Friday, October 23, 2009

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 38

Mother May I?
Not surprisingly, a Chronicle editorial endorses the city's threats to veterinarians who refuse to report pet vaccinations to the city:
You'd think dedicated veterinarians would be the first to call for and contribute to an effective licensing system for pets. Not only would it provide valuable data on the extent of animal vaccinations, but it would also yield added revenue to improve animal control and care.
Nowhere in the editorial is it explained why should pets be licensed, other than the fact that it will provide "valuable data". And what will be done with this data? No answer is given. The city has enough trouble keeping track of its water, and now it wants more information to confuse the minds of its employees.

But the real issue is that the city is requiring that we seek permission to own a pet. Consider this definition of license

a formal permission from the proper authorities to perform certain acts
If we don't secure the permission of the "proper authorities" then we will be subject to fines and other penalties. Owning a pet does not violate anyone's rights, and yet the city would make us criminals if we do not seek its permission to own Fluffy or Fido. If the city (and the Chronicle) is so enamored with controlling such a mundane part of our lives, what else is next?

High Speed Rail to Pearland
At a time when seemingly everyone in the nation is clamoring over ways to spend federal government stimulus money, Andrew at neoHouston puts forth a refreshingly good proposal. He suggests building a high speed rail line between downtown Houston and Pearland with private capital.

I am not an expert on trains or other transportation issues, so I cannot comment on the details he presents. He projects that the trip from Pearland to downtown would take less than 17 minutes, compared to 30 to 40 minutes by car. And the cost would range from $3.00 to $5.50 for a round trip. These numbers would be very appealing to a commuter.

Admittedly, the $260 million price tag is hefty. But the capital could be raised if the plan were sound and investors thought that they would make a good return on their investment.

The one issue that Andrew does not address is land acquisition. Purchasing land south of the 610 Loop may not be so difficult, as development is sparse between there and Pearland. But what of inside the Loop, particularly in the Medical Center and downtown, where development is dense? This is one of those details that could turn a good idea into a nightmare.

Shark Tank
Last week I caught a part of Shark Tank, a show on ABC. This week I watched the entire episode, and I recommend it without reservation (based on what I have seen). Wikipedia describes the show:
The series stars five "Sharks" — multi-millionaire business tycoons — who hear investment proposals from entrepreneurs and consider whether to invest in the businesses.
That description alone makes the show potentially interesting. Anything that celebrates business has the potential to be enjoyable, but this show does more than just glorify productivity. It implicitly embraces rational egoism.

In this week's show, one "shark" told an entrepreneur that he was being greedy. My heart momentarily sunk, until he said, "Greed is good. We just need to be greedy together." In other words: It is fine to want to make a lot of money. But offer value for value to the mutual benefit of all involved.

This type of thinking permeated the show. The "sharks" and entrepreneurs negotiated deals, trying to reach an agreement that was beneficial to both. Some entrepreneurs primarily wanted to raise capital for their business. At least one was primarily interested in obtaining business expertise to market his product. Each had different needs and desires, and all of the participants pursued his own self-interest. It was thoroughly enjoyable to witness.

Unfortunately, this week's show was the last of the season. I sincerely hope that it will be renewed for another season. In the meantime, numerous episodes are available on the ABC web site. Enjoy!


Rational Education said...

Thanks for suggesting Shark Tank. Just watched a small part and enjoyed it. The deal making process was exciting to say the least! Will definitely catch up on watching more episodes. Hopefully ABC just might have re-runs.

Brian Phillips said...

I never would have watched the show based on the title. We happened to catch a portion of it by accident, and what a fortunate accident it was.