Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On aging

On my 21st birthday, back in 1964, I got a spaghetti dinner – red sauce cooked for hours with a nice tough cut of chuck that makes a tasty meal. Almost every birthday since then I've had the same meal, cooking most of them for myself. One of those little personal traditions we have. This year we'll have it with an antipasto, some beer bread, a salad, some sturdy vino, and an Italian lemon ice, my wife's contribution. I always enjoy it; some years there will be only a couple of people, some years eight or ten. This year there's me and herself, my primo and his daughter, who stands as kinda a quasi-daughter to me, then friend Mike and his friend. Should be fun. The old annometer is clicking over another 365, or 366 this year, to make me 66 years old. My wife points out that this is two-thirds of the number of the beast. I'm not sure what her point is. We swear we will live the next month on lettuce dressed with lemon juice and clear spring water, to make up for the self-inflicted damages of the gluttony season that runs from T'giving until now. Próspero año nuevo, y'all.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The times

There's a real estate-finance site that entertains and edifies me. A recent commenter posted ' / Detroit. / 2691 listings found / $1-$9999.' Imagine that ... houses under $10k in a major city, although a major city in extremis. Apparently the r.e. markets in Califa and Arizona are awash in blood. Despite that, when I'm wandering through the channels I still see those shows where annoying yuppies look at houses and talk about making money reselling them. I wonder if this isn't something like that light we see from far-away stars, stars astronomers tell us have gone extinct since the light set out on its trip across the cosmos. Or maybe looking at 1920s nudie photos and knowing all the lovely, voluptuous girls are surely dead by now. On a thread some time back, one commenter wrote, 'The hell with gold, I'm buying guns and rice.'

Friday, December 26, 2008

Better spam

This came, the same thing in Spanish at the top and this at the bottom, obviously run through a translating device:
Please forgive us to disturb your valued time.
This is a big wholesale company in china, sell electronic products to all the world,such as laptop, camera, phone and so on. We can offer the low price and high quality to you. If you have free time, please take a few to visit our official website:
Then any qualm, please contact us freely.
Mail :

I expected something different and livelier from a site titled


From my wife, under subject line 'shoulda made a mince pie,' this:
On this day in 1666, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:
25. Christmas day. Lay pretty long in bed. And then rise, leaving my wife desirous to sleep, having sat up till 4 this morning seeing her maids make mince-pies. I go to church, where our parson Mills made a good sermon. Then home, and dine well on some good ribs of beef roasted and mince pies; only my wife, brother, and Barker, and plenty of good wine of my own; and my heart full of true joy and thanks to God Almighty for the goodness of my condition at this day.

Think that came from the Writer's Almanac for yesterday. We had the good ribs of beef – ate almost all of what was billed as rib roast sufficient for eight – and good wine of our own, and enjoyed the company of the girl. My brandy was, as predicted, resupplied by Santa, and I am now dashing fearlessly into the last decade of the 20th Century with a cell phone. I've not had one, as it always seemed to me that giving people the wherewithal to annoy the hell out of you at all times and places is not actually progress. However, the arguments for it finally outweigh the technophobic revulsion, so I've got one. My wife said the last post here sounded like Oliver Twist, what's with the ball of kitchen string. Said it sounded as if kitchen string was all I got. This year, I got a sack of cornmeal with an Italian alias, polenta. It's milled somewhere nearby, so it fits the local-eating theme that is likely to be forced on us by changing transportation methods.
The girl gave us frequent-flier miles she'd accumulated at work, miles sufficient to see us to New York for a dog-sitting gig in February. The girl, bless her gravid little heart, is due to deliver about the same time and can't use the miles herself. It was a generous gift. I'm already figuring out which sandwich to have at Katz's Deli [pastrami, I think] and which museums to visit.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Xmas Eve

Went into town yesterday to do some clean-up shopping and get the wherewithal for the big meal tomorrow. 'The Little Drummer Boy' finally caught up to me; I'd managed to avoid hearing it until yesterday afternoon. May be one of the better runs on that … in the past, friends who know how much I dislike the song would sometimes call me and then hold their phone up to a radio where it was playing. Went into Dillard's and found things totally uncrowded, was obliged to wait only a couple of minutes to check out. People seemed in a good mood, perhaps because things were non-frantic. The seers and pundits warn that we can look for some big retailers to go into bankruptcy about Feb, when the full horror of the season has been processed through the system.
Meantime, I have shrimp bisque cooking and a copita of Chilean white at hand, the dogs are quiet for the moment, and the world's a decent sort of place. My wife used my last few drops of brandy to make some sort of cookie, but when I whined and shrieked she said perhaps Santa knew that my brandy supply was low. I can but hope. Last year I got, among other things, a ball of cotton kitchen twine. I was glad to have it. I needed it. A fine Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On it flows

Some of the non-border news organizations have begun to cover the situation in Cd. Juárez, but the news on the site is more thorough. From KVIA-TV, a Las Cruces outfit:
JUAREZ -- Six municipal police officers have been killed in conflicts with drug cartel members since Sunday.
One of the officers killed was with a group of four men who were shot and killed outside the Juarez Racetrack. The off-duty officer was left decapitated with a Santa Claus hat at his feet.

Read it all here. OK, horrifying story, with bit of what my wife calls the Three Stooges touch that you find in Mexican violence, as if Curly and Moe actually gouged out eyes when they were fooling around, but still, ya know, police officers threatened by dopers ...
Then there's the other side to Mexican police work:
JUAREZ -- Chihuahua State Police officers arrested five suspects - including two Juarez Municipal Police officers -- who allegedly broke into a bank and stole almost $150,000.

Read all that one here. Most Mexicans of my acquaintance regarded all Mexican police as almost certainly criminals and would not call them or go to them.

Down by the river

Some of the non-border news organizations have begun to cover the situation in Cd. Juárez, but the news on the site is more thorough. From KVIA-TV, a Las Cruces outfit:

JUAREZ -- Six municipal police officers have been killed in conflicts with drug cartel members since Sunday.
One of the officers killed was with a group of four men who were shot and killed outside the Juarez Racetrack. The off-duty officer was left decapitated with a Santa Claus hat at his feet.

OK, horrifyint story, with a
JUAREZ -- Chihuahua State Police officers arrested five suspects - including two Juarez Municipal Police officers -- who allegedly broke into a bank and stole almost $150,000. -

Friday, December 19, 2008

$17bn? A trifle, a bagatelle

A funny comment from a finance-RE blog I frequent when red wine isn't depressive enough. Guy writing about auto bailout: 'What's the big deal. It's not even half a Madoff.' So, there's a new unit for the measurement of money, the Madoff. One Madoff=$50bn.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Sad news …'

It happens more and more often these days … I'll get a little note from some old friend, most always with a subject line reading 'sad news,' reporting the death of one of our classmates. This week it happened again. An old and dear in Fort Sumner sent a note that a schoolmate of mine from 1951 to 1956 had died, burial Friday at that lonesome cemetery up on the hill north of town. The guy who died was a country boy, lived on a farm in the valley. Sometimes he and his father would come to church completely ragged out from irrigating all night. I often went home with him after church. His mother set a good table, honest and sturdy country cooking, befitting their way of life. They had freezer full of beef and pork and always vegetables she'd frozen or put up. His father raised a few fighting cocks out by the barn; he'd take them over to the pit behind the bar in Taiban. I have no idea of his success but it gave him an interest beyond working on the farm. I expect their cash income was pretty small, but they lived well as far as the things that counted.
My friend was a chunky kid, fat you might even say if you were ungenerous. I was grateful for that because I, a year younger than my classmates and tiny, could outrun him sometimes. It saved me from always being the slowest boy in PE class.
They had old mattresses set up side by side down at his house, and we'd hold wrestling matches on them. A big kid who spent his summers bucking bales of alfalfa had a certain advantage, but it was fun.
He finished a PhD in mathematics, I believe, and taught. I once saw his name on a comment in the same string I was on in a NYT forum. I expect it's been 50 years since I last saw him. Maybe three years ago his wife, a very pretty lady, showed up at a class reunion to represent him to his friends. I hope they had some good years together. Few years back he'd had a blood clot get loose during surgery and get to his brain, leaving him in a wheelchair. I assume that's what got him. He was a nice kid and I expect he grew to be a good man, as mostly happens. I'm sorry he's dead.

Bailouts for the moribund

Roger Cohen, writing an Op-Ed for the NYT, has some good points about bailing out the car-makers. He takes off from the death of Pan-Am and the artificially extended life of Italy's Alitalia with its gummint underpinning. He writes:
The whole financial crisis is about the death of responsibility: the buck stopped nowhere. Everyone profited from toxic paper. Bernard Madoff, he of the alleged multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, is only the latest example.
Irresponsibility has also characterized Detroit. I don’t see how you restore responsibility with a bailout. Obama has a deeper task than changing the economy; he has to change the culture.
Rather than adopting European subsidies, put billions toward more inspiring European examples: a high-speed railroad network or universal health care.

Read all here. I find myself mostly agreeing with his take on this money gusher for loser businesses.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Old pics

There's something really compelling about old photographs. I think everyone feels the pull to look at the faces of people long dead and places long fallen down. There is on the wall before me a picture of three pretty girls in white dresses standing on a dock in Port Lavaca on Graduation Day, 1910. In the background is a gaff-rigged sailboat, a working boat, I'd guess. I wonder what happened to the happy girls. Got the pic at the Roseate Spoonbill Gallery in Port Lavaca, a goldmine of old pics of Calhoun County. Here is a site, Shorpy, named for a young Alabama worker in some of the photos. It's fun to look at.
When I was a little boy, my grandmother had a candy tin full of old photos. I can see it now, dark orange with a floral design on the top. A lot of the pictures were tintypes of the ancestors, and I'd give a pretty penny to have them and know who the people were with their stiff collars and nipped-in waists. I spent a lot of time sitting on Gran's livingroom floor looking at them.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Goofy little thingy

I'm amazed by some of the stuff lying out there on the Web. There are so many sites like this one. You click on the little ball to change color. It obviously involved a considerable amount of programming skill and time invested. I guess the people that make them just do it to show their virtuosity to the world, like singers want to sing to someone and writers want to be read.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shoeing out Shrub

W, the lamest duck that ever waddled, went to Iraq on an unannounced visit, and an Iraqi journalist winged a brogue at him. There is already chatter out on the blogs that a second shoe actually came from a nearby grassy knoll. Also, the journalist called W a dog. I've been using a sorta variation of that epithet for eight years now, as, 'That dumb sumbitch is gonna destroy this country.' Wonder how he feels handing over a devastated country to the next guy?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Train wrecks continue

Some amusing news lately from the heights of the big-time money business, what's with the guy caught up in Canada pretending to be someone else and then the guy who apparently scammed $50bn, mostly from a bunch of rich people [where else are you gonna be able to scam that kind of money?]. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, writing in Vanity Fair, outlines the twisted path that has led us to this pass, with special lumps for Henry Paulson and especially for Alan Greenspan, whose reputation has slid faster than the DJIA. Stiglitz writes
What were the critical decisions that led to the crisis? Mistakes were made at every fork in the road—we had what engineers call a “system failure,” when not a single decision but a cascade of decisions produce a tragic result. …

Read all here. I hope the anti-labor undertone I hear in some of the talk on TV isn't an indication that the plutocrats are going for the coup de grace, hoping to finish off the beat-up remnants of what was once the finest working class in the world. The oligarchs might be surprised if they push the theme of class warfare too hard and actually get some class warfare instead of the cowed acquiescence that they've had for twenty or thirty years.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Passing sadly noted

Like most of the hoary-headed set, I carefully read the death notices page in the paper, checking ages mostly, as we've not been around here long enough to accumulate a large group of friends that we can watch die off. This morning I was saddened to read "COLUMBUS – Bill Stein, age 54, of Columbus, passed away peacefully at his home on Dec. 9, 2008. He was a historian and county archivist of Colorado County."
I had interviewed Bill a couple of times for stories and run into him a couple of times out in the world. He was of the wonderful tribe of Texas small-town historians, and his knowledge of Colorado County was amazing. He was bright, entertaining, and funny. His death is a loss to everybody who cares about our collective past.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Big news: Chicago corrupt

There has been a fine hooha in the public prints the last couple days over a criminal complaint brought against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for auctioning off the Senate seat that Barack Obama is leaving behind. Chicago D politics are astonishing in their corruption, and sadly Chicago R politics often consist in wanting to get at the trough. When I first got there I was taken aback by all the police being on the take, all govt agents such as building inspectors being on the take, pretty much everything being up for sale. I finally figured out that Chicago was like Mexico and used that perspective as a key to understanding, but it didn't make me happy to know that an American city was so corrupt. Novelist Scott Turow, whose fictional Kindle County is obviously Cook County, has explored the nature of the corruption in his books. He has an interesting Op-Ed in today's NYTimes on the case prosecutor's case. Read it here. [A lawyer, Turow is the writer James Grisham would be if Grisham were a good writer.]
The prosecuting attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, is US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He prosecuted the previous Illinois governor successfully and prosecuted in the Scooter Libby case. In other words, he is not afraid of the powerful.
I think that we should take a crummy billion dollars out of all the bail-out bucks floating around and establish under Fitzgerald a special prosecutor's office to investigate Wall Street misdeeds in the years leading up to the present market meltdown. Give him troops of forensic accountants, phalanxes of special agents, and let them smite the wicked. See them ol' big dogs shuffling out of the courtroom wearing shackles and ugly orange jailhouse jumpsuits … that'd make the IRA shrinkage a little more bearable.
[As a parenthetical addition, the paper tells us that Jesse Jackson Jr. was the potential Senatorial appointee whose purported agents were most engaged with the governor in the bidding. Oh, please, let it be true and let JJ Sr. be involved. We'll never get Senior for all the extortionate shakedowns he's committed over the last forty years, but maybe we could nail him, like OJ and Al Capone, for something else.]

Monday, December 8, 2008

Casualty count, other fronts

A former colleague sends a little note with recent bloodshed in journalism business. In part:
So Trib is about to go bankrupt:
While NYT mortgages the house to pay its bills:
WaPo raises its newstand price to 75 cents (that's just brilliant: demand is lower so you increase your price)

Plus he had a sad story about a journalist worried about his future. For another sad story on eminent death of an old and respected paper, the Rocky Mountain News, as well as some more Chitrib info, click here for the Newspaper Death Watch site. I worked as a printer at the Chitrib 1969–72 and the Monkey Rotten News from fall 1967–spring 1968. Both were, in their own ways, good papers and good competition for the other rags in their cities. Competition made newspapers better. The News is 149 years old. What a shame to see the end of something that old. When I went to Chicago, there was head-to-head competition both mornings and evenings. Chicago was a great newspaper town and produced a lot of good journalists. I got to read three or four different papers every day. I'm glad I saw those places in those times. A cool thing about South America was the newspaper kiosks on every corner and people reading papers everywhere.

Casualty count

From the World's Worst Newspaper:
JUAREZ-- At least 28 people, including 10 people in two separate mass shootings at bars, were slain over the weekend in Juárez, Mexican authorities said.

Rest here. They can easily reach a body count of 1500 before Jan. 1. Poor Juárez …

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A beef beef

Guy asks why I've not ranted lately about meat prices. I have, just not in print. I've had a lot of sticker-shock moments the last few months ... pick up something I'm used to buying, look at the price tag, and set it back down and walk off whimpering. My favorite cigars went from $25 a bundle to $27 to $29 in just a few months. I'm trying occasionally to smoke one fewer a day to make up the damage.
But, the meat, yes. Been a little cool, soup weather, and I had some odds and ends of vegetables in the bin, plus I got some barley a little while back [I like barley in vegetable soup]. Used to be you could buy soup bones for maybe a dime a pound. Hell, some places a butcher'd give you two or three pounds of bones, call 'em dog bones. I used to use beef shank for soup; it's got a lot of collagen, makes a rich and thick stock, but it's a prime ingredient of caldo de res, so the price has gotten a little high for a cheap meal. Asked my wife to bring me some soup bones and she came back with a package of bones – really, bones – with a price tag of $2.33 on them for a pound and a little bit more. Two bucks a pound for bones. I roasted them and made a nice stock but couldn't bear a meatless soup, so I went to the corner here looking for some cheap beef to throw into the pot. Ended up with three pieces of cross-cut short ribs. Nice cut, short ribs, meat on the bone is tasty ... used to braise short ribs with tomato sauce and thyme, used to bone them out and make stew with them, they sell the cross-cuts in Laredo as costillas, very nice. My short ribs cost me $7.12. The soup was aces, but it should be, since it had almost ten bucks worth of meat in it. What next? Not lower meat prices behind dropping feed prices, of that I am certain. And have you checked out the price of tongue lately?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Newspaper stuff

The little arts & entertainment tabloid insert in today's Vicad was an incoherent mishmash. I don't know if it was an accident or a purposive collaboration between graphics designer and reporter.
From a recent post on the Angry Journalist site:
I’m angry that my newspaper just let four seasoned, talented journalists go. Meanwhile, readers are treated to the self-absorbed prattle of a young staffer about her engagement, her tattoos and whatever pops into her head - usually with extra exclamation points. …

Is vapid, narcissistic writing a trend, the next big thing?

And on it goes

Finally the bloodshed in Mexico gets a little ink nationally in the US. From the NYT:
… With alarming speed, Mexico’s violent drug war is finding its way into the seeming sanctuary of the nation’s hospitals, shaking the health care system and leaving workers fearing for their lives while trying to save the lives of others.

Read all that here, a piece on the dopers' incursions into even the hospitals. I remember maybe ten years back some doctors ended up in barrels of concrete in Wazoo. I drove often past the hospital where they worked, and poor Cd. Juárez continues to drown in blood.
EL PASO - Chihuahua state police said armed bands shot seven people to death in separate incidents Thursday in Juárez.

Read all that one here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cool old gals

Guy who sends me stuff sends me a link to a blog written by two old gals – I mean really old, not just ol' gals – who are truly entertaining and vinegary. The blog is called Margaret and Helen. As a sample, Helen writes
It seems that a lot of people are upset with me because I am being unfair to the Governor of Oil Land. They claim that I really don’t know her… that I only know the biased view of her as portrayed by the evil liberal media. Folks, I’ve got news for you. Katie Couric stuck a microphone in front of your favorite moose hunter and when she opened her mouth a whole lot of stupid came falling out. Seriously. Defend “You can see Russia from Alaska” when asked about national defense. It doesn’t matter on what channel or to what reporter you say that. It’s stupid on CBS and CNN and it’s stupid on Fox News. Of course “stupid on Fox News” is kind of redundant.

Turns out that my wife has had them on her regular daily trapline of blogs. I'm always the last to know what's the thing to be doing. You can read them here. I saw Palin recently; she'd been mucking around in Georgia, I think. That poor, stupid creature thinks she's gonna be president. I guess there's some regrettable recent precedent for poor, stupid creatures ascending to the office.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Old house in Brookline, Mass.

When I visited Boston I stayed with an old friend who lives in Brookline, an incorporated enclave inside Boston, like Alamo Heights in San Antonio. He lives in the second oldest frame house in the U.S., built in the 1680s. That's oooooold. 'Frame' isn't like framed with two-by-four scantlings; 'frame' is big-mama beams cut from tree trunks. In one of the bathrooms he has put a clear cover over some of the old stuff he found in the walls of the house, so you can contemplate it at contemplative moments. The heat mostly comes from a wood stove, working better than you might think. To preserve authenticity, he painted the ceiling with a wash from a recipe he found somewhere esoteric. The wash is made from salt and water and maybe lime. It doesn't stick so well, but is non-toxic. If it falls onto the food it probably adds savor and maybe calcium, so desirable for strong bones. It's a cool old house. JFK was born in Brookline; we drove past the house. There are a lot of Russian Jews there, and the local paper has some ads in Cyrillic alphabets. We could walk easily down the river to the Museum of Fine Arts, maybe a mile and a quarter away. The river drops only one foot in a mile. There are so many Canadian geese that they constitute a nuisance. For some reason, the street people don't eat them, as they surely would in Austin. I had gumbo thoughts myself.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Henry's place

You hear 'Walden Pond' and you think of something like a stock tank, but a pond's a different proposition in Mass, apparently. We all know Walden because that's where Henry D Thoreau had his cabin where he wrote that stuff we all had to read in school. The govt has moved the cabin onto a park grounds, no doubt because discerning students were vandalizing it to get even with the pious misanthrope. The cabin is maybe 90 or 100 square feet. He didn't need more because he could hotfoot it home to eat at the parents' place, which was nearby. Sort of the 19th-Century version of mom's basement, I guess. The original hippie – idle, pious, and ready to instruct everyone in moral behavior. It was still fun to see something as iconic in American literature as Thoreau's cabin.

Little woman

The girl is sitting on the grounds of the Alcott house in Mass. I couldn't resist the image of her with her cell phone and notebook out in the yard of the house where Louisa wrote the deadly girl book Little Women. Yesterday was the birthday of Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa and the rest of the tribe that was immortalized in the novel. Bronson had an academy, pictured also, out back of the house. His proposition was to make wages running the school, but it was really Louisa's book that put the family in the chips. I saw the true and actual chair and desk where she wrote the book. Literate women of my acquaintance say they've found the book unreadable on looking into it later in life. I have not and do not intend ever to read it. The Alcotts were among a group of earnest, annoying, and pious do-gooders that thrived in Salem and Concord.

Decline and fall

So, the Vicad had a page 1A pome-as-news-story Saturday, another Little Me innovation that would've gone unnovated. I do, however, see here possibilities for breakthrough concepts in reporting. We could do the police blotter in terza rima, with each entry constituting a new stanza. Big sports stories are in Homeric form, of course. Think what you could do with the weddings, with bardic recitations of lineages … or maybe we should skip pioneering new forms of journalistic writing and as far as poetry goes remember that the only good poet is a dead poet, meaning nobody alive now needs to be writing poetry.

Friday, November 28, 2008


A financial blogger called London Banker has some to-the-point remarks on the relative decency of the financial planning of the putative democracies and that of China, what's with the westerners working frantically to protect the interests of the wheeler-dealers while the Chinese focus on the wellbeing of actual small businesses.
Any discussion of China always invites criticism of its anti-democratic governance. … If the democratically elected governments … are free over an extended timespan to ignore the interests of the people, then how is a Western democracy superior to a Chinese bureaucracy? From looking at the policies and practices of the past year, the merits of Western democracy are not immediately apparent in ensuring that policy responses to the financial crisis are aligned with the interests of the people. Even over the past decade, it is not clear that the policies of the democratic Western governments have aimed to strengthen and broaden the economy to benefit of the electorate rather than a narrow, self-serving elite.

Read the whole post here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


We dined about 2 this afternoon – turkey, proper cornbread dressing, some fancied-up greenbeans [but not with cream of mushroom soup], cranberry chutney, giblet gravy, sweet potato pudding and little pecan muffins, a slug of zin – I hope pretty much what everyone had, given personal quirks and family traditions. A thoughtful friend observes that Thanksgiving is a day that everyone in America sits down pretty much to the same meal. I like that thought. Moments of national unity have become far between. We had a married-in relative from the Midwest and sometimes would celebrate the meal with that crew. I'd carry a pan of cornbread dressing along when we went. My wife said that my custom constituted rudeness, but I always considered that I was protecting myself from a wet-bread concoction that they called 'stuffing.' A boy can't be too careful about his stomach …
As the occasion for gratitude, we are upright and breathing regularly, sleep pretty well, no strokes heart attacks so far, have a sound roof over our heads, and live in a pleasant place. My friend The Pilot dropped by this afternoon looking recovered from his treacherous back and happy to be in **Adrift for the day. Hope all had as pleasant a day as we did.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

'16 killed; 7 bodies found near school field'

So you read that headline in a paper, you figure it's more Iraq bloodshed, Shias killing Sunnis or something. But noooo, it's a headline in the world's worst newspaper on a story reporting the latest score from the abattoir that is El Paso's sister city.
Seven men were executed next to a school soccer field Tuesday in one of the largest and most brazen acts of violence in Juárez this year. The massacre occurred on a very bloody day, when at least 16 homicides were recorded.

Read the entire brief story here. Sixteen killings at least. But who's counting? Certainly not the Mexican govt. Sooner or later, the moral chaos of Mexico will slide across the river like everything else.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Plumbing the muck

Like a dragging anchor, the pore ol Vicad keeps bouncing along the bottom. Of late, Monday and Tuesday papers could be run off on the mimeograph machine down in the school office, there's that little to them. Last Saturday Little Me, the arts reporter, did a story on some movie no grown human would ever want to see and did it at a level of solipsism stunning even for her. Story ran page 1A. Then Sunday we got yet another chapter in the immigration series, musta been FF-xvi or so, with no real revelations beyond the obvious that immigration's a big problem. Might have spent the money better covering Hallettsville and Cuero in the fashion of a few years ago instead of grinding out fodder to enter for prizes. Someone in the discussions accused a reporter of being unequipped to report and the editor responded that the soul in question had a master's degree from Columbia, probably the premier graduate J school in the country. Here's the cost of schooling there. Can you imagine spending that kind of money to end up working for less than a first-year schoolteacher? Probably the decent thing would be to close down about two-thirds of the journalism schools in the country … there won't be any kind of employment in journalism for most of the graduates.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Money, &c

Some time past I copied this following onto my little doc of things to blog about. Seems still worth reading:
America is bankrupt. American government bonds are extremely overvalued. “The world’s last bubble.” America is in debt for over 13.000 billion (13 trillion) dollar and adds a 1.000 billion dollar debt each year. …

Read it all here. I've no doubt spent too much time the last few weeks watching CNBC, in part horrified by all the financial situation, in part horrified because I'm watching IRAs evanesce, small amounts of money becoming daily smaller, and in part fascinated because I can't resist the chance to watch a train wreck. I have come to the conclusion that nobody in this country understands exactly what the hell is going on, except a bunch of inept greedheads who perceive that they can show up in DC with their hands out and come away with money. They may not understand what's going on, but they understand the part about money. The Citibank deal looks like multiple billions tossed away to help out people that deserve no help, but I can't be sure about that because, as I said, I don't understand what's going on. The money frittered away on Wall-Street welfare payments will make it hard to do anything else for many years.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Can't help myself … blonde joke

A blonde suspects her boyfriend of cheating on her, so she goes out and buys a
gun. She goes to his apartment unexpectedly and when he opens the door she
finds him in the arms of a redhead.
Well, the blonde is really angry. She opens her purse to take out the gun, and
as she does so, she is overcome with grief. She takes the gun and puts it to
her head.
The boyfriend yells, 'No, honey, don't do it!!!'
The blonde replies, 'Shut up, you're next!'

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Body count (cont.)

More than 1300 dead in Cd. Juárez this year. From the world's worst newspaper:
The violence in Juárez continued to rage with at least 10 homicides occurring Friday.
Among the slayings were a triple homicide in the morning, a man gunned down outside a pool hall in the afternoon and a killing at a funeral home in the evening.

Read it all here. You gotta wonder how long this can go on. Wazoo was a prosperous [by Mexican standards] and booming town ten years ago.

Obama's cabinet

He who will be president soon is choosing his cabinet these days. Georgie Anne Geyer, a great columnist and American patriot, has some pointed observations of the Anointed One's choices so far:
Instead of creating that "government of unity" that he talked about, and positioning the best people for the jobs at hand around him, Obama is, quite incredibly, appointing some of the nastiest people in Washington, and bringing into his administration some of those least-talented for the special jobs at hand.

Read it all here. It can only be so long before the feet of clay start to show on Obama – not that, whatever they are, they won't be vastly better than W's head of dung – and we hafta hope for him to accomplish a maximum of good stuff before disenchantment sets in.

Friday, November 21, 2008


People do go on about the glories of changing seasons. By the time I got to New England, the leaf-peepers had mostly pept and left, but there was still a little fall glory left over around Boston, witness this pic. We walked down a river path from Brookline, a park that had been designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the guy who designed Central Park in NYC and wrote a lovely book about travel in the antebellum South [I commend to you this book]. Anyhow, there were still a few piddling leaves yet to fall or recently fallen, and I enjoyed looking at them. The fiery red is sugar maple. I walked down the street where my friend lives and gathered up a few leaves to bring home to my wife. We walk by the glorious display of leaves here on **Adrift when we walk to the post office; it's on a sorry Chinese tallow over on the bayou bank.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Great museum-i

Before I went north, a friend told me that I needed to see the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, said it was his favorite museum in the world, and this guy has seen a few museums. Established in what was once the premier port of the coast, the museum started from the miscellaneous treasures brought back by sailors and the seafaring culture of the place. For instance, they have a prime collection of maritime materials. One of the guards told me that he used to come to the museum when he was a kid and that it was like his grandmother's attic in those days. It's grown and become organized since then, though the salty stuff is still very important, with things like these figureheads from old ships. The buxom chick with the hypercleavage came from The Indian Princess.
There's also a lot of art, including a bunch of really nice Asian stuff that came back with sailors in the tea trade. Also, a lot of American Indian art, old and modern. Most of the modern stuff was of a predictable ironic tone, but these skateboards tickled me no end.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Old Ironsides

The frigate Constitution, better known as Old Ironsides, is moored in the harbor at Boston. She was originally one of a group of ships built to deal with the Barbary pirates on the north coast of Africa who were preying on American maritime commerce, seizing ships and holding them for ransom. That was the situation that gave rise to the quotation 'Millions for defense, not one penny for tribute' [that's from memory and unreliable]. The North Africa expedition inspired to the lick in the Marine hymn about 'the shores of Tripoli.' [With seven ships now held by Somali pirates we might consider sending her out again.]
The 'Ironsides' name came from an incident in the War of 1812 when cannonballs from a British ship bounced off her hull. Our tour guide explained that the ship was so tough because she was clad in three layers of oak … white oak on the outsides and live oak in the middle. You can still see the layers in the ship. She is still in commission, an active member of the US Navy, with a crew quartered in the Boston Navy yard. Crew dresses in period uniforms with baggy-butted britches that look kinda hiphop, otherwise quite spiffy. It's probably good duty, and the sailors seemed to be having a good time. The kid who led our tour was a drama major who emoted extravagantly and sometimes bobbled his lines. There's also a nice little museum there. Fun to see something I'd learned about in American history classes a long time ago.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Mexican mayhem

A journalist in Cd. Juárez was murdered last week with his daughter beside him.
Armando Rodriguez, who covered crime and the Juarez cartels for El Diario de Juarez, was killed in his car in front of his home as he prepared to take his daughter to school.
The killing, even in a year of extreme violence, shocked observers on both sides of the border.

You see anything about that in your local newspaper? I thought not. Here's
the whole sad story, from El Paso's Newspaper Tree Web site, a good source of border and northern Mexico news. American neglect of the murderous chaos in Mexico is inexcusable. Texas papers in particular should be all over the story. I think that American media are reluctant to tell the truth about Mexico lest they be seen as picking on poor Mexico.

Take it, it's good for you

Recently the public prints ballyhooed a study purporting to show that taking a drug called Crestor would significantly improve health. The study was sponsored by AstraZeneca, which just happens to be the company that produces Crestor. The pill costs $3.50/day, and the subtext of the newspaper stories seemed to be that all God's children, or at least those of a certain age, should be taking it, each one contributing better than a thou a year to AstraZeneca's coffers. The 2blowhards have some interesting commentary on the study, including a link to one Michael Eades, a skeptical MD. Eades writes, in part:
Although the relative risk numbers in this study appear to be correct, you’ve got to realize that these are small numbers we’re talking about. Out of almost 18,000 subjects there is a difference of not quite 50 deaths between the two groups during the years over which the study took place. Which means, of course, that neither subjects in the placebo group nor subjects in the Crestor group were at great risk of dying. There is a difference, but in these small numbers … it is almost meaningless.

A small maybe gain for a huge outlay of money. Read all of the Eades observations here.I appreciate that Eades may be turning a crank of his own, but his post is worth considering. There are also links to a couple of other doubters. The press has a habit of gullibility when presented with anything emitting from a lab. Skepticism is a good habit of mind in this world.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

History, history, history

The Old Manse was inhabited at one time by Ralph Waldo Emerson and by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne wrote a collection of short stories titled 'Mosses from the Old Manse' that has some of the most deliciously Freudian images you ever read anywhere. If I were a more diligent person I would look them up for your education and amusement but it's too hard. It's enough to say that those New Englanders had what people now would style issues on matters sexual. The building by the river is part of the grounds of the Old Manse as seen from the modern bridge that crosses the river. The Old Manse looks down on the river and site of the rude arch that spanned the flood where that engagement between Colonials and British soldiers took place. There was a running fight up and back something like 20 miles from Boston out to Concord and Lexington, and it's well furnished with signs and museums. A good place to get some sense of the way things kinda were on 19 April 1775 when the incipient American rebellion really got under way. Gotta stir your American blood to stand in those places and contemplate those nervy people taking on the greatest power in the world at that moment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Loon's excellent adventure

Oh, boy! I'm leaving SAT tomorrow morning for a four-day stay in Boston, a place I've never been, as my compass points mostly west and south. Going to cop a flop with an old friend – and I mean old … haven't seen him since, I believe, 1960. He lives in a house that was built in the 1680s. And I thought we always lived in old houses. Going to see the John Singer Sargents in the Museum of Fine Arts, visit the historic sites and sights, and, it is hoped, eat some good food. Friend says the neighborhood joint is a Turkish restaurant. Hard to do in **Adrift, that one. Everyone says that Boston is one of the singular cities of America. I'm excited about it, barring the miseries of traveling in the age of our fierce War On Terror, the one that is being fought by making me throw away my lighter. I'll take pix for when I get back, maybe get in a post on the road.

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Good for a grin on Monday morning.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

On books

Lady who sends me stuff – that would be my wife – sends me a nice little essay by Theodore Dalrymple on books and bookstores. In part:
Books, even without association with anyone known, have an almost sacred quality in any case: it is necessary only to imagine someone ripping the pages out of a cheap and trashy airport novel one by one to prove to oneself that this is so. If we saw someone doing it, we should be shudder, and think him a barbarian, no matter the nature of the book. The horror aroused by book burnings is independent of the quality of the books actually burnt.

Read it all here. It's a nice piece of writing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Military-industrial complexity

Fred Reed, the Sage of Chapala and one of the brighter people blogging, has some cogent remarks on the spreading power of the military in American life. The defense budget and military power just get bigger and bigger, and anyone who demurs is marked traitorous or cowardly. Reed writes, in part:
The country has no need of such a military, and especially not of the formidably costly weapons. Having no plausible enemy of any sophistication, the Pentagon exercises itself by attacking primitive nations in the Third World, and usually losing. For this you do not need an F22. You could lose as well with slingshots.

Read all of the piece, titled 'Military,' here. Maybe I just share a lot of his quirks and crotchets, but I think Reed is dead on about a lot of things many others dodge or don't get.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cheer down

Guy named Jim Rogers, who messes about with big-time money, observes:
America is bankrupt. American government bonds are extremely overvalued. “The world’s last bubble.” America is in debt for over 13.000 billion (13 trillion) dollar and adds a 1.000 billion dollar debt each year. …

Read the whole post here
and pity Obama, who has to contend with this tangle. There won't be a lot of money lying around for jobs programs or comprehensive health-care reform or much else. Apparently there will be massive welfare coming up for the auto business, which has obdurately ignored the reality of oil while they pursued big bucks making oversized and impractical SUVs. Don't get too excited about the drop in gasoline prices; guaranteed, it won't last long. For our part, it's a lovely evening, we ate pasta with tuna and tomatoes and followed that with stinking cheese and ripe pear, so life continues at some pleasurable level no matter what.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


The Obama crowd is moving quickly toward accession to office. I hear surmise that Larry Summers will get Treasury. I hope so … ever since he was ritually humiliated by academic feminists and driven from his job as president of Harvard, I've hoped he'd come back some way even stronger. His sin was speaking aloud a truth readily apparent and easily demonstrated about comparative high-end math abilities in males and females. Maureen Dowd had a hopeful piece in the NYT today about a return of dignity to the White House:
How could the White House be classy when the Clintons were turning it into Motel 1600 for fund-raising, when Bill Clinton was using it for trysts with an intern and when he plunked a seven-seat hot tub with two Moto-Massager jets on the lawn?
How could the White House be inspiring when W. and Cheney were inside making torture and domestic spying legal, fooling Americans by cooking up warped evidence for war and scheming how to further enrich their buddies in the oil and gas industry?

Read all of her piece here. What presidential candidate was on TV Tuesday evening calling for a repeal of the obnoxious Patriot Act? That would be Ron Paul. Who were you expecting?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's over, finally

We walked over to City Hall this morning to vote. I always enjoyed the feeling that on election day people all over the country were doing the same thing I was doing. The early voting policy has sorta ended that, but there were still a lot of people out to vote today [though not here in **Adrift; we walked right in and voted with no wait], and they seemed to say pretty clearly that they'd had enough of Bush and the neo-cons, corporate hegemony and money-grabbing financiers.
Just watched Obama in Grant Park in Chicago, and it was a fine piece of political speaking. He's damn good at talking, he was gracious to McCain and didn't gloat, he talked about unity and American identity, and his tone is generally toward compromise and cooperation. We can only hope that his actions in office reflect that tone. Despite all the talk of his extreme leftist stances, I suspect that he will do something on the order of Clinton-style triangulation, a strategy that brought good administration of the federal government. We must wish him well because he has a miserable path to walk, given the state of the country now. Now W can go home and cut brush and give high-dollar speeches and feel aggrieved at the lack of appreciation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reviewing the last eight years

Tom Engelhardt, writing on his TomDispatch blog, sums up the catastrophe that W’s administration has been for this poor republic:
And what a debacle the Bush Doctrine proved to be. What a legacy the legacy President and his pals are leaving behind. A wrecked economy, deflated global stock markets, collapsing banks and financial institutions, soaring unemployment, a smashed Republican Party, a bloated Pentagon overseeing a strained, overstretched military, enmired in an incoherent set of still-expanding wars gone sour, a network of secret prisons, as well as Guantanamo, that "jewel in the crown" of Bush's Bermuda Triangle of injustice, and all the grim practices that went with those offshore prisons, including widespread torture and abuse, kidnapping, assassination, and the disappearing of prisoners (once associated only with South America dictatorships and military juntas).

Read it all here and breathe a sigh of relief that it will soon be over, one way or another … unless we get Sarah Palin as veep to an ailing John McCain. Maybe a real Republican party, a party like Eisenhower's – careful about spending, averse to foreign adventure, disinclined to meddle with the public, respectful of the Constitution – will come out of all this.

Prankin' Palin

Guy who sends me stuff sends me a funny thing about a couple of Canadian radio guys who pranked Sarah Palin, fooling her into believing that she was talking to the French president.
MONTREAL - In an over-the-top accent, one half of a notorious Quebec comedy duo claims to be the president of France as he describes sex with his famous wife, the joy of killing animals and Hustler magazine's latest Sarah Palin porno spoof.

Read it all here. Sarah Palin's overweening ambition is an unfortunate manifestation of the bogus idea that in America anyone who wants something badly enough is fit to have it. For half-bright 16-year-old kids, that would be sports fame or rock 'n' roll notoriety. [I blame TV for this pinhead sentiment loose in the land.] Palin may want very much to be president, but she is in no wise qualified for the job. If weird political winds should blow her into the White House and into the Oval Office, it would be as big a disaster for the republic as the odious W has proven to be. She should be back home in Wasilla selling real estate, maybe to the Russians that hang around the neighborhood. People need to learn to assess their capabilities in a way that reflects reality.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Matrimony & madness

We've just spent three days at Babylon-on-Colorado, marrying off a nephew of the wife. In September the daughter was married here in **Adrift ... the city judge read the ceremony on the banks of Cow Bayou and we came to our house for a reception. Honoring localism in food, we had San Antonio Bay shrimp, Woodsboro ham, and Yoakum smoked turkey along with lots of Portuguese white vinho. The Austin wedding was much bigger and more ornate. The bride is a bright, pretty, and funny girl who will be a decoration to the outfit.
Austin amazed, as it usually does. It's almost unrecognizable beyond the old central area, and that's much marred by progress; the doofus spirit of the place lives unaffected by change. While we were there, a woman threw her 4-year-old child into traffic. When the TV stations were doing interviews about the incident, people kept saying stuff like, "I didn't know she had issues," speaking of the mother. Nobody mentioned that perhaps pitching your kid out in front of a SUV is an at least arguably evil act. Just worry that the baby-tossing mommy was somehow in need of hugs or something like that. I ate Thai twice and Vietnamese once and bought curry paste and coconut milk. You can't get those things here, but I'm glad to be back on the banks of the bay.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Get a rope!

Tim Egan in his NYT blog writes of the mood of the country:
If Americans are walking without a skip in their step, and maybe with a pitchfork in one hand, you can’t fault them. Gallup found that one in five people say their finances have already been hurt “a great deal.” On Tuesday, consumer confidence fell to the lowest level since the Conference Board started tracking popular sentiment 41 years ago. A bare 11 percent say the country is headed in the right direction.

Read all here. I still feel that with all the billions and billions of bucks floating around the debacle, we could afford one lousy billion to fund a special prosecutor's office to take a look at the financial manipulations and peculations that led to the mess.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This cowboy can't be throwed

There's a big lab at the UT Med branch in Galveston that houses some of the most frightening organisms on the planet, the viruses such as Ebola that could well wipe out half the human race if they got loose in the population. [Whether that would be a totally bad thing is a discussion for another post.] Despite the fact that Galveston Island gets whomped by some ferocious winds, the people at the lab swear that it is unsinkable.
“It’s crazy, in my mind,” said Jim Blackburn, an environmental lawyer in Houston. “I just find an amazing willingness among the people on the Texas coast to accept risks that a lot of people in the country would not accept.”

Read the whole story here in the NYT.

Monday, October 27, 2008


While we were driving around north of Loop 410 in San Antone, I noticed a sign on a big-barn restaurant looking to hire line servers. The wage on offer was $9/hour. Despite that, there are panhandlers on a lot of street corners with whiny signs soliciting handouts. Nine bucks an hour is really pretty good pay for a job that almost anyone is equipped to do. Does panhandling pay better than that?

Sign for the times

Guy who sends me stuff sends this:

Made you grin, didn't it?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day of devotion

Oh boy ... today we observe a day of high significance in our belief system. We have studied the holy writings [Racing Form] and will make a pilgrimage to the temple at Retama. I love Breeders Cup race day. Last year we were in Montevideo and went at Hipódromo Maroñas, the track there. [You don't see grubby old horseplayers kissing each other on the cheeks at Retama, but that was quite ordinary at Maroñas.] We hope for signs of favor from the gods of the place and that our offerings at the sacrificial counters will be returned to us nine-to-twofold at least.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bad joss

The NYTimes reports a 51.4% drop in Q3 profits. A CNBC crawl reported that the stock has been reduced to junk status. Per the Gray Lady herself:
The company raised its quarterly dividend last year to 23 cents a share from 17.5 cents. Analysts have criticized that move in light of the company’s dwindling profits and noted that the dividend was a chief source of personal income for members of the Sulzberger family, who control the company.

Ahh, the newspaper biz, unraveling before our eyes. To read the Times on the Times, go here. Much as the paper can annoy with its biases, it's still the most thorough paper we have in this country and it's sad to watch it tanking.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


About 9:50 this evening, our long-awaited norther arrived ... the trees outside started to audibly flailing around and the temp dropped. It's a fine day that the first norther arrives in South Texas. You can figure on going from mostly T-shirts and shorts to jeans and T-shirts, but with flannels over them. Maybe put away the cotton summer cap and get out the wool winter job. Dog mostly ate the winter corduroy cap. Too bad. We can consider more stews and soups because the pot simmering on the stove adds both desirable warmth and a tantalizing perfume to the atmosphere in the house. I know, I know ... it'll be back up in the mid-80s in a day or so, but it's nice to savor the idea of the first serious cool-off. Not too far north, people are suffering and snowy. We can skip that.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mexican corruption

Sometimes the profound corruption of Mexico can leave even an old observer simply gobsmacked. From a piece in the Houston Chronicle:
Tens of thousands of teachers are blocking highways and seizing government buildings across Mexico to protest a federal education reform ending their longtime practice of selling their jobs or giving them to their children.

Read all here. What can you hope for from a country where teachers' jobs are considered property that can be sold or bequeathed?

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Friedrich von Blowhard of 2blowhards has some good questions about things undiscussed in the current presidential campaigns – trade deficits, high personal debt, disadvantageous trade relations, bad health care, overly powerful interest groups, and insufficient research and development in this country. It’s a list of complaints that should be talked about but won’t be. Read it all here. The comments in the Friedrich post have a link to a similar and interesting discussion on a UK site. We all seem to be content to sit and watch a damn good country and people be sold off and sold out for a handful of silver while we fret and obsess over relatively inconsequential matters, many of no genuine public concern. I am constantly taken aback by the venom on posts on the Vicad discussions over matters as meaningless as school names.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Here's a story from the UK Guardian to lock your bombtosser jaws:
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Read all here. Are there no paving cobbles in America? No pitchforks? No ropes?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Depends on whose ox

The latest NYT/CBS poll tells us that 89% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, a record low. Author-&c Ben Stein recently spoke to a group of the comfortable in La Jolla, Calif., an enclave of the comfortable, and found them less then comfortable:
In fact, they are among the angriest upper- and middle-class people I have ever seen. And the most frightened and worried. (In a way, they are now feeling the way ordinary workers have been feeling for years.)

Read all here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mostly recent flora

It's this stuff or politics and the economy, and I can't face any more of that ugliness.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Besides the house vermin – Seadrift, Verminella [I got to name that one], and Spare Cat – we get nature's own vermin who show up at the food bank that runs on our front porch. We caught this one the other night. He just scuttled up the trellis and then froze at the top. No, there's not a little possum skeleton bleaching up there. It finally went off while we were out walking. An old guy used to distribute papers on press day when we printed the Stilwell, Okla., Democrat-Journal was named Poss Waters. I'd bet nobody has thought of him in 25 years until I just did.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Succinct summing-up

Friend just passed along his wife's assessment of Sarah Palin: 'Good curb appeal, but you look closer and she has termites.'

Saturday, October 11, 2008

**Adrift avifauna

The fall is a wonderful season here, what's with the transients headed for the south and the waning of summer heat. Our little fountain is a birdy Peaceable Kingdom. The hummingbird is sitting on a fan blade in the livingroom. Poor little wicker wandered into the house through an open door and decided the fan was a refuge. Wife caught it gently and let it go outside; it flew away happy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't forget this one

One Marilou Johanek, writing in a column in the Toledo Blade on an underreported scandal in the White House:
And now there are official findings of fact about the politically charged dismissals of U.S. attorneys conducted to satisfy a White House agenda. Scandal-weary Americans may be inclined to dismiss yet another administration disgrace, but what happened at the Justice Department is too big a deal to ignore.

Read it all here Just more of the corrupt policies coming from W's administration. The DJIA dropped something like 400 points this morning while W was telling us that everything is jes fine, jes fine. Boy's got no credibility left in this world. Why don't we impeach him to keep him out of mischief for the next couple of months? And then maybe try him for treason for all the harm he's done to this country.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It happened again

I came in from watching debacle TV, leaving the DJIA down some 150. By 10 or 15 minutes later, it was down 300. I took a nap and when I got up, the market was down around 680. Maybe I should skip the naps. I've been watching debacle TV as I was watching the Weather Channel a few weeks back. Hurricanes seem more easily predicted than any course in store for us here. It's not reassuring to see most of the people on the business channels. They seem to be mostly guys with grating East Coast accents and slicked-back hair, more like second-rate real estate salesmen than masters of the universe.
On the brighter side of life, sportsman-author Kenneth Reese hollered me over this morning as I was perambulating the pup and asked did I want some flounder, as he'd had a great night, finding the bay bottom practically paved with flounder. He later brought by an ice chest full of nice fish and gave us three. Dinner tonight was a broiled flounder and a bottle of white. It does soothe the pain to dine well. Wonder what tomorrow will bring, both for debacles and for dinner.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Crime in **Adrift

Though I skipped it, my wife caught the monthly city council meeting last night. She reports on police activity this month: "At the city council meeting tonight the acting police chief reported that during mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Ike Seadrift had one crime. Someone broke into a shed and stole 2 cases of beer for a hurricane party. Culprit was apprehended; he paid for the beer, and the shed's owner declined to press charges." A perfectly understandable and necessary bit of scrounging and properly excused by the victim.
In another cops and courts tidbit, our local police chief was found not guilty on a goofy charge of official oppression. We went in to town and caught the testimony Tuesday morning. The purported victim was a mumbling, brain-fried doper already convicted for stealing copper; on the stand he was completely unconvincing. Other prosecution testimony was not much more plausible, the DA seemed befuddled by it all, fumbling for questions when he had a witness on the stand, and the jury was reportedly out for only half an hour, which means they probably went out, agreed on 'not guilty' in one quick vote, and had a cup of coffee so as not to appear too hasty. As a homeowner and taxpayer, I hope the trial didn't cost the county much.
Tali Villafranca was defense attorney and ran the DA nuts with objections during questionings. It's a good tactic to keep an opposing lawyer from getting a rhythm going. Tali used to do it well with Dexter Eaves. I love trials.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

DJIA down 500+ again

I laid me down for a siesta this afternoon with the Dow at –threesomething and awoke with it –fivesomething. Can't turn your back for a minute. I don't even have much stashed and have lost 40% of it this year. A joke I read somewhere: Forget putting all the money into gold. The situation is serious ... I'm putting all the money into rice.. OK, I really haven't lost a penny until I cash something in, but still ...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Eternal verities

Roger Cohen, writing on the Opinion page of the NYT, cites a Kipling poem, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" as apropos to our world today and particularly the political and economic situation. I love it when Kipling gets some proper respect, because he knew a thing or two. Part of the poem reads
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

Read the entire poem here
Cohen writes
How could it happen? That outraged question springs now to everyone’s lips. But from Dutch tulips to Californian dotcoms, great heists have happened and will again. No flight from reality is as sweet as the illusion that money grows on trees.

Read all the Cohen piece here. Kipling was no fool, and requirements of decency and honesty will assert themselves even in a scoundrel time.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What's the difference ...

between Sarah Palin and W?
I watched the VP debate last night, but only with one eye and precious little enthusiasm. I think Joe Biden is an old hack who demonstrated himself dishonest back in the 80s, while I find Sarah Palin frightening. Anyone who thinks the deity favors her pipeline is scary. All she had to do to win in the debate was not to make as big a fool of herself as she has been lately. She didn't, so she did, at least to her devotees. I look at her and see a face that should be beaming out from a display class ad for real estate. She looks like a successful real estate broker and seems to think with the same Babbity single-mindedness, as if she had internalized all the trite maxims of the local boosters ... lots of vague cheerleading and piety and an overarching idea that cutting taxes is the only efficacious exercise of government power [and this from the governor of a state that battens on federal money].
From the blog of Tim Egan on the NYT:
George Bush entered the White House as a proponent of a more humble foreign policy and a believer that government should get out of the way at home. He leaves as someone with a trillion-dollar war aimed at making people who’ve hated each other for a thousand years become Rotary Club freedom-lovers, and his own country close to bankruptcy after government did get out of the way.

Read all the Egan stuff here. I'm sorry there does not remain time for an effective third-party movement to arise in the next four weeks.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pow! right in the liver

Wife went to town yesterday and at the customary burn rate of ca. $40/hour spent a couple hundred bucks. Nothing spendthrifty, just essentials. As expenditures like that are likely to trigger little fits of frugality, she brought home liver for dinner. It's something happens pretty often. We both like liver ... I cook it Italian with lemon juice, sometimes capers, sometimes basil, or cook it with bacon and onions. It's always soothing to look at the price sticker on top of the little container. It's been .99 for a pound for years. One buck for animal protein for two with a scrap usually left over for the pup. Yesterday, the sticker read $1.49. I dunno if there's a slot in the inflation stats for the price of liver, and I hope this isn't the first splash in a tsunami of rising prices. [About the Italian-style liver: slice it very thin, like a quarter-inch thick, dredge it in a little seasoned flour, cook it quickly in a mixture of butter and vegetable oil, then squeeze a lemon into the oil left in the pan and pour it over the liver. The lemon cuts that livery whang that even liver lovers sometimes find objectionable.]

The Panic of Aught-Eight

A historian named Scott Reynolds Nelson writes a fascinating piece on the current economic upheavals in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
If there are lessons from 1873, they are different from those of 1929. Most important, when banks fall on Wall Street, they stop all the traffic on Main Street — for a very long time. The protracted reconstruction of banks in the United States and Europe created widespread unemployment. Unions (previously illegal in much of the world) flourished but were then destroyed by corporate institutions that learned to operate on the edge of the law. In Europe, politicians found their scapegoats in Jews, on the fringes of the economy. (Americans, on the other hand, mostly blamed themselves; many began to embrace what would later be called fundamentalist religion.)
Nelson maintains that the circumstances parallel another, earlier crash than the Great Depression of the 1930s that was so vivid in the memories of my parents' generation. Read the whole piece here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I can't make this stuff up

EL PASO -- Four men were killed in a shooting at the OK Corral nightclub in Juárez early Monday, police said.

Read the rest of the little story in the world's worst newspaper. Think I read somewhere recently that the death count in Juaritos for the year was up to 1,000. I bet that's more than American deaths in Iraq this year.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Oh, so that's why they call it fall

Spent the whole day watching CNBC and CNN on and off, while the big deal in Washington went into the ditch. I've been afraid to check the balance on the 401(k), a proposition I usually call the Six-Horse Fund because of its frankly speculative nature. It's had years 40%+ and some the other direction ... an interesting bet for a non-risk-averse sort like me. On the bright side, I went and bought a pound of jumbo shrimp for six bucks and grilled them with a little bacon wrapped around them, made a green salad, washed it all down with some Portuguese white that went jes fine, thank you. Even if it's the end of the world, it's not the end of the world. Shrimp's still cheap in **Adrift and the weather's been beautiful of late. Tomorrow should be nearly as interesting.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Do cigars count as a green, leafy vegetable?

I'm always tickled when something I love – olive oil, red wine, avocados – is found to have health benefits. Don't guess it will ever happen with the stogies, but there are indicators that they're not as bad as the anti-tobacco zealots would want to make us believe. From a piece in Reason a few years back:
Once easily misled by the scare tactics of public health officials and anti-smoking activists, the mainstream press is starting to acknowledge something that medical studies have been finding for decades: The typical cigar smoker faces hazards far less serious than the typical cigarette smoker does.

Read it all here. On the other hand, Freud and U.S. Grant were both cigar smokers and both died of cancer of the jaw or throat. I told my doctor that my cigar-smoking uncle lived to 93 or 94 and my whiskey-drinking uncle lived to 90. Doc just said, "It probably kept them alive." Nothing like an enthusiasm to give you a reason to get moving in the morning, even if it's just to move to the chair on the porch for the first cigar of the day.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Are we on the downslope?

Journalist and patriot Georgie Anne Geyer has some pointed observations in her column of Sept. 25:
WASHINGTON -- Lurking behind the infamous $700 billion bailout that is monopolizing our attention these tumultuous days, loom other even more important questions -- deadly serious and historic questions -- that have become, all too suddenly, the true stuff of our new reality.

Read the whole thing here. I've always admired Geyer for her level-headed take on things, so her concern matters to me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shuffling off

Guy who sends me stuff sends me another funny obit from Dallas.
... Born April 3, 1951 in North Carolina. He was one of eight children. His older sisters regularly beat him up, put him in dresses, and then forced him to walk to the drugstore to buy their Kotex and cigarettes.

Sounds like he got out OK, if not alive.
Get to a certain age, you're gonna look over the death notices every morning, with special attention given to the decedents' ages. This week we had a woman check out who had the precise same D/O/B as my wife. We can only hope that fills the quota for that birthdate for the present time.

Myself hates this

Just saw Barack on TV speaking on the bailout bill. He used 'myself' as the subject of a sentence and then used 'I' as the object of a preposition. This guy is supposed to be the brightest in politics? It may be true, but if it is, the Republic is doomed. Lowers my estimation of Harvard, which already stood pretty low because of W's degree from there. Pronoun blunders annoy me inordinately. Don't they teach these nice distinctions any longer?

More bailout

From Timothy Egan op-ed in the NYTimes:
“I’m a dirt farmer,” said Senator Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who still lives on his family homestead. “Why do we have one week to determine that $700 billion has to be appropriated or this country’s financial system goes down the pipes?”

Read the rest here.

Ohhh dear, what can the matter be?

The moronic fratboy who sits in the big chair in Deecee crawled out from under his rock last night to tell us we really really really need to back that money truck up to Wall Street and start unloading right now, no dawdling lest the Republic fall. They've sunk the Maine, attacked our ships in Tonkin Harbor, and have weapons of mass destruction that can only be stopped by giving Hank P sole authority over $700b, no partial payments, please, and no restrictions. Remember how we got the wicked Patriot Act? We can wait a few days to get clear on this welfare-for-Wall-Street deal. NYT story tells that congress members are getting buried under constituent communications, almost all against this bill. This might be the kind of congressional vote that a constituent will remember for more than a couple of weeks, maybe even until the next election.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Travails of the Vicad

Well, the Advocate added another chapter this morning to their interminable series of stories about people who do grievously dumbutt things, incur consequences, and then call the Advocate to complain about their fates – people who go nuts in a school administrator's office and get in trouble, people who call police and then make things difficult for them, a woman who complained about impound fees on her van that turns out to be evidence in a murder case wherein she is the accused. These unhappy people call an Advocate reporter and get their story in the paper. Story today was something about people whose loose dogs got hit by a car and hurt. Their desired resolution seemed to be that the cop who hit the dogs owed the irresponsible pet owners some kind of reparations. It ends up making the paper look dumb dumb dumb to appear to take the side of the clowns who call in with stories like this.*
Then when I made a routine check of writer jobs on, I see an ad for a sports editor and for a sports copy editor-page designer job for the Vicad. What this means is that Coy Slavik, who's been more than a quarter century at the Vicad, has quit. They'll miss him, as he has run a good department. That loss plus the other resignation, the copy editor, leaves them short-handed on the very brink of high-school football. Poor Advocate ...
Then Sunday saw the fifth installment of the series on the immigrant deaths five years ago. It may get to be like the Super Bowl – Fatal Funnel Installment 5 – or maybe rate Roman numerals: FF-XVII someday. There must be some particular contest they're aiming at with this thing, as I'm sure nobody is calling in demanding more stories about the incident.
*Apparently it was the neighbors who first called the paper. I didn't read it with much attention.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just an idea

The big dogs are swearing we must have the bailout money and right now and no strings on ol' Henry P, so he can just spray it around without hindrance as he thinks best. I think it would be nice if the Congress would designate just a tiny fraction of that $700b – say, $1b – to support the office of a special prosecutor assigned to investigate fraud in the markets. I think the guy who prosecuted the Enron crowd might be a good choice. Punishments can, after all, include fines, so this little project would probably pay for itself many times over and maybe serve as an object lesson to future captains of finance who might be inclined to sell worthless securities. Just a thought ... I'd love to see a few of these grasping bastards shuffling off in orange jumpsuits and trailing shackles.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Welfare for Wall Street

This whole damn bailout hoohah gives me the jimjams; I can't ecape the lingering fear that somehow it will constitute a bunch of money directed to people who don't deserve to be saved from their own stupidity or avarice or both – the people making $30k who bought $300k houses and the slime who ran their mortgages through and then laid off the action to other greedy chumps. I'm happy to detect at least a little resistance to the plan. Friedrich von Blowhard has some links to non-enthusiasts:
The Paulson plan for bailing out the financial sector is extremely dubious. The prospect that it will get rubber-stamped into legislation by a panicked Congress within the week is a distressing, but sadly real, possibility. I strongly urge you to oppose passage of this proposal without – at a minimum – a full and thorough airing of the issues involved.

Read all of Friedrich's stuff here. Someone on there has a nicely snide crack about Ronnie Raygun's remark that the nine most terrifying words in the language being "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you." Don't guess we'll hear that for a few months ... Realistically, the fix is in, and we're on the hook for the money, like it or not.
And from the WaPo Web site Sunday evening:
Sources familiar with Treasury's thinking said last night that the department is also continuing to monitor troubled financial firms and may have to intervene in the markets again this week, before Congress acts on the bailout, to address specific flashpoints
The story indicates some possibility of the Ds imposing some restraints on the money gusher. Read it here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What's your FICO score, Uncle Sam?

From a Reuters story on the Web:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pressure is building on the pristine "AAA" rating of the United States after a federal bailout of American International Group Inc, the chairman of Standard & Poor's sovereign ratings committee said on Wednesday.

Read the rest of the sad story here, and then consider that the story came out before announcement of the big bailout, which may run a trillion dollars. I can come up with a thing or two that might be better bought for a trillion dollars. Just think, W wanted to put Social Security in the hands of the people who've brought us this debacle.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Creeping socialism?

Is that a black swan croaking outside my window or is it simply a buzzard drawn by the stench of death? The nabobs of our govt are gathered together this evening to put together a plan to bail out the criminally inept classes of Wall Street for the hopeless hash those miscreants have made of the American economy. Money guy I know writes, "It is very hard to be deceived by companies and govt regulators
alike." I don't know when this will end, but I'd venture a guess how it will end – badly for ordinary citizens.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Don't wanna rush the calendar, but this morning felt like the first real norther of the fall had come through during the night -- cool, crisp, dry. It was a great morning for a walk. Nothing brewing out in the eastern Atlantic, so maybe summer is sort of over for this year. Certainly hope so. One hurricane panic a year is enough; I wonder how those poor Floridians can abide doing it two or three times a season. From what I saw of Florida, it's not a good enough place that you'd want to abide that sort of misery just to live there. We have some DPs from Ike staying here in our village. Poor babies.

Monday, September 15, 2008


We got the August electric bill today ... it was ca. $450. That's a mortgage payment not a utility bill. A utility bill is $28.57 or $59.84. Shocking. We been turning off everything in the house that draws electricity ever since it came. Then herself took her little Honda CRV to town for 90,000-mile work. Another thousand bucks. I read that the SS payments will go up in Jan but Part B Medicare will mostly wipe it out. On the bright side, of course, we have those 401(k)s that replaced pensions. They're just sitting there enjoying the tremendous gains in the mighty American stock market, piling up the bucks to pay for electric bills. How'd the market do today?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

No Ike here

We came bopping back down 183 quite early this morning, got here about 10:30. Went through heavy rains around Victoria, and it's been raining a bit down here but nothing tropical or torrential. I talked to Mike the Pilot and he was out of electricity where he was. That would make him one of about three million ... what a misery to contemplate. At least the storm knocked the top off the heat for the moment. The pup was very happy to pee on familiar ground and smell the wind off the bay. The happiest contrast is the quiet here ... no traffic noises in the distance and even fewer people than usual are here. My 85-y-o neighbor stayed but abandoned his trailer for a room with a friend. He gets to be smug, I guess. Things still fell off-balance, and we have to take down a bunch of window coverings, and there's been a hatch of those vicious little marsh mosquitoes about half again the size of a gnat. Pix of blown-out windows in downtown Houston offices were pretty scary.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Looks like we did the smart thing by bailing yesterday. We ran west to Tx123 and followed it up through Stockdale and Seguin and like that to San Marcos. There was a little traffic fleeing the storm, pulling boats and laden with possessions, but very little. Rita was such a traumatic escape trip that we were twice shy this time. Austin is starting to fill up; the news has interviews with unhappy refugees in local schools, and we saw many buses this morning. Otherwise, we've acted like we were here to have a good time ... enjoyed the company of our hosts and shopped like yuppies this morning. We are watching the Weather Channel constantly and hoping the water doesn't get too high at home and that electricity stays on so we can go home Sunday and unboard. Hope all is well with friends up the coast.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We'll meet again ...

but I don't know where or when. We're about to put up the boards over about half the windows and deal with the rest in the morning. Ike seems like he's going to head right up 4th Street in **Adrift sometime early Saturday morning. We – people, pup, even two specimens of house vermin – are gonna head out for Austin to impose on the kindness of friends. Pick the favorite books, put in a few clothes, the complete works, maybe some CDs, guess we'll abandon the old vinyl records and maybe 2,500 excess books with the thought that they're insured anyhow. Less comfort there than you'd think if you've spent 45 years acquiring books ... to call it collecting would imply more system than exists. See y'all, maybe just later today.