Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Beautiful Life - A Reminder.

Yesternight, I suddenly felt the urgent desire to listen to some Cajun music. Too layzy to search my CD's for the "The Big Easy" soundtrack, I did some youtube surfing and ended up watching the following clip:

Balfa Brothers - Tribute to Cajun Music - 1979

The obligatory google search directed me to "Dewey Balfa and the Balfa Brothers":

Tragically, Dewey lost his brothers Will and Rodney in an automobile accident in 1979. To add to that already horrific loss, his wife Hilda passed away in 1980. These combined tragedies were almost enough to bring him down, but he realized that his only choice was to carry on with the goal he had set for himself and his only relief from the suffering was the music itself.
Whew! That served as a reminder to myself that my life is beautiful and that I have nothing to complain about. (Ask me tomorrow, next week or next year if that still holds true...)

And by the way, the youtube vid is a section from the movie "Les Blues de Balfa". You can watch the whole movie (26 minutes) over at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

POTUS Envy, Indeed.

Bill Maher strikes again (issuing a language warning while pointing to Maher is unnecessary, right?):

Watch the whole thing, dang it! On a related note: In it's upcoming issue, The Economist asks "Where's Angela Merkel?" Well, last time I turned on the radio, she unfortunately was still in Germany, bubbling around the hot issues. And while I'm a little disconcerted seeing all the Clinton zombies raise from their graves again (and I'm not talking about Govenor Napolitano here), I can't help to state that my post-election depression has in fact turned into POTUS envy - or more precisely into First Lady envy, since we even don't have a First Lady!

Perhaps, Mr. Feasel and I are able to come up with an elaboration of our envy thesis one day. My title suggestion, for starters: "99 shades of envy - transatlantic relations for dummies". How 'bout that?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Just to fill you in about my current mode:

Pronunciation: \ˈstres\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English stresse stress, distress, short for destresse — more at distress
Date: 14th century

1: (...) c: a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation

The 13th century appears to be the last century of mankind where things went smoothly. Oh well, come December 14th, happy days will be back again for me with money for nothing and chicks for free. Or so I tell myself to keep me running.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why Obama Should Read This Dead Greek Guy

I've decided to make anti-German jibes a regular feature of my blog posts, since it's such a relief. So, here we go again: If (and that's a big IF) Germans show any interest in their politicians, they are usually pondering serious qestions like "Does he dye his hair?", "With which TV anchor does he cheat on his wife?" or "Is it okay for the Bundeskanzlerin to wear a rose jacket when attending the Wagner Festspiele?"

And those philistine Americans? They ask: What should the next president read? Fancy that. I mean, c'mon, Gerhard Schroeder probably never got past the table of contents of "Macchiavelli for managers" and I bet, the only book he fully embraces is about the Soccer Worldchampionship 1974.

Anyhow, Dan Drezner has this advice for Obama:
I’d probably advise the president to read the uber-source for international relations, Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. (...) The entire text demonstrates the complex and tragic features of international politics, the folly of populism, the occasional necessity of forceful action, the temptations and dangers of empire, and, most importantly, the ways in which external wars can transform domestic politics in unhealthy ways.
And at that point my day job met my blogging pasttime head-on for the first time, since the other day, a member of the think tank I'm confined to sent me an essay to be posted on our website: Why President Obama Should Read Thucydides. (pdf)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

So, McCain Lost The Youth Vote, eh?, plus "New World Order"

Okay, the campaign fun is definitely over for the next three years...but the fun is still pouring in from all sides (JibJab video added):

"Who is going to be the next president, daddy?" my four-year-old son asks impatiently.

"Barack Obama," I tell him.

"No, I mean after that."

Seabass has caught the perpetual campaign bug.

He was upset he couldn't vote last Tuesday; he's been a McCain aficionado since watching the war hero drive a tank over Obama in the JibJab election video. Plus, a certain five-year-old buddy of his -- a boy whom Sebastian looks up to because he is "superfast" -- was proselytizing for the GOP ticket.

On election eve, Sebastian insisted that his mom (whose distaste for the McCain candidacy would be hard to overstate) help him write "McCain" on a piece of paper, so he could pretend to cast his own ballot.

My son's reaction to the electorate's verdict: "ohhhhh nooooo." Then he became the only person in America to ask whether McCain can run again

This is all great fodder for future father-son bonding. Or maybe it's father-son ribbing. I can picture myself years from now, meeting Sebastian's college girlfriend over dinner and casually bringing up the fact that my son wanted to vote against Barack Obama in the 2008 election.

"Dad, I was four," he'll say, reddening, and kicking me under the table. The same "what are you doing?!" reaction I'd have when my parents would break out the pictures of my 1970's adolescence to share with others, a visual extravaganza featuring lots of polyester, acne, braces and really bad haircuts.

And then, there's the New World Order (via Andrew Hammel):

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Obama Victory Fallout

I was in a store (...) some black dude walked in, grabbed a bag of chips and walked out. (...) "Hey, why don't you pay for that?" He said: "FUCK YOU. Obama in office, we run that shit." (...) So, I paid for the chips (...) all of us ain't the same, man.
And in the youtube comments:
bradford1872: i have to commend you on paying for those chips...It takes a real man to do that and not go upside that asshole's head. I'm black and it kills me when "niggas" act stupid for any reason and then try to blame people for holding them back when it was their own fault. Starting today and for the rest of your life, it time to man up, own your mistakes and be willing to better yourself...2009 should be deemed the "Year of accountability" amongst the black community. NO MORE EXCUSES!!!

craftkevin: I went out there and chopped dude ass up about that dumb ass shit. He got his mind right now...!

Being not so familiar with the urbandictionary part of American English, I hope this dude is still alive...

Anyway, fascinating stuff. If regular youtube people sounding like Michelle Obama is the fallout of the Obama victory, then keep it coming. This kind of accountability makes divided, aging, pointless Germany look even more hopeless*.

Here's the whole thing:

Youtube direct link: Black people stop doing stupid stuff because Obama won the election!

On a related note, a conversation between Ann Althouse and Glenn Reynolds on the glamour of being ridiculously left-wing, Reynolds' piece on Forbes ("Whoever wins, chill a bit") and the first signs of Obama Derangement Syndrome (which hasn't even a wikipedia entry yet; the Bush Derangement Syndrome does, of course):

*) The other day, a friend of mine noticed: "There's always this subtle anti-German resentment in your rants." My reply? "What do you mean 'subtle'?"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Educated Chicks Vote Count: It's a Tie!

And yes, this angry, tired, pessimistic little libertarian citizen-taxpayer will go vote after class today! It won't make much numerical difference -- my state is full of leftists and I'm vastly outnumbered -- but I'll vote anyway because, well, it's my right, dang it, and it's my one little ballot saying "NO" to the tide of high-taxing neo-statism. I don't care how pretty its newest face is.

without expounding upon policy likes and dislikes, and the merits of Obama vs. McCain, let me just say this: i never thought i'd vote for a democrat, but here i am, taking the gamble!

Hmmm...both of you seem to follow the W.C. Fields line:

I never voted for anybody. I always voted against.

And now excuse me while I'm crying in my beer. I have been diagnosed with post-election campaign depression. (But hey, there's hope. I just saw the first "Romney/Jindal 2012" ad!)

A message from The Mac!

With less than 20 hours until first polls close, I just got my first election related spam mail. Woohoo! It reads:
My friend,
Sorry, Mr. McCain lost me there. Providing my e-mail address to the McCain campaign - that's what Facebook friends are for...

If global spamming to eligible and non-eligible voters alike isn't a sign of desperation, what is?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Quirky Chekhov

For the record, just to show how busy I am (and how occupied with the election campaign): Yesterday, I discovered that my Arche Literaturkalender (kudos to my sister for donating next year's edition every christmas) still displayed the week from July 7th to July 13th! I tried to catch up and ran into some remarkable quotes. The week from July 14th to July 20th featured Anton Chekhov. What a quirky guy:

Ich habe Dir aus dem Ausland sehr schönes Parfum mitgebracht. Komm doch in der Karwoche und hol es Dir ab. Komm unbedingt, Liebste, Gute, Herrliche (...) Es macht nichts, daß Du in einen anderen verliebt bist und mich schon betrogen hast, ich verzeihe Dir, nur komm bitte. (Anton Cechov an Olga Knipper, Jalta, 7. März 1901).

The Wikipedia article refers to "Chekhov in Love" by Misha Aster which contains the following money quotes:

Chekhov on Sex
"Sex plays a great role in the world, but not everything depends on it, and not everywhere is it of decisive importance."
Oh well, perhaps that held true for russia in the 19th century. As for modern times, sex is of decisive importance.

Chekhov on Marriage
"I am not capable of such a complex, involved business as marriage."
Chekhov on the Perfect Wife
"[G]ive me a wife who, like the moon, does not always appear in my sky every day."
On 25 May 1901 Chekhov married Olga Knipper. Their long distance relationship resulted in a 1,300 pages correspondence. (1,300 that's approx. 25,000 twitters or 22,000 SMS, respectively. An impressive record for a relationsship of roundabout 2,000 days.)

Chekhov's death strikes me as a good example on how to die with grace. In 1908, Olga wrote this account of her husband’s last moments:
"Anton sat up unusually straight and said loudly and clearly (although he knew almost no German): Ich sterbe. The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor, and ordered champagne. Anton took a full glass, examined it, smiled at me and said: "It's a long time since I drank champagne." He drained it, lay quietly on his left side, and I just had time to run to him and lean across the bed and call to him, but he had stopped breathing and was sleeping peacefully as a child..."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Peruvian Shamans for Obama

Couple of weeks ago, I thought The Onion managed to mention really every single target group:

Latest Poll Reveals 430 New Demographics That Will Decide Election

But now I wonder how on earth they failed to mention the Peruvian Shamans? Since it's so obvious.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Asian-Americans On Election

Since my day job is keeping me extremely busy and since I don't like it at all to be addicted to something (or someone, for that matter), I have reduced my election campaign attention to a daily visit of "Today's Polls" over at FiveThirtyEight. But tonight, I stumbled upon a CNN video which drew its MUST SEE status from its title: Asian-Americans on election. As a pro-Asian racist and a Pro-American (have still to figure out what exactly I'm refering here to, though), watching Asian-Americans in action is always a pleasure for me. This time, the fun part started early on with learning that the CNN reporter's name was Veronica De La Cruz...

Going through the pieces Veronica De La Cruz mentioned (McCain losing his chance to win over the Asian American vote and Asian Americans Feeling the Power), I couldn't help myself but acknowleding the heavy pro-Obama spin going on here. Oh well, pro-Obama spin is so ubiquitous these days that I got used to (and over) it.

"Survey shows Asian-Americans support Obama over McCain", says... Xinhua! Here's more: "Obama, McCain camps eye Asian-Americans". For the record: Asian Americans For McCain-Palin and Asian Americans For Obama (as per usual, the latter seem to be far better organized). Finally, here's an online petition signed by (to date) 571 people: VIETNAMESE AMERICANS ENDORSE JOHN McCAIN FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Me, Now Uncle of Five!

Lest I forget to mention: Since the evening of October 22, 2008, I am now an uncle of five. Or, to put it less self-absorbed: My sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The gender ratio among my sister's children (boys/girls) has risen to a worrisome 4:1, much worse than the PR China! Then again, boys are much easier to play with - and to find gifts for...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Undecided? Dunno...

Color me an election '08 maniac. It'll probably end up with me living at Duesseldorf main station, mumbling curses at myself. Anyway, here we go again:

So here they are, three undecideds in one of the swingiest of swing states, just sittin' here, stewing in their undecidedness. What campaign canvasser wouldn't give her left arm to be here?

"Three Undecideds in a Diner" is a Cheever-ish, insightful little piece of literature. And then, there's the more prosaic take by Dane Stangler, who is torn between Obama and McCain, stating that the election has become "a referendum on Barack Obama" (obvy). A snippet:

As a matter of policy, I have great philosophical disagreements with Senator Obama. I and many other Americans do not think the tax code is or should be a vehicle for pursuing fairness. On health care, I tend to stand with Senator McCain in thinking that we may finally need to sever the link between health insurance and employment. McCain has consistently supported free trade, and while I can't believe that a man as intelligent as Obama would disbelieve the benefits of free trade, he has continuously made protectionist noise during the campaign.

But because of fiscal constraint and political reality, it is unlikely that either candidate will enjoy free rein to put his favored policies in place. So where should we look in evaluating what type of president Obama will be?

Finally, there are those who have already made up their minds (my emphasis):

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

In this economy, racism is officially a luxury. How is John McCain going to win if he can't win those voters?

Well, the jury is still out on that one, as Dan Drezner points out:

While people with these kind of attitudes might be telling canvassers, pollsters, and reporters that they’re thinking of voting for Obama, I do wonder if that inclination will dissipate when they have to punch the ticket.

The other day, I got an, and I quote, "Einladung zum Election Breakfast". Do I want the race to be over by then? I'm undecided. An Obama landslide would be boring to watch. Then again, you can't swallow for-free food while biting your nails.

Friday, October 17, 2008

On Krugman Nobel Unhappiness

So, Paul Krugman was awarded the Sveriges Riksbanks pris i ekonomisk vetenskap till Alfred Nobels minne aka Nobel Prize in economics - and Jess is "not happy". And she is not the only one. Then again, Megan McArdle:

One of the most interesting things that I've read in multiple commenters is that his most important insights seemed obvious. I think perhaps the deepest economics insights do--after someone has pointed them out. Everything from comparative advantage to the Coase Theorem makes you slap your head with the inescapable logic of it, and wonder how it can have escaped the human race for so long. And still, it takes a genius to reveal these obvious truths to the rest of us poor slobs. Krugman's math is far too impenetrable for this English major, but the conclusions are as clear and lovely as a bell.

And yesterday, I came across this:

(I also liked the "lukewarm sorta kinda dammit I hate to say this" presidential endorsement at the end of the session. Which did not exactly came as a surprise. I'd endorse a Drezner/Cowen ticket any time, btw.)

"Arranged" Marriage? Oh, my.

Mad Minerva points to an article/book review about a new trend for westerners as the easy way out of the big fat post modern matching mess:

One group of women she spoke to, who had had arranged marriages, were alpha-type New Yorkers in their late thirties and she noticed too that they didn't look to their partners so much for their happiness. “In Western culture there's an obligation for your partner to provide all your social and emotional needs,” she says. “In the landscape of arranged marriage there is an extended group that takes the pressure off this one man being able to provide everything.”

First of all, there is no such thing as "Western culture". And second of all, this whole article made me cringe. What a  "Sex and the city" BS. But a good example for multicultural cherry picking.

A marriage arranged and supervised by an ethnic auntie brigade? Good idea, especially in terms of "be fertile and multiply".

A marriage arranged by a MoDo columns loving East Coast psychiatrist turned matchmaker supervised by a bunch of friends who know all seasons of "Friends" and "Seinfeld" by heart? C'mon on, now!

A marriage arranged by your Chinese boss? A mind-blowing, suicidal tendencies triggering experience. You betcha. (Fortunately, she didn't succeed. And I'm still alive.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Love in Lubbock

Now, that was brave. Good luck, Emily and Matt!


I love Emily's facial expression at the beginning...

And here's the story from a different angle:


A Decent Proposal

From the VP debate aftermath conversation with Kevin over at love in spades:

K: What I really wish could happen is for candidates to sign legally binding agreements whenever they say that they won't raise my taxes so that, if they end up in office, they are legally obligated not to raise my taxes. That'd be pretty cool.

M: And if they don't stick to those agreements - what punishment option would you root for? Something boring like "conviction of fraud or burglary, followed by a term in prison" - or the more medieval approach like, say, primetime townhall castigations, weekend market place stoning or superbowl tar-and-feathering?The medieval option would be more fun for the (tax-paying) audience, coming with a higher possiblity of deterrence (debatable).One should also consider preemptive OPM addiction treatment in facilities like the Betty Ford clinic for every politician who wants to run for office.

K: I was thinking defenestration at first, but your idea of tar and feathering on pay-per-view is too good to ignore. All proceeds from the event would go to pay down the national debt...

M: Okayyy...Feasel-Wirth Act 2030?

K: I shall write my Senators forthwith in order to get our bill introduced. Unfortunately, given that one of my Senators enjoys raising taxes and the other one spends too much time crying about John Bolton, I might have to move to South Carolina...

M: Hence, the timeline. But I thought of us becoming senators and {campaign trail mode} get the job done {/campaign trail mode}.

K: you might have to be the one running for office. The first time I talk about not imminentizing the eschaton and how the one person who's responsible for dealing with your problems looks suspiciously like that fellow on your driver's license, my campaign manager will commit ritual seppuku...
As for the bailout and OPM addiction, see US Congress in Rehab for OPM Addiction.


What goes for "uncommitted"

They asked a few questions regarding my choice in the Presidential election. They asked who I would vote for. I said most likely I would be voting for Barack Obama. They followed with, "is there any chance that you would change your mind"? I said "Of course anything is possible." They then asked me as an uncommitted voter would I like to participate in the Town hall debate. I said "Of course!"

(Yet another vetting process going awry, leading to the Town hall whiplash and causing the "Olivers Of The World, Unite" movement.)

Yeah, McCain Really Knows How To Connect At Those Townhalls:

(direct link)


Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Market Sentiment

Well, you have to remember two things about the market, one is they are made up of very sharp and sophisticated people who are some of the greatest brains in the world. And the second thing you have to remember is that financial markets–to use the common phrase, are driven by sentiment.

What does that mean?

What does that mean. Well the thing is, let’s say things are going along as normal in the market, and then suddenly, out of the blue, one of these very sharp and sophisticated people say, “My GOD! Something AWFUL is going to happen! [Grasps face in despair] We’ve lost EVERYTHING! My God, what are we going to do, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

Shall I jump out of the window?

Shall I jump out of the window. EXACTLY! Let’s all jump out of the window! SELL!






Sell. Yes. Precisely. And then a few days later, this same sophisticated person says, (calmly and pleasantly) “You know, I think things are going rather well.” And everybody says, “You know actually I think I agree with you.” “You know, I think we’re rich.” “We’re rich.” “Yes!”

Rich! Yes! BUY, BUY, BUY!

BUY, BUY, BUY! Yes. And that is what we call market sentiment.

(direct link)

Kudos to The Liberty Voice for the transcript.

Talking of Mobility...

Okay, time for a restart. But slowly.

(direct link, via)

Next up: Elephant on Water Skis, jumping the shark.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Candidates And The Mobile Society

This is so true in more than one way:

In a mobile society, people have an easy time claiming multiple home towns -- and no one does so more than candidates seeking national office in an election year.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Web 2.0, seriously


The Library of Congress Wednesday launched a pilot project with photo-sharing site Flickr to publish 3,115 photos.

The library has a blog, too! See the Flickr project announcement here. That's what I call "taking web 2.0 serious".

Monday, January 07, 2008

The 2008 Election - An Answer to Mad Minerva

If you ask me, there are two democracies in the world truely deserving this label: America and Switzerland. Two completely different approaches of trying to get the people's will represented - but both superior to any other political system I know.

Are Swiss and Americans happy with their political system? No, they are not. If you have ever visited a Swiss blog headquarter of political punditry, you know what I'm refering to. Or take this NYT opener, for example:
Even by the low standards of presidential campaigns, the issue of immigration has been badly served in the 2008 race.
Low standards? Dear Sir/Madam, hiding behind the "Editorial" curtain, have you ever happen to follow an election campaign in any given European country? My suggestion: Do it! And recalibrate your expectations.

Or take the undisputed Queen of Conservative Middle-Of-The-Roadism: (any objections, Brian? ;-))
it seems vaguely unjust that a tiny state like Iowa has such a huge impact on the entire presidential election process of 2008. Less than 1 million Iowans will actually "vote" in the caucuses. I also doubt that Iowa is an accurate representation of any piece of America as a whole other than Iowa.
Read this and think again, MM (emphasis mine):
What an absurd way to choose a president, sneer many non-Americans, perhaps forgetting their own arrangements (the coronation of Gordon Brown as Labour leader and prime minister, without a single vote, springs to mind).
(Nota bene: the coronation of Gordon Brown wasn't only without a single vote, but through a single vote: Tony Blair's. In Germany, it wouldn't have been different.) Read the whole thing: In praise of the primaries, The Economist)

I'm absolutely thrilled by the American 2008 election campaign. Today, I got an email by the aforementioned Mad Minerva which starts as follows (link to her related blog post added):
I'm glad you're enjoying the start of the 2008 American political marathon! You say it's "thrilling." A British commentator has said so, too. Is the American race's atmosphere so different from European elections?
Girl, I don't want to sound mean, but ... are you serious?

The short answer is: YES.

The more elaborated answer? Well,... where to start? Coming to think of it, it's hard to find even similarities between the German way to elect a Bundeskanzler (let's restrain it to Germany) and the American way to choose a new POTUS.

Let's begin with a statement of one German correspondent in America, aired on German public radio Deutschlandfunk the other day (my emphasis, again):
The election campaign is lasting for twelve months now. The first hopefuls trudged through the snow of Iowa and New Hampshire in January 2007. Each candidate had to organize and finance his campaign by himself. No other nation expects such exertions of their top politicians.
(Full German original is here: Das Signal von Iowa. Von Klaus Jürgen Haller)

This statement gives some useful hints. An American would probably say: "Yeah, self-financed and self-organized. Are ya tellin' me there are other possibilities to run a campaign???"

Well, um, yes, there are. In Germany, the campaigns are financed and organized by the political parties. And where do those get the funding from? Guess what, from their members, from donations - and from the state. And where does the state get the money from to fund the parties' campaigns? Guess what - from the taxpayers. It's quite obvious that this influences the atmosphere of an election campaign, no?

Next, the scrutiny depth. In Germany, the candidates are chosen by the parties, that is to say by the party establishment. And in most cases, it comes down to a self-nomination by the party leaders. Now, self-nomination means: no quality check, no scrutiny.

And in America? Every newspaper, every TV station (as local as it might be), every other media outlet (not to mention bloggers!) is X-raying each candidate (plus his loved ones, and ex-loved ones, and business partners, and ex-business partners and so on) over and over again. It turns out that you, the candidate, pilfered someone's lunch snack when you were a third-grader? Gosh! That's "mayday-mayday!" for your staff! Your second cousin faked his tax declaration? OMG, CNN breaking news! Wolf Blitzer live, interviewing the second cousin's ex-wife!

Admittingly, the media hype, fuelled by mean bloggers, has taken this scrutiny issue a bit too far lately, but I still prefer the American way of collecting some information (including medical record and personal financial situation) about the candidates before voting for them to the German approach, where this is left mainly to the candidates' party and some MSM gatekeepers.

What else is it that makes the atmosphere of an American election campaign? The mere number of hopefuls - especially this time! In Germany, it usually boils down to two well-known candidates. (If there would be three, it would be considered a political earthquake.) Not to forget the campaign methods, like TV debates, NEW!--->youtube debates<---NEW!, door-to-door-campaigning, fundraising dinners, speeches before huge audiences, classroom chit-chats, internet chats ... you name it. In Germany, we have market place speeches (only one candidate, no debate), some TV debates with party officials (including the smaller parties), two important TV debates (if anything) and some internet embarrassments - and that's about it.

I'm feeling like I could go on for hours on that one. Perhaps, you already got my point.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Me, the Dallas Cowboy (1978)

At this err... last year's Christmas aftermath get-together, my sister was going like: "Mum, where are the photos of us kids when we were little?" And that's why I can now proof that my love affair with America has begun much earlier than I previously thought:

Me, as a Dallas Cowboy. This picture was taken in the spring of 1978, which makes me kinda Super Bowl winner, since the Dallas Cowboys had defeated the Denver Broncos 27-10 in January 1978. Those were the days ...