This past week ABC filed their last installment of Monday Night Football. I was going to blog about how the show was over-rated and had become more irrelevant in recent years. Then I caught a rerun of VH1's I Love the 80's for the year when Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theisman's leg, ending his career. And in this case broke = snapped it like a twig, live in front of a national audience, courtesy of MNF.

There isn't a man in America that was alive then that hasn't seen that "highlight" more times than they'd like. That's reach, baby!

Still, like many superstars who are reluctant to let go, MNF overstayed its usefulness. Unlike those superstars however, MNF could have extended its life if only ABC had recognized how tired the current edition was and figured out how to upgrade it for a modern audience. But then again, it's ABC.

Obviously our discomfort at watching the Theisman tragedy doesn't compare to his suffering. But this question for viewers remains: What was more painful for you ... watching Joe Theisman's leg snap over and over and over, or enduring Dennis Miller's attempt at hosting MNF?


OK, this I don't get, and it happens all the time. Someone sends you an e-mail, and then two minutes later they're in your office to tell you what they just told you in the e-mail. Invariably the conversation starts ... "Hey, didja get that e-mail I sent you?" This ranks right up there with the people who want you to e-mail them every time they send you a fax. All these new communication media ... instead of speeding things up, they add a layer of redundancy.

One note: Outlook 2003 sometimes gets me in trouble here. When you get an e-mail it pops a little note up above the system tray letting you know who the e-mail is from and the first couple of lines from the message body. So, usually that's enough to get the gist of it without having to stop an read the whole thing. I can get the details later. But then when sender shows up at my door two seconds later, "Hey, didja get that e-mail I sent you?" Well, checkmate if sender is the VP. If you say, "yes" but don't have a clue on the details then it looks like you didn't pay attention, and if you say, "no," well, why aren't you reading the VP's e-mails?

You know what! Just don't send me e-mails anymore. Send a letter. Then I can blame the postman.



A College Football legend is calling it a career after tonight's Holiday Bowl. It's not a player, not a coach. Nooooohhh, Nellie! Legendary announcer Keith Jackson will don the mike for one last game as Oklahoma takes on Oregon. Right now he's adding a little ... ahh, something, to the broadcast as he points out that the Oregon offensive linemen have "big butts," (you know, as opposed to all those sleek and slender offensive linemen that you normally see in a football game).

Man, that's old school ... from the golden days when broadcasters weren't just pretty boys with big mouths, they were artists. The spoken word was their paint and every hoooooommmme in America was their canvas. The young bucks today, they don't know how it is. Kirk Herbstreit isn't fit to carry Jackson's jock. Go on, Keith. One last time work your magic. You talk about those big butts like they've never been talked about before, and *sniff*, never will be talked about again.



Wow! Metallica is awesome workout juice. The "cheezy, but it has a good beat" music is fine for running and aerobic workouts. But when you get to lifting it's got to be the harder stuff.

Last night after completing my run, just as I was starting in on shoulder presses, Fuel came on. I figure the Metallica factor is easily two reps per set. Of course today I can barely lift my arms over my head.


Here's the problem with Christmas decorations. In the days leading up to Christmas they are nice - accessories that add warmth and spirit to the holiday. Mind you, I'm talking about classy, tasteful arrangements. The 12 ft tall inflatable Frosty the Snowman is ridiculous, period.

Anyway, decoration are nice leading up to Christmas. But then, as soon as the gifts have been opened and Christmas dinner has been eaten they become junk that needs to be put away.


Michigan v. Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl tonight. The key word is "remember," as in ... remember the Alamo! and remember when Michigan and Nebraska were good?



Man, it's hard getting back into the swing of things after a long weekend, especially with another holiday weekend coming up. I think it's more of a "I've just got to hang on until Friday" mindset.
-- B --

Are there too many bowl games? Does Kansas v. Houston in the Fort Worth Bowl answer your question?
-- B --

I feel for the Colts, but they need to be very careful in their approach to the final regular season game. They've been off their game for two weeks and counting.

You certainly can't fault them. The games don't matter nearly as much as the life of a son, and if the Colts don't win the Super Bowl, well, it's a small matter in the grand scheme of things.

After many years, this is probably Indy's best opportunity to finish the job, and who knows if or when they'll get this chance again.

The problem is, you can't just put your "A" game on the shelf, then dust it off after five weeks and expect to have it ready to go. As I previously mentioned, after their bye week the Colts could very likely be facing New England or Cincinnati. Anything less than their best, and Indy will wind up watching the AFC Championship on TV.
-- B --

Just for the record, at some point I said, "white." Not wet, White! I'm dreaming of a WHITE Christmas. Oh well. I'll be more clear next year.
-- B --

It's interesting what the various cable networks do with Christmas day. TBS looped A Christmas Story" all day. This makes sense, it being Christmas and all. Other networks didn't even try to link up with the holiday. AMC had a couple different things going over the weekend - on Christmas I think it was a John Wayne marathon. Spike did their usually Bond-a-thon. I'm not a big Bond guy, so I wish that sometimes they'd pick a different testosterone hero. You can usually count on a Law & Order-fest somewhere. Not so this year. USA had a slate of four movies cycling - I caught both editions of The Fast and the Furious there.

The one I didn't get was FX continuously running Daddy Day Care. This thing is excruciating any time! Why inflict such a heavy dose at Christmas? Is it because it has kids in it? And all the hijinx that go along with an adult male struggling with child care? (You don't see that premise too often *eyes roll*). My guess is a bet between a couple of flunkies in operations. Sort of a "No one's going to watch anyway, so let's put on the worst movie we can think of and see if we can get away with it," proposition.



One last difference between the Donald and the Martha, and it's really just a variation on the same old theme. Tonight on Martha's live finale we were at the moment of truth for Bethany and Dawna. Martha was reviewing the girls' strengths and weaknesses and moving in for the kill. Bethany is creative, but a bit of a wildcard and often doesn't play well with others. While Dawna may have seemed uninspired at times, she does have good executive skills and Martha would like to offer her the job... after an awkward pause everyone suddenly realized that Dawna had been hired. Instead of a simple, "You're fired!" we have, "I'm going to have to ask you to leave, and then write you a nice note." Instead of, "You're hired!" we have, " I'd like to offer you the job." The show has no punch! And now, the show has no sequel.

Speaking of lame shows, I caught a slice of "Deal or No Deal," before Martha. First of all I can't get over Howie Mandel with a goatee, and nothing else up top hair-wise. He used to be this chunky comedian with a perm. After disappearing for a while he returns as a pirate! And the name of the show, "Deal or No Deal," how many seconds did it take them to come up with that one?

The basic premise is: there are 20 suitcases, and each has a dollar amount shown inside. The dollar amounts range from $50, all the way up to $1 million. You select one suitcase and ultimately can have the dollar amount shown in that suitcase. Problem is you don't know how much that is. You begin to select from the remaining suitcases to get an idea of what you might have, or rather, what you don't have in your suitcase. At each step along the way contestants are offered a lump sum of money to stop and forgo the unknown amount in their suitcase.

For example, one guy got all the way down to two suitcases left, so he knew that his suitcase had either $50 or $200,000 in it. At that point, he was offered $99,000 to stop. He could take the $99,000 or go on and get whatever was in his suitcase, $50 or $200,000.

Actually it's a great study in statistics, economics, and risk tolerance. Statistically, the $99,000 that the man was offered was slightly less than the expected value of his proposition if he were allowed to carry it out an infinite number of times. Half the time he gets $50, and half the time he gets $200,000, for a value of $100,025. But he only gets to do this once, and that's where economics comes in. Obviously for almost everyone the difference between $50 and $99,000 is a lot bigger than the difference between $99,000 and $200,000. I'm OK losing the second hundred thousand dollars as long as I can lock in the first.

Where it gets interesting is when things aren't so cut and dried, when there are a number of suitcases left and the contestant is only being offered $30,000 for example. That's where different people's risk tolerances come into play.

Basically, it's an over-hyped lottery. There is no skill involved, only luck.

Personally, I'm waiting for the day when they come up with the kind of lottery described in that book we had to read in high school, where they had a lottery and the "winner" was taken out and stoned to death. I mean, would you rather watch idiots get hundreds of thousands of dollars for being idiots, or have stones thrown at them? Easy choice.



Aaaahhh, here we are in the midst of the two easiest "work" days of the year. Why people who aren't traveling take off the day or two before the official Christmas days off is beyond me.

We get off Friday and Monday, making today the second last working day. The handful of execs that did show were gone by lunch, and may not be seen again until 2006. With them gone, departure fever trickles down the food chain until it is closing time and the place is already a ghost town. Meanwhile the "appreciate you" candy and munchies from vendors arrive in the break room by the truck load.

See, this is frequent holiday season; Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, MLK Day. Then ... nothing. A long stretch to Good Friday, then a long stretch to Memorial Day, etc. That's when you want to take those vacation and personal days. Right now, what? Is what is effectively a two and a half day work week too much?



Two blogger friends; Rabe and Little A have been under the weather lately. Rabe has been watching TV and ran across "Mad Money" on CNBC. For the uninitiated I think Rabe summed MM up best:
The guy is giving stock advice on a financial network, and he's like a mix between an over-caffeinated sports talk host and Bobcat Goldthwait. He makes Howard Beale from "Network" look like Ben Stein.

I had been meaning to blog on this myself but the sickly one beat me to it. Check out his post and see the comments for my thoughts. Basically there isn't a whole lot to say here. Who is crazier, the lunatic who gives out advice this way? or the lemmings who follow? My thought:
... you've got to be nuts to base investment decisions on a 15-second rant perforated with heavy metal riffs and barnyard sound effects.



When I last left off, Chris and Avery had been having some trouble getting in touch with each other. Avery tried to explain, but Chris continued to press ...
... i demanded for your cell phone number, buts its very unfortunate that your cell phone is still under detention in your shop. Only heaven knows when it will be released. If telephones calls has started jaming in America, that means the world cannot be guarranteed of anything again. We were of the opinion that America has the best of all things in the world, well nothing is perfect except GOD, my bible made me to know this.
Well, good. At least he has the big picture down. Avery still thinks the teleconference is do-able if Chris would just give it a try. Also he has some questions regarding travel:

In reviewing the letter with the financial requirements, I believe Shambles had a few questions for you. He'll email you shortly.

As for my trip, I was trying to see if you could provide any advice to help my poor secretary out. She's never booked travel to your country before so she's kind of flying deaf. If you could offer any advice as to what airline to fly, what flight to take, and most especially, what hotel to stay at we would be greatly appreciated. I prefer a hotel that has a pool and concierge service. I would also need wireless internet access, preferably in the room - broadband, not one of those awful plug a phone cord into the phone and dial up arrangements. One thing that's really catching on that I've been wanting to try is a free Continental Jell-O and breakfast bar. I've yet to encounter one in my travels but read a piece about them in an in-flight magazine and they are supposed to be the rage. Apparently Jell-O is great for short-term memory and hand-eye coordination, so folks are just gobbling it up. If you have a hotel that features this, I would be pleased.

So again, any travel advice you can provide would really help out my secretary.

Also, I am perplexified by our phone problems. When we were at lunch yesterday, my boss left his phone at the table while he went to the bathroom. So, I grabbed it and real quick tested out your number, same thing. "You need to deposit three more clarchbars." I don't get it, I really don't. But obviously I'm no stranger to phone problems.

Are you sure a teleconference is not do-able. Even if you don't have the equipment, a Kinko's or Starbucks will. Surely you have those. If you call them up, I'm sure they'll have the hardware. Kinko's usually uses the Zebbo Setcom but sometimes a local store will go with a compatible off-brand. Starbucks has a long-term deal with Bernie Roper though, so they are a Max 90 shop all the way.

Let me know if you can do a teleconference and I'll be glad to help get the ball started.


Avery Lunch
Surely now that Avery is getting serious about his travel plans Chris will ease up, right? Well, no.
Mr Lauch,

I await the mail from shambles ok. You are a traveller and should be able to catch a flight for yourself, the type of flight that will meet all your requirements ok. Klm is always coming to johannesburg from all parts of the world. As for hotel, and where you will stay, there are thousands of world class hotels here in south africa. When you come, then you choose for yourself. Without discussing with you over the phone, i am sorry to say there is nothing i can do again with you to go further in this transaction. Everything in this world has rules, and whatever i do i abide by the rules. You are now trying to tell me that people from the united states do not make calls to south africa again. please come out from your shield . Be more transperent.

He just wants Avery to be more transparent and come out from behind his shield, or actually come out from behind the shield first. Anyway, now it was Avery's turn to be miffed. Turns out that Avery has been putting on a brave front while behind the scenes things aren't going so well.

Well, I guess you have showed your blue colors with this one! I thought I knew you ... turns out I don't know you at all. You want transparent ... you've got it!
Shambles told me you'd turn out to be a jerk. "No," I said, "Chris is a good guy. You don't know him like I do. "Well, I guess Shambles was right. Great! Now I owe him a Fresca.

I have been very patient in putting up with your changed email addresses and strange phone messages and what not, meanwhile back here I am going through a difficult time dealing with all the storm damage. I showed you my neighbor's house, right? Well, what I didn't show you is what happened to my house:
Why? Because that's me. That's how I roll. I don't trouble other people with my problems.

So, I'm deailng with this. I haven't had freaking phone service for over a week now. I've had to rely on using other people's cell phones when they leave them laying around. But still, I hear about Widow Olds' situation and my thought is not, "Oh, I can't help them. I've got problems of my own." No! I'm like, "You know, things may be difficult, but I'm going to soldier on and get this thing done because it's the right thing to do."

And I've been working at it, difficult as it may be. But then I come home and get this crap from you!

I travel a lot, and can make my own arrangements, sure. You're right. But you know what? When I travel to a place in California that I've never been to, I call my contact there to see if they can recommend a good place to stay and what airline has good connections. Why? Because they freaking live there and know the place and I don't. And you know what else? They usually are very courteous about providing the information that I request. Why? Because they're not too freaking stupid to realize that since I'm in a position to do them a favor, they'd better be nice. So, since I've never been to your dark, stinky hole of a country, I thought that perhaps you could recommend a nice place to stay and give some guidance on airlines from your experience, since YOU FREAKING LIVE THERE! I mean, all I asked was if you knew of a place that has a Continental Breakfast and JellO bar, is that so much? But hey, if it's putting you out, fine. I can just NOT travel halfway around the world to help you two get your money out. I guess it's your choice.

Everything in the world has rules - is that what you say, smart guy? Well, here's me out from behind my shield agreeing with you. Everything has rules and ...money.

That's right, money! I have it. You don't. You want my help, so you'd better check your tone and your attitude at the door when you talk to me. I've told Shambles to hold off on freeing up the funds that will be needed and to not do anything until I can figure out what your damage is.

Rules? You want rules. OK. Here's the new rule: Instead of 25%, my fee just went up to 35%. And if I hear any more rudeness from you, I'll just pull the rug and look for new ventures elsewhere.

So, ball's in your chord, Chris. If you want to continue on, let me know and I'll get Shambles back to work and have my secretary book the flight and hotel. If not, oh well.

And if you want to speak, I might have mentioned this already, but, I DON'T HAVE A PHONE RIGHT NOW. We can do a teleconference. I know, that you are all impoverished, yada, yada, yada, so I'll be glad to cover the cost. All I need you to do is go to a business center such as a hotel, or copy shop, or whatever - anywhere that businessmen go a lot, and ask them if they have a Zebbo or a Max 90? I'll do the rest. Once again, it's up to you. Or, we can just wait until I come down there and smash out the details then.

Waiting for the word from you,

Avery Lunch

P.S.I will be contacting Widow Olds regarding your rudeness. I think it is only fair for her to know what kind of boar she is associating herself with in business.
And as promised the letter to WIdow Olds ...
Widow Olds,

I am sorry to disturb your illness with this matter, but as I have been touched by your situation and am doing my best to try to help you, I thought you should be aware of the rude behavior of your associate, Chris.

Below you can see an email he recently sent me. Let me just say that you're not the only one who has it rough, sister. I've been having quite a time up here with phone service being out, and storm damage to my house. Until now, it hadn't occurred to me to burdern you with my troubles.

But, when I'm working so hard to overcome these difficulties and still help you and then I get treated in this manner ... well, I'm simply taken aback. I have never, in all my years been treated so rudely by someone I was trying to help.

You have been nothing but honorable and respectable, Widow Olds. What you are doing associated with such a grinch is beyond me. Work with whomever you like, but I must tell you that if this kind of treatment continues I'll have to think very seriously of pulling out of this deal.


Avery Lunch

P.S.If you two are having an affair, then just forget that I said anything.
Wow! Avery really let them have it. After Avery has called him and his "dark, stinky hole of a country" out, will Chris call it quits and find someone else to work with?



I don't know what to make of the Colts game. Were they trying to win or not? If they were, other than one angry TD drive where it appeared Peyton Manning might just pull out a sledgehammer and smash the ball into the end zone himself, it didn't show in their effort. If they weren't, why were Manning and Edge in the game and exposed to the punishment of the Charger "D" so long?
-- B --

Speaking of the Colts, they can now coast. But they'd better be careful to stay sharp. Their walk through the AFC Playoffs could well be New England followed by Cincinnati which is far from a sure thing. I know, I know, they got that Patriot monkey off their back ... or did they? It's one thing to ring up a team when you are 8-0 and in the middle of the regular season. So what if you lose? You fall all the way to 8-1 and still have home field through the playoffs well within your grasp. Things are quite different in the playoffs when there is "no tomorrow."

As for a re-match with the Bengals, what an awesome AFC championship that would be. The first time out Indy didn't beat Cincinnati as much as they out-lasted them.
-- B --

Pittsburgh is pillaging the NFC North as they compile an impressive closing kick. Just a few weeks ago, the Steelers suffered a heart-breaking home loss to Cincinnati. Not only did this dash their fleeting hopes of winning the AFC North, it seemed to cast doubt on even a wild card berth, as Chicago and Minnesota, two teams on the move, were next on the Steeler agenda.

Instead of folding, Pittsburgh soundly beat both teams, including an improbable win in Minnesota's dome yesterday. The Steelers lead San Diego by a tie-breaker for the final AFC Wild Card spot with only Cleveland and Detroit remaining on their schedule.

Knowing Pittsburgh however, the excitement probably isn't over.
-- B --

Wow! Washington looked like the Gibbs teams of old in dismantling the Cowboys yesterday. Yet the 'Skins weigh in at only 8-6 and still have some work to do.

I really don't know what to make of the NFC playoff picture. Seattle has been consistent and looks to be the class of the Conference, which is hard to get used to in and of itself. After that ... Carolina was the fashionable pick coming into the season. They are right behind Seattle in the standings but have been unimpressive more often than not this season. The Giants have looked good at times, but another Eli Manning turnover-fest could be fatal. The Bears likewise have had their moments. As previously mentioned however, Pittsburgh recently laid a solid beating on the Bears as if to demonstrate how wide the power gap between AFC and NFC is right now. Behind those four is a mess of just over .500 teams that aren't going to make much noise in the playoffs, but have the potential to play first round spoiler.



Stand by for a Mutembi update tonight. Also, and I'm really excited about this, I just shot off replies to three other prospective scamsters and so far none of them have kicked back. A couple of them are pretty sweet, so I've got my fingers crossed.


Trump - Apprentice 4Well, as anticipated, the board meeting was a marathon. I didn't get to see the conclusion of the final tasks, just the last boardroom and the live part, so these are just some initial thoughts.

Once it came down to Randal and Rebecca I was happy. They were the cream of a pretty strong crop, so it didn't matter to me who won. But, I must admit that as soon as the Donald pointed at Randal and said, "You're hired," I saw a very disappointing side of the new Apprentice.

My one question regarding Randal was his tendency to be soft-spoken and nice whereas Rebecca is tough in the boardroom. Well, Randal came in with his guns loaded last night. He was prepared for the inevitable questions and played up his superior record over the course of the game. At one point however, he turned to the gallery of Apprentice 4 contestants and asked those who supported him to stand up. This was a little over-the-top, and considering people like Clay, Markus and Alla, I'm not sure their word should be seen as a feather in Randal's cap.

The real kicker came after Trump had made his hiring decision. He called Randal back to the table and asked his newest employee if he thought he should also hire Rebecca. Coming back from the commercial I had a feeling that Trump might go this route. Randal however, exclaimed that there should be one and only one Apprentice and that the show was called "The Apprentice," not "Apprenti."

Wow! When he was trying to impress the Trump team, Randal was very complimentary of Rebecca and was careful to stay positive in distinguishing himself from her. Hand him a 6-figure job and he gets all 5-yr-old on us!

This was very surprising. A side of Randal we hadn't seen at all during the season. I'd be interested in hearing his rationale, but right now I am disappointed and strongly wishing that Trump had hired Rebecca. Just as surprising was Trump letting it go at that. Carolyn and George had both acknowledged that both players would make great managers in the Trump organization.

This whole incident couldn't have taken more than 30 seconds, yet it may have been the most interesting and confusing part of the whole 2 hours.



Trump - Apprentice 4The finale is tonight so I'd better get caught up.

When we left off, it was down to Rebecca and Randal. In a great twist, the two went out to dinner with Carolyn and George and during the meal the wound up choosing and negotiating for the three former-players that will help them on their final task.

We learned a lot about some of the other players. For example, Josh, whom I had suspected would have been pretty good, was the top pick of both finalists. Josh was lost in the monsoon firing that wiped out 2/3 of Team Excel.

In the past the finalists had been confined to choosing from the last six players fired. This was how you had Omarosa royally screwing Kwame in season one's finale, and Brian just not doing much of anything useful last time. And, under that format, Rebecca would have missed out on the opportunity to bring back Toral!?

Actually that is working out pretty well. From what we've seen so far, Rebecca's team is doing a much better job of managing time, serving their clients', and staying ahead of schedule. This team is putting on a charity comedy event, sponsored by Yahoo! to benefit the Pediatric Aids foundation that Trump is always helping.

As usual, I'm suspicious of the editors whenever it appears that one team is clicking and the other is dropping the ball. So far, Randal has been surprisingly unimpressive. The team is not managing its schedule well - the entire team went along to the party supply store to purchase decorations. Randal's task involves getting set up for a celebrity softball game, and while it took four people to buy a few bags full of decorations, only Mark was tasked with setting up all of the tents, tables and chairs while the other three team members kicked back in one of the stadium's luxury boxes. I'm sure there was a little more to it than that, but one guy assigned a task that the entire team would have trouble completing in the allotted time? Outback is sponsoring this event and it has been amusing to watch Outback's CEO giving Randal a hard time.

Stormclouds: We saw just enough to know that both teams will be facing daunting obstacles before their task is complete. With one day to go Joe Piscopo, who was to have been the host of the comedy event, had to pull out due to union concerns. There was a smidgen of hope that the team could negotiate with the union, but everything we've seen suggests that Piscopo will be a no-go, and any potential alternates may be precluded by the same issue.

Now, this isn't the first time such a big obstacle has appeared. We've already seen celebrity hosts waffle, equipment fail or go missing, etc. In season one, after much frantic searching Bill Rancick finally found a key sponsor's billboard next to the golf course's dumpster! I'm always curious how much of this is random and how much is injected into the situation by Trump's team to test their finalists. How else does a union conflict go unnoticed until the 11th hour?

But if Trump engineered the obstacle that Randal is facing, he has really outdone himself! The previously sunny and clear forecast has given way to almost certain rain for the day of the softball game ... the outdoor softball game.

I will be interested to see if Randal's team was able to complete the setup that night, and how both team's will manage the day of their events.

Outlook: This is an awesome final. The best so far, IMO. Season one's Kwame-Bill matchup was pretty good, but Kwame was over-educated and under-experienced. This season we've got two all-star leaders. Randal is also heavy on education, but it doesn't stand in the way of his ability to get the job done.

So, a lot will ride on how the Donald evaluates this thing. Over the course of the season Randal did a much better job, but one could argue that he also found himself on much better teams than Rebecca did. On the other hand, as mentioned, we've been shown Rebecca doing a much better job on her final task. At the end of the day however, the final tasks don't seem to yield a significant difference between the two players. There are glitches in rough spots, but the events ultimately go just fine.

In the boardroom I give a slight edge to Rebecca. Randal may have the sharper mind, but he is also softspoken and nice. Rebecca doesn't fight nasty, but she is a fighter and very strong-willed. I have no doubt that she'll come ready to rebut the edge Randal has gained by his performance over the course of this season.

Either way, Trump is going to wind up with a strong Apprentice, and he needs one. On Donny Deutsche last night it came out that Bill Rancick will finally be leaving the Trump organization this coming spring. We haven't seen much of Kelly Perdew (season 2) and nothing of Kendra (season 3), and I have a feeling that they haven't turned out to be nearly as dynamic and talented as Rancick. Both Rebecca and Randal however seem to have the juice and the class to take over as the poster child for Apprentice winners.

As luck would have it, I've got a board meeting tonight that promises to run long. I may wind up having to wait until CNBC re-runs the show tomorrow night, so no one say anything!


Screwed up the Dilbert Blog link yesterday. It is fixed.



Scott Adams over at the Dilbert Blog makes a good point:
"Have you noticed that people become incredibly angry every December? My e-mail and blog comments become a flaming cesspool at this time of year, and by that I mean more than usual. ... It’ll calm down by mid February when bad weather turns that anger into debilitating depression. I’m looking forward to that. All I ask from life is that I be slightly less miserable than the people who hate me. I call that winning."

He's right. I'm more angry than normal this time of year, but it's because I have to put up with how everyone else acts when their stress/anger level accelerates at this time of year. The thing is, someone has to be starting it all.

It's like those traffic jams that pop up even though there isn't an accident nor any other apparent reason. It isn't possible that there is a solid, slow-moving line of traffic encircling the globe, right? So, you're sitting there thinking, "Somewhere way up in front of me there isn't a traffic jam, and the only thing that separates us jammed folks from the free is probably two or three blockheads who really suck at driving. Boy would I love to get my hands on them!"

Well, same thing in December. I'm angry cuz of the stupid thing Sam did this morning, and Sam only did that stupid thing cuz he's out of sorts after tolerating John's stupidity, etc., etc. Shortly after Thanksgiving someone somewhere started this whole thing. To that person I say ... "Lighten up, dude!"



Last week another "This would never happen on the REAL Apprentice" moment from Martha's show. Last week's reward for the winning team ... they got to go to Martha's place and ride horses and play Scrabble with her. And they all got really excited when they were told this. And after a cozy afternoon nestled on a patio straight out of Better Homes and Gardens, chatting with Martha over a friendly game of Scrabble, as the team was walking away (and I strongly suspect this was planned), Jim, the obnoxious one, said to his teammates a bit too loud, "She's so cute," his voice dripping wth sophomore pajama party. Well, Martha overhead and chided him, "Never call your prospective boss, 'cute!'" Jim did a poor job of acting surprised, "How did you heeaaarr that!?" his voice dripping with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Now on the Donald's show, no Scrabble. Ever. And if he'd had an inkling that Jim was even capable of this kind of cheeziness, he'd have fired him in week 2.


Trump - Apprentice 4Time to catch up on the Apprentice.

When I left off, we were down to four candidates heading into a two-on-two task for Microsoft. Randall and Rebecca vs. Alla and Felishia. And wow! This one did not go quite as I expected. I was rooting for Randall and Rebecca - IMHO the two most quality individuals in this season's cast. But Alla came into this one as almost a lock to make it through to the interviews or whatever was next, win or lose. Apparently that was her thinking as well. More on that later.

The teams were tasked with creating a commercial to promote Microsoft's Live Meeting. The winner would be decided by the subjective judgment of two reps from the software giant.

Felishia and Rebecca came into this task having weaker records as PM than their partners. Over at Excel, Rebecca wanted to prove her worth as PM, and Randall said that he wanted to get her a win. Case closed.

For Felishia and Alla I'm not sure the matter was ever really settled. And the funny thing is, THERE WERE ONLY TWO PEOPLE ON THE TEAM! How much PM'ing is going to be going on anyway!? The two agreed that Felishia would be PM. Then, as they got ready to start shooting their video spots, Felishia had to stop and establish that while she was putting Alla in charge of the video shoot, Felishia was still in charge overall, and if Alla started to try to take over, well ... she made this gesture, but I'm not really sure what it meant, and I'm not really sure what Felishia thought she was going to do. Most of all, I'm not really sure why these two spent so much time talking about who was in charge of a group of two on such a time-sensitive task.

When it came to editing, the peace and conflict showed. Randall and Rebecca were not wowed by the actors-for-hire and had decided to have Randall play the role of the flustered executive whose life would be a whole lot less chaotic with Live Meeting. The acting spots were a little cheezy, but they put together a semi-professional video. Carolyn messed with Rebecca's head a bit by asking, "How long did that take you?" after watching the video. Randall felt it meant nothing. I was with Rebecca on that one. Carolyn is hard to read in those situations, and often that question is a subtle way of saying, "I don't think you spent enough time on that."

Capital Edge on the other hand, was not at all pleased with their action video and wound up going back to the drawing board in the 11th hour. Alla had a sudden brainstorm! They decided to use snippets of the video they had shot, but to convey the main message with text ... lots and lots of text in a 30-sec spot.

In the end the execs felt that Randall and Rebecca had conveyed their desired message with feeling and clarity, while Capital Edge's effort was disjointed and confusing. It probably didn't make a difference, but Randall and Rebecca showed up for their presentation matching the power suits of the MS folks stride for stride while Rebecca and Alla showed up in matching outfits which were cute, but very, very casual. Bad move.

Toward the end of the task, I won't say Alla tanked it on purpose. But she did appear to care less and less and seemed to be relying on her read that if she and Felishia lost, Felishia would be sent home, based on Alla's superior performance over the course of the contest. And that's pretty much how the board room drama unfolded. On the one hand Alla was difficult to manage. On the other, Felishia has been generally weak throughout and it showed in her insecurity on this task. Here's what I don't get. Alla was the key to all of the MS exec's talking points when they explained why Capital Edge's video fell flat. Yet Felishia never attacked on these points. It might not have helped, but it sure wouldn't have hurt.

The most gratifying moment of the evening came just after the Donald fired Felishia. Alla stood to head back up to the suite and her place in the final three, when Trump told her to sit down and as soon as he was done with Felishia he whirled and fired her. Prior to this task, Alla had come across as a strong competitor. She may not have had the charm or personality of some of the other girls, but she was talented and a winner. This week she turned into a straight-up witch.

So there it is. No interviews. Randall and Rebecca on to the finals.

I've got to say, this season has stoked my curiosity as to how much is planned in advance. This time there were some format changes. But also there were big-time corporate partners lined up for each week, and I'd be surprised if there weren't some prime product placement juice coming in. They couldn't possibly have foreseen firing four people in one week, so did they have to cancel some tasks or do they hold off and sign on some corporate partners after filming is already in progress? I'd love to get a look behind the scenes on the planning.


I confess, I don't get the attraction to Mannheim Steamroller. To me it was part of the 80's "lets add electronics to everything and cheapen it" movement.

Of course you have to consider the source on that one. Among my Christmas favorites are two songs which I readily admit are stupid:

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas - Paul McCartney
Little St. Nick - Beach Boys

"Christmas comes this time each year ...," in the background always kills me. I mean, this is a song, you know. So, someone, or ones wrote it. At some point they came to that spot and thought, "Hmmm, 'Christmas comes this time each year,' ... yeah! That totally works!"

In my defense, these two songs are less about Christmas and more about me just liking McCartney and the Beach Boys a lot. And let's face it - while McCartney is solid, the Beach Boys entire body of work resides in the shallow end of the pool. What they lack in substance they make up for in fun!


"Tookie" Williams is dead and the world is a better place. Unfortunately, the legacy of violence that he spawned will never end.

Rabe has a good piece. What gets lost behind the hand-wringing of the attention-getting few is that fact that America as a whole overwhelmingly supports the death penalty. Even in California support ranges in the 70's and 80's depending on the poll. The LA Times and the like have tried a few oddly-stated poll questions and still can't get the number below the high 50's. Not that this is a contest, mind you. I just grow tired of the protester coverage as if there were no one in the world in support of this execution.

Once again, a high-pressure move to separate consequences from actions has failed.


'Tis the season to be crying ... and that's about the only reason for Oregon to complain. This is actually one of the more straight forward years in BCS history, yet the Ducks are quacking. Why? Because that's what the highest ranked team not in the BCS is supposed to do, just like the highest ranked handful of teams that don't make March Madness.

Really, when it came to the "Who?" there was no decision-making involved. Automatic bids to conference winners: USC (Pac 10), Penn St (Big 10), Florida St (ACC), West Virginia (Big East), Texas (Big 12), and Georgia (SEC). At large: Ohio State -automatic bid to non-conference winner placing in BCS top 4, and Notre Dame - automatic bid to any team that plays in South Bend and places in the BCS top 6. Yes, just like they have their own TV contract, Notre Dame has their own special BCS rule. And that's eight teams ... we're out of tickets. Completely automatic this year.

But this is all beside the point. The only reason we think Oregon is good is that they play or rather, hide in the Pac 10. If the Big 12 North doesn't get its act together the Pac 10 may well supplant the Big 12 as ESPN's west of the Mississippi love object. The only ranked team Oregon played outside of the artificially-enhanced Pac 10 was Fresno State and they barely squeaked by. Against USC, the only GOOD team on Oregon's schedule, well ... the Ducks posted a couple scores and then USC woke up and throttled them. Final score, 45-13, 600 yds-250 yds. You have to at least show up for that game if you want to be taken seriously in BCS discussions. Oregon didn't and now no one is listening.

They can complain if they want, just like I can jump off a bridge if I want. Both are pointless.



OK, first a non-sports note ... my town added $600K to the coffers of Hill '08 last night. Good thing she got some of our money I guess, cuz she sure won't be getting our electoral votes.
-- B --

Big shocker out of Miami: Stan VanGundy is stepping down as the Heat head coach, with Pat Riley likely stepping in to replace him. Finally! Now I'm even more of a Heat guy. Riley has been one of my favorites even since the Showtime Laker days. I'm resigned to the fact that we'll never really return to those days ... the bodies are just too big now ... so Riley coaching Shaq and Wade seems like the next best thing.

By the way, VanGundy's statement which went, "This morning I voluntarily resigned ..." pretty much means it wasn't voluntary. If you voluntarily resign you just say, "I resigned." Why they even try stuff like that anymore is beyond me, because everyone sees right through it.
-- B --

The Colts continue their run, remaining flawless while surprises littered the NFL landscape all around them. San Diego falls to Miami. Cincinnati struggles with Cleveland while Pittsburgh put a sound beating on Chicago. And, despite an irrelevant flurry at the end, Jacksonville really didn't even put up a fight against Indy. Jacksonville, San Diego and Cincinnati along with Seattle were the teams that supposedly still threatened the Colts' streak (the Bengals obviously not until the playoffs), yet all appeared very human yesterday.
-- B --

Tough weekend for my teams in Women's Volleyball. Louisville fell to Florida without so much as a whimper. The Gators in turn lost to top-ranked, and prohibitive favorite, Nebraska who cruises into the Final Four without having lost a game in the tourney.

Hawaii blew a golden opportunity. Tennessee, their region's fourth seed, dispatched second-ranked Penn State to reach the regional final. Unfortunately, Hawaii couldn't get by Missouri.

Santa Clara is the tournament's Cinderella. The ... whatever Santa Clara is, were unseeded in the tournament (but were positioned as a regional #7 or #10 seed). They took out their region's second seed Stanford in the second round, and their top seed Arizona in the regional final to gain an improbable Final Four berth.

Still, it looks like this is Nebraska's to lose.
-- B --

Where's the love for Carolina? Granted, the "Defending Champions" lost everyone but the waterboy and Coach Williams. But, the 'Heels barely lost to #12 Illinois and dispatched then #10 Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Meanwhile Louisville, despite having played no one, has risen to #4. I like the Cards, but #4? The Cards may not have lost as much of their Final Four team numbers-wise, but between NBA defection and injuries Louisville is a shadow of their former self.

North Carolina finally cracked the top 25, and weighs in at #20 this week. This is a severe underestimation of Roy Williams' coaching and Carolina's recruiting.


Wow. Avery and Chris are having a heck of a time getting in touch with each other. But I really get the feeling that Chris doesn't understand all that has been going on on Avery's end of things. Avery isn't one to complain, mind you, but Chris is getting so impatient that perhaps an explanation is in order ...
Oh boy do I have egg on my plate! I wanted to dash you a quick note to let you know how embarrassed I am by all of this. We have some federal attorneys in the suite next to us. Whenever it rains it seems that our phone lines get crossed. We had a doozie of a storm yesterday, I can tell you that. Check out what's left of my neighbor's house:

His wife's pretty hot, though, hey?

Anyway, they are working on the phone lines right now, but no guesses as to when they'll have them fixed.

I'm anxious to get going with our venture, so I thought that maybe we could do a teleconference.Do you have a Zebbo Setcom or Max 90? I don't have either at home ... I wish! But, right now they are letting us use them at work to get in touch with loved ones after the storm. If you don't have one, maybe there is one nearby that you could use, perhaps at a Kinko's or a Starbucks. I'll be glad to pay for it, just let me know. And for scheduling our teleconference, I'll be glad to work around your schedule, just as a show of good faith for this unfortunate snafu that has occurred on my watch.

Once again, many apologies. I have also reviewed your previous e-mail - the one from your meeting with all the good Christian brothers at it, where you outlined the financial requirements. Just off the top of my hide, everything sounds reasonable, but I'm having my attorney Shambles look it over. Nothing personal against you. He just needs the practice if he's ever going to pass that bar exam. He's passed it three times before (he keeps letting his license expire), you'd think he'd learn. Anyway, I gave him your email in case he has any questions.

I am working on getting the documents together for my trip. Do you have any recommendations as to travel to Johnsonburg, or where I might stay? My secretary would certainly appreciate any tips you could provide.

OK, then. Hopefully we are back on track.


Avery Lunch
So, now that Chris has the skinny on what's going on, maybe he'll lighten up ... naaaah! Not likely. By the way, you've probably guessed it, but no such thing as a Zebbo Setcom or Max 90. But I figure if I could lure him into asking around about it, that might be almost as fun as the phone thing.



In my last email to Chris, I had supplied him with a "work number" that he could call. My cell was in the shop after all, so it was all I could do. I also felt it only fair to warn him that my secretary was hard of hearing and the other admin who sometimes handles the phones didn't speak very much English. I cautioned him to speak loud and slow and to mention "Swiftboat," my code for our venture. See that entry for details on the number I actually supplied to him. Anyway, it does my heart good to know that he gave it a shot ...
Mr Lunch,
I called you today on the telephone number you gave me 202-224****. I had a shock when i was told that there is nothing like your name nor swiftboat code.Its very unfortunate.
In fact, he apparently gave it more than the old college try. This from a subsequent email ...
... The people were very furious with me when i started calling persistently and i had to tender my apology ...
Oh to have been a fly on the wall that day ....


A couple weeks ago I watched "The Pirates of Silicon Valley," the story of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the microchip revolution. It's one of those cheezy movies that is saved only by the fact that the subject matter is ineresting on its own. It really is a fascinating story. I grew up in that age - the advent of the personal computer, the rise and fall of Apple. The key: At the outset, Apple was about the hardware. In true Bill Gates fashion, the Microsoft founder saw years down the road, and beat Apple and everyone else in the industry to the punch by monopolizing content / software. My current laptop cost less than a Microsoft Office Professional license.

Now, we're at the doorstep of the next phase. Eventually the massive hard drive will be a relic as more and more content moves online.

Granted, online applications have been around for years, now. But most users, myself among them, have continued to derive basic functionality from software installed on their own computers. I may be able to do taxes, email, book travel, etc. online. But spreadsheets, databases and word processing are my main axes and they are still hard drive-based.

There was a time when this didn't matter. There was a time when you did school computing at school, work computing at work and home computing at home, and there wasn't much opportunity or need to cross the lines. Today, I've got a mix of personal, work and client files on all three of my computers' hard drives and two RAM drives. And still, I can't begin to count how many times I have gone to pull up a file at work, only to realize, "Oh yeah, the current version of that is on my laptop at home." Right now we circumvent this issue with RAM drives, and emailing files to ourselves, etc. Apps like GoToMyPC are designed to help the multiple computer user. In fact, there is a modest sized industry built around the simple fact that more and more people are computing in more and more places.

Watch that industry evaporate as more standard applications are pushed out into the virtual hemisphere. Soon your hardware needs will be modest - just enough power and connectivity to get you on the internet.

Microsoft is beginning a major shift in this area. This year they've started with some functions that are modestly useful, including Live Favorites, shown here. As the name suggests, it is an online resident version of your favorite websites list. It took a little time to get used to getting that Window open right away so that it is handy. Now, LF is one of my favorite apps, for the same reason that many other online versions of what I do on my hard drive will become indispensible - I work a lot on more than one computer, in more than one location.

There was a time when I was uncomfortable with the notion of not having things on my own hard drive. Now, for the reasons mentioned above, I'm well past that. Cost remains the wild card.

Quickbooks is an application that has a virtual edition available. Problem is, the online product is just as cost-prohibitive as Quickbooks out of the box. So, I soldier on with QB2002. That's the nice work-around that won't be available when things go online. Most annual upgrads amount to a few new bells and whistles, some tweaks of the window-dressing, and not much new functionality. Don't want the cost? OK, don't upgrade.

Of course, one look at the full Live Favorites screen shot reveals how Microsoft is preparing to distribute some of the cost. Advertising. The highlighted portion of the Live Favorites screen, roughly 25% of the real estate that my eyes behold when using the app, belongs to me. The right-hand strip is clearly all set for skyscraper ads when this thing comes out of beta. These ads will no doubt be driven by my particular favorites. And the middle half of the screen is available for whatever other features Microsoft chooses to inject. Even if straight on advertising doesn't appear in this area, there will certainly be a lot of cross-promotion and product / service placement deals.

Next up: Office. This is the one I'm waiting for. Early next year Microsoft is scheduled to start beta-testiing Office online. I'm interested to see how this takes shape and have a lot of questions. I've got my name on the beta list - hopefully I'll get a chance to test drive it soon!



Well, I just mentioned in my GM post how unions have helped ruin American auto-makers. Now there is a push on to provide the same "help" to WalMart. It's not all about unions, but that is one prong of the Wally bashing.

I don't see it. And I definitely don't see the religious ramifications. Would Jesus want me to shop at WalMart? Well, I'm on a tight budget these days. I know He wants me to be wise and honorable in my financial dealings. Overall though, I'd have to say that at the end of the day He probably really doesn't give a crap where I shop, within reason. I'm guessing that "Naughty and Nice" is probably out.

I hopped out to WakeUpWalMart.com (no link: the whole site and movement is lame - I'm not going to help drive traffic there) looking for some stimulating discussion material. Nah. Checked out the "Faith Leaders Letter to Wal-Mart." You'll never guess whose name was at the top of the list of signers - JJ, himself! It's getting to be like smoke and fire. Wherever there is a divisive issue, you'll find JJ. So much for credibility.

So then I cruised over to the discussion forums, and I found something interesting. Something vaguely familiar in some of the rhetoric, the causist enthusiasm, the nearly religious anti-WalMart fervor. The tone was the same as what I used to find out at Dean's blog. Heck, it's probably the same people - every since Iowa they've been wandering aimlessly, looking for a new cause to infect.

I also found as many WalMart supporters - well actually being a WalMart "supporter" is almost as ludicrous as being anti-WalMart. I found a lot of people not on board with the fight.

Here's just a sampling of the mindset we're dealing with here:
In response to someone who volunteered a plan to shut down all of the registers at a WalMart store: "Your an idiot, all that does is ruin the credibilty of those fighting the good fight..." ahhh yes. Fighting the good fight. Lesson one, take a meaningless issue and give it religious and moral overtones.

Also in the "Community Fight Strategy Forum": "I went to the local Target recently and chatted with a cashier as I was paying for my purchase. He said that he used to work at Wal-Mart last year, so I asked him how he likes his current job. He said that he liked it a lot more than working for Wal-Mart." End of anecdote. Never said why. Big success story: found a cashier who likes working at Target better than working at WalMart. I think we may have just found the stone that is going to bring Goliath-Mart down!

"PBS - brought to you by Wal-Mart. ... Do you feel disgust and anger that they, your friends in public broadcasting, would stoop so low? I do."

"Wal-Mart may not be the KKK, but their net negative impact on the world is because of their size, far worse than the KKK."

"Walmart is, without exaggeration, one of the most evil entities on the planet, and it chokes me to see PBS helping to paint lipstick on this pig."

I'm sorry, but could you be a little MORE over the top!?

Causists. I'm fascinated by 'em. On the one hand I just want to laugh. If you were making a movie, reality would trump any fictional stereotype you could concoct. On the other hand, I'm in awe of how someone could be so sheltered, so naive, so out of touch.

Some of you think WalMart robs people? Please. Shopping exclusively at WalMart, I could probably survive the rest of my life on what the parents of these nut-jobs spent to get them their Bachelor's Degree in Native American Social Cultures. Guarantee I'd have more to show for it.


Enjoying a brief parole from Christmas Hell. Not sure why. Not complaining. Just enjoying the peace and quiet and a chance to hear myself think.


You can tell Apprentice was on last night ... I got a bunch of hits from search engine Apprentice searches. Btw ... I'll be catching up on that later.


For my money, the best blog originating from Kentucky: 21st Century Paladin

Here is a tasty sample of what the Paladin brings to the table.



Allllriiiight! I've had about enough of GM's Fastlane Blog (which will, from here on out, be referred to as GM Fantasylane), the parallel bizarro world where up is down and fast is slow.

Recently at FantasyLane: Lutz defends GM's further investment in SUV (i.e. fuel inefficient) line, GM Marketing hypes the red tag sale, and GM Marketing tackles backlash against Red Tag post. It seems the Fantasylane readers just want to hear about the cool cars, which is the fantasy setup for the GM blog, if only they could figure out how to translate their readership into car sales.

In the real world you have issues like poor financial performance, layoffs, rising health care costs, etc. In the real world people ask these questions: "How many people are you going to lay off next quarter?" "If your vehicles are so good, how come you have to keep marking them down?" "How do you expect to generate the cash necessary to rise above your crippling benefits costs by continuing to manufacture vehicles that will only sell at a deep discount (i.e. that don't generate much profit)?"

I get that it has been difficult for the US auto-makers. The history of their industry allowed them to settle into an inefficient way of doing business. But the problems have been abundantly obvious for decades now and there has been little change: Blame anything but your own decision-making and continue to produce what you want to produce rather than what the customer wants to buy. Why the emphasis on SUV's? They are high profit margin ... except when sitting on the showroom floor. When faced with the one-two punch of a high car payment and $50 per visit to the pump, customers aren't buying enough to help anything.

Unions have you hamstrung ... and? It is what it is. The companies and the unions marched merrily down this path together. They shared in taking the excess for granted, and now they share in the looming consequences. It doesn't matter, because once again, in the showroom and at the gas pump, no one cares about the unions, apple pie or any of the other defense mechanisms.

So, at the rate GM is bleeding, they've got 2 years worth of cash left in the bank. They can shut up and spend that time righting the ship, or they can slap a red tag on their problems and talk about how great their cars as they take the fast lane to Chapter 11.


Scott Adams has thrown down the gauntlet over at the Dilbert Blog, as he challenges readers to fill in the blanks on his latest comic. Comments are at 273 and counting!


In my last letter to the Johannesburg duo, besides giving them John Kerry's, er, MY office number, I had complained about the sudden email addy change and the problem I was having getting through to them by phone. Before they had a chance to try to contact me, they rushed to reassure me. Ahhh these guys ... so customer-oriented.
Dear Mr Lunch,
We got your mail this morning, and was deeply touched about your complains.Our cell phone number is ok +2782970****, but the reason why you could not get through to us is what we do not know, but it could be attributed to network problem as sometimes experienced in some third world countries as your technology could not be compared with that of third world contries.Another reason could be, if you called us yesterday being sunday, you cannot get through to us as we were in our normal sunday service and church programms which lasts till 3 pm noon.phones are swiched off.For the sudden change of email addresses by kathy, Msn wrote to her to pay in money to renew her account which has lasted for one year now, but being that things are not rossy anymore with us i told her to open a new email account with sify .com. That account is still open till now but mails dont come into it, we never new about this problem untill you complained. I tried sending a mail to her from my yahoo email account, but my mail returned back undelievered. We have never experienced such before.Even as at the time of writing this mail to you, the oldkathy@****.*** account is still open. I now advised her to open a new account with webmail for another trial. We know the problem of the msn account, her credit card is at zero point hence there is no money there.All these will be normalised soon by the grace of God immediately we are able to get this transaction concluded with you.This money has been with the security company for over five years now, we have been paying a lot of money to the security company monthly, and cannot afford to pay again as all the money we came into south africa with has been drained.Our stories and predicaments is not something we can tell you by email not untill we meet face to face.

Mr Launch, i want to assure you that we exist, we are not spirits or ghosts, we are from zimbabwe, we are not south africa citizens. We came into south africa because of the problem in zimbabwe which the british prime minister Tony Blair has been fighting President Mugabe of zimbabwe. We thank God that President Bush of united stateshas finally stepped into the matter.Finally, please do not have doubts over us, afterall when you come here all the transaction will be done right inside the bank.Please start arranging your trip as we will now consult with the bankers who are assisting usto know what you are required to come here with.We are also owing the security company some money which has not been ascertained untill we do account reconcilliation.All these will be relayed to you.I will call as you directed, pls oncemore i still have to tender our apologies.God bless you.

p.s. try to call again, maybe the problem may also be from your side, but please dial your contries dial out access code first, then dial 27, which is the code for south africa, then my number 82970****.please we have not been to America before.

Oh where do you NOT laugh. Deeply touched by my complaints, the church services that last til 3pm Noon, and at least we know that they are not spirits or ghosts. It seems that Chris also had a meeting with a group of Christian bankers if you can believe that, and they were able to lay out the financial obligation on Avery's part. They have gotten to the money business rather quickly.
Dear Mr Avery Lunch,

We were in the meeting today with some of our christain brothers in faith who are top bankers here to seek their expertise advise on how we can go ahead with you in the whole transaction and get it concluded hitch free.The following proceedures below are the things you will along with during your visit to johannesburg south africa assist us get this transaction concluded within 4 bank working days as they advised.

The bankers told that to make the whole transaction look guenuine and hitch free and to avoid south african reserve bank officials from raising eye brows during deposition of funds into the non resident bank account you will open during your visit here, the following proceedures must be taken by you if you are very willing to assist us.
You will bring along when coming to johannesburg the followings;




I went to the security company morning and made a request by letter of application that we want to take delievery of our consignment which has been in their custody for years now, after all verifications,they ascertained everything ok.
They told that their cost of delievery of the consignment straight with their bullion van to the bank and insurance based on the face value of what is deposited is USD6,200.00 [SIX THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED UNITED STATES DOLLARS]

So the total amount needed from all our calculation today is USD16,300.00

Mr Launch, the truth about the matter is that we cannot afford this amount of money needed now to get this transaction actualised, We have been paying the sum of almost USD1000 [one thousand dollars] monthly to the security company for their services for more than 5 years now. We have ran out of money, and that is the reason why we must take this money out from south africa now, because immediately we cannot afford to pay again, then we may start having problems with the security company, and all we are doing will be exposed.The security company is not authorised by south african laws to keep money in their custody,late Martind his contact to perfect that arrangement. please peruse our mail very well and please my brother think of how you can come to our aid to assist us get the needed funds as outlined above to get this transaction actualised.All about this transaction will be done between you and the bank officials right inside the bank and they have promised to use their position in the bank to assist us get all concluded very well .

Lastly the bankers also said that immediately all funds had been deposited into your non resident bank account, you will issue a written instruction to the bank that they should start transfering the funds to your overseas bank account, based on the issued instruction, the bank here will start transfering the funds in segments also, bit by bit to your overseas bank account, the reason they gave while the funds should be transfered bit by bit is because of the money laundering laws and terrorism since after the bombing of the world trade centre in the united states.please we are waiting for your kind and urgent response.I will call you on telephone tomorrow so that we can discuss and get all arrangements concluded and please advise your secretary to start making arrangements for your visit to south africa immediatey.God bless you.


Absolutely amazing plan. I'm contemplating which way to go. It might be fun to tease them by just asking if I can wire the total sum to Chris. Or, I could call their bluff and ask for contact information so that I may begin getting the funds to the appropriate people. Either way, it appears Avery is headed to South Africa!



It seems like everyone has turned on their "send an automatic reply when you read this" feature on their e-mail. As a reader you realize that automatic is a misnomer. You the reader still have to ok the sending of the "yes I read your freakin' email, but unfortunately I'm not a cat person," (ok, that may not be exactly how it is worded). Lately, being the me that I am, I have taken to nixing the replies. Unless it is something inconsequential that has gone out to the entire company. Then I let the reply go, close the message, mark it as unread, re-open and send another reply in hopes that if I do that enough times their email box will explode. OK, you're right. That doesn't really work. But I wish it did.

Anyway, I've compiled a small list of emails that probably don't require confirmation of receipt:

"Hey everybody! There's leftover macaroni salad in the fridge in the small break room."

"Hey everyone in the company whose last name starts with A or B. I get a free razor if I forward this to 50 people. Guess what. You're number 39!"

"Hey everyone, check out the pictures of my grandkids finger-painting! Look how much bigger they've gotten since yesterday's batch of chocolate pudding for lunch pictures."

"Does anyone know how to use the fax machine?"

OK ... as I think about this, I don't think the problem is the auto replies. I think it's too much email to begin with. Perhaps if we all made it our goal to send only emails that were important enought to warrant some kind of official confirmation of delivery ...


I was just perusing the bowl lineup, and *yawn* even before too much holiday food I can feel a nap coming on.

The BCS has, for a change, given us a blockbuster #1-#2 matchup. I really wish I cared about Texas or USC because that's going to be a great game. I'm going to root for Texas cuz Leinart strikes me as a slightly above average QB who has overstayed his welcome behind a superpower arsenal of weapons and mammoth O-line. I think he stayed in college, well actually you can hardly say that he's in college. I think he stayed in college football rather than go to the NFL to pick on someone his own size and a half because he wanted one last moment in the limelight before embarking on the glorious career of clipboard-holding that awaits him.

Beyond that, the BCS has responded to its unwanted guests in typical fashion: rather than pair up Florida State and West Virginia or Notre Dame in order to try to preserve one more good matchup, they've tainted the other three games. Look for Penn State over the Seminoles, Ohio State over Notre Dame, and Georgia over West Virginia ... big! Oh wait, I forgot. Ohio State v. the Irish is going to be a great matchup because geographically the schools are kind of near each other. And with the game just under a month away, Georgia has already opened up a 14 pt lead on the Mountaineers.

Louisville finds itself in a post New Year's Day game - great progress for the Cards. Still I look at the "2" in their 9-2 record and think of what should have been. You can't convince me that those two games weren't winnable for the Cards.

Miami - LSU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl looks like the second best game of the bowl season this year. Two really strong teams with a lot of power on both sides of the ball butting heads. And I've got to say, that if a chicken restaurant is going to sponsor a bowl game they should have to re-name it if it is named after a fruit. I mean, Chick-fil-A gets your mind going down one road and then all of a sudden "Peach" ... mmmmm, chicken 'n' peaches.

Spurrier's Gamecocks head to the Independence Bowl to take on Missouri. Here's hoping that SC stamps out the final embers of the illusion that there are any good teams in the Big XII besides Texas.

Speaking of lame Big XII teams, Oklahoma draws Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. Wow! Who did Coach Stoopes tick off? Granted, when it comes to being over-rated, the Pac 10 is neck and neck with the Big XII. But Oregon should man-handle the Sooners. This could easily be the biggest blowout of the final week of bowls.

There are probably a few other good games mixed in there. I'll never know. I'm not die-hard. I can't watch East Tulsa Poly v. Marengo Community College, even if it is the only game on.

Finally, as a follow-up to my post yesterday, another of the tired brand of sports pieces that you'll be seeing a lot of in the coming weeks are the graduation rate harangues. There'll be a lot of chest-thumping about how the bowl teams don't graduate even half of their players ... it's almost as if they've taken the student out of student athlete, don't ya know. The writers in question will be good and outraged, and present their cases as if they've stumbled on to something totally new and on a par with gravity.

Notice you never see these stories during the season. No, "Wow! Notre Dame falls in last minute to the Trojans who only graduated 30% of their players last year." No, "Texas barely gets by the Ohio State Buckeyes, but the real shame of it is that neither team has a minority head coach." Why? No one cares. And during the season no one wants to hear it.

Now is the time for no one cares stuff because now, no one is listening. Now is the time for the writers to pat themselves on the back for being great engineers of social justice instead of the low-talent leeches that they really are. There won't be any College Football played for the next two weeks, and its almost twice that long until we start hitting the games that have any kind of widespread appeal. The thing about writers and congressmen is that just because there's nothing to do doesn't mean that they'll stop doing. Congressmen call pointless hearings and writers write. Bring on the drivel!



OK, as we near the end of the NFL regular season, it's time to start thinking about coaching changes. And with coaching changes come the gratuitous "We need more minority coaches" pieces. This may be the season's first. ESPN's Michael Smith opens with praise for the accomplishments of three black NFL head coaches this season.

His root point: I'm going to single out black coaches to say how I think we don't need to single out black coaches any more and I just wish everyone would stop.

In fairness, Smith himself is black. I'm still trying to figure out if that makes a difference. Does it make the piece any less ridiculous? No. Granted, I would be even more annoyed if this were one of the pieces regularly put out there by white writers on a slow news day, to show how enlightened they are by praising minority coaches.

If it's time to stop thinking of black coaches distinctly from any others, then this piece should never have been published or written for that matter.

OK, it really should never have been written, because Smith clearly has an axe to grind and it results in shoddy journalism.
"At this point, frankly, anyone who isn't completely color-blind is blind, deaf and dumb."
True enough, but perhaps you could have found a more professional way to make your point.

Smith starts by straight up touting the accomplishments of Lovie Smith, Tony Dungy, and Marvin Smith. No complaint here. Saying that these are the three best coaches in the NFL may be a minor stretch. But they are all doing amazing things this season and without a doubt all three are in the top 6-8. I'd have no problem making Lewis #1, and Smith 2 or 3. I have no problem with the job Tony Dungy is doing. It's just that with his stacked team, is he making as much of a difference as say, Mike Holmgren in Seattle?

But I digress. About five paragraphs in, Smith points out that he hasn't pointed out that all three are black, and it all falls apart from there. Smith touts the accomplishments of other black head coaches, including Dennis Green, now with the Arizona Cardinals:
"Look at what Romeo Crennel is doing with the Browns, what Dennis Green will (eventually, let's hope) do in Arizona."
Why? Why would we hope that Green will do well any more than we'd hope Jon Gruden will do well, or Joe Gibbs will do well, or Mike Tice, etc., etc. OK, I guess if you want to go Pollyana we could just wish that they'd all do well and we could live happily ever after with all 32 teams having 8-8 records and just agreeing to split the Lombardi Trophy. That isn't going to happen. There's no shame in admitting a coach isn't doing well in Arizona. Arizona is perpetually terrible. Don't put it on the coach. Besides, why work so hard at using Arizona to bolster Green's case when his Viking resume stands alone as a testament to the man's outstanding coaching ability.

The point is, singling out Dennis Green to say, "let's hope he will do well," is just the kind of racism that Smith says should have already completely disappeared. Or maybe Smith is blind, deaf and dumb. I don't know. I didn't check his bio.

His concluding paragraphs argue that teams should not be following the minority hiring rules just to avoid a fine. They should want to interview minority candidates. Here again, true enough. Mind you, Smith doesn't go anywhere near proposing that the rules be done away with, or that there be no fines.

"It'd be a shame to hear or read about some franchise interviewing a minority simply to comply with the rules."
But you will hear or read about them. There will be gnashing of teeth from the peanut gallery. Why? Because Smith and the like will be watching like a hawk, counting the interviews, and tossing out the names of equally good coaches that could have been hired if and when a team chooses a white coach, but not if and when they choose a minority coach.

When we think of racism, the blatant, egregious examples come to mind. But, there are many more subtle ways to perpetuate the race problem. Smith's piece was exhibit A.


I dodged a major bullet with my dentist today. They vm'ed me yesterday to confirm my appointment for today. Yikes! I had failed to put it in on my calendar.

This is not like forgetting about a meeting where you can real quick study up, or bluff your way through it. No. A dentist appointment requires a minimum of one week, and preferably two weeks of preparation. You can't fake flossing.

They always know. You floss the day of the appointment, of course, but they know.

And they ask. You try to work around it ... "Well, sometimes it's a little hit and miss, but I try to keep up with my flossing ... I, uhhh, you know, sometimes sporadic, uhhh ...," but you start to melt under the gaze of that light that doesn't seem very bright but it must be if the dentist uses it, and finally they break you. "Oh alllrigghhhttt! Before this morning I hadn't flossed in six months! In fact I still have the same thing of floss that I had when I moved into my place, OK. There. I admit it. I don't floss my teeth very much!"

They scold you ... the same way they scolded you when you were five and first coming to the dentist. As you wiggle and strain against gravity, "Why is this chair that seems about to tip over when I first sit down so difficult to get out of!?" she's packing your new, shiny red toothbrush and mini tube of toothpaste in a little plastic bag with a smiling tooth on it. Ashamed, you stare at the puppy dogs and balloons on her teal smock as she pats you on the head and sends you on your way. It's all so very humiliating.

But, get a week or two of daily flossing under your belt and it's all different. "Your teeth look really good. Goooood boyyyy! Have you been flossing?"

What! After flossing for two weeks I'm still getting the third degree? Wait a minute. They're suspicious but they've got nothing to go on. I know how this works. I watch Law and Order - Criminal Intent for crying out loud. If they don't coax a confession out of me, or get a witness to roll (and my dogs won't narc out the hand that feeds them), they can't pin the crime on me. "Sorry, my teal-smocked sister. Eerie light or no, I'm not playing ball, so you can just cut me loose right now."

Smugly you watch as she adds a "good job" bullet to your dental resume. And then ... she packs your new, shiny red toothbrush and mini tube of toothpaste in a little plastic bag with a smiling tooth on it, pats you on the head and sends you on your way. Let's face it, at the dentist you're always 5.

So anyway, I begged another week out of them. I'll cop to being unable to keep up my calendar before I'll take the heat for not flossing!

-- B --

I'm totally loving the Dilbert Blog (see yesterday's entry). Right now I'm culling the archives and getting caught up.

Also, Christmas Hell continues. Today we have a modern, jazzy, souped up version of the Hallelujah Chorus. We've crossed from simple poor taste and annoyance to near blashphemy.



I am in Christmas hell right now. One of the ladies in the office brought in a Christmas CD that she purchased over the weekend - kids singing Christmas songs. Around about the time we hit the second CD I was about to request that we turn it down a bit when my boss said, "I love hearing kids singing at Christmas." Yup, she's a girl too. Then the owner of the CD's said, "Yeah, I got it over the weekend. What the heck, it was only $9.99, and for 100 songs that was a deal." ONE HUNDRED!!

Not as bad as it sounds ... every song is performed at 10x its normal pace, so we should be able to get through all 100 in just over 20 minutes, except that we've been stuck on the second CD for going on three hours now.

Hmmm ... I wonder what kind of force would be required for me to drive my own head through the monitor screen? Would it hurt more or less than "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire" sung by a flock of girl scouts at 250 bpm?

In two months we'll move to the new place, I'll have my own office which, I understand, is equipped with a door which, I understand, can be closed. That's the long term fix. In the short term, as luck would have it, I remember that Rob Zombie is queued up on my shuffle, which would definitely equalize things, so I may need to take a music break.

Still, if I should run a school bus off the road on the way to volleyball tonight, you'll know that I was finally overcome by holiday "cheer."

Disclaimer: My original title for this post and some comments were a little more pointed, but I en-vagued certain parts a bit. People understandably take such matters pretty seriously these days. I don't own a gun. It would never cross my mind to go on a workplace or any other place shooting rampage. I don't have the equivalent of a WWII Nazi Bombenwerks in my basement (not like some people's kids). In fact I don't even have a basement, or even a dead body-sized crawlspace. I realize that my neighbors would probably describe me as a "nice young man who keeps to himself a lot," which means I fit the profile of a serial killer or psycho domestic terrorist to a "T." I am none of these things. Regarding any hints that I might do something untoward ... I was just kidding!

Oh Good Lord! As I understand it, Silent Night is supposed to be more towards, er, Silent!


It's been a while since I've had time to browse my existing blogroll at Bloglines, much less follow links and check out new blogs.

Today I ran across a couple of good ones:

CATO Unbound is the CATO Institute's entry into the blogosphere. Really, does anything else need to be said? I'm a big CATO fan, and if today's installment is any indication, this one is going to be a winner. In their own words, this is how Unbound will work:
Each month, Cato Unbound will present an essay on a big-picture topic by one of the world’s leading thinkers. The ideas in that essay will then be tested by the comments and criticism of equally eminent thinkers, each of whom will respond to the month’s lead essay and then to one another. The idea is to create a hub for wide-ranging, open-ended conversation, where ideas will be advanced, challenged, and refined in public view.
Great concept IMO!

Slightly less highbrow, but just as much of a hit is The Dilbert Blog. Scott Adams brings the sense of workplace humor that made Dilbert a hit to blog form and nothing is lost in the translation. I hate it when people say stuff like this, but it really is "laugh out loud" funny.

And this isn't new, but I ran across Scott's blog as I was getting i-Disciple back into gear.


OK, so they've been pretty pushy. Time to push back to slow them down some as the results of this email may fire them up. They are needing a phone number. What they are unaware of is that, from time to time the phone lines in Avery's office building get crossed up. How these things happen, I don't know. At this moment, even Avery is unaware that the problem has flared back up. Oh well. It'll all work out eventually. Time to feed them ...
Kathy and Chris (if you even exist),

What sort of rinky-tonk operation is this? I tried calling the number you provided and I keep getting a message saying that I need to deposit three more clarchbars or whatever your coins are called. I just remember that it sounded funny. Then I found out that Kathys e-mail address has been disconnected. Granted she provided a new one, but who ever heard of a respectable business partner changing emails every day? I mean, you both seem like decent folks, and I am moved by your story, but you have to admit, this seems a little shifty. When you think about it, how do I even know that Kathy Olds exists?

Anyway, I trust you'll send me reassurances on that matter. Also, sorry you could not be of help with the mechanical pencil question. I wound up having to right with candle ashes.

OK, so on to business. First, do you really think a trip to Johannesburg will be necessary? Not that Im opposed to it or anything. Ive always wanted to see the Dark Continent. Its just that travel at this time of year is such a pain, and my schedule is crazy. Please advise on this soon so I can get my secretary working on travel arrangements if needed.

My apologies on the great oversight I have committed in not providing my phone number. Here I am lecturing you on respectability when I've been withholding information. My cell phone is in the shop right now so here's my office number: (202)224-****. I'll have to apologize in advance for my secretary. She has a heart of gold, but she comes off as a little gruff at times. Don't take it personally, that's just her way. She's a little hard of hearing so talk loud and if she gives you a hard time just tell her you need to talk to me about "Swiftboat." That's my code for our project. She doesn't know what it is just that it's important to me. If Herve answers the phone, he doesnt know much English so talk slow and loud. Same deal, though. Just tell him, "Swiftboat" and hell put you right through.

OK, so there we go. I'm waiting to hear from you on the advisability of a trip to your land. And we'll start working on the details.


Avery Lunch

P.S. Ive been meaning to compliment the both of you on your mastery of our language. Have you traveled in America much?
Ummm ... the phone number I gave them is John Kerry's office number in Washington. And I sent this out over the weekend so they should be giving it a whirl today. If you want a little smile, just picture someone calling up the Kerry office speaking loud, broken English and asking to talk about "Swiftboat." Hmmm ... a Scammer and a Democrat with one stone.


Well, Avery's brief contact didn't do much to cool their heels. They fired back as impatient as ever, when Avery's note finally got through to the correct address. He's going to have to start making with some information and plans for a trip to South Africa. That should be fun, I mean, we've faked Europe, I guess we can do Africa too. Kathy and Chris' urgencies ...
Dear Avery Lunch,

I have forwarded your mail to my sister, but from all you seem to be talking something we do not understand or know. But why did you refuse to send your telephone number to us or call us as you were directed. However, we are still waiting for your response to our detailed mail we sent to you. Have a nice day.

Never heard of the Landed Gentry Brethren!? I'm hurt. Here I thought we were becoming sort of mainstream. So, they want a phone number, hey ...
Dear Mr Lunch,

I got your brief mail from chris. Please send all your mails to me to this email account and for reasons of responding back to you quicker, i will advise you correspond with chris as that will be faster because i dont always go to the inernet because of my health. Let me have your response to the detailed mail chris sent to you.We also need your telephone number so that we can discuss this faster and get all concluded.

Aaaahhh yes. Couldn't use the internet because of health concerns. Why didn't I think of that one!?


So, Kathy and Chris were getting impatient. Time was of the essence for them. This next email, sent to Kathy bounced back - her email addy had been closed down. Luckily I had Chris' email as well, so I was able to also send it to him. It's always nice when things like that happen. Whenever they start getting pushy, you can push right back and pretend that you might be starting to get cold feet. They want to close the deal in a hurry, but what they definitely don't want is to let you off the hook. Anyway, after a few days of silence, Avery re-emerges ...

I apologies for taking so long to get back to you. This is a crazy time of year. I should have alerted you that I am of the Landed Gentry Brethren faith. We are very traditional and seek to assist God in returning the world to its pre-16th century condition. Each year we ring in the Season of Piggish Decadence (our version of Advent) by living for one week without the benefit of any device invented or discovered after the year 1600. We are very devout and I'd love to tell you more of my faith some day if you are interested. Perhaps when we've smuggled you and your money out of Africa we can discuss this over lunch.

As for the matter at hand, again my apologies for the delay. I shall respond to your previous e-mails shortly, but it looks like we're a go for this venture!


Avery Lunch

P.S. Do you know, off hand, when the mechanical pencil was invented?

Honestly, it was Thanksgiving weekend and I didn't have a lot of time for this, so I was just trying to keep them in place.


Who was Jack the Ripper? Did Lizzie Borden kill her parents, and if so, why? Did the Lindbergh kidnapper have inside help? Who kidnapped JonBenet? My current read, The Cases That Haunt Us, by John Douglas, the father of the FBI's profiling program, doesn't claim to definitively answer these questions, but it does explore them in depth and offers up some interesting insights.

So far I've read through the Lindbergh case.

Douglas lays out each crime, the evidence, the trial and the historical investigative work. Then, to the best of his ability, he applies his own profiling skills to the investigation and also describes how he might go about sealing the case. For example, in both the Borden murders and the Lindbergh kidnapping there was a mountain of circumstantial evidence pointing to LIzzie Borden and the German carpenter. But the cases confound experts to this day because each lacked that one final lynchpin; a credible eyewitness or a reasonable confession; that would remove doubt and bring closure. Douglas describes the techniques he would have used in questioning suspects and witnesses to bring about a confessionl

It may sound like hocus pocus, but from some of Douglas' other readings, the techniques work. Obviously a murder case is life and death for the suspect - you wouldn't think the suspect would volunteer anything if they had a chance of getting off. But in one case, simply by having the murder weapon conspicuously placed in the room made the suspect come so unglued that they gave up the whole case. In a couple of the cases so far in this book, Douglas explains how he would, rather than trying to elicit a confession head on, take the suspect on a side track, and get them to start discussing some of the more emotional particulars of their motive and then ease them back toward the crime. The approach depends on the personality of the suspect and the nature of the crime. Fascinating stuff.

Cases That Haunt differs from some of Douglas' other writings in that the crimes are outilned less graphically. There is still a lot of detail, but it is presented in a more clinical manner. Maybe it's because he didn't work these directly, or maybe because his aim is a little different. The first Douglas book I read was his first, Mindhunter, which is pretty much a catalog of some of Douglas' most horrific cases, and he spares nothing. This one is engrossing, but it's only for the strong. It took me days to get rid of that queasy feeling, and even now, occasionally something will come back to me.

If nothing else, I learned a lot about the cases that I didn't know. For one, I'd never even heard of LIzzie Borden. Jack the Ripper and Lindbergh I vaguely knew of, but that's about all.

In Douglas' books I am most interested in the profiling techniques. From seemingly irrelevant data collected at the crime scenes, things I would never even consider useful clues, the FBI was able to put together a profile of Ted Bundy right down to the kind of vehicle he drove. Mindhunter was light on this kind of thing, and at the time I had just assumed he didn't want to educate prospective serial criminals. Cases, however, gets into a lot of more of the profiling techniques. As if to rebut those who would accuse him of developing a how to, or perhaps a how not to for violent criminals, Douglas offers this:
"... let me assure you in the plainest terms that any individual who thinks he or she can outsmart the law that way will make so many behavioral errors, leave so many other inadvertant behavioral clues in the commission of the crime and its aftermath, it will be easier rather than more difficult for us to crack the case.

It's a great read if you're up for it.

It's a great read, but a word of caution to those who are interested: This is a book is a "don't want to put it down" grabber. But, with all the detail, you must put it down from time to time or quit your job.


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