The Death of the Shopping Mall


If you want to visit a ghost town, take a trip to your local shopping mall. I knew retail was in trouble, but I really didn’t understand the severity of the situation. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I stopped by the Fashion Show Mall on the strip. It was early Saturday night. This place is usually packed because it combines traditional boutiques plus the gaudy ones that Vegas is so well known for. It was really empty. Maybe I saw 15 people on each level. I thought it was unusual but didn’t focus on it.

Then I learned that approximately 15% of all U.S. malls will fail or be converted into non-retail space within the next 10 years. Green Street Advisors, a real estate and REIT analytics firm, just released that figure. It will probably get worse. Green Street Advisors thought that only 10 per cent of malls would fail less than two years ago.

The report never revealed the reason why shopping malls are doing so poorly, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. The economy coupled with the increase of people shopping online is killing the mall experience. It had to happen eventually. Rich or poor, Americans are looking for the best online deals. Even my friends over the age of 60, who wouldn’t use a computer a few years ago, now spend hours online looking for the best values

The biggest insult to retailers today is something called “show-rooming.” I am pretty sure I explained this to you before, but it is worth going over again. Today, more and more Americans will visit a store just to see and touch a product they are interested in. Once they’ve decided what they want, they go back to their computers to find the best possible price from a variety of discount e-commerce sites. Retailers hate this with a passion. They threaten manufacturers that if they sell to online discounters, they will not carry their brand. Some retailers insist on custom made models so customers can’t shop around. This is too costly for all sorts of manufacturers, so everyone continues to suffer.

I remember when going to a shopping mall was my big Saturday night out. This was long before the Internet. We would visit the Roosevelt Shopping Mall in Garden City, Long Island with great anticipation for what new stuff we would find. We spent hours there. It was our social life.

There are about 1,000 malls in the U.S. They say the lower-end ones are doing worse. Anchor stores like JCPenney, Macy’s, and Sears have all recently announced closures and layoffs. JCPenney is closing 33 stores, Macy’s is closing five, and Sears is closing its flagship in Chicago. Mall owners are going after movie theaters, restaurants, and discount retailers like TJ Maxx, Ross Stores, and Marshalls to take up the slack. Green Street Advisors think that community colleges, business offices, and health care facilities will take over the vast properties.

No one knows for sure. But if it eliminates all these random shooting sprees, I’m all for the change.

A Night with Michele Lee

I am taking a night off from writing about tech because we were out pretty late with our good friends Chuck Steffan and Ron Abel. They are both major talents in the world of music. Ron was the musical director tonight for the cabaret act of actress Michele Lee at 54 Below. Her rare NYC appearance continues for the next two nights.

TV and radio personality Joe Franklin stood in the way of my picture of the stage.

Ron with Liza Minnelli, Michele Lee, and Sandra Bernhard

Chuck and Liza

Eliot, Sandra, and me

Eliot entertaining the women

Ace Young and me

Ron and Liza

Critic Rex Reed and me

Twitter Breaking News



I get giddy when I read about a new development in technology that I’d hoped for. I’m around this stuff so much that I’m always saying to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if . . .” One of my greatest wishes was granted a few months ago when Downpour and Audible started offering issues of Vanity Fair on audio. It is so great to be able to close my eyes and listen to so many wonderful articles. I already devoured December, January, and February.

Another wish has come through. Well, almost. Twitter. CNN and a social analytics company called Dataminr have been working on a new service that will deliver breaking news information from Twitter. I just want to remind you that many of the posts on Twitter come from ordinary folks who just happen to witness news in the making. They continue to post tweets about the developing story but get over shadowed when the big news organizations jump in.

Called Dataminr For News, the service will monitor tweets and immediately distribute breaking news via email, mobile alerts, and pop-up alerts. News organizations are being targeted first because they are the ones who will pay big money for the scoops. Dataminr For News will also offer analytics data like who broke the news and how it spread.

I can’t wait to have access to a service like this because I always want the news first. It will be so cool to be the first in the know.

CNN claims they have no financial interest in Dataminr and no commercial interest in the product. They will just be happy to have early access to the big news when the service is finally completed.

So will I!

Exploring the Ocean



Here’s something for your bucket list. For the man or woman who has everything, you can ride on a personalized submarine that lets users “fly” underwater. The DeepFlight Super Falcon is a two-seater submarine that takes passengers on undersea joyrides.

The DeepFlight Super Falcon is designed to dive below the surface, allowing you to explore marine life, caves, hidden treasures, and vegetation. The submarine is 21 feet long and has a wingspan that stretches nearly 9 feet.

The Super Falcon currently retails for $1.7 million, and includes on-site pilot and operations training.

100 Companies that Appreciate Remote Workers


I wonder how many of you reading this post really believe working from home is an honest day’s work. After all, when you went to work you had to spend valuable time commuting and budgeting a good portion of your salary for work clothes. In the last years of my career, I get to wear my PJs all day and not put on a stitch of makeup. Yet, my workdays are more productive than ever before.

I don’t think my productivity has anything to do with discipline. It has everything to do with commitment and responsibility. The fact that the digital age has given me the ability to work remotely only means that I have more hours to meet my many goals. That’s important to me considering I have taken on more responsibility.

FlexJobs, the leading site for job searchers seeking ideal work-life balance, now says that 50% of professionals in the United States have jobs that can be performed from home. In fact, the most recent Census findings claim that the number of people who work out of their homes has increased from 9.5 million in 1999 to 13.4 million in 2010.

FlexJobs has determined the top 100 companies with the most work-from-home opportunities over the course of the past year.

Mashable, the tech news site, spells it all out.

Telecommute-Friendly Companies

UnitedHealth Group
American Express
First Data
Overland Solutions Inc.
U.S. Department of Transportation
Connections Academy
HD Supply
Western Governors University
CACI International
McKesson Corporation
Forest Laboratories
Walden University
Pitney Bowes
Adobe Systems
Coventry Health Care
Clarity Consultants
General Electric – GE
Thomson Reuters
Appen ButlerHill
Teradata Corporation
Computer Sciences Corporation – CSC
Red Hat
Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc.
Precyse Solutions
Hartford Financial Services Group
CVS Caremark
AmerisourceBergen Corporation
American Public University System – APUS
Language Line Solutions
Kronos Incorporated
American Support
BCD Travel
Mom Corps
Welcome Wagon
FlexProfessionals, LLC
Pearson Education
University of Maryland University College
Kelly Services
Dignity Health
Enterprise Contact Center
ICF International Inc.
Lockheed Martin
SunAmerica Financial Group
Express Scripts
Health Net
Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company – VALIC
American Heart Association
Bausch & Lomb
Grand Canyon University
SumTotal Systems
Pacific Interpreters
ACI Group

Last Deep Breath for the Stethoscope


I suggest you make a quick trip to your doctor. I don’t think there is anything wrong with you, but you might want to say goodbye to an old friend, the stethoscope. Almost 200 years old, the stethoscope is slowly but surely going to be replaced by hand-held ultrasound devices.

Ultrasound devices are smaller, becoming increasingly accurate, and in a few years will be less expensive.

Medical officials are now declaring ultrasound devices to be the stethoscope of the 21st century. Many of the hand-held ultrasound machines are just slightly larger than a deck of cards, kind of like a smartphone.

As I sit here reporting on this story, I wonder how my doctors will react to giving up their lifelong neck accessories. It has long been the symbol of the medical profession.

Let us hear your comments on this subject.

Lens Happy



I think we all can agree that more and more Americans are taking photos with their smartphones. In fact, I can easily say that people are obsessed with using their smartphone cameras for selfies, travel, blogs, vlogs, social media sharing, events, and documentation.

It’s about time some company came up with a quality, all encompassing way to easily access a multitude of lenses.

Debuted at International CES 2014, the iZZi Slim does just that. It gives the photographer instant access to four pro-grade lenses. Moving from one lens to the next is quick and easy: just rotate the lens selector to the one you want to use. Not only will you have access to the Slim’s four lenses, you’ll still be able to use your built-in iPhone camera as well.

Figure on paying $99.00 for the iZZi Slim, which should become available at the end of February or early March.

Scary Being a Google Employee These Days


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For the last few years, Google employees were the envy of seniors like me who had careers in very traditional offices. We never heard of companies that offered the benefits that Google provided: three free meals a day from an international cafe, meditation areas, a game room, TV viewing spaces, ping pong, a never ending list of perks.

All that envy went out the window recently when we heard that anti-Google activists were out in force in the Bay Area to protest the way rich Silicon Valley tech companies like Google have displaced low- and middle-income workers. Since 2011, rents in many Silicon Valley neighborhoods have increased by 40 percent thanks to the kids from tech companies who can afford the fancy new condos and homes real estate developers are building for them.

Not everyone who lives in Northern California makes the same salaries as those at Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Oracle, and scores of other tech companies. Calling themselves the Counterforce, the protestors are also against what the government is doing with our personal data, surveillance, control, and automation.

Google was one of the first to be targeted because the company just rolled out a bunch of new luxury, Wi-Fi enabled buses to shuttle workers from San Francisco to Mountain View, headquarters of Google. Activists claim Google buses are picking up workers at city bus stops, disrupting the already busy public transportation vehicles.

A group of protestors even showed up at the Berkeley home of Google developer Anthony Levandowski, preventing him for 45 minutes from getting to work. He is the engineer who is developing the self-driving car. Protestors held signs that said “Google’s Future Stops Here.”

Whose future are the protestors going to try to stop next and in what city? This could escalate.

Amazon’s Anticipatory Shipping


In an effort to speed up deliveries, Amazon will be shipping products you haven’t even ordered yet. They will be placing bets on what you will want and when. How weird is that?

Amazon actually just received a patent for something called “anticipatory shipping.” It allows Amazon to predict your future purchases based on previous orders, site searches, and online window shopping.

Amazon is absolutely ecstatic about being psychic. They are going to fill warehouses nearby with items you may need in the future. All you have to do is click on “Buy.” The delivery will be made to you within an hour.

Bet You Didn’t Know




In case you are wondering why your iPhone is running on empty after you just charged it or why it is not responding to your touch, check the weather in your local area.

Word has leaked out from Apple’s headquarters that extreme cold temperatures are paralyzing smartphone operating systems.

If the temperature goes below the freezing mark, your smartphone will probably start acting funky. Apple wants you to shut down your iPhone immediately and store it in a warmer spot.

Very few of us knew about this before. Huge temperature swings (below 32 degrees and higher than 95) can harm the intelligence of your smartphone. Everything can go blank. Apple said they never had to warn Americans before, but there have been too many customers complaints now to remain silent.

The smartphone hasn’t been the only danger areas for Apple these days. Surprise, surprise. The signature Apple store on Fifth Avenue suffered a severe blow today because of the snowstorm. Cleaning crews operating snowblowers shattered one of the fifteen monolithic glass panels that make up the exterior of the iconic 32-foot glass cube. The structure looks like it is weeping.