Friday, June 30, 2006

Long time no action

It feels like it's been a long time anything interesting happened. Maybe it's because I never go anywhere off the beaten track (San Antonio was an attempt at least). Maybe it's because, at work, in sales, I'm always trying to recast some past experience in the hopes of reliving some minor variation on the same theme at a peer organization. You know that sounds awesome.

I haven't even been going to the library to get more kids' books (another source of variation), though Natalie's recent acquisition of the Magic Treehouse series provides some relief.

That's why all too often I'll be reading about somebody's job in the Times or something and I'm, like, man, they have the life. Or even on NPR, I'll get envious of somebody's gig, which is harder to imagine.

I gotta break out. Or at least get myself fired.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fed does it again

The Federal Open Markets Committee some minutes ago announced that it was raising the Fed Funds Overnight rate by twenty-five basis points, the 17th such rate hike over the last two years. The Grouse would like to commend Chairman Bernanke and the other members of the committee for so wisely husbanding the money supply, with a stance that is neither excessively commodative nor aggressively yicky. Especially in view of certain inbalances in the markets, notably the so-called "housing bubble" about which there's been so much chatter on this thing they call the internet, as well as historically unprecedented levels of the Current Account Deficit (CAD) and really embarassingly low household savings rates, it's entirely possible that shit could get way fucked up. And then the Chinese would swoop in and, like, totally gobble us up.

Which would be bad.

We therefore reiterate our support for a program of progressive but moderated tightening of credit conditions.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Letting em know

I pulled up to a light next to a youngish businesswoman in a white blouse and a Saab convertible today. I probably don't need to tell you that my little S40 and I left her in the dust effortlessly, accelerating to 60 well before I got to the 40 mph speed limit sign on the ramp crossing Rte 1.

I probably shouldn't have a turbo. My friend Steve expressed guilt to me not long ago on account of the turbo in is PT Cruiser and the poorer mileage the car gets for it. I know that I could get better mileage by driving more conservatively, but where's the fahrvergnugen in that?

No, those rare occasions that Central NJ affords me to floor it and blow past somebody are momemts I cherish. Part of it is, for sure, the legacy of the Turner Thesis, the cowboy mentality of wanting freedom and open roads. Lord knows Detroit encourages us in this. A corollary nuance to this is the middle-aged guy feeling cooped up and needing to kick out testosterone. Detroit has that number too.

Probably I'd be better off in the big boxy 240, where all acceleration occurs in relative rather than absolute terms.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Moving away, inwards

In the Eastern bloc back in the day there was a concept of "internal emigration." This referred to the practice of just moving through the day, acquitting onesself at one's day job, and then getting home to get on with the focus of one's real life, be it art, family, hobby, S & M, whatever. It was basically trying to ignore where and how one lived in reality, and supplant it with fantasy.

I'm sure HR people have a similar concept here. And there are police-state like measures to combat it, like blocking URLs for non-work email, entertainment sites, and (gasp!) blogs. But what are the incremental costs of people whose interests are so disaligned from those of their employers that they pretty much just dial it in and focus all their energies on other aspects of their lives? How much more could companies achieve if they could harness that energy? Would people be happier if they were fully engaged with their work? Would their parallel and therefore total lives be less rich if they were deprived of a downpressor?

One thing's for certain. We're unlikely to find out.

Monday, June 26, 2006

One or many wolves?

This morning, Natalie's first day of camp, she asks me: "Daddy, why do you have to go to work?"
(Note that we've been through this before) And I lay the standard line on her. "To get money to pay for the house and food and stuff." And she rejoins: "But why can't we be like wolves?"

I didn't have the best answer for that.

As for her camp, it is at the swimming pool which adjoins and shares a name with her school, Community Park. On rainy and overcast days, like today, the kids will repair to the nearest building, which is..... her school. So, two days into summer, she'll be back in school. Thankfully, she's at an age where this probably feels more comfortable than annoying. For Freddy, from across the street, who's like 8 or 9, I don't know if that's true. She perhaps will have a vague sense that something is amiss.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Just to be clear

I can't for the life of me understand why the Dutch coach didn't put in van Nestleroy there at the end against Portugal. He's their all-time leading goal scorer. He still scores for United, it ain't like he's ancient or something.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Viewing pleasure

Alright. The second goal for Argentina against Mexico was sublime. It's what we all dream about. Chest trap. Strike with left from top of box into upper corner, coming down with topspin. And I missed it because I was giving Graham watermelon.

Capote. I resisted it at first, but in the end, it was pretty good. Everybody gets what they deserve. Except Capote's boyfriend. Why did he stick around so long? He was plenty cute and a normal guy.

Note that the killers get executed on my birthday. A year to the day before my birth. Which is to say, 100 years to the day after Lincoln got assassinated. Why does so much shit go down on April 14th? Mayakovsky's suicide. The Titanic. The great dust storm of '35, or something like that. Pete Rose.


The Wicked Witch of the West is, apparently, to scary to stay in the room with, though Helen braves it.

Wickawitch is what Natalie used to call the broomstick rider in Each Peach Pear Plum. That was in fact cute.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

About a boss

Had lunch with a guy the other day and two other guys who worked for him. One of them was black.

And bossman's asking me where I stayed the weekend before and I'm like "the Marriott" and he's like "was there a black wedding there? Every time I stay there there's a black wedding there." And I'm thinking, hmmm, this is a game that this Larry Bird-poster-on-the-wall motherfucker he must play all the time with his black employee all the time, and I should say something even more outrageous like "why do they even let those people get married at all," but I don't.

I love Brian Piccolo

Mark my words, this will be the title of my novel. For those of you who don't remember, these are the climactic words of the classic 1971 TV movie Brian's Song, when Billy Dee Williams, as Gale Sayers, declares his love for the by-then-dead-of-cancer Brian Piccolo. The movie had all the typological conflict you could dream of, white-black, brass-shy, alladat.

But mostly, it was a tearjerker for guys, and a permissible one because it featured football players. And it had a soupy theme song, that was a hit of sorts: "If the hands of time, were hands that I could hold, I'd keep them warm and in my arms they'd not turn cold." And they played it every year, it seemed. And we'd watch it and cry, and that was OK cuz it was football.

And later, my dad would cite this line as if ironically, though we in fact knew it was serious.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Looking for a book

Down in the basement this morning looking for a book that I bought a couple of years ago and never read. Unboxed many books that I hadn't seen for years. Books I've never read and may never. And yet, how nice it is to see them, and think such thoughts as "Oh yeah, that book. I've always thought it would be nice to read that." This despite the fact that I deaccessioned a good portion of my libary 3 or 4 years as a service to the field of Slavics, and adverse selection meant that many fine titles walked.

And, for some reason, the dehumidifier was off in the basement. That's not right.

And so the general morning mood was much better than the day before, when Natalie had vexed me so by whining and crying and not wanting to put on socks with her sneakers, despite the fact that she had gym. And I yelled at her louder and meaner than I should've, enough so that even Mary chided me, when she's plenty barky herself sometimes. Stubborn children (primarily Natalie) are not my strongest skillset. Which makes me wonder about my promise as a manager.

Time will tell.

Monday, June 19, 2006

For some reason, things fall apart

Driving home from Bethesda, arguing with Mary, spaced out on the Beltway, and headed East of DC to the South. Not towards NJ. It was bumper to bumper headed counter-clockwise on the Belt, so I cut into Prince George's County to cut over to the BW Parkway.

By repute, this is the capital of Middle class African-American culture, and indeed, it looked just like any other boring piece of middle America, save for the fact that everybody was black. A friendly woman in an Accord at the gas station gave me good directions, and then clarified them further on her way out. But there was thick glass surrounding the cashier inside the gas station. No bathroom. Car stereos turned up to 11.

In a later convenience store, there was filthy cardboard in the floor by the drink machines and also no bathroom. Finally, a toilet was found at Subway, and it was dirty.

There were decrepit tennis courts at high school, and poor signage.

What's the deal? The median household income there is 50% higher than the national median.
Why this seeming attempt to recreate ghetto conditions amidst plenty?

The sweet brownfields of home

Shockingly, we hit bumper to bumper traffic on the way back between... Baltimore and Wilmington. On top of what we had seen on the Belt and the BW Parkway. People be driving.

So imagine our joy when we came across the Delaware Memorial Bridge, exited the Turnpike onto 295, and headed north for the charming burgs or Camden, then Trenton, surrounded by lush green brownfields.

New Jersey. Our home. Land of Springsteen, Soprano, and other older people.

Right next to The City.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The power of sugar

In a tantrum after we leave, Graham succumbs to a lollypop.

For 20 years, traffic on 95 between Baltimore and Wilmington. I guess there's nothing else to do there.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A tricky game

Matt's kids were in the office today, and I had to guess what age his boy was. I guessed a year high. I realized that guessing kids' ages is sort of like guessing women's weight: you can't win unless you're spot on. If you guess too high (or low, in the other case), you simultaneously flatter and imply that the real age (or weight) is somehow defective.

Not true for little kids.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

White males above the law

After a meeting over a fruit smoothie with a guy from Brown Brothers Harriman, I needed to pee, so I went into the Brooks Brothers (what is it with brothers?) across from Ground Zero. I was in fact wearing one of their suits, albeit from an outlet, so I felt fully entitled to sneak a little urination action. On the second floor, in the shoe section, some buff Wall St. guy was trying on shirts out in the open, talking to his buddy, rather than go in a changing room, as if he couldn't be bothered. I guess he couldn't.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Grousing round the big blue marble

In the car on the way to school today, during a discussion of which instruments Margaret and other neighborhood girls were playing or thinking of playing, Natalie informed me (and I already knew this, mind you) that Ruth's sister Nora is learning to play the cello. However, it comes out like this "Ruthis sister Nora is learning to play the jello." I know I should probably be helping her with her pronunciation. But how are you gonna beat a sentence like that?

Meanwhile, in Djakarta, somebody was Googling the phrase "hortatory text," and I'll be damned if the Indonesian Google didn't put my entry from flying back from San Antonio a couple of weeks back #3 in its search. puts it on the third page, nestled in amongst a bunch of academic claptrap that doesn't mention spaghetti straps at all. Shortly thereafter, someone peaked at me from Amsterdam. By gum, you've got to love this so-called "internet" thingie.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A soft evening

After considerable Sturm und Drang, a lovely mild evening in the back yard. Graham had a late nap, so Mary instructed me to take the kids out there and run em down so they would sleep.

Natalie has, of late, taken to running races the length of the yard. Fortunately, she does not require that I race her every time. Sometimes she'll just go against the clock. Wearing the sharp orange outfit that Nora gave her for her birthday, and some cobalt butterfly sandals, back and forth she went, somehow miraculously achieving a back and forth time of 20 or 19 each time.

Later, she concocted some ball games, making up fine rules each time. When she's in this mode, she smiles and giggles almost as if she were 3 or 4 again, and not a mighty and often whiny 6.

Graham, for his part, ran a few races with the stroller but then concentrated on shovelling mulch into the wagon with a soup spoon. Resisting the call to come back inside for stories, he declared: "I just gotta finish with my garden." Clearly, he has learned much from Mary.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Signs of growth

Though the run-up to Natalie's 6th birthday party had its tensions, Mary and I were able to successfully make it through with only minimal sniping and no out and out yelling.

Likewise, the party itself was largely uneventful, and entirely dairy-free, for Graham's sake.

Graham, for his part, was observed to have eaten 10 pieces of watermelon. And then had a nasty blow-out.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


This movie is equal parts Altman (the many parallel existences) Kieslowski (cosmic coincidence, operatic soundtrack) and Michael Mann (dudes driving in cars at night). For all that, and for all its occasional excesses, it's a pretty decent movie. It has a moral center, which can be reached in fewer than a hundred and one licks.

Friday, June 09, 2006


What can I say. I'm just sleepy.

Driving around the Delaware with an investment banker looking for opportunities to package deals that we didn't quite find just yet. Nice little towns, though. Old mill-like housing stock and parks along the river with bandstands, but no post-industrial scenarios next to the rail line to bundle up for a developer. Alas.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Witherspoon Grill

Four guys holding forth on the subject of suburban angst and undertones of desire that aren't supposedly found in the city. Basically about how people want to fuck each others spouses out here because they're bored. Not new material, but groundbreaking for guys to discuss it. Vasectomies are also mentioned, as are kids being excluded from playgroup for being too rough.

Basically, we broke it down. Lettuce was consumed, oddly enough.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reportage, or, saddle up!

After foolishly inquiring whether there was any press in the room today at the Mid-Atlantic Hedge Fund Association, Orin S. Kramer, Chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council, which presides over New Jersey's $72 billion dollar pension plan, disclosed that the council had yesterday been discussing (with no resolution, mind you) upping the $800 million currently actually placed in hedge funds to $3.8 billion, with a substantial portion of that (can't read handwriting) to go to single-manager funds, rather than funds of funds.

Jon Corzine is, reportedly, booyah for upping the state's allocation, even if the fee impact is substantial, which could be politically damaging if the returns aren't good. For the electorate, this represents the moral hazard of electing a guy who doesn't need to care if he gets reelected.

Kramer also said that the NJ pension plans funding shortfall present value, officially put at $18 bln, could easily go up to $25 bln or $30 bln if you tweak your assumptions a bit. Like, for instance, not assuming a 9.8% return on equities.

Such a nice guy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A bundle of contradictions, a typical drive

On the way to the dentist in Somerville, mind running after email of news that Jeff's medical school load out in St Louis has brought his marriage to its knees. Whatever torture I'm going through, that puts things in context. Career not that big a deal, however mired I may be in operational minutiae of crap about which, at the end of the day, I could care less about.

Then, on NPR a story about moving Stalin's body to Georgia, and I'm, like, I gotta get back to Russia.

Desparate confusion, because I really haven't determined the color of my parachute.

At the end of it all, back in the land of Cheever and Updike. Perennial conflicts and accomodations.

Monday, June 05, 2006

One of those days

The day drags on uncertainly, despite a steady stream of caffeine. Waiting for a phone call. Making others. Making hook-ups. Here a VOIP vender, there a Russian offshorer, elsewhere a former colleague looking for high end programmers (like I'd give em up if I had em).

Teaching the new Rumanian kid about things we do other than choo choo trains.

The sun, once bright, now hidden away. 5 o'clock almost here, and my own personal 5 o'clock not too too long afterwards.

McKinsey study of Asset Management in 2010. Good stuff, despite typo on page two.

Graham's poop greatly exacerbated by window that got stuck right around time we installed air conditioner. Can't wait.

Friday, June 02, 2006


On Amtrak from DC today, this post-college guy was working this post-college girl and he used "Yale" every sixth or seventh word. And I believe she also went there. So why was he breaking that out so hard, like it was going to really impress her? It's sort of like saying, "you know, I breath this really cool stuff called oxygen."

I don't think it was gonna happen, though she kept right on jabbering with him. She was taller than he was, anyhow. And he had a wierd part in his hair. Praise the lord, she left, and he shut up.