Sunday, May 31, 2009

A secret, emergency wine

If the dinner is that important, be it with family, friends, or business associates, a good strategy is to have checked the restaurant's wine list previously so you don't have a problem. Nevertheless, here is a suggestion if you are ever stuck at a restaurant with, as they put it in the article, an "anemic wine list." I must confess, I have never sampled Alsatian Pinot Blanc.

More travel tips

Fifteen of them in fact, this time mostly on evading or dealing with bandits. There are actually some good ones here.

Time marches on

Happy birthday to Big Ben. Today it celebrates 150 years of keeping time for Londoners.

Advice for healthier grilling

Now that the grilling season is officially here everyone has advice on how best to grill. Here are 4 simple steps to make grilled meats safer for you to cook and eat.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I have throroughly enjoyed this

It would have been sweet to see Denver in the finals, but the better team won. I am convinced of that. Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for arriving once again to the finals of the N.B.A. championship representing the Western Conference.

Now, on to the real news. While sponsors are kicking themselves and Commissioner David Stern is doing penance before the NBA's "Illuminati," I will be rooting for Orlando. With Stan Van Gundy, ex-Heat coach and Yoda of the NBA and Dwight Howard aka Superman (40 points tonight), they may just have a chance. The Magic beat the Cavaliers tonight in game six to advance to the NBA finals.

The Orlando Magic may not have the mojo to do it, especially if the Lakers pack kryptonite (Bynum and Gasol) which I am sure they will to slow down Howard, but Orlando has proved it is a great team, advancing to the NBA Finals for the second time (L.A. for the 30th) in their history. They beat the team with the best record in the league (Cleveland Cavaliers) to get there. Good for them. They will have a tough time trying to go against Kobe and the Zen of Phil Jackson's Lakers, but I am with them. Eastern Conference all the way. Go Magic, you have Yoda and the Force with you!

Oh, by the way, Orlando has a 2-0 record versus the Lakers this season.


Stakka Bo performing Mute.

The joy of re-reading

No one really ever talks about this, but I love reading books over again. Some books I actually have a plan where I will re-read them on a schedule, every four years for example.

The money quote in this editorial article, "The love of repetition seems to be ingrained in children. And it is certainly ingrained in the way children learn to read — witness the joyous and maddening love of hearing that same bedtime book read aloud all over again, word for word, inflection for inflection."

Oh, how true! It's been almost a month now that I am reading the same book to my eldest before he goes to sleep at night.

Weekend Haiku

The winds of fall
are blowing, yet how green
the chestnut burr.

Basho (1644-1694)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Meet me at Citigroup Center. I don't think so, try 601 Lexington Avenue

The money quote in this memo is, "These changes were made by the building's landlord, Boston Properties, to greatly enhance the building and reflect its prestigious tenancy."

I guess the landlord thinks that by having "Citi" in the name of the building it tarnishes it, so enhancing its prestige is as easy as taking the "Citi" out of the name. You know what they say. "You can take the Citi out of the building, but you can't take the building out of the Citi. Or something like that. Memo follows.

To: All New York City Employees

From: Citi Realty Services

Please be advised that effective Monday, June 1, the name and address of the Citigroup Center building will become 601 Lexington Avenue.

Employees will note the newly constructed main entrance on Lexington Avenue, which will be open and operational on Monday. All building employees can continue to utilize all building entrances and turnstiles as usual. All visitors, however, will be required to use the new entrance, where the Security Desk will be relocated.

These changes were made by the building's landlord, Boston Properties, to greatly enhance the building and reflect its prestigious tenancy.

Please note that for mailing purposes, the address 153 E 53rd Street will remain valid as a secondary address. There is no change required for letterhead, business cards, etc.

Thank you.

It's a thankless job

But someone has to do it. A look at Irving Picard, the New York lawyer and trustee who has been appointed to oversee the paying back of Madoff's victims, and the headaches that this tangled responsibility entails. Here is the Madoff Trustee Site.

Elvis is back

Costello that is. He has a new album which apparently has a country feel to it. There are a couple of track samples embedded in the article so you can get a feel for his new sound.

I recently heard him interviewed on NPR as part of his promo tour for the album. The interviewer asked him what he would say to the parents of a child who said he/she wanted to go into music as a career. Elvis replied that one should look at the underlying motivation. His point, if the child is saying it because he/she loves music then that is a good starting point, but if they are saying it because they are pursuing fame then that is another thing entirely.

Do you know what "laodicean" means?

Doesn't really matter although it helps. The real question is can you spell it? Kavya Shivashankar can and did, and with that word she won the Scripps National Spelling Bee taking home 40,000 dollars in cash and prizes and of course, the winner's trophy. Incidentally, it means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics.

Going for Broke

Another one man does it alone album, this 1984 release by Eddy Grant is essentially all him. All the songs are written, arranged and produced by this British reggae artist who has since relocated to Barbados. He is responsible for all the vocals and plays all instruments on the album except the horns on the track Political Bassa-Bassa which are played by the Blue Wave Horn Section. The horn arrangements on this song, however, are by him also. This is a wild album. Categorized under the reggae genre, this album is much more than that with some good rocking tunes, including the track Romancing the Stone. It was composed for the soundtrack of the movie of the same name starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, but only its guitar solo was briefly in the film during an action sequence.

I like Eddy Grant’s voice. It has a distinctive quality to it and his singing and songwriting are catchy, delivering a deep, reggae-like quality sound. Songs I especially like on this particular album are Boys in the Street, Ire Harry and Blue Wave which is a beautiful, mellow ballad that conjures up imagery of a laid back, picturesque Caribbean setting.

Here is the video of Romancing the Stone, complete with trailers from the movie woven into Eddy Grant's singing and guitar solo. The guitar solo (just the audio) is the only part that made it into the movie.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spain: The new sports powerhouse

Hard to argue this point considering that Barcelona completely dominated Manchester United in the Champions League final yesterday. Also, remember that Spain won the Euro 2008 tournament. But it's not just football; think Tennis, Formula One, Cycling and Basketball as well.

Citi, SEC in talks to settle asset probe

The WSJ reports that, "Citigroup Inc. is in the early stages of negotiating with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle an investigation into whether it misled investors by not properly disclosing the amount of troubled mortgage assets it held as the market began to implode in 2007, people familiar with the matter say."

The industry is changing

It's not quite clear what the final business model will look like, but the fact is that the music industry is changing at a frenetic pace. In fact, there will probably be many models depending on the status and state of the entity producing the music. The traditional labels are struggling to figure out where they will wind up and if they don't soon I know where they will, the scrap heap.

If you remember this post, Trent Reznor dedicates quite a bit of time to this issue in the interview and what he has to say is lucid, interesting and in my view dead on.

Travel safety tips

I used to travel quite a bit for business and everyone has at least one travel horror story involving some sort of risky situation or knows someone who does. Here's a list of travel safety tips. Most of them seem fairly obvious, but they may be useful for anyone planning a trip.

Stolen Car

Stolen Car from Carina Round.

If you liked this song, check out this post.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Olé Barcelona

Congratulations to Barcelona in their 2-0 win over Manchester United in the Champions League final. They schooled Man. U. in what football really is about for 90 minutes today and deserved their triumph completely. Eto'o, Messi and Xavi were the stars that shone brightly on this occasion. Cristiano Ronaldo, as good as he is, will have to wait for another day.

From banker to yoga instructor

A former Morgan Stanley employee leaves Wall Street and becomes a Yoga instructor.

There is more than one way to skin a cat

The WSJ reports that Citi will soon be paying its investment bankers more to compensate for limits on bonuses. The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess. Business will always find a way around governement limitations. Government will then slap business again and the cycle will continue.

Russians buy a piece of Facebook

I wonder if the terms and conditions of use will change once again. It's a small stake at a high price. The conspiracy theorists will probably be saying that it is the first step in their plot to spy on our social networking data, but the fact remains that almost 80% of Facebook users are from outside the U.S. Anyway, who cares if the Russians know that my "friend" Joe just ate a turkey sandwich.

Leisure time

What do the Treasury Secretary and the Fed Chairman aka "Mommy and Daddy" on this blog do to relax and wind down after a long stressful day dealing with the economic meltdown? Answer after the jump.

The most American of pastimes. They take in a ball game of course. And while baseball is a great spectator sport to bring your children to, this time the kids (AIG, Citi, etal) were not invited. They probably have luxury boxes anyway, or in the case of Citi, an entire ball park.

The Bard's better half

What is the name of William Shakespeare's wife? Answer after the jump.

Anne Hathaway. In 1582, Shakespeare married this farmer's daughter. She was twenty-six; he was eighteen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recalling the Apgar score's namesake

If I recall correctly both of our boys scored a 9 right after birth, but I had no idea the test was named for its creator, Dr. Virginia Apgar.

Poetic Justice

Wow, skullduggery in the literary world. Oxford University suffers a major scandal and their Poetry Chair resigns after barely ten days at her post.

Put them in your queue

If you are a man that is. This is a great list. Esquire presents 75 movies that every man should see. Each title has a small blurb accompanying it which encapsulates what was great about the film. The list is more fun than watching all the films I suspect, but I've seen a lot of them and they hit the nail on the head with their short description.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This next manager may remind one of other people one regularly interacts with, be they friends, family or members of some other social circle. The difference is that in those cases you don't work for them, at least not in an official capacity.

MOTW: Non-listening Manager

Asks you for ideas and opinions. Pretends to care. Waits passively with steepled fingers until you are done but has not heard a word you said, then proceeds to tell you what he/she thinks about the issue and what it is you will do about it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gli Altri Siamo Noi

Umberto Tozzi performing Gli Altri Siamo Noi. It's a beautiful song. We are all the same, are we not? Full lyrics in English after the jump.

I've lived inside my head
or in an ivory tower
and looking out that life I looked from deep within
a cloud
I walked along the street
and never saw a face
I stayed away from truth because the truth was very
hard to take

All the loneliness, all the torture
I would tell myself "there but for fortune"

But I have loved and lost
I have cried alone
I am every man and I know
We are all the same

The walls are falling down
we feel the wind of change
we try to stay divided
the world gets in the way
and those who have too much
maybe they don't have enough
if they are so apart from life
that they're too scared to open up

All the emptiness, all the hate and lies
they will tell themselves "there but fate go I"
they may never know
they are part of us
they may tell each other they are not the same
but as the rivers rise
they will realise
we are all the same
we are the same

When we sing and cry, when we live and die
I am you, they are us, we are all the same
in south Africa, Amazonia,
when we hope, when we dream
we are all the same

Look across the earth and see a stranger
look again and he will call your name
cause sooner or later in this little world
we are all the same

I cannot understand: when we are all the same
why do we see the differences, why do we separate?
We don't know who we are
and so we are afraid
Believing we are masters but suspecting we are slaves
(But) sure as the rivers rise we will realise
we are all the same
we are the same

When we sing and cry, when we live and die
I am you, they are us, we are all the same
in south Africa, Amazonia
when we hope, when we dream
we are all the same

we are the same
we are the same

Rapa Nui

It belongs to Chile now. One of my Chilean friend's wife is from there. The island is fascinating because of the mysterious "moai," the peculiar large stone busts that remain to this day and this WSJ article gives you a quick introduction to it. The money quote in the article, "Your mother's flesh sticks in my teeth," became a common insult during a cannibalistic period in the island's history.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No Top Dog today

Between bouts of wind and rain, and with the pins in the long positions, I shot a 55 or 1 over round today. After the first five holes I was five over par and it did not look good at all. Luckily I then went on a four birdy tear, with a bounce out on the next hole. I ended up shooting 2 double bogeys, 4 bogeys, 7 birdys and 5 pars for a very interesting and uneven round to card my 55. It wasn't enough however and one of my buddies shot a 53 to take the weekly award. It was weighing down my bag anyway. Until next week then. Even in somewhat inclement weather, Disc Golf rocks!

Weekend Haiku

The falling leaves
fall and pile up; the rain
beats on the rain.

Gyodai (1732-1793)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another alleged Ponzi scheme

This one a little too close to home.

Searching for the best barbecue

I love barbecue. Here is one man's quest for the best BBQ. It sounds hard to believe, but the best barbecue I ever ate was in a small joint which essentially was an addition to a gas station in Kansas City. I went there for a quick bite between rounds at the 2003 Amateur Disc Golf World Championships because I didn't know my way around and needed lunch. I went back a couple of times during the tournament, but I don't remember the name of the place.

Accidental Millionaires

Accidentally on purpose that is. How would you like to wake up and realize that the bank had made an error in your favor and credited your account with approximately 6 million dollars U.S. when you had applied for only 60 thousand U.S. in overdraft protection? What would you do? No accident here, the man withdrew at least 3.8 million of it, maybe more, and fled with his girlfriend. Interpol has been called in to assist and the hunt is currently focusing on Hong Kong.

Update: It is now being reported that this flight is becoming more of a family affair.

Can anyone fix A.I.G.?

A salary of one dollar a year just isn't that attractive. Liddy is leaving.

Pura Vida

A recording of Pura Vida (Spanish for pure life) by Chris Spheeris and Paul Voudouris with a cool slideshow of images from Spain. Created and uploaded to YouTube by someone with the handle Cubilete279. Great job. Happy Friday.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The oenophile's latest alphabet

Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. Why are there 27 entries when the English alphabet only has 26 letters you ask? Read on and find out. Here is Singing the ABC's of Wine, an updated glossary.

My favorite letter this time around is the entry under the letter T. I was introduced to this wine in Montevideo many years ago by a friend who promised me I would not be disappointed when he ordered it at dinner. He was right. Since that evening I have loved Tannat. In fact I have a bottle sitting in my cooler waiting to be ingested. It's a wonderful red from a small country which produces outstanding wine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sad news

Lefty's wife has cancer. According to this article we will not see him on the tour for a while. Here's hoping for a swift recovery for her.

The Book of Sand

This collection of thirteen short stories written by Jorge Luis Borges provides the reader with a set of delicious narrative morsels within a very slim binding. It was originally published in Spanish with the title El libro de arena in 1975. The English version was published in 1977 and its ISBN is 0-525-47540-0. While all the stories are well worth reading I will talk briefly about the one for which the collection is named, The Book of Sand.

It is at the very least a story which leaves one scratching one’s head in wonder; at the most an experience which leaves one pondering whether one should purchase a ticket to Buenos Aires and go to the Argentine National Library to search for the story’s protagonist. The protagonist is a tome boasting an unique feature, the feature of infinite possibilities with the concomitant but unstated promise of universal knowledge. All within six short pages. Jorge Luis Borges is a master and in this story he crafts a brief tale whose imagery is like its theme, stark, haunting and incalculable.

A nondescript stranger appears at an aging misanthrope’s door selling bibles and what follows embroils the readers within its myriad possibilities. A story like no other, an experience with its denied “more geometrico” introduction, it leads the reader on an abbreviated journey into the quandary of the terrible infinite. After reading this story you will never look at door-to-door salesmen (which every day become less prominent anyway) the same way.

Of this story Borges remarked laconically, “A volume of incalculable pages.”

Of his writing in general he said, “I do not write for a select minority, which means nothing to me, nor for that adulated platonic entity known as “The Masses.” Both abstractions, so dear to the demagogue, I disbelieve in. I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time.”

Jack fuller of the Baltimore Evening Sun stated, “The Book of Sand stands among the best of Borges’ books, and marks a return to the elusive and haunting prose of his earlier masterpieces such as Labyrinths and The Aleph."

One final note. Should you read this story in another collection or publication be aware that the translation may not be as deft as the one that appears in this volume by Norman Thomas Di Giovanni. Giovanni was Borges' personal assistant in Buenos Aires for a period of time and is generally acknowledged as the best translator of JLB's work.

Let us pay you back

Several banks are waiting for Mommy to let them know how the timing of payments will work to pay back the TARP funds. Come on Mommy, it's not often that kids want to pay back their allowance. Let them do it as quickly as possible!

Space Oddity

Happy Rhodes covers David Bowie's Space Oddity. Her voice starts out with a low eerie quality befitting the song and then begins to soar at the 51 second mark. The backup singer is Kelly Bird (great voice also) and the guitarist is Kevin Bartlet. In my opinion this is the finest cover ever done of this classic song.

If you liked this cover, check out this post for some of Happy's original work.

And for you purists, here is the original sung by David Bowie.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A stronger manager needed perhaps...

Some are saying that the Treasury needs one. As the previous post shows, Mommy may not be this type of manager, since occasionally she makes statements which are not exactly in lockstep with the party line, but she may be more of this type of manager.

Mommy strays from the fold

In an interesting turn of events it turns out Mommy has an independent streak. Straying a bit from the party line she has stated that "the government shouldn't cap executive compensation."

In a peripherally related note, here is what Uncle Vik had to say about compensation. He wants to go back in time to when asylums used "shock therapy" with regularity.

"I hear the president talking what America's feeling. They're feeling exactly what Mark said, a lot of things went wrong, a lot of people are involved, but the bankers and the banking systems was at the heart of this and there has to be some retribution and by the way there is a strong sense of belief that we didn't have the guardrails to control capitalism, therefore we didn't have the right governments and compensation was a big part of having the right governments in place. And if you want to shift to the right kind of compensation governance, the right kind of incentives, such as what Jack designed at GE. Sometimes you need shock therapy."

employees take note, if your manager or H.R. tries to attach electrodes to any part of your body, don't let them. Nothing good can come from it.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Azucar Moreno performing Bandido at the Eurovision Song Contest of 1990 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Spain came in fifth place that year with their representation.

As a side note, if you remember this post, these guys are their brothers.


There is Potus and Flotus, but now meet the Receptionist of the United States.

Is Uncle Vik out of the woods?

Perhaps, perhaps not. This article reports that Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair predicts some bank chief executives will be replaced in the next several months as lenders subjected to financial stress tests review their management ranks.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. The problem with working under this next manager is that many times one ends up doing things that are a waste of time and effort and which will cost the company money with little or no return.

MOTW: Lackey Manager

This manager survives by doing anything and everything Senior Management says without question. Lackey Manager’s silhouette has a distinct stooped contour to it from all the weight of nonsensical orders that he/she has complied with over the years. At home Lackey Manager’s spouse, children and even pets order him/her around with relative ease. When alone, Lackey Manager stills looks around at non-existent beings for permission before doing anything at all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do you know?

What is the largest lake in the world? Answer after the jump.

The Caspian Sea, with a surface area of 143,244 square miles is the largest lake in the world. This salty lake borders Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran.

More signs of a struggling economy

Horror stories of Do It Yourself efforts gone awry. Sometimes you can go broke saving.

Quote for today

I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.

Blaise Pascal, "Lettres provinciales", letter 16, 1657
French mathematician, physicist (1623 - 1662)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The lost art of reading aloud

I agree with this NYT opinion piece. I used to real aloud quite a bit and then I lost the habit. Now I do it every night and sometimes during the day as I read to our children. There is something almost magical about trying to gauge the intention of the writer and transmitting it to your listener, just as it is wonderful to see our boys faces light up as they get into the story when you've gotten it right.

Irony defined

A British team of Eco-sailors end up being rescued at sea by their nemesis, an oil tanker, the very scourge they sailed to protest about.

Top Dog

With the pins in the long positions I shot a 55 or 1 over par to win the Top Dog award today. It was a somewhat windy day and I had a very uneven round. I shot 1 double bogey, 4 bogeys, 5 birdies and 8 pars. It was a beautiful day, but the rainy season is coming so you have to get your rounds in during the morning before the rains come.

Aht Uh Mi Hed

A recording of Aht Uh Mi Hed by Shuggie Otis. Enjoy!

Weekend Haiku

Morning haze:
as in a painting of a dream,
men go their ways.

Buson (1715-1783)

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Heart is a Soldier

The Juliana Theory performing My Heart is a Soldier.

A little restitution coming soon

A little bit of good news for a few people. Some checks totaling about 30 million are being mailed to Madoff investors. Of the checks mailed so far, almost all were for $500,000, the maximum protection provided under the Securities Investors Protection Corporation (SIPC) law.

A short interview with Peter J. Bentley, Ph D.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A new dress code?

In my 25 year career I never once looked like that anyway. The money quote, "I have guys coming in here saying, 'I don't want to look like a banker anymore,' " said Eric Goldstein, an owner of Jean Shop, a premium denim store in the meatpacking district.

Switched at birth

I thought this only happened in the plot lines of soap operas, but apparently not.

Monkey Island

We are taking a trip back to the late seventies, 1977 to be precise, for this next album. This was the only album that the J. Geils Band released under another name. If you look at the album cover you will notice it reads only "Geils.” This album is simply different from the rest of their output and in my opinion by far their best, even though when they moved to a more pop-based sound in the eighties they had a string of commercially successful hits and became much more popular.

This album is funky, jazzy, groovy, sweet, sad, rocking and just plain well written, performed and produced from start to finish. You know you are in for a treat when it opens up with Surrender, a funky number featuring sassy lead vocals by Cissy Houston, accompanied by unmistakable lead singer Peter Wolf and a series of backing vocals by Luther Vandross, G. Diane Sumler, Michelle Cobbs and Theresa V. Reed. Next up is You’re the Only One, a slower love ballad which lulls you in with its great message, but immediately you are back into the upbeat J. Geils sound with the next track, I Do with its great piano, horns and vocals.

I think what I like most about this release is that each track on this album is a pleasant surprise with great change ups from tune to tune. I’m Falling is a smooth, poignant blues tune with a great tenor sax solo by Michael Brecker. Wreckage is an incredibly moving song whose superbly crafted lyrics leave you in an introspective state. I could go on about every track on the album, but suffice it to say that they all possess some differentiating nuance to recommend them.

Finally, the title track is the magnum opus of the album with an elongated jazz-rock piano intro and an eerie storyline about Monkey Island where “no one could explain it, what went on that night, where every living thing just dropped out of sight” sung hauntingly by Peter Wolf. The chorus tells you that it is an island where “There ain’t no life on Monkey Island and no one cares and no one knows.” It could easily be the soundtrack for a spooky movie of the same name. Highly recommended.

Here is the elongated jazz-rock piano intro to the title tune Monkey Island. This is only the first 3 minutes of the song. The spooky part with the lyrics begins right after this recording stops.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stevland Hardaway Judkins

Happy birthday Stevie Wonder. He turns 59 today and one could say his prodigious output is cause for wonder, but then again he signed with Motown Records when he was 11 years old and has been producing good music ever since.

Laura Pendergest-Holt indicted

She has been hit with two counts. This short article states that the Chief Investment Officer for the Stanford Financial Group was indicted Tuesday on one count of conspiring to obstruct a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and a second count of obstructing the investigation. This is the same SEC that was so effective in the time leading up to the Madoff scam implosion. The charges seem to have an air of redundancy about them. What about all the investor's cash that vaporized?

Where is the money?

According to this NYT article about 12 billion was withdrawn from Madoff's firm before his arrest, half of it or 6 billion only 3 months before. Unfortunately, the nebulous trail leads to some so called "feeder funds" so who knows if it will ever make its way back to its rightful owners.

What I find fascinating about this whole affair, notwithstanding the pain of financial loss which his victims have suffered, is the ineptitude of the SEC which investigated and cleared him.

Also, the fact that if the economy had not turned as sour as it did as quickly as it did, his fraud might never have been exposed even though the signs were clearly there for years and different participants in the financial markets had been raising the alarm consistently and publicly for a long time. Ironically, because the scheme was so massive and far reaching, when it finally was exposed it accelerated the economic downturn even more.

Do you know?

Do you know the capital of Suriname without looking it up? If you do, good for you. If not, the answer is after the jump.

The capital city of Suriname is Paramaribo.

Electric Radio Brixton

A prison radio station in the U.K. which garners prestigious awards and can only be heard by inmates.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It looks effortless

But it really isn't. Ken "The Champ" Climo making an amazingly accurate drive at the Disc Golf European Open in 2007. This is hole 4 and the drive is about 315 feet. That's farther than a football field and he puts it right by the pin. He makes the sport look easy, but I assure you it is not for us mere mortals.

Citi, the prudent lender


Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 9:29 AM

Subject: Second Quarterly Progress Report on Use of TARP Capital

Dear Colleagues,

Today we are issuing our second quarterly progress report on how we are putting to use the $45 billion of capital the U.S. Treasury has invested in Citi as part of the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

The report covers the first quarter of 2009 and I encourage you to read this important document, which is also available to the public.

Citi's Special TARP Committee has now authorized initiatives to deploy $44.75 billion in TARP capital across key areas of the U.S. economy to help expand the flow of credit to consumers, businesses and communities.

Among the new initiatives authorized in the first quarter is a $5 billion direct municipal lending program for state and local governments, municipal agencies, universities and non-profit hospitals to finance infrastructure and capital projects that will help create jobs and spur economic growth.

In addition, the report describes how Citi continues to lend to consumers and businesses in the United States, despite the challenging economic environment. In the first quarter, Citi made total new credit commitments of $120 billion, including $45.9 billion in loans to U.S. consumers. Since October 2008, Citi has extended more than $200 billion in new credit to U.S. consumers and businesses. The report also details the substantial efforts we are making to support U.S. borrowers in these difficult times.

Citi has worked successfully with approximately 520,000 homeowners to avoid potential foreclosure on combined mortgages totaling more than $50 billion since the start of the housing crisis in 2007. We also are currently helping 1.3 million credit card members manage their card debt through a variety of forbearance programs.

We will continue to explore every opportunity to put TARP capital to work in a disciplined, transparent and responsible fashion, consistent with Citi's prudent lending standards. And, as this report shows, Citi is committed to helping to ensure that our financial system returns to good health and that all Americans will have an opportunity to share in the recovery of our economy.

Thank you for your continued dedication to our clients and customers.


Be careful of what you believe

Be careful of what you read on this blog, or any blog for that matter. In fact, be careful of what you read in any media outlet as this article points out.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Is the "stress" over for Uncle Vik?

Not by a long shot if you go by the Fed's numbers. According to those in the know and this WSJ article, the original number in terms of additional capital required to pass the stress test for Citi was around 35 billion. Executives persuaded Mommy into including the future capital-boosting impacts of pending transactions. Let's hope said transactions are not the financial equivalent of vaporware.

The Mets are winning

Could this signal a turnaround at Uncle Vik's concern? Is the karma starting to change? No one knows, but the Mets are starting to win regularly at Citi field.

Catching up with the Twitter guys

In 140 characters or less no doubt. One of the co-founders is accused of writing boring tweets.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Anyone who has ever worked for this next manager knows how frustrating inaction can be. When something finally is decided and does get done, it can be cause for a celebratory ticker tape parade.

MOTW: Analytical Manager

As the name says, this manager analyzes and debates every last detail to death. Discusses everything from every angle, but never takes any action. Generally analyzes himself/herself into an early grave but not before getting fifty different opinions and analyses about the type of casket.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

To all the moms who read this blog, and especially to the mother of our two children, Happy Mother's Day!


If you are into the eighties then this was a landmark album from an iconic eighties band that surprisingly has maintained some impetus throughout the subsequent decades. This is a rare album in that one could arguably say that all tracks are equally good, although only some were hit material. The British group Duran Duran was the complete personification of an eighties band, with good looking, fashionably dressed band members and a lead singer (Simon Le Bon) whom female fans swooned over. Their look worked; they were one of the most commercially successful eighties band and their music wasn’t half bad either.

This album was released in 1982 and immediately garnered world wide acclaim, helped along with some over the top, memorable videos for Hungry Like the Wolf, Rio and Save A Prayer. The album went gold in the US on 1 March 1983, and platinum on 26 April 1983, eventually reaching double platinum status. It peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 album chart in the US on March 12, 1983, and remained on the chart for 129 weeks. Their sound is synth-pop, new wave type of stuff and I have seen it classified under Alternative Rock as well. It is fun to listen to and these guys are a good representation of what eighties music embodied. My favorite song on this release is Save a Prayer. If you haven’t done so in a while, take a trip back with a listen to this CD.

Here is Duran Duran performing Save a Prayer in concert.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Weekend Haiku

For me who go,
for you who stay-
two autums.

Buson (1715-1783)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Exclusive report: New cost cutting moves at Citi

Many readers may remember this post, where Citi announced a new transportation modality for senior executives following the fiasco of the corporate jet that never was. Following today's town hall announcing the results of the stress test and the news that Citi needs to raise an additional 5.5 billion, Uncle Vik announced plans to downsize corporate transportation even more. From now on, any executive wishing to travel, including Uncle Vik himself (who plans to set the example), must do so in one of these. Photo after the jump.

Less than last month

We lost 539,000 jobs in April, so perhaps the pace is starting to level off slightly.

Stress Test Results

After much speculation and fanfare, and running on the treadmill for days, the country's 19 major banks are told they must raise an additional 75 billion in capital. Citi's share is a mere 5.5 billion, less than the 10 billion originally estimated and leaked, but on top of the $52.5 billion that it had planned to acquire by letting Mommy become its biggest single shareholder as part of a broader deal. The dubious winner in the treadmill Olympics is Bank of America which needs to raise an additional 34.9 billion.

Quote for today

There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!

In August 1777 General John Stark inspired his farmer soldiers to fight for home, hearth, and family prior to the victorious Battle of Bennington with these ringing words.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Which stands for Supervisory Capital Assessment Program or in plain English, the Make Sure You Can Weather The Storm Despite Your Boneheaded Loans Program. Here is the joint press release from Mommy and Daddy along with some additional family members for moral support purposes.

You can't miss this!

An Op-Ed in the NYT about the stress test by Mommy herself.

The hidden costs...

Of a struggling economy. These decisions can get very emotional.

Look at this quote for an example.

"I couldn’t get it out. It just killed my soul."

CHARLIE THOMAS III, vice president of a Mississippi lumberyard, on a speech to his employees about why he was laying off nearly a quarter of them.

Stress test results due today

Let's see what happens to the market when the results are released. My guess is it should probably be a non-factor. As the article points out, the results are no secret since they have been trickling out for days. These leaks should make it so that when the results are oficially announced at 5 p.m. today the market has already factored the results in. At this point, it's like they always say. It's all about the fundamentals folks.

Put your lights on

Santana and Everlast performing Put your lights on. What can I say? A living legend (and one of my favorite musicians of all time) and a guy basically back from the dead who is a talent in his own right. Great song.

Jet Lag Travel

Before you go, check out this site for some travel tips. Here is an excerpt on health and safety when traveling to the exotic tropical paradise of Phaic Tan.

"Several strains of malaria unique to Phaic Tan have emerged in recent years and many of these are resistant to modern drug treatments. The most common is a particularly virulent form known as malaria type-A. Symptoms – fever, cramps, headache etc. – can be pretty severe but the good news is that they rarely last longer than a week, as death usually occurs on day five or six."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

AIG Bonuses more than originally reported

The New York Post is reporting that the original AIG bonus payout figure of 120 million U.S. is bogus. The article says that the number is higher than that. According to the NYP it's actually 454 million.

Season of Migration to the North

Caught between worlds. That is how the author, Tayeb Salih, portrays the enigmatic and brilliant Mustafa Saeed, a Sudanese man become libertine who goes to Cairo and eventually to London to be educated in the post colonial era. The imagery is brilliant and the novel is full of terrific insights into the paradoxical world of the colonized to their colonizers; Arabs and Europeans; and men and women. Many comparisons of this novel have been made with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and it could be said that there is a little of Kurtz in Saeed, perhaps in their reverse travels. Either way, tragedy abounds in Salih’s novel, some of which you see coming and some which you don’t.

This short 139 page novel in its English translation (the novel was published in Arabic in 1966 and translated into English in 1969 by Denys Johnson-Davies) can be read in a couple of hours I suppose, but it took me several days to read. While superbly written its narrative format can throw some readers and was somewhat tedious for me. Also the writing, while exquisite, is somewhat like a thin fog. As I was reading it I was sure that I was missing some of the more subtle nuances just beyond my grasp which I am sure Salih intended with his lyrical prose.

Either way, this novel is a compelling read. It is a complex book which can be read for myriad reasons beginning with the love of a good mystery to interest in politics, sociology, geography or history.

Here is what the New York Times had to say about it.

"Season of Migration to the North is a brilliant miniature of the plight of Arabs and Africans who find themselves no longer sustained by their past and not yet incorporated into a viable future. Swift and astonishing in its prose, this novel is more instructive than any number of academic books."

And here is The Observer (London).

"An Arabian Nights in reverse, enclosing a pithy moral about international misconceptions and delusions. Powerfully and poetically written and splendidly translated by Denys Johnson-Davies."

U.S. May Set a Debt Test for Banks

Mommy is planning to require banks seeking to free themselves from the government’s grip to show that they can survive without the taxpayer aid that has helped them through the financial crisis.

The article also mentions 3 banks which Mommy feels are healthy enough to repay TARP funds and survive without taxpayer aid. Citi is NOT among them.

For Star Trek fans

I get all my news here. This Onion News Network entertainment story about the new Star Trek movie is hilarious. Also, pay attention to the last line from the anchor about what the next news item coming up is.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Building the Colossus

Not your every day artist, American singer and songwriter Happy Rhodes released this album in 1994 and it really has to be listened to in order to get her sound. Rhodes weaves a soft tapestry of tunes together that showcase her incredible four octave vocal range. Don’t expect to find any of these tunes remotely near a top forty pop list or on any hit parade even though this is probably her most radio friendly effort. Most of the songs are folksy, funky constructions with an underlying morose layer which either jar your senses or lull them, depending on the mood you are in.

When trying to classify this album I found myself thinking that it really is its own musical genre, owing essentially nothing to any style. It defines its own style and is somewhat, dare I say it, “happier” than many of her previous works. The majority of the songs are slow tempo offerings, but all of them are constructed in such a way as to let you marvel at her soft yet incredibly potent and dichotomous voice. Songs I especially like on this release are Omar, You never told me, Dying and Down, Down. Yes, even with those last two titles, believe it or not, this is a more joyful album than any of Happy’s previous works.

Here is Happy Rhodes performing Down, Down.

The tune starts at 2:08. Before that Happy is bantering with the audience.

More stress for Uncle Vik

The short sellers are appearing en masse as the information circulates that Citi has not passed the stress test. Results to be announced Thursday.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. If you have ever had one of these next managers in your office you will know that the staff all have different versions of who he/she is and what his/her role is, especially during times when layoffs are prevalent. Also, the amount of speculation and gossip about his/her back story is typically quite substantial.

MOTW: Mysterious Manager

A shadowy figure, Mysterious Manager comes in at odd hours and leaves at even odder ones. He/she sits in the corner office and spends a lot of time speaking on the phone in hushed tones. Is never observed going to lunch and when seen in the hall is jocular, but never really connects with anyone.

A.R. Capital Group

In another scam worthy of mention a Brooklyn livery car driver passed himself off as a hedge fund mastermind to swindle investors out of $20 million dollars. What is a livery driver you ask? In essence it means someone who drives a taxi, but what it doesn't mean in this case is someone who runs a hedge fund.

Results of Uncle Vik's stress test due on Thursday

Imagine going to the doctor for a stress test and the bill is 10 billion dollars. There's no medical insurance plan that will pay for that, but it's what the regulators are suggesting Citi needs to raise in additional capital. Uncle Vik, on the other hand, is telling the doctors that he is in fine health. As of now, he's like any other person who has a test and is waiting for the doctor's office to call with the outcome. We will know more on Thursday when Mommy and Daddy release the official results of the "stress test."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Season is Over

Atlanta defended their home court today as the Heat flamed out to end their season, losing by a score of 91 - 78. Atlanta essentially dominated the game from about the halfway mark of the first quarter, blowing the game wide open in the fourth and never looking back. This man had 31 points in a losing effort.

Congratulations to the Heat for a great season and an incredible improvement of 28 wins over last year. Congratulations to the Hawks for their eventual victory of this fine seven game series. The Atlanta Hawks now have the unenviable task of facing King James and his Court in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

21st Century Breakdown

I haven't reviewed Dookie or American Idiot on this blog yet. I will get to those at some point, but for now here is an NYT article on the band Green Day and their upcoming album (due for release May 15th) 21st Century Breakdown.

Facebook makes a wise choice

They may not make money yet, but at least they are pragmatic.

Puerto Rico

The Belgian band Vaya Con Dios performing Puerto Rico. I love this song. I love Dani Klein's voice and I love the island. I was born there.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

British Poet Laureate Is a Woman

At long last after 341 years, a member of the fairer sex, the cause for many a poem being penned, is appointed as Britain's Poet Laureate.

Weekend Haiku

Up the barley rows,
stitching, stitching them together,
a butterfly goes.

Sora (1648-1710)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Series tied 3 - 3

It was do or die tonight and the Heat did. They defended their home court, routing the Hawks 98-72 and it wasn't even that close. This man had 41 points and was pulled from the game with 5:35 left. He had a great game, but the real story was Joel Anthony starting in place of the injured Jermaine O'Neal. While his stat line was not that impressive (6 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks) he set the tone for the Heat's offensive and defensive domination all night long. He set violent but legal picks when the Heat were in their half court sets and consistently double teamed on the defensive end. His hustle, fierce attitude and strong play was the energizer that the Heat needed and they fed off his effort to completely annihilate the Hawks. Now comes game seven and the entire season will be decided this Sunday. Next stop Atlanta.


Citi will sell Nikko Cordial Securities Inc. brokerage and the underwriting divisions of Nikko Citigroup Ltd. This is a result of the "urging" by regulators to raise even more capital.

Deliberate Practice

The two books mentioned in this NYT Op-Ed, combined with Gladwell's book (Outliers: The Story of Success), posit interesting theories based on research about why some people are extremely successful in their chosen field, and it's not I.Q., which according to all three authors is generally a bad predictor of eventual success.

I have talked about Gladwell's basic premise in my review of his book here and both the books mentioned in this editorial dovetail with this view nicely. I have seen this in Disc Golf. The best player in the world obviously has some innate talent, but he practices in a very special way, similar to what Geoff Colvin describes in his book Talent is Overrated. This is interesting stuff and all three books are definitely worth the read.

Do you realize?

The Flaming Lips performing Do You Realize? on The David Letterman Show. This is now officially Oklahoma's state rock and roll song.

Former Citi Asia bigwig to form financial services firm

Ex CEO of Citi's APAC Institutional Clients Group, Robert Morse (along with two partners) has raised capital (1 billion from a single investor) and plans to raise more to open the firm. It will be called Primus.