Friday, September 28, 2007


There are a lot of reasons that I don't like CSI: Miami, including an editor who got a shiny new copy of Adobe Premier and promptly decided to use every wipe imaginable, a subtitle guy who decided that the traditional white subtitles were too boring and also that people who spoke English couldn't understand it, and a fixation with water. Beyond those reasons however, there is Horatio Caine. The man thinks he's too cool for school. Well, I have a message for him...he's not. One of David Caruso's trademarks, other than a Shatneresque delivery and monotone voice is the one liner, often combined with the glasses put on. Somebody picked up on this and tossed it on YouTube for everyone's enjoyment. Take a gander:

PS: No meeting notes today as we didn't have one.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

AK in the Matrix

As has been reported on for the past week or so, Andrei Kirelinko wants out of Utah. That's not really a surprise as it's pretty much been established that he just can't take his role as a defensive specialist. Instead, he wants to be The Man. That wasn't a problem until this past year, with Carlos Boozer being injured and Deron Williams not yet established at the point, but now where he is the 4th option on the floor, he is done with it. To some degree, I can see his frustration. He was used to being the go-to guy and then it got taken away. At the same time, it didn't really get taken away, he threw it away. He threw it away by relying on his natural talent instead of working to get better. Sure, he practiced and all, but if D-Will is accurate (and I tend to think he is), Andrei was out of the gym the second Coach Sloan called it a day. Meanwhile, you had people like Boozer or even Rafael Araujo who were out to prove something, and they did. Hoffa didn't end up sticking around, but even though he was the 12th man on the team, he worked like there was no tomorrow. I respect that. I also respect someone who, after losing his alpha dog status, crawls back up and gets his head in the game. Williams did that after a really rough first season. Sloan's not known for coddling people, and Williams took the challenge and broke out his second year. AK, while one of the most incredible natural talents I've seen, decided that he was going to sulk that he didn't get his touches. You want to know how to get touches? Rebound the heck out of that ball. Run the court. Do all the little things that help your team win. By doing that, you'll get your touches. That's how Matt Harpring has made his living, by slashing, crashing the boards, and making a nuisance of himself. If AK would throw himself into defense, he would get his points.

So he wants out, and in my opinion, we should do everything we can to move him. He's an unnatural talent that will make us regret the trade, but he could also be such a negative influence in the locker room that it causes the team to implode. At the same time, Phoenix has the same problem with Shawn Marion. Swap those two for each other. I know that a lot of people, most notably Bill Simmons, have proposed this idea, and I have to say I'm keen on it. The Jazz get an impact player for theirs instead of pulling a Billy King and getting 50 cents on the AK dollar from some other team. Both teams solve their immediate problems and it's as close to a win-win as you could get in the NBA. Heck, we'll even throw in Gordan Giricek for no extra charge. He's locker room poison too as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I'm not a fan of Oprah. I know my wife loves her, as do about 20 billion other people, but I'm against all things Oprah. Will I dispute that she is a good, if misguided person? No. Am I worried about her army of people who, at a moment's notice, would overthrow the government and create the United States of Oprah? Somewhat. It's just unbelievable that she is as influential as she is. What's more unbelievable is the Spin-off showcase that she is. She could have a weekly show called Oprah's Book Club and it would be a cash cow. She's already got herself a Dr Phil show and, mark my words, she'll have a Dr. Oz show someday too. What usually happens in the classic Oprah pattern is that she finds a doctor, marries them for a brief period of time, then sends them out on their own to a lot of success doing whatever it is they did on her show but for longer. On top of all of this, she ignored Dave Letterman for over 6 months while he was doing his Oprah diary. Of course, this sin was atoned for by going on The Late Show and inviting Dave on the Oprah show (which, I have to say, I saw and thoroughly enjoyed. Dave, while wanting to stay out of the spotlight even though he's the host of a big-time talk show, seems even more like a genuine good guy after seeing him on Oprah).
No, at the end of the day I just think that Oprah's the 800 pound gorilla of television and I think that people listen to her a bit too much. She says jump, they say how high, and so on. Instead of the Optoberfest that is traditionally indulged in, perhaps people should take a step back and see that Oprah's not the queen of the world and she might be wrong, as she is on many issues (including something that I recall her being particularly misguided on was some of the reasons behind the Oprah Winfrey School for people in South Africa. The concept is nice, but the execution is a bit beyond me) like politics and the way things are. Yeah, this is just general whinging, but enough of the Oprah.

De-RM Your Life

I've just started checking this out, and I have to say that no matter its faults, I like it. now has MP3 downloads available for under a buck on their site. These are great because for the first time in a long time we have a DRM free option for music, and it's not just a couple of songs. With Apple you have to pay the Jobs premium for not getting restrictions on your music, but here you actually have discounts. There is a bit of a pain in not having it directly integrated with iTunes, but that's a small price to pay for not having to live with Apple for the rest of eternity or face burning/ripping your whole collection to change players. Granted, I'm too much of an Apple lover/hater to change, but it's the principle that counts. Check them out and give the music industry notice that we want to play our music when and where and how we want without restrictions.
Update: I bought my first track from Amazon and their downloader application automatically adds the songs to iTunes. How sweet is that?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Charts and Graphs and Lots of Laughs

I was going through one of my patented boxes of crap the other day and came across some Charts and Graphs from Letterman's TV show. I don't know how long ago I printed them out, but suffice it to say it was in the dark ages of the internet. They are still good for a laugh, take a look:

Red and Blue Light Special

Another day, another article from the Wall Street Journal. This one is about a reporter who accidentally switched prices on some things she bought from K Mart. It wasn't intentional - they didn't have any shoe boxes for their shoes, so she picked one that was the same size and as she walked out the door, they accosted her with a security guard who promptly detained her for an hour and told her in no uncertain terms to never shop there again. She, of course, complied with that request and also decided not to shop at any other K Mart.
Wasn't that the most self-destructive behavior K Mart could have shown? It's not like they're that great of a store to begin with, but to harass someone who just put down $800 for all kinds of clothing and other items (which, if I'm not mistaken, was probably about half of the store at that price) when they were charged $16.50 for shoes that were $24.50 is a bit ridiculous. While I know that there's all kinds of shoplifting in stores nowadays, I think the proper way to treat a customer would have been a conversation along these lines:
Store guy: "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but the shoes that you just paid $16.50 for are actually $24.50"
WSJ Reporter: "Oh? I just put them in whatever box had the size on them, I couldn't find one that would work."
SG: "Really? I'm terribly sorry about the inconvenience then. We could refund you the cost of the shoes since you thought they were the lower price or we could run your credit card for another $8. Which option might work better for you?"
WR: "Please charge me the $8. I am sorry again for the misunderstanding."
SG: "As am I. Thank you for your understanding and for shopping at K Mart. Have a wonderful day!"
By treating a customer like a criminal from the beginning, they committed a sin that caused problems all around for the company. One is that in this day and age of the internet rant, you have to assume that if you don't treat a customer well, it will be published. This was on the nation's most prestigious paper, but it easily could have been here or on someone else's blog. That kind of bad press is never helpful, especially when you're seen as an aging dump like K Mart is. Second problem is that they lost that individual. She's a fashion columnist for the paper, so perhaps she doesn't shop there often, but she did drop $800 in a single trip. Perhaps Wal Mart would prefer that money. There are a lot of shoplifters out there and they do cost a lot of money. However, the security guards, rent-a-cops that they might be, should have some rudimentary training in the difference between a legitimate thief and someone who was just a victim of circumstances. By doing so, perhaps they wouldn't end up with over 1 million people reading why they suck on Thursday morning.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Have I been blogging overtime lately? Post-wise, certainly. I think part of it is because Forro has been out of town on business and that's resulted in more to say than usual. Part of it is also a strange confluence of events that have resulted in a lot of postworthy topics. Eventually I think things will change and it'll go back to a 5 post a week format, and eventually may be tomorrow or it may not. How mysterious is that?
Anyway, to the post. There was an article in the Journal last week (subscription required - for now) about how the US tobacco growing industry is in an upswing. How is this possible with everybody stopping their cigarette use? Because they ended subsidies of the crop! This is the opposite of what some would have you believe. I've heard numerous people say that without subsidies the simple American farmer would never be able to survive. For starters, the simple American farmer is actually a big conglomerate now, perhaps ConAgra or someone else. Second, the subsidy system penalized people trying to get in to the market. Because the government was propping up older acreage, people who wanted to get into the business had to buy a quota from someone who held one at up to 80 cents a pound. With the removal of the quotas and subsidies, that means that the break even price point on tobacco has gone way down, to where even though tobacco is currently at around 1.60 a pound, farmers are making more than they did when the government artificially kept prices at around 1.98 a pound. If there's anything to be learned from this small experiment in eliminating subsidies, it's that the market will create a nice equilibrium.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Meeting Diary 9/21

Here we are, with a mini (as far as participants) meeting. We have a lineup of just me, A-Rod, and Jorge Posada. Of course, that could be the recipie for your entertainment as I'm here with a blowhard and a guy who desperately wants to be heard.

9:30 AM - We started late, but earlier than usual which is very nice. A-Rod managed to ask Jorge to take us through a presentation that he will be giving again on Wednesday. The point of doing that? I have no idea.

9:35 AM - A-Rod says we'll be done by 10:30. Oh my goodness, if that happens I'll skip down the hall singing "Skip to My Lou."

9:45 AM - We are in the midst of a 10 minute (so far) break where A-Rod interrupted things to a) jibbajabba and b) take a 50 cc 4-wheeler down to somebody's car.

9:47 AM - A-Rod is blah blah blahing about things that he doesn't have any idea about. We decided to review and I just had to tell people to select something different from what they are. It's easy enough, only about 5 mins. So what did he start doing? He doesn't know what's going on, and he's trying to insert himself into the thing and now we have a 1 hour review of the whole process between 2 departments. Ugh. Thank you for making my life miserable. Just for that, no "Skip to My Lou" even if we're out on time.

9:50 AM - A-Rod is blathering on and on about how Jorge needs to do his training on our new payment system. Never mind that he doesn't know anything about this new training, he is telling Jorge exactly how to do it. Don't you trust us to do our jobs or what?

9:58 AM - A-Rod is flapping his gums some more (I'm running out of ways to describe this) this time about expansion and whatnot. This despite the fact that we are trying to stabilize things so that we can actually use the money to oh, say, not go out of business.

10:01 AM - The term "quick and dirty" is one of my least favorites. It's been thrown around by A-Rod since he got here and I know it's supposed to be for a quick overview of something, but it sounds more like a sex act than anything else.

10:04 AM - A-Rod just hosed one of our employees. I feel sorry for her. I expect her in my office to complain very quickly.

10:08 AM - While I've been cruising ESPN, A-Rod has been going on about the demographics of our new medical director and has mentioned that she's black about 10 times now. I think I speak for everyone when I say "who cares?"

10:22 AM - Jorge is talking about a meeting that went off the rails yesterday. The problem with that meeting is it's supposed to talk about patient care and whatnot, but they end up just whinging about everything.

10:27 AM - We're not going to make the 10:30 deadline. No skipping. I still see 2 more categories that haven't happened yet.

10:44 AM - No matter what arguments you have why something is a stupid idea, you're never going to convince A-Rod that he's an idiot.

10:48 AM - A-Rod's an idiot. He's trying to micromanage my department, even though he's got absolutely nothing to do with it at all. He's not my boss, he's not even tangentally related to my department. "Why in the heck won't you allow me to do my job? Shut up already and let me do my stuff" - my exact thoughts.

10:53 AM - Will we ever tell people that they have to chill out? The answer is no. Mountains will always be made out of molehills.

10:56 AM - This is a much more entertainingly reading meeting than the last one. As such it is so much more tedious and annoying than the last one.

11:04 AM - How about that? Finally, after over a year of me saying that our old medical director is a knob, we finally have A-Rod admit he's a knob. The problem is though that he didn't believe it until the "community" told one of our people it. Man, sometimes I don't think I have any clout at all with him.

11:07 AM - "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" Oh how close we were. As it is, we'll be another little bit unfortunately.

11:10 AM - We're done, and only about 2x as long as we were supposed to be!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Flight of the Conchords

Ryan over at Grades Matter told me about these guys and they're hilarious. Warning though...the first video is TV clean (it was on Letterman), and the second one is pretty much the same, however it does discuss, in somewhat broad terms, sex. It's one of the most amazing things ever though. Take a look!

Thursday Quick Hits

Random thoughts for Thursday:
  • I saw a UTA bus yesterday that had the BYU football theme for the year on it: Cougars Reloaded. Judging by the first 3 weeks of the year I hope that they don't mean that they're going to be like The Matrix Reloaded - loads of promise, some cool highlights, but ultimately not nearly as good as the year before.
  • My brother was telling me about how he was jogging a few days ago and he had to go to the bathroom. He wasn't near a bathroom and ended up pooping in a field that was going to be built on pretty quickly. I've not heard of that before - I've seen and done the tachishoben, but what he did was another animal all together. Mind you, this was in a city, not in the woods. I guess when you've gotta go, you've gotta go.
  • I was watching the US version of Kitchen Nightmares last night and the "co-owner" of the restaurant was a crazy amalgam of 2 different people I work with. My wife said that he reminded her of A-Rod (our EVP, not the Yankee) and I thought he was like Lawn Boy, someone who (barely) works here and fancies himself a big shot, but also feels that that means he can just do whatever. Jump on the link and check out the videos from the episode. Peter is the man who we're talking about and the only difference is that neither of them get as explosively angry as he did. Nevertheless, they both walk around and create messes because they don't know what to do and just comp everything like a couple of idiots. The one (tiny) hope that I have is seeing what Gordon Ramsay did to him and how he decided to cowboy up and act like a man after that. We just have to get Steven Covey in here for A-Rod and someone else for Lawn Boy to do the same.
  • Speaking of Ramsay, the more that I've seen his non Hell's Kitchen shows, the more that I like him. Sure, he's abrasive and he swears like a sailor. Nevertheless, he does his darndest to help out those who he's working for and to make sure that the customers get what they deserve from a place. I've now placed his cookbooks on my Amazon wish list, in large part because of that (oh, and also because he's a Michelin 3-star chef).

Multi Review Fiesta 3

I'm back, as promised, with my last 2 reviews:

The Bourne Supremacy
Robert Ludlum

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book, but it seems like the success of The Bourne Identity demanded a sequel from Ludlum even though the first book wrapped itself up with what I consider one of the better endings of an airplane novel. As such, it takes an awful lot of somewhat contrived narrative to actually get him to a point where he's in the story and propelling the narrative. The necessity of giving Bourne an ending where you feel like Ludlum absolutely ruined the first novel for you means that to some degree Marie is put in unnatural amounts of danger to keep her busy until she needs to be pulled out to help out Bourne. To some degree I liked the movie better than the book. I liked the style of writing and I did like the story in general, but it really felt like if there was to be a sequel to The Bourne Identity it needed to revolve around Carlos the Jackal's threats against Bourne. As such I picked up The Bourne Ultimatum but am waiting to read it to watch the third film first.

Map of Bones
James Rollins

I picked this up on a recommendation from a friend who knew that I loved The DaVinci Code. The end result of it was that it's not Dan Brown, but it was excellent. The characters in the book have a much more paramilitary bent than Robert Langdon, and the book plays towards that strength. It's not the most amazing piece of literature in the world, but it's well worth picking up a copy and reading it. Some of the technology described seems a bit out of this world, beyond the typical central crux of the story, but I probably wouldn't be saying that in a few years from now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Can't Help It

This post wasn't supposed to happen, but after seeing this article, I had to pass it on. From the wire:
A 22-year-old carnival worker blames two friends having sexual intercourse in the back seat of his car for an accident in which his Chevrolet S-10 Blazer struck a telephone pole.

I have a couple of questions about this story. One, who would allow a couple of friends to just go at it in the backseat of his car? There's enough that that would entail that I could never allow it. Second, they had to have been really rocking in order to make it tipsy enough to cause an accident. I've heard the expression "if this van's a rockin', don't come a knockin'," but I've never known of an accident like this.

Here Be A Post, Arrr

It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day today. Booty for all ye who be talking like a pirate today. Oh, and I don't be talking about Jack Sparrow. He be talking like Keith Richarrrds. Get ye a wench and some doubloons and Captain Morgan and enjoy the day, arrr.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Right In The Babymaker

One of the supposed great moments in the history of society has been the one child policy of China. It has essentially stopped the supposed overpopulation of China and now it looks like their population might very well have peaked and it will be headed downward over the next few decades. As the Wall Street Journal mentioned yesterday this is one thing that could cause China to implode in on itself. From the Journal:
How will China's future senior citizens support themselves? China still has no official national pension system. Up to now, China's de facto national pension system has been the family -- but that social safety net is unraveling, and rapidly. Until very recently, thanks to relatively large Chinese families, almost every Chinese woman had given birth to at least one son -- under Confucian tradition, their first line of support. But just two decades from now, thanks to the "success" of the one-child policy, roughly a third of women entering their 60s will have no living son.

By completely obliterating the traditional Chinese family and replacing it with a new paradigm that threatens the very fabric of their society, what will come of the country? Combining that with the shortage of females and you'll have a generation of men without women. On top of that, paying for all of the seniors who won't have anyone to care for them combine for what could be the perfect storm of problems that will cause China to either collapse under itself or to explode outward. Either way it could be a problem that would rack the very foundations of the current global situation. This would happen either with a monstrous war of conquest searching for some way out or else a humanitarian situation that could make Africa look like Canada. Either way there is a way out and it starts with eliminating the single child policy. After decades of this setup, they won't see the population explosion that you'd expect because everybody is used to just having one child. You will see somewhat of an uptick, however it will be relatively mild due to the increasing industrialization of the country. The bottom line is that a policy like this, carried indefinitely, will lead to the extinction of a society. That's not good for anyone, least of all, the Chinese.

Multi-Review Fiesta 2

One of the things that being alone on a business trip allows me to do is catch up on my reading. Also, flying to Europe without my daughter will do the same. As such, I have a ton of books that I've read in the past month.

The Roads to Sata
Alan Booth

This was an interesting book. I certainly wouldn't consider that it's something for everybody. It's the story of a guy who walks from one end of Japan to the other. He does it the back way, going along the Sea of Japan instead of along the Pacific Ocean, where he would have gone through Tokyo, Nagoya, and all the other really big cities on his trip. I found it fascinating because I lived there, but it might not be everybody's cup of tea. The prose is lively though and I do like the different stories about peoples' reactions towards him, particularly the person who said that they couldn't sell him a room that evening because he didn't speak Japanese when he was there speaking Japanese to them. If you're interested in Japan absolutely get it. Even though it's more than 20 years ago when he walked, it's a great account of the country.

Memoirs of a Geisha
Arthur Golden

This was a very fast read. It's not my normal style of book, that's for sure. However, in my quest for all things Japan, I picked it up a bit ago and got around to reading it on my last flight. The way that Golden writes it, it seems like it's being told to you. I wouldn't call it a page turner, because it's not got the edge-of-your-seat action that I would expect from a good page turner, but it does have a nice compelling narrative. One thing to note however is that if you've seen the movie, you've seen the book in general. The movie was one of the most faithful adaptations of a book that I've ever seen. It doesn't mean it's not worth it, but due to the detail to costuming and location in the movie it really colored how I saw the book.

The Bourne Identity
Robert Ludlum

Really, if there's only one Ludlum book you ever read, it has to be The Bourne Identity. I'd read this before but I picked up The Bourne Supremacy before we went to Europe and I had to re-read Identity to get back into the groove of things. I read this before I saw the movie and as a result, even though people loved the movie, I hated it. The character in the book is far different from Matt Damon and the book is better for it. Sure, there's no Clive Owen in the book, but I like the character of Marie St Jaques better in the book as well as the villain. I realize that the director of the movie had a tall order trying to rejigger it as Carlos the Jackal has been in prison for well over a decade, and changing the villain to the CIA and whatever other groups created Treadstone wasn't a good idea in my opinion. It would have been better to create a new terrorist and villainize him. The end result was unsatisfactory, at least for me. I should have expected disappointment as that's the end result of most movie adaptations (Jurassic Park and Clear and Present Danger, I'm looking in your direction), but you can always hope. At any rate, Ludlum does a fantastic job with the characters and the plot moves along at a breakneck pace with the requisite twists and turns that you have to have in any good book like this. I've read quite a few of his books but I have to say that this is where he is at the absolute peak of his game. My wife picked it up after I was done and blew through it too with a lot of the same results, even though she is not a fan of the genre. I can't recommend this enough.

Tomorrow: The reviewage continues!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gourmand at Work

I have quite a few restaurant related thoughts that will all just get plopped in here. They're not worthy of a separate post, but all together they look impressive.

Best Beef: I was called back to Washington for a couple of days last week to try and get Congress to not pass a bill that would hurt our company. As one of my DC traditions, I managed to swing past The Prime Rib for dinner. I tell you what, there's nothing better than The Prime Rib. It's certainly only for special occasions like having an expense account or an anniversary, but oh man it's delicious. Of course, with the name The Prime Rib, you better get you some prime rib. Best I've ever tasted by a healthy margin and right up there in the All-Time Greatest Meat category with Dickie Brennan's strip steak. The interior could use some freshening (it looks like we're in the 70s), but with meat like that, who cares.

Best Crap in a Burrito: This is a tough category. The Crap in a Burrito segment of the market, at least in Utah, was started by Cafe Rio and expanded from there with Durango Grill, Costa Vida, and so on. Even though Cafe Rio was my first experience with this, it's far from the best. Indeed, it's only better than Chipotle Grill (which is the McDonald's of the category with bland food and dubious quality - fitting, as it's owned by McDonald's). (Speaking of McDonald's, their credit card policy has taken a turn for the better, what with the not tacking on a surcharge, but their "filling the fry container" policy needs some work, as they hosed my wife on fries there today.) The best that I've had is a place called Burrito Brothers and I've only seen it at select places on the East Coast. Their beef is quite good and they have a fabulous salsa verde that is not even remotely hot, but has great flavor. It could have been hotter to be sure, but it was well worth my company's hard earned 5 bucks.

Most Overpriced: Oh where do we begin? I think that a lot of places deliberately price themselves out of the market. For example, Arby's. They have some things going for them, but value is not one of them. It's a bit too much, especially when they decreased portion sizes. I don't mind the smallifying of portions, because if we don't stop super sizing everything, we'll have to buy double-wide pants, but decrease the cost to go along with it. Don't screw me every which way here. Oh, but anyway back to my point. Places price themselves high to go up-market when they should be satisfied with the mass market. The biggest offender of this that I have come across is hotel buffets outside of the US. A lot of times they're included in the cost of the room, so that works, but in other instances you have to pay. How much you ask? A cool 28 euros covered breakfast for one person at the Salzburg Sheraton. I ended up paying with points, but that's more money than I paid for my wife and I for lunch and dinner combined.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Tokyo-Mitsubishi Bank Likely Last Post of the Day

I wasn't going to make another post today, but I came across this on the BYU website and had to comment. For starters, this is lame. For a long time the BYU/Utah rivalry was called the Holy War. The main reason for that was because of the whole "BYU is owned by the LDS church" thing, but also because the U has decided to be Sodom and Gomorrah to BYU's Jerusalem. Anyway, the Holy War is a pretty cool name for a rivalry. Now that it's official, it's been sponsored and crapified. I know that they aren't the first to do this - look at the former Big Game (now the Lexus Gauntlet). At the same time, it's still disappointing. In general the auctioning off of everything in sports is a bit out of hand. I don't mind going to a game at the Delta Center or watching something on the Nu Skin Big Screen. At the same time, when Greg Rubell tells me that BYU is driving towards the Zions Bank End Zone and just had the Deseret First First Down, sponsored by Deseret First or the Morgan Diamond Jeweler Diamond Play of the Game, I think that it just went overboard. Once it actually interferes with my enjoyment of the game, you sponsored one too many things. Next up, you'll have a Kentucky Fried Chicken Touchdown, followed by the Taco Bell Extra Point. They'll have the RC Willey Kickoff and the Second Life Second Down. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Chad Vader

I am a bit surprised that I never posted this, but take a look at the first episode of Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager. It's an 8 episode fiesta on YouTube and highly worth the time.

Also, here's the link to the search for all the episodes.

I'm Calling Bullcrap

There is an article on CNET today about how pop-up blockers might be illegal, because they...are blocking ads, and apparently you can't do that in society today. I don't know how that is the case, because I'm not infringing on anybody's rights here, but the law was used to challenge the Betamax VCR and may very well be used to challenge TiVo.
My question is twofold. One, how is that illegal? Two, even if it is illegal, how is that law not mental? You might as well tell people that they can't close their blinds at home lest they don't see billboards or that you can't come late to a movie theater because you might miss that Bod advertisement they play beforehand (speaking of which, who ever thought that packaging cologne or body spray like Windex was a good idea?). I don't think I'd go so far as to say it's an infringement of privacy or anything like that, but to say that you have to look at an ad is ridiculous. A company has the opportunity to advertise in a variety of different ways. If they choose to use a way that is completely ineffective, that's their prerogative. They shouldn't have laws demanding that you look at what they're trying to sell you. If indeed those laws exist, they should not be obeyed. After all, if I spent the time looking at all the spam, billboards, ads in newspapers, on TV, popups, etc to comply with the law, I'd never get anything done.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Land of the Rising Temperature

Japan has been a relatively environmentally sensitive country for as long as I can remember...well, at least in some areas. They're not the most river friendly, coating every river with a nice cement bank so that it won't leave its path, but they are really recycling friendly, trying to recycle everything possible before burning the rest. Some of this is a result of the culture, where, as the old saying goes, "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down," Conformity is the culture and they have used that to their advantage. Take a story from this morning's Journal for example. Instead of my favorite office/room temperature of somewhere between 70-72 degrees, they have a push to increase the temperature of trains, office buildings, and so on to 82 degrees. 82! That's the temperature it's supposed to be in Washington today and I have to say that after being in a long sleeved shirt and suit coat outside in the heat and humidity that I would die. Well, not die, but certainly want to die. It was heaven to come back to my hotel room and change into shorts and a golf shirt. My arms and legs were free from the heat, even though it was a lightweight summer suit. I know that I'm a temperature wuss and would never have made it through the days where you had to wear a long sleeve shirt and pants in stifling hot muggy weather, and that was just the way it was. When I biked around Japan for a couple of years the only thing that made it bearable was my giant 1.5 liter of frozen ice that gradually turned into ice water throughout the day, with a mid-afternoon swap for another. Sometimes environmental programs can go too far, and this is one of those instances. If I was one of those workers, I'd support a kinetic floor (where people's steps translate into energy) or even little bicycle pedals underneath my desk to pedal to turn a turbine. That's environmentally friendly, and if it was my choice between that or 82 degrees, there's no question which one I'd pick.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Reading Rudy

Yesterday I was in the airport with naught but my Blackberry to read. Sure, I had a book, but I didn't have any sort of newspaper and that's what I was really wanting. I went to the New York Times' website and they had a great article on Rudy Giuliani. In the end, it has got me to rethink my support of him somewhat. I'm quite conflicted on who to support. On one hand, I still love what Rudy did with New York. I think that he was one of the greatest mayors in the history of that great city, but there are some things that make me uneasy. One is that, just as the Times says, he is Colonel Jessop. Do I want him on that wall? Do I need him on that wall? I would say that he is just the kind of person that I'd want there. At the same time, I wouldn't want to see our civil liberties curtailed in the way that I could see it happening. This is such a conflicted election for me. I love the strength that Giuliani portrays. I think that he could prosecute the war on terror and win it. I think he's got that Reaganesque streak in him. At the same time, would it involve the kind of compromises that I'm not willing to make in order to have him do it? September 11 to a large degree erased the worst of Rudy's last years in office. He did take things perhaps a bit too far, cracking down on jaywalkers (let's face it, if you're arresting jaywalkers in New York City, you might as well turn the whole place into a walled island because there is an unwritten rule in NYC - if there's no car coming, you've got the right of way. If something is coming, get out of the way or you're a hood ornament) and curtailing perhaps a few too many civil liberties in the process. Fortunately the primaries are still a ways off, so I can change my mind here and there. During peacetime, I don't think there would be anyone better than Mitt Romney, but right now? If it's not Rudy, then who? McCain's not exactly my cup of tea and I certainly wouldn't ever choose one of the Democratic candidates (although if I had to, it'd be Barak Obama in a heartbeat). That leaves me with Fred Thompson. I don't know enough about him, other than that he was the head Order in Law and Order, as well as Admiral Painter in The Hunt for Red October and the head airport guy in Die Hard 2. Those are good and all, but what about his politics? I may very well end up still going with Rudy, because I still like his positions and his ideas in a lot of areas. I'm just a bit concerned that the compromise I'd make to get those ideas in there might be a bit more than I bargained for.

I Love A Good Train Wreck

Remember Brittney Spears? She's back, in "I don't care" form! Take a look at this MTV VMA clip from last night's show. It's honestly one of the least sexy things ever done in the history of the world. Brittney in her drawers was something that a lot of men looked forward to and now here she is and she looks like an old Ford Pinto with a couple hundred thousand miles on the odometer. Seriously, she used to be a Ferrari, or at the very least, a Corvette. She was good looking, young, and something that all the guys wanted. Now, after a couple of terrible years, a marriage to K-Fed, a couple of kids, a drawers-less exit from a car, a shaved head, a breakdown or three, and who knows what else, she may only be 25, but she acts like she's about 60. She didn't care and she mailed in that performance, even though it could very well have been what was keeping her from moving into a FEMA trailer in the Lower Ninth.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Follow up - Meeting Blog

So I have some follow up that is more interesting than the meeting itself. A-Rod showed up after we left and had a second meeting with everyone unfortunate enough to stay in the office when he showed up. When they asked where he was he said "I was in my office at 10:30, but nobody came and got me." Well la-dee-da. Apparently he needs his mommy to help him out and dress him in the morning. For starters, it's a terrible excuse because we've had this meeting at 10 am every Friday for over a year now. Secondly, he was the one that moved it back to 11. As if he didn't just offer a terrible excuse though, he lied to do it. The reason we know this is because at 10:45 Forro dropped his timesheets off at A-Rod's office and the man wasn't there. He also wasn't there at 11:10 when Derek Jeter went past his office on his way to the meeting. His excuse? "well, you just couldn't tell that the lights were on because I have my windows blocked. Another bad excuse because they're only partially blocked. I'm beginning to think he's a pathological liar, like the character Jon Lovitz played on SNL.
To top this fiesta off, he can't fill out an expense report to save his life, despite the fact that he has expenses every month and has for 5 years now. Every month he comes in "Sorro, how do I fill this out?" He then proceeds to do it wrong. I don't know if he just doesn't listen or what, but it's abundantly clear to me that he has the retention skills of an infant or he zones off, listening to the taiko drums whaling away in his head (as in giant beating, not annoying whiny sound).

Meeting Blog September

10:59 AM – The meeting hasn’t started yet. In fact, I’m the only one here in the board room, despite the 11 AM start time. The Exec who decided that we should postpone and slim down the meeting because people will be gone and because he had a “church function” hasn’t even shown his head yet, as is his tradition of being late no matter when we meet and wasting everyone’s time. For the purposes of this meeting, and to protect Forro and I, everyone’s names will be those of current New York Yankees starters. Our lineup for today:
Owner/CEO: Derek Jeter
EVP 1: Alex Rodriguez
EVP 2 (who will not be here today): Jorge Posada
Director 1: Robinson Cano
Director 2: Andy Phillips
Director 3: Forro
Director 4: Sorro
Sub-director 1: Hideki Matsui
Sub-director 2: Melky Cabrera
I wouldn’t have been able to use a baseball lineup in the past, in part because we had way too many people at this level and also in part because of the special guests that A-Rod would invite (who were worthless in their entirety). Now that the stage is set, let’s move on with the diary.
11:07 AM – Phillips looks in, asks if we’re ready to start. I say I am, in part because I’m the only one here. He goes to get his stuff to come in.
11:10 AM – Phillips drops his stuff off, asks if everyone else is here. I say that I think so, but I don’t know where they are. He says he’ll poke his head back in in a minute. As a side note, Forro asked me what odds I’d give on A-Rod being here on time…I said they’d have to be greater than 1,000,000:1. He just poked his head in, confirmed that I was the only one here, and headed back out.
11:15 AM – Cano pops in, asks if we’re having this meeting. I say that I am, he follows it up with an “I like it!” Andy Phillips also comes back. We’ve all got our laptops out and are doing what work we can without the others. I think I’m going to get Forro in here and get started. As it stands right now, if we don’t then Smokehouse Friday will be for dinner, not lunch.
11:18 AM – Forro comes in and he’s conducting so I can blog it. We’ve decided to go ahead without everybody else. Matsui and Cabrera have been excused, making it somewhat pointless for this to be a full management meeting, but that’s beside the point. Unfortunately, because we don’t have the local color here, a really good meeting journal may not happen until October. When Forro mentioned A-Rod coming, everyone had a good chuckle
11:31 AM – Finished the financial presentation. There honestly is not much to say here because it’s not dysfunctional because A-Rod isn’t here with us, although I will note that he’s not here and he was the reason that we moved this sucker back. Why in the heck did we move it back if he wasn’t here anyway?
11:47 AM – Derek Jeter arrived, close to the end of the meeting.
11:51 AM – Cano is sitting here arguing with me about something…I don’t know what or why. He’s saying that we have to have these numbers to tell people something we don’t need numbers for. A 3 minute conversation could have been done in 30 seconds if he didn’t want to hear himself
11:54 AM – Part of the problem with Jeter coming in late is that you have to repeat some things. Apparently he got caught by an employee who’s always bringing him problems.
12:15 PM – We’re done with the meeting, a new record (in shortness, even with the wait for it to get started). It’s not a moment too soon, as I have to go to the bathroom! It’s in large part because Matsui and A-Rod didn’t come, which made it much less interesting. I’ll definitely have a follow-up next month.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ebola Marketing

The Journal had an interesting article this morning on Marié Digby, someone who has been a sensation on YouTube, albeit a sensation that I've never heard of. From the Journal:

Ms. Digby's simple, homemade music videos of her performing popular songs have been viewed more than 2.3 million times on YouTube. Her acoustic-guitar rendition of the R&B hit "Umbrella" has been featured on MTV's program "The Hills" and is played regularly on radio stations in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Portland, Ore. Capping the frenzy, a press release last week from Walt Disney Co.'s Hollywood Records label declared: "Breakthrough YouTube Phenomenon Marié Digby Signs With Hollywood Records."
What the release failed to mention is that Hollywood Records signed Ms. Digby in 2005, 18 months before she became a YouTube phenomenon. Hollywood Records helped devise her Internet strategy, consulted with her on the type of songs she chose to post, and distributed a high-quality studio recording of "Umbrella" to iTunes and radio stations.

It's a great strategy, one that can really win a lot of fans. Look at Blendtec's "Will It Blend" videos or even American Idol. People love to see something that seems genuine that gives them an ability to participate in making the product big. It can backfire, however, when you pull it off like Disney has. Instead of saying upfront that this is from them and they're putting it out there, they've had a strategy of denial that has been capped by the Journal finding out about it and putting it on the front page. Whether the backlash will kill Marie or not is another story, but if you look at her pages on YouTube people are calling her a hussy or a sellout or any other number of things.

People don't mind cleverly done, well thought out marketing to them, they just want to know that they're being marketed to. It's one of the tenets behind BzzAgent, a company that I happen to do some marketing for every now and again. You sign up, they send you product samples, you try them, and tell your friends what you think. For example, right now I'm involved in a campaign for Listerine Whitening Strips - they're like those Crest ones that have been out forever, but they dissolve on your teeth, so you don't have to reach back in your mouth and get the gooey slobbery strips back out. They are actually pretty cool, but not necessarily an all-in-one tooth whitening solution. If you want the whitest teeth, you need to do the dental trays and the gel...that, or one of those super cool lasers. However, they're good for a non-invasive quick fix that will last you a couple of months. Anyway, they gave me some strips to try it for myself and also some to hand out to people and talk with them about it. One of the things that BzzAgent insists on is that you know that I am a BzzAgent. That way, if you find out that you've just been Mark'ted (marketed, you know, like Punk'd) then you won't feel like you've been used, just like Marie's fans are feeling now. Lesson to the companies: do it right. Let us know and we'll respond if it's cool. You don't see Apple going around with stealth iPod launches or anything, and they're pretty much the coolest people out there. Speaking of which, if anyone wants to give me a cool $400, I'll let you know exactly what I think of the iPod Touch, just as soon as I use that money to buy one.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

At Waters' Edge

I'm about sick of the politicking that's going on. At one point in our nation's history we had good solid politics here in the states, criticizing all kinds of domestic policies, but going with a unified voice on the world front. Now, with the 24 hour news cycle, the blogosphere, and everyone else looking for a good angle for a story, it seems that the best way to do that is to be as critical as possible. I include myself (and pretty much every other blogger) in this...people don't care as much about the good news. Instead, be as negative (or rather, be as controversial, as "newsworthy") as possible, that's how you make your name, and America consents to it. One person who plays the game pretty well is sportscaster-cum-windbag Keith Olbermann. He was clever when he was the anchor of SportsCenter, but now he's just another talking head who refuses to see anything right with the Right. I'll grudgingly concede some things to the left, for starters, they're a good deal more compassionate than conservatives, but I think that conceding anything for some of these people is about the equivalent of chewing broken glass. Take, for example, his comments that I happened to run into while I was at the gym yesterday. Either I'm incredibly naive or President Bush is this generation's Hitler because he's planning to move the US into an all-war, all the time setting. Not only that, but he's "[dismissing] of the value of the polls and the importance of the media, [those all important windbags who try to drive the national agenda and won't allow anything to take more than 24 hours lest it get dull and boring and, heaven forbid, un-newsworthy.]" It could be too much 1984 or just plain delusional thinking, but Bush is planning on leaving office in 2008 and he's not pulling a Hugo Chavez and rampaging over his term limits. If he was doing that, I'd give the angry Left credit and go out and demonstrate against him too. However, he's fighting a war that we all agreed to give him the power to fight. The country was for it, Congress was for it, everyone was for it...until people saw it as an opportunity for another Vietnam. That meant that political gain could be had and perhaps it could be used to shape the nation for another 25 years, much like Vietnam paved the way for nearly a quarter century of Republican Presidents. All the supporters fell by the wayside and now Bush is almost alone in supporting it. Some may see it as stubborn and bull-headed, but not having the attention span of a gnat is hardly either of those. Bush is indeed stubborn and bull-headed, but in this area he's in the right. We're closing in on 3000 deaths, a number not to be trifled with, but one that is hardly unprecedented in the history of warfare. We should be grateful that 3 years into the fighting we're only at 3000 (with average casualties since October 2005 being just about 2 per day). 3 years into the Civil War we were north of 100,000. 3 years into World War II we were over 300,000. 3 years into Vietnam and we were close to 20,000. I shudder at the thought of what might have been said in any of those wars if the technology we have now was at our disposal then. Washington wouldn't have survived Valley Forge without being pulled from duty because of the conditions he and his soldiers lived through. It's not farfetched to say that we'd still be having afternoon tea because the conditions his soldiers were living in and the casualties they took, not to mention the utter disaster of what would have happened when the news agencies got wind of losing New York City to the British. What would have happened if the talking heads all put the warfare at Antietam or Gettysburg out there for the people to hear how badly they were bungled? What about our defeats at Coral Sea or the incredible losses and stalemate at Guadalcanal? The problem we have is that unless you win with lightning speed, everything bogs down no matter how successful it is with the new angle of "we're losing" because something has to sell advertisements and get eyeballs. In the past there was some leeway because you couldn't get up-to-the-minute information on what's going on halfway across the world, giving the government plenty of time to keep public support rather than having everyone find out at the same time and start beating the "get our troops out of x, y, or z" drum. Ultimately, nobody can win a war in these conditions, and we're about to find out what the new news cycle means to our nation as we stand almost zero chance of winning Iraq without a little cooperation and maybe even a little support from the media.

Update: here's a video of Olbermann's tirade courtesy of YouTube.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sanity Found, Foleo Lost

According to this Engadget story, Palm did the honorable thing and decided to kill the Foleo, which they hyped up to absolutely zero interest only a few months ago. I suppose that the whole new category that they were looking at was landfill material, only there's plenty of that to go around as well. While I'd love to rip into Palm some more, I do have to say that even though they foolishly tried to scam people into buying this in the first place, they made exactly the right move by axing it before it ever appeared on store shelves. You hear that? That's the sound of one hand applauding them for killing a bad idea when everyone jumped on it.

We Need College Football Playoffs: Exhibit A

So Michigan just had their cans handed to them by a Division I-AA school. There are a couple of things that could be said here. One is that Michigan now has no chance at a NCAA title. This, despite the fact that they were ranked #5 in the nation (granted, that was before any football was played). Now, even if they run the table, they don't stand a chance of getting to the national title game because they're going to be lucky if they stick around in the top 25 after that performance. The other is how do you let your juggernaut of a team get slapped around by a Division I-AA school? Seriously, I think that even Utah State wouldn't have let that happen.