Wednesday, August 28, 2002

08.28.02
7:41 PM EDT

I've really been neglecting my blog. Just so all my loyal readers (they do exist, heoretically) don't worry, I wasn't sick, injured, abducted by aliens or anything like that. Just haven't felt much like posting here. I'll be back at it soon. Yeah, that's it, soon . . .



Sunday, August 18, 2002

08.18.2002
07:00 PM EDT

Wow . . . 5 days since I posted here . . .

Anyway, I went to Mohegan Sun last night. Casinos are fun places, even if you don't gamble. Mohegan Sun is more of a phenomenon than a casino, anyway. Last fall they opened up a gigantic new section (alon with a hotel, etc.), which is essentially a casino plopped down in the middle of a shopping mall. The theoy I suppose is that the non-gamblers can busy thmselves shopping while the gamblers gamble. Judging by the crowds at the tables and in the stores and restaurants, I'd say it's working. It was at least a 45 minute wait to eat, even at the nondescript little places.

By the way, if you find yourself at or near Mohegan Sun, and are a foodie, check out Rain and or Todd English's Tuscany in the casino. Both of these have gotten some pretty good reviews. But be warned: Like Crazy Eddie, their prices are IN-SANE . . . as in insanely high.

It was a fun trip . . . I won a little bit, as did my firends, so no one went home unhappy.

OK. Another week of hellishly hot and humid weather. Supposedly there is a front coming through (right about now, actually, according to the forecast), after which the weather is supposed to be noticeable moe comfortable. I certainly hope so, but the weather folks this summer keep predicting these ffronts and the accompanying storms and more and often than not they haven't panned out.

This weather is no good for blogging . . . I've got no energy to type or think.

I'm listening to the updated weather forecast . . . . the weather person is now saying "isolated" showers/thundershowers, skillfully backing down from their earlier predictions of strong winds, hail, and torrential downpours. The cooler and less humid weather is spposedly still on the way. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

08.13.2002
8:02 PM EDT

ITEMS:
--USAir files for bankruptcy
--United may be next
--American lays off 7,000


What's going on here? Obviously the airlines are doing terribly since 9.11, and the economy is sluggish, business travel is down, people are taking close-to-home vacations, etc.

But there's a lot more to it than that.

A friend of mine has a theory that all busniesses based on moving people across significant distances eventually fail. Coaches gave way to trains, trains gave way to private cars and airplanes. Cruise ships, too, fell victim to the airplane.

Along those lines, consider this: Long-distance air travel became viable, when? The 1940s, or so? One could argue that airlines only made consistent money while oil prices were historically very very low. As soon as the first oil price shock hit in 1973, the airlines have never been the same, and have in one way or another struggled to make a go of it. There were other complicating factors, of course. Labor costs went up also. The airlines got some relief from deregulation, which theroetically allowed them to reduce some costs, but long term, the price of oil dangles over their heads like the sword of Damocles, constantly. An event like 9.11 and and economic slump are more than enough to send a couple of airlines out of business.

What this means is that, quite possibly, the business of transporting people by airplane is not economically viable in the post-1973 world. National airlines are heavily subsidized in other countires, suggesting that acorss the world, it may not be possible to run an airline and break even without charging fares that people feel are too high to
pay.

What's to be done about this?

First, there are most likely too many airlines in the US. The airlines that are making money are the so-called no-frills carriers, who stick to profitable routes and keep their costs down. The full-service airlines (full-service is a cruel joke to ayone who's ever flown on a major US airline in hte last few years) can't complete for business on those routes, so they are largely left with a lot of routes that are not nearly as profitable. Some major airlines will most likely have to go under -- they won't get bought by other carriers, becasue who's healthy enough to buy them? [A few years ago, another airline could've used the infalted value of its stock to purchase a rival without using any actual money . . . those days are over, with a vengance.]

The survivors will have to extract even more concessions from their unionized work forces, and hope like hell that oil prices don't spike. The unions will most likely not be amenable to more givebacks, but their options they be severely limited.

Case in point: United is trying to get the government to issue it $1.8 billion in loan guarantees. The government, to its credit, has told United that it must lower its cost basis more before the loan guarnatee will be apporved. This means more concessions form the unions. United has thus far been unable to get the machinists and flight attendants unions to agree. If they don't gree, United will more than likely file for bankruptcy, also. If that happens, the United that emerges from backruptcy will be much smaller. The unions are looking at more concessions, or a lot fewer members.

But that's just a band-aid anyway. The inherent problems in the business will always be there. And I don't see corporate travel budgets getting increased (or even holding steady) any time soon.

It would help if Washingon had a clue, also. A couple of years back, some airline executives were testifying before Congress. A legislator from North Dakota started lecutring them about following "market forces" and not always relying on the government for help.

One of airline executives, as politely as he could, pointed out to the Senator that if "market forces" were allowed to take their course, no airline would have any flights into or out of North Dakota, since no one could possibly make a profit doing so. Which gets us back to a subsidized national airline(s). Good idea? I tend to think not, but if an industry is not economically viable, and we deem it important enough that a person who lives in Fargo should have access to air travel the same way a person in New York does . . . then what's the alternative?

What could save the airline industry as we know it? Precious little, I'm afraid. Some sort of technological miracle that makes airlines engines 1000% more efficient than they already are, perhaps. But that doesn't seem too likely. . . .

Friday, August 09, 2002

08.09.2002
8:45 PM EDT

Things that really annoy me: (partial list).

--Workaholics. The actual number of days in my working life that I truly haven't been able to finish my work in a normal working day I can count on one hand (and no, I don't work low-level type jobs). Why do people work so many hours? It's mostly "face time." Let's face it, most people's jobs aren't nearly as important as people (or people's bosses) like to think they are, titles aside. When someone complains about how many hours they're working, I'm thinking "learn to be more productive and prioritize better." I think a lot of people are afriad to have a life outside of work, or perhaps don't want extra time to think about not having a life outside of work.

--Bitter people. I have tried, but I honestly don't understand that emotion. I thank my lucky stars that I don't.

--Busybodies. From your neighbor to the church to John Ashcroft. MYOFB!

--Script kiddies. It takes soooo much talent to download a port scanner and run it against a million IP addresses.

--Network TV programmers. Unoriginal, uninspired, untalented purveyors of "comedy" that isn't funny, "reality" shows that bear no resemblance to reality [not that anyone would want to watch "reality" anyway], and "dramas" that by and large are devoid of any actual drama. "The Sopranos" isn't great, but it's so much better than typical network fare that people flock to it.

--The recording industry. But that' a long rant for another day.

There. I feel better now. Sort of.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

08.07.2002
07:25 PM EDT

All right . . . the spammers were working overtime today -- 92 spams. That may be a one-day record for me. Best subject line: "LIVE! PROBING DILDO CAM!"

But not a one from the mad vrius bomber. Even malicious geeks have to have a day off now and then, I suppose.

Speaking of spam . . . from people I"ve talked to, job-hunting sites are a prime source of spam. It makes sense. Since you're always going to enter legitimate information when you register at a job board, their mailing lists I'm sure fetch premium prices from advertisers. I talked to one guy whose wife subscribed to 20 job sites. They now receive between 300 and 400 spams daily.

Message for LadyS: Sis, You said You figured out how to use the tag board . . . but then didn't leave a message there!

Funny dating experiences: Once, in college, I was driving this girl (who I was not involved with at the time, yet) back to campus from a concert and I actually ran out of gas. How lame is that? I was falling all over myself, apologizing, since I figured that the girl would be thinking that l truly must be either a complete loser or trying to pull the oldest make-out stunt of all time. In truth, it was the former . . . I always used to cut it pretty close with the gas, money not exactly being readily available at all times.

Anyway, all's well that ended well. I managed to get the car onto the campus property, and into a parking space of sorts, even. And we had a nice walk (slow walk, it was pitch black outside) back to the dorms. And things actually went well after that. She thought it was funny that I ran out of gas. So we had a good laugh and it was actually the start of a great relationship. Which brings me to a good rule of dating:

When you do something stupid, but harmless, and the other person laughs, really laughs with you, not at you, and makes it a fun thing . . . you've found a keeper.

Another random thought: Ever been invited to a wedding where you've slept with the bride or groom (or even both?). It happened to me once. The bride-to-be was a girl I'd had a short but intense relationship with. Thank goodness I had some sense and didn't go. But I'd like to hear from others who maybe did go the wedding . . . how did it feel? Was it weird beyond belief? Did anything happen? Inquiring minds want to know . . .

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

08.06.2002
06:55 PM EDT

ITEM -- Pentagon scrambles to do damage control after report charges that Saudi Arabia is heavily involved in supporting terrorism.

The report, by the Defense Policy Board, a think tank that advises the Pentagon, asserts that "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader."

The Defensa Deaprtment countered with this gem: "Saudi Arabia is a long-standing friend and ally of the United States. The Saudis cooperate fully in the global war on terrorism and have the department's and administration's deep appreciation."

All this puts the Admnistration in a touchy spot. We have to keep the world's gas station open. In return, the Saudis give lip service to fighting terrorism., but in reality, one wonders how much they really do. The problem for the Saudi royal family is that their grip on power is tenuous. The vast majority of the population they rule supports Islamic fundmaentalism, anti-Americansm included. Saudi Arabia's oil production facilities are vulnerable, and they have to count on the US to step in if anything should ever happen.

The think tank report used some surprisingly strong language, indicating that the US should "target Saudi oil fields and financial assets" if the Saudis don't start doing more against terrorism. Yowzer. The Saudis dismissed the report publicly, no doubt calling Bush real fast on the red phone and giving him an earful. I hope Bush told them "it's a free country, get over it," but somehow I doubt that's how the conversation went.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

08.04.2002
8:16 PM EDT

Some random thoughts for a Sunday night.

1. How should the first anniversary of 9.11 be observed? I for one favor the national holiday route, but corporate interests will never go for that idea, and lord knows they get a pretty good hearing in the Bush Wite House. One recalls the stiff opposition to granting Martin Lutehr King Day . . .

Anyway, what are people's thougts about this? Or, how will you personally observe it, if at all?

2. I am making a proclamation. Since this is the net, and on the net everything is true, I proclaim the following:

-- Any blog which includes more than two (2) links to personality quizzes is hereby proclaimed LAME. It was fun and cute, sort of, a loooooong time ago. But it's way over now.

The quizzes in question are those "what character from ------- are you?" and "what kind of --------are you?" I don't want to know what character from Dragonball-Z I am. I don't want to know kind of Central African climbing vine I am. Please, make them stop.

3. I read a story in the Times magazine today about Amanda Latona. Latona is a singer; her album gets released tomorrow. The article was all about how the record company and her handlers are trying to position and market her just so, in order to "create' anther Britney [in sales, if not in image -- in the course of the article it emerges that her handlers are targeting her to looks and act and sound a lot more like Pink than like Britney].

The point of the article is that Latona is a pure creation -- she is going to be what they want her to be to be successful, and she's totally on board with whatever the program entails. And we, the record buying public, pesumably, will just follow along. This ignores the essential truth of the entertainment business, namely -- if the product totally sucks, and appeals to no one, it doesn't sell. You might think that Britneyt Spears is a no-talent bimbo, but what she does appeals to enough people that it sells. Record company machinations aside, if Amanda Latona is seen as terrible by all age groups, her records will bomb, no one will go see her concerts, and that's that. Clive Davis may be a genius, but he can't get blood from a turnip.

Latona will be all right, in the end -- she has the right look to pursue a fallback career as a professional Dominatrix if the singing thing doesn't work out.

OK, I went and listened to the mp3 of the single from the amanda-latona.com. And, well . . .

It's not my cup of tea, but it's not terrible. The song is sort of pop, sort of rock. And not a great example of either, but pleasant enough. Latona, as the Times writer noted, has a strong but overly distinctive voice. At times in this song she sounds like a better-behaved Joan Jett, at times like a less mannred Shania Twain. But hse obviously can sing, and she can sound cute, and presumably sexy wita different song to sing. The song has a decent-enough hook, but again, not a great pop song like, say "Another Dumb Blonde." Lots of production stuff going on (the Times article recounts this -- the song has been worked on and tweaked more than one of Dr. Frankstein's creations).

So . . . we'll see, I"d say it's 50-50. This song has some hit potential, but I'dd be surprised if it was a mega-smash. Latona seems like a genuine, nice, if driven, girl. She may in fact make it big.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

08.03.2002
09:06 AM EDT

In the spirit of relentless bandwaagon-jumping, you will find to your right and down a bit, a TagBoard. This is a very cool little thing that I saw on another blog and well, just had to have on mine.

It was Edie Singleton's blog where I first saw the TagBoard. Her blog has become a must-read for me. Of late, Edie's been recounting her memorable (term used loosely) blind dates. By all means check it out.

Which brings me to the realization that I've never had a blind date. Never had a friend tell me what a "great personality" a certain girl had. Never had to later have said friend offed when the personality in question turned out not to be so great.

But, regular old non-blind dating always generates it share of funny/sad things. Come with me back through the mists of time to a dark and fearful age . . . a time of superstition and mayhem . . . the year 1975.

I had been seeing this girl, M., for a few months. I was 19, she was 22. The relationship was doomed from the start for a number of reasons, but that's something I figured out long after things had crashed and burned. But there's always that point when reality is driven home with fearsome clarity. The point at which the relatinship dies in spirit, but continues to limp along in fact and name for a while, like the terminal patient gamely discussing future events that everyone knows he will never see.

Anyway . . . I was madly in love with her at the time. The night when reality came thumping on the door was an August Friday. We were having what seemed like a normal dinner, talking about nothing in particular. I had been relating to her the story of something My mother had said to me before I'd left the house, just a few hours earlier. My mother, when hearing that I was going out with M. that night, made a bit of a face. My mother was a wonderful and sensitive woman, and hiding her emotions was not one of her strong points. I asked what was wrong and she said:

"If that girl really cared about you she'd go out with you on Saturday night, not Friday."

I smiled and shrugged and didn't lecture my mother about how quaint she was being. But I related the stroy to M, thinking we would share a little knowing laugh about the older generation and their silly retro ways. But, no. M. looked at me the way someone regards a mangled but still struggling dog on the side of freeway and said:

"A very wise woman, your mother."

A sensible man, which I wasn't at the time, would have fnished eating as quickly as was polite, paid the check, called a cab for the lady, driven my car home, called a cab for myself to take me to a the neasrest bar, cry in my beer a bit, go home, sleep it off, and wake up hung over but ulitmately happier and wiser.

But at the time my love for her was too great. So I shrugged and smiled and decided that knowing laugh about retro ways would have to be a private thing.

Needless to say, even though the rest of that night went all right, things went swiftly downhill from there.

A few years later, I got a postcard from her. Wondering what I was up to, blah blah blah, wondering if we might get together for dinner in the city some night. I read it over a couple times. I held it in my hand for a moment . . . then walked over and dropped it, watching it float into the wastebasket.

You know something, M? You were right. My mother was a very wise woman.



Friday, August 02, 2002

08.02.2002
12:58 PM EDT

I actually got the archives working correctly. It's a banner day . . .

Working from home today, with CNBC on in the background. Another dismal day for the stock market, as investors apparently have decided that the recovery wasn't really in a recovery, in effect. That's what happens when economists get a whole bunch of forecasts wrong in a three-day period. As a trader on the floor said today "once again, the market was right and the economists were wrong." Well, we'll see about that . . . the market gets crazy sometimes -- economists by and large keep their emotions out of it.

ITEM -- Stanley Tools scraps Bermuda re-incorporation plan.
Stanley was going to do some paperwork, essentially, that would have saved them about $30 million a year in taxes. But in the current climate, with Congress considering a law to bar compaines who take such action from getting defense contracts, and the state of Connecitcut trying to take Stanley to court to prevent from doing so, the people running Stanley decided to shelve the idea. The increasingly irrelevant AFL-CIO opposed the move, also (surprise).

Personally, I think it was a good idea. It was legal, it would've saved the company money, and it wouldn't have meant any job loss in the US. One could actually argue that Stanley had a responsibility to its shareholders to do it. But all's well that ends well. Washington, Hartford, and the AFL-CIO are all in a self-congratulatory fervor over this, the people at Stanley will apply the proper spin, so everyone can feel good about it. And doubtless corporations will noe be able to lobby for some tax cuts, in exchange for Congress getting rid of the "lopphole" that alows things like Bermuda re-incorpotation, as they will almost certinaly do in their new-found dedication to "corporate responsibility and accountability." Keep rolling that log . . .