27 February 2009

Economic Quiz

Okay, here's a quiz: Let's say you are a business of some kind -- restaurant, clothier, retailer, whatever -- and the economy takes a downturn. At the same time, the price of gasoline goes up, as does the wholesale cost of items you use in your business -- meat, milk, corn, fabric, copper, whatever. How do you react to the increase in your cost to do business?

Do you:

a: Do nothing because you know the downturn is temporary. You might make less profit, but that's okay.

b: Raise your prices a little, to recover some of your additional expenses, even though you know you might lose some customers.

c: Raise your prices a lot to completely recover your additional expenses -- if you have to pay more your customers should have to pay more -- even though you know you will lose more customers.

d: Lower your prices to make your product more affordable. You might lose some of your profit, but with the increase in business you will make more on volume.

In this quiz there is really no correct answer. Too many factors need to be considered -- including the status of your employees. Personally, I think either a: or d: would make the most sense. After all, if the economy is already hurting raising prices will only make things worse. However, you might be surprised how many companies apparently think b: or c: are the right answers -- as shortsighted as those actions probably are.

One grocery store, Safeway (where we do our shopping), has come up with another option: telling brand name companies that they had better lower their prices or Safeway will start more aggressively pushing its own less-expensive house brands.

Way to go, Safeway!

18 February 2009

Back to the Back

In January I wrote this entry about the results of an MRI on my back: stenosis (where the disk gets squished between two vertebrae). At that time I had to decide whether to keep doing physical therapy, have steroid injections or surgery.

The second-opinion doctor said the disks looked mostly good, although I had some bulging "from arthritis" and some squishing of my spinal cord in the L4-L5 area. He said it could be "a long time" before that caused me any problem. I asked if by "a long time" he meant years. "Oh, yes, it could be many years -- or next month."

That filled me with lots of confidence, so I opted to go with the injections -- which I had today.

The photograph shows an x-ray of my spine. The long black horizontal thing to the left is one of the needles that snaked into the disk where they injected the steroid.

The whole procedure took about ten minutes -- although I was at the surgery place for about an hour (arriving early, filling out paperwork, being warned about possible outcomes, etc.). It was pretty painless, except the part where they jabbed needles into me and kept injecting stuff.

I have spent the remainder of the day resting. The nurse warned that my back would start to hurt when the painkiller wore off about six hours after the procedure. That was about 20 minutes ago. My back feels stiff, but not painful.

Tomorrow I go back to work and hope for the best. Fingers crossed!

16 February 2009

Apropos to Nothing Else

I am so glad to finally discover that I am not the only person in the world who thinks Gene Kelly's movie ballet sequences are WAY too long and dull. Whew. That's off my chest. I've said it and I'm glad.

10 February 2009

More Scary Times in Australia

The fires are mostly out, the temperatures are finally getting back to average, but the extent of damage from the recent fires in Australia is still unknown. Estimates are saying more than 200 humans are thought to have died. Houses, cars, property and lives have been wiped out.

The area's diverse animal life -- both wild and domestic -- have suffered as well. Family pets have died, livestock, horses, wild kangaroos, wallabies, possums and koala have been killed or injured.

One small victory over the fire is Sam the koala whose feet were burned. A fireman gave the poor animal water and an animal rescue group has taken her to safety.

You can read more about Sam here.

You can read more about the devastation to wild life here; but I warn you not to view the slide show. The images are just horrible.

08 February 2009

Scary Times in Australia

We have some good friends in the general area of southeastern Australia where the horrible fires (pictured) have been wiping out towns and killing people. (We just heard from them, and they are okay.)

Arizona and most of Australia have pretty much the same weather. We get miserable heat in summer that dries out everything making fires pretty much the norm. Some of our fires are bad, but it sounds like Australia is having a worse time of it.

Please send good vibes their way.

You can read more about the fires here.

02 February 2009

The REAL Best Super Bowl Commercials

Seriously, the people who vote for the best Super Bowl commercials must all be 13-year-old males who spend the bulk of their time playing video games and staring at the 2009 equivalent of a Farrah Fawcett poster.

Those of us who long-ago passed through puberty and developed something like taste have different ideas. So, ignore all the other "best" lists and just focus on the following:

Gold Medal: Pedigree Adoption Drive
This clever commercial had us laughing from the first sight of the rhino charging through the living room. Just the quirky idea of alternate pets is priceless.

Silver Medal: Doritos campaign
Both the "Snowglobe" and "Crunch" installments take clever twists that you never see coming (something like that bus). Extra points for quirkiness.

Bronze Medal: Monster.com "Moose"
Although we paused to wonder just how the moose could actually survive standing atop a desk with his head stuck through a wall into another office, this commercial sure made its point.

Honorable Mention: Budweiser "Circus"
While we loved the Clydesdale "Fetch" installment, the "Circus" commercial brought a much appreciated tear to the eye. What some people (and horses) will do for love.

Honorable Mention: Coca-Cola "Heist"

This commercial was a virtuoso example of computer graphics being put to good use to tell a story (not just show off). Although Matt and I are pretty sure the bugs would die if they actually drank Coke, we loved it. Extra points for having a cute sleeping guy in the spot.