Monday, March 31, 2014

Good Thing They Canceled the Deadline, Huh?

CNN captured this screenshot this morning.

Chick-fil-A Sells More Chicken Than KFC

Not to revive last year's controversy, but it is interesting to note that Chick-fil-A has passed up KFC as the #1 chicken place in the US.
The days when fried chicken was synonymous with a certain white-haired southern gentleman are over, at least in the U.S. A new champion has claimed KFC’s long-held chicken crown: Chick-fil-A. 
The change atop the leaderboard appears undisputed: Yum! Brands ... which owns KFC and has for years prided itself as “the leader in the U.S. chicken [quick-service restaurant] segment,” removed that very phrase from the company’s most recent annual report. 
I wonder if CfA was helped by the controversy – I heard a few people say that they gave the chain a try as a result of it and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. (I've never eaten there, so I'm in no position to rate the food). Apparently, though, CfA has been gaining for several years.

I'm sure KFC is still well ahead worldwide – there had a bunch of stores in the Philippines and they're all over the place here in Quito. CfA, meanwhile, has yet to cover the US.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Something I Didn't Know about Arizona

I never knew that the Vatican Observatory is in my home state.

Actually, the official headquarters of the Observatory is approximately where one would expect it – not quite in Vatican City, but nearby, at the Pope's summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. But all the heavy lifting is done in Arizona. The operational headquarters is at the University of Arizona (presumably, few of the observatory officials, mostly Jesuits, were among the drunks rioting in Tucson last night because the Wildcats lost a basketball game), while their telescope is atop Mount Graham just outside Safford.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Great Moments in the Annals of BS

I am a fan of good bullshit. There are few things I enjoy more than, for example, hearing a garbageman being described as a sanitation engineer.

As a fan, therefore, I want to offer homage to Gwyneth Paltrow. Though I've never seen any of her movies, she is well-enough known that even I have heard of her, and her recent addition to the world's supply of great BS will therefore no doubt bring forth additional gems, as her fans try to emulate her.

I refer, of course, to Ms. Paltrow referring to her divorce as a 'conscious uncoupling'.

What, you might ask, is conscious uncoupling? The point of good BS, I remind you, is that it doesn't have to mean a damned thing. In fact, it's better if it doesn't, since if it meant something it might lead to the bullshitter actually being held accountable for the meaning.

If you want to wallow a bit in obfuscation, however, there are entire websites dedicated to conscious uncoupling, according to Google. Here's a not particularly sympathetic article on the subject:
Paltrow helpfully followed up her initial announcement by posting a 2,000-word treatise on conscious uncoupling from Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami, a married couple living in Los Angeles. (Dr. Sadeghi is an osteopathic doctor who runs an “integrative health center” called “Be Hive of Healing,” pun presumably intended, and whose book Within: A Spiritual Awakening to Love and Weight Loss contains a foreword written by Paltrow. His wife is a dentist.) 
Sadeghi and Sami begin by explaining that given rapidly accelerating life expectancy, these days it’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll be able to stick it out until death do us part, which suggests we “ought to redefine the construct” of marriage. 
“Our biology and psychology aren’t set up to be with one person for four, five, or six decades,” they write. So there’s the science. Now for some New Agey jargon: “Life is a spiritual exercise in evolving from an exoskeleton for support and survival to an endoskeleton,” they write in a section entitled, “Intimacy & Insects.” They mean by this, basically, that you have to look within yourself for support and strength and healing, not to others, or, one can infer, to any kind of external deity. 
Finally, they get to the part about how to uncouple consciously and “avoid the drama of divorce.” You shouldn’t think about it in terms of your marriage having failed, because (a) as we learned, the expectation that it would last was based on an outdated construct, and (b) this is actually going to be a positive experience if you just let go of old notions and approach it in terms of building up your partner’s spiritual endoskeleton. “To change the concept of divorce, we need to release the belief structures we have around marriage that create rigidity in our thought process,” they write. The “belief structure” that marriage should be for life “is too much pressure for anyone.” 
Conscious uncoupling will bring “wholeness to the spirits of both people who choose to recognize each other as their teachers.” What’s more, conscious uncoupling “prevents families from being broken by divorce and creates expanded families that continue to function in a healthy way outside of traditional marriage.” 
They conclude that by “choosing to handle your uncoupling in a conscious way . . . you’ll see that although it looks like everything is coming apart; it’s actually all coming back together.”
To which I can only add, “Bravo – a truly marvelous piece of bullshit.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Commercial Side of a Political Crisis

A Russian supermarket chain is selling its stores in the Ukraine.

It's a pretty small deal (they had only twelve stores in the country, and the price is estimated to be in the $5-10mil range).
X5, Russia's second-biggest retailer and part of billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, is selling its Ukrainian stores to local privately owned supermarket chain Varus, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian company said on Wednesday. 
She gave no details, but Ukrainian newspaper Capital reported earlier that the deal could be worth around $5-10 million. It had been in the works since October, but the crisis over Crimea may have quickened the pace of talks.
Although the deal was in the works for several months, I can't help wondering how much the price dropped in the last few weeks.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Our Government at (Not) Work

Allow me to rant a bit on one of my recurrent topics – governmental incompetence (US government, in this case). On Jan 27, I applied for a new passport at the US consulate. While I was doing so, I also applied for a passport card (a wallet-sized card that can substitute for a passport in certain circumstances, and can serve as a good form of ID). When I paid, I was told the passport would be ready in about a week and the card in about a month, and that I would receive an email.

Sure enough, an email arrived on Feb 4, telling me that the passport was ready, and that I should allow another 15 to 20 working days for the card. Since I wasn't in a hurry for the passport, and didn't want two long cab rides to the consulate, I waited almost six additional weeks instead of three or four; today I went to the consulate and got my passport – and was told that the passport card is not ready.

It takes SEVEN WEEKS to print a @#$% card!?!? Or, to be more precise: to NOT print a card. No private business could survive with that level of customer disservice.

And while we're on the topic of governmental incompetence (international, this time), I think the Malaysians are setting a new standard.