Saturday, January 31, 2009
Sunday evening the proud, tradition-laden AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers face off against the woebegone, quasi-dysfunctional (except for this season) NFC champion Arizona Cardinals in Tampa, Florida. Who will win? Conventional football wisdom says to pick the Steelers, but I have five words for you. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
That’s a pretty good motto and we have adopted it except we have modified it slightly to include drink too. After all, human beings die pretty quickly when deprived of water. As a country we have entered that space where we are in danger of falling into what John Maynard Keynes referred to as the Paradox of Thrift. In layman’s terms Keynes posited that if we all save when times are hard, then overall savings go down because people in general consume less and we all become poorer as a result of it. Sounds counter-intuitive doesn't it? That's why it's a paradox. He explains it much better than I ever will.
In all my years I have never seen this kind of systemic economic malaise. I’m not an economist, but what I see is that even the people who aren’t struggling right now are waiting, waiting when they normally would be spending and stimulating the economy. They are waiting because they are unsure of what lies ahead, uncertain of whether they too will be struggling two days from now. Inaction is not a good thing.
What this country needs is a visit to a doctor who will pull down its pants, bend it over and give it a giant shot of B12 in each butt cheek. The first shot is jobs and the second is consumer confidence. We need these injected into the system post haste.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Methinks that if it weren’t for Mr. Weill’s “merger” of Citicorp with the Umbrella and all the subsequent havoc it wrought, things would have turned out a little differently for the old Citi.
These guys will probably all wind up at some country club, sipping cappuccinos with ankle bracelets on. Please, at least let them be cappuccinos from this machine. My wife has one and the darn thing hasn’t worked properly in all the years she has owned it.
Oh, and the original guy, his scheme was based on arbitraging international reply coupons for postage stamps in the 1920’s. Potential investors were lured in by the promise of consistent and incredibly high returns that seemed too good to be true. They were, so I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Believe it or not, samples from this cantata are ubiquitous in our modern day lives. You will have probably heard parts of Track 1, O Fortuna, as a backdrop for horror movie scenes, car commercials, sporting events, etc. It has even been sampled by Enigma on their CD The Screen Behind the Mirror. Listen to the whole thing sometime. You will not be disappointed. My recording is the one pictured above and listed directly below, endorsed by the man, Carl Orff himself.
Carmina Burana by Eugen Jochum with the Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin and Gundula Janowitz, Gerhard Stolze, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Recorded October 1967 in Berlin's Ufa-Studio, released 1968 (Deutsche Grammophon).
we are only but mere visitors to this planet, our lives a brief moment in time. and when that moment is finished we shall return back to whence we came. life is a great story but only one act in a play of many. death leads into life again and the story to be continued.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
1) One of a host of female figures who choose who will win or die in battle in Norse mythology,
2) A plot to assassinate Hitler,
3) A movie about the same starring Tom Cruise,
4) A long range distance driver fabricated by Innova for Disc Golf.
Not being from Scandinavia, not having been alive during World War II, having seen the movie and having not been impressed by it, but, being a Disc Golfer, I will stick with number four. By sheer coincidence it also just happens to be my primary driver.
Tom Gjelten is a veteran correspondent for NPR and a regular panelist on the PBS program Washington Week. In his book, Bacardi and the long fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause, he recounts much more than the tale of a famous Cuban family and its rum making tradition. This book is a journey through Cuban politics juxtaposed with the family’s business. The two were completely intertwined, with the Bacardi Rum Company participating in every aspect of Cuban social, political and economic life. It is a history lesson, family saga and rum making extravaganza all rolled into one. It would not surprise me if the Bacardi Rum Company's history became fodder for a Harvard Business School case at some point.
The Bacardi family tree is about as convoluted as the House of Plantagenet, but Gjelten does an excellent job of acquainting you with each and every important player in the story, (beginning with Don Facundo Bacardi, the man who started it all) explaining their role not only with the company, but what they and their actions meant for the island they loved so dearly.
This is an epic narrative, that should you read it, will make you stop and think each time you order a mojito, daiquiri or Bacardi and Coke, aka Cuba Libre as the drink is known.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Bottom line, according to Gladwell, people who are successful didn't necessarily have that all-encompassing, watershed lucky break and aren't genius-like Einsteins. What they do typically have are some propitious conditions, a certain level of intelligence (Forrest Gump notwithstanding) and an obsession for their craft, which together create a platform for achievement. The question is, what does that mean for us?
Monday, January 26, 2009
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.
Friday, January 23, 2009
“T.T.,” he said, “Come to my office right away. I need to speak to you about a very special assignment.”
I strode over to his office. Through a cracked vertical blind I could see him practicing his golf swing. I knocked on the door and heard him call out. “Come in.”
When I was uncomfortably seated in the visitor’s chair my boss began, “I’ve been reading this book.”
My eyebrows shot up at this news. I had never seen my boss read anything and had for years suspected he couldn’t read at all.
“It’s excellent. The author’s brilliant and I want you to implement this approach here. It’s called TQM and everyone’s doing it. It’s the cutting edge and we don’t want to be left behind you know. This is going to revolutionize our office.”
My heart sank. I had heard about TQM. My feeling was the acronym stood for Terrible Quandary en Masse, but I nodded in silent agreement since he was just getting warmed up.
“It’s been proven to work across all industries,” he enthused. “You’re just the man to make it happen. We’re going to do everything right the first time and then you’re going to create a measuring system that will constitute the critical indicators. It will be a sort of dashboard so we can seamlessly analyze all the data and report out the areas of opportunity.”
“By areas of opportunity you mean mistakes or errors, don’t you?” I asked.
“Well yes of course,” he replied, “But we don’t use those terms. We call them opportunities for improvement or areas of development.”
“But if we do everything right the first time, doesn’t this mean that there won’t be any um…opportunities for improvement?” I countered.
“Well, yes. I mean no. I mean, well you know what I mean. I mean of course nothing’s ever perfect. There’s always room for improvement. That’s what we’re all about here, developing our resources.”
“But you just said the focus is to do everything right the first time.”
“Yes,” he replied, “According to the book that avoids rework.”
“Well then, creating the dashboard will actually be rework in a way, because it will be a process to look for errors where there aren’t any since we did everything right the first time.”
“How many times do I have to repeat myself T.T.? The word is not errors, the word is opportunities. Anyway, I guess when you put it that way, you’re sort of right. Just do me a favor and go out and tell everyone to do things right the first time. While you’re at it remind everyone about my Open Door Policy. The book mentions that it’s very important to keep communication flowing in all directions. It’s kind of a detail in this whole TQM thing. Or maybe that’s another management book, the one with the walking around thing. I get them mixed up sometimes. Anyway, just remind them will you.”
“Sure thing boss,” I said and picked up the nine hundred-page tome he had thrust at me when the conversation began. “Do you mind if I look at this?”
“Go ahead. Read it and bring it back. It’s an excellent book you know. It’s going to change everything.” He buried his nose in a pile of papers, indicating that the meeting was over.
“Thanks,” I replied.
As I was leaving he called out, “T.T., aren’t you forgetting something.”
“Of course I am,” I said and dutifully closed his office door. As I closed it I saw him practicing his putting.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I will also digress into other subjects, mostly about music, disc golf and other random topics, but make sure to stop back here at least each Monday to meet the new Manager of the Week (MOTW). If you like this blog, please consider joining the followers group or add it to your favourites. Hopefully I'll see you at least every Monday for a new MOTW. Oh, and tell your friends. Cheers!