just procrastinating

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Air America
Here is an article in the NYT about Air America Radio, which purports itself to be the left's answer to Rush Limbaugh. Wasn't Air America also the name of a lame Mel Gibson/Robert Downey jr. movie?

I like talk radio and if any radio stations in the area can pick this up, I will certainly give it a try, but my guess is that this is probably about right:
Then there is the question in radio and conservative circles whether liberals can be entertaining enough for talk radio.

"Sometimes they just sound so grim," said Neal Boortz, a libertarian whose Atlanta-based program is syndicated to more than 180 stations. "My god, the foreboding."

Mr. Sinton said Air America needed to be wary of that tendency.

"The problem with really wonkish policy discussion is that it does not attract or hold a mass audience," he said.
Even when I was more liberally inclined, I still kinda liked to tune into Rush Limbaugh. Half of what he said was crap, but it was presented in an entertaining manner and even if it was outrageous it was still kept your attention. I still listen to him, but now I'd say only a third of what he says is crap. I think Air America could get some cross over people as long as they keep it entertaining, and not the gloom and doom that you tend to get from the left.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

We're Number 1?
One of my co-workers mentioned this new list from Cities Ranked and Rated and it has Charlottesville ranked at the top. What timing, right when we are about to leave. Here is the top ten:
"Cities Ranked and Rated": The Top 10

1. Charlottesville, VA
2. Santa Fe, NM
3. San Luis Obispo, CA (includes Atascadero and Paso Robles)
4. Santa Barbara, CA (includes Santa Maria and Lompoc)
5. Honolulu, HI
6. Ann Arbor, MI
7. Atlanta, GA
8. Asheville, NC
9. Reno, NV
10. Corvallis, OR
I'll admit that it is a great town, but number one might be pushing it. If it's all downhill from here, that's not a good sign. But Charlottesville is in a great part of the country, nestled in the foothills of the Shenandoah mountains with a nice downtown mall. But it is small: the town itself is like 40,000 and the surrounding counties make the metro area only about 160,000. I suppose the college adds to it. The thing that I miss is that there really aren't any decent stores like a Nordstroms or something that you would get in a bigger city. You have to go to Richmond which is an hour away to find that kind of thing.

College towns seem to do well on these lists. I also lived in Ann Arbor for about 2 years and I liked it there too, but the winters were just too cold and dreary. They had some really nice restaurants and a lot of stuff to do around town. I don't see Knoxville in the top 50 and that is a college town, so I wonder why they didn't make it.

Cheap Sunglasses
Kelly over at Just Playin' wrote about finding sunglasses that fit right and that got me to thinking about something. I always buy the cheap $10 sunglasses at the kiosk in the mall: you know the one that says "just like RayBans" or whatever. I always lose sunglasses or sit on them in my car, or someone else does...(ahem, Sheri), so it never makes sense to spend alot on them. The last pair that I had actually looked pretty cool, but I either lost those or they may have been stolen out of my car.

The last expensive pair of sunglasses I had was back in college when I had these pretty cool Revo's. They were like $200 sunglasses that I got for $25 because one of my roommates was liquidating his assets to buy pot (sorry Mom, no one you'd remember). I tried not to lose them, but that lasted for about 3 months.

So I was debating spending $59 dollars for these pretty cool ones at Eddie Bauer. I probably tried them on about 5 or 6 times, since I often go to the mall at lunch 'cause it's right across the street from my office. They were these cool all black wrap around-type shades, and I almost got them. But last weekend that kiosk in the mall opened up again and had same pair that I just lost, so I bought those instead. It's just hard to justify that kind of expense when you go through 3 or 4 of 'em a year.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Temperature Fluctuations
Its now that time of year when you need to alternate between having the heat on in the morning and the air conditioner on in the evening. Human beings just don't have that much tolerance for a very wide range of indoor temperatures, or at least this one doesn't. As far as indoor temperatures go anything below 68 is getting a little too cold and anything above 76 is getting too warm, especially with the humidity. During the winter, I usually set the thermostat at 68 and as long as I am wearing long sleeves, that is pretty comfortable. In the summer, I usually have it set at 76 and at night drop it down to 73. Throw on the ceiling fan, and that works fine for me.

The other day it got above 80 outside during the day and at night it was still 80 degrees in the bedroom, even though the windows were open and it was much cooler outside. So I had to give in and turn on the A/C, which pains me to do since it is only March. But hey, that's why we have jobs. After college, I lived with some guys that wanted to go until November before they turned on the heat. Even with the somewhat mild Washington, DC climate, that is surprisingly difficult to bear. Especially at night, and even worse when you try to shower and get ready in the morning.

How Not to Win Sympathy
This seems like a plan that could have used a better strategy:
Several hundred people stormed the small yard of President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, yesterday afternoon, pounding on his windows, shoving signs at others and challenging Rove to talk to them about a bill that deals with educational opportunities for immigrants.

Immigrant activists say that 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high school each year and that many students can afford college only at the reduced, in-state rates given to legal residents. (snip)

The coalition's leaders, who converge on Washington each year to advocate for various issues, said they targeted Rove because they could not get as close to the White House as they could to his house. Rove also is one of Bush's main advisers, and he did not reply to their requests for a meeting, leaders said. (snip)

Palacios said that Rove was "very upset" and was "yelling in our faces" and that Rove told them "he hoped we were proud to make his 14-year-old and 10-year-old cry."

A White House spokesman said one of the children was a neighbor.

Palacios, trembling and in tears herself, said, "He is very offended because we dared to come here. We dared to come here because he dared to ignore us. I'm sorry we disturbed his children, but our children are disturbed every day.

"He also said, 'Don't ever dare to come back,' " Palacios said. "We will, if he continues to ignore us."
So do these folks think that the best way to gain someone's support for their bill is to go to the guy's house and harass him? Is this an effective way to gain his sympathy for your cause? I wonder.

I'm not sure where this bill was on Karl Rove's list of things to do, but I think it just went back to the bottom.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

When Regulations Collide
I've been seeing a lot of these commercials for Cialis, which is a drug for men with a certain, um, problem, that can help them "if a relaxing moment becomes the right moment..." I imagine there must be some kind of FDA regulation requiring drug companies to list all of the potential side effects during the commercial. This is why most drug commercials pretty much follow the same storyboard: Do you have (insert symptom, often vague)? Maybe you should ask your Doctor about it? Then the commercial concludes with a list side effects, most of which are far worse than original symptom.

So at the same time we have the FCC trying to protect are children from Howard Stern, cursing and boobs on TV. But if I was a parent, I would much rather have to explain Janet Jackson's boob to my child, than have to come up with an explanation for the following side effect of Cialis which I have heard repeatedly on TV:
"Although a rare occurrence, men who experience an erection for more than 4 hours should seek immediate medical attention."
If I were more liberal, I might think that we would need some new regulations to protect parents from government regulations.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Forget Outsourcing What About Insourcing?
Amid all this talk about outsourcing jobs, I am about to lose mine to insourcing: the even more insidious practice whereby a company decides that whatever it is the consultants are doing, it can probably be done cheaper in house. I just got the official word today that my project has 3 weeks left because they will be transitioning the work in house. So come April 19, I will be on the bench (which is Consultant-speak for unbillable) and since our pipeline looks thin, that could be it for me. No biggie though, since I will be leaving this place anyway in July and I wouldn't mind a couple of months to prepare for the move; but I'd miss the checks.

In this case our client, a large computer hardware manufacturer that is known for its printers, has outsourced a certain business function to us for several years now. Back in the go-go days of the late 90s, it just made more financial sense for our client to keep a non-core function outside, since we had the expertise that they lacked, they had hiring restrictions and the work was somewhat cyclical so you could add and subtract resources easily. Now, five years later, much of this expertise has been transferred in house and our client finds that post-merger, they have some people standing around looking for stuff to do. Why pay the consultants $20 grand a month when you can just have them teach the other folks how to do it, then bank the savings and show your boss how great you are. Its actually a pretty easy decision for them in this case, and I am surprised that we held on as long as we did.

Apprentice Update
So this week Trump had the teams jump on a bus down to Atlantic City and try to get people to gamble at the Taj Mahal. Basically all they had to do was convince people to swipe their cards at their team's station and then the revenues would be counted in their total. Each team had to do something to get traffic, and Protege, led by Kwame, decided to focus on the VIP line, as well as get a tiger and some kind of gambling wheel. Versacorp, led by my former co-worker Amy, went with some lame car rental gimmick. In the end Versacorp ended up with more gamblers, but lower revenue, so the guys at Protege finally won.

This was a pretty satisfying Apprentice episode for me. Amy gets knocked down off of her high horse by leading the losing team, Katrina gets fired and the all guy's team finally wins something.

Kwame was leading Protege in this episode and he said something that I totally agree with. He described his management style this way (more or less): "Pick great people, give them a goal and let them figure out how to get there." This exactly matches both my management style and the way that I want to be managed. Don't explain the steps you think I should take to get from point A to point Z. Let me figure that myself; that is where the fun is. Too often, I have had managers say we need to get to point Z, so I want you to do B, C, D and, etc., to get there. But in my mind I know that all I need to do is R and maybe an H and a C^2 and then we're there. All that other stuff is crap! Anyway, I thought he had a good point, so at least they are teaching something good at HBS.

One thing about Atlantic City: that place kinda sucks. I lived in Philly for a year (which also kinda sucks, at least compared to Chicago and DC), and went to AC a few times since it is only an hour or so away. Man, is that place depressing. When I think Vegas (baby) I think of pretty people and fun, you know Dan Tanna and all that; although maybe that is because I haven't been there since I was 11 and am confusing it with Swingers. When I think Atlantic City, I think of sad-looking old people with too much cash, dangerous-looking thugs and drunk guys yelling at their girlfriends.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Pledge Case
I'm interested to see how this whole Pledge of Allegiance Case shakes out. Michael Newdow is the Atheist parent who brought the case and is also arguing it in front of the Supreme Court. From the article in today's Post it seems like the Justices aren't all that sympathetic to Newdow's point of view. I personally tend to agree with this:
U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson offered the court a variety of reasons to overturn the 9th Circuit's ruling. He noted that "the ceremonial rendition" of the pledge, including "under God," is not a prayer or "religious invocation."

Rather, he said, it is a "descriptive" phrase, "an acknowledgment of the religious basis of the framers of the Constitution, who believed not only that the right to revolt, but that the right to vest power in the people to create a government . . . came as a result of religious principles."
I think the Pledge itself is kind of silly. That is what is great about this country: we aren't required to pledge allegiance to anything. I could pledge allegiance to my shoes if I wanted to, and while people might find that rather odd, its not like I would get hauled away in shackles for it (well maybe a straight jacket, though).

But it seems to me that he framers were God-fearing men who didn't want to establish an "official" national religion, but didn't seem to have any problems acknowledging God. So I don't have a problem with it either...I mean, as long as its only a Christian God were talking about, or maybe Judeo too. (Just kidding.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

DNA Samples
I kinda got a problem with this story from the Cavalier Daily. The police are asking for DNA samples from people who fit the description of a local serial rapist so that they can then exclude them from their database of suspects:
In its continuing effort to catch the serial rapist, the Charlottesville Police Department is utilizing a database of contacts -- primarily black men -- to eliminate potential suspects.

"The description given by the victims of the serial rapist is of an African-American male, so the database specific to this investigation is full of contacts that are African-American males," Police Chief Tim Longo said.

The department has asked some of these contacts to voluntarily consent to a DNA test -- also called a buccal swab test -- in order to eliminate their names from the database.

Graduate Education student Steven Turner recently criticized the investigation method as a violation of privacy in an article he submitted to "The Hook," a weekly Charlottesville newsmagazine.

The Charlottesville police asked Steven Turner for a DNA sample in August and again March 18.

"The Charlottesville police department has created a list of young black men who have not submitted to the DNA test and has instituted a disturbing tactic of home visits to those men with buccal kits in tow, as if they were selling benign door-to-door."
Of course it is voluntary, but when the police come a-knockin' at your door with a q-tip in hand, its kind of hard to say no, because that only makes you more of a suspect. I understand that the police are just trying to whittle down their suspect list into something more manageable, but this door to door thing isn't the way to do it.

Gas Prices
Great headline on Fark last night about the record high gas prices (non-inflation adjusted).
Who do we have to bomb to get cheaper gas around here?

Also in the comments section related to this story, there was this chart, which is kind of interesting. It shows the inflation-adjusted gas prices since 1980. So even though they seem kinda high now, they are still just about in the same range that they've always been (or at least since I've been driving).

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Who Cares What You Think
Via Wonkette, this story in Salon about an encounter that Bill Hangley Jr. had with President Bush. I think my reaction is pretty much the opposite of what the author intended.
It was July 4, 2001, and we were both at one of those things that the late historian Daniel Boorstin would have labeled a "pseudo event": a church picnic in Philadelphia, designed to help promote George W. Bush's faith-based policies. Because I had serious misgivings about the president's performance to that point, my own involvement in the whole operation had left me feeling a bit like a pseudo person, so when I had the chance to shake Bush's hand, I said, "Mr. President, I hope you only serve one term. I'm very disappointed in your work so far."

His smiling response was swift: "Who cares what you think?"

But it was an unexpected return, to say the least, and as soon as our handshake was done, I stepped away and pulled out my notebook to write it down. This he noticed, and I heard him call out. I turned to see him 10 or 12 feet farther down the handshake line, craning his neck above the crowd -- he's shorter than I had expected -- and looking right at me, asking, "Who do you write for?"

Maybe he thought I was a renegade journalist; the press corps was expressly forbidden to interview people or mingle with the crowd. Or maybe he just wanted to know who was responsible for me, since nobody could get into the picnic unless they were with one of the organizing groups. But I wasn't trying to speak for anybody, and I certainly wasn't trying to goad a story out of him, so I stammered that I wasn't with anybody. As people started to notice, he grinned again and drawled, "Make sure you get it right."
I think it shows a tremendous amount of restraint on the President's part that all he said was "Who cares what you think". My immediate thoughts, if faced with the same situation, start with an F and a Y and then move on from there.

You can bet that Mr. Hangley doesn't win too many awards for tactfulness, but I guess he is just some kid fresh out of Columbia's journalism school. He is using this story as an attempt to tell the world what kind of man Bush really is, but I don' think this story will have the intended effect. I mean, come on: So Bush had been in office only four and half months and some douchebag kid, who undoubtedly was never a supporter shoots his mouth of in public and he expects Bush to just smile and say nothing? I'm sure that is the kind of leader that Bill Hangley wants, but not me.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Ash Lawn-Highland
I took the parents to Ash Lawn-Highland on Sunday. Ash Lawn-Highland is the home of James Monroe, who as I am sure you all know was our fifth President. I have actually been there before for a wine festival that they have there every year, and it is a pretty neat place. Not quite as fancy as Monticello, which is only two miles away, and it is certainly much smaller. But they have some interesting things there, like a bust of Napoleon that was given to Monroe as a gift from Napoleon. There is a small study in the back of the house that Jefferson, Madison and Monroe (3, 4 and 5) would hang out in, since Madison was only a days ride away and Jefferson and Monroe were neighbors.

Here is something interesting that the tour guide told us. Back then, refined sugar was an expensive commodity that was used rarely unless you were very well off. When guests were over for dinner, the Monroes would make a cake using a fancy cake pan and put the cake out as the centerpiece. When the meal was over, instead of being eaten, the cake would be stored away to be used as the centerpiece for other meals. Because sugar was such a luxury item back then, you were considered lucky if you could "have your cake and eat it too".

Hollywood Homicide
We rented Hollywood Homicide over the weekend. It was barely watchable. The movie just didn't click with me and I had a hard time accepting Harrison Ford as street detective. By his age, haven't most cops retired? Anyway, I don't know what happened to him, but Harrison Ford hasn't made a decent movie since Air Force One, and I think it is unlikely that he ever will again. I pray that I am wrong, because I want to like the fourth Indiana Jones movie when it arrives, which I guess isn't until 2006.

Ever since Harrison Ford left his wife and started hanging out with skinny girls almost half his age, he just has lost some respect in my eyes. And not just for that. It seems like he went from a cool, strong silent type to some awkward old guy with spiked hair and an earring. And this is from someone who has held him in high esteem ever since I was a kid. Even now, I try to incorporate as much of Indiana Jones' and Han Solo's style into my everyday life: Just today I was looking at spreadsheet of some kind and I thought, "I wonder how Dr. Jones would display this data to maximize the effectiveness of this presentation, and in doing so, look cool."

Augmented Unemployment Rate
From Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture, a note on the "augmented unemployment rate" that shows a decline to about 8.5%. Here is some info about this number, according to Barry:
"The Augmented Unemployment Rate includes the discouraged, the underemployed, the part timers. For anyone concerned with the macro impact of the labor pool as consumers, this number is for you. It also provides a more accurate detail as to the health of the Job market."
Reporting on these statistics seems like this seem to be a bit of a reach for me, like trying to find the bad in an otherwise pretty good unemployment number. I can understand having a statistic that incorporates this type of data, but why now? Just eyeballing Barry's graph, it looks to me that where we are now is equivalent to mid to late 1996. And if you look at mid to late 1996, the unemployment rate was between 5.1 - 5.5%.

So what good does this statistic do us? If anything, it seems like it was more out of whack back then. And as I recall, back in 1996, the only concern was that the unemployment rate was getting too low. Greenspan kept watching the Employment Cost Index looking for inflation which never really arrived. If this means that unemployment is roughly equivalent to late 1996, then things aren't really that bad now.

Even using the widest measure of unemployment that BLS has, the U-6 which equals: "Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of all civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers", it is still roughly equivalent to where we were back in the 1996 time frame.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Parents in Town
My parents decided to leave their grandchildren for a couple of days, and flew out of the great city of Chicago this morning to visit their prodigal son. The only problem is that I have to serve as cruise director and they have pretty much done all of Charlottesville in their previous 2 visits here. As far as this town goes, once you have checked out Monticello, UVA, and some of the wineries, that's pretty much it. You have done Charlottesville, at least from a tourist standpoint. So I need to come up with a unique afternoon activity for tomorrow.

Which sort of reminds me that my wife and I really are ready to move. We were driving around a few weeks ago trying to think of things to do on a nice Sunday afternoon that didn't involve drinking wine or visiting open houses. And we couldn't come up with anything. It is a great town, and would be a great place to raise kids, but I think 4 years is enough.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Malpractice Insurance
My Mom mentioned this to me on the phone last night when we were talking about the Apprentice. She asked what my wife's malpractice insurance was going to be like, because she had heard that it was getting pretty expensive and that some doctors in Illinois were trying to go without it.
Unable or unwilling to pay soaring malpractice insurance premiums, more Illinois doctors are taking the extreme step of dropping their coverage.

"Going bare" is a big risk for physicians, who leave themselves vulnerable to high-priced settlements, judgments and legal fees should they be sued--a prospect all physicians who care for patients face at least once in their career, according to the American Medical Association.

But some doctors say gambling on a lawsuit seems like a better bet than guaranteed annual insurance premiums now surpassing $200,000 for some specialties.

"This is the only way I can stay here and take care of patients," said Dr. Mark Macumber, a family physician in Berwyn.

Macumber, 36, dropped his insurance last year when his annual premium quadrupled to $40,000 from $10,000 in 2002, making it nearly impossible for him to keep his coverage in the face of huge medical school debt and other bills.

Macumber asks patients to sign a consent form making them aware that he does not have coverage.

"If they sue me, there is not much to take, I inform them. I have $130,000 in medical school debt," Macumber said. "The risk for seeing me is there's no $1 million pot. The benefit is that they can afford to see me."
It seems like the only logical thing that you can cut out. You can't really pass along the increase to your patients, since the insurance companies cap the reimbursement for various procedures.

Apprentice Update
This was kind of a throwaway episode, just a rehash of what has happened up to this point. I did notice that Trump sure did his best to make Omarosa's head injury look minor. At one he point he said the Doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her. Perhaps he is still concerned that there might be a lawsuit of some sort? Anyway, she sure is a jerk though.

Another thing that I just realized. I used to work with Amy. I just saw this:
Amelia began her hi-tech career at The SABRE Group and then joined as a pre-IPO employee in 1999 at Commerce One, one of the internet's highest fliers during the dot.com boom.
My current company used to be part of Commerce One until we were spun off. I joined in 2001, which is right when the ship started sinking. (coincidence?) But yeah, Amy Henry...I remember hearing that name a lot. I am pretty sure she had something to do with sales, but I am off to do some sleuthing and will be sure to post any information that I can dig up about her.

Update: Yep, she was in account management and was actually very well liked, so no dirt I'm afraid.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

A Search for Justice
Dear UVA Dept. of Transportation and Parking:

I am writing to appeal a parking ticket that I received on Wednesday, March 17 at 11:38 AM. I have enclosed the receipt from the meter that shows that I paid in full the $0.50 for one hour, from 11:23AM – 12:23PM, for parking space #45, while I was working out at the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

I understand that there is a warning issued if you have no previous infractions in the prior 12 months, and that no payment is required of me at this time. However I would like to have this warning back, since I am usually pretty absent minded about using the meter, and quite frankly, just got lucky on this occasion. I sensed that enforcement would be heavy on that day, since the students had just returned from spring break, and I was right.

I understand that often there is a timing difference between when the officer checks the meters and follows up with the cars outside, so I imagine mistakes are common. Because of this, please do not feel obligated to respond with a written apology.


-Dave S.
Ticket Number: E0108343

Maybe this Time
I'm not sure what to make of this story, but since the markets seemed to move to it, I thought I'd mention it.

Sound like another wishful thinking type of story, especially this quote, which looks like it has been recycled from previous stories:
He said the commander reported "fierce resistance" from a group of fighters entrenched in fort-like buildings and that there were indications that a senior figure was surrounded.
But you have to wonder if maybe this time they don't have something. I got a feeling that something is gonna happen on this front sooner rather than later.

Extreme Makeover
I got roped in to watching Extreme Makeover last night. This is the kind of show that can get you in the first minute because you instantly become curious about what the "patients" will look like when they are done. This week they had Jerry, a pretty normal looking 39-year old man who had a bad nose and teeth and was a little soft all around. They also had Manu, a Filipino woman who was an Army Captain, and just wasn't quite as feminine looking as she wanted to be. Both of them seemed like very nice people who had loving supportive families, but just were unhappy with their appearances.

Part of me thinks that there is something wrong with expecting that your life will change by making major surgical alterations in your appearance. But I do understand that these people have probably been plagued their whole life with some feature or features that they have fixated on for years, and finally resolving that issue removes a burden from them. Still, there is something not quite right about this.

The nice thing about watching this show is seeing the faces of people when they finally see their new look. On this one, Jerry couldn't stop laughing he was so happy, and Manu, like most of the women on these, just cried and cried. These people are just so genuinely happy, and its nice to see that. On this episode, I thought Manu ended up looking great; and while Jerry looked better than before, they made him look kinda gay...not that there is anything wrong with that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Cold Stone
A couple of weekends back I was out in Richmond, and stopped for some ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery. I had never been to of these, so my immediate reaction was "I wanna own stock in this company". Of course, it turns out they are privately held, so that won't happen until they go public.

The thing that I liked about it--in addition to the ice cream--was that every time someone hit the tip jar, the entire staff would start singing these goofy ice cream songs. I had a smile on my face the entire time I was there. The people that worked there seemed to be enjoying themselves, I mean, as much as any teenager slinging ice cream could at a job. It was just a refreshing change to see people having fun in a job like that, rather than the dour faces I have become accustomed to seeing on a typical franchise employee.

Happy St. Patrick's Day
Since I am almost half Irish (with some German, Scottish and Ukrainian), perhaps I will enjoy few of these this evening, as a tribute to my ancestors. I am sure they would approve.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Wasted Efforts?
Found via this week's Carnival of the Vanities: this sure hits home, from Harvey at Bad Money:
LeeAnn of The Cheese Stands Alone asks (although not in so many words) the quintessential blogger's question: "Why the hell am I spending an hour tweaking this stupid five-sentence throw-away entry?"

Oh, darlin', do I EVER know THAT feeling! More times than I can count, I've sweated blood, re-reading, re-editing, over and over & over, trying to perfect a stupid little bit of twaddle that I know in my heart will get neither links nor comments. It'll be read in 30 seconds and forgotten in five. No one's life will be saved by what I write, much less even marginally improved. So why all the fuss?
If anything, at least the process of developing an idea into something somewhat cohesive, writing it out and editing it has some use in the business world. The iterative process of blogging has sped up my business writing, leaving me more time for, well...more blogging, I guess.

Nixon's Take on Kerry
I saw this on NBC news last night and thought it was pretty interesting. Apparently John Kerry's actions related to protesting the Vietnam War rose to the level of President Nixon. Here is what they thought of him:
The Nixon White House saw Kerry as a threat, and set out to discredit him and infiltrate his organization. The week after the protest rally, Nixon is heard discussing Kerry with White House aide Charles Colson:

Colson: This fellow Kerry that they had on last week --

Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: -- hell, he turns out to be, uh, really quite a phony.

Nixon: Well, he is sort of a phony, isn't he?

Colson: Well, he stayed, when he was here --

Nixon: Stayed out in Georgetown, yeah. [edit]

Colson: -- was out at the best restaurants every night and, uh --

Nixon: Sure.

Colson: -- you know, he's just, the complete opportunist.

Nixon: A racket, sure. [edit]

Colson: We’ll keep hitting him, Mr. President.
The thing about this is that I'm sure he probably is a big phony and a complete opportunist, but look at the messenger. Having Nixon talk smack about you isn't particularly damning, in fact, it would seem to be kind of a good thing--unless you are Alex P. Keaton.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Delayed PPI
I have been following this story of the delayed Producer Price Index (PPI) report with some amusement.
Outdated computers are partly to blame for the delayed release of the U.S. producer price index and only "God knows when" the data will be ready, a top analyst at the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Monday.

Gerduk said several problems arose in an attempt to switch the PPI to the North American Industry Classification System from the Standard Industrial Classification -- a process already completed for most U.S. data series.

He said while other series needed only to reclassify industries, PPI had to remap some 40,000 industry units and about 120,000 items before reaggregating the data into four indexes that are produced each month as part of PPI.
Some folks, specifically those goofballs over at Minyanville.com, are speculating that there is a conspiracy that goes like this: Supposedly inflation has picked up because the Wall Street guys are seeing it in the commodities now. When the market learns of this it will spook everybody and jeopardize Bush's chance of re-election. Hence, the Bush team is seeing to it that we don't see the numbers, ever!

Sounds like it has a few holes to it. Since I spent some time at the BLS, I think I am inclined to believe them.

Career Change
Seeing Starsky and Hutch last night got me to thinking more and more about what the heck it is I am supposed to be doing in this world. Now that it is March 15, I am betting that I have somewhere between 7 and 15 weeks left at my current occupation. I've been looking for jobs in Knoxville, but most of it has been the standard monster.com stuff and that rarely leads anywhere, at least for me. And nothing seems real exciting, same old Senior Financial Analyst/Cost Accounting Manager bullshit that I have always been sending resumes to.

Maybe its time to make a complete change. My entire post-MBA career has been a lot more like this (me being the guy on the right), than it has been like this. I mean, 20 years ago I thought I'd be living like this guy (except for the pants), not like this. Maybe I should have been a cop. That seems like where all the action is.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Starsky and Hutch
Just got back from seeing the Sunday matinee of Starsky and Hutch. I think I went into this one with expectations that had been set a little too high. I thought it would be a laugh a minute parody, kinda like a Austin Powers movie, but this was really just a longer, funnier episode of Starsky and Hutch. My wife went into it with low expectations, and ended up being surprised at how much she enjoyed it. I liked it too, but I wanted to really like it. Anything with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller in it is definitely worth seeing. Plus this has Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell, and of course, Snoop Dogg. That would be a pretty fun crew to hang out with.

I didn't really watch the original when it was on from 1975-79. I think it was on too late, and since I was only 5-9 during those years, I probably wasn't allowed to stay up and watch it. But I knew the gist of it, and I seem to remember having a matchbox car or two of the famed Grand Turismo.

The soundtrack was pretty cool as well--I mean from a nostalgic standpoint--and had some of the first songs I remember growing up. One of the first songs I remember liking as kid was Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight", and that was on there. That was the summer of 1976. That was busy summer too, we had that whole bicentennial thing going on. Fuck, am I getting old.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

School of Rock
I rented School of Rock tonight. I didn't really have any desire to see this at the theater, but I've heard people say good things about it since, so I was looking forward to it coming out on video, which it did last week. I thought it was great; a sweet, funny story. Jack Black is a funny guy and he reminds me a lot of John Belushi for his physical comedy.

A funny moment for me is when he is eating lunch with the teachers, and they ask him how he feels about various types of testing for students. Since he doesn't have any idea what kind of testing they are talking about, he goes into a "you know what I believe" monologue...which is a word for word recitation of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All". And I guess it's funny for me because I do that all the time. If for some reason my wife will ask me, "well, Dave what do you believe?" she now knows that she has to add, "besides that 'children are our future'". Yeah, I know it's stupid, but I'm easily amused. And I think I got that from that one scene in Coming to America, where Eddie Murphy (as Randy Watson) sings it.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Gas Prices
People are whining about gas prices, and it's something that I have been thinking about as well. My first thought was that even though post-Iraq prices didn't drop substantially, Bush would try to use his clout with the oil and gas folks to make damn sure that there was enough supply on the market over the election season to keep prices low. That is looking less likely. Somewhere today I read an article about a Saudi conspiracy to keep gas prices high so Bush will lose in November. Fair enough, but are gas prices really that high comparatively--here in C-ville they are $1.59--such that they would be a drain on the economy and a risk for Bush? Greg Easterbrook of TNR sets the record straight:
Another comparison: The average price of gasoline during the 1950s was about $1.80 in today's money--meaning that during the period enshrined in our collective political nostalgia as Energy Heaven, gasoline cost slightly more in real dollars than the amount now being theatrically bemoaned as a "record" price. But wait; in the 1950s, per-capita real income was less than half what it is today. That means that for the typical American in the 1950s, gasoline cost twice as much, in terms of buying power, as today's gasoline. Adjusted for inflation and for buying power, the purported "record"-priced gasoline at your pumps now is substantially cheaper than the gasoline your parents bought.
I suppose most people know this on some level; but still, cheaper is better, and perception trumps reality. The difference between spending $15 to fill up the tank and $20 might not seem like much, but it could be an issue. Thanks to Volokh for the pointer.

Apprentice Update
On this week's episode, Trump had the teams compete against each other in the cut-throat world of Rickshaws. After an 8 hour day of carting passengers around, the team with the most money would win. Bill took the lead on Versacorp and Troy volunteered to lead the thinned out ranks of Protege.

Only a couple of things to note on this weeks episode: That Amy is pretty bright. She had an "outside the box" idea of selling advertising on the Rickshaws to some of the business contacts that they had made in NYC. Well, actually not outside the box, since there are only so many ways to make revenue from a Rickshaw, but she was the first one to think of it. Also, like I mentioned before, that Katrina is way too full of herself. Any time someone says "I didn't get to be as successful as I am by..." just ignore everything that comes out of their mouth from that point on. Bill Rancic was very diplomatic listening to Katrina complain and I don't think I would have been as patient with her. She will be gone soon.

But this time it was Heidi's turn to get fired. I don't think her heart was in this anymore after her Mom got sick and you can understand that. Troy was right about her, she is just a salesman; and if you are a good enough salesman, that's all you'll ever need to be. But she wasn't a leader, or at least wasn't on the show, and she's not quite as easy on the eyes as some of the other folks. And should be a lesson to you kids out there, because she is a smoker. Coincidence?

I actually missed a good chunk of this weeks episode because I got a call at 9:15 that was "out of area", but for some reason I answered it--and it was a collect call from my wife, who was out running at the time. So, I figured I should probably accept the charges. I answered and she said, "Dave, I lost your keys. They must of fell out of my pocket." When she runs, which she does a lot (marathoner) she will drive closer to campus (U VA) where it is more well lit and she usually takes my car because she has a Jeep with the soft top, and keeps a bunch of crap in there that she doesn't want to get stolen. So I had to find the spare set of keys and go pick her up. No big deal, but I missed a crucial 20 minutes of the show, so my analysis might be incomplete.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Don't Stand So Close To Me
This story seems to be making the rounds in Chicago, about Coach Robert Mueller having an affair with a student. Bob Mueller is currently (or was, if this is true) the head basketball coach at Hinsdale Central. However back when he had hair, he was also my Physics teacher in 1986-87 and an assistant coach at Marian Catholic High School.

Marian was probably his first job out of college, and the thing I remember about him was that he was still a great athlete at the time. I specifically remember one day during baseball practice he was hitting us some towering fly balls with a fungo bat and it was pretty amazing. He was about 6'2" or 6'3", looking at his mug shot, but he could dunk, which I thought was pretty impressive. I'd hate to see the guy go to jail if this was consensual, since he seemed like a nice enough guy. But there is a reason they call it jailbait, so if this is true, he knew he was playing with fire.

American Cars
Via Instapundit, this blurb about the reliability of American cars:
Our latest survey of subscribers' experiences with their cars shows that vehicles from Detroit's Big Three automakers are now slightly more reliable, on average, than those from European makers. They also tend to hold up better than the European makes as time passes. It's the first time in decades that U.S. cars have done so well.
Apparently there is still a ways to go to get up to the reliability of Japanese carmakers, but this seems significant; unless it is because the European reliability has slipped vis-a-vis American automakers. The whole article is here.

Anyway, my Dad always bought American cars when we were growing up, and we were always at the GM or Chrysler dealer getting something fixed, or stranded somewhere waiting for a towtruck. Based on my initial driving experience in mid '80s, the people who drove Hondas never had an excuse to be late for school because their car wouldn't start. I vowed to never buy an American car when I got old enough.

The Big 3 lost a generation of kids by putting out the crap that we saw in late '70s through the '80s; my formative years. I wonder if the kids now will start thinking American cars are cool like they were in the '50s and '60s?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

We're Putting the Band back Together
A music critic in his former life, Scott Hess at Blind Camel notes that Tears for Fears is putting out a new album and laments, like me, that the Smiths don't seem to be getting back together any time soon.

I'd really like to see the Cure get back together with Robert Smith on vocals, instead of that fat lady that sounds alot like him, who is currently fronting the band.

Tax Time
Last night I sat down and started filing our taxes for this year. For the past 3 years, I have used TurboTax for the web. I don't really like the user interface, which hasn't changed this year, and it is hard to navigate, but since they have all my personal information (names, addresses, SS#s, etc.) it is just easier. We don't have anything fancy, like stock losses or capital gains that are outside of our IRA accounts, so its mostly just income and mortgage interest deductions.

We always have to pay at the end of the year because my wife moonlights at another hospital for extra money. And that money is withheld as if it were her only job, so the federal withholding is only like 10%, when it should be closer to 30%. Also this year, I have income from a second job: I was a mortgage broker on the side, but only did a few loans before I lost interest, because I didn't really have the time at my "real" job to be dealing with rates and titles and credit scores, etc.

So after I collect all the W-2s and put the income part into Turbo Tax, there is a shocking number next to the "Tax Due" line, which gradually gets eaten away by adding mortgage interest deductions, real estate taxes paid and estimated taxes paid. So this year after contributing to our respective IRAs we still will have to shell out about $2 grand. Bummer. But we do owe it, so we were just livin' larger during the year. Once again, I probably should have sent more to the Feds during the year. Maybe next time.

Bottom line: We made about 1.5% more than last year (which surprised me) and paid about 9% less in taxes. Thanks George W.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A $1 Million Dollar Bill
There is something very sad and pathetic about this story that kind of overcomes the laugh-out-loud absurdity of it. A woman was arrested recently Monday for trying to pass a $1,000,000 bill at a local Wal-Mart. The clerk was not fooled:
Pike, who was trying to purchase multiple items that totaled approximately $1,675, was reportedly unaware that the money was fake. The suspect told Seebaran that her husband had given the bill to her before he left town on a trip.

According to the report, when the clerk was handed the bogus bill, she called over store manager Marshall Hunt who immediately recognized the bill as a fake. Apparently unfazed by the setback, Pike then allegedly tried to pay for the items with two Wal-Mart gift cards that had a combined total worth of $2.32. Still $1,598 short, Pike reportedly then asked Hunt if he could “cash the bill,” which the manager quickly refused to do.

After calling police, Hunt and the clerk tried to take the bill from Pike, but she refused to turn it over, according to the incident report. Once Seebaran arrived, it was revealed that Pike had two more $1 million bills in her purse. Pike was arrested and taken to the Newton County Law Enforcement Center on a charge of forgery.
If it is true that she really thought she was left with 3 million dollar bills, she really has been punished enough. Let her go.

Update: Or maybe not. Funny how looking at a picture of the person can sort of change your perspective on a story.

Outraged Widows
This seemed pretty evident to me from the first day:
To hear some folks tell it, families of the 9/11 victims have risen en masse to denounce President Bush for using brief images from Ground Zero in his campaign commercials....

But now it turns out that this whole furor is driven by a tiny group that's motivated by a far-left agenda and a festering hatred of the president - and has some quite dubious financial ties.

Leading the rhetorical charge has been an outfit called September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows - which, the group admits, has only a few dozen members and represents relatives of no more than 1 percent of the 9/11 victims.

More to the point, the group was formed specifically to oppose the entire War on Terror: Not just the campaign against Saddam Hussein, but also the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan....

They're people who are offended by anything this president does - and they are working hard to put John Kerry in the White House.

Remember that the next time you hear a news report about "widespread popular outrage."
I saw the widows on the Today show and some other appearances, and they kept repeating the same talking points. You could tell they had an agenda.

Is this like 1984?
Brad DeLong points to this post by Edward Hugh about the average length of time spent jobless, which is now at 20.3 weeks, and is the longest since Jan. 1984. Is Brad trying to say that this is just like 1984? Hmm, what was it that happened that year with the Republican incumbent?

Libertarian Purtiy Test
Since everybody is doing it, this test; I got a 57. "You are a medium-core libertarian, probably self-consciously so. Your friends probably encourage you to quit talking about your views so much." That might be a little high, but pretty close.

I'm not sure I'd want to be a hard-core Libertarian. The questions in the test get progressively more kooky, like "Should the Fed be abolished and replaced with free banking and privately-issued money?" or "Should the state be disarmed and its military disbanded?" But a little bit goes a long way.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Martha Trial
I've mentioned before how much I dislike Martha Stewart, mostly because of her reputation for treating underlings and people who aren't in a position to help her career with disrespect, if not outright disdain. So I am largely satisfied with the jury results. I find this little piece from Henry Blodgett somewhat confusing, given his background:
In a further irony, Hartridge reportedly remarked that the verdict "was a victory for the little guy who loses money in the market because of this kind of transaction. It sends a message to bigwigs in corporations they have to abide by the law. No one is above the law." This was ironic because, although this case has always been trumpeted as a symbol of fat-cat insiders fleecing the "little guy," it didn't cost anyone but Martha Stewart, Peter Bacanovic, and the government a dime (anyone, that is, except the shareholders of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, who lost $250 million Friday afternoon).
Uh hey, Henry Blodgett, there are two sides to every trade. How about the poor sap that Martha unloaded her shares to? I bet that person wasn't too thrilled with the merchandise.

Update: As Director Mitch points out in the comments, this isn't necessarily the case, and in this instance, I am willing to concede his point. I don't think I am ready to accept the "insider trading is a good thing" matra; but certainly for Martha's case, the information about the pending results from FDA report was out there, and she was just trading on what she thought the report said based on the fact that the Waksal's were unloading shares.

Clear Channel
So Clear Channel is at it again, this time striking locally. WUMX 107.5, which is a Charlottesville Clear Channel station (The Mix 107.5) just changed their format from a lame pop sound to "smooth jazz". I suppose I don't care too much about that, but they dropped the morning show that I sort of liked: Kidd Kraddick in the Morning. Kidd Kraddick is a sort of PG-rated morning crew, but they are pretty funny and I got to know them. Now unless I want to listen to the Acoustic Sunrise of WNRN, which always puts me back to sleep, I am stuck with the local morning crew, the Big Greasy Breakfast on WWWV.

The local guys aren't so bad, but you have to put up with their classic rock format, and they play the worst kind of classic rock. Don't expect to hear Jimi or Zeppelin--think Boston, Foreigner and Grand Funk Railroad. And at least one song by them every half hour.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Bonds and Steriods
From Andy Van Slyke, who I liked as a player and was a pretty funny guy. It looks like Bonds ex-teamates are talking:
"Now, I never saw him put it into his body. But look, Barry went to the bank with the robber, he drove the car, he got money in his pocket from the bag that came out of the bank. Come to your own conclusion. Did he spend the money? You decide.

I think he did. The physical evidence is there. People do not gain 35 pounds of muscle in their late 30s without a little bit of help."
Good point.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Political Test
This is kinda funny. Here is my result...
You're a... "Middle of the road Independent"
You have little conviction and even less loyalty. You expect politicians to cater to your outsized ego. If they catch Osama, you'll vote for George W. Bush. However, if you got laid off, you'll vote for John Kerry.
Actually the first time I did this, I was a "Typical Republican" because I wasted the Immigrant Mom vs. the Nascar Dad, because it wasn't clear that she was an immigrant before I shot. So went back and did it again, this time taking out the Nascar Dad. I feel better about that decision.

So I took out the Soccer Mom, Bible Thumper, Nascar Dad, Useless Professor, Hate America Guy, and KKK Guy.

Via Wonkette.

Omarosa Lawsuit
Since a bunch of folks seem to be finding their way here looking for information about the potential Omarosa law suit, take a look here for some background. Basically in her interview on the Today show people seem to think she was laying the groundwork for a potential lawsuit. At the apartment where the plaster fell off and hit her, she says it was a "construction site" and Donald Trump and the producers of the Apprentice did not provide them with adequate "safety protection".

I used to listen to Howard Stern all the time, but we don't get him down here. I am still a big supporter of him so I am paying careful attention to this. Stern thinks he won't be around much longer because he has changed his tune on George W:
"My days here are numbered because I dared to speak out against the Bush administration and say that the religious agenda of George W. Bush concerning stem cell research and gay marriage is wrong," Stern continued. "And that what he is doing with the FCC is pushing this religious agenda. And also the fact that the guy takes more vacation than any President ever. It's time for him to leave. Having said that pushed me off the air in six markets."

Stern says the end game of him being thrown off the air is already set, predicting "the FCC in a matter of weeks will come out with a trumped up list of things I said that they find offensive that Infinity will have to fire me." Later in the show Stern said he was "tempted to shut my mouth about all of it, because it will go away." He then added "I don't think we can stop it, short of me calling up President Bush and saying 'Look man, I'm going to support you, so don't do this.'"
I always thought that Bush was just paying lip service to his socially conservative constituency and didn't really mean the things he said. In my mind he didn't really care about stem cells or gay marriage, he just cared what his base thought. I can understand that as a political calculation. He would say the right things and just wait around for nothing to happen, and that's usually what happens. He makes a speech, the news buzzes, committees are formed and then maybe there is a report, but nothing really changes. Most of the time that is a good thing. At least for me, in terms of the right's social agenda.

But if this Stern thing happens, its personal. And it means he is serious about this. I don't need these clowns telling me what I can or can not listen to or watch; I'm perfectly capable of deciding that myself. If come November, Howard Stern is out of a job, then I want Bush to be as well.

Adios Omarosa
So this time, Trump had the teams try to sell some art. They got to choose the artist, but didn't really have all that much to choose from. Versacorp, which was led by Nick this time, smartly went with a pretty good artist that made somewhat interesting earth-tone splotches of paint, the kind of thing that you might put above your fireplace. Protege, led by Kwame, made a mistake by picking an artist that had some disturbing looking pieces that I would be uncomfortable hanging in my closet, but were purported to be selling at a pretty high price point, like $4000.

In the end Versacorp ended up selling 8 pieces for 13 grand, and Protege got destroyed by selling just one of those weird things at $895. So Kwame chose Heidi and Omarosa to join him in the boardroom. Omarosa in this instance had a pretty good case for staying around, because she didn't want to pick the artist that Versacorp ultimately chose. But, being true to herself, she still ended up proving that she wasn't a team player, a hard worker or a pleasant person to be around. Trump has been stringing her out for awhile, and decided that it was her time to go. He even said "Omarosa had a huge chip on her shoulder, she felt she was superior to the other people." Despite her mid-boardroom breakdown, when her time came she left quietly and respectfully.

Omarosa quite possibly is a psychopath. I've met people like her and you just can't connect; its all about them. Which is why in some way, I'm surprised she's gone, because that definitely makes her CEO material.

So now we are left with 8 and with the exception of Nick and maybe Heidi, the rest are pretty decent people.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

I've wondered about Serena
Bob Mould (yes, that Bob Mould) talks about steroids in baseball and makes an interesting point:
So you sports fans know: when someone goes down with torn quadriceps, triceps, etc., it's likely a result of steroid use. The ligament cannot grow to support the extra mass, and the muscle tears from the bone - ouch is right. Where is Serena?
I've wondered about her. Her sister is tiny and doesn't seem to be able to put on muscle like Serena. It is entirely possible that it is just a genetic difference between the two siblings. Serena is surely, um, gifted in other ways compared to Venus besides her muscles. But you have to wonder.

Kerry, revisited
Well, you have to give the guy some respect for this. Via Wonkette.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

All Shook Down
I went to Plan 9 (the local record store) with the intention of getting Bakesale by Sebadoh, since I used to have it on tape but can't find it anymore. But they didn't have it, and I saw All Shook Down by the Replacements in the used section for $6.99 so I bought that, since it is the one of the few I don't have by them. I know the later Replacements' stuff is a little too soft for some of the purists, so I'd be interested in what the expert thinks about it; but I like it because it kind of reminds me of that 1991-92 period when I used to visit my younger brother at the University of Dayton. He and his buddies were huge fans, and he even went to the July 4, 1991 Grant Park concert which was their last. I gave him a recording of it once and you can hear Paul sing on I'll Be You, "And if it's just a game, Then we'll break up just the same" or something like that.

I'm more into the Let it Be phase, because that has a nice mix of the harder stuff along with Paul's softer side, and that is still one of the tapes I put in my walkman when I am running.

One of the work-related things that I have been working on recently is related to the new RFID initiatives that have started because of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart recently decreed that their top 100 suppliers apply these RFID tags at the pallet level by Jan. 2005, and Target recently followed suit, albeit in a more pleasant and friendly manner. This helps Wal-Mart because they no longer need to scan each pallet's barcode by hand, since RFID tags can be read from about 30 feet away. So it saves labor and gives them a pretty good sense of where things are in the distribution facility, and ultimately on the store floor. Because the tags are only at the pallet level and not the item level, there really won't be any immediate savings from "shrinkage" (the employee theft kind of shrinkage), but at some point RFID will be cheap enough to do at the item level and you can expect significant savings across the supply chain.

Back when Wal-Mart announced this there was a big backlash of people worried that having an RFID tag in their shirt would mean that Wal-Mart would be tracking them, but the tags don't work like that. You have to be really close to the reader, and now companies are making tags that self-destruct once the sale is made so this is becoming a non-issue.

Anyway, I am trying to put together a supply chain process flow diagram that shows how RFID will affect the way goods flow from Manufacturer to Distributor to Retailer and tie this to our company's capabilities and show how there is a natural overlap between our capabilities and RFID. The only problem is that there really is no overlap and even if there was, I can't quite bring myself to care since I am looking for another job in another city in an another industry and its nice outside and my boss isn't here now and I think I'm gonna go home...

John Kerry
I tend to share Micky Kaus' take on John Kerry. Here is an excerpt:
I admit, I'm allergic to Kerry. Something in the vibration of that deep, pompous tone he adopts--the lugubrious, narcissistic fake gravity--grates on me. Others, bizarrely, say they don't have this problem. But few would argue that Kerry has formed a special bond with any large group of voters other than veterans. If he wins it's likely to be because voters see him as an acceptable alternative to an unacceptable incumbent, not because he's inspired them. It doesn't help that Kerry has a tendency to play the voters for fools--letting them think he's Irish (when he's not) or letting them think he's cleaner, in the campaign contribution department, than he really is...
I just can't bear to listen to the guy for longer than a couple of minutes. Its too bad, because I was looking forward to this campaign season, but now with Kerry, its going to suck. So I am basically left with voting for Bush or not voting at all, and I am leaning towards the latter, especially since I will be voting in Tennessee this time, and probably won't be registered by then.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

There Can Be Only One
So Kerry then. Something tells me that around about June some Democrats are going to start having buyer's remorse. Oh well, we'll see how this is gonna play out.

Steroids, in Baseball?
Who would have guessed? I just hope they don't find out that Sammy Sosa entered the league at 6'0" 165. It might make them suspicious.

Businesspundit points to this article in Stanford Business Magazine about product line extensions. It makes some interesting points and I'm sure P&G has done all the research on this, so they must know what they are doing. But for me, I like one kind of toothpaste, Crest Cool Mint Gel. Of course, I can't find it anymore because the grocery store has limited shelf space and they apparently decided that one was too boring. Look at Crest's website. They have at least 22 different varieties of toothpaste, and some come in different flavors, so you are talking about 30 different choices. Now come on, isn't that getting a little silly?

Monday, March 01, 2004

Sweet Jane
This is pretty cool, via Buck Hill, the Lou Reed guitar archive. I was always wondering how to play Rock and Roll and they have a version there that sounds right.

My first introduction to the Internet was back in 1994 and it was because someone told me they had all of REM's song lyrics and the guitar tab out there. That was the first thing that I ever downloaded. Prior to the Internet, if you were an average guitar player with a bad ear--meaning you can't readily discern what they are playing--you had to go out and buy tablature books or Guitar magazine to figure out how to play songs. I have a stack of these books and old Guitar mags from the pre-Internet days (at least pre-Internet for me). Now if I want to figure out how to play something, most everything popular is available on the Internet.

Office Networking
Professor Bainbridge talks about the disruptive effects of downsizing and hits on something that I have been thinking about, since I will have to be finding a new job soon: personal networks at the office:
Restructurings can also disrupt internal information flows. The most obvious effect of the layoffs associated with a down-sizing restructuring is the loss of the departed workers’ expertise and knowledge, but their more subtle effect is to break up the informal mechanisms by which managers and workers bypass hierarchy. One party (or both) to an informal bypass may be laid off. Lost trust and enhanced risk aversion may result in a communication breakdown even if both parties remain with the firm. Once severed, these informal links are slow to heal. Informal relationships of the sort at issue here typically develop around social interactions such as company sporting events, outings, car pools, and break rooms. By one estimate, a strong internal organization can take three to seven years to evolve. In the low morale post-restructuring environment, the longer estimate seems perfectly plausible.
The best way to make your job easier to find other people who can do it for you. One of the frustrations of starting a new job is that you don't always know who the right person is to call when you are looking for information or if something goes wrong. Depending on the size of the organization it can take years to develop this type of knowledge network. One of the worst things about consulting is that by the time you finally figure all this out and become efficient, then it is usually time to move on to the next project.

When I was working at a big Insurance Company in Northbrook, I had a boss who had been around for 25 years and probably knew 75% of the 6000-person home office staff, as well as a bunch more in the field. He wasn't big on strategy so probably would never make the VP level, but he was a get things done kind of guy. If he would have left, you couldn't replace the type of institutional knowledge that he acquired over the years. It made his team more efficient because he always knew who to call for information, or knew someone who knew someone.

Oscars again
Another thing. Billy Crystal just didn't have it this year. I was looking forward to the opening of the show, and it just didn't work. There were a few chuckles, but that was about it. I think the last one he did 4 years ago was one of the most brilliant pieces of showmanship that I have ever witnessed. But this was just OK.

I didn't quite stay up and watch all of the Oscars since we usually go to bed between 10:00 and 10:30 in these parts, so I missed the Best Actor, Actress and Best Picture awards. I am disappointed that Bill Murray didn't win for his performance in Lost in Translation which I saw. If not Bill Murray, then I would have liked to see Johnny Depp take it, but he was a long shot. If anything they should have just given it to Bill Murray as a belated recognition for his portrayal of Carl Spackler, as man struggling to maintain a land besieged by gophers.

I'm glad Renee Zellweger won for Cold Mountain and she had a nice acceptance speech. I think she looks better with a little weight on her. I was waiting for Tim Robbins to spout out about Bush and the war after he won for Best Supporting Actor, but he took the high road. Way to go, Meat.

I only saw Seabiscuit and Lost in Translation this year, so I didn't really care so much about the Best Picture. The whole Lord of the Rings thing just hasn't appealed to me yet, since I never read the books and that fantasy stuff just doesn't do it for me. I like Sci-fi or anything time-travel related but this whole middle-earth thing? I dunno. Once they are all out on DVD I think that I will sit through them, because everyone I know who has seen them has given good reviews. Also because of their importance, it would be like not seeing the Star Wars trilogy, which in my mind is unthinkable.

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