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Posted at 9:18 AM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Oil spill: What we have here is a failure of communication

By Joel Achenbach

Rumor has it that I'm writing a book on the oil spill -- remember the oil spill? (please tell me you remember the oil spill!) -- and thus have developed an expertise on the subject such that I can now discern the origin of any particular sample of petroleum by its smell and taste. Last night I enjoyed a decent, if juvenile, 1998 Gulf of Mexico Miocene Sand Light Sweet Crude from Chateau Chevron (notes of wax paper, tire tread, asphalt -- could have benefited from another 14 million years of maturation).

While I'm hacking away, I'm reading reports and transcripts and document dumps from all these other investigative efforts. The Coast Guard and Minerals Management Service have had a series of hearings, for example, that have been invaluable for anyone poking into this tragedy. The BP internal report, though obviously coming from an interested party (BP discovered that the disaster was largely the fault of ... other companies!), has been extremely useful for its technical details, graphics, timelines, pressure readings, etc. What's most surprising is how good the Obama presidential commission's work has been, given that the commission lacked subpoena power.

What the commission has done is put together the most comprehensive narrative of what happened, both before and after the April 20 event. The commission has employed excellent investigators and has presented its findings in a clear, readable, insightful tale. It has not escaped my attention that this is essentially the same thing I'm trying to do, only the commission is coming out with its report sooner. So what can I do that's different? I've pondered this. The obvious answer: I can use obscenities. HUGE advantage for me.

Anyway, we won't get the full commission report until next week, but yesterday the commission released one chapter, the most important one, on what went wrong, why the blowout happened, why 11 people were killed in the April 20, 2010 disaster. There aren't any new revelations in this chapter, so far as I can tell. In fact, if you get right down to it, BP knew within days of the blowout the basic outline of what went wrong, and it informed Congress in early May that there'd been a pressure test (the infamous "negative test") that had been misinterpreted by the people on the rig, and that they'd continued to pull mud out of the well -- mud that turned out to be the only thing suppressing the hydrocarbons, because the cement job had failed (as cement jobs sometimes do). There were many other factors in the disaster beyond this misinterpretation, and the commission has determined that there's a systemic problem in the industry, a management dysfunction that goes beyond BP. (Halliburton and Transocean, two of the most important offshore contractors, get skewered by the commission along with BP.)

It's a bit vague, maybe, to say that "management failure" caused a disaster. Of course management is responsible for failures -- have you ever seen a completely competent management system? But if you dig through the chapter, you can see some obvious examples of management failure that could be applied to any industry or complex operation. I'll cite just one that the commission lists, because it's one that I don't think got a whole lot of media attention during the past nine months: There was a failure to communicate. There was, specifically, a failure throughout this complex operation to keep everyone informed about all the ominous stuff happening. People on the rig didn't know everything that people at the BP office in Houston knew; people at the BP office in Houston didn't know everything that people on the rig knew. BP people didn't know everything that Transocean knew, and vice versa.

For example, at the crucial moment when the guys on the rig were studying anomalous pressure readings -- when, as we now know, the well was about to explode -- did they know that computer models had shown the danger of a "SEVERE" gas flow potential in the well? What would their analysis have been had they been fully in the loop?

This is a big operation with a lot of people involved, so not everyone can be cc'ed on every e-mail, etc. But this is life or death stuff, dealing with an oil well. The people on the front line need to be told what they're dealing with, exactly.

Excerpt from commission report:

"[M]any BP and Halliburton employees were aware of the difficulty of the
primary cement job. But those issues were for the most part not communicated to the
rig crew that conducted the negative-pressure test and monitored the well....

"BP did not even communicate many of those issues to its own personnel on the rig--in
particular to Bob Kaluza, who was on his first hitch as a Well Site Leader on the Deepwater Horizon. Similarly, it appears at this time that the BP Well Site Leaders did not consult anyone on shore about the anomalous data observed during the negative-pressure test. Had they done so, the Macondo blowout may not have happened....

"Transocean failed to adequately communicate lessons from an earlier near-miss to its crew. Transocean failed to adequately communicate to its crew lessons learned from an eerily similar near-miss on one of its rigs in the North Sea four months prior to the Macondo blowout. On December 23, 2009, gas entered the riser on that rig while the crew was displacing a well with seawater during a completion operation. As at Macondo, the rig's crew had already run a negative-pressure test on the lone physical barrier between the pay zone and the rig, and had declared the test a success. The tested barrier nevertheless failed during displacement, resulting in an influx of hydrocarbons. Mud spewed onto the rig floor--but fortunately the crew was able to shut in the well before a blowout occurred. Nearly one metric ton of oil-based mud ended up in the ocean. The incident cost Transocean 11.2 days of additional work and more than 5 million British pounds in expenses."

By Joel Achenbach  | January 6, 2011; 9:18 AM ET
Categories:  oil spill  
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Next: Gabrielle Giffords [Updated]


Mudged myself (not at all commonplace, I might add):

Oh, Sneaks -- what a wonderful gift to give your granddaughter! She sounds receptive to it, as well. It will be interesting to hear her reactions to the book. After she has read the book, you might want to look at the movie with her, as the movie is very powerful in its own right.

Talitha, my heart goes out to you. You have my condolences.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 6, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Gotta concentrate on the conference call. Cya later.

Posted by: ftb3 | January 6, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Sneaks eldest received To Kill A Mockingbird as well this Christmas.

They have been studying the Holocaust, like slavery a subject she does not enjoy studying as it disturbs her so, but she does know how important it is. Her friends just place kleenex on her desk during those classes.

My pet peeve here is that when the Underground Railway is studied, it is just superficially, as in aren't we great, but very little is known of the stories of those former slaves lives once they came here, nor is it mentioned that this was far from a promised land for them, I made eldest read "The Book of Negroes" for that reason to see beyond what is taught.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 6, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

EYE remember the oil spill, Joel... Want to bet that a new management fad will result from this? They'll call it something like Total Structured Communication, and it will a good thing, not a bad thing, because management fads exist in order to keep simple, basic, easily forgettable truths in front of a big crowd of heterogeneous employees and stakeholders. (A few such fads go terribly south, but most are just boring... to the better workers.)

Posted by: woofin | January 6, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Joel, rest assured that I, at least, am eagerly awaiting this book because the importance of this story goes far beyond the specifics of this disaster. I am hopeful that the systemic problems described are studied by managers of all type for decades to come. There are so many lessons to be learned as to how *not* to manage a complex project. To me, preserving and communicating these lessons is a moral issue. So keep up the good work.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 6, 2011 9:42 AM | Report abuse

There was an oil spill?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

That excerpt from the commission report is depressing. Joel I am sure your book will be as interesting to read as were your reports on the story.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 6, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I pass along my condolences, talitha. *sending good thoughts your way*

Posted by: -jack- | January 6, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

Warm pumpkin bread, banananana bread, ginger cookies, apple pie, brownies, coffee and OJ on the table.

Mr. A, one other thing you can put in your b**k that won't be in the commission report are songs about the disaster.

I have a modest example here:

*begin song alert*

(to the tune "The Sound of Music" by Rodgers and Hammerstein)

The Gulf’s filled with oil from Disastrahoochie,
let loose from its lair of a million years.
The ooze in the soil’s by Disastrahoochie.
The slime on the birds brings me close to tears.

For days and then weeks we all watched as the oil and gas gushed up into the sea.
We learned terms like junk shot and bottom kill and, of course, BOP.
BP’s being called to explain what failed with the well on that day.
The folks on the shore lost their jobs, they want BP to pay.

The Congress smells blood, so there’ll be more hearings.
The press is abuzz, like bees ‘round the hive.
The one thing I know ‘bout Disastrahoochie:
We’re still gonna drive.

*end song alert*

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

The Presidential Disasterhooche Commission does not have Joel Achenbach, author of Captured By Aliens, writing for it. 'Nuff said.

As mentioned previous Boodle I am reading the novel Penrod which was written in 1914. The eleven-year-old protagonist makes a fairly obscure Uncle Tom's Cabin analogy which I believe most people today (present company excluded) would not have caught entirely.

Contrariwise, the novel Beloved, which deals with slavery and its aftermath in a magical realist way, is quickly becoming part of the Established Canon. There have also been a lot of very good movie and television dramas that treat the topics of slavery and Reconstruction in a historically responsible way.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 6, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I'm looking forward to your book, Joel, because it will be a coherent, structured telling of the story - it will be reader-friendly, which the commission report may or may not be.

Shades of Cool Hand Luke!

Yup, the most important responsibility of management is to ensure that employees doing the job have the information they need when they need it, whether or not they realize it. Complete fail in this incident.

Posted by: slyness | January 6, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

"[H]ave you ever seen a completely competent management system?"

Isn't that the organizational umbrella that coordinates the activities of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and God?

Posted by: byoolin1 | January 6, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

My household had several well-documented egregious failures in Tooth Fairy Operations and Santa Claus has become quite sloppy as to disguising his secret identity for several years now.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 6, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I wonder whether Michael Lewis is doing his own book on the spill. He's something of a Louisiana guy, after all. But he does sports and money.

Joel's book is already orderable at Amazon. Price has been set.

Back to yesterday's discussion, if historian Bernard Bailyn thought indentured servitude was a huge big deal in colonial America, there's a reassessment in a recent book, "Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580–1865"

It doesn't look to have the makings of a best seller. Maybe a flashier title would help? The word "bondage" might help.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 6, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Simply one part of the story. Normally one can use a calculator and compare pump strokes with mud tank volumes, which are to be watched. But:

I've been puzzling over the problems of monitoring mud volume while both removing mud from the hole and removing mud from the rig. Dual (or multiple) stroke counters on the pumps would be required, plus an ability to quickly tally each side. I personally never saw a setup to do that.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 6, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

The flip side to "too little communication" is "too much communication" which is an oft-occurring response. Not sharing enough data? Then next time we'll share ALL of it, which will mean at a crucial moment somebody will not be able to identify the one useful item in the Gulf of SPAM surrounding her, and another disaster will occur.

Making sure all people have all the relevant information, but no extraneous information that will distract them? Now, THAT's a hard problem.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 6, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I have been in the communications field, in one form or another, my entire working life, and have been an informal student of internal and external communications all that time, and I have come to a few conclusions about it, based on more than four decades of experience:

1) "Good communication(s)" is a mythical beast, sort of like "good government" and "sound finances." People talk about them as though they are attainable goals, but I no longer think they are. One may strive for them, but may never achieve them. To think one has achieved such a goal is to delude oneself and set yopurself up for a crashing failure.

2) People who specialize in "communications" and urge "good communications" in their departments or businesses are often the worst at it. I have yet to figure out why this is, but I am dead certain of its truth. One would think that an entire communications department -- let's say, hypothetically -- of only 35 or so people would have excellent internal communications.

You would be oh, so wrong.

You would think they would have good (or better than merely "good") external communications.


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Solar powered heat pumps - naturally built into hornets?

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 6, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

*pause while in Farmville*

I'm sorry, did someone just say something?

*resuming Farmville*

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Thinking of concatenated day-long bridge calls so we're on the same page during emergencies. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Thanks for breakfast. Am ordering good Chinese/sushi for lunch. Fax me your order, I'll fax imaginary lunch back around 12.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 6, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Yummm, dbG. Mixed vegetables in garlic sauce for me, please! And a spring roll. That will be a perfect lunch.

Posted by: slyness | January 6, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, dbG. Kung pao chicken for me please, extra spicy.

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

An order of Philly roll (salmon and cream cheese) for me please, dbG.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 6, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if there is a problem with unqualified managers, are all the decision makers experts in the field?

Posted by: scottandrewtaylor | January 6, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Mrs. Boehner claims a "...normal, every day life..."

contextual, considering that Mr. Boehner makes something approaching 800k per year and Mrs. B is a real estate broker. Normal for a household with a combined income of nearly 1M annually. Bet they don't eat leftovers.

Posted by: -jack- | January 6, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

They must have been singing.

"Delirious Russian junior hockey team kicked off flight"

Maybe more later on risk management. Probably much later as I need 2 of me today and only one showed up for work, as usual.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 6, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Um, (prompted by a Post headline), happy Epiphany. Sort of an orphan item on the religious calendar (perhaps banned by by some Protestants) but a big deal when I was a kid in Puerto Rico thanks to the gift-bringing Three Kings.

The other day Walmart had a heap of Rosca de los Reyes or Kings' Day Rings of sweet bread, big enough for a family and whatever friends might come by. I revisited the store a few hours later, and they'd vanished.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 6, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

OK, one half of the swap has been completed.

TWC Mayor Richard M. Daley has traded his brother Bill to team Obama where he will become CoS.

The other half of the trade will be:
a) ex-CoS Rahm Emanuel will become the next mayor of TWC;
b) an undisclosed cash settlement; or
c) an alternative player to be named later.

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Soooooo, that's 10 copies sold for sure. Whatever you do, don't risk that giant coffer that is wapos pension fund. Stay safe...we lose.

Posted by: teddymzuri | January 6, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Spielberg's movie "AI" had a scene set in a New York flooded out by rising sea level, skyscrapers sticking out of the sea. Geology prof. Harold Wanless of the University of Miami assures us that in real life, buildings crumble to bits, fast. So Miami won't have towering condos, not for long. The city's porous underpinnings mean it can't be protected by levees.

New Scientist has an alarming new assessment of Greenland's glaciers.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 6, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Is there any way they can move Joe's Stone Crabs to higher ground?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

It is facile to blame problems on communication failure but more communication is not necessarily the solution. Anyone who has taken a home loan in the recent past as experienced what an overload of informed consent represents. A tsunami of communication can be as bad as too little. What is needed is wisdom in communication, the right information to willing ears, and that is always in short supply.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 6, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, there is no 'higher ground' in the Miami area. There is precious little of it in the entire state of Florida, for that matter.

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Hope what you were faxed is as good as what we had here.

My fortune cookie: You can't always get what you want. Want what you have.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 6, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I know, MsJS. I was being naughty.

dbG, I think Stephen Stills wrote that one.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

A Stills/Jagger mashup perhaps, 'Mudge?

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 6, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The eternal truths as evidenced in dessert and music.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 6, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

MsJS, that reminds me of a Dave Barry column on hurricane preparedness I ran across. It was something like, "To determine if you live in a low lying area check your driver's license. If it says "Florida" you live in a low lying area."

Posted by: cowhand214 | January 6, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Aviation maps show the land elevations color coded. I never understood why they bothered putting a legend on the maps since they were totally green. Mount Dora is at an elevation of 185 feet.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 6, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

SCC: ...a legend on the maps for Florida...

When I was doing construction in the Tampa area, finished floor elevations were sometimes in high single digits.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 6, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

In deal-making, "wisdom in communication" would mean withholding key information. It is always in their self-interest to do so. When forced to turn over information, they will attempt to drown it in a pile of other information.

This is a routine corporate strategy when sued-- they will disclose all the information demanded, but it'll be in a huge semi-truck full of papers. They are hoping to overwhelm the opponent's finances and manpower and make it more difficult for them to sue-- and maybe they'll leave out a key document. The plantiffs go through all of that because they have no option if they want to maintain their lawsuit.

You always have options, though; you can walk out and find another bank willing to give you a loan, get expert advice, or simply not buy a house.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 6, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

A failure to communicate with more than 100,000 dead.

Posted by: laloomis | January 6, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Scotty, you're dead right: it's a Jagger/Stills mashup. I don't know why I didn't see that right off.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

It appears the Republicans effed up the reading of the Constitution:

"It was decided in advance that any portion of the Constitution that was superseded by amendments — including the amendments themselves — would not be read, preventing lawmakers from having to make references to slaves, referred to in Article 1, Section 2 as “three fifths of all other Persons,” or things like Prohibition."


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod_Gnome, going to a different bank for a mortgage loan does not appear to make one jot or tittle of difference in the deluge of paperwork involved in signing for a loan. Careful textual analysis, which no one wants you to do during a loan-signing, shows clear evidence for an accretionary (sedimentary) process: as time and law progressed, mortgage loans accrued more and more layers of paperwork absolving the lender of responsibility, absolving the broker of responsibility, shafting the consumer, and providing various notices related to various bits of incoherent real estate and lending law. In some rare cases, I suppose that some of that paperwork grants the consumer actual protections -- which are probably waived by signing the very next piece of paper. Who knows? No person can actually read all that stuff and maintain sanity.

One page I particularly recall from my first loan-signing marathon (at which the ScienceSpouse and I actually read about 3/4 of the documents before the cacophony of toe-tapping and thumb-twiddling made it difficult to concentrate) required that we agree that we would in future agree to any changes in practically any of the terms of our loan, at any time, at the sole discretion of the lender or whoever buys the loan from the lender. I called a halt and asked how this document could possibly be legal; and, if it was, why bother signing any other documents? Effectively, that sole document constitutes my agreement to anything and everything that the lender might call for. I was advised to consider whether I wanted a house or not. I signed.

In the 5 loan-settlements that I have gone through since then (either selling or buying), I no longer bother reading much of anything. I assume I am giving up everything. They have me over a barrel. I figure that my only possible recourse is in the sheer impossibility of all that nonsense, the clear overreach of some waivers that they demand, and the fact that all the documents are being signed more or less while under duress.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 6, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Quite a bit of Miami consists of limestone keys from when sea level was a bit higher. Quite a bit of the city isn't in imminent danger (much of downtown, Coral Gables) but Miami Beach is hopeless. There's areas at the beach and on the mainland where streets flood at astronomical high tides. Some of this might be due to filled areas subsiding, the rest to sea level rise over the past 80 years, which has greatly affected the coast of Everglades National Park.

This NPR story from a year ago is good.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 6, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Quite a bit of Miami consists of limestone keys from when sea level was a bit higher. Quite a bit of the city isn't in imminent danger (much of downtown, Coral Gables) but Miami Beach is hopeless. There's areas at the beach and on the mainland where streets flood at astronomical high tides. Some of this might be due to filled areas subsiding, the rest to sea level rise over the past 80 years, which has greatly affected the coast of Everglades National Park.

This NPR story from a year ago is good.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 6, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Sorry. Moveable Type burped.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 6, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

from the NYT:

In Women’s Tears, a Chemical Cold Shower

By PAM BELLUCK 23 minutes ago

deck: "Researchers studying the chemical effects of women’s emotional crying on men found that it dampens arousal."

No kidding.

And before you umbrage yourselves, no, you didn't pay for this finding. First, it was discovered by accident, in a different study paid for by the Minerva Stiftung Foundation, a German-based organization supporting research involving Israeli and German scientists, often with money from the German government.

In short, ve haff vays of making you roll over und go to shleep.

I'm still having a little cognitive dissonance over German and Israeli scientists working together. But, hell, maybe its a good sign.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Ach. Der linken:

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Let me join 'Mudge in BWAHAHAHAHAHing, since the GOP's attempt to appease the Tea Party has backfired. As I see it, their attempts to avoid reading outdated (!) portions of the document amount to a tacit agreement that the damn thing is WAY more mutable than they want to admit.



Posted by: Scottynuke | January 6, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I was easily bored in grade school, also easily amused.

My 2nd grade teacher caught me daydreaming and very loudly asked, "Can you answer the question I just asked?"

I replied, "No. Can you tell me without looking at the map behind you how many states are all in green?"

Five minutes later, I got to tell the answer to the principal. It was two: Florida and Louisiana.

For some reason, I've never liked either.

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Breaking news: my wife just called me to report she heard on the news just now that two bombs went off, one in the DOT building in a 3rd floor mail room, and another in Hanover, MD. I told her there is nothing going on here whatsoever, and certainly no bomb, no evac, no nuthin'. Turns out it was the MARYLAND DoT building up near BWI airport.

So if you hear or mis-hear something, it ain't us downtown.

She seemed mildly pleased I was still alive.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Here is the current version from WaPo:

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

One flash, a minor injury in the mailroom and some smoke is the short story.

It's two hours from here, but we had to account for all staff in response.

Posted by: MoftheMountain | January 6, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse


What you describe is the same conduct behind the Savings and Loan failure and the recent mortgage outrage. They are interested in profits, not in "wise communication."

But that's only part of the story. As you know, a relatively affordable house costs easily 2-5x the median household income of an American (44K); when you include mortgage interest and other fees, it balloons to 10x or more.

That is an huge income commitment, and does not include taxes and maintenance costs. Just thinking you can recoup it when you sell doesn't offset that real risk. Most Americans don't have savings enough to pay for a mortgage when they're out of work. Even stocks, as we've found, isn't always enough guarantee.

The real crime was that starting 13 years ago, home prices started spiraling out of control, all based on people overborrowing beyond their means and the idea you could flip houses for a profit. It was easy to do the math and know the house market would crash, and badly, and a lot of people would have to default.

Why do people buy home loans without expert advice? That I don't understand. The bank is only going to do some of it, and the bank wants to have the deal advantageous to them. If they are planning to own the mortgage throughout its lifespan, they have incentive to make sure you can meet the mortgage.

If they aren't, they have incentive to make it nice and fat (beyond your abilities, maybe), and sell it off as quickly to the next sucker who thinks they can get their money recouped from your mortgage.

I'm sure there's game theory analysis for this scenario, but it does mean if you're pegged as a bad risk and likely to default, you're probably going to get shafted on a mortgage and your mortgage sold off ASAP in a bundle.

And certainly, houseowners were doing the same on their side-- buying houses and trying to sell them high before their mortgages had run out and pocketing the difference. Again, it depends on finding that next sucker to sell to.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 6, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Mudge-I too am mildly pleased that you are still alive.

MsJS-back boodling tells me you could use some of the frostcats' allergy free kitty lovin's (substitute hug of your choice if you aren't a cat person)

Returned a few hours ago from the colonoscopy, sans the polyp that was found. Thanks to all here for the prep advice. CqP-make sure you and your friend get your calendars set for chauffeur duty.

Taking suggestions for what to do with left over lime Jello. Industrial or DIY uses preferred over culinary.

Rare on kit observation-can't believe JA has me wanting to read more about the oil spill, but he does. Well done sir.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 6, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

That's a remarkably coherent post-'scope post, frosti.

*standing ovation* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 6, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, SciTim - I heartily recommend Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" and/or Bethany McLean/Joe Nocera's "All the Devils are Here." The point wasn't that BAD mortgages were quickly sold off in bundles; ALL mortgages were quickly sold off in bundles. So the originating bank didn't care whether you could pay or not; it got its fees up front and the people who bought the "security" (who truly had no clue whether you could pay or not) had the risk.

Yep, I've been through any number of settlements and the like where I had to sign a number of papers that I had no hope of understanding, even if they gave me enough time to read them. Just for kicks one time, I spent several days (after settlement) carefully reading every document I had signed and Googling the parts I wasn't sure of. I found that in many cases the words didn't mean what I thought they should mean, because it was considered a "term of art." I just figured I would lose in any battle that arose. But, like Tim, I wanted to own a house, so...

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 6, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The conversation went approximately as follows:

[ring, ring]

Me: Hello?

Wife: [background noise, and voice saying "Turn the radio down."]

Me: Hello? Hello?

Wife: [garbled]

Me: Hellooooooo-oh?


Me: Uh...


Me: Uh...Mmmmm, I dunno. Why?


Me: Uh... [my voice, off: Hey guys, my wife says a bomb went off in the DOT. Bwahahaha.] Uh, I don't think so. I'm looking out the window. There's nothing. No alarms, no smoke, nobody on the plaza. Nobody running. Really.

Wife: Okay, I believe you.

Me: It's dead quiet.

Wife: They said it went off in the mailroom on the third floor.

Me: Our mailroom's in the basement.

Wife: [silence]

Me: Okay, bye.

Wife: Bye.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Glad all is well Frosti, I am guessing Jello shooters is out of the question - Lime would go well for Kamakazi shooters. Given your recent experience perhaps experiments in jello explosions, jello, baking soda and vinegar - jello fireworks :-)

Posted by: dmd3 | January 6, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

The thing is, I'm not really sure I can blame the lenders for all that paperwork and obfuscation. I suspect that every time a new law or judicial opinion comes along, they just add another piece of paper, unless the legal matter actually requires the elimination of something old. Otherwise, it's a situation of "don't fix it if it ain't (shown to be) broke". I suspect there's a lot of people who would be happy to see the lending paperwork become simplified -- think of how many more settlements could be processed within one day, think of how the current fuss over robo-signing would not have arisen -- but the replacement of old paperwork with new contract language means new opportunities for litigation and adverse legal opinions. It's hard to get blamed for bad contract language that has been retained for 40 years before you were hired, but it's easy to get blamed (and fired) for good contract language that has a minor flaw.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 6, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Congrats on getting through the scope treatment, frosti. And thanks for the kitty lovin', though I will say such memories of my younger years only bring giggles now.

On March 17 TWC dyes the downtown portion of the Chicago River green. As budgets are tight, the city could probably use green dye donations.

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

WaPo hed: "Pentagon to shrink active troops in Army, Marines"

[Insert 1,000 punchlines here. Please use alphabetical order. Punchlines will be evaluated on a first-come, first-served basis. All punchlines remain the property of the Washington Post. No rim-shots or other sound effects accepted.]

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Think of the money to be saved in feeding, housing, clothing and transporting shrunken active troops!

Posted by: MsJS | January 6, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Shrinky Dinks

Posted by: dmd3 | January 6, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

... however, the shrink ray only works for a limited time, so troops will return to original size at the most inopportune time (shout out to "Despicable Me" for the shrink ray).

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 6, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Tim, I hate to defend the lenders, but you are right: most of that paperwork is mandated by state regulations. The amount will vary from state to state, of course, and there's lots of room for different companies to put their own stuff in. But in Maryland, anyway, the bulk of the stuff is mandated. A standard house contract in Maryland is now up to about 50 pages, and a lot of it has to go to the real estate companies and the banks or mortgage companies (you guys make me itchy when you refer to banks all the time; there are mortgage companies that aren't banks, and there are other ways of buying a house other than a bank or mortgage company loan. There's the gummint outfits, and there's cash deals, etc. No matter how it's done, there's a ton of paperwork, much of which is state-mandated. Some's boilerplate, some isn't.

I get a bit irritated with people who think the single largest, probably most complex purchase you will ever make in your entire lives, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, ought to be accomplished in 10 minutes with four sheets of paper. Given the melt-down the economy had over liar loans, robo-signing and skipped procedures, I'm not sympathetic to people now complaining about too much fact-checking and document-supplying and submitting paperwork.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps "dead quiet" was not the optimum choice of words under the circumstances.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 6, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Now if they really wanted to save money,

Posted by: dmd3 | January 6, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Congrats on surviving the alien probe.

I did walk away from a re-fi signing because I had explicitly directed them NOT to include escrows for property taxes and homeowners insurance. In their rote processing, they had included them and wanted me just to sign because it could be straightened out afterwards. I knew better.

Why I had to sign asbestos and lead paint waivers for a house built after both those products were illegal and that I had been living in for three years still baffles me, but since I wanted the loan I played along.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 6, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The water is cold! Don't they know about shrinkage? It shrinks when it's cold! Like a frightened turtle!

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 6, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, well said. Sorry about the bank comment.
I know mortgage lenders like Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac aren't banks, but those loans usually are arranged via banks.
I'm not so familiar with government-backed loans, though. I know some states have "first-time homeowner" deals.
There's also Habitat for Humanity, but you have to meet specific conditions first (They do no-profit mortgages but require sweat-equity of 250 hours in addition.)

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 6, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Gonna backboodle in a few minutes ... but just want to write this:

Thank the great beyond for JA and his honesty! ... I certainly hope that the President's commission produces an open assessment, but I'll be waiting for Mr.A to speak. (don't make me have to buy it at B&N, please!)

And bless you all for your dear compassion.
It has meant and will mean in the days ahead
all the world to me.
You are the BEST!

Posted by: talitha1 | January 6, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

yello, you had to sign lead paint and asbestos waivers because there's been a kajillion lawsuits and problems over several decades. And it took you what, 30 seconds to sign 'em? Is that a big deal? I know its legal CYA and mumbo-jumbo, but c'mon now.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

If they shrink the Joint Chiefs of Staff, does that mean our military will be led by a bunch of shrunken heads?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

mudge, I had a house custom built. The contract with the builder specified (among other things) no lead paint and no asbestos. (And we did the painting ourselves to save money.) When all was done, and I rolled the lot loan and construction loan into a standard mortgage on the place, I still had to sign a lead paint waiver and an asbestos waiver, holding the lender harmless in case there actually was any of that stuff (which there wasn't). Yeah, it only took us a few seconds to sign, but it took their staff time to prepare the things and review them. Those little bits of wasted time, effort and money add up.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 6, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Yes, AB, but think how much tinme and effort they'd have had to spent verifying that you did NOT have to sign the waivers.

Actually, it took their staffs about 20 seconds to prepare those papers. They got a stack of 'em in a drawer. My wife has a box of stuff like that she hauls around in her care (she's a realtor).

The cost to prepare and review is probably a wash against the cost to prepare and review the waibvers that say you do NOT have to prepare and review, blah, blah.

C'mon, look it from a business point of view: all this work is simply a cost sink. No one makes a dime off of doing this stuff, whether it makes sense or not. I know some of its crazy or senseless. But there's a helluva lot more stuff more important to argue about than the 30 seconds of your life you think somebody wasted.

There's no big constiuency out there fighting to save you twenty seconds and a milligram of ink.

Just sign the papers. None of us has enough expertise to second-guess this stuff. Let the lawyers do it. Let's go have a drink.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 6, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Mr. T and I recently refinanced with the bank that has had our loan for the last six years. It was fairly straightforward and easy. I called the number on the advertisement from them, they asked a few questions, then they sent documents. Document was 3/4 inch thick, but they included instructions on what pages to sign. We had to go to the bank to get the relevant signatures notarized, then sent the package back in the provided FedEx envelope. Congratulations! Our rate went from 5.38 to 4.5. We opted to keep a 30 year mortgage but we will continue to pay at our old rate, so that we'll pay it off sooner. At least that's the theory.

I've lived in this house 17 years and this is the fourth mortgage I've had on it. The original mortage had a rate of 7.12, so we've come down a looong way. I'd love to pay it off.

Posted by: slyness | January 6, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

In my experience, limited but still more than the typical American (8 houses and a few refinancings), mortgage paperwork is not that hard to understand. My impression is that most people don't like to sit at the conference table with all the assorted other parties watching as they read. (I do not have this problem.)

Although it would probably produce a lot of frivolous quibbling, perhaps there should be a requirement that all documents be produced and delivered to the buyer 3 days before closing. Some people would still not read them, some would read them and not understand them, but no one would have the excuse of not having the opportunity to thoroughly review everything or seek assistance to have it reviewed.

And what Mudge said. We have a uniform rental agreement for our vacation rental property. Half of it doesn't apply to this party, or that, but it's far easier to just use one and check boxes or cross out and initial as needed than to produce a new agreement for each rental. I've found this is true even if all the changes can be made with a few key strokes and some cutting or pasting, and there are only 3 units to be managed.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 6, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, did the same thing last spring. Easy peasy and worth the slight extra % I paid because if it hadn't been so easy I probably wouldn't have done it.

15 years at something like 4.7%. I figure to have it paid in less than 13.

Maybe I'll get to retire someday after all.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 6, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Frostbitten, I think you've got the time suggestion bang-on.

Speaking of which, get a loan before/after you close on a house, or during? Sense would say you get a loan BEFORE you buy a house, but shrug....

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 6, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

House refinancing is why Mr. F and I got married. He was returning to Somalia after I had already refinanced a home for him with a power of attorney. We then bought a 100 year old house to renovate together and I told him "you're not leaving me with 2 houses and a POA." Aaaah, romance.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 6, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod-since the house is security for the loan, or is supposed to be, finalizing the purchase and loan at the same time is pretty much required. A good lender will usually have all the financing paperwork done in plenty of time, but state mandated disclosures and other stuff often doesn't get produced until just before closing (moments before in some cases).

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 6, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse


Closing on a house is an intricate minuet of purchasing, selling, borrowing, lending, and paying taxes that all occurs more or less simultaneously. You can 'pre-qualify' for a loan, but the real process can't start until you enter a contract to purchase a specific property, usually contingent upon the buyer being able to obtain a loan.

The purchaser borrows money to give to the seller to buy the property, but the lender's loan is secured by the value of the property being purchased. The seller then has to pay off all the loans secured by the property since the seller no longer owns the property. So there are a bunch of transactions all going on at once. The intricacies of how it all happens legally is beyond me. I just sign what they put in front of me.

In the go-go days of the housing bubble, there was no problem getting a loan from somebody no matter whether you could afford the house or if the house was worth on the open market what it was being sold for. Then the bubble burst and a lot of babies got thrown out with the bathwater. That securing a loan is no longer a given has affected the housing market. You can only sell something if someone is able to buy it.

But more importantly, what is the correct singular pronoun to use for gender non-specific writing?

I'm a fan of the singular 'they' which means it is clearly the wrong choice.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 6, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

frostbitten1 - I submit that just using the same form and crossing out/initialing is yet another reason to not like lawyers. My wife and I co-own a house in Georgia with her brother. The contract we were given to sign has approximately 12 pages on the developer's work with the county to gain approval for the subdivision, and spells out in minute detail what would happen if the plan were rejected, or if several different types of changes were required. We were somewhat surprised to read that, since there were already something like 50 houses in existence at that time. Sure enough, at the very back of the contract was an addendum that states "Sections of the contract relating to county approval of the subdivision plan no longer apply." All approvals had been granted 9 months earlier! Yeah, yeah, I get it - it's easier for THEM to just add that page than to actually modify their standard contract - but it's a royal pain in the rear for those like me who actually try to read and understand the entire contract! Make your changes, already, you lazy bag o' bones!

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 6, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt - yes, the singular "they" is grammatically incorrect as "they" by definition is plural. So sayeth my mother, the retired English and Latin teacher; my sister, the teacher; my niece, the teacher; and my wife, the English major. Any of "his," "her," "his/her," "his or her," "her/his," "her or his," etc would be correct. However, since political correctness often counts more than grammatical correctness these days, I suspect that we'll ultimately be told that "they" can indeed mean "exactly one" and we have to use that.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 6, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Kotching up sporadically with y'all.

dbG, I'm having an imaginary sushi supper
with your lunch leftovers! many thanks.

I gave sonchild To Kill a Mockingbird, All Quiet on the Western Front, On the Beach, and a folio of Dali prints ... all on his tenth birthday. I reckon that makes me the craziest mom in the universe, huh?

Gomer, caught your reference two kits ago re Aussienewscaster. Didn't want to let that 'talitha' go by without thanking you mightily. *grin*

ps- my spirit is well, thanks muchly (no scc involved!) to all you gentle boodlesouls. My knees quake for Grace's parents ... so send a thought their way. And bless you all.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 6, 2011 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Maybe mail room people need hazardous-duty pay. And maybe facilities that protect against blast and anthrax?

In the house department, I noticed new windows in a nearby house that changed owners recently. I now have window envy. That is, assuming those new windows meet hurricane code, which requires laminated glass that flummoxes burglars almost as effectively as flying coconuts.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 6, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

DotC! you said "flummoxes." I love that word.

As it happens because of anthrax and other perceived terrorist threats Our Fair City will never get a new post office. New rural post offices must be built as if they were just as likely targets as those in DC or NYC and thus are prohibitively expensive. Ours is in a rented building that the owner has been trying to sell for a very long time. When it finally falls down, the store down the road will try to get a contract to provide services. If that fails we'll have our boxes on a pole where the PO used to stand and a 20 mile drive to buy stamps.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 6, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Armybrat, language drift is already happening, no matter what one's aunt may say. Incidentally, I've looked at the history of old fashioned Anglo-saxon grammar, and "his" actually did apply for both neuter and masculine. "Its" came later.

All languages, written or not, always have certain random gaps in clarity contrasted to other languages, which makes translation "fun."

American Sign Language itself has a perfectly neutral pronoun thatt can be applied to all genders and objects, and I have to remember to clarify if I want to be translated correctly, since English demands gender information for (his/her/theirs/its.)

I personally prefer other solutions for directive sentences, which can make for fun word gynmastics. Often, the solutions are actually shorter than the traditional ways of saying it.

I will observe that writers have struggled with pronoun clarity for many centuries. Some adopted the french "one" as a solution, as one might do if one would like to obscure one's gender identity.

Others, like Austen and 17th century novelists, simply used abbreviations, like A- said this to C-, and B- found out, and challenged A- to a duel.

Rewrite exercise on how plurals help or harm clarity:

A student must bring her book to class daily.

Students must bring their books to class daily.

A student must bring a book to class daily.

One should bring one's book to class daily.

Bring your books to class daily, students!

Bring books to class daily.

And so on. All have different tones and yield varying amounts of information. All of those sentences assume the students know what is meant by "book" and "class," of course.

Plurals are bad when subject-verb agreement is messed up, or when they increase ambiguity as to how many books should be brought to class.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 6, 2011 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Joel is on the PBS Newshour tonight talking about the oil spill report. Let's see if he survived his birthday weekend!

Posted by: -pj- | January 6, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

SCC: gymnastics. Gynmastics relates to breastfeeding, I think.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 6, 2011 8:20 PM | Report abuse

It's more interesting than that. It's some sort of really sticky stuff produced by women.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 6, 2011 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Bob-S- spew warning please.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 6, 2011 8:59 PM | Report abuse

You are quite the classic Greek scolar Bob S.
"Mastics" had me flummoxed.
Witch no.1 the Translator has a pet peeve developed when she was doing automated translations reviews with a gunmint agency. The 'puter kept on translating "nursing aid" to "aide a l'allaitement/breastfeeding aid", despite multtiple corrections every weeks. For some reason old folks need more paid (but not that much) aid than nursing mothers; it might be wrong but it's a fact. So nursing the sick/elderly aid ads pop up quite often.
As this was supposed to be an advanced intelligent system learning from the human translators so it was deduced by all that some IT guy locked in the nursing aid wrong translation in the program. Ah Ah.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 6, 2011 9:13 PM | Report abuse

All right, wake up a bit, boodlers.
Shake, rattle and roll!

I blame my crazy Stearman-flying,
boogie-woogie barrel-rolling wing-over father for teaching me such stuff ... but you can blame Obama if you wish. ;)

Posted by: talitha1 | January 6, 2011 9:27 PM | Report abuse

My opinions are often somewhat uninformed. Here's an example:

Talitha, I actually prefer this version, from 1966 -

Big Joe was older then, but it seems to me that he gave it a little more of the juice from his shoutin' roots. The version you linked (which I suspect was from his '54-'59 pop music heyday) struck me as having been "whitened up" with a slower tempo and forced diction.

Hey, if he was OK with it, then so am I. But I wanna see the big dog shout!

Posted by: Bob-S | January 6, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

OK, I have to admit that I also like the horn work in the 1966 version. What can I say, I'm a horny guy.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 6, 2011 10:11 PM | Report abuse

stones, ca. 71 or 72, covering carol. one of my favourite covers.

Posted by: -jack- | January 6, 2011 11:09 PM | Report abuse

quaking and a'shakin', BobS. I don't know from horns.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 6, 2011 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

Nightly Boodle catchup -

Talitha, my thoughts are with you and yours in this difficult time.

For those of you who liked that astronomy pic from last night, I'm glad of it.

kguy, I've always been a Harry Miller fan, so I voted for the Miller, of course (the Tucker Torpedo would have been #2). Maybe they'll let me drive it into it's new spot in the museum? I promise, I'll get it there very fast (maybe after a lap of the Mall, which is about the size and shape of IMS) - I'm used to racing high-powered FWD cars, so I can handle it when the tail steps out...

As far as mortgage or other legal documentation goes - I don't think there's anything there that's beyond me. I just signed the paperwork for my new house, and I read every page of it before signing. I had them send it to me beforehand, and I took an evening and read it. And I made them go over the last-minute changes at the table. But that's just me. I've also acted as my own lawyer several times and won every case, including those where the other parties were represented by professional counsel or by state's attorneys. I do try to keep that to a minimum, though. And I know, sometimes you *do* need a pro.

Back on Kit for a minute - sometimes in corporate or professional situations, people aren't comfortable admitting that they don't understand something or that they aren't in control of a given situation (one that they may be responsible for). Some folks feel that that undermines their credibility or promotes a perception that perhaps they aren't competent.

So, they don't speak up at times when they should.

I am not sure that's what happened in the DH situation, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were some of that. It takes a strong organization to honestly face uncertainty.

(Feel free to discuss the Arbusto Administration here.)


Posted by: -bc- | January 6, 2011 11:27 PM | Report abuse

And about female tears and male libido - has anyone asked JT Kirk about Elaan of Troyius?

If the Rolling Stones were still around in the 23rd century, I think they'd write a song about her.


Posted by: -bc- | January 6, 2011 11:30 PM | Report abuse

The Stones did something fascinating... they played great blues/rock while looking just like glam boys. Then they took off and explored edgier stuff (looking glammier & glummer) while never quite giving up their love of the bluesy roots. Heck, one of their bigger hits was "Honky Tonk Women". Go figure!

When Gerry Rafferty passed away this week, it was interesting to notice how many people of my acquaintance knew that he's attached to "Baker Street" or "Stuck in the Middle", but didn't know that he's attached to both.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 6, 2011 11:45 PM | Report abuse

keef is so well preserved that he might just make it to the 23rd century.

Posted by: -jack- | January 6, 2011 11:46 PM | Report abuse

country honk.

Posted by: -jack- | January 6, 2011 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Talitha - If you check out Joe Turner's stuff from the '30's/40's/early 50's, you'll probably see what I mean. Or not. Sometimes I'm full of crap, and I certainly wasn't present at the time.

These (you'll need to have a fairly up-to-date version of the "RealAudio Player" software) are bits of some of the pre-pop music:

Posted by: Bob-S | January 7, 2011 12:04 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a big fan of choosing my favorite 'whatever'. But I gotta say that "Let It Bleed" a spectacularly brilliant album.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 7, 2011 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, jack. That was a rookie mistake, and I know better. "Country Honk" it is.

Nice link!

Posted by: Bob-S | January 7, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Wow, that is one big bunch of seriously old music.

As to female tears and male libido, feh! to both the the weeping and drive.

Avert your ears, Talitha!

Posted by: Yoki | January 7, 2011 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Awww, geez, Yoki... Wheezer is so 'last decade of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st century'. Don't you have any NEW music?

Posted by: Bob-S | January 7, 2011 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Of course, if I wasn't such a geezer, I might remember that they are properly spelt "Weezer".

[I really do like them quite a lot! Hard to tell, I know.]

Posted by: Bob-S | January 7, 2011 12:35 AM | Report abuse

You're OK as you are, Bob-S. At my very advanced age I can hardly tell the difference between Green Day and Shoenburg (how I wish we had fonts, umlauts and italics!). Prolly I couldn't even read them. Eh?

Posted by: Yoki | January 7, 2011 12:46 AM | Report abuse

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

Good morning, friends. I spent the first part of the evening at the emergency room with grandson. He's doing a little better.

All the information about home loans and contracts is good, not that I need it, but will probably help someone else. And it's just good to know. It's amazing how much information is found in one place!

JA, interesting read on the blow out. I guess that assessment falls under human failure? The road always leads back to us.

Slyness, why is that weather person still talking the white stuff? I know I'm getting bits and pieces, but I hope it stays in the mountains. Close captioning is horrible on my television. There are huge gaps in the wording.

Have a TGIF day folks, and love to all.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 7, 2011 6:25 AM | Report abuse

Happy Christmas to you Orthodox Boodlers!

Still have trouble getting the WaPo to load. Sometimes I can sneak in by bypassing the front page.

Meanwhile, I have reached a peak of uselessnes when Useless Knowledge Magazine named yours truly Columnist of the Year 2010.

A conpendium of my blah-blahs, bon mots and pearls of wisdom can be found here:

A cool morning, the sun is shining in Santiago with promise of a hot weekend.

Happy TGIF ye Boodlies. :)


Posted by: Braguine | January 7, 2011 7:08 AM | Report abuse


Turns out it's me, da Boss and one admin person today. Everyone else is either sick or has a scheduled day off.

This should be fun. :-O

Congrats Brag, have a great weekend!

*we're-gonna-need-a-bigger-pot-of-coffee Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 7, 2011 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle!
Talitha-continued good thoughts headed your way on this new day.

T-Paw is out making friends. When asked about Princess Sparkle Pony's presumed testing of the presidential waters, he is reported to have said "It's a free country" and something about being 35 or older.

Spending today in frenzied preparation for our German vacation. Joining Mr. F on the way in Atlanta tomorrow, weather and Delta airlines willing. Too late to learn as much of the language as I had hoped. The back up plan overseas is to pass as Canadian so I'll try not to dishonour Boodlers Canada.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 7, 2011 7:58 AM | Report abuse

You can always ask the Boodle for quick German translations, frosti!! *helpful smile* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 7, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

S'nuke-I hate to admit a trip to Garmisch is rather wasted on me, the non-skier.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 7, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

GARMISCH??? Yer killin' me, frosti... *LOL*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 7, 2011 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Here's some nice music from this century. It's quite melodic and has disaffected youth and everything.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 7, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Frosti, do they have tubing? If so, go for it! I know better than to try to ski, but I *can* go down a hill on my derriere! And it's a blast!

Good morning, all. Cassandra, I'm dreading the white stuff. Now they're saying we might have some this afternoon, plus a major hit Monday and Tuesday. *Putting on my game face.* I'm just glad I don't have to go to work!

I hope the little one is okay this morning. The cold got to him? I'm sorry to hear it! I also hope YOU are doing well.

Onward into the day!

Posted by: slyness | January 7, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Slyness -- the mental image of tubing @ Garmisch (not that there's anything wrong with that) will have me smiling all day. *LOL*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 7, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Those are great columns and far less than useless. I am always told I have lots of useless knowledge and yet I never get named columnist of the year.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 7, 2011 8:30 AM | Report abuse

You can't make this stuff up-

"I'll tell you why [religion's] not a scam, in my opinion: tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication...It always comes in, and always goes out. You can't explain that."
—Bill O'Reilly quoted on the Doonesbury site

As my old HS physics teacher Mrs. Carroll used to say, "You can't reason with that logic."

Posted by: kguy1 | January 7, 2011 8:52 AM | Report abuse

That video's been making rounds amongst my sciencey friends. Too scary. 1:50 on if you must subject yourselves to it:

Posted by: DNA_Girl | January 7, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Well, I did it -- I just ordered from Amazon the Doonesbury retrospective at not a bad discount. IMHO, Trudeau is a national treasure. Of course, I would still like to get the Calvin & Hobbes compendium, as well, but that will have to wait.

Brag -- great to hear from you. You do seem to have a way of ducking and diving out of the path of recent Chilean earthquakes.

And, now, for something completely different, I gotta go do some work. Have a great trip, frosti. Auf wiedersehen!

Posted by: ftb3 | January 7, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Gut Morgen, Der Boodle.

Frosti, as mein freund Scotty has gesuggested, if du needst any gehelpen mit der Deutsche translationgeshaftlich, wir standing hier dabei readylich, gevilling und überablegangen to gehelpen sie at any timen. So iffen du helpen geneeden, jüst frage.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, that's the finest impression of General Burkhalter I've heard since Hogan's Heroes went off the air.

Posted by: byoolin1 | January 7, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

To paraphrase the Insane Clown Posse: Effin' tides. How do they work?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 7, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

*everyone* knows that they aren't caused by gravity, because there is no gravity. things stick because the earth sucks.

Posted by: -jack- | January 7, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Hence Perot's "giant sucking sound," eh jack?

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 7, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Right. Gravity, like evolution, is just a theory.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 7, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. Cassandra, I hope the baby is better soon. You take care.

Many congratulations to Brag. Your writing absolutely deserves awards, though I don't know that I'd call your knowledge useless. Perhaps in the nicest possible sense of the term.

Gender-neutral pronoun: it. Let's stop personalizing our references to people.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 7, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

yep, k-guy. and heliocentricity is just plain wrong.

Posted by: -jack- | January 7, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

This guy deserves permanent enshrinement in the PHoF, the Pekkerheds Hall of Fame. I shall commission a bust (what an appropriate term!) of him to go on the shelf alongside Bachmann, Gohmert, Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, and Inhofe.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 7, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Well, now, Jack, perhaps ol' Bill is just a fan of quantum mechanics. The best classical theory of gravity is Einstein's General Relativity, but that's incompatible with Quantum Mechanics as explained by Dirac (Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" has a really good explanation of this). So there have been lots of efforts since then to reconcile gravity with quantum physics, such as gravitons, loop quantum gravity, et alia. So perhaps Bill was just inelegantly sayin' that that problem hasn't been fully resolved, so more funding for physics research might be in order.

Or maybe not.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 7, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

yello (and boodlers)- I was wondering just a few minutes ago if Arcade Fire has displaced my Burton Cummings/Randy Bachman Canucki crush
I posted this long ago, but it bears repeating
Put your childhood home in a disaffected youth video.

For those kind offers of translation and ski slope enjoyment assistance I give you this

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 7, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

hadn't thought of that, AB1. wow! i shoulda had a V8!

Posted by: -jack- | January 7, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Everyone knows the tide is in when we are facing the Moon's Gruyère side and out when its Parmigiano side is sucking the water away. What an idiot.

The Wapo headlines writers are on a roll. Not only the soldiers will be getting smaller but they will also get weaker.

"Pentagon to cut spending by $78 billion, reduce troop strength"

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 7, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

There's just something wonderfully twisted about this. I've gotta find a local provider so I can buy some gift certificates for the special ladies in my life.

Posted by: bobsewell | January 7, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

*not making any sauna jokes* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 7, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Bob, I don't think you read the last graf carefully enough:

"Across the country, chai-yok treatments are not easy to find. They are available in a scattering of alternative holistic health centers. The flashy Juvenex Spa in Manhattan offers its 30-minute Gyno Spa Cure for $75. A complete setup for a do-it-yourself steam — open-seated stool, boiler and herbs — can be purchased online at for $330."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of twisted, this headline, and me being me, I chuckled.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 7, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

'tis folkloric truth
steam's fantastic to release
sticky gynmastic

Posted by: DNA_Girl | January 7, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Bob, the only frame of reference is that, when I had a cold, my mom used to make me suck steam over a vat of boiling Vicks Vapo-Rub. I don't recall that working very well.

Posted by: Raysmom | January 7, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Bob, have you tried just squatting over a Vicks Vapo-Rub machine?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Everything we Italians do is considered to be conventional here in the States. Yep. Everything.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 7, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I know this is gonna be a humdinger of a catfight:

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Huh? They're gonna make the troops weaker? I thought they were just going to shrink them to save on uniform costs.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 7, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the link Mudge, very interesting reading. Bach would be a no-brainer choice for me, but if I read correctly I would have to exclude Vivaldi, Correlli, Telemann other favorites of mine although not sure I would put them in the top 10, also Copeland would be out (he is still living right?).

Off the top of my head I would add, Mozart, Handel and Hayden (sp), Beethoven (although I am not a huge fan). Admittedly my musical tastes are very much stuck serveral centuries ago - perhaps this contest will help expand what I like. I do like selections from many other composers but the ones I named I like just about everything I have heard.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 7, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Top ten classical composers is unworkable. You've got to include Bach and Beethoven, most of the rest is a matter of taste and perhaps trying to identify major innovators. Debussy would place high on a list of innovators, but do you put R. Strauss, Stravinsky, or Schoenberg on pedestals next to him?

By some standards, Nadia Boulanger should be on the list. She taught the 20th century how to write and perform music.

How about a top 40? Maybe a special category for movie music composers?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 7, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I feel all eucalyptusy-fresh already.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 7, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Is my dislike of Strauss equivalent to my not liking the Beatles - I am such a freak :-). Good point about movie composers DoTc, love Ennio Morricone, but I think many are still living and therefore would not qualify for this discussion.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 7, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Ah ..... happy Friday to all.

I'm out of the loom tomb for now and will knit, read and eat contentedly for a while.

I post this only to thank ALL of you
for your kindness ... in words and thoughts ... over the last hours. I reach out and grasp stars from your vast universe and drink from your deep cool well. (shoot me the next time I conjure such doofussy metaphors ... ;))


Posted by: talitha1 | January 7, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

And irresistable to koalas?

Posted by: Raysmom | January 7, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

i think Copland would qualify, both dead (since 1990) and the other rules. Though I do get confused. Why not Gershwin and Ellington? Because they did other stuff, in addition to what I, admittedly unschooled in music criticism, classical music?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 7, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

SCC- consider classical music?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 7, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Copland (no "e") died in 1990, dmd. But he'd be #1 on my personal list. Since I don't do too much classical, my #2 would be somebody like Gene Pitney, I guess, who wasn't much noted for his classical work. Although I like Rimsky-Korsakov ("Bumble Boogie").

Also, The Barber of Seville, but only this version:

and of course:

and who could forget:

High marks also to Fantasia, Peter and the Wolf, and Spike Jones.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

In high school music was played between 1st period and 2nd (home room), normally the William Tell Overture was played as the temp seemed just right to get people to class on time. There was a brief attempt to mix it up a little and the Flight of the Bumble Bees was played, that didn't work out so well, students everywhere running around, hyper bumping into things :-) and very irritated by the music!

without looking at Mudge's link I have "Kill de Wabbits" running through my head.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 7, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

dmd, I think the experts have been letting Haydn's reputation sink in recent years. It's like Florida's plague of exotic ants that burrow under sidewalks and such, so the gradually sink into the earth. Haydn's getting the burial-by-ant treatment.

Richard Strauss's era came and went during his lifetime--he wrote spectacular, technically inventive music for huge orchestras. Well before the end of his life, reaction had set in--Hindemith and Stravinsky were doing intimate neoclassical stuff, and after that, the great German concert halls were bombed. Bela Bartók wrote what's possibly the last major piece in the orchestra reportory, his Concerto for Orchestra, in Asheville, N.C. during the war. Lots of other European composers had also fled to the US--Stravinsky, Kreisler, Milhaud, Hindemith among others.

There's been lots of music since 1950, but is any of it "classic"? I can't quite think of a musical Mies van der Rohe. Steve Reich? I once thought his "Music for 18 Musicians" should accompany a movie scene in a stuck elevator.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 7, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Gershwin seems to belong in the world of show business. He's said to have sought out Maurice Ravel (definitely Classical) for lessons, only to find out that Ravel was a fan. Ravel even wrote a piano concerto that comes across as an homage to Gershwin.

Darius Milhaud will never make the top 10, but he wrote gobs of short pieces that beg to be inserted into concert programs, if only to wake up the audiences and make them happy. He learned a lot from listening to jazz in Harlem. Rachmaninoff spent lots of time in Harlem, too, but that barely affected his style.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 7, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Rogue amorous koalas haven't been a problem of late around here.

The twerps doing the weather forecast announced, early this morning, 2-4cm of snow for today but it's been snowing (finally!) all day. I bet there at least twice that on the ground. I wonder why I bother listening to the forecasts anymore.

To counter Mudge's Fantasia I offer "Allegro Non Troppo". They make creative use of Debussy's "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune" and Ravel's "Bolero". There's other pieces too that I can't remember but were good enough.

The muppet TV series "Chlorophylle" also makes good use of the Bolero. Maheva the rat constantly hums it and it annoys her brother Anthrax and mother Malaria who do not get it. She has a secret and forbidden relationship with Chlorophylle the dormouse/lérot (silent t).
So she sings Le Bolero/Le beau lérot constantly.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 7, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Who is minding the chicken-coop?
I beg of you, parse this headline now appearing top of the Wapo online:

"Data point to economy clawing out of downturn"

Now, I've read the article and couldn't be happier that the unemployment figures show improvement. But ... shouldn't there be an 's' on the point? I could go on about a data point, but I'm clawing my way out .....

Posted by: talitha1 | January 7, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* I am soooo predictable, dmd.

I like DaveoftheCoonties suggestion a lot: top 10 movie score composers. And the nominees are (in no partiuclar order; maybe we can rank them later):

Hans Zimmer -- Crimson Tide
John Williams: Star Wars, Close Encounters, etc.
Dimitri Tiompkin: High Noon, High and the Mighty, Friendly Persuasion, Guns of Navarone
John Barry: Bond. James Bond.
Francois Lai: Et Homme et une femme
Danny Elfman: Batman
Jerry Goldsmith: Patton
Elmer Bernstein: Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird
Bernard Herrmann: most of the Hitchcocks, Twlight Zone, Taxi Driver
Max Steiner: Casablanca, Gone With the Wind
Franz Waxman: Mister Roberts, Stalag 17
Miklós Rózsa : Ben-Hur
Henry Mancini: Pink Panther, Peter Gunn, Days of Wine and Roses, Mr. Lucky

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

ftb, Elderdottir gave me the Doonesbury book for Christmas, and it's a delight. Beware, though that it weighs about as much as two concrete blocks and is just about that big. I need to read it at the dining room table, so I don't try to hold it in my lap.

Not that I'm an expert, but I love Beethoven. His Fifth Symphony is the apex of Western classical music, IMHO. But I am fond of Bach and Handel. I've never heard anything John Rutter wrote that I didn't love. This is a favorite:

Posted by: slyness | January 7, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Never mind me ... I'll go backboodle and pick up the thread eventually.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 7, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

talitha, that headline illustrates my oft-whined-about pet peeve, whether data is a singular or plural. You seem to agree with me and about two-thirds of all editors and grammarians that it can be and should be a collective singular. That hed clunks on the ear so badly I'd regard it as dispositive we singularists are coorect.

(To anyone wishing to raise the objection about its Latin roots: be warned: I am sitting in the high grass just waiting for you. I WILL eat your lunch with that argument.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse


The word 'data' is the plural of 'datum.'

Though often treated as a singular noun, the correct verb form in this instance is plural.

Posted by: MsJS | January 7, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

And Mudge, I've already eaten my lunch.

Posted by: MsJS | January 7, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Rumble in the Savannah :-)

Posted by: dmd3 | January 7, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

The only thing I remember about data is that he was fully functional.

Posted by: baldinho | January 7, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

...and he didn't like it when the first 'a' in his name was pronounced as a short 'a' and not a long one.

Posted by: byoolin1 | January 7, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Indeed, with the unspoken "The" to start the hed, it works fine as-is.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 7, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Frostbitten, I would not worry about boredom in Garmisch when you don't ski: Sunday they have the curling championship, otherwise there are guided tours of the town, Biathlon, guided snow-shoe hiking and exhibits of various kinds. Although I have not been there in ages, I remember an indoor pool, so it would not hurt to pack a swim suit. And of course ice skating. As for the language, Garmisch is heavily americanized, pretty much everybody will speak English (or Canadian English, if you prefer).

Gute Reise and have fun.

Posted by: gmbka | January 7, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

What no "Good, Bad and the Ugly" Mudge?

I can only think of one movie soundtrack that I would listen to over and over - from "The Mission"

The Harry Potter scores are quite good - Williams?
Schindler's List.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 7, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

So it's a bilingual pun, very funny. Wilbrodog isn't keen on Bolero as music, he gets up and walks out, but will mellow out to other classical music.

"Le beau lerot" is probably not lively enough for a good chase.

Any rogue koalas in Quebec would be rather hungry for decent eucalpytus in the warm.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 7, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

And you can always wander over to the Partenkirchen part of town and rebel-rouse the townspeople to revolt and break away from those crazy Garmischers.

And from Wiki: "Early mornings and late afternoons in pleasant weather often find local traffic [in Partenkirchen] stopped while the dairy cows are herded to and from the nearby mountain meadows."

Watch where you step.


John Williams wrote the Harry Potter music as well as Schindler's List, so he's already nominated. Ennio Morricone
(G/B/U) should be on the list, along with Nino Rota for the Godfather series and Zefferelli's R&J.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Garmisch - where I ripped my knee to shreds sliding down hill on two skinny planks! Back then, it might as well have been a US town; it was a major US Army Rec Center. They took 6th graders from the dependent schools all over Germany down there every winter. For a week, you skied all morning and did school work in a hotel dining room in the afternoon (or vice versa). Cool stuff.

Head out to the Eibsee/Zugspitze area. If the weather cooperates, they (used to) run the cable car to the top of the Zugspitze all winter. Check out for details.

And as noted, English is very common in the area, due to the fact that it's a huge tourist area, and the major US Army presence for so long.

Enjoy - I wish I was going. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 7, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I've always been partial to Patrick Doyle's score to Kenneth Brannaugh's HenryV-

Posted by: kguy1 | January 7, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you haff been outspraching Goethe and Shiller and Panzerproust. :)


Posted by: Braguine | January 7, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

But if you're won't settle for Eric Korngold or Richard Addinsell and you must have true classical movie music-

Posted by: kguy1 | January 7, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

kguy, that is a GREAT score. That's Patrick Doyle's, who did Harry Potter/Goblet of Fire and Nanny McFee and Bridget Jones' Diary.

He actually had a bit part in Henry V-- he was the first soldier to start singing the No Nobis Domine after the battle.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I don't object to Korngold or Addinsell. Go ahead and nominate them. But would you agree they'd be toward the bottom of our list so far?

Credit for Man of Constant Sorrow belongs to Dick Burnett, circa 1913, not T-Bone Burnett. The older one's not exactly a film score composer.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Irving Berlin, Mudge?

Posted by: ftb3 | January 7, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

*I seem to have kilt the boodle*

Posted by: ftb3 | January 7, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Thanks all for the Garmisch tips. Mr. F lived most of the 80s in Germany and has been back many times so I'll have a good guide. We will see some old Army friends but I hope to get lost so completely that I must whip out my Canadian accent at some point.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 7, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Data,
wasn't he a Branagh and
Henry the Fifth fan?

Posted by: DNA_Girl | January 7, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm sooooooooo excited. Tomorrow I'm getting a 1 1/2 hour massage for the first time in absolute ages. I can hardly wait to get that boneless chicken experience.

My massage therapist has a lovely harlequin Great Dane (she's beautiful and she knows it). Big dogs tend to lean on you to show affection, which is fine before a massage ... after a massage, not so fine.

*sigh* in anticipation ...

Hey Mudge -- how about Elmer Bernstein?

Posted by: ftb3 | January 7, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse


The word 'data' is the plural of 'datum.'

Yes, MsJS, I know. My Latin teachers and professors didn't waste their time for eight years. But that hed is/was a clunker and didn't remotely convey the facts of the article, IMHO.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 7, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of clunkers, whatever happened to using full sentences?

"Economists' data indicate the economy's up."

See, no crawling, no begging, no ambiguity. Heck, in exchange for ending a sentence on a preposition, we have a definite article, verb, subject, object, and the subject is fully communicated.

The data do not point anywhere. That presupposes a shape, possibly animation.

They may indicate, reveal, suggest, imply= that is, through people's interpretations, but they do not point.

Lt. Commander Data certainly could point, but he has better manners than that.

Another pet peeve: I'm sick of seeing "eye" used as a verb everywhere. Sure it's short, concise, snappy, but it's plain wrong and lazy headline writing.

Sorry, Mudge, I disagree that the clunkiness above is from using data inappropriately; it's from using "point" inappropriately.

The writer commited the sin of ordering two words together that can be read either as predicate noun + noun (a data point) or a noun + verb.

The solution for me is always to extract the cross-dressing noun/verb and replace it with a verb that cannot be read as a noun.

Of course, thanks to headline writers, we have more and more nouns that are readable as verbs.

My nightmare headline is: Obama eyes economy, obamas.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 7, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

My point was with 'point',
not data ...'um'.

At least it was initially.

Time for dinner.

Posted by: talitha1 | January 7, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Now the hed reads "Jobs report indicates a slow economic rebound". Access to article reads "Unemployment drops sharply to 9.4%" ... with a mixed bag of good and bad indicators for the nation, etc. ...


Posted by: talitha1 | January 7, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

There are transvestite nous/verbs? The things they skip in Catholic school. Sorry all I have on a grammar issue.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 7, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I lift things up, then put them down.

Best commercial ever.

Posted by: baldinho | January 7, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

You have an excellent point about "eye" as a verb, Wilbrod. The irony is that "see," which it replaces, takes the same space. And "mulls" is only 1/2 point longer.

You have, at best, only half a point about "point," because even if you replace it with, say, "show," it still needs to be singular, "shows." It's still the question of data being a collective singular. But the WaPo style book says it is plural (unlike the slim but increasing majority of other style books).

And of course data can point. There's nothing wrong with that.

There was never any rule about headlines conforming to the "complete sentence" rule; there never was any such rule for heds in newspapers. There's no room, and too many heds.

ftb, I'm cool with Irving, and I I had Elmer on the list: the Magnificent Seven themesong is one of my all-time favs.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 7, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

No love for Philip Glass?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 7, 2011 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Saw a bio-pic on Glass recently. He's definitely a big movie composer. Studied under Nadia Boulanger, who studied under Gabriel Fauré.

So of course the same film class showed "Mishima: a life in four acts" with music by Glass.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 7, 2011 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Funny you mention the more avant garde movie composers, yello. After the above remarks I spent some time looking at Mychael Danna, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream this afternoon. Philip Glass sort of completes a list.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 7, 2011 9:58 PM | Report abuse

No, data can't point because we do have points of data.

Data is not a collective singular, because it is an international term accepted throughout many languages as part and parcel of scientific jargon.

The British do not practice collective singulars, and neither do the Romance languages.

In this regard, no matter how infiltrated it is into daily intercourse, the vulgar assimilation of "data" as a collective singular should never be used to replace the standard scientific usage, any more than "an yard and an inch" could replace "meter" or you could use meter conversely for the mundane "yard."

Sorry, I do take the hard line on this. English is an international language of science. We should be learning that aspect, not just catering to our provincial grammar patterns.

I've read by now, thousands of scientific journals and none of them use "data is" or "data shows," and many of those authors are far from fluent in English. If they can get it right, you can, too.

I will exempt you from using the normal rule only if you're writing for some of our new members of Congress.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 7, 2011 10:08 PM | Report abuse

My Cuban friend used "tamale" as a numberless noun. Like soup or stew.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 7, 2011 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Yes! He didn't say "los tamales es muy buen", though, did he?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 7, 2011 10:22 PM | Report abuse

A crude story of evolution to the music of the Bolero, from Allegro Non Troppo.

"Prélude a l'après-midi d'un faune" is good too, I'll let you find the slightly risqué footage by yourself if you are interested.

One more important thing to know about the French muppet show Chlorophylle; do not let your kids name your brand new puppy if they watch the show. You may well end up with a large black dog named for a black rat and an infectious disease and you'll have to live with it for nearly 14 years.

I'm watching the Cotton ball, what's wrong with me?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 7, 2011 11:19 PM | Report abuse

i just turned on no country for old men, half way through. this seems appropriate:

Posted by: -jack- | January 8, 2011 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Pro Publica dropped this story w/ not much notice in late Dec. Good reporting; some new revelations of Merrill's mendacity.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 8, 2011 12:38 AM | Report abuse

So glad to see we're all channeling Weingarten on "data." :-)

Oh, shocking -- after several years "exile" in Iran, Muqtada al-Sadr still doesn't like us:

I really rather peeved when the radar sez "snow" but the window stays silent.

*contemplating-a-plan-to-complete-chores-prior-to-NFL-kickoff Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 8, 2011 6:13 AM | Report abuse

NPR carried a long story on that Pro Publica report when it came out. I think it met collective yawns because it just confirmed what people already thought.

I still contend that Merrill Lynch was pushed, but this seems to show that they were pretty far out on the ledge to begin with.

I don't know about out your window, but there is white stuff all over the roof of my car. And radar says there is more coming my way from your direction.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 8, 2011 6:51 AM | Report abuse

How did we miss this very important day?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 8, 2011 7:19 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. We gat enough snow to get the snowbthrower out. Finally! This walking on bare ice was getting old in addition of being dangerous.
Yello, I stopped reading on the behaviour of the quasi-banks in the months/years leading to the financial meltdown because it only makes me mad.
I hear there is football scheduled for later today so I must start on the chores early. 08:00 isn't too early to fire up the snowthrowing machine, surely?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 8, 2011 7:26 AM | Report abuse

I seem to have looked out the window a touch too early, yello, it's now quite pleasingly white out there. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 8, 2011 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Nada zip zilch. No snow here. Maybe tonight, but that is not likely either.

If they want to update Huck Finn, why not go all the way? Have Jim and Huck fleeing the increasingly socialist North to the freedom-loving patriots of the deep South? The thing that puts them over the top could be something like the North enacting a mandatory schooling requirement.

Posted by: baldinho | January 8, 2011 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Some lovely snow fell here last night at least an inch and still snowing, no wind at all so the snow is clinging to every tree branch, very pretty.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 8, 2011 8:07 AM | Report abuse


Not quite a BPH, but still. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 8, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I get confused. Either it was "billions and billions" of barrels of oil or even "trillions and trillions" or gallons of oil. But it was a lot and we would have to drink it for years or centuries or eons.

Which ever is longer.

But where is it now?

Posted by: GaryEMasters | January 8, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

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

Morning, friends. I went to see the baby yesterday and stayed for awhile. I sang(if you want to call it that!) to him, and he went to sleep. Still has the cough, but not as bad. I'm just spoiling him rotten! Can't seem to help myself. We all wear the thing one puts over the mouth, can't think of the name of it.

Slyness, is it possible to have depression b\c of constant pain? I've always thought depression was a mental state, but does it have physical symptoms? Anyone? The cough has come back, can't seem to get rid of it.

Are you in Maryland? A young woman from Union county here went to visit father during Xmas, and is now missing. Do you know about this or have any information?

I saw the interview of the homeless man on ABC yesterday morning. He and his mother talked for some time. He seems to have it together, just pray he's not tempted to go back to that lifestyle. What a hurting heart that mother carried knowing her child was sleeping on the street! And his children!

Have a lovely weekend, folks, and love to all.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 8, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all. It's a lazy day at the Y house; I'm still in my robe. So nice to do that once in a while. No snow here, but a major storm is predicted for tomorrow night/Monday morning. Will be fun, I'm sure...

Cassandra, depression can most definitely be caused by a person's physical state. It's a symptom of hypothyroidism, although not one that I have had. Constant pain would be a real cause for it, IMHO. I hope you can find the help you need, I'll be praying for you! I'm glad to hear the little one is better.

Onward into the day!

Posted by: slyness | January 8, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

In proof that it takes very little to amuse me, I am following the beer vat convey this weekend. This picture is of the vats awaiting nightfall to travel again. They are parked near the border of Hamilton and Burlington right by Dundurn Castle (not really a castle a large historic home and park) and near a few of the botanical gardens. The convoy only travels at night, a) for traffic reasons and b) they need to temporarily cut power, traffic lights, cable to get these vats through intersections.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 8, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I am a very bad Baltimoron because I get most of my news from WaPo, but here is the Sunpaper story about that missing teenager:

I hope they find her safe and healthy.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 8, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Since it's on topic, it seems that bacteria noshed on the methane, which was up to 30% of the spill.

Meanwhile, the beach clean-up crews are declaring victory and going home. But there is still plenty of it still bobbing around in the marshes.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 8, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I hope you aren't following too close. If one of those things slip, it could crush you. And you may be disappointed if one breaks and it's not full of beer.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 8, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Nah they are brewing vats, yet to be installed, for the MolsonCoors plant, the really tradgedy being killed by one of those vats - full of beer - would be that that beer would most likely be Coors Light, just cruel. Yuck.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 8, 2011 10:16 AM | Report abuse

*poking at Boodle*

Good morning, y'all.

We ate breakfast out this morning, so all I have this morning are beverages.

There are several tiara-wearer hopefuls who have not posted their picks for the week. The window closes in about 4 hours. You know who you are. Thank you.

Brisk, cold day in TWC. We got about an inch of white stuff late yesterday and it's positively sparkling in the bright sun.

Aside from some microbrews, there aren't many American beers that I like. I would probably move to Europe if I were planning a death-by-beer event. Or death by chocolate, for that matter.

Posted by: MsJS | January 8, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

PJ and LiT, get your picks in. Less than 2 hours from the start of the Nawlins game.

Got an e-mail this morning from a friend in Denver, which I need to reproduce in it's entirety:

"I just got off the phone with a friend in Minnesota. He said that when he got up this morning the snow was nearly waist high and is still falling. The temperature is dropping below zero and the north wind is increasing. His wife has done nothing but look through the kitchen window all day. He says that if it gets much worse, he may have to let her in."

Busy morning: went picked up four new (mildly used) chairs, two for the living room and two for the dining room. My wife says they were Christmas presents I bought her. (I first became aware of this about 9 this morning.) Also posted some stuff for sale on eBay. Anybody want an antique breadboard circa 1900? A collection of old railroad worker songs? A tea set?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 8, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all. A snowy one here, which I'm sure will be tracked through the house all day. No matter, all is good.

Wilbrod, about data. Just because it's used that way in science journals doesn't make it so for everything, and I certainly wouldn't refer to its use as either collective singular or plural as provincial (in these parts, them be fightin' words). Further, however the British or romance languages handle it is irrelevant. (If they put the verb at the end of the sentence, should we?) Many industries have terms and usages that are specific to that industry. Datum/datums in surveying, for example. I also don't get your point about a yard/meter as they are different units of measurements and not singular/plural of the same unit.

S'Tim...are you out there? Being active in the scientific community, he may be able to shed more light on this, bring a different perspective.

Anyway, time to shovel the walk. Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 8, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Horrible news out of Arizona:

"U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was among at least 12 people shot today at a Tuscon, Arizona, grocery store, a Democratic source told CNN's Dana Bash."

Let's hope she and the other victims recover and this was somehow a random act and not directed at her.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 8, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

This update leads one to think it wasn't random...

"Giffords was holding a constituent meeting at the grocery store when the shooting occurred, according to a schedule posted on her website."

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 8, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

NPR (via CNN) is reporting Rep. Giffords and 5 others are dead. :-(

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 8, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Here's part of the Tucscon Citizen's report:

"She has held several events since first taking office in January 2007. At one such event in 2009, a protester was removed by police when his pistol fell on the supermarket floor. This was her first event since her re-election to a third term in November."

Best wishes to all the shooting victims.

The last member of Congress to have been assassinated seems to have been Leo Ryan, Jr. of California, while visiting Jonestown, Guyana.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 8, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Very sad about the shooting in Arizona. I made the mistake at glacing at the comments below the article on the WaPo site, astounding.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 8, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

New and very sad Kit.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 8, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

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