Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday J

J is now old enough to collect his Social Security. But I'm going to make him keep working. This picture is one of my favorites, as it shows his look of affectionate exasperation, or exasperated affection, the most frequent look I get from him.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

But He Didn't Just Cook the Dinner

He also struggled home with the long (78") bench I insisted on having for the living room in our little Honda Civic (no mishaps on the journey), and spent an hour or so putting it together for me and putting it into position.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Our menu was:

crab in large pasta shells with sauce
sauteed mushrooms and shallots
salad with smoked salmon, dill and sour cream
dessert from Ettore's

I set the table.

Yesterday, in preparation for Black Friday shopping, an article in our local paper quoted a marketing professor at UC Davis, who stated that people get up at ungodly hours of the morning to shop on the day after Thanksgiving because it makes them feel that they are in control. "You feel empowered when you shop." The getting up at 2 in the morning, schlepping off to stand in line with hundreds of other people, and scrambling for some "doorbuster" does not, unfortunately, make me feel empowered. I instead imagine some retailer who majored in marketing chuckling to himself as he suggests to his fellows that "maybe we could get them to line up on Thanksgiving morning. Let's see how dumb they are." There's nothing that should make people feel less in control than herding off to the shops in the middle of the night. We're being played, and we shouldn't tolerate it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's Probably Not True

but my Tenants and Foreclosure blog hasn't had much action this week--about half of usual. Does this mean that the lenders and landlords are leaving tenants alone to celebrate Thanksgiving unmolested? Probably not, but there's always hope.

(Last year I got an email from a tenant in distress on New Year's Eve! I wished I believed in karma.)

Friday, November 19, 2010


I like holidays. I'm not one of those bah humbug people who wants to abolish Christmas, even though I have no religion at all. I am not worried about the pound or two that I will gain eating yummy food. In fact, I believe that the weight gain means that I had a good time during the season. I will never eat a snack before going to a holiday party so that I won't eat so much at the buffet. What's the point of that? That doesn't mean that you get to position yourself in front of the cookies, making sure that no one else gets any of them. But, c'mon folks, it's not the pound or two that you gain over the holidays that makes you fat. Really.

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the smell of the roasting turkey, the stuffing cooked in the bird (cooked on the side is never as good), the mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole (something J refuses to cook or eat), the gravy, the shrimp in aspic that my mother made almost every year. There was the American brilliant glass relish tray with carrots and celery, and the American brilliant glass bowl with the cranberry jelly. Until I was 30 I had three helpings of everything--it was a standing joke that everyone had to sit around waiting for me to finish. And I didn't mind skipping dessert, as I only moderately like pumpkin pie and can't stand mincemeat. Imagine J's surprise this year when I said that I'd rather have crab for Thanksgiving. I'll do the turkey for Christmas. I guess it's because I now use the relish tray to hold my jewelry.

But as for Christmas...I wish we could just have the food, the decorations and the music, as well as gifts for children, and skip the rest of the purposeless gift-giving. I hate it when someone I barely know buys me something that costs $10. I'm an adult now and, if there's something out there that I want that costs $10, I've probably already bought it. So what the giver has really done is picked up something I probably don't want, wrapped it up and presented it to me in expectation that I will reciprocate. Both of the gifts are likely to be saved for the appalling custom of "regifting" or set out for charity collection. Why not just go out for a meal together, or exchange cards--anything but purchasing the useless junk that multiplies exponentially at this time of year. And it's not the thought that counts--what's clear is that someone picked it up at the drug store or the grocery store because she felt that she had to give something, anything.

And it's not because I'm cheap. I'd rather spend more than $10 having lunch or dinner with someone than exchange this stuff. And given that most people have limited resources these days, I'd rather, in fact, that people spend the money on their kids. Take the $50 or $100 that you're spending on these junk gifts and buy your kids something they really want. Please.

Update: I asked for Nightmare Before Christmas for my Christmas viewing this year. J thinks I've gone bonkers--"I wouldn't think you'd want a strange movie."

Update 2: An economist has actually written a book on the subject of Christmas gift-giving. He advocates giving gift cards to the recipient's favorite store, thus allowing the recipient to purchase what she wants. One problem with this: I've noticed from my online shopping that much of the good stuff is already gone and that people who want to redeem the cards right after Christmas will face slim pickings. This means that the cards will end up in a drawer and be forgotten. So if you give gift cards, send a reminder in March or April so that the recipient spends it when new merchandise comes in.

New Tenants Together Report

Tenants Together, the statewide renters organization in California, has issued a new report on the eviction policies of banks after foreclosing on tenant-occupied properties. As the five of you who read this blog are all-too-well-aware, this is one of my big issues. The report is very short, with only one comma splice that I've found so far, but I was particularly entertained by fact that banks admit to violating the law--in writing yet. I mean, what part of "it's the law" don't they understand?

DeutscheBank, fore instance, doesn't believe the law applies to them at all. Uh, you do business in the United States, so you have to comply with state and local laws. It's not an issue, but a fact. Neither Wells Fargo nor Citibank believe that they have to return security deposits to tenants. Oh, yes, you do--it's the law. Bank of America and One West didn't even bother to reply.

Perhaps our State Legislature should take action, spelling out in very simple language what the banks are required to do under existing law (they could make the laws a little better, but that's another issue), and require that the Notice of Default be mailed to all properties, along with an explanation of the bank's obligations once the property has been foreclosed. Dreaming, I know, but it could happen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adventures of My Cats

Peon has been way too negative lately, so today we will look at the adventures of the cats with the change of seasons. Dash still wants to go out to the patio at first light, but we've told him that the outside temperature must be 50 degrees before he's allowed out. However, on chilly days he comes right back inside and asks that the heat be turned on so that he can park himself over the heater vent. He'll stretch out there for some time, turning himself over as one side gets too warm.

Emma prefers the solar solution to cold and waits for the morning sunbeam to cross the bed. She snuggles against my pillow and enjoys the full-body beam. Then she removes herself to the floor for more solar warming. A good time is being had by all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Morning

J and I are going out to take fall color pictures this morning. We're supposed to have heavy winds today, and I'd like to get some pictures of the leaves while they are still on the trees.

And Peon is not surprised that the "bipartisan" commission is advocating reductions in Social Security benefits. Peon has been saying for a long time that the elite will now seek to take the last remaining bit of money the vast majority has. They've taken our wages, run us into ruinous debt, taken our houses--there isn't anything else left. Paul Krugman's blog links to the Social Security study showing that life expectancy for the top half of the earnings distribution has increased a lot more than life expectancy for the bottom half. Surprise, surprise. What this means for the rest of us is that, if the full retirement age is raised to 69, many lower income workers won't live to collect a dime. That's how they reduce the deficit--people pay in with the full knowledge that they may never collect.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Love David Brooks

only because he provides me with such an easy hit. In his op-ed (brought to my attention by Dean Baker in his Beat the Press blog, which you should all be skimming, at least, every day) last week, he was rattling on about what President Obama needed to do to win back disaffected voters. And he seriously makes the argument that people are not concerned about mundane things like jobs and incomes, but about values. And then, of course, he raises the fiction that Americans are addicted to debt and spending, unlike our forefathers and foremothers who, with grim rectitude, spent their evenings checking their balance sheets. But Americans have seen the light, and decided that Republicans are better able to keep us all on the path to debt-reduction.

But he doesn't stop there. It's not just debt-reduction. More values come into play, causing deep distress among the populace. So we find that Obama should:

"demonstrate that even though he comes from an unusual background, he is a fervent believer in the old-fashioned bourgeois virtues: order, self-discipline, punctuality and personal responsibility.

Gee, aside from the creepy semi-fascism of the list, I just haven't noticed a lot of concern on the part of the populace that the President is late for appointments. And I'd like to think that the populace is smart enough to figure out that whether or not we're on time would have little impact on the financial meltdown we suffered.

And I don't think Brooks is terribly concerned about the personal responsibility of, for instance, bankers. Otherwise they'd all be heading off to serve long prison terms.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Well, Duh

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Tenants have been dealing with judges who "interpret" the laws that are supposed to protect them in favor of the banks for years.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two Good Pieces on the New Governor

One is on his charter schools, the other on his development policies. And I got up this morning to discover this (on the Tenants and Foreclosure blog) in my email:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this amazing pool of information. It is easy to read and informative at the same time. I appreciate it immensely!

I shall be obnoxious for the rest of the day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Commerce on the Internet

I received an email today from someone who wanted to pay for a link on my Tenants and Foreclosure blog. Perhaps I am naive, but I thought that when a blog linked to another blog, the link provided further information, a link to the text being discussed or, at least, a pretty picture. J informs me that this is a common practice. I was upset that anyone reading me would think that I would be willing to do such a thing.

Today would have been my mother's 81st birthday.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Election

I'm not going to try for a thorough analysis of the recent election. First it would be too depressing. Second others have already done much better and more thorough analysis than I could ever do.

My brother lives in Denver. I Skyped him yesterday to ask why it was that Colorado was a little speck of blue in the otherwise Red Sea of the Midwest and Mountain States. He Skyped back that the Republicans there had nominated Tea Partiers for both Governor and Senator, thus giving the election to the Democrats. "Thank God for Sarah Palin," he Skyped.

But it must be noted that Harry Reid was only able to win against the second-wackiest Tea Partier in the country (the wackiest being Christine "I'm Not a Witch" O'Donnell). I must admit that I actually think O'Donnell's attack on onanism is more entertaining, but that's not suitable for family television. And Democrats like Russ Feingold were beaten by what we can only describe objectively as lesser minds--in the case of Feingold's opposition, a much lesser mind.

In California we elected Jerry Brown for a third term as Governor, and re-elected the moderately-liberal but remarkably ineffective Barbara Boxer as Senator. I voted for Brown, but only because when I voted there was still a chance that Whitman could win. But having lived through both his first stint as Governor (1974-82) and in Oakland when he was Mayor of that city, I'm unimpressed. In Oakland he simply rode the housing bubble up and got out before it collapsed, never noting--and apparently never seeing--that the bubble might ruin the lives of those who bought at bubble-inflated prices. Further the bubble forced thousands of low- and moderate-income Oaklanders to move to far-flung communities and commute back to their jobs. (That's why sustainability ratings should always include a ding for the people who can't afford to live in the community where they work and have to commute.)

Brown also refused to support Measure EE, the "just cause" eviction law passed by the voters there. That's because he raised tons of campaign money--and still does--from developers who want to ugly up the state with cheaply-built, but expensive, housing. And it's probably because he also believes that tenants should be non-persons who can be evicted for any reason or no reason at all. That tenants should have the right to dignity is beyond his ken.

When he was Governor the first time, he refused to advocate for statewide "renter rebate" legislation, which would have forced landlords to share their Proposition 13 tax savings with their tenants. As a young person, with few gray hairs and no wrinkles, I figured out how our little group of demonstrators could get into his office in San Francisco's State Building undetected. We brought our demonstration to his office, where he informed us that the renter's rebate was a "local issue"--uh, Proposition 13 was a statewide initiative, and that we had "Mau-Maued" him. Now I must admit that I'd never before, and haven't since, been compared to Dedan Kimathai and Stanley Mathenge, and was a little flattered. The other lesson I took from that is that the problems of affordable housing and tenants' rights are always somewhere he isn't. If he's a local official, it's a state or federal problem. If he's a state official, it's a local problem--or a federal one. Well, I guess he's consistent.

And Californians once again proved that they weren't willing to be grown-ups and pay for the services they want. They added more fees to the list of taxes and fees that require a 2/3 vote for passage, making it more difficult for the state to raise money--and giving a minority control of taxation. In particular Proposition 26 would make it more difficult to force polluters to pay the cost of the damage they do. Did no one note that Chevron was a major funder--Chevron, folks, Chevron! And Proposition 24 went down too, but that's because the campaign against it suggested--no, lied and said--that small business would face higher taxes and California would lose jobs. It was actually a somewhat complicated bill to tax corporations more effectively, and would have had virtually no impact on jobs. But it was complicated enough that most people couldn't understand it.

'Nuf said. Oh, except that I actually got quoted in another blog. I couldn't believe it, but it's here. See the second paragraph from the end. I don't necessarily agree with the author, but being quoted by someone I don't know is so cool.

Update 11/6/10: My brother has become convinced that joining the Tea Party is the way to keep Republicans out of power. In furtherance of this goal, he has apparently signed me up for membership in the local Tea Party. I hope that he was only joking, but should my Tea Party t-shirt and "Mama Grizzlies for Palin" bumper sticker arrive in the mail, I fully intend to burn them both. I wonder if anyone has an anti-Palin bumper sticker in defense of wolves. (One of the grossest things you'll ever see is the "hunting" of wolves in Alaska, which is done by chasing the innocent beasts in helicopters and then shooting the exhausted creature.)