Tuesday, July 13, 2010

...and then???

So Sept 20 is fast approaching...and then?

Well, i just don't know. i know what post september 20 would look like in any other year, but this year? i have no idea. that's both scary and exhilarating!

I haven't made any posts in quite a while primarily due to lack of motivation. i suppose I've been a bit busy as well with birthing classes, wedding planning (or at least watching mel plan), working on my race car, working etc. etc. but really..it's motivation

Mel and i are tearing through birthing class and doing pretty well i think. We've got 8 more until we're ready...at least, that's what they tell you. is anyone ever really ready for this?!?!?

There are so many millions of things to do over the next few months. some things seem both trivial and absolutely vital at the same time. like picking a name. on the one hand, it's just a name. people do it millions of time every day. and people with really crappy names can achieve great things.


what do you know, the internet even has a list!


thanks interweb.

i suppose i shouldn't really equate being a celebrity to achieving a great thing. but..the crappy names list serve my purpose here.

but then on the other hand, choosing a name seems so vitally important. i have to call the kid this name. forever. so does my family. friends. it's friends (we don't know if its a boy or a girl). that's pretty important.

mel and i have a list of names (For a boy and a girl)...but it's really tough. i suppose in the end it'll have to be decided though. the kid can't be named September Twenty Corrigan.

or could it....

the house is filling up with lots of baby stuff. i like it. seems more like a home somehow. i hope this means we don't have to get a TV though. baby corrigan can watch the little Einstein video's on my computer, right!?

For a short alfa update..it's probably easiest to reference some pictures. I took all of last week off to get paint on the car. and it was a great success!! with a bit of filler, the proper paint supplies, tons of sanding and generous amounts of patience, the car is now white! despite never having painted before, it's actually fairly easy. i constructed a Paint booth of sorts in a friends shop using a temporary garage from home depot.

At this point the major body work is completely done and it's a matter of re-assembling the car into it's full on race setup. To keep myself motivated i took little red (as it's come to be known around here) to the track last saturday for an open track day. What a fantastic day and the car handles awesome. It's only limits were due to the bad second gear synchro, the street tires...and maybe the driver (just a bit). but hey, that's what Open track days are for! i hope to have the white car done so that i can use open track days next year as shake down runs. that should get me running with VSCDA by the end of next year or early the following year. now, where to put the baby seat.....

latest alfa pics..

2009 ALFA Project

oh, and Sept. 20 is not only the baby's due date but also my birthday. so i get two cakes for the rest of my life if it really comes on that day!

just kidding!!!

well, not really.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

a few good men

“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Son, we live in a country with an investment gap. And that gap needs to be filled by men with money. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Middle Class Consumer? Goldman Sachs has a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Lehman and you curse derivatives. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what we know: that Lehman’s death, while tragic, probably saved the financial system. And that Goldman’s existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves pension funds. You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want us to fill that investment gap. You need us to fill that gap.

“We use words like credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligation, and securitization… We use these words as the backbone of a life spent investing in something. You use ‘em as a punchline. We have neither the time nor the inclination to explain ourselves to a commoner who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very credit we provide, and then questions the manner in which we provide it! We’d rather you just said thank you and paid your taxes on time. Otherwise, we suggest you get an account and start trading. Either way, we don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!”

Friday, April 09, 2010


always seem to come at the perfect time. Although we had planned this one long before the events of the last few months (something about a baby...maybe a wedding too if i remember right), we couldn't have planned it for a better time. The truth is if we didn't take a vacation now, we probably wouldn't be able to get one like this in for at least a year or so!

Luck...planning..whatever it was...it was perfect timing.

Mel's offered a good recap at her blog...bonus points to whoever notices the main re-occurring theme :)





As nice as amsterdam was, i find Prague a lot more interesting. It's history as a country stuffed between Germany and Russia means that its always been a country that's been viewed as a mere stepping stone to the larger enemy (by both it's neighbors). There's something about communism that i find very fascinating. I suppose it's partly that i grew up in a free (freer) capitalist society and communism seems so foreign. East Berlin was fascinating because of it's WWII history and Prague is fascinating largely because of it's post WWII history.

It wasn't but 20 years ago (21 to be exact) that the locals won their freedom. 20 yrs seems like a long time when i consider my age but in the scheme of things it's only a sliver of time. A fact that's driven home even more so when you watch the videos from 1989 at the communist museum.

Throughout the year various anniversaries were used as an excuse to protest in Wenceslas square (which begins only about 100 meeters from our hotel). Throughout the course of the year the police became increasingly brutal against the peaceful protesters. Plainclothes policeman would routinely drag out "provocateurs" from the crowd to be arrested by the swarms of armed police patrolling the streets.

As 1989 came to an end and it became clear that the winds of change were blowing as far east as Moscow, and after 20 years of rule by a puppet government of the soviet union the Czech parliament, in a pretty bold move, determined to dissolve itself rather than fight on (against the people). Since it's inception 20 yrs earlier over 250k citizens has been imprisoned for anti-state activities.

What amazed me was the video of the secret plain clothes police literally dragging people from the crowd to be arrested. Imagine if you were the guy being drug from the crowd and happened to bump into that same police officer in the square today. That kind of thing must happen all the time here but i can't even imagine how I'd react or how these people deal with that.

I suppose that history has shown us (time and agin) that masses of people can have a pretty high tolerance for a bad situation, but once the tide turns there's really no stopping them.

The velvet revolution came to pass without a single shot fired.

Cool stuff.

oh, and the re occuring theme in mel's blog? FOOD! and Water Closet's (but that's a whole 'nother story)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010


on one of his CEO's....

A hugely important event in Berkshire’s history occurred on a Saturday in 1985. Ajit Jain came into our office in Omaha – and I immediately knew we had found a superstar. (He had been discovered by Mike Goldberg, now elevated to St. Mike.)

If Charlie, I and Ajit are ever in a sinking boat – and you can only save one of us – swim to Ajit.

on Mistakes made...

And now a painful confession: Last year your chairman closed the book on a very expensive business fiasco entirely of his own making.

For many years I had struggled to think of side products that we could offer our millions of loyal

GEICO customers. Unfortunately, I finally succeeded, coming up with a brilliant insight that we should market our own credit card. I reasoned that GEICO policyholders were likely to be good credit risks and, assuming we offered an attractive card, would likely favor us with their business. We got business all right – but of the wrong type.

Our pre-tax losses from credit-card operations came to about $6.3 million before I finally woke up. We then sold our $98 million portfolio of troubled receivables for 55¢ on the dollar, losing an additional $44 million.

GEICO’s managers, it should be emphasized, were never enthusiastic about my idea. They warned me that instead of getting the cream of GEICO’s customers we would get the – – – – – well, let’s call it the non-cream. I subtly indicated that I was older and wiser.

I was just older.

on Management...

In my view a board of directors of a huge financial institution is derelict if it does not insist that its CEO bear full responsibility for risk control. If he’s incapable of handling that job, he should look for other employment. And if he fails at it – with the government thereupon required to step in with funds or guarantees – the financial consequences for him and his board should be severe.

It has not been shareholders who have botched the operations of some of our country’s largest financial institutions. Yet they have borne the burden, with 90% or more of the value of their holdings wiped out in most cases of failure. Collectively, they have lost more than $500 billion in just the four largest financial fiascos of the last two years. To say these owners have been “bailed-out” is to make a mockery of the term.

The CEOs and directors of the failed companies, however, have largely gone unscathed. Their fortunes may have been diminished by the disasters they oversaw, but they still live in grand style. It is the behavior of these CEOs and directors that needs to be changed: If their institutions and the country are harmed by their recklessness, they should pay a heavy price – one not reimbursable by the companies they’ve damaged nor by insurance. CEOs and, in many cases, directors have long benefitted from oversized financial carrots; some meaningful sticks now need to be part of their employment picture as well.

on BNSF...

Our subsidiaries made a few small “bolt-on” acquisitions last year for cash, but our blockbuster deal with BNSF required us to issue about 95,000 Berkshire shares that amounted to 6.1% of those previously outstanding. Charlie and I enjoy issuing Berkshire stock about as much as we relish prepping for a colonoscopy.

The reason for our distaste is simple. If we wouldn’t dream of selling Berkshire in its entirety at the current market price, why in the world should we “sell” a significant part of the company at that same inadequate price by issuing our stock in a merger?

In evaluating a stock-for-stock offer, shareholders of the target company quite understandably focus on the market price of the acquirer’s shares that are to be given them. But they also expect the transaction to deliver them the intrinsic value of their own shares – the ones they are giving up. If shares of a prospective acquirer are selling below their intrinsic value, it’s impossible for that buyer to make a sensible deal in an all-stock deal. You simply can’t exchange an undervalued stock for a fully-valued one without hurting your shareholders.

Imagine, if you will, Company A and Company B, of equal size and both with businesses intrinsically worth $100 per share. Both of their stocks, however, sell for $80 per share. The CEO of A, long on confidence and short on smarts, offers 11⁄4 shares of A for each share of B, correctly telling his directors that B is worth $100 per share. He will neglect to explain, though, that what he is giving will cost his shareholders $125 in intrinsic value. If the directors are mathematically challenged as well, and a deal is therefore completed, the shareholders of B will end up owning 55.6% of A & B’s combined assets and A’s shareholders will own 44.4%. Not everyone at A, it should be noted, is a loser from this nonsensical transaction. Its CEO now runs a company twice as large as his original domain, in a world where size tends to correlate with both prestige and compensation.

If an acquirer’s stock is overvalued, it’s a different story: Using it as a currency works to the acquirer’s advantage. That’s why bubbles in various areas of the stock market have invariably led to serial issuances of stock by sly promoters. Going by the market value of their stock, they can afford to overpay because they are, in effect, using counterfeit money. Periodically, many air-for-assets acquisitions have taken place, the late 1960s having been a particularly obscene period for such chicanery. Indeed, certain large companies were built in this way. (No one involved, of course, ever publicly acknowledges the reality of what is going on, though there is plenty of private snickering.)

In our BNSF acquisition, the selling shareholders quite properly evaluated our offer at $100 per share. The cost to us, however, was somewhat higher since 40% of the $100 was delivered in our shares, which Charlie and I believed to be worth more than their market value. Fortunately, we had long owned a substantial amount of BNSF stock that we purchased in the market for cash. All told, therefore, only about 30% of our cost overall was paid with Berkshire shares.

In the end, Charlie and I decided that the disadvantage of paying 30% of the price through stock was offset by the opportunity the acquisition gave us to deploy $22 billion of cash in a business we understood and liked for the long term. It has the additional virtue of being run by Matt Rose, whom we trust and admire. We also like the prospect of investing additional billions over the years at reasonable rates of return. But the final decision was a close one. If we had needed to use more stock to make the acquisition, it would in fact have made no sense. We would have then been giving up more than we were getting.

on acquisitions.....

I have been in dozens of board meetings in which acquisitions have been deliberated, often with the directors being instructed by high-priced investment bankers (are there any other kind?). Invariably, the bankers give the board a detailed assessment of the value of the company being purchased, with emphasis on why it is worth far more than its market price. In more than fifty years of board memberships, however, never have I heard the investment bankers (or management!) discuss the true value of what is being given. When a deal involved the issuance of the acquirer’s stock, they simply used market value to measure the cost. They did this even though they would have argued that the acquirer’s stock price was woefully inadequate – absolutely no indicator of its real value – had a takeover bid for the acquirer instead been the subject up for discussion.

When stock is the currency being contemplated in an acquisition and when directors are hearing from an advisor, it appears to me that there is only one way to get a rational and balanced discussion. Directors should hire a second advisor to make the case against the proposed acquisition, with its fee contingent on the deal not
going through. Absent this drastic remedy, our recommendation in respect to the use of advisors remains: “Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut.”

on the annual meeting...

Our best guess is that 35,000 people attended the annual meeting last year (up from 12 – no zeros
omitted – in 1981). With our shareholder population much expanded, we expect even more this year. Therefore,
we will have to make a few changes in the usual routine. There will be no change, however, in our enthusiasm
for having you attend. Charlie and I like to meet you, answer your questions and – best of all – have you buy lots
of goods from our businesses.
The meeting this year will be held on Saturday, May 1st. As always, the doors will open at the Qwest
Center at 7 a.m., and a new Berkshire movie will be shown at 8:30. At 9:30 we will go directly to the
question-and-answer period, which (with a break for lunch at the Qwest’s stands) will last until 3:30. After a
short recess, Charlie and I will convene the annual meeting at 3:45. If you decide to leave during the day’s
question periods, please do so while Charlie is talking. (Act fast; he can be terse.)
The best reason to exit, of course, is to shop. We will help you do that by filling the 194,300-squarefoot
hall that adjoins the meeting area with products from dozens of Berkshire subsidiaries. Last year, you did
your part, and most locations racked up record sales. But you can do better. (A friendly warning: If I find sales
are lagging, I get testy and lock the exits.)

on management style...

Charlie and I mainly attend to capital allocation and the care and feeding of our key managers. Most of these managers are
happiest when they are left alone to run their businesses, and that is customarily just how we leave them. That puts them in
charge of all operating decisions and of dispatching the excess cash they generate to headquarters. By sending it to us, they
don’t get diverted by the various enticements that would come their way were they responsible for deploying the cash their
businesses throw off. Furthermore, Charlie and I are exposed to a much wider range of possibilities for investing these funds
than any of our managers could find in his or her own industry.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


I'm not a big fan of Toyota, i don't own any of their products nor would i buy a new one (but then again...i have vowed to never buy/lease another new car from anyone, ever again). but they've clearly got their work cut out for them with their recent quality woes.

On the one hand, they've had a hell of a run. it was bound to end eventually and that time has apparently come. with an item as complex as the automobile, and with most suppliers working to 6 sigma (ish) type quality standards, its inherent to the process's that roughly 6 defects are produced in every million parts. you design for that and then rely on your quality systems to catch the 6, but there is no product or manufacturing process that is 100% without problem. i.e. A problem of this type was bound to crop up eventually. So i can sympathize knowing that this was bound to happen and wishing that the public was a little more realistic in their expectations.

but on the other hand, they have had a hell of a run. and it's nice to see a bit of product realism injected into the public perception. maybe Toyota quality isn't really that much better than anyone else (anymore)! crazy idea, i know. It's rather easy for a company to take the level of public trust that Toyota has recently enjoyed for granted. when the public is having a love affair with your products you (can) become overly emotional about the relationship and let logic and common sense go.

as to a recall, there are a lot of monday morning quarterbacks out there questioning the timing, the decision, etc. etc. in fact most would say "when you know you have a problem, issue a recall", or "it's better to play it safe" even when you think it's a problem. that's certainly been the position with many in the media (particularly on NPR). but the simple fact is..it's not always the best course of action. in most cases a full-on recall isn't warranted (as opposed to a campaign or a service bulletin). and in the rare case that it is, it becomes a difficult balance timing wise. do you issue the recall before having a solution ready? or do you wait, sometimes weeks or months, to issue the recall knowing that defective product is out there? let's be real, a solution to a design/process defect can take weeks or months of development and testing to create.

and you must be sure it's correct.

and you have to make sure you understand the scope of the problem (how many parts may be out there and where?).

so even though Toyota may have known for a time that a recall is evident, it was probably prudent to wait until a solution was ready and they understood the scope of the problem - all the while risking further failures. a recalled product can never be un-recalled.

cold hearted? perhaps. but irrelevant.

practical? absolutely.

in the end the public will probably never know the whole story behind the product problems and the recall. these aren't the types of things that become clearly exposed in the public domain, no matter how many hearings the talking heads on capital hill hold. they're concerned about showing "concern" so they can get re-elected in the fall.

I do think a word of caution to GM (in particular) is wise at this point. a company never wins, or rather, rarely wins, by simply relying on the failure of your competition. This is not the break you've been looking for. you still have an uphill climb to get out of the hole you've dug for yourself. Realistically, is a customer who has shunned GM for toyota likely to return to GM, or switch to another automaker like Hyundai? It's ok to prey on this problem a little bit, but be careful. that type of attitude can quickly bit back when (not if) GM has it's next quality problem.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Alfa Update

So i gave myself a little Christmas present (in addition to mel's awesome gift - a compressor!!!), i got the cage work all done in my car over the break.

It's possible buy a pre-made, 4 pt cage (bolt or weld-in) for these cars, but they're really only for safety and offer no improvement in stiffness to the chassis. Plus they leave the cell completely exposed in the trunk and make it very difficult to make any real improvements to the rear suspension. Hence i decided to spend the money for a proper 8pt cage. This cage ties into the front spring perches, allows the seat to be lower in the car (Safely), protects the cell in the case of a rear end hit, and ties in to the panhard setup. Truly the right way to design something like this and in the long run this chassis will need no further improvement to make the car faster.

Here's a pic of the drivers side. The x-bars are a nice compromise for entry/egress and safety.

I still haven't welded the rear skins on because i have some more work to do around the wheel wells and windows. Plus I have some straightening to do on the skins themselves

Here's the rear of the car, i plan to run without bumpers so the square stock is effectively the new bumper. The cell was raised a few inches for ground clearance (if a tire goes flat). It's also well protected.

The roof had to come off to properly weld all the joints, so i went ahead and painted the roof and cage while i had access. hence I taped the cage to keep the paint safe while i keep working.

It's a bit cold out for metalwork, so for now i'm working on rebuilding the rear end, steering column and steering box. It's amazing how simple these parts are to tear apart and rebuild! and they're pretty stout pieces, esp. the rear end.

I'm planning on a drivers school in Sept. to get my SCCA license. I won't be driving this car but rather the school's cars (probably prepped miata's). It was them or monopost cars, but i figured the miata's would be closer to this, so better for gaining experience.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

...and a happy new year!

2009 is done, and what a year it was. we saw a new president, nationwide tea parties, pig flu, a bankrupt GM AND Chrysler, the crotch bomber, the king of pop died.....and enough "best of 2009" lists to last until the best of 2010 comes out!. Sick of them yet? Well here's mine!

I've done a little "Corrigan year in review" ever since i moved to Europe in 05, i figure why stop now?!

2009 was one of my best years ever, if i do say so. Despite spending most of the year in a drugged up stupor 3 nights a week i still managed to quite a bit.

Kick of the new year right by moving into a new house! well a rental..but it has a garage!

Mel and i also took a little trip to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. it was so much fun...we're gonna go back this year! (hopefully)


On the same weekend that my parents and my cousin delaney drove out from NY with my camaro. I also took delivery of my first Alfa GTV. It will be entered into VSCDA group 8 (eventually).

Next up we went to Gilbao Quarry in Ohio to get mel certified to go scuba diving. It reminded me why i like warm water diving!!

then the real reason for the certification...our trip to Aruba!

I took a short trip to Germany for work...my first time back since moving back to the states and luckily most of my german came back to me!

Followed by some new babies in the family! (not mine!)

and my first China Trip

....followed shortly thereafter by a Second Alfa! I think this one should have the license plate "impulsiv"

and maybe the best part was i got to do all that wit mel. oh man, better watch what i say!

Health-wise 09 was filled with good news (unlike 08). My cancer seems to be gone and i'm officially all done with treatments. Although i can't seem to bring myself to throughout my last dose of interferon (maybe because it costs like 4g's?). nevertheless, my most recent scans have all been clean and the doc's are optimistic.

I don't want to be to premature...but i think this bullet has been dodged!

well, not dodged. This one hit me. but didn't kill me!

This year is already gearing up to top 09. With a followup trip to omaha (w/mel), a visit to Amsterdam and Prague (w/mel), and driving school in the fall...it'll be hard not to! That girl is gonna be so sick of me! And hopefully i'll be doing some track events this year while i finish prepping my GTV start racing in 2011.

Cheers to a great 2010!

Here's some of my older "year in reviews".





Friday, January 01, 2010

What's the top web Video of 2009?

acc. to CNBC....

at 1:20 comes the great line "President Obama, Are you listening?"

here's the rest....