Sunday, February 28, 2010

Attending To Business

Andrew and I have not been up to much the last two weeks.

Since returning from our Presidents’ Day Weekend in Washington, I have been studying and Andrew has been working. We heard a concert Thursday night, but otherwise we have attended to business.

This weekend, we got our things together for Greece. Our clothes and personal items were selected and carefully packed. Everything is ready to go. All we need do on the 12th is grab our bags and head for the airport.

There is a seven-hour time difference between Greece and the East Coast of the United States. Our expected total travel time between Boston and Athens is twelve hours and thirty minutes. We are scheduled to depart Boston at 1:45 p.m. local time and arrive in Athens at 9:15 a.m. local time the next day. Andrew’s parents and Alex have an expected total travel time of fourteen hours. They are scheduled to depart Minneapolis at 11:15 a.m. local time and arrive in Athens at 9:15 a.m. local time the next day.

We have been keeping watch over Greece’s current political and economic crisis—and much enjoying the nasty public spats between Germany and Greece.

It is our hope that the trip will not be affected by the situation.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Testament Of Youth

World War I photograph of a dead German artilleryman.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Keynesian Free Lunch

What we in the western world are about to learn is that there is no such thing as a Keynesian free lunch. Deficits did not “save” us half so much as monetary policy—zero interest rates plus quantitative easing—did. First, the impact of government spending (the hallowed “multiplier”) has been much less than the proponents of stimulus hoped. Second, there is a good deal of “leakage” from open economies in a globalised world. Last, crucially, explosions of public debt incur bills that fall due much sooner than we expect.

Niall Ferguson

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Short Visit

Alex came to Boston this weekend for a short visit.

He arrived Thursday night, and Andrew and I were waiting at Logan to retrieve him and bring him home.

As soon as we got home, we seasoned and breaded and fried shrimp, eating the shrimp with linguini. The shrimp and linguini maintained us until we could get a proper dinner prepared.

We cooked a pot roast. We ate the pot roast with baked macaroni and cheese (made from Andrew’s mother’s recipe calling for three different types of cheddar cheese and three different types of breadcrumbs), homemade stewed tomatoes, steamed lima beans, steamed white corn and steamed baby carrots.

We are big on steamed vegetables!

For dessert, we ate peaches and cream and zucchini bread warm from the oven.

On Thursday night, we stayed up until 2:00 a.m., talking and catching up. We paid for our error on Friday morning, when all of us found it very difficult to get up.

We ate grapefruit and hot oatmeal with raisins for breakfast, but nothing more, because there was no time to give Alex anything more substantial.

I had class on Friday, and Andrew had to go to work, so Alex spent the day at the Harvard Museum Of Natural History and the MIT Museum, neither of which Andrew and I have visited. We asked Alex whether he enjoyed the museums. His response: “They were alright.”

We had tickets for the Harvard-Princeton game on Friday night, so we arranged to meet before the game at Legal Sea Foods in Cambridge, where we were to have dinner.

None of us had eaten lunch, and we were hungry, so we ordered soup (lobster bisque), appetizer (steamed clams) and main course (baked Boston scrod). Back in October, Andrew and I had taken Alex to a different Legal Sea Foods outlet for dinner, and in October we had ordered much the same foods as Friday night. After Friday’s dinner, I think all of us have had enough of Legal Sea Foods for now; we do not plan to return anytime soon. Based upon my personal experience, McCormick And Schmick’s provides a seafood dinner superior to that available at Legal Sea Foods—as well as service and amenities that beat the competition.

Friday night’s game was a close one. Princeton won, 56-53, but it must be acknowledged that neither team is very good. Harvard had better athletes than Princeton, as well as the home court advantage, but Harvard nonetheless lost the game because Princeton played better defense and smarter basketball. Harvard has two very athletic players with fine offensive potential—one is a highly-touted player from Tulsa—but Harvard coach Tommy Amaker has proven himself incapable of developing an effective offense at every school he has served. Moreover, Amaker’s teams always seem to be error-prone.

Amaker is holding true to form at Harvard. The Harvard offense looked disorganized and unfocused and the team suffered lapses of concentration all night. It does not say much for Amaker that Harvard was unable to defeat in its home arena one of the weaker Princeton teams of recent years.

We went home after the game.

We were hungry for dessert, so we made chocolate cookies, which we ate with raspberries and ice cream.

We went to bed at a decent hour on Friday night, because we wanted to be rested for Saturday’s two basketball games.

We rose at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, and we spent the entire morning in the apartment. We ate, mostly, making a point to give Alex a good breakfast to make up for Friday’s paltry offering.

We ate hot cereal, followed by bananas and cream and nut bread warm from the oven. The main event was bacon and eggs and fried potatoes, which we ate with English muffins, orange juice and cranberry juice. After we got cleaned up, Andrew made an apple walnut coffee cake, which we ate with milk and coffee before we departed for the games.

The afternoon game was Boston College-Duke. We were prepared for a Duke blowout, as Boston College has been inconsistent all season and had not played well the previous couple of weeks. The game was surprisingly close—another three-point game—but Duke prevailed, 66-63.

After the afternoon ACC game, we had dinner prior to the evening Ivy League game.

We ate at Bertucci’s. We ordered two courses: personal pizzas topped with chicken and broccoli and coated in a lemon pepper cream sauce and mozzarella cheese; and a pasta dish combining grilled chicken, roasted red and yellow peppers, diced prosciutto, mushrooms, peas, baby spinach and hot cherry peppers in cream marsala sauce. We thought the food was excellent, especially the pasta, and we were very pleased with our dinner.

Saturday evening’s game pitted Harvard against Penn—unlike other conferences, the Ivy League schedules back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday nights all through the conference season—and it was the least interesting game of the weekend. Harvard prevailed, 80-66, but the victory was unimpressive: Penn has its worst basketball team in many years.

We went straight home from the game.

Once at home, we made a late-night dessert: lemon pudding cake, a dessert that had turned out so perfectly last weekend that I told Andrew that he should make it again this weekend for Alex.

For the second weekend in a row, the lemon pudding cake was perfection.

Our only plan for Sunday was to attend a matinee performance of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” at Huntington Theatre Company. While planning the weekend, we had asked Alex whether he wanted to do something on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, and he had told us that three basketball games and one theater performance were more than enough for one weekend.

As a result, we stayed home on Sunday morning, once again spending our time eating a prolonged breakfast that lasted all morning. We ate berries and cream. We ate granola. We ate cranberry-orange muffins. We ate Eggs Benedict. We ate buttermilk pancakes and sausage.

Yesterday’s visit to Huntington Theatre Company was only our second performance at what may be Boston’s finest repertory theater company. In October 2008, Andrew and I had taken Alex to a performance of Emlyn Williams’s “The Corn Is Green” at Huntington Theatre Company, which we had enjoyed very much.

We did not enjoy “All My Sons”.

Three weekends ago, Andrew and I had attended a performance of Miller’s “A View From The Bridge” in New York. Bad as “A View From The Bridge” is, it is a masterpiece of world drama compared to “All My Sons”, a gruesome mixture of soap opera and 1930’s political theater.

Three minutes into the play, it was hopelessly apparent how the melodrama would be resolved. All three of us became numb, listening to Miller’s cardboard characters recite their shopworn speeches, speeches that Miller clearly believed to constitute profound and poetic thoughts but which in reality are nothing more than a string of leaden clichés. How can such swill possibly be taken seriously?

In the Huntington program book, the director of “All My Sons” laid forth the claim that “All My Sons” was a breakthrough drama that led inexorably to “Death Of A Salesman”, which the director identified as the greatest of all American plays. Has the director never encountered “A Streetcar Named Desire” or “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”?

The play was hopeless—and so was the production, which was as subtle as a jackhammer.

The actor that portrayed Joe Keller was Will Lyman, whose voice is familiar to millions through his narration of countless “Frontline” documentaries. Based upon yesterday’s performance, Lyman is an actor of very limited range, and possesses the stage presence of a noodle. Because Lyman, assigned the central character, could not carry the part, there was a giant hole in the center of the production.

After the play, we returned home and prepared a major Sunday night dinner.

We got things under way with chicken breasts baked in a cream-pepper sauce. We ate the chicken with seasoned rice, fresh green beans and a tomato-cucumber salad.

The main event a couple of hours later was stuffed pork chops, which we ate with mashed potatoes, steamed white corn, steamed parsnips, escalloped red cabbage and applesauce. For dessert, we had cherry crisp and ice cream.

It was a good dinner!

Andrew and I enjoyed having Alex come for a visit. This was Alex’s third visit to Boston since we have been here—not counting our cross-country road trip from Minneapolis to Boston in August 2008, a trip in which Alex participated—and we hope it will not be his last. Alex is good company.

Of course, this morning we had to rise at an indecent hour in order to get Alex to the airport in time for his early-morning flight. The early-morning flight works out well for him, however, because he can be in Minneapolis in his office by 9:15 a.m. Central Time.

The small sacrifice was worth it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


The very center of beautiful Innsbruck, which we visited on August 7 and 8 of last year.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Quiet Weekend

Andrew and I had a second very quiet weekend in a row.

We stayed home all weekend, going out not at all.

I studied. Andrew cooked.

Cooking certainly helped keep the apartment warm!

On Friday night, Andrew was in the mood for a “major” dinner, so he prepared sesame chicken and pasta with steamed shredded vegetables mixed into the pasta.

The chicken and pasta were only a starter course. After we ate the chicken and pasta, Andrew truly got to work, preparing: Steak Diane; a complicated potato dish that included cream, chives, onions and sharp cheddar cheese; baked okra; fresh green beans with almonds; fresh mushrooms seasoned, coated and fried; and a complicated tomato salad.

It was a stunning dinner—and we skipped dessert.

We ate breakfast all morning on Saturday. We had grapefruit. We had shredded wheat. We had strawberries and blueberries in cream. We had scrambled eggs and toast and orange juice and cranberry juice. We had fresh homemade cinnamon coffee cake (and not from a package).

We had no need for lunch on Saturday!

However, around 4:00 p.m., we were again ready to eat a little something, so Andrew prepared chicken quarters coated with an apple glaze and baked in the oven. We ate the chicken quarters with steamed peas, steamed carrots and Andrew’s mother’s version of Waldorf Salad.

At 8:00 p.m., we were ready for our first dinner course: oysters baked with green peppers, green onions, bread crumbs, parsley, egg yolk, crumbled bacon and butter. Even though Andrew had never attempted baked oysters until Saturday night, the baked oysters were incredibly good.

Our main dinner course was at 9:00 p.m.: a small pork loin, already seasoned, that Andrew merely had to put into the oven. We ate the pork loin with potato pancakes, steamed lima beans and boiled beets. Andrew does not even like beets—and neither do I—but on Thursday night, while we were at the food store, Andrew said that he had a powerful taste for beets and, consequently, he bought some. The beets actually went well with the pork loin, the potato pancakes and the lima beans.

For dessert, we had a small lemon pudding cake, which turned out perfectly: a soufflé-like texture on top, a sauce-like texture on bottom.

Yesterday we had a breakfast that again lasted all morning. We had granola. We had cantaloupe. We had baked eggs and toast and grapefruit juice. We had American waffles and sausage. We had homemade cranberry-orange muffins.

After breakfast, we did not eat again until 4:00 p.m., when we had grilled tuna, seasoned rice (from a package) and steamed broccoli.

Last night we had a major garden salad, followed by baked chicken and stuffing, mashed potatoes, white corn, fried zucchini and two fruit salads: a cranberry-nut salad and a whipped tangerine-cream cheese salad. For dessert, we had homemade cherry crisp with ice cream.

I don’t think I could have eaten as well this weekend even at Andrew’s mother’s house!


While I have been diligently studying, Andrew has been diligently working. In his spare time, Andrew has been doing some serious reading.

Alex will arrive for a short visit on Thursday night.

My sister has announced, midway through her second year, that she is sick of Vanderbilt. She has decided that Vanderbilt is provincial and she is talking about transferring. My parents do not know whether to ignore such talk or to be in an uproar.

Myself, I am looking forward to Spring Break and our trip to Greece.


Like Andrew, I view my blog as a personal journal and I do not expect strangers to read my blog or to find my blog interesting.

I do nothing to promote my blog. I very, very seldom comment on other persons’ blogs and I make no effort to “publicize” my blog or to expand my blog readership. My blog is for me and me alone.

I was, accordingly, quite surprised when—out of the blue—my blog readership instantly tripled back in October of last year.

After tripling in October, readership quadrupled in November and quintupled in December.

What was going on? Had I become more interesting?

Alas, my increase in readership had a more mundane cause: people were coming to my blog in search of “White Trash Fat Lady” videos.

Last autumn, I wrote about our summer vacation in Bavaria and Austria, and in one such blog post I wrote very briefly about a hilarious program we viewed on European television, a segment of a program devoted to “White Trash Fat Lady”.

“White Trash Fat Lady” videos portray a genuine (and extremely down-market) American family in the Southeastern United States. This appalling hillbilly family and its outrageous shenanigans are presented mercilessly for the camera’s (and the viewer’s) amusement. The people on the videos simply have no shame. They are, quite obviously, loons, trashy and disgusting in equal measure. I have no idea why these people are not sufficiently mortified never again to appear in public.

Apparently a veritable industry has arisen around “White Trash Fat Lady”. One may find “White Trash Fat Lady” videos all over the internet on any one of thousands upon thousands of websites worldwide devoted to the habits and foibles of “white trash”. Until Andrew and I viewed “White Trash Fat Lady” on European television, we had had no idea that people everywhere were enjoying so many laughs at the expense of American lowlifes in general and this particular family of lowlifes in particular. A focus on white trash has become a growth industry in recent years, especially outside the U.S. Websites featuring photos and videos on the subject now number in the millions, offered in languages I cannot begin to decipher.

The “White Trash Fat Lady” videos Andrew and I saw in August indeed were enormously funny.

However, there are no “White Trash Fat Lady” videos to be found here.