Some Background

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National and Global, United States

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

Report:

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.

Some Thinkers