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Joshua Sharf

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« January 2007 | Main | March 2007 »

February 27, 2007


One of the companies I cover is Brush Engineered Materials, based in Cleveland. I inherited the coverage when another analyst left, so Company management invited me out here to meet them and get to know the Company's story first-hand.

Now, one of their plants is in Elmore, where they do a vapor deposition process. Wednesday's meetings are all Conversations With Management, but on Thursday, I get a chance to go see the operation in operation. As part of that, I have to wear a moon suit with a respirator. OSHA requires that a doctor approve this, so I don't turn blue and pass out in the middle of the tour. So what's the first question OSHA asks on its web questionnaire? "Can you read?" That's the question. Consider, for a moment, the implications of answering, "No."

Typically, the airport experience in Denver resembled army logistics: hurry up and wait. After the shuttle bus's tour of the parking lot, I made it to the automated United check-in with two, count them, two minutes to spare before I would have had to make some unpleasasnt choices about what luggage to leave behind.

So naturally, the flight took off an hour late. They announced that with a full flight, they really didn't want to take any chances with the lavatory, and some wit started whistling Humoresque.

In any case, the pilot landed us safely in Cleveland, guiding us in by the light of the river. Just kidding! Of course, the river was obscured by the smoke.

The cabbie was Eritrean, and seemed genuinely happy when I told him he could put his music back on. He had changed it to some muzak station so as not to offend, but it didn't sound like they were singing, "Jihad Jihad Jihad," so since it was his cab, it only seemed fair to let him listen to his music.

And now, here at the hotel, there is only one thing to do.

Go directly to bed.

February 20, 2007

*Sigh* Even AdWeek

Barbara Lippert at AdWeek had some harsh criticism of the pulled Volkswagen "Jumper" ad. The column included these two winners:

At least "Jumper" has things people can relate to. When the dude on the rooftop begins reciting his list of misery to the crowd below, it includes, "There's no affordable housing." I particularly liked his line, "You think I wanted global warming ... or reality TV?"

Go view the ad, and see what complaint she left out. Right. I'm sure the phrase, "high taxes" would have busted right through her column's word count.

Maybe it's the times. For whatever reason, VW is hardly alone in joking about suicide. Once "Jumper" hit the airwaves, it was the third spot in three weeks to go the self-offing route after the GM robot and a Washington Mutual spot featuring a bunch of non-WaMu bankers headed off a rooftop, just like in the Depression.

Is all this talk of suicide an unconscious metaphor for the state of the automotive industry? Or, given WaMu's inclusion, is it more of an unconscious representation of a sense of doom pervading the ad industry? Or, as The New York Times noted post-Super Bowl, could the violence of suicide be a metaphor for our unresolved war? At least we've got ourselves three fine options to consider. Meanwhile, let's get back to the VW debacle.

Ah, the Gratuitous War Reference appears even in industry trade magazines. Yes, maybe it is the Times, rather than the times. A quick Google search turned up two | ads and a reference to a third from over a year ago.

Maybe all the talk of suicide in print publications says something about that industry.

February 15, 2007

WSJ Newshound!

On the last day of my reign, I finally get around to pointing to this:

Joshua Sharf of Denver wasn't only the first correct respondent, he was the first respondent overall!

The coveted WSJ Newshound T-shirt arrived yesterday in the mail. The dog appears to be more beagle than lab, although the beagle is a hound, whereas the lab would be more appropriate for some search-engine contest, I guess.

February 14, 2007


Before we writing initiating reports when we begin covering a company, we always meet management. One company we're considering covering is in Pasadena, so I got to fly in, meet management, and fly out. The hotel was on Colorado Blvd., which is part of Old Route 66, the route for the Rose Parade, and home to much fine Googie architecture:

That's about all I got that was useful from California. I didn't stay long, in part so that I could fly back in sunlight and maybe get some pictures from the airplane. Unfortunately, there was persistent cloud cover the whole way home, so the best pictures I got were of Denver and LAX (as always, click to enlarge):


Another reason was that I had the chance to have dinner with the rest of the Backbone Radio crew and Brian Kennedy of the Claremont Institute last week. John got the Brown Palace's prime rib, Krista opted for the Caribou, and i enjoyed the rich, succulent, ah, fruit plate. That's ok. The fruit was very good.

As would be expected, Brian's very smart and pretty interesting, as well. When the talk turned to the war, and the frightening prospect of a nuclear bomb going off in the US, I asked Brian if he had a home in Valencia. Yes, he got the joke.

We also chatted about the role of the Supreme Court, but the source texts for the discussion, essays by Harry Jaffa and Hadley Arkes, aren't available online, so you'll just have to spring for the Review.

Colorado's Kelo

Only without the attractive plaintiffs, which is why this probably won't get the attention it deserves. From the Denver Business Journal (paid subscription required):

The University of Colorado still is wading through a legal morass at its Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard campus that must be resolved before a major in-town retail and residential project can move forward.

CU, which is moving its Health Sciences Center to its new campus at Fitzsimons in Aurora, is using eminent domain powers to condemn a portion of the land at Ninth and Colorado. Condemnation may be necessary to clear the title to part of the 32-acre campus before it can be sold to Shea Properties, which has been chosen to develop the site east of downtown Denver.


The Bonfils family donated the land at 9th and Colorado on the condition that it be used for health or medical purposes. Now that the multiple hospitals there are relocating to the old Fitzsimmons Army base, that land is supposed to be redeveloped. Whatever you may say about the residential/retail complex - and it's probably going to be very nice - it's not medical or health purposes. So the Bonfils family is negotiating for fair value for their land.

But CU can use eminent domain to take the land if they want. This is exactly the Kelo situation, except that the people who are losing the land aren't middle-class families born in their homes, but a relatively wealthy trust. This should, of course, make absolutely no difference. And it's supposed to be prohibited by statute, right former Governor Owens? Which is why you didn't press for a state Constitutional amendment to prevent this sort of wealth transfer, right, former Governor Owens?

Someone needs to ask Governor Ritter and Attorney General Suthgers whether the state has the right to condemn private property and turn it over for private development.

The answer is supposed to be, "no."

You've Got To Be Kidding...

Overheard in the Post Office today:

AIn't nothin' changed in America. We can almost get jobs we want. We can almost live whereever we went. We can pretty much get an education. But let me tell you, if they could, they'd put us right back into slavery, and we better wake up to that. Ain't nothin' changed in America.

Now this was from a black woman working as a clerk at the Post Office, to another black woman who was a customer.

Sounds as though she needs Black History Month more than most white people I know.

Welcome Back

How about we break the hiatus with a little photoblogging? You've heard of all the snow we've been getting here, although after the lake-effect stuff Buffalo's been suffering through, any complaints about our stuff sound like whining. Well, there's a little trail above Frisco on Lake Dillon. So here are a few pictures before we get back to the hard-core stuff:



Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud