Assorted Musings

Some random thoughts on this Saturday night:

  • Why are Burger King and KFC high end restaurants overseas?
  • I agree with an old Bryan Caplan post that people often invoke "addiction" to explain behavior, when it’s really a lack of self-control.
  • This overview of the Northern California megaregion — and the urban planning challenges we’re going to face in coming years — is pretty interesting. What I like most about Northern California is the diversity of climates and landscapes. In only a few hours by car you can be in snow (Tahoe), beaches (Santa Cruz), Wine Country (Napa), farmland (Fresno), waterfront (SF), etc etc.
  • Most successful salespeople in business are cocky motherfuckers.
  • What’s with people saying "It’s me" in voicemails, instead of identifying themselves? It could be a sign of insecurity, as if they want to feel like they have a close relationship with you. I’m with George Castanza on this one: "I’m against all ‘It’s me’s’. It’s so self-absorbed and egotistical, like those hip musicians with their complicated shoes".
  • Juno is a good movie — it deals with tough social issues in a funny and appropriately complicated way.
  • Early exposure to miserable jobs is good motivation to get educated and make something of yourself. I remember as a kid seeing toll-collectors on the bridge, pondering their likely miserable existence, and thinking to myself, "I don’t want to be him." Speaking of careers, my friend Marty Nemko has some great info up at US News and World Report about hot and cold careers.

23 Responses to Assorted Musings

  1. ElamBend says:

    In answer to point one:
    Clean restrooms and standard fare.

  2. Chris Yeh says:

    I’m guessing that the “it’s me” plague springs from people’s reluctance to refer to themselves in the third person.

    Might be interesting to leave voice messages, “Hi, this is investor, entrepreneur, writer, and your close personal friend, Chris Yeh, calling to see how you’re doing.”

  3. Dave says:

    what? where is burger king or kfc considered high end? and define high end

  4. Ben Casnocha says:

    Dave – In China and Ecuador, to name just two countries, KFC is expensive and considered a nice place to take your family to eat out. Pizza Hut, too.

  5. Dave says:

    wow. i had no idea. i wonder if it is as simple as “clean and standard fare”, or if there is more subtle symbolism at work.

  6. people often invoke “addiction” to explain behavior, when it’s really a lack of self-control.

    People often invoke “lack of self-control” to explain behavior, when it’s really addiction. Works both ways.

  7. NB I hit “Submit” too early. Should have added that responsibility lies with the person indulging in the destructive behavior at all times, and that “addiction” does not mean “cannot help it”.

  8. John says:

    I disagree with the notion that the most successful salespeople are arrogant. The most *noticeable* salespeople are arrogant, hence the selection bias, but the most effective ones are client-focused rather than self-focused. The more humble salespeople make sales rather than making a show.

  9. wout says:

    It’s funny to see the “it’s me” is self-absorbed and egotistical point next to toll-collectors must be having miserable existences.

  10. Jim says:

    In response to your thoughts on Juno:

    link to tinyurl.com

  11. Anonymous says:

    >> pondering their likely miserable existence << This quote showcases a staggering lack of experience outside of your immediate arena. You can travel the world, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve truly stepped outside of your bubble.

  12. Cal says:

    No amount of life experience will change the fact that being a toll collector is probably a pretty sucky job.

  13. Jude says:

    I don’t see a toll collector’s job as so terrible, although I wouldn’t want the job for long. I think it’s critical for managers to spend time working as 1) janitors and 2) clerical anythings. The best management advice I received was from a university library director who said that as managers, we have an obligation to actually *do* all the tasks that each of our employees do. We don’t have to do them well, but we have to have at least experienced them because that’s the only way we can effectively manage them. Thus, she knew how to do the most menial tasks in her library. Especially as a librarian, I can tell when I have a manager who has no knowledge of anything I’m doing. They can see my value in an abstract way, but they don’t really know how wonderful I am because they don’t know how good I am at all this stuff. Anyway, a hotel maid told me when I was 13 that I needed to do anything possible to keep from having *her* job. It was good advice.

  14. “Addiction” is often misused the way “theory” is. It’s not a disease, but there is definitely a genetic response to certain stimulants that can drive some people to work very hard against their self interest.

    Contra Bryan Caplan, alcoholics don’t like Jack Daniels more than their wife & kids. Rather, they like the feeling it provides (sociability, a sense of power, whatever) to the degree that they will put up with the negative consequences. Similarly, some people will risk death (repeatedly!) to climb Mt. Everest for the feeling it gives them.

  15. Devin Reams says:

    Hey Ben, re: Burger King, I think people in China are wondering the same about P. F. Changs over here. ;)

  16. BTW – Kathy Sierra has written and talked at length about the psychological research that game developers use to make their games more addictive. (This includes the makers of slot machines, who are masters of intermittent reward.)

    I’m not saying that means self-control is impossible, but it’s not crazy to think that there are people on the other side who are trying to manipulate your psychological response. That’s absolutely true in gaming and used to be true with cigarette manufacturers (probably still true in the third world).

  17. Sameer Jain says:

    Speaking of self-control problems, check out stickK.com. Pretty cool–it’s a website started by 2 Yale profs that lets you buy “commitment contracts” vowing to do something (or implement a variety of verification and tracking tools for free).

  18. Krishna says:

    When you realize the salesguy is a cocky MF, would you still buy from him ?

    But if you realized it after you’ve bought stuff, then you’re a late bloomer. Give him credit for having seen you through from a mile and a much more palatable description of a “crafty hawker” (and hence successful).

  19. Matsui says:

    As we discussed when you were in Ecuador, Burger King is very expensive compared to most Ecuadorian restaurants and thus the clientele is more upscale. If you could get a lunch for less than 2 bucks, the typical price of an almuerzo, then you’d probably see a more varied customer base.

    I agree that toll collecting would not seem to me to be a very stimulating or fun job, although “miserable existence” seems far reaching. I would bet most toll collectors aren’t in it for the long haul but it is more likely a temporary thing.

  20. Maxine says:

    Toll collecting wouldn’t rank as the most stimulating job on the planet but it’s actually not that bad – you’re under cover, you’re sitting down, you’re less likely to have a meddling middle manager breathing down your neck about fulfilling ‘quotas’.

    There are worse jobs out there. One of my worst was field market research interviewer at the height of summer – nothing quite like trudging through suburban streets in the hot midday sun getting verbally abused to make you reconsider your life/career/meaning of existence. But I’m sure there are people who can better me.

  21. I seem to remember someone telling me that being a toll collector on the Massachusetts Turnpike was a fairly sought-after job and that you needed connections to get such a position. Supposedly, although it IS a pretty sucky job, it pays very well.

  22. gabriel says:

    About point one… are they? they are dependable and standardised, and that means that in untrustworthy and chaotic countries they will have an added and scarce value, but anywhere else, I don’t think they are :D

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