Saturday, November 27, 2010

Outdoor cats

Last night at around 10:30 while I was watching the Fox Soccer Report our cat Leon, who has turned into quite a nocturnal prowler, dashed across our patio.  Our other cat, Rascal, who was inside, seemed a little excited.  For some reason I thought Leon was being chased.

Now Leon, for some reason, is quite shy and I am only able to pet him when he has been sleep-snuggling with Rascal or in the sun and is in a state which I characterize as "kitty narcosis."  Otherwise, he generally stays away from me.  He was a shy cat even when we were picking him out as a kitten, but Graham insisted that we get him, so I overrode Mary's sensible character-based objections, and we took him home. Despite his shyness, he is very very soft, and sweet.

So I was alarmed when he dashed by in a seeming huff.  Mary and Natalie have much better luck with him, so I had Mary go outside and call him, which she had previously always done successfully.  To no avail.  Even when we tried the generally infallible technique of shaking his food bowl for him, he did not come.  I searched the backyard for him with a flashlight.  No kittie.  I was having visions of one of the neighborhood foxes having noshed him.  At last, Mary went out and searched under our deck, where he likes to hang out, and claimed to have seen his eyes, but he wouldn't come in when she called him when we turned out our lights for the night.

Even accepting the idea that pets are, in the end, a way to teach your children about the inevitability of death and that time heals wounds, it was disconcerting.  I wonder how I will do when Natalie is 16 or so and stays out till 3 am and turns off the ringer on her cell phone.

Leon came meowing by our door at about 4 am.  Mary, of course, had to let him in, lest he decide to run away.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Last week I know I had stuff to write about, but then I forgot.  Now I am sitting by the fire, looking out at the lake, recovering from the last session of eating while preparing for the bout of exercise which will make the next one both possible and maritally permissible.

Have begun reading the second Stieg Larssen novel, entitled The Girl who (something something).  I get the titles confused.  After 200-odd pages the thing is just starting to get in gear.  Normally I wouldn't have so much tolerance for a slow plot, in the absence of Dostoevskiesque depth, even with the liberal besprinkling of lesbian sex (which is pretty clinical), but I guess I really do like this Lisbeth Salander character.  It is odd to feel strongly for a character so Asperbergery, but she is pretty endearing.  She's loyal, she's moral, she's deucedly clever, and she kicks more ass than a person of her poundage probably should be able to.

Monday, November 22, 2010


At the meet the other day, in Natalie's race, a girl collapsed in the chute after the finish line. A 10-year old. She lay there for a long time, crying, so exhausted she couldn't get up. The referees kept saying to her, "get up, go to the end of the chute and give the judge your number." They were fricking apparatchik Nazis. The girl's mom wanted to go in to her daughter but they kept waving her off till she finally just went in there to her daughter and helped her up. There were several other girls who were crying after the finish line, and one who was puking in the last 100 yards. 10 and 11 year olds, mind you.

Cross-country is indeed a cruel sport. It's just you and the distance and your competitors and your pain tolerance. But for girls or boys this young to push themselves this hard, that's just silly. Compare Natalie, here in this photo courtesy of our own Jonathan Drake at the race a couple of weeks back. She did not win the race.  But she did not cry or puke either.  She did not look this happy at the end of the race, but she did maybe 15 minutes later. That's more like it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Country Driving

So Natalie and I were gone 26.5 hours, of which I drove 12, and she ran for less than 20 minutes. But it was fun, in it's own perverse way.

Living in the country looks very hard these days. The economics just aren't there. Even Natalie noticed the preponderance of Dollar Generals. In general and in theory, offshoring and free trade make sense, but there are social externalities that just aren't priced in.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winchester, VA, Hampton Inn

Just drove 5 hours, mostly in darkness. The best part was listening to Natalie sing "I am the walrus" with her headphones on. When we got to our hotel at 10, Natalie remarked quite ingenuously on the brick walkway: "Nice pattern." You gotta love it.

Florida Republicans

Somehow I got on their mailing list, and they keep sending me stuff, though I'm so obviously not one of them. I keep meaning to read some of it to mine it for laughs, but never have time.

Am shortly off to drive Natalie to an X-country meet in northern Maryland. What a haul! But she's into it, so go we will.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Children's books

I was impressed listening to Salman Rushdie's talk about his new book on the Diane Rehm show today, particularly since Diane was on vacation. I mean, I respect her and all, but I hate her voice.

And then it was great to see that Graham had come home from the library with books that weren't all about war, though admittedly one was about the conquest of the Americas, wherein Spanish conquistadors take Aztec and Inca emperors hostage in their own capital cities. You know that takes cajones. I try to let Graham know that this is really not the preferred way of doing business.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The results are in

The first annual Phillips Junior High School track all-stars challenge went off today at a reduced distance of 400 meters. Here's how it went down:  Jonathan Drake took the lead at the outset and stayed there, winning in 69 seconds, besting Clark Troy's 70 seconds.  Then the runners wheezed and expectorated, and then ran some more gentle 300 and 200 meter intervals to conceal the fact that 44-year olds had been racing on the track. And jogged.  And stretched.

Pizza was then consumed at Sal's

Money will be paid to a charity of Drake's choosing.

Palin's Alaska, Putin's Russia

I haven't seen Sarah Palin's new reality show in which she frolics and cavorts about her might home state, but I have read about it. Hunting, fishing, climbing, bears, family, and a Ford F150.  Sounds like America! The frontier!  Manifest destiny!

Sounds a lot like what Vladimir Putin has been up to while Medvedev keeps the Russian seat of power warm for him:  bear hunting, chopping wood shirtless, driving across Siberia in a new Lada, etc.

Although it lacked an explicit ideology of Manifest Destiny, Russia's self-image has always been defined by the seemingly limitless expanse of land that was their for the taking, and the associated natural resources. Neither Russia and Putin nor America and Palin do not let themselves get pushed around by a few metrosexuals with Priuses and yoga mats.

Palin is a woman of the people. They like her. Compare Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars" making fun of mom vs. Hilary Clinton marrying a jewish kid in a yarmulke who works for Goldman Sachs at a multi-million dollar wedding in New York. Which plays better in Peoria? Palin can't control her daughter, right?  Kids rebel.  Who can't relate to that?

We underestimate Palin at our own peril.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Getting ready for dinner

As Mary was getting ready for dinner tonight and putting on some foundation, Graham looked at her and said:  "What are you trying to do, make it look like you're made of mushrooms?"

Then we went to the Gourmet Kingdom in Carrboro and had a fabulous meal.  Eat there.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The best cartoon ever

Saturday, November 06, 2010

I/O Ratio

I read somewhere that Todd Combs, whom Warren Buffett has apparently chosen to succeed him as head of investments at Berkshire Hathaway, reads 500 pages a week, and I thought: "that's something to aspire to."  I have no idea how much I read each week.

But, as this blog demonstrates, just reading doesn't quite do it. There is a compulsion, on the other side, to expel some of the accumulated and combined thoughts. As I'm more or less writing for a living now, this acuity of this need is at times "fulfilled" by my work, or, rather, it is displaced by the grunt work of putting together "professional" and targeted thoughts.

But my question to myself is, how much of the burning need to write is straight up ego?  Certainly there's an aspect of getting the thoughts validated by readers, which can be measured by my (monumental, to be sure) site traffic, as well as by the quality and sheer girth of the enlargement themed poetry that it inspires. Though surely haiku would do because (as I've been told many times [for reasons I don't quite understand]) size doesn't matter.

The truly egoless, or zen way, would probably be to accumulate knowledge and perhaps wisdom for its own sake, and not share it.  Or would that be the proverbial sound of one hand clapping or, as the case may be, doing something else?

Friday, November 05, 2010

More on American History

So we've jumped from Pearl Harbor back to the American Heritage series on presidents, where Graham has me reading the one about William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and James K. Polk. Polk has virtues, but by and large it ain't that scintillating.  Graham just liked it because that's when we fought with Mexico.

But I feel this big yawning gap in there. We skipped right from George Washington to here. Jefferson is a big enough thing to have skipped over, as well as the Monroe Doctrine, but really what we've missed is Andrew Jackson. That guy was the paradigm shift, the moment that American History got some hair on its chest and stopped being some logical extension of the Enlightenment. For better and for (considerably) worse, Old Hickory was the Elvis of the 19th century.  He even changed men's hair.

 .... went back and looked quickly at the Wikipedia article on Jackson. Given the themes he brings up

  • winning the popular vote in 1824, but having Henry Clay do a backdoor deal to get John Quincy Adams in the White House sets up the "people" vs the "elite" theme
  • railing against the Bank of the US as empowering the rich, the elite, the foreign..
it's interesting the Tea Party crowd chooses to go with the rather staid founding fathers as role models when they've got a true kinsman in Old Hickory.  But look at what he did when he destroyed the bank:
The bank's money-lending functions were taken over by the legions of local and state banks that sprang up. This fed an expansion of credit and speculation. At first, as Jackson withdrew money from the Bank to invest it in other banks, land sales, canal construction, cotton production, and manufacturing boomed.[33] However, due to the practice of banks issuing paper banknotes that were not backed by gold or silver reserves, there was soon rapid inflation and mounting state debts.[34] Then, in 1836, Jackson issued the Specie Circular, which required buyers of government lands to pay in "specie" (gold or silver coins). The result was a great demand for specie, which many banks did not have enough of to exchange for their notes. These banks collapsed.[33] This was a direct cause of the Panic of 1837, which threw the national economy into a deep depression. It took years for the economy to recover from the damage.
Basically, the lesson is that you can't trust a redneck with monetary policy.

As an aside, we may note the Jackson was said to have been born just across the NC-SC border on the South Carolina side. Ben Bernanke, of course, spent most of his childhood in Dillon, SC, and worked at South of the Border as a teenager.  Spooky.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Ft Lauderdale, the W Hotel

Hotwire was kind enough to put me into this here W Hotel for $109 a night. The whole idea of the W, it seems, is to flatter the ego and make you feel like you are hip. It actually works, sort of. The funky music they play in the elevator makes me dance some steps which seem hip to me, when I am alone in there, though I wonder if there is a camera and if some security guard is up there going: "there's some middle aged guy in here in office casual and/or running shoes who thinks he's hip".

They think of everything here! There's a little package with a condom, lubricant, and mints, and even a CD with the soundtrack of the sounds of the W hotel worldwide that I could take with me to make me feel hip even when I'm not here. I'm sure it would sound snazzy in the stereo of the late model Camry I've got parked here (for only $31.80 per night).

Miami is like a tropical New York. Big, dense, seemingly a place of fearsome traffic. In the shadow of the W, and the Ritz Carlton are these little motels set a block or two back from the ocean, some of them seemingly converted into apartment complexes like where Joe D'Alesandro et al. lived in Warhol's Heat. Just behind ours is one that is that Mediterranean pink, that looks like it is utterly derelict.  Probably the owner wants to basically blackmail the owners of the W into buying it.  It will probably work.

Two blocks south of here there are lots of places where you can get liter-sized flourescent tropical drinks, and many people in tank tops enjoy them.  The manikins in the beachwear stores have most improbably large breasts, in fact ones that look like fake breasts.  Think about that. You could make a manikin with large breasts which have a natural curve, but no, better to make plastic breasts modeled on silicon ones. I guess it's greater verisimilitude.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Pearl Harbor

Graham has transitioned from the Revolutionary War to World War II, having decided to skip the Civil War and World War I. Which is OK, but there's a lot of explaining to do with WWII as well.

So we've been reading a book about Pearl Harbor. And it's pretty serious, and it's hard not to be drawn in by the actual heroism of the military people and their families. WWII was a just war, and a nasty one. There are gory parts of this book that I have to skip past with Graham, which is not so easy now that he can actually read.

And it's hard reading about Pearl Harbor not to think back to 9/11. Sitting at my desk at 9:04, looking north across 5th Avenue at all those people coming out on the balcony of Saks 5th, looking south and gesticulating, wondering what was going on. Then the phone call from Scott, saying a plane had flown into the WTC, and thinking that it was some wack job like the German guy who landed a Cessna on the White House lawn. Then David coming in the door, having put his wife on the PATH train for her office in the towers, but now unable to reach her. Then going down on the street and looking downtown at around 10, watching them burn and knowing that I had to get off the street or I'd start smoking again.

And then, some 5 weeks later, Bush, spurred on by Wolfowitz and Cheney, goes and fucks it all up with the Axis of Evil speech. We had the moral upper hand and righteous indignation, but we just had to go and throw it away for the sake of oil and ideology. A Texas-sized and Texas-themed mistake that may prove to be for us what Afghanistan was for the Soviets.