Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rockin' the house

Last night 3 Doors Down was in concert at the amphitheater less than a quarter mile from our house. Now I love this band, but they were so loud that for approximately two hours our house literally rocked, just like they did.

It's only a game

Let me explain the title of this post. It’s only a game because my team isn’t playing. Anyway, no self-respecting blog should let this weekend go by without a reference to the Super Bowl, so here it is.

Sunday evening the proud, tradition-laden AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers face off against the woebegone, quasi-dysfunctional (except for this season) NFC champion Arizona Cardinals in Tampa, Florida. Who will win? Conventional football wisdom says to pick the Steelers, but I have five words for you. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Save or Spend

Spend or save? That is the question. For us that’s easy. I’m unemployed right now, so we are definitely trying to save, not spend. As a friend of my wife’s put it, “Our new motto around the house is if we don’t need to eat it we don’t need to buy it.”

That’s a pretty good motto and we have adopted it except we have modified it slightly to include drink too. After all, human beings die pretty quickly when deprived of water. As a country we have entered that space where we are in danger of falling into what John Maynard Keynes referred to as the Paradox of Thrift. In layman’s terms Keynes posited that if we all save when times are hard, then overall savings go down because people in general consume less and we all become poorer as a result of it. Sounds counter-intuitive doesn't it? That's why it's a paradox. He explains it much better than I ever will.

In all my years I have never seen this kind of systemic economic malaise. I’m not an economist, but what I see is that even the people who aren’t struggling right now are waiting, waiting when they normally would be spending and stimulating the economy. They are waiting because they are unsure of what lies ahead, uncertain of whether they too will be struggling two days from now. Inaction is not a good thing.

What this country needs is a visit to a doctor who will pull down its pants, bend it over and give it a giant shot of B12 in each butt cheek. The first shot is jobs and the second is consumer confidence. We need these injected into the system post haste.

Friday, January 30, 2009


An underrated band from the Alternative/Emo genre, this is The Juliana Theory’s only "mainstream" album released on a major label. Released on the Epic label in 2002, this offering has many good tracks, my favourite being Jewel to Sparkle. I love this CD, but then again, I like everything TJT ever put out. They are a chameleon-like band, reinventing themselves and their sound on just about every release. Sadly, due to some complicated circumstances the band broke up and never made it really big, but had/has a very loyal following. For a look at their discography click here. For a taste of their sound from their last album Deadbeat Sweetheartbeat click here.

Gee thanks, I guess...

Citi is trumpeting the fact that former CEO Sandy Weill has agreed to give up the perks of his retirement package, which include, among other things, a car and driver, plus use of the company's jets, and an office in the General Motors building, which Citi was paying for. Well Mr. Weill, I think this is what they mean by closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out.

Methinks that if it weren’t for Mr. Weill’s “merger” of Citicorp with the Umbrella and all the subsequent havoc it wrought, things would have turned out a little differently for the old Citi.

All Ponzi all the time

This guy’s name has been used over and over lately. That’s because there have been quite a few cases of this type of nefarious activity in the news recently. In fact, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that at least six suspected multimillion-dollar fraud cases have emerged this month alone, many of them alleged Ponzi schemes, in which investors are lured by promises of lofty returns but are actually paid off from new victims' funds. Obviously Madoff's alleged swindle is the worst of all, (after all, what’s 50 billion dollars among friends in the grand scheme of things) but they are all pretty heinous. Something has got to give soon.

These guys will probably all wind up at some country club, sipping cappuccinos with ankle bracelets on. Please, at least let them be cappuccinos from this machine. My wife has one and the darn thing hasn’t worked properly in all the years she has owned it.

Oh, and the original guy, his scheme was based on arbitraging international reply coupons for postage stamps in the 1920’s. Potential investors were lured in by the promise of consistent and incredibly high returns that seemed too good to be true. They were, so I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Quoth the raven. On this day in 1845 The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was published making him a celebrity, a moniker it's not entirely clear he was ever comfortable with.

Carmina Burana

Carmina Burana is a scenic cantata composed by Carl Orff between 1935 and 1936. It is based on 24 of the poems found in the medieval collection Carmina Burana.

Believe it or not, samples from this cantata are ubiquitous in our modern day lives. You will have probably heard parts of Track 1, O Fortuna, as a backdrop for horror movie scenes, car commercials, sporting events, etc. It has even been sampled by Enigma on their CD The Screen Behind the Mirror. Listen to the whole thing sometime. You will not be disappointed. My recording is the one pictured above and listed directly below, endorsed by the man, Carl Orff himself.

Carmina Burana by Eugen Jochum with the Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin and Gundula Janowitz, Gerhard Stolze, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Recorded October 1967 in Berlin's Ufa-Studio, released 1968 (Deutsche Grammophon).

Blow Up Hollywood

A concept CD that crosses genres and somewhat defies description. Well meaning, motivated anarchists with violins and other assorted instruments might fit the bill. While I was listening to this music I couldn't help but think of Camus and Kafka together sipping cognac and chatting, with the occasional gentle reprimand from Deepak Chopra thrown into their gloomy conversation. Floating was by far my favourite track on this stark offering with its minimalist cover. Below are the only liner notes on the whole thing exactly as they appear punctuated.

we are only but mere visitors to this planet, our lives a brief moment in time. and when that moment is finished we shall return back to whence we came. life is a great story but only one act in a play of many. death leads into life again and the story to be continued.

Look Who's Talking

A Nigerian born Swedish dentist who is also an Electronica/Dance genre artist. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Look who's singing with a deep bass voice on this 1994 offering which even has a track admonishing you to visit your dentist. Track 9 is called, Go see the Dentist and it's pretty good. Come on, how many music artists do you know who actually care about your dental hygiene? So if you like Electronia/Dance with a little Hip-Hop thrown in, let Dr. Alban take care of you.

Time Flies

Or does it? It does when you listen to this Belgian band with a Spanish name that plays eclectic songs with powerful lyrics. That is what you get on this 1992 offering of theirs. This album picks you up and takes you for an emotional ride with beautiful arrangements that run the gamut from mournful through joyful to vengeful and back to mournful. Nothing ordinary here, each track combines great acoustical harmony with the sultry voice of Dani Klein putting her personal stamp on each tune. Listen to Farewell Song and then decide if you don't want to leave someone. Vaya Con Dios is a refreshing listen for those who want their music mellow but emphatic, creative but understandable, along with melodies which are tight, crisp and meaningful.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


You pick...

1) One of a host of female figures who choose who will win or die in battle in Norse mythology,
2) A plot to assassinate Hitler,
3) A movie about the same starring Tom Cruise,
4) A long range distance driver fabricated by Innova for Disc Golf.

I pick...

Not being from Scandinavia, not having been alive during World War II, having seen the movie and having not been impressed by it, but, being a Disc Golfer, I will stick with number four. By sheer coincidence it also just happens to be my primary driver.

It's the water stupid

In a desperate attempt to upgrade the intelligence of decision making (or at least staunch the flow of stupid decisions) by senior executives in the beleaguered financial services industry, consultants have recommended that not only should all travel be undertaken in Smart Cars, but that the following product should be consumed in lieu of coffee, tea or any other beverage at meetings where decisions are being made.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of Bacardi

In 1862 a businessman in Cuba with little experience in rum making opened a small distillery hoping to make a working man's drink - and invented a formula that made his rum famous.

Tom Gjelten is a veteran correspondent for NPR and a regular panelist on the PBS program Washington Week. In his book, Bacardi and the long fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause, he recounts much more than the tale of a famous Cuban family and its rum making tradition. This book is a journey through Cuban politics juxtaposed with the family’s business. The two were completely intertwined, with the Bacardi Rum Company participating in every aspect of Cuban social, political and economic life. It is a history lesson, family saga and rum making extravaganza all rolled into one. It would not surprise me if the Bacardi Rum Company's history became fodder for a Harvard Business School case at some point.

The Bacardi family tree is about as convoluted as the House of Plantagenet, but Gjelten does an excellent job of acquainting you with each and every important player in the story, (beginning with Don Facundo Bacardi, the man who started it all) explaining their role not only with the company, but what they and their actions meant for the island they loved so dearly.

This is an epic narrative, that should you read it, will make you stop and think each time you order a mojito, daiquiri or Bacardi and Coke, aka Cuba Libre as the drink is known.

Slumdog Millionaire

If you haven't done so already, go see it. Oh, and stay for the credits.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Citi not taking flight

Now that Citi will not be taking possession of a brand new 50 million dollar corporate jet rumour has it that instead the board has approved the purchase of this alternate form of transportation.

Outliers: The Story of Success

With his trademark silky prose, Malcolm Gladwell constructs his theory about why some people are extremely successful. According to Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success, the reasons people are singularly successful are NOT the reasons we typically ascribe to our paradigm of people who have achieved extraordinary things in life. Like his previous efforts Blink and Tipping Point, Outliers is entertaining, informative and provides much food for thought.

Bottom line, according to Gladwell, people who are successful didn't necessarily have that all-encompassing, watershed lucky break and aren't genius-like Einsteins. What they do typically have are some propitious conditions, a certain level of intelligence (Forrest Gump notwithstanding) and an obsession for their craft, which together create a platform for achievement. The question is, what does that mean for us?

Sport of the future?

Maybe, maybe not, but everyone should try it at least once. It's good exercise, you are outdoors in nature and it's a blast.

Monday, January 26, 2009

MOTW: Extended Family Manager

This manager boasts a family tree that would confound the world’s most renowned genealogical historians should they attempt to trace it. Extended Family Manager’s maternal grandmother has conveniently died six times within the last calendar year, allowing for long bereavement trips during critical periods.

Typically, within a short time of his/her return from this sorrowful debacle, another obscure family member falls critically ill, creating the need for Extended Family Manager to be able to absent himself/herself at a moment’s notice for additional mourning duties. Extended Family Manager is staunchly opposed to the advent of cryogenic technology, as this will seriously hamper his/her opportunistic machinations.

Friday, January 23, 2009


One morning, during the mid-nineties I received a phone call from my boss.

“T.T.,” he said, “Come to my office right away. I need to speak to you about a very special assignment.”

I strode over to his office. Through a cracked vertical blind I could see him practicing his golf swing. I knocked on the door and heard him call out. “Come in.”

When I was uncomfortably seated in the visitor’s chair my boss began, “I’ve been reading this book.”

My eyebrows shot up at this news. I had never seen my boss read anything and had for years suspected he couldn’t read at all.

“It’s excellent. The author’s brilliant and I want you to implement this approach here. It’s called TQM and everyone’s doing it. It’s the cutting edge and we don’t want to be left behind you know. This is going to revolutionize our office.”

My heart sank. I had heard about TQM. My feeling was the acronym stood for Terrible Quandary en Masse, but I nodded in silent agreement since he was just getting warmed up.

“It’s been proven to work across all industries,” he enthused. “You’re just the man to make it happen. We’re going to do everything right the first time and then you’re going to create a measuring system that will constitute the critical indicators. It will be a sort of dashboard so we can seamlessly analyze all the data and report out the areas of opportunity.”

“By areas of opportunity you mean mistakes or errors, don’t you?” I asked.

“Well yes of course,” he replied, “But we don’t use those terms. We call them opportunities for improvement or areas of development.”

“But if we do everything right the first time, doesn’t this mean that there won’t be any um…opportunities for improvement?” I countered.

“Well, yes. I mean no. I mean, well you know what I mean. I mean of course nothing’s ever perfect. There’s always room for improvement. That’s what we’re all about here, developing our resources.”

“But you just said the focus is to do everything right the first time.”

“Yes,” he replied, “According to the book that avoids rework.”

“Well then, creating the dashboard will actually be rework in a way, because it will be a process to look for errors where there aren’t any since we did everything right the first time.”

“How many times do I have to repeat myself T.T.? The word is not errors, the word is opportunities. Anyway, I guess when you put it that way, you’re sort of right. Just do me a favor and go out and tell everyone to do things right the first time. While you’re at it remind everyone about my Open Door Policy. The book mentions that it’s very important to keep communication flowing in all directions. It’s kind of a detail in this whole TQM thing. Or maybe that’s another management book, the one with the walking around thing. I get them mixed up sometimes. Anyway, just remind them will you.”

“Sure thing boss,” I said and picked up the nine hundred-page tome he had thrust at me when the conversation began. “Do you mind if I look at this?”

“Go ahead. Read it and bring it back. It’s an excellent book you know. It’s going to change everything.” He buried his nose in a pile of papers, indicating that the meeting was over.

“Thanks,” I replied.

As I was leaving he called out, “T.T., aren’t you forgetting something.”

“Of course I am,” I said and dutifully closed his office door. As I closed it I saw him practicing his putting.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Welcome to The Night Canopy

Welcome readers. The weekly focus of this blog will be dedicated to describing all the managers I have had the "honor" to work with during my 25 year corporate career. I will be posting one manager description a week, each Monday, signifying the beginning of a new work week.

I will also digress into other subjects, mostly about music, disc golf and other random topics, but make sure to stop back here at least each Monday to meet the new Manager of the Week (MOTW). If you like this blog, please consider joining the followers group or add it to your favourites. Hopefully I'll see you at least every Monday for a new MOTW. Oh, and tell your friends. Cheers!