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December 30, 2011

mike jacobs and the fat shirtless guy

Hey there, last one of the year for The Awl, up today, concerning my favorite baseball anecdote ever, and Brooklyn.  This would be concerning the Cyclones, naturally, and the good old days of Party Marty and "Who wants a pizza?"

And for more info on Party Marty, long gone from the organization (did I hear he joined the NYPD?), check this 2002 story on the eating habits of a Party Marty.

And as always: thanks for reading.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:29 PM

stross on retailing

I've been boring my friends yammering on about how retail as we know it, as we grew up with, is soon to be as distant a memory as that of soda fountains and five and dimes, thanks to the simultaneous rise of the etailer and the big box store, both of whom crush all competition with their economies of scale and utter ubiquity.  Probably this makes me a bad friend, but I've got to bore them with something.

But if you find this topic interesting, then I recommend reading this post by author Charles Stross, wherein he wade into the truly deep weeds of how the Internet is affecting retailing, through the transparency of price comparisons and through algorithmic pricing of goods and services.  Nothing real sexy in there for me to pullquote, but it is smart and engrossing and much less boring than I am.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:21 AM

December 29, 2011

have some uplift

Here's an embarrassing but uplifting little thing that happened to me.

So I get little checks from time to time from a second job.  The day job, well that's direct deposit, but the other thing, actual paper checks.  So a couple weeks ago one of these came in the mail, and after work I was running errands around the city, and in between errands I'm looking for a place to deposit the check — maybe one of the Chase ATMs that are in drugstores?  No, they don't take deposits, so maybe the one by the train station when I get home?

Ultimately, I decide to wait until the next day, but when the next day comes, the check is nowhere to be found.  I keep a lot of newspaper and other reading materials in the messenger bag and sometimes throw them in the trash on the subway platforms when I'm done, so I figured that I somehow got the check stuck in a suduko somehow and then tossed it.  It's not a big check, so I'm not freaking out, but I would rather have the money than not have the money, so I make a mental note to let the person issuing the check know, and start concocting some story that's a lot more interesting than, "I lost it," partly to save face and partly because it's more fun.

So naturally I just plain never told them.  Maybe after the New Year, I told myself.  And then coming home from the holiday vacation, there is a funny envelope in the mailbox, with a hand-written address and a local postmark.  It looked sketchy, and the mailbox generally only brings bad news.

But no: it was the check!  Some good Samaritan found the check and mailed it to me — no return address and no note.

So anonymous person who mailed me that check that you found God knows where: thank you for that.  You are Exhibit A that the world is awesome.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:23 PM

gail collins; pizza ranch

One thing to be thankful for as this year skids to an end is Gail Collins.  She's a reporter who's been seconded to the NYT op-ed page, where she has demonstrated a certain amount of grace, an abundance of wit, and the knack to speak about the unspoken, as demonstrated in this morning's column concerning the Iowa caucuses and their irrelevance:
Maybe the [turnout of Iowa] Republicans will hit 150,000! That is about the same number of people in Pomona, Calif. Imagine your reaction to seeing a story saying that a plurality of people in Pomona, Calif., thought Newt Gingrich would be the best G.O.P. presidential candidate. Would you say, “Wow! I guess Newt is now the de facto front-runner?” Possibly not.

She jams in at least two or three keepers like that per column (and I'm not even counting references to Mitt Romney's roof-dog).  So yes, go read Gail Collins, always read Gail Collins.

(Also, from the column linked above I learned that there is a Christian Iowa-based restaurant chain called Pizza Ranch.  Originally I thought Collins was joking, as "Christian Iowa-based restaurant chain" is better than most punchlines these days.  But no, she was not, there is such a thing, and it's very Christ-y, and is not the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.  But how is the pizza?  I dunno; I did ask my friend from Iowa though.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:31 AM

December 28, 2011

gop: push back the vote

I've been following the GOP effort to install voter ID laws in the various states they control.  It's not surprising to me (a full two-thirds of Republican policy is intended to win elections as opposed to, you know, govern), but it is a bit difficult to distill into a distinct post, given the breadth of these efforts.  The hardest thing is to explain the wrongness of them.  I've been working on a poll tax analogy, but if you think about voting in America, a certain amount of cost comes into it, as citizen's time is not free, and if a voter is too enmeshed in three jobs/child care/etc., voting becomes an expensive if not impossible proposition.

Thankfully, TPM is following this one pretty close, and in a post from yesterday (concerning the Department of Justice opposing SC's voter ID law), they ran a sentence that pretty much nailed it:

“Obama’s S.C. voter ID decision shows he’s putting the 2012 election above policy by opposing efforts to protect against cheating and fraud,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote on Twitter, indirectly acknowledging that voter ID laws suppress Democratic voter turnout.

To accuse Justice of politicking by enforcing the law implicitly admits that the law has a political purpose.  So let's call these laws what they are: Push Back The Vote, which is a position that can safely be characterized as evil, here in this representative democracy.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:29 AM

December 27, 2011

gizmos and the future

OK, here's a little anecdote that I beg you not to share with my family on account of feelings that may be hurt.

So on Christmas Eve we're wrapping up the shopping, stopping into the Barnes & Noble because they are actually a container for Starbucks.  We stop in front of the (massive) Nook display.  I stand and stare at it for a good bit, then ignore the smiling Nook saleslady and skim through the brochures.  I'm not really gadget-phobic, but I like to wait a couple years on some of them because I'm not convinced I have a need for them and/or the bugs need to be worked out.  As far as books go, I like paper, so up til now there's been no need for an e-reader.

But the latest gen of e-readers are actually portable microcomputers purposed for e-reading, and easily repointed at other computing uses.  And also, B&N (whom I worked for in that obligatory post-college purgatory), even though I hates them for slowly stomping out indie bookstores across America, is one of the last things standing between brick and mortar retailing and Amazon.  So I decided that, come the new year, I was going to save some bucks up and get myself a Nook.

And then Christmas came and my family got me a Kindle.

Now I love that little Kindle and will use every last ounce of it.  I will be caught up with the rest of the world as far as mobile computing goes.  But I still insist that our actual retailers must be supported, and for the first time, I'm including Barnes & Noble on that list — yes, they are evilish, but the world will be worse without them, in the same sense that if you grow up in a community without one of the remaining indie record shops you are forced to go to a big box to actually hold in your hands the music you may buy, which will surely not include any local or imported or independent labels.

But the world is a complicated place and the stands we make are elastic in as much as they are contingent on things that happen in the real world.

This lesson I learned is a squishy one.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:18 AM

December 25, 2011

merry christmas

I'm having a Merry Christmas, and I hope you are too, unless you are the sort that does not believe in Christmas, in which case: neither do I, really, but it's the one time of year I see my family, but we can keep it to ourselves, yes?  Whatever.  It's largely a paid day off, and that's the reason for the season.

Be safe, get lot's of presents, keep makin' the good spaghetti, etc.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:40 AM