Earlier this month, I hosted some friends at a fund raiser for my old grammar school - St. Ann's in Ossining. It was at a Wednesday evening Westchester Broadway Theatre showing of Aida and we had a "sky box".
Here is the official "photogenic couple of the night" shot
And here is my good buddy Noreen Connolly, looking adoringly at me
And here is the whole motley crew,, minus Noreen who had to leave a bit early
We had an excellent time, and in all the school netted about $24,000.
As many of you know, there aren't too many things I know a lot about, but there are a small handful of things that I'm an expert on. And one of them is money. how to protect it, invest it, how the economy works, how to assess risk and reward, all that stuff. I'd better be an expert, right? I have been making a living for 25 years as a financial advisor.
And one of the things I studied intensely for over a year, was the social security system, and the suggested reforms. I read the entire "President's Commission on Social Security Reform" report. (The commission was co-chaired by a Democrat, the late Senator from NY, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.) All right, not quite - I didn't read the detailed actuarial reports showing the inner workings of their assumptions (reading actuarial reports is somewhat akin to watching the chicken defrost, only twice as boring). I looked at the assumptions, accepted their reasonability, and read the other 196 pages. And no one ever questioned their assumptions.
I was in favor of reform along the lines advocated by the Presidential Commission, specifically the second of their three suggested plans. It included a guaranteed defined benefit, as well as personal accounts modelled on the Federal Thrift Program that government employees participate in.
But Bush and the reformers were politically crushed by the superbly organized Democratic opposition, who rallied around the status quo. Or at least the status quo while they are the monority party.
it was the "Party of the little guy" that blocked meaningful reform that would have:
Increased payouts to women
Increased payouts to minority groups (the system would have been more progressive)
Allowed the poor and working poor to leave an inheritance to their families if they died prematurely (30% of Americans are totally dependent on SS for their retirement and have virtually no assets to leave to their families)
The disingenuousness of the Democratic leadership should have been shocking and a wake up call to their party members.
Fifty-five percent of the 603 people questioned had a favourable view of the Vietnam War veteran who fought George W. Bush for the Republican candidacy in 2000, a higher rating than many Democratic party chiefs received."
I had a CAT scan yesterday and some bloodwork today. The CAT scan is in anticipation of my meeting with the transplant doc, Dr. Kewalramani, next Tuesday. The bloodwork was to check my cell counts and see if I needed a white or red blood cell booster shot. The white cell count was a little low, but no need for any shots.
So good news. The only medicine I am on is Bactrim (an antibiotic), three days a week, as a preventative measure.
Here's a good - "fair and balanced" - piece in the Washington Post on Brit Hume. Moving to the Right
As a senior Fox News executive and anchor who landed the only interview with Vice President Cheney after his hunting accident, Hume has traveled light-years since his early days as a dogged investigator. He has made the transition from newspaper reporter to television star, from outside critic to charter member of the Washington establishment, from garden-variety liberal to committed conservative. He has become an acerbic critic of his chosen profession. And he has endured a family tragedy that changed his outlook on life.
We all had a great time, with six days at the Disney theme parks (there are now four of them - The Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios, The Animal Kingdom, and EPCOT) as well as the two Disney water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon).
I felt fine the whole time we were there, even though we were at times running around like crazy people trying to balance our two sons (and our) interests. Despite my best intentions, I only went to the hotel gym once. And we only once had the one hour of "quiet time" for the four of us, that we had planned on.
We got home later than we planned because of weather delays in New York yesterday and this morning. We arrived back at our house at 2 AM this morning (Sunday), all of us pretty knocked out.
Saturday had begun with a quick trip to the Magic Kingdom in the morning (surprisingly sparse attendance for a weekend morning), then to nearby Typhoon Lagoon for two hours plus in the sun, and then finishing with EPCOT, for visits to the Japan, France, and United Kingdom pavilions. (Important hint: if you are ever at EPCOT and choosing between eating at the France Pavilion, or fish and chips at the UK pavilion, go to France. We let Joe and Tim make the decision for fish and chips. How dumb was that?)
We then drove directly to the airport, where everything was delayed due to rain in NYC. So we ended up having a 19 hour day. I will post more on our trip in the next day or two.
The 2 percent decrease, reported by the National Center for Health Statistics, came as a shock to many, because the U.S. is aging, growing in population and getting fatter. In fact, some experts said they suspect the numbers may not hold up when a final report is released later this year....
... The government also said that U.S. life expectancy has inched up again to 77.9 years, a record high but still behind that of about two dozen other countries. ...
... Japan, Monaco and San Marino had the highest life expectancy, 82 years, in 2004, according to World Health Organization statistics. Australia, Iceland, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland have a life expectancy of 81. Canada, France, Israel, Norway, Spain and Britain are among the other countries with life expectancies above 78.
SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.
Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.
Maryscott O'Connor says her liberal Web log, My Left Wing, is "one long, sustained scream."
She smokes a cigarette. Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating, self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?
For those of you who pursue such things, I hope you made a better Lent then I did.
Easter Sunday evening Tom, Brigid, Joe and Tim fly out of Newark for six days in DisneyWorld.
I may do one post tomorrow - Easter Sunday - and then I am not sure about further posts this week. I think I may post a couple of things unsuitable for Easter Day, and have them appear on the journal Monday or Tuesday. You can do that with typepad, make an entry and tell the website computer to publish it at a certain time and day.
I got out of Sloan Kettering 77 days ago. I must say, I am feeling pretty good - just about back to normal. My energy level is up, but not quite back to 100%. The only medicine I'm on is Bactrim (an antibiotic) three days a week as a preventative measure.
My hair is coming back. It looks like I've got a short crew cut. For all of you who suggested my hair might change color and go curly, it's quite dark (so far) and no signs of curls (so far). Will post a picture soon.
Been to the gym 7 of the last 8 days, and am doing about 70% of the volume of my pre-chemotherapy regimen. I am happy with that. I'm hoping that in eight to ten weeks I'll be back to where I was, as far as gym workouts.
The reason it's of interest to me is because of Mark Foster - if you read the article, a handy guy to have around at the end of a game! He is the son of friends of mine going all the way back to my Jamaica days - Jan and Paul Foster. Paul was one of those natural athletes, who could make it all look easy (and not just in rugby). This is very annoying when you're not a natural, but you're glad he's on your team. I last saw Mark about ten years ago when he was 12. Now he's 6' and 200 pounds, good size for a wing, and he's obviously got the speed you want in a wing.
By the way, Jan was also a very good athlete in several sports, so Mark has a great genome.
I know some people are steered to my journal only because they are interested in my perspective on lymphoma and my treatment.
If that's you, then go to this January 8th posting, Tom Faranda's Folly: Four months of journaling that gives links to 13 earlier posts. These posts will give you a good picture of my chemo treatment prior to the Sloan Kettering admission with the stem cell transplant. The 13 posts take a total of about 20 minutes to read.
Then start working chronologically forward from January 8th, using the link on the left hand side "my lymphoma and related medical stuff". It's the only link in "categories" and is underneath the calendar, which is underneath my picture. This will take you through my Sloan Kettering stay (you'll have to put up with pictures of my friends; deal with it), up to the present. In fact, that link will bypass all the other journal entries - it just links to all the lymphoma postings.
It's painful to realize that the passengers may have come very close to seizing control of the airplane from the terrorists.
Much of the what was heard was open to interpretation. In the last minute, voices could be heard in English saying "push up" and "pull down," as flight data showed the steering yoke moving wildly. Some interpreted that as a struggle for control in the cockpit between passengers and hijackers.
Excellent op ed this morning in the Wall Street Journal (posted on free opinionjournal site) entitled "Climate of Fear".
The point being that scientists who beg to differ with the global warming theology are de-funded, not published and generally intimidated. The author is a senior scientist at MIT.OpinionJournal - Extra
...there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.
To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let's start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn't just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.
The Wall street Journal editoial page purports to find a common link. And I think they may have a point. OpinionJournal - Hot Topic
Here's an excerpt, which makes it sound like it's just a case of being anti-union. But there's more to it then that:
At first glance, they seem to have little in common. But the riots in France over labor reform, the slow-motion suicide of General Motors, and the continuing decline of the New York economy all share one defining trait: entrenched and unchangeable union power.
I did about 55% of the volume I had been doing on the chest press machine (and it wasn't easy). On everything else - the back exercise machine, leg extensions, curls and inclined press, I did about 70% of my old volume. I did the same abdominal exercises I'd been doing.
All in all, it went OK. Today I will try and do the same cardio routine I did Friday, but do it a little longer, and then tomorrow repeat what I did yesterday.
Having gotten the OK from Dr. K. on Tuesday, today I went back to the gym. The last time I was there was January 8th, almost exactly three months ago. So this is a semi big deal. No more 25-28 minute walks or dumbbells in the gym.
I'd been thinking about this for quite a while, and the original plan was to go on the bike for 15 minutes, do some stretching, and use the ellyptical trainer for 15 minutes.
What I actually did was the bike for 15 minutes (at level 7 - I used to go at level 9 so tht's not too bad), 12 minutes of good stretching, but then only 8 minutes on the ellyptical. My legs were getting quite heavy on the ellyptical, it wasn't so much my wind.
Anyway, I am satisfied. I felt fine. There's no rush and tomorrow I will ride the bike for 18-20 minutes, stretch , and then start on the weight machines. That will be very interesting!
It turns out that the fellow who spoke out against the Bush at a "town hall" meeting in North Carolina is a member of moveon.org. I happen to disagree with most of what he said, but I suppose it took courage to stand up in a pro-Bush audience and give his spiel.
All of the following is from moveon's email:
"As you know, President Bush often holds "town hall" events where he takes questions from a hand picked crowd of "real people." Yesterday one of the people was, well, real.
In a hostile room, with the attention of the national media focused on him, here's what Harry Taylor stood up and said to the President of the United States:
HARRY TAYLOR: You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you'd like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are—
PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm not your favorite guy. Go ahead. (Laughter and applause.) Go on, what's your question?
HARRY TAYLOR: Okay, I don't have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I—in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and—
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Booo!
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, wait a sec—let him speak.
HARRY TAYLOR: And I would hope—I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself. And I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what I'm saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.
When we saw this story on the news, we checked to see if Harry was a MoveOn member. That's when we found out he was also the leader of an Operation Democracy team in Charlotte.
This is what MoveOn is all about—millions of us working together to bring the basic progressive values of fairness and decency back into American politics. Sometimes we make waves by the thousands, and sometimes we do it one at a time. But no matter what, we're all in this together.
If you're not already part of the Operation Democracy network, we'd love you to join the team. You can sign up online at:
My friend "Tanya" (not her real name; it's in "honor" of Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army [SLA}) is part of a small email discussion group which I am a (founding) member of. Here's a comment she let slip out whilst breaking bread ...
Legislation in Massachusetts, awaiting the governor's signature, could possible break th logjam of how to provide insured healthcare to all citizens. The legislation is modelled on the principle underlying car insurance - you own a car, you must have insurance.
"The bill does what health experts say no other state has been able to do: provide a mechanism for all of its citizens to obtain health insurance. It accomplishes that in a way that experts say combines methods and proposals from across the political spectrum, apportioning the cost among businesses, individuals and the government.
"This is probably about as close as you can get to universal," said Paul B. Ginsburg, president of the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington. "It's definitely going to be inspiring to other states about how there was this compromise. They found a way to get to a major expansion of coverage that people could agree on. For a conservative Republican, this is individual responsibility. For a Democrat, this is government helping those that need help."
The bill, the product of months of wrangling between legislators and the governor, requires all Massachusetts residents to obtain health coverage by July 1, 2007.
Individuals who can afford private insurance will be penalized on their state income taxes if they do not purchase it. Government subsidies to private insurance plans will allow more of the working poor to buy insurance and will expand the number of children who are eligible for free coverage. Businesses with more than 10 workers that do not provide insurance will be assessed up to $295 per employee per year.
All told, the plan is expected to cover 515,000 uninsured people within three years, about 95 percent of the state's uninsured population..."
Now the devil is in the details, and the details on how they're doing this have not been worked out. Nevertheless, I am sure that this program will be closely watched over the next few years. The bill was bi-partisan - passing unanimously in the MA. state senate and with only 2 no votes in their house.
No big concern about the lowered blood cell counts - could be due to a number of factors. I was given a shot of Neutropena (sp?) to try and boost the wbc count. The neupogen last week had very little effect - count went from 1.6 to 1.8. I will have an appointment with Dr. Caron at the Sleepy Hollow MSK branch next week for a blood count and shot of Darby to boost the rbc's.
Activity and dietary restrictions are lifted. But I am still going to ease into things.
No problem going to Disney (flying out Easter Sunday night for six nights).
I will stay under the care of the transplant service at least another month - will have a CAT scan the end of April and see Dr. K the first week of May. He said this is standard practice.
He assured us again that I am "doing very well."
The one discordant note was when I mentioned the port and how the plan was to leave it in until my last treatment of rituxin in about four months. He hinted that I might want to leave it in for two years! YIKES. Only reason to leave it in is to provide option to use it, and I have figured all along that I am done with the last rituxin treatments. He then said, "but you can have it removed if you'd like." So this is an issue I will take up with him in May.
My friend Richard Cowden-Guido pointed this out to me in an email this morning:
"Today's Isidore's feast day! I've long been devoted to him because he didn't like to study, but his saint brother made him, with some success as Isidore being declared a Doctor would indicate. So I always invoke him to help me torture Joseph as regard his studies."
(Important personal note – It’s amazing that Mike still talks to me. For two years he tolerated large piles of dirty rugby kit and practice jerseys in our room at Fairfield U. That’s three days of practice a week, and games on Saturday. Hey! At college who has time to do laundry?)
He felt he’d under-appreciated JP II when he was alive and Noonan’s book brought out for him what a great man he was. And he asked a rhetorical question – why weren’t the Pope’s writings more utilized by priests in homilies, etc? (Good question.)
So I went to amazon a couple of days later, and got a pristine hardcover copy from one of their second hand booksellers for less than three dollars, plus shipping. A bargain. I’ve never had anything but good results from the amazon second hand sellers.
John Paul the Great is a good read, It’s not a great book, and it’s not Peggy Noonan’s best book, but it is plenty good. A fine introduction to John Paul.
(Personal note #2. I like Peggy Noonan. A lot. She’s written some wonderful books. Her first book, Present at the Revolution is probably the best book about the Reagan Administration. Noonan was a speechwriter for Reagan, and wrote some of his most memorable speeches, including the one he gave after the Shuttle tragedy, and his speech at Normandy.)
And it is an introduction. It is not an in-depth study of the Pope’s philosophy or theology. Noonan sketches out in broad strokes JP’s thinking, and usually does a good job of it. I say usually because one of the shortcomings of the book is that a couple of times it comes across a bit as Peggy Noonan Teaching Catechism Class.
But that is more than made up for in the chapters covering things like the Pope’s early life, his geopolitical impact, her discussion of the ongoing abuse crisis in the U.S. and what it’s done to the Church, her description of the ceremonies at Mother Teresa’s beatification. AND – her telling of her meeting Cardinal Law (who she’d ripped to shreds in her WSJ newspaper column), not to mention the last chapter on John Paul’s death and the election of Benedict 16 – all excellent stuff.
So a fine book and a quick read about one of the towering figures of the second half of the 20th century. I would recommend it to anyone, whether they are familiar with John Paul or just curious about what the big deal was when he died, April 2, 2005 - exactly a year and a day ago.
(Personal note #3. Brigid also read it and found it absorbing. One of these days I'll post the poem she wrote after John Paul's funeral.)
A few days ago I linked to a couple of Wall Street Journal op eds on global warming. Tom Faranda's Folly: The environment, global warming, and the economy. George Will is not someone I normally pay much attention to, but he had a really good syndicated column on the overhyping of the risks (IS IT TOO LATE!!!!!) of the pending global warming "disaster." The title is "Let Cooler Heads Prevail: the Media Heat up Over Global Warming" George Will
Here's an excerpt - comparing the current global warming fear-mongering to the fear-mongering of thirty years ago - global cooling.
While worrying about Montana's receding glaciers, Schweitzer, who is 50, should also worry about the fact that when he was 20 he was told to be worried, very worried, about global cooling. Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned of "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation." Science Digest (February 1973) reported that "the world's climatologists are agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age." The Christian Science Monitor ("Warning: Earth's Climate is Changing Faster Than Even Experts Expect," Aug. 27, 1974) reported that glaciers "have begun to advance," "growing seasons in England and Scandinavia are getting shorter" and "the North Atlantic is cooling down about as fast as an ocean can cool." Newsweek agreed ("The Cooling World," April 28, 1975) that meteorologists "are almost unanimous" that catastrophic famines might result from the global cooling that the New York Times (Sept. 14, 1975) said "may mark the return to another ice age." The Times (May 21, 1975) also said "a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable" now that it is "well established" that the Northern Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950."
In fact, the Earth is always experiencing either warming or cooling. But suppose the scientists and their journalistic conduits, who today say they were so spectacularly wrong so recently, are now correct. Suppose the Earth is warming and suppose the warming is caused by human activity. Are we sure there will be proportionate benefits from whatever climate change can be purchased at the cost of slowing economic growth and spending trillions? ...
About the mystery that vexes ABC — Why have Americans been slow to get in lock step concerning global warming? — perhaps the "problem" is not big oil or big coal, both of which have discovered there is big money to be made from tax breaks and other subsidies justified in the name of combating carbon.
As per my post on Wednesday the 29th Tom Faranda's Folly: 4th rituxin treatment and low cell counts , I had some injections last week to get my white and red blood cell counts up. The bloodwork this Tuesday, when I have my appointment with the transplant Doc, Dr. Kewalramani, will tell the tale of how much the cell counts have gone up. Hard to figure why they were low; it's a common occurence after chemotherapy.
I feel pretty good. Some good walks the last few days, and used the dumbbells in the basement yesterday. I am looking forward to getting back in the gym - I expect to start this Friday.
I get asked the above question. I am a financial advisor. That's my job (profession, whatever). When I'm asked I tell people "there's no hard and fast rule, there are many, many, variables. Let's just aim to save as much as you can without taking food off the table now."
Clearly, families with assets in the millions of dollars can feel reasonably confident about their futures. At the other end of the spectrum, those with little besides a house and Social Security are almost certain to face lowered standards of living in retirement. But in between, it's a conundrum.
Brokers and insurers and others who sell retirement "products" like to put firm-sounding numbers on what constitutes retirement security, but they typically do that by making assumptions, lots of them. This is not to say that these assumptions are unreasonable, but families should understand that their own situations could end up quite different.
For example, the estimates done by the pros typically assume your assets will get a certain average return, that you'll withdraw a certain percentage each year -- and that may be adjusted for inflation -- and that you'll live to something like your actuarial life expectancy, which is something in the low to mid-eighties, plus perhaps a fudge factor based on your family history and present health.
So assuming you save a certain amount, and if you get the assumed investment return, and if you don't take out too much, and if inflation doesn't take off, and if you don't get a horribly expensive disease, and if taxes don't rise too much, and if you die on schedule, you'll be okay.
This is not reassuring. ...
The conclusion to draw from this is not to throw up your hands. It's to stop trying to figure out what you'll need, and simply save as much as you can.
There is a very fascinating article in the Christian Science Monitor about Jill Carroll, the freelance journalist who was working in Iraq for the Monitor, when she was kidnapped over three months ago. She was released a few days ago.
She did what she felt she had to do to stay alive. Here are some excerpts:
In fact, Carroll did what many hostage experts and past captives would have urged her to do: Give the men who held the power of life and death over her what they wanted.
"You'll pretty much say anything to stay alive because you expect people will understand these aren't your words," says Micah Garen, a journalist and author who was held captive by a Shiite militia in southern Iraq for 10 days in August 2004. "Words that are coerced are not worth dying over." ...
Garen's book "American Hostage," co-authored with his wife Marie-Helene, recounts his experience, and in the process of researching it he delved into the methods and motives of kidnappers, particularly ones with political agendas. "The point of taking hostages is to get them to make propaganda statements," he says. "The job of a civilian hostage... is to stay alive."