Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another good get to know you question

In a previous post I shared my take on the sorts of questions people ought to ask each other when they meet rather than the standard "what do you do for a living" sorts of questions.

an opinion piece from the WSJ on Obama titled "What Would Obama Die For?" I'm not that interested in the content of the piece but I think it's a great question to ask people in an effort to really understand what they're all about and whether you could be friends with them.

Yes, it's a bit ghoulish and I'm not advocating whipping that one out right out of the gate. But, in the end, it may be the best way to demonstrate our essence. That which we prefer or value a lot could, arguably, be considered merely instrumental to our own well-being. But that for which we would sacrifice our life to protect, is our highest ideal and it is our lives that are mere instruments thereof.

I don't think people ought to spend too much time contemplating what they would die for. But I think some amount of introspection on this important question is a good idea. Making it up as you go along is not an intelligent way to live life. And having some sense of what you stand for (and, therefore, what you do not stand for) is an enviable position to be in.

Oh and by the way, dying for anything when you could serve it just as well by losing an eyelash or even a finger is just plain stupid.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A rare sweet moment

I went for a walk in the country with my 15 year old son yesterday. It was such a beautiful day. Crisp air. Clear blue sky. Not a sound other than those produced by nature.

We were walking to an overlook point with a beautiful view of the
countryside. Just as we reached the point where we could see the view
(a few hundred feet from the lookout point), my son exclaimed what a
beautiful view it was. He broke into a run and said "let's run and get
there quickly". I was about to take the opportunity to remind him that
the journey is as important as the destination... But I stopped

I hadn't seen him run in an awfully long time. My sullen moody
teenager was reacting to natural beauty with all the glee and
wonderment of an unsullied child.

It was so sweet.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I have arrived!

I check out the Google Analytics report on this blog from time to time. Just to see how many people visit, what they read, etc.

Apparently, I am doing a great job! Check out this part of the Google report. It shows the network locations of people who visit this blog. That's right folks. Not some also-ran internet service provider. The largest!! Oh, I can see the money coming in now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A new rule

I just read an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal by L. Gordon Crovitz.

Here's the deal folks: You can't have a letter or initial as your first name. It's just not allowed. Honestly, enough with the nonsense. I'm not even going to go into all the reasons why this is absurd. I'm just telling you that it is and ordering you to cut it out!

This rule applies to you even if you are an artist of some sort. It applies to you even if you are very wealthy or occupy a position of considerable power in government, business or religion. It applies to you no matter what language you speak, what ethnic background you claim as your own or what country you live in. The only exceptions are for people who live in countries that have no diplomatic relations with the U.S. and do not aspire to such or for people who's native language includes those clicking sounds or any sound that might reasonably make an American want to hand that person a tissue or point them in the direction of the closest spittoon.

If you really enjoy the simplicity of a single letter or are just too lazy, you may have a letter as your middle name or use an initial as your middle name.

But that's it.

[Note: I liked the op-ed piece. But that's not the point. Rules still have to be followed.]

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Emotional littering

I just came back from a hike in a state park that has become, over the years, a sort of sacred haven for me and a place to experience nature's quiet beauty.

As I got in my car after the three hour hike, I realized that I had not experienced the serenity and the connection to the eternal that I usually do when I hike.

Rather than letting the beauty of this place impress itself upon me, I had brought my thoughts and troubles into the park and, in a way, challenged nature to rid me of them. This was a violation of the peacefulness of the place.

We all know not to drop our physical garbage in the park (although not everyone is so enamored of that rule either). But do we think enough about ridding ourselves of emotional garbage before we encounter nature?

This was a wasted opportunity to experience the divine and I have really disappointed myself.

Movie review: Batman

This movie has been talked about as the third coming (too many other things have already been compared to the second coming).

Sorry folks. I just don't agree. It was a blur. Too much plot. I felt like there were two good movies in there. But they were smashed together as if to make me feel like I got my money's worth.

If I want War and Peace, I know where to get it.

And yes, Heath Ledger was brilliant. But the movie wasn't.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A great morning

Got to bed early last night. And was wide awake at 4am. Not my thing and I don't recommend it. But there was no point in fighting reality so I got out of bed and headed to the office.

My local Starbucks was not yet open. When the institution that is supposed to fuel your morning has not yet opened for business, you know something is wrong. Mildly annoying.

But as I was driving to work, I saw the deep blue sky bravely trying to maintain the peacefulness of nighttime before yielding to the sun. And I thought there are much worse things than starting off the day with such beauty.

Note: Lightning rarely strikes the same spot twice. If tomorrow as I am grumbling about being awake at the bright and early hour of 10am, you remind me of today's morning glee, I will hit you. (Don't worry too much. My aim sucks in the morning.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A let-down at Best Buy

I went to Best Buy on Friday. I'm in the market potentially for 2 flat screen TVs and 2 home theater systems. I milled around the TV and home theater section for around 15-20 minutes. Not a single salesperson offered to help. In past trips to this store, I always found the salespeople quite helpful and proactive.

So I decided to leave.

On my way out, I passed around 7 employees in the blue shirts waiting right in front of the door chatting with each other. So nice that they were waiting to say goodbye. But maybe Best Buy could have found a better way to deploy these folks.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It won't attract the Mormons but...

Unless Starbucks is going to start playing church music in their stores, I think the word "emergency" should be taken off of this SUV.

"I'm sorry Janie, you can't have a new kidney. Someone needs his macchiato. Now come on, yellow skin isn't the worst thing in the world. We didn't raise you to be so self-centered..."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Who's right: me or iTunes?

I bought the soundtrack from the movie La Vie en Rose on iTunes last summer. Now iTunes in its "Just For You" section is recommending the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack for me.

I'm wondering what about me enjoying the beautiful voice of a Frenchwoman makes Apple think I will enjoy the soundtrack from a movie about gay cowboys?

I see three options:
1) They are concluding from a very superficial analysis that I simply like soundtracks.
2) They can tell that my appreciation for Edith Piaf means I'm secretly gay.
3) They can tell that my appreciation for Edith Piaf means I'm an aficionado of the wild west.

Well I don't have any special "thing" for soundtracks. I do like Clint Eastwood westerns but I don't believe Clint was in Brokeback Mountain.


You know, if I'm gay I really wish Apple would have told me a long time ago. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. Not to mention the alimony.

Anyway, I'm hoping that tomorrow iTunes recommends the soundtrack to "How to spend the billion dollars you have stashed away in a Swiss bank account you never knew you had."

It's not good to be cheap

Nobody can place a value on your soul but you and those you select to help you stay true to yourself.

But in the realm of economics, you are worth what other people say you are worth as expressed in their buying behavior. If you are not fetching the prices you think you should, then you are either offering the right product/service in the wrong place or your product/service just isn't as good as you think it is. [See Seth Godin's post on this.]

Look, everyone says they want lower prices. But don't give it to them if they will pay more. And sometimes you have to help them understand what they are getting when the features that drive price are not salient to the uninformed.

I took the picture below on my commute into work one day. [Not while driving of course.] This guy makes a great point. You can get quality. And you can get a cheap price. But you're not getting them together. It's easy to think you can when you look at the job and don't see all of the little touches that go into quality. But eventually, you find out. And that's when you start cursing yourself.

Kudos to John E. Bezold for having the guts to tell it like it is.

Why buy the cow...

Here's a comment on one of my recent posts submitted by a reader to me via email as he was unable to do so via Blogger. [See my original post here.]

"Look, New Jersey sucks, by and large. About the only good thing that came from New Jersey is my wife. And she doesn't smell like the rest of New Jersey. (And her father was born in NYC, so she's half New Yorker).

New Jersey smells like what would happen if you took Brooklyn and Queens and fermented them in the hot sun for a few days. I largely blame New Jerseyans.

My most fervent prayer, when we were living in NJ and expecting our first child, was that my wife would not be early, so that my child would not be born in NJ. Thank God, my prayers were answered."

Now I'm not about to engage in debate with this capitol fellow. NJ doesn't pay me to do marketing or PR for them. And frankly, there are too many people around with just the New Jerseyans. I'm not looking for more people to come and create more traffic.

But I do have one question regarding the above comment: If you had reservations about NJ, don't you think you should have started by dipping your toe in first? Say, buying a pint of blueberries (they are really good here). How did you get from "I hate NJ" directly to "Let me git hitched with one of their big haired women"? (That's a comment on the general appearance of NJ women, not your wife.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Welcome to New Jersey. We suck!

I just drove back from Philly to New Jersey. I live in NJ. I've lived there for most of my life. I like it. Most of the state deserves the name "Garden State." Come visit. It's nice.

But not the Turnpike. You know, that large road that a gazillion cars and trucks drive on every day. That smells like what shit would smell like if shit decided it was far too popular with the ladies.

So I'm wondering which moron decided that 'our least attractive feature' and 'our largest audience' deserved to meet each other. Did this guy get to keep his job?!

Now I'm sure this decision was made decades ago. Back when people thought that in the year 2000 we'd all be whizzing around in our Jetson's style car-planes and would enjoy swooping down from time to time to get a whiff of mustard gas. And I'm sure that it is monumentally expensive to either move the smelly stuff away from the massive audience that might otherwise be persuaded to visit the Garden State (or at least stop laughing at all those NJ jokes) or move the audience away from the smelly stuff.

OK. A bad decision many years ago and now we're stuck with it. (Although the powers that be may want to visit Chicago where they moved part of Lake Shore Drive away from the lake to create a better lakefront experience for locals and tourists in the crazy assumption that if a city seemed nicer and more fun, that life would be better.)

So maybe we're stuck with this. But we can still change people's perceptions by changing our attitude. Let's at least acknowledge and apologize for the problem. We should erect massive billboards that say:

"Dear motorist [that's government-speak for driver]: You are about to be overwhelmed and repulsed by the foul smell of our own proprietary NJ stank. We can't reveal the secret ingredients, but it has something to do with the visually unattractive refineries and power plants you see all around you. We sincerely apologize for what you are about to experience. Years ago, some idiot with a rich daddy managed to gain a government position of some influence and decided that it would be smart to put the nastiest smelling industry right near the road that forms many people's first impressions of our state. And since we're too busy spending tax dollars on all sorts of inconsequential nonsense, we can't do anything productive like fix this problem. Please don't hold it against us. After your surgery, we hope you'll come back and visit. If it's any consolation, your sense of smell is probably permanently impaired. Yours truly, the elected idiots of Noo Jerzee."

Monday, August 4, 2008

A great time in Philadelphia

Had to go to Philly for an all day meeting today. So I drove down last night and stayed downtown. Went to Monk's Cafe which is a very well known beer bar (see the Beer Advocate review). Had two fantastic beers. Then, because I had never done this and feel that all Americans should, I went jogging from my hotel up the famous Rocky Steps. At midnight. On my way up, someone shouted "Hey Rocky" because no tourist has ever done that run! Hey, it's not original, but neither is breathing. It's just something you've got to do. It should be required before anyone can get a Green Card or become a citizen of these United States.

It was such a beautiful crisp night. On my way from the run back to my hotel, I spent about an hour taking photos because there was so much to photograph.

World-class beer. The Rocky steps. Beautiful scenery. Perfect weather. It doesn't really get any better than that. [And no, it would not have been better to jog while drinking the beer. That would work for Bud or Miller. Not for first-rate Belgian brews which deserve to be savored.]

Friday, August 1, 2008

A note to the airlines

Dear airlines:

On behalf of a friend: you suck. Please stop sucking. It will make us all much happier. And who knows, it might improve your business.

Thanks very much,

Tooting my own horn

Winning the lottery is cool. But it doesn't say much about you other than that you were lucky (and maybe foolish to bet on such a longshot).

But what I just won is awesome. Check out my friend Jeremy's blog to see the windfall that has just come my way.

And if you have a winning lottery ticket and want to give me half, I won't turn you down.