Things I Know

  • I now have reason to believe that I will be appointed by the new administration to the job I now have, or something similar.  I’’m glad to hear that.  But I still have trouble thinking of myself as an adult with a responsible job.  And I can’’t think of myself as a responsible adult at all.

  • If orders of protection worked, then at birth everyone would receive an order of protection against everyone else and there would be no conflict in the world, or at least no violence against other people.  But they don’’t work.  If I wasn’’t afraid of being charged with assault or murder, I wouldn’’t be afraid of a contempt of court citation either.

  • Regis Philbin has been on TV for more hours than any other person in the history of the medium, but President Obama is catching up, fast.

  • There are way too many times when being right is no excuse.

  • Garrison Keillor on “Prairie Home Companion” said March is a month designed by God to show people who don’’t drink what a hangover would be like.  For me, it’’s an up and down month.  I was away for the weekend, and when I came back the crocuses were in bloom.  Hooray!  On the other hand, I ran out of Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies and I’’ll be out of them until next February.

  • When someone asks me how I am, I usually say, “”Let me check,”” pause for a moment and then tell them I’’m fine.  I do that because “How are you?” isn’’t usually a real question.  I do that too because Larry Glick, legendary Boston radio personality, made me chuckle when he used to do it and Larry passed away last week.  I didn’’t know Larry, but I’ve never slept well and I used to listen to him often in the middle of the night.

  • The late comedian Sam Kinnison used to scream, ““Move to where the food is,” as his advice for starving people of the world.  I have some sympathy for the people who live along the Red River in North Dakota, but early settlers had to live near rivers for transportation.  People who live there now already knew it floods and maybe they should move to higher ground.  I don’t always follow my own advice though.  I live 15 feet above sea level, four blocks from the water in an area subject to the occasioinal hurricane.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • When the Today show runs a live via satellite interview with real people who participated in some story, couldn’’t they possibly find articulate real people?  Wouldn’’t that make for a better program?

  • According to JD Powers Associates, the two auto makers who have the best quality across their entire brand are Jaguar and Buick.  Does that say good things about Jaguar and Buick quality, or bad things about the accuracy of JD Powers’ survey?

  • I truly don’’t understand SPAM as a marketing tool.  How does annoying someone every day make them want to buy your product?  If I order a three-month supply of prescription drugs over the Internet, why would I need to order another three-month supply tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that?  Do you care that free shipping ends tomorrow when you know it begins again Saturday?  If I ask you not to e-mail me, why do you e-mail me to confirm that I don’’t want to get your e-mail?  Don’’t the people who do this know you can set your e-mail program to dump that stuff in the trash.

  • In this media intensive day and age, what’’s the point of a wax museum?

  • When you are turning on to a highway with four or more lanes, you’’re supposed to end up in the lane that’’s going in your direction and closest to where you came from.  So if you turn left, you’’re supposed to end up next to the center line of the road and if you turn right you’re supposed to turn near the curb.  You flunked your road test if you didn’’t do that.  These days, if you count on people doing that, you’’ll have an accident.  So, could everybody please do it right at least when there’’s another vehicle coming from the opposite direction and turning with you?

WAND STRASSE

If your bosses wanted to give you a bonus that made you a millionaire, would you take it?  How about if your company had received government bailouts?  How about if the US Congress had passed a bill to specifically allow your bonus from the company that received government bailouts?  That’s really what happened in the case of AIG, the huge, international insurance conglomerate failure. 

The economic stimulus cargo (it’’s too big to be a package) that was rammed through congress without anyone reading it did contain an amendment that allowed bonuses in companies that received stimuli as long as the bonuses were contracted prior to February 11th.  When I say NOBODY read it, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut was responsible for that amendment that allowed the bonuses and he apparently didn’’t know it was in there so maybe he didn’’t read the bill or write it.  It certainly looks that way.  Maybe the conservative talk show hosts who ranted and raved that nobody read the bill were right that someone should have before it came to a vote.

I have rarely driven or even walked on Wall Street and have no money in any of these markets.  So to me, the idea of performance bonuses for executives whose companies didn’’t perform is alien and the idea of retention bonuses for people who leave your company is insane in the clinical sense.  I’’m willing to make a concession for executives who achieved spectacularly well in a company that did badly, but only if the bonuses don’’t jeopardize the company itself.   I think stock options, not cash, would be appropriate bonuses for a handful of executives who performed well when their companies didn’’t.

What troubles me is the public officials who issued figurative calls for blood that could very easily have turned literal.   Several self-righteous office holders wanted the names and addresses of the bonus recipients to be made public. A demonstration brought bus riders to the homes of AIG executives in Fairfield County CT last Saturday.  AIG issued security tips to its employees and executives.    We’’re getting dangerously close to a real witch hunt, complete with pitch forks and flaming torches.  I’’m glad none of these executives were lynched.  That of course, would have been more wrong than the bonuses themselves.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’’s witch hunt resulted in many of those AIG bonuses being returned.  The overseas ones and the ones outside New York State jurisdiction, not so much.

An ex post facto law is one that makes something illegal after it happens.  If traffic cops issued tickets today to everyone with a drivers license because the government passed a law today making it illegal to go through a green light and made the law effective last week, that would be an ex post facto law.  Those are unconstitutional and have been since the constitution was written.  In fact the founding fathers thought it was so important to ban ex post facto laws that they are illegal according to Article I of the constitution.  So the US Congress rushing to punish the people who got those huge bonuses by taxing them after the fact at 90 percent seems unconstitutional to me.  But I’’m not a constitutional lawyer or a justice of the US Supreme Court.  Enough money is involved here that the issue could very well come before the Supreme Court before things are done. 

Over the weekend, the Obama administration floated a trial balloon about limiting executive compensation in private companies that haven’’t received bailout funds.  We’’ve already driven most US manufacturing jobs overseas.  If we tax executive compensation in the financial industry too much, there’’s nothing to prevent Wall Street from being translated into Wand Strasse or some other phrase that means Wall Street in some other language and some other country.  In fact, it would be a lot easier to export most of the jobs in finance than it was to export the manufacturing.  We could use the Internet to export most of them at very low cost.  Someone in a policy-making position ought to think about that before they dispose of both the baby and the bath water.

Things I Know (mini edition)

  • Happy Spring.

  • I have the kind of job that requires appointment each April.  I hope next month’’s appointment comes through.  The people who’’ve been appointing me for years weren’t reelected.

  • No matter what other turmoil exists in the world, I can still buy low-cost drugs without a prescription on the Internet.  Not that I want to, but I got 30-40 e-mails today reassuring me of that.  It’’s nice to know there’’s some consistency in the world.

Things I Know

  • Genealogists have discovered that America’’s first African-American President also has enough Irish blood to make him three-point-something percent Irish.  That’’s good enough for me, so Happy Saint Patrick’’s Day President O’’Bama.

  • Howard Hughes was eccentric.  I’’m crazy.  A big factor in locating the boundary between eccentric and crazy is how much money you have.  I’’ll always be crazy.

  • News item:  admitted swindler Bernard Madoff was sent to jail until he’s sentenced for his multi-billion Ponzi scheme.  His lawyers are appealing and trying to spring him.  If he doesn’t want to be in jail, he shouldn’’t have pleaded guilty and he shouldn’’t have done it either.

  • Until the market rose several days in a row last week, you could buy a share of stock in the company that owns Citibank for less money than the bank charges a non-customer to use its ATM’s. 

  • I’m glad I don’’t have one of those new iPod shuffles.  It’’s so small I’’d probably lose it the first day.

  • I have a granite paving block in my office.  You can call it a Belgian block or a cobblestone if you like.  It’’s a productivity tool.  On those days when I’’m at work and  need to beat my head against a stone wall, I have a mini-wall right in my office so I don’t have to run around the building to find the stone wall with  the shortest line.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • Maybe I missed something.  Has Meghan McCain, 24-year-old daughter of Arizona Senator John McCain, done anything on her own to justify the attention she’’s received recently in all sorts of media?

  • March Madness (the NCAA basketball tournament) starts Sunday.  At least they announce the brackets Sunday.  But it doesn’’t end until sometime in April.  Once they reach the final four, I know it’’s not March anymore, but is it still madness?

  • I haven’t tried this, but could you have a computer password that consisted of eight asterisks in a row?  And if you did, how would it appear on screen when you went to enter it?

  • Fighting with someone doesn’’t prove who’’s right.  It only proves who’’s stronger and that’’s not usually in dispute.  Do you think, for instance, that Chris Brown thought Rihanna stood a chance of beating him up?

Daylight Saving Time

I wanted to kvetch about daylight saving time, but I was too sleep-deprived to do it until today.

Ben Franklin didn’’t invent daylight saving time, even though he is often credited with it.  He wrote a satirical letter in a French newspaper urging Parisians to get up earlier to enjoy the sunshine in the morning and suggesting that officials ring church bells and set off cannons to make them get up earlier.  I’’d be more against cannons and church bells than I am against daylight saving time:  slightly more. 

Daylight saving time came into wide use in the USA and Europe around World War I.  In case you’’re wondering, they didn’’t call World War I when it was going on, but the name of World War II is disturbing because it implies that the people who named it expected at least one more.  But I digress, as usual.

I don’’t like daylight saving time because I don’’t like getting up early, or earlier.  I do want to get up to demonstrate that I’’m not dead, but I don’’t want to demonstrate early.  And I say this as someone who had at least one job that required me to get up way earlier than average.  How does 2:30 AM grab you?

The two worst things about that job were getting up and the strange schedule it put me on.  When that alarm clock went off at 2:30 AM, I was startled awake and often grabbed the bed to keep from falling up, because that’’s how disoriented I was.  My wife, by the way, was a saint to put up with it because she didn’’t have to wake up then, ever.

Having a tuna fish sandwich for lunch at 8:30 AM wasn’’t too cool either.

Has anyone ever kept you up past your bedtime, even as a child?  Did you like it?   Once, when I was on that schedule, my father-in-law took my wife and me to a party and kept us out not past my bedtime, but past the time I usually woke up!  After that, you tell me where it is, and I’’ll drive, even though I don’’t get up that early anymore.

Switching back to standard time is fine.  It happens during the busiest period of my year, so I don’’t adjust to the time and I go to work an hour earlier without any trauma.  I ease into that time change around Christmas.

I like summer and I like extra hours of daylight.  I hate the pain and suffering that comes with switching to daylight saving time.  Did you know there’’s no conclusive evidence that it saves energy or reduces the cost of anything?

In Ancient Rome, there were 12 hours of daylight every day of the year.  The way they accomplished that was to have longer and shorter hours depending on the time of year.  That doesn’’t work for me either. 

I don’’t have a solution.  I just felt like ranting about it.  Mission accomplished.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • Do you suppose Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez needed pre-approval from his health insurance company to have surgery this morning in Colorado?

  • Let me get this straight.  We got into the economic mess we’re in because we spent and borrowed too much, right?  And the way we’re planning to get out of it is to spend and borrow a whole lot more, right?

  • Is it time for crocuses yet?

  • If you were trying to buy Viagra or Cialis on line, could you communicate with the company you were trying to purchase from, or would your email program insist it was all spam and block it?

  • Have you noticed that Ringling Brothers doesn’’t call it a circus anymore?

  • Considering how bad the odds of winning are, I think people who make plans for how to spend their lottery winnings before they win are foolish.  Don’t you?

  • Do Donnie and Marie Osmond own the TV show Entertainment Tonight?  They’’re not big enough celebrities to be on the show as often and as prominently as they are without some other explanation than they were big in the 70’s.

  • Teen star Miley Cyrus has published an autobiography.  She might have written it, or it might have been ghost written.  She’s sixteen!  Even though she’s famous, how long can that book possibly be?

Things I Know

  • This may sound like whining to someone who lives in International Falls MN, but yes, it is cold enough for me; more than cold enough.  And I wish weather forecasters would tell me the temperature instead of the wind chill factor, and then let me decide how cold I feel.

  • Baseball causes warm weather.  If you think about that, you already know it.  So, when your favorite team starts broadcasting Spring Training games on the radio (this past weekend for the Yankees, next weekend for the Mets) I want you to drive around with the game on and your car windows down.  It will help warm things up more quickly.

  • It bothers me that my local daily newspaper and TV shows like “The Insider” and “Entertainment Tonight” apparently think of Nadya Suleman, mother of octuplets and six other children, as an entertainment story.

  • Ten people in the Tom’s River NJ area are claiming they won the Mega Millions Lottery that had a top prize of $216 million.  I would much prefer to have the lottery winner in Tom’’s house, rather than Tom’s River, but let this be a cautionary tale.  The chance of winning a big lottery are enormously small, but if someone in your office starts a pool, chip in.  On the odd chance that they do win, you don’t want to be the only person left working there.

  • Wearing your pants under your gut instead of around your waist makes you look heavier, not thinner.

  • Ezra Cornell invented the telegraph pole.  He actually invented the ceramic insulator that kept telegraph lines from shorting out when they were strung on poles, but a lot of people think he invented the telegraph pole.  He made money from this because whoever invented the tree neglected to patent it.

  • Here’s why the government spends so much money.  Consumers who have a good handle on finances determine how much to spend based on how much they make.  Government determines how much to make based on what it spends.  If you could do that, you’’d spend more money too.

The Snow Conundrum

“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below”.

Clement Moore is usually credited with writing that (although I have seen it attributed to Henry Livingston Jr.) in the famous poem, “”A Visit from Saint Nicholas.””

I have a conundrum in the secondary meaning of the word, an intricate and difficult problem.  It’’s a conundrum because I hate being cold and I love new-fallen snow.  Since snow is ice, you can see how this could be difficult.

Moore or Livingston was right about that lustre, although today it’s generally spelled luster.  Snow’’s reflective qualities make a nighttime walk an entirely new experience.  People stay home when it snows, so even if it didn’’t have acoustic qualities, a heavy snow storm would quiet things down.  It does have sound-dampening qualities though.  Snow (unless accompanied by gale force wind) slows things down and quiets them down too.  Plus, it changes the look of everything and covers up some mundane or dingy things entirely.  A good snow storm is just plain pretty.

And if it happens overnight on Thursday or Sunday, it creates an unexpected three-day weekend for a lot of folks.  What’’s better than that?

Of course, there’’s a downside.  I heard on TV this morning that snow-removal costs New York City a million dollars an inch.  So, heavier than usual snow is a budget buster for local governments.  In fact, in New York State, it’’s legal to issue bonds to pay unanticipated and unbudgeted snow removal.  Usually, you borrow money for things that last longer than the term of the loan, not things that melt within a week.  This weekend’’s snow storm came at a very good time for the public works department in the village where I live.  Yesterday was the first day of a new fiscal year, so this snow storm didn’t blow this municipal budget.

There are people who think former New York Mayor John Lindsay might have become President of the United States if he and his administration had been able to handle a huge snow storm in February of 1969.  Another public official had a more sanguine approach.  Faced with a snow storm too big for the public works equipment to handle, former Nassau County Executive Francis T. Purcell said, “”Snow melts.””

Of course, there’’s the getting-your-car-stuck-in-it thing which leads to the shoveling-it thing.  I spent many years “shoveling it” for a living, but by “”it”” I don’t mean snow. 

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • If you spent your adult life as a play-by-play announcer for major league (or even minor league) baseball games, watching your team play baseball every day, when you retire, do you have to go to an office from nine to five every weekday?

  • Why would you call something you stick in your ear a Bluetooth?  In fact, why would you call anything a Bluetooth?

  • Cursing is supposed to demonstrate that you’re angry.  If you curse all the time, how is anyone supposed to tell?

  • Are we searching for intelligent life on other planets because we’ve determined conclusively that there isn’t any on this one?

  • Was the person who named it the Cross Bronx Expressway being ironic, or hopeful?  And, either way, isn’t it way past time to change the name?

  • As I was crawling west on the Cross Bronx Expressway last Friday night at 5 miles per hour,  I couldn’’t help but question all the electronic signs that said, “Reduce speed.”  Do you think traffic would have hit 15 miles per hour if they shut those signs off?