Thursday, April 2, 2009

And For You Mr. President.....Some Socks

Perhaps I am missing something but shouldn’t gift exchanges between world leaders be a bit more significant than those exchanged at the neighborhood secret Santa party. Meeting the Queen (ok more figurehead than world leader) President Obama handed her a gift that screams the United States of America, he gave her an IPod. Yes an IPod. It was of course preloaded with images of the Queens 2007 visit to the United States. I am sure she thought the magic of that trip was gone forever. Now she can relive that moment over and over again.

As much as I hoped it was a one time snafu, he has shown a lack of etiquette in this area. The Prime Minister of England got CD’s and videos on his visit to Obama’s White House. The Prime Minister delivered to the President a pen holder crafted from the timbers of the 19th century British warship HMS President (whose sister ship, HMS Resolute, provided the wood for the Oval Office's desk) It is an interesting trade isn’t it, a 19th century pen holder vs. Billy Joel’s greatest Hits. (Joel is a guess; my bet would be on ABBA)

This however, is not the most interesting item in this global gift exchange. The Queen presented the President a framed and signed portrait of herself. This is evidently something she has been doing for a long time. Try that at your next secret Santa party, “here is something I knew you would love…a picture of me!” I imagine that this was not planned but rather an accident, a last minute rush to get a gift she forgot she needed to give.

“Pssst, your highness, wake up your highness he’s here”
“Who is here? And why are you whispering you fool”
“The President is here your highness, the President of the United States”
“Oh goodie, I love Ronnie’ yoo hoo Ronnie”
“No your majesty, Obama is here”
“WHAT? OSAMA? Call the police, the army, that bastard won’t get me without a fight...”
“No, no your majesty Barack Obama, The President of the United States”
“Oh blimey, the skinny guy with the ears?”
“Yes. He is downstairs waiting to present you with a gift.”
“A gift? What is it? Oh lord now I have to find something, take that over there and bring it here”
“This? Your highness, it’s a picture of you?
“A bit cheap? Here Ill sign it; let the kid sell it on eBay”
“What did he get me?”
"I believe an IPOD your highness."
"What? A Pond? I already have a Pond”
" Not a bloody pond you daft old..I mean your highness, he is right through these doors.”
"Hellooo Mr President"......

Perhaps that’s not exactly what happened and, it can be argued, the IPod shows off America’s newest cultural phenomenon and up to date modern technology. The Picture? Well it is not nearly as nice as the one with the Queen and President Lincoln together, but the pen from the timbers of a 19th century war ship, now that, is a cool gift.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Engine Running Rough? Open The Trunk.

Imagine this scenario: Your car has been running rough, not as smooth as it once was. You drop it off at garage and figure the experts will take care of it. Later you pick it up and on the way out you notice it is still running the same. You turn around and the experts inform you that it was running rough so they had to change the windshield wipers and replace the break light. A bit silly don't you think? Shouldn't these experts know to look at the engine?

However that is now what is going on at corporate America in companies all across the US. Executives having made bad decisions for years are now forced to take action and they do. They begin laying off folks who have given years to the company. Now the folks who are being laid off had little to do with creating the problem. They are the windshield wipers and break light. They play are part in the overall operation of the car, but simply not the cause of the problem.

In most companies the executives are still there. Sure a mid level manager may get the axe once in a while, usually for show, but the big boys, you know who they are in your company, are still there. It is like laying off a car salesman because he cannot sell a GM product. Is it really his fault? It may save some money in the short term but isn't the problem still there.

When do those at the top begin to pay? When does someone recognize that the engine, the very thing that drives the car, is the problem. When does the owner or CEO look at his team and say simply, "it's us. Not the workers, not the products, but us. The management team has failed the workers. We have let down those who have worked for us. It is our failure and we are sorry".

Of course you will never hear it. Management talks in a language all their own. They speak of shifting market demands, product life cycles, change of focus. They never say the product is not unique, is old, and customers are simply buying something better. No, you will not hear the owners or CEO's discuss business in honest terms. Then they would have to take a hard look at what really is causing the difficulty.

Like a car engine it can be complicated and sometimes difficult to fix. It is much easier changing the wiper and break light. Unfortunately in business, the wiper and break lights often have families.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My lord, he is now selling cars!

I don't know about you, but boy do I feel better. I know in the past I may have been considered cynical by some. Perhaps sarcastic by others. Not today. I feel good. Simply knowing that the government is going to back all warranties when you buy a GM or Chrysler car makes me want to go right out and buy a few. The same people who gave us all those courteous folks at the IRS and Social Security offices are now going to be able to help us when our car is making that funny noise. I am sure they will be a real pleasure to deal with when we think the whatsit next to the thingamajig isn't right. Tell me how can this plan fail? The auto Industry is saved!

Is this some kind of joke? Does anyone with an ounce of matter between their ears think this is a good idea? The government is now in the auto business. Is there no business so lost, or so bad that Obama will simply let the market do what it does best. Bad companies poorly run, fail. It has always been that way and despite what Washington tells us it will always be that way.

Does anyone feel better about a GM (Government Motors) or Chrysler car? Of course not. GM has been producing bad cars for the last twenty five years under a business model that is at least fifty years past its prime. The winner in all of this? (no, not the taxpayer you cute silly fool) It is Ford motor company. They looked at the situation and said thanks but no thanks to big brother Washington. They understood that even with the bailout money and all its strings it did not guarantee success. However they were wise enough to understand that it just about guarantees failure.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

AIG, Take Me

We are in serious economic trouble. I have come to this conclusion after reviewing the data, assessing our options, and listening to every talking head on television tell me just how bad it is. Our political leaders have all come together and have agreed that we are really, really, and they mean really screwed. How comforting.

Perhaps I am a bit old fashioned but shouldn't someone in charge have an actual idea about how the hell we get out of this? If you watch C Span or CNN for just a little while you suddenly realize that those in charge have really no clue how to get out of this tailspin. My ideas are just as viable as theirs. Now, I am not in charge so technically that makes them a bit less viable, ok perhaps not viable at all, but you get my point.

I have not posted any thoughts from Boston in months. I have been busy filling out applications at AIG. The pay isn't great but the bonus structure is unbelievable. I will take any position. On second thought perhaps not any position. I saw the head of AIG in front of Congress the other day and that looked like a really uncomfortable position.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hello, May I help You?

I read an interesting story in the local paper this evening. It appears a man in need of a cell phone walked up behind a fifteen year old and poking a pretend gun into his back stole this young mans phone. Now, It was not the crime I found interesting but the police work in solving it. They called the cell phone and simply talked the thief into turning himself in. That's it, a phone call and they got their man.

Is it me but does this say something about the level of commitment this thief had. He pretended he had a gun which in Massachusetts is armed robbery, gun or no gun. He took the phone from behind so it is unlikely he was seen but when the police called, he turned himself in. Really? A simple phone call and he was overcome by guilt?

I am not sure why this struck me as funny. Perhaps the thief was someone down on his luck who in a moment of weakness did something stupid and did in fact feel bad. I hope that's the case. My guess though is that he is simply as dumb as he sounds.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Two Plus Two Equals Seventeen

If anybody wants to know whats wrong with the United States educational system they need to look no further than Minnesota. Apparently the good folks from Minnesota (old Indian meaning -we have to live here?) cannot count. Well, OK, they can count but they just keep getting different answers. Remember the election way back in November? It seems that Sen Norm Colman and comedian Al Franken (Franken is Indian for -elect him?) are locked in a tough battle for the US Senate seat. Coleman is up by two hundred then down by two hundred and thirty five. All from the same batch of votes. How can that be?

"eh say Bill is that a vote for Franken circled here"
"Eh no, I think it's a blood stain from when Herb had that episode and repeatedly smashed his head on the table"
"Could be, but that blood stain is awful close to Frankens name?"
"Ya, only four, maybe five inches away"
"OK then, one for Franken"

So it goes. The goal is to announce the winner before his next term expires in 2015.
So my fellow Americans the nation waits in an anticipated stupor to see which man from Minnesota (older Indian meaning-seriously we are a state) is our next US Senator. Far be it from me to pry but may I offer one word of advice to the numerically impaired folks of Minnesota: Calculator

Sunday, January 4, 2009

One Year Down and a Lifetime to Go.

The decorations are slowly coming down. The tree, while still standing, will soon be stripped of its ornaments and removed like yesterdays wrapping paper. Perhaps not today or tomorrow but, like winter itself, it can only last so long. The Christmas specials have been replaced by playoff football. It is, as it should be and has been for years. Life goes on.

It is this time of the year I am most reflective. I think of all I have and of the many I truly miss. It is funny how the "things" seem less and less important as each year passes. It was not the gifts given or received that I will remember but the little things. Hearing your children, and to a parent they are always children, laugh and talk amongst themselves. It was not that long ago, or so it seems that you wondered if it was even possible they would ever get along. To see that they understand and appreciate the effort their mom puts in to make this all possible. When I was younger my dad would look at my girlfriend and remark how I had great taste in woman, the turning to her, remark that her taste may be a bit suspect. It is no doubt were he with us today, he would say the same thing. He would be as right now as he was then.

My "baby" just turned eighteen. My son just got his own apartment, and my oldest is nervous about a new position she starts tomorrow. Life goes on. a Bob Dylan song I enjoy has him thinking about the past and a room he and his friends use to hang out in as young men. He sings. " I wish I wish though I wish in vain, that we could sit simply in that room again, ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat, I would give it all gladly if our lives could be like that".

As each year passes, I fully appreciate his feelings. Oh well, Life goes on.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Well, yes, it has been a while since I have posted anything on this site. But being New Years day I thought I would make a resolution to pay more attention to this site and to post with a bit more consistency. So what have I not posted over the last two months? The holidays were fine. In fact, more than fine. Christmas morning was like those of old with all the kids here opening their gifts. Nothing gets the kids home quicker than the notion of gifts for them. It is holiday magic.

Just to make the season interesting the two weekends prior to the holiday consisted of a blackout, leaving us without power for four days and the next weekend came with a raging snow storm. Still, it worked out due to the herculean efforts of my wife. If it was up to men Christmas would consist of a bag from Sears with the receipt inside. It would not take a lot of work or effort but hell, there is football on. So Cathy, as usual thanks. Even with no electricity, a blizzard and two weekends shot to hell, you again pulled it off. You are the Christmas Miracle in this house.