Laptop Cover Sewing Video

Nothing says I need to lose weight like a video...how fun though! Thanks Milosh.


hummm....funny.......or not.

New York Times
November 5, 1999

Congress approved landmark legislation today that opens the door for a new era on Wall Street in which commercial banks, securities houses and insurers will find it easier and cheaper to enter one another's businesses.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57.

''Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,'' Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. ''This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy.''

The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation's financial system. The original idea behind Glass-Steagall was that separation between bankers and brokers would reduce the potential conflicts of interest that were thought to have contributed to the speculative stock frenzy before the Depression.

Today's action followed a rich Congressional debate about the history of finance in America in this century, the causes of the banking crisis of the 1930's, the globalization of banking and the future of the nation's economy.
''I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930's is true in 2010,'' said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. ''I wasn't around during the 1930's or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980's when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.''


Read the whole story by clicking anywhere.

Really? Wow. Who knew. Funny.


Movie Review: “Being There” (1979)

What a strange movie. I just finished watching it and I feel like so many cultural references are based on this movie that I am a bit surprised. The movie tells the story of Chance, the gardener, who is turned out of his house when the man who owns the house dies. Washington, DC ca. 1979 was not a nice place to be homeless. Luckily Shirley McClain’s driver backs into Chance giving him a new chance at life if you will.

Chance is rather simple minded. Forrest Gump’s character is most likely based upon him. Chance seems to be in the right place at the right time all of the time. At the end of the movie, a man is placed into a large pyramid burial tomb. This tomb looks just like the tomb described in that book I reviewed a few months ago, Eros, by the German author. I would love to call that guy up and just ask if he has seen the movie…

The movie is based on a book by Jerzy Kosinski. (Read more about him and his other books by clicking this sentence.)

The most interesting piece of the film, has Chance walking away from the funeral on water. The most typical association with someone walking on water is Jesus. I am not sure what to make of the connection. Chance seems surprised to be walking on water too.

What is most appealing about Chance to both the people in the movie and the view is his presences. When he is talking to you, he is listening. He is there.

Good viewing for a Sunday afternoon organizing files.


Book Review: The Stone Diaries

The Stone Diaries
By Carol Shields
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

I read this book a few months ago, over the span of only a few days. The story is somewhat straightforward: the book tells the story of one Canadian woman’s life and is told to the listener/reader through varying points of view. And even while the teller of the story, or manner of telling the story may vary, time continues to pass. This is one thing that makes the book incredibly unique and enjoyable. The first part of the book has the main character telling the story of her birth and her family history. Some of the story is told like a newspaper story, in third person omniscient. Then whole decades of her mid-life shown to us through the letters she writes back and forth between her and her boss, allowing us to impute what happened to her during this time. The reader is left to somewhat impishly piece together the details of what happened in her life at that point.

Apparently in the original printing the book included photos of the people. The book, The Emigrants, by W.G. Sebald also uses this technique. Apparently both writers used the photos to piece together fictional stories about people. If my memory serves, the photos in The Emigrants might be real or rather the author left the validity of the photos up in the air. (The Emigrants reviews the lives of four Jews living in German-speaking countries. It too, is very well done. “A masterpiece.” (The New York Times)) This technique for finding inspiration for a story is interesting to me; something I would like to try. Imagining someone's life where the only information you have about that person is what they look like. A kind of acceptable profiling, perhaps.

Some reviewers of this book have said that the book lacks a plot. Can a person’s entire life story serve as a plot? As an experiment, this book succeeds in proving that the plot of one person’s life is enough to keep the reader’s attention and propel the story forward. The reader wants to keep reading.

Somewhere about three-fourths along in the book I realized that the book was going to end in her death. And we, as the readers or voyeurs, were not going to be able to learn any more details about the other characters in the book. I wanted to know how the other character’s lives turned out.

One thing I often forget about my parents is that they had a life before and completely separate from me. The author here does a good job of delineating the different periods in Daisy Goodwell Flett’s life. We see her being born, growing up, getting married (2x’s), raising children, finding herself, and then growing old.

This what people do. As Gram says, “We come and we go.” While somewhat mundane, I greatly enjoyed the book.


Book Review: People of The Book

People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks

I finished this book a few days ago and needed to let it percolate. I just sent it on to one of my girlfriends who is a regular reader, so spoiler alert.

The book tells the fictional account of the book called the Sarajevo Haggadah. This book has survived since the 14th century. The book is special not only because of its age but also because of the ancient prohibition, similar to the Muslim prohibition recently brought into the media’s attention by the caricatures of Mohammed, against drawing the image of Jewish leaders.

We travel backwards in time from the present, where the main 20-something protagonist Australian book restorer is restoring the book to its glory after the war in Bosnia.

The author Geraldine Brooks, a former reporter, does a great job imagining the lives of the people this book touched: from the Muslim slave who originally painted the book to the Jewish man who wrote the stories in the book.

What did not work for me in this book were the chapters with the protagonist. Brooks is Australian herself and she wrote what felt like a somewhat stifled caricature of herself. I guess I bought all of the other characters: the priest in charge of burning books in Italy, the Jews fighting in the hills to save themselves during WWII, or the Jewish doctor with a mistress on the side. I wanted to know how they got on in life so to speak. The main character, well I could care less what happened to her.

One other note. Once the story of the haggadah during a certain time period was tied to the next period, Brooks would move the story along. Sometimes I was left hanging, wondering what happened to the character, never to know.

I learned quite a bit a bit about religion and book restoration in a novel way. Overall, I think it is worth a read if you are looking for a light book with which to pass a weekend.

For those who don't know: "In Islam, the People of the Book are non-Muslim peoples who, according to the Qur'an, received scriptures which were revealed to them by God before the time of Muhammad, most notably Christians and Jews. The generally accepted interpretation is that the pre-Islamic revealed texts are the Tawrat, Zabur and the Injil. They are roughly equivalent to the Jewish Torah, the Book of Psalms, and the Four Christian Gospels, respectively." (From Wikipedia.)


Oven follow-up

Loews sent out a guy to re-connect our old stove, at 7 AM this morning, so we can cook at home again.


The Atlantic

We get this pseudo (ok maybe actually) intellectual magazine every month titled The Atlantic. The magazine has been around forever; might even be the oldest magazine in the US.

Every month we are on the verge of canceling it, but then there will be one really great article in it. This month there are two really great articles.

The first one is entitled, The Case Against Breast Feeding, by Hanna Rosin. (Click this sentence to read the article.) The article questions the notion that "breast is best." Best for whom? The mom? The kid? The family? Who will be harmed by having not been breast fed?

I sent the article around to friends who were or are currently breast feeding. The comments have ranged from: "I would encourage anyone to do it for as long as possible but will never be Nazi-ish about it." To: "While I appreciate her frustration that the comment that 'breastfeeding is free' doesn't take into account the time that the mother is spending doing it, the value of my time right now is in providing for my child." To: "She just articulated everything I've been feeling over the past months. 'Slavish' is exactly the right word."

Naturally life always bring about varying perspectives, but what I think the article added to the national conversation on breast feeding is that you have to decide to do what is best for you and your family. Enough with people going around making you feel bad because you are not breastfeeding. That just seems so high school/peer pressure-ie.

I will write about the other article I loved from this month's Atlantic tomorrow.


the american economy

Look people, prepare for a rant.

Want to know what is wrong with the American economy? Turns out companies don't really want to sell things. That is right, they don't want to sell products.

Four weeks ago, with print out of the exact items we wanted, Brent and I went to Loews in Alexandria, Virginia. Four HOURS later we had all four items ordered. Four HOURS. Between computers breaking, printers not working, people not knowing how to order items, and our paying for almost everything the trip took four hours. We were not shopping. I knew exactly what we wanted. I balked at a $35 fee to come and measure our items, but ended up paying for it. Whatever. We don't own our house...it is fine.

The refrigerator, microwave, and dishwasher are all installed and working well. The refrigerator was about 2 inches bigger than the one we ordered, but it fit so no worries. If we move it the right way, we can still open the oven, and if we move it the other way, we can open it.

We live in a third floor walk up. Loews charged us between $164 and $200 to deliver each item to our house. We told them we live in a third floor walk up with NO elevator.

Yesterday the smoker shows up to install our oven. He barely makes it up the stairs. The oven is hardwired. He balks at carrying up the oven and at installing it. Then he says it will not fit. Oh, no you don't. We paid the $35 to have the space measured and the $200 to have it delivered and installed.

After numerous calls to the Loews, we decide we are done with Loews. Un-wind the transaction, put the stove back, stick a fork in us, we are done.

So at 6 pm last night we decided to cook something. Ah, the kicker. The oven is no longer working. Nice.

So if you want to know how to fix the American economy, I have two words for you: CUSTOMER SERVICE. Be nice to the people who want to spend money in your store.


The Visitor

A small movie called The Visitor. You might have heard of it because the lead role was played by Richard Jenkins, and Jenkins was nominated for an Oscar for his role. It is about a man who comes to his apartment in New York after a long time away (his wife died) to find two people living in his apartment. The two people are immigrants. Illegal immigrants.

What does it mean to be an illegal immigrant? In a country where we are almost all descendants from immigrants, who are we to say who is legal and illegal? It seems like such a strange determination.

Anyway, the movie is excellent. Watch it.


Ion by Euripides

Brent and I don't really take enough advantage of Washington's cultural scene. But this year we became subscribers to the Shakespeare Theater. (It was cheap: 7 plays for $120. A pretty neat season pass program for people under 35.)

Tonight we went to see Ion by Euripides (written between 414 B.C. an d 418 B.C.). The version we saw was partially updated for a modern audience. Billed as "The Greek Tragedy that had a Happy Ending" the play lived up to its billing.

Long story short: three people go to the alter of the god Apollo to ask a question of the oracle. Apollo tells three different stories. (Katerina, look I am not Greek...tee hee.) Anyway, misunderstandings and lies ensue, but all ends well.

The main theme of the story is that though the gods may lie sometimes, they are still in charge. Roll with it.

Though fortune's blackest storms rage on his house,
the man whose pious soul reveres the gods,
assumes a confidence,
And justly: for the good at length obtain the meed of virtue;
but the unholy wretch (such is his nature) never can be happy.

(The final lines of the Chorus in Ion.)

Some of the buses in DC have been running this ad:
"There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

In response, "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian party and enjoy your life" was put on buses in London.

Funny that all these years later, we are still talking about gods and happiness.


We really have to stop putting people in jail in this country.


the kitchen

Hi everyone...I have not posted in a week...not much to report I guess.

I am re-painting our kitchen! Yes, the one we rent...yes, we got permission. Actually I am just doing the cabinets. Our landlord got us all new appliances. The cabinets
were a dark wood and the handles were all coming off. So, gray cabinets with brushed gray handles here we come. The cabinets are all painted, the drawers have two coats plus primer done, and all 12 cabinet drawers are primed. 7 of the 12 have one coat of gray on them. I think I can finish by tomorrow night...I will post pictures.

Went for a super hike this morning, but between painting and hiking I am going to be one sore puppy in the morning!

One more thing: Gram is back in the hospital...hopefully to get out tomorrow. Her first colonoscopy. The report: "It is not nearly as bad as I expected. In fact, it was nothing."


toilet paper

Toilet paper: ever thought about it? I have, mainly in the context of American v. German. German tp is much thicker because both men and women fold it in Germany. In America, women bunch and men fold. Ask around, this is true.

Greenpeace has made me think a little more about tp. In Europe Greenpeace is seen as a reputable and mainstream non-profit, not as a crazy group. They recently came out with a guide to toilet paper, paper towel, and tissue brands.

What makes for a more environmental friendly toilet paper? (BTW, Americans use 24% of the world's toilet paper.) Percentage of recycled paper in the tp, percentage of recycled paper that is post-consumer (ie not just waste from making paper products, but paper that someone actually used and then was recycled), and the type of bleaching process used. Using chlorine to bleach the paper does not, as Brent thought, make the water cleaner too. Chlorine kills fish.

Brent and I have had an ongoing discussion about toilet paper. Linda always bought the cheapest (read coarsest/roughest) which is what I would do. Brent likes a more comforting experience. We have settled on Charmin Ultra Strong. Looking at the tissue guide (click anywhere to see it) I can see that this tp is to be avoided. Nothing recycled in it and they use chlorine to bleach it. Bummer, literally.

On Friday night we stopped in at Whole Paycheck and bought some of their generic paper to try. We will see what happens.

What kind of tp do you use? Would you consider changing?