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National and Global, United States

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Another BIG Corporate RIP-OFF=Six Flags

Look at the millions of pay out to people who have no business even being there!!!

Six Flags cuts workforce, 3 top executives

By The Associated Press (AP)

Six Flags Entertainment Corp., the theme park operator that emerged from bankruptcy protection last month, said Monday that three park executives are leaving the company as part of recent layoffs that the company estimates will save it $16 million a year.

The company did not disclose how many jobs were affected in the June 16 reductions, but said the move mainly targeted its New York City and Dallas corporate offices. Six Flags also is moving its CEO to the company's Dallas corporate headquarters. The estimated savings excludes severance and other costs, Six Flags said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The effect of these reductions should bring the company's general and administrative costs more in line, on a percentage of revenue basis, with other companies in the regional theme park industry," the company said in the filing.

Leaving the company are Michael Antinoro, executive vice president of entertainment and marketing, Andrew Schleimer, executive vice president of strategic development and in-park services, and Mark Quenzel, executive vice president of park strategy and management.

The three executives had nearly three years left on their contracts and stand to receive their base salaries throughout that term. Antinoro receives $400,000 a year in salary while Quenzel and Schleimer each are paid $500,000 annually.

Their employment agreements also call for them to receive their target bonus for the past year, which totals $500,000 a year for Antinoro and Quenzel and $400,000 for Schleimer. The three also will receive severance and 12 months of health care and life insurance.

The company, which runs 19 theme parks in North America, filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2009, burdened by high levels of debt and declining park attendance. Its restructuring plan reduced its debt and redeemable preferred stock to about $1 billion from about $2.7 billion.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MLB Spring Training: What I Learned After Six Weeks in The Trenches

I'm the third guy from the left in the picture.

Well, after six weeks of working MLB Spring Training in Arizona, I learned a few things and made personal observations about others. I attended numerous games among a variety of good and not so good baseball teams. I worked the Press Box, tickets, bag checks, the stands, the practice fields. Everything I guess, but food service, which I refused to do. I came across mostly wonderful people in the stands; some decent, down-to-earth professional baseball players, some owners, coaches, scouts, tv/radio announcers, media types, players' wives and girlfriends.

Here's what I think I learned:
1) Most baseball players, for some strange reason, drive black Cadillac Escalades.
2) Some baseball players wives/girlfriends need to go to charm school. Or at least, understand the game of baseball. Left field is from 'left' from home plate, NOT "left" from the ladies room in center field. That would be 'right field'. DAH!
3) Some baseball players wives/girlfriends need to understand 'dress code' at ballgames. This ain't the prom. Dress accordingly please.
4) Most baseball players who don't earn a million bucks are decent, friendly people.
5) Some baseball players who earn over a million bucks need to go to charm school with their wives/girlfriends
6) Most baseball players are not much bigger in person, as when you watch them on tv.
7) Press/media people have higher opinions of themselves then the general public does. They also tend to be a bit overweight.
8) Baseball Management types take the game too seriously. It's not brain surgery. They think it is however. And that presents a need for a reality check.
9) Most baseball players willingly sign autographs for young kids. Some ignore them entirely.
10) Spring Training uniforms are really ugly.
11) Some baseball players are really ugly.
12) If you are a baseball player and have a #89 uniform, and your name is not printed on the back of the uniform, you are not going to play in the major leagues this year.
13) If you come out of the club house wearing cleats you will play. If you are wearing sneakers.... you will not.
14) The best players only play 4 or 5 innings. Then they go home. The AAA players play 3 or 4 innings, towards the end of the game.
15) Baseball players don't smile often. Management never smiles. It's a game after all.
16) Star baseball players don't walk from the clubhouse to the field. They are driven in a golf cart.
17) Too many fans have too many baseballs/bats for autographs. I still don't understand fighting to get these autographs. I don't even know the names of most players, let alone having them sign something, like my shirt. Why waste a good shirt?
18) Most star players don't want to show credentials at the entrance gates, and they cannot tell me what their favorite baseball movie is!
19) If you get a message on your phone that the toilets in left field have overflowed, move quickly and decisively to right field.
20) I have a better appreciation for the word "NO" and it's definition. Most people at baseball games do not. And I was there to help them better understand just what "NO" means.

Overall, it was a great experience for me to spend these six weeks in the sunshine in Arizona, watching baseball. I could understand what it meant to so many kids to see players stretching, calisthenics, batting practice, running, jumping...all in the name of the game. And that's really all it is. A bunch of young kids wanting to just play. That's how I'd like to remember it. Not the money, the fame, the fortune. Nope. Just the game...for all it's worth...
Play ball!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MLB Spring Training: "Hey, mister can you autograph my cap?"

Well, after about six weeks into MLB Spring Training, someone finally asked for my autograph. Don't know why. I was sitting in the 'owner's box' alone, at an Oakland vs Seattle game.

This little kid about six, knocks on the door, and says: "Hey mister, can you sign my baseball cap?". Gee, the only signature that I have that has any worth, is on a bank check. And sometimes, that doesn't even have any worth.

In this case, I really didn't know what to say. If I said 'no' this kid might have been totally turned-off to baseball role models.Not that I am one, frankly. If I said 'yes', sometime when he got home, someone would say: "who the hell is this guy"? So, it presented somewhat of a dilemma. Thus, I agreed to sign the cap. And I did: "To Ryan, Best....Willie Mays".

Monday, March 22, 2010

MLB Spring Training: How to Get into the BallPark for Free...

During MLB Spring Training in Arizona, I've found a number of unique ways to enter the ballpark for free. They are relatively simply procedures:

1) Wear a uniform of one of the teams. You could even carry a baseball bat (they are allowed but water bottles are not).
2) Get a bright yellow piece of cardboard. Write something on it and hang it from your rear-view mirror.
3) Carry an oversized video camera with you and wear your baseball cap backwards. Look disheveled.
4) Drive a Black Escalade or a 4-wheel Jeep Wrangler with really big fancy tires. They will think you are a baseball player.
5) Flash any kind of ID that looks like something 'official'. Try your drivers license.
6) Tell them outside the ballpark that you really have to use the rest room. There are no rest rooms outside the ballpark.
7) Use the "vendor gate" and show up with an empty box of hamburger rolls.
8) Tell your girlfriend to dress up in her very best, short-skirt outfit and she tells them that she is a 'player's wife'. Best if she is a 'trophy female'.
9) Say "this is my first day of work with the food service company"

Other then that, just pay the $7.00 admission and have a good time!

Friday, March 19, 2010

MLB Spring Training: Hey Stupid, You Left Your Lights On

I can't imagine a major league baseball Spring Training game where, during a game that starts at one o'clock in the afternoon, someone would actually leave their headlights on and the car running...just to get to the game.

Well, it happened three times the other day. One person I can understand. He was a Japanese tourist in a rental car. He was in a hurry to get an autograph from Ichiro Suzuki, the star outfielder for the Seattle Mariners. He not only left his head lights on, but he left the car running, with the keys lock inside. No matter, he left the car in the parking lot just that way, and was running for the stadium gates, the last time I saw him.

Two other people did the same thing. One from Colorado and another from New Mexico. Head lights left on in the middle of the day. Why might I ask, were the head lights on in the first place? It was 80 degrees and sunny! Nevertheless, there they were. Three cars with head lights on, doors locked and no one in sight. And of course, the Japanese tourist who left the engine running too!

I just hope he got Ichiro's autograph, because the tow truck company is going to charge him a lot more then that autograph is worth.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MLB Spring Training: A Smile Might be Worth a Thousand Purses

Giants vs Padres this evening in Arizona. Great weather with a cool breeze under the lights. Once again, I got the opportunity to 'check the baggage' at the front gate.

As usual, the San Francisco fans showed up with their laptops, which I still can't figure out. The San Diego fans showed up in flip-flops, shorts, and tattoos with a few beers already consumed, it appeared. Some people actually show up to the wrong game at the wrong stadium. Had two from the Cleveland Indians. That game was 15 miles away. They decided to stay for this game. "Hey, for $7. why spend the extra gas."
They agreed!

Additionally, and with great fanfare, the local "Gentlemen's Club" even sent some of their people over to hand out 'discount flyers'. Those women came through my 'baggage line', which was a nice gesture on their part. I even saved the 'discount coupons'.

Throughout the exercise of checking baggage and purses for contraband, I have the habit of smiling and making positive comments to people, about how they look (you look marvelous), or how they are dressed (love the shoes), or something unusual about them (I love your purse or your shirt looks great). Everyone smiles back. Even those that I say "NO" to. NO, you can't take a pizza into the ballpark. NO, you can't take a Pepsi into the ballpark. No, No, No. That notwithstanding, smiling all the time.

At the conclusion of the game, it's back to the same thing as fans exit the stadium...all with a smile, a grin, a 'thanks for showing up'. And "NO" you can't leave the place with that beer.

At the end of the evening, my feet hurt and my face is sore from smiling. But you know, two people came up to me and said " you have a wonderful smile". I didn't know that. That simple comment made the ache in my feet go away, and the twitch on my face subside.

We should all try a little bit more to smile under duress, and to thank people for smiling at us. Even if it's only a baseball game under the stars on a cool, breezy evening in Arizona.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

MLB Spring Training: They all want to tell you where they are from!

It's true. Most fans at Spring Training in Arizona are from somewhere else. I find most to be friendly, nice, and open in our discussions. The problem is, they all want to not only tell you where they are from, but to offer you a perspective on their home towns as well.

This is nice if you are from Japan. However, I find that most discussions center around the Midwest US, specifically Chicago. These people seem to love the place. I can't figure it out. They are nice, outgoing, and definitely patriotic to Chicago, for whatever reason. They lack pretension. It Does not matter if they are CUBS or Sox fans. It's all the same.

They tend to be somewhat overweight with no tan lines. I think it is the winters, although I know it is 'other things'. They are inquisitive. They asked question like "where do the Cleveland Indians play". They don't ask silly questions like Brewers fans about Bratwurst.

They don't carry laptops to ballgames like Giants fans. They don't 'hey dude' like Padres fans and don't wear sunglasses indoors like Dodgers fans. They are simply here to enjoy their teams, eat some hot dogs, and laugh and cajole like people from Chicago. Pretension be damned! This is who I am, and if you don't like it, tough!

I might add that they will tell you all the good things about where they come from, at some length.

Simple thought. Refreshing reaction. I see none of them as 'losers'. They have a finger on the pulse of life. And they are funny. I guess it goes with territory.

My kind of town, someone once sung. I tend to agree. Just don't ask them what town they come from.

MLB Spring Training: "I need to check your bag"!

Well, here I am at the front gate of a major league Spring Training baseball stadium. My job today is to check everyone entering for contraband: Water bottles, bootlegged Coca-Cola, food, lawn chairs, etc. Even dogs. Some fans buy tickets for their animals at Spring Training. So, if a dog has a ticket, do we legally need to allow them in with their owners? Sounds like an easy task. But no...oooo.

"I need to check your bag" sounds  innocent enough doesn't it? Here's the problem: Almost every time I said that to a husband entering the ballpark, he would invariably point in back of him to his wife. He would say something like: "The bag is behind me", "There's the bag over the there", or something to that effect. Sometimes, they would just point,and say nothing.

Now, this presents a dilemma for a 'bag checker' like me. I'm trying to figure out an appropriate politically sensitive term rather then 'bag'. So, I started to use the term 'luggage'. "I need to check your luggage". Well, no one I know going to a baseball game actually has any 'luggage'. So, I got the response: " You mean baggage don't you?". Consequently, now back to the husband pointing in back of him to his wife! Baggage...Bag....paraphernalia. I just don't know anymore.

Starting today, I am using the term: "I need to check your belongings" in the hope that some guy from Chicago, who looks like John Belusi, doesn't start to pull his pants down as he hands me his ticket. That would ruin my day!

And I thought this would be easy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Major League Baseball and the Smell of Hot Dogs

MLB Spring Training started last week in Arizona. And I was there. So far, four games between teams like San Diego, Seattle, Colorado, and San Francisco. Two in the pouring rain, which really isn't very pleasant.

The good thing is that I'm doing all sorts of things, I thought I stopped doing a long time ago. There's no 'suit and tie' in this league. The teams wear practice uniforms, which are not that good looking. And the names of the players eludes me frankly. Lots of AAA players trying to make the team, the big leagues, the big money.The 'big guns' go home after the 4th inning in most cases.

I usually start out in the broadcast booth, making sure the technical feeds are all in place and working. That's the easy part. Next, I secure the rosters for the day and then check credentials of the media, so they can sit in the press box. Once complete, I run over to the front gate and start to check the fans bags for counraband. You know, water bottles, food, umbrellas, lawn chairs. Even dogs! I get to say "NO" quite a bit.

Then...back to the press box to make sure that everyone has credentials and didn't sneek into the box. Then, back to checking the roster, and the advertising/promotions sequence.

When the game is over, I walk around the stadium to make certain everyone has left the building, including ELVIS.  I 10-4 operations, lock the gates, and walk to my car. No autograph seekers, No signing baseballs or bats. Just me in my 'uniform' after doing something that I haven't done in years.

And you know, after all of it, I feel like I did something positive for that day. No meetings, no phone calls, no attempts to impress anyone with my resume or credentials. Just some weary feet and a final 10-4...and out.
Without the tie or the suit. Just a golf shirt and sneakers. Just like it used to be. And did I tell you, that although I do like the occasional hot dog, I am pretty sick of them at this point.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Foreclosure More Profitable than Loan Modifications for Servicers


As if we didn't know. And the federal government's programs don't even address the issue below.

The incentives mortgage servicers receive for managing a home loan are a significant obstacle to loan modification that would help financially troubled borrowers avoid foreclosure, according to a new report from the National Consumer Law Center.
In fact, the way servers are compensated actually makes it more profitable for them to foreclose on delinquent loans rather than modify them, the report found, even though loan modifications might be more profitable for the investors who actually hold the mortgages.
In fact, the report found that servicers typically face a near-certain loss if they do a loan modification, but can actually make money on a foreclosure.
"Foreclosures are a costly ordeal for the homeowner, the lender, and the community," said the report's author, Diane Thompson, an attorney with the NCLC. "Yet they continue to outstrip loan modifications because servicers have no incentive to help borrowers stay in their homes."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Six Flags Theme Park Management MAY be On the way OUT!

Six Flags Incumbent Management May Be on the Way Out

Incumbent management of Six Flags Inc. evidently will lose their jobs if holding company noteholders succeed in taking over the theme-park operator by winning confirmation of their competing reorganization plan.

In a statement last week, holding company noteholders owning $650 million in bonds said they are in the “final stages of finalizing” debt and equity financing for their plan. The noteholders explained how the bankruptcy judge said that having financing commitments behind a plan at a higher valuation would be a “key factor” in his decision about which plan to approve.

The noteholders’ statement said they have identified a “highly experienced, industry leading management team” to take over once their plan is approved and implemented. The holding company noteholders contend bondholders of the operating companies are trying to take over “at a substantial discount.”

The holding company noteholders also said they voted against the company’s plan. The contested confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin March 8. For a comparison of the company’s plan and the alternative proposed by holding company noteholders,  see the Bloomberg daily bankruptcy report from Dec. 1.

The Six Flags Chapter 11 petition in June listed assets of $2.9 billion against debt totaling $3.4 billion, including a $850 million secured term loan and a $243 million revolving credit.

New York-based Six Flags filed under Chapter 11 with 20 theme parks, including 18 in the U.S. The parks have 800 rides, including 120 roller coasters.

The case is Premier International Holdings Inc., 09-12019, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Someone Explain General Motors to US!

General Motors is now  paying Fritz Henderson, the guy the automaker ousted as CEO 3 months ago because he wasn't cutting it. He's back and gets paid $59,000 per month (yea, per month as in 30-days),  for 20 hr of work as a consultant to their European operation.

59x12 is over $600,000 per year for being a part-time consultant. That seems like a lot of compensation.

General Motors stated that a man with this type of experience needs to be paid 'adequately'. What experience might that be, you would logically ask. Well, wouldn't you? 

$59,000 per month for 20 hours. We could feed lots of people in Darfur with that money...or Camden, New Jersey, for that matter.

The Fastest Way to Receive "Hits" on Your Blog...

If you are reading this, I am watching you! Well, not you personally in your pajamas in front of your computer. But you, the IP Address. I now know where you are, what your IP address is, how long you spent here, and what articles you pulled up. I even have a map that pinpoints your location on google maps.

Normally, this is a relatively 'quiet' blog. Perhaps 150 'hits' per week. But wait, when I recently mentioned a few companies, the 'hits' just took a big burp. That's because many companies sign-up for "Google Alerts" which simply brings to your desktop any mention of your company (or you) over the internet. Now, most of those 'burps' I received didn't take the time to even read anything, once they saw it was just a Blog post. So, time spent on the site was "zero", which is fine with me.

Recently, I mentioned companies such as UNO in Boston, Bally in Chicago, and Six Flags in New York.
And what do you know? Their corporate IP showed up in my metering. That means there are people at work in these companies, just surfing around looking for 'stuff' on the internet with their company name attached.

So, here goes some companies/organizations I'd like to see on my IP "meter watch":
General Motors, Toyota, US Congress, IRS, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Time-Warner, Sony Pictures, McFarlane Toys, Eddie Bauer, NIKE, Globecomm, EMS, Lockheed-Martin, The State of Hawaii.
Senator John McCain...I love you all! Resume forthcoming.

And remember, once you are here, "I gotch ya"... on the 'meter', that is.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Whither the maligned hot dog?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has decided that if you are under 7 and attempt to buy a hot dog...YOU will be 'carded'!

The menacing, All-American hot dog is out to get our children, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, noting that hot dogs cause 17 percent of the fatal, food-related choking incidents suffered by toddlers. The other 83% is from hamburgers, stale granola bars, Pizza Hut pizza, pomegranate seeds,  and BBQ'd Tofu.

While the Academy is craving a safer, new hot dog design that's less likely to lodge in childrens' throats, The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council is counseling reason, as they usually do, when it comes to this subject.

Many hot dog packages, it says, already feature warning labels and, besides, there are simpler solutions. Yea, I didn't know that there was actually a "hot dog and sausage council" either. Apparently, there is. And what small child is reading the 'warning label"? Not mine. They can't read!

You could cut it up before your kid eats it!
You could just eat it yourself.
You could order a salad or milk toast.
Or... some tofu shaped like a hot dog!

What will happen to the famous Dodger Dog or Nathan's Famous? Ball Park Franks? Will they become a distant memory? A by-gone era of rolls and big hot dogs.  Will they too have to 'down size'? Will "Hebrew National" still remain kosher?

Proposed new Warning label: "Don't eat this stuff if you don't have a big mouth!"

Whither the maligned hot dog?

On Senator John McCain's bid for another term...

Having lived in Arizona for the past 15 years or so, I can attest to the fact that we probably need a change in our representation in Washington DC. The problem is, whenever we elect someone new (in this case JD potentially), they wind up becoming part of the DC 'thing'. Maybe it is the water. I don't know. They seem to ultimately just forget who elected them and why they are there. It ain't to matter which one.
It is to represent the people who elected them. Strange thought indeed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just How FAR Down the Road is This?

Since President Obama's election, the Republican party has gained support across all age groups, says a recent Pew poll, with a 5 percent to 6 percent jump among baby boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Civil War Veterans.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This Week's Corporate LOSERS...

How would like to work for one of these disorganized organizations. Sometimes,goes to show that a change in management doesn't always mean a change in the 'smarts'

Mr Toyoda goes to Six Flags...

The President of Toyota today, was driving from New York's Kennedy Airport, to the US Congressional Committee hearings in Washington D.C. However, he ended up in Richmond, Virginia. Reason he said: "the car wouldn't stop".

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You Can Get By on the Old Man's Money....

"You're a rich girl and it's gone too far
'Cause you know it don't matter anyway
Say money, money wont get you too far, get you too far..." Hall and Oates

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My First Day at Spring Training in MLB

OK. This was the 'big day'. My first day at Spring Training with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. The broadcast booth as director. Arizona heat and sunshine.
It's a Sunday in the ballpark.

Oops. It is a rainy Sunday. Mudsville vs Dirtball in Arizona. The playing fields are closed. No sound of wooden bat on ball.No famous players to sign autographs. Nothing but me sitting by the broadcast booth, waiting for something...just anything.

Well, as fate would have it, I spend the entire afternoon, Manning a security gate that no one comes through. No famous players, no autographs, no fans. Just me and the 'walkie-talkie'. 10-4 good buddy. Over and out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Musing About this Week...

The Governor of California says that aside from the beverage tax, he will now impose a pizza tax, by the slice. So... if you order a pizza, don't have them cut it. Ahead of the curve, as usual!

Friday, February 19, 2010

OPED: Obama's Stimulus

I guess there really are two-sides to every story. The New York Times and The New York Post have taken opposing sides on whether or not Obama's Stimulus is working.

Here they are:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hey, I'm From Jersey Too!

Having lived in New Jersey for some period of time, I came to what I believe, is a basic understanding of the "jersey accent".

Watching Frank Sinatra movies is a start. He had it 'down pat'. Well, he was from New Jersey after all. "The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Italians...

My maternal grandfather Dominic, split his time between brick laying and wine making. The latter was his passion. The former his need. My paternal grandfather, Rocco, was an anthracite coal miner, who probably had little time for wine making. They both made babies on a regular basis. It was either the wine or the loneliness of coal. Perhaps both. More then not, it was probably more the beauty of my grandmothers, Concetta and Anna.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Doctor J Syndrome...

I was working with a group in Washington DC awhile back. There was one partner with this company, that I fully remember. His name was Jae (initials for his first and last name). He had a PhD in something non-consequential, and was a former Air Force officer. was a PhD nonetheless.

He drove around Washington in a new Mercedes and had one of those ego-license plates.
His was "Dr Jae". Now, I recall Julius Erving of the Philly Sixers. That was Dr J. Who was this other "Dr Jae", I thought? Could he go for the dunk? Could he dribble past Wally Jones? What was this all about?

My funny-bone went out a bit when I saw the license plate of Dr Jae. More power to him.

Here's a white guy, with a PhD, in a suit, driving around D.C. in a Mercedes with the Dr. Jae plates. I just bet that at many a red light, he had to put his 'foot to the metal' just to get out of the way of a few Washingtonians who knew the difference between Dr. J and Dr. Jae. The latter could not dribble a basketball, I am sure, and the former did not have a PhD in anything but 'street ball'.

So... when you drive around D.C. and see the plates of a Dr. JAE, don't ask him to go 'one on one'. He won't know what you are talking about.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What If Everyone Just Stopped Sending Resumes?

I don't know about you, but over the last 10 years I've never gotten a job or a project by applying for it. Those that I did get, came to me...not me to them.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Where's the Tooth Fairy When You Need Him?

In a different time and far away place, I believed in the 'tooth fairy'. I did! He was my personalized Santa Claus without the fanfare.

When it was time for that little tooth to go, it would easily just fall out. I'd catch it and place it under the pillow at night. In the morning there would be a crisp one dollar bill right there, where the tooth had been. I think I did that about 30 times or so. I wasn't afraid because I knew then when one tooth fell out, another would magically take its place. It went on for a few years. Tooth in!

I went to the dentist last week. He said 'that tooth has got to go'. Instantly, I thought back to the 'tooth fairy'. This time however, it was not as easy as the first time. No little prodding to remove the little tooth. This time it was more serious. It was a big tooth. And this time, it hurt. The fact is, no tooth would grow back magically this time. It would need to be an 'implant'. Ouch!

So I sat back in the chair as the local anesthesia took its toll. I heard the pulling and the cracking. Finally, the tooth came out. A proud dentist exhibits the forlorn and lonely tooth. "Do you want take it with you", he states.

Thinking once again back to that early tooth, I decide that it's a good idea, to take a tooth that has been around that long, has no further useful life; take it home and place it gently under the pillow. So I did just that.

The tooth sat there below that pillow for a few days, wrapped in paper, waiting for the tooth fairy to magically appear and leave behind a crisp dollar bill.

Days went by. Finally, one morning I awoke and there under the pillow was an envelop with my name on it. I anxiously opened the envelop hoping to find that prize from the tooth fairy. And there it was. A bill for $175. from my dentist.

So, remember that the tooth fairy is on your side only when you are young, and you only can ask once for that reward for that tooth. When you grow older, the tooth fairy has little regard for your fantasy. As in most things in life,you only get one chance... with one tooth. The reality is just a bill from your dentist, and a yawn from the tooth fairy.

The tongue that concedes will not wear out; obstinate teeth fall out
Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Know That I'm No Writer. I Can Prove It

Now, I know I have this bloggy-thinger going. That doesn't mean that I can write. I know that. One teacher in college told me 'you write good' (not her exact words), and should apply that to your future thoughts. And so I did. The results, as you will see, were less then stellar.

While in college, I went to work for a number of organizations as a 'writer'.

1) TV Guide Magazine -- I was hired as a 'promotional writer'. What that means is that you write copy for those little 'lap cards' that fall out of magazines when you open them. Yep, that was me. I was fired. Christmas Eve I recall.

2) Bofinger-Kaplan Advertising (no longer around) -- I was hired as a copywriter for this ad agency. My job? Naming paints. The color swatches would come across my desk, and I had to come up with names. You see them all the time at HomeDepot.
Fantasia Yellow, Caboose Red, Green Tea Green. This is a tough job if you are color blind. I am not. I was fired.

3) Union Fidelity Insurance (no longer around) -- This was one of those direct-mail insurance companies. You know, pay premiums for two years before benefits and no physical exam. I wrote copy for their direct mail pieces. What do you tell an 87 year old woman, who has to pay premiums for two years, before she is covered? Hang in there? I was fired.

4) Rodale Press (finally a company that's still around) -- I was hired again to write promotional copy for Organic magazines. This job was a 60+mile trip one-way. 120 miles per day, five days per week is not exactly 'organic'. Nor was I.
I was fired.

Thus, at an early age I realized (or someone did it for me) that I was indeed, not a writer. I had visions at one time of Ernest Hemingway. But no, I was never to be that. I couldn't even put names to paint colors. Instead, I would like to consider myself a 'humorist'. Nice term.

A humorist is a person who writes or performs humorous material. The material written and/or performed by humorists tends to be more subtle and cerebral than the material created by stand-up comedians and comedy writers. The intention is often to provoke wry smiles and amusement rather than outright belly laughs.

My family members probably would say there's an oxymoron there between me (the person) and me (the humorist). Nevertheless, if I can't be a Hemingway, I can at least attempt to be Ambrose Bierce, Yogi Bear, James Thurber, or Dr Seuss. Ogden Nash and Frank Zappa also comes to mind.

I will assume that most who read this will say that I am indeed not a writer. Some will say 'nor a humorist'. I don't mind. You can't fire me. And that's the great stuff of a blogger.

As Garrison Keillor noted:
"That's the news from Lake Woebegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

"Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.". Even if you think I am a writer. Which I am not.

Play Ball! It's My Turn Again...

The last time I worked in professional baseball was for a few years starting around 1985. I was a Vice President of the Houston Astros organization. I think I attended almost all of the 180 game schedule, and coordinated the 1986 AllStar game in Houston.

I remember Jose Cruz, Nolan Ryan. Yogi Berra was a coach. That's about it. I would also chuckle as Yogi would hit the field in the Rainbow colors of the Houston Astros. Yogi was the consummate Yankee, and here he was in Houston...coaching! Not in pin stripes...but in 'rainbows'. How funny.

My young children would roller skate in the 'owner's box' during the games they attended. That 'box' was about 90 feet along, and ran just above the right field bleachers at the Astrodome. Free food too! Frankly, my children had little interest in the games themselves. They were there for one thing: to skate and eat.How much fun is that?

Well, it's about 25 years later, and I've owned my own management firm for a good many of those years. That being said, the closest I've come to professional sports is running a sports publishing firm in Los Angeles. Now, being the owner of this management firm, I can also take time-off to do other things that I consider 'likable'.

So, for six weeks (March/April) I'm going to work Spring Training in Arizona. Yep, I went and applied for a position and I got one. Now mind you, this is not VP of anything. It's managing the broadcast booth, showing people to their seats, taking tickets, etc. Hey, but that's ok. For once, I'm not doing it for the cash flow. I'm doing it because I just want to do it. And it is fun!

And that leads me to the current rationale of just doing things and working with people or companies, that I want to, because I just want to do it. For no other reason.

Call it maturity, mid-life crisis, or even immaturity. The fact is, I'm doing it for no legitimate reason, other then smiling, and having others smile at me. And the 'boss' can just wait for me to return, if ever.

"Hey, that's Smokey Joe Wood. And Mel Ott. And Gil Hodges!
Ty Cobb wanted to play, but none of us could stand the son-of-a-bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it!" Field of Dreams

Play Ball!

My Home: The Skating Rink

I live in a house that has no rugs on the floors and no floor tile. The entire flooring is concrete. End-to-end. Add to that the fact that there are no steps, and the hallways are twice as wide as the normal home.

When we purchased the home, we thought that it was great for wheelchair access, if we ever needed it. My grandchildren thought otherwise. They had a very different mind-set on utilization of this space. Wheelchair access be damned. This was the perfect skating rink.

The main rink was the living room and 'extreme' skating occurred in the hallways, bedrooms, and bath. You could open all the doors (interior/exterior) and fly through the air from outside to inside and back out again.

All it needed was a little waltz music with thundering bass, and they could have been in Rockefeller Center on ice.

Whether I liked it or not, Roller Derby finally came to our house. Four or five kids on skates doing spins on the living room floor, then darting in and out of the bedrooms. Someone hiding in the closet, only to be found in a game of 'roller tag'.

It's not exactly what I envisioned in this home. When those kids arrive, it's as if the entire world of the home is transformed into that skating rink. And when they finally depart from the visit, the house reverts back almost instantaneously into a space that can accommodate a wheelchair. Not that I need one. I don't. And that's the rub. I don't now look at the home as 'wheelchair accessible'. Rather, I look at it as a place where these 'little people' can skate around their grandparents. Play tag, roller-derby, or double spin. Or hide in the closet.

These episodes offer new vision to 'graying hair' and bald spots. Instead of simply looking at the home as 'wheelchair accessible' I now see it as a roller skating sports complex. And the latter is so much better then the former in my mind.

The Name of The Game: TAXES

Everyone seems to be bemoaning all these new tax proposals, from federal to state to local. Municipalities need to cover 'shortfalls' in their budgets to the tune of millions of dollars. Here, they will start to tax ALL grocery items. Historically, if you ate a product, it wasn't taxed, unless it was 'prepared food'. Now, it will be everything you purchase, whether you eat it or not. This of course, is regressive taxation, but government doesn't care anymore. Regressive. Progressive. No difference.

Here's a few of the taxes I could come up with. And we all pay them. A little more won't hurt. We need to pay our representatives in the Senate and Congress, don't we?

Here goes:

Accounts Receivable Tax
Apartment Rent Tax
Building Permit Tax
Local Bed Tax (hotels)
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
City Wage Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Food Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Garbage Pick-up Tax
Gross Receipts Tax
Hazardous Waste Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Local Wage Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Sales Tax
Special Use Tax
Sports Commission Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service FeeTax
Telephone Federal, State & Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring & Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Toll tag Tax
Transportation Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Water Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

*And there's many, many more taxes not listed above we all pay already.

" And When he's gone, Do not relax,It's time to apply The inheritance tax."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bingo As Serious As World Peace in This Group

I decided to take my mother on her twice weekly trip to the senior center this week.

My intent was to see that she was in a positive and productive environment. On the other hand, I was looking to see what my world might be like a few years from now. From softball to Bingo, I thought. All in the blink of an eye.

Bingo, as I recall the game, was mostly 'laid back'. The cousin of Keno, but not so confusing. Simply place your chit on the numbers as they are called. So, I decided to sit and play-the-game with my mom and a group of her friends. They were all mature people in their 80's. Well-dressed, friendly and social. So I thought. Until the game began.

When the game started, each of those ladies would have up to 20 cards in front of them. My mom had two. She was definitely in the minority. The first number rang out: B-22. A hush feel over the auditorium. Next: N-16. Again, scrambling fingers and hands are all you could hear. I-3 rang out. More shuffling. B-16. You could feel the tension in the air. It was as the 50-yard dash had begun and the wheel chairs and the walkers were of absolutely no concern.

At this point, I attempted to add some humorous statement. Three words came out, and then I got those cross-eyed looks from just about everyone at the table. It was as if 12 mothers had found out that I had skipped school. They were looks that would 'kill'. Another number: I-12. Another hush. Again, I attempted to make a statement. Again, daggers from the group at the table.

I turned to mom and whispered: "what's going on here"? She turned and said: "keep quite. This is serious stuff. There's $25. at stake here, and if you make us miss a number, these ladies won't let me sit here anymore."

And so it continued for the next hour. B-2, G-20, O-14. I was mesmerized by the seriousness of the group. The total lack of wanting to socialize...or talk. They were there to win that $25. at Bingo, and you had better not get in their way.

There was no concern for political discussion, social input, news-of-the-day. Darwinist Bingo. Win or die! I could envision little old ladies being thrown over the table or landing a punch to someone. No wimps here.

I was glad when that day was over. I was exhausted! At the end of the games, everyone reverted back to their nice, social, and mature selves. Talking about how good the lunch of pot-roast was, and how nice it was to see everyone enjoying themselves.

At the end of the day, everyone said good-bye and 'we will see you tomorrow'! The wheel chairs and the walkers started to roll out the door in single file.

I now had a better understanding and appreciation for the game of Bingo. It raises the adrenalin level in this group. It's like younger people playing touch football. It's competition. In your face gamesmenship, taking no prisoners. Winning. $25. worth. I guess when you are in your 80's pomp and circumstance don't concern you anymore. I think you get that old by not being 'old'. Going for the 'gold' of $25., and determined not to let anyone get in your way, wheelchair or not.

I took my mom home, and went home myself. As I walked through the front door, I went to the television remote, channel-surfing. Looking for the Bingo Channel. There isn't any. But if there was, we'd have a whole bunch of old ladies fighting for the remote control and telling me to 'shut up' or die, while the numbers are called.

Obama's FAILED Budget Issues?

According to House Leader, John Boehner (R-OH), President Obama' budget has some real 'shortfalls'. These appear to be the most prominent:

President Obama’s budget contains a “secret sequel” to the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ it concedes isn’t working as promised. A majority of Americans oppose the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ and nearly three in four say it has wasted taxpayer dollars. What’s worse, President Obama’s budget projects that unemployment will remain near 10 percent through the end of this year. The Obama Administration promised the trillion-dollar stimulus would create jobs ‘immediately’ and keep joblessness below eight percent.

President Obama’s budget fails to pivot away from costly, job-killing policies that are causing uncertainty and making matters worse. President Obama’s budget accounts for the implementation of both a government takeover of health care and a ‘cap-and-trade’ national energy tax, two job-killing bills the American people have rejected loudly and clearly. The President calls for a new national energy tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 – a proposal which CBO has estimated would increase taxes by $870 billion, a full $224 billion more than President Obama’s proposal in the FY2010 budget.

Economic News UP....Stock Market DOWN!

Let's recap some of the good news from the Economic front from last week(jan2010):

The Commerce Department said the economy grew in the fourth quarter at its fastest pace in more than six years;

The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its index of Midwest business activity rose more than expected in January;

Consumer sentiment in January as measured by The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers hit its highest level in two years; and

Of the 220 companies in the S&P 500 index that have reported fourth quarter earnings, 78% of them exceeded analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters. In a typical quarter, only 61% of companies beat Wall Street targets.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? So, how does the stock market respond? It goes down.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Trip to The Grammy Awards...Not too long ago..

In 1981, New York City. Radio City Music Hall. I was there. Paul Simon was the host.

I was dressed in a tux, and my wife was looking beautiful. Yes, we attended as invitees. I had been booking music talent in New Jersey for over five years. Probably 20 concerts a year. Lots of well-knowns and not-so, at the time.

We had a limo with a sun-roof. Along the way, we put our heads out of that sun-roof, along Broadway...and just yelled a bit. We had dinner in a great restaurant. The Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center. What a night!

The limo driver said, 'remember the license plate number so you can find me after the awards'. I said 'gee, it's a black stretch limo. There can't be many of those around'

Coming from the awards, now looking for the limo. Fact was, there were at least 50 of those 'black stretch limos' parked outside of Radio City Music Hall. It took us 30 minutes to find ours. Nevertheless, for once, and for one brief shinning moment, we had a few minutes of positive fame and fun. Riding in a limo to attend the Grammy Awards in New York City. Have not done it since. Probably never will again.

Rationale: Enjoy the moment. It generally comes once. Embrace it. Hug it. Remember it. No one else will.

"And Here's to you Mrs Robinson. Jesus loves you more then you will know." I know. Thanks to Paul Simon.

Cowboys Debunked ...

I must admit that I grew up in an age of Western heroes: John Wayne, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers. Sitting in my living room on the East Coast and watching these heroes was a good part of my youth. They would always ride off into the sunset with the prettiest woman, and the bad guys never got away with anything. They were iconic. Supermen in a world far beyond my bedroom.

I noticed the environment from John Ford on. Monument Valley and the Desert...long, vast, brown. As I matured I looked further into this geographic setting. After moving to Arizona 15 years ago, I found that there are four deserts out there:
The Mojave -- The California part (Joshua Trees)
The Great Basin -- Everything 'high' like Las Vegas north
The Sonoran -- Arizona into Mexico
The Chihuahuan -- Most of Western Texas

So, why did I see Saguaro cacti in all these movies, even if the location didn't appear to be Arizona? What I found is that aside from John Ford movies most filmed in Monument Valley, Arizona, the films were all made in the Mojave desert, close to Los Angeles. If the Director of the film needed a real Western flair with Saguaro's, they would just use them as props behind a scenery that was most certainly not Sonoran, but Mojave, where Saguaro do not grow. Joshua Trees do not grow in the Sonoran, to begin with. This was Palm Springs, not Tombstone.
No Dodge City here.

That, in turn, gave me thought as to what really was this 'cowboy' stuff all about.
If John Wayne said he was in Tucson or Tombstone, was he really there? Or was he just outside Palm Springs on a 'horse with no name'. Worse yet, on a soundstage in Burbank?

The final dagger came a few years after moving to Arizona: My childhood cowboy heroes, not only did not do many films in the Sonoran desert, they didn't even live there. It was all part of the American mystic. It was Hollywood reaching out to us.

John, Roy, and Gene all lived in Los Angeles. They lived in Newport Beach, California on the ocean. Ocean-front. How can you be a cowboy in Newport Beach?
"Where do I park this horse, pilgrim", John Wayne would often say.

And so, childhood dreams face the reality that Western cowboys, for the most part, are probably mythical characters made up in a writer's mind somewhere in Los Angeles.
Those that took it all at face-value, like me, will just have to suffer through the thought that my childhood heroes were never real, never really there, and never really rode off into the sunset. Unless there was a 'boulevard' attached!

Rather, they played the scene, completed it, and got in a limo to somewhere on Sunset Boulevard. And none of them, I can assure you, died with their boots on.

Most likely patent leather Gucci shoes.

Friday, January 29, 2010

"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore”

Historically, I attempt to look at myself as a person of many talents. Some would say 'non talents'. Nevertheless, there has been one challenge that I seem never to be able to overcome. That is 'opening a pizza'.

Originally, I had a problem understanding what that term actually meant. So, I decided to find out and conquer the task. Quite simply, 'opening a pizza' means taking the raw pizza dough and getting it to fit into the pizza pan. Sounds easy.

When I first started I would simply roll the dough out with a rolling pin, and presto...I had a pizza. No drama. Lack of flair! No theatrics. Just a plain 'brown wrapper' pizza.

But you know, I went to New York and saw people throwing the dough in the air as they made circular hand motions. They'd toss that dough five feet in the air, and it would magically just roll and roll and roll until they had a perfectly round pizza. It was amazing.

I said to myself,'now that's the way to open a pizza!' Some expertise with lots of drama was needed. Family members and Customers would applaud! They would consider me an expert. They would recognize my talent. I would be famous. I'd have my own tv show. Forget this rolling pin tactic. There's no drama in that. No expertise required.

I was committed to the dramatic effect of throwing the pizza dough five feet in the air, and coming up with a perfectly round 16" pizza when I was done. Everytime. All the time!

As you might imagine this type of 'opening the pizza' takes skill...and time, and a few lost in space pizzas. The first few times I tried it (when no one was around), the dough hit the ceiling and it did not return. It looked somewhat lonesome hanging from the ceiling, bits and pieces dripping on my head. Then, the next few times I would throw it in the air, and catch it right in the middle of the dough. That didn't work very well either. My hand went right through the dough. I was making a pizza, not donuts!

Finally, I got the hang of it so to speak. I would now spin the dough from the circumference (the outside) and when I tossed it, I did not catch it in the middle. I moved off center by a few degrees. Now I also recognized that I need to use TWO hands in the toss, not one. That makes a big difference.

Today, I can spin the dough and open the pizza with the best of them. I can entertain. I can add drama. I have FLAIR! No more rolling pin (how gauche). I can even sing as I toss. I can toss with one hand or both. I'm the "king of pizza" in our house. There is no competition, no proposals, no conference calls, no politics. Just me and the pizza dough.

And the only thing that gets 'fired' is the brick oven. It's a breath of fresh air, when I take that dough and spin it to 'high heaven'.

“Yogi Berra ordered a pizza. The waitress asked How many pieces do you want your pie cut? Yogi responded, Four. I don't think I could eat eight.”

And my friends, That is 'amore'!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Was Thinking About Retiring...

The word 'retirement' always seems to be so far off in the distance. I never thought about it until recently, when I read that this economic crisis would take five years to recover, or that my home wouldn't see 'black ink' for six years, or that my 401K wouldn't return to 'even' for three years.

I thought that if it takes five years for me to get back to full 'cash flow', I'd be too old to get back in the game. If the home takes six years to get back to even, why go through all the trouble of fixing the water leak or accomplish a kitchen 'redo'. So, the toilet overflows.

Thus, the thought of 'retirement' whatever that means in this 'day and age'. So, I looked at a few celebs who 'retired' and then 'unretired'. I decided that if Frank Sinatra could do it, why not me. So, see you in 2013 when things will hopefully be better, and I can 'unretire' to my 401K, and fix that toilet. The challenge would be what to do between the time I retire and unretire? I have some ideas. And I just might take some hints from the noted people below. I'm thinking about coming back from retirement as a:
Singer (crooner,pop, or country)
Prize fighter
Professional Basketball Star

The return of Teddy Roosevelt (1912)
After promising Americans that he would not run again after his second term, which ended in 1909, Roosevelt reemerged from retirement to challenge for the presidency in 1912. Running under the banner of the newly-formed Bull Moose party, Roosevelt placed second in the general election, behind Woodrow Wilson, but ahead of incumbent William Taft. It remains the best showing third-party presidential candidate in U.S. history.

Audrey Hepburn reverts to form (1976)
In 1968, just four years after earning a then-remarkable $1,000,000 for her iconic turn as Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady," Hepburn retired from acting to raise a family. In the mid-70s, she announced a high-profile comeback, as Sean Connery's co-star in the acclaimed "Robin and Marian." Though she retired and "unretired" several more times prior to her death in 1993, none of the subsequent occasions drew as much attention.

Richard Nixon's renewed desire to get "kicked around" (1968)
After serving as VP under Eisenhower, Nixon ran unsuccessfully for president in 1960 and governor of California in 1962. Following the second loss, he retired from politics with the infamous remark, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore." But in early 1968, he announced another presidential bid — this one successful.

Frank Sinatra re-ups (1973)
Those disappointed with the Chairman of the Board's decision to call it quits in 1971 didn't have to wait long for his triumphant return—in 1973, Sinatra starred in a comeback television special that was so successful, the singer didn't bother retiring again until the 1990s.

Muhammad Ali, "the greatest" un-retirer (1979)
While still holding the heavyweight belt, 37-year old Ali announced the end of his boxing career in 1979. The next year he developed an itch to fight Larry Holmes (he lost), and in 1981 fought his last bout against a young Trevor Berbick (another loss).

Michael Jordan returns…again (2001)
At the height of his powers on the basketball court, Chicago Bull Michael Jordan announced in 1993 that he was dropping out to pursue a career in professional baseball. But after a mediocre year in the minor leagues, Jordan returned to the Bulls in 1995, leading the team to three more championships. Another retirement followed, as did another 2001 comeback bid — Jordan tried and failed to revive the struggling Washington Wizards at the age of 38.

Barbra Streisand prevaricates (2006)
In 1994, Barbra Streisand said she'd stop touring altogether. Her final, "farewell" concert came in 2000 when she said she was done for good. Yet, in 2006, Streisand embarked on a comeback tour, calling it an effort to raise money for her foundation. Even after the tour ended, Streisand stuck around and has since released her 63rd album which topped British Billboard charts earlier this year.

Garth Brooks gets back into his boots (2009)
After announcing his retirement in 2000, Garth Brooks did stop touring, but has remained a face of country music and a force in merchandising sales. This week he begins a much-hyped series of shows in Las Vegas which led him to profess: "If we ever do tour again, if we ever do make new music again, it's still going to be another five years."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Southwest Air: A Class Act Event

Now generally, I'm not complimentary of corporate America. They take too much, and give too little. However, Southwest Air was an exception.

Last year, I sent my mother a 'free ticket' (Rapid Rewards) from SWA to visit us in Arizona. She was to fly from Philadelphia to Phoenix non-stop. She arrived at the airport about two hours ahead of time, settled into a wheel-chair and was taken to the departure gate.

My mom doesn't fly often. She's 86. She doesn't need a wheel-chair, but prefers someone take her to the departure gate. Oh, and without her hearing aids she can't hear a thing.

The problem on arriving that early to your departure gate is that there is generally an airplane sitting there. But it's not your flight. Nevertheless, she gets to the gate, and they roll her wheelchair onto the flight that was there. She takes her seat. Normal announcements come on as to where the flight is going, but she can't hear them.

Then Off she goes into the wild blue yonder, sitting there...smiling. Not to Phoenix...but to Tampa! She's never been to Florida. She didn't know about the mixup until 30 minutes into the flight. Not exactly the 'non-stop' we had anticipated, but a 'non-stop' nevertheless. In the wrong direction, to the wrong place!

Obviously, SWA recognized this mistake early on, but there are no parachutes here...just a ride to Tampa. During the course of that flight, my office phone must have rung a dozen times, with updates from the group at SWA.

Subsequently, SWA puts her up in a Marriott hotel, and personally takes her to WalMart for clothing, toothpaste, etc. She gets the run of the menu at the Marriott as well. She phones me and says, "I'd like to stay a little longer here".

Even better, SWA gives her $400. in vouchers for free, and we didn't even pay for the trip to begin with. Nor did we request compensation.'s a compliment to Southwest and their staff. Instead of a potentially nasty situation, they addressed it early-on. No argument, no fanfare...just a pro-active, professional response to an incident that any other airline would have done little about, let alone offer her $400. in free tickets.

Thanks to Southwest Air for being corporately responsible...and responsive without me having to ask. It would have been nice for my mom to stay in Tampa for awhile longer. But no. She's here in Arizona dreaming of the Tampa Marriott.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

WHATDA? Humans That Warm Your Hotel Bed

USA Today:
As England endures an unusually harsh winter, Holiday Inn has cooked up an intriguing way to keep customers comfortable: human bedwarmers.

As a complementary service, select hotel locations will send a staffer dressed in a body-length fleece suit to roll around in your sheets for five minutes.

As hotel spokesperson Jane Bednall tells Sky News, it's like "having a giant hot water bottle in your bed." Agreed, but will watching a stranger writhe about in your bed actually help anyone get a good night's sleep?

The first question I have is "Am I in the room at the time?"
The second question is "What does the human bedwarmer look like?"
And... "Is it male or female"?
Do I need to order dinner?
Can I request a specific person?
Do I still get the chocolate on my pillow?

And whatever happened to the bedwarmer you just plug into the electrical outlet?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Strange "News" is Out There...

Over the past week, I've found some 'strange news' that is either controversial, silly, or just wrong. I'm sure there is more, but I guess time is better spent on better things. Here's some 'happenings':

1)Controversy raging over Don Lewis' plans to launch all-white basketball league.The promoter claims the NBA has devolved into "street ball"

2) New research finds women out-learning — and out-earning — their husbands. Bring on the 'male gold diggers'?

3) Roll out the (grimy) red carpet: Based on clean rankings by travelers @ TripAdvisor San Francisco's Heritage Marina Hotel crowned as the dirtiest in US

4)Divorce in a recession: Nobody wants the house!

5) Who owns Wall St? A drop in financial shares pounded the stock market after President Obama proposed greater restrictions on big banks. Dow -213!

6) United Nations officials in Haiti and other observers say the foreign media is sensationalizing the earthquake aftermath to boost ratings

7) Director James Cameron is facing multiple charges that he "plagiarized" the plot of his blockbuster "Avatar."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

That $250. Fed Stimulus check?

Just in Case You are a Senior and Get a Check for $250...
By end of this year, you senior members of the US community will again receive an Economic Stimulus payment. This is a very exciting program.

I'll explain it using the Q and A format:

Q. What is an Economic Stimulus payment?
A. It is money that the federal government will send to taxpayers.
Q. Where will the government get this money?
A. From taxpayers..
Q. So the government is giving me back my own money?
A. Only a smidgen.
Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
A. The plan is for you to use the money to purchase a high-definition TV set, thus stimulating the economy.
Q. But isn't that stimulating the economy of Asia ?
A. Shut up or you don't get your check.

Below is some helpful advice on how to best help the US economy by spending your stimulus check wisely:

1. If you spend the stimulus money at Wal-Mart, your money will go to China .
2. If you spend it on gasoline, your money will go to Saudi Arabia .
3. If you purchase a computer, it will go to India .
4. If you purchase fruit and vegetables, it will go to Mexico, Honduras or Guatemala .
5. If you buy a car, it will go to Japan or Korea .
6. If you purchase useless plastic stuff, it will go to Taiwan .
7. If you pay off your credit cards, or buy stock, it will go to pay management bonuses and be hidden in offshore accounts.

Or, you can keep the money in America by:
1. spending it at yard sales or flea markets, or
2. going to baseball or football games, or
3. hiring prostitutes, or
4. buying cheap beer or
5. getting tattoos.
These are the only wholly-American- owned businesses still operating in the US .

The best way to stimulate the economy is to go to a ball game with a prostitute that you met at a yard sale and drink beer all day until you're drunk enough to go get tattooed.

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Client: (SaaS)

We have recently taken on a new project in developing markets for Predictive Analytic Software (SaaS). Chequed, based in New York, is at the forefront of this 'software as a service' technology.

The Market: The market for HR assessment market is estimated to be over $1 billion in annual revenues and is experiencing a 15% year-over-year growth. Today, 70% of companies – large and small – use some assessments to improve hiring and performance of their team. Not until today has there been a solution – the Chequed solution – that combines a world-class behavioral assessment with the power of technology-based competency reference checking supported by intellectual property that is unmatched and created by a leading University.
In addition, interest in finding technologies to streamline, improve and make more effective hiring processes is strong as companies recognize the cost of making a poor hiring decisions – estimated to be 2 to 5 time salary and benefits – or $12,000 to well over $100,000. That cost on a reoccurring basis will put a company out of business for sure.


Scottsdale, Arizona and Saratoga Springs, NY – 5 January 2010 – announced the selection of RCI Global Partners LLC today as an Authorized Dealer for the company’s web based behavioral assessment and automated reference checking technology. As an Authorized Dealer for, RCI Global Partners will be delivering Chequed’s Predictive Employee Performance™ web based technology to the Central and Western US markets.

“Our dealer program is a critical component to accelerate into the market. We are very serious about the type of dealers selected into our program and have total confidence that RCI Global Partners will be a terrific addition,” said Greg Moran, President of, Inc.

“As a company that has been in business for 10 years with over 30 client engagements, we rely heavily on new, emerging, cutting-edge technologies to empower our clients to do more… intelligently. We believe that meets that criteria”, stated Robert Carsia, Partner with RCI Global Partners LLC.

Founded in 2008 by some of the foremost experts in employee selection and development, Chequed is an emerging leader in the rapidly growing market for Predictive Employee Performance™ technology. Specifically Chequed delivers a software as a service (SaaS) technology used for behavioral assessment and automated reference checking. Chequed’s revolutionary Performance EngineTM delivers rapid, accurate predictions of a new hire’s performance.
Chequed has commercialized innovative research developed in partnership with The Research Foundation of The State University of New York and The University at Albany’s world-class Department of Psychology. Complementing these research innovations is the software’s practical, real-world emphasis. Chequed’s experienced management team, board of directors and advisory committee have helped hundreds of startups and growing companies hire talent that made them industry leaders. Their extensive expertise has fortified the Chequed software to meet the day-to-day challenges of human resource managers facing competitive markets for human capital. Further information can be found at
About RCI Global Partners LLC
With Over 10 years experience in helping build 'top line' revenues and pipelines, RCI Global Partners has created the market strategy and tactically developed the business/partners, alliances, and customers for over 30 clients, within an outsourced marketing and sales firm.
RCI Global covers multiple vertical markets and geographies, from technology to 'brick and mortar'. The work includes clients in software, computer hardware, retail, digital media, satellite telecommunications, e-commerce, entertainment and sports.
Clients have included Lockheed, GE, Marconi, Digital Equipment Corp, Disney, Globecomm, EMS Technologies…among others.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Goodbye $5.00 Coffee...and Hello....

Goodbye $5 coffee.So long, gourmet supermarket food, $3,000 handbags and McMansions. Adios, expensive shows and gambling tables in Las Vegas. Downsizing Starbucks, Whole Foods, Big-time Las Vegas Hotels, and Toll Brothers home builders.

Hello to the new frugality. Dinner at McDonalds (and coffee too). The new American reality, that seems to have some 'legs' to it. Job losses, job cuts, hours gone, upside down housing, cars that are way too expensive, electric bills that are out of sight, and the new reality of it all: we are going to definitely pay higher taxes just to keep government running. In Phoenix a tax on ALL food items, for example.

Checked your mortgage payment notice lately? How about that escrow account. Up at least $5.00 per month. Cable TV? Up at least $5.00 per month. Electric? Up at least $5.00 per month. That cheap chicken at .99cents per pound? Gone! Credit card interest rates? And they 'sneak it in on you'. Just add it to your bill. You get the picture.

Just these few additions add up to probably about $60.00+ per month on things you already use.

And don't bet the ranch on stocks either from Starbucks, MGM, Whole Foods, or Toll Brothers. Those stocks are about at their peak. In the $20. range, and will stay that way for a long time to come.

The fact is that everyone is squeezing the consumer, when the consumer can't be squeezed any longer. Something has got to give, if it already hasn't.

Personally, the only 'bill' I have is the house mortgage, and that is difficult to take, since the home is worth less then the mortgage. If I could rid myself of the home, and buy a Class "A" RV, I could forgo all of this. I could cancel all my credit cards, move away from social networking, and finding new clients and opportunities, and just drive off into the sunset. Nay. I'd have to pay for overpriced gasoline, overpriced repairs and overpriced insurance. And I would be forced to visit my mother-in-law.

Have a good one!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Nigerian Bomber repurposed...

I suppose you've all heard about the Slovak airline passenger yesterday:
A failed airport security test ended up with a Slovak man unwittingly carrying hidden explosives in his luggage on a flight to Dublin. It was a test of sniffer dogs, that obviously failed. Irish police arrested the passenger briefly, but it was a political fiasco for the Slovaks.

Then there's the Nigerian 'bomber' who attempted to bring down a Northwest airplane headed for Detroit. He started out by attempting to detonate the explosive in his crotch! Now, that is dedication! I think the 'shoe bomber' was more intelligent. He got life in prison, and only walks with a limp. The Nigerian?

Now, I actually like people from Nigeria. The people I've met are generally smart and accommodating. Nigerians for the most part, have no real racial prejudice. After being there a number of times, I find them warm and friendly in the true West African sense. They don't really see that 'black and white' thing, as we do here in the US. Now I know that a lot of scams come out of Nigeria. It's generally a pretty poor place when compared to other geographies.

I recall that Six Flags theme parks signed a contract to build a theme park in that country. Best of luck to that investment group.

The fact is, in my dealings in Nigeria, nothing ever got finalized. Investors would pour money into a project, move it along...and then just 'crap out'. Millions of dollars gone. I still don't know why.

I had dinner with a Nigerian chief a few years ago in Kaduna, Nigeria. He was one of the most pleasant, unassuming 'chiefs' I have ever met. We sat on the floor of his home for dinner and just talked about his projects, his hopes, his aspirations for him and his family. And guess what? He had the same aspirations and dreams as we all do! Funny. We sat on the floor that night, and ate food with our hands. Chicken, sweet potatoes, and some stuff I didn't recognize. But there it was. An Italian guy from Philadelphia having dinner with a Tribal Chief from Nigeria, with the same aspirations. The same hope and the same dream.

He came to New York the following year in the snow, dressed in traditional Nigerian garb. I held his hand as we walked through the snow on Long Island to dinner, so he wouldn't fall on the ice. He wanted to make a 'snow angel'. I showed him how. He laughed.

In all of this, there has got to be a rationale for 'why' a young, good-looking Nigerian kid, would attempt to blow up an intercontinental flight with explosives placed in his crotch! Something's wrong here. Are we actually part of the problem, or more realistically and altruistically, part and parcel of the solution? For all of our global good, I hope and trust the latter, although I am sure, I will have my detractors.
I don't get it. Do you?

Thomas Gets Tanked...

I can't state emphatically that I watch "Thomas The Tank Engine" on a regular basis. However, I do have my days. I also never thought of Thomas as conformist or sexist. After all, Thomas is a train engine. Nevertheless, only about 18% of the characters presumably are female, and only one is the head of something.

A Canadian professor has been flooded with angry e-mails from parents after publishing a study saying that the popular children's TV show featuring Thomas the Tank Engine teaches children to be conformist -- and sexist. University of Alberta political scientist Shauna Wilton says she recognizes that Thomas—who works on the railway on the fictional island of Sodor—also stresses positive themes, such as trust, honesty, and hard work, but she notes that only eight of the 49 main characters in the current Thomas shows are female. Only one, Emily, is among the core team of steam engines—and she didn't show up until the TV series' seventh season. Is Thomas the Tank Engine sexist?

On a real railroad, the majority of workers are male anyway. I checked with the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads on this topic. Less then 10% of their workers are female that actually work on the trains. Thomas, on the other hand, has around 18% who are female. You go Thomas!

In the original Railway Series, Thomas is generally depicted with a cheeky and even self-important personality. He believes that he should be more respected by the others, and he gets annoyed when he does not receive this respect. Well, I can surely identify with that, and have no disagreement.

Thomas strikes me as a loner frankly. A myopic sense of 'right and wrong', and if he gets laid off from the job, there's not much else he can do with the expertise. After all, he's a train engine. Life would certainly be lonely.

"I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you."

So, let's put it all in perspective when raising critical statements about issues that have no resolution. Let's not play games by ourselves. Second guessing our abilities. We'd lose every time.

"So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact and remember that life is a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The TSA Incompetence Rule...

Though the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quickly devised more strenuous airport security procedures after the failed terrorist attack on Flight 253,the memo outlining its changes was leaked to two travel bloggers who published it.

Soon after Steven Frischling and Chris Elliott published the memo on their respective websites, TSA officials went to the bloggers' houses, issued them subpoenas, and attempted to confiscate their computers to track the leak back to its source.

Late last week, however, the TSA withdrew both subpoenas, saying that legal action was "no longer necessary".

The TSA's actions are a 'disgrace': Bullying bloggers with threats of imprisonment for informing the public about something we "should have been told [about] immediately" is "asinine and offensive," says Henry Blodget at The Business Insider. Before the TSA engaged in this "bizarre behavior," its claims that it had no clear forewarning of the attack seemed credible. Now, however, it seems that "the cause of this near-tragedy" was more likely "incompetence."

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