Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The bulletin du jour.

Here's the latest.

IF a certain project undertaken by my clients (we'll call it Project A) comes through in even a modestly timely/successful way, we'll be just fine until This Thing Blows Over whenever* that may be. If it does not, we might still be fine, but I just might need to ride the Disoriented Express straight into a padded cell, or have people standing by with defibrillator paddles ready fo rme to "ride the lightning."

That's it for now.

-J.

* If this damned thing takes longer than two years to sort out, then our worries -- and those of everyone else -- will be along rather more, er, apocalyptic lines.

Posted by Joke at 10:47 PM 5 comments

Monday, September 29, 2008

More economics stuff.

As of the nanosecond I am typing this, a vote on the "bailout" (which isn't, really, technically, a bailout) has been scheduled. I believe it is some sort of hybrid between the plan put forth by Sec. Paulson (as modified by the Democrats) and the counterproposal by the Republicans.

If this is substantially so (and it may well not be) then it seems it would be a good -- not great -- compromise. Larry Kudlow, who'd be my Sec. of the Treasury and under whose thinking cap groweth no moss, weighs in on why this would be a good deal (assuming what will pass is, essentially, what he is discussing) or, as he calls it a "win-win-win-win" and it richly merits your attention. Kudlow has a knack for reducing the complex down to layperson-friendly terms.

No, by my lights this deal isn't perfect. For example, that mark-to-market accounting rule was not struck down, instead the deal "...mandates a study on the impact of mark-to-market accounting standards." Which is like saying that when you see someone being attacked by a swarm of hornets, you immediately demand someone conduct a study on the impact of hornet stings. But it seems to meet the main goal, that of stopping the financial hemorrhage.

Again, I have no idea how close to this is the plan which will actually end up passing.

That said, I realize the plan -- in my opinion incorrectly billed as a bailout; because a bailout means essentially "here, Wall Street, take a gazillion dollars and clean up the mess you made," and that is hugely wrong on several important counts -- is wildly unpopular. Congress reports calls running +/- 25:1 against it, in fact. But most people really have absolutely no idea:

a) how financial markets work,
b) how what happens on Wall St. deeply impacts what happens on Main St. (which is why a lot of people get all mad at oil companies, instead of oil speculators, for rising fuel prices) and
c) the scope of the abyss down which we are staring.

This is not to say there's nothing left to do and the plan (assuming...blahblahblah, etc.) will prove a miraculous cure-all. The problem, and it is a colossal problem, is that nobody wants to lend their money (and we're talking a zillion tons of it) to anyone. The issue (for now) is not solvency, but liquidity. It's not "does the car have any gas?" but "does the car have any oil pumping through it?" What would you rather have, a car that runs out of gas at highway speeds, or one that runs out of oil all of a sudden at the same speeds? (Hint: Find some videos on YouTube of race cars with catastrophic oil pump failures. Yeah..."wow" is right.)
That is what we are facing, and it would be just as cataclysmic for an economy as it would for a minivan.

Lack of liquidity, however, has a nasty habit of turning into insolvency REALLY fast. Washington Mutual can't get the everyday cash it needs to handle daily operations and just like that [finger snap] it's seized by the gummint, broken up, and its assets sold off for pennies. Oh, those bondholders and shareholders of Washington Mutual are now holding worthless paper. This puts pressure on other banks (like, say Wachovia Bank, the 6th largest in the USA) because their cost on insuring their debt just shot through the roof just as they need cash on hand. Ta-da! Wachovia (wisely!) is now leaping into the arms of whomever is still there, kind of like a drunk guy looking at some aesthetically-challenged girls at closing time.

Furthermore, other banks don't want to lend to each other because they don't want to wind up like the saps who lent money to Washington Mutual and wound up losing all they invested. Worse, some of those bondholders and shareholders happen to be other banks in Europe and Asia (where they are still fighting the previous battle of inflation and have not yet figured out that systemic problems demand systemic solutions) and that's causing some of THOSE to start wobbling worryingly on their axis.

This is all an unpleasant shock for people who assume this is just a USA thing; the financial markets are so interwoven -- and have been for so many decades -- that it is impossible to be isolated from the problems. Just ask Russia, which on top of everything is finding out that annoying the world with that whole Georgia-invasion thing is not the way to get people to fling capital at you.

In sum, if the situation on financial markets isn't addressed soon, we're facing, at very best, a really deep recession and at worst...you don't want to know. Let's just say your crazy relatives who moved to a compound up in the mountains would be feeling pretty damned smug.

However, this needn't get worse. The fundamental underpinnings of the US economy are still (for now) okay. Personal income grew 0.5% (the projection was for only 0.2%) and 2nd Quarter GDP was 2.8% (up from a piddling 0.9% in the 1st Quarter).

In sum, if you want a cheat-sheet for seeing how things are going, just look to see how well banks are lending each other money in the "overnights," the more they are lending each other, the closer we are to the end of this mess.

So that's what's going on so far.

-J.

P.S. Sorry to not have comments on this entry, either.

Posted by Joke at 7:18 AM

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Contusions and lacerations.

If this keeps up, I don't know how long it'll be until I look like one of those cartoony skiing accident victims on a hospital bed. (See Fig. 1)

You may recall my beloved is, um, a sleeper. (Narcoleptic is, perhaps, too harsh a word.) The problem is that she has terrible balance* when awake. The problem is further compounded by the fact that when she's asleep her balance doesn't improve. Quite often this means she has some realistic dream which involves her succumbing to the gravitational pull of the earth wherein she tries to regain her balance by flailing around which, when one is asleep in relatively close proximity to one's husband, often results in contact.

I only mention this because I was awakened rather roughly by what possibly was a delicate, dainty female elbow (or wrist, it's hard to tell under the circs.) in the general vicinity of my windpipe.

Thought you ought to know, lest this calamity also befall you.

-J.

P.S. Now...and I know who you are...no smartass wisecracks about "not liking it rough in bed."

*Oh, Internet, the number of times I have had something sprained, strained or twisted when we're walking hand-in-hand (what? shut up.) and she trips, slips or skids.

Posted by Joke at 7:36 AM 7 comments

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dammit.

Just...dammit.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 3:51 PM 6 comments

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's not you, it's me.

Things at work are getting a bit...yeah.

So bloggery will be light until I can catch my breath.

As you were.

-J.

P.S. Feel free to pray Rosaries, chant, hop around the room, sacrifice goats to Baal, etc. I'm not proud.

Posted by Joke at 12:51 PM 4 comments

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More new stuff.

New wine review is up. Please click.

OKthanksbye,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:29 PM 0 comments

First Rosie, and now THIS?

Black is white, up is down, left is right.

My world no longer makes sense.

Look.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:52 AM 3 comments

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On a lighter note.

This way lies madness.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:57 PM 4 comments

Monday, September 22, 2008

The way I see it.

The hardest thing so far is to put thing succintly without yielding to my base and loathsome impulse to editorialize and otherwise hurl (richly deserved, in my opinion) invective. Still, I have disabled comments on this entry, as during a politically charged time, there is the risk of things overheating.

Here's how we got into this mess. The Community Development Initiative was put in place to combat something called redlining, generally defined as banks not willing to issue mortgages in certain areas; literally drawing red lines on maps of places where they would not lend. However, the effort to combat this actually compelled banks to issue loans to people who otherwise would not qualify for them. The spectre of government action against those banks who did not participate seemed to have been adequate incentive. (As usual, things swung from nonexistent to overkill.)

Now, banks are not charities and if they are going to lend money to people who ordinarily would not qualify for mortgages, they would have to structure these loans so that they made some semblance of business sense. In many cases these were the infamous "subprime" mortgages, but also prominent were mortgages with adjustable rates.

What really happened is actually related to oil. After Sept . 11, 2001, the Federal Reserve (correctly) dropped the interest rates to prevent an economic crisis. This led to a housing boom. People could now afford "more house" than they used to, and they availed themselves of the opportunity to trade up. Those people who couldn't previously afford a home could do so now, barely, with the help of ultra-low adjustable rate mortgages or subprime loans. Banks issued tons of these loans.

Here is where the wheels fall off the wagon. Speculators in oil drive up the price, which the Fed considers inflationary; food (especially corn, which is in EVERYTHING) starts being diverted to biofuel which drives up food costs, and the Fed (thinking this is even more inflationary) starts jacking up rates.

Only all those people who could BARELY afford their mortgage as it was start seeing their monthly payments -- they had adjustables, 'member? -- spike upwards. They default. The banks foreclose. The insurance companies who covered these risky loans have to start shooting off checks to cover the defaults. These assets have to be declared as WORTHLESS (instead of at a reduced value, as would be the normal case before the accounting rules changes mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) because the new accounting rules -- which ought be eliminated, IMCO -- called "mark to market" (a phrase of which you will all grow sick within the month) say you have to declare your assets at market price.

Problem is, when there is no organized market (and there isn't one, in the case in mortgages) the declared value of these is zero. So these institutions have their ratings downgraded, the brokers who invested in shares of the banks have THEIR ratings downgraded and eventually some companies, perfectly healthy ones, go under. Not because they are broke, but because they couldn't get access to cash.

The toxicity aspect is that each bank, broker, etc. that is affected, in turn affects others who have their shares in their portfolio. The issue here is not solvency, but it is liquidity. That is, certain institutions rely on the give and take of gazillions of dollars every day. This is like the leave-a-penny-take-a-penny tray at a checkout. When these institutions cannot get the cash they need, at a rate that is viable, they lock up and have to declare bankruptcy. Regardless how many squajillion dollars they have in assets.

The current proposal is for the Treasury to semi-revive the Resolution Trust Corporation (it'll get a different name, prob'ly), only instead of buying out whole companies, it'd only buy those bad loans. The number thrown around in $700B over time (my estimate is 12 years) With these bad loans off their books, banks would have the proper ratios to start lending money for mortgages again, which would firm up the housing market, which would bring back the economy. The money would not "go to Wall Street" and given that because of the "mark to market" accounting rule -- meaning bad loans would be bought at absurd discounts, and eventually resold back to the private sector at slightly less absurd* discounts-- the gummint would almost certainly likely make money in the long haul. At +/- $1500 per year per person it's not cheap, but the alternative, in my opinion, is unthinkable: A second Great Depression. That $1500 is chump change in comparison to the alternative.

The risk right now is not inflation (correctly identified as the growth in the gap between the velocity of money, and GDP; i.e., more and more money chasing relatively fewer goods and services, which manifests itself as, but is NOT defined as being, rising prices) but DEflation. Ignore the price spikes in oil. These are (and have been) purely speculator-driven, and are unsustainable. My guess is that oil will settle around $80-$85 a barrel by the time all this is done. Especially if people would just listen to me and adopt my "mean and green" approach to energy independence. But I digress.

Right now, as financial institutions engage in the unwinding of debt and the selling of stuff to get the cash to make up for that debt drives prices down. Since this includes houses, this also affects the number of industries that depend on housing. They have to lower their costs in order to sell something.

A tax increase -- essentially a massive withdrawal of liquidity -- at this point would be an epic catastrophe, and certainly ensures a Depression, just as the Smoot-Hawley Act did in 1930. I'm not against a board to oversee the entity in charge of the bailout, but I'm not adamantly for it either. That whole limit on CEO compensation sounds nice, but it's locking the barn after the horse is gone. The idiots who looted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for tens and hundreds of millions and then bailed out (in varying degrees of disgrace) are already gone. The people needed to clean up the mess simply won't come cheap.

The idea of protecting some people under the threat of foreclosure is also something I am not against, especially if these are people who had been making good faith efforts to meet their debt obligations. Not that they should be given any freebies, but there should be some flexibility in restructuring their mortgages commensurate to their ability to pay.

Also, I'm pretty Goldilocks on the issue of regulation. Part of the problem (esp. on the whole "credit swaps" morass) is that some things are utterly unregulated to the extent nobody has any idea how much money is tied up in them, and the other part is that "regular" securities are subject to useless and counterproductive (and contradicting!) regulation. When regulation becomes a barrier to business, people have an incentive to invent new things, seek out loopholes and otherwise escape ANY regulatory oversight. Our regulations need to be fewer and smarter and more evenly distributed. If everything had a few commonsensical regulations, instead of a) none whatsoever, or b) 1283 pages of bureaucratic pig Latin, much of this could have been avoided.

Finally, stocks-wise, I think we're not at rock-bottom. We're probably over the steep part of the down curve, though...but there is still some down to go. At least until the bailout starts bailing out.

-J.

* The general figures thrown around are that the gummint will buy these at +/-30 cents on the dollar, and they will likely be eventually resold at +/- 50 cents on the dollar.

Posted by Joke at 10:12 PM

Please stand by.

Well. Seems a great many of you are vaguely interested in what I had to say to all the boys and girls.

I'll try to post my remarks, explaining and detailing and shedding light and all that.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 2:34 PM 7 comments

Friday, September 19, 2008

Recommeded Daily Allowance of Irony

I'm working on My Remarks to The Distinguished Audience. Originally I thought it best to work off, as usual, some very cursory notes. But circumstances have overtaken.

Y'see, I was planning to explain to the boys and girls how Things Got This Way. I was good to go with my glib and facile explanation on the subject, and more concerned with apparel. But then, as you may have noted, turmoil hit Wall St. This means that not only my remarks to the boys and girls are deeply affected but so is my clientele which, in turn deeply affects me.

So, my naturally sunny mood has abated.

This is like being in the Intensive Care Unit, convulsing and making very unpleasant noises, as doctors try different approaches with varying degrees of success, and having to narrate what is happening to you to a group of young, bright-eyed medical students.

So that's where we are.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:39 AM 5 comments

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In lieu of an actual post

Musical frivolity from the film Get Smart:




Posted by Joke at 3:06 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I expect nobody to care.

My big speaking thing -- or, at least, what I had planned on saying -- has been upended by The Big News From Wall Street.

This sucks, because I had more or less jotted down 5 key points and was ready to extemporize mercilessly. Now I have to add more key points AND be ready for what to do if those key points change without any warning.

This is what I get for saying "yes."

Have I mentioned I am not getting paid a cent to do this?

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:15 PM 6 comments

Yay.

Labels: ,


Posted by Joke at 9:40 AM 5 comments

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mixtape Monday, Sep. 15/08


MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes


These are songs with nothing in common beyond their having crawled off the screen onto my playlist.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:30 AM 5 comments

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Masochism TV

For some reason, my beloved is glued -- GLUED, I tell you! -- to some TV program featuring some idiot who gets parachuted into Very Inhospitable Places and then has to go all survivalist. As near as I can figure out, each show involves this guy standing in something foul and mudlike, eating something foul and raw, getting stung by unspeakable creatures that make us wonder if DDT doesn't deserve a second chance.

Mesmerized, she is.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:28 PM 5 comments

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blanking ovah heah. UPDATED!

UPDATE: There should be something up at Vinapedia.net later today. I'll issue reminders for clickage (as well as the proper links) that I may be kept rolling in alcohol-laden freebies.

Sorry. Nothing to post.

I'm sure there's something, I just can't think of anything. Let me get caffeinated and get back to you.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:08 AM 0 comments

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two brief, unrelated things.

Ovah at teachergirl's blog, she addresses the matter of fire drills. Which reminded me of a friend I had in the latter part of my Wilderness Years, at the University of Margaritaville* way back when.

This guy was the only ridiculously rich person I had ever met, with a trust fund in the low 8 figures (back when the low 8 figures was really money) and to top it all off he was handsome, charming** and intelligent. But I want you to hold on to the thought he had all the cash anyone could ever want, as it becomes something of a plot point.

There is a certain something that comes over a person when the worry about material security is absent. He was simply a great guy who couldn't give a damn. All he had to do was graduate and he'd be showered with money. (Prudently, his degree was in finance, as he wanted to keep his money.)

At any rate, he and I would often go off for beers when the study schedule was relatively light. (There are a zillion more stories on this, but that's another blog entry.) Sometimes, our outings would cause us to intersect with intriguing demimondaines and our evenings would proceed along a more interesting path, and sometimes we'd lose track of our quaffing and our walk back to campus was somewhat more serpentine than the original trek.

One such evening, after flirting with the waitresses so successfully that our beer allowance had magically doubled at no cost to us, we made it back to our dorm. We were, if I may say so, in Very Poor Shape. Not abysmal shape, but very poor shape indeed. The fact it was 3something a.m. was no help. He flopped into bed and I collapsed on a beanbag.

Directly the fire bell went off.

Our simultaneous response was something along the lines of "oh, @#$% THAT." and we stayed put, figuring the rapid rotation of the building would quickly quench any flames if this was, in fact, a real fire. Now, there was a guy, the R.A. (Resident Assistant, for those not fully up to speed with American university housing jargon) who realllllllllllllllly didn't get along with us. As young Libertarians, we were of the opinion his enforcement of idiotic rules were a violation of our personal liberty, and his zeal in doing so seemed rather selective.

So we didn't go outside to be among the counted.

R.A. was not pleased. We could hear him bounding up the metal staircase. He banged on the door.

"_______, you have to come out!"
"@#$% you."
"I'm serious! Come out!"
"Seriously @#$% you."
"You're going to be fined [pause] a LOT of money."
"How much?"
"$75."
At which point my pal staggered to the door, threw out two $50s and yelled "keep the change!" and slammed the door.

Okay that one wasn't brief.

===============

The other thing is that you may recall I am scheduled to address a throng of people at a conference, which precludes me going to Poppyville to array myself in white tie this year, to my bitter regret.

I received an email from someone on The Committee and after an exchange (or, if you'd rather, volley) she announced that, of all those speaking, I was the only one who had no questions on my topic and was, interestingly, the only one who had discussed what to wear.

Make of that what you will.

-J.

* Not its real name.
** Of all my friends, this one has always been my parents' favorite.

Posted by Joke at 8:29 AM 5 comments

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Because someone asked nicely.

One of you, whom I shan't out, in reviewing my answers to the recent food meme asked for my version of tiramisu.

So, because I am meant to be a force for all that is good and decent in turbulent times, here it is (with metrification for the rest of the world because I am, simply, a Hell of a guy):

This goes around to 8-10 people, so halve (or quarter!) as needed. Feel free to make it taller or shorter, it will taste the same. (Taller is posher, to some.) It is also an excellent opportunity to conscript any youngsters to assist. It is also a VERY easy dessert for said youngsters to make, requiring only modest whisking power and even more modest assembly skills. Some other variants have separated eggs which require whisking over double boilers, or whipping cream which demand either major appliances or serious muscle. Not here, as getting your 9 year old to start pitching in with food preparation is, to quote Eddie Izzard, A Good Thing.

Dipping

½ c. (125ml) cooled espresso coffee (or use REALLY strong coffee), sweetened or not as you prefer
¼ c. (65ml) amaretto liqueur (or use a scant ¾ c. espresso with a healthy shot of almond extract)
½ lb. (450gm) ladyfingers, or cut-into-planks sponge cake, toasted (if you don't toast it pretty dry, it will get seriously soggy)

Filling
1/3 c. (+/- 80ml) sugar
2 t. (?? ml) vanilla extract

1 lb. (450gm) mascarpone or cream cheese or neufchatel cheese (this last one is my favorite for "everyday" tiramisu, it's far less caloric than mascarpone, almost as good and way cheaper, even if you use some chi-chi organic stuff...I like Horizons Organic), softened to room temperature.

Finishing
Cocoa powder (I like Droste) or chocolate powder (sometimes called "ground chocolate" in which case I like Pernigotti's) chocolate shavings (I like Valrhona or Scharffenberger) for dusting the surface.


Put your espresso/amaretto fluid in a shallow tray. Lay a ladyfinger down flat for HALF A SECOND, flip it over another half second and remove. Place the duly dampened ladyfinger down flat in your vessel* of choice. Then repeat until you have one layer, making sure they almost, but not quite, touch.

For the filling, whip mascarpone (or cream cheese, or neufchatel) with sugar and vanilla until you no longer see sugar crystals and the cheese takes on a batter-like texture. Do not panic if it's runny, as it will firm up in the fridge.

Pour/spread just enough filling to cover the ladyfingers. Go do another layer's worth of the dipping/layering. Repeat until you are done. (You should wind up with a layer of filling on top)

Cover (I use a resealable plastic container, otherwise go with cling wrap) and refrigerate overnight -- willpower!! -- before serving. You need the time for the just damp ladyfingers to absorb the moisture from the mascarpone (which in turn "pushes" the espresso deeper into the ladyfinger, softening it while firming up the mascarpone further) and you need the filling to set up** to the correct firmness. Just prior to serving put cocoa/ in a fine strainer and shake a light coating on surface, or sprinkle chocolate shavings.

Serve to rapturous acclaim.

-J.

*
I like a Tupperware resealable container shaped like a loaf pan. If you want to be posh, you line it with buttered cling wrap so as to make a "sling" and put in a layer of filling FIRST, so that you may invert it. This is not necessary if it's to be served "family style." If you want it REALLY posh, you could also line them up VERTICALLY in some sort of fanciful glassware -- martini glass, tumbler, wineglass, whatever -- and really go frou-frou. I wouldn't bother.

** You can cheat with a bit of gelatin if you like it pretty firm or if you just want it to firm up faster.


Posted by Joke at 8:41 AM 4 comments

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hurricane update. UPDATED! AGAIN!

UPDATE SOME MORE!
The really stormy area (i.e. Tropical Storm Warning) is JUST south of my house. I am well in the "severe weather" area, though...meaning sustained winds of 24mph to 39mph. (Plus all the attendant rain.) No further damage has ensued, but the companion potted topiary is also likely to topple, especially if my beloved isn't looking.
UPDATE! The awning on our gazebo has come off! A potted topiary -- not much of one, incidentally -- has toppled!

It SEEMS that we'll get off pretty light. Tons of rain, goodish gusts of wind but no more.

WHEW.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:03 PM 6 comments

Mixtape Monday, Sep. 7/08


MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

What passes for a theme today is: Cover Tunes. I only regret that I already used Fun Boy Three's version of Our Lips Are Sealed...but nobody said life was fair, right?

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:00 AM 6 comments

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Grand Meme Larceny

Pilfered shamelessly from the lovely and gracious H&B.

1. How do you like your eggs?
Cooked. Seriously. I love eggs in pretty much any manifestation in which they are available.
Poached, over-easy, sunny-side, hardboiled, coddled, scrambled, omelette/frittata/strata. It truly is all good.

2. How do you take your coffee/tea?
Coffee: Espresso, preferably a "ristretto," somewhat on the sweet side. 2-3 a day is average.

Tea: Orange Pekoe when reading, or Japanese Green tea when wanting a lighter, more cleansing-ish breakfast. Sweetened with honey, no milk.

3. Favorite breakfast food:
I quote H&B: "I love a full breakfast. Any time of day." For me this means
a) eggs
b) pancakes/waffles/french toast (w. maple syrup; Grade A Dark)
c) bacon or breakfast sausage
d) orange juice (or maybe a Bloody Mary)
e) espresso

4. Peanut butter:
Only to make peanut sauce, in which case I use Smucker's no-salt added organic. Hate it by itself.

5. What kind of dressing on your salad?
a) Bacon & blue cheese dressing*
b) Basic citronette**

6. Coke or Pepsi?
Kosher-for-Passover Coke.

7. You’re feeling lazy. What do you make?
Spaghetti with marinara.

8. You’re feeling really lazy. What kind of pizza do you order?
Prosciutto & mushrooms.

9. You feel like cooking. What do you make?
See my published works.

10. Do any foods bring back good memories?
Not really.

11. Do any foods bring back bad memories?
Liver.

12. Do any foods remind you of someone?
Not really.

13. Is there a food you refuse to eat?
Aside from the obvious (insects, etc.) innards are pretty high on my refusal list.

14. What was your favorite food as a child?
Bunless cheeseburger drowning in ketchup.

15. Is there a food that you hated as a child but now like?
Not really.

16. Is there a food that you liked as a child but now hate?
Chicken noodle soup from an envelope.

17. Favorite fruit and vegetable:
Fruit: banana...maybe lime.
Vegetable: asparagus - grilled

18. Favorite junk food:
Tortilla chips.

19. Favorite between meal snack:
Whatever hits my umami button.

20. Do you have any weird food habits?
I'd rather cook than eat out. I also like having the right plate/utensil for whatever I'm cooking.

21. You’re on a diet. What food(s) do you fill up on?

Sparkling water and salads.

22. You’re off your diet. Now what would you like?
Steak.

23. How spicy do you order Indian/Thai?
"Native" hot.

24. Can I get you a drink?
I bet you can.

25. Red or White Wine?
What am I eating?

26. Favorite dessert?
Cheesecake. Tiramisu.

27. The perfect nightcap?
Not really. A quart of sparkling water is nice. (I am perennially thirsty)

Tag yourself at leisure.

-J.

* 1 c. mayonnaise (I like homemade)
½ c. crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
½ c. half and half
2 T creme fraiche (sour cream or sour half & half)
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ t Worcestershire sauce
¼ t teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

In a food processor or blender, zap the mayonnaise, half of the blue cheese, half & half, creme fraiche, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and salt, until smooth. Gently stir in the remaining blue cheese (you want the chunky bits), the bacon and season with pepper to taste. Use now or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

** 1 teaspoon garlic, mashed to a pulp
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard (I suggest Dijon)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and oil until emulsified. THIS STEP IS KEY. Once it's all a homogeneous mixture, add the lemon and salt and pepper. You add some herbs -- chives are nice -- if you like.

Posted by Joke at 12:25 PM 6 comments

Friday, September 05, 2008

Y'know what's (slightly) weird?

When you see a photograph of someone and, although he or she does not look especially old, you instantly know exactly what he or she would look like at age 85.

Thought I'd share.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:18 AM 4 comments

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Oh, $#!+ (UPDATED GRAPHIC)


-J.

Posted by Joke at 4:49 PM 9 comments

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

You wouldn't know it.

Perhaps it may seem strange, or perhaps ironic, or even strangely ironic or ironically strange that I am someone deeply fascinated with politics, policy and ideology* and have been practically since the moment of conception.

I'm one to steer clear of these weightier matters because they tend to generate infinitely more heat than light and this blog -- and my whole blog-life, frankly -- are about the light and fluffy doings of a happy bunny. This set of affairs would be deeply endangered by a discussion on the merits of Gov. X vs. Sen. Y, which would rapidly devolve into a mudfight, the sort of which I do not wish to have on my tab.

Those of you who might've delved into this topic might've also noticed my absence from comboxes when the subject gets electoral. A happy bunny's worldview is a fragile thing to be guarded with great jealousy.

Oh, sure, I have another, secret blog where I vent my spleen at those with whom I disagree and further vent my spleen at the sniveling cretins who putatively represent my side of the ideological divide. There I am far more ruthless than I am here, and those who dissent in an impolite or overly unintelligent manner are issued a swift and sharp corrective.

The only reason I mention this is because when I was a kid I really, really wanted to become President of the USA. I'll spare you all the rather shocking things I'd do, but suffice it to say I'd be able to knock off early in the first term, stopping by the Oval Office only on Tuesdays and Thursdays to make sure the Russians weren't thinking of invading perfectly peaceable neighbors or that the bitch-slapping of bureaucrats had, in fact, been lowered in status to a mere misdemeanor, punishable by a small fine.

I really, seriously, harbored every intention of becoming President and nursed this desire all the way into early graduate school. I had what in statesperson circles is called A Cunning Plan. Since my beloved has pretty much stood at the doorway with a kitchen knife to her own throat threatening to end it all in a singularly gruesome manner if I so much consider being elected dogcatcher, there is no danger of my reaching elected office and I may safely share this plan with all of the assembled.

The Republic's loss is thy gain.

My congressional district had been represented in Washington by a guy who had fought with Washington at Yorktown, or so it seemed. By the time my interest in achieving high elected office had crystallized, he was 173 years old and was serving his 98th term in office. Although the party registration in the district really didn't favor him, he was viewed as a decent man, of not-too-leftist-ish views whose immense seniority was seen as an asset. So the opposing party, regardless of its 2:1 advantage in voter registrations, never bothered sending anyone up against him. In fact, this had been the case for the previous 10 years.

But the distinguished Representative was 173 years old. In each of the prior two elections, he had suffered serious health problems and his status was despaired of, and his health was greatly diminished after only partial recoveries. So when the elections of 1990 started inching forward and once again, nobody rose to challenge him, I came up with my plan. *I* would run against him. I would wait until May 31st, which was then -- and it still may be, for all I know -- the deadline to file for candidacy, and pay my $50 and become his opponent in that election.

The idea was that I would, if I may use the eBay term, snipe the election.

I was betting, somewhat cynically, his health would preclude him from successfully prosecuting another election. He would either Not Make It, or would have to drop out and -- watch what I'm doing ovah heah -- because the candidate filing would be closed, there'd be no competition and therefore I'D be the next Representative. From there, the Governorship (or the Senate, I wasn't fussy) and then the White House.

This was, I kid thee not, a fully formed and utterly serious plan in my mind. I was going to be President. What I didn't count on was the distinguished gentleman dying two weeks before** the filing deadline, so that eleventy gazillion people -- all of them more properly funded and far better known -- from either party all filed to succeed him.

And that, dear Internet, is why I am not running for re-election to the Presidency in 2008.

-J.

* The three are different, albeit somewhat overlapping.

** Hard to believe that, had the old boy held on a mere 16 days longer, today my life would be spectacularly different. As would the lives of every man, woman and child on the planet for generations to come.

Posted by Joke at 2:38 PM 7 comments

Monday, September 01, 2008

Mixtape Monday #3


MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes


Better late than never, yes?

Since I started MixTaping a lot of 80s stuff, many among the assembled herein have often reflected how one song or another provides a reminder of a romance-not-gone-well. So, in order to get this all out of the way in one swell foop, I bring you an assortment of songs that vividly remind me of being miserable over one girl or another.

Now you know.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:29 PM 5 comments