Monday, December 31, 2007

I forgot to stick the drain catch in the diswasher

My girlfriend has a dishwasher. She also has a wire mesh in her sink for filtering out particles. I personally prefer an actual stopper, as I like to fill up the sink with soapy water when I wash hand wash dishes.

Regardless, sometimes I like to load the dishwasher up with things that dont get washed every day. Things such as parts of the coffee maker, wire brushes, sponges, copper scrub pads. In other words, when I clean the kitchen I like to stick anything small enough in the dishwasher. Part of this includes the drain catch.

Unfortunately, I do not clean the kitchen in an orderly fashion. As a matter of fact, I usually start cleaning the kitchen while preparing lunch, and never arrange it so that the dish washer is started immediately after I finish my dessert course of a sour pickle and some kim chi.

As such I always forget to throw the catch in the dishwasher. I think I will have to buy the girlfriend a second drain catch so I can always have one in the dishwasher. It would be much easier to integrate a drain catch swap into my diswasher unloading routine than to decide that I'm going to cook lunch, eat it sitting down, and then clean the kitchen in an orderly fashion.

Happy New Years Eve and belated Winter Solstice Greetings

Its been a while since I posted. I just want to say I hope everyone enjoyed their Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Saturnilla. or whatever winter solstice holiday they observed. And I wish you all a healthy and prosperous new year.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Great Ceasers Ghost - The Things People Will Post

Well Kath hates her sister in law and felt the need to tell the world. So she tells the world in her blog. I happen to come across this blog article while searching for the origin of an expression that happened to title one of her blog articles, "Great Odins Raven."

So I ask mys, "has she thought her sister in law might find the article." Its very possible her sister in law does not spend much time browsing the internet and therefore will never find it. However, you never know. Perhaps she does secretly wish the article to be discovered and she would never have to talk to her sister in law again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Repeal Day!

December 5th, 1923, the 21st Amendment of the US Constitution made the 18th Amendment null and void. Prohibition was ended.

Everyone celebrate by having a drink.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Return of Imus

I was stuck in traffic yesterday morning. This was probably a good thing as I got to Listen to a good portion of Don Imus. I think it made me appreciate on some small level what he meant when he said he was thankful for being fired:
I was thinking how fortunate it was that I had been fired, because had I been there talking to them, and apologizing to them, and offering them these excuses, and still had my job.... they would have thought that I was there to try and save my job, and that might have been true, but I was there to try and save my life.
Another thing he said was he realized that when he met with the students and was "providing context" to his remarks, it was irrelevant to them. This hit somewhat closer to home. I think more people have had the experience of being forced to face their own prejudice, and find themselves saying something to the effect, "But I have (insert group here) friends!" or otherwise justifying behaviors or statements. In the end it doesn't matter.

However, does it matter that Imus had done so much good? Well perhaps it both mattered and was irrelevant at the same time. Maybe it didn't directly make up for the remarks, but taught us a greater lesson.

I sort of grew up listening to Imus. My dad mainly listened to 660 AM "The Fan" in the car when I was growing up. Especially in the morning. I don't know at what point Imus was syndicated, but really it didn't matter. From my point of view there was always Imus in the morning.

When I rediscovered AM radio on my own, I became a WABC fan. Morning Drive time was time for Curtis and Kuby. Although I had mixed opinions about the "incident," I was not reallt affected by it. To be honest, I was initially disappointed to hear that Imus would come to WABC, as I had grown accustomed to the cast of characters that I heard in the morning.

My memories of the I-man pitching his charities was first SIDs and then later his ranch. Regardless of any accusations of fund misappropriation, and the general waste of money that charitable bureaucrats can do sometimes, kids with cancer go to the ranch and have fun. It's somewhat ironic that it is a functional ranch, uet the meals are vegetarian, but hey not everyone can eat their own dog food.

A left learning person I know remarked years ago that the man is a bigot and he carries a handgun. Well I don't see a link between gun ownership and bigotry. Unless he has shot anyone we cannot link his gun ownership with prejudices. However, I think his owning a gun and behaving certain ways provided a different context for people who had negative views about Imus before the incident.

So in the end nothing has changed, but Imus's position on the dial. Oh and of course 2 black comedians working on Imus's staff. Perhaps if he makes some off color remark about non celebrity African Americans before 6am, and the two black comedians on the air don't get offended by it, that will provide some context we can all agree on. Then again perhaps not.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lean Pockets with a Whole Grain Crust

As previously stated I am dog sitting and the dog comes with Whole Grain Lean Pockets. I have discovered these are not to my liking.

Now generally I like most whole grain foods. These however, taste more like cardboard than there white flour counterparts. I can't explain why. They just do. They are slightly better in the toaster oven than the microwave. However, only slightly.

Now on to the lean part. Generally, if a processed cheese is "light" it is not tasty. There are many cheeses made from skim milk that I like. obviously, the hot pockets is made from processed light cheese.

So if I am complacent to eat them, when there is other food in the house, why do I write about them? Well I guess this is proof some people rather sit on their soapbox than take action.

Dog Sitting

I'm watching this thing for the week.

It's name is Willie. I figured today would be his freak out day after waking up and realizing mommy didn't come home so I chose to work from home so he wouldn't be so lonely. He slept until about noon and ignored me most of the day. The one exception was a bought of activity around noon that inspired me to take him for a walk. Generally he poops in the backyard during the cold months. Since the weather was warm enough this was a bit of a treat for him.

Willie of comes with its owner's apartment. This is something I enjoy. Its not terribly far from my place and the apartment comes with food, which other than the whole grain lean pockets, I can't complain about. Being I ate lean the lean pockets twice, I guess I have little right to make that particular complaint. Fool me once, shame on lean pockets, Fool me twice, and I should have gotten pizza for lunch.

Well its off to bed. I have a full day of staring at my laptop screen from my desk tomorrow.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We need a figure skating channel!

Today was setup the tree day for the girlfriend. She's a fan of live trees. I grew up on artificial trees, and wish to continue the tradition when I have a family of my own. However, this is not the story of how a man and a woman compromise on important matters that define us as human beings, or at least Judeo-Christian homosapians. Rather, its about figure skating!

So, while the girlfriend was setting up the tree, and I was writing about matters of profound unimportance in this blog, the TV was on. The channel was ESPN and figure skating was the event being broadcast.

I don't remember what competition was being televised, but I was paying more attention to it than I would like. What I mean by that is I have a terrible time tuning out background noise and was distracted by the TV. However, the girlfriend wanted to watch it and I wanted to let her.

After the event , the next sport being broadcast was NFL football. Now here in the United States, we all know every man loves football, and figure skating is a womans sport. We also thank God that we have at least 5 ESPN to broadcast all sports, including "mainstream sports," "alternative sports," "extreme sports," "vintage games," and of course curling.

However, until ESPN and the Oxygen Network team up and and provide us an all figure skating channel, our Sunday afternoon rituals will be interrupted by "girl sports." So I beg of you Oxygen, deliver us from Nancy Kerrigan!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Apparently I like Congnac

Authors note: I originally wrote this on Black Friday 2007, along with several other articles I never finished. I am finishing this now. Perhaps I might get a chance to finish the rest of the series.

In between dinner in Little Italy and After Dinner Cordials at McSorley't I sampled Ferrand Cognac at Astors's Wines and Liquors. To my surprise I like cognac when its done properly. At least I like it when it's done by Ferrand.

The tasting was lead by Jean-Francois Daniel, apparently a representative of Ferrand. He claims their cognacs are comparative to single malt scotches, and I agree with that.

They showcased three of their products at the tastings. They were the 10, the 20 and the 30 year equivilant. A bit of a note on that. These are blended cognacs. In the world of scotch, a.k.a. that which I know best, to say a blend is X years old is to say that the youngest cask used in it is X years old. Apparenly, in the case of Cognac you are allowed to call something the equivalent of X years. Well despite this ambiguity, and the fact that these are blends, I reeaffirm that these are single malt scotch equivalent.

The 10 year old was quite oaky, but still a Cognac. The 20 year old was quite fruity. The thirty year old was divine. I don't pretend to have developed my pallet or pallet vocabulary enough to explain the difference. However, its there.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What Makes a Good Grab Bag Gift?

This Saturday the girlfriend is hosting a small Christmas party for her friends. By the time plans were settled, there was no time to draw names from a hat, so the gift exchange will be grab bag style as opposed to Kris Kringle. This means of course that we are tasked with picking a gift that anyone would like.

So what makes a good gift in a grab bag context? I'll set the following criteria.
  1. The gift should be consumable, that is the act of using the gift destroys it. Food, spirits and candles are examples of this.
  2. As a corollary to rule 1, if the container for a gift is meant to be saved and reused, it should be as small as possible. Stackable is an inferior but satisfactory substitute for small.
  3. As an exception to rule number 1, if it can be mostly assured that the gift's receiver will be able to make good use of the gift something permanent may be given. Seasonal items also count in this context of permanence. Examples, would be Christmas tree ornaments.
  4. I would shy away from giving something personal. Its a grab bag.
Now for the explanations.

I'm of the belief people have too much junk. I'm by no means an advocate of green living and low carbon foot prints. I just think we collect more things than we need. This is why I'm a big fan of consumable items. If I receive smoked salmon I will eat it and not have to store it in my attic. If I receive a smoker, I will cook smoked meat two or three times and then it will take up space in my garage until the statue of limitations on selling it at a garage sale passes.

Items specifically marketed as gifts in stores fall into two distinct categories. Those that come in pretty cardboard boxes with gold accents, and those that come in pretty reusable containers of non cardboard material. Opt for the former not the later. Some people are very good at making use of square wicker baskets, but most are not.

If you absolutely must give something permanent, a Christmas tree ornament is a good idea. However, there are exceptions to even this rule. Parents of older children generally have more ornaments than they need. If you compare the Christmas trees of younger adults versus older adults you will see that younger adults tend to have ornaments that are sold in ten packs and older adults have acquired more than their share of unique ornaments of sentimental value.

Am I being just slightly heartless here? Yes I am. However, that is the point. I am a packrat by nature. Many others are like me. We all like to give and receive gifts. If you give me a gift I probably will never throw it away, and the same is true for my fellow packrats. By following my guidelines, you allow the gift giving and receiving to continue, without causing attics to become needlessly cluttered.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Obligatory Happy Thanksgiving Post

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. I don't want to get into a history of the Holiday at this time. Rather than attribute it to certain parties, I will point out the origins of the concept of thanksgiving.

Originally, days of thanksgiving were days spent in church declared whenever something good happened in the community. What we call Thanksgiving evolved from special day of Thanksgiving declared once a year as a harvest festival that in addition to the church going, had a large feast associated with it. It was usually on a Thursday in New England because that was the day of the midweek prayer service., so most people attended then.

Each colony would declare a thanksgiving once a year and eventually it became a national holiday. These days the president pardons a turkey, and eats another.

Perhaps one day I will further study the origins of this holiday and report them here. Until then, happy thanksgiving to all readers of my blog and their families.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A blog as a journal that just happens to be public

Some bloggers that deem themselves successful think that the bad ones are doing a disservice by existing. I don't believe this, but I am obviously biased. First of all, my Google searches are not filled up with irrelevant personal anecdotes. so I do not see how anyone suffers because people like me make their hatred of whole wheat lean pockets public. Secondly, these blogs serve a similar purpose as a journal does to the writer. I say similar because as I recently realized there is a different between a public blog and a private journal.

I'm rather straightforward in this blog, but not because I hide under the blanket of anonymity. A quick Google search of my handle will turn up my real name and my email address. Because of this, there are certain things I won't say for various reasons. These are not of the secrets I will take to my grave variety. They are more along the lines of things I'd rather not let certain people know. Many of them I have no problem with letting most of my friends and total strangers know. It would just be for the best if certain other people didn't know.

An example of information I previously wanted to keep secret from certain parties is I quite my job as a customer service representative for an ISP to work for a company that printed t-shirts as a programmer. Except for the first couple of months at the new job I worked weekends at the old job. Now I probably would not be fired for having a second job, but its generally not something looked upon in a positive light. This is especially true when you are a salaried employee. At this point in time I no longer work for either party so I don't mind sharing this fact.

At the time I did note in my myspace blog that I was moonlighting, and my new coworkers found me and my blog with my little secret. In the end nothing came of it, but it was stupid on my part.

So your potential audience affects what you say. While in general I may write the same sort of things in this blog as I would in a journal, some things are said differently because others might see them. The same could be said for a journal I intend no one but myself to see as opposed to one I would allow others to see.

In my case that means certain things are not said, Also, I make an attempt to make events sound more interesting since I potentially have an audience. In that regard I find this blog a better tool for improving my writing than a journal. The hope that random people will find me interesting enough to read me regularly makes me want to say something interesting.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Observations on airport security.

My company has an office in Florida. I am flying back from my second trip there. Both times I've smuggled contraband on the plane. By contraband I mean items that I can't technically take on a plane, but would not make effective weapons.

The first time I traveled there I brought a larger than 10 oz container of body wash in my carry on. As JFK they just didn't notice it. It was confiscated on the way back at FLL. The second time I brought network cable crimping equipment on. I was told by the TSA employees at JFK it was ok. In line for scanning on the way back a read a sign that specifically forbid tools such as screwdrivers and hammers. I think a crimper, punch down tool and wire stripper fall into that category. Somehow I make it through screening.

This is what I don't like about the war on terror. I don't know enough about security to be able to make statements about the usefulness of flight regulations. However, I think that not enforcing them is probably a bad idea.

These sorts of incidents eventually lead me to think how I would behave if another passenger on a plane I am taking announces he is hijacking the plane, I plan on making it very clear they will have to kill me before they bring down the plane. Of course being unmarried and childless I have the luxory of being able to make principled stands like that. At least in my own mind I do.
Cars, Trains, and Airplanes

The past 72 hours have been quite interesting for me. Below is the run down.

I left work at 17:00. I was given two tickets to the New York Performance of Blue Man Group. They are not affected by the stage hand strike. I think the stage hands are actually actors as they participate in the show and take their bows at the end. Curtain time is 20:00. My plan was to drive from work to Jamacia Station, then take the LIRR and the A train to my destination. My girlfriends plan was to take the bus to the PATH Train to the A train.

This part of the plan executed fine, except for a minor reroute on my girlfriends part. We grabbed sandwiches for dinner. The show was excellent. Afterwards we took a taxi to the world trade center. She takes the PATH train to the Godless land across the Hudson that no New York enjoys going to unless he happens to be one of New Yorks Strongest driving a garbage truck. I take the A train back to Queens. As I am walking from the subway station to my house I remember that my car is in Jamacia.

This meant that I would have to wake up an hour earlier, walk to JFK airport, take the Air Train. Pay $5 dollars to get off at Jamacia, and walk to my car. Normally this would be a minor inconvenience. However, I happened to have to catch the 6:55 Jet Blue flight to FLL in the morning. This cut 5 hours of sleep down to 4. I could not leave my car there because it would be ticked and possibly towed in the morning, and my laptop, which I would need in Florida, was there.

I wake up, stuff a change of cloths into my jacket pockets and begin my pilgrimage to my car. I arrive at my car. Soon after starting my car I discover that there is so much dew I will have to clean off the windows by hand. This is a task that has always annoyed me greatly. I take a short drive back to my house and walk back to JFK.

Upon arriving at security, I began top remember the multitude of rules the TSA enforces at these check points. Mainly I keep alot of junk in my book bag and pockets, and much of it is electronic. I average about 4 trays at the scanners. I forgot toiletries, so I don't have to worry about the liquid rules.

However, I dis have one thing to worry about, a set of network cable tools. These are strange looking and have sharp edges. Luckily the TSA employee knows what they are and after a consult with her red shirted supervisor I am allowed to bring these weapons of mass communication upon the plane.

The flight departs on time and is uneventful. No one claps when we land. This pleases me. Unless an engine catches fire I feel clapping is unwarranted. If you are a nervous flyer I suggest you OD on caffine and take a 16 hour nonstop flight. Repeat until flight does not bother you. If you fear terrorists, consider flying a stupid, but brave symbolic act.

I am offered a Dodge Charger upsell by Avis for only $10 more a day. The clerk did no know the engine in it, and I didnt check. I believe it was the V-6. There is no tiptronic like shifting. Wikipedia claims that on a Dodge the closest technology would be called AutoStick. The interior is very spartan. It was an interesting change from my Corolla. The squareness of the front allowed me to park easier. That being said, I'll take my 5 speed corolla any day over an automatic Dodge Charger.

The business aspect of Floridia was fairly straightforward. I took a walk down Hillsboro Blvd looking for a place to eat and eventually settled on a Mexican restaurant. I walked back to my hotel, watched some TV and went to sleep.

They next day was more of the same and the trip back to the airport. The TSA employee was very insistent that I only use the trays for my laptop and shoes and keep the rest of my bag intact. Small trays were provided for pocket contents. They much have newer scanners there, and to my surprise, my bag doesn't require manual inspection.

I get to my flight gate and discover the flight is delayed. It was scheduled to depart FLL at 18:10. A little after 7 we were allowed on the plane. Its now 20:00 and I am sitting in seat 20C, typing this from the Tarmac, As I finished the last sentence, at 20:03 an announcement was made that planes destined for JFK are now allowed to take off.

---------- HIBERNATE LAPTOP ----------

---------- UNHIBERNATE LAPTOP ----------

20:35 and I'm in the air. I'm anticipating my Dunkin Donuts coffee black no sugar and blue potato chips.

I end up home a little before 01:00.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Christman List Fun

My mother requested a Christmas list from myself and my girlfriend. I post the email thread here for the amusement of the general public.

The lists


A house plant

German Shepard
world peace
world domination

The response

Thank you for your Christmas List. However, there is shortage on
ponies, German shepherds decided to travel back to their homeland.
underwear that's a good possibility as long as its USA made, but what is
the size. world peace sounds heavenly but out of my control and world
domination--you're asking for too much.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Confusing Marketing

Ok sometime I see something and just want to say what the heck. Palm's marketing copy for their Centro is one of those things.

The Centro's product page says the following:
Life starts after five o'clock. That's why there's the Palm® Centro™ smartphone. Palm Centro gives you voice, text, IM, email and web, all in a phone that's a lot smaller than you think. It even has a touchscreen and a full keyboard, so you can say L8R to those tricky keys on your cell phone. Carry names and numbers, shoot photos and video, and meet up with friends. Centro. Let's go.
What were they thinking? If you have a smart phone, you generally use it because you are a workaholic. You don't use it for you outside the office life. Even if it is a toy you use to communicate with your friends, you're probably using it to check your rss feeds or myspace messages when you should be talking to the girl sitting next to you, since its 5 o'clock and that means its happy hour.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A tale of bad documentation - Part 2

In part 1 I discussed a real life story of bad documentation wasting peoples time. In part 2 I provide an update and some notes on the more human side of this all.

After some correspondence on the mailing lists, I submitted a documentation patch. There might an iteration or two of changes to that, but I expect it to make it into the final product (the website) in short order.

All in all its been a mostly positive experience as far as interacting with people. The people on the list were pretty helpful and quite responsive. However, the tools were a bit obtuse. I'm hoping to be able to help fix that fir future releases.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Observations on Parking Tickets

I get many parking tickets. This comes from growing up in an area where you could park on the street 24/7, but in my adult life having to drive to areas with things like alternate side of the street parking.

First a definition of alternate side of the street parking. Basically in New York City, neighboring Jersey City, and I'm sure many other urban areas, certain areas where you can park on the street have signs where once or twice a week you cannot park on that side of the street for a certain time period. The times are arranged so that if you cannot part your car on one side of the street today, you cannot park your car on the other side tomorrow. Hence the name alternate side of the street parking.

The reason for this is to designate a time period that the street cleaning trucks can clean the street. The penalty for failing to move your car is of course a parking ticket. Also, if they actually clean the streets that day, you get a sticker on your windshield letting you know that the streets are dirty because of you. In addition to all of this are of course areas you just cannot park during weekday daytime hours because the extra lane is needing for moving cars or the area is designated no standing except for commercial vehicles. Violating those signs means getting towed.

I've received several parking tickets, and gotten towed once. I've never gotten a sticker on my windshield, but did once watch a street cleaning truck drive around my car and quickly moved it before someone came to apply the sticker and write the ticket. I've even gotten towed once. These I can all attest to personal irresponsibility However, there is one ticket I attribute to personnel responsibility.

I was hanging out at a bar that was then called Central Ales in Valley Stream. The location of the building is shown below.

View Larger Map

While I was there, a couple of friends I don't see often showed up. They said they would give me a ride home and my friend the manager said he would give me a ride to my car in the AM. So I did a few shots of Jagar and hung out for a few hours before being dropped off at my residence.

The next day I saw a pink slip on my windshield. It said my crime was parking between the hours of 03:30 and 05:30. The merits of such a law on quality of life is questionable to me. Then again I find the concept of wanting to forbid parking on the street for the sake of forbiding it quite elitist. Generally it means people can park on the street to visit homes and residences, but need to secure a private parking spot if they reside there. Of course, the way the law is written, the main culprits are those that frequent bars in the area, and the law has the unintended consequence of encouraging drunk driving. Now in addition to having to go back and get my car the next day, and pay for a cab, I have to pay a ticket if I decide that I had too much to drink and want to do the right thing.

I never paid the ticket, but that is another story. I should have fought the ticket, because I feel so strongly about the law being wrong in this instance that I should have made my feelings public record.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A tale of bad documentation

I am a programmer by day for a small software company. By night I write open source software. I guess I like to program.

I once submitted a patch to an open source program called XML Copy Editor. It was small. Soon afterwards I volunteered to perform a small task and was given developer access to the source repository. I continue to correspond with the developer although I've only made that one original change to the programs source code.

My latest non code contribution was helping the author replace MSXML with Xerces on Windows. I originally expected to have to fight with Xerces, but by dumb luck the first thing I tried worked after a bit of tinkering. The reason that the programs author had trouble using Xerces on windows was not because of bad code or bad make files. It was because of bad documentation.

Because of bad documentation many hours were wasted by him that could have been dedicated to making XML Copy Editor better, or any other task he chose to spend his leisure time on. Because of bad documentation XML Copy Editor has fewer features than it could have. Because of bad documentation I am writing this post.

Now I decided to allow some good come out of this situation. As you all know, I decided to use this as a lesson delivered by the blog article you now read. In addition, I shared my story with the Xerces-C developers mailing list and offered to correct the situation.

Now if you read my email and the documentation I refer to, you will probably come to the conclusion that the documentation is quite good, except for this one oversite. You would be correct. However, the oversite was for common usage scenario, and caused significant harm to one developer and his user base in terms of wasted time. Since the documentation fails to cover the usage senario I care about, the documentation fails to address my needs. Therefore I could have been alienated by the documentations small oversite.

Lessons in Investing

Today I met with a financial adviser from David Lerner. I decided that I will not be using them as investment advisers. This is the third adviser I have interviewed so far.

I was actually late for my appointment. I was supposed to meet with him at 5:30 but got stuck at work late and forgot about it. I say David Lerner on the caller id of my office landline and believe I greeted the man with "Hi, oh crap sorry." I felt pretty bad I felt from the beginning this would not be the firm I went with as they tend to be very conservative and I am 26 years old.

I am greeted by a security guard who escorts me to a client meeting room. On my way in I pass by Mr Lerner myself and am a bit awestruck to stand face to face with a man who I've only seen on a website and heard on the radio. My impression of this man from a short meeting is that it would suit his ego nicely to have others awestruck by him. However, he will probably be upset when he learns tomorrow that I said no.

Mr. Lerner says I look lost, and I later found out he probably had mistaken me for an under dressed telemarketer under his employ. When the guard said I was a client he said then your definitely not lost. I explained I was a potential client and he said he owned socks older than me. His employees addressed his as Mr. Lerner and he oozed fiscal conservatism. He was the foil of the archetype coke head day trader.

My potential advisor sat me down asked me what I do and what my goal was. I explained I was a programmer and being young I was looki9ng for a little more risk than his average client. He then sat me down and showed me three of his companies products. First he shows me a REIT fund. Its all local US based stuff, most in the region, and places anyone in the area would have heard of. Not great returns at all, but I assume good for a reit fund. I really haven't looked at reit funds at all so I can comment. He then offers me the fund of the moment, the Large Cap domestic. These return numbers were in the range of 13%. He then shows me one of their guaranteed income products. It involves investing in Marriott properties and basically you get a guaranteed rate of return of 8% with some reasonable rules.

This is when I started talking. I said I would not want to invest in a reit, as its a buyers market,. I said the large cap was a bit to conservative as the last investor I talked to showed me one with an 18% return and I knew someone that used him and I knew this was typical of what he actually recommends Finally I said that 8% is far too low for what I want.

In the end I thanked him for his time and walked out. This was what I expected, but I didn't quite expect the events to fold in exactly this way. I informed the advisor of my age, income, etc and he should have realized that there was no need to offer me the 8% interest product. He could have offered me multiple large caps, and he should have offered me something high risk for diversity. It was a great pitch of I was 50, but not for a man of 26.

So whats the lesson learned here? Know your potential customer. Then again, maybe I'm the one that needs to learn a lesson. Maybe the lesson is when your David Lerner, and you build your business on fiscal conservatism, you rather turn away clients younger than your socks than risk your established customer base.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

This time you might be wrong Ms. Acres.

So apparently a blogger called Ryan Holiday documented and justified his road rage, and Ms. Acres called him a self centered brat. I think in this particular case she might be right, but she does not see the whole picture.

I drive really fast. I run red lights. I'm a stupid youth that thinks I'm invincible. This is where I attempt to justify it.

First of all I speed for sport. I speed all the time, and I tend not to speed more when I am in a rush. My driving style is largely mood based and really has little to do with how late I am running.

I think this makes me safer than the "I'm in a hurry let me hit the gas" type in that I take the same level of calculated risks in a given situation. I don't push it.

Now here is my take on someone driving slow in the left lane being socially irresponsible. No in reality its not worse than murder, pedophilia, killing Jews, or whatever. However, let me tell you a few of my driving stories.

My First Accident

My first accident happened a few days after I got my license. I was waiting to go through the toll booth of the Tapanzee bridge. I noticed a few miles before that I did not have my wallet in my pocket and thought I might have left it at a rest stop. I was searching in a panic for it on line for the toll booth and accidentally let my for off the brake and scratched the bumper of a brand new Camry. The driver insisted on going through insurance even though the trooper even said it was a bad idea and since it was less than $500 dollars worth of damage and he was not under an obligation to file a damage report if both parties agreed. She wanted to go through insurance.

Naturally I felt guilty damaging another drivers car, but honestly I felt a lot more guilty about jamming up traffic in that tool lane for 5 minutes.

Learning Stick Shift

I always wanted to learn stick shift. So I bought a brand new Corolla that I planned to burn the clutch of in my companies parking lot on a Saturday. A kind friend offered to teach me to minimize damage. So I drove around a park until he said give it a go on real roads. I got nervous in my first intersection and delayed alot of people in cars behind me. During this time I felt it was quite selfish for me to want to learn stick shift. I drove around some more and now I am good enough not to burden the other drivers on the road.

Jersey City Bus Stops

Across the Hudson river from Manhattan is a place called Jersey City. Image the Bronx if it were a New Jersey Municipality. This is Jersey City. They even have their own subway system to Manhattan called the PATH Train.

I've been unfortunate enough to have to spend significant time in Jersey City. If it wasn't for my sworn duty as a New Yorker to have nothing but bad things to say about the Garden State, I would say a few good things about it. However this story is about something that pisses me off greatly.

In NYC people don't park in bus stops. We double park and occasionally block hydrants, but would never park in a bus stop. This is mainly because you will get towed. However, as a huge proponent of public transportation, I consider such an act morally reprehensible.

In Jersey City this is just not the case. Running into the pizza shop at 8pm? Just park in the bus stop no one cares. Granted there is a huge parking problem in Jersey City, and while you can rent a spot in someones driveway or empty lot, unless you are downtown or by the waterfront, there are no lots to buy a parking space for a day from.

This is why I came to the conclusion a while back that if I am ever was a mayor or local legislator, I would decree that whoever was found parking in a bus stop would have to spend the night in jail. This is how reprehensible I feel about the crime. Its not even a self centered thing. When I ride the bus, having to step twelve feet into the street does not inconvenience me. When I drive, I really don't mind getting stuck behind a bus as I am a big fan of taking buses. However, parking in a bus lane just shows a lack of caring for society at large in my opinion.


This Ryan is angry and aggressive and needs to grow up. He either exaggerates when he describes the anger of being behind a slow driver, or Ms. Acres is absolutely correct in her assertions that he is completely self centered. However, maybe, just maybe he has a similar thought practice as mine, and just wrote that post while still angry. Maybe he is absolutely guilt stricken, when others suffer for his actions. Then again I didn't read any other articles in his blog, so I am not in a position to back up these theories.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Predicting Reaction to Ms. Acres and her Response

In her latest post, Ms. Acres talks about how she is ok with how she looks and hates the fact that most women aren't. No doubt she is generating a buzz for her apparent contradiction with her posts where she makes fun of fat chicks. However, it is not.

If you read her posts you realize what she hates is sloth, and self pitty. In her faq, she claims fat men are more acceptable because they tend to be jolly.

Also, one can be physically fit and have bad ankles and wrinkly foreheads. That is of course unless your ankles are ugly because of a total lack of muscle development.

Sensationalism in the media.

I site here watching the News Channel 4 at & in NYC Tonight. As usual there is a story that is teased throughout the broadcast that is one of the last stories shown.

This one seems like a first amendment issue to the uneducated, but is not. However, there might be federal fair housing laws that are applicable. I'm not quire sure of the constitutional validity of these laws, but I'm pretty sure most federal laws these days are unconstitutional.

The issue is a co-op board banned religions statues in residents front yards. A co-op board is a private organization, and therefore may make any sort of rules it wants to. They can erect a giant burning cross or a statue of Xenu, and any lawsuit based on the first amendment regarding the matter would not make it anywhere near the US Supreme Court.

I believe in religious freedom. Part of that is allowing people and private organizations to express religions views, or lack of religious views. Personally, I don't believe in going out of my way to not offend people. So I would not want to be a part of this co-op board. However, I don't exactly I'm co-op material in general.

So while I don't support this decision, I support the co-ops bord right to make it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Camera's in the Supreme Court

Recently Clarence Thomas has published a book called My Grandfather's Son, a book in which he tells the story of being raised by his grandfather. I've yet to read it, but I plan to. However, I heard most of an interview he gave to his former supreme court clerk, Laura Ingram as part of his promotional tour.

One of the topics he is asked about in the interview is cameras in the supreme court. He said he does not see a benefit to the process from them, and therefore would not place them in the court room.

This bothers me. I'm a fan of transparency in process, for government and the private sector. I've contributed to wikipedia, and make an effort to always do so while logged in. My behavior online generally occurs while logged in. I encourage others to do likewise, and to publish their work on the internet, especially when they think its of no value.

Thats not to say that I do not support privacy. I accept the necessity of Wikipedia's allowing anonymous edits. I hope to never be compelled to edit wikipedia anonymously, but cherish my ability to do so if necessary. While I store a large amount of data on googles various services including gmail, this blog, and my entire search history. I'm a fan of allowing court records to be sealed after punishment is served. I also have plenty of my own secrets that I attempt to limit knowledge of.

I feel he is asking the wrong question. If it were my decision, the question I would I would ask would be, "Would having cameras in the Supreme Court hurt the process of judicial review that occurs there?" Also if so, why? If a court is afraid to reveal its process, that is cause for alarm.

I don't refer to the "closed door meetings" that are necessary in any dealing making process. People have to be allowed to caucus. Small subgroups have to be able to reach consensuses to sell the idea to the group at large. However, I feel that the actual process of lawyers arguing their briefs should be a matter of public record.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Musing on healthcare

Last week I had a sore throat. I believe it was strep. I will never know for sure though.

See I'm not a fan of sick days. I pride myself on not taking them. I found a walk in clinic on Wednesday that I thought I would be able to make it to after work. I was not able to. So I decided Thursday to make an appointment with my physician.

My physician is actually an APN. Her name is Emma. She works in a practice under the supervision of a Doctor. The first time I went to this office I was given Emma. My experience was good so I always request Emma when I sign the clip board when I go there. Of course I've been there about three times in 5 years, twice in the same month, so it would be wrong to call her my regular primary health care professional in any other sense than she is the one I would go to if I went to the doctor for checkups.

They had no appointments available that day. Friday's I work from my girlfriends house and the distance prohibits me from seeing Emma that day. So I call a doctor's office in my girlfriends neighborhood I used once.

The doctor himself picks up. His receptionists apparenty stepped out. I ask to make an appointment on Friday. He claims he is closed on Friday but can fit me in today, Thursday. I say that is not possible for me. I inform im I believe I have strep throat so I ask him to recommend a walk in clinic of some sort where I can get the back of my throat swabbed. He asked if I had ever been to him. I say yes and he says he will have an antibiotic and a cough suppressant prescription sent to the local Walgreens for me to pickup. He then gives me the standard "are you allergic too?" litany of questions. Other than my concern for overuse of antibiotics I'm quite happy with this arrangement. The only negative is that the cough suppressant contains codeine and therefore is only good to me during the nighttime if I wish to function.

So this got me thinking of health care. Being I am in the last developed country in the world to my knowledge that has something resembling free market health care and I am a die hard capitalist, I do this a lot.

The big question is why can I not just buy a strep throat test like a pregnancy test. Its a simple enough idea. Sell the things that the doctor uses to the general public over the counter. Their disposable and benign. If I don't have a strep throat I save a visit to the doctors and everyone besides the doctor wins. Being doctors are just powerless cogs in the health care machine, there is no one in power that would stop this.

Secondly I got thinking about the cost of drugs. The problem with the cost of drugs is that pharmacies have greatly varying prices, and doctors don't have any idea what the drugs they prescribe actually cost, and prescribe whatever the drug sales rep pushes for them. I think the doctor that wrote me a prescription over the phone is not a victim of this. The cough suppressant appeared to be a generic and the antibiotic was. Also the cost for both at Walgreens before I gave them my insurance card was $69.99. Thats hardly what I would call unfordable health care.

Finally I was reminded of one of the greatest quandaries of health care I have ever had.

When I was a child, my health care was provided by a team of pediatricians at a relatively large office. There were 3-5 doctors employed by this practice at any given time. So it was small enough where my doctor knew me, but large enough where they could have a small lab onsite. One of the things in this lab was a centrifuge for doing bloodwork. I knew my cholesterol within 15 minutes of getting pricked when my parents took me for a checkup. However, when I had strep, my parents would get called a few days later after they looked at the culture.

Fast forward to adolescence. I went to a general practitioner, this was not Emma but another doctor. Most of the other patients were at least 30 years older than me. First time I had strep I knew right away. But she sent blood tests out to a lab so I had to call to get results.

This has always bothered me. Unless my switching physicians coincided exactly with the invention of the quick strep test, there was no reason for my pediatrician to still use the petri dishes. The new tests were faster and required no capital investment. You buy tests and you buy swab. Both are disposable items. Now my general practitioner, probably had more patients with high cholesterol than my pediatrician. Could she not afford a few grand for a centrifuge machine to be able to get people instant results.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Talked to a Real Marxists on Slashdot.

Well he claims to prefer a system called distributism. However, he apparently wants to totally nationalize the transportation system. He goes by the handle Marxist Hacker 42, so obviously some of his ideas do stem from communism.

Unfortunately, I can't find a link to our discussion thread.

After looking into distributism, I will say it sucks less than most other non capitalistic systems out there. This is high complement from a liberterian such as myself. Apparently the government is supposed to keep businesses small and keep capital in the workers hands. Its also supposed to emphasize craftsmanship over mass production.

I have a few problems with this. I need to be able to buy cheap stuff from Walmart in order to afford a few luxory items such as my Grado SR125. Secondly, I don't like the government telling you how rich you can get. Thirdly, this just places a lot of power in the hands of government. Governments already have too much power these days.

Governments should do the following:
  1. Fight my wars
  2. Pave my roads
  3. Provide a system to keep track of titles on real property (land)
  4. Go out of its way to keep itself small
  5. Provide fire and police

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In Defense of the Term Slumlord

Today I got into a discussion with a friend over my aspirations of slumlordship. I feel I could never have won the argument because I use the term slumlord. I think if I simply used a word with a more neutral connotation such as landlord to describe the same goal, there would be no disagreement. Even the woman whose every word I droll over, Ms Acres, prides herself in not being a slumlord.

Perhaps the problem is my lack of understanding of the term slumlord. My aspirations don't fit the definition found on wikipedia. I don't plan on purposefully not maintaining the properties. I will not allow fines, taxes and mortgage payments tofall into arrears. That would be hypocritical as I would naturally expect timely payment of rent. I'm sure as hell not going to actively stop gentrification from happening.

What will I do? I will buy cheap houses in bad neighborhoods, and get them up to code. I will put a fresh coat of paint and plaster any holes. I will do basic background checks. I have begun to "do my homework." However, if I had the money to put a down payment on an investment property today I would not be ready to buy because I have not worked out all the details. I will most likely buy a vacation condo with a full service management company before I jump into slumlordship.

One of the questions that you might ask me is "Would I live in one of my apartments?" The answer is yes. You have to trust me on this of course. However, I plan on continuing to rent myself after acquiring my first rental property. Really, the only thing that would cause me to "grow up and move to the suburbs" is marriage and children.

So I can apparently be a slum lord and live by the golden rule. The next argument is am I following thePlatinum Rule, treat others as they want to be treated. Well, unless I own enough property where it can be said I force people to rent from me, I must assume they want to rent from me. At the very least I am the least terrible option for shelter they have been presented with

There is one final argument. I really can't counter this one at the moment. That argument would be that I am sub-human for being willing to live in such poverty for the sake of economy, when I can afford better. Perhaps that is so. I leave it to the reader to determine that.