Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Bumper Sticker

I'd never seen this until last night:

Abortion Is Mean

Yes. I guess it is.

Understanding Derivatives 101

What's played into the spiral of economic catastrophe in our country and the world? When I saw this analogy online, I thought it helped explain a few not-so-simple machinations and the ripple effects ... which wouldn't've degenerated so badly if everybody (individuals, businesses, and government) held to some simple economic principles like paying your bills.

Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit ...
She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. Heidi keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit. By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.

Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively. A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern because he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral!

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS. These "securities" then are bundled and traded on international securities markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as "AAA Secured Bonds" really are debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices still are climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi. Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons. But, being unemployed alcoholics, they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and Heidi's 11 employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBOND prices drop by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community. The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations. Her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion-dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the government. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, nondrinkers who have never been in Heidi's bar.


Jenny and Jane and Katie are gathering To-Be-Read lists. All my smart friends, reading stuff that intrigues me. But my list has to fit around work and homeschooling and garden and stuff at church. Only part of this list is my plan; most of it is merely my wishlist.

Finishing the Mitford series I started this summer.
The rest of Ivanhoe with Maggie.
Luther on Galatians.
Kleinig's Grace Upon Grace
Wingrin's Luther on Vocation
Maybe reading the Anne of Green Gables series with Maggie next.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Forde's On Being a Theologian of the Cross
Maybe some Gillian Bradshaw or Janette Oke re-reads, unless y'all have some suggestions that are like the Mitford books, not too weighty, that can be read for 10 minutes and put down and left for a week before being picked up again.

I know there are all sorts of reading challenges out there for the new year, often with 100 books listed for the year. No way on earth could I do that. I'll be way ahead of my expectations if I read five books this year.

I feel compelled to apologize. Once upon a time I was a voracious reader.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

A Story and My Picnics

A picnic blanket lived in the trunk of my car this past year. During my lunch break at work, I would nuke my leftovers (or grab my sandwich and fruit) and then head outside. There's a sitting spot outside, relatively shielded from wind and passers-by. I'd sit in the sun, on my blankie, take off my work-shoes, and read my Backwoods Home Magazine while nibbling my lunch.

I had more picnics this year than any other year in my life. I think I had more picnics this past summer/fall than I had in the last couple of decades put together.

Eventually I noticed that I was reading magazines regularly. (Hey, I was three years behind on my BHM and now I'm only two years behind.) Reading regularly might (maybe? possibly?) mean that I could read a [gasp -- hold onto your hat!] a BOOK.

Jan Karon's Mitford series came out about 15 years ago. Oodles of friends and family had recommended it to me for about 14 and 3/4 years. Now I know why! It was perfect! Short sections, some only half a page, so it was easy to put down when my lunch-minutes were depleted. Funny. Light. Love story without being mushy or indecent. Set in a parsonage in Podunkville. It made my heart rejoice to plunk down on my blankie and eat a big fat tomato sandwich and immerse myself in Mrs Karon's village of Mitford.

Since the weather changed, I haven't continued the series. But in March or April, my picnic blanket and I will be eager to start on Book #4. Only three months to go! It makes my heart pitter-patter just to think of it.


Working on a project to ferret out all the "words" and "preached" and "spoke" in Luke's Christmas stories, I can across the word "parthenon" in the Greek. Parthenon? Didn't recognize it. Well, I mean, in Greek it didn't ring a bell, even though the image of the building's ruins immediately popped into my mind's eye. Turned out that "parthenon" is the word for "virgin," as in, Mary was a virgin, a parthenon.

Looking it up, I found that the pagan temple was so named because it's dedicated to Diana, a virgin goddess who looked after virgins and young women.

Sometimes two different subjects just seem to click into one factoid out of nowhere.

Today's Laugh

The policeman was called to a busy intersection downtown where a mutt was giving birth to puppies. The officer didn't know what to do as the closest thing he had in his ordinance book was to give the dog a citation for "littering."


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

And Few More Christmas Photos

More Christmas Photos

A purple tutu!

The riding toy wasn't a present. It came out of storage in the garage because it seemed like Zoe might be getting big enough for it. It might've been her favorite thing of the week.

"Uncle Paul, do you know how to read?" He does know how to read! "Read to me."


Christmas Photos

(This one was from two weeks earlier, for the Sunday School Christmas program.)


Monday, January 02, 2012

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

alternately titled
"If You Give Our Family a Sagging Cupboard"

Ever since we moved in, the doors on the cupboard have not lined up well. But they've been getting worse. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed not only a space between the cupboards and the soffit, but also that nails (not screws) were holding up the cupboards.

On Saturday Gary planned to repair it. That's when he discovered that the plywood vertical-walls of the cupboard were supposedly connected to the wall via nails that were driven between the plies of the plywood, and the wood had split.

So today we emptied the cupboards.

Gary jacked up the cupboards.

He securely connected a sturdy piece of wood to the wall, and then securely attached the cupboards to that chunk o' wood.


If the cupboards are emptied, that means they need to be cleaned and washed. If you do that, it also makes sense to run some sawdust-covered plates and some back-o-the-cupboard wine glasses (covered with dust from lack of use) through the dishwasher.

While the cupboard doors are off their hinges, it makes sense to wash them. Oh. my. goodness. I've washed the cupboards before. Really, I have. But you can scrub them with more force and more cleansing water if they're in the bathtub than if they're hanging in the kitchen. They were disgusting. (How come I never get around to using Murphy's Oil Soap on something that's a little dirty??)

While the stove is sitting in the center of the kitchen (to make space for the car's jack) the wall behind the stove ought to be washed. I did that last week when I cleaned the floor behind/under the stove. But the wall behind the stove still looked awful. Okay -- time to scrub with heavy-duty ammonia and some vigorous elbow-grease. It was better, but still bad. After all, those grease stains were there when we moved in, and I'm sure I've added more in the last several years.

So, paint. It's probably naughty naughty naughty to paint a small patch of the wall, without working my way to the corners. But I did. And it looks loads better!

Before the items return to their shelves, it makes sense to sort them. Yuck, I had potato flakes that are a few years old in there; to the trash with them. Why are there three mostly-empty containers of sprinkles for cookies? They can be combined into one container. Silly to keep a pitcher if the lid for it is broken; into the trash with that too. And so forth...

By late afternoon, I was entirely wiped out, ready to fall asleep. Really? Making decisions about my spice rack shouldn't be tiring. Putting glasses back into the cupboard ought not be physically taxing. Then I remembered the hours of scrubbing cupboard doors. No wonder I'm tired. It's late enough now that I can go to bed for the night.

And no more fear that all my dishes will crash onto the stovetop and the counters. Gary's awesome!

First Impressions and Property Lines

Our house is on the corner. We have new next-door-neighbors behind us. When the family was checking out the place, their sons (maybe age 10 or so) were running through our backyard. No biggie, I told myself, they don't know what's their yard and what's ours.

So this weekend the moving truck appeared and left and re-appeared. Yesterday afternoon, the boys came running through our yard. I told myself "No biggie; they're boys; they're playing outside; they haven't figured out what's theirs and what's the neighbors' yet; the parents are busy with moving and unpacking." But then they came running straight up to the house and onto the deck. "Oh, maybe they're coming over to say hi, to meet us, to ask to borrow something." I headed across the kitchen toward the back door to answer the anticipated knock, and before I was halfway to the door, they'd already turned in their chase-game and were jumping off the deck and careening through the yard back to their house.


Now I'm recalling (from when we lived up north) the gang of kids who would raid the neighbors' berry patches. The only time they refrained was when an owner was physically present to catch them and shoo them away. Even when we neighbors would tell the kids to leave someone's garden alone, they didn't care; the kids were always gone by the time the police arrived. (Yes, the kids' behavior grew to be that big a problem.)

I don't want the neighbors' first impression of me to be a cranky old woman asking them to keep their kids out of my yard, even if I am showing up on their doorstep to welcome them with smiles and a loaf of fresh homemade bread. And yet, if we say nothing and allow it, then what? I could put a "best construction" on it when they were coming into our yard while running and playing. But halfway across our deck? They're old enough to know better. I'm afraid my first impressions of them have already colored what will show through when they get their first impressions of me.

PS: Gary says kids won't steal things like spinach and potatoes and tomatoes and asparagus. But we have grapes, apples, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries too. Hmmm. I hate it that I'm already so suspicious.

Snow Blower

Look at that! He's removing snow. And he doesn't have a tool of stick-plus-curved-metal in his hand. This thing has a motor. That's an amazing Christmas gift!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Christmas Cookies

Five to seven minutes? Really? It was more like 25 minutes to bake them. I hope that isn't the sign of an oven in its death throes. Maybe it's the heavier cookie sheets, and way too many times that the oven door was opened to check on their progress.
But hey, the cookies are yummy! (Better late than never.)