Alan Greenspan – ExFed

Alan Greenspan hung it up today, ending a run as chairman of the Federal Reserve that started in August 1987. What an amazing career, there was a time when I actually stopped work to watch the man present his Humphrey Hawkins testimony to a pack of clueless congressmen, laughing when he answered inane grandstanding questions with the measured, calm, engimatic replies that were so …. Greenspan.

 

This is a man who could say volumes without saying anything. I met him in 1992 at a breakfast at the Willard Hotel in Washingon. Howard Banks, Forbes’ Washington bureau chief, somehow finagled Greenspan into being the breakfast quest, not an easy thing as the occasion was a semi-annial editorial board meeting of Forbes editors and reporters, all of whom were determined to get the Sphinx to utter some profundity.

For an hour, Greenspan, sligfhtly preoccupied, even grumpy, put up with our questions, said some seemingly sagacious words, then vanished into the morning.

"Did he actually say anything?" I asked Jim Michaels, the editor in chief. 

I guess not, even though the discussion was off th record, there was nothing to put on the record.

Anyway, I’ll miss him. His record of being the economic helmsman of this country, was, in my non-economic opinion, steady and stable. Let’s hope Bernanke is half as effective.

Marketing nightmare at LL Bean

The arrival of the LL Bean Spring 2006 Fishing Catalogue is aways cause for some celebration in my mailbox. I like looking at the new year’s selection of stuff I shouldn’t be buying.

Anyway, some poor soul in Freeport, ME has a lot of explaining to do. The second page of the catalogue invites customers to "Talk to Our Experts at Our FISHING HOTLINE"

The 800 number, which is "800-LLB-FIS_" (to find out why I’ve omitted the last digit, read on) offers some "experts" alright. But not the kind of experts most people want to contact. DO NOT DIAL THE NUMBER IN THE PRESENCE OF ANYONE! THIS IS NOT WORK SAFE!

 

After being told about this Royal Snafu last night, and after hearing the first five seconds, all I can say, is DIAL ALL PHONE NUMBERS before publishing them. I pity poor Bean, they are an excellent company and don’t need people like me blogging their embarassments.

Update: 1.31.06 – Kennebec Journal reported on 1.28 that the number should have been 1-800-FISHLLB. "A most regrettable mistake," sayeth the flack.

 

On Bowties – My Favorite Things

I am a big bow-tie wearer. Have been since the early years at Forbes, driven in part by a Cotuit cultural gestalt — reinforced by Boston Yankees in general — that bowties are de rigeur.

 

Led by the estimable Hon. Charles B. Swartwood III, aka Brownie, and emulated by other stalwart Cotuit Skiff sailors such as Phil Odence and Lincoln Jackson, and seen elsewhere around the neck of my daughter’s godfather, Charles Clapp III (roman numerals are an essential accessory to bowties), I joined the fad and learned how to tie a bowtie.

Tying a bowtie is the big barrier to entry for most would be tyers. I just laid on a bed, closed my eyes, and pretended my head was a shoe and I was tying the laces. The result was the Elephant Man of bowties (I am not an animal, I am a human being …), but with some careful adjustment and tuning it began to resemble something like those worn by George Will and the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan.

 

Now bowties are the middle-finger of male fashion. They provoke violent reactions of hatred from certain quarters. While interviewing for a job with a Wall Street investment firm, I was told bluntly that the bowtie had to go, that it represented invidualism and eccentricity that was not going to wash with clients.

I didn’t take that job.

Another time I was riding on an elevator in New York with a friend and his Danish girlfriend. Danes apparently are the most multi-lingual people on the planet (I will check that factoid). Our fellow passengers began to speak and then laugh in an undetermined Scandanvian language.

At the conclusion of the elevator ride the Danish girlfriend sharply (heatedly) addressed the strangers in their own tongue. Their faces went from surprise to total horror.

"What did you just say to them?" I asked.

"I told them to be careful about what they say in elevators because they never know who is listening," she said.

"And what did they say?"

"They said you look like an utter geek with that bowtie."

Nice. I felt good about myself.

My wife, who dresses me the way my mother dressed me when I was four … in ways I don’t agree with, but put up with because all of my taste is in my mouth … decided to equip me with a high end selection of bowties (favoring Hermes no less) for what the French call a papillion.

Wearing one piece of high fashion as opposed to Gap or Brooks Brother makes me feel special, but what really makes bow tie wearing special is that they are the world’s best "a$%hole" detectors. They are like Geiger counters in this regard. If someone gives you grief about bowties, then they are, ergo, a complete butt head.

I have not worn a bowtie lately. Arriving at a new job with a bowtie is a very risky manuever and sets the stage for a long, long time. Last night I met with the buddy who’s Danish (now-ex) girlfriend came to my elevator defense. He was shocked, stunned and angered to see without my trademark and accused me of bad brand management.

Tell you the truth, bowties lost a lot of their appeal the day I saw that utter loser Tucker Carlson get taken down by the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.  The most visible bow tie wearer in the world got slapped down and I wanted no part of it.

 

Anyway, this post was inspired by the following justification for bow tie wearing: 

 

Mid-Iowa Newspapers – NEWS – 01/25/2006 – Outrage and passion

"For one woman, the thought of Gartner first conjures up the image of his signature bowtie, a feature that is only accentuated on the jacket of his new book, colored all in red against an otherwise black and white headshot.

"Gartner began wearing a bowtie when he started raising his sons almost 25 years ago.

""They will pee all over your tie if you have a regular tie on while you are changing their diaper,""as Gartner tells it. ""It occurred to me that it was a risky business, so I started wearing (bowties) and never got out of the habit.""

More New Guy Hell — mobile connectivity

writing from the lobby of the Harbor Court Hotel in San Francisco on the hotel’s wireless network. The company VPN can’t make a connection for inexplicable reasons, so I decamped earlier to a local Starbucks where their t-Mobile WAN was able to support the connect and I could pull down my Notes mail and get onto the corporate IM client.

Further frustration over the lack of internal IT support for my Treo 650. I had used Pylon at IDG to remotely fetch Notes mail and synch, but alas, only the Blackberry is supported and I am not keen on transferring to RIM while their future remains in question thanks to the NTP suit. Also don’t want to lose my number, take the hardware hit for dumping the Treo (which I am not a big fan of due to software issues), and then try to learn the Blackberry interface. But, that’s the deal and that’s how it will have to be.

Good discussion yesterday with David Berlind at ZDNet over his frustrations into the new-PC migration process and how that is a barrier to purchase for many potential new owners. He had some innovation suggestions for solving the problem, and having gone through the transfer process myself last week, I completely empathize, particularly in migrating my stable of extensions, widgets, bookmarks, subscriptions, passwords, and other personal detritus over to the new machine. Berlind is very passionate about the Think brand and his most telling insight was the effect that a missed keystroke onto the Thinkpad’s "back and forward" keys can have on a WordPress blogger. Having blown away a big post through the same mistake, I once again was empathetic.

 

Cotuit Dry Toilets: self-contained, composting, waterless, airtight, integral-urinal toilets

Cotuit Dry Toilets: self-contained, composting, waterless, airtight, integral-urinal toilets

These are made by my friend, Conrad Geyser, a remarkable individual who lives a few houses away from me in Cotuit.

 

Conrad, in addition to making composting toilets, builds fast Cotuit Skiffs and has an aquaculture grant off of Cotuit’s Sampson Island where he raises quahogs. He also installs solar panels. A very cool person.

 

My favorite things: The Grundig Yacht Boy

I bought this radio — the Grundig YB400PE — in 1995  at the Circuit City in Union Square, NYC when I was starting Forbes.com and needed some tunes in the evening while studying Latin in my room at the Yale Club (don’t ask …).

I fell in love with the design. It was so Germanic, so functional that I had to have it despite its steep price — $150 — for a radio. Ah, but what a radio.  Ten years later and I’m still listening it, typing away while it plays the wonderful public radio station WUNC (I think the best public radio station I’ve heard, and Boston has two giants, WGBH and WBUR). This is the radio I’d take on safari, the one I’d listen to during my solo circumnavigation or while holed up in the bar of the Intercontinental during the next military coup.

AM, FM and Shortwave, it came with a retractable 30-foot shortwave antenna. Now I have no great interest in shortwave, and the radio won’t find any stations without the antenna draped over the room and over the window sill, but the tuning on the unit is entirely digital — you punch in the frequency on a dial pad like a phone, press "Freq" and bang, there you are. It saves 40 pre-sets, has a great alarm clock, and is small enough to tuck into a garment bag. This is truly a classic piece of global traveller equipment.

The model has been discontinued and replaced with a newer one, and Grundig, a 50-year old company, was acquired a few years ago by Eton. For an interesting history of Grundig, click here. 

 

 

The sound quality is excellent, and I’ve used it for years as a shop radio while I work on my boats or bikes. The funny thing that I realize is that despite the presence of a sleek black Nano iPod in my rucksack, it’s the Yacht Boy that gets used the most.