Tuesday, November 30, 2010

end-of-the-month odds and ends

First of all, has John McCain lost whatever sanity he had left? He is saying, as North and South Korea edge perilously close to war, that we should be considering "regime change" for North Korea. We might all like to see regime change in that country, but "regime change" as a buzzword flashes us back to when that term was being used to overthrow Saddam Hussein and bring on the unnecessary and disastrous Iraq War. Sen. McCain surely must know that militarily North Korea is not the pipsqueak country that Iraq was, so such talk is reckless. In the meantime, as he anxiously awaits World War III, he is leading the charge in the Senate on a mission fighting the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in the military even though more than 70% of the military when polled were okay with that stupid law being repealed. He's giving the appearance of a doddering old man, out of touch with the country, locking himself in a cage of his own making. Thank God this man isn't President.
And what about this "Wikileaks" thing? Is it really such a big deal? I haven't seen much of what's being disclosed, but what I've seen so far would at most just hurt the feelings of some world leaders.. And if you can't stand having your feelings hurt once in a while, you shouldn't be a world leader.
And poor President Obama... He can't even play a pick-up game of basketball without being injured... 12 stitches! Let's hope that 2011 is kinder to the man. We need stuff done!

Monday, November 29, 2010

warsaw concerto

Way back in my piano-student days, Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell was my signature piece, and I still like to play it now and then when I'm feeling a little less lazy than usual. I wish I could play it as well as I did when I was 18. The rendition in this video was done by the West Forest Sinfonia in Berkshire, England, and I think the young pianist did a pretty good job on it. It's a great piece, and fun to play on the piano.

(when I'm out of town for two weeks, I start missing my Steinway)....

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The New York Times every year come out with its list of 100 notable new books of the past year. Here is a link to its 2010 100 Notable Books:


(The sad part of this is that the "Best of 2010" lists have already started!)

On the non-fiction side, I've read two of the books on the list and am enthusiastic about both: Life, by Keith Richards (which I just finished a couple days ago) and Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, by Daniel Okrent. Fiction-wise, I'm back to reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and will finish it this week.

You already know how much I loved the Keith Richards book, the most enjoyable read I've had in a long time. This is how the Times describes it:

Reading Richards's autobiography is like getting to corner him a room to ask
everything you always wanted to know about the Rolling Stones.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

surfing is harder than you think

Jerry, always ready for a new adventure, had never been surfing, and surfing in Hawaii of course is a way of life, so he went, along with a new friend of ours named Steve, for a surfing lesson yesterday on the east coast of the island. They had a young, 25-ish, blond surfer for an instructor, who made it all look easy. It wasn't easy.

Jerry came back to the condo exhausted and in major distress, having used muscles he hadn't known about before. His back and neck were in major pain. He cried out for his chiropractor, who of course is thousands of miles away in Minneapolis. The new friend Steve, a 58-year-old guy visiting from Vancouver, also had some new muscles making their presence known. Apparently (for them, at least) the hardest part of surfing is lying on the surfboard, paddling out into the ocean to catch a wave. Or maybe, if you're going to be a surfer, you just need to start at a very young age.

I took Jerry on my long morning walk this morning, and that somehow seemed to help his back and shoulders sort of get back to normal. They're talking about going surfing again on Monday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

tryptophan hangover

It's kind of funny what the day after Thanksgiving has become: an almost-automatic extra day off from work, a shopper's dream and nightmare, a recovery day from excess food (Don't you love hearing in detail how miserable people are from overeating?).

Jerry is off somewhere having a surfing lesson. I'm hanging out in Waikiki, taking walks, reading, trying to avoid any acknowledgement of Black Friday. It's not beginning to look a lot like Christmas, for me at least.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

the t-bolts

Thanksgiving 2010 -- our second one in Hawaii (the first was in 2007). We popped the turkey into the oven an hour and a half ago and walked over to the Wailana Coffee House for breakfast. (One thing we notice that's different here -- everything seems to be open -- grocery stores, restaurants, just about everything). My cousin Karen, who has lived in Hawaii for close to 40 years, and her husband Eric are coming over later for dinner.

In our house, growing up, dinner seemed to always be secondary on Thanksgiving to the Millville-Vineland high school football game. My mom was always frustrated that she had to plan dinner around when we'd be home from the game. Those Millville football games used to be so much fun -- Millville was such a football town -- and the Millville-Vineland game on Thanksgiving was the highlight, sometimes drawing 8,000 to 10,000 people. The rivalry goes on, and I know the games don't draw nearly the crowd or the excitement that they used to -- Millville has changed a lot -- but you know what? -- If I still lived in Millville or nearby, I'd be at those games, cheering on our Thunderbolts.
Added later: Todays final: Millville 28, Vineland 0.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

will you still need me, will you still feed me?

When the Beatles came out with this song ("When I'm 64" from the Sgt. Pepper album, 1967)who'd a-thunk that I would have made it this far or that it would go so quickly?...Thanks to all for the birthday wishes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

opting for the pat-down

At the Tax Conference last week, I ran into a guy that I used to know, vaguely, years ago, and we chatted for a while. He started talking about how much he travels for work now, and we veered over to the topic of airport security, the new see-through scanners and all that. He told me he once opted for the "pat-down" instead of being subjected to the new machines, I assume because of the concern a lot of people have about the potential harmful effects and invasiveness of the new scanners, and was then appalled how thorough the TSA person had been in his search of his body. He felt he had been "groped" by the guy.

Which makes me laugh. This guy, an overweight nerdy accountant, thinks that a TSA security dude picked him to fondle out of the hundreds of guys he had probably patted down that day? I'm thinking it was a bit of wishful thinking or an overly paranoid imagination, but who am I to say? Maybe it's intended as a TSA employee benefit and in their training they're taught the right ways to "cop a feel"!

I think if I'm faced with the decision, I'm gonna go with the pat-down. A little groping might liven up the nervous drudgery of going through airport security. Unless the "pat-down" line gets too long with other would-be gropees (I hate lines!), in which case I'll take my chance with the rays.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

football for breakfast

Found a better place for breakfast -- a cool little Italian place two blocks from the condo -- so the Big City Diner might be history for us. oh well!

...but what's weird is having an early breakfast on a Sunday morning and then coming back to watch football starting at 8 a.m. At home the games start at noon, on the East Coast they start at 1. Currently watching the Vikings play the Packers. The game is at home, in Minneapolis, where outside the Metrodome, there is a bad ice storm happening. If we were in town, we'd probably be at the game, assuming we didn't slip on the ice on the way into the stadium and end up in the emergency room.

We might go to the beach later.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2000 light years from home

My body is still on Central Time, so I was awake early jet-lagging. Since he's been here two weeks already, Jerry adjusted to Hawaiian Standard Time long ago, so he slept in while I went for a walk exploring the neighborhood. Walked over to Waikiki area, where I found a Starbucks and had coffee while I read my Keith Richards book, which I love.

It was a good airplane book too, made the time go fast. Between Minneapolis and San Francisco, there was a woman next to me with an Amazon Kindle, which she says is great. I haven't been able to make the switch from paper books to computer books, but who knows where I will end up on that topic. I never say never. One thing I did notice -- when we were taking off and landing, when they tell us to turn off all electronic devices, she had to turn off her Kindle, while I kept reading.

Then between San Francisco and Honolulu, there was a super-nice kid next to me, a sophomore at San Jose State, on his way to the football game (today) between San Jose and the University of Hawaii. He was reading a tedious-looking book for school and would rather have talked the whole flight, but my nose was buried in the Rolling Stones story. It's going to be one of those books that I'll hate to see end.

Friday, November 19, 2010

back at the big city diner

First day of a two-week vacation in Hawaii, spending it so far just hangin' out, slowly recovering from the long trip, the four-hour time-zone change, a cold, and a stressful last few days at the office trying to be able to be gone for a whole two weeks.

Jerry found us a very nice rental condo in a neighborhood close to Waikiki. Our one venture outside the building so far today was driving our rental Volkswagen Beetle over to the Big City Diner for breakfast. The Big City is one of our favorite haunts here, although it's not that big a deal, come to think of it -- it's just a Honolulu tradition for us.

The next big stressful decision is whether to go to Hula's for Happy Hour. Mai Tai, anyone?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


The phone rings at 6 a.m., and our land-line phone has this weird music it plays instead of a normal ring, and I can't wake up enough to know that it's the phone and not the alarm (even though I knew I hadn't set the alarm).... So I played with the alarm, trying to turn it off, and when I finally woke up enough to realize it was the phone, it had stopped that annoying song and I worried about what the call might have been that I missed. It was Joan, my sister, and she called back a few minutes later... Her cat had not-being-able-to-pee issues and was in distress, and we needed to get him to the vet asap. So I headed to St. Paul, on a rescue mission, and I'm hoping that by now after was probably a very unpleasant experience for him, the cat is free-flowing once again.

That's how some days start, and then they end up in a totally different scene. In a couple hours, I get on a plane to Honolulu, Hawaii (with a stop in San Francisco), and when I'm in that warm other-worldly paradise tonight, it will be funny to think that my day started with a plugged-up cat.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

lunch with Jon

My son Jon and I met for lunch today at Jersey Mike's, a place that had been "closed for renovation" or some such excuse for a couple months and which we assumed would never open again. Restaurants that close "temporarily" never seem to re-open. And this place even had the phone disconnected during the temporary close, an almost-sure sign of abandonment.

But it was one of the few places in Minnesota where we can get something resembling a Jersey-style cheesesteak, so we didn't want it closed. A person can not be expected to live without cheesesteaks indefinitely.

And what did they do to renovate?.. Nothing that we could see, except that the map of New Jersey was moved to another wall and some new Jersey-shore photos were hung here and there. Same menu. I guess they just needed a break. We all do now and then. Mine starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

what not to wear to the humane society

I need to stop at the Animal Humane Society later today to pick up a prescription for my sister Joan's newly adopted cat (see November 7 post).

Meanwhile, I'm on a high today, as a Philadelphia Eagles fan, after seeing the Eagles trample the Washington Redskins last night on Monday Night Football, 59-28, led by the flawless (last night, at least) quarterback Michael Vick. Michael Vick, besides being a great quarterback, is infamous for running a brutal dogfighting operation several years ago, for which he went to prison and which theoretically ended his football career.

Joan and I and other Eagles fans were dismayed when the Eagles picked him up last year, but it's amazing how forgiving we have become. We've learned to love the dude. I can even picture myself wearing a Vick jersey, although today probably wouldn't be the day to stop and buy one, at least not on the way to the Humane Society!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday morning wake-up

They say the Three Stooges are a male/female thing -- that women are shaking their heads and saying how stupid this is while the men are laughing their heads off.. We'll see.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

lessons in uncertainty

For the next two days, I'll be sitting in continuing education classes with a couple thousand other CPAs for the annual state Tax Conference (I know you're envious). It's the 27th year in a row that I've gone to this conference.

Normally, these classes are held to update us on tax changes and related topics and to prepare our firms for the upcoming busy season. What will be different this year is the uncertainty at this late date of what those changes might be. You see, the "Bush tax cuts" from 2001 are due to expire at the end of the year, and, if nothing is done by Congress in the meantime, tax rates and other tax regulations will go back to where they were in 2001. This is extremely important for upper-income taxpayers in particular, whose top tax rates would go up significantly.

Considering the horrible federal budget deficits, some are saying, "Let them go back up!" The Republicans are saying, "Cut the rates for our rich buddies even more!" So there will be a fight in the lame-duck Congress between now and December 31, and you'll hear about it. I'm hoping that Obama will be not so anxious to compromise as he has been so far. He needs a win.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

view from my laptop on a saturday morning

OK. So they were right, and it's still coming down. I must say I enjoyed trudging through the wet snow to the coffee shop a little while ago, the novelty of the first snow. It would just be nicer if it would snow and we could enjoy the beauty of it for a couple days and then it would go away until next year.
A good day to settle in and watch it all from the window. Tom and I will play some cards and enjoy the moment.
Wow, did we ever have a good time at the Timberwolves game last night -- the best Wolves game I've seen in years! Wolves 112, New York 103. Kevin Love (nephew of Mike Love of the Beach Boys, by the way -- your dose of trivia for the day) had a 30-30, the first in the NBA since 1982 (30+ points and 30+ rebounds in the same game, for you un-basketball readers).
As long as we have plenty of good indoor activities, winter isn't ALL bad... just MOSTLY. And the forecast for Honolulu next week is mid-80s and sunny.

Friday, November 12, 2010

a word before shutting down the office

It's not quite 4 p.m. on a Friday. The rest of the office is gone for the weekend. I'm thinking, can I really accomplish much more today? Should I just head out? Should I grumble-blog about the weather first?

Then I look out the windows (I usually have a great view from my office, by the way), and it's gray and almost dark already. People are talking that a snowstorm is coming. When I check the forecast for tomorrow, the number of predicted inches of snow keep going up. 8 to 10 inches, they say now, or might this be one of those snowstorms that never happens?

But I look out at the sky again. It feels like snow. Maybe I'd be predicting it too.

I worked late every night this week: the price to pay for leaving next Thursday for two weeks in Hawaii. Tonight -- another Timberwolves game with Tom, this time against the New York Knicks. The Wolves have a one-game winning streak going. Gotta start somewhere to keep hope alive!...

... and maybe it won't snow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

veterans' day

Today is/was Veterans Day, a sort of "hug-a-veteran" day. There has been a lot of gushing today about "sacrifice" and "price of freedom" and such things, but a lot of people saying those kind of things are secretly just glad it was somebody else who went into the military and not themselves. All day I was trying to think of something profound to say about how the best thing any of us could do for veterans is to learn from their experiences; to save the future veterans from needless death and injury, mental and physical; to wage no unnecessary wars; to say No to the greed and bloodthirst of the military-industrial complex. But I just couldn't think of the right words to say, so I guess I won't.

... and I'm a veteran, you know (Vietnam-era draftee). I haven't been hugged yet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

eventually there will be a last appointment

At my funeral (which I do hope isn't too awfully soon), I hope that somebody thinks of this and says it: "At least the poor dude won't have to go to the dentist anymore!"

I mean, I have nothing against my dentist, who is a cool guy. And the dental hygenist who does my twice-a-year cleaning is a sweet young woman named Jenny. I wouldn't mind meeting them for coffee or lunch or a night at the opera, but I live in absolute dread of being in that dentist chair.

Yep, you guessed it, today is my appointment. And when I'm done and make my next appointment for a cleaning, I'll dread it again for six months, counting down the days. And what if they find a cavity and I have to come in sometime in between? It's a vicious cycle. But not endless.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

late-night temptations

Monday evenings have become couch-potato time for Jerry and me. We have what we call "our shows". How did this happen?

... and now especially that he's in Hawaii, I curl up on Monday evening, cover up with a soft afghan, eat some leftover spaghetti and a bowl of vanilla ice cream, and turn on the TV: Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly (which I admit I fell asleep during), and Hawaii Five-O, occasionally flipping the channel to check out the score on Monday Night Football. It is all too easy. I don't dare to check what shows might be on other nights of the week.

But last night brought an extra bonus after "our shows": the premiere of Conan O'Brien's new late night talk show. Loved it. Hope it doesn't become part of a five-night a week routine! That HDTV is a vicious temptress! Will I go back to reading books??

Sunday, November 7, 2010

joan's cat

My sister Joan is a cat person and has been grieving for her beloved cat Alex, who died this past summer. She needed some space, apparently, between the loss of Alex and getting another cat, but she said she would know when the moment was right.
Yesterday the moment was right. My son Tom and I drove her to the Animal Humane Society to find an adoptable cat, which turned out not to be as easy to do as we thought. She just couldn't pick just any ol' cat, of course -- there had to be good chemistry. We ended up going to three different animal shelters -- one in Golden Valley, one in St. Paul, and one in Woodbury -- before finding the right cat -- meaning one that was the right age (not a kitten) and the right temperament (a lap cat).
So last night was their first night together in Joan's apartment. I talked to Joan on the phone a few minutes ago. This cat (named Tony by previous owners but subject to change) is a very energetic cat and slept perhaps not a wink. My first thought is, "Good thing the Humane Society has a 30-day return policy!" But I know Joan well enough to know that she's already hooked on him.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

losses, real and potential

Ticket prices this year were dirt cheap and we've been Timberwolves fans since the team's inception and the arena (Target Center) is just several blocks away, so we have season tickets. That's about 40 home games. It will be interesting to see how many of those tickets we actually use.
As I heard somebody say sometime, here's a problem the NBA (National Basketball Association) has: No matter what game you see, you feel like you've seen it before. There isn't enough variety to keep enough people interested long-term.
That is true with the Timberwolves, who have been losers more years than not and particularly since Kevin Garnett was traded in 2007. We've seen every kind of loss more than once. Last year, their win-loss record was 15-67. This season, they are 1-5 so far.
Tom and I went to last night's game and were pleased that the Wolves only lost by 10 points; after all, earlier in the week they had lost a game by 42 points. I guess it's all only about expectations because he and I had a great time anyway.
What concerns me is that the NBA, because of overall financial problems and maybe because of the lack of enough exceptional players, has begun to discuss the possibility of contracting four teams (out of 30) into extinction. Minnesota would be an obvious consideration since it has the image of a failed franchise.
It would be sad to lose the Wolves, but I don't know what will save them. It won't be forty times this season, but I guess we'll just do our part by filling our paid-for seats when we can and hope that the current players can win more than fifteen games.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Another movie, another five bucks. Eight other people in this audience this time, and this wasn't the late show. And I almost bought some popcorn this time until I noticed that a small plain popcorn was $5.50, fifty cents more than the movie! I'm not cheap, but I'm no fool either.

Anyway... the movies for me two nights in a row, and this one was very un-Jackass-ish: Hereafter, the new movie starring Matt Damon and a bunch of no-names and directed by Clint Eastwood. It has three distant main characters whose stories come together in the end (and an unnecessary but interesting-to-watch tsunami in the beginning): afterworld stuff, the spirit world, psychics, near-death experiences. A good story, thought provoking. I liked it, and I think the other eight people did too.

No movie tonight. Timberwolves game with Tom.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

so who's the jackass?

Fortunately I didn't see the 3D version of Jackass 3; I mean, do you really want to see a guy puke in 3D? The 2D version was what you would expect from a Jackass movie -- wasn't as good as Jackass 2 -- but I guess even sado-masochists run out of ideas eventually.

I walked over to the late show last night at the downtown stadium-seating cineplex at Block E, and I do wonder how that place stays in business. Fourteen screens and hardly anybody around. The ticket was only five bucks (Monday through Thursday all day), and there were seven other twisted people at my Jackass movie, all under 25 years old, I'm sure. That's $40 the theater made in that showing, and I didn't see anybody else, including myself, with popcorn or a soda (I was already over my Pepsi limit for the day).

I promise to make my day today more uplifting. That shouldn't be difficult.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

drowning our sorrows

Jerry made it to Honolulu. The condo where he will be living for the next month and where I will join him in two weeks is just a couple blocks from Waikiki. I was Facebook IMing him this morning (he was up early, thanks to jet lag), and he was loving being there, his favorite place in the world. We commiserated for a while about how the elections turned out, but he has the beach to console him and even an Aloha Sushi in his building.
Me, my way of drowning those sorrows, as I blog aimlessly, is to sit here treating myself to a Pepsi and thinking about going to see the movie Jackass 3 tonight. One of my Guilty Pleasures -- the Jackass movies. Well, and Pepsi too of course, but I ration my Pepsi intake as much as I can stand to.
... and isn't it one of Life's Dirty Tricks that Pepsi isn't a health drink -- That the more of it you drink, the better it is for you? Life really sucks sometimes, when you really stop and think about it.
Interesting factoids coming out of the election: 37 wimpy Democrats in Congress voted against the health-care bill; of these, only 12 were re-elected. The other 25 were voted out.
In exit polls, 47% of senior citizens voted for Tea Party candidates. It's kind of funny but also pathetic that so many seniors hate government involvement in providing health care but they sure do love their Medicare!
This from my friend Lee: "Here's a terrible thing. Voters in Iowa ousted the 3 judges that put in same-sex marriage. Time for another Pepsi..."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

don't forget to vote today....

..... even though we all know that our political system has become a total embarrassment.... and tonight we'll hear that the political party that destroyed the U.S. economy through 2008 and then over the last two years refused to cooperate to help fix it will be voted back into Congressional majority. Incredibly stupid.

... But life goes on, we hope...

Randy Moss has been let go by the Minnesota Vikings, and most Vikings fans, including myself, are ready to say, Hey let's get rid of the coach instead. It's a weird football year. It might be time to move on to something else.

Jerry left this morning for his month in Hawaii. Might be a perfect time for an escape.

Monday, November 1, 2010