June 30, 2008

Public Service Announcement Of The Week

Category: Uncategorized — jerry @ 11:01 am

From Tobacco Free Florida:

The Books That Changed Your Life

Category: Books — jerry @ 6:12 am

I like book lists.

As a matter of fact, I have several books that are simply books about books.

The generally-interesting Lifehacker website recently asked its readers for comments on the books that most changed their lives.  I was pleased to see many of my favorites.

After #1 The Bible (gee, what a surprise), #2 was (atheist) Ayn Rand’s THE FOUNTAINHEAD and #3 and #4 her ATLAS SHRUGGED and ANTHEM.  THE FOUNTAINHEAD has always been #1 on my list and I have bought about a dozen copies of it now for various friends and family members.  All of my kids (except one…ahem) have read Ayn Rand.  Life isn’t complete until you have.

Next comes (atheist) Douglas Adams’s HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, which I have read parts of, as I have the two books by (atheist) Richard Dawkins.  ENDER’S GAME, also on the list, is my all-time favorite science fiction tale.  Didn’t particularly like DUNE.

Anyway, it’s a pretty good list.  Pretty small sample of readers, so there’s some weirdness to it, but you wouldn’t go wrong spending your summer working your way through it.

June 29, 2008

Michelle Singletary Is Just Plain Wrong

Category: Money & Investments — jerry @ 11:02 am

Ms. Singletary has a column on personal finance in the WASHINGTON POST that is reprinted on Sundays in our local OMAHA WORLD HERALD. She is also a featured contributor to NPR Radio and, of course, has her own website.

And she’s driving me crazy!

Matter of fact, I just had an extended discussion at Friday lunch about her and how her last week’s column encouraging us all to hurry and pay off our mortgages was just dead wrong. (Full disclosure: I don’t have a nickel of equity in my house, and likely never will. I’ll take those 6% fully-deductible loans all day long and put them into the stock market, which historically returns 10% or more per annum–23% per annum for me the last 5 1/2 years, even taking into account the loss this last year. Further full disclosure: My parents and both of my siblings have paid off their mortgages early and are very pleased with themselves, despite my futile ranting about it. But they are all drooling mouth-breathers when it comes to finance, so…)

Nevertheless, I usually read Singletary’s column every Sunday morning just to get my adrenaline going–probably for the same reason I always seem to read the “Love is…” panel on the comics page, which never fails to make me want to go out and strangle someone (perhaps the cartoonist who draws it).

Anyway, today she is talking about getting those school loans paid off early, or not even taking them out in the first place! But my position is that school loans are the second best kind of debt (if you must have debt) after mortgages. Take ’em on, kids! (My own kids will vouch that I have always told them to get as much school debt as they can, meanwhile putting any extra funds they thus have into Roth IRAs). Ms. Singletary would faint at that advice.

In this morning’s column, a reader who has $25,000 in savings asks if he should cover the up-coming $75,000 graduate school bill entirely with loans and hold on to the savings. (Yes! Yes! I want to scream). Her advice: “I recommend you work awhile and save up the money to go to grad school.” This is idiocy to the point of evil. How long will it take to save up what Singletary thinks is an appropriate amount–especially at pre-grad-school rates of pay? My friend: Go to school, get the loans, and pay them off on easy monthly terms at your higher rate of pay. Wait too long to go to grad school and you just might end up not going. Things come up: marriage, babies, career challenges, health issues…

Anticipating some readers’ outcry: Yes, I understand that some people are drowning in school debt and don’t have suitable jobs yet. Waah, waah! So do you plan your life around the fear of the possibility of failure? If so, maybe college or grad school isn’t for you anyway. I also understand that many people just feel so very, very snuggly having that mortgage or school debt finally paid off.

Fine, and I feel snuggly having my big mortgage, but also having, well, quite a comfortable bit of money in the market that allowed me to retire a decade early. And a nice education that I borrowed for back when I was teaching school for $7500 per year (early 70s), and that otherwise would have taken quite a number of years to have “saved up” for.

Now, Ms. Singletary does have an audience–the financially inept, those that are unable to manage their money and manage their debt. They don’t get the education, or if they do they never learn how to manage their credit cards and other consumer debt. But those folks are losers. They are going to have problems whether they pay off their school and mortgage debt early or not.

For my readers, the advice is: Feel free to borrow if you can get a better “return” (investment earnings, education) elsewhere. Manage your debt wisely. Get rich.

How People Convince Themselves To Believe

Category: Uncategorized — jerry @ 6:21 am

Another great TED talk:

June 28, 2008

Weird Music Video Of The Week

Category: Music — jerry @ 11:59 am

Hey, I kinda like this:

The Simpson’s Quake Map

Category: Movies/TV,Technology — jerry @ 6:26 am

I can’t imagine how much work went into this realization of The Simpson’s world using the Quake engine. Pretty amazing:

June 27, 2008

Fun On The Road In Saudi Arabia

Category: Travel — jerry @ 11:15 am


Autistic Toddler Kicked Off Airplane

Category: Opinion,Travel — jerry @ 6:53 am

Okay, I’ve gotten in trouble here before when siding with the airlines against obnoxious children. (Meanwhile, always siding against the airlines if they kick off a hottie with a too-short skirt…)

So here I go again:

Here’s the story below–including video. Sorry, lady. I’m sure that it is difficult raising an autistic child, but…we all have our crosses to bear. I’m not sure that subjecting their behavior to passengers on an airplane is appropriate.

Sorry. That’s how I feel.

Now…I have had my own obnoxious toddlers melt down. I’ve taken my young children to restaurants and other public places and had them act horribly. And I removed them from the public. Out to the car. Home. I was not comfortable subjecting the public to their poor behavior.

Lady, my heart goes out to you. You have many challenges ahead of you in raising what I’m sure is generally a wonderful and loving child for you. But if you cannot control him on a plane…I want you outta there.

Rent a car.


The story (and video):

An American Eagle flight taxiing to a Raleigh-Durham Airport runway was turned around Monday, but not because of a terrorist threat.

The crew was kicking an autistic Cary toddler and his mother off the plane.

As the American Eagle flight headed down the taxiway, two-and-a-half-year-old Jarett Farrell wasn’t a happy traveler.

His mother says she was doing all she could to calm the autistic boy, but got no sympathy from the flight crew.

“If they just would have been a little more understanding I think that none of this would have been a problem,” Mother, Janice Farrell said.

But it became a big problem for everyone on the plane. Farrell says that’s because the flight attendant was indignant.

“She kept coming over and tugging his seatbelt to make it tighter, ‘This has to stay tight’. And then he was wiggling around and trying to get out of his seatbelt. And she kept coming over and reprimanding him and yelling at him,” Farrell said.

One of the pilots came back to the cabin with a stern warning and Farrell says the frustration level escalated.

She says Jarrett picked up on that and things only got worse.

“He just melted down. He saw me getting upset. He was upset. He was on the floor rolling around,” she said….[Rest of article and the video]

June 26, 2008

Stock Pick–June 26, 2008

Category: Money & Investments — jerry @ 11:28 am

If I didn’t still have some garbage holdings that I need to replace, I might have sat out a turn and not even made a pick.

Nothing very exciting showed up on my screen, but I am going to take a position in Centene Corporation (CNC), a health insurance company.

Like the rest of you, I’m really getting anxious for the market to start heading upward again. I’ve been taking a beating ever since I retired last October. That was really bad timing for someone who was, is, and always will be 100% invested in stocks.

Nevertheless, I still believe in this quote (which, I think, comes from John Bogle) as to what to do when the market goes down from time to time–as it always has and always will: “Don’t just do something; stand there!”


Category: Opinion — jerry @ 6:58 am

“I’m not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I’m sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do.” — Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri)


Oh, yeah?!