Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't be shy

I just discovered this Cat Stevens wonder. Listen, don't be shy.


I just saw "news anchor", Kiran Chetry of CNN ask the most preposterously stupid and misleading question on the morning news. She was interviewing congressman John Larson about a bill he is working on to raise money to cover some of the expenses incurred in Afghanistan.

Larson is suggesting a "war tax" on high income households; he emphasizes that this can be seen as shared sacrifice given that wealthy households typically do not have family members in the military. (And there is a provision exempting high income households if they do have someone serving, or have lost a family member in the war.)

This is my transcript of Chetry's probing question:

".....This war has been called a top priority. So if you start taxing things that are, you know, top priorities, I mean, where does it end?"

What a moron! He was not proposing to tax the war; he is trying to pay for the war we are already fighting. She clearly does not understand any of the news she covers, and was hired for the amount of hairspray she goes through. Oh wait, that's right, she was hired away from FOX News......


CNN finally had this bit on their website. Chetry's foolish question appears at t=1:30. She further reveals her ineptitude by wondering how struggling middle class families can handle this tax during a recession (t=2:22) when the bill expressly targets high income households.

Shouldn't she be selling vowels somewhere?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy birthday to you Origin of Species, happy birthday to you.

My parents were wonderful, my life was wonderful when I was a kid, but I somehow managed to be terrified pretty much all of the time. My family, you see, were really big on Religion and Scripture reading, and the amount of sheer barbarism in the Old Testament terrified me. Mass Murder, (well-thought-of) prostitution, incest, that whole business about marrying your dead husband's brother, God haing a tissy fit and drowning everyone but Noah, assorted animals, and his somewhat problematic family--life seemed like it was under the control of a touchy random psychopath who wasn't all that keen on women.

Not to mention that whole atonement thing: God kills his kid pretty gruesomely (using Roman soldiers and a cross) ... but Jesus really isn't dead, he's hanging with pa. Whatever.

I grew up with such a different view of reality than the adults around me that I decided early on that either I was out of my mind or they were. I could not get their version of some sort of "popularity rules" God with my own version of the world. For them, finding their car keys was an example of God's love; a child dying was just bad luck. I found this somewhat problematic.

Needless to say, I was deeply and suicidally depressed as a child. Thank goodness when I was about 14 I discovered a copy of Darwin's "On the Origin of Species." Finally the world made sense. And made sense in a deep and provable way. I was going to be all right. Three cheer for the amazing Mr. Darwin! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! I'm still grateful, and still learning.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mmmmmm, Crispy Kale!

I have tried cooking kale a few times, and it always came out too bitter. Nevertheless, I resolved to try it one more time making sure not to overcook it. When I looked online for cooking tips, I stumbled upon a recipe that was intriguing: roast kale chips!

Basically after washing, drying and removing the stems all the way up the leaves of a bunch of kale, and tearing the leaves into potato chip size sections, drizzle with about a tablespoon of vegetable oil (I used canola) and distribute the oil gently (with your finger tips) and evenly over the surfaces of all the leaves. Then sprinkle with a little salt and your choice of herbs or similar flavorings (like garlic powder or cayenne pepper).

Place the coated leaves on a roasting pan or cookie sheet, and roast them in an oven preheated to 330 degrees. The recipe I read here suggested 350, and others went as high as 375, but a commenter warned how suddenly they can all scorch and recommended a slightly cooler oven which I tried and was very happy with. Since our oven is a convection model, the "chips" were done in about seven or eight minutes. How long it takes depends on your oven, so watch the kale closely. When it is done, the kale is crispy and very brittle----but it kind of melts in your mouth. Truly a revelation. You definitely don't eat these with a fork!

Check the provided link so you can read other cook's experiences, and modify the recipe to your own liking. Enjoy!

Sunday Morning Gloom

Those Businesses that created the mortgage bubble are buying distressed mortgages at a steep discount from banks (40% off, then essentially selling the underlying homes back to the homeowner, giving the homeowner about an 11% discount off the original mortgage price. I'm confused. The New York Times story is here.

Société Générale has advised clients to be ready for a possible "global economic collapse" over the next two years, mapping a strategy of defensive investments to avoid wealth destruction.

Read about it, in the Telegraph, here.

Reuters reports:

Budget shortfalls pose a direct threat to millions of U.S. jobs, many in the private sector, as state and local governments lay off workers and cut spending on contracts and other business services, a think tank said on Thursday.

State and local governments will have to raise taxes and cut spending in the current and next two fiscal years to cover shortfalls totaling $469 billion, according to an Economic Policy Institute report.

Most telling: According to the New York Times "some down-and-out Mexican families are scraping together what they can to support their unemployed loved ones in the United States."

It's overcast outside; the sky looks like cement. I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Act Brings Down the House

How the "pole dancer" at this wedding will live this down I cannot begin to fathom. The bride already looked irritated with her for her unseemly revelry, but can you imagine how upset she must have been in the aftermath. (The poor thing....)

Lots of people are saying this is fake. What do you think?

UPDATE: It's fake! This frame passes by so quickly that it is hard to see the big yellow cushion that she takes her fall on, but there it is.....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Make Your Own Play Dough For Holiday Fun!

Trying to think of ways to enjoy spending time with family this Thanksgiving? Why not give a game like Pictionary or charades a twist by sculpting with play-dough instead of merely drawing or pantomiming? You could just buy the commercial stuff, but really, homemade dough can be much better, not to mention cheaper. It's so economical you can afford to make really large batches which are a lot more fun .

It feels really great to play with when it is fresh and slightly warm still. I remember a time many years ago when we invited a couple over and played with my freshly made dough. They were, on the face of it, a surprising looking couple. He was really quite handsome and of moderate build; she was rather plain, and remarkably heavy. (Usually it seems like there is a rough parity of attractiveness in couples unless the man is old and rich.)

Anyway, as soon as her husband started handling the quadruple batch of fresh, warm dough, his chin dropped and he unselfconsciously marveled in a rapturously exultant tone, "Its so soft.......and there's so much of it!"

My husband and I distinctly remember avoiding making eye contact with one another because we knew that we would just crack up if we did. (But hey, isn't it fantastic that he really loved her just the way she was?)

Here's the recipe:


* 1 cup water
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1/2 cup salt
* 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
* Food coloring (about a 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp depending on desired intensity)
* Saucepan
* 1 cup flour


1. Combine water, oil, salt, cream of tartar, and food coloring in a saucepan and heat until warm.
2. Remove from heat and add flour.
3. Stir, then knead until smooth.(Don't use a whisk except maybe at the very beginning of stirring.) The cream of tartar makes this dough last 6 months or longer, so resist the temptation to omit this ingredient if you don't have it on hand.( If it does not thicken promptly and form a ball, you may need to heat it a little more over low heat, stirring constantly.)
4. Store this dough in an airtight container or a Ziploc freezer bag.

Be very careful not too add to much oil, or the dough will be sticky! And remember, it makes a great Secret Santa surprise or stocking stuffer for almost all ages!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Are These For Real?

I suspect they are, and Igor Siwanowicz has done an impressive job capturing great "poses" and incredible detail of these colorful, unlikely creatures.

These first two look like something Dr Seuss might have dreamed up, and the green one also reminds me of the mutant parakeet.

This is one trippy, punked-out caterpillar!

And this critter looks like he's singing an aria!

We're lucky to see this one away from the foliage it usually hides in; I doubt we would be able to pick it out in its natural habitat.

You can see plenty more here! (Left click on images to enlarge!)

Glorious Fall Sky (In Portland)

I posted this picture last year, but made a mistake-----when you would left-click on it, it zoomed all the way up to poster size so you couldn't get a good look at the overall image.

What a good excuse for me to post this one again, but correctly sized this time.(Left-click to really see it.) ( Djinn, this is one place where splitting the infinitive works. See, I'm not completely hidebound!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Such a Cute Mutant!

But can he see anything?

If this bird proves to be healthy, and can breed, I bet she's sitting on a goldmine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Peter Galbraith Should Not Get Away With This

Apparently, during the years that hawkish democrat, Peter Galbraith, was promoting war in Iraq, and helping draft the new Iraqi constitution, he had a deal on the back burner brewing which now appears to be poised to score him about $100 million. He sleazily and corruptly kept his oil company involvement secret for years while writing thought pieces for the NYT and others. He was contractually obligated to reveal any conflict of interest, but dishonestly ducked that requirement. For an in depth account, check out Glenn Greenwald's write-up.

We all knew that Cheney and Bush were oil men, and that Cheney's company Halliburton had benefited extraordinarily from the war in Iraq. (I still, for the life of me, can't understand why that connection garnered such a collective yawn from our populace.) Read here how Dennis Kucinich was called a liar for trying to warn America about the corruption leading us into war:

Dennis Kucinich on Meet the Press, February 23, 2003:

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman, you made a very strong charge against the administration and let me show you what you said on January 19. "Why is the Administration targeting Iraq? Oil." What do you base that on?

REP. KUCINICH: I base that on the fact that there is $5 trillion worth of oil above and in the ground in Iraq, that individuals involved in the administration have been involved in the oil industry, that the oil industry certainly would benefit from having the administration control Iraq, and that the fact is that, since no other case has been made to go to war against Iraq, for this nation to go to war against Iraq, oil represents the strongest incentive...

MR. PERLE: It is a lie, Congressman. It is an out and out lie.

Richard Cohen, February 25, 2003:

"Liar" is a word rarely used in Washington...So it was particularly shocking, not to mention refreshing, to hear Richard Perle on Sunday call Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) a liar to his face...

Kucinich himself seemed only momentarily fazed by Perle's sharp right to his integrity and went on, indomitable demagogue that he seems to be, to maintain that the coming war with Iraq will be fought to control that nation's oil...How did this fool get on "Meet the Press"?

[S]omething truly awful has happened. The looming war has already become deeply and biliously ideological. By that I mean that the extremes on both sides -- but particularly the war's opponents -- no longer feel compelled to prove a case or stick to the facts.

—Jonathan Schwarz

A big round of applause for Jonathon Schwarz for finding all those quotes!!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lagging Way Behind Portugal on Gay Marriage

Many religious groups have been fighting vigorously against the passage of legislation that would allow gay marriage in the USA: the Mormons, the Catholics, and several Protestant denominations. The very size of the Catholic church, though, make its objections particularly influential.

Frankly, all these religious objections seem entirely bogus to me. Not all religions have to define marriage the same way. That is what religious freedom means. For example, although people of other faiths can get divorced and then marry other people in their churches, this does not force the Catholic church to perform, recognize or permit these unions for their congregants. Catholics who wish to remarry must do so outside the church.

So, even if gay marriages were recognized by our civil institutions, the Catholic church and all these other faiths could keep right on not defining marriage that way for their own congregants.

In fact, it is a grotesque violation of the separation of church and state for the State to prefer the definitions of marriage of some denominations over others. Many religions already accept a definition of marriage that includes gay unions, so all these faiths are being discriminated against by our government's policy.

The Catholic church is now throwing its weight around again, threatening to stop feeding the homeless over objections to a city provision (in DC)that would allow same sex marriage. Read (and enjoy) Allison Kilkenny's offensive (in a good way) screed about this flap.

Here is a snippet:
The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

Yup, that's right. If gay folk can marry, the Catholic church refuses to feed the homeless.

Well, that all seems very reasonable. After all, the state would force the Catholic church to perform gay marriages, and celebrate the beastly unions, right?

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Oh. So this "Please Stop Being An Asshole, You Guys" law is really the thing that has sent the Archdiocese flying off a cliff. The child molestations, and filing sticky-fingered priests from diocese to diocese is all part of God's grand plan, but showing the slightest bit of consideration for gay couples is just too much.

Meanwhile, Portugal (not a city, nor a state, but an entire country, and a Catholic one at that!) is poised to accept gay marriage.

Bye bye brokerages

The Brazilian stock exchange is now allowing trading without using a brokerage; the trading allowed uses the awesomely cool algorithms that previously were only available through extremely expensive hedge funds. Wow. I'm trying to get my head around this.

Here's a bit of the Bloomberg article:

International algorithmic trading will allow investors to trade using computer programs though UBS without going through a brokerage, Switzerland’s biggest bank said in a press release. Zurich-based UBS began so-called direct market access in Brazil on July 2008, allowing stock traders to complete orders anonymously without going through a brokerage.

Don't Get Me This For Christmas

This is for people who want to run outside, but are frustrated that their treadmills are indoors and stationary! Hmmmmm, how could a person manage to run outside?


I could be wrong, but it seems like the whole thing is filmed on a piece of road that is running very slightly downhill. Can you imagine the embarrassment of being stranded halfway through the workout, unable to muster the force necessary to get this heavy machine back up the hill?

In one important respect though, the actual product performs better than in the advertisement------the runner would not be subjected to the incredibly insipid music. (Have they done studies? Does this kind of upbeat music really make people want to buy crud? The answer must be yes; after all, they use it in virtually all infomercials.

I Don't Think I'll Ever Practice This....

But he sure is good at it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When You're Bored In Your Cubicle......

I came across this at The Daily Dish.

Such control!
This reminds me a little bit of what I did to enjoy swing music when recovering from an ankle injury. Except he's much better at it....

I'm glad to see that he posted this on u-tube rather than subjecting people on elevators and public transportation to his antics.

A Thought For Next Halloween

I just saw this jackolantern and am feeling inspired to try something like this next year.

In other pumpkin related news, seeing how much our pumpkins' faces were caving in, we decided last night that this morning we would toss them. Then this morning we found that the local wildlife had beaten us to them. (They were on the stoop, two feet from our front door.) Presumably it was the handiwork of the clan of groundhogs that treat our yard as their family compound. That, or maybe ravaging hordes of vorpal deer, ripping the collapsing faces off our gourds, attacking us in effigy. (I like to blame the deer for everything.) Whatever it was, they did not make a big mess, so presumably it was not the wild turkeys.....

Me, at the Berlin Wall, Nov. 8, 1989

Rupet Murdoch Is A Liar

Earlier this year Beck accused Obama of exhibiting racism "...over and over and over again." This prompted a campaign to encourage advertisers to boycott his show.

Then Rupert Murdoch (Fox News is part of his media empire.) stepped in and said that although Beck was right factually about Obama's racism, Beck should not have said such a thing about the President. (Yet another point of disagreement here; if a President is guilty of such a thing, then the media have a responsibility to cover it!!!)

Now, of course, Murdoch is backpedaling through the cowardly use of a spokesperson. He says that Obama made a racist comment, so Beck was right to make such a claim although he, Rupert Murdoch, does not agree.

So, just what is this racist comment? The two of them keep insisting that he has done racist things, and they never back it up with anything substantial. Just like the rest of their "news"...

Please visit this site to complain to advertisers about Murdoch's complicity in promoting racism and other misleading news coverage. It's time to pull their plug.

But also take a minute to enjoy Stewart revealing yet another example of the unprincipled, deceptive practices employed at Fox News.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

National Organization for Marriage Scores big with Carrie Prejean.

Looks like the National Organization for (only some)Marriage(s) spokeshater Carrie Prejean (that's her at the top of the post, looking supiciously happy) suddenly dropped her million dollar suit against the California Miss USA pageant after an explicit sex tape of her emerged.

You'd think these Busy-bodies who wish to get all over our rights would think up at least some novel way to screw up. But, no. Just someone who can't even keep to her own loudly proclaimed rules who wishes to legislate a set for you. Lovely.

That Berlin Wall.

I was there. When it came down. With my brother. Twenty years ago, today, I'm pretty sure. It's confusing; there were tiny little Trabants that sounded like poorly-tuned lawn mowers driving around; they'd stop, a towering blond man, an equally towering blonde woman would get out, invariably dressed in acid-washed jeans and clutching bananas. Often, a little child, roughly my height, would also somehow tumble out. Clutching an Alf doll. Always. I can't find any of my pictures.

The West Germans were surly; the East Germans were bewildered. The Russian guards were huge, and had seemingly-all set up little tables where they were selling their various medals; they always had their truly terrifyingly-looking but actually quite sweet German Shephard guard dogs. According to the guards, the dogs were never vicious, but were just used for the visuals. Dunno. I got one of my brothers' a wonderful frock-coat styled military jacket.

There were a number of amazingly annoying (all blonde, don't ask me why) American female college students, all talking with high voices, and all complaining about their accomodations: "My hotel doesn't have an elevator!" "My elevator was slow and scary!" "You can't get a taxi!" "I got served liver last night and I swear it didn't say 'liver' on the menu!" "I don't like the butter." (That last comment is totally bewildering, I'm guessing it was because it was unsalted.)

"It's cold!" "Why do they only play bad euro-disco everywhere?" (Ahem, those last two are me.) It was cold. I lost my big down coat in Duisberg, where I was working at the time, and so was wearing a tweed jacket of my brother's plus all other clothing items that I owned.

I think I saw Frank Zappa, filming. I didn't bother him, except to notice that he'd cut his long hair.

A West German woman at a bus stop told me how upset she was about the "easties" because she was convinced her children would never be able to get apartments of their own. A bevy of long-legged West German under-dressed beauties (don't they worry about chest colds?) were handing out pamphets complaining that the East German underdressed long-legged beauties were undercutting their prices.

Actually, there were many surly West Berliners handing out pamphlets complaining about the easties.

There were many people from Eastern Europe with suitcases full of money (actual suitcases full of actual East German money) exchanging it for hard currency.

I did't feel much love. All the excitement was at the wall. All those excited seemed to be foreigners.

My memories. Hey, James, what do you remember?

Why Didn't I Try This Before?

I had always put off poaching pears in spiced wine. Maybe peeling them seemed daunting, or perhaps it seemed like a waste of wine....

In any event, I am glad I finally got around to it because I discovered it was easy and tasty.

Basically you peel several pears leaving the stem intact (however many will fit in one layer of your pot, so it depends on the size of the pears) . Add them to a pot in which you have already combined I bottle red wine, 1 cup sugar (I used half brown sugar), a couple of cloves, a couple of cinnamon sticks, a vanilla bean or some vanilla (Since they are expensive, I used an old bean that had been flavoring sugar already for a year and a half), and the zest of 1 lemon and one orange. You can also toss in a few prunes to impart and soak up flavours.

Simmer gently for about 15 or twenty minutes depending on ripeness and pear size. Reposition them gently a few times in case parts of them are sticking out. You can remove them to chill, or leave them overnight to soak and become more richly colored as I did. The recipe suggested mint leaves for the garnish, but I tried a leaf from my scented geranium (they're edible!), and the fragrance really complements the pear.

The recipe says to reduce the sauce after removing the pears, and add some jam for flavour and thickness, but at this point I am tempted to buy more pears and simmer another batch......

I'll Have the Crabhat With a Side of Sauciness

When I first saw the crabhat, I thought it was utterly ridiculous-----though part of me wanted one. After all, it is a hat!

But then after seeing this over-the-top, shark-jumping extravaganza of photo-shoot mania, I decided the crabhat was really a rather conservative, restrained statement of style and mood. "Come too close, and I just might pinch you!" it whispers alluringly.

This look, on the other hand boldly proclaims, "I am an idiot, and if you touch me, I'll slap you and get paint all over you! And yes, those are open toe boots! Whoops, I forgot my knickers!" For a better look at her.....ahem...... paint, just left click on the image.)

(Lower image from French Vogue.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Extra-easy single-pan fall soup. Plus too delicious for left-overs.

My dear sis told me about this soup; I modified it a bit to make it easier; it turned out quite simple to make and unexpectedly tasty!

For starters, you'll need an oven-proof pan big enough to hold the finished soup, but preferably not with really steep sides, to more effectively roast the vegetables. I use a steep-sided frying pan that doesn't seem to be made anymore; a dutch oven would work as well, but mine died a sad, sad death of overwork after about 25 years, and has yet to be replaced. So, in retrospect, any pan big enough to hold the finished soup, that will fit in the oven, and can be heated on the stove will work.


Four slices Bacon: (Optional) Fry them up the the pan that you're making the soup in till they're nice and crisp. Take the bacon out, but leave the rendered bacon fat. Chop the crispy bacon into a fine dice.

A winter squash, about 2 pounds, or so. I used a butternut squash, but banana squash, a leftover pumpkin, or any of those odd types whose names I can never remember would also work.

Two-three apples, depending on size
A medium-sized onion

Prepare the squash. If it is a whole squash, cut it in half, and clean out the seeds. If it's a piece of a much larger squash with no seeds, just put it in the pan, being sure to remove any sort of plastic wrap (long story not told here, but I'm sure you can imagine.)

Peel, core, and chop the apples. Put in pan. If you like apple peel, you might want to leave a bit on.

Chop onion in about a 1/2 inch dice and put in pan.

(You can put some garlic in here, too, should you care to.)

Stir everything to cover with the bacon grease.

If you're not using the bacon, then put in about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over the mixture in the pan, and cover all the vegetables. I use my hands. I also try to place the apples and the onions in the hollowed out portions of the squash.

Place in oven, at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Check about half-way through, If it looks like some onion bits are getting burned, pour in a little liquid.

Afer about 45 minutes, tale the pan out of oven; poke squash to make sure it's done. If not, back in the oven for a bit.

Once you're convinced squash is pretty much squishy enough to eat, take out of oven and let sit for 10ish minutes.

Then, scrape squash (in the pan) from the squash peel on the outside. Throw the peel out. I find this method of dealing with squash much easier than hacking some uncooked cement-like vegetable into cubes, and then individually peeling them.

Pour in about two cups of broth--chicken is what I used; for you vegetarians, vegetable broth works as well.

Add the bacon.
Chop up the sage, and add. Fresh Rosemary could also be used. 1/2 teaspoon sage can be substituted for the fresh sage.
As an added bit of interesting and unexpected tast which deepens the flavor, sprinkle in a bit of nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon) and ginger (to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon). The sweetness of the squash and the apple is brought out by the unexpected flavors of the nutmeg and ginger, plus the ginger give it just a hint of a bite.

Salt and pepper to taste. I used about 1/2 teaspoon alder smoked salt (yum yum) and about 12 turns of the fresh pepper grinder.

If you are using it, pour in about a half cup of white wine--marsala is preferred. You could also use some sherry or port--something with a nutty flavor; though I'd only use about 1/4 cup of those. If no wine, add some sort of acid such as lemon (preferably) or even a bit of balsamic vinegar (no more than a tablespoon).

Cook to a full boil (this will evaporate all alcohol.) Stir and scrape the pan to get all the yummy bits from the baking up into the soup itself. If you have a potato masher, mash away to mix all the roased vegetables. You may need to add more liquid to the soup.

At the last minute, stir in a half-cup or so of cream/ half & half or yogurt; heat a bit more, but do not boil. Serve.

In spite of the pages of instructions, this soup really takes just a few minutes to prepare--15 minutes slicing for the original vegetable mixture; a nice break while everything is baking quietly in the oven; the finishing touches on the stovetop requires very little extra work. Plus, that one pan clean-up is a total breeze.

I made this last night and there was not a single leftover. None. I was hoping for some for breakfast.

I'll try to make this again, with pictures!

Here's a shopping list. for three people.

4 slices bacon, diced; or 2 Tbsp Olive Oil.
One 2 or so pound squash, cut in half and cleaned
2 or so apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 medium onion, in about a half-inch dice
A couple cloves of garlic, chopped

a couple sprigs or fresh sage or dried sage (or a sprig of rosemary)
a bit of nutmeg and ginger
Salt and Pepper

Two-three cups of broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup wine or other liquid with a bit of acid (such as a squeeze of lemon, or some balsamic vinegar)

A half cup or so of one of heavy cream, half and half, or yogurt

Thanks to for the squash picture. I hope to take one one of my own at farmers market today.

A special thanks to George who, truth must be told, did most of the work. But I can point and order around with the best of them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, all.

Today I wanted to post a live version of John Lennon singing "Remember," since it quotes the Guy Fawkes children's nursery rhyme "Remember, remember, the fifth of November," but he didn't sing a live version. (Brief pause for reflection and grief.)

So, I previewed the only live concert, essentially, that he performed of his Plastic Ono Band material, and it sucks. Instead, I posted the album version that doesn't have graphics. We can imagine what it'd look like; him singing and strumming his beautiful Epiphone hollow-body electric guitar with Yoko popping up randomly in the background. Just look into the distance when the music is playing, and remember, remember.

Ps., a special thanks to Allie for reminding me.

Remember. Many things.

Love, djinn.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Down with Different-Race Marriage!

In May 2009, the New York Times wrote an article about high schools with proms segregated by race. Let me repeat. In 2009. If it were left to the people of the US, who doesn't believe that there would still places where it would be illegal for people of different races to marry?

Maine just voted down same-sex marriage. We the people always seem to lag behind liberty, freedom, equality. Hey court system....

Photograph by Gillian Laub. [Minor editing for clarity.]

Nailed. And ready for Prime Time..

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My dear friend Troy made his prime time debut as the cute missionary on the couch. Watch, laugh, mock.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Blue Lobsters

(photo by Leslie Ricker)

Blue Lobsters are caused by a mutation that creates an excess of a certain protein. They used to think that such lobsters were a one in a million occurrence, but now believe they are twice as rare as that (one in two million).

Many years back, my husband got a postcard of a blue lobster from a friend who suffered from depression. On it it said that one in a million lobsters were blue, and on the back she added, "I wish I were blue once in a million lobsters!"


BTW, isn't that lobster a looker?

Vintage Treasure

My mom has always said that I am super lucky-----and I'm happiest when I believe her. Here is the latest piece of evidence that she is on to something: a lucky find. At a local vintage shop, I found this terrific lariat necklace, probably from the twenties. It is quite long and in good repair.

Damage to the old pocketbook? $6.00 !!!!!! (Don't confuse my exclamation marks with factorials, all you math enthusiasts.) I've been happy about this goofy find for days. It's silly, but why not be happy?

Your Money or Your Life------Robbery Notes

There are more where this came from.

They reminds me of a story from my sophomore year roommate. Her family owned a couple of McDonalds in tough neighborhoods of Detroit where the crime rate was pretty bad. One robber was not counting on the toughness of the staff who worked there. The robber waited in line, but when he was up to the counter, he pulled out a gun and demanded that the cashier give him all the money. Rather than cowering, the cashier leaned forward over the register, and said slowly,"I can't open the register unless I ring up an order!"

The robber was surprised by this deviation from his expected script, so he paused for several stunned moments. "....Uh.....uh.......OK, I'll have a cheeseburger!"

"Would you like something to go with that? Fries or a beverage?"

Another pause. "No"

"OK sir, that will be $1.35."

The man started to reach for his wallet before he caught himself, whereupon he waved his gun about menacingly, and demanded that she make with the cash.

I'd like to report that he was caught, but he got away, at least that time. I expect he was caught during a similar robbery later. These small time crooks always keep at it until they are caught....

Monday, November 2, 2009

How to steal a mortgage.

Goldman Sachs has it all figured out.

First, buy up lots of mortgages, and bundle the mortgages into securities.

Second, get a friendly rating agency or two to give the bundled securities high high high high ratings.

Wait, maybe first-first is get your employess into the highest positions of power: Henry Paulson Jr. (Treasury Secretary under Bush, and former President of Goldman Sachs), Tim Geithner, (Treasury Secretary under Obama and former Goldman lobbyist); find many more here.

( ... many steps deteted here for readablility ... )

But, now, that housing prices have tumbled, wrest those houses from the poor homeowners who bought your exploding interest rate mortgages by refusing to let the homeowners know who is foreclosing on them. Wow.

From the article:

When she wrote to Paulson, however, lawyers for Goldman denied that it owned the Beckers' mortgages. So did Germany's Deutsche Bank, a trustee that was holding thousands of subprime mortgages Goldman had converted to bonds.


As the months dragged on, Fabos-Becker finally found a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission confirming that Goldman had bought the mortgages. Then, when a lawyer for MTGLQ showed up at a June 2007 court hearing on the stock battle, U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California demanded to know the firm's relationship to Goldman, telling the attorney that he hates "spin."

The lawyer acknowledged that MTGLQ was a Goldman affiliate.

That was an understatement. MTGLQ, a limited partnership, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Goldman that's housed at the company's headquarters at 85 Broad Street in New York, public records show.

In July, after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Roger Efremsky of the Northern District of California threatened to impose "significant sanctions" if the firm failed to complete a promised settlement with the Beckers, Goldman dropped its claims for $626,000, far more than the couple's original $356,000 in mortgages and $70,000 in missed payments. The firm gave the Beckers a new, 30-year mortgage at 5 percent interest.

That lowered their monthly payment to $1,900, less than half the maximum $4,000 a month their subprime loans could've demanded.

But it's even worse. Goldman, those clever fellows, created the conditions for the crash, bet that it would happen, and are now reaping the benefits.

From McClatchy, again,
At least as early as 2005, Goldman similarly began using swaps to limit its exposure to risky mortgages, the first of multiple strategies it would employ to reduce its subprime risk.

The company has closely guarded the details of most of its swaps trades, except for $20 billion in widely publicized contracts it purchased from AIG in 2005 and 2006 to cover mortgage defaults or ratings downgrades on subprime-related securities it offered offshore.

In December 2006, after "10 straight days of losses" in Goldman's mortgage business, Chief Financial Officer David Viniar called a meeting of mortgage traders and other key personnel, Goldman spokesman DuVally said.

Shortly after the meeting, he said, it was decided to reduce the firm's mortgage risk by selling off its inventory of bonds and betting against those classes of securities in secretive swaps markets.

I suggest you read the whole thing.

Naked Capitalism has an illuminating article up, as well.

In a Danish Graveyard

(Left click on images to see clearly.)Thinking about the Day of The Dead traditions this year reminded me of some pictures I took in Denmark last year. I saw a small rural church while driving eastward from Kalundborg to Roskilde, and I really admired the way the grave sites were designated and maintained there. Rather than having a grassy field with tombstones, the area around the church was partitioned into little plots by evergreen hedges. The individual plots had decorative plants and sometimes a stone marker. It was really quite lovely-----the perfect spot to enjoy a contemplative interval thinking about one's deceased loved ones.

The church was beautiful too.....