Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009

Jib Jab says goodbye to 2009 with their year in review.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Disc Golf Haiku

The wind howls
A hungry lake beckons-
Chains rattle.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Johnee Jingo and Honest Work

Two a cappella tunes from the master himself Todd Rundgren. Although acclaimed as a musician, producer and all around innovator, I think he is probably one of the most underrated lyricists of all time. These two songs are wonderful not only for their harmony and the fact that they are a cappella, but because the lyrics are poignant and very appropriate for the times. Johnee Jingo is a recording from the A Cappella album and Honest Work (from the same album) is concert footage.

Consider these lyrics from Johnee Jingo.

And the throne, the pulpit and the politician,
Create a thirst for power in the common man
It's a taste for blood passed off as bravery
Or just patriotism hiding bigotry.

The entire song Honest Work is just an incredible piece of writing so it is hard to pick a snippet of lyrics but here is one example.

The prophets of a brave new world
Captains of industry
Have visions grand and great designs
But none have room for me.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Living life offline

Are there such people, people who refuse to get an email address, surf the web and indulge in all of the other online conveniences of today? Of course there are and here is an article about one such individual with an ironic twist. As a 30-year technician for AT&T, the man delivers broadband Internet access for a living. I'm guessing he probably won't be reading this any time soon.

Do you go out to eat much?

We don't go out to eat nearly as much as we used to after having kids, but it is still interesting to find out what goes on in a server's mind. I was a bartender at one time, so I know about sizing up customers, but I never worked as a waiter. None of it surpises me though. According to this, be careful complaining about your soup not being hot enough, amongst other perils.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dolphins now 7 - 8

Although still mathematically alive it will take a miracle for the Dolphins to make the playoffs this year and the best Miami fans can hope for now is a .500 season if they win next week. The Houston Texans came into Land Shark stadium yesterday on a balmy South Florida afternoon and proceeded to shred the Dolphins during the first half. When the half was over, the Dolphins had that deer in the headlights look and the Texans were ahead 27 - 3, the 3 being a field goal right before the half expired.

If there is a rap on the Texans it is that they do not know how to put two halves together for a complete game and the same could be said for yesterday's experience. Houston did not score another point in the contest, but the 24 point lead Miami had spotted them was too much to overcome. The Dolphins lost 27 - 20 and as I said, essentially erased the slim chances they had going into yesterday's game to extend their run into the post season. Miami fans will have to wait for next year.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Working for this next manager may cause you to want to start going to the gym and working out once in a while.

MOTW: Hottie Manager

The good looking, well built manager that all the office is either gossiping or fantasizing about. Hottie Manager’s supervisory skills are not germane to these conversations or private thoughts.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


From their concert in Segovia, Mecano performs Aire. Ana Torroja is loooking a bit Madonna-ish in this video, but then again it is 1984 when they are performing and a lot of female singers were dressing like Madonna at the time. Aire is Spanish for air and as befits a song with this title and production the lyrics are intricate as well as ethereal.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Weekend Haiku

Year after year
on the monkey's face
a monkey face.

Basho (1644-1694)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

This is the 100 foot high Christmas tree we visit every year at downtown Delray Beach. The kids love it. It is huge at the base and for a small donation they get to walk around inside. Merry Christmas to all my readers. I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, safe holiday and would like to give you my best wishes for a prosperous new year ahead. May you receive all you wish for.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The relentless pursuit of (im)perfection

Jason Gay of the WSJ says in this article that there are way too many football analysts out there clogging up the airwaves with their inane opinions. The latest opinion he takes issue with is the view that an NFL team shouldn't try for an undefeated season. I like Gay's style of writing. It is irreverent, humorous and packed with a great deal of sense. I agree with his stance.

As a die-hard fan of the Miami Dolphins, the only team to ever go undefeated (17 - 0) through the entire season, the playoffs and Super Bowl, albeit in 1972 when the regular season was only 14 games long I say to any team that has it in reach, GO FOR IT! This year's contender is the Indianapolis Colts and in my humble opinion they should put their best product on the field and try to win just like they would any other week. Momentum is a funny thing in sports and in my view it is important to take the field having tried your hardest the week before. Apparently not everyone agrees.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Citi sends branch employees memo

Citibank continues to deny the report that federal authorities are investigating a breach in their secure systems which allowed hackers to steal funds amounting to tens of millions of dollars from customer accounts.

According to the WSJ, Citibank is trying to reassure its customers that their deposits are safe and has sent U.S. bank branch employees a memo as a job aid to help respond to customer inquiries.

Quotes for today

Two contrasting perspectives on family and holiday time...

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.

Burton Hills

Marry an orphan: you'll never have to spend boring holidays with the in-laws.

George Carlin

How American wines shocked the world

Competition is good. Better wine for all of us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Citibank hacked?

The F.B.I. is probing into a recent hacking attempt at Citigroup which they say was inititiated by a Russian cyber gang. The attack took aim at Citigroup's subsidiary banking arm Citibank, which includes the retail bank's North American branch network. The theft is reported to amount in the tens of millions. Citi denies the breach.

This is not the first time this has happened to Citi. In 1995 Russian computer geek Vladimir Levin hacked into Citibank and robbed it of $10 million. Interpol arrested him in the UK that same year after he had transferred money to his accounts in multiple countries.

There was also an incident in 2006 where Citibank put transaction holds on some Citi-branded MasterCard debit cards. In that case, the action was later linked to a breach at office-supply retailer OfficeMax. That intrusion remains unsolved.

Ho Chi Minh City

Or Saigon as you may still think of it. The WSJ takes a look around this city after hours and encounters a thriving night life.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Shutting down SAAB

This is depressing news for all SAAB enthusiasts as you can see by the depressed expression on the faces in the picture of the article. I have owned two SAABs in my life and absolutely loved both of them. The first was a 1979 fuel injected four speed GL99 which was a delight to drive. The car was perky, fit anywhere and was a wonderful vehicle. Here is one pictured below and to the left.

Next up in 1987 I brought a brand new five speed SAAB 900 base model with all of its features manual. That car was a beast and also a lot of fun to drive. It took me everywhere and when you put the back seat down you could fit a coke machine in the back. The only downside was that whenever someone was moving they always called me to help, because as I said, you wouldn't believe the amount of stuff you could fit in the back. Although not as quick off the mark as my previous GL99, the 900 was also a lot of fun to drive and I felt incredibly safe in it. It gave me 18 years and 250,000 miles of faithful service. It took me everywhere I wanted to go, even into the thick of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew where lesser cars were left behind, and when our run was over I donated it, still running well, to a single mother in need of transportation. It was on its third clutch when I gave it to her. Here is a picture of a 1987 900 below and to the left.

Circumstances prevented me from purchasing another SAAB and I am sorry to see the cars that were born from jets go. SAAB owners in general have a very curious affinity with their cars which inspires a certain kind of loyalty to the brand. I am sure there are many SAAB stories (no pun intended) being told out there and this is merely one of them.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Working for this next manager is a complete non-event. No one will ever remember it.

MOTW: Non-Descript Manager

Just like the character in Woody Allen’s Zelig, Non-Descript Manager blends into whatever scenery and situation effortlessly, leaving no trace of ever having been part of any decision or action within the business unit. Although worthless, Non-Descript Manager survives because no one in Senior Management ever recalls his/her name or anything associated with it. He/she is thus rendered virtually invisible whenever the cost cutting cycle rears its ugly head. He/she is a very distant relative of Stealth Manager.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Holidays, or is it Merry Christmas?

A cousin of mine sent me the following holiday greeting. I pass it on in the spirit of the holiday season.

To My Liberal Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great, though this is not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.

To My Conservative Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekend Haiku

Hey, sparrow!
out of the way,
Horse is coming.

Issa (1763-1827)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Endless Dream

A recording of Conjure One's Endless Dream with an accompanying slide show. That is Anne "Annie" Decatur Danielewski, professionally known as Poe, on lead vocals. I love her voice.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Man exonerated after 35 years in prison

This just happened in my home state. After 35 years behind bars, James Bain is exonerated by DNA testing. The article states that...

"Of the 245 people in the United States whom DNA testing has exonerated, none has spent more time behind bars than Bain."

Bain says he is not angry. The man is truly amazing if he is not angry which I believe he is not. After having 35 years of his life stolen from him his priorities are seeing his mother, keeping faith with his God and getting an education. If you watch the video what you will see is a dignified, soft-spoken, polite, religious man with a wry sense of humor and a penchant for humbly enjoying his well deserved reversal of fortune. Amazing.

Treasury halts plan to sell Citi stock

Even the special tax break wasn't enough. The Treasury department quickly halted its plan to sell off Citi stock when the shares weren't fetching the price the government had hoped for.

The WSJ reports that the shares got a lukewarm reception on Wall Street this week where leery investors are skeptical of Citi's earnings prospects and have already spent heavily on rival financial institution's shares. I'm not sure who has more egg on their face from this episode, Uncle Vik or Mommy.

It's just business

From Yahoo Finance come the Dumbest Moments in Business of 2009. My favorite is the guy who never actually worked for Avaya but got paid for 5 years. Avaya deposited $470,995.53 into his checking account over the 5 year period. The guy wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer either. He got caught because he tried to make an early withdrawal from his 401k. Greedy and stupid typically do not make a good combination.

About Champagne

It is holiday time and quite a few people have a glass or two of champagne during this time. From the duo at the WSJ, here are some answers to some frequently asked questions about champagne.

Also, here is a fact that is not in the article. A lot of what champagne is today is owed to women, specifically widows. The word "veuve" in French means widow as in "Veuve Clicquot", but she is not the only one. Have you ever tried Bollinger, Veuve Laurent-Perrier or Pommery? All wonderful champagnes that were transformed by women after their husbands died and the wives decided to head up the business.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

U.N. Climate Conference President resigns

Of course the Danes are saying that this move is procedural and completely expected, but hmmm? Why would you wait until the conference is in full swing and resign right in the middle of it? It seems like kind of an inopportune time to do it if you ask me. Also, I am sure there is a joke about the climate of the conference getting too hot for her in there somewhere.

And from Politico, Chaos at climate conference. The money quote...

"People around the world [are] actually expecting something to be done from us,” red-faced Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen lectured delegates from nearly 200 nations.

Citi gets tax break

Desperate not to get fleeced when it sells its stake to private investors the government has made an exception and allowed Citigroup to retain an enormous tax break on losses it has incurred in prior years.

Since the Obama administration has publicly stated that taxpayers are likely to profit from the sale of the Citigroup shares it is doing everything in its power to shore up the financial supermarket's languid stock.

So now, right after it announced it would pay back a little under half of the TARP money (20 billion) Citi gets another boost from the federal dole, this time on the tax side of the books.

The price of infidelity

It's more like the opportunity cost. I have talked about Tiger before on this blog because I think he is such a great golfer. To win like he has requires stamina, consistency, focus, athleticism, talent and hard work. Now he will put all that on the shelf, for a while at least and the NYP is estimating that it will cost him approximately 180 million dollars a year to be away from the game, or 15 million per floozy as they put it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dream of You

Schiller performs Dream of You. That is Peter Heppner singing lead vocals.

A gift idea

Wondering what to give that one person who is so hard to shop for? The duo at the WSJ suggest giving a bottle of vintage Port. According to them 2003 and 2007 were great years for port. Based on their descriptions in this article I wouldn't mind if someone gave me a bottle.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Miami Dolphins now at 7 - 6

Yesterday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was an interesting game to watch. The Dolphins got away with one, winning the game 14-10 at Jacksonville. The offense came out on fire and put together two 13 play, clock eating, scoring drives to score the 14 points in the first half and that was it. For the entire second half it was up to the defense to stop the Jags time and time again to sustain the lead. The defense came through, but it is worrisome that the same team can look so dominant on offense for a half and then be befuddled and have its output snuffed for the rest of the contest.

Ricky Williams ran for 108 yards, but fumbled 3 times, losing one of them. Chad Henne again played solid, finishing 21 of 29 for 220 yards, with one interception. He also had a one yard run for a touchdown on a bootleg. This win was earned by the defense and again, I like Cameron Wake coming off the edges to rush the quarterback in obvious passing situations. The man made several plays yesterday. Miami, at 7-6, is now solidly in the thick of the playoff race, but needs to win its last three games.

Citi announces repayment of TARP

Citigroup has struck a deal to repay 20 billion of the 45 billion it owes in TARP money. It will do so through through a combination of stock and debt, the bulk of which will come from a $17 billion common stock offering.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Getting a degree in logic theory is exactly the opposite of what you must do to survive this next manager unless you use that learning to anticipate the exact opposite behavior from him/her. This next manager can be very stressful to work for but can have good surprising outcomes from time to time. It's a lottery.

MOTW: Illogical Manager

Everything he/she does defies rational thinking. Consistently surprises staff with announcements, promotions, raises, bonuses, layoffs and policies that do not make any sense based on what is really happening in the office.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekend Haiku

Fall going
and we part,
clamshells on the beach.

Basho (1644-1694)

Friday, December 11, 2009


Click here to watch an interesting video about the state of social media today produced by the author of Socialnomics. It is extremely interesting, provides a lot of fast, hard-hitting data and does it all to the tune of Right Here Right Now by Fatboy Slim.

Getting into the Christmas spirit

Since I have kids, it is kind of mandatory that I get into the Christmas spirit, so here is an old Christmas classic, Bing Crosby and David Bowie sing The Little Drummer Boy. This is my eldest boy's (age 5) favorite Christmas carol. Happy Friday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Citi to pay back some TARP funds

CNBC reports that Citigroup will pay back some of its TARP funds in the near future. The article reports that Ucle Vik changed his travel plans to announce that Citi will do this through an equity offering. Stay tuned.

If your house, car and clothes are awash in glitter...

Does that make you a member of the glitterati? Oh, not even close huh? The stuff is insidious. And right now around our household it is ubiquitous as well. My wife volunteered to help fashion some centerpieces for our eldest son's school Christmas function. We had forty huge wreaths covered in glitter in our house's garage for days and brought them into the house to work on them.

Upon simply touching them or even eyeing the wreaths it seems, the glitter magically transports itself from the wreath and attaches to its new host with both lightning speed and an epoxy-like stickiness. Not only that, but the stuff is miniscule, making it almost impossible to target for removal. It is immune to vacuuming, mopping or sweeping. A remora would be envious of its tenacious adhesive properties. I'm thinking of renting a sandblaster to deal with this stubborn scourge.

On the bright side it is an excellent analogy for teaching our kids about the spreading of germs. They are both very visual and a microscopic bit of glitter can be used to play the part of a germ in an impromptu lesson. For evidence of how easily germs can be transferred I can even cite the speck they laughed about on their grandfather's face yesterday. How it got there I know not, but there it was. Ah, the holiday season. It is heartwarming and fun as always.

The 7 foods experts won't eat

Wow, this article freaked me out a bit, because myself or someone in my family eats just about everything on this list. We don't consume all of them on a consistent basis, and some are fairly intuitive, but others, who knew? If what they say is true I don't think we will be giving any more microwave popcorn to the kids for a while.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are you headed to the airport to catch a flight?

And if so, are you tired of waiting in those long TSA (Transportation Security Administration) lines? To get a jump on how they screen you download the "secret" TSA screening procedures manual that the agency accidentally posted online. Wonderful! Our top security agency for the screening of terrorists at airports can't even keep its procedures under wraps. They should probably include plans for building a bomb in flight as an added bonus for those who download the whole thing.

From CNN: TSA says action taken in online release of screening procedures. Apparently the individuals involved are being put on leave. That'll teach 'em!

Oh no, that pesky teleprompter strikes again!

Many times conversations have gone off script during our Thanksgiving meal with a crazy or tipsy relative making an innapropriate remark, the kids saying something hilarious, etc, but I'm glad I haven't upgraded from index cards to a teleprompter for the pre-dinner toast. Technology can be a bit flaky sometimes, as President Obama found out during his own family dinner. From the Onion, the first family's Thanksgiving dinner was marred by a malfunctioning teleprompter.

Obama's Home Teleprompter Malfunctions During Family Dinner

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Swiss have it together

This small, neutral country just seems to keep things in perspective. No hyperbole, no extreme emotion, just a matter of fact attitude towards national defense and a straightforward, organized plan for it.

Freestyle and street soccer

With the World Cup draw in the bag and people getting excited about the event I thought I would post a couple of wild soccer videos. First check out Ronaldinho, Abbas Farid and Soufiane Touzani freestyling with the soccer ball. Pretty cool huh?

Now check out these guys and their street soccer. They do some pretty amazing things with a soccer ball as well.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Where was I?

In a coma apparently. This song just got named One-Hit Wonder of the Decade and I didn't know the song. As a music lover I am ashamed to admit this, but then again about the song itself, I have no comment. I must have had a Bad Day when it was released and simply missed it, but according to the article it was ubiquitous hence my coma reference. And no, I don't watch American Idol.

Dolphins .500 again

How big was that loss to the Bills in Buffalo last week? It was huge. The Dolphins beat the Patriots at home yesterday 22-21 to muddle up the playoff picture once again and keep Dolphins fans playoff hopes alive. Had we beat Buffalo last week Miami would be 7-5 and right there at the top in the AFC East. As it stands we are now 6-6 and one game behind New England with four games to go.

A lot of players came up big in this game like Vontae Davis stepping in front of Randy Moss and making the inteception in the end zone which stopped a critical New England drive, but I have to say it seems that whenever Miami inserts Cameron Wake to rush the quarterback, good things happen. The man is a lightning fast terror out of his stance and yesterday wrapped Brady up, forcing him into an errant throw which sealed the victory with Channing Crowder's interception. They should play Wake a bit more.

Treasury Linking Citigroup Sale to TARP Payback

The Treasury department is delaying its sale of Citigroup stock until there is an agreement between regulators and Citi on how and when the TARP money will be repaid. The fear is that selling the stock now could weaken investor demand for an already shaky stock should Citi be required to raise capital as a condition of exiting the bailout program. Ouch!

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. It is very difficult not to become a casualty of war working for this next manager. Our recommendation here at The Night Canopy is to take your basic training very seriously. Pay attention at every moment and do not sleep through it because your career may depend on it.

MOTW: Combat Manager

Combat Manager is a touchy sort and takes umbrage at anything others do or say without even the slightest provocation. He/she typically has two or three concurrent political battles waging, as well as three or four e-mail wars ongoing at any given time. He/she keeps a helmet and body armor in his/her office and frequently dons this attire just to get through the day and live to tell about it. Sometimes Combat Manager sends his/her staff out as advanced reconnaissance scouts to test the battle-readiness of his/her enemies, causing the staff to return from the fray with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When sent on these missions the recommendation is to unconditionally surrender as quickly as possible and negotiate a prisoner of war exchange to another business unit.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

5 under today

I was able to get out on the course early today and play an 8:00 a.m. round with 4 other buddies. The weather was slightly cold, for South Florida anyway and there was a light wind. I came in at 5 under par with 8 birdies, 3 bogeys and 7 pars on my card. I didn't lose a single disc or go out of bounds during the whole 18 holes. All in all, it was a good round and a lot of fun. Not bad for not playing nearly enough as I would like to and not practicing at all.

Miami Music Festival

The Miami Music Festival will take place this week. It starts on my birthday Thursday, December 10th and runs for 3 whole days until Saturday the 12th. Artists too numerous to mention here will perform on more than 25 stages throughout the extravaganza. It should be a lot of fun! Check out the festival's website here for more information.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weekend Haiku

They swallow clouds
and spit out blossoms-
The Yoshino Mountains.

Buson (1716-1783)

Friday, December 4, 2009

The draw is done!

The groups have now been decided for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. If you don't already know what the groups are you can click here to see where the 32 countries ended up. Good luck to all. There can only be one world champion.

Thursday Night Football

I watched my second Thursday Night football game on the NFL network last night. It was an AFC East match up (Jets vs. Bills) which in theory should interest me since I am a die-hard Dolphins fan. Here is the result of that game for those who want to know the score.

But enough about the game. What I want to talk about are the announcers. First off, this is only my second time listening to play by play man Bob Papa, and so far my grade is an A. The man knows what he is talking about, prepares well, and best of all, calls them as he sees them. No cold feet at all, no ifs, ands or buts, no hemming or hawing, he calls a play as he sees it and stands by his call during the replay and the challenge. Guess what, he is usually right. At least last night, the game that I watched, the man never wavered and everything he said on tape was instinctively right. Now maybe he has a better angle, but perhaps the man should be officiating, because he interpreted what football should be within the context of what the rules are today.

So let's move on to the color man shall we, that lightning rod of controversy himself, Matt Millen. At first I was thinking who would hire this guy to do color commentary? But, surprise, surprise, he was pretty good. He seems to have a handle on everything that is going on in the game. His comments are knowledgeable, straightforward and enlightening. So if he is that good analyzing plays on the fly my question is, how could he have been such an unmitigated disaster and caused the tragedy he did during his tenure in Detroit? What the heck happened?

Brand New Cadillac

A video of The Clash's cover of Vince Taylor's 1958 song Brand New Cadillac. Although many bands have covered this tune, for me the Clash's version is the one that by far rocks out the most. It just has a Friday feel to it if you know what I mean.


What the heck is "Webtribution" you say? Just by the word you may intuit that it is some form of cyber-revenge and that it isn't pleasant and you are right. Simply put, it's vengeance, or payback if you will, via the internet. Behind a monitor and keyboard people do things to rectify perceived slights, be they real or not, that they wouldn't dream of doing in person. From this WSJ article comes the following passage.

"Psychologists actually have a term for this: the "online disinhibition effect." They divide this type of behavior into two categories: "benign disinhibition" (which is what happens when someone says something private they might not have shared publicly with many people offline) and "toxic disinhibition" (expressing rudeness, anger, criticism or hate)."

The article doesn't say anything you might not already know or might not have surmised if you spend any time online in social network settings or on opinionated blogs, but it does give some interesting examples and encapsulates this phenomenon in a way which makes you think.

A stroke of good fortune

For them at least. From the blog Ananova comes the story of two destitute brothers, living in a cave outside of Budapest, who stand to inherit a fortune. This is the kind of thing almost everyone secretly wishes for at least once in life.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beaujolais Nouveau

I have never been a big fan of Beaujolais Nouveau. It's a little too light and fruit-juicy (is that even a word?) for my taste, but it's that time again and it can be a fun wine. The craze has faded and the brightly colored, splashy labels have been reined in a bit, but in this article the duo at the WSJ are pleased to report that the Beaujolais Nouveau is getting back to its roots -- affordable, fun and fresh. Here they give their recommendations. It can be a good wine to bring around during holiday time, especially if you know the people you are bringing it to prefer a lighter red.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is this irony?

Here is the headline of an article in the NYT business section, "Significant Risks to U.S. Bank Stocks Exist: Citigroup." Let's see, Citigroup is a U.S. Bank, Citigroup's stock has been risky for quite a while now ($4.06 at the time of this post), Citigroup had to be bailed out to the tune of 45 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars which it has not paid back yet. I know that it is their analysts job to make these pronouncements but I just find it a tad ironic that a bank which has had issues with its stock price for a prolonged period of time is commenting on other banks stock prices.

Who really is the writer?

A closer look at "ghost" writers and their world. This WSJ article looks at what the role is of the often overlooked "aide" who helps shape, write or even birth a celebrity book or memoir. How much involvement do they really have and how much money or credit do they get? I can assure you, there is no ghost writer on this blog even though sometimes it feels a little haunted and I get very little credit and even less money

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deirdres Samba

For the first day of December, a recording by Swedish songstress Anne-Lie Rydé of the song Deirdres Samba with some accompanying still footage. The original tune was written by the Brazilian Chico Buarque de Hollanda. This is by far my favorite version of this song. Rydé builds the song into her own crescendo of emotion from beginning to end and it fits her powerful, lilting voice perfectly.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Honduras does it right

From Honduras come the presidential election results giving 58% of the vote to Partido Nacional candidate Pepe Lobo who beat Partido Liberal candidate Elvin Santos. Both candidates supported the removal of former president Manuel Zelaya whose fanciful delusions of grandeur I have documented extensively on this blog.

Good for Honduras. Regardless of what Lobo's presidency turns out to be, Honduras did what was right under its constitutional law and stood tall amongst all of the international meddling which denounced its actions in removing Zelaya from office for violating articles Articles 373 and 374 of the Honduran Constitution.

Honduras' actions, in remaining true to its vision of democracy, has cost it dearly in funds and political capital, but the small country did the right thing. It has shown that it has very responsible ruling authorities which stand for the good of the Honduran people as opposed to the special interests of a select few.

Here is the WSJ article on the election by Mary Anastasia O'Grady who has been cogently covering this story since it began.

Happy Birthdays

"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."


"I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly."

Happy birthday Sir Winston Churchill.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. To work successfully with this next manager all you really need to learn to do is utter the following phrase, "I'm sorry for your loss," in a convincing manner.

MOTW: Extended Family Manager

Related to last Monday's Fragile Health Manager and on rare occasions one and the same, this manager boasts a family tree that would confound the world’s most renowned genealogical historians should they attempt to trace it. Extended Family Manager’s maternal grandmother has conveniently died six times within the last calendar year, allowing for long bereavement trips during critical periods. Typically, within a short time of his/her return from this sorrowful debacle, another obscure family member falls critically ill, creating the need for Extended Family Manager to be able to absent himself/herself at a moment’s notice for additional mourning duties. Extended Family Manager is staunchly opposed to the advent of cryogenic technology, as this will seriously hamper his/her opportunistic machinations.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mad TV: Job interview

I like Mad TV, always have. I have found that their comedy is consistently funny and holds its own over time. Here is an older video lampooning job interviews which is just as funny today as it was when it first aired.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weekend Haiku

One human being,
one fly,
in a large room.

Issa (1763-1827)

Friday, November 27, 2009

A great way to stir people to action

This is a Chilean video. The sign reads, "I didn't wear my seat belt either."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Show business versatility

Who is the only female performer to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and an Oscar. Aswer after the jump.

Rita Moreno.

Happy Thanksgiving

For all U.S. readers, have a wonderful, safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Scams running amok?

What a difference a year makes. Or perhaps, maybe not. In January of this year I wrote this post titled "All Ponzi all the time." There were quite a few scams going on at the time with predictions for more to be uncovered. Now the U.S. Attorney for New York's Southern District is saying that white collar crime (a fancy term for scamming) is running amok. He should know, after all New York is one of the financial centers of the world right? Actually it is more like one of the Ponzi scheme capitals of the world it seems and the authorities are having a hard time catching up with all the schemers.

What can we bring?

The big question around holiday time. You are invited to a party and ask, "What can we bring?" The host says you don't have to bring anything. Bringing a bottle of wine is typically a safe bet. The duo as the WSJ give you some ideas about what to bring in this article so you don't have to put a lot of thought into it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Mummer's Dance

Loreena McKennitt performs The Mummer's Dance in concert. Everyone in the band is so talented that this version, although a little hurried, is very fine.

Should he stay or should he go?

Mommy lost her cool at a Joint Economic Committee hearing last week and Kevin A. Hassett says this is an indication she should go. After Giethner deflected criticism of his performance so far by saying that the present administration inherited an economy falling off a cliff Hassett provides this gem in his article.

"It is an iron law of Washington that policy makers lose their cool when they are on shaky ground in terms of substance. Geithner must know in his heart that he, far more than Brady or Burgess, is responsible for the financial crisis. That's why minor political theater sets him off.

Look at the facts. Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for the five years leading up to the financial crisis. The crisis occurred, in part, because Wall Street firms spun out of control. The New York Fed is the cop charged with patrolling Wall Street, the eyes and ears of the financial regulatory system. It fundamentally failed on his watch."

Read the whole thing.

Belle du Jour

Now that she has outed herself, Freakonomics Blog interviewed Belle du Jour aka Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a neurotoxicologist at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health about her experience as a high class call girl and blogging about it.

The Blind Side

Since the movie is out, here is a review of Michael Lewis's book . The review is written by George F. Will for the NYT. I am in the process of reading the book right now and the first 80 pages have me hooked. The author is the same guy who wrote Liar's Poker.


Ze Frank goes off on a stream of consciousness, albeit with a point, at TED in 2004. This is funny stuff. Check out the mouse pad haiku towards the end of his talk.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This next manager is an interesting specimen and in some medical circles may have been diagnosed as a hypochondriac. Without a medical degree it is impossible to tell however. Suffice it to say that his/her illnesses also cause you to have discomforting symptoms, in your job performance and career.

MOTW: Fragile Health Manager

This manager has myriad ailments, practically all of which are impossible to discern by merely looking at him/her. These illnesses have incredible timing, suddenly manifesting themselves when things begin to look grim in the office. This allows Fragile Health Manager to repeatedly disappear when things are at their worst, leaving the staff leaderless and without recourse when dealing with looming crises. During periods when things are going smoothly however, he/she is the picture of health and could model for the cover of Good Living or any other magazine that depicts stress-free, healthy lifestyle choices.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don't Miss Video

This is the best recreation of flight 1459 that I have seen to date. Check it out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend Haiku

For you fleas too
the nights must be long,
they must be lonely.

Issa (1763-1827)

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Dollar Dominatrix turns 40 today

Happy birthday Meredith Whitney. I'm sure Uncle Vik won't be sending you a card anytime soon.

Dolphins beat Panthers

The Miami Dolphins improved their record to .500 by beating the Carolina Panthers in their home stadium last night 24 – 17. Playing on essentially three days rest, Ricky William had a banner night with three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving. Chad Henne is maturing in a hurry and when given time to set up and throw is delivering some good balls on the numbers to Bess and Ginn Jr., both of whom came up with clutch receptions.

The down side of the game had to be the decimation of our offensive line which at one point had lost not only our starting center, but the backup as well. On the defensive side, our nose tackle went down with what I suspect by the look of it on film, will be a long term injury. All in all, Miami played a good game against an opponent which came into the game riding a three game winning streak. The only bright side to the injury report is that since we played on Thursday night the players now have ten days to rest up and heal.

Miami now stands second in their division. This will now be one of those crazy weekends coming up where as a Dolphin fan I have to root for the Jets to win their game because they are playing the Patriots. Go Jets! Arghhh, it feels horrible even writing those two words.

"Mean" Joe finally gets his CLIO

I have written about this commercial before on this blog. Thirty years later "Mean" Joe Green finally gets his CLIO award for it. Nice to see.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ronnie Brown done for season

Noooooo! Do you hear that sound? It is the wailing and gnashing of teeth of Dolphin fans around the sports world. Miami has been competitive in all of its games this season and kept its slim playoff hopes alive last week by beating the Bucs. A primary reason for this was the steady play of Ronnie Brown, our starting tailback who was also the skipper of the Wildcat offense. After the Bucs game I wrote that Ronnie Brown had been hurt, but since no one knew the extent of the injury at the time, I said I could safely predict he would not play in tonight's quick turnaround game against Carolina. That was an easy prediction. Heck, even the healthy players don't want to play on three days rest.

What I didn't realize at the time was how serious the injury was. Now I do. Ronnie Brown has been put on Injured Reserve and is done for the year. This is a huge blow to the Dolphins prospects of making the playoffs. It means the ball carrying load will fall on Ricky Williams, who is no slouch, but we will see how effective he will be as the primary ball carrier for the rest of the season. Provided he doesn't get hurt too, heaven forbid.

No surprise with new Human Rights Watch report

No one should be surprised by this report. Did we really need a 123 page report to tell us what we already knew? Nothing has changed under Raul Castro. Living in South Florida as we do we are constantly hearing of desperate Cubans in rickety, decrepit rafts braving the 90 mile shark-infested stretch between their island and Florida trying to reach this shore and the freedom it represents. Raul Castro's regime is simply more of the same Fidel's Cuba.

A political science professor of mine in college once said to understand whether a nation has problems you apply a simple "gate test." If more people are trying to go out the gate of a country to leave it than are trying to get in through the gate, then that nation has problems. This is the case with Cuba. The island is a repressive country where basic human rights are violated every day. People are poor, hungry and desperate to get out.

At Guantanamo there is a monument where some of the most ramshackle rafts which Cubans tried to sail to freedom are kept in their original state, depicting the desperation of the Cuban people. I am still searching for a similar monument in the U.S. for the inverse, Americans desperate to reach Cuba to revel in its socialist glory. There is no such monument. The "gate test" remains intact.

I agree

I saw a bumper sticker while driving my boy to school today which read,

"Stop spreading my wealth. Spread my work ethic instead."


Natalie Merchant performs Carnival live.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What about her job performance so far

I received a NYT news alert email today and the header read as follows,

"Clinton Makes Unannounced Visit to Afghanistan."

Immediately the question that popped into my head was, "Which Clinton?" Common sense says it has to be Hillary, but I guess the fact that I had that moment of doubt says something about her performance as Secretary of State for me up to this point in her tenure.

The Singularity is coming

Now what? Glenn Reynolds' conclusion, "faster please."

Citi raises salary of some seniors, Uncle Vik dissed

Citi substantially raised the salary of some executives, among them CFO John Gerspach as well as James Forese, but Unlce Vik did NOT get a raise and will be paid a base salary of $1.00 this year. The bank did not request a raise for him.

As Van Halen once said, "Right now, better turn this thing around."

The severance economy

This is an interesting article. We have cut back quite a lot, but some in the article did not do this soon enough. It just stands to reason that when you have less income, you should spend less. In our case it seems that when we have needed to cut back the most, unexpected expenses, some quite large, have become the norm which has not helped at all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gore met by protesters

This happened literally a stone's throw from our house. We live right across the street from Mizner Park and Gore presented at the amphitheatre there.

Plus, the guys over at Powerline Blog are not so impressed with Al Gore's scientific pedigree and musings.

The Prisoner's Dilemma and U.S. Foreign Policy

Bill Whittle examines U.S. foreign policy through the lens of Game Theory and specifically the Prisoner's Dilemma. He also makes mention of David Axelrod's book, The Evolution of Cooperation, which I have read. It is good reading.

A new biography of Ayn Rand

The WSJ interviews Anne C. Heller, an author who has written a new biography of Ayn Rand, who seems to be in vogue these days with all that is going on in our economy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dolphins beat Bucs, now at 4 - 5

The Miami dolphins beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 – 23 on a last minute field goal to move their record to 4 – 5. In reality the game should not have been as close as it was and had its share of sloppy play on both sides of the ball. Ronnie Brown hurt his ankle and as of yet there has been no report on the severity of the injury. Miami plays again this Thursday on a quick turnaround against Carolina and I think I can safely say that Ronnie will not be playing in that game. On the bright side, The Jets, Bills and Patriots all lost yesterday so we are now second in the division. Hopefully after Thursday we will be at the .500 mark, but Carolina can be tough.

Does he know something we don't?

John Paulson, the hedge fund manager of Paulson & Co., has bought an additional 300 million shares of Citi while selling the fund's entire holdings in rival Goldman Sachs. He has also lowered the stake in JP Morgan Chase. Hmmm.

Accountability can be refreshing

Depending on perspective. From The People's Cube, Local Man Claims Responsibility For Own Problems.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. You may have had a manager like this next one at some point. These are the types of managers one may want to try and save from themselves, but usually can't.

MOTW: Quixotic Manager

Generally a good-natured person, Quixotic Manager pursues initiatives and projects that are doomed to fail from the very outset. Convinced of his/her ideas he/she perseveres in these quests even after being given myriad reasons why they won’t work and being repeatedly told not to continue. Eventually Quixotic Manager loses the respect of Senior Management, peers, subordinates, even the cleaning staff and fades into obscurity following several of these escapades. Quixotic Manager’s fate is the stuff of legend and usually involves rumors of relocation to the mailroom of the Lagos, Nigeria branch.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An experiment

People who read this blog from time to time know that on Saturdays I have a recurring theme where I post Weekend Haiku, a haiku from one of my three all time favorite haiku masters, Basho, Buson or Issa. Today, I thought I would give one of my own a shot just for fun. Do not worry. This will not be a recurring thing. Here it is.

The pond surface ripples;
A floating beetle
Clings to life.

Another million for his victims

It is a drop in the bucket compared to what he swindled his victims out of, but yesterday some of Bernie Madoff's possessions were auctioned off, netting about 900,000 dollars. There will still be two more auctions, including the sale of his boats.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend Haiku

The old man
cutting barley-
bent like a sickle.

Buson (1716-1783)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Facebook status update provides an alibi

In this case Facebook provided an alibi for a robbery suspect, but I must admit the first thing that popped into my head is this nugget from the article.

"Mr. Reuland acknowledges that, in principle, anyone who knew Mr. Bradford’s username and password could have typed the Facebook update, but he regards it as unlikely in this case."

Good news for wine drinkers

Bad news for grape growers. The recession is hitting grape growers hard, which means that bulk wines should be the recipients of some very good grapes, making cheap wines actually pretty darn good for next year's offering, according to this report.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Will Survive

Move over Gloria Gaynor. Cake performs I Will Survive in concert.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blackouts are the people's fault

Hugo Chavez, that bastion of perplexing annoyance to the U.S., has laid another whopper on his populace. Despite being energy-rich, Venezuela has been suffering from frequent blackouts.

Given Chavez's ludicrous and bombastic style, it is no surprise that instead of being accountable for these problems as the head of a government which has been completely incompetent managing the country's infrastructure, Mr. Chavez is blaming the power failures on his population's over-consumption.

Indeed, he is mocking them and challenging them to take shorter showers, calling them obese and telling them to buy generators if they don't like the situation as it stands. Please.

Santas receive training

It used to be that all Santa needed was some industrious elves, a good sleigh, some No Doze and reindeer with stamina. Nowadays Christmas has gotten a little more complex. With all the high-tech gadgets kids want and the acronyms they go by things may be a bit more challenging for the venerable Mr. Claus this Christmas season.

So some British Santas have taken advantage of an offer from PC World in the UK and are receiving extensive training in today's electronic offerings for kids. This training program, along with an email helpline, should help Santa interpret what kids are asking for when they mention they want a PSP, and hopefully it's not some street drug they are asking for, but rather the toy made by Sony.

Treating the Pain Epidemic

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. As someone who has been inside the circle of chronic pain I can attest to this article's veracity in terms of this quote.

"Instead of receiving effective relief, patients with persistent pain often find themselves in an endless cycle, seeing multiple health care providers, including many specialists in areas other than pain, who are not prepared to respond effectively. They often endure repeated tests and inadequate or unproven treatments. This may include unnecessary surgeries, injections or procedures that have no long-term impact on comfort and function."

Chronic pain brings with it an accompanying host of problems too numerous to mention here. Suffice it to say that in my experience the medical profession has fallen far short of understanding, treating and assuaging a chronic pain patient's suffering.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Heat downs Wizards

The Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards 90 - 76 tonight at the American Airlines Arena and improved their record in this young season to 6 - 1. Dwayne Wade scored 41 points to lead the way for the Heat. It is only the second time in the Heat's 22 year history that they have begun the season with 6 wins and only 1 loss. Nice to see. Go Heat.

Painfully honest commercials

Now that's what I'm talking about. If I was in the market for a mobile home I would certainly buy one from this guy because I know he wouldn't be selling me a load of you know what. In my world all commercials would be like this one.

Will the makeover work?

Sandy Beall, the founder and chief executive of Ruby Tuesday's, has been hard at work trying to redo the restaurant's image and menu. The jury is still out about whether the makeover has been successful or not and for a while the restaurant flirted with going dark, but the stock has rebounded and operations seem to be going well.

We eat there from time to time. In the past we used to go quite a bit as it was a favorite of my eldest son's who called it Ruby Tuby's. In fact, both the boys seem to enjoy the food there. We always had good service and food for the price they charged, so my hope is that the makeover works out so we can continue to eat there from time to time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A doubles round

This past Saturday I showed up to play with the regular Saturday morning gang. There were 8 of us so we decided to play some random draw doubles to speed up the round and have some fun. My partner and I played pretty well. The wind was blowing hard which made for some interesting holes, but we ended up tied with the other leading team at 6 under par after 18 holes. We didn't have a single bogey in the round which was good considering the way the wind was howling. We played off for three more holes before the winner was decided and alas, it was not us. We gave it away because on the prior two playoff holes we had putts to finish off the round and neither of us could deliver. It was a great morning of throwing plastic and enjoying the camaraderie which is disc golf. It would have been nice to sink that putt for the win, but I guess that will have to wait until next time.

Dolphins now 3 - 5 at the season's halfway mark

Yesterday was rough. I thought it would be a tall order to go into Gillette Stadium and beat the rising Patriots on their home turf and it was. The Dolphins lost to New England by a score of 27-17. Brady and Moss are hitting their stride at this point in the season and it is tough to stop a team that has all day to throw. The Dolphins pass rush was non-existent so Brady was able to pick and choose his spots to surgically take apart the Dolphins’ secondary primarily using Randy Moss and ex-Dolphin Wes Welker to do it.

While the Dolphin offense is typically a ball control offense which generally does a good job of realizing time consuming drives which tend to culminate with some kind of score, it all goes for nothing when the defense can not stop the other team. This has been the case when the Fins face quality opponents such as the Colts, Chargers, Saints or now the Patriots. If the Dolphins don’t do something about putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks it is going to be a tough second half of the season.

Next up, the lowly Buccaneers which may just be what the doctor ordered although they are on a one game winning streak.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. We have all seen or heard talk about this next manager. Somehow they manage to thrive although everyone knows them for what they really are. One can only hope that karma will eventually catch up with them at some point in their careers.

MOTW: Do Nothing Manager

This manager’s name figures prominently on the masthead of any successful presentation ever given to Senior Management. However, the only thing he/she ever contributed to the effort was showing up late at an occasional project meeting. Do Nothing Manager is coated with Teflon, so nothing sticks when responsibilities are assigned for specific project tasks and milestones. He/she has an eel-like ability to dodge all serious accountability and thus contributes only marginal effort (if any at all) to the task at hand. When the time comes for recognition however, Do Nothing Manager blends in effortlessly with those team members who actually did the work and basks in the limelight, flourishing in the extensive praise received from Senior Management.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Oh Thank Heaven!

It will finally be here soon. 7-11 will be selling its own brand of wine in about a week or so. This is no joke, so if you are out in the wee hours of the night and need a bottle to bring to some unsuspecting host, pop in to the convenience store and pick up a bottle of Yosemite Road Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. It's pretty inexpensive and has the allure of being the only wine you can buy in the same store that also sells the famous and oh so delectable slurpie. No word on whether they will soon be offering wine slurpies as well.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weekend Haiku

The squid seller's call
mingles with the voice
of the cuckoo.

Basho (1644-1694)

Friday, November 6, 2009

An alternate view on Gladwell's work

I have written about Malcolm Gladwell before on this blog, reviewing his book Outliers: The Story of Success here. Overall I liked the book and thought it had something to say. From The Nation, here is another view on Gladwell's body of work, entitled Gladwell for Dummies. As you might infer from the title, the article is not so enamored of Gladwell's copious literary output.

Quote for today

A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.

Ogden Nash

Or as is the case this year, the swine flu. I don't have the swine flu (at least I don't think I do), but I am suffering from a pretty rough cold right now.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

SuperFreaking out over SuperFreakonomics

Remember this post where I mentioned that the chapter in SuperFreakonomics on Global Warming or Climate Change, whichever way you want to look at it, was already creating quite a ruckus? Well, here is a commentary on the flap by Ronald Bailey (Science Editor at Reason Magazine) over at It is pretty interesting. The last line in his commentary sums it up very nicely.

"Although flawed, in SuperFreakonomics, Levitt and Dubner have done citizens and policymakers a real service by breaking the taboo on discussing the feasibility and risks of climate engineering in public."

A moment of Zen

Archery that is. Zen archers practice in Manhattan.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why you can't get swine flu vaccine...

Very, very interesting.


This is fun to watch. The video flies by. Arthur Benjamin engages in what he calls Mathemagic. He races calculators and does lightning fast calculations which boggle the mind. This guy is really incredible and unlike magicians in general, at the end of his act he shows you how he does it. Not only that, the man is funny too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Another Mommy special

The effect of the CIT bankruptcy on the taxpayer, thanks to the Treasury Department.

End game for Honduras

The small nation of Honduras has struck an accord which will likely let the U.S. save face for its erroneous meddling up to this point. In this article by Mary Anastasia O'Grady, who has cogently been covering this mess from the very beginning she states...

"Finally the U.S. and the Organization of American States (OAS) have agreed to step aside and allow Honduran institutions to decide if Mr. Zelaya is to be reinstated. Without international meddling, it is quite likely that Mr. Zelaya will be refused the presidency once more."

Let's hope this is the case. The U.S. really needs to step back and examine its recent actions of stiff-arming its allies and coddling its adversaries. No one thought a small, beleaguered nation such as Honduras could stand up to so many meddlers, but it has. So, once and for all, let the Hondurans decide what is best for Honduras and let them continue on their path towards a peace-loving, democratic nation.