Saturday, January 31, 2009

Whose side are they on?

A guy questioned the accounting at a publicly held company. It took five years for the SEC to do anything about it, and in the meantime they tried to scare the person lodging the complaints of funky bookkeeping, and the company also made war on its accuser. From the NYT:
Over the course of Mr. (David) Einhorn’s battle with the company and regulators, he discovered that his phone records and those of his wife and his firm had been stolen. Allied later conceded that someone working on its behalf was behind the theft, but said its management did not authorize anyone to seek Mr. Einhorn’s phone records illegally.
While Allied’s scorched-earth response to criticism is creepy, the regulatory reaction to Mr. Einhorn is distressing. According to the book, the S.E.C. did not respond to accounting analyses of Allied he sent the agency in 2002. Instead, early the next year, it began investigating him.

Read the whole thinghere.Pretty amazing, kinda like how Madoff ran his scam so long without detection.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Finally, some good news

From time to time we get the good news that something we love is actually good for us. Not talking about stuff like runners babbling about endorphins, but rather such as the word that olive oil or red wine benefits the old cardiovascular system. Latest is the newfound indication that a bunch of coffee regularly is likely to fend off dementia. From the NYT:
After controlling for numerous socioeconomic and health factors, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the scientists found that the subjects who had reported drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to have developed dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less. People who drank more than five cups a day also were at reduced risk of dementia, the researchers said, but there were not enough people in this group to draw statistically significant conclusions.

Read it all here. I thought it was the Times puzzle keeping my brain limber, but it may be the Colombian dark roast that is doing it. Now, if someone would just discover that cigars promote the calm so necessary to long life (I could volunteer for the study), maybe my prescription plan would cover some decent handmade smokes…

Nice goof

From the comments section of a blog I frequent: “The price paid and the quantities of geegaws and grimwracks required …“ Grimwracks … I love it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Uninvited guest

But not really unwelcome. Herself runs a kind of Golden Corral for critters out on the front porch. We run through a lot of catfood, what's with her domestic vermin + a couple other welfare cats that freeload here, and then add in Mother Nature's own, like this guy, who has been hanging around lately, and the occasional incidental marsupial that shows up. Oh, well, part of the price of living in paradise is putting up with the other creatures.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Poor life choices?

This poor little peach tree may have made a bad career move by blossoming this soon, although it is nice to see. Right now, the wind outside is whistling hard enough to shake the darling buds plumb off their branches. A friend wrote today from Austin, "Just heard that UPS is going to be closed until noon tomorrow in anticipation of freezing rain and icy roads." And what will the robin do then, the poor thing? I am ready to sweat every day … tired of winter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

British is best

Some things the Brits just do so much better than we, including theater and eccentricity. An obituary of one Bindy Lambton from the Telegraph of the UK:
Bindy had no education, since she was expelled from 11 schools for various wildnesses, only one of which is recorded - that of putting a bell-shaped impediment under the headmistress's piano pedal.
Right from the start, however, Bindy's extraordinary individuality, handsome good looks, high spirits and original wit began to attract an army of life-long admirers. When she was 18 she met and married Tony Lambton, son of the fifth Earl of Durham, and embarked enthusiastically on married life.

Read it all here. Bindy sounds like a fun date.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dying like a man

Friend of mine was telling about the demise of a mutual acquaintance of ours. The decedent had died quietly in his livingroom of a heart attack. My friend said, 'He died like a man. They found him with the remote in his hand and a book on his chest.' We should all go in such a peaceful way.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sorry I haven't written

Poor little eMac went into the hospital last week, and it was just too hard to post from the fallback iBook from the early 21st century. It's pretty primitive.
A not uneventful week, marked principally by the accession to office of Barack Obama and the departure of George W, the worst president of my lifetime and probably a lot of lifetimes before that. About the inauguration I loved Aretha Franklin with her black-church-lady hat and beautiful voice and Obama's remark that science was back in good odor in the public discourse; I assume that Obama doesn't believe that Christ rode a dinosaur. That notwithstanding, the dissolution of the economic world continues apace. Interesting times, these.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Or maybe we're the interlopers. Few days ago, this masked rascal come bopping across the back yard in a high-speed waddle, went under the back of the house and out the front, then climbed the ash tree in the front yard. Had the pup frantic and the cats curious. He slipped off after the brouhaha settled. I dunno what he was doing out in broad daylight.

Slow news day

You can be pretty sure you've got a slow news day when the featured click-through on Page 1 is to video of the opening of a Jack in the Box. In other major news, someone shot a dog. The dog incident was drawing intense interest on the discussion forum. Somehow, I feel like the new journalistic paradigm is missing the mark.
One of the TV stations was doing a viewer poll on what they'd like to hear from W. My vote would be, 'Guilty, your honor,' or even 'Nolo contendere.' Be glad to see the back of that boy and the whole sleazy bunch he runs with.
It appears that the venerable Seattle Post-Intelligencer is doomed, put up for sale and to be closed if no buyer is found. How sad to watch a world unravel.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Among the many annoyances of the late unpleasantness in the markets has been the sudden appearance of too damn many economists in the public prints. Much of the annoyance comes from their inability to agree on things. If economists were into physics, you'd have economic theories that things fell up. The up guys would explain that things couldn't possibly fall down and would metaphorically roll their eyes at dissenters and especially non-economist dissenters who claimed to observe things falling down. Mexico's government has been full of economists for a couple of decades. Does anyone look at Mexico and think that's the kind of government we need?
Anyhow, an economist joke, kited from a comment board elsewhere: "There's a surgeon, an architect and an economist. The surgeon said, 'Look, we're the most important. God's a surgeon because the very first thing God did was to extract Eve from Adam's rib.' The architect said, 'No, wait a minute, God is an architect. God made the world in seven days out of chaos.' The economist smiled, 'And who made the chaos?'"

Friday, January 9, 2009

Job ad I won't be answering

Native speaking ESL teachers wanted immediately by Mongolia's most prestigious ESL School

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Great depression

Got another broker's statement today, one for the offshore mutual fund ... sucker's down almost precisely 50% on the year. The others are down about 40%. We went to town today and took the little test for census workers, hoping to make up a few bucks of the bashing we've taken this year. I don't see how the gummint can spend all the money they're proposing and not induce massive inflation if they want to make it repayable. That doesn't promise endless oceans of rich, thick gravy for the sunset years, but rather thin gruel. I want prosecutions of the Wall Streeters, for revenge at least.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

'Sad News'

Generally when I get the sad-news heading on an e-mail it means that another old friend has shuffled off this mortal coil. This time, though, it was an institutional friend, not shuffling off this coil, but limping toward the exit. Old-and-dear friend writes:
I just learned today that the Albq Journal will cease distribution to the northern, eastern, and southwestern parts of New Mexico on January 31st. In other words, they will still distribute to Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Gallup, and Las Cruces and places in between. No more Journal in Ft Sumner after all these years. The Trib going down cost them a lot in advertising, and recently, their largest local advertiser filled for bankruptcy and closed its doors. With that and loss of several national clients, and the cost of fuel, they no longer could afford to ship the papers.… I shall miss opening the newspaper and enjoying it, along with my coffee every morning. Something I have done as far back as I can remember. But must change with the times I suppose.

Papers no longer entertain illusions of dominating any sizeable region; now they just tuck in and aspire to dominate the counties contiguous to their own. We may have to change with the times, but we don't have to like it worth a damn.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Killer writers

Recently the NYT ran a piece about returned soldiers involved in crimes, a story with an underlying feeling that we need to keep an eye on these vets. You can take a set of incidents, not necessarily related, and cobble together an apparent pattern. Editors love trends; we used to joke that three occurrences constitute a trend and would try to suppress the news of the third occurrence, hoping to avoid writing a trend story. At Newspaper Death Watch,, I happened on a link to Iowahawk, a blogger with a new take on the trend story, a story about criminal journalists. The post is titled 'Bylines of Brutality,' with a subhead reading ‘As Casualties Mount, Some Question The Emotional Stability of Media Vets.’ Then a recitation of a long list of arrests of journalists for various ugly crimes:
Unrelated incidents, or mounting evidence of that America's newsrooms have become a breeding ground for murderous, drunk, gun-wielding child molesters? Answers are elusive, but the ever-increasing toll of violent crimes committed by journalists has led some experts to warn that without programs for intensive mental health care, the nation faces a potential bloodbath at the hands of psychopathic media vets.

The whole thing is here. It's a hoot, and this site has some ripping good satire among the other posts. Glad I discovered it and put it on my regular trapline of blogs.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Byebye Bill

Czeslaw Milosz, a Lithuanian poet and Nobel winner in 1980 for literature, said, "Language is the only homeland." It's an apt observation, mostly. The language we count and curse in is the language of the heart. Two of Barack Obama's cabinet appointees delivered parts of their acceptance speeches in Spanish. Hilda Solis, a California member of the HofR, will be Labor Secretary. Bill Richardson, New Mexico governor, was gonna be Commerce Secretary. The Spanish messages were innocuous enough, but that's the sort of thing that runs a lot of anglophone Americans nuts, taking it as a declaration of membership in a club where they speak Spanish, an annoyance like 'Press one for English' when you dial a governmental office. Richardson today withdrew from his appointment after it came out that a grand jury was looking into his possible involvement in financial hankypanky about state contracts. He didn't say adios, just goodbye, all in English.

Friday, January 2, 2009


From a rightwing blog that I sometimes read, an entry from the blogger's Curmudgeon's Dictionary: 'California: n., a state so far in advance of the rest of the states that it's dying first.'
And from I don't remember where, a Mexican take on small-town life: 'Pueblo chico, infierno grande,' or, 'Little town, large hell.'
Mexican Spanish is rich in dichos, proverbs, and there's one, and sometimes two or three and sometimes contradictory ones, for every occasion. One of my favorites: "Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo,' or 'The devil knows more from being old than from being the devil,' or put simply, 'Experience is the best teacher.'
Instead of buying a pig in a poke, a Mexican will buy a colt in the mare's belly when he buys something sight unseen. I really like dichos.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Empires crumble

David Crisp, formerly of Victoria, now of Montana, has a nice essay on the state of the newspaper biz in his Outpost. In part
How bad is it? Between March and September, circulation in America’s top 500 newspapers fell 4.6 percent. The Los Angeles Times has lost about a quarter of its circulation so far in this young century. The Christian Science Monitor has become a web publication. The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press have cut home delivery to three days a week. Layoffs are happening everywhere.

Read all here. One of the G&D journalism sites I frequent notes that the average newspaper reader is 56 years old. Has it occurred to any publisher that a person that age likely has 20 or 25 years of life left? Instead of trying to make newspapers appeal to a generation that is not equipped to read, why don't the papers try to please the hard-core readers and accept a certain loss of the bales of money that used to roll in? The effort to make newspapers more pleasing to a visually oriented young crowd leaves papers looking like middle-school social science textbooks. I really don't need a photo of a stack of $100 bills to help me understand a finance article, nor a pie chart to show me that in an election that broke 50-50, each candidate pretty much got half the vote. Art that helps is helpful, but in newspapers, art for art's sake is a loser and space-waster. Noticed today that in some Vicad story the writer talked about someone having a 'conscious,' a painful error.