Archive for July, 2008

Pot Pourri

I’ve been remiss in finding the time to post lately, so I’ll make a few comments on miscellaneous non-tech topics as a place holder. Hope to get to something more substantive soon. (And yes, I’m a closet Jeopardy fan.)

Windbags

Are you as sick of hearing the word “headwinds” as I am? I admit to using it more than once as an analyst, where it has a fairly long tradition as shorthand for “difficulty ahead” or “resistance to achieving one’s goals”. But now, not only is it everywhere in the financial press, but the mainstream has picked it up (and stomped all over it). It seems that the word shows up at least once in any article anywhere that talks about the current economic situation. Enough already, find something new!

Anybody Staying Home?

We seem to be off to an awfully early start in the “centering” part of our program. That’s where each candidate–after genuflecting to the extremes of his party in an attempt to win nomination–now tries to make everyone believe they’ve really been in the middle all along. This morning’s Wall St. Journal editorial even accuses Obama of shifting so far to the right he’s the one trying to serve Bush’s 3rd term.

Each time this happens, the press is full of cautions or anecdotes about how this will cause the faithful to not vote for their nominee. But what are they going to do, now that there are really only two choices? Would left-leaning Obamaniacs abstain and risk McCain nominating more conservative Supremes? Are there any conservative evangelicals who dislike McCain so much they’re willing to chance someone in the Oval Office that they believe (erroneously, to be sure) is a Muslim?

Yes, there are probably some self-styled strategists who will let the other guy get elected so he can fail, and then the party can get a “real” president in office in 2012. But I just don’t see the average voter thinking this way. On the other hand, people will do pretty stupid things when they’re angry. We’ll see whether this is the case, or it’s just the usual bleating by the media, ultra-liberals, and far-right conservatives.

The real issue, I think, is who will be more believable as a centrist.

Things I’m Tired Of

How Apple is going to dominate the world. New oil price records. Incorrect predictions–they’re ALL incorrect–about how long our non-recession is going to last. Floods. (Next up: droughts.) Excuses from the studios about why Blu-ray isn’t taking off. Housing woes. Anything with “Hoo” or “Micro” in it.

Must be cranky today. Or just need a vacation.

Tom-AY-to, Tom-AH-to

Boy, the FDA and the press (yes, I think there’s lots of blame there) have really gotten us into a…er…pickle over this tomato thing. After initially alerting everyone to the dangers of salmonella in tomatoes, it seems they can’t find any contaminated tomatoes. NONE of the 1700 samples tested positive for the bug.

Which leaves them in the impossible position of trying to prove a negative. No one will ever be able to show that tomatoes AREN’T contaminated, even if they never find a single one containing the parasite. With all the other…sorry…headwinds facing the economy, the last thing we need is for a bunch of farmers, pickers, packers, shippers, and grocers to be devastated by the implosion of the tomato industry.

I got curious and searched for references to salmonella cases. To my surprise, there are typically tens of thousands of salmonella cases every year in the U.S. alone. With a mortality profile that seems similar to that of the flu–not huge, but nothing to sneeze at either, if you’ll forgive the pun. Compare that to the 800 or so cases and single suspected death reported as a result of this “outbreak”. Puts it in perspective, doesn’t it?

(Note to self: Write that piece about innumeracy, and the complete failure of the educational system in the U.S. to equip people with sufficient understanding of probability and statistics to live an informed and balanced life. Or better yet, direct readers to this book.)

To add insult to injury, the FDA is widening its probe to other types of produce. Isn’t destroying one industry enough? Apparently, the rest of my pico de gallo isn’t safe either.

Crossing the Street

Looks like I’ll have to walk another block or so, next time I’m in Manhattan, to get my morning Joe. Starbucks (SBUX) is closing about 600 stores over the next few months. Watching the local news last night, they literally said “you might go into the city tomorrow morning and find your Starbucks is gone”. Really? How fast do they think this stuff happens anyway?

Actually, those 600 locations are only about 5% of its stores. Not too devastating (except to any employees affected). And most have only been open a year or two. In its high-speed push to open as many stores as possible, Starbucks overshot a bit. Plus the company’s expansion timing (i.e. the economy) could have been better.

My local Starbucks is still doing a healthy business–as evidenced by the long lines. So I’m not worried about that one closing. And the extra steps as I walk across the street in Manhattan will be good for me, as long as I don’t get hit by a taxi.

Or get buffeted by headwinds.

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July 2, 2008 at 3:09 pm 1 comment


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Scott J. Berry, NY area

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