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On the Emptiness of Getting and Being Noticed

March 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Via Steven P. Dennis:

I wonder what would happen if we all cared a bit less about looking good and relaxed our grip on the past.

I wonder what would happen if just for a day we abstained from any “hey look at me” activity and spent just a bit more time listening and connecting from a position of compassion and generosity.

I wonder what would happen if we added a few more books to our library and didn’t care whether anyone else knew.

What better time than now?

Full post is here.

Categories: Uncategorized

Draghi, “the wurst is now over”

March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Sausage making

Confirming what many of us already suspected…you don’t really want to know how sausage is made, especially in Europe.

Via The Slog:

“The worst is now over,” proclaimed Mario Draghi yesterday. An excellent comment thread here suggested that this was a misunderstanding, in that Signor Draghi is fond of German sausages, and as he swallowed the last of his snack, said “the wurst is now over”.

But The Slog’s Frankfurt Mole is of a different opinion.

“What we are now seeing,” he began, “is instability in the larger [EU] sovereigns. We always knew this was going to happen, and it is coming to pass. Spain has clearly decided to kick back, and there is an interdependence between Iberia and Italy that is not well understood. We are also going to see massive losses throughout all EU and US banks this time. Further obligations and so forth will then emerge, and for the eurozone it will be the end. Signor Dragi could try and print his way through further bailouts, but we hold all the cards now. Berlin simply will not allow it. It doesn’t matter any more that the [EU] Central Bank is legally beyond the law….it is not beyond reality. The eurozone will shatter once this impasse is reached. In my estimation the situation will be critical before the winter comes.”

Sausages, snausages…one way or the other, with all of the insolvent banks holding worthless assets and central banks pressing CTRL+P over and over, we’re all going to end up with indigestion.

If all else fails, hit CTRL+P

The Fed: In case of emergency hit CTRL+P

 

Ben Bernanke: All is Well!

March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Via The Slog:

Further to this morning’s earlier Slogpost….

The spread between Spanish bonds and DeutscheBunds is now broader than it’s been since mid February. The yield on Spain’s 10-year bond rose to 5.36 percent, also the highest since February. Spain’s borrowing rates rose to nearly 7 percent in November.

But Bernanke says it’s ok, because he’s done his stress tests.

You remember stress tests…..

Well, German bankers think Ben’s backside is doing the talking at the moment.

Well, here’s what I think of Ben Bernanke saying “all is well” with the TBTF banks, and the U.S. and world economy.

Or this (but beware of language and bathroom humor)…

 

Categories: Uncategorized

For the Love of a Dog

March 18, 2012 Leave a comment
Rocco

Yes, I am the king around here.

It always amazes me how a dog will worm their way into your heart. We got Rocco after our Shih-Tzu Herbie passed away after a series of off again on again illnesses. When we told Herbie’s groomer that he had passed away, she offered to let us have a puppy out of a recent litter of puppies for free. So, I went to her house to see what the puppies looked like. Here is what I found…

Rocco looking pitiful

Rocco on our first meeting

He looked just pitiful, but there was something about him that I fell in love with.

So, we brought him home. He looked a little shell-shocked.

What the *#$%?

Where the heck am I?

He was in constant motion.

Good luck snapping a photo of me!

Rocco didn't hold still long enough to take a picture of him

At least he was in constant motion until he wore himself out.

Rocco sleeps

Rocco sleeps

It wasn’t always easy. We were used to a very tranquil and somewhat sickly Herbie, and Rocco was a little ball of energy. At first my wife didn’t like him at all. I told her he would grow on her, but she was not convinced. She wanted me to take him back, but I convinced her to wait.

It’s a little bit difficult having a new puppy around with all the old reminders of the one that passed on:

Herbie with his bowl of food and water

Herbie with his bowl of food and water

Rocco eating out of Herbie's huge bowl

Rocco eating out of Herbie's huge bowl

The new puppy doesn’t take away the pain of the loss of an old friend, but somehow the new life and energy they bring helps you move past it.

Even as a puppy Rocco loved to chew on a ball

Even as a puppy Rocco loved to chew on a ball

Eventually Rocco moved past the cute puppy stage. You can really see the Jack Russell Terrier side of him (the other half is Cocker Spaniel). I was excited when he caught a Frisbee the first time.

Of course, my wife warmed up to Rocco eventually.

Rocco sleeping with my wife

Rocco sleeping with my wife

Each dog, it seems, has a personality of its own. Rocco is smart, playful and full of energy. Herbie was loving, a lap dog, and could have a mind of his own.

As Herbie got older, his hair thinned out. He had a thyroid problem, allergies, and began to have seizures. So, as sad as it was to lose him, at least he finally was at rest with no more pain.

Herbie rests

Herbie rests

We still miss Herbie, and I wonder what they would have done had Rocco and Herbie ever met. I suspect there would have been quite a bit of barking and growling involved.

Rocco has a big personality. As you can see, we like to take lots of pictures of him. He always lets you know he wants something by standing up on his hind legs.

Excuse me, do you have a moment?

Excuse me, do you have a moment?

It always seems Rocco finds the most inopportune moment to let me know he wants to eat, go outside or play. But, for whatever reason, I really can’t get upset at him. He just has a way of making you love him. Just ask my wife.

Rocco with his mommy

Rocco with his mommy

Some Questions for Jackson Kids First

March 18, 2012 Leave a comment
Just the facts.

Just the facts...

I recently noticed some signs around town from Jackson Kids First. Apparently, this groups supports the city issuing a new bond that will extend the current school bond for an as yet unstated period of time. Their flyer I received in my mailbox the other day boldly states “no tax increase!”

So, I headed over to their website and perused the questions section:

What does a no-tax-rate increase mean?

The district maintains an overall tax rate of $3.80 per $1,000 of assessed value.  Approximately $0.33 of this levy is directed for bond payments (debt service).   A no-tax-rate increase means the district can service the existing and proposed bonds while maintaining a tax rate of $3.80.

If the bond issue does not pass, will my taxes go down?

Taxes would not go down if the bond issue does not pass.  The district has existing bonds it must retire with the current tax levy.  The proposed bond issue will ultimately represent an extension of the levy.

Being the curious type of person that I am, I have a few questions of my own that I posted in the comments section of the Jackson Kids First questions section:

  • How many years will the tax rate be extended?
  • What will the interest on the bond be?
  • What is the projected interest that will be paid and how much of the $3.80 per assessed $1,000 valuation will go toward servicing this new debt?
  • With the increase of foreclosures in the area (I live right next door to an abandoned house) will our property valuations be increased to make up the difference? What about the valuations assessed on cars, motorcycles, boats, etc?

Of course, I remember hearing a pledge about no new taxes before…

Campaigns like the Jackson Kids First one are symptomatic of political dialogue and decision-making in the United States and its local communities. The facts are hidden from public view. Sweet promises are made of no tax rate increases. But, there is seldom a full discussion and disclosure of the facts.

I’m sure someone out there will accuse me of hating kids or not wanting them to have a brighter future. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to analyze a challenging situation, evaluate the arguments being made, and develop a situation which resolves the problem in a cost-efficient and fair manner.

There is never something for nothing. Everything has a cost and a benefit. If we direct our spending in one direction, we divert it from another direction. Education is one investment in the future. There are others. When someone asks me to invest, I like to know the costs and benefits. I don’t want clever lines about no tax increases. I want to know the facts – just the facts so I can make an informed decision. If an organization can’t do this with something so basic as funding a new school, they should expect a no vote.

Update 3-19-12

Oh the irony! Jackson Kids First wants to extend our assessed property valuation taxes for an as yet undefined period of time, but it looks like they can’t keep their website up and running. Hmmm…maybe they forgot to pay the bill. Perhaps they were promised even more bandwidth goodness with no increase in their bill. Whatever the case, I haven’t been able to find out yet whether they answered my questions posed above in the original blog post. Maybe it’s just Karma – that’s why when you try to take other people’s money you should give them the whole truth, not just the part you want them to hear. The universe has a way of balancing the account – even turning off your website it appears.

Update 3-23-12

Well, as expected, no answer from Jackson Kids First to any of my questions posed above. I am not easily deterred, so I posted the same question to the Jackson Kids First Facebook Page. I find the Jackson Kids First website and Facebook page annoying – with all the softball questions and answers. It seems to me that educated adults should be able to answer questions in a reasonable amount of time, as well as defend their position and provide supporting arguments for their point-of-view. Since the 1960’s, if not before, our public discourse has diminished greatly. Just look at our politics and the level of debate. Where is the candidate who can carry out a reasoned debate, ask intelligent questions, answer questions honestly, define the costs / benefits / sacrifices of their proposals, etc.? How many of these candidates were educated in public schools.

I was educated in a small public school in Washington state. One of my favorite classes was our humanities honors class. The students were taught to read, write, think, support their arguments, and learn. It isn’t enough to teach facts – student must be taught to think. While the physical infrastructure of education – the school itself, and the tools – textbooks, computers, labs, etc. – are important, the educational process and those who deliver it are paramount. If we are serious about “putting kids first”, then we should invest our effort in ensuring that we deliver the right kind of education that allows children to adapt to a world that is constantly evolving and gives them ability to evaluate and analyze a wide variety of arguments and situations for themselves and render an intelligent decision. Whether we educate kids in a little red schoolhouse, or the most modern school imaginable won’t matter much if we fail them to think for themselves.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Alex, What is Don’t Get Married?

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment
Your love might be in jeopardy without an engagement ring

Alex, What is Don't Get Married?

If I were on Jeopardy, I would have to give Alex Trebek the answer to the question, “How do you save a bundle on an engagement ring?” in the form of a question.

Of course the correct answer is, “Don’t get married.” Too late for me. I got lucky and have been happily married for over 17 years. My wife? Well, you’ll have to ask her if she feels the same. However, I keep waking up alive every morning, and she hasn’t put a lethal dose of arsenic in my morning cup of coffee…yet.

Just in case you were looking to the serious answer to the question of how to save money on an engagement ring, the always informative Gary North, in his Specific Answers, offers some good advice on how to save money on that engagement ring for your honey.

2012: Year of Feeling Inspired

February 25, 2012 1 comment

Don’t really know what happened when the ball dropped on 2011, but something definitely inspired me. Normally, I don’t even bother with New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not an excuse, and I don’t want to crutch out on it, but I do have ADHD. So, you see, my attention span flits, blinks, focuses, blurs and goes in fits and starts. Sometimes I have hyper-focus where I am so narrowly and intently focused on the task at hand that I lose all sight of time – the hours fly by like mere minutes. Other times, just focusing on my wife telling me about her day is more than I can manage – leaving her feeling hurt and alone. So, I didn’t start 2012 with too many expectations, much less resolutions to hang myself with.

So, no one is more surprised than I am that I have started this year more resolute and determined than I have been in years. The year started with deciding that losing weight needed to become a priority. My last few visits to the doctor found my cholesterol to be a tad high. It’s something I have had to deal with for years. There is likely a hereditary component as my older brother had very high cholesterol starting in his mid-20’s, and at least to my recollection, has been taking medication to help treat it for several years. Concentration and waning and waxing interest being an issue, I decided to seek an application for my Android phone to help keep me on track. After a cursory search I selected the myfitnesspal application – to help count calories, plot my weight and keep track of at least some bare nutrition information. Results so far – a 20 plus pound weight loss. It seems the urgency of better health – not only the cholesterol, but the relationship between ADHD symptoms and diet, combined with the enhanced awareness of what I was putting in my body with the help of the app, are making a difference. Additionally, I have also been using the Fooducate app for Android. With Fooducate, I can scan bar-codes while shopping for groceries and get an easy to understand grade of how healthy or unhealthy a particular item is. It’s less tedious than reading the entire product label and the summaries provide useful information and links to ingredient information as well as healthier alternatives.

Another frequent failed promise to myself has been to study the Bible more. And yes, that was something I stared 2011 attempting to read more of. I started February 2011 and didn’t even get through the month before I forgot all about it. So, while I try not to be too hard on myself, it is disappointing to start so many things – including reading the Bible – only too stop so soon after beginning. It’s a common ADHD pattern. I get excited and energized to do something. I start the effort going 120 m.p.h. and either crash and burn or make a turn away from my goal and speed off to somewhere else. Distraction is a constant enemy. Well, while I am not going to say that this time is different, I’ve managed to get about 10% through the Bible so far. I’ve read through the New Testament before, but the Old Testament has always stymied my efforts often feeling like drudgery. Once again, I decided to use an application, YouVersion, to help. YouVersion is one of my favorite applications now. I spend an inordinate – my wife would say excessive – amount of time with my phone and tablet. In fact, she “tricked” me into buying the tablet, convincing me to buy it and share it with her. Little did I know that her master plan was to untether me from my PC (located in our laundry / man cave / hole) in the unfinished part of our basement, so I could at least be in the same room as her when reading, blogging, surfing the net, etc. Soon after I purchased the tablet she said it wouldn’t be practical for us to share it and let me know I could get her a new iPad when it came out. Sneaky, very sneaky – but effective. Anyhow, I have been faithfully following my Bible reading plan on YouVersion, as well dipping my toe in the Scripture Union’s Discovery Extra and Encounter With God daily Bible reading plans. They offer a number of delivery options, including daily e-mail, RSS feed, hard copies, etc. I have really felt a need to draw closer to God lately. It’s hard to explain, but there has definitely been a void in my life that really can’t be filled without Him. I pray I can continue forward with my Bible reading and deepen my relationship with God.

For those who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I read and tweet about economic, business, current events, etc. At the University of Washington, I majored in Political Science with the intention of studying law and pursuing a political career (if you want to call it that). For better (or better), I had great difficulty getting past the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The logic section, in particular tripped me up, although, my then undiagnosed ADHD, likely didn’t help either with the dense reading comprehension. Attempting to study for the LSAT was a constant disaster of lack of focus. Ultimately, I took the LSAT twice with abysmal results.  Not wanting to settle on what I perceived to be a mediocre set of law schools available to me, and discouraged, I gave up what had been my assumed dream of attending law school and began a series of jobs largely unrelated to what I had studied or – to each other – for that matter. My jobs have ranged from being a manager of a Radio Shack to an Army PSYOP Specialist / Airborne Paratrooper to an international sales representative and, currently, a shift supervisor for a plastics recycling company. As you can imagine, it’s a nightmare assembling a resume or going to a job interview. My childhood was spent growing up in and around my parents’ business. They owned a small chain of clothing / variety / hardware stores. I learned a great deal about business, merchandising, marketing, profit, mark-up, etc. during those early years. From that period of time emerged an interest in distribution. Stores like Wal-Mart fascinate me with their expertise is distribution, just-in-time inventory, computerized systems, etc. I also have what appears to be a somewhat handy ADHD trait – an ability to instinctively observe and understand complex systems intuitively. For example, I can walk into a business, understand how it operates and its parts relate quickly, see its strengths and weaknesses, and come up with ideas for it to improve. It’s a cool ability to have, but try to explain to the boss, management, owner, etc. why he should listen to the new guy’s big ideas on how to improve the business after a couple of weeks on the job. They look at you like you have two heads. All of this segues into my current position as a shift supervisor.

As I said, I have an innate ability to understand fairly complex systems (and all at once). I tend to be an observer of people and a synthesizer of information. I’m not afraid to incorporate a clever idea I have observed another worker utilize, put my own spin on it and integrate it into a systematic way of getting the job done. In my current position as a shift supervisor for a plastics recycler, my main focus is production. We have to get a certain quantity of product out the door on a daily basis. This is something I can influence, but can’t fully control. Without going into too many details, we recycle very bulky, heavy plastic. The environment is dirty and this effects our equipment. The work requires significant amounts of water, and the combination of water, dirt and sand always pose the risk of equipment failure. So, a large part of the my time involves watching to make sure equipment is functioning properly, conducting routine on-the-fly maintenance, and organizing the work. Organization / execution is critical. When I was in my 20’s my district manager at Radio Shack, Marlo Gouin, constantly drilled into me the importance of execution. Being young, and thinking I was smarter than I was, I didn’t pay much attention. However, years of experience – and trial and error – showed me just how right Marlo was. In our job, as so many others, execution is critical. If we are to meet our production goals, the work can’t be done helter skelter. Recently, our usually excellent production record, slipped badly. As a shift, and as a group, we failed to hit our goal. Generally, my philosophy as a supervisor has been to provide quite a bit of leeway to workers on the shift as long as we met our production goals. However, it became apparent, that something needed to be done. So, in concert with my immediate supervisor, we made it clear in no uncertain terms, that the current performance was not acceptable, and that the work would have to be accomplished in line with my vision of proper execution. This involved rearranging how work was done and my and my assistant supervisor’s assumption of several critical tasks that weren’t being accomplished by employees on the shift. While I would have preferred that this not happen, repeated efforts to explain the importance of the tasks and suggest ways to perform them more efficiently were not successful. Additionally, rearranging the workload provided a better division of labor and allowed the other employees to concentrate more exclusively on production. So far the results have been quite good, and barring disaster, we will make, and possibly exceed, our production quota for this month.

Another goal that I am feeling my way towards is that of becoming a published author. I’m still puzzling over the aspect of how to present a compelling case and profile, considering my unfocused resume. There are two ideas I am currently considering. One of them would be a Jeff Foxworthy-esue look at things that would result in you being labeled a right wing extremist. The other idea would combine my interest in economics and religion into a study of the economy and morality, analyzing what aspects constitute a moral (or immoral) economic system. Such a treatment would consider aspects such as interest rates, government intervention, fractional reserve banking and the role of central banks in the economy, crony capitalism and government intervention in the economy, etc. Like so many things in my life, the ideas are quite different from each other. On a practical level, I think the first idea about right wing extremism could be more popular and easier to sell. I could possibly leverage my position as one of the top 100 conservatives on the TCOT List, to convince a publisher that I have engagement with a large, interested audience. On the other hand, the treatment of morality and economic, if done properly, could be a valuable contribution to the current economic debate. It would be a more popular treatment. I’m not an economist, and don’t pretend to be one. However, I believe there is a need to present the current economic system in light of its moral consequences, and engage Christians, as well as those of other faiths, to examine our current system in light of their own deeply held beliefs. I’m confident that, if they do, they will find it lacking and will exert significant pressure on their elected leaders to make reforms. Whether, ultimately, such an effort will succeed is a great unknown. It may simply be that the current economic regime will have to collapse under its own weight before something, hopefully better, can emerge.

A final area that has provided inspiration has been supporting causes that I believe in. It is something that has always been difficult for me. So often, I am critical and see every little fault. No one is perfect, no organization is without its own troubles, and there always seem to be petty differences over how to best accomplish any given goal or task. That tendency to criticize often leads me to inaction. I also have a tendency to put things off, thinking that I will support causes I believe in when my own situation has improved. This year, I’m no longer waiting. There are a handful of organizations and causes I have either continued to support or decided to support over the coming years. My support isn’t necessarily conditioned on being in full agreement with everything the organization stands for. Put two or three people in a room and you’ll soon see the futility of expecting them to fully agree on anything. For that matter, there are times I can’t achieve full agreement with myself, much less anyone else. Having said that here is a short list, and summary of some of the organizations I have supported and / or decided to support:

  • DownsizeDC: One of the finest organizations fighting for individual liberty. The have an excellent agenda, as well as a brilliant vision of how to enact their agenda.
  • DownsizeDC Foundation: The non-profit side of DownsizeDC. It puts some philosophical meat on the bones of the DownsizeDC agenda and is a great educational resource.
  • American Bible Society: Seeks to spread the word of God by providing the Bible worldwide to those who want it.
  • Big Picture Learning: Provides a rigorous, engaging learning experience focused on individual students. In an era where so many schools are failing to educate students, and too many student drop out, Big Picture Learning provides a viable alternative to our public education system which too often fails.
  • Libertarian Party: I don’t always agree with everything the LP stands for, but I disagree with even more of what the two major parties stand for. The candidacy of Ron Paul demonstrates that many issues that the LP has brought to the fore are much more popular that the main stream media (MSM) would have led us to believe. I am frequently disappointed with the LP’s election results, and it seems getting its members going in the same direction is like herding cats. Perhaps that’s what happens when you try to order intelligent, strong individual to march in the same direction. Regardless, the ideas espoused by the LP are vital, and the major parties have become such creatures of ever-expanding government and dependably against individual rights, that the LP is needed as an alternative now.

So, the year so far has been one of inspiration and renewal. I am hopeful that progress can be made and do not intend to backslide. There surely will be challenges as always. Two of the greatest personal challenges for me are ADHD and maintaining a close relationship with God (and others). If you read this and believe, pray for me. This year somehow feels different. Perhaps it is the result of years of struggle that have resulted in hard-won experience. Certainly, the diagnosis of ADHD only a few short years ago has provided some much-needed knowledge of self. Knowing both your strengths and weaknesses makes a big difference. The insight into self has been both painful and rewarding. Rethinking who you are, getting feedback from loved ones, and taking a step back and reexamining yourself can be a bit like awakening to find that you have been trapped in The Matrix. I chose the red pill. I choose to live my life fully awake, for as long as it lasts. I choose to face judgment and learn to love myself, my God, and those around me a little better. Despite everything, I still believe I have a choice and that, in the end, it makes a difference.

Update 3-18-12

Just a quick update on how things are going.

First off, I am working on starting an ADHD support group for the Cape Girardeau area. Our blog site can be found here. Also set up a group site through groupspaces. Arranged for a meeting room at the Cape Girardeau public library on May 19th from 1-3PM.

Have also continued to lose weight – around 25 pounds so far.

Been trying to keep up on my reading, including the Bible. I’m not always as diligent as I would like to be, but I’m not doing too bad so far.

In addition, I am keeping up with reading financial blogs and web sites. Also ran across an interesting site, Zignals where I can set up all kinds of different stock alerts. For example I set up some stock alerts that will trigger when a stock’s 50 day moving average climbs above its 200 day moving average. Zignals also has some nice charting capabilities and you can share the charts you create on Twitter. Another interesting feature is the ability to set up a public portfolio and share your trading strategies. You can set a price for your trading strategy and you get to share 50% of the price that you select if someone decides to purchase it.

Work has been going pretty well too. Have reorganized the way some of the work is done and our production has increased dramatically.

So far 2012 has been a good year.