Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Try Jah Love



Try it, you'll like it. Third World performing Try Jah Love.

Can design save the newspaper?

Ask Jacek Utko. Utko is an extraordinary Polish newspaper designer whose redesigns for papers in Eastern Europe not only win awards, but increase circulation by up to 100%. Can good design save the newspaper? At the very least, these guys should listen to his ideas.

A review of Citi field

I'm not a big baseball fan, but for those who are, here's a review of the 400 million dollar investment Citi made. Remember, it's 20 million a year for 20 years to put the insomniac bank's logo up and call it Citi field. I recently flew to New York for a wedding and as you come in for your landing at LaGuardia airport there it is in all its shiny, new glory. Let the rain delay infield TARP jokes begin.

TUDO É PERMITIDO

Brazilian pop-rock at its finest, Kid Abelha released this album in 1991. They hail from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the name of the album means Everything’s Allowed in Portuguese. Paula Toller, the lead singer, has a soothing, subtle voice which can explode melodiously when needed to. On this album she sings lead on all songs on except one, Electricidade. They are considered to be quite a “hit factory” in Brazil and have released 13 studio albums along with several live ones. I speak Portuguese so I know what they are singing about, but I’ve always maintained that sung Portuguese is one of the sexiest languages you can ever hear, so it might not matter if you don’t understand everything she sends your way. My favorite tracks on this album are Não Vou Ficar, a tune with a bit of funk and horns, Fantasias and for a slower ballad Grand' Hotel.

Here they are performing the aforementioned slow ballad, Grand' Hotel.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Now that's a workout...

Wow! This 25 year old rowed across the Atlantic Ocean all by himself in memory of his mother. The most incredible thing, there was no support vessel trailing in his wake. He kept in contact with support personnel via satellite phone, but this was the real deal in terms of a solo effort out on the ocean.

Testing the lad: 3 different viewpoints

My niece visited us this past weekend along with her husband who came to play in our local Disc Golf tournament. She is studying for her Ph. D. in School Psychology. Part of her course work is doing some testing on 4 - 7 year olds so she asked if she could use our four year old as a test subject.

We said yes so she did some testing on him. From our point of view she tested him using the Batelle Developmental Inventory (BDI II), which gave us a chance to see how our boy is progressing developmentally for free. From her point of view she collected data for her thesis. From his point of view he did her a favor and helped her with her homework. I guess it all depends on how you look at things.

Obama fires Wagoner

Well, it finally happened. The government is now running things in the Motor City. Will they be making the cars soon? As bad as G.M. is, that sounds pretty frightening. Imagine buying your first government car. You turn the key and nothing happens. A week later you receive a convoluted form in the mail which you must fill out and return to sender. Several weeks after returning the form you receive a phone call telling you your car will start within the next several days. Finally, three days later, your car turns over in the middle of the night, starting up and waiting for you to drive it away.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. When I first started working I saw many of these managers walking around and usually in quite senior positions. As time went on, society and thus business got more and more politically correct, resulting in many of these managers fading into obscurity as their behavior became more frowned upon. Nevertheless, to this day, there are numerous stalwart holdouts who continue to rove about corporate halls offending those who are unfortunate enough to cross their paths.

MOTW: Social Misfit Manager

Social Misfit Manager should have read Emily Post’s Etiquette (full title Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home) during his/her formative years, but obviously did not. Upon meeting anyone for the first time he/she usually blurts out something inappropriate. Meals while on business trips, especially in foreign countries, are tense affairs with Social Misfit Manager committing a gaffe a minute, oblivious to the effect it has on his/her hosts. Generally the higher Social Misfit Manager is in the company the more outrageous his/her behaviors and the stories associated with them are.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

How many people does it take to be a country?

What country has the smallest population? Answer after the jump.

The one-half square mile Vatican city-state retains that honor, with approximately 1,000 residents.

Carpet of the Sun

Check out this video from 1977 of Renaissance performing Carpet of the Sun. The lyrics were penned by a reclusive poet from Cornwall named Betty Thatcher-Newsinger. The song was originally released on the Ashes are Burning album in 1973. The lead singer, Annie Haslam, has a five octave range to her voice and the best description I can give it is the word angelic. Even with the technology back in 1977 her voice sounds great in the video.

Lyrics are below the video as well as an additional video of an unplugged version of the same song. For those that might think she is lip synching in the electric version, her voice doesn't change one iota in the unplugged version. If anything it's better because it's unplugged. It's just a pure voice, period.

There's a story that during a performance a fan yelled out, "I love you Annie!" Without missing a beat she responded, "You haven't seen me in the morning."



Come along with me
Down into the world of seeing
Come and you'll be free
Take the time to find the feeling
See everything on its own
And you'll find you know the way
And you'll know the things you're shown
Owe everything to the day

[Chorus:]
See the carpet of the sun
The green grass soft and sweet
Sands upon the shores of time
Of oceans mountains deep
Part of the world that you live in
You are the part that you're giving

Come into the day
Feel the sunshine warmth around you
Sounds from far away
Music of the love that found you
The seed that you plant today
Tomorrow will be a tree
And living goes on this way
It's all part of you and me

[Chorus 2x]

See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A philosophical question

If a Treasury Secretary makes vague pronouncements with little detail concerning recovery plans and no one really hears him and few, if any, understand him, then does he really exist?

No Top Dog award for you!

Today is the first day of one of our annual Disc Golf tournaments. I am not playing in it, but my niece's husband came in from out of town to participate. Instead I played our usual Saturday morning round at the other course and had my worst round of 2009. Perhaps it is karma for not playing in the tournament.

The wind was swirling and the pins were in the long positions and I shot, are you ready for this, a 61 or 7 over. I had 3 double bogeys (OUCH!), 2 bogeys (ouch!), 1 birdy and 12 pars for a dismal round. It was a nice day however and I had fun. Needless to say I did not take home the Top Dog award. I hope my niece's husband shoots much better in the tournament.

Haiku

Clouds come from time to time-
and bring men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.

Basho (1644-1694)

Coldplay Rocks




Coldplay performing Clocks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who will clean the new 10 million dollar offices?

Remember the 10 million dollar offices? Well, now there are reports that even the cleaning staff is getting whacked, er, I mean downsized at the Citi. So who will clean them when the time comes? Careful survivors, janitorial duties may soon be added to your job description. Come to think of it, I know a couple of cleaners there already. They tend to clean up messes created by others on an all too frequent basis.

Today's CEOs or the Pointy Haired Boss?

I am a big Dilbert fan. One of my favorite strips of his was published quite a few years ago. In it the clueless Pointy Haired Boss is receiving some advice from Dogbert. He is about to go in front of the press and Dogbert has told him that whatever question he is asked to simply use the stock response, “It will be good for the shareholder.” Dogbert's manipulative rationale, it seems to me, is that if the PHB sticks to this strategy he should be able to remain noncommittal, look savvy and weather whatever the press throws at him.

Cut to the press conference and the first question asked by a member of the press goes something like this, “Sir, on the way in to this conference we noticed that your limo hit and ran over a shareholder in the parking lot. What do you have to say about that?”

The PHB responds, “It will be good for him.”

It seems to me that these days CEOs and other executives are not even feigning concern over the fate of those woebegone people who invested in their companies. Instead they spend most of their time wondering how effectively they can weather the public storm (mostly in the form of Monday morning quarterback congressional hearings) decrying their ineptitude. They also are spending time lining up their companies at the public trough for their share of the bailout. I know that this sounds terrible to say, but I think I prefer the Pointy Haired Boss.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Live forever...on what?

This is one of the wackier ideas I've seen in quite a while. Check out this WSJ video about the architecture created by Mr. Arakawa and Ms. Gins based on a movement called "transhumanism."

Their theory is that if you live uncomfortably you will live forever, so they design extremely jarring and uncomfortable living quarters which people then pay through the nose to live in. They call it "Reversible Destiny." The video is at the bottom of this post and here is the WSJ article about it.

In an ironic twist of fate, the architects are also victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. The money quote in the video is by Mr. Nobutaka Yamaoka, an inhabitant of one of Mr. Arakawa's and Ms. Gins's exorbitantly priced lofts in Tokyo.

"Before I moved here, I would read Mr. Arakawa's books, but I didn't understand them."

Hold us accountable!

Including me, on this blog. Comment if you agree, disagree or just don't care. The marketplace of ideas is just that, a marketplace. As consumers of all the information, soundbites, sales pitches, statistics, punditry, blog posts, etc., that we are assailed with on a daily basis we need to take some time out, use our minds and discriminate.

As the recent Jon Stewart-Jim Cramer feud shows, just because someone has funny writers and someone else screams loudly on their show doesn't mean either one of them is right. This Op-Ed is only one page and Nicholas Kristof makes a valid point. Or does he?

Retention at the Citi

We've heard about AIG, but what about similar firms and their "bonuses." Here's an article which talks about some of these companies, including Citi. Further down in the article on page one and on the beginning of page two it mentions Uncle Vik and also talks about three other seniors: Volk, Kaden and Klein. Klein, as we know, is gone.

Another opinion on the whole AIG public outcry...

And what its consequences might be. From recent news it seems like AIG top personnel are leaving in droves. Good you say, after all, they are the ones who created this mess right? Yesterday I posted one resignation letter that made the NYT Op-Ed page. What does it all mean? Here's one view.

More fallout from Bernie's web

Although not accused of any wrongdoing so far, Madoff's brother has now had his assets temporarily frozen by court order.

Introducing the Hardline

When Terence Trent D’Arby released his debut album in 1987 Introducing The Hardline I was sure he was destined for great things. So was he, in fact he publicly stated something about his album to that effect. His career has had its ups and downs since then, but that doesn’t take away the fact that this was a really good album. D’Arby’s sound is a combination of soul, pop, funk and rhythm and blues which is just plain fun to listen to.

His voice is subtle and goes from raspy blues exhortations to high pitched squeals and runs such a gamut that it makes it hard to classify. It’s good though, really good and his songs range from snappy dance numbers to silky smooth pop constructions with jazzy/funky twists. There is the occasional slow ballad too. The album produced the hits Wishing Well and Sign Your Name. It has sold over 12 million copies worldwide. I like all the songs on this album and enjoy it thoroughly whenever I listen to it. TTD has since changed his name to Sananda Maitreya.

Here he is performing Wishing Well.

Now that's hang time

My friends sent me this video of the 18th hole at Copper Mountain. The basket is down to the left at the bottom of the precipice. We simply don't have elevation of this nature on our courses. Given the elevation on this hole I would have to guess that his drive probably traveled between 500 and 600 feet in the air.

If you like your news a bit on the peculiar side...

Then go to this link.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another view

Many have been very critical and vocal over the past weeks about the whole A.I.G. bonus snafu, myself included. As is sometimes the case when events of this nature become public, there is usually a lot of static present in the news that reaches outsiders. My father used to always say that there are three sides to any story: your side, their side and what really happened. Here then is another view of the whole A.I.G. bonus scandal from one employee caught up in the mess. The email is pretty interesting to say the least.

Haiku

On a journey, ill,
and over fields all withered, dreams
go wandering still.

Basho (1644-1694).

Out of Towners

About two weeks ago some friends from out of town were here and wanted to golf so I offered to show them one of our home courses.

Here we are walking the course. As you can see from the sign in the foreground we do warn other unsuspecting park patrons that there may be golf discs flying in the area.

Next up here I am driving on hole 18. Visible from the tee, the basket is straight back in that thick batch of trees. You can see the disc on its way. Also if you look further along in the picture you can see that the fairway narrows considerably where the two trees are pretty close together. As many holes on this course do, this hole rewards accuracy and finesse more than power. Somehow, I managed to birdie the hole.



Here is Matt preparing to drive on hole 18.


Next up, Jim Jr. on hole 18.



Tara, following her flight after her release on the same hole. Is that some body English I see there?



Not to be left out, Jim Sr. lines up his drive on our last hole as well.



The group after holing out on 18. Nice round everyone. Next stop? The 19th hole of course. Actually, that had to wait until later in the evening for all of the group except myself. From what I understand they were going on a pub crawl. I could not make it. I wonder how that turned out?



The other member of the group. Two generations of disc golfers, Jim Sr. and Jim Jr., at basket 18. As you can see, it was a beautiful day and from what they told me they enjoyed the course and a good time was had by all. Oh, and what's that you ask, the scores. Let's put it this way, what scores?



Hopefully one day I will get out to Arizona and they can show me their course. I would really like that. Bang chains.

Segla På Ett Moln

A powerful, cranking voice which can also croon a plaintive song with the best of them; that’s Anne-Lie Ryde in a nutshell. The Swedish singer originally released this album Segla På Ett Moln, which means Sailing on a Cloud in 1983. It’s a collection of upbeat rock tunes with the occasional slower tempo tune blended in, creating space for her to show off her vocal range and style. She can be categorized as a pop-rock artist, but her songs have something which is out of the ordinary day to day pop-rock and thus draw you in. My favorite track on this CD is Deidre's Samba. I don’t speak Swedish but it doesn’t really matter. Her melodies are interesting and her voice is really good so the universal attraction of good music is present on this CD from start to finish.

Here is the title track, Segla på ett moln. She can really belt out a ballad, can't she?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Best basketball player on the planet right now

Yes, he's great, the statistics back it up. But along with all that, he's a good human being too. He usually does this kind of thing privately so as to avoid articles of this nature.

Meet the Parents

You know how many times I have referred to them as Mommy and Daddy. Well, here they are in the flesh for your viewing pleasure. In case you didn't know, that's Mommy on the left as you look at the picture.

New CFO at Citi

Old news, but I figured I should post it anyway. There's a new CFO in town. I don't know what to think of this other than to say that Crittenden was one of the very few of whom I was a luke warm fan.

Being There

Just yesterday I re-read Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There. Kosinski is a brilliant and fascinating writer and this compact, 118 page novel about an illiterate yet lovable simpleton, whose utterances are taken as cogent, sage counsel disguised as gardening metaphors by the powerful elite (including the President of the United states) is a knuckle ball of a book with metaphysical connotations. Published in 1971, this tale of the hero Chauncey Gardiner, who has essentially been raised by television and goes through life using this vicarious experience as his guide in all his doings, is eerily prescient given the current state of conditions in our society.

Consider the following passage from page 88. Through a series of serendipitous circumstances, our protagonist Chauncey Gardiner is at a dinner party with several powerful people from the United Nations. He is addressed by one of them.

“All right, Mr. Gardiner,” he said, “the President’s speech was reassuring. Still and all, these are the facts; unemployment is approaching catastrophic proportions, unprecedented in this country; the market continues to fall toward 1929 levels; some of the largest and finest companies in our country have collapsed. Tell me sir, do you honestly believe that the President will be able to halt this downward trend?”

“Mr. Rand said that the President knows what he is doing,” Chance said slowly. “They spoke; I was there; this is what Mr. Rand said after they were finished.”

“What about the war?” the young woman sitting on Chance’s left said, leaning close to him.

I'll stop there. This book is such a simple, quick read and yet such an intricate and subtle creation that it speaks volumes to all of us about the convoluted state of today’s society. The more mundane Chance’s pronouncements become the more they are taken to be the wise advice of an illustrious sage. It gets to the point where Chance is feted internationally as a man of substance and conviction. He is quickly elevated to the status of a moral compass and mouthpiece which society as a whole is desperately seeking. This book will resonate with readers today like never before. On top of all that, it's a fun read. The movie version, starring Peter Sellers as Chance, has en ending which is one of the most allegorical and talked about to this day.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. I had one of these next managers once. The manager never adapted, but I did not win the pool.

MOTW: Fish Out of Water Manager

This manager is so dramatically unlike the company profile and culture that one wonders how he/she was hired to begin with. Most of the things Fish Out of Water Manager says or does are painful to watch and his/her tenure is marked by an awkward waiting game where the staff usually has a pool going on about how long he/she will last.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Which poem begins...

"April is the cruelest month" is the beginning of what major 1922 poem? Aswer after the jump.

T.S. Eliot opened the The Waste Land with those now famous words.

Everything is Everything

A recording of the French band Phoenix performing Everything is Everything from the album Alphabetical. Or you can click here and see a video of them performing the song.

London Warsaw New York

An upbeat, crisp, jazz-pop sound is what emanates from this CD the minute you put it on. Soon after that you get Basia’s smooth, light but powerful (three octave range) voice cutting in to float across the melodies like a pleasant breeze happening along to refresh your senses. Basia is a Polish singer, songwriter and producer and this 1989 album of hers is a wonderful set of upbeat, Latin-flavored jazz tunes with great harmony and gliding bossa-nova type rhythms that leave you energized and delighted. Even though her sound is primarily categorized as jazz, this album had a pop Top 30 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Cruising for Bruising, which shows her crossover appeal into pop music. I confess that along with Ordinary People it’s my favorite track on the CD.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Was the answer that obvious?

What invention paved the way for the proliferation of the skyscraper? Answer after the jump.

The elevator.

Jewel to Sparkle

A while back I wrote a post on the album Love by The Juliana Theory. You can read that post here. In that post I wrote that I think the entire album is great and that my favorite track of that release is Jewel to Sparkle. Here it is to listen to. Lyrics are under the video.



Please don't turn your eyes my way
They're unnerving and undeniable underneath all the work that you do
I can feel the real you
I can see the real you

You're a jewel to sparkle around my neck
The fragrant scent of morning I cannot forget
You're a jewel to sparkle around my neck
The fragrant scent of morning I cannot forget

You're smiling wide with slender frame
You're immoveable in recollection
underneath everything that you do
I can feel the real you
I can see inside you

You're a jewel to sparkle around my neck
The fragrant scent of morning I cannot forget
You're a jewel to sparkle around my neck
The fragrant scent of morning I cannot forget

You're a jewel to sparkle
You're a jewel to sparkle

Through my mind you wander
Spell to bind forever
Pain and ease together
Love can pull us under

You're a jewel to sparkle around my neck
The fragrant scent of morning I cannot forget
You're a jewel to sparkle around my neck
The fragrant scent of morning I cannot forget

Lyrics by Brett Detar
Music by The Juliana Theory

Keep that dish in the fridge

I arrived at the office at seven thirty a.m. to get a jump-start on the day. I was really behind after being dragged into serving on several committees. After fixing my coffee at the tiny kitchen I strode over to my cubicle. On the way I passed by Donovan who was furiously pounding the keys on his workstation. This in itself was a surprise as Donovan hardly ever showed before ten-thirty in the morning. I never had figured out how he got away with being consistently late to work.

“Morning Donovan,” I said

“W wants to see you immediately,” he replied without looking up from his monitor.

W sat on the ninth floor and had an office with a window. He headed up a lot of committees. It must be important.

“What about?” I asked.

“The problem."

“Of course, the problem…” I invited further explanation, but none was forthcoming.

Donovan was staring straight ahead at his screen, fascinated by some tidbit of information there.

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I refused to appear uninformed. To be uninformed was akin to signing your death warrant. “Well, W knows it’s being looked into.”

“He’s pretty worked up about it.”

“I know,” I bluffed. “It’s a pretty hot potato.”

“You’d better get up there.”

I didn’t have any voice mail messages so I booted up my machine and checked my email to see if there was any enlightenment there. Perhaps there would be a message sent after midnight, which was the last time I had checked it. There was nothing. I steeled myself and rode the elevator up to the ninth floor.

W’s secretary wasn’t in and his door was closed. From within I could hear him saying something about forming a committee that would schedule a meeting to study the feasibility of strategies available as options for various other committees to consider. I knocked.

“Enter,” said the voice from within.

“Morning W. You wanted to see me.”

W was hanging up the phone. He was a corpulent man, the result of too many years of expense reports passed to payables with limousines, fancy dinners and lots of fine wine surreptitiously buried in them, all attributed to non-existent clients. His eyes peered out at me suspiciously from his puffy face.

He scratched his ear and spoke. “The consultants are coming.”

I wondered what on earth he was talking about, but didn’t miss a beat. “Of course they are.”

“Hmm, so you knew about this did you?”

I gave a non-committal response. “Well W, as you well know, transitions are sometimes accompanied by an information vacuum." Who the heck talks like this I wondered to myself.

He thought about that one. The silence in the office could charitably be described as funereal.

“Transitions huh? Well, what’s it all about then?”

“We had to call them in sir. After all, they’re specialists in this sort of thing.”

“Of course they are. They’re consultants,” he muttered. “I thought this was Presky’s idea.”

My heart sank. Presky was my nemesis and he was very close to W. He and W golfed quite a bit together on the weekends. I was certain that Presky filled W's head with bad things about me during their time on the links together. Presky worked in Strategic Services and used every opportunity to make my pitifully understaffed department look bad. He had screwed me over numerous times. More than once he had covered up his going over budget and somehow made it look like it was my fault. Two years ago he had almost gotten me fired for something he did.

“Presky’s a good man sir. If he brought them in then we’re bound to get results.”

He perked up a bit. “Well, that’s all right then. Go get them situated and let me know how it turns out when they’re finished.”

He waved his hand in dismissal and buried his nose in the paper, letting me know the conversation was over. He was reading the style section. An interesting choice since the man had none.

I left and immediately went to Bryant’s secretary to set an appointment to see him. Bryant was an early bird so his secretary had to be one also. Bryant was close to the CEO and had a contact network that was second to none. He was on every single committee. It was hard to see him because he was always in meetings. In all my years with the company I had never seen him actually produce anything.

“He’s in meetings all day,” his secretary told me after my attempt to schedule an appointment.

“Well, can he see me now?” I insisted.

She smiled at me. “He told me he’s not seeing anyone or taking any calls. He’s very busy preparing for a committee meeting.”

Through a cracked vertical blind I could see him in his office throwing darts at his cork board. I left dejected.

I went downstairs and outside to the smoking area. I lit up and thought about the situation. No solution came to mind. By the time I returned to my cubicle I had two frantic voice mails from some members of my staff, wanting to know about the consultants. The situation was becoming untenable. As much as I hated to I had to call Presky.

He answered on the third ring. “Morning Presky,” I said, “I understand the consultants are coming.”

I heard the glee in his voice as he told me that they were already sitting in his office.

“They’ll be by your cubicle to interview you around ten this morning,” he said.

“But I have a very important conference call at ten,” I objected.

“Reschedule it,” he said and hung up.

I mulled that one over. I rescheduled the call and then dialed Hildebrand, the office gossip, to see if he knew anything. Hildebrand was the type of guy who took two or three unrelated bits of office banter and mentally stretched their meaning. He would then add his own conjecture until he had pieced the whole thing together into some sort of nefarious corporate conspiracy. Nonetheless, I was desperate for information.

“Secret project, very hush-hush. I’ve been checking it out. Big problem floating around.” It was the least he had ever put his own spin on any subject. This meant he didn’t know anything either.

It was now eight thirty. I had an hour and a half to find out what Presky and his consultants were up to. I knew one thing. If Presky was behind it the odds were it did not bode well for me. Where could he have gotten the authorization to bring in consultants? You had to go to J.B., the big boss himself, to get that kind of go-ahead. Expenses were tight at our company. You brought in consultants for one thing and one thing only, to cut expenses. Cutting expenses meant cutting headcount.

To me it seemed ridiculous to spend large sums of money on consultants to cut expenses. The consultants translated into even more expense and if management wanted to know where the money went they could ask me. I knew where those types of expenses came from. They began and ended with guys like Presky and W, guys who formed committees and went on boondoggles.

Obviously I didn’t get it and that’s why I wasn’t senior management. My own view was that the seniors called in consultants when they needed someone to blame for things having gone south, but what did I know.

I looked up to see three of my team surrounding my cubicle. They were shuffling their feet and looking concerned. Their spokesperson took the initiative.

“We heard you called in consultants…” she blurted out, “what’s it all about?”

“What’s it all about?” I echoed.

“You hadn’t even told us. They’re coming at ten and we didn’t even know.”

Where did these people get their information I wondered? It was uncanny. Hildebrand must be working overtime. “It’s nothing to worry about, I just wanted to bounce some ideas off them. You know, sort of close the loop on this thing.”

They all looked at each other. “What thing?”

“You know, the problem that came up.”

They nodded in apparent understanding so I added, “Ask Donovan, he’ll fill you in on it. Listen guys, I’m sorry. I don’t have time for this now. Get back to work. I’ll talk to all of you after my meeting with the consultants. I have to prepare for it.”

They left. By now I was sweating. The heat wave rolling through the state was in its second week with no sign of abating. The air-conditioning couldn’t keep up and things were hot everywhere. I stewed for a while and then went to the cafeteria, as good a place as any to bone up on the rumor mill.

There were several groups sitting at tables sipping coffee and eating various assortments of breakfast foods. I took a circuitous route to the vending machines, trying desperately to overhear snatches of conversation along the way.

One group of four in particular had an air of conspiracy about them, their hushed tones giving nothing away. I knew two of them. One worked in Purchasing while the other worked in the Legal department.

I sidled up to them and they fell silent, but not before I heard Purchasing say, “We’re forming a committee to evaluate our options so we can seamlessly leverage our viable potential. We’ll be exploring success transfers for our turnkey operations. It’s all about best practices.” The others nodded their heads sagely and murmured agreement.

“Hi guys,” I said, “What’s going on?”

They mumbled something about paradigms and looked down at their food. I took the bull by the horns and asked, “Anyone hear the buzz about the consultants in Presky’s office?”

The legal eagle spoke. “I saw something about that last week, I had to review the contract.”

“And…” I prompted.

He took on the pious air of someone with insider information. “I’m not at liberty to say anything at this time. There’s a big problem there, a lot at stake. I hear they’re forming a committee.”

My patience was wearing thin and my concern escalating by the minute. “Yes of course.” I said and walked away.

On the way back to my area I stopped in the men’s room. Philson was washing his hands. “Heard about the problem. Tough break, you really can’t plan for those sorts of thing now, can you? You should’ve formed a committee as soon as you heard.”

“Not to worry. I’m following up,” I told him.

“Let’s do lunch sometime,” he called out as I left.

There was nothing for it. I would just have to wait for the inevitable. I walked back to my cubicle and called my wife. I told her to check the balance in our meager savings account and to cut up the credit cards. By this time tomorrow, if Presky’s consultants had anything to do with it, I’d be unemployed. I worked on updating my résumé until the consultants came.

They showed promptly at ten, two suits with staccato talking heads attached. They asked for some privacy so we went to the small conference room and shut the door. They were polite, but that didn’t stop them from taking turns asking a barrage of questions. I parried the questions as long as I could; giving nothing away, anything that I thought would help Presky bury me. About ten minutes into the interview I got an eerie feeling. By the types of questions they were asking it became clear to me that there was something very seriously wrong. The light bulb suddenly came on.

“You guys aren’t consultants. You’re Feds.”

Suit number one spoke. “Mr. Phelan, you must keep this in complete confidence. We’ve set up a cover story, complete with a consulting contract to make our spending a few weeks asking questions around the various departments seem as plausible as possible. Yes, we are with the government. We’re investigating illegal goings on in the company, money laundering, fraud, a big Ponzi scheme, that sort of thing. You’re a key source in this investigation, managing the MIS department you do. So please, answer our questions as best you can.”

“Call me Frank. Can I ask a question?”

“You may, however we may not be able to answer it.”

“What were you doing in Presky’s office so early this morning? Why is he your contact in this whole thing?”

They looked at each other and in an unspoken agreement seemed to make a decision. Suit number two took the initiative.

“This investigation was set up at the highest levels. We aren’t supposed to do this, but since you are one of the key sources of information we will. This is strictly off the record. The target of this probe is Mr. Presky. Apparently he and a fellow who goes by the initial W with no period behind it have been up to some shenanigans with the company’s financial control and accounting systems. Presky was the one used to set up the consulting contract. Our experience in these types of investigations has shown that when the target of a probe, unbeknownst to them, is also the driving force of it, they are usually the last to know the true purpose. It’s sort of a hide in plain sight strategy, if you will. So please sir, now will you answer our questions?”

I rolled up my sleeves and grinned. “Like I said guys, call me Frank. Ask me anything, anything at all. What do you want to know?”

They started firing away, but I stopped suit number two in mid sentence.

“Do you guys mind if I give you some pointers?”

“Go ahead,” he said.

“Well, you’ve got to beat them at their own game. So, if you want to stay here and ask questions and not blow your cover, you should make an initial recommendation to Presky and W that they form a committee. They’ll expect that from you, since you’re consultants. Actually, recommend two committees and have each of them chair one. Copy Hildebrand on all your communications. If you don’t he’ll dig and make stuff up which may cause problems. Make sure Bryant sits in on all the meetings. Philson should sit in at least once a week so he feels involved.

You can start by saying that one committee is a task force to brainstorm the different aspects of the project you assign them, whatever that may be. Have them prepare capacity plans and a force field analysis. The other one can prepare Pareto charts and a feasibility study. That will take two weeks. Set up a conference call once a week to track progress.

Then you can bring the two committees together to prepare a white paper that in turn will be the raw data for a straw man. That’s another couple of weeks at least.

Then they’ll actually have to prepare the straw man. You just bought yourselves another week. After that you can have them present the straw man to an oversight committee of your choosing which will evaluate and recommend partnering strategies for the two committees to work together discussing viable alternatives for implementation. That’s another two weeks minimum.

Finally, they won’t be able to make a decision so they’ll look to you guys to tell them what to do. Tell them you need a week to come up with your final recommendations and you’ll have had eight weeks to unearth whatever it is you’re looking for.”

I was on a roll so I stopped and looked up. They were busily taking notes.

"What do you recommend the overall project should be?" one of them asked.

I thought about that one. Things were looking up. I was going to have fun directing this investigation. In my mind I had already dubbed it Operation Cold Dish, as in the old adage, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”


Friday, March 20, 2009

Petra: The forgotten city

In what country are the remains of Petra located? Answer after the jump.

Petra, which was founded by Nabataean Arabs, is located in present day Jordan. Once a very important trading center, the abandoned city was forgotten by the Western world for hundreds of years before being rediscovered in the early 19th century.

Hank Greenberg is suing

Who is he suing? You and me, that's who. See if you can follow this. Hank Greenberg, ex-CEO of AIG (about 4 CEOs ago) is suing AIG for the loss of a supposedly significant portion of his net worth, which he claims was lost due to the ineptitude and fraudulent practices of current management, which made AIG go into the toilet and be in the position it presently is in. Never mind that Greenberg resigned from AIG amid an accounting scandal that broke under his watch. Hmm.

Now, the government has bailed out AIG numerous times over the past few months to the tune of approximately 180 billion dollars. They have done the bailing with taxpayer money mostly. So that means you and I are part owners of AIG, which is now being sued by Hank Greenberg. Ergo, Hank Greenberg is suing us.

Is it just me, but with all the bailouts, the bonus scandals, the bailout monies going to the list of firms which AIG had to be pressured to disclose, don't you think we should just take that trip to the glue factory and deposit AIG there? Oh, and by the way, the CEO who was in charge at AIG when the stuff really hit the fan is an ex-Citi executive. Just saying.

Alvorada Voraz

The Brazilian band, RPM, performing Alvorada Voraz.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Will Citi lose its Mexican crown jewel?

Some may think it would be a good thing if Citi had to get rid of Banamex. It is the biggest revenue producer for the Latin American business however, even if it is an inefficient behemoth.

What the heck? I'm speechless

10 Million for new offices. Come on Uncle Vik, what's wrong with the offices you guys have now? I guess it didn't take long for the government spending ethos to set in. Don't you guys think it might not be exactly the right timing to change offices. Here's guessing that the new furniture isn't coming from a consignment store. The way these guys are managing I'm thinking of using my shares for kindling. Yes, go ahead and laugh. I admit it. I still have Citi shares.

Another one snared in Bernie's web

Now his accountant has been arrested also.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Make them fly coach: Chapter 1

It had to happen sooner or later. If you recall, I have been advocating this treatment since February. Now JetBlue gets into the act with these three commercials which are pretty funny. Here is chapter 1. The other 2 chapters are the posts below this one.


Make them fly coach: Chapter 2

Make them fly coach: Chapter 3

Mommy is angry and talking tough

No surprise here. Mommy is upset. Let's see if she puts AIG in timeout for real or if she is just bluffing.

Newspapers going digital

Remember this post. It wasn't even on the list, but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has made the switch. Approximately 150 jobs were lost in the process.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Nathaniel Adams Coles

Happy birthday and happy Saint Patrick's Day, Nat King Cole. You were one of the greats. Many people have recorded Nature Boy by eden ahbez, (who himself was an extremely colorful character) including such diverse performers as Annie Haslam, Frank Sinatra, Sara Vaughan, Toni Tenille, Marvin Gaye and David Bowie to name only a few, but Nat's version is the most beautifully crooned one ever and one of my favorites. Here is a recording of him performing Nature Boy.


Citi: We can rebuild him...

Those of you who are old enough may remember that line (minus the Citi) from The Six Million Dollar Man, a television series which premiered in 1974. Want to know how much the head guy(s) are making? Follow this link and scroll down. Let's put it this way, the taxpayers got off cheap with Steve Austin. Here's another hint, it's more than 6 million.

It's all in the fine print

Following in the steps of other wayward children, Citi and Morgan Stanley are already looking for ways to get out from under the government's thumb when it comes to paying out bonuses.

Citi: Perhaps not hopeless

Now there's a vote of confidence for you. This is the guy who replaced the Damsel of Doom at Oppenheimer. Remember this video with her opining that I posted a few days ago? Well, the new guy is just a bit more subtle.

Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland: An exploration of myths

The fabled Saint Patrick has an elusive background which has proven hard to track down. Many interpretations of Saint Patrick’s biography and his meaning to the Irish abound, but none is definitive. In this post we will endeavor to explain several of the more prominent ones.

In the course of our research the three most prevalent myths which we ran across were the following:

Myth 1) Patrick: Patron saint of the all night pub crawl.

While the available body of evidence does not allow the dates of Patrick's life to be fixed with certainty, we do know that he had an innate ability to convince hordes of people to follow him around from pub to pub as he looked for the ever elusive inspiration of his life’s work in the bottom of a pewter mug after consuming its contents. It is unclear what the contents of said mugs were, but third hand accounts have stated that the longer the night went on, the more garbled Patrick’s fabled pronouncements became, to the point where his wife would have to come and pack him off home, since his speech had become completely slurred and unintelligible. An interesting side note to all this is that there is not even one reported bodily injury to Patrick or any of his followers during any of these nocturnal excursions.

Myth 2) Patrick: Luckiest man in all of Ireland.

Many have stated that Patrick was sanctified due to his incredibly long run of good luck, since no one believed that any human being could enjoy such an implausible stretch of beneficent fortune without divine intervention. Ironically, the minute he was canonized his run of luck ended and his golf game suffered terribly as a result. Patrick never forgave his promoters for this and he died an embittered man with a 47 handicap.

Myth 3) Patrick: Banisher of Snakes.

Legend has it that when Patrick’s pet python reported him to the Irish version of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for not feeding it Lobster Thermidor and Chateaubriand every other Friday evening, Patrick banished it and all snakes from Ireland in a fit of pique. Sadly, Patrick’s wife also left him for the very same reason and his attempt to similarly banish all women from the Emerald Isle was met with fierce resistance from the rest of the country’s male population. Patrick eventually remarried and at the time of his death was working on a petition to allow only female snakes back on the island.

Conclusion

It is our hope that this explanation has clarified any doubts readers may have about the legend of Saint Patrick. Suffice it to say that he is still venerated today more than ever. This is evidenced by the fact that on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, millions of people around the globe drink millions of gallons of green beer and march in parades, all in remembrance of his name. So, happy Saint Patrick’s Day and Erin Go Bragh!

Have you ever seen something that was vandalized?

Or had something that belonged to you vandalized? Well, who did it? Vandals, that's who. You've heard of vandalism, or property being vandalized, but who were the original Vandals? Answer after the jump.

They were a Germanic tribe that conquered Spain and Gaul, and sacked Rome in the 5th century.

The Art of Tea

Some call his sound smooth jazz. Some say it appeals to pop, jazz and adult audiences. I just call it “lounge lizard” but in a good sense. Michael Franks is a U.S. artist. He has a good voice which puts you in a mellow, relaxed mood. Working with some of the best session musicians in the business, he released this 1976 album which showcased his singing and songwriting.

All songs are written by Michael Franks and his tunes feature clever, whimsical lyrics with fun, intricate melodies which entertain and soothe. Don’t expect any deep revelatory moments here though; this is simply excellent background color or stand alone music for a laid back evening with a couple of good glasses of wine. People seem to like his music because he has an extensive discography with over fifteen albums released, some of which were relatively successful.

Click here to see a live version of Eggplant, which is track 2 on the album.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Step-Dad weighs in

Now the Step Dad is telling Mommy what to do with their misbehaving child. Maybe it is because Daddy has been strangely silent since his last rationalization at the beginning of March.

Waning gibbous moon

It was visible this morning when I dropped our four year old off at school. As we were driving there he said, "Daddy, look at the moon, it's following us to school. What if it comes in to school with us?"

I didn't really have an answer for that, but I did tell him that one should always shoot for the moon in everything one does. Then I had to explain what I meant by that.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This next manager shows up once in a while in companies. I noticed a couple of them running around during my time and could only marvel at their consistent good fortune.

MOTW: Charmed Manager

Usually not a very good manager at all, Charmed Manager was born under a good sign. No matter how badly he/she has screwed things up, at some point, usually right before it all blows up, things randomly fall into place through extraneous circumstances (see Deus ex Machina). Charmed Manager then emerges from the dicey situation smelling like a rose. The trick here is to link your star to Charmed Manager only at these very precise, auspicious moments. Consuming a lot of Antacids can somewhat alleviate the pain of working under Charmed Manager during the rest of the time.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This is unbelievable

Say it isn't so. This has become so incredible it's almost surreal. As it stands, Mommy and Daddy had to intervene, but still the wayward child misbehaves. More planned bonus payouts even though they have been bailed out to the tune of 170 billion. Have they no shame left? Or the better question is, did they ever have any at all?

Mad About You

A while back I posted about Hooverphonic's album The Magnificent Tree. You can read that post here. Here is the track Mad About You from that album.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Over par, but still enough

To keep the Big Dog Award, for another week at least. Today, with the pins in the long positions, I shot a 55, or one over par. I shot 4 birdies, 5 bogeys and 9 pars. It was an up and down round and a great time. The weather was incredible too.

Be healthy, be really healthy

People are doing the same with pharmaceuticals. They are trying to stock up as much as they can on their prescriptions in advance, especially the long term ones.

Quote for today

"We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried."

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, of China.

Fun fact for Saturday

What is the longest river in the world? Answer after the jump.

The longest river in the world is the Nile in Africa, which flows 4,160 miles to the Mediterranean Sea. The next two rivers in length are the Amazon and the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) Rivers.

Whatever happened to pay for performance?

The question is, did it really ever exist? Not really. And now I guess you really don't need to have it as part of your culture since you have 45 billion in bailout funds to pay bonuses with. These funds are supposed to be used to provide credit to the general populace. Instead let's use them to pay "guaranteed bonuses."

The money quote of the article, "A guaranteed bonus is an oxymoron -- a bonus should only be given for superior performance," said Richard Ferlauto, director of corporate governance and pension investment for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "Particularly given the precarious situation that Citi is in, folks shouldn't be rewarded until they create additional shareholder value."

For House fans

And by that I mean fans of the show House, starring Hugh Laurie, not the house genre of music. This tune was in one of the episodes. Zero 7 performing In The Waiting Line.



Friday, March 13, 2009

Snapshot

A concise snapshot of the recent Citi saga since the "merge" in 1998.

Our primary lender is starting to get skittish

It had to happen eventually. It's just surprising it took this long for them to publicly say something. I've often wondered what would happen if they stop buying our paper altogether. After all, they have their own stimulus package to worry about right now.

Iron Man sequel gets platinum lady added to cast

This is great. First off, I really liked Iron Man so I'll be back to see Iron Man II. We knew there was a sequel coming because any movie that is moderately successful in Hollywood these days gets a sequel. Well, the big news is that this sequel is going to have Scarlett Johansson in it. Oh, and Mickey Rourke too. Add Robert Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow reprising their roles, then stir in Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle to the mix and this thing should be good, unless there is a disaster from the other side of the camera lens. Looking forward to it.

The Trojan Horse

Everyone has at some point in their lives heard a reference to the Trojan Horse. In fact, there is even malware, that while technically not a virus, was designated by this very name. It's been in film and television, music, even in business, but what was it really? Answer after the jump.

The Trojan Horse has its genesis in classical literature. According to the story, Odysseus conceived the clever idea of smuggling Achaean troops concealed in a wooden horse into Troy to defeat the hostile Trojans. But, contrary to popular opinion, the horse was not presented to the unsuspecting Trojans as a gift. Rather, it was merely left in the abandoned Achaean camp outside the city walls. Curiosity got the better of the Trojans, they took the bait, and the city was conquered.

White Feathers

Ah, the eighties, a time of poofy multicolored hair, male-model looking off into the distance vacuous stares and over the top, campy music videos. I’m talking specifically about 1983 when Kajagoogoo released this album and for a short span of time everyone was “Too Shy.” This album, for all its detractors, is not that bad. You don’t go to #1 on the UK Singles Chart (#5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100) without some hook and that’s exactly what the single (Too Shy) off this album did. The album is essentially full of bubblegum-type pop, but there are one or two tunes which demonstrate songwriting ability and a catchy sound besides Too Shy. I'm talking about Hang On Now and the title track White Feathers. If you are in the mood to reminisce about those wonderfully cheesy eighties or were not there at the time and want to explore the sound, this is a good album to at least begin the trip with.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Madoff's Bail Revoked After Guilty Pleas to ALL Charges

No surprise here. One victim, who lost all her savings investing with Madoff, said she is now looking forward to retiring at 95.

Thank you for doing your job

Finally they are sitting up, taking notice, and will be doing something in a concerted manner. I've been talking about this for months now. I can't wait to see what the defenses will be like, because if you think about it, in order not to look "greedy and criminal" they will have to admit that they were "stupid and incompetent." Related op-ed article here. Interesting that the op-ed article is titled A Tsunami of Excuses, because if you remember this post, previously I pointed out that there was a firm called Tsunami Capital, which in itself was a scam.

Big Papa said it so it must be right

Or, it could just be his opinion, but Ernest Hemingway asserted that that all modern American literature comes from one book. What novel was Hemingway praising? Answer after the jump.

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Post

Hey, I just realized that this is a post titled Post. Never mind, just a silly observation. On to the real content of the post. Every so often an album comes around that subtly changes things just a little bit. I believe this is one such album. Hailing from Iceland, Bjork (former lead singer of The Sugarcubes) released this second solo album in 1995 and it is a doozy. It’s an avant-garde approach to pop which is hard to describe. The best description I can think of is of off-beat and experimental song constructions which incorporate an eclectic blend of dance and techno, but which are extremely free-form in their interpretation. And let’s face it, her voice is really unique, so I guess you just have to listen to it and make up your own mind. Oh, and there is even a Cabaret/Hollywood style number entitled It’s Oh So Quiet. This album was certified platinum in the U.S. and had three songs that charted in the U.K Top 10: the afore-mentioned It’s Oh So Quiet, Army Of Me and Hyper-ballad.

Uncle Vik reaches into his pockets, finds spare change

And pays the state of Colorado. Considering the all the trials and tribulations at the Citi as of late, this doesn't even qualify as a small blip on the radar. It's still outflow versus inflow though. I guess those Auction Rate Securities weren't as liquid as everyone thought they were.

El Satanico Dr. Cadillac

A while back I posted a review of the album Vasos Vacios by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. You can see that review here. Here is one of the songs on the album, El Satanico Dr. Cadillac, for your listening pleasure.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Scam victim rage by proxy

Demonstrating how much rage there is among Madoff's victims, his attorney has received incensed e-mails and voice mails for representing the alleged swindler. Madoff is expected to plead guilty to all charges as early as tomorrow, hopefully somewhat lessening the abuse his attorney has received thus far.

Smooth is far



Today felt like a video day so here is a Disc Golf one. Proving the old axiom "Smooth is Far" once again, 4 of the sport's best pro players tee off on hole 2 at the European Open Disc Golf Tournament.

In order you have Ken "The Champ" Climo, David Feldberg, Timo Pursio and Avery Jenkins, the leader group of the tournament's second round. The first three play safe and make an easy (for them) mid-range drive to behind the OB area. Jenkins makes a long drive over the OB to the other side. Notice how even the long drive by Jenkins (last on the tee) is one smooth, flowing motion. He is however, the only one to take a pre-flight pump.

She speaks about Citi again

And it's not all that pleasant. What's that sound I hear? Oh yes, it's Uncle Vik emitting a high-pitched wailing, "Nooooooo!" He's probably thinking, "I just barely managed to stop the slide with my crafty memo ploy, and there she goes opening up her yap again."

I've refrained in the past from referring to her because it would be too easy, (like shooting fish in a barrel) but she's been right every time before and was the first one to call it way back when. So why not now? Listen to what ole Meredith, speaking with Maria Bartiromo, has to say about Citi and their latest "leaked" internal memo. It's a ten minute piece of tape starting with a general view of the credit crunch, so if you are just interested in the Citi part go to the 4:20 (hmm) mark.

The money quote, "By my math, they don't make money in any of their businesses."


A Madoff victim speaks

I wonder how many stories like this one we will hear. This guy had to put his house up for sale and go back to working seven days a week after being four years into his retirement.

How old...

Was Christopher Marlowe when he died? Answer after the jump.

Marlowe died on May 30, 1593 at the tender age of 29. He is reported to have been killed in a tavern brawl that some claim was an assassination.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The other side of the coin?

Careful, two months do not a quarter make, but dare we hope? That's why he signed it "Best regards, Vikram" after all. It's also kind of weird announcing things like this off-schedule, but hey, who are we to second-guess Uncle Vik? Everyone is desperate for any hint of good news.

From the "too big to fail" file: What if?

What happens if Citigroup fails? The short answer, according to this link, is no one really knows. This is a pretty bad answer because as we all know, uncertainty breeds all kinds of responses, and in general of a not so good nature.

Trees will be happy

Remember this post. Well, 24/7 Wall Street is predicting who will fold or go completely digital next. Sadly, there are some real standout newspapers on the list. And no, as of now The New York Times is NOT on the list.

Uncle Vik must have gotten the message

He's not happy about the current stock price. Well, news flash, as current shareholders neither are we. You have to subsribe to the WSJ to see the whole memo, but I happen to know that at least he signed this latest memo to the federal troops, "Best regards, Vikram." Maybe the sleep aid is working after all.

A Radical Prescription

A while back a Vice President in a division of a certain Fortune 500 company (we’ll call him B) suffered a nervous breakdown. When the incident occurred the company sent the unfortunate soul to counseling. The counselor, after a few sessions, decided that what was called for was a drastic change of venue and tasks for this individual and prescribed such a course of action. It just so happened that the counselor’s brother was a farmer and at the time needed some help for some unpleasant chores on his farm. The counselor explained to B that since the underlying cause of his breakdown was all the stress he was under from his pressure-packed white-collar job, what he needed was some time off from the unhealthy office environment and a good stint of manual labor in a bucolic setting.

Having decided this, he made B sign a consent form that for a month he would answer no telephones, would not check email or the Internet and that he would head out to his brother’s farm and follow the farmer’s instructions to the letter. B’s last act before heading out to the country was relinquishing his Blackberry, cell phone and laptop to the counselor who dutifully promised they would be waiting for him safe and sound upon his return from the cure.

B arrived at the farm with some trepidation since he had never done any manual labor in his life, but the farmer soon set him at ease. After a healthy dinner at five p.m. the farmer showed him his room and explained that the next day at five a.m. he would awake B and hand him his first assignment.

The next day the farmer told B what his first task would be. “According to my brother,” he said, “you’re here for a month. The farm has 45 acres. 44 of them need to be fertilized. Normally I would bring a truck in and do this myself, but since you are here to recover from your incident through manual labor you are going to fertilize the entire 44 acres by hand. You will take the cow dung, shape it into round pies with your hands and drop these patties in a symmetrical pattern 100 feet apart throughout the entire farm except for the acre the house and barn sit on. I have calculated that this task will take you about two weeks, excepting Sundays which are your day of rest. Do you have any questions?”

“Seems pretty straightforward,” replied B and set off to fertilize.

That same evening, B returned to the farm house covered from head to toe in manure and said to the farmer, “All done.”

The farmer’s jaw dropped in disbelief, but when he went out in his tractor to inspect B’s work he found the claim to be true. He couldn’t believe his eyes. The entire 44 acres were completely fertilized to his specifications.

The next day he gave B his second assignment. “Over in the coop you will find about 2,000 chickens. Although modern technology has found a use for almost every part of the chicken the wholesalers still do not buy the head from me. I need you to go into the coop, chase every chicken down and decapitate each one. The truck is coming in a week to collect the carcasses so you have until then. Any questions?”

B merely shrugged and wandered off in the direction of the coop. That evening, he came back, completely covered in feathers and blood and laconically reported to the farmer. “Finished,” he muttered.

The farmer was surprised but by now realized that this corporate type was no ordinary individual so he strode off to the coop to inspect B’s handiwork. Sure enough, all the chickens were decapitated, with their bodies lined up perfectly and the heads off to the side in a separate pile. The farmer marveled at B’s productivity and thought that it was no wonder that Corporate America was the world leader in business (right?). How could it not be with denizens of B’s efficiency within its ranks.

The next day the farmer reluctantly handed B his last assignment. “You know B,” he said, “I had thought that I would have enough work for you for the entire month, but when you’re done with this last task I’m going to call my brother and tell him you’re ready to go back to work. I must say though that if you want to stay here and help around the farm I’ll be more than glad to hire you because you’re the most efficient farmhand I’ve ever come across. Anyway, your last chore is in the barn. There you’ll find two tons of potatoes, all interspersed. There are large potatoes and small potatoes. Your task is to separate them into two piles since the big ones will be taken away and packaged as bakers and the smaller ones go to fast food chains for fries. I had budgeted a week for you to complete this task, but seeing the way you’ve tackled the last two jobs I expect you’ll be done in no time at all. Any questions?”

“Not really,” replied B and off he went.

A week went by and the farmer began to wonder. B had not come back from the barn and reported. Nevertheless, his brother’s instructions had been adamant. Under no circumstances was he to intrude upon B during his assignments as B had to work out his issues by himself. Time continued to pass with no word from B until the entire month was up. Finally the farmer went to the barn to see for himself. He walked into the barn and saw B standing in front of the mountain of potatoes. It didn’t seem as if B had even begun to separate the spuds. As he drew nearer he saw that B had a potato in each hand and was staring at them quizzically. There was an eerie silence and he could see B was sweating profusely. He had a panic-stricken, confused look on his face. The farmer touched B lightly on the shoulder and B jumped, his hands shaking as he dropped the two potatoes to the floor.

The farmer gently asked, “B, what seems to be the problem? You did so well on the other two assignments. I expected you to knock this one out no problem, but here I find you with the first two potatoes in your hand after almost three weeks. Please tell me, what went wrong?”

“Well, you know I’m a Vice President in a Fortune 500 company,” B replied, “so let me explain. When it comes to spreading bullshit around or cutting heads I’m excellent, but for heaven’s sake, please don’t ask me to make a decision. I’m clueless at that.”

I live in a pretty low lying area, but...

What is the lowest point on land in the world? Answer after the jump.

Earth's lowest point on land is the Dead Sea, in Israel and Jordan, which is 1,312 feet below sea level.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The most powerless powerful man on Wall Street

An in-depth look at Uncle Vik from New York magazine. The only thing the article does not cover is which brand of sleep aid he consumes so we know which one to stay away from.

Shades

Remember the hits Cocaine and After Midnight by Eric Clapton. Well they were definitely hits and Eric Clapton performed them, but he didn’t write them. This guy did. Low profile J.J. Cale is a master of his craft with numerous albums in his discography. He also wrote the hit Call Me the Breeze made famous by Lynyrd Skynyrd. But enough about those tunes. This 1980 album is typical J.J. Cale; a mellow sounding blues offering with his smooth but incisive guitar playing which puts you in a laid back yet attentive state. Cale’s understated voice is present throughout, but never overpowers, making each tune the center of attention. This is true of all the tunes on this CD but one, Cloudy Day (Cale doesn’t sing) which is a phenomenal blues instrumental with one of the best saxophone solos I have ever heard. For a sample of his extensive discography click here.

And here is Cloudy Day.

Please Mr. Cuomo, listen to me...

Make them fly coach. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is really upset over the continued lack of cooperation from Bank of Amerillwide's management on what went on with the bonus payouts. I've been suggesting this way to make them talk for ages now.

Is Citi getting it?

The short answer is no. It did the right thing by cancelling the recognition trip it usually provides for its brokers because of "economic concerns." I guess I would be "concerned" too if my stock plummeted to a price of one dollar. Then, in a no-win boneheaded move, gave the brokers 3.5 million dollars worth of gift cards instead. In a double whammy, this move garnered Citi bad press for the money it wasted on the cards and also made the brokers upset. After all, everyone knows the way to a broker's heart is not with a gift card. It's so, what's the word I'm looking for here, impersonal. It's almost as if Citi didn't think about them and their needs as individuals.

Producing music in Boca Raton, Florida

When you think of the music business and recording studios obviously California and New York come to mind. But Boca Raton, Florida? Not exactly the location one thinks of, except maybe where you might expect some stars to show in order to play the amphitheatre or chill out, right? Well, that’s the home of PMR Studio, a one-stop shop for music instruction, recording, production, distribution services and so much more which operates under the auspices of Polar Boehme Music, Inc. The guy who makes it all run is David Ruttenberg, a producer, engineer and writer who was recently nominated in two Grammy categories. Interestingly enough, they have a virtual studio as well, which is kind of a neat concept if you think about it. Pop in to their sites, have look around and listen to some great music while you are there.

Never quite looked at it that way

Bank CEO's and elephant seals, hmm. Aside from the obvious fat-cat quips are there more similarities? Perhaps there are. Now why didn't I think of that?

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This next manager tends to have many supporters and detractors. Whenever I have run across this type of manager in the past I have found that the safest bet is to keep some kind of distance between you and him or her.