Monday, December 31, 2001

Here's another way to look at 2001: If, one year ago, you had invested $1,000 in Enron stock, today your investment would be worth $7.43. If, instead, you had invested that $1,000 in Budweiser (not Anheiser-Busch stock, but just 12-packs of Budweiser beer), today your investment would be worth $14.68 when you turned in the empties.

Repeated here, for the benefit of those who missed it the first time, is my favorite joke of the year:
Q: How do you get the dot-com CEO off your front porch?

A: Pay him for the pizza!
Here's a look at the actual list and results of Silicon Valley IPOs for 2001.

Live, from Silicon Valley, this is Ken, saying, "Good night. Happy New Year. And Buy Beer!"

Sunday, December 30, 2001

I suppose it's about that time for a year-in-review type post where I get all serious about my accomplishments (or lack thereof) over the past twelve months, and my good good intentions to do something more positive in the coming twelve months.

2001 was an interesting year indeed. On the personal side, I was fully employed for about five months (two at the start, three at the end), sort-of working (part time, as an "independent consultant") for about five months (in the middle), punctuated by about two months of no work at all.

On the public side, well, hell, I'm sure you've heard about what happened on September 11 and the ensuing war by now. That pretty much obscures just about anything else that may have happened, although I seem to remember something about the year starting with the Supreme Court picking a new puppet president, but it's all kind of foggy right now.

I was at the chiropractor a couple of days ago (yeah, I threw my back out again) and he asked if I had any resolutions for the new year. I hadn't really thought about it, but off the top of my head I said, "Try to remain employed." It seemed like that would require enough effort - no point in getting it mixed up with a bunch of other stupid resolutions about losing weight, getting rich, or finding the key to inner peace and happiness.

The next day I saw an article someplace (I don't recall where, sorry) about how detrimental new year's resolutions really are - far worse than the vices they're designed to rid us of. The reason is simple: holidays are stressful, change is stressful - only a friggin' moron would try to combine the two and expect miracles overnight. Then there were some statistics on kept resolutions and broken ones and, frankly, your resolutions don't stand a fighting chance.

The article was a little nicer about it than that, but the message was the same: making resolutions you know you can't keep is guaranteed to lower your self-esteem when you fail, which you will, which will make it even harder for you to [loose weight, get rich, find the key to inner peace and happiness, etc.] when you do get around to it.

So, no other resolutions for me. Just, "Try to remain employed." "Try" being the key word.

Of course, I have one or two other goals in mind - but I'm not going to make big-deal resolutions out of them, or be foolish enough to announce them publicly here before I'm sure I can pull them off. You'll just have to keep reading my blog through 2002 to find out if I'm successful.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Damn. And they didn't even give me a gold watch! Oh, I guess I should let you know, I'm no longer a "contributing editor" to This time it was their decision, not mine.

This email I just sent off to the almighty should explain it all:

Hi Jason:

I've been going crazy the last couple of days trying to figure out where you moved the "edit my topic" functions. This morning, on the homepage of my topic, I noticed this fine-print at the top, "this topic has been retired."

I think it would have been polite of you to notify me of my retirement, and maybe even to explain why and give me a chance to correct any problems. Just dumping somebody without telling them is really not a good way to build good community relations.

If you could possibly take a moment to let me know why I'm no longer welcome at Suite101, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,

Ken Goldstein
former editor:

Friday, December 28, 2001

This morning I've done a bit of housekeeping on my web site, cleaned up a few links and such. The biggest change you'll see is several "new" articles added to the politics section. These are mostly stuff that was originally posted in my Suite101 column, but are now available on my site (quicker loading too!).

Check 'em out here...

Thursday, December 27, 2001

New Weapon in War on Karaoke -- Tanks
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (Reuters) - Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has launched a stern crackdown on Cambodia's nightlife, unveiled a new punishment Wednesday for rogue karaoke bars -- destruction by tanks.

"If we know of any karaoke parlor still open, go to close it immediately and take tanks to knock it down," Hun Sen told a military commander during a speech broadcast on state radio...

read the rest of the story (Yahoo! News)
All I can say is, it's about damn time!

Also in the news: Women Line Up to Exchange Unwanted Lingerie

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Those of you who celebrate Christmas probably will never understand just how odd this day is for the rest of us. It's a day off - that's good - but with nothing to do.

We wander the streets looking for any restaurant or shop that might be open, and find our towns and cities to be deserted - ghost towns. Maybe we find a movie theatre that's opened, and have a private screening of some hit film. Have you ever seen "The Omega Man?" Rent it. That's what life is like for non-Christians on Christmas day.

Usually, we find the only public place that's opened for business is Denny's, or some other national chain. Then we realize that they're only open because they don't care about giving their employees a holiday off. Which only ends up making us feel guilty about going out and expecting life to go on as usual. Sure, it's just another day to us, but it's an important religious and cultural observation to most everybody else.

I don't know what our plan is yet for today, but I'm sure it will take some variation of the above. Just in case, we are prepared with several rental movies to watch on DVD, a cheese ball, a stick of salami, a fresh loaf of sourdough, and plenty of wine. I'll speak with you again when it's all over.

And now, the news: Man Exits Bunker When Beer Thirst Overtakes Xmas Dread

"So this is Christmas, And what have you done?
War is over, If you want it." - John & Yoko

Monday, December 24, 2001

Looking at the fundamentalist Islamic extremism that led to September 11 (and its aftermath), it has been suggested that the world would be a much safer, happier, place if everybody were were agnostic. The same sentiment has been expressed before, in response to examples of fundamentalist extremism from all the worlds religions.

The point of this theory is that the promise of a better world to come (after death), is an inducement to volunteer for martyrdom. Those who are unsure of an afterlife are more inclined, according to the theory, to keep the peace, and try to get the most out of this life without risking loss of life or limb.

It's an interesting theory and, on the surface, I'm almost tempted to agree with it. If religion were truly the only "ism" to arouse such fanaticism and evil, then this would explain everything and offer a simple answer. Unfortunately, to make the theory work, it would have to be expanded to every other "ism" as well: Communism, Fascism, Imperialism, Protectionism, Expansionism, Nationalism, Patriotism, and the list goes on. People have been, and always will be, able to get worked up into war fever over any and all sorts of ideologies and beliefs.

So, for the sake of security, let's say we do expand the theory to all "ism"s. We ban the teaching of anything to believe in. No more war, but in how many other ways would this cripple us? Without anything to believe in, what would humans be? Sure, there'd be no motivation for evil, but what would motivate us to create all that's good in the world?

Better to stick with our beliefs, but beware of fanaticism and be tolerant of the beliefs of those around us. And on that note, I wish you all a Happy X-Kwanzakah.

Friday, December 21, 2001

Study Suggests Why Red Wine Does a Heart Good. Now that's a holiday present I can use!

Finally, something beyond the "French Paradox," which raised a lot of eyebrows as an unscientific excuse to drink too much - The actual identification of the precise compound that's found in red wine (not white wine, not any other alcohol) that actually reduces risk of heard disease.

This is great cause for cheer. Luckily, we have an invitation to a barrel tasting at Woodside Vineyards for tomorrow. I know we've got other errands to do as well, but this one's for my health.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

From Yahoo! News:

World's Funniest Joke Revealed After Internet Vote

LONDON (Reuters) - The world's funniest joke, voted by popular demand over the Internet, was unveiled on Wednesday by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) after an experiment lasting three months.

Famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his gruff assistant Doctor Watson pitch their tent while on a camping expedition, but in the middle of the night Holmes nudges Watson awake and questions him.

HOLMES: Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you deduce.

WATSON: I see millions of stars, and if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it is quite likely there are some planets like earth, and if there are a few planets like earth out there there might also be life.

HOLMES: Watson, you idiot! Somebody stole our tent.

The BA said the joke was the most popular among 10,000 submitted, being chosen as the best by 47 percent of the 100,000 people from more than 70 countries who took part.

The jokes can be seen, made and rated on

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

The other shoe dropped today. As I mentioned last week, I was afraid that a meeting today with our company controller would end with us having to lay off the junior member of my staff, and it did. Luckily, we were able to ease the blow slightly by giving her notice that the position will be "defunded" in mid-January and that she'll receive one week's severance pay beyond that.

I don't know if it's better to have three weeks notice that you're losing your job, or to just get it over with in one day, but at least she's got another month of income and some time to get her job search organized.

Not the most fun I've had in my two-and-a-half months with CompassPoint, but hopefully that is all the damage we'll have to sustain before the economy picks back up again.

Why are we in financial trouble? Because we provide training and consulting services to nonprofit organizations. These "armies of compassion," as Gee Dubya has been referring to charities, have never been as well-funded as our armies fighting other wars (drugs, terrorism, Clinton), and have been hit particularly hard by September 11.

What's being revealed is a fatal flaw in the 1996 Welfare Deform (not a typo) law. The premise of those "reforms" was that the growing economy would fund a vital voluntary sector that would take care of any social problems as the government got out of the caring business. Now, as program beneficiaries begin to hit their five-year life-time limits, just as the economy hits the toilet, and whatever charitable giving that's going on is all being directed towards New York... Well, you can begin to see the problem. And don't say I didn't warn you back in 1996.

Here, read more about it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

The bad news: Tom Green and Drew Barrymore have called it quits after only six months of their fairy-tale marriage. The good news: Drew is available again!

Here's a clip from a newsletter I get called TechSoup, which is about technology issues for nonprofits, but has some articles of interest to a wider audience. I think this is an interesting warning. I also highly recommend reading the article the reference in the link:

> First there was Goner, now we have Gokar. I'm sure there will be a
> new computer virus to worry about tomorrow. But all these viruses
> and worms have something in common- they attack and spread through
> standard email software and operating systems.
> It's interesting to look at viruses in the light of TechSoup's
> recent discussions and articles on alternative software. Has our
> widespread dependance on certain products made us vulnerable to
> attack? Does the convenience of standardization come at the expense
> of security? If the software we used was diversified, would it be
> more difficult for a virus to propagate?
> An interesting article on this subject was published last year on
> CNET. I invite you to have a look:
> -Sheetal Singh
> Content Manager,

Monday, December 17, 2001

This weekend we did the whirlwind family tour of Los Angeles. We flew down Saturday morning, went directly to a third birthday party for the baby of one of Leslie's cousins, we visited her grandmother, then went (with her parents) to a Hannakah party at my parents house, stayed Saturday night at my folks, and on Sunday went to see my brother's new condo before flying back late Sunday afternoon. We pack a lot in to a thirty-hour trip.

Once again, despite all the warnings, the airports were no problem at all. We got through the added security quicker than we've ever gone through the old lax security. In fact, coming home, we arrived so early, and got through security so quickly, that we were able to come home on an earlier flight than we'd scheduled. And, once again, the long-term parking lot at San Jose had large sections that were completely empty.

Maybe next weekend, closer to Christmas, it will be crazy. But this weekend was some easy traveling, judging by the San Jose and Burbank airports. Anyway, it's good to be home.

Friday, December 14, 2001

Yesterday, the staff at my office decreased by one as the layoffs started. I've been expecting something like this for a couple of weeks, and just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Surprisingly, it was not the person I expected to be laid off. It was somebody who'd been there for many years - the second longest tenure in that office. The person that I expected to be first on the list? It's looking like that will still happen sometime next week.

How does that make me feel as the new guy? A bit uneasy, sure. But these types of cut-backs are based on which positions are optional, not which people are not performing, or by strict seniority. So, I should feel lucky, and in some sense I do, that I'm in a protected position. But I feel a little guilty anyway.

As bad as I had it being unemployed and/or under-employed for most of 2001, the people being laid off now are going to have an even tougher 2002.

Here's a little statistic for you: Since September 11, over 100,000 Californians have lost their jobs. And the final, year-end numbers aren't even in yet. Yeah. A bit uneasy.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

If the world were merely seductive,
that would be easy.
If it were merely challenging,
that would be no problem.
But I arise in the morning torn between
a desire to improve the world
and a desire to enjoy the world.
That makes it hard to plan the day.
-- E.B. White --

Unfortunately, it really does feel that there is that choice some days: improve the world or enjoy it, but not both. My chosen career in the nonprofit sector is geared towards fulfilling the desire to improve the world. Lately, with this new job however, it's been getting in the way of my writing, and other pursuits to enjoy the world.

But I know that a balance can be achieved. I've achieved it in the past, and I know I can get there again: to that spot where the line between enjoying and improving blur. That's when you know you're doing something right. That's when it is no longer hard to plan the day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Another tale of the stress getting to people: A regular substitute at the school where Leslie works showed up for work the other day in dirty sweats, mismatched socks, and bedroom slippers raving about security. Her husband was called to come collect her and another substitute was assigned to cover the class. Three months later, and some folks just aren't adjusting to life in wartime as well as others.

Monday, December 10, 2001

Money may not buy you love, but it certainly can buy you a city. The final campaign spending data has been released on Mike Bloomberg's successful bid for Mayor of New York. All previous spending records were smashed by his $69 million spent - or about $92 per vote - nearly all out of his own deep pockets.

For comparison: Bloomberg's opponent, Mark Green, "only" spent $14 million to come in a close second. In 1992 Ross Perot spent a total of $62 million on his failed presidential bid. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rick Lazio combined spent $69 million in their battle for New York's Senate seat last year.

During the campaign, Bloomberg fed the media the standard rich-guy candidate line of, "If somebody wants to go out and take their own money to try to make the world a better place, I can only tell you my hat is off to them." Critics, such as Common Cause, however, contend that, "wealthy candidates fuel the campaign money race, create cynicism among the young and make it difficult for less affluent candidates to win races."

Sunday, December 09, 2001

As much as I'd like to post here every day, it just hasn't been happening lately. Partly, I blame it on work. I've been concentrating on trying to make a success of this still new job, and that has been to the exclusion of a lot of other activities.

Partly, also, I'm just sick of the war, and the recession, and most everything else going on in the world that there might be to comment on. I'm attempting to be oblivious to the shit hole the world is becoming, but it's not quite working. I'm still aware that the world is a shit hole (and a dangerous one at that), I'm just not commenting on it.

But, mostly, it's just 'cause I'm busy, man.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

The statistics are coming in: Not every sector of the economy has been slowing down this fourth quarter of 2001. The following three areas have shown tremendous growth: prescription sleeping pills, anti-depressants, and distilled spirits (booze).

And, of course, there's the following: Charities report less funding, higher need in wake of Sept. 11.

And, finally, the quote of the day: From one of the members of Destiny's Child, which has apparently decided to take a break, "You know how the Beatles broke off, they all did their solo projects and they came back together and they were even stronger." Ummh... Huh?

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

The jig is up, or at least, it's very close to being up, for Yasser Arafat. There's no question that he started out as a terrorist: the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics is what made Arafat's reputation. Twenty years later came the peace process, and there were times he seemed genuinely committed to it.

Many people, myself included, were taken in by Arafat's work towards peace and condemnation of terrorism. I was not alone in feeling he must be an extremely brave man to make such a stand and take such a bold position.

But the terrorism has not stopped. Each cease-fire has first been broken, not by Israeli missiles, but by Palestinian bombs. Arafat has claimed to be trying to quell the violence. Each time a few people are arrested by the Palestinian Authority, each time Israel says Arafat didn't do enough and goes overboard (in the eyes of much of the world) in retaliation, and each subsequent cease-fire is broken again by the PLO.

Looking at the pattern, and particularly at the events of this last few days, one must reach one of two conclusions:

Either 1) - Arafat's commitment to peace is a sham. It's been lip-service designed to increase his image outside of Palestine, with a wink to the terrorists whose work he still supports (if not actively plans).

Or 2) - He is committed to peace, but is not actually in charge of a damn thing. He's a well-meaning, but powerless old man whose title of "President" is an honorarium only. The power lies elsewhere.

Either way, his time is up. There's no point in continuing to negotiate with a man who is either a liar or a fool.

Sunday, December 02, 2001

And now the tale of my 48 hours in Tempe...

I knew about this meeting about a month ago, but it was by invitation only and I was told that there wasn't room to add me to the list. Okay, no big deal, but just in case they'd reconsider, my boss wrote the organizers a letter explaining why it would be important for me to be there. That was a month ago.

Wednesday morning I got a phone message from Arizona that I was expected at the meeting (beginning at 7:15 AM, Thursday), that I was already booked into the hotel, and that they'd reimburse me the airfare to get there. I quickly found a flight for latter that day, ran home to pack a bag, called Leslie at school to let her know I was going, ate lunch, and ran to the airport. I was checking into the hotel less than 12 hours after finding out I was going.

The Flights:

The added security measures slowed things down a bit, but not terribly. There were a few National Guardsmen with big, nasty looking machine guns, but it wasn't an overwhelming armed presence; the airports were busy enough that it was just "added security" and not a threat. I did have to show my ID three times: checking my bag, checking in at the gate, and boarding the plane. In addition to that, I needed to present my ticket going through the security checkpoint. I checked my luggage (with cell phone and all electronics packed) and only carried a paperback book to avoid potential searches and slowdowns.

Of my four flights (I had to stop in San Diego each way - no direct flights when you book at the last minute), the first was 100% full, the second was nearly empty, and the two on the way home were each about 80% full. Other than that leg from San Diego to Phoenix, it didn't seem like the airline (SouthWest) was hurting any.

One place the cut in folks flying did show was in the long-term parking lot at San Jose. I pulled in to find the whole back section nearly empty and got a spot right next to the shuttle stop.


Thursday afternoon we had a little break before dinner, so I took a little walk around downtown Tempe, which consists of about five blocks of Mill Ave. This section of town may as well be called "little California" - First thing I saw was Gordon Biersch (of Palo Alto), then there was Crocodile Cafe ("California Cuisine") and PF Chang's (Hollywood-style Chinese). The other shops and restaurants were generic America: Gap, Borders, Hooters, Z Gallerie...

I did find one local shop of used books, antiques, and tourist crap that was kind of fun. All in all, it only took about an hour to "do Tempe." It seemed like the whole neighborhood was fairly recent development. Considering the proximity to the University (a couple of blocks over), it's a district with a lot of promise if only a little more local color were added.

The most interesting thing on my walk was a conversation with the only homeless person I came across. He was selling [free] newspapers and dining advice. He called himself the "Mill Avenue Restaurant Critic" - I didn't ask how a homeless guy got to know about all the restaurants.

I wasn't looking for food (for a change), but we got to talking and I gave him $1 for the [free] paper. He asked where I was from and I said the San Jose area, to which he guessed Los Gatos. When I said yes, he joked that if I lived in Los Gatos, I could give him $2 for the paper, to which I explained that I work for a nonprofit organization.

That led to more talk - When he was married and living in New York, his wife worked for a nonprofit - Then, after he left New York, he lived in the hills between Santa Cruz and San Jose for a while, and we knew a few of the same places. Great. The person in Tempe I have the most in common with is the homeless guy; the Mill Avenue Restaurant Critic.

Beginning Friday afternoon was the big annual Tempe arts festival out on Mill Ave., and a few of us with a couple of hours to kill between the conference and our flights went to check it out. Each of the crafts dealers I got to talking to turned out to be from the Santa Cruz area. After a little milling around that, we decided our time would be better spent drinking.

We found the patio of the Bamboo Cafe (another chain) overlooking the arts fair and shared a couple of pitchers of "Cool Banana" (dark rum, bananas, banana and coconut liqueurs, orange and pineapple juices) and an appetizer sampler platter with calamari, ribs, and the second-best potstickers I've ever had (best: Brandy-Ho's, San Francisco).

And then it was back to the airport where I heard the news about George Harrison, which I wrote about yesterday. And, now, we're all up-to-date.

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Yesterday afternoon, November 30, 2001, at about 6:00 PM (Arizona time), I was walking through the Phoenix Airport ("Sky Harbor"). I'd just checked in for my flight back to San Jose, and decided to take a quick peek into the gift shop. Above the register a TV was tuned to CNN and I heard that George Harrison was dead.

Although we've known for several months that this was coming, it still shook me, the world tilting a bit of kilter, gravity failing for a moment, and I had to grab onto a shelf of knick-knacks to steady myself while I tried to breath. Slowly, I made my way back to my gate and waited to board my flight.

First thoughts are odd; mine was of the joke in Shallow Hal about a Beatles reunion (with Eric Clapton filling in for John) and how this eliminated the possibility of such a fantasy coming true. Through the flights home (yes, flights, part one to San Diego, part two to San Jose) I buried myself in my book and tried not to think about this loss.

Today I'll begin mourning the loss of George, and hope to learn something from his life and his personal strength as the spiritual center of the greatest cultural phenomenon of the 20th century.

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