17 Things

Augusta, Rometty, and the 'tiresome busybody'

The Globe and Mail

IBM CEO Virginia Rometty watches the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament from the gallery on the 18th green Sunday, April 8, 2012, in Augusta, Ga. (Chris O'Meara)

Some things-with-a-twist we noticed this week. Get the top business stories on weekdays on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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Augusta, Masters, Rometty, and the ‘tiresome busybody’ I set some people on edge earlier this week with an online column suggesting sexism is no different than racism, and that the Augusta National Golf Club should have offered a membership to IBM's new CEO, Virginia Rometty, just as it did with the last four CEOs, all of them men.

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Many of the responses - via e-mail and online comments - were thoughtful, polite contributions to the debate, and intelligent whether the writers agreed with me or not. That's something we encourage at The Globe and Mail. Some, though, were aimed more at me than the discussion. I don't mind, I can take it. But given that we rarely get a chance to react to these types of comments, I thought I'd share some of my favourites, with my responses.

This G&M writer should go back to skule and look up the term "racism" in a book. Females are not a race. Discriminating against any sex is sexism, not "akin to racism." (I admit I goofed off a bit in high school, but I've learned a lot since then. I can even spell misogynistic and sophomoric.)

You probably don't even play golf, do you, Mr. Babad? (No. Aussie rules football. Now, that's a man's game.)

No, you tiresome busybody, this is not akin to racism. (I am so not tiresome.)

In case Mr. Badad didn't know or take the time to acquaint himself, Augusta Golf Course is a Private Club and as such, has the right like the NDP or any private organization to decide who can or can not join same. (I asked the NDP for its response on this one, and National Director Chantal Vallerand said there's just one rule: You can't already belong to another federal party. So it appears they do discriminate against Liberals and Tories, but I'm pretty sure that means they accept women.)

Trying to make this racist by the Globe and Mail is an insult to Augusta National and The Master. (I'm still trying to decide whether dropping the "s" was a typo, or deliberate and witty.)

Playing chicken The next time I'm threatened by a tsunami, I'll try to make sure I don't forget the fried chicken. KFC Thailand apologized this week after a Facebook posting amid the tsunami fears that suggested people get home as soon as they could, follow the news and not "forget to order your favourite KFC menu," according to The Associated Press.

Lagarde's busy day IMF chief Christine Lagarde has weighty issues on her mind. Via Twitter, @Lagarde warned at 12:26 p.m. Thursday that "Global situation still fragile. Work needed to keep crisis at bay, then put it behind us." That came less than an hour after she noted at 11:35 a.m. that "I posted a new photo to Facebook."

You can dance if you want to JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Jamie Dimon seems to dance through many an issue. The thing is, he's actually "a terrible dancer," his wife Judy told Bloomberg News at a gala sponsored by the Wall Street giant. She even demonstrated for the reporter, simply moving her shoulders up and down.

Room service Here's a good rule of thumb: If a six-foot alligator finds its way to your motel, don't try to catch it. The guy who did, at the Super 8 in Port Allen, La., ended up in the hospital, The Advocate reports. Front desk clerk Matt Marszal told the news outlet that the man wanted to catch it before Animal Control came to the rescue.

Licence to brew Shaking or stirring your beer doesn't make much sense, so the screenwriters on the next James Bond film are going to have to change something up. The Village Voice reports that the Bond group has struck what's believed to be a $45-million (U.S.) deal with Heineken that would see 007 drinking beer, not a martini, in the soon-to-be-released Skyfall.

Colour commentary of the week "North Korea’s rocket program appears to be at greater risk of an imminent 'hard landing' than China’s economy. But beyond that, Friday’s Q1 GDP data told us little about the prospects for China’s commodity demand over the rest of the year and into 2013."

Tweets of the week From @amaeryllis: "typical man. RT @inaworldofideas: rocket appears to have flown for one minute before crashing into the ocean and has had no impact" From @MrsRupertPupkin: "Please let my parents know I requested my eulogy to be fewer than 140 characters." From @ezraklein: "Rick Santorum dropping out of the presidential race. Wants to spend less time with Newt Gingrich." From @EditorParker: "This year, The Surrey Sunday Intermediate Cup Final will be held on a Tuesday." From @abcnews: "@wittier hi, we're the AUSTRALIAN Broadcasting Corporation."

Oh, to be the boss The top six people at Caterpillar Inc. enjoyed overall compensation of $41.6-million (U.S.) last year, according to documents filed with regulators. The 700 or so people who worked at the locomotive plant in London, Ont., run by a Caterpillar subsidiary, aren't enjoying much of anything. The company shut down the plant when they refused to take pay cuts of up to 50 per cent.

The Iceman cometh ... to bankruptcy court Reddy Ice Holdings Inc., which bills itself as the biggest maker and distributor of packaged ice in the U.S., is filing for Chapter 11 creditor protection, saying it "expects to commence the bankruptcy case promptly" and hopes to emerge in 45 days or less. Well, yes, given the type of business, you would want to move quickly. Just in time for summer.

Naked truth Sgt. Jonathan Stewart of the Lubbock, Tex., police told The Associated Press that authorities are watching the city's small Fantasy Maid Service, which doesn't have a permit for a sexually oriented business. To which the 26-year-old owner of the company responded simply that "I run a maid service." They just happen to do their cleaning in the buff. They also offer a "law enforcement discount."

Police presents Greek police have decided to start charging for their private services, a way to help fund themselves amid the country's raging debt crisis. They used to provide companies and individuals protection for free but now will charge €30 an hour. We're not talking about normal police protection, more like a vehicle escort. Police patrol boats can be had for €200, Reuters reports, and helicopters for €1,500.

Death and taxes I never knew there was an American Association of Wine Economists, but I highly recommend its research. Here's the abstract from a working paper by Koen Deconinck and John Swinnen of the University of Leuven: "The present-day border between Belgium and the Netherlands traces back to the separation of the Low Countries after the Dutch Revolt (1566-1648) against Spanish rule. The capacity to finance war expenditures played a central role in the outcome of this conflict. Excise taxes on beer consumption were the single largest income source in Holland, the leading province of the Dutch Republic. Beer taxes thus played a crucial role in financing the Dutch Revolt, which led to the separation of the Low Countries and, eventually, the creation of Belgium."

Easy life and taxes Fifty-four per cent of Canadians actually enjoy preparing their tax filings, according to an Ipsos Reid survey for the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada. One interesting tidbit from the study is that 24 per cent of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 have their parents put together what they need to file their taxes, and 25 per cent have their parents actually file the returns. "With the complexities of the tax system, it is great to see Canadians taking an active role," said CGA-Canada CEO Anthony Ariganello. (Let me just add that it's great to see so many of them have figured out how to get someone else to do it for them.)

May the odds of getting one be ever in your favour Mattel Inc. may have a new killer product on its hands. Given the stunning box office success of The Hunger Games, its Katniss Everdeen doll could be a hot seller. Considering the bow and arrow, she's clearly not in the same league as Hope Diamond Barbie, Pop Icon Barbie and Shoe Obsession Barbie.

On thin ice The Toronto Maple Leafs went so far this week as to take out a full-page ad apologizing for a dismal performance. Queen's University marketing professor Ken Wong notes that in business, apologies from suppliers frequently come with something more concrete, like a discount, credit or refund. Says the professor, however: "Does the same apply in the world of professional sports? It really depends on what you think we ‘hire’ the Leafs to provide. If you are only a fan when the Maple Leafs are winning, then you are more than justified to ask for something more tangible than an apology. However, as you hear so often on talk shows, in bars and in the corporate offices – pro sports is entertainment, just like theater or music or dance. Whether due to ineptness or bewilderment or feeling good or bad – I would argue, the Maple Leafs did their job of entertaining fans."

Take this job and ... A new ranking by CareerCast lists software engineer, actuary, human resources manager, dental hygienist and financial planner as the top five jobs of 2012. The worst five, in reverse order with the worst at the top, include lumberjack, dairy farmer, enlisted military soldier, oil rig worker and, gasp, newspaper reporter.