Thursday, August 27, 2009

Miles to go before I sleep

Math can make your head spin. I was reading Seth Godin's blog (catching up on his blog actually, but whatever) and came upon his post, "Not so good at math." He reprinted the classic miles-per-gallon example, comparing Suburbans to Priuses, in which two alternative performance improvements are proposed and you are asked which is the better choice.

His point is to remind marketers that the ordinary consumer is, as he puts it "not wired for arithmetic. It confuses us, stresses us out and more often than not, is used to deceive."

Have you ever heard someone say, "numbers don't lie"? Yeah, right. Numbers may not lie, but they sure can obfuscate some cold hard facts, especially when wielded by a master.

To me, it's like the age-old question is lying by omission lying?

The mpg example goes like this:

You want to reduce gasoline consumption and, lucky for you, there are only two kinds of cars in the world. Half of them are Suburbans that get 10 miles to the gallon and half are Priuses that get 50.

If we assume that all the cars drive the same number of miles, which would be a better investment:

  • Get new tires for all the Suburbans and increase their mileage a bit to 13 miles per gallon.
  • Replace all the Priuses and rewire them to get 100 miles per gallon (doubling their average!)

That seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, except for the fact that you know there's a trick in there somewhere.

This is a bit of a mind bender, but think about it this way (since you've obviously figured out that the answer is NOT replacing the Priuses) — if you drive 25 miles in an "unmodified" Suburban, you'll go through 2 1/2 gallons of gas, while going through only 1/2 a gallon driving the same distance in a Prius. That's easy enough, right? Okay, stick with me. If you modify the Prius, doubling the gas consumption efficiency, and drive another 25 miles you'll save a whopping 1/4 gallon of gas.

But, if you modify your Suburban, improving gas consumption efficiency only by a third, and drive another 25 miles, you'll save 1/2 gallon of gas (actually, a little bit more). Twice as much as you would save modifying the Prius.

Basically, the Prius is already so efficient, that making it more efficient doesn't save you that much. But the Suburban is so inefficient, that even making it a little more efficient makes a big difference.

To Seth's point, however, who of us ordinary consumers would jump to that conclusion first? And no, Dad, you are not an ordinary consumer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Friends don't let friends drive texty

I considered posting the four minute British PSA about texting and driving, but it's bloody bloody. It's at well over a million views - if you haven't seen it, it's here.
I settled for this clip from Albuquerque's KOAT (yeah, yeah, it's a video. Can't see it? Click here):

According to this report, you're five (5) times more likely to have an accident if you text and drive.

Did I mention that all the PSA videos I watched on YouTube on the "dangers of texting and driving" were accompanied by cell phone ads from Wal-Mart. Is it just me, or is that like having Jack Daniels sponsor your local AA meeting?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Viti, Vini, Twenty...

And no, that's not a spelling mistake. Caesar may have come, seen and conquered. I bet he didn't have nearly as much fun as my friends and I who came, saw and drank. Which would be veni, vidi, bibi, for those of you who keep track of these kinds of things.

Vitis vinifera (Viti Vinnie - sounds like he's in the "family") is the grape species responsible for over 99% of all wine produced. One grape can do a lot of damage.

Last week the challenge was to bring a red wine under $20 that no one would guess was under $20. We succeeded handily.

Here are the results, in no order except the first one:

#1. Ideology 2006, Cabernet Sauvignon from LA Wine Co. — $19.95. This was the hands down winner.

Celler Bartolome Finca el Mirador Bellmunt del Priorat 2006, Grenache/Carignena blend from Wine House — $17.99

Delas Cotes-du-Rhone Saint-Esprit 2007 from LA Wine Co — $9.95

Fetish The Watcher 2006
, Shiraz from World Market Cost Plus — $17

Vino Sfuso 2008
, Montepulciano Abruzzo blend — I don't know where this came from, but it's $6.99 at K&L

It may look like $72 worth of wine on paper, but it drank like $250. Or something like that. There is some mighty tasty wine out there for less than an Andrew Jackson.

There is also some fine wine out there that is decidedly not $20 — we did also pour two Turley 2006 Zins: the Juvenile and an Old Vines. Enough said.

We came, we drank, we ranked. We did a little stand-up. Hail Dino.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Never say no to dough

I'm a New Yorker. No matter where I live, I'm still and always a New Yorker.

I am also, however, an eater. With a weakness for the four major food groups: grease, chocolate, bacon, and coffee. Which means that wherever I go, you can count on me to suss out the best hamburger, donut shoppe (I don't know why, but they all seem to spell it that way), steak house and coffee shop (not spelled the other way).

It has come to my attention that although I am a Los Angeles newbie, I may have a firmer grasp of donut shoppes than some LA denizens. Therefore, for all residents, long-term and newly arrived, and visitors, allow me to introduce you to Stan's Donuts.

Stan's is on the corner of Weyburn and Broxton in Westwood, across from two old-time huge movie theaters, a fact I mention because I have been known (once or twice) to buy one or two (or three) donuts on my way into the movies. Dinner of champions: a Coke, popcorn and donuts.

Stan's has been on that corner for over 40 years and his donuts are beyond description. Given that I'm writing about them, I'll give it a try: they are perfect. Forbes Magazine itself rated them "America's Best Donuts" in 2001.

Actually, forget it. Try them for yourself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Harvey, phone home

They've passed a new law. I don't know if you've heard yet, but no new material can be developed, filmed or made in Hollywood, under penalty of dire consequences (like being accused of having a brain or an original thought or thinking, horrors!, something different than everyone else).

Okay, so the law hasn't actually passed. But you'd never know. It's gotten so they don't even bother mentioning that the idea's recycled (you'd think they'd at least want credit for being eco-conscious). To wit, next year we'll see Keira Knightley helming Never Let Me Go, a movie about an isolated and idyllic boarding school that turns out to be breeding donor clones rather than raising British children.

If this sounds a bit familiar, perhaps that's because four years ago, we saw a small movie called The Island directed with typical delicate subtlety by Michael Bay. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, glowing and gleaming in an idyllic and isolated community, eventually race to escape, still glowing and gleaming, upon discovering they are, aha!, nothing more than organ donors for the rich and reckless.

Granted, Never Let Me Go comes with a far more distinguished literary pedigree — it is based on a novel by the author of "The Remains of the Day," Kazuo Ishiguro. Still.

Why do I bring this up? Because Mr. Steven Spielberg himself is jumping on the remake bandwagon. Why I'm surprised by this, considering that he broke the 11th commandment and made a fourth sequel in the Indy franchise, I don't know. One lives in hope. At least I am able to report that Spielberg is not remaking anything from the last decade. Thank heavens for small favors.

Instead he is going back to the 1950s to "update" Harvey, a movie based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play and written by its original award-winning playwright, Mary Chase. The 1950 movie starred an invisible 6 1/2 foot tall rabbit alongside Jimmy Stewart in an Academy Award nominated performance for best actor. If you haven't seen it, do so. As for the "update?" It's being written by first-time screen writer, Jonathan Tropper. Who hasn't won a Pulitzer Prize.

Having said all that, it makes perfect sense that they are remaking Total Recall. Because we probably forgot the first one. Hey, I can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

My dog ate my homework

It wasn't me, officer, I swear. My cat downloaded the porn.

No, I'm not kidding. Evidently they grow their felines different in Florida.

According to Keith Griffin, he never visited a single porn site. Not ever. His cat, on the other hand, would jump on the keyboard all the time, and wow!, all this porn would just, like, show up on his, like, monitor.

Don't say it. Don't say it.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Define irony

Of all the books in all the world, Amazon chooses George Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm" to peremptorily delete from people's Kindle devices? You're kidding me, right?

This is the kind of thing that if I put it in my screenplay some reader would comment in the margin, and rightfully so, "Too spot on. Choose another book."

Yet, it did so happen that on the 17th of July, in the year of the Omnipotent and Everpresent, 2009, did in fact reach its eerie electronic tentacles out into the ether and remove every instance of "1984" and "Animal Farm" from every Kindle owner who had purchased the books. Just like that. Gone in an instant. Poof.

Big Brother comes to life and its name is Jeff Bezos. This is not a drill.

The irony of this situation is so incredible that you can't help but feel that some poor misguided PR peon is sitting in an office somewhere, cowering under his desk, muttering to himself over and over, "it wasn't supposed to happen like this."

To be scrupulously honest, I don't why, but why not, let's let Amazon 'splain. Or at least, sum up.

First, the books' publisher changed its mind about offering electronic versions of the books. Let me be clear, the publisher decided it wanted to rescind previously granted permission. Post-facto.
Next, Amazon crumpled under publisher pressure. Again, let me be absolutely clear. Amazon crumpled, surrendered, folded, caved like Kirstie Alley saying yes to a cupcake.
Finally, like the fog on little cat feet, Amazon snuck in like a thief in the night and absconded with its customers' books.

Well, that does clear everything up.

I hear that Amazon is promising never to do anything like this again. Promises, promises.