Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sign of the Times

Years ago, I had The New YorkTimes delivered to my home, every Sunday. Making the Times appear, every week, in my driveway, as if by magic, involved a highly complicated set of arrangements, but it was an imperfect technology.

Every Sunday, I looked out my window, fully expecting that the paper would not be in my driveway. This expectation built up over time, mainly when the paper deliverer was a substitute for the main guy. A substitute is somebody who doesn't know what he is doing, because the main guy didn't tell him anything. I became convinced that the route I was on had no main guy - all the deliverers were substitutes - every week, a new one who didn't know what he was doing.

It wouldn't have been so bad if you could then call up the deliverer and have it sent over posthaste, but you couldn't do that. It was virtually impossible to get the paper delivered, if you were missed the first time around.

So I stopped taking the paper. Instead, I subscribed to the on-line New York Times. In a marvel of modern technology, an exact facsimile of the paper was delivered to my computer screen every Sunday, but I found that I couldn't read it. When a whole page was displayed on the screen, the text was too small for discernment by human beings. But, zoomed out so that the text could be read, so little of a page was shown that all my time was spent in positioning the window to follow my perusing.

So I canceled my on-line subscription, in favor of a technology that works. Every Sunday, I drive my car to the QuikTrip (where nobody knows my name, but they say hello anyway) and I buy a copy of the Sunday Times.

Before the recession hit, I had to get to the QuikTrip before 9 AM to get a copy. After then, they were usually sold out, in which case I would go to the Borders Bookstore in the next block. If Borders was sold out, I would go across the street to the Starbucks.

After the recession hit and the Times, in its wisdom, raised the cost of a copy to six bucks, I could come by any time during the day. There was no hurry.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vanity ain't what it used to be

At my last high school reunion, an old geezer came up to me and said that he knew where I could publish my blogs in a real book for $200. I felt like Benjamin Braddock, hearing "plastics" for the first time. My reaction to the old geezer was, why would I want to do that? I'm already publishing myself for free.

But there are still reasons for wanting a real book sometimes. Sometimes you want to pay for publishing yourself. When I came up, self-publication was for idiots only. Idiots with money. "Vanity" was the kindest word anyone could think of applying to that kind of publishing. It was for suckers.

I see it differently, now. Print-On-Demand allows anyone to obtain, not just a bunch of bound books, but the whole range of marketing services that traditional publishers offer. If your stuff is good, the big guys will call you up. It's a free country, after all. The only difference between me and the best-sellers, is the sense of superiority that the best-sellers reserve for themselves. "Vanity" is the kindest word I can think of applying to them.

I will take what's left of the stigma. I will pay for marketing my stuff. The Greater Fool Theory gives me a better than even chance of recouping my costs. And if not, I'll still have a closet full of books with my name on them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yahweh's Jest

I have previously described the view from my second-floor home office, particularly regarding the activities of the Landscaping Crew - miscreants with machinery for stealing the Autumn leaves from my yard.

With their loud blowers, they coax the leaves from the sides and back of my property, along with the leaves of my neighbors, and wrangle them together in a big pile on the sidewalk in front of my house. Then they move a few doors down the street and make big leaf-piles in front of other people's houses. They repeat this process until they are done. Later in the day, a big leaf truck comes slowly down the street with men following along side, scooping up the big piles to be hauled off, presumably to be counted, bagged and sold to leaf fanciers everywhere.

I notice, however, that, before the truck comes around, the prevailing breezes kick up and begin blowing the piled-up leaves around. And, just like the sub-tropical winds in "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" which blow the piles of hard-collected gold dust from their broken bolsas back to the mountains, whence they came, the neighborhood winds slowly blow the golden leaves from their careful piles back to their rightful places in all our yards.

And the blowers and collectors, themselves, have to laugh at the absurdity of their labors in the face of Yahweh's little jest.

Annaly, My Annaly

My recent activity in NLY:

9/30/2009 SOLD 1000 NLY @ 18.08
11/4/2009 BOUGHT 1000 NLY @ 17.05

With the level of risk that I'm willing to take, right now, making $1000 on a trade seems to be average for me. Actually, that's not bad. If I could make 100 trades like that in a year, with no losses, I could make a living with it.

NLY = Not Likely.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

File under "Signs and Portents"

My wife, who dislikes devices, wants a Google phone. She wants me to have one, too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Of Shoes and Dips and Double-Tops

We're coming up to the dog days of November, waiting for another shoe to drop. Doing its best Chuck Barris imitation, GOOG inches up a little, then back a little and then up a little more. Weird, that we can't buy a thrill. The sails are slack. We're not moving up and nothing is gaining on us. Weird that the dip won't come.

But going down this hole we're in was really strange, so we shouldn't be surprised that coming out of it is strange, too. Same terrain. Through the Looking Glass is not a different place, just a different perspective.

The first time GOOG was at this price level, it motored on, straight to 741 before it hit the ceiling. This trip, it will probably take its sweet time, getting back to the high, but then blow through the ceiling like it wasn't there.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Six Google Eves ago, I committed the most colossal blunder of my short trading life.

In those days, Google was despised by investors because it wasn't Apple. The received wisdom was that Google's market was saturated and would soon disappear. Everybody shorted GOOG. I don't short stocks. I just sold every share I owned. Then they came out with killer earnings and the stock went up 80 points in ten minutes. I watched in horror. But that wasn't my most colossal blunder. My most colossal blunder came when I sucked in my gut and bought my shares back for 80 points more than I sold them. That was the big blunder.

If I had just bid good-bye to Google at that point, if I had not bought those shares back, up 80, I could have purchased them back later for a song. But no - Cramer said that sometimes you have to suck in your gut and pay up. So I did. How was I supposed to know that that wasn't one of those times?

But that's all behind me now. This Google Eve, for the first time since then, I'm completely in the black with GOOG, including the shares I paid up 80 for. All is forgiven.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Google Eve

We've been here before, we GOOG wranglers, camping out on Google Eve under Google stars. Wondering what tomorrow will bring. But it's all right, even if the sun don't shine. We GOOG wranglers are going to the end of the line.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Good Day For Us


Today, Eric "Bubba" Schmidt revealed that an Android phone will be manufactured by the Cracker Jacks Company and GOOG shot up 18 bucks, gratifying shlubs like me. So what's left for Google Eve, next week? Probably a "sell the news" reaction, but not to worry, it will be contained. This booger's headed for $600. Again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It looks like Google

I started selling a little GOOG and a little NLY a few weeks ago, but I knew it was just for a trade, since I want to own as much GOOG as I can stand, going into earnings. In the meantime, I have managed to pick up a little walking-around money, going in and out of, mainly, GOOG. I'm going to wait for NLY to encounter its own gravity again. The next dividend is 3 months away.


8/25/2009 Sell -100 $471.00
9/8/2009 Buy 100 $465.00
9/18/2009 Sell -100 $495.00
10/5/2009 Buy 100 $484.45

Today's close: $498.74


8/26/2009 Sell -1000 $17.43
9/8/2009 Buy 1000 $17.40
9/30/2009 Sell -1000 $18.08

Today's close: $17.56

The race is on, and the time is ripe for Yahweh's Surprise to come outta nowhere. But I wouldn't discount Cramer, here. He says Google is going to blow away its numbers, this time. And he talks to everybody.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Major Award

Dear Mr. Blumen,

Congratulations! Your recent anniversary with TEKsystems represents a career of which you should be very proud.

We appreciate your partnership and decision to work with TEKsystems. Whether you've worked with us on one assignment or many, our aim is to provide you with continuous employment and the right job opportunities to help you achieve your career goals.

As part of our service awards program, we are recognizing Technical Professionals who have achieved at least 3, 5, 7, or 10 years of service with our company. As a symbol of our appreciation, we invite you to review the on-line catalog and select your gift of choice to commemorate your anniversary.

We know that you have a number of choices in today's market. Thank you again for your continued commitment to TEKsystems.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Moscow Dacha

When Khrushchev was replaced in the Kremlin, he was driven, that very day, to his new retirement dacha on the far side of Moscow. There was actually a lot to do on the property, but he was miserable.

That has informed my opinion of retirement. Over the years, I have told everybody that it would not be good for me to retire. But, when it came, it came fast, that very day. The only difference between me and Khrushchev is that, in Khrushchev's case, it hadn't been his idea.

But I had to admit, the first few days weren't that bad. A general excitement lingered in the air. My wife and I visited friends and heard from well-wishers. When we were alone, we talked constantly, fleshing out Plan B. My head was full of projects, which I estimated would take me well into the next week. I told everybody, retirement is good.

Now, a week-and-a-half in, the thrill is gone. During that time, I completed a number of projects: I went to the grocery with my wife (once) and to the car place with her (twice). I cleaned up my home office (took a whole day) and copied 17 CDs to iTunes. One day, I went to the Kroger to tell everybody there that I wasn't dead. I told the Quiznos guy the same thing.

Today, I brought in the mail. There was a travel brochure from the Stanford Alumni Association.

I said to my wife, "Would you like to go to Antarctica, next summer, with the Stanford Alumni?"

She looked out from the kitchen and said, "You could wear the heavy wool turtleneck your mother gave you when we were living in Florida."

I showed her the brochure and she threw it in the trash.

I said, "You've been retired for ten years. How do you do it?"

She looked up from the stove and said, "I still have a job."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lucky Man

I can't help it if I'm lucky.

I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, but I always landed on my feet. I flunked out of graduate school, but then lucked into a government job and found a home there. Growing up, I was too young for Korea and too old for Vietnam. My son was too young for Vietnam and too old for Iraq.

Where we used to live, when the storms were felling big trees and flooding out the rest of the city, we were always spared. Now that we've moved, the old home place is taking the brunt of the fury, and we are again spared. This morning, I'm lucky that I don't have to go anywhere.

Yahweh is setting me up for something.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Straight Razor

My choice of a haircutter has always been governed by how much they talk. The less the better. A few years ago, I used to get my hair cut by a woman named Joyce, a Barbara Mandrell type, who talked a lot. I liked Joyce. She was an exception to my rule.

Now I get my hair cut by a Korean woman, named Kim. Her interpersonal style is enhanced by a language barrier. She is also a master of the straight razor - incredibly smooth, no burn. I went to her shop today for a trim. I usually go after work, but today I made an earlier appointment.

She said, "You off work, today?"

I said, "No, I got fired yesterday."

She said, "Oh, yeh?"

I said, "Yeah."

She doesn't talk much. That's what I like about her. That and her steady hand with a straight razor. I wish I knew how to do that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Mars Perspective

You tell 'em, Populi
You got the Vox

The perspective from Mars is that, from time immemorial, we have been engaged in civil war down here. From tribes to nations, we have been hating and fighting and killing our own kind through generations. Now and then, it gets so bad that Yahweh has to intervene.

I've always sensed Yahweh in multitudes. Whether it's his voice I'm hearing, or his ear getting tickled by the action of crowds, I'm not sure. Somehow the spirit emerges from the multitude and focuses on an individual who is transformed. That's the only rational way I can understand Lincoln. Or Elvis.

We may be building up to something again, now. Thousands believe that we are. And this time the crowd is global. Hysteria sweeps over the world and back like searchlights on that plain where gentlemen used to walk, bootleg whiskey in their hands.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Last Night

For the record, last night, I sold one-third of my NLY and two-tenths of my GOOG.

There's nothing funny about that.

I did what I said I wouldn't do.

I hope it makes me happy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Google Musing

I recognize three verities, right now. Google, Annaly and cash. I haven't done a stupid investing thing in the last six months, that is, if you don't count Google, Annaly and cash for the last six months as a stupid investing thing.

Selling anything right now would be a stupid investing thing. So would buying anything.

Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, and still have the feeling that you wanted to stay?

Cotton is down to a quarter a pound and the living is easy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Six Degree Man

What's a mojo

When I was trying to visualize the Great Mandala, the best I could come up with was a wheel. Nothing too very scientific.

It doesn't have to be complicated. Facebook asks for your real name and then lets you hook up with your friends. Just like real life, except in Facebook all your relatives are your friends, too. And every acquaintance you ever had, even though you've only seen them one time or two. They're all your friends.

This is where Pirandello comes in. His six degrees hypothesis can be tested now. Except that Facebook has only opened up one degree. But some day, all degrees will be free.

Then you could become a six degree man. You could systematically trace anybody back to a friend of yours, and then use the connection to inveigle yourself into their lives. Or you could use the connection to put them in your will.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Girl with Four Names in The Great Mandala

I was in Facebook, today. I was looking at somebody's comment about something and somebody else made a comment about the comment that was a little above average, so I clicked on her face.

She didn't share her information with strangers, but I was still allowed to see pictures of her friends and their names. There were six of them and their thumbnails were displayed in a single line across the screen. There were 5 women and one man. Two of them had three names. Three of them had two names. And one was a girl with four names.

I was drawn to the picture of the girl with four names. She seemed young, with black-rimmed glasses, maybe a co-ed, and her face looked down at the camera from a clear blue-green sky behind and the hint of a bowline suggesting she may be on a yacht. The other pictures were just as small, some more dimly exposed, all showing faces looking out. I wondered if they were all still alive.

I kept looking at the girl with four names and the picture seemed to change on me. It seemed to recede into the page and the blue-green sky began to fade with age. This girl could be my grandmother.

And then I got a visual: Google gets all these pictures from everywhere and displays them on a great wheel forever. A zillion to a line, wheeling down so slowly it seems stopped. You can click anywhere and find out everything you need to know about anybody. Very little is private. Hey, you have to eat. Everybody has to eat. Most of the people looking out, as the wheel goes by, have passed into the public domain.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where the Wild Goose Goes

wild goose
brother goose

When we moved into this house we have, it was the only house on this side of the neighborhood. Vacant lots surrounded us, and we soon discovered that the lot across the street was a meeting ground for large gatherings of Canada Geese, on their way to somewhere else.

We became bird watchers from our windows. But, eventually, construction came in and put houses down on the Geese's meeting ground, all the way down to the end of the street. After that, we never saw large numbers of Canada Geese again. Occasionally, two or three would come down and walk around, looking for the party. But after that, they were gone.

Until this year. In late May, we were visited by a Canada Goose family. Father, mother, and four goslings. Twice a day, they came through our little backyard, in single file, the goslings in between, with parents fore and aft. Virtually soundless, they took their time, grazing. They would continue on through everybody's backyard and then we would see them again on the way back. Over several weeks, we watched the babies grow up. And then we didn't see them any more.

. . . .

At work, I usually take my lunches alone. An old man's prerogative. For the past year or so, my habit has been to grab a fast sandwich somewhere and then go to the nearby Kroger, where I can purchase a cold bottle of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, in the large size.

In the front of the store, several tables had been set up for weary shoppers and most of the time I had no problem finding a place to eat my sandwich and drink my coffee milk. Wednesday, however, was the day designated by Kroger for giving a 5% discount to senior citizens. Accordingly, as if by plan, a bus from a nearby home would haul a bunch of them to the store every Wednesday to buy their week's provisions and also return a few pennies to their mite.

On Wednesdays, I had to take my chances. When I arrived, the senior citizens, mostly female, had completed their shopping and were all gathered in the table area, socializing. But it was not a problem. In a few minutes, the bus would come and word would spread through the group until everyone was informed, and they'd start lining up to go out.

Then a few months ago, the store undertook a major renovation. It stayed open for business, but no part of the store was unaffected. Whole departments were displaced by construction crews. Outside, the entire facade of the store was destroyed and then rebuilt to look different. Heavy equipment was brought in. The managers stood outside and apologized to everyone for the inconvenience, short of offering an indemnity against mishap.

In this renovation, it happened that the table area was removed. All the furniture was packed up and hauled away. The senior citizens found that they had no place to gather. Their meeting ground had fallen prey to a modern kind of life that none of them had any use for. But they kept coming, on schedule, every Wednesday. Someone at the store put up a few folding chairs in a line along the wall across from the checkout counters. The senior citizens sat there, unhappy, waiting for the bus to come. They didn't talk, they didn't socialize. The bus would come, they would go out, and then they were gone.

. . . .

Last week, a good soaking rain came in, just before bedtime. We went out on the patio and listened to the sound of rain at night. My wife said, "I wonder where they go, when they're not here. I wonder where they are tonight."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Let Me Count The Ways: A Dylan Ramble

I don't get jazz. I like a lot of it. Louis Armstrong, Brubeck, The Four Freshmen, Chick Corea, Marsalis. But they're accessible. The other side, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonius, I don't get them at all. I don't like them.

Jazz at that level is too mathematical for me. You need something in your brain that I haven't got to like that kind of music. Trying to explain to me what's so good about jazz so I could really get it, would be like me, trying to explain to somebody who doesn't like Bob Dylan, what's so good about him, so they'd really get it.

The first thing we'd have to get past is, "He's not a singer, he's a poet." That's right, he's a poet. Primitive, but major. But what major poet, except maybe Yeats, sings? Like distance and time coming together, Dylan's words and ancient melodies combine, intertwine, always on the brink of being out of synch, but always in perfect counterpoint. A new kind of rhythm. Listen to "Brownsville Girls", half spoken, half sung, totally extemporaneous. You might lock onto it after you've heard it 8 or 9 times. Dylan is a river you'll never step into at the same place again. Dylan is the next time you hear him.

"He's got a lousy voice."

Bob Dylan's voice, young or old, is the most extraordinary jazz instrument ever loosed on the world. I don't have the strength right now to even think about explaining that to you.

I have two heroes in this world - Einstein and Dylan. To me, they're both heroic in the same way. In the way they burst on the scene, young and unknown, but already in their full maturity, sweeping everything before them with absolute authority, and remaking the world in their own awful visions. Shout hero, hero, all day long.

Somebody told me once that Jim Nabors had a good singing voice. I don't even know what to think about that.

A lot of singers close their eyes when they sing, like they're singing alone. Dylan looks clearly out, at a place in the middle of the air. Connecting with something we can't see.

And there ain't no one can sing the blues, like him. I don't care what you've heard to the contrary.

He's unarranged, like this post.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A woman once said to me

A woman once said to me, "I don't know what I think, until I say something."

I've thought about that a lot, since then.

I do a lot of thinking. But not so much speaking.

But, every now and then, a thought comes to me that I'm pretty sure I didn't think.

That really gets me thinking.

It must be Sunday.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Equal Opportunity Hack

It's not in my DNA to join anything.

So it is that I have no political affiliation, neither Republican nor Democrat nor Libertarian. People who know me might say I'm a Libertarian, but that's wrong. Or that I lean Democrat, but that's only partly true. The fact that I have never voted for a Republican in my life, proves nothing.

I am, in fact, a Goldwater conservative. I will vote for the person who says, "Get the government off our backs - legalize drugs."

Even if it's a Republican.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Them that has don't need you

Google doesn't advertise. That's OK, Microsoft didn't advertise for years. But their reasons for not advertising were different.

Gates, being a geek, didn't think he needed to advertise. Like all programmers, he figured, if you don't like my code, hey, don't use it.

Google doesn't advertise, because they don't have to. They know that every block they plug into that Great Mandala they're building, just makes the thing spin faster. And you're already on board.

Google doesn't have to tell you what to do. Google knows what you're going to do.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Prayer to Yahweh

Your Omnipotence,

We saw what you did with Susan Boyle on that British talent show. That was great. Everybody cried.

And then you brought other nobodies out of the woodwork, singing their hearts out, and that was great, too. I'm in awe of what you have wrought.

Now, I just played a video of a nine-year-old kid, named Tallan Noble Latz, who has been listening to Hendrix and Stevie Ray since he was five, and learning his axe, which is taller than he is, and he comes out on the American version of the show and plays that stuff better than anybody, and the audience stands up and cries and yells and dances in the aisles, while the judges quietly sob.

All I can say is, you did it again. You are a deity.

But I'm wondering how long the world can keep going nuts over these miracles. You might want to take a break for a while. Go back on your mountain. Write a few more Commandments.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Post Eve

A good, solid report.

Eric and the boys should be very proud. Jonathan Rosenberg, too. Listening to him on the call, it's obvious these guys know what they're doing. Smart guy, Rosenberg. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets to use the hot tub when Larry and Sergey are out of town.

Of course, there was the anti-GOOG constituency. Mostly traders, walking wounded zombies, who nodded off when Rosenberg stood up. To my wife, I cursed them for selling Google short in the after-hours. Clumsy louts with no appreciation for the longer term.

My wife said, "If you're in for the long term, what do you care what happens tonight?"

She had me, there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Google Eve

I almost forgot about Google Eve.

Not much to say, this time.

In search of a theme, I googled "Google Eve" and got last year's post, from a darker clime, swept up with confused alarms of struggle and flight.

It seems an ocean away now. Back when I was interested in money.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Wife's iPod Playlist

How long has the iPod been around? Five Years? I don't know.

Over the weekend, I bought my first iPod.

My wife, who prefers to go unnamed, had a birthday. For years, I've been trying to talk her into an iPod. She always said she didn't want anything that was a device. This year, she mentioned iPod before I did. So I got her one.

First, I had to learn how to do it and then I could show her how to do it. I got iTunes and turned it on. It was brilliant. But I didn't know what to do first, or how. I'm always like that with new things. I struggled and did everything the hard way.

Eventually, it clicked and I saw iTunes in the Sky, there to help me in every way.

So, now, I'm teaching my wife and she's getting it.

Today, I came home and she said she'd bought 20 tunes for 99 cents each. I began to see the dark side of iTunes.

Luckily, our kids had thrown in an iTunes Gift Card, along with their best birthday wishes, so there was no shortage of funds. But, you know how it goes. A Gift Card here, a Gift Card there, and when they run out, you're talking about real money.

Anyway, I asked my wife if I could publish her playlist, but she declined.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Another hard luck story that you're gonna hear

Interviewer: "Mr. Blumen, it's been said that, lately, you have been writing more about things you did years ago, before most people were born, and less about all the stupid investing things you've done."

Blumen: "I haven't done them all."

Interviewer: "Yes. But there are some who would like to see more stupid investing things."

Blumen: "I'll make a note."

Interviewer: "Yes. And some have observed that, when you run out of things to write about, you post another fraudulent interview with yourself."

Blumen: "That's right."

Interviewer: "Yes. And a few have accused you of harboring literary pretensions."

Blumen: "Well, I'm not doing it to make a living."

Interviewer: "No?"

Blumen: "Yes."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Power

Even today, I'm told, there are wild regions of Ireland, beyond the pale of Dublin, or any other fair city, where rustic folk still adhere to the old ways.

The story is from the Clancy Brothers, about the time, just after the bumbershoot had been invented, when the Bishop came riding up to the little house of Shamus and his brother, in a driving rain.

Shamus was looking out the window as rider and horse approached, and he called out for his brother to come see.

"It's the Bishop," the brother said.

Shamus said, "Aye, but what's that thing that's got hold of him?"

"It's a contraption."

They watched intently until the Bishop arrived at their door.

The brother said, "Look, he's dry as a bone."

Shamus said, "He'll never get that thing through the door."

But, when they opened the door, the Bishop stopped outside, raised his contraption to the sky and appeared to wrestle with it, whereupon the contraption collapsed with a whooop! until it was thin as a stick. He then walked through the door and propped the thing up in a corner.

When it came time to go, the rain was still coming down. The Bishop retrieved his contraption and got back on his horse. Then he held the thing up with both hands and suddenly, with another whooop!, it swelled out again like a great, black, menacing bird.

The brothers watched in silence as the Bishop rode away.

Finally, Shamus said, in a hushed tone, "They have the Power. "

I thought about that last week, when I watched Obama, intent upon a fly. He regarded it with a look of total concentration.

What followed was a feat of ordinary mayhem, of such skill that few possess it. Obama not only killed the fly with his bare hands, he knew he could do it. If he had not been certain, he would not have tried. Because he was on camera. And he knew the press would report it, with glee, either way.

As a moment, it was sublime. And not without a larger purpose, a chance to convey a message to every hall and hovel in the world.

He has the Power.

And he's not afraid to use it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What it was like in the war

During the late sixties and early seventies, when it looked like the war was going on forever, a generation of Harvard's brightest and best, fresh out of medical school and eager to serve their country, signed up for the USPHS Commissioned Corps.

It was an acceptable and worthy way of getting through the next few years. Of course, sacrifices had to be made. They had to work in Government offices. But they found out it wasn't all that different from Harvard. Still, there was a revolution going on, and their fantasies were all on the barricades.

There was a bunch of these guys where I worked. The halls were alive with beards and sandals, where white shirts and ties used to be. It was the first time I'd ever seen doctors that young. To them, I was a civilian, but they didn't care. They were living the life.

I didn't care either. When I first got there, the buzz was all about another guy - a civilian named Rick Curtis. Curtis was maybe 25 years old, with breezy good looks and a confident smile. He had a style that was effortless and unforced. He didn't require attention, but he commanded it. Even though he had no real standing in the organization, he mingled easily with the bosses, chatting them up like one of their own.

I learned he was from a modest background, but had been sent to a prestigious academy for his education and, by all appearances, a good job had been done on him. His knowledge of things and goings-on in the world was very broad, although it was hard to tell at what depth, since he had a way of throwing little comments into conversations that gave the appearance of high wisdom to people his own age. It might have been possible to dismiss him as a lightweight, except for one thing.

He was a computer genius. In those days, that meant knowing everything about mainframe computers and the software that ran on them. Of course, he knew about minicomputers, too. And he was cognizant of the micros that were beginning to pop up. Any suggestion, to him, that his knowledge might be stronger in one area than another would invite a polite demur.

Where and how he acquired all that knowledge, no one was sure. But the Harvard medicos went nuts over him. They rebuked themselves for being plumbers, and esteemed Rick Curtis as a god. They all wanted to hang out with him.

The story was that he and his boss, Don Eddins, who had a knack for finding computer geniuses, had conspired together to establish and operate the first minicomputer in the history of the organization, over the dead bodies of the mainframe-hugging Directors of the Computer Services Bureau. Eddins liked nothing better than a nice coup and Curtis gave him the muscle to bring it off.

And then there was the dandy little piece of software that Rick put together that let you enter a bunch of data and then run correlations and chi squares on it 'til the cows came home. It was so easy, even the Harvard Docs could use it by themselves. They saw right away that they could turn out papers twice as fast with this thing. Rick Curtis earned their everlasting praise. They fell prostrate before him. They worshipped the motherboard that had given rise to him.

I liked him, myself. I got to know him because I was working for Eddins, too. And I had an itch to become a programmer. Rick took me under his wing, even though my wing was several years older than his. I had tried reading the manuals, but that didn't work. Rick would say a few words and things would become plain. He pointed me in certain directions and I began to understand.

Once, I told him about a menu routine that I was working on. He said, "You might try putting the menu items in the data, rather than the program." I took it all in.

After a while, I went off on my own. I was interested in creating a kind of software system that would act as a guide for a person through a complicated process. And the system would be constructed so that all the difficult work would be done by the computer, and all the person would have to do is supply the information that the computer didn't know about. Most computer programs, I observed, were not written that way.

Anyway, for this to work, the person and the computer had to be able to interact with each other back and forth, and the kind of microcomputer that could do this was just then being introduced by IBM. I found out that a nearby military base had bought one and I got them to let me practice on it, a couple of afternoons a week, for over a year. I read the programming manual till the pages were tattered, and I wrote code.

After a year, Eddins was getting curious about what I was up to, so he got Rick to ask me about it. I was tickled, because I felt like I was ready to show it to somebody.

So Rick and I drove down to the military base where the computer was. Rick was in a chatty mood. I think he had an idea about what he was going to see and he figured he'd make a few suggestions, and then encourage me to keep at it.

At the base, we sat together in a small, dimly lit room in front of a screen about the size of a piece of Wonder Bread. And I gave him a tour through a process, organized around the functions of an immunization clinic. Immunizations were recorded as they were administered and maintained as a retrievable record for each child. Inventory was reduced, a dose at a time, and re-order points were established for alerts. And finally all the loathsome monthly reports of how much of what was given to how many at what age came rolling out. Everything was integrated and customizable by the user. It took me two hours to cover everything.

At the end, I realized that Rick hadn't said a word during the whole show. He seemed lost in thought. Finally, he said, "You should be very proud."

On the way back, we didn't do much talking, as I recall. But, a couple of months later, he made mention of it again. He and a few of the Harvard Medicos had their feet up, one afternoon, shooting the breeze. I was in the room.

One of the guys, a PhD epidemiologist from New York, asked, "Where is the good work being done these days? I don't see anything innovative going on."

Rick said, "Blumen's doing some interesting stuff."

The guy looked over at me and said, "Him?"

A number of years later, after Rick had gone, I ran into this PhD epidemiologist in the men's room. I had been working in the Computer Services Bureau for several years, so our paths had not crossed for a while.

He said, "You still working in the computer office?"

I said, "Yeah."

And he said, "When are they going to replace you with somebody who knows what he's doing?"

Now, it might seem indelicate, but it's germane to understand that we were standing up, side by side, at the urinal.

So I thought, this might be a good time for the joke about the rabbi who, at bris, always cut on the bias.

So I said to this guy, "Do you know Rabbi Glusman, from Cincinnati?"

Monday, June 8, 2009

Death of the Salesman

On the Internet, concepts are born, live, die and evolve, just like everybody else. Not just concepts, but ways of thinking about things.

Shopping, for example. One of the fundaments of capitalism and modern life. Where the buck passes. By which I mean, old fashioned stores with salesmen and buyers. Thousands depend on them. Thousands more are dependent.

Buyers get pleasure and satisfaction. And things. Salesmen get to feed their families at night. A mutually beneficial situation.

So what kind of havoc will the Internet wreak on this inoffensive arrangement?

First, all the salesmen are killed. Buyers don't need them anymore. But the stores are kept open. The buyers come and all trip off each other, buying things that they see others buying.

Transactions occur. Everybody gets paid.

Eventually, the very concept of a salesman disappears. But it's OK. Everybody lines up at the door. Everybody buys and sells. Everybody gets paid.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rappelling, anyone?

GOOG: 417.23

Wait a minute. We've been here before. Except the roof is now where the floor used to be. But we went through it today like poor insulation. Goog has now re-achieved a promontory from which we used to peer into the abyss. Only we didn't believe it was really an abyss, back then.

We'd look down and say, "It might go to 410, but if it does, it'll surely bounce. But if 410 doesn't hold, 400 is a big round number that will be all but impossible to penetrate." It was beyond our imagination then to be worried about 300. Or worse. Sufficient to the day was the magnitude of our concern.

We've reached a level now where I begin to tap into my inner Cramer, thinking that I should schnitzel a few shares and lock in a profit. But, in the past, I've always gotten in trouble when I sold GOOG. Schnitzeling doesn't become me.

Besides, the Fast Money crew, without Macke, was uncharacteristically kind to GOOG today. A guest came on - I think it was Mahaney - saying GOOG looked good over the summer.

The bearish case is that, Sunday, Schmidt is going to be on Meet the Press.

Against advice, I'm going to hold. But if it gets close to 500, before its time, I'll do something. Maybe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Life in the Comfort Zone

Tonight, my wife said, "When was it that we got 16 percent on our money market?"

We were taking out the garbage.

I said, "Sometime in the early eighties."

Later on, we were looking for something to watch on TV.

She said, "When do you think it'll get that high again?"

I had to be reminded of what we were talking about.

I said, "I don't know."

She said, "If it gets that high again, we'll be doing well."

I said, "You don't understand about money."

I told her we would be worse off.

She said, "If I'm getting 16 percent, I don't care."

And so to bed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My New Financial Advisor

The period of the last 18 months, like all of Joyce, has been a series of epiphanies. I won't dissemble - I have not experienced all the epiphanies in Joyce. But I know they're there.

What I have experienced is the epiphanies of the last 18 months. The true nature of the investing game has been made plain to me. Some say trading stocks is gambling. And the way I do it, it is. I can see that now. And I'm over it.

The need to buy and sell stocks is killed in me now. I may buy and sell stocks in the future, but I'll never need to again.

Right now, I'm sitting comfortably on the sidewalk, with 70% cash and 30% Google, watching the rally go by. I could do this from now on.

It's time to listen to the flowers and smell the birds.

Accordingly, I have selected a new financial advisor. One who is in tune with my new-found understanding.

My wife.

She is conservative by nature, but not afraid of extreme positions. Her advice for the last 25 years has been unvarying: 100% cash, all the time. Kept at interest where it will be safe as houses. Still, her philosophy allows for a small portion to be set aside for the occasional high-flyer that might hit it big.

Last week, she was thrilled watching Rachel Alexandra win the Preakness. Especially at $5.60.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Grinners and non-Grinners

When I was late in school, I distinguished all the types of people in the world by their general manner and aspect of behavior. That is to say, I studied Psychology.

And I propounded theories. One of my theories divided all people into two groups, grinners and non-grinners. Regardless of language or culture, if you look at a grinner, he or she will always grin. They grin all the time, at everything. Even when nothing is funny. Non-grinners never grin. Even when something is really funny.

It's not hereditary. Both my parents were grinners, but I am not. My wife is not a grinner, either. Only after a moment of sober and strategic reflection, will we react to your entreaty.

In this way, you can evaluate the people you meet.

Katie Couric is a grinner. Bernanke is not. And so on.

I'm working on an application for the G-Phone. You hold the phone up to somebody and it will tell you if they're a grinner or a non-grinner.

It should come in handy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Deuces and Treys

My father never had any money. He grew up in the streets on the wrong side of town. In his younger days, he was a Blackjack dealer in roadhouses. He liked to say, "I never gambled. I worked for the house."

But he didn't want that kind of life for his kids. He said to me, "Go to college, become an engineer and make five thousand a year."

But when the time came to go, there was a question of some up-front money that was needed. Tuition at Vanderbilt University in 1957 was $600 a year. It was in this connection that I found myself on campus, with my father, in the office of James Buford, the Registrar of the University. We sat across a large desk from him. My father seemed a little uncomfortable. For once in his life, he was on the wrong side of the table.

But he started out talking about what a good student I was and how I carried a paper route too, morning and afternoon. Buford listened politely with a pleasant smile, and when the subject of possible scholarships came up, he leaned forward and said to me, "Son, I think you'd better hang on to that paper route."

We thanked him for his time and left. I wondered what my father would say, but he didn't say anything. Not then, or on the way home.

So I kept my paper route and paid my bills. The tuition went up every year I was there. When I graduated, it was $900. All I did, the whole time, was study and throw papers. When I came out, I had over a thousand saved up.

Then I got married, had children and, for the next 40 years, I didn't save a nickel. But it was fine. I got as much money as I needed.

Now, for the past five years, I've been retired, but still working full-time. We're saving a lot of money now. Look at the chart. That's me.

I figured out, the other day, that I have made no money at all from my investments over the past five years. What I have is entirely from savings. I'd have been better off buying five-year CD's.

I don't know what my father would think about all this. He's no longer available for comment.

But I do know one thing: if there's a Heaven, then James Buford is in it, sitting at a Blackjack table, while my father deals him deuces and treys all day.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

One Man's Tweet

I saw George Harrison on TV once. The interviewer asked him about his experience with LSD. Harrison said, "I only needed to do it once." The interviewer leaned forward and said, "You only did LSD one time?" And Harrison said, "No, I did it many times. But I only needed to do it once."

That's the way I feel about Twitter and I've only done it once.

I like the idea of followers. But I don't like the message length. Haiku is not my literary form of choice. Facebook has the same thing and I don't like it there either. I don't want to operate at that speed.

Tweeting may be all right for the young, but it feeds too fast for us old folks.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Year of the Swine

1976. The generation of public health professionals who eradicated Smallpox were still around. They hadn't eradicated anything lately. AIDs hadn't hit yet. It was a slow year.

Somebody noted that flu epidemics come in 11-year cycles, but that pandemics, like 1918, come in 60-year cycles. Somebody else did the math and said, "We're due now for a big one."

A search showed that two individuals in the United States had been infected in the previous couple of years with Swine Flu, the same flu that was thought to have caused the pandemic. Both of these individuals, however, had been in close contact with pigs and that cast the matter in doubt. It was generally agreed that we were OK as long as the victims had been with pigs.

Then, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, healthy recruits started coming down with the flu. Swine Flu. A quick surveillance revealed that no Fort Dix recruit had been with a pig. People in Atlanta started getting excited.

I found myself in the State of Delaware, running a state-wide Swine Flu Immunization Program. It was part of a national campaign to vaccinate everybody.

I marshaled resources and gathered troops and organized meetings. Everybody was in favor of the program, except this one guy who came to all the meetings and kept asking questions about how I was doing everything. And why.

After one of these meetings, I asked him if he worked for the Health Department. He said, no, he was unemployed. I asked him if he wanted a job. He said, sure. So I put him in charge of running the program. For $12,000.

His name was Allen Kagel and he did a top-notch job. When the program began, people started lining up all over the State. All I had to do was appear on the local news.

On December 16, Kagel invited me up to an elementary school in Wilmington to observe the operation he had set up there. When I arrived, the parking lot was full. Lines of people snaked around and through the halls back to the school clinic where the vaccination stations were. I saw one man, inching his way up on a pair of wooden crutches. He grinned at me when he passed by.

A little while later, I got a call from Dover. My office had reached the Principal's office at the school, where Kagel had his command post. He took the call, but then handed it over to me. I listened to the message as it had been transmitted from Atlanta. And then I said, "OK."

I looked at Kagel and said, "The National Program has been terminated."

As I considered my next move, Kagel seized the microphone of the school intercom and bellowed, "THE NATIONAL SWINE FLU PROGRAM HAS BEEN CANCELED."

What happened next was a rush for the exits.

I said, "What are we going to do with all these people?"

Kagel said, "What people?"

The hall, which had late been full of eager vaccinees, was empty. I went to the window. The parking lot was empty.

And, a block away, I saw the figure of a man, with crutches akimbo, making it around the corner.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sufficient to the Day

I'm tired of the stock market. I'm tired of the stock market channel. I'm tired of being told I could be rich if I only had VectorVest.

I'm tired of Google. How long does it take to conquer the world, anyway? I'm tired of Apple. I'm tired of Apple doing better than Google. I'm tired of thinking about how I almost pulled the trigger on Apple when it was 85, but didn't, because of Steve Jobs. I'm tired of Steve Jobs.

I'm tired of hearing about the first 100 days. A hundred days ago, Google was 282. Now, it's 389. Great. Let me know when it gets to 460. I'll throw a party.

I'm tired of swine flu and it's not even here yet.

I'm just tired.

I don't even know what day it is.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hey, Now

I've reported on Facebook before in these pages.

When I first joined, I had no friends. My home page was peaceful. I sent a message to James Altucher. To me, he was a famous person. He sent me a message back. I thought that was nice. But we didn't become friends, or anything like that.

I tried to get my high school class to join, but they didn't want any part of it. They sent me nervous clippings from newspaper stories.

Then, people at work started talking about Facebook. They said it's a tool. We need to make use of it. I got a couple of friend invitations from people I knew in the office.

I also got a friend invitation from a beautiful, 21-year-old Peruvian girl because we have the same last name. I thought, does this happen to people named Jones?

I started sending out a few invitations of my own.

More people from the office popped up. Then, a few people from my high school class joined. Because their friends invited them. Of course. That's the way Facebook works.

The family - daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren, wife - joined a few weeks ago.

And now it's a crowded house. I see all these people on my friend list and they don't seem to go together.

I'm not sure I want to see pictures of people at work and my high school class and my grandchildren all in the same list with a beautiful, 21-year-old Peruvian girl.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stand and Shout Hero

We've had a run of heroes, lately.

We've had Chesley in the Hudson. And we've had the boat captain in the small boat.

Now, the world is going nuts about this woman in Britain. She stood on stage just like Andy Kaufman doing Mighty Mouse. Everybody had the picture. They knew what they were gonna get. Then, just like Andy, she extended her arm out, and opened her mouth up, and sang.

The audience stood up and cried. The judges all cried. Now, the whole world is crying.

Something had happened.

Yahweh was in the building.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Google Eve

The villagers in Brigadoon come to life one day, every hundred years, and start looking for Van Johnson.

And so it is with Google. One day every quarter, it comes alive and speaks its earnings. For an hour or so, the world is confounded. And then it all disappears in a fine mist.

Last time, you may recall, was Google's last good quarter. This time will be Google's last bad quarter. Or maybe its first bad quarter. Or just its next good quarter.

I don't care. If they do anything at all, it will be a moral victory. I think I speak for all shareholders when I say that, if they do well, for recompense we will commend them and wish them well in all their future endeavors on our behalf.

My mood is calm. My blood pressure, low. Dover Beach, itself, is receding. For the while, I have my livelihood, fetching clams from the sea and marching them up to my counting house. And, for the while, the world, as we know it, suffices.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rock Star

Hardware can kill you, if it falls on your head. Software is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Back when IBM was big, hardware was the thing. If you bought Big Iron, it was up to you to make it do something. Later, IBM developed operating systems and gave them away free with the machinery. Software was nothing to them.

So little was software on IBM's mind and culture that, when they invented the personal computer, they sold a license to Bill Gates to put the software in. They probably laughed at him.

The truth is, hardware is nothing. Software is everything. Eventually, software breaks loose from hardware and floats free.

At Google, hardware gets no respect. Thousands of cheap PC's crammed together in overheated box cars like loads of bricks, while software breaks across the world like a rock star.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Hard Part

The difference between Google and Microsoft is the difference between Larry and Sergey, on the one hand, and Bill Gates, on the other.

Gates was a college dropout. Larry and Sergey were graduate school dropouts.

Gates and Jobs and Wozniak all came out of West Coast garages. Larry and Sergey came out of the academic world of Palo Alto.

Gates was a smart programmer, but he never imagined anything bigger than a PC. McNealy said, "The network is the computer," but he didn't know what that meant. Larry and Sergey took the idea seriously and solved the problem of scale with creative architecture and parallel programming.

The programming was easy. The hard part was taking the idea seriously enough to do it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I guess it must be up to me

Somebody ought to slap Macke.

Not Finerman, she wouldn't do it. Maybe Janarian, you can tell he gets nettled by the never ending innuendo that comes out of Macke's maw. But Pete's such a decent joe that he usually blows it off with a little frown for the camera.

Today, Jon Najarian, so unflappable he would never slap anybody, because he knows his big little brother will take care of him, that same Jon Najarian said something good about Google today. A guest had said that Google has rallied well, but every move is faded, and that's held it back. Jon said that kind of set-up looked good to him.

Macke threw a fit. He let loose his classic Google rant, in the space of five seconds, mentioning outer space, PhD.'s doing whatever they want, free everything, and migawd it's just an advertising company.

He needs a good slap. Ratigan would have done it. If everybody else did.

I guess I'm going to have to do it myself.

Next time I'm up there.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

hill of beans

I can't get excited about GOOG these days. They're still going to rule the world. I'm sure of that. But the problem is, in these crazy times, ruling the world doesn't command much of a multiple.

How many times now have we skirmished on this same ground? Too many.

I remember the first crossing.

I had bought GOOG just under 200, and it seemed like a great struggle to achieve that level and hold it. Getting to 300 took more of an effort the closer it got. The law of round numbers was in effect.

On October 20, 2005, GOOG closed at 303.20. It had been a sleepy Thursday all day. After the bell, Google's earnings for the third quarter were released. The results, by universal regard, were stupefyingly incredible. In the after hours, the stock shot up 50 points to the mid-350's. The air was thin at that altitude, but the next day, GOOG held, handily. It didn't stop until it hit 475, by the end of the year.

Then, the foot of pride came down and it was the better part of another year before it would see that level again. But then, after basing for a while, GOOG made its final assault on the mountaintop.

All who owned GOOG at that time were beatified. It seemed our natural birthright.


We're just waiting for Muley.

Monday, April 6, 2009

In nothing flat

My wife is the last person I would imagine watching "Dancing with the Stars", but she's downstairs, watching it now.

I'm upstairs, trying to get it together. GOOG's up two bits in the after hours. What can I make out of that? Nothing.

Desperate for material, I go to the Google Message Board. Everything is in upper case. All posted by the same guy. I go to Advanced Search. I search for "Moron". My name comes up.

I need a title. I can't even think of a stupid title. How about, "Ennui Having Fun?" That's truly disgraceful. Maybe I can use it as a comment. Better google it first.

Two million hits.


Sunday, April 5, 2009


The Liberty Man is gone from his post on Highway 61, which is what I call the road between me and work.

The guy isn't there anymore. He's off to some uncertain future. Like me and all the blessed rest of us. He and I connected for an instant there, but epiphany has no cash value.

Just think. If I had millions of readers with a tremendous buzz, that guy would be famous right now, and his people would be trying to contact my people.

I may not post this.

I don't care if it is Sunday.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Diplomacy: A Country for Young Men

Obama's abroad, showing his teeth to everybody. Michele is looking good. How do they do it?

I remember what the pundits said about Kennedy when he came out of his first face-down with Khruschev. They said he looked shaken.

But I'm not comparing Obama to Kennedy. I'm comparing Obama to myself.

Years ago, this young doctor and I were sent by our superiors to Guatemala City for a week, because they thought we could speak Spanish. There was some occasion going on down there and we were trusted to represent the Government. We had diplomatic passports. We took ourselves very seriously.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon. Monday morning, we met with a man named Hector who was the Director of the Communicable Disease Bureau. He introduced us to the Minister of Health and we all rode in a taxi to another big building where we met with the Prime Minister, himself.

Only it wasn't just himself. All his Department Heads from across the whole country were on hand to greet us. We met with them in a very large ceremonial room where a vast number of tables had been arranged in a rectangle. We were seated near the Prime Minister.

There were introductions and welcomes all around. We got through that pretty well. Then the Prime Minister asked each of his Department Heads for a report, describing his region and his Department's operations.

I think it was somewhere around the third guy starting his spiel that I realized I wasn't understanding anything that was being said. I looked at my compadre. He wasn't getting it either.

All I got was a general impression that these Heads of Office, though they stood at the pinnacle of their country's government, seemed like a pretty raucous bunch of fun-seekers. I didn't understand much of what they were saying, but I recognized all the words I remembered from my "Spanish Slang and Dirty Words" book.

Somehow, we got through it. But when we came out, Hector said we looked shaken. He took us to a bar nearby.

After a couple of rounds, we got up the nerve to ask Hector how we did.

Hector leaned forward and, in a low voice, said: "There was a serious breach of protocol."

The doc and I both said, "Really?"

Hector grinned and said, "No! It wasn't you. It was the Prime Minister. He farted!"

We said, "Really?"

Hector banged the table, "No! Have another cerveza!"

We laid back. This was a country in which we could not fail.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Liberty Man

The market's been doing good lately. I think I'll worry about losing my job now.

At work, they're getting rid of the mainframe computer. That's where all my stuff is. Where all my eggs were hatched. It's been my meal ticket since I retired. I know things nobody else knows. I can do things nobody else can do. But nowadays there's little call for the things I know and can do, so they're getting rid of the stupid computer.

Something to think about on my way home.

Something to distract me from the usual distractions on Highway 61. For the past couple of weeks, I'd been noticing the kids waving signs out in front of the H&R Block office. Dressed up like the Statue of Liberty, with a little headpiece of Statue-of-Liberty rays coming out, and a pale green Statue-of-Liberty dress flowing down, almost covering their jeans. There were boys, and girls, too, of every gender, but no more than two on any given day, waving their signs, paid as it were to act silly for the benefit of H&R Block.

There's been a pretty high turnover, but most of them come back at least once. In the beginning, I think they thought it was cool, but I believe it got old fast. Toward the end of last week, the kids were holding the signs up in front of their faces, so nobody could see them. I can imagine the tweets not going in their favor. Sic transit gloria.

Yesterday was something different. A grown man. With a light beard, possibly in his thirties, wearing the Statue-of-Liberty suit, with the rays coming out, and jumping up and down and waving the sign. He grinned at me when I went by.

Today, in my distracted mood, I wasn't looking for him, but there he was. Again. Jumping up and down and waving at the cars going by.

I thought, maybe it's the Manager of the H&R Block office, and he couldn't get any more kids to do it, so he had to get out there himself.

But I wasn't in the mood for humor. So I decided that he's probably just another joe who's lost his job by the grace of God and now he's just out there doing what he can.

As I passed by, he grinned and gave me a thumbs up.

You gotta love this country, man.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cueless in Redmond

In the eighties and nineties, I was a grunt programmer and that qualified me to put in some quality time at Microsoft University, where in those days all us hacks got educated.

Microsoft was cool, then. I went there several times. The Snickers were free. I saw the Big Rock Candy Mountain flowing. And I ate the hamburger in the hamburger joint. I did Redmond.

But the time I remember is when Louis Kahn and Greg Johnson went with me. I don't remember the year, but it was when everybody on campus was saying that "Microsoft is betting the company on NT."

At the time, both Louis and Greg worked for me, although that's what you might call a euphemism. Both of them were smarter programmers than I was. Louis, in particular, was a wunderkind who became financially independent in the computer business when he was 17.

I once went to a computer networking conference with Louis back when networking was the coming thing. On the first day, we walked into the conference room and were immediately surrounded by at least 20 people. They all wanted to talk to Louis. That's when I found out that Louis was famous. A guy next to me said, "Who are you?" I said, "Louis works for me." The guy edged away. After that, if anybody asked, I said, "I'm with Louis."

But when Greg and Louis got together, they were like big kids. The first thing they wanted to do, when we got in to Redmond, was go to a local arcade and play the video games and drive the racecars.

Then we hooked up with Dave Edson, a Microsoft programmer Louis knew, and we all went to a fancy pool parlor, which, we were told, was a classy place to hang out in town. Now, in those days, Dave Edson was known for being the guy who ported Tetris to Windows, but he made us go all the way to his place first so he could get his cue stick.

I said, "Don't they have cue sticks at the place?"

Edson said, "This is my cue stick."

I stood rebuked. He brought a little black case from his house and showed it to me. The cue was inside, and it came in two pieces that screwed together. All in all, a precision instrument. I was impressed.

At the pool parlor, Edson said to me, "You want play a game?"

I explained that I was a terrible pool player. The truth is, I watched my father once take two bills off a couple of slicks by running the table while holding his cue in one hand, but I know nothing of the game. And, especially, I told Edson, I did not wish to play anyone of such a high calibre as himself.

He said, "I'm not that good. I'll show you how."

I said, "I left my cue at home."

He showed me the cue rack.

As it turned out, Dave Edson was no better at playing pool than I was. We fumbled our way to a draw, if that's what it's called.

The next day, he showed us his office space in the part of Microsoft that students usually didn't get to see. He told us that everybody in the area knew it was his space because it had all his things in it.

Later on, in the break room, we talked a little shop.

I said to Dave, "How do you think NT is going to work out?"

Dave said, "Microsoft is betting the company on NT."

Greg told us how Louis had stood up in a national meeting when he was still a kid and told a big company that their technical architecture was all wrong. Everybody on the dais was confounded, but Louis was right and they were wrong.

Greg said it was like baby Einstein, tugging on Newton's cape.

Edson then paid homage, saying that Louis was a genius of networking, while he, himself, was "network clueless."

I said, "Me, too."

And Louis laughed out loud.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wooters and Finckner

For all I know, they're still out there somewhere, going around on "Cripple Creek".

Billy is posing. Eddie is playing. I took the picture.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blue Yodel

The sixties started in 1965. I watched the thing go by from the sidewalk. My hair didn't get long until 1972.

That's when it got down to me. Square-toed boots and jeans, hair all messed up. At work, I hooked up with a bunch of kids, half my age, because one of them was going with my secretary, Janet. These kids were into playing guitars and getting messed up. They let me go along because I had once stood in the presence of Hank Williams, Sr.

We'd go to somebody's farmhouse, at night, deep in the woods of Maryland or Delaware, I never knew which side of the line we were on, but there'd be a crockpot going and we'd get inebriated and all stand around playing guitars, except me. I couldn't play. They'd run through the chords of "Cripple Creek" over and over again. What you have to understand is, there'd be nobody singing. Just a bunch of guys, going through "Cripple Creek". It always seemed a little funny to me at first, but as the evening wore on, it would start making perfect sense.

I'd begin to think I could almost sing. I knew this song pretty well, but in my condition, I could usually only remember the first verse. Anyway, later in the evening, I would find myself looking for a point of entry to come in with the verse I knew and, when I did that, it always got a reaction from the group. I couldn't sing very well, but they were nevertheless grateful for it.

On weekends, we would get in cars and go to local music festivals, way out in the country. There was always the fantasy of entering the band contest. I strongly discouraged the idea every time it came up, but that didn't stop them from standing out under a tree and running through "Cripple Creek" one more time.

You'd see all kinds of people at these affairs, in different stages of consciousness. I saw a young, very pretty girl in a thin cotton dress, walking around with her arms hanging down limply, one hand holding on to a bottle of Jack Daniels that was half-empty.

The guys begged me to sing a verse with them, but I told them I couldn't do that in the light of day. Billy Wooters was the one Janet liked. Eddie Finckner was quiet and shy. He didn't have a girlfriend, but he had real musical talent. Billy just played guitar and a little banjo, but besides that, Eddie taught himself mandolin, fiddle and piano, too. Billy said the band ought to be called "Wooters and Finckner". That was OK with Eddie. He didn't care.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hard Times

In 1971, I was a young man at the very edge of the world. Everything beckoned. Fortunately, I didn't need much.

In January, 1972, I was in Boston at a conference. It was bone-cold and snowing. I'd been reading in different places about the show that George Harrison had thrown for Bangladesh. And the record was being released that week. In the U.S., I read in the paper, it was being released first in Boston. I was in Boston.

At lunch, I excused myself from the bunch I was with and walked five miserable blocks from the hotel to a record store that I had looked up in the Yellow Pages. I gave $12.50 for the album and walked back.

Of course, I couldn't listen to it until I got back home. But, when I did get to hear it, it was overwhelming. Gods of our time, Harrison and Dylan and their lesser angels, Billy Preston and Leon Russell. Dylan did a long set and sang everything wrong. Two months later, I couldn't hear those songs any other way.

A year later, I escaped from the stock market with $274 left in my stake. But I had a good job, paying $15,000 a year.

In December, 1978, I was at a conference in Washington. It was a two-day affair, but after the first day, I excused myself from the bunch I was with and flew back to Atlanta so I could see Dylan perform at the Omni. There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.

Hard times.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pardon my enthusiasm

Now that I've started up, you're gonna get tired of hearing me going on about Obama.

Have you noticed how he is, unabashedly, putting on a strong, moralistic tone with us, the nation? He's telling us we're gonna have to start being good. When was the last time you heard that from a sitting President? Memory fails.

Clinton could have been that way when he was in. He had the charisma, the right slant of eye and crook of finger. He could have been a contender, but he threw it all away for a little personal development.

But Obama. You know. You just know.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

World Without End

I never saw the movie, "Wall Street".

I didn't have to. Back in the early eighties, I watched the local news and, now and then, high school seniors were interviewed about what they wanted to do when they grew up. To a one, they all said, "I want to get rich." The best minds of that generation all had hippie parents and they all said, the hell with it. They wanted to be shown the money.

Michael Douglas said it was all right and the race was on. Get the money and wallow in it. And so we did. I, of course, arrived late, just as the pumpkin was pulling up outside, but I got my share.

Now, folks are saying the party is over. They might be right. Good piece in the New York Times, today, by Thomas Friedman:

Friedman gets paid to take the long view, forwards and backwards, and, in a few paragraphs, he lays out the forehead-slapping thesis, that we should have known we couldn't keep doing all that stuff forever. He calls it "The Great Disruption." Starting right now. Tell your grandkids, when they ask you why they have to keep working in the field.

I accept the thesis, but I'm not so pessimistic about it. It's time to roll up our sleeves again and get to work. Forget about the money. Fix Gaia. Stop blowing everything up. Make a place for everybody at the table.

Amazing that, at this juncture in history, we get Obama.

Yahweh's up to something.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A World without Windows is like a Door without Knobs

People used to talk about the next Dylan. For a while, John Prine was going to be the next Dylan. Nowadays, to be the next Dylan, you'd first have to pencil a mustache over your mouth. I don't know what Dylan is thinking about these days with this look he has, but it's brilliant.

I used to think about the next Microsoft. I couldn't imagine Microsoft ever being dislodged from its perch. Whatever the next thing was, I thought, Microsoft would buy it or steal it or destroy it.

I was wrong. It's clear who the next Microsoft is. We're witnessing the slow historic movement of tectonic plates against each other, with one moving up and one going under.

The PC is taking its place on the shelf with the polaroid camera and the portable typewriter.

Within ten years, Microsoft will be a backwater company, like Adobe.

Ballmer is the perfect Peter Boyle Frankenstein to ride the Slim Pickens rocket into the ground. His engineers will reproduce all the technology, but they still won't get it.

They won't be able to see what's happening.

No Windows.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I dreamed I saw da Vinci

Back in the renaissance, Leonardo was a very smart man. But, in my dream, I was trying to explain to him what an IPhone is. It wasn't easy.

He didn't get the concept. Finally, gesturing with my hands, I told him it was communication at long distances.

He said, "Oh. A miracle from God."

I said, "Exactly."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Redemptive Power of Regret

Picture this, if you can. You may have seen it. Henry Blodget, last Wednesday, in his Tech Ticker video, exclaiming, "I'm a huge fan of Obama! I thought his speech last night was tremendous!"

It gave me a warm feeling all over. I had the same reaction Henry had. I was glued to the tube.

And now I'm sorry that I may have been unkind to Henry in these pages.

I'm sorry that I've made fun of him. I'm sorry that I compared him to Anthony Michael Hall in the boy's room. And I'm sorry that I said his tie was way too long.

Forgive me, Henry. It's Sunday.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Far Away, You Rolling River

I kinda hate seeing our boy getting his hands dirty with the day to day. It's clear he's channeling a pure intelligence. Something we may have never seen or heard before. I'm thinking maybe he should have held out for Spiritual Leader.

He brings to speech-making what Gale Sayers brought to broken-field running. You don't sense the spirit welling up in him, the way you did with King. It comes out of his astonished mouth. Not dark and biblical, like Lincoln, but crisp as an engineer's blueprint.

And then he said, unexpectedly, "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." And that tickled the better angels of our nature.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fred and Henry

Henry Blodget and Fred Hickey were walking down the street one day.

Henry said: I was talking to Macke.

Fred said: Yeah? What'd he say?

Henry: He said the Dow is going to 5000.

Fred: How does he figure that?

Henry: They're gonna put Google in.

Fred: Cheez 'n' Chraackers!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Screen Doors

Today was balmy for a change and now a little rain has come.

I'm thinking about the theory of everything.

A little while ago, I opened the door to the back patio and got a whiff of the breeze. It brought back a very particular feeling about summer nights, long ago, when you could stand in a doorway and feel the wind blowing the rain around.

But it was different back then, because there'd be a screen door between you and the night. The screen door was part of the feeling, somehow.

My house now doesn't have any screen doors. That's because doors today are not meant to be opened. So the feeling I get now is good, but it's different. I'm a little too lazy at the moment to think about just what the difference is.

But I'm thinking that, somehow, the theory of everything is going to have to account for it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beautiful and bright he stood

You don't tug on Superman's cape, and you don't tell Obama what to say.

He's put all the speechwriters out of work. Writes his own stuff. You know he does. If he does have speechwriters, they're all channeling him. He holds them in his thrall.

I could never sit still before, listening to Presidents speak. When Presidents speak, I leave the room. I'm funny that way.

But I do allow myself a peek, now and then, at Obama. He's on all the time! And he's chewing 'em up, out there. He's Muhammad Ali. He's Tiger Woods. He's Sidney Poitier.

Just wait until he gets a real crisis. Then you'll see. He'll be our boy on the burning deck.

But didn't that boy perish?

He was unlucky. Obama, of course, will rewrite the ending.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Carpe Domingo

In my youth, I never considered the religious profession. For one thing, I had no religion. My father was Jewish and my mother was Church of Christ.

I never figured that out. But I went to Hebrew School and got Bar Mitzvah'd, and at the reception an old man of the congregation took me aside and said, "You're a man, now. You can make your own decisions." I took his advice and never went to Shul again.

I liked science. But then I realized that science will only take you so far. That's when I got interested in religion.

I got my religion from Bertrand Russell and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. And cosmology articles in the Scientific American.

I was into Russell early and Kierkegaard late. And Nietzsche was crazy.

I liked Orson Welles preaching the sermon in the whaler's church of New Bedford. But I wanted Queequeg's faith and understanding.

Finally, I gave up on receiving The Answer. I started concentrating on getting The Question right.

I wouldn't be going into all this if it weren't Sunday.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In the Year 2039

Interviewer: Mr. Blumen, how does it feel to be so old?

Blumen: I never much thought I could get very old.

Interviewer: I see.

Blumen: You know, I used to work at Google. In the old days.

Interviewer: Your name doesn't appear in any of the official Google annals.

Blumen: Right.

Interviewer: Google disavows any knowledge of you.

Blumen: If I was them, I would too.

Interviewer: What did you do at Google?

Blumen: I was in charge of finding out how much information there was and how much it would cost Google to store it. I had PhD's working for me.

Interviewer: What did you find out?

Blumen: I found out that we could keep up with the input for about 100 years, but after that we would fall behind in future centuries by an exponential amount.

Interviewer: Did Google incorporate that into their famous Algorithm?

Blumen: I dunno. They fired me.

Interviewer: Was that when you turned to blogging full-time?

Blumen: Could be. Who want's to know?

Interviewer: It's well known that you are the world's oldest living blogger.

Blumen: I didn't know that.

Interviewer: It's true.

Blumen: It's a kick in the pants.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Twitter and the Google Man

As if I didn't have enough to worry about, I now have to worry about real-time search, patent pending.

I thought I was up-to-date because I know what David Hume did in 1742. Now I find that I need to know who said what, two seconds ago. Great.

And it's gonna kill the Google Man.

I'm getting a visual. Larry and Sergey, sitting in their empty hot tub, because the Water Department has turned their water off.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oh, didn't he ramble

It's Saturday night and I have no date. But that's all right - neither does my wife.

It's Saturday night and I have nothing to say. I feel I have a great notion, but I can't think of what it is.

I had too much wine, tonight, with dinner. It's throwing me off my rhythm.

I'm listening to the Jim Cullum band on "Riverwalk Jazz". Somebody's talking about Lester Young, telling about when he got upset while he was performing, he would get a little whisk broom out of his pocket and brush his shoulder off. It was a sign.

I feel that I have been informed.

Which puts me in mind of the story I heard James Dickey tell one time at Emory about the old boy from south Alabama who drove the Governor's car for him. That boy polished that car every day and kept it up real good. But he didn't have one decent suit of clothes for himself. The Governor told him to get some clothes, but he didn't do it. Finally, when his friends started laughing at him, he went downtown to the Men's Store.

The salesman welcomed him in and, quick as a whistle, laid out a fine suit of clothes to try on.

He said, "You could get buried in this."

The boy tried on the coat, but one sleeve came down over his fingers and the other one just barely cleared his elbow.

The salesman said, "Don't worry about that - that's the way they're wearing 'em this year."

And he showed the boy how to stand, bent over just a little with one shoulder held back while the other one advanced, and the sleeves evened up perfectly.

The salesman said, "Hold it right there and I'll help you get into the pants."

But when he got them on, one leg was hiked halfway up to his knee and the other one was covering up his shoe.

The salesman said, "You're not standing right." And he showed him how to stand so both his cuffs lined up within a gnat's bristle.

The salesman said, "Now hold on to that posture. I'll just take forty dollars out of your wallet and you'll be all set."

Later that day, two guys he knew saw him walking down the street.

One of them said, "You see who that is?"

And the other one said, "I sure do, and look how crippled up he is!"

And the other one said, "Yeah, but don't his suit look good!"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What to do if you win the Lottery

Don't tell anybody. Not your wife, not your mama, not your in-laws or the TV Station.

If you do tell somebody, remember you're rich enough to have them killed.

But it's better not to tell anybody.

If it does get around, and there's too many to kill, then get rid of the money as quick as you can.

Give it to Blagojevich.

Then let everybody know that you gave it away. You can keep a few thousand for expense, but you have to tell them that you gave it all away.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Google is a Vacuum Cleaner as big as Wyoming

They got scale. Miles and miles of scale. The triumph of programmers. Did GM ever figure out how to get to everybody who was in a Chevrolet? Not hardly. But Larry and Sergey figured out how to get to everybody with a computer. Er, phone.

Thirty years ago, Bill Gates famously told his programming buddies that they should be paid for their software. Twenty years later, Larry and Sergey said, "Naw, let's just give it all away!"

It's easy to imagine them in their hot tub at night, looking up at the stars and listening to that whooshing sound, coming in from every direction.

Larry says, "I want to be as rich as Bill Gates."

And Sergey says, "Me, too."

Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Friday and I work for Google

Today, on my own time, I have devised a variation on the Word Morph game.

In the Word Morph game, you start with a word and try to transform it into another word of the same length by changing one letter at a time. Another real word must be the result of any letter-change. For example,

Transform MISS to HITS.


Simple. Notice that the words are short, usually less than five letters.

Now suppose, you can either add a letter or subtract a letter, instead of changing a letter. This variation of the game allows words of different lengths to be morphed into each other.

How is the game to be played? An assumption is made that everybody has access to a gadget that will check the degrees of separation between any two words and then show the solution. If any. It is recognized that there may not be a solution for a given pair of words. In either case, with the gadget, it is a trivial matter to solve the puzzle, or demonstrate that there is no solution.

The game, then, will be played by searching for word-pairs that have solutions. It's a process of discovery. Many, if not most, word-pairs will have no solution. Solutions for big words and for words of different lengths will, therefore, be sought as holy grails. Elegant solutions and those having interesting word-plays will be prized.

A further variation of the game, which could become an area of research by serious word mongers, is one which would allow multiple words, phrases or sentences to be morphed into other words, phrases or sentences.

The game will be endlessly fascinating, because a general solution for even modest languages would require a computer bigger than the Earth.

But not bigger than the Solar System.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Let's do a little bidness

GOOG made a good showing today. The trend is up. It fooled around a bit, around 325, just like Fitzpatrick said, but once it set foot firmly on the other side, the shorts gave up and here we are almost to 350. The unbearable lightness of GOOG.

Some would say it's been a big run from 250 and now it's time to unload. I don't see it that way. The way I see it, the whole area below 300 is a nether region that our GOOG should never have achieved. None of that counts. We're starting from scratch right here. Everything is looking good.

I see 355 easy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I haunt myself

GOOG is not a fave with the Fast Money crew.

Macke ridicules the company and the stock. He says Google is cockamamie because its founder wants to go up in space. And employees get to work on their own stuff every Friday.

Seymore is contemptuous of GOOG. When CNBC had its Championship of Stocks contest, last year, GOOG was seeded near the top of the tech group. Seymore said, "Who let those jerks in?"

Adami has nothing against the stock. It would just never occur to him to buy it.

Ratigan likes GOOG, because he likes the story. He would buy it, if everybody else did.

Karen said she was interested if it got low enough. When it got low enough, she bought a little and then sold it quick when it went down a point. Like a hot horseshoe.

Terranova likes GOOG and owns it. He said it was a core investment to him. He shares his pain with us.

Najarian likes GOOG at the right time. He said he bought some futures at 598. He probably held to about 650 and then sold. At night, he probbly dreams about investing for the long term.

So what do these yokels really like? They like AAPL.

Which sells things you can dig out of the ground. Like IPods.

Which I bought two years ago at 67 and sold at 73. This is all about me. No matter where I start out, it always comes back to me. Me, me, me.

I could smash me.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I believe everything I read

Don't put my faith in nobody
not even a scientist

I read a blog the other day by a cosmologist turned quant who was going on about a thing called the Hickey Event Horizon (HEH). Apparently, anything that gets close to the Hickey Event Horizon gets stretched so thin it almost goes to nothing.

There must be something to it, because last year GOOG came right up against the Hickey Event Horizon and became a shade of its former self. Luckily, it didn't go all the way through.

If there's an original thought out there, I could use it right now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Google Eve

I'm not ready for Google Eve.

After learning yesterday that anything can happen in this blessed world, I'm not ready to worry about Google making its numbers. Either way, I don't care.

Wake me up in twenty years. Tell me how rich I am.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Apologia Pro Domingo

When Martin Luther King gave his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, I wasn't there. I didn't even hear it on the radio.

A few days later, a guy I knew told me he thought it was the best speech he had ever heard. I still didn't get it. I wondered how many speeches this guy had heard.

I came of age in the sixties, but I wasn't of the sixties. I remember seeing some graduate students sitting on the steps of the bookstore across from old Stanford Union. They were playing a radio, real loud so everybody could hear it. Something about Vietnam. It was 1961. I didn't know what Vietnam was.

When the Cuban Missile Crisis hit, my professor, who was a refugee from World War II, fled to the Oregon woods to hide until Armageddon was over. I didn't go with him.

When King died in 1968, I heard his "Mountaintop" speech on TV and was struck dumb. After that, I sought out all the recordings of his speeches and sermons and found them wonderful.

I was a little slow, but I got there.

It's Sunday, a time for reflecting on one's shortcomings.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Watch your step, he said

So far, I see nothing in Obama not to like. I wasn't looking for anything bad. The whole country is clearly in love with him.

Today, a camera was behind him at the train station where he was shepherding his family on-board the Inaugural Special. One of the girls was a little hesitant in making the transition from platform to train with the tracks just below, and Obama cautioned her to be careful. Then, in an off-guard moment, he looked out at nobody in particular and said words to the effect that a slip here would ruin everybody's inauguration. He started to smile and then caught himself. This guy's going to be good.

One thing I really like is the way he's leveling about the shape that we're in. The last bunch was all about finding a spin that the rubes on Main Street would swallow. Obama expects us to be intelligent. Brilliant.

But I'm not surprised. I expected it of him.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Ramble

I always thought I was a person of variegated opinion. Now, late in life, I see that I'm a creature of habit.

In 1967, I gave $5000 for a custom audio installation, consisting of a brand new McIntosh C22 tubed Preamp and the 2505 50-watt amp with another Mc component just for a cathode ray tube, all feeding through Bozak speakers, with a pair of matching Tandberg tape decks just for show.

My boss at work got tired of hearing everybody talking about the unbelievably fine set-up I had, so he decided to come out and see for himself. He stood in front of it and looked down. There were so many components it took up two cabinets.

He said, "It looks like a damn Cape Canaveral. Blumen, you're a fool."

The next day, at work, he told everybody that I had paid $5000 so I could hear Bob Dylan in stereo.

I haven't changed.

I hauled that rig all over the country during the next twenty-five years as I moved from town to town. Then, a few years ago, I arranged to meet a guy in a parking lot on the seedy side of town. He had come from Tennessee just to see me. I opened the trunk of my car and showed him what I had - a McIntosh C22 tubed Preamp, a 2505 50-watt amp and a thing with a cathode ray tube. All in the original boxes.

He said, "I'll buy everything you've got for more than you paid for it."

We made a deal. I gave him the stuff. And he left me standing in a parking lot in a bad neighborhood with a stack of hunnerd dollar bills in my hand.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is Anybody Happy?

When I was a lad, I used to tell people that I got Playboy for the pictures. Not much has changed since then.

I don't get Playboy anymore, but I've still got a smart mouth. They can't take that away.

But lately, around the house, it's been getting harder to come up with the good ones. I'm off my game. My wife doesn't throw it up to me, but she knows, if I had taken her advice, we would have been all in cash since 1973. And, with interest compounding, we would be better off today. By a mile.

She knows it. And she knows I know it. It's hard to get a laugh out of that.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kingdom Come

I don't read books. I read book reviews. Just now, on Amazon, I read several reviews of Nicholas Carr's new book, "The Big Switch", that were really good. One kid gave a long video review that was excellent, I thought.

I got the general idea. It's good to think about Edison and Larry and Sergey in one breath, but I want to think about what we're going to be doing up in the cloud, besides rolling around heaven all day.

I think we have to recreate the institutions of the world and all its commerce, public and private, in pretty much the same way that we have them now. Procedures that have evolved over centuries. Start with The Bureau of Vital Statistics.

You won't be able to be anonymous, anymore. You won't be able to hide behind your avatar. If you have to go in a bank today, you don't wear a clown suit. That would be dangerous.

It'll be the same, up there. In the cloud, as it is on the Earth.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 - Wild Days!

"Hope" is the thing with feathers

As last year began, I still had my faculties. The drummer I was marching to kept me in step. On January 23, I bought into the maw of the panic. I made money.

Back in October, 2007, I'd speculated about a global recession, but I didn't act on my surmise. In January, I decided we were in it. Clearly, I had no idea what a global recession would be like.

It seems centuries since I sold a paltry amount of GOOG at 650 and fantasized about buying it back under 550. But I couldn't wait for that. I bought it back, three weeks later, at 628.

In April, I went completely to cash. No GOOG, no nothing. But, as mid-year approached, everybody was saying that Hallelujah Land was just around the corner. I was down 9% on the year and my inner Dundee was screaming, "That's not a crash!", but I decided that the nonsense had gone on long enough. I bought value funds. I bought Heebner.

Then all the wheels came off and I learned what it must have been like to be on the Titanic and slowly come to the realization that we weren't going to just limp back to Southampton. It was like buying Heebner. All the charts went vertical. I started selling into the maws of panics.

Now, like everybody else, my fortune is greatly reduced. And now, the sea has suddenly calmed and I'm leaning the wrong way again. I have only myself to blame. I did the right things. And then I undid them.

There are many ways to screw things up. This is just one of them.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

CC Rider

Even the bloodhounds of London
Couldn't find you today

I check Google Analytics almost every day. It's a pond of information.

Back when I used to advertise myself on the Yahoo! Google Message Board, I could get 30 or 40 certified visitors a day, most of whom were in and out pretty quickly. Then I figured, why go to all that trouble, when there's probably three people out there who really enjoy what I'm doing and check it out regularly. Even when I don't advertise.

So I stopped going on Yahoo! and, since then, I've been getting three to ten visitors a day, certain, and one of them is always me. That's a pretty exclusive club.

I can see the same people coming back again and again. I don't know their names, but they live in Nyack and Irving, Texas, and Franklin, Tennessee, among a few others. I recognize them from their screen resolutions and Flash version numbers. And their network locations.

Sometimes, I might get visitors from several locales, all within 100 miles of someplace like Nyack. So I check their network locations and find they're all getting my blog on their phones. It's probably the same person. It never occurred to me that people might be moving around.

Now, I'm watching somebody who seems to be moving in a circuit between Dallas, Denver, Florida and then a long chill in North Metro, Georgia, before starting out again. I know it's the same person because they all have the same screen resolution and Flash Version. That may not mean much to the Tall Tail guys, but to me, with my small-cell population, it's like fingerprints.

I'm wondering if this might be "CC", who left a nice comment for me a few posts back. CC said that he was "just a schlepper" in a rock'n'roll band, which is a badge of courage where I come from, but it got me thinking about bands on the road.

So my theory is that CC has a tour that takes him from his base in Georgia to Texas, then on to Colorado, back through Florida and then home to North Metro. Some kind of country honky-tonk circuit.

If that's not him, then I don't know who it is.