Daily Archives: March 31, 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 alt.fan.dave_barry 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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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?


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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.


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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