Monday, December 2, 2013

Four Days in the Desert

Every year at this time I travel down to the Coachella Valley for a Thanksgiving break. A few observations and insights to this annual event:

Two major observations this year: (1). Many more families travelled with dogs this year, and (2). The number of blonde haired women was dramatically high compared to past years. What does this mean? People are lonely and picky.

As you can see the vistas are fantastic, the light shining on the mountains is spectacular this time of year and the warm days, cool nights provide a relaxing environment to play tennis, golf, swim, and even shop.

The highlights –

Day 1 – The decompression day, after many weeks of playing Michael Clayton and Lawrence Summers, it takes a day to get into the desert mode. After some wine and a spa we are there.

Day 2 – Two words: “over eat”. Enough said.

Day 3 – I enjoy the game of golf, today is my day to humiliate myself in public at a golf course I do not deserve to play but I can afford to play. I don’t deserve to play because I STINK! Golf is an odd game, you think it would be simple, not like baseball, football or soccer, the ball is stationary. What could be so hard to hit a stationary object? Let’s just say I need at least four weeks’ worth of confessions to Holy Family Parish to make up for the language used on this day.

Day 4 – Pay Back day; since I got to play golf yesterday today is pay back day, the obligatory browsing through quaint shops where the only clothes I could fit into are handkerchiefs. To lie around the pool and watch all those dogs and blonde women. It is also picture day, family photos, group photos, landscape photos, fountain photos, dog photos, and yes blonde women photos.

All in all a very nice four days, I accomplished very little, but to me that is what some time off is all about. Michael Clayton here I come.

SNEAK PEEK – “The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2014” lists these as the "Top 10 News Topics of 2013 ": "1. Budget Disputes Force a U.S. Government Shutdown ... 2. Syria's Civil War Intensifies; Chemical Weapons Are Used ... 3. U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Voting Rights, Same-Sex Marriage ... 4. Leaked Documents Reveal Widespread U.S. Surveillance Program ... 5. Military Removes Egypt's President ... 6. Bombs Explode at the Boston Marathon ... 7. As Gun Violence Continues, Gun Control Legislation Falls ... 8. New Leader of the Roman Catholic Church Is Elected ... 9. Athletes Make News Off the Field [baseball PEDs, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius, Aaron Hernandez, NFL head injuries] ... 10. Heir to the British Throne Is Born."

COLLEGE CHRONICLES -- L.A. Times col. 1, "Entry to college may get easier: A smaller pool of high school seniors could mean more admission offers for applicants," by Larry Gordon : "After a long stretch of rising competition in college admissions, the numbers this year may be on the side of students ... the smallest group in years applying to college. The population dip won't bust open the doors to Stanford, Harvard, UCLA and other highly selective campuses. But many experts predict it will be somewhat easier to obtain admission offers from many good, even competitive, schools. And colleges, particularly private ones that are not the top brand names, are working harder to court applicants, recruiting farther from their campuses and sweetening financial aid offers. To students, the demographic dip offers a bit of hope after months of writing essays, taking entrance exams and gathering recommendation letters. This is crunch time ... Students typically don't find out where they've been accepted until the spring. 

"The numbers of high school graduates across the country rose from 2.6 million in 1996-97 to a peak of 3.4 million in 2010-11, as the children of later baby boomers matured into 12th-graders. Then a decline began and the low point will be this year's 3.2 million nationally, according to a report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. The incoming college freshman pool may shrink further since Latinos comprise a rising portion of high school graduates but enroll in college at relatively low rates."

SPEAKING OF THE L.A. TIMES – Have you visited their digital web site recently. What a waste of space. Somebody at The L.A. Times needs to figure this one out. Also, did you see the “sell out” front page edition on November 27? Where the front page content was reduced in half by an advertisement for a Disney movie: the end is near.

NASDAQ POPS BACK OVER 4000 - The Nasdaq ... closed above 4000 for the first time in 13 years, the latest milestone in a 2013 stock rally fueled by easy money from the Fed and robust investor demand for a broader swath of fast-expanding companies. A rise of 23.18 points Tuesday to 4017.75 put the index up 33% for the year. It remains more than 1000 points below its record close of 5048.62 on March 10, 2000. Both the S&P 500 ... and the Dow ... have surpassed records with regularity this year. The Dow has set 43 all-time closing highs in 2013. The last Nasdaq close above 4000 came at the end of the dot-com boom, on Sept. 7, 2000. The S&P 500 has climbed 26% this year, while the Dow has gained 23%.

THE BIG PICTURE -- Democrats Run Biggest Cities as U.S. Residents Cluster by Party: Twenty years ago, half the 12 largest U.S. municipalities had a Republican mayor. When Bill de Blasio takes office in New York on Jan. 1, none will. As middle-class residents moved out of cities and immigrants and young people replaced them, the party lost its grip on population centers even as it increased control of governor's offices and legislatures. The polarization has pitted urban interests against rural areas and suburbs, denying Republicans a power base. “The New York election hopefully is somewhat of a wake-up call”, said Scott Smith, the Republican mayor of Mesa, Ariz., and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “If that doesn't get Republicans on the national level more interested, then it should”.

WHAT WOULD WALTER CRONKITE SAY? - CBS: Lara Logan, producer ordered to take leave: CBS ordered '60 Minutes' correspondent Lara Logan and her producer to take a leave of absence Tuesday following a critical internal review of their handling of the show's October story on the Benghazi raid, based on a report on a supposed witness whose story can't be verified. The review, by CBS News executive Al Ortiz, ... said the '60 Minutes' team should have done a better job vetting the story that featured a security contractor who said he was at the U.S. mission in Libya the night it was attacked last year. ... The report also said Logan should not have done the story in the first place after making a speech in Chicago a year ago claiming that it was a lie that America's military had tamed al-Qaida.

CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, ... also the '60 Minutes' executive producer, said he had asked Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, to take a leave ... of an undetermined length. ... Ortiz said CBS also erred in not acknowledging that [the source's] book telling his Benghazi story, which has been pulled from the shelves, was published by a fellow CBS Corp. company.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Tyra Banks (40), Kim Basinger (60), Teri Hatcher (49), Edwin Meese III (82), Ozzy Osbourne (65), Aaron Rodgers (30), Monica Seles (30).

HOLIDAY DINING – We begin our holiday dining series this week, our first stop is to a very familiar place: The Parkway Grill, 510 South Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena, California (626) 795-1001. The Parkway Grill continues to be one of the best dining experiences in Southern California, especially this time of year. Have a martini at the bar served by one of the best bartenders in the business, Mark Brown, even though he is a Notre Dame fan, this hardship does not defer from his expertise as a mixologist.

The Smith Brothers’ trend-setter in regional American cuisine, since 1984 continues to define dining in the city and beyond. Parkway Grill specializes in a seasonal, market-driven approach to cooking that incorporates diverse influences and classic French technique showcasing an intriguing array of dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Demonstrating the ultimate commitment to fresh produce, Parkway Grill planted its own organic vegetable and herb garden behind the restaurant, which continues to thrive on a piece of prime real estate in the heart of Pasadena.

We recommend reservations well in advance or just sit in the bar for a wonderful holiday treat.

BLACK FRIDAY IS OFFICIALLY OUT OF HAND: We predict stores will make huge changes next year to lower the temperature reflected in headline, "Several injured as retailers open doors earlier than ever on Thanksgiving, sparking brawls between bargain hunters nationwide." ... #WalmartFights trending on Twitter. ... San Bernardino (Calif.) Sun: "Rialto Walmart Thanksgiving brawl sends one police officer to hospital" ...

--HuffPost retail reporter Kim Bhasin was inside the story, ahead of the 8 p.m. opening of the Macy's flagship in Manhattan's Herald Square : "Lines snake out from each of the store's many entrances, hugging its exterior walls and curling around the block. ... A New York Police Department van sits nearby, a half-dozen officers watching over the scene with semi-automatic rifles in hand. The largest crowd lingers outside the main entrance on Broadway, corralled in barricades so they don't spill out too far into the square. TV crews scamper around ... I stand alongside a throng of photographers, cameramen and reporters who have stationed themselves around what will become the point of peak hysteria. ...

[Store employees] count down from 10 ... 'WOOOOOOOOOOOO!' come the screams as shoppers jockey for positions. First they must make it through the heavy outer doors, as security personnel loom over the scene, and then through a second logjam at the inner doors. Finally, they enter the media funnel, and brave photographers step into the flow of traffic, cameras flashing like strobes. Phones thrust in the air record the scene and the shoppers take in the attention, waving to reporters and howling all the way. .. The once-gleaming displays of handbags are already in shambles -- $300 purses with their zippers open, strewn across tables.

MEGATRENDS - "Global economic outlook: Consumer of Last Resort Missing as U.S. Leaves the World Behind," by Bloomberg's Simon Kennedy: "Not long ago, before the financial crisis and the global recession it triggered, economists referred to Americans as the consumers of last resort. When the U.S. grew at a healthy pace, its citizens were buyers, fueling demand for the goods China and other nations produced. They kept the world economy humming. It may not work that way anymore, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its January issue. A rebounding U.S. is giving less support to global growth than in the past. Homegrown demand and production are more important drivers of the world's biggest economy than they were a decade ago. ... Oil and Gas exploration and production are adding to growth, and the country is spending less on imported energy. Cheaper fuel and raw materials are boosting manufacturing as well, making the U.S. more of a competitor to emerging-markets nations and less a reliable consumer of their goods. ...

"The U.S. is likely to grow 2.6 percent in 2014 and 3 percent in 2015, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, up from an estimated 1.7 percent in 2013. ... Strengthening in the U.S. economy and weakening in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere reverses the trend that had shaped global growth since 2008. Emerging markets fared better than the U.S. and Europe during the global recession that followed the credit market freeze and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Now, their luster is dimming. ... The recovery in U.S. manufacturing is being driven not only by cheaper energy but also by lower labor costs. Citigroup predicts a reversal of the 50-year decline in manufacturing's share of GDP, helped by more-competitive worker wages. Companies are even pulling back production from China and other emerging markets."

TOUGH DECEMBER AHEAD FOR CONGRESS - From the confirmation of a new Fed chairman to the expiration of dairy pricing rules, House and Senate leaders head into the final month of 2013 with a checklist that is short but critical.. ... Rather than syncing up those final two weeks, the House comes in Monday and expects to adjourn for the year by Dec. 13, while the Senate does not return from the Thanksgiving break until Dec. 9 and has Dec. 20 at its tentative departure date.

That leaves only a few mid-December days for in-person negotiations among top congressional leaders. ... [Budget] talks now focus on just a few possible trade-offs that give agencies some relief from the sequestration caps set in the 2011 [BCA] ... in exchange for some savings drawn from entitlement programs. Still, many insiders are betting that even a small bargain is beyond reach and that, instead, congressional leaders will have to figure out early next year how to keep the government running when funding authority expires Jan. 15.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/7, 8:17 PM ET, Fox; The Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis pits #2 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0) vs. #10 Michigan State Spartans (11-1). Guess what an upset looms, Sparty 24 Buckeyes 17.  Season to date (9-5)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/7, 1:00 PM ET, ESPNU: the D-III quarter-finals in Whitewater Wisconsin. #2 Linfield Wildcats (11-0) visit #5 University of Wisconsin Whitewater Warhawks (12-0). We like the Wildcats to pull an upset and win one for the west coast, Linfield 28 Whitewater 24. Season to date (9-3)

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 12/8, 4:25 PM ET, Fox: Seattle Seahawks (10-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4). A must game for the 49ers and coming off a tough Monday night game the Seahawks will be prime for a loss – 49ers 32 Seattle 21.   Season to date (10-2)


(NCAA, Dec. 7)  #7 Stanford Cardinal (10-2) 28 at #11 Arizona State Sun Devils (10-2) 21
(NCAA Hockey, Dec. 7) Clarkson Golden Knights (10-3-1)  4 at St. Lawrence Saints (8-6-2)  5
(NHL, Dec. 7) Pittsburgh Penguins (18-9-1) 4 at Boston Bruins (18-7-2) 2
(NFL Upset of the Week, Dec. 8) Oakland Raiders (4-8) 24 at New York Jets (5-7) 21
Season to date (46-39)

DOME ANNIVERSARY – on December 2, 1863 (150  years ago) the Capital in Washington D.C. was completed. The Capital Dome is set for a two year $100 million renovation beginning next month.

MARKET WEEK - Amid growing concerns about a stock bubble, Wall Street's major averages come off a third straight month of gains, with the S&P 500 on track for its best yearly gain since 1998. Possible stumbling blocks include the November jobs report due this Friday, and the Fed policy meeting set for December 17-18.

DRIVING THE WEEK –  Success or failure of re-launched will be the dominant political story ... Senate is not back until next week so talks toward a fiscal deal will remain slow (or mostly nonexistent). Huge week for economic data beginning with ISM manufacturing this morning at 10:00 a.m. expected to dip to 55.1 from 56.4 ... Treasury Secretary Lew meets today with Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Fabrizio Saccomanni. ... Auto sales Tuesday afternoon expected to rise to 15.8M from 15.2M ... ADP employment at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday expected to rise to 180K from 130K ...

ISM non-manufacturing on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. expected to slip to 55.0 from 55.4 ... New homes sales on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. expected to rise to 430K from 421K ... Second estimate of Q3 GDP on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. expected to rise to 3.0% from 2.8% ... BLS employment report for November at 8:30 a.m. expected to show gain of 183K with unemployment dipping to 7.2% from 7.3% ... Personal income at 8:30 a.m. Friday expected to rise 0.3% with nominal spending up 0.2% ... Univ. of Michigan consumer sentiment at 9:55 a.m. expected to rise to 76.0 from 75.1

QUOTE OF THE MONTH – “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

THIS WEEK’S POLL – How many newspapers do you read daily??

-          Zero
-          One
-          Two
-          Three
-          Four
-          More than four

Next week: holiday movies, Dear Rink Rats, and my workspace.

Until Next Monday, 假期愉快(jia chi yu kwai) “Happy Festival (Holidays)”.

La Quinta, CA

December 2, 2013

#IV-33, 190

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