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.