This is the latest SNL spoof on Sarah Palin. This time it focused on Katie Couric's interview with Mrs. Palin earlier this week. Enjoy.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
This is the latest SNL spoof on Sarah Palin. This time it focused on Katie Couric's interview with Mrs. Palin earlier this week. Enjoy.
In the many years that followed, I got to know a lot more about this fine actor. Thanks to cable television stations like Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics, I was able to see a number of his early movies, especially the ones that made him a star. Films like Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Paris Blues (1961), The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), and Cool Hand Luke (1967) showed the range of his acting capabilities.
Aside from acting, Mr. Newman was also an accomplished professional race car driver.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Faneuil Hall is actually part of a four-building shopping complex called the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Once one steps out at the rear of the hall, one will immediately see the other three buildings that make up the complex: the Quincy Market, the North Market, and the South Market. The photo below shows the Quincy and South Market buildings. I took this photo a few moments after I stepped out of Faneuil Hall.
The complex has more or less 100 stores within its four buildings. Aside from the small souvenir shops and food stalls that cater to tourists, the complex also houses big name stores such as Crate & Barrel, the Sunglass Hut, Victoria's Secret, Nine West, and Urban Outfitters, to name a few.
The complex also has a few restaurants in it. The following photo is of a bar called Cheers that was named after a hugely popular television sitcom that ran on American television from 1982 to 1993. Too bad that I did this trip in the morning for if I had done it either in the late afternoon or evening, I would have gone in to enjoy a few rounds of drinks.
The following shows the patio between Quincy Market and the South Market building. It has a few park benches where people can sit and hang out. The patio also has a few stands selling snacks, souvenirs and various other knickknacks.
Another shot of the patio and the South Market building.
This semi-circular part of the shopping complex marks its Eastern end. About two or three blocks beyond its exit lies historic Boston Harbor. However, noon was approaching at this point and yours truly was getting rather famished. Plus, my flight back to New York was only a few hours away. Thus, I decided to skip the trip to Boston Harbor and just hang out in this area for a few more minutes to take a few more pictures.
The following is a shot of the North Market building, the fourth building within the Faneuil Hall Marketplace complex.
Another shot of the North Market building with Quincy Market on the left. I ended up buying a little souvenir at one of the shops within this building.
From Faneuil Hall, a colleague and I decided to have lunch at a Boston landmark called The Union Oyster House. Located on Union Street, this restaurant was only a block away from Faneuil Hall. The place specializes in seafood dishes and was highly recommended by another colleague of ours who lived in Boston for two years. The following is a shot of the front of the restaurant.
The photo below shows a plaque that was posted by one of the restaurant's windows. It shows that this place has been designated as a historical landmark as one of the oldest continually operated restaurants in the United States.
The following photo shows the corner of Union Street (the street where cars were parked) and Marsh Lane. The red brick building at the center of this photo houses another Boston landmark called the Bell In The Hand Tavern.
The following photo shows the Bell In The Hand Tavern's proximity to the Union Oyster House (foreground).
Below is a plaque that's posted by the tavern's main doors. It commemorates the Bell In The Hand tavern's significance to local Boston history.
The following photo was taken from the other end of Marsh Lane. This small, cobble-stoned street was preserved to show the way it looked back in the late 18th century. From this vantage point, one sees Union Oyster House at the far end of the street on the left side while the Bell In The Hand Tavern is on the right.
After taking the photo above, my colleague and I walked into the Union Oyster House to finally have our lunch. I had shrimp scampi served over a bed of linguine. I also had their New England clam chowder which I enjoyed very much. I was quite hungry by that time that I was no longer in the mood to take more photographs. My apologies for that. But you can find more information about this restaurant here.
The following was the last shot I took before leaving for the airport. It shows the rooftop of the North Market building and was taken from the 6th floor of a parking garage.
Boston is a city that has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture. Too bad that I only had a few hours to spend that Friday morning. If I wasn't pressed for time, I would have visited other historic sites as well such as Paul Revere's House and historic Boston Harbor. Maybe next time.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The New York Times (NYT), in its Sunday issue (September 21), came up with a piece that showed the effects the recent bloodbath in Wall Street has had on the shareholdings of a number of Wall Street CEOs, both former and current. To illustrate such effect, the NYT article showed the values of the CEOs' shareholdings at the beginning of January 2007 and compared it to the value of their shareholdings after the financial markets closed last Friday, September 19.
In the interest of full disclosure, the figures represent the stocks owned by the individuals listed and does not include the value of their stock options. Anyway, here are some of the names that were listed: (Each line shows the CEO Name, the Firm he either heads or used to head, the Value of his Shareholdings as of 1/1/2007, and the Value of his Shareholdings after the markets closed on 9/19/08.)
Maurice R. Greenberg, Former CEO (AIG), $1.25 billion, $49.6 million
James E. Cayne, Former CEO (Bear Stearns), $1.06 billion, $61.2 million
Sanford I. Weill, Former CEO (Citigroup), $914.9 million, $342 million
Richard S. Fuld Jr., CEO (Lehman Brothers), $827.1 million, $2.3 million
E. Stanley O' Neal, Former CEO (Merrill Lynch), $127.7 million, $40.2 million
John Mack, CEO (Morgan Stanley), $224.6 million, $80.4 million
Martin J. Sullivan, Former CEO (AIG), $3.2 million, $173,000
Daniel H. Mudd, Former CEO (Fannie Mae), $26.5 million, $476,000
Richard F. Syron, Former CEO (Freddie Mac), $10.6 million, $130,000
The above individuals I chose to list here are the ones whose shareholdings took the biggest hits as the crisis in Wall Street worsened. For a complete list of the CEOs, you can find the New York Times chart here.
According to some government estimates, US taxpayers will be on the hook for $1.5 trillion to bail these financial institutions out. The bill that US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke submitted to the Congress seeks $700 billion to be made available to help financial institutions rid themselves of failed or illiquid securities. Those illiquid securities were based on subprime mortgages whose debtors failed to pay.
Thus, millions of American taxpayers will now end up footing the bill for these guys' avarice and greed. I don't mean to sound insensitive or mean but I do not feel sorry for any of the guys above. A majority of them still have millions of dollars of wealth available. Except for a black mark on their reputations and maybe some social ostracism that they will suffer, these guys won't have any problems finding money for their next meal.
I don't even feel sorry for their direct reports and the senior managers of their firms. Those groups of officers earned millions of dollars in bonuses ANNUALLY. Living in the New York metro area, I always read about how the bonuses these guys make every year average about two to three times their annual salary.
But what's more worrisome for me are the ripple effects from the crisis in Wall Street.
First, a lot of establishments and businesses, small and medium-sized, depend on Wall Street firms and employees for a good portion of their business. Revenues of tailors, barbershops, hair salons, spas, restaurants, laundromats, and theaters, to name a few, will certainly suffer as a result of the job losses. In fact, some of these smaller businesses may even end up letting go of some of their employees too.
Second, the crisis will definitely lead to tighter credit. A humbled and tightly regulated Wall Street means a more conservative Wall Street. Tighter credit will definitely lead to higher quality loans extended to higher quality debtors. However, tighter credit could lead to reduced economic activity. People and businesses could buy and invest less. And once the American consumer tightens his/her belt, the whole world will certainly feel it. As of this writing, a number of US banks have started reducing the credit limits of thousands of those credit cardholders with less than stellar credit histories.
Some economic experts say that the worst isn't over yet. To a person, all of the economists are worried about the ripple effects through the rest of the economy. So far, we've only read about the big players in the banking industry. Apart from those, there are also big regional banks that have not yet revealed the extent of their losses on subprime mortgages.
To be honest though, people also share part of the blame here. And by "people", I'm referring to those who bought homes at prices that were clearly way beyond their means. Banks can be blamed for tempting these people with "exotic" types of mortgages such as "interest only" mortgages and "adjustable rate" mortgages. However, at the end of the day, the transaction would not have pushed through if upon due assessment of his/her financial position, the buyer had wisely decided not to proceed with the purchase.
Both banks and the buyers can delude themselves all they want through such creative schemes but the bottomline remains the same: there is still a debt that needs to be paid and that a buyer still doesn't acquire full title to a property until such time he/she has paid both principal and interest on a debt. Financing has always operated on this principle for centuries and will always do.
As I end this post, word just came out that the last two large investment banks. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, in an effort to gain Federal protection from the crisis, have obtained the approval of the Federal Reserve to change their status from investment banks to bank holding companies. As such, both institutions can now operate commercial banks and take deposits. The change in status subjects both institutions to tighter government regulation. However, tighter regulation is a rather small price to pay when in exchange, they can avail themselves of the government's bailout program.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I was in Boston a month ago for a two-week assignment. I haven't been to Boston in a long while. Prior to this trip, the last time I was in this historic city was back in the early 90s when I spent Thanksgiving weekend there with some friends. It was a bit cold and rainy that time. It was mid-autumn and winter was just around the corner. Thus, due to the cold and wet weather, I didn't get to enjoy the place that much.
Thus, I was quite elated when I learned a couple of months ago that Boston was where my next assignment was going to be. It was August and it was summer. I felt that it would be great to finally tour this historic city since I expected to have quite a bit of time in my hands after work. Thus, I drew up a list of places to visit and I made sure that I brought my camera with me.
But to paraphrase what Robert Burns wrote in his classic poem To A Mouse, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Well, go awry my plans certainly did. Cold rain and wind greeted me as soon as my plane landed in Boston and both unfortunately stayed with me through the rest of my two-week stay. It wasn't until our last day in the area when the rains finally stopped and I finally got to enjoy a fairly decent amount of sunshine. It was a good thing that I had completed my work on Thursday of that second week. Since my return flight wasn't scheduled until early Friday afternoon, I had the entire morning to myself and that's when I finally got to make my long-awaited trip to downtown Boston.
Faneuil Hall was at the top of my places to visit. I first read about this place back in 1983, in the days after former Senator Benigno Aquino's assassination. I saw that famous picture of him, smiling and dressed in a pin-striped suit with Faneuil Hall in the background. The picture was taken earlier that year when he and his family still lived in the city of Newton in the Boston suburbs. That particular photograph was used as a cover on one of those Mr. and Ms. Special Edition magazine issues that came out right after his death.
Faneuil Hall was originally built in 1742 and housed a market and an assembly room. This Hall was where the doctrine of "no taxation without representation" was established when colonists protested the Sugar Act of 1764. The law, passed by the British Parliament, aimed to increase taxes on molasses produced by the New England colonies, as the Northeastern part of the United States was then called. Revenues from the tax were supposed to fund the British defense of the colonies. However, the imposition of the tax came at a time when the colonies were in the middle of an economic depression. Thus, the tax became unpopular and was one of those events that gradually led the colonists to revolt against the British a decade later.
The following photo shows the front of Faneuil Hall. In the square in front of it stands a monument to Samuel Adams,fourth governor of Massachusetts and one of the country's Founding Fathers.
The following is a shot of Faneuil Hall from the rear.
I walked through one of those doors and up the stairs to the second floor where the assembly room/meeting hall was located. The following is a shot of the assembly room taken from its main entry doors.
The picture below will show that front and center on the stage is a painting called Webster's Reply to Hayne done by the American painter, George P.A. Healy (1813-1894). The Mr. Webster who was the subject of the painting was the great American orator and senator Daniel Webster (1782-1852) who represented the state of Massachusetts in the U.S Senate from 1827 to 1841. One of the stands at the foot of the stage shows a diagram that identifies each person whose face is shown on the painting.
The following two photographs shows the left and right sides of this meeting hall. They show balconies on the upper sections to allow for more seating and better viewing.
The photo above and the one below show that the place has abundant natural lighting judging from the number of large windows we see on both sides of this hall.
The following is a shot of the rear section and it also shows a balcony section on the upper floor. The lady sitting by the door is a security person who works for the National Parks Office, a federal agency tasked with managing national parks and monuments.
This last shot shows Faneuil Hall's staircase. I took this photo on my way out of the building.
More recently, Faneuil Hall was the site where Senator John Kerry made his concession speech in 2004 after losing the presidential election to George W. Bush.
This meeting hall was my first stop that Friday morning. My next piece will show the marketplace and shops around this building.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
With the entry of Sarah Palin into the political ring, she has become the subject of many newspaper reports both for and against her. She has also become the subject of late night comedy shows.
The following is a video clip of a comedy sketch from Saturday Night Live that was shown last night (September 13). The sketch features Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton in what is supposed to be a joint appearance to impart a non-partisan message. Enjoy. :-)
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Thanks to a hectic work schedule this past week, I was not able to take presentable pictures of the mountains and hills around Sylmar, California. The end of each workday saw me exhausted and drained of energy that I was not able to drive around the area to do some "tourist" stuff. :-)
Our red eye flight was scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday night but we didn't get to leave the office until close to 6 in the evening of that day. Since we had to be at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank at least an hour and a half before departure time, we were all in a rush for we still had to stop somewhere for dinner.
Thus, we decided to eat at a place a few miles from the airport. The restaurant we picked was called The Castaway and is located right in the city of Burbank. The restaurant is nestled in the Burbank Hills and Harvard Road, the road Castaway is on, winds up the hills past some nice homes and a golf course.
The following view of the Burbank Hills greeted us as we pulled into the restaurant's parking lot.
One can enjoy some spectacular views of the Los Angeles city skyline from this restaurant's windows and patio. While waiting for our food to arrive, a colleague and I decided to step outside to enjoy the views and take a few pictures.
The photo below shows the restaurant's patio.
From this patio, one can enjoy the breeze and views of both the skyline and the surrounding hills. However, this area is reserved only for customers who are out to enjoy a few drinks. Here's another shot of the patio this time taken facing the west. The sun was setting at this point.
I took the following picture from one end of the patio. It shows more of the surrounding hills and in the foreground, it provides one with a view of part of the neighboring De Bell Golf Course.
Another shot of the golf course but this time, with part of the Los Angeles skyline in the background. It was quite a hazy day and as a result of that, I was not able to take a much clearer picture of the skyline.
Here's one more shot of the golf course and the skyline taken from a different spot on the restaurant's patio.
And of course, no photo of the Los Angeles area would be complete without a shot of these palm trees on the patio.
I had to get back in for my dinner moments after the above shot was taken. There was a cool and pleasant breeze coming in from the west and a few people had started hanging around the patio.
I have an aunt who lives near Burbank and from the airport, I called her to say goodbye and also to let her know where I had stopped for dinner. She said Castaway is quite popular in the area. It is a popular place for wedding receptions, baptismal parties, and Mother's Day lunches. In fact, one of her husband's nieces had her wedding reception there. There was indeed a decent size crowd while we were there and we even saw a group of people who were engaged in discussions with the restaurant's manager regarding plans and arrangements for a coming wedding reception.
I also enjoyed my dinner which was shrimp scampi served on a bed of steamed rice and steamed vegetables. I like this place and will definitely come back to it the next time I find myself in the area.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
My work week ends a day early today. After a closing meeting with the division's management, we will be rushing back to Bob Hope Airport later this evening for our flight back East.
It was a busy week at work. Meetings, interviews, and hours spent observing the division's operations made it quite a hectic one. But all throughout, our contacts managed to remain very friendly and cooperative in spite of weaknesses and areas for improvement we found and identified with their processes.
A lot of times, one has to destroy in order to build. My job facilitates the process of destroying procedural and operational weaknesses in order to help our divisions run better.
In some ways, I'm glad that I do what I do where I'm at. This country has a strong culture of professionalism at work. People remain very civil and professional even when they disagree with another individual's opinion. In my situation, they understand that I'm simply doing my job when I inform them of areas they need to improve on, things that I know they sometimes don't like to hear. People take a lot of pride in their work and it could be quite a delicate matter when I'm dealing with someone who was the brains behind a particular process or procedure. It is critical for me to manage to retain their support and cooperation because I will certainly need such when I ask them to implement my recommendations.
I make sure to give the people credit where credit is due. I give people credit for what they've accomplished before discussing the areas for improvement. In a lot of situations, people work with whatever resources are available to them. They certainly deserve credit for making the best out of difficult situations. One aspect of my job that I really like is that my findings help shed light on areas that need improvement. And once that light shines on a problem, it often forces a division's management to pour the resources needed to fix it.
On the human side of things, I appreciate the fact that in this country, people can disagree with each other without becoming disagreeable. In the years that I've done this job over here, I haven't come across someone who has taken my findings as a personal attack. They all know and understand that we all have a job to do and that we all aim for what's good for the company and for everyone.
Thinking about the whole thing reminds me of some sad experiences I had when I was still back in the Philippines. For doing the exact same job I'm doing now, I received a death threat from a client whose selfish interests drove his opposition to my recommendations; I had seen our team's findings and recommendations distorted by another client's management to pursue an agenda against their laborers; and I had also witnessed how one client's management twisted and bent our recommendations to continue their corrupt practices. Although I had also seen several instances where our recommendations were implemented to the letter, it is sad to note that such instances did not make up the majority of what I saw. Is it any wonder then that our country is in the state that it is in?
At the end of the day, I am the type of person who just wants to do his job in the way it was meant to be done. The professional idealism I had from my youth has managed to remain with me in a lot of ways. Sometimes office politics do come into play but such things are unavoidable in human organizations. However, as long as the areas that need improvement are addressed to everyone's satisfaction, that's all I care about.
Monday, September 8, 2008
It's southern California for me this week and I'm spending it in the working-class Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar. We flew into Bob Hope Airport (formerly Burbank Airport) yesterday (Sunday) afternoon on board a JetBlue plane. The following is a picture of the plane I was on after we had landed at Bob Hope Airport.
It was a five and a half-hour flight from New York. No meals were served on this flight as has become quite standard fare for US domestic flights. However, what one got in exchange were free drinks (except for beer and liquor), sufficient legroom and satellite TV entertainment courtesy of DirecTV. On-board satellite tv is all fine and dandy but I still want my food. I'm the type who gets into a foul mood if I get hungry. Thus, to prevent starvation, I packed a "few" egg sandwiches to consume on the flight.
Three people are accompanying me on this trip. I anticipate our team's work schedule to be quite hectic for we don't have the benefit of a full five-day work week. We will only be here for four days. We are scheduled to take a "red eye" flight back to the East Coast on Thursday night that will get us home very early Friday morning. In exchange for such an arrangement, we get to take the entire Friday off.
I'll be reporting for work in a couple of hours but at this point, my mind's already looking forward to Friday. Can't wait to get an extra day of rest.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I did a little housekeeping on my blog today. It was getting too cluttered for my taste and for its own good that I decided to trash some of the widgets that I had installed previously.
The casualties from this round of blog cleanup are the following:
1. Google's Adsense - It didn't really make much sense to keep it since the revenues from it are a joke. A beggar would probably make more money in a bad day than a blogger would make from Adsense in a year. Thus it's gone.
2. Technorati - I didn't find much meaning with the statistic or number this tag provided. I link to other bloggers' sites because I like what they write and not for the purpose of displaying a higher Technorati number. Thus, I showed this one the door.
3. Recent Comments - This particular software was so unreliable. It sometimes displayed the readers' comments and sometimes it didn't. I hate inconsistency and thus, this widget is history.
4. Million Blog List - I'm already on their list as #968 and so there's no further need to display it on my blog. There's not much significance to the number #968 anyway since my blog is not the one millionth on the list. :D
There. That's it for now. Less clutter to see and deal with on a daily basis.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
This is a nice little tag from Dr. Clairebear that involved quite a bit of digging through one's blog archives. I had to do so because of the following rules:
Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts. The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given. Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know each of them a little bit better.
Thus, as per the tag's rules, I linked some select posts to the key words given.
Family. - Story of the beginnings of a courtship many years ago.
Friends. - Memories about my hometown and some of the family friends and personalities there.
Myself. - Memories about a favorite eatery in Metro Manila
Love. - A song and thoughts about a special someone.
Anything. - A funny story that actually took place in a province in Mindanao (southern Philippines) 20 years ago.
Although the tag rules require that I tag 5 people to do this tag, I'm not tagging anyone in particular. I'm giving you guys a break. Hehehe However, please feel free to do the tag if you so wish.
Okay, now it's back to work for me before I get fired. :D
Monday, September 1, 2008
It's Monday and it's a holiday here in the States as the country marks Labor Day. I'm nearing the end of a long weekend and frankly, I'm not very happy about it. Instead of making the most out of this day, especially with the gorgeous weather outside, I'm feeling a bit stressed with the thought that I'll be back at work in less than 24 hours.
I'm feeling a bit exhausted physically and mentally. I need a real long break but except for quitting the job (which is definitely not an option), I am limited by company policy to the number of personal and vacation days per year I'm allowed to take. I wish I could take and lump all those days into one long extended vacation. But it's certainly not possible given the demands at work. Thus, I have to content myself with taking a day off every once in a while not unlike a swimmer who needs to come up for air every few seconds as he swims towards the finish line.
And to add to my blues, I miss being with her. A short two-minute song the words to which I find simple yet personally meaningful are helping me through the moment.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone.
It's not warm when she's away.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And she's always gone too long
Anytime she goes away.
Wonder this time where she's gone,
Wonder if she's gone to stay;
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away.
And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
Hey, I ought to leave the young thing alone,
But ain't no sunshine when she's gone.
Only darkness everyday.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone,
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
And now I write.
This song's called "Ain't No Sunshine" and was written and performed by the great Bill Withers. The song, cut from his debut album "Just As I Am", became the first hit for Mr. Withers when it was released back in 1971. The song peaked at number 3 on the Billboard charts. The above live performance was from 1972 on a music program called "Old Grey Whistle Test", a music show that ran on British television, specifically the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), from 1971 to 1987.
Bill Withers was a gifted musician and lyricist. From the above video, you could see that he was also a great singer gifted with a rather powerful set of lungs. What caught my attention the first time I heard this song was when he came to the part where he repeatedly sang "I know, I know..." continuously and without pause for a total of 26 times. I've tried singing this part several times but it's always left me gasping for breath. Hehehe
Some of you may have never heard of this guy but I'm pretty sure that a lot of you know of at least one other particular song of his. Back in March 1987, an R&B group called Club Nouveau scored a number one hit on the Billboard Charts with the song "Lean On Me". The song struck a chord with listeners because of its very positive message of extending love and care for one's neighbor. It longed for a strong sense of brotherhood in a time when an individual's needs seems to be valued more than the community's.
Club Nouveau eventually won a Grammy for Best R&B Song. Lean On Me also became the group's first and only number 1 hit. Mr. Withers was the man who wrote the song and was the first artist to take the song to the top of the charts back in July 1972. The following video is a live performance of the song by Bill Withers:
This song remains very popular because its positive message of love and friendship continues to resonate. Aside from Club Nouveau, the song has been covered by a number of other artists such as Al Jarreau, Michael Bolton, and Limp Bizkit, to name a few.
Bill Withers scored other hits aside from the two I just mentioned. His other hits that I count as personal favorites are "Lovely Day" and "Just The Two Of Us". Just The Two Of Us was a collaboration with the late saxophonist Grover Washington (1943-1999) and topped the charts worldwide in 1981. But at the time and for some reason, a lot of radio stations in Manila mentioned Grover Washington as the artist behind the song. But just to help set the record straight, Mr. Withers co-wrote the song and performed the vocals as evidenced by the following video:
Mr. Withers retired from recording in 1985.