Sep 2

Labor Day at $15/Hour

Posted by Simon

This year to celebrate Labor Day many in the labor movement are demanding that we raise the minimum wage.  Beware the urge to do good when it violates the laws of economics.

Cowpeople working

This year the major cry we are hearing on Labor Day is that we should raise the minimum wage to $15.00/hour.  I say don’t do it.  If you raise the price of something you are going to sell less of it.  Raising the minimum wage is a sure way to kill jobs, increase unemployment and decrease opportunity for the most disadvantaged.  It is a terrible idea and I can show you why.

Example One:  You run a fast food restaurant called Paul’s Burgers and the minimum wage goes up by 50% so you decide to buy an automated order entry system.  It will be like the ones they have installed at airports for boarding passes.  That way you don’t have to raise prices because you can eliminate most of the order writer jobs at the counter.  Good news for your customers: their burgers and the price stay the same.  Bad news for your future employees: there are four or five less entry level jobs at Paul’s.

Example Two: You work in a garment factory in Los Angeles, on a sewing assembly line, sewing sleeves on bridesmaids dresses.  You make just above the minimum wage but during busy times you get lots of overtime.  You welcome the increase in the minimum wage because it means more money for you right away.  But then you notice that the overtime has gone away and during the slow times your only working three days a week.  It turns out that the bosses have started sending the long lead time orders to a contractor in Mexico (or China or Myanmar).  Since labor cost went up it makes sense to organize to send more of the work to places where labor is cheaper.

Example Three:  You run a non-profit business that provides intensive English language and cultural training to recent immigrants from around the world.  Most of your trainers are college student who you train and pay roughly $10/hour for the mostly evening work.  Your source of funds is government grants, corporate sponsorships and private donations.  You welcome the minimum wage increase because it will promote “social justice.”  What you didn’t expect was that now your pretty constant sources of funding will only pay for about 60% as much of your services.  You have to lay off a third of your trainers and can now serve a third less clients.

A higher minimum wage is a trick.  It seems like it will help the poorest people but all it does in the long run is reduce their opportunities and therefore their net earnings.

BTW I think it is hypocritical to support a higher minimum wage and then to buy things on sale.  When you buy something based on price you are sending a signal to the marketplace that you want it to be cheaper.  So you are telling the supply chain that they should lower the cost of the item out of one side of your mouth and out of the other telling them to pay higher wages.  Make up your mind don’t be a hypocrite.



Jul 10


Posted by Simon

“It’s time to get in touch and get outgoing.”

is the opening line in the glossy full color brochure from


On the website it says:

“Welcome to Sherpa -an innovative membership community

and your bridge to a world of new opportunities.”

It appears that it is an organized meetup type of organization that will help people (probably retired people) find new activities, friends and places.

Will it work.  Even if it doesn’t it is a good idea.  Baby boomers are retiring in droves and not all of them golf, hike or quilt.  This type of organization might be just the thing.  I’ll report back in a year or so and let you know.

Jan 28

Carnegie Libraries

Posted by Simon

On our drive from Santa Fe to visit the Pecos Pueblo we visited the Carnegie Library in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  It was Sunday so the library was closed but as we drove up the sky cleared and I got this great photo.

Yes it was designed as a copy of Monticello.  The building of the Carnegie Libraries was an amazing thing.  It seems that someone like Stephen Fried who wrote Appetite for America about Fred Harvey and the Harvey Houses could do a great job telling the Carnegie Library story and sell a lot of books.

From the Wikipedia article: ” 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929″

When in Las Vegas NM eat at Charlies Spic & Span.  They have excellent Sopapillas and even better freshly made flour tortillas.

Dec 7

Smart Phone Holiday

Posted by Simon

If you have a smart phone here are a few easy things you can do to with it to improve the holidays:

  • When you get a gift from Aunt Sally in Coral Gables immediately take a photo of it and email her  a thank you. The photo email is the new thank you note.
  • Take a photo of a particularly nice Christmas display and email it to the oldest person in your family.  Say “I saw this and wanted to share it with you.”  Be sure to copy or blind copy your Mom.
  • Set your ring tone to a holiday jingle
  • Give the gift of Apps.
  • Learn to dictate and transcribe notes.  Then teach someone else.
  • Use a holiday symbol, Tree, Star etc as your background in December.
  • Use Postagram to send some real cards without ever going to the post office.
  • Share pictures of a few things that made you laugh.
  • Email your grandmother a picture of you having fun.

“Thanks Aunt Sally.”

Nov 28

Baby Food Update

Posted by Simon

This post is for those of you who are not in the child care loop.  It used to be that when a baby was ready to switch from a bottle or breast to more solid food she was literally spoon fed baby food.  Now those clever people at Gerber (owned by Nestle) have taken the mess, and the acculturation out of feeding toddlers.  They are marketing tubes of food.  It is a great idea, in the short run.  Grabbers are cleaner, more convenient and more hygienic.

But think about the long term effects.  It is now theoretically possible for a young person to grow to adulthood without ever having to chew food or learning to use a spoon or fork.  I can visualize a world where all food is the consistency of soft Brie.  And teeth are no longer necessary.  But eating will be more convenient.

You’re laughing but exactly the same thing is happening with the need to run and with the need to read.  Video has to a large extent ended the need to read and almost all running today is for pleasure.

I can visualize life without forks can you?

Jul 25

While traveling on the lifts and trains in Switzerland we met some young men who were base jumpers.  It is a sport in which you jump off a cliff and free fall for a few seconds then release a parachute. For those of you not familiar with this seemingly irrational behavior there is more on Wikipedia.  The few base jumpers we met were handsome, virile young men from middle class backgrounds.  The question raised in our minds was: “Why do they do it?  They have about a one in fifty chance of dying!”

Base jumping is regulated behavior in Switzerland

The only answer I could think of was that they are base jumping for the same reason that other young men join gangs, deal drugs or drive cars too fast.  They have a genetic urge to be virile, to tempt fate.  They want risk.  It seems to me that a successful society should allow young people space for this risky behavior.  The ideal space will be one in which they risk their lives without putting anyone else in danger.  So, by my criteria base jumping is a good sport. Drug dealing is not so good because it risks the lives of others.  Street racing is bad but NHRA racing is a good.

A perfect base jumping cliff


Jul 6

Remote Idea

Posted by Simon

At a hotel I stayed at in North Carolina they had a “Clean Remote” for the TV.

Apparently there are enough people in the world who worry about germs on remote controls to make this product feasible.  It reminded me of when remotes were new and the hotels bolted them down to keep them from being stolen.

“Lets stay at the Blank Hotel they have a clean remote.”

What an amazing world we live in.

Jul 2

Google News

Posted by Simon

“If it isn’t on the first page of Google search results,

it doesn’t exist.”

See my idea for Facebook Search

Jun 13

Ore Cart III

Posted by Simon

I may have to start an ore cart factory in order to get one for my yard.

Here I am posing with the one up at Henninger Flats.  It may become the prototype for the factory.  My brother Matt in the UK who is in the railway equipment business has found some wheels in a yard in the rural UK.  We aren’t sure how we are going to get them to the USA yet.  They don’t look like carry-on luggage.

There is lots to do but an ore cart will be a great addition to the garden.  And the perfect place to display all of the rocks and minerals I have brought home from various trips over the last 30 or 40 years.  They are currently stored in many large cartons in the garage.

May 27

Ore Cart II

Posted by Simon

I want an ore cart to display my rock samples and I saw one in Las Vegas and blogged about it.  My feeble efforts to find one or get one made were fruitless and I had pretty much given it up as another one of those wild ideas I have that come to naught.  Then on a hike to Henninger Flats last weekend I saw an ore cart.

In fact two ore carts:

They were part of a display about mining in the San Gabriel Mountains in the 19th and 20th centuries.  The thing I learned is that the wheel assemblies (trucks) are a separate piece from the cart.  I’m back to dreaming about ore carts.