Jun 30, 2010

Where went entrepreneurship?

Question: Why is entrepreneurship suddenly missing in the US, especially among the Under-35 crowd?

My Top 10 theories:

1) college debt

2) a lack of imagination, due to highly structured childhoods (soccer and Little Leagues,after school activities, etc)

3) the advent of the highly customized & personalized life experience (ipods, educational tracks, media consumption, etc) causes an inability to feel part of a larger group

4) the rarity of kids being allowed to run unsupervised leads to an inability to collaborate

5) the view from the conservative / coporate media machine (ex: why does every third TV show glorify working for a large law firm?)

6) the brainwashing by the housing industry that convinces 20-somethings to buy a house

7) the de-emphasis of liberal arts in higher ed (which provide the building blocks for making big-pic biz decisons)

8) the societal emphasis on short-term rewards and consumption (get a job, get a paycheck; buy a car)

9) fear of failure

10) a weak work ethic

(from a current FaceBook thread)

Jun 27, 2010

Click this Link (below), Lock Me Up?

Who needs Chris Matthews? We got Hardball going on right over here!

There sure is some weird, weird shit going on over at the Saratoga In Decline blog, no?

Stepping out of the crossfire on the specific direct matter at hand, what's most interesting to us are some of the big-picture issues that are raised here as a result of the attorney's demand letter.

If a street address was published: well, maybe that wasn't the best thing to do in the first place, but we don't pretend to be experts in such legalese. But a Hate Crime? Exposing to Danger? And of utmost note: the counsel seeks to toss everyone under the sun into this cesspool, including those who offer comments and those that link to the ongoing discussion? Wowie.

Interesting stuff, bringing front and center questions about such concepts as: Freedom of Speech protections; libel; the abetting of libel; hiding behind 'net anonymity; seeking the ID's of those anonymous and offending individuals; the concept of what exactly IS public information and on and on.

Both fascinating and troubling: I'd love to hear some legal opinions on this type of reach.

I have a feeling this is gonna get real ugly, real quick.

Stay tuned. I know that we will.


Jun 24, 2010

A tribute? Fine. Now when does Saratoga get the truth--or at least a discussion?

Rewind: let's (again) point out some heavy BS

If there are competing visions for Saratoga, you wouldn't know it by reading the local paper

Earth To Saratogian: there are!

Due to popular demand (well, five people, but who's counting?), here is a link to a repeat appearance of a commentary originally published here in January of this year:

Saratoga Springs: A Miracle, Revisionist History or Simply a Missing Conversation?

(click the above link to read the article from our archives)

From the requests, it appears that this interest in going retro with Nanoburgh is due to the controversy surrounding the attention and accolades being given to the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce's outgoing leader Joe Dalton. Take note of the Comments section in the Saratogian's tribute HERE. Also take note of the Saratogian's general take on the matter at hand. How many times can one use the word Tribute? Hmm, let's find out.

Three points:

1. I don't doubt Mr Dalton's sincerity in seeking to accomplish things what he feels were for the betterment of this city. I don't know the gentleman, but I think that the deeply personal level of attacks on him that one sees on the newspaper's Comments page are improper.

2. Yes, the sense among most native/long time Saratogians such as myself is that there IS a certain level of revisionist history that has taken place in the recent years, which we feel has the single purpose of enabling and supporting the future prosepcts of select special interests in the city.

3. Those special interests are easily identifiable: the local housing industry and its allied partners.

That's my opinion -- but as said, one that I know is widely shared. But it is just that: an opinion. Others will disagree. I would certainly enjoy having that debate with them, which is what the spirit of the original post was all about.

Because the secondary problem here is this: The Saratogian certainly isn't willing to play that role.

Going, going, gone

The old Yankee Stadium, now down to its last few piles of rubble. This is the view from a couple weeks back, with the replacement park in the background.

Jun 23, 2010

Dude, THERE'S my car!

Our colleague and friend Joe Paris shoots us this picture of a new- fangled parking garage in his about - to - be new home 'burgh of Munich, Germany. Yes, this is a real life, functioning operation.

Now, I get the efficient use of space thing. But how does it handle a rush of business? For example:

- If this is placed near a giant office building and six hundred people get out of work at the same time, all looking for their car at once, how does this 'one at a time' process handle such peak demand?

The image itself give a weird vibe, doesn't it? I think that's because when we think of 'cars', we think of them in a horizontal context -- moving from Point A to Point B across the landscape. To see them in this vertical mode tosses that perspective out the door.

Jun 22, 2010

Starbucks seeks its sweet spot

Long a holdout, the Starbucks coffee shop chain yesterday announced that it would switch from having paid WiFi in its shops to unlimited access for its customers' use.

In related news, company officials announced that the shops will also now offer running water and air conditioning.

Back to the Wifi: there was something about a new 'Starbucks Digital Network' being part of the new policy. How come I small a catch?

Starbucks is a case of a large national chain losing its mojo, with its locally-owned competitors making a serious push-back in towns across the land. Its Seattle hipster brand image now seems superceded by that of a lumbering behemoth struggling to free itself from a mud pit. Its failed music foray, last year's store design change and its downscaled menu all offer proof.

Such local comebacks are a rare; but here's to hoping it could be the start of a trend.

Manager vs Umpire: who ya got?

Have you ever wondered what is being said in any of those raging arguments that you see during baseball games?

Well if so: here's an inside look at one of these Einstein-level discussions, starring Earl Weaver (an expert in this matter) and Tom Haller going at it in the early 80's.

Jun 21, 2010

Come Together: Ben Osborn, RIP

Just in from a morning time-out, spent lining Canada Street with neighbors to welcome home Army Spec Ben Osborn to his beloved Lake George. The young man was killed last week in the Afghan War.

An informal motorcade slowly passes. Local public safety units leading the way. Dozens of bikers. A lonely, dark hearse, followed by more dark cars filled with ashen faces. Friends, classmates, co-workers and others following suit. The calliope on the Minnie Ha Ha playsng God Bless America as they turn down the Beach Road. A single volley from the fort. People from all walks of life standing together, united with a combination of sadness and honor.

Then it's over and everyone goes back to choosing their side in this near Civil War within our own nation.

I doubt that's the vision Mr Osborn had in mind when he started his own morning last Tuesday, so far away from home.

Jun 18, 2010

Uh oh: Joe Barton is sorry again

Congressman Joe Barton is at it again: now he's apologizing to Japan and Germany for the "war reparations shakedown" after WWII.

He noted that the Democrats were behind that one, too.

While we're at it, let's dig thru the archives and get Joe's take on carbon emissions:

"It’s odorless, colorless, tasteless, doesn’t cause cancer, doesn’t cause asthma… there’s nobody that’s ever been admitted to a hospital because of CO2 poisoning.”
(May 2009 on C-Span)

Joe Barton, you are the GOP's Policy Wonk of the Month!

Jun 15, 2010

Woodmen of the World

On those days that I greet the morning sun in the Empire State, my morning jaunt takes me past an old cemetery. In its western most row is this interesting stone, complete with a wooden log at its apex:

Given its location on the edge of the Adirondacks, my initial assumption was that the deceased were involved in the lumber industry. But that proved to be incorrect, according to followup research (known in the modern lingo as Google'ing).

The Woodmen of the World is a society that has offered financial security to Americans from the late 19th century to the modern day. Its founder was impressed by how early settlers would clear away forest parcels as a means of ensuring his family's future, and offered a set of insurance policies with that same mission.

Built-in to the company's philosophy was that no member would be buried without a grave marker, which became a benefit of every policy. For an extra charge, members could elect to upgrade to a full blown headstone. Stone cutters around the nation then unleashed their creativity, with checks arriving in the mail charging them with creating wood-themed burial stones. This picture shows one local example.

Cemeteries are dotted with other variations. There are even some folks that scour the land, hunting them down, trading photos and keeping an archival record of each and every one.

Jun 14, 2010

Hail the Queen - Zenyatta makes it 17/17

A local matchup with Rachael Alexandra?

The calendar suddenly shows that it could work

She enjoys a frosty Guinness after work, which should play well with the Parting Glass crowd. She has dance moves that would make Balanchine and the local NYC Ballet crowd swoon in delight. And she has the kind of winning attitude and arrogant self confidence that cold make her millions on the moitivational lecture circuit, if not for the fact that she's a horse.

She's the magnificent Zenyatta.

Here she is winning yesterday's Vanity Handicap in her typical "I think I'll hang out here in the back for a mile while y'all pretend you can beat me" racing style:

Once again, she somehow gets up at the wire to overtake a very game and talented rival to whom she was giving nine pounds of weight. The victory made her 17 for 17 lifetime, a North American record and a feat that is beyond description in a sport where only about 40% of all registered thoroughbreds win a single race in their individual lifetimes.

Meanwhile, local dolly Rachel Alexandra announced that she is BACK, with a smashing open lenghts victory in the Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Let's see: here we are in mid-June. Horses of this caliber usually space their races out in 5 to 7 week intervals. That would get us to awfully darn close -- if not in -- Saratoga season, wouldn't it? One can dream, right?

'Cus gee whiz: could this sport --- as well as New York racing --- ever use such an event...

Jun 13, 2010

New Urbanism is Old Urbanism - A Case Study

Marblehead, Mass: doing it right by leaving it the way it is

My politically conservative friends (yes, I have few) all tend to have an infatuation with real estate, thinking that housing is the primary driver of economic growth and that the whole world revolves around that mistaken assumption.

Community development, then, is treated as nothing more than code speak for the engagement of government's support in the buildout of the available and desirable land in any territory and the subsequent ongoing enhancement of those parcels with ever more financially valuable upgrades. Attempts to add other objectives under the community development umbrella -- restrictive zoning or historic preservation, for instance -- tend to be viewed as obstructionist, bringing about the popular "standing in the way of progress"rallying cry.

Those of us with a clearer and more progressive (as opposed to liberal, thank you very much) point of view tend to look at the concept of communities a bit differently. Namely, as places where people live. Community development, then, should strive to enhance the human experience, and significant building projects in any given locale should be subject to a "how does this enhance or detract from?" just that.

Hence the rise of the so-called New Urbanists. Tired and disdainful of the socially and ecologically damaging effects of ever-growing suburban sprawl and equally concerned about the given-up-for-dead condition of American cities, a movement was born with a goal of reversing both of those trends.

We've harped upon this "everything old is new again" concept repeatedly in this forum, with an obvious bias in support of its general framework. More of the same is not needed at this time. But, my new camera had me itching to kick out the jams the other day and let the shutter fly, so I strolled around the neighborhood of one of my base camps for some initial runs of the SONY 35mm digital. As I started snapping some pics, it dawned on me that I was creating a scrapbook of sorts of an excellent example of a 'new urbanist' community , up close and personal. But this one isn't new, it's actually one of the originals!

Marblehead, Massachusetts is a North Shore harbor town above Boston. Settled all the way back in 1629, it was your typcial New World port-side community, strongly and directly linked to the water. As the population grew, Marblehead's street grid expanded from the water inland, up the gently rolling hills and into the western woods. Given the times, individuals in the community relied heavily on one another for survival, which resulted in their living in densely-packed neighborhoods on narrow streets, with their work, trade and socializing needs all met within a very small radius. There werent no striving eager beavers living 30 miles away becasue a m,an;s castle is his castle and the school's are just soooo good out there. Sound familiar, doesn't it? There's Old Urbanism / New Urbanism at work.

Remarkably, Marblehead has retained at least the physical aspects of that world. Today, a stroll through the old town section reveals side-by-side, streetside residential homes marked with plaques, educatiing passers-by to the original build date of the structures and the name and profession of the first residents. Many of the buidlings date back to the 1700's.

So, here you go: some snaps of Marblehead taken last week. Yeah, I know I'm no Annie Leibowitz here yet, but there sure are a whole bunch of controls to this thing to master! Just get a look at the streets, homes, bay--and even the famous (infamous?) Maddie's Sail Loft!

Jun 8, 2010

Boycott SPAC

Just in case anyone was unsure as to the REAL motivation behind the Gestapo - like police presence and heavy - handed actions at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), I hereby offer to the court:

Join the movement: Boycott SPAC.