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Michael Lewis's 'The Big Short'

I'm 100 pages into "The Big Short," by my old friend Michael Lewis (better known among his college pals by his nickname, "Michael Lewis '82"), and it's confirming all my worst suspicions that Wall Street is a vast criminal enterprise whose singular purpose is to pry from my cold dead fingers my very last, precious, hard-earned Collateralized Debt Obligation.

There's a moment in the story when two sharpies are interrogating a bond guy who wants them to buy credit default swaps, which essentially are huge bets that the mortgage bond market is going to collapse. But question: If these credit default swaps are such a great deal to buy, why would anyone sell them?

"It's zero-sum. Who's on the other side? Who's the idiot?" one guy asks.

The short answer, in this case, is a German bank, but the long answer is that the taxpayers turned out to be on the other side of the mortgage mess. We bailed out the industry. A voice in my head keeps saying: "It's you, Joel. You're the idiot."

Like in poker: If you don't know who the pigeon is at the table, it's you.

"The Big Short" is a rollicking read. I'm sad to see that it's not going to go on for 500 pages but clocks in at about half that. Somehow Michael has taken the bewildering events leading up the financial crisis and found a breezy story to tell, one with a handful of vivid characters whose common virtue is the ability to smell a rat. They all see the collapse coming, and they bet on it. They short the market. The very concept of "shorting" something is foreign to me, but I may have to learn this trick. (Um, can you "short" yourself? I've always wanted to monetize self-loathing.)

Here's the Steve Pearlstein review today in Outlook. More on the Lewis book down the road...

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 14, 2010; 9:28 AM ET
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Part of me wants to read this book (or at least pile it up on my already overladen nightstand), and the other part of me (like my spleen) just d@mn doesn't want to. The reason is because no matter how long and how loud and how widespread our ranting may be about this subject matter, it appears that there ain't nuttin' gonna be done about it and nuttin' will change.

Anybody got the cojones to do that "revolution" stuff we've all read about in school (yet, not in Texas)?


Posted by: -ftb- | March 14, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Economics boils down to:
1) what do you think is going to happen?
2) what do you think others think is going to happen?
3) do you think there's a chance you can make money off of the answers to 1) & 2)?

The fun twist is when folks with connections are so wrong/crooked and create such huge losses that gummint steps in to mop up.

So the moral is, if you're going to lose, make sure the losses are huge.

Posted by: MsJS | March 14, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I have enjoyed reading Michael Lewis and I look forward to this book. While his financial background may help him with this topic, I like his style and humor even when he discusses things about which, I suspect, he knew little to nothing before immersing himself in the subject for an article or book.

As the book is about Wall Street I confidently expect it to have bears.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 14, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

And a lot of bull, eh, Ivansmom?

Posted by: -ftb- | March 14, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

So, Mr. A, are the Gators in or out of the NCAA men's basketball tournament?

The pundits are mixed. That loss to Mississippi State doesn't help the Gator cause.

Posted by: MsJS | March 14, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

How about them Caps,down 3-0 after 2 periods,score 3 goals in 3 mins and the game winner in OT, all without Ovie.

Nice that it finally stopped raining,i went to the park for a walk and the road was closed,due to flooding.I didn't look at the river today and think about kayaking.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 14, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm seriously thinking about the river flooding necessitating a different Dawn Patrol method in the morning... :-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 14, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

gwe, -some- of us would have preferred a different outcome to that game.

C'est la guerre.

Posted by: MsJS | March 14, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Happy Pi Day all! Always reminds me of my high school Trig teacher's favorite saying: "No--pie are round; cake are squared." (Guess you had to be there...)

MsJS, sorry the Hawks ended up on the losing side. But what a comeback for the Caps. Backstrom singlehandedly pickpocketed the puck and threaded down the ice for the winner in OT.

Dinner last night was Sole Almondine with sauteed spinach and herbed quinoa. Early dinner today of grilled veal chop with red wine sauce, roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower on the side.

*Drifting off into blissful culinary coma*

Posted by: Raysmom | March 14, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

This graphic shows the amount of flooding at various checkpoints in greater DC/Balmer.

At this writing, the DC-Wisconsin Ave checkpoint indicates "moderate flooding", Little Falls shows "minor flooding," and Alexandria is "near flood stage."

Be safe, y'all.

Posted by: MsJS | March 14, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, MsJS! Our sump pump is working hard today. We hear it emptying about every hour or so. And it hasn't been raining for a while now.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 14, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if I can read that book, especially if ftb is correct, and I believe she is, about nothing having changed.

A completely lost weekend here. The weather has been stormy and I am still fighting a cold so the sofa has been my almost constant companion. I hope to have caught up on lost sleep from the dog, the cold, social events and DST by tomorrow.

Posted by: badsneakers | March 14, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

If being an undergrad at Princeton brings with it unfair rewards, having Michael Lewis as a friend must rank high among them. I didn't even rate a review copy of a forthcoming book on the palms of Australia.

The local bookstore offered to reserve a copy of The Big Short, but I remembered the heap of worthwhile books lying unread in the study. By the way, the University of Chicago Press has a book on the history of plant breeding. I suspect that dog breeding would be a more lucrative subject.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 14, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

*aiming the full-throttle health & energy mojo gun at Sneaks*

Posted by: MsJS | March 14, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Nice review by Perlstein. I really enjoyed the final bit about realizing that there are no grownups hidden anywhere.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 14, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

monsoon is finally over... guess it will continue to quietly rage on Wall Street. Local creek was a wild torrent. What a storm. Thankful it wasn't snow instead :)

Posted by: MissToronto | March 14, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Florida is in.
Ill-In-Oys is out.

Posted by: MsJS | March 14, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

My envy knows no bounds. I have been anticipating this book's publication for what seems like forever. That it didn't come out in time for Christmas left what seemed like an enormous hole under the tree where it should have been.

Any boodler who hasn't read his riotously funny, and educational, piece on the Icelandic economy in last April's Vanity Fair should.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 14, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Since the rain stopped, took a little while to clean up the front garden, cutting down last years perennials and smiling at the new growth coming up. Couldn't do too much as the ground is really mushy but felt good just to have the clippers in my hand. Great weather week coming up - good for the kids on March break.

Since we had such a moderate winter looks like my snapdragons may have survived from last year - if we don't get a cold spell in the next little bit.

Posted by: dmd3 | March 14, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

looking out the window, I see little weeds sprouting, already!!! must try to get out and nip them in the bud. I say that every year, and usually forget :)

Posted by: MissToronto | March 14, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I spent 16 years editing and designing for a Wall Street writer (Princeton Class of '54!) and never found it interesting.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 14, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

I've spent ten minutes watching b-ball pundits pound the desk about the Hokies being left at home while GT and Wake go to the dance. The Gators got some charity and Cornell stole the Ivy slot usually taken by the Tigers.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 14, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

So the Potomac is going bonkers in Georgetown. Perhaps a mighty gush from Rock Creek?

I suppose the gators will be bellowing tonight.

Meanwhile, I think I'm seeing a record number of dandelions around town. It's the same species as farther north, but I suspect there's some genetic differences. Plant ecologist Otto Solbrig famously discovered that dandelions living at the edges of trampled paths were genetically distinguishable from ones growing nearby in tallish grass. That was back in the 1970s when prizing out genetic information was inordinately difficult. These days, you could do a genotype map of dandelions in a university lawn, maybe even as an undergrad term paper project.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 14, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Michael lewis is being interviewed on 60 Minutes by Steve Kroft at this very moment.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | March 14, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

I've been a big fan of Michael Lewis since Liar's Poker in the 80s. It's good to see him writing about finance again. I'm going to reserve it at the library right now.

I'm back. I'm 30 on the hold list. We'll see if it comes in before The Infinities.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 14, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Just saw the 60 Minutes segment (I think there were two of them) with Michael Lewis. D@mn smart guy. And, well, *ahem*, cute as a button (okay, okay, at my advanced age, I can call him "jail bait" but he's got beaucoup brains and a great package housing those brains). Maybe I'll read his book after all.

Georgetown got the number 3 slot to play up in Providence, RI on Thursday. At least they now have a few days to rest up. I wonder if they're going to take their books to, you know, study ....

Posted by: -ftb- | March 14, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Just to undercut my cred a Mad Marchian, instead of watching the Jackets lose to Dook, I was in the Oak Room at the Algonquin where Barbara Carroll played the jazz brunch. Here is a video of her I found on the web from a year ago:

She is 85 years old. Go watch that video again. 85 years old.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 14, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, I read b-ball as baseball and was momentarily very confused.

Miss Toronto, don't think of them as weeds. Think of them as an essential part of your ecosystem.

Boodle, I have a geek question. Anyone remember the Pi Cheer? I've got Facebook on it too, but I think various Boodle denizens may be a quicker resource. The part I remember is 3.14159, secant tangent cosine sine. It starts something like, e to the x, dy/dx, e to the x, dx. . . and ours ended "slide rule, calculator go Rice U". Surely Harvey Mudd or Georgia Tech had something similar?

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 14, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Okay. I just went to the Michael Lewis section of our bookshelf, where I found "The Blind Side", which I have unaccountably not yet read. Three pages into the text I'm laughing out loud.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 14, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

I-mom: This is RPI's cheer (or so I was told back in the day).
e to the x, dy, dx
e to the x, dx
cosine tangent secant sine
e, i, square root, pi
fight 'em, fight 'em,

Or maybe it was WPI's cheer. Whatever. Hope it helps.

Off to enjoy the evening in 3D. Nighty night.

Posted by: MsJS | March 14, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

dee-ex, dee-why
Cosine, Sine

Standup, sit down, claps too.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | March 14, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse



one four one five nine

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | March 14, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

The Boodle did geek cheers several years ago. I don't remember a pi cheer; the infamous Georgia Tech one was:

Differential y,
Differential x.
To he11 with differentials,
We want sex.

From FreeRepublic of all places:

Also the old school cheer:
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine
3 point 1 4 1 5 9
Square root, integral u d v
Slip stick, slide rule, MIT!

Which would explain why I'm not familiar with it.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 14, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Ohhhhhh, yello -- terrific, MAGNIFICENT, Barbara Carroll video. The piano playing also brings to mind (well, brings to *my* mind) Marian McPartland, one of my all time favorite jazz pianists. She's got to be upwards of 90-something herself.

Great role models, both of them.

Posted by: -ftb- | March 14, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Here are some 'official' Georgia Tech cheers that include pi:

Differential "X"
Differential "X"!,
Differential "Y"!
"A" square, "B" square
Integral of pi!
Engineers touchdown!
Engineers yell!
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets!
Fight like hell!

And note the similarity of this one to the MIT one above:

E to the X dy dx,
E to the X dx,
Tangent Secant Cosine Sine,
Square roots, cube roots, Poisson brackets,
Disintegrate 'em Yellow Jackets!

Posted by: yellojkt | March 14, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Yep. The Rice cheer must have been a variant of the RPI/MIT/Georgia Tech/cqp-supplied cheer above.

Ah, geeks.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 14, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, ftb. Barbara Carroll was amazing. She also did a long Sondheim medley, some Gershwin, and a very funny New York tribute. I love cabaret style music and wish there was more of it around.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 14, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, yellojkt, for posting the Barbara Carroll video. I bet her show was wonderful. That was great.

I have a friend, Louise Goldberg, who seems to me in a fair way to being in that class as time goes on. She often (but not always) performs with my friend Mary Catherine Reynolds. Although she sings, I think of her as a pianist, and a jazz pianist, first and foremost. She does great things with the keyboard. She's even a jazz pianist on the accordion.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 14, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Twice in the review Pearlstein stresses that the "executives were clueless."

This is the important point. This is the talking point. This point cost lots of feng shui.

This point is a lie.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 14, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

"The Pacific" is starting on HBO.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | March 14, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Those guys at Goddard have found dark matter:

They must have really good eyes.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 14, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Hey, TBG, just saw this for the first time in the opening credits: your cousin, George Pelecanos, is about to win an Emmie for screenplay (probably adaption). He's one of 10 named writers of "The Pacific."

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | March 14, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

That was a whole hour? Wow. Good show.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 14, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh. Fifty-three minutes. Sorry.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 14, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

I shall open my storytelling tomorrow with a French knight from Princeton. Princeton, Princeton, Princeton! *w*

Getting late here: 9:38 p.m., but it feels more like 8:38 p.m., funny that. The older I get, the more it takes several days for the circadian rhythms to adjust to the man-manipulated whirling hands of the clockface.

Posted by: laloomis | March 14, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I know you have all been stuck with only b ball to watch and a tawdry bit of hockey, but up north it is still curling season.

Fantastic game down the the last shot and wins by about an inch. Alberta takes the Brier again.

Posted by: --dr-- | March 14, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

RIP Peter Graves:

Posted by: yellojkt | March 14, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Montgomery College has a cricket team. Who knew. Apparently no one but the student athletes themselves, and all the teams they beat to win the American College Cricket championship.

College officials only found out when a English professor happened to read about their win last year. They have a team captain but no coach. this year they have a faculty advisor. They hope to do a repeat and retain the title.

Full story here:

Posted by: omnigood | March 14, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

SCC: AN English professor...

Oooh boy, I'm in trouble now

Posted by: omnigood | March 14, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Omngood, I simply marked the mistake. Your grade is still fine. However, come to class, dear boy. Boodle101 is a breadth requirement for Life. We miss your discussion points; and, recall from the syllabus that participation is 78% of your grade.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | March 14, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Dear Ms. CqP. You remind me of two of my favorite Eng/EngComp teachers ever.

In other news: I wrote a really short short bedtime story. I casually mentioned the idea to an acquaintance, and she said I should write it. So I did.

It's really short (did I mention that)... Seven chapters on seven pages.

Since it is a children's bed time story I think it needs some pictures.

Unfortunately I can't but draw in a Picasso/Vonnegut esque style.

bc, you've seen my art you think that might work?

Posted by: omnigood | March 14, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

The Vanity Fair piece by Michael Lewis mentioned by frostbitten isn't available (at least not for free) at their website, but someone helpfully posted it here:

Posted by: bobsewell | March 15, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Bob for the link. I don’t have the time to read it now but will later.

I want to read Michael Lewis’s ‘The Big Short’, yet I don’t. It’ll make me angry and sad. This thing didn’t just happen in Wall St, it happened in many financial institutions in other countries as well. I attended an investment seminar (it was free) a couple of months before the financial melt down. The speaker was encouraging people to buy certain instruments which were actually Wall St subprime mortgages bundled up and tied with a pretty ribbon….Your return is going to be .…(attractive figure) % guaranteed! Luckily I didn’t have any money. I was only there for the free food. (Over here, if you organize anything, no matter how small, you must have food. It’s a sin to not have at least elaborate snacks.)

Posted by: rainforest1 | March 15, 2010 3:00 AM | Report abuse

There's a very attractive career choice described in the Vanity Fair article: certifying properties free of elves before development begins. I'm pretty sure I could do that. I'd even be willing to offer a discount on my negations.

Bring on the elves.

Posted by: rashomon | March 15, 2010 3:02 AM | Report abuse

When I was in college, from the little information that I had, I found trading in currencies very interesting. After college, I applied for a currencies trading position. They told me I must have a US$2,500 deposit. I didn’t understand why I had to have a deposit but I didn’t ask. Later, I realized I was going to be there to gamble with other people’s money. And then I thought what if I lose all their money. How can I face them and tell them I’ve lost their entire savings. See, that’s the problem with me being the negative sort. I should have thought I could make big money in this game. I’d probably be very rich now, or be on the Most Wanted TV show.

Posted by: rainforest1 | March 15, 2010 3:18 AM | Report abuse

rashomon, you're too late.

'Toon's got the elves angle already sewn up; he just installs a one-way fairy exit door.

Hey SciTim!! *waving to the misty mountain tops* :-)

*putting-on-my-life-jacket-and-reviewing-the-water-landing-instructions-before-heading-to-the-Dawn-Patrol-airstrip Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 15, 2010 5:11 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Wall Street- the biggest,legal, mafia, hood, gang, gambling, institution this side of the Eastern Seaboard. The only difference between them and the criminal element-- a better suit, and they're losing on that ground.

I am up. Cooked breakfast. Mopped all the apartment. Washed down walls and bathroom. Now trying to entice the g-girl out of the tub, so I can get in. The day has been "launched", and that feels every bit literal. Perhaps the warm water will bring some relief.

Mudge, Scotty, Yoki, Martooni, Lindaloo, and everyone here, what a blast, it's Monday!

Slyness, the day starts off bright and sunny, but by the evening, it's cloudy and gray. And cold. Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 15, 2010 6:01 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Happy Ides of March, Mr. Caesar. Say, turn around, I think you've got something on the back of your toga...

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | March 15, 2010 6:31 AM | Report abuse

The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 6:47 AM | Report abuse

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with Caesar.

I had to look it up recently: Brutus and Cassius are in the lowest part of the ninth circle of he11 with Satan, because of their assassination of Julius Caesar. At least according to Dante.

Sorry, I was channeling myself from Miss Parker's English class, 10th grade. Loong time ago...

Good morning, Cassandra! We need something a little different for breakfast, especially considering how much you've done this morning. How about a full breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast, grits, fruit, OJ, hot beverage of your choice? Everything's on the ready room table.

It's still completely dark. It will take me a couple of days to get used to that. But time to get moving.

Posted by: slyness | March 15, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

slyness. been chatting via email w/ someone in Spain to get assurances that there is a sun.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 7:05 AM | Report abuse

R.I.P., Peter Graves... *SIGHHHHHH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 15, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Each year I vow to do better, but nothing ever changes. The Ides of March sneak up on me and catch me unprepared.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 15, 2010 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Movie Gold

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Me too, Scotty, me too. We should go see a gladiator movie together in his honor.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 15, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Rainforest - I understand your hesitation to read "The Big Short." I had a similar thought. I mean, there are enough things in my life to make me cranky as it is. Still, when I am in a good mood, and have successfully transferred all of my retirement funds into one not-very-large mattress, I will give the book a shot.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 15, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Peter Graves has died? Oh dear. He is one of my great patron saints.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 15, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I am *so* glad that the government has forced me to get up an hour earlier so that I can thoroughly enjoy driving to work in the rainy darkness.

Which isn't to say that I dislike Daylight Savings Time. I very much like the extra sunlight in the evening. I just wish they would stick with it all year round instead of jerking us about every six months like little marionettes to be manipulated for the sadistic enjoyment of a cabal of temporal bureaucrats.

I do not handle circadian disruptions well.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 15, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

In Peter's honor, this Boodle will self-destruct in five seconds...

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 15, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Yeah RDP, the morning out with the dogs is done in the dark again. I was getting used to see the winter "gifts" and avoid them.
Do not blame a cabal of temporal bureaucrats though; it's all your US Congress fault. Everytime an energy saving bill comes around Congress lenghtens the DST period. It saves nothing as the model they used is flawed. Congress has been told the model is flawed but keep it around as convenient political device. Better do that than using something that would work, like raising the excise tax on oil and gas.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 15, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Scotty ...

Huh? over.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

No, not that one, Weed. This one.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 15, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Aren't they the same?

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Amen, RD. Make daylight savings permanent and I'd be a happy camper. Tomorrow I'll be okay, today I'm going to be cranky indeed.

Posted by: slyness | March 15, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse


play this

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Cut that out. Making daylight savings time permanent is as goofy as daylight savings time. Just start work earlier by an hour. Same effect.


Hey, I just found out that Saskatchewan operates on skewed standard time, a permanent move to Daylight savings time. My perceptions of advancing time permanently have altered. We just call it Saskatchewan time.

Maybe it will work.

Posted by: --dr-- | March 15, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Boodle. I am back in Calgary after a hard weekend. Let me tell you, RD_P, that four long haul flights and four time zone changes in two weeks combined with the time change *really* causes temporal lag. I have no idea what time it is.

Posted by: Yoki | March 15, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Saw Michael Lewis again on Today this morning. I just might get hold of his books. And I had no idea that he had written Blindside, her performance in which just won Sandra Bullock her Oscar.

Indeed, RIP Peter Graves. My first memory of him was in Fury, my all-time favorite television show when I was a kid, primarily because the hero was a horse. I thought horses personified the ideal animal when I was a kid. Don't remember when I had read that he and James Arness were siblings, but it was still a long time ago. Both were pretty good actors. Of course, Peter Graves' best role (or one of the best) was in Stalag 17. That was a terrific movie, and I never tire of seeing it.

Ah, well.

I think I'm still recovering (reluctantly) from losing an hour yesterday. The caffeine from my tea hasn't quite hit the brain yet.


Posted by: -ftb- | March 15, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: -ftb- | March 15, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

IIRC, we tried year-round DST during the Carter administration. It got hammered by all the parents who complained that during the winter months their kids had to get to school in the "real" dark, especially when the school day began at 7:30 a.m.

Posted by: ebtnut | March 15, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Yoki, it's THAT time, again.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Elmore Leonard, he has a new TV show coming out tomorrow:

Posted by: yellojkt | March 15, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Welcome back Yoki, try to get some rest and don't worry about the time - it will sort itself out eventually.

ftb, I loved Fury too, for the same reason. Anything with a horse in it was good for me. Finally feeling a bit better altho' the rain and general dreariness of the day aren't helping me motivate.

Posted by: badsneakers | March 15, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I had forgotten he was in "Fury," ftb. But you're right. I liked that show, too. Came on 11:30 on Saturday mornings, IIRC.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | March 15, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

elves? Martooni's been gone for some time.

Today's Financial Times reviews a book on American suburbia that describes it as split between Hobbes and hobbits. Part belief that it's a cruel world, part that everything should be ordered and pleasant. I guess hobbits are more appealing than Calvin.

So should I walk to the book store and buy "The Big Short"? Not until Timothy Ferris's "The Science of Liberty: democracy, reason, and the laws of nature" gets read. It got a boffo review in the Sunday Post a week ago.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 15, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

Warm muffins, coffee and OJ on the table.

I enjoyed a lot of Peter Graves' work, especially M:I and Airplane.

Starting in on the silly side of spring cleaning, which is all I'm good for these days. Yesterday I dealt with 5 years' worth of stuff piled on MrJS' dresser, the marriage statute of separation-of-stuff having expired. Take-out receipts from '05 and '06 were jettisoned. All the coins were rinsed off and left to dry overnight. Today they go to the bank, from where they will be reintroduced into society.

I'm guessing there's $25-$30 there. Should I keep the paper currency I get from the bank, or give it to MrJS? Hmmmm...

Happy Ides of March to all. We shall celebrate with a fine dinner.

Posted by: MsJS | March 15, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Howdy and a happy Ides of March! May your day be free from foreboding and doom.

I too am not ready for daylight savings time. Last night I got tired too early; this morning I didn't want to get up until the sun was well up. Bad pony. Fortunately it is Spring Break, so we all have a little leeway to get used to the unreasonable and completely fictional temporal disruption before the 7:30 a.m. school day resumes. On the bright side: my car clock is now only three minutes fast, rather than an hour and three minutes.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 15, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

MsJS, are you sure that you want to do that? Maybe you should spread the coin reintroduction over time so you don't trigger a cycle of inflation.

As TBG would tell you, the best place to re-introduce coinage is at the GW Deli.

We both recommend the cream cheese and olive sandwich, while you are there.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Russianthistle, the thought of triggering a cycle of inflation is exciting.

MrJS and I would get on the covers of Time and Newsweek, maybe even the front page of the WSJ. Paul Krugman would call us all sorts of nasty names. There would obviously be a book deal, maybe even a movie.

And Michael Lewis would have a new topic for his next book.

Posted by: MsJS | March 15, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

There were many things that I could not anticipate when it appeared that I would be attending the presentation by Dr. Foege at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas last Thursday. In fact, last Wednesday mnorning, it wasn't even clear that I would be hitting the road.

What I, a descendant of European queens and kings, discovered, in that two-day period, was a giant among men and mankind, a Frenchman twice knighted in a bed and breakfast across the street from what is considered "the mother of Texas universities.

Since Foege, who sat at (and commandeered in his gentle way) the head of the breakfast table on Friday morning, would let no one go unnoticed and who would elicit their personal stories, I must tell of them, too. There was the remarkable and extremely atractive Paula Foege; the French knight's student and protege, himself a professor of French at Southwestern; the mother from Oklahoma, Lisa, who was traversing the country to help her volleyball-playing, high school-senior daughter find the right institution of higher learning; and the sharp, white-haired lawyer from Houston, an alum of Southwestern, who was traveling with his wife to an attorney event in Austin last weekend and who decided to expand their excursion by taking in the Foege lecture. Since both the lawyer and his wife have names that start with J, I called them J2.

Also figuring significantly into the tale, but not within the cast of characters who were guests at the San Gabriel House bed and breakfast in Georgetwon is H2B2, my shorthand for Heilemann-Halperin book buddy, the woman whom I met in line in Austin just a week before while attending the Heilemann-Halperin talk, and who was responsible, in many ways, for me making the trip to Georgetown. I think of her as the gift that kept on giving.


Posted by: laloomis | March 15, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Hola Boodleros!

Most of the rich people I've met were crooks. One of them started an airline and ran it fir a few years with leased airplanes. He then stopped paying the leases. A while later, he stopped paying for fuel. After three months, he stopped paying the crews. He transfered his loot to another company in some offshore location. I estimate he took off with about twenty million bucks. That's small beans in the world stage.

Brag :)

Posted by: Braguine | March 15, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

The Frenchmen were the last arrivals to the Friday morning breakfast table at the bed and breakfast, arriving just as the Foeges were leaving. They were by no means late, because a guest could pick her or his hour of breakfast at the long dining table. I learned the men's stories (and did study their faces) before I learned their names, much later, after arriving home and doing some Googling.

The older gentleman had traveled from Santa Barbara to visit his fast-track-to-success student so that both, together, could host a program at 4 p.m. last Thursday at the university about French literature. I mention them first--rather than delving into Foege--because of the older Frenchman's strong connections to Princeton, as I alluded to last night (and not knowing if Joel any longer has ties to a Princeton publication, IIRC), and because there is a strong connection to a love of French literature embedded within Foege's speech that same evening.

In the past, the pair said they were lucky if eight or nine individuals attended a talk such as theirs. They would consider having 25 to 27 attendees to be a wildly successful evening. Last Thursday night, more than 45 people showed up to their presentation; it was standing room only.

At the event, the pair also served French wines and cheeses. How I wish I had known! Perhaps I could have attended and had a small glass of wine and some cheese. However, it was far better that I kept my travel-weary wits about me. I had purchased a large bottle of chocolate milk during a pit stop in Bertram on Highway 29, and begged from Neil Rapp, and his wife, Dee, owners of the San Gabriel House, some small serving of carbohydrate, as a dinner stand-in, to tide me over. Four small banana nut mini (no larger around that a large man's thumb) muffins would suffice as my evening meal.

Dr. Ronald Tobin's page at University of California Santa Barbara is here, note his masters and PhD from Priceton:

The UCSB press release mentioning his awards of knighthood:

Tobin's protege, Dr. Francis Mathieu:

--more, Foege's presentation--

Posted by: laloomis | March 15, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Don't know if you guys saw/heard this ...

Planet Money on Toxic Assets. Understanding the crisis by owning a slice of a Toxic Asset.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 15, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Foege's speech surprised me in so many ways, and in some ways it swept me off my feet. I would not meet Foege Thurday afternoon. When I arrived, he was upstairs, behind closed doors, working on his address; however, I met Paula moments after I crossed the threshold of the bed and breakfast and sat with her for a few moments on the big white couch in the living room and chatted before I fetched the small travel bag I carried from the trunk of my deer-dented car.

I caught a good look at Dr. Foege minutes after 5 p.m., when he and Paula were at the base of the stairs, talking to another couple quite dressed up (the Shillings, I later discovered... during the introductions at the start of the Shilling lecture). Foege stands 6'7"--very, very tall--and he was dressed in a dark black suit, rather somber, his full white beard and hair impeccably groomed, the sling on his arm obvious to me for the first time. I had slipped downstairs for jut a few minutes, barefoot, I admit, in my travel clothes, to drink my hopefully then cold chocolate milk and beg the banana nut mini muffins.

It was on the lower landing to that same set of stairs that Neil would approach me after I came through the front door of the bed and breakfast perhaps no longer than 15 minutes after the lecture ended and I had walked the very short distance back to the B&B. Neil had emerged from his and Dee's quarters at the back of the first floor to ask "How'd it go?" I asked if I might sit on the top step of the first landing and tell him.

Foege was selfless, rather than selfish I explained. There was next to no mention, by Foege, about his work on the worldwide smallpox eradication program, although his efforts to combat smallpox earlier in his life were mentioned by the woman on stage who introduced him. It was a speech to students, not unlike a commencement address, even though it was mostly adults who filled the seats in the Fine Arts auditorium. The address was both simulcast to students on campus and webcast.

The next morning, the lawyer from Houston summed up the speech, "It was full of idealism, but it was full of realism, too." I said to Neil that Foege is a classicist, a man extremely widely read. How appropriate that Foege and his wife Paula were guests in the Librarian's Room within San Gabriel House, their stay arranged by the university for both Wednesday and Thursday nights.

There were two things that I found highly unusual, but highly pleasantly unusual, in the address Foege gave Thursday night.


Posted by: laloomis | March 15, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

new kit...

Posted by: martooni | March 15, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Foege told, early in his speech, how he met his wife--the very same question I had asked Paula on the couch when I sat with her shortly after 3 p.m.! The next morning at breakfast, it was Paula, I think, who said that the tale of how they met had never been part of Bill's speeches before. Bill agreed, as I recall, although it could have Bill who mentioned it with Paula agreeing, as my memory is a bit weak here.

Bill, a senior, had gotten back to Pacific Lutheran Universty earlier that year when the freshman were also arriving early for orientation activities. Bill and his buddy made a bet of 25 cents that Bill could snag a date with the first freshman girl that would walk through the doors of the cafeteria. That girl was Paula. Bill approached Paula and Paula turned him down for a date. Bill wasn't one to give up easily. It was a matter of a very short time before Paula and Bill went out together, the 25 cents used to pay for two cups of coffee. Paula admitted to me as we lingered over our breakfasts together Friday morning that she was smitten with Bill Foege immediately, almost a case of "love at first sight." Bill and Paula have been married 51 years.

Bill Foege also sprinkled his speech with a great deal of history. One of the rousing cries to both duty and tenacity (Foege themes) was delivered by Col. Thomas S. Allen of the 5th Wisconsin during the Battle of Chancellorsville, whose rallying cry Foege mentioned Thursday night, along with how history dealt with military leaders Hooker and "Stonewall" Jackson. Allen's words were also part of Foege's address when he spoke at Pacific Lutheran in May 2006.

Much to my great surprise at the end of Foege's speech he mentioned William Pitt the Younger (one of Great Britain's youngest prime ministers), and William Wilberforce, as well as British Methodist pastor Wesley. The one person whom Foege mentioned, but not by name, in the battle to end the British slave trade was Sir Samuel Romilly, whose rousing speech as then-solicitor-general before Britain's House of Commons, ensured the legislation to abolish the practive of slavery, already passed by the House of Lords, would succeed. Romilly, of French descent, was a lover of French literature, and it was Romilly who would ask in his passionate speech whether history would better remember Napoleon or Wilberforce.

Romilly's story is told in Chapter 18, "Victory!" within Eric Metaxas' book "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery."

More of Romilly here:

I have boodlehogged. I should like to talk a bit more about Foege's address and upcoming book, either later today, more likely tomorrow.

Posted by: laloomis | March 15, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: tianyou1666 | March 17, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

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