Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekend at Bernie's

Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article called "The Weekend that Wall Street Died" which recaps the death of Lehman Brothers. The interactive graphic in the online edition (which I include because you don't need a subscription to access this) contains what I believe to among the best lines of the entire meltdownwwhich was apparently uttered by Goldman’s Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein to a Goldman aide who said he couldn’t take much more following weeks of market turmoil and two days of meetings with Fed officials.

“You’re getting out of a Mercedes to go to the New York Federal Reserve, you’re not getting out of a Higgins boat on Omaha Beach, so keep things in perspective”


In other news, there are only 362 shopping days until Christmas 2009 so stop reading this and get to work. The economy isn't going to fix itself, you know.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Thoughts

So I'm sitting in my office on Christmas Eve because I have no life there's a specific project that I need to get done in time for a meeting on Monday. Id say that I feel like Bob Cratchit at the moment, but I suspect he made more money that I do.

Other than that, there isn't a lot of work to do - particularly since all of the people who are smarter less dedicated than me have taken today off. As a result, I'm spending part of my day tracking Santa's progress via the NORAD website. Right now he's making his way through Australia and I have to say he appears to be taking his sweet time doing so. I can only hope he's in the warm up stage because it this rate he's never going to make it.

At the same time, I'm wondering how Santa survives using what appears to be a flawed business model. He spends all year creating a massive amount of inventory and then gives it away for free. It's no wonder he encourages people to leave him cookies and milk and the like. It's probably the only food he gets all year. In fact, I'm wondering if he's really fat or if that's just a distended belly.

On an unrelated note, I also wonder how many times he gets slapped by women who misinterpred his merry "Ho, ho, ho".

The other thing that leaps to mind is that I can only imagine how annoyed he must get every time he sees a FedEx plane during his journey. I mean, if Santa can cover the entire world in one night can you imagine how much money he could have made opening a package delivery service? I'm guessing that the packages would have been far more festive as well, lending a holiday spirit to even the most mundane of missives received at the office.

Anyway, this line of thinking probably stems from my bitterness at (1) working today and (2) facing the prospect of another Christmas morning alone in an empty house. That said, things could be far worse and, all in all, it's been a very good year.

So with that in mind, Happy Holidays to all...and to all...well, you know.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mismanaged Health Care

A co-worker had a hernia operation last week, which lead to the following text message exchange:

Me: Hey. Just wanted to check in to see how you’re doing. Did everything go okay?

Him: Feel awful but will be out of the woods in a few days. Thanks for checking in.

Me: They put you in the woods after your operation? I guess you were right. Our medical plan really does suck.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Second City?

This has certainly not been a banner year for New York in it's ongoing friendly competition with Chicago. It started off well enough with the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl but, let's be honest here, they play in New Jersey.

Anyway, shortly thereafter, things started to turn ugly for the state when then presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee New York Senator Hilary Clinton started losing ground and eventually the nomination to then-Illinois-Senator-and-now-President-elect Barack Obama.

Buoyed by this, both Chicago baseball teams - the Cubs and the White Sox - made the playoffs in October while the New York Mets (after a second straight disastrous collapse) and the Yankees, both of whom seemed to have taken Sen. Clinton's failure to heart - missed out.

Finally, this week we learned that the sex scandal that brought down our former Governor Eliot Spitzer now pales in comparison to the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich for what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called a "staggering" level of corruption engaged in by the Illinois Governor including allegations that "...Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism."

This isn't all that surprising given city's long history of corrupt politics. I just wish he'd listened when I told him the rules:

1st RULE: You do not talk about how corrupt you are.
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about how corrupt you are.
3rd RULE: If someone says "stop" or arrests you for a "staggering" level of corruption, the political carrer.

I know this because Tyler knows this.

Oh...wait. That was Fight Club. Sorry.

So it seems pretty clear that barring a major rally by New York City, Chicago can brag that they kicked our proverbial ass in 2008. But that's not what really saddens me.

I think that the biggest reason for my disappointment is that I was saving up to by that Senate seat for someone special as a Christmas gift.

Now I have no idea what I'm going to do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spec-tacular

Earlier this year the global financial meltdown began, taking a number of large banks with it.

Shortly thereafter, oil prices began dropping from a high of over $4 per gallon to the present price of under $2 per gallon.

So my question is this: Did the worldwide recession drive the decline in oil prices, or was the run up purely the result of speculation driven by the large trader banks and hedge funds that no longer exist?

Discuss.

Bonus topic: My utility company raised their rates earlier this year due to increasing fuel costs. As expected, this combined with a weakening economy encouraged people to decrease consumption. As a result, the utility company is now seeking a 4.8% rate increase next year and a 17.9% increase over the next five years due to two factors (1) contractual fuel purchases and (2) reduced consumption by ratepayers resulting in shortfalls in projected revenue.

So, in summary, if we use more power rates go up, but if we conserve energy...erm...rates go up.

I really need to move.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

One to Grow On

Despite the proliferation of technology, I still use (and am regularly mocked for using) my trusty Franklin Covey paper planner. Among other things, it allows me to look back and see exactly how long I've procrastinated the completion of certain tasks. Also, if I draw little cartoons of a little man on the right hand corner of every page and flip the pages really fast, it looks like he's running.

Anyway, every day there is a little inspirational quote on the top of the page that, I suppose, is designed to give us food for thought. Yesterday's was as follows:

"Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others." - Marianne Williamson

Unfortunately, I didn't read that until this morning and so it's now completely outdated.

Yet another missed opportunity for growth...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Congratulations

Congratulations to my friends Eddie and Gina who learned yesterday that their movie has been accepted at the Sundance Film Festival.

The movie is called Once More with Feeling and is a comedy about a psychiatrist who undergoes a midlife crisis and pursues his long-lost ambition of becoming a singer through karaoke. It stars Drea DeMatteo (The Sopranos), Chazz Palminteri (A Bronx Tale, The Usual Suspects), and Linda Fiorentino (The Last Seduction, Men in Black).

That's Eddie and Drea on location in Connecticut in the pics above.

Gina based the story on a wedding that they attended in which the father of the bride sang a song for his daughter - which was very touching - and then proceeded to continue singing song after song much to the chagrin of all of those in attendance.

The film makes its world premiere in Park City, Utah on Jan 19 . The New York premiere will take place in February.

I'll expect you all to go see it.

Independent films are good for the soul, you know.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Barely Breathing

Erm....hey everyone.

I'm still alive.

Barely.

More to come on this later.

In the meantime I'll see if I can shake this damn malaise.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming...