"What did you guys eat?," the wife asked when I came back.
"T. had made pizza," I replied.
"If T. can make pizza," snarked the wife, "then I should be able to do it too." And so she did. But we haven't been making pizza from scratch after that -- Papa Murphy's is down the street and they sell pretty fresh, quite good pizzas.
On Sunday, we wanted to try out a new griddle pan and so we decided to make pizza. What went in: our house blend of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, bell peppers, mushrooms and spinach with pepper-jack cheese. Also sphagetti sauce I'd made and frozen last year in a bid to use up the garden basil.
Sichuan tofu and onion soup.
"Pizza," she said in a tone of voice that indicated that this was the stupidest question that she'd heard in the four years she's been on this earth. And you know what ... it probably was.
As you can see, not much snow in the metro area, although some of the roofs show a little white dust. The field is green throughout.
Can they beat that performance? You betcha.
Hillary Clinton went to see the basilica in Mexico City and was shown the famous peasant cloth and its iconic image of Mary. After admiring the image, Mrs. Clinton is reported to have inquired: So who painted it? The embarrassed hosts, of course, believe that the image was not painted, but that its existence is miraculous.
Most of the "miracles" associated with it have been scientifically explained and the likely answer to her question is Marcos Cipac de Aquino. Still ... I'm quite sure that's not what our Secretary of State had in mind.
I'm now breathlessly awaiting what we do to the Canadians. Maybe jam in a 6-hour dash across the border and give them an even bigger inferiority complex? Oh, that's been done too.
Learning Tree", so it is doubly ironic that a new Mediterranean market has opened just down the block:
p.s. Bad cars in the US are referred to as lemons. Hence the double irony.
This article is worth reading in full, but in short: (1) the hype surrounding the Nano is so much that the company hopes to make money selling all kinds of accessories (sort of like the movie studios). (2) the wait list for the car is so long that the company is going to make people pay to be on the waitlist, thus getting a cheap source of funding that bypasses the banks. (3) Only the cheapest car is $2000; vehicles with a few more features (such as air-conditioning) cost much more and make the whole set of cars profitable.
As the Economist notes:
By declaring an impossible price tag, the company has generated enough lucrative hype to make the cheapest car viable after all.At any rate, a smarter business plan and better marketing than those coming out of Detroit.
The box came with four pieces -- three-and-a-half are going into the garbage.
Paul Krugman believes that the answer is (a) and that unless the government bites the bullets, wipes out the banks' existing shareholders and installs new management with a clean slate, we are hosed. He explains here:
Banks and other highly leveraged institutions collectively made a huge bet that the normal rules for house prices and sustainable levels of consumer debt no longer applied; they were wrong. Time for a Swedish solution.On the other hand, the Obama administration believes that the answer is (b). They are planning to put up capital, get it managed by financial managers (who themselves put up a 20% stake) and hold the mortages, if necessary, to maturity. Brad DeLong explains here:
The Geithner Plan is a trillion-dollar operation by which the U.S. acts as the world's largest hedge fund investor, committing its money to funds to buy up risky and distressed but probably fundamentally undervalued assets and, as patient capital, holding them either until maturity or until markets recover so that risk discounts are normal and it can sell them off--in either case at an immense profit.The newspaper accounts, not surprisingly, are worthless -- you'd do better to get the bottom-line from experts than from journalists imperfectly channeling experts and laboring under some illusion of balance.
What do I think? I think it's a huge, huge gamble. However, the US population is growing; people highly prefer single-family homes and the quality of childrens' education is tied highly to real-estate. So, in the next 3-5 years, we'll burn through the surplus of homes. Nothing we've seen indicates that the homes themselves are shoddy -- there hasn't been any epidemic of corrupt home inspectors to go with the corrupt appraisers, mortage brokers, lenders and insurers. So, I'm hoping that the Obama administration is correct, and that (in DeLong's words):
At the moment, those businesses that ought to be expanding and hiring cannot profitably expand and hire because the terms on which they can finance expansion are so lousy. The terms on which they can finance expansion are so lazy because existing financial asset prices are so low. Existing financial asset prices are so low because risk and information discounts have soared. Risk and information discounts have collapsed because the supply of assets is high and the tolerance of financial intermediaries for holding assets that are risky or that might have information-revelation problems are low.
So if we are going to boost asset prices to levels at which those firms that ought to be expanding can get finance, we are going to have to shrink the supply of risky assets that our private-sector financial intermediaries have to hold. The government buys up $1 trillion of financial assets, and lo and behold the private sector has to hold $1 trillion less of risky and information-impacted assets. Their price goes up. Supply and demand.
- We have a history in this country of vastly overpaying professionals like lawyers, traders and managers whose net benefit to society is not clear. So, why is their payscale suddenly outrageous? Did they actually deserve what was paid to them when the market was going up? Is it ever justifiable for people who manage money to extract 1-2% of assets as "management fees"?
- The $118 billion (i.e. more than 1000-times the bonus amount) that Uncle Sam paid to AIG actually went to "counterparties". These are politically well-connected firms. If we're going to impose punitive tax rates on retention bonuses, why not also impose punitive corporate taxes on the amounts paid to these companies? Or at least, insist on an ownership stake in these companies in exchange for payment?
- The pass-through payments are risible for another reason. The banks apparently didn't quite buy insurance for their portfolio. Instead, hedge-funds that shorted the housing market bought the insurance through the banks, and the pass-through funds are actually going to these hedge funds. That's who we have been supporting. We need to punitively tax hedge fund profits -- any fund that makes a profit is making a profit only because the tax payer has been shoring up the economy.
So rather than be outraged at the AIG bonus, be outraged that Wall Street banks are getting 1000-times the money for free. Be outraged that dubious professions are collecting rent off our productivity.
Based on the stuff the stimulus bill is being spent on, not bloody likely. Anyway, this is the view of the canyon from the entrance to the park. You can see the park road winding through the valley.
The planned activities turned out to be very, very good. The kids got to identify lots of birds. "15," said S1 when I asked. You can see him (red jacket) conspicously hanging back in this photograph so that no one would get the mistaken idea that he was a kid who had to be led around.
The Powerpoint was on various animal noises we could expect to hear. We ended up hearing coyotes, owls and the damned wind.
So, off we went, leaving Norman at 4am on Saturday morning. By then, the highways had been cleared, so we made good time. Still, the gorgeous winter-wonderland did give us pause: were we really going to pitch a tent on that?
The early morning light on the canyon was gorgeous and once you dress warm enough, there's not much of a difference between 30-degrees and 50-degrees.
Amazingly enough, the weatherman was right. It continued to warm up and by the next day, we had 72F, clear blue skies, postcard perfect views:
But before we could get to the next morning, we had to go through the night. You can dress warm for the cold, but it is hard to dress warm for the wind. And the West Texas wind howled louder than the coyotes on Saturday night. Makes one appreciate why early settlers in the region would decide to live in dugouts like this:
The same dynamic rules in our home too. S1, who's a thoughtful, easy-going kid as far as any one else is concerned, would have done the exact same thing to his sister. What is it about older brothers and younger sisters, I wonder?
In case you missed it, he asked Cramer whether more investigative reporting, and less cheerleading, from the business press would have prevented the meltdown. Something along the lines of "you knew these guys were playing risky games with the 401(k) and pensions of ordinary Americans, yet you didn't call them on it". This is the last part of the Cramer interview:
Another notable takedown was of Jonah Goldberg, author of "Liberal Fascism". Jon elicits that Goldberg's beef is that people throw around the fascist word too much, setting him up beautifully for the sucker-punch "So you object to people throwing around the word 'fascist', so you write a book titled what exactly?"
And of course, the question he asked Cramer was similar to the question he asked Wolf Blitzer, on why the political press didn't ask hard questions in the lead up to the Iraq war:
Why is a comedy show host the only one who sees the deep unseriousness of American media?
p.s. See also James Fallows and Andrew Sullivan.
Here's another picture from the Wichitas that I did some editing on. I whitened out the sky here and pumped up the grass in the foreground.
In my defense ... I feel that the edited photographs capture the sense of the prairie better than the unedited originals.
Some pears had started to bloom though.
The second-most famous resident of the refuge: a prairie dog.
That kid's going to be giving the wild animals competition for a while yet.