Author Archives: Ian Kennedy

Cool Email Alias

I normally just delete the junk email that lands in my box but this one caught my eye just because of it’s name.

Flippant H. Sassafras

The middle initial really makes it.

A further search for Ms. Sassafras on Google led me to this page which really raised an eybrow. I mean, it’s a page of gibberish (as far as I can tell) with the title of “Indelible Iceland Summand Purdue” WHAT THE HECK? It’s registered at yale.edu so I navigated up the URL and can’t seem to find a root.

Google and the other web crawlers must be having fun with this person’s site! If anyone can tell me what this is about – please tell me!

Allowance

Oh man! I just found a PDF of Bush’s request for more funds referred to below and it’s even funnier than I thought. Krugman referred to the one page cover letter to the budget ammendment but he didn’t mention that the ammendment request was only THREE pages with the first two pages being a cover note explaining why costs “cannot be estimated with precision.”

How do you estimate something with precision anyway???

To think of all the business plans, market analysis, and positioning statements I need to submit to initiate projects at my company and this is all it takes is four pages for our government to fling $25 billion overseas! The kicker is in the footnote:

**The original version of this document inadvertently contained an incorrect date. The money is intended to be available on the first day of Fiscal Year 2005: October 1, 2004. The orignal document incorrectly listed this date as October 1, 2005.

Not only do we want our money, we want it NOW.

Paul Krugman on Japan

Poking around to look for the latest Krugman column in which he illustrates the arrogance of President Bush’s one page request for an additional $25 billion for adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, I see that he’s also brought together the best of his writings on Japan into one place.

The state of Japan is a scandal, an outrage, a reproach. It is not, at least so far, a human disaster like Indonesia or Brazil. But Japan’s economic malaise is uniquely gratuitous. Sixty years after Keynes, a great nation – a country with a stable and effective government, a massive net creditor, subject to none of the constraints that lesser economies face – is operating far below its productive capacity, simply because its consumers and investors do not spend enough. That should not happen; in allowing it to happen, and to continue year after year, Japan’s economic officials have subtracted value from their nation and the world as a whole on a truly heroic scale.

The Extraordinary Private Cellar of Doris Duke

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Bottles of the first ever Vintage (1921) of Dom Pérignon, 1929 Château d’Yquem, 1934 Romanée Conti (pictured), all these and more from the cellers of Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress that made her home several miles up the road in Somerville on a 2,700 acre estate. The bottles will be auctioned off at Christies in NYC to benefit the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation on June 2nd.

The private cellar of Doris Duke is without question one of the most superlative collections of Fine and Rare Wines to come to market in the nearly forty years of dedicated Fine Wine auctions at Christie’s. This sale ranks as the most unique offering of pre-war vintages ever sold in North America; both in its impeccable provenance and its depth of some of the best wines of the twentieth century.

The cellar highlights a period of wine-making and vintages whose like will never be repeated and is a true “time capsule” of bottlings spanning 1904 to 1934 and encompassing the great châteaux and domaines of France from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne as well as ports and madeiras.

The quantities here speak to an era of grand entertaining long-since passed, the vintages to yields and wine-making techniques changed by technological advancement and in one case to a vineyard now included in another by the appelation controlée laws.

Not only are the wines themselves remarkable, but the quality of the archival material associated with them is equally astonishing. No collection of this era can have been so meticulously catalogued by its owners, so that today’s collector can be assured of the provenance. Researching this collection has brought this cellar to life; tracing the wine’s journey from initial invoices (in old French francs) and shipping dockets, through cellar inventories, entertaining records and through to NYWinesChristie’s recent cataloguing and inspection.

Christies Lot Description

Oh yeah, they’re also hawking a 20-carat Tiffany diamond ring too.

p-p-p-powerbook

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I normally feel sorry when the web swarms around something they want to make fun of but in this case it’s fully justified. If you’ve read about scammers who prey on eBay innocents, you’ll get a kick out of this meme.

A scammer tries to get someone to send him a $2000 PowerBook to the UK with a promise that funds put into a phony escrow account would be released upon delivery. Smelling something phishy, especially when a check on the registered domain of the escrow site doesn’t look legit, the seller goes along. These type of scams usually end up with the seller sending off a legitimate item only to never hear from the buyer again.

The scammer is usually overseas so there is no legal recourse. This happened to my neighbor where someone in South Africa saw his posting for his Volvo, offered to buy it and even sent a cashier’s check for the amount plus $3000 extra for shipping. Because it’s an overseas bank, it takes several days to clear so in the meantime, the scammer’s asking my neighbor to send the car off for delivery and also to wire the “shipper” $3000 real dollars. My neighbor had never heard of the bank which drew up the cashier’s check and grew suspicious. When he asked for further proof, they trail went cold. Of course the cashier’s check finally bounced.

In this case, the guy scams the scammer and writes the whole thing up complete with excerpts from his email conversations. He says the goods are enroute, stuffs a plastic three-ring binder with a bunch of keys from a busted up Windows keyboard pasted on the inside, marks the customs form as a $2000 notebook and sends it off.

But what really makes this a gem is the whole time this is going on, he is posting comments on a newsgroup asking for advice and basically getting egged on by the community. By marking the package as a $2000 computer, this forces the scammer to have to pay something like $200 in customs fees. Posters in London see the thread and check out the delivery address (a barbershop/internet cafe) and even go in for a haircut to stake the joint. The members of the bulliten board track the Fedex tracking number and someone even visits the shop at the time of delivery to try and get a snapshot of the fuming owner as he realizes he’s been had. The didn’t get the shot but they did go into the internet cafe and left “p-p-p-powerbook” on the screensavers.

Hassles

Poor ol’ Cory at boingboing posts long and lengthy about the frustrations of getting a cell phone in the UK with “no credit.” Why can’t the credit agencies put their heads together to come up with a global rating system so that us trans-national workers can move freely about and immediately begin contributing to the local economy? I work with a bunch of ex-pats that have relocated from the UK and they all got shafted on their mortgages and car purchases because they essentially didn’t exist as far as the local banks were concerned.

I too had a funny experience when I tried to open up an account at Bank of America in Berkeley. I walked up to the teller with a wad of 10,000 yen notes that I had earned as English teacher and said that I wanted to open up an account using this as my initial deposit. The teller said that I couldn’t exchange foreign currency without an account. When I pointed out the flaw in their procedures and asked for an exception, she stuck to her guns and directed me to the Wells Fargo branch across the street. “I know they will exchange your currency even if you don’t have an account. Why don’t you go there, change your money and come back here? I’d be happy to help you then.” Needless to say, I never made the trip back to BofA and ended up banking with Wells Fargo for over 10 years.

Middlesex 20th Reunion

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Last weekend we drove up to Concord, MA for my 20th high school reunion. Middlesex School is an independent boarding school that was founded in 1901 where I lived and learned from age 14 – 18.

The campus was designed by Olmstead, the same fellow that laid out Central Park, and is just as beautiful now as I remember it. The four years I spent there were the foundation of my education and schooling.

An innocent request by one classmate to check into rates for a banquet at the local inn evolved into my somehow organizing the class get-together for Friday evening. In the end it all worked out and those in attendence had a great time sharing stories about what we’ve been up to the past 20 years and what we’ve heard about others that didn’t make it.

As always, Alumni Weekend fell on a spectacular New England Spring day and groups of us wandered around the campus poking about our old haunts. Some places hadn’t changed a bit and others were radically upgraded or new all together. There’s two new dorms, one named “the new dorm” and I guess waiting the label from a particularly generous alumni. There’s also a brand new science center that is topped by an observatory. Everyone agreed that the athletic center can hold its own to any Manhattan health club and the new Student Center in Ware Hall (with it’s floor to ceiling glass windows) is a welcome change to the old student/faculty center that was known as the “Stu/Fac.”

The addition of wings on some of the dorms was done so subtly that only careful examination revealed the difference in brick tone (and redeemed my sanity). It was strange to walk into the old BP dorm where I lived on the top floor in a shared suite with others in a “quad” and see how much they’ve changed things around. Not only have they broken up all the odd-shaped nooks and dormers that used to make it so den-like, they’ve also sub-divided the whole floor into a series of singles. The old wooden staircase are gone, there are safety rails everywhere, and as of a few years ago they’ve put locks on all the doors. As my old dorm master said, they basically took the front door down, replaced the building, then put the old front door back on. Time rolls on I guess – I’m now sounding like one of those crusty old Alums lamenting the good old days.

It was great to bring Zoomer & the kids out to see my old school. I’ve always wanted to share this part of my life with them. I hope they got at least a sense of what it was like to spend time here. Tyler jumped right in and had a blast with the other kids. Tyler and Chloe got along grand which prompted her father John to say, “they’re getting along better than we ever did!”

I took a few photos of the weekend but am kicking myself for not taking more – too caught up in the present I suppose – if anyone wants to submit more photos from the weekend for the album, send them my way.

Cherry Blossoms

The rainstorm last night brought down many of the cherry blossoms from the tree that overhangs our driveway onto my car. As I drove off to work and sped down to work this morning I left behind a flurry of blossom petals in my wake.

The car behind me must have thought I was heading home after an Indian wedding.

Number 5

It’s been a grueling curriculum at St. Matthew’s Little Leisure this year. Tyler’s pre-K class covered a letter each week. The first week was the letter “A” and they worked on crafts that used apples, colored in construction paper cut in the shape of an “A,” you get the idea. After 26 weeks of that, they moved onto numbers and picked up the pace a bit and covered a number each day. On Tuesday, Tyler was home sick with a stomach ache (he slept it off) and he subsequently missed the number five. Today he was back in school and they covered the number six and they had Tyler make up his exercises on the number five.

Unfortunately, this confused Tyler on the order of the numbers – he thought they were teaching him that the sequence was 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 5 – which I had to straighten things out with him tonight as I put him to sleep.

Imagine the chaos this would have caused if he went through the rest of his life with these numbers the wrong way around – all because of a stomach ache!

Shopping

Shopping

Flash, the name Tyler gave our trusty green Honda Odyssey served as our chariot for a shopping run to a huge outlet mall about 30 minutes away in Pennsylvania. We only go there a couple of times a year and I think we now have it down to a science. We head out as early as possible and time it to arrive about 10 minutes after opening. After securing a good parking spot that allows for rapid, clean lines of escape, we head inside and plunge ourselves into the major stores we want to hit that day. Momentum was pretty good but we got way-laid at the Marshall’s (pictured above) which was fascinating because the household goods and toy sections were like an attic for failed consumer goods. The 3 foot pepper mill, the porcelin statuette of a cherub playing soccer, the gigantic Pallela pan, cooks for 40 – these were the things that stores just couldn’t move and one can see why!

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Tyler picked up a pair of “scooter red” Keds, Julia a fresh pair of flower-patterned spats, Zoomer got some shirts and a funky pair of floodwater-hemmed jeans, and dad got a bunch of short-sleeved shirts for the Summer and a nice running shirt to make up for the 2002 World Cup Brazilian soccer jersey that was melted down in the dryer.

We got home late and I now understand the seething disgust reserved by parents for the man that drives the ice cream truck. We hadn’t even gotten dinner organized yet when his plinkity-plink sugar-high melody could be heard warbling it’s way around our corner. The kids immediately started moaning and frowning their entire bodies in an attempt to soften our resolve that they were not to spoil their appetite despite the fact that the entire block of kids were lined up outside the truck for their jet pops and crazy cones. The truck had parked itself strategically in front of our house and the melody played itself over and over as the ice cream man served up one treat after another, the tune was almost mocking us, as if to say, “come on, don’t be such a prude. . . .it’s just ice cream after all. . .” I have to hand it to the kids though, once the truck motored away (this time at top speed, not the tempting crawl when it first came to our block) they finished all their vegetables without too much fuss.