just procrastinating

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Colds
Back from the great city of Chicago. Good times all in all, although the wife and I are both experiencing the side effects of spending time with sick nieces and nephews. Just colds though, nothing major.

Chicago was typical. I recall seeing the sun on Saturday morning prior to descending through the clouds over Lake Michigan, and then saw it 5 days later as we broke through the clouds over Lake Michigan Thursday afternoon. It's always up there, but sometimes you forget that in a Chicago winter. But hey, not complaining, because the temperature was actually quite balmy for this time of year.

We got pretty lucky from a travel standpoint: No delays, little traffic. As bad as I think travel can be for just the two of us, my wife remarked that we will never travel so easy again, which is a little scary. It was great to see everyone over Christmas, but it's also great to be back.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Everyone is Doing It
Oh well, here's one of these:

Four jobs you've had in your life: Paperboy, bagger, bartender, batting-cage worker

Four movies you could watch over and over:
Die Hard, Star Wars, Point Break, Road Trip

Four places you've lived: Chicago, IL, Washington, DC, Ann Arbor, MI, Oxford, OH

Four TV shows you love to watch: Seinfeld re-runs, The Apprentice, South Park, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Four places you've been on vacation: Bermuda, Cozumel, Orlando, San Francisco

Four websites you visit daily: Fark, Instapundit, Drudge, Yahoo Finance

Four of your favorite foods: Pepperoni pizza, biscuits, peanut butter cookies, cheese puffs

Four places you'd rather be: Napping on my couch, napping by a pool someplace warm, at that one bar by the lighthouse on Hilton Head, in bed

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Google Day
Most of the office is out today and tomorrow, so many in fact that I'm in charge on Friday, where I will command that everyone go home. It's nice having a couple days at the office when you can catch up, and by "catch up", I mean sit and surf, read blogs, google old friends, current friends, etc. It's a nice break from the day to day here of looking at numbers and responding to a variety of meaningless corporate fire drills.

I'm heading off to the great city of Chicago on Saturday morning for a few days, and will be back here on Thursday.

Monday, December 19, 2005

This article in Slate about the new Gap ads makes an observation that I've had recently:
Gap decided a while back that its retail stores were looking dated; the displays needed freshening up. So, the company made some changes in the layout of its shops.

Meanwhile, the company itself is in dire straits. In November, Gap Inc. reported its worst quarterly results in three years. Analysts said it's "time to get serious," and that the numbers suggest "customer defections continue unabated."

You can blame Gap's clothes. (I know I don't shop there anymore--none of their stuff appeals to me.) You can certainly blame the marketing. (Ad Age says Gap's focus on celebrity endorsements has been a big failure. I'm not surprised, especially since they chose really lame celebrities. Lenny Kravitz? Joss Stone??) But Gap has taken out its frustrations on the floor plans.

I'm certainly not Mr. Fancy Pants, but the Gap almost seems to have gone down market. In my mind it was a near peer of J.Crew and Aberchrombie back in the 90s, but now it's a step below. Gap used to be pretty solid on staple-type items. I used to get all my jeans there until a few years ago. Eventually, I drifted over to Banana Republic for jeans and never went back. Except for the occasional long sleeve thermal-type shirt, Gap has little else that works for me.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

No Late Fees = No Movies
Who saw this one coming?
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Blockbuster Inc. stores in several states are quietly resuming late fees for customers who keep movies too long, rejecting the video-rental chain's national advertising of "No Late Fees!" because they can no longer keep popular movies on their shelves.

Many Arkansas stores resumed the late fees Nov. 21 and charges will apply again soon at various stores in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. The Arkansas attorney general's office has heard complaints that the fees restarted without any notice.

Blockbuster last winter said it would drop late fees, but its fine print said the company would charge consumers if they kept the movies too long, then charge a $1.25 restocking fee if the movies were returned. In March, the Dallas-based company settled complaints heard in 47 states and authorized refunds for offended customers.

My wife and I were in Blockbuster the other day and she remarked that this no late fees thing wasn't working out so well, since there were no movies on the shelves. Who would have guessed that if there are no late fees that you'd sit on the movie for a week or so?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cool Pics
These color pictures from the 40s are pretty cool. This one, from 1943, looking north with Michigan Avenue on the left there (I think) is pretty impressive when you think how the skyline has changed. Something about color makes these pictures and the people in them seem more real.

It's hard to explain, but maybe something about growing up with color pictures makes black and white seem dated and distant. I don't know. I had the same reaction when I first saw these color photos from Tsarist Russian. I'm sure in a few years the kids will have the same reaction to color pics or movies that aren't in high definition, and then later some other kids will have the same reaction to images that aren't 3 dimentional. Via Fark.

War of the Worlds
We rented War of the Worlds this weekend. I wasn't expecting much since Ebert's review was pretty lousy--he only gave it 2 stars. I thought it was better than that. Oh sure, Tom Cruise was pretty annoying and Tim Robbins character was unnecessary. But the movie was intense, and kept me on the edge of my seat. It's the kind of movie where if you have a significant other that likes to talk a lot and bother you during movies, you might suggest that she gets on the treadmill or goes and does Tae-Bo while you are trying to watch it.

The ending to the movie was pretty unsatisfying. The credits started to roll and I was like "That's it?" But it still was worth seeing.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Air Marshalls
I'm not feeling too good about this guy getting shot by federal air marshalls. It a lose/lose situation. Mentally ill person acting weird on a plane, talking smack about bombs (or not?), what's an air marshall to think? He's got a job to do. Still, the Feds are using this as an example of something that was done the right way, when we know, a) this guy wasn't a terrorist, b) he didn't have a bomb, c) he is mentally ill, which his wife kept saying, and d) he is now dead. I understand that the situation was difficult, but come on, let's not call this one a win.

I listen to Laura Ingraham usually on the way home from work. She said something about this that actually got me a little outraged, so much so that I felt compelled to write her a pretty harsh email that I won't repeat, except to say that I may have let a C-word slip. Anyway, she was in full support of the air marshall, which is fine, but she seemed to be completely without any sympathy for this poor guy that got killed. She said something like "His wife said he was bi-polar...well, he's not anymore." Yeah, snicker, snicker. Real clever. Making fun of the mentally ill is pretty fun, especially when they get killed by federal agents.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Here's an interesting article about loving the job you hate. I suppose I can't complain, but I'm starting to look at the people in this industry wonder if maybe it's time for me to think about what's next. Excerpt:
You know the feeling: Getting out of bed Monday morning is a struggle, followed by five long, bleak days.

You're not alone. About a million people a day phone in sick — and it's not the bird flu. Some surveys have found that 87 percent of Americans don't like their jobs.

Wow, 87 percent.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Charlie Brown
Here is an interesting article in the LA Times about the history of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and how it is still making good money for CBS. Some of the Charlie Brown specials--the Great Pumpkin comes to mind--haven't seemed to weather quite as well as the Christmas Special and I think it is because the soundtract to the Christmas Special is about as good as you can get. In fact, I can't think of a better song for getting into the Christmas mood than "Skating".

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Not Nickleback
There is this song on the radio these days that I've been hearing a lot recently that goes "Look at this photograph, every time I do it makes me laugh..." Something about this song never quite sat with me very well; perhaps it is the contrived storyline which doesn't seem believable, or voice track that makes it sound like there are about 8 guys singing. I woke up this morning in a hotel in Columbus, OH, and saw the video. OK, I see the problem, it's a Nickleback song. I wonder how it matches up with their past work. Link goes to a site that plays 2 of their songs simultaneously, and shows that they are eerily similar.

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