Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Internet Is Filled With Weird and Wonderful Things

Like this wacky interview on Japanese TV immediately following Manchester United's victory in the FIFA Club World Cup last month, starring bemused but game Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. Iron Chef meets Match of the Day.

Obama's Weekly Web Address

We start this new year in the midst of an economic crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime. We learned yesterday that in the past month alone, we lost more than half a million jobs – a total of nearly 2.6 million in the year 2008. Another 3.4 million Americans who want and need full-time work have had to settle for part-time jobs. And families across America are feeling the pinch as they watch debts mount, bills pile up and savings disappear.

These numbers are a stark reminder that we simply cannot continue on our current path. If nothing is done, economists from across the spectrum tell us that this recession could linger for years and the unemployment rate could reach double digits – and they warn that our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world.

It’s not too late to change course – but only if we take immediate and dramatic action. Our first job is to put people back to work and get our economy working again. This is an extraordinary challenge, which is why I’ve taken the extraordinary step of working – even before I take office – with my economic team and leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will call for major investments to revive our economy, create jobs, and lay a solid foundation for future growth.

I asked my nominee for Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Dr. Christina Romer, and the Vice President-Elect’s Chief Economic Adviser, Dr. Jared Bernstein, to conduct a rigorous analysis of this plan and come up with projections of how many jobs it will create – and what kind of jobs they will be. Today, I am releasing a report of their findings so that the American people can see exactly what this plan will mean for their families, their communities, and our economy.

The report confirms that our plan will likely save or create three to four million jobs. 90 percent of these jobs will be created in the private sector – the remaining 10 percent are mainly public sector jobs we save, like the teachers, police officers, firefighters and others who provide vital services in our communities.

The jobs we create will be in businesses large and small across a wide range of industries. And they’ll be the kind of jobs that don’t just put people to work in the short term, but position our economy to lead the world in the long-term.

We’ll create nearly half a million jobs by investing in clean energy – by committing to double the production of alternative energy in the next three years, and by modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improving the energy efficiency of two million American homes. These made-in-America jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, developing fuel-efficient cars and new energy technologies pay well, and they can’t be outsourced.

We’ll create hundreds of thousands of jobs by improving health care – transitioning to a nationwide system of computerized medical records that won’t just save money, but save lives by preventing deadly medical errors. And we’ll create hundreds of thousands more jobs in education, equipping tens of thousands of schools with 21st century classrooms, labs and computers to help our kids compete with any worker in the world for any job.

We’ll put nearly 400,000 people to work by repairing our infrastructure – our crumbling roads, bridges and schools. And we’ll build the new infrastructure we need to succeed in this new century, investing in science and technology, and laying down miles of new broadband lines so that businesses across our nation can compete with their counterparts around the world.

Finally, we won’t just create jobs, we’ll also provide help for those who’ve lost theirs, and for states and families who’ve been hardest-hit by this recession. That means bi-partisan extensions of unemployment insurance and health care coverage; a $1,000 tax cut for 95 percent of working families; and assistance to help states avoid harmful budget cuts in essential services like police, fire, education and health care.

Now, given the magnitude of the challenges we face, none of this will come easy. Recovery won’t happen overnight, and it’s likely that things will get worse before they get better.

But we have come through moments like this before. We are the nation that has faced down war, depression and fear itself – each time, refusing to yield; each time, refusing to accept a lesser fate. That is the spirit that has always sustained us – that belief that our destiny is not written for us, but by us; that our success is not a matter of chance, but of our own courage and determination. Our resources may be finite, but our will is infinite. And I am confident that if we come together and summon that great American spirit once again, we will meet the challenges of our time and write the next great chapter in our American story.

The Mom Song (Updated)

UPDATE: Not sure why the original video I posted has been pulled, but here are more performances of this hilarious song:

Don't make me come down there!

Lyrics: "The Mom Song"

Get up now
Get up now
Get up out of bed
Wash your face
Brush your teeth
Comb your sleepyhead
Here's your clothes and your shoes
Hear the words I said
Get up now! Get up and make your bed
Are you hot? Are you cold?
Are you wearing that?
Where's your books and your lunch and your homework at?
Grab your coat and gloves and your scarf and hat
Don't forget! You gotta feed the cat
Eat your breakfast, the experts tell us it's the most important meal of all
Take your vitamins so you will grow up one day to be big and tall
Please remember the orthodontist will be seeing you at 3 today
Don't forget your piano lesson is this afternoon so you must play
Don't shovel
Chew slowly
But hurry
The bus is here
Be careful
Come back here
Did you wash behind your ears?
Play outside, don't play rough, will you just play fair?
Be polite, make a friend, don't forget to share
Work it out, wait your turn, never take a dare
Get along! Don't make me come down there
Clean your room, fold your clothes, put your stuff away
Make your bed, do it now, do we have all day?
Were you born in a barn? Would you like some hay?
Can you even hear a word I say?
Answer the phone! Get off the phone!
Don't sit so close, turn it down, no texting at the table
No more computer time tonight!
Your iPod's my iPod if you don't listen up
Where are you going and with whom and what time do you think you're coming home?
Saying thank you, please, excuse me makes you welcome everywhere you roam
You'll appreciate my wisdom someday when you're older and you're grown
Can't wait till you have a couple little children of your own
You'll thank me for the counsel I gave you so willingly
But right now I thank you not to roll your eyes at me
Close your mouth when you chew, would appreciate
Take a bite maybe two of the stuff you hate
Use your fork, do not burp or I'll set you straight
Eat the food I put upon your plate
Get an A, get the door, don't get smart with me
Get a grip, get in here, I'll count to three
Get a job, get a life, get a PHD
Get a dose of,
"I don't care who started it!
You're grounded until you're 36"
Get your story straight and tell the truth for once, for heaven's sake
And if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump, too?
If I've said it once, I've said at least a thousand times before
That you're too old to act this way
It must be your father's DNA
Look at me when I am talking
Stand up straighter when you walk
A place for everything and everything must be in place
Stop crying or I'll give you something real to cry about
Brush your teeth, wash your face, put your PJs on
Get in bed, get a hug, say a prayer with mom
Don't forget, I love you
And tomorrow we will do this all again because a mom's work never ends
You don't need the reason why
Because, because, because, because
I said so, I said so, I said so, I said so
I'm the mom, the mom, the mom, the mom, the mom!!
Ta da!!!

One Way to Celebrate the Inauguration

Life: Inauguration
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy chatting w. her debonaire brother-in-law, actor Peter Lawford, as they stand w. others at JFK's Inaugural Ball. Washington, DC, January 21, 1961, Photographer Paul Schutzer

I'm planning to drive down to my sister's and go to the mall on Inauguration with the other hundreds of thousands of happy Americans. Weather permitting, of course. We've had more winter in six weeks than we get most years. Snow storm, ice storm, snow storm, snow storm, snow storm, ice storm -- now we're scheduled to get snowed under again tonight and tomorrow.

So if the weather prevents me from attending the Inauguration, what will I do? I think I'll follow the example of this elderly South Carolina friend of Michelle Harrell, a professor at Roxbury Community College:

"On Inauguration Day, she's going to get up, put on her best suit, her fur, her panty hose, heels, and gloves, and she's going to sit in her living room and watch the inauguration," Harrell said. "Then she's going to take a nap. After dinner, she'll put on her long formal gown, her makeup and her jewelry, sit in her living room and watch the ball." The old woman told Harrell's sister she could join her -- provided she was properly attired.

Now that's a plan.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Top 10 George Bush Moments

Sometimes you'd rather laugh at George W. Bush than cry about what he's done to the world:

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Arts Go First

Looks like I'm losing my studio space. The Worcester Craft Center, where I have rented space for the past two years, has announced it is closing its doors for a "strategic pause" [pdf file]. To me, strategic pause sounds very ominous. The Board is basically giving up and putting out an APB for funding. I'm not sure whether to use the past tense or the present tense in writing this post. The Center took the studio renters money for January so we are allowed to continue to use our spaces until the end of the month; but there are no longer any employees at the Center. No classes, no gift shop, no one to pay for supplies or clay, no one to fire the kilns, no one to maintain the equipment.

Everyone but the Executive Director was fired yesterday; a few people will stay on for a day or two, but that's it. They even closed the gift shop so apparently bringing in modest amounts of money is not considered important. (The gift shop was profitable.) The glass studio which is in a separate building is now offering all kinds of rentals, of space and different kinds of equipment.

The Craft Center has been in financial straits for years and the economic crisis has made things worse. Here's the financial situation according to the Telegram:

The decision, reached at a trustees meeting Monday night, came after pressure from creditors and a significant decline in tuition, donations and other revenue added up to a shortfall of about $700,000, said David J. Firstenberg, president of the board of trustees. To reopen, the center needs about $1.2 million, to retire debt and finance a restart, he said, while acknowledging that that is a steep challenge in the current economic climate.

Last summer, the Center for Crafts had just begun to recover from several years of serious financial struggles. The board had worked hard to stabilize the venerable institution, Ms. Walzer had been hired as a permanent director after a period when the position had been a revolving-door, and a $1.2 million capital campaign was showing promise. The board had hoped to use some of the money to rebuild the staff after several rounds of budget cuts in recent years had gutted it. There was no marketing director or accountant on staff, for example, and several craft areas languished without department heads.

Then, in October, the recession deepened and the money flow ebbed. Some capital campaign pledges didn’t come through, and investment portfolios deflated. Tuition revenue declined as prospective students became more conservative with spending.


The craft center is hampered in borrowing its way out of the crisis by the debt it has already incurred. Among major creditors are vendors such as utilities and printers, who are owed about $140,000. “A significant portion of that is over 90 days and so we’ve been stringing vendors along and that gets dicey after a while,” Mr. Firstenberg said.

There also is a substantial institutional debt. The Non-Profit Funding Foundation loaned the craft center $330,000 in 2004, on which $290,000 is still owed. “We’ve been making interest-only payments for a period of time and they’ve been, not at all inappropriately, asking when we were going to begin making principal payments,” Mr. Firstenberg said. The Commonwealth National Bank in Worcester, where the craft center does most of its banking, also has been receiving interest-only payments on loans totaling about $29,000, he said. Other debt is in friendlier hands, he said, friends of the institution that had made loans last fiscal year to help hold the center over until pledge money came in.

I stopped in yesterday afternoon to check on the work which came out of the soda kiln the Monday before Christmas. (Which turned out really well, BTW.) The lights were off, but I figured that there was just no one in working. Nope. The head of the clay studio broke the bad news to me; of course, it's far worse for him, a loyal 15-year-professional who is out of a job. Apparently rumors had been swirling around the entire time I've been gone, so at least I missed the anticipatory anxiety. I just get the thud of loss and stress.

Angry deep thought: If the Craft Center had had the foresight to change its name to Worcester Center for Banking and Crafts a few years ago, we could fill out a two page form [pdf file] and get a billion dollars from Hank Paulsen.

This is a tragedy for the city of Worcester. The schoolkids who took classes at the Center, the high school students in the Teen Apprentice Program, all the adults who have taken classes, all will miss the school. Of course, part of the problem that the Crafts Center has had is that it is not the most well-known of Worcester's cultural institutions. PR was never their strong suit.

The clay studio is the largest of the Craft Center's areas by number of students, and that community will want to stay together. One of the great things about the Craft Center is the ability to work in a collegial atmosphere, with everyone getting great ideas and inspiration from each other. If the Center does close that will be my priority, being able to stay in touch and work near some of the artists I've met and become good friends with.

A sad day.

Worcester Telegram: Center for Crafts shuts doors

Slide Show: Worcester Craft Center Over the Years

Worcester Craft Center

Strategic Pause letter from WCC (pdf)

New Street Glass Studio Hot Shop Rental Rates