PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
Feb. 5, 2001
A Billion Here, A Billion There
I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.
Table of Contents:
Senator Everett Dirksen, R-IL., who spent his entire career as minority leader, once said, "A billion here, a billion there, the next thing you know, you're talking about real money." Well, I've just been told some figures about the California energy crisis that are real eye openers.
My source is a bond salesman for a major California bank. I asked him if I should buy some of the California energy bailout bonds. His response was to keep things in perspective. California, today, has a total of $30 billion in outstanding bonds. It is talking about issuing another $15 billion to bail out the power companies (all figures rounded); that would increase our state's bonded indebtedness by 50%. Also, how are we going to sell $15 billion in bonds? To put that in perspective, the U.S. Treasury sells $12 billion in treasury bills every quarter--to a potential buyer base of 300 million people who can hold them tax free [not all of them bond buyers]. Now California has about 30 million people in it, and not all of them are bond buyers either, but they are the only people who can own these bonds totally tax free.
The numbers, frankly, are scary.
Related links, courtesy of Craig Reynolds:
Here is AP coverage of the audit:Audit Confirms PG&E Near Broke
This was fun reading for fans of outrage and righteous indignation (like me):
Accidental or orchestrated, power crisis a conspiracy
Another Bay Guardian article about public ownership of utilities:
See also this collection.
I'm a little hacked off this week, at some hackers and at my ISP for failing to provide sufficient security to prevent my home page from being hacked. Fortunately, as the time before a month and a half ago, I was hacked Sunday night and quickly informed of it Monday morning by Jim Forbes and Dan Grobstein (I don't look at my own home page all that often). Is twice is six weeks too often? I really like my ISP, which is local, and has great, responsive service.
Why I Am Interested In Everything
For a long time, I have inchoate feelings; why is it that I enjoy talking to anyone about anything? Once again, Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle has given voice to my innermost feelings.
Hooray For Whatever
I like enthusiasm about anything at all. I think it is a specific against boredom and brain calcification. I have listened to insect fans talk, to model railroad enthusiasts, to collectors of early movie projectors and growers of euphorbias and builders of miniature replicas of medieval castles.
They understood that their passion was not entirely comprehended by the outside world. They did not care at all. If you demonstrated any interest at all -- if you merely failed to yawn and look at your watch -- they would explain as much as you wanted.
Those Annoying Accenture Ads
Dan Rosenbaum found this commentary on the oddball Accenture advertisements shown during the Super Bowl. By the way, I taped the game, skipped all the football and watched all the advertisements. I especially liked the Budweiser advertisements, most especially the rich guys asking "What's happening," and the dog that turned out to be an alien. Bob Dole for Pepsi was pretty good too.
Anyway, here's Dan's find, from ESPN.com, by Jefferson George, who is apparently their Fantasy Football columnist. He'swriting a critique of SB35 ads:
"Another Accenture commerical. Amazing. I never heard of these guys two hours ago, and now I hate them. "
Accenture, for those who don't know, is the new name of Anderson Consulting. I didn't know what they did then, I don't really know what they do now, and their several Super Bowl ads didn't help. I should note that Accenture is properly spelled with a "greater-than" sign above the "t," what musicians would call an accent mark. Of course, the "t" is not itself accented. For that matter, neither is the syllable to which the "t" attaches -- the final one. And putting a diacritical mark on a consonant in any event triggers subliminal reminders of Spinal Tap, which had an umlaut on the "n" and might not be something that a big-bucks consultant would want to conjure up.
Another Time Travel Book
Dan Grobstein is back with another time travel book recommendation. I ordered it based on his description, I'll let you know how it is when I've finished it.
As for the book. I just read "Replay" by Ken Grimwood. I found it … [using] link on Amazon's site (customers who bought this book also bought these books).
Here's the book description from the site:
Jeff Winston, forty-three, didn't know he was a replayer until he died and woke up twenty-five years younger in his college dorm room; he lived another life. And died again. And lived again and died again -- in a continuous twenty-five-year cycle -- each time starting from scratch at the age of eighteen to reclaim lost loves, remedy past mistakes, or make a fortune in the stock market. A novel of gripping adventure, romance, and fascinating speculation on the nature of time, Replay asks the question: "What if you could live your life over again?
Computer Industry News
A New Operating System
Combine three Microsoft operating systems? Why Not?
French Techno with the weirdest video you'll ever see--check out Flat Beat's video. Think pets.com with a desk and a bowl of wieners. Really, you have to see it to believe it. Try to view it on a high-speed link. Thanks for finding this one, Marlow.
Slightly Smutty Shaggy Dog Story
On the 16th hole of the golf course, Fred had hit his ball into the woods. Harry, his partner had laughed and poked fun, but then somehow managed to hit his ball into the woods, just a few yards beyond. Fred looked for a long time, getting angrier every minute.
Finally, in a patch of pretty yellow buttercups, he found his ball. Instead of just continuing the game, he took his club and thrashed every single buttercup in that patch. Suddenly, in a flash and puff of smoke, a little old woman appeared.
She said, "I'm Mother Nature! Do you know how long it took me to make those buttercups? Just for that, you won't have any butter for your popcorn the rest of your life.....better still; you won't have any butter for your toast for the rest of your life.....as a matter of fact, you won't have any butter for anything the rest of your life!" Then POOF!...she was gone.
After Fred got a hold of himself, he hollered for his friend, "Harry!....Harry!...where are you?"
Harry yells, "I'm over here, in the pussy willows."
Fred screams back..... "DON'T SWING!!! FOR GOD'S SAKE!! DON'T SWING!!!
Weddings and Funerals
When I was younger I hated going to weddings ... it seemed that all of my aunts and the grandmotherly types used to come up to me, poking me in the ribs and cackling, telling me, 'You're next.'
They stopped after I started doing the same thing to them at funerals.
A Minnesotan's Guide To Computer Lingo
I have removed this item, out of respect for the following email:
You have copyrighted material on your website. I know this, because we are the company that published our book in 1995, called Computer Lingo, a Backwoods Guide, aka The Vermonter's GUide to Computer Lingo. Please check this out: Amazon.com: buying info: The Backwoods Guide to Computer Lingo
We worked hard on self publishing, producing, marketing, and some ONE copied it onto the net. We would appreciate it, a few law suits later, if you would promptly remove our work from your website. It is good humor, however, we went to the trouble of registering it properly with a Library of Congress number. Please do this asap.
You have it reproduced identically. It is wrongful that it gets copied like this. Please do not send it elsewhere, and respect our wishes.
None Again, But Two Plays
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
But no movie facts this week. Between announcing Varsity Wrestling and JV Basketball (well, I was supposed to announce basketball, but the game started early and no one told me and there was no PA set up, and I forgot my megaphone), I didn't have time for a movie. But Rae asked me to take her to the city, which I did, so we saw David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross in a production by the American Conservatory Theater, and we saw Stomp at the Marine's Memorial theater, topped off by a Sunday performance of Black Cake at the San Francisco ballet.
Glengarry was a hundred times better on the stage than Mamet's own movie adaptation, which I walked out on because I found it boring. ACT has great actors, always, and when you give them good material there's no stopping them. Talk about a deep bench! Stomp was a real heart-thumping 100 minutes of non-stop percussion and clever acting. Black Cake was Dutch, modern in content but classical in form and way cool, and even Prism, the other major ballet on program one, was worth watching.
Fruity Content, Powerful Question
Craig Reynolds Notes:
Regarding last week's issue
About the "Cute Email Project", I would cynically assume that this was a worm designed to deliver future spam victim's email addresses toMsThompsonsClass@yahoo.com
Despite Edith Ann and her trademark raspberry, your "cherry blossom" research reminded me of this from my childhood:
To my favorite honeydew, do you carrot all for me?
One of my anonymous correspondents (not that one, a different one) wrote movingly about the power crisis:
I was busy with the kids this morning when I half heard something on the news. I think they said that a recent audit of Southern California Edison shows that since deregulation began they had made sufficient profit to cover all of their current debt, but that all funds had been long since transfered to their parent company. I'd heard similar stories about PG&E, and their audit will be released soon. Let me know if you happen to run across more detail on this issue.
Ideally California would seize those funds from the parent companies to cover the cost to the public -- like they were ripping the still- beating heart out of the demon's chest. But I suppose Davis is too beholden to the power companies...
You can find out more about PG&E's financial shenanigans in Is the company broke? Not even close in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alternative newspaper known for its coverage of the power company.
Meanwhile, there was an article in Sunday's SF Chronicle which, in the words of one correspondent, "lays a lot of blame for the energy crisis at the governor's feet. He recently took a reasonable step, seeking long term contracts to avoid the spot market, but apparently the utilities, PUC and US DOE had been urging exactly that approach for the last six months." You may remember we asked in this column last week about long-term contracts. Now, finally, we get a detailed description (and now I understand why it couldn't be dealt with in a simple parenthetical phrase. Too complicated.
This from Dan Rosenbaum:
I have a new quote… from a talk Frank Lalli (ex-Fortune, ex-George) gave the other day to the American Society Of Magazine Editors:
''An editor without a magazine is like a jockey without a horse. When you see a jockey standing there without being up on a horse, they seem little and not very impressive. I was riding a lame horse, but I still enjoyed it.
I'll add it to my journalism quotes page as well.
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