Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fasten your seat belt Uncle Vik

It's going to be a wild ride. Word is no one is done with rescues from the island just yet. When you are toxic, you need all the help you can get.

Another print vehicle bites the dust

Another paper closes its doors. This is a trend that is only going to continue.

Under par

Yesterday I shot a 51, or 3 down. I had 4 birdies, 1 bogey and 13 pars. It was windy and the wind was swirling, so I consider it to be a pretty good round. I hooked up with an older couple who were playing. It's great to see people of all ages and genders playing Disc Golf. That is what is great about this sport. Anyone can play and enjoy a nice time outdoors in nature. It really is awesome.

For all you NBA fans

What player averaged 50 points for a complete season? Answer after the jump.

Wilt Chamberlain. During the 1961-1962 NBA season, the Philadelphia center averaged 50.4 points per game. On March 2, 1962, he scored 100 points in a game against New York. Yep, their defense was just as bad, even back then.

Cancion Animal

Probably the band’s high point in terms of original production, this 1990 release was the sixth album by the Argentine rock trio known as Soda Stereo. Recognized as their most solid output it is a mixture of quick and mid-tempo Latin rock tunes, along with the savory ballad Te Para Tres, which means Tea for Three and the anthem-like (En) el Septimo Dia which means On the Seventh Day. No longer together, Soda Stereo sealed their place as one of Latin rock’s most successful bands with the creative and powerful songs on this CD, also garnering an instant hit with the track De Musica Ligera. This is a full standard album with the requisite upbeat rocking tracks interspersed with some darker, more somber songs.

It was just a matter of time

It had to happen eventually. Just make sure your bladder is in shape before you fly Ryanair.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The stress and lack of sleep is getting to Uncle Vik

He used to sign off on emails with his trademark, "With respect and regards, Vikram." Now he is just signing his emails with a terse, "Vikram." Geez, what happened to the respect? What about the regards? I guess working for the government does that to people. Come to think of it, in all my dealings with government employees, they have been sort of taciturn. Text of the latest email to his federal employees after the jump.

From: vikrampandit@citi.com

Sent: Friday, February 27, 2009 7:51 AM

Subject: Memo from Vikram

Dear Citi Colleagues,

Earlier this morning, we announced an exchange offer for our preferred stock that I believe will enhance our capital position and bolster public confidence in Citi, and by extension, our financial system. You will find additional details on the offering in the news release.

As you've heard me say, we and our regulators were focused on Tier 1 as the capital that supports our businesses -- and based on our Tier 1 of 11.9%, we have been very well capitalized. However, there is now a greater focus on tangible common equity (TCE) ratios, and that has translated into a market confidence issue.

The market's loss of confidence in the financial system became a major distraction for all of us and I want to thank you for your perseverance in helping our clients see the facts about our financial strength and in keeping them as committed to us as we are to them.

Like all financial services companies, we will still need to navigate through the tough environment, but our announcement about our TCE today means that we should no longer be distracted by media and market speculation and that we can go back to leading from strength by focusing all of our attention on what really counts -- excellent client service, unique and innovative solutions, and positioning our businesses to realize the full promise of Citi. My highest near-term priority is to return the company to profitability as soon as possible.

We are well on our way to doing that. We have strategic clarity as a result of the management separation of Citicorp and Citi Holdings. We have significantly reduced expenses and headcount and we continue to reduce risk assets. All of these steps will help the world see what we already see about what makes our company so special and unique -- our people, our globality, and our strong client relationships that have been built over the past 200 years.

Our presence in 109 countries and our ability to link the world and help our clients with their needs anywhere in the world is our key strength. We are as committed as ever to our global franchise and believe that this is what distinguishes us from our peers. Our commitment to serving our clients and customers, especially in their time of need, is the nature of our company. For instance, in the U.S., we have played a leadership role in helping to keep families in their homes in a period of record home foreclosures. In fact, I think we should all be proud that we have kept over 440,000 families in their homes. And, we are committed to always being a systemically responsible company.

There has been a lot of talk about nationalization in the media. This is not a nationalization by any definition. The exchange offer and conversion we announced today does not represent additional capital from the government -- it changes only the form of investment. The government's stock ownership in the company will provide TCE as a bridge through this financial crisis and to profitability. We are responsible for our day to day operations and today's announcement does not change our oversight relationships with our regulators. The government now holds a significant common stock investment in us and we intend to provide an exceptional return to them, along with all shareholders. For those who have been concerned about nationalization, today's announcement should put their concerns to rest.

Many of us are shareholders and I want you to know that this was not an easy decision for us because we understand the impact of the dilution we're asking shareholders to bear. But, in the end, our business is about confidence and I wanted to take definitive steps to alleviate capital issues. I promise you that I am committed to rebuilding value. I want to ensure that the turnaround of Citi is a wealth creator for all of you who are shareholders. Within the next 60 days we hope to announce a long-term plan to ensure that all employee shareholders participate in our success.

I have received thousands of emails from you encouraging me to not give up hope and determination. I never have. And because of the dedication I've seen from all of you, I never will.

Since 1812, Citi has confronted many obstacles and successfully surmounted them all and has emerged stronger for the experience. The last few months have been a difficult chapter in our very long history. It's time for us to put this period behind us and be proud to be Citi again. I am.

Vikram

From the "too big to fail" file: Done deal

Seems it happened. As predicted, Uncle Vik stays on the island, but apparently the board will need to be reshuffled. The big question, will Uncle Sam allow Citi a bout of somnolence every now and then? Some Ambien perhaps? It might make the financial entity more effective. Sleep deprivation is never a good thing.

Pleasure Victim

Heavy on synthesizers and sultry lyrics, Berlin burst onto the music scene with this 1982 offering. Terri Nunn’s languid vocals meld effortlessly with the soaring synthesizer riffs on this album creating a mixture of upbeat and brooding songs that glide along until the album is over before you know it. It’s a shame that this California new wave band is best known for the song Take My Breath Away from the movie Top Gun (which is NOT on this album by the way) because it doesn’t do justice to their real sound. Songs of note on this CD are Sex (I’m a…) which was banned by some radio stations due to its graphic lyrics, The Metro and Masquerade, all singles which charted. For me though the best song on this CD is the title cut, Pleasure Victim, which showcases the band’s smooth flowing sound. A great listen, this album never gets old for me.

Sign of the times

A new bumper sticker brought to you by the Tennessee Republican Party. Is your home paid for? Do you know by whom?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

As reported by Instapundit, sales of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged are soaring. Hmmm. Make of it what you will. I've actually lost count of how many times I have read this book. My copy is really dog-eared, but I like it just fine thank you. I didn't contribute to these recently soaring sales figures with a purchase, but this renewed interest, considering the systemic economic issues we are facing, is interesting in itself.

The Man in Black

I grew up listening to this guy and appreciating his music because my father was a big fan. Happy birthday Johnny Cash.

Uncle Vik reputed to have life after the big "N"

Like some characters in Lost, Uncle Vik is likely to survive the cataclysmic event in his near future. Even though the federal government may move his island the New York Post is reporting that he will survive. No word on whether he will now start taking orders from Jacob, and whether this will cause a rise in the stock price.

Another scammer gets house arrest

You might remember Arthur Nadel, the 76 year old scammer who went on the lam and eventually surrendered himself in Tampa, Florida. Well, a U.S. judge set a $5 million bond, house detention and other conditions of bail on Wednesday, but his attorney has indicated he might not be able to meet the conditions for release. Oh dear, whatever will he do? Nadel's alleged scam is not in the same league amount-wise as Madoff and Stanford. His alleged swindle is approximately 300 million. Compared to those guys he seems like a two-bit fraudster. Hardly seems worth mentioning does it?

Does the Wall Street Journal have a crystal ball?

Or just good contacts? Will it happen today? The WSJ seems to think so.

A brief "question time-out" in British politics

For a very sad reason.

Marcha

Spanish “rumba flamenco” describes the music this trio produces. If you know who the Gypsy Kings are, these guys sound like a truer rendition of the Spanish gypsy sound than that which the Gypsy Kings produce. That’s not in any way to say the Gypsy Kings sound isn’t good, it’s just more poppy and produced in a slicker fashion than this Spanish trio. Los Chunguitos, hailing from Vallecas in Madrid, are gritty performers, with tight hooks, excellent guitars, snazzy backing horns, traditional hand clapping and raspy, harmonious voices. Their lyrics tend to touch on love, poverty and misfortune, but those same lyrics are redeeming and inspiring on this 1993 release. Here is a sampling of their sound.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Recession hits NFL, where big hits are commonplace

Are you paying attention Wall Street? The No Fun League just became a little more no fun for commissioner Roger Goodell, to the tune of about 2.75 million dollars. After the league laid off about 15% of its staff, it has now announced that the commissioner will forgo anywhere from 20 to 25% of his 11 million dollar salary. Somehow I think he might barely be able to make ends meet with the remaining 8.25 million, but maybe I'm wrong.

All the front page news that's fit to virtually print

Check this out. This is a really great link. You just put your mouse on a city anywhere in the world and the newspaper headlines pop up. Double click and the page gets larger. Then you can either read the page in a pdf version or click through to the webpage in the upper right corner.

Is the third time a charm?

The first two nominations for Commerce Secretary seemed to be a bit snakebit. First there was Bill Richardson, then Judd Gregg. Now it is Gary Locke. Let's see if this third one works out.

Going against the grain

Time poses the question from another perspective. It asks why only 40 percent? Hmmm.

The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect

Where do you begin with Todd Rundgren? His discography is so extensive that I just lined up all the names of his works on a dartboard, closed my eyes and threw a dart at it. It landed on this one so here it is. This 1982 release was entirely produced, engineered and performed by Todd himself. Every sound on this CD is him and him alone. This is the album that produced that mid-western sports arena staple Bang The Drum All Day, but that overplayed song is not all this album has to offer. There is a cover of the Small Faces’ Tin Soldier on this CD as well as some catchy pop tunes, mid-tempo introspective rock beats and even a Broadway-type Gilbert and Sullivanish tune: Emperor of the Highway. This CD is an amalgam of cool licks, catchy lyrics and reedy vocals in the traditional Todd style.

Uncle Vik

Since I keep referring to him, here's a short bio for those who might be curious.

May I have an office, please

The answer is no. I don't qualify and not because I didn't make enough, but because I didn't lose enough. My guess is that to be in this club you have to have positioned the company to lose several billion dollars. Still, it would be nice to work in peace and quiet when doing the math on one's handicap.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is the deal almost done?

The Financial Times says it almost is. If this thing gets inked it will lead to all kinds of interesting speculation. What will the Saudi prince do when he is no longer the biggest shareholder? How will uncle Vik react to taking orders from a Senate page? Will the sluggish behemoth that is Citi become the new spry frontier of hope and change? Will the government appoint a Citi Czar? Perhaps an Emir? Will the board take on the look and feel of a government sub-committee? This could get good. Stay tuned.

Worse than waterboarding?

There are some complaints out there that former and current bank CEOs who are being called to answer questions posed to them from authorities aren't talking. What did they know and when did they know it are questions going unanswered? What is so difficult about getting these guys to 'fess up? I have a sure fire way of making them talk. Solution after the jump.

Make them fly coach class to Asia and back for the hearings.

Mattress futures are up

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Yesterday the market closed at its lowest point in ten years.

Oh Citi, what hast thou wrought?

We posted about this yesterday but check out this article. The money quote, "The U.S.'s intentions with Citigroup remain unclear." Wonderful, because we all know that uncertainty makes management become smarter, act more rational and make better decisions. And then there is the whole section speculating on uncle Vik's future. Well, given the whole NTPSS scenario as of late, I wouldn't put a lot of money on any nominee that Obama names to sail the creaking vessel.

Bona Drag

Released in 1990, this CD is a compilation offering with a string of singles that made British musician Morrissey popular (especially in the U.S.) as a solo artist after his split from the Smiths. Classified under alternative rock, I have seen the style of music on this CD described as “jangle pop” or “jangle pop-rock.” The album name means "nice outfit" and is an example of the subculture slang Polari. The CD is relatively mellow, with some speedier tempo tunes and interesting lyrics. Morrissey’s songs make you listen and think, and while you may not like them all, they are certainly unique in their outlook and message. My favorite songs on this album are Piccadilly Palare, November Spawned a Monster and Everyday is like Sunday. Piccadilly Palare, the first song on the album, begins with the following lyrics, “Off the rails I was and off the rails I was happy to stay. Get out of my way.” Kind of autobiographical if you ask me and a heads up on what to expect for the rest of this CD.

That's a whole lot of ice, ice, baby

Which nation owns Antarctica? Answer after the jump.

None. It has been declared an area for scientific study.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vasos Vacios

Vasos Vacios was the eighth album for Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, an Argentine rock-ska-reggae band and the title means empty glasses in Spanish. Classified under Latin music, this 1994 release was a compilation of previous songs along with new tracks and scored the band their biggest hit, Matador. In my view this was easily the band’s best album and if you want a taste of their music this is the one to get. The songs are all over the place in terms of their style and combine a mixture of ska, jazz, folk, reggae, funk, punk, salsa and even a tiny bit of big band with the predominant theme being ska. The combination works and each song is a pleasant surprise. The title track is an excellent song. It is a duet with the now deceased queen of salsa herself, Celia Cruz, and there is even a cover of the Clash’s Revolution Rock on this dynamic CD.

Not just any "Smith"

Especially not Robert that is. This Saturday, 02/28/09 at 8 p.m. Morrissey (who hasn't been a Smith for years) will grace the stage at the amphitheater across the street from our house. In a readiness exercise for this event I am trying to slide into depressed/chic/disturbed loner mode and walk around with a cool, insouciant swagger.

As far as Robert Smith is concerned, I’m not sure if he and Robert are still doing the Hatfield-McCoy thing. At one point it was so bad that it’s rumored (perhaps apocryphally) that Robert Smith said,

“If Morrissey says not to eat meat, then I'll eat meat; that's how much I hate Morrissey."

Sigh, can’t we all just get along? Anyway, look for a Morrissey disc review sometime this week as an homage to Saturday’s concert. Oh, and I promise I'll get around to Robert Smith and his band soon also.

Come on, being a government worker isn't so bad

At least now the bank that "Never Sleeps" can take some catnaps during the day. After all, employees might be up to 40% federal workers soon, and that might mean relaxed government standards. Now there's a sure fire remedy for the insomnia/sleep deprivation platform that drives uncle Vik's vehicle.

Slumdog wins big

A while back I recommended you go see this movie on this blog. Last night the little movie that could won big.

No entity is immune from scams

Ah, banks are the experts at detecting fraud, are they not? They're supposed to be. Citi falls prey to a "Nigerian Scam", (well okay, the guy is Nigerian), and only found out about it when several banks returned money to uncle Vik's teetering concern.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. While this week's offering might be useful for fighting the Taliban, they tend to do more damage than good within corporations.

MOTW: Combat Manager

Combat Manager is a touchy sort and takes umbrage at anything others do or say without even the slightest provocation. He/she typically has two or three concurrent political battles waging, as well as three or four e-mail wars ongoing at any given time. He/she keeps a helmet and body armor in his/her office and frequently dons this attire just to get through the day and live to tell about it. Sometimes Combat Manager sends his/her staff out as advanced reconnaissance scouts to test the battle-readiness of his/her enemies, causing the staff to return from the fray with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When sent on these missions the recommendation is to unconditionally surrender as quickly as possible and negotiate a prisoner of war exchange to another business unit.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stand back, stand way back

If you know what's good for you. Oxymoron headline of the young year.

"Journalist killed while covering peace rally"

That sly Fox wants to know

What did you do with the bailout money Citi? Enquiring minds want to know. Fox Business News wins a Freedom of Information Act ruling to find out what the Bank of New York Mellon (BK). American International Group (AIG) and Citigroup (C) have done with the bailout funds. Now the public should find out if uncle Vik has been doling out the appropriate allowances or not.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

That's not writing; it's typing

Truman Capote is reported to have uttered these words when asked about another American author's work. Who was he talking about? Answer after the jump.

Jack Kerouac

Ouch, over par

Today I shot a 55 or 1 over: 6 bogeys, 5 birdies and 7 pars. That hurt! But it was still a beautiful day and a great time.

Poppin' the house

Last night the pop duo Hall and Oates were at the amphitheater across the street from our house. We hardly knew they were there. I guess you can categorize them under the mellow pop genre.

Thanks, but I'll take the elevator

Want to get fit? Check out this sport.

The biggest Ponzi scheme of all

I've talked about Ponzi schemes before on this blog, and there are many of them out there, i.e. Madoff, Stanford, etal, but do you know what the biggest Ponzi scheme of all is that no one is really talking about all that much? Answer after the jump.

Social Security

Friday, February 20, 2009

The future includes pasta

Even though the founder of this movement wanted to abolish it. Doesn't sound like much of a future to me but anyway, happy birthday to the art movement of Futurism, which celebrated its birth 100 years ago today.

A heartwarming story

Here is a heartwarming story from the high school sports world, specifically the basketball court.

Bailout job aid - a visual reference

Confused with all the recent movement in the financial industry and the economic downturn. For some people seeing things in a snapshot is extremely helpful. Always happy to oblige, BBC News provides this graphic for quick and easy assimilation. Click on the image to enlarge and enjoy the succint visual roundup. Cheers mate!

Great disc golf putt by a great player

A few days back I posted a link to a video of a 350 foot disc golf "Ace." That was the driving part of the game, a 350 foot drive that went straight into the basket for a hole in one. But there is a saying in golf, "Drive for show, putt for dough." Putting is where the pressure really comes in for tournament players. Watch this video of Ken Climo, 12 time world champion, making an extremely long putt in a tournament. He measures it out, takes his time, and hits a beautiful putt. Putting is where tournaments are won or lost.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Say it ain't so Tiger

Now there are rumors that they messed with the Tiger. Even though I play the other golf, I do believe Tiger is THE MAN. He's the Ken Climo of our sport, and even he has allegedly been ripped off by the Stanford fraud. This is out of control.

Planes, Helicopters, Trains and Automobiles

Just kidding on the trains and automobiles. Those modes of transportation are too jejune for Senor Hernandez Ramirez. The article mentions Citi will continue paying for security for he and his family too. They'd better, with all the upset shareholders coming after him, he will need protection from the proletariat mob when they storm the office he also gets to keep.

Recession hits everywhere

Proving that the malaise of the recession is an equal opportunity employer, this item shows it's not just the financial industry, mortgage market, automobile industry, casinos, etal that have suffered. All sorts of businesses are restructuring, even this one.

Beat Crazy

I’ve always considered Joe Jackson’s lyrics to be anywhere between three days to three years ahead of their time. Jackson is a very talented musician whose songs are subtle commentaries on myriad social issues in contemporary society. He’s been nominated for five Grammys, but it’s the songs that don’t necessarily make it to pop success which are the most interesting to listen to. Classified under Power Pop/New Wave, this 1980 Joe Jackson Band offering opens up with a harrowing yell, but glides into all sorts of pleasing musical arrangements which feature his smooth piano playing and cutting lyrics. Songs that comment on issues are all over this album and include In Every Dream Home (A Nightmare), Battleground, Biology, Pretty Boys and Fit, just to name a few.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bash him (Bernie that is)

Upset over 50 Billion? Or just your slice? Or do you just think these guys should get more than "penthouse arrest?" Well, take your frustration out on one of these.

The Drummer's drummer

Music in general and jazz music specifically lost a giant this past weekend. Louie Bellson passed on Valentine's day.

Citi bomb defused

And no, we are not talking about their toxic CDO portfolio being defused, although we wish this was the case. This was an actual attempted attack in the cradle of western civilization.

Disc Golf Poetry

Those golfers who have been around for a while remember the now defunct Disc Golf World News (DGWN), which at the time was the official magazine of the PDGA. This poem was published in an issue of that magazine sometime in the past. I'm sorry but I don't remember which issue. Also, although doubtful, some golfers may even recognize the hole. So if you are into Disc Golf and Poetry, read on. If not, don't even open up the rest of this post. For those who don't heed the warning, i.e. those who don't golf but continue reading anyway, OB means Out of Bounds.


Nine Triple OB

A windy day and a very long hole
Awaits as I envision my drive
“My God, I can’t even see the pole”
“This really should be a par five.”

I take my run-up and let it rip
Out of my hand, and it’s gone
Immediately comes the anguished quip
“Oh no, what on earth have I done?”

The disc heads out towards the scenic lake
And never once does it turn
“Hyzer,” I plead, “For heaven’s sake!”
“I don’t have the money to burn!”

It heeds me not and continues its route
Splashes down with a mind of its own
My third stroke taken from where it went out
Straight into the bushes has flown.

Another stroke out as the wind kicks in
It’s carried out to the water again
There still isn’t any sign of the pin
And I’m down from twelve drivers to ten.

Finally an upshot that flies good and true
A putt that rattles a chain
Two lost discs that were brand spanking new
And a score that causes much pain.

Up your nose

With a rubber hose. Happy birthday Vinnie Barbarino aka John Travolta.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Recession versus blackjack, I bet on the recession

Is he fired yet? Nah, he's just a shareholder. Plus, he's in that other business to help shore him up, real estate.

The church wants in too

Proving that fraud is not the purview of the financial industry alone, Monsignor John Skehan, who is originally from Johnstown in Kilkenny, admitted the charge of grand theft of over $100,000. In reality, the scam is much bigger than that and includes another priest, Reverend Francis Guinan, who allegedly engaged in gambling trips to Vegas and the Bahamas.

Stanford Financial, not in Madoff's league

But Ponzi-ish nevertheless. What's 8 billion U.S. among friends? Especially when it involves the Caribbean and CD's, and not the kind you listen to either. Unless it's the wailing and gnashing of teeth of investors that you're hearing, and no, that's not avant garde performance art.

Sale in the Citi: Nobody's buying

Here's a small hint. When you have a garage sale, the stuff you are peddling has to be stuff people may actually want to buy.

Call her old fashioned

Happy birthday Barry Humphries aka Dame Edna.

Maybe a shaman would work...

Apparently the exorcism might not be enough. Last night, without a puff of smoke being present, a smoke detector emitted a piercing shriek, just long enough to wake the entire household from its slumber. It then went deathly silent, foiling any attempt to track down which detector was the culprit. We are now sleep deprived and searching for any entity which will put an end to this appliance insurrection.

Pink World

Wow, an incredibly creative Science Fiction progressive rock-opera concept album created by one person. Although the band's name is Planet P Project, it is essentially one guy who is responsible for every chord and lyric on this amazing album, Tony Carey. Longer nuanced songs are separated by short bursts of music which are tight, opportune and mesmerizing. The story on this 1984 release is one of a nuclear holocaust and a psychic child who is supposedly the messiah come to pick up the pieces and lead society out of despair. All is not what it seems though in Artemis’ (the boy’s name) world and we are taken through an incredible range of tracks with intense imagery to convince us of this. Carey is not simply a musician and vocalist, but a poet as well and the songs on this double album set need to be listened to carefully and in order to get the full impact of what he has created. I never get tired of this album. Here is one track, To Live Forever. While the songs stand on their own, they really should be listened to in order and in the context of the story.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Disc Golf Ace

A 13 second video of a 350 foot "Hole in One" or "Ace", as it is more commonly referred to, during a tournament. That's a drive 50 feet farther than a football field and into the basket. In this case it is Craig Gangloff and he gets to put a 1 on his scorecard for that hole. Nice!

Down The Road

Best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young), Stephen Stills has released solo works and other projects as well. A prolific singer/songwriter and guitarist, Stills formed the band Manassas and released this 1973 album. While classified under the Rock genre this album is a mixture of blues, folk and Latin music divided into different sections, and is considered by many to be one of Stills' best albums.

The first time I listened to this album I was extremely surprised to hear Stills singing fluently in Spanish on two excellent tracks (Pensamiento and Guaguanco de Vero) and they are by far my favorites. The rest of the album for me is standard fare and I prefer Stills’ work with the two afore-mentioned bands, but I definitely enjoy it every once in a while, especially because of the two Latin flavored tracks.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Remember those kids in school with the pocket protectors who got beat up and had their lunch money stolen. Some of them grew up to be this week's offering. Enjoy.

MOTW: Nerd Manager

Basically an inoffensive creature, Nerd Manager’s fashion sense and way of looking at the world tend to be a bit askew, usually because of his/her thick glasses. Having been picked on most of his/her life, Nerd Manager walks around making proclamations such as,

“I’ve learned to be much more assertive in a leadership role.”

These remarks are purely rhetorical however and as such never backed up with any real action. Working for Nerd Manager can be painful since he/she is usually Senior Management’s punching bag, an effect that tends to transfer itself to the rest of the staff via TKO (Technical Knockout). Keeping a packet of smelling salts nearby is an absolute must when working for Nerd Manager.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Beautiful day, OK score

Today I shot a 51 or 3 down. One bogey, four birdies and thirteen pars. Oh, and no lost discs. I'll take that anytime.

Still the same...after all these years

There is an unconfirmed anecdote that when Spain’s Generalissimo Francisco Franco was on his deathbed within a hair’s breadth of expiring his aide came to him and said,

“Generalissimo, the people are in the central square. They have come to say their final goodbyes.”

Franco is said to have responded, “Why, where are they going?”

Today Venezuela is holding elections. I am neither a psychic nor a political analyst, but something tells me you don’t have to be either one to predict that Hugo Chavez will remain in power for quite a while to come, trying to do his best Franco impersonation in terms of longevity.

A random quote for today

How long should a man's legs be?

Long enough to touch the ground.

J.D. Salinger

Saturday, February 14, 2009

So much for separation of church and state

Check out this picture.

These are our little Valentines

This post goes out to all those people who may have small children.

Mei Yao-chen (1002 – 1060) was a minor official in the court during the Sung dynasty. This poem was how he put his excuse to one of his friends and I love the eloquent simplicity of his feelings and message.

An Excuse for not returning the visit of a Friend

Do not be offended because
I am slow to go out. You know
Me too well for that. On my lap
I hold my little girl. At my
Knees stands my handsome little son.
One has just begun to talk.

The other chatters without
Stopping. They hang on my clothes
And follow my every step.
I can’t get any farther
Than the door. I am afraid
I will never make it to your house.

Emit one, omit one - surely it's the same thing

Boy, I hope this guy proofreads my blog.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The tale of the Three Envelopes

Recently the Vice President of an overseas division in a Fortune 500 company, let’s call him W, was being let go. During the transition period he had the chance to go to lunch with his replacement. We’ll refer to his replacement as Q. After they had ordered W offered Q some advice. The conversation went something like this.

W opened up saying, “There will come a time where you will be in the position I am in now. Don’t despair. There are some delaying tactics you can use. I was taught them by the guy in the position before me and I feel it is the honorable thing to do to pass the knowledge on to you.”

Q, the Incoming V.P., was sympathetic to the recently laid off W’s plight and in an effort to be polite replied, “Sure, anything you can tell me about managing the division will be extremely helpful. After all, you ran the unit successfully for quite a while.”

“Well, OK,” replied W, “Here goes. Sooner or later something unfortunate will happen. Senior Management is never satisfied, especially nowadays. You know how it is. You’ll be called to Head Office to explain why the unit isn’t doing as well as it should. I’m going to hand you three sealed envelopes. When your first crisis hits open the envelope labeled Number One and do what it says. Following the instructions found inside will buy you anywhere between six to eight months breathing space depending on how effectively you follow them. When your second crisis hits, open envelope Number Two and do the same with envelope Number Three. Open it when your third crisis occurs. All in all, you should be good for anywhere between eighteen months to three years, depending on how well you can follow instructions. All this time will allow you to look for a transfer and help ensure you land on your feet.”

“Can I look at them now?” asked Q.

“Nope, only when the time comes,” was W’s response as he handed over the envelopes. “And now, let’s enjoy our lunch.”

Time passed. Q was installed and things were rolling along when the news got bad. Sales were down, expenses were up and he was called to explain the circumstances. He remembered the lunch and reached inside his desk drawer to pull out envelope Number One. With much trepidation he opened and read the single strip of paper inside. There, in one terse, typewritten sentence were the instructions. They read, “Blame everything that’s happened so far on me, your predecessor.”

During the meeting that followed Q followed this strategy, waxing eloquently about the problems W had left behind. He explained to Senior Management that the last five months had been dedicated to turning the situation around, improving morale in the unit and generally fixing the mess he had inherited from W. After all, W had been let go, and this didn’t happen unless Senior Management perceived that things weren’t going the way they should. He pleaded his case for a whole stressful hour using extremely convincing PowerPoint slides all pointing to W’s inefficiencies. The strategy worked and he left the tense meeting with a six-month amnesty whereupon he would have to return and show that things were turning around.

Six months passed and things were still not working out, but Q was much less worried. After all, the previous envelope had worked like a charm. When he finally got the call to speak to Senior Management he nonchalantly reached into his desk drawer and ripped open envelope Number Two. He read the instructions. These were a little lengthier than the previous ones.

They read, “Initiate a massive reorganization/restructuring within the division. Lay off some people, bring some cronies in from other areas and put them reporting directly to you. Change reporting lines across all the top level and have a new organizational chart drawn with a lot of matrix reporting and dotted line relationships. Shuffle product lines and different business units around into different geographies. Change some job descriptions and consolidate some functions. Move people into different offices for no apparent reason, preferably in multiple buildings. Invent lots of new acronyms. Keep everyone guessing."

"Bring this new organizational chart to the meeting with Senior Management along with a white paper and an executive summary explaining the reason for the changes, which is to implement a new strategy and inculcate a new culture. Above all, give the impression of action and make so many moves it will take at least six months for everyone to figure out what it is you and they are doing. Remember to repeat the mantra “Focus on the customer” all the time and explain that these changes will allow you to do this within your division."

It took a little work but Q followed the directions to the letter. Senior Management was impressed and told him he had a whole year to implement his changes and produce results. Q was ecstatic. The year passed quickly and everyone, including Q was so confused with the changes that a stagnating paralysis set in. The unit did worse than before, but Q wasn’t worried. He still had the third envelope.

When the inevitable call came from Senior Management Q was cocky. He told them that all would be explained and that he would be at Head Office within the week to present exactly how he was going to get record results. He told them not to worry, that his division would be the star player within a short while and that he needed a couple of days to pull the deck together for their meeting. Q hung up from the call and opened the desk drawer. He pulled out envelope Number Three and eagerly opened it to see what words of wisdom W had left him to get out of this one. The single typewritten sentence, only three words, all bolded and in capitals struck terror in his heart. With much dismay he read W’s sage advice. It read,

”PREPARE THREE ENVELOPES.

NOT "NTPSS", but another nomination stalled

This time it's Commerce Secretary nominee, Senator Judd Gregg, who withdrew his nomination. So far no signs of "NTPSS" on this one.

This is not your mother's dollhouse

Joss Whedon, the mind who gave us Firefly, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel, now gives us this series.

More Madoff fallout

This guy was a brave soldier, but it's different when you can see the enemy coming. Meanwhile, Madoff is under "penthouse" arrest.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The pitchfork did it

Ever wonder who the first person convicted for murder with DNA evidence was? Wonder no longer. It was this person.

Inmates running the asylum?

Since today seems to have a Woody Allen tinge to it on this blog I will permit myself to quote him from his 1971 movie Bananas in which Fielding Mellish states,

"It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham."

I am referring of course to this event.

Pull the TARP over the infield, the Ref wants to call the game

Take TARP, the House of Representatives, the Secretary of the United States Treasury, a Sports Stadium and Citi, stir them all up together and what do you get? I'm not sure, but I'm betting it won't taste that great.

Hormonally Yours

I didn’t know the bard had a sister either, but apparently he had two and here they are even though the band’s name is slightly misspelled. Shakespear’s Sister is a British/American synth-pop-rock duo which finally charted in the United States with this 1992 release. This album is interesting because it has a pop "feel" to it, but never really had much pop success other than the song Stay which reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Classified under the Alternative genre, this CD offers up twelve good but inconsistent tracks, showcasing the duo’s opposite extremes in vocal variance. Although I don’t know it for sure I would not be surprised to find out that between the two of them there is a five or six octave range. Nowhere is this more evident than on the track Stay, the powerful ballad which charted, possibly because of the showcasing of these same vocal extremes and the campy video which accompanied it. Hello, (Turn your radio on), The Trouble with Andre and Emotional Thing were also standout tracks for me. I like this CD because I like interesting female vocalists, but it may not be for everyone.

Here is Stay, campy video and all.

Timing is everything

They say timing is everything in life. I guess that goes for the good as well as the bad.

Honesty is the best policy

Happy birthday, Abraham Lincoln.

Side Effects

Most people have either seen or heard about Woody Allen’s films. Woody Allen’s output of movies has been quite prolific over the years and has had peaks and valleys in terms of its quality. I find it interesting however that although he hardly pays compared to the going Hollywood rate for successful actors, those same actors typically want to star in his movies and will eagerly do so if asked. In short, his movies generate demand from both sides of the production. Both the cast of players and audience want to be involved.

Less people know that the same Woody Allen had produced several volumes of short stories. Side Effects is one of these volumes. The stories in this volume are whimsical and engaging, bordering on the surreal. They are also outrageously funny. Not limited by budget or visual possibilities on a screen, Allen uses his fertile imagination to take you through a variety of situations and plots, each one more outlandish than its predecessor. My favourite tale is The Kugelmass Episode. In it our protagonist learns of a magician who, through certain machinations and for a small fee, can transport people into the pages of any novel they wish. Kugelmass elects Madame Bovary and is soon face to face with Emma Bovary herself. Things start out wonderfully, but quickly go downhill from there.

I was once reading stories from this book to a friend out loud by a pool. By the time I had finished two of the stories and paused to look up, a crowd had pulled up their lounge chairs and gathered to listen. There is something about his absurdist humour which captivates, so if you are not bothered by the occasional obscure erudite reference and can suspend some disbelief, you will definitely enjoy this slim paperback.

Appliance Woes revisited

Two nights ago my wife’s reading light suddenly developed its own animus. When she turned off the switch on the lamp itself it emanated a keening hiss, accompanied by a lazy strobe-like flashing which had me convinced one of us would imminently be teleported elsewhere should we stand anywhere within the radiance of its penumbra. My wife hit the backup switch on the wall and all went eerily silent and dark. Now, in the light of day, nether switch works and it’s obvious we need to call an electrician and not Mr. Scott.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cursive and the slippery slope

There was recently a debate on TV about whether writing in cursive should still be taught in schools. I don't know about others, but I sure hope my children can pick up a pen and write neatly with it. Call me crazy, but I think this just might be helpful to them in the future.

Supermarket

A slick sounding, hip-hop/rap/house album with good hooks, catchy lyrics and music that makes you want more. Stakka Bo aka Johan Renck, a Swedish musician, even produced a hit single from this 1993 album, Here We Go Again, which was featured on a Beavis and Butt-Head episode and in the movie Never Been Kissed. For being Hip-Hop/Rap the tunes and lyrics on this CD are mellow and smooth, gliding through your brain in a languid manner rather than getting in your face and angrily assaulting your senses. It is well produced, original and worthy of serious listening or as background music to get people moving.

Also, check out Stakka Bo performing Mute here.

Is it vanquished yet?

On this day in 1990, after 27 years of incarceration, Nelson Mandela was released, signalling the beginning of the end of apartheid.

The Singularity

It’s been at the heart of the plot of innumerable science fictions episodes and movies, including Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but how close are we to it really happening?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The whole saga of misFORTUNE

Article last updated on January 16th, 2009.

Wal-Mart: Villified or Sanctified?

Wal-Mart has been reputed to be the ruin of many a mom and pop store in neighborhood locales, or is it a savior in these tough economic times? Charles Platt, a former senior writer for Wired magazine, went undercover and worked at Wal-Mart for a period of time to find out what the place is really like. His conclusion:

“Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.”

His whole experience, which is quite an interesting one, recounted here.

Taking Off

I used to travel quite a bit for business, specifically flying to many countries around the globe. Every now and then, there is an incredible and heart-warming story in the news similar to this one that is circulating these days. This is truly something to marvel at, an exceptional story which restores your faith in the fact that there still is some humanity in flying, but it is the exception rather than the rule. In reality, whether you are traveling on business or for pleasure, flying since 9/11 has become an experience more like this video, which although slightly dated, tells the real story.

When you need to laugh...

Rent this movie. If you haven't seen it already put it in your queue. With a cast that includes, Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Lily Tomlin, Josh Brolin and others, this 1996 release is hilarious. Operating under an outlandish but believable plot, this movie is funny throughout, with some scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny. So, if it's comedy night tonight, consider watching this film.

Where have all the jobs gone?

No, this is not a lame attempt at putting the title of this post to the music of that 1960's folk song, although someone has probably already thought of that. I'm talking about the obvious. We lost another 600k jobs in January alone and when Microsoft and Nissan, just to name two of the companies that have rarely if ever laid off people in the past are doing so, well, let's just say it makes the search for that tobacconist's shop a little more challenging.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Grammys

As a music lover it would be remiss of me not to mention that the Grammys were last night. However, I do not have much of an affinity for over-extended, congratulatory extravanganzas filled with speeches. So there, I mentioned it.

The Magnificent Tree

Belgium’s synth-pop trio Hooverphonic hit it out of the park with this 2000 release. Although heavy on synthesizers, it nevertheless has a warm approachable sound. The tracks are creative, melodious and unpredictable. From the mega-hit Mad About You to the title track which is a low, brooding song which paradoxically is very uplifting, lead singer Geike Arnaert’s vocals are in top form. The track Out of Sight coasts up and down your senses with a satisfying rhythm and wonderful lilting choruses. The song Visions was written specifically for the opening ceremony of the 2000 European Football Championship, which took place in Brussels. It is an 11 minute plus track (the theme song of the championship) which was later edited down to 3:52. Both versions are on this CD. Also, be aware, although this album has a pop feel to it, it is justifiably classified under the Alternative genre because there are some tracks that simply cannot be considered pop songs.

MOTW: Cliché Manager

Ninety percent of this manager’s entire vocabulary consists of adages and he/she uses them constantly to communicate. A typical conversation with Cliché Manager may sound like this.

Cliché Manager: “About that burning issue you emailed me on which needs immediate resolution. You know X, I have a feeling you’re putting the cart before the horse on this one. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

X: “Maybe so boss.”

Cliché Manager: “You need to think outside of the box. It’s like I always say, when the rubber meets the road…you know what I mean.”

X: “I guess I do.”

Cliché Manager: “Good, good. Remember then, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket...”

X: “Well, okay boss.”

Cliché Manager: “Okay. Well then X, what are you waiting for? Get on out there and take the bull by the horns!”

X then leaves, completely baffled as to what was discussed and what action to take.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means, time for another Manager of the Week. This week's offering, while sometimes very nice personally, tends to do a lot of damage to organizations by creating a lot of angst and frustration among his/her staff.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Moon Cannot be Stolen

A Zen anecdote...

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not go away empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."

Oh no, not again

What the heck? "NTPSS" or Nominee Tax Paying Scrutiny Syndrome has struck again, and like any illness worth its salt, seems to be contagious. Now a member of a nominee's family has contracted it, thus stalling another confirmation. This time it's the Labour Secretary nominee's husband, Sam Sayyad.

Gran Torino

Saw it last night. Modern day Pale Rider redux with a slight twist, and slightly not as good as the afore-mentioned Western sums it up for me. I love Clint so I liked this movie, and I would say I'm in about 75 percent agreement with this review.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Big Dog Award

Today I shot a round of 46, my under par record of this young 2009. I shot 10 birdies, 2 bogeys and 6 pars, resulting in a score of 8 under (as it is commonly referred to) thus allowing me the privilege of bringing home the weekly Big Dog Award, a 2.5 inch pliable, rubbery replica of a mutt of dubious origins. Oh, and did I mention it smells too?

This is not a joke

Do you like Jane Austen? Did you ever feel that the only thing missing from her books were a couple of extras from the George A. Romero classic, Dawn of the Dead running around causing mayhem? Well you are in for a treat. Now you can have them both in one sitting. That's right, staid, upper crust English society comes face to face with the undead in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the mass appeal paperback which the entire literary world has been eagerly anticipating. Enjoy!

Enmity in the America's Cup

Compete on the ocean, not in the courts please!

Have you no shame sir?

I always suspected that Mr. Gates was secretly "releasing bugs" in his products on purpose, but could never prove it until now that he is in semi-retirement.

Friday, February 6, 2009

He's so good it's sick

They say that as a manager you hit the sweet spot of deploying your talent when you ensure that it is in a position where it is competent, committed, and contributing to the organization's mission and objectives.

There is no doubt that he is competent, but I have seen him sometimes waver on the other two. When he is committed and contributing however, it's like a man against boys.

Our Sunshine State is definitely gullible

More than 15 percent of Madoff's 13,000 alleged Ponzi scheme victims are from Florida. Thanks for your time Bernie.

Results

A Liza Minnelli album produced by the Pet Shop Boys with a cover of a Tanita Tikaram song on it. What’s that you say? What kind of parallel universe have you entered by wandering into this blog and reading this post? Well, it’s true, and the album isn’t half bad either. Like them or not, you have to admit both Liza and the PSB have been successful in their field and their collaboration shows why on this 1989 release. Hard to classify, this CD has a bit of everything on it: camp, lounge, electronica/dance, pop, cabaret, in short a mish-mash of genres that leaves the listener wondering what surprise is coming next from the Diva and her Boys on each subsequent track. If you are adventuresome in your music taste you just might have to listen to it to find out.

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Happy birthday, Ronald Reagan, wherever you may be.

The Verger

My favourite short story writer is W. Somerset Maugham. Maugham wrote novels and plays as well, but in the short story genre he is acknowledged to be one of the greatest writers who ever lived. One of my preferred short stories of his is The Verger. People who know me well know that this has been a favourite of mine for over twenty years so this is why I bring it up now considering the predicament I find myself in.

This is a six page short story about a verger who gets laid off after 16 years of faithful service and impeccable performance in his job at the church because the recently appointed vicar finds out that he can neither read nor write. In his depressed state on the evening he is let go, he wanders several streets of London searching for a tobacconist shop to buy cigarettes. He knows he cannot live for long on his meager savings, wants to sit and think about what he will do with his life and he wants a cigarette to smoke while doing so.

Upon not being able to find a shop easily, he decides to open one as he cannot imagine that he is the only person that this has happened to, wanting to buy cigarettes but not finding a readily accessible store. He opens one, becomes successful and soon expands. Before long he is operating a string of shops, all of them quite lucrative.

Finally one day, as he is depositing his weekly earnings, the bank manager stops and chats with him for a few minutes, trying to convince him to invest some of his hard-earned money in some investment products (sound familiar?) in order to get higher returns. The verger is hesitant to do this and confesses to the bank manager that he would not be able to read the paperwork in order to sign it. The bank manager is completely flabbergasted and says,

“And do you mean to say that you’ve built up this important business and amassed a fortune of 30,000 pounds (remember, Maugham wrote this short story circa 1920) without being able to read or write? Good God man, what would you be now if you had been able to?”

The ex-verger then replies.

“I can tell you that sir,” said Mr. Foreman, a little smile on his still aristocratic features. “I’d be the verger of St. Peter’s, Neville Square.”

This story appears in the second volume out of four of W. Somerset Maugham’s Collected Short Stories. I think I’ll go out and look for my tobacconist’s store now, whatever that may be.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The bong hit smelled around the world

As an ex-swimmer in grade school and high school I am a HUGE fan of Olympic swimming, especially the relays. Thus the eight gold medals that Michael Phelps won at the 2008 Olympic Games in China were incredible viewing moments for me. True, there were other moments in the Olympics that were memorable, but I’m not sure people realize just how difficult it was for Phelps to accomplish what he did, especially since some of his gold medals did not depend solely on his talent and efforts, but on those of his teammates as well. I am referring of course to the relays, which for me are the most exciting part of any meet. As he continued to rack up the medals I found myself asking the rhetorical question, “Is this guy really human or is he some sort of fish?” Well, after this faux pas, we found out he is definitely the former. After all, to err is human, is it not?

Under par is always a good thing

I shot a casual round of Disc Golf the other day with some buddies and came in at 52, or 2 under par. Although this is slowly changing, Disc Golf in general considers all holes a par 3 at the advanced level, regardless of length or difficulty. To a large extent this is based on an historical precedent and while it does make the task of scoring your card easier, it can wreak occasional havoc with your score, especially if the hole is an extremely challenging one.

So if you do the math even par is 54 (18 holes with a score of 3 on each one). In my round of 52 the other day, I shot 2 bogeys (not good), 4 birdies (very nice) and the remaining 12 holes at par (acceptable) for a total of 52. Not a bad way to spend a morning walking around a beautiful setting in the company of friends.

Historias

Do you like listening to interesting stories put to music in the form of good songs? Do you like Latin music? Do you understand Spanish? That’s a lot of questions, but if you answered yes, yes and yes then Historias is an album for you.

Hailing from Guatemala but mostly plying his trade in Mexico, Ricardo Arjona is a “raconteur extraordinaire” on this 1994 release. He has put together a wonderful set of melodic tales which are fun to listen to and keep your interest. My favourite is Historia de Taxi, which picks you up, puts you in the taxi, and tells you about a fare in Mexico City from the cab driver’s vantage point, complete with its O. Henry-like ending. For a look at his complete discography click here.

Here is the video to Historia de Taxi. As the commenter says, great song, but I wouldn't recommend taking a taxi right off the street in Mexico City.


Richard Cory

I have always thought Edwin Arlington Robinson was a master at his craft. It isn’t just me that thought this of course. The man won three Pulitzer prizes for his works, but none has ever resonated with me more than Richard Cory. This poem shook me to the core the first time I read it.

In this poem a man’s life is distilled into sixteen lines with clinical precision. Robinson paints a vibrant yet poignant image throughout his four, precisely worded quatrains, hitting us with a sledgehammer in the fourth and final one. With the current environment being what it is, I wonder how many Richard Corys are walking around out there just waiting for a "calm summer night."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

School's Out

Happy birthday Vincent Damon Furnier aka Alice Cooper.

Skylarking

I know many might disagree with me, but I feel that this is by far XTC’s best album. Known for their unusual melodies and clever lyrics, for me what has always been missing from their prodigious output was that final coat of varnish which would put the ultimate shine on their work. They got it on this 1986 release, thanks to Todd Rundgren’s masterful production, which with magical alchemy, blends each track beautifully and effortlessly into the next .

There are so many excellent songs on this CD that it makes it hard to pick a favourite, but if pressed I would have to pick The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul because of the lyrics. Nevertheless, Dear God and Another Satellite are right up there with it. If you are not familiar with XTC, do not expect rudimentary, pop-tune constructions with predictable choruses, but rather complex songs which make you sit up and pay attention to every chord and word. This album needs to be listened to in its entirety, so pop it in only if you have some time.

Here is Dear God.

Perhaps an exorcism is in order

Consider this. In a misguided and extremely irritating show of solidarity, our appliances have decided that since I am not working, neither will they. At least not properly that is. Behold:

Sprinkler System. Now operating in mind-of-its-own, stealth attack mode. Instead of going off during the wee hours of the night when they are programmed to, the sprinkler heads wait until an innocent passerby steps within their range then leap into action, drenching the unsuspecting victim.

Tankless Hot Water Heater: Supplies hot water for the entire house. Whenever we draw hot water, it now makes a noise similar to the roar of the Space Shuttle taking off on its initial launch.

Guest Bathroom Sink: Engaged in an unrelenting drip, which while good for applying the Chinese Water Torture to guests who have overstayed their welcome, is extremely wasteful at a time when we can least afford it.

Storage Refrigerator/Freezer: Died yesterday. Or rather, the fan is still working but it is not cooling. In a desperate and unsuccessful attempt to rescue our life savings worth of meat products I think I found several specimens from the Cretaceous period.

Garbage Disposal: Not disposing. In fact quite the opposite actually. When turned on it does a low budget impression of Old Faithful, spouting debris into the air in a geyser-like fashion.

Sign of the times

A friend told me this one the other day. He was called into the Business Unit Manager's office and the conversation went like this...

Business Unit Manager, "X, we need to downsize some more. Your department is overstaffed. Go back and reduce the headcount by one."

X, "But I'm the only headcount left in my department."

Business Unit Manager, "Precisely."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Oh no, not another one

This time it's employment taxes. We should dub this affliction "NTPSS" or Nominee Tax Paying Scrutiny Syndrome. This time it is Nancy Killefer, whom Obama had tagged to become the first Chief Performance Officer. The Washington Post reports...

"But today the 55-year-old Killefer announced she was withdrawing her candidacy today, amid questions about her failure to pay employment taxes for household help for about 18 months, The Associated Press reported. In 2005, the District of Columbia filed a $946.69 tax lien on Killefer's $1.7 million home in the affluent Wesley Heights neighborhood of Northwest Washington "for failure to pay the unemployment compensation tax."

Here is a copy of her letter to President Obama.

Wow, now that's some expensive salad dressing

A pop band manager with an eerie ability to unearth exotic wines, a foppish auctioneer with an uncanny knack for fetching astronomical prices for the goods under his gavel and a gullible, pseudo-oenophile with a fat wallet. Ah, I smell the musty aroma of chicanery wafting into my nostrils just like the bouquet of this ten dollar Claret I am sipping as I write this.

Wine lovers beware. Think you paid a lot for that venerable bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape you bought at the wine store. Well, get ready for some jaw-dropping prices, a bit of wine history and a genuine passion for the grape when you pick up Benjamin Wallace’s, The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine.

With an excellent look at the world of wine snobbery and a clever turn of the phrase, Wallace takes you through the saga of how a member of the Forbes family paid 156,000 dollars for a bottle of Chateau-Lafite Bordeaux supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson. Or was it? Read it and find out.

Tech support

I just had my new computer delivered yesterday. As is usually the case, there were one or two minor issues which made me call the tech support center. This guy was great.

Attagirl

Served up by a Dutch indie-rock band named after a tennis player (band name is Bettie Serveert), this 2005 offering has been maligned by some as not up to the quality of Palomine or Log 22, but I think it’s just fine thank you. From the mournful lament of You’ve Changed to the slick dance-pop of Versace, these tunes are catchy and Carol Van Dyk wraps her unique sounding voice around them with a jaded vengeance which is pure artistry.

Lover I Don’t Have to Love is a cover of a Bright Eyes song and the American release on Minty Fresh Records includes two bonus cuts, acoustic versions of Dreamaniacs and the title track Attagirl. Classified under the Alternative genre, this is definitely a record to rediscover or check out for the first time.

Here is You've Changed.

Kobe torches Knicks

Were all the planets, including the recently demoted Pluto, aligned last night? Something happened because Kobe Bryant set a new Madison Square Garden record with 61 points, leading his Lakers to a 126-117 victory over the Knicks. I'm not a huge Kobe fan, but one of my loyal readers is a big Lakers fan so I thought that I would mention it. Considering that the Knicks have been the NBA poster child for dysfunction in recent years and the East's regular punching bag, I'm not surprised it happened, but I must say their record of 21 - 26 is not as bad as I thought it would be at this point in the season.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Can you help save a suit?

I'm sorry / I didn't know

What the heck is going on with these nominees? I’m sorry. I didn’t know. They sound like my 4 year old. The guy nominated to be in charge of this country’s Health and Human Services basically said he was "deeply embarrassed and disappointed" about his failure to pay more than $120,000 in taxes.

The guy now in charge of the country’s finances would like us to believe he can’t even manage his own, but had his accountants warned him, he would have done the right thing. Pretty strange way to prove your credentials for a job if you ask me.

If any of us hadn’t paid our taxes the IRS would have come down on our heads quicker and harder than one of those two ton Acme anvils in a Road Runner cartoon.

MOTW: Scam Manager

An odious and virulent strain, Scam Manager uses company resources, infrastructure and assets to personally enrich himself/herself. Scam Manager, when caught, should wind up in jail but generally does not. Companies are usually embarrassed that Scam Manager was able to perpetrate such activities under their very nose and do not want to air their dirty laundry. As such, Scam Manager is quietly sent packing and usually surfaces somewhere as a consultant after a discreet absence.

It's Monday

So that means it’s that time again. Time for another Manager of the Week. Blog management considers this week’s offering apropos because of Madoff and all the others of his ilk running around out there, causing noise, stress and financial heartache in the system.

Putters Anonymous

I've got something to confess. I've been going to some meetings lately. They open something like this. A group of us sit around and the facilitator, usually a card carrying pro, asks, "Does anyone want to share?" After the obligatory uncomfortable moment of silence passes some poor soul will eventually get up, go to the front of the room and say…

"Hi, my name's X and I'm a lousy putter."

The rest of the crowd responds in unison with "Hi X!"

Yes, you guessed it. I've been attending the bimonthly Putters Anonymous meetings downtown. I'm not going to divulge the locations or times of the meetings because the participants who attend want to remain, well, anonymous.

One nameless person's litany of woe went like this last week.

"There's nothing worse in random draw doubles than not being able to hit a putt in an 18 hole round. Well, last week that was yours truly. My partner had been carrying me for so long that his shoulders needed a brace just to hold me up. I walked up to the next putt. An ominous basket loomed formidably in my way, not as my objective, but as my nemesis. It was a twenty-footer. I might as well tell you, the way I was feeling it wouldn't have made any difference if it were five feet or two hundred feet. I looked at the basket, lined it up and let fly. That's when the nightmare continued. The putter left my hand and did some really crazy things on its own, landing farther away from the pin than our original lie. The closest it came to metal was sitting in my car on the way to the park. The other team said something like NICE UP and that was that. My partner stepped up and drained it. I'm desperate. I need help, please!"

That was when someone in the group asked him what step he was at in the 12-step process. It turned out he was still in step 1, sleeping with his putter. He had been there for three weeks now and wasn't even close to moving to step 2, praising his putter. Step 3, lining up the two-foot putt, seemed like an inaccessible quantum leap for him at the time. He was in complete despair.

I felt for him. We've all been there, the infamous putting slump. It's a terrible place to be. What I've learned at these meetings is that putting is mostly mental. I even found out that ball golf (you know, that other golf game) has an official name for this affliction. Some of the top touring pros on the PGA circuit suffer from it at some point in their careers. It's called the Yips and it's been studied and talked about for years. There was even an article in the Wall Street Journal about it. No one really knows what causes it. Putts that have been falling consistently suddenly develop a mind of their own and don't fall.

The meetings have also taught me that you have to stay out of your own way. When it happens don't reinforce those negative feelings. When you step up for the next putt, if something doesn't feel right or you have those negative thoughts going through your head, walk away, take a deep breath, relax, step up again, clear your head and remember, YOU LOVE TO PUTT. By the way, achieving this mindset (the YOU LOVE TO PUTT mindset, even if you 4 putted the hole before) is step 12.

Having said that you also have to practice. Above all, the way to know you can do it is to have done it numerous times before. How else can you get that secure sensation besides practice? So go out and have fun practicing and if all else fails come see me. I'll discreetly pass you the time and location of our next meeting, but you can't tell anyone else whom you see there. It’s anonymous.