Tuesday, June 30, 2009

iPod versus Walkman

From the BBC News UK Magazine, "When the Sony Walkman was launched, 30 years ago this week, it started a revolution in portable music. But how does it compare with its digital successors? The Magazine invited 13-year-old Scott Campbell to swap his iPod for a Walkman for a week."

The result, a pretty funny article with the kid making some interesting discoveries, including one where the Walkman had one feature that, get this, beat out the iPod.

The funniest quote for me, "I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette."

Personally, I remember my Walkman with a lot of fondness. There were days when we were inseparable, but to date, nothing beats Mr. Jobs' little doohickey. It's a wonderful piece of technology for music lovers and is leading a seismic change in the music industry.

The problem is Chavez

I don't usually post on things of this nature, but having worked and traveled in Latin America for over 25 years and having been to Honduras many times in the past I feel I have to. I have friends there and it is a shame what is currently happening in their country. I called several of them in Tegucigalpa this morning to find out how they were faring throughout this whole ordeal.

"The problem is Chavez," one of my friends kept repeating on the phone. "If he would go, all of this nonsense would stop in Nicaragua, Bolivia and now here. He is meddling in our affairs and has caused this whole mess by providing Zelaya delusions of grandeur." When I asked him what he meant by that, he told me that Zelaya wants to be like Chavez, essentially a president for life and the Honduran constitution specifically forbids re-election.

This CNN article is an interesting one because if you really read it closely you will see that without coming out and saying it they are intimating that Venezuela has been influencing events in Honduras throughout this unfortunate incident.

Consider the following two passages.

"Though deposed, Zelaya continued to carry out his presidential duties and was scheduled to speak before the U.N. General Assembly at 11 a.m. Tuesday. He attended a special meeting of the leftist group ALBA -- the Spanish acronym for the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America -- on Monday in Nicaragua. ALBA, founded by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004 to counter U.S. influence in Latin America, said member nations would withdraw ambassadors and other top diplomats from Honduras until Zelaya was restored to power."


"The TV station, formed by several Latin American governments and partly funded by the pro-Zelaya Venezuelan government, also aired images of demonstrators setting fires on streets and black smoke rising."

The station is Telesur and my friend says that this is what is being aired constantly. It is not until you get to the very bottom of the article that you get the following passages.

"Zelaya had been at odds with the other branches of government over a referendum he wanted to hold Sunday. The nation's Supreme Court had ruled that the referendum was illegal and Congress had voted not to hold it.

The Supreme Court also had overturned Zelaya's dismissal of Honduras' top general, who said the military would not participate in the referendum. The court ordered that the general be reinstated immediately.

Zelaya disregarded those actions and vowed to hold the vote Sunday anyway."

Chavez, who has no official standing in Honduras, other than Top Meddler in other countries' sovereign affairs, has called the top general, (who refused to follow Zelaya's presidential order which violated the constitution this general had sworn to protect and defend), a traitor and worm and vowed to invade Honduras. He has made these statements publicly and I wonder why CNN does not report that.

Finally there is this in the article.

"According to mainstream Honduran media sources, Zelaya's removal has the widespread support of the political and business elite and the military, and it appears doubtful that he will be able to return to power," said Heather Berkman, an analyst with the Eurasia Group consulting firm."

It is not just the elite. The middle class, like my friend, understands that Zelaya is a populist in the mold of Chavez who will lead them down the path of socialism and eventual bankruptcy. No one in a democracy wants a president for life. The two are mutually incompatible.

The problem is Chavez. He is a cancer on the continent. It started in Venezuela and is now metastasizing.

What event with historical significance occurred...

On this day in 1997? Answer after the jump.

On June 30, 1997, in Hong Kong, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time over Government House as Britain prepared to hand the colony back to China after ruling it for 156 years.

Monday, June 29, 2009

He's back

Steve Jobs, aka Mr. Apple is back at work after his liver transplant and I'm sure that if anyone had the gumption to sit at his desk while he was away they vacated that spot in a hurry. Time will tell how he's feeling and whether this will be a long term return to his position.

The one thing we do know about Jobs is that he is very secretive about future plans (be they his or his company's), but his being there for any length of time, as long as he seems to be doing well health-wise, is good for Apple's stock. Maybe they will fix my wife's iPod now. It has never worked right since the day I gave it to her. Wait a second, maybe it's my wife who is faulty and not the iPod, because as we know, everything that Jobs ever dreamed up has worked like a charm.

Jacob Marley's Chain

From her 1993 release, Whatever, Aimee Mann performs the song Jacob Marley's Chain. In the first fifty seconds of the video Aimee explains her inspiration for writing the song and then goes on to play a solo, acoustic version.

Madoff gets 150 years

The maximum sentence was handed down by the judge to the Ponzi scheme mastermind and it is no surprise to anyone.

Jug Wines

Fourth of July is coming up and while there should definitely be plenty of cold beer in the communal tub at the party, don't forget you may have several wine drinkers there as well. So throw in a great tasting jug wine or two at a very inexpensive price for those guests who prefer the grape over hops. They will thank you for it. Related article here.

Do you know who this man is?

Citi drones do. This was the man who rescued Citi in 1991 when Citi was still a company worth rescuing. His was a private bailout rather than the federal bailout Citi recently received. His name is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and he was Citi's largest shareholder until Mommy and Daddy came along. His reward, his shares were recently valued at 623 million this February, a 90 percent decline from what they were worth at their peak. Do the math. My guess is though he may publicly say all the right things, he is not so pleased with Uncle Vik these days.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. The skills this next manager deploys are better utilized at the poker table. He/she pulls them out time after time until eventually the staff recognizes the manager's individual tell. From there on out they have his/her number and it is just a matter of time until all respect is lost.

MOTW: Bluff Manager

This character is usually a well-attired large physical specimen with a hearty handshake. Looks his/her staff directly in the eyes and makes definitive pronouncements liberally sprinkled with corporate buzzwords in a booming voice. Secretly has no idea what he/she is saying or what to do after making these comments.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

U.S. runner up in Confederations Cup - Brazil victorious

Remember this soccer miracle in the semi-final a few days ago? It almost happened again, but this time in the final. The United States led Brazil 2-0 at the end of the first half in the final today, but Brazil exhibited its world class form and rallied in the second half to score three unanswered goals and win the tournament. Thus the final score was 3-2 in Brazil's favor.

They had to work hard for it, but the "jogo bonito" or beautiful game as it is called was abundant in the second half, proving the Brazilians to be the juggernaut they are reputed to be. Congratulations to Brazil for their victory and their third Confederations Cup title. Congratulations also to the U.S. squad for a great showing. Finally, great job by South Africa hosting the tournament.

Government seizes all of Madoff's property

According to CNN, federal prosecutors obtained a $170 billion legal judgment against Madoff. The deal also forces his wife to give up assets. The judgment leaves Madoff destitute, which is apropos since his machinations have done the same to many of his victims.

What historic event happened...

On this day in 1914? Answer after the jump.

On June 28th, 1914, a Serbian activist assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife, in Sarajevo. Within two months, tensions had escalated into the First World War.

Michael Jackson and his strange legacy

Here is an interesting article which encapsulates this amazing yet bizarre performer's recent life and untimely, poignant death.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why We Suck

I just finished reading Dennis Leary’s book, Why We Suck. Full disclosure, I like Dennis Leary. I have always liked his stand up, his CD’s, his movies and his T.V. shows so it’s not surprising that I should like his book. It’s basically one long rant and hard for anyone to read through and not be offended at some point. But in a culture which deifies never-were celebrities like Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith and which blames society for every ill while holding the offender who caused the ill to begin with blameless, Leary’s book is the proverbial breath of fresh air, albeit nicotine-laden.

I found myself bursting out laughing at some of his passages while nodding my head in agreement on almost every page. Leary obviously uses hyperbole to get his point across at some stages, but that just makes the book that much funnier and on target. If you want to know what’s wrong with our effete, dumbed down, drug-addled national psyche these days then Dr. Dennis Leary’s book is for you. But if you can’t laugh at yourself and others then don’t read this book because as Dennis Leary points there are endless things you can buy in America - but a sense of humor isn't one of them.

After All

After All by Delerium, featuring Jael (from Lunik).

Weekend Haiku

Deep autumn-
my neighbor,
how does he live, I wonder?

Basho (1644 - 1694)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Grading on the curve

There are so many cases of misled youth doing bad things, but what about misled parents? This woman, a school secretary, is accused of going into the school's computer system and changing her daughter's grades as well as lowering those of other students to augment her daughter's standing in the class. Heinous. It's also against the law and criminal charges have been filed.

10 things every traveler should do

From CNN, there are some interesting suggestions on this list. I always try to do suggestions 6, 7 and 8. I have never done 9. The best story I have about about 7 was when I asked the guy sitting next to me where the particular bus we were riding ended its run.

His response in Spanish, "Este bus va hasta la mitad del mundo," literally means, "This bus goes to the middle of the world."

I was a bit taken aback, until quite a long time later the bus did indeed end its route, at the middle of the world. I found myself standing in front of the monument which marks the middle of the planet outside of Quito, Ecuador.

I would also suggest putting scheduling a city tour at the beginning of the list. I have found that this helps me get my bearings in an unfamiliar setting while also getting a quick history of the place.

Oh no, not again!

How much more can Uncle Vik take before he has an MI (that's shorthand for myocardial infarction)? People who are familiar with Citi may remember when the Land of the Rising Sun's regulators ordered the shutdown and dismantling of its Private Banking operations for some less than honorable practices, among them money laundering improprieties.

There was that very famous episode where then CEO Chuck Prince traveled to Tokyo, went before the Diet and bowed numerous times while engaging in an abject apology.

Well, it may be happening again. A shutdown that is.

This is bizarre

But it is taking advantage of a growth industry. I guess wherever there is a business opportunity, entrepreneurs will step in.

Stanford may soon be freed on bail

The judge is toying with the idea of letting Texas billionaire "Sir" R. Allen Stanford free on bond. He will have to participate in a GPS location monitoring program. Sure, that will work. He will probably try to buy the satellites and turn them off so he can flee to an undisclosed location. If he does go missing I would check St. John's first. Just a hunch.

The Poison Garden of Alnwick

On 11 September 1978, at the age of 49, Georgi Ivanov Markov died. The cause was ricin poisoning. It came from a pellet which had been surreptitiously jabbed into his calf three days earlier via a special umbrella tip designed specifically for that murderous purpose. Markov developed a high fever, went into the hospital and never recovered. Ricin is a protein toxin that is extracted from the Castor bean. It springs, as many poisons do, from an innocuous looking plant.

Here is a look at a garden where the plants cultivated are all poisonous or hallucinogenic. With its skull and crossbones logo and warnings, the garden is an interesting concept. In essence it is a place where if you get it wrong, its denizens can kill you. So look all you want, but don't touch!

Related article here.

Don't forget about Free Chocolate Friday

Every Friday from now through September you can get a coupon here to get a free chocolate product from Mars. Dubbed the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act, it provides a coupon for your favorite Mars product. This includes Snickers, Twix, Milky Way or M&M's, among others. Every Friday it is valid for the first 250,000 coupons ordered.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The King of Pop, R.I.P.

Michael Jackson is dead at age 50. There is no question that he led a bizarre life. While he made some poor choices in his life to put it mildly, there is no denying the impact he had on the music world. He was a consummate singer and brilliant performer.

His landmark album Thriller, released in 1982, produced seven hit singles and was a seminal work which thrilled and rocked the music world upon its release. Jackson was incredibly talented, reclusive, and let's face it, a little bit creepy.

To this day I remember his appearance in 1983 on the Motown Records 25th-anniversary special where he came out with the hat, the glove and proceeded to bring down the house with his dance moves, especially the moonwalk. It looked like he was gliding on air.

He will be missed, but his legacy will always be mired in controversy because of his genius along with his personal choices and the odd behavior associated with those choices.

I promise, the only reference you will ever hear made...

To Jon and Kate on this blog is the following clip. Personally, I would rather eat shards of broken glass than hear or read another word about those two, but they are ubiqitous nowadays, showing up everywhere and passed on to us as real news. Here Jimmy Kimmel gives us his idea for a new show once Jon is out of the picture. It's a funny idea, but I wouldn't watch it.


Twitter plus Literature equals Twitterature. Coming soon to a bookstore near you perhaps and coming this fall from Penguin Classics. The world's greatest books in twenty tweets or less. These are the next generation Cliff Notes. I weep for humankind.

Now that's a long drive

Check out this winning distance throw of over 500 feet at the United States Disc Golf Championship. Follow the trail of the disc and count how long it is in the air. That's a guy by the name of Garrett Gurthie (Double G to his friends) launching that disc. He's from Florida and I played against him in tournaments many years ago when he was a lot younger. How these guys get a disc to fly that far is beyond me. My max drive is about 300 feet.

Warren slams Citi

As I said before, point number one of three, there is no good way to spin this move and reaction will be adverse. It has started as we knew it would. Are you listening Uncle Vik? And no, she's not talking about you know what. She's actually saying that Citi doesn't get it, not even one tiny little bit, hence the gesture. You just don't raise salaries when you can't pay back the TARP money. Even if it did make sense, which it doesn't, the appearance isn't right.

Before and After

We have all seen them, the before and after commercials. Usually there is marked improvement after someone starts using whatever product the commercial is offering. Well, that's not the case in this next set of photographs.

BEFORE: Run a hedge fund.

AFTER: Become the CEO of a bloated behemoth on the edge of insolvency and try to turn it around because no one else will take the job.

After the jump you have before and after pictures. Can you guess which is which and what do you think did this to the man, the government stress test or the self-imposed sleep deprivation?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A soccer miracle in the Confederations Cup

The entire run up to this game had already been a Hollywood script (the U.S. by all rights being out of it and then beating Egypt 3-0 while needing a 3-0 win from Brazil over Italy and it actually happening to propel them into the semis) and the fact that they were facing Spain (the number one ranked team in the world aka a formidable foe) in their next game supposedly made the game's result a foregone conclusion.

Then something incredible happened. The U.S. won 2-0 over the world's number one ranked team, Spain, but let's keep it all in perspective shall we. I want to be even-keeled about this event. While I think this is a huge win for the U.S. since Spain fielded a full-strength team, I want to be cautious about the result. The stage will be huge when the U.S. visits South Africa again for the World Cup.

So for now, savor the win, revel in it because it is huge, rejoice and let the toasts fly high. But when the next game rolls around, leave the braggadocio behind, as nothing is as fickle as world class soccer is on the world's stage. Those stadiums suddenly feel awfully large and cold when you are facing a world class team bent on revenge.

Here is the New York Times take on the win. They dubbed it The Miracle on Grass.

The new Transformers movie

I remember I was stuck on a plane (Captive Audience Syndrome) and decided to watch the first Transformers movie, unmemorable as it was. I couldn't. I had to turn it off and listen to music instead. I just thought it was a terrible movie.

Well, according to this reviewer that movie was quite good when compared to the sequel. I don't think he liked Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen very much. I'm glad someone else has to watch these things so I don't have to. I won't be putting this one in my queue (I predict it will be on DVD very soon), let alone rushing out to the theater anytime soon to see it.

This is weird: S.C. governor says he was in Argentina

First he was incommunicado, then he was hiking the Appalachian trail, now he was in Argentina. When pressed for what he was doing there it is reported that the answer given was driving along the coast. I'm all for vacations as much as the next guy, but when you are the governor of a state, your staff should probably know where you are in case you have to, you know, govern. As you can see from the map, that's a lot of coastline to drive.

: CNN is now reporting that "S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford -- after days when his whereabouts were unknown -- says he has been unfaithful to his wife."

Okay. So it wasn't the Malbec.

Patient, diagnose thyself

With the health care crisis upon us, wellness and illness prevention is a necessity. After all, who these days can afford insurance? It's also good practice to try catch illnesses as early as possible as this usually means a quicker recovery and less bills. This article tell us that without becoming a hypochondriac it is in all of our interests to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us.

The Voice of the Employee

That is what VOE stands for and it is a once a year survey designed to project the appearance that management actually cares what employees think. Given all of Citi's recent problems (documented on this blog so much that I don't know where to begin, so I'll begin here) you can see what employees think of the survey. With the incredible stress they are under, management's VOE committee and action team is working diligently to fix the enormous problems which are holding Citi back, smelly fridges and broken fax machines.

The biggest beneficiary of Madoff's fraud

To date that would be the secretive businessman Jeffry Picower, whom it is estimated made approximately 5 billion from Madoff's scheme.

Stanford detention hearing set for this Thursday

Hopefully he won't bail. You never know with these faux James Bond types. As I have said before, his accomodations are slightly less luxurious these days. He could face life in prison.

Citi's post bailout salary bump

Citi plans to raise salaries to, you guessed it, offset smaller bonuses. Employees may be getting up to a 50% raise. Uncle Vik must be smiling or stressing this morning. I'm not sure which anymore.

The money quote in the article, "The shift means that most Citigroup employees will make as much money as they did in 2008, although some might earn more and others less. The company also plans to award millions of new stock options to employees in an effort to retain workers and neutralize a precipitous drop in the value of their stock holdings. "

Three things.

1) No matter how you spin it this is going to look bad. A bank that can't afford to pay back the TARP money yet while many of its competitors are should not be raising salaries.

2) Who wants Citi stock right now? My guess is people inside the company are shaking their heads saying please don't give us any more stock options at this time.

3) Finally, this little piece of the quote (although some might earn more and others less) has to be worrying those that fall into the latter category.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

He's been called one before

It's nothing new, but now Madoff's closest investor's widow claims Bernie Madoff is a murderer.

Quote from the article, "Those are the words of Claudine de la Villehuchet, the widow of the French aristocrat who committed suicide in December after losing $1.4 billion of his clients’ money with Bernard L. Madoff."

In a related note, more dominoes are falling as another prominent investor and a small brokerage firm have been accused of knowingly steering unwitting investors to Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

Uncle Vik

I post so much about him on this blog that I thought it might be interesting to show you what he looks like. Here he is, oh he of the jolly elfin visage. Does he look sleep deprived to you? Here's his bio from a previous post. A less flattering look here.

The liver transplant that was

More speculation about that liver transplant in Tennessee, none of it good.

Update: Methodist University Hospital in Memphis now says doctors there performed Mr. Jobs' liver transplant and is disclosing this information with his permission.

Forever Autumn

I have always thought that Justin Hayward is one of the classiest musicians around. His music is so enjoyable for me, be it solo performances or with the Moody Blues. Here he is singing Forever Autumn.

Monday, June 22, 2009

CrackBerry: Society's boon or bane?

The wireless handheld device. My wife has one and I have had one in the past so I thought I would write about this innocuous looking technology tool which can be incredibly useful while also being the scourge of our existence. Consider this article today in the New York Times.

The money quote in the article, “You’ll have half the participants BlackBerrying each other as a sub-meeting, with a running commentary on the primary meeting,” Mr. Reines said. “BlackBerrys have become like cartoon thought bubbles.”

This is a senior advisor to Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton making this comment so the problem even pervades at high level meetings in the White House.

Recently Research in Motion or RIM, the company which makes the BlackBerry, reported a better-than-expected 33 percent jump in first-quarter profit. They also reported that a substantial amount of new customers were non-corporate customers. People are snapping up this tool as the need for immediacy in connecting with others grows at an alarming rate. With this growth comes the concomitant decline in civility and appropriate behavior. No longer does an important business or cabinet meeting hold the attention of participants, but rather a tiny screen does, one which makes the owner feel important and sought after, no matter how mundane the information sent or received may be.

We have opposable thumbs. This sets us apart from all other animals, and now we have come full circle and realized their true purpose, to text others. The only horror story I have not heard so far (which does not mean it has not happened) is that of a truly ill patient entrusting their innermost thoughts to their psycho-therapist while laying on the couch, only to find out that the therapist has not heard a word due to sending and receiving emails on his/her handheld device.

I mention BlackBerry because it is the dominant player in the market, but in reality any form of texting/emailing/gaming/etal while at a meeting, at the dinner table or any other instance where your attention should be elsewhere is the beginning of the decline of Western civilization. And it is happening as you are reading this.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Mentoring has become a hot fad in corporations these days. Many companies have formal and informal mentoring programs. This next manager should not be confused with those efforts.

MOTW: Mentor Manager

Believes that he/she has been put on this earth to pick one unlucky subject in the office and groom them to become a carbon copy of him/her. Sometimes this thought process leads to behavior with a subordinate that spawns a lot of office gossip about the nature of the relationship.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chilled reds?

Blasphemy you say. In Florida, where summer temperatures average in the mid-nineties Farenheit, perhaps not!

NYT reports that Steve Jobs had liver transplant

We have now found out the reason why Mr. Apple had been on the down low all this time. Apparently he underwent a liver transplant two months ago.


Wow, a New York Times reporter abducted by the Taliban escapes after seven month in captivity.

Happy Father's Day

To all the dads out there.

11 Most asked questions about wine

Why they picked eleven and not ten or twelve is beyond me, but there they are, along with the answers of course.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stanford surrenders himself

To the F.B.I. The second largest alleged Ponzi schemer of the year after Bernie Madoff is now sleeping in less luxurious accomodations these days.

A car for all seasons

Outselling Buick, Cadillac and Pontiac combined, this is a great vehicle. As a matter of fact my son's grandparents bought one of the 457,000 sold in 2008. It was the police car variety and my boys love it.

Weekend Haiku

Mosquito at my ear-
does it think
I'm deaf?

Issa (1763 - 1827)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Putting, the world's great mystery

What makes a great putter? Why is it one day putts fall with the greatest of ease and the next day they don't? Will the U.S. Open come down to the Terror of the 10-foot Putt? This WSJ article got me thinking. Unless you have been in a tournament setting where it all comes down to that final putt, it is hard to explain in words what the pressure feels like. Those guys (you know Tiger, Cabrera, etal) play for millions of dollars so I can't imagine what that feels like, nor do I play regular golf, where I understand putting is very difficult.

However, I do play Disc Golf and putting can be extremely difficult or easy in our sport as well. For me putting is very mental and I have written a tongue in cheek essay about it. You can read that post here.

While that post is mainly about having a bad putting slump, I have had days where I am hitting every putt in sight and my advice about being a good putter is revealed at the bottom of that essay.

And before you ask, yes, I have been in a tournament where it has come down to the last putt. I won't reveal the outcome. Suffice it to say that one should approach every putt as if it is that last one the tournament outcome depends on, because in actuality it does. After all, it is the accumulation of all those putts that makes up your final score, not just the last one.

A public service for chocoholics - Free Chocolate

Every Friday from now through September you can get a coupon here to get a free chocolate product from Mars. Dubbed the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act, it provides a coupon for your favorite Mars product. This includes Snickers, Twix, Milky Way or M&M's, among others. My favorite is M&M's, of the peanut variety.

Pretty cool huh and pretty generous of Mars to do this. They say it's to help out during the tough economic times and I'm sure it's a good marketing ploy for them. Every Friday it is valid for the first 250,000 coupons ordered. So, offerings from this blog today...The Cure and Free Chocolate. Happy Friday all!


The Cure perform High in concert. Happy Friday.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More stress for Uncle Vik

According to this Dealbreaker.com post that is. If this is indeed true than you really have to wonder what the bank is coming to and where it is heading. Again, sleep deprivation makes people do crazy things. Ouch!

Chicago Fire

Oh that great Chicago Blues sound, it’s a wonderful thing. So is this album. With his gravelly voice ala Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters, knock ‘em dead guitar licks, excellent backing horns and bad band, Son Seals comes out jamming from track one and never stops on this 1980 release. Although he is originally from Arkansas his career didn’t take off until he moved to Chicago, hence the title of the album. These are the Blues the way they should be played and listened to: fun, snazzy and entertaining, along with those down on your luck lyrics. This album has a little bit of everything, from up-tempo quasi jump-blues to the standard melancholy, slow-tempo blues lament. My favorites on this album are Watching Every Move You Make and Gentleman from the Windy City, but if you like Blues there really isn't a bad track on this CD.

A sample couple of lines from Gentleman from the Windy City.

“Now don’t you worry about no way to get around,
‘Cause I got a ride or two
And if I can’t get my old hog to run
My Volkswagon will have to do.”

Incidentally, Frank “Son” Seals had a very rough life and was uniquely qualified to sing and play the Blues which may be part of the reason why he sounded so genuine. His music is great and this post doesn't do him or his sound justice.

My daddy's yacht is bigger than your daddy's

Now that is a yacht in the true meaning of the word. Actually I think these are termed super-yachts or something like that. The aptly named Eclipse comes in at 557 feet. That's almost two football fields in length. According to sources it boasts, "Two helicopter pads, several hot tubs, a pool, three launch boats, and a private submarine, plus a special missile-detection system." Nice, huh?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A social experiment

What happens when a violin virtuoso turns street performer during rush hour at a Washington D.C. metro station? The results may surprise you.

The SEC is prescient and tough, isn't it?

The article's money quote, "The SEC, which has been heavily criticized for failing to spot Madoff's fraud, said the former money manager is barred from association with any broker, dealer or investment advisers."

Gee, ya think? Thanks SEC for closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

Apparently affection has a price

In some situations that is. This seems exceedingly harsh if this is really what happened. I imagine it won't stay that way.

The first one

It's the first death in my home state and it happened about a week ago.

Big Papi's slump

It is baseball's equivalent of golf's yips and he's suffering from it. I've always liked him and feel for him, even more so because he is a stand-up guy and hasn't offered any excuses for his recent dismal performance which has been going on for quite a while now. In one interview he simply said, "All I can tell you right now is that Big Papi stinks."

The last ten days however, he has been showing signs of life and is inching back to the number three spot in the lineup. Last night he homered and singled against my team, the Marlins, so maybe he's back.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Dolls are back

The original punkers, New York Dolls are back and according to this article they are "Hot Hot Hot." Sorry, couldn't resist. Actually, they are touring again and have a new album which came out in May entitled Cause I Sez So produced by none other than Todd Rundgren, again. It's good to see these guys adding their output to the music world on a more consistent basis.

Sure, we'll pay it back...whenever.

Citi's strategic plan to pay back the TARP money. It consists of the words "sometime soon" or something to that effect.

The money quote, "I do worry we could be competitively disadvantaged if we aren't able to find a way to quickly repay TARP," said Parsons, who added that he opposes caps on compensation.

Nice! You don't know when you will pay back the money you owe taxpayers, but you still want your fat salaries and bonus checks.

Who will play Madoff in the movie when it comes out?

Were they alive these days the role might well go to Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff if you read what his victims think of him. In these letters sent to the judge who will sentence him, victims describe Madoff as a "monster, serial criminal and a murderer who has committed generational theft."

Too little, too late

No matter how you feel about her or her family, those jokes crossed the line and that's all I have to say about that.

Twitter revolutions

How to stage a protest, perhaps even a coup, in 140 characters or less. It's all the rage. And only fresh elections will suffice to calm the storm.

Change is coming

As I have said before, there is no question about it, the business model has to change. Smaller concerns have already changed and although sluggish to react, one giant is attempting something different. Time will tell if it benefits the music entity and/or its customers.


Singers on drugs, performers dying a few days before the big show, temperamental arguments with the band's director/manager, covers of artists including Bowie, Coldplay, Hendrix, Clash, Ramones, Dylan, Police, Talking Heads and more.

No, it's not another episode of VH1's Behind the Music. The performers are on drugs legally prescribed to them by their physicians, the deaths occur because the performers are old and infirm and succumb to the diseases slowly killing them and the arguments are because the director is demanding and the performers want to get the songs right.

This 2008 documentary follows a chorus comprised of senior citizens who sing to stay young at heart, and their repertoire is anything but staid. From the opening scream of the nonagenarian who sings lead on The Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go (who had died by the time I saw the film) to their visit to a nearby low-security prison where they perform, serenading the inmates with a cover of Dylan's Forever Young among other songs (an incredibly moving scene), this film is a small treasure to be enjoyed and unlike any other film I have seen in a long time.

It is a British film and premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best International Feature. So if you are in the mood for something different, something with highs and lows and some interesting music in its soundtrack to say the least, then put it in your queue.

Monday, June 15, 2009

You have got to be kidding me

I took the title of this post from one of the commenters about this CNN item filed under entertainment. I am seldom at a loss for words, but I am searching arduously for the words to opine on this. This is just plain self-aggrandizing, delusional and creepy.

Related article here.

Is the money you are holding phoney?

And can anyone tell? With the economy the way it is, and the fact that these are of the 100 dollar variety, it is unlikely that your money is phoney, but it is estimated that 1 in 10,000 of the bills in circulation is one of these.


A recap of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival which included artists such as Phish (yes they are back) and Nine Inch Nails.

Here is Phish performing at Bonnaroo.

It's over

The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic last night 99-86 in Orlando to win their 15th NBA championship. This was game five of the series and the Lakers took care of business in their usual efficient manner. Orlando won only one game in the series. Congratulations to the Lakers for their win and congratulations to the Magic for their fine season.

Yoda was not able to summon the force to help his team at home and it is highly unlikely that should they have won this last home game in the series they would have been able to prevail in Los Angeles anyway. Obi-Wan Kenobi, with his usual Zen-like, calm demeanor didn't interfere with his team's flow. In fact, for most of this series it seemed as if Kobe Bryant was doing the bulk of the coaching. Obi-Wan's value is he knows when to stay out of his players' way as well as his own. For deploying and sticking to this coaching strategy, which he makes look effortless by the way, he is rewarded with his tenth NBA title.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This next manager is generally harmless and tends to proliferate more in times such as the ones we are experiencing nowadays, i.e. lots of downsizing and change. Companies tend to reorganize quite a bit during these periods and Spouting-Off Managers tend to thrive in these situations until they themselves become victims of the restructuring.

MOTW: Spouting-Off Manager

While most managers can not deconstruct the latest company reorganization even with a map, compass, and GPS (Global Positioning System) as survival aids, let alone explain the event to someone else, Spouting-Off Manager is something of an expert in these matters. He/she can rattle off the first and last names plus the corresponding new responsibility of each and every person who has been shuffled about during the latest move (as well as the accompanying political ramifications of the change) and does so constantly and authoritatively.

Spouting-Off Manager was excellent at jigsaw puzzles in his/her infancy and spends the majority of his/her time assiduously applying these same skills, explaining the intricacies of business reorganizations to less enlightened staff members. How this adds value to the bottom line is not very clear.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Motorists beware

Don't get pulled over by the Bumper Sticker Police. You might not like it. How do you avoid being pulled over you ask? Resisting the temptation to put insipid bumper stickers on your car might do the trick.

Relief from television noise pollution coming soon?

Interesting. I always suspected television commercials were louder than the actual program I was watching. They always just seemed louder and while they are usually very loud, technically they are not louder than the show. Or are they?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mea Culpa

Whose fault is it really? Engima's Mea Culpa, the album version.

A few, simple tips

On reading wine labels. These simple tips are good for when you find yourself in the store with a little extra time on your hands and can browse through the different bottles available. A label can tell you more than you think it can if you know what to look for.

Weekend Haiku

Don't worry, spiders
I keep house

Issa (1763 - 1827)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Searching for an alternative to DEET

DEET. It is the gold standard in repelling mosquitoes, and in high concentrations there is no doubt that the stuff really works. However, it would be great if there was something more natural and less chemical-based to apply to my kids. With all the rain lately we have been the recipient of swarms of "skeeters" in our back yard, some coming close to the size of sanitation trucks and their bites are downright nasty.

Also, when I am Disc Golfing, since the courses are in wooded parks, I practically bathe in the stuff beforehand and I find when I get home that I have a headache and just don't feel right. A typical 18 hole round lately has found me applying the stuff 3 to 4 times during the round as well. The off-kilter feeling goes away fairly quickly after I shower and get the stuff off me, but I can't imagine that so much of it soaking through my pores for so long (2-6 hours) can be good for my long term health.

This article has some interesting products. Does anyone have any that have really worked for them?

UPDATE - 09/01/09. I can't wait for these guys to finish their research and bottle their findings.

A song only some can hear

I must confess, I had never heard of Sufjan Stevens, much less Alec Duffy. The whole thing seems a little strange, but I suppose it is an interesting way to get the music out there.

Related article here.

A reprieve in Uncle Vik's bad dream

How did they do it? Citi was able to sell 1 Billion in notes without a guarantee from Mommy or Daddy. No co-signer on this one so it is a minor victory for Uncle Vik. Just don't go out and wreck the car when you celebrate, okay Vik.

Lakers win game 4

The L.A. Lakers won in overtime last night 99-91 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series over the Orlando Magic. Yoda had better summon up a big batch of the force for the next home game or that's it.

Of Time Magazine and its covers

When my father was alive he used to read Time Magazine with regularity. It was one of multiple sources from which he got his news. He had an overseas subscription. The magazine was printed on flimsier paper which I guess made it cheaper to ship overseas. Since it was left laying around I would read it also, so I read it in my formative years. I only subscribed to it once since his death and haven't read it (outside of old editions laying around in various waiting rooms) in at least 10 - 15 years.

Here, from Reason online are The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years.

Even though the covers seem full of hyperbole (I assume for shock value to sell magazines) and while I may have seen some of these covers throughout the years, maybe even read the articles, I can honestly say I don't really remember any of them. With the immediacy of news and opinion pieces these days it seems that Time is becoming less relevant by the day.


Jezebel by Iron & Wine.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rescued hiker presumed dead

In an ironic twist of fate and a terrible tragedy a lost hiker who was rescued is now presumed dead after the rescue helicopter which was transporting her after plucking her out of the wilderness has crashed.

Update: The helicopter pilot and hiker have been found dead.

It has begun

Citi has begun the 58 billion swap of preffered stock into common stock. The "czars" will now be the biggest shareholder and your customer service will now be government grade. I wonder if Uncle Vik wonders if he will ever wake up.

Real Madrid ups the ante - again

Wow! Real Madrid has now received permission from Manchester United to talk to Cristiano Ronaldo and extend an offer after waving 130 million in front of United's faces. This on the heels of signing Kaká for a then record 92 million only a few days ago. It seems like Real Madrid is trying to construct another era of "galacticos." Again, that Barcelona win in the Champions League final must have REALLY hurt.

More stress for Uncle Vik - Part II

What can I say? I have posted about this in prior days until I'm tired of it. Here is the latest NYT article on the travails of Citigroup. It seems like patience is wearing thin on several fronts.

Front by Front

Heavy on drums, keyboards and programming, this album originally released in 1988 and re-released in 1992 can get tiresome for those not into the electronic/industrial sound. I am not one of those people. Hailing from Belgium, Front 242 generates a sound which is rhythmic, slightly ominous and quasi-hypnotizing. There are two songs that I especially like on this release, the immensely popular Headhunter and Never Stop. Headhunter especially is an interesting song because while the lyrics are sparse they paint a vivid and chilling picture. The lyrics are sung from the perspective of a bounty hunter, who is looking to capture a man to sell him to another man. His purpose is to catch humans and turn them in for profit. Apparently this bounty hunting thing is an easy to implement, four step process as evidenced by the following line in the song, “One you lock the target, two you bait the line, three you slowly spread the net, and four you catch the man.” It's a good song.

Here is Headhunter.

In vino veritas

A great suggestion for some cheap summer getaways.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Please sir, may I have a raise?

Now I am all for limiting executive pay for rescued companies after the debacle we've been through, but I'm not sure appointing "czars" all over the place is the answer, no matter how astute they are. If memory serves the last czars were overrun by an angry mob and eventually terminated with extreme prejudice.

Quote for today

Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.

Peter Drucker

Home cooking

The Orlando Magic defended their home court in the first of three games at home. They beat the Lakers 108-104, but Yoda and the Magic have reason to be concerned. The series now stands at 2-1 in favor of Los Angeles and one reason for Orlando to worry is the following.

The Magic shot lights out, ending the game with an incredible 62.5 percentage from the field and still L.A. was right there with them throughout the entire contest. In fact, the outcome was in doubt until about the final minute or so when Mickael Pietrus sank two free throws to essentially put the game out of reach. It will be hard for the Magic to consistently shoot such a high percentage going forward, so they will need to defend better or the series will be over fairly quickly. L.A. is just that good.

Misbehaving at The Theater

Another sign of the struggling economy? The article posits one theory that Broadway is vulnerable because it is under pressure for business. It has an excess of supply (many shows opening) and demand is less because of the recession. So in response it has reduced prices, allowing people in who generally do not go to the theater and thus do not know how to behave at a live show.

I guess it might be an explanation, but I just think that boorish behavior is on the rise in general and theater audiences are just a subset of the population and reflective of this. I don't have any hard data to back this up, but it just seems to me that good manners, politeness and civility have been in decline for some time now.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Citi's name conspicuously absent

The Treasury Department has cleared the way for 10 big banks it deems strong enough to start paying back TARP funds. The article says, "The Treasury did not identify the banks, allowing them to come forward individually." Guess which entity did not. I guess Mommy thinks that a misbehaving Uncle Vik (the hiring bonuses continue at Citi even as we await the government's guidelines on investment bank pay) still needs his allowance, but remember, the guy saying this is the same guy Chinese students laughed at a week ago.

Real Madrid signs Kaká

And pays around 92 million for him. I guess that last Barcelona win in the Champions League final really stuck in their craw, about 92 million times.

May the force be with you Orlando

Here is a look at the Yoda of the Orlando Magic. Even though they are down 2-0 to the Lakers in the series, and he looks like he gets fashion tips from Crockett and Tubbs, I wouldn't completely count the Magic out.

Stan was our coach at Miami for a while from 2003 to the 2005 - 2006 season. He was doing well until he mysteriously resigned for "family reasons" before being replaced by Pat Riley. That was the year of "Fifteen Strong" and the Heat went on to win the NBA championship so I can't complain too much about the change, but I always liked Van Gundy. I thought he was a good coach and he has proved me right by guiding Orlando to the finals. They made a good decision when they hired him and the players seem to really play hard for him.

Orlando will be at home for the next three games so we will see what they are made of. When Miami won the championship they also lost the first two games. Orlando had better start winning if they want to bring the trophy back to Florida.

Why blog?

Here is an NYT article about blogging, the motivations of why people blog and some current trends in the blogosphere.

In the article, "According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled."

Another quote from the article,"“There’s a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one.”

So if you are reading this post, then this blog has more than an audience of one. And about updating The Night Canopy, my goal is to publish at least one post each day. Why do I do it? After all of the lofty aspirations I read about in the article I must confess, my answer is so simple I'm almost ashamed of it. I do it because it's fun.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Uncle Vik hates that song

Remember this tune, the one Vanilla Ice sampled, um, I mean ripped off the hook from. Well, this article reports that Uncle Vik's head is still squarely in the FDIC's telescopic sights.

He's back

With a roar! Even though his game still showed some weak spots (for him that is) Tiger shot a dominant round of 65 yesterday in the final round of the Memorial to win the tournament and serve notice that he is once again on the prowl for the trophy at the upcoming U.S. Open.

How much are a Ponzi scheme's fake assets worth?

If the trades never happened and your statement from Madoff's firm was only worth the paper it was printed on, then how much are you entitled to? That's the issue being debated presently. Since there really were no underlying securities, how should the victims losses be calculated and valued?

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. If you have ever worked for this next manager and survived the carnage, you have excellent survivability skills and probably a couple of scars to show for it too.

MOTW: Chainsaw Manager

Brought in with the expressed purpose of firing at least half the staff. Is gone shortly after, usually to a higher position and after receiving extensive praise from Senior Management. Leaves a trail of body parts, bad morale and disillusioned people in his/her wake.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Star

The ship docked in Haifa at nine in the morning. Hal had never been to Israel before. As he stepped off the gangplank he wondered if this trip would change anything. His life had recently become a maelstrom, which left him questioning the validity of his modus vivendi.

His job loss, a correction in the stock market which had cost him dearly, his daughter's clandestine drug problem; these plus a litany of other problems made him wonder if he had been channeling his efforts in the wrong direction. Perhaps he had focused on the wrong things all along. It was time to search for the right ones. At the time he had decided on this trip it had seemed like a step in the right direction. Now he wasn't so sure. The air around him was charged with something he could not decipher, its pervasive sense of ancient history belying the modern sights confronting him. He felt uneasy and restless.

He was soon walking around the port, purposefully studying everything he saw, admiring the cleanliness and giving thanks for the feel of terra firma beneath his unsteady sea legs. That same morning he bought a ticket on a bus departing for Bethlehem. While boarding, he glanced down the rows of passengers. Most of them were nondescript, except for one who immediately drew his attention.

She was a thin girl, almost to the point of seeming emaciated. She was about thirty-five and wore long robes that were old and dirty. There were some odd looking ornaments attached to a soiled leather thong around her waist and she sported a crew cut. Her face had a noble quality and despite her shabby clothes, her demeanor radiated calm and innocence. She was not beautiful at all; in fact quite the opposite, but her stoic expression gave her an inner beauty, which had nothing to do with physical appearance.

For some reason, at least to Hal she seemed out of place aboard the bus. She sat very still with her hands in her lap and met his cursory glance with steady eyes that glinted like moons in an emerald sea. For an instant he looked directly into her eyes and at the serene face which was in such stark contrast to the state of her decrepit attire. Not wishing to appear rude, he looked away and busied himself with his seat belt.

Soon they were underway. Hal watched the scenery fly by as the bus driver increased his speed. He looked across the aisle and caught the girl studying him intently. He quickly averted his gaze, but found himself drawn to her over and over again. Each time he stole a glance in her direction he would inevitably find her looking at him. Finally, feeling somewhat ill at ease, he walked over to her seat and spoke.

"Do you mind if I sit down?"

She shrugged her thin shoulders. "Of course not, I expected you to sooner than this." The statement was a matter of fact one, the voice soft and melodious. The words were spoken quietly and without allure. Her accent seemed foreign to him, but Hal could not place where it was from.

He took his place in the seat next to hers, lit a cigarette and asked, "Why do you keep looking at me?"

She looked at him and replied. "I can tell there is something troubling you. It is easy to sense this and maybe I can help. Since you will never see me again you can unburden yourself."

Hal spread his hands, his confusion growing, "I can't," he said. "I'm not sure about it myself."

"But you can and you must try," she insisted. "There can be much of value in talking to someone like myself, a complete stranger on a bus. Someone you will never see again."

"I'm not sure," he repeated, "But I can tell you this. I know why I'm going to Bethlehem. I'm going because He was born there."

"Who is this He you refer to?" she asked.

"You know, the Lord!" he retorted, but was immediately contrite. "Listen, I'm sorry. I'm tired and it's been a long trip."

"Of course. I know who you mean."

"Who are you?" he asked.

"It is not important," she replied. "I am a Buddhist nun. It was karma that we should meet."

"No kidding. Imagine that, me talking to a Buddhist nun. I don't know much about Buddhism. I mean, if my friends back in the States could see me now, boy would they get a kick out of this. Tell me something, Buddhists don't believe in God, do they?"

She looked at his charcoal gray suit, and then her eyes focused on the smoke emanating from his cigarette. "Perhaps not in the way you do. There is no God the way you label the being, but there are similarities in religions, more so than we realize, and I like to think that the end is the same."

"Which is?" he prompted.

"In a short while we arrive at my stop. I have neither the time nor the capacity to explain to you what many wise men and theologians have devoted their lives to studying. I do not understand myself. I will, however, give you an example of Buddha's presence and what he can do."

She propped an elbow on the windowsill of the bus and began. "One night, a few years ago, I was walking along a deserted road. There was nothing in sight. It was very far to the nearest town and very late. I was weary and could barely stand when I heard the sound of a vehicle approaching. Soon a car stopped alongside of me. There was a very handsome man driving. I could tell he was of good breeding and he offered me a ride. I thought about it very hard and almost refused, but because it was late and I was tired I stepped into the car. As we were about to drive away a small puppy dog ran into the middle of the road, blocking the path of the car, barking so frantically that I thought it would go into a seizure. The road was very narrow. There was no way to drive around the puppy so the man got down from the car and stooped to pick it up. As soon as he did this it ran away from him to the side of the road. The man returned to the car, but no sooner had he sat behind the wheel than the puppy was there again, barking furiously in the middle of the road. I said I would try to remove him, but when I stepped out he bit my robes and began pulling me in the opposite direction of the man and the car, whining all the way."

She arched her eyebrow and Hal shivered. He took a final drag off his cigarette and stubbed it out in the ashtray. A plume of smoke shot up rebelliously.

"Suddenly," she continued, "I felt very cold all over, and I heard myself telling the man that I did not want a ride. The puppy's eyes lit up, his tail started wagging and he let go of my robes. He placed himself between me and the car on the side of the road and began barking again. The man said nothing, slammed the door of his car and spinning his tires quite rudely, drove off. This could not have taken more than a few seconds, but when I looked again the puppy was gone. I searched everywhere and called for it, but finally, frustrated in my search, I continued my journey. The next day I read in the newspaper, alongside a picture of the very same man, that he was being sought by the authorities in connection with the disappearances of three young girls. I believe that it was beyond doubt a manifestation. Do Christians not preach that one is never alone, that if one has faith, the Lord will always be there? It is the same with Buddha. He is always there. Our brothers in their lamaseries are never isolated though the image of them that is popular is that they are recluses in the mountains. They are not alone. The Buddha is with them. So you see, do you not? If you have faith, your karma will be completed and He -in the sense that you believe in a higher being whom we revere- will help you."

The bus slowed and came to a stop, "Ah, I am truly sorry. I have enjoyed speaking with you but now I must get off. Goodbye, and remember what I have said. You are not alone."

She gathered up her robes and stood up. "Now repeat after me. U la lo ho."

Hal, his mouth agape, said, "U la lo ho," his own voice sounding very strange to him.

"Wait," he called after her as she sidled down the bus, "What does it mean?"

"The God is victorious," she said, and with a wave was gone.

Hal let out a long breath and scratched his head in wonder. He rubbed his arm across his forehead and found that he was sweating. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief and continued on the rest of the way to Bethlehem.

When they reached the town Hal went immediately to the church of the nativity and knelt at the star, which marks Jesus' birthplace. Amidst the clamor of clicking shutters and exploding flashes, he genuflected and crossed himself. A knee dug into his back. The mayhem around him increased as people jockeyed for a better vantage point from which to view the star. He began to pray silently. He prayed even harder when an irate voice cried out, "Hey move along buddy, you're holding us up, we got the Wailing Wall at four this afternoon!" A baby screamed and he clenched his hands tighter, praying even more fervently. Losing all track of time, he gradually became unaware of the surrounding noise. The last thing he sensed was a scuffling sound somewhere behind him. It seemed light years removed.

Eventually, he was bodily removed from the church, but it was another hour before he realized he was no longer at the star. It was getting dark and the bus had departed long ago. Everything was very still. Hal remembered the nun's story. When he looked up, through the dusky haze he glimpsed a star twinkling back at him. Suddenly all the problems associated with his frantic lifestyle seemed to dissolve, languishing even further away in his thoughts than his remote homeland.

Parla Italiano?

A nice look at the Tuscan shore and some out of the way beach vacation spots. I have been to Tuscany before, but like most visitors I suspect, only inland. Now I think I missed out on quite a bit even though my time there was fantastic.

It's the next cool thing

Remember this post. More people are writing about it being the new fad. As I said before, I have always thought it was a good way to live and especially to teach our children. For me it has never been a fad, just a way of life.