31 July 2009

Booking Through Thursday (on Friday)

Each week Booking Through Thursday posts a meme (an idea that gets passed from person to person or blog to blog) about books. I've read BTT for awhile and looked at how others have responded, but this is my first time participating. I should note that this is the Booking Through Thursday meme for July 23, not the one for this week.

The question this week is actually a series of quick Qs and As. My answers are in red.

Reading something frivolous? Or something serious?
Paperbacks? Or hardcovers?
Fiction? Or Nonfiction?
Poetry? Or Prose?
Biographies? Or Autobiographies?
History? Or Historical Fiction?
Series? Or Stand-alones?
Classics? Or best-sellers?
Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose?
Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness?
Long books? Or Short?
Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated?
Borrowed? Or Owned?
New? Or Used?

Back to the Old New MyPorch

In case you haven't noticed, I have switched visual formats for MyPorch back to the orginal template. While I liked some things about the now abandoned new format, my main problem for it was that the text columns were too narrow. Given my lack of HTML skills it is unlikely that I will do better than what you see now.

Bernie Madoff Joins AIG Board of Directors

House of Cards Insurance (HCI), ShellGame Inc. (SGI), and Ponzi Scheme Assurance Company (PSAC) are just three of the lesser known 4,000 business units that make up American International Group (AIG). Apparently whenever the greedy geniuses at one AIG unit needed to find financial guarantees for whatever brilliant business deal they were making they just went to another AIG unit to cover their liabilities. Unfortunately, the AIG units that provided those guarantees are similarly leveraged with other AIG units. This might not be a problem if the parent company had all the money in the world to cover the debts of its spoiled children. But we all know that isn't the case. If it was then they could pay back $182 billion to taxpayers. As it is, even with the enormous federal bailout, it appears a light breeze could structurally damage their house of cards.

Crossposted at Opensewer.

28 July 2009

The Best Bar in the World

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I just returned from a great, if short, trip to British Columbia (which I will write more about later). While I was in Vancouver, I remembered a little factoid from my one previous trip there about five years ago. The Starbucks in VanCity have the BEST fudge oatmeal bars in the world. I am thinking about buying them in bulk. But that would make me a little bulkier than I want to be. I haven't tried this recipe, but it says it is for the Starbucks Oat Fudge Bars. Bake a batch and send a few my way.

22 July 2009

New York State of Mind

This great Alphabet was created by Rachel Young using Google Map images of the state of New York. Image comes from a story in the New York Post that I was alerted to on the very cool website Curbed which I linked to (for a different reason) from the Huffington Post.

21 July 2009

Real Life Intervention

My grasp of economics is remedial at best. But it seems to me that we are in a collective state of denial about the short term future of the housing market. Too often the "experts" called upon by the media to expatiate on the state of the market are from organizations like the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Homebuilders, and have the most to gain from an up market and an upbeat consumer.

As someone who is planning on purchasing a home in early 2010 and is stunned by the still huge prices on some really crappy real estate, it is extremely satisfying to finally find a truth talker on TV. One of my favorite new shows, Real Estate Intervention, features Mike Aubrey, a shaved-headed, straight talking real estate agent in Maryland who does not suffer fools gladly--and he has a lot of fools to choose from. The show follows him around the Washington-Baltimore metro area while he schools home sellers on the reality of the current market. And comps be damned, the sellers never want to believe that the white hot market is lukewarm at the moment and has the potential to keep getting cooler over the next year or so. So far there hasn't been an episode where the clueless and intransigent sellers have been right and Mike has been wrong.

But then maybe I shouldn't be too hard on the sellers. They have been told for too long that the market would never go down. When faced with an ARM reset and home foreclosure this season on The Simpsons, Homer complained to his mortgage lender that he was told he wouldn't have to make any payments until the future and goes on to say "this isn't the future, it's the lousy stinkin' now." Should we really expect the average American to be smarter than Homer Simpson?

19 July 2009

Big Sigh Country

From the second one steps off the plane in Jackson, Wyoming, it is hard not to feel the stress of the world melt away. The small airport in Jackson has the Grand Tetons as a spectacular backdrop and the fresh air smelling of conifers hits you instantly. We were lucky enough to spend a long weekend here over the 4th of July visiting John's older brother and his family. I had been in Jackson twice before, once in the fall and once in the winter, but this was my first trip in the summer.

What a spectacular place to be in the summer. Even getting rain for a few hours on two of the days we were there, the weather was great. Warm sunny days with cool nights. In fact the 4th was cool enough to build a fire in the fireplace. We had a great time hanging out with family, went for a beautiful hike in Grand Teton National Park, and took a raft down the Snake River for a few hours. The raft trip was probably my favorite part. They had had lots of rain leading up to our visit so John's brother decided to keep novices like us out of the whitewater. Fine by me, floating down the river, beautiful scenery, Pepperidge Farms Goldfish...I couldn't have asked for better.

15 July 2009

The Year of Acquiring EVERYTHING

You may recall that I was going to try and not acquire anything unnecessary until we buy a house next year. And then I had a few minor slips here and here.

Well, since then all hell has broken loose--at least as it relates to that goal. I get no prizes for largely limiting my unauthorized acquisitions to books. It is so difficult to go to great used bookstores and not buy something. You might say "stay the heck out of bookstores". But on the very short list of places that give me pure joy, bookstores are right at the top. The money spent on these books has been pretty low (thanks to the "used" part) but the stacks of books, unread and read, are becoming structurally unsafe. Toss in a few classical CDs I bought after determining I needed some fresh fodder for my iPod, a box of travel-themed stickers (Am I a 13 year old girl? What the heck am I going to do with them?), a pair of sneakers to relieve my literally aching feet, and it all adds up to an abandoned goal.

The good news is that I don't really beat myself over unmet goals. This will become especially apparent when I do the final reckoning of my 40 by 40 list next month as I leave my 30s behind and face the ever-quickening march to death. And before my Dad chimes in (Ernie in Peoria) and tells me to get over myself and my perpetual mid-life crisis, I am actually just being funny about the march to death part. It is true of course, but it doesn't bother me in the same way that it did a few years ago.

Now I can't wait to "acquire" a house next year so I can find room (in fact a whole room) for all of those books...

11 July 2009

Where in the World is This Lovely Meadow?

Could it be...

Upon closer inspection, bits of a city start to peek out. The bucolic scence gives way to post-industrial lower Manhattan.

Why, it's the High Line

The High Line is a linear park made from the remnants of an elevated freight rail line that ran from the Meat Packing District on the West Side of lower Manhattan all the way up to midtown. The first segment of the park just opened to the public and goes from Gansevoort Street up to about 20th Street. Currently you have to enter the park (as seen below) from the Gansevoort Street entrance. Eventually the park will go up to 33rd Street.

For decades the rail line was unused and ever decaying. As if humans needed a reminder that we are superfluous to life on this planet, it also proved to be a repository for all kinds of wild flora eager to take back this thin slice of Earth. Any seed with even a little bit of moxie managed to find fertile soil on the tracks turning the abandoned line into an urban meadow. The truly wild meadow is no longer there, but the park designers, and the great Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf did an amazing job recreating a space that manages to maintain the wild spirit of the High Line.

Entering the High Line at Gansevoort Street one is greeted by the Standard Hotel which straddles part of the line.

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Things You Can See on the High Line

Chaise lounges very busy on a very busy Saturday.

Street Theater--literally. A place to sit and watch traffic on 10th Avenue without getting run over.
Model wannabes infront of A/X soft porn. Seriously, the blond was posing Paris Hilton-style while her friend tooks lots of pics. Coming soon to a reality show near you?

Views From the High Line

Hudson River looking over at New Jersey.

The skyline of Jersey City.

The Statue of Liberty.

Tenth Avenue (I think).

The Empire State Building.

Juxtaposition City

One thing you get on the High Line are some juxtapositions that you wouldn't get at street level.
I love how the Frank Gehry building peeks around the corner of the old brick building in the left foreground.

This rogue weed growing out of an adjacent building is a reminder of the High Line's wild past.

08 July 2009

Sarah Palin

Well I may be a day late and dollar short chiming in on the Sarah Palin meltdown, but I won't let my tardiness stop me from putting in my two cents.

Most criticism of Sarah Palin has nothing to do with her gender or her working class credentials. Some commentators, bloggers, journalists, etc. may use language that references (or even denigrates) these things, but the fundamental fact is that the woman chooses to be willfully ignorant. It is not that she is dumb. It is not that she has a less than stellar academic background. It is not even the fact that her resume is thin. It is the fact that she refuses, usually in the cause of being folksy, to learn anything about the world or any facet of the political world that she appears to want to be a part of. I am not saying that she is ever going to take a position that I agree with, but she could, at the very least, try to sound like she knows what she is talking about.

Anyone in the political world who says that she still has, or should have, a political future is either a liar or an idiot. Palin was a political candidate for national office and had the potential to be one heart beat away from being president, yet she was so very unprepared to assume that role. The major thing the McCain-Palin camp kept touting was her experience as the chief executive of the State of Alaska. You can argue about what that qualifies her to do, BUT SHE COULDN'T EVEN HANDLE THAT! All of her BS about Obama's lack of experience and she won't even be able to point to her own record as a successful governor of Alaska. She couldn't get through one single term in office. It doesn't matter why she quit. The fact is she quit. So now she can say she was a successful Mayor of Wasilla and a failed, not even one-term governor of Alaska.

Palin has no problem slinging mud and stoking gut-level, intense hatred toward Obama, yet her skin is so thin she can't handle the name calling headed her direction. Has the name calling been mean-spirited? Yes, but it is not worse, and even seems far less vitriolic than the venom spewed at her campaign rallies and the tea-bag parties against Obama.

And then there are all the crazy rumours about Palin, her family, and alleged misdeeds in office. Do these accusations even approach the same level as the ones thrown at then First Lady Hillary Clinton? After all she was the lesbian killer of Vince Foster. And of course the $50 million dollars Ken Starr spent to prove that Bill was an adulterer. But then the ignorant idiot Palin thinks that the President's "Department of Law" is there to deal with spurious charges. Does she not know that the Clintons and members of their staff spent millions of dollars to defend themselves over a slew of investigations (some appropriate, some not)? And even if Palin is going to be ignorant of that fact, do you think that she could at least know that there is no such thing as the Department of Law? In her vast, supposedly brilliant brain, could she not have picked up somewhere along the way that there is White House Counsel, there is the Attorney General, there is the Department of Justice, but no such damn thing as the Department of Law! Is this just her trying to be folksy again?

I hope she does run in 2012. Idiot.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Eakins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Philly's hometown boy, Thomas Eakins is well represented at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He did many portraits throughout his career but is perhaps best known for images of the male form (rowing, wrestling, etc.) and a few large works depicting medical lectures such as the The Gross Clinic and The Agnew Clinic. The photo below of The Agnew Clinic is just a detail of the much larger painting. The major action in the painting (shown in the detail below) very dramatically takes place in the lower right corner of the canvas. The lecturer (not shown in the detail) is similarly illuminated as the surgeons, but is off to the left away from the action. The steeply raked rows of observers fill most of the painting and provide a darkish background that makes the surgical team and, to a lesser degree, Professor Agnew almost glow on the canvas.