Link Roundup -- June 24, 2007
This post is a random grab bag of what I found interesting this weekend.
A Long Line for a Shorter Wait at the Supermarket. A search for higher customer satisfaction (and higher profits) led Whole Foods to revamp their checkout lines.
Lines can also hurt retailers. Starbucks spooked investors last summer when it said long lines for its cold beverages scared off customers. Wal-Mart, too, has said that slow checkouts have turned off many.
And they are easily turned off. Research has shown that consumers routinely perceive the wait to be far longer than it actually is.
Whole Foods executives spent months drawing up designs for a new line system in New York that would be unlike anything in their suburban stores, where shoppers form one line in front of each register.
The result is one of the fastest grocery store lines in the city. An admittedly unscientific survey by this reporter found that at peak shopping times "” Sunday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. "” a line at Whole Foods checked out a person every 4.5 seconds, compared with 19.6 seconds for a line at Trader Joe's.
Put Kieran on a poster. A student in Saskatchewan, Canada learned that independent learning is a quick route to the principal's office.
King, who is in Grade 10 at a high school in tiny Wawota, Sask., started researching marijuana after he and his fellow students were given an audiovisual presentation about drugs earlier in the year. The presentation, from his entirely believable description, was typical of its kind: short on background facts and long on horror stories.
On May 30, Kieran, who is described as "research-obsessed" by his mother, was chatting with friends around the school lunch table and telling them about what he'd discovered, largely from scholarly and government sources. He argued that marijuana carries a near-zero risk of overdose, that it has been approved by Health Canada for medical use and that it kills an infinitesimal fraction of the people that alcohol and tobacco do every week -- claims so uncontroversial you'd have to be high on something much stronger than pot to dispute them.
But one of the students who'd witnessed the conversation apparently finked to the warden. (From this day forward I'm going to avoid the use of the term "principal." If schools are going to be run like prisons, let's adopt the appropriate lingo.) Boss bull Susan Wilson ordered Kieran to stop talking about marijuana on school premises -- even though he had been outside the classroom, where school officials have to meet a justifiably high standard before interfering with a student's freedom of speech -- and later she called his mother to warn her that "promoting drug use" would not be tolerated. According to the education director of the school division, she was also told "if there were any drugs brought into the school, the police could be involved."
Next up, robots may make arguments over illegal immigrants moot. Farms Fund Robots to Replace Migrant Fruit Pickers
Vision Robotics, a San Diego company, is working on a pair of robots that would trundle through orchards plucking oranges, apples or other fruit from the trees. In a few years, troops of these machines could perform the tedious and labor-intensive task of fruit picking that currently employs thousands of migrant workers each season.
The robotic work has been funded entirely by agricultural associations, and pushed forward by the uncertainty surrounding the migrant labor force. Farmers are "very, very nervous about the availability and cost of labor in the near future," says Vision Robotics CEO Derek Morikawa.
Once again, we see an example of political uncertainty leading companies to make investments and decisions that they wouldn't ordinarily make. Something to keep in mind anytime Congress starts debating something -- the debate itself can affect the real world.
Finally, many men are so afraid of child molestation accusations that they're no longer volunteering for any position that would put them near children. See Daily Pundit Â» Where Are The Big Brothers?.
The article sets out a number of possible reasons men don't volunteer at Big Brothers-Big Sisters in greater numbers "“ but the fact that the rate at BB-BS is less than the overall average for volunteer-based organizations moves me to throw out an undiscussed possibility: men are afraid of having their lives destroyed by a false accusation, and fear the BB-BS will protect itself by throwing its resources behind the accuser.
In Arizona, almost 60 percent of grade school principals and nearly 90 percent of teachers are women. Six years ago, the majority of principals were men. Some schools have no men, meaning kids may not have a male teacher or principal until middle or high school. It's the same picture nationally.
... Scottsdale's Serna said the fear of being accused of inappropriate touching or abuse has made lots of educators uncomfortable. Many administrators and teachers leave the profession out of fear of lawsuits or false accusations.