Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dwight Anderson -- An Awesome Sports Story Today in the Dayton Daily News

(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

Oh yes, I remember Dwight Anderson and I've wondered what happened to him.

This story is Pulitzer material.

Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio?

Wonderful Sports Stories

(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

It feels like we're in the Dead of Winter all right!

A year ago we were in hot and humid Manila with dear Genny. But today...

Wonderful sports stories in today's Sunday New York Times, on this frigid Sunday.

Among them, stories elicited by Willie Mays;

The life of a basketball journeyman named Moom now playing for the Cavaliers;

Baron, the coach of Rhode Island, and formerly St. Bonaventure.

And I'm going to re-read "I.O.U." a wonderfully posited book on our financial troubles.

Even the Cincinnati Enquirer outdid itself today with a tear-out section on Duke Energy's Smart Grid doings. I hope to be the first to try it (I'm the first to apply, they told me).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"I.O.U." -- Reviews on Amazon

(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

Let's go deep on this:

From The Washington Post
From The Washington Post's Book World/ Reviewed by Dennis Drabelle British journalist and novelist John Lanchester's gift is to see the big picture in new ways. Much of our current plight, he argues, comes from lack of competition in the broadest possible sense. The end of the Cold War left the United States, in his view, with no countervailing ideological force to worry about. "One of the most vivid consequences was the abolition of the ban on torture, which had previously been a defining characteristic of the democratic world's self-definition." But with no conflicting worldview to which the United States needed to feel superior, a big reason not to torture was swept off the board. "The same goes for the way in which the financial sector was allowed to run out of control," Lanchester adds. With capitalism "unchallenged as the world's dominant political-economic system . . . it could have been predicted that the financial sector . . . was in a position to reward itself with a disproportionate piece of the economic pie. There was no global antagonist to point at and jeer at the rise in the number and size of the fat cats; there was no embarrassment about allowing the rich to get so much richer so very quickly." As for the bust-bailout syndrome that has afflicted the United States and other economies, Lanchester sums it up in a phrase that could almost be a poetic couplet: "a huge, unregulated boom in which almost all the upside went directly into private hands, followed by a gigantic bust in which the losses were socialized." Copyright 2010, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.
"Warning to bankers everywhere in the world. You better buy every single copy of I.O.U. because Lanchester's painted the target on you that the rest of us so desperately wanted to see. My prediction: bankers may be an endangered species once I.O.U. gets out, and from this read, I can tell you, while I hate to rush Darwin, it can't happen fast enough." -- James J. Cramer, host of CNBC's Mad Money and author of Jim Cramer's Getting Back to Even"I.O.U. is the map to the crazed world of contemporary finance we have all been waiting for. John Lanchester's superb book is everything its subject, the 2008 crash, was not: namely lucid, beautifully contrived, comprehensible to the reader with no specialist knowledge -- and most of all devastatingly funny. I urge you to read it." -- Will Self, author of Liver
See all Editorial Reviews

"I.O.U." -- Excerpt


Published: January 5, 2010
Skip to next paragraph
'I.O.U.,' by John Lanchester: Laughing All the Way to the Bank (January 6, 2010)
Annie Hall is a film with many great moments, and for me the best of them is the movie's single scene with Annie's younger brother, Duane Hall, played by Christopher Walken, the first of his long, brilliant career of cinema weirdos. Visiting the Hall family home, Alvy Singer — that's Woody Allen — bumps into Duane, who immediately shares a fantasy:
"Sometimes when I'm driving . . . on the road at night . . . I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-­on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The . . . flames rising out of the flowing gasoline."
It's Alvy's reply which makes the scene: "Right. Well, I have to — I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth."
I've never shared Duane Hall's wish to turn across the road into the oncoming headlights. I have to admit, though, that I have sometimes had a not-too-distant thought. It's a thought which never hits me in town, or in traffic, or when there's anyone else in the car, but when I'm on my own in the country, zooming down an empty road, with the radio on, and everything is moving free and clear, as it hardly ever is with today's traffic, but when it is, I sometimes have a fleeting thought, one I've never acted on and hope I never will. The thought is this: what would happen if I chose this moment to put the car into reverse?
When you ask car buffs that, the first thing they do is to give you a funny look. Then they give you another funny look. Then they explain that what would happen is that the car's engine would basically explode: bits of it would burst through other bits, rods would fly through the air, the carburetor would burst into fragments, there would be incredible noise and smell and smoke, and you would swerve off the road and crash with the certainty of serious injury and the high probability of death. These explanations are sufficiently convincing that I find that the thought of putting the car into reverse flits across my mind only very temporarily, for about half a second at a time, say once every two or three years. I'm sure it's something I'll never do.
For the first years of the new millennium, the whole planet was zooming along, doing the equivalent of seventy on a clear road on a sunny day. Between 2000 and 2006, public discourse in the Western world was dominated by the election of George W. Bush, the attacks of 9/11, the "global war on terror" and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But while all that was happening, something momentous was taking place, not quite unnoticed but with bizarrely little notice: the world's wealth was almost doubling. In 2000, the total GDP of Earth — the sum total of all the economic activity on the planet — was $36 trillion. By the end of 2006, it was $70 trillion. In the developed world, so much attention was given to the bust in dot-com shares in 2000 — "the greatest destruction of capital in the history of the world," as it was called at the time — that no one noticed the way the Western economies bounced back. The stock market was relatively stagnant, for reasons I'll go into later, but other sectors of the economy were booming. So was the rest of the planet. An editorial in The Economist in 1999 pointed out that the price of oil was now down to $10 a barrel, and issued a solemn warning: it might not stay there: there were reasons for thinking the price of oil might go to $5 a barrel. Ha!
By July 2008 the price of oil had risen to $147.70 a barrel, and as a result the oil-producing countries were awash with cash. From the Arab world to Russia to Venezuela, the treasury departments of all oil-producing countries resembled the scene in The Simpsons in which Monty Burns and his assistant, Smithers, pick up wads of cash and throw them at each other while shouting "Money fight!" The demand for oil was so avid because large sections of the developing world, especially India and China, were undergoing unprecedented levels of economic growth. Both countries suddenly had a hugely expanding, highly consuming new middle class. China's GDP was averaging growth of 10.8 percent a year, India's 8.9 percent. In fifteen years, India's middle class, using a broad definition of the term meaning the section of the population who had escaped from poverty, grew from 147 million to 264 million; China's went from 174 million to 806 million, arguably the greatest economic achievement anywhere on Earth, ever. Chinese personal income grew by 6.6 percent a year from 1978 to 2004, four times as fast as the world average. Thirty million Chinese children are taking piano lessons. Two-fifths of all Indian secondary school boys have regular after-school tuition. When you have two and a quarter billion people living in countries whose economies are booming in that way, you are living on a planet with a whole new economic outlook. Hundreds of millions of people are measurably richer and have new expectations to match. So oil is up, manufacturing is up, the price of commodities — the stuff which goes to make stuff — is up, the economy of (almost) the entire planet is booming. Who knows, optimists think, with the global economy growing at this rate, we can perhaps begin to think seriously about meeting the United Nations' Millennium Development goals, such as halving the number of hungry people, and of people whose income is less than $1 a day, by 2015.1 That seemed utopian at the time the goals were set, but with the world $34 trillion richer, it suddenly looked as if this unprecedented target might be achieved.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

"IOU" -- Read It!

(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

As this review says, this is good! And I am finding it so. Thank you John Lanchester.

Books of The Times
Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Published: January 5, 2010
If you wanted to try to make sense of the global banking crisis, instead of merely weeping openly at your A.T.M. balance, 2009 was a very good year. Bookstores were filled with volumes that, with expert 20-20 hindsight, explained how capitalism went to hell. The blame was spread around: to politicians (for deregulating financial markets), to bankers (for gambling with exotic derivatives they barely understood) and to the rest of us (for living beyond our means, like insatiate zombie piglets).
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Steven Puetzer/Masterfile
John Lanchester
Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay
By John Lanchester
260 pages. Simon & Schuster. $25.
Excerpt: ‘I.O.U.’ (January 6, 2010)
Times Topics: Credit Crisis — The Essentials
This nightmare isn’t over. We’ll be living with the fallout from the banking crisis for decades and devouring plenty more books about it too. The whole episode is a kind of intellectual and moral Superfund site, an oozing gift that will keep giving. But here’s a prediction: Few if any of these books will be as pleasurable — and by that I mean as literate or as wickedly funny — as John Lanchester’s “I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay.”
Mr. Lanchester, who is British, isn’t an economist or a business journalist. He’s a novelist (and a talented one; try “The Debt to Pleasure”), a man with no special financial expertise whatsoever. A few years ago he began following the financial meltdown for research purposes, as background for a novel he was writing. He soon realized, he says, “that I had stumbled across the most interesting story I’ve ever found.”
It’s a story that begins, as these stories are wont to do, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The capitalist West won its “ideological beauty contest” with the communist East, Mr. Lanchester writes, which was good news except for this: Suddenly “there was no global antagonist to point at and jeer at the rise in the number and size of the fat cats; there was no embarrassment about allowing the rich to get so much richer so very quickly.”
Once upon a time in America and Britain, he observes, “the jet engine of capitalism was harnessed to the ox cart of social justice, to much bleating from the advocates of pure capitalism, but with the effect that the Western liberal democracies became the most admired societies that the world had ever seen.”
Then the Wall crumbled, and “the jet engine was unhooked from the ox cart and allowed to roar off at its own speed. The result was an unprecedented boom, which had two big things wrong with it: It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t sustainable.”
The snidest villains and the greediest buffoons in the narrative are the bankers and other financial wizards who began recklessly playing with new, risky, little-understood tools to get richer faster — tools that ostensibly hedge against risk but also dramatically increase it. If you don’t know how derivatives or credit default swaps work, or what securitization is, or why futures are riskier than options, this is a book for you. Mr. Lanchester explains these things methodically, with mathematical rigor, but he is also, crucially, guided as much by perception and feel.
“We are a long, long way from a single quote for next season’s wheat crop,” he notes. “The contemporary derivative is likely to involve a mix of options, futures, currencies and debt, structured and priced in ways which are the closest extant thing to rocket science. Mathematics Ph.D.’s are all over the place in this business.”
Mr. Lanchester finds loads of bleak humor here. “Warren Buffett was doubly right to compare the new financial products to ‘weapons of mass destruction’ — first, because they are lethal, and, second, because no one knows how to track them down,” he writes.
He also compares the banking crisis to the birth of postmodernism. “For anyone who studied literature in college in the past few decades, there is a weird familiarity about the current crisis,” he says. “Value, in the realm of finance capital, parallels the elusive nature of meaning in deconstructionism.”
“I.O.U.” crosses over into black satire when Mr. Lanchester describes how bankers used their new tools to make money from poor people, the worst credit risks, by prying their cash loose through predatory lending, then pooling this money and selling it off. Who cared if these people defaulted on their mortgages? The risk had already been passed along to others, and ultimately, when banks failed, to taxpayers. Mr. Lanchester calls this “a 100 percent pure form of socialism for the rich.”
With steam shooting from his ears, he summarizes: “So: a huge, unregulated boom in which almost all the upside went directly into private hands, followed by a gigantic bust in which the losses were socialized. That is literally nobody’s idea of how the world is supposed to work.”
Mr. Lanchester’s history lesson is peppered with dead-on references to everything, including “Annie Hall,” “The Simpsons,” “The Wire,” Hemingway and Jacques Derrida. He is effortlessly epigrammatical. (“In a sense, credit isn’t just an aspect of the economy, it is the economy.”)
His wit pops out at unexpected angles. About the ever-riskier wagers bankers were making, he writes: “This wasn’t just looking for trouble, it was sending trouble a ‘save the date’ card, followed by a formal invitation, followed by nagging e-mails and phone calls just to make absolutely sure.”
He also lays out a wide series of necessary reforms, including requiring banks to keep more capital on hand and separating investment banking from everyday banking (“the casino” from “the piggy bank”).
These reforms include personal ones, aimed at me and at you. Do we need so much stuff in our lives? he asks. “In a world running out of resources, the most important ethical, political and ecological idea can be summed up in one simple word: ‘enough.’ ”
Mr. Lanchester is no admirer of George W. Bush, but he does enjoy citing Mr. Bush’s comment in late 2008 about the worsening economy: “This sucker could go down.” Mr. Lanchester, in 2010, isn’t quite that pessimistic. But he does note that we’re all about to get the bill from the financial bailouts, a bill that could easily top $4.6 trillion.
How much money is that, anyway? Brace yourself. That number, Mr. Lanchester writes, paraphrasing one expert, “is bigger than the Marshall Plan, the Louisiana Purchase, the Apollo moon landings, the 1980s savings and loan crisis, the Korean War and the total cost of NASA’s space flights, all added together — repeat, added together (and yes, the old figures are adjusted upward for inflation).”
Before you begin to cry, pick up a copy of “I.O.U.” Good humor and good company will be the things that’ll get us through.

Good Case Out of Ohio Supreme Court

(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

This case I will read. Sounds good for one of my cases.

SCO Home » PIO » Summaries » 2010 » 0128 » Supreme Court of Ohio Case Summaries
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‘Public Duty Rule’ Does Not Apply When Suit Against Public Employee Claims Wanton or Reckless Conduct
2009-0014. Estate of Graves v. Circleville, Slip Opinion No. 2010-Ohio-168.Ross App. No. 06CA2900, 179 Ohio App.3d 479, 2008-Ohio-6052. Judgment of the court of appeals affirmed, and cause remanded to the trial court.Moyer, C.J., and Lundberg Stratton, O'Connor, O'Donnell, Lanzinger, and Cupp, JJ., concur.Pfeifer, J., concurs separately.Opinion:
View oral argument video of this case.Requires the free Adobe Flash Player.
(Jan. 28, 2010) The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today that a common law doctrine known as the “public duty rule” does not immunize employees of a political subdivision from personal liability for injuries they cause in the performance of their official duties in cases where the injured party alleges that the employee engaged in “wanton or reckless conduct.” The Court’s 6-1 majority opinion, authored by Justice Maureen O’Connor, affirmed a decision of the 4th District Court of Appeals.
The estate of Jillian Graves sued the city of Circleville and officers Peter Shaw and William Eversole and dispatcher Benjamin Carpenter (collectively, “the officers”) as individuals, seeking damages for Graves’ wrongful death. The suit alleged that the officers had improperly allowed Cornelius Copley to retrieve his vehicle from a police impound lot on the day after his arrest for DUI. The next day, while again driving while intoxicated, Copley collided with a vehicle being driven by Graves. Both Copley and Graves were killed in the accident.
The officers filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the estate’s claims against them as individuals under R.C. Chapter 2744, which grants broad statutory immunity from civil liability to political subdivisions and their employees for injuries, subject to certain exceptions. One of the stated exceptions is that employees of political subdivisions are not immune from liability when their acts or omissions are taken in a wanton or reckless manner. The trial court denied the summary judgment motion, finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the officers’ acts and omissions in dealing with Copley fell under the statutory exception to public employee immunity for wanton or reckless conduct.
The officers appealed that ruling, arguing that they could not be held liable for Graves’ injuries under a 1988 Supreme Court of Ohio decision, Sawicki v. Ottawa Hills, wherein the court adopted the “public duty rule,” a common law doctrine that provides immunity from civil liability in cases where a public employee causes injury to a third party through the breach of a “public duty,” i.e., by failing to perform a general duty owed to the public as a whole, as opposed to an individualized duty owed to the specific person seeking damages.
The 4th District Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to affirm the trial court’s decision denying summary judgment. The appellate majority held that the “public duty” rule set forth in the Sawicki decision does not apply to cases in which a public employee is accused of “wanton or reckless conduct.”
The court of appeals also agreed with the trial court’s finding that the estate had raised genuine issues of fact regarding whether the officers had engaged in wanton or reckless conduct and if that conduct proximately caused Graves’ death. The officers sought and were granted Supreme Court review of the 4th District’s ruling.
Writing for the Court in today’s decision, Justice O’Connor pointed out that although Sawicki was decided in 1988, it addressed events that took place in 1981, during an interim period after a series of judicial decisions had abrogated Ohio’s common law doctrine of sovereign immunity and before the legislature had responded in 1985 by enacting R.C. Chapter 2744, which established a new statutory scheme providing general immunity for political subdivisions and their employees subject to specific exceptions.
Emphasizing that the public duty rule recognized by the Sawicki court was a judicial solution to a temporary legal vacuum that was later corrected by the enactment of R.C. Chapter 2744, Justice O’Connor wrote: “Our analysis in Sawicki and its progeny lead to the conclusion that the public-duty rule espoused in Sawicki does not apply in the instant case. ... We adopted the public-duty rule at a time when there was no immunity for a political subdivision or its employees. ... Political subdivisions and their employees now have statutory immunity. Thus, the rationale behind this court’s adoption of the public-duty rule in Sawicki is no longer compelling. Moreover, Sawicki did not address whether the public-duty rule was available as a defense for employees of a political subdivision, and we have never applied the rule in a case involving allegations of wanton and reckless conduct against an employee of a political subdivision. Because the events in this case occurred outside of the narrow timeframe under which Sawicki was decided, the public-duty rule adopted in Sawicki does not apply.” Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial and appellate court rulings denying summary judgment and allowing further proceedings in the estate’s claims against the officers.
Justice O’Connor’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer and Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger and Robert R. Cupp.
Justice Paul E. Pfeifer entered a separate opinion in which he concurred with most of the majority decision, but said he did not join a section in which the majority commented on statutory theories of liability that Graves’ estate indicated it would pursue at trial “because (that commentary) is not necessary to the resolution of the issue before us. Having determined that the public-duty doctrine is not applicable to the case before us, this court should not discuss other issues that might be applicable to the case.” Justice Pfeifer expressed agreement with the majority’s limitation of the Sawicki public-duty rule, and said he looked forward “to the day when a majority of this court will say the same concerning sovereign immunity.”
ContactsJohn T. McLandrich, 440.248.7906, for officers Peter Shaw, William Eversole and Benjamin Carpenter.
Rex H. Elliott, 614.481.6000, for the Estate of Jillian Graves.
Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion released by the Court, but only for those cases considered noteworthy or of great public interest. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of Court opinions. The full text of this and other Court opinions from 1992 to the present are available online from the Reporter of Decisions. In the Full Text search box, enter the eight-digit case number at the top of this summary and click "Submit."


(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

As my readers know, Louis Auchincloss is one of my favorites. Click on this label for my earlier blogs on him. He died at age 92 this week.

Published: January 27, 2010
Louis Auchincloss, a Wall Street lawyer from a prominent old New York family who became a durable and prolific chronicler of Manhattan’s old-money elite, died on Tuesday night in Manhattan. He was 92.

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Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
Louis Auchincloss in 1985.
His death, at Lenox Hill Hospital, was caused by complications of a stroke, his son Andrew said. Mr. Auchincloss lived on the Upper East Side.
Although he practiced law full time until 1987, Mr. Auchincloss published more than 60 books of fiction, biography and literary criticism in a writing career of more than a half-century. He was best known for his dozens and dozens of novels about what he called the “comfortable” world, which in the 1930s meant “an apartment or brownstone in town, a house in the country, having five or six maids, two or three cars, several clubs and one’s children in private schools.”
This was the world he came from, and its customs and secrets were his subject from the beginning. He persisted in writing about it, fondly but also trenchantly, long after that world had begun to vanish.
Mr. Auchincloss’s last book, published in 2008, was “The Last of the Old Guard,” and though it was set at the turn of the 20th century, the title in many ways fit the author himself. Mr. Auchincloss had a beaky, patrician nose and spoke with a high-pitched Brahmin accent. He had elegant manners and suits to match, and he wrote in longhand in the living room of an antiques-filled apartment on Park Avenue.
Admirers compared him to other novelists of society and manners like William Dean Howells, but Mr. Auchincloss’s greatest influence was probably Edith Wharton, whose biography he wrote and with whom he felt a direct connection. His grandmother had summered with Wharton in Newport, R.I.; his parents were friends of Wharton’s lawyers. He almost felt he knew Wharton personally, Mr. Auchincloss once said.
Like Wharton, Mr. Auchincloss was interested in class and morality and in the corrosive effects of money on both. “Of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs,” Gore Vidal once wrote. “Not since Dreiser has an American writer had so much to tell us about the role of money in our lives.”
His detractors complained that Mr. Auchincloss’s writing was glib and superficial, or else that his subject matter was too dated to be of much interest. Writing in The New York Times in 1984, Michiko Kakutani said that while Mr. Auchincloss “is adept enough at portraying the effects of a rarefied milieu on character, his narrative lacks a necessary density and texture.”
“Like the shiny parquet floors of their apartment houses,” she added, “Mr. Auchincloss’s people are just a little too finely polished, a little too tidily assembled.”
The author Bruce Bawer, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said that Mr. Auchincloss had the bad luck to live “in a time when the protagonists of literary fiction tend to be middle- or lower-class.”
“These days,” he added, “the general public, though fascinated by the superficial trappings of privilege, seems to have little interest in the deeper truths with which Mr. Auchincloss is passionately concerned — with, that is, the beliefs, principles, hypocrisies, prejudices and assorted strengths and defects of character that typify the American WASP civilization that produced what was for a long time the country’s undisputed ruling class.”
“Class prejudice” was Mr. Auchincloss’s response to his critics. “That business of objecting to the subject material or the people that an author writes about is purely class prejudice,” he said in an interview in 1997, “and you will note that it always disappears with an author’s death. Nobody holds it against Henry James or Edith Wharton or Thackeray or Marcel Proust.”
Louis Stanton Auchincloss (pronounced AW-kin-kloss) was born on Sept. 27, 1917, in Lawrence, on Long Island, joining an upper-crust clan of Auchinclosses, Dixons, Howlands and Stantons. Since 1803, when Hugh Auchincloss left Paisley, Scotland, to establish a New York branch of the family dry goods business, the families all lived in Manhattan — all with money, all with high social positions.
Louis was the third of four children of Priscilla Stanton and Joseph Howland Auchincloss, who, like his father, was a Wall Street lawyer; he was also a third cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Louis was a cousin by marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who worked with him when she was a book editor later in life.)
Born Into Money
Mr. Auchincloss grew up in a world of town houses, summer homes on Long Island and Bar Harbor, Me., private clubs and servants, debutante parties and travel abroad. Yet as a child he thought of himself as neither rich nor aristocratic.
“Like most children of affluence,” he said in his 1974 autobiography, “A Writer’s Capital,” “I grew up with a distinct sense that my parents were only tolerably well off. This is because children always compare their families with wealthier ones, never with poorer. I thought I knew perfectly well what it meant to be rich in New York. If you were rich, you lived in a house with a pompous beaux-arts facade and kept a butler and gave children’s parties with spun sugar on the ice cream and little cups of real silver as game prizes. If you were not rich you lived in a brownstone with Irish maids who never called you Master Louis and parents who hollered up and down the stairs instead of ringing bells.”
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the location of the Groton School and the name of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Dennis Hevesi contributed reporting

Dead of Winter

(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

We've survived The Dead of Winter! It's all downhill from now on baby!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tech Tips -- Five and Facebook

By SARAH PEREZ of ReadWriteWeb
Published: September 16, 2009
When the President of the United States warns schoolchildren to watch what they say and do on Facebook, you know that we've got a problem...and it's not one limited to the U.S.'s borders, either. People everywhere are mindlessly over-sharing on the world's largest social network, without a second thought as to who's reading their posts or what effect it could have on them further down the road. For example, did you know that 30% of today's employers are using Facebook to vet potential employees prior to hiring? In today's tough economy, the question of whether to post those embarrassing party pics could now cost you a paycheck in addition to a reputation. (Keep that in mind when tagging your friends' photos, too, won't you?)

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But what can be done? It's not like you can just quit Facebook, right? No - and you don't have to either. You just need to take a few precautions.
Unbeknownst to most mainstream Facebook users, the social network actually offers a slew of privacy controls and security features which can help you batten down the hatches, so to speak. If used properly, you'll never have to worry about whether you should friend the boss and your mom. You can friend anyone you want while comfortable in the knowledge that not everyone gets to see everything you post.
The problem in implementing these privacy options is that they're just too confusing for most non-tech savvy people to handle. And often, folks don't want to bother to take the time to learn. To simplify the process, we're offering five easy steps you can take today to help make your Facebook experience safer, more secure, and more private.
Step 1: Make Friend Lists
Yes, it will take some time, especially if you're connected to a couple hundred friends already. But this step, while not the quickest, is fairly simple. And it will be one of the most useful things you can do on Facebook.
Friend lists, like they sound, are lists for categorizing your friends into various groups. The nice thing about this feature is that once you set these lists up, you won't have to do it again. We suggest that you put your work colleagues and professional acquaintances into a friend list designated "work," personal friends you're not very close with into a list called "Acquaintances," and people you're related to into a list called "Family." Those three main categories will separate out the groups of "friends" who you may want to hide some information from.
To create a friend list, click on "Friends" at the top of the Facebook homepage. In the left-hand column, click "Friends" again under the "Lists" section. Now you'll see a button at the top that says "Create New List". Click it. In the pop-up that appears, you can name your list and pick members. If you've ever shared an application with your friends, the process of doing this will be very familiar.
When you've finished making lists, you'll be able to use them when selecting who can see what (or who can't!) when configuring the security settings described below.
Step 2: Who Can See What on Your Profile
At the top right of Facebook, there's a menu that many people probably ignore: "Settings." But this menu is now going to become your best friend. To get started, hover you mouse over the Settings menu and click "Privacy Settings" from the list that appears. On the next page, click "Profile." This takes you to a page where you can configure who gets to see certain information on your profile.
Before making changes, think carefully about the sorts of things you want public and the things you want private. Should "everyone" get to see photos you're tagged in? Or would you like to limit this only to those you've specifically chosen as Facebook friends?
Underneath each section on this page (basic info, personal info, status, etc.), you can designate who gets to see that particular bit of information. For anyone not using custom lists (see step 1), the best thing to enter here is "Only Friends." Anything else opens up your profile information to people you may or may not know. For example, choosing "Everyone" makes that info public, "Friends of Friends" lets your friends' friends see it, "My Networks and Friends" opens up your info to anyone in your networks - that means anyone in your city, your high school, your college, a professional organization you listed, etc.
You can also block certain groups from seeing these sections, too. On any item that offers an "Edit Custom Settings" option, you can click that link to display a pop-up box where you can choose people or lists to block (see where it says "Except these people"). If you haven't made custom lists as explained in step 1 above, you can enter individual names here instead. (Sorry, mom, dad, boss - this is where you get blocked.)
Step 3: Who Can See Your Address and Phone Number
Did you list your address and phone number on Facebook? While that's a handy feature, you may not want everyone you friended to have this information. To access this configuration page, you follow the same steps as above in step 2 to display the Profile Privacy page. You'll notice that the page has two tabs at the top - click on the one that reads "Contact information."
As previously described above, you can again use the drop-down lists provided to designate who gets to see what and/or block certain people or lists from viewing this information. The sections on this page include "IM Screen Name," "Mobile Phone," "Other Phone," "Current Address," "Website," and your email.
Step 4: Change Who Can Find You on Facebook via Search
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Friedman -- Situational Values

(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

Friedman at his best.


Published: January 26, 2010
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found the last few weeks in American politics particularly unnerving. Our economy is still very fragile, yet you would never know that by the way the political class is acting. We’re like a patient that just got out of intensive care and is sitting up in bed for the first time when, suddenly, all the doctors and nurses at bedside start bickering. One of them throws a stethoscope across the room; someone else threatens to unplug all the monitors unless the hospital bills are paid by noon; and all the while the patient is thinking: “Are you people crazy? I am just starting to recover. Do you realize how easily I could relapse? Aren’t there any adults here?”

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Sometimes you wonder: Are we home alone? Obviously, the political and financial elites to whom we give authority often act on the basis of personal interests. But we still have a long way to go to get out of the mess we are in, and if our elites do not behave with a greater sense of the common good we could find our economy doing a double dip with a back flip.
Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, likes to talk about two kinds of values: “situational values” and “sustainable values.” Leaders, companies or individuals guided by situational values do whatever the situation will allow, no matter the wider interests of their communities. A banker who writes a mortgage for someone he knows can’t make the payments over time is acting on situational values, saying: “I’ll be gone when the bill comes due.”
People inspired by sustainable values act just the opposite, saying: “I will never be gone. I will always be here. Therefore, I must behave in ways that sustain — my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my environment, my country and my future generations.”
Lately, we’ve seen an explosion of situational thinking. I support the broad proposals President Obama put forth last week to prevent banks from becoming too big to fail and to protect taxpayers from banks that get in trouble by speculating and then expect us to bail them out. But the way the president unveiled his proposals — “if those folks want a fight, it’s a fight I’m ready to have” — left me feeling as though he was looking for a way to bash the banks right after the Democrats’ loss in Massachusetts, in order to score a few cheap political points more than to initiate a serious national discussion about an incredibly complex issue.
President Obama is so much better when he takes a heated, knotty issue, like civil rights or banking reform, and talks to the country like adults. He is so much better at making us smarter than angrier. Going to war with the banks for a quick political sugar high after an electoral loss will just work against him and us. It will spook the banks into lending even less and slow the recovery even more.
That said, part of me can’t blame the president. The behavior of some leading Wall Street banks, particularly Goldman Sachs, has been utterly selfish. U.S. taxpayers saved Goldman by saving one of its big counterparties, A.I.G. By any fair calculation, the U.S. Treasury should own a slice of Goldman today. Goldman has been the poster boy for banks behaving by “situational values” — exploiting whatever the situation, or rules that it helped to write, allowed.
Also, President Obama tried to create a bipartisan commission to come up with a plan to reduce the national debt — a plan that would inflict pain on both parties by cutting some programs and raising some taxes. But the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, said the G.O.P. would not cooperate with any commission that proposes raising taxes. And some liberal Democrats rejected cutting their favorite programs. Way to take one for the country, guys.
Then let’s look at the unions — hardly paragons of sustainable thinking for the country. We all know they got more than their fair share in the General Motors settlement and in the Obama health care proposals because they could shake down the Democrats in return for votes.
And, finally, don’t forget both the Democratic and Republican senators who have decided to get a quick populist boost by turning one of the few adults we have left — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke — into a piñata. No, Mr. Bernanke is not blameless for the 2008 crisis. But since then he has helped steer the country back from the brink and kept us out of a depression. He absolutely deserves reappointment.
No doubt, this is a lousy season to be the leader of any institution. We are in the midst of a long period of austerity, where all that most leaders will be able to do is cut, fire and trim. It is so easy to play populism and run against them. But this time is different. When our government is this deeply involved in propping up our economy, and the economy is this fragile, politics as usual will kill us. We badly need leaders inspired by sustainable values, not situational ones. Without that, we’ll just be digging our hole deeper and making the reckoning, when it comes, that much more ferocious.
RecommendNext Article in Opinion (2 of 27) » A version of this article appeared in print on January 27, 2010, on page A27 of the New York edition.
Past Coverage
Bernanke Is Gaining Supporters (January 26, 2010)
Obama to Seek Spending Freeze to Trim Deficits (January 26, 2010)
Obama to Offer Aid for Families in State of the Union Address (January 25, 2010)
Volatility and Politics Are Feeding Fears of a Market Correction (January 25, 2010)
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Two Scientific Papers Simple and Inspiring; Then NYT Article on "Our Boredom, Ourselves"

(c) 2010 F. Bruce Abel

Had Lit Club last night. Marty and Ron Vissher. Both scientists. He with P&G and she with Children's Hospital.

Used their flat-screen against the wall and a computer (somewhere hidden; only extravagant mouse visible).

His was the very best presentation I have ever seen: Why I Became a Scientist, starting with his infatuation with bees as a six-year old, his coming from a family of scientists to begin with; using pictures taken on their property on top of Albion Street (forget the name now -- VeVerka's live on that street). Hers about the gooey film that baby's are born in, that is generally wiped off by attendants.

Both papers were simple but brilliant. Both papers started brilliantly-simply -- and could be given to third graders or people from any other age on up. Oh, did I say how simple but brilliant they were?

If these papers were given across the country many more children would become scientists and fewer Wall Street Traders or unrequited lawyers.

Like the Owl, the Vissers liven up our lives by their simple joy in the backyard miracles and their genius in swooping presentation.

Ron held up a hand-held night vision spotter and described the active owl population that prowls and temporarily (for any one owl) lives in our trees at night and goes after pretty much everything, including cats. It even attacked him.

o o

o o (pretend that the o's are wider apart; can't get the format to do this here)

o o (even more wider)

What is that? What he saw on the dark night (through the infrared viewer) as he realized that the owl he was viewing was attacking him and coming right at him, cocksure that he, (the owl was cocksure), was unseen. Ron backed into the house and avoided being dipped and pecked around the head.

o o

o .......o

o.............. o

The owl's eyes, of course. Reflecting the infra-red beam that gave out of his viewer.


I loved it.

Now, to the opposite, a brilliant discussion of boredom in today's New York Times.

Our Boredom, Ourselves

Published: January 21, 2010
If you read a lot of book reviews, there are certain words that tend to crop up with comforting, or maybe it’s dismaying, regularity. Lyrical. Compelling. Moving. Intriguing. Absorbing. Frustrating. Uneven. Disappointing. But there is one word you seldom encounter: boring. It occurred a mere 19 times in the Book Review in 2009, and rarely as a direct description of the book under review.

This isn’t because books sent out to reviewers never turn out to be boring. (Trust me on this one.) Rather, boredom — unlike its equally bland smiley-faced twin, interest — is something professional readers, who are expected to keep things lively, would rather not admit to, for fear of being scolded and sent back to the Weekly Reader. As a general state of mind, boredom is morally suspect, threatening to shine its dull light back on the person who invokes it. “The only horrible thing in the world is ­ennui,” Oscar Wilde once wrote, suggesting that boredom doesn’t feel much better in French. “That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.”
And yet boredom is woven into the very fabric of the literary enterprise. We read, and write, in large part to avoid it. At the same time, few experiences carry more risk of active boredom than picking up a book. Boring people can, paradoxically, prove interesting. As they prattle on, you step back mentally and start to catalog the irritating timbre of the offending voice, the reliance on cliché, the almost comic repetitiousness — in short, you begin constructing a story. But a boring book, especially a boring novel, is just boring. A library is an enormous repository of information, entertainment, the best that has been thought and said. It is also probably the densest concentration of potential boredom on earth.
Boredom, like the modern novel, was born in the 18th century, and came into full flower in the 19th. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first recorded use of “to bore” dates to a 1768 letter by the Earl of Carlisle, mentioning his “Newmarket friends, who are to be bored by these Frenchmen.” “Bores,” meaning boring things, arrived soon after, followed by human bores. By the time of the O.E.D.’s first citation of the noun “boredom” in 1852, in Dickens’s “Bleak House” (where it occurs six times by my count), everyone, or at least everyone in the novel-reading middle classes, seemed to be bored, or worried about becoming bored.
Boredom, scholars argue, was something new, different from the dullness, lassitude and tedium people had no doubt been experiencing for centuries. In her ingenious study “Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind” (1995), Patricia Meyer Spacks describes it as a luxury — and a peril — born of the Industrial Revolution, reflecting the rise of individualism, leisure (especially female leisure) and the idea of happiness as a right and a daunting personal responsibility. “Boredom presents itself as a trivial emotion that can trivialize the world,” Spacks writes. “It implies an embracing sense of irritation and unease. It reflects a state of affairs in which the individual is assigned ever more importance and ever less power.”
In Saul Bellow’s “Humboldt’s Gift,” the narrator — a writer who spends the “final Eisenhower years” trying to write the definitive treatise on boredom — describes it as “a kind of pain caused by unused powers, the pain of wasted possibilities or talents, . . . accompanied by expectations of the optimum utilization of capacities.” But boredom may itself be a highly useful human capacity, at least according to some psychologists and neuroscientists, who have begun examining it not just as an accomplice to depression and addiction but as an important source of creativity, well-being and our very sense of self.
Researchers have discovered that when people are conscious but doing nothing — for example, lying in an f.M.R.I. scanner, waiting to be given some simple mental task as part of a psychology experiment — the brain is in fact firing away, with greater activity in regions responsible for recalling autobiographical memory, imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, and conjuring hypothetical events: the literary areas of the brain, you might say. When this so-called default mode network is activated, the brain uses only about 5 percent less energy than it does when engaged in basic tasks. But that discrepancy may explain why time seems to pass more slowly at such moments. It may also explain the agitated restlessness that compels the bored to seek relief in doodling or daydreaming.
It’s common to decry our collective thaasophobia, or fear of boredom, manifested in our addiction to iPhone apps, the cable news crawl and ever mutating varieties of multitasking. One cellphone company has even promoted the idea of ­“microboredom,” which refers to those moments of inactivity that occur when we’re, say, stuck waiting in line for a latte without our BlackBerry. But novelists, for all their own fears of being dismissed as boring, continue to offer some bold resistance to the broader culture’s zero-tolerance boredom eradication program.
In April 2011, the limits of literary boredom will be tested when Little, Brown & Company publishes “The Pale King,” David Foster Wallace’s novel, found unfinished after his suicide in 2008, about the inner lives of number-crunching I.R.S. agents. An excerpt that appeared last year in The New Yorker depicts a universe of microboredom gone macro: “He did another return; again the math squared and there were no itemizations on 32 and the printout’s numbers for W-2 and 1099 and Forms 2440 and 2441 appeared to square, and he filled out his codes for the middle tray’s 402 and signed his name and ID number. . . .”
For all the mundanity of its subject matter, the excerpt presents boredom as something more strenuous and exalted than the friendly helper depicted by the neuroscientists, keeping our minds revved up even when we think we’re idling. Boredom isn’t just good for your brain. It’s good for your soul. “Bliss — a second-by-­second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious — lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom,” Wallace wrote in a note left with the manuscript. “Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.”
It remains to be seen whether “The Pale King” will break through to the ecstasy beyond boredom, or just put readers to sleep. (Or perhaps cause serial brain injury, like the unreadably dense experimental novel that keeps laying waste to readers in “The Information,” by Martin Amis.) But if Wallace’s last work turns out to be unbearably dull, perhaps we should be grateful. After all, if it weren’t for all the boring books in the world, why would anyone feel the need to try to write more ­interesting ones?
Jennifer Schuessler is an editor at the Book Review.
Next Article in Books (21 of 27) » A version of this article appeared in print on January 24, 2010, on page BR23 of the New York edition.

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