Blood in the streets

Enrico was looking at some commercial real estate recently, in a part of Houston with which he is not too familiar. He networked and got connected with a broker who knows that part of town.

I told him about the parcels, and about the investment premise. “I would run,” he said. He meant he didn’t think it would prove to be a successful investment. “Why?” I asked. He said “nobody’s buying right now.”

I thanked him for his time and got off the phone as quickly as possible.

This is a true story.

Shorts are green

The BAOJ has this article which misses the most crucial, topical, essential point: the wearing of shorts is green!

Everyone knows that many women in the workplace are permanently arctic’d out by the rapacious demands of the woolens-clad male workforce for maximum air conditioning. It is very common for a woman to smuggle in an electric space heater to put beneath her desk to keep the polar bears at bay. From an energy standpoint, this is obviously totally insane. Perhaps the women would maintain that this is an evil male conspiracy to produce engorgement of the mammary papilla sheerly for the entertainment value.

I’m sure that a squadron of economists could produce an analysis conclusively proving that the US could completely eliminate imports of foreign oil if there were a Federal Law banning the wearing of long pants on any day when the average temperature is higher than 72 degrees F. Or, at least, if not banning the practice, stipulating that any state which does not enact such a ban will be deprived of its Federal highway funds.

Enrico does his little bit for the environment by attending all business meetings between April and October inclusive wearing shorts, and by adopting a facial expression intended to convey his disdain for anyone who is not appropriately dressed for the subtropical Houston climate, which is characterized by sweltering heat combined cruelly with withering humidity levels, for an environment completely on all fours with that of a sauna. Enrico can’t be certain that the meaning of his facial expression is really getting through, but he does notice the occasional quizzical expression on the visages of his interlocutors.

Everyone knows that the BAOJ does not really print much news or do much true journalism, but you would think that the one area in which their reportage might have some validity would be fashion. Disappointing.

Final Hotel Ratings in the Enrico Hale “Thomas Mann” Prize

The tallies are in on the first deccenial four city Enrico Hale “Thomas Mann” luxury hotel prize. Contestants included the Milestone, in Kensington, in London; the Hassler, in Rome; the Hotel Adlon, in Berlin; and the George V Four Seasons, in Paris.

Not much of a contest, really, as it turns out: the George V Four Seasons totally runs away with it. The location is absolutely unbeatable, the staff are angelic superhumans, and the accomodations are so comfortable that it has been hard to get the family to leave the suite.

I have to give second place to the Milestone. The staff were lovely, the accomodations top notch, and I think if I had asked them to walk my dog and bring the the poo back to me in a little bag, they would have consented with a smile. Great location. No better concierge service have I ever encountered.

The Adlon is just edged out by the Milestone. This was my first trip to Berlin. For picturesque and iconic you cannot possibly do better than the Adlon. However, I think were I to go again with the kinder, I would try the Hotel Am Zoo, on Kurfürstendamm. The surroundings of the Adlon are like a museum. The Kurfürstendamm is like watching three Italian operas at the same time. The concierge service at the Adlon was also very, very, very good, but the accomodations frankly were just not nearly as comfortable as the other three hotels. You know the so-called upholstery in a Mercedes? There you go, that’s a national trait.

I would not go back to the Hassler. The staff did not really, for the most part, have the skills to hold any kind of intelligent conversation in English. And, over and over again, when Gladys and I finally got across what we wanted to the staff, we got an argument from them. Maybe this too is a national trait, I don’t know, but it is not a good trait in hotel staff trying to cater to Americans.

Also, an issue of little absolute substance, but highly annoying to me: I finally figured out that they were charging me about $15 for a tiny little bottle of Sprite, I think of 20 cl. I of course immediately banned the purchase of Sprite, but this is just totally unnecessary and uncalled for. It made me highly suspicious of the hotel, to look for other small ways they were attempting to rip me off. I don’t need this while on vacation. Of course you expect to pay a huge, vast premium for something like a bottle of soda in any hotel, but why not 100 euros? Or 1,000 euros? In the shops around Piazza di Spagna, a one liter bottle of Sprite sold for one euro. So, they can charge what they like, but I will never ever go back to this hotel.

The location is very good, and the rooms were very nice, very comfortable. The concierge did a very good job for us. I am not sufficiently insane to attempt driving in Rome. The hotel sorted out car and driver for us on several occasions.

I don’t have a witty, snarky prize in mind. I will get back to you on that.

Are Parisians snarling surly rude bastards?

Well, I thought they were. It seems to me that perhaps I was mistaken.

I have essentially no French. But I have tried, really hard, in the first instance of a commercial encounter, to make myself understood in my pidgin French. Bert and I went to see “Juno” last night at little cult cinema in the 14th arrondisement. I marched up to the ticket window and said “Deux par ‘Juno,’ s’il vous plait.” I pointed at Bert and said “Dix et cinq.” The clerk took pity on me and replied in English, telling me how long til the movie started and when we would be permitted to enter. So, even though I am so appallingly ignorant I don’t even know the word for “fifteen,” the clerk did not pretend not to understand me, and he sold me a ticket for Bert at the appropriate reduced price.

The German waiter at the Dachgarten at the Reichstag definitely wins the prize for bastardom on this trip. The reaction of this cinema clerk to my pathetic effort in the glorious mother tongue of the Gauls is not an isolated circumstance. Is this a transformation due to the therapeutic influence of Sarko? Perhaps.

I had already seen “Juno.” Bert hadn’t, and he loved it, as did I. Must get the soundtrack.

Standing astride four matched dolphins

Enrico and the brood are staying at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin. Today Barack Hussein Osama is in town to better accentuate his foreign policy steet cred. He’s giving a speech tonight at the Victory Column in the Tiergarten.

Osama was supposedly going to arrive at the Adlon. The security dudes put barriers across the sidewalk on both sides of the hotel’s front door, a crowd gathered, and tv crews appeared. Several german tv stations were running live feeds of the front of the Adlon.

The breathlessly eager anticipation of the crowd was like an electric charge in the air.

We went down to have lunch on the sidewalk terrace, and we got to talking about how Osama should most dramatically make his appearance. I said he should obviously screech into a jstop stop in a red ferrari convertible and bound out of the car without even opening the door, give a careless, wistful smile and dash up the steps into the Hotel Adlon.

Ursula said a crack should groan open in the pavement of Unter den Linden and Barack should climb out amongst tongues of fire and sulphurous smoke

It was proposed that a tomb should materialize, a round stone covering the entrance should be rolled away by a lackey, and Obama should appear dressed in flowing white robes.

Or a lighrning bolt should smite the pavement, and when the smoke clears, there stands Obama.

Then we moved into silly territory. A cataract of water comes pouring through the Brandenburg gate, the crest of the flood bearing Obama, standing astride the backs of four matched dolphins, their reins gathered in one mighty fist, the other hand raised in a princely acknowledgement of the adoring crowd.

Sam suggested that Barack should emerge from a large green pipe protruding from the street. Yeah, I know, I didn’t get it either: he’s talking about Obama joining the mario brothers.

In the end, we saw Obama’s motorcade, but we never saw him at the hotel. Later we went along with 200,000 berliners to the middle of the tiergarten to see him speak.

The crowd tittered at his pronounciations of names like Merkel and Wowereit. But the populace obviously had immense good will for obama. I don’t have much doubt about who this crowd would vote for in november.

Osama originally wanted to give this speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the site of Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech in 1987. Angela Merkel’s government was uncomfortable with this, feeling that granting this would be disproportionate to what is, after all, a campaign event. I don’t fault Osama for seeking this, but Merkel was right to steer him in a different direction.

We had to leave to catch our sleeper to Paris before the speech was over. Judging from press reports, it was much what you’d expect. The only important aspects of Obama’s foreign tour are the photos of him with world leaders and in front of iconic foreign symbols, preferably surrounded by an adoring crowd. He certainly accomplished these things in Berlin.

I still intend to vote for obama, but still mainly with the hope that I can facilitate the utter crushing of the GOP, in the hope that the party will reform itself in the ashes of electoral devastation.

Bahn bahn bahn autobahn

Enrico, Gladys and the bambini hired a car yesterday and drove up to Lübeck yesterday, a very old Hanseatic port city on the Baltic Sea. We got a Mercedes people mover, a Vigo. A mini van, we’d call it, but it seats nine.

Well, gentle readers, as we all know, there is no speed limit on the autobahn. But I couldn’t get this damn thing to do more than 160 klicks. People were zooming past me in Toyotas and Golfs like I was standing still. I think they must put a governor on it.

We also drove over the Travemünde to go the beach. It was a spectacular day, very warm, sunny, and the bay was choked with sailboats. Some kind of international sailing competition was going on.

Some day I am going to terrorize the autobahn at speeds reaching 240 klicks. Guess it will have to wait for a trip without die kinder.

What’s the deal with shaving cream?

Why does it still exist? Enrico uses a regular, manual razor (wow, there’s an awkward back formation). It has approximately 17,123 blades, and it has some kind of lubricated strip upstream of the blade complex. Enrico wets the razor and scrapes his face, and he has no need whatsoever for an obfuscating soapy substance.

I suppose a lot of guys use electric razors. I believe shaving cream is contraindicated in this protocol.

Is shaving cream just for chicks? And old guys?

Admittedly, Enrico has a “dude,” a facial hairstyle which allow him to eschew the scraping of the upper lip and the immediate vicinity of the chin. Maybe those who use a regular razor to shave the dude’s footprint really need shaving cream.

I think it is a marketing-driven anachronism. Perhaps one of Enrico’s Market Research Irregulars could comment on recent trends in sales of shaving cream.

OMG 9% YoY

Our hotel on Trinità dei Monti gets Squawkbox. The yammering bohunks are arguing about the PPI number: 9 per cent year over year, if I heard it right.

Well, take it from Enrico, if the rigged official lying headline number is 9, you can bet your gold bullion that the real rate is well into the double digits. Just check the growth in M3. O, wait, you can’t, isn’t that convenient?

A friend of mine is fond of asking, “what was the best performing stock market in 2007 in nominal terms?” The correct rejoinder is “who cares?” I think it was Zimbabwe, up about 1300% in nominal terms. Its performance in real terms? Down a shitload.

Don’t allow anyone to discuss with you the performance of any asset class, or any asset, in nominal terms. It is not information.