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Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Philadelphia - Saratoga Diaries

I've been doing some traveling, hence no posting.  On Monday the 17th, I took the train to Philadelphia for four days of bridge at the ACBL Nationals.  I had made a reservation at Club Quarters, a chain of well located hotels in many of our large cities.  In this case, it was on Chestnut, just a few blocks from the playing site at the Marriott and the adjoining Convention Center.

Philadelphia is certainly not the sleepy, prudish, and outright dangerous city that I knew in the 70's, when it had the well deserved reputation for having just about the worst food in the country.  Though its crime rate is still too high, Philly is now a fun place to visit.  Aside from all of the historical sites, it has a more than adequate selection of excellent restaurants and bars, and even a pretty good jazz club.  More on that later.

Even though I arrived about 9:15 AM, the hotel had my room ready, and it was fine.  Turns out that Club Quarters is very popular with pilots and flight attendants so the rooms were turning over early.  I dumped my stuff and hustled over to the playing site, where I quickly found a partner (a nice lady accountant / professor from Rochester, NY) and we slogged our way through two sessions in the limited (under 750 masterpoints - don't even ask) game.  We did well in the second session, so the day was already a success.  Back to the hotel, a nice glass of wine (or two) in the bar of the restaurant adjoining (a very upscale Northern Italian eatery), and then it was time to forage for dinner.  I wound up at the Oyster Bar on Sansone which has a great raw bar where you can watch the shellfish being shucked and had a fairly affordable half lobster.  Just up the block was Chris's Jazz Cafe, where a very good quartet was in progress for a cover charge that is much less than I am used to in New York.  I also sampled the vegetable spring rolls there, which I can recommend.  Luckily, they also had a pretty good Pinot Noir.

Day 2 of bridge was a little more settled since I had arranged to play with my college roommate, who has always been a gifted player.  We played in a very challenging field, and the first day, though highly entertaining and educational, was not an artistic success.  I played with him the next two days, and we did much better.  For dinnerTuesday night, I was determined to return to a restaurant I had enjoyed at a recent political fundraiser, and found it on South 20th St.  D'Angelo's has excellent food, and also pretty decent musical entertaintment, playing standard jazz vocal fare.  I ate at the bar, and left full and satisfied,  headed you - know - where, back to the Jazz Cafe.  There I caught the end of a set by a pretty good but very young trio, followed by an open mike jam session.  This was fun for me, but what was really great to see were all the young friends of the players in the audience, loving jazz, applauding at all the right times.  The audience at Chris's also includes more Afro-Americans than you see in New York.  Many of us have found it especially disturbing that Afro - Americans (who invented jazz) are not a significant part of the NY audience most nights.

Dinner Wednesday night was not about the food but more about the opportunity for three roommates from over 40 years ago to get together and catch up.  And then more jazz.  I will really miss the Jazz cafe until my next trip back to Philly.

Friday, the mission was to drive up to Saratoga, New York for a weekend fundraiser for NY Congressman Joe Crowley.  There was a pleasant dinner Friday, and a glorious day at the track Saturday with beautiful weather and excellent racing.  I had a couple of winners, including a $27 dollar horse who happened to be a grandson of Seattle Slew. 

Saratoga for the 45 day racing meet is about as nice a place as you can be in this hemisphere, with lots of busy bars, restaurants and shops.  And since this was the first weekend of the racing season (the Hats Off Festival, they call it) there were live bands on every block and in every bar.  And tons of people.  Saturday night, by which time we were on our own, I ate in One Caroline, a New Orleans style restaurant where the food and wine were tops.  They also had a very good jazz trio led by the venerable pianist Lee Shaw.  She swings while hooked up to oxygen, but has lost none of her energy and spirit for the music. 

Sunday I left early for a pleasant drive home and then my wife and I zipped out to Sayville to visit friends and take a ride on their boat around Long Island's South Shore bay.   So all that left little time for blogging, or even watching the British Open (though I was painfully aware of Adam Scott's meltdown which ESPN radio broadcast) and the Mets agonizing losing streak.

While I was in Philly, Long Island endured one of those freak thunderstorms that go through here where when it's over, people wonder whether they have just witnessed a tornado that didn't quite touch down but caused serious damage nonetheless.  At our Morgan park, the storm knocked over quite a few trees and even took out a gazebo that serves as the stage for weekly summer concerts.  Several folks were injured since they had taken shelter in the gazebo.   This called to mind the recent similar, actually much worse, storm that went through the Washington D.C. area, knocking out power for the better part of a week for some customers.  This led to a thoughtful op ed by the WSJ's Stephen Moore called When the Moore Family Lost Power.  In case you missed it, here are a few excerpts, printed without the Journal's permission.

Last weekend, the Moore household was one of nearly a million homes in the Washington, D.C. area without power.  The temperature was between 95 and 105 degrees and it was so humid you felt like you needed gills to breathe...Sure, I explained to my three children, we're miserable but look at the bright side: Think how much we've reduced our carbon footprint!

That's small solace to youngsters who feel that life without Facebook, World of Warcraft, ESPN, Xbox, cellphones and air conditioning is like losing basic human rights.  "What did people do before the age of electricity?" my 11 year old asks.  "I would have killed myself," he moans. 

Electrical power is the central nervous system of our modern economy and our 21st century lifestyles, and living without it for a few days reminds us how vulnerable we are to being sent back to a pre-Industrial Age.  Yet every initiative by green groups is focused on reducing our access to electrical power - although they never admit that explicitly...Green groups, for example, have declared war on coal, which still produces 40% of our electricity.  This cheap and domestically abundant energy source is getting cleaner all the time, thanks to technological progress.  But that doesn't stop a global-warming alarmist like James Hansen from likening trains carrying coal to the German "death trains" that transported the Jews to Nazi concentration camps. 

Natural gas is our second major source of electrical energy and thanks to the technological miracle of hydraulic fracturing we have hundreds of years of this clean-burning resource that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.  (Fracking opponents say) they are protecting drinking water but as we discovered, when you lose electricity you often lose access to potable water.  Of course, Big Green hates oil and nuclear power too...

Sadly, kids are being bombarded in school with propaganda that says to save the planet we have a moral obligation to conserve electricity and use "alternate energy."  But safe and cheap electricity is what will save the planet from doom...Higher standards of living, huge improvements in health and environmental conditions, and longer life expectancy are the fruits of economic growth that abundant electrical power makes possible...  North Koreans live in the dark.  Limiting access to cheap electricity is one of the first actions of a successful tyrant.

There's one more teachable moment from our three days in the dark. . .Sure, the economy is bad, but all we had to do is live for 72 hours without AC, TV, a dishwasher, a hair dryer, and Google to appreciate how much progress has been made in the past 20,30,and 50 years.  Today a larger pecentage of poor people have access to air conditioning than the average middle class family did in 1960...After tens of billions in subsidies, these (alternate energy) sources provide 3% of our electricity.  Anyone who thinks we can power our $15 trillion economy with wind and solar power is living in the dark - or wants the rest of us to as well.


On July 9, we sold 100 shares of Pfizer (PFE) at 22.54.  This stock is perking up, but it's now an income stock, and a capital loss provider.  We paid 40.80 on 1/30/02.  On 7/11, we bought 50 shares of Dupont (DD) at 47.31, a "zero buy."  On 7/13, we bought 100 shares of SunTrust Preferred (STI.PR.A) at 21.07 for the IRA.   Then we hit the sell side, and not a moment too soon.  On 7/16, we sold 200 more shares of Pulte Homes (PHM) at 10.89.  We paid 10.91 for 138 on 10/14/09 and 8.70 for 62 on 6/29/10.  On 7/20, back from Philly, we sold 100 shares of Worthington (WOR) out of the IRA at 22.44, which we purchased for 14.01 on 7/21/03.  We also sold 100 shares of Xcel Energy (XEL) at 29.11.  We paid 25 on 6/18/1997.    Yesterday, we bought 700 more shares of slumping Alumina (AWC) at 2.76.  The numbers say it's a value buy, but the charts say it's a dog.  


Mankind has been setting things on fire for energy for tens of thousands of years. That burning of things intensified over the last several hundred years and just maybe it isn't good for us to add so much smoke to the air we rely on for life itself. I doubt you allow people to add smoke to the atmosphere inside your home.
Also why would an intelligent person expect humans to, all of a sudden, become as good at using wind, solar, wave, tidal and other sources of alternative energy as they are at setting things on fire? The use of wind and solar is only 3% now because we are new at it. You want to begrudge the 10s of billions in subsides. What about the trillions expended by our military to protect our wealthy oil firm’s access to foreign oil, not to mention the blood of our sons and daughters?
We “greens” don’t want you to live in the dark. We want you to live in a manner consistent with allowing our future generations to also live. See the interview with the CEO of Exxon Mobile, Rex Tillerson. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/28/exxonmobil-climate-change-rex-tillerson He is willing to admit a connection between burning things and global warming. He is also comfortable that through human engineering we’ll find a way to cope with it, "We have spent our entire existence adapting. We'll adapt," he said. "It's an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution." He may be right, for the elite families like his own with access to hundreds of millions of dollars. They will be able to relocate whereever is still livable and they will be able to afford their own thugs to protect their enclave. Most humans won’t.
Are there too many of us on the planet? Maybe, but that is a separate topic and as a successful upper-middle class American I don’t care to think of my progeny as expendable. Yet, Mr Tillerson is willing to roll the dice with their lives. I wish you would come over to the humane side of this debate. Do you remember acid rain and all the real dead fish. Stop protending it is progressive to want to burn stuff, even if it does power you’re A/C. There are better ways forward and it would help to have your intelligence on the side of progress, instead of obstruction.
looking for a raw seafood bar in NYC.....Docks Oyster Bar at 38th and 3rd....they have jazz o tuesday and sunday...
Your quote that "safe and cheap electricity is what will save the planet from doom" embodies everything that is wrong with our current consumption of commodities. By our planet's doom, I think you mean to say "the human race's doom". Our planet is doomed from the scientific perspective; in that in millions of years or so, our sun will expand in preparation for supernova. Short of that, we as people would have to go to incredible extremes to destroy it ourselves. Now that we have that piece of hyperbole out of the way, lets get down to brass tacks. What you are concerned about is the continued ability of the human race to consume, produce, and progress. I think we all could be said to want that but by different means. First of all, the idea that we can just continue to expand in everything we do needs to be abolished. It is the reason the economy repeatedly crashes and the reason for overpopulation. Those things have the greatest bearing on our consumption of power. Fix them and you go a long way towards fixing our power consumption issues. You paint a black and white picture of consumption when really it is shades of grey. Every source of power that we have is valid to consume within the constraints of it's return on investment. That investment should not exclude cost of life and cost of environment. I consider myself "green" in that I prioritize the environment fairly high when considering the impact of our energy usage as it relates to "our doom". Your dismissal of wind power in preference to natural gas extracted via the hydro-fracturing process is alarming and even a little disgusting. I live in an area that overwhelmingly does not want fracking to occur in our backyards. I'm glad that public awareness is being raised about it, but at the same time, nobody is mentioning the fact that the greatest health risk is the chemical slurry the gas companies use instead of using water...because it saves them money. If they just used water (which they can do) and were to distance themselves appropriately from residential areas they can still turn a profit. Just not as much of a profit as they would like. Wind power however, interferes with the beautiful views that some well placed houses have and with the exception of some notable mechanical breakdowns have no other known cons. While I'll admit that Gasland is an extreme example of the repercussions of fracking, it is only because of the huge push-back against it that it has not become common. You can throw your own rights away to power providing corporations but for those of us whose health might be affected by their profit margins, don't expect us to be concerned about someone's view. You're right, there is a cost for energy in order for us to progress, but it doesn't have to be our health.
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