Saturday, June 26, 2010

If the Price Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Tonight I watched The Informant - starring Matt Damon, it chronicles the true story of Mark Whitacre, a corporate whistleblower who turned his company in for price fixing in the 1990s. Having gotten to hear him interviewed at The King's College last semester (you can download the interview here), I was especially excited to see it.

What struck me while watching the film was the amount of trust and effort that went into price fixing. In order to fix prices, at least two companies have to agree to buy or sell the same product for a set amount. In this case, that product was lysine, and Whitacre's company ADM was involved with multiple producers on an global level.

In order for price fixing to work, someone initially has to suggest it - in other words, you have to casually bring up the possibility of illegally joining forces to your competitors (people who don't want to see you succeed). This is dangerous and could result in a variety of bad outcomes - however, assuming your competitors lack conscience to the same degree you do, you both have to trust each other to not cheat the other one, and to stick to the agreed-upon price. Two crooks/cheats/liars have to trust each other to play by the rules when it comes to playing by the rules. Not a good risk to take.

If (miraculously) this works, you actually have to determine a price point at which to artificially set the prices. This should be close enough to the market price to not arouse suspicion, but far enough away from it to make it worth your while. This requires market research, calculations, estimates, and ultimately a guess. After all the work that goes into finding a good price alone, would that time have produced a revenue increase if you spent it trying to cut costs, improve production, or help more customers?

Price fixing is a lot like cheating on a test - for starters, both are forms of cheating. There's also a good deal of trust involved - just like the price fixer trusts his competitor to not rat him out, the copycat trusts his classmate to have better answers than he does. The effort is similar too - while the price fixer has to spend all sorts of time (that could have been spent on real work) figuring out how to not get caught, the cheater does as well - in the time it takes to concoct an elaborate cheating scheme, he could have simply studied the material.

Price fixing (beyond the obvious moral failings) simply doesn't make sense as a sound business decision - having to trust your competitors with incriminating information, having to pour in an inordinate amount of effort, and facing the constant threat of jail all make it a poor choice.

While I'm all for the free market (and I think it is too regulated right now), price fixing should not be allowed for two main reasons (as well as the common-sense ones I've listed above):
1. Agreed-upon economic rules are necessary.
2. It takes power away from the free market.

1. Agreed-upon economic rules are necessary because the rules determine the game. It's pretty hard to play Canasta if half the people are using Texas Hold 'Em rules. If people start playing by different rules, they start playing a different game. If we're playing Canasta, it doesn't matter that you think your cards are better suited to poker - just because you don't like how the game is treating you doesn't mean you get to switch games in the middle.

2. Though typically we think of the free market as minimally regulated (which I think is typically accurate), forbidding price-fixing actually helps the free market, by letting it set the prices instead of a room of board members. In a free market setting, the supply and demand curves determine the equilibrium price. In a price fixing setting, whoever is fixing prices determines how much you pay. As an advocate for the free market, I'd always rather let the "invisible hand" determine the cost of goods and services than someone in a conference room in Hawaii.

From a purely economic standpoint, without ever having to point out the obvious (that price fixing is immoral and should not be done simply because it is unethical), we've established that price fixing requires too much trust and poorly allocates time and resources, and that this view is consistent with favoring free markets.

If none of those reasons are good enough, just think - there's always the possibility that an A-list actor will gain weight in a high-publicity manner to make a movie about the man who exposed all your dirty laundry, and they'll say your company's name repeatedly to make sure everyone in America knows who tried to change the rules on them. Later, a girl in a pencil skirt will blog about it and will mention your company name again just for good measure. But if that's what you really want ...

I did all this in:
Grayish pencil skirt, purple embroidered wrap shirt, pearl bead necklace, pink faux crystal flower studs, and black leather open-toed slingback pumps.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Growing Up Game Show

Today when I was on the treadmill, TLC decided to air a program about "police women" (aka people who will NEVER let you off with a warning) instead of something I actually wanted to watch. I ended up watching "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" instead - I know, you thought it had officially died. Actually, they've not only kept it alive on late-afternoon television, but they've changed the rules to make it even easier than before - now even if you miss a question, you're still in the game (your winnings just go back to zero). While the maximum prize has been diminished (from $1,000,000 to $250,000), it's still a pretty easy game show - a high humility risk, but questions those of you who weren't homeschooled can answer (while we were reading before we were potty trained, you were learning useless factoids like what a megalodon was). For those of you looking to make a buck in an unconventional manner, I've provided a handy cost/benefit analysis of some game shows for you.

"Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"
Well, I sort of let the cat out of the bag on this one, but let's go through the motions anyway.

Costs: You are almost certainly going to have to say "I am not smarter than a fifth grader."


Benefits: Maximum winnings of $250,000. Some questions may be true/false or multiple choice. You can have your fifth-grade helper "save" you, "copy" his or her answer, or "peek" at said answer. Even if you answer a question incorrectly, you're still in the game.


Strategy: You get to choose the order of your questions, each of which is worth a set amount, so you get to decide how to allocate your "cheats" and natural smarts in order to lose the smallest amount of money possible.

"The Price is Right"
Losing Bob Barker dealt a serious blow, but if you've been watching it just for the outdated set pieces ... well, those are mostly gone too. Anyway, it's a classic and what many of us watched when we were sick (or for you homeschoolers, when you finished school three hours ahead of schedule).

Costs: Literally! You have to know standard pricing for everything from coffee-makers to cars (and it's all California prices). Since California isn't known for its common sense or sound economic choices, this could be harder than you think. You also have to be chosen to participate in the bidding, win the bidding, (hopefully) win your game, win the Showcase Showdown, and win the Showcase. Your chances of making it through these are slim.

Benefits: You can win an assortment of prizes (occasionally cash) at progressing levels. However, these prizes tend to be ugly furniture sets. You really go to this one for the experience.

Strategy: To get on in the first place, try to be energetic and have something clever and mildly "come hither-ish" on your fitted t-shirt. To win bidding, hope everyone else thinks that a home training machine is ridiculously expensive, so you can bid $1. If that fails, bid $1 more than the competitor who stole your original guess. During your game, pay attention and don't be stupid. Showcase showdown - pray that the wheel loves you. Showcase - add up everything in your head, and knock about $3,000 off what you think the price should be. Remember, it's always the closest without going over.

"Wheel of Fortune"
For people who can't get enough of the puzzle section in the newspaper, and probably have cats. Lots of cats. Oh, and if you're in the "Wheel Watchers Spin Club," you probably meant to sign up for the "Weight Watchers Spin Class" instead. I always find this mildly confusing and insulting.

Costs: If you're really not good with words, this could be rough. Basically, you're playing hangman, while spinning a wheel to determine how much money you'll get for guessing a letter correctly. If you lose (or guess a letter that has already been guessed) it's a little embarrassing. Vowels cost you $250 - that's why you have to "buy" them. My name would cost you $1,000 even.

Benefits: They pay you money for guessing a letter. Think about that. If you know your alphabet and can spin a large game show wheel, you could win big. The trick is to guess in a good order. R, S, T, L, N, E ... and sometimes Y, right? Also, Vana White could be a big plus for some of you. And you know. Pat Sajack is pretty cool too.

Strategy: Spell real words. Don't get stuck wanting it to be "Chopsticks" if there's only one c. Guess well - look for words like "the" or ending in "ing" or with "'s" somewhere. Also, don't land on the "bankrupt" or "skip a turn" sections.

"Jeopardy!"
This show is the antithesis to "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" The questions are hard, the money small, and you're probably going to lose to a guy from MIT who invented wireless internet.

Costs: Hard questions, relatively small money, and however much a question is worth, if you guess incorrectly, you lose that amount of money. You're also trying to buzz in faster than the previously-mentioned nerdy genius, and the frizzy-haired librarian in a blazer who'll probably move on and try "Wheel of Fortune" at 6:30.

Benefits: If you're good at this game, you're brilliant. You've probably invented something, saved the world, or spend your time editing Wikipedia and thus know everything about everything. Alex Trebek will share some funny and mildly embarrassing story about your life with everyone in America watching network television at 6 pm. The waiting song they play while you write your guess in Final Jeopardy! is used for every break in the action in everything, so you already know it, and it sounds like "I'm a Little Teapot" at the end.

Strategy: Know when you're right, know when you're wrong, and react accordingly. Don't "accidentally" buzz in, and don't overthink it and let the librarian's trigger-finger get the best of you. Also, if you aren't very strong in the Final Jeopardy! category (like "Mid-Nineteenth Century Australian Sporting Events"), DON'T WAGER EVERYTHING. Strategy for what to wager depends on the category and how much money your opponents are wagering. Many an MIT grad has been crushed due to strategy (or lack thereof) in Final Jeopardy!

Cost/benefit analyses are helpful, and one of the most applicable economic concepts I've ever come across. You should now be fully prepared to make an educated choice about what game show fits you best. Start practicing the cheesy grin.

(Technically I didn't wear my business casual on the treadmill.)
But I really did think of all this in:
Black pencil skirt, gold cap-sleeve short belted jacket, purple and gold beaded dangle earrings, black and silver watch, and gold and ecru giraffe-print wedges with turquoise piping.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I don't "Love" "Two" "Smell" "Magic Carpets"

This morning while getting ready for work, I heard Ke$ha's* song "Your Love is My Drug." I didn't really think much of it because: I listen to hit radio in the mornings, so there's limited selection, and I hadn't woken up feeling like P. Diddy.

While driving to work, the morning radio wasteland—with its plethora of bad jokes, trivia contests, and traffic updates without a single non-jingle tune playing—led me to extensive dial-changing. I had finally settled on a quasi-Indie station, which started playing "Smoke Two Joints," which is a really blatant song about, well, smoking two joints.

At work, I listen to Pandora (my work speakers were the best things to ever happen to me - I sit at my desk and listen to Pandora play softly, mixed with the gentle hum of my typing). When "That Smell" by Lynyrd Skynyrd came on, I almost had to skip it because, even though the lead singer is actually appalled at the drug abuse in his band, the song is about the smell of drugs, and that's not really "workplace appropriate."

To round out my trippy day, Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" also played—and although it's less obvious than the previous selections, even my little sister knew this song was about drugs when she was around 11.

It wasn't 4/20, I wasn't in Boulder, and I wasn't tripping - there were just a lot of songs about drugs that played today. It got me thinking about drug legalization. While many of my libertarian-leaning friends advocate drug legalization for taxation purposes, I do not. There are lots of things that the government could tax if it only legalized them—prostitution, for one. If people will pay for nasal and mental pleasures, imagine the lucrative possibilities of the carnal ones!

Part of living in a free society, however, is that you can't do whatever you want just because technically you can. In other words, freedom needs morality to survive without becoming anarchy. Morality dictates that, even in a free market, some things are simply not for sale. Bodies happen to be one of these things—and I would argue that drugs are another. We have decided that the societal cost of drug legalization would outweigh the societal cost of the status quo. We limit many things (legal blood alcohol levels, number of guns you can purchase, how many boxes of blueberries you can buy when they're 10 for $10), because a society where everything is available in unlimited amounts quickly becomes a mob.

Beyond that, entities tend to be resistant to increased competition, because it drives down their prices and hurts their profit margins. The fantasy land of increased tax revenues coming from legalized marijuana ignores the very real possibility that legalization makes cartel-related violence worse, not better. If you take away a crop of income from committed criminals, I don't think their go-to instinct is to say "God bless Adam Smith" and continue commerce as usual.

On top of these reasons, imagine a world of legalized drug usage—Ke$ha, bless her heart, might look NORMAL.

I listened to all this in:
Small houndstooth-print high-waisted pencil skirt with side-ruffle, white button-up shirt (tucked in), pink heart-shaped earrings, silver watch with chain of consecutive circles, and black and gray wingtip-inspired heels.

*No really. That's how she decided to spell her stage name. The woman is 23 years old, and spells her name with random punctuation. Maybe I should be @le*@ndr@? Oh wait, no. That looks RIDICULOUS.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coffee Forever

Today, when my sister came to pick me up from work, she (despite being a little worked up from some stressful errands) nicely suggested we go to Starbucks. I had my happy "free birthday drink" postcard along (she offered to buy me Starbucks, but it was definitely my turn to pay), and I had been craving Sbux all day, so I readily agreed.

Since I could get any drink for free, I naturally HAD to get a Venti. This is why I am still awake and not even a little bit sleepy - I'm very sensitive to caffeine after 3 PM. Though I think I secretly realize that sometimes free doesn't mean FREE, I'm a slow learner and easily distracted by good deals.

My sister and I had a nice, bouncy, caffeinated afternoon, for those of you wondering - but then of course I got all jittery and shaky, which wasn't particularly fun. And now I'm awake, blogging about ordering stupid things when I could be sleeping. Like caffeine, economics has serious consequences. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad, but they're always long-term.

In economics, everyone reacts to each other - a rise in quantity demanded will increase prices, which will likely lead to a rise in quantity supplied, which leads to a drop in price, which decreases the quantity supplied, which will eventually get back to equilibrium. If things like consumer preferences never changed, this could theoretically go on forever.

This is why making sound economic choices is so important - not just in the short-term, like getting a free Venti in the late afternoon, but starting things like government bailouts and healthcare. These choices affect and will continue to affect our economy in ways we are still unaware of - and even if the leadership changes, the effects will continue. Economics is kind of like a can of Pringles - once you pop, the fun won't stop. Once you act, the ramifications don't stop - especially if they're caffeinated ramifications. Those can stay up and party all night long.

So while I spent my afternoon reading, with what looked like a bad case of nervous leg syndrome (NLS), the economy could spend all next year in the doctor's office to treat that imaginary case of NLS, costing taxpayers, which could eventually mean cutting services, which could be bad news for people with real cases of NLS. Unlike my coffee buzz, which will be completely gone in the morning, the consequences of our economic choices will be here for years. Decaf, anyone?

I did all this in:
Black pencil skirt, black lace-edged cami, hot pink sleeveless collared wrap shirt, cubic zirconia square studs, black & clear small concentric circle necklace, and black and white polka dot slingback peep-toe wedges with hot pink lining.

Lunchtime at Tiffany's

Today at work, the servers were mostly fixed - we decided to use one of the computers to act as a temporary server, so ironically we had use of everything except for one program ... and email. Since we had lost all day Friday, and I had more files to open than Lady Gaga has news-worthy moments at sporting events, I spent most of the day trying to catch up.

It turns out my inbox wasn't the only place with last week's rejects in it. The fridge had a good amount of those too - namely, my turkey sandwich from last Thursday. See, we had had a class come in, and we fed them a simple lunch. Always on the lookout for free food, I decided my turkey sandwich could wait one day, and I could eat free food instead. Well, the next day our servers crashed (and so did our associate attorney's relationship with the office ladies), and I went to lunch at a yummy Italian restaurant. Not wanting to bring home a soggy turkey sandwich for over the weekend, I left it in the fridge at work. For today. Monday. The one day in the entire week where you really want to eat a four-day-old turkey sandwich. Mmmmm.

It wasn't like this was just bread, mustard, and lunch meat though. See, in the "American hustler" spirit (where you always try to make life a little better), I have started what I like to call "Everyday Gourmet." This is the part of the show where I jazz up my boring brown-bagged meal and hope that my friends on the Food Network approve. So sitting in the office for the better half of a week was whole-wheat bread with dijon mustard, turkey, sliced strawberries, mixed greens, and blueberries (my mom wanted to take the blueberry box to the trash that day, so I hurriedly threw them in the Ziploc too). What had started as a better than average turkey sandwich ended up being moister than sponge cake.

Pulling it out of the fridge was worse than I was expecting - the bread was literally falling apart and probably could have been wrung out like a washcloth. The greens were wilted, the strawberries had that sort of glazed-over look that I think is like a berry's form of a scab, and the blueberries that had been a little wrinkled on Thursday morning were now desperately in need of Botox. I thought maybe I could salvage the bread by popping it in the toaster oven. Unfortunately, I used the toaster, not the oven, and my bread curled up, wrapped itself around the metal, and fell apart. I then had to dig out small chunks of simultaneously burned and soggy wheat bread, and eat those along with my past-its-prime fruit.

Needless to say, it was more "Everyday Eww" than "Everyday Gourmet." I did learn an important economics lesson though - some goods last a long time, and others don't. Long-term purchases like houses, furniture, and diamonds are great - you can use them everyday or once a year, and they really stay basically the same. Sure, they might need a little dusting or a fix-up, but they're in it for the long haul. Short-term purchases like turkey sandwiches, paper plates, kleenexes, and pedicures are great while they last, but really kind of stink after they've peaked. Taking that into consideration, it might have been better if I had left a tennis bracelet in the fridge, instead of my sandwich.

This is just one of the reasons that we spend a lot more on a couch than on a box of kleenex - the couch can be used hundreds, maybe thousands of times (especially if you count its many uses - visual focus, place to sit, toy box, etc.), while a kleenex is really only good once - maybe twice in an emergency. Thus, long-term purchases usually pay for themselves (a $300 couch you use ONLY 900 times costs you $.30 per use). Short-term purchases don't use a huge portion of income, so we're okay replacing them frequently. Long-term purchases are also usually more fun to own and provide more long-term happiness than a bunch of short-term items.

And you wondered why Marilyn Monroe didn't say turkey sandwiches were a girl's best friend ...

I did all this in:
Grayish pencil skirt, navy blazer with three-quarter-length sleeves and purple detailing, purple and silver disk earrings, and navy pumps with bright-yellow-piping bows.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Give-Your-Kid-A-Head-Start Day

Today was Father's Day - and also my sister's birthday party (she's 14 now!). I'm sure you don't want a minute-by-minute account of what I did, so I'll give you something short.

In thinking about fathers, I was struck by how many kids won't be able to really celebrate Father's Day since their dads are currently elsewhere - and that unfortunately, this has real ramifications for them and for society as a whole. Study after study has shown that one of the best things you can do for your kids is marry their mom. Ann Coulter (love her or hate her, she does her research) spends a whole chapter on this in her book Guilty. One particularly terrifying paragraph includes research that "70 percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. ... 70 percent of teenage births, droupouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents, and child murderers involve children raised by single mothers." (see bottom for references)

In other words, one of the best advantages a man can give his kids is simply to be their dad in the old-fashioned sense. Sticking around, being part of their lives, staying married to their mother, etc. Certainly there are some horrible exceptions, but as a general rule, having your dad around is one of the greatest things that can happen to you.

I'm thankful for my dad, not just for being there, but really being an exceptional father. Since this is an economics blog I won't gush, but both of my parents are incredible people - and two of my best friends.

Thanks to them, I get to do a lot of sweet things - several of which I did on Father's Day itself. I got to hear my dad teach on Revelation, go to my brother's baseball game, blog, chop fruit, make hamburger patties (who knew they'd shrink so much? The buns swallowed what had been nice-sized burgers. I think perhaps shrinkydinks have "ground beef" as a main ingredient.), have extended family over for my sister's birthday, and watch a movie.

So even though it's a little silly, I'd just like to repeat what I said to my dad this morning: Happy Father's Day. I love you.

I did all this in:
Zebra-like patterned knee-length strapless sheath dress, silver hoop earrings, gold antique-style charm bracelet, and spring-green leather and cork concealed-platform-style (with a visible platform) stilettos.


The facts from Ann Coulter's book Guilty appear on page 37 and are cited from Richard E. Redding, "It's Really About Sex: Same-Sex Marriage, Lesbigay Parenting, and the Psychology of Disgust," C. C. Harper and S. S. McLanahan's "Father Absence and Youth Incarceration," Wade Horn's "Why There is no Substitute for Parents," Chuck Colson's How Shall We Live, and David T. Lykken's "Reconstructing Fathers," respectively. And yes, I know that wasn't in MLA formatting. The freedom of blogging!

I Love Chains (and so does Meg Ryan)

For those of you paying attention to my intro, you noticed I only wear "Biz Cazh" six days a week. Saturday being a day full of sporting events and super-casual clothes, it's a bit of an orphan. It might take me a little while to figure out what I'm going to do with Saturdays, but since I'm behind this week anyway, I guess it doesn't really matter.

Last night (Saturday), my mom, sisters, and I watched You've Got Mail. While it's hard to find a chick flick I don't like, You've Got Mail comes dangerously close. The first is the technically-not-wrong-but-mildly-redundant-and-very-informal-title, which (if it hadn't been for AOL popularizing the phrase) could simply read: You have mail. Stylebook preferences aside, what really bothers me is that the movie can't get to Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks falling in love, because it keeps getting interrupted by anti-chain-store rants.

Going to school in Manhattan, I hear my fair share of this drabble - the importance of "buying local," supporting boutiques and start-up stores, the need for "character" in a neighborhood, the evils of suburbia, and on and on. Of course these little shops are adorable - the problem is, they charge a steep premium for charm, when convenience tends to be the non-tangible good of choice.

Certainly I love going to a little bakery decorated like something out of Anne of Green Gables, but most of the time I'm just looking for something to feed my sweet tooth quickly so I can get back to homework. If I want an experience, I'm probably not going to head to Starbucks - but if I have a friend in crisis mode, I'm not going to make her walk a mile to get her a cuter scone to cry over.

Magnolia Bakery is a favorite in Manhattan - from college students like myself to tourists who saw it in an SNL Digital Short, it seems that Magnolia has a recipe for success (I couldn't help the bad pun). With popularity came multiple locations - technically making them a chain. Encyclopedia.com (OK, it's not Wikipedia and it's not a multivolume tome - cut me some slack on sources, please!) defines a chain store as consisting of "two or more retail outlets, operated by the same company, which sell the same kind of merchandise." So anything with two or more locations is a chain and is (according to the writers of You've Got Mail) evil.

In other words, as soon as a sweet, charming place like Magnolia is busy or popular enough to need a second location, it goes from adorable, authentic, and neighborhood-oriented to one of the most atrocious aspects of modern life. While I'm sure these well-meaning people would prefer having a four-location chain like Magnolia (although they are about to open an L.A. store, which will send them into the next category of maleficence - a national chain) to a megastore like Target or Wal-Mart, or national brand like Dairy Queen, they have still turned on a former friend.

Magnolia tarted with one location in Manhattan, grew to four, and are now expanding to a national market. Assuming their popularity continues, we could have a Magnolia in every major city in the US - or if they expand to an online store, perhaps you could have Magnolia on demand anywhere in the world (plus shipping and handling, of course). Can you imagine it? Delicious red velvet cupcakes whenever you wanted? The horror!

Chain stores are success stories - they are business models that worked, were well-received, and duplicated. Hating chain stores and calling for their demise raises interesting questions - few would say that Magnolia is at the same repugnant level as something like Dairy Queen, but where does the difference lie? The number of stores? That's arbitrary. Are 200 locations really worse than two? The length of time they've been around? Also arbitrary. An established store like Macy's versus something newer like Kohl's? How they treat animals/the environment/other politically-loaded pet causes? If one store treats them well, why not have six stores treating them well? If one store treats them badly, it seems they have bigger problems than becoming a chain. In other words, there is an arbitrary "success-level" that sends a provider of goods and services from the realm of "we're so proud of you" to "we'll picket you until you die." We see this in tax brackets as well - the more successful you are, the bigger piece of your pie the government wants. This helps (among other things) disincentivize doing well - which makes less sense than dressing like Lady Gaga to be inconspicuous.

As long as everyone plays by the rules, you can't cry foul when someone wins the game. It seems that (despite loads of left-leaning preaching) the writers of You've Got Mail eventually understand this. In the end, Meg Ryan's cute bookshop goes under thanks to Tom Hanks's Barnes-&-Noble-type megastore, allowing Meg Ryan to explore new, better career paths and fall in love with Tom Hanks without feeling like she's betraying her hatred of chain stores. Although, who can blame her? She met him over dial-up. If painfully-slow internet connections can't bring people together over chain store disagreements, what can?

I thought of all this in:
Bright, multi-colored plaid shorts (not bermuda-length), a pale green empire-waisted spaghetti-strap cotton top, white beaded hanging hoop earrings, and black flip-flops.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Server 1, Office 0

So, today when I came into work, our server was down. This meant Word, Excel, and ProLaw didn't work, and we couldn't save anything to the server (so even though email and the internet worked, they were mostly useless). Since our emails worked, I got to read a really condescending email that had most of the women in the office hopping mad all day long - but that has more to do with "don't-send-stupid-emails-telling-the-women-you-work-with-their-writing-sucks-if-you're-the-new-guy-in-the-office" than any real economic concepts, so I'm going to move on.

What was genuinely interesting was what a day looks like without our computer server. I came in, and was told to not even bother turning on my machine. So, I got some coffee, texted a friend, and looked for things to do. During the time-of-no-computers, I filed about 15 folders and 7 loose papers, shredded the equivalent of a small forest, sent two long emails, cleaned out the dishwasher, tested a fax, and listened to my co-workers complain about the email above - about 25 minutes' worth of real work.

The sender of the infamous email (who I've always gotten along with, for the record) told me I could go home sometime after hour two, but I waited around until I had heard from one of the two partners - both because I didn't want to be stupid and because it wasn't terrible to get paid to chat and email. After cementing the fact that the servers wouldn't be up the rest of the day, me and my two still-fuming coworkers went to lunch, taking the day off.

All of this brought to mind interesting questions about technology - I'm not going to complain and say that the world's going to end because we rely on computers too much, but honestly, it was a little weird. Our office isn't even particularly cutting-edge - we're still in the process of eliminating paper files, and will probably always have to send certain letters by "snail mail." We're pretty dependent on paper even now, and we couldn't do ANYTHING except catch up on emails when our server crashed - we couldn't check the status of certain files, prepare forms, or make any real progress. The company lost a whole day's worth of work (and paid at least three of us for half of it), and the server might not even be back up on Monday.

That being said though, computers save us hours and hours every day. I can prepare a letter in about half an hour, because I can check three websites for crucial information (information I would have had to either phone for or drive somewhere and look up), open a file by copying and pasting (instead of having to make and label actual hanging files), enter information into a master spreadsheet and a database, which allows me to bill directly (instead of having some sort of office encyclopedia of cases and having to bill in a separate ledger), calculate amounts owed on the computer (instead of having to merge ledgers by hand), change information on a form letter (instead of having to manually copy and paste on a typewriter-generated form letter), and email it to my boss for review (instead of dropping it in his "to do" box). Even if I'm doing a different kind of document, the computer gives me these kinds of alternatives.

I don't have the numbers, and I'm not going to pretend I do, but I imagine that the computer allows me to do in an hour what it would otherwise take me at least a day to do. So even if it crashes and renders our entire office totally useless, I still think that it is overall a huge benefit. In a world full of rapidly-changing technology, it is easy to fall completely on one side or the other - where either technology is worse than Hilary Clinton in an orange pantsuit (go google image THAT), or better than deals at a blowout sale. I think after my very uneventful day at the office, I'd conclude that technology is like highways - if it works, it speeds things up exponentially. If it's jammed or under construction, it's a nightmare - but still not as bad as the ramifications of sending a stupid email.

I did all this in:
White, knee-length linen swing skirt, white and cornflower-blue layered camis, white jean jacket with rolled sleeves, blue and silver beaded hoop earrings, blue bead and shell ring, and pink and blue plaid wedges.