Saturday, May 22, 2004

Gutter Nonsense 

Just a question: is cleaning your gutters cosmically related to washing your car? Our patio is on the ground floor—that is, it's on the earth. It's tiled with some kind of clay tile and penned in with weed-choked flower boxes. One of these days I'll post a photo; you'll see. Anyway, it's a long, fairly broad patio, and it tends to get pretty choked with dead leaves and dust and pollen and dandelion heads and what have you over the course of the winter and early spring. By this time of year, it becomes necessary to sweep it clean. This involves unscrewing the grates over the drainage gutter that runs along the side of the patio bounding our apartment, cleaning them completely, and flushing the gutters until they shine. I got to work on this about ten o'clock this morning and finished a few moments ago, with only a half-hour break for lunch. It was gruelling work, and hot: the sun was searing earlier in the day.

Now it's cloudy, cool, and there's clearly rain on the way. A rainstorm won't necessarily undo the work I did this morning, or make it redundant, but it'll damn well kill my ability to enjoy my lovely, shiny new patio. Which is why I'm wondering: is cleaning the gutters another documented meteorological catalyst?

Or what?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Craps for Queens 

I just got a call from Queen Margrethe. Apparently some of Europe's crowned heads are getting together for a Monte Carlo night next week and she wants some help on her craps game. I've bumped into her at the tables before, and believe me—her majesty needs all the help she can get.

I may not have Internet access at the royal residence, so I'm afraid I may not be able to blog much over the next couple of days. It's probably just as well, since I was asked to keep the whole thing real hush-hush.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Continuing Crisis in Communication 

Today's Almanac is up. Tales of Mexican courtship and French hygiene along with the usual nonsense.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

What does it cost to open a Kinko's franchise? 

Just when I think the Danes have exhausted their capacity for surprising me with new ways to squeeze me for cash, I encounter the Photocopy & Printing dodge.

Size of document: 190 pages. File type: Word document. Graphics: none. Colors: black and white only. Quoted price to print on cheapest paper at lowest quality: 580 kroner. Translation into U.S. dollars: about ninety bucks.

That's right: $90 to print 190 pages of text from CD-ROM.

Retail cost of a new black toner cartridge: ~350 kroner / ~$60

(That's a crime in itself, since the same cartridges can be had in the states for about $33, but let's pass over that for the time being.)

Retail cost of one ream (500 pp) of paper: ~40 kroner / $6.50

So my estimated cost to print 500 pages of text at home is about $2.00 for the cost of the paper (since I'm only using 190 of the 500 sheets) and about $30 for the toner (one black cartridge is good for about 1000 pages of double-spaced text). That's $32.00, plus some depreciation on my printer and the negligible "cost" of the time I have to spend clicking CTRL+P and Enter. We'll call it $36 for the whole shootin' match.

How do we get from $36 to $90?

Well, first of all there's the 25% sales tax, which adds $9 to our $36 right off the bat. But we're going to have to factor in some retail expenses, and the taxes will have to come on top of all of them, so let's hold off on adding them in for now.

(1) Labor. I don't know how much the clerks at VesterKopi get paid, but let's assume they make the equivalent of $20 per hour plus benefits, for a total labor cost of $30 per hour. And let's assume they're very attentive and watch each individual page come out of the printer and actually look at each page for quality control (an assumption I'm not willing to concede, but we're just being hypothetical). To get 190 pages out of a low-end high-speed laserjet printer would probably take 10-15 minutes. Let's call it a quarter of an hour and add $7.50 in labor costs to our total.

(2) Depreciation. We've just taken their low-end high-speed laserjet printer 190 pages closer to obsolescence. It's excessively generous to allow them $5 for that, but let's do it anyway.

(3) Overhead. VesterKopi obviously has rental, utility, and general office and administration costs, a tiny share of which must be factored in to the cost of their serving me. That's a lot of complicated math, so let's just add another $5.

(Total.) We began with $36. We've added $7.50 in labor, $5 in depreciation, and $5 in overhead. Our total is now $53.50. Let's add the 25% sales tax now, and we're looking at about $67. That's a generous accounting of their costs, and it still leaves them with a 35% profit.

Unfortunately for them, it's a hypothetical profit. Because this customer decided to print the damn job himself, at home, and save the money. VesterKopi therefore lost money on me, insofar as one of their employees had to take time out of his presumably productive day just to cite me a quote on the job, and VesterKopi will now have to make up the cost of that labor somewhere else.

Attention, Kinkos: your kingdom awaits.

Monday, May 17, 2004

A Timekiller for the Reflective Moron 

I hate letting more than a day go by between blog entries, even if I haven't got anything in particular to say. And one thing I've been meaning to do for a while is dig into this big old quote and anecdote database I've been building since the early nineties and just share a couple of entries on a related theme.

Like this:

Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm. (The Quiet American, Graham Greene)

If babies are innocent, it is not for lack of will to do harm, but for lack of strength. (Confessions, St. Augustine)

"As innocent as a lamb!" thought Gaudissart, as he showed Shmucke out and said good-bye to him. "But after all, we live on lamb cutlets... And, as that great poet Beranger wrote, 'Alas! poor sheep! You always will be sheared!'" (Cousin Pons, Honore Balzac)

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? ... What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis)

They [animals] lack the Moral Sense; we have no way of trading ours off, for a nickel or some other thing above its value. The Moral Sense teaches us what is right, and how to avoid it—when unpopular. (The United States of Lyncherdom, Mark Twain)

If the empiricist world view is correct, ought is just shorthand for one kind of factual statement, a word that denotes what society first chose (or was coerced) to do, and then codified. [...] Ought is the product of a material process. (Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Edward O. Wilson)

The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along. (Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams and Mark Carward)

It is a great danger for everyone when what is shocking changes. (Our Man in Havana, Graham Greene)

How does it work? Well, if you're a blogger take it and run with it. Or post your thoughts as comments. Or just sit there and go, "hm."

Or wander off to play on somebody else's blog.

Like I said, I don't have anything in particular to say right now.

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