Friday, December 29, 2006

A year in Grousing

As the 2006 Grouse year draws to a close, it seems worthwhile to take a minute or two to reflect on what's gone on. 2006 milestones for the Grouse include:

  • 10,000 hits. This was huge. Very few ever reach this elusive goal.
  • The epic battle with TIAA-CREF. Losers. They should get it together and let our money go!
  • Travel. We've seen posts from as far afield as Texas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, New York, Washington, North Carolina. Lets just hope that 2007 takes us to some more interesting places. Time will tell.
  • Wit. The Grouse has been infallibly hilarious.
  • Wisdom. Shit is deep, yo.
Anyhow, I'll do what I can to carry out the text generative function into the New Year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday cheer

5th Avenue is packed today with tourists enjoying the mildness of the weather we must come to expect going forward. And also one cinematically hunched over homeless woman in her 60s who hissed when someone bumped into her: "you stupid fucking cunt...", striking fear into the heart of a visitor to our fair city.

Meanwhile I made haste to the falafel stand, where I got one with hot sauce for me, one without for Yeager, and a couple of lattkes. While ordering and transacting I noticed my voice taking on the classically metro area Jewish tones of someone else's family, not mine. Mary always mocks me for speaking in the accent of those I'm ordering food from, but sometimes I can't help it. Why not luxuriate in the dialects one encounters, and enjoy them in good health?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Run over by the holidays

Not to grouse. But I'm having a hard time catching up. The cards are late going out. The letter just barely written.

Xmas eve chock full of activities: aquarium, Xmas pageant, exercise. Bloggging on the sly, and now Graham's downstairs having a fit.

At least there was no traffic on the way here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The double decker train

Heading back home from Wall Street this evening, I took the PATH to Newark and was surprised and delighted to see double decker train pull in. It was, theoretically, cool. It looked cool. It was a local, but I knew I had to ride on it.

And so I did. There are problems. You can't put your coat overhead, because there's no overhead rack. It's kind of claustrophobic.

But there are a lot of seats, and it gives you that Japanese feel of density, for whatever that's worth.

I know the kids will love it. Graham was totally into the short-hop round trip we did the other day, just for fun.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Keep me away from databases

Somehow, in the course of surviving the last few years, I've learned how to use SQL Server. Sort of. I know just enough to be dangerous to myself. Something about the command line and slicing and dicing data, while cool, ends of freaking me out. There's so much you can do, and the results always pretty much look good, that it becomes difficult to figure out if it's right or wrong or what. It looks pretty tough to be doing the analysis, but it's not good for me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Santa and his elves

In general as consultants we make an effort to dress as well as if not a touch better than the client, but to be roughly in tune with their sartorial sensibility. But in one regard we are failing miserably: Christmas wear. Out here in the MidWest, all the security guards wear Christmas ties, and many of the women sport smashing Christmas sweaters, with Santas, bells, snowmen, the whole kit and kiboodle. Today, one brave soul even had bells, ribbons, and a bow affixed to his noggin. No sir, in the matter of yule garb, they haven't come up with a usable model for consultants.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Back in Cincinnati

At my desk in the hotel with a fine view of I-75 out my window, where the trucks rumble north into the distance, carrying who knows what hopes and dreams with them? Just kidding.

Meanwhile, I've been haunted in recent weeks by Steve Winwood's "While You See a Chance", which was playing first in a fish restaurant, then last week on our flight back to Newark from Omaha, and now this week on the flight out from Newark. I have no idea when the last time I heard that song was. Now it's like my frickin soundtrack, as if some Muzakmeister thinks its my demographic.

The only thing worse, sadly, is the Peanuts Xmas soundtrack of Vince Guaraldi, which has become dangerously overexposed. Yes, I too own a copy, and I like playing it around the holidays, but now I feel like I'm pounded by it wherever I go. They were playing it at the airport. At Hertz they played some adaptations of the classic themes. It's as if it's become a general secular bit of canonical yule tunesmanship. Which is a shame, because it is great.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Historic Morven, in the state of striving

The kids and I popped into Morven today, former residence of a Declaration of Independence signer, a Johnson (of Johnson & Johnson), and NJ governors. We went for a festival of Xmas trees. Mostly to kill time.

Admission was 5 dollars, so I went in the gift shop to pay as instructed. All around was hush, WASPs examining precious trinkets in a demure lime green interior. A half-full beverage fridge in the corner contained an appropriate array of drinks: Poland Springs, Perrier, and some sort of "white tea" (who ever heard of white tea?) A woman in a Laura Ashley dress provided methodical, fastidious, and excruciatingly slow service to people in line. When I finally got to the front of the line, I asked how much I owed, assuming that at least Graham if not Natalie as well would be free. No no, she tells me, "during the holidays we charge for everyone." That's the holiday spirit we know and love so well, and it reflects well on such corporate sponsors as Merrill Lynch and US Trust.

Once in the house, there are plenty of signs of New Jersey's eternal striving. On the second floor is a 1957 quasi imperial sideboard, which was actually mocked by its own placard, which informs us that it had been brought in during a "restoration" (the quotes are theirs) when getting the mansion ready for gubernatorial occupancy back then. Clearly, we know what real restorations are now.

A couple of rooms away is an enormous toy mansion, with lots of quite realistic and cool rooms and features. But, to drive it all home, there are little "Can you see this?" signs around the base of the house, directing viewers to search for individual items, such as:

  • A Tiffany lamp
  • A Remington sculpture
  • The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam
  • A box of Band Aids (a Johnson & Johnson product)
Ah yes, eternal brand consciousness for all ages.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Go heels, ya

Had a little time to hit the "next blog" button this afternoon, and came of the blog of Rosan Rai, one of the most sensitive young Nepalese pop fans out there. Note that Rosan and his crew know what's up when it comes to ball.

What's it's all about

All too often I'm asked what my blog is about. I stumble and fumble.

But at the end of the day, it's about a couple of things. At the end of a bad day, it's about how fucking smart I am, how much smarter I am than whatever I'm carrying on about. At the end of a good day, it's about something small that makes living interesting or worthwhile, a fresh facet of being.

For my readers' sake, lets hope that the good days outnumber the bad.

Graham writes his name

Mary brought me a piece of rough-hewn color in the lines kid art this morning, with the letters "B A H M" scrawled across the top. Upon closer inspection, the B was a G, and it became clear to us that someone had been writing Graham's name. It seemed improbable that it was him, but, when questioned, he allowed that he had in fact written these letters.

Which is pretty impressive. As is the fact that he can count to thirteen when playing hide-and-seek, before he starts to get challenged. What's interesting is that Natalie also got confused somewhere around 13 or 14 when she was learning to count. I wonder if it has to do with exceeding the # of fingers you have, then maxing out.

All good.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Nutcracker

This morning as I was coming downstairs Natalie was stomping around the Christmas tree a touch while humming the sugarplum fairy theme from the Nutcracker. Pretty cute. Which reminded me of the post I had been meaning to pound out about the production Natalie and I took in last Saturday, with her friend Helen as an angel.

Susan Jaffe, late of the American Ballet Theatre, runs the Princeton Dance & Theater Studio, which put this on. It was pretty darn cool. First off, she must have had some ringers in there, cuz there were people who could flat out dance. So there was quality.

Just as importantly, there was range. In the first Xmas party scene, there was a couple in there 70s that played Grandma and Grandpa. They didn't dance much, just sat on a couch and then took a few graceful steps near the front of the stage. Later there was a little girl of perhaps 4 with a candle, who did mostly walking and sitting too. In between there was a bit of every age range. My favorite was a skinny black boy candycane with a hoop, the lone male on stage with maybe 11 girls. The whole time he was out there he was grinning from ear to ear, visibly enraptured. At school, you might think, he was a prime candidate for a fag-bashing ass-whupping, but on stage he was totally in his element. It's not everyday you see a production as able to enfold as many different life stages, but there it was. I'd see it again tomorrow, if I weren't so damned cheap.

Flatland beverages

I spotted Cheerwine in the grocery store in Lincoln, a rare sighting outside of North Carolina. Sadly, there were only 12-packs, and I wasn't there long enough for that.

So on my way from Lincoln to the airport in Omaha, along I-80, I stopped at a truck stop to see if I could get an individual Cheerwine. No luck. Instead, I had a Squirt. At the checkout, the woman took one look at me and, seeing that I was a rare non-trucker (the guy before me charged $273 in gas), she put on her most formal English: "Would you care for some potato wedges with that, sir?... Four dollars and 18 cents is your change, sir". I felt positively baronial. When I turned around, I saw this guy clutching what must have been a 48oz, sealed Pepsi pitcher to be filled with his favorite soft drinks.

At the airport, flight into Newark unsurprisingly delayed by almost 3 hours (which is normal for the afternoon). A 55-ish year old guy who looked like a character actor from the early 80s in the bar got a Long Island Ice Tea at about 4.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Misty's, a Lincoln Classic

Last night Gene and I went to Misty's, Lincoln, Nebraska's favorite haunt for Cornhusker spirit and prime rib. The restaurant is luxe a la 1972. There are round booths in which you can imagine Jim Rockford chatting up a perp or Barnaby Jones having nice glass of milk with Jedediah.

But the bar is something else entirely. A loving paean to Cornhusker football, which you can tell from the life size wood or plastic sculpture of a football player in the middle of the big round bar, as well as the copious collection of Leroy Neiman originals depicting great moments on the husker hustings. There is a Jaegermeister dispensing machine, which makes a gratuitous noise, and which was used to serve up two Mexican guys who were busy with a gambling machine of some sorts.

The steaks were good, though nothing else really was. Certainly not the mini-loaf of white bread served on a wooden cutting board, which was, despite being freshly baked, just white bread.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Once more, a Griswold

After yet another period where I've been excessively stressed out about work, reviews, etc., my palate is cleansed by another Clark W. Griswold experience in holiday decoration, though I was vexingly put down by Mary when I attempted to sneak twinkling lights that I had brought up from my mom's house onto the Christmas tree. That is not happening. I've said it before, I'll say it again, these Berridge kids are snobs when it comes to Christmas tree lighting.

But the tree still looks nice, and the kids dug trimming it, and we broke out the Christmas tunes, and then I strung up the front of the house, and played hide and seek in the yard, and all is well.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In front of strip mall, 1:02 PM

There they were, out in the sunlight at the half-moribund strip mall, in front of La Tienda Mexicana. Five big girls in their 20s standing out there in their parkas, smoking, up to no good. But it's not what you think it was. They were white chicks, of mixed Irish and other descent, it would seem.

You don't see this much back East.

This is not a high-net worth area, shall we say. Nearby are H & R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Cashland, all offering cash forwarding on income tax rebates. Also chicken nearby. Yum.

Jimmy V

I had every intention of blogging about something snide and condescending when, flicking around here at the hotel, when I chanced upon the image of Jim Valvano, in a tux, giving a speech at the 1993 ESPYs I didn't know what it was, but it had been a while since I had seen the guy, and he was always pretty compelling.

And he's up there reciting humorous and inspiring anecdotes, citing Lombardo, but it was only when he pointedly chose to disregard the ad prompter and referred to the tumors running through his body that I realized what was going on. And he stood there, before an audience, on TV, six weeks from death, and spoke with a directness that few of us dare even think to ourselves in the privacy of our skulls. When you look at the text of what he said, it doesn't convey the rare mix of charisma, purity of heart, and urgency that shot through his talk.

And there were Vitale and Krzyzewski helping him down from the stage, and you've got to wonder where Dean was. The NCAA final with Michigan wasn't for a month. He should have been there.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Revery at the SkyMall

On the flight out to the Midwest today, I picked up the SkyMall catalog for a bit to see what I had been missing. And what were they hawking today;

  • Laser-guided putter
  • Single-serve, hermetically-sealed packet espresso / capuccino machine for the home ("shitty coffee, just like at the office!")
  • Go anywhere portable icemaker ($399)
  • Travel mug with programmable thermostat
  • Radio and shower organizer... all in one!
For all this, we get global warming?

Seriously, this is the kind of gadget-driven idiocy and commercial soullesness that drives the one hand, both evangelicals and crunchsters out into the Third World to reconstruct and save souls, It's also the kind of thing that makes radical Islam's critique of modernity occasionally understandable. Really, who needs this stuff? Better to have your pride as a culture, and subjugate and/or behead women while you're at it.

Alright alright. I know that it's the same technological drive that gives us this stuff that has improved mortality for infants and adults alike, but still.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another day, another dolor

Maybe I'll write something later. Until then.

by John Donne

Some man unworthy to be possessor
Of old or new love, himself being false or weak,
Thought his pain and shame would be lesser,
If on womankind he might his anger wreak ;
And thence a law did grow,
One might but one man know ;
But are other creatures so?

Are sun, moon, or stars by law forbidden
To smile where they list, or lend away their light?
Are birds divorced or are they chidden
If they leave their mate, or lie abroad a night?
Beasts do no jointures lose
Though they new lovers choose ;
But we are made worse than those.

Who e'er rigg'd fair ships to lie in harbours,
And not to seek lands, or not to deal with all?
Or built fair houses, set trees, and arbours,
Only to lock up, or else to let them fall?
Good is not good, unless
A thousand it possess,
But doth waste with greediness.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

He of the gapped tooth

At the gate for our flight back from the midwest today, saw Cornell West. Unmistakably, fro, beard, suit and gap. When the delay was announced, he wandered off chatting on his phone, presumably to catch another flight, as he didn't come back.

A shame, I wanted to introduce myself to him. I've always wanted to ask him about the opening to his 1991 book Race Matters, the book that broke him through to the "mainstream" momentarily. To illustrate the problems of racism in America today, West recounts how he drove into Manhattan from Princeton in his Lexus, parked his car somewhere in the 60s, and tried to hail a cab uptown to Harlem. As a black man, he found it hard to get a cab.

My point is: he had a car, why didn't he just drive up to Harlem like a normal person? Cleopatra Jones went up there in her Vette, didn't she? Was he afraid he was gonna get gang-banged by them fearful darkies?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gift ideas

Behind the register at the MidWestern client are a number of forlorn belogoed items on plastic hooks: Baseball caps, visors, commemorative pens, etc., all bearing the logo of a premerger entity. Today I noticed a box of round items with a picture of the building I was in on them, could it be? I thought. Could it really?

Yes it could. Coasters. Terra Cotta coasters, adorned with the image of HQ. I think I need to purchase them and take them home.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Noise about food

  • Coming out of the cafeteria today I overheard three black women who were clustered and listening attentively to one another: "For that recipe I usually use the brick cream cheese, but this time I used the whipped, and I tell you..."

  • Not to be outdone, at the top of the escalator a pair of white ladies discussed their own baking "And that's the recipe I'm going to take to the competition..."

  • Tonight at the sushi restaurant, the Grouse found himself the sole gringo eating the raw guy, set off against a couple of tables of Japanese businessmen as if cut from the frames of Tampopo, slurping their noodles demonstratively, segmenting off fine little pieces of eel with chopsticks and then popping them in their mouths

Monday, November 27, 2006

Itchy and scratchy

I wish I could figure out what made me itchy and scratchy all over sometimes, or particularly those parts of my body all covered in clothes (A clue! Natalie might say). It's rather difficult to concentrate on work when your ankles and quads are screaming out for attention.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, I happen across the "Great American Country" channel showing "Sugarland" in some video where they mope and cavort around Ground Zero, demonstrating great woe and contrition before lots of home-baked American flags affixed to the chain link fence of much wailing. I got one thing to say: they should keep their country cowboy-hatted asses the fuck out of Manhattan. I hate like I hate very little else when jingoist heartlanders try to appropriate 9/11 to their reactive flag venerative ways. Look how great it's worked out in Iraq. Let em go build their houses and tend their jails and let the East Coast liberal elite get back to doing its job, that's what I say.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Room to room

With Beth upstairs sleeping after a nasty night, Natalie, Sadie and Graham are watching the Aristocats in the sunroom. Graham, for some reason, stands in front of the TV agape for a few minutes, then gallops across the living room giggling and bangs into the radiator in the foyer.

Perhaps this means he's supposed to be outside playing. Dunno. Am reading the paper.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Trip to fan

Working off turkey here in bed, preparing for another onslaught of this vile bird and many of the fine people who eat it. Soon the annual obeisance will have passed, and we can return to beef and the other white meat.

While reading about the sushi-borne radiation poisoning death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, found a decent blog Publius Pundit, which would appear to have a human rights focus.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Holiday Grouse

It's nasty here in the otherwise glorious New York Metro area today, cold and rainy, one of those days when you're actually thankful for the roof, doors, and windows. Natalie, swathed in some silky garment of grandma's, has set the table expertly. Graham was just petting the kitty.

Meanwhile, as Grandpa and I debated the future of the world, I came to the heartening conclusion that, if the retirement of the baby boomers both threaten the feasibility of Social Security at current benefit levels and also the stockmarket, as boomers take distributions from retirement accounts, then there are a couple of mitigators. First, longevity risk is offset by obesity risk, that is, if people keep getting fat and diabetic than future pension liabilities will be offset by falling mortality. Conversely, if public health efforts succeed and obesity is diminished, then people in aggregate will be more willing to up the retirement age to 67 or 68, because they'll be energetic and will want to work more, so that the inflow side of retirement fund pools will increase.

Chew on that, bitches.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The internet sucks

I really have few clues about how to entertain myself on the internet. I've checked out YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, other peoples' useless and indulgent blogs, basically there's little that's entertaining for long. The internet is useful, sure, but not much fun. It's like one big Swiss Army knife, or a bunch of informational McNuggets.

At the end of the day, I'd rather lie on my bed and read a book. Books are at least small totalities. In putting them together, somebody at least tries to put together a unified view of some portion of the world.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mildred Pierce

I had never read a book by James Cain, but I picked up a copy of Mildred Pierce not long ago in Lambertville, in a fine family outing that involved pizza and cool Fall air and used books, a classic combo that had formed a good part of my youth and took me back. Mary snuck in antiques. Natalie got pizza. Graham kinda got hosed, but he's too young to care.

So I read this book, and it was damned good. Mildred is kind of a proto-feminist type, a woman who ditches her deadbeat husband, starts a business, has sex out of wedlock and enjoys it, etc. Not a whole lot of these published in 1932. There's an Icarus component to it for sure: she flies high and then is brought low. But what else is new. There's sex and floods and pies and steaks and coloratura and booze, but mostly there's challenge and perserverance.

A good book.

Monday, November 20, 2006

No se appoye contra la puerta

I always thought the proscription against leaning against doors on trains was about falling out. And maybe there's some of that going on, but it's more about how the Acela whips by on the track right next to the one you're on and making the doors pop violently. If you're leaning against that thing, it could easily give you whiplast and/or back your head against the window, breaking it and perhaps giving you a big bump. I narrowly escaped that fate this evening, but did.


In school today, Natalie and her cronies made butter the old-fashioned way, which was "cool". I wish I had made butter.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Enterprise Software Guys

"Is that a feature you would be interested in?"
"Would it be helpful to you if you had one system that could do all of that?"
"Do you think it would be desirable if we could take care of that for you?"

Software salesmen are such weasils. We were just on three hours of calls with the guys, and boy are my arms tired.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

At the airport

flight delayed

5 minutes free time online for buying a Coke at this store.

Gotta go.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Somehow, in all my years on the planet, I haven't gotten used to needless and causeless hostility. Have I not been paying attention. I am often unable to bracket it and remember that it is being meted out by a bleating nimrod, and get distracted and bumped off course. And I remember the immortal words of Rodney King, " why cant' we all just get along?" Why not indeed?

Speaking of black people and violence in LA, just caught Spike Lee's documentary on Jim Brown. Jim Brown always kinda reminded me of my dad, which could be disturbing, depending on who you believe regarding Brown's many alleged misdeeds. Pretty good piece of work for a Spike Lee joint, it must be owned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


It always seems like travelling places gives ideas for the blog. But that would seem to be more true for commuting around New York than getting on an airplane to leave it. The only things I saw of vague interest yesterday was the Heidi Fleiss-looking woman in pinstripes and twirlable gold beads on the Alamo shuttle. She, unlike us, was Emerald Club.

The day had, it is true, started off good, with Natalie rushing down the stairs at 6:15 as my car service approached to give me kisses before I headed out.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Death management

Just mostly read Eugene O'Kelly's Chasing Daylight, in which the CEO of KPMG finds out he's going to die in 3 months, resolves to write a book about it and die well, and pulls off all three. He lays out a clear plan for death and executes to it as precisely as one might hope. He sets out to attain peace and introspection and balance, and would seem to pull that off too.

The book has won some sort of special jury prize, and while that's not as pathetic as Braveheart winning the best picture Oscar, it's still something of a stretch. It's not a great book qua book. Too many cliches: "It was another Perfect Moment to end a Perfect Day." They should have spent more on the ghostwriter.

But it is honest and courageous, and I fought through to the end to see what happens. The guy dies as dignified and decent a death as one might hope for, within the genre of Reality media. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mark Burnett snap up the rights to this concept and bring it right into our homes.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Question of the day

The peanut gallery here in Princeton is floating the hypothesis that two ns at the end of a German surname ending in "man" has meant historically that the bearer is a gentile, while one n meant a Jew.

Thus Dustin Hoffman vs. E.T.A. Hoffmann. Hard to formulate this question properly to get a good answer out of Google.

It's just the kind of shit the Krauts would think of.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

For some reason

Gene continues to express surprise at the number of places high-fructose corn syrup can be injected into the food chain: two kinds in one packet of salad dressing, he tells me. I hate to tell him that it's in the air around here.

After dinner last night, where I had a surprisingly good bit of seared tuna and some quite crabby crab cakes, I walked a little on Madison Street in Cincinnati. There I saw a sign that said "schwing in for some Schnecken", and so I stopped in to Busken Bakery, a 24/7 old school bakery that's straight out of the 60s. Unfortunately, they were out of Schnecken, some cinnamon bun like item that comes out at 6 in the morning twice a week and sells out quickly. I tend to doubt that it's worth making the run, though it's said to be buttery.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An actual sign

Hanging on an actual wall an actual MidWest insurer is this 2' x 3' banner:

"Through these halls walk some of the finest imaging professionals in the world.
(Company logo)"

That would make me durned proud.

Monday, November 06, 2006

West Chester, OH 9:11 pm

Was just driving around in the rainy northern suburbs / warehouse wasteland of Cincinnati, looking for a grocery store called Biggs. Didn't find it. But there's every fast food and casual dining chain you ever dreamed of. And parking galore.

Found a Circle K at long last. I should feel fortunate enough to have emerged with water. I knew that seltzer wouldn't be forthcoming, but I thought maybe ginger ale could be had. No. Coke Iceys were there, note to self.

This after an afternoon at another midwestern insurance company with decor out of A Family Affair. And computers out of Office Space.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Quiet day

Mom left.

Graham is recovering from a the nastiest cut on his tongue that I ever saw on a tongue. I can't figure out how he pulled that off. And, with the pain receding, he's gratifyingly hungry. Cereal, turkey salami, bagel, toast, apple sauce, soy milk, he's consuming and smiling.

Outside sun and nice weather, which bodes well for soccer in an hour or so.

Even Natalie is cooperating, reading and working on art projects.

Listened to Richard and Linda Thompson again today, and somehow I feel a direct line from yesterday's listenings of the Circle Jerks (including the classic "I've Got the World up my Ass") to the life-affirming noodlings of these Brits.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Slow brain day

Graham is having a fit downstairs about having another video.

Walked Natalie and Helen from school just now past high school soccer game. Idiot girl in sweatshirt and sandals in 40 degree weather.

Lots of bags of leaves begging to go into my compost.

Mary's test went well.

Had a good phone call with Paris.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Doppel Ganger

Have you ever seen these two together? Harvey Pitt, former SEC Chair. Steve Carell, like so not.

Think about it.

Return to normalcy

I've seen a frenzy of traffic the last few days as the various hired hands of corporate respectability have rained their attention down on the Grouse, in the hopes of... doing I know not what. Perhaps they seek an actionable statement. Perhaps they're just low paid Dilberts themselves executing scripted searches and preparing reports no one will read. That seems likely, much as I romanticize my pointed barbs.

In any case, these are cheap hits, and not worth the paper they're not printed on, unless the visitors "set a spell" and drink in the eternal wisdom of the Grouse. And so, we will draw the episode of a certain financial "services" company to a close and return to musings on topics in child-raising, metaphysics, and lunch. Mostly the latter.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

10,000 hits!

Round about 11AM, an historic threshhold was crossed: ChewYourGrouse collected hit number 10,000, and thus acceded into an elite group of websites who have logged such an impressive total. "10,000 hits in scarcely more than two years, those are numbers to be reckoned with," said Robin Southerly of Media Metrix, a leading provider of web traffic rankings. "And to think that the numbers over the last couple of days were driven by traffic from TIAA-CREF, Cyveillance, and Nameprotect," she continued, "that really gives you an idea of the might of user-created content." Nameprotect provides "advanced monitoring services" to help firms manage brands.

Hit 10,000, appropriately, was logged by our man Blue down in Lawrenceville, who's been a regular supporter down through the years. Lets all give a shout out to Blue, who retained this name though he was offered the use of the name Carrot many years ago.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 1986, New Haven, The Cure

Driving home from work today early for trick or treating, I found the box of tapes in the back seat and grabbed a handful. The Cure, Pornography is in there. And I was transported back to ye old college days, to the year of our lord 1986....

When, good and liquored up early in the evening, continuing my historical preference for treating Halloween as time to experiement with method acting, I headed into the streets in jacket and tie, hair slicked back with something, clutching in my hands the King James Bible I had been given in Sunday school at St Phillip's in Durham, which still sits on my shelf here, almost entirely unread. And I went up to people on the street, people in costumes, and I accosted them and promised them hellfire and damnation if they didn't mend their ways.

Between cigarettes. People got it, though they took a couple of steps back.

And then, because I worked at the radio station and got in free, and cuz they're a good band in their way, I went to the Cure concert at that big venue on College Street, where the plays used to stop before going to Broadway (did Auntie Mame do her disastrous show there?). And when I got there there were pasty-faced, dark eye makeup, Robert Smith wannabe types, and I lit into them good. Burn in hell you will, I said. But these guys started arguing with me, telling me how stupid religion was.

After a while I got tired of it and started drinking again. Lord knows where I ended up. I hope I got laid.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who's watching the Watchmen, you ask? The Grouse is, bitch.

Looking at the traffic logs for the Grouse I see that a number of hits have come from TIAA-CREF servers, and also one from a DC Area company called Cyveillance, which found me by googling TIAA-CREF. Cyveillance is in the business of helping Fortune 2000 companies manage "online risk". such as pesky blogs like mine which insist on presenting to all 20-odd of their readers just how badly certain companies, such as TIAA-CREF, suck. My God, it's not even clear how to say the damned firm's name. What an acronym. And their TV spots are reminiscent of the old Beatrice ads from the eighties, "we're the soft quiet company behind the scenes."

I suppose I should be flattered for all the attention (not that it's that much) from the corporate weasils, and give thanks and praise to Little Baby Jesus for my Enduring Freedoms.

Graham on the playground

On the way back to the house around noon, I stopped by the pre-school to see if Graham was on the playground. He was.

Yesterday Mary had been saying that Graham spends all his time on the playground playing with this digger thingie in the sand, which ties pretty well with some of the obsessive-compulsive/construction equipment tendencies. Sometimes it gets a little extreme, even excessive. And he's often not that social either, rather self-contained.

But today I got there and he was right close to the fence, climbing up and going down this big slide with fistfuls of leaves in his hands. It was a sunny day and he was smiling, and his hair blew up in the wind as he went down the slide. Then he went over to this pipe thing that two other boys were sitting on, and he tried to pull their legs to get them off, but that didn't work. Then he sat in the pipe with some other little boy.

I had thought that I would go on the playground and say hello, but he was having so much fun that I thought all it would do would be to break him out of the flow, and he might not want me to leave, so I got back in my car and drove on.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Our dinner with Sophia, v.1

The Times Magazine goes on and on about how Sophia Coppola has such perfect taste, and when I see her movies and hear her taste in tunes and realize she could have scored her films (the good parts, at least) from my music library I realized that I too must be a mega-tastemaker. So I texted her, and said "Sophia, like, you should totally come over to our house for dinner. It'll be awesome." And she was, like, "You know, I actually need to scope out some locations right in your neighborhood, and I've heard through some really cool friends how fabulous you are."

So, to prepare for her arrival, we did some cleaning around the house. You know, toilets, that kind of stuff (Sophia's not so into the little brown spots, they say), but we didn't go overboard, because we wanted it to feel authentic, if not excessively so. And day of, Sophia rolls up in this perfect little mint-colored semi-stretch Prius with bling rims, and she kissed us all gently on each earlobe, just like they do in Buenos Aires these days.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


On our jaunt to the library today, Natalie twice called me mom. As in "Mom, um, I mean dad...." This is very endearing, at the age of six and a half, no less, this indifferentiation of parents. Hopefully, Freudians/Lacanians wouldn't disagree, though I guess they're generally discredited by now.

Graham has the mom/dad thing straight. All too straight for Mary's tastes, I'd have to say.

Your tax dollars on steroids

The Princeton Public Library is money well spent, despite certain bugs in the website, the occasional oppressive hauteur of the staff and the crappy, non service-oriented Sunday hours.

But I don't know what that skinhead freak is doing on the kids' floor back in the corner, standing next to his boom box with headphones rubber-banded to his forehead, doing some sort of home grown pseudo Tai Chi. Yes, it is the United States of America, and he's practicing one of his enduring freedoms, and their should be no prior restraint on such exercise, but still, freaks is freaks, and this is the kids' floor, and this is Megan's Law territory. They should keep that shit on the adult floor. "Excuse me sir, we have a story reading scheduled for that corner." Or some such.

Friday, October 27, 2006

TIAA-CREF, the tussle continues

So this woman from TIAA-CREF calls up Mary and tells her she can extract some of her money but not all of it. This after the woman in Benefits at Mary's former employer signed off on the transaction. They need to hold on to the employer contribution piece until Mary is 55. Which I was thinking, delusionally, is a long long way off. Thanks again, TIAA-CREF.

Which means we're going to have more accounts: Fidelity, UBS, Smith Barney, TIAA-CREF, Merrill, and BofA. Preposterous.

My friend Matthew says TIAA-CREF is where advisors go when they fail at UBS. Sounds about right.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Yet again I say, TIAA-CREF sucks

Because I'll be away all day tomorrow and couldn't blog last night because the Blogger server was overloaded, let me just take a moment to say, once more, how badly TIAA-CREF sucks. Getting Mary's 403-b out of there was like pulling teeth. The "consultants" at the call centers (not to be confused with "brokerage consultants") were universally confused about how to get money out of there, who could do what where, etc. Like something out of Kafka.

And yet David Swensen, head of the Yale endowment and TIAA-CREF trustee, is all excited about how great they are, what "low-cost, client-focused" products and services they provide. Low-cost indeed, until you try to actually do something, then the transaction costs mount.

Head spinning

Talking to too many people about doing or not doing business. Still need to call someone, a thread I initiated, and send one guy my picture to put on his website and another guy some URLs where he should look for jobs and much much more. Posessed by an urge to just flip a burger.

And tomorrow, another conference, at which I'll actually learn some stuff, I'm sure, and I can ride in Steve's shiny new Lexus with a rear-facing camera. Would just as soon rake, honestly.


In another blast from my box of the past, was listening this morning to the Neats, a mid-80s Boston band midway between REM and Mission of Burma. Has aged surprisingly well, and the drummer expresses his forcible love for the ride cymbal and kick drum infectiously.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The horror, the horror

Amongst the tapes my mom shipped to me was a jam session I did with Randy Pelosi early in 1989, in the months after I returned from doing the Mayakovsky play at Bowdoin College and when I was, shall we say, not at my peak.

So there we were, out at my house in the country, "jamming", first Randy on the stick and me on the bass, and it's quite clear that he was a real musician and I was not. And then we switched and I was playing guitar while he played saxophone, and the distinction between our skill levels became less clear. I had the old classical guitar miked and going through an amp with a reverb petal, and it's clear from listening to me talk that, on the one hand, I thought I was cool, but that, on the other, my confidence level as a musician was not high.

The horror, then, was listening to me talk, late at night, to the relatively spacy Randy, and try to impress him -- and myself -- with my hip verbal stylings. And also to listen to me playing to him the same riffs I had been playing endlessly to myself in my room, looking out the window, at once kind of wanting to be an artist and not really working at it very hard, while at the same time being eminently conscious of my general directionlessness and having not clue one of what to do about it. Not the best time.

But some of the guitar work is at least respectable. And Randy sounds good on the stick.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A strange calm descended on me

When, after having looked for something for a long while without knowing what it was, I saw something that looked an awful lot like what it might be. Sophocles might have referred to scales falling from my eyes, but I'm not all that dramatic, nor should I be expected to be. Which is not so say that that the search has ended, but only that the end would appear to be closer to hand.

And then I can tell you what the fuck I'm talking about.

Meanwhile, a snack.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blair Witch Family

A lovely fall day. Pizza and used books in Lambertville. A walk in the woods. A 3:45 appointment at Marketfair for Mom. It all seemed so innocent.

The scene: the Stonybrook Watershed. First, dallying with turtles and stuffed animals and feathers at the Nature Center. No, we are not there for the birthday party, we alone.

At last, we head out on our trek. The paths are wet from rain the night before, but it's cool and the sun is out and, save for watching our step, a perfect fall day for a jaunt. But when we reached the back of the field and faced the eternal question, "which way do we go?" A fatal error. "The Stonybrook trail. We saw signs for it over there. It'll double back." As indeed it would.

But it took a long long while. It was, as they say, a long loop. And we start to run late for the 3:45. Graham's moving too slowly, so I pick him up. Natalie blazes the trail. It keeps going. And going. "We'll turn the corner soon," I say. Famous last words.

The trail is wet. I'm carrying Graham, back and forth from arm to arm as my neo-corporate physique gets maxed out quickly. I grunt. I snarl. I curse (in my mind). Graham holds on to my collar. Choking me. I sweat. The woods keep going, seemingly endless in their woodiness. Back behind now, Natalie starts to whine. Mary says "never again without a map." The trail is wet, I tell you. My feet are soaked, through, and I keep stealing a glance at the time on my cell phone and it's looking bad for the 3:45 until....

We emerge from the woods, and the sign says: "Nature center." It is now clear that Graham needs a diaper change. Strap em in, and we're off to the mall, making the appointment by seconds.

A mango frosty at the food court.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Scenes from a wedding

At long last, I've got photos loaded up from my mom's wedding to David Ontjes (henceforth "Pa") back in August. Here we go. It's worth noting that everyone is wearing Carolina Blue, not Duke Blue, which bodes well.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Only at my office

Two mathematicians, recently introduced to one another, are currently discussing game theory and equilibrium and stuff like that. Their discussion is being facilitated by a classicist.

This is all very fascinating.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Masterbator of the Universe

I met today with a master networker. A guy who proclaims himself to have "a very deep Rolodex, the 6th largest database of Stanford alums in the world." He did not clarify whether that was an AP or a UPI ranking, though it was clear that he had designs on going higher even. Another actual statement: "My emails have 80% clickthrough."

This guy, we'll call him Steve, likes to do deals. With one prestigious hedge fund, lets call it the Snickers Fund, he said he had "at least a couple, a few, no five deals on right now." I nodded.

At 11AM, with a lunch date coming up "with a Harvard woman who used to be at Morgan Stanley", he ate a chocolate cupcake with a knife and fork. Steve invited me to be on the hedge fund committee of his new network to set up events for elite financial services professionals from elite universities. I hope we will serve cupcakes.

While at Starbucks I saw Ashi, the stylingest turban-wearingest Sikh in all of alternative investments business process outsourcing. We're gonna kick it soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cry, freedom

Also found amongst my effects from bygone days, tapes galore. Still can't find one New Order song which the jerks digitally remastered and rerecorded sometime in the early 90s. Lots of stuff holds up OK but not great. The Pressure Boys, for example, sound tinny recorded, though you can hear how on it Rob Ladd is. Echo and the Bunnymen have their moments. Many things sound more like the cure than I remembered.

But Black Uhuru shines through clear as day. This was one great band. Sly and Robby redefine the back end. So I'm riding around Princeton in suit and tie rocking out, fifteen years sober, singing "I got a stalk of sinsemilla, gleaming in my pocket" (backyard?). And it all makes sense, and I'm clearly the coolest cleanly shaved person in all of Central New Jersey.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Mom recently sent me a box of stuff from childhood, including letters, tapes, and photos. I shall blog about all of them, I swear I will, if I get deeply bored. I'm having a vague feeling that I might have blogged about this before, but oh well.

Amongst the photos are ones of a trip Leslie and I took to Great Britain and Switzerland in 1981. We thought we were bad. I know I did. I had a frickin Hasselblad camera, and I used it to take artistic and scenic pictures of the olde countries and a select few of their denizens. But almost no pictures of me or my sister. Beg though she might, I hardly shot her, even in the crowd at Charles and Diana's wedding. Oh yes, we were there. I thought pictures of people in tourist spots were as uncool as you could get. She may have forgiven me by now.

Only recently did I realize that my attitude was very close to that of the Muslims or the Medieval Christian Iconoclasts: "no graven images" and all that.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Immigrants and sandwich construction

Lets make no mistake, I'm immensely pro-immigration. When I see Mexican guys riding their bikes to work at 6:30 in the morning in the cold, I feel tremendous respect. My man Geo takes mighty fine care of our vehicles down at the corner Gulf. etc.

But there's one area in which generations of immigrants, from the Greeks of New York diners to the latinos of today's cafeterias make the same mistake, over and over again. They put the lettuce and tomato under your turkey burger on the roll, instead of between the cheese and the roll. They do the same thing if it's beef. And then the cheese sticks to the bun so you can't even move the LT up there so as to put your mustard or mayo below. Often you get the same nonsense on deli sandwiches. Lettuce and mayonnaise on the bottom, in particular, is a troublesome combo.

I know I know. I'm blaming the victim, and this is really a failure of management. But what. Are there no instructional websites or videotapes about this? Perhaps there should be late nite public-service announcements on Univision explaining these principles. Taxpayer funded.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Block party

Just watched Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Neither Mary nor I listen to much rap any more. She never has. And, funny as he is, the movie isn't all that funny most of the time. And yet, and yet, we both liked it quite a bit, quietly, as it were. It's very infectious. You can tell just how much Chappelle is into what he's up to, providing this big fun mysterious party for a bunch of city and country folx. In the end, what it is is sweet.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Caught the last third of Deliverance last night. By today's standards, the whole thing is intensely homoerotic, and not just the time when one of those guys is tied to a tree taking it up the orifice back there. Jon Voight shoots that freak with an arrow and then goes over to him and cries on his chest, opens his mouth, looks at his teeth, what's up with that? Maybe if I had seen the earlier parts.

Burt Reynolds lies in the back of the canoe and cries like a baby. You don't see much of that these days. A wierd frickin movie. Probably worth watching from the start.

I think it's mostly about Vietnam. Post-traumatic stress and all.

But what do I know about that?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Presentation at the Harvard Club

On the way in, saw a guy on the street I hadn't seen since college. Gotta love that.

Gave a song and dance on hedge funds to the Harvard Club last night. They were supposed to be hedge fund neophytes, but a few salty industry dogs made me dance and answer all kinds of questions about investing, when I'm just a poor tech guy, and a fake one at that. I squirmed out of most of that, and deflected the other parts.

They didn't get my frontier / cowboy theme at all. It's not like it was all that complex either. I'm not sure I got any laughs, really, and that with some of my best material.

Afterwards, dinner in this big fancy room. The menu was more impressive than the food.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A new one

On the way into the city on the train I saw a guy hunched over, talking into his cellphone and his Blackberry at the same time. Bravo! Guys like that power the economy for all of us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Mystery solved. For any of you who've wondered over the years whether or not you can take prescription drugs after the expiration date on them has come and gone, let it be known the that Department of Defense and the FDA have done research for a Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) which would seem to indicate (is that sufficiently hedged?) that it's usually fine. Don't take the word of a pseudonym, though, consult:

Monday, October 09, 2006

Friends with Money

OK OK, it's a total chick flick. And yet, I say unto you, see it. It's just good.

Good characters. Good humor. I laughed, I cried, I scratched myself.

It's one of those quiet classics that will fade towards dust until you're flicking around on a Sunday in February and there it is at 3:00 on UPN and you'll intend to keep flicking through the channels looking for a basketball game but will stay and watch because it's well acted, hitting last channel back to a sporting event only to cover yourself in case another guy walks past.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Drinking alone at noon

Had lunch the other day at the Alchemist and Barrister in Princeton, where the food sucked, but where's the surprise in that. It's Princeton, after all.

A woman in her 50s came in, blonde, alone, and sat near us facing away from the door. She ordered a chili with cheese melted on top, and a glass of white wine. She drank the latter like she needed it. This is classic alcoholic behavior, and one couldn't help but to wonder what was up with her, a type A absent husband? Cheating on her with a younger woman? This was a comfort lunch if ever there was one.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lions, of liberty

More missteps on the free speech front from the students of Columbia. This week protesters took to the stage and protested a speech given by the violent bigot head of "The Minuteman Project," which supports and instigates free-range armed citizen patrols of our southern borders.

Frankly, it is kind of a First Amendment issue, but the practical ramifications loom larger. I had never heard of the Minuteman Project, now I have, so the young Columbia lefties have effectively vaulted it's reactionary program into the national mainstream. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? Only time will tell. If this galvanizes right wing support for this kind of thing, it's a bad thing. If it simply raises it up into national political discourse, it's a good thing.

Really, we can't have non-uniformed, non-governmental agents patrolling our borders enforcing their interpretation of laws. That would make them unlawful combatants, who should be sent to Gitmo and tagged and head-bagged.

But this probably isn't the best trend for campus political discourse.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Another one bites

So I was looking for this article Gene gave me a couple of years back about hedge funds providing credit to sub-prime consumers, and I tracked in down in the Financial Times in August 2004, using the trusty internet. Actually, Gene found it.

And I'm reading in there about this fund that finances car purchases for losers and miscreants with no credit -- Centrix Capital Management --, and I think, well, that's two years ago, I wonder whassup with them. Turns out, after getting big and successful and financing the Denver Grand Prix and becoming one of the biggest auto financers in Phoenix, to some extent supporting the car market there, the retail arm of the thing went bankrupt a few weeks back after a regulator sat on it and some shareholders sued because the founder seemed to be playing shell games with $5 million or so.

One wonders: is it a good thing that a hedge fund was there to provide liquidity to that market? Could this excess liquidity even be an ecological ill, if it supports unsustainable sprawl? Praps.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ever so slightly on the road

Usually when I head out on the road I figure I'll see something interesting to write about. Today, however, we went to Darien, Connecticut. It's a cute little town, with cute little restaurants and a cute main street and cute old houses, much like Julianne Moore's crib in Far from Heaven and even more so like the house of Patrick's fiancee in Auntie Mame, which was in fact situated right there in Darien. Who could forget scene of the would be father-in-law offering Mame a cocktail in which the secret ingredient is "honeyyyyyyyyy" (hard to type this one), which she tosses over her shoulder into a plant, or how Mame buys the plot of land nexts door and donates it to a home for blind Jewish violinists, or something like that. If you haven't seen it recently, watch it.

Not much appears to have changed in Darien.

On the way back, traffic on the Garden State Parkway. Not a shocker.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Grouse, and they will come

It would appear that all I need to do is complain about my traffic, and I get some. Good work guys.

I'm getting on an evening schedule, I guess, what with doing actual work during the day.

Tomorrow, work takes us deep into the heart of Connecticut's Gold Coast, where we will be conferring with consultants who are both like and unlike us. Like us, in that they are white males who wear ties and sell to asset managers, unlike us, in that they are clever enough both to have their offices in Connecticut and to not do IT. You may be assured that I will witness and chronicle much wildness, and that I will report it back to you unvarnished, right here on Chew Your Grouse.


So I was mowing the front yard the other day and some grass came off as if I had scalped it. That was the first clue.

Enter Mary, who investigated and discovered... grubs. Disgusting little buggers. And she picked them out with her bare hands and drowned them, she did, leaving a fair portion of the yard exposing the deep brown earth of the Garden State.

I had never thought that I would fall in love with my yard. I resent the thing. Should be kicked back by a pool with a drink with an umbrella. But, by gum, when I look out the back window and see brown commingling in the green, I get all worked up. And I rake, though I know it's stupid and Sisyphean and that more brown leaves will fall on there almost before I can turn around. A sucker am I.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The warm icy wall

Wall Street is not a gentle place, pretend though it may. I had a brief visit today with a woman who is a Managing Director at a private bank. Went to college with her, I did, and I played that card when I called her up. I set up a an appointment, and she was fine with that, 30 minutes, her office, no skin there. In e-mail lead up, I pointed up people we knew in common, including former boyfriend (or two) and her brother too.

But when I got there, there's none of the traditional "how's so and so?" or "how's Princeton?" (whence her husband hails, a quick Google showed). No pretense at small talk. No attempt to find common ground. And I couldn't make her talk much about her biz. I was in and out in 15, all very polite, not inviting. Basically she had no interest in a new consultant best friend. Which is, I suppose, not shocking.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Regressing to the mean

I think I recall that The Economist said that McKinsey said that the average piece of user-generated content gets seven views a day. If I've got that right, it is a depressing fact. I work very hard at this blog, and for all my mental sweat equity, my traffic has died back from 13 view per day to 11.

You would think that I would be happy to be trouncing the average by a margin of 57%, but instead it saddens me. I've got a frickin PhD, you know, and my shit is deep. Universities pay hard cold cash for this kind of text, if not much of it.

And what's worse, my numbers are going down. Yes, I know, I should send more promotional emails. Maybe. I should link more. But who has time for that? Before long, I'll be one of the seven hitters, most likely. If posts like this persist.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Cycle du siecle

Where are we now? A cyclical bull within a secular bear? Climbing a wall of worry? About to rock?

All the data guys pull out history going back to 1929 or 1934 or to wherever they've got data, and draw inferences: "there were lots of little bulls between 1966 and 1982, but the markets never went anywhere." As if there were enough data to abstract from. The whole history of market data is very short, and takes place within the context of radically changing external economic forces. Mass production was kind of a big deal, as is globalization. It changes stuff. Nobody knows what's up. They just have data, charts, pointers, and gestures.

And another thing. I'm almost ready to argue that -- just as Sarbanes-Oxley drives public companies into the arms of private equity, so Bogle and Random Walk Theory drive the hedge fund business: if a business walls itself off from disciplined data collection, nobody can prove whether it's doing a good job, in aggregate. Excessive risk-taking and blow-ups like Amaranth derive from a short-term returns focus not unlike the pressure to hit quarterly numbers that called forth all manner of creative accounting from Enron to Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Not that I would argue that we should return to the days on long-only mutual funds. But. as a middle class taxpayer, I have to think that hedge funds could stand a little more oversight.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Of the Essence

After he returned from the trenches of WWI Italy, whence he shipped the manuscript Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus -- a foundational text for logical positivists and stoner mystics alike-- to Bertrand Russell, who quickly got it published, Ludwig Wittgenstein returned to Vienna and found himself a minor celebrity in amongst the philosophical set there, and was invited to the attend Vienna Circle to discuss his work. Wittgenstein duly attended, and when all were gathered, he got up and read a poem by Rilke or Holderlin or Trakl or somebody, and then sat down. The uptight logicians of the circle, startled, asked him to explain himself. So he stood up and read the poem again.

Similarly, Tolstoi, when asked to explain Anna Karenina, said that he would have to read the whole book from start to finish.

Today's rigorously linear and ends-oriented MBA Weltanschaung insists that brevity and essence are one. The shorter and more direct the bullet point, the more it is shorn of descriptive excess, the better. Short and clear means pure.

In a recent discussion a guy was telling me that, by able to integrate the functionalist "need to know on a transaction by transaction basis" executive mode of discourse into his life, he was able to get to the point that he didn't have to "become someone else" when he walked in the door of work. His work persona was him. It kind of makes sense, but it's kind of scary too.

What' s you've got to understand is that Anna Karenina, which can be read in 20-25 hours, if brief by comparison to its referent, which is life.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Big city streets

Down 7th Ave during rush hour tooled a truck with one of them little Pontiac convertibles on the back, wrapped in heavy chains. GM is offering a new 100,000 mile, 5-year warranty!

Like anybody thinks GM will be around in 5 years. Maybe they can do this because they snapped up a bunch cheap parts from the carcass of Delphi.


Earlier, walking up 5th, I passed the building where Rolling Stone has it's offices (the Equitable [now AXA] building). A block or so up this scruffy guy talks into his phone: "So on Friday I was hanging with Ace Freeley, then Saturday I was backstage at Christina Aguilera, then Sunday I saw the Stones, and Monday I heard and then talked to Claption.... all in all, 26 concerts in 30 days." Clearly a concert reviewer for the mag, and so so proud of his remarkable achievement.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In the Western Lands

Out early from work for a birthday party at Terhune. 3 girls in the backseat chattering and screeching, as I navigate Princeton's rugged Western Section. Who knew what lurked out there at 3pm? A bevy of Mercedeses, Beamers, Volvos, sleekly slithering through verdant glades with tinted windows forbidding view onto God knows what species of womankind, most likely. Huge back-up at the entrance to Stuart Country Day. Traffic in the middle of nowhere always spooks me, but hey, here in NJ, you're both always and never in the middle of Nowhere.

And then I met Susan "Fabulous".

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tales from the heartland

Impromptu gathering out back chez Eric. 7 guys. Beer. Nuts. Seltzer. Pretzels. Chilly.

Tales of vasectomy. Of counselling. Of a need for post-operative sampling to insure that all the little swimmers are dead. Samples must be delivered 1-hour fresh to the lab during the business day. Think about it. No mean feat in today's hard-driving productivist world. Delivery to a crowded waiting room in a discreet paper bag. "Could you take the sample out of the bag, sir?"

Predictable hijinks ensue.

I think I'll pass.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The President's Last Bang

(When in doubt, a movie review)

This is an odd movie, and I won't dispute the 3 stars that it's rated at Netflix, and while it wasn't necessarily 100% enjoyable, I still say you gotta see it. Cuz it's different.

It's like if Tarantino were a little less violent and lived in some post-totalitarian state and the production values and wit had gotten better but somehow the tone of the thing is distinctly, well, Soviet, or Franco. Sure, most of the actions are undermotivated, and you can't really care about the characters much.

But it's nonetheless a refreshing cinematic palate cleanser.

In general, we've done well by Korean film recently. Memories of Murder is an absolute must see, no doubt. All the Korean films seem to be pervaded by a wierd blend of sentimentality and ultraviolence. Some do it better than others.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Great is my shame. I've been in the office for so long I have nothing to say.

Except, these two bozos here in my office, so intent on their so-called work, wearing their little ties around their little necks like it makes them some kind of muckity-mucks. God, do they look smug, surfing around on the so-called internet. I'll show them, one day, I'll let them know what's really going on. Then they'll be sorry. But it'll be too late.....

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Community Park School fall picnic

Unfortunately, all the good Mexican food was gone by the time I got there, leaving only a motley assortment of pastas, salads, and little sandwiches. OK, I got a couple of dumplings.

Natalie was off on her own autonomous to an unprecedented degree, and even Graham venture far from Mary and me to the playground.

In a disturbing development, the Princeton Rec Dept has informed Mary and Stacy that their Brownie troop (Stacy's idea.... thanks Stacy) cannot meet there because they're too noisy and disruptive. This Brownie thing is quickly turning into a debacle. More later.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Califronia Dreamin

What is it with the people who run Southern California's pension funds? First Orange County blows up on structured product back in '94, then San Diego City scandalously underfunds and then covers it up, now San Diego County dangerously overallocates to Amaranth (why do I keep wanting to say Aramark? I had lunch.)

Is the actual secret that Paulie Shore and Nicole Ritchie are in fact running the whole show (Ritchie surely isn't running Aramark, as is clear to all)? That would explain a lot. And then the guys who are supposed to be exercising fiduciary duty over taxpayer money could spend their time eating tofu burritos, attending John Birch Society meetings, and olleying off of rad vert.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Now playing in Peoria?

Back to Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children, which I finished yesterday while stricken with a Fall flu. One lingering question I had was, who would want to read about these New York intelligentsia, other than members of it? Time will tell. While she does't have Franzen's middle America hook, with the St. Louis family, Claire does a particularly good job writing about people distantly removed from the urban center. To some extent, her provincial women bummed out about their disappointing sons are her most poignant characters. Or maybe I'm just projecting. Anyhow, it'll be interesting to see how the book sells in Middle America.

In any case, Claire builds towards the novel's 9/11 climax beautifully. We feel the tension rising, knowing what's coming, anticipating the transvaluation of all anxieties, relishing the ambiguities and complexities which will soon be flattened out by the momentous event. And yet, when it does come, it's somewhat disappointing. It's as if 9/11, in its firefighterly and dusty horror, by now undoubtedly the most narrated event in history, does not yield to the fine filigree of her prose. What you've watched a thousand times on TV and heard told like a cubist Rashomon from hundreds of points of view doesn't need embellishment.

And yet, I ate the novel whole, and look forward to the next. Claire's first book was good, and she gets better with each.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pot to kettle

In Sunday's Times business section, Roger Lowenstein critiques Nikolas Kozloff's book on Hugo Chavez for being full of phrases like: "in an ominous development for American policymakers." If ever there's been a case of the pot calling the kettle black, this is it. Lowenstein's most famous book, When Genius Failed, is shot through with exactly this sin, harping on how everyone should have known Long Term Capital was gonna collapse from early warnings, harbingers, omens, and other SAT words.

Don't get me wrong, I like Lowenstein. If I see his byline, I'm biased to read the article. But he'll never be Michael Lewis.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

ACC Football rankings

Florida State #9
Va Tech #14
Miami #17

Was it worth expanding the conference for this? Do we feel better about ourselves?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Insurable electability

The Economist's recent survey of climate change touched on the subject of home insurance in America, and especially in Florida. State regulators set home insurance rates, meaning that insurers can't adjust pricing to reflect market events. You can kind of see why, to let homeowners predict housepayments year to year (though insurance is a trivial component of homeowner carrying costs and structured products would emerge quickly to manage the risks faced by insurers and insureds).

But in Florida, it goes further. The state subsidizes an insurer -- the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation -- that guarantees coverage to those whose insurers have gone bust, giving it the same kind of moral hazard that the Pension Benefit Insurance Company gives to the Bethlehem Steels and Delphis and American Airlines of the world. The difference, beyond that, is that wealthy homeowners in Florida have recently exerted a disproportionate influence on world events: the election of 2000. The Florida Republican Party and its governor Little Bush have put in place a taxpayer-supported mechanism that insures that it slim margin of dubious victory will be supported.

Friday, September 15, 2006

grey matter

Slow brain day. Here's one of the two poems read at our wedding. John Donne.

If only I could live my life more like this. Or, less like this, as my boss might have it.

Busie olde foole, unruly Sunne;
Why dost thou thus,
Through windowes, and through curtaines call on us?
Must to they motions lovers seasons run?
Sawcy pedantique wretch, goe chide
Late schoole boyes, and sowre prentices,
Goe tell Court-huntsmen, that the King will ride,
Call countrey ands to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clyme,
Nor houres, dayes, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beames, so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou thinke?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a winke,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine
Looke, and tomorrow late, tell mee,
Whether both the India's of spice and Myne
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with mee.
Aske for those Kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt heare, All here in one bed lay.

She'is all States, and all Princes, I,
Nothing else is;
Princes doe but play us; compar'd to this,
All honor's mimique; All wealth alchimie,
Thou sunne art halfe as happy'as wee,
In that the world's contracted thus;
Thine ages askes ease, and since thy duties bee
To warme the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art every where;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy spheare.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Magic -- for the young parents amongst you

First it was the Magic Schoolbus , starring Ms. Frizzle, aka "The Friz". These word-intensive 30-minute reads inform schoolkids, and in particular Natalie, about a range of science topics, with a shapeshifting bus that goes from the bottom of the sea to the capillaries of poor Arnold's nose. I had to read these fast and skip lots of words to get Natalie to bed on time. There are 10-15 of these.

Now we're on to the Magic Treehouse series, starring Jack and Annie, who sally forth across fiction and fantasy carrying out missions. There are 49 of these 12 chapter books, and at 3 chapters a night that takes us out well past half a year to read them all. In each book, Jack and Annie go into the treehouse, find a book, look at a picture, point to it, and say "I want to go there." At that point in time, the text is canned "the treehouse started to spin. It spun faster and faster. Then everything was still. Absolutely still." Natalie reads these words along with me, incantatorily.

All these books are good.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

One of those days

I have many days when I oscillate between thinking I should just quit, start seeing a shrink and a career counsellor and exercising more, etc., and thinking I'm on the cusp of a big breakthrough. Today would be one of those days.

The Company would seem to be about to take on my humble team to fix up some of its processes. Hopefully we'll find a technical resource to help out with it, since it's a technical project.

Soon I'll be there, 13 hours a day, ensconced in lush hardwood panelling, testosterone, and workaholism. Fuck, maybe I should get while the getting's good. Some poor shrink needs me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11 downtown

It was easy to get a parking spot at the train station. Fewer people had gone in to work, most likely as a risk management deal.

At the WTC PATH station at Ground Zero, a bunch of freaks in "9/11, the Truth" t-shirts stood around and bellowed for justice of some sort. Cops talked into their crackling walkie talkies about some planned protest.

All the Irish bars were wall to wall with Firemen. I can see that. One of them had a charcoal grill with a weanie roast set up on the sidewalk. I'm sure that's illegal.

At 9pm I took a walk in Tribeca, and chanced to look south, where they were projecting the twin beams of light skyward. Hadn't known about that ritual. Apparently they do it every year. Looked pretty cool.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Claire Messud's new book

There's been a lot of buzz about The Emperor's Children, Claire Messud's new novel, and I'm reading it now myself. I must say that as much as I like Claire, I look at her as at someone who has had the fortitude to decide what she wanted to do and go out and do it over decades, much like the various rich guys I went to college with. And therefore part of me wants to be catty and snipe at her book, features like the shear Yaliness of all the big and fancy words and occasionally tortured syntax.

But the fact is that she writes well, and I care about her characters. When they're about to have sex that they shouldn't, I'm like "no no no." When fat Freddy sets off for the city, i'm riding shotgun, I want him to succeed, despite his Holden Caulfeldish ridiculousness. And so on.

As much as I may have to say about this novel as I read it, Claire has become a Major Author.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Logan, run

I can tell you neither why I though Boston Logan was a major airport, nor what I was thinking. At least as far as the American Airlines terminal is concerned.

Inside the secured gate area, for example, there are no bathrooms, and there is no food. And when you go out through security, the only food there is after 8:30 is Dunkin Donuts and the main bar, which would take God knows how long.

And then on the way back in through security, the woman scrutinizes my boarding pass thoroughly and scawls her initials "MB" on the back, though nobody ever looks at that side of it again and I throw it away. Good work MB! Praise jah for the FSA and all the great people of Homeland Security.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

First day of school eve

Natalie cried tonight at the dinner table when Mary was saying that she didn't think that 1st graders got snacks. Luckily, this theory was proven false. This was her first sign of remorse with regard to grade 1.

Standards of deviation

There is a house on the corner in Chapel Hill, on the twisty hill up to my mom's house, which is egregiously overgrown. It's a dinky little brick ranch, a tear-down-to-be, and the people haven't so much as trimmed a blade of grass there for god knows how many years, so now it'd be like original growth forest there if it weren't for the dear who surely come by and sup on the tender shoots. How ironic is that: nature imposing the appearance of culture. In any case, you can barely see the house from the street and it does look kind of sinister, like what the hell are they doing back there? Oxycontin? Video games? Tabbouleh?

I never thought I'd care about this kind of thing. I remember years back my sister telling me about picking dandelions because otherwise they'd spread to neighbor's yards and thinking "that's absurd," but the fact is that every community concocts and imposes standards around the subjugation of nature, the bracketing of contingency. And these standards, to paraphrase Foucault, are determined by the derelict and marginalized properties that everybody talks about in whispers and louder.

On our block it's the green abandoned house owned by the shifty old Chinese dude. Rumors abound of mysterious late night sightings of day laborers and junkies and the fact that they're gonna condemn the joint and so on and s on.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mercer County Park, 9/3/2006, 1:30 PM

The 2006 Indo-American fair was a wing-ding indeed. Despite rumors (heard by more than just Mary) that last year's fair attracted 350,000 people (this is clearly based on a subconscious fear that a rising India and China will swamp us whities -- a little discussed theme these days), the fair was populous but not dramatically more than the pathetic Renaissance Fair that we went to back in the spring.

The food, I'll have you know, was delish. Chat plus a mixed meat grill from some restaurant that I stupidly did not get the name of. Better than most.

And then there were stalls with brightly colored garb and books and Bollywood tapes and... life insurance and 529s etc. But mostly, there was music and dancing, first some post-hippy white kids including one guy who was an actual master of the tabla. But then the young ladies started to get up on stage and do some dances, some traditional, others Bollywood music videos adapted to the stage. Girls ranging from 6 to 18. And Natalie, who at first complained the music was too loud, sat at the top of the bleachers and danced along, moving her feet, imitating some hand motions. And she ate Tandoori chicken and mango lassi too (the latter a real shock). So, altogether, a big day for multiculturalizing the lil uns.

But it's hard to figure how a patriarchal culture like India and let and encourage them little girls to be up on stage all suggestive like that. When you can't even show a kiss on screen. It's as if they draw the line between fantasy and fiction a lot more clearly then we do. Or maybe it's just so crowded that there's no place for teens to sneak off to.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Garden State keeps on growing

Sisyphus, need I remind you, is not a myth.

Hauled tons of yard waste to the curb today, part of the endless cycle of Apollo and Dionysus doing battle in the shape of green and brown.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Agassi should quit

Haven't checked the news today, but if he hasn't already, Agassi should drop out of the US Open. All this press about his getting 7 inch needles of more and more drugs in the spine is just inane. It's not heroic. It's poor judgement. The guy is married with children, and he needs his long-termhealth more than he needs this media coup. He could always recuperate and come back and play one more. Next year's Open with a couple of prep tournaments.

Or he could just walk away. While he still can.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Buffmeister

I had not been aware of Warren Buffett's unorthodox marital arrangement: separated from wife for 30 years, accompanied by a woman she hooked him up with (and with her full support), but married. That's the trouble with America today. Hippies.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Harbingers of recession

Is it just me, or is there more local affiliate advertising making it through to the viewer on cable? I think they're having trouble selling time and are going to the B list, just like in the last recession. Similarly, our local grocer Wild Oats seems to be putting out fewer samples, also a sign of tight marketing dollars. This bodes ill for the economy in 2007, but well for interest rates.

Natalie's front tooth

Natalie came in at 6:15 this morning all excited cuz she had lost one of her front teeth. We had known it was coming, as they had been wiggly for some time. Both of them. This may be an "all I want for Christmas" Christmas chez nous. She plans to give it to the tooth fairy tomorrow night, for some reason. That will give me more time to get my money together.

Blasts from the Past

Back in Chapel Hill, found myself tuning in to the old college radio stations. WXYC, WXDU. Hadn't realized how starved I was for good eclectic radio. On XDU as I drove to Bullock's to get pig, the DJ was an accordion freak, so I heard a bunch of folk music from places like Latvia, Bulgaria, Ecuador, what have you, with accordions and whatnot. Fabulous. The day before the guy was playing cool Mexican folk music on XYC before launching into sophomoric drivel about how hispanics get treated in the new South. Gotta take the good with the bad. But NJ college radio largely sucks. WFMU is good, but they're too dedicated to being cooler than thou and so quickly degenerate into being the on-air version of the sour, self-righteous grey-hairs who man the indie record stores these days.

On Saturday, went into a bar and saw my old girlfriend K, who informed me that she was back in Chapel Hill briefly after a few years out West, to put some money together to go to Idaho or Acadia or somewhere else. 35 years old. I resisted the desire to shake her by the shoulders and say "Wake the fuck up, your life is slipping by," but she had to go back to her scruffy date Michael.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

This title was entirely deceptive. Thanks God. Sounds nasty.

The book started off slow. Our narrator, one J. Maarten Troost, starts off sounding likes he's gonna be a straight up whiner. Graduate student can't tie shoes straight can't hold down good job, lots of credit card debt lives at home with mom yatta yatta. Girlfriend gets job on desolate atoll in the Pacific, known as Kiribati. They move there.

It's a shithole, literally. That is, a bunch of sand out in the Pacific doesn't have much room for septic systems, so people go to the edge of the reef and take dumps into the water. Also throw trash there. There are lots of nasty skinny dogs running around. All there is to eat is fish, rice, and random half-rotten Australian canned goods. There's no place to go. It's too hot. And so on and so on.

And yet, without ever having one of those big transcendent Ahas, Troost turns it around and begins to show a lot of love for the place. He's happy to leave when he does, but then....

Long and short of it: it's a good book, though there's no sex or cannibals.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This Week in the News: Agassi meets Katrina

As some of you may have heard, Andre Agassi will be playing in his last tournament this year at the US Open in New York, one year after hurricane Katrina razed Louisianna's Gold Coast and exposed fault lines of race and class that we had all fought so hard to repress, even as we marvelled in Agassi's mercurial ability to reach deep inside himself and show us little pieces of ourselves that we did want to see. New Orleans has had a hard time fighting its way back from the monumental destruction brought on by wind, rain, and neglect, but perhaps it, like all of us, can draw some inspiration from Agassi's herculean drive to dig himself out from a shamefully low ranking. Maybe the former Big Easy can also transition from style to substance, from bad hair to no hair, from playboy to crunchmeister.

Next week, surely, we'll hear about Federer and 9/11.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Back from the wedding

So my mom got married again. Like most people's moms, she decided it would be appropriate, after exchanging vows, to launch into a high-toned, high-pitched choral solo version of the Lord's Prayer, while standing up there holding David's hands looking him in the eye. No joke. It was pretty moving, and David had clearly not been clued in to this upcoming feature.

The preacher had all the family members stand and announce that the family's were now merged, which is pretty heavy. Luckily, we know lots of them from high school, and they mostly pull for Carolina. As with most mergers, time will tell whether it will add or destroy shareholder value.

At the lake, as is traditional, there was pig and swimming.

On the flight back, coincided with a cousin (1st once removed) who had come down for the wedding and stayed with a 1st cousin on campus in Chapel Hill, and discussed whether she had been in my sister's wedding back in 1990. We weren't sure, but I was certain I had ushered at her parents's wedding circa 1978. That's when it starts to get heavy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Demo land

There's nothing quite like a WebEx software demo to get you worked up and raring to go. Today Greg told us all about his web-based Disaster Recovery app and all the exciting customizable features and reporting it offers. You could hardly restrain me, I must say.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wedding preparations

Got my shoes shined today.
Mary ironed some shorts for Graham, and modified her own dress a touch.
We have to get up a 6AM (could be traumatic for kids) to make Philly airport Friday so Natalie can be at junior bridesmaids' luncheon on time.

You guessed it, my mom's getting married. It will be a significant extravaganza, with multiple events, guests into three digits, and barbeque, which tells you it's for real.

After a cavalcade of suitors over the course of the post-Dad era, one has stuck, a fine one at that, and my mom will once again have a new name, and we will be notionally Brady Bunched up with people we know from high school, though we won't share bedrooms.

It will be a beautiful day, and I will give away the bride.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Joy of joys

Looked in the compost drum this evening at my fresh batch. Tons of squirming creepy crawlies doing what they do best. Fabulous.

The Breakfast Club

Each day they bring us the New York Times. When I'm lucky, or when I sneak downstairs and pull it all together before the kids get there, I get to read some. And each day the newspaper allays some of the anxiety of being in a career which just sort of snuck up on me and leaves me wondering how I ended up looking like this, even if I like my hair and my outfit on a given day.

Because each day the paper of record shows a bit of myself, like the John Hughes movies of yore. Today, new studies of people driven to seek fame to offset feelings of abandonment by a parent (I ID with the cause if not the effect), of middle-aged men taking Viagra to recover the libido of their youth but thereby piss off their wives, who are cool with the course of nature (I haven't thought about the drug but I can see the marital dynamic), and so on. It's as if the paper offers an extension of onesself, starting the day off with a thought or two before it all degenerates into the recitation of professional scripts.

So that's some fine paper. If only the slack motherfuckers had delivered it last Sunday.

Monday, August 21, 2006

More on the mower

  • Put it back in the Subaru
  • Took it to Lowe's
  • Guy looks at me, is like, "is all the gas out of it? The town of West Windsor says it's a fire hazard and won't let us have any gas in the building."
  • Nice guy, though. Good hire.
  • Put mower back in car and take home.
  • Tomorrow: siphon out gas. Try again.

More on my relationship to objects

I have written before about how I hate things in the physical world. Here are a few bullet points about how they return my affections.

  • Destroyed my old lawnmower going over a big root. Should not have been going over that root, but I had to get the grass behind it and hate the weedwacker passionately, though I bought it at a yard sale for 5 bucks. 7 with the extension cord.
  • Bought new lawnmower (same as old) at Lowe's, just in time for Georgian cookout.
  • Mowed before cookout. Grass was wet.
  • Went on vacation.
  • Came back, need to mow yard. Lawnmower will not start.
  • Took to neighbors who race go-karts. They promise to fix ("it will be fun!"). Mow with theirs.
  • They do not fix it. In fact, they take it apart no more than I had. Advise taking back to Lowe's.
  • I take lawnmower back to my yard.
  • Weatherman promises rain.
  • Put lawnmower in Subaru to take to Lowe's.
  • Drive to work. Minor fumes.
  • Go to take colleague to Audi dealer. By now fumes are major.
  • Get headache while driving.
  • Dump lawnmower back in yard.
  • Deliver colleague to dealer.
  • Return to work. Minor fumes still there.
  • Brain recovers somewhat.
  • Write blog

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Although it's marred by some lamentable Indie-film cliches (the older station wagon covering major swaths of purple mountain majesty on 2-lane roads encountering various combinations of redneckery and authenticity), the emotional core of Transamerica is solid. You care about the characters and their relationship to one another, and they grow. That's so much more than can be said for most movies. Even the secondary characters have some pathos.

Felicity Huffman is great, all of John Steward's "muffman" jokes aside.

And it's funny too.

All told, it's the best synthesis of chick flick/buddy road movie since Thelma and Louise, or Priscilla.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Paradise Now

This is worth watching. A buddy movie about two happy-go-lucky Palestinian guys who are committed suicide bombers who've vowed to go out with one another. When the movement calls and says they've got their chance, the classic hijinks ensue. Dark night of the soul. Last kiss from a martyr's daughter. Vacillation. Debates on the efficacy of terror. Testimony to the horror of a life lived entirely under occupation.

Some of it gets a little wooden, but all in all it's very well done. I normally don't get excited about watching movies about terrorism and martyrdom, for some reason. Paradise Now is balanced and well-thought out, and has feeling. And it's purty.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Beginning of an era

Graham hit Natalie in the face with a little football last night. At point blank range. He did not apologize. Would not. I made the tactical error of giving him an ultimatum: "Say you're sorry or you won't get any drink." He would not, could not, say I'm sorry.

So I put him in his crib, him kicking and screaming. And I went downstairs. And then I heard the telltale pitter pat of his feet. He had climbed out.

This was a first, bespelling our doom. From here on out, he's only staying in the crib when he wants to. Mary was, shall we say, underpleased. As was I.

Text production

I have produced great reams of corporate text today, be it in the oral (conference call with CIO out in LA talking BCP for his BPO call centers, recap to boss) or the written (notes on this meeting, entry in sales pipeline db). At lunch I discussed fine points of corporate-speak to some bedazzled recent hires, who had never imagined that the English language could be so kniptioned.

But wait.... just thought of something better to write about.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sharp security

NPR this morning reports that all the swiss army knives and nail clippers confiscated at airports get shipped to a warehouse in Harrisburg, PA and auctioned off in bulk. Total proceeds thus far for govt coffers? $300,000. I'm sure that's gross, not net.

How much better would it be to take the little plastic trays of sharp items and offer them to those deplaning just across the way? No shipping, storage, administration, or other costs. Get rid of the things. The laws of large numbers would average things out. It would be like the penny cup by the register.

OK. Giving out sharp things for free is not a typical govt service. But still, times have changed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Masala on Chambers St., Princeton NJ

In keeping with the theme of restaurant reviews, I'll just say that I suppose I should be happy that Masala makes a concerted effort to be the healthier choice in Indian lunch buffets. They serve brown rice. They take the skin off the chicken Tandoori. There is no lamb saag. Truth be told, I am not grateful. Even if it makes it easier to not have seconds and gorge onesself. The naan is OK, if itself a little thin.

That are other questionable touches about the place. The banquette where I sat just plain smelled. One of those musty restaurant neglect smells, like a small tub of industrial grease was back in the corner somewhere. Paper towels in the bathroom were not in their dispensor but, upon inspection, on the window ledge, as if they were making a break for freedom but didn't quite get there.

I've never had a particularly good meal either there or as take-out. One may hope that this precious restaurant space will free up for something tastier soon.

Cafe Moxie, Vineyard Haven

Was called to task below for failure to provide review of restaurant, so here we go. The restaurant referenced above is fine indeed. My bass dish was mighty good. Mary's duck gnocchi appetizer rocked. Scallops also appealed to all of us, and the deserts were tasty too.

The place was cute. The lock on the bathroom door was not idiot-proof, however, as I demonstrated. Thankfully, I was standing facing away from the door when the nice lady opened it, elsewise it could have proved embarassing for both of us.

Best of all, there were celebrities, or, rather, one of them. This dude walked in and I was, like, "hey, that dude's in pictures." And, despite Mary's protestation that I always think people are somebody, it was in fact Luke Wilson, brother of Owen, wacko in his own right, who stopped in for a repast. Everyone was suitably impressed, though as erstwhile New Yorkers Mary and I pretended to let it roll off of us.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Home again

Back from vacation, a full weekend day spent at home. The kids are atypically happy and excited about playing with their own toys. The house is moderately clean. After fighting it for an hour, Graham naps for the first time in weeks.

At dusk, races in the back yard. Even Mary. Back and forth, back and forth. At certain moments I have thought Mary was crazy in her attachment to and insistence upon the yard, but when we have have backyard races, I see her point.

Graham loves the racing. Sometimes, when he sets out running, he extends his left arm and makes a circular motion which is the exact opposite of the natural running motion. Don't know where that comes from.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Retour a l'etat du jardin

That's back in Jersey, is what it is. After a week in Massachusetts, NJ feels like the wild west.

Coming up on four centuries after the days of Miles Standish and his fellow Puritan stiffies, Massachusetts remains and unrelentingly moralizing place. One nature preserve we went to had a sign saying "no swimming, picnicking, beach chairs, beach sports, or anything of the sort" (italics added). The paper ("we have no ethyl on the Island", said the cash register guy, whatever that means) bag from the grocery store says "supporting your healthy lifestyle." How does the bag know I didn't purchase all junk food? On the walls of the same grocery store are pictures of happy local farmers, and messages about the virtues of locally grown produce.

Meanwhile, the streets are prowled by Volvos and Subarus (we had them too) driven by hawk-nosed women in batik dresses and birkenstocks. Liberal piety reigned supreme. I was surprised that restaurants were allowed to serve both fried food and ice cream.