February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr., R.I.P.

William F. Buckley, Jr. has died. It is a tremendous loss to the nation and to anyone who values precision in language and passion in defense of conservative beliefs.

I was privileged to have spent many hours with him, in email correspondence, in telephone calls, and at a dinner. We were not friends, mind you, the distance in accomplishment and age was too great. But I respected him tremendously.

In tribute, I give you the retrospective of the best of his interviews on Charlie Rose:

My condolences to his family.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:44 PM | TrackBack

February 26, 2008

A selfishly perfect evening

Any evening that starts with a glass, a generous glass, of Rebel Yell bourbon in a small bar room with beautiful paintings of dogs and horses and ends with a recitation of Kipling poetry, at a table in a dark room lit only by candles in gleaming candelabra, shiny silver table decorations (I think they were quail) and a very good glass of port in a crystal port glass is clearly going to be a perfect evening. In between those two things, we eight people spoke mainly of PG Wodehouse.

It is difficult to imagine how the evening could have been improved upon.

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February 21, 2008

An unwelcome sound

High, very high, on the list of unwelcome sounds is the following sound I heard at 1:07 a.m. on Monday morning:

Mamma? I don't feel so BLACH SPLASH!

And just like that, there I am, wiping vomit off the rug in my bedroom.

A lovely way to wake up and the poor Boy Child was sick all day on Monday.

On Tuesday, I went off to work quite merrily.

I felt unwell on the train ride in.

I left early and was home in bed, teeth chattering, by 12:30 where I slept until at least 4:00 in the afternoon.

The Viking Bride was then struck down.

We both sat in the den -- her supine on the sofa and me reclining in a chair -- while the two oldest kids supervised the baby.

The Girl Child cleaned the baby's mouth and hands after his dinner and got him out of his booster seat. The GC and the BC then traded off watching over him. At one point, the GC ran upstairs for a moment and I heard the BC say the following to the baby:

Ok, Baby, can you be super, extra good for me? The GC had to go upstairs and this is the first time I am watching you all by myself and it is very hard work.

The GC and the BC then discussed, in detail, how they were going to hoist the baby up into his crib to put him to bed (it already having been agreed between them that the GC was going to read the good night story to the BC and put him to bed) if neither the Viking Bride nor myself could do it. The BC remembered that the front of the crib came down so they felt comfortable getting that down and boosting him into the crib.

While they felt they had it under control, I just the same summoned the energy to get the baby changed, read to, and put to bed without their kind offers of assistance. They still had to brush their own teeth and the GC still performed story reading duties.

The next day (yesterday) dawned somewhat better for me but the Viking Bride was still weak as a kitten. I had to go to work to take a conference call on a really important deal -- not changing the face of Western Society as we know it important but still pretty significant for my client just the same.

I took a 12:07 train home, stopped off to get some soup and other easy to digest foods, and let the Viking Bride go to bed. The baby and the BC both got up from their naps on the very early side and I took all the kids to the library. We took out a Warner Bros. cartoon video and a copy of the Magic Flute (yes, the Mozart opera) to watch while we were sick (or, while the wife and I were sick). We also got a bunch of books, including 5 firetruck books for the BC.

It actually turned into a great day. After dinner, the BC and the GC practiced their instruments and we watched cartoons. Good cartoons. Funny cartoons. Not the crappy stuff that tries to pass for cartoons today with their pious multi-cultural messages and . . . well, I have written about that before.

The kids were in bed by 7:30. The Viking Bride and I were in bed by 8:30.

I managed, somehow, to get my ass on the squash court this morning for my weekly torture session with a former Division I athlete. Happily, he was recovering from a flu, too. We played ok and I did not vomit on the court, although I did have to pass on pilates this morning. That was simply even more unwise than playing squash, if you can believe it.

Anyway, here we are. Back at work. Almost at full strength.

I trust you all have been well this week?

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February 14, 2008

Cheer up, right? Please.

This day has gone from inconvenient to annoying to down right so angry that I just actually told my accountant: "You have disturbed my serenity to such an alarming degree that I actually cannot adequately communicate it to you". Much, much better than telling him to go f**k himself.

To begin, I could not sleep from between 12:30 and 1:30 this morning. I lay on the sofa downstairs and listened to the storm battering the house. It was loud, persistent, and somewhat violent.

I left the house at 4:56 this morning to go to the train station, as is my custom. There was a huge tree branch, like half a tree, down and blocking my driveway. I had to go over the lawn to get out of my house. I should have just gone back to bed.

It was a slow train ride in to Stamford. Once in Stamford, they announced that the train had hit some debris and they had to change equipment. That meant that they had to cancel our train and stick all of us on to the local -- the one that makes every stop between Stamford and Grand Central. Having left the house at 4:56, I arrived in Grand Central at 7:05.

No time to play squash this morning, due to late arrival. My partner picked up another game, you see.

Get a call from the accountant who got call from my wife who got a letter from the IRS asking in that really gentle IRS kind of way, where are your 2006 tax returns? For gentle, read: there could be criminal penalties associated with failure to file returns. As much as I would like to say, kiss my Wesley Snipes ass, you jerks, I resist. I tell my accountant that I am puzzled since I have his letter telling me that my returns (joint returns) were filed electronically. Ah, says he, let me call you back. See, if e-filed, that means that his firm did it.

His partner calls me. Turns out, for reasons he cannot explain, none of our tax returns (we file federal and in two states) were filed for 2006. Their mistake. He is going to re-prepare them and send them over to me for my and my wife's signature so that we can file them by mail. He will, I insisted, include a cover letter on his firm's letterhead taking full responsibility for the mistake.


And if this mistake screws up my wife's application for US citizenship? What do I do if that happens?

I am now terribly concerned about what bad and stupid thing is about to happen next.

I have not had lunch yet. I bet I break a tooth when I bite into something and the dentist won't be able to see my until June. If I was a betting man, that's what I would bet will happen.

I am really beyond angry here. Way beyond. As only a guy who hasn't slept well in two days can be.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:06 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Fly, Flamingo, Fly!

I give you, Minnesotans for Global Warming:

I just wish I had thought of this first.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 11, 2008

The Boy Child demonstrates an inner toughness

After careful deliberation, we undertook the application process for kindergarten for next year for private school for the Boy Child. My wife and I both thought that he might be better off in a smaller, more caring environment. He is a very gentle soul and we are concerned that he might bruise, emotionally, a little too easily in public school. His sister, by contrast, is knocking the cover off the ball in public school and we have no immediate plans to change her school address. But the Boy Child, him we worry about. Or, at least, I did.

The Boy Child took part in the Cello Master Class this weekend at his music school. He played with his group from 9-10 and the entire cello student body played from 1:30 to 2:30. The teacher during the morning class asked the Boy Child how old he was and he replied: “four and 11/12ths”. So cute. The Boy Child was in the lowest level for the big class. He was adorable, by the way, dressed in his bow tie and blue button down shirt (which I didn’t even bother trying to tuck in), with his blond hair falling over his forehead as he bent over his cello in great concentration. At one point in the big class, held in the small auditorium with all the parents in attendance, the teacher asked if the class knew the French folk song composition and the Boy Child raised his hand. At that point, the boy behind him, a bratty little know it all, shouted at the Boy Child that he did not know the song. The Boy Child did know the song, in his mind, but did not know how to play it, you see. Anyway, the room went silent with everyone turning to look at the two and the Boy Child turned around and replied that he did too know it and the kid yelled back at him again, in a very nasty tone. The Boy Child turned again and exclaimed, heatedly: “You have never been in my class you so don’t know what I know or what I don’t know.” And that was that. The brat resigned the field. I was pleased that he stuck up for himself and did it so well – something I might have thought was beyond him.

We stayed after class for the Master Concert – a pillow concert lasting an hour, with four cellists playing. Afterwards, he ran around and played. And got into a fist fight. That’s right, my gentle little son went toe to toe with an 8 year old and traded blows until a teacher broke it up. The older kid hit the Boy Child first and the Boy Child hit back. The Boy Child came up to me after and was about to start to cry when he saw me and I told him that he better not cry, that I did not want to see him cry, that he had to suck it up and hold it in and not give the older kid, a bully, the satisfaction of seeing him cry. And he did, too. He bit it back and stood up and did not cry. I told him that while I was proud of him, he did not do a very good job of fighting and I was going to teach him how to fight when we got home. He continued, by the way, to make remarks to the other kid until we left. The spirit, you see, was not touched. He was excited to go home, he told me, and learn how to fight.

We got home and we began the lesson. I told him that the problem was that he hit this other kid, who we will call the “bully”, because he was angry and because he wanted the bully to know he was angry. This was wrong. If you are only angry, you use words, you don’t need a fist. If you need to hit someone, you have to do it to hurt and not just because you are angry. So, we spent a half an hour learning how to throw a short jab into the face. A short punch, starting from the shoulder and snapping it into the face with the intention of punching through the target. One of those to the nose will end any fight and eliminate the possibility of the Boy Child ever being picked on again.

The Girl Child participated in the lesson, too, by the way. She wanted to work on her fighting. The bully was lucky, quite lucky, that she did not see him punch her brother because she would have clocked the other kid. That is how she has been raised. The bully’s most regular source of exercise appears to be pushing a bow across the cello strings and pushing around his younger sister. The Girl Child has gotten to be one solid piece of muscle from her riding and if she had hit this kid, he would have collapsed like a cheap paper bag. No question. I am sure from this just from seeing how her wrists and hands have gotten stronger from the riding, not to mention her core. She is one tough cookie. And yes, she certainly can throw a punch.

Anyway, I told the Boy Child that I was so very proud of him and asked him if he knew why. He asked me: “Because I stucked up for myself?” Exactly. I have tried to teach him and his sister to stick up for themselves and each other but when push comes to shove, as it did, only they can make those decisions. I can teach them how to do it better, how to make a fist and throw a solid fight-ending punch, but I am so glad that I don’t have to try to teach them now not to be a victim for some bully.

His application to this private school was waitlisted. We found out on Saturday. I no longer think it makes a difference whether he goes to the very sweet, very supportive, small private school or whether he goes into the local public school. He’s going to be fine wherever he goes. He can stick up for himself, both orally and physically, and he is going to take that self-confidence with him into any situation; he’s earned it himself. He didn’t give up and he didn’t let the bully see him cry. You may not agree with me about the morality of teaching a not quite five year old how to bloody another child’s nose (and you can be sure he has learned that and we will continue to practice how to do it), but I trust you will agree that it is entirely wonderful that he values himself enough not to allow another impose on him, no matter what the size or age or strength difference.

So, yeah, I was proud because he stucked up for himself. He got it exactly right.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:19 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 07, 2008

The morning commute just got better

How did that happen, you might ask? After persistently, but really nicely, asking the newspaper guy at the train station to start carrying the New York Sun in addition to the New York Times -- I cannot stand the Times anymore -- he has kindly agreed to order ONE copy of the Sun for me every day. How cool is that? My very own special order.

Yup, the commute just got a whole lot better.

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Verticals are not just another way to say blinds, you know

The Girl Child, as my regular readers know, is a rider. You may also know that she just turned 7 last month. So, while she is a rider, she is just a small rider, although she is very good. She has been asked to ride with the older, more experienced group, taught by a somewhat less coddling type of teacher. She rode with that woman yesterday and they jumped verticals. This is a big change and I did not expect to see her on the verticals for some time -- she's not been doing cross rails for that long, really.

I am more than a little bit in awe of this little girl.

I was less awed by how she managed to throw up three times last night. I am hoping for less throwing up and more sleep tonight. Much more sleep.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 06, 2008

The race to the swift, etc.

Someone once said that the race may not always go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet. The same can be said for squash. The match may not always go to the younger by 15 years guy, the thinner and taller guy, the guy with longer arms and longer legs, but that's not a bad way to bet.

Except, of course, for last night. That was when I beat up a 25 year old guy in straight games (3-0) by the scores of 9-4, 10-8, 9-4 and saved my club team from being swept in a 9 match challenge for a pretty silver cup that the other team ended up retaining.

I am still, hours and hours later, pretty damn pleased. And the best part is my knees don't even hurt today. Woo hoo!

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I was clearly not talking to India

I had to call to run a question past the insurance people with respect to an application for a disability policy for the firm. The form asked if I had received surgery before or if I had been advised to have surgery. So I called:

Me: This question on the form, does it require me to disclose voluntary surgery?

Her: Well, what kind of voluntary surgery?

Me: A vasectomy and I am not at all sure that I recall it being voluntary, come to think of it.

Her: Gosh, no. That's personal. We want to know if you have had back surgery, or, gahd fuhrbid, can-suh.

To borrow from Cindy Adams, only in New York, kids, only in New York.

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February 05, 2008

My first free weekend

Now that my trial has ended, I was actually able to take the entire weekend away from the office. As would be my custom, I threw myself at it.

*Friday night -- martini night and dinner with friends


--take all three kids, who are up waaaay too early, with me to the grocery store to stock up on Super Bowl type food;

--feed the kids breakfast;

--take the Girl Child to her riding lesson and stay to watch. Try not to judge her too much as she whacks the pony on the butt with her crop because he’ll buck if that happens and she thinks that's fun;

--bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies from scratch with some small help from the kids;

--oversee the Girl Child as she prepared, in her own words and her own hand, two cards to go with the two plates of cookies;

--take the cards, the cookies, and the whole family to the firehouse and the police station to thank them all for keeping us safe;

--get a tour of the firehouse and watch the kids be allowed to sit in the driver seat of the biggest of the trucks. The baby (not quite two, yet) went right for the wheel with the left hand and the shifter knob with the right and turned and gave us quite the most self-contented grin I have seen in quite some time;

--get a tour of the police station, including the booking room, the cells, the 911 communications center, and the break room. Get a special introduction to the blood hound and be allowed to play with him in the parking lot.

--explain to the children what "say no to drugs" means on the way home from the police station. The Girl Child saw it on a poster and wanted to know. We told her about how drugs were bad and if people tried to give her any, she should turn them down. She wanted to know from us how she would know, asking, would it say drugs on the side of the thing?

--take the children home to turn them over to the babysitter so we could go off to an adult's only dinner party

--go to a dinner party and have great fun with a whole wide range of people (ranging from investment bankers to music industry types). Get home late.


--Get up early and hit the paddle courts for my first paddle experience since New Year's Day. Realize that a three week break has somehow magically improved my game. Walk off the court feeling like a million bucks, although a confused million bucks, and with an invitation to a Super Bowl party, which I decline with great regret;

--Go home to switch off with the Viking Bride as she headed off to dance class, pulled the baby into the shower with me, then went downstairs to begin the pot of mega-chili (YAY!);

--take the Girl Child to Sunday School and come home to finish the chili preparations while feeding something inappropriate to the boys for lunch and then put them down for their naps;

--pick up the Girl Child, take her home to feed her, and then take her to the aquarium for a birthday party;

--come home, pick up the boys and the Bride, take them to a playground for a half an hour and then take them all to the aquarium to see the sharks while we wait for the birthday party to let out;

--bring everyone home, feed them dinner, and turn on the Super Bowl;

--watch the first half with the children and the second half without;

--offer up my thanks and joy when the Giants take home the trophy.

All in all, it was a pretty packed weekend, wouldn't you say?

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A thought on the NY Super Bowl win

New York won the Super Bowl, as I am sure you all know. The Giants were the subject of a parade down by the Wall Street area. Giants fans were in evidence all over midtown Manhattan today.

An observation.

The Giants, heavily hoped for underdogs, won. Yet:

*No cars were burned or overturned;

*No riots broke out;

*No storefront windows were broken;

*No assaults reported;

*No property damage noted;

*In short, nothing bad happened in New York as a result of excited celebration.

Almost makes you think New Yorkers have some experience with a sports team winning, huh?

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!

It is most certainly not progress that I sit at my keyboard today, looking out the window at an overcast sky, while the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans works its way ever closer to the Hurricane fueled culmination of months of exuberant self expression.

I miss New Orleans. I miss the New Orleans I used to know, used to live in, used to love. I sometimes sort of miss the 23 year old kid who lived there in that time. The New Orleans I loved has been washed away by greed, corruption, and incompetence as the flood waters inundated the city in an almost biblical fashion.

But I can cast my mind back just the same and remember how I used to spend Mardi Gras. For many, Mardi Gras is spent in an alcoholic haze, oggling naked women in the French Quarter. That has its charms, to be sure. But I preferred a more Uptown approach to Mardi Gras.

I would float, with friends, from house party to house party. There was always something yummy to eat, happy to drink, and use of a bathroom (always appreciated). The houses were some of the most beautiful in the Garden District and occupied, in some cases, by some of the oldest families in the city. They were also close by to St. Charles Avenue and thus convenient to get to the parade and catch stuff.

So, as I sit here in very un-Mardi Gras New York, with zydeco music playing softly in the background, working on a contract, I taste bourbon and cheese grits and dream of humid air and masked people on floats throwing cheap beads.

That was a heck of a time.

Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!

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