still pretty successful. It now appears that AT&T has activated over a million iPhones since the launch last Friday, June 29th:

According to reports leaked to waitingforiphone.com, ATT Mobility has fulfilled over 1 million iPhone activations since the device was launched in the US on June 29th. This news comes from a full-time staffer in ATT Mobilty’s Commerce Group who chose to remain anonymous. Wall Street analysists have placed initial iPhone sales between 500,000 – 750,000 units. First week sales of over 1 million would cement the iPhone as Apple’s fastest selling new product, and one of the hottest new technology gadgets in history.

Regardless of the problems, the launch of over a million devices – hardware than didn’t even exist a week ago- is pretty impressive.

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Seeing only the negative.

Productmarketing highlights the downside of this weekend’s iPhone activation onslaught:

The consumer tech world went crazy this week with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone. Alas, AT&T dropped the ball on activation… as most cynics anticipated. It seems everyone including CNN reported on AT&T’s problems. Thousands blogged on it including Declan McCullagh who complained:

I spent innumerable hours on hold over the weekend trying to get AT&T to actually activate the iPhone I bought on Friday evening. They finally did on Sunday, after 39 hours elapsed.

AT&T’s iPhone activations certainly had some issues, but most of the reports I saw noted activation times of 5-8 minutes. Given that this is probably the biggest single activation event any mobile carrier has ever had to deal with, I would probably be pretty pleased as well.

Productmarketing’s suggestion that a market-driven vendor would understand and acknowledge the problem and speak to a solution is excellent in theory, but in this practical situation a solution was not likely to pop up within that 40 hour window, so there was probably little more they could do in some cases other than wait out the problem.

In any situation, problems will occur. I would like to think that AT&T was at least gracious to customers experiencing these kind of difficulties. But even though this demand was anticipated, a worst case turnaround of 40 hours on a weekend for an extreme case isn’t all that bad.

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