TimkenSteel – An American Company

Hot rounds

Image: TimkenSteel

I view investments with a similar buy & hold philosophy of Warren Buffet, but I’m not completely averse to trading out of positions if necessary, which is akin to the “buy and homework” philosophy of Jim Cramer. I suppose that makes me a Jimmy Buffet investor (rimshot).

I’ve been watching TimkenSteel (TMST), which was spun off from Timken Company (TKR) in June of 2014. You can read my complete analysis of the company’s business model and future here at Seeking Alpha.

TimkenSteel is an American manufacturer of specialty steel products for the energy, automotive and hi-spec industrial sectors.

In doing my research, I learned some interesting things about the steel industry.  A sidebar for you; comparing/contrasting steel and aluminum. Steel is a very recycle-friendly commodity, actually 100% recyclable. It maintains it’s steel essence regardless of the number of times it’s melted and reformed. Other metals are less so. In their production and life-cycle phases, such as in building autos, other ‘lightweight’ metals such as aluminum and magnesium emit more of the heavy, toxic greenhouse gasses GHGs (perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride) which have a much stronger global-warming impact than CO2. Betcha didn’t know that.

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World Steel Association, Environmental Case Studies

 

The Trilogy Expands

I’ve just released Book II of my Texas crime trilogy.

“Alice” is another noir look at the synesthetic Texas ranger, Lamar McNelly, but with a transition to a new joehefferton_alice_3d (1)character, Lieutenant Chucho Zarate, a stalwart family man who suffers for the actors in his investigations.

One of the goals of this series is to tell overlapping crime stories about recurring characters, but with distinctions in voice, as if a few guys in hats are occupying the smokey corner of a bar, each telling a different story about McNelly or some other tangent tale.

Men like to tell stories in bars. It keeps them busy so there’s more time to marinate ice cubes. These Texans share similar histories and other commonalities, but have unique styles of recounting the events of their lives. The facts, well; they’re just sort of a jumping-off point. It’s what stays with you after the story is told that matters.

Book one was written in a southern vernacular, book two is more urban, a little Elmore Leonard with a string tie and a Chicano accent.

The first story is self-contained. Book two keeps the door open to a sequel. I’ll get there, the yeast is in the brew.

I’d like to thank Maggie Pazian and Mike Palestina of The People-Intell Institute for helping me understand the nuances of emotional expression. They are the best there is.

I’d also like to thank my UK friend, Rachael Spellman, for her insight to the world of synaesthesia (British spelling for her). Rachael is a wonderfully talented writer. I enviously recommend her work. Spoiler alert: she’ll captivate you.

‘Texas Noir’ doesn’t really flow well off the tongue, but screams for help do. Own the series today or wait for the set. Whatever lets your blood.

Free Speech Matters

tempThe terrorist attacks on French targets has reignited the debate over free speech in the US, along with the overtly subjective term, hate speech, which the everyone-gets-a-trophy crowd seeks to ban without considering the implications.

The First Amendment is not there to coddle niceties, but rather to vehemently protect the most reprehensible of speech, because all freedom of expression matters, because when you begin to stifle one type of speech you put the government in the position of deciding what they are offended by. The point of the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights specifically, is not to tell us what we have the right to do but to remind the government of what they cannot do.

How would we feel if fundamentalist Christians were the majority in the Congress and passed legislation that said public proselytizing by Jews, Muslims and Buddhists was forbidden because it offended the majority of Americans. Is that the country we want to live in? What if a liberal-oriented Congress said that statements about big government or wasteful entitlement programs or support for entrepreneurs was ‘hateful’ to poor people and therefore banned? orwell

The hate-speech feel-gooders need to get their heads out of their asses and remember that the best way to protect all our freedoms is to staunchly protect the rights of every American, including the journalists, to hold any opinion they choose, so long as they don’t further their cause through violence against persons or property.

Here is an excellent article on the subject from Reason magazine from this past September. I urge you to read it. Don’t like that one? Read this one with comments from one of the great thinkers of our age, the late Christopher Hitchens.

Navios Maritime – A Strong Woman Has the Con

Courtesy Navios Maritime

It’s with a sort of sheepish enthusiasm I admit I’m fascinated by the massive vessels that move goods and commodities around the world. I recently published an overview of international shipping company, Navios Maritime, on Seeking Alpha.

Navios is led by Chair and CEO, Angeliki Frangou, who runs four shipping companies valued at more than $4Billion. Ms Frangou is a fifth-generation shipper who says simply, “Shipping is in my DNA.”

The shipping industry can be turbulent and the factors that go into evaluating such a company are varied and in a constant state of flux, shifting under commodity prices, world economics, weather and market capacity. “Shipping is a notoriously cyclical business. You have to be able to adapt and change to the new situations.”

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CEO Angeliki Frangou

But Ms Frangou has the kind of calm demeanor that commands respect and a vision for the future of her company that fosters confidence. She is typical of the kind of leader I’ve profiled for About.com. “The best companies in the world survive when you have a diverse way of thinking.” She stands alone and unflappable in a male-dominated industry.”I am blind to gender, race or religion, and, if you don’t see limitations, the future is ahead of you.”

Read the full review of Navios Maritime here.

Celebrating the Year End with Music

Take good care, 2014

What a great way to end an interesting year. I had the rare opportunity to interview a future star of the concert piano circuit, Russian-born virtuoso, Anastasia Huppmann. She spoke to me via Skype from a café in Vienna. Her friend, Dr Maria Babak, graciously and patiently helped with the translation. anastasia at piano

Anastasia is a child prodigy, coming of age in a competitive and challenging profession. Her drive is admirable; her insistence on knowing not just every nuance of the piece, but the composer as well, push her performances to higher plateaus.

Anastasia typifies the women I’ve been honored to meet, thanks to a little good fortune, but mostly because of the support of my friend, mentor, guide and editor at About.com, Lahle Wolfe. This is a woman who runs companies, edits her site, raises a family—one with more than a fair share of health issues—and manages to find the time and room in her heart to rescue horses. I’m guessing she gets roughly 2-3 hours sleep a night.

All the women I’ve been privileged to meet this year, including Anthoula Katsimatides and Divine Capital Markets CEO, Danielle Hughes, possess an uncommon grit and perseverance that essentially says, “Yeah, there’ve been obstacles—so what? I’ve got goals, and family, and I set a higher standard for myself than others expect of me, so get out of the way.”

I’m looking forward to my next interview. I can’t wait to make a new friend and learn another valuable lesson in positive drive.

I’m a better man because of the women I’ve learned from. It’s a lesson we all should embrace.

Read the full profile of Anastasia Huppmann here.

Enjoy her latest video

“What Will People Think?”

Anthoula twitter

Anthoula Katsimatides – actor, writer, entrepreneur

I almost began this review of a one-woman show written and performed by Anthoula Katsimatides with a cliché, ‘last night I had the pleasure of…’, but it strikes me as more of a humbling experience I feel honored to have attended, and I would dishonor such a terrific show by starting with a hack line. Yet…

Her show has all the trappings of a complete production: laughter, music, memories, sadness and hope. Well-written and thoughtfully directed. It was indeed a pleasure.

Anthoula’s show follows her family from the poor volcanic island of Nisyros, where her parents were born, through her small family’s accomplished yet tragic history and finally to her reconciliation of old-world rules with the lion-hearted actress aching to be an individual.

Anthoula is a funny, scrappy and passionate Hellenic woman, who tells her story in a way that grabs you by the shirt and dares you to look away. In the classic comic/tragic manner, Anthoula brings you in closer by sharing a laugh about family rules, then punches you in the heart with chunk of reality that had more than a few people in the intimate setting of Theater Row reaching for tissues.

The audience seemed to be experiencing her pain together, maybe dissipating it a little for her—a sort of collective effort of support, an emergent behavior of the group, sharing in her charisma, the cursing, the tears and the unanswerable questions. This kind of thing doesn’t happen by accident. Anthoula made it so.

Rule Number One: Preserve, promote and perpetuate your Hellenic culture, because ‘what will people think’ if you don’t.

No worries, Anthoula—you did your family, and your culture, proud. Watching Anthoula perform her story, I felt as though I got to participate in rhetorical history. I found myself inching forward on my seat as if it would bring me closer to the energy. She often speaks in Greek during the show, but it is so perfectly in context that even the unwashed like me can get the jokes. If you’ve ever seen Eddie Izzard perform you know that’s no easy task.

The order of the other rules is immaterial, mostly because they are of equal value, and subordinate to a central question every good little Greek woman must ask about her actions, “What will people think?”

It’s a question that plagues more than a few ethnic cultures. It can prevent you from doing something stupid but can also be stifling. It prevents families from searching for help for the pregnant teen or the alcoholic son, because the family tries to keep the dark secret in-house. It inevitably destroys it like a parasite from the inside out. Anthoula worked for many years to sort through it all and it seems she’s finally figured out how to hang on to the goodness of culture and tradition while defying the corrosive parts with honesty and joy. She jokes that when she finally went on vacation alone for the first time it was like ‘being on parole’.

Technically speaking? Anthoula is a marvel of efficiency, giving us just enough of the important characters in her life to make us laugh or relate, but more than enough for us to recognize them in an instant. All Anthoula had to do was cross her arms, stretch her neck and thrust her chin just so and we knew ‘Baba’ (her dad) was about to speak. It was brilliant in its simplicity, giving us precisely what we needed to be entertained.

The show, which ran about 50 minutes, was peppered with music, videos, snippets of dance and sudden sadness. All of it perfectly timed to enhance the book, or portend the drama. When that telephone would ring…oh boy.

It was never good news. We relived her horror of learning of her brother Mikey’s suicide from her brother John’s call and an audio of what could only be described as a New York cop’s voice, reading from the report of the cause and manner of death. Direct, clinical, heartrending. You could feel the silence in the audience. Whenever she spoke of death, her father’s or Mikey’s or John’s (hang on), she donned her black veil and lit a candle. The room fell into darkness and we heard the most beautiful and haunting Greek lament, sung by a men’s choir. It played just long enough to make the point, give you chills and yes, well up. Hey, it’s family.

Within moments we were smiling again as Anthoula told us how her brother John pulled her from the crevasse of sorrow and made her, and us, appreciate life. We laughed, danced and tossed back a shot. “Life is friggin’ awesome, Anthoula.”

John Katsimatides worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World trade Center and was killed on Nine-Eleven. Heart punch.

Anthoula worked for Governor George Pataki, who asked her to be a part of the healing for families of victims of the attack as Vice President for Family Relations of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. Anthoula KatsimatidesHe must be an insightful man to know that only such a resilient and loving woman like Anthoula could struggle with her own grief while giving countless hours to helping others deal with their own. She pulled it off, of course, and through friends and chance, found herself expressing her acting genes. We’re lucky she did. I predict great things from her. It’s her time.

Anthoula is a naturally funny woman, with a deep, clear voice that holds your attention. I’ve met her before, here .

She had the audience in hysterics, but the laughter also served to counter her vulnerability, the woman who is one more sudden family loss from giving up. We pray she won’t have to.

In the HBO drama series, ‘True Detectives’, Matthew McConaughey’s character says, “The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.” It’s a simple truth .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJXznk6cFk0

Here’s another. The world needs strong women. They make us work harder, force us to see the light and push us to be better than we were yesterday. They make us desire more while reminding us to be grateful for what we have. Some of them make us reach for our swords to follow her through the battle, to fight alongside her. To protect her.

Thanks for the honor, Anthoula.

 

 

Scattergun

joehefferon_3dOn October 10, 2014, I’ll be releasing a short piece of fiction on Smashwords.
Scattergun is a tale of violence, a glimpse at a fractured mind on the loose in the rural west in the war years of the 1940s.
It’s not a vision of hope in man’s inherent goodness, if that even exists. It’s a story based in the truth of depravity, the one we shut out. We call for justice, but what we really want is to feel safe. Despite our misgivings about dealing harshly with frightening acts committed at the impulses of unsound minds, sometimes it takes a violent man to confront violence, regardless of its absence of malice, if only to stop the menace so we can feel secure in our bunks.
Scattergun is raw but not gory, stark but stained with color.
It’s written in a voice I’m unaccustomed to writing in, an homage to the poetry of Trumbull Stickney, Cormac McCarthy and Sydney Lanier, an earthy yet thoughtful vernacular.
Scattergun—A Reckoning in Two Acts
I hope you enjoy it.

She Comes

Photo WFU MuseumInside this stone house of fragile mortar, one room, a cold stove and the razor winds finding me in the wool coat, worn thin in decades past and lingering still. Looking thru the slatted windows at the frozen flatlands, the particles, the mist, the silver dawn. The trees, scant and skeletal like Mexican brides in a Halloween parade but I can’t paint the color in, only umber grays, slumber grays, and streaks of wheat-colored sunlight from a morning yet unbidden, bones in agony, filtered by a thousand moaning souls cold and charred. The treetops are severed by the cracked boards in my line of sight and when I shift to find them I lose the ground like an aging, sightless bird in his final glorious flight remembering his predatory youth, but I see her flying over the snow-puddled prairies dropping icy pellets of crystal rain on my bare skin, while I pick the roots in forage, the smell of new-sawn wood for reasons I can’t explain, fills my head and softens the pain of the hard earth underfoot, under my raw kneecaps teetering on the small flat stones.
Move away from the window. I sit on my heels on the straw floor and wait for her as board by board the vortex pulls the roof to shreds exposing me to the noon-high sun, formless against a white sky and the wedding dance rattles empty bones in the fields about, hollow as quills, knocking like cheap souvenir chimes and it’s my time.
She comes to the doorway, flowers in her hair. My back is to her but I know it is her by the colors seeping over the room, bleeding into life, florid blues and flaming orange walls before me and it warms my body and I smile. She takes me.

One of my favorite poems:

Mnemosyne
Trumbull Stickney

It’s autumn in the country I remember

How warm a wind blew here about the ways!
And shadows on the hillside lay to slumber
During the long sun-sweetened summer-days.

It’s cold abroad the country I remember.

The swallows veering skimmed the golden grain
At midday with a wing aslant and limber;
And yellow cattle browsed upon the plain

It’s empty down the country I remember.

I had a sister lovely in my sight:
Her hair was dark, her eyes were very sombre;
We sang together in the woods at night.

It’s lonely in the country I remember.

The babble of our children fills my ears,
And on our hearth I stare the perished ember
To flames that show all starry thro’ my tears.

It’s dark about the country I remember.

There are the mountains where I lived. The path
Is slushed with cattle-tracks and fallen timber,
The stumps are twisted by the tempests’ wrath.

But that I knew these places are my own,
I’d ask how came such wretchedness to cumber
The earth, and I to people it alone.

It rains across the country I remember.

Lara Fabian

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Lara Fabian (photo unknown)

Little boys have dreams. For me they began in 1967 or ’68 or later; I can’t be sure. I tend to be bad at placing memories in the right time slots but when I think of my youth it helps in a perverse way if I try to determine if something happened before or after my father died, which was in July of 1968. This helps and hurts at the same time. It’s like explaining a right cross by punching yourself in the face. Whenever it was I remember running into my mother’s room to tell her about something that certainly must have been magic or divine. I noticed as I read my book about space travel I could picture what the narrative described in my mind. It was an awakening. It was my first taste of the heroin that books can be.
The next book I owned was “King Henry and His Knights of the Round Table” by Roger Lancelyn Green. I loved the story so much that I began to cherish the physical book as this echanted box that held a majestic world captive within the binding. To this day, some 45 years later, I am always careful not to crease the spines of my novels. I’ve never folded a corner to mark my place and notes well; they are for notebooks. I suppose I’ve marked up non-fiction works for study and reference but not my novels, not ever.
Books are precious. Books allowed me to visit places where my father wasn’t dead. He wouldn’t get the chance to die again in someone else’s story, unless I put him there, imagining him the vaquero, the astronaut, the guy who came home after work. So I read and read more, and at least for the time I could immerse myself in the story I did not have to feel sad and I did not have to be reminded that life isn’t fair, and sometimes, that it felt so awful I surely must feel worse than my brothers or my sister or even my mother. Determining which of us felt worse was as good an excuse as any to begin the lifelong skirmish between shared loss and sibling rivalry.
But from novels, the gallant knights pushed deep into the heroic center of my brain those unassailable virtues of chivalry, wisdom, bravery and the poetry of love’s spoken word. These virtues, which I regularly abandoned throughout my life, still haunt me, calling me from the great misty forests of Camelot to be the better man than the one I’ve chosen to be too many times, then slaying the dark knights in my head to win out over regret.
I can almost always find the better feelings listening to the future angel Lara Fabian sing in a language I don’t understand but love because of the way it makes me feel when a Lara or an Audrey Tautou or a black & white Catherine Deneuve speaks in lyrical or angry tones, or when one of them whispers in that way French women do that always, always, makes me want to run gasping to a departing train and find her there inside, warm, safe and perfectly pretty, looking up at me from under the sad brim of her hat.
Isabel Allende says, “We all feel younger than our real age because the spirit never ages.” When Lara sings, when Audrey smiles, when I find Catherine late at night in an unexpected movie—I am a boy again. I see Guinevere. I see why books are written about kings and armies and the men who fight them, if only for the chance to return to her, and promise never again to abandon her side as she pulls me close and says, “Si vous me laissez encore, je vais vous traquer et trancher la gorge.” Those French chicks are tough.