Friday, May 28, 2010

Good Read: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Michael Lewis has become one of my favorite authors (along with Malcolm Gladwell). Moneyball, the first of Lewis' books that I read, captivated me. I set out to read other works by him as soon as I finished. I have to admit, though I thoroughly enjoyed The Blind Side, I did not think there was a movie script there. I guess that's why I'm a car dealer and not a screenplay writer.

Like both Moneyball and The Blind Side, Lewis tells his story by following a host of characters that most of us have never heard of--people like Steve Eisman (the closest thing to a main character in the book), Vincent Daniel, Michael Burry, Greg Lippmann, Gene Park, Howie Hubler and others.

In The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Lewis takes the CDOs, credit default swaps, hedge funds, "swap banks" and other mysterious products and people, and explains them. Don't feel intimidated if you don't know what these are, because, as Lewis explains in the book, many of the people who were making a market in some of these products didn't know what they were either!

Lewis is a Wall Street alumnus (Salomon Brothers) from the mid-eighties. His book Liar's Poker deals with that. It seems in that book that he had seen the height of financial folly. However, even he was surprised by the much larger losses suffered in the recent crisis compared to the 1980s, which seem almost like child's play now.

I enjoyed this book. I listened to the audio book (as I do with most books I consume). I found it both educational and fascinating. Disclaimer: I was a finance major back in the dark ages and have always been interested in financial issues.

Given the complexity of the subject matter, The Big Short was easy to follow, funny and , above all, fascinating. You will understand the crisis better than anyone you know, and have a good time learning about it.

Have a Great Memorial Day Weekend!

So I am committed to this blog now. I have passed off the Facebook posting responsibilities for our store page to Paula and will now be blogging regularly. You can expect thought on lots of different topics here. It won't be all about cars; in fact it won't be much about cars.

If you use a news reader, I have added the gadget that allows you to subscribe to this nonsense. The subscription is priced right anyway! If you have thoughts or comments, please respond. Dialogue is much more fun than monologue.

So my wife, Judy, and 14 year-old daughter, Sarah, are off to DC to see our other daughter, Rachel, for the extended weekend. I know they are looking forward to their visit. I'm sure Rachel has all kinds of plans.

With the college-student son, Alex, in Omaha for the summer, that leaves me at home alone. I have my (Judy's) list written with dry-erase marker on the bathroom mirror: feed the dogs, water the flowers, and water the garden. That leaves the rest of the weekend wide open for a little sailing, a little golfing and some handyman work that needs to get done.

The forecast calls for wind, and lots of it, so the sailing will be at the top of the list. Golf and handyman projects be damned!

But Memorial Day weekend means time for the grill and even though I'm cooking for one, I am thinking about some kind of smoked pork project - maybe ribs, maybe a tenderloin. If I cook it early in the weekend, I can eat leftovers until Judy rescues me! I'll get back to you on that one and let you know how it turns out.

So in addition to remembering those who have sacrificed for our freedom this Memorial Day, please have a safe and happy holiday!