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I just went out and had dinner with a guy who used to work for me. He took me out to dinner and expensed it to his new employer. He’s got a good job with a consulting firm in California. He’s a genuinely nice guy and I’m happy for him… He wants to work with me again at some point in the future and that means quite a bit to me. As cynical and uncaring as I may come off at times, it makes me happy when people like me. It makes me even happier when people who have worked with me in the past come back and tell me that they either learned a lot when they were with me, or respected the way I handed those few things that were under my control.
This fellow spent the evening encouraging me to go back to college and get my MBA, like he did. I’m conflicted about it. On one hand, I want it and I want the security, opportunity and higher wages that it might bring with it, but on the other hand something about it repulses me. I can’t articulate it, but I have these conflicting feelings. On one hand, I know that I’m good at business and I know that it’s in my blood to some extent. On the other, I’m ashamed of that fact. Every time I think about going to business school, I feel like either vomiting or spitting in my own face.
“So, this is what it’s like to have multiple personality disorder.”
So, right now, I feel like studying for the graduate entrance exams. Tomorrow I may not, but tonight I do. I want to go back to school and earn my MBA. I know, given the current climate of corporate mistrust, you must not be thinking very highly of me right now, but let me explain… I don’t aspire to be the next CEO of ENRON. I’d sooner dig out my eyes with a fork.
I’d want to use my degree for good. To be painfully specific, I’d want to use my degree to find a way to introduce alternative fuel technologies into the marketplace so that they make economic sense. I know that’s not exactly “shit your pants funny,” but I think that’s what I want to do with my life. I want use my talent, such as it is, to see that it becomes economically feasible to widely introduce technologies which will cut our use of natural resources.
The bottom line, and I’ve learned this from my years undercover, observing people in business, is that things won’t change until there’s money to be made, or until they’re made to change. For an example, US auto manufacturers will not seriously pursue alternative fuel vehicles until they are either forced to, or until it makes economic sense for them to do so. While the world may only have another 20 to 50 years of fossil fuel left (probably closer to 20, given the increased use by China and other developing nations), auto manufactures will keep making SUVs until the demand dries up. Their job is to increase shareholder value at any cost, not to save the world. That may seem counterintuitive, but that’s the way it is.
(GM, I should mention, is showing some foresight though. They have, in recent public statements, made it clear that their long-range goals take them beyond fossil fuel. They have indicated that their goal is to provide vehicles for such a vast number of people (i.e. all the people in China) that dependence of fossil fuel isn’t an option in the long-term. Toward this end, they are investing in alternative fuel research. Of course, they are also, at the same time pushing their own SUVs and fighting against the state of California and its current mandates concerning the percentage of zero emission vehicles that need to be on the road by 2004. Like I said, it’s a complicated issue.)
Each automaker says that if they didn’t give the consumer what he or she wanted, that said consumer would go elsewhere, and they’re right. Consumers would go elsewhere, as long as it makes economic sense for them to do so.
Of course, government intervention does work to move things along that the economy can’t. It’s doubtful that we would have experienced the last fifty years of prosperity, for instance, if not for the fact that the United States government stepped in and established the interstate highway system when it did. No entrepreneurs would have stepped up and made that significant of an investment. Right now, we’re faced with the same proposition relative to alternative fuels.
Let’s say, for instance, we decide to pursue hydrogen as the fuel of the future. What would need to happen to see that accomplished? How would fueling stations need to be altered or how would new ones be rolled out? How would hydrogen be processed and transported? How would legacy systems be dealt with? How would new vehicles be introduced? How do you go about convincing a critical mass of people to forgo what they’re comfortable with in favor of a new, perhaps risky technology? How are work forces retrained and transitioned? How can you get people to buy a fuel cell powered vehicle, for instance, when it’s unclear as to whether such a vehicle would retain its resale value? I’d like to work on market realignment strategies that take such questions into account.
OK, I promise never to post something so boring again. I’ve been drinking and you’ll have to forgive me… The point is, however, that things won’t just change because they should. Things won’t change unless a great many people are motivated to make a change. The puzzle is, how do we set things up so that a vast number of different constituencies, on a number of different levels, are all incented to pursue the same course, a course that makes sense for the future of the world?
OK, OK, I’m sorry for boring you. What if I talk about strippers for a while? Would you like that? Judging from the letters I’ve been getting, it looks like you folks appreciate the good wiener joke or stripper story more than you do the essays on the future of the human race. That really surprises me… I will, however, like the automakers, give you what you want, even if it’s to the detriment of our planet.
Print this and File it Under: “Mistakes Made By Mark that I Can Learn From”
I have to go to bachelor party this Saturday. Chances are, it will be my last. This is the last of my last good, straight, male friends that’s getting married. Once he’s hitched, that’ll be it. Every single one of my non-gay male friends will have given in to the seductive allure of married life.
I suspect that a few of those marriages won’t last. (I could say which ones, but then Linette would get mad at me and I’d have a few more couples not talking to me.) So, maybe there’s hope for bachelor parties in my future. That’s a long way off though. In the near term, this is it. This is my last one, and, because of that, I feel as though I should enjoy it.
My experiences at bachelor parties up till now haven’t been all that good. For some unknown reason, I tend to get really upset at them. It’s not like I break down and cry at the sight of a stripper, but it’s pretty damned close. The last bachelor party I went to, which happened to be my own, I spent the evening locked in an upstairs bedroom of a friend’s house, afraid of the strippers and other bad things taking place below. As best as I can figure it, I didn’t want to do something stupid by accident and ruin the plans for the wedding a few days later. I didn’t trust myself and I certainly didn’t trust my friends. (If you want the whole story, check out Crimewave USA #13.)
As a result of my behavior, people got mad at me. Apparently, I even upset the strippers. I guess they’d seen lots of shit go down at bachelor parties, but they’d never heard of a man barricading himself in a room, at least not in a room without them.
The bachelor party before that one, I also kind of let people down, but for a different reason. I was with a van full of guys who went to a strip club in Canada. After I found out that the exchange rate was what I considered to be a rip-off, I decided to go out and sleep in the van by myself.
In spite of all this, I was invited to the bachelor party this weekend. When I accepted the invitation, I promised that I’d be more social, even if it meant looking at naked women though the tears in my eyes and letting go of some hard-earned cash. I figure it’s my last chance to make amends for some of my bachelor party behavior of the past and to reverse some of the bad stripper karma that’s hanging over me like a black, bikini-waxed cloud.
So, here’s my problem, and it may not be the problem you expected from the intro… You see, I’ve somehow gotten myself into a situation where I don’t know how to use the ATM, so I can’t take out money for the bachelor party. As this circumstance never occurred to me, I never planned for it. Linette always gets the money out of the bank for us. And, until now, that’s worked just fine.
Even if I could take money out, thought, there’s a bigger problem. I have an insane dedication to Quicken, our home accounting software. I love it and I account for every penny I spend… It embarrasses me when I go to eat at Cracker Barrel or Old Country Buffet for lunch. Linette always gives me shit about it. But there’s no hiding it. When she asks me where I ate, I can mumble something and change the subject, but all she has to do is to check Quicken. If I give someone twenty-five cents for a bite of their tuna melt, it’d be there in Quicken for her to see.
“My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is being used against me!”
I have no secrets.
So, I want to take at least $150 out of the bank for this, my last bachelor party. I want to be able to chip in for the booze and the strippers when everyone else does. I don’t want to be cheap, like I usually am. I don’t want to sleep in the van or hide in the attic. This is my last chance to prove myself.
Unfortunately, this means that I have to ask my wife to get the money out of the bank for me. And, it’s embarrassing to have to ask for lap dance money, no matter how old you are.
The other problem is that once I get the money, even if I could get it, I’d have to account for it. I couldn’t just say that I’d lost the money. I couldn’t even make up a fake reason, because I don’t trust myself to remember later that the fake reason wasn’t real. (Does that make sense?) I couldn’t for instance say it was for “charity” for fear that I’d forget it really wasn’t it and reference it on my tax returns, only to be arrested for it later.
Don’t let your OCD run your life.
Don’t let Quicken dominate you.
Don’t ever get in a situation where you don’t have fast access to untraceable cash.
If you’re upset by strippers the way some folks are upset by clowns, keep it to yourself.