Friday, April 28, 2006

Oil Company Profits :: The Scorpion and the Frog

Ok. So someone is going to have to help me here because I need it. I do not know enough about the oil business to really get why every one is so pissed off at the big oil companies for making record profits. I know that most of the heart burn is over how you feel when you fill up. I feel it too...but I'm not really understanding why the oil companies are synonymous with evil these days. This must be because everyone else knows something I do not.

They are selling their product and we are buying it. If we don't like it, we should find alternative methods of transportation, travel less, car pool, buy a more fuel efficient car, invent alternatives, seriously investigate and believe in other fuel options, etc. I guess I hesitate to really criticize a company for making profits and growing as much as they can. That's a primary goal and one of the key concepts of business. Says the scorpion: "It's my nature..."

So what is the root of the issue here? Unless someone clues me in on the big secret, I will continue to be upset at high gas prices (while not blaming the oil companies), do what I can to lower their impact on me (I drive a hybrid), and try to move on with my $30 tank of gas. I would love to see us lose our dependence on foreign oil - or oil for that matter - but that only happens when each of us stops complaining and actually starts doing something about it.


Simple and quick tonight - I had a long day and it is midnight. Go read this post at Cool Hand Luke's blog. He hooks you up with a blog that is video driven and is right up your alley if you like Jon Stewart or if you are a member of the Colbert Nation. It is seriously worth your time to check this out.

In other news, my dentist referred me to an oral surgeon today in order to remove my wisdom teeth. Good times.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Propped Against a Padded Backboard

Please save me if I ever have to "sit" in the standing room only seats that Airbus is thinking about. Quote: "Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness..."

The Nagin Billboard

"Get off your ass and get down here to fix the goddamn biggest disaster in the nation's history." - Ray Nagin

Those of you not in LA may not be following this but the mayoral race in New Orleans has gone to a run-off: Landrieu, the challenger vs. Nagin, the incumbent. There are a number of things that I find interesting about this at the moment:
  1. The racial make-up of this city has changed drastically due to the exodus that accompanied Katrina. If Landrieu wins the election (May 20th), he will be the first white mayor of New Orleans since his father held the office in the 1970s.
  2. The last white mayor of New Orleans was named "Moon." That's right, Moon Landrieu.
  3. "Fewer than half the city's 455,000 residents have returned since Katrina devastated the city in August; most of those still scattered around the country are black." Isn't that crazy?
  4. Carlee and I drove into Houston for a wedding a few weeks ago. Check out the billboard we saw in Houston (image above). How many mayoral races have their been where billboards in different cities and different states appeal to people to vote for a mayor in another city? Pretty amazing. It just goes to show how much of a relocation has occurred due to this catastrophe.
  5. Ok. It was Maurice. But his nickname was Moon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Google Fight

I thought this was great. It is a simulated stick man fight that weighs the number of search results that Google finds on two phrases. Based on the results, one stick man wins. Waste of time? Yes. Made me laugh? Yes. Go check out Google Fight.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Louisiana: Fixing the Problem

I went to a round table discussion tonight that included a panel of 3 very interesting people: one public policy think tank representative, one Advocate editorialist, and one person from the LA Division of Administration - Disaster Recovery Unit - Office of Community Development. Very cool. The topic of discussion was the past, present, and future of Louisiana. As you could imagine, the conversation turned to hurricane recovery pretty rapidly.

As a non-native resident of Louisiana who does not work for a company in the state, I sometimes feel like I lead a sheltered life that does not include as much public awareness as I would like. However, I stay relatively up to date with current events and would consider myself someone with relatively informed and educated opinions. Most importantly, I try to be very aware of when I form opinions without a good knowledge of the facts. I can’t prevent the opinions, but I can recognize that I may be missing some critical information.

That said, it is pretty apparent to me that the state is suffering a crisis in leadership across the board. We have been hit with one of the biggest natural disasters on record and appear to be still reeling from the blow. To my knowledge, there is no well communicated, rally cry vision for citizens of the state to get behind. I am talking about a vision that consists of a great deal of substance as well as a well crafted PR campaign. In order to organize large groups of people behind a common vision, implement measurable goals, and achieve these goals, you need to have:

  1. Substance – People don’t even need to agree with your substance. You just need a vision combined with the next ingredient.
  2. The ability to distill that substance down into a quick 5-6 word phrase that can get plastered on every billboard and bumper sticker in the state. If it fits on a ribbon, you’re golden. The 5-6 word phrase needs to be non-offensive from almost every angle. Example: Support Our Troops. By the way, don’t knock PR as a valid way to govern. Look what it did for the war in Iraq.

Louisiana lacks the second ingredient. There may be someone with a vision out there, but I am doubtful. I will go so far as to say we may lack both ingredients. Thus, I am taking a first crack. The first steps I would take, from my relatively informed transplant native soapbox are:

  • Build Levees that won’t break. No plan or program is worth anything unless you can prevent this from happening again. There may be substantive progress being made here, but that appears to be up for debate based on where you choose to get your news. I tell you what though, I am nervous that we won’t be ready. This should have been started from day one and it better be finished when the next season hits.
  • Craft a slogan. For lack of any other current suggestions: “Louisiana: Fixing the Problem.” This works on many levels for me. We need to be fixing the infrastructure problems that contributed to this disaster. We need to fix the perception and public opinion about the state. Louisiana has long been synonymous with corruption. I am afraid that this perception is changing to Louisiana being synonymous with incompetence. Finally, we need to actually fix the corruption and incompetence - not just the perceptions. During the round table, someone stated: “A tragedy is a terrible thing to waste.” I couldn’t agree more. Let’s fix it.
  • Billboards, bumper stickers, and ribbons. Sell them everywhere, get them donated, increase your revenue and get people behind some sort of vision for this nebulous thing called “recovery.”
  • Fix more of the problem: I honestly believe that new officials in government are probably needed. I find it hard to believe that any prominent official associated with the state will be able to escape the stigma of the visions we all had on our TV (regardless of whether or not they are to blame). If you can’t escape that stigma, can you really be the visionary leader that is needed? Maybe someone could and if so, then power to them. But my bet is that we need to re-elect and then move ahead.

Two cents cashed.

Howl - The Last Gasp

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-ery of night…"
-from Howl by Allen Ginsberg

So this is the last time I'll mention that 18 mile bike ride and I will only do so in order to share a another small set of memories from my trip. I picked these photos as I thought they each had something interesting going on in them.
  • (above) Really nice black and white of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Shot of the Bay Bridge while riding on the cable car to the bike rental place. I love this photo as it really captures the city well. See all those wires? The hill. The backdrop of the bridge. The colors of the apartments. It's crowded. Noisy. This is one of my favorite shots from the trip.
  • Stopping to pose on the bridge as I was cruising on the bike ride.
  • Ok. This last one is not from the ride but I need to mention that I stopped by the City Lights bookstore. This is the book store where Jack Kerouac and the other beats hung out, down in the basement, chatting it up about poetry and life. What a cool experience to loiter there, shop for books, and just soak it in. This was a huge highlight for me as I was a huge fan of the beats in my college years. City Lights was the original publisher of Howl by Allen Ginsberg - which if you haven't read, is well worth the time. Click here for a formatted version of this work. This photo is of a tongue in cheek poster within the store.
(click on any photo for a larger version)

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Route

Not sure how long I am going to brag about the fact that I didn't have a coronary while biking 18 miles...maybe for as long as I have this bike seat bruise.

Here's the route - I grabbed the image out of Yahoo Maps which had a better satellite photo than Google - and Paint shopped the path. I started at that yellow line and headed west (along the red line). The blue line is the ferry I took back. Click on the image for a larger version.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Muscles I Never Use

I "found" a bunch of new muscles when I biked 18 miles today. This may not be a lot for the bikers amongst you...but I am not sure if I will be able to walk tomorrow. Pictures are forthcoming, but for now, I am going to go get a beer.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Haul Out

Day 1 of the conference I am at finished today and I took the early evening "off" and went for a walk down to Fisherman's Warf. This is not a leisurely stroll. If you have ever been to San Francisco and know where Union Square is in relation to the wharf, you know that I walked up some killer hills tonight. Along the way I got in some good old touristing activities. San Fran is a visual treat. I fantasize about being a photographer, and this is a city that does nothing but entertain that fantasy.
  • (above) Cable Car with the sun descending and reflected off a street side building. I was purposely catching the glare behind the car and thought it would make a cool shot. The buildings deep in the background have a really nice "glared" outline that I like.
  • View of Alcatraz from the wharf. I really like the foreground detail that fades into the actual subject of the island.
  • The Linda Noelle and other boats along the pier. I love the reflections in the water.
  • Sea Lions on Pier 39. These two guys were fighting for more than 10 minutes. Evidently, the act of hanging out and catching some rays is to "haul out."
  • Detail on side of fishing boat.
  • Sunset from the pier.
(click on any photo for larger image)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Swank? The Clift Hotel

I am flying to San Francisco tomorrow for a conference. A while back, I had decided to spend an extra 2 nights in the city since I have never had the opportunity to get out to SF before. Tonight, I realized I had no hotel for those two extra nights. So I called the hotel I am staying at for Monday-Tuesday and they were sold out. Then I decided to Priceline for a 4 star hotel in the middle of the down town area and ended up at the Clift. Check out the Clift Hotel website here. It looks pretty swank. $122/night. That's pretty damn cheap for a 4 star hotel about one block from Union Square. We'll see if it is as cool as it looks on the website.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Google Calendar

I'm trying out Google Calendar and the interface is nice. It looks like it could be a good tool to help me coordinate my busy life with my wife's busy life. Unfortunately, my company uses Outlook for calendar events and it doesn't seem possible to establish a live link to that data. You can export your Outlook Calendar and import it to Google, but this would probably only be something I would do weekly so the calendar would essentially be out of date...not a real good solution.

It would be nice if there was a way to maintain a live data version of my work Outlook calendar (which I use to track all personal appointments as well) so that people not in my company could see my calendar and stay on the same page with my schedule.

Friday, April 14, 2006

More on Letters

Spelling and letters have been frequent subject lines for me on some posts...not sure why that is happening. Today, the theme continues. Two items to share:
  • For those of you who don't know what Flickr is (really?), it is an online photo sharing/organization tool that you can use for your photographs. These days, it appears like it could be one of the top contenders moving forward. Tons of new dynamic features become available all of the time. Go visit Cool Hand Luke and see how he has incorporated a rotating family photo strip into his blog. Last night, I found this cool feature that queries Flickr for letters and spells (with photos), any word you type in. Fun.
  • Starbucks Movie Blitz: It is old news at this point that Starbucks is promoting Akeelah and the BEE (listen to the NPR story here). Fortunately, this appears to have increased the chances that you get a jacket on your coffee...thus undermining the power of the Jacket Revolution (I did need to ask for one last night though). The jackets that advertise the movie have different words that were the words which won past spelling bees. Pretty Cool. Except for the fact that they don't tell you what the words mean! Why is that? I complained to my barista last night and they immediately solved the problem. You see, there are Akeelah and the Bee coasters that Starbucks can give you! So. My order is now officially: "Triple Grande Vanilla Jacketed With Whip Latte, Bee Coaster please."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Distance from "C" to "D"

In this case, C = Continental; D = Delta. On this week's flight up to and back from Philly, Continental was a dream come true. Let me count the ways:
  • Getting bumped up to first class 2 minutes after taking your seat in coach.
  • Hot towels
  • Free gin and tonic
  • Free white wine
  • Jambalaya (with some actual kick)
  • Hot rolls
  • Soup
  • Apple Bread Pudding
  • The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
  • No delays
  • No cancellations
  • Home on time
Hopefully, knock on wood, all bad karma was spent up on Delta and my flight next week (going to San Francisco) includes more hot towels and free liquor.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

US Ties Jamaica

Well, at some point, I wonder if the world ranking starts to suffer after our current streak of disappointments. A tie against Jamaica is nothing to get excited about. I missed the game but will be sure to watch it when I get back home (even though I know who won). If McBride is the only European striker we have, are we going to have problems scoring in Germany? These MLS strikers seem to be shooting blanks.

Off to bed. Long flight up to Philly, with a touchdown in the hotel at midnight. Good times.

Jamaican Mullet

US plays Jamaica today in Cary N.C. Set your Tivo: 7 PM EST, ESPN2. I'll be in the air between Houston and Philly when the game is being played. Kind of a big letdown...because I will get to watch good old Tony Meola make his 100th appearance. How about that mullet?

Plane tickets for Germany were booked last week.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Foundation Trilogy

"Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user." - The Foundation Trilogy

I've been tardy on updating my "Off the Shelf" sidebar. These days I have moved onto the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Of course, since I am tardy, I have actually already finished Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and am probably going to finish Second Foundation tomorrow.

The trilogy is one of the penultimate classics of the intellectual science fiction genre. As a reader, you rip through these stories fast, simply because the plot is fascinating. What are they about? Without giving away any plot: The books describe trends in civilizations, how they progress over time, how they change and how they adapt. If you don't like science fiction, I would still recommend these books. The story is truly fascinating, the trends completely relevant.

Following the trilogy, there are two more books which I will move onto as well: Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth.

I know a lot of people who read these books when they were younger, high school or prior. This is actually my second go around as I do not remember the stories at all. My ER doctor saw me reading it and stopped to have a 15 minute conversation about it at around 3:15 am on Saturday morning...all around, no one I have ever met did not enjoy these books. Highly recommended, by me, and ER doctors everywhere.

When it Rains, It Pours

The other day, I was describing the horrors of a trip up to NJ via Philadelphia. Well, the week ended with remarkable symmetry. I won't bore you with too many details but here is a quick recap in order to close the loop on 1 very bad travel week:
  • Thursday: Work ends early. I try to get out of Philly early. All flights were sold out - had to wait until Friday.
  • Friday: Delta does not do standby unless you are a gold member; I am only silver. All earlier flights on Friday are sold out so paying the change fee is not even an option. I wait 8 hours in the airport gate area for my flight.
  • One hour before my flight: Flight Cancelled.
  • One hour after flight was cancelled: Still in line trying to reschedule a flight.
  • One and a half hours after flight cancelled: Finally engage in conversation with ticketing agent for re-booking.
  • Two hours after flight cancellation: After watching other agents successfully book 3 people new flights, I ask for a new ticketing agent. Things go down hill from here. Delta decides they don't like me.
  • Friday Night: Rent a new car. Drive to Newark. No flights from Philly are available until Sunday. I got rebooked on the last available open seat on a Saturday flight out of Newark.
  • Saturday: Fly from Newark and make Baton Rouge by 4 PM. Make Lafayette by 5:00 PM Saturday.
  • Saturday, early evening: Cut hand on window treatment being removed from new house.
  • Saturday, midnight: Check into emergency room fearful of tetanus or some other infection that is causing my arm to burn.
  • Sunday, 3:30 am: Return from emergency room, laughter of triage nurse echoing in my ear.
  • Today: Pack for trip back to NJ tomorrow. Swear to never fly Delta again.
On the plus side of all of this, I did spend Thursday and Friday with 2 old friends and my brother and his wife. So I got some real good personal time in. It was as close to lemonade as you can get.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


When my company moved from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook, I was a skeptic. This was mainly because Lotus Notes was the first and only email program I ever really used (for about 5 years). Really. I'm not kidding.
I am now a convert and continue to find new ways to use Outlook more efficiently. My biggest efficiency tips are:
  • Use of follow-up flags. Each color indicates a particular type of follow-up item. It doesn't leave the inbox until the flag is checked off. I use the inbox as a to-do list.
  • Use of colors. I flag emails from particular people/groups in various colors. These colors automatically attract my attention and help certain emails get answered quickly.
I read an interesting post this weekend over at Email Overloaded about a way to organize your Outlook folders in non-alphabetical order. I have often found the alphabetical order to be annoying and just might add this little tweak to my email organization.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld

"Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."
- Donald Rumsfeld

I never would have guessed it either.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Red Bull Named Ronaldo

Hard to believe? Will Ronaldo really be playing in NY sometime after the World Cup? Pele did it for the Cosmos... To understand why this would be a big deal (in case you are not the biggest soccer fan), go here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Certified Cajun

Random news tidbit.

The Louisiana House of Representatives just passed House Bill 1117 two days ago. This bill establishes "Cajun" as a "certification mark" owned by the state of Louisiana that can be used only on food products that at least have been finished in the state.

Interesting that this was an issue for the house...

Also in the article is information on House Bill 1034, which authorizes in-state crawfish producers to vote on imposing a one-cent-per-pound fee on crawfish tails that are brought into the state and then use the proceeds to promote Louisiana crawfish. Dialogue surrounding the bill is said to have included the exchange below. How can you not be impressed with this debate?

"What if I catch crawfish and sell them on the side of the road?"
Answer: "Then you're a thief."

Blast From the Past

What the heck is Tony Meola doing on the US National team roster for the upcoming game against Jamaica?!?!? Whose next, Alexis Lalas?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Yankee Doodle

I ate at a restaurant called the Nassau Inn, Yankee Doodle Tap Room (in Princeton) this evening. During the dinner, my co-workers and I had a fun exchange with the content of some photographs on the wall of the inn. The photographs are of famous Princeton grads. We knew that there was one particular famous person on the wall and we each got to guess which of the 20-30 photos was the photo of this particular person. None of us got it right. You can play the game in reverse. Whose picture is this? If you go to the restaurant's website, you can find out. This is otherwise known as cheating.

BTW: The dinner, while rather pricey, kinda sucked. The inn is on the national historic register and houses a 13 foot mural by Rockwell of, you guessed it, Yankee Doodle.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Airport Fatigue

Spending all day on an airplane and in airports has a unique way of tiring you out. It must come from a variety of sources. Each source is unique in its own way, but falls into several common aiport fatigue causing themes.
  • Fear of Death: Experienced at take-off and landing in various degrees. Emotion is heightened when you learn you are landing into 30 mile per hour wind gusts. Emotion is further heightened by strange high pitched whistling noise in the window you are sitting next to.
  • Death Wishes: Experienced when people picking up their ski's from the luggage rack swing them around at least three times, causing your to duck and dive, drop and roll across the wet baggage claim floor.
  • I Wish I Was Dead: Experienced when you are stuck on a tarmac for 1 hour. Further compounded when you spend this hour next to a man who is snoring abnormally loud. Added to when luggage is lost in the mid-west. Completed when luggage fails to show up by midnight and you realize you may be going into work in wet baggage claim floor clothes that have the slight scent of urine and sweat because of the near death, window whistling, wind shear landing you experienced earlier the day before.

Going Fast Gets You There Late

So I was speeding on the way to my U-15 team's game this weekend and got a ticket. 82 in a 70. This, of course, made me late for the start of the game. It is hard to believe that this is not the worse story I can tell you from driving this past weekend. That other story may have to wait.

I am headed out of town for work this week - it will be interesting to see how this affects my posts: frequency, content, etc. As it is past midnight, I need to get to bed and/or pack. With that, I will leave you with a question. If you have time to research this, or if you just think you know the answer, I would be glad to hear your thoughts.

Are these yellow speed signs recommendations? Are they legally enforceable?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Kicking off a Long Weekend

Freshly caught fried bass, onion rings, and Riesling for dinner. Sweet wine and fried food. The only thing better was the company - good start to a long weekend. We are headed to Alexandria (soccer), Houston (wedding), and back again (more soccer) all in one day. That is 10.5 hours in the Civic. Better pack some good CDs.