March 26, 2008

Situation Normal, All In Flux

Back when the family was away and I had more time, I started the upgrade to MT4.1. Between poor documentation and outdated documentation on the part of MT and my web host, I had the wrong idea about what my problems were with the upgrade. Once I got current information from my web host, all I had to do was remember how I got MT2.x running manny moons ago when I switched from Greymatter to MT. So I finished the upgrade when I don't have a lot of time to get everything squared away. I hope to have it all squared away soon, time permitting, so please bear with the ongoing state of flux.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | Inside Bloging | Me

March 24, 2008

The man of the hour has an air of great power

I wrote this last May in draft form and have finally gotten around to finishing it. How quickly the conventional wisdom changes, now everyone knows we are in a recession. Of course you should "raise as much money as you can, enough to last you for a few years until the recession is over" is also part of the conventional wisdom. As my Uncle John would have observed: it's generally accepted, so generally accepted it may not be true at all."

May 9, 2007: Report from Silicon Valley

So we are starting to pump a little hot air back into the bubble every week now. The streets of Silicon Valley witness young entrepreneurs looking for department store Santas venture capitalists to listen to their list of needs and make their dreams come true. It's "not as nuts as 99" but not as sane, or dour, as 2003. Roger Macnamee blogged for the better part of 2004 on "The New Normal" with this as his inaugural post:

Wake up and smell the coffee. This is not your father's economy. And it's not the boom that inflated our expectations and then exploded. But it's also not the doom and gloom we've been mired in for nearly three years now! So, wake up. Pull yourself together. Get on with it. With what you ask? With the rest of your life. It's a bright, fresh world full of opportunities. I know that runs counter to many of the opinions all around us, but it's true, and I can show you why. It's true for the investor, the entrepreneur, the CEO, the unemployed, and the human being seeking balance. This blog will be dedicated to insights and discussion about life, business, and investment in what I call The New Normal.
Please join in!

Now I regularly have conversations that remind me of 1997-2000. I am routinely admonished that "the old rules no longer apply" and advised that successful firms spend much of their treasure on PR social media and viral marketing (regular marketing is a waste of money since viral marketing is free). YouTube's 1.6 billion dollar exit is the exemplar burned in 10 mile high neon letters into the back of everyone's retinas.

This is not a lament nor a longing for the early 90's (or early 80's), now is the best time to be alive and an entrepreneur. It's a wish that more firms would aim for creating value for their customers.

Posted by Sean Murphy at 8:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Technology

March 20, 2008

The Real Reason the Media Is Liberal

I haven't noticed what station my alarm clock radio is set to until this week. Normally when it goes off, I have it back off in 2 seconds. But now that the funWife is away, I don't have to worry about waking her, and with her and the kids gone, I don't have to worry about missing my time in the shower and messing every one up. So I've been a little slow about turning the alarm off, and it turns out it is set to KHITS 96. And no wonder, they play my kind of music, and they have all the old (and I do mean old) DJs from KSHE's glory days.

I am not a talk radio guy, and while KHITS is not talk radio, morning personalities all talk way too much for my tastes. I foolishly listened to J.C. Corcoran this morning, and at least he wasn't threatening to commit mass murder or doing black dialect while mocking a black man because he missed the Super Bowl halftime show. Today, the liberal J.C. was apparently reacting to a Pew Research Center survey that says that decidedly more journalists self identify as liberal than conservative. Now I happen to think that is a "well duh" kind of result, but J.C. was a mite riled up.

I came to full consciousness when he was saying the media were only liberal in comparison to fringe right wing bloggers. Ahh, another convenient whipping boy, the fringe right wing blogger. Then after he had exhausted his spleen, he went on to claim that the job itself caused a certain empathy and understanding because you got to go into rural areas and see real live bigots like some lounge singer at a Holiday Inn who had a dancing black mannequin named Leroy (not that people in the big city would ever hear bigoted comments on the radio), and see real bad poverty, and travel a lot, unlike most people who live in big cities. So the job itself would just naturally make you a liberal.

I especially liked how the two explanations are contradictory - the first was that journalists are only liberal in comparison to rightwing nuts, and the second was that the job itself makes you a liberal. I didn't wait around for another possible explanation, because the most obvious one, that liberals discriminate against conservatives in hiring, was not one I was going to hear pass the lips of Mr. Corcoran.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 10:48 PM | Comments (0) | Media Criticism

The Rest Of The Circuit City Story

So I'm enjoying reading The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business, 2007 (via Joe Sherlock) And then I come across the answer to an earlier post about Circuit City's novel approach to cost cutting -- firing the highest paid, i.e. the best, salespeople:

Since I'm not one of the people being fired, I can be detached and think that this will provide a nice economics case study in cost cutting. Arguably (i.e. I'm leaving wiggle room for later) it will be used as a case study in business school - but I will leave it up to an excercise for the reader to decide if it will be held up as an effective, an ineffective, or a disastrous way to cut costs.

And now, the rest of the story:

In a cost-cutting move, Circuit City lays off all sales associates paid 51 cents or more per hour above an "established pay range" - essentially firing 3,400 of its top performers in one fell swoop. Over the next eight months Circuit City's share price drops by almost 70%.

I think, unsurprisingly, disastrous is the final answer. I guess companies will go back to laying off the bottom performers instead of the top.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) | Economics

March 18, 2008

Men and Women, Scene 537

So we parents are standing around the buses getting ready to take our kids off to the Tetons last weekend. My son graciously came up to me early, said "Let's get this over with now", and gave me a big hug. His friend had done the same to his mother, and then they got into a contest over what parents they could lift. Boys. So after they trooped on the bus, and then back off to get their picture taken, and then back on, the parents were talking. The moms were all worried - did I pack everything, what did I forget, I hope they don't get cold, how are they going to handle the snow, what will they do on the long bus ride, did I pack enough snacks, fret fret fret. The dads were all envious - what a great trip, wish I was going, what a great time they are going to have. Ah, the division of labor - someone to worry, someone to enjoy.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 10:39 AM | Comments (0) | Family

March 17, 2008

Today's Quote: On Plans

Most plans are just inaccurate predictions.

------------ Ben Bayol (probably in response to his wife's complaints about the typical male's lack of planning)

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 8:43 PM | Comments (0) | Quotes

Home Alone - Kevin's Story

My wife and daughter are off looking at colleges in the Carolinas, my son is off in the Tetons going to school, and I'm at home all alone except for the dog. Let me say he isn't much of a conversationalist but he sure is happy to see me. Back in my bachelor days (a long, long time ago) being home alone was normal. Now it's weird and creepy. Not to mention a lot of work.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 8:33 PM | Comments (2) | Me

March 14, 2008

Today's Quote: On Comedy

Comedy is tragedy plus time.
Bonus punchline:
I saw it in the window, and I just had to have it.

----------------- Carol Burnett (she must have had some hellacious tragedies based on how funny she was)

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:53 AM | Comments (1) | Quotes

March 12, 2008

Not-Hillary's Kitchen Sink

If these are Muslims for Peace, one wonders what Muslims for War would look like. Anyway, Prime Minster Anders Fogh Rasmussen (and any Dane, for that matter) is always welcome at the funHouse.

Everybody's linking to David Mamet's essay Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal' for good reason. Did you ever think you would read:

I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.
in the Village Voice. No doubt liberals and conservatives are having heart attacks.

Eamonn Fitzgerald writes about his visit to an exhibit in Venice:

Overall, it is well worth seeing, especially if you think history repeats itself and particularly if the weather is bad.
When I finally get around to writing about my visit it to Venice, the prose will be much worse but the pictures far superior.

Do the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? According to Carpe Diem, the Brookings Institute's research says the college educated are getting richer. Good news to my mind as the wife and daughter are about to imbark on a weeklong trip to visit colleges over spring break.

Tom Maguire is a master at lthe ong and the short form blog post; this time I'm linking a masterful short post. Bonus, it's a shooting Krugman in a barrel. Not much sport, but plenty of enjoyment.

Steve Boriss reports on differing standards in journalism between the US and the mother country: "Are you really that acquiescent in the United States?" I guess we'll have to recall all those "Don't Tread On Me" flags and replace them with "Go Ahead and Tread on Me" flags.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:53 AM | Links

A Spectacular Fall

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Although it's like getting Al Capone on tax evasion - his other crimes are much worse but at least he got got.

St. Louis had our own version of Eliot, without all the other baggage. George Peach was a prosecuting attorney who by day crusaded against the porno business and by night was in bed with them. Yeah, he too was a Democrat. Mr. Peach was like Gary Hart - he all but dared the local newspaper to investigate him. As I'm not a psychiatrist and don't actually know the people, you wonder is the dare from a desire to get caught so they can stop or just arrogance.

Oh well, one can hope that New York gets a better, less self-aggrandizing governor out of the resignation.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:21 AM | Current Events

Today's Quote: On Bigotry

Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.
---------------- Ambrose Bierce (Boy, there sure are a lot of bigots out there!)
Posted by Kevin Murphy at 10:49 AM | Quotes

March 11, 2008

Weather Economics.

I'm kind of shocked about a newspaper story I'm NOT seeing, namely the story that says that the recent slowdown is do the the harsh winter we've been having. They used to run stories about how warm weather increased spending:

The warmest January in more than 100 years lured consumers out to the shopping malls to spend money at the fastest clip in six months, giving a strong boost to the economy as the new year began.

So, does the weather play a role? My wife last night was lamenting that she hadn't been able to do any real shopping in a long while because of the lousy winter weather. Yes, an anecdote, but a perusal of back issues says the weather spending connection was once taken seriously by the media. I don't recall one story yet this winter making that claim.

Could it be that the media is trying to (1) tarnish Bush and (2) affect the outcome of the election?

Another interesting part of the 2 year old story:

However, a third report showed construction spending managed only a 0.2 percent increase in January, the weakest gain in seven months and far below the 1 percent analysts had expected.

A big reason for the slowdown was a tiny 0.1 percent increase in private home building, the poorest monthly performance since an actual decline of 0.4 percent last June.

It was a further indication that residential construction, which has enjoyed five boom years, is beginning to slow.

Sales of both new and existing homes fell in January despite the warm weather. Economists predict continued increases in mortgage rates will slow housing further in coming months.

What's this, a slowdown in the housing market 2 years ago? I thought the current slowdown was just that - current and because of the current sub-prime "debacle". Sometimes it really pays to go back and read old news because the news itself has so little correct historical context to it and too much current narrative.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 10:54 AM | Economics | Media Criticism

More of My Wisdom

I have another revamped aphorism I like to say:

Rome wasn't built without deadlines.
Okay, I'm a procrastinator, but I still think it's right.
Posted by Kevin Murphy at 10:22 AM | Me | Quotes

March 4, 2008

Today's Quote: Your Ideas

Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

--------------------- Howard Aiken (probably after an engineering design review)

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:11 PM | Comments (1) | Quotes

Cheeseburger in a Can

What will they think of next! How do you improve on cheeseburger in a can? That will increase attendence at our scout campouts.

I admit I was intrigued by the other product mentioned, Peronin:

Peronin is easy to consume during the contest, is readily assimilated by the body, and enters the bloodstream immediately. In addition, in extreme situations, it eliminates the risk of suffering the much-feared fatigue caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood and it minimizes bowel movements.

I cannot stress enough the importance of minimizing bowel movements while camping, or during sporting events for that matter.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:58 AM | Fun

Clinton Agonistes

I have to feel sorry for Hillary Clinton. Only just a teensy bit, though. Here she was inevitable, Obama left for dead before Iowa, and now she's on the brink of losing the nomination. And so she fights back with her "experience" and her "who do you want to answer the phone at 3AM at the Whitehouse" - but left unsaid is that John McCain wins both those battles. If those arguments persuade you, then why not vote for McCain in the general if you vote for Hillary for those reasons in the primary. I have real problems with McCain-Feingold, but at least it's major legislation. What's the legislation with Clinton's or Obama's name on it? John McCain has a huge track record in the Senate - Clinton has some, and Obama has what, if anything? McCain isn't my first choice (Thompson), or my second choice (Romney), but I certainly feel comfortable with him answering the phone at 3AM, and I certainly feel comfortable with his track record of leadership and experience in office.

So when Hillary hammers Saint Barry on his experience and dovishness, all McCain has to do is replace Obama with Clinton and Clinton with McCain and he's set.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:37 AM | National Politics

March 3, 2008

Kirkwood Aesthetics

The Post finally ran my letter to the editor on the Kirkwood City Council shootings. I'm assuming that you know about them, but I'll just mention that I'm third generation Kirkwood, even if I don't currently live there. A lot of the coverage now focuses on "the racial divide" in Kirkwood.

I keep hearing about this racial divide in Kirkwood and how Charles Thornton was treated differently because he was black. But can anyone point to actual evidence of this unfair treatment? Can they point to white business owners who have been allowed to park their heavy equipment on residential streets or dump their waste on vacant lots? For instance, I notice that Ray’s Tree Service stores their equipment on a parking lot, not on the city streets.

My father, Kirkwood High class of 1942.5, was the executor of an estate in Kirkwood about 25 years ago. After his second citation for letting the grass grow too high, he started to mow the lawn one evening after work. He was then cited for disturbing the peace despite his whiteness.

I can believe that Mr. Thornton never adjusted to the change from the unfettered days before Meacham Park became part of Kirkwood, but after the protracted fight over a parking lot for the Baptists or the latest brouhaha over the tearing down of an old house to put up a new one that sparked the bumper crop of red “Protect Historic Kirkwood” yard signs, anyone who seriously believes that race counts for more than aesthetics in Kirkwood doesn’t know Kirkwood.

As usual it was edited, but this time I think they went a little far. I understand they edit the letters. I can understand why they edit them. It's just that I'm not always happy with the edits. They removed "Can they point to white business owners who have been allowed to park their heavy equipment on residential streets or dump their waste on vacant lots? " which I think is pretty important.

I think it's important because I prefer to move away from the nebulous to the specific. No doubt people in Meachem Park, like almost anywhere else, can point to events and claim they are not treated fairly. I might even agree with them (amazingly enough, I too was once stopped for Driving while Black despite the fact that I, and all the car's occupants, were white). But a lot of the continuing response seeks to bridge a racial divide. I wish them all the best but I don't think the problem is racist in nature. It's not entirely classist, either And that's why it's important to find out the exact complaints, and not be satisfied with generic ones - because reality can hide in that nebulous cloud. But if the reality is flushed out into the open, then and only then can it be examined and addressed.

There is nothing wrong with the dialogue and probably something oddly thereputic in all the hand holding and avowals of love and solidarity, but at the end of all that you'll still have the majority in Kirkwood imposing its aesthetic values on the rest of the population.

Kirkwood is suffering from a clash of aesthetics and has for a long time. All the big fights for the last 30 years (or more, I can only speak personally to 30 years) have all been over aesthetics. Usually its couched in terms of the effect on neighborhoods and property values but the majority of Kirkwood wants to keep the city a place of high end residential properties (nothing wrong with that) and if that limits what you do with your property, so be it. And that's when the fighting begins - when you do something with your property that goes against the Kirkwood aesthetic. Tear down an old house to put up a new house - fine if the old house is one of the many old small ones and the new one fits in with the look and feel of Kirkwood. Tear down a charmer to put up a McMansion - Kirkwood explodes in red yard signs "Protect Historic Kirkwood". Tear down a house to put in a parking lot - don't even think about it Baptists.

Meachem Park has been thoroughly reconstructed since it's annexation from Kirkwood. Law and order, and all that that entails, has been provided. And if the order that is imposed doesn't conform to the locals desires, it does to the wider Kirkwood aesthetic. And no amount of jawboning about race, no amount of representation on the city council will change that.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:10 PM | Local Politics