Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dominance II - The LeBeau Wall

Steelers Defense this Season:
  • First in points allowed per game by .7 points over second place and by 8.0 points better tan the median.
  • First in yards per game allowed by 23.9 yards over second place and by 122.2 yards better than the median.
  • First in pass yards per game allowed by 22.8 yards over second place and by 48.5 yards better then the median.
  • Second in rush yards 3.4 yards behind first and 30.0 yards better then the median

Still Alive Sour Kraut

Though work and family have given me a run for my money the last few days, I am indeed still quite alive. I apologize for the massive delay in posting, but I'm sure you all managed to survive without me.

Now, the tasty bits of cabbage:
  • Burgher's farewell from Bram has a peculiar comment thread. The Judge and O have some hilarious musings. Maybe the Judge was Burgher, after all, it is widely assumed the Burgher had inside information, and who has more info then a Judge?
  • How bad are cell phone carriers? Check out this NY Times piece that speculates how much money they must be making on text messages. A text message is so small you could send it by carrier pigeon for $.20 and still make a margin. Ridiculous.
  • Interesting post over at The World of Threes. Keep an eye on him, he's writing some good stuff. Three, any chance you make it so I can read your whole post in my RSS reader?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dominance - PSU Repeats as National Champs

Penn State Women's Volleyball Highlights This Year:
  • The title's is there second in as many years.
  • The team has four first-team all-Americans. FOUR, there's only 6 (7 with the libero) players on the court at a time in volleyball.
  • National Player of the Year is a Penn Stater, and only a Junior.
  • Oh ya, and she won player of the year last year too. If Tim Tebow played women's volleyball, he'd be Nicole Fawcett.
  • 38-0
  • #1 Seed from wire to wire
  • They lost two sets all season (volleyball is best of 5 sets), TWO. That makes them 114-2. That means they lost one set for every 57 that they played.
Congratulations ladies, from a guy who once was an avid fan (hey, you have to do something while you wait for the bars to get humming, why not watch some world class volleyball?)

Investing Pittsburgh: A Little Weekly Wrapup

This wrapup is little because little happened. The Dow Jones was up 0.17% and the Pittsburgh Fund was up 0.45%. It’s nice to be doing almost three times as well as the market, but I’d prefer to be doing it when the market is up 5%. Individually:
  • It’s worth noting that US Steel may have been halted on their ridiculous run, actually down on the week.
  • Heinz was up, mostly because of the dividend.
  • PNC was down (but up from where bought it), is only a buck or so off its 52 week low.
Investing Pittsburgh is a regular part of this blog. It details the ins and outs of a mock portfolio of Pittsburgh Stocks invested and managed by me. For a list of all of the previous "Investing Pittsburgh" posts, click here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Investing Pittsburgh: Welcome PNC and X Adjustment

PNC's stock has fallen over 37% since the first time I wrote it up in this blog as an exception to the downward market trend. The company has remained primarily the same, the major differences being that it has taken a few hits on anticipated loan defaults and it has acquired National City. I believe that given the sweetheart deal PNC was given, the National City merger will be a successful one. Furthermore, I believe that PNC will continue to be viewed as one of the few banks to have fairly low impact from the sub-prime mess. With that in mind, I want to add PNC to the portfolio.

The problem is, I'm not sure when to do it. The stock took a huge hit yesterday, and I think it will recover some today, but I'm not sure it has hit its floor. For this reason I'm going to take a conservative position, only buying 40 shares. I'll complete the position with another 40 when I'm more confident that the stock is rebounding.

Also this morning, I'm selling roughly a third of the position in US Steel. I'm doing this for three reasons, all three have to do with the stock's 64% return since we purchased it. First, because of the large return, the stock now occupies a higher percentage of the portfolio then I'd like any one investment to occupy (a full 10% more then Heinz, the second largest position). Second, I'm not sure how much short term growth the stock will bring. I still think it's a hold, but I don't want a large portion of the portfolio tied up in a stock without much short term upside, not when there are so many bargains in the market. Third, as I have mentioned, I want to maintain a large cash position to hedge any huge market drops (which I think are still possible).

There are your moves for the morning. In case you're keeping track at home, that leaves us with the following positions (weird that three of the four positions currently have a value with no change following the decimal):

PPG (NYSE: PPG) - 40 Shares - $1780.00 - 10.3% of Portfolio
US Steel (NYSE: X) - 75 Shares - $3159.00 - 18.2% of Portfolio
HJ Heinz (NYSE: HNZ) - 75 Shares - $2946.00 - 17.0% of Portfolio
PNC Financial Services (NYSE: PNC) - $1839.20 - 10.6% of Portfolio
Cash - $7597.50 - 43.9% of Portfolio

Investing Pittsburgh is a regular part of this blog. It details the ins and outs of a mock portfolio of Pittsburgh Stocks invested and managed by me. For a list of all of the previous "Investing Pittsburgh" posts, click here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Addition to the Blogroll

The Honorable Rufus Peckham is not new to the blogroll. He is a regular contributor to the Men's Blogging Society and the primary mastermind behind Carbolic Smoke Ball. He's branching out now though on his own with Amicus Curiae. The about this blog reads, "We needed a forum to get a few things off our chests -- the stuff we don't get to write due to the space and format constraints of Carbolic Smoke Ball." I'm going to put the blog in "Interesting/Fun" for now, but I remain hopeful that the brain behind the Judge, TM, will dive in to some serious issues and force me to move the blog in to the "Essential Pittsburgh Blogs" category. There have been too many exits from that category, and not enough entrants.

The blog is subtitled "The Blog of the Hon. Rufus Peckham", which is clearly copied from "The Blog of Burgher Jon" without so much as a mention.

Who in the world is Carmen Robinson?

She's running for mayor. The interview with Sheldon Ingram makes her sound like an intelligent, viable candidate for mayor. At the end Sheldon points out that name recognition and political qualifications may be an issue. Let me just say that if Matt at Pittsburgh Hoagie is beating the P-G and Trib to a story on you, you're not on peoples radar. That's not a dig on Matt, I'd feel the same way if I had written the post.

In the two minutes on KDKA she seemed like the kind of person I'd vote for, but unfortunately that's all going to get lost in the fray. Luke has way too much money and local sway for anyone other then a respected, revered, qualified and spotless local to come anywhere close.

Woy's Thoughts

If you're not a regular participant in the Burghosphere you may not know who Mike Woycheck is. He is one of the "godfathers" of the Burghosphere. His blog, Have a Good Sandwich, is one of the oldest in the Burghosphere and he is at least partially responsible for Pittsburgh Bloggers, WearPittsburgh and PodCamp Pittsburgh. This is all in addition to being the technical brains behind the creative genius that was PittGirl and The Burgh Blog.

With that introduction, I think it's pretty clear that if you were a fan of PittGirl at all, you need to read his farewell post to PittGirl.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Investing Pittsburgh: Week in Review 12/8 - 12/12

I made several posts this week, so I don't have a lot to add here, but:

This was a good week, mostly because of Monday. The market was down 3.41% but the Pittsburgh Portfolio was up 2.36%. That's why we have a large cash position, so that we can survive some losses in the market; this week, our cash beat the market. US Steel was up 9.05% and Alcoa was up 5.22% which made up for a sluggish PPG.

Investing Pittsburgh is a regular part of this blog. It details the ins and outs of a mock portfolio of Pittsburgh Stocks invested and managed by me. For a list of all of the previous "Investing Pittsburgh" posts, click here.

Investing Pittsburgh: Goodbye Alcoa and Good Luck

I've been sweating wether or not to shed Alcoa for the last few days, and I have just this morning come to a definitive resolution, it has to go.

The logic for keeping Alcoa is that it is a potential acquisition target (in such a case the acquiring company would probably value the stock at 12 or 13 and give us a tidy little profit). There's also the chance that with an economic turnaround, particularly with an infrastructure investment by Obama, Alcoa will be fine. There's the chance that it makes its next dividend and is up to 15 or 20 by the end of the first quarter 2009.

While I can definitely see all of this happening, it's just not worth the risk. Alcoa is the only stock in our current portfolio that I can see falling dramatically in the next several months. It is also the only stock that I can see failing to pay its dividend. Why not take advantage of a mini-winning streak and cash out? It won't hurt us to have a little more cash. After the Heinz purchase we are 41% cash, I wouldn't mind being closer to 50%. If the market continues to turn, there are going to be some bargains to be had in the next few weeks and I want to have the cash to buy them. Besides, we have made 8.27% in the last couple weeks on a risky stock. It's time to not be greedy and cash out.

Investing Pittsburgh is a regular part of this blog. It details the ins and outs of a mock portfolio of Pittsburgh Stocks invested and managed by me. For a list of all of the previous "Investing Pittsburgh" posts, click here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Investing Pittsburgh: Welcome to the Portfolio, Heinz

The above charts are Heinz (HNZ) for the last couple weeks. I don't know why the resolution turned out so bad, but I don't really have time to fix it. Essentially it hit it's 52 week low earlier this week and then has been relatively flat. It looks to me that it has met some resistance at about 35 or 36. Since it's trading at 36.14, I don't think there's too much more give in it. The other nice thing about HNZ is that today is the dividend date, so it's time to buy in and get that dividend. Especially with a current yield of 4.59%.

Investing Pittsburgh is a regular part of this blog. It details the ins and outs of a mock portfolio of Pittsburgh Stocks invested and managed by me. For a list of all of the previous "Investing Pittsburgh" posts, click here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Investing Pittsburgh: Yesterday

The chart above is of USX (X) and Alcoa (AA) compared to the Dow Jones Industrial Average for yesterday. Yesterday is not the kind of day that happens often. However, when you make smart investing moves you occasionally get rewarded with a huge day. Yesterday, on the wings of Alcoa's 17.55% jump and US Steel's 24.44% jump the Portfolio was up close to 6.56%
(that figure counts the cash position. The invested positions were up 17.64%). Yesterday is largely thanks to rumors of Obama's infrastructure plan that would help Alcoa and US Steel and an upgrade in Goldman Sach's advice on USX. I can't claim to have predicted the US Steel upgrade, but I did enjoy it. I did say to look out for the boost in infrastructure spending to effect both stocks. Even more help would come from a finalized auto bailout.

Investing Pittsburgh is a regular part of this blog. It details the ins and outs of a mock portfolio of Pittsburgh Stocks invested and managed by me. For a list of all of the previous "Investing Pittsburgh" posts, click

Sour Kraut

This kraut is especially sour, but there are a few things I wanted to comment on:
  • I'm a pretty successful young man, but I'm sure that Obama's Lead Speach Writer (at 27 years old) is more wealthy and powerful then I will be at his age. Unfortunately for him, when you accept wealth and power in the way that he has, you lose the right to have a personal persona. You have only your public persona and this photo (Washington Post) is an unacceptable portion of your public persona. Gotta take the good with the bad young man.
  • I finally made it to a Pittsburgh Steeler game. You may recall that I attended the Steelers vs. Indianapolis a few weeks ago. That didn't count as a Steeler game though. Last night, while I watched from section 517, the Carolina Panthers took a one touchdown lead on the Tampa Bay Bucaneers and then proceeded to play a prevent defense and run the ball mercilessly and there was nothing Tampa Bay could do. They put 8 men in the box, then 9 and Carolina kept feeding them a steady stream of running plays. Somewhere the spittle was flying all over The Chin's TV.
  • Fran Drescher can not be elected to office. I'm for democrats and I'm for women's rights, I'm not for squeeling on the sentate floor. Seriously, I'd rather have Chris Matthews.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Investing Pittsburgh: Week in Review 12/1 - 12/5

Here's how our portfolio fared since I bought in on Tuesday:

Company (Ticker) || Purchase Price || Friday Close || % Change
US Steel (X) || 25.64 || 28.76 || 12.17%
Alcoa (AA) || 9.31 || 8.15 || -12.46
PPG (PPG) || 39.59 || 43.50 || 9.88%
Overall Fund || 15000 || 15383.60 || 2.56%
Dow Jones Industrial (DJI) || 8149.09 || 8635.42 || 5.97%

So we lost to the market, that's ok. It's still a heavily cash portfolio and that is for good reason. If the market were to take a nose dive next week, we would be fine because of the cash reserves. The idea was to buy in, but still leave some room to maneuver.

Individually, PPG and US Steel were very good to our portfolio, making 9.88 and 12.17 percent respectively. There was no major news for either company, both just enjoyed an up market and an undervaluation.

Alcoa on the other hand suffered from the news that it was in a fight to remain viable. I believe that it's trading so low right now, that there is not much risk. Even in a bankruptcy or a takeover stock prices are unlikely to plummet from where they are right now. I'm sticking with the stock, though I don't intend to increase the position unless the stock prices fall off pretty significantly.

Finally, I'm not even going to comment on what is going on today as far as a general market trend (though I am knocking on wood as the dow is up 200+). In Pittsburgh, it looks like people may have realized that Alcoa can only go so low without acquisition talks starting it also doesn't hurt that new government spending may require US based companies be used.

To view all the posts on Investing Pittsburgh, including the early posts about how the fund was formed and the purpose, click here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sour Kraut

A whole bunch of things caught my eye as I flipped through the evening's Post-Gazette.
  1. The pension fund is in serious serious serious trouble. If the markets were up 25% this year instead of down 25%, the pension fund would be in serious serious serious trouble. I am impressed that Ravenstahl seems to be taking some responsible steps to deal with it (namely, involving Harrisburg early, letting younger employees opt out and allocating some extra funds). Let's just hope that those (and a rapid economic recovery are enough to pull out of this,.
  2. Another thought on the article... Couldn't the title mention something about the fact that Ravenstahl and the committee are enacting plans to deal with it, rather then just saying money was lost.
  3. City Council and Hilary Clinton might have to do the politically noble thing and turn down some money. The Clinton story is interesting, did Obama (A constitutional law professor) violate constitutional law in his appointment?
  4. The Special Election will be 2/5
  5. Chelsea Wagner is NOT going to run for mayor. I think she'd lose, so if I were her close friend I would certainly have advised her not to run. However, as a Pittsburgher I think it's a shame that there's unlikely to be a serious threat to Ravenstahl, apologies to Mark R.
  6. The Pirates have decided NOT to lower ticket prices. After hinting that they would, they instead decided to keep them the same. Of course that didn't stop them from pretending that they were keeping them the same "difficult economic climate." Sometimes I just want to smack the buccos. I love them, but sometimes they just break my heart.
  7. Speaking of the bucs breaking my heart... Jack Wilson will be gone, and soon. I know it's the right baseball decision, but it still hurts to see a great Pittsburgher leave the town.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Investing Pittsburgh: News Roundup

A couple of places where the national news covered companies in the Investing Pittsburgh portfolio over the last couple days:
  • US Steel is slimming production by idling some of its plants (Business Week). Unfortunately, this is a necessary step. Hopefully a Detroit bailout and an economic resurgance (fingers and toes crossed) can keep them from having to shut down these plants any more permanently.

Investing Pittsburgh: Retailers

Schultz pointed out that I should look at AEO for the fund. In fact, I have. I am avoiding retailers like the plague right now. Especially anyone who is not Walmart or Target (and unfortunately neither of those are Pittsburgh based).

That being said, I think that AEO is a decent buy right now, if you're willing to wade through the shark infested retail waters. I will be shocked if their market value does not increase from where it is now over the next year. They are a company that still has some growth left in them but is already paying a dividend. Additionally, their P/E ratio at 6.24 makes them a rare company that could be looked at by either growth or value investors. Because of that, I don't think they are a bad investment.

However, I think that we'll start to see retailers turn around long before it's too late to get in the game (making momentum trades possible). Consequently, if I had to make a trade with AEO it would be a stop trade, probably at around $11.25. It hasn't traded at that level since early October (when it lowered projections), so I think once it hits $11.25 it will be because of a firm upward trend. Will we have lost out on $2 per share, yep. However, I'll sleep better at night knowing that I have some cash in the bank during this recession time. Especially if something crazy happens.

BTW, there is a similar story to be told about Dick's.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Investing Pittsburgh

I'm going to be adding a segment to the blog called "Investing Pittsburgh." It will focus on business in the burgh and how to invest in it. Many financial experts will tell you that if you want to invest your own money, it is important to segment the market and look at only some subset, otherwise it becomes too overwhelming. With that in mind, I'm going to be looking at only companies that have a substantial presence in the Burgh.

I am going to keep a mock portfolio/fund and provide regular updates as well as information on when I'm buying and selling and why. I'm not recommending that you do as I do and I am by no means an expert, but I think whether or not the mock portfolio makes any money, we can all learn a little something about how the Pittsburgh business scene operates. So follow along and feel free to offer your insights.

I am going to start the fund with $15,000. I'm going to assume that I'm not making any interest on unused cash and that I do not have any credit. I'm also going to limit myself, for now, to long positions. I may soon decide that short positions and derivatives are fair game for this hypothetical account, but I think that for now I will leave it simple so that everyone can follow it.

For starters, I think now is a good time to get in to the market. The Fed has made some aggressive moves to save the economy and while there may be some give left in the market, there are certainly some values out there.

I'm going to start the fund with 3 Pittsburgh Stocks at varying positions. I'm only going to use about a third of the funds because I am not sure exactly where the market is headed and I want to leave some cash in case there's a lot more downward action left.

The three stocks I'm going to use are US Steel (NYSE:X), PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG) and Alcoa (NYSE:AA). Generally, the reason for these three stocks is that they are stable companies that make solid products and offer a dividend. Additionally, they are all materials companies, not a bad thing to hold with an administration that is promising major public works projects about ready to enter office. Individually, here are some thoughts on each:
  • US Steel (X) - Their P/E ratio at the moment is 1.63 and the current price of $25.64 puts them $4.93 from their 52 week low, but $170.36 from their 52 week high. That's a value stock if I've ever heard of one. Additionally, they paid a $.30 dividend in November and they pay dividends quarterly. At their current stock price, that's a 4.68% dividend yield. That means that (assuming they don't have to lower dividends, which is admittedly possible), I can make almost 5% return on the dividends while I sit around and wait for the stock to turn around. If it takes 5 years, at least I'll be making almost 5% on the money while I wait.
  • PPG Industries (PPG) - The individual reasons are similar to those of US Steel. They are $3.65 off their 52 week low and $42.62 off their 52 week high. They also have a low P/E (9.94) and a high dividend yield (5.35%). Additionally, they have somewhat better growth potential as it appears that they have been a bit more innovative then Alcoa or US Steel, perhaps because they are not tied to a specific metal.
  • Alcoa (AA) - Again, this is pretty similar. In this case the P/E is 4.45, $2.51 off 52 week low and $35.46 off 52 week high and the dividend yield is a whopping 7.3%. If that dividend yield sounds to good to be true, it's because it may be. Net income will be less then half this year of what it was last, so it is not impossible to see the dividend falling. I plan to take a somewhat smaller position in Alcoa and wait to see if the dividend falls. If it does the stock will take a hit and at a further reduced price I might be able to increase my position. On the other hand, I will have some stock if they make their payment or raise it (which would cause the stock to increase more then slightly).
There are several things I don't like about this portfolio. It's pretty tied to the indices, in a bear market no less. It's also not very diverse. I will attempt to fix this to a degree over the course of the next several months, but for now I figured why not start playing? So here are the buys:
  • 100 shares of Alcoa (NYSE: AA) at $9.31 for $931.00
  • 40 share of PPG (NYSE: PPG) at $39.59 for $1583.60
  • 110 US Steel (NYSE: X) at $25.64 for $2820.40
That leaves us with the following holdings:
  • PPG - 40 - $39.59 - $1583.60 - 0.00%
  • X - 110 - $25.64 - $2820.40 - 0.00%
  • AA - 100 - $9.31 - $931.00 - 0.00%
  • Cash: $9,665.00
Everyone keep your fingers crossed that Detroit gets a bailout (not that I think it's the best idea ever, but for this stock fund, it would help).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Senator Mathews?

So after a crazy week back in the burgh for Thanksgiving, I'm as far behind at my actual job as I am in the burghosphere. Consequently, I have to be brief and get to the job that pays the bills. However, I thought you would like to see this:

(CNN) — As speculation continues to swirl about a possible Pennsylvania senate bid by MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter said on Sunday that he’s not worried about it.

“I’m going to have an opponent, in fact I’m going to have two opponents — one in the primary, where I always have a tough race, and again in the general,” Specter told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on "Late Edition." “I never look over my shoulder, I never look behind. Somebody may be gaining on me. I run with blinders. I’ll be prepared no matter who my opponents are.”

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported on Saturday that Matthews met with Pennsylvania Democratic Party leaders to discuss a possible senate run in 2010 against the incumbent Specter. The senior Republican is currently serving his 5th term, having first been elected in 1980.

Matthews, in a statement on the political Web site FiveThirtyEight.com, said reports of him staffing up for a run are "absolutely not true."

Specter said he’s only concerned with his own bid for re-election in 2010.

“I don’t know what anyone else is doing, but I know what one man is doing—Arlen Specter is running,” he said on "Late Edition."

A Quinnipiac poll released this week shows strong support for the incumbent Specter. Specter leads 45 percent to Matthews’ 33 percent among overall voters. Among Democratic voters, however, Matthews leads Specter 55 to 25 percent.

Robert Menendez, the recently elected Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said he hadn’t talked to anyone who could confirm Matthews’ run.

“Wolf, we’ll see who decides to run. I haven’t seen any firm announcements by anyone, in terms of running,” the New Jersey senator said.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pitt Football

I try not to talk about Pitt's Football program very often. Mostly because, when I point out that unranked Pitt who plays in a conference where the highest ranked team is 16th is not a peer to Penn State, people in Pittsburgh get irrationally upset. When I point out then Penn State has won two national championships since Pitts last one, I get frowns. When I point out that Pitt has never played in a BCS bowl despite playing in the Big Least, I get stuff thrown at me.

However, I would like to take this moment to review what appears to me to be the state of Pitt Football. I could not resist pointing out that this statement from Ron Cook might be the understatement of the century, "[LeSean McCoy going pro] severely will damage the Pitt program next season. McCoy is a major reason Pitt is headed to its first bowl game under Wannstedt, in his fourth season."

You think, Ron?, In the couple Pitt games that I've been able to watch it has appeared to me that McCoy is the offense. McCoy going pro will return Pitt to bowless seasons and bitter whining about Penn State's suprmemecy.

In the long run, I hope that McCoy will be unable to convince the Pitt Football program that Dave Wannstedt is a good coach, because he is not. While I would never want to see Pitt become a better football program then Penn State, I would not mind seeing them be a better football program then they are now. It would make friendly Pitt vs PSU arguements more fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is Mike Maddison Taunting Us?

Mike had a particularly prolific day, posting great things here, here, here, here AND here. It made me sad to see that none of those posts dove in to one of Pittsburgh's problems in an insightful way.

State of the Burghosphere

The Burghosphere has suffered some tremendous, tragic losses in the last few months. This has been lamented in SEVERAL places. What I think has been lost is how many blogs have come in to the Burghosphere in that time. While none of these have the quality or the following of Burgh Blog, Conversation or PittsBlog, they are young and need time to mature. When I look back on the blog posts I made 6 or 8 months ago, I'm ashamed that they are on the record. I'm sure that I'll be similarly ashamed of this post in another 6 to 8 months.

The addition and subtraction of blogs from the Burghosphere as well as the long maturity process is just part of the game. The reason a blog is a valuable source of information/opinions is the same thing that shortens its lifetime and makes it slow to mature. Namely this reason is that the sole author is not formally trained, not supported by an editorial staff and not paid (forcing him/her to seek other forms of gainful employment).

That being said, I am struck by the depth of the Blogosphere at the moment. It is perhaps as deep (though not as strong) as it ever has been. This was reinforced in my mind when I went to the Reader this morning. Among the posts I enjoyed (this isn't every post, just the ones I particularly enjoyed) in just the last 24 hours:
Of course I would rather add a Pittsblog post and a PittGirl post to that list, but I think it's a pretty formidable list without them and that's just TODAY.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

PittGirl's Last Gift to the Burghosphere?

I'm sure this is an unintended consequence and it certainly does not make up for the fact that I couldn't read PittGirl's opinion this morning, but I speculate that the entire Burghosphere received a little bump from the MSM yesterday. The Post-Gazette published a story yesterday afternoon and Pop City and the Trib went to press with it this morning. Additionally, the Post-Gazette and Trib both published editorials. That's just print; KDKA covered it this morning, WPXI got it tuesday afternoon and updated it tuesday evening.

I noticed on my blog that visits were up about 200% while rms feeds were only up by a handful. The traffic wasn't coming from any place in particular... mostly the usual referals just more of them. My theory is that there was just more traffic in general. Hopefully this traffic sees something they like either here or elsewhere in the blogosphere and we can grow a little.

Things You Just Don't Hear That Often

What made me take note of HFF inc. is the fact that they are the only Western Pennsylvania stock that I track that is UP today. They're not just up, they're up 10%. As of this writing, I don't see any particular reason for it. It did spark some curiosity on my part, so I decided to review their press release for 3Q 2008. Here's some pretty scary wording:
In the face of these challenging conditions as well as a slowing global economic climate, especially in the U.S., the Company generated third quarter total revenue of approximately $31.0 million compared to approximately $68.0 million in the third quarter of 2007, which represents a decrease of approximately $37.0 million, or 54.4%. The Company reported an operating loss of $0.1 million for the third quarter of 2008 compared to operating income of approximately $13.6 million in the comparable period of 2007, which represents a decrease of approximately $13.7 million, or 100.7%.
If your profit is down anything over 100%, it's not a good sign.

To satsify your curiosity, what is HFF?
a leading provider of commercial real estate and capital markets services to the U.S. commercial real estate industry based on production transaction volume and is one of the largest full-service commercial real estate financial intermediaries in the country.
I'm guessing that there are quite a few empty office buildings at the moment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mark Smith hits a deep line drive...

I know my readers have noted the fact that I have slowly pulled away from covering sports on this blog, but I had to pass along a post on "Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?" There is a memory of the 1997 no hitter. I was fortunate enough to be there and, being a baseball lover at heart, it comes scarily close to rivaling the Steeler's 2006 Super Bowl or Penn State's 2005 win over Ohio State as the most happy I have been while watching a sporting event. The WHYGAVS summary is written beautifully, but it is written in a way that no professional writer could ever capture. Through the eyes of a true fan:
Of course, while ten different people might have ten small favorite memories about the '97 Pirates, all ten of them have the same big favorite memory: the no-hitter. THE no-hitter. In all of my years of watching baseball, I've only seen one play that I swore happened in slow-motion the first time I watched it and that was Mark Smith's home run. Francisco Cordova was probably the first iteration of the frustrating "Ace of the Future" for the Pirates. He great out of the pen in 1996, he was awesome in the rotation in '97, then even better in '98, and he didn't pitch again after the year 2000. July 12, 1997 was his night, though. How do you describe the pressure that builds during a no-hitter? It was July and the Pirates, who hadn't made the playoffs in almost five years at that point, were a game behind the Astros. Cordova had become the ace of the staff by that point in the season and he just kept stringing zeroes on the board. He struck out ten in his nine innings, but without a Pirate run, he came out in favor of Ricardo Rincon in the tenth. This is just an opinion, but that tenth inning was probably the highest leverage situation any reliever in Pirate history has ever pitched in. I still remember watching him pitch one inning that seemed to take three hours in my parents bedroom (I have no idea why we weren't in the living room, but we weren't). When he got out of the tenth, every Pirate fan thought the same thing: "SCORE A RUN, PLEASE!" In the bottom of the tenth, with two on and two out, Mark Smith, a journeyman who hit 32 home runs in eight big league seasons, delivered a monstrous three-run bomb. The no-hitter was preserved, the Pirates were tied for first place, and for one of the last times in recent memory all was right with Pirate baseball.

A flash in the pan starter, a journeyman pinch-hitter, and a career LOOGY combined to create the best memory the Pirates have given anyone since their last playoff appearance. No matter what happens to them for the rest of their lives, they'll always have that game. And Pirate fans will always have that game.
I love how he remembers where he was, I still remember holding the post of my Grandmother's four post bed (a bed she no longer has in a house she hasn't lived in in 12 years) as Sid Briem slid home in the '92 NLCS.

RIP Jane Pitt

In a departure for me, I've turned comments off for this post. I don't want to be the blog that houses all the speculation on why she quit. I've read several oblogtuaries already, but I (and the rest of the blogopshere I'm sure) am waiting to see Woy's thoughts, if he offers any. At this point I'll echo a statement that I've seen several places. If this is because some jack ass threatened her annonymity, may a T car sever one of his legs while silverback decapitates him, he ruined one of the coolest things about the burgh.

UPDATE - some links:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thoughts on the PAT Transit Mess

I'm planning on commenting on this again as 12/1 approaches, but for now (since they're about to close the aircraft door)... I have a reminder on how I feel about the PAT Transit Mess and its solution. It's pretty simple. PAT has to cut back because there are not enough people who use it. Why don't people use it? Simple, because it is easy to park downtown for $15. As I write this, I am sitting in an airplane in San Francisco after a weekend visit. When I was downtown, parking was $3.00 per half hour with a daily maximum of $40. Guess what, people take public transportation. In my humble opionion, if you want to make PAT a quality service in Pittsburgh, charge a HEFTY tax on parking. Use the excess money to help PAT grow to meet the new capacity and to fund some tax breaks for the companies and real estate development companies that will be redeveloping the no longer needed massive parking garages.

Unfortunately no politician can suggest this, because it will piss off tons of people, but I firmly believe this would be the best thing for the Burgh.

Pittsburgh National Cick-Ass III

Details in today's P-G and a few weeks ago in the WSJ show just how sweet the PNC deal to buy National City was. As it turns out, because of a "holliday" of a law that prevents companies from buying other companies just to post the other companies losses on its tax records, PNC is buying National City for more-or-less nothing. If you don't understand that, here's the analogy. Let's say I made 500,000 dollars last year (I wish). I would owe about a third of that in taxes. Let's say my friend Jill, a stock broker, lost 500,000 dollars last year, she still holds these now low price (one might guess, undervalued) stocks, but she lost 500,000. If I were able to marry Jill, we could jointly declare that we made ZERO in 2008. This means I save 160 thousand or so in taxes. Essentially I (PNC) married Jill (National City) for 133,000. So at the end of the day, I spent nothing and got some undervalued stock.

The 5 billion (of the 5.6 billion dollar total price) that PNC will now be able to write off is part of your 700 Billion dollar bailout at work. Wether you agree with the bailout conceptually or not, it is good to see that part of a bailout targeted at New York's Wall Street will find it's way down Pittsburgh's Penn Avenue.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Hate to Be a Verizon Commercial, but...

They finally made it official. The Blackberry Storm's Release date will be 11/21/2008. Which, if you were curious is only 5 days after my "new every 2" discount is available, nicely done Verizon. Above is an image of the email I received. Info on the phone is here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Well Regulated Militia

This (Post-Gazette) is why it is so critical that everyone be armed:
Hunter shoots dog, then dog's owner shoots him
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A man faces a preliminary hearing tomorrow on charges that he shot a man who wounded his pet dog while hunting coyote Sunday in Fayette County.

George A. Bodnovich, 42, of Brownsville, is charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment.

The charges stem from the shooting at about 4 p.m. Sunday of Jonathan B. Harmon.

The two men gave state police divergent stories about the shooting, though they agreed on one point.

Mr. Harmon had been hunting coyote near the Hi-To Sportsman's Club in Georges when he mistook Mr. Bodnovich's pet dog, Seneca, for a coyote.

Mr. Harmon, interviewed in a hospital room by investigators, said he did not realize until he came upon his fallen prey that he had shot a dog, according to a police affidavit.

Seneca had been wearing an orange vest at the time it was shot.

Mr. Harmon told police that as he got closer to the dead animal he saw Mr. Bodnovich running toward him and firing a gun.

Mr. Harmon said he believes he was shot in the leg as he hopped on his ATV and tried to drive away.

In Mr. Bodnovich's version in the affidavit, he had been hiking with friends when he heard the shot, ran toward the sound and found Mr. Harmon fleeing with a rifle in his hands.

The suspect said he saw Mr. Harmon crouch behind his ATV and aim his rifle at the pet owner.

Two shots were fired at the ATV before Mr. Harmon yelled for the suspect to stop shooting. The hunter raised his hands and Mr. Bodnovich took the hunting rifle from him, the affidavit said.

Mr. Bodnovich said he noticed a pistol in Mr. Harmon's waistband. He believed the hunter was reaching for the second gun, so the suspect said he fired another shot, striking Mr. Harmon in the leg.

Mr. Bodnovich is free on $50,000 bond, pending a hearing tomorrow before District Judge Randy Abraham in McClellandtown.

I mean if these two men were both unarmed, then Mr. Bodnovich would have to be paying for dog food and Mr. Harmon's doctor would not be able to make a living. Thank goodness for gun control, I hope I haven't let my NRA membership lapse.

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Sour Kraut

It's going to be fun stuff this morning! Without further adieu, a taste of the German hillside, "mmmmm, it's like grass in horseradish sauce."
  • Mr. Grumpy, made a great walking tour of the South Side. It was a fantastic way to teleport home for 20 minutes this morning. It also landed Mr. Grumpy a home in my google reader and on the blog roll. Enjoy.
  • Absolutely hilarious post over on Burgh Baby and people wonder why I want to wait to have kids till I can be sure I'm having a boy. A side thought... I considered as I wrote that the chances that someday my future daughter will look up my old blog and come kick my ass for that comment.
  • Interesting post by Ed Heath on Obama, the end of religion and the chances it's a good thing. If that's not a good enough tease I don't know what would be.
I may still make it to a serious post by the end of the day, but we'll see what happens.

Penguins Save my Week

I'm aware that I said after last year's Stanley Cup that I wasn't going to follow hockey until Christmas. However, after last weekend's horrible football train wrecks, I decided to take a peak at PensBlog this morning. The guys over there continue to deliver, putting a hop in my step and restoring my Pittsburgh Pride with the picture above (taken just as the Pens tied the game after trailing 5-2).

I'm also aware I haven't had a non-sports post since Thursday, look out for one later today if I can finally get some of this work finished and out the door.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Is It Baseball Season Yet?

So I have failed to post for several days, mostly because it was a circus of a weekend. Personally, I had a great time back in the Burgh with friends, family and girlfriend. However, Football-wise, I had one of the worst weekends on record. I have now canceled two hotel rooms (one for me and one for my brother) on Southbeach the week of the national championship game. While I like the Rose Bowl, this team was just too talented (and Iowa too weak) to end up without a whiff of the championship.

I also managed a ticket to the Steelers game courteousy of the fact that my girlfriend's uncle works for the Colts. The bad news is that myself, my girlfriend and several friends sat with the colts wives and other assorted blue and white clad lunatics. Some of these lunatics were quite unfriendly when the Colts finally won. Fortunately, we made it out without losing our cool and getting hand cuffed like Luke Ravenstahl, but it was not a pleasent walk out of the stadium. By the way, PittGirl's "What They Were Thinking" post this week had the picture above. I have a correction, Reggie Wayne was not pointing to the heavens, he was pointing at ME (more likely one of the Colts' family members sitting near me, but I took it personally).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Young Republicans = Troublemakers

Police have put out a search for 3 white guys in red sweatshirts. They were spotted wearing their gang colors and causing mischief in the Pittsburgh area. We caught up with a young man in homestead who is tired of the same old story, "I don't think these kids commit crimes BECAUSE they're white, I just think they're born in to an unfortunate situation. I mean they have to have two parents their whole childhood who are around to feed them these lines of bullshit. They grow up without the opportunities that black kids have, without the chance to realize that Fox News is full of crap and that Obama isn't a terrorist or a socialist. It's really just a sad story, I feel sorry for those kids."

Ok fine, that paragraph I embelished. But here's the actual story:
Anti-Obama vandalism reported
Thursday, November 06, 2008

GREENVILLE, Pa. -- Police in two Western Pennsylvania communities 70 miles apart are investigating reports of harassment of people who supported President-elect Barack Obama.

In Greenville, Mercer County, state police say someone spray painted the word "Obama" on a vehicle and then set it on fire. It was discovered early yesterday.

In Forest Hills in suburban Pittsburgh, Jerome Tompkins tells WPXI-TV that someone left a note with a racial slur on the windshield of his car.

Among other things, the note says "now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."

Police have not charged anyone in either incident. The owners of both vehicles are black.

News on the Web

Here's a really interesting chart taken from a site called akamai.com. Akamai is the service provider for a ton of the news providers on the web including cnn and nbc. The above chart shows the usage of news sites that they host worldwide. Barack Obama's election was the largest event that they have lived through, 18% larger then the US being eliminated in the world cup. For reference it was more then twice as many surfers as the 2006 election.

For fellow nerds, you really should check out the site there's some crazy interesting stuff on it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spot On

Scott's Spot ran the following post:
Regardless of your opinion of John McCain’s political views, you have to regard him as an American hero and a true public servant. This was certainly evident in his concession speech, in which he pledged to work with President-Elect Barack Obama to move the country forward. This is the kind of bipartisan spirit that is necessary to move the United States beyond the disastrous 8 years of the Bush presidency.

Unfortunately, such a spirit of conciliation is nowhere to be found at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, whose lead editorial today is entitled “Obama wins, America loses.” This whining piece ends with the following statement:

“It is customary to wish an incoming president the best of luck. But it's the American people on whom we bestow that wish today. For they'll need all the luck that can be mustered to weather what one can only hope will be a one-term anomaly.”
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review should get out of its hate-radio-mongering rut and look to Senator John McCain for an example of how to behave when you don’t get your way.

I could not have said it better myself, I have always maintained that John McCain would have been a great president. I think he would have been better 8 years ago and that he would not have been as good as Obama will be, but he's NOT George Bush either.

I think it is also the responsibility of democrats to say, "Listen, we hold the keys to the car now, but you definitely still have a front seat. We all have the same goals, so we're more then happy to listen up if you have a certain route you like to take or need to stop for a sandwich to keep you happy." The democrats are now in a position to change policy without the republicans, but they can not change the country, at the level Obama promised by taking party-line votes.

Note: Scott's spot on a lot of the time, hope you guys are reading his blog.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ignoring the Election

This Sour Kraut is pretending it's in Germany, 6000 miles from the closest polling place:
  • I was going to post a comment on a post entitled "Scrapiness Factor" posted on Pittsburgh Ventures, but they appear to have taken down the post. I want to delay my reaction in case they took it down because they no longer agree with the content. If it resurfaces I'll say my peace.
  • Null Space continues to follow the difference between Cleveland's implosion and our relative lack of one (citing one source that shows Cleveland with nearly 5 times the foreclosures). With all of the dynamics of a shared Cleveburgh, how long can we go separate paths?
  • Fred had an interesting post at a vc. It was interesting for two reasons, first was the obligatory "this slump is going to be a long one because we're going to spend money delevering instead of buying things." The second was a theory that Ventures will not be as hard hit because they rarely incur a lot of debt. An interesting idea, but they also require a fertile economy to flourish. We'll see how it unfolds.
I know those thoughts are a little scattered, but I wanted to give you something to chew on while I get through this crazy week.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm So Glad I Moved to Charlotte

One of the few redeeming characteristics of my move to Charlotte (besides the cool job) was going to be a 12 month golf season with spectacular whether, even in November. So much for that.

The First 100 Days

There will be much made of what the new President (I'm going to assume Obama) plans to do in his first "100 days". This will begin as soon as the election is over. Anyone who followed Bush or Clinton knows the drill. So, since I assume Barack Obama is one of the people that reads this blog, I'm going to outline my top objectives for him (in no particular order):
  • Call Warren Buffet and see if he has any interest in Secretary of the Treasury
  • Call John McCain and see if he has any interest in Secretary of Defense
  • Call Colin Powell or Bill Clinton to see if they have any interest in Secretary of State
  • I don't know if I got this point across or not, but I'm trying to build a cabinet that people will view as the third coming of Camelot. I think it's critical for a relatively inexperienced president to be surrounded by great advisors.
  • Call the leaders of every international country, every last one, and tell them there's a new sherrif in town. One who wants to collaborate to make this world a better place. One who will help you do good and make you wish you hadn't done evil.
  • Take press conferences, personally, twice a week. The people need to see the president speak, not his surrogates.
  • Endorse Hillary Clinton for Majority Leader in the Senate, get a photo opp.
  • Setup a summit to discuss the economic crisis. Come away with a clear plan for what, the Treasury Secretary, Congress and the President will do in the coming months to ease the problem and not run the defecit too high in the process. Specific spending cuts need to come out of this meeting. A follow up meeting and publically published progress report should be established to ensure congress and the president keep up their ends.
  • Veto a democrat's bill that has too much pork in it. Got that idea from Ed Heath.
  • Appoint a conservative, constitutionally responsible judge to the supreme court. I have a whole bunch of opinions about what that means, but we'll save that for another day.
That's what I've got off the top of my head, suggestions welcome in the comments.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Just Because "Porno" is In The Title Does Not Make The Movie a Porno

I'm going to add my two cents to a post by Devan Desai over at Madisonian.net (if that name sounds familiar it is because it is the other home of Pittsblog legend, Mike Madison). Devan points out:
Megaplex Theaters has banned the film from his theater chain.

Fair enough. That is his choice. The odd part is that the chain has happily run Saw V “which features beheadings and explicit self-mutilation” and is “Rated R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity.” And runs Quarantine “Rated R for bloody violent and disturbing content, terror and language.”

Now suppose that the issue is, as claimed, that Porno has “‘graphic nudity and graphic sex’ and that it was ‘too close to an NC-17.’” How does one explain that Sex Drive, Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, language, some drug and alcohol use - all involving teens. is playing on a couple screens within the Megaplex chain?

It is perhaps one word, a five letter word, porno.

It is that one five letter word, and it is scary. Nothing is scarier in this time of religious fundamentalism (I'm referring to you, Christians) then hiding from an individual word. Do I think that children should watch pornos? Of course not. However, it remains important that Zack and Miri is NOT a porno, and that it's "R" rating prevents anyone under 17 from seeing it without permission from their parents. The notion that the word "porno" in and of itself is evil is reprehensible. How are our children supposed to learn about the world if we shelter them from the very existence of half of it? Here's how I would respond to the question "Dad, what's a porno?" at every age from 1 to 14, after that I assume they know:
  1. Ga Ga Goo Goo
  2. Don't say that word in public, I'll teach you next year.
  3. I lied, one more year.
  4. It's a movie you can't watch, like Terminator.
  5. You still can't watch it.
  6. It's a movie that is made for adults.
  7. It's still made for adults, you can't watch it.
  8. Remember that "birds and bees" chat we had, it's an innapropriate movie that shows that.
  9. Pornos are sometimes watched by people because they do not have the right kind of relationships in their lives.
  10. Pornos can be bad because they can objectify women and lead to trouble and addiction.
  11. Maybe when you're a couple years older we'll rent Zach and Miri, but for now just understand that pornos are inappropriate because of the way the industry has been built around them.
  12. Because sex is so taboo in our society, pornos and other sexually "bad" things have been forced under ground. The reason you should stay away from such things is that there are a lot of bad people associated with that underground.
  13. You can watch Zach and Miri with me, but remember the conversation we had about safe sex and what is (and is not) an appropriate age to start having sex.
  14. Seriously? You're in High School now and you still have no idea what a porno is?
Is it that difficult to be open and honest with your kids? Do you think it will really harm them that much? As Jesus pointed out, we should not be "of" this world, but we do need to live "in" this world.

Sour Kraut

This kraut, really is all over the place:
  • Go Red Raiders!!! If you don't know why, then you probably don't want me to explain, but it has to do with Penn State playing for a National Championship.
  • I have way too many friends from Philly who have spent way too much time antagonizing me over the Pirates matching Phillies' record for ineptitude (16 straight losing seasons) and the Phillies winning the World Series in the SAME year. The sports god owes me, and I'm looking to cash in this football season.
  • MTV Music has a cool new video site up. They're keeping it kind of a secret though. The last I heard is an MTV rep said it was intended more for web publishers to find a video and embed it then it was to be used as an actual site. I have complied, by posting one of (if not the) greatest music videos ever made. Seriously, watch the video. Johnny made it only months before he passed.
  • A blogger I follow closely because he's a very insightful guy pointed something interesting out about the current financial mess and all of the talking heads that call for the end of the world, "Don't listen to anybody. Nobody knows what's going to happen next... Better to be contrarian in times like these then not."
  • All Things D, a tech blog, looked at John McCain's record on technology and found "While he has long cultivated an image as a maverick, when it comes to technology issues, he rarely strays from the GOP tech policy position books." That's not a good reason to vote for him.
  • When will the Blackberry Storm be out already? I need a new phone and my new-every-two is burning a hole in my pocket!
  • Congratulations to Mayor Ravenstahl and his Wife. If anything can inspire maturity in a young man, it's having children.

Get Out the Vote

My thoughts:
  • For Snoop Dog, wouldn't it be "vizzle" instead of vote?
  • Justin Timberlake can't act
  • Harrison Ford is 66, do you believe that? I don't look that good and I'm 25.
  • Sascha Barron Cohen is hilarious, why did the one movie he made suck so bad?
  • Did Julia Roberts just point to her breasts?
  • Toby Maguire could use a sandwich.
  • Doogie (sp?) Howser (NPH) "fell in love and [he] wants it to matter." That's a brave thing to say.
  • Seriously, vote. Even if it's just to negate my already cast absentee ballot.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

FOX News Special Alert

John McCain Photographed Socializing With Terrorist

In the photograph it appears that Senator McCain is voluntarily involved in an embrace with an "arab" identified as "Hussein." While details remain sketchy Fox News is unafraid to bring you the facts, it appears at this point that the combination of all of the years that John McCain spent around brilliant, reasonable people in the Senate and his relatively high intelligence level may have lead him to "question his own ignorance", "embrace a need for change", "be reluctant to run a campaign based on fear" and possibly even "attempt to use reason when creating the laws and foreign policies of this country." Naturally his efforts to bring these monstrous concepts to (of all things) a republican campaign have caused panic around the party.

This unfortunate development comes less then a week before the United State Presidential Election. The fair and balanced opinion of this news agency is that John McCain has no choice but to step aside and allow his vice presidential candidate (Governor Sarah Palin) to run in his place. She is the only leading republican with the ignorance, arrogance, close-mindedness, stupidity, cluelessness and folksiness to win this election in the model of the greatest president of these United States, George W. Bush.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Clearing up the confusion III

How about some analogies to clear up the current socialism confusion:

1. Barack Obama is to socialism as _______ is to communism.

Accepted Answers:
  • John McCain - Barack Obama is not a socialist, John McCain is not a communist.
  • Apples - Barack Obama is not a socialist, Apples are not communist.
  • Penguin - Barack Obama is not a socialist, a Penguin is not a communist.

2. Universal Health Care is to socialism as _______ is to socialism.

Accepted Answers:
  • Universal Education - Universal Health Care is so important to the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that it must be guaranteed, Universal Education is so important to the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that it must be guaranteed.
  • Social Security - Universal Health Care is so important to the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that it must be guaranteed, Social Security is so important to the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that it must be guaranteed.
  • National Defense - Universal Health Care is so important to the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that it must be guaranteed, National Defense is so important to the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that it must be guaranteed.

3. Liberal is to Socialist as Conservative is to _______.

Accepted Answers:
  • Poopy Head - Liberals are not socialists, Conservatives are not Poopy Heads.
  • Neo-Fascist - Liberals are not socialists, Conservatives are not Neo-Fascists.

Clearing up the confusion II

I thought that perhaps a word association game could clear up some of the confusion:

Not a Socialist
John McCain has a consistent record of supporting free enterprise, with one notable exception, the Bailout of 2008 in which he and other law makers proposed the government take partial ownership in private companies, in effect nationalizing some of industry.

Castro ruined Cuban Cigars by nationalizing the industry and forcing all of the truly capable cigar makers to the less fertile grounds of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. Oh ya, he also nationalized pretty much everything else, making him a socialist (sorry, I'm a little bitter about the cigar thing).

Not a Socialist
Barack Obama has consistently backed free enterprise. In fact for several years he worked as an attorney. Attorneys are one of the most visible signs of a NON-socialist society, as one of their largest responsibilities is to protect individual rights and property. Obama has also managed to make a ridiculous sum of money by authoring two books, money which he kept for himself and did not give to the government.

Clearing up the confusion

I thought of a few ways fun ways to clear up the socialism confusion running rampant in this country. So, here goes method #1:
So - cial - ism (noun) : a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

American Heritage Dictionary
So - cial- ism (noun): Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.
You'll note that allowing people to earn a living and then implementing a progressive taxation system is not the definition of Socialism, nor is universal health care.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Race and Politics

There have been a couple popular opinions circulated that I flat out disagree with and I want to attack. Since I'm pseudonymous I think it is worth pointing out that I am a young, white, male democrat raised in (relatively) racially vanilla Mt. Lebanon. This gives me absolutely no authority on the issue, but does give me an interesting perspective. For many years of my life racism was a concept, not something I ever actually saw... there simply weren't enough African Americans in my neighborhood. My parents raised me to be tolerant, but it was through discussions (like the ones around many water-coolers and dinner tables during this election) that I learned my tolerance, rather then having black friends. As a consequence of my vanilla upbringing, I have a very intellectual perspective on racism. I KNOW that blacks are the same as whites in every way except appearance and consequently I find racism (and reverse racism) equal parts puzzling and infuriating. I can see the emotions on both sides, but I don't feel them. I think this has given me a perspective from which I can see whether or not those emotions have their roots in a just cause or a fake one. I'm not sure if I got my point across there, but I thought it was important that I try to give some perspective before I tackle these issues:

"All the blacks will vote for him just because he's black."
Bullshit. That is some racist trying to get you to vote against Obama just because he's black. That racist might not even know that he's being racist but its there. He's afraid of how "the blacks" will influence the election. Point me to one black person who has said all blacks must vote for Obama because he's black. Where's his endorsement from the most powerful black politician, Condaleeza Rice? Are these all the same people who voted for Ambassador Alan Keyes just because he was black? The same ones that elected Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton because they were black? Are these the same blacks who called Clinton the "first black president" in spite of the fact that he defeated Lenora Fulani in the 1992 primary? The argument is flat out ridiculous. Many black people are (justly) proud that a member of their community is so close to the white house, but if he weren't going to be a good president, they would vote against him as they have other unqualified blacks in the past.

Secondly, let me clear something up. What if your friend with the above quote is right? Doesn't that mean you should vote for McCain to balance out the black vote? Black people represent 10.7% of Pennsylvanians (only 12.8% of Americans as a whole). White people represent 85.7% of Pennsylvanians (80.1% of Americans). So that means if EVERY black person in the state voted for Obama just because he was black (and I think I've shown they wouldn't) then only 2 in every 17 white voters would have to vote against him just because he was black to balance out the racial vote. In a state where the Klan still exists, I don't think YOU have to worry about balancing out the black vote, in fact I would wager that there will be more votes cast for McCain because Obama is black then vice verse.

"John McCain's campaign should be ashamed of how it handled the famous "B" incident."
This I also find ridiculous. If a black man had claimed that someone in a hood had carved KKK in to his cheek right after an Obama rally, I bet the Obama campaign would have pointed reporters in the direction of the story. If you want to be upset with someone be upset with this college student that faked it, though I think sadness is probably the more appropriate emotion. This is a dwindling presidential campaign, if the story is already in the news then McCain can and should point it out unless he has some reason to believe it is false. On that note, don't you think that if McCain (or his communications director) had known the story was a hoax he would have stayed miles away from it? He's losing, but he's no idiot... if he had known this was a fake he would have run from it. Suggesting that McCain is race mongering in this case is the left wing bullshit equivalent of the right wing bullshit like calling Obama by his full name (Hussein included) or questioning his birth certificate. It just gets people riled up.

Let's do the right thing here, let's not let the liberals convince us that McCain is engaged in race mongering and let's not let the conservatives convince us that black people (or their vote) are something to be scared of. Let's put those things aside and elect the best president 11/4, God knows our country will need the best president.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I've been known to comment that PittGirl is a little tough on Santonio Holmes, Asshat is not a nickname many aspire to. However, now that he has slowed my fantasy team to a crawl by possessing pot I am inclined to agree. I can't wait to see how long the suspension is, I hope it includes my fantasy playoffs.

I hate Holmes and Fantasy Football.

The World of Threes

I was going through my google analytics report and noticed that I've had a couple hits deflected from the bazaar world of threes. It appears that this is the reincarnation of a deceased blog, arriving (again?) in the burghosphere October 18, but I do not know the details. What I do know is that he's got some solid posts and a great description of why he's in the burgh:
Mom moved back here. Dad still lives in Florida. And I’ve been back and forth between the two regions my entire life. Graduated from high school and college up here, but ended up moving to Florida after college because I couldn’t find work up here. But, about 8 years ago, I took the plunge and left an up-and-coming career and moved “back home.” People up here often say to me “I can’t believe you did that.” My response is always: “I can’t believe I waited so long to do it.” I love the region immensely, despite all of its flaws and quirks. There’s no place I’d rather be … except for maybe Salma Hayek’s bed … but that’s a blog for a different day.
Welcome to the Burghosphere and the Blog Roll III, may your posts be fruitful and multiply.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We Have a Winner

We have a winner in the fight for control over DRM, and it is no one.

For those of you who long ago sold your soul to Apple, bought an iPod, downloaded iTunes and don't even know what DRM is, here's a quick explanation. Remember how the music industry whined like babies when Napster was around? You would have thought that someone had invented a way to tape radio, remember how that killed the music industry? Anyway, what techies did to allow themselves to sell music online in spite of Napster's court losses is add DRM. I don't know if you've ever tried this, but try to open that new Toby Keith song you just bought on iTunes with your Windows Media Player. That error you get, that's DRM. Technically it's supposed to keep you from giving the song to a friend, but practically it limits interoperability.

That's no problem for you, but your not a nerd like me. I want my music to work on my iPod, my Zune (like an iPod but made by Microsoft), my Media Center (a computer connected to my TV for music and video) and in my car (Nav System with a hard drive). Consequently, I wasn't going to buy songs with either Apple's or Microsoft's DRM until all of my systems could play the music.

Apparently there are enough of us nerds around because over the last couple months DRM has been fading. First Amazon opened up a DRM-free store then eMusic expanded, and now Walmart has an online store with DRM-free music. That means it's over. Remember how long it took Toshiba to give up on HD-DVD after Walmart announced they were going to carry blu-rays? About a week. Sure, Apple will continue to carry DRMed music for a little while till everyone realizes they can get it cheeper elsewhere, but for all intents and purposes DRM is dead.

Next up, Apple's cornering and DRMing of the TV Show market.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not a Lot of News

As the world holds its breath to see how Wall Street will respond to its first net UP week in quite a while, I have little to report and even less time to do it. I read the post-gazette and the burghosphere this morning and it seems that no one has much to discuss. So I'll offer a few personal insights.
  • Pittsburgh is a city of secret little charms. I spent an hour or two last night sitting on the dock on the Southside trail looking at the city and the stars (all 7 that you can see from downtown) and snuggling up to my girlfriend. It is a night I will not soon forget. While NYC and other cities certainly have their charms, I think Pittsburgh has more secretly charming places per square mile then anywhere in the world.
  • Football fandom is not one of our "secret" charms and yesterday we made it clear. Approximately 9,000 (or 10%) of the crowd in Cincinnati were Steelers fans cheering their team to yet another victory. I follow Penn State and the Steelers and so far I'm 13-1 with both teams looking like title contenders. There's a lot to cheer about.
  • One thing I'm not cheering about is the fact that this is my last day in my beloved city for a little while. I first announced well over a month ago that I was likely going to be accepting a position down South, but tomorrow is the day I'm actually moving. My feelings could not be more mixed, I am excited about the opportunity but I will dearly miss my girlfriend, my brother, my mother, my father, my friends and my city.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Presidential Elections and This Blog

On my last post about the Presidential Election, Barack Obama's Funny, one of my frequent commenters and a good blogger himself, Schultz, left this comment:
Well said burgher jon. I hope you are going to join me and other bloggers in a challenge to call and speak to 100 voters before election day. A lot of us bloggers talk about how bad we want change but more of us need to put some work in so we don't get let down on November 5th!
There is a reason I will not be joining this challenge or following the Presidential Election in any serious way on this blog. Don't get me wrong, I clearly have my opinions about the election, having made not one, not two, but three posts on presidential politics already this month. I'm excited about Barack Obama and I truly hope, for my own and America's sake, that he wins on November FOURTH, but I can't, won't and shouldn't have any impact on that election.

Being a math nerd, after writing that paragraph I thought, just for fun, let's figure out exactly how little influence I have. Let's say that through my writing on this blog and by calling 100 people that I could influence 200 people to vote not for John McCain but for Barack Obama. In order to calculate the chances those 200 make a difference, we need some assumptions.
  • The guys over at FiveThirtyEight developed a VERY interesting statistic called tipping point state. It gives the probability that a given state will decide the presidential election. According to their simulations, their is a 6% chance that the electoral map works out in such a way that PA going one way or the other will decide the election (This post explains the metric and the latest results are on the right side of the window). In an effort to be conservative with probability equations, I always try to be, let's round up and say there is a 10% chance that PA will matter in the Presidential Election.
  • In 2004 5,769,590 people voted in the PA election for president. To once again be conservative with my calculations, I'm going to round that down to 5 million, in spite of the consensus that this will be an election with a high turnout.
  • The latest polling data for PA comes to a trend adjusted average of +13 for Obama (keep scrolling down on FiveThirtyEight). I'll round that down to a 55-45 lead. You know what, that makes this game NO fun. Let's say that the racists skew the polling numbers by 13 points and that 50% of PA voters plan on voting for McCain.
Ok, those are all the assumptions we need... now the math:
  • First, the probability that I would have an impact in Pennsylvania. If there is a 50% chance that any given voter votes for Obama and 5,000,000 people vote there is roughly a 1 in 6,000,000 chance that McCain wins by 200 votes or less.
  • Next, since there is only a 1 in 10 chance (10%) that PA matters I have to multiply that number by .1. We now have a 1 in 60,000,000 chance (based on stated assumptions) that I influence the election.
I'm going to attack the following counter-argument before it even comes up... "So what if there's a low chance that I influence the election, it's REALLY important, so I should do it anyway."

Well, that just depends on how REALLY important it is to me. There's a way to calculate this. If you're a rational (in the mathematical sense of the word) person then you would pay exactly $10 for a 1/10 chance at $100. You shouldn't pay any more then that, if someone offers it to you at less you should always take it. With that in mind, let's assume that I've invested 10 of my hours to blog and call 100 people and that my time is worth $40 per hour. That means I've paid $400 for my lottery ticket. What would the prize (an Obama election victory) have to be worth to me to pay $400 for a 1 in 60,000,000 lottery? $24,000,000,000. That's 24 Trillion.

In Conclusion, I should only participate in Schultz's challenge if I think Obama winning is 24 trillion dollars better then McCain winning. I don't. Consequently, I (and my blog) will be focusing on the presidential election as more of a public interest story then an "issue" and will instead be focusing on local issues, where I believe I can make a difference with this blog and my voice.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Troy Polamalu

Don't think that just because Troy Polamalu crosses himself before every play, he's not out to hit you like he means it. ESPECIALLY when you're on OUR turf. He gave the following quote about the (silly) $15,000 fine that Hines Ward got on a play when he wasn't even penalized.

It loses so much of its essence, and it really becomes like a pansy game.

I think regarding the evolution of football, it's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch. We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. I think it's probably all about money. They're not really concerned about safety.

You have to figure out how to tackle people a new way, There's such a fine line. I guess, hitting quarterbacks late and whether they're going to slide or come forward -- it's too much.

If you look at any sport, maybe besides mixed martial arts, it's a real gladiator sport. We go out there at a high speed, killing each other.

You see guys like Dick Butkus and those types of really raw, old-school, pound-it-out football players; they could never survive in a game like this today. The Ronnie Lotts, the Jack Tatums -- these guys who really went after people. They were that way because the game was physical. They couldn't survive in this type of game. They wouldn't have enough money because they'd be paying fines, and then they'd be suspended for a year after they did it two games in a row.
Anybody else glad the bye week is over?

Also posted at the Pittsburgh Men's Blogging Society.