Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Industry that was Eaten by the Internet

Web-guru, Clay Shirky, has provided in his essay, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, a brief history of the relationship between the Internet and traditional newspapers. In the spirit of full disclosure, my wife and I still subscribe to the print version of our local newspaper. Each month when we pay, and at those times when it’s necessary to recycle the newsprint, we ask ourselves “Why are we doing this, exactly?” We haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer, but neither have we been moved to stop subscribing. I think you could say we are late “un-adopters”.

Shirky claims that the newspaper industry in the early 1990’s saw the Internet coming, and they developed several plans to respond to the challenge. Shirky quotes a friend who ran the Internet services for the New York Times who was commenting on the investigation into the pirating of Dave Berry’s popular column. It had been discovered that an active participant in this piracy was a 14 year old boy from the Midwest, who had sent the column to on usenet. The teenager was illegally distributing the column because he loved Dave Barry, and thought all should read him. Shirky’s New York Times friend said: “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you, but because he loves you, then you got a problem.”

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Filed under Media

Further ramblings from a (surfin’) SoCal mind.

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If one were to take any two of the nuns that taught me during grade school in the fifties, turn them loose on the marine base at Camp Pendleton, there wouldn’t be a sideburn left on any marine. Let loose all the nuns at St Marks school on the Taliban and Al Quida in Afghanistan, and we would have had Osama under wraps within one week. Such was the nature of my teachers during my early years: they were some bad ass nuns. I think they were called ‘The Sisters of the Holy Order of we’ll rip your lungs out.”

You can imagine how, after the daily ritual of learning under the umbrella of the nuns, us kids had to find some way to let off steam. Thus was born skate boarding. I think every kid, at one time or another, during the early fifties, took apart his old skates, and fitted the skate wheels to a board, nailed a handle to the board, and rode it down the street. The skate wheels back then were all metal, with ball bearings. The metal wheels had a nasty habit of suddenly stopping if they came in contact with anything remotely resembling a crack in the concrete sidewalks or asphalt streets. It is my firm belief they would stop if they contacted a piece of puffed rice.

What we found out was, by taking the handle off, and riding just the board, the adrenaline rush increased by leaps and bounds. We figured if your going to break a bunch of bones, you might as well get a rush out of it. Thus was born our first drug addiction. This lasted until we reached high school, where riding a board, with skate wheels nailed to it, failed to impress girls, which we had discovered frowned on seeing a dude wrapped in a cast. Oh, they loved to autograph it, but what’s a guy to do when he can’t move? Talk about a whore-moaned fueled frustrated teen.

That was about the time the surf board made its debut in SoCal. The boards at that time were about ten feet long and weighed as much as a small car. If you went to the beach, saw some guy lift one under his arm, and walk with it into the surf, you didn’t mess with him.

I had three other buddies I hung with then, Jim, Tom and Bob. One of them came up with a surf board, so we took it to the ocean and thought about trying it out. When we got there, there was a group pf people surrounding some dude laying on the sand. Seems his board caught him in the face when he fell off, and laid his nose over on his cheek. Needless to say, we kinda thought we’d think about this sport a bit more.

We spent about two weeks practicing laying done and paddling, kneeling and paddling, then standing up. Finally, we took the board and actually got in the ocean with it. Things never quite go as planned, as we found out. The laying down and kneeling went okay; it was the standing up part that took us to task. Imagine four high school freshmen, trying to look cool, falling off a board big enough to build a barn door out of.

Anyway, we got semi-proficient at it, and headed up to Malibu. Yep, that Malibu, with it’s hot babes and football/movie star dudes. We attempted to fit in, but after watching some kid, around eight or nine, looking like he was on a two pound suger high, jam past us on a wave, hanging twenty, we decided watching the girls was a much better pasttime. I knew a family that lived in one of the beach houses, and after seeing our attempts at surfing, told me never to see them again. Well, at least as long as we had a board in our hands.

To make a long story short, we pretty much sucked at surfing, and eventually gave it up for bowling. I do have one thing to admit, though: when I was stationed at Lowery AFB in Denver in ’65, the drinking age was eighteen at the 3.2 clubs, the girls there were more than happy to listen to my surfing exploits, them being dry-landers and all. I mean it’s nothing any other red blooded horny American GI wouldn’t do . . . right . . . right?


Filed under Uncategorized

More Economic Bad News

Likely many already know this, but Cessna is informing employees of yet more layoffs. This will, I believe, make Cessna’s layoff numbers over 4300.

Given the dependency of the local economy on aircraft manufacturing, this just adds to the problems currently faced in Wichita. I’m not as cheery as others concerning this; I don’t think that “come the recovery”, all will be well in Wichita with reference to the aircraft makers. There are other concerns that will impact Wichita’s traditional industrial base, not the least of which is the expected rise in the cost of petroleum products.

An interesting sidelight: Bombardier announced the sale of 20 aircraft this morning. These aircraft, however, as I recall will be totally built in Canada, so no joy in Wichita.


Filed under Uncategorized

03/31/09 Public Square


What are you kind of absolutely, positively sure of, at least right now in this moment? Share, but only if you really want to. 😉


Filed under The Public Square

Retirement Blues

So by now, most of the news hounds here have already heard this, but my heart just dropped when I read this from the AP.

“WASHINGTON – Just months before the start of last year’s stock market collapse, the federal agency that insures the retirement funds of 44 million Americans departed from its conservative investment strategy and decided to put much of its $64 billion insurance fund into stocks.

Switching from a heavy reliance on bonds, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation decided to pour billions of dollars into speculative investments such as stocks in emerging foreign markets, real estate, and private equity funds.

The agency refused to say how much of the new investment strategy has been implemented or how the fund has fared during the downturn. The agency would only say that its fund was down 6.5 percent – and all of its stock-related investments were down 23 percent – as of last Sept. 30, the end of its fiscal year. But that was before most of the recent stock market decline and just before the investment switch was scheduled to begin in earnest.

No statistics on the fund’s subsequent performance were released.”


As if it wasnt bad enough that upper end baby boomers are losing lots of equity in our homes and other real estate investments, our 401(k)’s have sunk low enough to walk under a closed door with a top hat on, and the future of Social Security is still a big question mark… the folks who have guaranteed pensions are facing this?


I think this is a perfect example of what six asked today when he queried “who’s watching the watchers?”  Where was the congressional oversight on this subject? Where were the regulations governing how this money could be invested?  Unfettered free market capitalism strikes again.

Someone who’s as paranoid as I might wonder if this is a continuance of the jihad on unions and the working class. Or if it’s another case of incompetence? Investments Gone Wild? Peer pressure to perform amazing financial feats without a net?

I’m betting the latter.  People who make investments for a living are incredibly competitive. It’s part of what makes them good at what they do. And I’m sure there was pressure during the greed boom about “why arent OUR investments getting that rate of return?”  They couldnt stand it and jumped in, only to find the water over their heads.

It doesnt look good for those of us facing retirement in ten years or less.  If I were a betting person, I’d be putting my money in cat food stock. Because without real estate equity, 401(k)s, guaranteed pensions, and Social Security, there’s going to be a bunch of us gray hairs fighting the cats for their cheap tuna.

What the hell should we be doing to plan for retirement? Brushing up our resume’s?


Filed under Populists, The Economy

On College Basketball and Recruiting

This morning, I was listening to the sports talk show on KFH; the one with Bruce Haertel and Bob Lutz hosting. A topic that was discussed was the current situation involving UConn and possible NCAA rules violations committed by the mens basketball program.

There is no doubt that college sports has become big business, which increases the temptation to bend or break the rules. One of the hosts mentioned the discomfort that many coaches have with the AAU summer basketball programs, as evidenced (apparently by Rick Pitino) by comments made at a post-game media conference. There are some “shady” characters out there involved with these programs, and many wonder whose wallets are being fattened due to their involvement.

I’ve a simple solution. If a player has participated in AAU summer basketball programs, that player is automatically ineligible for an athletic scholarship to any NCAA member institution. I know that this would not happen, as the business of college basketball is too big, and the AAU programs have been the source of players to the big programs.


Filed under Uncategorized

Outliers: Malcom Gladwell’s book


Filed under Book Reviews

03/30/09 Public Square

The temps are rising, the wind is still blowing but is warmer, the melting should finish today — so can we have spring now?


What’s on your mind today?


Filed under The Public Square

Filed under Color Me Surprised

Robert Gates is saying we should not expect a change in “Dont Ask Dont Tell” anytime soon. The AP is saying this:

“Defense Secretary Robert Gates says both he and President Barack Obama have “a lot on our plates right now.” As Gates puts it, “let’s push that one down the road a little bit.”

The White House has said Obama has begun consulting with Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on how to lift the ban. Gates says that dialogue has not really progressed very far at this point in the administration.”

And in other bad news…

The Kansas Non-Discrimination Statute Proposal is dead, again, for this year. The Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, on a 5-3 vote, recommended the full Senate approve a measure to make sure no one could be fired from their job for being nothing other than gay. That was the good news.

The bad news is that on Monday, March 23, Senate President Steve Morris, through his own authority, sent this bill back to the Federal and State Affairs committee.

According to Kansas Jackass, this means that “instead of having the bill sit on the calendar waiting for a debate, it goes back to the committee that already voted it out once, and waits for next year’s legislative session, when it will again get voted out and will, again, wait on the calendar for its day of floor debate.

The committee still supports the bill, the bill isn’t actually dead- matter-of-fact, it’s still quite alive- and will be back in 2010.”

All in all, it’s not been a good week for gay folks.


Filed under GLBT Rights

A budget without numbers is like a fish without a bicycle

It seems the obstructionist republicans in congress have been sufficiently pushed into a corner regarding their own budget proposal that they HAD to finally come out with one. And it’s a doozy.

It’s a budget without numbers. Yep. The ultimate monument to ideology.  Hey, who needs hard financial analysis, serious number crunching, and economic projections when you have ideology? Not these guys, apparently.  Perhaps they think shouting  a verb, a noun, and 9/11 will make all our economic woes go away. In fact, I heard that instead of projecting revenues, never mind expenses, they had a pow wow and decided that if they just blamed the decline of 401(k)s and western civilization on the gays, that the Dow would rise, Kos would fail, and taxes would go down.

It’s a classic example of why they lost last November. They really believe voters are that stupid. That we wouldnt notice their proposed alternative to a real budget had no numbers. I mean, they got away with the majority of voters not noticing the Chimperer had no clothes, so I guess they thought it would not be a big jump to assume that voters wouldnt notice their brilliant budget plan had no numbers.

But while they are busy posing and preening for their koolaide drinking base, they missed noticing that most voters are looking for real answers and substance, and not just more bright and shiny objects. And any thinking person knows, the reason they rushed out this half baked budget sans numbers is that the media has been pressing them for alternatives, not poses. And they only have one answer to any challenge facing our government.

Cut taxes for the rich.   And when that fails to generate excitement among the voters, follow it up with “no”. They treat voters like children, saying “because I said so” when asked “why?” on any subject.

I know it’s cliche, but it fits so well here. If the only tool you have is a hammer, all the world looks like a nail. Cliches are here for a reason. They are true.   The republicans  havent had an original economic idea since Arthur Laffer told us that cutting taxes would produce more revenue. And that was a BAD original economic idea.  It took Bill Clinton to even make a move toward reducing deficits, and George the Lessor Bush made sure to wipe that progress from the slate in favor of more red ink.  And just for added good measure, Cheney signaled his minion faithful that “Ronald Reagan proved deficits dont matter”. How’d that work out for America?

A budget without numbers is just what we’ve come to expect from the Gang That Couldnt Shoot Straight.  When you are the party of “ideology uber alles” pesky things like numbers just obscure the real message. And that message surely is, “cut taxes for the rich or we’ll shoot this dog”.

I say call their bluff and let ’em shoot.  With their level of competence, they are sure to miss the dog, even at point blank range. They are likely to miss the fish in the barrel too.  Presumably, the fish will still be there because they didnt have any bicycles to ride away on. The republicans in Congress are one trick ponies when it comes to budgets.

And they arent even trying to hide it anymore.


Filed under Political Reform

03/29/09 Public Square

How are YOU this fine morning?


Filed under Uncategorized

Is civil war in America’s future?



Filed under Political Reform

03/28/09 Public Square

Throw another log on the fire, grab a cup of hot coffee and let’s solve the world’s problems. Or maybe have a nice visit. 😉


Filed under Uncategorized

More Ramblings of a (Catholic) SoCal mind.

Being raised as a strict Catholic in Venice, California, had both its good and bad points. The Good were limited to drinking the alter wine (and replacing it with water :-)) as a thirteen year old alter boy. I’m sure there were more, but remembering them can be difficult when one has senior moments (or, hell, maybe there really aren’t any more).

The Bad, on the other hand, were many. For instance, my sex education consisted of mom finding my nudie mag, telling my dad, and my dad whipping my butt and telling me to never read them again. And, of course, I followed that to a “T” . . . wink!

There was also the time I had to light our in-floor gas heaters’ pilot light, and having it blow up in my face. I think I yelled, “Geeezzzzz”, but my parents heard, “Jesus.” Oops: bad boy. Instead of asking me if I was alright, (my eyebrows were singed and eyelashes gone) I got yelled at for using the Lords name in vain. A much worse crime than getting burnt, donchaknow. Being the good Catholic boy I was, I muttered curses at the pilot light under my breath.

Then there was the time the Archbishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles said mass at our humble church, and I was an alter boy during said mass. During his sermon, he asked both Buddy, my bff, and myself questions about the Catholic faith. One such question was: Can you use after shave to baptize someone? Not knowing the content of after shave, as I didn’t shave yet, I said “Yes.” He proceeded to chastise me for answering wrong, as evidently after shave contains no water, and water containing liquids are the only thing one can use to baptize someone. I started to say, “So, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son and the Aqua Vulva wont work?”, but instead held my breath and took it like a good Catholic alter boy. To this day I have an unnatural fear someone will try to baptize me using after shave, and I was baptized decades ago.

More ramblings to follow at later dates, times and/or places.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Rorschach Test & Nazi War Criminals

The Nazis who were tried at Nuremberg trials were all given a Rorschach Inkblot test.  These test protocols were scored by a computer version of the Exner Scoring system.  The Exner system is considered to be the most empirically defensible RIT scoring system.

Not to give away trade secrets, but there is a ratio of determinant scores that reveal, according to research, a person’s problem solving preferences.  These preferences are 1) “I’ll go ask someone I trust”, and 2) “I’ll take a walk and think this over.”  In other words, the former uses other people to help solve problems and the latter is a method of relying on internal resources to solve problems.  Empirically, both are perfectly useful ways of solving problems.  According to Exner and the research, it is just important that a person has a problem-solving style preference.  For those who don’t have a problem solving style preference, they can thrash about trying to figure out how to respond to a problem.

The one very uniform finding from the Rorschachs done on the Nazis was that they did not have a problem solving preference – which could have conceivably led to them having a “just following orders” predilection.

Personally, I think psychology might find that when it abandons the Rorschach Test, it will have matured to a degree.  It is a fascinating test, though.


Filed under Psychology Ramblings...