Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Lost City of Z

Before I picked up this book by David Grann I had never heard of Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett, who according to Grann was not really a full colonel but rather a lieutenant colonel who used the colonel title because he believed it helped his fund-raising efforts. This detail notwithstanding, Fawcett was an incredibly colorful character who vanished during an expedition into the Amazon in search of a magical city he simply dubbed Z.

An indomitable explorer and surveyor, Fawcett made numerous trips into the Amazon at the behest of Britain's Royal Geographical Society, always returning in record time and with unsurpassed results. He was an intrepid man with a strong constitution (a requisite trait for explorers at the time who were constantly exposed to infection and illness) and resolute conviction in what he was doing. He served with distinction during World War I, sired three children and was friends with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Over 100 people are estimated to have died trying to find out what happened to Fawcett on his last, ill-fated expedition. Grann, a writer for The New Yorker, decided to give it a go as well. The result is this book, based on extensive research and a trip into the Amazon. With his writing Grann puts you right in the middle of all of Fawcett's expeditions and the privations he and his parties routinely suffered. After reading this book I kept asking myself one question, "Why would anyone undertake such arduous agony?" The answer is complex and lies in Fawcett's driven nature and Grann gives very good glimpses into this larger than life man and his reasons for doing what he did.

On his last expedition Fawcett set out with only two other companions, one of his sons and his son's best friend. They subsequently disappeared, never to be heard from again. I can only imagine what Fawcett must have felt when the party's demise ultimately came and he knew he was responsible for the death of his son. Wikipedia notes that only recently in the uncharted jungles of Brazil such a city as the one that became Fawcett's obsessive quest has recently been found at the latitude, longitude coordinates (-8.843889°,-67.253056°).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Morgan Stanley to be Citi stake underwriter

Morgan Stanley has won the business to be the underwriter and advisor on the sale of the U.S. government’s stake in Citigroup. This will be one of the biggest stock sales in history and could take the rest of 2010. There is no word on whether Morgan Stanley will be the sole underwriter.

Who's checking the script supervisor?

Script supervisors are the people who are supposed to ensure continuity in movies to cut down on the mistakes we see in them from time to time. For instance, a blatant example might be an actor who has long sleeves in a shot and in the very next one which is the continuation of the scene he now has short sleeves. When the script supervisor is good the mistakes are minimal, but movies have mistakes, so who checks the the script supervisors? The nitpickers, that's who.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Working for this next manager will typically take you far, but the question is at what cost?

MOTW: Power Hungry Manager

Power-Hungry Manager has Promethean delusions, power being an aphrodisiac which spurs him/her on in an unending quest for even more power. Adopting regal posture and an imperious tone, Power-Hungry Manager has forged uneasy alliances with Political Manager, Friendship/Nepotism Manager, Evil Manager and even Terrorist Manager to name a few. Power-Hungry Manager’s maneuverings only cease when he/she reaches that pinnacle of existence whereby others refer to his/her span of control as Power-Hungry Manager’s “world”, a term denoting a position of much sway and importance within the corporation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday morning in the kitchen

A little Sunday morning humor for you. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weekend Haiku

The crow
walks along there
as if it were tilling the field.

Issa (1763-1827)

Friday, March 26, 2010

In Venezuela you can no longer criticize Chavez

Hugo Chavez had two high profile figures arrested who have made recent comments critical of his presidency. One is the president of Globovision television, the only remaining station on the public airwaves that dares to be critical of Chavez. The other is former state governor and presidential candidate Oswaldo Alvarez Paz. That's one way to ensure you remain president, just arrest those who plan to run against you. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Chavez is a power-hungry, bombastic buffoon whose cancerous stain is metastasizing throughout Latin America.

Beautiful People

For a mellower, but still kick-butt sound, here is a recording of Rusted Root's Beautiful People. Happy Friday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A look at a day with Carl Kassell

It seems like forever that I have been listening to the man on NPR. Even though he retired last year from “Morning Edition,” he is still on the hilarious show “Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me!” with Peter Sagall. I have heard him interviewed numerous times and it is wonderful to listen to reminiscences about his storied career in radio. Here is a nice report from when Kassell spent the day commemorating the University of Tennessee's public radio station's 60th anniversary.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alcee Hastings

The guys over at Powerline Blog have some opinions on Alcee Hastings. He represents the 23rd Congressional district in Florida right down the road from where I live. The district is highly racially gerrymandered. He has been pretty vocal in this whole health care drama. I have watched his entire career unfold over the years and all I can say is it is a shame guys such as he get elected, from either party. If you don't know who the man is here is his Wikipedia entry.

The Health Care overhaul

This Bloomberg article succinctly recaps some of the effects the health care legislation will have, including a ten percent tax on indoor tanning.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The voice behind "The Letter"

"Give me a ticket for an airplane,
Ain't got time time to take a fast train..."

The raspy voice behind the number one hit for the Box Tops is dead at age 59. Alex Chilton was the Box Tops 16 year old lead singer when The Letter rose to number one on the charts in 1967. He died after suffering an apparent heart attack. Here is The Letter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's Monday

And we all know what that means.Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. There is only one thing to say about this next manager. He/she should switch to decaf.

MOTW: Hyper Manager

Drinks coffee all day long and can’t sit still through a five-minute discussion. Over time has developed a lot of facial tics and walks around the office poking his/her nose where it doesn’t belong, thereby reducing productivity ten-fold. Opines vociferously on any topic. Tends to have staccato-like delivery when he/she speaks.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekend Haiku

I'm going to roll over,
so please move,

Issa (1763-1827)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Keep on Breathing

A recording of The Delgados Keep on Breathing. In Spanish the "delgados" means the slim ones. Just thought I would throw that in there. Happy Friday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A look at some Argentine wines

A look at two Argentine wineries in Mendoza. For my taste, there is nothing quite like an Argentine Malbec for the price. It has saved me more than once at a business dinner where I have had to pick the wine.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dana Carvey doing impressions of presidents

I've always thought Dana Carvey is a good comedian and impressionist. Here he is on Leno and he doesn't disappoint. You have to wait for it for a bit into the segment but he lampoons Bush, Reagan and even, my oh my, Obama. He is not disrespectful at all and in my opinion he is spot on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Voca People

People who read this blog know that I am a big fan of a Capella music. Well, check these guys out. They are strange but good and every single sound you hear in this 3 minute and 15 second video is made with their voices. Snippets include the music of Glen Miller, Little Richard, Beach Boys, Doobie Brothers, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Eurythmics, Nirvana, Baha Men, C & C Music Factory, Britney Spears and some others I have left out. It's really wild. Oh, and even though they claim to be aliens, their moonwalking is pretty lame.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. While asbestos may not be good for your health, it or some other form of flame-retardant attire is recommended when working with this next manager. If you do not properly protect yourself you are bound to emerge with third degree burns after spending time in his/her company.

MOTW: Conflagration Manager

Believes that he/she is only doing the job well if it entails running around putting out fires. A garden hose is his/her favorite managerial tool. Works best but craziest when the heat is on and things are falling apart at the seams. Is a first cousin of Crisis Manager, the difference being the crises/fires are not always of his/her own making.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weekend Haiku

In the summer rain
the path
has disappeared.

Buson (1716-1783)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Save Tonight

A recording of Eagle Eye Cherry's Save Tonight. Enjoy and happy Friday.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You know the recession is bad when...

The bank confiscates your pet parrot. And they did it erroneously I might add. A contractor for Bank of America padlocked the wrong house, cut the utilities and confiscated the owner's pet Blue Macaw because they thought the owner was in default of her mortgage. It turns out she wasn't and is now suing for 50,000 dollars. No word if the parrot is also suing for a lifetime supply of crackers.

Florida hits 35 year high in unemployment rate

Ouch! The state I live in reached 11.9% unemployment in January and the county I live in (Palm Beach County) hit 12.5% in the same month. The article states that Florida has lost 926,100 jobs since 2007. No industry is immune and the famous Jackson Memorial hospital in Miami is in peril of closing some of its units doors in May if it can not find a way to cover its 200 million dollar deficit. More than 4,400 jobs hang in the balance and these unemployment rate percentages do not reflect the NASA closures still to come as mandated by Obama.

Before Madoff...

There was Thomas F. Quinn. The Wall Street Journal has an extensive profile of the old-time fraudster who over his five decade career is estimated to have swindled his victims out of approximately 500 million dollars. Over his 50 year career he has served minimal jail time, about six years. As is typical of many of these con artists he has proven elusive to detain and charge, but his run may be coming to an end.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A look at Millennials

This Washington Post article asks the question whether Millennials will become the chump generation. I don't know the answer to that and chump may be a strong word but according to Pew Research 37 percent are unemployed or out of the labor force and only 41 percent have a full time job. The economic downturn has hit them hard and Millennials are not known for their engagement with whatever company is employing them. After all, this is the generation that watched their parents, after years of loyalty to their employers, get downsized. Pew's findings are alarming though when you consider that this generation is a significant portion of the labor force.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Now that's how you do it

Scott Fujita left the New Orleans Saints after winning the Super Bowl and signed with the Cleveland Browns through free agency, but before he left he did something wonderful for the city of New Orleans and for Haiti. Free agents take note, that is how you leave a city.

A look at the Oasis of the Seas

This WSJ article takes a look at the world's largest cruise ship. Complete with 24 restaurants, a leafy central park and an intensive care unit, this behemoth uses up about 700 tons of supplies for a week long cruise. In what could be termed an understatement Captain Thorolvsen says of her...

"She is big, she is wide and she is very very heavy."

What a vessel!

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. If you have ever run into this next manager you probably will have only seen a cloud of dust and have been left gasping for air. This manager is here and gone before you know it, often leaving the staff scratching their head in wonder as to what they just experienced.

MOTW: Keep 'em Guessing Manager

With gymnastic like agility and constant motion, Keep ‘em Guessing Manager flits from assignment to assignment, project to project and position to position, never staying in any one place long enough for objective evaluation of his/her performance to take place. Keep ‘em Guessing manager, a philosophy major in college, became a devotee of Heraclitus during that time, and now uses the blur of motion and flux for cover purposes. He/she is terrified that if he/she stops long enough in any one place the fog will dissipate and his/her inadequacies will come to light. Quoting Parmenides to Keep ‘em Guessing Manager is the ultimate insult and can result in termination with extreme prejudice.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Weekend Haiku

White dew-
one drop
on each thorn.

Buson (1716-1783)

Friday, March 5, 2010


A recording of Blue Stone's Confession with some great accompanying imagery. Happy Friday.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Up in the Air

"Up in the Air" director Jason Reitman is interviewed about his film. This was a very good film. It should appeal to a broad cross-section of viewers and anyone who has ever been a road warrior or been laid off will especially be attuned to it. I heard Reitman interviewed on the radio a while back and something he mentioned which he doesn't mention in this interview is that with the exception of one or two actors in firing scenes he used real people who had been laid off. His reasoning was that he could never script it as well as the real emotions that he evoked from the stories these everyday people told him and acted out.

They really are some powerful scenes, but the movie is much more than people being fired. It provides multiple intricacies, focuses and messages throughout as well as some really good acting from all the principles. It is no wonder Clooney was nominated, but this movie was worth its weight without him. He just made it that much better.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pirate Latitudes

I have always liked Michael Crichton as an author. I have read all of his books and each one has held my attention from beginning to end. I also liked that each novel was so different from his previous offering. Anyway, I was walking through Barnes and Noble and did a double take the other day because there in hardback was another novel by him on display. Knowing he had passed back in 2008 I went back and picked up the book to see its date of publication. It was published in 2009 and on the back inside dust jacket the last sentence reads like this.

"Pirate Latitudes was discovered as a complete manuscript in his files after his death in 2008."

I broke my rule of never buying a hard back and purchased it. The book is 312 pages long and I devoured it in two sittings. It keeps your attention throughout and is a swashbuckling good read. The book starts in the Jamaican town of Port Royale and it is privateers against the Spaniards in wonderful prose from there on out, complete with a motley but efficient crew and the required damsel in distress rescue. Seldom have ship battles on the Spanish lake that is the Caribbean been this wonderfully penned and I guarantee that this book will eventually be churned out as movie by Hollywood. It's that good.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Another sponsor gone...

No surprise here. One week after Tiger Woods publicly apologized for his sex scandal, Gatorade dropped the golf superstar's sponsorship of its product line. I guess the tag line slogan in their commercials was just too easy to lampoon. The question, "Is it in you?" seemed way too sexually loaded with double meaning, at least to me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This manager has delusions of grandeur each time he/she is put in charge. What this manager does not know is that Senior Management has already evaluated him/her and concluded that he/she is missing the right stuff for a permanent management position.

MOTW: Backup Manager

Whenever the real manager goes on vacation he/she names Backup Manager to fill in. Finally one day the present manager moves onto bigger and better things. This is when the announcement goes out naming Backup Manager to fill the recently vacated position. Unfortunately the announcement goes out with the caveat “acting” in front of the title. This dreaded little word is the equivalent of “interim” in the sports world when a team announces its new coach. Everyone knows this situation will last only as long as it takes to hire a new manager/coach who can really do the job. Everyone that is, except for Backup Manager who deludes himself/herself into thinking the position is his/hers for the duration.