Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Grace's Farewell

A very close, dear, personal friend sent the flowers and vase next to Grace's ashes in the box and her paw print in front of the box. The flowers arrived the day after the ashes came home. I have shown you the flowers today in the second shot after they have grown for a week, and the flowers the day they came. The lady, and I do mean lady, who sent them had lost a dog a few years back and couldn't face having another dog because of the wrenching heart break that comes from losing one.

It doesn't take long, when you look into their eyes, and they look back to see they have feelings too. You can see love, you can see fear. They are totally dependent on you. It doesn't take long, and the longer you are together, the stronger the bond.

We thought we had beat the toxo, it had been over a month. Judy put in fifteen times the effort I did. Grace was well for almost two weeks before she relapsed, and then it was the vet hospital. And they couldn't figure it out. House is a tv show, not real life. I have to fight the feeling of failure when you lose a 16 month old cat. After all, exceptionally bright graduate students are supposed to be able to solve almost any problem there is. I have to give up this Superman Syndrome crap.

The other tiny problem has been that I'd normally take my anger out to the quarry and beat the crap out of a couple of boulders with a sledge hammer. As I have gotten older, the hammer has dropped in weight from the traditional 30 pounds to a more manageable 8 pounds, much to the relief of the boulders. It's one of the saner things I do to deal with grief. Since the sacral-lumbar puncture failed, I wasn't able to go out breaking rocks, it has taken me a bit longer to finish grieving. I generally play the last two for myself. Thanks for stopping by. Happy New Year.

Handel - Messiah - Hallelujah - Ambrosian singers

John Denver Sweet Surrender

Amazing Grace - Judy Collins and the choir

Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky (High Quality)

Good bye, baby.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ending the Blue Funk

I was supposed to pick up Grace's ashes yesterday, but decided that crying was a much better course of action. I'll go and get her remains after I post this. I had a lumbar sacral facet injection, which means the surgeon shot my back full of hydrocortizone, tarragon, sesame oil, a little rosemary, and a little kickapoo joy juice from the hills of Kentucky (I think my friend Allan might have a still). The procedure didn't work very well. Next step, MRI! And then .....

In closing, I tried to help out a friend who works with my wife, Judy. Our friend had bought a condo a year and a half ago for $290,000 (Hello Heather). The appraiser just left and the property is now worth $218,000, she cannot refinance, her equity has vanished, and she has two mortgages over 6.5%. I was just doing financial planning at that point. I work in a lovely, shrinking industry, full of happiness and cheer!

Have a fabulous day! I'm working on ending the Blue Funk.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

In Loving Memory Of Grace

Grace died at noon today of toxoplasmosis. She actually was put out of her misery at the vet's after a huge battle. We got her eye cleared, but she could no longer eat, nor stand, and she had crystals in her urine, which was painful. Gracie was 16 months old.

I made sure she was looking out the window at the squirrels and birds and the trees as she painlessly received a sedative. Judy held her for a second sedative, and she purred through both of them. When she was asleep, we carried her into the operating room, and held her while she got her last injection. If she was willing to live with us and be dependent on us, I will not desert them in their time for need, for any reason. They are dependent on us, it's part of the bargain.

I will openly admit that I have been crying for a while now, and that I'll be crying for a while more, because we will be in mourning. I'll be back after that. I am sorry I haven't been around, that will change too. You all have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Am Pleased To Tell You That

I am pleased to inform you that my next door neighbor has recovered nicely from his knife wounds and is doing well. He is attached here to his girlfriend who likes to be called "Juicy" as her shirt proclaims she is of the "House of Juicy". She thinks I am hysterically funny. She has excellent taste.

Further, my neighbor has been promoted to Manager of the Technical Section of Office Depot. I, of course, offered him any help I could for the asking. I asked about college, and he said that he is considering ITT Tech for a degree in Criminal Justice. I am also tutoring the 12 year old across the street in multiplication and division, and her older sister in history and science. The universe (what if there's more than one verse?) does seem to listen to Mel, but I don't think the 14 year old is ready for the World according to Mel yet. Actually, we all are, I just shouldn't label it that way.

Does this mean I'm growing up? I sort of hope not. I want to be more free, like Skinny Little Sister.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I am grateful for waking this morning, for the friends I have blogging, for the insights and inspiration I have received from blogging, and for lower gas prices. May you all have meaningful work this coming year and want for nothing. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Still Here

As you may well imagine, things are a little crazed where I am lately. Most people are handling things OK, a little scared, needing some reassurance. A few are hysterical about the next Depression (we're having a deflation, the opposite of inflation, which is how we getaway with printing so much money). I'll be back as soon as I can. Have a great day!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Six thingies you mighta or mightnota known......

I was asked to do this meme by Mel, who is a truly warm and giving human being who came by one day from Skinny Little Blond's blog, a wonderful place to visit. Since she tagged me, I even stole the title from her.

Here are the Rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on his/her website

six non-important things/habits/quirks about me:

1. I NEVER, EVER do memes. I made an exception for Mel this one time.
2. I prefer to eat small things, like potato chips, in even numbers.
3. I have an irrational (not subject to reason) love of women living in Great Britain who either are or were red heads.
4. I was raised on meat and potatoes. I learned about vegetables and other food on my own.
5. I am a better cook than my wife, yet she cooks more than me. She's home more.
6. I love to drive small cars.

I'm not going to name anyone, but if you're a red head from Great Britain, or your name is Claudia, you should do this.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Amazing how the idea speaks for itself. Peace. An absence of War. We'd have a Peace Dividend, extra money to put into 'other things' like the crumbing infrastructure that surrounds us in the form of things like bridges and highways, research into preserving some of the animals that surround us that are so important, like the bee colonys that pollinate all the food that grows, oh, but why should I dream?

Please, tell me.

Monday, November 03, 2008

To Mel; Free At Last, Grace

You didn't get this from me, but Saturday night, Judy caved in, and Grace was set free. Grace was not immediately sure why she was being freed, and was very suspicious. Jake went nuts. He was suddenly NOT the TOTAL center of attention, and that was TOTALLY unacceptable.

He has attacked her quite a few times, causing her to laugh, and one time to hiss at him, sending him scampering. I mean, he weighs 2 pounds 13 oz., she weighs 9 pounds. It's not even close. On the other hand, he likes playing with her tail, and she seems to like this. She just flops her tail around and he chases it all over the place, while he chases it and wears himself out and she gets that cheshire cat look on her face. When he's worn out, we ALL get a break.

Grace turns out to be a real lady. She lets Jake follow her around, drive her crazy, sleep next to her, and attack her all the time until the middle of the night, last night.Something happened in the middle of the night, and somehow, he doesn't attack her as much anymore. He isn't quite perfect yet, but Grace has never made a sound. What a cat!

Jake and Grace were both adamant that I include the last picture, and write a short piece. Judy was asleep on the recliner while chased Grace's tail. So, I had the chance.

Earlier today, Madelyn Dunham, Barack Obama's grandmother died after a long bout of cancer. John McCain offered his condolences and both men were exceptional to each other.

I offer a prayer to G-d for Mrs.Dunham that he accept her quickly into his loving arms for eternity, that her family remember only the goodness and love from her life, and that he grant me the wisdom to learn and respect what I have learned from these people today. Thank you all, and for anything you would care to add.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Here's Someone You Can Help At Christmas

A Skinny Little Blonde, one of the truly best writers on the net has asked a favor of those that might help, but in a much more literary way. She has a long time friend who has a son who enlisted in the service of the United States. He won't be home for either Thanksgiving nor Christmas.

If you would care to send him a card and/or some cookies, or anything else from home, his address is:

APO AE 09351

I appreciate your consideration.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Name is Grace, How Do You Do

I am the upstairs cat. I live in the guest bedroom. I am plotting my escape now that I feel better. I still get two shots a day. Damn vet. I have been poked and prodded. One day, I am going to get out of this room. In the meantime, I just make it difficult for Monty to take pictures of me, and I won't play with him or his wife too much. I won't spoil them while I have to stay in this room. One day..........

Ah, the cat version of red eye, green eye! But he did get me below.

I'm really a sweetheart when you get to know me. I may play hard to get for a while, but they tell me I was really sick for a while. Hard to believe it when you look at me.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures when they let me lose with that little orange ball of fur who hides behind the door. Our day will come....

Monday, October 20, 2008

We Have A Guest Blogger

Hi, my name is Jake, and Monty and Judy live with me and this girl cat who is upstairs in quarantine with toxoplasmosis, a parasite in her blood. But why talk about her when I'm here, the caped crusader.

Monty is trying to get me to stop biting, like that's going to happen anytime soon. One of my best hunter games comes from me hiding in the bedroom until he and Judy go to sleep. I wait until they are both asleep, then I jump up onto the bed and I attack his arm where it sticks out of the covers. He loves it when I sink my teeth into his arm, he's so proud of me, his great hunter.

Lately, he has made the game harder, by closing the door when either of them leave in the morning. So I have to hide and try to sneak in when one of them goes through the door.

Then, there was the time I decided to help Judy file, or whatever she wanted to do in that thing.

I'll get the hang of it

OK, what's the trick to doing this?

I could go on and on, what with Monty's no biting zones and no hunting zones, but I have no idea what he's talking about, as he's finding out. I'd go on, but there's just so much that an 8 week old kitten can write. See y'all soon!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Little Mental Health

I cannot begin to tell you how much fun a kitten is, or can be. Yesterday, I called him Peter Lorre in the "Hunchback of Notre Dame". On the other hand, he loves playing Korean War Games. The other day, he successfully defended the Inchon Resevoir against the entire Chinese Army, complete with trumpets, while they screamed (well, one grunted) "Marine, you die". The cat is fearless, a real Aldo Ray.

The two of them are checking out the back yard, acting normal. This lasts maybe 3 nanoseconds before she smacks him for attacking her. He is in permanent attack mode, with energy to spare. Even she does not intimidate him, although he chooses to count coup, and run like hell. At 16 months, she has mellowed out.

Wiggle worm has initiated an all-out war against my left hand, starting at my left thumb and forefinger. This one has not mastered probability yet. He's a warrior.

After escaping from the dreaded "fist of death", he picked a new target, the other cat's tail. She simply kept moving it out of range, or let him grab it, then pulled it away. Mother cats know more about raising kittens than humans, I think.

After slaughtering all known enemies, and everything around them, the typical warrior cat catches a little shuteye, typically on the recliner in the family room in front of the TV. He will probably like Animal World where he too will learn to drag his prey between his legs. More to come.

Monday, September 29, 2008

We Have An Important Announcement To Make

A cat and a kitten at the Last Chance Shelter through Petsmart picked Judy and I on my birthday as two people they wanted to cohabitate with, thus ending the long emptiness in our lives. Thar be cats in the house now, and all is well with the world.

This little cutie is my Glamourpuss, and I think she is simply gorgeous. She is 16 months old and just had a litter. She and I have a thing for each other so far.

He is four weeks old and weighs one pound one oz. He wants to go everywhere, do everything, and he is just gorgeous. I am completely unbiased, naturally.

The house feels more normal with cats in it.

And she (the female cat, although Judy does too) preens and mothers the little one as if he were her own. Look at those eyes, I just melt.

The two were scheduled to be put down on Friday if they weren't adopted. Over my dead body. Yeah Mel, there is a G-d, and while you're at it, thank Studley too.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Today Is A Big Anniversary

I have a few adopted sisters Wicked H and her sister Brain Surgeon (BS) {Happy Birthday BS, you don't look a day over 25} who shares a birthday with me as they add grace and charm and elegance to my already blessed life. Yet today is also the fifth anniversary of the day I quit smoking.

I had snapped the humerus (the big bone between the elbow and the shoulder) on my left arm. The surgeon told me after a month that if I didn't quit smoking,the bone would never grow back. I stopped smoking that day after decades of a 3-4 pack daily habit. I used the patch. The first two days were terrible, so I slept a lot. After the first four days, the nicotine is basically gone, and the patch satisfies your nicotine needs. You then step down with the patch. I actually skipped the last step.

In five years, I have not touched a cigarette, much less been close enough to smell smoke. It's not a risk I am willing to take. I like winning too much.

Birthday wishes for BS can be left here or at Wicked's blog Eyes Averted. We like to keep it in the family, you know.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

For Pam and Heather

I have actually been a little out of sorts lately, and it seems to be going around. So, to cheer myself up, I normally turn to Beethoven and Mel, and Hearts and Glamourpuss, not to mention Open Grove Claudia. Today, I have that deep existential thing that gnaws down deep, so I hauled out some more of the big guns, John Denver and also the Cactus Cuties.

John Denver, the discoverer of Colorado, actually does two songs on here, the first makes me realize that as long as I'm still alive, and responsible for myself, I can make it happen. Mel and Puss and Claudia and Sartre et al. Yup, I read them all. Sweet Surrender. My friend Pam, who y'all don't know thinks no one would ever miss her. Except me. She's overdue here for pizza. Denver does his "Country Roads" for my buddy Heather who is out of sorts for the moment.

Mel, my buddy, friend, pal often speaks about faith and letting yourself believe. The Cactus Cuties say the same thing here. By the way, the tallest one, the oldest, had a terrible car accident and broke her neck, and sang the whole time she was rehabilitating.

So I'm saying to myself that it's time to get off my dead ass and get moving because we never know how much time we have left on top of this green Earth, and I might as well make the best of it while I'm here. Have a good day, I'll write when I can. Out of the funk and let's get to work.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Live Blogging The Financial Crisis

Dateline: Gaithersburg

As a follow-up to the story from our sister blog Echomouse in Canada about some of the problems in Canada, we are rushing to press this morning to announce that the beginning of the end of the financial crisis is at hand. Henry Paulson, Bush's third Secretary of the Treasury, and the first one with the "right stuff", is the hero of this debacle. There is no time to wait for the election, the time to act is now.

Here's why. Yesterday, the Fed and the European Central Union's Bank (euro) did a $183 billion swap. Regardless of what you see and hear, the World still runs on dollars because of our political stability. We got $183 billion in euros and we gave their central bank $183 billion in dollars. Their central bank lent the cash out to its member banks, such as England, Switzerland, etc. Credit should have become immediately available world wide, credit spreads should have narrowed. It did NOT happen. The banks did NOT trust each other to lend each other money overnight. They each know what they have hidden in their own balance sheets, so they know they cannot trust each other. It's simply that simple. Circular, but true.

Remember the option arm loan, where people weren't paying the whole mortgage, and refinanced after two years? And all the other mortgage gimmicks? They got sold into pools, and the banks were buying them, because they were making money. Today, most of those loans are toxic, non-performing loans, and they are on the books of the banks. Want to lend a bank money against them? I didn't think so. Well, there are still billions of dollars of those mortgages floating around out there, and there lies the problem.

How do you get the toxic loans off the books of the banks. But that is just the beginning, the short term, the bailout of Wall Street. The real issue is how do we fix the system? This has been going for a long time. Fannie Mae was established in 1938, Freddie Mac in 1970. We repealed Glass-Stegal and allowed investment banks and commercial banks under the same roof around 2000, and we abolished the uptick rule for shorting last year. The unregulated mortgage industry has been in business for quite a while. Who regulates the Insurance Industry (your state) and co-ordinates policy (no one)? I don't want to sound like a Democrat or a Republican here, but everyone who cared to know saw what was happening. On the other hand, Freddie and Fannie had excellent lobbying arms.

The market will rally on the news that Paulson has crafted a solution to buy toxic loans and dispose of them (details to follow), plus a few other issues. The SEC has also banned short selling in financial stocks for the next two weeks. This guarantees a rally. A lot of what will happen will be political. When Nancy Pilosi or Harry Ried caused heartache, the market will fall. But for the most part, the bottom is probably in place, Have a great day, and a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An Anniversary

This is the 333rd post I have written for this blog and actually published. I have actually written quite a few more than that according to Blogger, but I don't count the ones that don't make it to the light of day. What makes this one so special is that I am writing it in Google's editor named Chrome. The truck's lug nut was the best chrome object I could find. Sorry about that.

Some of you use Internet Explorer, others of you are Firefox advocates and will never go back. I really like Chrome for what it's worth. It's simple, works well, and it works with all of my financial programs. In that regard, it exceeds both I.E's latest edition and also Firefox, which chokes on my financial programs statistical routines.

Rather than tell you how easy things are to do in Chrome, go to Google, download a copy, and in 5 minutes, you'll be using it. That's what I have to offer you for my 333rd post. And I hope you're having a great day! Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Do Not Bother The Candidates On This One

Oil dropped to under $96 a barrel this morning (96.60 at the moment) even though the local gas stations have gasoline at $3.98 due to the shutting of the refineries due to tropical storm Ike. The price will come down again, but you can see how fast gasoline can move. The next shock could be in heating costs this winter. This is not why my blood pressure is through the roof today.

It's cancer. I loathe cancer. I loathe cancer with a passion.

In 1976, Dr. Paul Bloom wrote an article in the Journal of Marketing posing the speculative question, "What if technology can't care cancer?" He got a host of criticism, not the least of which was that he was blowing smoke up everyone's rear to get a publishing 'hit' in a refereed journal. Since I knew him, and taught in the same business school with him, and had him as a professor during my doctoral program. What he was really doing was assaulting one of the American Sacred Cows, that our technology, our research could solve any problem. How many times have we heard the argument on the TV that, "we put men on the moon, didn't we?" meaning we answered Kennedy's awesome challenge.

In terms of science, putting a man on the moon was a very well-defined problem. Solving the problems of the inner cities are not well defined problems. Please notice that we have not solved them. In retrospect, solving cancer seems ill-defined also. Sure, there are some cancers that are curable, such as prostate cancer, if you catch them early enough.

What should I tell people with pancreatic cancer? Cancer of the spine, which killed my grandmother and uncle? Ovarian cancer, another insidious killer? I haven't even mentioned any other diseases that I loathe with a passion, like Alzheimer's, which I watched destroy my wife's aunt. We were her personal representative. Or diabetes, which I have, and if you live long enough, you will too.

Back in the '60's, Congress bought into a policy of letting the drug companies develop miracle drugs to help 'cure' us because the cost of staying in a hospital was so expensive. It seemed to work, and the insurance companies made money. Periodically drugs run into little glitches where they kill people. Thalidomide, vioxx, to name a few. Lately, some of the promising drugs for diabetes, namely Bayeta; and for Alzheimers, a nameless drug, seemed to be working, except they killed a few people. So the scientists went back to the genetics drawing board to look for a less lethal approach. But now, the scientists want us to know, through the Pharmaceutical Companys who have lawyers who can solemnly say it with class, style and grace, every time you take any drug, you are taking a risk. That includes aspirin, just so you know. At least aspirin seems to work, but it can eat your stomach out. I'll bet you already knew that, didn't you. Please, read drug labels.

It's now 2008. The county wants to raise the property tax rates, again, because so many people have asked for reassessments because of falling property values. And, the county, in its infinite wisdom wants to give the teachers another pay raise, even though the kid's test results, as an aggregate, are dropping. And only a mere 100% of my county property taxes go to the school system, even though I have no children. At the very same time, ads are running on TV explaining to me that our schools are so far behind the rest of the world in math, science and engineering, and that our kids are being left behind. The county is a mastermind at investing in education and its infrastructure evidently. I couldn't get any luckier.

I used to argue with my friend Eddie (PhD in statistics from Wharton in his 20's, the mutha) as to letting kids use a calculator in class to do exams. Particularly when it came to showing they understood logarithmic functions. Go into a Mall today and I dare you to find a kid today who can do arithmetic on a calculator without pictures on it. The concept of a logarithm must be explained in terms of "Predator" or no one will listen. It is not that I have despair. I would be doing well. It is that this is what I see when I hear mothers arguing with me that her child will be the one to cure cancer, and my tax dollars will put him over the top. Potash Corp. and Agrium could use this woman, not that I have become cynical, but I have heard this story so many times before. Where is the damn cure already?

This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I'm Aware. I want action. And, I want it now. I have friends with cancer, and I can't wait.

P.S. Open Grove Claudia knows more about taking care of yourself, eating healthy, and living right than any four people. Check her out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Emotional Event For Me

When I was a kid at the age of 12, I started going to work with my father the builder. He actually did own and run a small construction company. The first day I had off school, he woke me at 5 am, and we drove to the other side of Baltimore and were on the job site before 7:00 am.

I ended up being a laborer, and I heard a lot about not working hard enough. I was good at running errands. On the plus side, I learned to drive a farm tractor and could tow a long trailer with wood or block or brick on it, so I was perfect for delivering supplies to different houses, as long as the county didn't own the street.

I also learned the rudiments of driving a bulldozer. My father was severely less enthusiastic about me driving a bulldozer than a farm tractor. My dad was a CPA and a lawyer before he decided to build houses. Today I can understand his reasoning. Imagine hitting anything with a farm tractor, then imagine hitting the same thing with a bulldozer. Complicate things by having to be a responsible adult and having to explain to a judge why a 12 year old was driving a bulldozer or a tractor. Remember, we skipped a car entirely.

We typically got home at 7:00 pm. Rain or shine, my ass had been kicked. We're talking tired. Bone tired. Finally, at the end of August, I got two weeks off. Vacation. I had been paid a buck an hour, but I was actually given $10 in cash, and $30 in a check that I would never get to cash.

I worked for my father until I was 18, when I was drafted by my uncle to work in his rubber factory. I tried stints in places like fast food restaurants, etc. since neither my father nor my uncle really understood nepotism, rather they understood that if they made your life miserable, you would instantly see the value of an education. They never believed me when I told them I valued an education, they just kept up the pressure.

Some other time I'll tell you stories of near death, or driving my great aunt to the airport covered from head to toe in black rubber dust and having my great uncle say "kiss your aunt good bye" and leaving black marks on her face. Today, I am going to tell you of one of the last projects my father had for me just before I went to school.

He was renovating a beautiful old townhouse and they had to dig a trench from the curb to the house to install the utilities. The trench has to be 8 feet deep. The backhoe we had was only capable of going down 6 feet. It was raining. I was told to get into the trench and shovel out the last two feet of mud. I was halfway up to my knees in mud, shoveling, and then throwing the mud up and out of the hole. Not all of it made it. There wasn't another person to help, like letting me fill a bucket with mud, and have them haul it up and dump it. When I was finished, I was covered with mud, and completely exhausted. By this time I knew that part of what my father was trying to teach me was the value of an education. I knew he didn't realize that he was also teaching me over and over again that working hard didn't buy you anything if you didn't get to work smart. Digging the trench was one of those events that just stuck with me, right through to today, 40 years later.

I came home and found a guy at the bottom of a hole in my front yard. He works for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the local water authority. They are replacing the water mains. I looked in the hole

and this guy was down there, in the hole. He didn't want me to take his picture. He was afraid I was looking for him to be committing some violation. I told him the story. I may blow the picture up and hang it on the wall in my office for motivation.

I took the picture below so you can see he was standing in water.

If you look at the picture below, it appears he was almost up to his waist. I did offer him an ice cold Sam Adams Oktoberfest, but he turned me down. He did thank me for telling him about the motivation to go to school.

Little did he know how long I went to school. The next time I retire, I'll probably go back to school again. Why did I put the pictures at the end? So I don't have to see them a lot. It's not my favorite memory.

Monday, September 08, 2008

What Will The Candidates Really Do?

The Treasury Secretary of the United States took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the weekend. Last week, Pimco, a huge bond dealer, refused to buy anymore of the short term paper of either agency. Privately, both the Russian and Chinese Government buyers had also called the Treasury. Secretary Paulson already had decided that both institutions were too big to fail, that these two institutions going under would do extensive damage to the capital markets here and throughout the world.

There are thousands of questions that remain, starting at Treasury itself. By taking over these two institutions, the implied government guarantee is now explicit. This means that you the American taxpayer, if you are an American taxpayer, are essentially guaranteeing the mortgage pools issued by these institutions, even those stinky subprime loans. Wayne Angel, a former Fed Governor, said that they would need deeper capital reserves in the future. One estimate is a minimum of $200 billion.

The capital markets rejoiced today. Credit speads narrowed (take the yield of the Freddie Mac 10 year bond and divide it by the Trasury 10 year yield. As the spread narrows, things are getting better; as it widens, things are getting worse). Bank stocks soared. Fannie and Freddie both dropped to $1 per share since their stockholders will lose everything.

The average person gets almost nothing from this. Mortgages will get cheaper, but the price of houses won't necessarily stop dropping. You need more qualified buyers, and the banks aren't going to make it easier to get a mortgage. The people who are underwater because the price of their house is now below their mortgage will still be underwater. The people who are being foreclosed will still be foreclosed.

Earlier today, Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky called the Treasury's move Communism, the state takeover of the Housing Industry, in essence. I'd have thought it was Socialism, but I'm not a U.S. Senator.

To see how the individual makes out, you must take a long term view, and understand the original mission of both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and why they were created. I will try in very short order.

Originally, special banks called savings and loans paid higher savings rates to savers to get capital, and they made mortgages to people to buy houses. They held the mortgages until people paid them off. The average life of a mortgage was 6 years and 10 months. In that time, in a self-amortizing mortgage (you paid a little principal and mostly interest so after 30 years you actually paid off the mortgage) you paid mostly interest and then paid the bank back the principal. You might be refinancing to get some cash out, you might be moving, but you typically refinanced.

The bank had to maintain a reserve to service the depositors, who might want to make a withdrawal now and then. The reserve proves to be a limit on what a bank can lend. There is also a reserve for losses, assuming that some loans will go bad, the underlying real estate secured, and then sold to reacquire the capital. Works fne except when the value of the real estate drops.

Now, what if there wasn't enough money in the savings and loan system to finance the number of people who wanted houses? With the modern miracle of computers, you can create an underwriting matrix, or in plain English, a computer system that runs 80 tests or so on a mortgage application, including income ratios and expense ratios, if you have a telephone, etc. And then the computer can buy the mortgage from the savings and loan offering it.

The computer could buy tens of thousands of conforming loans, loans that conformed to the rules that the institution established that buy mortgages. The S&Ls wanted the deal, they get a 1% servicing fee for collecting the monthly payment on the mortgage, plus they got the discounted present value of the mortgage (dig that fancy finance lingo, it means what the mortgage is worth today).

The institution then forms a pool of mortgages that is geographically distributed, etc. The pool will yield an average reflecting mortgage risk in the country. Shares are sold on the pool to institutional investors. As long as there is a spread of 16 basis points (0.16%), the institution will make money. The process is called securitization, the institution could be either one of the companies, since putting more money into individuals hands to buy homes was the goal. Ultimately, it still is. It's just hard to see.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Quality of My Blogging Has Been Strained

Yesterday I had a wonderful exchange of e mail with my identical twin, James Burnette. We both admitted to being on the slow side of blogging lately. Mostly, we talked about coffee. Now, if you like coffee as much as I like coffee, this can be a really wonderful discussion. Just like if you like chocolate as much as I like chocolate. Then, of course, we need to discuss moderation, or diabetes, better to discuss moderation!

But that takes me off topic. It seems that the blahs have hit everywhere, or at least here, which is as far as I can see. I think it's an end of summer thing. An anthropromorphic throw back to when we were kids. It's that back to school blah thing.

I find it interesting that this election is the most important election in our lifetime, at least according to some of the people making speeches. I can't remember an election that wasn't the most important election since the beginning of time plus three days. In retrospect, some have really stoodout. Kennedy's sqeaking by Nixon in 1960 came at a time when the World was a very scary place to a teenager like me. The Soviet Union and Krushchev were formidable enemies indeed. Twenty years later, Ronald Reagan beating Jimmy Carter while the Iranians held our people hostage was a surprise, and when the hostages were released, to someone who wore a bracelet with a hostage's name on it, a reason for joyous celebration. I wasn't around for Jefferson beating Adams, or any of the Roosevelt victories, either President; etc. I have come to believe that it is rare for a President to be the sinle reason to change the course of history. They may have the ideea, like Eisenhower conceiving of the Interstate Highway System, so he could more easily move armies across the country, but the Congress ultimately decides. The current Congress has a 14% Approval Rating, lower than the President's by 20 points. Please note that both candidates are members of the same Senate. I'm pretty sure they know each other. I have a riddle. If Sarah Palin is a pitbull with lipstick, what does that make Ann Coulter? And should Michael Vick meet Ann Coulter? I think Vick deserves it. See what I mean about the quality of mercy is not strained.

As I write this, the Dow is off 277 points, oil is at 108 down a buck. OPEC claims it will cut production at $100 a barrel. Investors seem to be worried about a world-wide slow down, which seems to be strengthening the dollar. The English Pound used to buy $2.25, now only about $1.75, which means the dollar is getting stronger. If oil is going down, and the dollar is going up, why is the stock market dropping? Because oil proces falling is good, but not enough to fix the economy. That's today's explanation. Buying quality and holding it pays off. Hold a diversified basket, and watch the basket. The Dow is now off 331. When these guys get worried, they sell with their computers! Have a good day. And read Mel, you'll feel better, Open Grove Claudia too. Should you see Glamourpuss, please give her a hug.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Long and Short Of It

The Olympics are over. I did not pass the Series 66 exam last week, and neither did the other 4 people I took it with. When I took the Series 7, there were 160 questions and 6 hours to take the test. I finished in 3 hours. The 66 had 110 questions and was 3 hours long. I finished with 8 minutes to spare. It was basically law, and was pretty strange.

One question said, "The Administrator can invalidate your license for the following reasons, which one is not valid?" And they proceeded to list four perfectly valid reasons, which meant that they had changed a word in one of them, and you had to pick it out. I still have no idea. I'm not the lawyer-type.

I'm here to tell anyone who trips, this is a speed bump. I can refile to take the test again in 30 days. I'm not down, this is just a pain in the butt. Why wait to write about it so long? Our office had a surprise audit pulled the next morning that lasted three days, ending Friday night. That was a big deal. I took the weekend off and went with Judy to her Division's Annual Crab Feast yesterday.

And now that the Olympics are over, the Democratic National Convention starts tomorrow. Poor Open Grove Claudia, she deserves better. She lives in Denver, took close to where the the Convention will be. May she, her family, and her house be safe from Convention-sight-seers. And tigers, too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

For The Olympics, et al

Allan and Alison got married on August 1, and after the weekend reception, the planetary gravitational constant has remained the same despite the odds. That means all is well, as it should be in Lexington, both of them. That, in and of itself prompted selection of the "Ode to Joy". Naturally.

Unfortunately, Battie hasn't returned home. And Tiffany King wasn't miraculously healed by her second epidural. That didn't stop her from breaking in a new grill, although she may decide to try grill meat next time.

The Olympics have started, so I picked the KSB from Korea doing the swing version of the Ode to Joy, which provokes the Germans no end with the hand clapping. For those of you who want to see what Franki looks like, one of the singers is a pale imitation of her. She's much better looking in real life. Really. More as it happens. Oh, and say nice things to Glamourpuss, anyone named Mel or Claudia. Thanks.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Foods and Health

This came in the mail, and I found it intriguing. What took a lot of time, and I never got it done, was the pictures that accompanied each little paragraph. I can't tell you if it was because it wasn't feasible, or because of the pain meds, but the pictures are gone. I still found it interesting. I'd like your opinion.

God left us a great clue as to what foods
Help what part of our body!

God's Pharmacy! Amazing!

A sliced Carrot looks like the
Human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human
Eye... And YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and
Function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and
Is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows
Tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are
Indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart.
Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today sh ows
Grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right
Hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles
Or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. We now know walnuts help
Develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney Beans actually heal and
Help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like
Bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium
And these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your
Diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods
Replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Avocadoes, Eggplant and Pears
Target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they
Look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats
One avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and
Prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes exactly
Nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are
Over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of
These foods (MO dern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

Figs are full of
Seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male
Sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actual
Ly bal ance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries

Grapefruits, and other
Citrus fruits look just l ike the mammary glands of the female and actually
Assist the heal th of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the

Onions look like the body's cells. Today's research shows
Onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even
Produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. A working
Companion, Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free
Radicals from the body.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

For CMHL and The Bat, Wherever She May Be

There is still no word as to where Battie might be. The positive hope is that she is in someone's home playing with their children, and that she is loved and well cared for, and an inside cat now. I'm not giving up hope for Battie coming home, I don't work that way. But absence does make the heart grow fonder.

I dedicate this to CMHL and The Bat. Anyone missing a cat, or anyone else will be able to relate as well. I think that Open Grove Claudia may be right about acts of kindness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Have Been Preoccupied A Little, Please Excuse Me

OK, so I herniated a disc in my back. Actually, I re-herniated it crawling on the floor late last week. Now you know I am not anyone's friend with benefits. M@ handles that for me. I hang with Judy. Now that I injected the right amount of sex, I can continue with backs.

This is a lateral (side view) MRI scan showing a patient lying face down with 8-9 mm herniated lumbar disc at L4 L5. Tiffany King got the one below this one playing volleyball, which is the one I had operated on last December.

It's very uncomfortable to sit and type for me, so this has taken a few days to put together. If you look at the diagram below, you can see where the red herniated part of the disc is pushing into the yellow nerve strands in the back causing pain. The pain is sort of rainbow colored and blinding, sort of, which is why you normal folks can't see it so well. Count yourself lucky.

I'll be around to your blog as I can get to them. And have a good time until I get there!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Bastille Day

First, some great news. Little Oreo has found her way home. Unfortunately, her sister Battie hasn't made it back yet. I emphasize yet. Given that Oreo has returned is that the glass is half full, and it is half full of champagne.

I continue to pray, and hope for Battie. The fireworks below are for Oreo.

I'd like to wish my friend Carrie in Toronto, my friend Alison and Allan and their children from France, my friend Alison in Alberta (now) who is better at English than I am (she's better at most things than I am come to think of it), and all of my friends who celebrate Bastille Day, a very Happy Bastille Day!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Some Of My Best Friends

Some terrible things have happened lately that have taken my attention from the blogosphere. A niece had an accident that put her and her child in the hospital. Over the 4th of July weekend, a dear friend went camping with her family. While away, someone threw a block of firecrackers into her garage, where her cats stayed. Fortunately, with all the gas cans around, there was no fire. But her two cats have not been seen for the last 24 hours. I will make a donation at the animal shelter in the morning, and pray, and hope you will pray too, for the safe return of her two cats. Naturally, I shot a request to Holmes to see if she could look into this for me. I always think of Holmes first.

In an attempt to try to be positive, I have assembled a few images of some friends of mine. Below is my friend Tiffany King and her fiance/boy friend/main squeeze/friend of mine/PB. PB is one of the nicest, most laid back, smartest, most lucid, interesting people you could ever want to meet. He's also likable. He and Tiff work at the same Body Repair Shop. Judy tells me that he's a hunk, and I trust Judy in all things male, because I don't care about those things. It's better that way.

Directly below, after dinner, Otis joined in the merriment as we relaxed after a filling dinner at Charlie's, the finest restaurant in the area. Otis was actually competing with Tiff for bonding space with PB. Understandable.

This is Tiffany's dog Pooh King. I have a wonderful relationship with Pooh. He and I communicate with each other. We are close friends. We have been that way from the moment we met. I took Pooh out every day, several times a day. It was not a chore. We talked endlessly. Strange for a cat person, you say. Pooh lives with a woman and two cats. Pooh has wisdom. Pooh is unique. I adore Pooh King. Plain and Simple.

Here we have Tiffany in a love fest with her other, bionic cat who is running on atomic energy at the moment. The cat hid the entire weekend.

Pooh had come over and said, "How about one last trip around the parking lot for old time's sake before you leave?" And I said, "Sure!" I keep telling you we communicate well.

And, by request, the Jefferson Memorial at Cherry Blossom time.

And finally, a young baby female cardinal, a few days old.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Victory In DC

There really shouldn't have been a lot of pressure about this test I took today. Somehow, things didn't work out that way. We had the cancer scare with Judy that ruined a month, then turned out to not be cancer, but a triglyceride problem. It did make studying a small problem, as well as breathing. One tends to hold their breath for days on end. I didn't publish anything because, I think I'm superstitious. Or I scare easily. Whatever, I'm off topic.

The last day for taking this test was this coming Saturday. I filed to take it then. Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call telling me that I would have to change locations from Bethesda, three blocks from my office, to downtown, and that I would have to come in on Thursday morning at 9:00 AM, two days earlier.

Naturally, I was on-line, and who did I notice was also on-line at the same time? My good buddy, friend, pal Open Grove Claudia. I definitely want to grow up to be more like her. Really. I got into chat with her, and she simply said that all studying did was to make sure that you were familiar with the material, and when I was sitting there taking the test, I would see the same material, and it would all look familiar. When that happens, there is never a reason to panic, just calmly to sit and figure things out. Is there any wonder that I keep telling you to read her blog all the time? Another one who is more than just another pretty face. More than just another great writer, and novelist. So much more. A source of mental health. A trusted friend.

I found myself on the subway at 7:00 AM with a box of energy bars that my partner had warned me to take with me. I wasn't prepared for what happened. You are not allowed to take any personal items into the testing area. This includes a cup of coffee, no energy bars, I even had to take off my digital watch. I was led to a small cubicle with a partition, and a camera pointed right at me. I was logged into a system called PROCTOR where I was informed that any untoward behavior caught on the cameras could result in my failing the exam. I can only imagine what I might have schemed up to do with a digital watch. Maybe something with a NSA satellite?

Here is where reading the Mel's of the World, and the O.G. Claudia's and the Glamourpuss' and their fire-walking death-defying looking-fear-in-the-face-positive-mental-attitude stories pay off for you. You push all of that crap out of your mind, and you sit there, and just do it. Skinny Little Blond dresses it up in spectacular imagery, but I have to tell you, ultimately, it's all about competence. We each pick our challenges, and then it's up to us to fullfill the challenge we picked.

After seven hours, and a 30 minute break in between, I pushed the exit button. I had answered over 190 questions out of 230 live questions and another 20 experimental questions correctly to hit two standard deviation units out. That's the 95 percentile. Not where NoR wanted me, but way better than passing. I'm satisfied. I filed for the next exam today. I learned this course in four weeks. My partner took six months. I also have a lot more experience now when I took the exam than he did when he took his. On the other hand, the industry has vastly changed and become much more complex since then. I'm proud, and I thank all of you who helped me stay positive through a lot of less than pleasant.

And keep reading these people, they help you achieve the meaning of life! No small task, and they are sooooooo good at it. Not that I have an opinion, naturally. (Hint, I think they are all existential philosophers, and some then turned to Zen. You'll have to go read them to find out for yourself.) Have a fabulous weekend, and remember to have a good time, please.