Spam Makes Another Comeback!

For the thousands of stranded passengers and crew onboard the damaged Carnival Splendor, which was slowly towed by tugboat to San Diego after a fire knocked out the cruise ship’s engines the U.S. Navy and Spam came to the rescue.

Both the Navy, with the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, and the U.S. Coast Guard, with two cutters and aircraft assisted the $700 million ship,
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Some 4,500 pounds in supplies, including Spam, were delivered to the ship by Navy Seahawk helicopter.

In the USA the economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain. But lately for Hormel employees times have never been better. They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want.

The workers make Spam, perhaps the emblematic hard-times food in the American pantry.
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Through war and recession and now “ship wreck,” Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table. Now, in a sign of the times, it is happening again, and Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce.

In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making Spam seven days a week since last July, and they have been told that the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely.

Spam, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork, may be among the world’s most maligned foods, dismissed as inedible by food elites and skewered by comedians who have offered smart-alecky theories on its name (one G-rated example: Something Posing As Meat).

But these days, consumers are rediscovering relatively cheap foods, Spam among them. Certainly the luxury cruise passengers were happy to rediscover it.

A 12-ounce can of Spam, marketed as “Crazy Tasty,” costs about $2.40. “People are realizing it’s not that bad a product,” said Dan Johnson, 55, who operates a 70-foot-high Spam oven.

Hormel workers were interviewed recently with the help of their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 9. Slumped in chairs at the union hall after making 149,950 cans of Spam on the day shift, several workers said they been through boom times before — but nothing like this.

Spam “seems to do well when hard times hit,” said Dan Bartel, business agent for the union local. “We’ll probably see Spam lines instead of soup lines.”

Even as consumers are cutting back on all sorts of goods, Spam is among a select group of thrifty grocery items that are selling steadily.

Pancake mixes and instant potatoes are booming. So are vitamins, fruit and vegetable preservatives and beer, according to data from last October compiled by Information Resources, a market research firm.

There has also been a double-digit increase in the sale of rice and beans. Heck the Brazilians have known about that great belly filler for decades.

Recently Kraft Foods reported that some of its value-oriented products like macaroni and cheese, Jell-O and Kool-Aid were experiencing robust growth. And sales are still growing, if not booming, for Velveeta, a Kraft product that bears the same passing resemblance to cheese as Spam bears to ham.

Spam holds a special place in America’s culinary history, both as a source of humor and of cheap protein during hard times.

Jay Hormel, the son of the company’s founder, invented Spam during the Great Depression. Spam is a combination of ham, pork, sugar, salt, water, potato starch and a “hint” of sodium nitrite “to help Spam keep its gorgeous pink color,” according to Hormel’s Web site for the product.

Because it is vacuum-sealed in a can and does not require refrigeration, Spam can last for years. Hormel says “it’s like meat with a pause button.”
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During World War II, Spam became a staple for Allied troops overseas. They introduced it to local residents, and it remains popular in many parts of the world where the troops were stationed.

Guam, Okinawa and even Japan have a special affection for Spam. I had Spam Sashimi in Tokyo introduced by the Samoan Sumo Champion, Akibono.

Last year I even saw Spam make an appearance on the Waffle House menu…yikes the economy will even change our dietary habits.

Too drunk to Tweet? Help is on the way.

In my day we used to tell our friends ,”Don’t drink and dial.”

Now with all of the new technology you may be regretting that drunken tweet from Friday or tagging a photo from a party that may be etched into the world of the web for years to come.
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I just read on CNN that help is just a download away.

“the Social Media Sobriety Test,” a free Firefox plug-in from online-security company Webroot, lets users name sites, like Facebook and Twitter, on which they’d like a little oversight.

Set the hours you feel most likely to give in to booze-fueled temptation, and the plug-in will ask you to pass a simple test before being able log on.

“Nothing good happens online after 1a.m.,” reads the Web page for the add-on, promising to help “put an end to the embarrassment that follows regrettable, late-night posts.” Isn’t this how Facebook was conceived in the first place…?

“Pass a simple test to prove you’re sound of mind,” it says. “Post away or, if you fail, maybe just go to bed.”

The site also lets users set up the test on Myspace, photo site Flickr, blog host Tumblr and YouTube. The user can manually add other social-media sites to the list.

As evidence of the need for its service, the app’s page features a scroll of what appear to be Twitter posts that could have been avoided. I could have submitted a few of the examples from my own ‘Wall” of shame.

The feature is similar to Google’s “Mail Goggles” That app requires Gmail users who install it to solve math problems before sending booze-soaked messages late at night on weekends. Heck I amy not pass that sober!

Remembering Sparky Anderson

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Sparky Anderson died Thursday, and with his passing, baseball has lost one of its great characters and all-time gentlemen. I only spent four days with Sparky one spring in Florida and he made a lasting impression on me and his death has made me very sad.

They said he was 76, but that’s irrelevant. With his white hair and craggy face, Sparky always looked 20 years older than he really was. His given name was George, but only his wife and childhood sweetheart, Carol, ever called him that. The last time anyone in baseball ever remembered him being called George was on his 1959 Topps baseball card, his one and only season as a player in the big leagues, a season in which he hit all of .218 with no homers in 152 games as the Phillies’ everyday shortstop.
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His garbled syntax, repetitive double negatives, contradictory monologues and often outrageous hyperbole belied the genius of the man who went on to become a Hall of Fame manager with the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers, the only skipper in history to win world championships and have 100-win seasons in each league – in 1975-76 with the “Big Red Machine” Reds.

His unique style is what led me to choose him for a simple TV commercial for the building supply giant Georgia Pacific. The TV spot was not very memorable but somehow at spring training Sparky and I hit it off. I think he realized how thrilled I was to be around Major League Baseball.

We needed more Detroit players to fill in in some of the background shots so I was lucky enough to actually dress out with the team. I got to pitch, I got to bat and because it was too difficult to explain my presence on the diamond…I even got to sign autographs…my apologies to Tiger fans who may have thought I was a new prospect that year.

The highlight of the week was the day I pitched with Sparky at the plate…I did come very close to ending his managing career with my first pitch…I pitched him high and tight, under his chin…I was so nervous but after that pitch I settled down and performed admirably for an out of shape ad guy. Sparky applauded my placement which for a true baseball fan from birth was something I will always remember.

Everyday I got to hang out and talk about baseball and life with a true baseball legend. “You gotta be a psychologist in this job,” said Anderson. “The secret to managing is knowing your players and keeping them happy.”

As for losing, he said philosophically: “We don’t always get what we want in life. Don’t put your head between your legs. Just stand up and give the other guy credit and hope that someday you’ll get another chance. I never judge me. I have too much fun liking me.” I believe he lived his life that way.

He also told me before I left spring training to lose some weight and back then I was even that chubby. He asked me to walk a mile or two every day at least.

Sparky was our latter-day version of Casey Stengal, a beguiling old philosopher who never knew a question he couldn’t answer – in some way or another.

A sportswriter once told him reporters should be advised not to enter his office without wearing hip boots because of all the BS he’d be apt to toss around amid puffs of smoke from his pipe during the course of his customary hour-long pre-game sessions.

Baseball and all sports in general need more characters like Sparky.

Washington Voted Greenest State

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I certainly would have guessed this.
The Evergreen State is living up to its nickname. According to Greenopia, Washington made the top stop because of its high number of LEED buildings, green businesses and renewable energy sources, such as Energy Northwest’s Nine Canyon Wind Project (pictured here during construction)
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Can you believe New York is number three? They have more than 3000 green businesses.

Pope Says, “Go Forth and Blog.”

You know the old marketing adage: Go where your customers are.
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Pope Benedict XVI has apparently taken this to heart. In anticipation of the church’s 44th World Communications Day on May 16th, he has issued a statement, The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word. In it, he urges priests to use social media for outreach in conjunction with their traditional means of communication.

The Pope feels that it’s urgent and necessary to be online, where so many people spend their time — especially young people, a key target demographic for the Church.

Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: As new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.

“The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace.”

“Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.”
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The Pope obviously knows his social media.

His comments dovetail with the Vatican’s effort in recent years to establish a larger online presence. The Holy See created a YouTube channel last year, offering video and audio clips of Pope Benedict’s addresses, along with news about the pontiff. The recently launched Pope2you portal offers an iPhone app, a Facebook app, Papal videos, and a link to the YouTube channel.

The Vatican was on the bleeding edge when it created its own website 14 years ago, with access to the Vatican Museums and Vatican Secret Archives; there’s even a section in Latinfor classical language buffs.

The Catholic News Service, which is affiliated with the Vatican, is no technical slouch either — it has its own Facebook page, featuring news stories, notes, and blogs, with over 3,000 fans.

As CEO of the Catholic Church, the Pope knows the importance of guidelines. He’s clear to his followers about how he wants them to use social media and the message he wants them to communicate:

“The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility… Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord… In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different “highways” that form “cyberspace”.

Regardless of your religious convictions, it’s hard to deny how impressive it is that the 82-year-old leader ‘gets’ social media. It will interesting to see how many priests follow his lead.
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Pope Benedict’s call to action is valuable advice for businesses, too. If he thinks that Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and blogging are good ways to spread his message, maybe these tools can help your company. If your firm’s leaders don’t see the value in developing a social media strategy, you can point to His Holiness’s commitment to the social Web as a branding and communication tool.

Six Social Fashion Sites Worth a Look

This time of year with NewYork’s Fashion Week upon us is the perfect opportunity for designers to dynamically and creatively encourage and join the consumers in a discussion. Fashion fans are chomping at the bit for content from their favorite designers — which is why fashion sites are thriving. Fashion sites and indie fashion bloggers may not have the fashion critics’ pulpit (yet), but they are creating the future of the monthly glossy, and the future of the fashion Marcom system.

Step one is listening and engaging with your customers via social media channels, step two is to create social shopping opportunities and provide easy paths to purchase via social media channels. While designers may be apprehensive in giving up control, social media tools are actually launching pads for designers to strengthen their customer base and ultimately, grow their sales.

Here are six social fashion sites that every marketer worth her Prada handbag should be familiar with:
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Shopflick

Shopflick combines videos and shopping to create a truly unique online fashion and shopping experience and social community. The site draws from a strong network of indie and up and coming designers to provide shoppers the ability to find cutting edge, unique items and to helps brand touch base and engage with current and new customers through branded online stores, video commerce widgets and much more.
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Us Trendy

UsTrendy is a place where designers can post their portfolios, fans can judge them and then each season a collection is chosen using the most popular styles. Its tag line is, “…today’s inspiration… tomorrow’s trend…” UsTrendy produces the popular clothes and hosts events. They provide interaction and showcasing opportunities to designers, artists, models and fans through galleries, industry exposure, events and social networking connections. The site is a mash-up of Etsy.com and Linkedin.com.

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StyleCaster is looking to become the future site of online fashion through optimized fashion advice that is targeted to each user. This is the Amazon of fashion sites, where with every click they get to know you personal preference and taste, thereby giving you educated advice and marketing. This site is a mash-up of social network, editorial content and shopping and has just been given 4 million in funding.

Sense of Fashion

Sense of Fashion is the marketplace for upstart fashion designers, fashion lovers and sellers. It has an eBay-like capability for people to sell their fashion, shop or interact in their social network. Fans can show off their individual styles, favorite brands or even do e-commerce. Their goal is to connect designers with the very people who may inspire them, to also provide a platform for users to show off and sell their merchandise.

Est.Today

Est.Today is a fashion site for tweens that gives young girls the ability to design, display and purchase their own clothes. With personal creativity being the most stylish accessory this season, and now that young girls are paving the way for many new trends today according to a recent article in British Elle, this site capitalizes a the younger generations need for individual creativity.

Style Hop

StyleHop combines fashion and gaming to provide users with a fun rating system to decide on the popularity of branded styles. It incorporates yelp-like functionality to provide viewers information on popular sweaters and shoes for certain cities. Brands are given visibility though outfits, and users are able to comment on each picture with the ability to share the pictures on their other networks.

Sotomayor Comments…Racist?

Conservatives have seized on the speech Sotomayor delivered at the University of California, Berkeley’s law school. In a discussion about discrimination cases, the federal appeals court judge said: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
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“It’s on its face a troubling statement,” Sessions continued. “It goes against the idea of color-blind justice — blind justice, not just color-blind justice.”

Some conservative commentators, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, have called the statement racist.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs suggested yesterday that the statement was being taken out of context. “I think she’s talking about the unique experiences that she has,” Gibbs said.

I agree with Robert Gibbs. She was discussing hear a case regarding discrimination…imagine a judge who has been wealthy all his or her life with a privileged background hear those cases. Not that the deliberation would not be fair but someone who has lived the other side of that coin may indeed have a unique perspective on the matter.

“I’m sure she would have restated it,” President Barack Obama said in an interview with NBC News, referring to Sotomayor’s speech that was later reprinted in a law journal. “But if you look in the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote what’s clear is she was simply saying that her life experiences will give information about the struggle, the hardships that people are going through, that will make her a good judge.

What do you think? What a shame if her comments are misunderstood because this would be a good opportunity for Latinas and all minorities.

The Real Thing? Mexican Coca-Cola.

After the New Coke debacle did Coca-Cola bring back the original formula when they introduced Classic? In a word, no.

Classic Coke is sweetened with HCFS, before New Coke the original formula used good old cane sugar.

In the 1980s, most major soda producers (and many food manufacturers) switched from using sugar as a sweetener to using high fructose corn syrup because it was both sweeter and cheaper than sugar. Due to the rising price of corn syrup, as well as increased consumer demand – primarily in the name of health – for sugar sweetened drinks, some manufacturers are considering a switch back to sugar. Others, like Jones Soda, have already done so.

As consumers, we don’t always have a choice when price is an issue, but let’s assume for a moment that all of our favorite drinks switch to sugar. Is this a good thing? If you have ever gone out to pick up extra packs of (kosher) Coke during Passover, when the sugar-sweetened version is put in stores, your answer is probably yes. But if you don’t like the taste of the version made with sugar, the possibility of a switch is less appealing.

Why am I just thinking about this now? Around this time of year in America, Coke puts out a special version of its flagship beverage that ostensibly is geared toward the Jewish population as its celebrates Passover. You’d be lucky to find any of it, though. It’s selling out everywhere it appears on supermarket shelves.yellowcoke
It’s not just the Jewish popualtion who love it, because Kosher Coke could actually be better called Real Sugar Coke. The standard American Coke is made with that dietary bugaboo high fructose corn syrup, but because the Jewish commandment is not to eat foods with leavening in them, corn’s out. So for observant customers, Coke (and Pepsi) makes special batches using real sugar. The taste difference is noticeable right away. It’s far better, like the Coke of your childhood.
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Because it is the Coke from your childhood. Coke phased out real sugar in the mid-’80s in favor of that industrial-grade, cheap sweeter that clutters our palettes in nearly everything we eat. A major reason New Coke failed is because it was around that time that Coke decided to switch out cane sugar for that processed glob HFCS; part of the disgust Americans felt for the new stuff was due to the fact we had been used to proper sugar before that.

Most times of year, those Coke fans in the know can obtain Coke made with real sugar by getting their hands on bottles made in Mexico. This so-called Mexican Coke is highly prized, and charged at a premium at gourmet stores and Latin grocery importers. In fact, many countries make “real” Coke, and it’s one of the unexpected pleasures of international travel that you can actually taste Coke as Coke was invented to be.
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Lots of other countries sell “the real thing,” too, including the United Kingdom — it’s just one more way that traveling Americans don’t realize they’re getting the shaft when it comes to food and infrastructure — but since Mexico is nearer, it’s easiest and cheapest for American consumers to get their hands on that.
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If this “healthier” Coke is such a big hit, and it’s clearly turning consumers on, then why doesn’t Coke just make it year-round? The simple answer is that HFCS is cheap. Last year, the Wall Street Journal predicted that higher corn prices would force the soda makers back to sugar, but so far, that hasn’t happened in the standard products, although Snapple recently announced that HFCS would get the heave-ho in a product makeover.

Instead, the soda makers are being tricky, and bringing sugar back mostly to products it charges more for. Pepsi and Mountain Dew have noticed the thirst for beverages that aren’t made with HFCS, and in response, this month it’s coming out with its line of sugar-based Throwback drinks. But like Kosher Coke, they are not promised to stay on shelves forever.

I don’t like HCFS, one of the least inventive and blandest ingredients on the menu, and it’s gotten to the point where I’m insulted when manufacturers think this low-grade sweetener is good for you. (The junk is in nearly every loaf of bread at the grocery store, and even in Newman’s Own lemonade, which you’d think would be more natural.) I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to pay another nickel for my bottle of Coke if it meant it could be sweetened with real sugar. Either that, or I could convert or move to Mexico.

One of a kind Fuzzy Zoeller plays his last Masters

I will be sad to see Fuzzy leave the Masters…as a young creative director I was assigned to follow Fuzzy on the PGA Tour after he won the Masters his first time out. He was a character for sure but the renegade in him is what made him so interesting.
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That is why my client Maxfli used him in their advertising. He went against the grain even then choosing to use a Maxfli ball over the Tour favorite Titleist.

I wasn’t much of a golfer but I grew to love and follow the game mostly because Fuzzy took all of the snobbish, pretension out of the game and because he gave me my first set of clubs and a few pointers.images-1
He also stated with confidence that I had the natural golf swing of a pro bowler.
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I photographed him the morning after he beat Jack Nicklaus in the famous Skins game when he kissed the Golden Bear to Jack’s shock and amazement after sinking the winning putt. That kiss said it all. Jack represented the stuffiness of old golf and Fuzzy represented the new breed.

The best and worst moments of Fuzzy Zoeller’s professional life took place on the same expanse of manicured lawn, a few hundred yards apart.

In 1979, he was the first rookie in nearly a half-century to win the Masters, becoming golf’s equivalent of a made man. Almost 20 years later, the fast-walking, faster-talking, self-styled ambassador cracked an ugly joke on his way out of the tournament that has haunted him nearly every day since.

“Life’s not a bowl of cherries,” Zoeller said on Friday, walking off Augusta National after 30 years as a competitor for the last time. “You know that.”

His daughter Gretchen, one of four children and a former college golfer, was toting his bag. They hugged on the 18th green, where moments earlier; Zoeller was treated to a standing ovation. Both of them were fighting back tears.

It came at the end of a farewell tour that Mayor Deke Copenhaver kicked off on Monday by handing him the key to the city. Ever the funny man, Zoeller couldn’t resist a promise to return, if only because he already knew where the good bars in town were.

“I’m going to be at the mayor’s house tonight,” Fuzzy said. “So I know where his bar is at.”

He certainly did know the bars but he was friendly with everyone in the bars. Many nights Fuzzy’s manager had me make sure I got him back to the room before tee time, I don’t drink so I was for a short time his designated driver.

You won’t find golfers like 57-year-old Frank Urban Zoeller anymore, unless you count his friends on the 50-and-over Champions Tour, and maybe never will again. He was one of the game’s few remaining showmen, a little like Dean Martin, only inside the ropes. He’d throw off jokes between shots during a round, and then throw down a vodka tonic or two afterward.

No one was counting in 1997, when Tiger Woods wrapped up a historic win here and Zoeller, who’d finished tied for 33rd, suggested what Woods should serve at the Champions Dinner the following year, when the defending champion chooses the menu.

“So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here?” Zoeller said then. “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?”

He smiled and walked away, then turned back and added, “or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”

Friends have said those 30 seconds obscured 30 years of goodwill. Zoeller lost some sponsors, but even worse, those close to him said he became more guarded, even in their company. You wouldn’t have known that watching Zoeller making his final circuit.

He cracked jokes with the members in green jackets on the first tee and most every one afterward. He lit a cigarette halfway down the first fairway, threw the butt down before skidding a 7-iron to 10 feet below the flag and didn’t bother to line up the putt before narrowly missing.

He didn’t line up any of his putts during his 1979 win, either, but for a different reason. Zoeller hadn’t even seen Augusta, let alone practiced there when he teed off in the first round. But as was the practice in those days, he was paired with a local caddie and followed every direction almost on faith. He described Jariah Beard as a “seeing-eye dog” leading a blind man around the course. It wasn’t far from the truth.

All these years later, Zoeller still doesn’t understand why none of his fellow pros hire a local caddie, a practice that Augusta National officials dropped soon after his win.
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On Friday, he walked into the scoring hut and signed for a 76, which left him at 155 and 11 strokes over the cut. “I hope everybody’s had fun, because I’ve enjoyed my ride,” Zoeller said.

With that, he headed off toward the clubhouse and the locker where his own green jacket hangs. He plans to come back for the par-3 contest every year, then take a seat on the upstairs porch next to Arnold Palmer and watch the kids struggling with the wide green jigsaw puzzle that Zoeller put together correctly on his first try.

Whether his memories of the Masters fit together as easily, only he will ever know. But something he said before heading out to play on Friday, knowing it was his last round, suggested he was ready to try.

“When you’re playing well,” Zoeller said, “you remember everything. Maybe that’s the funny thing about professional golfers. They also have the ability to forget the bad stuff.”

GM CEO is Out!

Rick Wagoner will reportedly step down from the CEO post at embattled General Motors Corp., according to Reuters.

Mr. Wagoner, 56, is cited in the report to be leaving after eight years, and a spokesman is said to have declined to comment. But he won’t be leaving empty handed…He will leave with a severance or bonus of US$ 23 million. Why in the world since under his direction GM lost a huge percentage of its value on Wall Street and extremely high losses.

The troubled automaker has been seeking government funding to keep it from bankruptcy. The beleaguered Mr. Wagoner has been the public face of GM in its quest for funding.

I think the timing is not good though as they have only 60 days to get a plan in place to restructure…who will drive that change?