Monday, September 29, 2008

the failed bailout/buy-in alternative

Hmm.  The bailout aka "buy-in" doesn't have the votes to become the law of the land, and the Dow is plummeting.  That giant sucking sound you hear is wealth disappearing into nothingness.

How about trying this?  If the root cause of the meltdown is a collapse in the overly exuberant housing market, why not take say, $700 billion or so, and buy individual mortgages at reduced interest rates?  Ordinary people struggling to stave off foreclosure will have an option other than selling their home for any price they can get.  The mortgage-backed securities will regain value, housing prices will stabilize because the supply will decline, and we're investing in ourselves rather than in investment houses that we all know played fast-and-loose with the markets and with our money.

Or, as taxpayers perhaps we could buy the homes outright, and rent back to the homeowners on a rent-to-own basis.  It would accomplish the same thing.  We put Homeland Security into place after 9-11, we could take HUD and turn it into an agency that manages housing stock at least until the situation stabilizes.

I know that the problem in the credit markets is real, and that we will all feel it soon.  But, if lenders know that corporate borrowers are supported by a stable housing industry, that might help.

This bill isn't passing Congress because most members are not economists or investment bankers.  They are politicians.  They know when their constituents are fighting mad, and right now they are.  There is simply no appetite to appear to bailout people who make more money in a year than most will make in  a lifetime or even two lifetimes.  Shortsighted, maybe, but it's real.

I wish I was seeing a little more leadership from either of the two candidates.  I think this crisis has their economic advisers so freaked out they don't know what to say.

They should call me ;-)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I love new york

I had the good fortune to be in New York on Monday through Wednesday, and it was a pretty busy place. The UN was in session, the clinton global iniative was opening, Wall Street was melting down--and I was just happy to be back.

I was in midtown, my least favorite part of town, but spent the evening in Soho eating well and looking at art I could never afford. It was great to be there.

And guess who I met? A grand-slam winning tennis player, pediatric cancer advocate extraordinaire, nun. I felt like I was meeting the personification of my last few blog posts.

She was extra-ordinary. Really. Delightful, smart, personable, fun, and gracious. I told her about skater aid, about my son teaching me to play tennis, and about the weirdness of hearing Ave Maria out of the blue--am I being called??

She wrote my son a lovely note, and generally impressed the heck out of me.

I love New York.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tennis Anyone?

My son is trying to teach me to play tennis. Lucky for him, he has some of his father's athleticism because I have negative athleticism. I am the black hole of athleticism. I'm not well-coordinated, I have poor spatial relation skills, I'm not strong, and I have no endurance. Despite all this (and did I mention the worst part--I do NOT have the wardrobe for sports) and his teenager-disinclination to even acknowledge that he has a mother at all, he is teaching me to play tennis.

Yesterday we had our third half-hour lesson. He was so patient. He was so encouraging---lots of "good effort, Mom" and "that's OK, just try again" comments. I'm really having fun, and I think he is too.

I was playing in a khaki skirt, t-shirt, and Teva sandals (I have no shorts or tennis shoes) and was running after balls as best I could. At one point he said to me, seemingly out of the blue "That's exactly why you shouldn't try to do this in a skirt." Since I knew I hadn't just fallen down, or exposed myself in any skirt-related way, I was puzzled by the comment. Then he paused and followed up with this. "Oh, sorry. I guess that's just the way you would run anyway." OUCH!! But, since he didn't intend any meanness, I'm over it. (Do I really run that awkwardly?)

It all made me realize, though, how much he is growing up, and how well he seems to be turning out. This probably isn't the last time I'm going to need him to teach me a new skill. I'm glad we're starting with tennis.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fighting Back

A friend of my family has a young son battling pediatric brain tumors. He's a twin, and I have the newborn picture of him and his brother in a frame in my office. What sweet big boys they were---over 7 lbs each!

It's a struggle far-away friends can only marginally participate in---the family hunkers down and pours all their energy into the critically important details of fighting the fight. He's doing well right now, and we are all grateful.

In support of his fight, and the fight of many other children and families, we're supporting Skater Aid this year. Skater Aid is based in the Atlanta area and encourages the skateboard community to support research in the area of pediatric brain cancer. I don't know any skaters, and the child I'm thinking of doesn't live in Atlanta, but I know the organizers and I know that research anywhere in the world helps everyone who encounters this disease.

We're also supporting the early intervention work of Keystone Human Services in honor of our nephew who was born amazingly prematurely, and is now, at 2 years old, as cute as he can be, and our niece who is no longer with us, but whom we think of with love every day.

Please join me as you are able in supporting these efforts.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

My life in sports

My family, sans moi, is off to a sporting event. A baseball game. They love it, and that's great with me. I don't get it, but that's OK too. Luckily I don't need to get it.

It's all always seemed a little random to me---a little hard to attach too much meaning to. Apparently, as Under the Covers pointed out to me, the Jacksonville Jaguars have come to the same conclusion.


Oh, I adore you . . .

I am listening to a recording of Vin DeAraugo singing GiaNina Mia. A scratchy old recording that brings tears to my eyes.

"Oh I adore, I adore you, Gia Nina mia . . .
More, more and more I adore you Gia Nina mia . . . "

It's an old sentimental song popularized in the early 20th century by Jeanette MacDonald (strangely, since it's a love song to a woman) and reminds me of myself as a child of 7 or 8 sitting in an Italian restaurant with my family. My first memory of lasagna, of real Parmesan cheese, my first taste of dry red wine --- how un-politically correct!

The song made me blush---I was certain it was meant for me. I can still remember every note, and it brings back smells and tastes and memories of a happy time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How Much We Lost

How long will it be, I wonder, before I can say this date without recalling vivid details of another September day? This one is not crisp and clear and beautiful, like that one was. It's cool and rainy here in the northeast US.

How long will it be, I wonder, before I look at a plane in the sky and not think about how it looks like a missile? How long will it be before I forget the feeling of those few days when there were no planes in the sky at all?

How long will it be before I stop feeling disoriented in lower Manhattan, before I stop being surprised at the bizarre vacant space across from Brooks Brothers? How long before I can approach the fence, how long before I don't resent those who can and do?

How long will it take for the world to untangle the events set in motion that day? The death of Archduke Ferdinand, the Treaty of Versailles, September 11th, these events define us for centuries to come. so sad.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A new way to talk?

Have you seen  It was launched this summer as "a new way for women to talk" on the web.  Egads.

I tried to like it.  The "hair day" alert on the banner gave me a little pause at first, but I decided to accept it as perhaps having a little fun with the women's magazine model.  Ditto with the horoscope.  Ditto with section on who has the best legs.  

It wasn't until I got to the reader response section that I knew with certainty I was in the wrong place.  The mean-spirited remarks are so rampant, and so personal. would be a better name.  Count me out of this new way to talk.   I'll take the old way.   If we can't all get along, can't we at least have a little civility?

Friday, September 5, 2008

what's in a name?

I was watching the Republican convention last night (I'm a political junkie--have been all my life) and was providing scintillating commentary to my dog--he thought I was very insightful, by the way. I could tell by the rapt expression on his face---when the proceedings arrived to the point of the vice-presidential nomination. Then the tone of my voice changed considerably, and the dog fled to the relative safety of another room.

What aroused my ire? Sarah Palin was being formally nominated. The speaker referred to her as "Sarah Palin" exactly once and then, for the rest of the speech and through an uncomfortable awkward chant, referred to her as "Sarah."

What happened to her last name? Why are we uncomfortable referring to women by their last names? Why isn't the press calling her "Palin?" (And, why, for god's sake, did Campbell Brown of CNN ask a McCain (not John) spokesperson if "Sarah" could focus on the campaign while parenting an infant with Down's syndrome, a son leaving for war, a pregnant teenage daughter, and two other children? I do NOT believe that she would have asked that question of a male candidate, but I digress.)

This name thing has been troubling to me for many many years. At the top of the stairs in house where I grew up, there were two framed wedding invitations--my mother's and my grandmother's. On both, in lovely engraved script, the bride was mentioned by her first two names only. The parents "gave" their daughter Marie Therese. Her name was obliterated entirely in the invitation to my mother's wedding, and Mr and Mrs Oswald C. "gave" their daughter Sherrill Ann.

No last names of their own. Just first names adrift in a sea of temporary last names. It seemed so sad to me. The names seemed to be without an anchor, without a home of their own. At a young age I promised myself that I would claim the name I was born with as my own, and never change it. My name, my full name, is not a temporary way-station. It is me. Strip away all else, but leave me my name.

Names are important. They have power. I don't know how I will vote in November. I am "in play" as politicos like to say. I do know, however, that if I find myself in a crowd chanting Sarah Palin's name, I will say "Palin."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

xie xie ni, universe

A transliterated thank you to the universe. Just as I launched myself into way-making, a flyer appeared in my mailbox. Someone in my neighborhood is beginning classes in conversational Chinese. How cool is that?

When I graduated from college 25 years ago, I labelled my boxes in Chinese in a vain attempt to hold onto whatever lame language skills I had learned. My writing was so poor, and my memory now even worse, that it's all Greek to me. I can't even recognize my name!

I'm calling tonight to sign up. We already have French labels on everything in our house to support our 9th grader in his French 2 classes. If labels would help in his Latin class we would do that too, but it just doesn't work--after "dog", "door" and "house" it's a little limited.

We have room for another set of post-it notes on everything, and I'm really looking forward to this. It'll be great!

Monday, September 1, 2008

I promise to stop whining

I just reread my last two posts, and it's a little embarrassing. Yuck. Whine Whine Whine.

Enough with that. I'm not a victim of my job, for crying out loud, so I need to stop complaining and whining.

It's a beautiful day, I'm feeling better ( a thoughtful coworker brought me miso soup, crackers, pepto bismol, and ginger ale so I made it through the day. Thanks Emily!!) I'm home, my husband is playing golf, my son is sleeping, and all is right with the world.

Fall is here and football season has started. Not my favorite combination, but it's encouraging to know that some people look forward to it. Greg does, at Pitt Rehab, and that's a good thing.

Ramadan has started, and I am reading (trying to read) a new translation of the Daodejing--the Chinese philosophical text. Anytime I read something in which the words "ontology" and philology" are used more than once in a paragraph, I know that I have to pay attention. A bit of a switch from First Assistant (see what I'm reading offline for a reference.) I'm enjoying it.

So, enjoy the day. I will spend it in my backyard with loads of reference books and Chinese history texts, and I'll love every minute of it.