Friday, November 24, 2006


Vonage (VG) sells telephonic services, land line phone plans, using the latest in voice over internet protocal technology (VOIP).

If high speed internet is the way you roll, they'll fix you up with more calling minutes than Abraham has children, and for much less than conventional land lines. Paying less money up front, talking your head off, and never paying a penny more than that less money... that's what Vonage is all about.

Cell phones cause brain cancer.* They're like little microwaves pushed snugly up to our cerebral cortexes.

Normal phone plans cost too much.

When the dust settles in a couple years I'm betting Vonage will come out of the telephonic melee with a good chunk of change in their pockets. I'm literally betting on it. As of three days ago I'm officially invested in their company.

They went public last May or so at $17. Shares are now selling for under $7. Now, sure the company hasn't made a dime in the last three years, but there are reasons for that.

Marketing. I guess that's really the only reason. They spend a lot on marketing. You'd probably recognize the catchy commercial tune they use. It goes something like: woo hoo, woo hoo hoo. Woo hoo, woo hoo hoo. I'm sorry. I'm a little bit tone deaf.

If it weren't for marketing expenses they'd be in the green. For those of you in Los Angeles I mean making a profit not growing marijuana, though growing marijuana would equally turn Vonage into a money maker. However, I don't think the New York Stock Exchange would let me continue buying stock in their company.

At this point the CEO predicts a positive net income beginning early in 2008. I really doubt that Vonage faces any kind of real bankruptcy threat since 1) they could just stop spending their money on marketing, and 2) several of the big wigs in the company have recently been buying millions of dollars of Vonage stock themselves. I'm betting that the stock price will hang around the low seven dollar mark for about six months until the company develops a little more name recognition. At that time it will double and then triple in price back to just above it's IPO price. At that point they'll start turning a good net profit and the stock will double in price again over another year to eighteen months time.

Of course, what if the whole VOIP thing becomes outdated by some new type of telecommunicative technology? I will be out a thousand dollars and the Vonage big wigs will be out a few mil, or 100% and 1% of our net worths respectively.

It wouldn't be the first time I've found gravel in my drinking water from the bottom of the net worth well.

*Maybe not a proven fact.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Six of us play regularly. Green ten dollar bills tossed from our wallets into the middle of the playing table.

Several of the guys welded the playing table themselves in the weld shop where they work at night to the white skin tanning light of the oxygen and celine flame. One of them, the sergeant in charge of the place, a white guy from the farming and industrial side of Arizona, always with a bulge of chew under his lower lip, never spitting unless he happens to be outside, always smiling with bits of tobacco in the crevices of his lower teethe, he often comes to our poker games with his skin blazing red from the welding flame.

The table is more of a board we set on two boxes, covered in green clothe, and less of an actual table.

I never played before. I have often watched the poker world series though, fascinated. There's the guy with the cowboy hat, older, apparently more patient and wiser. There's sometimes a darker haired mid thirties dude who talks a lot as if he isn't hiding anything, says his allegedly thoughts right outloud to the cowboy when he feels like his been put in a crunch. Then there's usually a college math major or business major in the bunch, his first time to the final rounds. Men sitting around playing mind games and trying to beat the others, and more importantly the chaoses that try to otherwise control the cards. It's the Odyssey taking place around a quiet, hand flickering table.

From watching I've learned how to only just barely raise the two top left corners of my cards when I look.

I've learned to bluff only when the other players are bound to care less about catching me in a bluff than the risk of losing the price I raise them to. You have to really look into people's eyes to understand the balance of this scale in them. For everyone it levels a little differently.

Even so, you can sail a water tight ship, but sometimes the sea swallows you whole for no other reason than statistically sometimes the sea swallows you whole. And five of six people will always drown at a poker game.

Between rounds we step outside into the cold air. Most of them smoke. Some of us pee off into the nearby bushes. Then we pull out ten dollar bills again and leaf them down onto the table.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

the rainy middle east desert

The process of learning to write has many parellels with figuring out life in general. My dullness quietly embarrasses me as much in my daily business as in my attempts at narratives or poems. My befudlement at spelling embarrases embarrasses me. I would have just said shames if it wasn't so monosyllabic.

The truth, if you would like me to tell, is that all sorts of interesting stories are dripping all around us off the rain wet leaves. If we will only open our mouths and look up they would dround us. In Iraq too.

It's damn cold here. If you can believe Dante. And the sky has been raining the ground into horrible muddiness. It's not the hot middle east desert, spelled with only one "s", I remember because you never want more of it, now, it's the cold middle east desert that none of us ever knew about because we were all too afraid to talk about something so dull as a day not sweltering hot with machine gun fire and hazy sweaty war.

The concrete and tile floors inside our crumbling concrete barracks where we stay in plywood partitioned rooms, the floors are dirty with boot tracks. We bought small rugs at the PX (troop store) when it was still summer out, and they are now caked with dirt. We shake them out every couple days. Actually, it's been atleast two weeks. It's funny to think how clean we keep our living areas--our houses and living rooms and even the areas around the kitty litter boxs, back in the U.S.

What we can keep clean here, the sheets and blankets of our beds, the dark blue cotton sheet I have spread over my sheet of plywood desk, we revel in these clean things.

I have started sleeping naked. Just after a shower, it's wonderful.