Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Signing off

Posting activity has trickled to almost nothing these past few months. Work, family life, vacation ... and so, although I think I'd like to keep the site up on blogger for now, I won't be actively posting. Thank you all for reading, cross-linking & commenting, the laughter, grunts & tears.


Sherman Square Pundit


The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. - Marcus Aurelius


Monday, August 4, 2008

Television Before and After


Depression Modern Bar

Work hasn't entirely stopped our progress with the apartment renovation and what I am charitably calling our interior design efforts. We purchased a 1930's vintage depression modern (a.k.a. depression moderne a.ka. streamline moderne) style bar from, uh, er, Depression Modern, a great furniture shop in Soho. Then, we found the 1940's decorative mirror from a small antique shop in Williamsburg this weekend. We're now looking for a table lamp that'll illuminate the bar corner without over-crowding the top.

A brief word of explanation

Okay, I'm back.

Whew. It has been almost two months since my last real post. We finished, about two weeks ago, the deal that had been keeping me from posting; that deal was an excruciating slog. I've got tons of stories and have thought about posting a write up, but nothing positive can come of that (don't want to post something that'll come back and bite me). Suffice to say, we survived, the client seems happy enough and we all are moving along to the next deal.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gifts are certainly welcome

Commentator Chatham asks:
i am impressed with how many times you have linked to chances blog. i am not even sure he knows. Question for you, does a complete reno require a housewarming gift? inquiring minds want to know
Yes. If you're thinking about getting me something for the apartment, I want the villain chair.


Work's picked up in a big way this week. Early mornings, long nights, 2 1/2 hour conference calls with business people. Would love to post, but its time to pay the bills ... please check back next week.

Until then, some random cool links of stuff:
  • Next week the Brooklyn Bridge waterfall is scheduled to go live.
  • Got a thing for secret passageways, hidden doors and esoteric clues? I do. And I want to live in a house like this some day.
  • And apparently the Romans played D&D about 2,000 years ago!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In case you didn't notice ... we're winning in Iraq

From the front page of the print edition of this morning's Wall Street Journal:

"Sadr's followers signaled they won't resist a crackdown in Amara unless Iraqi troops make warrantless arrests."

Translation: Sadr's wings have been clipped and his political base now sounds only a tad more radical than the student communications director of your local ACLU.

' just in case you doubted that Mr. Bush's war might change Iraq into a modern constitutional republic.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fake Political Campaigns

The crowd pleasing full contact sporting competition I like to call the "Presidential Race" has gotten a lot less amusing now that the presidential candidate field has been winnowed down to two presumptive nominees. We can all look forward to five months of the "he said - I'm disappointed he said that - I didn't say that, why are you distorting my record?" cycle.

Also, McCain and Obama are both too polished and, frankly, too polite, to let any real zingers fly. And there's so much $$ being spent on '08 that I doubt the machers in either party will allow things to go off the rails.

What I'm amazed about, though, it the apparent lack of joke candidates. When I was growing up, every four years the great cultural icons of the moment (usually advertising spokesmen, sometimes popular TV characters) would run gag-presidential campaigns. You don't see that anymore. What gives?

So here's my rundown of some of my favorite fake political campaigns from the past:

1. Bill the Cat.

Bloom County is my favorite all time comic strip. I still have my "Don't Blame Me, I voted for Bill and Opus" t-shirt. Do you?

2. Spuds McKenzie.

Apparently Anheuser-Busch is trying to hide the evidence, since I can't seem to locate a "Spuds for President" screenshot or video clip anywhere.

3. Randee of the Redwoods

Remember this guy? He ran a grass roots (okay, AstroTurf) campaign in '87, captured the youth vote, and lost out on the VP nod to Lloyd Bentsen by just a few hundred votes.

4. Brewster's Millions

Great, great flick with Richard Pryor and John Candy. If only more voters heeded his words and voted "none of above" on election day, we'd live in a very different world.

5. Dennis Kucinich

Seriously, did even his chippie wife think he had a shot?

6. Heywood Jablome

1983 candidate for president of the student counsel, Edmund Muskie Junior High School, Kearney, New Jersey. Lost to Anita Bath in a landslide.

Gimme Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses

I've been doing a bit of research lately on my family history. A fair amount of old public records (census records, military draft enrollments, old telephone directories) has been digitized and indexed, so you can now search for online for forensic evidence of your not-too-distant ancestors. I've been using ancestry.com and it's been rewarding - I'm sure there are others genealogy search services out there that are competent as well.

The most rewarding artifact that I've been able to discover is this image of the S.S. St. Louis:

This is the ship that carried my paternal great-grandfather, Louis Abramowitz, across the Atlantic (How great is it that the ship that carried my ancestor Louis was the St. Louis?)

Louis hailed from Kiev, then part of the Romanov empire. He boarded the St. Louis in Southampton, England and arrived in New York City on May 14, 1911.

Apparently, the St. Louis was an America vessel, launched November 12, 1894, with a total of 10 boilers, 64 furnaces, and could fit 320 1st class passengers, 210 in second class, and 800 in third class.

Here's an image of the ship's manifest of "Alien Passengers" bound for the United States (click on the image to enlarge):

Louis' ethnicity on the ship's manifest is listed as "Hebrew". He is listed as being a 25 year old native of Russia, born in the town of "Klotzh", a name that doesn't appear on any modern maps. The manifest also lists Louis' occupation as "Tailor" and his final destination as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I particularly love the tailor part. According my great-Aunt Bea (his oldest daughter who sadly passed away just this year at the age of 90), Louis was a terrible tailor. No skills. So when he settled in Baltimore around the time of World War I, his boss suggested he find himself another line of work. Louis ended up becoming a kosher caterer, starting a tradition that now extends through four generations in my family (that behind-the-scenes history in the kosher business goes a long way towards explaining why I don't keep kosher, but that's grist for some other post).

Louis' grandchildren and great-grandchildren now operate or manage kitchens or restaurants in 3 states, including both Millers (by blood) and Attmans (by marriage) in Baltimore, The Belvedere in Connecticut and East Coast West in San Fransisco.

Somehow Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus seems appropriate:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Phase Three: Interior Design

If Phase One was the planning and permits and Phase Two was the actual construction, Phase Three will be interior design. We figure, you spend the time, money & energy going through a year-plus renovation, you can't put back the same well worn and mostly mismatched furniture. So, we're in the market now for new stuff. In the meantime, though, we're living with the old furniture and some temporary fixes - such as a folding card table for a dining room table. And pillows on the floor instead of a sofa. Still a lot of boxes to unpack and rooms to set up, but here's what some of it looks like so far.

Renovation Update: Details, Details, Details

It's been a few weeks since I've uploaded pics of the renovation and construction. We've moved back in and are now fighting the daily struggle to unpack everything, organize the closets, move the furniture around and generally tie up loose ends. We've had (OK, my wife, the Punditress, has had) dozens of appointments with delivery people, building people, the contractors, TimeWarner cable, Verizon, etc. So I don't have shots of the finished project just yet.

For now, here are a sampling of detail shots that we took in the final hours before move-in time. First, a rather fascinating detail of the ball-bearing catch lock for our closet doors, followed by a sample of sconce we picked for the living room and hallway, the media cabinet, and finally the fixtures in the master bath. Enjoy.

Careful What You Read on them Internets

An anonymous commenter writes:

Let's clarify a couple of facts: Howard Dean did not run in 2000. he ran in 2004. My support of his candidacy has nothing to do with trees on my old street.I did not organize the community the protest two years ago. A neighbor stuck a flier under our door and we met once with the town forester who agreed that most of the trees did not need to cut down. The trees enhanced the value of the property (both aesthetically and financially) so of course we want to save them.Thus, my desire to save the trees had absolutely nothing to do with politics. However, I guess there is the added benefit that you mentioned that I had not even thought about: those trees may help to reduce atmospheric carbon that may lead to global climate change.Finally, all of us who lost our power on Tuesday night did not really have to suffer through the 96 degree heat wave without a/c because the storm itself ended the heat wave.Unfortunately, we couldn't use the slipnslide since it was in the garage and we did have power to open the door.I do not think anybody died or was seriously injured so things were safe. The city did lose 6 people to heat stroke the prior two days.

I have no idea what this lunatic is talking about.

In other news, I had a great phone call with my sister last night. Apparently the power came back on yesterday and everyone is doing great.

Also, my brother-in-law just accepted an offer to run the fact-checking department at the New Yorker.

And I now know how David Sedaris felt.

UWS Street Scenes: A Dog and his Guitar

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Safe in the City

This week has been one of those (many) times I'm glad I don't live in suburbia. Rain storms swept through northern New Jersey earlier this week. Over 250,000 people were left without power (meaning, no A/C, right in the midst of our first 96 degree heatwave of the summer). My sister's family lost power for about 36 hours ... school was cancelled, and she spent the day playing with the kids on a slip 'n' slide. Sounds like fun.

She sent along some pics of the damage in one of the neighborhoods where a bunch of trees were knocked down:

What a shame. Just last year, the township had planned on knocking down those very same trees because their roots were damaging the streets and sidewalks. My brother-in-law (a real "Dean in 2004" supporter [note: original post said "Dean in 2000"]) organized a community protest that saved most of the trees. Now, mother nature accomplished what the municipal authorities could not.
And we think the federal legislation can stop global climate change? Good luck.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Khalid Sheik Mohammed: Constitutional Scholar

Riding the 2/3 on the way down to work this morning, I read a buried-on-page-17 blurb in the WSJ about the Klahid Sheik Mohammed's trial:
Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, who’s insisting on representing himself, told Col. Kohlmann, the military judge, that while he was an “expert in the gospel and the Koran,” he had no training in the common law system. Nonetheless, the alleged terrorist commander’s comments suggested he held sympathy for the 20th century American analytical movement known as legal realism.

A thought hit me on the train - this guy has a name right out of central casting. "Sheik Mohamed." What's with that?

Earlier news pieces on the Khalid Sheikh Mohamed (that's a lot to type - let's go with KSM from now on) trial mentioned KSM is looking forward to "martyrdom". Presumably, he understands that we tend to give the electric chair to folks found guilty of 2,973 counts of murder. So what KSM calls "martyrdom", we in the U.S.A. call "justice."

Of course, KSM is the guy whose original plans for the 9/11 attacks involved ten hijacked planes. From GlobalSecurity.Org:

Indeed, KSM describes a grandiose original plan: a total of ten aircraft to be hijacked, nine of which would crash into targets on both coasts—they included those eventually hit on September 11 plus CIA and FBI headquarters, nuclear power plants, and the tallest buildings in California and the state of Washington. KSM himself was to land the tenth plane at a U.S. airport and, after killing all adult male passengers on board and alerting the media, deliver a speech excoriating U.S. support for Israel, the Philippines, and repressive governments in the Arab world.

Got that? His original plan was to direct dozens of compatriots to kill themselves while murdering tens of thousands of civilians, only his plane would land safely. Boldly triumphant, KSM would step out onto the tarmac and deliver a speech. Wait, what?

Mohamed remarked on the judge’s brusque treatment of civilian attorneys, whom he repeatedly silenced before they could state their objections.“You tell [David Nevin, a volunteer civilian attorney], ‘Sit down! Sit down! Sit down Sit down!,’” said Mohamed. “It is inquisition, not trial.”

OK, low hanging fruit first. KSM is a sociopath, egomaniac, coward and hypocrite. A guy who planned the murder of thousands has no business whining that the judge keeps overruling his (court appointed, tax payer funded) lawyer's objections .

Then there's this choice nugget:

“I consider all American constitution” evil, he said, because it permits “same-sexual marriage and many other things that are very bad,” he told the military judge, Col. Ralph Kohlmann. “Do you understand?”

On the larger point, though, KSM gets it half-right. The American Constitution permits things that are very bad. That's the point of limited government by the people, for the people. The system is purposefully flawed for the simple reason that people are flawed. We don't have pretensions that the Constitution embodies a divinely inspired code of conduct. What KSM calls evil is a document that compels ordinary Americans to work through issues of morality and civil conduct to arrive at socially beneficial compromises (to whit: without resorting to political inspired murder). That's a beautiful thing in my book.

I Got Dumped For Obama

My cousin's friend made this video and posted it on YouTube:

Sure, it's a riff-off of the ObamaGirl video, but there's room in our politics for creative borrowings. Don't believe me? Compare:

President Bush, 2004: "Yes, America Can!"

Candidate Obama, 2008: "Yes, We Can!"

Now that's change we can believe in.

UPDATE: Actually, the chic in the video is my own cousin, Rachel Keller. I don't see much of the Kellers ... who'd of thunk it?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Daily Kos Mocks McCain's Teeth

In a single post, the Daily Kos today manages to make an issue out of John McCain's hair and teeth. Both cheap shots imply something else about the candidate ... he's just to darn old to be president.

I wonder how the left wing of the Democratic Party would react if, say, Fox News mocked Obama's hair and teeth to imply something critical about one of his, shall we say, immutable characteristics?

You stay classy there, Kos.

NYC Dating through the Eyes of a Corporate Attorney

As you can see from the blurb about me at the top of this page, I'm a happily married and gainfully employed father who left the world of dating years & years ago. But many of my peers are none of those things: not a parent, not married, not committed to a relationship or Parkview, stuck in the mire and merriment of NYC dating. One of them, whom we'll pretend is named "Will", wrote this fitting piece for Dealbreaker:

The High Yield Debt ("Junk Bond"): The untamed and often uncontrollable vixen, commonly referred to as the mistress. She's not looking for any long term investment, but she could offer a mind-blowing weekend in Maui, as long as she doesn't pick up the tab. There is no middle ground with these types--they enjoy either the high flying adventure or nothing at all; they come with a price. If their partner slips up in any way or ceases to perform, she will immediately default, leaving a trail of broken hearts in her often destructive path. The Junk Bond is perfect for the young and the immature--those who have not experienced the ups and downs of the dating world and simply want to reap the benefits of lust and adventure. They won't stick around to raise your children, but they will give you a great escape from them.

The Investment Grade Security: The 1950's housewife. She's quiet, calm, sweet, and patient; she'll never get too riled up and will stick with you even in the worst of times. Considered by many to be the ideal wife and future mother of one's children. Perfect for the well seasoned and experienced individual--one who has seen the highs and lows of the dating scene and is ready to settle down into a stable, committed relationship. They'll never make you rich, but will also never let you down.

The Bridge Loan: Perfect for the recovering heart-broken man. She is generally kind and gentle, often not requiring much from her partner, but generally giving exactly what is needed--a short term tryst that will leave her partner confident and more experienced upon her leave. She rarely leaves a trail of broken hearts in her wake because she always has the grace to end the relationship amicably. In fact, many men call upon the bridge loan several times in their lives for quick fixes to broken hearts. She, being the selfless type, is always willing to accommodate.

The Asset Based Revolver ("ABR"): The ABR is the trickiest of all the breeds of women--often the most superficial, but generally the most desirable by those with great ambition. She can help her partner reap great benefits, but can take them away just as quickly. She is a social climber, socialista, and often the life of the party--constantly armed with Christian Louboutins stilettos, Balenciaga handbags, and a perfectly sculpted slender body accented with wildly untamed hair. She will make an initial investment in various types of men, but will only stay with those who continually build upon their fortunes. Any faltering in realized ambition will cause her to immediately walk away, taking with her not only her partner's pride, but often a significant portion of his assets--not to mention his social circle. She carries great penalties, but for the ambitious, she will give continually greater rewards proportionate to her partner's increased net worth. Great marriage material for the superficial and ambitious men of the world, but be warned: If she files for divorce, the consequences will be catastrophic.

The Subordinated Debt: Generally the second, third, fourth, etc. wife. She's often a short term fix to a misguided life, frequently brought about by some midlife crisis filled with dreams of reinvention. Arriving in the picture only after her partner has already made his considerable wealth, she rarely reaps the financial benefits of the first wife, to whom her partner owed the most, and to whom her partner always gave, and will continue to give, the most. The subordinated debt will generally have to sign a bullet-proof prenuptial agreement that will reap her modest, but never outsized returns upon the almost guaranteed divorce. She's perfect for the self-made man who needs the affection of a beautiful (and often younger) woman and the appearance of stability with a marriage. The subordinated debt is always hoping that upon her partner's death, she will be favored in the will, but she is always disappointed when the children from the first marriage get the lion's share of the wealth.

Read the rest live on Dealbreaker. Check out the comments - they're uber-fun.

Harness the Power of the 'Net, Change the World

This is why - new technology, new networks of social relationships, new challenges to authority - the Internet is AWESOME. And it's the kind of thing that should make President Mubarak, Kim Jong-Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vladmir Putin, Hugo Chavez, and yes, mediopolies like the AP, BBC, New York Times and CNN quake in their boots:

Via CNN [emphasis added]:
James Karl Buck was released from a Mahalla jail after sending a one-word blog post from his cell phone through the Twitter Web site. The message -- "Arrested" -- alerted all of his friends on the site of his detention. Twitter, a social-networking blog site, allows users to send status updates, or "tweets," from cell phones, instant messaging services and Facebook in less than 140 characters. That message helped free Buck, whose college hired a lawyer for him, but it didn't help free Mohammed Maree.

And no, I wasn't familiar with Twitter, either, before I read this article.