Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year in Review

I would write my own "year in review" if I could write stuff like this:

The CEOs of the Increasingly Small Three auto makers return to Washington to resume pleading for a bailout, this time telling Congress that if they can reach an agreement that day, they will throw in the undercoating, the satellite-radio package AND a set of floor mats. ''We're actually LOSING MONEY on this deal!'' they assure Congress. Finally they reach a $13.4 billion agreement under which the car companies will continue to provide jobs, medical insurance and pension benefits, but will cease producing actual cars. The agreement will be overseen by the federal government, using its legendary ability to keep things on budget.

You know who can? The Great Dave Barry. New stuff from Dave only comes a few times a year, so you better go here to read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Some folks think I can't dance...

...well this proves them wrong.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vote for Andrew Kennedy, he's nothing like Ted!

When I left Connecticut in 1993, The Players, the comedy group I was in, replaced me with a guy who is about 100 times funnier. His name is Andrew Kennedy, and he makes his living as a stand-up (and cutting lawns). He is also a super nice guy. So, please vote for my friend Andrew at Comedy Central's Standup Showdown.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Did the Yankees overpay?

I was having lunch with my friend Budd Bailey today, talking about how the Yankees are the only team feeling comfortable spending the big $$$ on players, knowing they will have big revenues next year from the new stadium. We were wondering how Scott Boras is going to feel for advising his clients not to grab the big deals that came early, as more teams pull their offers off the table, as happened with Texiera. And, again, we wonder what the heck Manny was thinking!

The Sports Economist has a couple interesting articles recently about baseball. The most interesting is a story about the Yankees luxury tax payment for 2008, which EXCEEDS THE PAYROLL OF THE RAYS!! There is also a calculation speculating that for what the Yanks will pay in luxury tax during the course of CC's contract, they could have BOUGHT THE RAYS!

Is this a crazy world or what?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Next Xmas I'll just have dental surgery!

People love to visit Chicago. Wrigley Field, great museums, Rush Street, Second City, that ridiculous giant softball, ribs at the Twin Anchors (Positively No Dancing) has so much to offer. It is such a shame that during my latest visit I enjoyed none of this stuff, as O'Hare airport offers none of the things we love about the Windy City.

Maybe I shouldn't bother writing this. Everyone who has traveled at all has their own fun story about being trapped in O'Hare. Mine started with a 3:40 AM bus ride to DIA, where I was to take a 6AM flight to Chicago, then on to Buffalo in time to watch the Bills with my old friends back home. Early flights always leave on time, right?

As we are about to board, there is an announcement that the hose broke while fueling the plane, so there would be a short delay while they cleaned up the spill. No problem, I have 1 ½ hours to change planes. Then, once we're on the plane, the “tug” that pushes the plane from the gate breaks, and they have to summon another. While we wait for that, a guy on the plane turns as white as the ice at HSBC Arena, has a racing pulse, and needs to be taken off the plane. By 7 he's off, but then it takes another 20 minutes for someone to show up to close the airplane door again. After a stop for de-icing, we take off at 7:45. That gets us into O'Hare at 10:30, 20 minutes after my connecting flight, probably the only flight to leave O'Hare on time all day.

I”ll keep this brief and summarize the rest of the fun. The next 2 flights to Buffalo get canceled, as Buffalo is experiencing the kind of weather that made it famous, so I and my new best friends, all of whom were trying to make the same trip, spend 4 ½ hours waiting in line for “Customer Service”, then are told all kinds of crazy stuff and put on standby. One girl gave up and went downtown and took the train. The flight at 7 (which didn't leave until 8:15) had a waiting list of 78 people. I was #40. I start at 29 for the 9:45 flight, yet somehow catch a break and get the last seat on the plane (NO, I didn't kill 28 people in Chicago, although I considered it!), which left at 11:15. I wave a quick goodbye to Jody and Dan (who by now have probably built a home on the C concourse), my friends in suffering for the day, and get on the plane after on 12 hours of bad food, screaming kids, and that constant sound of mumbled announcements and beeping carts. Buffalo never looked so good.

It all ended with the fun of a 2:30 Am cab ride, being taken to Mom's on un-plowed roads covered with snow drifts, by a Middle Eastern driver who fishtails the town car all over the road. I should be driving him in this weather!

At least I made it to Ted's Hot Dogs for lunch, which is worth all the trouble.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What was I thinking?

A few weeks ago, the people who run Active Minds, a company I work for occasionally that puts on seminars for senior citizens, asked me to write a curriculum about the financial meltdown. Without thinking much, I did what I usually do when someone offers me money to do something, and said "yes".

This would be for a program that lasts 1 hour, including introductions and questions. That means I
need to fit the whole mess into about 50 minutes. Shortly after hanging up the phone, it struck the hell am I going to squeeze this mess into 50 minutes? And it keeps getting bigger each day as I write it.

And I wasn't even drunk!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


It started about 13 years ago. For some reason I re-wrote "The Night Before Christmas" and emailed it to the few freinds who had email at the time. Now, well, so many people look forward to the uplifting messages in my poems, that I can't stop. So, last year I started this blog to share it with the world.

Hope you enjoy. And if you want to read a few older ones, scroll down a bit. I put up links to where you can read them.


T’was the night before Christmas, I was sitting around
Wondering how much my investments were down
The market’s decline has shown no abatement
And I’m just too frightened to look at my statement
Those bank stocks I’d bought had dropped through the floor
Most of them just don’t exist anymore
Based on the size of my 401K.
I’ll be working until my last breathing day

The awful economy had got me to thinking
Why not invest in booze and take up hard drinking?
I went to the cupboard to pour me some Jack
When up on the roof I heard a loud whack
Something had landed with a great crash
I hoped nothing was broken ‘cause I had no cash
Then down the chimney and into the fire
Fell a familiar figure in weird red attire
A guy I’d not seen since I was a child
Yes it was Santa! Oh how I smiled.

But then I noticed he wasn’t the same
As the Jolly old guy who each Christmas came
His hat had turned brown, his coat badly worn
His toe poked though his boot where the leather had torn
Even worse than his clothes, it was so sad to see
Was a big giant frown where his laugh used to be
He looked worried and tired, his clothes all a’tatter
I said “Welcome Santa, is something the matter?”

Santa shook his white head and let out a sigh
I saw that his pants had ripped near the fly
He came over to me and gulped down my drink
“’Is something the matter?’ What the hell do you think?
I’m flying around, looking like this
Because this year at Christmas everything is amiss.
There’s no money for me to finance the toys
That all other years are for girls and boys
Who’ve been nice all year long, and thus are deserving
Because of the screw-ups of my Finance Elf Irving.
He put all our money in things that were risky
Hey, how ‘bout another glass of that whiskey?”

I poured him another, and he threw it right back
And pointed inside his empty toy sack
“I’m broke, downright busted” he said with a groan
“And there’s isn’t a bank that will give me a loan
I could go to Congress to seek funds from voters
But I’d look like those putzes at General Motors
Irving, that schmuck, put us deep in the hole
With a no-interest mortgage on the North Pole
But that’s not the worst of his many messes
He got us in something called “CDS’s”
And as bad a move as that one may seem
He lost all the remainder to a Ponzi scheme
And the wife keeps on asking ‘how is it he gotcha
In investments that clearly are so farkakte?’
But Irving insisted” he said with a frown
“They’re backed by real estate, they can’t go down”

Santa picked up the bottle and refilled his drink
“So this year, with the giving, it’s your turn, I think.
For years I’ve brought gifts to make folks feel great
It’s time for the people to reciprocate
So please write me a check” he said with a cough
“And my seven reindeer and I will be off”

I figured he’s kidding, it must be a goof
And what of the animal count on the roof?
“But Santa, your reindeer, I thought there were 8”
“I was hungry “he said “Blitzen sure did taste great
Now give me a loan, and up we’ll be going
I’d like to get south before it starts snowing”

He just stared at me and wiped off his snout
Santa’s come to me for a bailout?
“Santa, I’m sorry about your fiscal health
But you see, I’m pretty tapped out myself”

Santa glared “OK son, now take my advice
Don’t stiff the guy who knows if you’re naughty or nice
Who might be so desperate he would resort
To telling your boss about your expense report”

And in a flash, I did change my mind
“Santa let me help you out of this bind”
So I gave him a loan in a large amount
Used one of those checks from my Visa account
He grunted and turned, and then off he went
With money on which I’ll pay 20 percent.
He yelled from his sleigh, as his whip gave a crack
“Don’t hold your breath til I pay you back”

Yes folks, just like that, it happened so quick
A big Christmas shakedown from Good
Ol’ Saint Nick.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just in case.....

you don't like the xmas poem, here are a couple videos that are sure to amuse.

What's up with newspapers?

As a newspaper junkie, it was regrettable earlier in the year when I finally stopped having them delivered to my house. The Denver Post kept switching more of their features to on-line only, so I decided they must want me to read it that way. And the other paper I used to pay for, The Wall Street Journal, was bought by the evil Rupert Murdoch, and pays the epitome of evil Karl Rove to write a column, so I wasn't going to pay for that when I can read it on-line for free through school. If the papers are losing me, they are truly in trouble.

In the past few days, the Rocky Mountain News has been put up for sale (more likely to be folded), the Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy, there are rumors the Detroit papers may stop printing on some days, and the New York Times sought a mortgage for it's new building.

But, here is what I don't understand: The Times has a print circulation of around 1 million a day, but it's web site gets 60 million hits a day, about 20 million of them unique visitors. So, how is it with 20 million eyeballs a day visiting the site, the Times can't make a profit from publishing on-line? I'm guessing other papers have similar ratios.

My guess is that newspaper advertisers were being over charged for years. Most internet ads only pay when someone clicks on one (that's certainly the case on this blog), meaning they are interested. Newspapers used to be able to charge for a lot of eyeballs that weren't connected to a human who had any interest in the product. Now, only ads that get action produce revenue. Better deal for advertisers, but it exposes the folly of the old style of billing.

I hope I'm wrong, because I have a lot of good friends working at papers, but I think we'd all better get comfortable taking the lap top into the bathroom in the morning.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Old XMAS Poems

I've been re-writing "The Night Before XMAS" to share with my friends every years since 1995, longer than I have known a lot of the people who now enjoy the poem. So, I thought I would share a few of my better works from the past with those who either never saw them, or want to relive a simpler time when Americans could afford to buy xmas gifts.

If you want to see last year's, you can just click back a year ago in this blog....that's why I started it. Since I didn't want to stretch out this blog with a bunch of long poems, they are published and sharable at Google Documents.

If you think I only make fun of Bush, and am not fair and balanced, then read this classic from 1997.

To see what happened to Santa as Y2k approached go here.

And, I wrote this one in 2005, shortly before I turned 50.

Ah, the Classics. Enjoy. The new poem will be up by Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Xmas Dream

As I conjure my annual xmas poem in my head (expect to see it by next Tuesday), I will spill the beans on something I've always wanted to do, but never had the cojones.

Here's the plan: I get a Santa Claus suit, a good one so the full beard covers my face. Then, on a night during the xmas season like this coming Saturday, when there are lots of xmas parties, I drive around in nice neighborhoods, looking for houses with lots of cars and lights. I find a good party and crash it....who is going to throw Santa out of their xmas party!!! I let out some mighty "HO HO HO"'s. I drink their booze, eat their food, and fondle their women just long enough, not staying too long so that they can figure out that nobody knows me. Then,it's back in my sleigh (or Subaru actually), and on to the next house. Then, I look for the story in the next day's newspaper about a mysterious Santa.

Maybe I should write this idea up as a sequel to "The Wedding Crashers".

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New auto ad

Don't know who produced this, but it is brilliant.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What If The Students Paid Me Directly?

It is nearing the end of the fall semester, which makes for a lot of nervous people here this college town. Many of my own students are frantically attempting to compensate for slacking off most of the fall, suddenly concerned about their grades.

I still find the grading process the most difficult part of teaching. I don't like disappointing people, but that is my job when it comes to handing out some grades. I think I'm pretty easy on my students, yet many don't seem to agree.

I am hired by Front Range Community College to teach the classes and distribute these grades. But, what if I was hired and paid directly by the students? Would I be tempted to hand out A's to everyone, so that they would be happy with me and continue to employ me? Tempted......maybe "compelled" would be the better word.

This came to mind as I read today's story in the NY Times about how the ratings agencies contributed to today's financial turmoil. They were paid to rate securitized debt by the issuers of the debt. To keep the money coming in, and the customers happy, they just kept stamping AAA, even though the entire investment community was trusting them to provide valuable information. This is clearly a conflict of interest, and the agencies pretty much decided in favor of their own short-term profits over their fiduciary duty.

This is similar to the failure the accounting firms who audited the likes of Enron to do their job, pressured instead by the client to deliver the desired opinion. The ratings agencies deserve to get the same treatment that Arthur Anderson got.....pursued legally and run out of business for not doing their jobs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Great Story I Just Read.

I am currently reading, very slowly in small snippets, Silvia Pettem's "Positively Pearl St.", which is a history of Boulder's main drag by Boulder's most prominent historian. I came across a story that is so good I had to share it.

In March of 1975, Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. State law at the time did not specify that marriage must be between a man and a woman. In protest, a local character named Ros Howard applied for a marriage license to wed his horse Dolly. "If a boy can marry a boy, and a girl can marry a girl, why can't a lonesome old cowboy get hitched to his favorite saddle mare?" he asked.

Howard, a local writer and radio personality at the time, claimed in his book that his request was turned down because his horse was only 8, below the age of consent. That would be a great story, were it the truth (and it is the ending I will use when I tell this story on the Banjo Billy Bus). In fact, the law did state something about marriage being for "persons", and Dolly did not qualify as one.

By the way, Howard "protest" was all done in good fun, for laughs and publicity, a reminder that we should never lose our sense of humor no matter what side of an argument we take.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life By the Pound

There is a very interesting story in today's NY Times about the British health care system. They have appointed a commission to do benefit/cost calculations on expensive treatments, particularly ones that will extend life for fairly short periods of time. The story begins with the decision to deny purchase of a treatment that would cost $55k and extend a patient's life by 6 months.

As the cost of health care continues to rise, these are the types of difficult decisions that societies will have to make. I often tell my students that they will have to decide how much life my generation is entitled to, as the current Medicare system will be come far too expensive as new treatments extend life, health costs continue to climb, and we Baby Boomers enter the system. (I suggest the best decision will be not to cure us but to give us really good pain drugs...we are the "just say yes" generation!)

Here is one particularly interesting quote from the story:
After consulting a citizens group, the institute decided that the nation should spend the same amount saving or improving the life of a 75-year-old smoker as it would a 5-year-old.

A few months ago I wrote about my outrage that one of my students was in danger of losing his job and having to quit school because he is sick. This kid is a productive member of society trying to become more productive....which everyone would agree is good for both him and our society. But, he is in an income trap where he can't afford health insurance, but makes too much money to be given it for free. Meanwhile, both of my parents enjoy excellent coverage via Medicare.

Now, think about the efficiency and logic of the above paragraph. We are willing to spend almost unlimited amounts in this country to extend the lives of seniors, whose productive years are behind them (sorry Mom and Dad!), while letting those who are productive, or will be, fall through the cracks of our system. And, based on the above quotes, the English also agree that it is willing to spend as much as someone in their later years as on a child. On a strictly economic basis, this is crazy.

I am not advocating killing off the elderly. I am, however, attempting to point out the difficult moral and economic decisions that will have to be made if we want to prevent most of our national income being spent on medical care. Does is make sense to spend more on extending the life of a 90 year old than on keeping younger people healthy? And for how long and at what cost? Meanwhile, we are so "moral" that we won't even allow people who are in great pain and want to die to do so, yet not so moral that we make sure every kid in this country has proper care.

These are tough decisions that will have to be made, but will be delayed until the problem becomes a crisis. No politician wants to talk about this stuff.

Monday, December 1, 2008

People are stupid.

When I teach beginning Economics, I point out to my students at the start of the course that these basic theories are based on the idea that people are rational. But, of course, we all know the truth....PEOPLE ARE STUPID!

Take football players for instance. With the notable exceptions of Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle and Packers President Mark Murphy (a friend from high school who I know to be very intelligent), football players have to be some of the dumbest people on earth. Plaxico Burress is the latest example. He carries an illegal concealed weapon in a city that is on an anti-gun rampage, then takes it out in a bar for some reason, and manages to shoot himself. If that were the only stupid thing done by a football player this year, it would just be hilarious. But these guys are constantly getting themselves in all kinds of trouble, threatening their huge paychecks with dumb behavior. And they all supposedly went to college!

But, let's not leave out the rest of us. I personally spent 3 hours yesterday watching a particularly stupid group of football players called the Buffalo Bills, who are so stupid they don't know where the end zone is. What does that say about me, wasting my day watching the stupid be stupid?

Then there's Black Friday. This is perhaps the stupidest thing Americans do all year, other than vote, and I think more people shop on Black Friday than vote. The marketers and the media have convinced millions of morons that they HAVE to be at Walmart at 4AM. So what if workers get stampeded to death.....there are bargains to be had. Are cattle even that stupid?

And here's a beauty from today's NY Times: In New Jersey, where they call a toxic waste dump "The Meadowlands", they built a commuter railroad station, but put no place for the commuters to park. What do you expect from a place that is almost totally paved yet calls itself "The Garden State"?
I could go on and on.....I haven't even mentioned General Motors or loaning $700k to people making $14k .....but I have to go fix a broken light switch with the power on.