Saturday, October 4, 2008

Late Night Television.

The Phillies lost tonight, extending their playoff series at least one more game into Sunday afternoon. For the most part, I don't watch local news, but I admit to being fascinated when it comes to things like sports. Generally, it's relegated to the last 15 minutes. When a team is closing in on a championship their perspective changes and the story becomes the lead. It's sad to watch people who, 11 months out of the year couldn't tell you who the left fielder was all of a sudden make the baseball team the most important part of their lives.
On Fox 29, someone named Nefertiti Jaquez (that's right, her name is Nefertiti) proclaimed that the fans are looking forward to game 4 of the Division series because if they win, it will mean that they go to the League Championship Series. That's right. It's nice to tune into local news to hear the bloody obvious. Stick to the neighborhood house fires and leave sports to the people who follow it year-round.
NBC10 sent Monique Braxton to Chickie's and Pete's to interview local drunks as to their viewpoints on the loss tonight. Needless to say, much insight was gained from people who started drinking at 5pm and watched a game on a screen accompanied by screaming people and low volume. They called their little local report Phillies Phever, as though the extra ph made it look like Philadelphia. Note: It's still alliteration if you spell it correctly.
Meanwhile, John Clark was in Milwaukee because we can't live without a local reporter in Milwaukee - nodding his head and making obvious viewpoints seem like rocket science. Good job, John.
Over at Action News, it was over-dramatized as "Chasing a Championship", and weekend sports guy Keith Russell told us that "Milwaukee is the beer capital, but it was a sobering night for the Phillies." Thanks. Who is writing your copy? He's difficult to listen to, because everything he says seems more important than it really is, meaning that nothing he says is important. Calm down. It's sports, dude. He talks as though he WRITES HIS COPY IN CAPITAL LETTERS. It's probably something he learned in broadcasting school, if he went to broadcasting school.
Meanwhile, Saturday Night Live led off with another Sarah Palin sketch with once departed cast member Tina Fey as Palin. That meant that, at 11:41 it was safe to turn off the TV, just as you have for the last 10 years.
My cable bill is 65 bucks a month.

Friday, October 3, 2008

This blog post will exceed your expectations.

CNN conducted a national poll and found that Senator Biden won the vice presidential debate, but that Governor Palin "exceeded expectations." CNN also found that Palin topped Biden on likability, but Biden was viewed to be more qualified for the job.
Exceeded expectations? What does that mean? If the people they surveyed thought she was going to stammer and fall down or crap her pants and she doesn't, she exceeded their expectations. I can only presume that most Americans think she's a boob (pun) and watched the debate to see her implode. Sorry that didn't happen, but it would have made great TV.
Clearly, voters want to know. After the debate, searches spiked on "who won the vice presidential debate" and "who is the vp debate winner." The Buzz contains a slew of analysis pieces on who came out on top, but like everything else in politics, the answer depends on who you ask.
Why would someone who watched the debate do a web search to see who won? Survey says: People are incapable of making up their own minds.
I was at home today and in a brain-dead moment, I turned on The Price is Right. It's fascinating to me to watch contestants staring out at the audience for a clue as to whether the price of the "brand new car" is $17,345 or $17,355. Can the people in the audience honestly tell the price of the car within ten dollars? Make up your own mind. I suppose they look out there because the producers tell them to, plus it gives them someone to blame when they go home empty-handed. How can they be expected to concentrate on the game with all that screaming?
Last night's Phillies game set an all-time attendance record for Citizen's Bank Ballpark. 46,208 people crammed into a ballpark that lists its capacity at 43,647. They had 50 sell-out's this season and the attendance figure was different for every one. What's a sell-out and what does capacity mean? Tell me, then we'll both know.
They passed that government bailout bill today. They changed it from a "bailout" to a "rescue" because rescuing something sounds a lot more positive than bailing them out. A bailout suggests that we're giving them something, and a rescue sounds like we're saving them - which is much better. We're all about semantics here in the U.S.A.
It will be partly sunny tomorrow because that sounds better than partly cloudy.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October baseball.

We don't get many chances to gloat around here, so forgive me while I gloat.
Our Phillies have a two games to none lead over the heretofore pathetic Milwaukee Brewers in a best-of-five series that appears to be all over but the shouting.
Last night we were doing the shouting as the heretofore hailed Ace of Baseball CC Sabathia (the CC stands for Can't Compete) was supposed to come in and shut down the Phillies because - well - he's CC Sabathia. What we found out, to the chagrin of the Brewers, was that Sabathia is not only human but worn out and rag-armed.
One of the many good things about being in a playoff series against the Brewers is that there are precious little Brewers fans in the ballpark to ruin the fun. In this case however, it would have been nice to run into a few. It took a chance encounter in a local pub after the game to find two of them.
"It isn't over," they told me. To which I replied, "Please - stop. It's over." They're two games down in a five game series and their (supposedly) best pitcher is done.
I wanted some time to gloat.

What I'll be doing while you're doing what you'll be doing.

You have no idea (or little idea) how interesting this blogging thing is. Not only did I receive a page hit (or three) over yesterday's post, I also received a hit from my buddies at Widener University - even though I'm not paying them anymore - over the mere fact that I earned a big-time degree at their fine institution.
The sad part is that I probably won't be around to witness the excitement when the A'hole commenter returns to see the fruit of his labor. Shame.
However, the reason I won't be around is good. The Phillies are in the National League divisional playoffs and yours truly (me) will be at the game on Thursday night. What gives me pause is the fact that I will not be around to watch the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah (ahem) Palin.
I happen to be in the Rachel Maddow camp when I say that I believe that Sarah is in a no-lose situation, much the same as a kid in T-Ball. Anything in fair territory is going to be viewed as a success, and anything that Sarah says that isn't a total catastrophe is going to be viewed as an "Atta-Girl" moment and Palin is going to be spun as the 'winner' of the debate, results notwithstanding. As long as she doesn't fall over the podium or lose a bra strap, she'll be the "way to go, Sarah" girl and viewed in the same light as the geeky kid who hits a hard foul ball. Almost will be good enough.
So, I'm going to be beholden to the newspapers and TV (God help me) to give me guidance as to what actually happened.
I will be at game two of the Phillies/Brewers Divisional series, hoping that Brett Myers can somehow overcome his recent shortcomings and bring the Phils one game closer to the championship series. Last year they lost the divisional series in three games, so Wednesday's win was a big plus.
Meanwhile, I'm expecting to read about the T-Ball Sarah Palin being a "winner" on Thursday night. Don't let her flashy performance fool you. She might come out in a low-cut top revealing some VP cleavage, but it doesn't detract from the fact that she is a total fraud and needs to be exposed by a clever debater - [enter Joe Biden] - if he has the guts.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

You can't please everybody.

There is a Comcast Internet customer in or near Toms River, NJ who thinks I resemble a generally unseen portion of the human body.
It could be an animal's body, but I think, as it is usually applied, it refers to a portion of human anatomy.
I was puzzled at first, because I usually forget what I write (which makes reading my own blog more enjoyable) and because the reference was to a post I ran on June 25, 2006. So, I can be excused for not remembering it until I clicked on the link and re-read it. I was highly entertained.
Strangely, I get several page hits over the name of Sherry McGoldrick, presumably from trial lawyers who would like to represent her in her odd little incident at a Phillies game two years ago.
The anonymous respondent, who refers to me in the third orifice, believes that my chastising Ms. McGoldrick was slightly out of line, or so I assume. (pun)
However, if one flips their game ticket over, it specifically states that the team bears no responsibility over the random launching of bats or balls into the stands. In fact, a public address announcement precedes every game, telling fans that if they fear the random flight of a bat or ball, they can seek out the nearest usher and request that they leave the ballpark. Of course, the alternative is to pay attention to the game, which is the reason why the anonymous commenter refers to me in that manner.
So, with our Phillies headed into the post-season, here's a little reminder for all of you within batted ball distance ... Pay attention.
In the words of public address announcer Dan Baker, "Thank you, and enjoy the ballgame!"

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Your future is on sale. Stock up.

The chart above shows the value of the Standard & Poor's 500 from 1980 to today
As a frame of reference, I'll tell you that I have a bachelor's degree in accounting from Widener University. Just so you know.
Over the past couple of days much hand wringing and teeth gnashing has been going on over the wild fluctuations in the U.S. stock market, brought about by the collapse of several banks and brokerages.
The chart above shows the value of the S & P 500 from January 1, 2008 until today.
When viewed on the short term, the thing looks like a train wreck, and your money is worth about 24% less than it was at the beginning of the year. Starting in 1994 however, you have an entirely different viewpoint.
The Standard & Poor's index has a wild history. From 1994 to 1999, the S & P gained an average of 24.1% per year. In 2001 it lost 11.9% and in 2002 it lost 22.1%. The following two years would see it gain 28.9% and 10.8%, and 5%, 16% and 5% the next three. Investors who bought during the mid-1990s and sold the index in the early part of the 21st century are probably still trying to make up the gains of those next 5 years. That's why market timing is gambling and something called dollar-cost averaging works. It isn't rocket science, folks - as much as some people on TV try to make you believe it is. It's called an average for a reason.
What it is generally about is patience and persistence.
Most small investors run to the Internet or the newspaper stock page and check the value of their stocks every day. Do those same people check the value of their home every day? No. Generally, the only way people know the value of their home is when they try to sell it. Otherwise, they're happy to have the roof and floor and don't consider the value much.
Short-term fluctuations are normal. You'll hear some gloom and doom forecasts about a market collapse worse than The Great Depression and probably hear some of your friends and co-workers talking about moving their 401(k) money from stocks to cash. That's a secure move, but at an interest rate of about 1.5 percent it isn't going to be worth the taxes you'd pay on the interest if you withdrew it.
It's a shame if you're set to retire in a month and were ready to cash-out the big bundle you've saved over the past 10 years, but that's a small percentage of investors, and generally you're going to live a lot longer than your retirement age, so pulling out of the market when you retire isn't always the best decision either.
So, look on the bright side for a change. If you're still tossing money into your retirement fund, consider upping the percentage of your contribution. Stocks are on sale. And don't mess around much with specialty mutual funds and other junk. It's all about the index. Mutual funds compare their performance to the S & P 500 index for a good reason - because generally, it's the best way to invest.
If the market totally tanks and we are indeed headed for another Depression, the least of your worries will be the value of your stock portfolio, believe me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


WASHINGTON - Congressional leaders and the White House agreed Sunday to a $700 billion rescue of the ailing financial industry after lawmakers insisted on sharing spending controls with the Bush administration. The biggest U.S. bailout in history won the tentative support of both presidential candidates and goes to the House for a vote Monday.
So let me see if I have this straight - because I think I do.
A while ago, Congress debated ad nauseam over a stimulus payment to taxpayers that amounted to anywhere from $300 per person to $600, plus $300 for each dependent child. Eventually, they gave it to us, but some had to wait much longer than what was scheduled, and some payments were sent to the wrong people.
Over the past couple of weeks, Congress debated (over a much shorter period) over a much larger amount of money - roughly $2,000 for each man, woman and child alive in the United States and $6,500 per family. None of the candidates for president suspended their campaign to debate the stimulus payment, but John McCain suspended his to attend the debates over the money for the failed brokerages. That should tell you who is really running this country.
"This is the bottom line: If we do not do this, the trauma, the chaos and the disruption to everyday Americans' lives will be overwhelming, and that's a price we can't afford to risk paying," Sen. Judd Gregg, the chief Senate Republican in the talks, told The Associated Press. "I do think we'll be able to pass it, and it will be a bipartisan vote."
Gregg probably didn't say the same thing over the stimulus payment. The one he voted no on. The one that was intended to help what he calls "everyday Americans". Aren't we all Americans every day?
Does anyone besides me think that our priorities are out of whack? I know it's important, but is it necessary for the government to get involved in bailing out banks and brokerages?
They can hardly run the government, let alone a banking business.
Sold to American taxpayers for up to $700 billion: an unprecedented plan to buy distressed banks' least desirable mortgage assets.
What started as a fairly simple three-page proposal giving the Treasury Secretary unchecked power to orchestrate a bailout of the country's financial system ended up as a complex rescue package, with enhanced congressional oversight, some added protections for taxpayers and a slap on the wrist to highly paid, underperforming executives.
The ultimate goal of the plan remains the same: buy bad mortgage-related bets from weakened financial companies so they can raise fresh capital and resume normal lending operations to businesses, municipalities and consumers
Oh, you mean the same "normal lending operations" that got them into this mess, right?
If someone asked you, would you give $2,000 to buy into a bad loan? No. You probably wouldn't co-sign for an auto loan for your kids, let alone a bad half-million dollar mortgage for some deadbeat you don't know. Our representatives think we're stupid enough to believe this nonsense under the guise of helping our economy.
All it does is give bad business a hand and reward poor decisions.