Dec 31, 2009

The Dawn of the Rent-It Culture

Not so new after all

Cloud (or application service) computing is a blast from the past; a true everything old is new again phenomenon.

I am what you would call an early adapter, having moved to a remotely-hosted model of application usage where I am basically renting software as opposed to buying it. My cloudy app’s include content management, email, e-mail marketing, accounting, CRM, backup & archiving, and more.

My chronologial age shows when I can harken back to the tipping point days of the microcomputer. Ah, distributed horsepower that knocked down the Berlin Wall of the evil Mainframe World and brought power to the people, right there on the desktop. Each of us was now empowered with our own CPU and hard drive as well as our own licensed copies of commercial software. There you go, Mr Gates, and thank you very much.

Now here we are entering 2010 and a new era of computing. We are now increasingly running software hosted on remote servers and not on our local PCs. Server farms have become so humongous that they’ve sometimes replaced office parks as a primary destroyer of corn pastures. Supposedly, Google’s servers draw more power than every television set in the country.

Wait a minute here: centralized servers owned by mega corporate behemoths acting as the new model of application deployment? Yes sir: it’s 1970 all over again! Crank up Grand Funk Railroad! Retro processing rules!

Rob Enderle shares these same quasi nostalgic sentiments – and goes on to give a good future-forward analysis here in his recent 2010: The Year and Decade of the Cloud.

While I’m the subject of digital megatrends and the new rent-it culture, another observation: the “streaming” model of digital music distribution seems to have pulled a tortoise vs hare comeback and now appears to be surpassing the “buy it and download it” option. This reminds me of a long-running debate on that very subject I had with some local folks that argued for the “people want to own the music” POV—and were banking their livelihoods on that being the case with a high profile local enterprise that played in that arena with that very business model as their basic assumption. I countered that they were wrong. I believe the stakes were something to the tune of a $100 wager.

Too bad they crashed and burned and are nowhere to be seen…

Dec 21, 2009

An ode to then

A literary break...

Guest Contributor: AKR

(Got one of your own? Send it over. If it's good -- hell, even halfway decent -- we'll throw it on the fire)

Sometimes, in the middle of a gray day in the middle of this gray life, I think about when we were together.

There we all are in a big room. It might be up in the dorm, it might be at the house on Colonial or it might be in one of the joints downtown. It’s noisy and smoky and I’m standing in one corner, surrounded by some of our friends: Jim and Annie, maybe it’s the Chief, Dani and Gunner, or Kim, Pete or Carey. It’s all good, and I’m grinning from ear to ear. Of course I was; I went through that whole time up there smiling from Day One to graduation, basking in the joy of being surrounded by those people I was incredibly happy to be around, day after day after day.

I look across and there you are on the other side, sitting at a table with some of the others: maybe it’s Cammie, Joni or Doc; or Cliffy, JR and Carol. The same thing; everyone is carrying on about the mundane nothingness that was our life, perfectly content to the life in that Great Cocoon, where we weren’t quite kids but at the same time we weren’t quite adults, either. Like Indians consigned to the reservation because there wasn’t anywhere else for us to go, except we knew we’d eventually get kicked off and have to deal with another world and another life. But we had no conception of what it would be like; nor did it ever occur to us that we’d all do it without each other.

Then our eyes meet. You send me your magic: the quick tilt of the head, the kiss and the quick wink. Like you did hundreds of times. As I think back now, I just realized that you always tilted it in one direction; it was always to your right. And I think you always winked with the right eye, too. I can’t remember your first roommate, but I remember that. You never failed; if we weren’t side by side, you’d deliver that magic as only you could.

For right then and there, I was as happy as I ever needed to be. It just took me all this time to realize it. Especially since I never saw you again after I left you behind.

Dec 16, 2009

So why not a Spitzer comeback?

Our former Luv Guv -- aka Client #9 -- is said to be contemplating a return to the Big Circus, most likely a shot at the NYS Comptroller's office. The reaction so far has been predictble: "ya gotta be kidding, right?"

But I would like to offer up a name from the slightly more distant past; that of a man who was convicted of dirty deeds so much more serious than Mr Sptitzer's that he actually served prison time and paid an enormous financial penalty as levied by the court. But after that experience, this individual went on to become a model citizen, creating initiatives that contributed immensely to the public good. That person's name:

Michael Milken

Post-sentence accomplishments: co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, chairman of the Milken Institute (a think tank devoted to policy research on economic development and other issues), and founder of medical philanthropies funding research into melanoma, cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Fortune magazine called him "The Man Who Changed Medicine" for his positive influence on medical research.

So, yes; redemption can sometimes do wonderful things. Maybe we should give it a shot here in the Emopire State. Nothing else seems to be working.

Dec 14, 2009

Now that was a big mistake!

Political theater, rejecting reality and poor scheduling

Just another morning at the Spa'aaaaaa

Does blogging make you a Member of the Press?

If so, where's my press pass for SPAC and track?

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed in the morning…especially a frigid Saturday morning in December.

But that I did this past weekend, rising out from the sheets without the benefit of an alarm clock and hustling down to the Saratoga Public Library without the benefit of a cup of coffee. Why? To exercise my civic duty and hometown pride, that’s why!

I’m not a morning person to begin with, but I was willing to mess up my weekend to attend a pow wow of the city’s local Democratic party. Given the animosity and interesting personalities that have been involved in the Great Divide which has doomed this organization from electoral success, I figured it would at least be an amusing passion play or maybe even something productive.

The scorecard: amusing=slightly; productive=not even close. Without going into the well-known troubles plaguing this group, let me just quote two popular phrases that apply to the Saratoga Democratic party, to a tee:

“The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake over & over again and expecting a different result”

“Don’t piss on my leg and then tell me it’s raining.”

But again: it’s shouldn't (and didn’t) surprise me that the group of people currently in charge are hell bent on continuing their relentless drive to making this party politically irrelevant.

No, it was the additional baggage that I seem to have gained from that meeting with that leaves me in this “why did I even bother?” state of mind. For I also am now the proud owner of the following:
· Accusations of being “behind” some of the politically - oriented blogs in the city; which are generally critical of the party’s current leadership. The truth? I am not.

· Accusations of “having an agenda” designed to create a divide within the party that doesn’t really exist. The truth? I don’t need to create a divide; it’s already there in black & white. If someone can’t see it, they need a level of help that I surely can’t deliver.

· At least six phone calls from people that I have never engaged in a previous conversation with, letting me know their opinions of my opinions, as expressed in that public assembly. The pro/con split on that subject is roughly 50/50. My bigger concern is "where the hell did these people get my phone number?"

· At least 10 emails, mostly related to my eyewitness account of a temper-flared encounter between a current city commissioner and a gentleman who apparently has some sort of grudge against him. My take? I’m suddenly told not to comment on this because I might be called into a court of law to officially offer that account, for the public record and under oath. Now isn’t that just wonderful?

· At least 20 emails from various individuals (again: mostly strangers) offering suggestions, advice or pleas on “how to rid the party” of its current leadership; deemed by that group as being the proper course of action. My take? Pick up your swords and get ‘er going.

But, all of this is not my main reason for starting this particular entry. Rather, it is a single incoming email that poses a most interesting question. Here is a partial transcript:

“…As a member of the press, it is your obligation to identify yourself as such. An open floor inviting comments from enrolled voters that are registered Democrats to their party’s chair and executive committee is not the place for a member of the press to rise and speak…”

Now wait a minute here. But first, to be fair: this incoming message did not originate with the party chairman or any member of the executive committee. I don’t believe this is an issue with any of them. But is does create a dilemma for someone, does it not?

This person’s connecting-of-the-dots logic is based on the fact that I publish a blog, the very one you are now reading. It is the only blog that I publish. The reasoning then, is because I publish a blog, well, I am therefore a publisher -- a member of that gosh darn press! And that fact overrides the fact that I am also a registered Democrat with enough concern about the party’s direction that I got out of that warm bed I mentioned and drove downtown to talk things over with a bunch of equally concerned and motivated folks on a wintry Saturday morning. Without any coffee!

I was about to offer up to this person the proper response; you know:

“With today’s communication and internet technologies, with blogs, online ‘zines, Twitter Tweets, social networks and so forth, the truth is …… EVERYONE is a publisher! Blah, blah, blah...

But after thinking about what this person would do with such an explanation, I instead wrote back with the following:

“I would recommend that you bring it up to your party chair at the next meeting.

It’s now Mr Turkheimer’s task of explaining to his constituent how the world works in the new century. I’m told I need to do more of this thing called ‘delegating.’ Poor Al just caught the first whiff of that personal initiative of mine! Sorry, man.

Canada to Uganda: it wasn't us!

Breakthrough on climate change is a hoax

I smell the Yes Men!

For sure: I would bet my bottom dollar (as opposed to my top dollar, I would presume) that our favorite media pranksters are at it again as a series of press releases from various sources claiming to represent the Canadian government have been flying over the internet. Meanwhile, the Ugandan government is looking like the real dummies. Let me explain:

Late this morning, a "major announcement" type of press release from Environment Canada quoted the government's Office of the Minister of the Environment in stating that our northern neighbors would now take the global lead, by means of an "ambitious new emissions-reduction targets and vigorous climate-debt reparations to African nations."

Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice repeated calls to other developed nations to fall in line behind Canada. "The threat to world stability from climate change is too important for short-sighted posturing," said Prentice. "The world's wealthy countries can and must come together behind Canada on this issue of issues."

The Ugandan government VERY quickly issues its own press release, joyfully rejoicing in reaction to the breakthrough news:

"This is a day that will define our century," said Margaret Matembe, MP and head of the Climate Committee of Uganda, an environmental caucus in the Ugandan parliament. "Today, we no longer have to wait for a COP20 or COP100 before the voices of our children are heard."

There's only one problem: Canada never made such an agreement--the press release was a hoax. Those of us familiar with those Yes Men have been down this road before.

The REAL Canadian government is now in full Damage Control mode, saying that "all statements within it are unequivocally false" and that it shall "seek the full measure of legal recourse against these criminals under Danish and international law." What this has to do with the Danes remains a mystery.

Meanwhile, the Ugandan government -- as well as dozens of major media outlets that ran with the story -- are laying low, slamming their heads with giant D'OH's.

If anyone runs across the Yes Men (who have a Troy connection), tell them you just saw a van full of Danes in black suits and sunglasses cruising around the RPI campus and slugging down some cold ones at Brown's Brewing.

Then say "I'm just goofing on you!"

Dec 13, 2009

The power of music

No other art form has the ability that music does to reflect the human experience and touch the human spirit. Never was that fact more obvious to me than it was this weekend.

The setting: a car ride northbound on the NYS Thruway on a dreary and cold late morning. I was returning from a breakfast meeting in Woodstock and my traveling companion was a near-stranger; a professional contact accompanying me in hopes of lending a hand in any future project that could arise from this particular session.

Being in that gap of the Catskills where WDST is lost and the Albany stations don't yet kick in yet, it was time for a CD. I offered up the newest Mountain Goats release, which was greeted with a "never heard of 'em, let's give it a listen."

The track Matthew 25:21 -- a forlorn tribute to a dying cancer victim -- certainly proved my original point, as this woman burst into full-blown tears at its conclsusion. An apology was offered; met with a "none needed."

If you're ever in the mood for a gut wrenching experience, light up a cigarette, start taking sips from a bottle of good scotch, and take a listen yourself to this track. Even if you don't smoke or drink. You'll see exactly what I mean.

Dec 12, 2009

Anyone know anything about...

...electric vehicles?

Cars, motors, engines, battery issues, infrastructure, etc?

Why? I'm in need of a quick-learn in this field of study, given that I am "working on something" that could be of pretty neat interest down the road (when I can actually reveal some secrets).

If so, let me your brain? Shoot me an email:



Dec 10, 2009

Farewell to the 'birds

I must admit: I was never into the Albany Firebirds / indoor football thing all these years. Proof of that is the fact that I never once attended a game, even for the couple years that I kept an office but a few paces from the front door of the Pepsi Arena.

Yet it is with a ceratin degree of sadness to report that the team has ceased operations. Atetndance had steadily declined over the years, and the good citizen/owner Walt Robb is forced to finally stop the bleeding.

Indeed, it has been a pity to watch the death spiral that so many of our local professional teams suffer. The Yankees/Diamond Dogs, the Patroons and now the Firebirds.

The reasons are many, including:

* The rise of Siena and UAlbany as big time and near-big time basketball programs

* Cable television sports programming expansion, bringing just about every major-level contest into viewers' homes as part of various purchase options

* The inability of downtown Albany to reclaim the type of buzz it had for a brief moment time back in the 80's.

So, it';s fareweel to yet another local franshise. Please get to a River Rats game and show your support for that fine program. It would be a big time shame if they followed the same trend and dispappeared into the archives.

Saturday morning fight club

This weekend's entertainment highlight:

The Saratoga Springs Democratic party will convene Saturday morning at the public libary's meeting room on Putnam Street. Supposedly, a discussion on the party's future direction and leadership will commence.

After some initial discrepancies, I have been told by both the current chairman as well as a vice president that this session is open to all members of the party.

This should be good. Wear a helmet.

Dec 9, 2009

What do you mean by 'optimizing traffic'?

Nobody seemed like they were getting anything done today, if they even showed up for work at all. You'd think these people never dealt with snow before. So it became a day of a long lunch and the incredibly rare afternoon of pitcher-sharing (PBRs yet!) in what you might call a working man's bar on in this wintry wonderland called upstate New York.

My parter in crime was a friend I haven't seen in many eons. He's an old school media guy; specifically a newspaper man, on the editorial side of the operation at his large daily. Having played in that arena myself, the convo naturally drifted into the online/offline journalism discussion.

My friend sure toes the company and industry line: "Google is evil -- it's robbing the news industry blind by using the news links from my paper and every other paper out there to push traffic around," goes his rap. I wager that he just got out of some sort of seminar on that subject.

My retort: "Yeah, but it's pushing all that traff
ic back to your site. The problem you guys have is that you just don;t know what to do with it. You can't blame Google just because they DO know!"

ZOOM -- right over his head.

Dec 8, 2009

How to Hit a Guy When He's Down

It's good to be king; and it's good to have friends. It looks like Uncle Joe has friends.

The Joe Bruno Legal Defense Fund is still up and running, setup by his cronies to shift the legal burden away from the former Senator and to ...well, you and me. Plus anyone that thinks they have a need to be recognized as a Team Player.

(My questions as to whether these funds could/would also be directed to his approaching fines have yet to be answered.)

But, I for one feel that need to assist! Yes sir, I've stepped up to the plate and done my share. Here is my transaction receipt:

"This email confirms that you have donated $0.02 USD to Joe Bruno Legal Defense Fund ( using PayPal."

Confirmation number: 6YF43646NB982801S
Donation amount: $0.02 USD
Total: $0.02 USD
Purpose: Joe Bruno Legal Defense Fund

So, don't anyone say I'm not ready to help.

Q: Knowing PayPal the way I do, guess what?
A: PayPal's transaction fee formula is "30 cents + 2.9%"..rounded up, of course.

So, my hefty donation just cost them 31 cents in fees, netting them NEGATIVE 29 cents!

Now that ain't gonna help much...

Now don't YOU try this at home~!


Dec 7, 2009

Thoughts on the Bruno Guilty x 2 verdicts

"I can't hear you! Nyah nyah, na na! Nope, can't hear you, Judge!"

Let us accept -- for this discussion -- the "being a NYS legislator is a part-time thing, so I have a right to earn a living by also doing something else" argument. My question:

* Why is it that the only 'something else' that Mr Bruno and his cronies are capable of doing is one in which they are "making introductions" related to NYS govt and political business and the exercise of their personal influence within it?"

In other words, why do these people all fail to even attempt making a go in the TRUE private sector? Like fix pinball machines or write diet books or play professional poker or something?

While we're at it:

* Recall a few years back, when the rumblings first started about "maybe we need to look at Mr Bruno's dealings", and a contingent of local (Capital Region) economic development, business and political figures banded together in an effort to get the powers-that-be to more or less look the other way -- for the sole reason that "he's done so much good for this area"?

Sorry: but the 'Yes, he's a crook but at least he's our crook' mentailty doesn't cut it, from this corner at least.

Now, let's hope the Supreme Court upholds the federal "Honest Services" legal concept that prosecuted Mr Bruno. For that is up in the air, with arguments on that very matter set to be argues next week.

Now, wouldn't that be something if.............


Wouldn't you love to have witnessed Eliot Spitzer's reaction to today's jury decision?

Dec 4, 2009

The future's here: now what's the price tag?

Is free the destined internet model?

Here's an interesting Point/Counterpoint on the concept of "free" pricing in the new net economy:

Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail, again made a a nice smash with his book Free: the Future of a Radical Price earlier this year. Here is a good summary version.

The equally primo media hotshot Malcolm Gladwell reviewed his comrade's work with a "not so fast there, Buster" critique, available from the New Yorker here.

Now, wouldn't the two of them make for a great public mano a mano, in the spirit of Buckley vs Vidal? Too bad I can't afford either one, no less both of them.

Nov 23, 2009

Bruno Verdict---Wagering is now Open

With former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno's corruption trial now in theclosing arguments stage, it's time to open the windows for betting on the jury's verdict. Here's the opening Wagering Line:

- Guilty on All 8 Counts: 20-1
- Guilty on 5-7 Counts: 6-1
- Guilty on 1-4 Counts: 2-1
- Not-Guilty on All 8 Counts: 4-1
- Bruno holding a press conference after the verdict: 1-5

Lay your money down, folks!

Nov 13, 2009

I (don’t) see dead people….

“Death is a lonely business”
(Ray Bradbury)

That it is, and never more so than in these modern times.

That thought hit me yesterday, after my becoming aware—via Google—of the death of a former associate. Here was a gentleman I worked with for several years, who I would see each day at our headquarters and with whom I hit the road on several occasions to places far and wide, by plane, train and car. Memories of a 40-hours-with-no-sleep project in Vegas followed by an impromptu lecture in proper blackjack strategy soon flooded by mind.

The recognition of his passing was not the surprise here; his ill health had been rumored for a bit. Instead, the length of time between his excusing himself from this earth and my notice of it having happened was the shocker. It was a 5-year gap.

Granted, the company for whom we tolled gave both of us the hook in the late 90’s; the result of a series of internal tribal wars that would make Afghani warlords proud. The departed and I were on opposite sides of most breeches, and we parted ways in a not-too-amiable manner. Still: five years? One would think a mutual acquaintance from the office or the country club would have flipped me an email, but then again, both of us left that scene without a lot of friends in tow.

Reading his archived obituary, I find the usual routine of the current end of life saga, with one’s final days spent in the realm of a particular son or daughter in a place far from what had long been home, eventually dying amongst strangers in a facility equipped for just that very challenge. So it went in this case.

Cremations, a memorial service that was no doubt attended by even more strangers and the scattering of ashes at a favored golf course in the Carolinas apparently followed. I doubt if few (if any) people from this area -- where this man spent his entire adult life -- attended any of the three events. I also wonder how many former friends and colleagues up here remain unaware, as had I until yesterday?

From a bigger picture POV, what we have here is evidence of the minimizing and sanitizing of the human death experience. As a society, we’ve conveniently framed our spiritual beliefs with a “they’ll always be here in spirit,” which in turn supports the current trend of basically ignoring the dead –- and death. Why bother with such an unpleasant event and with such unpleasant rituals? After all, the kids need to get to hockey practice!

Just a couple generations back, homes were built with a ‘second living room’, more commonly called a parlor. One of the primary functions of this space was to display the body of a departed family member to the neighborhood, who would trudge over to pay proper respects to both that person’s memory and to the grieving family (hence the term funeral parlor). Family grief was a public event, complete with community participation and support.

But that ritual was eventually outsourced to the burgeoning death industry. Thereafter, a departed individual’s earthly remains were hustled out the side door within minutes of drawing a last breath, taken away by certified and licensed professionals that would handle ‘the arrangements’ in an outside setting. Home re-modelers had a field day over the preceding decades, as those former residential funeral parlors could now be converted to dens, sun porches and dining rooms.

Fast forward to now, and we see another change taking place. More and more, public ceremonies are not even staged. When they are, it is often without a body even being present; with the onset of the age of the memorial service taking place a month after the fact, when everyone’s had time to compose him or herself a bit. Tidier, less emotional, much more…pleasant.

As the old saying goes: “Funerals aren’t for the dead; they are for the living.“ It looks like the living -- being too busy, too disinterested or too insecure in their own mortality--are saying ‘we’ll pass completely.’ So it goes.

In the meantime, I know whom I’ll be thinking of when I next hit a table in Vegas this winter.

Nov 12, 2009

Cooking lessons on the web--Italian style

Connoisseurs of authentic Italian meals know that their preferred style of cooking is about more than just, well: cooking. Instead, it is an art; one that embodies and reflects a certain way of life emphasizing family, quality, pleasure and tradition. The thinking: creating a satisfying eating experience creates a more satisfying life --- La Dolce Vita --- one hand crafted, delicious dish at a time.

Nancy Scala knows, first-hand, the joy of that tradition. Her desire to share it with the rest of the world has lead to the launch of a series of ‘authentic Italian-only’ online cooking lessons on her (translation: to become passionate) portal site.

As a six-year old from the Campagna region of Italy entering kindergarten in her new Monmouth County, NJ hometown without speaking a word of English, young Nancy would soon thereafter return each day to the controlled chaos of her family’s 70-seat restaurant version of the American dream. There, she witnessed nothing more than another take on the magic behind converting fresh ingredients into luscious meals that she had always been learning at her mother’s side, both here and abroad.

Despite the deepening appreciation of her family legacy and the art of cooking, the long hours inherent in the hospitality industry motivated her to move on to college and a fast track career in the financial services industry, beginning with Goldman Sacks. Her subsequent pursuit of a Masters degree at Johns Hopkins University provides a “Guess Where This Story’s Going” moment when it resulted in her living in (where else?) Bologna, Italy for one year as part of the program. There, she reconnected with her roots.

“It’s funny, but when I came back from the year abroad, I was cooking up a storm at home in the middle of studying for exams,” Scala recalls. “My parents always wondered whether I went to cooking school or grad school while I was there. The truth is: I did both --- and loved it.”

But the “full circle” conclusion would have to wait a bit, as Scala’s career path had her living in various locales around the globe. She became committed to perfecting her skills as a chef while living in Urbino and Bologna. But the clarion call of home called, and she was eventually wooed back to the Jersey shore, for all the right reasons.

Now in her element, the timing seemed right to combine a new career with her longtime passion. Thereby emerged Ardesco.

“I had always wanted to pursuing cooking, but didn’t want to open up a restaurant,” Nancy added. “The usual route of writing a cookbook didn’t give people the personal touch. So about a year ago, I came up with the idea of offering online cooking classes.”

With twenty recipe episodes taped and ready to roll, Scala’s on-screen ease and effective step-by-step learning style has her poised to be the face of the Italian variety of cooking shows, as that industry moves into a niche specialty mode.

From the Fast Track to the Slow Food

The site currently offers four lessons on a free introductory basis. The lessons are well produced and could easily make their way into the broadcast world as well. The web site is planned on being a full community portal; already there is an interesting blog entry explaining the International Slow Food Movement, complete with its manifesto!

“I wanted to pursue something meaningful to myself and people’s lives,” she concluded. “This website and the cooking tutorials are what I am offering because it’s a genuine passion of mine. I hope that I can ignite that flame within a new audience.”

Ardesco! Indeed.

(note: this new venture below has a local connection, with its marketing and branding strategy being driven by a Tech Valley firm)

Nov 6, 2009

I guess the lecture points didn't stick

So much for that silly 'Creative City' idea

Since the Palace Theater's rehabilitation a few years back, the Cap City has one mighty fine entertainment facility. With the beautiful surroundings, cool vibe and cushioned seating, one could very likely drift into Sleepy Land while taking it all in.

Such might be what happened to the attendees at September's speaking engagement by Richard Florida : the audience must have been catching a nap instead of paying attention to their esteemed guest's talking points.

Mr Florida, of course, is the author of The Rise of the Creative Class and other books, essays and research that, in effect, offers a new theory of regional economic development to a discipline that had long wallowed in a "give em cheap land, cheap power and a whole menu of tax breaks" as means of industry attraction. Florida's view is that the more critical elements -- especially in the New Economy -- are the livability and cultural/social infrastructure features of any given area. Give the right people the right reason to come and LIVE in a region, and the development of the right kind of business and industry will follow thereafter.

Such was the message delivered at The Palace, at least, to a throng of public officials, business leaders and other community activists and interested parties. Hell, the Mayor even gave Mr Florida some sort of welcoming gift, as seen in the photo!

But Mr Florida's (very) hefty appearance fee has barely cleared the bank, and Albany is once again going into Old School mode. Hence the "must have been sleeping" explanation.

Case in point: some nonsense is now floating from the Albany Common Council about a plan to impose a "licensing fee" on any establishment that plans on ever hosting a live music event. Whether it's me and you plucking banjos at the coffee shop, belting some a cappela tunes at the diner, or kicking out the jams in the back room of our favorite drinking establishment -- if one of those events is ever going to take place in the upcoming year, that venue needs to write a $350 check to the City of Albany. Plus: it must fill out some insane paperwork pertaining to the details of all those 'planned' performances. Metroland attempts to explain the insanity in their current issue, here.

To those of us that buy into a good deal of what Mr Florida and his school of thought are preaching, this kind of stuff drives us nuts. While the region beats its chest expounding its ability to attract old line manufacturing and Low Road industry to the region -- mainly through the public feeding trough -- programs and policies designed to organically grow a thriving community that fits into the dynamics of what the 21st century workforce is looking for get (at best)lukewarm support and attention. And the occasional speech by Mr Florida every five years.

Instead we get actions such as this 'Albany Live Music Tax'. It is no mere coincidence that leading edge cities like Boston, San Francisco, NYC and Austin are both live music hotbeds and technology hubs. As I always remind people that brag about Albany becoming the 'Next Austin':

- When you get off the plane at Austin's airport, it doesn't say 'Welcome to the Chip Plant Capital of the US' -- it says 'Welcome to the Live Music Capital of the Universe.'

Meanwhile back in Albany, we somehow look for any reason possible to both keep the public pool filled with funds from any and all available sources and prevent a New Economy from having a chance of getting a foothold within.

Yes, there is some sort of rationale for this levy: something to do with "complying with a standing ordinance on the books". Here's my modest suggestion for rectifying this situation:

- Someone needs to simply stand up at the next Council meeting and ask for Unanimous Consent to strike the old ordinance in question.

- If anyone objects to the Unanimous Consent, allocate two minutes for debate. Any rational mind in the room would only need that long to hear all they need to hear.

- Take a vote.

- Forward the names, phone numbers and email addresses of any Legislator voting against the mesure here, to me.

I'll take it from there....

Nov 2, 2009

Predictions: Saratoga Springs local elections

Having invested many millions of dollars in the latest election-polling techniques, I hereby offer the NANOBURGH POLL for the 2009 Saratoga Springs local elections, scheduled for tomorrow November 3:

Mayor: Johnson by 14+ points
Public Works: Scirocco by 8+ points
Public Safety: Wirth by 5 points
Finance: Ivins by 6 points
(the other races involve unopposed incumbents)

In other words: I predict the complete rejection of the so-called 'Democrats for Change' wing of the city's Democratic party by the electorate.

As painful as it may seem, some good will likely come out of this: the end of DFC control of the party.

Let's just call it a healthy bloodletting.

Sep 23, 2009

Railbird, Ashley Pond in unique pairing

Being tagged as the latest entrant in the perpetual “band most likely to finally break out of Albany” rock sweepstakes can be a heavy burden for those identified as such. Fortunately, that heavy load is currently being borne not by a single musical act, but shared by a pair of them, with each featuring a young and talented female front woman as its focal point.

It so happens that both of these local hopes – the Saratoga-based Railbird and Albany’s Ashley Pond Band – are slated as the musical bookends at the two sessions of Saturday’s (Sept. 26) Local Living Harvest Fest event in the Spa City’s downtown district.

Saturday event features two local rising stars
For Railbird – fronted by cafĂ© chanteuse-turned Americana minstrel Sarah Pedinotti - the early (noontime) opener has special significance. First, it’s being held in her family’s popular Mouzon House restaurant on High Rock Avenue, where her dad Chef Dave will show off his own culinary chops with a timely demonstration titled “Cooking With the Seasons.“ This will be followed by a lunchtime meal making good use of his craftwork.

From there, the multitasking daughter will gather her band mates to publicly introduce their Farmony initiative; a funded project highlighting daily life on three area farms through original music and a still-in-the-making video project. The songs will be performed live (and digitally distributed to those attending), while a trailer of the video is scheduled for screening on-site.

Ms Pond and company will make their way to the nearby Parting Glass stage a few hours later at the conclusion of the evening session of the Fest, following a Sustainable Saratoga sponsored “local currency” presentation and a home grown beef stew dinner (courtesy of nearby farms), complimented by city-brewed legal beverage offerings.

In hearing Pond’s roaring vocals weaving on top of her slow-mo, chord-heavy guitar strikes, one might predict its source as being an 80-year old Delta blues woman, not this lilywhite, twenty-something kids from the ‘burbs. But it all works; with the (now) four piece band gathering acclaim from both the Albany club crowd and the regional music press, including a Best Of nod from Metroland.

Whether Railbird and/or the Ashley Pond Band do eventually climb that slippery ladder to national touring and chart topping success remains to be seen. Regardless, the Capital Region has a pair of creative gems in its midst, which makes their appearances at an event supporting the dynamics of local community all the more appropriate.

Info and discounted advance tickets for the Local living Harvest Fest’s two sessions (Noon and 6PM) are available online at ; via email at or by phone at 518-587-2296.

Jul 19, 2009

Finally! Sarah Borges hits Saratoga on July 26 for track after-party benefit

After a couple of false starts, indie-rock buzzmakers Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles will finally make their Capital Region debut on July 26th (Open House Sunday) as part of the ThoroFan Racing Season Kickoff benefit at the popular Horseshoe Inn, trackside in Saratoga.

A December ‘07 snowstorm kept the Boston-based Borges from doing an unplugged showcase at Caffe Lena; and a chance to open for her longtime hero John Doe (of X fame) had her asking-out of a recent May gig in The Parting Glass.

But these type of things do happen in the music business, and the search for a makeup date in the Spa City lands her in the middle of a horse-racing themed benefit party immediately after the Saratoga Race Course’s annual Open House Day. A good thing, too: the band’s recent and rapid ascent has them suddenly ‘too big’ for venues the size of The P-Glass.

Inspired by their recent nomination as Best New Artist by the Americana Music Association, the quartet is touring nationaly in support of The Stars Are Out, a straight ahead rock album that has Borges being compared to both Chrissy Hynde and Joan Jett. While such are certainly grand tributes, the comparisons are a bit of a surprise to the band’s longtime (and dedicated) followers, who climbed on the Borges bandwagon due to the band’s trademark roots-rock / country-punk beginnings.

“No big deal,” says the energetic and personable Borges. “We just felt like doing a rock album. It’s like anyone’s iPod or CD collection — it’s a mix of styles. So are we.”

A highlight of the Sunday afternnon set is sure to be Do It For Free, a radio-friendly offering getting heavy airplay on stations coast-to-coast, including the local EXIT 97.7 WEXT (who has signed on as a co-presenter). This show wull surely be a fun one, as both the old and the new will be blasting away, courtesy of what some say is the “most danceable band in rock and roll today.”

The rain or shine show — set under The Big Tent at the Horseshoe Inn — is embedded within the Saratoga Racing Season Kickoff event, benefiting the Saratoga-based ThoroFan: the advocacy group for horse racing’s forgotten constituency; the common fan.

Doors open and the party starts at 3PM — right when the race track’s annual (and free) Open House starts winding down. Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles are due on-stage at 4PM. Admission is just $10; all ages (kids free).

Complete event details and Advance Tickets (with NO service fees) are available here.

May 28, 2009

Cutting the fat, Spa City style

Some random, free-form thoughts on the current disussion in Saratoga about the need to axe the budget of the Department of Public Safety as the most logical means of dealing with the city's looming budget difficulties:


In case anyone hasn't noticed; Saratoga is an upper-middle class community. It's daily life is dominated by:

a) Outbound commuters that vacate the town in the AM for jobs further south down the Northway.

b) Retired, semi-retired and minimally employed (by their own choice) folks who waste the days away walking their dogs, sitting in coffee shops and volunteering for community service groups.

c) Capital Region tourists during 9 months of the year, with the occasional influx of small-sized convention attendees and a large scale influx of regional/east coast tourist for six weeks in the summer.

Simply put, the above constituencies tend to be rather well-behaved.

Housing prices are such that individuals prone to breaking the law / committing crimes are 'priced' out of the city.


1. The above realities and facts are not conducive to the scale and scope of the public safety force that this city currently has.

2. Granted, the city has unique needs during that 6-week summer onslaught, BUT its public safety force should not be sized as if it were a 52-week setting.

And finally--to those of you that are confused over the cause & effect relationships between crime rates and police force size & presence:

Might I suggest you go take a Research 101 course at a local institute of higher learning?

Finally: please note that this city is generally recognized as being "one of the most vibrant" and "successful" cities in all of New York State. So why, then, is it experiencing fiscal difficulties that rival those being flet by less-fortunate local governments acrosss the Empire State?

A very simple answer: incompetence.


May 17, 2009

The Dumb Get Dumber

OK, class. Here is today’s business case study:

The Setting:

You own a 100+ year-old business with great historical significance. Unfortunately, your industry is in serious decline, brought on by matters both outside of your own control and matters under your domain that you, frankly, screwed up over the decades. Whereas you once dominated your field, you are now nothing more than an afterthought to the general public, described by some as an anachronism of another age. As a result, your enterprise is on the brink of total failure. In fact, you are currently in formal bankruptcy proceedings.

At your height, you were open for business six months out of the year, with crowds swelling your facility. Fast forward to the present day, and we find that you are operational for just twenty days a year. Even then, very few people show up, and those that do are the retired, the elderly and various incarnations of the derelict class. It’s not a pretty sight.

What keeps you going -- albeit by the slimmest of threads – is a single day within that twenty; a day that serves as the proverbial exception to the rule. By a beneficial fluke, that one spring time afternoon gathers you international attention and serves as an annual regional celebration for those within a ten-hour drive of your front door. And celebrate they do, over 100,000 typically show up for each edition.

Best of all; these attendees are the very target demographic that hold the key to any chance of your future survival – they are young, educated, energetic, and with enough discretionary dollars in their pockets that they will even toss you $50 apiece to walk through your gate for this grand party. Wow!

More people show up on this single day than on the other nineteen combined. They also spend more money – by a huge factor – than the other nineteen combined. Treat them right, and most of them will be back again next year. Hopefully, a smaller percentage of them will even make a return visit on one of those slower days on your calendar.

The Challenge:

What single action might this business take as a mean of leveraging this particular asset in its quest to improve it chances of survival?

Current Management’s Response:

Make a policy decision that is so utterly stupid that it greatly diminishes their desire to attend your annual event.

The Result:

2009 attendance was down dramatically, resulting in significant financial pain for the business. Goodwill has been seriously damaged, thus leaving open the possibility that this customer segment is permanently lost.


So what is the real world identity behind this fiasco? The answer: Magna Entertainment Corporation and its handling of Preakness Day at its Baltimore area thoroughbred horse racing track, Pimlico.

What was the action Magna initiated that resulted in this unfortunate turn of events? The answer: a new admission policy that forbids the entry of coolers and alcohol into the infield party on Preakness Day.

What was Magna’s rationale behind this decision? The answer: The infield party on Preakness Day had become an orgy of drunken excess that was creating a public safety issue.

What was the public’s reaction? The answer: “Let me get this straight: this event serves as my yearly reunion with friends and you won’t let me bring in a cooler after I pay $50 to stand in a field? We're outta here. There's a rock festival up the road”

The Conclusion:

Chalk this up as yet another example of a business – and an industry – that hasn’t a clue.

May it serve as a lesson to NYRA @ Saratoga .....

Update--the official attendance figures over recent years:

Year - Attendance

2009 - 77,850
2008 - 112,222
2007 - 121,263
2006 - 118,402
2005 - 115,318
2004 - 112,668
2003 - 100,268
2002 - 101,138
2001 - 104,454


May 15, 2009

Psssst: Who's Your Dealer?

OK, I need some help here on this:

Question: How is cutting the size of their dealer networks benefiting GM and Chrysler in theor quest to rise from the quicksand?

Granted, there might be too many dealers out there, with some of them encountering profitability concerns in these tough times. But that should be a problem for the dealers, not for the manufacturers. After all, these dealers are independent businesses, buying inventory from Detroit with the hope of re-selling it in their market and servicing their customer base. They are not on GM or Chrysler’s payroll.

Follow-up Question: If two Chrysler dealers are currently operating within a certain geographic range – each with 6 sales people – that makes for a total of twelve of them hawking this brand of vehicles. Knowing that the cost of this sales force doesn’t isn’t borne by Chrysler, isn’t having twelve sales people more advantageous than having six? Not to mention two separate ad budgets being put to work instead of one.

Finally: Doesn’t a smaller franchise network generally lower the value of the franchisor?

Just wondering…

May 4, 2009

The future of radio?

"AM/FM radio has about five good years left, if that. And what we consider to be radio today will be on the Internet. And the Internet websites will be media stations."

- Michael Harrison; founder and publisher of Talkers magazine, the talk-radio industry's trade journal

It sure is refreshing to find someone in this guy's position who's not denying reality for the sake of acting as his industry's cheerleader.

Apr 17, 2009

Random thought of the day

Can someone tell me how I can become a Conceptual Founder, too?

Oh, that's right: this is the kind of post I'm supposed to do with Twitter, not here. Sorry...

Apr 16, 2009

Stop SPAM, save the planet?

I'm certainly not one to defend that scourge called SPAM by any means. But get a load of this news:

The next time you're deleting a piece of spam, consider this: Not only are the unwanted e-mails wasting your time, they're also costing the planet.

That's because spam has a sizable carbon footprint -- using 33 billion kilowatt hours (KWh) each year, according to a report by security vendor McAfee.

But McAfee also said that if every inbox were protected by a state-of-the-art spam filter, the energy required to deal with spam could be reduced by 75 percent -- the equivalent of taking 2.3 million cars off the road.

That's because filters use less energy than humans do. Humans delete each spam individually, taking up to three seconds per spam e-mail. Machines are more efficient and filters account for only about 16 percent of annual spam energy use, the report found.

Have you ever read a bigger piece of BS than this?

Naturally, McAfee sells the aforementioned filters - and publsihed the 'news' story.

Boycott McAfee. Because stupidity sucks.



Tax Day Tea Party: it's all somebody's fault!

A popular theory in economic sociology goes like this: if an American civil war were to arise between the Haves and the Have-Nots, the middle class would side with the former because that is where its ambitions lie. In other words, as long as that carrot is being dangled out there on a stick, Joe Everyman will elect to reach for the rabbit food as opposed to beating the crap out of the guy who’s teasing him with the promise of riches.

Which brings us to this week’s Tax Day Tea Party rallies across the country. Spurred on by MSNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s on-air Rant of the Yearagainst … something or other … on the floor of the Chicago Exchange, these events were themed to showcase the rising dissatisfaction against … something or other … on the part of the US taxpayer. Not quite on point, for sure, for the point is elusive in these complex times.

Sure, we all know there’s a big mess out there --- but that is where the consensus ends and the blame game begins. The Haves (aka Larry Kudlow’s darling Investor Class) point their shaky finger, naturally, at the usual suspects: it’s all Barney Frank’s fault because he’s, well; Barney Frank! Or in a larger sense, the blame lies in the lap of ‘government’; with this week’s spin used by the right wing media mouthpieces being ‘financial industry misregulation.’

Mr. Santelli, to his credit, certainly isn’t one of those robot wingnuts. He understands markets, he can state a case using good old fashioned cause & effect logic and he is passionate in his beliefs without wrapping them around a cheap agenda. His daily segments have long been enjoyed in this corner.

But it’s when Santelli’s concern with the moral hazard aspect of possible homeowner mortgage relief (admittedly a legitimate conversation to be having) suddenly devolves into a scene where he’s leading a cheerleading section of bond option traders and saying “This is America” that has some of us scratching our heads. Quick: when was the last time you were out slugging down some brewskis with a bond option trader?

Let’s summarize what we think is their point, using a School Daze analogy:

Thirty years of influence pedaling by the local dope dealer industry has given the mischievous school kids at Rock & Roll High School both unlimited signed hallway passes to go smoke crack in the boys’ room (think: Glass-Segall) and has laid off all the truant officers so the kids can move that party to unsupervised latchkey kids’ homes (think: hedge funds and mortgage backed securities). The result: a few months later we find that we have a bunch of junkie kids running wild and constantly breaking into their neighbors’ houses: all hell is breaking loose in the ‘burbs. The citizenry suddenly wants a new school administration and it wants those truant officers back on the job; pronto.

But Citizen Santelli sees moral hazard here. After all, some kids took advantage of those loosey-goosey school policies and didn’t raise holy heck. Why, there are even rumors of a couple youngsters using that freedom to volunteer at the Senior Center! Why punish them because of the deeds of a few?

Memo to Santelli: did you miss the part about “all hell is breaking loose in the ‘burbs?”

What the counter argument solution to the problem posed by this admittedly-weak little scenario would be from the Tea Party bunch is unclear. Would they argue that a hands-off approach will eventually result in the junkie kids self-policing, growing up and becoming solid members of the community some day soon? Or is this just creating an exciting new market opportunity for entrepreneurial pursuit: gated communities, private armies and fortress-like home security systems? Who knows.

Indeed, finger pointing is a tricky thing. If you’re blaming the ‘big government’ scary monster, does that mean you’re sticking up for the AIG/Countrywide/CitiGroup/etc Den of Thieves? The concise argument has yet to be fine-tuned by the Haves to the liking of their traditional middle class allies, who (so far) are sitting on the sidelines and looking for a scorecard to help figure out this who-what-why of this Hindenburg.

Hence the fizzle factor of the Tea Party thing: it really wasn’t that big a success now, was it? For sure, the Limbaughs and O’Reillys latched on to the sound bite aspect of The Rant – of which I would wager Mr Santelli isn’t all that happy about. That, in turn, has rallied the usual suspects to the cause: the guys that spend all day flipping between sports talk and Fox News for their daily info fixes. You know who we’re talking about here: they can give you the career stats on a 5th-round linebacker prospect from Texas Tech but couldn’t begin to explain what a credit default swap is. But they think Ann Coulter is kinda hot, in a trashy sort of way. But that’s about all they’ve got so far.

Equally off-message, unorganized and inactive is the wild card of the political middle class; the left wing. Not since the Seattle uprising of a decade ago has this mishmash of various hopes and fears pulled together to make a stink. So where are they now that we need them, even if only for the street theater? Given the times, that question just might be the biggest mystery of all.

Meanwhile, the Have Nots show no interest in playing a starring (or even supporting) role in the Revolution. Hell; there’s not really even a Revolution going on anyways! Instead, they seem content either making it happen in the Underground Economy or flushing the pain away with regular fixes of dope, violence, junk food or network television.

They remain, as is usually the case in American history, invisible and politically orphaned.


Apr 6, 2009

Who needs work? Now we can just bang on our drums all day

During the course of this past weekend, I completed the following commercial transactions:

Self serve grocery checkout
Self serve gas fill-up on the Turnpike
ATM cash withdrawal
Online e-book purchase & delivery
Online train ticket purchase (w/future kiosk pickup)
Online event purchase & ticket printout

All six have one thing in common: none involved my interacting with another human being. All six would have involved one a half-generation ago; a couple would have required such just a few years back.

My reason for keeping track of the obvious must be the fact that I just completed reading (for at least the third time) the 1995 book The End of Work. Here, author Jeremy Rifkin makes us face the fact that technology and its inherent productivity gains are resulting in an inevitable decline of jobs, many of which will not be offset by knowledge / service sector replacements. The ramifications of this sea change are immense --– read the book for some insight.

Certainly, a good deal of Rifkin’s reality check has been cloaked by the cheap & easy credit(primarily thru home equity) Ponzi Economy of the past twenty-five years. But, as we are now aware, that rooster has come home to rest…

Interrupting that train of thought was a conversation on immigration policy -- brought about, naturally, by Friday’s insanity in Binghamton. My traveling companion -- who for some reason is of the Republican persuasion – wondered why his party (the Country Club wing of it, at least) tended to favor large immigration numbers. This, he felt, was contrary to their general inclination of ‘exclusive membership’ standards.

The answer (to me, at least) is obvious: more immigrants result in cheaper labor and ever-rising housing demand. Right there are two of the main stars of any GOP fantasy dream.


Write a check; ensure integrity!

Campaign elections are expensive; the bills keep rolling in even after Election Day. It's tough enough squeezing people for money before the race, darn near impossible to do it after. So, a good campaign needs a GIMMICK!

Jim Tedisco has one to get you to write him one more check. Here we go, direct from his campaign website:

I need your support now more than ever! Will you donate today to protect the integrity of this election?

With your help we will fight to ensure that every legal vote is counted fairly and accurately. This election deserves to be decided by the voters – the voice of the people. We cannot let the democratic process fall victim to carelessness or dirty tricks.

You can help us today by making a donation to the Tedisco Ballot Integrity Fund. Your financial support of this fund will give us the resources to protect the integrity of this election. When the votes are counted, I firmly believe we will win and we will send a strong conservative voice to Washington.

Didn't John Sweeney make his name within the GOP ensuring some ballot integrity down in Florida in 2000? You remember Congressman Kickass, right? Isn't this old hand available to help Jimmy Disco in his time of need?

Oh, that's right: Mr Sweeney is a bit pre-occupied this week with his own problems.

Mar 30, 2009

Prediction: Tedisco vs Murphy on March 31


Murphy by 5%

No science; no polling; no man-on-the-street interviews.

Just a gut feeling ....


Mouth: You kinda blew that one, Gut ole boy.

Gut: Whatcha mean? Murphy's ahead.

Mouth: Not by no five percent, he isn't.

Gut: Five percent? I said five votes!

Mouth: Yeah, right. Tell ya what -- next time we try to forecast an election, we'll get Brains and Muscles involved.

Asleep at the switch

The Capital Region’s so-called ‘alternative newspaper’ is hit with a $65 million lawsuit as part of a tale with more plot twists than a Russian novel, and nothing about it from any of the local media outlets in the two weeks since? The story is finally broken by a rabble-rousing blogger over the weekend

Maybe the mainstream media is deserving of the fate to which it is currently being dealt.


A Spa City love fest

Republicans are embracing Democrats, and vice versa. Independents are hugging rank and file members of all political parties. Liberals and Conservatives are hooking up. Most amazing: city Democrats are even united as one!

What miracle could have brought this unheard-of spectacle about, you ask? The answer: the universal reaction (or better yet: revulsion) to the recently-released design for the updated City Center convention facility in the city’s downtown commercial district.

Looking like the textbook modernist school of architecture train wreck that it is, certain city officials perfected the “I really haven’t a clue” routine during the photo-op unveiling last week. While the civic design community has rejected this particular style as nothing more than an embarrassing historical mistake that gave the profession a black eye sure to last for generations, Saratoga’s leadership apparently thinks it to be a good idea to drop 1970’s urban renewal glass and steel into the city’s historic Victorian downtown landscape. Good thinking, folks.

The best regional comparison to this fiasco might be the Troy Atrium project – the two buildings look frighteningly similar. The City Council might be well-advised to take a road trip to the Collar City to discover just how well that particular project worked out. And then figure out a way to stop this disaster before the announced ‘late spring’ groundbreaking.



It’s the leverage, stupid!

Quality is a niche concept in this age of mass consumption and production. Cheap shit rules -- in both physical and intangible forms.

Musical performances by Britney, Rhianna, Yanni and Billy & Elton (cheap shit) sell out the Times Union Center, while any dozens of under-the radar (quality) acts come through town in any given month to play before empty seats in small rooms. The drive-thru lines are ten-deep at fast food joints (cheap), while family–owned neighborhood restaurants (quality) are disappearing faster than Greenland ice fields. Mass produced posters of romantic notions of home by some guy who bills himself as The Painter of Light (cheap) likely hang on more living rooms walls than all (quality) artists combined. On and on it goes…

The same holds true for information. Oprah and The View (cheap shit) draw millions more eyeballs than a Charlie Rose or a Front Line segment (quality). Talking heads delivering their peppy and perky twenty-second sound bites (cheap) are framed as journalists, while real examples of investigative reporters (quality) are few and far between. After all, who would publish their work, anyways? Then, of course, we have the Einsteins of the new political commentary order – the Hannitys, Limbaughs, Coulters and O’Reillys of the airwaves - playing to the cheap seats with their calls for a Redneck Uprising; all via a supposedly liberally biased infrastructure, remember. So the hunt for quality becomes an effort --- but maybe that’ how it should be; who knows.

Steve Forbes is a good American. When I hear him speak, I’m reminded of Newt Gingrich: I’m right there with both of them on the first 80% of what they have to say, but it’s that final 20% that goes off the deep end and makes me shudder. But they’re both presenting an intellectual argument backing up their conclusions (quality); and hey, 80% is a pretty good start, right? Besides, Mr Forbes is good enough to invite me to his bash up at The Sagamore each autumn, and that’s always a sure bet for getting on my good side.

Part of the Forbes media empire (if those things still exist anymore) is a series of newsletters on a variety of subjects revolving around a centralized ‘money’ theme. Of interest to the typical reader of this blog is one put out by Josh Wolfe called the Forbes/Wolfe Emerging Tech Report. With an emphasis on nanotech and cleantech trends and developments, it is a pricy paid product. But a free weekly summary version – which goes a bit wider into pressing issues of the day -- called The Weekly Insider can be had by emailing . I recommend it.

A recent issue offered insight into the housing crisis, with a look at the thinking of Yale economist John Geanakoplos. His recent publication, called “End the Obsession with Interest” contends that the real problem is leverage (the down payment requirement), not interest rates, when it comes to the problem of housing boom and bust cycles. To wit:

“In standard economic theory, the interest rate has long been regarded as the most important variable. Whenever the economy slows, and asset prices fall, economists clamor for lower interest rates to encourage more spending, and the U.S. Federal Reserve usually obliges. It has recently obliged again, lowering the bank rate to nearly zero. But sometimes, especially in times of crisis, it's the collateral a borrower needs to post (or what economists call leverage) that is far more important.

Yet variation in leverage has a huge impact on the price of assets, contributing to economic bubbles and busts …… in the absence of intervention, leverage becomes too high in boom times, and too low in bad times. As a result, in boom times asset prices are too high, and in crisis times they are too low. This is the leverage cycle.”

His takeaway point:

“What the Federal Reserve should do is manage leverage, curtailing it in ebullient times and propping it up in anxious times — especially in a crisis like now. Instead, it remains obsessed with managing the economy by lending money to banks at lower and lower interest rates, hoping, for no good reason, that the banks will turn around and lower the collateral requirements they impose on borrowers.”

Good stuff, and typical of what you’ll find in Mr Wolfe’s work. Sign up, if so inclined.


Mar 2, 2009

Transcripts from a Job Interview: Attack of the Killer Drones

The following is a real conversation that took place on Friday. The setting: my first meeting with someone who had expressed interest in getting on board with a new venture we are associated with as that venture's first salesman.

The Applicant (hereafter 'TA'): a fresh faced and energetic young man of about 23-25 years of age. Nanoburgh = 'NB'.

NB: Do you have any questions on the email I sent you which detailed the roles and responsibilities as we envision them at this time?

TA: I took a brief glimpse. But before we go there, let's discuss the compensation for this position.


TA: How will I be compensated for my time?

NB: Well, I don't look at it that way. I prefer to look at it as compensating you for your 'success', not your time.

TA: But I have a limited amount of time in my day and if I devote it to you I need to be compensated fully for it, right? I mean, that's business.

NB: I'm not sure about the 'fully' part. I would hope that a portion of that 'fully' would be based on that aforementioned 'success' thing. How am I protected from paying you a large mount of money up-front and then not seeing any results from that investment?

TA: Well, then you can fire me if I don't perform.

NB: I'm not good at firing people.

TA: Well, what is your severance package?

NB: Excuse me?

TA: If you were to fire me, what would I get in severance?

NB: Let me get this straight: you're asking me what our severance package is, right here in the first 2 minutes of your first job interview with us?

TA: Severance is all part of the negotiations.

NB: Tell you what. The coffee is on me, please enjoy it. But I need to run.

As much as I hate to play the 'generational' card; can someone please tell me why Gen Y (or Z or whatever letter we are up to) tends to have zero inclination for entrepreneurial pursuits?


Theory 1 (as offered by today's coffee mate): graduating collge students today are burdened with college-debt loads that are immensely larger than past decades, so they are forced into 'wage' jobs as opposed to having the luxury of engaging in a startup or 'Big Score' type of opportunity.



Feb 25, 2009

Get those hands off my ...

Now this story has already gotten its fair share of play this week, but we just couldn't resist piling on. Here are the bullet points:

- Young 16yo lad (pictured) gets to jones'ing for some brewskis, and proceeds to procure a 30-pack of Budweisers.

- Lad's dad discovers this stash and proceeds to take ownership of it.

- Young man objects and demands either the return of the beer or monetary compensation.

- Dad refused both offers.

- Lad stabs Dad in the back with a pen knife.

- Dad drives self to hospital.

- Lad is locked up.

Now, once we get over the somewhat humorous aspect of this incident, there are some rather important questions that need to be asked:

1) Was the Lad in his right to require compensation for his persoanl property; and was Dad obliged to provide it? Or does the fact that the Lad is a minor, under Dad's supervision, negate that requirement? What role does the fact that it is illlegal for a 16yo to possess alcohol play in this matter?

2) What exactly is a Budweiser 30-pack?

UPDATE: our crack research team has uncovered a photo of this new consumer product. It has also learned that there is an easy can-dispensing cut-out on it, which ensure the frosties keep on a coming.

3) Is that a mullet the kid is wearing on his head? I thought those things went out the door with that giy who sang Achy Breaky Heart?

Feb 15, 2009

The Dance Flurry rides again

One of the region's very best participatory and musical events is taking place again this weekend in downtown Saratoga Springs. The Dance Flurry -- which was on the financial ropes just a couple of years ago due to the effects from an uninvited ice storm -- is back at it, to the delight of the mob of happy feet that have it marked on their 'must-do' calendars each and every year.

Even if one isn't a dancer (but why wouldn't you be, on this weekend at least?), the musical offerings are a fantastic treat. Digging deep into both the Americana and world music playbooks, there are always dozens of acts that you never heard of before but can be guaranteed will soothe your soul upon introduction.

For the third year in a row, I am out of state as this shindig unfolds. Now there's a problem I need to fix, pronto. In the meantime, make a point of sending a "job well done" note to the event's hard working volunteer organizers sometime in the next few days, along with a couple of dollars to support them in making it happen again.


(Photo: Timothy H Rabb, Photographer and the Dance Flurry Organization)

Feb 9, 2009

Want to run for office? Hit broadcast school

Tracy Egan? Benita Zahn? Roger Wyland????

All three local news/health/sports-casters have had their names tossed about as potential candidates for elected offices as of late.

I guess that being able to READ news stories qualifies one as being a capable and qualified politican?

This must be the Reagan Legacy I hear so much about.

What's Liz Bishop up to?


Feb 3, 2009

The Senate blows a big one

The AP reports:

The Senate voted Tuesday to give a tax break to new car buyers, setting aside bipartisan concerns over the size of an economic stimulus bill with a price tag approaching $900 billion. The vote was 71-26 to allow many car buyers to claim an income tax deduction for the cost of automobile sales taxes and interest payments on car loans.

That loud scream you just heard in the distance was Jim Kunstler and the rest of the sustainable cities /new urbanism movement.

So where's the change when we keep on encouraging the types of behavior that got us into this mess in the first place? What's next, a new tax incentive for home buyers?

Oops, one of those is in the news feed, too.


Feb 2, 2009

Classrooms: size doesn't matter

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of a debate on the particulars, I think it is safe to make the following generalization:

"While our nation's elementary & secondary schools are viewed as being failures, our university system is looked upon as being successful in accomplishing its mission."

Point: Many university-level classes (especially at the undergraduate level) are large in class-size, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of students.

Question: Why, then, are we exepected to buy the "smaller class size is the key to improving our local schools" argument?

Theory: Maybe it is because 'smaller class size', by definition, requires a greater number of teachers?



Jan 27, 2009

It's not always a first-mover advantage

It was interesting to learn today that Facebook now attracts twice the number of unique monthly users (225million vs 125million) when compared to MySpace.

Lesson Learned #1: The old-media baggage / mindset that corporate owner News Corp is brining to the table is having a toxic effect on its MySpace property.

Lesson Learned #2: The race isn’t always to the first horse out of the gate. The B-schools can stop with that first-mover mantra now.

On the second point: I remember when I first started hearing of this new kid on the block called Google several years back.. My reaction was “does the world really need another search engine given that Yahoo seems to be meeting the market’s need just fine?”

Just goes to show how smart I am, huh?


Jan 26, 2009

The Field Guide to Winning Elections

(2009 revised edition)

Hometown hero Jim ‘Point Guard’ Tedisco has long referred to himself as Mr. Schenectady, champion of the people of his beloved and native Electric City in the NYS Assembly throughout his political career. But he now wants to get promoted, with his eyes on Kirsten Gillibrand’s former seat representing the 20th Congressional District.

There’s only one technicality here: Schenectady is not part of the 20th Congressional District. Instead, he is lifelong resident of the currently configured 21st.

“Not to worry,” might go Assemblyman T’s counter argument. “My new wife still has her name listed as the owner of a home up there in Saratoga -- for now at least -- so that makes it all good.”

The fact that Mr. Tedisco chose not to take a shot at the vacant 21st seat in last November’s election would have seemed the more appropriate contest to enter, of course. But there’s an ‘enrollment’ problem within those boundaries. Simply put: there are too many of those darned Democrats in the 21st District, forcing a Republican such as Point Guard really needing work it if he wants to punch that ticket to DC. The neighboring 20th, however– with its large Republican advantage – should be the easier fish to fry.

Incumbents have long been castigated for their dirty little trick of re-drawing district boundaries in such a way to tilt the deck (i.e., their individual re-election prospects) in their favor; a process called gerrymandering. Tedisco has a better idea: let’s just look at the state map as it now exists and find a race somewhere that I can waltz through.

Let’s think how I might apply this logic to my advantage: my very own hubby is in the not-so-proud possession of a two-week timeshare unit, which gives him (and me, I would hope) access to over 300 temporary living quarters scattered in various communities and resorts all over the world. I guess I need to start researching each one, to see where I can go run for some local office and collect an extra paycheck. Better yet: four or five of them at once! Why not?

H’mmmm: maybe I can be a councilwoman in Vail; a county legislator in Maui; the coroner in Miami Beach (nah; scratch that none); the mayor of Steamboat Springs; the commissioner of deeds in some little town in the Outer Banks ….


Jan 24, 2009

Prediction: Bruno's ghost (and family) will get the last laugh

News of Uncle Joe Bruno's indictment on federal corruption charges suprised very few here in the Capital Region on Friday. But aren't those Feds real party-poopers, timing it on the same day as Kirsten Gillibrand's ascention to the US Senate. Not nice, boys ...

Yes, I read the complete indictment -- and had two reactions:

1) At least five of the six charges seem to make a pretty darn strong case, to this set of amateur eyes, at least.

2) It's kind of scary how many people and companies mentioned in the indictments I actually know! O, SmAlbany!

But I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a rather bizzare set of predictions:

- Mr Bruno will go to trial
- Mr Bruno will be found guilty of most (if not all) six charges
- He will be sentenced to prison and required to forfeit $3million+ in asssets
- But he won't serve a day nor lose a penny

An explanation:

Remember Ken Lay of Enron fame and misfortune? Now recall the result of his trial: Guilty, Guilty, Guilty! But, one-half of the "Smartest Guys in the Room" exercised his legal right to appeal that decision --- and died of heart disease before the appeal was ruled upon.

Shortly thereafter, a judge vacated Lay's conviction on the grounds that the defendant had not enjoyed the opportunity to exhast all remedies offered by the judicial process. Furthermore, a judge ruled that all asset claims were invalid, because "the courts shouldn't be able to punish a dead defendant or his estate." His family is partying-on to this day on old Ken's tainted cash.

Let's do some math, then, on Mr Bruno's situation. Uncle Joe, the stubborn guy that he is, will not take a plea deal but will instead (no doubt) vow to take 'em on in a public court. That will take about three years to happen, the way the system slugs along and the lawyers rack up the billing-chits. The trial itself will take another three months. This will take us to the Spring of 2012.

Assume for the moment that he is found guilty as charged. We all know the drill and what happens about six months later: "Your honor, my client appeals his convition." Papers get shuffled, FAX machine crank (yes: the legal profession still uses FAX machines), the lawyers keep visiting the bank and the calendar now finds itself with a number of 2013 on it. The Appeals court might rule sometime deep into that year. But will Joe be around to hear it?

Joe Bruno is currently 79 years of age. By the time the above scenario reaches its end, he will be either 83 or 84. Bruno has health issues (cancer) and is now faced with a pronlonged period of great personal stress -- and we all know what stress can do to a person's heath, especially an elderly person's health. He's already looking like Hell, as witnessed at his shaky press conference in front of the cameras yesterday.

The bottom line is that there is a reasonably-likely chance that Mr Bruno might not survive (i.e., 'die') before that appeal is ruled upon, way out there in future years. Go ask an insurance company actuary for verification on this matter.

Now, I'm certainly not trying to predict the death-date of a living human being: that job is already taken by somone much better qualified. I am just painting a possible picture here.

But look at that picture closely. Joe Bruno gets convicted; he appeals; he dies before the appeal is ruled upon. Conviction vacated; all assets in question (that $3million+ that was gained as a result of the corrupt activities in question) are returned to his estate. It's party time in Brunswick! Now wouldn't that be a kick?

They better start looking right now for a giant photo of Joe Bruno that shows him grinning from ear to ear. There's a good chance they will need it to place above his coffin in the funeral home someday.