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December 22, 2009

The Birds

I never really thought of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" as a scary movie. It was tense, and well-acted and directed, of course, but scary? I never thought so.

My guess is that for a large number of people, birds are not thought of as predators. They are cute and (relatively) small. We see more of them in a parental capacity or sucking nectar from flowers than we do eating flesh, so it is hard to see them as predators. Even when watching an osprey, hawk, or eagle grabbing fish out of the stream, we rarely consider them "predatory" for some reason.

The other day, as I was puttering about the house, I notice a shadow infrequently obstructing the sun shining through the window. After a couple of times, I went and looked to find out what it was. What I saw astounded me.

A flock/gaggle/group/horde of hundreds of ravenous birds, all small and cute, were flying from yard to yard in the neighborhood en masse and devouring thousands of worms, caterpillars, and similar bugs on each lawn. And they weren't nice about it. Sometimes a two birds would grab the same worm and would pull it apart in their frenzy to eat it. They would squeak and squawk at one another, and attempt to drive each other away from the choicest caterpillars.

What surprised and, frankly, scared me the most was how they did all this with near-military precision and as a unit. And they killed and ate more bugs than any chemical bug spray would have taken care of.

I managed to get a few pics of this ravenous horde in progress. As you can see, they strangely respected each yard's boundaries and did one lawn at a time as a group. It was a little eerie.

I'll never look at a group of birds again with quite the same naivety.

When the Milk is Free

So, the last few times I've gone to, Variety's online site, within seconds of starting to view the page a full-page ad for Variety asking me to become a member and sign in has displayed. The sign-up has a small charge, it appears. Not as much as getting the mag for a year. However, and here's the thing that a lot of online sites seem to not understand: the vast majority of people who are used to getting the milk for free will refuse to pay for the cow and will move on to other locations where they can continue to get milk for free.

And I'm just like that-- I have eliminated the links to from my home page and just won't go to their site any more unless and until the information is free. It is WAY too easy to get any entertainment industry news from a variety of other sources for free still, so I'm certainly not going to pay for it.

Variety may argue that they provide a service that is worth paying for and the price is reasonable. I would counter with the fact that any price is unreasonable when I can get the same, or virtually the same, information for free elsewhere. Add in the fact I have never, not once, read an article on that didn't include at least two typos, errors, grammar mistakes, or poor wording choices that change the meaning of the sentence and, for me at least, Variety's decision to ask me to pay for their service becomes a recipe for disaster. may have the information first, but if it is virtually unreadable due to errors and mistakes, faulty reporting, or bad editing, then I'll go elsewhere and get it later. I'd rather have it later and right than sooner and wrong. Something all news sources may want to consider, frankly.

So, Variety lost a small amount of click count and definitely lost out on revenue today. I suspect they will find that my few clicks per week and subscription rate isn't the only one they lose out on and their attempt to save their business by making people pay for it will actually hasten the mag's demise. We'll see.

December 11, 2009

Economics 101

All the experts know that there is simply only one way to solve a recession/depression -- for people to spend money. It is a little counter-intuitive to those who don't understand the way economics work, but that is the simple truth.

What I don't understand is why the President or some of his top people don't do PSAs that state this. Maybe have Al Gore come on and do a send-up of his Oscar winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and show bar graphs and pie-charts that explain that when you spend money, it trickles through the economy and impacts, literally, hundreds of other people, jobs, and businesses.

For example, you go down to your local eatery of choice. You spend $50 for you and your honey to have a nice meal. That $50 and your presence at the restaurant causes the owner to have to hire and pay a server, a cook, a dishwasher/cleaner (each of whom then have money to spend on their own things). The owner also has to buy groceries from his distributor so he can make your meal, which then gives money to that distributor. Who then has to buy his goods from the manufacturers of the food products, which gives them money. And on each step of the way, each person or business who gets paid has to in turn spend more money on personnel to work the jobs and on other goods and services, all the way to the farmer who owned the cow and had to pay for water, grain, breeding, people to work the farm, etc.

Now, this system is slow. It provides for a strong foundation and is the most solid way to bring an economy out of a recession, but it is slow. Which is why so many countries in recessions go a faster route that works nearly the same way- war. War brings people into the military, and pays them to be there. It also pays for various businesses to make uniforms, guns, ammunition, bombs, electronics, food/rations, tires, oil, and everything else needed by the military to equip, train, and maintain those military people in the war. The same trickle down effect of the money pervading the country's economy works, but it works much faster than the first method.

This method of trickling money through an entire economy is so useful and successful that many charities have switched to this method of "donating" money to poor countries. Rather than just sending in experts to build something in a third-world country, they provide very small "micro loans" to an existing (or new) business owner. The act of that business owner building his business, hiring more people, buying his goods and services is more successful at raising the economy of the entire region than just giving the people food or sending in experts to build stuff for them. And, more importantly, it teaches them independence and the value of the money to them and their community.

This simple concept is foreign to so many, as they don't pay attention or do not take any sort of simple economics class. So, have our leadership or hire some high-profile actors to do PSAs to get this information out to the general public. By spending money you actually save the country and will, in the long-term, have more money to spend/save as you see fit.

Caveat: This message does not address the need for people to only spend within their means and to save for their future responsibly. These ideas would need their own PSAs and may be addressed in future blog posts by this author, as he sees fit or gets riled up about something.

December 3, 2009

Sometimes You Know

Sometimes you know you have made the right or wrong decision by the physical reactions your body has to the choice.

If you get sick, develop severe headaches, start sweating profusely, even start suffering tremors, you likely have made a bad decision and should rethink things.

If those symptoms go away, or minor aches and pains ease "for no reason," or your happiness level goes through the roof, it was likely the right decision for you.