Friday, November 29, 2013

1259 The Two Space Twostep

1259 The Two Space Twostep

How many spaces do you leave between sentences?  Two, right?

Wrong.  That’s old fashioned. That’s outdated.

Mr. Corcoran of Moote Pointe Junior High School (est 1952) insisted to his typing class that you must… Must… MUST leave two spaces between sentences.

That kind of thing stays with you.  It becomes habit.  Kicking the habit requires rehab.  There IS no rehab.

If you’ve been putting two spaces between sentences since the invention of the typewriter, you’re probably a lifer.

Modern typographical protocol insists on one space between sentences.

Big deal, right?  Right.  If you want to make two spaces, what’s to keep you from doing so?

Word processing programs, that’s what.

You come to the end of a line and finish a sentence and if you put two spaces between them right near the end of the line, your next sentence automatically starts on the next line and is automatically indented.

That makes the page look ugly.  And ugly is the major no no in both print and television.

So when you’re finished writing, you have to go back and fix all those indentations.  You’d be surprised at how many of your sentences end in places where two spaces will cause jagged margins.

Why two spaces?  So your readers will know without fail that a new sentence is starting.  This comes from the time when a single space between typed sentences made the page look crowded.

Modern fonts eliminate that problem.  And, like all else solved by computer, inflict new and different damage.

In the ranks of problems, this is not up there with the Philippines typhoon, Healthcare.gov or the Cross Bronx Expressway.  But still… it’s a daily annoyance which the programming geniuses at Microsoft, Google and Open Office could fix with a few lines of code.

As you know, computers all give you 25 ways to perform a task where one or two would do and most of the time you need none.  But they give you zero ways to perform a task that you long to execute.

As he prepares to exit Microsoft, CEO Steve Ballmer could bestow his second greatest gift by fixing this problem. (The greatest gift he leaves in exiting Microsoft is exiting Microsoft.  And take Windows 8 with you, Steverino.)

Mr. Corcoran is spinning in his grave.  Help him stop.

Shrapnel:

--Note to Wall Street: get real.  The stock market is in a bubble.  With the Dow over 16-thousand, there’s nowhere to go but down.
--NBC’s coverage of the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade was an endless stream of live short commercials interspersed with actual commercials.  Roker and Lauer looked scruffy in beards.  And Savannah Guthrie is looking more Couric-esque every day -- which has to be good for ratings.

--Dedicated and life-long New Yorkers agree there are three days a year when no rational human being should be in Manhattan and Thanksgiving is one of them. The other two are July Fourth and New Year’s Eve.  There used to be four such days but St. Patrick’s Day has calmed to a dull roar.

Grapeshot:

-Because of current economic condishins Wesays has been forced to make hard desishins about staffing levels which include wat we hope will be only the temporary furloughing      of our copy editder ,

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to Wes Richards@gmail.com

© WJR 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

1258 Eating the Big Box('s) Lunch

1258 Eating The Big Box(‘s) Lunch


Amazon could be ready to do to Wal-Mart what Wal-Mart did to downtown.   And they’re going to do it by meeting a desire the big box boys can’t and won’t.


Wal-Mart rose to the top of the retail world by cutting prices, squeezing the help and squeezing the vendors.  The net result:  slave nation goods, long lines, crowded aisles and the relocation of the Eternal Light to register 28.  Oh, and the eternal wait.


Bring on the wrecking ball (with or without Miley.)


Not tomorrow.  But look at the trends and your own habits.  


In some cases you just can’t avoid the discounters.


If you need groceries or lumber, you need to be there, feet on the ground.


Anything else?  Not so much.


Many online retailers match the discounters’ prices or come close to them.  But the bigger ones often are the kings of customer service.  Not equal to the old mom and pops of downtown… better.


Easy and sometimes free returns, your questions answered on line or by email or by telephone.  And your bones don’t ache from standing at register 28, then heading back to the car and putting the stuff away once home.


Oh sure, the people at Macy’s are helpful.  When you can find them. Same goes for Nordstrom or Neiman-Marcus if you’re the type who thinks nothing of dropping $260 for an Ermenegildo Zegna tie.  Most of us aren’t and wouldn’t be if we could.


Many of these stores have their own websites.  But they tend to be clunky, badly organized, slow and complicated.


Compare that with Amazon or QVC or Newegg or Overstock or any of the computer manufacturers: Dell, Toshiba, HP and Apple.


Talk about slick!  You can be on and off the LLBean or Eddiebauer websites in no time flat.  Compare that to visiting the mall. Try that on the Target.com website and you’ll still be poring through tons of irrelevant data and considering yourself lucky if you actually find what you’re looking for.


Not to pick on Target… their hearts are in the right place. It’s just that their code writers aren’t.




Shrapnel:
--Got our first oil delivery the other day, about 200 gallons, all of it on the lawn. We keep telling them to stop. That's because we have no tank and we heat with gas.


---Don’t look for Lara Logan on TV anytime soon. The rightwing Benghazi Honey is suspended along with her producer for that shockingly wrong and wrong-headed report for 60 minutes. Look for a Dan Rather solution at CBS… where they bring back a suspended correspondent and assign no duties, usually forcing them out.


--Wessays™ reader survey... Which news site do you consider the most trustworthy and why?  We’ll crunch the numbers and report to you.


Grapeshot:


-Jos. A Bank wanted to buy competitor Men’s Wearhouse which turned around and offered to buy out Bank which means the war is in the boardroom not the battlefield to the detriment of both.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.co
© WJR 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

1257 Black Friday

1257 Black Friday

Hey, let’s go camping?  Okay, where to this year, Best Buy or Sears?

Pick Sears.  They have a bigger parking lot, are more desperate and there’s less chance you’ll be overrun by competing sale-day freaks.

Yes, Black Friday is upon us again.

And bargain hunting tenters and RV owners are again planning their all-nighters in the parking lots of the stores and malls so they can be the first or the tenth or the 250th on line to snap up those half-price Ninja blenders, big screen TV sets, pre-lit Christmas trees and contractor quality fruit cakes.

Black Friday is when many retailers cap off a dismal season in the red by raising enough cash to pay the electric bill, their employees and the rent... and turn a profit.

It’s a down home block party that can end in down home fisticuffs and maulings.

For some, a new Playstation, XBox or Samsung Galaxy III can be as necessary as a roof over their heads.  So, they temporarily forego the roof.

In warmer climates, the early birds on line are entertained by strolling musicians who pass the hat.  

In extreme locales, like southern California and south Florida, you’ll spot an occasional hot tub.  Seniors will often arrive in motorized recliner wheelchairs.

In colder climes, they build campfires in 55-gallon drums and guard their places on the line with hunting rifles powerful enough to fell a carnivorous dinosaur in two shots or fire fast enough to pick an entire flight of ducks from the sky in under ten seconds.

It’s an old fashioned family fun fest filled with all the joys and comradery of an old fashioned gang war.

It’s been some years now that door buster sales haven’t resulted in any actual busted doors.  But one can only hope.  Police in many locations have been put on extended shifts and increased patrols near anything retail.

Black Friday traditionalists will be out in force Thursday, holding demonstrations and trying to block doors.  They want the event concentrated on one day and one day only. “Keep Friday in Black Friday.”  It’s the same group that will spend Thanksgiving Day with their families … eating their turkey dinners on makeshift picnic tables in the same parking lots to show the true meaning of that holiday and discouraging potential shoppers while simultaneously shaming the store owners and the employees “forced” to work.

Friday night when the smoke clears, the recliners, hot tubs and elephant guns are all safely tucked back in, the presents all purchased and the worn-to-a-nub workers are ready to throw back a beer and call it a day, they’ll find those extended-stay cops on DWI patrol.

So, how much you gonna save by arriving even earlier than you would for a flight from Miami to Shanghai?  And how long is it going to take you to set up the tent or hot tub, enter the store, wait on line for half an hour while a cashier patiently wades through someone’s 15 credit cards all of which are rejected?  And that doesn’t even count the time it takes you to take down your camping arrangement after you’ve scored your 59-cent DVDs.

Camping in the Sears parking lot does have its advantages.  Your car won’t be attacked by a hungry rhinoceros as it might in, say, Kruger National Park or a bear in Yellowstone.

You won’t be bitten by infected mosquitoes and live the rest of your life with Lyme Disease or Fibromyalgia.  And the snakes all walk upright.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013




Friday, November 22, 2013

1256 JFK

1256  JFK


Those of us 50 and over know where we were when we first heard that President Kennedy was murdered.  So why do we feel compelled to trade stories of that day 50 years ago today?


The answer generally is “I was at…” work, school, home... working, pretending to study, napping on the couch, taking my car in for repairs, and -- most frequently-- eating lunch.


We in the news business love “people” stories and we love “major” anniversaries.  To what end?  Well, they’re easy to write or broadcast.  Very little research required.  They bring flutters to our hearts and with any luck to yours. And in the case of JFK, the conspiracy theories have kept the story alive.


LBJ did it. The CIA did it. The Secret Service did it. Gangsters did it. Or the Cubans.  Or the Russians.


Oh, but the Warren Commission was stacked and misled.  And the autopsy was performed in DC and not in Dallas.  Any fool can see this was a setup.  Or so we're told.  But as time passes, we still wonder and study and make TV programs about it all and all put us to sleep.


It now appears that one or more of those theories will eventually be shown as fact.  And it was a shocking event, something that no one then living had previously witnessed.  Certainly we should remember the day, the event.  We should hold memorial services.  We should pause and reflect.


But do you really care what a stranger in the next seat on the train was doing at the time… unless the stranger turns out to be a retired Federal agent or Walter Cronkite’s barber.




Shrapnel:


--Do freshmen members of Congress get an alphabetized book of excuses for when they get in trouble and if so, has any normal person seen it?  Rep Trey Radel (R-FL) is a newbie but came up with the usual garbage when police bagged him and his bag of white powder.  “My alcoholism led me to an extremely irresponsible choice…” sounds like something that experienced representatives have used for more than 200 years of misdeeds.


--Congressman Drugbust is best known for his proposal that food stamp recipients undergo drug tests or face denial of service.  Rep Jim McGovern (D-MA) came up with an appropriate rejoinder. He suggested giving members of congress drug tests.


--The Shrapnel section started a few years ago to cover in three sentences things that didn’t require the usual 500 words. Lately we’ve found there are things worth noting that didn’t warrant three sentences.  So, today, we introduce a new and occasional feature called…


Grapeshot:


-A Costco in Simi Valley CA has apologized to customers who were offended when they discovered the price tags on their Bibles included the category “fiction.”


-Mayor-elect de Blasio is being swamped with applications for all the vacancies he’ll have to fill but so far the only one he’s talking about is a new police commissioner.


-How about them R*dskins?


-Harry Reid showed some spine by changing the filibuster rules to make it harder for a lone gunman to block appointments and all the Republicans are in a twist because they don’t remember that they did that to Clinton’s nominees.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please send comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1255 Bloomberg the Game

1255 Bloomberg -- the Game

Back in the day, Mike Bloomberg liked to have his managers play musical chairs, giving rise to some of us low-rankers drawing parallels with the Kremlin.  

You never knew from one day to the next who was comrade and who was comrade Commissar.   One wag likened the quick changes of course and assignments to Whac-a-mole.

When the Maximum Leader left to campaign for mayor, the moles went underground and stayed there.  And the Kremlin morphed into the Pentagon.

Now, as he winds up his third term as mayor, Mike Bloomberg reportedly will come back to his company, at least partly. And he’s coming back to something that is in many ways unlike what he left.

So it shouldn’t be a total loss, the people now in charge of the news division staged a little palace revolution this week.  Under pressure from various sources it is streamlining its investigative editing process and placing it in Washington.  It’s killing its excellent arts and culture division called “Bloomberg Muse,” And it’s killing sports coverage that doesn’t relate directly to money.  Covering games was never Bloomberg’s strong suit and with a stadium full of superior competitors it probably was wise to narrow the focus.

With changes like this, come layoffs, a word that back in the Kremlin days we weren’t supposed to use as a euphemism for “fired.”

Early reports called this week’s firings the largest in the company’s history.  They are not that.  Except to the people who were fired.  The radio department firings of several years ago were far more numerous and the changes that came with them were far more obvious to the people who use the company’s various forms of media.

There were no titles on our office doors, back when.  That’s because most of us had no titles and no one -- not even Mike -- had offices, let alone office doors.

But there were some titled people.  Matt Winkler was and is Editor in Chief, a term previously used mostly in High School and College newspapers and magazines.  Oh, and in Superman comics.  Well, fine. If you’re going to have a title, make it a big one.

Matt has strong views on most everything and is famously un-shy about expressing them.  And right now, he’s in the crosshairs for something he denies he’s done, killing a story some think might get his reporters kicked out of China and (can you believe it?) might affect the sale of financial data there.  

Winkler says he didn’t kill the story.  It’s “still … active.”

Well, yes, so is the story of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the one about the launch of Sputnik but most of us don’t think about those active stories each day.

So, Mike, there’s work to be done here and it’s no secret you both know it and know what to do.  Welcome home.  Now get out the chairs and dust off the mole mallet and let the games begin.

Shrapnel:

--An analysis shows that this blog gets many more hits when it deals with the miscreants of Wall Street.  Examples are recent posts about SAC’s recent illegalities and Forbes Magazine’s future.  So streetwalker that I am, you’ll probably see more of that kind of thing in the future.

--Ratings, rating ratings… it’s all about numbers when it comes to any medium, even a puny one like this. TV, the internet, radio, magazines, credit standings, on and on.  Only NPR and PBS think they’re exempt.  But, secretly, they keep track of the figures, too.

--A friend is traveling to Mexico and got advice to take an armored car from the airport to the hotel and back, to rent a Kevlar vest and an NFL grade Football helmet at the kiosk in either the hotel lobby or the baggage claim area.  This guy is an experienced globetrotter and --educated guess here -- uncomfortable with firearms whether he’s the pointer or pointee.  Fingers crossed.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

1254 Forbes and MisFortune (Correct)

1254 Forbes and MisFortune


Somewhere in his magazine years ago, Steve Forbes wrote about third generation owners of family businesses.  He said, in effect, they generally send their company circling down the drain.


There are plenty of examples of third generation owners who don’t… the Waltons of Wal-Mart for example.   


But Steve seems to be right about his own business.


Forbes Magazine?  You can hear the vortex in the sink.


Now, the family owners of the nearly 100-year old “must read” in the world of business has put the thing up for sale.  This after selling pretty much every other piece of high-value property they own.


According to news reports from The Atlantic and Bloomberg, they  hope to reap up to $500 million for the magazine and its widely read and relied-on website.  Those same reports quote magazine industry insiders as saying the figure is unrealistic.


It isn’t that Steve’s a bad magazine guy.  To the contrary, he’s a very good magazine guy. His libertarian outlook has informed the magazine’s tone, but pulls no punches when it takes out after the  bad guys of business.  


And there’s no list like a Forbes List.  Wealthiest Americans, World’s Wealthiest, Most Influential men and women,  Highest-earning Entertainers, highest earning dead people (think Elvis and Sinatra.)  The biggest companies, the biggest privately held companies, and on and on.


But between the general downturn in print media, and some un-Forbes-like business moves, the magazine is on the ledge of its building and vertigo has kicked in.


Here’s some of the other stuff they’ve sold:  The world’s largest private collection of Faberge eggs. A ranch.  Some other real estate including their building on 5th Avenue in Greenwich Village (leased back for five years.)  The “Highlander,” a 151 foot yacht that has hosted more A-list names than a year of Entertainment Tonight.


Some time back, they also sold 45% of the company to Elevation Partners the private equity firm whose co-founder and mascot is the Irish singer Bono.


Elevation spent $30-million for its chunk and has written off most of that but still stands to be paid in full when/if the magazine sells.


Steve’s grandfather, Scotland-born BC Forbes left the Hearst papers and founded the magazine in 1917. Steve’s father, Malcolm took the reins at BC’s death in 1954.  The third generation took over in 1957.


That’s job security.  And Steve isn’t the only Forbes working for grandpa’s company.


But a funny thing happened along the way.


First, they “promoted” their long-time editor, Jim Michaels to … um… retirement.  That’s kind of like when the new owners of the New Yorker fired editor William Shawn.  These men WERE their magazines.


Somewhere in there, the Don Quixote mosquito of
politics bit Steve and he ran a disastrous campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination. Twice.


Not too much of a stretch.  After all, Malcolm Forbes had served in the New Jersey State legislature for awhile.  But the failure of the 1996 campaign apparently didn’t teach Steve much about investing his money.


Y2K was about the time the Forbes fire sale began.  The two events could be related.  Ya think?


Ad pages are way down; sister publications shed.


In times like these, a magazine needs a patron.  Kind of like when Bloomberg bought Business Week, which probably loses money, but so what, it’s Bloomberg.


A report circulated some years back that Conde Nast wanted to buy Forbes, but Forbes said the offer was too low and CN -- which would have been a reasonably good patron folded its checkbook and went home.


Competitor Fortune Magazine has the (dwindling) resources of Time Warner and eventually will have the backing of revived spinoff Time, Inc to carry its umbrella.


So where do the financial titans get their news today?  The Bloomberg Terminal, the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, CNBC, Business Insider.com, the New York Times, Google and Yahoo, Reuters.  Forbes doesn’t swing the weight it did for so many decades.  If it goes downmarket, it will lose its core readership.  If it sells too many Advertorials it will lose credibility. The website is worth more than the magazine and probably will survive.  But it won’t be the same in others’ hands.



Note to readers: I am retired from Bloomberg News.  For many of the years I worked there, my daughter, Julie Richards, was employed in the business/administration side of Forbes.  She was not consulted and did not otherwise participate in or contribute to this Wessay.

Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously said BC Forbes served in the NJ Legislature. It should have said Malcolm Forbes.


Other Note to readers: For an interesting perspective on the JFK assassination, please click on the High Heels Hot Flashes link on the right side of this page for David Bedein’s remembrance at age 13.



I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2013