just procrastinating

Friday, January 30, 2004

Local Politics
I went to the mall over lunch and as I was walking out I noticed a unique looking individual that I thought I recognized. Sure enough, it was local real estate agent turned city councilman Rob Schilling. I said hi to him and we talked for about 10 minutes. I don't really follow local politics all that much, but Rob has an interesting story in that he is the only Republican on what is a very liberal city council. If you take a look at him, he doesn't quite look like an evil Republican, but he gets treated pretty badly by the press and the city council, just because he has an (R) after his name. He has a background of being an entrepreneur, so he works to keep the government of people's backs. But anyway, he seemed like a good guy, so any locals reading this should support Rob Schilling.

The Apprentice
I watched "The Apprentice" again last night. This week's objective was to see which team could increase sales the most at the Planet Hollywood in Times Square, compared to the sales results on that same day last year. So once again, something that the girls could win easily by leveraging their assets, which they have gotten quite good at. The girls were up first and decided that the bar was the place to be so they basically won wearing tight shirts and coaxing guys into doing shots with them. I'm not sure what those shots cost, but I would be close to $10 bucks a pop since anything at Planet Hollywood cost $2 more than it should and since they are in NYC.

The guys seemed pretty unmotivated this time but I was impressed with Bill Rancic, the cigar store owner from Chicago, he seemed like he had some leadership skills. Kwame, with his Harvard MBA wasn't quite as impressive, but he showed the kind of creativity and questionable ethics that I'm sure he picked up at HBS. He put a table down in front of Planet Hollywood and started signing T-Shirts and other stuff for customers: "Get a shirt signed by Kwame Jackson!" Who knows, I probably would have wondered, "Kwame Jackson" sounds like he'd be famous for something and he looks like it too. Trump ended up firing Bowie, but only because he was in charge of the bar and failed to produce. Once again, Trump comes across like a pretty good guy in this. He actually seems to feel bad when he fires these guys and always says something like, "That was a tough decision, I really liked him and think he will do well."

The teaser for this episode is that they girls were supposed to get in trouble for using sex to win all of these challenges. But the only thing that happens is that Trump and his henchman and henchwoman get the girls together and say that a president in his company can't get ahead that way. And that was pretty much it. Since the boys team has been reduced to 4, they have to mix the teams up, so at least it will be a fair fight going forward.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Bond Milestone
Just watching some of James Bond in "Dr. No" and I got to wondering how old Sean Connery was back when the movie was made, which was 1962. As I was looking at him I thought that maybe I was getting to be about his age. Wrong! Sean Connery b.1930; he was 2 years younger that me. Well at least he looked older. But count that as another milestone, I am older than James Bond when he was hanging out with Ursula Andress. Here I am a full 2 years older, and I'm quite certain that I have never been that cool.

Kerry: A Kept Man
I was listening to Rush on the way back from lunch today and he was reading from this column by Ann Coulter. This part made me laugh out loud:
But if Bush can't talk to Kerry about the horrors of war, then Kerry sure as hell can't talk to anyone about the plight of the middle class. Kerry's life experience consists of living off other men's money by marrying their wives and daughters.

For over 30 years, Kerry's primary occupation has been stalking lonely heiresses. Not to get back to his combat experience, but Kerry sees a room full of wealthy widows as "a target-rich environment." This is a guy whose experience dealing with tax problems is based on spending his entire adult life being supported by rich women. What does a kept man know about taxes?
So I guess its looking like Kerry after all? He doesn't wear well, so I imagine that the people that bother to go to the polls for this election aren't going to be doing so out of passion for their candidate, rather than just to keep the other guy out.

I'm not sure what has happened to Bush recently. Right after Thanksgiving, I was thinking of contributing a few bucks to the Bush campaign, now I'm debating whether it even makes sense to vote, since he'll probably take Virginia anyway. I don't want Kerry, but consider my not voting as a vote of no confidence. But, I suppose all that will change in September (or will they wait till October?) when they "find" Osama. Then I'll be back on the bandwagon.

P.S. What is Blogger's spell checker trying to tell us when it fails to recognize the word "Kerry's" and offers "Kerouac" as a suggestion?

Young Entrepreneur Sees Movie, Gets Idea
I was just mentioning the other day how I saw "Can't Buy Me Love" on cable and I read this article today via Fark about a young entrepreneur who saw the same movie and got an idea:
She had been watching the 1987 movie "Can't Buy Me Love," starring Patrick Dempsey as a dorky high schooler who pays a cheerleader $1,000 a month to date him.

"I thought, what a great idea, but I wanted to do it in a way that I wouldn't have to see the guy."

That first auction netted $40, and Judy, who wants to be an elementary school teacher, now sells her services through her own Web site, www.judylovesme.com. Since September, she's made about $300.
Her services are just letters and a picture, but ideal for someone who needs to prove that they have a girlfriend or to make someone else jealous. This part is funny:
And for just $4.99, you can land an "Imaginary Stalker Ex-Boyfriend," who will e-mail you "on a daily basis, asking where you've been all day and who you were with."
Just what everyone needs.

You Mean Like Pictures 'n Stuff?
I had the same reaction as Vodkapundit when I read Drudge last night about Bush's new support for the Arts:
"That's it -- this guy is determined to try to buy votes from the left, just like G.H.W. Bush tried to do 12 years ago. Didn't work then, won't work now, will piss off fiscal conservatives like myself."
I'm not exactly sure what he thinks this will accomplish; but whatever, another $20 million for "starving" artists.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Thanks Betty Ong
Glenn Beck was playing the flight tape from American Airlines Flight 11 on 9/11 this morning on the radio as I was driving to lunch. In it Betty Ong calmly recounts to a confused but annoying reservations agent what is going on. We hear one of the other flight attendants say "Karen was stabbed", referring to another flight attendant.

I still have a visceral reaction to this, meaning that when I heard this I got that feeling in my chest; you know that butterflies in your stomach or lump in your throat type feeling. So I am glad that time hasn't healed this wound. I don't want to forget how horrible that day was.

Interesting post by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution on how having too many choices affects behavior. Here is a sample:
Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, psychologists at Columbia and Stanford respectively, have shown that as the number of flavors of jam or varieties of chocolate available to shoppers is increased, the likelihood that they will leave the store without buying either jam or chocolate goes up. According to their 2000 study, Ms. Iyengar and Mr. Lepper found that shoppers are 10 times more likely to buy jam when six varieties are on display as when 24 are on the shelf.
This makes sense to me. At some point, the number of choices becomes too confusing to take in at one time, especially if you are someone like me who always wants to make the best choice in terms of quality and value and then will start second guessing my decision at the checkout line. What it boils down to, according to the authors of the study is "plentiful choice increases the chances that people will regret the decisions they make, because of all the bypassed alternatives, many of which might have been better."

Martha Stewart Trial
The New York Times tries to do a sympathetic piece about Peter Bacanovic; Stewart's Merrill Lynch Stockbroker with the "cold steel" gaze. He comes across pretty well, but this part probably should have been edited:
In a search for a peaceful center amid the turmoil, he has taken up yoga. He has also expressed regret to friends that he never followed his first professional calling, which was to be a Hollywood agent. He worked briefly in the mailroom of William Morris, the talent agency, in the mid-1980's, and has talked wistfully about pursuing a career as a movie producer in Hollywood if he is acquitted.
So instead of a Stockbroker, he wanted to be a Hollywood Agent. OK, and that is better how? The only thing that works here is Teacher, something health care related or something unique but practical, like furniture making. Am I supposed to think after reading this, "Wow if only he pursued his passion, he would be screwing over Actors and Actresses, instead of wealthy Manhattanites."

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Too Funny
I laughed out loud at this from Blame Bush:
When I first read David Kay's stunning statement that Iraq doesn't have, nor ever had weapons of mass destruction, I dropped my bong, leapt from my beanbag chair, and shouted "Vive La France!". It proved conclusively that Bush lied about WMD just to steal Iraq's oil!

Blast from the Past
From this Salon article about Conservative's disappointment with Bush. We get this quote from Don Devine which I agree with:
"There's concern over what Bush is doing, no question," said Donald Devine, vice chairman of the American Conservative Union and former director of the Office of Personnel Management in the Reagan administration. "He's increased domestic spending more than any recent president. I don't think it's turned into voting against Bush. It may show up in terms of turnout. In the past, that's hurt Republicans."
Back in my Washington days, I had a run in with Don Devine. One of my buddies was looking for someone to bartend at a fundraiser for Don Devine, who was running for Congress. It was at a nice house on Capitol Hill, not far from where I lived, but a much nicer place. At the time I felt like a spy, since I was a Democrat in those days and all my roomates worked at the RNC. Here is how I described it back then from my journal:
11/2/94 I did something interesting last night. I was bartending at a fundraiser for Don Devine, who is a Republican Congressional candidate from Prince George's County. He will probably lose, so it doesn't really matter. He seemed as if he would be surprised if he won. The whole thing wasn't really at all what I expected. There were only about twenty or so people there, and most of them were losers as far as I was concerned. The coolest person there was the owner of the house, and the hottest chick there, sadly, was his 13 year old daughter. I only got twenty bucks out of it, but I really would have done it for free, since it was something I wanted to experience and it only took two hours.
I'm surprised that Don is still alive the way that he was drinking and smoking at that fundraiser. But he was pretty nice to me as I recall, since I was pouring his drinks for him. But anyway, just something that caught my eye and an excuse to pull stuff out of my journal.

That Voodoo That They Do
Via Professor Bainbridge, this article about charting. Technical analysis is one of those areas where the academics and the practicioners are at odds. The academics like to point to the long-term results of people who use technical analysis and claim that it is little more than voodoo. The traders who use it swear by it. But you have to wonder if this isn't something that is self-fulfilling, at least in the short-term. When you have herds of people watching for P&G or some stock to brake through its 200 day moving average, or selling because of a "head and shoulders" pattern, being able to spot these trends and anticipating that others will be trading on them can be profitable, or people wouldn't do it.

I used to read thestreet.com and its paysite realmoney.com religiously back in the days of the boom and followed some of what Gary Smith, their technical analyst, did with some success. Todd Harrison, who currently writes at Minyanville.com is another one who uses technical analysis and writes about it. Todd's site is very unique, a financial, educational site that uses cartoon characters.

Iced In
We got some freezing rain last night and there ain't no way that I can get out of here this morning. I spent about an hour clearing the driveway of about a half inch of ice. The road outside my house is hilly and I can't get enough traction to go up it and am not brave enough to try to go down it. (Going down it means that I have to maneuver around all of the parked cars on a street with a lot of turns, so that I can turn around and come back uphill to get out of the subdivision.) So I'll just wait it out until the salt truck comes, if it ever does. I have already had to help 2 brave (or stupid) souls by actually pushing the back end of their cars to turn them around and go back down the hill. And I think I hear another one....

Monday, January 26, 2004

Super Size this
Via Fark, this article in the New York Post about a filmmaker doing a documentary about eating a diet entirely of McDonald's for a month and the health problems that resulted. I was kind of skeptical about this; I lived next door to a McDonald's one year and I was never healthier. Of course I was 22 at the time and this guy, Morgan Spurlock is 33. I'm sure if I had the same diet I had when I was 22, I would put on a bunch of pounds as well. But I think this guy just has an axe to grind.

Anyway something about this seems a little fake, something just doesn't quite go together in this story:
Spurlock's girlfriend, Alex Jamieson, was horrified - she's a vegan chef.

"She was completely disgusted by me, not happy at all," he says. "But she realized what my goals were in trying to educate people."

Spurlock, a film producer who grew up in West Virginia and studied ballet for eight years, was spurred to make his first feature film while watching TV on Thanksgiving Day, 2002.
I can't put my finger on it, but this story just doesn't add up.

Speaking of Snow...
Was just reading this post about income inequality over at Brad DeLong's site where he mentioned the following:
I know of nobody who would want to live in 1900 or even 1950 (unless they could be in the upper upper class, and take along their own private refillable stashes of penicillin and tetracycline).
This weekend I was watching the History Channel series "Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way". The episode was about cocaine and it talked about its historical use in late 1800s and early 1900s. During the 1880s, cocaine was considered beneficial to baseball players and given to dockworkers to give them "pep". It was pretty much used in every kind of cough syrup or elixir, even Coca-Cola, as most people know. The medical establishment used it to treat Opium addiction. (Opium addiction, Heh!) It was only outlawed because the southern religious folks decided that when cocaine was used by black males it worked them up into such a sexual frenzy that they would rape white women. (Something tells me that wasn't the first time they used that argument to ban something.)

So I'm sure life was hard back then, but they had ways of dealing with it....

Hi Monday
I took this picture this morning. We got about 5" of snow last night. What a great way to start the week.


Saturday, January 24, 2004

Who is James Bond?
Earlier today I started watching this movie "Crossplot" on cable because according to the Info button on my remote, it was made in 1969 and starred Roger Moore. I always like watching movies that were set when I was born, just because it lets me see the world as it was then. In this movie Roger Moore played an ad exec who was looking for a Hungarian model to pose for a shoot, not knowing that she had overheard an assassination plot and was being hunted by bad guys. But it wasn't a good movie.

Anyway, it got me thinking about James Bond, and how to me, growing up, Roger Moore was James Bond. Its not like everyone had a VCR back then or they showed old Bond films on network TV with any regularity, so until 1983, when Sean Connery returned to the role in "Never Say Never Again", I didn't know that anyone else had been James Bond. "Moonraker" was the first Bond film I saw; I was 9. So when people say: James Bond: Connery, Moore, Dalton or Brosnan? My gut says Roger Moore, even though objectively it is Connery: any comparison between the Bond of the 60s and the goofy wide lapel tuxedo Bond of the 70s would point to Connery.

I'm not sure what my point is here, except maybe to say that whatever you are more familiar with is genuine, until you know better.

These Kids Today
They are so creative.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Hey Farmer, Farmer
I was out earlier having food and drinks thanks to Pfizer; the wife had a drug rep thing that I went to. Now, I'm watching Stossel's program on 20/20 tonight about Lies, Myths and Stupidity. Myth #4 is about how "Chemicals are Killing Us". I'm still amazed about DDT; 50 million dead that didn't have to be, because of a "Silent Spring". That's why Joni's song has always been one of my favorites. I love to see a new parking lot go up. (Yeah, I know what the song is about, but there is plenty of nature out there; parking on the other hand, well sometimes that is hard to find.)

Farewell Captain
First its Mr. Rogers, now Captain Kangaroo. I grew up with those guys. On a somewhat related note, in terms of people that I grew up watching on TV: Bob Barker is 80!

Work Stuff
Since I am back to full-time billable to a project, I have been doing more work that I usually like to do. For this project I am the Project Manager, which really means I am the person who has to make sure things get done. I work with both the our client and our client's customers, so I have to be nice to both. If it was our client's suppliers, I could be a little more direct with them. So I am in the position where I have a bunch of people who don't report to me, have better things to do and I need things from them in a timely manner. This results in emails like the following, to one of our client's customers that has been ignoring my repeated attempts to get information:

As I mentioned in an earlier email (below), (Client's name) is working on an accelerated schedule and has changed the go-live date to 2/9/04. In order to meet this tighter time frame we will need to have everything tested by the previous Monday, 2/2/04. Ideally, this means we will need test files from you no later than this Wednesday 1/28/04. If this is going to be a problem, please let me know so that I can keep (Client's name) in the loop. If there is anything I can do to help you with this, don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks for your help with this,

-Dave S.
So that's pretty typical. Here is a translation:

Send me the files now.

And quit blowing me off, bitch,

-Dave S.

Bad Lighting
I watched about an hour of the Democratic debates last night, since Friends was a rerun. This debate was a little more toned down that the previous ones that I have seen, and I didn't hear anything that would make me change my vote. I don't know what the deal was with the lighting in that place, but Dennis Kucinich looked more like this that he does like this. And the other candidates looked their age; even Edwards looked like he could pass for his mid 40s, as opposed the youthful 22 that he looks in most pictures.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Damage Control
I filled out a survey on the silly Bush Tax website just for kicks and to see if I would get a response when I let them know that my net Bush Tax was -$1800: $2300 tax cut - $500 property tax increase, which was due to a reassessment of my home (not a tax hike). Ever since I did this, I get emails from Joe Trippi of Dean for America. Tonight he asks that I tune in for the following:
Dear David,

There are three television appearances tonight (Thursday) that you won't want
to miss:

1) Tonight, Howard Dean will appear at the Democratic candidates' debate in
Manchester, New Hampshire. The debate will air live nationally on the Fox News
Channel at 8 pm ET, with a one-hour summary on ABC News' Nightline at 11:35
pm ET. FOX News Radio and ABC News Radio networks will also carry the debate.

2) Governor Dean and his wife Judy sit down with Diane Sawyer tonight on Prime
Time Thursday on ABC. The program airs at 10 pm ET.

3) Howard Dean will appear on Late Night with David Letterman on CBS tonight.
Check local listings.

Be sure to tune in, and join other Dean supporters for a discussion of the
broadcats on our campaign web log:


Spread the word to everyone you know.

Joe Trippi

campaign manager

Dean for America

Dear Joe,

If you can get Howard to be half as hilarious as he was on Monday night, I will definitely tune in to all three of those broadcats, as you call them. Thanks for the note, and well, best of luck on your future endeavors.

-Dave S.

NASA Rover
Bummer. Oh, well maybe the next one will work. Maybe they'll quit putzing around with the next one and take it out for a spin ASAP.

Sue Everybody
Looks like the RIAA is back to their old tricks. This time they are going after 532 anonymous downloaders (hope I ain't one of them). Since the most recent court ruling that ISPs don't have to provide the names, they are just suing IP addresses.
With the ruling in mind, music biz lawyers filed the latest suits against "John Doe" defendants identifiable only by their numeric Internet protocol addresses. RIAA execs hope the courts will force the ISPs to name names, but without the automatic subpoena power, ISPs have the right to object to such demands, making suing music swappers a much slower, costlier process.
I'm certainly guilty of downloading music, but most of it I already own. I just think it is easier to go out to Kazaa and get it and then burn it on a CD. I'm at the point right now that pretty much every song that I want to listen to I have. I was thinking about getting an IPod for Christmas and wondered if I could think of 1000 songs that I would want to listen to that I could put on it. Answer: not even close.

I probably only buy about 5 new records a year and maybe the same amount from the used section. Unlike my friend Scott, who keeps up with the new bands, the newest thing I have that I like is The Strokes. I bought their first record "Is This It" and probably had that thing in my car CD player for 6 months and listened to and liked every song (except #6). Their newest "Room on Fire" that just came out is decent, but just didn't have the same kick to it. I like Wilco too, but mostly, I wish the Replacements had recorded more music.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The Apprentice
I haven't kept up with this too much, but I watched most of this one since the wife is off interviewing in Knoxville. From what I have seen, the competition has been structured so that the girls are still in the position to leverage their, um, assets, and this one was no different. It was only a matter of time before Sam was fired, and he finally got it this episode. I knew he wasn't playing with a full deck, but I thought it was the benevolent kind of kooky that was somewhat endearing. That look that he gave Trump when he got fired showed me that he is a very different kind of crazy.

Trump comes across as being pretty fair in this, which I wasn't expecting, but I suppose you would have to be if you were someone in his position. People don't usually just get to where they are by luck, although that plays a role. He is where is he is because he made things happen. Of course Trump is cocky, but if I was a billionaire who dated models exclusively, I could see how it might be a little bit more difficult to be modest. It seems like Trump wants a hot chick to win this thing, since the competition is structured to have the girls win and most of the girls that were selected for this could model. But can you blame him for that?

Office Food
Cut me some slack, please. Yesterday it is cupcakes, today Crispy Cremes. I don't want to eat them, but I will. That's not true, I want to eat them, but I don't want to have eaten them.

Can't Buy Me Love
I did switch over to the SOTU address during commercials and caught some of the end, but really wasn't interested in sitting through an hour of pandering. For most of the night my wife and I watched "Can't by Me Love" which was on the Oxygen network (gasp). For some reason back during my Sophomore year of college (1988-89) this movie was on cable at least once a day, or so it seemed anyway, and I have seen it enough that I can quote dialogue.

This is the story of Ronald Miller, played by Patrick Dempsey, who is a geek in high school and he tries to buy his way into the cool crowd by giving his neighbor Cindi (Amanda Peterson) $1000 to date him for a month. Over the course of the month, Ronald goes from "like totally geek to totally chic". After the month is up Ronald and Cindi break up and Ronald proceeds to date all of her friends and abandon his real friends. Throughout the next few months Ronald becomes the most popular guy in school and everything that he does is considered cool, even the silly African Anteater Ritual which Ronald mistakes for the spotlight dance on American Bandstand. Of course in the end, Cindi drunkenly turns on him and Ronald falls back to his previous status, going from "totally chic to totally geek". Ultimately, Ronald and Cindi, who really fell in love during their fake month of dating, end up together.

This is not really a good movie, but I enjoy it more for its nostalgic value than anything else. This movie was made in 1987, so these folks really were my contemporaries. Ronald mentions how he was born the day a men first walked on the moon, 1969, me too! Also, Ronald's brother in this is brilliantly played by Seth Green, who is Dr. Evil's son "Scott!" in the Austin Power's series. You have to feel bad for someone like Amanda Peterson whose career went nowhere because she really couldn't act, as evidenced in her drunken tell-all scene; but hey, she sure was a cutey.

There are a few movies like this that I have seen about a dozen times during college, if only because they were on cable constantly for awhile and I happened to be hanging around the house. I'll mention them as I see them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Did I just hear the President say "get rid of steroids now"? Is this really an issue that rises to the Presidential level?

Second Thoughts on Iowa
I know it's too early to say that Dean is out, but judging by this and this it' beginning to look like his days are numbered. Which is too bad, because I was sort of having fun with him. I'm sure he still has some life in his candidacy, but he is doing his best to turn it into a punch line. If this campaign degrades into a bunch of adults talking policy and being nice, where's the fun in that?

Monday, January 19, 2004

Well that was interesting. I'm not sure how this affects the race overall, but I don't think this was what people were expecting. Really, does anybody know anything? I suppose Kerry was looking strong in the most recent polls, but I don't think this was expected. It's going to be a long year, and I could be persuaded to change my vote, because the more I think about it, for me Bush had done all that I think he can for me. I can't see him reforming Social Security and I am a little bit scared by Ashcroft, the patriot act, etc. Not enough to bash him, but if he loses and we still have a Republican congress, I don't think things will be all that bad. As long as the tax cuts stay in place, I guess I won't be complaining. Since I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative (meaning cut taxes and spending), it's tough to find someone who fits the bill.

I love reading comments on these kind of things, like this from Dean's blog for America:
I've just lost a lot of respect for Iowans. Sorry, but it's true. I thought they were smarter than to be fooled by Kerry and the press. Obviously they haven't been paying attention. Hard to see when the corn's so tall.
Yeah, they're the problem.

Minimum Wage
Great post on minimum wages by Kevin Brancato over at Truck and Barter. Kevin takes a look at the data showing that the minimum wage in real terms is approaching an all time low. However, if you look at the data, fewer workers are earning the minimum wage, so that the outrage over this is a little misplaced.

I tend to break with my compadres on this one. I understand the arguments on labor supply and demand, but this is one of those things where I guess I have to side with the liberals. There are certain labor markets where employers can take advantage of uneducated workers who have the kind of desperation that makes people work for peanuts, and I think the minimum wage should be there to prevent that kind of thing. I think the "living wage" folks are going a bit too far, becuase at some level wages will be too high and impact employment levels. I don't know where that is, so just to be safe, I say increase the minimum wage to something, say a 30-year median, like $6.50, and just index it from then on. Bush should probably do something on this pretty soon; that would be the compassionate thing to do.

CFA Studying
I managed to crack open a couple of my CFA books over the weekend. I read through a little of Quantitative Methods for Investment Analysis, but decided that some of that stuff I need to memorize, so it might make sense to put that off until later. I also read a little from the Econ text which I brought with me to work so I can do some reading during my down time or at lunch. I was Econ major as an undergrad, but I remember surprisingly little of it. The Finance and Statistics are still relatively fresh, but some of that stuff I never really learned the first time around, so I will have to spend some extra time on that as well. But at least I find that stuff interesting, so its not really boring to me. But its still studying.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Only Human
Interesting short article about the candidates in Iowa that puts a nice human spin on their efforts. As someone who could use a daily siesta, I have to hand it to these guys for their multiple 12 hour plus days. I just don't have that in me. In the consulting world, most people boast about their work hours, whereas I wear them as a badge of shame. Every minute that I am at the office after 4PM is wasted time, since I really only am working between 8AM and maybe, on a good day, 2PM (I get in at 7AM and leave at 4PM and I rarely stay late). If I can get 5 productive hours at the office, that is me rocking on all 8 cylinders.

Bush Haters
Jeff Jarvis with some common sense about why Dean doesn't appeal to voters like me:
Howard Dean is sliding in Iowa and New Hampshire and all God's children have their analyses; here's mine: Victory will not come from sniping. We don't want to elect Dr. No and then find him in office. We want to elect a Dr. Yes who makes things happen. Howard Dean has not so much made himself into a radical as he has made himself into Dr. No.

He has made himself into the leader of the negative wing of the party. And it's hurting him now.
Read the whole thing. Even though I was always down on Edwards, I kind of like him all of a sudden, because he is running a positive campaign. And maybe I'd vote for him if he won the nomination, since I think tax increases are basically off the table as long as we have a Republican Congress.

I agree with this Glenn Reynolds post about taxes. If you are married and both spouses are working, I think you will be pleasantly surprised this year. Not that this is going to change the minds of any Bush haters, but if you are on the fence, are you really going to vote for someone who wants to raise your taxes?

Friday, January 16, 2004

Mellow Mushroom
Mellow Mushroom is my favorite pizza place in Charlottesville, and probably my favorite place to go to have a beer. Not only do they have Golden Tee, which we played tonight, but they have about 30 beers on tap, including the Delirium Noel which is a lot of beer at 10% alcohol by volume (ABV). It's not as good as the Delirium Tremens which they have had before, but definitely a "hand over the car keys" kind of beer at 8.5% ABV. For some reason, it is considered to be a family friendly kind of place; although upon entering it is obvious that the Mellow Mushroom is so mellow because it really has been 'shrooming. The kind of 'shrooming that is enjoyed by college students and hippies. The place is decorated with lava lamps and cartoon psychedelic mushroom imagery. It looks kind of cool, but I am not sure how you would explain it to a 5-year old.

One more hour
This week seemed kinda long to me. I am glad the weekend is almost here. On Friday's, I take my dog Cassidy to what they call "doggie daycare" at this place and when I pick her up she is completely tired. It's nice, because then the wife and I can go out that night and not feel like the dog has been abandoned all day.

Tonight I want to go to one of the places in town that has Golden Tee. I have been meaning to play that again, ever since I golfed at Oyster Bay when I was down in Myrtle Beach for my brother's bachelor party. Oyster Bay is (or was) one of the courses on Golden Tee, but I can't remember if it is on the most recent version.

Actually the last time I was playing Golden Tee was last Christmas when I went to Kincade's in Chicago with my brother and our significant others. I was playing well and was on the 15th hole and my wife came up to me and said "Let's go, I'm not feeling well." I said, "In a minute, we have 3 holes left." And the next thing I heard was the sound of her head hitting the bar room floor. She fainted. So, I guess she really wasn't feeling well. I knew she was a fainter, but I had never seen it before. Anyway she was fine, she just has really low blood pressure and that happens from time to time.

Not Cool
Via the Modulator, I read about this story from the New York Times about some poor sap who got stuck with a $3400 car rental bill because he failed to read in the contact that it would cost him a buck a mile if he left state. They knew he left state because his trip was tracked by satellite. The company is making him pay. I sent Payless Car Rental an email, saying I wouldn't rent from them again if this wasn't forgiven (not that I would anyway, but just so they'd know that).

This kind of thing bugs me, not only that the trip was tracked by satellite without him knowing it, but also the slimy "gotcha" kind of charges that some companies try to get away with. I had a similar run in with SunCom. My wife signed a one year contract with them for a cell phone. After the year was up, since we both now had cell phones through work, we decided we didn't need it anymore and called to cancel. They told us that since you didn't cancel in the 30 day window before the end of the first year, the contract automatically renews....for another year! When they told her this on the phone, my wife said, "This is bullshit" and they hung up on her, which I guess is fine since you aren't supposed to take it out on the customer service people -- but it really is bullshit. I had to call back and try to talk them down, but no amount of persuasion or negotiation would get us out of it. We either had to pay $200 to cancel or keep the phone for a year. So we kept it and cancelled a year later and then went with Alltel, which has a better deal and their contract renews every month.

But anyway, it's good when these things make the news, because it gets the word out and it makes the companies think twice about trying to screw over their customers. I imagine that Payless branch is going to be hurting for awhile.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

From this story on Kenneth Cole, a common theme with entrepreneurs:
In 1982, he left to start his own company, then called Kenneth Cole Inc. He designed a line of shoes and hired an Italian factory to make them. That fall, he wanted to show off his wares at the industry's main trade show at a Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Designers had two options for showing off their products, Cole says. "You could be one of about 1,100 companies that took a little room at the Hilton. But that wasn't a great way to define yourself. Or you could set up a fancy showroom near the hotel. I clearly didn't have the money for that." So he hit upon the idea of borrowing a friend's tractor-trailer, parking it in front of the Hilton and peddling shoes from there. Unfortunately, that required a permit, which only the city could issue.

"I called the mayor's office and said, 'How does someone get permission to park a 40-foot trailer on the street in New York?' And they said, 'The answer, son, is that they don't. This is New York. There are only two exceptions -- if you are a utility company doing service or a production company shooting a full-length motion picture.'"

The next day, Cole changed the name of his company to Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. and filed for a permit to shoot a full-length motion picture called, The Birth of a Shoe Company. "With the mayor's blessing, I opened for business on December 2, 1982. I had two New York policemen as my doormen, compliments of the city. I sold 40,000 pairs of shoes in less than three days."
What is interesting to me is the common theme that seems to run through these success stories. Most people would probably just give up, realizing that they could never get a permit. But the entreprenuer, in this case Kenneth Cole, didn't hear the word "no" he heard "yes if". There is a certain kind of optimism that you need to be able to hear that.

Come on, Al
Please just go away. This is silly.

I ran into Al on two occasions when I lived in DC: Once in 1993 when he was giving a speech at the Dept. of Labor (where I worked) and another time (1995?) when we both were running in the Race for the Cure. My impressions: a) He is boring. b) He is larger and balder than you would think.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Psychopaths on the Job
Rob over at Businesspundit links a story about the B-Scan, a questionnaire designed to weed out corporate psychopaths. This part caught my eye:
"The professor believes that psychopath's cold-blooded ability to manipulate others without remorse, coupled with a veneer of charm and high energy can make them extremely successful in many walks of life.

They could be perfectly qualified for top posts in the military, politics or in huge multi-national companies as history has already shown in one notorious case."
Back in my days at a B2B e-commerce startup, this was an accurate reflection of more than a few of the corporate climbers that I had the misfortune to run into. The manipulation, bullying and lack of empathy exhibited by both male and female executives at this place were more worthy of a high school than a supposedly successful software company. It was a little bit discouraging for me, because I figured if this is what it took to get ahead in this industry, well then, I picked the wrong field. Thankfully that company has still never made a dime and most of the people that I referred to are long gone.

From what I have read, I get the sense that Andrew Fastow, of Enron fame, is this type of person so its nice to see that he is going to have some time to think about things.

"Working" from Home
I am "working" from home this morning, waiting around for the carpet guys from Lowes to show up. We have to get our carpet replaced, thanks to this one, who managed to find a loop of the carpet and unravel a section of it. They say you should expect to lose one major thing when you get a puppy, so I guess it could be worse. At least all of our furniture is intact. Now that she is out of that puppy phase (she is about 14 months) we decided to replace the carpet because if we are moving this summer, at some point this spring we will likely have to show the house to potential buyers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

One Fixed
My wife's engagement and wedding rings had a run in with the garbage disposal about a month ago. Here is what it looked like. Today I went and picked up her engagement ring which was covered by insurance. Her wedding band wasn't because it wasn't on the jewelry rider so it fell under the normal homeowners policy, which has a $500 deductible and doesn't cover damaged items. So I think I will wait until our anniversary for that one.

Watching CNBC
I caught some of Maria Bartiromo's show last night and she was interviewing Henry Blodgett (remember him?). Apparently he is covering the Martha Stewart trail for Slate. I was caught up in all that CNBC stuff back then, when the market was getting a little silly. Was that really almost four years ago?

Job Satisfaction
From Tyler Cowen I found this interesting post on happiness and job satisfaction that hits home. Here is the study that he is referring to on job satisfaction. His research shows that job satisfaction tends to decline until about your late 30s and then increases. The reasons:
"We are not sure why. However, one theory is that life tames one's wilder expectations, and that this process hurts but works. Folks realise they cannot all be chief executive and learn to live with their own limitations. Then, life improves for them. They accept themselves."

This is something that I have been thinking about for awhile now. Part of getting older is gradually learning to accept your limitations and acknowledging that perhaps you aren't ever going to be in charge of the place, or want to be for that matter. The kind of sacrifices in your personal life that someone has to make to be a CEO aren't something that I would be willing to do.

Kind of on a related note: I had a dream the other night and I was back in high school talking to one of my friends and he said something like, "doesn't it suck to be in high school again?" And I agreed that high school totally sucked, but said "In some ways I was happier back here, because at that point in my life I could still be anything that I wanted to be."

Through Tony Pierce's site I found out about Buzznet, which describes itself as "The Photoblog Community". I decided to to put some pictures of my dog and some other stuff out there so if you are interested in that kind of thing you can look here. I am sort of waiting for Blog*spot plus to come back so that I can have image hosting, but for the time being Buzznet seems kinda fun.

Monday, January 12, 2004

I ran over to the local Kroger to pick up something else to eat at lunch, besides my PB&J, and noticed that it was a balmy 50 degrees out. After waking up yesterday to a less than balmy 5 degrees, it feels like summer out there. But there is still another snowstom forecast on Wednesday/Thursday, so I guess I will just have to enjoy the next couple of days.


And by "Yay" I mean...

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Sour Grapes?
I'm not sure what to make of Paul O'Neill tirade against his former boss. I don't doubt that he believes that he is telling the truth, but you have to wonder what he hoped to gain from this. For the folks on the left it is just more grist for the mill. They'll believe anything that makes George W. look bad. To everyone else, I think that this just comes off as sour grapes. Like most folks who have had a run in with an employer and ended up getting fired, I think O'Neill is just pissed as his boss and is going to recount whatever tales support his theory. Or maybe not, I have gone back and forth about O'Neill; at one point thinking that he was a straight talker and at others thinking he was a freakin' loco.

Too Cold
It's a little too cold today. It was 12.9 degrees when I got out of bed at 7:30. It is 16 degrees now at 7:35 PM and it's 27 degrees in Chicago. Why am I in Virginia again? Strange weather. I was out hitting golf balls last Sunday in a balmy 72 degree day. What happened?

Friday, January 09, 2004

Cold Mountain
We went and saw "Cold Mountain" tonight. I liked it. It was a little more depressing than I hoped it would be, but I suppose if it was a happy ending it would have been a little too sappy. It was nice to see my little friend Natalie Portman in it. I guess I didn't pay any attention to the press on it and was like, "hey isn't that Renee?", and "dude, that's Natalie". Like most movies out there these days it was about 20 minutes longer than it needed to be; the trip home by Inman got a little too long and my back was getting sore from the theater seat. But I would recommend it. If anything, it makes you thing about how much we have to be grateful for nowadays. Just getting enough food was a chore not so long ago, while these days I stress over finding the time to work off an excess of it.

Tonight I have been watching "Catch Me if You Can", which is one of my favorite movies of recent times. I saw it at the theater and rented it once and have watched it on cable a few times. There is something about that time period, the mid to late 60s that appeals to me. Any movie that has the Girl from Ipanema on its' soundtrack works for me. I'm not a big fan of Leo, but he does a good job in this movie. I love the scene where he gets in trouble for teaching his French class for a week. There is a moment where he and his Dad are walking out of the principal's office and he looks sheepishly up at his dad Frank Sr., played by Christopher Walken, and his Dad gives him a smile and they both realize that they are cut from the same cloth.

Anyway, my tastes in movies are completely banal, and I take pride in that. The other day I was watching "The Hot Chick" and laughing my ass off.

Hyperbole Alert
Cute debate going on over at Matt's as to whether George W is "like the worst President ever". My take, he'll end up being either one of the best or one of the worst. I think if he gets a second term, which I think is probable, he will need to take on Social Security, get his spending under control and have Iraq turn out OK for him to be one of the best. I suppose is Iraq blows up and he keeps spending like he has been, he will probably end up as one of the worst. But not the worst. I voted for him and likely will again, although some times I wish there was a better alternative. But then other times I really do like him.

Over Christmas my brother in law said that he thought Bush was like Hitler, and I said "Yeah, but a cool kind of Hitler that you root for."

Oh no, real work on the horizon
Well I just some bad news from the boss. Looks like my time on the bench is coming to an end. I was having fun doing some research on RFID and just trying to look busy. Now I might have to do actual work again, something I was specifically trying to avoid.

Our company has been sustained pretty much by a big contract we have with a large computer hardware manufacturer and it looks like I will have to fill in for someone. The work isn't all that challenging, and there is more busy work than I like to do. But oh well, I guess its time I took one for the team.

Update: Yep it looks like my little vacation is over. Come Monday, its back to the world of real responsibilites. My manager said, "the good thing is that you will be billable again". Good for who?

Thank You Sir, May I have Another
I am little slow today thanks to my new friend Mr. Beer. My wife bought me this thing about a month ago and I am already brewing my fourth batch, so I decided to reduce my beer inventory a little bit last night. It's not like real brewing, I think, because all the stuff you need comes in a can of syrupy goo which you cook along with some powdery sugary malty sort of thing. Its not like you go and pick out the finest hops like these guys. But it is still kinda fun and you feel like you are earning your beer, so that takes some of the guilt away. They have all different kinds of beers, but my favorite so far was West Coast Pale Ale which is the one that came with the kit. But still I have a feeling that this thing will end up like the ice cream maker we got for our wedding, fun for few months but once the novelty wears off you realize that you can just go to the store and buy the stuff.

My wife, who is a resident/fellow at the University of Virginia, is in her final year and has been sending out resumes, or CVs as they call 'em, looking for work. She is interviewing with group practice in Knoxville, TN, later this month and from what she has told me, it already looks like a good fit. I don't know too much about Knoxville, except what I have heard from this guy, but it seems like a bigger Charlottesville on the other side of the mountains. I can't say I'm too thrilled about Knoxville, but I have grown to like the South for both weather and lifestyle reasons, so we'll see.

It snowed here again, not much only a couple of inches, but enough that I had to get out there and shovel for awhile. This city pretty much shuts down after an inch or two of snow; schools are closed or delayed even if snow is in the forecast. Coming from Chicago, where it took a heck of a lot for school to get cancelled, I like to mock this city's snow preparedness. But they do have a pretty good excuse, since we aren't supposed to get that much snow down here, although the past 2 winters haven't read the memo on that. And also, it is really hilly around here, which makes it tough for people to get around. Back when I lived in DC and in Chicago, I used to love to take my mountain bike out, but I haven't been on that thing more than 5 times since I have lived here. Its all uphill on the way home.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Lottery Winner?
But her story seemed so legit....

What no Wayne?
Sad story but I was confused by the name Jerry Jones. Shouldn't he have 3 names, one of which is usually Wayne? I guess Jerry William Jones is pretty close. I hope they find this guy soon and that the kids are OK, but these things stories rarely end up with happy endings.

Update: Looks like this one did!

Another thing: I really am just procrastinating by doing this. I often have actual work to do, although it isn't always "billable work" as we say in the consulting field, and I should be studying for the CFA level 1 exam that I am taking in June of 2004. For some reason I felt like I wasn't being challenged at work, so I decided that I would take the CFA exams to give me something constructive to do. I am sort of regretting that since I am not sure what good a CFA designation is to someone with an MBA in Finance who works in IT consulting, but oh well, I already paid for the exam and a bunch of the books, so I might as well take it.

I put a bunch of links up of blogs that I read which should grow over time and I have comments as well, which was easier to do than I thought. Now all I need is some content.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Anyway, since I'm doing this now (and this time I really am) let me explain why. I have a job that allows me to a little too much in the way of free time, so I spend a lot of my day reading other people's blogs. A couple of years ago I started my own, but just couldn't get past what I was calling the post/read/edit/delete cycle. You know, where I would post something and then actually read it a little later and see some mistake or rethink it, and then go back and edit it, but decide it was lame and then just delete it. So I wasn't really doing any blogging. But this time it will be different.

Another reason is because I frequently comment on other blogs, albeit pseudonymously, and feel like I need a home base where I can expand on my points.

About me: Male, born in 1969, so that makes me 34. Married, no kids yet, 1 dog. I work in Consulting, kind of an IT business consulting type job that I don't particularly care for, but shouldn't be complaining about because I currently live in Charlottesville, VA, and there isn't too much going on here unless you want to work at Starbucks.
-Dave Segebarth

I'll try this again. I resolved 2 years ago to start a blog and it lasted for a couple days. But this time I really mean it!

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