November 01, 2008

Pieces of a Larger Puzzle

One of the joys of parenting is the challenges presented in trying to answer the 1,872,986 questions they kids ask. What happened on August 31, 1968? Why is this street called Hampshire and not Burninglog? Was there really a burning log there? Who was Jack The Ripper and why wasn't he called Jason?

You get the point, there are just a ton of questions that come at you from every which angle. At times it is a real challenge to try and keep up with them. It is not just because sometimes you are tired and your brain hurts from being used far too much, but that many of these questions aren't the kind that have simple answers. And even if they do have simple answers, sometimes those don't suffice.

Since I am a boy trapped in a man's body I haven't completely lost the question bug. I very much enjoy learning about lots of different things and trying to figure out how pieces fit into a larger puzzle. That curiosity has served me well, but at times it has been the source of trouble as I have taken more than a couple of things apart to see how they work.

That leads into a conversation I had a number of years ago with some people about what things should really cost. It was one of those moments in which a group of people started ranting about how such and such cost far too much. Since I enjoy these discussions and am sometimes guilty of pushing the envelope I started to debate with them about pricing.

As I recall we began to talk about the cost of office chairs. One of the others said that they thought that the margins must be really big because a chair was nothing more than a frame, some fabric and wheels. I disagreed with them and asked if they had really thought about it.

If you start to break it down you find that the chair is more complex. Someone had to find the metal for the chair. They had to find a way to manufacture the frame. It could involve a mold and machining of parts. They had to find someone to supply the wheels. Sometimes the wheels were made of several parts. Someone had to find the materials for those parts. There could be a mold and machining for those parts. Someone had to find the material for the chair, be it fabric, leather or fake leather.

And of course there is packaging, shipping, storage and a number of other items that are most likely involved here as well. Not to mention the question of how these chairs were being sold. What sort of distribution chain was involved.

I find a lot of that kind of stuff to be interesting. How many different people and places are involved in the manufacturing process. In theory the computer I am using right now could be a global computer with pieces from every corner of the planet.

On a side note if you want to get into trouble tell your high school English teacher that the planet is a sphere and cannot really have four corners. They'll love you for it.

Ok, me and the U.N. 'puter are going to move on to the next post.

Crossposted here.

1 comment:

shavuatov said...

'Global computer'!

I think it's almost a certainty that your computer is global. Bit like mobile phones (sorry, cell phones) where certain parts, such as coltan, a metallic ore, come from the Democratic Republic of Congo... but since the DRC has been occupied by Rwanda, the DRC cannot benefit from supplying the ore.

I will now take my soap-box elsewhere...