A Night With Farrell and Vered

Farrell is the person who gave me my first fulltime job on television We have been friends nearly 30 years.

It’s 11:52 PM. I just realized–nothing posted. Uh oh. I’ve prided myself on blogging every day, really, I just forgot! Missing today could have been forgiven. As I tweeted earlier (replicated on Facebook) “I assume if I drank this is what a hangover would feel like.”

My own gluttony was rejected by my body!

My friend Farrell and his wife Vered were in from Palm Springs to visit his mom. They invited me to join them for dinner at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse.

geoff-farrell.jpgConsidering everything I’ve heard about revenues being down I was surprised to see the restaurant was plenty busy, but we went right in with our 7:30 reservation.

Farrell is the person who gave me my first fulltime job on television We have been friends nearly 30 years. In that intervening time he has lived all over the world. Vered is from Israel and very ‘international’ as well.

IMG00020-2.jpgThis was a huge meal! I had the Lobster Chowder (Applewood Smoked Bacon, Maine Lobster, Brandy Cream) followed by MJ’S Delmonico Steak with Balsamic-Ginger Jus and then split a dessert with Farrell–23 Layer Chocolate Cake.

Maybe I should stop eating for the rest of the week!

I was surprised on leaving the complex to be stopped while leaving the garage. Police were stopping cars, checking seat belts and alcohol. Saying “I don’t drink” always works in this situation. Having the officer then call you by your first name doesn’t hurt either.

Something Special In The Air

The part of this that upsets me the most, is the way the airlines look at customers. Airline ticketing policies and contracts are one-sided, and often arbitrary and unreasonable (like one way fares often costing more than roundtrip). Their advertising does its best to hide full disclosure.

“We’re American Airlines, something special in the air.”

For years, that jingle played incessantly on radio and TV. No more.

If American has a slogan now, I don’t know it. There’s none on their website’s homepage. They surely don’t have the balls to dust off ‘something special’ right now.

Aircraft Inspections Affect Some AA Travel

We are very sorry for inconveniencing you with the cancellation of a portion of American Airlines’ flights which started on April 8. Additional inspections of our MD-80 fleet are being conducted to ensure precise and complete compliance with the FAA’s directive related to wiring in the aircraft’s wheel wells. For more information about the progress of the inspections, please check our Press Releases. Please be assured that safety of our customers is, and always will be, American’s first priority.

You know how companies that put you on hold often say, “Your call is important to us,” even when you know it’s not? I feel the same way&#185 about, “Please be assured that safety of our customers is, and always will be, American’s first priority.”

Do they really think I’m buying into that gratuitous throwaway?

My friend Farrell’s relatives, visiting from Israel, were scheduled to fly AA from New York to Palm Springs. They got as far as Dallas… took a long pregnant pause at DFW… then continued to LAX (a few hours drive from Palm Springs).

Their bags? Right. This isn’t a fair tale. They followed two days later.

When I last left them, my sister-in-law and her friend were arguing with the AA clerk because AA promised $100 p/day p/person for clothing or necessities. AA since retracted that. In the meantime, Vered (Farrell’s wife) had taken the four of them to shop yesterday since they only had carry-on (my advice was to pack as much as possible in their carry-on’s).

I think we’re in the process of watching a meltdown of the so-called “legacy” airlines. With Frontier going bust, since its creditor would not support the majority of their cash, and the merger chatter going on, it’s a matter of time before prices continue to rise and consolidation becomes an actuality.

Please don’t think it’s only American I’m upset with. I’m still smarting from Southwest’s cavalier attitude toward safety inspections, and they’ve been my airline of choice for years.

The part of this that upsets me the most, is the way the airlines look at customers. Airline ticketing policies and contracts are one-sided, and often arbitrary and unreasonable (like one way fares often costing more than roundtrip). Their advertising does its best to hide full disclosure.

Why would they expect us to respect them or have brand loyalty when they so obviously dislike us?

&#185 – “I take full responsibility” goes on that list as well, especially when said by a CEO taking non responsibility.

Economics And Oil

As I write this, a little after 2:00 AM, I am concerned… no, I’m petrified the U.S. financial markets will follow the rest of the world and plummet at today’s opening.

The global economy is totally interconnected. International markets fell Monday, while our stock exchange was closed. They’re falling again right now. The Dow could be down multiple hundreds of points right at the opening.

A full fledged crash is certainly possible, though I’d rather not think about it.

That’s really not what I wanted to write about, but since this will be about the international economy and oil, I thought I should acknowledge what’s going on.

Yesterday, I saw a story (in many places) about Israel’s commitment to build an electric car. Here in the states a fully electric vehicle will be out from GM in just a few years. These are fully electric cars, not hybrids.

It makes a lot of sense, because at $100 a barrel, alternative fuels become competitive with oil. Except, $100 a barrel is a totally artificial price.

Yes, there’s some supply and demand at work, but oil’s price is steered by a cartel. They control the supply to control the demand to control the price.

OPEC is not a monolith. The oil producing nations aren’t exactly in lock step. They’re close enough.

That being said, the actual cost to produce a barrel of oil is a lot less than the selling price. What it costs differs by location, but here’s what the Energy Information Administration, a US government agency, says.

In 2006, average production costs (or “lifting” costs, the cost to bring a barrel of oil to the surface) ranged from about $4 per barrel (excluding taxes) in Africa to about $8.30 per barrel in Canada; the average for the U.S. was $6.83/barrel (an increase of 23% over the $5.56/barrel cost in 2005). Besides the direct costs associated with removing the oil from the ground, substantial costs are incurred to explore for and develop oil fields (called “finding” costs), and these also vary substantially by region. Averaged over 2004, 2005 and 2006, finding costs ranged from about $5.26/barrel in the Middle East1 to $63.71/barrel for U.S. offshore.

Forget the $63.71 figure, because it represents a small portion of what’s being produced. By and large, most of the world’s oil is found and removed at $10-$20 per barrel. Obviously, the oil exporting nations are getting rich and their selling price has little to do with their actual cost.

However, in the face of competition from alternative energy (think electric cars) they can and will reevaluate their price, settling for less in the short run to guarantee a continuing market for their products.

Oil exporters don’t want coal, solar, nuclear, or whatever else can be thought up, to kill their business. That leaves us with tough decisions.

Do we want energy independence and, if so, at what cost?

My feeling is, we need to be independent and must be willing to make short term economic sacrifices to establish an energy beachhead. In the long term, an economically weakened OPEC, which can no longer run roughshod over energy prices, is in our best interest.

It won’t be easy. At some point, whether through consumer persistence or governmental subsidy, we’re going to have to endure short term pain in order to free ourselves. OPEC will do their best to temp us by cutting their prices. And, as has always been the case, more oil will be found to quench the world’s growing thirst.

Will we continue to look to alternatives if oil returns to a ‘reasonable’ price? There’s certainly lots of fudge factor in what they’re getting now.

I hope we can resist their temptation.

The Technology Really Is Amazing

I just spoke with my friend Harvey. He’s sitting in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

I wouldn’t have known Harvey was away, except he saw me, sitting here in Connecticut, my Instant Messenger client open.

He mentioned someone in the conversation but wasn’t sure I knew who he was talking about. So, he sent a photo. We directly connected via IM. It didn’t matter that he was sitting at a Mac, while this laptop used Windows. It didn’t matter if either of us was technically adept.

I’m not bragging , You’ve probably done, or are doing, similar things on your computer.

When I step out on my back porch, I can ‘see’ a half dozen other wireless networks (most unencrypted). This is a neighborhood of 1+ acre lots. That’s a lot of connectivity… a lot of perceived value in networked computing.

It’s amazing the technology exists, is reasonably priced and widely available.

It’s not that my grandfather never expected to be doing this kind of stuff. He could not have even imagined device like the ones we’re using.

Could you have imagined Google 15 years ago?

All those prediction of the future I saw as a kid… those Jetson’s apartment towers and flying cars…. None of that’s reality. The information society we do have was never demoed to me.

Harvey will be home later today. Maybe I’ll track his flight.

Kite Surfing At Lighthouse Park

This is not for the squeamish or weak of heart. You’ve got to control the kite, lest the kite take you airborne.

I was sent to do the weather from Lighthouse Park Tuesday evening. It was pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. I found some cute kids, a dog, a motorcycle… and blessed my lucky stars that on a hot and sweaty day my boss sent me to the beach.

Not bad!

While there I saw something that I’d never seen before. My first clue was a huge airfoil kite flying over the water’s edge. When I followed the lines, they led to a man in a wet suit.

Before long he walked into the water carrying what looked like a cross between a surfboard and slalom water ski. Within seconds, he was up on the board, skiing like a water skier, but being propelled by the kite.

I’m attaching pictures, but I sense they won’t do this sport justice.

The skier was Tsachik Gelander, an Assistant Professor of Math at Yale. As I found out from speaking to his wife, they are from Israel. Maybe this is common on Israeli beaches, but not here.

The most spectacular feat came when he got up enough speed to leap out of the water. It seemed he was at least 10-15 feet above the water’s surface, still being pulled by the kite.

This is not for the squeamish or weak of heart. You’ve got to control the kite, lest the kite take you airborne. Though you’re strapped in and along for the ride, it looks like it takes substantial upper body strength to properly translate the kite’s motion in the way you wish, and strong legs to keep the board on track as you twist and turn along.

The photos were taken on a day without much strong wind. Just imagine how much more he might fly.

It’s My Job

Every once in a while someone will tell me some outlandish weather story. They believe it, but it’s untrue. I hate to burst their bubble, but it’s my job… weather, not bubble bursting.

Here’s today’s installment from the L.A. Times. It’s a story about heat problems suffered by soldiers in Iraq.

With temperatures approaching 130 degrees, medics fear that casualties will increase. “This could become a significant problem,” said Brian Humble, senior medical officer with a Marine emergency facility at a camp just outside Najaf.

The headline that lead me to this was on Drudge in red type: TEMPS NEAR 130 DEGREES IN IRAQ…

Here’s what I wrote to the author of the article, Edmund Sanders:

I know it’s a minor point, and I’m not denying it was hot, but it is doubtful Najaf has gotten above 120 any time in the past decade and 115 in the past few weeks.

In order for statements like: “With temperatures approaching 130 degrees, medics fear that casualties will increase” to be meaningful, we all have to agree on how we calculate the temperature. Normally, temperature is taken out of the sunshine in a louvered enclosure. It is an air temperature, not a surface temperature – so the thermometer needs to be protected in that way.

The historical high for Asia is 129f in Israel. Worldwide the highest was 136 in what is now Libya.

I live in Connecticut. Often, in the summer, my viewers will tell me it was 115-120 in their backyard – because of direct sunshine on the thermometer.

All the best,

Geoff Fox

I’ll let you know if he responds.

Here’s the bottom line – You can’t get the big things right unless you get the little things right.

Giving 110% For Evil

Just an observation.

Israel kills the leader of Hamas. The Palestinian’s say that act has