Thursday, October 30, 2008

The good seats

There are ancillary benefits to my job because I am a part of the affiliate sales department. They regularly entertain clients, which is incredibly important for the business, and being a part of Madison Square Garden means doing some of this entertaining at Garden events. Last night, we had a suite at the Knicks' first game of the season, and I was able to bring a guest.

This was my first Knicks game in years, and my first time ever in a suite. It's totally cool! We got to use a side door with no line, and they had a little band in the "club level" reception area. The view is fabulous, the food's pretty tasty, and who doesn't like free beer? Surprisingly, though, I found the game a little hard to follow from up there. Being a bit removed from the other fans makes it feel less intense, so the game becomes the background rather than the focal point. That said, I'm looking forward to enjoying this perk again soon!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Save our courts!

The Supreme Court is in a precarious position, and will suffer irreparable damage under another Republican administration. While it gets far less attention, the influence of the U.S. Court of Appeals is more broadly felt, and Bush has brought it dangerously to the right as well. Republican-appointed judges, many of them conservative ideologues, now hold the majority in 10 of the 13 circuits. Democratic appointees hold a slim majority in only one.

Republicans decry what they call "legislating from the bench", but it is Bush's appointees who have upheld South Dakota law that forces doctors to inform women that abortions “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being” — using exactly that language. The dissenters, including both a Reagan and a Bush appointee, called this a sharp change in direction and a violation of the court's accepted standards. They further claim that this decision bypassed “important principles of constitutional law laid down by the Supreme Court.” For more detail, check out the front-page article in today's New York Times.

Our justice system allows a President to influence the nation for a generation. McCain has said that if elected he would appoint "strict Constitutionalists" in the mold of Scalia, Roberts and Alito to the bench. If for no other reason, please vote Obama/Biden next Tuesday!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs

I've read nearly everything by Irvine Welsh because I think he's a brilliant novelist. While The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs is by no means a great book, there are flashes of that genius within its pages. The book is at its best when dealing with the rough characters in and around Leith; unfortunately, and I never thought I would say this about a Welsh novel, it starts out boring.

The protagonist of Bedroom Secrets is Danny Skinner, a charming and good-looking 23-year-old bastard (literally) who spends his time drinking heavily while managing just enough attention to his job and his girlfriend to hold on to them both by a thread. Enter Brian Kibby, a 21-year-old virginal nerd who joins his company and appears positioned to receive a promotion ahead of Skinner. For reasons he cannot understand, even the thought of Kibby fills Skinner with such intense hatred he actually hexes him while bingeing heavily one night. From this point on, any physical repercussions of Skinner's actions happen to Kibby: hangovers, black eyes, and so on.

It would be easy to make Skinner a despicable character, but Welsh does not fall into this trap. Rather, the curse he unknowingly unleashed leads Skinner to display nuanced layers of sensitivity and empathy. Ultimately he realizes that he cannot drink his adversary into the ground, which in turn leads him to genuinely care about Kibby's fate. Kibby never gets the reader's sympathy because he's just a wimp who plays video games and goes to Star Trek conventions. As the reader knows the cause of his unexplained ailments, it's simply the playing out of a drama with very little mystery.

Throughout all of this, Skinner's search for his father likewise falls flat. His mother refuses to tell him the circumstances of his conception, but Skinner determines it must have been one of the "master chefs" she worked with in the early 1980s. While this major plotline didn't do much for me, as a device it allowed for the introduction of the best characters and tangential stories of the book. This is where you find the trademark Welsh I love: hard partying, drugs, sex, booze, and the Scots dialect.

In all, I enjoyed the book, but would only recommend it to someone who has read Welsh's greater novels: start with Trainspotting, and if you want more, read Glue, Maribou Stork Nightmares, and Porno.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

She's got her ducks in a row

You know that business cliche about having all of one's ducks in a row?

In each bath for the past week or so, the Bug has lined up all of her rubber duckies on the bathtub edge like so:

It is laugh-out-loud hilarious!

Friday, October 24, 2008

W. endorses Palin/McCain

Will Ferrell's impersonation of W. is about the only thing I like about the guy. His endorsement of Palin and McCain is hilarious!

Incidentally, the New York Times endorsed Obama today, adding to his already-impressive list of major newspaper endorsements.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cannes, France

This is the very first postcard I've sent to the Bug! A view of the port and le Suquet (the old town) in Cannes. I was found the contrast to be compelling - uncountable yachts in the shadow of an old castle watchtower.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grasping at motivation

I was still running three miles a day right up until the Bug was born, and I resumed it within two weeks. I was able to keep it up for a while, but somehow along the way running completely fell by the wayside. I blame our insane schedule.

But we are going to Mexico in a month, so insanity be damned! I am thus declaring my intention to drag my weary ass out of bed at 5am for a run at least three times per week. Between looming images of bikini-wearing, and my ego being too large to publicly admit defeat, I think it'll work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Poor squishy Bug feet!

I'd thought that the Bug's size 4 sneakers were getting a bit tough to cram her feet into. We went to the shoe store on Saturday to get her measured for new ones, and she's now a size 6. Ouch. Sorry, Bug!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Washington Post endorses Obama

The Washington Post endorsed Obama today, with a very thoughtful and articulate supporting argument. It closes with the following paragraph:

[...] Mr. Obama's temperament is unlike anything we've seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment.
Please click here to read the full article.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bonjour! Merci!

That pretty much sums up my French vocabulary, even after spending the past three days in Cannes. I was there for Mipcom, which is a huge international television marketplace. It was a great success for Fuse, particularly since we had never been there before. We had great meetings, met tons of people, and certainly plan to return for future markets.

The town of Cannes is not nearly as exciting as I had hoped. It has very little history or culture, and primarily serves as host to numerous conventions every year. There is a small museum housed in an old watchtower, with an odd collection of old a few Himalayan, Peruvian, Polynesian, Egyptian and Alaskan artifacts, and some mid-19th century paintings of Cannes and the environs. The old town is comprised of two or three picturesque streets leading up the hill from the harbor. The harbor is cram packed with yachts, and the beach is lovely if not as impressive as you might imagine.

Our meals were amazing, though I was told that food is hit or miss in Cannes, with a "miss" entailing spending a ton of money for very bad food. Wine was also delicious, and people drank a great deal of rose. We had picture perfect weather... all in all, not a terrible place for a business trip.

Here are a few of my photos:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sleeveless in October

Today we had some of the most stunning fall weather I can remember. I even wore a tank top and flip flops for a great New England afternoon. After the Bug's nap, we went to Eden Farms in Stamford. We hadn't been there before, though it's just a ten minute drive from our house. It appears to be a full-service greenhouse and nursery during the spring and summer, but it's totally decked out in Halloween splendor this month! They had a haunted house for the little ones amid the beautiful mums, a witch in the big tree out front, and one of the proprietors dressed as Dracula. We took a hay ride down the hill to the pumpkin patch where there were pony rides and face painting. It took the Bug a little while to settle in to the scene, but she loved the horses, found herself the perfect pumpkin, and didn't want to leave.

I'm so glad we shared a fun day, because I'll be away from the little Bug in less than 24 hours. Tomorrow I am off for a 4-day business trip to Cannes. It's for an international television conference - not the film festival - but it should be a pretty neat trip. I still do not have a laptop (argh!), so I'll have pretty limited access to the internet. I do hope to post from across the pond, though... and I'll put up some pictures on Friday either way!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

I somehow missed the 2007 publication of The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, despite an apparently splashy review on the front page of the Times' Arts section. I picked up the paperback recently knowing nothing about it, and found it to be even more interesting than his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

The book is set in present day, but in an alternate reality. The divergence point is revealed to be the accidental death of Alaskan Congressman Anthony Dimond, who was responsible for preventing a vote to create a temporary refugee settlement for European Jews. In this alternate reality, Yiddish-speaking Jews took refuge in Sitka, Alaska, where they grew to a community 4 million strong.

The story is a murder mystery that resembles a Raymond Chandler novel more closely than it does Kavalier & Clay. The likable protagonist is cynical detective Meyer Landsman who's worked the Sitka homicide beat for years. He is called to the murder scene of a junkie who'd been living in the same fleabag motel as Meyer for some months. The room contains the dead guy, his heroin gear, and an oddly positioned game of chess. Meyer brings his partner and cousin Berko Shemetz, half-Jewish and half-Tlingit, into the case. Before they can learn much, they are told that Meyer's ex-wife Bina is back in town, and she's been promoted to commanding officer of their unit.

The book is not the comedy that the isolated press quotes on the cover make it out to be, but it is a fantastic read. Above all, the community of Sitka and its residents have been perfectly imagined by Chabon down to the most minute details. Beyond the geography and the towns, there are characters with deep backstories and complex relationship. From Meyer, Bina and Berko to the "boundary maven" Zimablist or the tiny Tlingit police chief Willie Dick, Chabon's Sitka has no shortage of interesting people.

Ultimately, the mystery takes Meyer into a world of Hasidic Jews that run an organized crime ring. Their mission is to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, which requires the birth of a red heifer and the destruction of the Palestinian Dome of the Rock (which will require massive amounts of explosives). If they succeed, the Messiah will come back to them, allowing for their return to their homelands.

The only criticism I can offer is that Chabon's use of similes was a little heavy, particularly early in the book. His departure from his usual style, with shorter sentences and paragraphs, worked very well. The book was meticulously researched, which the completely foreign setting demanded, and I'd highly recommend it. Note to future readers: there's a Yiddish glossary in the back. I didn't find it until I was about a hundred pages in. It helps.

Chipping away at global access

Nicholas Kristof wrote a great op-ed piece in today's New York Times, about the Bush administration's recent decision to cut off the supply of contraception to a leading provider of reproductive health care and family planning in the world's poorest nations. Click here to read my post about this outrageous decision.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Bug and the Grands

A very special aspect about our little weekend away was that the Bug really got the chance to bond with my parents. We live in Connecticut; they live in Colorado; and one of my greatest fears is that the Bug won't get to know them. It's a little unfounded given the time we've spent together during the past 16 months, but I still have that concern.

When Mom and Dad arrived on Thursday night, the Bug was already asleep. But when she woke up on Friday morning she was completely comfortable with them from the get-go. It was probably a combination of remembering them from prior visits and seeing their pictures and talking about them every day, but they were not remotely unfamiliar to her. She missed Joker and I when we were away, but she obviously had a fabulous weekend. And when my parents were getting in to the car to go to the airport, she reached out for them and didn't want them to go. Joker and I could not have been more pleased!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Two nights on vacation

When my parents started planning to visit this weekend, Joker and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to go away for a couple of nights. This would give Mima and Boppie some great bonding time with the Bug, and would give Joker and I our first little vacation since the Bug was born.

We went to Saugerties, NY, which is a cute town a couple of hours up the Hudson Valley. We stayed in a room above Cafe Tamayo, one of the best restaurants in town, and had an absolutely lovely weekend! Saugerties is about 20 minutes from the town of Woodstock, which was overrun this weekend because of their annual film festival. We did drive up to the Buddhist monastery above Woodstock, but didn't linger in town because of the crowds.

We were absolutely floored at how good the food was across the board, with a great variety of locally grown produce, eggs, meat and fish. In addition to an amazing four course prix fix (for just $35) at Cafe Tamayo, we had a fabulous dinner at Miss Lucy's Kitchen across the street. Breakfast at Love Bites featured a very interesting menu, and we got fantastic sandwiches at the Argentinian restaurant on the corner of Main and Partition.

It was wonderful for Joker and I to spend some time together. We reprised our typical European vacation schedule on Saturday: visited their farmer's market in the the morning (they even had a band!), did a little sightseeing, and then parked ourselves at a table by the lighthouse in the middle of the Hudson for a picnic and a bottle of wine. The Bug had a blast with my parents and was thrilled to see us when we got home. Everyone had a perfect weekend.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A low bar does not equal success

The media buzz today has been all about how Sarah Palin exceeded the abysmally low expectations that people had leading up to her debate last night with Joe Biden. Is that really the standard by which a candidate for Vice President should be judged? If you don't expect much, and they don't grossly screw up, then voila! it was a success?

I watched the debate, and I thought she was bad. Perhaps less bad than in her Katie Couric interviews, but she was really bad. She avoided answering questions, she stuck to a very few carefully scripted talking points, and she boldly misrepresented Biden's and Obama's voting records. In sequential sentences, she said that government needed "strict oversight" of "corrupt" Wall Street, and then said that government needed to "get out of the way" of business. She apparently didn't understand the meaning of "Achilles' heel." And she out-Cheneys Cheney in her terrifying so-called understanding of the role of the Vice President.

By contrast, Biden sounded educated and experienced on the world stage. He understands how situations became what they are today, and that actions taken by the next administration will either exascerbate or begin to fix those situations. Further, he has a vision about what these next steps need to be, both as they relate to domestic and to foreign policy. He looked and sounded ready to lead.

In all, the debate really didn't change the fundamentals of this election. McCain's selection of Palin as a running mate was either very stupid, or very irresponsible. Either way, it's not how a President should approach major decisions.