Tag Archives: Liar’s Poker

Christmas with Reimers

We spent an early Christmas dinner with the Reimers and Kristy before the the Reimers head south to California for Christmas with their kids.  It’s our family Christmas dinner and it is a really nice evening.

The food is always good and during dinner I was having my second helping of a bean and mushroom casserole when I realized that this was almost every food I hated as a kid.  Jerry quipped that my mom should have just combined everything today and then I would like it.  I am not sure if scalloped potatoes would have made the casserole any better.

After dinner we went downstairs, sat around the fire and exchanged Christmas gifts.

I'm a Mac Gloria is quite easy to shop for as she is someone who likes to read widely.  This is the first year we didn’t give her a book but rather we gave both Jerry and Gloria a mini DV camera so they could take some video of their trip and hopefully post it to YouTube.  On top of the camera we found a rather excellent camera bag at XS Cargo which we tossed in some batteries and a tripod.  Gloria is an Apple person and it instantly recognized both the internal memory and the 2 gig memory card in the camera.  Wendy and I are rather particular about camera bags and were quite thrilled with the one that we found.  Of course I didn’t do PC people proud when it took me about 5 minutes to get the batteries in correctly to the camera, the + and – on the batteries is apparently a little too complex for me.  Maybe I am a Mac after all.

We also gave Gloria a fondue set.  It actually has a Lazy Susan built into it because we all know how tiring eating fondue can be.  Jerry can be a lot harder to shop for but over the may long weekend, I read Liar’s Poker and I knew right then that it would be perfect for Jerry.  Just giving it to Jerry last night I realized that I should read it again.

We gave Kristy a lap desk and some external speakers for her new laptop computer.  Of course it wasn’t the ideal gift as an ideal gift for Kristy would have been a lap desk with a personal heater built into it.

Kristy surprised both Mark and Oliver with some Calgary Flames gear.  Some Flames pajamas for Ollie and a Flames shirt for Mark.  She gave me a wonderful time wasting book, while she got Wendy a sweater along with a gift certificate for a photo shoot.  I was given a gift card in my love language, Starbucks.

I was tossed into turmoil when the Reimers gave me The Clinton Tapes for Christmas.  They knew I spend my summer vacation reading The Kennedys by Peter Collier at the cabin.  I had planned to read a substantial book on each presidency each holiday at the lake but now I am torn.  Do I wait until we return to the lake in April to read it or read it over Christmas and then maybe read Conrad Black’s biography on Nixon this spring.  Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Wendy was tossed into turmoil when the Reimers gave her a birthday gift that she can’t open till Christmas.  It’s Wendy’s 40th birthday next week and we celebrated last night.  I actually gave her gift to her a little early.  I blame Darren Friesen for this outlay in gifts as he got an iPod for his 40th and Wendy has never let me forget it.  She was also given an anti-aging kit (Mark and I have been biting our tongues all day over that one), and a Josh Groban Christmas CD.

Halo Wars by Mega Bloks Mark was given a Halo Mega Bloks tank kit.  He was a little excited by it as at 7:00 a.m. this morning he was waking us up to see if we could help him find a piece.  I am sure Bill Cosby would have handles this differently but we just him back downstairs.

I am sure Wendy will have some thoughts on the evening later but for right now, she is chasing Oliver through the house.

Well next up on the Christmas agenda is the Salvation Army Christmas Dinner.  Mark and I are helping serve 1000 people in three settings tonight at White Buffalo Youth Lodge.  I am bringing my camera and will post some photos later tonight.

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis I picked up Liar’s Poker on Friday while wandering through Indigo.  I was wandering through another section of the store and something went off in my head which said, “I wonder if they have a paperback of Liar’s Poker in here”.  They did and I read it last night.

The story is of Michael Lewis’ career at Salomon Brothers as a bond trader in London but it is also a biography of Salomon Brothers during the 1980s.

Mike Todd left a comment telling me, “I must have read Liar’s Poker 10 times”.  No word on whether or not Mike was a Big Swinging Dick during his time on Bay Street though.  I am nine times behind Mike but I could see myself catching up.  Of course I have read another book by Michael lewis, Moneyball at least a dozen times in case the Blue Jays finally get tired of J.P. Ricciardi and need my help in the General Manager’s office.

The book is interesting as it documents the planting of the seeds which would over two decades later become the foundation of the sub-prime meltdown.  In March 2008, Nobel Prize laureate in Economics Robert Mundell named one of the major character in the book inserted Lewis Ranieri among the "Five Goats Who Contributed to the Financial Crisis" of 2008.

What struck me is how do companies get this large when they are managed so poorly.  The book kind of answers that.  They get lucky for a time in attracting brilliant managers and leaders but eventually the ineptitude of the upper managers overcomes the brilliance of those underneath them and they slide back to their state before the hot streak.  As Lewis points out, they got into trading mortgage bonds at the right time combined with the problems with the Savings and Loans crisis and they won big.  There was no corporate brilliance, only capitalizing on luck, timing, and some foresight by middle managers.  When the timing, circumstances, or luck changed, Salomon Brothers seemed unable to be able to cope with them and the firm suffered a slow demise until later bought, sold and bought and sold again.  Now it is a division of Citi Group and what was once the most powerful firm on Wall Street, doesn’t even have a logo to be found by Google Images.  It’s gone.

In the end it reinforces the idea that we need to pay a lot more to the context in which success happens; on Wall Street, in a fast growing church, a fast expanding franchise… before we hold them up as an example of what to do or decide to wait and see and take a longer term view on what is going on.

The book has been re-released by Penguin and if you want to see where the crisis of 2008 started, Liar’s Poker is a good place to start.