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?