Meanwhile, On The Right Whale And Lobster Watch . . . .

Winter can be cold and desolate in many places, but it seems that the outlook these days is especially bleak in Stonington and elsewhere along the Maine lobstering coast. The folks there aren’t concerned about the winter weather, though–they are afraid that their livelihoods, their businesses, and the long-time rhythms of their towns are in mortal peril.

I wrote a few months ago about the federal regulations designed to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale and the devastating impact that the regulations are expected to have on the Maine lobster industry. If anything, the forecast for the future of Maine lobstering has gotten worse since then. After a federal district court in Maine issued an order last fall preventing the National Marine Fisheries Service from imposing a seasonal ban on lobster fishing in Maine, the First Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed that order, ruling that the district court had over-stepped its role in determining that the agency lacked reliable evidence showing North Atlantic right whales were present in the restricted area. Last week the case was argued to the appellate court, and the federal government came down on the side of the right whales, arguing that the regulation should be upheld because the anticipated economic impact on the lobstering industry can’t trump the agency’s decision to protect the right whales.

Although the court case remains pending, the attitude along Maine’s coast is pessimistic. Last week the local Stonington newspaper, the Island Ad-Vantages, published an article headlined “Future looks dire for lobster fishery, coastal economy.” The article quotes Pat Kelliher, Maine Department of Marine Resources commissioner, as saying that the threat of the closure of the lobster fishery is “increasingly significant.” He’s concerned not just about the outcome of the court case, but also by the fact that lobstermen can’t get the supplies that would allow them to fish in compliance with the federal regulations. And another Maine DMR official is concerned that the federal government will issue even more restrictive rules in the near future.

Maine state representative Genevieve McDonald is quoted in the Island Ad-Vantages article as noting that the closure of the lobstering trade would have a massive, adverse ripple effect on the local economies along the Maine coast. The article states: “’That has far-reaching implications not just to our fishermen, but to the land-based infrastructure that supports the fishing industry,’ McDonald said in a phone interview. Along the coast, that includes banks, truck dealers, boat builders, gear suppliers, seafood dealers, restaurants, hotels and town governments.” That’s a pretty broad, negative impact on local economies and jobs.

Winters can be cold up in Stonington. The possibility that the lobstering trade, and the way of life that Stonington locals have known for generations, may be slipping away forever due to forces beyond their control just makes the chill that much colder.

In The “Silicon Heartland”

Ohio generally, and central Ohio specifically, got some good news on Friday, when Intel and Ohio governmental leaders announced that Intel will be building a semiconductor manufacturing “megasite” in southwestern Licking County, just across the Franklin County line. Intel will be investing $20 billion initially to construct two new factories on a nearly 1,000-acre site, but the project could ultimately house up to eight factories and become “the largest semiconductor manufacturing location on the planet.”

That’s why some people have started calling central Ohio the “Silicon Heartland.”

Local and state officials are thrilled because the project will create jobs. The project will be the largest private-sector investment in Ohio history. The Intel megasite is expected to create 7,000 construction jobs as the first factories are built, 3,000 jobs during its initial phase, and more than 10,000 long-term jobs. The average salary for the long-term jobs is expected to be around $135,000.

Obviously, the combination of Intel’s investment and the creation of high-paying jobs will be a boon for the local and state economy. Intel also is expected to invest in local community colleges and universities. And state officials anticipate that additional companies will locate in Ohio to do business with the Intel facilities–which is what happened when Honda built its motorcycle, automobile, and engine plants in Ohio and suppliers moved into the area to provide the parts and other services Honda needed.

Virtually every electronic gizmo we use in the modern world has a semiconductor, and there is currently a semiconductor shortage that has caused manufacturing delays for many products and devices. The initial Intel plants won’t solve the short-term supply issue–the goal is for them to be fully functional by 2025–but they will help to provide a long-term solution. And there is strategic value in maintaining significant semiconductor production in the United States.

Welcome to the “Silicon Heartland,” Intel! We’re glad you have come, and we think you’ll like it here.

Meat Loaf

I was very sorry to read of the death of Meat Loaf (the stage name of Marvin Lee Aday) last week. He was an accomplished actor–most memorably, for me at least, as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Robert Paulson, aka “Bob,” in Fight Club–and a great singer and rocker who sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

Of course, one of those albums was Bat Out Of Hell, which burst onto the scene when I was in college. The album was a collaboration between Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman, and it was an immediate sensation that quickly entered the rotation of albums played on the stereo system in my college apartment. It was not a standard rock album of that era and didn’t really fall easily into any established category, and it was filled with great songs like Bat Out Of Hell and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad and You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth. The real killer track, though, was Paradise By The Dashboard Light–the hilarious recollection of an older married couple about their night, long ago, when they went parking by the lake as high schoolers. The song had a great, urgent beat, and it featured a fiery singing duel between Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley. They both sang the hell out of it, and even crappy singers like me sang along. The song was so good that I promptly went out and bought Ellen Foley’s debut album, and it was great, too.

My college friends and I weren’t alone in our love of the Bat Out Of Hell. The album has sold more than 50 million copies and remains one of the ten top selling albums of all time. And, I suspect, Paradise By The Dashboard Light has found resonance with each new generation that has heard its timeless tale of love and lust.

Rest in peace, Meat Loaf, and thank you for your stellar contribution to my college music playlist. College wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Fun Times At Nationwide

A group us us went to Nationwide Arena to watch the Columbus Blue Jackets take on the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. We had a great time, from the dramatic opening light show pictured above, to the deafening cannon blasts that sounded when the CBJ scored their three goals (one of which, regrettably, was nullified by an offsides penalty), to the point where the cleaning crew politely kicked us out as we lingered after the game. Unfortunately, the Jackets fell to the Pittsburghers, but since the arena included a lot of boisterous Penguin fans, that just made the setting louder.

I don’t know beans about hockey, but Nationwide Arena is a terrific venue and it was fun to be at a live sporting event in a raucous setting. The arena appeared to be full, too—which suggests that my opinion was shared by several thousand others who enjoyed getting out.

On The JT’s Rave Train

JT’s Pizza and Pub has done it again. The premier Columbus-area pizza emporium and sports bar, located in Linworth, has received another rave, this time from Jim Ellison of Columbus Underground.

As Mr. Ellison explains in the article linked above, he treats pizza as a serious culinary experience. In fact, his wife and son basically demand nothing less. And his approach to pizza analysis is intriguing. He thinks it is important to use a tried and true standard as the starting point for evaluation:

“The standard order for evaluating a new pizza place is large pizza, half pepperoni and half cheese. This is Columbus so the need to evaluate the quality, quantity and pairing of pepperoni with the rest of the pizza is critical. For any pizza, regardless of style, location, philosophy, etc., it is important to be able to try it plain sans toppings. A cheese pizza without any other ingredients – lets me evaluate the base pie without anything else to interfere in my assessment. A plain cheese pizza has nothing it can hide behind.”

This rational approach to comparative pizza analysis makes a lot of sense to me, as does the Ellison clan’s focus on the crust, which I think is a crucial element of any excellent pizza. And I’m happy to report that JT’s passed the Ellison family acid test with flying colors. You can read Mr. Ellison’s detailed analysis of JT’s offerings–as well as an interview of proprietor (and my nephew) Joe Hartnett and a shout out to my brother-in-law, the namesake of JT’s legendary Big Al pizza–at the link above. Congratulations, JT’s!

Snow Shoes

A snowfall makes German Village look pretty and quaint–like being on the inside of a snow globe–but snow can also making navigating the brick sidewalks of our neighborhood into a treacherous exercise. This is especially true in what I call the “sloppy season,” where the snow melts during the day, freezes again overnight, and you are left with walkways that are sheathed in ice and left uneven by the imprints of frozen footsteps.

After we got a few inches of snow at the beginning of this week, I decided to haul out my Oboz hiking shoes to see how they would deal with the snow. I’ve worn them on my morning walks around Schiller Park, when shoveling the sidewalk and our front courtyard and walkway, and on my way to work, and I’m happy to report that they have performed admirably in every respect. They’ve got a great grip on the snow and ice, the thick soles and ankle support are a great help when crossing frozen tire tracks and other ridged and snow-covered terrain, and they are warm too. And by wearing my hiking shoes and carrying my work footwear in a bag, I’m hopefully helping to keep my work shoes in good shape.

We don’t get a lot of snow in Columbus during a typical winter, but it’s nice to know that when the white stuff does come down, I’ve got a good option in the closet.

Predictable Plotlines

Spoiler alert: This post will discuss events occurring on episode 5 and earlier episodes of 1883.

We’ve been enjoying 1883, the prequel (by about 140 years or so) to Yellowstone. The most recent episode, however, had one of those plotline developments that you could see coming from a mile away.

1883 follows the story of the Dutton clan. The show begins as they arrive in Texas, ready to head north to Oregon territory. The Dutton family includes flinty-eyed, hard-as-nails father James Dutton, equally tough mother Margaret Dutton, young son John, and daughter Elsa Dutton, shown above upon her arrival, who is ready to take it all in. The Duttons join a ragtag band of hapless German and Eastern European settlers who will form the wagon train, led by Sam Elliott and his faithful lieutenant LaMonica Garrett, that heads north for Oregon and into danger.

Young Elsa narrates the show–a device that I personally find annoying, frankly–and displays more naive, wide-eyed wonder than you might expect from a young woman or that era. She gets to experience the personal freedom of the old West, ditches her dress for pants and becomes a kind of cowhand who helps to move the herd accompanying the settlers, is dazzled by the land, develops a love interest in cowpoke Ennis, goes on and on about her first kisses with him, and finally can resist the primal urges no longer and has her first intimate encounter with Ennis at the edge of the camp.

At that point, we knew poor Ennis was dead meat. And sure enough, only a few scenes later and thanks to the handy arrival of bandits, poor Ennis gets shot and killed, Elsa’s heart is broken, and she presumably will lose her rose-colored narration forever.

1883 is one of those shows, like Lonesome Dove, that hits you over the head with incident after incident that shows that the old West was a violent, deadly place. Already we’ve seen multiple shootings, smallpox deaths, an attempted rape, dysentery, theft, bandit attacks, a suicide, drownings in river crossings, and clueless German settlers bitten on the butt by rattlers as they’ve answered the call of nature –and we know an Indian attack is coming, too. But none of those prior events really dented Elsa’s doe-eyed sense of innocent wonder about the world, and the viewer knows that if she’s going to make it she needs to become a tough and worldly as her parents. And that’s why poor Ennis, who was a very likeable character, clearly had to go, and why viewers like us could see it coming.

Predictability in storylines isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you get readers, or viewers, interested enough to be thinking about what’s going to happen you can be pretty sure that you’ve got them hooked. Now that Elsa has had her brutal firsthand experience with the terrible realities of life, she’ll be changed forever. We can only hope that we get a little bit less of the voiceover narration in the bargain.

Back To The Dry Cleaners

After months of wearing “business casual” in the office during this never-ending COVID/visual conference/work from home period, I’ve decided to make a change. Since the start of 2022, I’ve been donning a suit or sport coat, button-down shirt, and tie on work days, which means I’m once again using the dry cleaner bag after a long dry spell.

Why am I back to wearing traditional lawyer attire? Well, for one, I’m a cheapskate. I’ve got all of these perfectly good suits, shirts, and ties that have been literally gathering dust during the “everyday business casual” period, and I figure I might as well get some use out of them. Also, I realize that I actually kind of like the feel of a freshly laundered, lightly starched shirt, a well-knotted tie, and suit coat. It’s an outfit I wore on a daily basis for more than 30 years, and it feels good to go back to it. For that same reason, it’s a look that I associate with my profession, and wearing the outfit puts me in the frame of mind to do my job.

So these days when I get home I stash the used shirts in the dry cleaner bag again, we put the bag out on the front step on collection days, and we look for the shirts in the cellophane bag that the dry cleaner hangs from our front door after a visit. And when I select my button-down shirt for the day in the morning, remove it from its dry cleaner bag and paper sheath, and take off the plastic collar guard and the little clip that holds together the cuffs, it’s all part of the return to the old routines. Except that now, what was old feels new again.

The Forecaster Who Cried “Snow”

All weekend the people of central Ohio were subject to dire winter storm warnings. Forecasters were predicting such a walloping that some people were calling the anticipated storm “Snowmaggedon.”

The much-anticipated weather system finally hit last night. First we got a layer of freezing rain–always treacherous, if you’re out and about, as we were–and then later the snow started. When we drove back from a dinner out with friends, the snow was coming down at a good clip. We had to scrape off our car and had to be cautious and take it easy on the slippery roadways. The snow continued into the night, but eventually it stopped–and this was the scene out our front door this morning. The visual evidence indicates we got about two or three inches.

I’ve lived through a true “Snowmaggedon” or two–like the great blizzard of 1978, when I was at Ohio State–and this doesn’t even come close to that category. A few inches is a decent amount of snow, but not a city-paralyzing, traffic-snarling event, especially when you consider that today is a holiday and there will be a lot less traffic on the roads.

I recognize that weather forecasting is not an exact science, but these days it seems like every prediction of snowfall gets overhyped, and becomes yet another a cause for panic buying, stress, and angst. Most people seem to take the predictions with a decent amount of skepticism and good humor, but I wish the forecasters would dial back on the rhetoric. They are at risk of being regarded like the “boy who cried wolf” in the old fairy tale.

Making Music Money

Many of America’s favorite musical stars are selling the rights to all or part of their catalogs of songs–and making big money in the process. Neil Young has sold 50 percent of the worldwide copyright and income interests to his extensive, 1,180-song catalog to an investment firm for an undisclosed sum. Bob Dylan has sold the rights to his entire songwriting catalog for an estimated $300 million, David Bowie’s estate sold his catalog of songs for a reported $250 million, and now Bruce Springsteen has sold his music rights in what is reported to be the biggest deal of all–bringing in more than $500 million.

Why are the songs of these legendary artists fetching such huge sums? Basically, it is because the world has an insatiable appetite for music, and the avenues for music consumption are ever increasing, with songs now being played on streaming services, home fitness devices like Peleton, cellphone apps, and social media videos of people doing weird things to the tune of a particular song that can go viral. Those avenues for revenue go along with more traditional sources like movie soundtracks, TV shows, commercials, and of course radio play. And the purchasers apparently also hope to cash in on other potential sources of revenue, like coffee table books, biopics, and even knitting an artist’s diverse songs into a semi-coherent narrative for a Broadway musical and follow-on movie.

Still, some industry observers wonder if the purchasers–who are paying significant multiples of standard valuation metrics–aren’t overpaying for the music, and betting on ways to monetize the music that might not pan out. I’m skeptical of concerns about overpayment, though. When you are talking about songs that have been popular for 50 or 60 years, you can be pretty confident that the popularity will endure. And with the multiplication of methods for consumption of music that we are experiencing, it seems like there will be lots of opportunities to collect copyright payments for the rock music classics.

I’m glad for the artists who are realizing the financial fruits of their life’s work. I’ve loved Neil Young’s music for 50 years, and if his sale makes his life in his later years easier, I’m all for it. The sale agreements in some cases, like Neil Young’s, apparently allow the artists to exercise some continuing, contractual control over the use of their oftent highly personal songs. And if there is risk that the firms have overpaid, at least that is risk borne by a corporate entity, and not the individual artist. Let the creative spirits who have enriched our lives enjoy the benefits, and left the corporations take all the risks.

Living In Record TV Time

The ’60s was when people first became concerned about television. Social scientists and commentators railed against the “idiot box” that was turning our brains to mush and converting formerly active, intelligent, inquisitive people into soft, slack-jawed shmoos soaking up whatever mind-numbing offering might appear on their TV set.

Those of us who lived through the ’60s somehow survived our constant exposure to the TV set that had a prominent place in our living rooms. But I’ve got news for you, folks: when it comes to TV, the ’60s was nothing compared to where we are right now. As The Hollywood Reporter noted yesterday, the number of English-language scripted TV shows that are available for viewing in the United States hit an all-time high last year. Across broadcast, cable, and streaming services, in 2021 559 English-language shows were available. That’s 13 percent more than in 2020 and 5 percent higher than the previous record in 2019. And consider this astonishing statistic reported in the THR article: “The total number of scripted shows has more than doubled in the last decade; in 2011 there were 266 scripted series.” What’s more, that 2021 record number doesn’t include any of the non-English-scripted shows that people are watching, like Squid Game or Money Heist.

In short, Americans are literally saturated with TV these days. Unlike the ’60s, when there were only three broadcast channels and one or two snowy UHF options, all of which terminated their broadcasts at some point in the early morning hours, you now could watch programming 24 hours a day, every day–and not even scratch the surface of what is available for viewing. And in the COVID era, it’s become increasingly easy to ditch the masks, slouch back on your couch, and immerse yourself in TV, rather than going out to do anything. I’m sure that part of what is driving the TV production boom is the fact that so many worried people are choosing to stay home rather than venture outside into the scary potential omicron infection zone. Rather than take that risk, why not just camp out and watch the latest hot streaming series?

As I mentioned, those of us who lived through the ’60s somehow avoided the confident predictions that we would become a bunch of brain-dead zombies–at least, I think we did– and hopefully that will prove true, again, in the aftermath of the current TV-soaked period. But it is concerning that TV shows have become such a huge part of our lives, to the point where our voracious appetite for programming is driving the TV production industry to new heights. We’d all be better off if we decided to get off the couch now and then, turn off the TV or computer, and get outside to interact with other living human beings.

A Sad Feathered Tale

When I came home from work the other evening and opened the gate to the small courtyard in front of our house, I was greeted by this mass of feathers on the bricks. I looked around for a bird–or more accurately, a bird’s mortal remains–but they were nowhere to be seen.

The array of feathers itself tells part of a sad tale. Some poor bird evidently breathed its last on our little walkway, and the feathers indicate that it only occurred after a serious struggle. I would guess that the bird was jumped and brutally attacked by a predator–a cat, perhaps–the feathers flew, and after the bird was defeated the cat trotted off to do what it will with the bird’s carcass, leaving only the pile of feathers behind. That’s a bit strange, though, because I’ve never seen a bird land in that area, and I also haven’t seen any cats or other bird-catching creatures in our dog-oriented neighborhood. An alternative explanation would be that the bird was captured and killed somewhere else, and the assailant brought the body through our fence to perform the defeathering at its leisure before heading elsewhere. Of course, we’ve never had anything like that happen, either.

It’s weird and disturbing to think that some poor bird may have spent its last moments in a desperate struggle for survival on the bricks of our tiny courtyard. I’ve now respectfully disposed of the feathers.

Communication Confusion

Last night, a group of us were at an event when the conversation turned to punctuation and communication. This isn’t unusual. My friends and I have debated a number of punctuation-related issues, such as the appropriate use of exclamation points, the correct application of “apostrophe s,” and the new emphasis on the “em dash.” Some might find it surprising–and, frankly, boring–that lawyers would discuss punctuation and communication at a social function, but they really shouldn’t: attorneys will argue about anything, and lawyers arguing about punctuation and communication tools is like most people arguing about sports.

The conversation last night, though, was a bit different because some of the firm’s younger attorneys were involved. And it quickly became clear that these earnest twenty-somethings pay extremely careful attention to the crafting of the written messages they receive and the mode of communication employed, too. When they report to another lawyer and receive a “Thanks.” response, versus the more enthusiastic “Thanks!” reply, it has an impact on them. And they explained that a terse “thx” would be viewed as exceptionally dismissive, and perhaps even veering into the “personal affront” category.

Moreover, these thoughtful folks aren’t just reacting to punctuation and abbreviations, they also have views on messages conveyed the mode of communication. Email is viewed as the appropriate channel for work communication, and texting is for personal communication, so if you get a work-related communication via text that tells you something important. The “chat” function on our firm’s “Teams” application is somewhere between those two on the spectrum of work versus personal, and the use of the messaging function during a Teams video call has an etiquette all its own. And that doesn’t even begin to capture the complexities introduced by social media or, for that matter, emoticons or memes.

This discussion caused me to mentally revisit my recent communications to consider whether I have inadvertently engaged in communications that might be perceived as rude or intrusive into personal spaces. I typically send a “Thanks!” response, so I think I am OK in avoiding that faux pas, and I don’t really text about work matters. But the ever-changing rules of the game can be a bit overwhelming for an old guy whose career began in an era before email, cellphones, and social media were invented.

One important thing to remember is that communication is a two-way street, and that implicit messages that one party might read into a communication may well not be intended by a sender who is ignorant of the latest practices and sensibilities. Training on the new rules and tools would probably be advisable for fogies like me.

A Gift From Amazon

Earlier this week a somewhat battered Amazon package, about the size of a shoebox, was delivered to my office. I figured it was something that Kish had ordered, so that night I lugged it home. As I carried it, it felt kind of weird, with the weight of the box shifting around as I transferred it from one arm to another on the walk home, in a way that indicates that you are carrying a liquid. Intrigued, I wondered what in the world was in the box.

When I got home I presented the box to Kish. She was puzzled because she wasn’t expecting a delivery from Amazon, so we opened the box, somewhat gingerly . . . and found a shrink-wrapped two-pound plastic bottle of “April fresh” Tide detergent with “a touch of Downy.” Even more mystified, we then took a careful look at the bottle and the box. The bottle was sealed with a sticker that read: “The person who lovingly packaged this item wants to know if you love it. Share a review.” The packing tape on the box said “Wow, now that’s a gift,” and the label indicated that the box came from “Amazon Fulfillment Services.”

Putting all of this together, we concluded that Amazon has sent us an unrequested but “lovingly packaged” container of laundry detergent through the mail as a gift, and hopes that we “love it.” Normally we don’t think in terms of “loving” ordinary household items like a bottle of Tide–even if it includes a soupcon of fabric softener–but we are certainly appreciative, because you definitely never want to run out of laundry detergent. And we also are left to wonder what might be the next gift we receive from the friendly folks at Amazon. A bottle of Windex or Lemon Pledge, perhaps?

In A State Of Constant Stimulation

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the initial governmental shutdown orders of 2020–and are still dealing with the various variants of COVID-19–some members of Congress are back to considering whether more “stimulus” efforts should be undertaken, and a two-year-old petition calling on the federal government to send out $2,000 monthly “stimulus” checks to all Americans has passed the 3 million signature mark.

The initiators of the petition contend that, even after two years of various “stimulus” payments, the $2,000 monthly checks are needed because of uncertainty about what could happen if the government orders a new round of closures, if schools require remote learning, or if other disruptive events occur. The article linked above quotes the initiators of the petition as saying that signers are trying to send a message: “‘We just need certainty. We need to have something we can plan on month after month.’”

In short, for some people what began as an effort to help individuals and businesses while the country dealt with the economic shock of the initial, purportedly short-term “flatten the curve” shutdowns, through “stimulus” checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, and readily available business loans, has morphed into a quest for guaranteed, federally funded monthly income that would apparently extend into the indefinite future. When you reach that point, it can’t reasonably be called a “stimulus” payment anymore–unless you accept that our economy now is in need to constant “stimulation,” like a Frankenstein’s monster that is forever being zapped with high-voltage electricity in order to keep going. And such a budget-busting monthly payment obviously would have significant inflationary effects and other long-term consequences for the economy generally and the labor market specifically.

An interesting point is that the primary stated reason for the requested monthly checks is the impact of governmental decisions, like closure orders and requirements for virtual schooling from home, on individuals and families. Perhaps the real lesson from the petition isn’t that some people would like to continue to get governmental checks–that’s really no surprise–it is that governmental entities need to think twice about consequences before issuing new sweeping and disruptive orders after two years of COVID edicts.