Friday, December 31, 2010

By the way

I looked back in the archive of posts and realized that the ones I'm really interested in are the ones about the family and kids, so that's gonna be a continuing direction for this blog:  less abstract, less writerly, more kid, family, and experience-focused.  Since Mary doesn't read it, maybe I'll even write about her.

To the Intrepid!

To close out the year, Graham and I ventured into Manhattan to visit the USS Intrepid as well as the Growler, the submarine moored next to it.  On the way in, and on the way back out in fact, Graham was excited to play "I spy with my little eye," so we played it, though the game is, truth be told, better suited to the car than to the train.

Once at Grand Central we lunched (with lemonade, to be sure), and checked out the main hall, then cabbed it over to the water.  On board the carrier, first we checked out the movie (remembering how utterly enthralled Graham had been by the film at Guilford Courthouse back in July).  It was good, solid propaganda. A couple of notes, though. They had this guy who had been a POW in Vietnam talk about how the war was fought to stop the communists from taking over the world and how it had been a righteous war.There weren't any black, hispanic, or asian folx in the movie, except for an Imperial Japanese pilot who was honored alongside the Americans.  And then there were Russian planes up on deck alongside French, British, Italian, Israeli, and American ones. What is the point here?  Is it that our wars are just and honorable, or that military people, to the extent that they have some code, are intrinsically honorable.  And therefore their toys are too.  Dunno.

Afterwards,  we stopped at H&H Bagels on 46th and grabbed a few.  That is a rarity for us NC dwellers.

Then Graham and I walked the whole way back across mid-town to Grand Central. I thought it would be nice to stretch our legs and get in a little father and son city time. I had forgotten that the Times Square region was generally gonna be shut down in preparation for the big New Years Eve thang. So we had to go as far north at 48th to cross over. Graham, who had never seen a big moving billboard, was transfixed by a massive one featuring undulating M&Ms at 48th and Broadway.  "What's that for, dad?  So everybody will want to eat M&Ms?"  I guess he has little concept of advertising, since he doesn't watch TV much.

In any case, we made it back.  It was tiring but fun.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of the work year

And wouldn't you know it, back pain.

Good timing, I suppose.  Meanwhile Graham and Mary Lee have made great progress on a puzzle showing the heads of all of the presidents from GW to BHO.  Looks good.  Must go check it out.

Huge mounds of snow persist here in Larchmont.

ps.  Just submitted this post for publication and Google (which owns blogger) served up some ads for back pain, herniated disks, the like, on the "blog has been published" page. I don't know if it's been doing this for a while and I haven't been paying attention.  I suppose it's no big surprise.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Back from NJ

On Sunday we rushed from Larchmont to Princeton, just beating a monstrous blizzard into town. Dumped bags at Ted and Kirsten's, then family at David and Carol's.  Parked car in library parking deck. Picked up khatti rolls at Kaliente Grill.

And then the storm rolled in, wind and snow in epic proportions, but we hunkered in and hung with our friends, tortilla soup and watched taped rerun of Barca crushing Arsenal 4-0, all goals by Messi, "the little magician," as the Brit play-by-play guys would have it.

At ten it was time to head the quarter-odd mile back to T&K's.  Too icy to drive.  Natalie sleeping over with Helen, so we piled Graham into a snow suit and put him on a plastic sled with a rope for dad to pull.  Deep snow, strong winds. David accompanying Mary and us boys on his x-country skis. A nasty night altogether, maybe 50 yards visibility, but Graham was into being pulled and said "wheeeeeee" for much of the way home.  Must have been like sleigh ride for him, back in the day.  It felt, in fact, like Russia might have.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Apple is rotten to the core

Apple just forced me to install iTunes to purchase a gift certificate for someone else. I like Apple less and less and time goes on. It is morphing into Microsoft, in terms of forcing vendor lockin.

This biases me even more strongly to go Android for my next phone and a tablet.

postscript:  after I went through the whole ordeal of downloading and installing iTunes, I am informed that my computer has only Quicktime 7.6.6 installed, where iTunes requires 7.6.7.  I should therefore uninstall iTunes, upgrade Quicktime, and then reinstall iTunes.  Steve Jobs can eat my ass.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Went to the city today for meetings. It was chilly, but bustling. After meetings, went to some thrift stores for fashion bargains but found nada.

Then went up to Columbia and had coffee with Joe Wolin.  On the way out I walked across 125th St to the MTA station there.  This is one walk I hadn't walked since 97 or so, and I must say that, recession or no recession, 125th St looked better. Better and more diversified retail.

As I was crossing Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, a guy turned and looked at the rather large ass of a woman in rather tight jeans and exclaimed "damn", in a way that seemed to imply that he should be given a medal for noticing.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


For the second year in a row, the ride to Larchmont from LaGuardia was much bumpier than the flight up.

Here, it is cold.  Tomorrow, Manhattan.

Natalie done me proud today.  When it was time for her dessert, I was trying to slyly indicate to Mary that there was pie she might have, while attention was focused on a bag of cookies.  Mary didn't know what I was talking about, but Natalie said:  "3.14?".  That's m'girl.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Throwing the ball

I don't know why I forget for such long periods of time to throw a ball with Graham.  It's not something that comes all that naturally to him, but he loves it!  I throw the ball softly to him, and he catches it.  Then he bounces up and down, maybe grabs his crotch for a minute, and then gives me a devious half-underhand half-sidehand zinger, topped off with a mischievous grin.  We could stand here in the study, eight feet from one another, and throw the tennis ball all day, if we didn't need to stop for the occasional snack.

As with anyone, a lack of facility with balls is nothing a few thousand reps can't cure.  We just gotta do it.  And it is the single most confidence-building, calming, and downright meditative thing to do in the whole world. Just throw the ball, back and forth.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More things the kids say

Natalie is, for better or worse, beyond the age where she does many goofy things with language.

Graham is still there. Mary has only recently impressed upon him that "embarass" and "surprise" are not the same thing.  He had been saying things like "Isn't it embarassing that there were so many Hessians fighting with the British?"

More recently, he has been using the word "example" in many creative verb and gerund forms.  I.e. "I exampled him that gravity makes people stay on the ground."

On occasion, he still calls me mom.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Did not have a lot of time to pay attention to the Wikileaks thing this week. Talked with friends last night and read more today.  Now support the guy more.  Certainly the Espionage Act is insane overkill.

However, the Swedish sex thing, lest we should forget, is a long-running story.  Here's a link to a story about it from back in August.

Yes they are working the charges a little bit harder now, moving to extradite.  He should face sex charges in Sweden and have a fair hearing. If he's found guilty, lock him up as statutes dictate, and give him a laptop. If he's not, he should stay in Sweden, which should refuse to extradite him to the US.

Slow days

I keep not writing, and in this I'm falling down in my commitment to this blog, which was originally to write, and to write something, anything, every day. Now that I am writing more for a living, I am arguably living up to the side of doing something by way of word production, for the sake of word nimbleness, every day.  I have, for instance, published 55 more "serious" blog entries over at Seeking Alpha (ps. if you have a sec, go there, register with the site, and become a "follower" of mine.  I need more)  where I alternate between being a shill and an asshole.  I have also published probably 200 pages of proprietary research about various facets of the life insurance industry, about which I'm learning more and more, and which can be interesting for a certain number of hours per week.

And so I blog a little less here, have a little less time for the deep thoughts.

Yesterday I caved in and went to Gretchen Rubin's "Happiness Project" web site and perused for a few minutes, then put her book on my Amazon wish list. Gretchen and I were in college together, and I'll confess to being jealous of her, and have often thought that having the free time that comes with marrying the son of a former Treasury Secretary certainly helps with happiness. But on her site she did show some generosity, some wisdom, some insight, and I generally find that getting over these petty jealousy things is better than harboring them.  So I'll read the book.  Or, as I do with many books, I'll give it 60-70 pages to speak for itself. Though (any family members reading, note that there are items prioritized higher on my Amazon list!).

Right now Mary and I are in the middle of watching Summer Palace, a 2006 Chinese movie about young lovers in college.  Lots of sex, really realistic (not pornish, but reminds me of having sex in college when hormones and emotion blend).  In general, so far it is the best film depiction of college romance I have ever seen. The bliss, the petty infighting and cheating on your lover to get back at them, the incredible attachment to one's lover and the catastrophe of break up, it reminds me of me.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Just read the second of Stieg Larsson's three mystery novels.  Enjoyed it.  Page-turner.  Would have snapped up the third one but it is only in hardcover in English and I'm too cheap for that and haven't yet gotten myself a Kindle or iPad.

There is less anal rape than there was in the first one, which is refreshing.  Still, Larsson cannot help at times but think himself Tolstoi.  He thinks he needs to delve into the interpersonal relations of every group of people in the novel, when he doesn't. I don't care, and I don't think most readers do.  I shouldn't complain that there were 250 pages more than were needed for a book with this level of ambition, and which is mostly for killing time anyway, but here I am, complaining.

Anyway, the dude is dead and we're not getting more of these so we should just enjoy what we've got, I reckon.

California Dreaming

This film, by Cristian Nemescu, is well worth watching.  Based on a real incident.  A NATO train headed through Romania gets stopped in a small town by a corrupt stationmaster, who demands customs paperwork, which the soldiers on board don't have because they've had minister-level phone calls giving the train safe passage all the way down the line.  So the train gets stopped for a few days. Hilarious hijinks ensue.

The local high school girls think the GIs on board are cute ("like Ricky Martin!"). There's a great sex scene. The mayor of the village wants to establish sister city status with the commanding officer's home town. Fax emerge about personal histories from WWII.  There is an Elvis impersonator and local schnapps.  Armand Assante has a rare chance to actually act.

And then there's the end. As Zhizhek would say, an "incursion of the Real," followed by an idyll.  Watch it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Mary has been traumatized by the voles that have nibbled on the roots of all of her plants and made them not grow. So we decided to let our cats outside to attack the little buggers.

The other day she had a tree guy by the house to consult with her on what trees need to come down for our upcoming renovation. They got to talking of plants, and then voles, and then cats, in short order.  He told her that his cats were named Volecat 1 and Volecat 2.

In other news, Graham is now missing both of his two front teeth. It's pretty cute, I must say.

Friday, December 03, 2010


Went to Boston this week on business.  Often when I travel I see things that are worth blogging about.  Not this time.  It was grey and rainy, and reminded me why moving to the southeast has not been a bad thing.  I got a cold.

I did have some fine seafood noodles at a Vietnamese place called Pho Pasteur in "Chinatown", and had dinner with my boy Steve at this place L'Petit Robert that everybody agrees is supposed to be hype.  I can confirm the hype part of it, though the hype doesn't seem justified.

Then I stayed in the Hyatt "Harborside", which is a euphemism for the airport Hyatt, since the airport is itself Harborside.  There I watched "Russia Today," or "RT", a Russian government funded news channel which is strangely like a trashier MSNBC, and is pretty much thinly-veiled Russian state propaganda spiced up with coinspiracy theory for "birthers" and 9/11 "truthers", but with an American professor-like anchor in the Rachel Maddow slot and a young hip girl "Alyona" up against Keith Olbermann.  I am half-shocked that Glenn Beck and his band have not found time to attack it, but probably half because it's not worth their time, and half because the two stations do share some conspiratorial foci.

Wikipedia reports that RT has won some awards, including the "Eurasian Academy of Television and Radio Prize for Professional Skillfulness."  Way to go!  If they keep at it, they may at some point in time rise up to the level of the Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Natalie is wise beyond her years.  She has not sat on a Santa's lap since she was 3 or 4. When questioned, she says that she likes Santa just fine, she just doesn't like people pretending to be Santa.