Sunday, April 03, 2011

On Imminent Domain, Proper iPad Usage, and the Original Mai Tai Recipe

No more than one year ago the concept of thinking about a consolidated online communication strategy for me would be as you would imagine, unimaginable.

Over the past year I have shed my inhibitions of writing online and derision of the format and have fully embraced the blog1. The unwitting realization I have come to realize in the past ten months is that there is a discernable difference between writing in a series of moleskine notebooks and what I blog about. With the transaction cost of posting on a blog being virtually zero it would be rational to expect that any and all musings would make it to the blog. Contrary to what occurs in my series of notebooks, bar napkins2, and regular napkins I have developed a strong sense of self-editing in the blog.

It is my firm belief that an implicit social contract exists between the writer and the reader. It is the writer’s duty to provide the best available content and to publish all the posts that are fit to blog. For every post that appears on the blog exist a series of musings, undeveloped concepts, and long lost ideas As a result the way I am as a writer3 comes very much out of what I want as a reader.

I’ve decided to consolidate my communications in a series of outlets that will be unified by a soon to be determined online domain4.

My newly acquired iPad will often be the center-point of my digital communication series. Over the past two weeks I have set-up my iPad to be a unified media manager of music, videos, documents, and nearly any time of digital file you can think of.

I have conveniently linked my iPad to a QNap Raid6 server and to a cloud service allowing me over 10TB of available storage space with multiple drive failure protection with data-duplication to save space8. This virtualized setup connects all of my points of contact including my stereo. This very morning I finished the setup uploading a substantial library worth of books, subscriptions to magazines, all of my newspapers, and nearly every piece of media one could want. It was at that moment I packed a small bag complete with a moleskine notebook, my copy of Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer9, and the Sunday times and walked no more than twenty-seven blocks to my typical bench at East-River Park where I unpacked and continued to sit for several hours10.


2My bar napkin musings are often quite informative, include diagrams, and often have a distinct gin aroma

3What really interest me about writing is this exchange between consciousness and this relationship to talk to each other when we otherwise wouldn’t.

4 Blog:

The blog will continue to contain long form post with a focus on economics and drink recipes


The goal of the twitter will be to document short ideas5, musings, jokes, and pictures. I will also use it to communicate with a select number of people I will follow


Selectively document where I am and to best geo-locate with my close friends


The website will provide the host to all the forms of communication and will also feature appendix information, diagrams, and details of any ongoing art projects

5Ideas and thoughts are really the greatest thing going

6My initial thought was to register www.jasonme.ad7

7Registering a webpage with an “ad” extension proves to be an issue as I am not an Andorran citizen and would have to register a limited liability corporation within Andorra. While this can all be done online and I enjoy the frivolity of having a holding company in Andorra I don’t believe I want to spend the requested $188 per year for that privilege against my ability to think of something equally clever.

8A large motivating factor was just knowing that I could do this

9I have yet to find another copy that has the English translation on the left page and the original French on the right page as is this copy that was misappropriate from The George Washington University library

10As we are beginning to feel the onset of spring I thought it would be appropriate to share a summer cocktail. Under the right setting I rather like summer cocktails. Mai Tai is a Tahitian word for “good” which appropriately describes the drink called the “Mai Tai.” The now-chain restaurant Trader Vic’s claims to have invented the Mai Tai, I am quite suspect of the claim “invented” but I do maintain that they popularized the drink in the United States. The below is the traditional Trader Vic’s recipe:

  • 2 ounces of 17-year old J. Wray & Nephew Rum over shaved ice
  • Juice from one very fresh lime
  • 1/2 ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
  • 1/4 ounce Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup
  • 1/2 ounce French Garier Orgeat Syrup
  • Shake for no more than 10 seconds
  • Pour into an old fashioned glass and garnish with a spring of mint

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On how technological advances affect expressions and a peerless cocktail

Moore’s law describes the long term trend in computer hardware where the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. While this trend is currently slowing down, it has remained relatively consistent for the past sixty years. Although Intel co-founder Gordon Moore was originally writing1 about transistors, this phenomenon applies to processing speed, hard drive capacity, server capacity, and the overall capabilities of many digital devices.

We experience this “law” in everyday life and price this into our decision making3. Last year’s model although state of the art at the time of purchase is now, for lack of a worse word passé. Every year the maximum processing speed or hard drive space increases and pushes down the price of what was previously the top model.

And now that we have some shared context, let us get down to the crux of this article.

I very much like expressions. I would self-describe myself as someone who has a fair number of personal expressions, sayings, expressive hand-motions, diction, and who has a general tone of voice. This is all greatly accentuated if I am telling a story, a yarn, or even recounting a flimflam4.

Four days ago at approximately forty minutes past noon I was taking my lunch in Madison Square Park, enjoying the welcomed nice weather and Shack Burger. I happily divided my time between reading, drawing, and being pensive in thought. My thoughts tend to be jumbled, convoluted, and alternate between the rather complex and thoughts that simply are not getting their due time and attention and are at risk of being classified as unimportant by many.

In some way or the other I started thinking about the phrase:

“Nothing to write home about”

I have certainly used this phrase5; the last time being in regard to an un-eventful lamb burger. The expression would be used to describe something not particularly exciting, nor special, or was not newsworthy. According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings the expression in its current form dates back to the late nineteenth century citing; “he was bleeding a bit, but nothing to write home about. G.D.H. Cole, "The Man from the River." There is also a foot note mentioning that this expression gained favor among WWI troops stationed far from home.

While the surface level purpose of the expression has remained constant, the underlying connotation of what constitutes “something to write home about” certainly has not. Over time the marginal cost and barrier to convey news has exponentially diminished. The extraordinary number of technological outlets that spring everyday allows me to express any opinion with increasing speed. The barrier to write home is so low that nearly everything can be written home about at virtually no cost other than the time based opportunity cost. The wounded soldier who was bleeding in the initial citation would have no doubt tweeted home if the technology was available. The type of news that would eclipse the “Writing Home Threshold” from a WWI foxhole is quite different than what the threshold is today. I speculate that in the 1890s you diligently thought about when you would write home and if the information would in fact be timely by the time it arrived. Late hours into the night, scotch in hand and peering out the window from that space you stand when you are thinking, would be devoted to evaluating if this news is in fact something to write home about. The drink in hand would probably be something like this:

The Peerless Martini:

  • One cap full of dry vermouth
  • 3oz of Plymouth gin
  • Ice
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters

Remove your martini glass from your bar. Fill the cap of the vermouth bottle with dry vermouth (this should be approximately 1/7th of an oz). Swirl around the vermouth coating the inside of the glass. Pour the excess vermouth into a shaker filled 3/4th of the way with fresh ice. Pour the 3oz of gin plus that additional extra ounce if it has been a long day or a day ending in “y”. Vigorously shake for approximately 28 seconds. Strain and pour into the glass. Take a generous twist of lemon and twist over the martini releasing some of the natural oil; run over the rim of the glass and place on top. Add two dashes of orange bitters and stir.

The orange bitters takes a perfect drink and truly makes it peerless.


1Moore’s original thoughts can be found in the April 19th, 1965 issue of Electronics Magazine in a piece entitled “Cramming2 more components onto integrated circuits.”

2Excellent diction in the usage of “cramming”

3I have another conceptual idea about how activity based peak performance will effect pricing of personal computers for the next 10 years. Conceptually Moore’s law is also slowing down because the demand for capability utilization on some electronic will be significantly less. The marginal difference between yearly models will diminish.

4I was surprised flimflam was one word in the OED

5You are probably thinking about when you did right now

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

On Economic Principles and the Barney’s Warehouse Sale

Semi-Annually Barney’s holds its warehouse sale at the Co-Op location conveniently located on 17th street and 7th avenue in Chelsea. Hordes of shoppers flock to find deals, whether it is that men’s two button Jil Sander suit, a pair of Louboutins, or a more haute-couture piece that doesn’t quite fit well and was scuffed in transit and was inevitably an expensive mistake.

I have been attending the warehouse sale for a few years now. I self describe my style of dress as classic and style conscious with an affinity for craftsmanship and detail. Over the years I’ve had some great finds; a Burberry trench, a classic pea coat, a Margiela button down, and a Band of Outsiders suit to name a few. Factoring in a few purchases that didn’t really work out I’ve probably saved as much as I have could have buying at the proper end of season Barney’s sale and could have traded shopping in a controlled and sane environment for trying on clothes in the corner of the Chelsea passage. I always stop in and like to take in the maelstrom that is the Barney’s Warehouse sale.

This year I went to browse and noticed a few things. Some of these things were blazers, some were economic principles.

Pre and Post Price Expectations:

Everyone forms price expectations in making a purchasing decision. The expectation of price becomes a reference point of compare that influences the propensity to buy a product. In the case of the warehouse sale we are exposes to both pre-price expectations and post-price expectations.

Pre expectations would dictate what we would expect to pay for a Dior shirt and post price expectations would factor in our expectations to purchase a Dior shirt at another occasion, after being exposed to the Barney’s warehouse price. The forward looking expectation is typically more responsive in reacting to store prices in forming price expectations. I believe this is accentuated for discounts on luxury brands.

“When is the next time you are going to find Lanvin on sale” or the infamous “Chanel never goes on sale”

This concept of a ticking-time window for the deal becomes very important. The cramped and crowded mob environment of the sale makes you ponder the time when your “future self1” will not only want this item, but also have the money. This sense of pressure, time, and desire for exclusive goods is a driving force why Gilt is one of the fastest expanding sites.

The Effect of Price Framing: Deal versus Sale:

I was thinking about how different generations talk about shopping. My grandma very much enjoys getting a sales price at the supermarket. To a point I believe she thinks she is pulling a fast one on the supermarket for some reason. I recall a time when I mentioned that I enjoyed an occasional ginger-ale. A week or so later ginger-ale went on sale with a maximum purchase of 2 per customer. My grandma decided it would be prudent to go back and forth and make separate trips to stock up on ginger-ale for the apocalypse so I could have a refreshing beverage. I think the majority of the bottles went flat years ago.

The diction has changed. The word choice of “sale” has this association of “cheap” and of “diminished quality or value.” The deal is for the savvy. The deal is for the individual who has done the research and is making an informed decision on both price and quality. There is a semblance of pride in being able to snag that luxury piece at a most favorable price.

Luxury goods are prone to framing the sale as a deal. Designer goods often have very high margins as a layer of the cost is the design and not a cost of goods sold component such as leather.

This is the point in the blog post where I have more ideas and graphs on the subject but instead I am going to provide a punch recipe.

Punch is great at parties because it:

  • Can be prepared in a large quantity prior to the party where diligence and time can be devoted
  • Classic punch recipes are very tasty, awesome, and quite alcoholic
  • Those crystal punch bowls or fountains are very cool
  • Inspires a group atmosphere and festivity as everyone is in the same proverbially boat (or drink)

Below is an alt on a classic punch2 recipe. The addition of rhubarb is great for parties in the spring. Poire Williams is great substitute for applejack for a fresh flavor.

Mother’s “Apple Rhubarb” Ruin Punch

  • 10 cubes of brown sugar
  • 3oz soda water
  • 3oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 6oz fresh squeeze grape fruit juice
  • 3oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
  • 5 tea bags of earl grey tea
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 6oz of Plymouth Gin
  • 2oz of Applejack
  • Split of champagne
  • 6 drops of Rhubarb bitters
  • 1 grapefruit


  1. Earlier in the day place the tea bags and the cinnamon stick in the Carpano Antica bottle. Let sit and chill
  2. Earlier in the day fill a bread loaf pan with water and freeze. When this freezes it will create ice. The ice cube will be about the size of a loaf of bread.
  3. Coat the sugar cubes with the drops of bitters and muddle with the soda water
  4. Use a chinoise to strain 3oz of vermouth
  5. Combine all of the ingredients except for the champagne
  6. Place the big giant ice cube in the center
  7. Stir the mixture and garnish with slices of grapefruit
  8. At the appropriate time add the champagne and gently stir
  9. Serves 1-2 people


1 I too often let future jason deal with problems
2 Punch dates back to the 1600s, predating the term cocktail by over two hundred years. Punch literally translates to "Five," referring to the five original ingredients of sugar, tea, lemon juice, spices, and spirits

Friday, February 18, 2011

On Letter Writing and Greeting Card Efficiency

For anyone who knows me and for anyone who doesn't, I have a strong abhorrence for greeting cards. I can’t stand “pre-populated messages” and the simple “insert signature here” that stamps that you approve this message.

I own stationary and a pen is always by my side. There is a casual elegance and grace in writing letters. I firmly believe this stems from the deliberate amount of time it takes to craft a letter and a degree of deference to the art of letter writing. When in receipt of mail there is nothing better than a letter that is handwritten on stationary, devoid of any “pre-populated message.” Letter writing provides this improbable dichotomy of communication that is simultaneously “colloquial and graceful,” “informative and superfluous,” “spontaneous and planned,” and at all times unwittingly familiar.

What I am providing below is an “all-purpose occasion card1” which can be distributed for all types of occasions. By maintaining a constant supply of these cards which can be quickly distributed you will have more time for writing a proper letter.



Circle all choices that apply. Alternatively cross out all choices that do not apply.
Affix stamp
Fill out address of recipient


1by all accounts2this is nine thousand percent more efficient
2Largely scientific3

Monday, February 14, 2011

My experiences with cobblers and cobblers

In all of my years I have never met a cobbler I did not like. For a man of my age I do believe I have more than the average1 amount of cobbling demands but that is beside the point. This past weekend I needed the sole on a pair of oxfords repaired so I ambled down avenue A to find a cobbler that had Sunday hours2. I stopped in at AK Shoe Repair on East 9th where I was happily welcomed. In all of my years every cobbler I have met has fit this description:

• Under 5 foot 6 inches
• Most likely under 5 foot 2 inches with some sort of hunch from decades of cobbling
• Over 75 years old
• Owns store that has not changed in 50 years
• Works in a dimly lit space with shoe laces and cedar shoe tress covering every last inch of the wall
• Speaks a mumbled version of English where all the consonants seem to blend together
• Oh so nice and definitely someone's grandpa
• Charges $10 dollars for any and all type of work plus $2 for shoe shine
• Extremely proud of work and can’t wait to tell you.

Continually every cobbler I have met has always been so excited to show me the work he has done, whether it is replacing a heel seamlessly, fixing the sole of the shoe, or replacing a heel seamlessly. I’m always waved in to duck down and see the meticulous detail that has been a result of decades of experience and effort. All for which I am then charged ten dollars plus an additional two for the shine.

This is a recipe for blueberry cobbler3 from Thomas Keller’s book Ad-Hoc at Home.

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp each: baking powder, baking soda
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
8 cups blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Cinnamon sugar:
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

For topping, in medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda.
In large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Using hand mixer, mix on low speed, then beat on medium until mixture is light and creamy, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk in 2 batches. Scrape down sides; mix again to ensure all ingredients are combined.

For filling, in medium bowl, toss blueberries with sugar, flour and zest. Spread in 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon mounds of batter over berries, leaving space between mounds. (Makes about 12 mounds.)

For cinnamon sugar, stir together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter. Bake in preheated 350F oven 40 minutes or until juices are bubbling and topping is golden and cooked through.

Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. (Refrigerate leftovers up to 2 days.)
Makes 6 servings.


1 plus two standard deviations
2 cobbler day of rest
3 delicious

Monday, February 07, 2011

On New Year’s Resolutions, Thinking about blogging, and the Weather in Kent

By all accounts we are 10.4% into 20111, a point where over half of New Year’s resolutions have already been broken. I had three resolutions this year and by my account I have been successful.

Resolution #1: Curse less and more at the same time

I habitually curse. I easily surpass my cursing quota every quarter. The majority of my cursing is usually ironic and for the sake of comedy. Work presents a problem as it is the place I am compelled to curse the most, but at the same time a well timed fuck this noise doesn’t always play well in the office. Problem.

Sometime between the hours of 2am and 3am eastern standard time during the penultimate week of 2010 I found my answer:


As you of course know shazbot is the curse word used by Mork2.

By utilizing shazbot my cursing has taken a logarithmic path. It has tapered to an average of 7 shazbots per hour per work day. I think I can mark this as success thus far. I am about a log base 1,9.

Resolution #2: Utilize schematics more

It makes much more sense than utilizing napkins, I have an abundance of t-squares, and I’ll get more done3. I could store the schematics in the warehouse.

Resolution #3: Find ways to use the phrase “a day late and a dollar short”

No more than 11 days ago I was leaving work when my colleague8 was carrying his umbrella the day after it rained and he had been drenched. I pounced on the opportunity but I did not verify if he was in fact a dollar short.


1 at that point I instinctually typed fiscal year 2011 but corrected myself.

2 Of Mork and Mindy fame

3 Although I consider myself to be hyper-productive, my overall production output is hindered by the fact that I am interested in everything all the time and feel the need to constantly begin new projects. In addition to this I am fascinated by design and the environment in which you create in. Often times when I begin conceptualizing4 an endeavor I spend an inordinate amount of time conceptualizing the environment I want to create in. What would be the best type of typewriter, where do I get one of those six foot candles, how many warm grey Copic markers is too many, perhaps this would be better done at the park in front of that fountain on that one bench that I like but not the other ones. What this adds up too is by the time I have decided that I am ready I may have already moved onto the next project7 leaving the original ideas to live only on the pages of an archived moleskine notebook that no doubt won’t be discovered because I never followed through on that time capsule project.

4 The other day I was sitting around drinking a blood and sand5 cocktail and was thinking about blogging. I did not blog. I simply thought about the idea of thinking about blogging. I really like blogging but I like thinking about it more. Often I conceptualize the post in my head or a sketch and feel like “I got it” and then there is not point to put it down. I know editing defeats some of the nature of blogging as I am internally editing myself but I think as the co-writer of this blog I have a duty to my reader(s) to provide all the content that is fit to blog and nothing more. My blog post to ideas about blog posts is 1 : 3, my blog posts to times I think about thinking about blog post is 1: 7.

5 Blood and Sand is a classic scotch based cocktail. It’s great because it’s suitable for breakfast6, a pre dinner drink, or after 2am. Very versatile. This recipe is more on the bitter side than the classic recipe by substituting punt et mes for ross vermouth and using less luxardo maraschino liquor or cherry brandy. I also am using a peated scotch that gives it a smokey flavor and aroma that plays well with the orange juice and cherry.

1 oz Laphroaig
Freshly squeeze juice of one large Valencia orange (approximately 1 oz)
.75 oz of Punt et Mes
.75 oz of Cherry brandy or luxardo maraschino liquor
Dash of orange bitters

Stir with ice in a glass cocktail shaker and strain once or twice through a chinoise or a tea strainer commensurate on your proclivity for orange juice pulp. Pour into a chilled coupe glass or serve with one large ice cube in a rocks glass.

6 It has orange juice!

7 I have this business idea for a work related fantasy camp. Unlike those rock and roll fantasy camps the job choices would be everyday jobs that we want to do for a week but passed on in our lives for financial and other reasons. One week as a mailman, cop, crooked cop, bakery owner, proprietor of a bed and breakfast, high school math teacher who teaches kids that math is fun. So like that. To be detailed in a post to be named later

8This particular work colleague grew up in Kent and now resides in London. It’s predictable but we enjoy discussing the weather. The BBC has tremendously good weather forecast. All of their meteorologist discuss the intricacies of barometric pressure with a sense of ease knowing the connoisseurship of the audience. I brought that up with my co-worker who informed me everyone in England loves talking about the weather and is so well versed in it partially because of weather forecasting being part of the National Curriculum. He described that during your studies a significant amount of time is devoted to forecasting the weather as this fun and informative assignment. Combined with the detail being provided it seems to stick. The BBC news provides me less relevant weather advice but I’m always well prepared for the rain.

Friday, January 28, 2011

On Unnecessary Necessities and Blanche Devereaux

My aesthetic personal has always leaned toward unnecessary necessities; firmly defined as the design points that are superfluous in existence and utterly indispensable. This includes but is not limited to warehouses, improbable shelving, stacks and stacks of books circa 1918, oversized antique French globes, perhaps some vintage rope… to name a few.

As I was combing through back issues of the New York Times, yes I think that is a thing, I stumbled across an article explaining on how Blanche, i speculate she has a real name, has a secret passage. My immediate thoughts jumped between “why don’t I have a secret passage,” “where would it go “and most pressing “why the hell does Blanche have a secret passage and I don’t.”

Blanche’s abode is on the market for $2.25 million and is listed with Brown Harris Stevens. It is a modest three bedroom on a pleasant block off of 1st avenue, although probably not hopping enough for the below sixty set.

In the pantry however was a door disguised as a spice rack. This led to of all things a bathroom. Unfortunately there is no secret lair, no treasure of Al Capone, not even a shrine to Betty White.

The reasons for Blanche having a secret bathroom are probably much more mundane than sinister, and more practical than awesome.

The obvious next question is where my secret passage would go. Similar to my other ideas it gravitates to this concept of entering an undersized door into an oversized room that you didn’t really comprehend existed because spatial relations can be hard sometimes and is sparsely lit and industrially decorated. With all time I would inevitably spend there a bathroom would be both functional and appropriate. And it’s always great for resale value…


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

High Speed Stimulus Money

So I was reading this article in the New York Times today about how Republicans aren't going to want federally funded public works projects in their states.  The article specifically mentioned the Florida governor's office examining whether it should accept $2.4 billion (with a B) in federal stimulus money to build a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando.  And of course who could forget New Jersey Governor Chris Christie turning down $3 billion from the federal Department of Transportation to update the only tunnel connecting NJ Transit to Manhattan as well as to build a new one.
"Subsidize me!"

You know what? Good.  Don't take our stupid money.  Give it to the Washington Metro System so that millions of ignorant tourists can finally stand to the left on functional escalators, and fewer trains plow into the back of other trains.  Give the money to the MTA (like they need more money) so the terribly rundown Connecticut Metro-North cars can get an update (and so we can keep the bar car).  So that they can take back that really just plan unnecessary 10% price increase they just instituted.

No but don't invest in our infrastructure.  Because pretty soon we'll all be driving over bridges on the verge of collapse.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bullshit Economic Indicators

Economics is a constantly adapting and field of study, which is one of the reasons it remains consistently relevant.  After reading half a Freakonomics article and carrying around a copy of today's Financial Times for most of the day, I've declared myself capable of creating new and exciting bullshit economic indicators.  Before we go on, in the interest of disclosure, I feel compelled to point out that these indicators do have an overwhelmingly shallow, heterosexual bias.

Cost of Good Sex (COGS)
Generally considered a lagging indicator, COGS is designed to accurately predict the amount of capital investment required for a given level of sex with a girl of varying hotness.  The blue line clearly indicates a male skew.

The main takeaway here is this: Girl Hotness is dependent on dollars spent.  The more dollars spent the hotter girl you will be able to take home.  And research clearly shows that girl hotness is perfectly aligned with quality of sex.

The curve does flatten out (similar to the PPC below) based on the diminishing return of increased investment. 

There are externalities that could push the COGS curve downward such as male unattractiveness and overall douschiness which would decrease the upper limit of girl hotness.  Overwhelming male hotness or other positive externalities could push the curve to the up, decreasing COGS overall.  Please note: this model becomes wildly unstable in cases of intoxication.

Penis Possibilities Curve (PPC)
For women.  This leading indicator accurately predicts the minimum hotness threshold of a for a girl to go home with him based on her independent desire to have sex.
The lower the organic desire to have sex, the higher a man has to be to overcome the sex threshold.  For example with a low innate desire to have sex, one would have to be a Ryan Reynolds type to overcome the threshold.

As intrinsic desire increases, the minimum male hotness threshold decreases, allowing for a broader (and generally more unfortunate) range of possibilities.  The curve does straighten out at the end because let's be honest, we all have our minimum standards of acceptability.  It's interesting to note that this model does survive the alcohol test, though more research is required to see if intoxication simply causes a move down the curve or makes the entire curve shift downwards.

(All infographics courtest of MS Paint.  Concepts and data adapted from "Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics", Wainwright and Chiang, 2004.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Importance of Customer Service in the Medical Profession

Have you realized recently that the medical profession has downright atrocious customer service?  As a people-oriented service-intensive industry, one would think that medical professionals would provide a pretty high level of customer service. You know, like the service industry does. As it turns out, this is patently false.

In the real world (which includes basically every industry known to man except healthcare), when the vendor shits the bed, they need to perform some kind of service recovery to retain business.  This could be for defective products, bad advice, long waits, incorrectly listed price, the list goes on.  When I worked in hospitality, we gave shit away all the time to upset guests.  Because we not only cared about how they viewed us, but we cared about their level of happiness.   

If you look at the below graph, you will see that the medical sector performs basically zero service recoveries.  (Note: this was created using conclusive, peer-reviewed data.)

Think about it for a second.  What other industry would you be expected to wait upwards of an hour after your scheduled appointment as standard practice?  Where else is it remotely acceptable for your vendor to refer to you in the third person when you are literally right in front of him?

How is this possible?  Brainstorming rationally, we can come up with these hypotheses:
 H0:This Medical Professional genuinely doesn't give a shit about your level of satisfaction with their service
 H1:This Medical Professional has a monopoly on the market
 H2:This Medical Professional can't afford to adequately staff his support team
(There were other hypotheses, but I got lazy.)  Let's go ahead and knock H1 and H2 out right now because they're clearly wrong.  First of all, because we do not live on the moon (or in the middle of North Dakota), we have access to more than one doctor.  And furthermore, the barriers to switch medical professionals (unless you have an HMO, which I don't and neither should you) are low.

Also, MDs clearly aren't broke.  Let's stereotype for a second, and assume that all doctors drive new Mercedes-Benzes and play golf on Wednesdays.  And although we know that not all of them drive Mercedes, we know that they can afford them.  So they can clearly afford to hire and pay competent staff.  Furthermore, if doctors did not make a substantial amount of money, we would expect to see a drop in applications at Medical schools nationwide.  In fact, the inverse is happening.

Therefore we prove the null hypothesis and are left with the incontrovertible fact that your doctor doesn't give a shit about you.  And furthermore, because we know that the barrier to switch in the healthcare industry is low, we can iterate out that every doctor doesn't give a shit about you.  Let me illustrate:

As you can see here, Doctor Cost of Giving a Shit (COGS) has a perfectly inverse relationship with how much free time said doctor has.  And, if I could draw your attention back to Chart #1, there's no monetary cost for not giving a shit.  Ceteris paribus, doctors can minimize COGS by providing the minimum care and maximum free time.  It's economics.
This graph illustrates another reason why doctors have no incentive to improve their customer service.  For our purposes, pressure to improve means pressure by superiors.  Before I explain this graph, let's ponder on this scene from Office Space:

The problem is that doctors' bosses are almost always doctors.  And you know what that means? They don't give a shit about your customer experience either--as long as you don't a. kill anyone, b. get sued, or c. get them sued.

So how can we rectify this?  Must we incentivize medical pay based on something other than the number of tests that they run on you?  It could be almost like a tip based system that servers get.  Based on your bill of tests, you may elect to tip (which really means pay) your doctor up to 100% of what he currently makes.  Suddenly the medical industry is now customer oriented.  Just like the service industry.  Just like it should be.

I understand that in order to become a medical doctor it requires something like seven years of schooling plus three years of residency, and that your social development has been retarded as a result.  But you had, at the very least, 17 years to practice normal human interaction.  And if you can't pick up something as simple as giving a shit in 17 years, what makes you think you can pick up this doctoring shit in 10?