just procrastinating

Monday, November 29, 2004

Jordan's Brother
Here is a nice story about a Jordan that isn't ready to retire.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I saw this story on the Today Show over the weekend. Apparently Alan Aerts has this great Christmas spread at his house every year. He also has an annoying neighbor who hates the traffic that this causes and decided to use city government to shut him down.
MONTE SERENO, Calif. — For six years, Alan and Bonnie Aerts transformed their Silicon Valley home into a Christmas wonderland, complete with surfing Santa, jumbo candy canes and a carol-singing chorus of mannequins.

Visitors loved it. After NBC's "Weekend Today" last year featured the $150,000 display of custom-designed props, more than 1,500 cars prowled the Aertses' cul-de-sac in this upscale San Jose suburb each night.

The merry menagerie stayed indoors this year, though. Instead, on the manicured lawn outside the couple's Tudor mansion stands a single tiding: a 10-foot-tall Grinch with green fuzz, rotting teeth and beet-red eyeballs.

The Aertses erected the smirking giant as a protest against the couple across the street — Le and Susan Nguyen, who initiated complaints to city officials that the display was turning the quiet neighborhood into a Disneyesque nightmare.
This guy is my new hero. When I was watching it, I wondered what this guy did that he could live in such a huge mansion. He doesn't quite fit the profile of a rich Silicon Valley dude. Here is the answer. He owns and leases vending machines.
This is the world of Aerts, the vending king of Silicon Valley. A former bread delivery man and grocery store clerk, Aerts has built a fortune by placing soda machines and candy bar dispensers in virtually every commercial area in the South Bay. Now, he lives at the top of the hill that used to be the site of the Claravale Dairy, in a six-building estate that caused a stir in a neighborhood of big houses.

When Aerts couldn't get the square footage he wanted in the new house by constructing a cavernous basement, he added outbuildings following completion of the main, 6,400-square-foot house. A small movie theater, a pool house, weight rooms and several garages went up, all in a Monte Sereno loophole that doesn't limit auxiliary buildings.

In a good year, Aerts says he pulls in $15 million, in a bad year $5 million. Even in the economic slump recently, he's been adding sales routes as smaller distributors go belly-up.

"Things are pretty sweet right now," he says.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Rolling Stone's List
Has everyone seen Rolling Stone's list of the Greatest Songs of All Time? Everybody is certainly entitled to their own opinion here, but come on, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone"? James Lileks has a nice retort:
Anyway – “Like A Rolling Stone” is a rock song in the same sense that “Tommy” is an opera. A rock song rocks, and this is one instance where a tautology comes in handy. To name that tune a rock song, let alone the best, shows how much people have invested in the era, and why: because the music meant something, man. It was heavy, it was deep. Whatever. I remember when it came on the jukebox at the Valli, the air just left the room: oh great, six minutes of ORGAN music and nasally accusations. How did it feel? It felt boring, Bob
I never understood what people saw in Bob Dylan. For years, my favorite Bob Dylan song turned out not to be even him. I always thought that the song "Stuck in the Middle with You" was by Bob Dylan, but turns out that was Stealers Wheel. I should have known, because it seemed a little too peppy and light for him.

There is so much on this list that deserved to be commented on, but all I can say is that the Rolling Stones are the probably the best rock band ever, and their best song is "Tumbling Dice", which at 424, is ranked too low.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Basketball Drama
I like the tone of this article in Slate by Ben Mathis-Lilley about the NBA melee last week. Everything is such a big deal to these sports journalists. Seeing Bob Costas looking dour and disgusted on the Today show about something as silly as a little fracas in the stands, and then extrapolating that into the downfall of the NBA and, soon afterwards, civilization itself, is a bit of stretch.
Immediately after the brawl, the talking heads on ESPN's NBA Shootaround all said that disgusted fans would stop watching NBA games in droves. At this exact moment, millions of people were talking, probably for the first time in history, about a regular season NBA game. Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee wrote that "drastic and perhaps even draconian" measures were now required to salvage the NBA's image. But this once-in-a-lifetime brawl has, quite obviously, increased fan interest in the league. The fight was still the lead item on the local news last night—and I live in Brooklyn. When was the last time you remember your co-workers, your parents—anyone except Bill Walton—talking about the NBA in November?

Rather than acknowledge that the brawl was a freak occurrence—and a funny one to boot—the sports commentariat have heralded the apocalypse and rapturously praised NBA Commissioner David Stern's predictably harsh suspensions. Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote that the fight "was more than just a black eye. It was Stern's Black Sox scandal." No, this was his Disco Demolition Night. Not that I disagree with Sterns's actions, or think that the players or fans behaved admirably. (Except for the clown; he is a hero.) Stern wasn't "a great commissioner when we needed him to be," as Lupica wrote, just a competent one. The fans drank too much and made a scene and Stern made a sanctimonious speech about how society is in decline. That's it.
Well put.

ESPN Classic
I watched most of the University of Miami vs. Boston College game that made Doug Flutie famous on ESPN Classic last night. This is the one with the Hail Mary pass in the final 6 seconds. That game was 20 years ago yesterday, and I remember it like it was yesterday. That was the year (1984) that Flutie won the Heisman trophy. And what the heck is a 5'9" 42 year old still doing in the NFL?

As I recall, Doug Flutie decided to pass on the NFL and went with the USFL out of college. Probably not the smartest thing to do in retrospect, but I'm sure he was paid well for it. Then the Bears got him in 1986 as another back up to Jim McMahon who seemed to be hurt a lot of the time. I didn't realize he was still playing. Pretty impressive.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Red State Wines
Slate tries to be cute and talk some smack about Virginia (and other Red States) wines, but ends up finding a few that they can recommend. Having all of these wineries in your backyard is really is one of the nice things about Charlottesville.

Bad Taste
This JFK Reloaded game is in extremely poor taste. Here is an article in Slate about it. In fact, I am so outraged that I vow to steal this game, and will not pay $10 to play it. (Does anyone know where I can get it for free?)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
I'm watching The Good, The Bad and The Ugly tonight for the maybe tenth time or so. Great movie, a little longer than maybe it should have been, but always worth watching.

When I watch movies, I usually check out the Internet Movie Database to answer questions that I have. For this I was wondering if I was older than Clint Eastwood then? Answer: No, he was 36. What about Tuco? 51 then. Would you believe that Tuco, who is Eli Wallach, is still alive? He's almost 90 now! What about Sentenza (The Bad) played by Lee Van Cleef? He was 41 then, but died of a heart attack at 64 in 1989. How about Tuco's brother, Pablito? Same age as Clint, and committed suicide in 1996. I wonder why? Did you know Clint Eastwood is 6'4"? I never would have thought that, but I suppose he is. So much interesting information that without an Internet, you would just sit around and wonder about.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Rules Were Made To Be Broken
I dunno, something about the bed. I forget the gist of it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Businesspundit Outed
The Businesspundit finally outed himself as Rob May, co-owner of Velocity Sports Performance in Louisville. Velocity Sports isn't just an everday fitness center, it is geared towards younger atheletes. Here is how Rob's partner describes the business:
"Our core market is the 8- to 18-year-olds, teaching them safe, effective ways of training, so they can learn "mechanically" how to run correctly, (thereby) reducing the risk of injury and improving their performance," Sherman said.
I've noticed these "sports performance" type training around the gym more and more. At the gym I have been going to recently, I often see slightly awkward-looking kids with professional trainers doing all kinds of speed and agility drills. It looks kind of fun to me. I think it is just a sign of how rich we have become as a society and the lengths that parents will go to give their kids an extra edge. It's similar to how parents are dropping a couple grand (or more) on these SAT classes that the kids take now.

Update: Oddly, he has taken the original post down, so maybe I was just imagining this. I don't know why I would though.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Spies Like Us
For some reason, I watched all of Spies Like Us last night. Something that stuck me about this movie: The “spies” are dropped into Pakistan in an area where they have to learn Pastu and they interact with freedom fighters in Afghanistan. So while the movie is a cold war story about nuclear weapons, it ironically has the main characters seeking shelter within the source of out current war on terror.

Anyway, this movie is a surprising source for a good many movie quotes that I recall from high school and college. It is also noteworthy for the God-awful title song written by that hack Paul McCartney, and most of all, for a jaw-dropping scene where Vanessa Angel, playing a Soviet guard, leaves her tent in a state of undress.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Social Security
There's a lot of talk about Social Security reform in the news these days, and this article by Tyler Cowen got me thinking. I would say that I am for privatization if that would be better for me (me! me!) in the long run, but Tyler offers and interesting perspective:
Should we opt for forced savings?
First, how much can our government force people to save in the first place? You can make them lock up funds in an account, but they can respond by borrowing more on their credit cards, taking out a bigger mortgage, and in general investing less in their future. The net increase in savings will be much less than the mandated increase. And this will make it much harder to avoid the welfare aspect of social security.

When do the savers receive true property rights over the funds? Surely not at 65. They could then spend it all and apply for the dole. We are back to letting people starve or constructing a secondary safety net; the latter is almost certain to happen, although that was precisely what the forced saving scheme was trying to avoid. Alternatively, the government could regulate how much a person can spend from the lockbox each year (must it limit your borrowing too?). Imagine being on the verge of death and petitioning the government to spend down your account to meet your medical bills or make a large donation. The complications are not encouraging.
Ultimately Tyler opts for changing SS to be more of a welfare system for the elderly, without the forced savings component. Anyway, kind of interesting, if you care about that kind of thing.

Legalized Theft
This is the kind of thing that would make me want to take a flame-thrower to the entire city government. Excerpt:
Adrienne Leonard was traveling overseas last year on a missionary trip when she got a frantic phone call from her mother: The city had taken Leonard's car.

Booted and towed from in front of her South Side bungalow, her green 2001 Kia Sephia was gone.

Gone for good, it turned out.

The city demanded more than $1,000 for three parking tickets, and towing and storage fees.

Leonard was $300 short.

The city gave her 15 days to get the money, but she ran out of time.

The car became the city's -- an "involuntary surrender," the city calls it.

In January, the city sold the Kia to a politically connected towing firm that has an exclusive contract on city business.

How much money did the city get for the car?

Just $125.54.

That's right. The city sold a 3-year-old car for $125.54.

Leonard, 47, didn't get a dime from the sale and lost all the equity in her car.

She didn't even get a dime's credit toward those tickets, towing and storage fees. She's still on the hook for those.

And she still owes $13,800 for the Kia -- a car she no longer owns.
The Government can be really, really bad, and it usually is.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Wanna Lose Some Money?
Al Gore is starting a "socially conscious" fund. Via Professor Bainbridge:
"This new approach is designed to serve people who want to integrate sustainable returns with traditional equity analysis," Gore said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

"The carbon intensity of profits is an approach that needs to be adopted," he said, referring to the practice of measuring how much carbon is used in producing energy.

Gore, who ran for president and lost President Bush in 2000, has been a long-standing campaigner on environmental issues such as vehicle emissions.

He intends to get involved in helping drive Generation's investment process, although he added he would not directly choose investments. "I'm not a stock picker," he said.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Who's Sorry Now?
I spent some time last night on this Sorry Everybody website where Kerry supporters apologize to the world for failing in their feeble attempt to elect a Senator from Massachusetts President. It's interesting to see what people look like who actually feel bad enough about the election that they are willing take a picture of themselves and have it posted on the Internet next to some silly hand written apology. Most of them look surprisingly normal--misguided, foolish, and dour-looking--but normal. Now for those of us who aren't sorry, we have this: We're Not Sorry. Except for the prevalence of firearms and smiles, you could be looking at the same group.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Casualties of the Drug War
We just had a new employee show up here on Monday only to be let go the following day after the results from her drug test came back positive. The whole office is atwitter about this. It's sad because here this woman went and quit their job, was all excited about starting a new job, and now has nothing because she smokes a little pot and couldn't clean it out of her system in time. She must have had a few weeks to fix this, but failed to, so I guess it's her own fault. But I still feel sorry for her.

Anyhoo, here is an interesting article from the smart folks at Cato who argue that the Drug War in Afghanistan Undermines America’s War on Terror.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Well now that this whole election is over, at least for me, blogging topics are in short supply. That's one area where a Kerry victory would have been helpful. I'm not interested in discussions about new cabinet members or "what it all means" type analysis.

So in the meantime, congratulations to Scott on the new addition to his family.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Red and Blue, Or Just Lots of Purple
We are hearing a lot of talk about how divided this country is, but this map kind of sums up my take on things. The red areas, like in Utah, are those areas that supported Bush the most, and blues went the other way. Most places are purplish.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Peace Offering
I like Director Mitch's idea to make nice with the Democrats:
Hand Across the Isle - Let's Raise the Minimum Wage
First, let me get something out of the way. I am not a fan of the minimum wage. Economists on both the left and right agree it destroys jobs, it passes higher costs to consumers, and the cost to businesses is higher than the actual wage itself due to the "loaded costs" of social security, Medicare, etc. There is also the philosophical issue of how much the government should meddle in the invisible hand of the free market.

But I'm a realist about it. It's with us and it's here to stay. And it is an issue that is near and dear to democrats and much of their base (some union wages are pegged to the min wage, so a raise in the min wage gives some higher paid union members a raise as well).
I consider myself a realist when it comes to the minimum wage as I mentioned once here, and I hope that Bush takes this one up.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Well Whaddya Know?
Does anyone know anything about anything? I'm stressed all afternoon because of these stupid exit polls that show a Kerry blowout, and it turns out Bush wins (barring some amazing Ohio twist). I'm pleasantly surprised with the supposed outcome, but will hold off until someone concedes. I'd like this thing to be resolved today and not in 2 weeks.

Bush won the popular vote quite convincingly, so he must be pretty happy about that.

My feelings about this are similar to the way I felt when I got into b-school, or how I feel whenever I get a job that I want: "Great! But now I have to actually do the work." This is great for Bush, but now he actually has to clean up this mess.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Watching The Results
Whatever happens, I am going to bed at 11PM EST. I feel a little better about Bush's chances, but for some reason, I have been thinking about this scene from The Princess Bride:
Inigo Montoya: Who are you?
Westley: No one of consequence.
Inigo Montoya: I must know.
Westley: Get used to disappointment.
We'll see.

Sugar High
Like most offices post-Halloween, this place is awash with candy. Everyone misjudges Halloween traffic, buys too much candy and then brings it to the office so that they won't eat it all themselves. So that means that I'm getting the majority of my calories from candy this week. Here it's not even 10AM and I've had 4 tootsie rolls, 3 of those cube-like carmels, a tootsie pop and some Laffy Taffy. I've been eyeballing those small boxes of Nerds which I'll have in an hour or so. I have a feeling it is going to be a long night, so I need to maintain a sugar high for the rest of the day.

I Voted For W
Here I go and get up at 6:00 AM so that I can be at the polls by 6:45, thinking that there would be a long line, like we have seen in Florida. Total wait: 4 minutes. The Kerry guys even had coffee and donuts at their table outside of the polling place and were offering it to everyone, regardless of who you were voting for.

I'm feeling less confident about my prediction yesterday, but have inoculated myself enough that if Kerry takes this thing, I'll be OK with it.

In some ways George W has served his purpose. He cut taxes, reduced the marriage penalty, was the right man in charge on 9/11 and had the balls to finally do something about Saddam Hussein. You can argue about how well he executed these initiatives, but at least he did something.

If he loses today, he only has himself to blame, in that he didn't work hard enough to convince a larger audience that he was doing the right thing. And he could have convinced them if he communicated more, but he chose to largely ignore press conferences or any venue which would have put him or his policies under scrutiny.

Monday, November 01, 2004

I've been going back and forth all day on this race. It looks like the race is tightening in the final days and there are winning indicators for either candidate. Kerry has the Redskins loss, and Bush seems to have the odds at both Tradesports and the Iowa Markets. I've been reading the Horserace Blog which is making me feel a little more confident in a Bush win, and he seems very knowledgeable about the polls, but also more than a little biased.

At the beginning of the day, I was going to predict Kerry in a sqeaker, but just stay positive, I'll go Bush 50.5% Kerry 48.5% Nader 1%. I'll give Bush Florida and Ohio and somewhere north of 280 Electoral Votes. Or not. Who knows with this thing?

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