Posts tagged ‘AM’

The Complete Klutz

I was down at the Arizona capitol first thing  this morning to do some live TV interviews on reaction to the Supreme Court DOMA decision  (as Chair of Equal Marriage Arizona, which has a ballot initiative in the works to allow same-sex marriage, we wanted to get our initiative close tied to the story today).

Once the decision came down around 7:10 AM local time, the networks wanted an immediate reaction.  I told them I needed to read for 5 minutes to make sure the decisions were what we expected (they were).  So I leaned up against a palm tree to stay in the shade and read my iPad.  Well, it turns out the tree trunk was crawling with ants.  So as I began my live TV interviews, I could feel them crawling all over my back and starting to bite.  I am not sure how coherent I was in the interviews.  I am pretty sure the reporters were confused about my ripping off my jacket and shirt once the interviews were over.  Maybe they thought it was some sort of Brandi Chastain celebration.

On a related note, having tangentially been involved now in the media rush around a Supreme Court decision, I found this analysis of the running of the interns quite entertaining.

JetBlue is Awesome

If the DirecTV at every seat (no extra charge) and extra leg room (extra charge) were not enough, it turns out JetBlue has a great ticket change policy.

We had non-refundable tickets on JetBlue for today that we really wanted to move to an earlier time.  Normally, on about any airline, that would be at least a $100 per ticket fee plus the difference in fair.  The latter portion can be substantial, as the early rate we first received almost certainly is not available today.

But JetBlue has a special policy that on day of travel, you can change coach tickets for $50 each - that's it.  No matter what the fair difference is.  So I waited until 12:01 AM to call and change my flights.  Totally awesome.

Disney Princess Half Marathon

Well, as promised, I wanted to post our race day picture from the half marathon.  This was done for my daughter's benefit, who set the goal to run a half marathon about 6 months ago and figured the promise of a Disney trip would be incentive to stay on top of her training.

princess_marathon_s

She schlepped that tutu and that tiara for the whole 13.1, walking only at a couple of the last water stops.  This event was 95% women, and attracts a LOT of folks who really don't run the whole thing, so it was a great place for her to begin.  It's also pretty laid back, as there are actually character photo ops every mile, though we skipped those.  I have not seen our time, but we probably did about 2:45.  That's 20 minutes worse than my time five years ago -- it would be nice to say I was holding back to stay with my daughter but in fact she pulled me through the last mile.  Muscles and cardio were fine but the knees and ankles really can't take it any more.  But I proudly wore this bad boy all day.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, it was a great event, going through two of their parks.  The only problem is that it has to take place before the parks are open, so we had to set the wake-up call for 3:15 AM.  Uggh.  The butt-crack of dawn, as my sister calls it.

And yes, I did help make the tutu, with the aid of this video.  It is videos like that that remind me there are whole worlds of which I am virtually unaware.   Note the number of views - 1.4 million, on making a tutu.

Hotel Selection Fail

I had an early morning flight out of Louisville today, and so stayed in a hotel near the airport to maximize my sleep time.  Usually this is fine, as most airports are dormant from 10pm to 6am.  Unfortunately, I failed to remember that Louisville is the main air-hub for UPS (like Memphis is for FedEx) so a big bank of planes was landing around midnight, and more noisily, taking off between four and five AM.

Surprise of the Week, Wherein I Give Kudos to Kevin Drum on a Tax Post

This post from Kevin Drum didn't start auspiciously, repeating the leftish meme that the tax day protests were all Astroturf events.  But I must admit I had a real double-take on his last paragraph, wherein he points out something about tax polls that most people seem to be missing:

With Tax Day coming up, and astroturf tea parties being organized around the country, a lot of people have been linking to polls showing that most Americans aren't, in fact, actually unhappy with the amount of income tax they have to pay.  Gallup, for example, reports that 61% of Americans think the amount they're paying this year is fair. Or there's this one, also from Gallup, that asks directly whether the amount you're paying is too high or not:

Not bad!  49% think their income taxes are just fine or even a bit low.  Except for one thing: this chart shows exactly the opposite of what it seems.  Consider this: about 40-50% of Americans pay no federal income tax at all1.  That's zero dollars.  I think we can safely assume that these are the people who think that their taxes are about right.  What this means, then, is that virtually every American who pays any income tax at all thinks they're paying too much. There are various reasons why this might be so (a sense of unfairness regardless of amount paid, a fuzzy sense of how much they're paying in the first place, simple bloody-mindedness, etc.) but overall it's not exactly a testament to our collective willingness to fund the machinery of state.

Outstanding.  Which only leads me to wonder why, if he realizes this, does he believe that people might not spontaneously organize protests, rather than it having to be a Rove-Fox News plot.  I think the answer to that is the Left just can't shake their own perception that protest marches belong to them in the same way the Right feels that AM Radio is their media to rule.  (What, by the way, does that leave for libertarians, other than Rush, Ayn Rand, and Firefly reruns?)

Great Moments in the Defense of Free Speech

Andrew Coyne is live-blogging the Mark Steyn inquisition.  Check it out.

A few snippets:

10:16 AM
They're going to call, among others, Dr. Andrew Rippon,
professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Victoria, to show
that Steyn has misunderstood the relationship between the Koran and
Islamic society. Well, that's as may be. Would be a good subject for
debate. But why exactly does that require the state to adjudicate it?...

10:57 AM
Just coming back from a break. Lots of media interest, it seems: CBC, CTV (I'm told), the National Post, local media, and a guy from the New York Times,
who's doing a piece comparing how the two countries' legal systems deal
with speech cases. Needless to say, he can't believe what he's
witnessing"¦

11:04 AM
Under Section 7.1, he continues, innocent intent is not a defence, nor
is truth, nor is fair comment or the public interest, nor is good faith
or responsible journalism.

Or in other words, there is no defence.

Great Moments in the Defense of Free Speech

Andrew Coyne is live-blogging the Mark Steyn inquisition.  Check it out.

A few snippets:

10:16 AM
They're going to call, among others, Dr. Andrew Rippon,
professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Victoria, to show
that Steyn has misunderstood the relationship between the Koran and
Islamic society. Well, that's as may be. Would be a good subject for
debate. But why exactly does that require the state to adjudicate it?...

10:57 AM
Just coming back from a break. Lots of media interest, it seems: CBC, CTV (I'm told), the National Post, local media, and a guy from the New York Times,
who's doing a piece comparing how the two countries' legal systems deal
with speech cases. Needless to say, he can't believe what he's
witnessing"¦

11:04 AM
Under Section 7.1, he continues, innocent intent is not a defence, nor
is truth, nor is fair comment or the public interest, nor is good faith
or responsible journalism.

Or in other words, there is no defence.

Licensing Update

Awesome!  Via TJIC:

Ten minutes after finding out I passed the Bar, I changed my
long-running position on licensure, which it turns out is awesome. Not
only does it allow me to collect above market rents"“which lawyers need
because law school is so damned expensive"“but it also keeps those who
can't afford law school or Barbri from practicing law. This is good
because poor people make bad choices anyway, and I know that because
one week in college I ate Ramen noodles for a week, and that's the week
I decided to major in music. Also your average poor person, usually
cursed with some manner of hump or undeveloped siamese twin, will not
fit into a decent suit"¦

In sum, remember when choosing a lawyer that I was the first
one to finish the New York Bar exam, and though I probably didn't get
the highest score, I got the not-highest score the fastest. So if
you've got the choice between an attorney who will show up at 7 AM
sharp, with an obviously freshly dry-cleaned suit, and me, who will be
jogging fifteen minutes behind him while pulling on a shirt and
cleaning up some stubble with an electric razor, remember: the other
guy's smarter, of course, but I'm still competent. And a lot better
rested. Plus I'm not going to judge you for running that red light and
hitting that old lady"“that's what this case is about, right? Or was
that my other client?"“because chances are I nailed two or three myself
on the way over this morning.

More on licensing

I Can Fix the Water "Shortage" in Five Minutes

Apparently the next "crisis" is that America is running out of water.  This is mostly an issue in the west, where growth is high and fresh water is rarer than in the east.  Here is one example of the brewing panic:

The growing human population is creating cities where desert or scrub
land used to be. Rainfall always has been and always will be in short
supply. Only so much water can be diverted from rivers to satisfy the
water needs of these desert dwellers. The aquifers are being drained.
Soon there will be demands to divert water from large inland lakes like the Great Lakes which would put those bodies of water in peril.

Oh my god, I can see it now - fish flopping on the muddy exposed bottom of Lake Michigan.

Look, the problem is not lack of water.  The problem is lack of market sanity.  Water in the west is regulated and sold in a hodge-podge of complex arrangements and negotiations.   The whole system is too complex to describe here, but at least one general conclusion can be safely drawn about the whole system:  Water is under-priced.   

For reference, lets look at my home city.  If building cities in the desert is the new evil, then I live in that great Satan called Phoenix.  And while my electricity charges are enough to get my attention (higher efficiency AC: check; compact fluorescent bulbs: check; solar: still too expensive), my water bill seldom grabs my focus.   

And now I know why.  Check out this analysis, conducted apparently by the city of Austin but which I found on the Portland Water Bureau's web site:

City Monthly cost for water service of 8,500 gallons
Memphis, Tennessee $14.16
Phoenix, Arizona $16.27
Charlotte, North Carolina $17.52
Dallas, Texas $20.04
Austin, Texas $23.15
Portland, Oregon $23.44
Louisville, Kentucky $23.47
Houston, Texas $26.49
Milwaukee, Wisconsin $27.86
East Bay MUD, Oakland, California $31.13
Atlanta, Georgia $33.60
San Diego, California $37.52
Seattle, Washington $39.75

Can you believe it?  We here in Phoenix, out in the middle of the largest desert on the continent, during a multi-year drought (yes you can still have a drought in the desert), while everyone laments that Lake Powell and other reservoirs are getting sucked dry, Phoenix has one of the lowest water prices of any city in the country.  Can you get over the irony of Seattle having some of the highest priced water in the country and Phoenix the lowest?

And you know what - I have not seen a single article in any of our local media that has once mentioned this fact.  Look here -- the articles blame global warming and lack of conservation and development and too many lawns and not enough low-flow faucets and talk about the need for government rationing, but never once mention PRICE.  We have the scarcest water in the country and one of the lowest prices for water.  Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room.  I should have just labeled this post "Duh!"

And these are the consumer water prices.  The situation actually gets worse when you look at agriculture.  In most of the southwest, farmers get water prices subsidized below the rates paid by ordinary consumers.  When you combine these water subsidies with massive subsidies already rich groups get for growing crops in the desert from farm programs, you get an enormous distorted incentive to grow water-hungry crops that are totally inappropriate for the desert.

So here is my five minute plan:  We may be a ways away from creating an actual market in water, but in the mean time, the quasi-governmental agencies providing it need to raise the prices (to everyone) up to a level that demand matches supply.  More conservation will occur, and marginal commercial, residential, and agricultural development will disappear.  If the price goes high enough, someone may even go out and find a new, innovative source of water for the area. 

Unfortunately, this is just too dang easy, and, from reading recent articles in the media, not even in the menu of options being considered.  Government bureaucrats are much more comfortable with rationing and limitations on development, because it gives them more power and creates a new set of winners and losers who will donate more to future political campaigns.

Update: Daniel Mitchell at Cato has similar thoughts, based on water shortages in Florida of all places:

So here we are, in the spring of 2007, with rain below
average, with a low lake level, little else in the way of reservoirs,
and a water shortage. What is the response? Well, a rational response
might be to price a scarce commodity such that people will use it only
as they need it, and not frivolously. "¦Instead, we get the response of
the local commissars. So, not allowing the market to work, and not
allowing prices to provide signals to the participants, they have
decided to run our lives for us.

"¦I live at an odd numbered address. That means that if I want to
water my lawn, I can only do it on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday
mornings, from four to eight AM. I can water my plants with a hose on
the same days, but only between five and seven PM. My neighbors across
the street, and behind my house on the next block, get Sunday, Tuesday
and Thursday.

"¦Over thirty years ago, in the first OPEC oil embargo, the
government, rather than allowing prices to rise to account for the
reduced supply, told people when they could purchase gas based on the
parity of their license plate "” even one day, odd the next. My
recollection was that this did nothing to alleviate the shortage "” the
lines remained. The problem was only solved when Nixon-era price
controls on oil were lifted, the market was allowed to work, and oil
prices eventually (and it didn't take all that long) fell to historical
lows.

"¦[H]ere's a radical concept. How about pricing the commodity to the
market? Maybe, if people had to pay more for water to water their lawn,
they'd use less of it? Yes, I know that it's hard to believe, but there
really are some people out there who buy less of something if the price
is higher.

Update #2: The more I think of it, the more this situation really ticks me off.  In their general pandering and populism, politicians are afraid to raise water prices, fearing the decision would be criticized.  So, they keep prices artificially low, knowing that this low price is causing reservoirs and aquifers to be pumped faster than their replacement rate.  Then, as the reservoirs go dry, the politicians blame us, the consumers, for being too profligate with water and call for ... wait for it ... more power for themselves, the ones whose spinelessness is the root cause of the problem, to allocate and ration water and development.

Five Years Ago

Five years ago today, I was in Manhattan on a business trip with my wife.  I almost never take my wife on business trips, but we had been living in Seattle for several years, and my wife, who had lived in NYC for years, wanted to go back and visit.

About 7:30 AM, I went down to breakfast in the W Hotel, where I was staying.  I was working at the time for an aviation startup, and in one of the great moments of bad timing, I was in New York that day to make presentations to investors, the theme of which was that commercial aviation was in the midst of a recovery, and the time was right to invest in a commercial aviation venture. 

Part way into breakfast, my wife came down to find me, and tell us we needed to see what was on TV.  We went up to one of my investor's rooms.  He had a terraced penthouse (its good to be the king) from which we watched the disaster unfold, with CNN on in the background.

The next 24 hours were among the weirdest of my life.  For a while, we actually tried to hold our scheduled meetings, but a number of attendees had friends and family who worked in the WTC, and we called it off.  I wandered the streets of Manhattan, where bizarre rumors were flying at every street corner.  People ducked in fear every time an airplane rushed over, by this time all air force fighter planes.  By noon, dust-covered people walking up from downtown got to our area, and streamed past for the rest of the day.  Strangely, I actually ran into a friend of mine who had the last Hertz rent-a-car in the city, and we made plans to drive out of the city the next day.

Phone and cell service were spotty, but we eventually got through to the person taking care of our kids back in Seattle as well as our parents.  I had not told my mom we were in NYC, so she began our call by saying "I'm so glad all my kids are no where near NY" and I had to tell her, "Uhh, mom..."

That night was like a scene out of some Charlton Heston post-apocalypse movie.  Police were only letting cars out of the island, not back onto it, so by nightfall the city was empty and dead quiet.  We finally found a restaurant in Times Square open, and the Square was empty.  There was maybe one car driving through every few minutes.  A few roller bladers where skating around Times Square, just because they could.

The next day we played find the exit from Manhattan.  We knew from various reports that there was at least one bridge off the island open, but from either confusion or misplaced security concerns, no one seemed to know which bridge.  We began to circumnavigate Manhattan, looking for an exit.  Finally, a police officer told us the only way out was to drive all the way north through Harlem on the surface streets and get on what I think was the GW bridge.  Anyway, that is what we did (finding out in the process that Harlem was not the hell-hole that gets portrayed in movies, at least the part we saw).  I have never, ever been so happy to get to New Jersey.  I wanted to kiss the ground.  Of course, we still had a short drive to Seattle ahead of us, but that was anti-climactic.

It was only later I began learning how many people I knew died in those buildings that day.  I guess I should have thought about it, given the schools I attended.  The death toll for Harvard Business School graduates alone was staggering.  Five years later, watching the retrospectives, nothing about that day seems any less horrible.  Time, at least for me, has not softened the magnitude of this disaster. 

The only silver lining I can come up with is that we have gone five years without a major terrorist attack on this country, though other's have been attacked.  Walking around on September 12, we were all sure that this was just the front-end of a wave of massive attacks.  So far, whether through luck or skill, we have avoided this fate. 

One thing I will say is that we always prepare for the last attack.  We have spent a lot of time making sure no terrorists can take over a plane with toenail clippers and fly it into another building.   But that kind of attack was obsolete 20 minutes after the second plane hit the WTC -- It didn't even work on United 93.

Politicians and Prioritization

Imagine that you are in a budget meeting at your company.  You and a number of other department heads have been called together to make spending cuts due to a cyclical downturn in revenue.  In your department, you have maybe 20 projects being worked on by 10 people, all (both people and projects) of varying quality.   So the boss says "We have to cut 5%, what can you do?"  What do you think her reaction would be if you said "well, the first thing I would have to cut is my best project and I would lay off the best employee in my department". 

If this response seems nuts to you, why do we let politicians get away with this ALL THE TIME?  Every time that politicians are fighting against budget cuts or for a tax increase, they always threaten that the most critical possible services will be cut.  Its always emergency workers that are going to be cut or the Washington Monument that is going to be closed.  Its never the egg license program that has to be cut. 

I am reminded of this in driving long distance this weekend and I picked up, by one of those random late night AM skip-distance things, a station in Colorado, and it was full of commercials threatening dire consequences (old people will go hungry, kids won't get an education, emergency workers won't be there for your heart attack) if voters don't overturn TABOR, which is the tax plan that has, for over a decade, limited tax revenue collections to population growth plus inflation.  When I was in Colorado, I loved TABOR (the Cato institute has a nice article on why you should too) and really loved the tax refunds I often got because of it.

TABOR provides a fairly constant revenue stream to the government, in good times and bad.  When times are good, the government is flush, and when times are bad the government runs short (due to unemployment payments, more welfare, etc.).  Many of us in cyclical businesses deal with this all the time, and seem to be able to cut marginal programs added in good times that we can no longer fund in bad times.  Politicians are incapable of this.  Many businesses also underspend revenues by a wide margin in good times, knowing they will need the reserves in bad times.  Politicians are also incapable of this.

On Tuesday, Colorado voters will decide if they will require Colorado politicians to take the same responsibility for fiscal management that everyone else does in their private business lives, or if they will bail them out of their incompetance with more of their money. 

Going back to my example of suggesting in a budget meeting that you will cut your best programs and people in a budget crisis, would you expect to get more budget or to be fired?  Why can't we do the same with politicians?

Update: Bummer.  Coloradans voted to roll back TABOR.  Glad I don't live there anymore.  Roundup at Hit and Run.

Blogging Officially Declared Mainstream on August 11, 2005 at 07:23 AM

OK, an event has occurred that tells me that blogging is officially a trend.  My mom has actually trolled my blog with her first blog comment.

Let Down by FedEx

Most of the facilities we run are concessions on government lands. To get these concessions usually requires a bidding process, where the government authority evaluates qualifications to run a quality operation as well as the amount of rent (usually as a percentage of sales) "bid" by the concessionaire. Like most government contracting processes, proposals are usually due by a hard deadline (say, 2:00 Tuesday on X date). No proposals are accepted at 2:01 (unlike some arbitrary government regulations, this is actually for a good reason - there is plenty of history of late proposals coming in based on some insider knowledge of the contents of other proposals that have already been opened).

Anyway, we had such a deadline in Florida on Tuesday of this week. Normally, to make a Tuesday deadline, we will ship overnight on Friday, which gives us a buffer day in case of problems. This time, because we only got the RFP last week, we had to work through the weekend and ship Monday.

So we shipped FedEx for 10:AM delivery on Tuesday (paying $155 for 38 pounds, ugghh). And, of course, since this is the one time we had no margin for error, the box ends up sitting in Memphis for a full day, due apparently to excess demand for Florida that day, and arrived a day late and after the deadline. So all the work we did, all went to waste. Bummer (I have cooled down, I was using much worse words than bummer with FedEx this morning).

I learned this lesson once before about 8 years ago. FedEx is NOT for things that absolutely positively have to be there overnight. They are for things that would be best if it were there tomorrow but the world won't end if it is not. In a case like this, where we miss out on a big contract and we could waste hundreds of man-hours of work, I should have gotten on an airplane myself, checked the box as baggage, and taken it to the door. Yes, it would have cost me a few hundred dollars more, but we already had thousands of dollars in time and effort invested in it.