The Lap Dog Experiment

Kasey came to us a little rough around the edges.  What the heck — she was a rescue dog obtained at the Humane Society, coming from an unknown, possibly troubled past.  It was no surprise that she growled at me from time to time, charged at other dogs on the street, and otherwise displayed some clearly aggressive tendencies.

IMG_2865But — as was the case in the plot of My Fair Lady — could this dirty-faced, territorial pooch become a fully domesticated, docile, mannerly lap dog?  If so, how?  It’s the kind of scientific experiment in heredity versus behavioralism that would have intrigued Pavlov.

I’m pleased to report that our little experiment in cultured canine behavior has now conclude, and Kish has once again brought another dog fully to heel.  She’s like the dog whisperer, except it’s really hugs and kisses that seem to do the trick.  Whatever her secret, Kasey now is perfectly happy to sit on Kish’s lap on the sofar, and she follows Kish around just like Penny did, and Dusty did before Penny.  Kish has just got the knack.

Do you have a poorly behaved, barky, jerky dog?  My lovely wife may be able to help.

The Rise Of The Knife-And-Fork Sandwich

I like a good sandwich at lunch.  These days, however, it is getting increasingly difficult to find a true sandwich — that is, something tasty placed between two pieces of some kind of bread that you can pick up in your hand and eat without too much muss or fuss.

IMG_6130There’s no problem with the tasty part, that’s for sure.  Take this delightful double cheeseburger I got today from deNovo Bistro and Bar, one of the many good restaurants on High Street in the downtown area.  It was very savory, indeed, with its medium rare beef, sliced onion, and melted cheese and sauce.  The dusted fries were excellent, too.

No, it’s the pick up in your hand without muss or fuss part that has become the problem.  The amount of food being put between the bread slices — and especially the heapings of melty, saucy concoctions that make your mouth burst with flavor — just make it impossible for you to take a bite out of a handheld sandwich.  If you try, you’re going to end up with food falling to the plate and onto your lap, hands that are covered with goo, and a paper napkin that is soaked and probably ripped to shreds, besides.  Unless you want to look like a slob and run the embarrassing risk of stray dogs racing over to lick your fingers clean you need to recognize reality and use the civilized utensils to slice up and wolf down these gooey, overflowing masterpieces.

So call it the emerging era of the knife-and-fork sandwich.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just . . . different.  If the Earl of Sandwich could eat some of these creative approaches to his namesake, I honestly don’t think he would mind.

Emoticon Creep

Recently I received an email at work from outside the office that had an emoticon at the end of it — I think it was the ever-present winker — and I groaned inwardly.  Is nothing sacred?  Is there no place that can’t be invaded by the emoticon wave?

I admit that it’s odd to think of the workplace emailbox as sacred ground, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.  I am not a big fan of emoticons, because I think they tend to trivialize and infantilize our communications.  There is a time and a place to be slouchy and casual, and a time and place to be more formal and serious.  In my book, the workplace should fall into the latter category, and work-related communications should reflect that reality.  The office is where people are supposed to go to work, not exchange winks.

I admit, too, that I often don’t know precisely what emoticons are supposed to mean.  Does a person put the smiler emoticon at the end of a message to make sure that you know that their message is supposed to be funny?  Is it now universally accepted that you can write something harsh but use the winker emoticon as a tag line, and everyone is supposed to understand it’s all just a joke and take no offense?  Is the emoticon supposed to substitute for the facial expression the email writer would be making if we were sitting across from each other?  If so, how am I supposed to take the stupid face-with-tongue-out emoticon?

I get the sense that we’re in a period of severe emoticon creep, so now is the time for those of us who want to maintain the office as an emoticonless sanctuary to pay special attention.  Eternal vigilance is the price of winker-free communications.

Greece Is The Word

If you’re somebody who has been saving for retirement and investing your savings in the financial markets, here’s a bit of friendly advice:  don’t check the markets today, or for that matter all of this week.  You’ll just be depressed.

The problem is Greece.  It defaulted on its repayment of loans from the International Monetary Fund last week, and yesterday its voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum that would have imposed strict austerity measures.  Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who had opposed the austerity measures — he once said that “austerity is like trying to extract milk from a sick cow by whipping it” — then resigned with a flourish, saying that the referendum result would “stay in history as a unique moment when a small European nation rose up against debt-bondage.”

“Debt bondage”?  That’s a good one!  Try it on your bank the next time your mortgage or car payment comes due.

The problem for Greece is that there is no alternative to repaying its debts.  Greece is paying the piper for electing bad leaders who didn’t recognize the inevitable crash that was coming from constant borrowing to pay for a broken economic and pension system.  After defaulting on its IMF loan, Greece really has nowhere to turn for cash.  Who is going to loan money to an impoverished country where the citizens apparently don’t recognize their obligation to repay their debts?

All of this would be a valuable economic lesson in unsustainable borrowing if Greece were just going down the tubes by itself.  The problem is that Greece is part of the European Union, and its problems therefore are Eurozone problems.  Now European leaders need to figure out whether they have Greece exit the EU — not exactly a ringing endorsement of EU political and financial stability — or extend still more credit to the Greeks, which probably isn’t going to sit well with voters in Germany and other prudently managed EU countries who wonder why they are picking up the tab for Greece’s problems.

All of which loops back to affect those of us who have saved and invested.  Financial markets hate uncertainty, and the Greek crisis has now become uncertain to the nth degree.  Today we’ll be seeing news coverage of closed Greek banks, crowds in the streets trying to find cash, and frowning finance ministers going to meetings in ornate European buildings — not exactly scenes that speak of financial stability.  So even though the Greek problem has nothing to do with the U.S., in our global economic system our financial markets will be affected just the same.

It will be a wild ride until the Greek problem is finally resolved, and there really is only one solution:  Greece will need to leave the EU, issue its own currency, and witness the worst hyperinflation seen in Europe in decades.  After its economic system crashes and its elderly citizens see their savings eaten up by inflation, maybe the Greeks will recognize that some austerity and continuing “debt bondage” really wasn’t so bad.

A Touch Of Europe

When we were outfitting our new backyard, we spent a lot of time on finding just the right umbrella.  We were looking for a brightly colored one that would remind us of a European cafe in a nice shaded courtyard.  We scoured the Internet for a Campari umbrella, and also checked out other Euro beer- and liquor-themed options, then Kish found this Cinzano umbrella that fits our concept perfectly.
C’est bon!

July 4 Kegling

IMG_6111What could be more patriotic than a little bowling on Independence Day?

Grandpa Neal would be proud.  It turns out that Russell is really starting to enjoy bowling with his friends up in the Motor City, so when he came for a visit this weekend he wanted to roll a few frames with Kish and me.  Yesterday afternoon we went down South High Street to Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.  It was largely deserted, but we had fun and there was red, white, and blue to be found in the riotous colors that were everywhere we looked.  It was a useful reminder that you never want to have your home decorated by the same person who also has devised the color scheme at a bowling alley.

It was the first time I’ve been bowling in a year and a half, and in my first game I had my worst game in decades — a 104.  I’m happy to report, though, that I righted the ship and followed it up with a 155 and then a snappy 209.

IMG_6108

Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be

Recently two members of my extended family have learned a valuable, if somewhat painful, lesson:  loaning money to purported friends can end up being an enormous, friendship-wrecking hassle.  Fortunately, the memory of the difficult experience no doubt will discourage future forays into the personal banking business.

William Shakespeare aptly captured the concept in Hamlet, when wise old Polonius says:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

As Polonius recognized, the reality is that, when you loan money to an acquaintance, the relationship inevitably changes.  You go from mutual friends to a debtor and a creditor.  And frequently the resulting interpersonal behavior mirrors the change.  Although the borrower has been helped by the lender’s generosity, the borrower often comes to resent the lender.  It’s as if the borrower rationalizes that the lender must have plenty of money or he wouldn’t have made the loan in the first place.  From there, it’s a short, easy step to concluding that the lender really doesn’t need the loan to be repaid — at least not right away — and therefore the lender is being a jerk in asking about when the money will be repaid.

In many instances, too, the borrower concludes that other things take priority over discharging the debt.  I’ve heard friends bemoan the fact that their personal borrower has taken high-end vacations, eaten at fancy restaurants, and even purchased expensive cars while the loan is still outstanding.  And, as often as not, the lender’s innocent inquiry about when repayment might be forthcoming draws an angry response — and an even more extended period of stalling and dodging any personal interaction that will inevitably involve the repayment question being asked.

And, ultimately, if the borrower doesn’t repay the loan, what do you do?  Sue them?  How often do the parties to these loan arrangements memorialize the loan in any kind of writing?  I’ve had friends seek my legal advice about what to do in these circumstances — and I’m sure that when they made the loan in the first place they never suspected that they might need to talk to a lawyer, even informally, about it.

No, Shakespeare had it right:  neither a borrower nor a lender be.  Save yourself from future headaches, and don’t worry about being deemed a cheapskate by the pal who is in tough financial straits.  If your friendship is contingent upon cash, it’s probably not much of a friendship in the first place.