All posts by Alexander Van Berg

Poor Design

Sliding Standards

I won’t say that “back in my day”, it was simply expected that you graduate from high school, but one got the sense that in generations prior, that’s how it was.  You were supposed to graduate from high school.

Now every school in my area takes out a full-page ad (some take out several pages of ads) trumpeting the unbelievable accomplishment of our high school students graduating from high school.

In fact, if you stripped all the words and context away, these ads almost look like photos of people who just won the lottery!

600 graduates

100 percent passing rate

I strongly disagree with this approach.  I refuse to participate in this cult of the high-school-graduation hysteria.  It looks and feels like sliding standards.  I’m skeptical that the world’s highest-performing countries do this.

And sadly, it will be hard for individual schools to stop doing this, as long as all the other schools continue doing it.  This form of peer pressure will tend to ensure this embarrassing trend continues going strong.

One wonders what’s next.  All-out celebrations for junior high graduates?  Custom theme music getting blared out for students each time they successfully go to the restroom?

To tell you the truth, I feel like the students here are pawns, at least partially, in an academia-led scheme to cult-ify high school graduation.  Very similar to how we used to always hear the mind-boggling sage wisdom about how 18-year-old basketball phenoms should play four years of college basketball.  While making $0 and risking a career-ending, millions-losing injury!  With the only upside being that they get a college education… that they could have actually received later after they secured hundreds of millions of dollars (with tens of those millions being guaranteed in their initial contract, before they even stepped foot on the court).

Poor Design

Petty Million Dollar Lawsuits

Right now there’s a nasty defect in ebay’s system.  When you look at an item’s listing, you are shown the item’s price and how much it will cost to ship.  If you agree to buy the item, ebay policy says you are then obligated to pay for it.

That’s where the problem arises.

You see, when you’re set to pay for it, the price goes up!  Yes, that’s right:

1.) You agree to buy the item at a certain price.

2.) ebay policy says you are now obligated to pay for the item.

3.) Woops, the price goes up!  Sorry, but please enter your credit card number!

Item A: The listing price.
Item A: The listing price.

Item A: The price after you agree to buy.
Item A: The price after you agree to buy.

In my estimation, based on various heuristics, this looks like a slam dunk for any law firm.   In this case, if a law firm filed a class action lawsuit against ebay, it would literally be the same thing as ebay writing that law firm a check for seven or eight figures.  ebay’s clearly guilty, they might be looking to cover this up as we speak, and they’ll surely want to settle the lawsuit.  The number of affected customers is probably high.  And most probably don’t even realize they’ve been overcharged, or, depending on your point of view, been a victim of a breach of contract.

The few times I’ve noticed it, this defect is not a result of the user choosing a different shipping option.  It sometimes exists when there is just one shipping option.  It can be for a few cents, or as much as $10.

Item B: The listing price.
Item B: The listing price.

Item B: The price after you agree to buy.
Item B: The price after you agree to buy.

Vintage Quotes

Map of countries by percentage of population living in poverty. (Redder indicates more poverty.) Map by Peter Lonjers, 2015. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_percentage_of_population_living_in_poverty
Map of countries by percentage of population living in poverty.  (Redder indicates more poverty.)  Map by Peter Lonjers, 2015.  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_percentage_of_population_living_in_poverty

The people die fast when the money is slow.

Variant of a Song Lyric

Homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012. (Bluer indicates more homicides.) Map by Nikko2013, 2014. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate
Homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012.  (Bluer indicates more homicides.)  Map by Nikko2013, 2014.  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

Vintage Quotes

Considered by many to be the most expensive private home on Earth, Antilia has an estimated value of $1 billion.  Located in Mumbai, India, it boasts 3 helipads, a dedicated air traffic control center, 600 permanent staff members, and 6 stories of private parking.
Considered by many to be the most expensive private home on Earth, Antilia has an estimated value of $1 billion.  Located in Mumbai, India, it boasts 3 helipads, a dedicated air traffic control center, 600 permanent staff members, and 6 stories of private parking.

The best way to realize the pleasure of feeling rich is to live in a smaller house than your means would entitle you to have.

Edward Clarke

Vintage Quotes

The Impossible Escape: With 250-pound-plus Mark Hunt laying on top of him, and an Americana submission forcefully secured on his left arm, Fedor Emelianenko would defy reality and manage to escape.  He would later seize victory.  From PRIDE Shockwave 2006.
The Impossible Escape: With 250-pound-plus Mark Hunt laying on top of him, and an Americana submission forcefully secured on his left arm, Fedor Emelianenko would defy reality and manage to escape.  He would later seize victory.  From PRIDE Shockwave 2006.

A fight does not start with a referee asking if you’re ready.*

Royce Gracie

 _______________

*This statement can be generalized to all of man’s struggles, not just physical altercations.

Miscellany

The Perfect Double Bacon Cheeseburger

Hits The Spot
Hits The Spot

“Mostly-Vegan” Ingredients:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Morning Star Griller’s Original Veggie Burgers (2)
  • Morning Star Veggie Bacon Strips (2)
  • Go Veggie! Pepper Jack Rice Vegan Slices (2)
  • Pepperidge Farm Italian Bread with Sesame Seeds
  • KA·ME Hot Mustard
  • Grilled with: Smart Balance Omega-3 Buttery Spread
  • On the side: Heinz “No Salt” Ketchup

The price is right.  This costs less than a typical double bacon cheeseburger, and the labor is minimal.

The biggest offender here is the sodium.  It adds up to about 58% of the recommended daily sodium (which some say is too lenient as it is!).  Just for comparison, a Bacon & Cheese Whopper from Burger King will set you back about 59%.

The sodium here could be scaled back with craftier product selection, as well as by not making everything a double.  Here the veg*n beef and bacon accounted for the most sodium, although these Morning Star products did have the lowest sodium out of the veg*n product selection that was available to me, so there isn’t much room for improvement there.  The bread added 10% sodium, and so there is definitely potential there.  It’s good bread though.

Great Design

One Shot, One Kill, Plus Some Swagger

The Sniper movie franchise has been wrung out like a dirty rag containing just a few more drops of water.  After having seen the original Sniper film, I was somewhat disappointed when I heard all the sequels were bad.

Which is why, after seeing the box cover for Sniper: Legacy, I couldn’t stop laughing, and yet also half-wanted to see this film.

The main reason for these mixed emotions was Tom Berenger wearing a baseball cap half-sideways in the field.  This, coupled with the official tagline (“Like Father Like Son”), made it priceless.

Sniper Box Cover I

The unexpected swagger with the baseball cap implied Tom Berenger had finally ascended to the level of sniper deity.  He was so good at his job, he was now taking out his targets with style.  This was something new.  This was something fresh!  And not only that – we couldn’t tell for sure – but it looked like he wasn’t necessarily interested in passing the torch to any of his descendants!  Maybe not a figurative torch anyway.

But alas, a second box cover revealed the truth.  Tom Berenger was actually wearing some sort of fisherman’s hat.  And if you clip that image at just the right spot, it produced what looked to be a half-sideways baseball cap.

Sniper Box Cover II

Was this clever editing designed to produce different images that might appeal to different demographics?  Riding, perhaps, right on the edge of Gestalt Theory?  If I had to guess, probably not.  But at the same time I can’t rule it out.

Gestalt Theory. Composition by Impronta on September 29, 2011.
Gestalt Theory. Composition by Impronta on September 29, 2011.