Monday, March 30, 2009

Vegetables or Paper?

One year ago last Saturday we were eating the lower layers of this delicious cake:


In fact, we were celebrating our wedding at our reception at Disney World. Some might question the tradition of freezing a cake and eating it one year later. However, in the case of this cake, it was a decision well worth it. The cake was as delicious as the day it was originally served. It had absolutely no freezer burn at all. My theory is that they double layer of fondant icing sealed the flavor inside and protected the cake from the harshness of the freezer. Unfortunately for me, David doesn't really like sugar, so it was incumbent on me to eat the larger portion of the cake. So much for two weeks on the South Beach Diet.




David also gave me some white flowers, since all of our wedding and reception flowers were white. We had white tulips too.

Of course, gifts were exchanged. Even Knightley got in on the gift receiving action as he received a snazzy new crate that was larger in size.


I gave David the traditional first anniversary gift of an indoor vegetable garden. I know that he has been craving something to tend, and the opportunity to grow salad greens in the comfort of our own kitchen was too great to pass up.

David opted for the more traditional first anniversary gift of paper. He gave me a leather bound Family History book for me to complete. Knowing how much I love family history, this was an excellent gift.


Of course anniversaries also give you the opportunity to dress up and go somewhere nice.


In our case, we went to eat dinner at Bistro Bis on Capitol Hill. Apparently, on weeknights it is impossible to get reservations or a table, as it is a favorite of those people that work up on Capitol Hill, in articular those who inhabit the left side of the aisle (the right side prefers the more traditional Charlie Palmer Steak.

The food was pretty delicious, and worthy of its ranking in the Washingtonian Magazine.


A good evening was enjoyed by all (except Knightley, who spent the evening at home in his new crate).


Happy 1st David!
Next up: Our cruise of the Potomac to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Daily Read

Taxing charities is not a good thing. Martin Feldstein (professor of economics at Harvard and President of NBER) writes a brilliant article in today's Washington Post discussing how the Obama administration's proposal to reduce allowable deductions for donations to charitably for families making over $250,000 a year amounts to just such a tax on charities. At the same time, he points out that this proposed tax would likely also have the effect of reducing government revenue as well...

Great article, with the math to back it up.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mr. Knightley lives in Washington

This is where we live. Lately, each time I see this building (and I see it every day), I have to hold my arm back from raising it up and shaking my fist in anger. Today, was a lovely spring day, so instead, I chose to think of it as a lovely building, ignorant of the buffoons that fill its hallways.

Mr. Knightley is still getting to know the neighborhood. He finds himself more and more comfortable in his home surroundings every day.



But on a day like this, he wanted to get out to know the neighborhood better. So we started with a familiar location - his favorite park here in Capitol Hill, Stanton Park. We played a little ball game, because his favorite dog playmates were not there today.
And Knightley went about making himself fit in with the neighborhood business right away. Here he is offering stern looks to people who clearly are making light of a very important building.
Or here is is chasing some lobbyists who have pockets full of bacon, bringing home the pork.
He fits in right away and always is looking to network with other dogs on the Hill.
But when I reminded him of how much Congress has let us down recently, he had another reaction. After all, above all else, Knightley belongs to the party of Leslie, and said "Take that Congress!" by going number two on the sidewalk to the building. "That's what you get for passing laws that are Bills of Attainder!!"

Having been reminded of the grim reality of what goes on up there on the Hill, Knightley is ready to walk home again, less naive and optimistic than he was before...



But Washington sure can be beautiful in the Spring!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Campaign continues...

Here is my rant for the day. This morning, after picking up my delicious Anaheim Scrambler from the Corner Bakery, I exited Union Station only to be accosted by a handful of Obama campaign workers (still holding Obama campaign signs, mind you), asking me to sing a piece of paper supporting the Obama budget.

"Isn't the campaign over?" I questioned. They told me that it was not a "campaign" but to show support to Congress for the President's budget. "Well, then do you have a copy of the President's budget that I can read?"

They answered no to that one too. Then I asked them the question, "Have you even read the document?" They looked at each other and shook their heads (of course not, it is 142 pages, and what 20 year old has the time or patience to read that, you know with Twitter these days).

I was about to lose it right there, but instead, I muttered to them that they were "encouraging ignorance", and I walked away. Now that I am composed, let me just say this, WHAT THE HELL? First of all as a practical matter, why are you sending campaign workers to collect signatures in DC where we have no actual voting representative in Congress (and if we did, she would be supporting the Obama budget anyway), but where you are sure to have plenty of either A) hyper-informed political saavy types who work in DC and will see through this or B)plenty of illiterate high school dropouts who will probably sign anything put in front of them that has the Obama campaign emblem on it.

And secondly, what really sticks in my craw is that this is nothing but a Campaign to encourage ignorance. You send a bunch of 20 something still-unemployed campaign workers out into the public to gather support for something that they haven't even read. You don't even give them a copy of the budget so that they can show the people whose signatures they are soliciting what the budget looks like. Way to value empty rhetoric over the actual substance of what the budget is.

What should they be doing? Well, since the President isn't encouraging an actual informed body politic, let me do it for him. Here is where you can read the President's proposed FY 2010 budget. Now keep in mind, that this is produced by the Executive Office of Management and Budget, so it is not an unbiased view of things. You might even want to try looking at some criticisms of his proposed budget, a common one being that the numbers on which his budget is based on predictions for economic growth that are too optimistic. Here's an article from the Washington Post, for example.

Or this quote from the NY Times article about the budget's unveiling:

"After negative growth of 1.2 percent this year, the budget projects growth of 3.2 percent in 2010, and 4 percent or more in the following three years. In contrast, the consensus of business economists surveyed by Blue Chip Economic Indicators this month projected growth no higher than 2.9 percent through 2013."

The simple fact is that the President's extremely long and complicated budget is a little bit more sophisticated than earnest 20 year olds outside Union Station would have you believe. It is multi-faceted, and as with most legislation, there is some good there and also some bad. Take some time to figure it out for yourself.


*P.S. - As a follow up to yesterday's post about the invented outrage of politicians in Washington, read this article in the New York Times about the sort of mob mentality that has now been created and is causing some people to fear for their safety. Truly, truly discouraging.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Family News

Knightley received another haircut this week.


For good behavior, he was rewarded with a delicious Greenie.

And then he rewarded us for giving him a treat by learning how to sing as soulfully as a member of the Neville family. Here is is singing, "I don't know much...but I know I love you..."


In my news, I made the unfortunate choice to begin the South Beach diet the same week of the NCAA tournament. It is bad news for me. As much as I want to order pizza, I can't. No chips and dip either.
As long as North Carolina wins, I won't consider it a sacrifice.

Who is to Blame?

Last night, I was watching HGTV's House Hunters and the show followed a real estate agent who was moving to Atlanta post-Hurricane Katrina. She was looking for a home in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, setting her budget at $180,000. She looked at three homes, the cheapest of the three priced at $225,000, more than $40,000 over her budget. However, when it came time to choose her home, she decided to purchase the most expensive of the three - a $280,000 5 bedroom home, $100,000 over her budget. In justifying the purchase, she noted that as a real estate agent, she knew that she had mortgage options that she could afford - like an "interest-only" home loan.

Fast-forward to a few years later, with the Atlanta real-estate market slumping like the rest of America. I wonder if House Hunters went back to visit this woman, if she would still be in her home, or realizing that she had no equity in the house she "purchased" had decided that it was better for her to just go into foreclosure. One wonders.

I write that because I couldn't help but think about the current AIG situation while watching the show last night. AIG is presently the most hated company in America, with some Americans spewing death threats at executives of AIG because the company paid retention bonuses to many employees. Although the people now employed at AIG are not the employees responsible for investing in risky mortgage-backed securities (caused by people like the woman in the House Hunters show) that were part of the problem (those employees have long since left), those who stuck around to clean up the problem are now being accused of being the cause and culprit for the "greed" that tore the American economy apart. Yes, well-educated, successful individuals living in the tony Connecticut suburbs of NYC are much easier to blame than your cousin or neighbor who bought too much house that they could not afford.

But even more so, even on a day when Senator Chris Dodd fesses up and admits that at the Obama administration's encouragement, he crafted a provision in the "Recovery" legslation that excluded Contractual Executive Bonuses from consideration in the Executive Pay limitations, you still have Congress feigning outrage at the target of the new AIG CEO. The new CEO, of course, having taken over the embattled company after the company first received bailout funds and who took over the company to try to restructure it. You have Congressmen, like Barney Frank, who voted for the offending legislation that REFUSED to regulate the bonuses showing indifference to death threats to AIG's employees. And that frankly, is the most disgusting part of it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great Performances

Watching Paul Simon receive the inaugural Gershwin Award for Popular Song from the Library of Congress for the Second Time on PBS: My last post mentioned good memories associated with Phish concerts. Watching this TV special on Paul Simon and seeing so many great musicians play musical tribute takes me to such a happy place. I don't care if I am the only person under 40 that feels the way I do about Paul Simon. His concert in Seattle was probably the best concert I have been to in the past five years. Take that the Arcade Fire.

Saturday Night, New York City Ballet, The Kennedy Center: It has been a long time since I have seen them live, since I lived in New York. And how I have missed them so. How I miss those memories of my own Balanchine dreams (Side note: When I think of Christ's unconditional gift of a perfected resurrected body for us imperfect mortals, I imagine my great joy at having the physical capabilities of dancing Serenade or The Four Temperaments myself). So, a night spent with Chaconne and Vienna Waltzes is better spent to me than doing just about anything else. Bonus - Darci Kistler danced that night too. As I reminder, I last saw Darci (and Peter Martins) playing keep away in the pool at the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World.

I am an old soul. All of my favorites are nearing retirement.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bouncing Around the Room

In new music news, I have been living under a rock for quite some time. So of course, I didn't find out about Phish's reunion shows in Hampton, VA until after the fact. However, the good news about Phish in the digital era is that they offer free downloads of their live sets online now.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't even thought about Phish in a very long time. There was a time in my life when I would check the set lists of Phish concerts daily, and bemoan concerts that I missed out on. When Phish retired in 2004, I thought it was appopriate, because I had retired that part of my life some time before then. In high school, I spent many nights memorizing lyrics to songs and thinking about what their words could mean. Although they were not the band that defined my musical tastes and preferences (that honor was held by Radiohead from the time that I picked up Pablo Honey in the seventh grade), they were nonetheless a very significant part of my adolescence and young adulthood. Phish songs took me through some tough times. When I went to Phish concerts, I felt a little bit out of place - not quite sure where I fit in with the calico patchwork skirts and dreadlocked twenty-somethings. I didn't fit in, beyond my appreciation for their music. One of my best concert experiences ever took place my junior year of college, a Phish concert in Salt Lake with my sister Melissa - their second set they played the complete Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, and I felt it so intensely. Even if I wasn't twirling the entire time.

After that, near-perfect concert going moment, I only attended one other Phish concert - in Las Vegas. After that, I just felt like I was done with that part of my life. I found new storytellers, like the Decemberists and their stories riddled with history and place seemed more interesting then the same tales of Gamehenge that I had been listening to for many years. I had a life that craved a little more angst than Phish could provide, so bands like Death Cab for Cutie and eventually Interpol started to make more sense. And I started craving British accents once again and those fat Vermont boys just lacked the requisite sex appeal, skinny pants and ties.

So my life moved on without Phish. But when I read about the concert this weekend and read that I could download the sets they played for free, I thought to myself, well, I will just take a look. And that is the thing - I can't just look. Because when I saw the lists of songs, they greeted my like old friends. I had to download them all. And then I listened to them and sung along every word. The twirling will follow later.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Absence

I miss my little puppy. He got neutered today and is spending the night at the vet's office under observation. He keeps me busy at night, but it was very lonely tonight to come home from work and not have him here. So in his honor, here are a few pictures of Knightley frolicking in the snow:








Monday, March 02, 2009

Concerns

Does having a dog cause a person to become a little bit more shallow? That is the question of the day up for discussion. Sadly, I feel like the answer is yes. Knightley consumes so much of my time, that I feel that I think a little less deeply than I did before.

Or perhaps Knightley is just a convenient excuse for this phenomenon in my life. Perhaps the real reason I am a bit more shallow is something that I now avoid thinking to deeply about.

I still think that "California is a recipe for a black hole" though.