08 November, 2011

Magic Horses, Great Jobs, and The science of impulse

I saw an old movie the other day or month or so ago, at a friend's house. Into the West is the story of a broken down family in Ireland and the horse that changes their lives. The two adorable urchins give marvelously satisfying performances, which isn't always the case with young performers. I'm going to give almost the whole plot of this 1992 movie away here, so if you're saving yourself for the willful suspension of disbelief (which I LOVE, but rarely have trouble capturing), read no further!

They are mad for movies from the old west, and have seen every western available in the local convenience stores. The horse that changes their lives is horse-napped by some bad guys, and by a crazy chance the kids find and attempt and succeed in getting him back!

But where to go? Home is no good--the neighbors complained about the horse and that's what got him taken away in the first place! (They did live several floors up in a cramped apartment building, but it seemed to be the idea of the horse that offended the neighbors rather than any specific offensive realities. Convention rather than public safety.)

They decide to make like cowboys or Indians, and head... Into the West. Then it's sort of an action/chase movie with comedy hijinks mixed in with the painful story of a half-healed grief... as a movie it's kind of got a lot of stories going at once, but they don't trip over each other TOO much.

At any rate, I've gone through ALL THAT to get to the start of my point... The last lines of the movie.

One of the kids asks their dad: Are we [as 'travelers'] cowboys or Indians? And he replies: There's a bit of a traveler in everybody, Tito. But very few of us know where we're goin'.

It was really my favorite part of the movie, and it is so neat that it WAS the end, because it's hard to get that kind of timing going!

And all this was in service of discussing an article from Steve Denning of Forbes Magazine, about the 10 Happiest Jobs. Unfortunately this is based on self-reporting, but some of the conclusions of the article are, of course, valuable.

Like this: "However, for a life to be meaningful, it must also be worthwhile. Engagement in a life of tiddlywinks does not rise to the level of a meaningful life, no matter how gripped one might be by the game." (Todd May, The New York Times)

But one thing absolutely grated on me, enough so that it is the final, undeniable impulse to write today's blog post.

"...with a focus on delighting the customer through continuous innovation..."

Now, as a customer, I am not bothered by innovation. But Newer does not make Better. And companies that are working to engage their employees in new and innovative ways, as well as their customers, are all very well. But a 'new look' does not offer anything newer than looks, and for people who have been participating for a while, a 'new look' is a 'can't find anything anymore' problem. Which I hate.

Some of this stuff is not mere economics, and I do not want anyone to be hurt when I suggest that delighting (or confusing) the customer may have a financial bottom line.

Harvard professor Jennifer Lerner (of the Harvard Decision Science Lab) says that anger makes people optimistic and risk-seeking. (Fear has the opposite effect.) Sadness will make you eager to buy!

Does continuous innovation stimulate anger and sadness? Are we entering some post-celebratory period of consumerism where nostalgia drives impulse buying? Or did that ship already sail when the home shopping network came to cable TV in the US in 1985?

The difference between what we are like and what we THINK we are like is an interesting question, one I have been considering with some seriousness as I shape up my prospects. The difference between what we like and what we think we like is pretty much the same question. Or is it?

04 November, 2011

Grace, and long live ambiguity!

I thought it was 8 or nine days since I last updated, but I was SO wrong! It was almost/over two weeks ago! I am not going to to the math exactly, though, because I don't much care. I am very sorry if you felt neglected, loyal readers! ha ha ha.

OK, I have been up to a trip to ABQ, NM! I visited one of my many sisters there, I hadn't seen her for over a year, and my mother came too. It was a lovely visit. Every place in Albuquerque wants to sell you seafood though, which seems a little odd as it doesn't have a lot of shrimp or fish bays or streams or whatever, as far as I can tell. Coming from a coastal region, I was constantly tempted by the seafood in ABQ, NM. It was not a big mistake, but I should have known better.

They have a lovely aquarium, except for the fact that I feel like the turtles or tortoises they had inside the big tank were, in some way, suffering. Kind of like Orangutangs at the zoo, kind of low-spirited. And the tank seemed overcrowded. And busy, except for the turtles, who were trying to hide, and failing.

There were beautiful jellyfish in another couple of tanks, and I never worry about how jellyfish are feeling, so they were much more soothing.

It was SO DRY there, I could not stand to be outside the house with some sort of lozenge in my mouth to keep my throat from drying up! I may be allergic to the dust. I might not have been in the right mood to travel to such an arid place, or at all, who knows.

I absolutely love the phrase, "I am in NO mood," though. Because really, what does that mean? If you're thinking about a mood, you probably have one! Maybe in between thoughts about having a mood, there is actually no mood (although that's a little bit abstract, but anyway...). But LONG before you start talking about it, there is definitely SOME mood.

I saw a Dim Sum sign less than a mile away from home! I am trying to talk a friend into trying it with me, though she has never been to dim sum, and I have some doubts about the restaurant in question, which, as far as I can tell, is called "Seafood Restaurant".

Have I mentioned that while I am peculiarly drawn to seafood while away, I don't eat that much seafood here at home? A place called "seafood" anything holds NO appeal to me... until they slap a dim sum sign out front.

Let it not be said that I am impervious to gentle persuasion.

So anyway, next to the fine aquarium in ABQ, NM, is a very fine botanical garden, which is included in the price. It was extensive, and kind of a confusing place for me, as a botanical garden. Hardly any of the plants were labeled. We cut our visit short because they were closing.

While down south I also visited the Plaza in Santa Fe, NM, via a train. It was lovely and from the train I saw a lot more rustic southwest than in ABQ, which didn't have any 'local' character that I could really discern, except for the turquoise and silver jewelry, which is lovely but not hanging from the streetlamps or anything, and not really my thing.

Oh, a lot of the construction was one-level in ABQ, and as far as I noticed there were no basements. I didn't figure out the right person to ask about these things. But I have unsatisfied curiosities that are much more pressing, that I do a lot less about.

Somehow, I will continue to cope.