Sunday, June 28, 2009

All night market purchases

Years ago, we saw a stand up comedian do a bit about all night markets. She wondered what motivated people to go out to the market at three a.m. One night she was behind a woman who was purchasing kitty liter and Vasoline. She fought a desperate urge to ask the woman why she felt a sudden urge to purchase that combination of products in the wee hours of the morning.

While chatting with the cashier at Walmart this morning, we mentioned this story. He laughed and said that he once found himself buying condoms and road-side flares in the middle of the night at a 7 Eleven. He said he needed the condoms, but that he was happy to have stumbled on the flares and thought they might come in handy sometime. He often wondered what kind of impression his purchase made on the cashier.

I offered that it showed that he was planning a head. One item in case he got lucky, and the other in case his luck ran out.

I think I made his morning. :D

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Neither mercy or sympathy

While it is unclear exactly how much money Bernard Madoff stole from duped investors, it has been stated that accounts opened since 1995 lost at least $13.2 billion. Diddled account statements for Madoff clients show approximately $65 billion in non-existent assets.

Leaving emotion aside (lots of those accounts were for non-profit and educational organizations who invested their endowment funds with Madoff), is it unreasonable for the government to seize all of Madoff's assets while putting him away for at least 12 years (of a potentially 150 year sentence)? The man is 71 years old. It is highly likely he will die in prison.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin entered a preliminary order on Friday seeking a $171 billion forfeiture from Madoff. While it is doubtful that Madoff has that much in assets, his properties, holdings, and salable personal property may be in the low billions at the very least.

Madoff's lawyer, Ira Sorkin, argued that Madoff deserved credit for his voluntary surrender and full acceptance of his responsibility. He believes that the amount sought is "grossly overstated -- and misleading -- even for a case of this magnitude." He claimed that "We seek neither mercy nor sympathy." But he did ask the judge to "set aside the emotion and hysteria attendant to this case" as he determines the punishment.

While most analysts of this case call Madoff's actions a Ponzi scheme, I think history will recast the terms used. Ten years from now, when someone tries similar tactics, it will not be called a Ponzi scheme. The success of Madoff's scheme, both in amounts and time it took to uncover the house of cards, will have people calling such behavior a Madoff Scheme.

He won't need his assets where he's going. Let's try to repay all his victims. Anything left should go to the government for the administrative costs in cleaning this mess up.

Case closed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grendel rocks!

For those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, this is a re-run. However...

I am excessively proud of my son. He managed to pull straight A's for THE YEAR as a high school sophomore with a full College Prep schedule!

Last year was a disappointment. His grades were all over the place. Finally, near the end of the year he was diagnosed with ADD. His PCP put him on Concerta. That pretty much salvaged his finals in the nick of time last year.

He was on the medication all year this year, except for an erratic few weeks this winter, where it definitely showed its effect.

At some point he will need to learn to function productively without the medication. However, we need to make sure he develops habits that will continue without it. He's far from that just yet.

In any event: GRENDEL ROCKS!

Monday, June 22, 2009

What's worse than finding a dead mouse in your basement?

How about six dead mice in the space of about three days? How about not finding whole mice, but finding just the back half? How about finding one of those halves in the washing machine as you are removing the clean clothes to the dryer?

My younger cat is doing his duty. After years of playing with toy mice, he has graduated up to real mice. (Though he did catch a mouse when he was only a couple of months old.) We think that the mice are coming in to avoid the constant wet outside after three weeks of rain.

We have found vomit with mouse parts. We have also found rear ends (tummy, feet, and tail). We haven't seen any heads or front legs. He must like those.

Yuck! :D

Friday, June 19, 2009

Green packaging - not

I recently ordered a couple of small items from (notice how I am NOT linking to them). One item was a stuff sack, and the other was a very small shoulder bag. When I got a huge box from them today I wondered if maybe the stuff sack was bigger than I thought. I also guessed that both items were probably inside.

The stuff sack actually turned out to be a few inches shorter than I thought it would be. So I won't be using it to carry my meditation bench. The purse wasn't in the box either. So, one does have to wonder what they were thinking packing the flat stuff sack into this gigantic box.

At least the packing material was brown paper and not foam peanuts.

It's Raining Again

I've started hearing Supertramp's "It's Raining Again" playing in my mental soundtrack.

Since the end of May, we've had more days with rain than without. While the overall rainfall hasn't amounted to much, it's getting kind of depressing. June is supposed to signify the beginning of the warmer months in New England. However, most days the temperature has barely hit 70. It's been overcast, drizzly, or out right rainy, most of the time.

I want to putter around in my 'garden' with some plants and seeds. However, I'm not big on playing in the mud. We have a short enough growing season here. I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth planting some of the seeds I picked up.

If I wanted this kind of weather I would have moved to Seattle!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Grendel is getting better at the SATs

Just got Grendel's SAT scores from May:

CRITICAL READING: 460 VS 260 last time
MATH: 660 VS 520 last time
WRITING: 450 VS 310 last time

Overall score: 1570 vs 1090 (out of a possible 2400 - only attainable by super non-lazy geniuses)

That's not bad for the end of his sophomore year, in my book. He plans to actually study before he takes the test again in the fall.

In the Stone Ages, when I took the test, they didn't have a writing test. His math score is already pretty close to my best effort. He still has a bit to go on the reading/writing score to catch up with me. However, considering his age, I'm certain his scores will surpass mine before he applies to college.

His current schools of interest are:


He may be pulling straight A's this year (he's on the edge with Algebra 2). He also just got elected to his FIRST Team's Team Council!!! So I'm sure he can get into UNH, and probably WPI. MIT may be a stretch, but it would be free tuition if he could manage it (since I work for them).

I wonder if that list will change in the next 18 months.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The summer grind

In the morning, I get up for my usual exercise. However, I am now hauling the 4.5 pound CISSP book onto the bike with me. Monday through Friday, I then get ready to go to work. After work I have dinner and watch an hour of television. I then study for an hour. I may allow myself 30-60 minutes of computer time. On the weekends, I plan to spend 4-8 hours each day studying for the CISSP.

I'll take a break for my July 11-18 meditation retreat, maybe a little on 7/3 (when we have off from work), and the AC/DC concert on 7/28. Other than that, I'm not sure what 'summer' really is ... particularly when it's barely hit 70 in the last week and its rained nearly every day.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The times they are a changin' (sort of)

This summer should be very quiet in our house.

Goblin is taking an Anatomy and Physiology class that is kicking his butt. He's studying all the time. He did pass his LNA certification exam. Hopefully, he'll have a job in a long term care facility soon. If he gets an LNA position in such a place, NH will reimburse him the $1400 he paid for his LNA class.

I just got back from a week-long CISSP exam-prep course. I registered to take the grueling exam on Saturday, August 8. I have a boatload of studying to do.

Grendel got a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. He worked his first shift yesterday. The job is very exhausting. He hopes to get a couple of shifts there each week. Plus, we want him to pick up a few shifts somewhere else (somewhere less taxing) for when school is out in a couple of weeks. The most likely candidate is the Dunkin Donuts that is just down the street from our house. He is also committed to a few activities with our church and his FIRST team for the summer. So he'll be out of the house a lot and sleeping a great deal when he is home.

That said, we're cutting a lot of video entertainment out of our summer. We have a Netflix subscription that we're going to put on hold next week (after we watch our current movies). We were thinking about picking HBO back up for the summer since "True Blood" is coming back. However, we're going to put that off until (at least) my exam is over.

We'll still watch an hour of TiVo during meals. I know that sounds so gauche, but it is a tradition in our house. It's the only time we all watch the same program. Maybe, someday, we'll go back to eating around the dining room table together?

Anyway, that will be the only time that Goblin and I will be watching television at all over the next two months.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My definition of 'old' keeps changing

When I was 18, I wasn't one of those youthful idiots who considered 40 to be 'old'. I did consider it to be middle-aged. Back then, I thought someone was 'old' when they were 60. Truthfully.

When I was in my mid-30's I started to redefine 'old' at around 70.

Now that I am over 45 (and minimum full retirement age is defined as 67) I still think 'old' is around 70, but more likely around 75.

Why the definition shift? Is it purely my own closure proximity to my original definition of 'old' (60)? I don't think so. I think it boils down to the age of my friends and others whom I am close to.

I have several friends who are in their early 60's. My in-laws are in their late 70's and they are quite active. How can I have friends and loved-ones who are 'old'?

Grendel cracked me up recently. I showed him a current picture of my father, who is in his mid-70's. Grendel looked at the picture and said, "Wow, he's old." I didn't bother pointing out to him that my father is the same age as his other grandparents, whom he visits with on a regular basis. I couldn't bear to hear him say that they were old too; though I wonder if he would really say that since they play tennis with him and go boating with him and are generally quite active.

I sometimes wonder if Grendel secretly thinks that his own parents are 'old'. I didn't start thinking of my mother as old until she was in her mid-60's, when she started kind of showing the initial signs of decrepitude.

Maybe my definition can be explained by the fact that none of my older friends and loved ones are showing signs of decrepitude, so I can't possibly think of them as 'old'.

Can you be 'old' without having signs of decline? I guess I hope so. I wouldn't mind getting 'old' as long as physical decline doesn't have to be part of the bargain.