Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ambiguous About Ambiguity

If I profess a belief in trusting the Creator I had better be prepared to do just that.

Like spices in a warm pan of cider - I am mulling that one over in my head these days.

Reminding myself that I am someone who can deal with ambiguity. That I am confident enough in my relationship that the way ahead can be murky, hazy and covered in fog but I, in fact, know what is out there.

Now and again the fog has covered the pond to the point that you can’t see the other side. You can only see three or four feet in front of you. The pond is the same length and the safety of the far shore is still out there. I just can’t see it at that moment in time.

If I struck out in my boat and paddled through the fog I would eventually come to the far shore. It is there.

Not knowing at what point the fog will lift and clarity will be restored is the trust/faith/challenging part.

How comfortable are we with ambiguity?

I have a natural desire to want to know what is going on. Particularly when it involves my job or home or life - all of the above.

I want to be able to plan. To see my hopes and dreams come to fruition. Ambiguity seems to prevent that. And the very least it slows the process down. Forces me to spend some time staring at the fog.

Maybe I should consider other alternatives.

I am ambiguous about ambiguity.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

PNC to buy National City

Pittsburgh-based PNC to acquire struggling regional bank for $5.6 billion and will get government capital injection; bank stocks still get crushed Friday

By David Ellis, staff writer

Last Updated: October 24, 2008: 4:21 PM ET

NEW YORK ( -- PNC announced Friday it would acquire regional bank National City in a deal worth about $5.6 billion.

The sale, which values National City at $2.23 per share, would create the nation's fifth-largest U.S. bank with $180 billion in deposits. PNC is exchanging $5.2 billion in stock and paying an additional $384 million in cash for National City.

"We believe this strategic combination will continue PNC's efforts to build capital strength and shareholder value," said James Rohr, PNC's chairman and CEO in a statement.

Making the announcement before Friday's opening bell, PNC said it would also get a capital injection from the government by selling $7.7 billion worth of preferred stock and related warrants as part of a federal program aimed at propping up the nation's banking system.

"We are pleased the Treasury selected us," Rohr said in a conference call with investors, adding that it won government approval late Thursday.

The two firms said the combined company would be headquartered in PNC's hometown of Pittsburgh, while the merger would broaden PNC's footprint in other key parts of the upper Midwest such as Indiana, Michigan and National City's home state of Ohio.

The deal, which is expected to close by year end, concludes what has been a painful period for National City.

Shares of Cleveland-based National City have been hit hard over the past year as investors speculated about the bank's health due to its exposure to the deteriorating U.S. mortgage market.

That was apparent as recently as this week when National City reported a $729 million third-quarter loss and detailed plans to eliminate 4,000 positions, or 14% of its workforce, over the next three years.

As a result of the merger, PNC said Friday that it estimated it will write downnearly 18% of National City's loan portfolio going forward. That's significantly larger than the loss forecasts that National City executives provided just days earlier.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Meat & Mushroom Sauce…

Ingredients –

2 cups button mushrooms sliced

½ a large onion diced

½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground beef
½ lb group veal

3 or 4 roasted garlic cloves minced

1 Tbsp of Italian seasoning
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

2 cups good red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 cup whole milk

1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 28 ounce can of tomato sauce

1 Tbsp of brown sugar

Instructions -

When I was in college I spent a couple of summers in the northeastern region of Italy called Friuli-Venezia Giulia. I watched some wonderful Italian cooks use some spices and ingredients that were not so common in other regions of Italy. It was there that I learned the basics of a meat sauce that I make to this day during the fall and winter.

In a very large hot stock pot or sauce pan with a teaspoon of butter quickly brown the mushroom slices and set aside.

Add the diced onion and sauté quickly – do not brown - just soften.

Turn the heat down to med-low and crumble the ground meats into the onions little by little making sure that all the meat is broken up in small pieces of equal size.

Turn the heat to medium.

Add the minced garlic.

Add the next 5 seasonings distributing throughout.

Sauté the meat until there is no longer any pink and it is lightly browned.

Add the mushrooms back in.

Add the wine and simmer over a low flame, uncovered, until the wine has almost evaporated. Do not let the pan go completely dry.

When the wine is almost gone add the broth and the whole milk together and stir to mix well. Simmer over a low flame, uncovered, until the liquid has almost evaporated. Do not let the pan go completely dry.

Add the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Simmer over a low flame slowly for a couple of hours checking and stirring occasionally.

Taste for acidity and add the brown sugar to sweeten a bit. Adjust salt.

We like this with any kind of pasta – especially angel hair - and also grilled polenta.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Seven Thousand Hits...

Thanks goodness for my ham glaze recipe!

Why do people end up at my blog?

Well from the stats alone most people come to find the glaze recipe for an Easter ham. I know it sounds bizarre but I get a few hits each month and at Christmas and Easter the blog gets several hundred hits. This past Easter the blog was the #2 hit on Google for a ham glaze recipe!

I get a lot of hits about food, Cleveland, and Vermont.

And then there are the sweet friends that read my railings regarding politics, religion and anything else I decide to prattle on about.

Lots of folks this last year checked out the building project.

Finally the outdoor pictures snag a lot of people.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Follow Me...

A couple of months back on a Sunday morning I was driving down to Akron to preach.

I was just getting on the interstate near my home and I had driven down the entrance ramp. I was preparing to merge when I noticed a white car in the lane to my left coming up on me fast.

Now I could have punched it and tried to pull ahead of this guy or backed off the gas and pulled in behind him. Since I was quickly running out of room I opted to slow down and pull in behind him.

As the elderly gentleman passed me by he sternly looked my way and wagged his finger at me like I had done something wrong. I was a little surprised because I thought I had done the right thing by not forcing him to slow down or change lanes.

I noticed as he pulled ahead that there was a bumper stick in the rear window of his sedan. It looked vaguely familiar to me. I moved over to his left and started to pass him. As I got closer to his car the bumper sticker became clear.

“Follow me to a Church of Christ.”

I laughed out loud. Like there was any chance anyone would follow him to church after he scolded them.

And since I was going to preach at a Church of Christ that morning it made a great opening illustration of how faith and life intersect.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

From the NYT - Rescue the Rescue - Thomas Friedman

I was channel surfing on Monday, following the stock market’s nearly 800-point collapse, when a commentator on CNBC caught my attention. He was being asked to give advice to viewers as to what were the best positions to be in to ride out the market storm. Without missing a beat, he answered: “Cash and fetal.”

I’m in both — because I know an unprecedented moment when I see one. I’ve been frightened for my country only a few times in my life: In 1962, when, even as a boy of 9, I followed the tension of the Cuban missile crisis; in 1963, with the assassination of J.F.K.; on Sept. 11, 2001; and on Monday, when the House Republicans brought down the bipartisan rescue package.

But this moment is the scariest of all for me because the previous three were all driven by real or potential attacks on the U.S. system by outsiders. This time, we are doing it to ourselves. This time, it’s our own failure to regulate our own financial system and to legislate the proper remedy that is doing us in.

I’ve always believed that America’s government was a unique political system — one designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots. I was wrong. No system can be smart enough to survive this level of incompetence and recklessness by the people charged to run it.

This is dangerous. We have House members, many of whom I suspect can’t balance their own checkbooks, rejecting a complex rescue package because some voters, whom I fear also don’t understand, swamped them with phone calls. I appreciate the popular anger against Wall Street, but you can’t deal with this crisis this way.

This is a credit crisis. It’s all about confidence. What you can’t see is how bank A will no longer lend to good company B or mortgage company C. Because no one is sure the other guy’s assets and collateral are worth anything, which is why the government needs to come in and put a floor under them. Otherwise, the system will be choked of credit, like a body being choked of oxygen and turning blue.

Well, you say, “I don’t own any stocks — let those greedy monsters on Wall Street suffer.” You may not own any stocks, but your pension fund owned some Lehman Brothers commercial paper and your regional bank held subprime mortgage bonds, which is why you were able refinance your house two years ago. And your local airport was insured by A.I.G., and your local municipality sold municipal bonds on Wall Street to finance your street’s new sewer system, and your local car company depended on the credit markets to finance your auto loan — and now that the credit market has dried up, Wachovia bank went bust and your neighbor lost her secretarial job there.

We’re all connected. As others have pointed out, you can’t save Main Street and punish Wall Street anymore than you can be in a rowboat with someone you hate and think that the leak in the bottom of the boat at his end is not going to sink you, too. The world really is flat. We’re all connected. “Decoupling” is pure fantasy.

I totally understand the resentment against Wall Street titans bringing home $60 million bonuses. But when the credit system is imperiled, as it is now, you have to focus on saving the system, even if it means bailing out people who don’t deserve it. Otherwise, you’re saying: I’m going to hold my breath until that Wall Street fat cat turns blue. But he’s not going to turn blue; you are, or we all are. We have to get this right.

My rabbi told this story at Rosh Hashana services on Tuesday: A frail 80-year-old mother is celebrating her birthday and her three sons each give her a present. Harry gives her a new house. Harvey gives her a new car and driver. And Bernie gives her a huge parrot that can recite the entire Torah. A week later, she calls her three sons together and says: “Harry, thanks for the nice house, but I only live in one room. Harvey, thanks for the nice car, but I can’t stand the driver. Bernie, thanks for giving your mother something she could really enjoy. That chicken was delicious.”

Message to Congress: Don’t get cute. Don’t give us something we don’t need. Don’t give us something designed to solve your political problems. Yes, Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke need to accept strict oversights and the taxpayer must be guaranteed a share in the upside profits from all rescued banks. But other than that, give them the capital and the flexibility to put out this fire.

I always said to myself: Our government is so broken that it can only work in response to a huge crisis. But now we’ve had a huge crisis, and the system still doesn’t seem to work. Our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have gotten so out of practice of working together that even in the face of this system-threatening meltdown they could not agree on a rescue package, as if they lived on Mars and were just visiting us for the week, with no stake in the outcome. The story cannot end here.

If it does, assume the fetal position.

This Is Not "Gotcha" Journalism

The question being asked by Katie Couric is on the subject of Sarah Palin’s reading habits. Here is the exchange:

Couric: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

Palin: I’ve read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, “Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?” Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

When I first read this I had to ask myself, is this Tina Fey doing a Sarah Palin impression???