Frontier Airlines. Fly them. Often.

Vail. Quite simply the biggest baddest bunch of skiable terrain in thelower 48. I have never skied a mountain I didn't "finish" in 2 days. 4days this trip, and still a ton to go.

Oh, and if you haven't experienced the sort of universe clearingexhale that is white powder cresting and breaking over your knees asyou pop out of the trees into 1000 vertical feet of clear open gully,well, just take my word for it: you will find there the almighty.

Landed safely. Off the cornices and the DCA flight path. Peace out.



I consider myself extremely lucky. Among the reasons: I have a great employer and just enough slack in my workload to head out for a quick weekend of skiing to clear my head and recharge my batteries for the quarter. They got over 30" here in Denver this week.

I am working remotely today. It made sense to fly early and use the airport's free wireless. You hear that BOS, LGA, JFK, DCA, IAD, ATL, and so on and so on and so on...? FREE. There are ads at the top of this screen and I couldn't care a lick about 'em.

A day at the airport is a day of people watching. You get to see people at their ... well, you get to see a lot of interesting people. Like the couple next to me this morning. They ordered his and hers breakfast sandwiches. He got sausage. The server asked if they wanted topings. Husband joshingly nudged wife and indicated the bottle of hot peppers on the counter. I was amused. I am pretty certain that the look on her face taught me the meaning of "withering." Heck, I felt bad for having thought inwardly that he was funny.

Oh, and apparently kids are like cars. When I bought a civic, they were everywhere. Now, everywhere I turn there are babies. That I still love my civic bodes well, I think.


Presenting the Honda Prius, I mean Insight. Yeah.

The 2009 Honda Insight looks pretty much exactly like the 2009 Toyota Prius. I've put a photo of each above, can you tell them apart? Here are the differences:

Honda: 40 city/43 highway @ $19K
Toyota: 48 city/45 highway @ $22K

Just like the Civic hybrid, the Insight disappoints in the mileage department. I already get 35/39 (ish) in my Civic for $12,000. I spend perhaps $400 a year on case. This would save me less than $50-60 a year, so I'll never make up the difference. Even if I drove a lot, it would still take years.

Steven Lofchie, We Salute You!

Steven Lofchie is the world's most boring man. A tax partner at a New York law firm. He does f0r perhaps fair compensation what nobody in their right mind would want to do, and he does it for about twice as many hours as they'd be able to do it. So imagine our shock (mine and the minds at http://www.abovethelaw.com/) when he wrote a piece lampooning Congress's recent efforts to tax the AIG bonuses. Then, imagine our shock when his firm, Cadwalader, a place not known for its sense of humor, actually published it: PDF HERE.

For lovers of Manny, Marbury, Movies, A-Rod, and the Pats, this is not to be missed.


Death of the Camcorder

I didn't see this coming, but we may see the end of the camcorder in the next few years. The tiny format video cameras, like the Flip, shot on to the scene a few years ago and did for camcorders what netbooks did for laptops. Smaller, cheaper, and offering only those features that 90% of consumers actually needed, they quickly replaced many more expensive purchases.

Still, there was room for a higher-end market. People who wanted better video still needed more traditional camcorders. A Flip or a point-and-shoot camera that shoots video can't pump out HD quality. But the Nikon D90 DSLR can. Now, the Canon D500 can too - and in stunning 720p at 30 frames per second, saving the whole thing in iMovie-ready quicktime media files. Oh, and these babies are under $1000 with interchangeable lenses, etc. etc. etc. Already, people have designed rigs to permit amateur filmakers to use these cameras instead of bulkier, pricier digicams. The results are impressive.

Funny enough, we're getting technological convergence where we didn't expect it. Now to get a tablet netbook...

Out and Out

I heard that Anderson Cooper was gay. He won't confirm it, but a lot of other outlets will...and he's never commented about their comment about him. Um. Right. Rachel Maddow is gay and is out and proud about it. Of course, I had to look that up, because close-cropped hair, bookish glasses, and a penchant for Dickies scream "hipster" just as much as they scream "gay."

There is a nagging question for me in all this. Something between: "The president is black, the newscasters are gay, and the world doesn't focus on either. Isn't that nice?" and: "How many people would boycott AC360 if they found out? MSNBC fans - those commie, sissy pinkos will welcome anyone." Don't yet know how I feel about it.


World Depopulation

Those not content to turn over the relevant crises of the day can find solace in the speculative concern of tomorrow: World Depopulation. Phillip Longman wrote a book on this "coming crisis" and how you can solve it. Um. Phil, I support "Legs Across America" as much as the next guy, but can't you get a woman to sleep with you based on something less than, "The future of the human race depends on it?" Indeed, I'd imagine we turned to "flowers," then "chocolate," then "feelings" when that argument didn't work.

I do mean to make light of this idea. I think there is a grain of truth to the notion that we need the young to provide resources to assist the old in society, but to suggest that a declining population rate will go "out of control" ignores the most basic human desire. We want to do it anyway. If we feel there is a "higher-calling" for a baser instincts, trust me, we'll rise to the occassion.

Can I get an "Amen"?


Diamonds Are Forever; You Owning Those Diamonds, Not So Much.

Wired ran a long piece about the "biggest diamond heist" in the world. I am not sure it is the biggest heist because there is some disagreement as to the size of the "take." It's a tad long, but, if you need a sense of the excitement factor, the story has already been optioned for a movie. Read it now before the bastards ruin it.

Truthiness Hurts

Jason Kottke (www.kottke.org) just posted a piece from New York Magazine taking Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker/Moneyball) to task for piece he just penned for Vanity Fair about Iceland's economic woes. I've read both the New York piece - which actually critiques three pieces, includeing Lewis's piece. The writers seem to overstepped in the interest of adding some color; on the other hand, the critique isn't particularly heavy on the facts either.


It's more productive than clearing brush.

The White House has finally capitulated to the stunning power of the home gardening lobby and agreed to plant on the White House grounds. Carter, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 declined requests to do so. But why? Surely this is more productive than that silly rose garden and can provide just as many photo ops. To me, this is that kind of soft "who cares?" announcement that seems to mean so much to certain demographics of which I have no part. Innit quaint?

Wait, a Message Recall Feature that WORKS?

When I was a summer associate, the group of us played a practical joke on one of the team (we loved her - and she is still there - so all's good). All we did was sit at her desk and send a note to the whole office - some 450 people - with some pithy, gushy missive. That sympathetic mortification you're feeling is well placed. So she did what she thought one ought to do - she recalled the message. That's when the gag became an even more awesome practical joke. While everyone got one more message that said, "So and so would like to recall...", she got a receipt from every. single. person. Thank god it was our last day - she got zero done as her Outlook slogged through message after message after message.

And after all that, not a single message was actually recalled. People just got both the actual and "recall" message. It's like MS wanted to give the ability to express your regret to your fellow users and thought it warranted a misleadingly named feature.

Well, as in all things mail, Gmail has rectified this - adding an Undo feature. You have 5 seconds (up-able to 10) to hit undo. Oh, and the service also searches the email for words like "attach" and alerts you if the message you are sending has no attachment.


Need. More. Apple.

No, not www.apple.com. They announced the Mac Mini and Shuffle updates this week, so clearly they are focused on less Apple. Unless they are focused on "do more with less Apple," in which case it might be relevant. You've been reading for almost a paragraph, and I have yet to make a point. Forget it, I am abandoning this paragraph.

New paragraph. There, isn't that better? All this potential. Of course, now I've squandered the prime real estate at the beginning usually reserved for my topic sentence. Darn. Two down, one to go.

The Big Apple could be a bigger apple (there's that segue you were hoping for!) if we looked at one of these - dare I say - daring proposals by a former NY City planner. I know that cities are green, but I have to imagine that there is a limit to that truism, and I would venture that perhaps New York and cities of that size are over that limit. Do we need more NYC? Do we want more NYC? I mean, I don't get the sense that New Yorkers are hankering for this, do you?

Yor Doin It Wrong

Chuck Schumer is not happy about the AIG bonuses. Neither am I, but I don't command a bully pulpit and, perhaps if I did I wouldn't use it to make threats. On the senate floor today he invited AIG bonus recipients to return the money, adding, "If you don't return it on your own we will do it for you." How? Taxes:

Rep. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) submitted a bill yesterday which would implement a
60% tax rate on all bonuses about $10 thousand, targeting employees of firms in
which the U.S. government holds an equity stake greater than 79 percent. The
bill is clearly aimed at the excesses of AIG, but is believed to avoid rejection
as a “bill of attainder” since the bill covers any firm in which the government
may hold nearly 80 percent or more ownership stake. Given the current conditions
within the financial industry, it’s not a stretch to imagine other large banks
fitting similar conditions if their liquidity does not improve.

I mean, sure it covers *all* companies in which the government holds an over 80% stake. All one of them. Does that really get you around equal protection?


CNBC: CEOs as Fox News:Bush White House

Much is being made of the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer face-off. This is a non-story if ever there was one. Financial television's answer to Emeril Live vs. a late-night satirical "news hour." It's like Scrubs calling out Grey's anatomy for an unrealistic portrayal of medicine, and the New England Journal of Medicine deciding to write up the whole thing as a "the debate on the role of modern medicine."

Having said that, I watched it because Stewart's point has some weight (this is one of those times where the line between comedy and real-edy blur on the show): If CNBC is a news organization, where were the hard questions before the crash, and, for that matter, where are they now? Executives still come on the show every day and give their pitch, then wait for softball questions.

I think the answer is that CEOs come to CNBC precisely because they know they'll get the softballs. Their media people say, "Boss, we can't get our message across on CBS Nightly News or Anderson Cooper." What they mean is, "You'll be asked a lot of hard questions byt people disinclined to like your answers. Also, you're good in investor meetings and board rooms. Television requires a little something more. Oh, and we can't control what they do on the editing floor. If they want to splice you to look like a greedy boob, they will." CNBC, on the other hand, will have you on live - no splicing; they respect business moguls - no derisive tone; and they want you back - no gotcha questions.

This is how Fox News got its start. Conservatives, finding an unfriendly media they dubbed "liberal," started their own network with the opposite bent. White House and Congressional politicos wanting to get their message out unfettered found a willing audience and a channel was born.

Part of me is asking: Have we started a race to the bottom, where people just pick and choose their media outlets to craft their messages? The other part says: Wait, there has always been an editorial bent from paper to paper, radio station to station, and now on TV. It's just that the increase in the scale of TV news has made them more obvious to more of us.

One can ask whether Fox has had/continued a polarizing trend - see Olberman on MSNBC (on the left) - and speculate whether CNBC (ironically, on the right) may give rise to a TV outlet far more critical of business. And, no, Comedy Central is not that outlet.

I have Kindle. Not A Kindle, Just Kindle.

Amazon released "Kindle" for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Kindle is both the hardware and the software at Amazon - a reader with cellular service on one hand and access to the Amazon marketplace on the other. Amazon decoupled them and wrote an app for iPhone - a screen with a cellular connection. Voila.

Why did I get it? My iPod is not a perfect e-Reader, being that it has a backlit screen rather than a reader's e-Ink. On the other hand, I don't plan to read books on the thing, but I bought it in part to replace the stacks of printouts I was making so I could read articles on my way to or from the office. So I use my iPod about 20-25% of the time as a "light reader."

Of course, that still doesn't tell you why I got Kindle. First, it was free, so why the heck not. Second, it has a preview function. A-ha! There are a lot of books I *might* want to read. I'd certainly know more if I could read the first chapter. Kindle provides just that. So now I download a chapter. If the writer has gripped me, I can go get the rest of the book, most likely on paper.


How I Think and Remember

This is less a post than a musing aimed at soliciting some feedback from all of you out there.

At work, I constantly encounter many who can recall with specificity minute details from documents they haven't seen in months. I don't want to dwell on why - whether they are just focusing in on a smaller number of data points and committing those to memory, or whether they just have out and out better memories than I do. But the question has prompted me to understand better the way I understand and remember information.

I believe I am an "Index" thinker. Like an index, I don't recall all the information about the subject. If you give me a topic, I recall a few subheadings and - more importantly - I know where to find additional information. When people ask if I recall a conversation by email - I don't. But I know that Gmail has it and I know what words and recipients I need to enter in the search box to find it. When someone at works wants a fact, I usually have a sense and need to confirm, but I know where to look. Everyone can do this to some extent, just like I can memorize information by rote to some extent. The difference is that this is my predominant way of thinking.

This type of memory is really useful for grasping large swaths of information. By using my memory for the shortest form of the information - the search string - I can leverage the huge chunks of storage available to me online and the hard drives on my various computers. On the other hand, it is bad for being able to recite any fact by rote on cue.

The next question, of course, is why I developed this type of memory, and whether it is naturally occurring or purely the product of my environment. For example: I have never been good at memorizing things word-for-word. Further, I am not the greatest reader. To learn something from the written word, I really need to be taking notes so there is an element of repetition and analysis. I also learn far better with visual, social, and/or tactile queues. I can learn to sail in half the time I can learn a monologue - and I'll remember how to sail two years hence but forget the...what was that again? Oh, and I have something of a random access memory. If we start talking about a subject, I will quickly "load into memory" a lot of the information related to the topic that was completely inaccessible before. Like turning from the index to the page it references, a lot of the detail comes flooding back. Finding a short-cut to permit me access to the word-for-word information is very convenient.

The other major influence has been my work. I used to do enterprise analytics - which means taking huge volumes of tiny pieces of data, such as individual teller transactions from a bank customer, and aggregating them to the highest level of a company so that someone like a CEO can slice and dice the data to tease out meaningful trends. I also created websites, relying on content from stock-footage websites and design ideas from all over the web. I rarely had what I needed at the start of any given project, but I know where it was and how to get at it. Then, I went to law school, where I learned to use the legal research tools, Lexis and Westlaw, spending a good amount of time as the law student rep to a users board for the latter. Did I go into this field because of the way I thought or do I think this way because I trained myself to do so through my work (and other endeavors)? Hard to tell. Probably a little of both.

My question to you: Have you seen any professional writing on this type of thinking and recall?


Layman's Dow

The DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) moved almost 400 points yesterday on news that Citibank reported profits in January and February. The company's own stock rose over $.40 on the news. This is big news, but most people have glossed over it because we're still stuck in the past, when the DJIA was near 14,000.

At the previous high - or even at the more reasonable 12,000 level - we saw moves of 500-600 points on occassion, prompting cries that the market was hopelessly volatile. (See the beginning of 2008 here) Those moves represented 5% of the market. Now we're in less than half that market, so 400 points represents a move of over 6%. The volatility hasn't gone down at all. If anything, it has scaled down somewhat, but is still higher than it was 6 months ago.

This could be a Dead Cat Bounce - market jargon for a rise after a steep drop that is followed by another drop...an indication that some investors thought we'd hit bottom when, in reality, we still had a way to go.

Oh, and Citi's move was from $0.90 - $1.40, over 50%. I know some other stocks that were hard to value because extraordinary level of government support. The Maes anyone?


Time on Stage

I get to be on stage again tonight. I likely don't spend enough time in my life at the intersection of where the things that make me happy meet the things I am actually good at. I'll enjoy it. I hope those of you who are around will come to enjoy it too!

[more soon!]


There's a Pose You Don't Learn in Yoga

Apparently, this is how they sleep. Huh. Never thought of that. I guess it would pose a problem. It's so bizarre, it looks Photoshopped.



Dr. Gupta of CNN fame has taken his name out of the running of Surgeon General. While many saw him as an odd pick, I saw it as a recognition by the White House that it could hit the ground running on Public Health by leveraging the face/name recognition. After all, the SG is now a public face more than a policy wonk and certainly more than a surgeon.

Gupta withdrew citing a desire to be with his family, but noted that whoever does take the job should really go out there and drive home the point of public health. I am disappointed. Sure, you make into the seven figures, doc, but you are that person. Few, if any, other medical professionals have your visibility and your telegenic flair. None of them have an existing brand. That means any other candidate will not be able to raise the profile of the SG as much as you could. That's why POTUS asked you to make the personal and economic sacrifice to serve. You know all this and you declined. Perhaps there are good reasons, but I am disappointed.



A recycled and recyclable cardboard computer case with a motherboard, and power supply. Voila. It might have some great field applications as a "semi" disposable PC.

Cult of Competence.

These two appointments will likely fly under the radar, which is fine. New FEMA appointee - W. Craig Fugate, head of emergency management in FL. He's responded to that state's hurricanes and such since 2001 - having the added political cover of having done so under two Republican governors.

And a new position in government, CIO (Chief Information Officer). Vivek Kundra, currently CTO (C-Technology-O) to DC, tech adviser to the Obama campaign, Tim Kaine's head of commerce, etc. etc. etc. Clearly, there is enough tech in government that it requires oversight. There is a fair debate as to whether we have one person oversee the lot of it so it can all be as consistent as possible, or whether we need a siloed approach because the needs of different agencies are so different. I imagine that a good CIO will do what they all do - do a masterful needs-assessment to understand the differences and then strike the most efficient balance between standardization and customization.

Three cheers for quiet competence. Oh, and guys, re-check your tax receipts. [I couldn't help it.]


Since When Do You Care?

Peter Wehner of the National Review rails against Obama's plan to reduce the tax deduction available for charitable donations. First the facts: This only affects those making over $250K a year and it lowers their deduction from the 35% bracket to the 28% bracket - i.e. they can deduct $280 instead of $350 out of every $1000 donated.

Wehner's points are two-fold: One, this is bad for giving and, two, this somehow shows an intrusion of government into areas of our lives never before seen.

Let's take those in turn. Will a lower deduction for the top earners mean fewer deductions? Perhaps. The conventional wisdom is that giving will be down a lot this year anyway, both because of actual economic difficulties and because of the fear of giving up any money now while the future is uncertain. Given that environment, will there be any way to tell what effect the 7% drop in the deduction had? Not a chance. So it's a good theory, but I think the reduction is marginal.

Second, the claim that a lower tax deduction means greater government intervention into the lives of institutions and private persons is backwards. The whole idea of tax deductions is to create centralized, federal incentives for people to act. Thus, a high tax deduction - like the 100% charitable-giving deduction the govt put in place after 9/11 - is just as meddling as a lower deduction. Just the incentives change. A truly "republican" - Wehner is actually touting libertarianism - view would want nothing less than to do away with the deduction altogether. For a libertarian, any tax high enough to permit the federal government to raise and lower it to create a system of incentives is too high. The tax should be low enough that the money stays in the local communities to begin with to be spent or donated as people see fit.

And another thing. If you're going to make this silly argument, get it right. Wehner says that if we reduce the deduction from $350 to $280 per $1000 donated, that $70 will go to the government instead of the charity. Um. No. The charity gets $1000 either way. It is the taxpayer that has to pay taxes on an extra $70 in income at the end of the year. While that may change how much the taxpayer donates, that's totally up to him or her. It's not like the charity now has to carve out a portion of everyone's donations. If you can't get the simple math right Pete, stick to something a little fuzzier, eh?

FDA Could Regulate Tobacco

WaPo reports that a bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committe could finally put tobacco and its derivative "nicotine delivery systems" under FDA control. Which got me thinking about who regulates tobacco now. The answer is: basically nobody. It is an agricultural product not regulated by the USDA and a drug not regulated by the FDA.

There's regulation to make sure the government recieves tobacco revenue. The TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), which levies taxes for the IRS and ensures there is no gray market (i.e. re-importing cigarettes and alcohol produced solely for export) in these products. I had no idea the TTB existed.

Oh, and there's the ATF for criminal matters. That's the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives now. The A-T-F. Shame they're so hung up on the acronym. They could be FATE, FAT-E, FEAT ("Feat" or "Fiat"), or even TEAF in a nod to ebonics. Of course, they could always take over "Racketeering" and then all bets are off.


Mac Mini

I don't think I pitch a lot of products, but this one is near and dear to my heart. The Mac Mini just got an update from Apple - which means that the new one is more powerful and the old one is going down in price. Beyond more power and an additional USB port, little has changed. Thank god.

I got my mac mini one Sunday from Microcenter in VA. I had nearly done a 'windows upgrade' with my Windows desktop late that week, but it wasn't worth the cost of replacing the glass. After two blown motherboards, a blown power supply, and not a lot of great performance from a new dual core machine, I had, in two words, had it.

It took four hours to make the round trip to the store for a Mac Mini, an external housing for the harddrive out of my defunct desktop, and a keyboard (gotta be mac compatible), to install Apple's Boot Camp, and then to Install Windows (there are a lot of programs I don't want to rebuy for the Mac). It it worked. And it continues to work. And it will be too soon if I ever buy another pc desktop in my house again.

Have I had problems with the little mac? When I am running windows sure. When I am running the mac - silly, it's a mac.


And It is Clever to Boot

One of the things that still appeals to the web audience is something clever. Thank god for that.

[HT: Schorr]