today's favorite quote

Deep within us-no matter who we are- there lives a feeling of wanting to be lovable, of wanting to be the kind of person that others like to be with. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.

Mr. Rogers


cute place to stay in DC!

My friend Rachel rents out part of her house in Washington DC. I thought I would put a little promotion for her place here!

You can you check out her website with more pictures of the apartment by clicking this sentence.

As she says:
"Walking distance to Safeway, Wendy’s, Columbia Heights Coffee, Flip It Bakery, Temperance Hall restaurant/bar, Sweet Mango CafĂ©, etc.

Stop at the Safeway on your way to/from metro and prepare own meals in our full kitchen (stove, oven, pots, pans ... there is even a grill outside).

Just minutes to: Smithsonian, White House, U.S. Capital, National Cathedral, Convention Center, National Zoo, Rock Creek Park. Easy commute Howard University, Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Near to several wonderful DC neighborhoods: Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Mount Pleasant, U Street, Chinatown."


happy turkey day world

We had a lovely day yesterday. Thanks Mark and Pam.


a real schreibtisch

How fun is this object!

schreibtisch aka writing table
"A mobile notepad/ piece-of-furniture made of paper. The die-cut paper-sheets (about 1000) are joined together with red colored bookbinder-glue. The handle is not glued so you can remove each sheet of paper as you you use it! The object works as communication tool, sketch-board, notepad, etc."

Made by...a German! Yep...(Click here to see more of the artist's work!)

cost of bailout

From BoingBoing.net:

Bailout costs more than Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq war, Vietnam war, and NASA's lifetime budget -- *combined*!

"In doing the research for the "Bailout Nation" book, I needed a way to put the dollar amounts into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars.

People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Crunching the inflation adjusted numbers, we find the bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion"


facebook dilemmas

We all know I have a lot of friends. I like people. When Brent and I started dating, I had to make him a friend chart for goodness sake...but who are these people friending me on facebook? WHO ARE YOU?

Would it be rude to ask people how they think they know me? In what capacity did we ever meet? Did I like you? Then why can't I remember you?

Brent’s policy is to accept any person who wants to friend him. I keep accepting people, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to be friends with most people with whom I have not stayed in contact. WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE. Can I scream that? No, because I am a wimp. I don’t want people to feel bad because we are not friends. What if this person, who I don’t know, needs a friend? How would I feel if someone did not friend me?

Brent also talks about filing facebook bankruptcy all of the time. Just sending out a message that he is done. No more facebook for him. Given how much he hates email, I am surprised that he has lasted this long.

Anyway, if you are my friend and want to friend me, then go ahead and friend me. If you aren’t my friend, but need a friend, friend me. If you aren’t my friend, and have a happy life, don’t friend me. Please. If I can get everyone to follow this rule, I can figure out who the needy are.

But really, has this happened to other people? I suppose that the new Facebook etiquette and mores are being written now...


Book Review: Foreskin's Lament, A Memoir

Foreskin’s Lament, A Memoir
by Shalom Auslander, 2007

What attracted me to Foreskin’s Lament was that Auslander grew up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. I love these stories. Give me a misunderstood esoteric minority book and I will give you a few hours of my life.

Book summary in two sentences: The memoir forms the basis for what will one day be the case God puts forth against Auslander’s entrance into heaven. God: “Even though you kind of kept the Sabbath and you walked to the Ranger’s game for the Stanley Cup from Westchester to NYC on the Sabbath over the GW bridge, all bets are off because you did not keep kosher.”

While the books takes the occasion of Auslander’s son’s birth and potential circumcision to talk about growing up Jewish and the effect his upbringing continues to have on him, the book is really about his relationship with God. He prays to God, or rather makes deals with him all the time. And his reading of the Old Testament (Torah) is even funny, in a somewhat disturbed manner.

"The people at Monsey [Auslander’s grade school] were terrified of God, and they taught me to be terrified of Him, too – they taught me about…a man named Moses, who escaped from Egypt, and who roamed through the desert for forty years in search of a Promised Land, and whom God killed just before he reached it – face-plant on the one-yard line, --because Moses had sinned, once forty years earlier. His crime? Hitting a rock."

I had never thought of the story that way. Brent says one of the things he likes about the Old Testament is how black and white everything is in it. Do this, suffer this fate.

But real life is grey. Auslander deals in the gray everyday. In one poignant section of the book, (which I will not reveal too much of because it kind of gives the book away) he has made peace with a decision and he thinks this will appease his parents. But no, even what he considers his grand compromise gesture is seen by his parents as the wrong decision.

The book offered an opportunity for Brent and I to discuss religion more deeply, which I enjoyed. I believe in God. But God backed me into a corner of believing. Since Linda is dead, I can’t imagine that she did not go someplace, so I am kind of stuck. But I don’t believe in what one might call a “personal God.” I don’t think God sweats the details. A few swear words, a little crazy dancing, maybe even a few drinks. He doesn’t care.

I think Auslander shares my feelings on this. At one point in the book he gets an email from his sister where she substitutes the forbidden words in her email with symbols for the vowels. Really? You don’t think God can tell?

“When [the devout] are not preaching what a ... Maniac the Lord is, they’re behaving like He’s a ... idiot.”

I read this sentence and said, “Exactly.” If God is watching and knows everything, then he knows everything.

So I am the kind of person who largely subscribes to the Golden Rule, by which I mean, be a good person, be kind to people, and do good things. Everything else will work out.

“I believe in God.
It has been a real problem for me.”

This might be what Auslander should give as his defense if he has any trouble getting in to heaven. The book is a great, quick, yet thoughtful read, so don’t let the title put you off.


a new GAO report of interest

Loyal readers may be interested to read this hot off the presses GAO report Department of Homeland Security: Billions Invested in Major Programs Lack Appropriate Oversight. (Click this sentence to read more.)

This USA Today article is about the report...

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - The Homeland Security Department has done a poor job overseeing the purchase of billions of dollars of equipment and technology since the agency was created five years ago, according to a federal report scheduled for release today.

Senior department officials have "not provided the oversight needed" to ensure that purchases "with important national security objectives" function properly and stay on budget, according to Congress' Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO report is the latest to raise questions about the Homeland Security Department, which Congress has criticized for gaps in aviation security, a faltering response to Hurricane Katrina and slow progress in securing land borders.

The new report levels criticism at a complex process Homeland Security has used to beef up the nation's defenses by purchasing security equipment, including machines that scan suitcases for bombs.

In many cases, programs were delayed or went over budget, including planned improvements in Coast Guard rescues, luggage screening and the capture and removal of illegal migrants.

Although previous audits have documented problems with individual programs, the GAO report is the first to review Homeland Security's overall system of buying and maintaining $60 billion of new equipment and technology.

The main problem is that the department did not follow its own procedures, set up to make sure taxpayer funds are "being spent wisely, efficiently and effectively," the GAO said.

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., head of the subcommittee that oversees Homeland Security spending, said the department's purchasing system needs an overhaul to protect billions in taxpayer funds.

Major purchases "should not move forward unless they have been thoroughly vetted," Price said in a statement.

The report found that 45 of 48 major acquisitions were not reviewed regularly by a Homeland Security oversight board created to do the reviews. Fourteen of those projects had cost overruns, delays and shortcomings in how they functioned.

Homeland Security spokesman Larry Orluskie referred a reporter to a statement attached to the GAO report written by department acquisitions chief John Hutton. The statement said many improvements have been made, including the creation of two oversight divisions. He added that other improvements will be made in the next two years.

The GAO blamed oversight problems on insufficient Homeland Security staff and limited attention paid by senior department officials.

Find this article at:


the new capitol visitor’s center

Our good friend Christen who still works on the Hill hooked us up with a tour of the new US Capitol Visitor’s center. Since both Brent and I previously gave the Capitol tours, we thought it would be fun to check it out. We were actually on a test tour, since the Visitor’s center does not open for two weeks.

The first thing that caused a bit of concern about the trip were the instructions on the ticket that said no cameras were allowed in. Humm. I noticed this in the cab on the way to the Capitol. Brent had his iphone and I had the flip video with me. What if they wanted to take them away from us? We went through security without incident.

The amazing and really big underground center awed us into submission at first. We could not fathom why it was so big, what where they thinking. And then we realized it was not really a place where people are encouraged to visit, it is more like a cattle yard. Herd people in, herd them out.

The first stop, a 12 minute video, is stirring but lacks a lot of definition. The red shirts then move you along to the tour. On the tour now, you only get to see two actual parts of the Capitol: the Rotunda, and the empty room where the US House of Representatives once met. No more former US Supreme Court chambers, no more former Senate chambers, no looking around. Herd in, herd out. Oh, and the no camera rule: not true. Lots of people had cameras. The poor people who followed the rules were disappointed.

After your tour, you can check out the supposedly interactive exhibits about the Capitol. Admittedly, they have six detailed models of Washington DC showing how the area around the Capitol has changed throughout the years. Other than that, however, there was not much to see.

They asked that we fill out a review of the tour before leaving, but we saw quite a few of these nicely filled out reviews strewn all over the information desks, in no particular order, and decided that they really were not interested in our review. And there was no official place to turn in the reviews.

Overall we give the tour, on a scale of one to five Capitols, two Capitols.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the visitor's center was supposed to cost $300 million, and ended up costing double that: $621 million.


get an address book

I feel like ranting today…for no other reason than it is raining and gray outside and I would rather be at home in bed reading a book…any book.

Does anyone out there know what an address book is? It is a physical object which is used to keep track of the physical address of people you know and love. It can only be deleted if you lose it. You use a pen or pencil to write down the names of said people. When people move, you have to update the said address book. Then if you want to send said people an object through the mail, you use the book to find said physical addresses.

What is mail you might ask? It is a method by which people can send physical objects to one another, no matter where they live. You have to pay for it, in contrast to email. But receiving objects through the mail is quite fun.

I bring this up because in the last two days I have received five requests for my address and phone number. Come on people. Get an address book. I recently tried to stem the tide of incoming address requests by emailing a list of important addresses to my loved ones. That did not help. I need to include it in our Christmas card. Maybe that will help. Forget that, I am sending everyone an address book for Christmas. Filled out with the people I think you need to know.

Hope the rain passes soon. I would love some mail.


for my New York friends

I started getting this magazine, New York Magazine, a few months ago. They had an article that really spoke to Brent and I and well, I love a good magazine. The article was about grups. Click the sentence to read the article. Brent and I feel like we aspire to be grups.

Last week's issue was about saving being the new spending...who knew? Oh, we did. We have a budget now, and are taking our lunches everyday (thank you Brent).

The tips for my New Yorkers:

Go to Museums Only on Friday Nights because the museums are FREE!!!

MoMA: 4-8 pm
Bronx Museum of the Arts: FREE ALL DAY
Guggenheim: 5:45 to 7:45 pm
Morgan Library: 7-9 pm
American Folk Art Museum: 5:30 to 7:30 pm
New York Historical Society: 6-8 pm

You can click on the names of the museums to see what is on exhibit.


friend on ESPN

How fun! Our friend Rob, who is the head trainer at Oklahoma State, was interviewed about his player who broke his back but is playing ball again. WOW. What a story. (Our friend is Rob Hunt.)


the easy part was winning

I ran across this list today of problems we can expect to see in the economy.The author of this list advocated telling the people straight what the problems are and thereby reducing the expectations for what he can do about things and how quickly the things can get done. (Click this paragraph to read the original article.)

Obama sure has his work cut out for him.

* The deficit will be more than $1 trillion a year for several years
* The country needs a massive new fiscal stimulus
* The housing market will continue to decline through at least 2010
* Interest rates and taxes will eventually have to rise (after the economy stabilizes)
* Weak corporations have to be allowed to fail
* Millions of homeowners will lose their house
* Unemployment will probably rise to 10%
* The government simply cannot "bail the country out" -- not because it lacks the will, but because it lacks the power



I heard someplace, and cannot find the source, that the US is in the midst of a mini baby boom. So many of my friends are having babies, I had a dream last night that I was having a baby. Ok, well I started reading this book recommended by my good friend Krista, The Baby Whisperer, because I recommended it to John.

About John, well his little boy Sean is a mini-John. It is amazing. Can you see the resemblance?


what a difference an hour makes

I love falling back. What fun. I feel like it is so early in the day. We have so much time. In honor of all of that extra time, I am wasting it watching short movies put out on disk by Wholpin. Wholpin is an impression of McSweeney's, which is basically David Eggers's (author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) creative outlet. He also has a hand in my favorite literary magazine, The Believer.

As an aside, when I first heard about The Believer I raced out to get it, only to find that it was not yet in stores. I tried to find the magazine on the internet, only to learn that The Believer was named after a then-defunct Christian magazine. I emailed The Believer, once I found them, to tell them this. If you google The Believer you will now find my magazine, not the defunct one. It was nice to send an email out into the ether and to get a response.

Well, two movies of interest. Oh, we are back at the main topic now, the short films. The first movie that is great is about a 13 year old girl in Yemen who refuses to wear a veil and continues to go to school. You will fall in love with Najmia.

The second film is much shorter at a mere 3.48 minutes. Two guys played volleyball over the wall between the US and Mexico. Crazy.


Movie Review: Zack and Miri (Make a Porno)

The title here is very explicit. So go to the movie with the knowledge that a porno is going to be made. But what a cute movie. Don’t take the kids, but go anyway.

The movie was written by Kevin Smith aka Silent Bob. His movies started the more recent rash of what I am calling palpably authentic crack-me-up cinema. The movies are made with people who are not always attractive, and the stories reflect the more mundane aspects of life. Oh and the people are FUNNY, really funny in these movies.

Zack and Miri is a great example of these films. Both co-stars feel like people I could be friends with. Zack, played by Seth Rogan, is a cute, if a bit chubby, dude who works in a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. His roommate, Miri, played by Elizabeth Banks, needs a new dye job, but is also lovably adorable. The two friends have known each other for since first grade, and seem to be each other’s only friends.

What is great about the movie is that you see a little community of mis-fits come together to make something bigger than themselves individually...Ok so they are making a porno, but for valid reasons. (Did I just type that?)

Really, it is not a movie about making a porno, it is a love story about two people struggling to make it in the world and realizing that they can really get through anything (even making a porno) if they have each other.