Friday, September 16, 2005

Safety & Soundness

Who uses it: Bank examiners
What it means: The financial condition of any institution (bank, credit union, savings association) that takes money from the public. Bank regulation and supervision fall into the two main categories of "Safety & Soundness" -- underlying financial health -- and "Compliance" -- things like consumer protection.
How you can use it: When discussing whether someone or something is trustworthy. "He's entertaining, but don't go looking for safety and soundness there."

Many financial terms lend themselves to everyday conversation. Warren Zevon turned a bunch of them -- though not this one -- into a lovely ballad called "Nobody's in Love this Year," which closes the idiosyncratic Transverse City album. All the times I saw him in concert, he never sang this song -- maybe it was just too sad, although I did see him do "Accidentally Like a Martyr" at least once, and that has to be the saddest rock song ever written.

I'm a little distracted, can you tell? What day is this? What town am I in? It's Friday, this is Albany, and I'm about to head south.

The New York State Library dwarfs the Maine State Library, as you might imagine. A huge storm system swept through Albany yesterday, and I had no idea, until I walked outside at lunchtime and was nearly swept away. I took refuge with several homeless people in a small McDonald's downhill from the Empire State Plaza, and one of the gentlemen offered to go "take care of" anyone who might make me unhappy, at any time. It was the best offer I'd had in a long time, and it made me smile.

I've had almost no time for casual reading this week, so it was good that the one novel I did read was terrific, and the non-fiction book I read was pretty amusing, too.

Chuck Hogan, The Blood Artists. I was reading this book, a horrifying thriller about infectious disease, at the aforementioned inner-city McDonald's -- and looked up to see one of the food workers chewing on her fake fingernail, then using that hand -- that nail -- to open a paper bag for french fries. I'm not sure it's something I would have paid any attention to, before; now, after reading this book, I am never eating McDonald's french fries again. NEVER. (And that's a good thing for many reasons.) Anyway, this book is set in the near future, when fear of infection changes the way we all live. Doctors Stephen Pearse and Peter Maryk are researchers who respond to an outbreak of a new, deadly hemorrhagic virus in Africa. They think they've contained it -- when everyone has died -- but Pearse's misguided act of compassion sets the virus free in the world, in a most insidious way. To say much more about how the virus operates in the world would give the plot away, so I will just say this is one of the most original, plausible, frightening thrillers I've read in a long time. Reviewers compared it to The Stand and The Hot Zone, but it reminded me even more of the epic Victorian adventure novels of H. Rider Haggard, and even Joseph Conrad. Great stuff, not for the squeamish.

Stephen R. Datz, TOP DOLLAR PAID! The Complete Guide to Selling Your Stamps. Don't worry, I read this for work... I am not taking up stamp collecting. In fact, based on this book, my advice to everyone is not to take up stamp collecting, unless those little colored pieces of paper fill your soul with joy. If that's the case, you won't mind taking such good care of them -- handling them with tongs -- laying them between sheets of acid-free paper -- and spending all your free time with other people who share your passion. Speaking only for myself, I have a few other things to do. This book is excellent -- short, to the point, and funny -- but it needs to be updated for the post-Ebay world.

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