Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Big Sister! - updated (new pic)

The photo above is of my Big Sister Shirley. Today she celebrated her 80th birthday. Quite an accomplishment, I say.

This is the cake (from an iPhone photo by my niece Paula).

May the year ahead be filled with health and love.


Here is the birthday girl with her cake. Looking good for 80, if you ask me!

--the BB

Friday, December 16, 2011


As I announced in the previous post, I have been getting things done. Yesterday I assembled three racks of shelves for the garage and got boxes, formerly scattered about, onto the shelves. I also tore up lots of boxes for recycling.

The new hot water heater arrived very late yesterday afternoon and was installed. I no longer live in fear of an imminent water-spewing disaster in the garage. I celebrated with a long hot bath last night (re-reading Tales of the City). I have also finished watching Season Three of The Big Bang Theory.

I have assembled a list of every ingredient, except water, for tomorrow's dinner. I marked what I have and what I do not. Sorted and printed out as a shopping list. About to head out and shop. (On a Friday afternoon near Christmas, am I crazy? Better than tomorrow morning.)

I am going to attempt my first devil's food cake (from scratch, natch). I will make it today so if it does not work out (this is high altitude baking after all) I can do something else tomorrow while the stew cooks in the slow cooker.

This is not an Italian meal, for the first time in months. I knew I would eventually go in other directions though I still plan to learn more about Italian cooking. The stew and the cake are new adventures for me. Appetizers, side dishes, and salad are old hat. A balance, though the meal is still meant to impress. lol.


Pork stew with carrots, fennel, prunes, brandy, and cream
Haricots verts

Green salad

Devil's food cake

Just remembered I need to count my cake pans before I leave and add flowers to the shopping list.

I am rejoicing in the really big things I have accomplished this week and not dwelling on several other things that also need doing. Oh well.

Happy Beethoven's Birthday, everybody.

--the BB

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Aside from trying to depress us all with my previous post (looking back at our political journey may be edifying but it is also quite disheartening), I am trying to put this week to positive use.

Phone calls are slow at work so we are each taking one week off, in turn, to reduce staffing and still stay employed. This is my week to be furloughed. Not good for income but a gift from God in which I can catch up on some important things.

Today I took the car in for servicing. I knew I needed alignment of the wheels. Turns out I also needed two new front tires. But they were able to repair a puncture in the right rear tire that was giving me a slow leak that had to be dealt with. New wiper blades (I can see in the rain again!). All good stuff and right on schedule.

My '99 Accord came with a stereo that plays cassettes, nothing so modern as compact discs. Yesterday I bought a new stereo (and no, I did not get one for the really new stuff, deal with it) and it will be installed tomorrow morning. I will be able to listen to CDs while I drive AND can hook it up to my iPod. Bonus! Nearly all my collection of CDs is on my iPod.

I have run a few other errands. I replaced a broken kitchen strainer (the large one I use a lot), got a larger pastry bag, and have a new cake plate. Yes, I am dying to work on various cakes. Torn between a ricotta cheesecake and devils food for Saturday's dinner. Or something else. Cakes at 5200 feet elevation carry their own challenges.

Tomorrow I go shopping for a new water heater. Mine is, er, leaking. Not good. Let's get that fixed before it blows up on me.

Amid all this I continue my Big Bang Theory festival. I am in the third season now. So now I am addicted to that as well as Glee. I never got Friends, hated Seinfeld, but I love Big Bang Theory. Maybe it's the nerd humor that gets to me.

Yesterday I put up the tree. Today I decorated it.

Here is the Bear Angel that has topped my tree for decades. There are only two of them. Bill's sister has the other. Both hand-sewn by me.

And this is the tree. After this photo I hung the candy canes. Tomorrow I will gather all the kids beneath it and we can do a family portrait.

The kids will now also give me some peace and quiet.

Dang, I remembered another errand I could have run while I was in a specific neighborhood today. Oh well.

There is also the garage project. Last year Bill helped me organize the south wall. I just bought shelving to begin organizing the north wall. Bit by bit.

Happy St Lucy's Day, y'all.

--the BB

Monday, December 12, 2011

December reminiscence

Seven years ago:

Boston Globe, March 8, 2004:
Iraq death spurs push for Humvee armor
In the days before his death, Private First Class John D. Hart called his father to tell him how unsafe he felt riding around Iraq in a Humvee that lacked bulletproof shielding or even metal doors.
It would be the last conversation Brian T. Hart would have with his 20-year-old son. On Oct. 18 near Kirkuk, Saddam Hussein loyalists ambushed his son's Army convoy, killing two. A hail of bullets felled the Bedford High School graduate while he fought from his Humvee.
"When he died, all his ammunition had been spent," the unit commander wrote in a letter to Hart's parents. "Your son gave everything he had for the safety of others. . . . As a commander, I struggle to find words that adequately capture the depth to which we honor Private First Class Hart."
For Brian Hart, a 44-year-old Bedford businessman, his only son's last words have come to haunt him, especially after learning that other families who lost loved ones in Humvee attacks had complained to the Pentagon about the lack of armor in vehicles.
In fact, an average sport utility vehicle found on US roads provides more protection than Hart's Humvee. "He would have been better off in a Toyota Highlander," the father said.

The GOP wants government off our backs, but they want to take over the job of teaching your kids about sex.
The GOP accuses the Democrats of not supporting our troops, yet shoves them into war with no protection from attacks.
The GOP claims to have a more diverse cabinet, but all the brains are exactly the same.
The GOP claims to have the morality franchise, yet corporate crime, murder, military deaths, voter fraud and abortions have increased dramatically under their rule.
The GOP claims to be the party to trust with homeland security, but they can't find anyone without a rap sheet to run that department.
The GOP claims to be fiscally conservative, but they've plowed through a huge surplus, ran it into a record deficit and they still want to borrow to pay for things like Social Security and a historically inept war.
The GOP claims to be compassionate, but their idea of a helping hand is to recruit more poor and elderly people into fighting that inept war.
Ready to take it to the streets yet? If not - when?


MORE ON EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION....As Matt says, although tax and accounting issues are worth looking at, the real cause of runaway CEO compensation is widespread corruption in the corporate governance sphere. CEO salaries are essentially set by other CEOs and a small coterie of "compensation consultants," all of whom are motivated to set each other's salaries as high as possible so that in turn their own salaries will — someday — be set even higher. How many other employees have a sweet deal like that?

So how do they get away with it? First, by convincing everyone that this is a reasonable statement: "If we want a good CEO, we have to pay above the average." Simple arithmetic tells you that as long as everyone believes this, executive salaries will spiral upward endlessly.

Second, by making it hard to figure out how much their executives are paid in the first place. Stock options, perks, lucrative pension plans, and so forth are hard to value, and thus prevent overpaid CEOs from seeming overpaid until it's too late.

And third, by putting up roadblocks that make it difficult for dissident shareholders to complain about all this. In most companies, shares are so widely dispersed that very few people have a strong enough interest in this stuff to make a fuss. And when someone does manage to make a fuss, most corporations have rules that make it all but impossible to gather enough votes to make a difference.

Of course, I guess there are other possibilities. Price levels are controlled by supply and demand, and perhaps there's a shortage of talented CEOs these days. Or perhaps demand is higher. Or maybe companies are better run than they used to be.

If any of those things were true, it would mean rising CEO compensation is just evidence of the market at work. As it turns out, though, none of them are.

CEOs aren't paid astronomical salaries because of market forces. They're paid astronomical salaries because they can get away with it. That's all.

Kevin Drum 6:14 PM Permalink

Six years ago:

SA to allow same-sex marriage

2 December 2005

South Africa is set to become the fifth country in the world, and the first in Africa, to allow legal marriages between same-sex couples, following a Constitutional Court judgment on Thursday.

Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Canada allow same-sex marriages, as does the US state of Massachusetts.

Odom: Want stability in the Middle East? Get out of Iraq!

COMMENTARY | November 11, 2005

In his last piece for, retired Gen. William Odom argued that all the terrible things the Bush administration says would happen if we pulled our troops out of Iraq are happening already. In a new postscript, Odom writes that the converse is true as well: Bush says he wants to bring democracy and stability to the greater Middle East -- but in fact the only way to achieve that goal is to get out of Iraq now.

Three years ago:

The Federal Reserve refused a request by Bloomberg News to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

by kos
Mon Dec 15, 2008 at 01:20:05 PM PST
Seriously, I don't blame Bush for this. It was to be expected. I blame Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who were supposed to protect the taxpayers from Bush's well-known efforts to pilfer our country.
Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the eye-popping pay of Wall Street executives, so lawmakers included a mechanism for reviewing executive compensation and penalizing firms that break the rules.
But at the last minute, the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision, congressional aides said. The change stipulated that the penalty would apply only to firms that received bailout funds by selling troubled assets to the government in an auction, which was the way the Treasury Department had said it planned to use the money.
Now, however, the small change looks more like a giant loophole, according to lawmakers and legal experts. In a reversal, the Bush administration has not used auctions for any of the $335 billion committed so far from the rescue package, nor does it plan to use them in the future. Lawmakers and legal experts say the change has effectively repealed the only enforcement mechanism in the law dealing with lavish pay for top executives.

[Emphasis mine - BB]

Two years ago:

The People STILL Want the Public Option
by mcjoan
Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 02:12:03 PM PST
Not that public opinion on healthcare makes a damned bit of difference in D.C., but strong majorities still like the public option, according to two new polls, one from CBS/NYT [pdf], and the other from CNN.

Obama admin's sweetheart deal with drug companies holding up vote on cheaper drug import
by Joe Sudbay (DC) on 12/11/2009 09:12:00 AM
When you make deals with the devil, there's a price. Unfortunately, the price is paid by American consumers. We first wrote about the secret deal between the White House and the drug industry's lobbying group on August 6, 2009 when the New York Times exposed it. Now, we're seeing that deal's negative implications. Democrats are blocking a vote on an amendment to the health care bill on drug imports:

SCOTUS: Rummy Is Immune in Torture Suit
By: emptywheel Monday December 14, 2009 8:57 am
Today, SCOTUS declined to review an Appeals Court decision that ruled that Rummy and 10 other DOD officials are immune from suit for torture.
The Court’s denial of review of Rasul, et al., v. Myers, et al. (09-227) leaves intact a federal appeals court ruling that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and ten military officers are legally immune to claims of torture and religious bias against inmates who were at Guantanamo but have since been released. The Obama Administration had urged the Court not to hear the case, saying that, whatever claims the four ex-detainees were now making, they had no legal basis for those challenges at the time they were at the U.S. military prison in Cuba — that is, between January 2002 and March 2004.
The D.C. Circuit Court had ruled in favor of immunity, and in doing so avoided a repeat of its earlier decision — vacated by the Supreme Court — that Guantanamo prisoners had no constitutional rights. The Justices had ordered reconsideration of that conclusion. Instead of ruling anew on the legal challenges, the Circuit Court opted for an immunity finding. The Supreme Court’s denial of review does not stand as a precedent on that point, or on the substance of the ex-prisoners’ challenges.
As Adam Serwer points out, SCOTUS’ refusal to review the immunity ruling once again deprives the American justice system of a definitive ruling that torture is wrong.

One year ago:

Americans care about creating jobs, not cutting spending
by Jed Lewison
Mon Dec 13, 2010 at 10:00:04 AM PST
Selzer & Company for Bloomberg, 12/4-7, 1,000 adults. MoE 3.1%.
Which of the following do you see as the most important issue facing the country right now? (Read list. Rotate.) Sorted.

50 Unemployment and jobs
25 The federal deficit and government spending
9 Health care
7 The war in Afghanistan
5 Immigration
1 Other (VOL) (specify:)
3 Not sure

Bachus lets the truth slip out

Meteor Blades

Mon Dec 13, 2010 at 10:40 AM PST

In a way it's kind of refreshing. Perhaps all the incoming GOP leadership will be as forthright about their goals for the 112th Congress. First, John Boehner rejects the word and reality of "compromise." And now, nine-term Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus, who takes over as chair of the House Financial Services Committee next month, has a message for us, too:

Bachus, in an interview Wednesday night, said he brings a "main street" perspective to the committee, as opposed to Wall Street.

"In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks," he said.

The fox in the henhouse announces he's a fox. More of that, please.

Banning Big Wall Street Bonus Favored by 70% of Americans in National Poll

My little nostalgia strolls are rarely pleasant but the indicate the path we have followed to the present.

Let us learn from the past.

--the BB

Film the police

The American People are rising up. The 0.1% will fight back with all the power at their disposal. Document the misdeeds of their minions.

[No, I'm not saying the police are our enemy. But many police departments are being used like corporate armies to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly, restricting the free press, and acting violently against those they are supposed to protect. We must document that and hold their badges accountable, and especially hold accountable the politicians at whose behest they act.]

--the BB