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Ross M. Miller
Miller Risk Advisors
November 10, 2008

For my last commentary of 2008, I will address some random, unconnected issues. I will be back next February after my now-traditional two-month winter break, with some exciting new adventures. For now, however, you will have to live with whatever is on my mind. By the way, I have received several requests to write about the current financial crisis. No way, Jose. Read my books (Paving Wall Street: How We Can Build Better Financial Markets, in particular) and figure it out for yourself.

Unable to learn from past mistakes and unwilling to resist a "bargain," this past week I added the Linksys DMA2100 Windows Media Extender to my gadget collection. The device demands a computer that runs Vista, which, you may recall from last month's commentary, is something that I am less than thrilled to have. The theory behind the device is that it takes the Windows Center Media that is bundled into some flavors of Vista and extends its functionally to any television within wired or wireless networking range. My justification for getting this gadget was the grim realization that although my two Roku SoundBridges were produced before Roku decided to screw up their sound quality, the music they produce pales by comparison with what comes directly out of my Vista desktop machine (even without the snazzy 24-bit/96MHz soundcard).

While there are some fun things I might do with my bargain Windows Media Extender, replacing the SoundBridges is unlikely to be one of them. One good thing about the SoundBridges is that they come with 18 presets. For jumping from one preset to another (especially with a remote that supports macros), the SoundBridges, scuzzy sound and all, rule. The Windows Media Extender, however, makes even the simplest operation tedious and absolutely requires a television to do anything whatsoever. The bigger problem with the Windows Media Extender is that it only partially extends Windows Media Center; they are lots of useful Windows Media Extender functions, like fast-forwarding through an audio file and streaming most radio stations off the Internet, that it fails to support at all. I killed a good bit of a Saturday attempting to transfer some of the SoundBridges' functionality to it, but called it quits after much frustration. The software gap that I wrote about last month lives on.

I lived through the past, lots of it, and I can assure you that despite how the political and financial winds are blowing, we do not want to go back there. The past did, however, have better pizza, much better pizza. Back in ancient times, no self-respecting pizza parlor would let its pies sit under heat lamps. When the pie came out of the oven, it was served to the waiting hordes. If there was not enough to go around, the hordes simply had to wait for the next pie, or the one after that. If no one was around, no pies were made. And they were tossed in the air for everyone to see; that was part of the experience. Pizzas had tomato sauce and real mozzarella cheese (from the local "connected" cheese distributor) on it and that was it. Pepperoni and a handful of other toppings were available to go for the nonpurists. There was no white pizza, no broccoli pizza, no ricotta or ziti or anything like that on pizza. Just pizza, great pizza made by recent arrivals to our country from the old country.

One of the biggest shocks of my life was the first (and only) pizza that I had in College Station, Texas during the summer of 1970 (what I was doing in College Station, Texas would take many commentaries to cover and maybe I'll get to it someday). It was tomato slices and American cheese melted over a bread-like substance. While most hinterland pizza is not quite that bad, it gotten increasingly difficult to find palatable pizza outside of a few remaining holdouts in places like Brooklyn and New Haven. (Although I like it, being an Easterner I do not consider Chicago pizza to be "real" pizza and New England "Greek" pizza is another story altogether.)

I have been most fortunate to stumble upon vaguely acceptable pizza of the traditional variety in my own backyard. I noticed that the parking lot for a tiny pizza joint called I Love NY Pizza on Central Avenue in Colonie, NY generally had a full parking lot at lunch time. One day, I figured that I would give it a try. They have the obligatory heat lamps, but if one goes at peak times, it does not sit for long. It cannot beat the memory of pizza past, but it will have to do for now.

Speaking of the past, large numbers of my K-12 cohort are nowhere to be found in Internetland. From time to time, I Google for folks I used to know and more times than not, there is no trace of them. Occasionally, I get lucky. Attendance at town hall meetings and running in 5K races are among the ways that I've connected with old friends. LinkedIn is not bad, either, it's got lots of baby boomers, especially those employed in nontraditional ways. Along with my vast following in the legal community, some of my grade school buddies are actually reading this.

Finally, back to my favorite topic, music. Let me suggest three albums that those of my younger readers should listen to and even my older ones might want to give them another spin. They are "Let It Bleed," "Sticky Fingers," and "Exile on Main Street," all by the Rolling Stones when they were at their peak between 1969 and 1972. Anyone who has not been living under a rock has heard some of the songs from them, but they have plenty of songs that never get played anywhere. All three are " essentials" and that does not begin to describe them.

These albums were made to be played really loud over speakers with woofers (or subs) at least 8 inches in diameter. Listening to them on a pod-device is missing the point entirely. They are what rock and roll is all about.

The three albums mark a natural progression and get increasing raw (and the sound increasing muddy, which is not entirely a good thing) as one time passes and the drugs really kicked in. The albums are far from perfect; the country-tinged cuts tend to fall flat. Still, the blues-inspired cuts are timeless and two Robert Johnson covers are among the gems on the three albums.

Mick Jagger's notorious mumbling helped the politically incorrect "Brown Sugar" from "Sticky Fingers" make it to #1 in the States without being banned. "Tumbling Dice" is the hit from "Exile on Main Street;" however, that album, sonic mud and all, is best considered as a single work. My favorite cut from the collection is the very first one, "Gimme Shelter" on "Let It Bleed." There is no visceral experience quite like it at ear-bleed volume. Exactly the kind of music by which to devour a genuine (or even ersatz) New York pizza. See you all next year.

Copyright 2008 by Miller Risk Advisors. Permission granted to forward by electronic means and to excerpt or broadcast 250 words or less provided a citation is made to