Today Is Both Bastille and Osborn Day
Celebrating a coup d’erat and a cool cat
By Ed Goldman
I have two birthdays to celebrate today: Bastille Day turns 232, and Osborn the Magnificent, my cat, turns 19.
As for the former, I should tell you I’m a demi-Francophile: a fan of the food, films and people of France but not of its politics (Vichy, anyone?) or sporadic indicators of antisemitism. Mon dieu!
And for younger readers who might have listened with half an ear in political history class, being a Francophile doesn’t mean I’m going to “like” the late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco on his FascistBook page. Nor do I closely follow the film career of Franco Nero, who played Lancelot in “Camelot” and one of the title roles in “The Virgin and the Gypsy” (take your best guess which one). I should also point out that Chef Boyardee Franco-American Spaghetti never makes its way onto my grocery list—though I’ll admit that I still might have a can in my garage, dating back to my college days, and whose contents, I firmly believe, will outlive me.
Anyway, Bastille Day was the opening shot of the French Revolution in 1789. Osborn Day is when a once-tubby tabby was born (on Osborn Street in Scottsdale, Arizona) and five years later, in 2007, came into my life. He was part of a package deal that included another cat and a spouse (mine, not the cat’s). When the latter two grew justifiably indignant about the living arrangements at Goldmanor, especially its namesake owner, they returned to Arizona; Osborn and I became inseparable bachelor roommates (cue the sitcom music and find us a whacky neighbor).
The first thing Osborn and I did in our new life together was slim down a bit: he went from three or four meals a day to two, and I from four or five vodka martinis a day to fewer (a far better and less inhibiting descriptor than “not several”). He also became, like me, an aficionado of the daily crossword puzzles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal—not because he was especially adept at anagrams and puns but because he instinctively knew I completed them much more efficiently with him sprawled across my lap.
Throughout the years, he recovered from little maladies quickly but in 2019, ran up $8,000 in emergency animal hospital fees. He was already too elderly for me to buy pet insurance, so I put the medical expenses on my Visa card. I thought of making him a member of my corporate board so I could deduct them but finally decided I’d pay them off post-reincarnation (again: mine, not the cat’s).
I’ve been asked a few times, though never by cat lovers, a variation of, Why would anyone rather have a cat than a dog? I have no idea. I had a wonderful dog for as many years as I’ve had Osborn (14). Her name was Camellia, named by my then four-year-old daughter. I asked her why she chose that name and she said with the seriousness of purpose people generally lose by the time they turn five, “Because camellias are pretty and she is, too.” Done and done. (For Elhi teachers: In the study guide for this column, which you’ll find in the arts-and-education aisle at Home Depot, you’ll discover that “done and done” is the American adaptation of the British expression, “Done and dusted.” In Brooklyn patois, this morphs into “Shaddup awready.” Please send the NEA grant I’m sure I just won to my conservator.)
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I’ll grant you that once, when I tumbled down three of the flights in my former four-story home, Camellia licked my face once it came to rest on the first-floor’s granite tiles. On the other hand, when I was convalescing from an illness that required me to do an intravenous infusion of medication for two hours every afternoon, Osborn—then a tad on the tubby side—wedged and scrunched himself between me and the arm of my rocking chair and sat dutifully with me for the entire procedure, day after day, for two weeks. He didn’t lick my face but his warm little body and whistly little snores proved comforting.
Finally, in my experience, dogs and cats can both be limitlessly affectionate—though Osborn, unlike Camellia, never drooled on me in bed. He has, of course, thrown up, as cats do for a hobby—but only on the bed, never on me. And mainly on the duvet, which I suspect he chooses because it’s a French word and he was born on—well, you know. Joyeux anniversaire, chatte chat.
A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela
President and CEO, Golden Pacific Bank
photo by Phoebe Verkouw
What is Bitcoin anyway?
I’m intrigued by the concept of money and exchange. When it comes right down to it, money is just the mechanism in an exchange of goods and services: You give me money, I give you a car or a house or an education or something else of value.
That’s it in a nutshell. Then we complicate money with taxes and advances and investments and installments and…and…and…
So, what is BitCoin? It’s surprising to me how many intelligent, worldly individuals can’t answer that question. I’ve come across young students that don’t have a clue, and boomers that just make up the answer. I’ll try to explain Bitcoin in a few Sentences For Dummies (like me).
At its simplest level, Bitcoin is a digital currency developed in 2009 by an anonymous person. It’s all electronic, not paper money, such as the dollars, Euros, or yen owned by central or currency banks. It’s the first “cryptocurrency” created by individuals and companies worldwide using sophisticated computer software that solves mathematical problems. Sounds like sci-fi, doesn’t it?
Except that for me, it’s hardly futuristic. In fact, Bitcoin actually takes us backwards to the comparatively simple days of bartering. Why? Because Bitcoin is easy to set up in a digitalized wallet (try using a CoinCloud or similar machine in your local neighborhood.) There are no middlemen that have to be involved in transactions – no banks! (Banks may just hold the Bitcoin but are not really primary to the exchange/ownership.)
Bitcoin works in a decentralized manner with instant transactions that are immediately recorded so that you can check them out anytime you want. Generally, Bitcoin is anonymous—the wallet doesn’t attach to specific details, and you don’t have to disclose a bunch of personal data associated with your online “wallet.” You can use your Bitcoin for shopping, but mostly it’s held for its perceived market value.
1. If you lose your passcodes, you lose your bitcoin. It’s generally up to you and you alone to keep your Bitcoin secure.
2. Also, the market completely sets the value of Bitcoin. Since the market is highly volatile, the cryptocurrency’s price is highly volatile. And that value bounces. In 2017, the price of Bitcoin went up to thousands. It just grew above $60,000 in March 2021.
Besides Bitcoin, there are a number of new cryptocurrencies that have entered the market. There’s more to learn on a daily basis with these evolving financial concepts. You can bet your bottom dollar on that!