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Archive for November, 2011

God is not Aladdin the Genie

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Some people treat God as if He were Aladdin the Genie who will grant them all of their wishes of fame and fortune. It is a hard thing to understand given that the Bible makes it clear how difficult it will be for the rich man to get into heaven.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Source: http://bible.cc/mark/10-25.htm

There is so much focus on wealth and the outward appearances of success in our society that it nearly impossible for many to view God as anything but a magic genie, wizard or cosmic Santa Claus.

We are so privelged just to be here on this earth. God has provided us with so much already and does more on our behalf than we could ever imagine, yet we selfishly demand more and more.

It might seem extreme to say so, but God doesn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t live in a bottle that we found washed up on the beach. He isn’t so grateful that we rubbed the bottle so he could come out and see the light of day.

I don’t claim to know the mind of God, but I am fairly sure that he doesn’t spend His days worrying about your bank balance, the next promotion, a bright shiny car, etc. I believe God loves us and deserves our love and respect. I think that the universe runs on love and that much of life is like a reflection. If we give hate, hate is returned to us. If we lie, we are lied to. This isn’t true in every instance. There are plenty of cased of good people meeting an unjust fate. There are plenty of instances where an evil person received many unjust rewards. It’s beyond our simple understanding.

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Get help from a friend of a friend

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Was just browsing my news feeds and ran across an article from Mashable regarding Socialisting:

http://bit.ly/tD9XXF

First off, Socialisting is not a social network for Socialists. Socialisting lets you tap into your friends via Facebook, and their friends, to help buy and sell stuff, find jobs, find an apartment, etc. Haven’t tried it out yet, but it sounds like a good way to leverage your social network into a trusted network.

One of the difficult things about some online sources such as Craigslist, eBay, etc. is that you don’t always know who you are dealing with. The same can be true with a friend of a friend, but there is a higher level of confidence if a friend recommends someone as trustworthy than if you merely meet someone through chance.

Check out the Socialisting site by clicking the link below:

http://www.socialisting.com/

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Expanding the Twitter Circle

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

The other day I received a mention from Evion.org on Twitter. It was kind of an interesting Tweet, as it was forwarding me a Tweet, and link from another Twitter user. Most times I would probably not bother to check such a message out, but it piqued my curiosity, so I followed the link to learn more.

Essentially Evion is a service that lets you discover interesting Tweets and also be discovered by others. It works as follows:

Evion works by continuously monitoring your tweets as well as the tweets of other users and connecting, in real time, those users that share information interesting to each other. Evion uses machine learning to find tweets that may be interesting for you as well as to find people that may be interested in certain your tweets.

From what I have seen so far, it seems that Evion’s approach is pretty focused. It forwards one or two of my Tweets, in a fairly focused manner, to people who will likely have an interest in them. That is a good thing as most people don’t want to be bombarded with a bunch of irrelevant (or even relevant) messages all day long.

Not sure what Twitter thinks of this service. It would be interesting to know. Evion appears to have set up multiple Twitter accounts to send out messages.  Overall, it seems like a good service and does a nice job sending relevant Tweets.
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Linux Mint 12 “Lisa”

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Going to try out Linux Mint 12 “Lisa” on a spare computer that has been sitting around doing nothing. Currently have another computer running Ubuntu Linux. Plus I have another computer running Windows XP. Yes, my computer equipment is getting outdated, but I haven’t been able to justify the cost of upgrading.

Once Linux Mint 12 is installed and operating I will give it a quick review and let you know what my impressions of it are. Hopefully, it works well as I am not at all pleased with my Windows computer. The Ubuntu Linux machine is better, but it tends to run more slowly the longer I leave it on, and I’m not in the habit of turning computers off on a daily basis.

Just really need a machine to do simple things like surfing the Internet, printing the occasional document, and maybe some simple applications. Otherwise, I tend to lean toward accomplishing most other tasks on a tablet or smartphone. Eventually, I see myself spending virtually no time on the Windows or Linux machines. Instead, will likely try to do everything on tablet and smartphone. Document storage will all be on “the cloud” with critical documents backed up to a USB flash drive.
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The Future of the Economy and the Confirmation Bias

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Every day, you can read an opinion somewhere, validating your own regarding the economy.  Charles Hugh Smith writes convincingly about investing and the confirmation bias:

http://bit.ly/uIdmFE

“The vast majority of commentators implicitly express an emotional attachment to the USD. Establishing an emotional bond with a trade is an excellent way to lose your capital. As the trading saying goes: marry your spouse, not your trades. The reason is that once you have formed a love/hate attachment to a trade, then you are willfully blind to any indications that your position might be “wrong” in the sense of being a losing trade.

This is called “confirmation bias,” seeking out information which supports your pre-selected point of view, and ignoring evidence to the contrary. All such biases describe the effects of emotions on the key trading decisions, i.e. form an opinion about future price and then open, close or add to a position.”

You’ll see this “confirmation bias” all over the place – whether someone is discussing investing in precious metals or the stock market. Some believe the end is near for fiat currencies (nearer every day) while others claim Eurogeddon is nigh. The economy is crashing. The economy is recovering. It’s a recession, a depression a recovery. End the FED. Print more money. Stop borrowing. On and on it goes. Some days it there are more opinions than pundits offering them. Like Harry Truman we wish for the one-handed economist so he won’t say, “…on the one hand…on the other hand…”.

We all have a bias. Unfortunately, that bias can easily trip us up. For example, the wisdom that all fiat currencies eventually fall to zero seems as obvious as death and taxes. However, in the short-to-medium-term the U.S. Dollar could easily move higher. The USD Index currently stands at $79.61. Yes, the dollar has lost most of its value since the FED came into existence in 1913, but the dollar isn’t worth zero yet. Will it be? Someday. Is it yet? No.

Some people advocate buying physical silver and gold as a hedge against inflation, deflation, economic collapse, as an alternate currency, etc. They may just be right. The situation in Europe is grave. Governments around the world and their people have sky high levels of debt. Money printing could well lead to inflation or even hyperinflation. Still others point to signs of deflation. Gold and silver have been in a bull market for over a decade. Will it continue? There is a good chance it will. Things could change. If governments finally act responsibly, let debt clear from the system, and begin to allow the true cost of borrowing money to be reflected in the interest rate, then the price of gold and silver could well decline.

All of this speculation doesn’t even take into consideration other unpredictable things where biases enter in. Will the price of oil continue to rise? Will more wars break out? What about another world war? Could some unforeseen financial crisis occur that throws a monkey wrench into everything? The answer to all of these questions might well be yes.

Life is unpredictable. Our past experiences and beliefs influence and color our opinion of present events. We make decisions based on incomplete information and the “confirmation bias” is often used to fill in the blanks. This can be very dangerous. I have certainly paid a financial price for making investment decisions based on incomplete information and preconceptions. In the end, events are subject to interpretation. I certainly have my beliefs about what the future will hold. I make decisions based on those beliefs. At the same time, I am open to the possibility that I may be incorrect. There may be something I have missed. It’s important to seek out information that runs counter to the sources you usually consume and to your own beliefs. That doesn’t mean to change your opinion at the drop of the hat. It does mean, be aware of your own biases and don’t let them blind you to the possibility that the situation may have changed.

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Random Thanksgiving Thoughts

November 24, 2011 1 comment

So, here I sit, sipping a cold glass of brandy egg nog. My wife is laying down on the couch with our little half Cocker Spaniel, half Jack Russell Terrier. We’re watching Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. It’s been a nice day. My wife and I ran some errands and enjoyed each others’ company. We’re in the middle of a few days off – the longest stretch of days we have had off all year long. In fact it is one of the few vacations we have ever spent this many days together.

My wife Silvia and I met back in 1993 when I was deployed with the army to Guatemala. I was a Psychological Operations Specialist and I helped develop anti-drug campaigns – radio spots, billboards, coloring books, leaflets, pamphlets, etc. She was a friend of a local artist who worked for our group. We met in August 1993, were engaged the day before Valentine’s Day 1994, and got married twice (civil ceremony and church wedding) in November 1994. Somehow, through good times and bad, we have weathered the storm and are still together after 17 years.

My father passed away suddenly in September of 2000, but my mother is still alive and well. Tomorrow Silvia and I will go over to her house and have Thanksgiving dinner with her, my sister-in-law Beth and niece, Emma.

I have two brothers. Devin is in the Air Force. He is currently deployed to Korea. He is a medical technician. My other brother Dennis is a doctor who lives in Colorado with his wife Pamela. They have two great kids, Buddy and Jacquelyn. Jacquelyn is studying to be a pharmacist, and Buddy is in the Air Force Academy in Boulder, Colorado.

I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful family. I haven’t always been there for them as much as I would have liked to be. Over the past couple of years I have learned some things about myself, including the fact that I have ADHD. The process has been much like a fog lifting and clarified many things for me. While I don’t want to spend too much time on it, the bottom line is that I understand myself much better than I did a few years ago and some of my behaviors. I have done quite a few stupid things I regretted, but have been able to forgive myself for my mistakes, and hopefully family members have been / will be able to do the same.

Another thing that has impacted me has been the economic crisis of the past few years. It really helped clarify what was important. Before the crisis I used to worry about many frivolous things and spend money on many unimportant things. After the crisis I began to realize that life isn’t really about pursuing money and things. There isn’t a prize for the person who buys the most stuff. What is important is family and friends.

Over the past few years I have been trying to write more. I am really passionate about it. It is a great way to share thoughts with people from all over the world. I love to read about business, economics, politics, technology, current events and much more. It’s interesting to be able to take that information gathered, analyze it and synthesize it into something new.

I recently had the chance to live blog at http://www.sulia.com about the Republican presidential debate. CEO Jonathan Glick and Becca Alpers were very helpful and encouraging and I am grateful for the opportunity.

About 3 years ago I started working for my present employer. It was right around the time that the employment situation started getting more difficult. We recycle plastic irrigation piping used in agriculture. I started out working through a temporary agency and eventually got hired. Since then I went from working on a line, to an assisant shift supervisor and am presently a shift supervisor. My bosses have been extremely supportive and generous to me. They are some of the hardest working people I have ever met. They have also been very supportive and encouraging. It is one of the few places I have worked where I have felt they truly appreciate the work their employees are doing for them.

Silvia has been working at an advertising agency as an Art Director. She is incredibly capable and creative. She is one of the most capable professional people I have ever met. We have both been so fortunate to have good jobs in this tough economy. We have definitely come a long ways from a few years ago when our financial situation was much more precarious.

So far 2011 has been an interesting year. I am grateful to still have so much of my family still with me. I have a wonderful wife, mother, brothers, nephew, nieces, sisters-in-law, aunts and many more than I can mention. I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given. There is so much to give thanks for. Words fail me.

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Post Republican Debate Thoughts

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, 2 hours of Republican national security debate coverage…along with a few hours combined of pre and post-debate commentary. Wow! It’s impressive how so many can spend so much time saying so little – and that’s just the pundits. In general I am impressed (unimpressed really) by how little the candidates seem to know about such an important subject.

A few impressions:

* Cain isn’t very well versed on foreign policy. He hedges his answers all the time. Some argue that he would study the issues and decide. Well, what if the first day on the job something happens and he doesn’t have time to cram?

* Bachmann: I have a hard time listening to her quite honestly. She spends a fair samount of time agreeing with other candidates and occassionally makes a good point. She reminds me quite a bit of Palin in her manner of speaking, which I don’t intend to be a compliment.

* Perry is the Magellan of the presidential field, circumventing the questions he is asked, but never quite making it to the end of the journey. He seems to be getting better during the debates, which considering how bad he was may or may not be saying much. It all seems like too little too late.

* Santorum seems fairly competent but uncharismatic. Quite honestly he doesn’t hold my interest when he speaks. It may be superficial, but he doesn’t seem to have the heft (gravitas) to be president.

* Jon Huntsman: My initial impression of Hunstman, from before this debate was that he was the typical pol. In this debate, he seemed to come out of his shell some and was definitely more in his element. Don’t know that he will win, but this debate will definitely give him a bump in the polls.

* Ron Paul makes sense on many issues. Many of the positions he has advocated are now much more widely accepted among his fellow candidates and Republicans. His debating style is inconsistent. On the plus side, he is much improved in defending his positions. On the minus side, his answers are not always clear to an audience who has not followed his writings and speeches. On a great many issues he has been right, but being right doesn’t always mean winning the presidency.

* Newt Gingrich: Newt has been rising in the polls lately. He has been emphasizing the depth and breadth of his knowledge. Whether or not this is necessarily true, it does seem to have a certain appeal. He appears very firm and confident with his answers and you at least have the impression that he has studied and thought about the issues at hand.

* Mitt Romney: Mitt has a bad habit of having what appears to be a smirk on his face while watching other candidates give their answers. My natural tendency seeing this is hoping someone will wipe it off for him. It’s a pet peeve and someone ought to help him out with this. On the issues, Mitt seems very well rehearsed. He has a long-standing record of changing positions, which Gingrich has been accused of as well. He has been running for president for many years and has the money and network to sustain his candidacy.

In the end, I think the final four candidates will be (in no particular order): Huntsman, Paul, Gingrich and Romney. Soon enough we will see who emerges in the Republican field. Hopefully whoever emerges will have the courage, knowledge, and know-how to meet the challenges that face our country.

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