Recently in Hearsay Category

How to Improve Your Memory


“The keys are to improve your imagination and to improve your ability to associate and locate things. When you do that you are automatically training your creativity and memory, enabling yourself to focus and concentrate more. It's simply a matter of sticking to that task, as any athlete would, so that you become fit in that area.”
-Tony Buzan

“He was often so preoccupied with ideas that he forgot what he was doing. Once, reportedly, he was giving a tour of a Glasgow tannery, and he absent-mindedly fell right into the tannery pit, from which his friends extricated him”
-Jim Powell, referring to absent-mindedness of Adam Smith

An Overdose of Happiness


“That’s one reason why I think that public policy, and even how we spend our time, should be more devoted to trying to help people who are very unhappy. There’s another reason there actually, which is in the research and has not been pointed out very much. We know a lot more about what makes the difference, what causes the difference between the misery and average happiness. Knowing what causes the difference between average happiness and great happiness, we have it more in our power (as well as it being a duty) to do more about the least happy.”

….Unfortunately this is not the way the government has been thinking up till now. Psychiatry and psychology have been Cinderella sections of the NHS. If you have blood pressure (I have) or a skin problem, or asthma, or diabetes, or whatever, you will almost automatically, at some point, see a specialist. But not if you have a crippling depression which is stopping you from working for a year; you’re extremely unlikely to see a specialist. Not more than 10% of people in that condition will see a specialist, and this reflects I think our obsession at the moment with ‘objective indicators’ rather than the feelings of people, which are what I believe matter most of all. So it’s encouraging that by pointing out some of these facts, there is now a move going on in the government to provide more psychological therapy, which is of course what these patients want, they just don’t want to be put on a few pills by the GP and sent off home."

- Richard Layard, Economist

“Now the intellectuals, who are more happiness pessimists, come up with a different argument. They say maybe why you’re detecting all this happiness out there, is because when you ask people how happy they are, when they respond, they’re not really thinking very clearly or sensibly about their answer. They’re not giving you really a very profound answer, and there’s a clue that that might be right from another interesting study done recently by a psychologist. They engineer a situation where people have to go and make some photocopies from a photocopying machine. Unbeknownst to these people, they don’t know the experimenter has engineered it, but they will discover a 10-cent dime on the photocopying machine, an ‘unexpected’ discovery. So one group find the 10-cent dime, the other group who are photocopying don’t find anything. Then they’re interviewed shortly afterwards about how happy they are. But the happiness question doesn’t ask them how happy you are right now, it asks them ‘Tell us how you evaluate how happy your whole life has been.’ In other words, they ask people to evaluate happiness over their whole lifetime.

The amazing result is the discovery of a 10-cent dime piece on a photocopying machine statistically significantly raises your assessment of how happy your whole life has been. The implications are dramatic for government policy. It suggests the cheapest and most effect public policy measures imaginable.

-Raj Persaud, Psychiatrist

I’m a little bit confused here; the psychiatrist seems to be making more sense than the economist. Another little bit from Raj’s talk;

“Harold McMillan, a former British prime minister from several decades ago, was visiting France on a state visit, and happened to find himself with a few private moments with the wife of President Charles de Gaulle, Madame de Gaulle. He asked her what she was most looking forward to on the retirement, the imminent retirement of President Charles de Gaulle.

He was somewhat startled and shocked at her reply. When asked what she was most looking forward to on President de Gaulle’s retirement, she said, ‘A penis.’..”

For what actually happened see the rest of the talk.

Related Links;

Regarding the "Draft"

Those who think a military draft likely should ask themselves one single question, "why the hell would they want you?"

In other words, you're not that important.

Hat tip: A former mentor, in a different context.

Baja Fresh Meeting


I'm sitting here in the internet cafe, and am eavesdropping on a fascinating conversation between a regional manager of Baja Fresh and 6 (hispanic) franchisees of different stores. They are discussing how executives are flying in to examine the stores and personnel in the Northern VA area over the next few days. Here are some details of the conversation:

Be well dressed and prepared.

Sales: Clarendon dropped down, after July 4th, for some unknown reason. Rosllyn had a good week. A $1700 and $1300 dollar day...

It seems that sales of $31K or $32K a month is very good.

Why is it that one store can run with far smaller paper costs than other stores?

Now they're talking about the misuse of wrappings of fajitas and avocados... the want to let customers ask for bags, since the costs of automatically providing them are high... do not keep them out! inventory of paper goods appears cyclical, which means inventory is not being kept low.

Forecasts of monthly sales must be in by Tuesday? Redo the projections including the most recent historical information.

Now they're looking at montly sales per hour of manpower. The store in Pentagon City is doing very well; not so in Manassas... Clarendon had $22.5K of sales in 533 manhours...

P&L: Will be emailed to everybody. He's now teaching them how to read a P&L!

Rent was $41K in Pentagon Row over 10 months, contingent on sales...

Food Safety: You are the general manager of the business. It's my responsibility to support you; call me if and when you need it. I trust your judgement.

I'm not sure how baja was run before, but now...

(The regional executive keeps looking at me suspicously, so I should go...)

My take: These details of running a profitable business are so mundane but essential. How did we ever think central planning would work?

UPDATE:If your food and labor is over 50% of sales, you're in trouble. Most restaurants run 50%-60% direct labor. Where the executive came from, everything is frozen and premade (14% labor + 27% food). Baja can't get those numbers, but must work at it. The Baja numbers for Virginia--61%--without management costs.

Baja lost $50K in Virginia last month. Clarendon lost money last month. In fact, a lot of them lost money... Whose store made money? One guy--$2600 last month.

Why are there no female franchisees at this meeting?


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