Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Morons and Risk Taking

Risk taking may be a self-explanatory concept but that doesn’t mean that everyone understands it. I would submit that the people who don’t comprehend it represent a huge chunk of the populace.

Furthermore, I posit that,

Ye who does not understand risk taking is doomed to lifetime of ignorance and underperformace.

My schtick of course is economic illiteracy. While I have been studying this I have noticed several common threads among the econo-illiterate. Sure they don’t understand supply, demand, taxation, and the like, but at root I believe that they have no experience with or comprehension of risk taking.

When they take a job with a 35 mile commute and buy a 14 mpg car, they don’t realize what $4 gasoline would do to that decision.

Solution – complain about evil oil companies.

When they buy a dozen oranges, get home, and find the taste not to their liking…..

Econo-Illiterate Solution – they return the fruit, no matter how much a hassle.

Even Seinfeld understood the risks of this:

Seinfeld I don’t return fruit. Fruit is a gamble. I know that going in.

When they buy a computer, they expect it to run flawlessly and forever no less. The Dell whiners are all over the internet. Their complaining illustrates three things:

1) Ignorance of how computers work. The hardware is manufactured by several different companies and has to interact with cutting edge (i.e. buggy) software. Problems should be expected, not startling.

2) Ignorance of how cheap computers are. PCs are probably ten times better than they were 5 years ago AND the price has gone from an average of $1,700 to around $1,000. But econo-illiterate consumers take the cheap price for granted and demand infallibility.

3) Ignorance of transactional realities and personal responsibilities. Like with fruit, buying anything is a gamble with the inherent possibility of loss/mistake. These Morons think that once they pay for a PC that they are suddenly entitled to a perfect level of performance and service. I doubt they get impeccable service at McDonalds but yet still go there. People just don’t want to accept any responsibility for their own purchase decisions. Maybe you shouldn’t have bought the cheapest machine they offered? Maybe you should have paid for the premium level of service? (I always do for computers.) Maybe you shouldn’t click on pop-up ads that are really spyware/virus traps? You screwed up your PC and then you tired to blame Dell.

Dell is of course, a big easy target but Morons love to categorically bash corporations.

The next time you hear someone inveigh against McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Dell Computer, Coco-Cola, Nike, Exxon, etc., ask them to explain to you exactly what a corporation is, how it functions, about its genesis as a business structure, and most importantly what is the historical record of corporations on raising standards of living worldwide.

I can almost guarantee you that they won't be able to answer your question with any factual coherence.

Corporations allow people to pool capital, limit liability, and take the economic risks needed to drive technological progress.

Without corporations there would be no iPods, no Starbucks lattes, food would be much more expensive (more people starving), medical care would be primitive by today's standards, and worldwide standards of living would be substantially lower.

When Morons can't understand the minor risks involved in buying fruit or a computer, they certainly can't be expected to understand the risks of something much more complicated like the War in Iraq.

First of all, anyone who thinks nothing should be endeavored without 100% chance of success is an Automatic Moron. There are certainly plenty of anti-war people of this mindset. And don't give me this crap about American lives at risk. Peoples lives were at risk on 9/11 before we were even in Iraq and will still be when we leave.

American Deaths over the Last Three Years Put in Perspective:

Auto Accidents - 120,000
Falling Down - 45,000
Poisoning - 27,000
Drowning - 12,000
War in Iraq - 2,300

The key thing about understanding risk is the cost/benefit analysis. To me, the Iraqi War is a risky venture - one where I think the possible benefits clearly outweigh the costs. I do not have a problem with people who disagree with my assessment. I have been wrong plenty of times in my life. But I do have a problem with specious dissent or arguments that don't recognize the risk-taking essence of the war.

Even if the war fails in its objectives, that doesn't necessarily mean it was wrong to attack in the first place.

Say half of the Pittsbugh Steelers team caught the flu and couldn't play in the Super Bowl and the Seattle Seahawks were still an underdog. You bet big on Seattle but the Steelers win and cover anyway. That does not mean you placed a poor bet. Adults play the odds and let the chips fall where they may. Children whine and complain after the fact.

What is that proverb? Something like your life is the sum of all the decisions you made thus far?

Back to these Risk Averse Morons.

It is one thing to understand some risks in life and then consciously opt to avoid them. For example, my stock and option trading is much much more subdued than it used to be. When I was single and in my early 20s I would risk massive amounts of money on single trades. If I lost, I had no problem going on a 6 month drinking bender while I dug out of the hole. Now with a family, I avoid such fence-swinging mostly to spare my family the emotional rollercoaster ride.

But the Risk Averse Morons don't understand and certainly don't appreciate risk-taking. Furthermore, they generally despise those that gamble - be they capitalists or politicians (think "cowboy").

You'll also notice that they tend to migrate to the secure taxpayer-subsidized jobs, insulating themselves from accountability, and cementing their own econo-illiteracy.

All the while they ignorantly enjoy the fruits of other risk takers.

As Colonel Jessup said...

Full transcript here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Real Estate Obesity

At the risk of sounding like a wacademic or Roe v. Wade Justice Blackmun, I would like to, for the sake of argument, posit my theory that,

The real estate market can be divided into 3 classes.

1) Homes under $500,000
2) Homes between $500,000 and $1,000,000.
3) Homes over $1,000,000.

People just aren’t buying $1,500,000 homes with adjustable or interest-only mortgages ergo that end of the market is not as directly sensitive to the low interest rates of the past few years. Most of the time, these multi-million dollar houses are being bought with appreciated real estate from tier 2).

Likewise, tier 2) homes are being mostly bought with appreciated tier 1) homes. I know several people that bought a house for 200k 5-6 years ago, have sold it for 500k, and rolled the proceeds into a 700-800k home – all the while keeping their mortgage about the same.

And of course the starter homes in tier 1) are bought with little money down and consequently need very large mortgages.

It follows that the starter homes are more sensitive to interest rates than homes over $500,000.

My contention is that low mortgage rates (and lower lending standards) are the main driver of tier 1) homes AND they account for all of the appreciation in the mid-tier and higher tier homes – as homeowners trade up.

This may or may not sound like a radical notion, but if it is true, then low end homes are the linchpin of the real estate market and demand special scrutiny.

I also contend that the starter homes (and condos/apartments) are the most inflated and therefore most likely to get hammered down to reality. Shortly thereafter, the more expensive homes will fall in domino-like fashion.

As I have mentioned many times, everyone has a self-serving canard about how there specific home is insulated from the rest of the market: Boomers moving south, "we live in an up and coming town", the college concentration in Boston, immigrant demand for homes, etc. I obviously completely disagree and think the falling tide will hit all boats. Just as the different price tiers of homes are interconnected, the same applies across regions.

Devil’s Advocate: What is your proof that the low end homes are most overpriced?

Thanks for asking DA.

1) They are being bought with the most leverage, i.e. negligible downpayments and risky adjustable mortgages.
2) It is very hard to trade down in this market. By that I mean selling your house and moving to a smaller home or condo. I know several empty nesters that have $1,000,000 homes and would like to downgrade but haven’t because the condos they look at are 500k, much smaller, and seemingly not worth the price.
3) Rental prices are so far out of line with sales prices that interest rate arbitrage will set in. I have already detailed the miniscule return (3.7%) my landlord is getting on our building and this is the case nationwide.

Why buy a rental property yielding less than money market funds?

The real estate perma bulls think that rents will shoot up to justify apartment building prices.

Keep dreaming.

You have to love how spastic around-the-clock Big Media is. Yesterday they were touting a bouncing real estate market with this headline.

Existing Home Sales Soar.

And then today the wind got knocked out of them.

New Homes Sales Fall 10.5%, Most Since 1997.

The real estate market really hasn’t gone down yet, but when it does, any “bounce” will be a selling opportunity.

The housing market likely peaked last May/June when my landlord made the jump to tier 3), paying $1,000,000 for my current home.

How did he pay for it?

By selling another rental property of course, using the so-called 1031 Exchange. In fact, he really had to scramble to find my building because things were that nuts last year and one only has 45 days to find another piece of property.

He sold his other building in Brighton in less than one hour – over the internet and sight unseen.

Real estate people just don’t want to take any money off the table. They are addicted to the casino and keep parlaying every winning bet.

This current softness in real estate is nothing. Mortgage rates haven’t even risen yet. Remember, they can rise regardless of where the Federal Reserve sets short term rates.

Here's a bit of scary recent history for the short memory crowd.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Class Warfare Misdirection & Rooting for the Commi's

I talk a lot about class warfare on this blog and would like to expound on that subject.

I have a family member who’s a doctor with a healthy six figure plus salary. He does not consider himself “rich”. Yet he travels worldwide, eats out whenever he feels like it, and pretty much does what ever he feels like doing.

Of course everything is relative and this could quickly devolve into a semantic discussion of exactly how much money does one need to be considered “rich”. Well, in a dialogue on this subject I informed my cousin that he was in fact “rich”.

No, no he self-assuredly told me, you need to be making $200,000 per year to be considered rich.

Where did the 200k number come from? Well, of course he read it in the Boston Globe.

Socialists studied the income charts and came up with that round number as the “rich” threshold. If you remember, a recent Presidential candidate said that he was opposed to income tax cuts for those making over 200k.

So that cutoff has apparently become an arbitrary talking point. One has to admit, we live in a great country if six-figure earning doctors aren’t considered rich and the poor and homeless are obese.

Why do people who are well off feel otherwise?

Part of it this pervasive sense of entitlement (blame the Baby Boomers and Big Government). How often have you heard anyone say,

“You know what, I am overpaid….I am lucky to have this job...”?

Never, right? Me neither.

Probably nine out of ten people earnestly feel the complete opposite...that they are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. Of course if they truly were “underpaid”, they’d likely have left for a job that met their “deserved” income demands. Anyone who spurns better available jobs to stay put in their “underpaid” one is an Automatic Moron who likely deserves underpayment.

Besides the fashionable entitlement mentality, class envy also drives many people to underestimate their true economic standing. If my cousin really thought he was rich, he would have a hard time blaming the rich for his gripes, both personal and global. A not so insignificant number of people really do need scapegoats, bogeymen, and punching bags to vet their frustrations on. I firmly believe that Red Sox are a therapeutic punching bag for millions of bitter New Englanders.

Devil’s Advocate: Isn’t this inability to see himself as rich just pure ignorance?

Yes, it is. But the class envy angle is important in that it’s the weak-minded substitute for knowledge. Class warfare is nothing more than LCD Propaganda (lowest common denominator) artfully constructed to stoke the flames of jealousy, inadequacy, and ignorance. My cousin was simply regurgitating propaganda with his 200k cutoff number. I told him such but there is nary a chance that he even processed what I said.

Sometimes the rigidity of the nuanced crowd can be mind boggling. They seemingly paint every issue under the sun a deep grey, yet when it comes to economics,

1) $5.15 per hour is an inhumane wage,
2) The entire workforce can be dichotomized into the proletariat and capitalist pigs,
3) A $200,000 salary arbitrarily makes someone rich.

Essentially, class warfare provides the foundation of socialism and an opiate for complainers, but it also serves as an instrument of misdirection.

You’d think with all the taxpayers’ money the government wastes, Big Media would occasionally do some stories on it. But they never do. Remember, the stories they don’t report are in fact more telling than what they print. They hide the inefficiency of the government like it's the secret recipe of Coca-Cola.

If they ever shed some sunlight on government profligacy, people might get pissed about taxation levels. Instead, they intentionally ignore the subject, so they can get their readers focused instead on who is actually paying more (which they lie about as well). But they have made the calculation that it’s easier to conduct class warfare this way. Many socialists know that lower tax rates have always increased tax revenue AND increased the proportion paid by the "rich", but this reality retards class warfare arguments. Like I said, it's pure calculated misdirection to gain 51% of the vote.

Big Media types incessantly claim that they have to stand up to powerful interests and that justifies their Perma-Negative bias. But why won’t they check Big Government spending?

(They don't exactly stand up to "powerful interests" like dictators or terrorist either now, do they?)

If I ran a news organization, I would have articles on government waste almost every single day.

Consequently, most people just accept government waste as a fact of life and that is just what the socialists want. In fact, a Big Government apologist recently told me that 50% efficiency is what government programs should strive for. I am not even going to guess what “50% efficiency” is supposed to mean, but I do remember that 50% is a failing grade, even at government schools.

The people that confiscate your money through taxation don’t want any accountability and Big Media aids and abets by whitewashing the waste.

Speaking of socialists. Here in the land of Enviro-Commi Groupthink, also known as Boston, Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy recently penned this gem about the World Baseball Championship game,

You can have the rest of the world. I'm going with the communists.

I'm rooting for the guys who put team above self. I'm rooting for the guys who make $20 a month to play baseball and cling to a free sweat suit like it's gold, guys who play the game the way it's supposed to be played.

I'm rooting for Fidel Castro's team tonight in the World Baseball Classic championship game featuring Cuba vs. Japan.

Except for Ichiro Suzuki of Japan, all of the major league millionaires have gone back to their teams in Florida and Arizona.

That is right, he is rooting for the Commi’s!!!!!!!!!!

Wow, I am shocked. A Boston Globe writer finally admitted his belief system. Of course he does it under a veneer of sarcasm. But make no mistake about it, old men in New England blame money for the supposed decay in sports. As Commi-Shaughnessy points out, all of the depraved “millionaires” have lost and gone home.

Is there ever a context where one can morally say “I am rooting for the communists”?

What if al Qaeda had a good baseball team that hit-and-ran and hustled to first base, would he then root for the terrorists? How about the Nazi’s?

What is it something like 50 million people have been murdered or starved to death under communism?

Does Dan really want the Cubans to win and provide a talking point for communists worldwide?

The sad thing is, this article will resonate with a huge chunk of New England. First of all, despite being the most “educated” state in the nation, people up here don’t know the history of communism. Second, as I stated earlier, sports is a therapeutic punching bag up here that often cloaks ignorance as sports fanaticism.

My grandparents inveigh against how much the Red Sox players make almost on a daily basis, yet they haven't missed so much as a pitch in the last forty years. It is sheer econo-illiteracy to complain about how much the players earn while not understanding how you contribute to their wealth.

Economic illiteracy really explains so much stupidity there should be a whole field of psychology devoted to it.

It is amazing how the old, "rich" people of Boston cling to bankrupt ideas by sheer dint of inertia and newspaper propaganda.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Desultory Profundity

Nice sign.

"Bush don't..."?

But what about illiterate whites who struggle with subject/verb agreement?

Obviously I haven’t been posting much these days. Quite frankly I have just been too busy with the stock market and with family stuff. But my indefatigable brain is still chugging, reading some good books, and plotting global Marginalization strategies.

Google is presently 135 points off its high and I bought some more. It just ran up too much over the winter and the bandwagon got crowded. Seemingly every other day there has been a negative Google story circling around Big Media outlets. None of this changes the fact that probably only 1 in 20 people use Google regularly right now. I reiterate my belief that the growth ahead is still almost unfathomable. People still don’t have good broadband connections (DSL blows, as does much of cable broadband). Morons still buy cheap computers and bury them in a non-central locations of the house (and leave them off to save electricity). Also, Blackberries and other mobile surfing devices are still not widely used. Again, it is still very early in the game for Google. BUY. BUY. BUY.

Those loud creeks you hear at night are the sounds of an impending real estate collapse. I have put a lot thought and research into this subject and I find myself more and more bearish. I now firmly believe that there will be a Category 5 housing crash. I will give more insight into this on a later post. I just wanted to get my Category 5 prediction on the record.

Another thing, there are very few ways to make money off my prediction. One can’t short housing stocks like Toll Brothers, Pulte, and Lennar because

1) they are very cheap
2) are leveraged to more than just rising home prices.

Let me explain 2). The big builders like Toll have been stealing market share from the smaller builders for years. Just think of them as homebuilding Wal-Marts who have the economies of scale to outflank the so-called “mom and pop” builders.

One probably can’t short Home Depot or Lowes either and hope to profit from a housing bust. Lowes has climbed nicely during the past years, but remember that Home Depot has not gone up at all during the last 7 years. That’s right, this housing bubble didn’t move HD’s stock one iota. So there’s certainly no guarantee of any one-to-one correlation on the way down.

If you are a homeowner (or more aptly a home mortgager) right now, there is also very little that you could do to hedge or profit from real estate’s impending decline. Pretty much all you can do is delay purchasing “extra” real estate, like a Floridian condo or a beach house.

On of the Chicago exchanges is coming out with a real estate future designed to provide this erstwhile elusive hedging vehicle. We’ll see what it looks like in a couple of months.

The only really good hedge I can think of is shorting the stock market. But again, this could be a completely stupid bet to place. Just think of the guy in 2003 who thought oil would skyrocket and it would cripple our economy? He was half-right and half totally wrong.

The LESSON is, don’t out-think yourself


I couldn’t count how many times (or how many dollars lost) I have seen gold go one way and the stocks of gold mining companies go the other. The same goes for crude oil and oil companies and numerous other theoretically linked pairs.

The same goes for real estate. Even assuming my Category Five real estate implosion, the billion dollar question remains:

How will a fall in real estate affect the overall economy and financial markets?

We may soon find out.

At the risk of provoking Mother Nature, I hereby declare winter over. (Knock on wood.)

What I really mean is that the winter heating season is effectively over.

My heating bills for the last three months were all around $120.

I bring this up because remember CNBC and the rest of the Perma-Negative media went bananas all fall about the impending cost of heat this winter.

I chided Blockhead Steve Liesman over this,

Just yesterday, while inveighing broadly against energy companies, perma-Commi Steve Liesman said people are freezing to death over heating costs. Liesman must be counting fictional people - I guess.

Hey Stevie, why don't you wait for the actual winter before you unleash your agitprop?

Nobody froze to death this year or any other for that matter. “Freezing to death” is just a ruse to bash dreaded Big Oil and solicit the affection of the “little guy”.

Devil’s Advocate: But C-Nut, people would have froze if it weren’t for a global warming induced mild winter…

Yeah, DA, oil companies are responsible for the global warming which is heating the earth and lowering the demand for heating oil and natural gas. It is one giant conspiracy to kill their own business.

One hallmark of conspiracy theories is that they have to keep changing to reconcile new evidence. At first it was,


And then it morphed to.


But my favorite ridiculous oil canard is,


Yeah, Exxon has 16 MIT geeks locked up in a basement somewhere...

Devil’s Advocate: But didn’t you also predict 50% higher home heating bills this winter.

Yes I did. More accurately I extrapolated it from the $15 price of natural gas in the fall which has cratered to $7 today. I certainly didn’t predict anyone freezing to death. And I mentioned it in the context of real estate prices – how a sharp rise in the costs of homeownership (be it heat, taxes, hurricane insurance, etc.) could imperil the housing market.

But I also took precautions. I sealed up all of the windows in my house very thoroughly. I bought those bean bags to place beneath all of my doors. I closed the shades at night and had them all open when the sun was out.

Devil’s Advocate: That stuff doesn’t matter that much...

Bullsh*t it doesn’t. My neighbor above me who has the identical living space has been paying $400 a month to heat her house this winter. And she,

1) keeps the thermostat at 62 degrees while mine is at 67.
2) didn’t seal her windows at all (they are forty years old – the same as mine)
3) doesn’t open her shades when sunny (we have a tremendous southern exposure).

So DA, it does matter you dope. You can’t get a much better control than that. Furthermore, according to my gas company, the bills from my unit were over twice as high last year.

I also have a friend who lives in a similar sized unit, about 1500 square feet, who keeps her thermostat on 55 degrees and also paid about $400 a month this year. It’s one thing to stay warm and get nailed with a high heating bill but she freezes as well – pouring salt on the wound.

Why does she freeze?

Old inefficient radiators, old windows, no sunlight at all, etc.

And this leads me to another of my lucid assertions,


1) First of all they should live in the south where no heating oil is needed. There is plenty of space down there and culture to boot!!!
2) Hidebound anti-development laws up north consign residents to drafty old homes with outdated insulation and heating systems. All of this is self-imposed. New homes are simply so much more energy efficient.

Running central air conditioning at my relatively new condo in Charlotte, 24 hours a day, in a place twice as big, and much hotter, was cheaper than occasionally running a window unit in my century-old Brooklyn apartment.

New Englanders simply consume more than their fair share of fossil fuels. Since the Global Warming Gestapo wants to tax SUVs, shouldn’t they also indict New Englanders who disproportionately heat the earth?

This kind of reminds me of a conversation I once had with an urban planner.

A tenet of so-called urban studies is that cities are good and suburbs with their resultant sprawl, highways, cars, and gated communities, are evil. One of the justifying canards is that cities are ostensibly more efficient. People living vertically save land, can walk places, and the population density allows for more efficient allocation of resources: food, energy, services, government, etc.

There is a serious problem with this theory.


The urban planner TRIED to disagree with me, so I went down the list.

Taxes, food, and energy are all more expensive in cities like Boston, New York, Washington, than they are down South.

Apparently he thought about it for a second, realizing that food and taxes are certainly more expensive in the cities but still tried to attack what he thought was my weakest argument – energy.

He said,

“there is no way it is cheaper to get utilities, like electricity, to fewer people who are further spread out as there are down South.”

Now this is a case in point of what happens when people substitute theory for hard evidence.

First of all, look at the utility bills. Look at the rates for New England.

How did I know more about this subject than the alleged expert?

Well, for one thing I have lived in several states. Also, I don’t just regurgitate the pabulum of communist professors. Lastly, I happened to know a bit about power generation. Most electricity is generated in the South and the Midwest and it rises steeply in price as it flows up to the Northeast, because it obviously costs more money to transmit it there.

So why do we have Urban Planning departments at all of these schools when one of its central tenets is a complete sham?

And shouldn’t there at least be Suburban Planning fields of study too?

Amazingly, during my recent trip to Florida, I almost spent as much money on cabs as I did on airfare.

I live only 11 miles from Boston's Logan Airport. A cab ride there is $50, and that is if you are lucky enough to have no traffic issues.

I was very close to paying a friend $30 to drive me. It was the same thing down in Fort Lauderdale, though not quite as expensive on a per mile basis. But they make up for it by charging "per person" on the airport limos. Four cab rides ended up costing me $223, while my flight was only $250.

Here is the thing with Boston, the people here may be very stupid, but they are also cheap. Nobody takes cabs to the airport - they have friends or family take them. Bostonians are stupid for innumerable reasons, but in this case they are dumb because they merely accept the high taxi price reality and adapt to it. You can't find anyone that is trying to politically address the issue. In fact, the politicians have created problem.

Let me tell you something about CaptiousNut. When he meets a plumber, he asks him about plumbing. When he meets a teacher, he asks them about classroom antics and whatnot. And when in a cab, he invariably will pick the cabby's brain about all sorts of stuff. Of course the topics and intensity of these discussions are directly proportional to how "overserved" C-Nut is that night.

Anyway, a Fort Lauderdale cabbie responded to an innocent info request and told me that he averages 8 airport trips a day. His car held four people and was filled up on each trip for $96. So the guy is making close to $800 a day, even if he only took home half of that, say $400, multiplying by 250 work days lands him $100,000 per year.

Remember the guy drives a cab. He didn't spend 100k on college or 250k on medical school. That is a lot of damn money for an unskilled laborer. In other words, there surely are plenty of people that would drive a cab for considerably less, providing quite a cost savings for travelers.

Why do cabs cost so much?

Government intervention. End of story.

They limit the number of taxi medallions and set the meter rates. And in Boston they even inject other costs such as the $4.50 toll only for cabs leaving the airport (other cars pay $1.50).

For a city that acts obsessed with reducing road traffic (when it suits them, i.e. shooting down every attempt at new construction with "we have to do a traffic study.."), Boston's taxi management confounds the mind. They have made it so expensive to take a cab, that instead of one cab driving 15 people to the airport a day, they have 15 cars on the road making that family/friend airport dropoff.

Don't forget the Bostonians think they are the smartest people in the country too.

If you don't believe me that cabs are a racket, try to digest this. Boston taxi medallions are currently $320,000. In the last five years they have more than doubled. If cab drivers were just "scraping by", medallions would not be appreciating like this, especially in light of gasoline doubling in price and higher insurance rates.

And remember from a prior post that the Boston Globe thinks "fare relief" is when the cabbies get rate increases approved.

If you are not watching American Idol you are really doing yourself a disservice. It is not a fad like Survivor where the ratings nosedive each year. Idol is more popular than ever. It is entertaining, dramatic, and hilarious. Typically, Morons who don't watch the show respond to my advocacy with,

"I don't watch reality tv..."

They don't even realize how dumb that sounds and I have to prod them with, "What do you only watch fantasy television"?

They remind me of all of these people that pooh-pooh golf as "not a sport" or "seems like a stupid waste of time" for their entire lives. But then they retire, fall in love with the game, and lament over and over again how they should have played when they were younger. Well maybe if they weren't such close-minded meatheads...

When I hear of something that is gaining popularity I make a concerted effort to check it out. What is that old perverted axiom? Something like don't knock it until you have tried it. I can't stand these Morons who bash stuff of which they are completely ignorant.

In the end, they are only depriving themselves and corroborating my definition of a Moron as one who repeatedly acts against their own self-interest.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Delray Beach Restaurant Incident

My wife and I just got back from a four day retreat in Delray Beach, Florida.

The first day there we strolled Atlantic Avenue and perused the menus of most of the restaurants. We narrowed it down to two Italian places and chose Bice over its cross-street rival Tramonti, simply because its entree descriptions sounded better.

So later that night we returned for dinner and Bice was dead but Tramonti was slammed. Clearly we picked the wrong one. Anyway, the food at Bice turned out great and well-worth the steep prices.

The next day, a local yokel confirmed for us that Tramonti was very popular, so we ended up making a Saturday reservation.

So here is what happened when we finally made it there.

We had barely sat down on an extremely crowded night, when one of the cooks came flying out of the kitchen.

He went running up to a woman seated right in front of us. He was screaming in a grandfatherly, yet Soprano-esque Italian accent,


Then he ran back to the kitchen.

Now the entire restaurant was taken aback, with everyone wondering what had just happened.

So I asked the woman, who didn't react to the nutjob at all, and all she did was point to her head and repeatedly say that "The man is sick in the head..."

Now she was, to me, a typical Floridian woman, well dressed, extremely, if not overly tanned and at least 65 years old. Amazingly her husband did nothing as well. He just summoned the waiter and paid the bill as fast as he could and left.

Regardless of what happened, at a minimum I would never have paid the bill - especially considering that I have refused to pay bills for much less than that - but at a maximum I would have inflicted some serious bodily harm on any guy that cursed like that in my wife's face.

So what did happen?

I finally got the story from their waiter, who happened to be ours as well. Apparently the woman complained that,

"...only half of the mussel shells had mussels in them..."

The waiter claimed that they had fallen into the broth and thus she was in no way shortchanged. Furthermore, the waiter even admitted that he had provoked the chef by passing on some incendiary comments from the woman.

The whole incident came off as good theatre to most of the other customers. Like I said above, this place was hopping and really a scene. It reminded me of South Philly with its noticeable preponderance of Italian-Americans, unbuttoned shirts, gold chains, and whatnot.

Obviously the place does so well that good customer service is less consistent than the food. In that vein I am reminded of the Soup Nazi, Pat's Steaks, Katz Delicatessen, etc.

Tramonti's is actually owned by the same people that own Angelo's in Little Italy.

It's pretty bad to have chefs running out and cursing at customers on busy Saturday nights, but I think the waiter provoking it ("...because seeing it was worth losing a $10 tip.") and giggling afterwards was equally indefensible.

How did the waiter know that he was throwing gasoline on a fire? Well he boastfully told me another story from the week before.

Some woman ordered a salad but requested "No nuts". The salad arrived with nuts anyway and she started complaining, "I am allergic....I could die...."

Well, word got back to the kitchen and that same chef came running out screaming to the woman,


You'd think the owner of this place would frown upon this crap.

Think again. The chef is the owner (or the son of the original owner).

The food wasn't even that good. Why go to Tramonti when there is superior food AND SERVICE at Bice across the street?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Deranged Morons and Their Food

How nuts are people with their food?

They are just as deranged with their food as they are with their dogs.

Here's my anecdotal rundown.

My wife and I eat two separate meals, hers is of the uber healthy variety, crap like steamed vegetables and cous cous or bulgar. In contradistinction to her, I opt for anything and everything more flavorful than that (since I am normal). But this is a horrible ordeal – twice the pots and pans, twice the food prep, twice the cleanup, etc.

Now with our infant son, we now eat three different meals at each sitting.

But growing up, I realize now how deprived I was. There were no separate meals, we ate the same stuff all of the time: horrible concoctions of pot roast, beef stew, and chicken complemented by canned vegetables like lima beans and creamed corn. Does anyone actually still buy that canned crap?

My grandparents lived next door and would often cook for us. Their version of bland food was a notch above my parents', but let’s just say that my lovely grandmother is English. Brits can’t cook, and if you don’t believe me, go out and count the number of English restaurants in your neighborhood (or any other for that matter).

My grandfather eats meat and potatoes, EVERY SINGLE DAY. No pasta, Mexican, Indian food, and definitely no Chinese food.

On a side note, while down in Charlotte we noticed most people calling Chinese food, “oriental food”, which we found humorous. Not so funny however, was recently getting Chinese takeout here in Chestnut Hill, Mass and getting home and realizing that they didn’t give us any rice. It was no oversight; apparently here you have to order rice on the side. So I had to drive back and pay $4+ for two small orders of rice.

As a kid, I had no idea what a “filet mignon” was. No one in my family did. My cousin once said that she didn’t want to try filet mignon because she didn’t like seafood. McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish, was the only filet in her (and my) lexicon.

In fact I probably didn’t have a filet mignon until I was in my early twenties, probably at Bookbinder's in Philadelphia.

My son however, before he was even a year old, was eating porterhouse steaks, and this leads me to my food-obsessed mother-in-law.

First of all, the entire grandmother generation is pathological about food, but I will stack my mother-in-law against most others. Now aside from sending us a dozen porterhouses for my son’s first solid food meals, it is not just the grandkids, her kids, and son-in-laws that she feeds, but almost everyone.

She cooks for her neighbors. She cooks for her contractors (and their kids) and I also suspect she feeds her local garbage collectors. She has sneaked pancetta and prosciutto through customs on her way back from Italy (spraying the sniffing dogs with perfume to mask her smuggling). She has toted chicken soup as a carry-on halfway across the country to bring to her sick daughter. I maintain that she would feed Bin Laden if she showed up at her house hungry.

Every meal at her house is a grand procession that will surely include discussion about what was eaten last night, for breakfast, and of course what will be eaten for the next meal. I know she is by no means unique. Once she had a few friends over and they all took turns on-upping each other on personal crazed food stories. I have to switch to someone else even though I could fill up an entire post on my wonderful mother-in-law.

What about these people that can’t cook?

Once we were at a friend’s fancy pad on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, my wife opened the oven and found the broiler still latched to the oven rack. Our friend had been there a full year without once using the brand new oven. She simply does not cook. Her poor husband...poor kids...

This same domestic diva recently moved to the burbs and spent 200k on a new kitchen. I recently told her that I was expecting a five course meal from her state-of-the-art kitchen on my next visit. She unabashedly told me,

“...you are getting Easy Mac like everyone else.”

Devil's Advocate: Is she a... ?

No DA, she is not a JAP, you bigot.

A neighbor of ours in Brooklyn moved out after living there for two years. In her empty apartment, I noticed the pilot light on her stove was out. It apparently never bothered her because in two years, SHE NEVER ONCE USED THE STOVE.

I had a friend/roommate in college who took a hankering to cooking hot dogs in the toaster oven. The problem was, he ate them almost every single day for years. I saw him down in Florida recently and he proudly told me that a decade hence, he still eats hot dogs all of the time.

This genius friend of mine has a PhD and he personally explains much of my bias against degreed people. He is another guy that I could fill up a blog on but will resist the urge and offer just this one example. When applying to grad schools, my buddy actually filled out an application for a program at Bryn Mawr. For those of you that don’t know, Bryn Mawr is an all girls school. Months later, he wondered aloud why he never heard from them. Of course CaptiousNut had to fill in the large blank for him.

(Coincidentally, I had a high school friend (male) who also applied to Bryn Mawr.)

I have previously asserted that the purest definition of a Moron is one who continually acts against their own self-interest.

If someone doesn’t think they have a vested interest in what they put in their mouth, I flat out don’t know what to do with them. I mean learn to cook already – it is not rocket science and they’ll be sure to reap the benefits.

I have already gone after the organic food nuts to an extent. Yeah, food is the cheapest it has ever been (6% of income) and people have plenty of room to pay up for “certified organic” crap BUT that doesn’t mean it isn’t a stupid waste of money. A family of four could end up spending $700-$1,000 per year more just on organic milk. Then you have organic fruit, meat, laundry detergent ($16 for a small bottle), etc.

My wife just had a pair of pants dry cleaned at one of these "environmentally safe" cleaners. One pair of pants cost $7 to get cleaned. Where is the uproar over price gouging like this?

Every time I see a shopping carriage loaded up with organic food, I just want to tattoo IDIOT on someone’s forehead.

Some quasi-friend was shocked to find out that I don’t give my son organic milk. Humoring the retard I asked why and got the standard, “human growth hormones in cows” response. Unimpressed with that talking point (because that is what it is), I asked what is wrong with that.

I got no further elaboration unless you count a nasty face scowling at apparently my ignorance.

I hollered back,

My kid is in the lowest 10% height bracket, he needs the human growth hormone!!!

Organics is another example of untrammeled groupthink. Do your own little bit of research and you will see the organic crowd not only shops in concert, they all read newspapers, aren’t religious, and probably have “global warming” nightmares. They likely watch a lot of CNN too.

Are organics healthier and therefore worth the premium?

Well first, one must ignore the organic industry’s marketing crap.

Life expectancies have been constantly rising. I have three 90 year old grandparents who ate bacon and eggs every other day of their lives. They have likely never eaten anything organic and if they did I am sure they drowned it in butter. The notion that food today is categorically unhealthier than 20, 40, or 60 years ago simply defies logic.

Right now, thousands of my organic consuming blog readers are shaking their head, saying that it is better to be “safe than sorry” or “Why take the risk of eating human growth hormone enhanced food?”.

Go ahead waste your money on that crap, but believe me, you are being sold a bill of goods that’s exploiting your own irrational fears and ignorance. You are wasting money on a theory that defies empiricism.

Another canard is the notion that organics are grown and harvested in ways friendlier to the “environment”.

To address this talking point I will first take a step back.

At the core of environmentalism is at the misbegotten belief that farmers, foresters, et al are indifferent to the contamination and ruination of their own land. But think about that for a second.

Lumber companies do not chop beautiful forests down to barren wasteland and then flee the scene. On the contrary, they reforest the land and scrupulously guard its viability. How can you be assured of this?

Because it is their land, their asset. 99% of asset owners generally choose not to devastate their property. But this empirical reality is completely ignored by evangelical environmentalism. Instead they choose to assume that man generally plunders his own land, in stark opposition to all logic.

Devil’s Advocate: What about the farmers that contaminate the waterways and other land adjacent to their property?

They get sued by other landowners so they don't often do it. You idiot.

Enough on the enviro-Idiots – they are just ignorant of history. Private property is the best friend of Mother Earth. The worst pollution is in places like the Soviet Union and China, where the enlightened and noble government owns the forests, waterways, and land.

Back to food whackos.

I have a nephew who has convinced his mother that he is allergic to an extensive litany of foodstuffs that he simply doesn’t like, e.g. many green vegetables. The list is so long that before sending him to camp one summer, his mother mailed in a list of foods that he was allegedly allergic too. The camp responded with,

“I am sorry, we can’t accommodate your son here.”

Now this was in stark contrast to how I was raised. Remember, I had to eat those canned lima beans and whatnot. Once we had squash and I wouldn’t eat it because it literally made me gag. My mother demanded that I eat it, to which I tearfully proclaimed,

“If I eat it I will throw up!!!”

Evil Mom: If you throw up, I will make you eat your throw up too!!!

I have an Indian friend who I have many times asked to make me some authentic Indian food (or at least have his mother make me some). Leaving his place one day, he handed me a jar of curry. I reflexively said thanks and took it home.

But subsequently I noticed that this commercially packaged curry was available at my local supermarket. In fact I think every store I have been too since has had it in stock. So I called my friend to complain and I told him,

“Next time you are at my house for dinner, I will have my Italian wife serve you Spaghetti-O’s.”

It almost reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry went up to a mailman and asked him the whereabouts of a nearby Chinese restaurant. The mailman, who happened to be Asian (a detail presently unbeknownst to Jerry), turned around and fired back,

MAILMAN: Why must I know? Because I'm Chinese? You think I know where all the Chinese restaurants are? (adopts hackneyed Chinese accent) Oh, ask honolable Chinaman for rocation of lestaulant.

JERRY: I asked because you were the mailman, you would know the neighborhood.

MAILMAN: Oh, hello American Joe. Which way to hamburger, hotdog stand? (storms away)

Now let’s play “Who am I?” Who says,

I’ll have a porterhouse steak, well-done…..crispy. Burn it.

If you guessed, “old to semi-old guy”, you are right.

I went to Myrtle Beach on a golf trip with a bunch of “old guys”. The sixteen of us went to a nice steakhouse and collectively ordered 15 “burnt” steaks, and 1 filet, medium rare (mine).

My unscientific theory is that 30-50 years ago, meat was generally of poorer quality and people cooked it well-done for health reasons, i.e. to kill it. The older set just wants steaks cooked how they grew up on them.

I have an aunt who, by virtue of her central location and larger house, graciously hosts just about every family function at her place. One problem however is that she serves the same lasagna at every single occasion. This is no small streak, I am talking Cal Ripken-esque. My family has been eating her lasagna at every birthday, Easter, Christmas, anniversary, etc. for at least 25 years.

It is not that bad, but holy sh*t already, make something else once in a while. Turkey on Thanksgiving doesn’t really count.

Last one before I get on a plane to Florida.

Nassau County, Long Island may be the richest county in America. It is definitely near the top. Anyway I went to my nephew's First Communion down there a couple of years ago. Again, it is a very affluent area with many homemakers more likely to use a phone preparing dinner rather than a spatula.

During the homily, the priest walked down the aisle and engaged all of the young kids, asking them questions and whatnot.

Priest: So why do we love our parents?

Brat-1: Because they take care of us.

Priest: Good. How so?

Brat-2: They teach us stuff.

Brat-3: They cook for us.

Priest: Good. Who does the cooking in your family? Mom or Dad?

Brat-3: The restaurant does.

At this point, the Mass took at 30 second break while the entire church laughed its collective ass off.