Monday, December 31, 2007

Outdoor Hockey?

Just when you think you've heard it all....

I just saw this on They are staging an outdoor hockey game in Buffalo, NY.

At the moment, I can't think of anything more Moronic than sitting outside, in a Buffalo winter, watching a dying sport, from worse angled seats!

Here's what transpired the last time they endeavored this - link:

Back in November 2003, when the NHL first held an outdoor regular-season game in Edmonton, the temperature plummeted as the evening game time approached, prompting some discussion about whether the game between the Canadiens and Oilers should have been played at all.

Players were so cold, some wore toques (then-Montreal netminder Jose Theodore being the most notable of the toque crowd). Trainers had hot soup and tea on the bench and players changed their long underwear between periods.

Even without giving a hoot about the players, it's a profoundly stupid idea.

A Bear In The China Shop

Alright, I read Jim Rogers' A Bull In China - Investing Profitably In The World's Greatest Market the other day. It's an effortless 200 pages.

I always take notes when I read but didn't jot too many down on this little potboiler.

Here's the deal, as of 2004, Chinese workers earned on average 64 cents per hour compared, er contrasted, to the average American who made $21.11. So obviously, there's a gap to potentially close. Rogers maintains that investing in China today is like investing in America in the year 1900. That sounds pretty enticing, does it not? Click the following graph to enlarge.

But, as you can see from this 100 year chart, investing in the Dow in 1900 wouldn't have done much for you for 40-50 years. Herein lies one of my problems with Rogers' advice - his time horizons are too long. What the heck isn't going to go up in 40-50 years?

For sure, China has a nice fundamental story. They speak one language, are industrious, entrepreneurial, and hefty savers. The nominally communist government has been liberalizing commerce and unlocking the energy of its one billion citizens. You don't even have to go to China to see how hard the Chinese work. Just think about your dry cleaner or your local Chinese restaurant. Do you know ANYONE that can match their national average of saving 30% of their income?

This tremendous savings (and possibly reinvestment) really geeks the Sino bulls up. It also stokes America deprecators who see the US as lazy and addicted to debt-financed consumption. On this point it's very hard to defend the old Red, White, and Blue. (For the record, my wife and I do save over 30% of our annual income - mostly because we rent and because of my jeans.)

To Rogers credit, he doesn't tell you what or when to buy, specifically. He profiles all the big public Chinese companies and prescribes how one might buy shares on any of the various exchanges they trade on. He advises over and over, in all his books, to do your own homework. Wall Streeters usually refer to this as you own "due diligence". With this tack I couldn't agree more. Investors/traders always have to be comfortable with their bets - otherwise they'll be shaken or scared out of them by periodic market volatility.

Here's another window into the "smallness" and potential of China's economy:

Today, for every 1,000 people, the United States has 700 cars.

Yet, for every 1,000 Chinamen, there are only 24 cars.

What it means, is that since essentially no one currently drives in China, there's plenty of upside for its domestic automakers, auto parts suppliers, road builders, motels, tourism, restaurants, etc.

This is Jim's recurring thesis of Chinese investment - that all their industries are still in the infantile stage. One of the differences between America in 1900 and China is 2007 is that China doesn't have to invent anything. They are simply importing ideas, know-how, and capital from proven industries. So conceivabley, China's prosperity should be on a faster track than that of America circa 1900.

So, what about the downside to investing in China?

As with any investment, PRICE is paramount. Above find a graph of the FXI, an index of 25 tradable, large Chinese companies. As you can readily see, it's more than tripled over the past three years. Rogers would suggest you buy and forget about it - because of the far-sighted prospects. But I could easily see a 50%-70% pullback in the meantime.

Just as with commodities, I am sold on Jim Rogers' China Bull thesis but I am going to wait for a substantial decline before making any long-term investments. The risk of course, is that I'll miss the boat. If you go read my old post on Hot Commodities, you'll see that I am still waiting for a dip that hasn't come.

So what would make the Chinese economy hiccup?

First off, a financial disruption. There are still no accounting standards or transparency for banks in China. Everyone knows there are billions of bad loans hidden on their books. These time bombs remain sheltered by the froth and mania of today's investment euphoria. Money has been pouring into China from both productive self-generation and through intrepid foreigners. Fraud and shenanigans always follow the easy capital - just note the role of abundant funds in today's American subprime mortgage calamity.

China also will have the normal growing pains of a rapidly transforming country. Social upheaval of some sort is all but guaranteed by the ongoing emigration of millions of poor Chinese from rural to urban areas. There have been peasant uprisings in China since the beginning of time. And no one can predict how the liberalizing, but still latently authoritarian, government will react to social uprisings. Even our mature, tried-and-tested government doesn't perform so well in crises.

Now add to the social growing pains, the strain of a hyper-growth economy on infrastructure. China is already one filthy country - quite contrary to the fawning of Al Gore. Their rivers are veritable sewers. Seventy percent of their power is generated by dirty coal. Even though there are only 24 cars per thousand people, automobile exhaust is already a problem in the cities. Here's a headline from just the other day.

Beijing air pollution 'as bad as it can get,' official says

Supposedly, Chinese air pollution already reaches the California coast.

China's other big environmental problem is a serious water shortage. Water isn't just for drinking. Something like 70% of water usage in the US is devoted to agriculture - so you can flush your toilet with impunity! Since China has over a billion mouths to feed, they need water to grow domestic crops. The alternative is of course to import food, e.g. soybeans.

Similar to the US, a big looming financial problem for China is inflation. So what does it emanate from? An artificially weak currency? Rapid economic growth? Is it a US export? I'll let others argue over the origin. It suffices to say that Chinese inflation is rampant and it's causing problems. Here's another link on Chinese inflation.

My last caveat about China concerns its demographic issues. The long standing one-child policy has begotten a nation of spoiled brats. This was alluded to in an older post on Mark Steyn's book. Steyn argues that the demise of Japan, the most recent can't-miss Asian super-economy, was unavoidable due to their aging, sterile population. In short, young people are hungrier; they work harder; and are the lifeblood and oxygen of a vibrant economy. Steyn is no financial analyst, but his argumentation is tough to discount.

Jim Rogers' penultimate book Hot Commodities was subtitled "How Anyone Can Invest Profitably in the World's Best Market". Now his recent book on China is subtitled, "Investing Profitably in the World's Greatest Market".

So commodities are the "Best" and China is the "Greatest"?

I can't wait to see what superlative adjective he whips out for his next book!

Anyway, he says if you want double exposure, then you should buy Chinese commodity plays. That makes a ton of sense.

But for now, I am not buyin' nothin'. I am still more of a trader than an investor - a point that I hope to expound upon in a subsequent post.

Jim's book did however pique my interest in China. I've erased a monitor page on my trading application and refilled it with Chinese names. I am going to look to buy big dips and short into steep rallies. It's all but a 100% likelihood that the Chinese stock market is going to crash - with only "when" and "from what level" yet to be determined. The Chinese will surely revalue their currency soon but I bet they wait until after the Beijing Olympics for fear of negative consequences.

For the sake of all, let's hope these Games don't represent for China the top of a sucker's rally like the 1984 Winter Olympics did for Sarajevo.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Nobody Verifies Anything!!!

The Federal Reserve is "injecting liquidity" to ease the banking/credit/mortgage crisis, right?

Who among the lettered hasn't read that somewhere?

Well, it's all garbage. Realize that while on one hand, the government is making highly publicized little debt purchases, on the other hand, it is selling, er underwriting, make that CREATING OUT OF THIN AIR, a ton more new Treasury bonds. Remember, we need them to finance our deficit spending.

Read the following excerpts from this article A Little Acid Test for Fed "Liquidity"

So it's difficult to understand why investors would get all excited about the Fed temporarily buying up a few billion in government securities, when we've got a Federal government that's simultaneously and permanently issuing and then constantly rolling over many, many times that amount. It's an escape into dreamland to believe that Fed actions have any chance at all of providing more "liquidity" when the Federal government's deficits suck up in a matter of weeks every bit of liquidity that the Fed has provided in a year. These Fed actions are nothing but marginal tinkering around the edges of the global financial system, and investors are starting to catch on.

If investors think the Fed buying up a few billion of Treasury and agency debt means a hill of beans, they might do well to remember that the U.S. government is running up annual deficits in the hundreds of billions. In fact, the U.S. Treasury will float tens of billions of new debt in December alone (most of which will be sopped up by foreigners, who have increased their holdings of Treasuries by well over $200 billion in the past year). This will be mixed in with refinancings.

Last week, for example, the Treasury auctioned $21 billion in 3-month bills and $20 billion in 6-month bills. In doing so, the Treasury offset every bit of the Federal Reserve's actions this week, even if it turns out that the $40 billion "term auction facility" represents new liquidity and not just rollovers. Why aren't investors just as interested in that? When the Fed does open market operations, all it's doing is buying up (temporarily or permanently) a tiny fraction of U.S. Treasury debt and replacing it with currency and bank reserves. But every time the Federal government issues more debt to finance its deficits, the new issuance cancels out any beneficial increase in liquidity the Fed could possibly provide.

More interesting is to watch what happens on Thursday. That's when we get $34 billion of repos coming due. If the Fed does little more than $20 billion through its "term auction facility," that will put the total for the week at $40 billion, versus $39 billion expiring, and it will be clear that this whole maneuver is simply a way for the Fed to temporarily refinance its expiring repos using a slightly longer 28-day maturity, rather than any effort to actually increase the amount of reserves.

In any event, banking conditions aren't likely to change even if $40 billion in additional 28-day repos actually materialize. Indeed, a Bloomberg report noted "A Fed official told reporters that the U.S. central bank's efforts won't add net liquidity to the banking system. The plans are aimed at buttressing so-called term funding markets, such as for one-month loans, rather than overnight cash." Should be interesting.

Finally, it's worth repeating that the total amount of outstanding repos has increased by only $18 billion since March, nearly all of which has been drawn out as currency in circulation. Most likely, the Fed will enter a "permanent" open market operation on the order of $10-20 billion at some point in the coming weeks to formalize that increase in outstanding currency. That move will probably be met by ridiculously over-hyped reporting as well. But it's entirely predictable.

In short, Wall Street analysts aren't paying attention to the data if they believe that the Fed is "pumping" hundreds of billions into the economy to provide some kind of "safety net" for the banking system or the mortgage market. Is it really too much to ask that they make some attempt to understand the subject about which they opine incessantly?

As for the Fed itself, it's a great gift to offer people hope, but a great disservice to offer people false hope, and I think that's what the Fed is doing. What's going on in the mortgage market is not a crisis of confidence that we can talk ourselves out of - it's a problem of structural insolvency, where many borrowers literally don't have the means to service their debt over the long-term, because many of them were counting on rising home prices over the short-term. By acting as if a few billion in repos will substantially change this equation, the Fed is raising hopes, and setting the markets and the economy up for disappointment that will be far worse as a result. Bernanke would be better off admitting that the Fed has no chance of providing meaningful "liquidity" when the Federal government is issuing Treasuries at ten times the rate the Fed can absorb them. At that point, Americans would see better that the resources we need to invest, compete and become a financially sound nation are being hoarded by the Federal government and sent up in flames.

The guy also has another recent article titled Vanishing Act - Are the Fed and the ECB Misleading Investors about "Liquidity"?

I really do pity the Morons who not only read the news but actually believe it.

The Government can't do squat for you. Don't ever forget it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Political Failure

Read what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said yesterday:

But Paulson said it was crucial to avoid a "market failure" in housing that could bring on "chaos."

"I want markets to work," he said in the interview. "I would define a market failure as the system not being able to cope in a way where foreclosures took place that would otherwise not have taken place if there was a smaller volume. So foreclosures take place that aren't in the investor's interest, aren't in the homeowner's interest, aren't in the community's interest, aren't in the greater economy's interest."

The result could be a plunge in home prices that would "force market values down in a which the market wasn't intended to work," Paulson said.

Listen up here now Hank,


A free market is merely the coincident of personal liberty; it exists so long as parties can freely exchange goods, services, and currency.

Any attempt to stabilize prices - as today's pols are intent upon - is a violation and repudiation of a free market. Hank is correct in a self-fulfilling sort of way. Yes, there'll always be *market failure* where there's government meddling.

Open any economics text book and you'll find plenty written on "market failure", "externalities", "social costs", etc.

Of course, there's far less instruction on GOVERNMENT FAILURE.

Here's another line from that article:

The administration's jawboning of lenders has angered some people who say foreclosures should be allowed to rise and put further downward pressure on home prices -- which in turn could make housing more affordable for renters who are waiting to buy.

In deference to full disclosure I want to add that I am one of those renters "waiting" on falling prices. BUT, I don't believe the government is currently or in the future capable of buffeting real estate prices. Home prices are slow to come down, IMO, because longer term Treasuries have been so strong.

Treasury bonds have been rising into the fierce winds of inflation and our fiscal deficits. From where I sit this makes no sense at all - then again, the price of Florida condos made no sense to me back in 2005 either.

Why Did He Choose Miami?

Two days ago Bill Parcells was about to sign a contract to join the management of the Atlanta Falcons. Withing hours, he got an offer from the Miami Dolphins that was more *palatable* to him.

So I ask, why did he chose Miami - sporting a record of 1-13 this season - over nearby Atlanta?

Have you been to Miami? Well, it's hopping these days. There are plenty of awesome restaurants on South Beach. I love it down there and back before I had two kids, Miami was pretty high on my list of places I'd like to move to.

Look at Coach Parcells' paunch above (back from his skinny working days) and tell me whether he decided with his head or his stomach.

Of course, if another Bill, say Bill Clinton made such a choice, my omniscience would be blaming an organ other than the stomach.

Back to Parcells. He seems to me one of these guys that simply doesn't know when to hang it up. By his past standards, he essentially failed coaching/managing the NY Jets and then again coaching the Dallas Cowboys. One more unprofitable tenure in Miami and it'll palpably diminish his prior accomplishments.

He'll sort of resemble the last bigwig who also came via Dallas to save the Dolphins - Jimmy Johnson.

Speaking of saving ocean mammals. Pathetically, my blog gets the most hits these days from juveniles downloading this pic which I linked to in an old post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Would Have Made A Great Marine

Two Arabs boarded a flight out of London. One took a window seat and the other sat next to him in the middle seat. Just before takeoff, a Marine sat down in the aisle seat. After takeoff, the Marine kicked his shoes off, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Arab in the window seat said, "I need to get up and get a coke."

"Don't get up," said the Marine, "I'm in the aisle seat, I'll get it for you." As soon as he left, one of the Arabs picked up the Marines shoe and spat in it. When the Marine returned with the coke, the other Arab said, "That looks good, I'd really like one, too."

Again, the Marine obligingly went to fetch it.

While he was gone the other Arab picked up the Marines other shoe and spat in it.

When the Marine returned, they all sat back and enjoyed the flight. As the plane was landing, the Marine slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened. "Why does it have to be this way?" he asked the two Arabs. "How long must this go on? This fighting between our nations? This hatred? This animosity? This spitting in shoes and pissing in cokes?"


Wall Street - The Movie

Wall Street is one of the few timeless movies out there. I can watch it over and over again; it just never goes stale.

Will Durant says the best art is "impregnated with philosophy" and therein lies the beauty of this movie. The one liners, witticisms, and maxims from Gordon Ghekko and cohorts are still regurgitated 20 years later everyday on trading floors across the world. (link)

How many yachts can you waterski behind?

Don't get emotional about stock prices.

Greed is good.

The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don't want to do.

Kid, you're on a roll. Enjoy it while it lasts, 'cause it never does.

We're all just one trade away from humility.

A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place.

Blue Horseshoe loves...

Jesus, if this guy owned a funeral parlor nobody would die!

Incidentally, about ten years ago, one of the traders in my pit got several others to pile into some dogsh*t penny stock. They bought it and bought it cheaper...and then bought it some more. It went to zero. The company was in the funeral/casket business and its management actually ascribed its bankruptcy to "declining deaths". See what I mean about this movie's truisms?

After viewing the movie for the umpteenth time this weekend, here's the quote I want to highlight today.

When upstart Bud Fox finally makes some dough, and while speechlessly considering buying a new highrise condo the real estate agent nudges him with:

"You know, my husband can get you a 10% mortgage..."

Ten percent?!?!?!? How is that a deal?

Wait until you see the panic when today's 6% rates lurch up a point to 7%.

If mortgage rates can rise 40% to an average of 10%...well, yes, that means your house can minimally depreciate 40% from today's "value".

What a terrific movie. Make sure you watch the youtube trailer I posted at the top - yes, luddites, that is not a weird picture emblazoned with a play button.

You'll no sooner find a trader who hasn't seen this movie than you'll find a South Philly Italian who's never heard of Rocky Balboa.

I was thinking they need to do another high-powered Wall Street type of movie. Then I remembered that Hollywood already tried a followup - Boiler Room. Watch the trailer below.

I remember seeing it in Brooklyn with my future wife back when it came out. We didn't think it was that bad - despite the false caricature it painted Wall Street as. Actually, I thought that fruitcake Ben Affleck was phenomenal in Boiler Room. Why couldn't he just stick to manly movie roles?

Alas, the movie was a far cry from Oliver Stone's original masterpiece.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How Not To Stem Inflation

Last week, European consumer inflation registered at 3.1% - above the supposed 2.0% comfort zone. Now imagine how much higher the inflation REALLY is given that these numbers come from a government.

So what did the European Union do today?

That translates to $500 billion dollars in our own, beleaguered currency.

So on one hand they complain about inflation and on the other they find a reason to pump more "money" into the system. This time the excuse was "liquidity" and saving the "credit markets".

For your own financial safety, just assume that politicians will inexorably debase the currency - no matter what they say or do in the short term.

The euro currency got hammered last week; so after a rough start, my trade is now in the money.

Why did the euro roll over last week? Well, it's descent coincided with a few things: only a quarter point cut by the Fed, the higher EU inflation numbers posted above,...but it's not scientifically possible to explain small security fluctuations so I will refrain from conjecture.

Without disagreeing with the doom-and-gloom dollar prophets - you know, those opinionated folk that believe American dollars will soon be worthless - one has to remember that the dollar is competing with overseas politicians who are at least as Moronic as our own.

As politicos perpetually fumble currencies all over the globe, smart people will continue to try and sustain their wealth by hiding it under mattresses, in jewelry and artwork, and in commodities like oil and gold.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Even Their Little Theories Are Bunk

That's a snapshot of this morning's Drudge Report. She looks 75 years old, does she not? Click the pic to enlarge.

I have to laugh every time they put an unbehooving pic of Hillary Clinton up. In fact, I usually save them for future personal use. So far I have an entire little folder of unflattery.

Here's why it's funny. Not long ago, after a barrage of Drudge headlines to the effect of "Hillary leads election fundraising", the New York Times and other pinheads suggested that Hillary had now learned to use Drudge to her advantage. Now that was complete nonsense. Matt Drudge, by no means a loner, absolutely hates Hillary Clinton and always has.

Know-nothings were assuming that a fundraising advantage meant anything at all. Look at the New York Yankees or the New York Knicks. Look at Howard Dean's fundraising advantage from back in the 2004 presidential election; the guy didn't even get nominated. I don't know how many times I have said it, but money doesn't mean squat. Money is always the scapegoat of idiots who least understand it.

So, not only did the Morons assume these Drudge headlines were both meaningful and positive for Hillary's campaign, they wrongly assumed that Hillary had tamed Drudge to her advantage.

Here's another Drudge snapshot from just last week.

Mr. Drudge is laughing at Hillary every chance he gets.

And he's probably falling out of his chair at the suggestion that Hillary is wagging him.

UPDATE - This post has been updated here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Martial Insights

Read Robert Kaplan's recent article On Forgetting The Obvious. Here's an excerpt:

Never-say-die faith, accompanied by old-fashioned nationalism, is alive in America. It is a match for the most fanatical suicide bombers anywhere, but with few exceptions, that faith is confined to our finest combat infantry units—and to specific sections of the country and socio-economic strata from which these “warriors” (as they like to call themselves) hail. They are not characteristic of a country in many ways hurtling rapidly in the opposite direction. This is not the 1950s, when Americans felt a certain relief in possessing “the bomb.” Fifty years later, most Americans feel a certain relief in never having to even hear about “the bomb.”

Faith is about struggle, about having confidence precisely when the odds are the worst. Faith is the capacity to believe in what is simultaneously necessary but improbable. That kind of faith is receding in America among a social and economic class increasingly motivated by universal values: caring, for example, about the suffering of famine victims abroad as much as for hurricane victims at home. Universal values are a good in and of themselves, and they are not the opposite of faith. But they should never be confused with it. You may care to the point of tears about suffering humankind without having the will to actually fight (let alone inconvenience yourself) for those concerns. Thus, universal values may pose an existential challenge to national security when accompanied by a loss of faith in one’s own political values and projects.

I read one of his books a while back - Imperial Grunts. It was pretty good. Kaplan seems to have been embedded with the US military for decades so he's chock full of insights. Looks like he has another book out now titled Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground.

It's always best to glean facts from direct, unfiltered sources.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Here's What To Expect In 2008

The domestic economy is crumbling and blame will be allocated by the high priests of socialism.

Already, pundits have noticed that Big Media has forgotten about "Iraq". Whether that is because the "surge is working" or not is wholly unquantifiable and, also, quite beside the point.

Iraq has been brushed aside by better competition. A poor economy is THE socialist dream. High gas prices, foreclosures, inflation are all upon us...all they need now is a healthy dose of unemployment.

It hasn't taken hold yet (mostly because of their profound economic illiteracy) but it won't be long before the New York Times is painting the Bush Administration as "economic liars". They will deride the "Bush boom". All the increased tax revenues of the past few years will be chopped up to a "bubble", "predatory and fraudulent mortgages", and "lying government statistics" on inflation and GDP growth.

This post I did last month on the Lying CPI would, if his foes weren't so ignorant, be Bush-bashing gold. In that post, I detail how the government's underreporting of inflation is used to exaggerate headline GDP numbers. It won't really matter that the CPI is now computed by Bill Clinton's fungible formula. What matters are soundbites for the lumpen masses.

The prescribed solutions will, of course, be higher taxes and more regulation.

It will be interesting to see how the next cycle of agitprop plays out both politically and in the public dialogue. Though I believe it will have the fertile context of a recession and I consider the public profoundly econo-illiterate, I do think that Americans can at least sense a huckster. Again, these socialists are so stupid, and so inept, that they don't even propound their own best arguments.

Heck, they are so dumb, they turn the potent, combustible issue of high oil prices into calls for fighting "global warming".

I submit that while Joe Blow may not have a degree from Harvard, he's quite cynical about how politicizing the weather will lower pump prices.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

Last summer, my wife was on maternity leave, so we had the glory of an 8-week summer in the Hamptons. (I packed up my PC and traded the markets between laps in the pool and cervezas).

One night back then, I grabbed a random book off my mother-in-law's bookshelf titled The Age of Louis XIV. And so it began, my 16 month fling with Will Durant.

I am proud to say that now, less than 1.5 years later, I have finished the entire 11 volumes of Durant's - The Story of Civilization - all 8,945 pages of little type and big insight. I vowed to get through them by the end of the year and did so by powering through the last book over the weekend. Now I just have to type up my notes.

So I figure to have more time to devote to this blog - perhaps starting next week. Both of my sitters called out "sick" this week. They are "sick" so much I should just fire them. But then again, firing no-show babysitters is kind of like subprime borrowers "losing" their home (when they have negative equity to begin with).

But I am thinking about getting rid of the sitters altogether. I don't really think they improve my trading or my chi. And I kind of enjoy the time with my kids. If I do "fire" them, this blog will be kaput for a while UNLESS I start to get up at 4am.


The snow just started. They are predicting at least a foot. Supposedly it's going to accumulate at a rate of 3 inches per hour at some point.

My son's "teacher" at the local community center asked me today if I had gone to the grocery store yet. I laughed and reminded her that "that is what your generation does".

I did drive by Stop&Shop just thereafter and it was so packed that you couldn't even turn into the parking lot. So there's probably no milk, bread, and eggs left anyway. (link)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dinner At 3:30PM?

Well, when you are dealing with nonagenarians...

Read this email I just received from my aunt:


Just a reminder this Thursday is Nana's 92nd Birthday! It's almost unbelievable!! I plan to pick up some flowers at Trader Joe's for the special vase so if anyone would like to be included please let me know! Please try and send a card or call as it means so much to Nana. I know she would look at a card over & over & especially love it if a photo was included!

Stop by at M------ restaurant if you get a chance on Thursday around 3:30 as we will be celebrating with an early supper (after Grandpa's bowling). Not a very convenient time I know but I'll treat!!

Love Auntie

Dinner at 3:30pm!!!!

And you guys thought Seinfeld's parents were bad - trying to make the early bird down in Del Boca Vista BEFORE 6pm.

Now mind you, this dinner will follow "grandpa's bowling". Yes, he's a nonagenarian as well. Though 94 years young he bowls every week, still drives his car, and has been known to sneak outside and shovel snow. The tough old man used to golf three days a week until he was 90 - carrying his own bag for nine holes on a very hilly course. Just try and tell him that bacon and eggs every other day will kill you!

Above is a pic from their 65th wedding anniversary last year.

My paternal grandmother is around ninety herself. Yes, I've got some serious longevity genes. Expect to read the musings of CaptiousNut for another fifty years at least.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Back Next Week

I have got something on my plate the next few days. When it's taken care of, I will be able to commit a lot more time to my blogging.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

First, Do No Harm...

Last Wednesday, the heat in our master bedroom stopped working. On the cusp of December here in New England, it is cold. A quick glance at the forecast showed that by Saturday, we would see a high of 32 and low of 15 degrees, aggravated by strong winds.

Now, being the stand-up, self-reliant MAN that I am, I didn't want to bother my landlord. My bedroom represents only one of the four heat zones. My kitchen, living room, and most importantly, the kids' bedrooms upstairs all had heat. The heat has been occasionally fickle so I figured there was a good chance it may pop back on any minute. So why bother my landlord and a plumber? You should only molest him for the BIG stuff.

However, pesty experience reminded me, that if our overall heat got worse, that there'd be no way any plumber would be available this upcoming freezing weekend.

So, two days passed and my bedroom was still an igloo. Friday afternoon I alerted my landlord. He came and checked it out while we hit Outback Steakhouse. He couldn't get it going.

Saturday arrives and it is FREEZING - just as forecast. My landlord comes over at 6pm to try and "fix" the heat. An hour later, he leaves. I tell him, it's okay. we have a space heater. We'll be fine...yadda yadda yadda (read "get out of my house please" and "if anything, please call a plumber"). So he does eventually get a hold of a plumber who plans on showing up at 8am the next morning. Great. We go to church at 8:30am and plumbers are even less punctual than the cable guys.

My landlord leaves. Soon after he's gone, I realize that his attempted "fixing" has knocked out two more of the heat zones. Now only my kids' bedrooms upstairs have heat.

Here, I paused and fumed and contemplated. All I wanted to to do was alert my landlord to the situation - namely that my heat was fading fast. So I text-messaged him. Maybe he could get the plumber to come that night or, minimally, my case would at least be given more urgency in the AM?

Unfortunately, my landlord fashions himself an auto-didactic plumber and went to Home Depot. He bought some new digital thermostats and a new "regulator" or ("circulator"). Now mind you, plumbing is no amateur hobby. I got very nervous when my dogged landlord showed back up at my house at 8pm.

He's here for an hour and a half. Borrowing my tools, keeping my kids awake, traipsing dirt on the floors I just mopped. I preemptively told him I wanted to be in bed at 8:30. Here's what followed:

Tactfully, I pleaded with him to not do anything. Don't try to change a regulator; leave the thermostats alone; etc. It was to no avail.

He pulls my bedroom thermostat off the wall, unhooks the wires and reattaches them to a new one he purchased at Home Depot. "Can't you get electrocuted doing stuff like this?", I wondered while I kept my distance.

He goes to the corner of the room to inspect the radiator and hollers to me, "Hey, do you know you have cold air coming out of your got to close these".

Say what?

Now its screaming windy out. So whatever draft he felt from the floor vents I assumed was coming somehow from outside. Then I noticed cold air coming out of another vent. I looked at my landlord and bellowed:

CaptiousNut - Yo, you turned the air conditioning on. You must have the wires attached wrong!!!

Though immediately in denial, after a minute he realized something about his installation was awry. He unplugs the thermostat and switches the wires without effect. Cold air is still streaming from my formidable central AC unit into my already frigid bedroom.

My artless landlord then removes the thermostat completely but even that didn't terminate the air conditioning. I let this clown monkey around for another twenty minutes before I handed him a flashlight and demanded he go outside and manually turn off the AC unit.

Now it was 9:30pm. I made him leave. Later that night, even my kids' heat stopped working.

Shouldn't there be a Hippocratic oath for penny-pinching landlords?

First, do no harm...

A credit check just isn't sufficient vetting.

Aside from the annoyance of my amateur landlord, the erratic to non-existent heat has been no big deal.

I just remind myself that we have soldiers carrying 90-pound backpacks in the Iraqi desert.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Green Fascism at Harvard

Harvard is a truly disgusting place. Will Durant has tossed about an expression - "the scourge of half-educated youth" - which couldn't be a more apt description of the wretched student body combined, of course, with the Harvard "faculty".

The student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, recently ran a little green Inquisition. It sought to expose all faculty members for their choice of automotive transportation. First read some of the excerpts:

The Harvard Showroom Is Open

In Faculty, hybrids are popular, but Subarus take the cake; in VES, there's even a Suburban

What happens when an academic must descend from the highest reaches of the Ivory Tower and, well, buy a car?

The Crimson surveyed the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ wheels this semester and came to a few tentative conclusions: Priuses are common, suspected Porsche owners don’t want to be interviewed, and, as for the most academic of automobiles? It’s the Subaru Forester.

Taken together, the roster of cars—and other modes of transport—employed by Harvard professors sheds a bit of light on the Faculty’s distinctive character: part snooty and part down-to-earth, part self-conscious and part green-conscious. None of those attributes, it turns out, are mutually exclusive.


"I drive a Chevy," John R. Stilgoe proclaims. “It makes me sound like a common man.” The famously quirky visual and environmental studies professor says his black ’96 Suburban helps him blend into rural America on his annual summer field trips into the heartland.

He’s also quick to note that he doesn’t actually drive his massive SUV (city fuel economy: 11-12 miles per gallon) to campus—just from his house south of Boston to a train station. "If you reduce your carbon footprint at the house, you can drive whatever you want," Stilgoe says.

As for luxury cars, the 223 professors who responded to the survey seemed a bit hesitant to reveal that they owned them. One of the few who did, historian Sugata Bose, said in an e-mail: "I am not sure I should reveal this information to a Crimson reporter, but I drive a BMW 325xi. I hope very much that Harvard students will approve."

Oh, where to start. Everything about Harvard is ludicrous; every little story, incident, heck even the diction (e.g. heteronormative) emanating from Harvardians provides springboards to a bottomless pit of blog material - sort of akin to the New York Times.

The entire premise reeks of arrogance. Why is anyone's car the business of a student newspaper? Where's the liberality? What happened to the concept of pro-choice? Where's the right to privacy? Killing an unborn baby is nobody's concern, but the fuel efficiency of one's car is...???

Now take for instance this bottomhole, professor John R. Stilgoe, who is spotlighted as a token driver of an earth-heating Suburban. The guy is not even really an outlier in that he is "quick to note that he doesn’t actually drive his massive SUV (city fuel economy: 11-12 miles per gallon) to campus..."

So even the gas guzzler owner is a staunch environmentalist. Or at least he is AFRAID to say that burning gas is not a crime against the galaxy. Tell those little pissant Inquisitors what they want to hear!

The jerk also says that driving a Chevy makes him sound like a common man. That it helps him blend in rural America. Note that he is NOT a common man...he only sounds that way to the undiscerning. I am sorry, but this idea about blending in in rural American bespeaks supreme arrogance. You'd think an über-educated man with his vast stores of knowledge would be able to easily wend his way through Nebraska. You'd think he wouldn't need a costume to do whatever BS, tax-payer funded research it is that he does. They make it like Red State America is on another planet; ivory tower professors had best don spacesuits when condescending upon NASCAR country. Believe me, the most chauvinistic, self-unconscious bigots are to be found on college campuses like Harvard. And of course they masquerade as "liberals", "progressives", and crusaders for "diversity". They literally see 40%-50% of Americans as ignorant rubes - as mere commoners.

The dimly lit journalists of today's Big Media are remarkable for their inability to in any way challenge clichéd answers. Feed them a line (that strikes the right chords) and they will move on to the next, scripted question. It's apparent from how they swallowed Prof. Stilgoe's balderdash, that these aspirant little Commie journalists are just as incompetent as their incumbent peers at the New York Times, CNN, etc.

If they were really concerned about burnt gasoline raping Father Nature, they'd have pressed Stilgoe about his rural jaunts. How does a Harvard student not understand that a Suburban driven all over rural American IS NOT OFFSET by short trips to a commuting train station the two days a week, and seven months a year, a professor pontificates on campus. Do they not realize how far rural America is from Boston? A roundtrip to Manhattan is 470 miles from Stilgoe's house, that's about 40 gallons of gas right there - and rural America still ain't even close to the Big Apple.

So I googled this Stilgoe guy and let's just say he is one whacked-out dude. Look at the ridiculous, made-up courses he teaches.

I was about to send him an antagonistic email but found this on his website.

It reads "no" on email. What an advanced, progressive sort of guy we have here teaching at Harvard! Maybe I will drop by his house in nearby Norwell. If someone competent and documented will watch my kids for less than $15 per hour, then I promise to pay the professor, what should be, a very entertaining visit.

And mind you, this is the only professor with the gumption to own a real "SUV". Clearly he lacks the pebbles to say, "Hey, listen you little snot-nosed twenty year-old wannabe journalist, I'll drive whatever the hell I want..."

More from the Crimson:

The Crimson surveyed the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ wheels this semester and came to a few tentative conclusions: Priuses are common, suspected Porsche owners don’t want to be interviewed, and, as for the most academic of automobiles? It’s the Subaru Forester.

Forester ownership transcends the disciplines, from anthropology to African American studies and from English to history—with at least 15 FAS Forester owners in all. "Half of Cambridge" drives the $22,000-and-up cross between a station wagon and an SUV, anthropologist Theodore C. Bestor muses.

Now I don't consider the Subaru Forester an SUV - at least for Harvard people. Here's why, it is a Gay-Mobile. Go google it, it is the number one, most popular vehicle in the gay community. So while the geeks at the Harvard Crimson have outed it as the most popular car for demigods on campus, in my book, it doesn't really count.

For one thing, it's likely pure cover. Hypocrites that want the space and comfort of a larger car figure they can buy the Gay-Mobile and stave off criticism. Obviously the ruse works and it reminds us that, all mocking aside, Harvard professors aren't completely stupid.

Just the other day, at my local library, I pulled up next to a Subaru Forester. I would never have taken any notice if I weren't in the middle of writing this post. On the bumper was a sticker that read, "Love is all it takes to make a family". Aha!

On my way into the building, I held the door open for two incredibly wide, short-haired, earring-less women who were exiting with a small child. Of course, they got right into the Forrester.

And this brings me back to Prof Stigloe. I wanted to ask him if he was really lying more to the Crimson or to himself. Does he in fact give a hoot about environmentalist nonsense or is he kidding himself about why he really drives the Suburban? I'll bet he drives it for the same reason I do. It is an awesome ride. It's more comfortable than my living room furniture. Perhaps he cloaks his true feelings with this elitist crap about blending into rural America. But more likely, he just doesn't feel like taking cross-country trips in an uncomfortable, tiny lawnmower of a vehicle.

I don't blame him. Once you get used to a Suburban, driving any other car feels like a Flintstone mobile. Then again, there may be no genuine dishonesty - he may just be a flat-out, self-justifying hypocrite. With all the deflection going on, it's just too hard to tell and really quite beside the point.

Okay, so here's the secret, if you want to teach at Harvard and drive in comfort, then hide behind empathy for gays. If you want to drive a globe-heating Suburban, tell the pissant Crimson reporter that you need it for your field research - you know, to blend in with the lumpen masses. Even though these kiddie Inquisitors have dubious standing in the first place, and are obviously short on brains, they'll be sure to approve of the morally superior tack and the bigotry towards the common man.

As for these professors I ask:

Where's your integrity? Where's the intellectual honesty? ¿Dondé están los cohones?

Reporters also spotted at least four Porsches across campus. Various attempts to figure out who owned them were unsuccessful. Chemistry professor Stuart L. Schreiber, the subject of a 1994 Crimson profile that featured his Porsche, would not comment for this article.

Why are Porche driving professors afraid to tell the little sh*t reporters that they will drive whatever the bleep they want to drive?

As for luxury cars, the 223 professors who responded to the survey seemed a bit hesitant to reveal that they owned them. One of the few who did, historian Sugata Bose, said in an e-mail: "I am not sure I should reveal this information to a Crimson reporter, but I drive a BMW 325xi. I hope very much that Harvard students will approve."

He hopes the students "approve"????

This is insane. It's the students who should, at least theoretically, logically, and historically, be seeking approval from the professors.

Let me get this straight. Harvard students, who hemorrhage $50,000 of taxpayer and parental money EACH YEAR, are questioning the propriety of owning a $50,000 car that a grown adult buys with his own earned income???

Anyway, why should I defend these professors? They obviously treat the students like customers (who are never wrong) with their pandering, grade inflation, and whatnot. The prof's lack the fortitude to defend themselves. They lack the brains and/or stomach to stand up to Cambridge groupthink. From where I sit, they barely merit any respect, even from the little pissants of the Harvard Crimson. In essence, the teachers are really just aged students themselves - and are even more demented. They're crazier because they've been in the Cambridge echo-system a whole lot longer.

I don't quite know what to do with the dizzying arrogance of Harvard students. They are mere children. They have never worked in the real world. They have never paid any taxes or any household bills. They've never procreated. They've never served in the military. Collectively they haven't done anything that history has adjudged to be within the domain of adulthood.

Their sense of moral superiority coudn't be more baseless or more nauseating.

No doubt soon the Crimson reporters will be following professors into bathrooms, noting how much paper they use and how many gallons they flush.

The "scourge of half-educated youth"?

Even for Harvard, Will Durant may have overestimated the fraction.