Friday, November 30, 2007


...even though I have to go in to work tomorrow (I'm "on call"). It's been a busy week. I really don't mind so much working on the weekends, since there's hardly anyone there and I can dress casual. I think I'll wear my cap.

Today was the last day for one of our co-workers (I'll call her Lola). She'd worked in our department until relatively recently and then moved to Atlanta and couldn't find a job. Apparently people are moving to Atlanta in droves and the job market is hard to break into. So she's been working back in Miami on contract with us for the past couple of months and on Sunday will be flying to Texas for two weeks in preparation for going off to work in Iraq! She has a relative who works there (in the Green Zone) and he got her the job (provided she passes psychological and physical tests, which I don't doubt she'll pass). She'll have a one-year contract, have her room and board provided, and earn $130,000 ($85,000 of which will be non-taxable). If I were Lola, I'd probably do it too. Hopefully she'll eventually find a job in Atlanta. (I think she's getting some help on that too.) She'll fly back to the States periodically during the year and we'll get to see her. We told her to buy us expensive presents since she can afford it.

To celebrate Lola's last day with us, we all got take-out from Flanigan's and bought Lola lunch. (Someone had to drive to Flanigan's in the Grove area to pick it up.) I had the New York Strip. It was delicious, as always. (BTW, there's a Flanigan's across Arch Creek from here, about half a block away.)

Tomorrow night is the office holiday party. I'm sorry but I would never go to an office party. Give me a couple of drinks and who knows what I'd say. (If I were straight, it would be different.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sorry No Posting; Been Busy

I thought my car problem had gone away when yesterday, after I got home from work, B. and I piled into the truck on our way to Bed Bath & Beyond and it wouldn't start. AAA has already made three emergency visits over the past few months, once to replace the battery. (You're allowed only four visits a year, which is reasonable.) I haven't used the service much but it's definitely worth it. Two of the AAA guys had said there might be a problem with the fuel line or pump or whatever, but I thought I'd proved them wrong.

Today, after I got home from work, B. and I piled into the truck and it started. (The way cars behave or misbehave always mystifies me, since I'm mechanically disinclined.) I had to stop for gas on the way and decided to go to a station across the street from BB&B. (Just in case the truck wouldn't start back up again, we could still do our shopping.) I drove to a pump directly in front of the store where there were several parking spaces, in case the truck had to be pushed into a spot and left there till I could arrange to have it towed (or it started back up on a different day). The truck started back up again, however. It also started up again after we'd done our shopping. Nevertheless, I've decided to schedule a check-up at the dealership, since I don't know of any reputable repairpeople anymore. It hasn't had any professional attention in a while--not since I had to replace the radiator, etc. (at the dealer).

We got some great pillows for the new bed, using two 20%-off coupons, which we get in the mail constantly. (I rarely shop there without one since the prices are so high.) We ended up getting two king-size down pillows--here's the gay part--with 700 fill power Siberian white goosedown and an 800 thread count, single ply 55% silk/45% cotton woven stripe cover. (It also has a 1 inch side gusset, whatever that is.) It's medium support and has a lifetime warranty. Feels really nice. I figure if we can't sleep well on those, we can't sleep well on anything.

The guy at Mattress Giant had tried to sell me a $99 king-size pillow (and it was comfortable but I wasn't shopping for pillows then). The pillows we bought tonight came out to a little over $100 apiece with the coupons, so I think they were worth it for what you get. We had down pillows when I was growing up (from the days before synthetic fibers or foam had been invented--I won't say in the days, since I remember we had some Dacron pillows, too, which were great but eventually lumped up). The down pillows were comfy and lasted forever. (I wonder whatever happened to them.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Paul Krugman (basically unformatted)

November 23, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Banks Gone Wild
“What were they smoking?” asks the cover of the current issue of Fortune magazine. Underneath the headline are photos of recently deposed Wall Street titans, captioned with the staggering sums they managed to lose.
The answer, of course, is that they were high on the usual drug — greed. And they were encouraged to make socially destructive decisions by a system of executive compensation that should have been reformed after the Enron and WorldCom scandals, but wasn’t.
In a direct sense, the carnage on Wall Street is all about the great housing slump.
This slump was both predictable and predicted. “These days,” I wrote in August 2005, “Americans make a living selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from the Chinese. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like a sustainable lifestyle.” It wasn’t.
But even as the danger signs multiplied, Wall Street piled into bonds backed by dubious home mortgages. Most of the bad investments now shaking the financial world seem to have been made in the final frenzy of the housing bubble, or even after the bubble began to deflate.
In fact, according to Fortune, Merrill Lynch made its biggest purchases of bad debt in the first half of this year — after the subprime crisis had already become public knowledge.
Now the bill is coming due, and almost everyone — that is, almost everyone except the people responsible — is having to pay.
The losses suffered by shareholders in Merrill, Citigroup, Bear Stearns and so on are the least of it. Far more important in human terms are the hundreds of thousands if not millions of American families lured into mortgage deals they didn’t understand, who now face sharp increases in their payments — and, in many cases, the loss of their houses — as their interest rates reset.
And then there’s the collateral damage to the economy.
You still hear occasional claims that the subprime fiasco is no big deal. Even though the numbers keep getting bigger — some observers are now talking about $400 billion in losses — these losses are small compared with the total value of financial assets.
But bad housing investments are crippling financial institutions that play a crucial role in providing credit, by wiping out much of their capital. In a recent report, Goldman Sachs suggested that housing-related losses could force banks and other players to cut lending by as much as $2 trillion — enough to trigger a nasty recession, if it happens quickly.
Beyond that, there’s a pervasive loss of trust, which is like sand thrown in the gears of the financial system. The crisis of confidence is plainly visible in the market data: there’s an almost unprecedented spread between the very low interest rates investors are willing to accept on U.S. government debt — which is still considered safe — and the much higher interest rates at which banks are willing to lend to each other.
How did things go so wrong?
Part of the answer is that people who should have been alert to the dangers, and taken precautionary measures, instead blithely assured Americans that everything was fine, and even encouraged them to take out risky mortgages. Yes, Alan Greenspan, that means you.
But another part of the answer lies in what hasn’t happened to the men on that Fortune cover — namely, they haven’t been forced to give back any of the huge paychecks they received before the folly of their decisions became apparent.
Around 25 years ago, American business — and the American political system — bought into the idea that greed is good. Executives are lavishly rewarded if the companies they run seem successful: last year the chief executives of Merrill and Citigroup were paid $48 million and $25.6 million, respectively.
But if the success turns out to have been an illusion — well, they still get to keep the money. Heads they win, tails we lose.
Not only is this grossly unfair, it encourages bad risk-taking, and sometimes fraud. If an executive can create the appearance of success, even for a couple of years, he will walk away immensely wealthy. Meanwhile, the subsequent revelation that appearances were deceiving is someone else’s problem.
If all this sounds familiar, it should. The huge rewards executives receive if they can fake success are what led to the great corporate scandals of a few years back. There’s no indication that any laws were broken this time — but the public’s trust was nonetheless betrayed, once again.
The point is that the subprime crisis and the credit crunch are, in an important sense, the result of our failure to effectively reform corporate governance after the last set of scandals.
John Edwards recently came out with a corporate reform plan, but it didn’t receive a lot of attention. Corporate governance still isn’t regarded as a major political issue. But it should be.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More Republican Dirty Tricks to Grab Power

Catch this from Steve Soto at the Left Coaster.

This is what a minority party does when it knows it can never win an election straight up in the "marketplace of ideas": it grabs power any way that it can, and then uses the full machinery of the government and media through legal and illegal means to stay in power. This, and an inept Democratic opposition, allows even an illegal regime to maintain itself.

Killer Collards

B. went to his sister's, in Broward, for Thanksgiving. Although I'm staying home and chilling out (call me a party pooper, but nowadays I look at Thanksgiving as 4 free days off in a row), I did make an enormous batch of collard greens for B. to take to dinner. I started with around 5 lbs. of greens, which is about a cubic yard of loose, washed and trimmed leaves. These cooked down to not even a gallon and a half. I had to cook them in two separate batches in a large soup kettle.

I decided to make them a little differently from the way I usually do. In all, I used four smoked ham hocks; one package of lean, center-cut bacon, cooked in the microwave and chopped; one onion, chopped; about two tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes; and some salt. They came out great. I chopped them after they were cooked rather than before. It was a lot easier, given the volume of fresh vs. cooked greens. (I saw in my search for collard recipes on the Web that there's even something called a "collard chopper" for chopping the cooked greens. [I was unable to find a picture of one.] Come to think of it, my grandmother may have had one.) (Here's an interesting collard greens webpage.)

B.'s sister also wanted us to bring macaroni and cheese (for 12) (on one day's notice) (!), so I bought a big party size package (4 lbs. 12 oz.) of Stouffer's frozen macaroni and cheese and baked that up nice and golden-brown. (I've never heard of macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving, but maybe the kids asked for it.) Despite cheating on the macaroni, I was up last night cooking till 3 a.m.

[UPDATE: I talked to B. They had eaten dinner. He said everyone loved the collards and the macaroni and cheese. That was nice to hear.]

How to Carve a Turkey

Here's one way to slice a turkey.

"With Friends Like This..."

"Foreign Fighters in Iraq Are Tied to Allies of U.S."

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Louis IV Starburst for Over the Bed

Yes, this is grâce à the Sun King, but it'll add a modern touch above the metal bed. Ordered it tonight online from an outfit in Ft. Lauderdale (Colee Hammock Home). Spackled nail holes tonight on wall behind bed. Will repaint tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Baby Pix

B.'s and my baby pictures (B. at left) in the bedroom. I had them framed in matching frames a few years ago. That's my bronzed baby shoe on the bracket. We're in the process of redecorating the bedroom around the new bed. The brackets were relocated from above the old, white bed and look better here (better than the photo depicts). They were hand-carved in Indonesia (or thereabouts). Found them at Ross. Cost a lot less than the picture frames!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Sleep-Industrial Complex"

Speaking of mattresses and beds, here's a long article in today's New York Times Magazine.

Sleep may finally be claiming its place beside diet and exercise as both a critical health issue and a niche for profitable consumer products. . . .

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bootsy: "Leaf Me Alone"

The amaryllis is drooping over the couch. The plant does very well inside but it won't bloom again in this climate unless I cut the leaves off the bulb and put it in the refrigerator for a month (or something). I had bookmarked a Sun-Sentinel article on how to do it but the story is no longer available. At any rate, I think it's too late in the year to do it now. I love the red ones best, and it's exciting to watch them rapidly sprout from the bulb and bloom. This is the plant around two years ago:
I'm just relaxing right now. Had a good night's sleep on the new bed, but I'm still a little tired out. Today I made boneless rib-eye steaks on the Foreman grill, along with Brussels sprouts (frozen) and home-made garlic parsley potatoes. I miss getting these at Flanigan's and have been trying to recreate the recipe ever since. Today I used some of those tiny, bite-size white-skinned potatoes, boiled them with some onion, then put them in a container with lots of fresh pressed garlic, dried (alas) parsley, olive oil, melted butter and salt and pepper, put a lid on the container and shook it till the potatoes mushed up a bit. Good but still not Flanigan's. Of course they would have been better with fresh parsley but I didn't have any on hand, and this was a spur-of-the-moment creation. I tried to find a Flanigan's recipe online but came up with nothing.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Took a nap (finally) on the comfy new bed and then went out shopping. Someone said to go to Walgreen's for the cat stairs and, sure enough, they had them, for $10, and I bought them. Nonetheless I thought they might look a little chintzy once assembled, so I stopped by PetSmart to see their selection and they had the same item for $24. (They also had a more elaborate, heavier one for $50-something, which I couldn't see getting.) I decided to keep the one I'd bought and see how it looked assembled. It's made of hard plastic that easily snaps together and comes with a plush cover. I think it looks fine.

I showed it to the cats, so they know it's there. Let's see if they use it when they feel inclined to jump up on the bed (which they weren't feeling tonight--they ran off).

I'm tired from running around today. I went to ten stores (two Walgreen's, two Rosses, Anna's Linens, PetSmart, Publix, ABC Liquors, Target, and the local convenience store) and two restaurants (had a roast beef sandwich at Arby's and two Mexican pizzas at Taco Bell). Obviously, the truck is working again. Battery is fine and no other problems at this time. Plus I visited numerous websites and viewed hundreds of pages. I definitely got a lot done today. I think we'll end up getting the starburst/sunburst mirror online.

P.S. Tonight I recorded Lisa Williams and Psychic Challenge and we watched them when B. got off work. I had been mistaken that these programs aired on Wednesday (the day I got the new VCR/DVD recorder). (I think Lisa Williams is supposed to air on Wednesday late at night.) Anyway, we got to watch our programs tonight. They were good.

New Bed

B. got up and we put the bed together, after I washed the mattress cover and the new set of sheets. We'll get some more linens eventually. Since this bed is higher than the other one, we'll need to get some plush stairs for the aging cats. I may go buy those later. There's a PetSmart and a Pet Supermarket five minutes from here (in opposite directions).

We're going to get a silver starburst thingy for the wall behind the bed.

Mattress Is Here

I'm having a Scotch.

Democrat Debate (from Left Coaster)

'Wolf Blitzer doesn't know what "triangulation" means. Barack Obama very early brought up the Social Security non-issue, right before a seemingly endless health care debate between Obama and Hillary Clinton, where a heckler tried to remind Wolf there were five other people on the stage. John Edwards chimed in with Social Security as well, and unspooled a string of attacks directed at Hillary right out of the Republican playbook, which Clinton literally called him on. Chris Dodd lamented the shrillness of the debate, and Bill Richardson channeled his inner Lennon, hoping to "Give Peace A Chance."'

Paul Krugman (Quote)

As Peter Orszag, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, put it in a recent article co-authored with senior analyst Philip Ellis: “The long-term fiscal condition of the United States has been largely misdiagnosed. Despite all the attention paid to demographic challenges, such as the coming retirement of the baby-boom generation, our country’s financial health will in fact be determined primarily by the growth rate of per capita health care costs.” . . .

But Social Security isn’t a big problem that demands a solution; it’s a small problem, way down the list of major issues facing America, that has nonetheless become an obsession of Beltway insiders. And on Social Security, as on many other issues, what Washington means by bipartisanship is mainly that everyone should come together to give conservatives what they want.

We all wish that American politics weren’t so bitter and partisan. But if you try to find common ground where none exists — which is the case for many issues today — you end up being played for a fool. And that’s what has just happened to Mr. Obama.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


No nap again today. I came home and assembled the new king bed (sitting next to the old queen, which will be removed tomorrow--a friend of B.'s is taking the whole thing). (In the photo, the queen looks tiny next to the king, but it's just the perspective.)

When I got home, I found out that the mattress set is due to arrive tomorrow between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. (thus I had to assemble the bed tonight). (And I'd thought I might be able to sleep in and assemble the bed tomorrow.) At any rate, I'm glad it's done. It took me almost two hours. And at least I won't have to take a shower and get all dressed up before the guys get here with the mattress etc.

B. had to inspect the bed upon delivery this afternoon, to make sure it hadn't been damaged in shipment. (It hadn't.) While the delivery people were still in the apartment, he called me up and said he didn't like the bed and didn't want to accept it--he said the welds looked bad. To make a long story short, the welds are antiqued (it's an "antique pewter" finish) like every other feature, and thus they are more prominent than they otherwise would be. They don't bother me. It's good the bed is welded together the way it is (at every point where the railings join). It's very sturdy, and the assembly went without a hitch. All the parts went together perfectly. I think the antiqued welds add character. So my first-time experience with was excellent. I would definitely buy from them again. Also, the bed frame is very heavy and solid--and went together with no tools.

Now I guess we have to redecorate a bit around the new bed. I already took some stuff off the wall.

P.S. I think it should be noted that B. agreed on the choice of this bed in the first place. We looked at a lot of beds and both liked this one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday Night

I've been busy on the weekends and not had a lot of time to write on this. Going back to doing some more productive things with my time. Sorry, reader!!

This week I'm taking a break from the gym. Since I didn't really take a vacation this year, I'm taking a week's vacation from the gym (not that I go all that often). Feels great so far. Instead of doing that tonight, I went out and bought a new VCR/DVD recorder/player since our VCR broke on Sunday. It's quite a fancy piece of machinery. I got it at Target (5 minutes from here) $20 off the usual $299 price. It does everything we need it to do and more. I skipped my nap in order to get the thing set up to record Lisa Williams (the clairvoyant) at 9:00, and the show wasn't even on tonight. Oh well.

Tomorrow the new bed arrives and Friday the mattress set. (B. will take delivery of the bed tomorrow, and I'm taking Friday off to put the bed together [provided it arrives in good shape] and be here when the mattress and box springs arrive.) Last Saturday, I found a luxurious mattress ("Elizabeth Eurotop") at Mattress Giant (5 minutes from here, in the other direction) on sale. It's made in England (an Airsprung, since 1870-something). The salesman said that Queen Elizabeth and Elton John sleep on this mattress (wow, two queens!). I don't know about that, but I think it will do better than suffice. It's a Eurotop, too, which is supposed to be better than a pillow top (it looks a lot better too). I had already found the mattress after doing a lot of research online. The salesman said I'd made the right choice--he had only good things to say about the mattress.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hullabaloo's Digby

In case you ever wondered what Digby looked like. Catch a videoclip at Firedoglake here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Usually the only time you catch the cats this close together is when they're hissing or batting at one another, so this is rare. You would never catch them snuggling together. Here they almost are. (So I took a picture.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Buzzards (etc.) Over Miami

Buzzards flying around the top of Wachovia Center

The balloon flying above the Challenger Memorial

The Miami Book Fair at Miami Community College

The cupola and copper-clad roof of the old Miami Realty Board Building, built in the 1920s. (My grandfather and great uncle had been presidents.) At the time it was built, it was exceeded in height (among realty board buildings, at least) only by the home of the New York Real Estate Board. The style is "Florentine Gothic."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Night

(Wow. That was harsh stuff [below]. But that's exactly what I think. I find certain people in the media despicable for handing us George Bush on a silver platter. On a somewhat related note, please see this piece ("Poppy's Pain") by Digby.)

I took the day off today so that B. and I could go shopping together for a new, king-size bed. We've outgrown the queen.

We drove all over creation (it seemed--I'm not much of a driver these days) and visited three enormous furniture stores. We didn't see much that we liked, however. I must say that El Dorado--we'd never been there before--is quite a place. It's like a little Magic Kingdom in there, complete with a large snack bar (not just a coffee bar). I think they have around 15 showrooms. They assign you a "guide" when you enter to help you focus your search. I was impressed. Unfortunately they didn't have anything we liked.

We ended up ordering a headboard and footboard tonight online, from (check it out--they're having a sale that ends tomorrow, with free shipping that turns out to be $10). I've never bought anything from them before, so we'll see how that goes. The furniture is iron, and the website gives the manufacturer its highest ratings for quality of construction and packaging. Actually, Carl's had the very same furniture we now have and we could have bought the king-size head and foot boards there, but we decided we wanted to do something a little different. Now we just have to buy the mattress set. We've agreed that I'll go out and get that this weekend. Then we'll donate the old bed to the Salvation Army.

We'll have to do a little rearranging in the bedroom, but that'll be fun, too.

More on Our Mainstream Journalists

Most of them seem to be intellectually unprepared to criticize the government, which is their Constitutionally-mandated role. Only now that Bush is unpopular do some of them now speak their minds. What a bunch of cowards! They don't deserve their jobs.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Frank Rich

I read his column in today's NYT. Since I learned he bashed Gore in 2000, I no longer trust his judgment. He may have some interesting things to say these days, but, now as he rails against the Bush Administration, he's still inescapably a player in the whole mess of getting George Bush elected in the first place.

It's too late for Frank Rich to redeem himself, and I'd like to think there's some special circle in Hell in which our irresponsible so-called journalists, who've been so derelict in their Constitutional duty when it comes to giving the people the truth, will receive their eternal and well-deserved torment.

Saturday Night

Tonight we get back the hour they stole from my sleep regimen last spring. I hate Daylight Savings Time.

I recorded the death throes of "Search for the Next Elvira," which we ended up watching after "There's Something About Miriam" (she's transgendered, with a boob job--on hormones but still has her male stuff. I hope she doesn't get a hard-on while trying to lure the unsuspecting [?] macho males onto a date). (This is a British show--pretty up-front about sexuality. We need more of that here.)

Back to Elvira, I think April deserved it (though we didn't vote in the finals). Did you know that Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) was born in 1949 in Manhattan, Kansas? Check out her bio on Wikipedia. I figured she had to be a bit up there in years, since I watched her horror movie show way back when, and she was fully developed then. By the way, she is a fan of Stephanie Miller and got Stephanie an appointment with her doctor to help out with Stephanie's sleeping problems, which seem to be abating (on their own, thank God).

Tonight was kind of tricky writing in the Nielsen Ratings journal vis-a-vis the time change. We had to record in a separate section the extra hour of TV viewing, which consisted of both real-time viewing and recorded viewing (another tricky aspect). I'll be glad when the week is over and we mail back our journals.

Well, the Sunday New York Times headlines just came through on email. I'll check them out now.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Rudy's bogus healthcare stats"

Read the story by Joe Conason here. Paul Krugman also wrote about it on Friday:

“My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and thank God I was cured of it — in the United States? Eighty-two percent,” says Rudy Giuliani in a new radio ad attacking Democratic plans for universal health care. “My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent, under socialized medicine.” . . .

You see, the actual survival rate in Britain is 74.4 percent. That still looks a bit lower than the U.S. rate, but the difference turns out to be mainly a statistical illusion. The details are technical, but the bottom line is that a man’s chance of dying from prostate cancer is about the same in Britain as it is in America.

So Mr. Giuliani’s supposed killer statistic about the defects of “socialized medicine” is entirely false. In fact, there’s very little evidence that Americans get better health care than the British, which is amazing given the fact that Britain spends only 41 percent as much on health care per person as we do. . . .

P.S. Love the mink!

We're a Nielsen Family This Week

We were chosen to record our television-watching habits this week for the Nielson Ratings people. B. is doing a better job than I--I'm muffing up the booklets with mistakes. I need some white-out.

This is kind of tedious (for me) and I'm glad it lasts only a week. They sent us $10 in cash to do this. I would charge more. :-)

Well, TGIF. Have a long weekend since I'm taking Monday off also.

So the latest political controversy is the Mukasey nomination. Here's my considered opinion on that.

Watched Lisa Williams tonight. Pretty impressive.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Only In Miami

Yes, I know "Colon" means "Columbus" in Spanish.