just procrastinating

Monday, May 31, 2004

Busy Weekend
My brother and his wife came in to Charlottesville for the weekend. We did the typical Charlottesville tour: U Va., dinner on the downtown mall, wine tasting and Monticello. It was fun, but it sure does tire you out.

Selling the Place
Last week we got a contract on our house, so contingent upon the house inspection and radon test going well, we will be closing on this in mid-July. The process of selling the house was relatively painless, and I feel like I could done much of what the listing realtor did myself. I thought about doing a for sale by owner, but wasn't sure if I would have the time to do everything...which later proved to be incorrect.

The real thing that drove traffic through the place was just having an MLS listing, so which is what allowed other realtors to bring people through. All that other marketing in local real estate magazines seemed almost like a waste of time and money. And the part that took the most work, keeping the place clean and walking the dog every time someone came through to look, was all done by me anyway. Hopefully everything will go well with the inspection process and this will be a done deal.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Isn't this a movie idea that is about 20 years too late? What, was idea shelved for years because the creator felt like the special effects just weren't ready until now? Garfield wasn't really all that funny or clever when I was 10, so I can't imagine how it would play now. But I guess I am not really the audience for this anyway, I'm a dog person.

Oh wait, Jennifer Love Hewitt is in it, maybe I am in their target audience.

Blog Article
I'm sure everyone will be linking to this NY Times article about bloggers. Here is part of it that sounds kinda familiar to me:
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, 26, a graduate student at the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley who has studied bloggers, said that for some people blogging has supplanted e-mail as a way to procrastinate at work.
Get it, 'cause you know, the name of this blog...well you know.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Honest Blogger Quiz
Here is quiz that Tony Pierce wanted people to take, and seeing as he is disappointed in the turnout, I figured I'd take a shot.

1. which political party do you typically agree with? Libertarian

2. which political party do you typically vote for? Republican

3. list the last five presidents that you voted for? Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Dukakis, and probably would have voted for Mondale, but I was 15 then

4. which party do you think is smarter about the economy? Republican (at least before Bush)

5. which party do you think is smarter about domestic affairs? I think they are equally silly

6. do you think we should keep our troops in Iraq or pull them out? keep them in until they have elections

7. who, or what country, do you think is most responsible for 9/11? Osama + Saudis

8. do you think we will find weapons of mass destruction in iraq? probably will

9. yes or no, should the u.s. legalize marijuana? Yes, and all drugs.

10. do you think the republicans stole the last presidental election? no

11. do you think bill clinton should have been impeached because of what he did with monica lewinski? not for Monica, but maybe a little bit for the lying part

12. do you think hillary clinton would make a good president? no thanks

13. name a current democrat who would make a great president: I could live with Bill Clinton again, if that was possible

14. name a current republican who would make a great president: I like that former NM Governer Gary Johnson, or maybe Arnold if they changed the constitution

15. do you think that women should have the right to have an abortion? I lean towards yes, but they should feel guilty about it.

16. what religion are you? Catholic (see above answer)

17. have you read the Bible all the way through? nope

18. what's your favorite book? I don't have one

19. who is your favorite band? Pavement is the first thing I thought of here

20. who do you think you'll vote for president in the next election? Probably Bush, but I could have voted for Edwards or Clark or Joe L., just not Kerry. Why did they pick Kerry?

21. what website did you see this on first? tonypierce.com, and then seethruskin

B-School Value
Craig Newmark at Newmark's Door recently posted that applications to B-Schools are down 15-20% this year and took that as an indication that the economy is growing, because people stick with their jobs and decide to put off grad school. A commenter to that post noted that B-Schools raised their prices and this could also account for the drop, because the cost of getting a MBA has increased and therefore it just doesn't have the same value.

Well since I have some time on my hands, I thought I would do a back of the envelope calculation on that, because I think there is some truth to it. I used data from the University of Michigan's placement for 1999 (the earliest available) and 2003. The total tuition for a non-resident 1999 grad would have been $49,000, and for 2006 grad, will be $75,000.

According to the placement report, here is what it was like in 1999 for average grad who went into Finance:

Cost (Tuition): $49,000
Lost Salary: $100,000
Total Costs: $149,000
Starting Salary: $75,000
Payback 1.987

Say you are a 2006 MBA grad, what kind of salary do you need to have the same payback period?

Cost (Tuition): $75,000
Lost Salary: $125,517 (this is just the above $100,000 five years later growing at 3.2%)
Total Costs: $200,517
Starting Salary: $96,598
Payback 1.987

You need to get $96,947. What was the most recent Finance Salary? For 2003 it was $85,000. Will it be $96,500 in 2006? Actually, it might be in the same ballpark. If you compare 1999's 75K with 2003's 85K, that is a 3.2% increase per year, so if you extrapolate that out to 2006, you get $93,500. So close, but not quite.

I'm actually pretty surprised it was this close, because I thought tuition was getting way out of hand, but I suppose the schools have their own Finance people that keep their eyes on this kind of thing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Here I was expecting to come back to Charlottesville and meet a swarm of Cicadas, but it turns out that this brood isn't the one that hits this region. Darn. I was sort of looking forward to seeing those goofy bastards. Here is a good map that explains why Brood X isn't here in Central Virginia, and it validates my earlier post about seeing those crazy things in 1990 in the Chicago area.

Colonial House
Has anyone been watching that Colonial House on PBS? I have caught a few episodes and thought it was interesting at first, but now it is just getting stupid. There is a lot of whining, people are getting lazy and there is a lack of urgency to the whole thing. I imagine if you really were going to starve over the winter, you wouldn't have any problems putting in 12 hour days every day of the week. Also, Danny Tisdale (a black guy) just left because he felt that the indentured servitude of the colonialists, which is what he plays as a Freeman, is what led to slavery, so he didn't want any part of it and split. Hmm, I guess there are worse excuses.

Washington Scandal
I'm still catching up with the news from last week, and I came across this whole Washingtonienne story via Wonkette. Apparently a young staffer of Republican Senator Dewine was keeping a blog of her sexual exploits with a handful of guys that she was sleeping with, some of whom were paying her more or less directly for it. She has since been discovered and fired from her job, but here is an archive of the blog that started it all. It is more interesting for me because she mentions going to Tortilla Coast and the Red River Grill, which are two places that I used to frequent when I lived on the hill.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Snoop Dogg
Oh darn. It looks like Snoop Dogg is getting divorced. I didn't even know he was married. I like Snoop, not his music really, but he definitely is an original and I can appreciate that. I thought this part of the article was funny and I'm still laughing about it as I type:
Snoop, 32, co-stars in the new movie "Soul Plane," which opens Friday. He also has appeared in the movies "Baby Boy" and "Starsky & Hutch," starred in MTV's "Doggy Fizzle Televizzle" comedy show and helped popularize new slang that adds a lot of unnecessary Zs and Ls to words.
That captures the essence of it in such a deadpan way.

Here is a kind of funny site where brave people take a photo of themselves, or their hands, giving the finger to Hummer H2s. It is kind of funny, only because most of the people are in their cars or at a safe distance so as not to offend the actual H2 owner. Now a really cool site would be video of people actually going up to the owners of these cars and giving them the finger. Although my guess is that we wouldn't have all that many submissions.

I got no problem with the H2. I would never want to own one, but hey, if that's your thing and you want to waste all that money on gas, then go for it. Found via Slowpoke blog.

Come on, Adriana. You should have seen that one coming.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Da Vinci Code
So I finally got around to reading that Da Vinci Code book that I got for Christmas. Due to my limited attention span, I'm not much for all that book readin', but since I was on vacation I decided to tackle this one.

It was definitely very readable and held my attention, but I think the story was kind of hokey at times. My problem with it mostly is that I find it extremely unlikely that while Sauniere was dying from a bullet wound to the stomach, he would be running around putting all these clues in place so that his granddaughter would be able to figure it out. I mean maybe one or two little clues maybe, but that was pretty ambitious for a dying man. With all that activity, you would think that maybe he could have gotten a hold of the paramedics and saved himself.

But once I decided to suspend disbelief for that, I thought it was a good story. Although I will say that with most books that I like, I usually leave with vicarious daydreams about what it would be like to be in the characters shoes: you know, wonder if maybe I should be an archaeologist, or lawyer, or something. But with this, I just couldn't make myself be interested in a symbologist, or whatever it was Langdon did.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Waiting On The Tarmac
United sure did their best to make this vacation interesting. Flying out last Saturday, I was connecting through O’Hare into Phoenix. When we pulled up to the terminal, there were no empty gates for us, so I had to wait about 40 minutes until they had one that was open. We end up parking in E11, which is about as far from C27 as you can get, so of course I miss my connecting flight. No big deal because they had one 3 hours later, so I made it to Phoenix later than I’d hoped.

On the way back, I am connecting through O’Hare again. This time when we pull up to the gate, there are flashes of lightening in the air, so the pilot tells us that we will have to wait, 50 feet from the ramp, until the lightening clears so they can have the ground crew come out and lead us in. So it’s 7:50 PM and my connection is at 8:55. When do they finally let us off the plane? 10:15 PM! Two and a half hours on the stupid plane sitting 50 feet from the ramp thing, and that after a 3 and half our flight. It’s all the stupid union or FAA rules. I could have drove that thing in and stopped it so the ramp could meet us, but I guess rules is rules.

So of course I miss my connecting flight, and am stuck in Chicago until the next flight which was at 1:35 PM. Luckily, my brother is still awake, so I took a cab into town and crashed at his place. So today, I get on the plane at about 1:15 PM and when does the plane finally take off? 4:30! We sat on the tarmac for over 3 hours, partially because of a mechanical issue, but mostly because O’Hare just doesn’t have the capacity to handle so many planes when there is bad weather around. Well, I guess that is what you get when you use miles to get a free flight.

Did I mention that I was on vacation for a week or so? On Saturday, I flew out to Phoenix and met my wife who was there for a medical conference. We hung out there for a day and half, and spent our time looking at cactuses, and being hot, which is what people do in Phoenix. As for that whole “dry heat” thing, there is something to that as long as you are in the shade. But the sun is really the issue. The sun is bright, white hot and unrelenting, like a mother fucker. But yeah, Phoenix: cactuses are neat, sun is hot. Wear sunscreen.

Then we drove up to Sedona, which is famous for having red rocks and being pretty. There is also something about vortexes (or vortices) being there, but I still don’t have a clue what they were talking about. We went on hikes and took a Jeep tour and I took hundreds of pictures of the red rocks, some of which are here, most of which were out of focus or too light. I would say that Sedona is a nice place to visit if you happen to be in the area, but as my wife said. “It is beautiful here, but I don’t think we will be back unless we are driving though.” But it was nice to get away.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

My wife is headed out to Phoenix tonight for a medical conference and we decided to make our vacation piggy-back off of that. I am meeting her in Phoenix on Saturday and we will be travelling up to Sedona, AZ, for a few days after that. I've never been there, but have heard some good things about it, and the picutres that I have seen look cool.

So in case you are wondering why there aren't any new posts, and I am not getting my personal quota of 2 blog posts per day (however lame), except on weekends, that's why.

Iraq Questions
Nick Gillepsie at Reason makes a good point about Iraq situation:
Quite frankly, from a distance--and with a general lack of knowledge of what post-war occupations are like--I find it extremely difficult to evaluate conflicting news reports. It's easy (and not invalid) for pro-war and anti-war observers to argue from ideology, but it remains hard to get a good grip on what the situation is actually like, or any sense of context or historical perspective.
It's pretty hard sitting on the sidelines to make an assessment about how things are going. Some days I wonder why we are fucking this up so badly, and other days I think, everything considered, we are making progress. But what do I know?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Future of Rock and Roll
Probably will not be heard on 97X anymore. Reason mentions here that 97X which was broadcast out of Oxford, Ohio, and made famous in the movie Rainman, "97X Bam! the future of rock and roll", will be changing ownership tomorrow. The new owners promise to maintain the format as is, but it seems unlikely because they did not get the 11,000 CD collection. Those of us who were Miami (Ohio) grads remember it fondly, as do I, except for that year when I was into the Grateful Dead.

Not Interested
I've seen one video of someone getting their head cut off by terrorists, and that is one too many. I'm not interested in seeing this new one. I have a high tolerance for gore and violence in movies, but when you know that it's the real thing it is completely different. Those kind of images stay with you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Stuck In My Head
Ever have one of those songs that you can't get out of your head, but have no way of finding out what it is because you can't understand the lyrics? I couldn't google a line from this, because I just couldn't even get one word of it. Anyway, this song, Flower Duet, has been running through my head for awhile and I recently found out what it was; this version is from Charlotte Church. This kind of music isn't really my thing, but something about this song appeals to me.

Celebrity Sighting
Well sort of. The gas station that is closest to my house has a coffee bar in it, Mudhouse, which is a pretty decent local store that has a handful of locations here in Charlottesville. So yesterday I go there and see a pretty sweet fat cat-lookin' Mercedes parked out front, and as I enter I held the door open for a well dressed black guy who was on his way out. When he left, the girl at the counter said to me. "That was Boyd Tinsley!"

That name sounded familiar to me, but I had to ask, "Who?"

"From the Dave Matthews Band".

"Oh, OK, the violin guy. Got it."

The Dave Matthews Band got its start here in Charlottesville and it was a sad day for the locals here when Dave moved out to Seattle because his wife was in grad school there. I'm not sure if Boyd lives here either now, but he was in town for a local tennis tournament at the Boars Head Inn.

Anyway that was a pretty weak celebrity sighting, but this is a small town. I do better at airports: I saw Klinger (Jamie Farr) a few years ago at the airport in Charlotte, NC and Jerry Springer (who is taller than you'd think) at O'Hare a couple years ago. But those are pretty weak as well.

Monday, May 10, 2004

You First
I'm sure everyone has heard this by now from Brad Pitt:
"Men will be wearing skirts by next summer. That's my prediction and proclamation," he said with a laugh. "The film answers to both genders. We were going for realism and Greeks wore skirts all the time then."
I'm guessing this is unlikely, but why the hell not? Scottish guys have their kilts and a lot of the dudes in the Middle-East are essentially wearing dresses. At least in the summer they seem like they would be more comfortable and cooler than shorts.

The downside to this would be that you could no longer taunt your buddies with the "why don't you take of your skirt and ...[insert testosterone-based activity]." It would take on a slightly different meaning.

Best Places
Businesspundit points to this Forbes report about the "Best places for Business". Knoxville, TN, ranks 13th overall and is third in the "Best for Work" category, which is based on the local unemployment rate. I guess that's pretty sweet, although that means no excuses when it comes to finding a job.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Next Time Read the Whole Ad
I drove 60 miles in to Richmond today for an interview with a headhunter, or at least that is what I thought I was doing. Had I bothered to do even a minute of research I would have learned otherwise. I meant to, in fact, but I was pressed for time this morning because I needed to run on the treadmill and then clean the house because we had some people coming to look at it today. I missed a few tell-tales signs: The day I sent them a resume, they called back immediately and wanted to schedule some time to talk. They were overly friendly, very positive and flexible. I should have known I was being sold to.

Anyway, I walk in and about 8 minutes into the one hour interview, I realize that this Bernard Haldane and Associates is a career marketing shop, where I am supposed to pay them a fee for their "services". About half-way through the interviewer asked me, "are you comfortable?"

"Sure, why?" I lied.

"Because you are very fidgety, you must have some nervous energy. Do you know that you fidget?"


I wasn't even listening to what she was saying, I was thinking about how the heck I was gonna get out of there, or explain to them that I made a mistake and didn't want to be there. Still, it was a good practice interview for which I did no preparation, and it went OK.

Adios Amigos
So I watched the final Friends episode. I thought it was pretty good. Predictable, funny at times and sad in a way. The kind of sad that you feel when you are moving, and look at your empty house or apartment and realize that whatever kind of times you had in that place, they are part of history.

Here is a kind of interesting article in Slate about the show that makes a point about my generation compared with the baby boomers:
In contrast to the doggedly preprofessional grads of the 1980s who couldn't wait to put on a tie (male and female alike) and enter the hyperadult world of investment banks and law firms, our business-casual class has circled happily in a post-collegiate holding pattern long past graduation day, whether by installing Fooz-ball tables in the workplace or by glorifying immaturity in branding ("Yahoo!," "Fat Bastard Chardonnay"). And so has Friends.

In the '80s, the thirtysomething crowd was, well, thirtysomething. In that prime-time drama, two navel-gazing married couples dealt with self-consciously adult issues like infidelity and on-the-job power struggles while the couples' unmarried friends were portrayed as vaguely subversive and wacky. On Friends, it's just the opposite: Even when the Friends marry or have children, they still (until Thursday, anyway) live like students. Rachel and Ross' hang-out time with the rest of the gang has barely been affected by the birth of their daughter, Emma; the main upshot of Monica and Chandler's wedding has been to further confuse sometime viewers as to who is living in which apartment.
Anyway, the first part of that reminded me of something that Scott said in Fortune magazine a decade or so ago when they did an article about Boomers vs. Busters, which was what they were calling the Gen X back then. The article mentioned how our generation was a little more laid back and into quality of life, rather than that whole go-go 80s lifestyle. But then I wonder if that wasn't more a function of the slowdown in the early 90s, because by the late 90s many of my generation were burning the candle at both ends.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Sci Fi Channel
All this extra time on my hands is being used constructively. The Sci Fi Channel plays a rotation of shows daily that run in the marathon format from 11:00 - 4:00. Last Friday and Monday it was the old Star Trek and today it was Buck Rogers, the one from 1979-81 staring Gil Gerard and Erin Gray. I loved that show when it came out and couldn't wait to see it, but now I am beginning to realize why it only lasted 2 seasons. Gil Gerard was just phoning in his performances. And what was the deal with that goofy "Hawk" character? Even the robot, Twiki is kind of stupid.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Google IPO and IB
Here is an interesting article by Seth Goldstein that touches on some of the feeling I have about investment banking. It refers to the Google IPO which is being done as a auction, thereby squeezing the bankers out of difference between the price that they set and any subsequent upward movement the first day:
Google's IPO is above all a capital performance. Its offering memo describes a set of rules that at once promise zero short term accountability on behalf of management while at the same time promise unparalleled tick-by-tick efficiency in terms of equity pricing.

On Friday, Tina and I got together with some friends for dinner. One of the husbands works for CSFB and I congratulated him on the coup of being named the lead on the Google IPO. Whereas I expected a little gloating, instead he bit his tongue and complained about the greed of Google and how little money CSFB was going to make (including its not insignificant banking fees). I think the point he was trying to make was that by going the way of the auction, that Google was trying to take every single penny off the table that they can. Seeing his genuine anger, I didn't have the heart to remind him that this was a good thing overall, namely that companies were going to start to benefit fully from the intersection of buyers and sellers of their stock, not the marketmakers per se.

Instead what I saw was the end of a certain kind of investment banking innocence. No, the outsized commissions are not your divine right. No, you can't control the allocation of underpriced shares to your best clients. Yes, you will be paid, but it will be in fees like those paid to lawyers, consultants or accountants. Profiting from outsized bid-ask spreads will need to be replaced by a different type of value. I am not sure Wall Street has figured out what it will do if Google's auction model proves to become the rule rather than the exception.
I assume that CSFB still gets their 7%, but it might only be a matter of time before that goes as well.

I Guess if it Works...
Via Fark, the secret to Moises Alou hitting without batting gloves:
Alou says the secret to hitting without batting gloves is to harden your hands and prevent calluses. One of his methods might win someone the prize money on the TV show, "Fear Factor." He urinates on his hands. That's the honest truth. Alou said he isn't sure where he learned this distasteful folk medicine, but it wasn't from his famous father. And it works for Moises.
Next will we hear him say, "I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come."?

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

News on the Economy
Although I have recently been added to ranks of the unemployed, more and more evidence is coming out that things have finally turned around. Glenn Reynolds posts here that tax receipts are way up within the past two months. That, and I met a guy at the dog park this morning who went to Darden and he said that within this past quarter recruiting there has been booming, after a couple of years of relatively hard times. So there, that's two data points...well, three if you count me, but leave me out of this, 'cause my situation is a little different.

Dog Snacks
Those 17 year cicadas are due to hit here in Virginia this year. Here is an article describing what my dog has to look forward to:
HAGERSTOWN, Md. -- This spring's crop of 17-year cicadas will seem like junk food to dogs and cats -- and, like junk food, they can make pets sick, the Humane Society of the United States warns.

"Imagine a yard full of chicken nuggets -- that's sort of what it's going to be like," Randall Lockwood, a Humane Society vice president and animal behaviorist, said Tuesday.

He said the insects are protein-rich but their exoskeletons are indigestible, so eating too many can cause vomiting or constipation.

For most pets, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience - and almost irresistible, he said.

"They're just so abundant that this is kind of the canine equivalent of a bag of potato chips," he said.

The bugs have a nutty flavor, David George Gordon, author of "The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook," told The Washington Post.

Lockwood said cicadas are meaty, and eating a few won't hurt your pet. But too many can overload an animal's digestive tract with chitin, the hard substance of which insect shells are made. If a pet has more than two vomiting episodes or appears to be in pain, a trip to the veterinarian may needed, he said.
My dog is a very picky eater, so she might not go for these, but you never know. These hit in the Chicago area in 1990, I think, so for some reason they are outta synch with Virginia. I remember them back then because I was working for the park district that summer on the cutting team and I was outside with those things all day. There were hundreds of them attached to every shrub, so if you disturbed them by bumping up against their bush with the mower a bunch would fly off. They were kinda nasty looking but pretty harmless.

Know Your Target Audience
Andrew Sullivan posts this quote from an al Sadr supporter that must tie the left in knots. Describing his time in jail:
"They knew this would humiliate us. We are men. It's OK if they beat me. Beating don't hurt us, it's just a blow. But no one would want their manhood to be shattered. They wanted us to feel as though we were women, the way women feel, and this is the worst insult, to feel like a woman."
Um, OK. We did a bad thing in those prisons and that needs to be fixed immediately, but a little perspective should be in order.

Monday, May 03, 2004

For Sale
So our house is officially on the market. We spent all weekend cleaning, painting and de-cluttering, so ready or not, it's out there.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution posts this interesting piece of info about the consumers surplus from Google's Gmail:
Google will be offering its Gmail service for free, but right now supply is limited. Not surprisingly, a market in the accounts has arisen, check out this ebay listing. I have heard that some accounts have gone for as much as $150.
It's actually pretty useful. When I heard that I was being let go, I had a bunch of personal stuff on my work PC that I needed to get like pictures and stuff and limited time to do it. So I just emailed everything to my gmail account, which would not have been possible for any of my other email accounts.

This poem by Clive James posted over at Assymetrical Information is hilarious, once you realize what the word remaindered means: A book that remains with a publisher after sales have fallen off, usually sold at a reduced price. I had to look it up, and then the whole thing made sense.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

John Kerry Has An Orange Bike With a Matching Shirt and Helmet

And he is running for President.

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