Monday, January 30, 2006

Renaissance Man Ben Stein

Ben Stein, possibly one of the few true examples of a renaissance man around these days, has a great riposte to Joel Stein's LA Times column that I've been ragging on in the American Spectator.

I place Ben Stein in the renaissance man category because he has managed to become an economic advisor to a president, a lawyer, author, actor (Bueller? Bueller?) and game show host all in one lifetime. To top it all he has managed to raise the level of the discussion during all of these activities, something particularly hard to do on a game show, but anyone who has watched Win Ben Stein's money will agree.

Thanks to A Large Regular for pointing me toward the Ben Stein column.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

United Nations' Continues Its Laptop Folly

The UN in its infinite lack of wisdom has announced today at the World Economic Forum to back and fund the $100 notebook compute first discussed here in November.

The computer, created by MIT, grabbed the UN's attention as a way to bring the Internet to the deepest, darkest parts of Africa. I listed five reasons last fall citing the basic ignorance of the UN on this matter, but now I have to add a few more.

The sentences in italics are from a Yahoo News story.

6. The program aims to ship 1 million units by the end of next year to sell to governments at cost for distribution to school children and teachers. Gee, how much graft will this create for Kofi Annan's son. It's a good thing he left his last job skimming money from the UN Oil for Food program so he can take full advantage of this new $100 million situation. Then trusting the host country to actually give the computers to those in need, kids and schools, instead of selling them on the black market is a leap of faith that only the naive UN would take.

7. The devices will be lime green in color, with a yellow hand crank, to make them appealing to children and, so the thinking goes, to fend off potential thieves. Yes, we all know yellow and green scare off criminals. Especially in lands where tribal wars result in 500,000 people being hacked to death with machetes.

8. The lack of Internet access still has not been addressed. For God's sake how will these kids download free music if they can't connect to the web.

9. I've notice the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has not been mentioned in connection with this idea. Even Gates, a computer prophet if there ever was one, money is better spent on inoculations then free computers.

The computers are expected to start falling into the hands of criminal gangs in Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria later this year.

Google and Corporate Citizenship

Corporate citizenship is an interesting phrase. It implies that a company should stand for something more then just making money for its shareholders.

Google needs to rethink where it stands on corporate citizenship. The other day it made two diametrically opposed decisions that indicates the company considers itself less a U.S. citizen and more of an international money hound. The company refused to give information to the U.S. government concerning what topics people were searching, not personal info just topical. Meanwhile it decided to adhere to a Chinese government request to limit what Chinese people can search for on the Internet.

Making mixed decisions is fine, but as CBS Marketwatch columnist Bambi Farncisco states today it flies in the face of the values the company publicly tries to follow.

To me these moves can lead the company down two distinct and negative, paths.

First it will become a hired gun willing to do whatever a government wants for the right price. From Google's reaction it seems the U.S. government's mistake was asking the company to give the info for free. (By the way all the other major search engines complied with the offer.)

The second is that by only delivering certain search items Google is skewing reality. If the Chinese government does not want its people to know that Americans elect their own government officials then in effect Google is lying to its customers. Withholding information is the same as lying.

Then what will happen to the company's credibility. Nobody will know if a Google search has been comprimised. Will Google withhold negative information about a company if that company is willing to pay enough money? Sort of the opposite of what it now does with its advertising program.

I do not believe a corporation is responsible for bringing democracy to another nation, but it should not corrupt its own and its home countries values just to make a buck.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Joel Stein Part II

Anyone interested in reading the transcript of the Hugh Hewitt show where Joel Stein tries to explain his column should click here.

What comes through is basically what I mentioned in yesterday's post Joel Stein's Sickening Revelation that you can read below. Stein simply cannot understand that another person might have a different view of our involvment in Iraq. A person who watches The History Channel for two hours would have more knowlede of the U.S. military then Stein posseses.

What is really odd is how he can't separate the individual soldier on the ground in Iraq, also it seems stationed anywhere else in the world, from the geopolitical situation. He considers it a hypocritical situation to offer them his support or even temper his disgust over their actions.

I think Stein's mindset is indicative of politics in American. Liberals refuse to look at a problem from a Conservative viewpoint and vice versa. Not only are so many people close minded, but angry at the same time and that does not bode well for our future.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

U.S. Invaded

Why wasn't the news that the Mexican Army invaded Texas on the front page of the NY Times and running continuously on Fox News? Thanks to The Officer's Club for the link.

Probably because our own government could care less.

Uniformed Mexican Army and police hauling pot across the border into Texas in Mexican Army Hummers and Chertoff calls it a possible navigational mistake. I'd say the president doesn't want to upset the Hispanic voters nor his buddy Mexican Presidente Fox. God forbid a couple of votes are lost because our government decided to protect us.

"I think the stories are overblown," Chertoff said. "I asked the chief of the Border Patrol about it. The number has not increased; in fact, it had decreased a little bit."
The Daily Bulletin first reported on Sunday that the Border Patrol has tracked 216 such incursions by Mexican military or police forces since 1996. The highest total was in 2002, when 40 such crossings were recorded; in 2005, the number was nine.
Chertoff largely confirmed those numbers, saying incursions had averaged "approximately 20 a year" over the last 10 years. He also said that reports of corruption among Mexican troops were true.
"We do have instances where we have Mexican police or military who have deserted and become involved with criminal activity," Chertoff said. "But we've also had bad cops in the
United States, too. It happens."
He said the United States and Mexico have a collaborative relationship, and called the idea that incursions were a serious problem "scare tactics."

If they bad cops or soldiers then they should be arrested or if found on US territory killed. Sorry if that offends our southern neighbors, but tough.

Joel Stein's Sickening Revelation

LA Times columnist Joel Stein is an idiot. A seriously confused idiot. Sorry for the repitition, but the fact that he is an idiot needs to be repeated. Trust me.

In his column today he states that he cannot support the troops in Iraq because he is against the war and those two thoughts are mutually unsupportable. One cannot be for the troops and against the war because the troops, and thus the military as a whole, make the collective decision to follow their orders, pull their triggers and thus actively participate in a war that Stein considers unjust.

"I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades."

He doesn't advocate spitting on our troops. Isn't that mighty nice of him. You will notice he did not say such an act was a bad idea, just that he wouldn't encourage it. And who is this "we" he invokes concerning the war being a bad idea. That is his personal opinion. He shouldn't be putting words into other people's mouths. There are enough individuals who agree with him without including the world's entire population.

Stein, like so many in his position, admits he has never so much as served jury duty, yet he feels he has the innate intelligence to decide whether or not someone else is doing the right thing. Stein has no idea why people join the military. "Why don't you just go to Stanford instead of enlisting the Marines," seems to be his way of thinking.

I hate to paraphrase a movie quote on such a serious topic, and a comedy at that, but I will. When Bill Murray's character is admonished by his drill sergeant he is told, "You have no idea about duty, honor and courage."

That is Stein's problem. He has never thrust himself into a serious situation where one has to think beyond himself, and I don't just mean in the military. His broad generalizations concerning soldiers is so far off base it makes me think he probably doesn't even personally know anyone who is a cop, fireman, nurse or EMT or any other person who routinely puts his or her neck on the line so society can go along on its merry way with as little interruption as possible.

It takes duty, honor and courage to do many things in life and before you stick your two cents into a topic that you do not fully understand you should separate yourself from your fellow travellers tucked away in their Hollywood offices and find out why men and women are joining to fight in Iraq. They were not tricked, as he said, these men and women knew exactly what was involved. Stein should at least give them credit for being smart enough to understand the consequences of their actions.

I used to read Stein's column when he wrote foolish missives about celebrities in Time Magazine. He was pretty funny. However, now he is obviously fighting out of his intellectual weight class and should return to making fun of Cameron Diaz and Ben Affleck.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Amy, Mary Jo and Joey

I guess the troika of Amy Fisher and Mary Jo and Joey Buttafuco must be tight for cash. Either that or it's time for their annual public humiliation.

Can't these three idiots leave the past in the past? I used to feel bad for Mary Jo. All she did was have the bad sense to marry the biggest jackass on Long Island. A wannabe Vinny Barbarino who thought nothing of sleeping with a 14-year old girl. However, she has hardly pushed herself fully into the shadows and gotten on with her life by signing up for a sit down with her moron husband and the person who tried to kill her is absolutely shameless.

I expect nothing else from Joey. Who, since getting out of jail, has tried his hand, and failed, at several jobs including, car salesman, porn star and I think as an ice cream cart guy. Amy at one point had a job as a columnist for a free paper distributed on Long Island. It's the kind you have thrown into your driveway whether you want it or not. I read some of her stuff a few times, which led me to call the newspaper and ordering it cease and desist with delivery.

"But its free," the lady said."

"I don't care. You've hired a thug as a columnist simply for the shock value," I answered.

These three have brought enough shame to Long Island. Between them, the infamous barge of Islip Town garbage that wandered around the Western Hemisphere for six months and the Gottis, my neighborhood has enough problems.

My only hope is no TV network will run this show.

What to do with the Middle East

I've said it before and its time to say it again.

The only way the disaster that is the Middle East is going to be solved is when the rest of the world makes the region irrelevant. This can only be done by developing a true alternative to oil. Whether this would by hydrogen based, fuel cells, or something entirely new I have no idea. What I do know is the United States and other developed nations have the technical capability to solve this problem if enough money and time is utilized.

This action tied to the immediate implementation of an actual energy policy in the U.S., such as higher MPG requirements, would be ruinous for the mullahs, dictators and monarchs in the Middle East. Once the money flow is cut their ability to develop something like a nuclear weapon or sponsor world wide terrorism would be greatly reduced. Then if they wish to kill each other for the next several decades we can let them do so.

This plan certainly does nothing to solve the world's immediate problem, a nuclear Iran.

On that issue we are limited to very few options, none of which are palatable.

We can keep negotiating through the EU or UN. This will result in Iran having a nuke.

We can work with Israel to strike and take out Iran's weapon facilities. This offers no guarantee of success and if the strike failed could result in the quick use of a nuke by Iran in retribution.

Next we could go in on the ground in either a full out Iraq level attack. I think the end result of such a move is pretty obvious considering what is now taking place next door in Iraq.

Finally a combination of air strike/ground assault could be implemented. Air assault in enough ground power to rip apart Iran's nuclear facilities along with capturing or killing the technicians building the weapons. A secondary strike to remove that country's government might be possible, but the country would degenerate into a Afghanistan like mess giving terrorists a new home to live and train. Personally, I would leave the current regime in charge, albeit castrated of power, maybe castrated for real too.

The end result of all these options will be higher fuel prices. A physical attack would create economically catastrophically high gas prices and a worldwide economic fall off.

The equation that has to be solved is whether the chaos created by stopping Iran is worth it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Parent's Duty

I complained a bit the other day about having to construct a car for my son's Cub Scout project.

I shouldn't have ranted quite so much. It is all part of being a parent. It is a father and mother's job to properly guide their kids, make sure they do not make major errors that can injure them or ruin their futures.

It would seem the father of California born Taliban member John Lindh did not get the memo on his expected parental duties. Today he issued a statement saying his son should not be in jail, did not fight Americans, is not a traitor. Basically disclaiming all his son's actions. If you remember Lindh was captured after a fire fight between US forces and the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001.

It seems Frank Lindh thought it was great that his son at the age of 15 decided to take up Islam and then leave the country to study his new religion. All before the age of 18. Lindh's parents gave their blessing to allow their son to wander around such garden spots as Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan in pursuit of a greater understanding of Islam, and of course to join the Taliban Army.

Frank Lindh and his wife should be sharing their son's jail cell. They are the individuals truly to blame for their son's incarceration. One has to wonder what fantasy world these people live in to think that a teenager can make such life altering decision.

The Never Ending Saga That Is The Middle East

The Mid East reminds me of a soap opera.

The same plot twists get reused dozens of times, characters disappear for months or manage to come back from the dead and there is no end in sight to the storyline.

Bin Laden's taped message released yesterday touches on all of these plot mechanisms. He had been silent for more then a year and some of his first words were to say the U.S. should expect more attacks. In defense of his writers he did introduce a new bit of drama by saying he was willing to enter into a long-term truce if the U.S. were willing to abide by all his demands.

Notice he said "long term" truce and not permanent. He fully intends, truce or no truce, to restart his fight with us at some future date.

Iran is the center of the other long running series. It also has reguritated several old plot lines during the past few months, while instilling a new twist. Iran's president has called for Israel to be wiped from the face of the Earth, an oldie but a goodie bit of dialogue, and soon after stated that Iran would continue developing its nuclear program. While this has been mentioned from time to time it seems this effort is quite a bit more serious and the players intend to use it to take the story to another level.

If nothing else these machinations will guarantee that The Bin Laden Show and Leave it to Iran will garner a great deal of attention during the coming months. Hopefully, that focus will include attracting several dozen GPS guided 1,000 pound bombs.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Replace Peacekeepers With Peace Enforcers

The Belmont Club today has an interesting bit on the latest disintergration of the Ivory Coast.

This nation, like many around the world, has never gotten itself together since its European colonial masters left 50 years ago. According to Belmont, another surge of violence, led by local bands of thugs looking for power and loot, is about to break out. There are UN and French troops on the ground, but it seems the UN is being pushed around by these heavily armed gangs leaving the locals at their mercy.

Having an international presence in such places is a good idea. Somebody has to protect the weak. But merely placing soldiers in a country like the Ivory Coast is not enough. The UN or parent country needs to send them in with a mandate to hunt down and eliminate those who want to disrupt the country.

You cannot keep killers in line and protect people with peacekeepers or police. Only soldiers willing to practice their art can do the job.

It is entirely politically incorrect to say so, but the thugs in the Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Sudan, etc. are savages. They will kill to gain leverage over the weak or to destroy other tribes. They cannot bargained with or given a place of security to live while biding their time for another push to control the country. There is nothing you can give these bands of murderers that will make them stop. They are uncivilized and only understand force. They do not want to live in peace, they are not fighting for a just cause.

Yes, this is a colonial era response to the problem, but it was used 100 years ago because it was effective. If the UN does not truly want to solve the problem then it ought to send its troops home, why put these people at risk for nothing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Crazy Weather in the Northeast

I'm surprised there has not been more talk of global warming in the local NY media.

For the past month it has been extremely warm, high 40s to near 60 most days with just one quick snowy/cold period that happened last weekend. It seems we can thank the Jetstream for the warm up as it is bringing warm air from the Pacific Ocean all the way across the country and acting as a buffer for the cold air stored up north. This trend shows no change in the next two weeks.

The unfortunate result of this weather is how it is forcing me to re-examine some of my basic desires. I love the snow, the cold and all the rest of the misery that comes with winter. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps I enjoy suffering. On the flip side, I hate paying for oil to heat my house. So this year my oil bill is probably half of what it was in 2005.

I think if NY can manage to have a solid snowy February I might get the best of both worlds, lots of winter yet a lighter then usual heating bill. Although a warm Feb. would also mean more savings.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Thanks to A Large Regular for pointing out this error in a New York Times online story posted over the weekend.

A Large Regular posted this The American Thinker story on what turned out to be a mistake filled caption on a picture run by the Times. The article heavily cites a supposed military expert on the shell's origin, some points of which I disagree with, but I wonder if there might be more to this then just the Times making another foolish factual error.

Ned Barnett, the military expert quoted, might be considered an expert, but he too is in error. A High Explosive artillery shell is properly called HE, not HP. He also does not take issue with such a piece of ordinance being in western Pakistan.

There have not been major artillery duels in that part of Pakistan. On the Indian border yes, but not here I don't believe. The shell might have been fired by the Soviets during the 1980s and brought there from Afghanistan or during the Taliban/Norther Alliance civil war, altough I don't think much artillery was used during the latter. Either way the round does not look very old, the paint is a little chipped. This makes it more likely that its either newer or had been more or less properly stored.

I do agree that these people are idiots to be standing next to this thing, although to me it does NOT look like the fuse has been attached.

My alternative theory is the Times' error is greater then it's letting on.

Maybe the image is not from Pakistan, but Afghanistan or even some part Iraq where these shells are lying all over the place. The Times' merely decided this was great anti-Bush theater and ran it.

Going against my theory is the headgear on the man looks more Indian then Arab, but then again the Kurds might use this fashion.

Nuclear Iran Part II

A nuclear missile armed Iran will usher in an era of instability for the world exceeding what took place during the U.S./Soviet Union's Cold War.

I say this because for most of Soviet Union's nuclear history a stable person or group of people were in charge. Stalin was a paranoid, delusional individual, but he died in 1953 before that country had the ability to wipe out the U.S.

Like Iran, the Soviets were also after world domination, of a sort, but unlike the current crop of lunies in Iran the Sovs did not want to preside over a nuclear wasteland. I am not convinced that the same can be said of Iran's president President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I don't think he would be bothered in the least if most of the Middle East were a nuclear wasteland as long as it was free of Jews and Americans.

The other frightening aspect is that the Iranians and Soviets operate under different principles.

The Soviets worked within a defined system, which they considered to be quite scientific, that stated capitalism was merely a step in history that had to be taken before the economic bliss of communism was achieved. That is one reason why World War III was never fought in Europe. The Soviets figured sooner or later those countries evolve into good communists. (The here joke is the soclialism practiced in several European countries comes pretty close to what the Sovs were after. They just needed to give it another 10 years.)

Ahmadinejad is working under a different system. Islam was originally spread by the sword and he does not see any reason to deviate from this path. If it worked 800 years ago it should work now. If he truly believes the religious rhetoric that he and his ilk spout then the world better get ready for its first regional nuclear war.

I don't think he will use his nuclear weapons for blackmail. He already has the best tool for blackmail, oil. Ahmadinejad can effectively ruin the world's economy by shutting off the flow of Iranian oil. His own country would suffer, but not much since its people have little to lose. A few months with 10 percent of the world's oil gone from the pipeline would create $8 per gallon gas in the U.S.

So if the nukes are not needed to force the world to bend to Iran's will that leaves only one other option. The elimination of Israel. Ahmadinejad has threatened to physically destroy Israel, a step never taken by a U.S. president or Soviet premiere. This is a hard promise to back away from, especially in the Middle East where appearance and pride are so valued particularly when Israel is involvdd. If Ahmadinejad truly believes God/Allah wants him to destroy Israel then he may well do so irregardless of the fact that Iran would quickly be incinerated.

Again, if Ahmadinejad is a true believer in his system he might not hesitate to take this step. Just like the suicide bombers he has helped finance in Israel and Iraq.

No good can come out of a nuclear armed Iran. The world has to get its act together and decide on an approach that will stop Iran. Writing forcefull letters, the EU method, will not hurt Iran unless Ahmadinejad gets a paper cut opening envelope. Strict sanctions, even if it hurts the world's ecomony for a period, should be put in place with a hard date stating that military will commence immediately if Iran does not change its plan.

Nuclear Iran

I think Iran is threatening to use its nuclear arsenal on the wrong country.

Why wipe Israel off the face of the map when most European countries would rather take the path of out right surrender. If Iran ever attacks Israel it will celebrate its victory for the 15 minutes it takes for Israeli missiles to reach Iran and burn that country to the ground. France would never retaliate. Its surviving leaders would simply express its deep regret that France failed to debase itself properly and ask Iran for foregiveness.

The UK might strike back, but not until the idea was bandied back and forth in parliament for several weeks.

With no nuclear weapons Germany would simply start paying Iran reparations.

Monday, January 16, 2006

CES Images

It's been two weeks, but what the heck. Here are some CES pics.

On the left is what the show looks like the day before while it is being set up. This is the mobile audio hall. This is by far the most impressive aspect of the show. It goes from a big empty hall to this.

The finished product. Why you need two LCD panels coming out of your trunk I don't know, but it's available from your local dealer.

Panasonic decided that one giant plasma screen wasn't quite enoug. The company also had a 108-inch LCD in its booth, but this looked cooler.

And finally the crowd. This doesn't due justice

to the number of people on hand, but it gives you an idea.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cub Scouts

I was a Cub Scout for a couple of months when I was in second or third grade, but until my son joined this year I had very little idea what they did and what scouting expects out of parents.

For example, I have to build a Pinewood Derby race car out of a 7-inch solid block of wood by next Tuesday for my son's Cub Scout Pinewood Derby race. They gave us a kit about 6 weeks ago and the fathers are supposed to whip one of these suckers out. Nobody told them about commuting, work or having zero carpentry skills.

The directions include useful tips on how to use a drill press and band saw. I own a hammer, two screw drivers and a wrench set. I considered smashing the wood with the hammer and stabbing myself with the pointy screw driver in an attempt to escape this. Instead a fun trip to Home Depot is in order.

In the end I'm sure my son's car will be the first car to ever burst into flames and injure six viewers as it speeds down the track.

Celebrities Flock To CES For Free Crap

A flock of Hollywood and entertainment types, both the well known and not so well known, hit Las Vegas during the first two days of CES.

The first celebrity sighting took place during the DTS press conference. DTS makes home theater audio technology and brought in actor/rapper Ice T and the lesser known, but more famous to me, Martyn Ware to discuss the impact high-definition sound will have on the music industry. Any reader whose formative years included the early 1980s knows Ware. He is a founder of the group Human League — you know, "Don't, Don’t you want me ..."

Like all of us who were pretty young in the 80s, Ware looks quite a bit different, more like my Uncle George than an old time rock star, but then who am I to cast stones about someone's looks?

After DTS I headed over to get in line to hear Bill Gates' keynote address. Bill usually has a pretty good lineup of surprise celebrities. Last year it was Conan O'Brien who did a great job ripping Gates every time a demo failed. This might explain his absense from this year's shows. Instead Bill rolled out Justin Timberlake. Granted he is a big star, but it was obvious the crowd — whose average age was several decades above Justin's fan base did not recognize him, as the applause was pretty scattered. Justin was on hand to help hype a new Microsoft/MTV online music service called Urge.

Thursday morning, Sony Chairman Howard Stringer kicked open the celebrity gate. (pictured above Stringer, Hanks, Howard, Grazer. This image is proof that a 3x zoom on a digital camera is not enough.) As part of a discussion on Sony’s upcoming movie "The DaVinci Code," Stringer had the movie's star Tom Hanks along with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the films director/producer team come out. Hanks had a great time ribbing Stringer over his being a corporate shill for Sony.

Hanks was particularly busy Thursday. After his gig with Stringer, he did a bit with Paul Ottelini, Intel's CEO. He was joined by Morgan Freeman and Danny DeVito to show their support for a new video download service called ClickStar. This service will offer first-run movies for home download with the first release, starring Freeman, about to be released.

Day 1 of the show is always the busiest. Every company tries to do something big to grab the press and attendees attention. Some, like XM, bring in their headliners: radio hosts Opie and Anthony are doing their show from CES, and the satellite service had rocker Alice Cooper make an appearance.

With booths the size of football fields, one would not think that a celebrity would be needed to attract a crowd, but I guess I don't know much about marketing because many go that route. I have to say it certainly makes my job more interesting.

Tom Cruise also was around, but I did not see him. Considering he is borderline nuts these days that might be just as well. Robin Williams also came out to help Google's Larry Page get through his speech. Page is pretty young and evidently was not used to speaking in front of large crowds. Williams pulled him through pretty well from what I heard.

Captain Kirk and CES

I’ve often been asked to describe what its like to attend CES, outside seeing all the new toys, and just today a great comparison occurred to me.

At a show smothered in high tech products like CES a Star Trek analogy is always accurate so here we go. In an episode from the original series Capt. Kirk is kidnapped and taken to a planet that is so heavily overpopulated its leaders want to introduce new diseases in order to thin out the population. So Kirk is brought in as a Typhoid Mary to infect everyone as part of this new planet wide national health policy.

Kirk finally figures out what is going on and refuses to cooperate. To encourage him to change his mind they show him street scenes with people walking along sandwiched together like canned sardines.

Anyway, the canned sardine description fits CES perfectly. Something like 150,000 people attend the show making the convention center probably one of he more densely populated areas in the country at the show’s peak.

This level of attendance is great for the industry, but it imposes several challenges to those actually here. The biggest challenge is developing enough patience so you can happily wait in line for taxi cabs, food, the bathroom, buses, to see home theater demonstrations, and to simply walk the floor.

In addition to patience what the show requires is a certain level of cleverness. How to get from point A to point B the fastest. Unlike geometry a straight line is not always the answer to this problem. Sometimes walking a mile or so to a hotel for a meeting is faster then taking a cab. Or walking around the outside of the convention center instead of through the exhibit areas will always speed your trip.

CES Aftermath

Yes, I've heard from my lone reader who noted that after a great deal of buildup about going to Las Vegas and blogging about my adventures nothing appeared on my blog. That is until now.

The trip ended up being much more work intensive then I expected and I just ran out of time each day to post anything. Since I've returned I've come up with a few posts to sort of fill everyone in on what happened.

I have to say it is not the titillating as I originally expected, but hopefully it will be at least a little fun. I have a few more I will post shortly.

So without further ado, here is another entry:

This is my 26 visit to Las Vegas. And yes I’m still alive with a more or less fully functioning brain.

I did visit while on vacation once with a friend, but the remaining 25 times have been for business, mainly covering CES or the old Comdex show. You might say that coming to Vegas for work really is a vacation, and to some extent you would be right. Anyplace where a person can be seen drinking beer in public at 7am and not be considered a drunken bum is pretty cool. My apologies to the guys I see sitting on the bench along Madison Square Park in NY City each morning who are busy sipping their 40s of Old English. I, of course, think very highly of their chosen path in life.

I highly recommend visiting this neon lit lunatic asylum, at least once. It’s an experience to see the giant hotels built on gambling losses, drinking and other activities that should not be mentioned in a family-oriented blog, although they might be if my editor doesn’t pay attention.

The most unexpected part about an extended business trip to Vegas is how much it costs. I’m not talking hotel rooms, food and drinks. For the most part that is covered by my company and whatever company is willing to ply me with free drinks and small hot dogs in a bun appetizers while I’m here.

I’m talking gambling. I like to gamble, been doing it for years and I have a good track record of not losing more then I can afford. You’ll notice I did not say I had a good track record of winning. It’s a good trip when I don’t go over my limit, a great trip when I break even and a stupendous trip when I win a few dollars.

I set an amount to lose each trip (granted not the most optimistic sounding method) and then parcel it out so I have a little to lose each day. Smartly, I set no limit on how much I can win.

I implemented this system, the former, not the latter, after the great CES blackjack meltdown of 1994. A little background. A few weeks before the show I went to Atlantic City with about six friends and made a killing. I won about $800 at blackjack. That night I just couldn’t lose. I could have hit on 17, 18, 19 or 20 and still won. So with this winning feeling coursing through my blood I hopped my flight to Vegas and was sitting at a table even before I checked into the hotel. I brought the money I had won in AC plus a little extra - just in case fundage - I called my reserve.

I bet my usual modest amount, $5, per hand and despite this meager wager managed to give every nickel to the hotel plus my “just in case money”, all during that first evening in town.

I was not happy, yet not despondent. According to my aforementioned definition, I was still having a good trip in Vegas.

My problem started the next day. There is precious little to do in Vegas except gamble and drink. Oh, and of course work, wink, wink, nod, nod.

One leads to the other in no particular order. With no more gambling money I had vowed to simply drink for free at industry parties and leave the tables alone. This worked well enough until I got back to my hotel and my inebriated mind saw all those wonderful, green, felt blackjack tables.

In the same manner that alcohol helps convince yourself that the 350-pound, weightlifting psychopath at the end of the bar needs a good butt-kicking because he, or sometimes she, is looking at you funny, booze tells your mind that your massive loss the nigh before was an aberration. You can beat the casino. Unfortunately the only part of my mind that was working properly was the segment capable of taking out my credit card and remembering my cash advance PIN.

Thus armed I hit the tables again determined to win it all back.

The results were as predictable as my fight with the bar gorilla. Knocked out, both financially and physically. There is nothing quite like waking up the next morning for work on three hours of sleep, with a terrible hangover realizing you blew the rent money for the month.

This is how I learned financial responsibility.

It was a brutal, if useful lesson and I have never forgotten that feeling. I have also discovered that when the bulk of the gambling money is gone you can find a slot machine type device that will allow you to bet 25 cents per game and while away the hours.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rear View Mirror Goes On The Road

For the next four days I'm blogging from scenic Las Vegas, Nev., Sin city, Slots Vegas you know the place.

I'm here to cover the International Consumer Electronics Show for the magazine I work for. I'm going to leave out the name because technically I’m not supposed to be doing this, but instead officially blogging for the magazine. Which I will do, but it won’t be as interesting as what I'll write here. My "real" blog will give quick sketches of what is going on in what will hopefully be a real funny manner. Probably not, but I can only hope.

Rear View Mirror will host the path less scene. Or at least less reported.
Las Vegas is the oddest man made creation on the face of the planet. It is here purely to entertain people with what would normally be considered, for lack of a better word, bad things. Like drinking, gambling, eating to excess, foolishly spending your money on idiotic stuff like $6 bottles of water. And for those without a significant other there is a wide variety of truly illegal behavior that is not only condoned but legalized here. Prostitution. It might seem hard to believe, but the county surrounding Vegas has legalized prostitution. And it might not be to well known to those who have not visited, but you can find branch offices of the local houses of ill repute inside the city limits.

The Hilton, where I'm staying, actually has a bar nicknamed the "Hooker Bar" for the obvious reason that you can find women, and maybe men too, of that persuasion hanging out there plying their trade.

As a more then happily married man, I am nothing more than an observer of all this, except for the drinking and gambling part. My wife knows of these hobbies and as long as I don't blow the deed to our house everything is cool.

On the flight out I watched the movie Almost Famous. I thought it was a fitting film for a journalist to take in. For the uninitiated the movie is an autobiographical sketch of Cameron Crowe when he was a teenage editor for Rolling Stone. I doubt there is a journalist of a certain age, say 38 to 55, who doesn't wish he was a reporter for Rolling Stone in the late 60s or 70s. Crowe was a 16 year old out on the road with Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, The Allman Brothers and a dozen other great rock acts. I can't believe his mother let him do it. My mom freaked out when I told her I joined the Army, granted a slightly, but only slightly more dangerous endeavor then hanging out with Jimmy Page at the height of his decadence.

The movie captures a spirit that is almost indescribable to me. It makes me want to write. It makes me want to take my profession to another level. Unfortunately, few trade editors such as myself end up making a movie about what they do for a living.
This CES blog is about as close as I can come.

So over the next couple of days you will get an insiders look at Vegas and what goes on at the show, pictures included.