Christmas Cards 2012

* * *

Martini 19.75″ x 27.5″, 2005

* * *

Pinwheels 19″ x 24″, 2006

* * *

Mandala 18″ x 18″, 2007

* * *

Octopus 12″ x 12″, 2008

* * *

Backgammon 16″ x 18.5″, 2009

* * *

Yin Yang 18″ x 18″, 2010

* * *

Andromeda 20″ x 34″, 2011

* * *

Chromaticism 10.75″ x 13.5″, 2012

 

Defending Defined Benefits

Among pension reformers there is a spirited ongoing debate regarding what might constitute a financially sustainable yet equitable solution. On one side there is a call to do away with defined benefits entirely, replacing them with defined contribution plans. The argument is compelling; with defined contribution plans, when the participant retires, they survive on the assets they have invested, and the employer has no contingent liability whatsoever. This is an appealing scenario to anyone who fully appreciates just how close our public sector pension funds are to financial collapse. But some of the ways defined benefits are characterized by their detractors are inaccurate.

For example, defined benefit plans are often referred to as “Ponzi schemes,” based on the premise that pension funds depend on new participants making contributions in order to fund the distributions being made to retirees. But the scam used by Ponzi (and Madoff) was to let new investors fund interest payments to existing investors, while all the while making the promise that existing investors had a claim on their original principal investment and could have it back at any time. Defined benefits do not offer a return of principal. If incoming contributions, plus interest earned on assets under management, offer sufficient extra capital to fund distributions, a pension fund is sustainable. A Ponzi scheme by definition is not sustainable.

Slightly more apt, but still inaccurate, is to characterize defined benefit plans as “Pyramid schemes,” based on the same premise – that their solvency depends on new participants […] Read More

The Fate of the Mourning Dove

A few months ago my wife and I noticed a pair of doves were building a nest in a nook above the front door of our home. Atop a piller, beneath an eve, inaccessible to any creature who couldn’t either fly or use a ladder, the location for this nest was thoughtfully chosen. Through the rainy days and nights of February, the birds completed their nest and sat on the eggs.

For nearly a month the birds were always there, until sometime in early March when they abandoned the nest. My wife checked the nest and verified the eggs were still there – apparently not destined to hatch, the Doves had left them to scavengers. Within a few weeks the eggs were gone, with the parents away another winged creature had broken them open and consumed them. But the doves weren’t through with us.

In April the birds returned, the female lay a new pair of eggs, and through the lengthening days they sat atop them. This time we were skeptical as to whether or not the eggs would hatch, but we were starting to get attached to this persistent, quiet pair. The neighborhood cats were also paying close attention.

On the morning of May 12th we left our homes to go to work and noticed the eggs had hatched. Within a few days we could see them, huddled next to their mother, always quiet, always still. Often the mother would perch on a rooftop nearby but away from the […] Read More