February 15, 2006

AnandTech takes a Tour of NewEgg Distribution

AnandTech lets us come along on a great photo tour of the NewEgg distribution facility.

Back when I was doing Industrial Engineering (IE), distribution and warehousing were considered the low end of IE work. We all wanted to make something, not put it in a box and ship it.

But there's some really cool IE when you need to squeeze every last penny out of your distribution process. Retail is always a squeezed business, and eCommerce even more so, when the barrier to entry is low and competition is fierce. I'll bet someday UT Austin takes over from Georgia Tech as the premier IE school because of the Dell trickle-down.

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March 03, 2005

The Nicest Thing You Could Say About Your Spouse

My boss and I were talking, and she said, "Being married to Bob is like being on vacation."

Now isn't that one of the nicest things you could say about your spouse? That's wonderful.

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September 07, 2004

Yes, I've been busy...

I'll get around to writing in this thing one of these days...

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May 25, 2004

Hey, that was my idea!

My best friend and I are always concocting wacky business ideas. We've been doing this since grade school--although my ill-fated attempts at entrepreneurship back then were rather short-lived.

Like in the 4th grade, when my friend and I sold pencil drawings of TIE fighters and R2D2 to other kids for a quarter each. Nothing like capitalizing on all that Star Wars hype, right?

We made about $1.50 until the principal (I still remember her name: Elizabeth DeGarmo) made us stop. Our teacher, a really strict bastard who no one would fuck with because he could kick anyone's ass (he would show off TKD moves at recess) argued with her to let us continue. He figured, it wasn't like we were selling drugs, right? And, if other kids thought our Rembrandt impressions were worth 25 whole cents each, why not let them pay the money? Free-market capitalism lessons on the schoolyard. Funny how I don't remember the teacher's name, but he was right.

So anyway, Joe starts talking about how he wants to start up an online garage sale service--you'd go to people's places, pick up the shit they want to get rid of, give them an ok price for their stuff, then sell it all on eBay for more and pocket the margin. Uh, I say--that's being done. It's called AuctionDrop.com. :-(

Then I launch into my idea, which was to make knock-offs of the fantastically popular Design Within Reach inventory. Something that would be better than Ikea, but nowhere near as expensive as DWR. Like how much does it really cost to make a Noguchi-esque coffee table? It's just two pieces of wood and a piece of glass, right?

And of course, someone's beaten me to it. And they got a ton of free publicity for peddling Dreamweaver too.


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April 01, 2004

What Cancer Taught Me, #31

Use the nice china. Now.

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February 25, 2004

How Good was your High School?

Housing prices here in Silicon Valley are just nuts. If you want a house in one of the better school districts, like Cupertino (home of two of Newsweek's "Best High Schools in the Nation") or Saratoga (home of the infamous cheating-by-hacking scandal), you'll pay $1M or so for a house that'll cost you $250K somewhere else in the country.

So this begs the question--is it really that important (like, $500-700K worth of important) to have your kid go to the best school possible? Especially if that school is such a pressure cooker that kids: a. commit suicide. b. hack into their teacher's computers to steal test answers. c. feel that MIT isn't as competitive as their high school. Can your kid be a star if 1/3 of the senior class has a > 4.0 GPA?

We all want the best for our kids. But in the whole scheme of things, what's worth it? Can we fit an econometric decision model against these types of strategic decisions?

I figure, as long as my kid goes to a better school than I did, that's ok. Like I was reminiscing the other day how we had just a couple of crappy scales in our Chem lab--the others were stolen by fellow students who needed to weigh their drug inventory. And yeah, I'm sure those kids were making six figures way before they went to the prom, but they're probably living rent-free courtesy of the California State Penal system nowadays.

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January 30, 2004

Drink Beer: Less Cancer

Yahoo! News - Guzzling Beer Helps Rats Stay Cancer-Free

So the lead doc in this study was working for Kirin, the Budweiser of Japan. But this makes me feel a lot better about my affinity for marzens and stouts.

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January 06, 2004

Mad about Mad Cow

In line at the fabled IKEA cafe today, the lady ahead of me demanded to know what was in those Swedish meatballs everyone was chowing down (and were neatly arrayed on her plate--and mine too). She was, evidently, concerned about the mad cow disease (BSE) threat now present on American soil.

I volunteered that they were probably from Sweden--heck, isn't everything in IKEA "from Sweden"? (globalization notwithstanding). [Tip o' the Stetson to the immense Swedish cattle and hog ranching community].

Nope, says the exceptionally polite cashier. Pork, beef, and who knows what from Brazil, New Zealand, and a bunch of other places that aren't the USA.

Besides, I say, aren't these things processed and frozen, then cooked? Wouldn't all that unnatural processing kill off any infectious agent?

Satisfied, the lady paid and sat down to eat. I did too. Mmmmm. Lingonberries.

Of course, I get back to my computer and Google (via FDA.gov, but Google is the omniscient one these days, ain't it?) tells me that a ton of other countries have had cases of mad cow disease. And yes, Sweden is on that list.

Then I read HowStuffWorks' page, and man, is this some scary shit.

What we know about mad cow disease:

  • You don't know you have the disease until it's converted enough of your brain to spongy crap and you're about to die. Could be years after you get infected.
  • You can't kill the agent that causes it by cooking or freezing.
  • You can't kill the agent that causes it with the usual disinfectants (e.g. Lysol).
  • We don't know what that agent is.

Dayyaaam. Is Stephen King now scripting our destiny? Did we really piss off God this time? Is this Osama's last laugh?

Guess I'll be cutting back on that weekly In-n-Out habit. Sigh. Good thing our company cafeteria serves up Niman Ranch burgers.

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December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

...and Happy Holidays too. Hope you got everything you wanted (or deserve).

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December 17, 2003

80s TV on DVD

At dinner last weekend with my college buds, we mused on what fave TV shows we'd like to see released as DVD sets.

My votes:

  • Miami Vice
  • The Equalizer

Vice is a no-brainer--as one poster on Amazon said, "...it was the Sex and the City of the 80s--for guys".

The Equalizer was a harder sell. Its undertone of political intrigue made it a more intellectual show than the usual spy/shoot-em-up genre. I loved the intros where he'd pick up his phone messages and there'd be someone looking for help with a stereo installation--kind of like the inside jokes Bart has to write 1000 times on the blackboard.

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December 09, 2003

Sand from every beach

I recently saw an article in one of those home decorating magazines, where the photographer-owner displayed "sand from every beach the family has visited" in vintage spice bottles--in their living room. The starkness of the room's furnishings, coupled with the small multiples of the spice bottles, gave an almost museum exhibit quality to the room.

What a fantastic idea, I thought. Sand is free, and beaches are usually associated with happy times (unless you're thinking D-Day on Omaha Beach).

Made me regret not picking up sand from the more exotic locales I've been fortunate to walk on, like Heron Island, or Monterosso, or Milford Sound.

Then I Google "sand collecting", and it turns out there's a whole subculture around collecting sand--not just as souvenirs of beach vacations, but really to admire the sand itself.

If I try copying this idea, the one place I'd like to get a sand sample from is Wild Blue Yokohama, the indoor beach. Sure, as everything's man-made in there, including the waves, that sand is the same as in those bags at Home Depot, but it would have that fun cyberpunky pop culture kind of bent.

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November 05, 2003


Just noticed that Bill got himself a ISSN, a International Standard Serial Number used by the Library of Congress to ID serial publications.

At About.com, we were encouraged to go get ISSNs for our weekly email newsletters. After a while, the newsletters ceased to be viable as a means of drawing page views (ok, at least my newsletters were), and gradually degenerated into auto-generated vehicles for paid links.

But, hey, ISSNs, and all that other library science stuff is cool. Let's see how my application goes with the US government.

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Who has time to blog?

Did you catch the AP article on old stale Web sites? And I had, what--2 posts in October, and this is the first time I've posted in November?


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July 25, 2003

Why this blog is here

I've been on the Web since 1995, with the Usability Methods Toolbox. That reference site works well as quick articles about each method.

I had dabbled with the blog format when I ran martialarts.about.com (MAAC). Blogging seemed like a better way to write about what I was interested in--new, interesting things in the martial arts.

I no longer had the time to write the epic, multi-page magazine articles I loved to do. The research, editing, lining up interviews, all of that took too much time. But About.com wasn't set up to do blogs--each MAAC blog entry was a self-contained article.

All that has changed after I've left About, naturally. They're even using MT too. Sigh.

Nevertheless, it's better to be independent.

Here, I'll post about all of the crazy things I find interesting--from martial arts to usability to design to programming. And MAAC is better off with Geoff at the helm--his fresh viewpoint will revitalize the site. Folks can always visit martialarts.jameshom.com for the Frank Dux article, or advice on choosing a martial art.

Thanks for visiting.

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First Post!

Finally got around to installing MT. Hope you enjoy the blog.

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