Victory over the Spider

Do you ever win a game of Spider Solitaire, and then leave the victory screen up with the fireworks display, so that during a rough day, you can flip back to it for a boost of positive energey?


Preparing for the Rants from Capitol Hill

Exxon just reported their earning for the fourth quarter of 2005. And what earnings they were. $10.7 Billion. That's a lot. That's a hell of a lot. And now we are going to see, like we saw three months ago, renewed calls from politicians to tax "excessively" large profits. And there will be more complaints that obviously they are price gouging in gasoline and taking food from the mouths of widows and orphans, yadda, yadda, yadda.

What often gets overlooked in most of the more sensationalistic news reporting, however, is the key line of the Earnings report that highlights Exxon's revenue. If you drill into some of the reporting or into the financial statement, you find that they had revenues in the fourth quarter of $99.6 billion dollars.

In other words, they are making a profit of just 10.7%. That's is not an obscene profit margin. In many industries that would be a bad performance.

They generated $10.7 billion in profits by spending $88.9 billion (99.6-10.7). What did they spend it on? Well, oil extraction, exploration, refining, transportation, salaries, dividend, and some probably extremely high executive salaries. In other words, the stuff of running a business.

For the year, they showed a profit of $36.1 Billion on revenues of $370 Billion, or a roughly 9.7% profit margin.

The reason they turn such huge profits is because they are selling a lot of stuff, not because they are gouging the consumer. The US consumes huge quantities of oil and is apparently still willing to do so even with higher prices. Demand for oil is spiking in China and India. And renewed tension in the middle east continues the make the business quite challenging.

Now if they were showing profits in the neighborhood of 30% or more, then maybe there would be more to be critical of. Maybe.

10% though? I think that is certainly reasonable.


Booth Babes

Long a trade show tradition, E3, the big video game trade show is restricting Booth Babes. Booth Babes are the (typically) scantily clad women that vendors use to draw people into their booths. While the electronics industry seems to make limited use of Booth Babes, apparently the car industry and other fields use this approach more extensively. At the next E3, however, Booth Babes will have to move from being scantily clad to being a little bit less scantily clad. The restrictions don't seem like a big change, but they are there nonetheless.

It seems there is pressure to reduce the Booth Babe presence at the E3 because of concerns about sex and violence in video games being aimed at children. Of course, children (at least physical children) don't attend these shows so I'm not sure what the restrictions accomplish.

What always amazes me about trade shows, however, are the huge numbers of guys who line up to get their picture taken with the Booth Babes, or who try to see who can get the most pictures of themselves with various Booth Babes. A simple google on "Booth Babes" pulls up all sort of photo albums like this. I just don't get it.

For the occasional celebrity, I can understand it, based on our cult of celebrity worship. Most of the Booth Babes nice people, but are not well-known actresses, models, or singers. One day they may be, but not today.

I mean, I appreciate the aesthetics as of the Booth Babes as much as the next guy, but do the picture groupies think their friends are going to be impressed? It's not like the guys in line actually caught her attention. The picture basically says, "Hey, here's me standing next to a woman who was getting paid to stand next to guys like me." With lines the way they are, it seems like an awfully long time to stand and wait for such a small perk.

A letter from the lawyers

This week, when you look at the Seattle skyline, you may notice a large blue flag on top of the Space Needle. It has the number 12 on it. Similar flags and banners have popped up around the city. They were all over Qwest Field last week during the playoffs. Sports fans know what they mean.

The banners laud the 12th man – the one instrumental in Seattle Seahawks drive to the Superbowl. Sportscasters have been talking about how the support of the fans at the stadium truly gave the Seahawks the edge they needed to make it to victory. There are very few cities where the teams and media have to spend so much time telling the fans how important they are, but that's another matter.

The Seahawks have quite a tradition around the 12th man. In the old concrete Kingdome, the fans could drown out most anything. According to the Seattle Post Intelligener on 2005-01-28:
The 12th Man began in 1984, when the Seahawks retired the jersey number 12 to honor their fans. Back then, the otherwise drab Kingdome was the loudest venue in the NFL, even though the team had just two winning seasons in its first seven years after beginning play in 1976.
The league even briefly instituted a rule in the 1980s calling for a five-yard penalty on teams if their home crowds did not quiet enough for visiting teams to call plays. It was widely known as the "Kingdome rule."
[Seahawks fan Mike] Davis said "the most amazing thing I had ever seen" was the day Denver's John Elway stepped away from his center amid the din. Elway turned his palms toward the Kingdome's concrete roof and pleaded to the referee that he could not call signals. The referee eventually flagged Seattle more than once that afternoon.
"And then we got even louder," Davis said. "It was awesome."

The amazing this is, though, the Seahawks and merchandise vendors may get sued for celebrating the 12th man.

Apparently, Texas A&M has a tradition surrounding the 12th man in football, going back to the 1920s. They registered trademarks for the 12th man in 1990 and 1996. And they plan to protect their trademark. According to the Seattle Times on 2006-01-28:

[Texas A & M] Athletic Director Bill Byrne wrote on an Aggie Web site Wednesday that the university would tackle "the Seattle Seahawks' brazen use of the 12th Man theme at their home playoff games."
The university has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Seahawks. "It's one of the dearest traditions we have," said Steve Moore, A&M's chief marketing officer.

So A&M is not happy.

I understand and respect the importance of protecting trademarks, however, it seems to me that this claim is over reaching a bit. After all, you don't want to spend the money building a brand only to lose Trademark protection if something becomes a generic term, a threat familiar to those marketing Band-Aids, Kleenex, Xerox, and potentially Coke and Starbucks.

First of all, they appear to be claiming that the use of the number 12 on banners and merchandise (much of it not developed by the Seahawks) infringes on their claim. I wasn't aware you could trademark a number.

Second, by rudimentary knowledge of trademark law (and it is very rudimentary) seems to indicate that there is no infringement unless the use of the trademarked item is likely to cause confusion for consumers.

I seriously doubt that anyone is likely to see the Seattle praise of the 12th man and think, “Huh. When did the Aggies make it to the Superbowl? I didn't know they were in the pros.” Or, “Hey – I paid $2,000 for these tickets based on the 12th man celebrations, and their for some kind of bird in Detroit? It was supposed to be A&M! I've been ripped off!”

Finally, this is a phrase that's been a part of the pop culture for decades, and has referred to fans from nearly every NFL team.

The basketball equivalent, the 6th man has been even more popular, especially since in that game, the fans are right on the court and actively attempt to manipulate the outcome through various displays and distractions during free throw attempts.
The 6th man even spawned a comedy of the same name starring Marlon Wayans, where a basketball player who dies returns as a ghost to help his brother lead the team.

Seattle doesn't get that much time to celebrate potential victory in the national spotlight. Do we really need this hassle from A&M?

Real Southerners become Popular

It should come as no surprise to most people that Penguins are cool these days. In fact, they seem to be at the top of the cute animal pile, recently out pacing puppies, kittens, and koalas. Last fall, the meteoric Penguin rise was briefly challenged by the two Panda births in the US, but Penguins maintained their death grip on one the cute list lead.

If you visit the video site youtube.com and search for Penguin, it will return more than 230 short Penguin movies. More importantly, when you search for "play cole" you will find a series of brilliant and hilarious films uploaded by "playcole".

Naturally, the popular March of the Penguins movie had a lot to do with this. It a lovely story about struggling against adversity to simply live and do your part for your society and...well, I haven't actually seen it, but I do have the DVD sitting on shelf, and I hear it's very good.

This isn't the first time Penguins have tried to ascend. Burgess Meredith brought The Penguin into living rooms at the Same Bat Time and Same Bat Channel several times, but it didn't quite stick in the pop culture.

Interestingly, the Penguins (the birds) come across more tenderly in the Batman Returns, featuring a decidedly more interesting Penguin (the bad guy) played by Danny DeVito. It's been years since I've seen it, but as I recall the birds actually carry away the dead or dying DeVito, and take him back to the sewers. It was one of the more touching moments I remember from the series of movies. I'm sure Jon will correct me if I misstate my Batman lore.

And in the 1980's the genius of Berkeley Breathed gave us Bloom County and Opus the Penguin. Of course later in the strip Binkley announces that Opus looks much more like a puffin than a penguin, but no matter. I proudly wore my "Don't Blame Me. I Voted for Bill 'n' Opu shirt," and anxiously awaited the release of the Deathtongue CD. I hoped someone in Antarctica would find that damned step stool. But while Bloom County may have given us Opus fever, it didn't really give us Penguin fever.

My girlfriend actually was a big Penguin fan before they became popular. Actually, she often does that with new trends. She becomes a big fan before any of them become trendy. This happened with Penguins, flip flops, toe rings, Coach bags, iPods, and a number of other items. She tends to get into these things 6 to 12 months before the explode into the pop culture. Now, I just need to figure out how to make money off of this phenomenon, but that's another story.

Regardless, she doesn't abandon things once they get trendy, which is fortunate. People who abandon something simply because it's become popular are annoying. I'm sure we all know someone who says things like, "I used to like that band, but then the got too popular." Why should popularity make something somehow less worthy or likable? But that's a rant for another day. Regardless, my girlfriend doesn't stop liking things once they become popular.

So now your thinking, "OK Cromely, this is mildly interesting and would have been relevant 6 months ago. Why are you writing this now?" Well there are two reasons. First, of all, I didn't have this blog 6 month ago.

The second reason, however, is advertising.

Within the past few months, there has been an increase in the Penguin advertising. John O'Hurley of Seinfeld fame is now doing car insurance commercials featuring penguins. There's also an Jeep commercial featuring a Penguin that wants to go to Florida.

So finally, here is my point. I predict at least 4 commercials will air during the Superbowl next week that will feature Penguins. There. Now, it was worth reading the entire post for that, wasn't it?


My constant traveling companion

My favorite toy lately is my TiVo. I don't know how I got along without it. Now there is never anything bad on TV. I won't belabor the point with the usual preaching your will get from the TiVo converted. I just want to talk about one feature.

TiVoToGo is the coolest thing because I travel a lot. While my TiVo dutifully records all my favorite programs, I used to still have to find time to watch them. Now, since I have my computers and TiVo networked at home, I can transfer recorded programs on to a notebook computer. Or multiple notebook computers.

A few months ago, I watched season two of Battlestar Galactica on multiple airline flights. I did the same thing with the West Wing, the Apprentice, and the ubiquitous CSI and Law & Order. Since the programs are on my notebook hard drive, I have plenty of choices for a long flight or flight delay. Plus notebook batteries last longer when they play video from the hard drive than when they play from a DVD.

Of course, this traveling companion never complains when I set the hotel thermostat to 64 degrees.

And for those other airline passengers who might get a little queasy watching ER, well, quit leaning into my seat.


Swallowed by a fish

Last week, I flew on the salmon-thirty-salmon. This one of Alaska Airlines' 737-400s painted with a giant salmon on either side, to promote the wild salmon fisheries in Alaska. It's a beautiful plane, but somewhat controversial because of the funding sources.

I just think it's rather cool. I have now flown on all six of the Alaska's special livery jets – the two Disney jets, the two AlasakaAir.com jets, and the salmon-thirty-salmon. Actually, I think I've probably flown on abut 80% of the aircraft Alaska owns. Most of them multiple times.

Personally, I'm not partial to the Mad Dogs (MD-80s). Some of them have smaller over head bins. They last rows can get very loud since that's where the engines are. On the plus side, they offer 2 x 3 seating, or 3 x 2 on some aircraft. The lack of a middle seat on one side of the aircraft is nice.

The coolest thing about the MD-80, though, is that they sometimes offer an alternative exit. When I flew into BUR (Burbank, CA) last year, they let people off through the normal front door, and the back. At the back of the plane it a door through the tail section with a ramp you can walk down. So we exit the plane through the tail cone, right underneath those jet engines. Now, the Mad Dog is not a big plane as modern jet liners go, but seeing the plane from underneath is still pretty damn impressive. Those small planes are big.

The 737-400s and the 737-700s are similar. I don't have a significant preference between the two. But in coach, the -400 seats 132 passengers, while the -700 seats only 112. On a longer flight, that means fewer people waiting for the restroom on the -700. Also, if you are in the back of the plane, you can get off sooner.

The 737-900s and the 737-800s are the newest planes in the fleet. In think Alaska is getting 30+ new -800s beginning next year. I've read a fair amount of these topic, but right now, I'm too lazy to double-check my facts, but I believe Alaska originally ordered the -900s for their transcontinental service, expecting their range to be a little better than it is (3,159 miles). Right now, the -800s have the longest range (3,383 miles). The -900, however, will carry 12 more people.

Either way, they're nice planes. If you are in coach on the -900, they may not list emergency exit rows until a day or two before the flight. There are two different configuration of the aircraft. Some of them have 1 restroom in the mid-cabin and 2 restrooms in the back. Others have all 3 in the back. The -800s have all 3 in the back. Keep this in mind when you choose your seat, if the location of the restroom is important.

Regardless, the -800 and -900 are some beautiful birds.


Seattle has Seahawks fever. Or at least a minor cold.

The Seattle Seahawks are actually a good team this year. They are going to the Super Bowl and may actually win. This is a first in team history. Huh.

It sort of crept up on me. In past years, the Seahawks have been pretty good, but not at the level they are playing this year. And prior to the playoffs I didn't really hear much about the Seahawks around town. The same thing happened a few years ago when the Mariners were legitimate World Series contenders (though it's unlikely we'll have to worry about that in the near future).

It seems that I'm more likely to run into Husky (UW) fans or Cougar (WSU) fans than Seahawk, Mariner, Storm, or Sonic fans. The Seahawks still appear to have the edge on the Fighting Saints, however.

The lack of sports fever may stem from the fact that the only national champions ship team from Seattle for the past decade or so is the Seattle Storm, who apparently have an awesome team, but a limited number of fans.

I think it has more to do with Seattle being a transient city, however. Unlike the great sports towns of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia or Boston, a large percentage of the population and potential fan base wasn't born here. Seattle has seen a huge influx of residents in the past decade. In fact, much of the history of Seattle has been marked by a boom and bust economy, with thousands people moving to Seattle when the economy was going strong, and thousands leaving when the economy sank. It's a history dominated by the timber industry, the Alaska Gold Rush, Boeing's early growth, WWII arms and equipment production, the growth, decline, growth, decline, growth, decline, and growth again of Boeing's jet production.

Ironically, the tech industry may have a mellowing affect on the economy. Seattle is no longer a one industry town. Microsoft, Amazon, and other tech companies employ thousands of residents, and can help off set some of the shock when Boeing has a down turn.

Further evening things out is the presence of Starbucks and the new Bio-Tech industry growing in Seattle.

Back to the main point, however, there really isn't much history in Seattle. There aren't as many family dynasties in Seattle as there are in eastern cities. Back east, there will be families with 3 or more generations of Yankee fans. The Mariners are too new to span generations in the same way. Even if they weren't, many of their potential fans did not grow up on the Mariners or the Seahawks. They grew up on other teams that they now watch on Satellite TV.

Until there is a critical mass of people and families that have been in Seattle for decades, and love their teams, and mark family events around them, and have followed them long enough to reminisce about them, Seattle will never be a great sport town.

But, seriously, Go Hawks.


To begin with...

I've read through a number of blogs. Some of them are interesting and provide valuable information. Most are not. It seems that many are nothing more than public navel gazing. Personally, I haven't found other people's navel to be all that interesting.

I'm barely interested in my own, and I certainly don't want to spend hours staring at it, because it might start talking to me. Since it is unlikely to yield answers to the great mysteries of life, such as “What is the purpose or everything?” or “Where did I leave my cell phone?”, I'd prefer not to listen. Actually, I imagine it would be mainly concerned with which T-Shirt is too linty. And I've got the dryer for that.

As you can plainly see, this is now suddenly veering in the “bad blog” direction. I think we can all agree there are already enough of those.

So here is the charter for this blog. Keep in mind, that I am likely to discard this as soon as it becomes convenient.
  1. Entries will be interesting to at least one person other than my self.
  2. If they are not interesting to anyone besides myself, they will simply be bizarre enough to elicit a rounding chorus of “WTF?”
  3. This is not a journal or diary of my private thoughts. If I wouldn't converse about the topic with actual people, it doesn't belong here.
  4. Everything will be true and accurate (That one might be a tad ridiculous)

I will discuss whatever interests me on a particular day. That's mainly TV, tech stuff, weird stuff, geeky stuff, money stuff, literary stuff, travel stuff, and probably some more TV.

So visit often. Comment freely. And I'll pretend to care about what other people think.