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Life is a series of choices

I see where the city of Los Angeles is moving some of the homeless, probably away from view. I’m not sure what good it will do. As I was eating my breakfast I was looking out the restaurant window at a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk. I felt empathy for him (her?). How did they get there? Who caused their plight?

I have always believed that everything affecting me is my fault. If I get hit by a bus, my fault. Fired? My fault. Attacked by an incurable disease, my fault. I find that if I take that position, my life is much more simple. And, in most of the cases (bus and disease aside), I can affect the outcome. Even in the case of the bus, I can choose to look both ways.

Let’s consider the homeless person. I have no doubt that throughout his or her life she made a series of choices that led to that bed on the sidewalk. Granted that some of them were difficult. Some of them maybe he didn’t even know he could make. I know that many family situations are extremely difficult. Children are abused and it affects their lives forever. But there are always choices. Difficult ones, to be sure.

What if she chose to stay in school and graduate, rather than run away from home? Or conversely, what if he ran away from an abusive home rather than stay and finish school. Both are potentially the right choice. What if she chose to stay in bed a little longer and was habitually late for work, thus getting on the wrong side of the boss. Did that choice cost the job that paid for the apartment?

You know that things aren’t quite right on the shop floor. Raw material is late. Orders are slow in coming. Maybe its time for a change. Should you choose to look for a new job, or see it through. There are no jobs in Cleveland, do you hunker down, or move to job filled Georgia or Alabama. Choices.

But I can’t just pick up and move. Another choice, and perhaps a beginning on a downward spiral to homelessness.

I understand that sometimes the ‘right’ choice may not be immediately available. “When you are up to you rear in alligators, it’s hard to remember your initial goal was to drain the swamp.”

I wonder if sometimes we don’t need a ‘nudge’ toward making a choice. I choose not to rob a bank because I don’t want to go to Jail. I choose to be on time because I want to keep this job. I choose not to have a child out of wedlock because raising a child alone is extremely difficult. I choose to figure out a way to not be homeless, because if I sleep on the street, some big guy in a truck is going to come by, pick up my stuff and move me to a homeless shelter, or to another town, or to jail.

Homeless advocates talk about freedom to choose. These folks chose homelessness and by golly, they should be allowed to be homeless. Fair Enough. The problem is when that homelessness impinges on my freedom to walk down the street, look in a store window, have my kids feel safe, live in a city without piles of trash on every street corner. See, I’m cool with most everything, until your choices affect my ability to choose.

Gandhi said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Of course he was right. Its easy to say “Homelessness has been around for thousands of years, there is nothing we can do.”  However, we can chose to do something. I have an idea. Let me put it forth in the next blog.

JVH

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In Two Sentences or Less…

I firmly believe that if you cannot describe what your company does in two sentences, you don’t fully understand what you are about. Maybe its ego. Maybe its lack of understanding. Maybe its simply that you are verbose. Perhaps you really don’t understand what you do. Einstein said: “if you can’t describe it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

From time to time newbies in our industry honor me by asking my advice on a new idea or a new company they are forming. I was traveling in the Atlanta area and two founders of a startup drove three hours, rented a temporary office, and set up a presentation for me about their new venture.

I sat through 55 minutes of their presentation when it hit me. “OMG, you are a pay by cell phone company.” I had weathered powerpoint, videos, and verbal presentations. And for nearly an hour I had no clue what the company did. I was overwhelmed by terms such as ‘eco system’ and “cloud based” and “real time” and “digital” but nothing that actually told me how they expected to generate cash flow and support their customers.

See, they were so taken with the jargon that they neglected to describe the actual nuts and bolts of their product. Having grown up in Silicon Valley, they felt that presenting their company as ‘high-tech’ was more important that simply describing what they did.

“Parking Today is a company that publishes a magazine, promotes a trade show, has a major online presence, and aggregates news online daily, all focused on the parking industry.”

See how easy it is.

JVH

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Trust but Verify

I was reading through Parknews.biz this morning and came across a story Astrid put up concerning false QR codes and how they can lead you to fake web sites and phish your hard earned bucks. You can read about it here.

Seems nefarious individuals are sticking fake QR codes on parking meters asking parkers to click on them and then follow the instructions to pay for the parking. Rather than go to a legitimate site, these codes drive you to a fake site which collects your payment info and then boy are you in trouble.

This story got me to thinking about technology in general, and “how do we know” in particular.

Let’s say you are a parking operator and you cut a deal with an on line high tech company to provide parking reservations for your facility. Just how do you know how many reservations have been made and how much money has been collected.

Back in the day, when everyone pulled a ticket. You could simply count the tickets and compare the time on the ticket with the money deposited and know exactly whether or not you were getting what’s due to you. That’s called an audit.

How can you audit an invisible high tech behind the scenes system that is run completely outside your purview? What do you do about someone who shows up at your garage with a note on their phone that says they have a reservation and have paid but you have no knowledge of that transaction? Your staff could record all the information off the person’s phone and then send it to the reservation company for confirmation.   But will they?  Do they? Just how do you know?

In reality the systems are based on trust. You trust that the software engineers that wrote it did a good job. You trust that there is no one down in the weeds manipulating the data. You trust that everything works out to your advantage.

I don’t for one minute believe that these high tech companies are out to cheat anyone. Infact, I know personally the CEOs of most of them, and trust them implicitly. But then, its not my garage nor my money.

The Gipper said “Trust but Verify.” To do so there must be a method to verify. Maybe its time to be skeptical and ask hard questions. How do you verify? Frankly I don’t know the answer.

JVH

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Do You Know Everything?

I am in awe of people who tell me they know everything about self-promotion. In fact I’m in awe of people who tell me they know everything about anything. Mainly because my BS detector goes into overtime and I know, for certain they are wrong. No one knows everything about anything. If they think they do, they are just kidding themselves.

I can only speak from experience, mine, and others. Take back in the sixties when I ran a small weekly newspaper in a town near LA. A local pharmacist came to see me and told me that he would hold me personally responsible if an edition of the paper was published and his shop’s name wasn’t in it. He didn’t care how. It could be an ad, a notice that he had been robbed, a classified, his kid being arrested, whatever. He told me that he believed that repetition was important.

I mentioned that he was the only pharmacy in town and that I didn’t really understand why he felt it was so important to be in every issue. He said that, yes, he was the only game in town, but he didn’t think that would be true forever. He and I set up a plan to ensure he was in every issue. He ran specials, and ads periodically, and ensured that he gave me weekly news about what was happening in his shop, and to him and his extended family.

Sure enough, in a couple of years, a shopping center with a large supermarket and chain drug store went in down on the highway. Three small grocery stores went out of business, but my friend survived and actually grew. He expanded his hours, added new products, and sure enough competed face to face with the big box store. He’s (or at least his son and grandson) still there and prospering, ensuring his business is in every issue of the local paper.

He couldn’t afford to run full page ads like the chain store. But he could place small, periodic strategic ads and ensure that news releases about his company were in every issue. He would spend a few hours each week coming up with ideas that piqued the interest of the editor and kept his name up front. He told me he was no marketing expert, but sometimes I wonder.

We have more than 500 companies that see the parking industry as a major source of revenue. About 15% of those regularly promote themselves in the parking media (that includes PT, Parking Magazine, and The Parking Professional). I find this stunning. So many companies will just hide in the weeds and not tell anyone about their successes.

The most read feature in PT is our Industry News section. Here we put little vignettes about the happenings in the industry. New hires, new installations, companies that are partnering with other companies, who bought whom, who sold whom, even once in a while a new product or invention. To be mentioned there you simply have to send your news release to our Parknews.biz editor, Astrid Ambroziak. She will take it from there. She can be reached at astrid@parkingtoday.com.

What possible reason can you have not sending your info to her? Are you trying to keep it a secret? Or are you just lazy. Remember my pharmacist friend. Never let an edition of PT go to press without your name in it. It’s up to you.

JVH

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Orlando and Disney – WOW!

I spend an afternoon with Travis, an employee of Visit Orlando last week. I was there to check out a possible venue for PIE2024 and the city was kind enough to have Travis show me the sights. We visited Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) and had lunch overlooking one of the many lakes in the area. I was most impressed by the numbers.

Travis told me that over 76 million folks visit the Orlando area each year. They fill nearly 140,000 hotel rooms and divide their time between three Disney theme parks plus Epcot and other water based attractions, two at Universal, and various others including Sea World.

I haven’t visited the Magic Kingdom for a number of years, but I do remember when Disneyland opened in Anaheim in 1955. The price of admission was a buck for adults and fifty cents for kids. Plus you had to pay to go on individual rides, which varied between 25 cents and 50 cents. (Remember those ticket books with A thru E tickets?) Time has marched on.

One day ticket for an adult varies between $125 and $175 depending on the date, and whether you are visiting one or more of the ‘world’s’ theme parks. I defy anyone to look at the Disney web site and tell me how much it will cost, but let’s go with $150 a day. For a family of four that’s $600 a day and assuming you are staying for a week, (five days) that means you will drop $3000 just for entry into Disney world. As Travis was quick to point out, that doesn’t include food, theme purchases (T shirts, etc) or your airfare or hotel. Figure another two grand for food (assuming you eat at inexpensive spots) and two grand for hotels and another thousand for Mickey and Minnie ears, you are at eight thousand and you haven’t bought a plane ticket, rented a car, or shudder, paid for parking.

Prices have gone up. Even taking inflation into consideration, it now costs 30 times what it cost in 1955 to spend a day in the Magic Kingdom.

A week at Disney World could easily cost a family of four $10,000. And people line up to pay it. Oh, by the way, you can’t just walk up and buy a ticket to get into the park, you have to reserve your spot in advance. I’m told that these days it sells out fast.

The Newest experience at Disney World is the Star Wars Hotel. Think of it as a cruise ship on land. Prices start at about $1200 per night per person double occupancy and an average ‘cruise’ lasts four nights. You do the math. My guess is that it is selling out too.

Disney bought 48 square miles of territory in Orlando (using straw man purchasers) and is using only a portion of that land today.  In addition to the theme parks, there are 25 hotels owned by Disney, plus myriad others surrounding the park.

There is a reason folks spend all this money to visit Disney World. It is truly the happiest place on earth.

JVH

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The Cold and Flu Season is Here – Queue Hysteria and Panic

I got a flu shot the other day. My doctor said he wouldn’t let me out of his office til I got it. So I got it. That does not mean I won’t get the flu. What is does mean that most likely that if I do get the flu, it will be a milder case that if I didn’t get the shot. We have known this since flu shots became pervasive. Also, some people are allergic to flu shots and get sick or die from them.

It appears that the shots for the Covid work pretty much the same. Our betters don’t want to fess up, but it seems that getting a Covid Shot, a second shot, and a booster is no guarantee that you won’t get Covid. However they do seem to mitigate the symptoms. And yes, some folks have a negative reaction to the shots. Nothing is perfect.

We are now going through the Omicron variant. It seems to be very contagious, but also seems to not be as virulent as its predecessors. Folks do get sick, but not as bad. This has proven out in South Africa, in the UK, and yes, here in the US. Is it possible that its not as virulent because most people have had a vaccination or have actually had Covid in one form or another?

Before I go on, rest assured that the above information is without any scientific backing and is what I get by simply looking out the window and applying a tad of common sense.

However we have spent the last nearly two years bombarded with much mis information and wildly different information, that we seem to live in a ‘sky is falling’ world. Everything is prefaced with OMG.

What are you afraid of? Getting sick? We all get sick at one time or another. Getting really really sick? Well, yes, I can see that might push upward on the fear meter. Dying? Yes, the fear meter just exploded.

Yet every day we put ourselves at risk driving a car, flying in an airplane, taking a shower, simply getting out of bed and living our lives. And we think nothing of it. However mention Covid and all rational thought goes out the window. We wear masks when alone in cars. We don’t take business or vacation trips for fear of contagion. We don’t have friends for dinner. We wear masks walking from that table to a restroom in a restaurant (but not at the table.) Actors on a stage wear masks but they are 100 feet from the audience, and everyone in it is wearing a mask.

There is no rational reason for any of the above, but fear is driving it. We need to do something. Like during the cold war when we were taught to hide under our desks at school in the event of a nuclear attack. What was that all about? Simple, fear, and the need to do something.

As for the headline above, we have learned to live with cold and flu. We don’t like it. But we now have ways to mitigate the problem, most of them over the counter at the drug store. Soon, we will have ways to deal with Covid. Already we are seeing treatments that are working on severe cases. More are on the way.

Never say never but we most likely won’t find a ‘cure’ for Covid like we did for smallpox, or polio. But we are finding ways to live with it. Can we not try to keep the hysteria and panic at a minimum? In the meantime, we need to live our lives.

JVH

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We Are Certifiably Insane

I have come to the conclusion that we, as a people, have gone completely insane.  Not troubled, or even mildly off our rockers, but clinically insane. I will not list specific examples because so many of us are insane that we will get into major confabs over specifics.

Suffice it to say that general areas of insanity include discussions on whether males who proclaim themselves female should compete with females in sporting events. They include scholarly discussions on whether or not we should incarcerate folks who break the law; and of course the ever popular insane arguments between scientists and politicians over how we should be dealing with various diseases. I won’t even bring up the in depth discussions about what we ‘call’ women or men, or the use of male and female facilities, including prisons. And please don’t get me started on the racial appropriation discussions. IE, if you are not Asian, you can’t work in an Asian restaurant. A visitor from another planet sitting in on these conversations would simply shake his heads and mumble, “insane.”

However, I have come across one missif that simply cannot be overlooked. This quote has been verified and is true. Now since it confirms insanity, how can this person exist outside an asylum.

I am writing this to you today to inform you of a new protocol for our staff Zoom meetings. Moving forward everyone will be required to wear a mask during our meetings. One of our team members has a fear of unmasked people and I want to be sure everyone feels safe and comfortable. This requirement is effective immediately.

Insanely yours

JVH

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The Profit Motive Will Solve this EV Problem

Will wonders never cease. JVH is being proven right about something. A few weeks ago I wrote that the issues with the nonproliferation of EV charging stations would go away the minute the providing of electrons to EV batteries became economically viable. In other words, when folks starting making a profit from providing EV charging.

An article Astrid has posted in Parknews from E and E news goes to the heart of one of the problems. EV charging stations (except those provided by and for Teslas) are getting a bad rap from EV owners. The suckers either don’t work, cut off when halfway done, don’t accept the driver’s credentials, or any one of a myriad of other problems. From E and E’s energy wire:

Scroll through the comments on PlugShare, and one finds reports of stations that stir to life only with multiple plugging attempts, stations that refuse payment, stations that abort mid-session, stations that are disabled by vandals, and stations that are, for whatever reason, just not doing the job that day.

After all, the incentive wasn’t profit — the stations mostly lose money — but meeting government rules.. Policymakers wanted to create a market for electric vehicles, and that meant fueling stations. Impetus for the first wave of fast-charging stations came from the 2008 federal stimulus bill, which included $97 million for charging.

I don’t blame the EV charging station manufacturers. They are supplying a product to assist in the charging of an EV. Just like the company that supplies the pump at a gas station is assisting you in getting power into your Belchfire 12. But the gasoline supplier knows that if the pump doesn’t’ work, they make no money. So there are layers of things in place to ensure that a dummy like me (or my grandmother) can insert a card, and pump the gas. Little of that exists, it seems in the EV charging network.

More from E and E News:

“We are at a point where the demand for the charging is going to grow considerably,” said Nick Nigro, the head of Atlas Public Policy, which keeps data on EVs and charging networks. “If sites have stations down for days, weeks or even months, the more that happens, the more difficult it’s going to be to establish consumer confidence in public charging.”

Look at the second to last word in that paragraph. Can you find a gasoline station that you would consider “public.” Nope – They are all private businesses, in business to make a profit. And they ensure their supplying devices work. And at $5 a gallon, they had better.

The only charging network that passes muster, it seems, is Tesla. Elon Musk and Co. knew they had a charging problem so they set about to get ahead of it. They knew that if they were to sell EVs, people would have to be able to charge them seamlessly.

Tesla realized early on that convenient charging was essential to the adoption of its vehicles, and so in 2012 began building its Supercharger network. The company now has almost 1,200 charging plazas and 12,000 fast-charging plugs across the country, exclusively for Tesla drivers, providing an experience that other charging providers have struggled to match.

We are being asked to install a gazillion charging stations in our garages. Fair Enough. But remember they have to work, they will break down, and someone with more knowledge than a building maintenance engineer needs to be on call to fix them. If an EV owners leaves your garage with a bad taste because of an issue topping up his battery, will that bad taste stop at the end of the extension cord or carry on to your garage?

How serious is this? So serious that Ford Motor Company is developing a program that will place “Charge Angels” on the road to check charging stations and tell the owners when there is a problem. If the owner doesn’t fix it, they will be removed from the list of approved charging stations supplied by Ford to its EV purchasers. Read all about it on Parknews.biz

JVH

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First Class…Right

I had to fly to Orlando on business and my friends at Delta were kind enough to upgrade me to First Class. I had not flown ‘up front’ for years and was looking forward to great food, special personal service, and well, you know, being able to ignore the folks back in steerage.

I was settling in, expecting my glass of champagne while the captain got the plane ready for our trip. Guess again, nada, nothing, zip. Well that’s ok… I realized that as soon as we reached ‘cruising altitude’ they would bring around the linen tablecloths and then the china with fresh coffee. Nothing yet. Well maybe the linen truck didn’t make the plane, surely breakfast was close at hand.

Guess again. What used to be a fresh omelet, fruit, and a fresh baked croissant was a little box filled with dried fruit, cheese and some rolled up lunch meat.

Well at least the cabin crew assigned to First Class would be at me beck and call. I saw no one for the entire four hour trip. No wine, no coffee, no hot breakfast, zip. Oh wait – they did bring around a basket of stale cookies about an hour before landing. Whoopie.

Understand that I did get priority exiting and was the second person off the plane.

I am fortunate that I didn’t pay the $500 surcharge to get First Class. I wondered what the folks who actually paid for it thought about being ‘up front.’ Maybe their egos were stroked so well because they could afford the front of the plane they didn’t miss anything else.

I can’t fault Delta for upgrading me based on the gazillion miles I few two years ago. Thanks for that. But I wonder what has happened to that special service one expects when one actually pays for it.

I’m sure there are some covid related regulations that cut off alcohol, and actually serving food not wrapped in cellophane. Fair Enough. But is it too much to ask for a kind word and maybe a pillow?

Oh yes, I was given a choice between the cold fruit plate and cold oatmeal. I guess that’s something.

JVH

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Is the Glass Half Full, or Half Empty

Although the main stream media simply cannot allow any optimism for 2022, I am optimistic. We have had record rain and snow here in California and although those half empty guys are saying that it makes no difference, the drought is still with us, I am optimistic that water from the heavens is here and more on the way.

The insanity that has caused record crime in our major cities seems to have begun to run its course, with police being ‘refunded’, criminals beings arrested and put in jail, and trending, at least, is mayors and other elected officials actually doing something about crime. (See San Francisco, Seattle, New York, for starters.)

I’m no Covid expert, but it appears that although screaming headlines says that the Omicron virus is spreading rapidly, the actual death rate is going down. I’m sure that has to do with many things including vaccination, treatments, and the seeming fact that Omicron is less virulent than previous versions.

In spite of all the Covid bad news, the stock market seems to be holding its own with the numbers ending 2021 up. Looking out my window, I see the freeway full, the airport extremely busy, and lots of commercial activity. Inflation is a problem, but in general, the economy appears strong.

My sense is that people are simply not letting ‘bad’ news get them down. They are vacationing, traveling, and getting out to play. In general folks are telling me ‘enough is enough.’ Common sense is pushing its way to the surface. All of the so called mainstream media sources, MSNBC, CNN, Fox, and the networks all are showing much lower viewership. This can only have a positive effect.

From my point of view, the glass is half full. Have a great 2022. Optimism is out there, and if you look for it you can find it.

JVH

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