Incentives for Poor Behavior

While Blizzard is being investigated, Activision itself was also under the microscope. The EEOC was investigating what Kotick disclosed/was aware of in terms of the Blizzard behavior, and then how that impacted the stock.

Today, Activision paid $18m dollars to settle the investigation. In comparison, Bobby Kotick made at least $154m as CEO, and the company reported a net quarterly income of $876m. So ~12% of the CEO pay, or 1% of the quarterly company revenue.

Let’s say that the average person makes $30,000 after taxes (let’s pretend). At the worst end, 12%, that would be a $3,600 fine. The the best case, 1%, that is $300. Now, if I said to you that you could do whatever you wanted to make money, including lying, cheating, abusing your neighbours to MAKE that $30,000 in the first place, that’s a pretty good deal!

It’s things like this that perpetuate a divide between the classes. It gives the impression that some people are simply above reproach. I could argue the other side, that if the penalties were too high, the company would be forced to lay off people… but Acti-Blizz will lay off people even if they are claiming record profits anyhow.

A reminder that the Blizzard employees sent a signed letter in July, with 3,000 signatures, and the company hasn’t even acknowledged it’s existence. Not sure why they would even bother as long as the dollars keep coming in and the penalties are slaps on the wrist.

Urban vs Rural

I had a post prior about our ongoing elections and how there’s a somewhat generic split between urban and rural voting tendencies. Given the timeframes, what that post focused on was the historical trends, which effectively built ‘strongholds’ for a generation +.

A reminder that the side effect of a stronghold is that the party which controls that stronghold has zero interest in addressing any of those voters concerns. The party wants to expand their control/voting base, so they really are only targeting other areas. The people in that stronghold never really hold their members to account, so there’s no reason for the party to actually do anything. In today’s social media age, that causes anger at being ignored… and well, here we are.

But that’s a tangent. What I really wanted to talk about is the rural urbanite. Depending on the city you live in, there was a small, yet noticeable population of rural residents that actually spent most of their time in an urban setting (long-haul commuters). You can see this more as the baby boomers retire and cottage country undergoes a massive shift in demographics and engagement. There are quite a few reports of camping grounds taking over small town councils, with seasonal representation. That’s a generational shift with geographic tendencies. And yet, that particular demographic (retired and can afford to move to cottage country) also has a rather particular voting trend. The older you get, and the more money you have, the more likely you are to be right leaning.

This doesn’t apply to the ‘true rural’ areas. You’re not going to find a densification in the Appalachians of retired wall street bankers. Instead, you’re more likely to find that urban sprawl doubles the geographical size. Folks will retired and move 1-2 hours away from an urban centre. It actually squeezes the rural centers to smaller and smaller sizes. This is generally accounted for in Canada’s 3rd party redistricting exercises. Gerrymandering is extremely rare here – the US is a real edge case globally.

So that’s one particular trend, the ‘aging out’ of the urban centres. There’s another one, that won’t necessarily impact THIS election but will impact the next one.

I’m going to call this the pandemic spread. Or more specifically, the massive proliferation of remote workers. Where areas were having emigration issues where the high school graduates would move to urban centers for education, and stay for employment, that shift is starting to reverse. A lot of education can be done remotely, or even those that have been away for studies can now return to urban centers IF they have a reliable internet connection. Canada has some serious challenges here, mainly due to geography and lack of population density (90% of Canada is within 100km of the US border). Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will have a massive impact on the ability to remote work, and therefore the distribution of the population.

This isn’t about urbanites (born and bred) leaving in droves to rural settings, but more about slowing the haemorrhage from rural to urban. Small towns now have an incentive (outside of politics) to build an environment and services that support more than the grey-haired club. It’ll also mean that the traditional strongholds, structured often due to geographical location, and likely to see some chipping at their control.

Which is a really interesting paradigm shift. Rural was often seen as being more and more irrelevant in the larger picture of politics. Yet the reality is that the age curve of baby boomers and the ability for younger remote workers (where property costs are extremely lower) can lay their roots are causing a heck of a shift. Not for this election (1 week to go!) but it will certainly be there for the next one. A more spread set of political views would certainly help with the more ‘extreme’ and echo chamber spaces we have seen these past few years. Let’s see how this plays out.

Credit vs Subsidies

Canada is heading to elections. It’s opportunistic in order to try and acquire a majority government. We have 2 main parties (to various degrees of left/right) and then some supporting smaller parties (both hard left). There’s a cadence here of a few steps left, a few steps right. Keeps some semblance of balance and generally the country keeps path. We went through the global recession with tight fiscal control, and then the recent social uprisings with liberal social values. I find myself aligning more to centrist values, so depending on the election cycle, the edges of either of the parties platforms.

One particular item announced in the competing platforms is child care. This is an odd topic for those who don’t have kids, or never had. Sort of like schools when you’re an adult, or hospitals when you’re young. Anyhoot, the standing government (left) has set up agreements nationally to introduce a $10/day day care program. There’s a lot of money behind this, and the gist is that the provinces will be able to pay out for day care services (and meet their criteria).

The other party (right) wants to scrap that program and institute a credit program that covers 75% of fees to parents, up to $6000 annually. This gives parents the flexibility to select personalized services (not regulated) or homestead parents.

Day Care is one of those things where it’s a tough choice for a parent. Licensed day cares provide stability (except perhaps in Quebec) with known hours, a structured system, and lots of kids/supervision. Unlicensed day cares provide tons of flexibility, much smaller groups (if they are not underground), and the added risk of the provider being available (if they get sick, it closes). We opted for an unlicensed one, through reference, and it was a great experience for the kids.

Right, so now the math.

Day Care Costs

Depending on where you live, the costs change dramatically. I was recently paying $60/day for it. Some pay a lot less. On average, it’s not too far from $1000 a month for infants, and $900 for toddlers. So let’s say $950/month. That’s $11,400 a year.

The $10/day play comes up to $3,600 a year. The 75% credit should be $2,900(8,500 off), but it caps at $6,000 credit… so you’re paying $5,400. That’s a solid difference.

Anecdotally, where I live the daily costs are ~$70/day, which is $25,000 a year. The first plan would cost me $3,600 a year, the 2nd would cost me $19,000 a year.

Credit vs Subsidies

The core value behind both concepts is about choice. Credits give people the choice to select the item they want, which would then potentially drive market innovation or variety, with it’s inherent risks. Subsidies instead put the power of choice in the government’s hands, and ensure that the options present meet a certain “base level standard”.

Many services are subsidized – nearly the entire agricultural market. This ensures some level of food price stability, as the providers are ensured a certain amount of return. This can get out of whack something fierce with effective lobbying – the US beef and corn markets are just astounding.

Credits make sense when there’s a complex supply chain and the market is not domestic, or if the item itself is not applicable to the general population. Like a home office credit pre-pandemic. It shifts the burden to the citizen to manage their finances, and the “rich” with decent lawyers can take major advantage of credits to offset income.

Political Platforms

The challenge I find in political platforms today is that they are less about the practical aspects, and more about the ideological mandates. Platforms are complex beasts, there are dozens of items listed in each, and some will resonate, and some won’t. New parents are going to grasp on one part, while retirees will look at something else. The urbanite has a much different set of goals as someone who owns a farm. Finding the balance between both is next to impossible, or perhaps so difficult that it’s ignored.

What is going to happen instead, with a 32 day election period, is that we’re going to have a half dozen sound bites on ideological items, and the actual platforms won’t be considered. The good news is that this will all be over relatively quickly.

I Miss Funerals

Morbid as that is, let me explain.

The funeral itself acts as a pivot point, a step where mourning moves from an individual layer to a social one. A good funeral is a celebration of the person’s life, where people get together and talk about how that person impacted their lives. They’ll mourn the fact that the person won’t be in their lives in the future. It’s a bittersweet event that reminds us of the fragility of it all.

It’s the social aspect that is the true value here. The ability to share with other people, to know that we’re not alone and to share in the memories.

COVID took all of that away for over a year. Oh, people kept passing, that’s for sure! We’ve lost more than enough people during that time as life never takes a break. But the ability to meet other people and truly share in the process wasn’t possible.

I went to my first funeral post-pandemic (mid?) a couple weeks ago for my uncle. Funeral home, a list of 100 people, the tiny sandwiches and all. They streamed the ceremony, which is both great for people who can’t make it, and also quite odd as the physical emotions can’t be streamed. Progress I suppose. I still have social anxiety in small spaces with a lot of people. The ceremony was fine, but the post-even really was not a comfortable space. Really didn’t give a chance to appreciate the event as much as I should have.

This weekend I had another funeral, a more traditional one, for my great-aunt. 90 minute full mass in a church that’s 10 degrees too hot. We had masks (it was well out of town), there was a lot of spacing, and they streamed that one too. I dislike churches to start, and while the eulogy was super to hear, the rest was just me wishing for it to end. Post-funeral was different, we had family members invited to our family cottage for a post-even BBQ. My anxiety was much better here, I opted to cook all the food outside the garage and made a concerted effort on keeping distance. That allowed for a much more cathartic event. I got to see people I hadn’t in a long while and share stories that I had never heard before. It truly was a a great event.

Tangent – I will note the behavior changes that people are taking now. We’re a family of huggers. It’s like this instinctive thing. Seeing people hesitate to give a hug is a very weird thing. Hearing people pre-face any hug with a “I got both shots” is almost surreal. It helps with the anxiety for one. And interestingly, I didn’t talk to anyone who didn’t have both. May be spurred by the fact that we had a shared family member pass from COVID.

I had forgotten what a funeral was, all caught up on the chaos of trying to get through another day. I had postponed mourning, not truly accepting that a big step is to share that joy/grief with others. I honestly missed them without even realizing it.

Crazy Days

Last week I officially had a new boss (she was here for about a month to learn the org). Last Thursday we got a new puppy (mini golden doodle). This Monday my old boss came back into my position and I took over a different group. This Monday I had an interview for a promotion, which I’ve spent nearly 2 months preparing for. And yesterday, I received a vaccine shot.

So in terms of stress factors, I have work, a new dependency, financial items, and health all as triggers. I’m only missing relationship challenges to pile on for a perfect storm.

A new boss comes with the requirement to build a new critical relationship and reset of my mandate. Every new boss wants to make an impact and they have their own approach to get there. We’re in the execution phase of a ‘can’t fail’ project that impacts a few hundred thousand people, so there are some limits to flexibility in change.

A new puppy, as anyone who has had a dog can attest, like brining a dependency into the house. The good news is that she’s already had some basic training and has a calm demeanour, and she sleeps like 15 hours a day. But there’s the nipping and good habits that need to be instilled, so work in that sense.

A job change in a brand new team is easier than to a sister team, because there are no expectations. This lateral move means I need to modify my existing relationships and then build a different one since my old boss is now my peer. To complicate matters further, we have different methods to achieve the same goal, so there’s some challenges in consistent messaging. Nothing that can’t be managed – if it was the only thing.

The interview for promotion is one I’ve been training for a while now, nearly 2 years. The last 2 months have been the larger process of triage, testing, and then interview. I have no doubts about the capability to perform, but I am recognizing that any promotion is less about the ability to execute than the ability to dance. It’s a rather obtuse dance that only becomes clear once you’ve taken a stab at it – yet its also the most fair approach to avoid nepotism/favouritism. I think I did a solid job, but now it’s about waiting a few weeks to get the final results. And then, the real choice of what I want to do once if I get it. That choice will impact me for the next 3-5 years.

And then there’s the vaccine. I live in Canada, where the rollout has had a few hiccups but seems to be going rather well now. I’m not essential, I can work remotely with ease, I am young and without conditions… so all of this put me near the back of the line. No stress from that factor, but a whole lot of social anxiety that as a country we can hit the proper immunization numbers to find some normalcy. It’s been an adventure to talk to all sorts of folks on this, either hesitant for the unknown side effects (understandable!) or downright anti-vax (where Darwinism isn’t fast enough). I try to be inclusive and pragmatic, there’s a reason people think the way they do and sometimes discussing it you can find common ground. In some cases however, their personal stress levels and need to find a scapegoat have pushed them into a spot of no return. It sounds weird, but it’s quite similar to an addict. They need to want help. It’s not fun.

So yeah, let’s just say that it’s coming at all sides, all at the same time. I’m more than fortunate in multiple ways, but it would be foolish to think that I am coping well. So some work to do to get back into a good mindspace by the end of month.

Logical Growth

I am a proponent that everything is a skill. The more you practice at something, the better you get. That’s self-evident for tangible actions like cooking, throwing, or painting. The less tangible items are tougher, and one where people tend to put up their own barriers. ‘Only geniuses can do that’, ‘I’ll never be able to’. The world is already full of enough hurdles, not much sense in compounding that on yourself.

(Side note: I am not dismissing that people have different skill ceilings. I’ll never be a Crosby or Einstein in their specific domains.)

I find joy in coaching, be it hockey or work. I thought about becoming a teacher, but there are certain system rules that provide a large disincentive to male teachers… plus parents are horrible. Still, I enjoy the act of passing knowledge, yet more so in seeing someone else take that data set and then coming up with their own conclusions. I’ll use a specific hockey example, which probably won’t resonate with many.

Hockey is the luckiest professional sport. There’s a significant amount of randomness given that there are few stoppages in play, and the game itself is played in close quarters. The most successful hockey players certainly have an astounding level of talent, but the exceptional ones all excel with anticipation. Anticipation requires a high level of awareness of the players and the environment. If you were to take a snapshot of any given timeframe, there are high odds you could guess what should happen next. As a player generating a play, you want to have maximum options at hand to make it harder for the opponent to anticipate. So you have the puck, you lift your head, understand where everyone is, then take a specific patch that maximizes options. The first thing I teach young skaters is that you want to avoid the middle of the ice (there are too many people there), and avoid the boards (as you eliminate all movement options on that side). There’s a concept of a magic line between the faceoff dot and the hashmarks that is the best option. Walking kids through this line means off-ice visualization, drills at half speed, cones to direct traffic, and then positive feedback. When they get it, and I mean truly get it, every other part of their game changes. They start to see the game and their anticipation of the opponent starts to grow.

While the practice itself is for the tangible parts – stick handling, skating, agility – the real skill here is mental acuity. Rapidly taking in multiple variables and coming to reasonable conclusions.

Escape Rooms

I enjoy logic puzzles, always have. Virtual escape rooms were the best, and the reason Jayisgames exists. I’ve done a half dozen real-world escape rooms now, and the real joy here is not in successfully leaving the room but in the successful teamwork required to do so. Both my kids enjoy it as well, and it’s fascinating to see the brains of an 8 and 10 year old make their own conclusions.

My wife’s prior students launched their own platform to bring escape rooms to people’s homes, either physically or virtually. We’ve done a few with them, and did another this weekend at the same time our friend’s family (video chat). The virtual ones provide a lot of context that you need to filter through in order to get pieces of a hint, then you put those smaller pieces together to get something else.

We hit a few hurdles to make sure we were all going at the same pace. Some guiding bits to help kickstart the process but by and large they just easily captured all weird spaces. Things like the number of lights next to a window, or an out of place umbrella. My youngest, with the confidence of a 50 year old, just shoots ‘oh I know this, let’s do it this way’ and pow, perfect answer. The eldest gives a ‘oh, that clue was in the drawer, let’s go back’. It’s like they have ideas in balloons above their head, and at will, they just pull one down and use it to move forward.

Re-use

The kicker from this is that the balloons themselves never really go away. They just keep putting more and more up there, and keep pulling them down as they need them.

Can’t get headphones to work? Let’s go through the steps to re-pair and reset the bluetooth. The RC car is having issues, let’s take parts out and see what makes it go. Pull cord on the fan requires a bench, let’s tie a small cord to it. They want a desert, they pull out the recipe books and start going at it.

It’s absolutely fascinating to watch a brain develop on it’s own. Sure there are times where I need to step in, but I make an effort to explain what I’m doing, and importantly why. They take the information and then see if they can apply it to other similar problems. More often than not, it works.

I mean really.. have you ever asked a kid why they did something and they gave you a completely reasonable answer? A left field answer, but one that given the data makes perfect sense? Like a pair of shoes in the dishwasher cause they wanted them clean.

I am continually fascinated and impressed by the power of a child’s thought process. Everything is possible until it isn’t. A hell of a way to live a life.

Mental Strength

So there was a SuperBowl yesterday, and TB showed up, while KC’s O-line decided to take a breather. End result, is further proof of Brady’s position as GOAT in terms of QB position. I’d question anyone’s sanity declaring he’s an actual top 10 athlete, as much as Kasparov would be, but damn if he doesn’t dominate his role.

But its the commercials that people are going to talk about a week+ out. Do you know who won the SuperBowl ’84 game, or do you remember the Apple commercial instead? There’s always winners and losers in this space too, and some that really are so far out of the game that it doesn’t matter. Indeed really did a good job here, Amazon/Alexa is making water cooler talk (irony of irony having Colbert talk about supporting local business to be followed by an Amazon ad), Chipotle’s make-a-better-world burrito ad was neat, and finally Under Armor’s Michael Phelps ad on mental prep.

High performance sport way back when had only a little bit to do with mental preparation. Sure, you studied and practiced, but that was less about thinking and more about managing options. Sports mental coaching really only took off in the last 15 years, with the last 10 having the biggest push forward. Coaching teams are supplemented with psychologists to build a more resilient athlete.

In team sports, traditionally this falls to the head coach. They’ll call a time out and try to refocus the team on the goal. No question they tried that in KC, but very little success. Momentum is a thing, and when a team has it, then it feels like nothing can stop it. You may not be able to stop it, but you can certainly reduce the impacts.

The advantage of sports is that it is outcome focused, at least from the outside. You can measure progress in concrete terms. It is really hard to do that in non-competitive environments. In art? In relationships? At the job? Ehh. While sports certainly have the measure of the end goal (winning), it’s also related to winning in a healthy manner. If you win, but lose yourself in it, did you really win? (see every cyclist in the last 30 years.)

That said, the techniques in mental strength are of absolute benefit to all aspects of our lives. We all encounter adversity, daily. We all have doors closed on us without our control, or input. We don’t all have parents willing to give us a million $ to achieve our dreams and have to really build it ‘on our own’.

I lift weights and run to keep physically fit. I need equipment to do most of that, but more importantly, I need a knowledge of the subject and a plan. Watch any amateur CrossFit video, most people are doing the exercises in a dangerous manner, putting themselves at large risk. With training, they greatly reduce that risk to comparative levels of other sports.

With mental fitness you need to take the same approach – the right tools, some understanding, and then a plan. Similar to physical sports, the simplest path to that is with a coach. The downside is that these folks are next to impossible to find in the amateur space, or perhaps better articulated, educated and accredited coaches. You can find any influencer that will peddle something, but the quality is always going to be questionable. For the time being, your best bet it either through literature from an expert, or just having an honest conversation with your family doctor. A good doctor will refer you to someone that can help you.

I’d be remiss to say that this isn’t a requirement by any means. There are plenty of people who don’t look after their physical bodies and live relatively happy lives. And there are people who spend every waking moment thinking about their physical training and are depressed. Each person has a balance that’s unique to them. I thought I had that balance prior, but life taught me otherwise. So the past 5 or so years have really been focused on finding what works for me. It’s given me additional context for not only setting goals, but achieving them. And importantly, taking any set backs in stride.

Hopefully this post just gets people to consider the concept and do a bit of reading on the topic. Our minds are our best asset after all.

Ring in the Year

Clearly 2020 sucked. Some good bits in there, but overall still something I’m happy is in the rear-view mirror. 2021 at least has some measure of hope.

The year reinforced the idea that my kids have won the ovarian lottery. The only other possible advantage they could have had is being male (I write this conscious of its implications), and even then in my country the gap is a whole lot smaller than others. They have 2 well-to-do, bilingual, caring, educated parents, who have had no financial impacts from this pandemic. They were provided with equipment to continue learning at a distance. Full health care. If 2020 did something right, it was making me more aware of that situation and thankful for it.

2020 did bring us Hades, which is just a simple testament to all that is good in gaming. A developer that respects its clients, its staff, and has a clear vision in development. Ghost of Tsushima is in a similar boat, though a larger organization with a tad more resources. The less said about others, the better. Gaming was a major outlet for most of the global population, if sales are any indication.

WoW launched an expansion, which is an improvement on BfA. Admittedly, it would seem to be more effort to be worse than BfA, so that is a somewhat backhanded compliment. The game has certainly not solved the borrowed power problem, in fact it’s pretty much doubled down on it here. People are cool with it because the power is only in one direction, compared to BfA’s continual power loss. My single largest gripe here is the horrible travel mechanics. The removal of the Flight Master’s whistle is shades of dumb on par with the initial removal of flying. Bastion has next to no flight points, and Revendreth is a vertical nightmare. And the Maw is just… for a game pillar, it’s still suffering from broken hunts (which are how you improve movement).

Kids are still kicking it with Minecraft. To a rather crazy degree working together. They don’t do any chat-based online games, for sanity reasons mostly. So no Fortnite in this house, while Rocket League is a-ok.

The wife and I watched the 2 seasons of The Mandalorian over the holiday break. Having Dave Filoni involved is evident in the quality and consistency of the storylines. The rotating directors make for varied storytelling approaches as well. I won’t lie, I geeked out fierce in the Krait dragon battle. No deep spoilers here, but the ending of season 2 pretty much closed the loop on nearly every thread that mattered to me. I can see how it will be used as a launching pad for a half dozen other Star Wars stories.

Wonder Woman ’84 was also on deck as my wife is a major fan. I really liked the first one (minus the last battle), and this one is ok I guess. There’s a lot of logic leaps in to follow here, even for a superhero movie. And it’s hard to ignore the fact that Wonder Woman rapes a stranger, when the film goes to great efforts to paint the opposite picture for Cheetah. It looks cool, and it’s better than nearly every other DC movie out there.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel that my hockey will start again in the fall. Most of the country should have their shots by then. I am missing it something fierce. The backyard rink is up and running, though the very mild weather is making is a tad tougher than normal to manage. Snowshoeing is likely the main activity for the foreseeable future.

Even the summer is looking somewhat promising. The cottage is great as a getaway, but even better when we’re able to share it with people. The whole remote work efforts are making me strongly consider getting high speed internet for a few months, which is going to be costly but likely practical. I could always get a cell boost up, which is going to be a similar cost but only 1 time.

2021 has some interesting games on line. Horizon 2, God of War 2, Monster Hunter Rise (where I will be super tempted to get a Switch), maybe a clean Baldur’s Gate 3, Deathloop, Gotham Knights, and a slew of more indies all look promising. And without hockey, my gaming budget is a LOT higher. If ever video cards start to actually be launched, maybe I’ll build a new rig. Upgrading bits is fine, but a full rig today makes little sense.

As for the blog, 2020 was one of my more active years. I needed it for a multitude of reasons, and don’t see that going away in 2021. I’ll add a bit more to my reading list, as there are some really neat voices out there that provide some great perspectives.

Next post will follow the annual predictions that most blogs put out. Take care and happy new year!

Managing Change

This is a haughty topic, one that I’ve been noodling on for as long as I can remember. The old adage that the only things certain in life are death and taxes misses a key 3rd item – change. Change is inevitable. There is nothing you can do to stop it, at best you can redirect it or have some impact on its effects.

Change occurs for a multitude of reasons, though primarily due to a a powerful agent. In changes we cannot control, these agents are fundamental – like water eroding a mountainside. In change we can control, the agents are often so complex that the we can only see them from our vantage point. If you’ve never been stopped by a cop because of the colour of your skin, it’s impossible for you to understand, let alone empathize. Sometimes change comes from a need, like smoke detectors being mandatory in your home. You could make a career out of analyzing the root cause of a given change – that’s pretty much what ancient history is all about.

You can’t stop change. Change is like a flow of water, if it hits a block somewhere, it will search for a new one elsewhere. You’re unlikely to have any success impacting the agent of change. There’s nothing you or I, as individuals, could have done to stopped the crash of ‘08 which impacted the global markets and nearly every person on the planet in some form. The people responsible for detecting that change agent were complicit in creating it. Our history (and current state) is full of examples of civil wars where the change agent was repressed and eventually overcame.

You can redirect change. A slight nudge early can dramatically alter the long term impacts. Like if you know your company is looking at job cuts, you can choose to ride it out and wait for the package, or you can start looking NOW and get ahead of the hundreds of others who will be in the same boat as you. If you see that your kid is struggling with reading, then taking time when they are young will dramatically alter their learning experience for the rest of their lives. If you are cautious about a change, then you can potentially defer it until that comfort is found – like waiting for extra research on a new drug.

But let’s say for a minute you don’t accept the change, you don’t want to be part of it. Plenty of people who have done that. Maybe you don’t want to accept that your kid may be a pothead. Or that there is no future in coal mining. Or that maybe, based on the colour of your skin, there are doors that open and close. We often see folks say “I didn’t see it coming”, which is certainly possible – 50 years ago. In 2020, it’s the opposite. The ease of which social media allows for outright hatred and lies to spread is unprecedented. Smart and rational people have all but given up their ability to think, in exchange for group ownership. This “group hive” mentality is an amazing defence mechanism to change – as a group you can have a larger impact on the redirection of change, thereby limiting its impacts on you. This is how the “church” (all of them) operates, through doctrine to manage change. Waiting to accept that gays exist? Hope the Pope says its ok, otherwise it’s not.

There’s a concept of change fatigue, where so much changes so fast that people lose their sense of stability and self. It feels like you’re in the middle of the ocean, struggling to stay afloat, swimming for shore – only for another wave to push you farther out. I’ve certainly been there, more than once. It’s exhausting, depressing, an isolating. You’ll grab on to the first thing you see in the hope that it can help. There are people who know this, people who prey on the weak, exploiting their critical needs. You seem them every day on television, preaching the us vs them mentality. How your neighbour is secretly stealing your wifi, or the lady on the bus is planning to take your job.

So what do we do about it? Is it just a lost cause? No, we need to show empathy and compassion. We need to show acceptance of the struggles of managing change. And we need consequences for those that abuse the power of seeing change through, those that prey on the weak. We need to reward those who help others, and understand that it’s a strength to change overtime, not a weakness. Changing your idea based on new, reputable information, is exactly how it’s supposed to work. It’s why we don’t have lead paint or gas in our cars.

If we don’t, and we continue to reward those that sow division and resistance to change, there is only one outcome. It’s up to us all to figure out if that’s what we really want.

Black November

Black Friday exists as a point in the calendar where businesses finally started to get “in the black” (e.g. profitable) within a calendar year. Gives you an idea of how tight profit margins used to be – that it takes 11 months of 12. Clearly, this isn’t a date on the calendar, each business is different. Custom eventually slapped this on the the US Thanksgiving Friday.

That unity brought competition between various businesses and the concept of a super-sale. There are enough WalMart videos to show how well that’s gone. Over the years it started spreading to other countries (the sale, not the dumb), yet at the same time it was competing with the online sale market.

A few years ago we started seeing Cyber Monday, where online sites had major sales after Black Friday. This had 2 purposes, ensure the on-site stock was cleared, and collect more money cause who doesn’t like a sale? The smell of money drives nearly everything, so businesses started to think about how they could get more of it, with minimal effort. Never underestimate the power of greed!

See the advent of Black Friday weekend. Then Black Friday week. And now we’re at Black Friday sales all through November. Think about that for a second, a month-long sale on a pile of stuff. We’re broaching Steam Sale timeframes now. Not in the space of 10% off, but the big sticker “50% off” or “$300” off. No business can operate on those margins… so they don’t.

In Canada we have some simple laws when it comes to displaying prices, in that the ring up at the cash has to match the sticker. This is the sort of grocery store fight you see on soup prices – but it actually applies to larger things too. In Ontario at least, the price you see advertised on a new car is the price you pay (+ tax). There are no hidden “delivery fees” or any garbage. Great! Yet, they are build for the brick and mortar model.

What we’re seeing now (more pervasively) is the perception of a sale. There are quite a few businesses that operate on this model (Burlington Coat Factory is one, Winners another). You look at the item and it says Regular $89, Sale $19. Great deal! But the normal price is actually $19 everywhere. Sure, you may find the odd item, but it’s not like that business can operate at 20% the margins of another.

This model applies to online stores too. Amazon is target #1 for this, where it shows a sale, but the actual price is higher than their normal price. What I mean by this is that online retailers will sell say a TV for $900 for the month of October. Then they will add that item to Black Friday sales for the month, but raise the price to $950 and then say that they are saving $500. It’s clearly a lie, you can compare around and see everyone is selling the TV for $900 – but the concept of saving $500! Holy cow! (This is actually illegal in the UK, you need to prove the item was $500 more for at least a month. So they raise the price 1 month before the sale starts.)

While I think this is absolutely despicable behaviour, I also think that this is going to have the same long term effect of window shopping in brick and mortar. Where people today browse furniture in a store then buy online to save money, technology is already starting to catch onto these models. Sites like CamelCamelCamel are popping up and giving you the ability to see prices over time, and set alerts for real sales. Here’s a price history for a “great deal” on an Acer Nitro laptop. Save $200! Or you know, look at the history and see that it sells for this price every 2 weeks, then $200 more the other 2 weeks. Is it a sale when it’s this price half the time?

Technology is so cheap nowadays, that it’s just a matter of time before this gets wider scale use. People are going to window shop on Amazon, visit a price history site, and then make their decisions that way. This won’t stop the mad WalMart rushes though – pretty obvious there’s no saving the people who enjoy that. I’d be quite curious to see how that all works out this year, ya know, what with a pandemic and all.