Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I saw today that Warren Buffett said that the economy is getting worse. Now I don't profess to be literate in the ways of the economy, nor will I ever make as much as the sage from Omaha, but, ya think? Is that like calling water wet?

My investments have dropped like a hookers pants. Unlike Warren I don't have that billion dollar safety net. I don't frankly see much in the way of relief and I am not sure anyone in government or business does either. I think that this whole recession has caught everyone off guard...can I say recession?

I think that we have played into the myth that is the Republican party. There are no short term answers, only additional questions. Cut taxes, let people keep more of the money they earn, eliminate services that the taxes pay for, drill off shore, drill on shore, won't make any difference in the short term. Not much forward thinking. Glad I didn't retire this year, but who is to say that it will be better next year or the next? See the flow? What do we pay daily for the war?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Trip to the Past

While in San Francisco, we stopped in to the press clipping bureau, where Joe spent about 50 hours a week for seven years.
Maureen's jaw dropped when she entered, as it was just like we had stepped back in time. I was looking for Bob Cratchit to step out from behind a stack of newspapers.
Now think about this. In the last 25 years, the number of newspapers has dropped precipitously. The number of regular print paper readers has dropped even more so.
The very people who use clipping bureaus have lots more media to contend with. And, that monster on the block, Google, is always out there.
There were only four people there who worked with Joe, and the place had about half as many employees. Barbara, the secretary for the last 38 years, looked the same, and amazingly had her hair out of its formerly omnipresent bun. My boss, John, sounded the same, looked like himself, but 27 years older. He no longer drives to the office, instead driving to Bart, at 5:45 in the morning, opening the office at 6:15. He also closes the office, just after 6 in the evening, riding home on Bart, after the rush slows down.
I was tickled to introduce Maureen to Beth, still reading after I trained her 30 years ago. I had long told my kids, students, and anybody who would listen, the story of the employee, who was very intelligent, but not a native speaker of English. I would perpetually say things like "No sweat", to me clearly meaning that the something was easy to accomplish, and then have to explain to her these colloquialisms or slang expressions. I just told Maureen that Beth was the one always asking me what those expressions meant. Fortunately, Beth laughed, remembering those times. She also remember me seriously encouraging her to return to work six weeks after her son, now a handsome young professional in southern California, was born,
Who still uses a clipping bureau? Who ever used a clipping bureau? This company has six offices, all over the country. It was founded in 1888. Amazing. How many companies have been in business 120 years, and, frankly, still doing business the same way. John told Maureen and Suzanne the story of how he used to borrow a couple computers from a company next door when some VIP or competitor was going to visit the office, just so it would appear they were not living in the past, which they not only were, and still are. Having said that, I know that they were among the earliest adopters of fax technology because one of their customers, working in Washington, DC, in a position of what is now considerable power, wanted to see what the San Francisco papers were saying about her and she wanted to see it today. You don't get to be speaker of the house without being on top of things.
Apparently quite a few people still use a clipping bureau. Several much larger, national or international clipping bureaus are still doing well. There is even one in Omaha, but it makes most of its profit from monitoring local tv newscasts.
I do remember seeing a letter from Dustin Hoffman, handwritten, to the bureau in San Francisco. I went to the file to swipe it when I left in 1981, but it was not there. John probably took it home to show his wife.
Dustin used to maintain two accounts with us, with one set of clippings being sent to himself in NYC, with the other going to his Dad in a southern California retirement community. I always thought that was cool.
So maybe not nearly as many people need clipping bureaus, but there are some out there, and they are all a bit out of date. Piles of newspapers, people cutting out the stories(no scissors here, much too slow), other people reading papers, and lots of folding, sorting and distributing. I remember when we got our first postage meter, back in the late 70s. Up until one lady retired, she was much, much faster at doing what one person with a postage machine could do. When she left, then no one was faster at weighing, sealing, and affixing postage. Although it was cool to go to the post office and buy several hundred dollars worth of postage.
I'm not sure the bureau will be there if my next visit is ten years in the future. I'm not sure it'll be there if I visit next summer, but it was a good run whenever it ends.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


We are home from the longest "vacation" we have had in probably 15 years. And it was the best since those family vacations back in the 90s.
We flew to Oakland, stayed one night near the airport there, then three nights in Napa, at what is probably the nicest place we have ever stayed. The Napa River Inn describes itself as the Historic Napa River Inn, a luxury hotel. It was very nice, with luxurious appointments, breakfast in bed, and beautiful surroundings. The last three nights we stayed in San Francisco, right outside the Lombard Street gate of the Presidio.
Our transportation was a Dodge Nitro, which will never be my favorite vehicle, but it did serve its purpose, getting us up and down the Napa Valley and then into and around San Francisco. We spent $4.70 a gallon for gas in San Francisco, a record which will unfortunately not stand for long, I'm afraid. We spent $2.50 and $3.00 an hour for parking, so our three hours at the brand new DeYoung Art Museum cost $7.50, while our five hours downtown cost $15.
Not to complain about money, though. This was a long planned and well budgeted trip.
We flew on Friday, June 6, and motored into Marin County Saturday morning, taking a quick side trip through Muir Woods, which was much like we remembered, very majestic and awe-inspiring. You find yourself whispering, being irritated at the loud children as you walk through Cathedral Grove.
We arrived in Napa, checked in, and met up with a group of about fifteen to twenty people at the Elizabeth Spencer Winery. This was the first of many places about which your humble correspondent can make no intelligent comment. Not being a connoisseur of wine myself, all of those appellations are just foreign words to me. Trust me, however. A good time was had by all.
Sunday the entire wedding party met at V. Sattui Winery, for a tour, tasting, and a gourmet picnic lunch on our dime(I wish it was a dime). OK, so there is no such thing as a gourmet picnic. Nevertheless, the food was outstanding, as was the wine at this award winning winery, named the top California winery in both 2004 and 2006.
Sunday evening Rollie's father took us to Celadon, a really gourmet restaurant located within the Napa River Inn.
The Monday night wedding was wonderful, and we were surprised to see the resort, Auberge de Soleil, featured in the Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine as we flew home. Well, it was featured when we flew west, also, but we didn't spot it until we were flying home. The photographers could not go onto the balcony/restaurant because a celebrity was eating there that night. Suzanne and Rollie's mom were hoping for Kevin Costner, who apparently is a regular, but later that night we found out it was Sandra Bullock.
Tuesday we went to San Francisco, and spent three days being tourists and visiting friends from the seventies, some of whom we hadn't seen for over 25 years.
The funniest part of the SF days was Maureen's astonishment at the steepness of the hills. She couldn't believe the stretch of Filbert Street that had steps instead of a sidewalk.
During the whole trip I kept waiting for one thing to go wrong, thinking it would most likely flight related. But we got home without a single issue of any significance. Amazing.
By the way, the t-shirt in the picture says, "Will sell husband for wine". Who thinks that is funny?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I have been thinking about posting something for a couple of weeks now, but time and energy seem to escape me. Today however I am motivated to jot down a few lines about "Change". I think its overrated.

Change, and I don't mean the physical change that you have when you get older, although that's a bit overrated also...if it just didn't end so badly. I mean the changes that occur on a daily basis, changes that you don't see because you are too busy living life until they jump up and smack you.

Some changes, like the ones where get waived by your career or the changes that dot the business books that litter the shelves of every book store in the nation are pretty noticeable. They teach you in big business that change is necessary to survive and that if you don't you will lose. They put up pictures of big waves labeled change, with captions that if you don't ride the wave you will be under it. It's all crap.

Really change is that day when you hear that the dentist you have been going to for years is retiring; shit, who will clean my teeth? The day the lady or guy who has cut your hair for years has moved to another country, crap! The day you hear your family physician start to talk about retiring and wonder how long you have before you need to have some new physician slap on the rubber gloves at your annual physical.

Today was one of those days. To start with I have a painful lower back that started after my brief three mile run yesterday and has consumed me since that time. I am living on Advil. My mood was foul and turned gray with a bout of depression when I heard that my auto mechanic had closed his shop!!

I have been going to Roger for over 15 years, although not so much over the last couple of years. I started with Roger when his shop was his garage. I guess I came to assume that Roger would always be there when my car needed help or if I just needed automotive advice. Now he is retired and I am stuck worrying about my next fix.

So change continues, but some of it I just don't like. Some is necessary, like the seasons, but generally it is overrated.