Monday, November 30, 2009


I must say I love it when I send email from my yahoo account to my yahoo account and it ends up in the spam folder. Brilliant.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More from Graham

Graham continues to say cute things.

For example:

  • Last night, when praising the blue Ikea "coverter" with white circles on it, he said he liked it because it was "very decorationable"
  • Just now, he was talking about how the Indians knew how "if you live souther you had gooder foods"
Natalie is by no means done with cuteness, mind you. She continues to give the temperature every morning quite strictly: "high of 52 degrees fahrenheit", lest we should be confused with celsius. She also quite regularly says "morning time" and "o'clock" with a very robust and articulated initial "o" sound, as opposed to a brusque and clipped schwa.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trouble in Dubai

The markets are upset that Dubai will have trouble servicing its debts, and there is trouble in Vegas as well. Nevada has the most underwater mortgages of any state, big casino deals are having trouble working.

Pardon me for not caring. Neither of these places have ever held any fascination for me, except a perverse one. They strike me as being emblematic of all that has been wrong in the world for some time, and the only reason to rue their downfall is to think of the quantity of productive labor that has been squandered on them. Yes, they have fed many construction and service workers from the hinterlands of here or there, but also many more or less enslaved sex workers. Some significant portion of that cash could have gone into math and science education. Oddly enough, just as pornography has driven the development of internet technology, I'm sure that there have been worthwhile advances in engineering which have come out of the otherwise fruitless exercises in building front shaped islands and choreographing fountains. Or maybe not.

Anyhow, I shed no tears for Abu Dhabi this week

Monday, November 23, 2009


Enjoyed the hospitality and bandwidth of a Panera on Six Forks Road in North Raleigh today, a corporatist no-man's land that I had visited once before in 2003. Today I was astonished by the number of people who came in and had cheesy bowls of soup at 10:45 in the morning. The place was veritably hopping with people both with laptops and without.

If this is any indicator of the fiscal mood of the nation, it's good. Much casual dining, and before noon, when, as I'm always telling my daughter, one could get busted for having lunch.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The End of History and overconsumption

It occurred to me sometime this ending that the whole supersizing trend: cars, houses, compensation, restaurant portions, malls, as well as the pseudocosmopolitanization of America: a mocachino in every pot, seared ahi tuna on every grill, really got rolling in earnest after the end of the Cold War 20 years ago. At that point in time, the great narrative of history having come to a close, not with a bang but with a whimper, America really got down to indulging its taste for just about everything. What else was there to do, after all? We had won.

And the last decade has been little more than a steady realization that history hasn't really come to an end, after all, that there were forces below the surface all along, in places little suspected: the Middle East, China and now Brazil. We shall see how it plays out.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I have received inquiries from my readers regarding my lack of reportage concerning my lunching habits of late. My sincerest apologies. Although there are a lot of fine eateries in Carrboro, sometimes referred to as the "Paris of the Piedmont," and others within walking distance just over the line into Chapel Hill, I will confess that I have recently fallen victim to the sober and niggardly mood that has swept our fair nation, and have therefore been frequenting the deli at the Harris Teeter (a grocery store) just across the railroad tracks and a ditch or two. Said deli has daily specials for $2.99 half subs: each day has a hot sub and a cold sub option. Recently, in fact, a $3.99 meal option has reared its head, which offers a half sub with a bag of chips and an house brand iced team or lemonade. They offer a "whole wheat" sub roll as well, designating a roll containing whole wheat flour.

There is also a display where one can get a free sugar cookie each day and, should the mood strike one, there are samples of ham on toothpicks and little cuplets of cake or pie to be had. Fairly bountiful sampling indeed.

And -- and this is the kicker -- if one scans one's VIC or "Very Important Customer" card at check out, after purchasing 15 half subs, one earns a 16th whole sub free, a further 13.3% markdown, though it does encourage a little feasting (or at least chip skipping).

Needless to say, lunches have been had elsewhere, to wit, Neal's Deli, Amante Pizza, IP3, Jade Palace, Tyler's, the shitbox Chinese all u can eat at the corner of Lloyd and Main (never again), and even Weaver Street, though I am largely suspicious of the prepared foods in that cruncheteria. I will keep you up to date on the story as it emerges.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Potter and friends

I started reading the Harry Potter books some months ago in an attempt to get on the same page with my daughter, who can be a stubborn protopubescent pill at times. I have since learned the rhetoric of "muggles", "snogging," "butterbeer" and "you-know-who" plenty well. I have also started enjoying the books.

And, I must say, it's not the magic or the fantasy or the enigmas or the denouments at all. That stuff, altogether, is rather plodding. But just as in Huck Finn or Dead Souls, the journey was said to be a device for the displaying of society, so in Harry Potter the magic and thrills and chills, hokey as they may be, are but a backdrop for the main plot of growing up and developing and maintaining friendships and loyalties. The emerging and deepening bonds of Harry - Ron - Hermione - Hagrid -- Dumbledore and later Neville -- Luna -- Ginny et alia. is really what it's all about. Harry and crew are rewarded time and again for having good hearts and good execution to back it up. And you don't get that everywhere. And I'm happy that my daughter likes it.

My sister once said that she no longer wanted to watch movies that didn't have happy endings. And, while I haven't gone that far, I know what she meant. There is a point in time in life when you really appreciate the positive in art, whatever that is, and Harry and friends have it going on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The day cafe

After a protracted spate of telephone calls this afternoon, walked out and grabbed a cup of coffee from the groover cafe and wine bar up the block, just across the street from the KFC that has been there forever. Inside was the kind of hip setting that I would have just eaten up when I was in grad school, just the place to go to of an afternoon with laptop and books to smoke, space out, pretend I was working, try to look good, scope out women and dream of hooking up with my true love who might just come through the door at any minute, though it didn't work out that way in the end.

Today, I just wanted the be-banged barista to hurry up and get me my coffee so I could get back to my desk.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flood o spam

Is it just me, or are more and more spammers figuring out how to hijack people's Facebook accounts and send spam and potential viruses? What a pain in the butt. Why can Zuckerberg et al. get this straight?

Also, I can tell you for sure that there's a lot of lag time in getting my business phone off of people's call lists. Every day I get calls from morons trying to get me to accept credit cards. So I have to tell them that a. I'm not the boss and b. we're corp to corp and would never take credit cards anyway. On the other hand, our home number remains blissfully free of callers, which promotes marital harmony. If not always successfully.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hold my life, until I'm ready to use it

Every once in a while I put on the Replacements, and I'm continually struck by the extent to which a band this drunk, this out of control, was in so many ways the voice of a generation, or at least the piece of one to which I belonged. I don' t know why this should surprise me.

Unfortunately there's no good video in the public domain of the Replacements, but this cover is close enough. All you need to hear is the sound and the chorus to get it.

Friday, November 13, 2009


There was a story yesterday in the Wall Street Journal about how it's become the hip thing at high end engineering schools to form up in clubs, pool tools -- especially fine tolerance machine tools whose prices have dropped dramatically in recent decades -- and tinker and make physical objects. Well, hip is one thing, extensible is another. It got me thinking about all the bubbas sitting around America drinking PBR, watching Glenn Beck and NASCAR, and generally freaked out and disempowered about having a black president. What if those guys had high-end tools and could tinker? I bet they'd feel kind of empowered, after being eviscerated by multiple decades of real income declines at progressively shittier jobs. And I'll bet they'd produce some interesting gadgets, too.

It's just a question of building out a little business plan (though not for profit), getting some seed funding from universities and Soros, and running a pilot at a community college or two here in the great state of North Carolina, where, thanks to Terry Sanford and others, we've got strong community colleges. This could be a scalable way to encourage innovation while making a bunch of rednecks shut the fuck up about the government always doing something for somebody else.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The battle commences

The sweet little kittens that we brought home a few weeks ago are performing according to script. Last night in bed, I thought I smelled bad, bringing back bad memories of years long gone by when a nasty brew of cigarettes, beer, greasy food, garlic and an obstinate refusal to bathe enough meant that I had a body odor problem. Not atypical of your young athletic substance abuser.

But last night it wasn't me. The kittens had peed all over the bed and comforter. After one had shat on the sofa the day before.

The vet tells us they have giardia, which is normal for cats coming out of a shelter, and they have to be fed antibiotics (force-fed, in Leon's case). Why doesn't the shelter treat for this since it treats for other things, that's my question?

I have a feeling I'm going to be buying some furniture and other stuff soon.

And to top it off, Jennette is coming down from New York this weekend.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New kids in town

Bustello. Supergroup ex of A Number of Things, Pressure Boys, Sex Police, Metal Flake Mother.

Click to Enjoy.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Fear of Falling

In the Times biz section this weekend, there's an interesting article about studies being done to decrease the incidence of old people falling down, which is estimated to cost $75 billion a year in the US (a decidedly non-trivial ~0.5% of GDP). Good and innovative work is being done in the field, to be sure. But I have to wonder how much effort is being taken to provide long-term preventative approaches to help older people develop better senses of balance: I'm thinking of Tai Chi or Yoga specifically geared towards 50-60-70 year olds.

I also have to wonder about the relative incidence of injuries on wood floors vs. wall-to-wall carpet. The latter would seem to have an advantage once you've fallen, but would its unevenness encourage falls? Or is moving from wood floors to individual rugs and back again the greater risk? One can imagine having suitability standards for floor covering salespeople, as is the case for financial advisors etc., who have a fiduciary duty to inform clients of risks associated with products (high-flying stocks, variable annuities, etc).

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Just minding the store

So Mary ran uptown to drop something off, and then she stopped into a little antiques store on Rosemary St, and then she thought, "I'll just pop my into Red Window" (a furniture store opened by Elizabeth Edwards promising some sort of oddball discounting of fancy chairs and whatnot). And Mary goes in and who does she find sitting there jabbering on his cellphone, alone minding the place, but mister all-teeth-and-Breck himself, Chapel Hill's own would-be President, Mr. John Edwards. He looked up from his phone and flashed his pearly whites at Mary, but kept on talking on his phone, which is, I will have you know, not considered best practice for retail salespeople. But it kind of makes sense, if you think about it: if you can't be the most powerful man in the world, you might as well be an underperforming employee of your breast-cancer afflicted wife, particularly after you sire a child by some vixen but deny it.

Or maybe he just thought Mary didn't look like she had money.

Hell to pay

Now that it looks like Steven Cohen's SAC Capital may get dragged bodily into the insider trading scandals, things could get interesting. If you think there's been an uproar over bonuses at AIG and Goldman Sachs, wait till the mainstream press starts chewing over Cohen's compensation ($1 bln in 2005) and lifestyle (35,000 square foot house in Greenwich, bought for $15 million but with jah knows how many improvements put into it). Jim Paulson may have made more in 2007-8 betting against housing, but at least it's pretty well understood how he did it. Cohen's modus operandi has always seemed dubious: being the closest to information, getting the first phone call from the broker.

Once its understood how much money hedge fund people made relative to investment bank people, main street people will be hopping mad. And it will be hard for Glen Beck to keep thumping Atlas Shrugged as if it were the Bible.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Just bought a Diet Coke at Wendy's at Boston Logan. The woman in line behind me, perhaps Dominican, ordered a Chicken Nuggets meal. The cashier, almost certainly Filipina, responded "Ok, bonita." (I.e. "beautiful"). You don't hear too much of this between us white folk. Very nice.

In other news, stayed at a Sheraton for the last couple of nights. I watched the corporate propaganda tv channel for a few minutes for yucks, and it informed me that one of Sheraton's new deali-os was all white beds: sheets, pillows, blankets, duvets. This was nice, but didn't help me when I woke up at 6am cold. Because everything was white, it took me 45 precious minutes of grogginess to recognize that I was missing the duvet. Thanks, Sheraton.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Boston breakfast

In Boston. After a 7AM (no typo) meeting with my boss at the convention center I walked across a couple of bridges into town, observing the morning rush. I felt I deserved a proper breakfast, where I could sit at a table and someone would bring me a plate of eggs that someone had actually cooked for me and which I could eat with something metallic. Alas and alack, it was nowhere to be found. Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks seem to have sown up the joint (where, indeed, is Tim Horton's, purveyor of a superior round product that has made incursions as far south of the Canadian border as New York?). I ended up at a bagel place where they did, at least, cook my eggs, but I had to carry it to my own table and eat it with plastic.

Such is the world we live in today.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The incident of the Volvo oil cap

It was 1998, and we lived in Somerville, NJ, with one car. Mary taught at Princeton, and I taught at Drew, 45 minutes in the other direction. I was in a sort of DIY period, and had recently bought a book called Fix Your Bike Yourself. For me, this was very ambitious, almost starry-eyed.

So I drove our 1987 Volvo to Drew one Monday, and I had to get the car back to Mary so she could drive to class in the evening. Normally, it would have been no problem. However, as I pulled off 287 at exit 33, I had the distinct impression that there was smoke coming from the hood. And I was not wrong! And I knew what smoke meant. Fire!

Luckily, there was a fire station right there, with a garage, and I went back by the garage and this guy looked under the hood, and there was oil all over everything. Apparently, someone had been changing the oil and had not put the cap back on. That someone was of course Mr. DIY himself, alias moi meme. So he broke out some duct tape, covered up the oil putting-in area and advised me to get a real cap quickly (or, as Graham would have it "more quickerly").

So I go and teach class, with like an hour's wiggle room before I needed to get back to Somerville, and right after class I went to the nearest garage to figure out what to do. They told me of a dealer some 10 miles and two exits north and called to see that they had the part in stock. The gods smiled on me that day, as a very nice Asian woman, relative newcomer to this fair land of ours, driving a white 240 station wagon, offered me her oil cap as a loaner to get me up to the dealer. Naturally, I took the cap and ran, went up, bought another, raced back, returned hers, and then high-tailed it down the interstate back to Mary, who was getting a little nervous.

And this all took place long before we were hip or bemonied enough to have cell phones, so I hadn't even let Mary know how close we were to a major fuck up.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Trick or treating

We did the first tour of the new/old nabe as a family on Halloween. The hills are as steep as ever they were. Most impressive was Graham, who, despite his milk allergy, was as aggressive and predatory as any non-allergic kid at the bowls of unsuspecting neighbors: he dove in for handfuls and was only slowed by considerable parental intervention.

Not that Natalie didn't get her own. After our local tour, we took Natalie to Meadowmont, a nouveau-riche neo-urbanist development to the south of town, where we hooked up with Nick-Nack and his family and Natalie was able to go through one "totally awesome" haunted house, before retreating to his house with 5 other 9-10 year olds for a sleep over and a viewing of one truly horrifying movie: Mama Mia. Thankfully, Mary and I were spared this viewing.