Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricanes as economic growth generators?

I've actually heard a few talking heads on TV talk about how the hurricane currently bearing down on the Northeastern US could actually spur economic activity if it does a lot of damage. On first thought it sort of makes sense, but think about it a little more.

If I owned a house in NJ and I needed to replace 4 windows due to storm damage, I'd have to buy new windows and put them in, so let's say I spend $2000 to do so. If I don't have insurance, I'm spending that money out of my pocket, so while the window guy is getting $2k that's two grand I'm not spending on something else, like a vacation, or a new PC.

If I have insurance, let's say I have a $250 deductible. That's $250 out of my pocket I don't spend on something else, like a weekend out on the town. The other $1750 is covered by insurance, but my rates and the rates of other customers will go up to offset the losses paid out by insurance. Insurance companies are in business to not lose money, just like every other business.

Any money spent means that money isn't spent someplace else. The only way to truly create new economic activity is to create new jobs and new wealth through designing and creating new products which make our lives better, things that truly innovate. A good example is the personal computer revolution. I'm not sure what the next big thing is, and that's too bad, since I'd try strike it rich working on it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Um, how about no?

There are so many things wrong with this story that I don't even know where to start.

This woman, who can't work due to her weight and needs to ride a scooter through the grocery store to gather up the 20k calorie a day menu she eats, wants to reach 1 ton in weight. Since she can't work I'm guessing the taxpayers are funding both her groceries and her current and future medical care necessitated by this "lifestyle choice".

I am overweight myself, and while it is a daily struggle to lose weight I certainly do not desire to gain more. While self acceptance is important, the fact that her physicians do not think she has mental problems is astonishing to me. This is not normal behavior, and while it is not harmful to others if she wants to engage in it she should certainly not be subsidized in doing so.

I saw another story recently where there was a man on government assistance who lived in a crib like an infant, and his girlfriend was paid to be his caretaker. He threatened to kill himself if he was removed from the dole. I wonder how many examples of this kind of thing you could find if you looked for them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

English? We don't need no stinking English!

A really interesting video series on the origin and evolution of the English language is here. Worth a look when you have 10 minutes to spare.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Internet! Glorious glorious Internet!

I finally have an internet connection at home again!

Last Friday Qwest called me and told me I could save money by bundling my DSL and home phone. I told them OK, but mentioned I get my DSL line through Qwest but have a different ISP. They said, no problem, so I said sign me up.

Monday my internet quit working. I called my ISP and they said all was well with my account and said I should call Qwest and have them do a line check. Long story short, Qwest switched me to their ISP. I said no, don't want it. They say, can't bundle without us as your ISP. I asked them to put it back the way it was. They said OK, have it back by Wednesday. I said WTF? No matter, they said. I must wait.

Today, no internet. Call Qwest. They say order to switch was cancelled. I say WTF?!? They said, readded order. I ask when. They say Friday. I say I hope you all DIAF if it's not fixed today! They say sorry, you wait til Friday.

So this afternoon I set up Clear internet and phone over 4G. Cheaper than Qwest, so we'll see how it is. Canceling Qwest tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Internet problems are no good

My home internet is down for a couple days thanks to a Qwest screw up, so I'm posting this update from work on my lunch break. I'll try and get a real post in later today. Thanks!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A reasonable suggestion :P

If nationalized healthcare is constitutional, then perhaps Congress should start pushing for a single payer legal system. Unlike healthcare, I actually have legal rights explicitly granted to me in the Constitution, such as the rights of free speech, and the requirement that a warrant needs to be obtained to search my residence.

Imagine a society where a free lawyer, paid for by the government, is available to anyone who needs one. Laws could require a set fee be paid to attorneys for services, regardless of years of experience. Perhaps you could even have lawyers assigned by lottery. Why should only the wealthy be able to get the absolute best representation. All lawyers could be government employees, paid on a federal pay scale, starting at $50k and topping out at $125k or so, reducing the costs of civil lawsuits immeasurably. 

Along with that could be capped levels for judgments, and since all attorneys would work for the same employer there would be no need for legal fees or a percentage off the top for any judgments.

Of course the problem we run into here is Congress and Senate are chock full of lawyers, and they aren't about to crap on their gravy train. They don't seem to have any problem crapping on everyone else's though.

Friday, August 5, 2011

AA+ is still good I guess

Standard and Poor's downgraded US debt today from AAA, or prime investment grade, to AA+. What does that mean exactly?

In the immediate future, not much. US Treasury debt is still one of the safer investments out there. It could mean new Treasuries are a little bit higher interest. The big problem is the future outlook is negative. What that means if we don't show some serious moves to lower spending pretty quick, we'll be downgraded again, which could add many billions to the amount of money we have to pay for interest on government debt.

The Federal Government borrows about 43 cents of every dollar it spends.  This is, approximately, what you would be doing if you made $100,000 a year but spent about $175,000, each and every year for the last three years. On top of that, we pay 20% of tax revenue, or in my example, $20,000 a year on interest on the debt. We ideally should get spending down to $80,000 a year and pay $20,000 on paying down the debt. However, that means we'd have to cut federal spending in half. Now imagine due to debt downgrades the amount we have to spend on debt service goes up by 50%, to $30,000. Cuts would need to be even deeper.

Raising taxes isn't much of an option because we're already past that 18% of GDP point. Raising taxes past that point means you end up collecting about 18% anyhow, so cuts will need to be part of the equation no matter how you slice it. The other problem is any cuts will cause economic issues in the short term, as we've been propping up GDP for years with government spending.

We as a country need to prepare for some tough choices across the board, or face a collapse.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Movie Vampires

What are the best and worst movie or TV vampire portrayals? I'm curious what you think.

In my opinion, the worst has to be Twilight, just because they can go outside during the day. Easy way to get around writing a high school story with vampires, but seriously, sparkles?

One of the best vampire movies has to be Near Dark. A Kathryn Bigelow film made in 1987, it has a really good cast, including Adrian Pasdar, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton, with Tangerine Dream doing the soundtrack. Worth a watch if you've never seen it.

What vampire movies do you love or hate?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Concealed carry handguns

Came home from an afternoon of errands and took off my carry gun, and thought maybe some of you would be interested in a short discussion on carry guns.

I've been carrying a pistol on and off since 1990, first as an armed protection officer and bodyguard, and since then as a private citizen with a concealed carry permit. During that time I've owned about a dozen different handguns. During that time I've put together a short list of "rules".

1.) Carry legally. If you want to carry a handgun, get a permit. Sure, you might get away with it for a long time, but you don't want to do time.

2.) Find a handgun that's comfortable to shoot and to carry. If the grip isn't comfortable, or recoil is unmanageable, you won't want to shoot it, and you want to shoot any gun you carry enough to be able to aim, fire, and reload without thinking much about it. On the other hand, a gun that is great to shoot may be too heavy or uncomfortable to wear all the time. The first rule of gunfighting is "have a gun". Your tack driving .45 auto isn't going to do you any good if you're getting mugged and it's sitting in your glove compartment 2 blocks away.

The best way to find a gun you like is to try out handguns owned  by friends. Some ranges also have rental pistols available to try out, so you can test out ones that you like. As far as the semi automatic vs. revolver argument, choose whichever one you are more comfortable with. The average shots fired in a defensive scenario is about 3, so a 5 or 6 shot revolver is going to be just fine, especially if you have a speedloader in a pocket.

3.) You are going to end up owning a few different holsters. Some work better in different outfits, and some may look nice in a package but drive you nuts when you start wearing them. Whichever holster or holsters you end up using, practice drawing your unloaded pistol from the holster in a variety of clothing so it becomes second nature to ou. In the fall I always do some extra practice drawing with a coat on, since all summer long I don't wear a jacket.

4.) Your goal is to live. If someone gets the drop on you and wants your purse or your wallet, don't hesitate on handing it over. Your primary goal is going home, not shooting a bad guy or being a hero. Give the guy what he wants and get away alive. If you fear for your life then do what you need to do, but I'm not going to risk dying over the cash in my wallet.

5.) You aren't a police officer. When you carry a pistol, you are doing so to defend your life and the lives of people with you. If you see someone breaking into a car call the police and let them handle it. If you confront a guy with a slim jim and end up shooting him, you're the one who's going to end up in a police station answering a lot of questions and calling an attorney.

6.) Practice shooting. Most places have an IDPA club somewhere nearby, so you can practice shooting in multiple scenarios. If you don't have the time for that, hit a range at least once every 3 months and shoot off a box of shells. Practice makes perfect.

7.) Stay in condition yellow. A good description of the levels of awareness is here:

Being aware of your surroundings is how you avoid being a victim. Criminals look for easy targets. If you're walking down the street, observant to what's going on, and actually looking at the guy standing there, most likely they'll let you by and wait for the person not paying any attention.

Another thing that goes along with condition yellow is trusting your instincts. If someone standing a half block away makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, there's probably a reason, Cross the street.

Hope this helps out anyone who's considering getting a CCW. If not, rule number 7 is a good thing to follow even in situations where you aren't armed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My thoughts on job interviews

I started looking for a new job about 4 weeks ago. The company I work for was bought out by another company and all the management is changing, so I figured I should look at least. Sent out 10 resumes so far and been on four interviews now. Being somewhat selective since I'm employed.

Some places really have the whole process a lot more together than others. I like phone interviews as a starter, since if the job really isn't something I'm looking for it's saved me a trip in and putting on a suit. It lets you find out what the jobs about without a huge waste of everyone involved's time.

One thing that's absolutely annoying is when you meet the written qualifications to a T, then get into the interview and they're like, how much experience do you have with blah, since we're looking for that too. It would have been awesome to mention that in the posting, then neither of us would have just wasted 2 hours dude.

Getting all the interviews done at once is nice. Do I really need to come in twice (or more)? My time is important too.

Lastly, places that don't list a salary range are annoying, especially when you don't have a phone interview to find that out. So you go on in and they say, hey, we're looking for a guy to run our entire IT shop solo, top to bottom, including writing doco and SLAs, negotiating with vendors, etc, and you think, ok, I'm gonna be a slave to my phone so this better pay out solid. Then you ask about salary range and they go, hey, we're somewhere in the range of a counter guy at a Wendys, ballpark. Yeah, good luck with that guys.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Men vs. Women

Men operate like a Hammer. Women are like tuning a carburetor.

Women should be thankful men are so easy to please in a relationship. I've never understood why a lot of ladies don't understand that. Honestly, it's like taking care of a baby to some extent. Are we hungry? If no, move on to Has he had a BJ/sex today? If no, remedy. If yes, has had a guys night out in the last couple weeks? If yes, then ask him what's wrong. That's pretty much it. You don't need a 500 page book or a magazine to solve this equation.

There may be a minority of men who fall outside these rules, but they probably need some time with a mental health professional.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

On the debt limit

The fight over the debt limit is infuriating for both sides of the political fence. However, both parties are being unreasonable. There are a number of long term discussions that need to take place on the national level, so I think a short term increase is the ideal solution right now.

The discussion needs to include:

1.)  What exactly the role of the Federal government should be. Since everything is paid for by taxation, what exact responsibilities should the government be willing to undertake with the public understanding that those roles, necessary as they may be, will have the end result of both taking the labor away from others and imprisoning people who can't/won't pay their taxes. Are we willing to confiscate a single mother's income to fund art? Are we as a people willing to have citizens go to prison for nonpayment of taxes to provide student loans?

2.)  Healthcare. The current system isn't anywhere close to ideal in the United States. Again, if the Federal government is going to be in the healthcare business, where are the lines drawn?  Are we going to take money from young workers to fund heart transplants for 80 year olds?

3.) Defense. We aren't the world's policeman, and we need to cut back military expenditures, so what is on the table?

Ideally, any plan presented needs to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, so there are going to have to be cuts to plenty of programs. Both sides of the aisle need to calmly have discussions to get us there, without name calling and without showboating.