Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Color Running

Bursts of red and blue powder exploded into the sky as the music pounded and our feet stomped and our hearts pumped and our voices echoed out upon mountains throughout Nuevo Leon. After our lungs were sufficiently filled with colored talcum we took leave of the crowd and rinsed our mouths out with what little water we had. 

I looked to my three friends; paint clung to them like a second layer of skin.  From a distance I wasn’t sure if I would recognize them.  I spat on the ground, and a black liquid came out.  On each kilometer of the race this spit had been changed depending on the powder being forced on us, red, green, blue….  Now with all the 5 colors combined, it was black and made me resemble an ebola patient.  I imagine my teeth had taken a similar hue, but I had no way of checking.

Suddenly the crowd was in an uproar, the DJs on stage began taunting the audience with shirts, and sweats, and other swag that has little value except in that moment.  Suddenly we were back in and part of the uproar.  A pair of sweatpants came my way and lightning fast I grabbed them.  Well half of them, the other half was in a rather large man’s hand. Our eyes met in a fierce gaze, and I threw out my fist…..to motion a game of rock, paper, scissors.  Rock, my weapon of choice, served me well and trashed his scissors.  

Having reclaimed what was rightfully mine, an excitement swept through the crowd.  It was the last song the DJs were playing and they were tossing out bags of powder left and right.  We were to wait and unleash it all at the same time.  Dias, nueve, ocho, siete, seis, sinco, cuatro, tres, dos, uno!  A rainbow-dust-storm swept through the crowd.  I could no longer tell where I was, but the music was in front of me and the ground below so I continued to jump to the beat until the dust settled.

I noticed the second skin had further engulfed us as we left from the crowd and went to our respected cars to return home.  As of now, cleanup is still underway.  I still blow my nose and see greenish blue come out and part of my forehead is a shade too pink, but luckily the rest is blocked by my clothing.  Slowly the color will fade and disappear from my body, but hopefully, by that time, other types of colors will replace it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Driving in Monterrey - And somehow surviving

After one or two trips around the city it became obvious that if I needed to change my style of driving if I didn't want to be ground into the pavement.  While the highest speed limit is only 80km per hour (about 5omph) however the twists and turns of the road threaten your safety even at this speed (which is still rarely followed).  On this serpentining roadway cars dart across lanes haphazardly, a 15 minutes drive could take up to an hour and a half, and lanes no longer hold any meaning; in fact following the lanes can be hazardous to your health.  On one highway, the Carril Express, on certain segments of the highway, there are two sets of lines painted on the ground.  To this day I'm not sure which one I should follow, but whenever I see them I make sure to frantically look around to see which ones everyone else is using.

Before you step foot in a car, the city officials should give you a specialized pamphlet about driving in Monterrey.  I imagine it would contain some of the following rules: stop signs mean slow down a bit, yield signs might as well not even exist, speed limit signs are less of a limit and more of a suggestion.

The driving here is indeed a bit dangerous, but one method of survival I've adopted is the frequent use of my hazard lights.  Hazard lights will save your life.  Let me repeat that with more emphasis.
Hazard lights will save your life.

Just a few days ago I was driving through a tunnel (Tunnel Loma Larga) when the car in front of me came to a rapid halt and turned on its hazard lights.  Instinctively I did the same as I slammed on the break.  Behind me was the screech of burning rubber and more flashing lights.  In Monterrey the break light doesn't mean that you're stopping, it just means you're slowing down.  Hazard lights are a way of saying, "HEY THERE IS SOMETHING IN FRONT OF ME AND I HAVE TO STOP!"

But let me assure you of something.  You are probably going to be in a car accident if you drive here.  There are hundreds of reported car accidents in the city every day (make sure to note the word reported).  It's become something of a daily ritual to ogle at the pair of cars smashed into each other on the highway; and they are always on the highway.  Drivers are not allowed (by law) to move their cars after a car accident.  This leads to some pretty tricky situation.

 Believe me this happens every day in Monterrey, there are hundreds car accidents a day.
On one choice encounter I sat in a traffic jam for 2 hours.  I couldn't figure out what was going on.  It was on a 3 lane highway, and generally one of the fastest highways in Monterrey.  As I approached the bottleneck I was amazed.  There had been a car accident that left one car blocking the left lane, and another car blocking the right lane leaving only the middle lane open for traffic to pass through.  As I pushed my way though I looked at the two poor souls responsible for the accident and wondered how long it would take the insurance agents, who are required to come look at accidents, and the police to get to the scene of the accident.

Getting used to traffic in Monterrey is one thing, but the police in Monterrey are another thing altogether.  I remember the first time I got pulled over.  I was driving, minding my own business when a police officers lights turned on and I pulled over to the side of the road.  This was the wrong decision.
Police lights in Monterrey don't mean pull over.  They mean we want to make you feel nervous so we can pull you over.

I was reprimanded by my South American friends for the amateur decision as the officer strode up beside my car and took my license and registration.  Soon the officer was telling me I had a "problem" (note the quotation marks).  This was one of my fluent friends took over and after some fast exchanges we were off and driving back home.  That is until we were stopped a second time at a police barricade.

Looks like it's this guys birthday!

While I've painted a negative picture so far, driving in Monterrey is not without its charm.  Once, as I drove to the grocery store, I witnessed a car changing lanes and almost sideswiping another car.  I saw an arm raise out of the assaulted car's window and instead of the middle finger I was expecting the hand had the middle and ring fingers pressed down by the thumb, the rock on sign.

There are good and bad parts about driving in Monterrey, but that's how driving anywhere is, whether it's in Mexico, Idaho, or China.  Really the only important thing is that you get from point A to point B!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lunch Table Theory - Business Observations

I theorize that the size of a lunch table can affect the efficiency of your company. Below are the assumptions this theory is based on.

1.   The flow of communication and knowledge is important in an organization. When workers know the company’s strategy and what the other sections of the company are working on, synergies can be created.
2.   Companies that are organized functionally can, more easily, have problems with this flow of communication and knowledge because there nature doesn't tend to promote communication (functionally organized companies will be what the bulk of this essay is targeted towards).

(A functionally based company is one that  (like above) has different business segments, and in each of those segments, a separate departments to support it Marketing in Widgets is a completely different segment than Marketing in Greek Yogurt, they work separately and have different goals than the other).

3.   This flow of communication and knowledge is facilitated by the forming of social groups.  A social group is a group of people who exchange information with each other (business or personal) due to some bond or trust. The bigger and more diverse the group the better because facilitates the flow of knowledge in the company.  It is best if some members have access to multiple social groups and exchange information from one to another (IE two people from Marketing, one from Finance, two from Accounting, and all from different segments of the company).

Medieval back of the envolope profit estimation

This may look a bit like chicken scratch, but it seems like the Medieval dining business is pretty profitable (as long as the turnout is as good as the day I went).

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Playing to Lose

“What does the fisherman do when all the fish are gone?
Does he cast his line for the nth time wishing for one more bite?
Does he leave the watery lover he’s known all his life?
Does he beg and cry to god for some miracle?
Or does he slump at the bow of his boat, watching the sunset, knowing that he was the author of his own fate.”

There’s such a thing as winning too much.  There’s a point where you can become so good at a game that your opponent doesn’t see a reason to go against you.  Some may see the point where you have gained complete superiority over your opponent as the ultimate win, but I beg to differ.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Terrible horrible no good very bad people

Have you ever run into a terrible, horrible, no good very bad person?  Chances are you probably have, and most of the time, there’s an easy way to avoid them, but what about those times that you can’t?  What about circumstances that force you to be side by side a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person?  Perhaps you’ve entered into a rental deal with someone who you thought was a nice person, but after the agreement was signed they turned into the roommate from hell.  Or what if your company has to source a part from someone you can’t tolerate in the slightest, a person who seemingly dedicates their existence to making you miserable?  When words and actions in no way solve the problem, what do you do?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Veronica Mars: The end of Kickstarter?

Controversy over the recent success of the Veronica Mars Kickstarter has erupted over the past few days.  Recently Rob Thomas started a Kickstarter campaign to create a movie for the highly popular, but cancelled, show Veronica Mars.  This controversy is centered on the fact that this project isn't for some small entrepreneur who has an idea, but doesn't have the resources to develop it, instead the campaign is to sponsor a film for Warner Bros.  As Rob Thomas says on the Kickstarter posting, "Warner Bros. wasn’t convinced there was enough interest to warrant a major studio-sized movie about Veronica and the project never got off the ground."  Now the public is doing the funding in place of Warner Bros., and it has been very successful.  At the writing of this article the campaign has raised $3,557,220, a very large sum over the requested $2,000,000.  It's obvious these fans want to support something they love, but in this case it seems like they are supporting Warner Bros.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The sociology and economics of clowning - Observations

Walking through a park in Monterrey guarantees that a person will get accosted by clowns.  While they're antics bring a smile to my face, the tactics they employ are what drew my curiosity.

Like any other street performers  the goal of these clowns is to draw an audience and for that audience to give money.  This is the source of the performers' income so they have a strong incentive to not only attract a big crowd, but also find methods to get this crowd to give them money.

While one may think the talent of the clown is the main driver of revenue I would have to respectfully disagree. Carefully thought out, and practiced techniques are the key to these clowns earnings.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Business Observations: Diamond Dash

Recently for the sake of coworker competitionn I started playing a game entitled Diamond Dash (this is a screenshot on the right).  It has everything a game needs: points, flashing lights, and addictive gameplay.  The goal is to find groups of three or more blocks of the same color and touch them, thus destroying them and increasing your score.  Each week you are entered into a competition with all of your friends who play the game.  Beating them gives you bragging rights.

The goal is to beat your friends, and the only way to do that is increasing your score.  The items on the left provide you with a means of drastically increasing that score and this is what drew my interest.

The only way to the coins you need to buy the items on the left is to play the game (or pay).  When you get a powerup it is automatically used in the following game.

You have to buy several of the "Mystic Bombs" and "Time Bonuses" to unlock the "Color Splash" (the game gives you five "Color Splashes" when it is unlocked).  Chances are by the time you unlock the "Color Splash" you no longer have enough coins to buy the the other two power ups.  As the game uses up your "Color Splashes" you soon realize that you could get a significantly higher score if you combined the "Color Splash" with the other two.  But without the coins to buy the items you can only imagine it.

This is the point where they gain the most of their customers.  The desire to show superiority over one's peers can be fulfilled with the payment of a few dollars.  But what happens when one's peers start paying too?

The game is fun, but I think I'll be uninstalling it pretty soon.  Wasting money to beat people in a pointless game?  Not my cup of tea.