Tokyo tourism details

The following is an e-mail I sent to one of my co-workers, heading to Japan. I’m recording it here so that I can find it if I ever need to do so, as the corporate e-mail system has eaten it before. “The Hotel” is the Royal Park Hotel, which is right next to TCAT.

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Dog-Free Floors in Apartment Buildings

While I like dogs, my wife doesn’t: she grumbles when neighbors’ dogs disturb her with their barking, and she’s a touch nervous around larger, more ferocious-looking specimens.

I wonder if some apartment buildings limit dogs to certain floors. It’s more forgiving than blanket permission, but also gives people who prefer to be dog-free some choices as well.

One line to rule them all…

Lately, at the QFC near my apartment, I’ve taken to checking out in the self-checkout line, even though I despise it on principle: I prefer the modicum of human interaction in the regular checkout line — I stopped to say hello to a cashier tonight, one I’ve known since I moved to Seattle nearly three years ago — and because I don’t like the idea that automation will be a wage-supressing bargaining chip come contract negotiation time. I further object to the notion that the store is saving money but not giving me an additional discount.

Moreover, people are much slower at checking themselves out than an experienced cashier is. Oodles more slow.

So why do I stand in that line, then, with the inherent inferiority?

Because it’s one line to four registers: even if each person checking out is a third the speed, and the line is the same length as the others (it’s frequently shorter), I still save time.

One line for all of the cashier-managed registers (a la Fry’s and the Post Office) would have me back there in no time. Of course, that’s fine with QFC.

PowerPoint Slams

It’s like poetry slams, but for hip, with-it Silicon Valley manager types. Maybe “Jargon Watch” style slang for long conferences with back-to-back presentations, like Sales conferences or Demo-oriented conferences.

(Tip of the hat to my co-worker Ron Dubois, from whose mouth the term came.)

Housing Prices, Denominated in Oil

The following graph shows housing prices, denominated not in dollars but in barrels of oil.

Housing Prices, in Oil

The prices themselves are nominal — 1980 is equal to 100, and everything else is relative to that. Oil prices are yearly averages. So the graph displays what 100 arbitrary units of housing cost, in barrels of oil.

The most interesting visual event is the collapse in oil prices in 1998, following the Asian economic blowout. Housing prices jump as oil prices crash, but two years later, we’re right back in the thick of things. Other than that, the range seems relatively narrow, without too many visually stunning features.

Perhaps deeper analysis would yield more interesting results, but the relatively constant ratio (even in the face of large hikes in oil prices, and a supposed housing bubble) seems interesting to me: are changes in the prices of both housing and oil so tied to inflation as a whole, or to the value of the dollar on the world market, that they move largely in tandem, except in the face of gigantic international events? Does this mean that there isn’t a housing bubble? What about peak oil? How does that change things?

For me, seeing that housing prices are and have been declining since 2002 — the year after the dot-com bust and 9/11 — feels rather sobering. Maybe 2003 wasn’t a terrible time to sell my house.

What does the future hold? If the housing bubble pops and peak oil causes oil prices to rise, housing prices (denominated in oil) will be further depressed. But what, if anything, does that mean in the real world?

As to my methods, I found a chart of changes in housing prices in the U.S., from 1985 through 2005 on the OFHEO site, in their 4th quarter 2005 report. (I used the fourth quarter prices.) Elsewhere, I found a chart of crude oil prices in the Illinois basin area; while not exactly equal to prices elsewhere, they seemed close enough for what I wanted to attempt. I used their yearly average prices; probably I should have averaged their fourth quarter, but I’m not an economist. My original spreadsheet is also available, if you care.

Pardon my naive economics, and my naive math; I thought that this was interesting, despite my technical limitations in those fields,

Ikea Weddings

No, not weddings at Ikea, though I’m sure that’s happened.

One-stop wedding planning, with a walk-through covered by red arrows on the floor: “First, the venue: is it a church? a park? a hall? Or have you already confirmed a venue? Should we call your Church and schedule a date with them for you? Second, an officiant: Would you like a priest, a rabbi, a non-denominational Christian minister, a justice of the peace, or have you already confirmed an officiant?”

And so on and so forth, stopping at each booth along the line to pick a reception venue, a band or DJ for that venue, the guest list (with automated voice-mail RSVP system, and counting, so that reservations can be automatically confirmed with all venues, caterers, etc.), decisions about cake and food, to select gifts for guests, outfits for bridesmaids, and so on. Move on down the line, get to the cash register, and put down a deposit.

It might be less care than the personalized services of a wedding planner, but it would probably be good enough for many people, and probably less hassle to get it all out of the way at once.

Video Game Theme Park

I had a dream last night where I was inside a real-life version of Donkey Kong Jr.

It could be lots of fun to have a theme park where all the rides were versions of well-known video games. Platform-style games could be easily adapted to thrill rides, fun zones, and the like.

Movie Theaters at Airports

Now that we’re all at the airport two hours in advance, why can’t they put little bitty movie theaters there? Start times every 15 minutes, movies generally 90 minutes or less. Digital projection, no more than 15 or 20 seats. If you assume 90 minute runtimes with 15 minutes between shows (shouldn’t take long to clean a 20-seat theater), that’s seven theaters. The way they build airports these days, that should be entirely doable.

Sephora et al: Metrosexualize Them!

Every so often, Laura shops at Sephora, and spends thirty or forty minutes looking at perfume and makeup. Being male, and knowing nothing about beauty products, I wander the store in a daze.

Sephora does stock a wide variety of men’s colognes, but it seems to me that they’re really being marketed to women to buy as a gift for men. Rather than sort the fragrances by designer, separate them into three or four sections, by attitude or scent-family: “rugged,” “woodsy,” “urbane,” “spicy,” or some other meaningless division.

Color the walls behind each section a different, masculine color. Pair up the fragrances with aftershaves, and deodorants, so guys can buy the whole set. Put little tags below each scent, describing it, for guys who don’t trust themselves to smell properly.

And, while you’re at it, push more high-end shaving products. Talk men into fancy, old-school razors, gleaming chrome, brushes, double-edged razor blades. Make it classic, and classy. Make men feel like chumps if they don’t spend time and money on this sort of grooming.

After all, there’s a captive audience of men who are in the shop anyway; you might as well take a few extra feet of wall-space and target them.