Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More Fun Than A Barrel Of Monkeys

In high school, I scoffed at the notion of taking shop class. Instead, I spent my time working on computers. That did alright by me until I decided to build a small jet engine, oh, ten years ago. It was then that I realized that perhaps I should not have scoffed so much.

By my reckoning, it will be approximately ten more years before I finish the aforementioned project, however today I reached a major milestone, thanks to the outstanding advice of my brother.

The plans call for a spun aluminum intake. At first, I didn't know what that meant. Once I discovered, I tried spinning some aluminum. Multiple times, as a matter of fact. The only consistent outcome was failure. Then Alan's sage advice rescued me.

Anneal the aluminum first. He was right. Along with that, I watched some very cool YouTube videos. I noticed that the "pros" don't spin very fast, and they use a lot of leverage.

I tried. It worked! When you look at the following pictures, you'll realize that I still need a lot of practice. That being said, I'm pretty happy with the "proof" of concept. With a bit more practice, slightly thicker sheet, and a new set of metal gears for my lathe...I might be on to something!


The pop can in the following photograph is simply to demonstrate scale. The raw material was a piece of flat aluminum sheet about 1/30th of an inch thick. The mandrill (form) is made from oak, and turned to shape.

DSCN7253 DSCN7254 DSCN7256

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I stand corrected!

I am shocked at three things. First, of course, being wrong. Second, five million people in Michigan voted! That's almost as amazing as the number of them that voted for the medical marijuana initiative, despite the terrible billboard mentioned below! 60%!

Unfortunately, I stand corrected on the post immediately prior to this one!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Medical Marijuana is Doomed

While driving through Lansing today, I saw a billboard encouraging voters to vote for a "medical marijuana" initiative.  It took only seconds for me to realize why the initiative is doomed.  Let's analyze for a moment.

This billboard probably costs $600 each month, plus the setup cost.  Obviously someone really put some resources into it.  The idea is to get the public behind the initiative.  However...

If that's the case, it would probably be best if the website at the bottom of the ad were something other than a hydroponics supply shop.  It would make sense to invest the money in a proper domain name...something like or something similar.  Likewise, it would be smart to steal from the BCBS playbook and have a plain white sign with pastel, neutral writing on it.  Psychedelic purple background with green pot leaf covered writing probably conveys the impression that whoever designed and paid for the sign was, well, stoned man.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

For Sale: Two Cats, Slightly Used

At the height of the animal boom, we purchased two cats with an exploding PAW under the assumption that the cats would only appreciate.  After the Great Pet Crash of 07 we found ourselves saddled with maintenance fees that we couldn't afford, and then the exploding PAW increased.

For the last several months we've been unable to keep up with our feline mortgage and are being foreclosed, so now we're forced to sell at rock-bottom prices.  For the pair, we could part with these two cats for the fire sale price of only $599!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How Do They Do It?

At precisely 8 AM this morning, my paycheck was automatically deposited into my checking account.  At about 8:01, most of it was automatically taken back out.  Reflecting upon this, I reminded myself that Aimee and I have been financially fortunate.  We hardly live in excess, but we keep our bills paid, our home repaired, and our cars running.

Next I wondered, how do other people do it?  We're fortunate, so how do the not-so-fortunate get by?

On the way home, this question slipped my mind while I muttered various oaths about Washington Fat Cats while listening to the radio.  By the time I picked Evelyn up, I had completely forgotten my "ghost check" from this morning.

For the past several weeks our neighbors have been scarce.  This evening, they were home.  I didn't have time to say "Hi" while unloading the car, but later on I stopped by to chat.  When I queried about my neighbor's scarcity he replied "We're being foreclosed on."  His response saddened me, as we've enjoyed these neighbors very much.  One of them lost their job, and they were unable to keep their home on a single income.

Out of twelve houses on our block, this is the fourth one which is empty.  It is the second house in foreclosure, and there is at least one on the adjacent block.  I strongly expect another on our block to enter foreclosure shortly.

Usually I grumble about poor fiscal management when I hear of a foreclosure, however these folks didn't have a huge house or a pair of new cars.  How are those other, less fortunate folks doing it?  They aren't.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happiness, Meditation, and Multi-Tasking

Multi-tasking does not seem to be the buzzword that it was a couple of years ago.  That is a good thing.  Multi-tasking is good for machines, bad for people! 

Most of us have experienced anxiety as a result of too many responsibilities, obligations, or too much thinking.  The solace of meditation brings relief to a cluttered mind, but meditation is too encumbered.  Taking time out of an already busy schedule to explicitly do nothing is downright bizarre. 

Quite a while ago I had a book which espoused the benefits of "Zen driving".  That's right...enlightenment through driving a car.  The book was not as strange as it sounds.  The gist was that one may achieve a meditative state by immersing themselves in a mundane task.  My Zen driving is usually Zen soldering or Zen programming.  They both lower my blood pressure and make me a much happier person.

What then, about this multi-tasking.  If the act of uncluttering our thoughts brings about stress relief, what is the effect of multi-tasking on our stress level?  My conclusion is that to multi-task means to be perpetually interrupted.  Constant interruptions create a clutter of thoughts, and a clutter of thoughts leads to higher levels of stress.

The next time you're at the office you might consider setting your phone to "Do Not Disturb" and closing your email.  It may do wonders for your blood pressure!

Stanching Greatness

This month's issue of Men's Journal (October 2008, p. 30) has an interview with Thom Beers, creator of such television staples as Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers.  Think what you wish about the quality of his shows, there is little denying that he is a superstar amongst film-makers.  He is talented and driven, to be sure.

There were a number of things in the article that indicate Thom may be of questionable moral character.  Having found myself glued to many of his shows, it did not surprise me to discover that he is a "colorful" personality.  He did, however, mention something that really resonated.

"Thank God Ritalin wasn't big when I was a kid or it would have calmed me down and I'd be a middle manager at a car lot."

His statement makes me wonder how many great people we have lost to the complacency afforded by legal modern drugs.

"Magician's Next Stunt Could Leave Him Blind"

The above headline on CNN.Com reminded me that I need to call my Grandmother. 

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Great Product for Anyone Who Cuts Paper

Several years ago, my wife and I visited my brother in New Mexico. His neighbor had the coolest thing I had seen in quite a while. It was a vector printer, alternatively called a vector cutter. He used it to cut out vinyl masks. He would then put the mask on a piece of glass or wood and sand blast it.

The device was intriguing. After checking on the price of such a device, I decided that perhaps they weren't for me. For years I kept checking back on the price, itching to buy one. Then something odd happened while I was slumming around Michael's or Hobby Lobby. I found the Cricut.

The Cricut is a vector cutter aimed at people who probably don't care much for computers. People who make scrap books, cards, etc. It seemed like a good birthday gift for Aimee, so I got her one. It is amazing. In fact, the only complaint I have about it is that the ladies featured in the "getting started" DVD are scary. Real scary.

Normally paper cutting would be done with a die. Dies are expensive, and they only let you cut one size. The Cricut lets you scale any pattern in its library. Unlike most vector cutters, the Cricut lets you use a normal piece of paper instead of a roll. Just stick the paper onto a sticky cutting board, feed the machine, position the cutter, and press "Go".

The machine is daunting at first, but after a few minutes its use becomes second nature. The designs that you can cut are stored on cartridges that must be bought separately. They are expensive, but as I noted before, they replace very expensive dies. It is surprising what a great value an $80 cartridge really is.

Vector cutters can do a lot. They can cut paper, vinyl, pictures, etc. These materials can then be used on a myriad of projects. For example, you could make screen cutting masks using only construction paper and fiberglass window screen. You could use vinyl and create stickers or masks for sand blasting.

The best thing about this product is that it's portable. No computer to fuss with, no boxes of dies. Just one machine and some small cartridges. It's right at home on the craft table. It isn't often that we find a product that was thought out so carefully. I'd buy another one without a second thought...and I might even let Aimee use it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Making Great Products

Have you ever wondered how great products get created?  If you have ever worked with a marketing department, I'll bet that you've cursed them at least once.  Marketers are forever promising the impossible...but more often than not, it seems that the impossible is what gets delivered.

A couple weeks ago, Fawaz Gruosi of Grisogono was featured in Men's Journal (June, 2008).  In the article, he describes a new idea for a watch.  This watch is a mechanical digital watch.  It requires regular winding, but has digits on the face instead of analog hands.  You can imagine the meeting when he dropped this idea on his engineers.  First, of course, they laughed.

He was serious, though, and he wanted his watch.  "My strength is not having a notion of the difficulties behind the ideas", he remarked for the interview.

Sometimes greatness requires ignorance.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Changing The Guard

Changing of the Guard

The first applications of Information Technology involved highly numeric calculations. The original guards of I.T. were scientists. As business accepted the new tools offered by technology, these tools were often applied to accounting related tasks. Today, we still abide by the incorrect notion that I.T. employees should be computer scientists. Take a look at a few job descriptions and you’ll note that many employers think that they want I.T. employees with computer science degrees.

They are dead wrong. While technically minded people are often hired into I.T. positions because of their knowledge, it is an aptitude of another sort that can change from Old Guard Information Technology into Integrated Technology. Technology staff should have excellent communications and business skills. Most technology skills can be acquired, but it seems as though technically gifted staff often lack either the interest or the capacity for communications.

Perhaps because of its mysterious, highly technical beginnings, Information Technology commands tight control over its subjects yet often fails to deliver exactly what its customers need. Internal customers are faced with a conundrum. They are required to use their computers, yet they are often severely disciplined for misusing them. This leads to a communications schism between I.T. and its internal customers. Staff who are afraid of misusing a tool have little chance of mastering it.

When I was in college for my programming degree, a systems analysis text declared that Information Technology should hold a place in the corporation which acts at an executive level. Of course, that text was written by an I.T. professional. In a perfect world, perhaps I.T. would hold such a position. Reality, though, requires something a little different.

Since highly technical staff are usually hired into I.T. departments, their business acumen is typically inversely related to their technical skills. These people are frequently the last people that a company may wish to introduce to a customer. The detrimental effect of this situation is that technology is often explicitly avoided by executives, despite the fact that they stand to benefit from its use. Perhaps the situation is such that using technology is more difficult than not using it. Not because of technical problems, but people problems.

It is time for a new perspective on technical staff. Why should businesses hire technically trained people, if they need business people? They shouldn’t. Perhaps every I.T. department will require some highly technical staff, however those staff who interact with internal customers should be selected specifically because they have more empathy than technical expertise.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Road to Happiness

Seth Godin wrote recently about the job of marketers.

What you have doesn't make you unhappy. What you want does.
And want is created by us, the marketers.

Someone must want (or need) a product in order to buy it.  It is the job of the marketer to create the desire (want or need) for the product. 

Toaism tells us that one may experience peace (happiness) in the absence of desire.  Does it then follow that we can increase our happiness by cutting off the barrage of marketing messages we're exposed to on a daily basis?

Aimee and I watch almost no television.  Perhaps three hours per week.  We live relatively modestly, but we're hardly free from desire.  I subscribe to a number of electronic magazines, and (of course) they are choc full of advertisements.

While avoiding marketing messages might lead to greater happiness, is it really practical?  When we think about the products we purchase and our overall happiness, I think it becomes clear that most purchases do not increase happiness.  We still keep making purchases though, as if transfixed by the never-materializing promise of happiness.

Monday, August 18, 2008


The other morning I got in my car and immediately thought "Gee, why is my radio bezel on the floor?"  The answer, of course, is that my radio was stolen.  Again.  This routine is getting old.  This time I didn't have my doors locked, but I'm not sure if that cost me a radio or saved me another broken window.

As I sat at my office desk, fuming, I finally concocted a plan to defeat radio thievery once and for all!  Wasting no time, I went to the Bazaar and found something better than a radio.  It was a small, 12 volt amplifier with volume, bass, and treble knobs.  It was $14 plus shipping.  Of course, it was in China, so shipping was $15.  Perfect.  It isn't a radio, but it can play my satellite radio and Aimee's iPod.  The best part?  Even a low life thief won't want to steal this thing!  A person would have to be crazy to want it! (Erm, don't take that literally)

When my new toy arrived, I was giddy.  Aimee picked up a radio harness for me, and I set about wiring up my new "radio".  When I finally got out to the car, humming "Into the Wild Blue Yonder" under my breath, my happiness was short lived.  Despite the label on the wiring harness, it did not in fact fit a Kia Rio.

Today I exchanged the harness (naturally the guys at the store didn't believe that it was the wrong harness until they had also stymied themselves on my car).  This evening I got my car amplifier installed at last.


Now, in case you are uninitiated...Chinese style seems to favor loud.  Gaudy, I mean.  When I first unpacked this thing, I noticed a clear bezel around the volume knob.  "Great", I thought, "probably a calming green LED is behind that."  When I turned on the amplifier and hooked it up to my Sirius receiver, my initial reaction was not "Hey, that sounds ok" was "Is this thing going to give me seizures?"

In case there was a danger of it getting stolen, I'm pretty sure the flashing light will put the kibosh on that.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Thursday, July 24, 2008

There is little good sense that circumstances cannot pervert.


The Insomniacs' Union

As a teenager, I frequently arrived home late at night or stayed up late-especially on the weekends.  My grandmother lived with us, and it was not infrequent that I would run into her at two in the morning, making herself a snack in the kitchen.  Her complaint was always the same.  She had "leg cramps".  It wasn't until I started experiencing my own "leg cramps" that I realized she probably had what we now call "restless legs syndrome".

My own sleeping habits are now similar to my grandmother's.  It isn't unusual for me to get up after trying to sleep for a couple of hours and hang out in the kitchen.  Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and need to move about.  If I exercise during the day, my legs don't usually bother me at night.  Failure to run or bike is almost a guarantee for sleeping problems.

The past two nights, our daughter has woken in the middle of the night, gotten out of bed, and come to find her Mom.  Should she and I start a union for insomniacs?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cooking With Evy

"Dada!"  Although I had barely gotten the door closed behind me, my 21 month old daughter was eagerly beckoning to me.  She and my wife were sitting on the bench at the kitchen table.  Actually, she was standing on the bench.

My wife looked wryly at me and said "Welcome to cooking with Evy."  I was a bit confused, but I approached the table for further instructions.

"Dada, nee" she said emphatically while patting the bench next to her.  In case you don't speak Holbrook vernacular, nee clearly means "sit".  I did.  It was then that I realized what I had walked into. 

The child had a frying pan on the kitchen table, and she was making good use of it for "cooking" a scone that she rescued from my wife's purse while snooping.  The poor scone had seen better days.  It was freshly salted and peppered (did I mention that it was a blueberry scone?), and some water had been splashed on it for good measure.

While I looked on in fascination, she used a spatula to shuffle the goopy mess around the pan.  Apparently she had commandeered the scone, then she liberated the frying pan from a cupboard and arranged them on the table.  Finally, she was forced to ask her mother for the spatula.

"Dada!"  My attention refocused on the poor scone.  She was pointing at it.  Clearly she intended for me to try her delicious creation.  There was no way I was eating even a little bit of soggy, salted, peppery scone.

"Why don't I let you have the first bite?" I asked, while turning the offer back to her.  She laughed maniacally at me.  Clearly that was out of the question.  In fact, I could tell by her laughing that her serious insistence that I try the scone was a rouse.  She had already tried it, and she was just trying to find another sucker to suffer through it with her.

A Cornucopia Of Father's Day Goodness

What an awesome weekend!  When you're in school, and working full time, it is amazing what a psychological drag school can be.  My current class isn't difficult, but it is ever-present.  Friday I took the day off from work and wrote my final paper.  The rest of the weekend was correspondingly so much nicer!

On Sunday, I got the royal treatment.  Pancakes for breakfast, corned beef for dinner, a canoe trip, and a bike ride with my two favorite ladies.  They also picked up the Sports Illustrated Wings\Stanley Cup magazine and the coolest book ever (perhaps).


The Boy Mechanic Makes Toys actually has plans for making a toy steam engine.  Yes, it actually uses steam.  The book also contains detailed plans for making an ice boat.  Not a miniature one, a full sized one.  When Evelyn gets just a bit bigger, we are going to have way too much fun with the book.

As if that weren't enough, Aimee made time for me to tinker last night as well.  I drilled the 144 holes for one of my new projects, finished a circuit design, and printed the circuit.  Twice, actually.  While waiting for the printing process to finish I also connected my recently assembled Hobby CNC Driver Board to one of my stepper motors.  When I turned on the power, the motor tensed up.  It was a shock.  Nothing ever works the first time.  So I plugged the board into my computer.  After rooting about for the right software, I finally dredged it up and tried it out.  After some mild swearing I realized that I was pushing the wrong button.  The board worked perfectly on one axis, and I suspect the other two will also work just fine.

To top it all off, we even got to bed at a mostly reasonable hour and had time to read.  A completely perfect day!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

DevTeach 2008, Toronto!

Yesterday was the first day of DevTeach 08.  Actually, it was the pre-conference.  The session I did was really great, although it was very long and dense.  The instructor had planned an 11 hour session and had to compact it down to only 8 hours.

When I arrived yesterday morning for the session, I came down the escalator to the conference level.  There was a great spread of coffee, rolls, donuts, and juice.  The first thing I noticed was that everyone hovering around the food tables was wearing a suit.  Then I noticed the fellow shooing the hungry geeks away from the table.  Apparently there was a law firm conference yesterday.  The contrast of processionals made me smile.

It's all about the service

Last evening we had dinner at a nice restaurant.  We wouldn't have stopped, except the hostess was outside and she flagged us down to chat with Evelyn.  After wandering back and forth a bit, we came back to the restaurant because she was so nice.  The hostess and waiter were both saints, which is a good thing because Evelyn was far too tired last night.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Is this good?

The obvious question is "If your short attention span prevents you from swiping a credit card, should you be driving?"

Maybe if we raised the bar, instead of lowering it, attention spans would be climbing instead of declining.  Practice does make perfect, after all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Lesson On Fairness

For the past couple of weeks I've been taking a business writing class.  Since the class began, I've been really frustrated.  Instructors in the past have spoiled me by returning assignments within a day or two with very complete feedback.  This instructor has a different, more ethereal style.  This afternoon I received an assignment back and promptly complained about my grade.  Worse yet, I actually opened Excel and figured out what the grades for the class must be based on my grade, the number of students, and the class average.  Guess what?  I probably didn't get the grade I should have.

Guess what else?  My perspective is seriously skewed in the wrong direction.  As I laid in bed a few moments ago, fuming, something popped into my head.  This morning I visited the Easter service at a facility for young people who have made some bad choices, and had run-ins with the law.  The pastor looked over the assembly of rough and tumble youngsters and declared "Guess what?  Life isn't fair."  He's right, of course.  Sir Isaac Newton never discovered the "Universal Law of Fairness" because there isn't one.

The chance that I will fail this course is slim.  If I manage only 50% on the remaining assignments, I should pass.  My current cumulative GPA is 3.95, so one stinker grade won't kill me.  I've got a great career, a family, a home, health, and happiness (most of the time).

Meanwhile, I sat amongst 100 or so rightfully angry young men this morning.  Men who do not know fairness.  They do not have prospects for rewarding careers.  Many do not have families, homes, or happiness.  Most of them will not attend college at all, let alone twice.  Their lot has been unfair, and their prospects don't look good either.

So, about that fairness.  Perhaps I'm long overdue for a dose of the unfair.  Perhaps I should remind myself that twenty minutes from here there are a couple hundred young men who would gladly trade their version of unfair for mine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Missed Opportunity

Tuesdays I have lunch with a young man at a local school.  Since the beginning of the year, we've missed quite a few lunches.  Some days he has a difficult time staying in school the entire day.  It has been frustrating from time to time to show up at the school, only to find that he just left.

Today I arrived at the school and gave the secretary a quizzical glance.  He smiled and told me that my lunch partner was in school.  Excellent.  I signed in and started trekking up the hall, only to nearly stumble over the gentleman I was en route to visit.  He shuffled by and explained that he was going home.

I walked to the office with him, chatted a bit, signed out, and left.  At the time, it felt a bit awkward to talk to him in the office with all the hubbub off the office going on.  On my way back to the office, I realized that I failed to recognize an opportunity.  Instead of leaving, I should have sat in the office and waited.  At the very least, it might have cheered my dejected lunch partner a bit.  More importantly, he would have realized that my evaluation of him isn't tied directly to his school performance.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Just Say No to Brand Molestation

When I'm in the mood for a soft drink, I want a Coca-Cola.  People who work at chain restaurants are uniformly afflicted with a disease which causes them to ask a silly question sometimes when I request my soft drink of choice.  "Pepsi?"  No.  A Pepsi is not an acceptable substitute for a Coca-Cola.  Bring me a water for which I will not pay.

The reason so many restaurants offer only Coke or Pepsi is that these enormous companies have excellent marketing departments.  They cut fantastic deals with restaurants, granting them exclusive access.  Sometimes...they own the restaurants.  Smart, but annoying for consumers.  We're basically held hostage, molested, by these huge brands.

FedEx regularly pulls a similar routine on me.  Sometimes I order products from companies which suffer from acute idiotitis.  The symptoms of this affliction include, among other things, the complete inability to tell the difference between a respectable shipping company and an incredibly shoddy one.  FedEx falls in the latter group.

Several years ago, I ordered a lot of products through the mail.  FedEx visited my house so often that I signed a slip indicating that I no longer wanted to be bothered signing for deliveries.  The reason is quite simple.  In order to afford products, I have to work.  If I'm working, I can't sit at home on my duff waiting for FedEx to show up so I can write "X" on the signature line.

It worked.  For a while.  For some reason, FedEx offers a completely counterintuitive, asinine service to shippers.  They can request that I have to sign for packages no matter what.  Since I'm paying the bill, that makes me really angry.  Literally every time someone uses this crappy shipping company, I end up with a signature slip taped to my door.  This inevitably adds another day onto the delivery time.  Does it make sense that the end consumer can do nothing about this?  No, but that's what brand molestation is all about.  Taking choice away from the consumers.

Go Brown.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Hockey Tree

Ever wanted a tree that could grow really funky smelling hockey gear?  Me either.  I'd prefer one that grows fresh hockey gear.

The problem with playing hockey is that your gear gets really really nasty.  It's expensive, and it doesn't wash up well.  I dare you to put a set of shin guards and hockey pants in your washing machine.  If you do something really, really silly, like leaving your bag in the car for a couple weeks you can guarantee that it will mold.  Unless its winter, in which case you get to wear frozen gear that goes instantly from cold to wet.

Since my wife and I both play, we have a problem.  Our gear needs to be dry, but it smells really bad and will probably always smell really bad.  We used to strew it around the living room overnight night and put a fan on it.  We had to stop when the neighbors across the street started complaining about the smell.  Through two sets of closed windows.

We needed a good way to dry our gear without wasting a lot of space.  The obvious solution was to buy a rack for hockey gear.  I'm too cheap though, so I made a custom hockey tree for about $10 out of 5/8" dowels and a set of 2x4s.


The Extremists

This is prime stuff. 

Permanent Link to Clear your desk of family photos-

What's really great is that the point of the article isn't to tell people to clear their desk of family photos.  In fact, the question is posed "how many personal items should a person have in their office".  The question wasn't "Will I lose my birthday if my boss sees a picture of my wife on my desk?".  As it turns out, the suggestion is that only 1 in 5 objects should be of a personal nature.  Once again, why the "Clear you desk..." bit? 

I can only assume that it was to drum up readership.  Which it did.  It worked on me (obviously), and I want my five minutes of life back.  What reasonable person has a greater personal item ratio than 1:5?   Oh wait...I had a very nice boss who's office was nothing but personal items.  Perhaps I'll send the article to him.

Friday, February 1, 2008


During 2002 I gave some consideration to joining the National Guard.  Fortunately for me, it wasn't financially possible.  Fortunate not because I did not serve to protect my home, but fortunate because I would probably have been deployed to a middle eastern hornet's nest. 

Using the National Guard for a foreign war was a bad idea.  I'm sure there are plenty of people like myself who would like to make themselves available for emergencies within the United States, but are unwilling to serve in Iraq.  After all, the guard is a perfect tool for providing assistance during natural disasters.

Apparently the war in Iraq is putting such a strain on the National Guard that their supplies and equipment are running low, impeding their ability to even train new troops (  Perhaps it's time to reconsider using our reserves for initiating wars?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What are we paying for?

More than once, I have claimed that bad things happen when members of our government start getting along.  My position has been that we're better off when the government is at a full stalemate.  Need proof?  Get it from CNN:

Now, don't get me wrong...I really like the idea of paying $1200-$1500 less in taxes.  Unfortunately, our government really needs that money, and I'm pretty sure that by this time next year...all the recently unemployed people are going to wish that their government benefits could last just a little bit longer.

The idea of forestalling a recession via an economic stimulus package is curious, at best.  If we examine how long our interest rates have been at rock bottom, we might get the impression that perhaps this problem has been brewing for quite a while.  In fact, I seem to remember a movement toward "patriotic spending" just after 9/11. 

The problem is that we've been living on funny money.  People cashed out the "equity" in their homes, and spent it.  In the post 9/11 days, housing seemed like a safe investment, so people dumped money into it.  That inflated prices, thus creating phantom equity that people cashed in for real money that they wasted (for the most part).  The major problem is that those same people expected to sell their homes for a profit later on and "upgrade", but of course that can't happen now that prices have adjusted.

So, please explain to me how a one time payment of $1200 per couple is supposed to fix the last 7 years of rampant spending?  That wont even make a single mortgage payment for most of our overextended home owners.  I'm quite certain that I would appreciate that money much more if it were financing my soup kitchen in say, 11 months.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Know What You Want.

Last evening when I arrived home, I fairly oozed into my seat at the dinner table.  Completely exhausted for no seeming reason.  Winters in Michigan can be trying.  Due to the ever present cloud cover, the days seem even shorter than they really are, and it's quite cold.

After dinner, my 16 month old daughter waddled up to me and tugged on my pant leg.  When I looked down, she raised her arms and said "Up".  Never one to disobey a direct order, I complied.  Once she was sitting securely on my hip, she had another demand.  She turned to the room and said "Bye Bye".  It was perfectly clear what she wanted.  She wanted to go for a walk.  It was cold and dark, and I was feeling sorry for I distracted her in hopes that she would forget this walk business.

My plan seemed to be working, until we stopped actively playing.  She disappeared for a few moments, then reappeared with her boots.  She dropped them at my feet and declared "Bye Bye"!  So we took our very cold, dark walk.  About halfway through, she stopped walking, and stared up at the sky.  It was the first time she had really taken notice of the moon, so it turns out that the cold and dark walk was well worth the trouble.

Knowing what you want is the first step to getting what you want.  As luck would have it, I had an opportunity to apply the lesson learned last night.  After interviewing with a potential employer, the employer declined to offer me the position.  There was another opening, though, about which the employer inquired if I had any interest.  In light of my recent lesson, I opted to steer clear of the diversion and remain focused on my goals instead.