A Birthday Song for alohawolf

OK, Folks, you know the drill. Allright everyone, let’s gather in front of our large, 13″, Black and White TV set, and watch as a tall, lanky man in a khaki uniform strides out, introduces himself as Sheriff John, and pulls out his accordion, and then starts singing the Birthday Cake Polka for alohawolf

Put another candle on my birthday cake
We’re gonna bake a birthday cake
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I’m another year old today

I’m gonna have a party with my birthday cake
Come on and take some birthday cake
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I’m another year old today

    We’ll have some pie and sandwiches
And chocolate ice cream too
We’ll sing and play the day away
And one more thing I’m gonna do

I’ll blow out the candles on my birthday cake
And when I do, a wish I’ll make
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I’m another year old today

Happy Birthday to You
You’re another year old today.

[Did you know you can pick which song the Sheriff sings for you on your birthday? It’s easy. Just visit the 6th Annual Birthday Poll on Livejournal (FB users: you can now log into LJ with your FB ID and vote in the poll!). Note that if you want the birdie to be able to inform the Sheriff about your birthday, you need to make sure your birth month and day is in your LJ or FB profile, and it is visible to your friends. Note that the Sheriff only sings a song if I know you personally or you’re a regular commenter. So don’t lurk!]


News Chum for the Week

This has been a busy week, as I’ve been trying to get a number of things done before I take off between Christmas and New Years. It has also been a sad time, with the death of two friends, one young and one young-at-heart. Still, I’ve accumulated a few items for discussion:

Lastly, because it was so bizarre I couldn’t stop, a collection of awkward family Christmas photos. Kids, don’t try this at home.


Who Is The Customer?

Well, LJ has made another change to their interface, and the community is complaining left and right about it. As for me, it got me thinking about the customer.

We all know businesses are in business to serve their customers. But we often forget to think about who the business perceives their customer to be, and then mistakenly assume it is us, the consumer. Often, we couldn’t be more wrong.

Take Livejournal. Perhaps in the beginning their customer was their user. Certainly that was the case in Brad’s day, when their only income was paid accounts. The minute LJ added advertising, the customer changed. The new customer—the one that pays the bills—is the advertiser. LJ moved from having a more usable site to wanting a site that attracted the most eyeballs that were the most sticky. When SUP bought LJ, the customer shifted slightly to the Russian advertiser, for the Russian market for LJ is so much bigger than the remainder. This explains quite a bit. It explains why LJ doesn’t care about its paid users anymore. It explains the growth of “Oh No, They Didn’t” and its clones: these bring outside viewers to the site. It explains the design changes and connections to Facebook and Twitter: bring in more eyeballs and bring in people from outside. LJ isn’t about its users or communities anymore. LJ can get away with this because the users are stickey: either the others in their community are here, or it is too much trouble to change. That’s why people often stay with services that suck. Just ask any bank. As for Dreamwidth… it is where LJ was in the beginning, focussing on the user. I can’t answer whether it will stay that way, but it is not going to gain the critical mass of users it needs unless LJ drives them away. DW will always be a niche player: it’s users will primarily be LJ refugees or the small corner that is fandom. It doesn’t have the mass market attraction.

But this post isn’t just about LJ. Look at banks and the banking system. Who is their customer? Who pays their bills? More often then not, their customer is not the individual account holder, but the institutional investor and the shareholders. Banks exist to make profits for their shareholders and other investors, not to return funds back to the account holders. This is why fees go up and service gets economized. This is why banks and financial institutions go after the risky investments: to bring in more profits, and return more to the preferred investors.

Let’s look at politicians. Who are their customers? Who pays their bills? Two answers here: lobbyists and the people that elected them. The lobbyists are a customer because they pay the bills: they make the donations, they fund activities, they funnel the dollars. As for the people that elected them, it is important to note that this is not their district as a whole or the country as a whole. Most politicians do not really care about their entire district or what is good for the country as a whole. They want to talk to their solid base that will re-elect them, so the lobbyist money can continue to flow in. This is why redistricting and number crunching has destroyed this country. Districts give politicians majorities in a particular party, and thus they can appeal to the party faithful to get them elected in the primaries (i.e., the majority within their party within the district). This is what the Tea Party and Conservatives are doing, to put it bluntly. Once having passed the primary, they only need to be less worse than their opponent. Republicans are more likely to vote for a Republican who is bad than a Democrat who is good (and the same for the Dems).

Understanding the customer explains a lot. Of course, over-understanding is equally bad. I alluded to that problem in the last paragraph, and perhaps I’ll do another entry on that in the future.


That Phase is Done

All of Erin’s college applications are in. Now the onus (and the good folks at College Planning) is on me to finish to financial aid application side of things. In case you’re curious, here’s the list of schools, in no particular order: American University (DC), Bard College (NY), George Washington University (DC), Georgetown University (DC), Washington University St. Louis (MO), Tulane University (LA), Occidental University (CA), Reed College (OR), UC Santa Barbara (CA), UC Santa Cruz (CA), and (oops) UC Berkeley (CA). The waiting begins…


Morning News Chum in Advance of a Busy Day

Today’s a busy day, as I’m dry running a 6 hour tutorial. So let me quickly toss out the saved news chum for the week:


Thoughts on Timeline

I’ve just enabled the new Timeline feature of Facebook. Here are my initial thoughts: If you are someone like me, who (a) doesn’t post a lot of status updates (especially creepy or ones that can be mistrued), (b) doesn’t have a lot of pictures, and (c) doesn’t put up a lot of personal information (such as employment history, relationships, etc.) with dates…. it’s tolerable. It makes it easy to go back in time and see what you posted.

If, however, you are like the typical Facebook user, sharing far too much information with the world that shouldn’t be public in the first place… if you put your entire resume on the site.. if you update your relationship status everytime someone looks at you… if you are tagged by lots of other folks in drunken pictures or compromising positions… this is going to freak you out.

My advice: Make sure your privacy settings are tamped down well. Friends only, or at most friends-of-friends… if you trust your friend’s friends. One caution on that: remember that the privacy is not the friends list at the time the post was made, but today’s friends list.


History: Old and New

In looking over my collected news chum, I’ve got a bunch of articles that seem to be saying “history” to me. Note that, in some cases, the history isn’t the article, it’s in my commentary:

  • Callboxes. The SF Chronicle is reporting on how callboxes are being removed from state highways. This isn’t a surprise; cellphones are killing the callbox. Of course, what they forget is that callboxes are vital when your cellphone is dead (which can happen). Where’s the history? I was surprised that the article didn’t mention the origin of callboxes: they were started down here in LA County by Kenneth Hahn, a county supervisor.
  • Historic Space. The former TRW campus at One Space Park isn’t that far from my office. Now, of course, it is Northrop Grumman… but more importantly, it’s being designated a historical landmark. This is a good thing. The article does go into the history of TRW and does mention STL (but neglects to mention that my current company, Circle A Ranch, was actually a spin-off of STL, just as SDC was a spin-off of Rand).
  • Getting to the Punch. Edsel Ford wants his punchbowl back, but he doesn’t know where it is. Actually, the story behind the punchbowl is interesting. Only the rich…
  • Pastrami and History. Marvin Saul has died (and was even memorialized by Mel Brooks!). Don’t recognize the name? He was the founder of Juniors Deli, one of the more famous delis in West LA. In LA, you see, there are specific deli groupings. Those in the West Valley are devoted to Brents Deli, although some of us are more partial to Weilers Deli (but only the Northridge location; the other locations are just pretenders). Those in the East Valley are partial to Arts Deli. Westside, as I mentioned, is primarily Juniors, but Zuckys is fondly remembered by some, and Culver City folk like Roll and Rye. Those in Pico-Robertson go to Factors. Those in the Fairfax area are partial to Canters, and those near downtown are devoted to Langers. Why mention all these delis? Because I kept remembering a Saul’s Deli*, but evidently it was my imagination. There are some (ehhs): I’ve never been that impressed with the various Jerry’s Delis, which took over Solley’s, and Fromin’s has just never had the right vibe for me.

    *: What I was thinking of was “Eddie Saul’s Deli“, which replaced Du-Pars at Hayvenhurst and Petit in Encino, and was later replaced itself by Jerry’s Deli. Saul’s Deli had a logo reminiscent of Junior’s sign. ETAA: And to bring things full circle, according to this site, Eddie Saul was the brother of Marvin Saul, the owner of Juniors who just died.