Thursday, December 31, 2015

Predictions for 2016

First what I predicted last New Year's Eve:

Drum roll please. Mr Mustache predictions for January 1 2017: 
In red, what really came true on January 1 2016 
Dow 18500 17425
S and P Index 2100 2044
NASDAQ 5000 4593
Microsoft will retreat to 40 55.48
Eagles will get in the playoffs but lose in January. Eagles will not make playoffs.
Obama will make overtures to Iran like he made to Cuba but Congress will not go along with the deal, no treaties or normalization. Actually our president was cagier than I thought he would be. Pretty much got what he wanted in both instances. As a technicality we have a Charge de Affaires not an Ambassador in Cuba today. 
Unemployment will go down to 5% correct, and oil  47.07 will go up to $60. 
Middle East will stabilize a tad but the EU will be in the doldrums. Isis did lose some territory but did not really stabilize. Everybody seems to be in the doldroms nowadays.
The New York Post will start the drumbeats to impeach the mayor of NYC. While the Post is not Biaggi's biggest fan, no drumbeats. 
Overall another middling year. 

My financial predictions for 2015 were overly optimistic. I never predicted the market would go down and never really recover. This year I am carrying over my market index predictions from last year to the end of 2016 with the caveat that Microsoft will go to 60.  Hopefully by then we’ll have made some money on the market again.
Microsoft was one prediction that underestimated the price, next year I see it ending at 60, a small gain. The unemployment rate is now 5.0 and I am predicting 4.8 by the end of 2016. The Philadelphia Eagles will make the playoffs next year but lose their first post season game. Donovan McNabb will be well liked as head coach.
The Democrats will have a good election in November and Bill Clinton will be our next first lady, although they will have to give him a new name, the dowager President? 

Editor's note: What the BBC says we'll be wearing in 2016. Really?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fact checking at parties

As the holiday season is coming to a close I have been thinking that most parties could use a fact checker. That is, a hired librarian or journalist who would circulate the party with a smart phone and verify the truth of what is said. I have to admit I have become somewhat skeptical about the facts that are presented in modern social situations and believe a professional fact checker could really do a service in circulating in a gathering and check the veracity of what is said.

Bill Grabonski announces that Windows 10 makes you buy a new printer!
The fact checker could tell Bill which existing printers do, in fact, work on Windows 10.
Janet Aldessio tells Rebecca Schwartzen that if she bottle feeds little Timmy, he will become allergic to peanut butter. The fact checker could give likely percentages according to the CDC.
Henry Gribaldi says that the Beatles were tough guys because they grew up Liverpool. The fact checker could tell him that actually three of the four went to fancy schmancy private high schools and it was Hamburg, not Liverpool where the boys learned about the seedier side of life.
Sid Blencher remarks that diesel engines always last longer than gas engines. The fact checker could swoop in on the conversation and verify his claim.

In addition to increasing the level of knowledge all around, a party fact checker would be a wonderful job for a retired librarian. To quote from Keith Richards, that's all I have.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


My father was Italian and my mother was from Texas. Normally Mother dominated the food choices at home. Our family ate southern fried chicken, black eyed peas, collards, turnip greens, corn bread and okra. My father’s family taught Mother how to make a spaghetti sauce and it wasn’t bad. Sometimes around the holidays my father would bring home salami, provolone, capicola, or pepperoni from a place on 9th Avenue near the bus terminal. I guess it was his way to remind the kids of their Italian heritage. 

Bacala being de salinated.

One year, as a special treat to the family, he brought home bacala. This is a dried and salted piece of cod fish that dear old Dad ate as a youth in the Bronx. Proudly, he set it up in the basement where he had water dripping over it for three days. Not unexpectedly, Mother was not particularly happy to see this new member of  the family. Still, that Christmas Eve a tomato based soup with bacala, garlic, olives, and basil materialized on Mother’s stove on Christmas Eve. As if she didn’t have enough to do.

I’ve taken up the practice and make bacala at home on Christmas Eve. Friends and even my nephews have tried it and hated it. I can’t figure out why. If you have ever hiked and then taken off your hiking boots and socks  you can smell something that tastes roughly like bacala. 

Bacala soup

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Better the devil you know

Just finished listening to Fred Kaplan on the Brian Lehrer show.  The theme could be called "better the devil you know". I've been hearing this all over the media recently, including from Bernie Sanders. Americans thought the Arab spring was going to result in liberal intellectuals, westward leaning, running the Middle East. Like the Russian and French revolutions, the beneficiary was going to be the common man, freed from his chains, with Facebook and Al Jazeera as their guides. Like the Russian and French revolutions, the end result was worse than what most people had to begin with. 

One of the lessons of age is that change can be a fickle thing. The new neighbor may have five dogs, three kids and fight with her husband. The new library director may even be worse than the spineless library director you have now.

Americans are starting to learn their lesson. Sometimes what you want is a strongman. Or as Truman said, "He may be a son of a bi--h but he's our son of a bi--h". So much for America standing strong bringing the world to liberty and egalite. Happy Christmas to you too.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I finally saw Spinal Tap

One movie that baby boomers often discuss at parties is the musical classic, This is Spinal Tap. Old rock fans with beer guts love to ruminate over this classic film, often comparing it to its cousin, the Ruttles All You Need is Cash. 

The film is presented as a pseudo documentay of a real band and obstensibly, Ozzy Osbourne did not know it was a spoof. In the late eighties I was watching it on tv and turned it off after ten minutes. It looked like a documentary on a band I had never heard of so I channel clicked away from it. The next day I was chastised for missing this classic. "I donnu, I never heard of Spinal Tap. I thought they rememinded me of Grand Funk Railroad. Sorry my bad." Well I didn't say my bad since that expression didn't exist yet. 

Recently I saw it on the cable tv listings and got excited. I was finally going to see Spinal Tap. Turns out it was a premium channel that I didn't get. Not to be defeated, I ordered it through Netflix. 

Finally the dvd arrived (sorry I'm technologically still living in the 00's) and I got to see this gem. It isn't bad, and it does show the banality and pretensions of the heavy rock band scene of the 70's. It has a decent story line, though and has it's moments. I especially liked the Stonehenge bit. 

I felt very clever towards the end, when they were really having trouble filling halls or getting decent engagements. Once, while visiting Japan I was told that everything that was ever big in America is still big in Japan. Folk music from the 60's, polka music, hula hoops, Dixieland, etc. are still big in Japan. I said to myself, "I'll bet they are still big in Japan". Lo and behold, the band finally finds paying gigs in the land of the midnight sun. 

Spinal Tap is, for better or worse, a decent look at the rock life styles of an earlier time. They are the sort of band people in my dorm at Rutgers listened to while smoking w--d. Along with Ummagumma by Pink Floyd. 

I can't wait til Chrismas Eve. I promised myself that I'll play the commentary. It should go well with bacala. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I've discovered the Elf on the Shelf

Years after every family in America has been immersed in the Elf on the Shelf ritual, I have finally discovered it, thanks to an hour of bored browsing on the Internet. I now understand the concept. The elf materializes in different places in the house every morning and reports to Santa when the children in the household are being mischievous. When kids sneak a cigarette or have one of their father's beers without permission, the Elf reports to Santa and this can impact their take on Christmas day. 

I can see how it may also be used in the office. The secretarial assistant talks a little too long on the phone. The clerk spreads rumours about the Vice President in charge of operations. That night the Elf tells the CEO  and this reduces the worker's Christmas bonus. I can see how the Elf on the shelf could also become the Grinch on the shelf.