Saturday, February 28, 2009
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.
Friday, February 27, 2009
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.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Make them fly coach class to Asia and back for the hearings.
Monday, February 23, 2009
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.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
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.
“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
“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.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
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.
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.
Friday, February 13, 2009
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.”
Thursday, February 12, 2009
"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.
Here is Stay, campy video and all.
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.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Also, check out Stakka Bo performing Mute here.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
“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.”
Monday, February 9, 2009
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.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
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."
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
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.
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
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.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Here is Dear God.
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.
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
"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.
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.
Here is You've Changed.
Monday, February 2, 2009
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.
"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.