Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Inspires confidence

Don't have MS Office on the laptop at home. Some spam comes to my yahoo email, promising Office 2003 for like eighty bucks. Go to site. Here's what it says to me:

"All the software you can order from this site is OEM and DSP software. In the majority of points DSP software is similar to OEM software."

With a ringing endorsement like that, how can you not buy it?

Monday, February 27, 2006

From Moscow to Nairobi

The Economist had an article recently about Moscow in winter, the homeless, and the all but homeless migrant workers from throughout the former USSR getting stepped on. About how developers have these Asian construction workers work for 3 months and build a house, and then don't pay them and have the cops beat them up. It took me back.

Semi-educated Russian men are toxic pond scum, and cops are the lowest of the low. I can see these pigs taking a twenty buck payoff to beat the shit out of some Azeris or Tajiks, and then blowing it on beer, vodka, and a blowjob from some Belarusian whore in a filthy bathroom. They think they're big men, enriching themselves, but in fact they impoverish the country and, therefore, themselves. Business climate is execrable. No rule of law. Who's gonna invest there?

At the end of the day, Russian cops are akin to African ones. Marauding whoremonger punks. No regard for human life at all. I put some quotes from the Slavophile Khomiakov next to one from Fanon, and they were scarcely distinguishable. Russians don't like being compared to sub-Saharan Africa, but there's so much shared.

Friday, February 24, 2006


  • Webb spent 2 hours looking for tickets for the Bernanke lecture on campus at Princeton today. By contrast, my friend Steve emailed to offer me free ones.
  • Mary picked up a book about a moose (Morris) and a bear (Boris). Each page has a stupid pun: Boris "Is your nose running?" Morris "No, it's walking." Natalie cackled like a three year old on each page. Can't wait to get home.
  • Visitors from a CDO of CDO firm I hauled in expressed desire for a "long term relationship" with my firm. My CEO showed little, as if, another day at the office. Known issues.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A new one

With lots of opportunities coming up in Manhattan, I'm a little scared that my cozy little lifestyle will be rocked, even as I delight in the shwarma and baby bok choy and whatnot you find there but not here. So today I set out through my current building, the most notorious hedge fund hotel in Princeton, armed with flyers for an industry event as a plausible pretext.

And I walked in doors. A simple action, but a nerve-wracking process.
Most receptionists were not delighted to see me.

"We're not a hedge fund, we're a VC."
"We're not a hedge fund, we're long only. We don't hedge." Like anyone cares. I bet they called themselves a hedge fund in 2004.

I walked through one the door of one ambiguously-named firm down at the end of the hall to find a big trading floor, populated with 15 or so dudes. They just looked at me, without getting up. Bemused, they heard me out, nodding politely. "We do fixed-income, relative value" Seemed half-inclined to be drawn out, but then went back into shells.

But got one OK lead and a couple of cards of the bigwigs. OK for 20 minutes work.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Anger Management

As we commence the countdown to my 40th birthday (April 14th, for you the great unwashed who don't know), I'm going to push for greater introspection and the meatier, riskier topics that sometimes get pushed aside in the rush to eat lunch, read a couple of paragraphs, and get back to work.

Today: Anger management. Or, what am I so pissed off about? In the course of my life, there've been a sequence of things that gnarl me. Here's a list of some of the big ones:

  1. Other kids picking on me for being a buck-toothed geek
  2. My mom for pushing me too hard
  3. My dad for being elsewhere, literally and/or figuratively
  4. Myself for making so many irrational decisions that I've had to fight my way back from
  5. My company's management for being so short-term in orientation and for not investing in the growth of the firm or the staff
  6. Myself for not just getting on with things and move past 5
  7. My wife for hassling me about carbs
In truth, I manage my anger relatively well, directing most of it internally. Until, that is, I don't. Not that I get violent or chair-throwing, I just lash out or undercut myself and/or don't sleep.

My 15 minutes are up. For today....

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

President's Day Holiday on ice

Took Natalie to Alexa's birthday party at the Mercer County Skating Rink on President's Day.

She done me proud. Natalie sometimes vexes us with her lack of drive and stick-to-it-ness. She can't be bothered to get comfortable swimming, won't really push to ride her bike, and hasn't really been pushing forward with reading with much vigor. We were forecasting a short skate.

How wrong we were. She loved the ice, despite the fact that the ice seemed to love her right back with its frequent embrace. She kept falling down, getting up, falling down, getting up. She didn't make a ton of technical progress, didn't get much smoother, but she stayed out there, and didn't even care if I went off to sit by the fire. She was a very big girl.

I, for my part, got back into skating despite a 20-year absence, and was able to work my way back to being as bad as I ever was. Fast, but largely unable to stop. Tried to skate cross-over around the turn and fell on my butt, injuring my shoulder a little.

If I hadn't hurt myself that way, I would have kept pushing myself till I got some sort of injury, just to prove I had been there.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

You, me, and everyone we know

This film made 10 best lists for many critics. Maybe we're just getting old. There was some good stuff, like the 8-year old kid doing online porn chat and wanting to poop into his partners butthole, "back and forth." But mostly the movie was just pathetic. Little narrative drive. No characters you could latch hold to. Film a these at its worst.

As a corrective, we watched a few minutes of Jerry Maguire on TNT after it was over, which reminded us why we watch indie films. Though indie actors conspicuously lack the pecs and abs a big budget can buy you.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

In praise of a brand

Trying to save 70c, bought CVS shaving gel instead of Edge. Have been shocked at the difference. In this case, science built into the brand is for real. Much smoother.

This is unpaid, unsolicited testimony, and you know I'd just as soon bitch.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Savings and Salvation

(sorry about this Z)
It's funny how similar the prevailing theory of savings and investment--

the wonders of compounding combined with the continual deferral of pleasure
("cut out that daily Starbucks latte and save $53,743 over 20 years")

-- is to ascetic, and particularly Protestant, traditions, which would have us forego the pleasures in this world for the sake of salvation in the next. Saving for the next generation or the next world, is there a difference?

Combine this with passive, index investing, which is essentially a faith-based play on the United States and world economies, and you've got a full-fledged theology. To which I would seem to ascribe.

Is this just an easy package to sell cuz there's a bunch of us suckers out there?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Raider of last resort

All the stars were out at the Helmsley Plaza today. Carl Icahn spoke, starting off much on message in his campaign against Richard Larsen, reiterating the same analysis of lame CEOs that I had read from his mouth days before. But, for all his Deputy Dawg cum Other People's Money stylings, he said much that was sensible, and without resorting to powerpoint. Edward Altman and Thomas Lee did use the dark arts of Redmond, but they broke out some cool numbers, so it can be forgiven.

Later, during cocktail hour, the largesse of our hosts Droege Consulting could be measured in such items as actual little lamb chops and sashimi grade tuna. This more than made up for a little bad hair.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Grizzly, man

Grizzly Man is a disturbing movie. Yeah, Werner Herzog has the good taste not to play the audio of our hero and his girlfriend being eaten alive by a bear. Well done. In some ways this restraint, this not showing the monster, conveys as much horror as it did in the Blair Witch Project. And just as with the whiney, wet, nicotine-starved stars of that flick, it's hard to really be too worried about the inevitable in this movie.

Timothy Treadwell was, in his desire to pet the sweet little grizzlies, an idiot and a freak. Then again, aside from the fabulous bear footage, including the roaring fight where one of two big boys takes a dump. it is Treadwell's freakishness and his implicit consciousness of it, his tortured sexuality, his substance abuse, his self-declared self-destructiveness, which make the movie worth watching. When he looks at the camera and -- with his fem voice -- thanks the bears for giving his life meaning, it's pretty poignant.

But late at night, I couldn't help but think about Herzog's commentary after watching the tape. It's just scary, nasty. I don't like the thought of anyone being eaten alive by a bear, even for someone who's into it.

A number of people seem to draw inferences from Treadwell's story about nimrod environmentalists. He was both green and a fool, and the kind of fool that does a lot of damage. He was a tree that would have been better off falling in the forest, right next to where a bear was shitting.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Managerio babble redux

I sucked down the rest of that Lencioni book pretty quick. Despite the somewhat wooden character of it, embarasssing though it might seem, I was deeply into it, this corporate Breakfast Club. And for the most traditionally realist reasons ever: I identified with their plight, and I wanted everything to come out all right. I probably don't need to tell you what happens, but I will: everything comes out all right.

Sure, one person is fired, another quits. But all the other team members take the brave CEO's counsel to heart, assess themselves and their faults, and work together to establish and achieve common goals.

Why does this touch so many nerves for your fair blogger? Could it be that his present place of employment lacks such commonality of focus and such admirable teamwork? Yes, yes it could.
I must say, I also felt like I derived some insight into what leadership and management could be, which was interesting and compelling, given the dearth of role models in my immediate work environment.

If only they could make a movie.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Managerio babble

I started reading Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of Team recently, after taking it from Walter at Christmas. I thought it looked stupid, but like something I should read, as I never read books about leadership yatta yatta.

It's about one savvy old economy exec who comes into a high-tech start up that's not running well. She diagnoses poor team dynamics and takes the 7 top people to an offsite in Napa. They sit in a conference room and discuss the theory of interpersonal dynamics. Doesn't exactly sound like a page turner, but it is.

Part of it is because the type is large and many chapters are 2 pages long, with only a few lines on the second page, so you get a quick and easy sense of accomplishment. But part of it is that it's less bad than most business books, the characters somewhat less wooden and emblematic. You actually want them to work throught their shit, function as a team. Why? dunno.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The slackening magic word

Natalie has long instituted a magic word, at the end of snuggling, that she says and then I have to say it back to her before she lets me get out of her bed. Lately, it's been flattening out. Where once she would go on for as long as 3 minutes, stringing together endlessly strings of fairies kittens and nonsense syllables, by now it has been reduced to "bleh blah bli, unicorn." Which is very easy. I can't tell if she's trying to say that she doesn't care if I get up, or if she's just tired.

On the other hand, last night she made me give her 29 kisses, as that was as high as she could count in Spanish. Not too shabby. If she learns to count by tens, I'll be in trouble.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

All in one jaunt

Borrowed Hemant's car to go to the doctor today.

  • Your tax dollars at work. 1
    On the way there, in front of the Princeton Township office complex, were four cops with pylons stopping traffic. Why, you ask? Checking to make sure people had on seatbelts. Way to go!
  • Isn't it ironic
    The doctor had some Viagra pens handy for filling out forms. For a while, I couldn't get the inky part to poke out. Turns out it was a twister model, not a clicker. You would think it would be easier to get the Viagra pen up.
  • Down with vowels
    The guy minding the register at the sandwich shop felt a strong urge to overgeneralize the New Jersey tendency to clip terminal vowels, especially in Italian food words, as in "Moozarell" (or "Mooz") or "Prosciutt." This guy said to everybody "Take it eaz." I'm sure the ladies love it.
  • Your tax dollars at work. 2
    On the short drive back to Hulfish street I saw 1 parking cop in a tricycle cart, and then 2 Borough cops in cruisers, 1 Township cop in cruiser, 1 cop in unmarked car. God I feel safe. And ripped off.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A rare bifecta

Derived pleasure from two media last night, in pretty rapid succession:

  • Caught the tail end of Dazed and Confused on AMC. You gotta love that movie. Even if our adolescence really wasn't like that, Linklater walks the fine line between reality and ideality so adroitly that it takes you back to a place you meant to be.
  • Closed out Jonathan Franzen's New Yorker article on birding, mating, and the death of his mother. What can you say, the guy is just a good writer, adroit at bringing disparate sensations together and fishing out the right word for whatever. Must go search on him at Amazon. More than just the Corrections.
This a day after listening to the Magnetic Fields, giving me good listening, reading, and viewing in a short period. At least my readers should know I don't just bitch grouse bithch all the time.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Dinky, 9:40 AM, 2/506. An excursion

Getting on the Dinky, the little train from Princeton out to the main line at Princeton Junction, I couldn't help but to be struck by the sheer number of Princeton undergrads up and all ready to go at such a tender hour on a Sunday morning. Fresh-faced, muffin-nibbling, off to the big city with a plan in mind. That wasn't me at that age, I'll tell you that. If it had been, imagine where I might be now.

Graham wasn't 100% sure about his first trip on a train, admire them though he might in books. But he settled into it. Natalie, a more experenced rail customer, knew just what she wanted. A window.

Going through the tunnel to the New York bound side of the tracks at Princeton Junction, couldn't be but struck by the burnt newspaper that lined the concrete tunnel intermittently. Kids were having a little Saturday night fun, looked like.

The train to New Brunswick was faster, funner, though Graham stayed on my lap and let me sniff his hair. At length, I convinced Natalie to stay and walk around New Brunswick rather than taking the next train back. On the platform an express screamed past at 60 or so, rightly freaking Graham out. Thanks Amtrak.

Though perhaps Natalie was right about turning around. New Brunswick sorta sucks. It was cold and breezy. And there were no fresh-faced Scarlet Knights gamboling about with baked goods. No. More mortal they than Tigers.

On the way back to the station, a quick hot chocolate for the good sport Natalie. Not wanting to miss the train, she walked that fine line between knocking it all back and burning her chocolate thirsting lips. She took care of it just fine.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Constant Gardener

This was a very confused movie, uncertain as to whether it wanted to be a Gap commercial, a music video, or a sermon. The CD has a picture of Ralph Fiennes pointing a gun, though he actually forgets to in the movie. The title is also misleading. He likes to garden, but he rarely gets to. And then he dies. So sad. Is it supposed to be deep? One's things for sure, the people of Africa are long suffering, but big of heart and spirit. Except the evil ones.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The price of bad pricing

The Times recently reported on iniatives started by a variety of losers around inaccurate pricing in retail establishments. Punitive measures for bad pricing by stores are suggested. This is a bad idea. The tax costs of developing technology and infrastructure to monitor and enforce any such laws would dwarf the benefits to consumers, particularly since we know it would be done in the public sector.

It wouldn't be bad if, say, Consumer Reports spun out a group that certified retailers as having reliable pricing on a fee for service basis to the stores. Pricing insurance. It could even tell stores if their prices are wrong as a reputational risk management tool. But it would take a while to make this pay for itself. The best thing would be to develop the process and export it to emerging markets.

Mostly, this is about people liking to have something to sit around and gripe (or grouse), about. "They charged me $1.49 a pound for those, when they were supposed to be $1.19!" Certain consumer advocates say we should check each item on the receipt for accuracy. Imagine the lost productivity costs of people standing in line behind them. Somebody pulls that in front of me in line, I'm gonna cap em.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Went to lunch at a restaurant that had the same telephone # as a took a reservation for the restaurant that had occupied its space previously, failing to mention anything.

Was OK.