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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gated Community

I like the idea of living in a gated community, not for the security, but for the snob appeal. I like the idea that visitors have to be announced, it makes me feel special.

The idea of security went away recently when we heard about three break-ins in the area. The police are aware of them and it seems there is either one person or a gang that is hitting senior communities, and it seems the homes of snowbirds. A lot of the women who live alone are nervous and worried about their safety. It seems, however, the burglars only take jewelry and cash, they leave all the electronics alone. They also only seem to strike empty homes. There is a rush to buy timers so that lights can be turned automatically at dusk.

I have always used a timer, because I have a black cat, and one does not want to enter a dark room when the black cat is roaming around. They scream awfully loud when you step on them.

All my years of living and working in NY have made me less nervous. I'm not taking any chances, but I know that if someone really wants to break in, nothing will stop them. However, I may train my cats to attack strangers.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wall Street

About two weeks ago I wrote about my virtual stock account. At the time I was doing quite well, I ranked up there with the big guys. I've since learned that I'm not as good as I thought and my rank is so low, it's not even posted.

The main problem, I think, is my lack of aggressiveness, and of course my choices. I should have sold when I saw a stock failing and I should have taken more chances. Starting tomorrow, the non-performers will go. Maybe I'll even try short selling, that seems easy enough.

Afterall, it's just play money.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Animal News

Today I heard the sad news that Barbero was put down. All his doctors and the horse himself put up a good fight for the past eight months. I didn't see the race where he broke his leg, but I was rooting for his complete recovery.

When I heard the news today I was reminded of the race back in July 1975 when Foolish Pleasure and Ruffian raced in a male vs. female competition, inspired by the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs tennis match. I saw that race and as the two horses neared the mile marker both jockeys heard the sound of a bone breaking. The race was over, Ruffian had broken her leg. She still tried to continue the race on her shattered leg. After 12 hours or surgery, she awoke disoriented and thrashed about wildly and fractured the new cast and her other leg. She had to be put down. We watched that race with my four year old son. He remembered that scene for quite a while.

On to better news. A duck is recovering at a wildlife sanctuary in Florida after being shot by a hunter and stuffed in a fridge for two days. The hunter's wife discovered the duck was alive when she opened the fridge and he lifted his head and looked at her. When she recovered from her shock she and her daughter took the duck to the hospital.

The story doesn't end there. Today, I read that Perky (his new name) stopped breathing Saturday while a vet operated on her. But the vet, repairing one of Perky's damaged wings, used CPR to save him.

I know cats have nine lives, but I didn't know that ducks did too.

Have you lost a wallaby? Residents of Fleetwood, Pa spotted a runaway wallaby hopping around town. How the animal, which is native to Australia and Papua New Guinea got to the town is unclear. The nearby Lehigh Valley Zoo says it is not missing a wallaby.

And now a happy story about horses. A blind woman in Bethlehem, NY gets around with the help of a guide horse. "I've found that horse intelligence lends itself well to guide work", said Ann Edie 58 who's had Panda since 2003. The 29 inch tall, 120 pound miniature horse is protective, plays fetch and (most importantly) is house-broken.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Recipes

Tonight, our community had a pot luck dinner, the theme of which was American food. My assignment was to bring a dessert. I searched my cookbook collection and found a recipe for pecan pie bars in the "Best of Virginia" book.

Because I'm a perfectionist I didn't want to wait to the last minute to see if the recipe was good. Last week I made a trial run and made the bars. Unfortunately, they were very good. I tried them on Sunday and again on Monday. Tuesday, I tried to throw them out, but I took just one more. I couldn't throw them out. I finally finished them yesterday as I was making a batch to bring to the dinner tonight. Everyone liked them.

I think if I had a blood test now, the lab would find that my sugar was sky high. Fortunately there are none in the house and I don't think I'll be making them anytime soon.

Now it's back to the diet. This week, I think I may have "found" some of the pounds I lost over the past few months.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Arctic Freeze

I must admit it, today was cold. I even broke down and wore a hat.

During our last cold spell a few weeks ago I saw an outdoor interview with someone (I don't remember her exact title) who was advising us how to keep warm. In her voiceover, she went on and on about how you lose most of your body heat through your head and it's important to always wear a hat. When the camera came back to her - she had no hat on. I guess she doesn't believe her own advice.

Today I was watching the news and heard that International Falls, MN is the coldest city in the country outside of Alaska. It has been called the Icebox of America. One of the residents was being interviewed about living there. The interviewer asked if they had power failures - no, did they have warnings about the cold - some, did the schools close - no. She also asked how they coped, my guess is OK since they're used to the call and they still live there.

Then she asked what I thought was the dumbest question. She asked how the people of International Falls felt about being called the Icebox of America. The answer - It has you interviewing us on television, how bad can it be.

People just don't think before they speak.

Bad News for Gourmets

Yesterday, I was watching CBS and on the promo for the 11:00 pm news they mentioned a warning that we should not eat the squirrels. This got my interest and I had to watch. After all, who wants to eat those furry little rodents. Evidently some people like them. New Jersey officials found a lead-contaminated squirrel near a toxic waste dump two months ago and just issued the warning.

In the event you find a non-lead-contaminated squirrel, on older version of THE JOY OF COOKING will tell you how to skin and prepare it. It can be stuffed and roasted like pigeon, or braised like chicken. Oh, and the gray ones are preferred. Red squirrels are small and gamy in flavor.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Freezing weather

The networks are having a field day.

They all seem surprised that we are having freezing temperatures. Every network is giving tips on staying warm - don't forget your hat and gloves. I realize that it is going to be unusually cold tonight, in the low teens and tomorrow the temps should be in the mid 20's. I sympathize with those who have to work outdoors, or those whose heating systems fail, but this is not unusual.

What all the broadcasters seem to forget is that this is January and this is the northeast where traditionally it's cold in January. I think people in general seem to forget that fact.

I guess it's been a slow newsday.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Atlantic City

Today I made my monthly trip to Atlantic City, or should I say my monthly contribution to the economy of AC. I have gotten better. I now take some money home, it's not a lot, but there is some.

I only play the slots even though I know the odds are against me. I haven't quite gotten the nerve to play at a table. Maybe some day.

I have noticed something about slot players. They are people that you would not notice if you passed them on the street. They are ordinary people and all strangers who you will never see again. But, when one of them hits something big, everyone congratulates them and wishes them well. Some are even disappointed if you don't get more. There is a certain comaraderie between players. Maybe it's because we know the odds are against us.

I don't know what it is, but I like it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Global Warming

Global warming is the hot topic these days. I've just read an article that states that while the sea ice in the northern hemisphere is shrinking, it is increasing in the southern hemisphere. Yes, 2% of Antartica is warming, but that means that 98% is not.

Al Gore was scheduled for an interview with a Danish newspaper on global warming along with Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" who has provided one of the clearest counterpoints to Mr. Gore. At the last minute Mr. Gore's agent said that Mr. Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been critical of Mr. Gore and his message. Mr. Gore only wanted questions on his book and documentary. Shortly after the newspaper agreed to these stipulations, Mr. Gore cancelled the interview.

Why? It seems to me that if you truly believe in what you're saying and you are saying facts, you should be willing to share that information with everyone, even those who are critical of you. In his movie, Mr. Gore talks about a sea-level rise of 20 feet flooding Florida, San Francisco, New York, Holland, etc. According to the UN Climate Panel, only a foot of sea level rise this century is expected.

I don't put much stock in the idea of global warming. Perhaps, we are ending the ice age. I agree our weather has been strange lately - snow in LA and Las Vegas, record warmth in the northeast. In time, I believe this will even out.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bureaucracy

New York City is having trouble getting recruits for the police force. There are a number of reasons why fewer people are joining, one of them is the lower starting pay. There is another reason though - bureaucracy.

There is a highly qualified military veteran who wants to join the force. He doesn't care about the low salary. He has a master's in aeronautical science and was honorably discharged from the Air Force as a staff sargeant. The Deputy Commissioner would like to have him.

The only reason he was not accepted into the academy is the fact that he was only 17 when he took the test. The minimum age is 18. He is now 24. I can't see why the city can't bend the rules a bit since they probably overlooked his age when he took the test.

He has taken the entrance exam again, but must wait for the results to be certified before he can be admitted. In the meantime, the police department's recent academy class is the lowest it has been in years, and the city could use another good policeman.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

2008 Election

There was a big surprise over the weekend. Hillary Clinton has declared her intention to run for president. Is there anyone who is surprised to hear that? She has been running for president ever since winning the senatorial election in 2001. Feminist leaders said that a successful campaign would not just be a win for her, but for women everwhere. You should not vote (or not vote) for a candidate just because of gender, race or religion.

Candidates deserve election because they are good, decent people with the good of our country as their goal. I might vote for a good candidate who happens to be a woman, a black, or a catholic, but that is not the only reason.

Gloria Steinem said, "The question is whether she can accomplish the same thing [she has in New York] in a big country." What has she accomplished in New York. She has been preparing to run since 2001.

It will be an interesting 22 months until the election in 2008. How many more will decide to run. We already have John Edwards, Barak Obama, Gov. Richardson of New Mexico on the Democrat side and the possibilities for the Republicans are Rudy Guiliani, John McCain and even possibly Newt Gingrich.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Follow-up on the news

The NEW YORK POST has given us a follow-up on the story of the stowaway skunk. Canada has finally found someone to give it a ride home. A radio host and producer have agreed to drive all the way from Toronto to California to bring the skunk home. Canadian laws didn't allow the "illegal alien" to remain in the country. If only we could remove our "illegals" as easily and quickly.

On another story, Mayor Bloomberg blasted a judge's decision to free Jeb Corliss who tried to parachute off the Empire State Building last April. "The judge said the guy did nothing wrong and should be able to jump off buildings with a single bound or whatever - I don't know where the judge is coming from," Bloomberg said. "Whether it's legal, that's up to the court system to decide. But we do not need people jumping off of tall buildings in New York City - certainly not without a permit." (Perish the thought there's no permit, the city won't receive a permit fee.)

The mayor added, "If you wanted to do it one time, I suppose for a stunt, and we had plenty of police and permitting and you paid all the costs, yeah, sure - why not?" It doesn't make sense to the mayor, but he'll leave it to the court system to define whether it's legal or not.

This is not the first time someone tried to parachute from a tall building. Back in 1912 a parachutist named Frederick R. Law jumped from the top of the 39 story Bankers Trust Building at 14 Wall Street downtown and landed unhurt 40 seconds later on the roof of the old Sub-Treasury across the street. Back in 1912 a building that was 39 stories tall was a skyscraper.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Daredevils

Both the DAILY NEWS and NEW YORK POST today had articles on Jeb Corliss who was arrested for first-degree reckless endangerment last April when he tried to parachute from the Empire State Building. Yesterday, Justice Michael Ambrecht dismissed all charges against him.

The judge ruled that Corliss', "Training, planning and use of a parachute negated" the risk of death to pedestrians, cops and motorists below. Apparently Corliss factored in wind conditions and traffic-light patterns to ensure he wouldn't land on moving cars and this negated the finding of reckless endangerment. The judge also felt that Corliss was too experienced and too concerned with public safety to have met the depraved indifference standard.

That reminded me of that August day in 1974 when I heard that Phillipe Petit had walked on a cable strung between the two towers of the World Trade Center. He was more of a dancer on the cable than a walker. At the other tower, when the police asked him to get off the wire, he rushed back to the middle and was bouncing up and down.

When the news got around, Petit became somewhat of a folk hero, and as a result of all the attention and public adulation of his performance, all charges were dropped.

Back to the Empire State Building, the District Attorney's office is considering an appeal. They believe that jumping from the Empire State Building remains a reckless act. Corliss has insisted he trained for years for the jump, and he didn't endanger anyone. He also refused to say whether he'll make another attempt to jump from King Kong's perch.

I guess the moral of this story is, if you want to jump from the Empire State Building, remember to take your parachute. It also helps if you can get some good publicity and stir the imagination of the public.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Books

I love to read. I'll read anything, even cereal boxes.

Some women can't pass a shoe store or jewelry counter without buying something. I can go to a shoe store and not buy, I can stop at a jewelry counter and touch, but not buy, but I can't stop in a bookstore, any bookstore, and not buy.

Last Sunday I went to the local Barnes & Noble to buy a gift for a good friend, who also is a voracious reader. I did find a book for her, and I also found several others for me. I am so backed up with my reading, I must have 15 books waiting for me. It's not only bookstores that give me trouble, I also go on-line to buy my books. When a book comes in the mail, it's almost like getting a present.

My tastes are varied. I enjoy mysteries, history, biographies, current events. Anything but horror. I have four bookcases which are so full, I often can't find what I'm looking for.

This collection doesn't even include the cookbooks. I'm a collector of cookbooks. Some have been signed by the authors and others probably have just one recipe that I've made.

I add to this collection whenever I travel by buying a regional cookbook. It gives me a lasting memory of my vacation.

I suppose I could have worse habits. At least I can learn something in the course of my reading.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wall Street

Many, many years ago I applied for a job on Wall Street as an administrative assistant in the Syndicate or Underwriting Department. When I was asked why I wanted to work there, I just blurted out, because I like money. I got the job. It was a very exciting time and place to be. I remember the excitement when the Dow first hit 1000 and also the excitement and frenzy of our first spot secondary.

Recently I saw a notice about a contest to see who could make the most of a $100,000 virtual portfolio, the grand prize is a job for a year with a salary of $100,000. I don't expect to be a winner, but I'm having a lot of fun. I just love spending other people's money. Right now I'm ranked at 568 out of 25727. Not too bad. I have a paper profit of $2,512.00. I'll start selling some of my portfolio the end of this week so I can buy more.

I still find Wall Street exciting. Over the past few years, there were times I wish I were still there.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Weird but True

Here are some more stories from the New York Post's Weird But True column.

A 20 lb. stray may make the record book as the fattest cat burglar ever. The hungry kitty was caught after getting stuck in a pet door while trying to pilfer dog food from a Portland Oregon home. What makes this so strange is that this cat had gotten away from his owners six months earlier in Seattle 170 miles away. I've got two fat cats, but that cat must have been twice the size of each of mine. I'd hate to have that cat food bill.

Here's another animal story. Most people don't want to go anywhere near a skunk and that's giving Canadian wildlife officials headaches. They are trying to find someone willing to drive back to California a skunk that accidentally got transported in cargo 2,200 miles to Ontario. It seems that it's illegal to release the skunk in Canada. Sure, we have to keep all their geese and they can't keep one of our skunks. It's not fair.

And the last animal story. A high-voltage cable that a retired German man had set up to zap moles digging up his yard wound up killing him instead. There was enough voltage to run a cement mixer or heavy-duty power saw the police said. It should be noted that no moles were hurt by this experiment.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Miracle in Missouri

In the midst of all the bad news this week, the War in Iraq, the storms in the Midwest, there was some good news.

I was so happy to hear that 13 year old Ben Ownby in Missouri who went missing last week was found alive. That would have been enough, but then the news came out about 15 year old Shawn Hornbeck. He was 11 when he disappeared four years ago. I can only imagine the joy in that home today. It has happened before that a child was found after disappearing for several years, but it is very rare. There was the case of Elizabeth Smart who was missing for nine months and there was a girl in Austria Natascha Kampusch wo was missing for eight years.

There is a lesson here. Never give up, never lose hope. Miracles do happen. New York has a sign in the subways and on the bridges and tunnels, “If you see something, say something”. That certainly applies here. These boys would not have been found now if a friend of Ben Ownby hadn’t described the white Nissan truck he saw speeding away from the neighborhood around the time of Ownby’s disappearance.

I guess we all need to be aware of our surroundings and alert to anything out of the ordinary.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I recently had dinner at a local German restaurant and I can’t believe my reaction to the menu. I was delighted with the offerings. It was like being in my mother’s kitchen again. They had all the foods of my childhood – oxtail soup, liver and bacon, sauerbraten, potato pancakes and frickadellen. Now I understand what is meant by “comfort foods”. All kinds of memories came flooding back. I can remember “helping” my mother put the vegetables in the soup. She used canned foods then. For the soup she used “Layer Pack”. This was a can of mixed vegetables, but each vegetable was separated from the other by a piece of paper. I also remembered the time my brother found my mother’s recipe and made oxtail soup. I believe the recipe called for ¼ cup of barley, but my brother, in his infinite wisdom, felt that was too little and used half of the box. He didn’t realize that barley expands in liquid and we had a bowl of barley with a little meat and vegetables.

The potato pancakes were a Friday night dinner. Back then we couldn’t eat meat on Friday, so we either had potato pancakes and applesauce or fish cakes and Franco-American spaghetti.

Unfortunately, it also brought back a bad memory or two. My first cooking experiment which took place during a week-long school vacation in February. I think I was in high school at the time and decided that since it was cold, I should make liver and bacon. What a disaster! I think the problem was the gravy, but the whole meal was so heavy. I still remember the sleepless night because dinner was just sitting in my stomach. I still have a problem with gravy, but now I buy premade or do without.

I wonder if my son will someday have pleasant memories of dinners I have made.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Today is January 12. It is also Zanzibar Revolutionary Day. January 15 is the day that they (whoever they are) say most New Year's Resolutions are broken, if they even last that long. This year I did not make any resolutions, instead I prepared a Mission Statement for myself. It includes finishing the many projects I have started around the house. I am self-diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, I jump from project to project, interest to interest, etc. If all goes according to plan, by the end of the year I'll be rich, living in a neat, orderly house and wearing size 10 clothes. Looks great on paper.

Today is also the day that Sir Isaac Pitman, printer and publisher died. Most people don't recognize that name, but I was a secretary and I learned the Pitman shorthand system.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Every day the NEW YORK POST has a column entitled "Weired but True". Yesterday they had an article about a letter delivered to a home in Ferndale, PA. That seems reasonable, except the letter was postmarked October 26, 1954 and carried a $0.03 stamp. The man who lives at that address is now trying to find Frederick Zane Yost so he can deliver the letter. You can be sure that this letter, which is 54 years old is not a bill. That would have been received October 27, 1954.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

I recently had a problem with a major bank about my ATM card. The old card expired and a new one was issued with the same number. However, whoever entered the information into my account made a typo. The only card with authoriy to access my account, according to the bank, is the one whose last number is 8 instead of 9 which is on the card issued to me. When I spoke with Customer Service, the representative suggested that I take time to look for the card ending in 8. After insisting that there was no other card, I spoke with his supervisor whose only explanation was, "the computer did it". I can't believe that there are people who think that computers have the ability to change numbers at will. I reminded the supervisor that a computer will only put out the information it receives. Resoultion - I have to wait for the bank to issue a new card with the incorrect number since they somehow don't have the ability to correct their mistake.

Monday, January 8, 2007

The past few days have been a newscaster's dream come true. On Sunday, the Port of Miami had a "miscommunication" problem that involved Homeland Security, FBI, and local police. This morning, New Yorkers noticed an odor similar to gas. That got Con Ed, Police, and Fire out, the mayor even held a news conference. New Jersey blamed New York and New York blamed New Jersey. Then this afternoon, the Port of Miami came back into the news with a container that tested positive for explosives and was detonated, and Texas not to be outdone had a chemical leak or fire, I'm not sure which. All of these stories were real "breaking news". Usually, "breaking news" is something small and can usually wait until the hour, today there was real news, and, of course, all the conspiracy theorists have been having a field day.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Here it is almost two weeks after Christmas and all the decorations and tree are still up. The neighborhood is dark again, everyone else has removed their decorations. Taking the tree down is similar to unpacking after vacation. Both signal the end and I always put it off. There have been some years, however, when I couldn't wait to put everything away, but this year there is no rush. I guess that means I really enjoyed this Christmas. However, I think the cats are tired of everything, one of them spent the morning knocking the small deer and snowmen surrounding the gingerbread house onto the floor.

I'll take everything down tomorrow and put it away and remember that Christmas is only 11 months away and I can decorate again.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Our country saw another side of New York this week. On Tuesday a 50 year old construction worker, Wesley Autrey, jumped onto Harlem Train tracks with the train in sight to save a young man who had fallen. Mr. Autrey rolled himself and Cameron Hollopeter into the small trough between the tracks and two cars of the train passed over the two, just grazing Mr. Autrey's hat. Neither was hurt.

On Thursday, two friends saved a three year old Bronx boy who had fallen 40 feet from a fire escape. He crashed through some trees, which are bare in January, and bounced off the chest of Pedro Nevarez and into the arms of Julio Gonzalez. The boy, Timothy Addo, was taken to the hospital and released a few hours later with only a cut above his eye.

Messrs. Nevarez and Gonzalez knew it was up to them to save the boy. Mr. Autrey said that New Yorkers should do the same. "If you see somebody in distress, do the right thing, you know, help out. Okay? That's it"

I agree with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, "This is the week of heroes in New York".

What a wonderful start for the year, hope we have more heroes. When the chips are down, New Yorkers always come through.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

I saw the results of a survey that shows that people are more likely to lie via e-mail, text messages or the internet. The conclusion is that it’s easier to lie when you don’t have to face the person receiving your lie. I haven’t lied in any of those media, however I must confess that when I wanted to take a day off, I would call my boss at a time when I knew he wouldn’t be in the office so I could leave a voice mail saying I didn’t feel well. How many of us find it easier to lie over the phone, all secretaries/administrative assistants have said their boss was at a meeting or just stepped out of the office and couldn’t take the call when said boss was standing right there. I even perfected the art of putting the caller on hold, waiting a few minutes, then breathlessly said I tried to catch him, but the elevator doors closed. A principal I knew admitted that she always asked for parent volunteers face-to-face, that way they couldn’t say no.

And that’s the truth

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Writing - I've been told that the way to be a good writer is to write and write some more. Over the past few years I've seen a change in my writing and my approach to it. You could say I have evolved as a writer. Writing has always been a chore for me. I guess it dates back to grade school and the dreaded monthly compositions and book reports. At work I could always be counted on to write factual notes, not friendly ones. Then I attended a retreat where I was exposed to "power writing". "Just write whatever comes into your head", I was told. I thought I could never do that, but surprisingly I did. After that experience I started writing for therapy. After a tragedy or accident I just wrote whatever I thought. It was very helpful. This past Spring I started writing for enjoyment. I took a cross-country trip and entered my thoughts and impressions in my journal every night. It helped me be more aware of the events of the day.

Now I'm writing again for pleasure. One of these days I may even tackle a book report.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

January 2 - traditionally a time to start over. It's time to clean house, put all the Christmas decorations away. Somehow they never to fit into their original boxes. Just like us after a month of parties, eating on the run and days without structure. Too bad we can't just take away some of the other Christmas leftovers, like those pesky pounds that we worked so hard to lose in the months leading up to the holidays. Somehow, we've found them again. How do we get back on track while there're still so many goodies staring us in the face at every turn. It takes discipline - just say "no"., or maybe wearing a blindfold. It's time to face the reality and cut back on the cookies and candies.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Well, I did it again and I hope other parents can relate to this. I would hate to be the only parent who loses presents.

Every Christmas when my son was very young I would hide presents in my closet so he could not find them. The only problem with that was that I often couldn’t find them either. I don’t know how many times I would find a wrapped present in the back of my closet, obviously forgotten by Santa. As he got older, it became a bit of a joke and occasionally I would find something a few days after Christmas. Yesterday, I discovered that I had done it again. I looked at the top shelf of my closet and there it was. I had left another present behind.

At least this can’t be called a “senior moment” since I have a long record of losing presents and finding them in the weeks after Christmas.