August 2009 Archives

A Rich Internet Harvest

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I found a tremendous blog today. I don't necessarily agree with everything Terrierman says, but he's a thinker, and he also sees the side of the internet that I don't visit often enough.

From his blog, I've found the following worth sharing today:

Colonel Muammar Quaddafi's sense of style - a slide show from Vanity Fair
Thoughts on Norman Borlaug - Responsible for tripling India's grain production in the '70s
The Omnivore's delusion - A real farmer answers The Omnivore's Dillemma.

All of the links are worth exploring, but if you're short on time, I absolutely think you should spend it on the Omnivore's delusion. Great perspective from a farmer, a perspective that doesn't get reported on by the mainstream press.

I just finished reading a book: "A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers" by Lawrence G. McDonald.

I can't remember exactly why I decided to read this book, but I was hoping it would be another "Barbarians at the Gate" or "The Smartest Guys in the Room." It wasn't, but it was a pretty good read, and worth your time if you want:

• A decent "man-on-the-street-accessible" primer on the financial crisis
• Some juicy details about the workings of Lehman
• An entertaining read

To summarize, the book begins with a few basic business lessons the author learned from his father, then an account of McDonald's career before making it to Wall Street, next an account of his time working for Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers, and finally a second-hand account of what happened in late 2008 as Lehman blew up. (McDonald was laid off six months before the bankruptcy.)

There are a few faults with the book. The worst fault is that Larry McDonald was the wrong person to write this book. He wasn't senior enough to be believable as a true first-hand raconteur of the failure of Lehman. It's obvious from the way that he portrays everyone he worked with as 'imminently qualified, the best in the world, etc.' Yet, the villains of the book, he readily admits to having never met, nor worked with closely. Sure, he worked with some individuals who would have been terrifically qualified to write this book, but McDonald's own admissions put him as too in awe of Lehman's history, too green, and too far removed from the board room to have the insight necessary for a great first-hand account of Lehman's collapse.

This gives rise to the second fault of the book, which is that if he wasn't the right person to tell the story, then it would have been good to have an unbiased view. Was Dick Fuld always wrong in everything he did? This book seems to think so, but that seems a stretch too far. A journalist such as John Helyar or Bethany McLean ('Barbarians' and 'Smartest') will present a more rounded picture of the villains and heroes. McDonald's villains are all evil, and the heroes are all perfect.

The third fault is that McDonald has a bit of an ego. Yes, he was successful, but he makes claims (generally lumping himself in with people much more senior than he that took actions) that don't really equate for someone of his position. He also displays some of the usual hypocrisy of successful people. He's very quick to point out how he sees the pain and hurt caused by business failures that he's at the losing end of (in an over-the-top preachy manner, but doesn't exactly go out of his way to discuss this same pain when the companies that he was investing in (as a self described "vulture") went bankrupt. He's not unbearably one-sided, but definitely has his own Wall Street mentality.

Anyhow, I point out the faults because the book was pretty good and is worth your time... but it's not a world beater, and it is fairly limited in scope. I'm still waiting for the definitive journalistic account of the crash. I'm sure there's a WSJ investigative reporter working on it now, and when it comes out... I'll be sure to add it to my bookshelf alongside Barbarians at the Gate and Smartest Guys in the Room. For now, A Colossal Failure of Common Sense is destined for the public library drop box, where it rightfully belongs. Save your bucks, be a socialist, use the library... or make me a dollar and buy it from Amazon. A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers

Pooch Power Rankings: July 21

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I've been working my way back through the dog book (Your Purebred Puppy 1st ed. by Michelle Lowell). It's good enough that I ended up ordering the second edition off Amazon (Your Purebred Puppy, Second Edition: A Buyer's Guide, Completely Revised and Updated) since my copy is nearly due back to the Chicago Public Library.

Ok, on to the Pooch Power Rankings. Even though I desperately want an Irish Terrier, the typical "IT" temperament might be a handful for me, so I'm trying to find a dog that might be better suited for apartment living, and perhaps a little less "plucky, bold, and courageous."

Dog Power rankings as of July 21
#1: Border Terrier

Border Terrier
Fine for Novice Owners
Good with Children
Small in Size
Wiry Coat

Exercise Required: Medium
Trimming/Clipping Required: Medium
Amount of Shedding: Low
Activity indoors: Medium
Ease of Training: High
Sociability with Strangers: High

Size: 12-15 inches tall, weighing 15-18 pounds

Temperament: He is quieter, milder-mannered, and more obedient than most terriers, but still very hardy and plucky. Some Borders are tougher and more work-oriented than others. He's so adaptable that he's fine in any home that gives him daily companionship, long walks, and an occasional run in a safe, enclosed area. He's usually friendly with strangers, but some are timid, so he should be accustomed to people and noises at an early age. Unlike many terriers, he's usually fine with other dogs, but must be watched around small pets like cats and rabbits, for he can be a single-minded chaser. Borders are inquisitive and explorative, and can get themselves into trouble by crawling into tight holes; although their loose skin often enables them to wriggle out by themselves, you should inspect your home for openings that a Border may not be able to resist. Eager to please and sensitive to correction, he's very responsive to obedience training. Never hit a terrier, and don't play aggressive games like wrestling or tug-of-war. He likes to dig; some will bark a bit.

History: This hardy hunter of fox, badger, and barnyard varmints originated in the rugged Cheviot Hills on the border between England and Scotland. Today he is a companion, but he can still dispatch vermin and makes an excellent farm dog. AKC popularity: 88th of 130 breeds.

Appearance: His coat is short and harsh and should be brushed twice a week. Straggly hairs should be scissored and dead hairs stripped twice a year. He is wheaten (tan) or reddish brown, with black tipped hairs and dark ears. Blue-and-tan is less common. A little white on his chest is allowed. His ears hang down. His eyes are dark with a keen expression. His nose is black. His teeth meet in a scissors bite.

Health Problems: He is susceptible to some congenital heart problems. Like many stoic terriers, he is relatively insensitive to pain and shows few signs of illness; it is up to his owner to watch his health carefully.
#2: Irish Terrier
Irish Terrier
Fine for Novice Owners
Good with Children
Medium in Size
Wiry Coat

Exercise Required: Medium
Trimming/Clipping Required: High
Amount of Shedding: Low
Activity indoors: Medium
Ease of Training: Low
Sociability with Strangers: Medium

Size: 18 inches tall, weighing 25-27 pounds

Temperament: This is one of the hardiest, pluckiest, boldest, and most spirited of the terriers. He is also very playful. He is both a gallant gentleman and a fearless daredevil who charges headlong into any situation. He can adapt to any home with daily exercise and companionship. He thrives on games and activities. Don't let him off the leash except in a safe, enclosed area. he is an explorer, an independent chaser, and very fast. He's sensibly friendly with strangers but very protective, so he should be accustomed to people at an early age. He's scrappy with other animals. Although his great stubbornness and energy call for ongoing obedience training (come and stay are especially important commands), he can learn anything. This is one of the most capable and versatile of all breeds. Never hit any terrier, and don't play aggressive games like wrestling or tug-of-war. He can guard his food and toys from family members who have not established leadership over him. He is a digger.

History: Developed in Ireland, he was a true working breed: farm dog, vermin hunter, water retriever, big-game hunter, messenger dog, and patrol dog. Today he is a home guardian and companion, but he can still dispatch vermin. AKC popularity 107th of 130 breeds.

Appearance: His coat is short and wiry, with bushy eyebrows and a beard, and should be brushed and combed twice a week. He needs much scissoring and coat shaping every three months. For pets, coat shaping means electric clipping; for show dogs, it means stripping (plucking) the dead hairs out one by one, because electric clipping softens the coat and fades the color. He is usually red or golden red; wheaten is less common. Some puppies are born with a few black hairs that usually disappear as they grow. A little white on the chest is allowed. His ears fold forward. His eyes are dark with a fiery expression. His nose is black. his teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. His tail is docked.

Health Problems: He is healthy, prone to no real problems.
#3: Boston Terrier
Boston Terrier
#4: Shiba Inu
Shiba Inu
#5: Canaan Dog
Canaan Dog

New Moms gets press

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My friend Joe introduced me to the Chicago non-profit he works at called New Moms, Inc. They help new mothers (often abused, neglected, homeless, poor, uneducated, etc.) to get their lives back on track. I've volunteered with them a few times and support them financially from time-to-time. I really love their ministry, so I was excited to see the Chicago Tribune do an article on them today.

Tribune Article
New Moms, Inc.

The benefits of greening

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Yeah, I know I've semi-abandoned the blog over the last two weeks, but in my defense I was riding my bike in Wisconsin for one of those weeks. (I'll post some pics eventually.) Today's post is just a short little one to get me back in the groove.

Sometimes being "Green" is obnoxious, sometimes it's good. Now, "Green" has a chance of defeating another form of obnoxious that has pissed me off the last few years. Linky Link.

Allowing air travelers to dump the water and keep the bottles at security checkpoints was floated by city aviation officials Wednesday as a way to cut down on garbage at Chicago airports.

In another story that made me frustrated, Congress wants to spend $550 million for new private jets for themselves. Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson is having a coronary. Linky Link. It's like we don't have an $11.8 trillion national debt or anything.

The Senate advised and consented to Sonia Sotomayor's appointment to the Supreme Court. Throughout the confirmation process, which I admittedly did not follow too closely, I never heard anything that would have led me to vote against her. She was confirmed 68-31. It's with some pride that I note that Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana was one of only nine Republicans who crossed the aisle and voted for Justice Sotomayor. Please feel free to file this under: Evidence that Richard Lugar is an exemplary Senator, and continues to prove the wisdom of Hoosiers.

Mood: A little down. Spoke to the consigliere today. It doesn't sound like The Preposterous is ever going away. Bummer.
Fire: I attended the SuperLiga final at Toyota Park last night. The Fire lost on penalty kicks against Tigres UANL. It was quite disappointing as it was my first time watching the Fire play in a Final. The squad played well, but didn't come through in the clutch. The loss last night cost the club $1 million. Ouch!
Cubs: The Cubs played very well in July and are currently tied for first place with the Cardinals. They are 57-49, so they went 8 games above .500 since the All-Star Break. Woot!
Listening: Have been listening to classical tunes all day. Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky was stuck in my head earlier.
Dog: Little new to report. I'm still researching, still in my condo, still not getting a dog until I move. I have a "Dog Power Rankings" post in the queue. I'm thinking seriously about adopting an adult dog rather than a puppy. Oh the wonderful possibilities.