January 2010

The new year (and decade) is upon us, with far less fanfare than when the 1990's expired. Someone must say a few words to mark the occasion. Very few words, maybe the less said the better!

The zero decade will go down in history as a Loser Decade. People lost money on their investments, while US corporations lost a good chunk of their business, and many microwave firms lost their identities. America's car companies continued to lose market share, to the point that GM and Chrysler declared bankruptcy. Employees in many industries lost their jobs. All of us lost equity in our homes, and many lost the houses themselves. Some bank execs temporarily lost their bonuses, but don't fret too much for them... Ten years of Levitra, Cialis and Viagra commercials prove that many men have been losing their "performance". The Republican (Loser) Party lost its Senate majority (from 55 down to 40), the House of Representatives majority (Republican/Democrat went split from 228/206 in 1998, to 202/233 in 2008). The Republican party lost the White House, and perhaps its collective mind, with its exclusive, right-wing obsessions. The City of New Orleans was all but lost. Many Americans lost their lives In Manhattan and Washington in 2001, and many more in the ongoing"War on Terror". Space shuttle Columbia was lost during reentry, with seven astronauts aboard. Thousands of were species lost as the Earth enters its sixth great extinction, and rain forests continued to lose thousands of square miles so that Ikea can supply you with cheap furniture. America's Biggest Loser debuted on television. George Bush lost the perfect opportunity to convince Americans to reduce their dependence on foreign oil, and the lost the world's respect with his half-baked adventures. New security scanners make you lose your clothes for inspection at airports. We lost the right to prevent our phones from being tapped without a warrant. Skier's have lost snowfall, the arctic has lost glaciers, and Alaska is losing 45 feet per year due to global warming. Influential musicians were lost in all genres, including Michael Jackson, Les Paul, Joey Ramone, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles.

Let's examine a few zero-decade losers in the microwave industry (and the car industry, we can't resist this opportunity), then we'll make a prediction or two for the coming decade, then we'll shut up until next month...

Satellite telephones

Two satellite telephone companies, born in the 1990s, struggled stay on business in the Lost Decade. First there was was GlobalStar, then there was Iridium.

Iridium satellite

In the late 1990s, investors ponied up $6B to launch an array of 66 low-orbit satellites for telephone service. Within a year after the first phone call, the Iridium Company had gone bankrupt. There are many reasons for this, perhaps the most shallow is the cheesy looking handset.

Satellite radio

One of the coolest applications of microwave technology is satellite radio. It started the decade with optimism, with two US companies loaded with cash, and the service began on September 2001, but it has been a cash fire, much like the ill-fated satellite telephone services. Sirius and XM merged in July 2008. If you happened to pick up some stock at it's low point of $0.05, you might have made some good money in the past year. Sirius XM was near bankruptcy in 2009, but lately seems to have bounced back. The long term prospects for satellite radio are not great, young people don't think twice about forking over $1 per song to stuff their iPods, but $12.95 per month to listen to 5,000,000 songs is too much for them.

A lot of good DJs got RIFed when Sirius and XM merged, while they kept some likable but incoherent retreads on the payroll, like Cousin Brucie. I remain a big fan of Matt the Cat, even though this furry leader remains in exile. Go to his web site, and listen to the Friday Night Cat Fight, and you will understand the reason why he's The Man. If you listen to a good DJ, you will learn a lot about music. If you listen to an iPod, you will learn exactly nothing.

US automobile industry

We've offered advice to Detroit over the years, but they continued to focus on giant land yachts that no one wants whenever the price of gas starts to approach its real value. They gave up a long time ago trying to compete in practical cars, yet wasted a lot of R&D trying to invent new classes of vehicles. Chrysler designers had the most fun, they marketed a long list of cars that appeal to 0.01 percent of the population, like the Crossfire, the PT "Loser", Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Magnum...

The PT Loser almost always makes it onto anyone's list of the worst looking cars of all time. This one looks like it should be filled with giant Easter Eggs...

Now that Fiat has the keys to the Chrysler, we can expect to see some modern small cars again. I purchase 0.9 new cars per decade for myself, make my next one a Cinque Cento ragtop, Tony! I'm gonna need a snowboard rack for Flavia and Francesca... but please, please, please don't mess up the original design the way BMW did with the Mini Cooper.

My next car...

Land of the Lost

Land of the Lost was a cheesy Sid and Marty Krofft show  in the 1970s. Why would you remake it into a feature film? It turns out there are many reasons, the first is Will Ferrell.

Let's look on the bright side...

During the Bush years the United States degraded from an influential world power to merely a marketplace to dump cheap lead-painted gifts into our "consumer economy". But from darkness, sometimes, but not always, light emerges. In the words of Kelly Ogden:

"We were watching the 2000 presidential election results, and at four o'clock in the morning, when we found out that George W. Bush had won, Luis and I were like, "The world's probably gonna end anyway, and I don't want to go to med school," so we thought, "Let's just do the band," says Ogden. "So that's when it happened. We had no future anyways, so let's just be in a rock band!"

And thus was born the Dollyrots. This punk band does an awesome rendition of Melanie Safka's Brand New Key, a song that must have been banned in Boston, because of suggestive lyrics. Punk Icons Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone all died during the Lost Decade but would have been proud to see their punk music tradition continued more that 30 years later. Check out the Ramones Museum in Berlin next time you are there!

Brand New Key by the Dollyrots

To be fair to the Ramones, the Dollyrots are not a true punk band, as their coordinated clothes and accessories are carefully picked from a mall store or catalog. Check out the Ramones in concert below, perhaps one of the reasons for their lack of commercial success was there was no way a clothier advertising ins Seventeen Magazine could offer profitable products that tied in with plain leather jackets, white tee shirts and homeless jeans...

Glad to see you go, Loser Decade!

In 2003, 13 year old Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm at the shoulder when she encountered a shark. You don't see her moping around, she went on to compete and win a women's surfing championship! It's no big deal when your 401K takes a six-figure haircut, shut up, get back to work and be glad if you still have a job!

Predictions for the 10's decade

Chances are our predictions will be at least as likely to come true as Pat Robertson's... Everyone's job aggravates them at some point. But you gotta feel sorry for sidekick Kristy Watts, having to listen to and agree with Robertson's recent dumbass comments on the 700 Club. Her job really sucks!

Pact with the Devil?

So, what are future cash cows for the microwave industry? Can you say "security systems?" Below is an X-ray back-scatter image, you can detect just about anything that is going on under someone's clothes. There's been plenty of flack about privacy, but this technology is a dead end for a different reason. It uses X-rays, which are harmful when you cumulate many small dosages. By the way, this one image set back the industry a decade, because of what it reveals. But you can't have it both ways, what's more important, some TSA employee laughing at your Birthday Suit, or finding the next underwear bomber?

Here's a slightly lower quality image using millimeterwave imaging. No one is going to get cancer from T-waves*. You should wish that your company built this imager, every airport will eventually get one of these cameras, with an automatic update of your scan to your ex-boyfriend's facebook page. Privacy is a thing of the past, deal with it!

Global skirmishes aren't going away any time soon. So if you have a defense job, count yourself among the lucky people in the microwave industry.

* The jury is still out on T-waves... Lou sent us an interesting article on how teraHertz energy might mess up your DNA, read it here. Thanks for the warning!


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