Our Global Economy

28 02 2011

The American economy has been in flux for some time now, and is still rapidly changing. Corporations and people are both feeling the constraints of the
current economic landscape. America is currently experiencing its second recession in less than thirty years; its’ third in the last 100 years; and has never experienced cuts in worldwide budget expectations like this before.

The American dollar is not backed by the same security it once was, thus making issues related to pricing and investments very sensitive. Efficiency is now considered one of our most valuable commodities. Efficiency has made the electronic transfer of money a very common practice.
The rapid rise in electronic payment funds has been the norm in America for the past few years. Not only does this lead to less face to face and personal interaction between people, but it engenders a sense of false security and a lack of hands on knowledge about money transfer.

This situation has created an international “wait and see” approach to spending in some areas. Our American economy is on the same shaky ground as the rest of the developed world, leading monetary advisors and investors to be more apprehensive of the global future.

Dominique Strauss-Khan at the recent IMF international summit press conference noted the role of IMF in responding to the global mometary problems, pushing early on for economic stimulus, helping coordinate policies, providing financial resources, supporting the G-20 with analysis, and on IMS reform. This represented a major shift for the institution, “going from IMF 1.0 to IMF 2.0.” Now, he said, the challenge was to go further—to “IMF 3.0,” including a greater focus on financial sector issues – more generally enhancing the effectiveness of the 187-member county institution. “In an increasingly globalized world,” he said, “there is an increasing need for a multilateral institution like the IMF.”

Time will of course tell how this will all shake out, but one thing is relatively certain: the worlds’ economy will not look the same in five years as it looks today. What IMF 4.0 will look like is anyone’s guess.

World leaders must work harder (and I do believe that they are) to assure our global economy remains strong and growing. Many underpriviledged countries are in worse shape than ever, and we have never been in a weaker position to help their situations than now.

Think globally and act locally has never made more sense than it does today.


Cigar Thoughts 3

25 02 2011

How Leaf Placement Affects Flavor

Leaf placement is another factor that will determine how much a wrapper (or filler blend) will impact the overall flavor in a cigar. Tobacco plants are harvested in stages called primings. Each priming removes 2 leaves starting at the bottom of the plant and each priming is separated by approximately 1 week. There are typically 5-8 priming’s on a tobacco plant (depending on the tobacco variety). Therefore it will take approximately 5-8 weeks for the priming process to reach completion.

The uppermost leaves of the tobacco plant, the corona and ligero, are primed last. Because they have remained on the plant longer, the leaves have faced harsher weather conditions of direct sunlight, wind, and other elements, and have been nourished longer by the stalk. As a result, they are thicker and contain more oleoresins and possess a stronger flavor. The viso, or mid-level leaves of the plant, contain tobacco of medium-full strength and flavor. Viso tobacco strikes a balance between flavor and burn characteristics and is very useful in providing both a good-tasting and good-burning cigar. The lower primings of the plant, the seco and volado contain tobacco that is lighter in flavor and strength. This tobacco possesses great burning characteristics and provides the bulk of the combustion qualities in your cigar.

If more of the filler blend in a cigar is comprised of leaves from the top of the plant, then that will reduce the effect of the wrapper on overall flavor. But if the cigar blend uses more tobacco from the lower part of the plant (i.e., seco and volado), this will allow the wrapper to assert itself more. Conversely, if the wrapper comes from the higher primings of the plant, it will have a greater impact on the overall flavor, compared to a wrapper from the lower part of the plant.

For more information about cigars and their manufacture, check out the website at Fidel’s in Westport – Tom Foster is the owner, and a great guy!

It’s All About “Us”

19 02 2011

I have a personal peeve about workers using the first person singular to describe what their company does. I would have prefered to open the first sentence with “we have a personal peeve…etc.”, but this situation is occurring more frequently, and not just in our company. “We” own a business concern in a major metropolitan city. “We” share a number of accounts, and ‘we” also have accounts who have solid relationships with only one of our associates, and generally do not need all of us working on their projects.

The bottom line is that “I” am not a marketing/public relations expert. “I” am also not a business development professional. “I” know very little about some of the industries that “we” serve. “We” however are outstanding in each and every one of these areas – and “we” are what makes the company so successful.

I recently had the misfortune to be cornered by a “networking idiot”, who proceeded to share the statistical data that he was solely responsible for the accomplishments of his employer. “His” company was thriving because of the amazing values he brought to the table. I would love to have had the chance to meet his co-workers – I suspect that 1.) they all have his shoeprints running up their backs; 2.) he is either exaggerating or has made the entire scenario up; and 3.) he is universally despised in the office.

Most people (and businesses) prefer to know that the vendors looking after their interests are a stable company, not an individual employee with probable self esteem issues. Saying “me” or “I” when discussing your qualifications should send up a red flag to your listeners. Your listeners are well attuned to the fact that no individual can perform every job function well. It is true that no man (or woman) is an island.

The way we live our lives is similar to the way we should operate our businesses. My spouses’ achievements are shared accomplishments. Our children are very successful and “we” are proud of both of them. Parents receive accolades for how well their children have grown, but the truth is that it works both ways. Good parents learn as much from their children as the other way around. Parenting and growing up are difficult challenges. Ask any family – ask any business.

The word “ego” should be a shared phenomenon in both your family and your business. When one succeeds, we all succeed. Life is a team sport – play hard, play fair, and play together.

Cigar Thoughts 2

18 02 2011

How Tobacco Varietal Affects Flavor

When a master blender constructs a cigar blend, they work with different tobacco varietals from different countries. They manipulate these tobaccos in much the same way as a winemaker uses different grape varietals to produce a fine wine. The properties of these tobaccos have been determined by the seed, soil, and climate, as well as by the curing, fermentation and aging processes.

Tobacco flavor starts with the genetic characteristics of the tobacco varietal. Different tobacco types have different properties with respect to body, flavor and strength. Common tobacco varietals include: Habano, Connecticut Shade, Cameroon, Corojo, Piloto Cubano, Broadleaf, and many more. Nowadays, tobacco growers are experimenting and forming many hybrid tobaccos by crossing common varietals and crossing them again with other hybrids. As a result, there are an unlimited number of tobacco types that can be produced and used in a cigar blend. Unfortunately, there is no way to give a generic profile of the flavor, body, strength and aroma characteristics of each tobacco varietal or hybrid because it is the combination of the seed, soil and climate conditions that will produce the distinctive characteristics of the tobacco. Thus, planting the same seed in different countries will yield different results. Furthermore, planting the same seeds in different regions within the same country and/or different farms within the same region can also produce a tobacco with different flavor characteristics. Add to this, the different methods for curing and fermentation and the differing lengths to which the tobaccos can be aged and you come up with myriad possibilities for flavor characteristics within a tobacco type.

Master blenders will acquaint themselves with the characteristics of each type of tobacco from each harvest year. During the curing and fermentation stages, they can learn about the tobacco characteristics by the look, feel and aroma of the tobacco. The master blender will touch the leaves to feel for thickness and the amount of stickiness (i.e., a measure of the density of oleoresins). They will smell the leaves and even burn through a leaf to perceive the aromas. Often they will construct “puros,” or small cigars of just one tobacco type that they will smoke and keep notes on the characteristics. This allows them to focus on that particular tobacco type without the flavors being “tainted” by the effects of the other leaves in a typical cigar blend.
Fidel’s in Kansas City (Tom Foster) is a great resourse for further questions about cigars.

Groupon Integrity Discount

14 02 2011

What in the hell is wrong with us? Are we really anxious to return to the repressive 1950s?

Is there anything humorous about the troubles in Tibet – the hunt for endangered whales – the deforestation of Brazil? Absolutely! There is humor and fun in anything and everything – there are no restrictions – nothing is sacred – nothing at all. Groupon managed to poke a little fun at these venerable subjects while (tongue in cheek) promoting their clients. This is something that they do brilliantly each and every day. Check out one of the offensive videos – pretty damn funny. Dining in Tibet with Timothy Hutton.
Groupon ads are funny, engaging, eye-catching; and when they are really on target, side splittingly funny. They are resetting the standard for marketing and advertising missing since the late 60s. At least, they were.

In the 1960s, great writers helped break the political correctness barrier with the Harvard and National Lampoon publications, opening the doors for the Smothers Brothers and eventually Saturday Night Live, among countless of others. Of course, this is a vast simplification because it leaves out hundreds of other pioneers like Lenny Bruce and Redd Foxx. These visionaries were unafraid to offend, and they understood the value and the meaning of our freedoms of speech. We still have freedom of speech, but you damn well better modify your message lest you offend anybody – and by anybody, I of course mean everybody.

Andrew Mason, Groupon co-founder agreed to pull their controversial ads because pressure from dim witted, unimaginative consumers once again won the day. Idiots always seem to win the day. Stupid, obnoxious, intolerant, uneducated, uninformed, moronic, prejudiced, overly-sensitive, too-much-time-on-their-hands, mindless, useless, (not to mention the rest of the synonyms I am missing) people want humor with flatulence references, genitalia jokes, or any other form of scatological pratfall. Groupons levity might require their viewers and readers to think – it might even force them to reflect a moment.

To the readers and viewers from me: I am sure that Groupon is sorry for distracting your otherwise meaningless existence, but unless you are active in trying to correct the problems in these industries or cultures, you really should just shut the fuck up.

I am embarrassed to share DNA with our species at times like this. I am also disappointed in Groupon for not standing their ground and demanding the viewing public “grow a pair”. Will I continue to support Groupon for their progressive marketing efforts, or should I boycott the company for their conversion to wussieness?

I guess I will just have to watch. If their writers devolve into publishing the pablum reserved for general consumption, I will just discontinue my association with Groupon. I sincerely hope they stick with providing slightly edgy writing – I truly enjoy supporting great products whose marketers do not resort to appealing to the lowest common denominator. Groupon must continue to aim high to reach their target audience. I have upped my sights – up yours!

Cigar Thoughts

11 02 2011

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah – it’s a stinky habit – but it is addictive on more than just a nicotine level. It is a relaxing way to download and play with new iPad apps. A quiet day watching news and sports – listening to opinions on everything from education reform to the importance of the Kardashian’s in modern culture (none).

The “cigar” blogs are shared articles from Cigar Aficionado that begin to relate why this unhealthy, expensive, and obnoxious habit is so appealing. If this topic does not appeal to you, I don’t blame you – but I am not reaching out to justify myself. One of the beauties of smoking a cigar is there is no real need to justify your behavior.

If we had based our early cigar purchases solely on the reviews in Cigar Aficionado, we may never have started smoking cigars. All their highly rated cigars seem to be nicotine powerhouses with the potential to level any newbie cigar smoker. To understand why this is so, we must remember that the reviewers at Cigar Aficionado smoke cigars all day and night and have built up a tremendous tolerance to nicotine. Additionally, strong tobacco tends to have a more intense flavor and today’s cigar makers are pushing the envelope on both these fronts. There now seems to be a competition among cigar makers to create the strongest, most flavorful cigars possible. This has resulted in cigars of extraordinary flavor but of unprecedented strength (nicotine levels). Seasoned cigar smokers can appreciate this level of cigar making and the resultant positive reviews reflect this appreciation. But smoking super strong cigars on a regular basis can sometimes feel like work.

The key is to experiment – much like learning to appreciate great wine. Did you try a heavily oaked Chardonnay or a Cabernet with hearty tannin overtones when you started trying to develop your wine palate? If so, you might have decided to stay with Boone’s Farm for life. Some wines are just a little overwhelming for a novice. The same holds true for cigars.

I am not recommending that anyone start drinking and smoking, just commenting that if you do choose to try these things, approach with caution. I have moved beyond any alcoholic drinks for personal reasons – but I love espresso in my dark roast coffee and full bodied cigars every day.

Life is a rich experience, and yeah, yeah, yeah – it can be pretty stinky.

For more information about cigars, contact Tom Foster at Fidel’s in Kansas City. Friendly and extremely knowledgeable!

Seven Common Event Planners Misconceptions

6 02 2011

The web is chock full of suggestions for making events memorable, significant, and more cost effective. Most of these ideas look promising on paper, but on closer inspection are problematic. Always remember that there are, at the very least, two sides to every story. Here are seven “misconceptions” about the Events Industry that are bothering me right now.

1. Early Morning Motivation Seminars/Keynotes. Nobody should be entertaining, energetic, or overly enthusiastic early in the morning. Your audience needs more rest. Give it to them. Let them sleep. Don’t challenge them. Do not hire a polished sales huckster to pump up your attendees. Give them peace – they will thank you later.
2. Late Afternoon Seminars. By now, most everybody is awake and highly critical of your educational programs. Your audience wants to finish up the learning process for the day. Their brains are full. Reward them by scheduling seminars with tons of flash and inane fast talking speakers. The less content the better. The showier the better. Bewilder everyone – they will think you are brilliant.
3. Offer the Unique. “Be different” is the mantra of our age. Do you really have time to create new presentations? Steal other formats and ideas. Are you constantly asked to “think outside the box”? Climb in someone elses’ box and take it with you – it is much easier.
4. Script Your Event. Write your scripts for precisely 30 minutes shorter than the scheduled program – you don’t want to miss Happy Hour, do you? Discourage questioning. Let moderators/speakers know that you will never utilize their services again if they stray from your script. Your guests will appreciate the additional time to screw around, and you can start drinking earlier.
5. Schedule Webinars. Don’t have webinars – just schedule them (bear with me). This is so simple – invite your attendees to sign up for your webinar. Collect email addresses for all registrants. Five minutes after the scheduled webinar start time send a blanket email to everyone apologizing for technical difficulties AND award the requisite CEUs for attending. Your attendees will thank you for giving them credit hours without wasting their valuable time, and it costs you virtually nothing.
6. Speak To Your Audience. Just kidding. If your audience is not attentive, or just boring, find a new one. Don’t be content to jump through all of these planning and preparation hoops for a non responsive group. Hire or find a new group of attendees.
7. Get Certified. There are thousands of different letters out there to affix to your name (M.D., PhD., CMP, etc.) Most individuals and organizations never check your credentials. This will invariably force people to think you are much smarter than you actually are.

Insidious Perils of Networking

4 02 2011

A new study published last month estimates that 89 percent of networking encounters occur forcibly and without the consent of one of the parties involved, a disturbing finding that suggests far more people are victims of unwanted career-related discussions than was previously thought. The study examined data from thousands of abusive incidents in which individuals were compelled against their will to assist another’s professional ambitions. The report incorporated interviews with hundreds of others who were violated by acts of nonconsensual networking, many of whom described similarly traumatic and dehumanizing experiences.

The details vary, but in each case the victims described how ordinary chitchat rapidly escalated to terrifyingly detailed conversations about skill sets and career paths. What makes this especially disturbing is that these attacks often take place in an isolated space. The assailant might force the victim into a remote corner of a dinner party, or follow him/her into the parking lot after a brief coffee shop encounter. These assaults have also been known to occur in full view of witnesses, who, more often than not, do nothing to stop it.

“It all happened so fast,” said an unidentified woman, her voice breaking. “We were just making small talk, when out of nowhere he pounced, asking me if my company was in the market for a new insurance provider. Before I even realized what was happening, I had a business card in my hand. I can still smell the booze on his breath.”

It is not uncommon for people who have been brutally networked to blame themselves for what was done to them. They might, for example, believe that their business-casual attire provoked the networker or that standing alone in the corner of a cocktail party was somehow “asking for it.” Networking victims often feel dirty and humiliated. But it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the animals who did this to them.

The study holds out hope that this research will not only encourage more victims to come forward, but will also reassure others that the act of networking, when consensual, does not have to be a traumatic or shameful act.

Black Bean Falafel

1 02 2011

This is a great recipe for snow days. Make them as hot as necessary to ward off the cold!

2 Cups Black Beans, Chopped
2 Cups Garbanzo Beans, Pureed
4 Scallions, Chopped
Fresh Chopped Cilantro to taste
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Cloves Crushed Garlic
1 Egg
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tbls. Cornmeal
1 Fresh Jalapeno, Chopped
4 Tbls. Vegetable Oil
1 Fresh Lemon, Sliced


1. Coarsely process or hand mash the drained canned black beans. Purée the canned garbanzo beans.

2. Combine black beans and garbanzo beans. Stir in egg, 2 Tbsp cornmeal, scallions, cilantro, cumin, garlic, jalapeno, salt and pepper.

3. Place 1/2 cup cornmeal in a bowl.

4. Place a 1/3 cup scoop of bean mixture in bowl and coat lightly with cornmeal.

5. Place on a platter and flatten to 1/2 inch. Repeat until all batter used, about 12 cakes.

6. Fry patties 3-4 minutes per side in oil in small batches at medium heat. Oil should be hot but not smoking. Fry until browned on both sides.

7. Serve hot with lemon slices and salsa or sour cream.

Note: May be made as spicy or mild as you prefer. Serve in Pita for a Falafel sandwich variation (use Tzatziki instead of sour cream).