Thursday, June 23, 2011

Green, Green Yarden

We are in the season, where the spring flowers have faded, died off, been cleared away. Now we are in what I call the green season. The bright summer flowers aren't quiet ready to appear and the abundance of rain we have had, has left us with lush, lush greenness. I suppose this is why annuals are so popular. They give you color through the entire season, but then summer is over, they are gone. It is a trade off, but I like steady dependability of perennials, so that is what we mostly plant. There are some bursts of color in the sea of green. Their bright colors make me happy, even on a cloudy day.

We seem to have suffered some deer damage, so I am posting this picture of our fierce attack cat, who apparently is sleeping on the job...

Snickers is such a dog. No really, she follows you around the yard, she will stand guard as you do whatever it is you are doing, she really is very friendly. She is partial to L, but very friendly with all of us. She is a great addition to the family.

We moved this from our other house, it is spreading nicely, and stays yellow until late July. I have no idea what it is called. The bees also love it.

These daisies volunteered. I planed some on the other side of the flower bed and the dear at them roots and all last year, but these appeared this year. Daisies are my favorite, I think their cheery yellow faces.

Our hostas are ready to bloom. H split them last year and I think they need split again. If you are local and want some, let me know, when we split them in the fall, they are all yours.

We have a lovely bunch of squash and pumpkins growing in the garden and in the compost pile. Some years we get fruit and others we don't but the leaves are great cover for all the kitchen waste.

Hopefully soon, we have blooms... and listen up deer, our cat has some made hunting skills, munchers beware...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Music Monday: Beatie Boys Intergalactic

Beastie Boys - Intergalactic 

You have to watch this video. It is completely campy and crazy.

But I think therein lies what I want to talk about. Being creative, being silly, being willing to enjoy something for the sake of enjoying it. Being willing to imagine, push the envelope. This video is a spoof on all the B-movies, which envision aliens and there is a bit of a Godzilla vibe. Imagination. We credit imagination as being childish or for those certain select few, the artists, the poets, the others. Imagination is not grown up (unless we call it innovation and then it is a 50-50 shot, is it grown up imagination or bullshit dressed up.) I say those who think imagination is only for children are those who are trapped and unwilling to push, unwilling to try. There is no age limit on imagination.

For those who know me, I am not a fan of the mindless film or slapstick or anything which resembles MTV's series Jackass, but that does not mean I am serious all the time. There is a time to be serious and there is a time to be lighthearted. What I am not lacking is imagination.

There is also a time to step outside of ourselves and challenge our notions. I have all but tuned out most traditional news outlets, in part because it makes me sad and angry. All this news is filled with hate and violence and there is no love or compassion. There is no willingness on the part of people, to take a deep breath and say, "wow, that is different from how I see it, but let's explore that..." there is no willingness on the part of other people to say, "wow that is how I thought we always did it, but look there are X number of people doing something else successfully, let's explore how that is possible." Let's explore and LEARN.

Instead of hiding behind notions of "that is HOW we have always done it" or "that is how GOD/ALLAH/JEHOVAH has said we must do it" let's consider that Galileo was told repeatedly the world couldn't possibly be round, because everyone knew it wasn't.

 Looks round to me...

What if in the 50s and 60s, those scientists had defaulted to "oh, we could never land on the moon, humans have never been to the moon and that is just how it is suppose be."

(OK I will give you it is hard to tell in the space suits, but my guess is the guys dancing there, they are humans.)

The reality is we have to as people stop letting our prejudices and  fears get in the way of seeing that we are all on this planet together, that there are real problems which must be addressed and when everyone is telling you that "is how we have always done it" it is because that person fears change or they fear the inevitable loss of power. Chains of power are both reassuring and choking.


Let's consider what some people more famous than I have said:

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.
George S. Patton


People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.
William Butler Yeats


Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.
Edgar Allan Poe


We imagine that we want to escape our selfish and commonplace existence, but we cling desperately to our chains.
Anne Sullivan Macy

My challenge to you is to take a minute and examine your beliefs? Are they yours or are they the ones someone else told you, you should have? Are you dreaming only at night. Have you given up on imagination? Are you too serious or important to imagine?
Is Patton right, is someone not thinking???
The answer, I doubt is Intergalactic Plan-a-tery.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An Inside Job - A look at how broken Wall Street is...

H picked this movie and we watched it Sunday night. If you follow my Twitter Stream, you likely know I was pretty fired up. For those of you new to the blog, I worked for Merrill Lynch. I held a series 7 license (which is issued by the NASD - a self regulatory body) and I now have an MBA.

I have been critical of Wall Street and US corporate practices for years. Even though I used to read the Wall Street Journal and Barron's cover to cover, I had no idea, until I watched this movie, that many of the key players and architects of the 2008 Wall Street Meltdown, are now serving in President Obama's cabinet or on various economic counsels. They aren't in jail, which is where they should be, they are now, currently making money, writing rules or more correctly prohibiting rules from being written, which could realistically prohibit this kind of criminal conduct from happening again.

I remember listening to this interview with Obama during the blooming crisis and thinking, yes that is what we need. Finally, someone who is going to limit the fox guarding the hen house practices. I was wrong. He did nothing, actually he did worse than nothing, not only has our President not pushed for targeted reform, he has put in positions of power some of the key players, who either should have done more to prevent this implosion or who were active participants in the implosion, those who profited from the implosion, into key power posts.

Furthermore - one of the reasons this should be unacceptable to all of us, is WALL STREET is a rigged game. I will tell you how Lehman and Merrill and AIG, ended up with investment grade credit ratings of AAA and A2, it is because it is a secret society based on the you scratch my back, I will scratch your back. The regulators are FRIENDS with the heads of these investment banks, as the film points out, the cycle of regulator, to BIG NAME BANK POWER BROOKER, to BUSINESS SCHOOL PROF is a vicious cycle, throw in board member or two and you have profitable cycle for these clowns.

Just as the narrator in this clip points out, it was not true that the regulators were aware of this mess, they weren't aware because they weren't looking. They trusted their friendships and likely were grooming those friends for future personal gains, like jobs and board appointments when their stint as a public servant was complete. What was good for the US tax payer and investor was the last thing on their minds.

Now I am sure you are all wondering - what is a CDO or a CDS and why is Susan all upset that they were being rated AAA and why is this such a big deal.

I will tell you, or more correctly I will let this movie clip sum it up for you...

I used to work with some debt and here is the deal AAA is the best rating, CREDIT RATING (think credit score) a company or in the debt world - Issuer can get. Government securities are AAA. Investment grade paper is in the A ranges. Anything less than that and it gets riskier. Anything much less than a B, and it is junk... Not as in no one should buy it, but junk as in, it is low rated paper, HIGH SPECULATIVE. You might get rich with junk bonds, but you might also lose the entire investment. Junk Bonds are not for pension funds or little old ladies. Junk Bonds are alot like the roulette table in Vegas.

These credit swaps - were less than junk. They are crap. As the clip points out - the underlying mortgages were high risk mortgages, made to people, who were likely not going to be able to make the payments and with no equity in the house, it was like renting and they would just walk away. This is what happened. This is not a AAA rated recipe for investment success.

The entire movie made me hopping mad, but I honestly think this is one part that really made me crazy.

Credit ratings are NOT just OPINIONS. They are a basis for entire system of investment. They define what is salable to certain segments of the investing public. More than once I or one of my colleagues got called on the carpet for selling someone a bond, with a questionable credit rating, based on some industry agreed upon conventions. I mean in the manager's office, defending my choice. Once, the sale was voided and the lose in price from day one to day two came out of my paycheck. I have known brokers who have been fined or lose their jobs for selling customers securities, which were deemed unsuitable, based on credit ratings. They are not just opinions.

It is my opinion that these lying sacks of shit, should all be on a garbage barge in the North Atlantic. These Credit Swaps were a HUGE ponzi scheme and we threw Madoff in jail for life and in the grad scheme of things he was but a bank robber in a sea of what amounts to full on, systemic and planned fraud. Not one of the architects of this mass implosion, which was felt around the world, has gone to jail, gone to trial. Likely they are all still working on Wall Street in some capacity.

This is wrong. The feds took down Eliot Spitzer, I think, in part to shut him up. What he did was wrong, no doubt, but no different from what Wall Street power brokers have done for years. Is it really any surprise to anyone, that the defacto "red light distract" of NYC is so bloody close to Wall Street? The issue is Mr. Spitzer burned through his cache of power, while the Wall Street hot rods still hold all the power, up to and including the President of the United States of America.

Something must be done to prohibit regulators from moving into business schools, to corporate boards and high level investment bank positions, people who once held high level positions in investment houses have no business being regulators. It is a fraternity (with a few woman thrown in), with secret handshakes and armies of lawyers, who do not have the public's good at heart, they want to enrich themselves.

And we the tax payers - gave them more money to play with...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Music Monday: DJ Tiesto - Summer Jam

DJ Tiesto, Summer Jam

DJ Tiesto is nka Tiesto. He is one of my favorite remixers. I am very much into House music and trance and electronica. H and I have built a couple very nice Pandora stations using Tiesto and Armin van Buuern as our spring board.

Summer is upon us, although the weather has shifted in the last 24 hours and is now very pleasant. We were experiencing high summer last week. It was nearly unbearable. I am not at all into hot and humid weather. It wears on me. We took the kids swimming on Thursday and I was exhausted after that. The sun leeches the get up and go out of me fast.

The kids finished up with the school year prior to the Memorial Day holiday and I was totally unprepared for this. I find the transition from school to summer very challenging. I am a creature of habit and now the schedule is different. L has opted to not do very many formal camps or activities and that means she is home during the day, which I both like and loathe. On one hand I enjoy having her around and on the other, I feel like I cannot get anything done. She looks to me to entertain her when her buddies are not around.

E has opted to do camp 3 days a week, which is good on one hand, but limiting on the other.

We have a pretty full summer. Both L and I celebrate birthdays in the summer. We are taking a family vacation to Iceland and the kids and I will be taking our first really long car trip to Washington DC. I plan to take the kids to Cincinnati, because IKEA and Jungle Jim's is calling my name.

We plan days at the pool at my mom's condo and hopefully some other fun stuff. The laundry still needs to be done and there will be days, as I told L last week, where it is not all fun and games. Groceries must be bought and bathrooms must be cleaned.

Some chores are simply more fun than others. We enjoy early morning trips to the big farmers market and Wednesday afternoons exploring our local farmer's market and CSA pick up. We enjoy trips to the library on our bikes.

I also hope to finish painting some shelves, getting the Laundry Room/Mud Room project officially finished and I want to recover the dining room chairs. I also have some sewing projects, I very much want to start and finish this summer. L and I also have some Mommy and me craft ideas lined up.

For me, it is about finding a balance. Getting the work accomplished and still having the time and the energy to enjoy the dog days of summer. All too soon, it will be back to school.

We are going to try to jam as much as we can... into our summer and not go crazy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shh... Yummy Peanut Butter Cups...

So I am conflicted. I want to share this information with you because these peanut butter cups are really that good, but on the other hand, they are so hard to find and they have quickly become a favorite of mine, that if you all run out and buy them and eat them, there won't be any when I want them. (A solution to this is YOU buy some for yourself and some for me. As a gift, for me sharing this tip with you.)

So here they are:

Justin's  Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

They are yummy and completely me friendly. No tree nuts (which I am avoiding due to high Omega 6 levels), no dairy, no gluten, and no corn starch or corn syrup.

These babies are what a treat should be, simple, rich, sweet and delicious. I can honestly say, one is enough to satisfy a dessert craving. E loves them also, so I have to hide the opened package, if I realistically want to eat the other one later.

I can get these sporadically at Whole Foods. Justin's entire line of nut butters and peanut butter are pricey but so worth it.

(I have received no compensation for this review - but if anyone is motivated to send me dark chocolate peanut butter cups - I would not turn them down...)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Music Monday: Paramore - Decode (Unplugged)

Paramore - Decode (Unplugged)

and as a bonus, here is

Paramore - Misery Business (Unplugged)

First of all the music. I especially like Paramore. I would like to see them, if ever they come to town again. All weekend I have been racking my brain trying to think about a song, which talks about unplugging and then it hit me, unplugged, more correctly, MTV Unplugged. I remember it from years ago and apparently they are still doing it. There is something so very intimate about a small stage, a small crowd and the nakedness of no musical tricks, big amps and mixers.

I got a new shiny sparkly iPhone this week. The white one. I also got a smart black and white checkered case for it. I have decided after much hemming and hawing that I am an Apple girl. I have tried PCs, both by choice and because that is what the brokerage house had on my desk and honestly, Apple is better. It just is. I think they make a better laptop to be sure. I also think they make gadgets for the end user who wants to go and not have to over think it.

I am a tech girl. I am not afraid of tech, I like it. I have been embracing new technology most of my adult life but only if it enhances my life. In college, during the summers I stayed in Oxford, I kept in touch with H and a few other friends via email. The old fashion way. I had to go to the computer lab in the basement of the science library. It was dark and loud, dot matrix printers printing furiously.It was mainframe based and a total pain. It was also faster than snail mail from a small town.

My host brother and I stopped faxing at this point, which had seemed very techie and way faster than international mail. Email made the world faster and smaller.

As we approached our senior year of college, the Internet was taking root and I was emailing from an apple desktop unit and I had traded in my typewriter for a computer. I had a cute case for the 3 inches hard disks. I wrote my senior honors project on H's computer, only back then there wasn't enough memory to handle the photos, so I had to do it the old fashion way. Now, I seldom, if ever print pictures. My snapshots all collated on a flash drive, as jPeg files.

Imagine my surprise, when I went to temp at the brokerage firm, only to see it was a huge step back. They did not have email - at all. They had IBM 240 or some such old fashioned machines, with crazy bad graphics and green screens. Nothing like the beautiful Apple 2e H had at home. I wrote rejection letters and other letters on a typewriter. It was sad. It was a few years before this changed.The change was a big deal and honestly, it was a nice upgrade, but still way behind anything I was doing at home on our Apple.

When Palm Pilots became the thing, I gladly traded in my bulky Franklin Planner. The sleek Palm was way easier to haul around. After my first over sized cell phone, I went for a flip phone and loved it. It actually fit in my pocket. Then I combined the Palm Pilot and the phone and had the dual Palm/Phone combo.

H and I tried Vonage and aside from some spotty service, we loved the VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol.)  Our cable is currently bundled with our phone service. We are wireless and I have a PC laptop, but when it dies I am returning to the world of Apple. I think the PC is clunky and as much as I love technology I love it to work. I do not want to massage it. I am happy having someone else decide how it should work. I feel no need to customize. I want to plug in, work, be done and go. I want technology to work for me and NOT the other way around. I am, at the end of the day, an end user.

So image how sad I was last week. I was bouncy happy as we left Verizon, my brand new iPhone in hand. Only to discover my business email, the one that is through my website, just would not work on the iPhone, no matter how I tried to stand on my head. I spent 1.5 hours on the phone with tech support and then made a special trip back to Verizon on Friday. As we left the store, L said: " Oh Mom, just get a new email address already and be done with it." Rolling her eyes in complete exasperation.

At first I thought, no I want this to work. Later in the day, I decided she was right. Really, I want my friends to be able to find me, but with the advent of Facebook and the related apps, Twitter and the related apps and text, is email really that important. I have my personal email on the phone and it functioned just fine. My business is purposefully slow at the moment, why was I hung up on adding an email addy, to my new phone, which basically collects twitter and facebook notices. I have apps for that.

That got me thinking about all the SPAM and then the email clutter I get. None of it is important. I don't read it, I spend so much time trashing this virtual crap. Why not just be done with it. Unplug as my friend K joked as we took a bike ride the other day.

Is it really necessary to be so plugged in?

Was I working for technology or was technology working for me.

H texted last night and asked me what the verdict was on my iPhone - and I told him I was keeping it. I love it and I do. Why wouldn't I? I love my iPod touch. I have learned the system, I know about the apps, I have my music, my phone, and everything all in one. I am on the VZ network, no more looking and hoping to find free wi-fi. The iPhone loads faster than my Blackberry. Has a way better functionality. Does more and links up to the Apple desktop.

So while Paramore is singing about a man, I think this transition from my crackberry to iPhone has helped me decode, what it is I need or want in terms of connectedness and my ability to interact with the world around me. As I commented on a friend's blog post, sometimes we have to clean our virtual closets in the same way we clean our regular closets. It is easy to get overwhelmed by information and various information delivery systems. Some days I feel over-saturated with information.

I also think that technology can be Misery Business. Just as in the song, it can "hook us by the mouth" and keep us "right where it wants us." It is easy to drown in the sea of information around us. So powerful the Internet and also so uncontrollable if we lose sight of the fact that it is up to us to control it and use that information on our own terms. We are the brain behind the smart phone.

So for a while last week, I felt that my smart phone had in fact made me dumb, however today, I realize it might have been the kick in the pants I needed. I had been drowning in useless information, which I ultimately control. My smart phone is a tool, it works for me, not the other way around.