Archive for February, 2017

Deli Solution

There are some inefficiencies with the process of obtaining items from the deli department of the grocery store. I highlighted one of them in a previous post, and I’m sure many of you could provide other examples.

But today, we are going to solve many of them. With an improvement to the ubiquitous Take-A-Number system.

Today, I propose to you the deli Take-An-Order system.

It’s actually my wife’s idea, which is odd because she’s the one who doesn’t mind talking to people and she doesn’t avoid confrontation, both opposite of me. But I wholeheartedly endorse her idea here.

The Take-An-Order system is a combination of take-a-number and self-check-out. Except that instead of checking out your order, you are putting it in. The deli would have a kiosk or two with a touchscreen, very familiar to most deli customers these days. Enter your order and the system would give you a number, like some fast-food restaurants do. Plus they could give you an estimated time of fulfillment. Or, even better, you could enter your cell phone # and the system could text you when your order is ready, leaving you free to do the rest of your shopping in the meantime.

What about hooligans who would try to mess things up by entering a bunch of bogus orders, causing confusion and unnecessary work? Simple, require a swipe of a loyalty card or credit card before letting the user input the order.

What about people who pay cash and don’t have a loyalty card? Simple, there will still be deli workers behind the counters, so they could take in-person orders too. That will help those people who want personal interaction from their deli.

Other benefits of this system include increased efficiency of the workers. Think about how many times they go back and forth from the customer to the food supply to the slicing machines back to the customer. And that customer has 3 or 4 items he wants, so the deli worker has to make those rounds multiple times per customer. How much quicker would things get done if the worker had the whole order at once, could line up all the items, and make one trip to the slicing machine?

Even further, how many times does the worker get a style of meat, cut off some slices, and put it back – only to have another customer order the same thing and have to get it back out again? The Take-An-Order system could aggregate the orders, so all the honey ham orders from all customers within a 15-minute window could be cut at the same time, then all the roast beefs, etc.

For customer satisfaction, the thickness of the cut would be consistent. The order interface would have objective thickness options, such as 1/8″, instead of vague “thin” or “medium”.

And for our family, I know we get approximately the same items every week or so. How much more convenient would it be if I swiped my loyalty card and my most recent orders were displayed and I could just tap on them to order them again?

Imagine that scenario: I walk up to a deli kiosk with no wait. I swipe my card, tap a couple of things, and go on my way. I walk around the store, usefully shopping while my order is filled, and receive a text that my order is complete and I can pick it up at my convenience. Deli utopia, I say!

Overachieving grocery stores could have the completed deli orders routed to the check-out aisles, so customers don’t even have to go back to the deli. As they swipe their loyalty cards during checkout, their deli items are rung up and placed in their bags.

The current system, in the words of Sir Topham Hatt, causes confusion and delay. It could be so much better.

From there he spies out food; His eyes see it from afar.

Job 39:29

Deli Dilemma

Here is how it usually goes whenever I do the grocery shopping and getting some meat or cheese from the deli counter is on the list.

Deli Lady: How would you like that cut?
Me: Thin please.
(Deli Lady turns a dial to a random setting, cuts a sample slice, and holds it out for me to see.)
Deli Lady: How is that?
Me: That’s fine.

I don’t know if everyone’s definition of “thin slice” is different, or if she’s testing me, or if she doesn’t care about anything, but there seems to be no correlation between what I say and what I get.

And it doesn’t matter anyway, because no matter what she shows me, I’m going to say it’s fine. Because I don’t feel like interacting any more than necessary.

Which is also why I will accept her offer to eat the sample. Not because I actually want to, but because I know if I decline, there will be another round of interaction – something along the lines of “Are you sure?”

When he had cut the ram into its pieces, Moses offered up the head and the pieces and the suet in smoke.

Leviticus 8:20

Pumpkin Vandals

Back around the beginning of November, we had pumpkins sitting on our front porch. The kids had carved them into jack-o-lanterns, so they were just sitting there looking nice.

One morning, however, I opened the door to find that someone had vandalized them during the night.

image of some smashed pumpkins

It was more than just a smashing, as they evidently took some time mashing them up..

It was disconcerting that someone had taken the time to find our secluded house solely for the sake of ruining our kids’ carvings, as I didn’t see anything else amiss.

But then I looked closer.

image of some smashed pumpkins

And I saw claw marks.

I revised my guess about what happened to include raccoons instead of teenaged humans. And it restored my faith in our little neighborhood.

And now all its carved work They smash with hatchet and hammers.

Psalm 74:6

Steakhouse Slogan

I realize this post is years behind the times, but I must vent about Outback Steakhouse’s slogan of “No Rules, Just Right”.

My first thought when I heard that slogan was that I should go have a meal and then walk out without paying. If they complained, I would respond that their ad had billed their restaurant as a place with no rules, which means that they can’t tell me I have to pay anything.

And the second thing that came to mind was regarding the second half of that slogan. For how can you know what is right if there are no rules? If something is right, then there must be a wrong. And what is it that divides right from wrong? Rules.

Alas, they switched their slogan to “Done Right” before I did anything about “No Rules, Just Right”.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25

Fast Electric Cars

As is usually the case, there are pick-2-out-of-3 choices to be made when choosing a car. Originally, I had offered this trichotomy for vehicles:

image of choice among performance and safety and fuel economy for cars

Performance vs. Safety vs. Fuel Economy

But there is also another trichotomy that applies: Speed, Strength, and Endurance

image of choice among speed and strength and endurance for athletes

Normally, this applies to athletes. For example, you have sprinters or distance runners, but you don’t have anyone who trains for both.

And this is obvious to anyone who has spent time with Mario Kart. You can choose cars that accelerate quickly or cars that have a good top speed, but not both.

For cars, it might make more sense if we call it top speed, acceleration, and endurance.

There will be cars that are good at 1 or 2 of those, but not all 3. So the people that claim electric cars are the best because they’re so quick, I would be confident in challenging them to a race. Their battery-powered car versus my 16-year-old Buick.

The key is to propose the terms of the race that favor your corner of the triangle, not theirs. So if they say “You’re on!” I would reply with “Okay, first one to St. Louis wins.”

Because my Buick is neither quick nor fast, but it is durable.

By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Luke 21:19

Too Much Acceleration

I connected two different news stories about electric cars, and I wonder if anyone else sees the relationship.

First story: electric cars have incredible acceleration. You can go to Wikipedia for some general overview about it. But it seems that every month for the last couple of months, the electric car manufacturers (or electric car concept show-ers) have a press release touting that their car is the quickest from 0-60.

Second story: Electric cars are crashing through walls, with people claiming the car did it on its own. The ol’ “unintended acceleration” bit. The car maker, of course, says that its car is fine and the problem was the driver pressed the wrong pedal.

Now put them both together. People have the equivalent of 800 horsepower in their electric performance vehicles (I’m excluding electric commuter vehicles such as the Smart car because they’re not involved in the 0-60 war, staying north of 10 seconds). I’m guessing that most of the people who bought electric cars would not buy a car with an 800HP engine because they realize that it’s overkill and dangerous. It’s also fun, which they find out when they mash the accelerator pedal on their electric car and get all that acceleration. But they don’t realize how much power it is.

And then the electric cars don’t have to rev up. The power is there instantaneously, such as when you in a parking lot or approaching your garage (or even in your garage). And also couple that with the fact that electric cars do not creep along, and people need to be retrained for how to drive slowly.

With a normal car, the engine idles. If you let off the brake, the car will move along slowly. People are in the habit of handling slow maneuvers, such as parking, by lightly pressing the brake pedal and letting the idling engine overpower the light brake apply. Then when the car is in the right place, they press harder on the brake and stop. In other words, people use the same pedal to drive slowly and to stop.

Now jump in an electric car. There is no idle. If you’re not pressing the accel pedal, nothing happens. So to roll into a parking spot, you need to keep your foot lightly on the “gas” pedal. Now you want to stop. Your years of training have taught your foot to press down on the same pedal, so your mind doesn’t really even think about it – you creep along and then when you’re ready to stop you press down hard. Only, this is an electric car, so you had your foot on the accelerator. So you start to move. And it’s not like a gas-powered car, where there is a slight lag and a spooling up of speed. No, this is full instant power, so there’s no chance for your brain to recognize that the wrong thing is happening.

Electric cars need something like a Parking Lot Mode. Where it will move slowly and you can modulate your speed with the brake pedal. A number of electric vehicles have a one-pedal operation mode, but that’s with the accelerator, where you press it to go and release it to stop. They need the opposite, where the car goes when you let off the brake. But only for low speeds. I can see some liability issues there too. But everyone should already be used to cars behaving that way.

The alternative is that people need to be trained to drive cars two-footedly. That way, your right foot will never get confused as to which pedal it is pressing. Stop is left foot and go is right foot. The best part is that it will work in gas cars too. At least those with automatic transmissions.

Can anyone smash iron, Iron from the north, or bronze?

Jeremiah 15:12


Here’s my latest idea: skeeball plus bowling.

image of skeebowl

It’s perfect for people like me, who never got the hang of spinning the bowling ball to make it curve.

I’m not going to get around to making this, so someone else can give it a try.

He who digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.

Proverbs 26:27