May 26, 2006 - The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time

I like lists like this. I don't know all the products, but I have used enough of them to agree wholeheartedly with the assessment: - The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time

New Orleans Gangs

blogHOUSTON - HPD introduces New Orleans criminals to Texas law

Enron in the Houston Chronicle

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Balzac Loved Coffee

This coffee plunges into the stomach...the mind is aroused, and ideas pour forth like the battalions of the Grand Army on the field of battle.... Memories charge at full gallop...the light cavalry of comparisons deploys itself magnificently; the artillery of logic hurry in with their train of ammunition; flashes of wit pop up like sharp-shooters.

Honore de BalzacFrench realist novelist (1799 - 1850)

What Enron means to me.

The Enron trial is over. And with it goes a piece of Houston history. (I’ll ignore the appeals for now.) It was a spectacular failure that hurt plenty of people. The architects of the plan will be, or have been punished, and justice will be served.

Houston was proud of Enron during those booming energy trading days. I have plenty friends who made a ton of money from Enron, and some made money on Enron stock. It was an audacious attempt to change the rules of accounting. It was an amazing group of smart people who looked at the rules and found ways around them. Some of these were legal (Mark to market was approved by the SEC, after all) but the deception came back to haunt the players.

We could cay we (My sweet ever-lovin’ and I) benefited from Enron sort of indirectly. We bought our house from an Enron coal trader after she skedaddled to New York City in disgrace. That is a great thing for us as we feel our house is the best place we have ever lived.

A friend introduced me to the Photofete group and tried to get me to do some consulting (Jennifer Binder was as arrogant as Jeff Skilling. No work for me there)

I dealt with the Enron Capital and Trade folks briefly when one of the companies I was with was looking for investors. (We were too mundane)

I have friends who worked at Enron, interviewed at Enron, or hoped that they may get a job at Enron. I worked with a woman who was an executive assistant at Enron (and she said those jokers were just as mean and mean spirited as you thought they might be.

Young professionals in school wanted to work for Enron when they got out because they made so much money. Whenever you ran into someone who worked for Enron, whether they were an accounts payable clerk or an energy trader, they let you know it. They really and truly thought they were smarter than anyone they met – and wanted to prove it.

I live in Houston during the last big boom (1980-1984 or so) and there were plenty of people on the make. But they were all trying to build something (dig wells, apartments, strip centers). They all knew it was not a zero sum game, and they could win by coming up with a better idea to deliver something. These Enron jokers were there to game the system.

If Lay and Skilling every get out of jail, it will be too soon.

May 16, 2006


It is fun that we are all provincial.

I am sitting on my porch, drinking a glass of (not too good) Chilean Pinot Noir, and I see a guy and his wife walking down the street pushing a stroller mit baby. Blaze for some reason doesn’t bark, and as they turn the corner and get closer to me I see that the fellow is wearing a Green Bay Packer’s shirt.

I ask if he is from Wisconsin, and he says no, they are just fans. I said I am heading up there this weekend and he tells me that they went to school in Chicago (and Blaze starts to bark now).

I think Kurt Vonnegut called these “Granfalloons”

May 6, 2006

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

I just finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It goes into great detail about what we eat, and why we eat what we eat in this country. It is disconcerting on some fronts, sad on others. It does not try to make one a vegetarian (he is not a vegetarian) although I can see how that may be an outcome of reading this book.

It is well written and compelling (He writes for the New York Times Magazine, and I have read one of his other books – The Botany of Desire, which is also very good.)

This book follows the food chain of three meals – one “industrial” one “organic” and one “perfect” (ie hunted and gathered) It is fascinating to see him follow the river of corn that this country produces and turns into any number of products (including, of course HFCS) and how our government encourages that industry (he lays a lot of the credit for that to Earl Butz. You youngsters may not remember him, but he was Sec of Agriculture who had to resign after a ribald and racist joke)

The “Big Organic” part is interesting too. DO you really think that it makes sense to eat “organic” food that was grown in Chile? Talk about energy intensive! And the “free range hens and eggs that I always buy to assuage my guilt are probably treated little better than battery hens.

There is relief in both his “grass farm” chapter, and oddly enough in the hunting and gathering part of the book. While neither are touted as solutions to the problems raised (hard to scale) it is nice to see that these things are possible.

An interesting statistic in our energy hungry world that he points out is that it takes more than a calorie of fossil fuel energy to grow a calorie of corn. Think about that when you think about the energy efficiency of producing ethanol from corn.

Well worth the time invested in the read.