Sunday, July 8, 2007

Almost missed ...
Here are some articles worth looking at from the WSJ
I'm catching up on my reading this weekend ... and a pile of WSJs that has been sitting in my dining room. There is about a month's worth, starting in early May and running through mid-June. And I got through them all, finally. I've been able to read it most mornings of late, which is nice because old news is, well, old. However, here are some articles that are worthy of posting even at this late date:

["A Musical Family Affair Revisited"] I noticed that the Sly & the Family Stone CDs had been remastered and re-released at Newbury Comics about two months ago. I didn't buy any, because they weren't on sale and I'm trying to save money. Plus, the "Greatest Hits" record is the best out of all of them because it has all the hot songs on it.
However, as I found out quite by accident with Isaac Hayes, there are some choice tracks hidden on albums. Most of what would be considered the throwaway stuff by Hayes is better than the singles. So, maybe there are some here from Sly, too. Here is the band's site: ["Sly Stone Music"]

One of the things I like about reading the actual print edition of the Wall Street Journal [or other newspapers] versus online editions is that you actually see the display ads in the newspaper. They just aren't the same on the Web.
For example, Nucor Steel had this great full page ad campaign in the May 3 edition. "It just makes sense to use something again. Instead of throwing it away," the ad states in big, bold letters on one of the first two pages. The ad then goes on to talk about how the company is the country's largest recycler, at 22 million tons, including 9 million cars last year alone. They joke, at the end, "Who knows, maybe we'll even use this ad again." So they do - on the next two full pages - repeating the exact same text! Hilarious.
Looking at its Web site, they reveal a bunch of stuff about the company, including that the steel industry has reportedly reduced emissions by 240 percent and is six years ahead of the Kyoto protocols. The stock is trading at about $60 per share, which is not too bad considering the steel industry.
Lastly, Nucor is also a leading example of not laying off workers, according to economic theorist Phil Hyde:
["Timesizing Working Models"]

["How to sink a newspaper"]. This guy, the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, makes some good suggestions about what to do with newspaper Web sites ... and that maybe the free online news model is not the way to go. Or, some modifications need to be made so that we make sure that newspapers are properly staffed. This is the only way the news will be delivered properly.

Here is one article that makes me just a tad uncomfortable: ["To Create Buzz, TV Networks Try A Little 'Blogola'"]. I mean, OK, if some org. wanted to fly me out to wherever to check something out, I might take them up on it. But, to be a shill for them all the time? I don't know. I guess if you have a disclaimer on your site saying that you are not an unbiased, credible journalist, it would be OK to do this. But, if you are, you really should not be doing this. The flip of this is that if Hollywood reporters are doing this, why can't ordinary folks get some of the largess?

["Lawnmower-engine maker Once Had Lead in Hybrids"]. This is an interesting article about what could have been. Imagine, if a company kept working on this instead of, oh, I don't know, building Hummers. We'd have that sports car for $20k which does 100 miles to the gallon already by now! I can tell you from shopping for cars recently that it is pretty sucky that even the sub-compacts are not getting 50 or 60 miles to the gallon. Most are lucky to break 35! It is very, very sad.

["Iraq War memorial sparks fight over property values"]. Here is another important article focusing on the war issue from a different angle. The WSJ is really good at coming up with interesting ways of looking at stories.

["A Fight Over What You Can Do on a Cellphone"]. The issue of cellphone service and what you pay for has become a personal issue for me of late. For almost two years, I have been a happy Earthlink wireless customer. I got a great price on my late model Treo back in 2005 and really liked the service. But of late, I have been trying to downsize my bills in order to save money and pay for other things I need. Since Earthlink is analog wireless and not broadband, the Internet speeds were extremely slow and almost not even worth it. Since I bring my laptop almost everywhere, I can get email to it anytime I want, either at free hot spots or the free wireless near where I work. So, I realized I didn't really need the data package.
As well, canceling it would save me $40 per month plus taxes, or more than $500 per year [about 25 percent of a new car purchase over five years]. Not a bad chunk of change.

So, I called them and told them I wanted to keep my phone service but not the data service. They said, No. I was a bit taken aback. Paraphrasing, the phone attendant said: Since you have a PDA, you have to keep the data service on.
I said: No, I don't. I just won't use it.
He said: Sorry sir, we can't do that.
Me: Well, can you switch me to a per KB charge plan and I just won't use it? This would be the same as not having it.
Him: No.
Me: Do you realize you are going to lose my business if you don't do this because I will go out and get service from another company? Why can't you just shut off the data plan and let me keep my phone service with your company?
Him: I'm sorry, we can't do that. Plus, you can't use another service with your Treo. You'll have to buy another Treo.
Me: Hmm. OK, but I could go and get broadband service for the same price I'm paying you and at least the service I would be paying for would be faster.

Needless to say, my interaction with Earthlink proved that the old adage, The customer is always right, just isn't true any longer. It was very disappointing since I like them and I like their corporate mentality.
But, it all worked out. Since my wife needed a new phone - her 2001 analog phone was no longer going to be operable by the middle of the month, according to Cingular - it was a good opportunity to look at a new service provider. In the end, we chose a family plan from Sprint-Nextel. And, we received the same minutes, got snazzy new phones [one for free and an inexpensive PDA for me], and we saved money, too.
As we move along in this technological world, I have a feeling that this WSJ article just nips the tip of the iceberg. If anything, phone and data plans are going to probably go down in price, not up, as the companies will want to nickel and dime everyone to death for every little thing. The cost of the phone service will probably drop to virtually nothing, not unlike long distance has done. Along with it, the data plans will probably also drop.

["'Super Duper' Tuesday May Be Too Big to Matter"]. Last, but not least, something the WSJ is really good for: Charts, graphs, and all kinds of data. Data that is even better when it is political.

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