Saturday, October 31, 2009

Weekend Haiku

Full moon;
my ramshackle hut
is what it is.

Issa (1763-1827)

This can't be good

The Poles must be wondering what they ever did to us except be our steadfast ally. This was obviously an accident, but coming on the heels of our scrapping the missile defense shield it can not be helpful at all in rebuilding rapport and trust with them. After all, it must have taken some considerable political capital on the Polish government's part to sell the shield to their populace only to have it rescinded at the eleventh hour.

The money quote from the article, "This is catastrophic for Poland," said the spokeswoman, who declined to be named in line with ministry policy.

But I do care Joe

Call me crazy, but I do think that what Cheney says is usually ten times more cogent than what our esteemed Veep typically doles out (especially number 1 on the list). Careful Joe, don't go hunting with him after this. He may shoot you and claim it was an "incident."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Living an Ayn Rand novel?

What is it about Ayn Rand that stirs such passion whenever she is mentioned? They were just books people. She must be smirking in her grave right now. This post from Veronique de Rugy is titled We are living in an Ayn Rand novel. Well, if that is indeed the case I would very much appreciate someone pointing me in the direction of Galt's Gulch.

Honduran crisis resolved?

Since no text of the agreement has been released it is hard to tell what the scope of the accord entails, but essentially it seems as if Zelaya will be allowed back in as President for less than a month so that the elections can go forward as planned. What a great resolution brokered by U.S. diplomacy. Right!

For Zelaya it is a triumph and better than staying at the Brazilian embassy until then. Hopefully, (even though this is the wrong message the U.S. is sending by brokering this), for the beleagured county which is Honduras it will be good in the long run in the sense that the circus Zelaya has caused will tone down a bit and the elections can go forward. What is important is that Zelaya not be allowed to stand for re-election as this is what initiated the whole crisis. The Honduran constitution expressedly forbids more than one term for any president. Again, the U.S. really missed the boat on this one. They should have backed Micheletti and crew from day one.

As usual, the Powerline Blog guys don't mince words when they opine on this latest development brokered by the State Department.

Ordering wine at a business dinner

You are at a business dinner and are awarded the duty of choosing the wine for the meal. This can be tricky depending on the circumstances so this short article from the duo at the WSJ is full of common sense tips for when that moment arrives. It's well worth the read.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Go Heat!

The Miami Heat won its home opener last night by crushing its arch-nemesis, the New York Nicks by a score of 115-93. The whole team looked good. Dwayne Wade played well, but what I liked the most was second year player Michael Beasley's 21 points. It's a long season. It was a nice start so go Heat!

GMAC wants more taxpayer money

For the third time. Mommy said to be considering. No comment.

Quote for today

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

Lao Tzu

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Did pay czar cut salaries or give raises?

It seems like he did both. Background here. According to this WSJ article, at Citi at least, base salaries climbed in many cases.

Here is the quote, "At Citigroup, which is 34%-owned by the U.S. government, Mr. Feinberg agreed to more than double salaries for 13 of the 21 employees, according to the Journal's analysis."

This seems to fly in the face of the pay for performance rhetoric that the White House has been spouting as its justification for limiting the pay of top executives at bailed out firms.

Is shouting the new spanking?

This article really hit home for me. We don't spank our kids, but every so often we do yell at them and then feel pretty bad about it afterwards. This article says that while there are many studies and data around spanking children and its consequences, there is much less certainty about the effects of yelling at them. We would prefer not to yell at them of course, but there are those moments...arghhhh!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Will the White House sign a peace treaty with Fox News?

Or will it send drones to attack? At the very beginning of the clip below from "This Week" there is historical footage of John Kennedy being asked about his view of the press. I have no love for Kennedy, but the man got a lot of things right during his brief stint as president which ended so tragically, one of them being his response in this footage. His message, you don't have to like it, but let the press do its job.

Watch this clip talking about this issue and watch Laura Ingraham slam ABC News Anchor’s Charlie Gibson's ACORN ignorance. And what can you say about George Will? I love the man. The two words I can think of to describe him are "class" and "gravitas."'

Little 15

Depeche Mode's video of Little 15.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A tale of two halves

Some may argue that the Saints are the best team in football right now. Yesterday for pretty much the entire first half the Dolphins made them look like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, arguably the worst team in football right now. At the end of the half the Fins were ahead 24-10. But one half does not a football game make.

One sign of a great team is the adjustments it makes at halftime to try to right the ship. The Saints did this and had an answer for every Dolphin move in the second half. They made the correct adjustments and the Dolphins made crucial mental as well as physical mistakes to ensure that the Saints won. Witness Joey Porter's 15 yard stupid personal foul which helped the Saints move down the field at a critical juncture, or Camarillo's boneheaded illegal forward pass for which there was absolutely no necessity and which caused a penalty and loss of down to stop the Dolphins momentum. The Saints won the second half 26-10 and thus the game.

In short, the Dolphins need more discipline and poise in the second half of games. Also, the coaching staff has gone back to the insertion of Pat White at inopportune times which completely breaks the rhythm and momentum of an already choppy offense, considering the adoption of the wildcat as a weekly standard.

The Dolphins lost 46-34 and to add insult to injury lost cornerback Will Allen for the season with an ACL injury. The Fins are now 2-4 and looking at a long stretch of difficult games ahead. Ouch!

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Everyone always talks about this manager along these lines. "Oh yes, I know X, he never shuts up." Waiting until this manager gasps for breath and strategically inserting your comment in that nanosecond of time is the only way you will make yourself heard. Don't be shy.

MOTW: Motor Mouth Manager

Speaks any time, all the time. Overwhelms any discussion and simply cannot stop even when everyone gets his/her point of view. (Hint: Do not confuse with non-listening manager.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

SuperFreakonomics is out

The book is already near number one on Amazon here in the U.S. Here is an excerpt on "altruism" from chapter three. These guys write pretty well and the way they treat topics can be controversial to say the least. I will be picking up my copy soon. Apparently the chapter on Global Warming has already created quite a ruckus.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend Haiku

Flopped on the fan,
the big cat

Issa (1763-1827)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tiger outdriven by 12 year old

And his reaction is typically classy. I've always liked Tiger. He is as intense as it gets when he is competing on the course and he can show some angst like any pro golfer can when he is upset with himself, but if you have ever watched his post tournament interviews he is always classy. He never gives excuses for poor play and never crows about his stellar play. He just calls it as he sees it.

On this occasion he is at an event commemorating the opening of The Cliffs at High Carolina, a new course in Asheville, North Carolina designed by none other than Tiger himself. Tiger fired his first two ceremonial shots into the trees. He then looked out over the crowd and invited anyone to step up and try to outdrive him. Twelve-year-old Mark Benevento Jr. did and sent two 200 yard drives right down the middle much to Tiger's chagrin. Watch the drives and Tiger's classy reaction. At the very end of the video you will hear Tiger telling the young man he is proud of him.

View more news videos at:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vikram Pandit to take pay cut?

It's supposed to happen this afternoon. Uncle Vik, along with several others, should be taking a pay cut. The Treasury Department is set to order compensation reductions for top executives of firms which have not paid back last year's government bailouts. Citi is among those that have not repaid the TARP money so Vikram Pandit and other top Citi executives should be on the list.

The guys over at Powerline Blog have an in-depth opinion here about this latest move from the federal government.

I'm ambivalent about this one. While I dislike government intrusion in the private sector as a general rule most of these executives salaries are quite obscene in their size and have been for a very long time. The argument is that these positions are complex and deserve compensation commensurate with their complexity. This is quite true, not everyone becomes the CEO, CFO or COO of a large, multinational organization with multiple business lines, products and geographies for a simple reason. These are tough jobs and in theory the incumbent should be uniquely qualified to fill that role, thus deserving the compensation that comes as a reward for their preparation AND performing that role effectively.

The problem is that these guys, for the most part, have not performed their roles effectively. They have run their companies into the ground and at least in Citi's case have not been able to turn the situation around. I still don't like the government intervening in this, but since none of these companies run their business on an altruistic basis, neither the executives themselves, nor their boards have seen fit to limit their pay and that is just plain wrong.

The whole idea behind meritocracy is pay for performance and this is the culture these companies say they are trying to instill. It should come from the top. If the company has lousy results, has to get bailed out by the federal government and doesn't pay the money back in a reasonable timeframe, then the top brass should get lousy pay. And I guess when you don't walk the talk, in these trying economic times the administration does it for you.

Dessert Wines

I'm not a big fan of sweet wines and the duo at the WSJ admit that many people are not. In this review they invite you to give them a chance and they focus on U.S. sweet wines. They do not review ice wines in this article, but there is a lot of information for those who want to delve into the world of dessert wines. One of their favorites is a wine called Oro Puro (which means Pure Gold) in Spanish and I must admit that their description had me almost wanting to try it. I had no idea that the U.S. produced so many good sweet wines.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Julian Treasure speaks about the 4 ways sound affects us

This is extremely interesting. Julian Treasure, a designer of soundscapes, gives a five minute talk about the four ways sound affects us: physiologically, psychologically, cognitively and behaviourally. He uses sounds throughout his talk to prove his point. He also states, "Music is the most profound sound there is," which I completely agree with and basically said so in my previous post entitled The Mystery of Music.

Also, listen carefully for a shocking fact about noisy open-plan offices.

The mystery of music

Terry Teachout, the WSJ's drama critic writes a brief article about the power music has over human beings. I love music and devote quite a bit of space to it on this blog. I am convinced that it has the ability to do many things to one's mood, health and overall well-being. I don't have a musical bone in my body, but I can't imagine my life without music and I very much appreciate the artistry of those who create it.

Quote for today

The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breaking News: Fox News not real news after all!

Shouldn't the administration stay out of frays like this? It's not like it was one rogue minor White House official who made these statements on an obscure show on an off day. No less than three top aides: Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director, Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff and David Axelrod, Senior Obama Adviser have publicly said in high profile environments that Fox News should not be treated as a news organization.

Apparently this comes as a surprise to viewers as Fox's ratings have shot up as a result of the administration's representatives negative comments about Fox. And whether you agree with Fox or not, they do engage in some pretty hard hitting news gathering and reporting. It might be time for another beer summit so Obama can apologize for his people's innoportune comments to the powers that be at Fox but you know it will never happen.

A brief look at Capt. Chesley Sullenberger

A three minute look at Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully landed US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River after it collided with birds, causing both engines to fail. It's a great video, including some commentary by his wife which gives perspective on the man and how he feels about his heroic actions.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Citi may lose Banamex

More headaches for Uncle Vik. Because of a Mexican law which states that foreign governments can not own a stake in domestic banks Citi may have to jettison Banamex. Banamex makes money for Citi (in fact about 15% of its global profits) and its big kahuna, Manuel Medina Mora (3M as he is known in some circles) is very influential and important to have on the roster. How efficient Banamex is is another story entirely, but at least it is a big money-maker for the troubled bank which has many business units struggling to survive. Despite its earning power however, there are many who would not be sorry to see it go.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. This next manager can be an extremely irritating sort and one should always be leery of any information delivered by him/her. His/her level of enthusiasm is to be commended however.

MOTW: Pollyanna Manager

Continually gives rah-rah speeches trying to convince the staff everything is all right while the walls fall down around them. Pollyanna Manager will tell you that three years in a row without a raise is a good thing because as a result of this policy you aren’t paying any more in taxes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Ocean

A recording of Mae's The Ocean. Enjoy.

The Case of Honduras

In case you missed it the guys over at Powerline Blog have an excellent post about Honduras and our administration's continuous quest to undermine that nation's stability by insisting that Zelaya be reinstated.

Here they quote Mary Anastasia O'Grady: "The lesson, presumably, is that judges in small foreign nations are required to accept America's interpretation of their own laws." O'Grady rightly observed: "The upshot is that the U.S. is trying to force Honduras to violate its own constitution and is also using its international political heft to try to interfere with the country's independent judiciary."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekend Haiku

Not a leaf stirring;
the summer grove.

Buson (1716-1783)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Neglected Superhero's new space

The Tampa, Florida punk band Neglected Superhero has gotten back together and have a new myspace page. Check it out by clicking here, meet the band members, listen to some of their tracks and see where their next shows will be.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama to enter diplomatic talks with raging wildfire

From The Onion, America's most trusted news source comes this hot story. Watch until the very end to see the rumor they are reporting is sweeping the internet.

Obama To Enter Diplomatic Talks With Raging Wildfire

Citi reports earnings

The 27 cents a share loss was better than expected but did not satisfy analysts on Wall Street. Uncle Vik's shares slipped 3.6 percent in pre-market trading upon the announcement of third quarter total net income of 101 million. Ouch.


Or as they are also referred to in this piece, narco-submarines. In April I wrote about this phenomenon on this blog. You can read that post here. Now in this CNN video you get a fascinating look at several of these vessels. At the beginning of this footage you see one underway, the Colombian navy and U.S. Coast Guard trying to apprehend it and the crew giving up but scuttling the vessel before the authorities can get to the alleged 8 million dollars worth of cocaine on board. You are also taken on a tour of one such vessel that was caught and is in dry-dock at a Colombian naval base.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

John Wooden speaks

John Wooden once said, "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." A truly remarkable human being, Coach Wooden talks about success, recites poetry and recalls his father's wisdom in this talk.

Also, it is his birthday today. He turns 99 so happy birthday Coach John Wooden. Here is an SI look via photo essay at this remarkable man.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Looking for an everyday wine glass

The duo at the WSJ write about wines all the time, but this article talks about their preferences in wine glasses. They shopped in person and on-line for their everyday stemware and reveal how the shopping went.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Citi will be fined

Citi's Global Markets unit will be fined 600 thousand dollars because of the bank's failure to control trading related to strategies including so-called "total return swaps." The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that Citi engaged in various derivative transactions that were partly designed to help foreign clients avoid taxes on dividends.

Citi sells Phibro

Thus ends the saga of Mr. Hall, at least as far as Citi is concerned. On Oct. 9th the bank sold its Phibro commodities-trading unit to energy and chemical giant Occidental Petroleum. Phibro made money during all of Citi's crisis moments, but the 100 million dollar man was a little too much for Uncle Vik to manage given the current business climate and the spotlight on executive pay at companies which have received TARP funds.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. Time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Oh dear, what can we say about this next manager? A riddle wrapped inside a mystery within an enigma, or something along those lines. Since he/she behaves this way it is difficult to know what is going on. Performance review time is always an extremely interesting period with this type of manager. Proceed with caution.

MOTW: Silent Manager

Constantly withholds information. Never speaks, only stares. Makes one doubt whatever one has previously said. Leaves one wondering about one’s self-worth.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quote for today

There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.

Sir Winston Churchill

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weekend Haiku

It cried three times,
the deer,
then silence.

Buson (1716-1783)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Committee disagrees with SNL

Soon after being mercilessly lampooned on Saturday Night Live for doing "nothing, nada, jack squat" to date (SNL's words, not mine) President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel committee obviously disagreed with those savvy political satirists who write the skits on SNL and heralded Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Again, their words, not mine. The committee went on to say that Obama "has created a new climate in international politics." Personally I am still trying to figure out exactly what that climate is and whether the bestowment of this award might not have been a bit premature.

Here is the SNL skit. What I find interesting is that usually SNL tries to use actors who have mastered the art of mimicking the subtleties of the character they are portraying. This has always been at least part of the appeal of their political satire, making fun of the personal characteristics, nuances, tonality, nervous tics and gestures of the political figure being parodied and not just what they are saying. Here the actor doesn't work very hard at any of this because the focus is entirely on the content of his speech.

Where does the money go?

This article is about N.B.A. players going back to college during the off season to try and finish their degrees. The interesting thing is it gives some statistics on professional sports players in general and how they fare once they are not plying their trade.

Here is the alarming section of the NYT article which cites a fascinating Sports Illustrated article,

"The average annual salary in the N.B.A. is $5.85 million, and players are generally secure in the near term. Their retirement years can be completely different. An estimated 60 percent of N.B.A. players are broke within five years of retiring, and 78 percent of N.F.L. players are bankrupt or under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce within two years, according to a report by Sports Illustrated in March. The magazine also reported that many baseball players struggle financially after retirement."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Portrait of a fraud

And no, it is not Madoff. This is an in-depth look at the man whom I have posted about before on this blog here. Vanity Fair has the blow by blow account of how Marc Dreier turned bad. It is a fascinating look at the attorney who bilked several different types of investors (mostly hedge funds) for approximately 700 million dollars.

Consider this passage from the article, "Dreier says he can't remember the moment he actually began considering fraud. But he acknowledges the decision was made easier by a long track record of what he calls "cutting corners." As he acknowledges, "Yeah, I took advantage of expense accounts, statements on tax returns, that kind of thing. You know, I discovered once you cross a gray line it's much easier to cross a black line."

And thus the Harvard educated attorney turned criminal began his slide.


It's hard to go wrong with French wines in general. The duo at the WSJ review the Rhone red known as Côte-Rôtie. Made primarily from the syrah grape it isn't extremely popular, but it can be a good bargain for those who like an earthier tonality to their wine.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How many are there really?

And what is the correct spelling once they join the team. Of course there are no actual Czars or Tsars in the U.S. government, whichever spelling you may prefer. The title is simply shorthand for long drawn out titles which these special advisors actually possess.

For example the TARP Czar is Elizabeth Warren. Her Actual Title is: Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability, US Department of the Treasury.

Or take the Energy Tsar: Carol M. Browner, Actual Title: Assistant to the President, White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.

Or recall resignee Green Jobs Czar, Van Jones whose Actual Title was Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Anyway, no matter what their titles are accounts differ on how many there actually are. I have seen numbers that range from 18 to 40. It seems that whatever the number may be there are too many. Even the term, a throwback to the Russian monarchy evokes an imagery which makes me uneasy, especially when no one has elected or confirmed these individuals.


The autopsy of Michael Jackson shows that he was quite healthy and not the sickly stick figure the media portrayed him as upon his untimely death. The report shows that his health was quite typical for a 50 year old man. Interesting. I must admit to being a bit surprised by these findings given all the media frenzy surrounding his death and the resulting stories about his general state of well-being.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Perhaps this is why Chicago did not get the 2016 Olympic Games

FLOTUS was born in 1964 and Carl Lewis first took part in the Olympic games in 1984 in Los Angeles. So, this would make her 20 years old and sitting in her daddy's lap when Lewis first participated in the games. I'm not sure this is the "best" memory the first lady was striving for. I don't like the title of this video saying that she lied. I think she just misspoke, but geez, don't they have speechwriters and fact checkers for this sort of thing before she actually says them out loud and on record? After all, she's not just telling the American public this, but rather the International Olympic Committee, a rather prudish lot if memory serves. On the other hand, Rio's beaches aren't exactly for the prudish sort either.

Travelling soon?

Or just curious about the world in general. Check out this site. It is really nicely done.

2 sweet tunes from 10cc

From 1978, Dreadlock Holiday.

From 1974, Wall Street Shuffle. These guys were creative and fun. What a difference between the two tunes in terms of musical style and the lyrics to both are very clever.

This is worrisome

But not surprising given the state of our economy. At least the article points out that the fund our kids are invested in, the Florida Prepaid Fund, is not currently running an actuarial deficit. It is only one of two state funds that is not, the other being Colorado, but the article warns that rising tuition rates at Florida's universities will soon outpace the return the fund has traditionally been getting from its primarily fixed income investments.

Born to be anxious

Steppenwolf sang about being Born to be Wild, but are we really born already wired with a predisposition towards anxiety? In other words are we born to be anxious? Jerome Kagan, one of the most influential developmental psychologists of the 20th century, thinks so.

Monday, October 5, 2009

We are now 1-3

With Chad Pennington done for the year the other Chad's first start was a steady, productive and workman-like day. Henne was 14 for 22 for 115 yards, no turnovers, and he threw his first NFL touchdown pass. The Dolphins dismembered the Bills 38-10 yesterday in the brutal South Florida heat and essentially ran the ball down their throat (250 yards on the ground worth) until the Bills couldn't take it anymore. The effective running game gave Henne the foundation to pick and choose his spots, thus turning in an effective passing day which, along with the Wildcat, was enough to keep the Bills defense dazed and confused.

The Dolphins defense played well and even had an effective pass rush which took some of the pressure off the secondary. The remaining schedule is not easy, but at least we are no longer winless and the players looked like they were feeling pretty good when they left the field yesterday at Land Shark stadium.

It's Monday

And we all know what that means. time for another MOTW, Manager of the Week. Better brush up on your negotiation skills before working for this next manager. You will need them to get anything done, including that always sought after salary increase.

MOTW: Trade-Off Manager

Believes nothing can be achieved without indulging in some form of negotiation. Because of this Trade-Off Manager’s initiatives are characterized by a lot of inertia due to the time-consuming, melodramatic bartering that ensues between staff whenever they are assigned stretch goals.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Quote for today

An unfortunate thing about this world is that the good habits are much easier to give up than the bad ones.

W. Somerset Maugham

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weekend Haiku

It's not like anything
they compare it to-
the summer moon.

Basho (1644-1694)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jagged Little Pill

A rocking sound from a lady with attitude. From Canadian singer Alanis Morissette, this 1995 release is an offering which spews a torrent of emotions at the listener from start to finish, including some wonderful softer ballads with rock tinges. Morissette's angst is obvious and she channels it into some very finely crafted songs which have a lot to say about her personal situation at the time. Her voice is powerful and has a raspy, lilting quality which catches your attention and doesn't let it go.

This was her breakthrough album and it contained five bonafide hits: You Oughta Know, Ironic, You Learn, Hand in My Pocket, and Head over Feet. Rare is the album with no filler, that is good from start to finish and where every track is worthy of listening to in its entirety. This is one such album. The album has sold over 33 million copies worldwide.

Finally, a friend alerted me too this little nugget. He calls it the secret song. At the end of the CD there is an alternate version of You Oughta Know. When that song is done there is about 30 seconds of silence. I had always turned the CD off since I assumed the album was over. It isn't. Embedded within that same track and not listed on the liner notes is a beautiful a Capella tune where she belts out some really emotive and plaintive notes. It's a beautiful tune and one that should be enjoyed.

I just picked one of the songs so here is the official video of the hit You Learn.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chess, anyone?

A brief look back at the history of chess, the cold war chess years and what they meant to geopolitics. The WSJ uses the 25th anniversary match of Karpov and Kasparov's first world-title bout this past week in Spain to take us on a tour of their rivalry, as well as detailing Bobby Fisher's brief break on the stranglehold the Soviets maintained on the world title. Today the top contenders to the world title are no longer predominantly Russian.