Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Soaring Cost of Airport Food

It's estimated that there are almost 1.5 million people that fly every day in the US. Wow. That's a lot of people and a whole heck of a lot more bags of peanuts being consumed each day. Now I know just from what I've said so far that you might have some ideas as to where I'm heading with this post but let me assure you that I'm in fact not going to be discussing the things you think I might be. No, I'm not going to be discussing TSA's new security policies in which you get to choose from either being filmed naked or aggressively groped. And no, I will not be discussing the outrageous fees that most airlines now charge just to bring your luggage onboard, although I'll admit how ridiculous and infuriating these policies are. No, instead I wish to discuss the price of airport food and how out of control it has become.

Seriously, what's up with the cost of food inside the airports across our country? It's worse than trying to buy silver jewelry on a Mexican beach. At least the pan handlers on the beach are willing to barter and you can usually get them down to a price considered normal. I remember once while flying I had a little time between flights so I decided to grab a bite to eat. I proceeded to what I thought was a decent little burger joint inside the airport and ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a drink. When I went to pay for it, I found out that it was going to cost me $12. Yea, $12 for a burger, fries, and drink which didn't even fill me up.

How can these places charge such outrageous prices? I'm really having a hard time understanding why. It's not that I don't understand the economic concepts of supply and demand, but the cost of airport food is so far past this reasonable theory that it has found its way into the world of ridiculous. Do the people selling the food inside the airport think it's a different country and that they can just charge whatever they want? Do they not understand that we were just groped by some TSA worker right after paying an arm and a leg to get our luggage shipped? Maybe I'm just being too hard on such places and in reality 50% of these peoples profits go to some charitable organization such as "Feed the Children." I'll bet that is what it is and so maybe I'm getting mad over nothing.

I've often thought about opening a chain of restaurants that would be found exclusively inside airports across the US but here's the kicker, what would set my restaurant apart from the rest is I would charge completely normal prices for the food. That's right, you'd be able to get food inside the airport for the exact same cost as outside the airport. What a novel idea, I know. People would flock to my restaurants I'm sure.

I'm a little apprehensive about doing it though because for all I know the food industry and therefore food prices inside the airport could be run by the Mafia. If this is the case and I came in with lower prices I can only imagine what might happen if the father of the Mafia came inside my restaurant to talk to me. "Look, Jared, I welcomed you and your restaurant into the airport. I took you in and treated you like family and even helped you get your feet under you. Yet, you still insist on selling a burger, fries, and soda at six dollars. I'm sorry Jared but I have to put my foot down. Go ahead boys, trash the place."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Going Out of Business

In today's world of economic uncertainty, many people are worried about the possibility of losing their jobs. Let's face it, unless you are working for one of the companies that our beloved (please notice the rolling of my eyes) government deems as "too big to fail," the security of your company's existence in today's economy could be about as good as the possibility of you walking on the moon. That's not to say there aren't some really good companies out there that are prepared and able to weather the storm, but I'd say most companies do not fall into this category, and thus for the rest of us there is the real possibility we could lose our jobs.

The hardest part about a company failing is not in the failure itself but in its employees not being able to recognize the warning signs before it happens. If employees could notice the red flags of failure far enough in advance, they could buy themselves valuable time to search elsewhere for employment before the sinking of the ship has them going down with it.

Here is a list of potential warning signs - which is in no way exhaustive - that the company you work for may be going under. Please note that just one of these signs alone is probably not reason to panic, but if you begin to see two or three of these signs in the company you work for, you probably need to find a new job. Chances are good that the word "paycheck" from this company will soon be obsolete.

Warning signs that the company you work for may be going out of business.

  • You are asked to conserve on the use of sticky notes by using both the front side and back side before throwing them away.
  • You experience rolling power outages in your offices to save money on the electrical bill.
  • There is a "Starbucks Coffee, Coming Soon" sign posted outside your office building.
  • Your boss races to the bank on payday before anyone else has even received their check.
  • You have been encouraged to bring in your own envelopes and stamps to work.
  • The recycle bin is now your only source for toilet paper.
  • The Army and Air Force have set up recruitment booths in your office building.
  • 80% of the calls coming into the office wish to speak to accounts payable.
  • "The check is in the mail" is the phrase most often uttered out of your boss' mouth, followed shortly by "it was sent just the other day" when he is talking on the phone.
  • You catch your boss in his office scouring through the help wanted ads.
  • The domain name for your company's website is currently up for sale.
  • Words like "bounced check" and "drained account" are common phrases heard around the office on pay day.
  • You hear people say things like "Oh, are they still around?" after telling them where you work.
  • The temperature in the office is 55 degrees in the winter and 85 degrees in the summer.
  • Office supplies have run so low that nobody is even stealing from them anymore.
  • The annual Christmas party has been replaced by a new tradition called the annual Christmas card.
  • Your end of year bonus was a 20% of at Office Max coupon from the weekend paper.
  • The internet speed in your office has gone from high-speed cable to dial-up, and your boss is struggling to try to explain the benefits of this change to everyone.
  • While everything else around the office has been scaled back because of budget issues, security has almost doubled.
  • Office employees have now been assigned cleaning chores after the cancelation of the nightly janitorial services.

Remember, these are but a few of the many warning signs out there and just one or two of these alone may not be an indication that the company you work for going out of business. However, the presence of any 3 or more of these signs is almost a sure sign of it failing. In today's economy all precautions are necessary. And please, if you can think of any other warning signs that the company you work for may be about to fail, do us all a public service and list it in the comments section below.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Walmart Special

I was reading in the news where Walmart, the world's largest retailer, will be using its new inventory-tracking program to better help its numerous stores keep track of inventory. And no I'm not talking about migrant workers. This newest technology for tracking inventory involves using Radio Frequency Identification technology, or simply put, RFID.

Walmart plans to use this to replace their old outdated method which requires much needed manpower and involves painstakingly taking long hours going up and down the aisles counting each and every item. Walmart plans to have all of its store products tagged with micro-chips to make them user-friendly to the new RFID system. This could potentially make it as easy as looking at a computer screen to monitor not only what is actually leaving the shelves but at what rate. This valuable technology would be useful in keeping track of inventory, allowing the immediate reordering of products as they leave the shelves, and the marketing of certain products - not to mention the obvious benefit in the prevention of shoplifting.

Brilliant idea, right? Not so fast. While many see the usefulness of such technology there are many groups protesting the idea of big box stores such as Walmart, Target, and even Home Depot from using it. These groups say that essentially it will be yet one more step towards a "big brother is watching" society. Many people feel that the stores and thus the government will be able to keep track of them through the microchips found in these products as they leave the store shelves and are taken into the homes of the people who buy them. For example, as one article hypothesized, if you were to buy underwear from Walmart and they have a RFID chip embedded in them, someone - whether that someone is Walmart or The Government or your actual Big Brother - could potentially be used to track you whenever you are wearing those underwear. It is at this point in my story I feel I must ask...boxers or briefs?

Potential problem? Many would say yes, me however, I say meh. I mean what's the big deal? If you have a problem with this technology, you are obviously missing the bigger picture. I see much more of an upside to these chips than a downside. Let me explain.

Let's just say, hypothetically, that the technology was advanced enough to the point where it was possible to track a pair of underwear that has been embedded with a "Big Brother" chip through the vast satellite systems above us. So at any point we could pin point exactly where on the earth that particular pair of underwear was, and for the purpose of this story let's just imagine that the underwear in question was a pair of white boxers with red hearts on them.

If this technology existed then surely the technology would exist for my underwear to send me an email if I were to, say, have a accident in them. The email would be sent immediately upon detection of the incident alerting me of the potentially embarrassing situation, and may even go as far as suggesting what stain remover and laundry detergent to use to remove it. An email that would inform me of the proper laundering techniques for a pair of soiled underwear as soon as it happened would be absolutely helpful. If I have a smart phone on me - which, who doesn't these days? - maybe the microchip could direct me to the nearest laundromat and the quickest route to get there. Taking this a step further, maybe the chips could also be placed in babies' diapers, and a phone call could be made to the parents as soon as the diaper was full and needed to be changed, thus eliminating the embarrassing but preferred method most widely used by parents, the "lift-and-sniff" (see earlier post on this blog entitled "The Lift-and-Sniff").

Such underwear would be useful in other ways as well. I could imagine having the underwear on and if I ever were in a car accident, hearing a sweet and lovely voice emanating from my skivvies, "Mr. Palenske, I see that you have been in an accident. Are you all right? Stay calm. I have help on the way." Or maybe an older person who has fallen would simply have to touch the microchip in their underwear and yell, "Help, I've fallen and can't get up!" The underwear could immediately send this message to the proper authorities.

Or could you imagine driving in a new city and getting lost, but being able to just ask your underwear for directions? "Mr. Palenske you will need to take a right in a quarter of a mile. Oh, and you might want to lay off the Mexican food next time." Or what if I got lost while camping and had no phone reception? All I would have to do is remove my underwear and place them on a stick and wave them above my head, sending an immediate distress call to alert the search and rescue in that area.

Really, the possibilities for this technology are limitless. And think about this: in today's economy jobs are important. Think about the infrastructure and manpower that would be required to run this system. People to track these satellite signals, people to track valuable inventory, sweet-voiced ladies to inform me of accidents in my underpants - that's a lot of jobs! Walmart, already one of the biggest employers in the world, could singlehandedly turn around America's fragile economy. Well, unless they decided to outsource those jobs to India.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't be afraid of this technology, we should embrace it. There could be great benefits for the RFID chips, even if it is in everything, including our underwear.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Street Value

So I'm curious...when a doctor is prescribing you pain medicine and gives you some options to choose from, depending on the level of pain you are it kosher to ask him what the "street value" is of his listed pain medicine?

I did that once after my appendectomy a few years ago, only as a joke mind you, and surprisingly enough the doctor didn't find it funny. He almost seemed perturbed about it. (I really love the word perturbed, the way it sounds, its meaning, everything. It's such a strong word in my opinion...a real anchor to a sentence.)

In fact his reaction was similar to a time when a buddy of mine and I were standing in the security line at the airport before a flight. As we were loading our bags onto the conveyer belt to be scanned, my buddy turned to me and said loud enough for everyone to hear, "you did make sure to pack the guns, right?" He and I, being 17, thought it was, however, did not. Let's just say that it was a good thing we had arrived super early for our flight because we had a nice long visit with some very stern looking men in a back room of the airport, and this was over 15 years ago before September 11 even happened.

So back to my earlier question, I guess I didn't see what the big deal was. I just wanted to know the real "street value" for the pain medicine I would be taking. Is that wrong? I mean, there's only one sure way to know whether I'm getting the good stuff...rely on capitalism at its finest and the experts on the street.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'd Like That Super-Sized Please

The other day while sitting down to a meal consisting of a triple cheeseburger, extra large fries, double thick chocolate shake, large coke and two delicious apple pies I reached over to the unoccupied table next to me to snag the front page of the newspaper only to find an article talking about how fat we as Americans are becoming. The nerve, I thought to myself as I wiped my greasy fingers on my shirt in order to better get a grip on my chocolate shake. How very un-American. What kind of person would write such dribble and still call themselves American? Trash like this could only come from a communist...or at least a left wing Liberal. As I read further I discovered the author was a well known doctor who had recently published a book about America's health after years of studies and research. Hmmmm, what do doctors really know anyway? They should stick to diagnosing illnesses and prescribing is way out of their ball park.

Out of interest I decided to continue reading and discovered that despite surging obesity numbers in the U.S., a new survey finds that just one out of 10 Americans say their diet is unhealthy. Yeah, so, what's the big deal? I thought as I polished off my burger and began to attack my fries, making sure to dunk them in my shake before popping them down my gullet. So apparently a lot of so called "experts" feel that the portion size of American meals is much larger than that of our European counterparts or any other country for that matter. For comparisons sake, let's just say if we were to compare the portion size of our meals between the French and say a blue whale, well, we're much closer to the blue whale. Which makes sense to me because I hate the French but have never had a problem with the blue whale.

I guess the biggest trouble I had with the article was that it tried to pin the problem on us as individuals, saying it was a "lack of self control." That angered me like a disturbed nest of Africanized honey bees. This is America, people, and we are never responsible for our own actions! If we make mistakes or do something wrong, it is by default someone else's fault-- but never our own. We are never to blame. The thought of suing this so called "doctor" crossed my mind more than once while reading the article and if I hadn't been so busy consuming my apple pies at the time I might have called a lawyer on my cell phone. Who is this man to say my mistakes and bad choices are to blame for my problems and not the result of someone else?

But deep down I knew the real answer for our so called portion size problem. The real problem could easily be found in every home in America. And no, I'm not talking about mice or cockroaches...that's mainly a California and New York City problem. What I'm talking about is the Microwave. Yeah, that handy appliance that heats or re-heats meals in a matter of seconds. The problem is not in the microwave itself but in its size. There is nothing "micro" about the microwave. And for all of you science nerds reading this who want to tell me the reason it's called a microwave is because of the size of electromagnetic wave it uses to cook the food (usually between 1-2 GHz), get out of here. Scram. Beat it! I don't want to hear from you. Because the real definition doesn't help my argument at all so I'm not interested in it.

My point here is that it shouldn't be called a microwave when it's big enough to cook a fully stuffed thanksgiving turkey and mashed potatoes with room to still heat up the cranberry sauce. It should be referred to as the "macrowave." Why is the microwave such a problem, you ask? Well if you aren't one of the science nerds questioning my definition of the microwave, I'll tell you. Because of the large size of our microwave we are forced to eat larger portions...because we can.

Think about it. If microwaves were smaller, we would not be able to cook or reheat such large portions, therefore decreasing the amount of food and calories we would consume. If microwaves were smaller, dishware companies would be forced to make their dishware smaller so it could fit in the smaller microwave, thus helping us even more because these smaller dishes would replace the current platters we currently use called dinner plates. I've seen pig troughs that are smaller in size than our dinnerware.

Are you starting to see the picture? It all starts with the microwave and the evil companies who make them. They are to blame for our ever expanding waistlines. Look at the history of the microwave. Since it's invention the portion sizes of our meals and therefore our weight have increased at almost exactly the same rate. It used to be only the rich who were getting fat when the microwave first came out because they were the only ones who could afford it. Now sadly everyone, even the poorest among us, is affected by the microwave and its propensity to increase our portion sizes of meals.

At first the microwave only affected the meals we ate in our homes, but restaurants soon had to appease our ferocious appetites by increasing their portion sizes as well. It's a vicious cycle, but it is in no way our fault as individuals. It's those money hungry companies who make the microwaves! And why, might you ask, would companies make microwaves so big when smaller ones would be much healthier for us as Americans? The answer is quite simple. We pay a lot more money for the larger microwaves than we would for smaller ones. It's all about lining their pockets with money.

So we must stand together as fat Americans - and if you are too fat to stand, at least raise a chubby hand - in defiance, and demand that microwave companies start making microwaves smaller. Our health as a country is depending on it.

And now that I have said my piece, let me eat in peace because I'm thinking of getting another cheeseburger to go.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Sky is Falling

The news has been recently filled with stories about hundreds of birds that have died and fallen from the sky in such places as Arkansas, Maryland, Louisiana, and Italy. This is fascinating and far reaching as scientists scramble to discover the reasons why. What could cause such large masses of birds to die and fall from the sky?

I feel, however, that the researchers and media are missing the real answer. In their frantic search for clues they have overlooked the obvious conclusion to this overwhelming mystery...birds do not remain in suspension in the air after they die but indeed fall to the ground. Sir Issac Newton's law of gravity, proven yet again.

Life is just too funny to be taken so seriously