Archive for the ‘Bidness’ Category

TGI(B)F?

November 27, 2020

If the image appears a tad blurry it’s because pretty much everything out there is in vigorous motion.

Well, it’s not what I would call black, but then neither is it exactly a bright, bright, sunshiny Friday out there.

We are presently enjoying a thundering east wind that is extreme even by New Mexican standards, and as a consequence the options for working off yesterday’s holiday feast seem limited.

What a fine day for huddling indoors and bargain-hunting at a Bug®-safe distance! Coincidentally, my in-box runneth over with various pitches, entreaties, and pleas. A cantankerous senior citizen on a fixed income is a target demographic? Who knew?

B&H Photo & Video, for starters. They were first to pound on my digital door, at 4:18 a.m. The early bird catches the worm, don’t you know. They were followed in quick succession by Guitar Center, Brydge, Rudy Project, Brazos Walking Sticks, GoPro, Gore Wear, and Outdoor Research, all before 8 a.m.

And this is just the lot that made it past my extensive network of junk filters, mind you.

They sense my frailty. Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute some marketing poge gets a click-through from his email blast, he gets stronger. Each time I look around the walls move in a little tighter. …

Unplugged

November 22, 2020

Rockin’ out with the Art & Lutherie Roadhouse,
bought from Guitar Center Albuquerque.

Though guitar sales are rocking out, Guitar Center is not.

The nation’s largest retailer of musical instruments has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to The New York Times.

It’s a sad tune. Bain Capital got its Mitthooks into the company back in 2007, and surprise surprise! The company wound up larded with debt. Throw in a late entry into e-commerce, some tough online competition, and a bout of The Bug®, and what you wind up with is “The Last Waltz” scored for private equity and hedge fund.

My Seagull Entourage Mini Jumbo, bought used from Guitar Center Albuquerque.

The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy by year’s end, according to The Times. But for anyone who has enjoyed working there, or shopping there, a press release contains a caveat:

While Guitar Center is pleased with its overall store footprint, the Company has engaged A&G Realty Partners to explore opportunities to optimize its real estate portfolio and other agreements to focus on investments that best position the Company to return to its growth trajectory prior to COVID-19.

Speaking of caveats, the lyrics to “Forward Looking Statements,” one of the press release’s greatest hits, will sound familiar to any lawyers in the audience:

This press release includes “forward looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward looking statements express our current expectations, opinion, belief or forecasts of future events and performance. A statement identified by the use of forward-looking words including “may,” “expects,” “projects,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimate,” “will,” “should,” and certain of the other foregoing statements may be deemed forward-looking statements. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, these statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual future activities and results to be materially different from those suggested or described in this press release. By issuing forward looking statements based on current expectations, opinions, views or beliefs, the Company has no obligation and, except as required by law, is not undertaking any obligation, to update or revise these statements or provide any other information relating to such statements.

Wall Street should give that an 85. It’s got a good beat, and a Suit can dance to it.

The Clampdown, v2.1

November 19, 2020

The gub’nah had to both tighten and clarify The Clampdown 2.0 just days after it debuted because (a) people are stupid, and (2) see (a).

This is going to be one of our biggest problems as we endure Bug Breath, In The Year of the Plague: Democracy and dummies don’t mix.

Lord, am I ever glad I managed to surf the free-range-rumormongery wave smack dab onto Social Security Beach. People just don’t read anymore, probably because too many of them can’t, and thus my services are mostly no longer required.

If the educational system and the Fourth Estate were spared the machinations of the political-industrial complex, we might not be where we are at the moment, which is crouched in the valley under our tiny parasols, awaiting the shit monsoon, while our betters in the mountaintop trophy homes trade us like junk bonds.

Still, you don’t need to be a pro copy jock to take a casual glance at the gub’nah’s public health order and see that, hmm, yes, you can still buy a jug of Skeeter’s Sidewalk Softener in person from The Beernut’s Booze ’n’ Bullets Boutique, but no, sorry, you’re gonna have to depend upon the Christian charity of the Internets and the Brown Truck Dude to acquire that plastic Jeebus for your dashboard.

Now, I know, retail represents a big chunk of the economy, both in terms of GDP and total employment. And it’s nice to get out of the house for an hour, wander the aisles of FreeDumb Hardware & Nail Salon, touching this and that with an ooh and an ahh, maybe buy a Chinese belt sander to tackle those irksome calluses on our tootsies.

But for the sake of public health, maybe it’s time we started thinking about what we want versus what we need.

Do we need a Starbucks, a Mickey D’s, a Shell station, and a Walgreens holding down every corner of every intersection? I don’t see that one in the Constitution. I checked. Because I can read.

Apple of my ay yi yi

October 19, 2020

Old Sparky is back on the job.

Rarely do the multinational corporations come in for praise here at Ye Olde Chuckle Hut.

They routinely claim to stand behind what they sell, but often can be found standing directly behind the customer, wearing a predatory expression and not much else. Just who exactly is the “end user” here?

That being said, here’s a tip of the Mad Dog sombrero to the support folks at Apple. They got right on the twitchy 2014 MacBook Pro I sent them, found a fault in addition to the one that I had diagnosed, repaired both, and shipped the sucker back with alacrity. Saturday delivery, before noon. Booyah, etc.

There was one small hitch in the gitalong, and in the end (har de har har) it proved to be no hitch at all.

When support notified me via text of the second fault and asked permission to fix it (for an additional three hundy and change) I was unable to approve the additional work online, either via Mac OS or iOS. Couldn’t get an active link on the “Git ’er done” page. God damn it all anyway, etc.

So I rang ’em up. Mind you, this was on Tuesday last, when the product barkers were pitching the brand-new iPhone 12 to the rubes. Hur-ry, hur-ry, hur-ry! I was expecting a long wait and a short reply that proposed my going and doing something to myself of which I would not approve.

Nope. My call was answered promptly, the support person kicked me to his supervisor, and she sez to me she sez, “Lemme handle that for you.” Including covering the additional cost.

Frankly, I was dumbfounded. The tab was not unreasonable, a whole lot less than buying a new MacBook Pro, and I was prepared to pay it. But all I had to spend beyond the initial repair estimate was a simple thank-you for the generosity.

“Yeah, you gotta lotta Apple product, been with us a long time,” she replied cheerily. Right on both counts, with everything from iPods to iPhones to iPads, MacBooks to Minis, PowerBooks to PowerMacs, going all the way back to 1990 and that first Mac SE.

Frankly, the only way the experience could’ve been improved is if they’d given me a loaner to drive while my MacBook was in the shop.

“Here, take the keys to this 16-inch 2.3GHz 8-core MacBook Pro with the 16GB of memory and the 1TB SSD, take ’er for a little spin while we work on the auld fella here.”

I guess they figured I didn’t need the bait. I’ve been on the hook for 30 years.

Brother, can you spare a dime*?

October 15, 2020

“Can ye spare some cutter me brother?”

In comments Shawn wonders whether we accept donations here at Ye Olde Chuckle Hut.

The short answer is “No.”

I’ve thought on it for the better part of quite some time, because everyone likes to get paid for work, especially if they are me. And a blog, even a dime-store model like this one, is work.

Also, there are expenses. They’re not massive, but still, yeah, money goes out. None comes in.

Nevertheless, I’ve resisted setting up a subscription model, or a tip jar, for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost: The blog and its various side projects constitute a hobby, not a job. I’ve had jobs, and frankly I can’t recommend them. They suck all the joy out of work. And for what? A little bit of money.

Since 1991, when I left the newspaper game and opened my own little free-range rumormongery, I have cashed checks more or less regularly and outlived a number of publications that wrote them. 

Over the years editors and publishers occasionally proved irksome, as they will, because they are running what they believe to be businesses, not open-mic’ nights in some dank basement.

Thus the blog, which commenced sometime in the Nineties, I guess, possibly at AOL. A window to shout out of. “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

At the blog I got to be not just a cartoonist, writer, or editor, but all of these things, plus photographer, videographer, podcaster, and publisher. The last four involved something of a learning curve (and still do), and a student really shouldn’t expect to get paid.

As The Patrón told Doc with a shrug in “Sweet Thursday,” “You have to pay to learn things.”

But not here. If you learn anything here, which seems highly unlikely, take it with my compliments (and a grain of salt).  The bike magazines, God love ’em — the ones that survive, anyway — haven’t caught on yet; they’re still paying me. And so is Uncle Sammy, until he gets the camps built. Direct your extra pennies to some worthy cause.

* The sharp-eyed may notice that the coin changing hands above is a quarter, not a dime. That’s inflation for you.

Reality show

September 28, 2020

No wonder this hand is empty. I pay my fucking taxes.

Raise your hand if you paid more than $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

The whole hand, please. Not just the one finger.

Get OUT!

August 4, 2020

Getting away from it all in 2010, when the Adventure Cycling Association’s Southern Arizona Road Adventure spent a day in Bisbee.

It’s not just bikes that are as rare as hen’s teeth, rocking-horse shit, and integrity in the nation’s capital.

Now it’s everything outdoorsy, from camping equipment to boats and birding binoculars.

Pretty soon “getting away from it all” will mean “going home.”

Clubbed

July 17, 2020

Your Humble Narrator working a race for VeloNews Back in the Day®, when subscription fees and advertising revenue were enough to make the nut.

Steve-O raises an interesting question:

Your thoughts (and everyone else’s) on Bicycling’s new $40/year membership model?

This seems to be the flavor of the month. VeloNews is doing something similar for $99 a year, along with most of its cousins in the Pocket Outdoor Media group.

It’s tough to get readers to pay for “content.” Most people who read a daily newspaper Back in the Day® had no idea that their subscriptions didn’t cover the cost of the ink on the newsprint, much less the tab for all the technology and people it took to make the blat land on the stoop every morning. For a reader, the daily paper was a cheap date, with the real cost borne by advertisers.

Advertising is a tough sell these days, for newspapers, magazines, and websites. So what’s left? “Memberships.”

The New York Times has had some success with digital subscriptions. Likewise The Wall Street Journal. Two real powerhouses that can serve up the goodies you can’t get anywhere else.

I see value in the NYT and The Washington Post, so I subscribe to both. I also subscribe to The Atlantic, and Charlie Pierce’s blog at Esquire. All of these outfits provide things I want and need. I wish there were some Flyover Country version of The Atlantic so I could subscribe to that too.

But when you get down to the enthusiast-publication level, the pitch for memberships gets a little tougher. What do Bicycling or VeloNews have that I want/need badly enough to pay for it?

I like reading Joe Lindsey and Andrew Hood. And I like them as people, too. But with all due respect, I’m not sure that I want to spend $150 a year with their employers. There’s a bunch of stuff in both magazines/websites that I couldn’t care less about. It would feel like signing up for cable TV. I pulled that plug back in 2006 and now we buy our TV a la carte.

Perhaps the biggest issue with hawking memberships, subscriptions, and advertising is the one that started cropping up toward the end of my freelancing career. I was fortunate to be earning steady, predictable money as a regular contributor to both VN and Bicycle Retailer. But there were lots of other hired guns who were starting to get ambushed by what we called “fans with keyboards.” People who’d work for chump change, a T-shirt, or even just the byline.

Today there are so many talented amateurs and semipros out there who are willing to create wonderful stuff for free, or for pennies, that paying for the pros — who so often find themselves consigned to following the dictates of some uninspired editor or an advertising-driven calendar of theme issues — can seem extravagant.

“OK, guys, time for the annual stationary-trainer roundup, the ‘How LeMond won using aero bars’ retrospective, and who’s doing this week’s ‘fitter/faster in 10 seconds a day’ piece?”

Everybody thinks they’re working hard, and that you should buy what they’re selling. Not everybody is right.

View, with alarm

June 27, 2020

Herself enjoys the view from the topside
of the Sandia Peak Tramway in 2016.

It’s a pretty view, a’ight.

Pretty enough to get me into a Sandia Peak Tram car with 19 other dummies in plague season?

Nope.

I wanna get up there, I’ll ride the ol’ bikey bike up the other side. It’ll hurt like hell, and it’ll take a lot longer than 15 minutes.

But at least I’ll know where I’ve been, and how I got there.

Fulfill your destiny, Burqueños

May 27, 2020

“I’ll need $6.5 mil’ for improvements to your feeble industrial park.
I trust that won’t be a problem?”

The bad thing about being a former copy-desk guy is the questions you don’t get to ask assistant city editors and reporters.

Here are a couple of examples:

Raytheon shuts its operation near the Sandia National Labs-Kirtland AFB complex in Albuquerque, where it employs 200 people as an arm of Raytheon Missile Systems, based in Tucson. In the service of consolidation their work is going elsewhere, along with the paychecks for same, and Raytheon has returned $850,000 in state economic-development funding, the company announces.

Meanwhile, Amazon proclaims that it is building a “fulfillment center” on the west side. In a press release, Bernalillo County says it will kick in $6.5 million for “a regional public infrastructure improvement project” to encourage “future development” in the Upper Petroglyphs Industrial Park.

Bad news, good news, yeah? The basic ingredients for any publication. Add some filler to hold it all together — cute kitten videos, celebrity breakups, the latest dispatches from the phone of Adolf Twitler — and you’re good to go. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Well, maybe. Me, I’d kind of like to know, without having to Google it, what sort of work the Raytheon people did (it involved microwave and laser weaponry, apparently); what the average salary was; how they feel about the loss of their jobs; and what their next steps might be.

I’d also be interested in learning how many people the Amazon warehouse will employ, what they will do, and what they will earn; what the county can expect to get for its $6.5 million investment; and whether someone has calculated that Albuquerque’s economic future involves herding boxes, not making zap guns.

I’m guessing that some of the newly idled Raytheon employees will not be a good fit for an Amazon fulfillment center. Unless Darth Bezos is planning a little Death Star project on the side.