Real Life Cheat Codes
Seated immediately to my left were an older man, his young grandson, and the boy's father. Throughout the game, the grandfather would point out some nuance or offer the occasional insight about the game for the benefit of the boy.
During one particular play, the grandfather commented on some player's mistake. I wasn't paying attention to their conversation to that point, so I can't say what it was. The boy responded to his grandfather, "He needs a cheat code."
The grandfather was thrown for a loop. He didn't say anything for a moment or two, then answered in old man indignation, "A cheat code?" He then paused, I'm sure pondering whether he wanted to bother asking his grandson to explain what exactly the hell a cheat code is.
For those of you who have not played a lot of computer games, cheat codes are a way to modify the attributes of the game in some way to give yourself advantages. For instance, a common cheat code gives your character all the weapons and ammo they can carry, whereas normally your character would have to collect the gear over time. Other cheats codes can give your character invulnerability, give them the ability to fly or pass through walls, or advance to another level in the game.
You enter the cheat code either through the keyboard of your computer, or by entering a unique combination of moves and buttons from your console controller.
Clearly, the boy had played enough Nintendo/Xbox/Sega football that his first thought of how to deal with a shortcoming or failure was to turn to the cheat codes. What this says about the boy, our youth, or the future of America I will leave to others.
The question that occured to me after listening to this exchange was "What would be some real life cheat codes that everyday people could use?" We all get into little fixes now and again, sometimes by our own doing or sometimes by fate. It would be nice to have some cheat codes we could use to help us get to the end of each day with a few less worries or problems.
BADBOYS- A helpful code to make you invisible to police and news helicopters should you ever end up in a car chase around L.A.
YSMAYDEKI- Short for "You're so money and you don't even know it," this code makes you more attractive to women you may meet in casinos, restaurants, bars, and parties.
UP, UP, LEFT, LEFT, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, LEFT- Enter this code, and you learn the basic steps to the foxtrot.
There should also be cheat codes to advance the clock to 5PM on any work day, a code to eliminate ATM fees, and a code to give me X-Ray vision... which I would use only for the forces of good, I swear.
Too Lazy To Make Millions
The programming will be tailored to the store, the time of day, even the weather, so that customers will be directed to buy more groceries.
This got me thinking that what grocery stores really need to do is equip each shopping cart with a bluetooth-enabled monitor. As they turn down each aisle, the screen and accompanying voice can run down the specials and other items of interest.
Furthermore, if the stores put RFID tags on all the items, they can track what each person is shopping for and suggest alternative (a higher profit-margin, or co-advertised brand) or complementary items (reminding someone who just put chicken breasts in their cart to buy some marinade or barbeque sauce).
The RFID stuff is probably too expensive right now for most items in a grocery, but a limited roll-out on bigger ticket items might be useful. Wal-Mart is already using RFID for inventory control, and to reduce shrink (theft). Or the groceries can do a little data-mining on their club card members to see what nexus items there are to higher profit items (like if someone puts steak sauce in their cart, it might be a leading indicator that they are going to purchase steaks when they hit the meats).
OK, the idea is out there. Someone else can make money with it, just give me a little taste of the action.
Oh, and here's a bonus money-making idea I had some time ago, which may be a little past its prime with the spread of satellite radio: rental car agencies team up with a music label to put sampler CDs in rental cars. When travelling, I always spend the first couple minutes in the car trying to find a good local station. My definition of 'good' varies. Sometimes I just want rock music, other times classical... if I'm with my boss, I find the local Rap or Top 40 station and play "How long will it take until he politely asks to change the channel." When in New Orleans, I also find some Cajun/Zydeco to get me in the mood.
But, if say Hertz teamed up with Sony music, they could arrange to have Sony provide several sampler CDs in each car. Each disc would be a sample of the latest offerings in a particular genre. So I could get in, and pop in the rock sampler. The disc would have the information as to artist and album, so I could follow up and buy any of the artists featured. The music companies would pay the rental car companies for exclusive rights to their fleet, and provide the CDs (updated quarterly or something). And, the car renter could even take a CD with him or her at the conclusion of the rental. The CD would either be free or the renter could have a nominal fee tacked surripticiously onto their car rental bill (so they could slip it into their expense report).
Grab Your Buckets, We're Heading To South Carolina
[Note for further research: Investigate formula for determining if and when it is wise to select the fuel option from the rental car agency.]
This comment, plus a link from Fark eventually sent me to this doubly cool website from the AAA, tracking gasoline prices state-by-state. It provides current and trendline information on how each state's prices have tracked against the national average.
I say it's coolness is doubled by the methodological description. Rather than pull a random sample of gas stations and record their prices, they actually track all credit card transactions at the pumps!
Anyway, I grabbed the latest prices, and generated this map. The west coast is suffering the highest prices, with California, Nevada and Hawaii in the $2.65-$2,75 range. I was also surprised to see that Alaska was not lower. Washington DC, which is tracked but you can't really see on the map, is at $2.56.
Although it is not reported, I'm sure the data they collect can be boiled down to the county-level or even to zip codes. Now that would not only be interesting, but would be a useful tool.
Someone could marry the data with Google Maps, and anyone could check the site to see which nearby neighborhoods are sporting the cheapest gas, or plan out stops on a longer road trip for refilling.
Ben Franklin's Day Off
Driving into work in Old Town this morning, I saw two flood lights at the end of the cobblestone portion of Prince Street.
I had heard about a couple movie productions being in town recently, including one directed by Clint Eastwood and another with Michael Douglas. A coworker had mentioned seeing a Ben Franklin while driving in, and this only added fuel to the speculation, since Eastwood is directing the John Adams movie.
So a few of us strolled down from the office to take a look.
However, when we arrived at the scene, I surmised that this was only an ad being shot. One reason was because Franklin was the only one being filmed, no extras. The second and more obvious reason was that Franklin was talking directly to camera.
If it was a movie, perhaps John Hughes was reworking his masterpiece, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but this time setting it back in the Colonial period.
"Are you aware that Ben does not have what we consider to be an exemplary attendance record at the Continential Congress?... He's been absent nine times."
"Ladies and gentlemen, you're such a wonderful crowd we'd like to play a little tune for you. It's one of my personal favorites, and I'd like to dedicate it to a young man who doesn't think he's seen anything good today. Thomas Jefferson... this one's for you."
"He jeopardizes my ability to effectively govern this colony."
"He makes you look like an ass is what he does, Ed."
When will Dippin' Dots become the "Ice Cream of the Now"?
From the sound of the some of the company names, I'm sure the development of Soylent Green is only months away:
Proteus Industries- The name comes from Greek myth, the son of Poseidon. Also where we get the word "protean," which is kind of amusing given its poximity to "protein." Proteus, for the comics geeks out there, was also an enemy of the X-Men.
Imperial Chemical Industries (who owns National Starch and Chemical and its division National Starch Food Innovation)- I'm pretty sure this is the company Ernst Stavro Blofeld runs when he is not managing SPECTRE.
Martek Biosciences- these guys use algae to create DHA and ARA, the fatty acids babies' brains need to grow, and common supplements in infant formula. Now only if they could develop a chemical for formula that makes baby poo smell like flowers...
My favorite paragraph in the article:
"Kerry Ingredients is using guar, which has a neutral flavor, as a fiber source, "but it's the consistency of mucus," said Jack Maegli, a food scientist who heads research and development for new products at Kerry Ingredients. "If you eat too much of it, it invokes the gag reflex. I know it sounds unpleasant, and it is unpleasant. That's why we encapsulate it."
A mucusy, gag-inducing, unpleasant substance. Yes, let's condense that experience down to its essence for the consumer. Oh wait, I think he has the other meaning of "encapsulate" in mind.
Quick Question- First Response
"Not sure about brand excitement, although I'd measure it in positive tv news/press/website/blog mentions multiplied by the readership of said vehicles.
But I have to take issue with your suggestion that brand awareness and image are "well defined?" Are you kidding me?
They might have more history than brand excitement, and there may be some cod measures out there designed to quantify them, but they are reinterpreted every time they are used and when they are quantified it is normally by people who are essentially hoodwinking someone else into believing that they've changed something.
Even if "brand awareness" has been improved and that is a proven fact, what does that then mean anyway? Does it always translate to improved sales? Not always. Does it definitely shift stock price? Not always. Does it better position the brand for growth? Not always. Does it mean the right people now know about the brand's values/selling propositions? Not always.
I guess what i am saying is that brand excitement need not be any more fluffy than brand awareness. Both sound pretty fluffy from where i'm sitting, and my guess is that in the hands of smart/thorough executives they could be useful concepts, while they might be as good as useless in the hands of a marketer who thinks their job starts and ends with an output.
That's my tuppenceworth...
A Quick Question
From: Basil Valentine
To: Al@ries.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Date: Aug 10, 2005 4:30 PM
Subject: A Quick Question
A phrase that I keep running across is "brand excitement," and it is beginning to bother me. What does it mean? How is it measured? Who exactly are the ones getting excited (executives, shareholders, consumers)?
And the phrase is often linked with some form of the verb "generate." Is brand excitement produced like electricity, requiring some kind of turbine or dynamo? What fuel is required? And as a corollary, does the generation of brand excitement produce greenhouse gases? If so, why is no one pointing to all this brand excitement as a contributing factor in global warming?
Environmental concerns aside, I am serious about trying to comprehend this phrase, and its relationship to more well-defined terms like brand awareness and image. I send this small group a note in the hopes of benefiting from your collective wisdom.
I am especially interested in Maria Feicht's opinion (due to the fact the phrase is in her title). I had to guess at your address, Maria, I hope this reaches you.
Please drop me an email with your ideas on the matter, at your convenience. Thanks in advance.
"Basilius somewhat indulgeth his own Genius..."-Theodore Kirkringus
The Consultant Wants "More Cowbell"
Its coolness is a little past prime now, but the Christopher Walken/Wil Ferrell instant classic skit reminds me of many political campaigns.
The rock star consultant ("Yes, THE Bruce Dickinson."), watches the action from behind the glass, and comes out every so often to interact with the campaign staff. He tells the guys he thinks they have a "dynamite sound," but all they need is a little more "cowbell."
Now that can mean a lot of things in a political campaign, and while one might be inclined to say that "more cowbell" is simply more money, I don't think that is the case. Everyone can agree that a campaign could always use more money. Bruce Dickenson's insight to Blue Oyster Cult, however, was something they didn't initially fathom, were reluctant to accept, and eventually embraced without full comprehension, thus achieving greatness.
More cowbell is contrast. It is going negative. It is defining one's opponent and drawing a clear and umistakable distinction between that opponent and your candidate.
Now many a candidate begins the process privately declaring that he (I'll keep it masculine for simplicity) is going to run a campaign about issues, and their close associates and friends (the initial "advisors") believe that if voters just got to know the candidate like they know him, he'd win in a landslide.
And that is fine, if you don't mind ending the campaign: with everyone (including the press) still liking you, having had the chance to meet some really nice people, getting to talk about some serious issues, and LOSING.
Their reason? A recent article that examined privacy concerns during Google's rapid process of "organizing the world's information." Specifically, the journalist took a few minutes and used Google's own search engine to dig up some very public facts about Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt including financial, real estate, political, and even pastimes.
It is kind of shocking to think that Google would A) be upset that this information is out there, and B) respond in such a way to the article. A more savvy PR operation would have taken the article as an opportunity to discuss its work to protect privacy and intellectual property. Rather, the episode brought even more negative attention to the company's Achilles' Heel, and demonstrated that the only way they know how to deal with it currently is throw the corporate version of a hissy fit.
Our Ratings Are Low As Hell, And We're Not Going To Take It Anymore!
I, of course, have one in the works, and as a bonus, the show is already cast. The whole thing is a little hush-hush, but I'll let my close friends in on it.
working title- "Super Friends"
Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, and Ray Romano are three bachelors living together in a spacious New York apartment. Across the hall from them live Candice Bergen and Roseanne's characters, who share a space with a neurotic clutsy ghost played by Lucille Ball.
I know you think you spot a flaw in the plan already, right? What executive in his right mind is going to let Roseanne back on network TV? Here's the beuaty part. Using CGI renditions of the actors, with voice and image lifted from each of their previous long-running shows, the sitcom will be produced entirely in a computer. No live actors, therefore no live egos. And Lucy is already in black and white, so a little flicker effect, and she'll look absolutely spectral.
Certainly syndication rights and the necessary computer/manpower to produce new episodes won't be more expensive than the standard show. Furthermore, there will never be a cast member who threatens to leave if they aren't given more screen time or a raise.
OK, back to work on the script. Remember, let's keep this quiet.
Waiting for the Story
During production, there was a small role that called for an American Buddhist monk to greet the main characters then leave. It was decided that Gregg would be perfect for this role. Below, he is shown in costume next to the director.
Gregg always ends each gig with an extended email to close friends, detailing his adventures. We always look forward to his anecdotes, especially run-ins with 'celebrities' (Dan Haggerty, Kato Kaelin, and Lance Howard among others... OK, I didn't say 'A-List celebrities.')
Recently, he was hired to DP a film tentatively titled Offshore, set in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and Detroit. The plot involves the an American company who decides to outsource to India.
He left for India on the 23rd. On the 26th, the country was hit with the heaviest monsoon rains in recorded history. More than a thousand people died, mostly outside the city where there were mudslides and the housing is sub-standard.
Worried about him, and no informationI emailed the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai to ask about reports of any American casualties, and asked friendly journalists if they had any reports on the wires. There were no reports about Americans in the flood.
Sending an email to Gregg's account, we received this email from him on the 29th:
"Yeah I'm here... a bit soggy, but given the circumstances...
The night of the rains our car was overtaken by flood waters. We had to abandon it when the water level covered our seats and it stalled. it took us 7 hours to return from a trip that took 15 minutes. We ended up walking back to the hotel. I feel very fortunate in that many didn't return for a day and a half and some didn't return at all. The news says that it's the worst 24 hour rainfall in the country's history. Things are limping back to normal. Most shops are open and I was able to get a cup of tea at a coffee shop yesterday. They had no milk for lattes. We are still going ahead with our shoot, though we may delay starting by 1 day. Our sound guy is stuck in Londonwith our lenses.
all is fine here, and my boots should be dry in a few days...
It is classic Gregg to sum up the country's problems by saying "they had no milk for lattes." So now we know he is OK, but I am anxious to get the full story upon his return.