Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Explaining the current financial crisis in a way my grandfather could never understand

Both of my grandfathers passed away in the 1990s before the and y2k bubbles burst, each to their own effects, and while alive each man was quite endearing in their own way. One of these grandfathers was a very clever man, a carpenter by trade, but a man who never assumed he knew anything more than you, unless it was how to pull a prank. He lived most of his life in South Arkansas and North Louisiana and when my family lived in a South-Dallas suburb he often would spend the afternoons of his visits in a lawn chair beside the garage, watching airliners enroute to land at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Fortunately, an aircraft passed directly overhead every few minutes during the late afternoon hours and he would exclaim to me his wonder at how such a mass of aluminum and steel could fly through the air so gracefully and at such great speed.

Now I do know something about aircraft and how they fly but I must be honest and admit that I don't know very much about banking and the financial markets. And I don't think my grandfather, as aware of the human intent as he was, knew much more about banking than I. That said, I think if I could explain to my grandfather why an airplane doesn't crash, I think I could explain to him why a bank does.

As I again admit that I know little about banking, I think certain common assumptions and assertions are absolutely false. Any presumption that the current crisis is a result of the current President's lack of foresight or an evil machination of the Democratic party is at least ill thought and probably without good intent. What must we must remind ourselves is that banks don't simply hold money--banks make money by loaning your money out and having it repaid to them at a higher rate of interest than they pay you to hold it. Often banks are discussed as static in nature but are quite mobile--much like an airplane.

In flight, lift is produced by wings and propels the aircraft, my grandfather could regurgitate, but he struggled to grasp how tens of thousands of pounds of steel and aluminum could fly through the air in a manner that appears so graceful and gentle when all the while gravity was calling. And that's the secret of flying, for airplanes at least, not that gravity is defied but instead deferred.

Gravity's call is undeniable, but if the lift (and certain other physical properties) coordinate in such a way as to produce a rate of vertical propulsion equal to the rate of call by gravity then an aircraft may seem to float upon the air. So long as this relationship is balanced an aircraft may fly along for a seemingly endless period.

Most aircraft crashes are considered "controlled flight into terrain" (CFIT) and may occur when terrain is obscured by cloud or fog or when the climb or descent are not at the appropriate rate. In this case, gravity's call is often too great for the task at hand and the balance is not negotiated properly. This may seem analogous to some types of business failure, however this does not seem to fit the banking crisis.

And that sort of accident is not what people fear. What people fear is what my grandfather could not put to rest--what if lift all-of-a-sudden stopped? A slight imbalance between lift and gravity is not a big problem. This simply results in a climb or descent which, though potentially dangerous near the ground, is of little concern at 30,000 feet. This may be similar to normal business cycles during which profit may be greater or less than expected.

What most people fear--irrationally in most regards, I should add--is the stall, when lift is suddenly lost to such an extent that the immediate reaction by the aircraft is not descent but freefall. To varying degrees this situation is recoverable. For the Boeing 737, flying overhead at 33,000 feet and weighing roughly 130,000 lbs loaded up (not that weight has anything to do with lift, I just added that for drama), this situation is more dramatic.

Yet, this situation is not very likely. It could be the case that ice has accumulated along the wings such that airflow (and lift) is disturbed or a condition called clear-air turbulence (turbulence unassociated with normal weather phenomena) changes the flight conditions or, even worse, structural failure separates a wing. Any of these situations is as hazardous as it is unlikely, but the hazard is what sticks in peoples' minds and why many passengers are afraid of flying. The reality is that these situations, where the balance between lift and gravity is suddenly and tumultuously unraveled, is as unlikely as your bank failing.

Now here we are back at the beginning. How can a bank simply fail? How can so many bank executives not have known what they were doing? How can my bank with $300,000,000 in deposits be hopelessly in debt and insolvent? Debt, like gravity, is a harsh mistress and there seem to be times when a business cycle--though carefully planned in every regard--is disrupted much like an aircraft in sudden stall.

In that rare and unfortunate case it seems all that can be done is sit back and watch the bank fall like 130,000 lbs of steel and aluminum, out of the sky.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Would you wager on the existence of God?

That's whats being offered by a bookkeeper in the UK. The current odds are 4-1, which I understand means that there is an 80% chance that God exists. Although, the terms of the bet are very specific and payout is only made if, by scientific observation, God can be proved to exist.

That seems somewhat difficult and is probably why odds have dropped from 33-1 to the current 4-1. Still, 80% that God exists seems pretty good if you're an objective observer, but maybe someone with a better understanding of the philosophy of science can explain whether it is possible that an existence presumed to be immaterial or supernatural can be observed and proven by material and natural means.

Blogger Greg Mankiw observes this problem as he quotes author Robert Pirsig:

After a while he says, "Do you believe in ghosts?"

"No," I say.

"Why not?"

"Because they are un-sci-en-ti-fic."

The way I say this makes John smile. "They contain no matter," I continue, "and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people’s minds."

The whiskey, the fatigue and the wind in the trees start mixing in my mind. "Of course," I add, "the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you’re safe. That doesn’t leave you very much to believe in, but that’s scientific too."

This is quite like the dilemma presented by Greg Bahnsen in his debate with Gordon Stein some years ago. Of course, neither Bahnsen nor Stein absolutely solved this issue--at least from a material perspective. But still, it seems that the existence of God is probably a safe bet, so long as you're not actually placing it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's fall, which means back to school and football

So why wouldn't you want to read about geeks arguing about football? No, not that argument. A more basic argument: should we be playing it? Rather, should UNC-Charlotte begin playing college football? Greg Mankiw, without offering a yes or no, puts interesting insight into the dilemma. And, as always, the students begin to weigh in.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Because I had been asked to update

And, well, maybe to indicate that I still exist, here is the updated status of my quest to read 30 books during 2008.

Blink (Malcolm Gladwell)
The bottom billion (Paul Collier)
Step by step: Divine guidance for ordinary Christians (James Petty)
The fellowship of the ring (JRR Tolkien)
Prince Caspian (CS Lewis)
HDR affordable seniors housing handbook (trade publication)
Fields of the fatherless (Tom Davis)
The two towers (JRR Tolkien)
Secrets of the baby whisperer (Traci Hogg)
The end of poverty (Jeffrey Sachs)
The return of the king (JRR Tolkien)

Currently Reading:
The Bible (ESV)
Transit maps of the world (Mark Ovenden)
Excel 2007 data analysis and business modeling (Wayne Winston)
Microeconomics and behavior (Robert Frank)
The wealth of nations (Adam Smith)
I'm chocolate, you're vanilla (Marguerite White)
Velvet Elvis (Rob Bell)
Mere discipleship (Lee Camp)
Third ways (Allan Carlson)

I've been told that I should count the Lord of the Rings trilogy as one book since that is the author's intent. Too bad, I'll count it as three. And there are several books that I won't likely finish, but that's probably okay even though I want to finish 30 by New Year's Day. It's hard to say if I'll come close to making the goal. I have a lot ground to make up but the holidays loom ahead and this is often good reading time. Also, the days are growing shorter and that should help.

I've also got at least 5 books on the shelf that I'd like to start reading but aren't listed here. (Obviously I need to finish some of these first.) But I'm happy to report that only one book has been so hideous that I was forced to put it down without reading it.

Also, I've adopted a new principle: every fall I intend to purchase and read a book written by a newly-minted Nobel Laureate. This year's book:

Development, geography, and economic theory (Paul Krugman)

In that vein I also purchased Off the books: The underground economy of the urban poor (Sudhir Venkatesh). I think it's highly likely that this man may win the prize for his research into the urban poor society.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What would another governance system look like?

I spent part of Sunday discussing with my favorite spouse some of the differences between Socialism and Capitalism. It wasn't a long discussion because we don't have as much knowledge about the topics as we do capacity for opinion, but it led me to wonder later what an American Socialist state might look like.

I decided that it would look a lot like large government institutions such as the state hospital where I worked for several years. This may not be the case but I think it would be fair to imagine more of this type of governance. So what does that mean to you and me? I think more of things like this: wonderful ideas with lifeless application.

Any [state] resident who stays and works in the state for five years after graduation will have their state income tax for that time period returned in the form of a down payment or closing costs on their first house. For a single person, that could be up to $10,000, and for a married couple, it could be up to $15,000...

To participate, students have to register with the [Agency] no later than the 60th day after college graduation or day of degree completion. Those who have registered then have until 90 days after their fifth state income tax return is due to apply...

We have learned through observation that socialism can destroy the incentives necessary for the production of goods. Do you think someone somewhere within this organization has lost the incentive to produce goods worthy of consumption?

If you don't understand the financial crisis

then you aren't alone. But these guys help explain it. (With updates).

[If you did not read the links in order, read #2 then #3 then #1. If you did read them in order, go back and read #1 after you are sufficiently comfortable with what you understand about the explanation. It is interesting that while 80% of people think that "weak" regulation is part of the cause, support for and against regulation is unchanged.]

The untold story of the recent Olympics

Iss really not as dramatic as the title suggests, but I can't quit wondering that if Michael Phelps' diet consists of 12,000 calories per day, how much does that increase his risk of stomach and digestive-tract -related diseases? It is entirely likely that his diet will be elevated only for a short number of years (maybe significantly elevated from 16 to 32 but only this peak level for 8 to 10 years?) but during that time he will have eaten significantly more food than the average person of his size. It is entirely possible (since 12,000 is probably 3-4 time as much as the average American eats in a day) that by age 30 he has eaten as much food as most 50- and many 60-year old men. That can't be good, can it?

Is it okay to prefer things that are like you?

What about when those things are like you because they have the same color skin?

Like when watching tv (Part II) or when voting.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On Usain Bolt

We haven't seen much of the Olympics (because we have poor television reception) and I'm partial to such feats (because I participated in Track & Field) but I think the story of the games, even more than Michael Phleps, has to be Usain Bolt. The Steves at Freakonomics capture the amazement of his accomplishments and recommend (as do I) this graphical representation of the statisitical significance of his second feat--the 200m WR.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On the economic views of the modern Democrat party

A must-read, these 8 pages written by David Leonhardt explain well and fairly neutrally much about the present state of the American economy and the leading Democrat's plan to solve its problems. Though it is apparent he is like-minded with the foundations of Obama's plan, he is level-headed and I think even if you're aren't crazy enough to think this is entertaining (because, who really enjoys economics?) I think you'll appreciate the discussion.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Everyone wants to help the poor

Or, at least most of us would like to think that. Here are two interesting (and relatively short) readings on how maybe we can help better than we have been. (1, 2)

Monday, July 28, 2008

What else should we expect?

"These projected deficits are both manageable and temporary if spending is kept in check, the tax burden remains low and the economy continues to grow," OMB said in its Mid-Session Review of the federal budget.

How can that be any good way to think? (And, how can that be even slightly reasonable?) I don't know, but can we really blame consumers for low credit, high debt-to-asset ratio, and the outrageous idea that it’s ok to walk away from a pledge to debt when it hurts to deliver the goods? Maybe not, if all that has been exampled before them is counter to the principles of credibility, patience, and fidelity.

“Pay yourself first” is advice often given by financial counselors and often practiced when consumers spend large sums on depreciable goods instead of paying down outstanding debts, mortgage owners walk away to preserve their remaining wealth, business leaders ousted by their failing companies seem to bleed green when everyone else bleeds red, investment banks rake in profits for seemingly countless quarters before finding out all their assets are really debts for which they’ve previously spent any commodity, and when the government fails not at paying its own interests while failing considerably in fulfilling prior promises.

What else really should we expect if the OMB itself acts this way?

[It looks now like the Wall Street Journal removed the quote at top]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Incentives... are everywhere?

Economists believe that every action is a transaction and therefore multiple opportunities and mechanisms to change behavior exist. Sometimes there is more than one means to the same end and I guess that is not a bad thing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Two great articles worth reading

The first is very funny and mostly true.

The second, What if the candidates pandered to economists? is even better. I probably agree with six of his eight arguments, all of which feel very liberal (maybe even Anti-American?), which is surprising given the the writer is an extremely conservative Harvard professor who has served as adviser to one Republican President and one Republican candidate.

Friday, June 20, 2008

On the road again

Yesterday was the first day commuting to work on the new bike. It was much easier than I thought it would be. The ride is just under 4.5 miles each way and it took only about 20 minutes to get to work. Actually it took more time to pack my bag and then unpack and change at work than to actually ride the commute. I suppose I'll have to put photos up later, but I am very much enjoying (so far) the ability to ride to work. It will take about 200 rides for the costs and gas-savings to break even, and my carbon output while on the bike is not insignificant (it's not a totally-green affair), but yesterday I exercised for about 45 minutes and it only took only about 20 minutes of real time (since my commute by car is about 12-15 minutes). And since I committed to run a marathon in January with friends, this is a good way to help get in shape.

Friday, June 13, 2008

What I've been reading

It's pretty good so far. I don't yet believe that his assertion is true, but to be fair, I've just started the book. But I do like paragraphs like this:

Progress is hard enough to achieve in the world without being perceived as a danger. One of the ironies of the recent success of India and China is the fear that has engulfed the United States that success in these two countries comes at the expense of the United States. These fears are fundamentally wrong, and even worse, dangerous. They are wrong because the world is not a zero-sum struggle, but is rather a positive-sum opportunity in which improving technologies and skills can raise living standards around the world. Not only are the Indian IT workers providing valuable goods and services to United States consumers, but they are also sitting at terminals with Dell computers, using Microsoft and SAP software, Cisco routers, and dozens of other pieces of empowering technology imported from the developed countries. As India's technology grows, its consumers opt for a growing array of US and European goods and services for their homes and businesses.

Not every transaction can be a positive-sum transaction, which is why diversified risk is still risk (as we have know realized, in every sense of that word, from the mortgage banking breakdown) and why I doubt the feasibility of the author's prediction that world poverty can be wiped out by 2025, but it is refreshing to read something thoughtful and optimistic in light of the politically-motivated but thoughtless and depressing diatribe so frequently heard during the election season.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why early adoption is not necessarily good, a micahnomics primer

A few years back Jen and I often spoke of thinking in terms of "micahnomics" when making normal decisions. I pulled this term from our friend Shifty and his practice of "shiftynomics", though he doesn't readily discuss this (probably because the description is diminutive or demeaning or both) and he now readily refers to "tiggernomics", but I digress.

Shiftynomics, which may be generally described by the rule "why spend your money when you can spend someone else's?", is a theory I observed enacted (very well) when Shifty was a roommate of mine after college. In those days he routinely paid his portion of the bills well after due dates and often ate more than his portion of the foodstuffs. Now he is a property manager of some 200 rental properties and lives the shiftynomic dream--making money directly from the monies of others.

Realizing the potential of certain simple principles Shifty practiced I then began forming the rudiments of micahnomic theory, which may now be described by the rule "why spend your money now when you can spend it later?"

Now I'm sure there are real, older, and more appropriate names for these practices, but I (and quite a few within my nearer circles) will likely continue to describe these practices as shiftynomics and micahnomics and certainly none will be surprised to see that I am a late adopter (of technology for example) because it is simply good micahnomics.

Take the iPhone as an example. This week we witness the unveiling of the 3rd-generation iPhone just 1 year following the unveiling of the first iPhone. And what of note has happened in this first year? Well, besides rolling out 2 significant model changes, a near 70% reduction in retail price. Or, put it this way: if you had waited 1 year to purchase your iPhone, what would you gain? A product significantly better at 1/3 the asking price and a reduction in phone plan charges of at least $250, or roughly $650 pre-tax dollars before considering the deficiency of your product and how you would adjust those dollars spent for present value. Even if you had invested them in something other than gold or oil (normally a good idea) you would have saved about $300 and ended up with a more desirable purchase.

Or, as Apple puts it: Twice as Fast. Half the Price. What they don't say is Did you really think that owning one year could cost so much?

Or you may consider your local television as a candidate to not adopt early. Had you purchased a flat-panel LCD, plasma, or death-ray tv 5 or 6 years ago when they were first available you would also have paid 3 or 4 times the current value of your tube while getting performance and options that likely do not par what is standard now.

Or you could consider micahnomic principles in the purchase of a new car, whether postponing the actual purchase or postponing the purchase of certain desirable options until a later vehicle. I remember hearing that saving $5000 in options on a car purchased every five years... well, let's just say that turns out to about $50,000 in 25 years if you only count the interest from the lost investment. If you financed that sunroof and navigation system then you may as well round up to a fat $75,000 or so.

What I'm saying is... well, I don't know exactly. But I think it would be fair to conclude that patience, though virtuous, has more direct benefits. And satisfaction (not even beginning to discuss the psychological merits of delayed gratification) can have a fiscal benefit even if it is primarily fruit of a well-adjusted spirit. I'm sure there are many better things that have been said about ideas like these by moral philosophers as profound and well-spoken as Solomon and Adam Smith, but I think it would still be fair to say that late adoption can be a good (if not codgery) practice and fine micahnomic principle.

Indeed, why should you pay for it now when you can pay for it later? (If only it were as easy to agree in practice with what you agree in principle).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's been going on

Well, not a lot of blogging or reading, that's for sure.

Maybe I'll catch up soon, or maybe I'll reduce my subscriptions. I haven't even had time to read the more enjoyably ironic articles like this from the NYT.

But we have had some good days recently. For the most part we survived the deluge. We helped marry our long-time friend Captain JLowe, DO, witnessed a sub-8:00 beermile (previously thought to be impossible by some), witnessed Noel taste--and not like--homemade play-doh, attended RADIOHEAD live, and completed 7 years of marriage. Not a bad course of events, and I got a good new book to add to my long list of things to read this year. And Noel decided that The Incredibles is now his favorite show and he and Jen have watched it three times in twenty-four hours.

That's not really a good way to start writing again. What I should say is that I've been thinking I need a new vehicle for the daily commute to work. One which is much less dependent on the inelasticly-demanded, fickle-priced, and environmentally-consequential fossil fuels. After musing over the most reasonable alternatives I think what I may pursue is this.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


What better way to end my month-long hiatus than by posting this from the Shreveport office of the National Weather Service:

752 AM CDT WED MAY 14 2008







Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When everyone loses... everyone wins?

It could be. I guess diversification might as well work with worldwide portfolios just as it works with yours.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you'll wind up in the stars. And other stupid things I don't like to hear people say.

Yes, I'm in that kind of mood. And, no, you won't likely end up in the stars.

First, there aren't any stars between Earth and the moon. And if you shoot for the moon with enough velocity to actually reach a star, you'll be so crushed by your impact on the moon that you won't enjoy it. In any case, if you did arrive safely you might at least be disappointed because there isn't even a Chili's or Starbucks or anything to do. And, if you did shoot for the moon and miss, apart from what could be described as a less than mediocre effort given the large target size of the moon, somewhere enroute to the stars you'd likely explode under the lack of spatial pressure and float around as little frozen bits of flesh. So, if you shoot for the moon, know what you're doing. And if you don't know what you're doing, pursue more modest goals.

I suppose these things aren't really stupid. Well, some of them are, but mostly they're ignorant, which people hate to be called, but really has to be better. Ignorance may not be bliss, but at least it doesn't know any better. Stupid knows better. Here's a statement that I saw recently on a truck bumper:

If you keep buying imports, then where will your children work?

That's a question riddled with many deep concerns that I don't want to address. But I do think it's appropriate to say this: there will be jobs. And more importantly: there will be better jobs than many present now and certainly the ones now disappearing.

Now in America we see more and more young adults going to college and more and more young adults getting multiple or advanced degrees. What I don't see is these young Americans taking their college degrees onto the assembly lines at factories and into the heat and sweat of iron mills. What should likely be seen as the co-triumph of the American economy and educational system (in that low-tech and low-paying jobs are less being needed in America because they are continuously being replace by better ones) is probably too often misinterpreted as an educational and economic dysfunction.

For an explanation into the deeper issue we might be better served by comparing the current economy with one of the greatest feats in the history of the American economy: the assembly line itself. I doubt Henry Ford worried much that his welders and upholsterers would revolt because of any sort of trade imbalance.

"Too much unfinished steel coming in and too many car frames going out," or "Who's paying for all this finished upholstery with unfinished fabrics?" the grumbling workers might ask.

Of course not. They understood quite quickly that they, as was the whole company, were better off by reducing the scope of work they were trying to accomplish. In a sense, they actually got more done by doing less (more of less, more or less...). And everyone profited. Greatly

So we seem to have a trade imbalance in America. Of course we do. We buy cheaper, lower-tech goods from other countries. The same other countries that are buying our more expensive, higher-tech goods. I wonder if the man driving the truck complaining about import and export "imbalance" ever wondered why most of the world uses American-developed software and whether or not that is good for them. Or why Americans rarely go abroad to study but internationals routinely come to America to study and work.

We have many one-way trade deficits. That won't be resolved until we trade high and low-tech goods at equal ratios with all nations. And that should not happen. We will never export coffee to Kenya or rubber dog poo to Hong Kong, but we may continue buying these things from them. And very likely they will continue buying things from us of much greater value that they aren't yet able to produce themselves..

Only if all our trading is in deficits outweigh the trading income are we in danger. But even such imbalances often correct themselves. Like the declining dollar itself, which appears to substantially weaken the American economy, actually implores other nations to buy more of our exports--boosting the economy--because it would be foolish of them not too.

But maybe if the dollar weakens enough we'll start to see low-tech, low-paying jobs come back to America! Really I don't want that. And I don't think the truck driver wants that either. Just like I don't see the truck driver's concern as stupid. I just hope he's ignorant.

Thou shalt not kill: eat vegetarian

Another paraphrase, but no real commentary this time. Jen may disagree with me on this (it would be the first time), but I just hope this guy isn't waiting for his vegetables to die and rot before he harvests, cooks, and consumes them. Ok, so that one is stupid. Am I the only one who thinks that in response to the idea above it's worth questioning whether vegetables have any more or less soul than animals? Ok, so maybe I am.

Friday, February 29, 2008

On contextualization

I don't often find this a suitable medium to discuss theology directly, but contextualization has been on my mind recently. In short, contextualization considers translation of the gospel message across cultural boundaries; assuming that my understanding the gospel of Jesus is naturally skewed my Western context then I must understand the appropriate context in which someone from another culture and native worldview must learn to understand Jesus the Christ. [random context article 1, 2]

This is all very interesting, and not unlike what must happen when you learn a new language, but one problem persists: if I must learn less and less of my culture (and be freer and freer of it's ways) to become more like the Jesus of the gospel I wish to communicate, then it follows logically that I learn less and less of my culture to understand the Jesus of the gospel, who is the Christ. (Or vice-versa, whichever you prefer.)

And if that's true then it seems that my mission awareness should not only include a cautiousness at conveying my native culture's worldview with the gospel but also an amazement that the Jesus of the gospel transcends our inability to comprehend him. So I wonder then how much context is too much for missions if Christ wants less and less from us in personal devotion. Not that context is bad, but let us learn in our ministry to be more aware of Christ, of ourselves, of others, and, mostly, of Christ, so that others may know more of him as well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How not to land an airplane

I can honestly say that although most of my students have made landings like this, they've all gotten better as their skills improved. I hope this guy gets better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sometimes things should be seen...

Like math, or at least this girl's math-like representation of culture. Also, check out her book. Then again, I'm a bit biased, being that I only understand the math I can visualize.

And what should you care? As a child I spent countless hours pouring over the flags of the world entry in my parents' Britannica instead doing my math homework. Seems like I wasn't the only one. At least make sure you look at the list of flags that get failing grades.

That's a very nerdy thing, grading out national flags. But so is my early valentine and new favorite book, transit maps of the world. Oh well.

And then some people just like to make lists of things seen in the theatre that should most likely be seen again (as do others), among many lists, but I digress (which is difficult).

Oh, and speaking of movies, it sees that Rambo has seen considerable death-linked inflation. Over 2 kills per minute!

Oh, and it seems that looking good at work isn't such a bad idea. I guess what you see is what you get.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

30 books in 2008, a Lenten resolution

Whatever that means. What I have in queue so far:

Blink: the power of thinking without thinking (complete)
The Bottom Billion (in progress)
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (in progress)
A Declaration of Interdependence: Why America should join the world

Likely to be soon added:
Bowerman and the men of Oregon (recommended by a friend)
The Lord of The Rings (which I've read each of the past two winters all six/three books)
Oh, and the ESV Bible (in progress)

Discounting the multiplicity of books both in the Bible and the Tolkien series, I'm currently at Nine (those count as 1 and 3, respectively). Any suggestions?

What a great idea!

Seems like some people think you shouldn't give away a good job interview for free. So, how valuable is your time?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Washer, Part III

While listening to my favorite radio show a few years ago I heard that the Friday after Thanksgiving was a good day to go to the DMV, and now that I had a reason to go I decided, why not? Well, the OMV (Louisiana's DMV) was closed Friday so I went Monday morning, and the lines were empty. But getting a replacement, or duplicate as the *dup* at the top of my license indicates, is not as easy as it would seem.

First, I was asked if I had any form of identification on me. Normally I would say, No, that's what I'm here to get, but remembering a valuable and interesting experience as I tried to board an airplane with an expired license last July, I offered my pilot's license, which does not expire, as a valid Federal identification card.

Of course, the ladies behind the counter at the OMV had never seen such and were suspiscous. I would be too; here's a smiling young man with cash and all the necessary information and a photo-less green card claiming that he lost his driver's license. Why should we trust him? Getting the license ended up being the easiest, and most pleasurable, part of the remaining experience. And I digress, so let me return to the story of the washer.

The previous day, Sunday afternoon, I decided to take my receipt to Best Buy and pick up the items we purchased. I walked to the front kiosk, handed the employee my receipt, and proceeded to wait as the appliances were brought to me. Within fifteen minutes I had learned that the favorite past-time at that kiosk is tracking on the security camera certain women who walk through the front doors.

So I wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and within thirty minutes learn that although the dryer I purchased has been easily found, the washer itself is more difficult to find. And not for lack of effort. Several employees, even one who is off-duty, were employed in the tracking-down of my missing washer. Being able to watch that pursuit on the security screen, between tracking incoming customers, confirmed to me that several of the Best Buy employees were on my side.

But not all were on my side. As it turns out, the service professional who placed my order on Wednesday night did not in fact order for me the washer and dryer pair that she sold me. What she ordered for me were two dryers. Now this was of certain irony, being that I now owned 1 bad washer and 3 good dryers, 2 of which were presently in my posession. It took no SAT scholar to understand that I preferred the washer over the second dryer and the off-duty employee, the most astute of the lot, quickly inquired into the situation with a few calls on the telephone.

What we learned is that the Bossier store (the closest) did not indeed have any washers present, nor did any of the warehouses. In fact, the next expected delivery from the warehouse or distribution center would be over two months later. And this is when the entire process got even more ridiculous.

What was offered to me was that the nearest store (Greenville, Texas) has the washer and it could be delivered to the local store and the department manager would call me when it arrives. Satisfied that this was the least painful route, and interested to see what Best Buy did to resolve the situation, I left the conversation at that and went home to pick up our dirty laundry and bring it to a commercial washing facility. Twenty dollars in quarters later I arrived home with all loads washed, but not dried, and very tired. I then proceeded to dry all loads in our new dryer, which was a slow but enjoyable process.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Handicapping the race in 2008

is something that I won't do here.

I'm about as much a pundit as I am Democrat or Republican. No, I'm not a Libertarian either. But as Giuliani appears ready to drop out and endorse Senator McCain I am beginning to feel confident about my feelings towards the current candidates. And feeling is probably the right word because it seems that picking the President is about as easy as picking stocks, except that I can pick multiple stocks and I'm confident that more will be good than bad.

So, my feelings lead me to these preferences in this particular order, for no particular reason:

McCain, John
Hillary, Sir Edmund (deceased)
Obama, Barack
Rigby, Eleanor
Huckabee, Mike
Cleese, John
Romney, George (deceased)
Miles, Les
Romney, Mitt
Paul, Ron
Clinton, Hillary

The Washer, Part II

So it's been a while since I began this story. I've forgotten much of it, but I'll try and make it worth your while to read. As I remember, I left with our four options. We could repair the broken washer, replace the broken washer with a like model, replace the broken washer with an advanced model, or dump my son's college fund into a commercial washer one quarter at-a-time. Actually, we had offers for used washers, but some of these were delayed (we'd still be waiting on one) and we didnt' think that we could wait very long. Not with dirty cloth diapers in the house.

So we took advantage of our situation and the Thanksgiving weekend sales adverts and went washer/dryer shopping. We realized that although the dryer was only 8 years old it might be a good time to buy one of those as well. Most sales essentially had you getting one unit half-off when you buy the set. Not as good a purchase as buying each item individually over time(waiting 5 years until it breaks and then paying full price for a dryer is a much better purchase than half-off now) but not an entirely bad deal either. We looked at like models (the low-end washer) and some of the high-efficiency front loading washers as well. These use much less water and electricity and claim to use as little as 1/3 of each compared to standard top-loaders. That was an enticing benefit, seeing as how much washing we get done.

So after some looking around we decided to pursue a pair of front-loaders at Best Buy (of course, dryers are already front-loaders) and decided that this was a good pursuit. If we end up saving in utility costs as much as advertised then we'll get back the price difference between washers ($300) in one year. That, and a generous offer from a relative, made this decision our preferred. Later on the same night we first looked at the washer I went back to Best Buy with a friend to purchase the combo. I should be able to purchase the units on Wednesday (prior to the mad holiday shopping rush) and pick them up Sunday or Monday, which seemed reasonable.

While waiting at the service desk to finish the order I dropped my license into a crack on the countertop. Apparently the countertops are large wooden layers that are no longer than 8 or 10 feet and bound together very tightly by large bolts with many washers. Despite the many washers, the gap between the adjacent pieces is large enough to slide a driver's license into. Not surprisingly, these washers place enough force upon the bottom of this gap to seal the countertop at that end (and no, you can't simply pull or use leverage to open the gap) so that my license is now consumed by the countertop into a gap too small to fish out from the top and almost non-existent at the bottom. And I am resigned to leave the store, late-at-night, several RewardsZone Dollars richer, several hundreds of dollars poorer, and minus one Louisiana Driver's License.