Flashback

Britain starts to panic:

A food policy expert has warned a food disaster could be imminent unless the Government implements rationing. Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University in London, has written a letter to Boris Johnson asking him to ‘initiate a health-based food rationing scheme to see the country through this crisis’.
He wrote to the Prime Minister ‘out of immediate concern about the emerging food crisis’ and in the letter described public messaging about food supply as ‘weak and unconvincing’.
His warning comes after shoppers across the country have been met with empty shelves as panic-buying takes hold.

Back when I was running a now-defunct supermarket chain’s loyalty program in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire (Grand Union, if anyone out there remembers them), we had a common problem with “hot” items.

Often, our buyers got such good deals from manufacturers from bulk orders that our shelf retail prices were better than the wholesale price offered by distributors to local grocery stores and bodegas.  So the small-store owners would descend on our supermarkets and buy up all the sale items, to resell them in their own stores.  Nothing wrong with that, of course — except that it took stock away from our “regular” loyal customers, who typically accounted for 70% of total sales and close to 90% of gross profit.

So I put an end to all that.  Whenever the buyers told me about their hot price discounts (which they had to, as I was also in charge of Advertising), I would do two things:  make the low price available to loyalty card holders only, and then limit the number of items at that price to two or three per day per card.  Result:  we sold the same amount of product, only it was spread across a larger number of customers.

And I designed a sub-system for item purchase limits that automatically instituted the policy whenever the daily sales rate started accelerating past a certain velocity.  So if there were storm warnings and people started to stock up on, say, batteries, the in-store stock was quite- or nearly sufficient and would-be profiteers couldn’t play their reindeer games.

I did all this, by the way, back in the mid-1990s, so it’s not like it’s a new situation.

As I look now at the panic-buying of toilet paper and hand sanitizers, and the resulting empty shelves thereof, I can’t help wondering why all grocery stores haven’t been doing that now.  I know that not all chains (Wal-Mart especially) have loyalty programs, but most of the big ones do.  Doesn’t say much for their planning, does it?

And by the way, there’s also an answer for chains who don’t  have loyalty programs:  just institute price escalation (instead of -reduction) for multiple purchases:  first two items, $1.99 each, third or more items, $8.99 each.  With today’s technology, the software change should take about an hour to implement.

Food logistics is not something government should get involved in, despite the frantic appeals of “food policy” professors.

Alternative

As I get older and older, and the promise threat of assisted living gets to be ever-more imminent, I think this guy may be onto something:

A Texas man says he has no intention of checking into a nursing home during his golden years and is planning on moving into a Holiday Inn instead.  Terry Robison, 64, who is listed as a producer/director at Scarlet Tye Films, shared his novel thought about retirement in a now viral Facebook post.  “No nursing home for us. We’ll be checking into a Holiday Inn!” he begins, a referring to himself and wife Renee Wilson Robison, both of Spring, Texas.

I’ve often wondered about that option, myself.

My only prerequisites are a decent neighborhood (i.e. close to a decent pub and/or restaurant), proximity to a shooting range, and protected parking.  Oh, and a fast fiber-optic hookup.

Your thoughts in Comments?

French Revolution

As Mr. Free Market puts it, “The French have always been revolting, dear boy”, but this latest round of mayhem is outstanding, even for the French.

Violence has erupted again in Paris today as masked protesters stole an assault rifle from police, clashed with riot squads and set fire to cars and Christmas trees on the Champs-Elysées in furious demonstrations against the French government.
Riot police sprayed tear gas, fired water cannon and stun grenades and pulled out their batons to fight back against ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters who occupied the famous boulevard and graffitied the Arc de Triomphe.
Police said 80 people had been injured in clashes, including 16 security officers, and 183 people arrested as more than 5,000 demonstrators brought chaos to Paris for the second week running.
Masked and hooded protesters hurled crowd barriers at police in Paris and this evening stole an assault rifle from a police car in the city centre.
Meanwhile there were further rallies spiralling across the country, spreading to Marseilles, Biarritz and Antibes on the Mediterranean coast and even into the Netherlands.
The protests, named ‘Yellow Vest’ after drivers’ high-vis jackets, began last month amid fury over rising fuel prices but have mushroomed into an all-out challenge to Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.

Of course, they being French, there’s a certain element of style to the thing, even when burning the place down:

However, as my old buddy Erik at No Paseran! puts it, it’s more than just higher fuel prices which have got the Frogs miffed:

It is not wrong to say that the demonstrations were caused by the government’s decision to raise gas prices. What is missing is that this is just one of several draconian measures dating back half a year, i.e., ‘tis the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
For the past four to five months, the French government has done nothing but double down on bringing more and more gratuitous oppression and more and more unwarranted persecution measures down on the necks of the nation’s drivers and motorcycle riders.

Read the rest of it, because it’s quite obvious, when you follow the whole sequence of incremental governmental bastardy, just whence the burning anger came and why the French riots, unlike those pitiful pantomimes performed by our own Pantifa snowflakes, are so well supported by the French people en masse.

Good for them, I say.  Now, if I may be a little old-fashioned for a moment, let’s hope that the next scenes will show Frog politicians being carried in tumbrels to the waiting guillotines.

The Frogs always overdo things;  it’s one of their most endearing traits.

No Night Shifts

This is why I work the hours that I do:

A young woman trying to reach her destination flew into a rage and beat up an Uber driver all because he refused to take her to her destination in Peru.
In a three-and-a-half minute video, Solange Estrada Liza, who claims she had previously had some alcoholic beverages before getting into the altercation, was attempting to get the driver to take her to her final destination.
But an argument ensued when the ride-sharing application’s driver refused to make the trip because he considered the area to be unsafe.

And this is why I don’t work the late-night shift.  I often joke that my reason is that I’m too old to be cleaning vomit out of my car at two o’clock in the morning, but the plain fact of the matter is that I have a very short fuse when it comes to dealing with drunk people — and had this drunken tottie tried that shit with me, she’d still be in hospital having her dinner through a straw.

People often ask me about strange experiences I’ve had as an Uber driver, and are amazed when I say that I haven’t had any.  (Sheesh, I’ve had stranger experiences driving my own kids around.)  About 80% of my passengers (and 90% of my earnings) come from sleepy businessmen and -women heading to the airport long before dawn to catch the first flight out, and the strangest request I’ve ever had was to stop for coffee en route to DFW, at 4am.  (I’m pretty sure that if I’d said no to the poor man, I’d have broken some state law.  Besides, he bought me a croissant.)

I especially like the fact that I have a small “stable” of regular riders who like me to drive them to and from the airport each week, which I do with the greatest of pleasure.  (The mechanics are simple:  I get to their house at the time they want to leave, and when they’re in the car, they call for a driver — which I’ll always get because I’m the closest driver to their location.)

The saddest drive I’ve had was to take a young man to a hotel because his girlfriend had tossed him out of the apartment at 3.30am.  (I knew he was in trouble — he was sitting on the sidewalk with four suitcases, a backpack and his dog.  Technically, I’m only supposed to take actual service dogs, but under the circumstances, I’d have been a bigger asshole than his ex-girlfriend to have refused him a ride.  And the dog licked my neck all the way to the hotel as though he knew what was happening.  I refused to take a tip, by the way.)

And just a final note:  I’m not a cab driver who is pretty much required to take passengers wherever they want to go.  I’m an independent operator driving his own car, and I don’t have to take anyone anywhere I don’t want to go.  (I think the skeeviest place I’ve ever taken a passenger was the VA hospital south of Dallas — and I took him because three Uber- and Lyft drivers had already turned him down, and anyway when it comes to Vietnam vets, I’m the softest touch in the world.  The Dallas VA isn’t a scary place, but the town it’s in most certainly is, especially at 5am.)

So my “job”, such as it is, is pretty uneventful, and I like it that way because I’m too old for the kind of excitement described in the article above.  And I’m way too old to get into fistfights with drunken idiots.

HERESY!!!

Does anyone see anything strange about this pic?

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you.  A Japanese whisky just won the “world’s best” award — a Japanese single malt, withal.

Those of you who consider me to be a diehard traditionalist — and there may be a smidgen of evidence here or there to support your judgment — might expect me to start fulminating about such an occurrence, much as the French freaked out about a Californian wine winning best of show (as seen in the outstanding movie Bottle Rocket).

Well, forget that stuff.  Excellence is excellence, and it’s clear (from this account anyway), that the Japanese have worked out how to make fine whisky:

The essential difference between the classic whiskies of Scotland and those of Suntory is the type of barrels used for the ageing process. Single malts from Scotland are aged in a wide array of barrels, mostly made of French or American oak that were previously used to age sherry or Kentucky bourbon. The single malts picked up the residual essence and flavourings from the barrels, which added character to their respective flavour profiles.
The whiskies of Suntory have a distinctively Japanese touch, as only mizunara oak is used to age them and the resulting Japanese whiskies are a harmonious reflection of the place they’re from, with a purity of the sum of the ingredients and the skill of the artisans at Suntory.

The story behind Nikka whisky is equally fascinating (see the link above), and I have to tell y’all, I’m going to sample some as soon as Ye Olde Booze Allowance permits it.  The Nikka Yoichi single runs over $80 / bottle, from what I can see, and the low-end Suntory Hakushu just over $60.  Both seem worth a shot, so to speak.  (The “world’s best” stuff costs about the same as 25-year-old Macallan — i.e. way too spendy, so forget that.)

      

If they taste like drain cleaner, well, at least I tried.  If I like either of them, however, you may want to short the stock of Glenmorangie…

Japanese whisky:  who’d a thunk it?

Big Picture

I’m always amazed that people can sometimes get hoodwinked by statistics, but then I spent probably half my life working with the damn things, so I’m more or less immune to the problem. Here’s one which could affect me personally:

More than 120 Uber and Lyft drivers have reportedly sexually assaulted their passengers, according to a report by CNN.
After analyzing police reports, federal court records and county court databases across the US, the cable news channel found that over the last four years, at least 103 Uber drivers and 18 Lyft drivers have allegedly raped, forcibly touched or kidnapped passengers, among other crimes.

Whoever wrote this scare story needs to get a kick in the ass. Here’s the first part: the appearance up front of the total number — which is alarming, I’ll admit.

I’ll ignore the Lyft number for the moment, because I’m an Uber driver.

Granted, the hundred-odd incidences (rounding down to a manageable number) involving Uber drivers is too high — hell, one is too many — but we’re dealing with human beings here, and any human activity is prone to abuse.

At least the number of years was disclosed — four — which averages about 25 per annum. Still too many, but not as scary as the magic 100. But the killer statistic is really the one which CNN buries much later in the “report”, which is, 100 out of how many total Uber trips or events over four years did these attacks take place.

That number is, according to Uber, is 2.4 billion. In other words, the chances of anyone getting molested by an Uber driver are 1 in 24 million.

Even allowing (let’s say) that only unaccompanied women are going to get molested, and they account for about half of all Uber trips — which is roughly my experience — that’s still only 1 in 12 million.

Now factor in geography — i.e. places where the Uber driver population is skewed towards men most likely to commit these crimes — and the stats, just looking at the last names of people who are accused of such crimes, tend to support the hypothesis that these criminals fall into the Middle-Eastern and African  demographic, and many, especially in large urban metropolises, are fairly-recent immigrants — and the picture becomes especially clear.

What’s disturbing about all this is that Uber does screen potential drivers before enlisting them, which begs the question as to whether their screening process — or at least the proficiency of the company that Uber uses to do the screening — should not be more comprehensive or thorough. And you can be sure that Uber will do just that — because they too say that even one such incidence is too many.

Still, ladies: it looks like you’re safer taking an Uber trip* than walking (or even driving) to your destination, especially in a strange locale.

That’s the conclusion to be taken from the CNN report, even if that’s not necessarily the one that CNN wanted you to.


*You’re even safer, of course, if you have me as your Uber driver — unless of course I forgot to take my “special” pill that morning… [exit, drooling]