Posts

Showing posts from 2010

Health Care Law Unconstitutional

A federal judge ruled that the health care reform law is unconstitutional. I’m waiting for Fox News to howl about “activist judges”. Haven’t heard it yet.

Education–We’re Doomed

I read this in yesterday’s NY Times:“…the best of China is now scoring better than anywhere else in the world. America’s 15-year-olds ranked 14th in reading skills, 17th in science and 25th in math, below the average.”What is happening? We shovel money to the schools and our students perform like this?  I couldn’t find any data on China’s spending per pupil in US dollars, but I did see an article that said it is close to the spending levels in Latin America – which I see is less than half of what we spend. Seems they are getting better results than we are.Our high school here in Batavia recently put up a $70,000,000 addition – for a drama auditorium and new athletic fieldhouse. Maybe that’s the problem – we spend more on drama and sports than we do on reading, math and science. Drama and sports will not make us competitive in the 21st century. We have serious problems facing us and we need serious, smart people to tackle them. Technorati Tags: ,

Hoping for Change? I Wouldn’t Hold My Breath… We’re Doomed

From today’s Yahoo News:“Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.”I thought at least these guys could resist spending for a little while. Sure, it’s “chump change”, but that’s not the point. Technorati Tags: ,,

Financial Speculation–We’re Doomed

A generation of our best and brightest have gone from making new things, tangible things, that people need to making deals. Instead of creating the next generation of power, transport and food technologies, our best and brightest are busy with financial speculation, mergers & acquisitions - shuffling around existing wealth into different pockets as opposed to creating additional wealth.  It's this activity, with the support of both parties of our government, that has gutted American manufacturing - and the housing business - the true creators of long-term wealth.I've been curious what the value of financial speculation is. I read, over and over, that it is to provide liquidity. Without the speculators, the markets would have no buyers and sellers and everything would grind to a halt. I think that's an immense exaggeration. I think the truth is more that we, the aggregate of small investors, provide liquidity for them! Our money, in the form of our small individual 401K…

He Kept His Secret in the Toolbox (Fiction)

It was a cloudy day, unusual this time of year in the Caribbean. It was just me and the bartender, but then again, it was 10 AM. He asked how I ended up on the island.“How did I get here? Let me tell you a story.”***Cleaning out my parent's house was the hardest thing I have done in my life. We moved to that house in 1968, when I was 12, six doors down from the apartment building we lived in for the previous twelve years. I had a lot of emotion tied up in that street. My mom and dad passed away within two years of each other. After my dad died, my mom was never healthy. After she died, it was up to my brother and I to search through the house. See, my parents came from the generation that hid cash in radiator pipes, jewelry in the freezer or buried in craft junk in the basement. We had to look through everything.My father had many admirable qualities, but he was not a handyman. He had a toolbox, sparsely filled with a hammer, two screwdrivers, and one adjustable wrench - or so we …

Reform Congress – or We’re Doomed

As many of us do, I get a lot of political e-mails from friends. Some are wacky, but this one I received recently made a lot of sense to me. It was titled the Congressional Reform Act of 2011. Hyperbole aside, I think these changes make a lot of sense:Term Limits: 12 years only - total between service in the Senate or the House of Representatives.No Pension: A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.All members of Congress (past, present & future) participate in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan (IRA, 401K), just as all Americans can.Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.  Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.Congress loses their current health care system and particip…

Alternative Energy

I read today that the U.S. Military is accelerating their research into alternative energy, mostly due to the recent attacks on oil tankers in Pakistan. They see their dependence on oil as a threat to national security. Why don’t the rest of us?

Time

“Time waits for no one…” - Rolling StonesMy father warned me: time will go faster as you get older. He was right. It seems I took the tarps off my porch furniture a few weeks ago and now the leave are turning. Where did the summer go? I still have mini-golf coupons I meant to use – now expired. I thought I had plenty of time. Why is time moving faster? I recall Einstein had something to say about time. I’m not a physicist, but I don’t think he’s going to be any help. It’s in my head. Time hasn’t changed; it’s not really accelerating. My perception of time has changed. Is it because every day feels the same? Have I been in my routines so long that every day just melds into the next? I can do things in the same exact pattern every week, and that makes every week the same. Is the similarity and lack of novelty making time seem faster?It does scare me. It goes too fast now. At this rate, in just a few months of perceived-time I’ll be really old, slower, and less capable.“Hours are like di…

Uh-oh – I go to Yoga Class – I’m Doomed

I read this article on Yahoo today. Apparently some Christian leaders think, and I quote from the article, that “practicing yoga is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus”. Wow.These people slay me. Many of these folks are rock-solid certain that God hates homosexuals, that God is concerned about what we eat on Fridays, that God created all we see in 7 days around 6000 years ago, and now – that God disapproves of my yoga class. Yet, ask these same folks the big questions: Why is there evil? Why does a loving God allow genocide, the holocaust, child molestation, and natural disaster that kill hundreds of thousands? The answer you get is “It’s God’s will”. We’re told that we mere humans cannot begin to fathom God’s plan. Why is God so transparent about petty, stupid stuff – but so vague, mysterious, even clueless about the truly important things?

Health Care Costs – We’re Doomed

We will never get health care costs under control until we start paying the bills ourselves. I don’t care if it’s private insurance or government money, as long as people spend “other people’s money” they will not care about the costs. If we relied on auto insurance to maintain our cars, oil changes would cost $700, not $21.95.

September 24th Quote

No one asked me where the quote came from on my Sept. 24th post. I thought it sounded very tea-partyish. But it was from the 1962 Port Huron Statement authored by Tom Hayden and the Students for a Democratic Society. Others (Trudeau of the Doonesbury cartoon) have noticed strong similarities between the tea party and the 60s radicals in terms of their rhetoric. Though most of the platform diverges considerably, they both seem to share a basic premise that the people don’t need to be told by the “elites” what to do – that it is best if we’re left alone to live our own lives without interference.

We Are Doomed – Great Book!

A friend of mine recently turned me on to a great book: We Are Doomed – Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism by John Derbyshire. I am totally in sync with this guy. I like the use of phrases like “idiot optimism” and “tragic consequences always follow unbridled optimism”. Let’s encourage more people to be homeowners by eliminating down payments and creating interest only loans! What could go wrong? Housing prices ALWAYS rise!I’ve received a couple of requests to republish only one post in all these years – the post on realistic thinking. I think pessimism is properly called realism. I think many pessimistic people are generally happy, as long as their pessimism doesn’t slide to depression or obsessive worrying (which I admit I can slide to if not vigilant). I expect things to get goofed up, so when they don’t, or if they don’t screw up to the extent I expect, I’m pretty happy with the result. His book is largely political, but his philosophy of realistic thinking instead of “sticking-you…

Interesting Quote

“We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love. In affirming these principles we are aware of countering perhaps the dominant conceptions of man in the twentieth century: that he is a thing to be manipulated, and that he is inherently incapable of directing his own affairs. We oppose the depersonalization that reduces human being to the status of things--if anything, the brutalities of the twentieth century teach that means and ends are intimately related, that vague appeals to "posterity" cannot justify the mutilations of the present. We oppose, too, the doctrine of human incompetence because it rests essentially on the modern fact that men have been "competently" manipulated into incompetence--we see little reason why men cannot meet with increasing the skill the complexities and responsibilities of their situation, if society is organized not for minority, but for majority, participation in decision-ma…

Superstitious? Me?

Image
This is the lucky acorn my niece Anne gave me while hiking in Pennsylvania. The day I took it out of my pocket, I started feeling the symptoms of a very nasty cold. Coincidence? Perhaps…

Business Weenies – We’re Doomed

OK. Today I read about the slumping economy in a couple of places. One place was a blog I occasionally read and the other was the Chicago Tribune. The basic problem seems to be that businesses won’t hire because consumers won’t buy. What we have is a lack of demand. What I think we have is a lack of cojones on the part of the free market capitalists. Consumers won’t spend because they are 1) paying down debt, 2) worried about becoming unemployed, or 3) unemployed. Government is tapped out – no more stimulus money. Both the blog and the article said that corporations are sitting on $2 Trillion (yes, with a “T”) of cash due to record profits the last three years. And they are the ones that are afraid? They’re the only ones with the money to make a difference and they are too shortsighted and timid to do anything about it.I’m reading a biography of Henry Ford. He was smart enough to understand that for mass production to be practical, you need mass consumers. So, he paid workers far abov…

More Evidence We’re Getting Dumber – We’re Doomed

This was on Yahoo today, from the Associated Press:“Average scores on the ACT college entrance exam inched downward this year, yet slightly more students who took the test proved to be prepared for college, according to a report released Wednesday. The findings sound contradictory. But the exam's authors point to a growing and more diverse group of test-takers — many are likely scoring lower overall, but more are also meeting benchmarks used to measure college readiness.
...
Three in four test-takers will likely need remedial help in at least one subject to succeed in college, ACT officials are encouraged to see improvement as ever-larger numbers of students take the exam.”
Students are doing worse, getting dumber, but the powers that be are putting a positive spin on it by declaring more students are “ready” nonetheless. The article does not explain at all how readiness is measured, but people are so dumb that no one will think to ask and just accept everything is OK …

Home Ownership

“Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them…I know one or two families, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a generation, have been wanting to sell their houses in the outskirts and move into the village, but have not been able to accomplish it, and only death will set them free.” – Henry David ThoreauI think about this quote when I take my daily walk in our neighborhood and see homes that have had “For Sale” signs up since we moved back here in December 2007. I don’t know who owns the homes now, but they aren’t lived in anymore. Maybe a bank owns them, maybe a corporation bought them when they transferred an employee – either way, what a burden.

Done at 55?

“If they’re over age 55, it’s unlikely they’ll ever be back in the work force.” – Former Secretary of Labor Robert ReichI’m not 55 yet, but I’m awfully close. If my entrepreneurial efforts fail, I will probably be looking for work at 55. I know I’ll have a huge challenge re-entering the employed work force, but I refuse to believe that I’ll never find a job again. This is not just a financial consideration. I’ve realized that I’ll never be ready for retirement. The downtime I incur in my current activities is hard to bear. Once the novelty of not going to an office each day wore off, I realized that “retirement” may not be as appealing as advertised. In fact, the prospect of not doing anything meaningful or useful the rest of my life is very scary and very depressing. I know there are volunteer activities; I’ve tried a number of them. They aren’t engaging enough to replace paid work, even part time work. I miss being involved with others in an effort to build a business. Money is the …

Chicago Artwork: Eye “Sculpture” (Not sure what to call it)

Image

Buy More Junk on Credit! – We’re Doomed

The front page of today’s Chicago Tribune business section has a headline: “Bailing on debt… Consumers are carrying smaller balances on credit cards, so issuers are ratcheting up reward programs to boost use.”I hope we’re, collectively, not so stupid to buy into the credit industry’s pitches and buy more crap we don’t need and pile up debt all over again. Surely we’re not that stupid. Of course today’s Tribune also reported 10 million people watched “The Decision” regarding LeBron James. We’re doomed.

Travel Agents and Self Checkout

I miss travel agents. Once upon a time I was able to pick up a phone and tell someone (usually a woman, but not always) that I want to go to Boston on Thursday after 4 PM and return home on Friday after 5 PM. That is all I would have to say. Magically, tickets would appear on my desk, car rental arrangements would have been made and a hotel reservation would be all ready for me. And, my trip would be on my favorite airline; I would have my aisle seat, and all my frequent traveler numbers would be there. Now, my wife and I pore over various websites searching for the best deals – it can take hours of our time and we’re still not sure we got the best deal.I was at Jewel recently, buying avocados among other things. I chose to use the self checkout aisle, since it appeared the shortest. Of course, that is just an illusion – I’ll get back to that. I put my avocado on the scale and did the lookup thing (there was no little sticker on my avocado with the little code number). Who knew there …

We’re Doomed

A couple of items crossed my path Tuesday that reinforces my feeling that politics is a waste of my time. First, I read an editorial in Barron’s about the financial services bill. In their opinion, it’s 2,300 pages of rules that will increase reporting requirements, but not solve any real problems. They compare it to the Sarbanes-Oxley bill that was passed right after Enron. Sarbanes-Oxley was a gold mine for IT consultants – it made me a lot of money for a while. But, did it really solve any problems?Second, my friend Darrin commented on my previous post. In it he asked a very important question: do I trust Congress to write appropriate, effective laws? Well, based on my experience – no. I get enraged when I hear that they vote without even reading them. Of course, who would want to read them? I downloaded the health care bill (another poorly conceived 2000+ page group of new laws) and I couldn’t read it either. So, I still believe that industry cannot regulate themselves, or control…

I Want to Be a Pure Economic Libertarian, but…

There are some who say they want a totally deregulated business environment. I don’t see how that is possible. I say that because some business decisions (cut corners on underwater oil drilling, create derivative financial products around probable bad mortgages) create collateral damage that the business has not, and cannot, account for. The accounting system (GAAP) has huge holes in it. The cost of an environmental disaster such as we’re encountering in the Gulf could not have been costed when that drilling platform was sent to do its work. The economic fallout (frozen credit markets, bankruptcies, unemployment) could not have been costed when CDOs and CDSs were created. How do you value such calamities?  If you could give it a wild-ass-guess, you’d never drill for oil or create new financial products – innovation would grind to a halt. However, when things do go wrong, somebody has to pay to clean up the mess. And the only “somebody” that can is the taxpayers, through the proxy of g…

Canada the Envy of the G20

There was an article I saw in Yahoo Finance yesterday that said that Canada avoided the worldwide downturn. Their banks are healthy. The experienced 6.1% growth in the first quarter of 2010. They are enjoying the 12th straight year of budget SURPLUSES! Their employment situation is quite a bit brighter than ours.How did they do it? First, they controlled government spending (I guess their government-run health care system didn’t bankrupt them – we must be way dumber than they are). Perhaps as important, through common sense regulation they kept their banks under control. They had reasonable capital requirements and did not allow their banks to sell mortgages to Wall Street, thereby maintaining the risk relationship between lender and borrower. Funny how banks are more careful with their lending processes when they have to worry about the loan’s risk. Duh. Banking is supposed to be boring, safe – not some risky casino-like operation.

Country: the Official Music of VODAG?

I’ve never really listened to country music until recently. Just for kicks, I’ve tuned into our local country station the last few weeks and really listened to the music. Wow. Most everything sucks with these people. I’m seriously considering officially endorsing country music as THE music of the voice of doom and gloom. I may even have to make a trip down to Nashville to see why these folks are SO gloomy.

Why I no longer am a member of the Sierra Club

I was a member of the Sierra Club for years and years. I quit a while ago. They still send me letters all the time with offers to rejoin. I still believe in their overall mission. Actually, I don’t know very many people who do not want clean air, clean water, and some undeveloped land. But I am no longer a member, and will not become a member because they are hypocrites. If you read the Sierra Club magazine, you’ll see a quarter of it (at least) is devoted to eco-travel. They promote sending plane loads of affluent westerners to ecologically sensitive areas of the planet on tours. Last time I looked, planes sucked enormous amounts of fuel and and are not emission-free. Then there’s the fuel and resources used to keep those tourists in comfort once they are there. If they’re serious about saving the planet, they should not be promoting this kind of travel. Sure, the tour operators claim to be ecologically sensitive, but common sense tells me that just leaving the most ecologically sens…

The Nature of Work

"Most (immigrants) are workaholics," Guillen said. "This country can't survive without (them). I'm sorry but a lot of people from this country are very lazy. We aren't. A lot of people from this country want to be on the computer and sending e-mail to people. We do the hard work. We're the ones who have to go out and work in the sun all day long." – Ozzie Guillen – Manager of the Chicago White Sox I read this quote recently in the Chicago Tribune. Ozzie was reacting to the new law in Arizona. But, it caught my attention because I have often been plagued by the thought that the work I do is pointless, occasionally even damaging. I don’t make anything people physically use. I don’t grow anything for people to eat.I now develop websites. Before this, I worked on database development. In some cases I can see a direct cause and effect between a website I developed and a businesses’ increased revenue. But often I question the bottom line value of what I d…

Journalism

From “The Death and Life of American Journalism” by Robert McChesney and John Nichols:“Jefferson: ‘The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.’… Alas, those words have been spoken so widely in so many different contexts for so many different purposes they have lost their power, if not their meaning. The same person can invoke Thomas Jefferson, and then, incongruously and shamelessly, argue that we must allow journalism to collapse, unless rich people can make money providing it, and suggest that by some mad calculus this is the way of democracy.”Will our lives be better if the free market declares that because journalism has no profitable business model it should no longer exist? Will our lives be better if the rich and powerful get to act with no checks and balances whatsoever?

American Journalism

I attended a lecture last night at our local public library. It was “The Death and Life of American Journalism”. The lecturer was Robert McChesney, a professor at Illinois – Champaign-Urbana. His research indicates there are about 60,000 paid journalists in the United States (down from about 130,000 about 5 years ago). About 1,000 are getting fired every month, and he thinks that number will only accelerate as advertising dollars shift to other media and the newsrooms of America become even less economically viable. You do the math: in about 5 years that could mean we have no more free press in the United States.A couple more interesting numbers: according to his research, newspapers today print 70% less ORIGINAL stories than they did 20 years ago. And, out of the stories they do print, 86% were written by PR people, not news reporters. And most of those PR pieces are published unedited, not fact checked. So, the vast majority of our “news” is written by people who are paid to spin in…

Road Trip

Image
I took a little road trip last week. I intended to go to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH, which I try to visit every few years. But, it turned out that wasn’t really the highlight of the trip.TOMMy first stop was Edgewood, Kentucky to visit my friend Tom. Tom has cancer and recently finished 7 weeks of radiation therapy. He looks good and the doctors say the prognosis is good. He finds out June 8th if the radiation worked. There are a couple of things he’ll have to deal with the rest of his life due to the radiation. If the radiation therapy worked, he felt the tradeoff was acceptable. We had dinner with friends from former jobs (Michelle, Garry, and Gene), laughed a lot, and it was fun. Further observation: The Ohio River is pretty impressive. That area may be another road trip candidate.THE AIR FORCE MUSEUMI always enjoy this museum. There was nothing new this year; they had just moved the planes around. A few of my favorites were not available as they are getting ready for the 6…

Speed Kills

I want it now. I deserve it now. God wants me to have it now. We’re in such a hurry and so impatient. I think this is part of the cause of our recent financial troubles. Both the get-rich-quick financial players and home-buyers-that-should-have-waited participated in the debacle. But beneath it all is an impatience to have it all. The recent 1000 point drop in the Dow 30 Industrials is partially the fault of computer trading. Apparently “investors” (can we really call them that?) trade via computers in 1,000,000 share blocks, making substantial money on a penny or two change in the stock price – trading many times per day, often “owning” the shares for seconds. How does this activity benefit American industry, or society? I know it’s an unfashionable question to ask – how does something benefit the common good is not a popular concept anymore. It’s all about “me” now – what’s in it for me seems to have become the only relevant question. And, if I can’t make my fortune NOW, well there …

Water

Image
What is it about water that makes it so calming? I don’t feel comfortable in water – I can’t swim and I get scared when I’m in too deep. But, I love being around it. The sound, the beautiful colors, and the smells all make me feel better.

Another Story Published… Republished Actually

I posted Something’s Burning on the blog last year and now it was accepted at FewerThan500.com. Read it here.

I’m Officially a Published Author

One of my short pieces was accepted for publishing on a site devoted to stories less than 500 words. See my story at:http://fewerthan500.com/?p=150

Wanderlust

What a great word: wanderlust. I start to get feeling this way when the weather gets warm. I want to just hop in my car and drive. I’m not picky about where – just go somewhere.I have mixed feelings about the approach of spring and summer. Sometimes I think of those seasons as “yard-work” season. Maybe my wanderlust is just the urge to escape that work. But, most of the time I think it’s more than that. There’s an urge to hit the road, explore, see what’s in the next town, what’s in that state park I’ve never visited.I think I’ll go to the Air Force museum this spring. I’d also like to visit a friend in the Cincinnati area while I’m down that way who’s battling cancer. I have hopes by the time I get down there he will have found out he’s won. Maybe that will satisfy my wanderlust. For a little while.

Life as a To-Do List

I am between projects. A few of my active clients and business partners have taken the week off for spring break. So, I have little going on this week. My to-do list is sparse.I started working on a little project to get myself off of Microsoft Outlook. I am thinking of a new computer, and I don’t think I’ll spend the money on Microsoft Office this time around. There are too many far less expensive alternatives. For my calendar and to-do list, I decided to go old-school and bought a weekly planner at Office Depot. I transferred my appointments and tasks over this morning (my contact list is another problem altogether, one I am still working on).I’m a list guy. Making lists calms me. Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night a list written at 2:30 AM will shut my brain off and allow me to sleep. Crossing items off my list gives me satisfaction.But, I fear my life may have devolved to my to-do list. Some days it seems ALL I do is what’s on the list. My life lacks spontaneity; it’s too regim…

Deliveryman Fiction

I get lots of odd requests in my business, but this one didn’t really rate high on my all-time list. Picking up cargo at 4:30 in the morning was inconvenient, especially considering the way I spent most evenings, but not really all that unusual. What I found when I arrived at the rundown warehouse was another story.
"Colin. On time as usual," Joe said.
"Hi Joe. Everything set to go?" I asked. Joe is an artist. He  hired me to deliver one of his sculptures to a warehouse in LaCrosse. In my business I didn’t ask too many questions. But, I did wonder why he needed an armored van and an armed driver for a sculpture done by a talented, but still relatively unknown, artist. I noticed the woman standing next to him.
“Who’s she?” I asked.
"Let's go into my office. We need to talk," Joe said.
We walked to the back of the warehouse. I plopped down on the leather sofa in his office.
"Want some coffee?" he asked.
"Who's t…

Gas Prices

When gas prices spiked a few years ago I read lots of whining about the “environmental whackos”. The complaint was that no new refineries had been built in years and couldn’t be built because of excessive environmental regulations.Imagine my surprise when today’s Tribune reported that refiners are shutting down refineries at a brisk clip here in the United States and places with lax environmental regulations. Environmental whackos? Of course not. The refiners are trying to maintain their profits. This isn’t my guess – the article quotes them. They are shutting down refineries, firing workers, all to keep the supply down and the prices up. Logical free market capitalism – and of course, completely legal. But, let’s not hear any more stories that  overzealous people in pursuit of clean air and water are the reason gas prices are high. While I acknowledge environmental regulations have an influence, let’s not overlook corporate profits and CEO bonuses.Which do you think has the greater i…

Unrealistic Positive Thinking

I’ve written on this topic before, so I’ll try not to repeat too much. I think that the peculiarly American brand of gung-ho optimism is partially responsible for our recent economic meltdown. The “What Me Worry?” attitude hurt us. I ran across this quote that I think sums it up nicely:“What passes for optimism is most often the effect of an intellectual error.”Raymond AronI don’t know who this guy is, but I think he summed up the housing bubble / Wall Street idiocy quite well.

Corporations = People?

The Supreme Court, in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, recently ruled that corporations have the same rights as humans when it comes to financing election campaigns. This one ruling overturned dozens of laws, federal and state, going back to 1907. In an astounding act of judicial activism, the Supremes new conservative majority showed us that they will interpret the Constitution as they see fit to placate their corporate masters. Since the Constitution was written to secure HUMAN rights against tyranny, it is unlikely the founders conceived of a situation where corporations would have equal (in many ways, superior) rights to humans. In fact, the word corporation never appears in the constitution, or certainly the Declaration of Independence.
Justice Scalia:
“Most of the Founders’ resentment towards corporations was directed at the state-granted monopoly privileges that individually chartered corporations enjoyed. Modern corporations do not have such privileges, and…

Good Book by Bill Bryson

Once in a while I read a book that makes me laugh out loud. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson is one of them. It’s about growing up in the 50s and 60s.

Expectations and a Better Life

One of my readers wrote that we had to have expectations to have purpose, to improve our lives. I believe goals and expectations are not the same thing. However, it’s still a valid question: can you have goals without expectations? If you have no expectations, does that mean you live a life without hope?

Privilege to Fly? Privilege to Drive?

I read a letter to the editor recently about full body scanners at the airport. The letter writer, in a nutshell, said that “flying is a privilege” so put up with it and shut up. I’ve read similar sentiments from people regarding driving too.I really don’t get it though. It’s a private transaction between two entities: me and the airline. I pay them; they fly me somewhere. So, according to these sheep-like people, the only way that transaction can take place is if government affords me that privilege? NO. I get the need for regulation. If we didn’t have traffic laws, stop lights, air traffic control – there would be chaos and things wouldn’t work as well. But, those who think that the ability to drive or fly from point A to point B is a privilege only granted to us by a government are very sheep-like, subservient losers.

Practice What You Preach

A reader e-mailed me to ask if she could use one of my posts. Of course, I said yes. I’m always happy to have a reader. It was an older post about expectations and as I reread it, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast with my previous post today about the weather. See, I’m angry that it’s cold, gray and snowing. What was my expectation though? It’s February 2nd and I’m in Chicago! Maybe I watch too much TV – seems it’s always warm in tv-land. I truly believe if I could reset my expectations, I would be happier. I’m going to work harder to accomplish this. Thank you reader.

Cold and Gray

I’m so tired of being cold. I’m so tired of clouds. Yesterday’s Tribune said we’re having one of the cloudiest winters (3rd I think) since 1894. I know clouds affect mood. And my mood is lousy. I’m tired of being cold too. It’s been below freezing for quite a while, or so it seems. I just looked at the 7-day forecast and the warmest day is 34 – barely above freezing. I’m tired of cold. I want warmth.

The American Dream – A Scam

Moreover, Altucher says the notion that buying a home is a ticket to financial security is a "scam" perpetrated on the American people by corporations seeking to keep us in debt, less mobile and with the storage to purchase all sorts of needless consumer goods.James Altucher of Formula CapitalThe discussion was about the investment return of a home. Since 1929, on average, a home has returned  0.4% per year. Compare that with stocks at roughly 8%, including the latest nasty downturn. There are so many other expenses involved with a house that you would not spend if you were renting:Insurance premium. Property taxes (which usually offset any tax deduction you get from your mortgage interest). Maintenance (pipes break, electricity problems, etc.). Remodeling costs. Utilities (utilities and maintenance for renters is often reflected in the rental price, but it's not reflected in a mortgage when you own). Yard work, pest control, etc. (again, rents usually have this built in…