9-3-11 Hodgepodge

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Private (and Temporary!) Post-Boxes

In our current apartment, Mrs. Van Horn and I enjoy the benefit of a staff who will sign for package deliveries and keep the packages until we are able to pick them up, making us able to take full advantage of the convenience of on-line shopping.

But what happens after we eventually move? Amazon and 7-Eleven may have an answer:

According to a source with knowledge of the project, the idea is simple: these nondescript boxes will be in 7-Eleven stores across the country and act as a sort of P.O. box for Amazon purchases. Once a customer makes a buy on Amazon's website he can select a 7-Eleven close to work, or on the way home and have the package dropped off there.

When the package is actually delivered, the customer receives an email notification along with a bar code to his smartphone and heads to the 7-Eleven. There he'll stand in front of the locker system, which looks like the offspring between an ATM machine and a safety deposit box. The machine will scan the bar code on his handset to receive a PIN number [sic]. He'll punch that PIN number [sic] and retrieve the package. 
What a great (and well-timed) idea!

Weekend Reading

"Make a cost-benefit analysis. You'd never buy an expensive appliance without first investigating the facts about it and your need for it." -- Michael Hurd, in "Go All the Way" at  DrHurd.com

"Because everything feeds into the stock market, investors often become overwhelmed when trying to decipher all the various indicators and inputs." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "How to Watch the Market" at SmartMoney

"How odd -- that the world's most famous investor doesn't believe investing is a job." -- Richard Salsman, in "Warren Buffett and Other Anti-Rich Capitalists" at  Forbes

"The patient may never know if the doctor is giving his best objective medical advice, or being swayed by the latest memo from the ACO administrator demanding greater cost savings." -- Paul Hsieh, in "How ObamaCare Plays Games with Your Life" at PajamasMedia

My Two Cents

As a side-benefit, Michael Hurd's column has helped me better understand something that has puzzled me generally about how I have seen some people cast long-term changes in their lifestyles in reaction to others around them who are not. Building from Hurd's example of smoking cessation, we can all recall people who might say to a smoker something like, "Aw, c'mon! One cigarette isn't going to kill you!"

Barring truly bizarre circumstances, this is completely true, and yet I sometimes see, as an answer, something to the effect that smoking just one cigarette, period, and even regardless of an individual's context, violates the principle that life is the standard of value for any action. This is ridiculous because the same process of cost-benefit analysis that might help a chronic smoker remember why he wants to quit might tell the once-in-a-blue-moon cigar smoker to go ahead and light up on occasion.

The problem for the smoker trying to quit isn't that smoking is intrinsically evil, or that lighting up, always and for everyone, violates the principle that life is the standard of value (in a rationalistic, context-free sense). The problem is that in his particular case, a cost-benefit analysis would remind him that his habit is harming him (probably in more than one way) and that lighting up will further the harm, not in the least by making it harder for him to quit.

"Smoking just one cigarette is bad," is not a principle. It might, however, be a correct application of the principle that life is the standard of value to a smoker's particular life due to the enormous difficulties the activity presents to him versus whatever pleasure it might offer. (Let me stress that pleasure can be a rational value.)

PS: The above is not to say that just because an action doesn't kill you at once that it can't always be wrong to perform it. Refusing to think about some issue -- provided you know you need to do so -- is always wrong. On the other hand, the list of things for which this is true may be smaller than meets the eye. Is taking poison always wrong? Some poisons, like botulism toxin, have beneficial uses, and even taking lethal doses isn't wrong if you intend to commit suicide because you have concluded that, for whatever reason, that continuing to live would be worse than the alternative.

Bombastic Art

Recently, Snedcat emailed a link to a hilarious set of "18 particularly ridiculous prog-rock album covers" over at the AV Club.

-- CAV


Today: Added a PS to "My Two Cents." 

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