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September 11

September 11th, 2012
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I am ashamed to admit that I completely forgot today’s date and its significance up until the point that the public address system came on at 9:25am to say that “the firm would like to observe a minute of silence in honor of the events of September 11, 2001″.

On the other hand, could it be a sign of true healing?

Re: Current Events

Afghanistan

June 28th, 2010
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Reading up on the details of the McChrystal debacle and its implications to the Afghan war in The Economist, I had an often-recurring thought.

I did not reach the draft age until after the Soviet troops had exited Afghanistan in the 80’s. Despite that, I can count the generation of boys from all corners of the old USSR who served – and died – in Afghanistan during that cursed decade as my generation. It might be because of that that a movie such as 9th Company hits me and people from my generation harder than others.

I emigrated to America and eventually it became embroiled in its own unwinnable conflict in Afghanistan. I cannot that easily identify with American soldiers who are nowadays losing their lives in those same mountain passes, but I cannot help but think that, again, kids from my homeland are getting killed in Afghanistan.

Almost twenty years – that’s half of my life – have been colored by an Afghan war…

Re: Current Events

National Debt clock

November 4th, 2009

Every day after work I walk by the National Debt “clock” on 44th Street near 6th Avenue.

Here is a not very good picture from last night (damn the return to standard time! – I can’t get out of the office before it’s dark anymore and my pocketcam is not very good at taking night pictures).
 

 

The upper number is the overall debt figure. Even for mathematically-inclined moi it’s too big of a number to pay any attention to.

The other number is “Your Family Share”. I glance at it every day out of pure curiosity for how it changes.

A few weeks ago, the number was below 100K. I was awaiting the moment it would turn six digits. It grows by just a few dollars every day, so I was sure I wouldn’t miss it by much. Then, one day, suddenly, it jumped all the way to 101,250. Must have been a negative demographic shift or something.

But the day before yesterday – I swear! – the number was 101,331. And then it went down by a few bucks.

Either our debt is getting reduced somehow – or the family growth outstrips the accrual of interest…

Re: Current Events

Brief belated Olympic selection reaction

October 4th, 2009

I realize that a lot more comes into an Olympic host selection than just the appeal of the leaders of each respective country whose cities are in the running. Yet I feel strangely disturbed that Obama’s appeal to the IOC turned out to be a non-factor in Friday’s vote for the right to host 2016 Olympics.

More than two years ago, before Obama phenomenon was in full swing, I made a semi-joking assessment (near the end of this post) that whoever would be a US President today, he/she should be able to easily bring home the bacon, on the basis of who the competition were. As it turns out, whatever goodwill and adulation the outside world has for the President, it did not translate into victory in this particular case. And I felt that his appeal to the rest of the world was an important factor…

Re: Current Events, Sports

Quitting AIG: A banker’s tale

March 26th, 2009

With a tip of the hat to Brian, here is a resignation letter from one of AIG bonus recipients that is very indicative of the overall mood within financial industry.

I find these passages the most telling:

I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that [AIG Chairman/CEO Edward M. Liddy] failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that [Mr. Liddy] didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.

None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.

The letter is a bit too heavy on self-justification, but it gets across a point. People have the right to be compensated for their services. A compensation contract should be honored if the person done their job and done it well (to say nothing of the fact that said person is not compensated in any other way).

Inventing laws on the spot to satisfy public hysteria and the thirst to punish “greedy bankers” can only lead to the exodus of better people from those firms that need them the most. Anybody thinks that that can improve the chances for recovery?

Re: Current Events

He really means it – and that gives me hope!

January 22nd, 2009

I could not resist. Especially since I’ve always agreed with the message.


Via Glenn Reynolds.

Re: Current Events

Hail to the (New) Chief!

January 20th, 2009

I have little doubt my RSS aggregator today will overflow with statements from everyone and everybody on how momentous today is. How the removal of “Elect” from President Obama’s official designation finally gives us a leader that we can wholeheartedly cheer for and adore. How thankful we need to be to be delivered from the horrors of the last eight years and how hopeful we are to see all of our troubles swiped away by the very first flourish of the newly installed chief executive’s pen.

Ok, that last one was a blatant exaggeration. I’m sure no one in their right mind truly believes that Obama is some sort of a messiah who will immediately start performing miracles in order to turn global distress and suffering into peace and prosperity for all. Far from it, any reasonable person would agree that the incoming President inherits a job and a legacy that you would not wish on anyone. How one person can even begin to hope to affect all of the worldwide maladies, starting with the biggest economic downturn in generations, I cannot imagine.

Ah, but it is not just one person. All signs so far have been pointing to the fact that the next administration will differ from the previous one not just by what kind of person will be in charge, but also by what kind of counsel the President will keep. And, at the very least, the team that Obama has been assembling is one reason for being optimistic that positive changes in domestic and foreign policy are truly coming and coming soon.

Still, let’s see what the President and his team can do before anointing him the Savior. The coronation inauguration today is just the beginning of a hard road, and not even the brightest and the most thoughtful of Presidents is assured success at the very outset. I fear that the more ecstatic we get together as a nation today, the more we might be setting ourselves up for disappointment of having too high and unattainable hopes for the man.

Hope is what Barack Obama has been selling us for all these months. Whether we voted for him or for the other guy, we bought that hope in the end. Change is what we now need to see, in many different ways. Don’t disappoint us, Mr President!

Godspeed!

Re: Current Events

What crisis?

December 14th, 2008

An article in the Economist bemoans the decreasing consumer spending and its effect on the “High Street” (equivalent of the American term “Main Street”). It appears that there are already small but discernible declines in how much people spend this holiday season compared to last year. Given that the normal year-on-year trend is upwards, seeing a quantifiable decline is a cause for alarm.

Yet, going to any shopping mall, one cannot get over the impression that there are simply insufferable hordes of shoppers everywhere. It feels as though there are more people doing shopping than we’ve ever seen in the years past. Either the spend per person is much lower than before – or, more likely, the brain refuses to allow that what one sees today cannot be the worst crowds ever.

Funny how your perception works.

Re: Current Events

Assorted election-related notes

November 5th, 2008

I was watching CNN for part of the night. Me being where I am – and with an early meeting on Wednesday morning – I had to go to bed when it was only a bit after 8pm in New York, with Bill Bennett repeating again that “the body is not cold yet”, but with more than an inkling that Obama would win handily.

I was very much impressed by the technology used in CNN studio, from hologram-enabled conversations with reporters to the CGI projections of the Capitol image overlaid with electoral numbers. And the interactive Electoral Map was eerily Minority Report-like. Only, Tom Cruise had a gadget on his hand to manipulate the pictures in front of him, while John King was simply pinching his fingers to make the images smaller or waving them off the screen without any visible implement to wear. How cool!

On a different note, in 2000, I thought that that election, which might have been lost in Florida not only via the “hanging chads” fiasco but also via large swaths of Democratic-leaning constituency not being able – or active enough – to vote, would energize Democrats to get the vote out the next time around. Must have been the uninspiring candidate that they fielded in 2004, but it did not happen. The country needed another four years, worsening of the economy and of our worldwide standing, and a candidacy of historic proportions to get the Democratic Party to make that extra effort.

I did some quick math, out of curiosity, and ended up with a feeling that if they tried, they could do it every time. Consider that through the last five elections – that’s four different Democratic candidates: Clinton, Gore, Kerry and Obama, – three regions in the country have been a given for the Democrats: the Northeast (all the way south to DC, with only New Hampshire bucking the trend one single time with its 4 votes), the Pacific Coast (California, Oregon, Washington) and the “Great Lakes” quadrant of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Let’s throw in Hawaii, for a round number of 20 states (DC being counted as a 51st state, since it has its own electoral college allocation) firmly in the Democratic pocket for the last 16 years. That’s 250 electoral votes, give or take a small state. Add just one more state to this – say, Florida or Ohio – and you likely have the the required majority. Add both, and you’ve surely won. And those two states, Ohio and Florida, incidentally, are the ones where the “get out the vote” push may have had the biggest impact this time around, on account of large segments of populace inherently inclined to vote Democratic who may not have been voting in previous elections.

[Added later, when I had more time to look it up] Conversely, during that same period of time, 13 states never voted “blue” in a presidential election: Alaska, the western cluster of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, the “mid-country belt” connecting Mexico to Canada (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas) and only 3 southern states, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina. Postulating that they are always a lost cause for a Democratic contender, they give a Republican candidate 96 votes.

States like North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana went to the “blue” column for the first time in this 5-election period yesterday, but this little exercise is forward-looking, and they clearly can no longer be counted as an easy “red”.[/added]

I find it highly amusing that the Republican candidates have been spotting their Democratic opponents 250 to 100 margin from the start, making it all the more amazing that Gore and Kerry managed to squander such an advantage. I also doubt that the Republicans have large as-yet-unmobilized reserves of voters anywhere in the historically “blue” states. So, unless Obama does spectacularly badly or the Congress’ behavior turns independent American voters overwhelmingly “red”, it appears that the elections in the foreseeable future will hinge on whether the running Democrat can win just one – at most, two, – “battleground” states. (See the electoral maps of previous elections, pointed out in the past by Brian.)

Somewhat surprisingly to me, as of the moment of writing this, with 96% precincts nationally reporting, there have been a couple of millions less votes cast in this presidential election compared to the last one. Maybe the Republicans could do more to get out their own vote in Florida and Ohio. And North Carolina. And Colorado. And Virginia. The difference, of course, is they have to capture every single one of these – and the remaining 26 or so states – to prevail.

Finally, with no connection to the above other than being about the election, as I was walking through the train station on my way to work this morning, a young black woman, no older than twenty, picked up a newspaper, looked at the front page and loudly squealed with traces of an American accent, “Oh my god! I have a black President! I have a black President! I never thought that could happen in my life! I have a black President!” Her very-British-sounding friend replied, with an amused expression, “But you don’t even live in America”. To which the girl responded, “But I’ll go and visit for Christmas! Oh my god! This will be so cool!”

Make what you want of that.

Re: Current Events

With hope

November 5th, 2008

Well, what seemed like inevitable for the last few weeks is now official – the world woke up today to greet the President-Elect of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

I did not vote for the guy, but I will still claim the right to cheer the notion of hope that his ascension was built upon. I, like many others, hope that this historic election will make this country that I love better. And stronger (not in the sense of military might, but in the sense of reestablishing the basic tenets of our democracy that have been under an assault from the current administration). And – yes, it is important to me! – again admired by the world.

I am on the bandwagon of hope. I truly am. But I still have serious misgivings.

Let’s emphasize it beyond any doubt: I have little, if anything, in common with the GOP when it comes to social policies (we graphically established that here and here). And while I consider myself an economic conservative, this is not what the Republican party has been in the last decade or so.

I was not supporting McCain the Republican. I was supporting McCain the distinguished legislator, McCain the Senator with a long history of crossing the aisle for causes that he believed in, McCain the staunch free-trader, McCain who took unpopular stands on issues such as immigration or the “surge”, McCain who once labelled radical religious right “the agents of intolerance”. In other words, McCain the person who earned my respect over the entire product of his life-long public service.

That McCain did not show up in the months leading to the election. While both campaigns flung their fair share of mud in each other’s direction, it was McCain’s campaign which was shriller, more hysterical and not in the least constructive. Whatever we heard of plans to tackle various issues was sketchy and full of holes to drive entire armoured brigades through. Pandering to conservative base became pervasive. The fateful selection of Sarah Palin as the running mate emphasized the biggest problem with McCain’s management style – impulsiveness. (I admit, when I first learned about it, I thought it was a stroke of genius, shoring up the base and appealing to the portion of populace that may have been keen to vote for a woman as a matter of principle; I started to appreciate the negative effect of this selection only a few weeks afterwards.)

In short, my candidate disappointed me to no end.

Obama, meanwhile, has run a tremendously organized and coherent campaign. Heaps of money and the fawning coverage of the liberal MSM helped, no doubt, but a lot of credit goes to the candidate himself. He started out as a relative novice politician with a history of unflinchingly toeing the party line, and emerged as a thoughtful statesman with comparatively detailed plans to address problems that plague the country (love his plans or hate them, but at least he explained to the country what he wants to do, while his opponent only hinted at that, at best). He surrounded himself with what looks to be a very impressive stable of economic advisors. He selected a running mate that would cover for the most glaring weaknesses in his own political résumé. He handled various calamities, on balance, much more gracefully and admirably than McCain.

In other words, Obama appeared in a much better light among the two candidates in the run-up to the Election Day, and in my non-partisan worldview which puts premium on intellect, poise and other personal qualities, I should have voted for him in the end.

Why didn’t I? The main reasons have already been mentioned elsewhere, among them my recoil from the notion of “redistributing the wealth”. I know first-hand what economic socialism is like, after all.

But most importantly, I did support McCain at least partially because he was a Republican. As the Democrats were poised to capture the levels of control of both the House and the Senate that they had not seen in generations, putting a Democrat in the White House as well felt downright irresponsible to me. Especially a Democrat who never distinguished himself with standing up to his party’s baronies. I actually do not mind the appointment of liberal judges to the Supreme Court and federal benches that this will cause – remember, I am a social liberal by every measure. But I fear the bad ideology-driven legislation that this might bring without a credible threat of a presidential veto. And what happened the last time when a single party controlled both branches of the government? Arguably, the current economic conditions can be blamed on the first half of this decade when the Republicans had control of both the White House and the Capitol. Could the Democrats be any better? I sorely doubt that.

So I erred on the side of keeping the legislative branch in check. My personal deliberations notwithstanding, the people of the United States have emphatically spoken for Obama.

I hope that I was wrong, above all.

Re: Current Events

Current Crisis 101

October 8th, 2008

My friend Brian posted a lucid and thorough summary of the on-going financial crisis. Anyone who professes to be a “layman” in financial matters should head over and read it – you will be hard-pressed to find an explanation of what had happened in simpler terms anywhere. But even if you consider yourself a seasoned investor and/or well-informed individual, you still might find the article illuminating.

Trust me!

Or, better yet, don’t trust me. Go and see for yourselves.

Re: Current Events

We’ll all be worse off

September 30th, 2008

It appears that a fair number of my online penpals is cheering the failure of the bailout plan in Congress. I’ve been making rounds recording my disagreement with their point of view – and at some point, I realized that I need to state my opinion in my space as well.

The objections to the plan run mostly along the lines of “how can we spend so much of taxpayers’ money to let those who caused the whole mess off the hook?” I happen to think that that point of view is terribly misguided.

You know who is going to suffer the most if the current financial crisis keeps spiraling downwards? The middle class. Not the rich – they will simply become less rich, but stay rich nonetheless. Not the poor – please forgive me my inadvertent snobbery, but the poor have little to lose, by definition. The middle class, conversely, will lose a lot when the corporations and consumers tighten their belts and spend less and less. A florist will not be able to sell her stock of roses, a waiter will earn fewer tips, a fledgling online business will see fewer orders. Thousands of corporate soldiers will be out of jobs. Many will lose their houses. Some of them may deserve it, on account of buying houses they could never afford. The vast majority will be innocent bystanders.

The Great Depression destroyed a few financiers. It destroyed a lot more of Average Joes. The unemployment rate hit 25% then, and the number of mortgages in default swelled to 40%. We are nowhere near those numbers right now (6% and 4%, respectively), but we are sliding towards that. Shouldn’t we be trying to take some action?

The recovery in 1933 arguably jump-started with federal cash infusions via the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation. In early nineties, the Resolution Trust Corporation dealt with S&L failures of the previous decade. Those were admittedly created years after the crises hit. But they provide a reasonably successful template. One that can be used now.

The plan would effectively transfer the burden of owning “troubled assets” from shareholders to taxpayers, and in the process deepen the budget deficit to somewhere above 6% of GDP. Yes, that is not fair to taxpayers, on the surface of it. But there is a fair chance that some of that money will be repaid (RTC did turn a modest profit even, didn’t it?). And what’s more important, the cost of after-the-fact unwinding of financial crises around the world in the last 30 years averaged 16% of GDP. Going with the Bernanke/Paulson proposal, in effect, should cost considerably less than sitting on our asses waiting for the natural bottom to hit in a few years. We do nothing – and we all suffer, some of us possibly losing everything in the process. We follow this plan – and there is a fair chance of stabilizing the economy to the point where other harsh decisions, regarding how to prevent this from happening again, can be made.

Update: And you know what, all of you who cite economists signing letters criticising the bailout? It’s all about whom you’d rather trust. Quoting Harward economist Greg Mankiw (emphasis mine),

Ben [Bernanke] is at least as smart as any of the economists who signed that letter or are complaining on blogs or editorial pages about the proposed policy. Moreover, Ben is far better informed than the critics. The Fed staff includes some of the best policy economists around. In his capacity as Fed chair, Ben understands the situation, as well as the pros, cons, and feasibility of the alternative policy options, better than any professor sitting alone in his office possibly could.

If I were a member of Congress, I would sit down with Ben, privately, to get his candid view. If he thinks this is the right thing to do, I would put my qualms aside and follow his advice.

P.S. Yes, I lost huge sums of money on the stock market in the last year-plus, even though I’m well-diversified with investments in what I would describe as “solid” companies. The bailout would benefit me in a very direct way. I’m mentioning this so no one doubts my motives.

Re: Current Events

9/11

September 11th, 2008

It took me only seven years to miss registering the importance of today’s date when I woke up in the morning. The wounds must be healing. One day, I may even find myself on foot in downtown Manhattan again.

I still want to remember. Hoping, against most of the reason, that we never have to live through something like that again…

This essay by James Lileks, although written five years ago, is still more eloquent than anything I could say.

(both links via Glenn Reynolds)

Re: Current Events

Tuning out, mostly

September 8th, 2008

My high school history teacher used to apply a heftily somber label to expressions of childish ignorance, frivolity or apathy. “You behave apolitically, dear”, she would disapprovingly utter to a pupil who did not know János Kádár from Gustav Husak or preferred watching Polish movie Sex-mission (Новые Амазонки) to the early Soviet foreign minister Chicherin’s biopic. (I recently made a play on this expression in my video address for her jubilee roast, which I am told elicited chuckles from a large number of my fellow alumni – all former recipients of the rebuke, no doubt.)

Fast forward twenty-some years, and “apolitical” very closely describes my attitudes towards the ongoing presidential campaign. No – it’s not ignorance on my part! I wish I was ignorant of the battle cries and ideological mud-slinging that currently takes place in both directions, left or right, but I am not. Instead, I find it really hard to take seriously.

Part of the reason is the customary realization that New Jersey, where my vote is counted even from overseas, is not a “battleground” state and will solidly vote Obama, no matter which lever I personally pull.

The bigger reason is that, being neither Republican nor Democrat and free of practically any ideological hang-up that characterizes either left or right, and knowing that I will not get my personal political views espoused by either of the candidates wholesale, I’ve long made up my mind on which candidate I’m going with. And no matter how much damning evidence there is on Obama’s faith or McCain marrying into money or Palin’s “scary” conservative views or Biden’s … hey, is he actually in this contest in some capacity?… I am decided and the noise just grates on my nerves.

My key political concerns are government size and taxes. I want the federal government to occupy itself only with tasks that cannot be dealt with on state and local levels, such as foreign policy, international trade, defense, but interfere little in individual private matters and areas such as education, healthcare, social programs, etc. I also do not believe that a high-earning individual should have a disproportionate tax levied on him.

On both of these points, I should be leaning McCain.

On the rest of political issues I side with Democrats more often than with the Republicans, even when my reasons for that are different than theirs. I am pro-choice, against death penalty, appalled by the attempts to teach creationism in schools, would applaud rolling back various “freedoms” originating with the Second Amendment, etc. But these get summarily outweighed by the two mentioned above.

You might say I am therefore prejudiced to vote Republican and you will be very close to the truth. Except, in the last two elections I did not vote for the Republican candidate. Bush-junior never looked to me particularly apt or suitable for the highest office in the land; I’d like to congratulate myself for foreseeing that his administration would end up one the most incompetent and horrendous in the history of the country, but truth be told, I just thought that he was not very bright, is all. In 2004, his opponent did enough to turn me off the idea of voting for him as well, so I left the presidential choice blank. In 2000, I actually voted for the then-future Nobel Prize winner, because in the absence of the executive check on the legislative branch (when both the Congress majority and the President come from the same side of the two-party system) – and vice versa – I saw potential ideologically-driven legislation as a greater evil than a President with staunch liberal views (whom I thought to be an ok presidential material on balance, despite his dance moves).

This year, the Democrats are sure to increase their majority in both the House and the Senate. But the staunchly liberal candidate would actually complete the single-party control of both government branches. This clinches the McCain candidacy for me. I view Obama in a largely positive light – and I think he would be a great leader – but he would have to run against someone less respectable to get my vote. No politician ever goes through a long career without making occasional bad choices, but McCain has done enough good things in his life to firmly tip the scales on the side of my respect for him.

Yet… I’ve lived the last two years abroad and I’ve seen first-hand the nosedive that American reputation took at the hands of the current administration. I do not know if somewhat uncharismatic McCain would be able to repair that; whereas Obama would generate near-universal goodwill towards the US the moment he was elected. For all the largely empty talk about “change” and “hope”, this change in attitude towards America would be an instant tangible…

Hey, maybe I do care. I just wish we could be done and over with the circus.

————
I started this post as a reflection on the excellent and detailed article by Jim Wright on which qualifications we should be looking for in a President. That I went on an entirely different tangent should not prevent you from reading Jim’s post.

Re: Current Events

Politicians and the economy

August 12th, 2008
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My friend Brian has a rather illustrative commentary on the relationship our leading politicians have with the economy.

I urge you to head over and read for yourselves, but here is a quick summary.

When President Bush lifted the executive ban on off-shore drilling a month ago, he was soundly scorched from the left for catering to the big oil. In fact, that entirely political gesture has arguably contributed to the drop in oil prices, because, as Brian posits, oil markets these days are driven by investor sentiment as much as, if not more than, consumer demand. In the ensuing tussle to find political advantage from this, neither of the two presidential candidates is distinguishing himself for recognizing what drives the markets.

As Brian says,

… when the guy who got it wrong changes course and then tells us he still thinks he got it right, and the guy who got it right seems to be unaware of why he was right in the first place, my confidence in both men drops significantly, as does my ability to trust their next, dire predictions about the world economy.

I second that.

Re: Current Events

Obama is growing on me

March 18th, 2008

I can’t say that I’m a convert, but I can clearly see why Obama is an appealing candidate. Read his speech and I dare you to tell me that a picture of a thoughtful, moral and remarkably sincere human being has not formed in your head. Eloquent and moving too – but that’s a long-accepted given.

The man has all the qualities of an inspirational leader. I can’t help but think that giving him a chance to heal what the present so-called leader of the free world wrought is worth putting up with some less than agreeable populism…

Re: Current Events

On September 11th

September 11th, 2007
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Today is the first anniversary of the September 11th tragedy on which I have my own personal podium. I would like to use it to say something poignant or momentous in commemoration of the day that changed so many of us. Alas, nothing comes to mind. Whatever little eloquence I might possess, it utterly deserts me at the first whiff of such somber occasion.

So, instead, I refer you to my friend Brian, his first anniversary essay, fourth anniversary thoughts, and this year’s reflections.

I am a convinced atheist, but there is no other phrase that is more appropriate today than this:

God Bless America!

Re: Current Events

New friends and other events

April 19th, 2007
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It took me a while to emerge from under the pile of emails after a protracted absence from work. But I did emerge from that battle victorious, if in desperate need of another vacation. Nice trips, I always found, have an annoying quality of appearing insufficiently long, when recalled after just a couple of days of routine, work, school, etc…

Anyhow, the beautiful Tuscan weather not exactly followed us to the cold shores of Great Britain, but sort of seeped in anyway. For the last few days, it’s been sunny and bright in London, a bit chilly in the mornings and at night, but very inviting during the day. I remember in the late 90’s, me and a group of coworkers would take a stroll during lunch hour along Park Avenue on a day like this, drinking in the sun, surveying shortening skirts and discussing whatever hot topic captivated us at the moment… Ah, good old times!

We went to a French restaurant in Soho last night, with new friends. They are relocating to London from Brooklyn and, in search of information, came across my blog. Emailing ensued, followed by a dinner out during the house hunting trip of theirs. The company was excellent, the restaurant pretty good too. A couple of bottles of Haut-Medoc and a superb selection of cheeses for dessert went along quite well with a conversation on many different topics. We did not exactly close the place, but we were there for nearly four hours. For a non-banquet type of a dining affair, that must be my personal record.

Too bad the guys will most likely be living somewhere north-west of center. Bad for us, not for them. St John’s Wood is one of the best residential areas in London, quite close to the city center, urban enough for those who dislike suburban living, but away from most of the tourist noise, with great parks and overall pleasant ambience. We were thinking about that area ourselves at first (it also happen to sit on the Jubilee line of the Underground, which goes directly to Canary Wharf, where my offices are), but turned away from it, because living space to rental price ratio is many times lower over there than in suburban Greenwich area where we reside. We cannot figure out how to manage with less than four bedrooms, but we now know a few families – albeit a bit younger and certainly more urban in their makeup – who manage quite all right. Long story short, yet another couple is going to reside diagonally across the city from us, which will surely make maintaining relationship complicated.

On a different tangent, this was a first time that we truly have walked around Soho at the end of a working day, and the place is happening. Pubs are packed, restaurants are impossible to get into without a reservation, tons of people on the street. Very cool!

For those keeping score, I was out after work on Tuesday for a couple of beers with a colleague visiting from New York. Just a couple, honest!

In other news, our electric shower pump (see about water pressure for reference) developed a terminal case of broken-itis and is being replaced in a few days (at landlord’s expense). In the meantime, taking a shower is an everyday adventure under a weak trickle of water.

Another item in need of repair, CD player in the car (we did not realize it right away, but it was only playing the right channel and nothing on the left) was fixed by the dealer with thousands of apologies for missing the problem during the vehicle check-up before delivery. While the car was serviced, we got to drive a loaner with only 125 miles on it, and that was a pretty good ride as well.


At the conclusion of today’s post, I feel compelled to say something in regard to the horrible thing that happened at Virginia Tech on Monday.

Guns make it awfully easy for a deranged person to kill people. You can sermonize all you want that “guns do not kill people, people kill people”, but the fact remains, a psycho would not be able to cut short lives of dozens of people in a short span if not for the institutionalized enablement of the Second Amendment. This guy was probably determined enough to get his guns on the black market, if needed. But we surely made it way too easy for him.

The Second Amendment is unlikely to ever get repealed, meaning that guns will always be easy to get. I think it is a sad commentary on the American nation that it considers something that stopped making sense a hundred years ago sacred.

I have no intention of turning my blog into a political forum, and I plan to limit my political statements to exceptional cases such as this. If you, my reader, would like to debate the topic with me, please email me directly.

Chronicles, Family & Friends, London & Environs, Re: Current Events