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December 20, 2008

iyi 12.20.08

The thousand-mile-holidays are fast approaching, so I must sporadicize myself to the extent that the liters-of-alcohol-office-parties have not already done so.  In the mountains of VA, where I will be for some portion of the next couple days, the Internet is delivered not only by hand, but by the handful.

Yes, the banality of the "postings will be light" posts has not become any less pervasive, but there is enough abandoned e-real estate out there that I don't want to risk the resemblance thereof.  Because of the squatters and hobos.

But shine on, you crazy diamonds, and keep making the good spaghetti.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:24 AM

December 18, 2008

rick warren: the coming windbaggery

Some friends of mine are pretty all hepped up over the choice of Rick Warren as inaugural invocator.  I understand.  While Warren is a little bit less hate-y than the average evangelical -- at least he tries to be positive about it -- it's only a matter of "tone rather than substance", and the hate Warren reserved for our gay and lesbian friends should disqualify him.

But remember, a ceremony like this requires a pompous windbag, and Rick Warren is a pompous windbag.  "The Purpose Driven Life"?  There's supposed to be a hyphen in there somewhere, so let's add "dumbass" to "pompous windbag".  He's perfect for the job.  There's not really anyone that the Obama administration could have picked that was going to make everyone happy.  And if he's going to stop on someone's toes, I'd rather it be mine that conservatives/evangelicals, because they are crybabies and we'd have to listen to the crying for months.

So it sucks but let's hold our nose -- it's just an invocation, so they won't be letting that pompous dumbass windbag go for very long.

(BTW, the only invocator that would have made me happy would be the ghosts of either Bill Hicks or Mark Twain.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:51 AM

December 17, 2008

meet the new ponzi scheme

While we're whiling away the day obsessing about the economy, here is a useful paragraph from today's Thomas Friedman op-ed, conflating the kajillion dollar fraud of Bernard Madoff with the conditions causing the slo-mo fail of our economy:
I have no sympathy for Madoff.  But the fact is, his alleged Ponzi scheme was only slightly more outrageous than the "legal" scheme that Wall Street was running, fueled by cheap credit, low standards and high greed.  What do you call giving a worker who makes only $14,000 a year a nothing-down and nothing-to-pay-for-two-years mortgage to buy a $750,000 home, and then bundling that mortgage with 100 others into bonds —- which Moody’s or Standard & Poors rate AAA -— and then selling them to banks and pension funds the world over?  That is what our financial industry was doing.  If that isn’t a pyramid scheme, what is?

I know that it's usually more fun to mock and deride Friedman, but I figure if I keep posting examples of understandable explanations about what's happening, maybe it'll penetrate my thick skull.  Like yesterday, when I decided to give a try to reading a macroeconomics paper by Krugman (via Maud), and, well, I did not make it so far into that one.

And so the phrase for the day is "Ponzi Scheme", which I need pretty badly to learn how to pull off.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:43 PM

goldman sachs: begging for pitchforks and torches

There's other economic eyebrow-raisers today, but this one fits easier into your hand, so that you may conveniently carry it with you wherever you go -- Goldman Sachs to pay virtually no taxes at all!
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which got $10 billion and debt guarantees from the U.S. government in October, expects to pay $14 million in taxes worldwide for 2008 compared with $6 billion in 2007.

The article goes on to mention that for 2008 Goldman Sachs is effectively being taxed at a rate of 1%.  I, however, like to think of it as Goldman Sachs effectively reducing its US tax liability by 99.77%

I think a certain amount of outrage would be appropriate at this point.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM

December 16, 2008

ditmas park brooklyn

For the record, I'm not so sure that the Brooklyn neighborhood in which I reside resembles San Francisco at all.  It's much flatter, not so foggy, and the subways run twenty-four hours.  Maybe its similar texturally -- I've never lived in San Francisco.  But from the three or four times I've visited, not so much.  And the Hippie Menace referenced in the New York piece?  Overstated.  Our hippies keep to themselves and make certain that their hippie-ing does not interfere with the everyday world.

It's nice to be noticed and everything, but, having been run out of the last Brooklyn neighborhood in which I resided by an influx of the monied who drove rents up to Hong Kong levels, I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with the attention.  In fact, I'd say, if you're thinking of moving down to Ditmas, it much more resembles Toledo, OH, or Branson, MO, at least in terms of culture.  In terms of livability, it resembles the very bottom of the ocean, except that the bottom of the ocean has more ATMs.

FYI, the excellent local blog of the nabe is Ditmas Park Blog.  They are super.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:21 PM

shoe-thrower: animated gifs save the day

In case you are one who disagrees with me with regard to the awesomeness or lack thereof of the Hero of the Universe who snuck shoes into a presidential presser in Iraq, here then are the bucketfuls of fun that transpires in the 24 to 36 hours after the event, when the idle but talented turn their animated gif skills to the topic at hand.

As the value of editorial cartoonists continue to plummet, maybe the newspapers can snag a couple of bright stars of the viral entertainment firmament as low-cost replacements.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:16 AM

December 15, 2008

a spot of layoff sunshine

Not much to say about this sentiment from one of the displaced Radar writers other than, "Word."  Nothing says badass than wielding uncashed paychecks as weapons.

Well, other than taking a three-foot bong with you to business meetings.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:29 PM

shoe-throwing: not for the ages so much, no

You know, maybe I don't have the killer instinct, but the whole shoe-throwing incident?  I'm relatively unmoved by it.  Sure, rah rah, truth-to-power, etc., but it seems we've moved from tragedy past farce to inane postscript.

The damage is done -- the invasion happened, at the cost of thousands of lives, billions of dollars, the international good will of the US and the strategic balance in the Middle East.  An infinite number of brave fools can throw an infinite number of shoes at the president, and I'm still not going to take it as a poetic triumph.

And ultimately, the gravest insult of shoes thrown did not faze the president, and it never will.  He doesn't really care what we think.  Parading the Youtube video of it around like some viral that will cheer the spirits of good people everwhere seems like something Rush Limbaugh would do, were Al Gore or John Kerry the recipient of the insult.

So, I guess, "A waste of perfectly good shoes.  Whee."

Posted by mrbrent at 12:06 PM

IYI 12.15.08

Based on the past few times I was in the office, there's a 75% chance that the part of our Internet service which makes things like "posting" possible will be disabled, as Con Ed retrofits W. 25th Street for skyscrapers or sunspots disrupt terrestrial electromagnetic communication or whatever our ISP tells us.

Which means that after we have our company meeting wherein we will be told the extent of the pain we will be feeling salary/bonus-wise, there is a 75% chance that you will not be able to hear us scream, unless you can actually hear us, with your actual ears.

Of course, to get hit with only a compensation freeze in this economy is akin to being given one million dollars, so perhaps there will be dancing and singing you won't be able to hear instead.

After all, there's not many staff meetings that don't have dancing and singing.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:17 AM

hey, what about ridiculous surnames?

Meanwhile, in Europe (which we used to call 'The Continent' as a leftover Britishism), everyone's all up in arms over the funny names you bestow upon your children!  Well, not everyone -- a bishop!  Of the Catholic Church, no less, so he has the ear of the man who has the ear of the man who has the ear of God!

His, and putatively God's, thoughts:

Mothers and fathers "should return to using a name like Maria, which is inspired by the Virgin Mary", instead of opting for "exotic or strange names of which their children will later be ashamed", the bishop said.

Dude, or Monsignor, I come from an affinity group that a) largely avoided being named with funny names, and b) has definitely dabbled with funny-naming their kids.  And everyone seems perfectly basically fine.  I'm sure if little Monkeystone or ChiChiRodriguez gets made fun of too much, then they can always opt for a normal name as their nickname.  "Cheryl" or "Mark" or, like our president-elect, "Barry".  Who, by the way did I mention, is the president-elect?  And is not named "Maria"?

Actually, my name (Brent!?!) also qualifies as exotic and strange and is not in the Bible.  I think it means "steep hill" or something.  (Sadly, not joking.)  And what little kid wouldn't want to grow up to be like me?

Posted by mrbrent at 7:32 AM