[Pondering] Found Ideas

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Photos I've taken that I like.

Sometimes, you just need to enjoy a hobby and forget about everything else. I like taking pictures with my sweet Canon Powershot S80. You may have to click on them to see more accurate ratios:

If you want to see more, just go check out my flickr account.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Expensive things to do...

This week: Expensive things to do that are usually not fun.

It's an alternate to last week's post. So, here we go:

1. Popular concerts/ballets/plays: Usually, tickets for these things can be from the low end of $40 or so, to an astronomically high $150. Simple way to save money: Don't go. I'm sure it's popular for a reason and all, but with that money, you could do tons of other stuff that's necessary or much more fun. I've done it a few times, I'll admit, but I usually end up regretting it later.

2. Vacations: I think vacationing is great, but seriously, people spend WAY too much money on them sometimes. Granted, going overseas will usually cost much more than domestic vacationing and may actually be worth it. You're bound to see wonderful things, and then terribly miss home about 3 days into the whole thing. I guess this one's up to personal preference, but I prefer weekend getaways as opposed to full-fledged vacationing. Plan a ton of mini-vacations at around 100 bucks a pop throughout the year, and I guarantee you will enjoy yourself much more, and probably spend less money.

3. Amusement parks: tons of fun, but I've already mentioned in a previous post on how they can be nightmares that you pay tons of money on.

4. Limo rides: You could rent a pretty impressive car for about the price of a limo ride, only, you get to drive the car/truck, and impress friends/family/coworkers/business partners if that's your motivation. Obviously, if you're a horrible driver or don't have a license, then hire someone to drive.

5. Eating out daily: Cook your own food! If you don't know how...learn to do it. It's quite simple, and there are tons of recipe sites all over the internet. If you eat out EVERY DAY of the week, try cutting out 3 or 4 of those days, and cook something at home, or bring a sack lunch to work. You'll be surprised at how much money you save. This is a pretty basic financial realization that many big-name finance gurus talk about. Consider if you spend 10 bucks a day eating out...You've wasted over 3,000 bucks in a year on food that's usually bad for you. $70 a week! That much money could feed me for 3 weeks if I bought food to cook.

6. Cable/Satellite TV service: Way too expensive. YouTube.com can entertain most people on demand, and it's free. If there are only a couple shows you follow, rent the season's dvds when they come out for a fraction of one month's bill. Plus, no commercials!

These are just a few ideas from the top of my head. I'm sure there are many other little money-wasters out there that are just weighing us all down. The first step is to identify and analyze them. Try thinking up something yourself, you may surprise yourself.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The one about promotion and content.

I have probably 2 or 3 readers, including myself. That's a horrible circulation. Anyway, the reason I'm acknowledging this is that I will start promoting when I have enough content to do so. Until then, enjoy this weekly/bi-weekly update schedule.

In other news, I've discovered the most lovely "magazine" ever. It's called McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. Click on each one to find out more about each issue. I subscribed and ordered a couple of old issues. The one from Iceland, the one with paintings every 3rd page, and the one with the first issue of Wholpin attached. Do check them out. I put magazine in quotes because these are actually books.

To the tofu and potatoes of this post:

Cheap things to do that are really fun (usually)

1. State parks: They're usually 3 dollars to park your car. Just Google "your state" parks, and you'll get a website with each state park and some pictures and activities. I've recently been going to ones here in Georgia. Several hours (or days) of fun for practically no money.

2. Public parks: Usually big cities have the best ones. Some can be shady (not in the shadows of trees way), so do pick carefully. They should all be free and have tons of stuff to do in them. Bring your pets and some plastic bags (for your pets' remnants), because they'll have a ball. Frisbee, powerwalking, cookouts, swimming, special events, and they're usually good spots to just relax.

3. Fire: Build a fire and invite people over (if you live in a place that allows such things). Obviously, don't do this if you live in an apartment or without a couple of acres of space between you and a neighbor. Fires are usually widely regarded as the best thing ever. They cook food, burn unwanted wood/brush, and warm you up. They also provide light. Add food, drink, and games, and you have yourself a well-rounded party that cost you a little bit of effort to build a fire.

4. Record store listening: Go to a record store and listen to all of the cds that strike your fancy that you know nothing about. Chances are you'll listen to a lot of stuff you don't really like. But, you'll occasionally find a gem. If you decide to buy something, that's how much it cost you. In the meantime, you've just listened to tons of music you hadn't heard before. I guess some record stores don't have listening stations, in which case, you should just go to another one.

5. Adventuring: This is what I call it. Basically, you look at roadsigns around your area (or further away if you already know your area well), and then you go down the roads you've never been down that look interesting. Take a camera. Take pictures of houses that look interesting or have interesting yards. Take dirt roads if there are any. These tend to be the most worthwhile. Also, if the road name mentions something cool, like a river/stream, bridge, church, mill, or mountain, chances are, that cool thing will be down that road. Bring a friend or three. I do this regularly.

6. Classic Gaming: Dust off your NES/Atari, and plug in a game. You'll have tons of fun, old-school style. If you don't really have an NES or other old console, you could probably pick one up, second-hand for under 20 dollars. Go to flea markets, yard sales, pawn shops, and used game stores to find games. Ebay's okay, but you're planning on paying under 5 dollars per game for these systems. Goodwill, and similar stores (Salvation Army) have these games sometimes for 1-2 dollars. Also, if you're having a party, push your XBox, Playstation 2, and Gamecube aside. Showcase your old systems, and I guarantee everyone will have much more fun. People get very nostalgic and tend to have more fun with these.

7. Local Concerts: Go to a local band only show. They're usually under ten dollars, and sometimes, the bands may actually be decent. Plus, if the band even has a cd or T-shirt, it'll probably be under 10 dollars, too. The same can be applied to local plays, symphonies, comedy improvisations, and art exhibitions. Some of these may even be free!

That's a start for now. In my next post, I'll give an opposite perspective: Expensive things to do that tend to not be very much fun (usually).

Monday, August 14, 2006

In the same boat.

I found this interesting little list today. I seem to be in the exact same situation. He offers some pretty good advice from the perspective of a guy with no real money. I like it. I especially like his Anti-Raise idea. I think I may do it. Currently, though, I've just started to bring my income up again to be able to pay off more debt. I'm not counting my car as a debt that I can get rid of quickly. Within two years, it will be eliminated, though. Every monetary milestone thereafter will be chronicled here, too. I consider a monetary milestone to be cash accessible to me to completely waste with an extra zero behind it. Also, I had to have earned it. Examples:

$10 - Achieved (age 5 or so)
$100 - Achieved (age 10 probably)
$1000 - Achieved (age 17)

Soooo.....I'm working on the rest. They'll come soon enough. Projections:

$10,000 - Age 22
$100,000 - Age 25 (debtless to boot)
$1,000,000 - Age 27
$10,000,000 - Age 30 ( I probably won't shoot for anymore zeros after that)

Do yell at me if you think this seems unrealistic. I may adjust my figures.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The one about gamer psychology.

I found this little gem today: An analysis of platform games over the generations. It really surprised me. I mean, I did realize that blockbuster games in general have seen lower sales, but I never really considered analyzing a particular genre compared to older versions. It's a long read, but very worthy if you're into the psychology of games over the last 20 years, including evolving aesthetics.

I knew Nintendo had something with New Super Mario Bros. I love the game. I read somewhere that it was selling a copy every 3 seconds. This article says the same thing. It's quite amazing that it's sold so much so far. It's a platform game in a world of MMORPG's and first person shooters. It's on a handheld system, no less! Quite amazing. Well, that's all for this short post. Remember to tell your buddies about my infant of a blog that I'm currently trying to nourish with lovely tidbits of info. If you want me to wax about anything in particular, drop me a line!

Monday, July 31, 2006

The one about customer service theory.

There comes a point in everyone's life when they feel like they're getting less-than-great customer service. My question is: When does it make WONDERFUL business sense to offer substandard customer service?

It may sound appalling that some companies would even consider offering bad customer service, but it's a totally viable option. Perfect examples would include theme parks, a monopoly, or a university. If there is a chance that your customer has no other choice but to do business with you, then by all means, feel free to "service" them accordingly. I use "service" in the strictest of ways in that last sentence--the George Carlin definition.

Here's my recent realization: Six Flags Over Georgia. I love Six Flags. Who doesn't? They have the best rides and attractions, awesome sights, special events throughout the year, water parks, and the most horrible customer service I've willingly paid for. I'm not going to tell you how to avoid this kind of service, because it's universally accepted.

Here are some ways that Six Flags Over Georgia provides horrible service:

  • The ticket and parking prices continually go up, year after year. Usually new rides are added each year to offset the cost. In some cases, rides are replaced, which some may consider doesn't warrant an admission hike. Another downside to rising parking costs is that Six Flags has a very horrible (sometimes nonexistent) shuttle service from the parking lot to the entrance.
  • During the summer months, they feed off of their guests uncomfortable positions (being in the heat, with refreshment prices being outrageous, and offering sparse public water options). Several attractions' lines don't even have shade from the sun. Some of these lines can be up to an hour long or longer.
  • Certain attractions charge an additional admission after you enter the park. Sometimes, these attractions just have to require the extra admission. The bungee-jumping hybrid comes to mind. It takes way too long to set up to be free. However some of the smaller admission-based attractions don't have an explanation behind the extra cost.
A simple response to these criticisms would be: "Well, gee, Kevin...You know you don't have to go to Six Flags." Of course I don't. I go because I choose to. This is more of an observation than a condemnation. Six Flags has created a genius business structure. Everybody loves amusement parks. If you don't, there's something wrong with you. By making slight or heavy discomforts that the customer mostly blames on nature or themselves, then you've got yourself more money and happy customers.

Six Flags doesn't allow outside food or drink (except water) inside their parks. This creates a cash cow in the way of concessions. Not a big deal, movie theaters, concerts, ballparks, and race venues do this all the time. It's reasonable. Six Flags even offers picnic tables at the farthest reaches of their parking lots for visitors who love to walk.

Six Flags has many attractions that are closed on any given day. A 65 dollar admission just got crushed by the closure of your favorite ride? Too bad. No refunds. I've never seen a posting outside of the gates telling customers which attractions are closed. Sometimes these are attractions that are advertised heavily on TV, billboards, at fast food restaurants, and on the radio that many people really want to see/ride.

Many of their employees act like robots because they aren't paid very well. This can be said about many companies, though. People are the most valuable asset to a company most of the time. In Six Flags case, their regular teenage worker doesn't get paid enough to care. These workers are easily replaceable. Who doesn't want to work at an amusement park?

I wrote this only because I recently went to Six Flags Over Georgia, but I'm sure you can replace Six Flags Over Georgia with pretty much any amusement park. But, what do I know? I'm just a man on the internet with an opinion. I'll probably go back sometime this season.

Oh, please tell your friends about this blog. I'm sure I'll fill it up with stimulating content in no time at all.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A modest start...

Welcome everyone. Readers of my personal blog, welcome. New readers...welcome!

To start, I made this in order to organize all of my ideas that aren't really personal in nature. They're actually more along the lines of human-relations, finance, and entrepreneurship. Sometimes, I'll throw in a little about my hobbies--such as gaming and technology.

To post proper, I'd like to propose ideas for how to do well in an interview. I'm writing about this because I've recently had several interviews for different jobs. I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you know that you should always dress at least in business-casual for an interview. I guess if you're interviewing for a dairy farmhand position, that really wouldn't be the case, but whatever.

In every interview I've ever been in, I kept getting similar questions. Now, I'm no stranger to the interview process, but I'm writing more as an information source/collaboration source than from a questioning standpoint.

First off, the questions. Obviously the most commonly asked question from McDonald's up to Microsoft is going to be:

"Why do you want to work for [insert company name]?"

Never answer with: "I don't know." or "I guess...[uncertain reason]."

These are destined to fail. Perhaps, if the job isn't too important, your future employer may not mind your indecisiveness. On the chance that it's a very important position, you may find it a hard sell. I'd suggest something more along the lines of:

"I realized I wanted to work for [company] when...[short, detailed story]."

In this scenario, you'll be telling the interviewer about a turning point in your life/attitude/career that made you want to seek out their company for employment. Even if you don't actually want to work for that particular company, but you just really need a job, think of something that will catch their attention. It doesn't have to be mind blowing, but give it some thought. This isn't the only way to impress your interviewer. Try using specific things you've heard about the company--positive things--that would make your argument convincing.

Applying at a roofing company in the sales department? Mention how you've heard that their shingles pass regulations with flying colors whereas their competitor's shingles scrape by with the bare minimum, and that the company you want to work for has to show that sort of integrity and value in all of their products. Spice it up. You can make the most drab job description seem glamorous and high-tech if you want to.

Another good idea during the interview is to ask the interviewer questions. For every one of his/her questions, you should have a question ready for when the ask you "Do you have any questions?" It can be simple such as: what color inks are okay to use in the office, when breaks are scheduled and for how long, dress code questions, even how the interviewer likes their job. Just come up with something. It's not hard.

Lastly for this post: if, by the end of the interview, you realize that you absolutely do not want to work for the company, let the interviewer know. You don't have to be rude about it. If the interviewer says "I'd like you to come back on Monday for a follow-up," politely decline. You're interviewing the company just as much as they're interviewing you. If they just say "We'll keep in touch," you don't really have to say anything to the contrary. Just say "Thank you," and leave. If you're a thinking adult, you can probably figure out when this technique needs to be used.

And don't forget: never stop searching until you find something that's right for you.

P.S.: I'm absolutely not an expert in any of this. To reach me via email: kevin.franklin.atl@gmail.com