A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Saturday, December 11, 2010


"Animals" I think was the first thing Owen said to me when I walked in his front door. "Animals, Owen?" "Yeah, come on," walking down the hall toward his room. "Wait, I want to say Hi to Malachy and your mommy and daddy." It was Mally who I needed most to speak to, It wasn't long ago that I was his playmate, sounding board, and unconditional love benefactor, and I never want him to think either of us have outgrown the relationship.

I think he understands. Last fall one night I was caring for him at our "old" apartment. We walked to the Burger King a couple blocks away, holding hands at the crossings and talking about continuing our game of City Cousin Country Cousin when we got home, kind of an unstructured role playing that encourages his imagination in developing scenarios dialogue and characters. "Poppo", he said, "You know you're my best friend." "Well, I used to think that I was, but then you met Calvin, and he was like your best friend, and then you met Ross, and he was your best friend, and now I was starting to think Frankie is your new best friend."

"Poppo, you know how I am...when I make a new friend for a while I have to treat them special so they know I like them." Very nice of him to say, but I know I'm not as energetic at play as his newer friends, and it's not just a social stratagem that makes him happier when one of the younger guys walk in than when I do. So the trade off works, he's OK with Owen currently monopolizing my time, and I'm OK with his asking "Calvin/Ross/Frankie, do you want to play?"

When I get to their house, though and before I leave, I complement him on his good looks, dancing skill, strength, helpfulness, or academic advancement and try to ask him one or two questions about recent experiences that I think maybe no one else has asked, because I always want to be special to him as he is to me.

Sure enough it was animals Owen was talking about, and soon after his brother and parents left we had brought ten of his stuffed creatures from his closet to the living room. I organized a game of hide and seek. The hippo buried her face in the corner of of the sofa cushion and counted til fifty while Owen and I helped the others hide. Then she searched high and low til she'd found all but two, whom Owen couldn't wait for her to find and excitedly retrieved and ran to her with.

Then he pulled five little cushions from the sofa and arranged them in a large square with one resting centered on top, and this he said was breakfast, and we seated the animals around the table, but were having a little trouble keeping them all sitting up, and before he got frustrated I suggested a trip to McDonalds, where incredibly he ordered apple slices instead of his old favorite french fries. After we shared the apple slices, he cleaned the table taking one article at a time, including the caramel dip which he hadn't sampled, to the waste paper basket, built into a a cabinet in a little alcove with the top a half foot over his head. After I lifted him the first time. he stood on tip toes and tossed the remaining items into the receptacle without being able to see the large round opening but knowing where it was.

Having still an hour to kill I suggested a trip to Elgin to see Mommo and the kitties. He was pleased with the idea, and in the car mentioned "treats" a couple of times, and I tried to remember what we had in the pantry that might please him. After greeting and hugging Mommo he went in search of the kitties and asked for treats again and I realized he'd been thinking of treats for the kitties, so I got out the yellow Temptation bag and had him reach in and grab a few for each cat in turn. Laboring under the misunderstanding, I'd already asked Janett about a treat for Owen and she'd suggested a some fragements of Aldi brand tostito chips and milk served in a double shot glass of mine that we've found to be just his size. He asked for seconds on the chips and we obliged, but he hadn't finished by the time we had to leave for Dundee to reunite him with his family, so we poured the remainders into a little plastic sandwich bag which he held happily onto on our return ride.

We beat his folks home. I invited him into the house a couple times, but he preferred we stay outside and walk across the snowy lawns; he must like the feel of snow crunching under his feet, and he was amused by my concern that his feet would get cold We made a big deal of occasionally stomping our feet on the sidewalk to get the snow off our shoes. Eventually I lured him into the house on the pretext of being sure the dog, Guiness, was alright.

Stephie Mark and Malachy got home soon, and after asking Mally how he'd enjoyed the movie and whether there were any scary parts, I was ready to say good-by. They were all going to lunch so I told Stephie about the chips, and she asked me how I'd done strapping Owen into the child seat, and I admitted I'd gotten the shoulder straps on and clipped together, but hadn't been able to hook up the lower strap. Poppo, like everyone else, isn't perfect.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Random Sampling?

Did you ever notice the "next blog" caption at the top of your page? Doi you ever click on it? It's cold in our apartment this morning and the HVAC man wont get here for a couple of hours, so for diversion I clicked on it several times.
There were a couple pages featuring friends and family photographs, one hosted by a bar showing people having a good time, one by a collector showing stuff he'd found that was in a foreign language, and various other miscellany, like road trip photos.
But easily, over half the pages were sponsored by runners that talked about conditioning and events. One page's header featured the comment,"Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win."

I guess I'm relieved that most peoples' blogs are not sbout what's wrong with the world and how powereless we are collectively and individually. What a bummer that would be. It would be nice if there were some blogs about how Christianity, Christian faith, ethics and charity will redeem the world, but I didn't find any of those. But the running thing was curious to me. Should I infer that this subculture embodies a community of sharing and caring, or that runners are obsessive types, who when not running are thinking about running?

My brother Mike and sister in law Molly are enthusiasts, always running, biking, or skiing, and not half heartedly. Their activities seem to make them very happy and appreciative of the environment, and also more conscious of now to manage a healthy life style than I would care to be. Given our close relationship and my respect for their achievements, I hesitate to ask whether there's something narcissistic involved.

So, I don't know. Perhaps if you click tne next blog caption repeatedly, you'll find a different pattern of occurrences.

PS I continued my research and may have to coorect my statistics. My next samle contained several bycicling blogs, a few shoe(?) blogs and more family and friend blogs. Still not a lot of pessimism/hope blogs, but I found this picture. Do you think it's photo-shopped?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Korea North vs South

The only Korean I've ever know personally worked at an accounting firm with me and was pleasant and pretty and does not personify my observation that the Koreans are a fractious lot, except that her parents were 7th day Adventists and did not feel that their daughters should succumb to a western lifestyle and certainly should not feel free to choose their own husbands.
My earliest recollection of a radio newscast was about President Eisenhower agreeing to a truce settling the Korean conflict, and I remember the names of Syngman Rhee as leader of South Korea and Kim Il Sung as leader of the communist North Korea.
Later my sketchy knowledge of that episode was fleshed out slightly by fitting the conflict into the cold war strategy of containment defined by American senior diplomat George Kennan, as not fighting the Soviet Union, but opposing efforts to expand their influence.
At the end of WW II the Japanese withdrew from Korea which they had invaded and controlled from early in the 20th century. The Russians moved in and occupied the northern half and the US had moved in and occupied the southern half of the peninsula. Both the great powers installed their clients in positions of power, then withdrew. After Rhee, who had lived in the US for 33 years before returning to Korea after the war, established a South Korean state, rejecting a UN proposed peninsula wide plebiscite, an election Kim Il Sung thought he would have won, the North Koreans invaded the South in June 1950, quickly over running Seoul and pushing the South Korean forces, and a contingent of American troops into a tiny southernmost corner of the country, maybe a hundred square miles around the port city of Pusan. Being reinforced by American forces from Japan, the South Koreans held on to this enclave, while General Doug MacArthur devised and implemented a strategy of an American led invasion at Inchon, a couple hundred miles north, close to the overrun capital of Seoul.

Being counter attacked in the south by a growing United Nations force and threatened with being cut off by MacArthurs invasion force the weakened North Koreans fled back across the nominal border, the 38th parallel. MacArthur pursued them, invading the north and advancing nearly to the Yalu river, the North Korean border with China. In October of 1950 Chinese communist forces entered the conflict pushing the UN forces south and again taking the South Korean capital of Seoul in January 1951. The retreat of the American forces in the frigid winter and inhospitable mountainous terrain was disheartening and a torturous ordeal for the UN (mostly American) forces. The UN forces reorganized defenses south of Seoul and counterattacked, regaining the capital in March of 1951. The war continued for two more years, but combat was localized around the 38th parallel, each side losing thousands of soldiers in attacks on objectives providing tactical advantage, both sides using massive artillery barrages to support their infantry in the costly battles.

A truce was signed in June of 1953, but a peace treaty was never negotiated. leaving the two Koreas in a state of war for the last 57 years. Occasionally the North Koreans undertake some aggressive action, like the shelling of the islands last week.

It would seem the South has prospered during the last half century while the North has not. The South has industrialized and is a successful exporter while the North has imposed a communist style planned economy, struggling at times to feed its people, but investing heavily in its military and developing an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

But political turmoil has continued in the South. Labor unions and students often engage in violent confrontations with the elected governments. Neither side seems really content or secure. Syngman Rhee was forced to resign in 1958, after alienating most of the country with autocratic policies that approached dictatorial government. Kim Il Sung held power until his death in 1994 and was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il, who is now reportedly ill and preparing to transfer power to his son.

The US and South Korean governments are not sure of how to deal with the North Koreans, mindful of the always present possibility of a million north Korean soldiers streaming across the border. They seem to be relying on the Chinese to exert some stabilizing influence, because the Chinese strategy is to achieve economic power and prefers stability to conflict. Also, in the event of war, the Chinese have to worry about a million North Koreans streaming across their border - not combatants but unwelcome starving refugees.

Why can't we all just get along?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Often one player, or one play, becomes emblematic

to fans of a sporting event. For Notre Dame fans the fouth quarter scoring drive which put ND ahead to stay was a thing of beauty for several reasons, partly because that scoring drive featured several runs by fan favorite Robert Hughes. Maybe I'll post a little more on that subject later.

Just now, I'd like to express admiration and appreciation to the Notre Dame defense. All the USC scoring came off ND turnovers, interceptions or fumble, within ND's own 40 yard line and the Trojans' only touchdown was scored after recovering a fumble on the 2 yard line, and took 4 plays to score. The defense never looked shaken by the repeated turn overs, they appeared resolved to deny Southern Cal the benefit of those take aways, holding them to field goals in the three other instances.

There were heroics from the offense too. Michael Floyd leading the first scoring drive, and blocking downfield for runners when not catching passes, Cierre Wood running 28 yards on a draw play with 30 seconds left in the first half to set up the second score, and freshman quarterback Tommy Rees who might have made mistakes contributing to those turnovers, but never looked shaken or uncertain in the face of a very good USC defense. And of course the unsung heroes are the offensive linemen, oft maligned but, like the defense, firm in their resolve last night, and playing their best game of the year.

But this is the image most Irish fans will recollect when they think of last night's game:

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It may not surprise you to read that I like Irish songs, most all kinds, brave defiant songs of rebellion, sad songs of lost love and pretty girls, and uniquely Irish silly songs like this one, which I just linked on Facebook and thought I'd post here so you can see what makes me smile.

The Irish Rover


On the fourth of July eighteen hundred and six
We set sail from the sweet cove of Cork
We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks
For the grand city hall in New York
'Twas a wonderful craft, she was rigged fore-and-aft
And oh, how the wild winds drove her.
She'd got several blasts, she'd twenty-seven masts
And we called her the Irish Rover.

We had one million bales of the best Sligo rags
We had two million barrels of stones
We had three million sides of old blind horses hides,
We had four million barrels of bones.
We had five million hogs, we had six million dogs,
Seven million barrels of porter.
We had eight million bails of old nanny goats' tails,
In the hold of the Irish Rover.

There was awl Mickey Coote who played hard on his flute
When the ladies lined up for his set
He was tootin' with skill for each sparkling quadrille
Though the dancers were fluther'd and bet
With his sparse witty talk he was cock of the walk
As he rolled the dames under and over
They all knew at a glance when he took up his stance
And he sailed in the Irish Rover

There was Barney McGee from the banks of the Lee,
There was Hogan from County Tyrone
There was Jimmy McGurk who was scarred stiff of work
And a man from Westmeath called Malone
There was Slugger O'Toole who was drunk as a rule
And fighting Bill Tracey from Dover
And your man Mick McCann from the banks of the Bann
Was the skipper of the Irish Rover

We had sailed seven years when the measles broke out
And the ship lost it's way in a fog.
And that whale of the crew was reduced down to two,
Just meself and the captain's old dog.
Then the ship struck a rock, oh Lord what a shock
The bulkhead was turned right over
Turned nine times around, and the poor dog was drowned
I'm the last of the Irish Rover

So much going on - where to start?

The big news lately has been our move around the corner to the first floor of a big house from the second floor of a bigger house. We may have given up a hundred+ square feet of living space, a LOT of closet space, and our precious little roofed porch, but somehow we seemed to have gained living space, and our lives are becoming more integrated since we have a more comfortable living room where we spend time together.

I commented previously, maybe here, maybe on Facebook, on how many Knights of Columbus activities required participation in the last couple months. At the last meeting the secretary announced he'd taken a job out of state and asked me to succeed him. The grand knight said I could but we'd have to obtain a letter of resignation from the other fellow and then accept nominations and have a vote. He asked me if I would mind continuing in my current post as well as assuming the new responsibilities. Fortunately someone pointed out that an officer can only hold one job at a time. Thank you very much. Yesterday I called Louie to check and see if the pancake breakfast was scheduled for today, because I had signed up to serve for a couple of hours. I was relieved and embarrassed when he told me the pancake breakfast was last week. More relieved than embarrassed.

I also have to think about registering for a tax preparer identification number this month before testing becomes a requirement. Doing so will so will exempt me from testing for three years, by which time I should have obtained sufficient continuing professional education credits to get my CPA license, and continue exempt from testing.

The cigarette saga continues. Cigarettes go for $7 per pack at Kane County gas stations and more at the Cook County stations, Janett and I each smoke more than a pack a day. I have philosophical objections to spending more on cigarettes than on groceries. I just can't justify spending over $20 a day on cigarettes. But rather than quit we look for economies. (Readers will please recall that I started smoking in high school when a pack of Camel straights cost $0.25.)
A couple of years ago, at the time of a previous tax increase, Janett and I availed ourselves of the option of buying our cigarettes over the Internet from an Indian tribal reservation outlet in upstate New York for $27 per carton. Then, this option was closed by part of last year's health bill. So we began to buy the economy brand at a Speedway gas station for $3.75 per pack, but weren't happy.
This week we got a call from the distributor for the Indian outlet who told us we can buy a different brand for $13 per carton, because this brand is wrapped in tobacco leaf (or brown paper?) and is classed as a cigar but still has filters and menthol flavoring. So we ordered a couple cartons to try them out. I'll let you know how this works out, although I do worry about the excise tax police googling cheap cigarettes, finding this blog and uncovering my machinations.

PS re the dark Irish as Celts. A wiki article yesterday acquainted me with a volume of Irish legend that that recounts the invasion of Ireland by Celtic people from the Iberian penninsula. This contradicts my inference that the Celtic people were originally more widespread over Europe and were pushed to the remote corners by other tribal invasions. I still believe the Celts at one time to have been spread over more of Europe, but I'll have to look further into it.

PPS Regarding airport procedures, how many bombers have been caught by the TSA procedures that have violated the privacy of, humiliated, and delayed millions of travelers. Zero? Not a very good trade off, not a bad jobs program, though. As always we'd like to follow the money, and learn who had the friends in congress to persuade the government to buy these screening machines which the GAO had previously rejected. The TSA rep on TV in response to Kathy Crowley's questioning whether, since airline bombers have all originated oversees, imposing these searches at American airports while not imposing them on travelers boarding flights oversees seemed reasonable, could cite only Israel as a foreign country that engages in such stringent measures, letting slip that Israel uses profiling, presumably exempting Jews and targeting Muslims. OK, there's a model to emulate, except of course, that it's illegal.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Careful what you wish for

An article from the Christian Science Monitor.

Otherwise things are going OK with the move. We have a list of things to call the landlord about; furnace hasn't shut off for 12 hours but has been blowing cool air into the apartment, and at 33 degrees out we need more heat, and there was a sewer gas odor emanating from the basement yesterday. Then a few smaller things, we need someone (he or we) to call the city for garbage cans, we need a shower curtain rod, and would like to know when the washer and drier will be delivered.

Got to go. I'm going to pick up Mom's friend Carrie, who has volunteered to help.

Friday, October 29, 2010

partial repost of item from a couple years ago because of my mood.

The Dark Irish

The term generally refers to Irish with dark complexions and black hair. I heard it theorized once that they descended from sailors from the Spanish Armada who swam ashore and stayed in Ireland. I think it's the Celtic strain, the old Irish from before the fairer Gaels and later the Vikings invaded. Even though the Celts were spread all over modern Europe 2500 years ago the bloodline and culture remain purest in the remote corners of the continent, Galicia in Spain, the Vendee in France and in the west of Ireland. The music and dance of these regions reflects a common heritage.

But, the phrase to me brings to mind the darker side of the Irish psyche. The inclination to wish ill to the prosperous, to suspect that their misfortunes result from conspiracies against them and betrayal, and to turn bitterly on their fallen heroes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I think so too

Blarney Green posted this at Rock's House. It touches on the core of my doubts about ND. That the school and the population it serves have evolved away from the working class roots and become effete

"Our problems for the last 8 years have gone far beyond scheme -- we changed from a tough team to a soft team. (One thing I will grant Bob Davie is that his teams weren't soft -- poorly coached, but not soft. But I digress...)

Scheme does play into whether or not you're tough. Weis had soft teams, and that softness was enhanced by the scheme (pass protect, finesse, etc.). Kelly seems to be paying lip-service to increasing our toughness -- and hell, maybe he means it. But you cannot morph a soft team into a tough one when they have to play this scheme.

Scheme isn't the only issue though. Our whole University is soft. Being a "Notre Dame Man" used to mean something -- there was pretty heavy emphasis on the "Man" part. Now it is meaningless, or it means you're a dork, or a rich kid with pussified ways and designer clothing. Our University leadership is not tough in any way, and so they don't breed toughness. All the stupid Disney-land shit we have to witness -- the fund-raising and pep rallies and the ability to buy an ND-logo-emblazoned Barco-Lounger for only a quarter millions dollars -- it all contributes. The fact that our coach has to schmooze stupid alumni clubs, and we can't tailgate properly because of fear of litigation, and "Legends" -- its all symptomatic of a deep malaise

ND is no longer ND. Its not even Stanford. Its less about character and more about GPA, less about being an athlete/scholar/leader and more about getting research dollars. ND doesn't breed toughness in its student body, why should we expect it in the football program?"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Three Reasons

Three reasons not to buy a new TV:
1 We already have three TV's, smallish, appropriate for my viewing habits
2 Janett's worried about money (that one's too easy)
3 We're moving in a week and it'll just be one more thing.

So today we went to Costco and brought a TV. They had a big display of Vizeo flat screen LCD's (redundant?) by the front door when Janett was there last week, and they were priced very reasonably. She mulled it over for a few days, then we googled Vizeo, the brand name, and the reviews were good. So off we went.

I'd had a couple of things I wanted to get done today, but volunteered to go along and help. A lot of husbands shop with their wives at Costco, maybe something in the Costco ambiance or profile appeals to happily married couples. Or maybe the other guys go along for the samples like I do. Today I had a gyro style cucumber sauce on a cracker, then a buffalo wing while Janett had guacamole. I complemented the buffalo wing chef so enthusiastically he said I could have another, but I didn't. Then I had a little piece of quiche. Then I had a something else I don't remember, then some kind of fried potatos that you bake in the oven and finished up with a new kind of Dorito chip and a few pretzel crackers. Very generous of them, but it worked out OK for everybody. Janett bought a three-pack of the guacamole and a big bag of the chips, and the guacamole lady told Janett she could probably get hired as a sample lady too if she wanted to.

Oh, yeah and the TV. Well, the display was gone, and we felt a momentary misapprehension but browsed the TV aisles and found the same models even cheaper, so we brought the next size larger screen for the same price Janett had been prepared to pay. And feeling like successful shoppers we splurged on a little insulated zipper front vest with faux fur trim for Janett, for those days when neither a sweater or jacket really fills the bill.

We checked out and, maybe this will surprise you, stopped for a late lunch on the way out of the store. (I can't pass up a polish sausage priced at $1 and Janett feels the same way about a slice of supreme pizza.) And as we finished, a good day got even better with a phone call from daughter Kim, residing now with husband Ross and baby Remy in Las Vegas. They commiserated briefly over sleep lost to a teething baby, and then Kim asked Janett to warn me that my Facebook had been compromised. Pause. Janett listens to Kim, then asks me if I called Mark an idiot. "I called somebody an idiot, and his name might have been Mark, but it wasn't our (son in law) Mark, and it was a comment on a yahoo news post, not on facebook. They both admonished me that I shouldn't call people idiots.

I checked when I got home, and yahoo news had apparently rejected my comment, but there it was on facebook. Andy replied to Mark's comment "Mark, you're an idiot."
revealing to my entire facebook community the sort of guy that lurks behind the affable mask.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

play list

It's kind of a quiet cloudy Sunday. Janett and I went for a little ride just to get out of the house. We're still uncertain about our plans to move, but the realtor hasn't been able to show us the least expensive alternative (maybe the current tenant doesn't want to leave), so the house around the corner now seems our likeliest destination.
Yesterday Notre Dame lost to Navy,a mild disappointment, though in previous games including the few wins, the Irish haven't looked good to me. On the Notre Dame boards some posters are blaming the coaches, some the players. I'm blaming bad offense on the players and bad defense on the coaches. In any case our problems don't appear to be near solution, and now we'll have to worry about some of the better players recruited for next year beginning to hedge on their commitments.
I posted a couple of items to Facebook expressing my dismay about the current state of our nation. I won't get into it here. It's nice to express myself in facebook shorthand rather than with a longer blog, although I run the risk of annoying more readers there than here.
So I didn't really have anything to write about when I opened my blog today and decided to check my musical playlist. I'd lost the connection to at least eight of the previously linked songs, so I reconnected to a few of those, and addded links to a few different selections. Then I scrolled through the list playing only the first few bars of each song. That's a thing about my favorites, they got me right from the get go. The exception is Wildwood Flower by Reese Witherspoon which has a very nondescript opening. I might check to see if there's a version by the Carter family that starts with the melody, but I suspect the soundtrack version pretty well copies the original. Maybe I'll scroll through again to see if I think of something I missed. Then maybe I'll go read for a while.


Being interupted briefly to nibble cheeses and crackers while Janett and I watched an episode of a HomeTV show about how to rent an apartment, I did some reading. Alas, I didn't escape the internet but went to Wiki and read up on the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-1913), and then on Serbia's struggle for independence in the first quarter of the previous century. The Balkan Wars were significant events in the lead up to the First World War.

Now, I'll try again to escape the internet.


Janett Prepared a fine dinner teryaki chicken, some kind of dirty rice also with bits of chicken, green beans, and little yellow potatos mashed with the skin on. Then we watched a most enjoyable Masterpiece Theater mystery presentation of a contemporary Sherlock Holmes. You can see why I feel I'm the luckiest man in the world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Acquaintances know Janett and I are now engaged in seeking a new apartment. We've been very happy in the current premises, the second floor of a very large house, complete with a ten by twelve roofed porch where we could enjoy a pretty day, chat and drink coffee. Janett is somewhat agorophobic and sometimes has anxiety attacks, so the porch was an easy way to get out of the house without having to deal with people, and she enjoyed tending a garden of potted plants.
Our landlord, (like our previous landlord) apparently overextended himself in the boom days, and ran into trouble. He probably hasn't made a mortgage payment in a year and the building is on the the sherriff's auction block. Janett, while saddened, is accepting, suggesting that this is God's way of helping us cut our rental expense before we start relying on social security for most of our income in January.
We'd like to rent a two bedroom for under $900 per month. That may sound unrealistic but remember we live in Elgin where such things are possible. So far we've considered three options, having looked at 5 or six other options that were unsuitable due to lack of space, a ban on pets, or some other reason. The three options priced out at roughly $700, $800, and $900. I think yesterday we eliminated the middle option, an apartment in a four flat, nice building, nice neighborhood, nice landlord, but not overly spacious, priced a little below market due to the time of year. Janett had an anxiety attack while looking at the apartment which suggests she felt a little crowded.
The upper rent place is right around the corner from our current address, newly renovated, not quite as commodious as our place here, but on the first floor. We sent the landlord an application and expect to hear back any day now.
We're not hounding him because we haven't yet been able to arrange a visit to the third and lowest priced option, the second floor of an older home on the other side of the river. The building appears well kept, but is not as large as the more expensive unit. We've driven by a couple times and Janett says she likes the neighborhood well enough, and has a good feeling about it. The realtor says the former tenant has not turned in the keys, and she's arranging for a locksmith to come out and change the locks so she can show the place. I told her we had another application pending and would appreciate her calling to let us know as soon as the unit is available for viewing, which she said she would do.
I think we'd be happy enough with the premises around the corner, and it would be less expensive than our current residence since here we pay all utilities, and there would pay only for electricity, but it would be nice to feel sure we'd made the best choice. I guess we're a little nervous and unsettled, but not really stressed out yet over the search. One small concern is that the utilities here might soon be shut off since the landlord has stopped asking us for our payments and presumably has stopped paying the bills.:o(
We hope a few close friends and relatives will be feeling the need on Nov 1 to work off the snickers bars, and I suspect they would vote that we move to the first floor around the corner.

PS. The around the corner rental features a little room across the hallway from our front door, which would serve nicely as a home office should we want to spend an extra 50 or 60 dollars per month. Hmmmm?

Monday, October 18, 2010


Larry Lives. I went to IMDB and pulled up the Banger Sisters and found the screen credits, including "Man in bar", Larry Trask. I pulled up pictures, and they sure looked like our Larry, though a touch buffer, and credits were listed for this Larry as recently as last year. The earliest credits date back to the approximate time of Larry's move to the west coast. Unfortunately, no bio information on Larry Trask was offered.

So, either Larry Trask is our Larry and is still alive and getting by in Hollywood, or Larry Trask just looks like our Larry, who died in a car crash. Or neither. If I had subscribed to IMDB Pro I could have contacted Larry's agent and maybe requested biographical notes, but I didn't.

Maybe someone else who Googles Larry Trask will see this post, and perhaps have more information to share. Until then, let's go with the alive and getting by theory.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

R Bar

is the one establishment I've had experience with (under 3 different names) over 2 (2 1/2?) decades. It came up in conversation today because Janett ran into an old friend and former owner at Target and he said he was reaquiring the bar and asked her to let any of the former clientele she ran into know the old management would be returning. His name is Stan, and he was the fourth owner in our experience there. He sold the bar 4 years ago to Ernie, the week-end disco guy, and we haven't been there since. Ernie's purchase of the bar was a small, but not insignificant, part of our detachment.

In the year and a half prior to his acquisition Ernie would DJ at the bar on week-ends, I wasn't sure why they needed a DJ since they had a pretty good juke box. Maybe because guys like to visit bars where girls hang out and girls like to dance and the girls couldn't dance to the music I'd play on the jukebox, so maybe it was all my fault.

But Janett missed the juke box music, too. And she would request Ernie play some of her favorites and was always disappointed. She had accepted that his hoochie mama dance retinue didn't include songs like John Deere Green or David Allen Coe classics like the Rodeo Song or You Never Even Called Me by my Name, but it didn't seem right not to be able to hear the Rolling Stones reminisce about The Girl with Faraway Eyes or Wild Horses. So I'd have to go over to Ernie a couple times a night and remind him he'd told Janett he was going to play some such song. We kind of got on each other's nerves.

When Ernie took over we assumed he'd like to attract a younger, maybe a more hispanic crowd, not native to West Dundee, but drawn from near-by towns, and we and a lot of the old patrons probably would not be missed. Also about that time we'd moved from Dundee to Elgin. We'd lived a short block from the bar in West Dundee and that contributed to our identification with the place. And about that time Janett's closest friend and partying partner, the wife of my good friend, became very ill and subsequently passed away. Then they made it illegal to smoke on the premises. So for a lot of reasons the bar lost our patronage, and we missed it less than we might have expected.

I've observed that the crowd frequenting a bar seems to turn over every five or so years, so in our 20 plus years I guess we'd gone through three or four generations, and I'd survived the shifts in pretty girls and young scrappers pretty much with my grand old man status in fact. I'd even given up the pool table for the Golden Tee Game. But even without the advent of the Ernie years, maybe I was beginning to feel like it wasn't really my place any more.

Still, we'll probably call a few friends and go back to congratulate Stan, and to lift a glass to Larry and Celia, the spirited 30 somethings who owned the bar. then the Scot's Inn, when we'd first dropped by. They sold the bar and moved west because Larry wanted to be an actor, and legend has it, Larry even got a part in a movie, The Banger Sisters, I think. The legend goes on that they were killed in a car wreck not long after. The movies credits identified Larry as "Man in bar" Fair enough.

PS I think Rule 1 in Stan's "How to Run a Bar" book would be to hire really pretty bartenders, so if you like really pretty bartenders drop in and see.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Randall Road

A drive on Randall Road in the northwest suburbs of Chicago leaves me with a feeling of incredulity. From Lake in the Hills to Crystal Lake, a stretch of more than five miles, shopping centers and strip malls line the six lane highway. On the same road, further south there's another similar stretch from St Charles to Aurora, as well as a shorter strip in Elgin and South Elgin, in between the two longer stretches. I haven't done the numbers, but I feel there must be a thousand retailers in shiny new stores(most built in last eight years), and hundreds of dining places. Fast food chain outlets dot this twenty mile drive and a $10+ entree restaurants are commonplace. Maybe the thousand is an overestimate, but is not hyperbole.

Commercial real estate developers and mall management companies are suspected of being in financial difficulty, but with a couple of percent interest rates, they've mostly survived so far. Again an undocumented estimate, but I don't think I observe a vacancy rate of 10% along the entire stretch.

My question is how is this retail expansion supported in a declining economy? 20% comes to mind. The top 20% of income level families are the target market, and Randall Road runs through communities featuring this demographic. (roughly household incomes over $92,000, I would guess the top 10% to have income in excess of $135,000)
It might also be observed that the current economic downturn has adversely impacted a lot more mid-level wage earners that it has the higher earning segment.

The corollary to this thesis is"What about the other 80%? I have not thought these numbers through, but in another post re Malaysia I referred to superfluous workers. My concern is that 50% of the American population (guessing at household incomes less than $45,000) are not only superfluous workers but marginalized consumers as well.

PS Thank goodness for Aldi's

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Genoa City

Driving home from a wedding in Lake Geneva at 2 AM last night, I was trailed for a few miles on Rte 12 and eventually pulled over by a Genoa City WI policeman. Dating back to the time a younger drinking age was in force in Wisconsin than Illinois tales abound of unfortunate traffic stops in this area. I'd had a few drinks, but I've been stopped in a lot worse stages of impairment, and never even been asked to perform a road sobriety test, so I wouldn't have been very nervous except I'd left home without my wallet. A back up squad car arrived as the officer approached my window. The policeman said he'd stopped us for a faulty brake light, and asked for my license, which I explained I'd left at home. He took my name and Janett's driver's license and went back to his car to run a check. He eventually returned and asked if I knew my license was expired. I told him no, but that my birthday was 3 days ago, so it was possible. He was being pretty low key about it, so I still wasn't getting very nervous. It was a relief, though, when he said that he and the other officer would be leaving and no tickets would be issued, and it would be left to my judgement whether to continue on the road. I said thanks, adding that I would like to get home, and he repeated that was up to me. So we drove on home.

I could have been charged on several counts, including the brake light thingy, and could have been subjected to the sobriety test, which might have been disagreeable (though I do occasionally practice reciting the alphabet backwards). Without a license to surrender for bond we would have had to go into town and I probably would have been in the lock-up for a few hours til Janett could recover enough to drive to an ATM for my bail, all in all a real nightmare. So I was grateful for the young man's discretion and forbearance.

This morning I googled "Genoa City WI police" to see if there were comments indicating if others had the same kind of positive experience that I'd had or whether I was particularly fortunate. I found links to several blogs and facebook pages of surprisingly attractive 20-somethings. And they mostly recounted traumatic life stories involving bad romantic choices and mysterious deaths. What had I stumbled across? Was Genoa City the 21st century Spoon River? Unfortunately, no. I eventually linked to a site that identified Genoa City as the fictional setting for a soap opera named the "Young and Restless", and the blogs and facebook pages are apparently for the benefit of aficionados of the series. Mixed emotions again since for a moment I'd felt like maybe a visit to the lock-up in the small Wisconsin town could have been very interesting.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It appears to be a pretty day through my window.

ButI haven't really sampled the weather. I've been preoccupied with Janett's first real Quickbooks client. Jose took the call and relayed to us that the client wanted to be set up on Quickbooks, and we assumed that meant installing the program on his computer, selecting a chart of accounts and maybe entering beginning balances. As it turns out, the program was already installed with a workable chart of accounts. What the client really wanted was to be told how to do things appropriately for their unique business, especially how to account for inventory, sales. and costs of sales, as well as how to generate appropriate transaction documentation in a fast paced environment. We'd met on Thursday and Friday evening I sent them a few pages of recommendations on how to proceed and pointing out a few potential complications. Saturday I sent another page, clarifications and explanations of items included in the Friday letter which I thought would be helpful to non-accountants as they reviewed the first letter over rhe weekend.
I woke up at 3:30 this morning with a better idea for one step in the process, and a couple of questions, so I sat at my computer and typed in notes on the possible improved procedure and the peripheral questions, and went back to bed for a couple of hours. I'm thinking of emailing them a note of the amended procedure today. Not that I assume they're at the computer on a Sunday, checking their emails, but to update them at the earliest possible moment in order to give them time to think about it a little before we speak tomorrow, and in order they have written notes in front of them when we speak.
I think we've done enough work to justify Janett's standard "set-up" charge, but I don't know if they'll like my recommendations, or consider our proposing a plan to be the kind of work they anticipated being billed for. I think if they appreciate our recommengations and don't object to the bill, the question will remain as to how much additional help they will need catching up on the several months they've been operating with manually prepared sales documents and trying to keep their records on excel sheets. Also, things like sales tax provisions will require a little tinkering, since they probably thought they were selling a service and proceeds weren't taxable, which is only partially true.
Don't mean to bore you with the details, but it's an interesting experiment in light of Janett and my attempted collaboration (which is every bit as complicated as learning about customer relations).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Maybe, another good thing about blogging is that it

may prove to be therapeutic; may help me to get in touch with myself. What's the psychological name for what I am experiencing? An episode? And would the term be, disassociating?
I know, ND losing a couple of close games in the last minutes may have something to do with me feeling dislodged. But selling corned beef sandwiches at Irish Fest last week end, roasted corn on the cob at Heritage fest this past week end, and tootsie rolls to people a couple mornings in between? Why am I doing things I never did before?
I've stopped going to Huffington Post, because they post provocative captions that elicit all kinds of moronic responses, and the provocations and the morons both annoy me, and I generally sense that the commentors might not have read the articlein the first place. I can't even go to Facebook without remembering the simile of the internet as the drunken librarian who won't shut up. But TV is even more disturbing. The five o'clock local news is the closest thing to a real news show on all 100 24 hour stations, and even they tend to sensationalize. The dramas are even worse, contrived and implausible story lines, devoid on meaningful dialogue, but long on featured actors and actresses striking their favorite cold blue steel poses for minutes of each show. Also, what's with these full color renderings of what bullets, blades, and blunt objects do to a victims vulnerable anatomy. How cold and callused do they wish us to become? And don't get me started on flash backs and flash forwards. The Office is my last refuge.
I can't afford to try to discuss the economy or the political environment except to say I'm a lttle worried for all of us. Personally, life is a somewhat out of kilter as well. We may be moving next month because our landlord stopped paying the mortgage last year, and the sheriff is scheduled to auction our building off. Not unreasonably, the landlord also stopped paying the utilities a couple of months ago, and we got a warning from the city that they're going to shut off the water the day after tomorrow. I went to our downstairs neighbor to propose we go halvsies on the arrears to keep the water flowing another month, and she, matter of factly, informed me that her son took a call from the gas company last week and that they said they were going to shut off the gas. WTF, people?
Maybe, it's just me, rapidly approaching my 65th birthday...no, it's more than that, but age may have something to do with it. Tonight I saw an ad for an apple NANO, or something like that, and I didn't know what it did, and they didn't tell me. They didn't tell me anything, but there was a song, something about wanting a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket.
I'm going to retire for the evening with my newly arrived edition of the Atlantic, (Thanks, Kim). And I do feel a little better.

PS I omitted reference to the constancy of God, and our security in Him, because i didn't want to obscure that reality with my disoriented perspective. After mass on Sunday, though, I saw a bird nesting on top of the cross on top of the steeple, and in my mind wanted to compare notes with him on why we were each there, looking for some awareness shared that would reassure me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Write Like Arthur C .Clarke

Sorry, I tested my writing on someone else's page and don't know how to link to the page here where you might insert a sample of your own writing for analysis. If you'd like you could go to Kim or Lauren's pages and give it a shot.

PS would you say Arthur Clarke is a good writer?


As I grew into my 30's and 40's, I would be impressed with women I knew who continued to correspond with friends from college or from even earlier in life. I don't know men who do so, which may not be a fair basis to generalize. But the virtues implicit in correspondence always struck me as virtues of a passing age, friendship, honesty, an air of permanence through fluctuating environments, a wish to communicate, making one's self known, while supporting the other through informed affection, and, not least, having a command of the language and adequate penmanship. Not that I got to read the ladies' correspondence. That was just what I sensed and revered

I would have thought a good letter should read like a mini-essay, crafted, and have a point or make an observation. The year's chronology tucked into a Christmas card, while informative, did not qualify. On the contrary, the brief history dissipates the air of permanence, or should I have said timelessness?

I suppose this gentle envy and nostalgia were what led me to post to a blog page. My posts are often rambunctious, lacking in gentility and refined thought, but still I am corresponding, (and circumventing the penmanship requirement). Why haven't I posted lately? I guess, because I felt I had expressed all my opinions, and was becoming strident in my insistence on my point of view prevailing.

But because I stopped coming here, I stopped visiting other's sites. This evening I read three months worth of daughter Kim's blogs, and enjoyed her style and content, including etchings and photos and the in the moment accounts of life far away. I felt a little bad not to have been more attentive. I suppose I could simply resolve to come to read more often, but that would violate the time honored first tenet of corresponding. To get a letter, send a letter. I guess, I'll resume posting.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hi there.

I stumbled across this Onion Sports Network article today. It's a year old and shouldn't be taken to have anything to do with the "new" Bryan Kelly coached Irish.
In light of last year's disappointing season, we can look back and laugh.

Small, Unathletic Walk-On Injures 9 Starters In Notre Dame Football Practice
September 3, 2009 | ISSUE 45•36

via @TheOnion - Small, Unathletic Walk-On Injures 9 Starters In Notre Dame Football

SOUTH BEND, IN—During Wednesday's afternoon practice, 17-year-old Brian Novak, a 145-pound walk-on for the struggling Notre Dame football team, injured nine starters, including third-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen, junior wide receiver Golden Tate, and 295-pound defensive lineman Ian Williams.

, who had virtually no organized football experience prior to joining the Division I team, has injured a total of 24 players since his arrival in South Bend, prompting many to question whether or not the Fighting Irish have another disappointing season in store.

"I'm not really that fast or strong or anything," said Novak, adding that of his friends back home he's "not even close" to being the best football player. "But during my first practice with the team I was playing linebacker—or it might have been defensive end—and I got past the big blocker guys no problem, then somehow broke [starting halfback] Armando Allen's leg with a tackle. That's the first tackle I've ever attempted in my life."

"I'm not trying to hurt them or anything, but in general I would say everyone here is a lot slower and weaker than I thought they'd be," Novak added. "I can only bench-press about 90 pounds, but all the players gather around to watch me lift."

According to members of the coaching staff, the former high school yearbook editor is by far the team's most athletic player, despite Novak's inability to do more than two pull-ups or jog a mile without walking. During an intrasquad scrimmage last Sunday, he recorded eight interceptions, rushed for 225 yards, and ruptured the Achilles tendon of safety Sergio Brown with what appeared to be a fairly slow-moving, awkward juke move.

"When I play with these guys I feel like I did when I was a camp counselor playing dodgeball with my campers," said the 5-foot-7 Novak, whose athletic resume consists of two weeks on his high school lacrosse team. "I can pretty much overpower anyone, anytime. It's really fun, but I'm not actually learning anything about football."

Though he reportedly promised Notre Dame's head coach Charlie Weis he would "take it easy" on the rest of the team until the season opener, Novak broke the arm of 302-pound center Dan Wenger during tackling drills last Monday, and fractured starting linebacker Brian Smith's skull on a 14-yard touchdown run in which Novak dragged Smith 10 yards into the end zone.

While Novak went 0-4 in field goal attempts during Sunday's scrimmage, he was the only Notre Dame kicker to get the football up into the air.

"He's really powerful and fast," 255-pound defensive end John Ryan said of Novak."I'm glad he's on our team because looking at the guys we have, he's our only hope if we want to beat USC, Nevada, or really anybody."

"He's a much better leader than Jimmy [Clausen], that's for sure," Ryan added. "Better quarterback, too."

Recently, Novak has even been spotted giving coach Weis several tips about his strategy and tactics.

"Until Brian, I never thought about how establishing the run could create opportunities for us downfield," said Weis, who has led the Irish to 15 losses in their last two seasons. "Novak was telling me about something called a 'fake handoff,' which is like this fake run thing, but then you pass it. I would assume that's illegal, but he's proven himself to be an amazing football player, so I trust him."

According to Novak, when he committed to Notre Dame, he had no intention of walking onto the football team, being more interested in the school's theater group. But when assistant head coach Rob Ianello saw the freshman tossing a football around campus, he knew instantly that Novak would be a valuable addition.

"He was catching the ball," Ianello said. "Like, actually catching it."

Despite the team's recent injuries, and the fact that its best player is admittedly "really terrible" at football, former Notre Dame head coach and college football analyst Lou Holtz still predicted the Fighting Irish would go 12-0 this season and win the BCS championship.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

OK I admit it.

I cut and pasted this post from Huffington

I have been critical of Obama recently on several issues: the capitulation to the Big Banks, the coziness with BP, aquiescence to AIPAC, and yesterday for weak leadership in Afghanistan. All of a sudden, I think, this may be the moment for a cool reappraisal.

Remembering that all his problems were more or less inherited from the most inept and criminal administration in the nation's history and that he was faced on every side by entrenched adversaries, with the country engaged in two wars and in the midst of an economic crisis more severe than anyone wants to admit. Remember that politicians are not like other people, and that when you think you know what they're trying to do, you may be kidding yourself. Maybe the only way not to get eaten alive was to assume this iron fist in a velvet glove persona, to become the Machiavellian prince, who puts his arm around his adversaries' shoulders while he slips the vice over their gonads, and starts to turn the screw. Worked with health care, maybe working with BP and Israel, may even work with GS. Rememder the Prince does not seek resplendent triumphs, he converts a string of likely setbacks into a string small wins, and ends up way ahead.

Re Afghanistan: to "surrender" (order withdrawals) during his first year in office would have hurt him with a lot of right wingers, military Moms and Dads, and a couple powerful lobbies, so instead he appproves a surge, but at the same time shifts strategies to try to protect the lives of our young men. In his disdain for Karzai, you get a glimpse of his true feelings. A year later Karzai is unraveling, the generals are collapsing at hearings and giving interviews in Rolling Stone Magazine. The assessment is widely accepted that the war is unwinnable. Win, Win, Win. To complete this tour de force with a sardonic gesture, I hope he retains the mercenaries till the end and employs them in a rear guard action as he withdraws the troops

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My new soapbox.

Sorry to be away so long. Facebook was already a distraction, but now I'm engaged with a majot time eater, the Huffington Post. I had saved the site as a news source, and visited every couple of days, but a month ago I signed up as a member so I could post a comment regarding a Kennedy wife who got a DUI. "There but for the grace of God go I." and, what the heck, two people fanned me. Wasn't that nice.

A couple days later, I read an article about a scientist who'd was being hounded off Obama's scientific team because he had written a few years ago about feeling the gay community was responsible for the aids epidemic, and, besides, the writer of the post said, the scientist was a "global warming denier" I posted that I'd been reading lately that some scientists were investigating the effects of solar activity on climate change, and proposing that hydrocarbons in the atmosphere might not be as important a factor in climate change as thought a few years ago, and also,that I didn't think his position re gays and aids was completely unreasonabe.

I don't know who was more upset, gays, global warming activists, or gay global warming activists, but I got a lot on negative responses. Well, I didn't feel that strongly about either of these subjects, so I answered the comments in fairly non-confrontational words, saying I really wasn't expert in either area.

Then I commented on an article about the Gulf disaster to the effect that Obama should have dropped a nuke in that hole within a week of the blow out and sealed the gusher off, and that BP was fooling around with ineffectual measures to appear to be doing something while actually stalling for time to drill relief wells and recover theit investment. Manwhile the environment was suffering untold damage. I wasn't trying to take an extreme position, but a few people felt that they had to tell me what an idiot I was. I didn't demure this time, responding with references to an aricle about Russia sealing a blown out well that way.

Then of course there was the Israelis and the flotilla. Obviously, I would havw words with a few people on such an event as that.

Meanwhile Janett has been stressing to me that Facebooks is family recreation and not a place to argue about politics, and I pretty much agree. Besides now I have Huffington Post. The novelty will soon wear off, I hope, and I'll resume my Faceboolk and Blogger activity. On the bright side, it was probably a good thing that I was distracted from college football last week while this Mega Conference tempest blew itself out. I think that episode ended OK for Notre Dame, and hopefully left the Big TelevEN with a little egg on its collective face.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A thoughtful balanced commentary.

Continuing my thoughtful balanced approach to our economic quandary.

Leonhardt on Risk: BP, the Housing Bubble and Budget
Tuesday, 01 June 2010 19:42

Share David Leonhardt's magazine piece on mis-estimating risk gets the story of BP largely right. The top executives felt free to take big gambles with safety and the environment because it was entirely a one-sided bet for them. Large profits from increasing production could mean millions or even tens of millions of dollars in additional compensation each year. On the other hand, the downside from even the worst possible disaster carried little consequence for top executives (who will still be hugely rich) or even the company since Congress capped liability at $75 million.

However he gets the story of the housing bubble and the budget deficit almost completely wrong. He argues that Greenspan and Bernanke missed the fact that the economy faced a nationwide housing bubble because we had never seen one before. While that may be partially true, this comment also ignores the incentives facing the Fed chairs. Large financial companies like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup were making enormous profits from the financing that fueled the bubble. If Greenspan or Bernanke had tried to clamp down on the bubble they would have been confronted by the full force of this powerful industry. They may have found themselves ridiculed and pushed to the side as happened to Brooksley Born when she tried to regulate derivatives in 1998 as head of the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission.

In contrast, their decision not to clamp down on the bubble led to catastrohphic results leading to the worst economic downturn in 70 years with tens of millions of people unemployed or underemployed. Yet, both Greenspan and Bernanke are still wealthy men and highly respected. In fact, Bernanke was reappointed to a second term as Fed chair in spite of his disatrous first term.

In short, the problem was not that they underestimated risk. The problem is that they face an entirely assymetric tradeoff structure. Clamping down on financial speculation was sure to have serious consequences for their careers, even if they were right. By contrast, failing to regulate properly did not seem to damage either man's wealth or stature in any major way even though it led to just about the most distrous possible outcome.

Leonhardt also gets the story of the risks from the budget deficit largely wrong. He writes:

"The big financial risk is no longer a housing bubble. Instead, it may be the huge deficits that the growth of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will cause in coming years — and the possibility that lenders will eventually become nervous about extending credit to Washington. True, some economists and policy makers insist the country should not get worked up about this possibility, because lenders have never soured on the United States government before and show no signs of doing so now. But isn’t that reminiscent of the old Bernanke-Greenspan tune about the housing market?"

First, it is pecular to include Social Security in this list. Social Security is growing at a relatively slow pace. It is projected to grow less rapidly than interest on the government debt. Like interest on the government debt, Social Security benefits have already been paid for in advance by their beneficiaries. Wall Street tycoons like Peter Peterson have been desperate to gut Social Security for decades and have invented numerous stories (e.g. that the Trust Fund does not exist) to advance their agenda. However a responsible newspaper should not be advancing this agenda under the guise of news reporting.

The projected growth of Medicare and Medicaid, driven by the explosive growth of health care costs in the private sector, will impose strains on the budget. However, if the growth in health care costs really follows the path assumed in budget projections it will provide a much greater burden on the private sector than the public sector. It is difficult to imagine that the public will itself to be priced out of the market for health care rather than taking simple and obvious steps that challenge the industry's power and ability to continually jack up prices. The point is that this is first and foremost a health care problem. It is only the Peterson Wall Street gang that insists on discussing the issue as a budget problem.

The second reason why the discussion of the budget is not entirely right is that we have been here before. The country has had ratios of debt to GDP in excess of 100 percent following World War II. In spite of this debt burden, interest rates remained low and the economy grew rapidly. Other countries, like the UK and more recently Japan and Italy have sustained much larger debt to GDP ratios without seeing any financial panics.

Finally, unlike Greece, which does not control its own currency, the debt of the United States is in dollars and the United States can always print more dollars. This means that the actual risk is not insolvency, but inflation, since the country would presumably print money rather than face bankruptcy. An honest discussion of the debt problem in the United States would discuss the risk from inflation. In the current environment, this is extremely low. In fact, according to a recent paper by Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's chief economist, the United States would actually benefit from a somewhat higher inflation rate (3-4 percent) since it would reduce debt burdens and lower the real interest rate.

So, the supposed threat from the deficits has been seriously misrepresented by the Wall Street deficit hawks. It is hardly irrational to disregard threats that are incoherent.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Joys of Apartment Living in Elgin

Due to Janetts concerns about my giving offense, this post has been deleted but will be emailed to any interested reader upon request. Email me at Jandman2002@Yahoo.com

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beautiful Baby Sweepstakes

We're sure Owen will represent well at his second birthday party tomorrow, and we all eagerly await photos of the exquisite Remy, but tonight let's share a round of cheer and a shout out to little Johny (and his handsome daddy, Noah)

High Frequency Trading

While still apalled at what the investment banks have done to our economy and our society,I am not at this point hysterical, and present the article below simply because it is informative.

DK Matai.Chairman: mi2g, ATCA, The Philanthropia
Posted: May 29, 2010 06:39 PM BIO Become a Fan Get Email Alerts Bloggers' Index .

The Achilles Heel of Markets?

It has been the worst May for stocks since 1940. The last time May was this bad, neither had Pearl Harbour been bombed forcing the US to enter World War II, nor had the US recovered from The Great Depression. Although suppressed for much of the global markets recovery that began in March 2009, volatility has sprung back with a vengeance in May. On May 21st the "fear index" -- the "volatility index" of the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, also known as VIX -- rose to a 12 month high. May 6th, the day of the "flash crash," saw the biggest intraday point drop ever in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The last-hour market swings, as the European debt crisis injects more uncertainty, are also increasing with every passing day. This volatility reflects a lack of buying interest among long term investors and an intra-day focus for high-frequency traders in the absence of a clear market direction.

High Frequency Trading
Super Arbitrage

The role of high-frequency trading is gathering pace, commanding a bigger and bigger share of financial markets' activity worldwide in equities, bonds, commodities, futures and currencies. High-frequency traders are behaving like computer jockeys. They run complex trading algorithmic software on superfast computers and search the markets for tiny price differentials so that they can carry out super arbitrage. By trading hundreds of millions or even a billion units a day at lightning speed, high-frequency traders pick up fractional pennies each time. The more volatile the market, the easier it is for them to make money jumping in and out of assets across multiple exchanges. High-frequency traders are really just trying to skim the bid to offer spread on a trade. It may only be as low as $0.01 on many trades but, if one does it for 100,000,000 -- 100 million -- units that's over one million dollars a day of profit! High-frequency trading firms rarely go home with a position if they can help it because they make money by maximising transactional volume and minimising risk.

What Does Volatility Mean?

Markets become volatile when liquidity dries up. This means people can't trade stocks at a fair price, when they want. High-frequency traders thrive off volatility, because when liquidity is in short supply, it becomes very profitable for them to provide it. On days with big movements, in the realm of triple digits, high-frequency traders can make a lot of money via this super arbitrage. As a result, May has proved to be the biggest gold mine for high-frequency trading firms since the crash of late 2008 and early 2009. While many long-term investors lost their shirts during The Great Unwind (2007-?) and The Great Reset (2008-?), the high-frequency traders posted huge profits, as they are doing now.

Shadow Markets

In their defence, high-frequency traders say that because their intense trading provides liquidity, they help markets run smoothly, improving the environment for all investors. They say their actions make the markets more functional and fair to typical investors. Given that the high-frequency traders and broker dealers have a symbiotic relationship, they are both actively masquerading as liquidity providers when in fact they are normally liquidity takers, the knowledge transfer of the transactional information being all important. It is clear that high-frequency trading serves no larger purpose. It does not raise capital for companies, create jobs or stimulate innovations in the broader economy. The trades remain completely divorced from underlying economic fundamentals. The high-frequency traders know little or nothing about the companies their computers are feverishly buying and selling. If one combines the speed at which they operate, the outsourcing of decision making to computer algorithms, and an almost complete lack of regulation, this shadow market can fuel and exaggerate volatility.

Anti-Value Investing

High-frequency traders have been branded as the new "black hats" of high finance. Their computer-driven methods, which now account for upwards of two thirds of all US equity volume, are proliferating. To a large degree, fundamental investment strategies -- such as buying and selling stocks based on a company's long term performance -- have taken a back seat to high-frequency trading algorithms hunting for inefficiencies in daily pricing and super arbitrage opportunities.

Reach, Richness and Speed

High-frequency trading has been spreading from the US and Canadian stock markets into new geographies -- Europe, Asia and Latin America -- and all asset classes including equities, bonds, commodities, futures and currencies. Assuming the new financial regulatory reform bill forces over-the-counter derivatives on to exchanges, high-frequency traders will no doubt trade them too. Every day, things are getting faster in the world of high finance and trading. Four years ago, executing a trade in a millisecond -- one thousandth of a second -- was considered fast; now the top high-frequency trading firms and broker dealers are trading in microseconds. That's one millionth of a second.


Law-makers and regulators are right to get nervous. Senator Ted Kaufman -- Democrat from Delaware -- who understands the risk of high-frequency trading, or HFT, says, "I'm afraid that we're sowing the seeds of the next financial crash." He has called for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate high-frequency traders and the impact they have had on the broad markets.

In the aftermath of the May 6th "flash crash", the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently voted to propose rules that would give the agency and securities exchanges more timely information about high-frequency trades so that they can better oversee the markets. The proposal requires exchanges and broker dealers that trade on the exchanges to provide detailed information about quotes, orders and trades to what would be a newly created central repository.

Whilst the creation of a central repository may be helpful, it is unclear how this could prevent a "flash crash" caused by high-frequency trades in the future. Human real time is measured and understood in minutes and seconds, whereas the machines are trading in millionths of seconds. In order to be able to understand what happens in a future "flash crash" the regulators would have to play the data from a central repository in slow motion over days or even weeks! What good is it to drive an open-top car at high speed with one's eyes glued to the rear view mirror?

Follow DK Matai on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DKMatai

Previously on The Financial Fix

Friday, May 28, 2010

My brother Mike and I

It's been a turbulent week. Very busy and some complicated emotions involved. The best news was that my brother John's son Michael married a lovely girl named Caitlin in Alpharetta GA. A bad thing was the gulf oil spill which slightly eroded my confidence in President Obama and prompted this Facebook exchange

Abraham Lincoln "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the pre...judices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

Guess he missed ACORN, SEIU, fed takeover of GM with UAW, takeover of healthcare against voters' wishes w. bill no one read (have to pass it to see what's in it), apology to China (!) for AZ having to enforce Fed law vs. illegals whom administration considers unregistered Democratic voters despite their drug-smuggling, kidnappings, murders of agents and civilians, etc. Good thing he was not in business of predicting future; he sure got that wrong!!!
: )

Nephew Mike:

As in BRITISH Petroleum?

Let's not drill there, let Cuba and China do so, and then buy it from them! Yeah, that's the ticket!

Better yet, let's go back to the horse & buggy! Then every city, not just Chicago and DC, will reek of horsesh-t.
: )

Brother John:
Spill baby. Spill.

Mike, they tricked you. BRITISH, as in Amoco. BRITISH as in Chevron, BRITISH as in Gulf Oil, and BRITISH as in Atlantic Richfield. Dont feel bad that's what they wanted to do.

Right, Andy. It's all an evil capitalist plot to deceive us workers of the world, done in anticipation of oil spills. Oh, silly me, I feel so deceived. I should have listened to Marx and Lenin! They tried to warn me!
: )

Sister Dean:
calm down, brothers.

Do other families encompass such varying political sentiments?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Remy Cangelosi was born last Wednesday, son of Ross and Kim, in Las Vegas. Here I am posting the news six days later. Of course we've shared a lot of facebook chatter and photos, but it's weird not to have commented here.

I think that's because I feel remote fron the event. Strange. Janett flew there Friday with Stephie to help Kim during her first days at home with her baby. She's returning today. I hope she'll have glowing descriptions and anecdotes to help me feel connected to the little fellow. I don't think I'll get out there til September.
I'll do some real bonding then.

Another explanation is that my primary sensation is one of relief, instead of jubilation. I worried, perhaps without cause, right up to the last minute. This little creature has been a very important part of Kimmy's life for a couple of years, and bringing him into the world wasn't as easy as Kim and Ross deserved it to be.

Now Remy is here, and Kimmy and Ross can rejoice and marvel at his beauty, and I can relax and thank God.

No fat fingers

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said in a joint report today that they found no evidence that mistaken orders, terrorism or computer sabotage led the drop, which briefly sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 998.5 points.

Just too many sell orders and not enough buy orders. That's how crashes happen.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Quick post

What won't they think of next?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Audit the fed?

Heres a couple paragraphs from an interesting article.

If you recall, back in 2008, Hank Paulson, our treasury secretary at the time, convinced Congress over a weekend that he needed $700 billion of TARP funds to get the toxic assets off our commercial banks' books. Amazingly, within weeks of being given the funds by Congress, Paulson decided not to proceed with the purchase of toxic assets from the banks, instead giving away hundreds of billions of dollars to the commercial and investment banks and funding a series of bailouts — giving money to Chrysler, General Motors and AIG (some of which immediately found its way back to the commercial and investment banking community).

At the time, nobody explained what happened to the toxic assets on the banks' books whose purchase was the original stated purpose of TARP. We now know that the financial crisis was not caused solely by a liquidity crunch or an irrational loss of confidence, but rather by the fact that the marketplace realized that the commercial banks held more than a trillion dollars of very poor-quality assets, mostly mortgage securities such as collateralized debt obligations, or CDO’s, and that these bad assets were sizable enough to bankrupt even our biggest banks. How bad? Even the AAA tranche of the typical CDO is facing a mortgage default rate of approximately 93 percent today.

I believe the reason Paulson didn’t pursue his original toxic-asset purchasing plan is because such a purchase would have created a market price for these assets, and then all of the banks would have had to mark their poor-quality assets to this low market price. This would have resulted in the bankruptcy of almost all the major commercial and investment banks, because their leverage was so high that they couldn't withstand such a hit to their equity.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

It's a gusher

Here's a link to a seeminlgly objective commentator who says the gulf "leak" is a very serious problem. BP has been practicing PR and lobbying skills, but will end up wringing their hands and saying (like the bankers) "Nobody imagined this could go so horribly wrong. While we were getting paids millions to do it, it seemed like a really good idea."

Friday, April 30, 2010

ND Rap Video elicits letter

Notre Dame Outdoes Super Bowl Shuffle3

4/30/2010 11:49 AM ET By John Walters

John Walters
College Football Writer
To: Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., President, University of Notre Dame
From: John Walters, '88
Re: Ever Being Able to Wear ND Gear in Public Again

Dear Fr. Jenkins,

Hasn't the Class of 2010 suffered enough? Four straight losses to USC. Two home losses to Navy. The 3-9 season. A first-round NCAA tournament loss to Old Dominion (which, okay, if it were women's hoops, would not be so awful) before half the student body had even woken up that day. And now, just a week or so before graduation, this video, which we've also embedded later in this letter along with some other reviews of the thing.

There needs to be an investigation. Isn't this exactly what the NCAA means by the term "lack of institutional control"? I've watched many a disturbing video in the past decade (the Zapruder film, those Sarah McLachlan animal-cruelty ads, Miss Teen South Carolina's "U.S. Americans" response), but this tops them all. Or bottoms them.

Honestly, Padre, whither the self-inflicted wound? This is like a fragging incident without the live ammo. If I'm Lane Kiffin I open every press conference next season with this tune.

My editor sent me a link to this video on Friday morning, warning me that it was disturbing news related to Notre Dame. Before opening the link, I was a'feared the video might contain incriminating footage of a certain head coach with a certain former South Bend anchor woman. If only it had been that tame.

Fr. Jenkins, you're an alum. Please tell me this is a joke. Please tell me this is an hilarious outtake from The Keenan Revue and you thought it would be fun to release as a social media experiment. Please tell me you're deaf.

Losing at home to Syracuse...and Pitt..and UConn...and Air Force...and of course the aforementioned Midshipmen (twice!) the past three years provided more than enough "laughing-stock" fodder for the rest of the country. But this--this is like finding out that Charlie Weis stayed up late watching game film in a Snuggie (and I wouldn't put it past him).

I don't even want to get into the details: The pilfering of the bass line from Morris Day and the Time's "Jungle Love." The white rap interlude from someone who appears to be the president of the Notre Dame Young Republicans (I know, redundant). The Mike Golic and Brian Kelly cameos. When Appalachian State's promotional video is better than yours, that's just sad.

Seriously, how many verbal decommits will it take before Notre Dame disassociates itself from this unbearable whiteness of being? Even "Up With People" is laughing at this video. Suddenly "The Super Bowl Shuffle" doesn't seem so abominable. The Vatican just this morning released a statement that read, "We acknowledge, accept full blame and express the deepest remorse for decades of improper behavior regarding altar boys, but we had nothing to do with the Freakbass video."

The reviews are already shaking down like thunder:

"If ND can land Manti Te'o in a snowstorm, Irish recruiting can survive this."
--Bruce Feldman, ESPN.com

"If ND leaders had any hand in this, I take back any nice things I said about them in today's column."
--Andy Staples, SI.com

"I like Freekbass' early stuff, but he's just getting too commercial now."
--Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune

"You can tell that this is a Notre Dame music video because it has no hot girls, just a lot of cute ones."
--Dave Fink, Dillon Hall, '88

"Dear Dude who punched out Jimmy Clausen: I have another job for you. Holler back."

I'm trying to imagine the meeting in which this video got the green light.

"Let's do a music video to promote Notre Dame because, you know, we just never seem to get any attention."
"Great idea! Let's get U2. They're Irish. They're Catholic. And I've been watching ESPN lately and they seem to be into that whole football thing."
"I don't think we can afford U2."
"Who can we afford?"
"Are you familiar with the funk stylings of...Freekbass?"

Earlier this month a few Purdue students conjured up a video that went viral entitled "Boobquake". They do Boobquake and we do this? Somewhere Jim Delany is laughing and re-thinking the wisdom of inviting Notre Dame to join the Big Ten.

Fr. Jenkins, we all have our moments of embarrassment associated with Notre Dame. Two of my friends once penned -- and sent- - a letter to a female high school basketball player from Iowa who appeared in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" imploring her to attend our fine institution (she did not). Another buddy handed in a term paper that began, "Moses was a very historic man." I may (or may not) have appeared on the front page of The Observer taking a nap in the library as spittle dropped from my lip.

But we were young...and subsisting on a diet of Meisterbrau and Doritos. What's the administration's excuse?

I'd like to think that this is my alma mater's nadir. I'd like to think that. But then I imagine Digger Phelps dancing to this tune next season accompanied by two extremely uncomfortable cheerleaders and I realize that the worst is yet to come.

PS I wont link it. You'll have to find it yourself. I am not responsible. ABT

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Patrick Coughlin (#29) is a throwback to Don Hogan (#44)."

"...a senior accounting major named Patrick Coughlin was the second-leading rusher (75 yards, 11 carries)" in todays spring practice finale at ND, the Blue Gold game. I didn't recognise Coughlin's name. I guess he's a walk on, kind of a Rudy, only better.

The reference to Don Hogan was what made my heart stop for a second.

"Don Hogan, Notre Dame's leading rusher in 1962, has died according to an e-mail from the Irish's sports information department. Hogan gained 454 yards on 90 carries and scored three touchdowns that year, when Notre Dame went 5-5 under Joe Kuharich." Don Hogan passed away in 2007.

I was two years behind Mr Hogan at Saint Ignatius, a sophomore when he was a senior.
That was the season when Tony Carey and the Mount Carmel Caravan played Dick Butkis' CVS team for the city championship. and I lived in Mount Carmel's back yard, so Don didn't get a lot of recognition in my neighborhood, but he was a "living legend" in his Beverly neighborhood.

After his great sophomore season at ND, over the Christmas break, Don was in a car accident on the way home fron his girl friend's house. His sister was in the car with him, and was killed. Don's hips were so badly crushed in the wreck the initial prognosis was very bad "never walk again" kind of thing.

Of course he did rehabilitate himself and was determined to rejoin the Irish on the field, spending a lot of time the next year running the stadium steps, trying to regain his strength. It was spoken of in hushed terms my freshman year at ND, his obsessive determination. Sadly he was soon afflicted with severe arthritis and had to give up his hopes of returning to the team.

His senior year, he wrote a letter that tne new coach, Ara Parseghian read to the team the first day of practice. A gipper kind of message about the times, in games or practice, when players were fatigued or discouraged, asking that they think of him and of how much we would give to be able to be there with them. Parseghian and that team went nine and one, losing the last game of the season to USC, after having lost seven out of nine games the year before.

I knew Don had joined his father's company after graduation, and I didn't hear or think of him much after that, so seeing his name was almost like a ghostly apparition. I hope he had a good forty years and is in heaven today.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I was preoccupied this week with tax stuff,

but now in the calm of a beautiful Saturday evening, still happy about attending Malachy's first T-ball game earlier, I'm contemplating the big news of the last couple days with a sense of serene detachment, and wondering, is this what a black swan looks like?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Owen and POPPO

I baby-sat Owen at his home once or twice when he was at a young and impressionable age. Since I couldn't smoke at Stephie's house, I would take him outside and sit on the back porch or the front steps with him on my lap to have a cigarette. He was interested to be out of doors after dark, and observed me smoking closely. Somehow these occasions became one of his earliest learning experiences, but maybe he was too young to differentiate because the aspects of the situation merged into one.
POPPO to Owen was not just my name, it was the experience of going out for a smoke.
Now at two he's figured out that my cigarettes are generally in my shirt pocket and that he can reach the package when I pick him up. So now when we get together. he happily calls "poppo" "POPPO" "POPPO", until I lift him, and then his hands are in my pocket for my smokes. He extracts the flip top box and pulls out a cigarette which he hands to me then another which he keeps for himself. "Out" he says, "Later". I say, and usually he doesn't insist. But eventually, we get out into the yard. He usually just carries his cigarette around and doesn't mimic the motions of my smoking but occasionally exhales as if blowing smoke.

I think it's an interesting little ritual, and am glad we share it especially since imitation is the highest form of flattery. The rest of the family shows more forbearance than amusement. But now the problem is getting a little out of hand because Owen wants Janett to feed his habit when she visits without me, and not just at home but at the park and at the local malls. Aside from the mild embarrassment Janett feels at being in the company of such a young tobacco fiend, she generally resists being told what to do by a two year old. "POPPO POPPO POPPO" he cries, while Janett promises herself that she will cut back on the visits until Owen has grown through this stage.

And if you think I'm a bad person for allowing the child such liberties, let me say in my own defense that no matter how often he asks, I won't let him have my lighter.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

They're back.

It's been a long day and I'm tired, but wanted to give a little reconition to the courage and resolve of the Thai people in the face of corruption and opression. You could search this blog for "Thailand" to see previous updates on this struggle.

BANGKOK (AFP) – Bangkok was under a state of emergency on Thursday after anti-government protesters stormed the Thai parliament, but the demonstrators remained defiant and said they were ready for "war".

Lawmakers fled and several senior government figures were rescued by military helicopter after the red-shirted supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra forced their way into the parliamentary compound briefly on Wednesday.

The protesters idolise ousted former premier Thaksin and tens of thousands of them have been rallying in the Thai capital for weeks, at one point splashing their own blood at key locations in a grisly show of defiance.

To contain the growing crisis, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva invoked emergency rule Wednesday, banning public gatherings of over five people and giving broad powers to police and military in Bangkok and surrounding areas.

"The state of emergency aims to resolve the situation and bring a return to normal," Abhisit told a nationally televised news conference.

The premier, who has cancelled a trip to the US for a nuclear security summit next week due to the unrest, said the mass rallies were unconstitutional and had tarnished the country's image, eroding investor confidence.

It is the fourth time since 2008 that emergency law has been declared in the capital because of political turmoil.

But thousands of protesters flouted the decree, waving flags and cheering as their leaders railed against Abhisit's government from their rally stage close to a clutch of luxury hotels and giant shopping malls.

"We have to prepare for another war. If the military comes you should not panic -- just stay put," Reds leader Veera Musikapong told protesters.

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have refused to leave the city's main commercial district, where they have been since Saturday, disrupting traffic and causing major stores to shut.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban urged people with relatives rallying in banned areas "to tell them to leave immediately," adding that authorities would provide transportation for demonstrators from outside Bangkok.

The United States Wednesday rebuked the protesters.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Redemptive Sacrifice

I went to Willow this afternoon for Easter service, although it seemed to me to be a little premature. Perhaps a good thing, because Easter morning we all celebrate the Resurrection, which demonstrated Jesus' power over death, and held the promise of resurrection for His followers. But on Saturday we have only to celebrate the crucifiction and death, something I never thought to do.

But His death, not His revival, was the redemptive act, and I think would have been sufficient even had He not returned in His transformed body to console and inspire His followers before ascending into heaven. Somehow, I'd come to think of it as a heartbreaking loss on friday with a big comeback win on Sunday. At this moment I'm feeling that Friday was the victory, and Sunday, while still worth celebrating, was not the most important day of the week.

This is new to me, and some have probably prayed over this already. Let me know if I'm missing something.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


The Anglo Irish Bank of Dublin failed last year. The bank had lent a lot of money to builders in the boom early this century, contributing to successive years of 6% GDP growth, and references to Ireland as a Celtic Tiger. But of course, commercial property values have fallen now almost by half, and loans aren't being repaid, and the bank's gone bust. The government estimates cost of a bailout at 30 billion dollars. Hmmm, Ireland has 4 million people. That's $7,500 for every man woman and child in the country.

The quoted cost of the TARP to date is 306 billion dollars, with 513 having been loaned out and 207 having been repaid. The TARP money didnt include the bailouts of the mortgage giants Fannie May and Fredddie Mac which are estimated at another 126 billion. So, not including whatever shady deals the Fed is managing, bailouts of financial industry has cost $431 billion. The US populatiom is just over 300 million, so the per capita cost to date 1s $1,435.

Neither of these numbers include other stimulus or welfare costs.

Aren't you glad you're nor Irish?

I wonder how to compute the cost for Icelanders, since the government couldn't bail out the biggest banks and let them go into receivership. Four or five big banks there were paying close to 10%, drawing deposits from around the world to make risky loans. Of couse the loans went bad and the banks failed. The government deposit insurance was supposed to reimburse depositor losses in excess of $22,000, but just paying off foreign depositors would cost the men women and children of the population of 300,000 $16,000 each, a hefty sum considering the Icelanders have already had their savings wiped out by the bank failures. The Icelandic government has said it would try to pay off the foreign depositors when it is able, but doesn't sound very hopeful. Correct me if I'm wrong but I can't think of anything Icelanders have to sell except herring, and they have to import everything else.
Maybe they could organize an ad campaign like Chick-Filet, with the cows holding signs that say "Eat More Herring"

Monday, March 29, 2010

My belated St Patricks day story

My friend Louie called this evening and invited me to join him and his son Skip at the Elgin Public House. We haven't socialized much of late, and I was agreeable, and Janett gave her permission so I accepted the invitation. Janett "offered" to drop me off there so I wouldn't have to drive home, and gave me some cash and told me not to use my plastic money. She's been very careful in her oversight of me lately, especially about whether I've turned off the burner on the stove after preparing something, but I don't take offense.

Louie, as is the custom, was running a little late and so I was into my second Harps before he arrived, enjoying Monday night bar quiet, and a congenial lady bartender. Once they arrived Skip and I talked about the Oregon (his alma mater) Duck quarterback arrested for burglary who it appeared had been suspended for spring practice but would still be working out with the team, and possibly reinstated in the fall. Louie and I talked about business and how he was looking at a busy spring, thank goodness. Later we talked about his recent trip to Biloxi, Ms with Habitat for Humanity. and the gulf five years after.
Meanwhile, a working man sort of guy came in and sat down one seat away from me. He was the kind of fellow I always am interested in talking too and often enjoy. His soft southern accent and age identified him to me as one the Kentucky coal miners who'd migrated north in the sixties, and I asked him about possible mutual acquaintances, and sure enough he was acquainted with a few gents I'd known. But he was pretty drunk. so we didn't spend a lot of time talking, although when the conversation turned to Rye whiskey, an occasional interest of Louie's, I was thinking of standing a round for the four of us, but fortunately asked the waitress what a shot of rye went for. "Do you really want to know," she asked, "or should I just ring it up?" Turns out it was $8.65 each, so forbidden to use my plastic I had to demure, unembarrassed, since that was a stiff price in this neck of the woods.
Another fellow had occupied the seat between me and Tommy by then, a high school teacher named Tim who was wearing a nice peaked cap and a green tee shirt emblazoned with a Paddy day wish for the world. Tommy and I went out for a couple smoke breaks and compared our histories at local bars. but he was more seriously drunk each time.

So the third time we went out, after Skip had ordered a sandwich to go and we'd soon be leaving Tommy announced he'd better start walking towards home. I asked where he lived and he said by St Joe's. The church or the hospital? The hospital. Well, that's close to five miles. Maybe you should think of calling a cab. I would he said, but I'm $3 dollars short for the fare. I checked my ready cash and found a couple singles and a couple fives, so I had to give him a five. Then Tim walks out the door and asks are you ready? Tom stepping backward and falling to be seated in a big flower pot, says he is, and it becomes apparent Tim has committed to giving Tommy a lift home. So you won't be needing cab fare, I ask. "No" says Tommy, "but I have to stop and get a six pack on the way."

I went back into the bar and confessed how I'd been shorn, and Louie and Skip and the congenial bar tender and I all laughed. But I momentarily wondered if I should have given the drunk in the flower pot a bloody lip. Better not, I decided, and to chalk it up as a lesson in life and cheap at the price.