Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring (flora) is breaking out all over Fairfield County

What a radiant bright display of flora greeted me as I stepped out of The Perrot Library in Old Greenwich--seen in the photo above.

All over our county, spring colors abound--especially the bright pink of cherry trees and the fluffy white and pink flowers of magnolia like blossoms, etc.

We are in for an early spring this year.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Columbia hosts Frontiers of Scholarship with GSAS students at the Alliance Francaise

Columbia GSAS graduates at 
Le Skyroom of the Alliance Francaise

Last Thursday evening about 50 GSAS graduates and friends gathered at Le Skyroom of The Alliance Francaise on East 60th Street to hear the research being conducted by three current students.

First to speak was Daniel Callahan of the Music Department whose talk discussed choreomusicality, the intersection of music and modern dance in the 20th century. It included early black and white footage from the Jacob's Pillow music festival.

Next Chinweike Okegbe, from Biological Sciences discussed bacterial communities and how companies such as Toyota are investigating how they generate electricity; other companies are showing how the colonies can help clean up oil spills.

Finally, Dianne Pfundstein of Political Science discussed her doctoral thesis that the US Military has a declining effectiveness in the post-Cold War period. Her main point is that adversary nations perceive a weakening in the US commitment to stay the course.

Dean Carlos Alonso introduced the speakers 

Dean Carlos J. Alonso introduced the program. Jazz music, wine, hors d'oeuvres and a delightful venue rounded out an entertaining evening.

Gingrich claims to roll back gasoline prices to $2.50 a gallon! Stamford shows the way!

Hold your shirts!

Here in Stamford, along Summer Street is a Citgo sign offering cheap gasoline.

Actually that was the price of gas several years ago as this station closed down to comply with state environmental cleanup laws.

For some inscrutable reason the sign still stands as the lot is undergoing development.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New M8 Railcars Make their Debut on the Metro North Railroad New Canaan Line

Interior of the M8 Railcar (courtesy of 
The New Haven Register)

What a delightful surprise to ride the new M8 Japanese (Kawasaki) railcars.

As I boarded the 5:43AM Grand Central bound train at Springdale, I was totally blown away by the arrival of these much improved cars.

First off, the seats are not only brand new, but they are actually comfortable. They are firm, yet slightly resilient which made the 60 minute trip most comfortable.

There is also more leg room between seats.

And the lighting is consistently bright.

Eventually, the M8 will replace all of the nearly 300 cars on the MNR--some of which are over 40 years old!

As of March 14, 2012, Wikipedia reports that 96 cars have been delivered.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kudos to the New York Times Op-Ed Article on the fallen Culture at Goldman Sachs

In two of my blogs from last year on the toxic mortgage catastrophe ( AIG sues Bank of America for $10 Billion Over Sale of Toxic Mortgages. The Irony of this All! AND The Quotable Oscar: .. "three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail...") , I quoted the following memorable comment from Senator Carl Levin to Goldman Sachs executives in April 2010 during a senate hearing:

"...600 million dollars of Timberwolf securities is what you sold. Before you sold them this is what your sales team were telling to each other. Look what your sales team were saying about Timberwolf : 'Boy that Timberwolf was one sh---y deal..'
Does that bother you at all?"
Today, The New York Times published an Op-Ed piece by Greg Smith (a 12- year employee at GS, executive director and head of the firm's United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa), entitled Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs.

Here is a man who entered the firm fresh out of College and joined a culture that "made me love working for the firm for many years."  He goes on to say "that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have even seen it."

He has seen no less than five managing directors label their own clients as "muppets."

He says that leadership is at all time low for three reasons:  (a) the emphasis is on selling clients the products they want to get rid of (b)The directive is to "Hunt Elephants": have clients "trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman" and (c) "Find yourself in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym."  [think MBS's or CDO's]

He finishes with a caveat to the Board of Directors to make servicing the client the central focus and "weed out morally bankrupt people."

No doubt, Smith leaves the firm with disappointment and even a grave sense of disgust.

I only wonder why didn't he quit sooner?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy our early Spring and Summer

Diners at an outdoor cafe along Third Avenue
in Manhattan earlier this week

The weatherman has had many surprises in store for us, this winter: namely many days of above average temperatures.

So, many city folk congregated on the sidewalks of the city at outdoor cafes on Wednesday as the thermometer hit 60.

And this is still early March!

Then on Thursday, the temps rose into the 70's and even more folks ventured outdoors in short sleeves.

So, take advantage of the early spring, get outdoors and soak in the great weather.

  An outdoor restaurant in Soho 
on Thursday as temperatures soared to the 70's