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Sentence of the Week, 7

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

My favorite source of sentences of the week has been the NYT’s weekly Vows column, which is so good at glorifying the mundane. (See this post for example.) Yesterday, the glorifying was being performed on the NYT sports pages, where Richard Sandomir and Ken Belson’s puff piece on hedge fund manager and potential Mets buyer David Einhorn appeared. Sandomir is usually a hard-nosed writer on the business of sports and sports broadcasting. Yesterday he adopted a breezier, less critical style.

The background, as you may know, is that Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon has become ensnared in the Bernie Madoff scandal. He is being sued for a billion dollars by Irving Picard, the trustee for the victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and has been under pressure to sell some of his stake in the Mets to prepare for a settlement. (See Jeffrey Toobin’s recent New Yorker article for details.) Einhorn has stepped in and offered to buy one-third of the team for $200 million.

What’s my choice for sentence of the week? It’s hard. Here, have a look at this passage from yesterday’s Sandomir-Benson article and see what you think.

Einhorn’s father, Stephen, a banker who specializes in mergers, and his mother, Nancy, a bookkeeper, have been active in the arts and charities. Through the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, they donate to educational, religious, medical, youth service and antibigotry causes; the trust also provided money to produce “The Bully Project,” a documentary.

Stephen Einhorn, who spent six years on the board of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, paid to overhaul its Web site so customers could pick the seats they want. “They make sure their dollars are being used well,” said Annie Jansen Jurczyk, the theater’s development director.

She added, “It puts them in a different category of donor, and they do it without any fanfare.”

David Einhorn, whose grandfather had Parkinson’s disease, is on the board of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, and the Robin Hood Foundation, which fights poverty.

“He’s modestly and quietly trying to make a difference in the world, with the simple thread of trying to help people get along, whether it’s in Jerusalem or downtown New York,” said Mary Gordon, the president of Roots of Empathy, a charity that tries to imbue children with kindness and acceptance of others.

Einhorn, who was a co-founder of the hedge fund known as Greenlight Capital when he was 27 and who declined to speak for this article, quickly built a reputation as a thoughtful and astute investor.

Tom Zucosky, the chief executive of Discovery Capital Management, remembers interviewing Einhorn in the late 1990s when his company invested in Greenlight. Einhorn’s presentations, he said, were lucid and inventive and the hallmarks of a rising star.

Zucosky said that Einhorn could read deeply into balance sheets to understand what makes companies — and teams — tick. “If you’re a hedge fund manager, you understand how to manage risk,” Zucosky said, and added: “He’s not stupid. He’s not going to flush his money down the toilet.”

My favorites are the quotes rather than the Sandomir-Benson writing itself. But they chose the quotes, so I want them to share in the credit. There are some gems. I think I have to go with this: “He’s modestly and quietly trying to make a difference in the world, with the simple thread of trying to help people get along, whether it’s in Jerusalem or downtown New York.” What would the world do without New York hedge fund managers? They aren’t just smart. And wealthy. They are generous and modest beyond compare.

As for the smartness of hedge fund managers, that would appear to be a given. And here I thought mathematicians are the smartest people in the world. I suppose the fact that we make so little money is proof that we aren’t, whereas the fact that hedge fund managers make so much is proof that they are. (Then there’s the example of Jim Simons.) I love the observation that “If you’re a hedge fund manager, you understand how to manage risk. He’s not stupid. He’s not going to flush his money down the toilet.” I’m guessing there are a few exceptions to this assertion.

Categories: Journalism, Language

The Conscientious Gardener

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I know, this is a first — a post about a gardening book. But not just any gardening book. This one is written by a friend of mine, and it just had a rave mini-review in the Sunday NYT.

As you can see above, the book is The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic, The author is University of Washington plant and garden expert Sarah Reichard, who recently became the director of the UW Botanic Gardens. One component of the UWBG is the Washington Park Arboretum. As some of you know, the arboretum is our neighbor. We see it out our back windows.

The NYT review was part of a summer reading roundup of gardening books. Sarah’s was the second book treated. Reviewer Dominque Browning writes:

Sarah Hayden Reichard has written a modest and unassuming but powerful book, THE CONSCIENTIOUS GARDENER: Cultivating a Garden Ethic (University of California Press, $27.50), arguing that gardeners should be on the front line when it comes to recognizing the interconnection of mankind and nature. “Practices and products,” she writes, have crept into the craft of gardening “that decrease its long-term sustainability.” I, for one, will never again resort to pesticides or peat moss after reading her book. Reichard’s chapter on soil, “the skin of the earth,” is an excellent refresher for any gardener.

Sarah had alerted her facebook friends a month ago that her book was slated to be reviewed on an upcoming Sunday, and I’ve been checking. Finally, she wrote last week that it was online. On reading the review, I went to Amazon, examined the contents in more detail, and ordered it. It arrived Monday afternoon. I got some ways into it that night, but then lent it to Joel. He has raised concerns for a couple of years about the nature of our garden. I figure the book will provide more concrete arguments for what we should change and why, and I look forward to the conversations we’ll have, once all three of us have read it.

Below is the blurb about the book at UC Press. Have a look at the book yourself. You’ll surely find it interesting, however engaged you are in gardening.

In his influential A Sand County Almanac, published at the beginning of the environmental movement in 1949, Aldo Leopold proposed a new ecological ethic to guide our stewardship of the planet. In this inspiring book, Sarah Hayden Reichard tells how we can bring Leopold’s far-reaching vision to our gardens to make them more sustainable, lively, and healthy places. Today, gardening practices too often damage the environment: we deplete resources in our own soil while mining for soil amendments in far away places, or use water and pesticides in ways that can pollute lakes and rivers. Drawing from cutting edge research on urban horticulture, Reichard explores the many benefits of sustainable gardening and gives straightforward, practical advice on topics such as pest control, water conservation, living with native animals, mulching, and invasive species.

The book includes a scorecard that allows readers to quickly evaluate the sustainability of their current practices, as well as an extensive list of garden plants that are invasive, what they do, and where they should be avoided.

Categories: Books, Garden

Rude Residents

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

In my post a week ago about Spring Visitors, I mentioned in passing the Stellar’s Jays who have been spending a lot of time at our bird feeder. They’re lovely to look at, but since I mentioned them, they’ve shown their true colors. They’re pleasant enough when we’re around. But poor Emma. If she heads out the back door in mid-day, within seconds one of the jays flies down to our patio chairs or the low branches of the giant maple tree and squawks like crazy. The jay may fly from branch to chair to chair to table to chair to branch to branch, squawking incessantly. I keep telling the jay that Emma has rights too, but to no avail.

So what do you think? Are they nesting in the maple? I’m thinking so. It’s fascinating that they instantaneously identify Emma as a threat, but allow us to go about our business. They might have been right once, but now she’s just a slow-moving 15-year-old heading outside for sun, warmth, fresh air, and a taste of the old days. Her running, chasing, hunting days are past. The jays are most unkind.

Categories: Birds, Cats

Catch Up

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been a little out of it for the last week. Sorry about that. Thanks to antibiotics, I’m on the mend, with lots to catch up on. I’ll see how far I can get tonight. Stay tuned.

Categories: Health