Archive for December, 2009

Boxing Day Bargains

For the first time ever, I went shopping on Boxing Day.  Got up at 5:00am to make it to the store for its 6:00am opening.  Missed the opening time, but got there in plenty of time to buy, buy, buy!  The bargains are truly quite amazing.  My objective was a flat screen TV.  The 20 yr old RCA cathode ray tube energy pig that had been providing our entertainment simply refused to die, but it was time to join the new millenium of TV.  I had researched units in advance and targeted the 1080p HD 120 hz behemoth that would soon dominate our living room.  The store was packed with shoppers, all scouring shelves for their desired items.  Clerks were scurrying about, sweating profusely as they valiantly tried to stay one step ahead of the customers.  Well believe it or not, the entire exercise went off without a hitch.  Got the TV, got my new laptop, some assorted other electronic accessories and in/out of the store all within one hour.  I’m a convert to boxing day shopping.  It really does save a whack of dough on big ticket items.  Now the trick will be to keep that zone out TV time to a reasonable amount, because it sure is sweet to park yourself in front of the monster and get silver screen quality in the comfort of your own home!

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On the morning of October 8th, policemen boarded the ship to register all passengers.  Documents were stamped as follows: “Arrived Gottenhaven October 7, 1944.” 

 Fellow officers numbered five, me being the sixth.  We had agreed on the way that upon arrival in Germany, we would go our separate ways.  Find work wherever, doing whatever, to avoid having to work in some government or military capacity for the Germans.  We had our passports and other documents, but only showed the passports at registration.  Everybody disembarked. 

 A carload of German officers pulled up to the ship, and one of them did a welcome speech.  The passengers from the “Nordstern” were given immediate auto transport to the city.  Everybody received instructions in Estonian, from colonel Litzmann and Dr. Mae which clarified that we escapees from our homeland were classed equally to German citizens.  We were to find work in our fields of specialization.  It was promised that Estonian territory would be “liberated” once again.  The Red Cross van soon arrived with coffee and sandwiches. 

 While walking the docks with my wife, an SS officer approached me and took me aside.  He told me that he was aware of my occupation in Estonia.  It was his task to ensure that we officers, together with our families would be sent to Danzig.  Apparently one of my colleagues had blurted out, from fear or self interest, who knows, that there were 6 officers on board.  I protested, but there was no escape.  They wanted to place us all behind barbed wires in some special camp, but we protested vigorously about this treatment and were allowed to spend the night in a nearby house.  We all slept on the living room floor on sleeping bags. 

 All of us had to board a train on the morning of October 9th for Danzig.  There we were told that until the end of the war, we would have to serve time in the German army.  All of us were placed in a schoolhouse for the night.

 On the 10th of October, we found out that all the men would be sent that night to Berlin, while it was our responsibility to send our families to someplace with relatives or friends.  If that was impossible, a spot would be found for our families in Danzig.  We knew friends in Vienna  and resolved to try that route.  Travel to Vienna was not prohibited, and we were given tickets; me with a colleague to Berlin, and my wife to Vienna. 

 The rest of the day we spent sightseeing and riding the streetcars without destination.  We paid with a 5 Mk note every time we got on a streetcar, in order to receive change.  Drivers would not change notes larger than 5 marks.  And banks only changed into 50 mark local currency.  The bureaucracy involved in getting even the 50 mark bill changed was ridiculous, so we rode the cars all day as a substitute for the banks!

 The train for Berlin left at about midnight, and the one for Vienna about an hour later.  We said our goodbyes and began the next leg in our journey.

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Whistling.  It evokes all kinds of feel good emotions.  “Whistle while you work…” there really is something to be said for that age old expression.  How could work, or any activity be unpleasant while you’re whistling?  He whistled to the sweet sound selections on CBC2.  Skating gigantic circles, turning them into figure eights.  The ice went on for miles and miles, and tonight he took advantage of the most perfect rink he’d seen.  A natural wonderland of smooth black ice.  Bundled by multiple layers, the cold couldn’t penetrate.  All discomfort was blocked.  Soon an embracing glow  welled deep inside and surrounded him with comfort and safety.  A calm that had been recently in short supply.  Well, for some time actually.  So to shield his heart from the encroaching emptiness he whistled.

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I kid you not!  For $29.95 you could own the cat nip emery board and deshedder.  Have you seen that ludicrous commercial on TV?  Inventing a new word for a hair brush.  It’s now a deshedder.  and you now need a curved sandpaper bridge so your cats can safely trim their own nails without you slashing them with nail clippers.  Only a bonehead would cut their cats claws so close to the quick that they bleed.  Oh, heavens, spare yourself that grief and buy an emery board.  Then you can listen to the incessant scraping of your cats claws on sandpaper.  And while they are self manicuring you can “deshed” them with your $29.95 deshedding tool.  We really are a society gone haywire.

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Here we are, a couple days from Christmas, and time for reflection.  A few things I’m thankful for:

Orange beams of sunlight dancing off the ice as I watch the morning sunrise.

Clear, hard ice and no snow on the lake…..the perfect skating rink.

My dog.

Another year of good health for me, son and wife.

A crackling fire.

A good book.

Perfectly balanced wine.

Sirloin steak, medium rare.

Christmas carols.

Real Christmas trees.

Clients who pay upon receipt.

Christmas cards that you hold in your hands.

It’s a wonderful life.

Merry Christmas!

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Avatar a cinematic delight

I’ll add my name to the growing list of 3D coverts.  James Cameron has indeed reinvented the art of cinema with his epic fantasy Avatar.   I found myself ducking more than once as missiles and shrapnel came flying straight at me.  My hand reached out to pluck the ethereal floating seeds, drifting through space like pulsating jellyfish.  When you get your head around the rather trite storyline and immerse yourself in the fantastic world Cameron has created with his computer gurus, it’s a really amazing trip!  Maybe I’m being a bit harsh calling it a trite storyline, but the “save the rainforest” theme does wear thin after a while. Maybe it’s Copenhagen overkill, bad timing, so I’ll give him the benefit of doubt.  Cameron has crafted a wonderful bit of escapist cinema that truly immerses the viewer in a world of eudemonic sensations.  Bravo!

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What kind of idiots are running the Massachusets school system?  By now you’ve read about the 8 year old boy who drew a figure of Christ on the cross in response to the teacher’s assignment to sketch something the kids associated with Christmas.  OK, so the kid got Easter mixed up with Christmas, but you get the point.  The 8 yr old makes the correct association of Christ with Christmas.  I wonder how many other kids drew pictures of toys or Santa Claus or iPods?  And what is the school board’s response?  They suspend the boy from school and order a psychiatric evaluation!  The father thought they were kidding when he first got the phone call.  But no, the kid was suspended for several days, and of course the psych evaluation found nothing to indicate the child was a threat to himself or to others.    As one columnist so aptly put it, back when we were kids, we would have got a pat on the back and compliments for such a thoughtful picture.  And now this poor 8 year old will probably think twice before putting pen to paper or brush to canvas.  Instead of evaluating the child, the morons who run the school system should be suspended and subjected to psychiatric evaluation!

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Citibank payback a sham

So, Citi Bank wants to repay the US government and get out of those restrictive covenants that have governed its operations.  It’s going to make a new securities offering and use the proceeds to repay the government for bailing it out.  And we’re supposed to be impressed by this maneuver?  Who are they kidding?  They dilute shareholder equity with this move.  And the only reason I can see for this move, is to get back to paying outrageous bonuses to their executives!  It’s elimination of the executive pay restrictions that is accelerating this payback.  It has nothing to do with efficiency or profitable operations.  The only motivator is to return to the days of obscene, huge executive bonuses.  And I’m a free market conservative kind of guy, but the standard by which banking executives operate is a measure which is alien to most capitalists.  You watch, in a year’s time we’ll look back and reflect on how nothing really changed.  The small investors lost tons of money and the “suits” regained everything they lost and then some.  Make them repay all the loans from profits, not from artificially generated monies like new securities offerings.

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Spectacle with Elvis Costello

I caught a brilliant piece of TV journalism last night.  If you love music, do try to watch this.  “Spectacle with Elviso Costello”.  There is not much TV that captures my attention, but this program, airs Friday eve on CTV, has become a must watch item for me.  Last night Costello’s guests were Edge and Bono.  Costello started his musical journey a few years before these guys, and it was amazing to listen to their reminiscences about early club dates in Ireland and Germany.   Did you know that Frank Sinatra became good friends with these U2 stalwarts?  Bono performed an inspired tune “2 shots of happy, one shot of sad” with Costello’s pianist whose name unfortunately escapes me.  A fantastic rendition!  I’m gonna go and download the song for my MP3.  “Spectacle with Elvis Costello”.

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Ever notice how your ping pong table ends up as a gigantic repository for your stuff?  We buy these tables with best intentions, and for a couple of months you do use them for their original purpose.  Playing table tennis.   But after a while, unless you are a committed table tennis freak, stuff begins to accumulate.  Every now and then, we clean it off and bury the stuff underneath the table.  But in time, both the floor beneath the table and the tabletop are jam packed with boxes, blankets, toys and other stuff.  Eventually it gets to the point where you have layers of stuff.  Its no longer just the odd thing that didn’t find its way into actual storage closets.  There is a veritable motherlode of stuff on your table!  And I’ll bet that no matter how large your house, your ping pong table has completely disappeared, just like ours.  Yard sale!

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