Nerd of the Year

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Zuck, a quintessential nerd, was named 2010 Time Magazine Person of the Year.  He beat out some cool cats, like Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, a dude who’s bipolar, two-faced, and can look more stylish wearing a hat made of lamb fur (Karakul) than Brezhnev ever did.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg edged out WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, more hated in Washington than Osama and Kim Jong-il combined, while being wanted in Sweden for sex crimes. Too sexy for Sweden, wow!

However, I want to clarify that Zuck is a nerd, not a geek.  To me the distinction is clear – geeks crave to show off their prowess with gadgets while nerds need to know how those are put together. A geek can hold an iPhone 4 just right to avoid the antenna issue and without touching Home and Sleep causing Soft Reset. A nerd may not know which button adjusts iPhone volume, but can tell you that it sports an ARM Cortex-A8 processor manufactured by Samsung in 45mn, even though the nerd carries a Google Android G2 phone running Linux, in case he needs to fire-up LAMP stack while waiting for a bus.

Say a geek reaches for a razor-sharp Japanese katana sword. With exaggerated reverence he takes it by the long handle, careful not to leave unsightly fingerprints. The sword is raised high over his head, the swing starts with a deep guttural cry that peaks, as the blade slices off his toes.

Katana Sword

Katana Sword

A nerd grabs the sword by the blade, eager to examine the Tsuka handle for maker’s mark, and leaves bloody prints of fingers nicked to the bone. Easy to tell the two apart, though neither is Ninja material.

Still not clear? A nerd digs Star Trek, while a geek adores Star Wars.


Hate Your Maytag?

Maytag Man

Sleepy Maytag Man

I do not have a Maytag washer any longer. We bought one fifteen years ago, after our first child was born.  Not the very top of the line but what seemed pretty upscale then. You’ve seen those commercials about reliable washers and lonely repairmen

But the clothes were coming out looking dingy and our Maytag repairman was not lonely after all, visiting regularly and looking hurried, as he fiddled with the machine and made useful suggestions, like trying several brands of  detergent to see if any of them worked better. In the end the Maytag washer was replaced by a front loading GE, that’s been working like a champ since. Bloggers have been complaining about Maytag for years.

It’s not even surprising, as “Consumer Reports reliability survey found Maytag to be among the most repair-prone models.” A popular blogger, known by a pen name dooce and famous for her big mouth, started an online war with Maytag. She whipped the company into shape and got her problem fixed. But she has over a million followers.

Maytag Logo

Maytag, Begone

My point is that we seemingly never learn. A couple of years after replacing the washer, during a kitchen remodel we put in a nice-looking new gas range top. Black and shiny it was and the Maytag label may have been easy to miss. It is serviceable, even if one of the knobs is sticking, but difficult to clean, the way it’s designed around the burners. But why did I think that Maytag was a good brand for a range if it wasn’t one for a washer?

Kremlin Owns Facebook

Kremlim Facebook

Kremlim Facebook

Not exactly Kremlin, but some smart guys from Russia.  Not exactly own Facebook, but have a 10% stake in it.

Even my mom heard on the news two weeks ago that Goldman Sachs piled almost half a billion into Facebook and in the process made the Social Network company worth $50 billion.  Not as prominent was the Russian angle.  Turns out that DST (Digital Sky Technologies), an investment company with heavy roots in the land of borscht and honey, had been all over Facebook for a couple of years now. It also has its fingers in all the darlings of the current ‘social networking’ version of the .com bubble: Groupon, Zinga, and now trying for Twitter.

Russians were getting a better deal for their money in 2009, having paid in a couple of installments roughly as much as Goldman Sachs just did, but ending-up with ten times the shares.  The deal for Goldman sucks, and to make it seem better, DST kicked-in another $50 million, at this crazy new valuation.

Digital Sky Technologies

Digital Sky Technologies

My apologies to non-MBA readers. Financial types say that Facebook has a ‘valuation’ of $50 billion because Goldman Sachs paid $500 million and got 1% of the shares.

Life After Wal-Mart


Wal-Mart via Wikipedia

A Wal-Mart store moves into a small Texas town and local retailers are devastated, a well documented phenomena.  But which businesses remain and thrive along the Main Street?

Several law offices around the corner from the courthouse and a solitary insurance agent. A bail bondsman further down the street and a pawn shop in an alley leading to a bus station.  An auto parts store next to a glass shop, another block away.  And a barber shop.

Barber Pole © Creighton Matthews

Barber Pole © Creighton Matthews

Not one of those beauty salons where ladies have their hair done. The salons moved to the mall by the interstate, between a pizza chain and a cineplex. This is a proper barber shop with a striped red, white and blue pole outside, a place where guys go to get a cut.

The fellows seated inside looked like they were connected or belonged to a fraternal organization or simply prone to hoarding automatic weapons. This was one business not going to be outsourced to Shanghai. I walked away in a hurry.

Wal-Mart is easy to hate. It’s certainly big enough, employing two million people and with sales of over a hundred billion a quarter, bigger than the economy of Venezuela.  Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s.

BTW, check out Creighton’s beautiful photos.

Feed Me, Feed Me

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors via Wikipedia

My dear readers, I need your feedback. I know you are there, a couple here, a small flurry there. I need to hear from you, find out if any of this strikes a chord, piques your curiosity or entertains. Leave comments or ratings, send me a Facebook message or an email.

Thumper told Bambi, “If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Don’t worry about it, say something, anything. I’ll forgive you in the end.

Panhandler’s Concept Ad


Begging via Wikipedia

Last week I saw a nicely tanned fellow, walking on a raised median along a row of cars stopped at a street light and holding a cardboard sign.  He was peering into each windshield, extorting a donation, waiting for a window to slide down and reveal a fluttering dollar bill.  The guy was younger than me, so he was preteen when Nixon ended the war in 1973. But his sign said “Help Vietnam Veteran buy a bus ticket home.” 

Several opinions exist regarding the origin of the term ‘panhandling.’  Most likely it refers to a beggar holding out a kitchen pan for small coins, an image from another century.  Some allege that a hand and an arm, extended for begging, resemble a protruding body of land, also called ‘panhandle.’



 Books about the Great Depression describe unemployed people holding out a hand in the street for a few cents, money for a meal.  Does ‘panhandling’ sound somehow romantic, is that why the term still exists? There are no pans to be seen anywhere. People’s sensibilities have changed and we now respond to slogans and to ideas they evoke rather than the sight of an open hand.

I Hate Los Angeles

405 to San Diego

405 to San Diego

 I don’t like Los Angeles, I struggle with it.

It’s a Monday morning and people are crowding freeways, prickly people. Self-absorbed and self-conscious unhappy pricks. It’s not yet nine in the morning and they already burnt all the air.  Swallowed it up and farted it out of an imported tail pipe.

Breathing in through the nose or through the mouth, I’m nauseated either way.  Eyes itch, from invisible soot or from glare of dirty light reflected from car windows. I don’t want to see anyway, but to close my eyes and remember that I get to go back home to San Diego tonight.

Downtown San Diego

Downtown San Diego via Wikipedia

That was two years ago.  Anger issues had subsided since.

Dead Kidnapped Germans Own Trader

Trader Joe's Storefront

Image via Wikipedia








Bet that got your attention.


I’m talking about my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s. Turns out it’s owned by German billionaire brothers, Theo and Karl Albrecht, whose claim to fame and fortune is a chain of some 2400 discount  supermarket stores in Europe, named Aldi. They bought Trader’s in 1979 from some Joseph Coulombe. There was never a Joe.

To clarify, of the two Albrecht brothers, Theo is recently deceased at 88. Karl, who was kidnapped back in 1971, to the tune of $2 million, is alive and worth tens of billions.

Will these revelations change whether I shop at Trader’s for life’s essentials – chocolate covered cherries from Hungary, Mediterranean humus with pine nuts, Manchego cheese from Spain? I cannot help it and will keep going back.

Theo Albrecht
Theo Albrecht

I dislike large malls, purveyors of retail entertainment the size of a community college campus. Do we really buy that much stuff? But Trader’s stores are smaller than a typical supermarket, and people who work there are weird in a pleasant way. They are kinda cute with the whole casual dress and organic eco-friendly thing.  And they smile a bunch and I think they mean it.  The prices are not as incredibly low as they used to be a decade ago, but low enough to get me in the door at least once a week.  Thanks, Theo, and good bye.


Torrefacto Coffee Roasting from Spain

Torrefacto Coffee Beans

Image via Wikipedia

In Spain there is a “special roasting process that results in a remarkably robust, full-bodied cup of coffee, without a hint of bitterness. A portion of the quality raw coffee beans are coated with a fine mist of sugar before they are poured in the roaster with the other quality beans.” This roast is called Torrefacto, something that Torrefazione Italia brand is likely referring to.

A couple of major Spanish vendors may ship to the US.  I’ll keep you posted if I score some. Scientifically minded ones can read about biochemistry of coffee instead.

Coffee Good, Sweet

Cup of coffee

Via Wikipedia

Drinking coffee late at night may not be such a good idea, but we can talk about it, again.

I used to feel guilty about putting a spoon of sugar into my morning coffee. You heard all the talk about “sweet poison.” But no more. According to latest reasearch I was simply enhancing my “cognitive performance in terms of sustained attention and working memory.”  And I did not need brain scans to figure that out.

Some people suggest skipping coffee all together and doing prescription drugs.  I’ll stick to a nice steaming cup of the black brew, milk and sugar, and damn purists.

There is a nice indie coffee shop in my neighborhood.  They are proud of not being a chain, and give away white on black bumper stickers, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks.” I love the café ambiance of mismatched furniture and peeling paint.  Chirping voices of young things serving coffee and drinking it are wonderful.  Unfortunately their coffee is even bitterer than Starbucks.

Mello Cup
So ’70s.

There are worse choices.  Here’s a fine example  (from a motel room) of a product from an institutional coffee vendor, founded  in 1912 and looking it.

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