Saturday, May 15, 2004

The NBA in May?

I have no idea who’s playing the NBA Finals. I don’t care. This is a lot coming from someone who lived and died with the Philadelphia 76ers from the time they entered the league in the ‘60s (nee Syracuse Nationals), through the dreaded Portland championship series in the mid-‘70s, and so on… My allegiance switched to the Phoenix Suns in 1992 when they acquired Charles Barkley, moved into the America West Arena and played the Bulls for the title… all in one season.

Now I don’t care about the Suns, Sixers or any NBA for that matter. The price of an NBA game is in the neighborhood of $100 a ticket. I can fly round-trip to anywhere in California for the same price or go 10 movies or rent 30 movies.

Here are some ideas to help the NBA:

1. Continue to allow high school kids in the NBA. They must agree to live on a base wage of some fixed amount (a few hundred grand should work) and then get the money deferred over the course of their lifetime. This contract applies until they are 21 years old.

2. Stop showing so many games on TV. No one watches them until the last few minutes of the game anyway. Subpoint—fewer playoff teams, fewer playoff games.

3. New drug policy: no testing, but one drug conviction and you’re done for life.

4. No games after Memorial Day. This is not a summer spot.

5. BTW, there’s a reason why everyone wears throwback jerseys—they were better than the ones today!

The Score From Gate 75

The ultimate in compulsive behavior is arriving at the airport three hours before your flight. Well, I had to check out of my hotel and had no where else to go. Also, SFO has one of the best Red Carpet Rooms in the US. My family and I saw Barry Bonds there a few years ago. BTW, he was a gentleman to everyone who approached him, and this was a few months after his record-breaking homerun/MVP season. I will rave on about my admiration for Bonds some other time.

Anyway, with free Wi Fi, I parked myself near my gate and cranked up MLB.Com’s TV network. I spent an hour tuning into a few different games, but settled on the Anaheim Angels-Baltimore Orioles game. The time flew by. The fact that very coolness of me, sitting in the airport, watching live baseball on my PC, did not escape me. In a few short years, I’ll be doing the same on a more suitable device with even better broadband reception.

Now if only I could have resumed the viewing on the airplane. I know that Lufthansa is testing Wi Fi service onboard as are some of the big Asian airlines. Maybe this is why US Air, United and Delta are in so much trouble. More money spent on developing Song and Ted and less on the things that will differentiate one from another.

No Way, No How

I have made a lot of Webvan jokes over the years. Most of the jokes centers around the Webvan sponsored drink cups at the opening of Pac Bell park in 2000. I turned to my wife and asked whose name would be on those cups once Webvan went out of business.

I am not a soothsayer but I know technology and business. There are two fundamental reasons why online grocery stores do not work—One is the cost of infrastructure it takes to run an online grocery business and second is the miniscule margins in the grocery business. Add one and two and the answer is failure.

There are opportunities in high margin vertical areas like gourmet food where people might be willing to pay a premium for certain foods, but it does not have mass appeal. Perhaps a major grocery chain can take on a small online business as another channel, but as a significant part of an operation—no way, no how.

This is why one of my favorite companies in the world, Whole Foods, has not gone into the online grocery business with any steam. I hope they are smart enough to stay away.

Keyboard to fridge

Friday, May 14, 2004

Things I Love: Free Wi Fi

Wi Fi is even better when it’s for free.

The guy at the Intel booth at the United portion of the terminal at SFO told me that the T Mobile authentication server was down so you could log on for free from anywhere in the airport.

So I did.

Get-Away Day...

Without getting maudlin, a trip on the 30 bus in San Francisco is much better than the famous subway ride to Shea Stadium (the no. 7 train) that spelled ruin for Atlanta Braves relief pitcher, John Rocker. I have taken both, and the one to Shea is uneventful other than the veritable rainbow of people that come off and on the train.

As for the 30, which rides along Stockton through Chinatown, North Beach, Ghirardelli Square and then to the Marina, passes some great spots: Caffe Sport, the best Italian restaurant in the U.S.; the original Pasta Pomodoro at Columbus and Union and one of the original Noah’s Bagels. Hmm… all food places.

There was a guy on the bus, reading The Examiner, laughing out loud. As I used to be (sort of) an employee of that paper, I thought of many things I could laugh at as well. There were a lot of people who smelled like mothballs. There were a lot of people who just plain smelled.

The bus went by our former residence on Laguna, a half block from Chestnut. It’s a condo that must sell for more than a million. It made me sad to see it. Wish I could afford to buy it. The man who owned it was the brother in law of one of the former SF mayors.

The Marina has not changed much in 11 years. The Grove—the center for all who are young and cool and probably working in high tech—is hopping. I am too old and certainly not wearing the right clothes to be there. I used to meet Malcolm there for coffee and brainstorm our latest get-rich-quick ideas.

And so it goes…

My Dinner With Malcolm

Last night, I had dinner with my friend Malcolm. In case you are looking to buy or sell real estate in San Francisco, Malcolm is your man. He is what Malcolm Gladwell referred to as a connector: he knows everyone. He no longer has a Rolodex; Malcolm has a shiny new Palm Pilot.

I have known Malcolm for 14 years. I was working at a publishing company in Scottsdale on a magazine that dealt with new technology. Malcolm was running a company that had this cool product that allowed you to download and manipulate information on horse races. The product was called AXCIS and he wanted to get some coverage in a magazine I edited. We have been friends since that meeting at the resort in Scottsdale featured in a posting below—the site of my recent eContent presentation.

I was on the board of an Internet company Malcolm ran. The company did not survive, but it wasn’t for lack of a great idea or hard work. Lesser ideas are still in the marketplace. Whatever. Like me, Malcolm survives life’s pitfalls only to walk away with lessons learned and an attempt to be a better person. It’s the trait that bonds us.

Anyway, Malcolm is a top real estate salesman in the San Francisco area. No surprise. I hope someday that he can find a nice second home in the area for my wife and I. That’s probably a long way away.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

This Does Not Apply To Me!

My wife says I have a fixation about my breath because I brush four times a day, floss three times a day and use a proxabrush each night. Those are little pine-cone shaped jobbies that get in those hard to get to spots. I then rinse with mouthwash after each session.

It's not that I am obsessed. Diabetics have to be careful with the teeth and gums. I am just being careful. The fact that I own 10 different tubes of toothpaste should not be taken into consideration.

Right, the connection to this story. As a diabetic, my entire life is a low carb diet. Nothing like being trendy, I say.

Yahoo! News - Low-Carb Diets Can Cause Bad Breath

And How Was Your Day?

There’s nothing like sitting in a room for seven hours to hear the story of someone else’s life.

Well, that’s what my day has been so far. I am in San Francisco to attend the analyst day for a major tech company. It’s like visiting someone who insists on telling you all the wonderful things they did in the last year, and none of the wrong doings. This is not to say the company involved has committed acts of heresy or treason.

Leaving the business issues aisde (you’ll actually have to pay my company to see those), here are the key points learned today:

@For some reason, financial analysts are a breed apart. The either are “follicle-ly challenged” or wear too much gel in their hair. There is no middle ground. They walk too fast and crash into you as the walk. The all wear red ties. Generally, the all are bozos. The smart ones got too smart and now are in jail.

@The worst job is to be an investor relations (IR) person at a public company who has to placate these bozos. One idiot comment from the wrong financial analyst can sink your company’s stock.

@The music playing before the event was a cover of Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride.” Really. It was a country-flavored cover to boot. I have to laugh just thinking about it. During the lunch break, the music switched to Sinatra, but then returned to “Break My Stride” as we all re-gathered for the afternoon sessions.

@The was a fine reference to the wonderful book, “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell, but repeated usage of the recently banned phrase: “At the end of the day.”

@There was no Wi Fi in the room. Difficult to imagine.

@Lunch was awful. Boxed food with limited choices (not very diabetic friendly).

@Nearly everyone had a Blackberry. Wonder if my company will allow me to expense one?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

High On The Hill

I forgot how beautiful and romantic San Francisco is. Sadly, I am here without my wife. Before living here, we had many great trips here. I used to hold SF out as the icon of excitement for us and always ask at the beginning of each year—how many times do you think we’ll go to San Francisco this year?

Cable car outside my window. Great places to dine nearby. Too bad I have a lot of work to do. For me, I plan on ordering a pizza from Amici’s East Coast pizzeria while I work and listen to Jon Miller broadcast the Giants game.

Me and Ted

Somewhere in the friendly skies.

Mike and I were talking this morning about the protocol for posting when the posting is asynchronous. That means, it’s currently 1:28 p.m. (MST) and this posting with make the blog as some other time. We agreed on the point that the posting should make mention of this fact. Like who cares, right?

I am on my first Ted flight. That’s the new sub-airline of United. Ted—the last three letters of United. Let’s hope that whomever thought this up did not win the Employee of the Year parking spot.

My flight is the most strangely configured aircraft I’ve been on in a while. There is no first class and a zillion rows, three/aisle/three.It appears to be some flavor of an Airbus 320, but there is no indetifier card in the seatback in front of me. There is a blue clear plastic card that says, “Eat, Drink and Be Merry,” proclaiming the special service on this 1 hour, 37 minute flight. As is now the custom, food is for sale. “Premium wines and liquors are available for $5; soft drinks, juices and coffee is complementary.” As I said in my previous posting, I have traveled way too much in the past. I’ll bet I can recite the above boilerplate comment in German, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Chinese (Mandarin AND Cantonese).

There allegedly is an in-flight short subject as Ted will attempt to copy Jet Blue which shows live TV programs on its flights. My hunch is we’ll be seeing “Friends.” I may have to watch as my crummy, first-generation portable DVD player’s battery conked out after five minutes. That battery has a mind of its own. I was all set to watch the pilot of “Law and Order” when it gave me the dreaded “low battery” sign and then prompted petered out. Well, that will give me something to do this evening.

On The Road Again...

I am not a big fan of business travel. Today, I have a short trip to San Francisco, but am not looking forward to it. It’s not a “high impact” trip, which means a lot of meetings and moving around. Heck, I once started the day in Paris, then to Luxembourg, then to Belgium before ending the day in London. Footnote: British Airways went on strike for one hour which meant my luggage was lost somewhere between those four countries.

I don’t travel much anymore. I used to travel in excess of 100,000 miles a year. No one in his/her right mind (aside from hard-core salesfolk) does that. It’s is just way too cost prohibitive and technologies such as Placeware (allowing you to share presentations online) work way too well.

Part of my issue is that I am an insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetic. It’s major fun carting around insulin and syringes from city to city. More about that some other time.

Anyway, I hope at least to do some interesting blogging from one of my former hometowns. We lived in The City for a full year then in Marin County for more than seven. Know my way around. Please pray I don’t get that fat guy in the middle seat next to me again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I Also Do Weddings and Bar Mitzvahs

That’s me on the right, talking to someone from Knight Ridder Digital. Yes, I do work for a living. I had just concluded a speech on the future of media here in Scottsdale. For reprints, please send a self addressed, stamped envelope to….

I'll Walk Instead

This is not a tale of “back when I was a kid…” This is about how strange the world has become. You probably already knew that.

Back in 1969, I bought my first tank of gas for my 1964 Dodge Coronet. At Key Esso, on the corner of Cottman and Bustleton Avenues, I paid 29.9 cents per gallon. The numbers say I paying more than 603 percent more today for gas than I did when I was 16. Right, everything costs more. The record album I bought for $3.99 on sale at E.J. Korvettes is now $15, some 400 percent more. However, new competitive business models have impacted the music business to the point where prices will not only go down, but also be broken down into revenue streams that are more consumer oriented. More about that some other time.

This is more about how I felt buying gas today after reading about the beheading of a young Philadelphia man in Iraq. I was sickened by the accounts of what happened. The last thing I wanted to do was to put money in the hands of the Arab nations that support such heinous acts and the U.S. companies that live off of these animals. The artificial means aside, to which the oil companies control the flow of gas to consumers, increasing profits at their whim, this is a morally bankrupt value chain that makes us unwilling conspirators. I am frankly at a loss. Someone take my car; I’d rather walk.

My Heart Breaks...Not

Yes, the window has closed for those mighty Seattle Mariners. They have always been one player shy of greatness. When they had great hitting, they lacked great pitching and/or a closer. BTW, I disagree with Billy Beane’s theory that a closer adds little to a club. I think the presence of a closer forces the opposing team to make moves early in the game to avoid leaving it up the ninth inning to win the game. If you know Rivera is waiting in the Yanks’ bullpen, you know you have to do whatever it takes to win the game by the seventh or eighth inning. If you team has a great set-up man and closer (the former tandem of Dotel/Wagner, for example), the opposing manager must play a six or seven-inning game.

I digress. In the summer of 1982, I attended about 30 or 40 Mariners games. I wrote a weekly sports column on sports broadcasting and interviewed top announcers from visiting teams: Ernie Harwell and Joe Torre to name a few. Anyway, the Mariners stunk. They stunk bad. Relief pitcher Bill (Cuffs) Caudill was the team’s star. Wonder where the famous “Mendoza Line” came from? Mario Mendoza batted under .200 in 1979.

So, sad Mariners fans, have faith that there are some great young players in the farm system and get yourselves a strong latte. It could be worse … you could be sitting in The Kingdome with Bill the Beerman.

The Seattle Times: Sports: Time to mourn late, great M's

Google's New Blog

I was just looking at the new Google blog in which those associated with the company talk about their experiences with the company, especially the day it went public.

I remember the day the company I worked for went public. Actually, that was no big deal. I really remember the day in December 1999 when our IPO hit the streets. We had a party at the office in Milpitas, Calif. It was surreal. I looked around at the other people in the room and couldn’t imagine what they were thinking. Actually, the three people who started the company plus our CFO were in New York for the IPO opening, so that lessened the personal impact of the day. I knew I had played a vital part in the IPO (a story for another day) but I was truly numb. My 72-mile ride home that day seemed like I was driving through a cloud.

When I got home, my wife had a wonderful present waiting for me: a framed picture from one of our favorite artists: Mackenzie Thorpe. It made the day seem real.

The IPO dream didn’t last long for us… as I stated in a previous blog, three months later my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Is life bittersweet or what?

Guess What Brand of Wi Fi Equipment I Have?

Microsoft says bye-bye to Wi-Fi | CNET News.com: "Microsoft says bye-bye to Wi-Fi"

They Never Met My Neighbor on Kindred Street

A friend of mine's mother drove hunched over the steering wheel, crawling along at 20 miles per hour. Ingrid should not have had a driver's license!

Yahoo! News - British courts say women are the 'better' drivers

Monday, May 10, 2004

Things I Love: The Art of Joe Sorren

We have only one of his pieces. He's amazing!

Joe Sorren

Things I Love: "Good Eats"

Just a quick mention of one of my favorite TV shows. It's on Food TV, and it's called "Good Eats." The host is Alton Brown and he is cook-food scientist-stand up. The beauty of the show is in how it fills you with knowledge and ideas in such a disarming manner. Brown is clever (or at least the writers are) without going too far in his humor. The show has lots of great send-ups, but more importantly, lots of great food ideas. For example, the recipe for DIY microwave popcorn is cheaper and far better than anything from Orville or Safeway.

I recall reading that Alton was a video producer who took an interest in cooking and then immersed himself in food knowledge. His talents in both areas are obvious. They sell DVDs of past episodes, but it's just as easy to record them as they are on nightly at 11:30 p.m. PDT.

One more note: Alton was the moderator/host for the newly created American version of "Iron Chef." Didn't work. Nice try.

The GS Warriors Are Always Looking for Guys With Great Hops

Sounds like a new breed of small forwards for the team.

Yahoo! News - African Frogs Threaten San Francisco Area

And What Is Under That Skirt, Sir?

In case you've missed it, the wonderful A&E show, "Airline," shows days in the life of Southwest Airlines. On a recent episode, a man was denied boarding because he was wearing a skirt. Other passengers in the waiting area claimed he had nothing on underneath the skirt.

Yahoo! News - Pitt Says Men May Start Wearing Skirts After 'Troy'

The Manager Is The Main Course

In a small sidebar to last night's loss to the Phillies, D-backs manager Bob Brenly said there was a major dilemma the teamed faced with an odd (5 p.m.) start time (due to the ESPN broadcast). Brenly said no one was quite sure what to eat before the game. Such are the worries of a team in last place.

D-Backs can't solve Myers

I Said No Pets

We have had bad luck with pets. Over the past few decades, we've had four dogs. One dog came along with my wife when we got married. We got a second dog (Bonita) from the pound who lasted a few days. The first dog (Chelsea) carried the second dog around in her mouth and that was that. We got a third dog (Rojas) and I cannot talk about her because it makes me too sad.

We tried a fourth dog (Zulu) who was a purebred Dobie. That also did not work out. Again, I cannot talk about it... it makes me way too sad.

So, our new pet is Sam. Sam is a lizard who lives outside our back door. He is Sam, because Sam is the father of Lizzie McGuire. Get it... Lizzie for lizard. It's as close as we intend to come to having a pet.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Truly Must See TV

I saw this in Hi Def the other day and it was fascinating, even if you've never been to Chicago or even taken an "El" train. I was on the Red Line to Wrigley Field in mid-April; an experience to remember.

Chicago By 'L' | Home Page

Alan King's Two Best Roles

The rabbi in "Enemies: A Love Story" and the obnoxious boyfriend of Michael Steadman's mother in "Thirtysomething." "Kid, I am not looking down at you, so don't look up to me." Great line.

Yahoo! News - Comedian, Actor Alan King Dies at Age 76

Mother's Day

I have not really celebrated Mother’s Day since 1982. That’s when my mother died. She died of cancer but she was supposed to die in 1963 when she was first diagnosed with lung cancer. In those days, the treatment for lung cancer was to remove the lung and hope for the best. She was sent home to die but fooled them all: she lived another 19 years. I recall that she told someone she wasn’t going to let someone else raise her kids.
I miss my mother a lot. It’s one of those thins that you need to keep stored away in a box and take out for special occasions or it will take over your life. After my mother died, I was incapable of working or speaking to anyone. My father came out to Seattle to live with me for a while to get me back on my feet.
My mother pushed me hard. She would never let me settle for anything but the best out of myself. I hear her voice inside me when I want to give half an effort in anything. My mother was an extraordinarily talented artist, but because her mother died when she was 16, she was sent to live with other family and really never had the venue to pursue her talents. She used to draw cartoon character pictures for me as a kid, and I am not joking when I say they were as dead ringers for the originals. She was a great cook and could make clothing of any kind without a pattern and it would be better than fashions from any boutique.
I think my mother was on one airplane flight in her entire life; in 1980, she and my father flew back to Philadelphia from Seattle after helping me move there. She had never been to Europe, Asia, or even California for that matter.
The greatest tribute I can pay to my mother is the fact I named my daughter for her. My daughter already has been to China, not to mention Thailand and Singapore. I hope my mother would be proud.
Happy Mother’s Day.

The Phunky NBA

I was just listening to “Elephunk” by Black Eyed Peas and heard the song from which the new ESPN/NBA promo is based. Unless I am losing my hearing (and that is possible), the song in the promo is “Let’s Get It Started.” It’s a great ad featuring The Iceman (George Gervin) and packs a lot in 30 seconds. The song on the album is “Let’s Get Retarded” so the lyrics were re-worked for the TV ad.
When I as a kid, being called retarded was a common put down but also referred to anyone mentally challenged. In the early ‘60s, retarded could have included anything from Downs Syndrome to just a bit slow in learning.
My sense is that retarded today also includes one’s desire to leave the current state or reality via controlled substances or other means. Given the NBA’s predilection to drug usage, I think they should have stuck with “Let’s Get Retarded.” I guess since the Portland Trailblazers, a once proud franchise now infested with wealthy low-lifes, are out of the playoffs, the original song might only partially apply. I use partially with some generosity.

Did They take Space Into Consideration?

I am headed to San Francisco for a few days later this week. I could take in a Giants game Wednesday night just to see how the Wi Fi service at The Big Phone Booth (Pac Bell/SBC Park) works. I am interested in two things: what sort of security do they have to ensure the PC you are taking in is not a bomb (like the airports) and second, how they heck do you navigate your PC in your cramped seat? It’s not like you have the kind of room you’d find in first class on a Triple Seven?
It reminds me of the dialog from the Seinfeld episode, “The Chinese Restaurant.” When the wait for a table at the Chinese restaurant becomes excruciating, Elaine comments that she is getting very hungry:

Elaine: Oh, well I have to eat.
Jerry: Well let's just order to go, we'll eat it in the cab.
Elaine: Eat it in the cab? Chinese food in a cab?
Jerry: We'll eat it in the movie.
Elaine: Oh, who do you think you're going? Do you think that they have big
picnic tables there?

So, does the ballpark offer workstations or even picnic tables at the seats to use your PC? I’ll let you know.

Dissed In The Classies

Ouch. Arizona Diamondbacks (former) closer Matt Mantei is pictured in today’s paper in the help wanted section (AKA Career Builder, a story for another time), under the headline “Dealing with a Demotion.” Enough to come back from surgery, regain your stuff only to be shelled and demoted the next season. Actually, my wife and I saw Maneti in a spring training game against Texas in Surprise, AZ., and he was hit and hit hard. The team claimed he had a broken nail or blister or something… Hmmm…
As the great Barney Coopersmith said in “My Blue Heaven,” “Relief pitcher… it’s a high risk occupation.” Yes it is. In addition, the best reliovers I have seen have two things in common: one is a tough as nails exterior, the second is a second pitch to go with a great fastball. Heck, if you have a great chanegup (like Trevor Hoffman) or a great forkball (ala Elroy Face—there’s one for the tiriva buffs), you don’t need a great fastball. Having both a great fastball and a monster second pitch (to keep batters off balance) PLUS that attitude is what makes Eric Gagne so great. Ditto for Mariano Rivera who is, without question, the best reliever I have ever seen.
As for Mantei, don’t cry for him Argentina. He makes $7 million a year. Wait. One more thing about D-backs pitching. Consider they traded Brad Penny for Mantei and Vincente Padilla for Curt Schilling. How does a rotation of Johnson, Webb, Penny and Padilla sound about now? Or, do you prefer Elmer Dessens?

Puzzling Thoughts About TV Reruns

I am stumped.
Today, I see in an ad for Circuit City, it is selling a DVD that contains the pilot episode of “Friends” plus the final episode with two different endings. In Target the other day, I see there are boxed sets of “Friends” from every season. Same goes for “Sex and the City,” “Sopranos” and so on . Does this mean the networks and production companies have given up on syndication? Between DVDs of the shows and PVRs (like TiVo) the only people who will not have seen these shows are people who have no interest in them. Does this mean these TV folk fear the power of someone recording the show and then posting it on the Internet for everyone to download (for free)? Does this spell the end of aftermarket syndication? What does his mean for the future of TV? I think you know where I am headed with this…
I know sometime soon begins the syndication of “Sex and The City.” How will that play on “regular” TV? I know they filmed alternative versions of the show (sans sex and language) while filming the original series, but can a show about sex have any impact without... well…sex? I understand that everyone does not have HBO, but I would venture to say (again via DVDs or VHS tapes for sale or rent or illegal postings on Kazaa) everyone who wanted to see the show already has.
To confuse matters more, what value will Seinfeld have if and when it comes out on DVD? It has bee re-runed to death locally and nationally and actually to the point where I stopped watching all but a few choice episodes. I’d love them to pull the show from the air for a few years and then offer them on DVD. But then again, what do I know.
I do know that in a matter of weeks, the DVDs of “SCTV” will be in my home. I am living to see “Half Wits” and “Play it Again Bob.”

Name That Tune

Quick tip: if you are listening to the radio and hear a song you like but they never tell you the name of the song or artist… visit Yes.Net. Yesterday, at 6:50 AM (don’t ask what I was doing up so early on a Saturday), I heard a song I liked and later found out it was by Linkin Park. Sadly, the song was not available on Real Rhapsody. Should I invest the $1.05 to download?

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