Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Retirement

Julian Bond is retiring from teaching at UVA in May. I am amazed he taught at UVA for 14 years, he commuted from Washington DC twice a week to do it. I remember being so excited to have the opportunity to be taught by an actual historic figure. I was not disappointed.
Thank goodness I had the opportunity to learn from his wisdom and to hear his unique voice.

Workouts and cookies

So I am still exercising three times a week, I am about a 1/2 mile behind in the ten miler training, but I am extremely grateful to be doing what I am doing.

With that, I will now list all the yummy cookies I have made this Christmas season!
These first three I got from Washington Post Food section last week (12/14), two pages devoted to Christmas cookies!
Ginger Chews I doubled the recipe and made them small- really delicious.
Midnights
Laura Bush's Cowboy cookies I have to respect a woman who makes this delicious cookie.

No fail fudge- the first time I made them, I failed, but the second batch turned out well.
Peanut Butter Cookies- all the non-chocolate cookies are for Chris
Oatmeal Scotchies
Rolled Molasses Cookies- except for this one, I had a special request for these (very easy to accommodate the request).
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans- YUMMY.

I have also made a fair share of pumpkin bread (with and without chocolate chips)
So far I have mailed or given them to relatives in TN and FL, Grandma, colleagues of Chris and brought some to the meeting last night. I still have neighbors, US Post person, and my own colleagues. I want to have some for Christmas on New Year's Eve too (so much family, so little time).

My children have really helped to keep my Christmas spirit up, I have been known (shock) to get morose this time of year, but the children are so excited that its contagious.
Favorite quote so far "wheresd weindeer mommy?" (not a spelling error) I never quite know what to say to that, but thanks to all those who have reindeers lit up on their front lawns, he loves them. Every morning when David wakes up, he plugs in the Christmas tree lights, when he goes to grandma's he immediately wants to turn their lights on. When he understands the concept of presents in the future, he will be jumping out of his skin for Christmas. My cup runneth over.

Frontline-creditor issues

Since we dont get Directv anymore (I miss TIVO A LOT), we end up watching a fair bit of PBS. Last night I watched Frontline. I had seen ads for the show and I thought I would enjoy the show.

The topic of last night's rerun was "The Secret History of the Credit Card." I actually learned something useful from the show. Boston Globe reviewed the show when it came out, it sums it up well. The host interviewed all sorts of people, the Banking industry lobbyist, interim head of the Office of the Comptroller of Currency- an obscure Treasury Dept office that "ensure(s) a safe and sound banking system for all Americans", Christopher Dodd, Senator from CT, some advocates for credit industry and debtors, and of course the 'typical' American credit card user.

I learned a few things:
1) 55% of Americans pay off their entire balance every month (YEAH!)- this is a much higher number than I thought. At the same time, the average American household carries about $7,500 worth of debt (ugh).

2) READ that unreadable contract that comes with your credit card because it may have THIS lovely provision called universal default- meaning if you default on any of your outstanding debts (default can be defined as loosely as a late payment depending on the contract governing the debt) THEN this default triggers default with your credit card company even though you are not currently late.

3) Andrew Kahr plays the role of a 'bad' guy PERFECTLY- apparently he had several ideas to increase credit card profits including (but I am certain not limited to) reduce the minimum monthly payment from 5% to 2% and 0% introductory rates. Evil genius. The bankruptcy legislation will change the minimum monthly payment sometime next year. Because Kahr did not want his clients revealed I thought I would do a simple google search; I found this

"In documents obtained by The Chronicle earlier this year, Providian founder Andrew Kahr wrote that, in lending to the kinds of high-risk customers Providian specialized in, the "problem is to squeeze out enough revenue and get customers to sit still for the squeeze." (emphasis mine)

And another tidbit: (quoted from the SF Chronicle)
"In a March 1999 memorandum to Executive Vice President David Alvarez, he wrote: "Making people pay for access to credit is a lucrative business wherever it is practiced. . . . Is any bit of food too small to grab when you're starving and when there is nothing else in sight? The trick is charging a lot, repeatedly, for small doses of incremental credit."

THINGS I KNOW AND HOPEFULLY YOU DO TOO.
1) Common sense legal information- read all of your contracts, you have the right to change contract terms (the offeror may not accept those changes- but then do you really want to do business with them?). If you sign the contract, you are assumed to have read AND understood the terms of the contract so you will be held to the terms.

2) New bankruptcy legislation went into effect in October- making it more difficult for middle class Americans to seek a clean slate through bankruptcy. Acc to Frontline show, the three main reasons people seek bankruptcy are a) illness b) divorce c) laid off.

Editorial- I love banks, I am in this house because of one, I got my degrees because of them (and the federal student loan program, see #1 below) and I appreciate the way credit cards help me by itemizing my spending helping me to keep track of where I spend my money. I understand the notion of protecting banks from 'runs' or devaluation (frankly, I dont know what macro/micro factors affect banks) BUT consumers need protection far more than banks. Banks inherently have money therefore are powerful, consumers need money therefore are not in a powerful position (see above quote from Alvarez) when negotiating contract terms.

The bankruptcy law is the antithesis of consumer protection to benefit creditors. Voters file bankruptcy, credit card companies are not voters but appear to have the ear of Congress because of the power (money) they spend. I understand voters run the corporations and are employed by them, but why provide more cover for the industry? The industry is so corrupt that after filing for bankruptcy, the debtors routinely receive many offers for cards from the same creditors whose debts were wiped clean in the bankruptcy.

This is old news of course since the law has been in place for awhile now. It is the Christmas season so I will now go forward and spend. With this entry- I conclude some may want to help me get satellite tv back so I can stop watching thought-provoking maddening shows on PBS and start watching Reno 911 and Weeds again, I would welcome such help. :)


___________________________________
1.An entry for another day but relevant today: Senate debate focused on student loan changes that would save $12.7 billion over five years. Under the provision, student loan interest rates would be locked in at 6.8 percent and could not be refinanced as commercial rates fluctuate. Private lenders would continue to be able to borrow money at a rate guaranteed to generate a profit.Currently, any time the student loan interest rate is higher than the bank's guaranteed rate, the bank gets to keep the extra profit. Under the budget bill, that windfall would have to be returned to the federal government, a change that should yield $18 billion in savings. "They could give students a lower interest rate, but their choice is to keep interest rates high," said Luke Swarthout of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "They're asking students to pay for tax cuts."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tikki!

Fellow UVA alum Tikki Barber is getting press in the Washington Post (good press at that). The WP reports that Tikki is an MVP candidate among NFC East leaders. Isnt that exciting? The Post has a graphic demonstrating how hard Tikki is working, it shows Tikki gained 46% of the Giant's yardage over the course of this season, while the next person has gained 42%. Fascinating.
Tikki makes me proud, especially if he helps the Giants beat the team who must not be mentioned this weekend.

One down

PA judge decides "no intelligent design in classrooms" So many funny jokes to make, so little time.
Thank goodness. Intelligence design is not a theory. Theory follows TESTING and Analysis (remember this- hypothesis, testing, conclusion, analysis, (bunk) theory, law). I am all for a philosophical debate, but scientific? I was a history major for a reason.

I want to believe, really...

Through all this talk of domestic spying without a warrant, (not really though because the calls originate outside the country) I have tried to remain calm. When the President is earnest, I want to believe him.

Two problems:
1)this article, detailing the FBI's "surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief". The article states the documents are heavily redacted therefore sometimes context is impossible to discern.

At the same time however, the documents proport to link some benign non profit organizations (Greenpeace) with some extremist organizations such as the Earth Liberation Front concluding Greenpeace may have links to domestic terrorist activities. My conclusion- if the FBI is not monitoring you today, it will be soon, no matter how benign your activities are. Since I was a history major, I have vivid recollections of Julian Bond detailing the FBI's surveillance (this is a hard word to spell) of civil rights groups in the first 70% of last century. I had hoped we had moved beyond such things. Everything that is old, is new again- but not in a good way.

Problem 2)Foreign Intelligence Service Act- is designed to allow the Executive branch maximum efficiency in obtaining a warrant.

This interview with James Bamford enlightened. Bamford states the FISA court has, in its thirty year history, rejected fifteen requests for warrant (out of about 15,000 such requests). Moreover, there is also an appellate option if the government is rejected (only used once in the history of FISA) and finally the Supreme Court has jurisidiction if the first two tribunals did not give the government a warrant. The Court is to hear it immediately, in camera and ex parte, finally the government has never needed to take all "three bites of the apple" in their pursuit of a warrant.
Moreover, FISA permits warrantless surveillance for the first 24 (then EXPANDED to 48) hours before obtaining warrant.

UM... this is pretty flexible. I like it, it is reasonable, oh, and CONGRESS passed it so it has this oversight thing about it that I respect and appreciate (since it is a constitutional mandate). I am not a big fan of secret executive orders.

Constitutional rights are the Founders protections for its citizens (that is us), therefore should not be marginalized haphazardly. So while the President is earnest about protecting the country (make no mistake, I AM too), he should move within the wide parameters established by Congress instead of making it up as he goes along (then making up rationalizations after the fact).

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bruyneel Reacts to Split

Cycling News reports on Bruyneels reactions to the split between the Pro Tour and Grand Tour.
Bruyneel is Team Discovery's manager, Lance's former team, although I think he is still on contract till next year so it is his current team.
"Bruyneel analysed the business model of professional cycling with an astute observation, saying, "Do you realize that Pro Cycling is the ONLY top level professional sport where teams' revenues are generated only by sponsorship? All other major sports, above all football (soccer), have a huge amount of revenue from TV rights. In cycling, these rights are held by race organisers, and they don't want to share this revenue stream with anyone. But I believe they should, because the main actors on the stage of cycling, the stars and the other riders, are who are generating this TV money for the race organisers. It's the guys who are suffering, the guys who are on the road, trying to win a bike race who make the spectacle that people watch on TV, who generate the ratings so race organisers can have a revenue stream from TV advertising. It's just logical and fair that the cycling teams and riders get a slice of the TV money cake. And this revenue stream to the teams and riders would raise cycling to a higher and more professional level." "

I hate the split, I want them to find a way to make cycling a world wide phenomenon, like soccer. Unfortunately the current leaders of the bureaucracy cant get it together.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Vuelta a Espana

The Vuelta's route was announced this week. SO far no is complaining abou the course (my enthusiasm for this race has waned since Heras's positive EPO test and he won the race several years in a row -3?-). The Vuelta usually comes at the right time though, after summer vacation and a dearth of international road races.

From cycling news:
Stage 1 - August 26: Málaga - Málaga, TTT, 7,2 km
Stage 2 - August 27: Málaga - Córdoba, 167 km
Stage 3 - August 28: Córdoba - Almendralejo, 220 km
Stage 4 - August 29: Almendralejo - Cáceres 142 km
Stage 5 - August 30: Plasencia - Estación de Esquí La Covatilla (Béjar), 178 km
Stage 6 - August 31: Zamora - León, 155 km
Stage 7 - September 1: León - Alto de El Morredero (Ponferrada), 148 km
Stage 8 - September 2: Ponferrada - Lugo, 173 km
Stage 9 - September 3: A Fonsagrada - Alto de La Cobertoria, 206 km
Rest Day - September 4
Stage 10 - September 5: Avilés - Museo de Altamira (Santillana del Mar), 190 km
Stage 11 - September 6: Torrelavega (Oscar Freire Velodrome) - Burgos, 165 km
Stage 12 - September 7: Aranda de Duero - Guadalajara, 162 km
Stage 13 - September 8: Guadalajara - Cuenca, 170 km
Stage 14 - September 9: Cuenca - Cuenca, ITT, 33 km
Stage 15 - September 10: Motilla del Palancar - Ford factory (Almussafes), 175 km
Rest Day - September 11
Stage 16 - September 12: Almería - Astronomical Observatory of Calar Alto, 145 km
Stage 17 - September 13: Adra - Granada, 167 km
Stage 18 - September 14: Granada - Sierra de la Pandera, 153 km
Stage 19 - September 15: Jaén - Ciudad Real, 195 km
Stage 20 - September 16: Rivas Vaciamadrid - Rivas Vaciamadrid, ITT, 28 km
Stage 21 - September 17: Madrid - Madrid, 150 km


I am always looking for ways to watch all major bike races on tv- if you have a special way let me know. We have our ways (mostly using the internet and recording to DVD), I would love less cumbersome ways.

Apprentice ending Recap

I did not watch this season's episodes; three times now I watched enough of the end to know how was fired. I watched last season and enjoyed it, but I just dont have the time to watch it anymore. The first episode I caught the last five minutes of four people were fired (a massacre), the next two people. Then last night, Don hires Randall, a star by anyone's calculation. So Randall is celebrating. Rebecca is respectfully clapping and is pleased for Randall; Don had called her "outstanding" and really up against any other winners she probably would have won (I didnt watch all the seasons or this one, she seemed impressive including 12 weeks of a broken ankle and using crutches in a 13 week season and still making it to the end). SO Don says,
"hey Randall...(compliments Rebecca a lot) if you were me, would you hire Rebecca?"
Randall says "the show is called the Apprentice, not Apprentici so there should only be one"
SMACK.

Not sure why Randall wants this job he already runs a company where he earns more than 250,000 a year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

update-about time

Sadly the show at the Paramount on Saturday night did not live up to my expectations. I had hoped for Christmas/holiday/recognizable music, unfortunately that was not the case. I did appreciate the one jam between a cellist and a violinist. The musician called it bluegrass with a cello; pretty cool. Tonight it is a Christmas Carol. Terri Allard is playing on Friday night. The Paramount is fun, I recommend seeing a show or two there, it is even good if my expectations are not met. I DO wish they would do something about the stage; make it more interesting when musicians are playing. But what do I know?

The ten miler training has been railroaded- I feel injuries coming on; depressing really. I am still exercising, but taking it a lot slower, walking that is. I got up super early this AM to walk and it felt good.
I am considering adding a ride on my bike on the trainer in addition to my outdoor workouts. I love my new bike (thanks Extreme Sports- although not as grandiose of a bike as Craig just got) but I find it extremely difficult to get on it with the two boys and the cold weather- maybe in the Spring.

The fire department had a holiday (Christmas?) party for the volunteers on Sunday. A good time was had by all including the boys who were seen running and laughing throughout the restaurant. Volunteer firefighters and rescue folks GIVE a lot of time, it was nice to have some recognition of the families for their efforts.

To all those POOR law students who are studying soo hard for their exams- good luck, study hard and for goodness sake pick up a commercial outline and study with a group, you dont have to do it all yourself. First year, first semester exams are the worst, it gets a lot easier, although still very intense. At least Christmas is around the corner.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Breaking News

Cycling News announces the Grand Tour organizers have split from the Pro Tour. This cannot end well for road racers in contention.

"The organisers announced that they are also withdrawing the eight other races organised by them, namely Paris Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Paris-Tours and the Tour of Lombardy".

The Grand Tour organizes the best races, all those have wonderful traditions. The "luster" is thus removed from the Pro Tour- making it all but obsolete.

Why remove the Grand Tour from the Pro Tour?

"the GT organisers stated that the UCI ProTour series was "not credible on a sports level, because all the 2005 ProTour events - be it one-day or three-week races - are awarded the same number of points.” The statement siad that it was also "unjust, because the teams like Comunidad Valenciana, who won the Vuelta [teams classification - ed.], or Panaria who won Tirreno Adriatico, were deprived of their points because they had no ProTour licence."

While I did not root for the eventual winner of last years Pro Tour title, in the beginning of the season it did make all the spring classics a lot more relevant to one another.

Pro cycling is not in a good position right now and the organizers are not helping themselves with all this infighting.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Paramount News

Yo Yo Ma is playing a second show at the Paramount! Get your tickets now! He is the top of his field and coming to Charlottesville.

The holiday show last weekend was great. I was at the show for about three hours (it was an all day affair). The program showcased local schools choirs, bands and dancers. Best of all it was open to the public for free. The jazz ensembles of Henley (my alma mater) and Albemarle were really fantastic. If you have the opportunity to see them, (not really sure how you would unless your kids were in the bands) definitely go. The band directors have done an exceptional job directing these children.

Christmas prep

So many things to do to prepare: bake cookies, mail presents, write Christmas cards, shop, shop, shop, decorate, wrap presents, pack, drive, enjoy. :)
The snow really helps put me in the holiday mood/Christmas spirit.

At the Paramount the other day a colleague told a patron "Merry Christmas" (after a holiday show). The patron seemed geniunely surprised since apparently it is not PC. Who knew? The patron seemed relieved that she used the common expression and told us to keep using the expression. When did holiday wishes become politicized?

I did not get the memo/email about not using the word Christmas. I suspect no such memo exists and it is the "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" party making things up again.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Yea!

So, Ivan Basso will ride the Giro and the Tour! With Ullrich and Basso doing the Giro- Savoldelli, last years winner and Team Discovery will have a run for their money.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Confessions from last place

So Ten Miler training is going well, in five weeks now I have only missed one run :) I am proud. Alas, I have not been able to get to the group runs on Saturday morning for a variety of reasons (thanks dem Breakfast) but I did run. This week I bought a new pair of running shoes, clunky but not too clunky. I pronate 'severely' the sleepy sales clerk told me. I love when I am special, even if it is for pronating.

Sales clerk had Comm school projects due this week so she couldnt imagine when she would be sleeping again. School is so awesome. I miss it, mostly because when I was in school, I didnt have to pay off these stupid education loans. Apparently I am supposed to be grateful for the education even as a I write checks close to four figures every month to organizations who raise the interest rate two years in a row. Thank goodness I am not bitter. Seriously though I love school.

Today was a two mile run. 20% to ten miles. I was reminded how small this town was when I met a woman who knew Danielle- she is fine for those wondering. She is moving next week, so far we have not been asked to help move. The woman was very nice she waited up for me so I didnt finish a lonely last. I decided even if I did I would accept it with dignity. It is motivational to read other cville runners blogs- they are in shape and love exercising. Scott, ok I cant find the other persons blog, but she runs 10 miles regularly. I look forward to habitually exercising. So far it is still a struggle, perhaps if I exercised more I would like it. I always feel great post-run. WE shall see. I have some great new music for the Iriver to exercise to. Plus the blog permits some accountability.

Today I am volunteering at the Paramount. Paramount is hosting all sorts of local schools to present holiday (Christmas?) shows. Any excuse I have to get downtown makes me happy.