"I am stunned that he would be out speechifying the first week he was off the job." -- Donald Straszheim of Straszheim Global Advisors on Alan Greenspan possibly upstaging successor Ben Bernanke with his public appearances and planned memoir, to USA Today
Maybe it seems like you spend half your life on the phone with a call center in India. But in India itself, call centers actually are seeping into everyday life, appearing in a wave of popular sitcoms and books. India Calling, a hot Indian TV show on Rupert Murdoch's STAR (NWS) channel, depicts a small-town girl who lands in Bombay in search of her absconding sister. She finds a job in a call center instead. Viewers follow the highs and lows of the work, which attracts thousands of young Indians. "Call center jobs are now part of India's social fabric, offering immense scope for romance, politics, hatred, all creating high drama," says Shristi Behl Arya, who is the show's producer.
Indeed, the customer service scene in India is anything but boring. Centers can be a hotbed of hormones; some average a marriage a month, often outside traditional bounds of caste and economic status. The Call Center, a show coming soon to channel NDTV, takes potshots at Americans venting their angst about losing jobs to the Indians on the other end of the wire. A best-selling book, One Night @ The Call Center, touches on love, bad bosses, even God (appearing, naturally, in a phone call). Then there are the jokes making the rounds: When a man complains to a doctor about insomnia, the doctor suggests working at a call center as the remedy.
Michael Eisner now knows they can put your name on the building, but that doesn't guarantee a warm welcome back. Eisner, who left Walt Disney (DIS) as CEO on Sept. 30, was honored on Jan. 23 when Disney named its Burbank headquarters building after him. But later that day, the board turned down Eisner's last pitch: a plea to pull out of talks to buy Steve Jobs' Pixar Animation Studios. (PIXR) For nearly a half-hour, Eisner argued that $7.4 billion was too much to pay for a studio that had only six films to its credit, albeit blockbusters such as Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Eisner argued that Pixar's streak was bound to end and, when it did, Disney would look like it acted rashly.
Those with knowledge of the talks, first reported by the New York Post, say the board felt it owed it to Eisner to listen. After all, he still holds 1.7% of Disney's stock. But directors factored in Eisner's feud with Jobs, who last year said he would walk away from Disney deals if Eisner stayed. Eisner also may have lost sway after deciding in October to quit the board a year earlier than anticipated, say Disney insiders. His contract allowed him to serve as a creative consultant to the company, they say, but he chose to pursue other opportunities. Eisner has said he backs his successor, Robert Iger, who put the Pixar deal together. Disney had no comment.
Today's CEOs are less likely than predecessors to be company loyalists or military veterans, says the latest census by recruitment outfit Spencer Stuart. They're also more apt to know the words to If You Want to Be a Badger. In 2005, 14 of the CEOs at S&P (MHP) 500 companies held undergrad degrees from the University of Wisconsin. That puts it in a tie with Harvard for first place, ahead of Princeton, Stanford, Yale, and the University of Texas. Top Badgers include Halliburton's (HAL) David Lesar (zoology), Kimberly-Clark's (KMB) Thomas Falk (accounting), Exelon's (EXC) John Rowe (history), and Qwest's (Q) Richard Notebaert (political science).
On Feb. 19 some of the biggest names in cycling will line up for the inaugural Tour of California. The race, which covers 600 miles in eight days, is billed as cycling's biggest event this side of the Atlantic. Yet much of the buzz surrounding the race hasn't been about its elite field or scenic course but its title sponsor, Amgen (AMGN). The Thousand Oaks (Calif.) company's red cell-boosting drugs Aranesp and Epogen (commonly known as Epo) were developed to help cancer and kidney patients -- but they also happen to be among the banned performance-enhancing drugs used by athletes.
Amgen has backed charity cycling events, but this is its first pro race. When the company announced its three-year sponsorship of the tour, cyclists snickered and the World Anti-Doping Agency voiced concern that Amgen was sending a mixed message. "We realized there would be critics," says Mary Klem, a company spokeswoman. Nevertheless, she says, Amgen put its name on the event to build recognition and campaign against blood doping, not to promote Epo to athletes who purchase it on the black market. "That market is inconsequential," says Klem. "It would be in our best interest for it to go away."
WHY READ IT
To listen in on the cyberchatter of some of the best designers in the business -- six talented writers and a bevy of guest observers comparing notes.
"Design is, more than ever, a way to relate to the world around us. Our fascination with design, as both a process and an ideal, is reflected in the products and services that are increasingly available to the general public. We can customize nearly all the things we consume, turning mass-produced stuff into our stuff."
Wine enthusiasts no longer have any excuse for buying a bad bottle. With the launch of Robert Parker Mobile, they can consult the wine critic's renowned "million-dollar nose" anytime, anywhere, by cell phone. The service, developed by mobile publisher mFoundry, will deliver Parker's wine-tasting notes and ratings from The Wine Advocate to any Sprint Nextel phone (other carriers are being added) for $4.99 per month, plus Internet charges.
Subscribers can get Wine of the Day suggestions and special buying opportunities from Parker's newsletter. Or they can search by keyword or category (region, vintage, variety, rating, producer, cost) using their phones' numeric pads and arrow keys. There's even some original content, such as previously unpublished tasting notes.
Parker says he expects people to use the service mostly in wine shops. But, he jokes, "I'm sure we're going to hear some howls from sommeliers at fine restaurants."
Quintessential California drive-in chain In-N-Out Burger has built a cult-like following among fast-food gourmands for its juicy grilled patties and "secret" menu items. But the beef these days at the family-owned, 200-plus restaurant outfit isn't its trademark Double-Doubles but allegations that the chain's 23-year-old heir, Lynsi Martinez, and others are plotting to force out her 86-year old grandmother, the wife of the founder. It's a soap opera that includes allegations of fraud and a backroom power play. Matriarch Ester Snyder is alleged in court documents to have told ex-employee Richard Boyd that they "only want me dead."
The saga is playing out in a state court in Los Angeles where Boyd, a former In-N-Out real estate vice-president and board member, claims Martinez and her stepsister's husband, Vice-President Mark Taylor, maneuvered to oust Boyd and take over the chain. Under the guidelines of a trust set up when Martinez' father, H. Guy Snyder, died in 1999, she would gain control of the company on her 30th birthday. Boyd, one of two trustees, claims Martinez wants control now.
Now Boyd is fighting from the outside: On Jan. 31 the company fired him, claiming an outside audit discovered he had used company funds to do work at his Arizona home. Boyd's lawyer, Philip Heller, disputes the audit. He says Boyd was fired in a meeting not attended by Snyder, who had said in a declaration weeks earlier that she trusted him "completely." In-N-Out general counsel Arnold Wensinger calls Boyd's claim "a vicious and baseless attack." Martinez says Boyd circulates "outrageous fabrications and untruths about me and my grandma" in a "desperate effort to draw attention away from his own misdeeds."
President Bush may be overlooking a potent source of alternative energy. Last year artist Laurie Palmer called for "speculative proposals to redesign exercise equipment to generate and store energy." The resulting ideas, on display at the University of Illinois' Web site, are mostly whimsical. But as energy costs rise, is the "Pedal Powered Office" really that far off? Here are some of the other proposals.
By Clay Ward and Heather Clark
Bring your toughest suds to this 24-hour gym-powered Laundromat. Bikes rigged to washing machines require fierce footwork to power your clothes through a permanent press cycle.
HUMAN POWER CONVERSION
By Raj Pandian
Pandian, a Tulane University professor, is serious about this prototype seesaw. In time, child's play could be converted into power for a school's lights and fans in developing nations.
HARVARD SCIENCE CENTER GYM
By Oliver Knill
Even the biggest brains can't ditch P.E. when the gym comes to the Science Center. Faculty and students stepping up a steep spiral staircase supply the power for the relaxing elevator ride back down.