Stringing You Along


Efficiency in Action

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.

- Peter F Drucker

Why the Spoons?

by Stanford Dorbin, Chico

I took some clients out to dinner last week, and I noticed a spoon in the shirt pocket of our waiter as he handed us the menus.  It seemed a little odd, but I dismissed it as a random thing... until our busboy came with water and tableware.  He too, sported a spoon in his breast pocket.  I looked around the room, and all the waiters and busboys had spoons in their pockets.

When our waiter returned to take our order, I just had to ask, "Why the spoons?"

"Well," he explained, "our parent company recently hIred some Andersen Consulting efficiency experts to review all our procedures, and after months of statistical analyses, they concluded that our patrons drop spoons on the floor 73% more often than any other utensil at a frequency of three spoons per hour per workstation.  By preparing our workers for this contingency in advance, we can cut our trips to the kitchen down and save time - nearly 0.5 extra man-hours per shift."

Just as he concluded, a "ch-ching" came from the table behind him, and he quickly replaced the fallen spoon with the one from his pocket.  "I'll grab another spoon the next time I'm in the kitchen instead of making a specIal trip," he proudly explained.

I was impressed. "Thanks, I had to ask."

"No problem," he answered.  Then he continued to take our orders.  As the members of our dinner party took theIr turns, my eyes darted back and forth from each person ordering and my menu.  That's when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a thin black thread protruding from our waiter's fly.  Again, I dismissed it; yet I had to scan the room and, sure enough, there were other waiters and busboys with strings hanging out of their trousers.

My curiosity overrode discretion at this point, so before he could leave I had to ask.  "Excuse me, but, uh... why, or what, about that string?"

"Oh, yeah," he began, in a quieter tone, "not many people are that observant.  That same efficiency group found we could save time in the Men's Room, too."

"How's that?" I asked.

"You see, by tying a string to the end of our, uh, ourselves, we can pull it out at the urinals literally hands-free and thereby eliminate the need to wash our hands," cutting time spent in the washroom by over 93%!"

"Hey, wait a minute. If the string helps you pull it out, how do you get it back in?"

"Well," he whispered, "I don't know about the other, guys, but I use the spoon."

Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser, Boonville, California

Don't Lose Your Head!


The Hand of God?

Source: sent to them by Kirsty Robertson

"Perfect Sandcastle" Formula Unveiled

Scientists have come up with the formula for the perfect sandcastle.  It's W.125 x s - or one part water to eight parts sand, says BBC Online.  And they claim the beach at Torquay in Devon is the best in Britain for building sandcastles.

The team from Bournemouth University tested sand from low, middle and high water marks for load-bearing capacity, grain-size distribution, visual √¶sthetics, and cleanliness.  Team leader Professor Matthew Bennett said: "The correct mix of sediment and water is crucial to any castle.  "Its strength depends on how the grains interact.  Too much water, and the sand will liquefy.  Too little, and the sand won't bind.

Source: Thursday 27 May 2004

Two Intellects

Two retired professors were vacationing with their wives at a hotel in the Catskills.  They were sitting on the verandah one summer evening, watching the sun set.  The history professor asked the psychology professor, "Have you read Marx?"

The professor of psychology replied, "Yes and I think it's these pesky wicker chairs."

A Day in the Life of a Decision Scientist

2:00pm - Need to be at Dulles airport by 5:30 for flight to Kansas City (via Chicago) for Judgment and Decision Making (JDM) conference.  Need to decide whether to take 3:15 or 3:45 bus to Dulles.  Gut says 3:45 since the benefit of an additional half hour at home is greater than the slightly increased risk of a missed flight.  Head says it's Friday afternoon, might be big crowds on highway and at airport, better safe than sorry.  Decide to take 3:15 shuttle but don't leave house in time.  Take the 3:45 instead.  Get to Dulles in plenty of time.

4:00pm - Get in long line of United Premier members.  After 10 minutes, realise there are two lines - human versus non-human check-in machines.  I'm in the twice-as-long human line, even though I have an e-ticket.  If I switch now though, I'll be behind people who arrived 10 minutes after me.  In order to avoid feeling like a loser, I stay in human line.  Check bag (even though this was not my original intention) to justify the extra wait.

6:00pm - United terminal in O'Hare airport.  Go to Berghoff Caf√© for dinner.  Order cheese pizza and small beer.  Price of pizza ($3.50) is written on menu.  Price of beer is not.  Reach cashier and learn that price of beer = price of pizza = ridiculous price for 14 ounces of beer.  Feel flash of anger at sleazy marketing ploy.  Forgive Berghoff's because pizza is really good.

8:00pm - United flight to Kansas City.  Wish I had a magazine.  Sit down and see Newsweek in seatback.  Feel excitement and small surge of irrational pride.  Remove magazine.  It is Polish Newsweek.  Experience disappointment.  Feel worse than I did when I first sat down.  Derive satisfaction from observing the endowment effect and loss aversion in action.  Combine satisfaction with disappointment and arrive at slightly less than neutral.

10:00pm - Arrive at Hyatt hotel.  Am told the type of room I'd reserved (non-smoking king) was sold out.  Do I want a king suite instead?  I am tired and experience change aversion.  I want the room I reserved.  I ask if the suite will cost more.  Am told the only difference is that the suite is larger and has a Murphy bed instead of a regular bed.  Interrogate desk clerk to determine whether quality of Murphy mattress is greater than or equal to quality of regular mattress.  He assures me there is no difference.  Get to room, turn on light and inspect bed visually and dorsally.  Try to retrieve memories of other hotel beds.  Due to recency and frequency, all I can think of is my own bed.  Too tired to continue research.  Go to sleep.

Dr Deborah Frisch


Eye Rate

A man was dining in a fancy restaurant, and there was a gorgeous redhead sitting at the next table.  He had been checking her out since he sat down, but lacked the nerve to talk with her.  Suddenly she sneezed and her glass eye comes flying out of its socket towards the man.  He reflexively reached out, grabbed it out of the air, and handed it back.

"Oh my, I'm so sorry," the woman said as she popped her eye back in place.  "Let me buy you dessert to make it up to you."

They enjoyed a wonderful dessert together, and afterward, the woman invited him to the theatre followed by drinks.  After paying for everything, she asked him if he would like to come to her place for a nightcap... and stay for breakfast the next morning.  The next morning, she cooked a gourmet meal with all the trimmings.  The guy was amazed - everything had been incredible!  "You know," he said, "you are the perfect woman.  Are you this nice to every guy you meet?"

"No," she replied... You just happened to catch my eye."

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