Daily Archives: December 26, 2009

Amazon now selling more Kindle books than real ones

That’s a milestone. And I think I know why – I’ve probably bought 10 books a year for the past ten years of so, and did most of my reading through the library. I’d read a review of a book that interested me, make a note of it and, if I didn’t lose the note, borrow it the next time I was in the library. With the Kindle, I see a link, click it, and can order a copy, delivered in seconds, for anywhere from free to $3.99 or $9.99. I bet I’ve bought twice as many books this past year as I have in the past because its so easy and seamless. So that’s good for authors, no?

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States foot the bill for ObamaKare

D’uh. States like New york,already going broke with their passionate embrace of the poor’s medical needs, just now discover that the Senate’s gunning for them. Half of the 35 million uninsured – the sick, needy half, not the healthy young people who don’t want or need insurance – are being covered by being dumped into Medicaid, the cost of which is covered by states.

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Charles Gehring goes Dutch

Interesting article in the New York Times on Charles Gehring,the man who has been translating  New Yorks’s 17th Century Dutch documents for 35 years or so and making that history accessible to historians like Russell Shorto and, through them, us.

Toiling from a cramped office tucked inside the New York State Library here, Mr. Gehring, as much as anyone, has shed light on New York’s long-neglected Dutch roots, which have been celebrated this year, the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the river that bears his name.

Mr. Gehring, by the way, only has about 4,800 pages left of the 12,000 pages of Dutch-era letters, deeds, court rulings, journal entries and other items that have been housed at the State Library for decades. They paint a rich picture of daily life in the colony, which the Dutch surrendered for good in the 1670s.

“Most historians don’t think much of the Dutch; they minimalize the Dutch influence and try to get out of that period as quickly as possible to get into English stuff,” Mr. Gehring said, explaining why he has spent half of his 70 years mining Dutch colonial history. “What you find out is how deeply the Dutch cast roots here and how much of their culture they transmitted to this country.”

Mr. Gehring, whose official title is director of the New Netherland Project, looks as if he has not trimmed his sideburns since he started translating the records in 1974, and he seems like the kind of mirthful man who would make a good Sinterklaas — the Dutch forefather of Santa Claus.

Mr. Gehring’s translations served as raw material for Russell Shorto’s critically acclaimed 2005 book about Manhattan, “The Island at the Center of the World.” The Netherlands of the 17th century, Mr. Shorto said in an interview, was “the melting pot of Europe.”

“It was a place that people fled to in the great age of religious warfare; it was a refuge,” he added. “At the same time, they were known for free trade; they developed a stock market — and those things, free trade and tolerance, are key ingredients of New York City.” Mr. Gehring’s translation work, Mr. Shorto writes in his book, “changes the picture of American beginnings.”

Mr. Gehring, who was born in Fort Plain, N.Y., about 55 miles northwest of Albany, did his doctoral work in German linguistics at the Indiana University, where he specialized in Netherlandic studies. He came to Albany in the late 1960s to teach German at the State University of New York at Albany, but his real interest was Dutch history.

Mr. Gehring’s work is the most ambitious translation project in nearly two centuries. In 1974, shortly after Nelson A. Rockefeller became vice president and Malcolm Wilson replaced him as governor, a series of phone calls helped make it possible. It started with an idea at the Holland Society, a group dedicated to preserving the history of New York’s Dutch history.

“This guy in the Holland Society knew Rockefeller, and so he called Rockefeller and said, ‘Could you see if Malcolm Wilson could put money in the budget to start the translations up again?’ ” Mr. Gehring recalled.

The governor, he said, “put $20,000 in his discretionary budget — his slush fund that they had — and in the early ’70s that was a decent amount of money.”

And Mr. Gehring found himself uniquely qualified for the State Library job that came open as a result. As he put it, “I was the only one around who could read 17th-century Dutch.”

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Confessions of a wannabe cook

Pillsbury pie crusts

Pillsbury makes better buttermilk biscuits than I do and their pie crusts are good enough to skip the process. Ahhhgh!

I love cooking and have prided myself on my pie crusts for years – I used iced water, cold lard and butter and could produce a fantastic, flakey crust (if I do say so myself) to wrap apple pies and other delectable things in. But last year I tried Pillsbury’s refrigerated crusts and, while I still think mine are better, these are awfully good and save 30 minutes of preparation. Other crusts I tried from other manufacturers were never good enough to justify saving that half-hour. These are.

And the reason I tried Pillsbury pie crusts in the first place is that I had discovered a couple of years ago that their buttermilk biscuits, sold in a tube, for God’s sake, were better than I could make. Unlike pie crust baking, I never thought of myself as a biscuit maker, but Pillsbury’s were so good that I challenged myself  to make better ones by hand. Ah, hubris. I’m not saying some skilled southern cook can’t make biscuits that put these in their shade, but I can’t.

The good news to all this is that there is a supermarket product that is truly excellent and offers huge time savings. How bad is that?

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Sorry, but PR releases about constituent service don’t do it for me any more

Greenwich Time is out with another hard-hitting piece about our new Congressman and his attempts to help his constituents through the federal maze of bureaucracy. Fine – that was sufficient for re-election four decades ago, perhaps, but now I want to know what our elected rep is doing to cut that bureaucracy. So far as Jimbo Himes is concerned, the answer is nothing. So fire him and try someone new.

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The spin is on

Airport security is really, really good and most of the time, this guy would have been caught. Uh huh – but he wasn’t.

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But we can’t profile musslemen who travel to Yemen, can we?

Al Qaeda seems to have meet our latest would-be bomber and sewed explosives into his underwear in preparation for his visit here. Of course, the US knew about this possibility six months ago but hey …

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Demonstrating their commitment to stop global warming, First Family camps out on White House lawn this week

Hey Michelle, pass the granola would you?

Oh, that’s not really so. Our President has taken a  fleet of carbon-spewing jets to Hawaii. Wonder if he’ll run into his other Copenhagen pals there?

Speaking of which, I can’t locate the whereabouts of Nancy Pelosi. She’s not at the Vatican, is she?

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So, where is our Homeland Security Secretary?

Greenwich Ex-Pat asks that, and it’s a good question. The best I can come up with are some news stories that say Janet Napolitino has  been briefed on the latest terrorism incident and has issued a statement indicating her deep concern. There’s no word as to where she actually is, so I suspect she’s a long way from Washington, D.C. this holiday week.

I couldn’t care less that the lady’s a lesbian, and I’m sure she’s no worse than the two political flunkies who preceded her in this position, but I suspect she was appointed because of her sexual preference, rather than competence. Again, that’s not necessarily worse than being appointed because you raised a lot of money for the president, but do you remember when the Obama campaign was, allegedly, about restoring good government? Hah.

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Just in time for Christmas

Stay in the pool, George, and I'll go get the branding iron

Donna Reed rejoins us on this side of the line and helps catch child – kidnapper. I’m pretty sympathetic to many criminals but there do seem to be certain crimes that cry out for immediate disemboweling.

The girl and her 7- and 9-year-old sisters were playing near a tree in the apartment complex when a man first grabbed her 7-year-old sister and took pictures of her private parts, he said.

The kidnapper then grabbed the girl and fled the area in a Ford pickup truck.

Frightened, the girl’s older sister went to a neighbor’s apartment and began pounding on the door.

The woman who answered, Donna Reed, said the girl was carrying a pink ball and was physically shaking.

“She said some man just took her little sister,” said Reed, who called 911. “She was a nervous wreck.”

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Better service for better pay? You can’t prove it on these data

The WSJ reports on a study that compares CEO’s pay with stock performance. Too many variables to say with certainty that the higher the CEO’s slice the worse the company’s performance, but you sure can’t prove that these prima donnas are worth their pay, either. I figure that greedy, self-aggrandizing CEOs are just plain bad news, period.

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So what, exactly, do our homeland security people do all day?

Father of plane terrorist reported him to the U.S. Embassy six months ago.

In Nigeria, retired bank executive Alhaji Umaru Mutallab told The Associated Press he traveled from his home in the Muslim-dominated north to meet officials in Abuja, the capital, about his son.

Mutallab told The Associated Press that his son was a one-time university student in London who had left Britain to travel abroad. He said his son hadn’t lived in London “for some time” but he wasn’t sure exactly where he had gone. “I believe he might have been to Yemen, but we are investigating to determine that,” the elder Mutallab said.

Another son of the elder Mutallab told Reuters that the suspect “is my brother.”Nigeria’s This Day newspaper cited family members as saying the elder Mutallab had been uncomfortable with his son’s “extreme religious views” and had reported him to the U.S. Embassy in the capital Abuja and to Nigerian security agencies six months ago.

I don’t know enough about the state of world-wide terrorism to make a definitive judgement here: it’s possible that our embassies are swamped with alarms from parents warning that their children are terrorists. Maybe there’s a line of the folks outside the embassy doors each morning, waiting for the ambassador to show up so they can turn in their kids. But I’d expect our people to at least show a little curiosity about such reports, especially if the son had travelled to Yemen in the recent past. But there are so many old ladies in wheelchairs to search at our own airports, who can spend the time on matters like this?


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Bottom story of the day: lagering caves found in Brooklyn. Empty

Bummer.

“I thought we might find a thousand bottles here and sell them on eBay,” said Steven Hanges, Joy Construction’s safety manager. “But we didn’t find anything like that. We didn’t find anything worth a nickel.”

This just in: Nothing happened in Greenwich today.

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Federal bailout of housing industry to proceed unchecked

You release news like this on Christmas Eve, of course, then get the hell out of Dodge.

The Treasury snuck in another big bailout on Christmas Eve: It removed the cap on the amount of money it will provide to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to cover their ongoing mortgage losses.  There is now no limit on how much we taxpayers will shovel down these black holes.

The move is designed to reassure Fannie and Freddie bondholders, who provide a lot of the money the companies use to support the housing market.  These bondholders have now apparently been given an explicit government guarantee, in perpetuity.   The move is also obviously designed to continue to prop up house prices, which, thanks to artificially low mortgage rates, are still above long-term norms.

On a more positive note, the Treasury also announced that it will stop buying Fannie and Freddie mortgages (though the Fed will presumably keep doing so).  The total bailout so far is $111 billion.

The removal of the cap will further distort prices and activity in the housing market, which is now massively subsidized by government programs.  It will continue to reward bondholders for being stupid.  And it will likely result in additional huge losses for taxpayers.

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Should be fun, for those of us who prefer our government paralyzed

WaPo: Obama faces tough fight in Senate over climate control bill. I suspect the man really doesn’t want to tie the government in knots next year and will settle for a perfunctory effort with the legislators and then sit back with relief as his regulators at the EPA do the job for him.

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Westinghouse/Edison battle over currents continues

AUSSIE rockers AC/DC could have to cancel a sold-out concert because their big sound poses a danger to rare birds.

Animal rights campaigners are threatening legal action if the veteran band goes ahead with a gig planned for Wels airport in Austria in May.

Hans Uhl of BirdLife said birds nesting in the area at the time would be threatened by anthems such as Highway To Hell and You Shook Me All Night Long.

See if you can follow this – rare birds nexting at an airport where, presumably, jets land and take off on a regular baisis, are going to lose a night’s sleep if a rock band performs? The mind boggles.

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Hard questions about how that terrorist ended up on a plane

The answers to which, I suspect, won’t make us feel safer. Worse, the reaction by our Homeland Security will doubtless focus of further, more intrusive strip searches of 85-year-old ladies to make sure they don’t have exploding packages of powder strapped to their thighs when all the necessary procedures were here to stop this guy from getting on in the first place.

Suspicious origin? Check. Nigeria

One-way ticket? Check (for a religious seminar? Dial up the rapture, Scotty!)

Previous travel to trouble spots? Check

Traveller’s name on “watch list”? Check.

Etc. This man would never have been boarded by El Al. So, why was he allowed to fly our airline?

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John Kerry is against traveling to Iran, unless and until he isn’t

John Kerry volunteered to go “open a dialogue” with the Iranian nutheads, now is playing coy.

I don’t understand why Kerry hasn’t already loaded Jimmy, Jessie and Reverend Al on a plane and settled all this months ago. Missed opportunity here.

It’s a shame that the Iranian dissidents badly want Obama to speak up for them while he and his peacenick pals want to extend open hands to the oppressors. I don’t think that’s realpolitics – just delusional. Chumps.

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Not unless you live in Cos Cob, you don’t

Driver finds body underneath his car

A Brooklyn driver got the fright of his life yesterday when he looked under his car to check if he had run over a snow bank, and instead saw a dead teen wrapped in plastic beneath the vehicle, police said.

Ashraf Ali was attempting to drive his Altima out of a parking spot at 180 27th St. in Sunset Park at 12:40 a.m. yesterday when he heard a dragging sound.

After driving about 15 feet, “My friend looked out of the car and saw a leg sticking out. I thought he was joking,” Ali said.

Ali, 27, then saw a hand under the car.

“I saw a clear plastic bag with a body. I was so scared, I was shaking,” said Ali.

“This was so scary,” Ali said. “There was a dead body under my car, and I never expected to see anything like that.”

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Geeze, he should had a good lawyer look into this before signing

Madoff is forever, at least in divorce court, it seems.

Dec. 25 (Bloomberg) — A New York real estate lawyer who paid his ex-wife $2.7 million of the supposed value of his account with Bernard Madoff can’t revise the agreement because he lost money in the Ponzi scheme, a New York judge ruled.

Steven Simkin, chairman of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP’s real estate department, sued his former wife, Laura Blank, in February after Madoff’s fraud was exposed, saying she was unjustly enriched by the 2006 settlement. He lost in a Dec. 22 decision in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

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