just procrastinating

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Nice Weekend
Today was sunny and got it up to about 60 degrees, and tomorrow is supposed to be even better. This is just a tease, but I'll take it. I went out and hit a couple of buckets of balls at the driving range at Meadow Creek Golf Course. I'm sure tomorrow I will be sore, since I haven't swung the clubs for a couple of months and I have that odd sort of tingly feeling in my side and forearm.

I don't golf much but am trying to get back into it. I used to play a lot in grade school and high school, but then just kind of stopped. I probably only played twice in my 20s. For my brothers bachelor party last September a bunch of us went down to Myrtle Beach and played 4 rounds, so I started to get back into it. I am trying to straighten out my swing. I just figured out how to hook the ball, so I think I am on to something, since my natural swing normally slices it. I just need to average out the two swings and I'm golden.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The Passion
Everybody seems to be buzzing about this movie but I don't really have any desire to see it, at least not at the theater. As a non-practicing Catholic, I think it might just make me feel guilty about not going to Church, and I've got enough guilt...having been brought up through 12 years of Catholic schools. Plus its one of those movies that you have to read, and I'm not real good at that.

I was an altar boy in grade school and I always liked doing the Stations of the Cross, which the passion is basically a re-enactment of. There was something very serious about it, unlike a lot of the other Church stuff, which was mostly repetition. The Priests took this very seriously. It was a quiet, solemn occasion. They used candlelight. Anyway, one of these days, probably when we have kids, I'll head back to Church.

Apprentice Update
So according to the teaser on this episode, we were supposed to witness the most "shocking boardroom ever". That should have been enough for me to know that this was going to be a pretty lame one. This time the teams were sent out to sell some of Donald Trump's new bottled water, Trump Ice. Now I don't know about you, but when I buy bottled water, I want to see a picture of a mountain spring, or a lake or something cool and clean on the label; not a picture of some old dude with goofy looking hair. But anyway, this time Versacorp was led by the cute Erica, who is a marketing manager for Clinique, and Protege was led by the um, not so cute Heidi, who is (or was) an account exec at Qwest.

We didn't learn anything too interesting in this episode, except that Nick is full of shit. But I think we already knew that because he was a big supporter of Sam. You have to wonder what Amy sees in him. Bill Rancic is still pretty good at this and Omarosa is still useless. In the end it was Troy, the high school educated good ole boy from Idaho, who was able to sell some of the water to distributors that gave Protege the victory. Troy will be the first to admit that he is better than any of these city slickers with their fancy degrees and after this episode, I am starting to believe him.

So it came down to Erica, Troy and Bill, and Trump let Erica go. I would rather have seen Nick go because he seems a little too cocky and clueless, like many of the salesmen that I know. But he'll be fun to laugh at for a few more episodes.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Compact Disc Minimum Advertised Price Antitrust Litigation
I got something in the mail a couple days ago that looked a lot like one of the many student loan consolidation notices that I get almost daily. I was about to throw it out, but opened it and saw that it was a check for $13.86! Back about a year or so ago I do remember signing up for this class action suit, but I never thought that it would leave me flush with cash like I am today. Apparently the music stores engaged in a little price fixing, by implementing some kind of a minimum advertised price policy, which was against the law. You can read all about it here.

Greenspan and Social Security
This is inevitable, but I wonder how long it will take for changes to be made:
Greenspan...said he would not change current retirees' benefits, but reminded members of Congress of two specific ways they could curtail the program's future growth.

He again recommended gradually raising the eligibility age for both Medicare and Social Security, to keep pace with the population's rising longevity. And he noted that they could link cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits to a measure of inflation other than the consumer price index, a widely followed measure that many economists believe overstates the rise in overall prices. A measure that showed less inflation would cause benefits to rise more slowly.
If Bush makes it to a second term, he better do something about this. Sooner or later, somebody has to make the baby boomers take their medicine.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Professor Bainbridge doesn't like the Quiznos ads. I admit that I would normally agree with him, had I not somehow became acquainted with those two lovable characters as they sang hauntingly about the moon. So I kinda like them. And I like Quiznos, I mean, "They got a pepper bar."

Marriage Amendment

George, quit fucking around.

To Kill a Mockingbird
I watched all of To Kill a Mockingbird last night on Turner's Classic Movies (TCM), which I hadn't seen since high school. Like everyone back then, I had to read it during my Freshman year. And instead of reading it, of course, I just rented the movie and probably got the Cliff Notes as well, which I did a lot of in high school. But what a great movie. Gregory Peck does such a great job in the role of Atticus Finch, that it is hard to imagine him as anyone else. It's always, "hey, isn't that Atticus Finch playing Lincoln", or "why doesn't that Atticus sell his wire and cable business to Louie? But anyway, the world could use a few more people like Atticus Finch.

Warmer Days Ahead
Here is a chart that I just updated that shows the first day that the temperature rises above 50 and then 60 for a select group of cities, and the first day that it falls below that. It also shows the total number of days that the average high is above 50, which I consider to be bearable and 60 which is more ideal. These are all cities that I have lived in or will live, in the case of Knoxville, with Hilton Head there just as the ideal benchmark. So Knoxville only has 51 days where the average daily high temp is below 50. Not too shabby.

And by the way it is not easy to get a table into blogger. It took me about 8 tries to get this right and it still doesn't look like I want it to.
City First > 50 First > 60 First < 60 First < 50 Days > 50 Days >60
Ann Arbor, MI Mar-27 Apr-20 Oct-20 Nov-10 228 183
Chicago, IL Mar-22 Apr-17 Oct-27 Nov-16 239 193
Philadelphia, PA Mar-11 Apr-9 Nov-1 Nov-30 264 206
Oxford, OH Mar-7 Apr-1 Nov-4 Nov-26 264 217
Washington, DC Feb-26 Mar-27 Nov-10 Dec-7 285 228
Charlottesville, VA Feb-22 Mar-24 Nov-11 Dec-8 290 232
Knoxville, TN Feb-8 Mar-12 Nov-18 Dec-18 314 251
Hilton Head, SC NA Feb-4 Dec-19 NA 365 319

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Newsweek has a piece on Trump and the Apprentice that helps to explain why certain contestants seem to stay around despite giving every appearance that they do not work and play well with others (this means you Omarosa):
The fact that wacky Sam lasted on the show as long as he did has made people wonder whether Trump, who is an executive producer of the show, keeps the most entertaining people even if they're the least competent. He has also spared the show's reigning villain, Omarosa, even though his own lieutenants have recommended she go. "It has nothing to do with the fact that we have great ratings and I want to keep them that way. It's just pure instinct as to who's going to do the best job," he says. "Wait until you see me go after Omarosa." Not everyone is convinced that Trump is playing fair. "It's a TV show. You gotta remember that," says fired contestant Bowie Hogg. "Trump knows how to get good ratings. He's a smart, smart man."
I guess its just good television to keep the villians around. (Found via Businesspundit)

Good editorial in the post this morning by David Ignatius about the Dishonest Trade Talk that the candidates are engaging in. Here he talks about the Democratic candidates and compares their stance on trade to Clinton's:
In the run-up to last week's Wisconsin primary, Edwards was proclaiming himself the anti-NAFTA candidate, which to me is the economic equivalent of joining the Flat Earth Society. A defensive Kerry was almost apologizing for his support for the 1993 free-trade pact with Mexico and blasting "Benedict Arnold CEOs" who export jobs overseas in an effort to cut costs.

This anti-trade talk is dangerous nonsense, and the Democrats should be embarrassed by it. It suggests to U.S. workers that there is an alternative to change and adaptation -- to getting the skills that are necessary to compete in an increasingly competitive world. That's wrong, most of all because it misleads people about their real options. Rather than helping workers build a bridge to the future, as Clinton tried to do, these Democrats talk as if they want to build a roadblock. Shame on them.
Kinda makes you miss the big lug sometimes. I voted for Clinton, twice, although the second time I was kinda wavering. Dole just didn't have any appeal at the time, although I thought he was a pretty funny guy. It a shame that the candidates have engage in this kind of protectionism, but I guess they wouldn't do it if it didn't win them some votes. Clinton did a couple of brave things in his day, going against the party line by advocating free trade and taking on welfare.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Political Experience
Kevin Drum at Calpundit wonders how Bush became President with only 6 years of political experience.
Compare this to every other president since FDR. Here are the number of years of political experience each one had before he became president: 22, 23, 0, 14, 26, 18, 26, 14, 14, 22, 16.

With the specialized exception of Eisenhower, every single other president has had at least 14 years between first winning political office and becoming president. George Bush had six.
I don't think that lack of political experience should be a disqualifier for any office. In fact, I think that in many ways it is preferable to have someone with outside experience than having a bunch of career politicians running around trying to get re-elected and pandering to their interest groups. John Kerry has been around long enough that he is part of the problem. If he really had the answers don't you think maybe some of those stellar ideas would have precipitated something substantial? Can you think of anything? Besides going to Vietnam, what has he really accomplished? All that experience is crap. That's 35 years of not working in the real world. We really should have term limits.

At least Bush brought up Sammy Sosa and was shortsighted enough to let the Cubs have him. I'll take that as an accomplishment.

No More Sex
I hate to say it, but the last episode of Sex and the City ranks up there with Seinfeld for biggest letdown in the conclusion to a long running series. I still like the show, but I definitely sensed that this year their whole schtick was starting to get old. And what did we learn from this: that Carrie and Big belong together? Really? Are we sure about this? If that is the case, it is only because Big matured as a person. Not Carrie.

In fact, it only goes to prove that she is the only one that hasn't learned anything over the last 6 years. At least the other 3 matured in some way: Samantha having a committed relationship, Miranda getting married and making some sensible choices, and Charlotte, well, she married a bald guy.

And I don't know why Carrie denied that Aleksandr hit her on purpose; that was no accident.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Workplace Dress
I liked this Stanley Bing article in the most recent Fortune about the way that acceptable business attire has evolved, from the days of the fedora to the wide ties of the 70s:
Anyhow, the one thing left of value from the past ten years is the relaxation of the assumption that working people need to be stuffed into a uniform to function properly. Only in brokerages, steak houses, and perp walks do you see guys in three-piece suits these days.
Where I work now we are still supposed to be "business casual" which for me means some nice khakis and a button down shirt. But since we don't really have any clients that visit this office, I have pretty much abandoned the dress code and wear jeans every day. Jeans and a sweater that is either blue, green or gray. Those are the only colors I wear.

Since I have gotten older, I do think it would be nice to dress up every now and then. I was eyeballing a nice sport coat the other day that was on sale, but I just couldn't pull the trigger since I can't think of a time in the next year that I would actually have to wear one. Oh well, maybe on the next job. It is a hassle to dress up. Maybe it's just that I have been watching too many James Bond movies recently that I think it looks better.

Which reminds me of something funny brother said when we were getting ready for his wedding, which was last November. He had just put on his newly tailored tuxedo and he was looking at himself in a full length mirror, when he somewhat dejectedly said, "I don't look like Bond, I look like a waiter."

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Wow. Who'd a thunk he'd do again. Nice ego. I doubt he will get half as much support as he did last time, but that could still be enough to tip the scale. From Wonkette.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Wedding Perks?
This article in the San Francisco Chronicle talks about some to the benefits that same sex couples will enjoy if they are able to get married. But it leaves out the most important drawback -- taxes. Ever since we tied the knot, we have had to pay an addition $6000 a year for the privilege of being married. I expect that will be less this year thanks to the reduction in the marriage penalty, but it will be still be a significant chunk of change. But the point is when both spouses work, both spouses get screwed. The tax deductions work in your favor if only one spouse works.

There are other costs as well. One of my coworkers who has grown children confided in me that she and her husband got divorced ten years ago so that they could get better grants and loans, since they were both trying to finish their degrees. They still live together and everything, but legally it made more sense for them to be single. It was kind of sad to think that a nice Catholic girl had to get divorced to be able to go back to school.

Recent Apprentice Episode
Almost missed this one; I was out at happy hour, but made it back in time. In this episode, the teams had to renovate and rent out an apartment in NYC. The winner was the one who rented out the place for a higher percentage than that original rent. There were only 2 apartments to choose from, and the project managers Troy, who does insurance and mortgages, and Katrina, who does real estate in Beverly Hills, ended up flipping for the best one. There was some drama here, in that Katrina thought that Troy was using her "expertise" to decide which apartment to pick, but any idiot could have figured out that the brownstone at $1200 beat that other one at $1500. I thought Katrina was a little dramatic and looked kind of silly with her pretend (?) indignation.

In the end, Protege, led by Troy, was able to rent the nice place out at over $1500, and Versacorp could only get a 10% premium, despite being able to get a nice kitchen renovation on the cheap. So it was left up to Katrina to decide who would join her in the board room. She chose Bill (who I like), who was the one that negotiated the final deal, and really only got the tenant to go up $50 from her offer, and Tammy, who from the beginning has seemed a little bit like she is playing a completely different game in a alternate universe. Tammy probably isn't playing with a full deck and Trump sensed this, and decided that it was her time to go.

I think it was probably the right decision. Bill did the best with what they gave him, and really, he was lucky to even get that extra $50. Katrina is a little too full of herself and her 2 years of real estate experience that somehow put her in the top 1% of all real estate agents is suspect to me. Yeah, its Beverly Hills and the prices are high, but still...you don't good listings without some good connections, so most of her success is probably related to her family connections. I would like to see her go, just because I think that she needs to be taken down a notch or two.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Car Accidents
Matthew Yglesias hits on one the things that bugs me. Forty-four thousand people will die this year in car accidents. That is a 9/11 about every 25 days. And this has been happening for decades, yet no one really seems to care all that much. Oh, but 120 people maybe die from Ephedra over 10 years...lets ban it. I know that automobiles are very important, and we can't really live without them, but have some perspective. Here is what Matthew says:
"In general, people have a remarkable capacity to get all freaked out by problems (school shootings, mad cow disease, etc.) that kill way, way fewer people than car crashes. A certain amount of automotive fatalities are an inevitable consequence of a world in which lots of people drive, but even so many of these deaths could be prevented by sounder public policy."
Now I know public policy solves everything in Matt's world, but he might have a point on this one.

Good Catch
Here is a local news item that was interesting. I don't usually care for these entrapment type arrests, but this one seems to have netted a keeper:
Police have arrested an Albemarle man accused of soliciting prostitution over the Internet after he arrived at an arranged rendezvous with a stun gun but no money.

Nathaniel Hollis Lamb, 20, of 3931 Blenheim Road, was charged late Tuesday with solicitation of prostitution, a misdemeanor, authorities said.

Two city women, 19 and 25, were made offers on Feb. 7 and Feb. 10 via AOL Instant Messenger to have sex for $4,000, city police Detective Tom McKean said.
Hmm, a stun gun and no money. I wonder what he had planned?

Skilling brothers
Looks like Jeff Skilling is finally going down. I don't have any sympathy for this guy, from all reports he, like Fastow was an asshole. Except I do feel bad for his brother Tom, and Tom is the best weatherman in Chicago. It's like both of them excelled at what they did, but one chose to be a corporate evil-doer, the other, chose the weather. Its hard to be an evil weatherman. I suppose if you were evil, people would probably just think you weren't good at your job, because when you predict that is going to be a nice day and it rains, you'd just make people mad.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Think of the Children
Reason's Ronald Bailey does a nice take down of this book and this review about the ever-coming fuel shortages that we should be expecting. Here is a quote from the review of the book in the NYT:
I hope Goodstein is wrong. I wish we could dismiss him as an addled environmentalist, too much in love with his windmill to know which way the wind is blowing. On the strength of the evidence, and his argument, however, we can't. If he's right, I'm sorry for my kids. And I'm especially sorry for theirs.
This little saying "sorry for my kids" is a pet peeve of mine. I am never, ever going to feel sorry for my kids, grandkids or anyone else's for the world that we leave them. These little ones will grow up in a word with hundreds of channels, never have a TV that isn't an HDTV and probably never have a screen smaller than 42" unless it is the one they carry with them. They will never have to wait for something to download or for a program to load. They will never ride in a car that doesn't have airbag or a phone, they will probably even see a car that flies (well maybe not that). The boys will never go bald and the girls will never gain weight or get wrinkles. So spare me.

The phrase "I feel sorry for my children and grandchildren" is just a code for "I don't want other people to have/not have or do/not do something today."

For example: "Our poor children will be saddled with all this debt from George Bush's evil tax cuts". This really means, "Those rich people are rich enough, can't I have some of their money today?"

Or "There will be no gas left for our poor children if we keep driving like this." really means: "There are too many big cars on the road and with all the traffic, I can't get to my yoga class."

So this thing could turn into a race after all once Dean gets out, although it isn't clear that Dean is going to get out, just "quit campaigning". I'd like to see Edwards do well, even though I don't really go for his anti-trade, "two Americas" nonsense, I still kinda like the guy. I might vote for someone like that if the current crew doesn't shape up. But Kerry, never. Even though I sort of admire his Vietnam record both during the war and after, I just think he is everywhere on the issues has no integrity. That, and he just comes across as so arrogant, worse than Gore. I couldn't bear to listen to that for 4 years or more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Sales Tax
James Joyner at Outside the Beltway makes a good point on taxes. He is talking about a proposed plan here in Virginia for "eliminating sales tax exemptions enjoyed by utility companies, the shipping industry, airlines, dry cleaners, telephone companies and other businesses.
Since when are sales taxes a tax on business? Sales taxes are passed on directly and openly to consumers. Of course, all taxes on businesses are actually passed on to their customers in the form of increased prices.

The only sense in which making dry cleaners collect sales taxes affects the dry cleaners is that it raises the effective cost of their product and, to the extent that demand is elastic, costs them customers. Someone who is willing to pay $5 a week to have their shirts cleaned and pressed might not be willing to pay $5.40 and thus decide to do their own. Or they might decide to have their suits cleaned every fifth time they’re worn rather than every fourth time.
Good points. When businesses pay taxes, they just end up passing them along to consumers one way or another. It just is easier to say you are taxing business, 'cause you know, those guys are evil.

Job Search
Well my wife accepted the job offer in Knoxville and we will be moving in July. So that means it is time for me to find a new job in Knoxville, TN. This will be our fourth move since we have been married: Philly 1999-2000, Charlottesville apt. 2000-2001, Charlottesville house 2001-2004 and now Knoxville 2004-?, and I have a feeling that this will be it for awhile. The problem is that I don't know anyone in Knoxville yet and my traditional means of finding a job are unlikely to work there.

The last 2 jobs that I got were all through networking. After I got married and had to move to Philly, one of the VPs at the large P/C Insurance Company I worked for in Chicago knew a guy in Philly who worked for a defense contractor that was interested in someone like me. I wasn't too thrilled about them, but I was interested in a job because we had about $10 grand in debt from our wedding and it was the only offer I had. So I took it and figured I would do it for a year and then find something better. As it turns out after a year, my wife wanted to change specialties, so we moved again, this time to Charlottesville. The company actually let me work from home, which unusual for them, because they wanted me to stay. But it was the type of thing where I would be doing the same job, which was boring and wouldn't be able to advance until we moved to the DC area.

So through a friend from college, I found out about a job in Charlottesville with a Pleasanton, CA, based B2B e-commerce company that had a consulting office in Charlottesville. She knew the guy who was running the office, and I ended up interviewing and getting the offer. I was so psyched...they gave me options and I felt like I finally made it. But it was the worst thing that could have happened in retrospect. The job turned out to be nothing like I was promised, and in the past 3 years have had to deal with a 4 month layoff, a loss of matching 401K, reduction in vacation, reduction in pay and worst of all, no more free diet cokes.

But this time, networking might be tough since I don't know anyone, and there are a total of 8 Michigan alumni in the area, so that is probably a dead end too. So I end up looking on Monster, which is a waste of time except that it gives me some idea of what companies are in the area. I suppose I will try the headhunter route, but I am not really at a level where headhunters care about me and I am trying to switch careers, which they care about even less.

TV Notes
The Littlest Groom: I had no intention of watching this one, but since I usually watch Fox from 7PM - 8PM (Friends/Seinfeld), when I came back in the room it was on. I had originally thought that this wasn't going to be a good thing for Fox, since it seemed like they would end up making fun of little people, or at least give the appearance that they were making fun, but that wasn't really the case. It is hard to say, "little people can't have a bachelor-type show, because that would be making fun of them", because then they would never have a bachelor-type show, and that would wrong too. I think they did a good job of making the people seem real without making fun: Glen, the bachelor in this, is actually a pretty good looking dude and he seems cooler than any of the average-sized bachelors that have been on reality TV.

Of course, the twist in this is that they bring in a bunch of average-sized model types that Glen now gets to choose from. It was kind of sad to see the look on the girl's faces change, because for awhile in the mansion everybody was small and then suddenly reality came back. Although I would be surprised if he picked a tall chick, because he already mentioned to one of the girls that he would love to be in a family of little people because his parents and siblings are of average height. Thankfully there is only one more episode of this, so it will be resolved soon.

My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance: Somebody told me this was hilarious, so I decided to watch it this week. But this episode was really serious because Randi told her family about the wedding, which is in 3 days, and everybody was upset. I'm not sure I buy it. Come one, there are a bunch of TV cameras around. You would have to be an idiot to not wonder if something was up, and that maybe you should just trust your sister's judgment on this one. Randi's siblings are complete assholes if they don't support her, especially that older brother, who is a frickin' crybaby.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Yeah, Why is That?
Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture chatting with Steve Forbes about various things, mentions the following:
We discuss discontinuity of how a movie which costs $100 million dollars to make sells for $10 as a DVD -- yet the CD soundtrack to that same film sells for $18. (Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K).
I'm trying to think of a reason why this might be, other than the record companies are evil, but I got nothing.

Via Newmark's Door, this test to see if you can spot a fake smile. I got 14 out of 20, but stumbled out of the blocks getting the first 3 wrong. I thought I would do better since I am pretty good at picking up on non-verbal cues, but maybe I'm not as good as I think. It is kind of interesting; apparently different muscles control a fake smile compared to the real thing and you can keep an eye out for clues.

Lost in Translation
Finally was able to rent Lost in Translation. I thought it was great. The movie is a plaintive story about an aging actor Bob Harris, played by Bill Murray, who is in Tokyo for a week to do an ad for a some kind of whiskey. There, through repeated trips to the hotel bar, he meets a young married woman named Charlotte, who is played by Scarlett Johannson. Charlotte is staying in Tokyo with her husband who is a photographer and is constantly away, so she spends her days in her hotel room or wandering around the city, and her nights at the hotel bar. Both Bob and Charlotte seem to be insomniacs and run into each other a few times and eventually start hanging out together.

The movie is a comedy, but it isn't the Bill Murray from Caddyshack kind of comedy: the humor is from Bob and Charlotte's interactions with the Japanese. But it is also a serious story about two people who meet and make a connection, but it is a connection that won't go anywhere and really shouldn't. Two married people at very different stages in their lives: Charlotte at the beginning, wondering who she is and who she married. Bob at middle age, with kids and no longer in love with his wife. The movie only works because of the tension between the two, and that they never sleep together. It wouldn't be credible if they did.

I never had any interest in visiting Japan, but after seeing this movie, I does have an appeal. The entire city looks like Times Square. I think I read this somewhere else before, but the way it was shot, it really does look like the city in Blade Runner. I really like that Scarlett Johannson. I have never seen her before, but she has a kind of unique soft beauty about her. Although both my wife and I did think she looked pregnant in some of the earlier scenes, so that made the movie confusing until we realized she wasn't (or was she?). Bill Murray does a great job. I am not sure if it is Oscar worthy, but I hope he gets it anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

I really like Buzznet. Even though I only occasionally post a picture or two there, I like to see what other people are posting. There is such a diverse group of people who post pictures at Buzznet, many of them talented photographers, but mostly just people who like to take pictures and share them with friends and strangers. Commenting on pictures is encouraged (I think) and they are appreciated; even a "Cool pic", or "Great shot" lets you know that someone took the time to look and was interested in what you posted. A lot of the pictures are mundane, but they all give you a glimpse into someone else's world, and many of the people who post there are from different countries. I once commented on a Brazilian's pictures in Spanish, a language a sort of know, however, not knowing (or remembering) that they speak Portuguese in Brazil. I am so worldly.

Anyway, last night I was sort of drunk and I saw a picture from someone whose only personal info was that they were from Albania. Here is the comment that I posted, which is the only thing I know about Albania:
"Albania! Albania! You border on the Adriatic. Your land is mostly mountainous, And your chief export is chrome."
I hope everyone knows the reference. I mean, Cheers must be in syndication everywhere by now. Remember Coach? He has been gone now for 19 years.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Perfomance Review
I had my performance review yesterday with the boss which went as expected and we started to have a discussion about positioning me for my next project, since this one will likely end May 1. Since now there is a 98.4% chance that my wife and I will be moving to Knoxville in July, and I don't want him to expend any effort positioning me in a different role, I decided to ask him if we could have an "off the record" conversation. He said, "sure, I seem to be having a lot of those". So I told him that come July, I would be moving to Knoxville, so if the company is in trouble and he is looking for someone to lay off, I would be the perfect candidate since I am leaving either way. He kind of sensed this, because he knew that my wife's fellowship was ending in June and that I hadn't mentioned that she was staying with the University.

But anyway, I'm glad that I told him, because we are pretty friendly around the office and it would just be uncool of me to fake as if I was staying and have him go out of his way for me, only to give my 2 weeks notice in June. If word does leak to the suits about this, well then he's got some 'splainin' to do, but it is unlikely.

The reason I say a 98.4% chance that we are moving is that my wife is actually in Kansas City, MO, today on an interview, but is only going to recoup her $650, because she had to pay for her ticket in advance and they will reimburse her. There is a 1.6% chance that she will hear something from them that she likes, get an offer and accept it.

Apprentice Update
Too bad for Jessie. This was a tough call for Trump and I don't know if he made the right one. Jessie was obviously patronizing in her negotiation with Isaac Mizrahi, but I don't think she had a lot of experience with that kind of thing. And by the way, could Omarosa be any more of a bitch?

Trump is a pretty good judge of character. He knows that Omarosa is evil and will get rid of her in time. He sensed weakness in poor Jessie and I think he was right that she didn't stick up for herself and may be too young. She looks a little too young and for awhile, kind of reminded me of a young Winona Ryder, like in "Heathers" or "Great Balls of Fire". It was funny to watch Heidi take Omarosa's insults when the whole team was together, obviously because she though Omarosa wouldn't pick her for the other 2. In the end when she did get picked, she suddenly decided that she was insulted. Trump picked up on this sudden change of tune and I think he lost respect for her.

It wasn't a bad episode, I was expecting these to start getting boring, but they put some celebs in this one to make it more interesting. But I think it is going to be difficult to keep this thing exciting for 10 more episodes.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Southwest Airlines and Whiskey
Something I read earlier today at Businesspundit made me think about this story in the early years of Southwest Airlines. Back in the 1972, Southwest flew from Houston to Dallas and back for $26 during the day and $13 at night. In a move to get rid of Southwest, Braniff had decided to cut their daily rate to $13. Southwest didn't want to fly that route for $13 during the day because it was unprofitable. More from the Handbook of Texas Online:
Braniff lowered its Dallas-Houston fare to just $13. In an action that became characteristic of the airline, Muse responded with newspaper advertisements claiming, "Nobody's going to shoot Southwest Airlines out of the sky for a lousy $13," offering customers their choice of either a $13 fare or a full-fare ticket plus a fifth of premium liquor. The bottles of liquor did not cost $13, but a businessman could put the $26 fare on his expense report and take the liquor home free. Once again, a Braniff tactic backfired. With 80 percent of its customer base choosing to pay full fare, Southwest won this 1972 fare war and became the largest distributor in Texas of Chivas, Crown Royal, and Smirnoff.
Can you imagine trying to slip that one by the folks in Finance? Walking off a plane with a bottle of whiskey; man are we lame nowadays or what?

Via Fark, this article about the use of "like". It is interesting the way that language evolves and there usually is a reason for it:
Linguists say "like" has a growing number of meanings. It can act as a "hedge," to tell the listener that what is being said is an approximation or an exaggeration. (Example: "She has, like, a gazillion shoes.") It can also be a "focuser," to declare that the next bit of information is important. ("He is, like, so hot.") One of its most ubiquitous uses is as a substitute for "said." ("So my mom was like, 'Do your homework.' And then I was like, 'I did it at school.' ")

Defenders of the practice argue that these usages are just a natural evolution of the English language. Indeed, even some linguists say the word can be downright useful. When dropped into the middle of a sentence, for example, it gives the speaker time to gather his thoughts so he doesn't say the first (sometimes insipid) thing that comes to mind. Studies also show that people who have learned not to use filler words are interrupted more often, and tend to use simpler sentences.
I try to avoid "like" as much as possible, but I am someone whose speech doesn't really flow and I pause often to gather my thoughts. I am not sure why, but sometimes I have trouble finding words and getting my thoughts together (maybe its the drinking). Anyway, I just thought this was an interesting take on it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Saturday Night Live
My friend Scott Hess over at Blindcamel, has a great list of Saturday Night Live "Best and Worsts". It appears surprisingly well-researched for a "quick, off-the-cuff take".

I agree with most of Scott's list, especially that Will Ferrell was better than any of his predecessors and is probably the funniest man out there today. Here are some additions: Despite the inclusion of Will Ferrell, the "Night at the Roxbury" recurring characters were extremely overdone, Eddie Murphy belongs in the best players list, Paul Simon is a Best Guest Host, because you get music too and the "First Citiwide Change Bank" commercial (text here) was hilarious when it aired. (Although a lot of the skits lose their punch when seen multiple times, which Comedy Central and E! allow you to do).

I still like SNL, even though it usually sucks, but I am kind of a sucker for sketch comedy.

Local Eco-terrorists
Here in Charlottesville, they are clearing some land for a Target and Harris Teeter which are slated for development. On the way into work I heard about this on the radio:
Members of a radical environmental group take credit for setting construction equipment ablaze - causing thousands in damage to vehicles - at the site of an Albemarle County commercial development.

The vandalism, which occurred between Thursday and Sunday, has prompted an FBI investigation, Albemarle County spokeswoman Lee Catlin said.

The Earth Liberation Front said its members visited Hollymead Town Center - the future site of mass merchandiser Target and grocer Harris Teeter - setting a “bulldozer” on fire and causing minor damage to several other pieces of equipment, according to the group’s Web site, www.earthliberationfront.com.
Those bastards. We can bitch all we want about Wal-Mart, but pretty much everyone can agree that its nice to have a Target nearby. And Harris Teeter: who doesn't like the produce and meat selection at Harris Teeter? They are tops in my book.

It is not surprising that we have eco-terrorists in the Charlottesville/Albermarle county area. I wouldn't be surprised in some of them were in city government. The area does its best to stop any kind of development that isn't some sort of mixed-use urban planner's dream, and the only result is that real estate prices are about 25% higher than in Richmond. Which is great for us landowners, but it ends up hurting the people who they want to help.

Higher Education
James Joyner at Outside the Beltway picks up on this post by Dean Esmay about the value of higher education. James talks about what you ultimately remember from college:
Most of what I specific things I learned in calculus, chemistry, and literature are long forgotten. But, theoretically at least, what a college education does is train the mind. My analytical skills are far sharper, my ability to do research and shift credible information from junk is greatly enhanced, and so forth.
I think this is about all a college education did for me. In addition to the social learning and growing up that takes place between 18 and 22, which was more important, but probably would have happened anyway, the classes really just taught me how to learn. I was an econ major, so not much of that had any practical applications, it just served to develop my analytical skills.

The whole educational process takes too long and much of it is redundant anyway. I think that you can cram high school into 3 years, which would be ideal because by 16 or 17 most kids are ready to get the heck out of the house. It would have made my parent's lives less stressful. Four years of college is plenty, but maybe it could be spread out by doing more of a work/study type thing, to allow more time to mature. From what I can tell, all professional schools (MD, JD, MBA) are about a year longer than necessary.

I do think that I learned a lot in my MBA program, but I went with a purpose: to learn more practical business skills, to change careers and to force myself to overcome my fears of public speaking. All of which I accomplished (I think), although these could just as easily been accomplished by replacing the MBA with a program of self study, networking and going to Toastmasters. The MBA program was just a way to wrap all of these up into a package that cost $45 grand.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

More about the Donald
Dahlia Lithwick at Slate takes a look at "The Apprentice" here and hits on most of the familiar themes. She adds a little bit about the guys:
But the least fun to be had on the show is among the young men, all of whom seem to be adhering to some 1950s code of business success: They wear suits. They call Trump "Sir." (Some of the women have taken to calling him "Donald.") They are respectful, if terrified, around the women. They have clearly grown up in an era of political correctness; if the ladies' hooker-gear offends them, they never mention it. Does it bother them that they could not have done to their female waitresses what the women did to themselves last week—dressed up in tiny "shooters girls" (a play on Hooters girls) T-shirts and insisted that Planet Hollywood patrons do shots with them? If the guys had asked women to do it they'd have been sued for harassment. Since when is sex a game only women can play? Does it madden the men? Who knows? They never say. They just trudge stolidly along, with their business plans and their management principles, getting their butts kicked and trying to take it manfully. These guys have nothing—not power, not sex. The currency that once counted for them—their MBAs and the ability to sink a 3-pointer—jingles like loose pennies in their pockets.
I question whether they are really "terrified" around the women; perhaps terrified of saying what they really think because they probably don't want to look like an ass on TV. I would bet that when the camera's are off, the guys spend their time talking about the following: detailed discussions about each of the girls, focusing exclusively on physical attractiveness, and how the games are rigged for the girls to win.

Since there can only be one winner, all of the guys can go back to their jobs knowing that they played by the rules, acted like professionals and lost. I don't think any of the girls will be able to do that.

Name Dropping
Via Businesspundit, this unintentionally depressing story in Fast Company about Ram Charan, who I have never heard of but supposedly is "one of the world's most renowned management consultants".

I suppose you can't fault people for having different priorities, but this strikes me as sad:
Perhaps because he's unencumbered by kids' soccer games or a wife's birthdays, he is utterly reliable, and his equally busy clients respect him for that. A breakfast meeting on Sunday at 7 a.m. in Cleveland and a lunch in San Francisco? No problem. "He's very easy to get a hold of," says NDCHealth's Hoff. "I can call him anytime, or he'll call me and say, 'How's it going?' " He is famous for never missing appointments, often scheduling several different flights simultaneously to make sure he gets out in time. Even on September 11, 2001, when he was stuck in Philadelphia, he hired a car and driver to get him to a meeting in Raleigh.

For most people, this lifestyle would be a brutal sacrifice. But to hear Charan tell it, it is his own priorities that are in order, not all those frantic executives who try to do it all and merely manage to disappoint and alienate everyone around them, from their neglected spouses, to their rushed customers and clients, to their friends who don't bother calling anymore. "This is all vacation for me," he says. "If you love your job, this is the juice of life."
The real thing that interested me about this article is that it mentions Larry Bossidy, who I have met and used to work for at AlliedSignal, and C.K. Prahalad, who I took a class from in business school. He was real smart.

Monday, February 09, 2004

More Stupidy from the Drug War
I heard this on the radio on my way home from work.
An attorney has launched a campaign to stop the sale of small glass tubes containing plastic roses at northeastern Indiana convenience stores.

The tubes are crack pipes in disguise, Jordan Lebamoff said. He has taken out a newspaper advertisement in Fort Wayne asking people to boycott stores selling the tubes.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Rodger Popplewell said that once the plastic rose was removed, the tubes could be stuffed with steel wool to create a cigarette-like pipe for smoking crack.

In November, police in Greensboro, N.C., arrested nearly 60 people after raids at 10 convenience stores were prompted by the sale of rose tubes

Remember the 80s?
I went to the mall yesterday and was somewhat confused by the retro 80s preppy look that they are trying to revive. Three of the mannequins in the Polo section at Belk (a local department store) had layered shirts; you know a polo shirt with collar up, under a button down shirt. There was also a lot of this going on with the sweater wrapped around the shoulders look. And those colors are back too, pink and yellow for men. Even J.Crew was trying to sell us on argyle sweaters and pink pants. Look at this dude here with the pink shirt and green pants. That's not a look that works in my book.

I want a to start a company that makes clothes from the early 90s. I still like the stuff I have from back then and I wish I could just buy some new stuff, since my favorite things are getting threadbare.

Good article over at Reason on derivatives, something that has always interested me but that I am still trying to get my head around. Here is an interesting bit on early derivatives:
Although sometimes viewed as a recent innovation, derivatives actually predate Christ. Thomas F. Siems, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, claims that the Greek philosopher Thales created the first known derivative contract roughly 2,500 years ago. Thales, apparently an excellent prognosticator, suspected that the olive harvest would be exceptionally good one year, so he bought options securing him the exclusive use of olive presses in his area. When the harvest turned out to be much as Thales had expected, he made a tidy profit renting out his monopolized presses for high fees.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

TV Notes
Curb Your Enthusiasm: Why is Super Dave playing a character part? We all know he is Super Dave.

Sex and the City: I'm not sure that I'm ready to laugh at people falling out of buildings in New York City.

Napping at Work
An idea whose time has come:
Researchers at the Sleep/Wake Research Centre at Massey University have found a short afternoon nap at work can significantly improve workers' alertness and productivity.

They say it is time to destigmatise the catnap, which has traditionally been frowned on as plain lazy.

The catnap is already on the political agenda in Britain, where an influential think tank has called for a public campaign to promote good sleep habits, including daytime naps.

While there is a long tradition of siestas in South America and the Mediterranean, many western nations have embraced the workaholic culture of longs hours and little sleep.
Of course this article is from New Zealand, but once these things take hold in New Zealand, its only a matter of time...

Workplace Influence
Good article in the post this morning about what has been going on in the Apprentice, which I mentioned a couple of times. The article talks about using sexuality to get ahead:
A few months ago, a client came to Frankel and said she was excited because she was able to get a man in her office to do something she wanted to move a project ahead. "I charmed the pants off him," she crowed to Frankel. Right away, the red flags went up.

"I knew she had misjudged it," Frankel said.

And she had. Recently this woman came back to Frankel. She was in big trouble. The man she "charmed the pants off" did what she wanted. But he also read right through her. When it came time to talk to her boss, the man did. And he told the boss this woman was overly flirtatious, inappropriate and unprofessional. That got around to others in the company. Now colleagues have also lost respect for her.

The woman told Frankel her "strategy" backfired. Well, charming the pants off someone, alone, is not a strategy. As with the "Apprentice" women, it is not a true strategy if it works just once. (Are they going to get wasted on shots every night at the bar? I don't think so.)
This is a good point, especially if you have to work with someone in the future. However if you are a salesperson and you don't have to have a follow up relationship, you could probably get with this.

The dynamic at work is certainly different for men and women. The other day at the office I was in a meeting room with 3 other guys and one of our cuter female colleagues came in and asked if anyone had a change for a five. All four of us stopped what we were doing and made some effort to check to see if we did, by going through our pockets and wallets, etc. One guy ended up going back to his desk for it. Now I know if I had walked in, and asked the same thing, I might have gotten a half-hearted effort to look, if not an outright "nope, sorry". So even when they aren't overtly trying to use their sexuality, attractive women benefit from a certain eagerness to please, that probably translates into better performance.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

8 Mile and Logan's Run
Forty movie channels from Adelphi and the best we could do was "8 Mile" tonight. I had always heard that this was a pretty good movie, but it just never made my list until tonight. I'm not a big rap fan, but I could always appreciate Eminem's music on a certain level. He definitely has more talent with the language than I'll ever have.

This is one movie that in the first few scenes did a great job of creating characters with depth that were likeable. It really shouldn't be all that hard to make a good movie with this formula, good characters and the classic story of a man rising above his upbringing. And it was uplifting despite the dreary setting, shot in Detroit, probably in early March from the looks of it: cold but no snow, sun doesn't make an appearance in one scene.

The movie had a good message. Here is this guy who had talent, but because he was different, he had to work that much harder to get ahead. And he had to work through his performance anxiety which was very real. He makes a conscious effort to rise above his background in every aspect of his life, through his diligence at his mundane work and his passion for his music. So in the end, it was a pretty good movie.

But not like "Logan's Run", which I also watched today. This movie is a little bit different when you watch it on the other side of 30. The "renewed" side. This is the movie where when you turn 30, you have to go to carousel to get "renewed", which doesn't really look pleasant. But some people don't really buy into the concept, so end up running when their time is up. Logan is a Sandman, and his job is to take care of these runners, but he gets sent on a mission to find some lost runners who might be at a place called Sanctuary.

Kind of a fun movie to watch from a nostalgia standpoint. (Boy, those guns they have sure are scary!) I remember seeing this movie when I was like 9, and thinking how it might make sense for 30 to be a terminal age. You know, it's really all downhill from there, so why bother, I thought. At least now, I'm reasonable sure that I was mistaken.

Weekend Today
I see that Maria Bartiromo is working the news desk on Weekend Today. I wonder if she is finally going to be making the move to the Today show. Maria really belongs in Campbell Brown's spot. Campbell just really annoys me, something about that WASPy look that she has, you just know that she is an bitchy ice-queen. That, and she wears tight clothes that accentuate her odd-looking torso. Anyway, it would be nice to see Maria in that spot, although she looks kinda tired this morning. Maria has that Sophia Loren type look which I think I would rather see on Weekend mornings.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Stupid Weather
On the one day that I actually have to be at the office to get things done, the freakin' power goes out. It has been raining all day and it is right at or just below freezing, so the ice builds up on the trees like this and the trees start falling. So I am home now, where I have power but just can't access the stuff I need to work on. Oh well, I guess it will have to wait till Monday.

Bonds (not Barry)
Interesting factoid about GE from Bill Gross the bond guy at Pimco, which he extrapolates to the market at large:
In 1980, 92% of its (GE) reported profits came from its manufacturing subsidiaries. In 2003, nearly 50% of earnings were supplied by financing subsidiaries highly dependent on leverage, the cost of that leverage, and its ability to maneuver through the swaps market by turning long-term rates into cheap 1% + short term financing.
He is trying to make the point that we have quickly moved from a manufacturing to a service and now a finance-based economy. And because of the high rate of total credit market debt to GDP, he suggests that at some point will be some sort of reckoning, a "high noon" where lenders say "no mas". I am not entirely convinced that we need be so pessimistic, but there has to be something to this chart. The whole article is here.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Apprentice Update
Sorry Kristi. It just wasn't your day. On this episode, Trump had the 2 teams, which are now coed, buy $1000 worth of crap to sell at a flea market. The project managers were the very cute Kristi, and Nick for the other team. Sadly, Kristi just didn't have her game face on and her team lost. She is a obviously a very nice person and honorably took the blame for losing because she was in charge. However, in this world, a successful leader takes the blame and then deflects it to someone who really deserves it, or someone they want fired. She was either too nice or too decent to do this, so in the end she ended up getting fired.

Stewart Trial
As I mentioned here before, Henry Blodgett is covering the Martha Stewart trial for Slate and it is apparently just starting to get interesting. Originally in my mind this was a classic tale of an average Joe (Douglas Faneuil) vs. the pretty people (Stewart and Bacanovic), but as this story has unfolded, I don't know who to believe. One thing that the defense has been playing up is that Faneuil is a admitted liar, and (gasp) a drug user. Here Blodgett talks about how the defense tries to paint Faneuil's testimony as somehow compromised:
The day began with an exploration of Faneuil's "drug use", the same drug use that, last week, in the marble hallways outside the courtroom, had morphed into a drug "problem." According to Faneuil, the "problem" amounted to taking ecstasy a few times and smoking pot once a month. The absurdity of grown men trying to imply that this practice had addled Faneuil's perceptions and/or made him so terrified of being prosecuted for illegal drug use that he would say anything to pacify the government wasn't lost on the judge. Had the jurors been present, it wouldn't have been lost on them, either.
If she's guilty, and I think she is, I want Martha Stewart to go down. From everything that I have read about her she is a bad person, and I like to think that karma will get her. But we'll see. More from Professor Bainbridge.

Beer or Wine, or Beer and Wine
Should I be drinking wine or beer? This study suggests beer for cancer prevention, while there are all kinds of studies that show red wine is good for heart disease. You know, there really aren't enough hours in the evening for me to be doing all this drinking for my health. If I am going to have 2 glasses of red wine a day to help my heart and now 2 or 3 beers to fight off cancer, I might have to start drinking at the office.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Baldwin the Motivational Speaker
I'm watching Glengarry Glen Ross, which I consider one the best business movies, along with Barbarians at the Gate, Wall Street, Trading Places, and the much maligned Bonfire of the Vanities, which I liked but only because at the time I wanted to be like the character Bruce Willis played (but that's a story for another time).

Anyway, watching the scene where Alec Baldwin tries to "motivate" the salesmen by questioning their manhood and basically calling them pussies still pisses me off. I've had a run in or two with douchebags of this sort and just thinking about it gets me in a fighting mood. I have a pretty high tolerance for this kind of shit, but if some dude came in to my office talking smack like that I would be getting led out in handcuffs and he would be leaving in a bodybag.

OK, maybe not, but close to that. Maybe I would be fired, and he would have a black eye. Or he would have been verbally assaulted, and I would have been formally reprimanded. Something like that, I think, or maybe not, who knows.

Still it is the kind of movie that makes you thankful that you aren't selling real estate from bullshit leads.

Rough Day
Today is a great example of what just procrastinating gets you. At some point everything blows up and you have to spend an afternoon getting shit done. I've been putting out fires all day, most of which were the result of me putting things off till another day. Maybe this time I will learn. Yeah, right.

Here is an interesting post on Wal-Mart over at Truck and Barter. The city of Los Angeles is trying to decide whether or not to allow Wal-Mart to build a supercenter inside LA's boundaries. Here is the money quote from Wal-Mart:
"Wal-Mart will build Supercenters to serve residents of the City of los Angeles. The real choice, therefore, is not between Wal-Mart and no Wal-Mart. Rather, the choice is whether Wal-Mart will serve Los Angeles residents from within the city's boundaries or from without..."
In my job I do some work with the folks at Wal-Mart and while they are generally nice people, you basically have to do whatever the fuck they tell you to, and quickly. They are so big that they are in a position to bully their suppliers, which they do. I typically don't shop at Wal-Mart, mostly from a convenience standpoint (its too far), but more and more by choice.

I recently read this Fortune article about Costco, "The Only Company Wal-Mart Fears", which provides some hope for people who believe that you can pay your people well and beat Wal-Mart. Although it still isn't clear whether Costco can fully satisfy their customers, employees and shareholders at the same time.

So its probably gonna be Kerry then. OK, we'll see how this plays out, but I think Edwards is the better pick. I suppose Edwards or Clark could rally, but it's looking like it's over.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Knoxville Update
Looks like the wife is going to end up getting that job in Knoxville that I mentioned earlier. So I'd say at this point, the chances of us moving there are at about 80%. Unless she gets a better offer within the month or something doesn't work out during the negotiation phase, we'll probably be moving there. So that means over the next 6 months we have to get this house in shape to sell, put it on the market, deal with all that it will entail and move. Oh, and then there is the part about me finding a new job in a city where I don't know anybody and where the Michigan alumni network is somewhere between weak and non-existent. So that'll be challenging to say the least. But I am looking forward to the changes, since they will probably be for the better.

Something I Would Be Better Off Not Knowing
From Newmark's Door: Turn out "moderate" drinking is only good for you if you smoke. Now I am confused: Should I be drinking less or smoking more?

Die Hard: And How I Decided to Stop Being Afraid
One day a couple of years ago, I was sitting around the office, bored out of my mind, trying to get up the nerve to go talk to the CEO and tell him that I was bored and wanted a to do something with a little more responsibility. His office was right around a the corner and we were always friendly, but not really friends, even though he had hired me. I was nervous about going into his office, feeling that maybe his time was too important for me to be bothering him with this.

For some reason, the movie "Die Hard" had been on cable almost every day for a month, and since I love that movie I could just about watch it every time. I thought about the kind of shit that John McClane had to deal with in that movie and wondered how he would act in my situation. First of all its kind of hard to imagine John McClane as a cube dwelling consultant, but if by some twist of fate instead of going into law enforcement he somehow ended up in e-commerce, he wouldn't sit around and let things happen. He would make things happen. If you are the kind of guy who can bring down a dozen or so Euro-trash terrorists and save an office full of people in the Nakatomi Tower, its unlikely that you are be the kind of guy that sits in his cube and wonders whether it is OK to ask his boss for a little more to do. Then I did an IMDB search on "Die Hard" and "Bruce Willis". Bruce Willis was 32 when they filmed Die Hard, so that meant that John McClane was 32 when he saved all those people. I was 32 at the time. So maybe I should just quit being such a wuss and walk into his office. And that's what I did.

Update: You know Die Hard was on FX the night I wrote this, which is kind of odd. I must have sensed it.

Class or Class
Matthew Yglesias, who I like, writes about not picking up pennies and ignoring the price differential when buying a round of drinks. But I did notice his liberal approach to this issue. For him, its all about class:
If you want to find some kind of rationality to penny-ignoring, I think you need to look at it as a means of class-signaling. The richer you are, the less worthwhile it is for you to bend down to pick up change since you have the same 24 hour day as a poor person but the marginal value of money is less. Hence, by ignoring opportunities to recover small sums of money you make yourself appear to be well-off and the appearance of well-offness has a certain value in social terms. Something similar, I think, could be said about ignoring small debts to friends as when you and a friend buy alternate rounds of beer where one person's brew may cost just a bit more than the other's. Failing to demand compensation for, say, a fifty cent price differential gives you a certain aristocratic air as a person "above" such things as concern with money, etc.
I think he is dead wrong on this. I am a take a penny/leave a penny type of person and I think that the carrying cost of a penny, for me, is higher than one cent. But this has always been the case, or at least since gumballs starting costing more that a penny. As for the price differential when buying rounds of drinks, if you want to quibble over quarters and dimes with your buddies, you might find that you have fewer of them over time. (Buddies that is.)

In this case, I guess I agree that it is a class signaling mechanism, although by class I mean this definition: Elegance of style, taste, and manner; which is not the definition he is referring to.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Oh Please
The only thing outrageous about what I saw last night has been the response from federal regulators:
In a statement, Powell said, "I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."
If by "deserve better" he means "firmer or more taut" then I agree, but he think he means something else.

Shards O'Glass
I did like the Shards O'Glass freeze pop ads. I don't generally like what the truth.com puts out, since most of it is scaremongering and assigning blame to the evil tobacco companies, when most people who smoke know the risks, and those that don't are idiots. This ad seems to have borrowed heavily from the Dan Akroyd SNL skit about unsafe toys; remember the bag of broken glass, bag of rusty nails, empty plastic bag and asbestos Annie?

It is kind of odd that we have a product that is so prevalent in our society that, if used according to the manufacturers specifications, will bring a quicker death in 1 out of 3 users. But hey, as Sgt. Barnes said in Platoon, "Everybody gotta die sometime."

More Super Bowl Fun
ESPN did a profile of the streaker, Mark Roberts, who showed up right before the kickoff to start the second half. I think that it is pretty amazing that he got onto the field. The football players weren't the only ones on the field who were playing at the top of their game. Here is a bit of wisdom from him:
"The Super Bowl is obviously a huge risk with security, but it's to make a point," Roberts said. "Life is getting too serious at this point. I want to remind people we can still laugh. And I don't care where you're from. When you see me with my clothes off, you're going to laugh."

I Knew I Wasn't Imagining Things
I did see a boob on TV. If you blinked you would have missed it.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Halftime Update
Well at least this game is starting to show some signs of life. Most Super Bowls are over by now, so I guess we should be thankful. I don't really have a dog in this fight, although I am inclined to support the Patriots, only because Tom Brady is a Michigan grad and was there when I was in b-school, and because the Patriots have Rodney Harrison, who went to High School with me. He was a few years behind me and I remember him, but he wasn't 6'1" 220. He was a little guy, even as a Senior. I hear that he grew a lot in college. Anyway its nice to see that he has had a successful career. I remember for awhile he was kind of known as a cheap shot player, but he has matured into a leader on the field.

The ads so far haven't really impressed me, although I laughed at the one with the horse farting. Can't remember what product it was, but it was funny.

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com