SocraticGadfly: 1/14/07 - 1/21/07

January 20, 2007

Employment agencies: Trying to let the Net do their work for them?

Based on some recent use, I get the distinct impression that today’s “employment” agency is becoming less and less of a “placement agency” and more and more of “let’s e-mail this job seeker a corporate website link agency.”

Lazy bastards.

You know the town isn’t the most well-off when …

A newspaper editor’s salary is actually at the per-capita income average.

Bush tries to SPIN another risk increase in the “ownership society”

President Bush, in his State of the Union address, is expected to call for tax changes that will strive to push people out of company insurance and into self-paid insurance.

One half of the proposal sounds great: increase the tax deduction for self-insurance. But, when coupled with the other half — decreasing how much of a tax break employers can claim for company-provided insurance — you see exactly where this baby is headed.

Bush compared health insurance to home ownership. And, for those people who are in apartments?

Stupid analogies aside, self-insurance of course has massive problems with risk pools, pre-existing conditions, etc., unless you have massive regulation of the type Bush would never propose.

January 19, 2007

Hey, Lancaster: will there really be need enough for all these distribution centers?

Don’t mean to throw too much cold water on Joe Tillotson or his 2008 successor as mayor (yes, Joe, time to move on and stick with the decision this time) or Jim Landon’s successor as city manager, but will there be that much need for The Allen Group’s Dallas Logistics Hub by the time it gets built?

An article in the Morning News points out potential competition between DLH and Alliance. It notes that Alliance itself is only 35 percent built out. The Metroplex doesn’t really need all the room of a built-out Alliance PLUS a built-out DLH, or so it would seem to any rational outside observer.

Also, even with an expanded Lancaster airport, that’s not quite the same as having a spacious cargo airport inside your business/warehousing park, as is the case at Alliance.

Plus, let’s not forget what’s down here on the southern side of Dallas. You have the Argent/ProLogis distribution site in Lancaster, the one in Dallas on Hampton Road just north of DeSoto, about the same size and slightly ahead on build-out of its first building, and you have the one on Dallas, on Danieldale at 35 on the DeSoto side, a little behind ProLogis, but certainly being built well ahead of DLH.

The three smaller distribution centers/business parks, if all built out, could be what, 20 percent the size of DLH? Plus, you have other south Dallas sites, such as the area behind the old UNT-Dallas System Center that still has development room.

And, as I’ve noted before, if world Peak Oil hits relatively soon, folks like WallyWorld will be changing methods of operation anyway, and won’t be using these centers as much.

Scary new computer virus

European malwarers decided to hitch a ride on a real-life severe winter storm and write a virus that was sent as a winter storm warning e-mail.

Given that we have even more severe weather in the U.S, this idea could be just the wrong thing to hit our shores. Doubly so if you get text-message warnings sent to your cell phone, etc.

Some Mac/Apple/Steve Jobs thoughts

1. After a week here, and a week of using the fabled OS X on the editor’s computer, I still have to say that I don’t understand the raving many Macsters have for it. To me, it ‘s not that much above OS 9. And, an online friend who does pagination and building for The Old Farmer’s Almanac and has worked with X for a while, says some parts of it are actually counterintuitive.

Oops! Wasn’t that supposed to be the biggest highlight of Apples vs PCs all along?

2. More specifically, and as I’ve posted on Kevin Drum’s blog comments and elsewhere, Microslob has been closing the gap with Apple that stems back 20 years.

Does Gates still have a way to go? Yes. But, is the gap narrower? Yes. For all the security concerns about it, XP was, IMO, still a more significant jump forward from Windoze 2000 than OS X was from 9.

3. The iPhone? I’ll agree with Mike Elgan when he says Jobs blew this baby badly on timing.

He says the iPhone is overrated already, and by making his announcement at Macworld months before it will be ready to hit the market, Jobs has raised the bar wayyyyy too high.
Jobs’ keynote was so highly visible that it reached deeply into popular culture, with late-night talk-show hosts joking about it, Saturday Night Live parodying it and all manner of amateur video makers creating spoofs about it. These pop-culture references seemingly all exaggerated and mocked the idea that iPhone does everything.

However, the opposite is true: The iPhone, despite its many media-oriented virtues and its sweet design, will do far less than most existing smart phones. The problem Apple now faces because of Jobs’ premature detail-oriented announcement is that of dashed expectations. When customers expect more and don’t get it, they become dissatisfied.

What doesn’t iPhone do? Unlike most smart phones, the iPhone doesn’t have voice-dialing, voice memos, 3G Internet access, Word or Excel support, one-handed operation, or video recording. It can’t be used as a laptop modem. The battery can’t be replaced. It doesn’t support removable storage. The calendar, task list and e-mail won’t sync with Microsoft Outlook.

Elgan adds that perhaps Jobs felt he had no alternative because Apple TV isn’t enough of a deal to carry heavy water for Apple. At the same time, the early iPhone announcment may have undercut Apple TV, thus making it an even daintier beast of burden.

And, Jobs pissed off Cisco, which has the trademark to the name “iPhone.”

4. Finally, Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates. Gates may be the evil corporate monster to many. (Sidebar: Have of the investments of his world-largest foundation come from companies like Big Oil, sickening the very Third World people he’s trying to help.)

However, to the degree that’s true, another stereotypical image fits Steve Jobs: used car salesman. And don’t forget that. All you Macsters are simply contributing to that stereotype.

January 18, 2007

UT study finds link between leukemia, Houston Ship Channel petrochem plants

Answer No. 1 to this study: No shit?

Houston Mayor Bill White says the city will use the study to get petrochemical plants to clean up their act. As a founder of the Coalition of Clean Air cities to fight TXU coal-fired power plants, I believe the man is serious.

But, ExxxxxxonMobil is an even bigger critter than TXU.

Good luck, Bill.

If I see the word “Aggieland” again …

I swear I’ll hurl, all over the Brazos River.

Personally, I wonder if it isn’t some sort of inferiority complex.

I guess that’s an advantage of going to a small private school — you don’t have these insipid rivalries. Of course, my undergraduate school closed with me in the last graduating class, and a graduate professional school doesn’t really have rivalries with anybody.

As for the “experience” of seeing an Aggie football game life, as a friend suggested? It may be an experience, but so is prison rape. I have no desire for either one.

The slowest and lowest point …

The publisher and I were the only two people who made it into the office Wednesday. And then, he left to help our driver get the papers this week, what with the ice and everything.

So, I was literally alone at the office for more than six hours, answering repeated phone calls about drop-in questions about how late this issue of the paper was going to be.

It hurt.

Slow …

This place is slower than Bonham or even Jacksboro. Some 20 years from now, if enough exurban Houston refugees live here, that may be different, but now?

Some people here are probably getting whiplash at how fast they think I talk.

And, that’s the half of my worries. I’m afraid that, at some point after I establish a routine, I’ll be bored here on the job.

Meanwhile, people ask me about how I feel about being here, how I feel about the city, etc. I’m honest enough to balance politeness and positive thinking by saying, “OK so far.”

January 17, 2007

Thumbs up for Interpol’s new effort on child sexual abuse

The international police departments consortium says it wants to crack down on pedophiles using fake “modeling” websites as lures. Given the amount of travel and expensive secrecy by high-dollar pedophiles, this is only the first step in what is needed, but a welcome first step indeed.

January 16, 2007

Feeling a bit better in some ways …

Found out I can get at least halfway OK reception of all three non-Fox network stations out of Bryan-College Station w/just rabbit ears.

And, found a park within walking distance.

BUT … don’t read too much into that, please. I still know that I stand out like even more of a sore thumb here than in Lancaster.

Far South Lancaster time …

“Is slower than molasses.”

NOT my quote, either. Our ad sales rep here, who’s not a native.

January 15, 2007

Far South Lancaster: Day 1 on the job

That sounds kind of like “Ground Zero,” doesn’t it?

Let’s put it this way… when your per-capita income is about two-thirds that of Lanc (and yes, I had seen that before I left, should have listened to the intuition more) … you might not be headed to Pismo Beach.

Oh, and all you Mac-heads? OSX AIN'T the bee's knees. Sorry, dudes.

January 14, 2007

Houston: early impressions

In some ways it seems like L.A. with more clouds and more humidity. In others, like its own unique vomitorium.

That said, Hermann Park is a nice mix of Fort Worth Botanical Gardens, Fair Park, and arts district.

Far South Lancaster: First in-house impressions

Apartment certainly not bad in size. As far as quality, not quite what I had at River Bend, but not bad.

Unfortunately, kitchen and bathroom sinks, and tub, all had stains in them still.

Electric pilots on the stove weren’t working right. Similar with oven.

AND… furnace wasn’t working!!

Not as cold here as Dallas, but it’s gotten cold enough that I need a bit of heat! It was down in the upper 50s inside before it was, fortunately, fixed.

One other off-the-top-of-my-head complaint: no blinds on sliding door on lower level. Have to make do, or the local hardware store sells them and the apt owners will install. Oh? The apt owners? Co-owners of the hardware store!

I’m in a two-bdr townhouse style apartment. A teacher lives next door on the one side. About 1,000 square feet. Wood floors upstairs of course. It’s certainly liveable.

Tile below. Will prolly get a throw rug for the living room half of the downstairs open area.

And, I will, next move, lighten up a bunch of stuff.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but do a moderate amount. The old-style big tube baby is going bye-bye. An LCD is 90 percent lighter!