Friday, February 23, 2024

New Ice Cream

My favorite ice cream comes from Jeni's, a small company in Columbus, Ohio. They make amazingly innovative flavors. I was introduced to Jeni's by my friend Emma who lives in that city.

You may recall a while back I reported on Jeni's Everything Bagel ice cream which has scrumptious flecks of garlic and onion. Surprisingly delicious.

As a treat I just bought a five-flavor sampler and am tasting new flavors. The best is "Maple Soaked Pancakes" which contains actual fluffy pancakes in salted butter and maple syrup creams. Yumm! This concoction recently won a SOFI award for Best New Flavor and deserves the honor. 

You can try a bite if you come by my place. Oops... too late. :)

Link: Maple Soaked Pancakes | Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams ( 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Hidden Knowledge

Knowledge is hidden around us. All you need do is scratch the surface to learn something cool.

For example, most people know that Persian rugs don't come from Persia -- since "Persia" doesn't exist any more. Persia is an old name for what is now Iran. Sellers believe consumers are less likely to buy rugs from "Iran" than fanciful Persia.

Shopping for cinnamon I just learned there are many countries that produce the spice: e.g., China, Vietnam, et al. Highest quality cinnamon is labeled "Ceylon cinnamon". Again, this identification is fictitious and designed purely for marketing. There is no country named Ceylon today. So where did the name come from?

The republic of Sri Lanka was formed in 1972. Before then, from 1948 to 1972 the place was called Ceylon. Premium cinnamon sold today as "Ceylon cinnamon" is actually from Sri Lanka. Sellers count on you reacting more positively to "Ceylon" than the true country of origin.

Similarly, cinnamon from Vietnam is now marketed as "Saigon cinnamon" to steer away from the name of a country we famously fought a war against.  "Saigon", a former city in Vietnam, is no longer called that: its real name since 1976 is "Ho Chi Minh City". Can you guess why sellers didn't choose that for their product?  :)

Sunday, February 18, 2024

A Special Night

 Fun night for the Devils!

In addition to winning a close game (6-3) the team played outdoors in 28-degree weather. A crowd of 70,000 fans endured the cold to watch this rare event. The Devils designed special jerseys just for this game; they have a retro-style. Fans have been snapping them up. 

There was a jovial mood at the whole event. Devils players arrived dressed like characters from "The Sopranos" (FILA track-suits; white tank-top shirts; gaudy jewelry). Flyers players arrived dressed like Rocky (grey sweats and taped hands). The players' families got to skate on the ice. The night was magical all around.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

An Unexpected Feeling

I have a problem and I don't know how to handle it.

I'm having occasional bouts of euphoria. Moments of extreme elation. Happiness beyond measure. This presents a problem: I'm not familiar with the feeling. Despair, yes; happiness, no.

I spent four decades toiling in the trench of legal combat. I wrestled daily with crippling anxiety. I worried every day about how bad things might get. The reality is they never got very bad but that didn't stop me from worrying about the prospect. I plugged away and plugged away at tedious tasks. A close friend remarked that I possess "an insanely high tolerance for misery and drudgery." Well, I do and it served me in a long career of high-stakes litigation.

Last year, of course, my life really did go south. I lost so much vision that most activities are now beyond me. Not just motorcycling but things as basic as walking in public. I'm safe outside only away from crowds and cars. I take long walks now mostly to prove to myself that I can.

So where's the euphoria coming from? Realization that although my eyesight is very bad, it could be worse. There are days when my vision sucks more than usual. I experience periods of total blindness and physical pain. When, triggered by these experiences, I contemplate being fully blind permanently I become grateful -- ecstatic even -- for the little vision that remains. I can usually see well enough to prepare food, make coffee, clean the kitchen and pay bills. I can see well enough to function in normal life. I can read and write and ponder deep questions. Sure I bump into things but bruises heal. I'm also able to watch the parade of human stupidity pass by on its march to the abyss.

If the ability to do these things disappears I'll be truly crushed. To the depth of my soul crushed. But it hasn't, at least not yet. I'm not confident I'll retain this level of vision for the rest of my life and, given my good health otherwise, that may be a long time. But if this eyesight continues for another decade or two I will be able to accomplish what I hope for -- to find new adventures, immerse myself in challenges, and emerge with a rewarding sense of achievement.

Damn, life contains surprises. Becoming happy is not what I expected at this point.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Hockey -- Outdoors!

Big game tomorrow night -- the Devils are playing outdoors. OUTDOORS!

It's a special game against hated rival Philly Flyers. The game is in a NJ football stadium with an ice rink temporarily installed on the playing field. The NHL does this once a year to build interest. I tried to get tickets but "ya gotta know a guy." Hey, it's Jersey. The Sopranos was not just a TV show. 🙂 

The game is on ABC at 8pm (EST). The Devils and Flyers are locked in mortal battle for the last playoff spot: they'll be lots of action. The Devils are fast and have finesse; the Flyers (known forever as the "Broad Street Bullies") play a "physical" game: i.e., they check hard and start fights. The Devils don't normally fight but, when called for, summon a monster named Brendan Smith who last month put two Chicago players on the Injured Reserve list in one game. (He broke the jaw of Chicago's star-rookie with a clean check and then, in a fist-fight over that, broke another player's finger. Hockey is tough.)

Playing outdoors is a return to hockey's roots and, like the Superbowl, an event. Players bring their families and celebrate the sport. One year the temperature was too warm and the outdoor ice started melting; they stopped the game and resumed after dark. Devils star Tyler Toffoli is the only  player in the NHL to score a hat-trick in an outdoor game. (A hat-trick is shooting three goals in one game. A "Gordie Howe hat-trick" is getting one goal, one assist and one fist-fight in a game. Gordie Howe was a character. He came out of retirement to play with his sons; he was an old man then but still had brio.) 

Turn your TV onto Channel 7 tomorrow night and watch the action!

Monday, February 12, 2024


Whee!! Bitcoin hit $50,000/coin today. 

And it's going to keep soaring due to multiple factors: e.g., last month's ETF approvals; an upcoming "halving" (change in reward for mining). For reference, I bought Bitcoin in 2014 for $600/coin.


I like learning new words. My most frequent source is The New Yorker, a magazine with captivating prose. Reading articles there expands my vocabulary with no special effort.

Usually you encounter words you've seen many times before but just never bothered to look up. Like "plaintive" (sad) or "sinuous" (curvy). Occasionally, as in the current issue, you confront a mysterious word you've never heard of. Like "noumenal" (existing independent of perception). 

Researching the meaning of "noumenal" forces you to dip a toe in the pond of philosophy, something that intimidates many. Braving that cold water is worth the effort, however, because you gain more than a simple word. You watch brilliant minds wrestle with big questions like the nature of reality, the "hard problem of consciousness" and the purpose of our existence. 

Funny where words can lead us.

Friday, February 9, 2024


Exactly sixty years ago today (Feb. 9, 1964) I watched the Beatles appear live on the Ed Sullivan TV show. My family, along with 73 million other Americans, were fascinated by "the British invasion" which quickly led to "Beatlemania."

I was six years old at the time, just able to understand this event. It's my second childhood memory after the John F. Kennedy assassination the previous Fall. (I didn't comprehend that tragedy, wondering only why adults were crying.) The Beatles' appearance was exuberantly joyful and widely seen as the seminal moment in American culture it later became. This event marked the beginning of "the Sixties."

One of the few benefits of growing old is living through history. What big events do you remember?

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

"Taxi Driver"

I've been a student of the cinema since the 1970s. The first film I saw that aspired to art was "Taxi Driver" (1976). It's now considered a classic. I just re-watched "Taxi Driver" while introducing Robin to Martin Scorsese's early oeuvre.

Imaginatively written by Paul Schrader and powerfully performed by then-unknown actor Robert DeNiro "Taxi Driver" was made frugally on a small budget. The film surprised audiences and critics and became a huge hit. Its success launched the careers of DeNiro, director Martin Scorsese and Jodie Foster. The movie also contains work by Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle and Albert Brooks. The film got four Oscar nominations and later became notorious for inspiring a real-life assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley who explained he was trying to impress Jodie Foster.

In the story Travis Bickle, a restless young man, lives uneasily in squalid New York City. At the time the city was on the verge of bankruptcy and permeated with crime. Travis's limited intelligence and poor social skills leave him lonely and isolated. After exploring conventional options (e.g., a failed romance with beautiful blonde Cybill Shepherd) Travis searches for something to give his life meaning. He attempts a political assassination but botches the job through ineptitude. Then he veers into almost-random gun violence, an activity more common today than it was back then. In 1976 it was shocking.

What makes the film art and not mere entertainment is its aim -- to put you in Travis's head, a place few of us would normally visit. Schrader and Scorsese offer us Travis's inner thoughts, frustrations and revulsion at the city's pervasive grime and vice. Once the filmmakers engage our empathy for Travis they can transport us into experiences we'd never ordinarily seek. Critic Roger Ebert famously wrote that film is an "empathy machine," a way to step into someone else's shoes and experience a perspective the real world doesn't encourage.

"Taxi Driver" is crafted as a fever-dream. Enhancing that impression is atmospheric music from Bernard Herrmann, a legendary composer famous for work with Alfred Hitchcock. "Taxi Driver" was Herrmann's last score, completed days before his death. His contribution to the movie's achievement is critical.

Seeing the film today, fifty years after release, packs the same emotional impact but with two new responses: (1) recognition that the toxic social conditions pushing Travis into gun violence have increased in our society, making mass shootings more common now and (2) reflection on how the film's depiction of violence, controversial at the time for its gore, is tame compared to current action movies. Our society's tolerance for violence, fictional and actual, has notably increased. And that's not good. 

But the movie is. Skillful and engrossing, "Taxi Driver" deserves attention and acclaim.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Prosperity Ahead!

"When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen."

If you're old you might remember this advertising slogan. I use it today to introduce some economic information. It's all good news, for you and everyone else.

Over the last decade I dove into economic research and used my analysis to earn several million dollars. I'm sharing my thoughts with you because you're my friends. I don't sell anything, have nothing to tout and merely want you to enjoy the same prosperity. Economics was my major in college and comes easy to me; it's simple math threaded with sociological insight.

Two things to mention today. First, the quarterly announcement by the Fed this week was exactly what everyone (and the stock market) expected. Jerome Powell, head of the Fed and the opposite of a Pollyanna, bluntly declared the U.S. economy to be in tremendous shape, especially compared to the rest of the world. Our economy is hitting all major benchmarks and remarkably achieving a "soft landing": i.e., avoiding a recession after last year's rapid interest rate hikes. Few predicted that outcome last year. In fact, nobody predicted it. The soft landing unicorn ensures a robust economy during this election year. (Election years always boost economic forces.) If you're not feeling financially better off, there are many complex reasons for that misalignment; they won't be tackled here.

A second fact which ought to be understood more widely but isn't due to outdated belief is what's happening in China. The Chinese economy is declining in a serious way -- long-term systemic decline. Everyone thought and feared China becoming our greatest global challenger but that's not going to happen. Not only is their economy bad but their autocratic government refuses to implement critically needed reforms to address the problem. China, suffering persistent deflation, is destined to the fate that befell Japan a generation ago: 25 years of stagnation and economic doldrums. 

A few smart economists are pointing this out and their case is convincing. Most Chinese residents have most of their money (70%) tied up in their homes which are decreasing in value every day. That makes them feel poorer and act accordingly. The Communist Party is politically averse to stimulating the economy which is the only path out of that mess. We should be aware of this because it'll certainly ripple to us and the rest of the world. It'll open up opportunities for American companies to prosper at China's expense in ways previously thought unimaginable.

In short, the news is good! Caveats always exist from potential unexpected events but we have solid reason to expect a very favorable few years coming up. Enjoy!