Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm (By Randy)

In a little while, my house will be full with family and friends for Christmas dinner. Fortunately, I won’t be the one cooking for fourteen – just providing the meeting place this year. That’s because half of them want to see what I’ve been doing the last couple of months. Some of you here might be wondering, too.

I believe mentioning before that the view from the back yard is delightful. (In fact, somewhere around here is a picture or two featuring that view.) While the breakfast area, the master bedroom and another bedroom all have large windows through which one can enjoy that view, it has always bothered me that the one room I spend the most time in, the family room, doesn’t.

At the end of September, two able-bodied and knowledgeable friends and I embarked on a project to rectify that situation. We removed a door, moved a window, put a new 8′ tall sliding door in where there was once a window, moved the gas fireplace from the center of the back wall to the corner, added a large window where once the fireplace and a well for an old-fashioned large TV set, and finished that area off as a window box seat.

As we finished only last week (and still have much “touching up” to do), we obviously weren’t in a huge hurry. The project was most definitely entertaining, often educational, and rarely tedious or bothersome.  It was a great way to take my mind off other things. Suffice to say we had lots of fun.

Here’s what the room looked like before we started:


And here’s what it looks like now:


We couldn’t resist adding a twist:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Just Jack

November 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm (By Randy)

The last time I bought a new (or used) car was December, 1996.  As saving for old age is no longer a necessity, I threw caution to the wind and ordered this Mini Cooper S. A friend insisted on naming it – at first we chose “Black Jack” because of the decal I ordered to disguise the sunroof, but we figured that was already a popular name, so we went with “Just Jack.”

Jack is actually dark grey-green but need the right light to show it off. The likely ultimate owner of this car was also intimately involved in selecting the various options.

It’s a “happy car” and I can’t help smiling every time I see it.

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Foothill Fall Foliage

November 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm (By Randy)


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Impatient Impatiens

November 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm (By Randy)

For the past six years, I’ve planted impatiens underneath the entry archway to my house. Most of the time, they don’t turn out as well as could be. They sure made up for it this year, though!

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Major Tremors

September 14, 2011 at 12:52 am (By Randy)

For the first time since 1920, voters in New York’s 9th Congressional District elected a Republican to Congress today.  Once counting has ended, it looks like the GOP nominee will win 53-47%. Pretty impressive considering registered Democrats number  almost 196,000 while there are only 62,000 Republicans and 85,000 independents . This is Anthony Weiner’s district – he averaged 70+% when he had a challenger. It was Chuck Schumer’s district before that.

Since 1857, the GOP has held the seat in its various incarnations a total of 9 out of the past 154 years. They won’t hold it for long, though. This makes the decision about the two seats New York legislators must eliminate due to the 2010 census a lot easier.

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Benignant Belgium?

September 7, 2011 at 2:26 am (By Randy)

Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom.   

Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which historically accompanies successful exit from a recession, we have the UK’s disappointing 0.2 per cent growth, the US’s anaemic 0.3 per cent and the glum eurozone average figure of 0.2 per cent. That number includes the surprising and alarming German 0.1 per cent, the desperately poor French 0 per cent and then, wait for it, the agreeably frisky Belgian 0.7 per cent.

Why is that, if you’ve been following the story, laugh-aloud funny?

Because Belgium doesn’t have a government.

Thanks to political stalemate in Brussels, it hasn’t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy.

It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing government.

– John Lanchester: The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway

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Eviscerating Indictment

September 7, 2011 at 2:05 am (By Randy)

The debt ceiling extension is not the only example of this sort of political terrorism…

…Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care.


… the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.


By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner…

…This tactic of inducing public distrust of government is not only cynical, it is schizophrenic. For people who profess to revere the Constitution, it is strange that they so caustically denigrate the very federal government that is the material expression of the principles embodied in that document…

…Undermining Americans’ belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy.


Historical circumstances produced the raw material: the deindustrialization and financialization of America since about 1970 has spawned an increasingly downscale white middle class – without job security (or even without jobs), with pensions and health benefits evaporating and with their principal asset deflating in the collapse of the housing bubble. Their fears are not imaginary; their standard of living is shrinking…

…It was not always thus. It would have been hard to find an uneducated farmer during the depression of the 1890s who did not have a very accurate idea about exactly which economic interests were shafting him. An unemployed worker in a breadline in 1932 would have felt little gratitude to the Rockefellers or the Mellons. But that is not the case in the present economic crisis. After a riot of unbridled greed such as the world has not seen since the conquistadors’ looting expeditions and after an unprecedented broad and rapid transfer of wealth upward by Wall Street and its corporate satellites, where is the popular anger directed, at least as depicted in the media? At “Washington spending” – which has increased primarily to provide unemployment compensation, food stamps and Medicaid to those economically damaged by the previous decade’s corporate saturnalia. Or the popular rage is harmlessly diverted against pseudo-issues: death panels, birtherism, gay marriage, abortion, and so on, none of which stands to dent the corporate bottom line in the slightest.

The author resigned this year, after serving 28 years as a professional GOP staff member, the last 16 on either the House and Senate Budget Committee. Lofgren goes on, providing a scathing review of what he believes current principal tenets of the modern Republican Party.

– Mike Lofgren in Goodbye to All That

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Job Market

September 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm (By Randy)

The US has roughly the same number of jobs today as it had in 2000, but the population is well over 30,000,000 larger. To get to a civilian employment-to-population ratio equal to that in 2000, we would have to gain some 18 MILLION jobs.

– John Mauldin in Business Insider

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Bonus Army

September 4, 2011 at 11:57 am (By Randy)

For the American economy – and for many other developed economies – the elephant in the room is the amount of money paid to bankers over the last five years. In the United States, the sum stands at an astounding $2.2 trillion for banks that have filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

– Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Mark Spitznagel: The Great Bank Robbery

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A Plea for HELP!!!

July 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm (By Randy)

Please Help!

I learned that I have inoperable cancer of the bile duct (cholangiocarcinoma) this morning. That unknown spot on my liver I mentioned somewhere around here three or four months ago unexpectedly grew 40%, the bloodwork that looked great then sucks now,  and there are about twenty tiny new spots as well. The biopsy results came in this morning.

If anyone here knows anyone involved in cancer research or treatment of any kind, I’m searching for specialists in this rare cancer (1-2 cases per 100,000 per year) or ongoing studies of experimental treatments anywhere in the United States. May not prolong my life, but just might help save someone else’s.

My email address is:

Hey – I’m even trying the Norman Cousins “Laughter is the Best Medicine” regimen from here on out. In the end, it may not make a big difference, but it beats debating who is responsible for the current fiscal crisis, and it should definitely improve the odds of going out smiling!

Here’s wishing all the best to each and every one of you here. It’s been a pleasure meeting you all online or in 3D.

Thank you!

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