Archive for February, 2009

February 14, 2009



February 13, 2009



February 13, 2009



February 11, 2009


February 11, 2009



February 10, 2009


February 10, 2009


onion theory

February 10, 2009

I used to take great pride and pleasure from the plentiful cheap restaurants in my area.

since  i travel all over my region for work, i loved discovering the modest but flavorful little

Lunch places run by owner operators  from all over the world.

One day , a few years ago, i noticed that my Cambodian lunch plate consisted of rice, a TEENY bit of

Chicken, and A LOT of onions.

Then noticed that my thai lunch was mostly green pepper and onions.

Was it my imagination, or did they get slightly smaller  bowls at my favorite pho place? 

Wait a minute, seems like those burritos used to be a bit larger, also.

Also, and this was more subtle and hard to pin down, but something else 

was missing.

The flavor seamed to have somehow disappeared.

Could my taste buds have just become jaded?


Then I realized what had happened. I call it the onion theory.

Restaurants felt they could not raise prices to cover increased costs because they would lose customers to the competition.

And the competition included fast food places, also which pulled prices down.

After all, if a fast food lunch costs $5, then a $7 lunch becomes ” expensive”.

So they started slowly cutting back on portions, then started  using cheaper ingredients, and finally using cheaper

versions of the cheap ingredients.

Why buy a real onion when a genetically grown one is half the price.


I see the same thing with a lot of businesses.

Take airlines.

It used to be that flying across the country was a big deal. It would cost a couple of weeks salary.

After deregulation, it became a race to the bottom to get market share and fill up every seat

And because you would rather sell a seat for super cheap than fly with any empty seats, consumers

got hip to sniping for last minute bargains.

But when you cut it down to a razor thin margin, there is no profit.

And americans have decided that $300 is  what it should cost to fly coast to coast.

None of the airlines wanted to be the first to blink.

So they slowly started to charge extra for every little thing. Pillow charge, say hi to the stews charge, disembarking tax.


Every municipality does this now, too.

What politician wants to stand up and say they are going to raise taxes?

So they slowly raise parking tickets, and permit fees, and entrance to the zoo.

It’s not enough to start  a revolt, but the cumulative effect of  gotcha charges is gigantic.

Americans have not been willing to peal back their unrealistic dreams, so they are living in a hollowed out


Onion theory.


February 5, 2009

Last year i was plagued by Eco-Dorks.  Everything had to be “green”


Hey, don’t get me wrong I’m totally down with  saving the planet.

It’s just a lot of these folks are missing some perspective.

I remember one project;

They tore down a  perfectly serviceable 2500 square foot house and built a giant house.

But it’s OK because they were doing everything “green”

like all my clients these days, they had stumbled on some obscure  green wood product on the net.

Of course it had to be shipped from Finland. How’s that for carbon credits?

I guess there isn’t a lot of sun in Finland because the finish was breaking down fast on the building. Of course it was used  on the fascia, which meant someone has to go around every year  on a tall ladder and wipe it with super strong solvent.

They profiled the ” green ”  remodel in the local shelter worshipping magazine.

The next issue the solar guy complained that his panels had been photo shopped out of the photos.

Green yes.  Inelegant, no.

The owner  got transferred overseas  just before the project was finished. I believe it sat empty for at least a year.


I have discussions with a friend who has a company that does ” evaluations of your energy envelope”

Getting that last 10 percent of efficiency by gasketing up your house tighter than a drum

means mold, rot, and unhealthy air. How green are major repairs?


These new cementicious siding materials?  It’s going to be the new asbestos, mark my words.

I suggest any new material you found on the net should  have a history of local installation, with a local distributor.

I hate to say this, but wood is a renewable material and breaks down into biofuel later. Of course it hasn’t been responsibly managed to date.


here’s another a  scenario  i see every day that involves a tremendous amount  of waste and energy;

You decide to sell your house. The listing agent brings her friend ” the stager”.

An army of folks swarm over your house and tear out every thing dated like old cabinets.

Time for some new ones! Only it’s just for resale, so get some cheap ones and make sure they are bland.

It sells and 30 days later an army of contractors are swarming over your house to put your

personal stamp on it. In come the new cabinets. The third set in as many months. The others are in the landfill.

Over in the corner the owner is bragging to her friend about the “green” concrete countertops.

 never mind  that concrete is one of the most polluting and energy depleting materials out there.

In five years, the whole scenario repeats.


I’m sorry, this whole monument to your ego stye of nest feathering has to go.

There are whole tv channels dedicated to this nonsense.

We need to find self esteem some other way. Find another creative outlet. There is nothing heroic about decorating your home. it’s just a building. 

We have come to see our homes as one part ATM machines, one part artistic canvas,

and one part marker of social status.

If you are going  to arbitrarily tear the house apart every ten years, maybe we need to re-think this deal.

I got a really wild and goofy idea. Instead of trying to make a house last forever which is  a huge and unending expense,

what if we just excepted that the house is a temporary object ( like ourselves)

I started crunching the numbers;

You could buy some dorky tent like abode like a ” yurt” or a log cabin kit and plop it down on a concrete pad for say  35 grand. After 30 years,  you could replace the whole thing again, if you like

How does that compare to working 60 hours a week at a job you cant stand to buy your  5 bathroom castle?

Just asking.

Anyhow the green folks have disappeared.  Ain’t  heard a peep. Not a single person has asked me  in months about green


I expect them back in about 10 years.

Free “content”

February 4, 2009

A popular thought these days is that paying for music, movies, and books is so 20th century.

Musicians don’t need to make any money on selling recordings because they are just promos for 

their live concerts. Besides, they are all rich, right?

Well, i don’t know any rich musicians, myself.  I suspect there are less than 200 worldwide that earn more than

the major leauge baseball minimum salary or even that of a firefighter.

Regardless, that argument only would apply to musicians that perform.

I may like a cd of a musician, but i cant go hear them if they are dead, or dont like to perform much, or are regional.

Some artists are recording artists only.

And what about songwriters and composers?

Cole porter, Irving Berlin, Billy Strayhorn, etc. Think about what they have given us. And they were not performers.

The Beatles stopped performing early on. Would they have spent the money and energy on making the bulk of their

 recordings if they were going to give them away?

Think of all the producers and arrangers that created all the magic on all the recordings you love. They are not performers.

It would be one thing if i was hearing this argument from impoverished people, but i usually hear  this from middle class

people with a sense of entitlement. 

I also hear ” the music industry” used as an excuse.

Sure the music industry is finally being exposed for the crooked parasitic empty suits they have always been.

But i dont see the kids downloading music paying anything to the musicians.

Recent attempts to release music on the web on a voluntary model have shown that very few could be bothered to click

and send a few bucks.

Look, Cd’s or downloads are CHEAP.  The same money you pay for a fast food meal, except you can listen again and again.

By the way, when you are there at the fast food restaurant, try and explain to  the minimum wage  immigrant mom  working behind the counter why you deserve all the free music you want.  Maybe she will give you your food for free.

Or course, if you need to have 10 million  songs on your ipod, i guess it does add up.

Here’s a thought; how about if you could only own a small amount of content? Wouldn’t you be more selective?

I think this easy access has caused the ” value” ( in every sense of the word) of content to plummet.

Even the word content is diminishing.

As for Movies, imagine all the people and money involved in producing a film. And no, i don’t  mean the crappy youtube video of your cat.

Thousands of highly skilled humans and really expensive equipment has to be  mobilized for the pleasure of your eyeballs.

But then, you deserve to get this all for free because, well just because.

And if you have spent a year or two of your life working on a book, i’m sure you should  just give it away because ” you are an artist”. 

I think americans have always been suspicious of artists. They are seen as shirking subversive weirdos.

except when they somehow win the lottery and make money  and / or get famous at which point they become  celebrated for having ” put one over” on the system. Even better if they self destruct shortly after.

Look, i realize the animals have left the barn, and i don’t  have any answers vis a vis drm or watermarking, creator taxes etc.

Just spare me the   self serving rationalizations.

Just because every one does it, doesn’t make it right.

Theft = Disrespect.