Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting children into the right school

The process begins at an early age.

It's necessary to go to the best schools from the getgo, so that after getting in the best pre-school you can get into the best elementary school, then the best high school and  the best college so you can get to the top of the tree and be very rich and successful so you can visit some undeveloped country, say in Africa, where the people are dirt poor and are by no means certain to have clean water.

Then you can observe how happy these poor people seem, and how material things don't necessarily make people more contented.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nothing gold can stay

by Robert Frost:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mother's real estate empire

Mother really liked real estate.  She used to buy houses and fix them up, with the aid of my unwillling brother and a one-armed painter named Jimmy.  Jimmy was one of her homeys, as we would say today.  Actually, he was a client who never went away, but continued to do little things for mother, such as picking her up when she forgot to put gas in the car again or getting her in her house when she mislaid her keys or dropping off her glasses when she forgot them. 

The houses she bought were unpretentious.  She fixed them up, minimally, got the leaks in the roof repaired, slapped on a coat of paint, maybe replaced a leaky toilet, and then rented them for modest sums to poor or working class tenants.  Her real estate pretensions never rose above these modest investments, and frankly, considering the low rents she charged, I don't know whether she broke even on them.

Her tenants had a tendency to get arrested, or lose their jobs, or get drunk and rip the toilets from the wall, but she was a pushover.  The excuse she gave me for one tenant was that he had five children. 

Once, she had to evict a tenant.  This involved hiring a marshal, so the tenants must have tried her patience a lot.  My brother was called in to get the place back in shape, and he told me it was pretty bad.  He said it smelled like the monkey house in a zoo, among other things which I have forgotten.

But that was not the end of that tenant.  He stopped by her office a few weeks later and apologized, and she let him have the house back.  (Oh, yes, and she lent him ten bucks.)

Eventually, she turned over her entire real estate empire to Virginia, her long-suffering secretary.  Virginia was occupied by real estate transactions for years, almost to the exclusion of her real job, which was as a legal secretary,  Once in  a while in her spare moments she would type a legal document or file something, but most of her time was spent trying to collect rents or tearing her hair out.  She finally sold whatever of it she could, and got the rest torn down.

The short and simple annals of my checking account

I used to balance my checking account regularly, until I had surgery in 1992 and missed a month.  The following month, when I attempted to straighten out the various zigs and zags of my financial history, I got a headache and decided to wait until the next month and do a giant balancing act.

You know what happened next.  It got away from me entirely and I started making furtive visits to the ATM machine to see whether I still had any money.  As I am a pretty prudent spender, I usually did.  Then the bank started charging me a dollar for each peek at my account, and I stopped looking at it.  Or the bank statement.

I actually had another checking account at another bank, to which I deposited little windfalls--reimbursement of my expense account, rebate checks and little surprise sums like birthday checks from my mother.  When this mounted up enough, I would spend it on vacation.  I looked at this bank statement, as there was virtually no activity so it was easy to figure out.  Until they lost over a thousand dollars of my money.  I was able to straighten this out at great length and with much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So now I can look at my account online.   I don't have to talk to anybody, either on the phone or in person, and frankly, the fewer persons I talk to, especially if they are in call centers in India, the better.  I still don't reconcile my checking account--what is there to reconcile?  It's all in there.  I deposit checks and keep receipts, but mostly my pension check is deposited directly into my account, which is the closest I've ever come to understanding the concept of grace.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Biden didn't get the memo

...about college education:

After leading the world in college graduates for decades, the United States has slipped to ninth, and a new initiative Vice President Joe Biden announced earlier this week aims to help reverse the trend.

However, according to Instapundit:

“In fact, setting aside the technical professions (medicine, engineering, etc.) the cost of a bachelor’s degree is exploding just as its value in the marketplace is declining.”

So now we need more of what we have too much of already.  Let's spend federal money on it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stuff nobody eats any more

Nobody eats these things any more:
 Jello in a mold with cream cheese, fruit, and nuts;
Beef Wellington
Meat loaf with tomato sauce poured over it;
salmon patties;
scalloped potatoes;
celery stalks with cream cheese/peanut butter stuffed in it;
Ambrosia salad;
pickled beets;
creamed corn.

I could think of a lot of other things; these are just off the top of my head.  That Jello mold thing, that was considered quite the piece de resistance.  I never saw anyone eating it, though.  But the presentation was dramatic--it looked like a sculpture.  And what happened to garnishing food with a sprig of parsley?  Or lamb chops with little paper handles?  Or lamb chops at all, come to think of it?

All anyone seems to eat nowadays in breast of chicken, along with some form of broccoli, and arugela. 




















;

Flowers, Longwood Conservatory, March 20, 2011



Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 21, 2011

Longwood Gardens, trees budding

Posted by Picasa

Happy birthday to me!

I had a very nice birthday today, thank you very much.  I went to Longwood Gardens with my camera.  No Spring flowers are actually up, except for a crocus or two, but the conservatory made up for it.  I will be posting some pictures later.

The place was mobbed.  I wonder how many more will attend when there are actually, you know,  flowers!  Leaves on the trees!  Anyway, it was a nice day to be out, not warm but not too windy, and I was glad I went there instead of the dreary gym with its incessant loud rap music and guys whose necks are bigger than their heads groaning as they drop heavy weights.   I didn't want to be there, so I didn't go!  Tomorrow I will.

I got some nice cards and phone calls from all the relevant relatives.  I also got a phone call from an old friend who moved to Florida recently.  It was good to be in touch with her.  I bought a box of malted milk balls and ate it all; truthfully, I felt a little sick but I persisted.  If you can't stuff your face on your birthday, when can you?

Best of all, I got several happy birthday wishes on Facebook, including one from my 17-year-old niece.  And a friend dropped by with sunflowers!

The left vs the military

The lefties--pacifists about everything--don't believe anything is worth flghting for.  No tyrant---Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Attila the Hun--is vile enough to oppose with military force.

I honor Obama for taking action in Libya, and for following a successful course in Iraq, and trying to win in Afghanistan, all against the wishes of his insufferable adherents.

Down with the bad guys!  Take a leaf from Teddy Roosevelt's playbook.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mary Poppins 1.0

I am sorting my books, because some of them must go. This is tough for me because I love my books almost as much as I love my children and it causes me pain to part with them. But it is me or them. I was looking through some old books recently and came across my childhood copy of Mary Poppins, a books I loved so much that both the boards were gone.

This was my favorite book as a child. The movie, to my mind, vulgarized the story, or stories, as each chapter was a self-contained story. While Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews were charming and talented, they were much too sweet and lovable to be faithful to the original story. Mary Poppins was tart and put up with no nonsense from her charges, from whom she expected, and received, complete obedience.

I loved the foreignness of the book. The fact that the children had crumpets for tea, the fact that they had a meal called "tea" at all, were exotic and delightful. They celebrated Guy Fawkes Day, under a cold November sky, with fireworks and bonfires, and a policeman with a helmet--all of which were exciting as Timbuktoo to an American child.

Other things I loved: the children slept in the Night Nursery, all five of them, as did Mary Poppins. Like a school dormitory or a hospital ward, except that it was so British, with a fire blazing cozily in the fireplace and the aforementioned crumpets--or possibly scones, for tea, and the warm room reflected in the window above the night sky, and the bossy but reassuring Mary Poppins in charge.

Mary Poppins did not smile often, was not sugary, and the idea of her breaking out in song was unthinkable. She was much more inclined to look down her nose and sniff disapprovingly. She looked like "a Dutch doll," was vain, and loved to catch a glimpse of herself in a shop window, wearing her best hat or carrying her new umbrella and looking very smart indeed.

It was suggested in the film that the plot involved Mr Banks, the father of the children, learning that he needed to have more involvement with his offspring. Stuff and nonsense--as Mary Poppins would have said. The parents were background figures, unreal as scarecrows. The children lived in a special, self-contained world, where quotidian people and creatures, and even inanimate objects, were invested in a glow of magic.

Obviously Mrs. McCullough was misinformed

Dear Beloved,

It is by the grace of God that I received Christ,having known the truth; I
had no choice than to do what is lawful and just in the sight of God
foreternal life and in the sight of man for witness of God & His Mercies
and glory upon my life.

I am Rita McCulloch,the wife of Mr.Thomas McCulloch,both of us, are
citizens of Canada.My husband worked with the Chevron/Texaco in Russia for
twenty years and own an oil company before his untimely death in the year
2003.

We were married for ten years without a child. My Husband died after a
brief illness that lasted for only four days. Before his death we both got
born-again as dedicated Christians. Since his death I decided not to
re-marry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is
strongly against. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of
£8.5 Million GBP (Eight Million Five Hundred Thousand Great Britain Pound
Sterling) with a Bank in UK.

Presently, this money is still with the Bank and the management just wrote
me as the beneficiary that our account has been DORMANT and if I, as the
beneficiary of the funds, do not re-activate the account; the funds will
be CONFISCATED or I rather issue a letter of authorization to somebody to
receive it on my behalf(note that you need to activate this account) as I
can not come over. Presently,I'm in a hospital in Russia where I have been
undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer.

I want a person that is God-fearing who will use this money to fund
churches,Mosques,Orphanages,Non-Governmental Organisation(NGO) and widows
propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is
maintained. The Bible made us to understand that blessed is the hand that
giveth.I took this decision because I don't have any child that will
inherit this money and my husband's relatives are not Christians and I
don't want my husband's hard earned money to be misused by unbelievers. I
don't want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly manner.
Hence the reason for taking this bold decision. I am not afraid of death
since I know where I am going to.

I know that I am going to be in the bossom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14:
says that the Lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace. I don't
need any telephone communication in this regard because of my soundless
voice and presence of my husband's relatives around me always. I don't
want them to know about this development.

I await your quick response to this mail as this is my last wish to see
this funds transferred before my Death.

Please my beloved for further communication on how we are going to
conclude this, reach me on my private mail: ritamcc@live.com

Remain Blessed

Your Sister in Christ,
Mrs. Rita McCulloch.

I'm not her sister in Christ. Good try, no cigar.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good old Nagyvarad welcomes the invading Nazis



This is the town my father's father came from, welcoming the German troops in 1940. Goodness, they were excited! Throwing flowers and cheering, leaning out of windows.

I am glad that my grandparents made it safely out of there. Perhaps Helen Thomas thinks it would be a convenient residence for me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Is childhood obesity a problem?

 
Posted by Picasa

Me at 130 lbs



Should kids be stigmatized for being fat?

My own experience reveals a different emphasis. Kids--and adults too--are stigmatized for not being rail-thin. A person, generally a female person, is expected not to have an excess ounce on her frame, or she is unacceptable.

Here's my life story: I was a skinny kid and a picky eater until I was 11. Then I started to put on weight, including a small pot belly, I was as ashamed of this as if it were a serious deformity. During high school (5'3", 120 lbs), I felt gross.

In my first year of college, I gained the freshman ten, meaning that I weighed 130 lbs. I went on a diet and lost 12 lbs, which made me tremendously happy. I've been exercising and trying to lost weight ever since. However, instead of losing, I have gained a pound a year for 40 years. The only reversal of this trend came when I had surgery a few times. Each surgery resulted in the loss of 15 lbs--then I resumed my annual weight gain.

So this is the story of my life. I have been exercising and dieting since I was 16 and am in good health and overweight. My mother, on the other hand, with the same build as me, did not exercise or diet and gained weight every year until she died at 78, except for periods when she was ill, which made her temporarily lose weight.

I feel bitter about always worrying about my weight, when objectively I was not really fat. A woman who is 5'3" and weighs 130 lbs in not fat. She's just not skinny. I would be ecstatic to weigh 130 lbs again, or even 140.

My point is that society makes a fuss over not being thin, as well as being obese. Models and movie stars are gaunt, or else. The beautiful Jennifer Lopez is constantly chided for being fat! Marilyn Monroe would never make it nowadays. People who are not thin are unacceptable in this society. And the more thinness is stressed, the more obesity and anorexia we see in young women.

What's wrong with this picture?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Monday, March 07, 2011

Inflation explained

<


Posted by Picasa

The hospital

My father, who is quite elderly, went to the hospital to have a procedure.  He had  not been making sense for a while, and kept falling asleep and falling off chairs, so they decided he needed a pacemaker.  He was okay with it.  But they made him wait all day, fasting, as they do in New Jersey, and he refused to go to the operating room.  By this time, he believed he was in a hotel, and a damn poor one at that, and asked my stepmother to give him $10 to take a taxi home.

So it was arranged that he would have the procedure under general anesthesia the next day.  His wife signed the permission and they pumped him full of valium and God knows what else.  The pacemaker was inserted. 

When the anesthesia wore off, he  demanded to be discharged but they would not release him until he had been rational for 24 hours.  This made him even crazier.  He does not do well with hospitals.  The last time he had had general anesthesia he had a bad reaction and  was convinced that the man in the next bed was a Mafioso bent on killing him, despite reassurance to the contrary.

Well, they finally released him.  But meanwhile the phone lines between Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California were burning up, and the e-mails were flying.  I was chosen by popular acclaim to go to NJ and discover what the hell is going on, as  the nearest relative geographically.  So I am putting my investigative shoes on and off I go.

Old picture

I restored my system, and now I can transfer a photo. This is of l-r: a friend of mine, my mother, and me.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Please help out Princess Pelagie

Good evening!

How are you today,I hope fine? I am a female student from University of Burkina-Faso, Ouagadougou. I am 22 yrs old. I will love to have a long-term relationship with you and to know more about you. I would like to build up a solid foundation with you in time coming if you can be able to help me in this transaction. Well, my father died earlier 1 year ago and left I and my junior brother behind. He was a king, which our town citizens titled him over sixteen years before his death.I was a princess to him and I am the only person who can take care of his wealth now because my junior brother is still young and my late mother is also late two years ago before the death of my Late father.

He left the sum of (Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand united state dollars ($12.5mUSD) in a Bank. This money was annually paid into my late fathers account from Gold Exploring companies operating in our locality for the compensation of youth and community development in our jurisdiction. I don't know how and what I will do to invest this money somewhere in abroad, so that my father's kindred will not take over what belongs to my father and our family, which they were planning to do without my present because I am a female as stated by our culture in the town.Now, I urgently need your humble assistance to move this money from the Bank of Africa to your bank account after which i come over to meet with you. and I strongly believe that by the grace of God, you will help me invest this money wisely.

I am ready to pay 40% of the total amount to you if you help us in this transaction and another 10% interest of Annual After Income to you, for handling this transaction for us, which you will strongly have absolute control over. Please if you are interested to help me, then get back to me urgent so that I will give you more details including my picturs.

Yours sincerely,
Princess Pelagie Yussuf.

This is my home address,From Burkina Faso in West Africa.Home Address: Rue 54 ave. LOUDIN.

I'm sure she's on the up-and-up--she left her address, didn't she?  Perhaps my readers could make some suggestions as to how she could invest her late father's millions.  Wouldn't you like a long-term relationship with a 22-year-old female?

Lower education--designed to produce bots?

According to Glenn Reynolds:

When our public education system was created in the 19th century, its goal, quite explicitly, was to produce obedient and orderly factory workers to fill the new jobs being created by the industrial revolution. Those jobs are mostly gone, now, and the needs of the 21st century are not the needs of the 19th.
Not true.

My mother, born in 1901, came to this country in 1906.  Her family settled in a mean hovel  located in a slum in Columbus, OH.  This non-English speaker got a good basic education in the fundamentals: she learned the names and capitol cities of all the states, memorized the times tables, learned what the parts of speech were and how to diagram a sentence, was told about American history and how the government worked on every level.  This was in a grammar school which served mainly poor black and Jewish children.   In high school, she learned geometry, trigonometry, Latin, and German, and was taught a great deal of English and American literature.  She graduated from high school at the age of 14, by the way.

Who needs all this education:  a docile, obedient factory hand, or the free citizen of a republic?

Of course, standards were lowered considerably by the time I went to school, but that's not relevant here except to note that she had learned more as a high school graduate than I did as a college graduate.  And her self-esteem seemed not to be adversely affected.  She went on to college and law school and practiced law for 50 years, having graduated from law school too young to be allowed to take the bar exam.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Fewer teens are having sex

or more teens are having less sex.

I don't understand why this is so for boys, having never been one. But for girls, perhaps the sight of high school youths sloping home from school decked out in baggy jeans and hoodies, with the hood concealing most of their faces, looking for all the world like burglars, is not an inspiring one. Perhaps, given what's on offer, the young ladies would rather do their homework or go shopping.

Link courtesy of instapundit.

Really useful advice

about your feet.

If you're a woman.

Notice to Amazon.com

Your drop-down menu is a nuisance. It completely covers the "Add this" and "Go to Checkout" buttons. If you are attempting to make it impossible to buy anything, you are succeeding beyond your wildest dreams.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Weird New Jersey government practices

I was just reading about Governor Scott Walker's budget plans, and it brought me back to the good old days when I coped with a library budget in dear old New Jersey. 

In the alternative universe that is New Jersey, the fiscal year starts on January 1 for most municipalities.  However, the town budget for that year has to be submitted to the State Department of Approving Municipal Budgets--that's not what it's called, but it's what it is--by March 30.  So you are already one quarter into your budget before it's even submitted.  The the Department goes over this budget at its leisure and sends it back, approved or disapproved, by April 30 on a very good year.  Most years it's more like May 30, and I have been present when it was approved on July 4, which means you really don't have much time left to make spending cuts, even if you don't have enough money to operate the way you did the past year. In the library, this usually involves cutting the materials budget, because what else can you cut?  You can also cut or eliminate the hours of part-time staffers, but they don't make anything anyway.  So management fires minimum wage-earning pages and has the books put away by a Senior Reference Librarian who makes $80,000 a year.

Ours was a civil service library.  In practice, that means anyone with a permanent appointment has a job for life.  There are also arcane rules, no doubt created by Franz Kafka,  for laying off people.  They go something like this:  first, everyone working in that job classification has to be informed that layoffs are contemplated 60 days, or 90 days, I forget which, before the layoffs will take place.  Then staffers are laid off in order of seniority, with 60 or 90 days notice.  By the time this has happened, 180 days have passed, which is half a year.  There are plenty more rules where these come from, but you get the idea.

Then they cut the hours.  The library, which used to be open 9 a m to 9 p m except for weekends, but had Saturday and Sunday hours as well, is closed Monday, opens at 12:30 Tuesday and closes at 5:15; has abbreviated hours Wednesday-Friday, closes at noon on Saturday and opens from 1-2 on Sunday, or whatever will cause maximum inconvenience to the public.  They stop buying multiple copies of bestsellers, in the belief that the peasants who pay taxes don't deserve to read that junk anyway.  Let them go to Barnes & Noble!

You can't blame unions for this stuff, either.  I know it's popular to dump on teachers unions,  but teachers actually teach children.  What do the administrators, Board secretaries, assistant Board secretaries, principals, assistant principals, and junior assistant principals do?  How about the County Boards of Education, who never see anyone under the age of 30--what do they do?  They have offices, employees, telephones, janitors, etc, but why are they there?

School budgets are generally submitted to the voters and often voted down.  Then the school board appeals to the State Department of Approving School Budgets, and sometimes wins and sometimes loses.  Whether they win or lose, the municipality has to pay their own lawyers and the education board lawyers, etc.  A good time is had by all, and a politically connected attorney never has to wonder where his next meal  is coming from.

If a town is lucky they have a volunteer fire department, but the police make up for any savings in public safety.  There are like 5,000 towns in New Jersey and they all have their own police departments, with arcane working rules, tough unions,  and Rottweilers for lawyers.

I just hope the State stays in business until I die, so I can continue to collect my pension.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Queen's speech

I am so far behind in movie-viewing  that I just rented The Queen, last year's Academy Award winner, while everybody else is talking about the latest royal hooha.   Here's my take on it:  I'm with Queen Liz.  All those citizens standing around boohooing, placing flowers around the various palaces, and carrying candles are taking it too far. Where do these people get off, acting like they had just lost their best friend, their mother and dad, and the family dog?  They didn't know Diana, and chances are they wouldn't have liked her if they did, nor she them.

They're lucky I'm not queen--I would have sent the guards out to clear out the lot of them, and let the crowns fall where they may.  What ever happened to the stiff upper lip?  

The thing I most hold against Elizabeth is her giving birth to that royal ninny, Prince Chuck, whose greatest aspiration was to be a tampon.   But right after that is the speech she gave to the multitudes about Diana, a revolting mix of cheap sentiment and platitudes.  Clearly she loathed Diana and delivered the speech grudgingly.  If Tony Blair forced her to deliver the speech, then he is a humbug.

A musical note


Last Friday I attended a concert featuring a local composer I had never heard of--but that's no surprise, I could count all the living composers I've heard of without taking my socks off. The composer in question was called Libby Larson. She was given an award and made a speech announcing that there are fairies in the bottom of the garden. Well, not exactly--she merely asserted that her first language is music and other airy nonsense. So I didn't think I would like her work.

However, it wasn't bad, featuring snatches of jazz and ragtime; but somehow, it didn't cohere. The puzzle pieces did not seem to me to fit together. I am really trying to learn to like living composers. I like John Adams--does he count?

After the intermission the orchestra played a work by Dvorak. My first thought was: Libby Larson 0-Dvorak 1. The audience had a rip-roaring good time with Dvorak. I wonder--do they play the new composer first, hoping the audience will come back after the intermission to hear the good stuff?

Just asking.