Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thanks for close to nothing, Mr. President

President Bush announced yesterday that, in order to provide consumers some relief from high fuel costs, he has ordered the government to defer purchases of crude oil for the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) "until the fall."

"Every little bit helps," said the President.

Just how little a bit are we talking about? Here are my back of the envelope calculations.*

Rate at which US usually adds to the SPR (the "SPR fill rate"): varies, but approximately 2 million barrels per month, or roughly 67,000 barrels per day.

US demand for oil: approximately 20 million barrels per day

US SPR fill rate as a percentage of US demand: 0.34%

Worldwide supply of oil: very roughly, 80 million barrels per day

US SPR fill rate as a percentage of worldwide supply: 0.08%

So in effect the President is saying that we are going to: 1) increase the available supply of oil worldwide by less than 1/10 of one percent; and 2) decrease US demand for that supply by less than 1/2 of one percent. And that will lead to lower gas prices.


So, let's just assume that the impact of this measure goes straight to the gas pump, because:

- oil sheikhs, ever so sensitive to a minute change in demand from the Great Satan, immediately panic and reduce their prices;

- oil companies, though rapacious by nature, somehow act completely out of character and instantly pass this savings on to consumers at the gas pump. (This despite the fact that crude oil accounts for less than 50% of the cost of a gallon of gas. Transportation, refining, marketing, taxes and um, embarrassingly large profits comprise the rest.)

Okay, we can probably agree that in order to believe that the foregoing assumptions are at all realistic, some drugs that are not covered by Medicare would be required.

Even so what would be the savings to consumers? 1%? Here in San Francisco, that would translate into about $0.03/gallon. $0.50 each time you fill up. Say you fill up twice a week? That's a dollar. By the end of the summer, you will have saved maybe $16.00.

Huzzah! It's a windfall! Fire up the Escalade, honey! We can go visit your parents afterall!

*I am not an economist, not even remotely close. I'm just a guy with a blog and broadband access.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

If a blog falls in a forest

I gots plenty of stuff going on in my life. Some of it is fodder for blogging; some not.

Right now, the latter is kicking the ass of the former, and absorbing the majority of my discretionary bandwidth. So a lot of what's going on with me, I can't blog about, and it's taking up a lot of my time and energy.

The good news is, now that I'm blogging less, I'm more productive at work!

No I'm not.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Greetings from Seattle

It is raining for the 1,035th day in a row in San Francisco. Yes, it's been raining for over 3 years. I don't know why this hasn't gotten wider press coverage.

Our new motto is, "if you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes. It'll be even worse then, so you'll appreciate how good it is now."

Did a set last night at a club where I frequently perform. I haven't been getting up there as much recently because, it seems, they haven't gotten my phone messages.

The system basically works like this. You call them on Sunday for spots on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday showcases. So I'll call and leave a message saying I'd like to get on the Monday night show, or Tuesday, or Wednesday. (See how that works?) More often than not, I have gotten on. It's a good show. The audiences are usually small, but they can be pretty good. They are also mostly tourists from out of town, so you get some sense of how your jokes would play outside the warm liberal embrace of SF, where the well-funded, right-wing, conservative candidate for Mayor was the Democrat (Gavin Newsome), and he almost lost to the candidate from the Green Party (Matt Gonzales).

Lately, I haven't gotten on as much. Twice in the last 3 weeks, the booker claimed he didn't get my message. Maybe not, but twice in 3 weeks? Hmm.

Last night I was on, but I had the "bitch spot." I was first, and I only got 5 minutes. Actually, the host does his time to open the show, so I was after him. Still, you get a fairly cold audience, and 5 minutes isn't a lot of time.

I did okay, and I didn't complain. I won't complain. If there's one thing I know, it's that bookers generally (this one is no exception) don't like prima donnas. So it's all right, I will work my way back in to the heart of the lineup.

I have spent some time (too much I am sure) entertaining paranoid fantasies-- that I committed some sort of slight or faux pas. It's possible - at one show I had my time cut, and I made mention of it in a joking way. Then I ran the light, I went over my allotted time. That's never a good idea, and I have only done it a couple of times. Maybe that pissed the guy off, I don't know. It's possible. Maybe I'm not paranoid.

Anyway. My confidence isn't exactly soaring at the moment, but it'll come around. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Make Your Cuts

Hi ho!

Someone told me I had a blog here, so I thought I'd stop by and see what's what.

I haven't done a show in a week. Partially a product of schedule, partially ennui.

I've got to get some writing done (stand-up and other), and I've got to get up and do some shows. I might see if I can get a set on Saturday. Otherwise, next week.

Two places where I have been able to get up pretty regularly haven't given me spots the last few weeks, so that partially accounts for the lower level of activity. I'm a little paranoid that I did something to bug them, like say, not be funny enough.

I'm not too worried about it, though. I have gone through these kinds of fits and starts before, where I don't write and don't perform and then bang bang bang, I write a bunch, and I get shows all over the place. It'll come back.


The writing. I need to write new stuff, and I need to tighten up some of the current stuff. For new stuff, I have ideas in my notebook that are just sitting there, like dirty laundry. (To extend the analogy then, writing is like dropping off my clothes for the ole' wash-n-fold, and performing a new bit is like picking up my clothes. Or maybe it's more like putting on clean socks. I think that analogy is like... some other, somewhat similar thing. Ah, screw it.) I have a few promising new bits which I just haven't quite got down yet. The premises are good, but the setups and the punches are still sloppy. They need to be trimmed and refined. Anything that doesn't help me get to the funny needs to go.

As the comedy teacher Stephen Rosenfield likes to say, "make your cuts."


The performing. If I have a self-diagnosed performance issue right now, it's pacing. Sometimes nervous comedians, especially novices, tend to "shotgun" their sets. They don't give the audience any time to think and react-- just when they might have laughed at a joke, the comedian is already off to the next one. Sometimes this results in a beginning comedian taking the set that was perfectly timed out at 7 minutes at home, and doing it in 5, 5/12 minutes.

My problem is the opposite now. I am TOO comfortable with long pauses. The longer the pause, the better the punch line has to be to justify it. If it isn't big enough, the audience loses energy. A couple weeks ago I did a show where I made a conscious effort to keep my pace a little quicker, and it definitely seemed to help. Another reason for the long pauses sometimes is laziness, pure and simple. I might put together a few fragments of a set, but unless it's pretty important (which could mean an audition, a contest, or getting paid), I don't really time it out. I just know that I may need more material, or I may need to cut some stuff. As a result, sometimes, I take a healthy-sized pause between jokes. That's because I am trying to figure out what to do next.


Went to LA last weekend, which was cool. I saw two of my oldest, best friends. It was great to see people who know me from way back. It helps me tap into parts of me that I have forgotten about. I am back in touch with my inner 12 year old.