It’s been a while

February 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

ATLANTA — Far too long, it has been. I’ve been busying myself writing one sentence at a time (curse you, Facebook!) and trying to keep up with having been blown about a bit by the death-diving economy.

I am currently in the World’s Busiest Airport, awaiting a nearly 10-hour flight over to Denmark (wasn’t I just there? It certainly seems that way). I find myself with time on my hands. To be honest, “time on my hands” has been a fairly common occurrence lately; said time, however, has not been accompanied by the inclination to actually accomplish anything.

So: Let’s plan to change that in the coming weeks. Here are some topics I plan to address in the very near future, aided by some recent reading and research and having fully formed some opinions that were previously somewhat nebulous:

  • The fraud that is higher education
  • Why social policy matters (hint: it’s not why you would think)
  • More anti-Baby Boomer invective
  • The New Age of Responsibility, as seen from the eyes of a 14-year-old

Keep your RSS readers tuned right here. We’ll be right back.

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(insert opening chords of some stadium song here)

January 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

… you know, something like “Start Me Up,” or “Crazy Train,” or “Enter Sandman.” Because I need something to get me fired up about heading back to work after a two-week hiatus.

In the absence of a stadium song cranked up to 11, I’m going through all the e-mail I received and ignored the last two weeks and hoping like hell I haven’t missed something urgent. There’s some interesting stuff there, some things that suggest I might have an intriguing next few months.

It was easy, and fun, hanging out with the family the last two weeks and accomplishing very little in measurable accomplishments. I accomplished a lot more, though, by having a helluva good time with the best people I know.

Now, back to real life. Happy New Year; here’s hoping it’s better in every way than the year we just rid ourselves of.

Confidential to the driver of a maroon F-150 with a Minnesota plate

December 16, 2008 § 1 Comment

BILOXI, Miss. — I’m guessing you have some trouble parking that large behemoth of a vehicle. I can understand that. Plus, you were in a hurry to get into that casino, ’cause you had your lucky boxers on, or whatever, and it was going to be a winning night. Between the sheer girth of your vehicle and your anxiety to start pulling the lever on those slots, you thought it was OK to park your truck in diagonal fashion, taking up all of your parking spot and a good portion of mine.

This of course created great difficulty for me, a man of fairly small size, to get into his Chevy Cobalt, a vehicle of fairly small size. And I’m guessing that you, in your big stompin’ F-150ness, probably didn’t consider that the humble-looking Cobalt that you had just hemmed in was a rental. Which means that its driver thought nothing of banging its door into the side of your truck, repeatedly, in his effort to squeeze his way into his humble little Cobalt.

Thankfully, after a few minutes of maneuvering, I was able to get the blessedly tiny car out of what remained of my parking spot without further damage to your vehicle, but it wasn’t because I was being particularly careful to avoid same.

So: If you find it odd that your maroon Ford now has chips of General Motors blue embedded in its right side, you might consider parking your GODDAMN TRUCK IN YOUR OWN SPOT next time.

Good karma request

December 3, 2008 § Leave a comment

If you search this blog for the term “Favorite Co-Worker,” you’ll come up with four posts referring to the person who, six years after we last worked together, still is my Favorite Co-Worker.

Her husband, 40, has been struggling with cancer. He’s been kicking its ass, but it gave a nasty kick back in the last few days.

I’d appreciate it greatly if you could send a few prayers or good thoughts, in whatever way you send such things, to a family in Texas who needs them a whole bunch.

Wow, it’s just getting worse

December 3, 2008 § 2 Comments

You’ve heard of USA Today. It’s published by a company called Gannett Co. Inc., which owns 100 or so newspapers, give or take, across the United States, Guam, and a smattering of publications in the United Kingdom. They also own a few TV stations and other media interests.

It’s been a black week at the Gannett newspapers, as a massive reduction-in-force has spread across the chain. Word is that when it’s all done, 3,000 people are going to be celebrating Christmas by not having to go to work.

My first two newspaper jobs were at Gannett newspapers. I left the first in 1993. I received word this evening of four people from that newspaper who were let go.

I worked with ALL FOUR of them — and remember, I left 15 years ago.

Between these four, they had a combined 96 years of service for the Anytown Daily Bugle. Not 96 years with Gannett, as is typical for many Gannett employees who hop from paper to paper within the chain; these four had 96 years with Gannett AT THIS ONE NEWSPAPER. That’s a lot of institutional memory. It’s a lot of skill. Plus, they’re all great people. Now they’re unemployed.

I think that sucks. Not just for them, but for the readers of the Anytown newspaper.

I know it’s not just newspapers. The unemployment lines are teeming with investment bankers, auto workers, folks whose jobs were outsourced to India and China, mortgage brokers (although I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for most of them) … the list goes on and on and on.

Surely, somewhere, these corporate Boards of Directors and Wall Street will figure out that you don’t cut companies into prosperity. Or maybe they won’t, and it won’t matter, because when most of these directors and CEOs and traders are themselves unemployed, they’ll be unemployed with a shit-ton of money socked away.

I hate that we as a nation are just sitting by and letting this happen. I just don’t know WTF to do about it.

Oops, forgot something

November 30, 2008 § Leave a comment

Interesting, sad story from The New York Times on how the decline of the domestic automobile companies is torching local economies. Dealerships are failing left and right, and more will fail next year. The story cites Big 3 mismanagement, and it makes note of the fact that there were too many dealers nationwide anyway, based on the sales volume.

What it failed to mention was the dealerships’ own awful business practices. As much as it sucks for their employees, I have no sympathy at all when a Bill Heard shuts down after fleecing its customers for years.

(And yeah, the part in the story linked above about the “deceptive marketing practices” that led to Bill Heard’s demise is in the very last graf. The media, particularly print media, are reluctant to bite the hand that provides a large portion of the advertising budget. Oops! I’m blaming the media again. Sorry.)

If this shakeout leaves us only with dealers who just sell cars and hold the bullshit, that’s not such a bad thing.

“But, you know, cleaning up the mess through law enforcement after the fact, while important, is not ideal.”

November 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

Your job is in jeopardy. Your 401(k) is in the toilet. Your family’s financial stability is in danger.

Why?

Because of bullshit like this.

The St. Petersburg Times took an in-depth look at how one real estate market was gamed by a tattoo parlor owner and his small-time criminal buddies, with the help of Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Lehman Brothers, et al. In a stunning development, few people were willing to comment on the record.

The quote above is from Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He’s reluctant to prosecute his banker buddies. I say prosecution isn’t good enough.

Yep, that’s your tax money, going to bail out banks who gave loans to car-wash employees who claimed to make $480,000 a year. Those banks are too big to fail. They’re run by people who are too stupid to receive yet more of my money. But they’re going to get it anyway.

We must start demanding accountability. The press has stood by too long and allowed this to continue. (Yes, I’m blaming the media.) Until the People start holding some feet to the fire (and, perhaps, stop handing over their money to banks and investment firms who brazenly risk it on stupidity), nothing is going to change. At this point, I’d feel safer giving my money to a poker player.

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