Thursday, April 30, 2009

Recession hits everywhere

Even these businesses have announced restructuring. For some reason I thought they would be more immune to the economic downturn, but I guess I was mistaken.

Not exactly Disc Golf but...

A true sister sport. In fact quite a few disc golfers are ex-ultimate players who are too old, injured or not in as good shape anymore, but still could not picture life without throwing a disc. In my view, any sport which involves throwing a flying disc is all good. I'm a disc golfer now, but in my youth I played Ultimate and participated in quite a few HAT tournaments. I have nothing but respect for Ultimate players. It's good to see it being featured in the NYT, especially since the article focuses on women playing the sport.

Ken Lewis: Lightning rod of controversy

He is ousted as Chairman of Bank of America.

One more perspective

Traders are generally full of swagger. They work in an exciting field where an air of confidence is a must and a tough exterior is common. Here's an interesting and rather emotional short essay from one about the recent travails of job loss. The trader is obviously British from his writing style. I wonder where he works.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hawks lead series 3-2

With NBA commissioner David Stern and the Mayor of Atlanta in attendance the Hawks defended their home court and blew out the Miami Heat 106-91. In what can charitably be described as a "chippy" game, there were hard fouls, technical fouls and flagrant fouls called as both sides got increasingly aggressive with their play. With 3:24 left in the game Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra emptied the bench, resigning himself and his Heat to their fate. This guy banged his head on the hardwood and went to the locker room during the first quarter. He returned and ended up scoring 29 points to no avail. Next stop Miami, do or die.

I'll be participating in this...

Citi seeks approval to pay out bonuses

Uncle Vik just won't be happy until he's used the TARP funds for remuneration. Citi is asking the Treasury department (aka Mommy) for permission to pay out bonuses to "key" employees.

One of those "key" employees owns a castle. That's right, a real castle.

Ex-American Home CEO settles with SEC for $2.45M

Michael Strauss is settling federal civil charges which accuse him of accounting fraud. Charges against the CFO of American Home are still pending.

State Capitals and Presidents

In the United States of America four states have capital cities named after American presidents. Which states are they and what are their capitals? Answer after the jump.

The four states and their presidential capitals are as follow: Mississippi (Jackson), Missouri (Jefferson City), Nebraska (Lincoln), and Wisconsin (Madison). Of course, hundreds of other american towns and cities have been named after presidents.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stress test for Citi

Citi "urged" by regulators to raise additional capital. Uncle Vik said to be getting "stress test." OK, just kidding about Uncle Vik. In a manner of speaking it is the entire corporation that is undergoing the stress test.

This is strange

A man with what is essentially two skeletons.

Computer to take on Jeopardy!

As a child I grew up watching Jeopardy with Alex Trebek. My mother is a huge fan and I have great memories of her reserving that half hour every evening so we could sit in front of our small black and white set to race and see who could blurt out the questions the fastest. For that half hour the set was not an idiot box, but rather a test of your intellect, breadth of knowledge and reflexes. To this day, in a reprise similar to that of Rain Man’s, my mother must watch Jeopardy at 7:30 in the evening. It is the only game show I will watch now if I happen to be channel surfing and I come across it.

Now Big Blue is developing a computer program to play Jeopardy against human contestants
. If I.B.M. succeeds and the computer wins, it will be a big step forward in the field of Artificial Intelligence. With all the cutbacks because of the economy I wonder if Alex will be worried about eventually being laid off and replaced by a computer. After all, if it can play and win, it should be a piece of cake to host the show.

Don't you (forget about me)



Hey, hey, hey, hey. Don't you forget about them. Simple Minds performing their hit, Don't you (forget about me) at Live Aid in 1985. That drummer rocks.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hawks even series (2-2)

It was a rough night for the Miami Heat tonight as they lost on their home floor (81-71) in a game in which they never led. Atlanta gets their first playoff road win since May 1997 and evens the series at 2-2. It was a huge victory for the Hawks. Next stop Atlanta.

A bizarre side note to this game was an 11 second stretch in the second quarter during which the same player (James Jones of the Heat) had 2 back to back 4 point plays. He was fouled shooting two separate 3 three pointers which both went in and hit both of the subsequent foul shots for a total of 8 points, all in a span of the aforementioned 11 seconds. After the first one the Hawks were hit with an offensive foul on Mike Bibby inbounding the ball and that is how Miami and Jones got it back so quickly for him to hit the next 4 point play. It didn't help the Heat since they still lost, but I have never seen anything like that in all my years of watching professional basketball.

Short CNN interview with Malcolm Gladwell

At the end of January I wrote a short post reviewing Malcolm Gladwell's latest best seller Outliers: The Story of Success. You can read that post here. Here is Gladwell being interviewed and talking about some specific parts of that book.

Buyout? No thanks!

I've posted about this before. Now another paper is in trouble and to avoid folding is offering buyouts. One 90 year old refuses to take one.

Citi Field strikes again

Another dismal performance by the Mets at Citi Field. How long before they start blaming Uncle Vik for the bad karma?

Omegle.com

I wonder how this is going to turn out. It could be interesting or it could be pretty sketchy, or interesting AND sketchy.

The International Paradox

Go global, get big, attract millions of new users, lose money.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. The following manager can be very detrimental to your career. They can also give you a coronary if you have a weak heart.

MOTW: Stealth Manager

As the title suggests, this manager’s clothes are made from the same material as the successful technology used by the United States Air Force in their revolutionary fighter and bomber. Proof of this lies in Stealth Manager’s ability to sidle up unseen and unheard and surprise you doing something inappropriate. Example: You are surfing the Web on company time on Monday to check football scores from the previous day on NFL.com. You turn around. Stealth Manager has miraculously appeared and is looking over your shoulder. The conversation goes like this.

Stealth Manager. “What are you doing X?”

X. “Um, just doing research for a coaching presentation I have to make later today to Senior Management. Boy, those NFL coaches sure have some innovative leadership techniques to get their teams ready on game day.”

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The World Digital Library

This is a really neat project.

Semi submersibles

In 2006, during a routine patrol, the Coast Guard observed an odd disturbance under the water far off from shore. As the cutter drew closer it spied three snorkels protruding from the surface, without a dive flag anywhere in sight. It was so far off from shore that they could not believe the snorkels were divers so they closed in to investigate. What was the disturbance? It was one of these.

These are becoming more and more prevalent as a way to transfer cocaine from its originating country to distribution hubs. So far that is all that has been moved, but this begs the next question. How long will it be before a terrorist organization uses one of these to ship something even more nefarious than drugs?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Heat lead the series 2 - 1

The Miami Heat left no doubt who owns the Miami Arena tonight with a convincing win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks 107 - 78. The Heat played well throughout the entire game, with strong defense and good offensive execution. The few times Atlanta looked to be mounting a comeback run, James Jones was Johnny on the spot with several incredibly well timed three pointers to take the wind out of their sails.

Again, Jermaine O'Neal stood tall, with 22 points and 10 rebounds, going to the foul line often and hitting his shots. And yes, he was pulled by coach Erik Spoelstra in the fourth quarter with 3:38 remaining in the game. His stat line at the time, 29 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. Next game, Monday night in Miami.

Lady Ella

Happy birthday, Ella Jane Fitzgerald, a giant in the music business and one of the best jazz vocalists who ever lived. Thank you for your music.

The Power Surge

Fray arrived at his cubicle at BS Enterprises and turned on his computer. As he did so he spotted Sanchez already hard at work.

"Good morning Sanchez," he said.

"Morning Fray," Sanchez replied without looking up, "R. wants to see you immediately."

“What about?” Fray asked.

“The statistics report. It seems that there's a problem. You’d better get up there."

R.’s secretary wasn’t in and his door was closed. Fray knocked. “Enter,” said the voice from within.

“Morning R.," Fray greeted him, "you wanted to see me.”

R. was hanging up the phone. R. was thin to the point of being emaciated. His voice was high-pitched and had a nagging quality to it. “The statistics aren't right again. What is the matter with you? Can't you get anything right? Are you that useless? When you were hired you said you were a programmer. Well, get out and go program. And don't come back until the stats are right!” He waved his hand in dismissal.

Fray went back to his office dejectedly and took stock of his lot. R. wanted a program that would make the sales figures look good which no software package on earth could do. No package could do it because R. didn't sell. He was a lazy jerk and covered it up by berating everyone around him and pointing fingers. Fray needed to get out. It was time to fax despair. As Fray was thinking these things a brownout occurred. The lights flickered and it seemed to be a relatively innocuous brownout, but it sucked Fray into the CD-ROM drive of his computer. He didn't emerge somewhere in the hardware, but instead found himself displaced among the myriad software on his hard disk.

He cursed his sloppy file maintenance habits, as he had no immediate idea of where he was. His hard disk resembled a labyrinth, with sub-directories piled upon each other haphazardly and files stored in places they had no right to be. Also, being a furtive creature by nature, many of his files were either hidden or encrypted which didn't help matters at all. Luckily, he knew several computer languages and hoped that this would help him navigate his way up to the root directory. Once there, his plan was to wait patiently until another power surge, which were fairly common in the area, hopefully reversed the process and spit him back out into his office.

At the moment, judging by his surroundings, he seemed to be in the middle of some source code. As he strolled through the code he noticed several minor bugs in his program and jotted them down for future correction. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all. At least he got a different perspective on his programs and now realized why the statistics he had been giving R. for the past six months could be questioned.

When he got out armed with this new knowledge he would give R. a piece of his mind. Then, when R. fired him he would go out on his own and write a new debugging tool which would incorporate this revolutionary low-lying view. He would incorporate Virtual Reality into the debugging process so programmers could actually see inside their programs as he was doing now. Once he had the tool developed he would create a site where people could download the tool for a fee. As more developers hit his site to download the tool and word of mouth spread about its effectiveness he would charge more and more. He would award himself some very price-friendly stock options and then he would launch one of those astounding Internet IPOs, get rich and retire at 30. Visions of limousines, fancy dinners, fine wines and beautiful women danced in front of his eyes. Most of all though, he couldn't wait to see R. have a coronary when Fray told him what he thought of him. First he had to get out though.

Suddenly, he was violently upended, and sent tumbling around in an action similar to that of the spin cycle of his washing machine. Someone apparently was using his machine and he had been unfortunate enough to find himself unsecured as the hard disk thrashed. Eventually, the user stopped whatever they were doing and he picked himself up, battered and bruised, from the top of a left parenthesis. He hurriedly escaped from the program and ran smack into his anti-virus software. All those syringes pointed menacingly at him made him nervous. The software didn't recognize him. It probably thought he was a virus so he turned tail and ran, desperately looking for his explorer. He hoped that by following its path algorithm he would be able to navigate the maze he had created and find his way back up to the root. After many false starts and wrong turns he eventually did just that and came face to face with some hidden system files. He sat on top of the directory to await the next power spike, which usually hit around mid-morning.

A few minutes later, through the computer's speaker, he heard his office door open and a conversation ensue between two of his co-workers. What he heard struck terror in his heart.

"Well, we're almost done. Fray's is the last one. I don't know why he insisted on not upgrading to this Uninterruptable Power Supply before. Something about cost I guess. You know how Fray pinches pennies. Most of those surge suppressers he had weren't worth a damn anyway. The UPS is the only way to go," said the first voice.

A second voice replied, "Yeah, no problem now though. Once we hook this baby up it won't matter if the whole city blacks out. I did the research on this beast and it's guaranteed to run for six hours with this deluxe battery backup."

"What about power surges? Does the UPS really protect the machine that much against them?" asked the first.

"Oh definitely. Surges are a thing of the past," the second voice came back. "This model can withstand the worst spike the power company ever throws at us. Fray will never have to worry again. I wonder where he is. I can't wait to tell him the good news."

Weekend Haiku

Poverty's child-
he starts to grind the rice
and gazes at the moon.

Basho (1644-1694)

Friday, April 24, 2009

How many?

How many shares of common stock were outstanding on the date of record for the 2008 Citi Annual Report? Answer after the jump.

5,512,970,301. This means that as of that date of record I was .000000339 part owner of Citi.

Enjoy

Just thought I would post this since it is Friday. Any resemblance to where I live is purely coincidental. Enjoy.

The Mets lose again

The Mets are swept and some say it's because Santana hasn't pitched. Is it karma I ask? Perhaps when Citi starts making money again, the Mets will start winning on a consistent basis. OK, it's just a theory.

Another sign of the weak economy

These might seem to be a good idea, but the problem is that while demand for state services is greater than ever, there is less supply as more and more furloughs are implemented.

Quote for today

A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.

Robert Frost

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh, Pretty Woman!

Happy birthday Roy Kelton Orbison. The music world is much better because of you.

Slumdog turns 19

Happy birthday Dev Patel. Jai ho!

Hilarious!

The Miss Information pageant.

I am he. He is me.

This article hits very close to home. We have a name at home for it. I am the Manny. Yes, I am the male nanny. It is actually a lot of fun. There really is nothing quite like spending a lot of quality time with your children. It's always a great day and the stress is minimal to non-existent.

When I was a young boy I read Art Linkletter's Kids say the Darnedest Things. I remember laughing and re-reading it several times. He really had a connection with those young children. The reason the book was so good was that he was right. They really do say some incredible things. Every interaction with them is an education and every day incredibly precious.

More background on the Kellermann death

As I said, stange and sad. Here is more information on this apparent suicide.

The sixth man

Was a bird last night, but it didn't help the Hawks as I detailed in the previous post.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Series tied 1 - 1

After getting blown out Sunday night the Heat leave Atlanta with the series tied. They won tonight in convincing fashion, (108-93) sending a signal to the Hawks on their home floor that they would not be pushed around. The rookies played exceptionally well. Daequan Cook had 20 points, hitting six three pointers and Michael Beasley was an offensive force when needed. The veterans stood tall with Jermaine O'Neal scoring 19 and Udonis Haslem hitting critical jumpers when needed the most in the fourth quarter. And finally, this man had 33 points. Next stop Miami.

Another casualty at the Citi

Sir Win is stepping down as chairman of the Board of Directors.

This is strange and sad

I wonder what happened. Will there be something even worse in the books than what we already know?

The Frank Zappa of Winemaking

At least that's what I used to call him. Oenephiles all over the world know him. My favorite wine of his by far was Cigar Volante. He also had some really good desert wines. His big idea now is to get small.

Minimalist recipes

I wonder how they taste. Will they become a best seller? Perhaps. Remember these.

Are the seats too expensive?

Are they playing bad ball? Or both? Ticket prices are just a little too high at Citi Field. Come to think of it, Citi usually overcharges for its banking services too.

Hullabaloo

The third and final studio album released by The Farm in 1994, this album was not critically well received. There must be something wrong with me then because it’s the album of theirs I like the most, more so than Spartacus or Love See no Colour. No hits came from this album, but I like its clean sound.

While they are essentially classified as an indie dance or house band under the broad spectrum of alternative music, these tunes have more meaning to them than simple dance band music. Some of the tunes are slower tempo songs with well written lyrics and intricate construction. Peter Hooton’s lead vocals are in fine form along with some excellent backing harmony to create a very full, pleasing sound. Songs I especially like on this release are The Man Who Cried, Distant Voices and Echoes, which is a slightly haunting instrumental. The Farm was unofficially called the Soul of Socialism and is perhaps best known for the hit All Together Now, which is not on this album.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Citi's annual investor meeting

Courtesy of Dealbreaker. You've got to love it! Uncle Vik in all his glory.

Congratulations W.S. Merwin

Yesterday W.S. Merwin won not his first, but his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry for The Shadow Of Sirius.

Best record in baseball so far

No, it's not the Mets, although even with the karmic experience (800 million dollars worth of karma) of their new stadium their bullpen is surprising some of its critics. It's actually this team.

Can't we all just get along

Sigh. Same old, same old. I thought this stuff was supposed to go away with our new foreign policy approach.

Living with less

A roundup by the NYT on some of the effects the economic downturn is having on people, mostly middle America.

Cause we've ended as lovers



Lee Ritenour and Steve Lukather performing Cause we've ended as lovers. Wow!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Well, well, well

Goldman says Citi's first quarter earnings (or less than expected losses, whichever way you care to look at it) report is really a case of putting lipstick on a pig. The money quote from analyst Richard Ramsden, "The results included several one-time items which muddied the waters,” Ramsden wrote in the note.

This is Spinal Tap! Wait no, it's...

I loved these guys and thought the movie was great. Who can forget the classic song Stonehenge, with the accompanying incredible live show...right? Those amplifiers that "went up to 11." And what about the drummer who spontaneously combusted. Now that was a real rock n' roll band, even though it wasn't.

Another loss at Citi Field

The Mets were winning, but they lost again.

Rain, rain, go away

I know this article is about ball golf, but I can't stand playing in heavy rain. Give me any other kind of weather and I will heave the plastic, but heavy rain just makes my round go downhill. The article gives good ideas though in terms of gear and mindset, some of which can be translated to Disc Golf.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This manager usually shows up to supervise your unit towards the tail end of his/her career. If one is not careful it can turn into the tail end of one's career also.

MOTW: Brain Dead Manager

At some point in his/her career Brain Dead Manager had something going on. Unfortunately, by the time he/she reaches your office this is no longer the case. Brain Dead Manager’s tenure is characterized by a lot of confusion, frustration and angst among his/her subordinates. Typical symptoms of Brain Dead Manager disease include sitting completely still for long periods of time, blank stares, demonstrating awe at anything relatively new and inarticulate grunts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Back in black

A 28 win improvement from last year for first year head coach Erik Spoelstra (youngest coach in the league) and The Heat, El Heat, you know, those basketball guys, open their round one best of seven playoff series tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern time against the Atlanta Hawks in Georgia. Let's go Heat! Let's steal the first one on their home court. Oh, and of course, The Heat have this guy. That's reason enough to watch right there.

For NBA fans

The NBA Playoffs started yesterday. In NBA history, one team won eight consecutive National Basketball Association championships. Which team and what years? Answer after the jump.

The Boston Celtics won NBA titles every year from 1959 through 1966.

From dancer to paralyzed person

An update on Liu Yan, one of China's most heralded classical dancers, who was injured during a rehearsal for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and is now a parapalegic.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Under par, barely, and no Top Dog

Today it was windy. The pins were in the short positions and we played an extra hole for a round of 19 holes. I shot a 56 or 1 under. I had 3 birdies, 2 bogeys and 15 pars, but it was not good enough for the Top Dog award. That honor went to my buddy Mike F. who shot 3 under for the round.

It was a lot of fun and a very interesting round for me. My driving was off and it seemed like I was hitting trees right off the tee on practically every hole. I was struggling and it really made me exercise my course management as well as my recovery skills. I felt like I battled hard and scrambled for every one of those pars. My short game was pushed to the limit and it was a true test of my mental as well as physical game. For me it was a real accomplishment to finish the round under par.

Weekend Haiku

They blossom, and then
we gaze, and then the blooms
scatter, and then...

Onitsura (1660 - 1738)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Is it Friday already?

Here's a nice little tidbit for a Friday afternoon.

Any publicity is good publicity

Right? Isn't that what they say? I don't think that is always the case. With everything they have going on I am sure AIG would prefer it if this didn't go viral.

Uncle Vik is "pleased"

The street is raving about Citi's first quarter losses because they were less than expected. Uncle Vik said in a statement Friday that he was "pleased" with Citigroup's performance. Call me crazy but I think it would be nice for shareholders if they actually made some money some time soon.

Now that's transportation

Check out Madoff''s brother's wheels,...nice company car, huh?

Ditch the Jet

I hereby revise my suggestion of using this to make CEOs talk. It is now officially cool to fly commercial. Will it be coach class though?

So Alive



Love and Rockets performing So Alive.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Boom! He's done.

John Madden retires at 73. I'll miss him, even if it's just for the fun factor of some of the crazy things that came out of his mouth while he was doing color.

Ah, the Age of Transparency

The President and the Veep file their taxes. And you can look at them, courtesy of the Web.

I.Q. and the stimulus

An Op-Ed in the NYT. Interesting food for thought. The old nature versus nurture argument?

Domino's is our last resort anyway

Ouch! I don't think we have ordered a delivery from them in at least ten years, so I guess we are safe.

The English like it

As we know, yesterday was Tax Day. There was one of these at our City Hall. I prefer Earl Grey myself.

Diamond Life

What an apt name for an album. This 1984 (in the U.K.) debut album by the British band Sade is a precious gem. The album was subsequently released in the U.S. in 1985. If a voice can be described as one that caresses a tune, its lead singer’s, Helen Folasade Adu, also better known as Sade. This Nigerian born British front-woman’s style is so smooth and mellow that it almost forces you to relax as you listen to the music. From the hits, Your Love is King and Smooth Operator to the pleading Why Can’t We Live Together, the songs on this CD are harmonious, pleasing, and somewhat provocative. Soft but emphatic, Sade’s voice winds through this album to cast a spell on the listener, providing a soulful, jazzy experience which is over before you know it.

Here is Smooth Operator. I just love that saxophone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

He makes it look so easy

Here is some really cool footage of the best and most consistent Disc Golf player on the planet. Here is Ken "The Champ" Climo's play three days running as he notched a birdie each day on hole 17 at the 2007 United States Disc Golf Championship (USDGC) on the Winthrop Gold course. He dismantled this notoriously demanding hole en route to a record setting victory. It's amazing how fluid he is and how he makes an extremely challenging hole look routine. I love the three simultaneous split looks that the footage gives you.

Surprise, surprise!

If you haven't watched this yet do so. It proves the old saying to the nth degree that you can't judge a book by its cover. Nor should you.

More NTPSS

I know it is kind of old news, but since it is Tax Day I wanted to add it to the tally of others I have documented on this blog. Kathleen Sebelius, President Barack Obama’s pick for Secretary of Health and Human services, admitted she didn’t pay $7,040 in taxes.

More Bernie Fallout continued...

The effects of Madoff's scam continue to reverberate around the economy in all sorts of places. The swath of his Ponzi-like scythe has even affected country clubs like this one.

Tax Day

Today is April 15th, commonly known as Tax Day in the U.S. I refer you to this post that I wrote a while back in honor of the Internal Revenue Service and this day.

Today in 1912

On April 15, 1912, the British luxury liner, the "unsinkable" Titanic sank in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland, less than three hours after striking an iceberg. She was on her maiden voyage. Approximately 1,500 people died.

Torn

You may have heard the pop version of the song Torn sung by Natalie Imbruglia. It has a catchy beat (very pop friendly) and the song was extremely successful, reaching number two in the UK Singles Chart and number one on airplay around the world. It was number one on the Billboard Airplay chart for 14 weeks. The single went on to sell over a million copies in the United Kingdom alone.

Here is the original version (more of a rock/grunge sound) by the band that wrote and recorded it before Imbruglia made it famous. From the album Wacko Magneto by the band Ednaswap (1997 - Anne Preven - Vocals, Rusty Anderson - Guitar, Scott Cutler - Guitar, Paul Bushnell - Bass, Carla Azar - Drums).

Several years ago I heard Anne Preven interviewed by Howard Stern and she said something along the lines of that she didn't mind that Imbruglia had hit it big with their song. She said that the royalties had helped pay for their own state of the art recording studio and gave them the freedom to do what they wanted. After Torn she said, they were free to make music their own way, answering to no one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If Madoff sent you cuff links, beware...

Well, according to this article they won't go that far, but investors have launched an involuntary Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy against disgraced financier Bernard Madoff. This is to try ensure that Madoff’s personal wealth is used to pay back those who say they were defrauded and not transferred to family members or hidden elsewhere.

A quote from the article, "For example, a trustee in a personal bankruptcy can recover gifts made by Madoff to friends and family going back six years, " he said.

And about those cuff links...like we said, they won't go that far. Here's another quote from the article.

If Madoff sent you a set of cuff links, nobody’s going to try to get that back," Landers said. "But if he sent you $150,000 for a college fund, that may be part of this."

Bottom line, if this goes through, more family members and friends are about to be tangled up in Bernie's web, whether they were in on it or not.

From Wall of Sound to Wall of Bars

After a long, drawn out second trial rock music producer Phil Spector is found guilty of second degree murder.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I wrote a post about this a while back (February 7th to be exact) before the book had been published. Now the NYT has a one page editorial about it and guess what. It has shot into the Top 10 on Amazon's best seller list. Go figure, I like zombies as much as the next guy, but hmm...

Is it karma?

The Mets lost their home opener at Citi field to the California boys and the TARP didn't come out once. They bumbled their way to a 6-5 loss. Were any Citi executives there? Do the Mets need a bailout yet? No and no, after all, it's only one game. Oh, and by the way, there will soon be more tickets available courtesy of disgraced financier, Mr. Madoff himself.

Teardrop

For House fans (of which I am one), here is the theme song by Massive Attack. The song actually has lyrics which are sung by guest vocalist Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins. However, the version used in the opening credits of the series uses only the beginning and ending sections, which are instrumental. Here is the song along with some pretty cool fractured images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Monday, April 13, 2009

J.J. Cale

I wrote a post about his album Shades a while back in early March. Here is an article about him from the CNN website.

No mystery about logo price tag

The regular season home opener is here for the Mets today at Citi Field and when asked what they have learned about the park so far team members have responded with "not much" or "nothing really." What we do know is it cost about 800 million to build and Citi inked a deal to pay 400 million to put their name on it. We know ticket prices are high. We also know that when it rains they pull out the TARP to cover the logo. Oops, I meant the infield. Sorry, that was bad but I couldn't resist.

"Hyperlocal" web sites

I've been posting about this for a while now. Could this be the way it all turns out?

This is kind of neat

Good for him. It's always nice to see people recognized for their work. I guess he's kind of like the Thomas Pynchon of architecture.

Bad news for many of us

This has been obvious to me for quite some time now.

All in the family

Shana Madoff, niece of Bernie Madoff, a compliance officer at the infamous firm, is concerned she may be eventually doing some time, so she has hired a consultant to teach her how to survive behind bars.

The money quote in the article, "Shana was a compliance officer and signed a lot of documents, saying they were correct," the source said. "She may have a problem."

Um, do you think so? Do you smell some conflict of interest or just plain ineptitude here? That's exactly what compliance officers are there for. They are supposed to question any transactions that contain the slightest whiff of impropriety about them. My guess is that practically everything she signed off on was illicit, whether she knew it or not.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This week's manager makes one wonder how they ever wound up in the position they are in. One would think that at some point they must have made themselves understood enough to be promoted to a management position.

MOTW: Unintelligible/Convoluted Manager

Working for Unintelligible/Convoluted Manager is the ultimate frustrating experience. No matter how many times and different ways this manager tells you something there is simply no way to understand what it is he/she is trying to communicate. Unintelligible/Convoluted Manager simply cannot express his/her ideas logically and meetings tend to degenerate into a corporate version of Pictionary where staff members try to guess, usually unsuccessfully, what the manager is trying to convey via drawings on a flipchart. Things really hit rock bottom when the staff is cursed with an Unintelligible/Convoluted Manager who also boasts no artistic ability. The recommendation when this occurs is to try charades.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Next stop Cordoba

Don't cry for you Kenny Perry. The truth is you gave it away. Sorry, I couldn't resist. The green jacket will be making its way to Argentina. Angel Cabrera won the Masters on the second hole of a sudden death playoff in a rather unspectacular fashion. It was another beautiful day at Augusta and although Tiger, Lefty and especially Chad Campbell mounted a charge, at the end only "El Pato" was left standing. Congratulations to Angel Cabrera. And cheers to Kenny Perry for being a stand-up guy and gracious in defeat.

The Dead live on

Reuniting for a contert tour. Nice to see.

Shakedown Street

Released in 1978, this was the tenth studio album by the Grateful Dead and a friend of mine once referred to this album as “the Dead’s answer to disco.” I don’t know about that, but the album is certainly a good one, with the typical Grateful Dead insouciant air, great guitar licks and an eclectic song lineup. The title track, Shakedown Street, certainly sounds like it could be a version of disco after it was filtered through the unconventional prism of Dead songwriting and their unique, laid back performance style. It’s a good tune and I like it. Other songs that I especially like on this album are Fire on the Mountain and France. There is also a cover of Good Lovin’ sung by Bob Weir. The song was written by Clark and Resnick and later popularized by The Young Rascals.

Here is the Greatful Dead performing an 8 plus minute version of Fire on the Mountain in concert. R.I.P. Jerry.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

What will happen tomorrow?

Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry will tee off last in the final round of the Masters tomorrow. Both had strong rounds today and are sitting 11 under for the tournament. The Tiger is 7 strokes back and getting in his own way. It looks like he will be paired with Lefty. That should be a reason to tune in all by itself. Chad Campbell is now at 9 under with Jim Furyk right behind at 8 down. Should be fun.

From era of excess to times of thrift

Suddenly it's fun to be frugal. With the ailing economy and numerous layoffs, people are beginning to enjoy the somewhat forgotten art of pinching pennies. I have always thought it was a good modus vivendi to incoporate and above all, to inculcate in our children.

Bernie bankrupt

You think? Hopefully this will pave the way for some restitution, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

A good round, but not good enough

Today was a perfect day for golf. The weather was great and there was not a breath of wind. I shot 49 or 5 under, but it wasn't enough. In a near perfect round I shot 1 bogey, 6 birdies and 11 pars, but the Top Dog award went to a buddy who shot a stellar round of 8 under. Oh well, next time hopefully.

Weekend Haiku

Even stones in streams
of mountain water compose
songs to wild cherries

Onitsura (1660 - 1738)

Snakecharmer



Ottmar Liebert performing Snakecharmer.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Campbell steals the show

He had a legitimate chance at a new course record, but finished his round with back to back bogeys. Still, he leads after the first round at 7 under. It's incredible what good weather will do for golf. There were under par scores all over the place and the course looked phenomenal.

The Desert Speaks

Born of a Yemenite father and Moroccan mother Yosefa Dahari blends these traditions into a Middle Eastern tapestry of vibrant music. On this 1995 release Yosefa’s beautiful, mysterious voice is at full throttle and she sings with unbridled passion. If you like Arabic-style music but can do without the repetitive wailing sometimes accompanying that genre then this album is for you. Traditional middle-eastern instrumentation blends effortlessly with a western ambient dance style which gives this offering a ton of crossover appeal.

There isn’t a bad song on this album (pretty rare) and her clear voice just soars over the tunes, coaxing you to sway, enjoy and come back for more. The title track, The Desert Speaks, is a great rhythmic ode to the desert with a wonderfully seductive violin backdrop. Again, as in other music that I own from cultures not my own, I don’t understand the lyrics, but it doesn’t matter. The music and her voice are great. Songs I especially like are Longings and Place With No Name. Even not understanding the lyrics she makes me want to travel there; to that mirage, that place with no name. Oh, and Track 3, Shafshaf’s Song, even has a hip-hop/rap verse in the middle of it which is perfectly placed for the song.

There is one English song on the album, Before the Night is Gone and there are some brief translations of the Hebrew lyrics into English in the accompanying booklet along with some very interesting liner notes. I never get tired of listening to this CD for a refreshing change of pace. Highly recommended.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lefty

With the Masters coming up here is an interesting look at Phil Mickleson. I've watched Phil win and I've watched him lose. I've seen him look super confident and also look like a deer in the headlights, all in the same round. This article looks at how his fellow competitors view him versus how his fans see him. I do know one thing, he played poorly at the Shell Houston Open last week and missed the cut, so he will have to bounce back from that.

Dollar Dominatrix, Damsel of Doom, or just...

Was she in the right place at the right time? Was she lucky? Is she really a bearish oracle? Is she just not afraid to open her mouth and doesn't care what others think or do? Here's one view on the toast of Wall Street who has left Openheimer to open her own firm, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC. The WSJ article is interesting because it argues that there were many more who made the call back in 2007, but she just got the most acclain because the investor community was floundering and her timing was good. They say timing is everything, don't they?

Stevie Nicks: 60 and still going strong

I always liked Lindsey Buckingham more and think he has more talent than she does, but she still rocks and plenty of people love her.

Wired, hipper and yet still conventional

This year's Masters should be fun. Spanning the gamut age-wise, we have contestants ranging from 17 to 73 years old. New changes allows cellphone users access to enhanced graphics, live storing, statistics, messaging and video highlights. The Masters has become the first golf event to make live streaming video available, exclusively to iPhone users. Oh, and the Tiger and the Shark are back.

Wish I was in one of these right about now


With a very large, very cold mojito...

An interview with Trent Reznor

An interview with the front man of Nine Inch Nails by Digg founder Kevin Rose. I've always liked NIN's music and know he is intelligent and tech-savvy, but I didn't realize how eloquent he is. It's a great interview because the questions are all from fans and the ones with the most Diggs are the ones Kevin Rose asks. Reznor is extremely down to earth and thoughtful with his answers.

And here is Nine Inch Nails performing Head Like a Hole in concert.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Page Turners

No, I am not talking about gripping novels that you can't put down. These are the real page turners. What a job and some of the stories associated with it are pretty humorous.

The new Lost and Found

The flip side of cyber baddies. Instead of using it for scams these are nice people using the web to try and return misplaced or lost items.

Cool videos

A site with some really neat videos. You can end up spending quite a bit of time there.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blue Bell Knoll

With their own special sound, Scottish band Cocteau Twins released this gem, their fifth album, on Capitol Records in 1988. This release is a slow tempo offering with gentle compositions and Elizabeth Fraser’s ethereal voice caresses each track with the tender loving care it deserves. The instrumentation on each track provides a complex backdrop for her gliding high notes and frequent bouts of glossolalia. Classified under Ambient music, this sound is not for everyone. My favorite tracks on this CD are the title track, a stealthily euphoric tune which builds momentum with each passing intricate chord, until it ends with a crescendo-like flourish as well as A Kissed Out Red Floatboat.

Here is the title track, Blue Bell Knoll.

Interesting

A lesson from the Web for retooling our stagnating economy perhaps?

Douglas Beamish

A while back I posted about Colin Pitchfork, whose claim to fame was that he was the first person ever convicted of murder with DNA evidence. Now I give you Doug Beamish. What is his claim to fame? Answer after the jump.

Beamish is a Canadian who was the first person ever convicted of murder (specifically second degree murder) using animal DNA. In this case DNA from two white hairs, which were fur from Beamish's parents' pet cat "Snowball" were used as evidence to secure the conviction. Beamish received a fifteen year sentence.

The Dreier Scam

Although the amount pales in comparison to Madoff's Ponzi scheme, this guy was a consummate con man, in an updated version reminiscent of Frank Abagnale of Catch Me If You Can fame.

By the way, if you haven't read Catch Me If You Can, it really is a fascinating and entertaining read. You can get it in paperback and I highly recommend it. The movie starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent who pursues him. While the movie is quite good, it is definitely one of those cases where it is not as good as the book.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Uncle Vik will not attend first regular season game at Citi Field

News flash. Citi has said that Uncle Vik will NOT be in attendance when the Mets play their opener at Citi Field on April 13th. I guess that pretty much rules out the ceremonial first pitch by him then. That's too bad, I was hoping to see a nice cricket bowl, but at least now they won't have to install a wicket for the occasion. Citi has also said that none of his top lieutenants will be there either. Nobody wants to be asked questions about the 400 million I guess.

Who has time for Twitter?

All those tweets are too long and take way too much time. Enter Flutter, the next level of microblogging. I feel prehistoric blogging conventionally. Take it is easy folks, it's just a mockumentary. For right now at least.

Exclusive video of test drive: First post bailout government-built car

Remember this post. Well, I was wrong. I have no problem admitting publicly when I am wrong. Apparently the new government built bailout car starts fine, it's when it skids that seems to be the problem. Check out the video to see what I am talking about.

video

The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime)

I have always liked Peter Schilling. This German’s understated, smooth voice and more often than not science fiction, space-themed tunes were another eighties offering that I enjoyed listening to. He scored an international hit with the English version of Major Tom (Coming Home), which is a synthpop retelling of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. This album, released in 1989, is a compilation album and includes the aforementioned hit. It has many other good songs including City of Night (Berlin) which is a tribute to the duality of that city during the cold war period.

Other songs I especially like are Noah Plan, Lone Survivor and Terra Titanic (Lost to the Sea), an homage to the tragedy which befell the "unsinkable" ocean liner. The title cut was produced by Michael Cretu of Enigma fame. All in all, this is a full standard new wave, snythpop release with interesting, catchy tracks.

Here is the title track, The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime).


And, although my recording is in English, here is Terra Titanic (Lost to the Sea) in its original German. The sound takes about 17 seconds to begin.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Every company has these. Sometimes they are effective, sometimes not. It all depends on the quality of the picture.

MOTW: Big Picture Manager

Has monumental ideas, underestimates any task and is clueless about how the day to day gets accomplished.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A solar submarine?

What the heck? Now here's an idea whose time has come, or maybe not. From the strange but true files. It seems incredible that anyone would build something like this, let alone convince investors to shell out money for it, but there it is.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The New Bestsellers

Until a Twitter novel comes out I guess these will have to do. There already have been some bestsellers. And I thought blogging was tough. Here's a more detailed explanation of the phenomenon.

Over par doesn't get it done

When we arrived at the park today it looked like we would be rained out. Instead the weather turned absolutely gorgeous, creating ideal conditions for a promising round. Alas, it was not to be. The last couple of weeks my game has taken a turn south and this morning was no exception. With no wind and the pins in the short positions, the best I could muster was a 57 or 3 over par. I had 1 double bogey (OUCH!), 3 bogeys (ouch!), 2 birdies and 12 pars, ensuring I did NOT take home the Top Dog award. It was still a lot of fun.

Hanoi

A nice travel report on Hanoi. According to this article and short guide, the city has evolved into a sophisticated metropolis with high-rises, sensational cuisine and world-class art.

No end in sight

Another 663 thousand jobs lost in March. Ouch!

They're back!

Remember this post. And this one. They are back and touring again. Good to see this happening.

Citi Field

A report on the Mets inaugural game at Citi Field. Wow, they even serve marinated skirt steak at the restaurant in center field. Maybe the 400 million was worth it. I wonder if Uncle Vik was in attendance.

When an Eagle flies mile high

I always thought Brian Dawkins was a good guy. I know he is a very good player and that he was the heart and soul of the Eagles. With this gesture he has confirmed my suspicion that he is a classy, likeable guy. Why would you not want a guy like him in your locker room?

For all you NBA fans

The playoffs are getting close and the Heat clinched a berth last night with their win over the Bobcats. So, who holds the record for most lifetime points in the NBA? Answer after the jump.

During his illustrious career, Kareem Abdul Jabar scored 38,387 points.

Weekend Haiku

Unhappy and poor, Issa was often in revolt against the social conventions of his time. Do you detect a note of protest in this haiku?

What a red moon!
And whose is it,
children?

Issa (1762-1826)

Friday, April 3, 2009

File under stupid

If you want to get away with your crimes don't go on television, talk to Dr. Phil about your crime spree and show a video about it. As bad as his show is, a lot of people watch it, including the Feds apparently.

Nicholas Hughes, R.I.P.

Quite a while back I wrote a post about Ted Hughes and his poetry, specifically the Crow poems. I also wrote that he was married to Slyvia Plath, a famous poet herself who also published one novel, The Bell Jar. She committed suicide one month after its publication. A commenter wrote that some blame Hughes for her death. Now their son, Nicholas Hughes, has committed suicide at 47. This Op-ed about Nicholas Hughes was written by Linda Gray Sexton, daughter of Anne Sexton, another famous poet who also committed suicide. In it Linda Gray Sexton confesses she has also attempted the deed.

Let the sunshine in: 2 perspectives

As they say, compare and contrast. An energetic group of young performers sings Let the Sunshine In in Washington Square Park, before they meet author Jim Rado (one of the co-authors of the rock musical Hair). It's a great song and I just love the expression on Rado's face towards the end of the video as he greets the singers.



At the other end of the spectrum, from Sweden, one of the campiest, glam-dance bands around, Army of Lovers, interprets the same tune. I wonder what Mr. Rado thinks of this. I imagine he's all right with it as long as he gets his royalty check.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sesame Street explains the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been talking about Madoff and Ponzi schemes in general for a while now. I also have two children aged 4 and 2, so Sesame Street is big in our house. Mostly the boys are Elmo fans, but this time Ernie and Cookie Monster hit it out of the park with this explanation of Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Sometimes it takes puppets to explain things that many grown-ups didn't get.

A little bit country

Happy birthday Emmylou Harris.

Twist in my Sobriety



Tanita Tikaram performing Twist in my Sobriety.

Turn out the "Guiding Light"

Wow, this soap opera has been on the air for 72 years. It will be done in September.

More Bernie Fallout

What can I say? There are so many facets to this Madoff thing. That's what happens when you swindle investors out of 50 billion dollars. There are many players and eveything has to be examined.

Hey wait a minute, you didn't write that...

But you did write that essay. I've been following this case since its inception. He claims free speech and that he's a victim, being fired because he wrote an unpopular essay after 9/11 (really unpopular by the way). The university claims he plagiarized and falsified academic research. We'll see what the jury decides.

More signs of a bad economy

You knew this was going to happen. In the best of times there are usually some homeless people who use the public library as a spot for some down time. Most libraries have put policies in against sleeping in them to avoid just these types of scenarios. Many a sleep deprived student pulling an all nighter who has nodded off in a library can attest to that.
"
Here in Arlington Heights, newly homeless patrons are showing up in their business suits
," said Paula Moore, the library’s director.

Haiku

This haiku by Issa was written upon the death of his last surviving child. The first line of the haiku is from a scripture which compares the transitoriness of life to the transitoriness of dew.

This Dewdrop World-
a dewdrop world it is, and still,
although it is...

Issa (1762-1826)

The Taxman Cometh

I think it was Alvin Greenberg who once wrote (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Who, upon receiving an anonymous telegram reading FLEE, ALL IS DISCOVERED, would not do exactly that, wondering which dark and foreboding secret of one's past had recently come to light and where." Such a telegram I agree, with its generic and all-encompassing accusation, could prove extremely worrisome to the addressee.

However, by no means does it compare to the sensation when, shortly after filing your return, you receive via U.S. Mail an officious looking envelope whose return address glaringly states it is from the Internal Revenue Service. This sensation quickly transforms itself into one of unadulterated terror when having read the letter, your thoughts repeatedly return to the phrase FIELD AUDIT which has been sprinkled strategically throughout the paragraphs in large, bold, capital letters for maximum effect.

The rest of the letter is as confusing as the forms you are provided with to file your return and for a few minutes you cling to the hope that maybe, just maybe, the form letter was really intended for "Fast" Freddy Freeloader who lives two doors down from you in the apartment complex. Notwithstanding this slim ray of hope, sweaty palms ensue, along with depressing Kafka-esque visions of a dour-faced accountant type poring over your whole life history of the past five years.

I had nightmares for a week and that high pitched noise in my ear which no one else seems to hear stepped up its frequency to twice a day. I wondered if I had unwittingly slipped into the netherworld of white collar crime through a misplaced decimal point on my return. (I had always hated math in school and preferred anything to do with the English language.) Would the judge believe that these preferences in my early formative years, and ones which I had no control over, had precipitated my unceremonious downfall from upstanding, forthright citizen to common criminal? Such defenses have worked in the past, but then I wasn't a serial killer. I was a criminal of a much more serious bent. I was guilty of THE SIN, a heinous omission known in legal parlance as TAX EVASION; just look at Al Capone's or Leona Helmsley's eventual demise. The only thing which would save me now would be an appointment to a cabinet post and that just wasn't going to happen. The whole thing was too nefarious to think about.

An ominous follow up letter arrived, announcing the date when a Mr. E. B. Jones, my field representative would be visiting me. It politely stated that I should have all the necessary documentation ready as this would save valuable time, which in turn would save the real taxpayers money.

I never did meet Mr. Jones. I'm sure he's a very nice man and very good at his job. I have looked in the phone book of Santos, Brazil, where I moved to and there is no one by that name in this pleasant port city. The weather, food and people are great and my Portuguese is improving by leaps and bounds. I guess Alvin Greenberg was right after all. I wonder who does his returns.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's about time

The Feds have seized Madoff's stuff in an effort to secure assets, hopefully to pay back investors he swindled.

Another sign of the bad economy.

Remember that saying, "A boat is a hole in the water which you pour money into," or something along those lines. They are expensive to maintain in good times, but what about now? Here's another sign of the recession.

Almost done

In fact, only two more days to go. We are a Nielsen family, beginning last Thursday and running through this Thursday. When they first called and asked us to participate my wife convinced me it would be fun, so we said yes. Now I can’t wait for it to be over. Our methodology involves the use of viewer "diaries," in which we self-record our television viewing habits. As many working televisions as we own, that is how many diaries we have to fill out. It’s a lot more work than they make it out to be. I think it’s a bit like jury duty. You are curious if you have never served, but once you do you hope you never have to again.

Bernie fallout expands

Now his two sons have had their assets frozen, as well as five other executives who ran portfolios. Also, his brother has failed to have his assets unfrozen despite repeated attempts.

A quote for today

If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?”

Thomas Henry Huxley

Amplified Heart

A mellow release by essentially what is a two person English band, (Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt) this Everything But The Girl 1994 release is full of soothing songs which put you in a laid back state. The hit Missing, which peaked at #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart in early 1996, got this band more noticed by the mainstream, but it’s their other songs which are richly constructed and written.

This offering is mainly acoustic driven and it’s superbly clean sounding with nice melodies. Their sound has been categorized under pop, electronic, bossa nova, lounge or alternative dance. I would say this album is alternative with a pop / easy listening feel to it. It’s a wonderful album. As an aside, the duo are also married, but extremely guarded about their private life.

Here they are performing the hit Missing.