Friday, May 25, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Washington, DC (May 24, 2007)--The results of a recent nationwide survey released by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) show that illegal downloading of digital copyrighted works by youth (ages 8 to 18) has dropped by 24 percent in the last three years. The survey, first conducted in 2004, indicated that 60 percent of survey participants reported downloading software, music, movies, or games without paying for it; in 2006, the percentage of those who downloaded without paying dropped to 43 percent; and in 2007, the percentage decreased to 36 percent. Youth report that parental oversight is a significant motivator and key influencing factor in their online behavior.
Business Software Alliance
The RIAA reports that sales of CDs are down about 24% over the last three years, and now this industry survey concludes that infringing downloads are down 24%...
Did you know that the music industry's biggest year was also the biggest year for (original) Napster?
We certainly have to monetize file trades of all kinds. This shouldn't misdirect us from the fact that the RIAA is the biggest, evilest enemy of the music industry, and that the music industry will continue to change dramatically with or without them.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Bla, bla, bla
Eric Sussman seems to have forfeited his right to claim membership in the human race.
To place this so-called plight of his precious MBA students anywhere near the reality that his tenants live in should keep him from having any contact or control with anyone trying to live in L.A. on a small or average income.
He has earned a seven-figure equity profit from his investment in this building. If he isn't an idiot, he earns a significant monthly profit from rents after expenses.
This slumlord should be made to live in this building for a year, and to live on the average pay of his tenants, before he can dismiss them as sub-human.
In Defense of Barry Bonds
OK, professional athletes can be fat, overpaid, entitled pussies, and their fanboys can be self-hating morons who worship at an empty alter.
Barry Bonds is on the juice. He can't come out and say it, but it's the truth. Babe Ruth was on a different kind of juice, and Hank Aaron was a skilled and persistent athlete, but Bonds has enhanced his athleticism with man-made concoctions. I'm sure Bonds also wears shoes better than my black-on-black Converse All Star Hi Tops when he plays baseball, and I'm sure he wears a batters glove better than a sandlot slugger would own.
Barry Bonds grew to a stature that has allowed him to learn how to connect a bat to a ball - a task some say is the most difficult in sport - a recipient of a lucky sperm that actually took advantage of what he was born-into (unlike, for example the chimp who is in the White House right now, born on third, thinking he hit a triple...). I'm sure that hitting a ball is pretty much the only thing he has done with passion through his life - he's had a rough family life, and doesn't speak to his team mates, reporters, etc. (the juice ain't good for social skills). No amount of juice will automatically make you hyper-muscular - I'm sure he crafts and shapes his stature with exercise.
If Bonds didn't juice, he would probably still connect with as many balls. He just probably wouldn't hit them as far. He wouldn't have had as many home runs, but he would have had more base hits, and he would have had to run more, and he would have exposed himself to more injury and body wear-and-tear. Just a different kind of success.
Who has enabled his success? Us. Baseball fans, whether we overtly support juicing or not. Modern professional baseball is nothing but big entertainment business, make no mistake about that. We vote with our dollars, even in times of somewhat declining support for professional baseball, and enable these talented and lucky prima donnas to earn their astronomical salaries.
If we really didn't want our athletes to enhance their performance, we would vote with our wallets by not purchasing things from baseball broadcasts' sponsors, we wouldn't buy overpriced licensed merchandise and then use our bodies as billboards for MLB products, and we wouldn't buy tickets. But we do spend this money, enough to keep a few team owners and athletes in mind-numbing wealth.
We need to admit that players put man-made concoctions in their bodies. Some of these substances are prescribed, sanctioned and legal, and some are not.
I propose that we simply do monthly blood testing for performance-enhancing drugs, post the results in the media and on every program at every game, and let us as consumers decide whom we will support. Maybe we'll decide to support athletes who are not juicing. Maybe we will choose to eschew athletes and support educators or independent musicians. But maybe we will chose to support athletes according to their results - after all, these drugs hurt no one but the one taking them - in the context of the limits and possibilities of their game.
Go A-Rod! With some luck and persistence, you may someday make Bonds a footnote, an asterisk, a good hitter.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
And when you stop, don't open your door. Not to litter, spit, or puke. I'm sorry, but I've seen each of these this year. What's the matter with you? Keep it in your car.
And when the light turns green, go. Just go. Don't leadfoot it. Just go, and we'll all get where we're going.
And when the light turns yellow, stop if you can, and clear the intersection if you can't. This isn't rocket science.
That's probably not all...
Friday, May 11, 2007
- Use your turn signals - here's the procedure:
- When you need to change lanes, put your turn signal on!
- let the directional signal blink for five seconds
- look left, look right (no matter what direction you are turning)
- change lanes if and when it's safe
- Don't expect other drivers to have keen intuition, ESP, or even for them to be looking at you. They're doing their makeup, eating a Kit Kat, watching and episode of Wife Swap, or reading People magazine on their PDA. They're not looking at you. This means you have to do everything in your power to get their attention, plan ahead, and do things safely.
- RESPECT other peoples' turn signals! If they are ahead of you in either adjacent lane and they turn on their signal, they want to change lanes! Don't close that gap - you are so not worth more than they are. I don't care what kind of car you drive or what kind of car they drive. I don't care if you or they have a fish on the back bumper, or if you're practicing your gang signs because you never learned how to spell, if you see their signal, defer.
- Pick a lane and stay in it and travel the speed of traffic! If you are in the #1 lane (the fast lane, duh), you will probably be driving faster than the other lanes to your right. The same goes for middle lanes. The same goes for the right lane - people need to exit once in a while, don't waste their time and make them use more fuel and spew more poison into the air just because you feel like doing 45 MPH in the right lane on the 405.
- A safe distance from the car ahead of you is one car length for every ten miles per hour - you can figure this out by finding a fixed object like a sign or fence post on the left, start counting one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, etc., when the car ahead of you passes, and when you pass the same marker at ten-one-thousand, if the roads aren't wet you are probably driving at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you.
- We all know that driving a safe distance from the car ahead of you is virtually impossible on the L. A. freeways because someone will inevitably close that safe gap by merging, without putting down the Us Weekly, at a rate of speed just a little slower that yours, without using their signal. But keep trying.
- If you see a gap in another lane, analyze it to make sure that it is unreasonable, not just the proper distance between cars. You are actually slowing thousands of drivers by closing this gap, and you will have gained precisely one car length - congratulations, Lucy.
- Don't slow other drivers! Don't close the gap, do keep up with the speed of traffic in your lane, and especially, when the traffic slows, don't speed up, stop speed up, stop speed up, stop...pick a speed, and stick to it. Unless there is an accident in your lane or a really, really stupid driver (OK that's most of you), there is a speed that traffic will travel, even if it's idle speed (the speed at which your car goes with your foot off the pedals). Your speeding-up and slowing-down causes a ripple effect in the traffic behind you - each car that slows causes ten to slow behind them (with residual effect on adjacent lanes), and each of these slowed cars causes ten more to slow, causing exponential slowing, the main problem on the freeways - we actually have enough road to handle the cars we have, if people drive properly.
- Don't drive distracted - driving on the L. A. Freeways is probably the most difficult and dangerous thing you will do all day. Starting in July, 2008, you could get a $20-50 fine for holding a cell phone to your ear - get a headset for $3. Learn your directions before, so you won't have to stay glued to your map or GPS device. Put enough Linkin Park and Modest Mouse in your iPod so the music lasts the whole trip without your attention.
Every day, I encounter at least three situations in my 21-mile-each-way commute that puts me in mortal danger. Having been hit twice (totalled once) in the last few months puts me, let's say, on edge.
Oh, and let's make drivers ed mandatory for all highschool students wanting to get a license, provided free in school, as it was when I was growing up (many moons ago, in a state far, far, away, before Prop 13 in CA...). And make obtaining a licence for anyone a high bar to hurdle - this will be tough on immigrants, but the concentration of people in L. A. from many places in the world where the only requirement for obtaining a drivers licence is a pulse is a big reason why we see so much shitty driving.
Oh, and since auto insurance is mandatory (as it should be)
- Insure the driver, not the car. Who cares what we drive and where we park it - cars don't kill people, people kill people
- Make auto insurance No Fault. Spread costs around and insurance companies will spend the same amount of money they do now. Leave fault to law enforcement. Don't let insurance companies raise rates or cancel people simply because these drivers have had some bad luck.
I could go on...and I probably will...
Thursday, May 10, 2007
In 1970, when I was a teenager in a Midwest town, they taught me the metric system, saying "we'll be switching over from the English system in a few years..."
Enough already. Join the rest of the world. Think with ten fingers, not pecks and quarts.
Start an American revolution. Work and live in the metric system from now on, and let other people figure out what the hell you are talking about. They'll adapt.
This stuff just makes Americans and English look stupid, reactionary, and hostile.
According to California's figures, we've leaped over 1980 and '81 to have the highest gasoline prices in history adjusted for inflation. The cost then, in current $ averaged about $2.60 per gallon, and so-far this year we're spending an average of $2.80 per gallon, and it's only May.
I just spent $3.41 per gallon, and that's at the cheap station in Alhambra. Pricier westside locations are nearing - maybe topping - $4.00 per gallon.
Some days, I think we should all drive gas guzzling behemoths, so we actually reach a crisis point with supply and the guys in Detroit pull those 200 MPG carburetor plans out from deep storage...but I still gaze with wonder whenever I see a sparking Suburban or H2 with dealer plates and a fat 'n happy four-foot woman driving it (or a size-challenged over-compensating trust fund kid). What kind of freak would buy such a vehicle in this day and age, just as an FU in the face of the rest of us?
We will inevitably reach the end of affordable oil. In the meantime, stinking slobbering showoff vehicles kill us with more crap in our air, their drivers all oblivious to the self-hate they must have. Are SUVs the new suicide-by-cigarette?
We each have to make a choice to consume less by buying reasonable cars - yay for me, I drive a gas-sipping Toyota Yaris - and to drive less, drive when and where others aren't etc. Higher gas prices are unfortunately a regressive tax, since most of us don't have the choice to cut our driving in half (shame on employers who aren't telecommuting-tolerant). We have to choose to drive better - pick a lane and stay in it, don't swerve around trying to gain a car length or two (and for god's sake use your turn signal if you do, and respect others' turn signals...), don't speed up and slow down to fill gaps when we will all get there faster if you choose a steady pace, plan your exits in-advance, use onramps to get up to the speed of the traffic (you will use a little more gas, but many cars will be able to retain their current speed), pick a speed and stay with it...the list goes on. It's just common sense.
What steams me is that the historical high in no way reflects a historical high in crude oil prices. The only thing that tracks reasonably with gas prices is oil company profits. Can I go ahead and conclude that when the C-level execs, board members, and shareholders want a raise, they concoct one out of thick air, and thick goo? The rest of us suffer while they have record profits, salaries and bonuses, and dividends.
The oil companies have too-long acted monopolistically and our health, economy, and security are suffering. As we increase our lifespans, the things that we die from are more and more from our environment. When historical-price wages and income are stagnant or shrinking for most of us and gas prices continue to skyrocket, we will spend less and less on the consumer goods and which have fueled the economy recently. And when we choose to go to war for oil and profit - monetary and political - our nation is in danger.
It's time to consider dropping all tax breaks to oil companies. They always will find a way to be profitable, whether crude oil prices are $20 per barrel or $80 per barrel. The hidden costs of war to protect the interest of the oil companies are horribly huge, both monetarily and morally. We have to here the minutes of Cheney's energy task force meeting at the White House before 9/11, and most likely this will put the light of day on high crimes and misdemeanors. We have to treat gas as a utility, since it is needed at every level of commerce and since the price can be gamed at will.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
These public companies must perform for their C-Level executives, board members, and shareholders with growth. As a line-item in a profit-and-loss statement, labor costs are the number one item, and their greatest expense keeping them from further profit growth - energy, real estate, and other costs can't compare. While the exes and board members receive lavish salaries and benefits, regardless of growth or success in many cases, their employees are asked to happily accept their role as runners to the bottom while the companies are mis-managed to mediocrity.
These companies can act as one to direct a huge pool of employees in SoCal, and they have opposition, the UFCW. I worked for a long-gone store in the '80s and I had to join the UFCW - they took my dues and provided no support the few times I asked, so I have to union-love here. But the union can act as one for its members as these members can't against the unified front of the major grocery store owners.
Four years ago things came to a head in a debilitating strike. The three store chains were having profitable years. In this growth-at-any-cost struggle, the companies decided to unilaterally increase their profit at the expense of their lowest-paid. Living costs, especially health care, had greatly increased for these workers over the previous few years - growth in the SoCal economy had largely been restricted to real estate, and many grocery workers weren't in a position to benefit from this, and tax breaks given were only for the wealthy, including corporate cheifs David Dillon, Steven Burd, and Lawrence Johnston.
Yet, these workers were asked to bear the brunt of this growth madness by paying more for less medical care, accepting more part time work (excluding them from corporate healthcare altogether), and agreeing to a longer, sometimes impossible, climb to more stable full-time positions with appropriate benefits. Creating a huge straw man out of Wal-Mart , the employers bred fear by saying that their workers could either accept these demands or be swept into the fiery blue furnace with the happy smiling face.
With no good faith on the part of the employers in negotiations (in violation of federal law) and collusion to split profits during the strike (again, in violation of federal law), the unions voted to strike. Ralphs, Vons, and Albertons hired scabs to replace their longtime employees. Customers stayed away. Union members picketed, lost homes, and went to the emergency room for medical care.
The UFCW found no heart, soul, or brains to come up with a way to support their dues-paying members, and folded. Instead of a stream back to their previous positions, long-term employees flooded away from the stores, many landing worse or no job for a good amount of time. What we see now in 2007 in these stores is a much-smaller-than-before fresh crop of faces, responsibility-without-authority for those in customer-contact positions, and a sameness from store to store that makes us feel like these grocery stores are one big chain.
I now give all of these stores about 30% of what business I gave before the strike, just on principle, and I bet I'm not the only customer they have essentially lost. Their reliance on affinity programs, unstaffed customer service counters, etc., make grocery shopping a chore. Non-union Trader Joes, Farmers Markets, Costco, and even the internet, make my grocery consuming a better experience than it was, and I for one am not going back.
Now, the giants want their employees to pay a larger percentage of their healthcare costs. Healthcare costs have skyrocketed, mostly due to public-company middlemen that didn't exist a generation ago, drug costs, longer lives that require more healthcare and drugs, etc. There's no law that says that companies have to provide medical care for their employees - this practice started when postwar tax breaks were granted to companies that did, and at that time is was considered cheaper than actually paying employees more - but corporate executives and board members get state-of-the-art healthcare benefits while they could pay for these services, all the while expecting their lowest-paid employees to pay a significant portion of their income for the meagerest of healthcare.
This imbalance must end. We have to find some way to pay even our lowest-paid so they can afford great healthcare (with affordable catastrophic-event coverage available), require employers and governments to insure all employees equally (wouldn't the free-market bring down costs for all if this was required?), or provide a single-payer plan at the federal level (to make us competitive on a global level again). Anything less, and the greatest country in the world with the best available medical care should be considered a human rights criminal of the highest order.
Contact the princes who rule these companies and demand some equity, with no strikes necessary. Vote with your $$$ and don't shop where the economic divide is wide enough to swallow you whole.
Grocery Store CEOs with public political contribution info ;-)
David B Dillon
CEO/Chairman of the Board/Director
1014 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202-1100
Chairman, Chief Exec. Officer, Pres and Chairman of Exec. Committee
250 Parkcenter Boulevard
Boise, ID 83726-0020
5918 Stoneridge Mall Road
Pleasanton, CA 94588-3229
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Sales of albums by contemporary musicians have been falling for years, but
what the industry calls deep catalog albums (more than 3 years old) have
making a comeback, with their sales soaring 104.2% from 2005 to 2006.
been a boon for Avalon and other older artists.
As more music becomes available digitally, semi-obscure artists are finding
they have devoted fans. On Rhapsody, for instance, Top 100 artists produce only
25% of the songs played, said Tim Quirk, Rhapsody's vice president for music
content and programming.In contrast, nearly half of retail store sales are
generated by that elite group. Less popular artists get playtime too — 90% of
the 195,200 artists on Rhapsody are played at least once a month.
This is not a story about Frankie Avalon and Fabian.
This is a story of the survial of the music industry, and issues that the industry should have addressed a decade ago.
Every work of recorded music should be available without DRM from a variety of competitive retailers on the web for 50 cents each, with higher-resolution, surround, etc., versions for more. And these should be available for playing on subscription-streaming services.
The income from lapsed-artists like Frankie Avalon and Fabian, and from works that have fallen into the public domain, can help fund the development of new music, so music, and it's industry, can have a future.
Every work recorded over the last century+ has value.