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(NOTE: This article was published in Seek Alpha on April 19, 2022, sorry for my delay posting it here!)

SUMMARY:

  • Skillz (SKLZ) announced significant operating changes during their Q4 2021 earnings call, including material cost cutting having to do with ineffective marketing spend.
  • Cost cutting is critical.  But as important is cutting their excessive fee structure (i.e., their “vig”).  Because their problem isn’t getting betting players, but rather keeping them betting.
  • Reducing their dispiriting 50% betting fees to the industry standard 10% won’t affect revenues and could be key to creating sustainable profitability, possibly 1-2 years ahead of guidance.
  • I have a Strong Buy recommendation on SKLZ.
Thesis

Skillz (SKLZ) announced major operating changes in their Q4 2021 earnings call, including material cost cutting having to do with ineffective marketing spend. This cost cutting is critical. One doesn’t need to look past their Q4 2021 P&L results to figure this out.

But even with cost cutting, bears think this situation is unfixable.  That a lot of their revenues were due to “free money” promotions and cutting these will cause revenues to plummet and the company to still crash and burn.  Certainly the current share price reflects this.

But, tactically, the situation has a straightforward fix. Simply reduce the vig — that is, the fees Skillz charges bettors — from their current (and dispiriting) 50% to the industry standard 10%.  Change the vig, change the world.

Bears will counter getting less vig would cause revenues to drop even faster. But they won’t, because when you run the numbers, nothing happens. Well, check that, something important does happen: The revenues become recurring and sustaining.

For my first look at SKLZ, I wrote an overview piece on the company explaining why it was woefully misunderstood and undervalued and tagged it with a “Strong Buy” (and still have that rating). I did so because the company has just too many things going for it to be trading near gross cash levels, including scalable technology, sophisticated infrastructure, a large, established base of paying and non-paying players, a deal with the all-powerful NFL — and now the wildly-popular UFC — partnerships that are sure to attract other top brands, and 3/4 of a billion in gross cash in the bank. But most important for a growth company in this market: An achievable path to profitability.

But it doesn’t have profits right now, which is what the market wants to see. This article examines Skillz’s cost cutting in more detail and its potential effect on profitability, including ways to accelerate profitability 1-2 years ahead of guidance.

Understanding The Other Two Important Numbers In SKLZ’S P&L

Certainly revenues and profits are important numbers in any P&L. But what drives those numbers? And in particular, what drove the gaudy $155 million Skillz spent on Sales & Marketing in Q4 2021?

Two things: $85.6 million on New User Acquisition… and $56.7 million on Engagement Marketing. As the company acknowledged, “Candidly, we spent more than we should have in both user acquisition and engagement marketing in Q4”.

User Acquisition marketing costs in Q4 2021. (Skillz Q4 2021 Investor Day presentation materials.)

Engagement Marketing costs in Q4 2021. (Skillz Q4 2021 earnings press release.)

The company is now committed to cutting User Acquisition and Engagement Marketing costs.  Which is great and needed news.  But the relevant question is why did Skillz feel the need to spend all that money in the first place?

Of course there was great pressure to continue growing its player base.  Like many companies, Skillz was simply offering customer incentives in an effort to kick-start players… the same way it did all through 2021… only accelerated in Q4 in an effort to end the year with a bang.

However, what it really was doing — what it has been doing for a long time now — was trying to make a premium but non-standard fee structure work.  While throwing gobs of money at players did accelerate the top line for many quarters, the “easy money” environment was also distracting from what was happening to the bottom line: Trouncing it. 

Every company needs to incent customers, but after spending nearly half a billion on just marketing in 2021 — compared to less than $400 million for all of 2021 revenue — Skillz now has more than enough proof that its old approach doesn’t work.  Let’s talk about why.

Engagement Marketing That Didn’t Stand A Chance

I’ve always loved the old joke, “The beatings will continue until morale improves!” It kind of reminds me of Skillz pushing “promotional cash” at players and, like the joke, no matter how much promotional cash Skillz doled out, it just wasn’t improving the bottom line.

That’s because it’s not the amount of promotional cash that’s the main issue — that actually did a fine job getting players to open their wallets (as unnecessarily excessive as it was). It’s Skillz’s vig — their commission — that’s chasing away paying players once they start betting. It’s way too high.  Impossibly high.  It’s literally that simple. Change the vig, change the world.

Let’s review: The betting action in a Skillz game — for example, their new NFL 2-Minute Football — is intoxicating… addictive… exactly what you love to see in a legal vice investment. SKLZ is ringing the cash register twice every 60 seconds. Each player wagers a standard $0.60 “entry” fee and Skillz rakes $0.20 every game play. Betting players play on average almost a couple dozen games a day, so the games — and fees — add up fast.

Wow, sounds great if you can get it! But that’s the problem, Skillz isn’t getting it for very long. This is what a Skillz wager looks like to anyone that understands betting — like every NFL and UFC bettor in the world:

Standard bookmaker “vig” vs. Skillz. (The Lone Contrarian’s calculations.)

That graphic says it all, eh? It answers a lot of questions important to the success and/or viability of the business, for example:

Q: Why aren’t players buying in more (i.e., recurring revenue challenges)? 

A: Because it’s impossible to win when the house is taking 5x the standard % rake.

Q: Why was Skillz’s Engagement Marketing “free cash” promotions ineffective in incenting players to buy in again? 

A: Because whether I play with my money or their free cash, I’m going to stop betting once the money’s gone.  Impossible to win.  One and done.

Q: Why does Skillz have so many non-paying active players? 

A: Because players love their games, but not their fee structure… so when they’re done getting hit over the head with a 5x vig, they just continue playing for free. If you are a Skillz player, you know this to be true.

But this is easily fixable: Just change the vig.  That simple.  Change the vig, change the world.

Bears are probably screaming now, if you change the vig from 50% to the standard 10%, revenues will crater!

This is why I believe bears don’t really understand this company. That isn’t the way betting works.  That isn’t the way mobile gaming works.  That isn’t even the way the numbers work. Run the numbers, nothing changes. The revenues stay the same. Well, check that, something important does change, the revenues become recurring. The golden ticket to a sustainable business.

Let’s quickly look at the math: With a 50% vig (what Skillz has today), a $10 buy-in, and evenly-matched games, a bettor playing the $0.60 “Regular Season” game will win $0.40 half of the time and lose $0.60 half of the time. That’s an average loss of $0.10 every game. So $10 buys you 100 plays, not even a day’s action for some players.  And at the end of those 100 games, the house’s take is $10. Because the vig is so high — and it becomes apparent that it’s impossible to win — players don’t buy in again. But they do keep playing for free.

If we change the vig to 10%, guess what, the house’s take is still $10. The only difference is it takes more games for the house to earn the same amount of money… but — and this is the critical piece to understand — these are games that are going to played anyhow whether they’re betting games or on the free practice field… as evidence by Skillz’s sky-high 84% active-but-non-paying player percentage.  Changing the vig won’t even affect the performance of their network… because Skillz is already serving these games.

50% Vig vs. 10% Vig: The house earns the same either way. (The Lone Contrarian’s calculations.)

I’m sure Skillz was hoping it could charge a premium.  After all, what they’re doing is so new.  And exciting.  But it’s just not working.  Bettors know better.

Skillz seems to have forgotten the basis of what I consider its break-through business concept:  Instead of just making mobile games and struggling — like the zillions of other aspiring game developers — to charge for game play, they tried to solve that problem for the entire industry by creating a development platform that positioned game play as something brand new in gaming: A legal wager. Brilliant! 

But critical to that concept: A bettor wants to win money.  That’s why they’re betting.  But it’s virtually impossible to win against Skillz’s 5x rake in an evenly-matched game. Almost all of the players always lose.  And quickly.  So it can’t be anything else but one and done.  Because betting may not be the smartest thing to do, but even the craziest of bettors figure out when the deck is stacked so completely against them.

So Skillz built a fantastic company with fantastic technology and a fantastic infrastructure, all based on a brilliant idea, and they did all of that and then spent a huge amount of effort and time and cash just getting a player to the money table… only to… what?  Chase them away to the free games because of an impossible 5x rake?

It’s time to share the key insight here: Skillz players want to bet. They just invested a lot of time becoming hot stuff at a Skillz game.  All SKLZ has to do is not stack the deck against them.  Give them a standard vig — one that every bettor is used to — and one that’s been in use since betting was invented, a vig that every bettor thinks they can overcome.  If I don’t feel like the deck is stacked against me, I like to compete (that’s why I’m playing video games in the first place) so I’ll buy-in again… because playing for money is just more fun than playing for fun. Buying in again… and again… and again… is the very definition of healthy recurring revenues (as ironic as that may sound :).

The good news is Skillz can easily change their vig — without affecting revenues — literally overnight.  And the $56.7 million they spent on Q4 Engagement Marketing?  Most of that gets saved overnight, too.

From a revenue point-of-view, there’s another enthusiastically welcomed upside: SKLZ has 3 million active, non-paying players… and many might love to bet again if said deck wasn’t stacked against them. Bringing a big chunk of those 3 million active, non-paying players back into the betting fold would put a JOLT into revenues, eh?

But also MONUMENTALLY important:  Skillz must lower the vig before the mass of NFL bettors enter the picture. The sooner the better.  Because NFL bettors are savvy and won’t stand for paying a 5x rake. The NFL opportunity will otherwise be D.O.A. and Skillz will have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ New Customers
Skillz Monthly Active Users exited Q4 2021. (Skillz Q4 2021 earnings press release.)

(* A nod to Mel Brook for a variation of a famous quote from his 70’s classic, Blazing Saddles. : )

Why did SKLZ spend almost $86 million on new customers when it has about 3 million unmonetized players — players who love their games enough to still play actively? They might have also forgotten that the easiest customer to get is an existing customer.

Let’s put this in perspective: If they figure out how to get 1-in-5 to pay the average, they could double revenues. Organically. Sustainably.  As suggested above, changing the vig can do this all by itself (and more). Change the vig, change the world. But there’s more revenue to be found here.

Because while this may sound odd to bettors, there are some people that don’t want to bet… they only want to play free games. So figure out how to make money from their free play.  It’s not like that’s new or anything, much of the mobile gaming industry already relies on monetizing free play. For example:

* How about that time-tested approach, having players watch a rewarded video before a free play? (Maybe give them a 30-day grace period, get ’em hooked, then start showing ads.)

* And that other time-tested approach, paying a cheap monthly subscription so you don’t have to watch ads. This is the subscription generation after all.

* In your multiplayer games, how about selling game skins, Leaderboard animations, dances, badges, and such? That seems to work nicely for free games like Fortnite.

* Even something as trivial as a tip jar can turn out to be a revenue contributor.

But maybe as important: How about creating new kinds of money games… designed to attract non-bettors?

Maybe enter a $1 non-bracketed tournament that happens every hour… where I can play 120 other evenly-matched competitors.  We all play three games and the top 10 averages divvy up $100… spreading it out a little bit just creates more excitement, happiness, and engagement.  Maybe the next 10 participants get Ticketz (Skillz’s virtual currency)… and  — as all gamers know — there are bragging rights for making a Top 20 Leaderboard.  As a player myself, I love those odds for a buck. I just took a break from writing this article, played three games, and kicked butt.

How about a “Daily Subscription Tournament”? Pay $9.99 and your subscription gets you into a month of daily non-bracketed tournaments — that’s just $0.33 a day. Same as above, everyone plays three games, but the top 10 averages divvy up $1,000 and the next 90 participants get Ticketz.  More bragging rights, happiness, and engagement.

Feel free to shorten the $1 Tourney cycle time, or run a different Subscription Tournament for each hour of the day as participation dictates.  By holding these daily tournaments, you just know I’m going to be on the free practice field a lot, so that supports the other monetization techniques discussed above, too.

With over 3 million active, non-paying players, Skillz doesn’t have to look beyond its own registration list to get new paying players. And shouldn’t. If for no other reason, they could have their hands full with new players come this fall when their NFL partnership kicks in. Right now, though, keep cutting most of your $85.6 million User Acquisition spend, it’s not needed. This literally could turn the entire quarter around by itself.

So What Does This All Mean For The Numbers?

Glad you asked. Here’s what 2022 Q4… Q3… or even Q2 could look like:

Back-Of-The-Envelope P&L Projections for SKLZ in some quarter of 2022 based on the actions suggested in this article. (The Lone Contrarian’s projected calculations.)

Same Back-Of-The-Envelope P&L Projections as above but without interest expense. (The Lone Contrarian’s projected calculations.)

Assumptions:

* Baseline revenues are Q4 2021’s RAEM (Revenue After Engagement Marketing) and to be conservative I assume no increase (vs. Skillz guidance of “above 30%” growth). Recall that this metric is essentially “net revenues,” i.e., doesn’t include any promotional money in the tally.

Reducing the vig means getting to invite past betting players to wager again. I’m assuming 1-in-5 will try their betting hand again… remember, these are players that want to bet again. So that doubles revenues to $104 million.

I am not, however, including any other recurring buy-ins, digital advertising revenues, newly created cash games, or any revenues from the NFL partnership. Note: I am not including these because the goal was to see the effect of cost-cutting activity on profitability.  Clearly, though, I feel strongly that all of these efforts can drive additional, significant revenues.

* I’m using costs from the December 2021 quarter as a baseline.

* Revenues are decreasing from Q4 2021 but we’ll still keep Cost of Revenues at Q4 2021 level.

* Baseline costs include a 10-15% increase in employee compensation, New User Acquisition cut by 80% (and, per company comments, Aarki to save 30% on the remaining 20% that is being spent), and Engagement Marketing cut by 80% (and Aarki again to save 30% on that remaining 20%, too).

* The company recently registered almost 16 million additional shares.

* I added $7.7 million per quarter for their Dec 2021 $300 million financing that carries a 10.25% interest rate.

* For this back-of-the-envelope exercise, I’m not including any “Change in fair value of common stock warrant liabilities”, “Other income (expense), net”, or “(Benefit) provision for income taxes”.

What’s It All Mean?

Profits!

OK, to be clear, it’s back-of-the-envelope and just $0.003 per share for whatever quarter they decide to change their vig, which isn’t even rounding error to a penny. But given that the average Wall Street analyst is predicting a loss of about -$0.15 per share per quarterany profit should quiet those that believe the company is going to run out of cash soon.

As important: Without their big interest payment, they have a profit per share of $0.02.

Fun to think what adding more recurring revenue (especially from the 3 million active but currently non-paying players), digital ad revenue, revenue from newly created cash games, and NFL revenue (!) can do to SKLZ’s top line.  Jumps by leaps and bounds, as does its bottom line.  But that is for a future article. 

But it all starts with reducing the vig. Change the vig, change SKLZ’s world.  In this case, the results could be moving up profitability guidance 1-2 years.

I like the Skillz exec team and for all I know they’re way ahead of me with all of this. Or have figured out an even better cost-cutting and monetization approach. But what I wanted to illustrate in this article is with just a few easy levers pulled, we can already see a dramatic difference to SKLZ’s bottom line in a short period of time.  It’s why I continue to think this company is woefully misunderstood and undervalued.

I’m not suggesting we go into lock down, but there certainly were a few unintended yet welcomed consequences from the early days of Covid.

We learned that we could work remotely, at least those in corporate America.

We learned that we could hold meetings — work or personal — quite reasonably on Zoom.

We learned that even a month of reduced driving made a big impact on our environment. CO2 levels started coming down. You could see fish in the Venetian waters again. And all kinds of other miraculous things, too.

Most importantly, we learned that even a month of reduced driving made a big impact on oil supplies and gas prices…

… and since the price of a unit of energy affects the price of everything else in our world, we were reminded that the price of everything in the world comes down as oil prices come down.

So if I were the President of the United States, here’s what I’d do:

(1) I’d gather the top 50 employers in the country to an emergency meeting at the White House… hey, I can do that, I’m POTUS! :) I’d remind everyone that we’re in a time of extraordinary crisis… whether it’s Ukraine, Russia, China, inflation, deficits, interest rates, supply shortages, pandemics, whatever. I’d ask the CEO’s of all of these companies if they would consider voluntarily having their workforces work at home, just like they did during the early days of Covid. I’d suggest 90 days, to correspond during the spring, where temperatures would not be too cold nor too hot, so easy on home heating and/or cooling needs.

(2) I’d address the nation… and remind all Americans that we’re in facing multiple, life-changing crises… and just like great Americans have done through difficult times, we all can make a contribution. Nothing is locked down. But walk to a local restaurant or shop. Ride your bike to school. Take public transportation. If you have multiple cars and have to drive, take the one that gets the best gas mileage. Plan trips better, do all your errands in one trip rather than three. Get together with your friends and neighbors and carpool when possible. Want to show solidarity with the Ukrainians? Want to stop run-away inflation and pay less money for everything? Want to put a lid on pollution? Want to sock it to Russia (and the Middle East while we’re at it) where it hurts, in their oil pocketbook? For the next 90 days, let’s make a wartime-effort to reduce or eliminate driving if we can.

(3) I’d met with the leaders of other countries, talk about what we’re doing in the United States, and ask each and every country if they would join the battle.

Here’s what I love about this plan: It literally has a huge impact ON DAY ONE.

And it shows that we control our situation… our situation does NOT control us.

I just found out my mentor in life passed.

Don Lipsih was all of 24-years young, fresh out of prestigious Colgate University, when he took a small assignment teaching 7th and 8th grade students at All Souls School in little South San Francisco. It must have seemed like a million miles away from his east coast upbringing. As a 12-year old, I, of course, had no concept of just how disruptive this would have been for him… or how courageous he had to be to uproot his entire life and make such a cross-country move.

“Libby” — as we all came to affectionally call him — was without a doubt larger-than-life. At about 6′ 4″ and 300+ lbs., his physicality was amplified to we diminutive 7th graders. A giant, enormous teddy bear.

But it wasn’t his physical stature that made him special… it was who he was: The best teacher I’ve ever had. And more than that, one of the best people I’ve ever known.

One of Libby’s incredible talents was blending seemingly contrasting behaviors. He was quick to laugh, but equally as quick to take whatever grandiose statement a 7th grader was trying to make with utter seriousness. He gave you the respect of an equal, but there was never a doubt of who was in charge. He loved good-natured ribbing, but he also taught us that there were very bright lines in the world that could never be crossed.

The contrasts always made for surprising, refreshing, and interesting exchanges… but ones that never caught you off-guard. Lib, always kind and considerate… always the gentleman… wouldn’t do that to someone.

Most notably, Libby had perspective and wisdom. He was, in fact, the wisest man I’ve ever known. I don’t mention this lightly, most of us spend a lifetime searching for these qualities and never really get there. Lib had them in spades at 24!

As my life-long friend John Marino recently intimated, he changed an entire community of people forever.

Another life-long friend, Dave Rosaia, chimed in that he was the rare educator that actually cared about his kids. High praise coming from a persona that sent lesser teachers ducking for cover.

But Libby didn’t just teach us. He became our friend. I can’t even count the times a half dozen of us would pile into his big ‘ole, bright mustard yellow, larger-than-life Delta 88 convertible and go golfing or to the movies or such.

And he didn’t just have that effect on students, the entire community loved Libby. He was possibly the most beloved person I’ve ever known, too.

And richly deserving. His superpowers were that he made everyone feel special… and, even more appreciated, safe. He simply let you be you.  Incredibly uncommon qualities.

Teaching wasn’t paying all the bills, so he eventually augmented his salary with a bit of catering out of his kitchen — I believe his first business name was something haphazard like “Vittles Unlimited.” My little sister Lisa was helping him on the weekends. Libby brought his Libby magic to every relationship and his small business couldn’t help but grow. It grew so much that, at one point, Lisa had a team of three adults working for her… and she couldn’t even drive yet… if another party needed her, she would literally point to an adult and say “drive, please, now!” Libby knew how to recognize… and unlock… potential, another superpower of his.

Libby’s business grew so much that he was able to buy a flailing catering company that had a great store front location and rebranded his business to “Continental Catering.” He definitely stepped out of his small kitchen and into the big time. It was the 80’s and Silicon Valley was experiencing a second great technology wave. With companies like Apple and Intel making a fortune in tech, Libby was making his fortune running each and every shindig they threw.

Around this time I remember Libby shedding about 100 lbs (!)… and when he hit his goal weight, he bought himself a brand new, totally fancy, totally cool, ivory-colored Porsche 9-2-4. We were, of course, all in awe. :)

Even with the weight loss, the rigors of catering eventually took its toll on his health. And so he retired early… leading what I can best describe as a “wealthy vagabond” existence. He once told me, “if I’m driving past an airport and decide I want to have lunch in Paris, I just pull into short-term parking, buy a plane ticket, and just go. Anything I need I just buy along the way.”

I experienced this firsthand in the most dramatic and surprising way. My wife and I got married in Greece, bringing just our immediate families and our best man & woman with us.  And, of course, Elle’s soon-to-be-godfather Uncle George. Next thing I know, Libby shows up at the wedding! In Greece! Totally unannounced! It was an entrance to beat all entrances.

It was incredible to hear his stories… but there was a sadness, too. The only family he had was an aging mother. He never married, in fact I never even heard him mention a significant other… friends or otherwise. I worried that he was alone in the world.

To this day, I’ve never been able to reconcile that. I’ve never known somebody so loved by so many… just kinda dropping off the face of the earth. It was if he gave so much of himself for so long… that it was impossible for him to give anymore.

We grew distant over the years. Not his fault, mine. Another life-long friend Frank Fano and I always threatened to descend on him some weekend, but we never did. For me, I think it was because I always dreamed of reuniting with Lib in a triumphant way… to talk about amazing and great conquests in business. But, with a schoolboy mentality, I hadn’t yet felt I had achieved anything that would make him truly proud of me.

But I didn’t think time would run out. Stupid schoolboy me.

Years ago I closed down the Oasis Bar, located a few blocks from his catering storefront, and left him a, “how ya doin’, Lib?!” note… to which his reply included:

          “It’s always great to hear from you, even if it’s a card in the door. I’m going to be a very old man before I see you again I think.”

He was, among all his incredibly qualities, simply insightful. He knew.

A few years back — when Lib would have been looking up at 70 — and on the occasion of my 57th birthday — I bucked up. I pulled out another letter he wrote me… one that I had been trying to answer for many years… and was determined to finish my reply to him. It was well past time I told Libby just how much he meant to me.

It was the most personal letter I have ever written… written to the person that believed in me before all others.

Some of it was apologetic, the student worrying about disappointing the teacher. But here’s the part I’d like to share… because I believe it may capture some of what we all felt:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I never saw the movie, “To Sir With Love.” But the song by Lulu is one of my favorites… in particular the closing verses:

          A friend who taught me right from wrong     
          And weak from strong
          That’s a lot to learn,
          but, what can I give you in return?     

          If you wanted the moon
          I would try to make a star
          But I, would rather you let me give my heart
          To Sir, with love

I was always bummed that this was written from a girl student to a male teacher… because it’s not a very manly thing to share with another man… but the importance of the sentiment is dead-on for me.

At this point in my life, I’m not sure what I can give you except the knowledge that you have been in my heart every day since the morning you walked into our 7th grade classroom. More than a mentor… a father.

To Sir. With Love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nobody likes Trump. He acts like an idiot. He’s divisive and an awful communicator. He doesn’t inspire trust. He’s arrogant, bombastic, and narcissistic. About as un-presidential as you can get. He’s embarrassing.

I, literally, can’t stand the guy.

He, literally, chased me out of the republican party.

However, here’s what I’ve learned from the last four years: No matter how bad Trump was — and he was awful — he still ran circles around all the other politicians.

Why? Because he got things done. As opposed to politicians, who are too busy, well, being political… i.e., doing and saying whatever they need to to get elected. Because that’s their profession… running for office.

And, once elected, politicians don’t do anything… they just work on getting elected to their next post. Or re-elected to their current post. Because they’re not trained to do anything but run for office.

Those are — in general — the folks we have running the biggest country in the world.

It turns my stomach that career politicians — democrat or republican — are the best we can do.

Trump was different, though (queue the giant “understatement” look). He wasn’t a politician. In fact, he was a political idiot. But he got things done. China has been ABUSING us for decades. Clear as day. Yet there wasn’t a single politician — like ever — that did what Trump did: Call them out on their bullshit. Because, if you’ll recall, that was really politically unpopular when he first started pushing. “Oh, a trade war will cause the stock market to crash! Oh, everything will be more expensive! Oh, how can we be so insensitive to a developing nation?” Bullshit.

And he called a spade-a-spade with China and Covid… and about WHO bias… both resulting in an unbelievable outcry… but both positions proving to have merit. As did closing the airports to China travelers… hugely unpopular… until the whole world followed suit weeks later. Ironically, after getting blasted for being “jingoistic,” Trump then got blasted for “not doing enough soon enough.”

I hated that he trashed the Paris Accord… and I still do… but Trump was right to point out that the agreement was unfair, that everyone else had to start their hard work, but China and India — the two TOP emitters in the world — could actually increase emissions under the agreement?

Huh? That only isn’t fair, it’s dangerous.

But that’s what most politicians do — head-scratching things — because they’ve never really run anything… because all they know how to do is run for office.

Trump was the first president in modern memory to propose that government employees not get automatic raises, but rather, get compensated based on performance. That was really unpopular, too. But smart, when is rewarding mediocrity a good thing?

Trump bypassed normal and ineffective bureaucracy and directly tweeted to China and Russia that military spending was “crazy!”… something that a politician would never do… but in one bold stroke, moved the reduction of military spending to the top of the agenda. Because military spending is insane.

And speaking of military spending, what about NATO? Trump was the first president to have the audacity to hold every nation accountable for the commitments they made… to pay their fair share.

Trump was an idiot on the whole wall thing, but he was right that we have a problem with illegal immigration.

In fact, that was so much of Trump’s problem… that he simply acted like an idiot… that his behavior simply got in the way. I absolutely stopped reading – – caring — about anything he said or wrote unless it was a topic of substance… because about 98% of what he said was narcissistic, immature gibberish.

But… he wasn’t a politician… and, for me, it was eye-opening what a non-politician could do in government.

You would think we could find a few candidates with both real management AND diplomacy skills — and the desire for public service — among 330 million Americans. Instead we’re stuck choosing between embarrassing or ineffective. Unfortunately, as difficult as it is to stomach — AND IT IS — embarrassing trumps ineffective.

So, on this inauguration day where two more politicians will get sworn into office, I fear, yet again, that we’re going to be led by people who are non-doers.

And that’s what’s wrong with government… electing officials that know how to kiss babies… but don’t have the skill set to manage big things.

And one other thing: We knew exactly what Trump was when he got elected… warts and all. That’s why seemingly reasonable and rational people backed a political idiot… because they knew what they were getting… as opposed to yet another politician simply telling them what they wanted to hear.

Anything to get elected, right?

Unless you’re short — and other than the great St. Patrick’s Day holiday where we all get to be green — not many silverlinings these days.

Except one big one:  The planet Earth is happier.

Maybe shutting down everything will give the planet a chance to breathe again?

After all, in terms of our stewardship of Earth, we’ve all acting like kindergarteners…

… so it’s fitting that the solution to climate change might very well be a global time out! 

It’s hard to be a fan.  It’s a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy.

It’s particularly hard to be a fan — after spending a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy — having to watch a manager make the same mistakes over and over and over.

That happened tonight… my San Francisco Giants were eliminated from the baseball playoffs… because of INSANE bullpen management by Bruce Bochy…

… the same INSANE bullpen management style that made the Giants nearly the worst team in baseball after the all star break.

I’m tired of hearing how it’s the players fault… that we don’t have any closers.  We had lots ways to close a game… how about just keeping your starting pitcher in when he has a hot hand?  Bochy pulled Matt Moore after the 8th even though he was throwing a 2 hitter!

Or how about using one of your other starting pitchers?  It was, after all, an ELIMINATION GAME.  Any of your starters would have gladly taken the ball… how about Samardzija?  Or Blach?   Heck, even Madison Bumgarner, who only threw 5 innings last night, would have picked up the ball in an instant.

Or how about letting a fresh Will Smith throw to more than one batter?  It’s so painfully clear that Bochy’s platooning style simply wasn’t working.

How about doing ANYTHING other than doing the same ineffective stuff over and over and over?!

This is the second most crushing loss in my five decades or so of being a Giants fan.

And — even harder to swallower — this one was eminently avoidable.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

I’d say FIVE blown leads in the 9th inning — using the same, completely ineffective bullpen management — qualifies.

I obviously — and painfully — misspoke in my “One Other Thing I Know” post below.  I want to say last night’s loss to the Dodgers — with the Giants winning by one run going into the bottom of the 9th — was a terrible, horrible gut punch…

… but, the truth is, it’s no worse than our other terrible, horrible, gut-punching 9th inning losses in September.

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy, sadly, is insane.

Why he pulled Madison Bumgarner in the 7th — with 10 strike-outs, no walks, and a ONE HITTER going — is beyond all baseball reasoning.

The fact that he won’t share his reasons why he did this — he offered all of:  “I said we talked. I’ll leave it at that.” — is simply an irresponsible cop-out.

Sorry, after the September he’s managed, we fans deserve more than that.

I’m only a fan.  But it seems pretty obvious to me that (1) the Giants don’t have a reliable bullpen, so (2) the Giants should have been playing September like we’re in sudden death — because WE ARE — so (3) they needed to use STARTERS to close games, and (4) Bochy needs to abandoned his ineffective bullpen platooning and if a reliever is getting the job done (like Smith was in the 8th inning), just let him keep throwing.  Duh!

Call a spade a spade:  Bochy may be a Hall of Fame manager, but he’s completely mismanaged the Giants down the stretch.

Boch, please get your stuff together before it’s too late!

When the Giants bullpen blew yet another save a few weeks back, I suggested that the Giants trash their entire bullpen and have starters close games.

After all, desperate times called for desperate measures.

Knowledgeable baseball people scoffed, however.

Two weeks ago the Giants looked to have a firm grasp on at least a wild card spot.

Then they blew FOUR 9TH INNING LEADS in about a dozen games.

Now, they’re barely hanging on to the last wild cards spot by a thread.

For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, that is a COLOSSAL, COLOSSAL fail.

Finally, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy got a clue… that he better play these last dozen or so games LIKE THEY’RE PLAYOFF GAMES… and he used a starter last night to close a game.

It wasn’t a save situation… the Giants were already down by 3 runs.  Still, it was nice to see an experienced hand take the ball… and shut the door.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.  That’s Management 101 and that should have been initiated two weeks ago.

Never too late, though, to do the right thing.

I hit a low point in my San Francisco Giants fan career.

The Giants were the best team in baseball before the All Star break.

And the worst after the break.

It’s been an oh-so-painful ride straight downhill.

I was watching the Giants-Mets game last night… tied in the 4th… the Giants Ace Madison Bumgarner on the mound… and with a 1-hitter going into the inning… somehow loaded the bases… and I thought to myself:

This is it.  This is the entire Giants season right now.  We have our best pitcher on the mound.  What team are we really… the before-the-All-Star-break team that will find a way to get out of this jam… or the after-the-All-Star-break team that will continue to get abused… ?  This next pitch will tell…

And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse… the very worst thing happens:  The batter hits a GRAND SLAM!

I’ve been a lifelong Giants fan… which means I’ve suffered my share of heartbreak…

… but that one was one for the ages.

I distinctly remembering at that very moment giving up hope for the season.  That’s NEVER happened to me before while there’s been a mathematical chance to win and a pulse left in my body.

I was dejected.  Heartbroken.  I turned off the game.

I climbed in my car 30 minutes later to hear the Giants announcer say something I will NEVER forget:

“After allowing 4 runs in the fourth, the Giants rally right back in the bottom of the inning to drop a 5-spot on the Mets and take the lead, capped off by none other than Madison Bumgarner’s two-run homerun.”

People thought I was crazy in my car…  it’s hard enough scoring 1 run in baseball, let alone 5 in the same inning… I was cheering and clapping unabashedly… just as if I were at the game!

Thank you, San Francisco Giants, for reminding me that until you are dead — no matter how improbable — there is ALWAYS HOPE!

“And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew. That one small head could carry all he knew.” –Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village

 

That was one of my stepfather’s favorite quotes.

My stepfather — Richard A. Brown — he always used his middle initial in formal situations — passed the night of June 28th.

He passed of heart failure. I suspect he simply thought it was his time to go.

Richard was an interesting, sometime heartsore, ball of contradiction. He was a farm boy… yet had an incredible intellect. He was a man’s man… yet spent many hours with my mom planting the most delicate of gardens. He was fiercely private… yet, he loved people, entertaining all with folksie story-telling and self-deprecating humor.

Richard grew up in upstate New York.

He grew up much faster than the rest of us. He had to. Where were his parents? Gone. They left him — and six younger siblings — with grandparents. At a time when you’re supposed to be a kid, Richard — as the oldest Brown child — had to be an adult — with parental responsibilities that would overwhelm adults twice his age. Of course, Richard downplayed this… I can just hear him say, “my only real responsibility was to make sure the younger kids didn’t get struck by a meteorite.” (Pitchforks were a different story, Richard was always fond of recalling!)

Richard was big and strong as an ox. He used to laugh remembering how someone had talked him into carrying not one BUT TWO 100-pound feed bags at the same time. He would say, “I was just an ignorant baby, I thought that was normal because no one told me it wasn’t.”

Later in life he wore that “simple farm boy” persona. But we all know he was far from being a simple farm boy. His intelligence was off-the-scales. I could go on about him “walking backwards through the snow to Cornell University”… or being a decorated military intelligence officer… or him being fluent in Russian… or him having an encyclopedic opinion on just about every academic topic under the sun…

… but when I described Richard’s intelligence, I usually do it this way: The man does crossword puzzles… IN INK!

Was he supposed to be a good ‘ole farm boy? Was he supposed to be an academic? Was he supposed to be a soldier? Was he supposed to be “the Big Bastard” (as he was wont to call himself)? What was the best way to be a father 3,000 miles away from your kids? Was he supposed to unselfishly counsel every needy soul within a 30-mile radius?

He didn’t know. He searched most of his life just trying to figure out who he was.

And his searching did not come without cost, as attested to by 40 years of taking it “one day at a time.”

But he persevered when people thought he couldn’t.

He persevered with my mom when she got sick, ultimately being the responsible caregiver for a slowly declining Alzheimer’s patient.

And he persevered when his physicality started failing him. So he got around the house a little slower. So he got to his projects a little slower. So curbs and, well, other cars got in his way from time to time. He remained fiercely independent. And — always — sharp-as-a-tack.

Richard loved working with his hands, and in particular working the soil. I remember him explaining to me one of the great shames of South San Francisco. Before development, South City had incredibly rich top soil. The developers, so it seemed, scrape off the top 10 feet for resale, exposing a barren, unproductive layer of clay. Richard spent years — maybe a decade — composting that soil back to its original fertile state… sweating all the way… cursing the developers all the way… cursing the gods all the way… but at the end of the day, you could just tell how pleased he was… “good enough for government work,” he’d always say… but it was far more than that… Richard grew anything and everything… including something I found recently: A monstrous, 5-lbs lemon! I never did get to ask him about that… his botanical secret now sadly a secret for the ages.

Richard loved his Mason Lodge — Francis Drake #376 — where he presided as its Grand Master for many years. He most especially loved his Mason brothers! The Masons were the center of Richard’s social universe for the last half of his life… there’s many generations of “kiddies” (as he would call them) who still think he bares an uncanny resemblance to Santa Claus!

Richard was an avid reader and a fine marksman. And “Poppa” loved – loved – LOVED his grandchildren. Whenever one of the kids couldn’t fall asleep, Poppa would put that grandkid on his belly and, in an instant, they’d be sound asleep!

Above all, Richard loved flying… by himself… in singular control… way up high. Peace. At last.

I last saw Richard on Father’s Day. I — like everybody else — couldn’t imagine that would be the last time I saw him… the Brown’s have a consistent way of defying the gods.

For me, so many things left unsaid. He took care of Doodie. He took care of my mom. I love him for those things.

It’s difficult to summarize a man — and his life — as complex as Richard. There’s no doubt Richard is snickering somewhere saying, “Good luck with that one, buddy!”

So I’d like to do it this way. All his life, while Richard may have searched for who he was…

… he never had a doubt about what he was: An intelligent man. And an honorable man.

At the end of his life, I think he’d be especially pleased to hear that.

Richard A. Brown… to you a good soldier’s send off. Rest in peace, Poppa.

I am not an NBA fan.

That’s not to say I’m not a big basketball fan… there is nothing more exciting than high school and college basketball.

But I don’t like the way it’s played on the professional level.  You don’t see teamwork.  You don’t see hustle.  All you see is self-promotion… and a complete flaunting of the basic rules of the game.  (When was the last time you saw a pro player called for traveling?  Never.  Exactly.)

But I was a big fan of the Golden State Warriors this year.

Because they played like no other NBA team.  They played with teamwork and hustle.  The played unselfishly.  In doing so they brought up the level of play from their opponents, making games fun to watch again.  In doing so they also won an NBA record 73 regular season wins.

Sadly the Warriors didn’t complete their magical season… losing Game 7 of the championship.

It’s only sports… but it matters to the Bay Area… we’re in shock… and mourning.

We’re swimming in a sea of “what if’s?”.  What if the Warriors didn’t lose their big man Andrew Bogut?  What if the Warriors were actually able to adjust to the obvious, that the Cavs were simply standing on the 3-point line taking away those shots, and that all the W’s had to do was simply take some easier/higher-percentage 2-point shots?  What if the officiating wasn’t completely and utterly against Step Curry?  What if the league didn’t job the Warriors and ridiculously suspend Draymond Green for Game 5 in an effort to balance out the series?  What if Klay Thompson had just apologized for wearing a f***ing Dodger cap to a Giants game?

I suspect we’ll be talking about this for a long time into the future.

But — while this may be premature — let me be the first to pick myself up off the canvas and start the chant:

“74… 74… 74… !”

Here’s to an incredibly deserving Warriors team AND 74 regular season wins next year AND a 2017 NBA Championship!

On Friday, June 10th the Golden State Warriors were up 3-1 in the championship series… a thoroughly dominant position to be in as no team in NBA history has every come back from a 1-3 deficit.

On Saturday, June 11th, Klay Thompson wore a f***ing Dodger cap to a SF Giants game.

The Warriors never won another game.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Ugh.

I am a big fan of Klay Thompson.  He’s intelligent, well-spoken, and, clearly, a heck of a basketball player… responsible for seemingly single-handedly saving Golden State’s season on many occasions.

Unfortunately, I am now less of a Klay Thompson fan.

Last night the SF Giants played the f***ing LA Dodgers at AT&T Park.  Klay’s brother Trayce plays for the f***ing Dodgers.  Klay went to the Giants game last night to support his brother — which is obviously a very cool thing to do.

What isn’t cool is wearing — FLAUNTING — a f***ing LA Dodger’s baseball cap at a home Giants game.

Do you know how many times the f***ing Dodgers have broken our heart?

Now you’ve broken our heart, too… the heart of the very San Francisco fans that have so sincerely supported you these past few years.

You could have simply worn a cap with the word “Trayce” on it… fans would have appreciated your loyalty to your brother… and you not shoving a despised symbol in our faces.

Instead, you choose to be disrespectful.  You’re a professional athlete who presumably should know your own fan base.  Shame on you.

Sadly, I will be rooting just a little less loudly for you come Monday night.

Go Steph!  Go Draymond!  Go Iggy!  Go Bogey!  Go Harrison!  Go Shaun!  Go Mo!

Boo on you, Klay Thompson.

Please apologize so I know you are the classy athlete I thought you were and not someone absolutely clueless and hurtful.

Long-time marketing/sales/tech guy Bill Campbell passed yesterday.

Not a lot of people outside Silicon Valley knew him… but everyone inside did.  Among his many business feats, he somehow managed to play significant roles at arguably the two most important — and competitive — technology companies in the world, Apple and Google… at the same time!  If ever there was a testament to how good Bill was — or how much influence he had in Silicon Valley — that’s it.

As significant, Bill was very active in the Sacred Heart community (where my daughter goes to school)… not just donating (which he did a LOT of), but participating, too… indeed, he coached a generation of “powder puff” girl football players.  Sadly my daughter will have missed the coaching-experience-of-a-lifetime by just a year.

I always chuckle when I think how I met Bill.  It was at a big Macworld party.  At the urinal.  Just two guys having a simple chat.  No stranger to a locker room, Bill was absolutely a guy’s guy.

I met with Bill in (ahem) a more professional environment when he took over the Claris division of Apple.  My T/Maker business partner Heidi Roizen and I pitched Bill on making our award-winning word processor, WriteNow For Macintosh, the upgrade to MacWrite.  At one point during the conversation Bill took us on a tour of Claris’ new headquarters… mostly empty because the spin-out was brand new… and mostly there were just IT and facilities folks walking around.  What impressed me about Bill was he knew everyone by name… essentially the “little” people… and true to his coaching reputation, high-fived several of them as we walked by.

He just seemed like someone you wanted to play for… err, I mean, work for.

Nothing came of the conversations, but we stayed in touch.  Bill asked me to serve on the board of Great Plains Software (eventually acquired by Microsoft) and, unfortunately, I was in the process of taking a company public and felt I couldn’t short-change my shareholders, things were so incredibly, incredibly hectic.  On top of that Laurie’s dad was in the process of passing away.  Reluctantly, and hesitantly, I explained all of this to him… and to my great relief he couldn’t have been more gracious — and supportive — in his understanding… it was easy to see why he was a true elder statesman.

Our paths would cross from time to time.  Ironically, about 25 years after my Claris meeting, I was cleaning out my basement and found an old WriteNow t-shirt… to which I proudly wore to the next sporting event at Sacred Heart.  As luck would have it, I ran into Bill… and without skipping a beat, he pointed at my t-shirt and laughed, saying something like, “it’s still going strong after all these years!”  Goodness knows he’s had a lot more important things on his mind between then and now… but it brought such a smile to my face that he remembered.

Here’s to someone who went strong for 75 years.  Rest in peace, Coach.

All we’ve been hearing about is that our oil reserves are near an all-time high… which I think is a good thing… since it puts a downward pressure on the price of oil… which means we consumers pay less for everything… which means greater corporate profits… etc., etc.

The “near an all-time high” has been an important investment theme, too, since it signals a glut of oil on the market.

I just read something, though, that scares the hell out of me.

Our “all-time high” is 3 billion barrels of crude… which sounds like a lot..

… but according to CNBC it’s only one month of global consumption… ?

That’s it?  That’s our big cushion?

Yikes.

I think we’re a ways away from the bull case… but given that statistic… and unless alternative energy sources become much more prevalent… you can see how the bull case will eventually (sadly) run rampant.

Been a while since I’ve posted, sorry!  But, I just came across something I had to share:

On Jul 30th a few news services carried information that the next version of Apple TV could be introduced in September.

Any reader of this blog will know that I think an iOS TV will be Apple’s Next Big Thing… i.e., the chance to do to the broadcast/entertainment world what it did to the cellular world… i.e., completely turn it on its head and own it.  (Here and here for past posts.)

Buried in these announcements was a single, almost throw-away line that read as follows:

It will also come with an app store that will allow third-party developers, like game designers, to make apps for it.

My head is spinning with several thoughts:

*  First & foremost, YES!  Finally one of the zillion iOS developers will make all kind of ground-breaking apps for TV sets… for example, given my hearing isn’t what it used to be, could someone please make a radically better “Closed Captioning” (i.e., subtitles) system?  I’ll PAY FOR IT!

*  Apple must have decided not to compete against the TV screen makers.  On one hand, this seems to be a disappointment… Apple devices are so fashionable that this seems to be a wasted opportunity.  On the other hand, given the seemingly endless choices of screen sizes, Apple might have had its manufacturing & inventoring hands full trying to accommodate.  I need to do more thinking about this aspect.

Bottomline:  For iOS TV to succeed as an add-on, it will have to do something so much better than TV sets do today.  That could be apps if development feels more like iPhone vs. iWatch.  That could be “skinny cable bundling” (i.e., continuing trend of cutting the cable cord).  That could be better Internet connection (getting online today on TV sets leaves a lot to be desired).  Or maybe it’s a really effective way to plug into the whole Apple eco-system.

In any event, with their lack-luster iWatch intro, they really need to nail this one out-of-the-gate…

… which they should be able to do given how long they’ve been working on it!

Inaccurate Coupling

Posted: December 18, 2014 in Business, Farros, Oil, Royal, Uncategorized
Tags:

Oil has been dragging stocks down.  Incorrectly.  Smart people are getting confused by what to make of “supply & demand” these days… they assume there is somehow less demand and that’s signaling a global slowdown.

Rubbish.

It’s because there is more supply… which could signal the beginning of the end of the horrible, terrible, monopolistic choke-hold the Middle East has held the world in.

Not only is that good news… but that’s GREAT news.

Oil is a proxy for energy… and the cost of energy affects the cost of EVERYTHING.

So when the price of oil goes down because we have new sources of supply, a several things happen:

(1)  The cost of EVERYTHING goes down

(2)  People have more money in their pockets to save & spend… and goodness knows the world spends

(3)  More spending means more corporate profits

Think of it this way:  Instead of paying a trillion dollars a year to the Middle East… we get to keep a lot of that money to save & spend on ourselves.

How in the world can anyone think that’s bad?

UPDATE:  Maybe this whole post is moot?  Maybe the market was just worried about the Fed… because since yesterday’s dovish comments, the stock market has gone up… while oil has continued to go down… to me an appropriate uncoupling that even Gwyneth Paltrow would be proud of. <smile>

I just read an interview with a techie that was waxing on about the early days of the Internet.

The interviewer transitioned brilliantly:

For the record, Miller, who is 24, spent “the early days of the web” attending nursery school

Oh, the delightful presumption of youth… !

Here’s a lesson about what not to do as CEO:  Trash your own stock.

TSLA… which was headed into $300-$320 territory… just hit an iron wall.

Unbelievably, Elon Musk came out with the following statement last night:

“I think our stock price is kind of high right now,” Musk said Thursday, responding to a question from CNBC at the news conference in Carson City. “If you care about the long term, Tesla, I think the stock is a good price. If you look at the short term, it is less clear.”

Stock price goes up and down by itself… it’s never, never, never a good idea to actually open your mouth about stock price, though… as TSLA is learning this morning with it sharply falling.

Wonder how all those folks that put their butts’ on the line to support Musk’s vision feel now?

Employees dreaming of buying cars & houses with well-earned stock appreciation?  Seems like there might be some morale issues around the ‘ole water-cooler this morning.

How about analysts like Stifel Nicolaus’ James Albertine, who recently gave TSLA a full vote of confidence with a $400 price target?

Elon, the proper answer to the question of whether your shares are overpriced is:  “It certainly reflects the enthusiasm that investors — and our customers — have for our products.”  

Duh.

What a terrible thing to do to shareholders.

I don’t think Telsa is going to achieve the “T” word.  (Trillion.)

That’s because Telsa and Elon Musk started discussing plans to create a better vacuum tube… not the transistor.

What do I mean?

Vacuum tubes used to run all electronics.  The were huge and burning hot and really unreliable.  Which, as you might imagine, limited the uses of electronic devices.  (Wanna stick something big and burning hot in your ear?  Didn’t think so.)

Then came along the transistor… from Bell Labs (which was really responsible for the entire tech revolution that I’m pretty sure no 20-something has heard of today) and from a few guys, including Bill Shockley, that won a Nobel Prize for their work.

The transistor — the forerunner of the integrated circuit and microprocessor — ushered in EVERYTHING electronic we see today.  It replaced big and hot and unreliable with tiny and low power and utterly reliable… exactly the direction we needed to go to eventually be able to, say, have a computer in our contact lenses or occipital lobes one day.

This wasn’t immediately apparently to everyone at the time, however.  You still had a lot of companies that had quite a lot of knowledge, experience, and investment in vacuum tubes trying to “create a better vacuum tube.”

Which was simply a doomed strategy.

From what I gather about GigaFactory… and from talking to a few smart people in the battery industry… Telsa isn’t creating the battery equivalent of the transistor… rather, just trying to create a more cost-effective lithium-ion (read that “old” technology) battery.  A better vacuum tube.

Extreme bummer.

Sadly, when you start investing billions of dollars into something like a GigaFactory, it’s almost impossible to change agenda mid-course.  Still, I’m hoping Musk The Engineer has something more up-his-sleeve… or is able to create something-out-of-nothing on-the-fly… or any number of other trite phrases… because, to use one last tired but curiously ironic analogy…

…the world doesn’t need a better buggy whip, either.

Happy 11 12 13

Posted: November 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Happy 11/12/13… I always get a kick out of fun dates. <smile>

7 Billion People… And Counting

Posted: October 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

When I was a kid we had something like 4.5 billion people on the planet.

Apparently we hit 7 billion on Oct 31, 2011.

That makes this news exactly two years late.  (Sorry, I lost count of everyone half way through and had to start over again!)

My good friend George Vineyard always said that we didn’t have anything to worry about overpopulation… that scientists have run zillions of test experiments with mouse populations and limited resources and everything balances itself out just fine.

With all due respect, though, I still don’t believe you, George.  It just feels like at some point everything will fall down and the world will just break.

Ugh.

Tamara Anne Brown

2 April 2013

I guess one never really knows where to start with something like this.

Maybe I’ll start with this service. My mom loved people… but hated funerals… so I know she’s very appreciative and thankful to all of you that were brave enough to come today. On behalf of my entire family, thank you.

It’s been a while since I was up here. I was an alter boy a long time ago. My mom used to take us to church. It was my mom that taught us about religion…

… really, the importance of being part of a larger community… and the idea that there was something greater than oneself.

She taught us that… my mom.

My mom taught us almost all of the really hard but so important lessons in life.

She taught us about being appreciative… about having humility… about having respect…

… and she taught us how to reach for something higher…

…to go DO something… to MAKE a difference… and whether it’s big or small… that it A-L-L counts.

She taught us that not only in words… but by her actions, too.

Those of you who really know my mom know when she set her mind to something… whether this was something SHE was going to accomplish — or whether it was something YOU were going to accomplish… you had no choice, it was going to get done.

It didn’t matter to her that it might be against the odds… or IMPOSSIBLE… my mom had this INDOMITABLE CONFIDENCE…

… it was infectious…

… it was going to happen because my mom said it was going to happen.

 

As if this wasn’t big enough in my life, my Uncle Nicky recently wrote a lovely tribute to my mom that put this in an entirely new, entirely BIGGER perspective for me.

He talked about growing up in New Orleans… about it being a city without much opportunity or ambition back then…

…but not for my mom… she was determined to have a better life… and ended up leading the way for her ENTIRE FAMILY to come to California where there were dreams and opportunity.

You know it’s one thing to make things happen when you have some resources and experience as she had later in life…

… but it’s quite another to affect the lives of your ENTIRE family when you have no experience, no resources, no support… and you’re just a kid.

That WAS one of mom’s very special gifts… to make the lives of everyone around her better…

…and if you knew one thing about my mom, you knew YOUR life was going to be better simply because you knew my mom.

 

My mom had other special gifts…

… even though she was a Californian through and through… fashionable… well traveled… well read… probably the most tanned Irish woman on the planet… she never lost her good ‘ole fashioned New Orleans southern charm… a DISARMING charm, the best kind… she could make anyone — even complete strangers — feel welcome and special. It was magic.

 

She was magic with animals, too.  Animals LOVED my mom.

My favorite way to describe my mom is as the female Dr. Doolittle.

She started life with a pet pig… which she proudly dressed in a pink ribbon and loved remembering how beautiful her little pet piggie was…

… and along the way had countless other loving pets… including a white mouse named Penelope that we snuck on board a plane one summer on our way to Hawaii, a turtle named fluffy, a gold fish named Pearl, a thoroughbred horse name Gebaru, an adopted skunk, families of raccoons, and so many cats we’ve lost count.

Her most beloved pets, however, were her two massive Irish Wolfhounds, who individually each outweighed my mom… and collective pretty much outweighed all us kids in the house.

Decades later, you still couldn’t tell a pup story without it bring a tear to my mom’s eye… she was just the kindest and best animal person that I’ve ever known.

 

My mom had a special gift for throwing parties. Could she ever! She was a sight to behold… bright pink cocktail dress… perfectly styled hair… like she walked right out of the pages of a fashion magazine.

And she was really smart about it. She always invited everyone, including everyone on the block. I once asked her when I was young why she went through all that extra trouble… and she said… because they’re all our friends… and then she said with just a hint of a wink, “and if everyone’s invited, no one can complain about it getting too loud and ruining our fun!”

That was another lesson she taught us… doing the RIGHT thing can also mean doing the BEST thing.

 

You know, some of the lessons my mom taught us weren’t so easy…. she had a special gift for putting people in their place, too, when the situation called for it.

I wanted to have a party in 6th grade and I created a special list of just the “cool” people to invite.

Boy, was mom furious.

She said:  “Who the hell do you think you are?! Maybe we’ll have a party and not invite YOU!”

I’m almost 54 years old and I think that is still probably the single most important lesson I’ve learned in life. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e counts.

I learned that from my mom.

 

Before I finish, I’d like to share a few thank you’s to my mom:

* Thank you for volunteering so freely of your time with so many charities… Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids… public television… All Souls Parrish… we kids were really proud of the good work that you did.

* Thank you for teaching us the joy of reading

* Thank you for being brave enough to actually DRIVE a pink cadillac long before Bruce Springstein made it Rock n Roll folklore

* Thank you for teaching us to appreciate the greats like Frank Sinatra and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

* Thank you for taking us camping in a real live horse-drawn caravan

* Thank you for helping us believe in wonderous things like the Lock Ness Monster and old Greek legends

 

* Thank you for showing us the world

 
I have one last thought I’d like to share:

The last decade or so has certainly been volatile in Silicon Valley.

But I was so lucky in that I’m one of the only people I know that — when the going got really tough — I could actually go home… to South City… to Palm Avenue… to my childhood bedroom… to actually get tucked into bed by my mom.

I can still hear her saying to me: “Good night. God Bless. And I love you.”

When you go to sleep tonight… when you close your eyes… I think that’s something my mom would like to say to each and every one of you, too. She loved everyone so.

We love you, too, mom.

My mom passed away.  I am very sad.

Tamara Anne Brown

South San Francisco, California: Tamara Anne Brown was born on February 16, 1935 and passed quietly on March 18, 2013.

Born in Chicago and raised in New Orleans, Tamara moved to San Francisco in the 1950’s, married, and had four children.

Tamara was very active in the community, being a member of the Auxiliary to the Deaf, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, the League of Women Voters, and the Woman’s Club of San Francisco. She was also very active in local charities, raising funds for KQED and All Souls Church, where she often ran the parish annual fashion show.

She placed a strong emphasis on education and achievement, with all of her children attending college, including one atPepperdine and two at Stanford University.

Tamara had a mischievous sense of humor, dressing up as The Tooth Fairy one Halloween and passing out tooth brushes to surprised trick-or-treaters.

Tamara loved people, parties, and a good adventure. She was fluent in Greek and spent most of her life traveling the world, often spending entire summers with her family in Greece, Ireland, Hawaii, and other exotic and distant locales.

A voracious speed reader, Tamara would emerge from the local library with a grocery bag full of books, only to return the following week for more.

Her love of animals knew no bounds, counting a bottle pig, two massive Irish Wolfhounds, and an adopted skunk among her many pets.

She spent the later 40 years of her life with her beloved second husband Richard A. Brown, a retired military officer. Tamara and Richard continued to travel the world, meeting new friends all along the way. Tamara’s gift was people, making even strangers feel welcome and special.

Professionally she alternated time between market research and travel consulting and excelled at both. Tamara was enthusiastically active for decades in the local Beta Sigma Phi Sorority and, along with Richard, socially as part of the Francis Drake Masonic Lodge 376.

Tamara is survived by her husband Richard, her children Nickoletta, Royal, Lisa, Stephanie, Michael, Philip, and Theresa, son-in-law David and daughter-in-law Laurie, grandchildren Jason, Joshua, Katherine, and Elle, her brother Nicky and sister-in-law Irmgard and their children Alexander and Valerie, her little white terrier Dakota, and, at 78, many close friends and cherished friendships spanning a full and rich lifetime.

Her eldest child Anastasia (Doodie), taken by diabetes at an early age, remained in her heart until her last breath.

Services will be held at All Souls Church in South San Francisco on Tuesday, April 2nd at 12:00pm. Because of Tamara’s great love for animals, donations can be sent to the local SPCA in lieu of flowers.