Monday, December 29, 2008

Forrest or Benjamin?

Life is like a box of never know what you are going to get...and I really didn't expect to gather as much insight and pleasure from the new film "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" as I did...and whle I don't necessarily swoon over Brad Pitt (unlike someone else in the little household)...he was rather striking at points in this movie...perhaps his best yet....worth the $7 I paid (I know, I know, but it was a small town coastal theater with small town prices)...

...but anyway...while the plot of Mr. Button's Opus is generally well is about what happens when you are born old and die, not like James Dean!...but in a physical sense...rather curious indeed...

and I would assume that everyone except for the lost tribes of Israel has seen Gump multiple times...I don't want to spoil anything for anyone but here is your "SPOILER ALERT" (did you hear the "whoop-whoop" of the spoiler siren?)...but I was really struck by the similarities between Forrest Gump and The Curious Case...

(Yes it is Brad Pitt...and this is just one of the lesser transformations he makes in the film)

So here is my list of similarities between the two movies...

*Both feature actors at middle age at the top of their game with the names of their characters in the titles.

*Both feature an unfolding of events throughout the world where the lead actors find themselves in wholly unexpected circumstances of history.

*Both films are narrated by the actors who record and recall these world events.

*Both are raised by single mothers who struggle to "level the playing field" for their sons.

*Both have unique physical attributes that are slowly revealed that both serve and hamper them.

*Both are stories of wandering throughout life but never forgetting home.

*Both are set in the deep South of the U.S.

*Both use a large house as a returning point for the characters throughout their lives.

*Both involve tragic service in wartime with most of their fellow combantants killed or wounded.

*Both involve a boat of approximately similar size and use where each of the actors seems to mature and develop as men.

*Both have the lead actors serving under a gruff, abrasive and yet sympathetic military leader over them who did not fulfill their true destiny in life.

*Both have them finding, losing, finding and again losing a woman throughout their entire lives, whom they met as young boys.

*Both of them are encouraged and inspired by the women at a young age, and these early incidents shape their lives.

*Both of the women they love develop a career in the performing arts but fail to achieve the level of success that they aspired to.

*Both have promiment supporting roles provided by black actors and actresses, all of whom show exceptional insight to life even in difficult situations.

*Both involve having a child and the greatest fear is that the child will have the same physical and emotional problems as the father.

*Both have a reconciliation scene with the child that the child is unaware that they are in the presence of their father.

*Both involve a recurring image and metaphor of a bird and both films close with this image.

...there are more but I think you get the picture...feel free to suggest any that you see (or disagree with me, but be nice please!)...

Anyway there is certainly more to life than just seeing and thinking about a new movie but then again, maybe there isn't...

...I guess I could write about incoming President Obama...but it seems that everyone else kind of beats me to it...he has been named Man of the Year, Captain of the World, America's Gift to Europe, The Fittest President Ever, The African-American Marlboro Man, The Messiah, etc.,..and all I can really say is he hasn't served a day yet! WHAT AM I MISSING?

I want Pres. Obama to succeed, to truly be a great President and leader...but I just cannot figure out the swooning over his "accomplishments" yet...when there just aren't any yet!...

So I wish him (and us) well for 2009...a year I am looking forward to...and hope to recover some of my market losses...and want to close by thanking all of my great students who have inspired me to teach and to write...all of you are great and a huge blessing to me...thanks!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Si Minor Plus Est Ergo Nihil Sunt Omnia

"If less is more then nothing is everything"


I have always liked the picture above...because it reminds me of the simple things of just sitting down somewhere (alone is actually OK)...or with a friend...nothing much going on....not much of a "going concern" so to speak...but just being together...a nice thought for this Sunday morning...and of course the Latin thoroughly impresses the casual reader... Thanksgiving has passed and the turkeys that survived have a few weeks to go before Christimas arrives...but ham is more of the desired carne of the holiday...and it was a nice break with a couple of the kibbies...and off to work tomorrow for the final push before the semester ends... looking ahead I notice GM and the other "big three" automakers return to Congress this week...and make their case for getting on the if that would help their prospects...with a bad business model and impossible economic burdens of let's see what prevails with a Democratic Congress and new Prez coming our way...but it could be an interesting stock market play...ahead of the hearings...hmmmmm....darn....should have bought some Citibank a week ago!...
...but with the loonies attacking in Mumbai this past week, watching that tragedy unfold just reinforces to me how wacked out people can be...what is the point of blowing up totally innocent people? does one make a point other than you have no legitimate cause or political position worth considering?...I just don't get it...even in desperation...very frustrating...and sad....
....but it certainly does point to the danger in the world today...which has probably always been there but just not beamed 24/7 on 500 channels...
...and I was reminded of something I hear from many passionate Dems that America is not respected in the world and that is why we needed to vote for Barak...but I have to tell you that if anyone cares to study history there has rarely been a time (a few but not the norm)...when America has been regarded in such a way by a majority of people in the world...and I experienced this first hand thirty years ago in my travels with the US it just is not as simple as hanging it all on George Bush...people will still hate us, protest us, kill our citizens and friends...regardless of who is in the office at the time....
...But to each of you I hope you had a great holiday and send my holiday cheer!

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Unexpected Surprise!

So, we are getting ready to go to the old multi-plex, get a senior discount, and check out the current version of Bond--James Bond--but the little lady says something about a movie set in India...and slums...and orphans...who end up on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire!"...and so I think I would rather have a root canal...or an enema...or both...and what happens? An Unexpected Surprise!

Slumdog Millionaire is not your typical movie...well, really it is completely out of the ordinary...and while I will still lay down a few buckaronies to check out Mr. Bond...I would urge you to visit a Landmark Theatre...or other independent venue...and enjoy this special little treasure...and after I vented a few months ago I am glad to report there remains hope for the big screen...

...So what is Prezelect Barack up to?...change?...sure looks like Clinton III with the appointments made...and one of them big dawgs he lined up on the stage caught my eye...good ole Robert everyone says...who cares? Meesterprezelect is the man! RubinSchmubin! Who cares? Well I do!...

...Well, Mr. Rubin has pocketed some chump change over the past 10 years or so as a major player in Goldman Sachs and most recently as Chairman of Citigroup...yes, Citigroup...who just pocketed another 20 billion or so to add to its previous 25 billion from each of our that he can help stabilize Citibank...right before he joins Obama's administration, with Larry Summers and some other Ivy League big dogs...the same group of guys from our finest Universities who got us into a bunch of htis mess in the first much for change...

...but I guess it could be worse...Mister Prezelect could be appointing socialists...and actually he is being beat up in some left circles for not being radical enough...ouch!

...Why not some common folks? You know, non-Ivy League, non-Investment Banking, non-$50,000+ plus per speech kind of people? I guess they aren't capable of dealing with the formidable problems that face our country...but wait, isn't it the same previously mentioned "whiz kids" who got us into this mess in this first place? With deriviatives, credit-swaps, leveraging and ultra-sophisticated financing schemes?

I think Mister Prezelect should create an alternative advising group composed of 20 or so people from across all walks of life--women and men of all political and economic stripes who could look across the table at Mr. Rubin et al and simply say "that dog don't hunt back in Boise" (or Fresno, Provo, Butte, Des Moines...well, you get my point!)

But hey, it could be worse! The stock market could be tanking prior to Mister Prezelect killing me with his tax proposals...well, err....wait a minute! The stock market is tanking! Well, the Chargers are winning!, no they aren', when all else fails just show a stupid picture of someone! And they don't get much stupider (or uglier) than this one! Happy Thanksgiving! Toodle-doo!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Have we lost our minds?

OK, I may have a better idea than a wholesale move to socialism...why would we possibly want to provide federal funding to the "Big Three" when they are poorly run companies? You want to beat AIG knuckleheads up for $400,000 parties after they get billions in federal funds? Why don't you take a look at the US automobile industries financials? SHEESH! ARRGHH! Maybe I am the only one who is distressed about us bankrupting our children and grandchildren, becauses it certainly doesn't look like the US Congress and incoming Administration gives a &%!@ about them!....

...the reality of the auto industry is that over the past twenty years or so Detroit made contractual concessions to the UAW which slowed hourly wages in return for benefit concessions...well, slowing is relative when we are speaking about hourly wages in the range of $65-$75 per hour for line workers....and guaranteed pension and health benefits for auto workers and retirees...which have fundamentally destroyed the companies...

...and so now we have GM trading below $3...and running out of cash...and holding out their hand to the Feds/each of cover these outrageous management decisions....the reality is that now the US auto industry are health care and retirement companies (seriously here!) that happen to make cars...plain and simple...and if you think that a cash infusion is going to save them we are kidding ourselves...because they will be back for more in 2009...don't believe me?...two words to remember....British Leyland....check out this link from Tuesday's NY Times...for a sobering view of what happens in government bailouts for auto makers who fail to fundamentally address the underlying economic problems....and try to cover over it with dire warnings of a loss of jobs....did I mention this story is from the New York Times?...I found that very interesting....

...So my great idea is if we are going to bail out every industry (with political power, that is)...why don't we simply pay off every mortgage in the US...which will immediately restore the housing wealth...restore confidence....and then we would likely go refinance our homes, take the money, by hot-tubs, jewelry and take a vacation to relieve the stress of the past months and the hit to our 401(k)'s....and begin the cycle again....

....hmmm....maybe my idea won't work in the long run....

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Gas Bubbles

"In parallel with this lack of flexibility Venezuela is facing a decline in its international monetary reserves since Chavez keeps raiding them. These monetary reserves only represent some six to seven months of imports at the current level since Venezuela is now importing close to $40 billion per year, mostly in food. Therefore, an interruption of oil income derived from the cut off of oil supplies to the United States would most probably cause the Chavez’s regime to collapse in less than a year as the result of internal protests, no outside intervention required. "

So we have greatly lower gas prices! Happy days! Let's load up the Bel-Air wagon with the kids and hit the road! God Bless America!

Well, before you pack the picnic basket and go burn that extra tank of gas for a Sunday drive, maybe we should think just a bit deeper on this issue...

Can we think about using this reprieve in gas prices a bit more strategically? Bottom line is we have a couple of real idiots out there who just love sticking it to, not Obama and McCain silly!...I am talking about Hugo Chavez of Venezula and Iranian President Moomad OhMan...err...umm..Mahmoud Amenpunjab...umm....darn....OK....the nutjob who is the President of Iran who gave "loco Gordo Hugo" the highly acclaimed and widely regarded "Islamic Republic Medal" for Hugo's brave support of Iran in its effort to violate the Interntaional Atomic Energy Agencies and the U.N.'s guidelines on nuclear profileration...(and for my Mennonite and Quaker friends, thanks so much for hosting good old Mahmoud for morning coffee...nice move...and I hope that it doesn't portend President Obama's foreign policy strategy...see for details on the dinner....I wonder if they had scones?)... is my theory...cutting across all political lines for the common good of the world...


I think now is the time for us to think beyond the immediate sense of gratification of having lower prices at the pump...which is nice in and of itself...but we should really get after conserving now through carpooling, solar investment, personal conservation, development of our own energy resources (across the board including nuclear)...and help push these oil despots into the drink...because they are held in power by the ability to subsidize their economies through high oil prices...or better yet, how about if we as a country (read, political will and leadership which is in short supply), simply refuse to import any more Venezulan oil? We just say "gracias Hugo, no mas negro oro"...and put an end to it?

Maybe this is just wishful thinking as I hear all of us celebrate the plunge of about a buck a gallon in the last 5 weeks...oh, and by the way, gas is already below $2 a gallon in quite a few places!...well, in Kansas and Oklahoma, at least...I know, I know....Kansas and Oklahoma, but you see my point, right?....

One last thing before I go....for my brothers and sisters in Mennonite Central Committee, the Quakers and others...whom I do indeed love...towards the point that we need to enter into "constructive dialogues with our enemies" so we can "move towards peace" just seems to me that even if I could possibly support this altruistic notion of dialogue regardlesss of its practical effect to create change and the tendency to be manipulated both here and abroad by propagandists....laying all of that aside for the moment...

...During the dialogue with Mahmoud when he answered your question about why he challenged the Holocaust...he gave the answer "more historical research needs to be done"...MCC and the others should have called him on it...because if such groups are willing to be unceasing critics of US policies and practices...many of which need to be need to be the same with others especially when it comes to issues such as the Holocaust...we must have no arguments or "constructive dialgoues" because on certain topics we must draw the not do so is to be cast as being duped...and not wise...and it is not enough after the event to meekly say "some of his responses were less than satisfying" (true statement)...that last one actually nasueates me..

For more on this "constructive dialogue" see

(glad I finally got that one of my chest--it had been bugging me for a while!)

BUT NOW, WITH THE ELECTION ALREADY OVER (regardless of us pulling the lever on Tuesday), I WANT ALL OF US TO THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Horse and His Boys

Well, it really isn't about a horse...but there are horses...a couple of really nice chestnuts with prominent blazes...only about 13 hands but nice little ponies...what? You didn't know I was a horseman from the old days? I hung out at all of the tracks from Del Mar to Santa Rosa, including the small town fair circuit...where they broke from a rope...anyway...secrets from my youth...

Appaloosa starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen supported by Rene Zellweger and Jeremy Irons is a splendid little movie...with Ms. Zellweger constantly creating confounding conundrums (not bad, eh?)...that are neatly weaved through the movie and ultimately bring the characters to a point of painful resolution...both physically, emotionally and professionally...and while one could figure things out as it went if you think hard enough on it...these characters make it the best Western I have seen in a long time...and one of the better movies I have seen in a year or so...

worth the watch...I give it four peaches!

So...anything else we should talk about? Hmmmm....

Who is this old guy? Uncle Earl? No, just a dull old economist and of John Maynard Keynes who came up with this little nugget...

"The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent." as we go into this wacky week there are some big questions about the fundamentals of the market which lead us to a couple of serious questions:

*If Keynes is correct it is really pucker up time as we are toast. All of us.

*If Keynes is not correct it is really double down time. Sell the car and the poodle and buy some quality stocks. Very soon.

*Maybe Keynes is half right #1. The market is irrational. But not for long.

*Maybe Keynes is half right #2. We cannot stay solvent. And it has nothing to do with the length of the market crash.

At the moment (a Sunday morning, only one cup of coffee down, so it might change after cup two)...I am leaning towards some combination of options #3 and #4...that he is half right... I think the market will recover...quicker than many suppose...but not quick enough for most...I am thinking that 12-18 months from now we will recover 1/2 of this loss...and then the remaining amount will take another 3 years to get the rest back...which in historical terms will be a "mild depression" and will not be an ordinary economic cycle...

But the solvency thing really gnaws at me...and my point is it is not the stock market that will bring on mass insolvency but rather the unrealistic standard of living most Americans (and other countries as well, namely Europe but even the MidEast oil kingdoms) have created...we have tapped out our homes and saved pennies on the dollar and are awash in debt...and with the housing market we are in a similar situation to oil prices and cars...

What do I mean?

My point is this. When gas prices drop people are going to return to their driving habits of the past...and not learn anything from the pain of $4 rising to $5 and beyond gas prices...and the same will be true of housing prices...

...thus, if housing prices begin to stabilize (which may be happening in some markets) and then slowly recover...people will just put whatever possible advances in equity they make back into silly purchases once again...and we will have learned nothing from this disaster.

I hope I am very wrong on this and that things have changed. We will have to wait and see...

...but in the meantime...go and see a good movie! A BARGAIN MATINEE AND SKIP THE POPCORN!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Great Repression

Is it the "Great Depression II" or the "Great Repression I?"

Yepper, now that my retirement savings is down to about $6.04 I am having to make some difficult it is time for some drastic action...I mean everything is on the table...even moving to western Kansas and simply buying a small piece of land for a few thousand bucks...say two or three thousand acres...and sitting on a porch and be angry at the world...but calmer heads have prevailed...and Starbucks is off the list as well...unless I can catch them at a later hour when they are out of decaf and I order that drink and I get it free because they have to brew it...and also get a free coupon for another drink at another trip...

but other than that I am tightening my belt... now that I have decided to stay put what do I think about this mess?

First off, I heard several smart folks recently (meaning they moved to an all cash position in March)...say that we are in the "Great Repression" meaning that government is not allowing us to get to the actual bottom of this thing like Grandma Esther and Uncle Andy did in the 30' that is a fairly interesting and provocative statement...and is therefore obscuring what is really going on...
Here are some comments I heard at a conference from some pretty smart folks.

First, the good, courtesy of Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric:
*“I am pretty optimistic. If I put my head on the pillow and am beat up I have to get up the next morning, look in the mirror and say ‘Hello Handsome!’ ”

* “We will have 2 ¼’s negative growth & then grow.”

*“Some of what has happened is good.”

Now, the bad, from Meg Whitman, former EBay CEO & current McCain Advisor:

*“We are in a severe crisis of leadership.”

*““Our past recessions we saw the consumer continue to spend—that is not going to happen in this one.”

And of course, the ugly, kudos to James Wolfensohn, famed investor & Citigroup advisor:

* “The great unknown is the real value of all of these assets. And are they capable of restoring value? No-one knows.”

*“Technology and innovation will save us. We don’t have the wealth any more. China has 1.7 trillion USD foreign reserves; India 400 billion; the USA 70 Billion.”

*“We could previously assume we were competitive. This is no longer a given.”

OUCH! And if we are not really getting to the bottom of the trouble doesn't it follow that we are not at the bottom of the stock market? That we really don't know what assets are worth? Which leads back to the "Great Repression I" metaphor.

The reality is none of us know where this thing is going to really end...and while I don't really agree with Jeffrey Immelt of a fairly quick end to the recession I do think we are in for some very difficult times...

So old Jim Cramer says in an interview the other day that "We are going to have to begin to live like our parents did. We cannot sustain the standard of living we have had."

Ouch again!

Here is what I think I am going to do:

1) Kansas is off the table. Cheap land and cost of living but way too windy.

2) Double down on my retirement plan. I might as well. It is the only chance I have of recovering what has been lost over the past few months. The financial system is actually much safer than it was 30 days ago. Really.

3) Get used to enormous volatility in the markets. It goes up 500 points? No big deal. Down 500 points? No big deal. Especially when it happens all in 20 minutes.

3) Not buy anything. Anything. It is time to be frugal. Conservative. Cheap.

4) Read history more. We have been here before. We could learn a lot from the "Great Panic of 1908." (See the article at:,0,5813124.story )

5) Stay focused on the long term. We have to think 5-10 years here kids.

Hang in there. Confidence will eventually return. The market will go up. Things will stabilize.

And as an entrepreneur, I will tell you that I fully believe we are now entering the "Era of the entrepreneur." More to come on that topic.

But here is something else Meg Whitman had to say this past week:

“Business Schools need to focus their grads away from
Wall Street and look to Main Street.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This or That?



PETA Urges Ben & Jerry's To Use Human Milk
POSTED: 1:48 pm EDT September 23, 2008
UPDATED: 11:51 pm EDT September 23, 2008

WATERBURY, Vt. -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow's milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman.
"PETA's request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow's milk in the food he serves," the statement says.
PETA officials say a move to human breast milk would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health.
"The fact that human adults consume huge quantities of dairy products made from milk that was meant for a baby cow just doesn't make sense," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "Everyone knows that 'the breast is best,' so Ben & Jerry's could do consumers and cows a big favor by making the switch to breast milk."
"We applaud PETA's novel approach to bringing attention to an issue, but we believe a mother's milk is best used for her child," said a spokesperson for Ben and Jerry's.

For the complete letter from PETA see
Honest! I am not making this up! Viva leche!

I Miss Silver

"Turn on the TV, shut out the lights, for Roy Rogers is riding tonight..."

Black and White (Under age 40? You won't understand.) You could hardly see for all the snow, Spread the rabbit ears as far as they go. Pull a chair up to the TV set, 'Good Night, David. Good Night, Chet.'
My mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board
with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn't seem to get food poisoning. My mom used to defrost hamburger on the counter AND I used to eat it raw sometimes, too.

Our school sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper in a brown paper bag, not in ice-pack coolers, but I can't remember getting e.coli. Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring)-- no beach closures then. The term cell phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager was the school PA
system. We all took gym, not PE, and risked permanent injury with a pair of high top Ked's (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in light reflectors. I can't recall any injuries, but they must have happened because they tell us how
much safer we are now. Flunking gym was not an option, even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be much harder than gym.
Speaking of school, we all said prayers and sang the national anthem, and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention. We must have had horribly damaged psyches. What an archaic health system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours wore a hat and everything. I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed to be proud of myself. I just can't recall how bored we were without computers, Play Station, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital TV cable stations.
Oh yeah ... and where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed! We played 'king of the hill' on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites, and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome (kids liked it better because it didn't sting like iodine did) and then we got our butt spanked. Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49 bottle of antibiotics, and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.
We didn't act up at the neighbor's house either because if we did, we got our butt spanked there and then we got butt spanked again when we got home. I recall Donny Reynolds from next door coming over and doing his tricks on the front step, just before he fell off. Little did his Mom know that she could have owned our house. Instead, she picked him up and swatted him for being such a goof. It was a neighborhood run amuck.
To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that we needed to get into group therapy and anger management classes? We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills that we didn't even notice that the entire country wasn't taking Prozac!
(anonymous...sorry I didn't write it!)
How did we ever survive?
.....A song for all of us over 40....ummm...even 50+.....a wistful look back....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So Sue Me!

So sue me! It's been since last month to jump on and regale the web with my earnest wisdom...just a few things have been occupying my time...really...but with school starting and a big event that happened this past Friday..... and grading papers... and trying to keep my entrepreneur students awake after they eat lunch at the PLNU has been a busy few weeks...but there is much to talk about!

Yepper depper we had about 425 good folks for our Dealmakers of the Year Business Breakast last Friday at the Kona Kai on Shelter Island...and the morning sun was beautiful coming up over the city of San Diego and the boats in the marina looked great...and we spent a few hours honoring value creators in the community...good finalists and winners all...but I am very proud of the many students engaging and taking care of business...they looked great and presented the school very nicely done to all of can read more at...

but onto other things...


I mean just the other day I was worth almost enough to get my 1975 AMC Pacer repainted...but now this is going to have to wait for another day...well...decade...until my accounts begin to what happened? really is rather simple...we just spend too included...and this country is up to its ears in much you ask?...try this on for size...
U.S. Financial Sector owes............................$16 TRILLION!
U.S. Households owe.....................................$14 TRILLION!
U.S. Non-financial business sectors owe......$11 TRILLION!
U.S. Federal Debt...........................................$5.3 TRILLION!
U.S. State and Local Governments Debt.......$2.2 TRILLION!
(reference SD Union Tribune, p. A1, 9/21/08)
We are approaching 50 TRILLION IN DEBT! And we are arguing about silly trivial things in our government...all the while other countries hostile to the U.S. are buying our debt up and...someday....someway....somehow...can act as a bully landlord to us... at the end of the day we need to start blaming ourselves...for this awful mess...and yes there is plenty of blame to go around from inept SEC regulators who emphasize academic solutions over practical realities...and corrupt financial service firms and their leaders who bulked up on debt like heroin addicts...and greedy homeowners who watched "Flip This House" too many times...
...I really think we need to start rethinking this...and because I am a teacher I think that our colleges and universities have been failing our students miserably in this area...we are proficient at having them learn management principles and 18th century poets and attending chapel and articles of the constitution...
...but very few that I meet in college can balance a checkbook or have any idea what debt is doing to them...and why they need to wait until they have cash to buy the next thing they think they need (if we cannot persuade them that they don't really need it)...and we do nothing to emphasize the value of investing and saving and legacy creation over buying the latest X Box update...
...but we have to do this in creative ways...and I think business profs and entrepreneurs and small business owners and banks and financial institutions need to rethink this whole topic together...and develop better tools and approaches to explaing the value of delayed gratification to our youth...
...and parents need to pull their heads out of....errr...ummm....the sand...and stop modeling terrible financial habits to their families...
I have posted a small article (400 words...sheesh! Tough to do!) that the PLNU newspaper asked me to write on the global crisis...I hope it helps in some small way...
We will talk later...I am going to stand by my mailbox and wait for my Schwab statements...probably postage due!
All of us—not just those involved in business either as students, academics or in practice—need to be deeply concerned about what is going on in the financial markets. What is occurring is the destruction of over 100 years of the financial system of the United States. This is no mere academic exercise, as I have heard the phrase used by several commentators this past week that we are “on the verge of a Depression.” Couple this market turmoil with the protracted California state budget deadlock and the issue is driven home even further, for grants, reimbursements and government services are drying up.
What caused this? While there are many nuances to the crisis there are several prime culprits including greed (not just on Wall Street but among all of us in accumulating entirely too much debt for homes, cars, vacations, etc.); lack of governmental oversight and leadership through the Securities and Exchange Commission especially as relates to trading abuses; woefully inadequate lending standards for home purchases through much of this decade with little concern for the ability of the borrower to pay the loan back; and the lack of fiscal transparency by some investment banking firms. All of this had led to a “perfect storm” of economic woes. None of us are even beginning to think about the slowing European economy and housing deflation and their own mounting woes. It is an escalating global crisis.
When the economy is in crisis this manifests itself in uncertainty among all of us. We will see this crisis play itself out on many fronts including a rapidly slowing job market, lack of loans retirement and investment accounts. There will be a rebound, perhaps sooner rather than later, but it is too soon to determine if we are at a solid bottom.
For the typical student, faculty or staff member of the PLNU community, what can we do in this time of turmoil? Here are some practical suggestions:
· Cut back on excess spending. Brew your own coffee. Use coupons. Car pool.
· If you are a junior or senior get busy now to prepare for graduation. Network. Attend events. Take advantage of career resources. Get an internship. Volunteer.
· If you have a job now, re-assert your interest and value in your position and the company. Stand out from the crowd. Excel. This will provide security.
· Vote for leadership. We are in an election year. Look for leadership and not pithy statements from candidates. Demand political accountability from all parties.
· Remain grateful and faithful. We are people who have a deeper calling. We must look beyond this moment and keep fixed on eternal things.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

OK I am getting my blog face! A bad one! I have copied below in its entirety (no alterations) something I received from my dear Uncle Wilfred from about McCain's "dangerous choice" of Sarah Palin...and I am watching the Sunday morning newshows and listening to Bob Schieffer et al...

And all can say about my dear friends on any side of the aisle who want to unload about Palin's lack of you kidding me? You want to criticize Palin for VP? What about Barak for President? Why is it that an governor with even modest executive experience for the second role is a "dangerous choice" because she is only a heartbeat away from the Oval Office but we can put someone with even less experience in the Office and anoint him as the Messiah?

...So let me get this straight...the Dems can scream from the rooftops about "change" for 20 months and then the Reps come up with a "change" VP candidate who has more decision-making common-sense experience than Obama (and just happens to be a woman) and the Dems criticize this? And the Presidential candidate of "hope and change" selects one of the most senior white males in American politics (Teddy is sick, so he was off the list, I suppose), and then criticizes the opposing candidate's lack of experience? And that is not hypocritcal? Or "dangerous" because it subverts the "message of change" and "audacity of hope?" One of the guys at the heart of three decades of Washington stupidity from both political parties is now on the "A Team" and this is OK and not incrongruent with what the Dems are demanding? What?

The bottom line on all of this is that the Dems are upset that they got blown off the 'A' list of media on Friday morning and all weekend has now been talking about the choice of Palin and also the possibility of a hurricane hitting the Gulf again...and Barak got displaced off the pulpit for the moment...

Look, I may not be the sharpest tool in the fact I am not...but I have done OK for myself in this world...starting from just about nothing after my time in the military...and let me tell you that I have much more regard for the sensibilities of the person running the corner store or teaching the class or the single mom raising her kids or the guy running the railroad or painting the house than the vast majority of politicians of any stripe with "experience" or an Ivy league resume...

Ok...take a breath...and I am not convinced that Hillary should not have been selected as Veep for the Dems...they would have had a "slam dunk" and Barak appears to be certainly smart enough to have figured out a way to keep Bill on a leash...and at one moment he could have had a candidate of experience and remained true to his message of "hope and change"...and it just seems very hypocritical to have appeared to sold out to conventional political wisdom rather than remain true to what he says he is...and shattered the door saying "white dudes only" on the Oval Office once and for all...

Enjoy the info below!


Subject: McCain's dangerous choice
Dear MoveOn member,
Yesterday was John McCain's 72nd birthday. If elected, he'd be the oldest president ever inaugurated. And after months of slamming Barack Obama for "inexperience," here's who John McCain has chosen to be one heartbeat away from the presidency: a right-wing religious conservative with no foreign policy experience, who until recently was mayor of a town of 9,000 people.
Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:
She was elected Alaska 's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.1
Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.2
She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. 3
Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.4
She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.5
She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species—she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.6
How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.7
This is information the American people need to see. Please take a moment to forward this email to your friends and family.
We also asked Alaska MoveOn members what the rest of us should know about their governor. The response was striking. Here's a sample:
She is really just a mayor from a small town outside Anchorage who has been a governor for only 1.5 years, and has ZERO national and international experience. I shudder to think that she could be the person taking that 3AM call on the White House hotline, and the one who could potentially be charged with leading the US in the volatile international scene that exists today. —Rose M., Fairbanks, AK
She is VERY, VERY conservative, and far from perfect. She's a hunter and fisherwoman, but votes against the environment again and again. She ran on ethics reform, but is currently under investigation for several charges involving hiring and firing of state officials. She has NO experience beyond Alaska. —Christine B., Denali Park, AK
As an Alaskan and a feminist, I am beyond words at this announcement. Palin is not a feminist, and she is not the reformer she claims to be. —Karen L., Anchorage, AK
Alaskans, collectively, are just as stunned as the rest of the nation. She is doing well running our State, but is totally inexperienced on the national level, and very much unequipped to run the nation, if it came to that. She is as far right as one can get, which has already been communicated on the news. In our office of thirty employees (dems, republicans, and nonpartisans), not one person feels she is ready for the V.P. position.—Sherry C., Anchorage, AK
She's vehemently anti-choice and doesn't care about protecting our natural resources, even though she has worked as a fisherman. McCain chose her to pick up the Hillary voters, but Palin is no Hillary. —Marina L., Juneau, AK
I think she's far too inexperienced to be in this position. I'm all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn't done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain's part- and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he'll get our vote by putting "A Woman" in that position.—Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK
So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She's a global warming denier who shares John McCain's commitment to Big Oil. And she's dramatically inexperienced.
In picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has made the religious right very happy. And he's made a very dangerous decision for our country.
In the next few days, many Americans will be wondering what McCain's vice-presidential choice means. Please pass this information along to your friends and family.
Thanks for all you do.
–Ilyse, Noah, Justin, Karin and the rest of the team
1. "Sarah Palin," Wikipedia, Accessed August 29, 2008
2. "McCain Selects Anti-Choice Sarah Palin as Running Mate," NARAL Pro-Choice America, August 29, 2008
3. "Sarah Palin, Buchananite," The Nation, August 29, 2008
4. "'Creation science' enters the race," Anchorage Daily News, October 27, 2006
5. "Palin buys climate denial PR spin—ignores science," Huffington Post, August 29, 2008
6. "McCain VP Pick Completes Shift to Bush Energy Policy," Sierra Club, August 29, 2008
"Choice of Palin Promises Failed Energy Policies of the Past," League of Conservation Voters, August 29, 2008
"Protecting polar bears gets in way of drilling for oil, says governor," The Times of London, May 23, 2008
7 "McCain met Palin once before yesterday," MSNBC, August 29, 2008
Want to support our work? We're entirely funded by our 3.2 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Chip in here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Complaint About Movies

I have a complaint...about movies...and it has nothing to do with the price...but has anyone seen a good movie lately? I mean one that isn't preceded by 20 minutes of mind-poounding head-thumping music videos of car crashes in the previews? I don't recall when the last time was I saw a movie with an actual plot, dialogue and story--and no car crashes and explosions!

Now except for Heath Ledger...I felt that Batman Dark Night was really too loud...and impersonal for me...can anyone make a subtle point in a movie any more? Am I really going to be reduced to watching my DVD of Band of Brothers again and again? Some help here!

...and don't throw the indie movies at me as being the answer...because I just watched about 12 of them for the San Diego Film Festival...and while they throttle back on the car crashes and volume...three out of four of them are entirely too long...downright tedious....and while I kind of am enamored with "Punkin Chuckin" (seriously---hurling pumpkins up to a 1/2 mile through massive cannons, rubber bands and various doo-hickees) we really need 2 hours and 15 minutes of pumkin tossing?

So I am all ears here sports fans...I would love to have a recommendation of a good movie I can go to with friends and family!

Obama Bin Biden vs. Sarah Palin and Tall McCain

Well kids...what a week! Just when we thought Obama had it in the bag...he does the unthinkable! He trades in Billary and their 18,000,000+ votes and goes for the jugular with Joe Biden-- the aging policy wonk from the major state of Delaware...with its three electoral votes...the same as North Dakota...but he salvages all of this potential disaster with an incredible coronation speech at Denver...and properly pursues the strategeeree of hanging Dubya around McCain's neck...

...but I tried to make sense of the Biden pick...he really is a smart guy, a good family story, kept his nose clean in the Senate ('Cept for that itty bitty problem of plagarism from his school daze--but hey, who hasn't outright ripped off other's materials and made it your own? C'mon now!) and I really didn't think Obama would pick a Biden over other choices he had...OK, I am really trying to keep an open mind here! So let me get this straight...

*The multi-national forty-something African-American Chicago street fighter community organizer radical takes for his running mate the highly predictable elderly white dude Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from just about the tiniest (area) state in the union...

While in the other corner...

*The elderly (very!) Caucasian P.O.W. "maverick" (with eight houses) takes for his running mate a gun-packing moose-burger eating forty-something mother of five (do you think I am making this up?) from just about the tiniest (population) state in union?!?

What is he thinking?

Look, McCain is not the greatest guy the GOP has come up with to run for the White House, but I have to give it to him...I cannot think of a better way of knocking Obama off the air on Friday morning than coming up with a highly unpredictable selection for Veep

This election may actually be interesting and close ! Thanks Obama for keeping hope alive!

Oh, and one or two other things that I am thinking about following this week's turn of events...besides the goiter thingy growing on Johnny Mac's neck (yes, I know it is probably left over from his cancer treatment) and the purple lips that Barak gets (what is up with that? eewwww!)...

Now, which woman in an orange pant suit did you think was going to be on the White House ticket this year? Hmmmm?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Eyes Have It...

Saturday August 9, 2008

So that is what I look like...I put on my "blogger face"...according to my dear bride...when I come across things in the ordinary course of business that really bug me...and it happened to me just a few days ago at a local establishment...

...but of course I want to keep the name of this firm really doesn't add anything to the discussion...and I really do like the company and its products, and it has a great reputation...but it really drives me crazy when the most fundamental tasks at business cannot be accomplished well! arggh!

So here is the set-up to the situation I experienced...we went to this retail store prepared to spend some money...and most of the time my credit card charges are approved...provided they don't exceed $239.84...or the Chase Credit Card guys promptly call me to make sure that someone hasn't snagged my card and attempted to buy a new gizmo at Wal-Mart or something...and they are relentless when one of their "security alerts" is triggered...(note to self: I wish they could have been that vigilant when they do some other things, like, say...hand out mortgages to frauds, give zillion dollar bonuses to some doofus [sp?], etc.)...but I digress...again...darn!

...So at this lovely establishment, wood floors, nice music, bright windows and great displays, Ruthie and about 30 other people are rummaging around, feeling stylish and ready to spend...and we have some items and are feeling good...I mean, after all, the economy is in recession...but don't tell that to the 28 other shoppers that were all from Europe (seriously!)...they had to bring out an American cashier just to speak to us since everyone else was tied up with Euro-flush Continentals...and we saunter on up to the cashier...card and items in hand...maybe $200 worth...and we proceed to...wait...and wait...and wait...and five then ten minutes pass...and we have not mind you we are only 3 people from the two cashiers running...but in this ten minutes we have not moved and now Svetlana and Igor, Chas and Thelma and my other Nato friends have joined in the line...and it is looking like a bunch of Mennonites at a dance...all dressed up and no movement...nothing happening...

So patient fellow that I am...I stepped out of the line and went to observe what was going on in the rest of the store...since the Continentals weren't going anywhere since while they were in line the Euro went up another 2.5% vs. the dollar...they were content to be there all day...but I had places to go and people to I notice three other employees in the immediate vicinity...all three are folding and straightening out items...but none are making a move to a cash register...and there are three empty stands within 15 feet of the I ask the young man...let's call him Ralph..."why don't you go open a register and take these people's money? It is, after all, the best part of being in business?" (I could have said the aforementioned encouragement to my young friend with sarcasm but really tried to refrain)...and he said "I have to maintain this table" and that was that...

So I went to another young person, turns out it is the shift manager...and let's call her Lauren...and I get the same answer...and she adds that the other two workers on the floor at the moment "are not qualified to cashier" and that she had "three ringers miss work today"...something about them attending a polo match...and she seemed very satisifed that this was a good enough answer...but noooooo...not for me...and while I told her that I understood the difficulties of managing employees that to make customers stand in line to pay you...a longgggggggggg (and lengthening) line...was just not good business, especially with the type of clientele that Ralph, Lauren and the rest of the gang at the store were wanting to attract...

Interestingly enough she actually had a possible solution in an aside she made to me...when she commented that she would "love to put up a sign at the cashier area that apologizes for the three employees being gone for the day" and maybe that would not have been too bad of an idea...explaining to the employees what had happened and why the cash registers were sitting gathering dust...rather than just letting customers come up with their own stories...

But at the end of the day management must find ways to take their customers money...easily...quickly...and properly...regardless if employees call in sick or have to have a pedicure or anything just cannot do these kinds of things to customers...or they will no longer be your customers...because...

By my count there were at least ten other stores that were direct competitors of the fine establishment that I visited on Thursday...but a gentle suggestion to Ralph, Lauren, and the rest of the folks attending the polo match that day...don't ever make excuses when it comes to taking money when someone is trying to hand it to is after all what is keeping you in business!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Like a Virgin!

Tuesday August 5, 2008

Well kids, I have seen the light! Let me describe a situation and see if you can figure out where I was:

*A comfortable and clean leather cushion for my tush.

*Smiling people and happy and courteous employees.

*Fusion jazz in the bathroom.

*Video games, music, TV for free.

*Fresh flowers at the desk.

*Soft lighting and ambiance.

*Room to spread out.

So where was I? Was it...

*The Proctologist's office.

*The Lazy-Boy Showroom

*My office

*Phil's Barbeque

*A US Airline

Alex, the answer is Virgin American airline, which I flew the other day...and my thoughts are that if I have to pay a 25% premium over any other carrier I will fly Virgin.

Check them out at they say come to "the coolest living room in the sky" and I was very impressed...and left scratching my head...Why does flying have to be as horrible as it is? Why can't people be treated decent? Why can't they act human and understand that the small things really do matter? Why not charge enough to do it right?

For some reason it is taking a good old Brit Sir Richard Branson to bring somethind good back to the US domestic airline business...You really have to try it to understand how nice it is to be 6'2" and actually be able to stand up in the bathroom...and more or less be able to "hit the target" (so to speak)...and not have some young "attendant" tell me I have to shut off my Bose headphones because "the electrical interference can cause disruption to the pilot"...yepper depper one AAA battery really throws the juice out! Thanks for being concerned for my safety! (actually happened a month or so ago on American)...and interestingly enough on Virgin the personal entertainment centers (really...they truly are centers)...are live when you get on the plane and you can use them the whole time both on the ground and in the air...go figure...

Was it perfect? Of course not...their computer crashed and they had to write our tickets by hand...and you are allowed only one bag (bad news) but the single bag is given 75 lbs. and not the usual 50 lbs (good news)...oh, and they only had the current catalog of Bruce Springsteen and omitted Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born to Run...the nerve!...but other than these troubles it was really a great way to I give them

So do you like my suit? Stylin!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday July 27, 2008

Am I a lucky guy or what?!?! If the election were held today Barack Obama would be my President! He holds a commanding lead in the be the Prime Minister of England or Germany...and something significant in France...not quite sure what it is but it is probably le gross I guess that the good news because things aren't quite settled yet here in the U.S....because we all know that our European brethren have done such a splendid job in politics the past thousand years or so...therefore it behooves us to consider carefully their counsel of political leadership...knowing that they are always 'spot on' in politics....

...Anyway, there are other more important things to discuss...most notably the economy...which is clearly not a strength for either of the Presidential candidates...but there are three things that continue to concern me...really distress me is more accurate...that just don't seem to get the proper amount of attention for a healthy and vibrant economy...including the ongoing credit market tightening which is a result of the mortgage mess...because for five years banks and lending institutions were throwing money at anyone...hmmmm....let's see...Do you have a pulse? Dheck! Do you have a job? Check! Not sure how much you make? Check! Bad credit history? Check! Too large of a loan for you? Check! OK here is your loan! Enjoy! And make sure to go to Home Depot and spend some more money...

...But now the opposite is happening in the restriction of credit...I sat in on a "Business Rountable" recently of construction and real estate leaders of San Diego and I have to tell you that it was pretty dire in the lack of construction and development funding....the pipeline is really running dry and we are not going to feel the effects of this for a while...the banks have clamped down so hard that only the very wealthiest can get loans for projects, homes, businesses...and this is going to really bite us hard in the future...

...And the dull work of infrastructure continues to be neglected...I mean why build bridges when we have the important work of banning transfats from California restaurants to tackle...(man, I have been losing sleep over that one! Thanks Arnold for protecting me!)...but all the while our roads and bridges and highways are neglected....and at the end of the day these are really the unpaid bills of the future generations because infrastructure is really dull stuff but has a huge impact on everything that we do in society...and the politicians and most of us just don't get it...

...All right, since I have forgotten what the third thing is in the economy that really concerns me...but the whole banning of transfats in California really chafes me...couldn't we have tackled this problem in a bit more comprehensive way? Like actually getting school children away from their text messaging and video "grab fanny" and instead have them moving around the playground during recess? Like having them throw a baseball or play tag or have fun on a swing set? Oh wait a minute...most of those things are now illegal because they caused an injury somewhere let's ban those items...but wasn't there some sort of a benefit to those old "Presidential Fitness Tests" we did every year at Temperance-Kutner Elementary in Clovis?...those darned pull-ups I absolutely hated... (thanks to the Ataide side of the family bequeathing us bad hearts and thin arms...not exactly the stuff of longevity or physical strength)...but the other stuff I could do OK...well, at least not the worst in Mrs. Locke's class...dear old lady that she was...

...Did I tell you about my confrontation with a little old lady in a parking lot in San Diego? Seems like she didn't like the fact that I drive an SUV...

...So my freshly minted son in law Dustin and his dad are getting into my 2004 well worn Yukon at Liberty Station...and they make a comment that it is really tight getting into the space and opening the door...which it was...and Agnes Frankenberry is walking behind my car as I am opening my door...and she says as she passes in a fairly loud voice "Well maybe you should get a smaller car" I immediately went up and thanked her for the great advice as I had never considered such a thing...she was like a walking Suzi Orman, Dear Abby and Judge Judy all wrapped up into one cute little package...well, maybe not...

...what I actually said to her as she was walking away was "This was a great car to help raise our family and haul everyone around to school and work events"...and she made a sound that actually was like a "harumph" and kept walking...and I have to say it really bugged me that she would hurt my Yukon's feelings like that!...but the funny thing is that it really makes no sense for me to sell old "Yukie" for the following reasons:

*She is paid for (a rarity these days)

*She is fully depreciated

*She really does get pretty good mileage (17-18 city/20-22 highway)

*I drive very little in the Yukon (after all, we do have a Volvo)

*Friends and family love to borrow the Yukon to haul things

*The SUV resale market is terrible (big surprise!)

...but the most important reason is...that I should be free to decide what I want to drive...

...So please if I am a bit slow to jump on the Prius bandwagon...cut me a bit of slack on this topic Agnes! Yukon owners have feelings too!


...One last thing...

Just in case you missed it check out Will Ferrell's accepting the ESPY Award for Tiger Woods...