Thursday, August 31

DoubleClick's Generous Donation

This is cross-posted at my brother's memorial blog:

DoubleClick, Michael's employer, has donated $2,500 in Michael's memory to National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, or NARSAD for short.

Thank you, DoubleClick. I can't begin to express how much the gesture means to me and my family.

It was almost exactly one year ago that Michael moved to Chicago to take his job with DoubleClick. I was in Chicago at the same time for that year's NLGJA conference. The first night I was in town, I blew off the NLGJA evening meet-and-greets and Michael and I ate dinner at the original Pizzeria Uno at Ohio Street and Wabash Avenue, just a few steps away from the Magnificent Mile. The next day, Britt came to Chicago and Michael signed a lease on his new apartment. That night, we celebrated Michael's new job and home with a big steak dinner at Lawry's The Prime Rib on Ontario Street.

Here's a picture of our waitress making a big production out of the salad. This is what they do at Lawry's -- the spin the salad bowl so the dressing is distributed evenly. It looks kind of cool, actually:

At Lawry's The Prime Rib in Chicago, 10/2005

That Sunday, before Britt and I flew home, we went to Michael's apartment to check out the incredible view. The south side of Chicago, including US Cellular Field, spread out beneath us. To the left stood Sears Tower.

Here's a picture of Britt and Michael pointing out landmarks. Michael, who despised being in photos, agreed to let me take this picture because his back was to the camera.

Britt and Michael, 10/2005

Here's the view of Sears Tower:

Sears Tower, seen from Michael's apartment, 10/2005.JPG

Sunday, August 27

Out At Sunset

Sensing (correctly) that I needed a distraction, Britt drove me to the beach this weekend to get away from our house. We watched the sunset and walked along the shore.

Here are some pictures I took Saturday night:

The last moments of dusk

The sun has set

North Redington Beach pier

Thanks, Britt, for my first taste of relief after nearly two weeks' of grief.

Tuesday, August 22

An Online Memorial For Michael

Some of Michael's friends have started a memorial Web site. Please check it out at MSimanoff.blogspot.com.


Here is what I posted to the memorial site a few hours ago:

A Message From Michael's Brother

As Michael's big brother, I want everyone to know how grateful everyone in the Simanoff family is for all of your messages and support. The blog is a wonderful tribute to Michael, and we're touched (but not surprised) to know that Michael was loved by so many people.

Many people have asked about flowers and memorial donations. We are asking people to make donations in Michael's memory to the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression. The Web site is located at www.narsad.org.

Michael Adam Simanoff, 1975-2006




Words fail me.

Sunday, August 6

Stop Your Lies, Gosh!

Doug Stanley, who clearly has too much time on his hands, finally answers the question that has been puzzling experts since the dawn of time: what would it look like if Michael Fechter were in "Napoleon Dynamite"?

Hello Vader

I don't know where Sarah Varga found this image, but it made my day:


Here's what I wrote about Hello Kitty on the original Daily Dave (motto: "Removed For My Protection") on January 14, 2003:

So, what's the fascination with Hello Kitty? It's hard to explain. I'm certainly not a Hello Kitty fan, I don't know the characters names, and I don't collect Hello Kitty ephemera. My interest is more sociological -- I'm really amazed at the whole freaky Hello Kitty phenomenon and how it has silently become an American institution as well as a Japanese one.

I don't remember when I started paying attention to Hello Kitty. It may have begun in college, when America's Favorite Japanese History Expert Mark Ravina explained that Hello Kitty can serve as a warning sign for Americans in Japan, sort of like the canary in a mine shaft. His theory: If you're in Japan, and Hello Kitty starts to make sense to you, then it's time to return to the United States.

Wages War

Why is it so hard for people in the Tampa Bay area to believe that the average weekly wage here is $781? In addition to last week's phone calls, I also received an e-mail message from someone who said that the $781 figure couldn't be right because, by her calculations, it would mean that the average household income in this area comes close to $90,000 a year -- a number that clearly isn't right.

Here's what I wrote back. I'm not including the original message, but you can get the gist of it by reading my reply.

Good observations, but the math is a little off.

To answer your last question first, the wage figures come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and can be found online at www.bls.gov.

Second: the 928,285 people who aren’t in school don’t all have jobs, so your calculation of 2.1 wage earners for each household is wrong. Hillsborough County’s work force is 583,224 people as of 2005, according to the BLS.

Here’s the back-of-the-envelope math: If you divide the labor force by the number of households, you’ll end up with 1.34 wage earners for each household. The original BLS wage figure was $781 a week, which works out to about $40,612 a year. So, if there is an average of 1.34 wage earners in each household, then the average household income should be something close to 1.34 times $40,612, which is $54,420.

That is pretty close to county’s official $53,806 figure. I’m sure that the county uses a much more complex methodology, though.


I tried to end the message on a diplomatic note, but it probably comes across as more stupid than tactful:

Thanks for your message. I’d like it if more people kept an eye on our figures and numbers in the newspaper. It keeps us on our toes!

Cheers
Dave Simanoff


The thrilling life of a journalist never ends.

Wednesday, August 2

"You're Gonna Lose, I Hope, I Pray, You Bastard."

As a reporter, I'm used to getting calls from irate readers who believe (a) what I have written is complete bullshit and (b) I am the world's greatest idiot for writing it.

However, I wasn't expecting a big backlash from a tiny story about the latest wage figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The morning after the story ran, someone called to say that the average for Hillsborough County, $781 a week, must be wrong. His reasoning: no one at his company (a home improvement store) gets paid that much. He asked if the average was only for lawyers and doctors. If you do a little math, that means that the caller believes that lawyers and doctors in this area earn about $40,000 a year.

I explained where the figure comes from, and explained that the average didn't seem out of line based on other wage estimates I've seen for Hillsborough and the Tampa Bay area.

That afternoon, I got a voice mail message from a much more belligerent reader. He started his rant by questioning the $781 figure, and ended by saying he was "mad as hell" and telling me "You're gonna lose, I hope, I pray, you bastard."

Yup, both direct quotes.

This character called me back the next day, telling me, among other things, that everything the government says is a lie, and that there is no way that the average could be $781 a week in Hillsborough because he doesn't know anyone that earns that much. He also said that everyone in Hillsborough works in a store or hotel, and that half the houses in the county are under foreclosure.

I tried to explain, fruitlessly, that there are indeed workers in the Tampa Bay area with jobs that pay $781 a week or more. I even called up the Bureau of Labor Statistic Web site and gave him some examples. He was having none of it. Apparently, the facts don't fit with his belief that there's some grand government conspiracy to manipulate various statistics so that they don't have to raise his Social Security payments.

When the conversation had gone on long enough, I invited him to write a "crackpot letter to the editor" and gave him our address. Then I hung up.

I got a small round of applause from the people sitting around me.

Now, don't you wish you were a reporter?

It's just another exciting chapter in my life as an intrepid reporter.