Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Today's To Do List


What a day it's been. Need to chop wood on this list...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dunkin' Donuts Coffee - Nectar of the Gods


Dunkin' Donuts is God's coffee. I want to pour this stuff on my body every morning and wear it like liquid spandex. I want to bare it in battle like armor crafted in fire by Hephaistos.

If Dunkin' Donuts coffee were a rotund woman in the eighties, I'd wear her skin Bullfalo Bill style while dancing to techno in front of a full length mirror. It puts the lotion on its skin.

If it were a guy in a club, he'd be wearing a blue striped shirt unbuttoned below his hairless chest.

If it were a Democrat, it would have the poise of President Obama, sex appeal of Barney Frank and brawn of Hillary Clinton.

If it were a guitar amp, it would be the love-child of the Marshall and Mesa Boogie.

If it were a modern actress, it would be Natalie Portman in the movie Closer - damn those camera angles when she's giving Clive Owen the private dance.

If it were Law & Order, it would be an SVU episode during which Mariska Hargitay beds me for being on the wrong side of the law.

If it were a blog, it would be wwtdd.com.

Friday, July 24, 2009

WaterGates


You know what pisses me off? Cops. Roaming the streets and getting in my business. Issuing warnings to women who cry during traffic stops, but arresting me for rolling that last stop sign or getting caught with that same hooker from second street.

See, I have this incredibly high ideal for those in law enforcement. Policemen and women should be the cream of the crop. Their pay should be surpassed only by teachers, whose pay should be surpassed by none. Physically and mentally, the profession should trump all others. Our best athletes should aspire to law enforcement, instead of playing in the NFL or (barf) the NBA. Our most gifted minds should perceive law enforcement as an equally attractive alternative to medicine and various forms of capitalism.

But alas, cops are underpaid and underappreciated, causing hesitancy for many to enter the respectable field. There are those who enter law enforcement for “pure” reasons (e.g. familial tradition, the desire to serve and protect), comp and personal danger be damned. Then there are those who enter for what I fear is the most typical reason: they are attracted to power. The former category represents the best of our great nation, individuals whose legs I’m not worthy to hump. But the latter category? They make my blood boil. To me, “power” jobs (like politics) attract the power-hungry, who happen to be the last people on Earth who should be put into powerful positions. In fact, I think it's plausible that a great many of our law enforcers are ill-equipped for the job because of this dynamic.

So let’s just say that I’m not typically the one coming out of the woodwork to take sides with law enforcement. Not that I’m being judgmental or have a "greater than thou" attitude. The Bible mentions the whole "plank in your own eye" bit, so let me say this: it would be an enormous mistake to put me in “blues” and issue me a gun and badge. In fact, I am nursing a chub right now thinking of a hot chick in ‘cuffs sitting in the back seat of a patrol car with me at the wheel. I'm not worthy to bare that burden. But I digress.

And so I want to crap every time I read another story about the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. getting arrested by the white officer from the Cambridge Police Department.

This Gates fella is super smart, definitely smarter than I by leaps and bounds. And I don’t say that because he’s a Harvard guy. My only experience with Harvard, aside from Natalie Portman being on my “list,” is a year living with my first roommate out of college – a Harvard graduate. This guy would drink beer after beer in our apartment wearing his “beer mask,” a cardboard beer box with a mouth and two eyes holes cut out. Quite the assclown with a heart of gold, this guy would drool on himself in pictures just to make you laugh. So I won’t assume a person is smart just because he or she is associated with Harvard. However, he is good friends with the President and he’s also the head of an entire Department at Harvard. So I yield that the guy’s intellectually capable, methinks.




But super smart people who feel entitled to receive respect are probably even more likely than the rest of us to flip shit when a police officer makes them mad. So I totally get why Mr. Gates would go nuts if a cop showed up on his doorstep, buzzed around the Master of the Universe’s ears, and bugged the crap out of him. I understand why he would ask for that cop’s badge number, if more out of frustration than anything else. Remember, at that point the officer hadn’t even arrested Mr. Gates; he was still just investigating the reported break-in. And if I were important, respected and intellectually arrogant, I would probably even throw in a “you don’t know who you’re messing with” like Mr Gates did. Most Americans would, I’m thinking.

However, the race card is a big thing to throw out. Let’s just say I’m not a black man, so I cannot possibly understand the struggles they face with regard to the past. If there is deep seeded, subconscious racism in non African Americans, then I guess I wouldn’t know how racist I am since it’s SUBCONSCIOUS. Though I’d have to say that I believe the “subconscious” argument is pretty flimsy. I mean, how can two people have a substantive debate if the basis for one side is something completely intangible and undetectable in any way to the other? Reminds me of another typical conversation:

“I believe in God and so should you.”

“I need proof to believe in God.”

“But I’m telling you to believe in God.”

“But I need proof.”

Etc,etc.

I do, however, believe strongly in statistics. And they all seem to point to some level of bias in our largely Caucasian law enforcement toward arresting African Americans. And this is unacceptable in every way. But still, I say this: if you throw out insults to a police officer, in your own home or in public, guilty or innocent, you should be cuffed on the spot. Man, if that officer had done to me what he did to Gates, they would’ve carried me off in a straight jacket or at least tasered me to near death. Nothing can stop the tank, baby!!!

So my point is this: just because a white police officer arrests an African American who happens to be a professor at Harvard and who happens to be friends with the President, it doesn’t mean that officer should automatically be accused of racism. I'm betting there are instances RIGHT NOW somewhere in the country where an African American is suffering from racism at the hands of police. Don't make an example out of a bad situation such as this, because it only diverts attention from instances that actually would highlight the problem of the racism in law enforcement toward African Americans .

And this instance with Mr Gates is not an example of that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rick Moranis is Taken Down a Peg

It was my first day of work, not too many years ago. I had moved to Charlotte, NC, where I knew nobody (except a cousin), not even my roommates, but was thrilled that my first business card showed I was a bona fide “investment banking analyst.”

My analyst class was comprised of thirty or so 22 year olds, most of whom came from schools like Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Columbia, and Vanderbilt; with a small handful from the more prestigious state schools on the east coast. Charlotte certainly was not New York City, to where most of the class ended up migrating over the following several years, but it was a fun and rich city that was dominated by the banking industry. Lots of bars and single Southern girls from schools like Chapel Hill and Georgia, all looking for alternatives to the douchiness they had encountered from Southern “gentlemen” during college.

Having attended a state university in middle America - and with a public school education that included a nearly equal distribution of teachers who believed I was either particularly gifted or learning disabled - I wasn’t quite sure I belonged in that “highest tier” of finance, as investment bankers like to peg their own industry. My standardized test scores were only moderately above average and I felt that my ability to bull shit was one of my more useful skills - not my ability to do math in my head “real quick like.”

So the day after our two month long analyst training ended, we reported to our respective groups. My group was led by two individuals, one of whom was a doppleganger for Rick Moranis, except he wore wire-rimmed glasses, had slicked back hair and talked with a nasty smirk.
Early morning my boss stopped by and said he’d like to discuss a few things with me that afternoon. I was (and still am) a nervous person, and this made me particularly nervous. I remember thinking he might say, “Sorry but you’re not smart enough to be in this group. No hard feelings.” Or, “We’ve decided we’d rather have nobody than you. Good luck running payables at some crappy company.” And, in hindsight, that wasn’t all too far from what his intentions were.

I did pretty much nothing that morning, and nobody really talked to me which I took as a bad sign. That afternoon, he led me into an office and we sat down at a small circular desk in the corner. He leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head, awesome-guy style. The following is my best recollection of the conversation:

“You majored in finance, and so I expect that you have a strong understanding of fixed income mathematics. Is that right?”

“Yes sir.” Lies. I had taken only one bond math class and had hated it. Nothing made sense to me and certainly it had not interested me in the least, possibly because it was my senior year and I attended several classes still drunk from the night before.

“Well, I’d like to have you go through some scenarios on the dry erase board. Just a few easy things to make sure you get it. You’re going to be doing quite a lot of complicated analyses over the next few years, and we need to make sure you know what you’re doing.”

I looked behind me and there was a dry erase board. Fuck. I wondered what would happen if I ran out of the office. Or faked an aneurysm. Or just shit my pants. What could I do to get out of this room, where I was preparing to get humiliated and exposed?

“Go up there and bootstrap a yield curve for the following zero coupon bonds.”

He spat a stream of numbers and I wrote on the board as fast as I could. Being a highly visual person, I replicated a chart I remembered from the pages of my bond finance textbook from college. A few arrows and lines here; a few equations there – but that’s as close as I could get. I drew connecting lines between equations that I literally made up as I went. I pretended I was calculating things, showing facial strain as the “calculations” baked inside my brain. My armpits poured with sweat.

Running out of things to write, I stopped and looked behind me as he leaned on the back two legs of his chair, a shitty smile across his face. And then, divine intervention.
Faintly, from behind me, I heard a slight squeak and turned around in just enough time to make eye contact with my boss as he lost balance on his chair and reached his arms forward, like a child wanting to be held by a parent. Sheer horror crossed his face as his chair teetered on its back legs. I stood motionless over several seconds that stretched into minutes and hours it seemed.

Over the following moments, I saw three things: First, my boss violently falling backwards, as if pulled from behind by an invisible string. Second, asses and elbows as his knees launched over his head and behind him while his chair plummeted toward the ground. Third, his body crashing into a wooden bookcase upon which sat countless Lucite bricks, each several pounds. (These are referred to as “Deal Toys” in banking since they each commemorate a deal done in his past.)

Deal Toys fell from the shelves, showering him. One of his feet, inside those expensive, leather toe capped shoes, is momentarily lodged between the bottom and second shelves. A series of squeaks poured from his mouth as he swung his free leg to and fro across his body, trying to dislodge himself from the awkward position. And there I stood with my dry erase marker, still uncapped and pointed outward at chest level, staring like a pedestrian driving by a nasty car wreck.

And then it was over.

My boss stood up and smiled. He pat me on the shoulder, laughed sheepishly and said I could go. And when he was fired several months later after 9/11, he told me we would stay in touch and that he envisioned that one day I would become a Managing Director – a bold statement to make to an analyst barely six months into his first year.

And of course, he was full of shit.



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