Monday, December 08, 2008
First, I hate the term "Bail-Out" here. The automakers have been asking for a government loan from day one, not free money. My issue is that it is misleading and makes people think that the automakers are asking for free money.
I've heard good arguments on both sides of this debate from car pundits (Carolla, Leno, Clarkson)who have a bit to loose but not as much as the automakers (I mean the men and women on the line) and the many businesses that support the automakers by manufacturing parts or providing services for the businesses and workers.
Do I think Ford, GM and Chrysler are all going to get their acts together and become new and great manufacturers? No, I don't. I honestly believe that there will be some terrible failures to readjust and one will fail or have to strip down so much that it will be a shadow of it's current state.
The 'Big 3' have dropped the ball and ignored the changes in the world economy. I've heard some suggest that the auto industry take some queues from the computer industry. So you have a few companies that make great engines. Some that make great transmissions. And then Ford just designs a nice shell for all those parts to go into. The past trend was to own or control as many steps in the chain as possible. Maybe that needs to change. The whole automotive world could be forever changed by what happens to the Big 3 in the next couple of years.
The problem isn't all the automakers. We had very fuel efficient cars in the 80's and into the 90s, but then everyone wanted giant SUVs with terrible mileage. The GEO Metro got nearly the same mileage as the Prius.* Sure it's a crap car but most people only need to commute from Point A to Point B. The Metro was considerable more affordable to produce with a simple and small 3 cylinder engine.**
However, you can't keep up with (in terms of image) the other Soccer moms driving giant SUVs or keep up with your sales rival driving the new BMW in your little fuel efficient GEO Metro. The only reason the Prius is acceptable in that regard is because "Green" is hip and cool right now. Even with it's greenness, maybe people still frown on it's looks.
The auto makers have plenty to be held accountable for, but us drivers are just as much to blame. We demand, they supply. Simple as that.
Two things need to happen. No necessarily both, but at least one or the other. 1) Oil burning vehicles need to become cost prohibitive to the mass majority. 2) Alternative fuel vehicles need to be affordable and exciting. Exciting is important. Top selling cars and trucks aren't top selling because they are boring. (I'm talking to you Prius.)
* - My research on the GEO Metro MPG varied greatly, but was in, on average, the 40-50 MPG range. The Prius is right on par with that MPG.
** - It should be noted that while the Metro was cheaper to make it also was lacking most of the safety features of today. It's unlikely that GM could make a Metro now at the same price and mileage due to those requirements.
Friday, November 07, 2008
When you work from home full time things change. You don't have tomorrow to take care of those things. The work has to be done when it's supposed to be done. Even more so there is a pressure, whether real or imagined, that you have to work extra hard to show that you are indeed working. You are your own supervisor and you can be a tough boss.
Well that's how it is for me so far.
Additionally you never fully leave work. You work where you live, so your computer, your phone, etc are right around the corner. It's a strange thing. I do a pretty good job of separating my work life and home life, but this confuses that a bit. I could go grab a beer from the fridge. (I have not done that, but I could.) The bathroom is my own and really close. Lots of similar examples.
Leaving work at 5pm is going to be an important habit to develop now that work is in the other room. But it also creates an odd cabin fever. I have to get out more, which in itself is not a bad thing but it creates an interesting situation.
I feel fortunate that I've not fallen into the trap of having a TV in the other room, or playing games or other distractions. I was worried about those things but they've not been a problem at all.
At the end of the day it's simply getting used to having a new work habit. It's an unusual one for someone who has always worked in an office (not at home), but not a bad one. After one week I think I'm doing pretty good. Let's hope that continues to be the case.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Well I did move to a whole new state. Yes, I was living in Tennessee and now I'm in Nebraska. I'm a born and raised Nebraskan/Husker so the move back wasn't really a hard choice for us (my wife and I).
Our house is all but sold (just waiting on the closing). We'll probably buy again here in Nebraska but we are renting for now.
I'm working from a home office for the same company I worked for in Tennessee. I feel very privileged and gracious that my bosses felt comfortable enough to let me do this. It still feels odd but it will get easier and more natural over time. Hell I've only been doing it for three days now.
We have to fly back down to TN to pick up my car. I had to leave it there due to the fact that the Uhaul I rented ended up being too small and I had to pull a trailer with more of our stuff instead of a trailer with my car. It puts more miles on the car but it'll be in a garage most of the winter since it has summer rubber on the wheels and I work at home so I don't need to drive all the time, so the miles will not be a big issue.
I do know I'll miss driving my car though. It's SOOO much fun to drive. I'll have to get out every once in awhile, so long as the roads are clear. (winter and summer tires don't mix well)
Not sure if I'm going to try to fix my bike or buy a new one. My old Specialized Hard Rock Sport from 1992 is a bit beat up. It's not bad but it needs a tune up really badly. The last tune up really didn't help much either. It's just old. But new ones cost $400-500 for a good bike. I'm not going to buy a Walmart special. Ugh!
I'm waiting for a KVM switch (that's a Keyboard/Video/Mouse switch, which allows multiple computers to be connected to one set of keyboard/video(monitor)/and mouse.). I have two work machines plus my personal one. It's a pain how I have it setup currently. Once I have the KVM I'll be much better able to work.
Ok so that's a lot of miscellaneous crap, but it's not politics!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The bottom line is this: The gap between the rich and the middle-class is huge and getting larger. Is this acceptable?
I say, “No!”
There have been numerous examples through history that show how destabilizing and how damaging it can be for a country when the rich tower too far above the rest. That was a major catalyst for the French Revolution. Or another way to look at it, do we become serf or slaves to the rich land owners, bankers, politicians?
Again I say, “No!”
CEOs are getting paid huge amounts in bonuses and other benefits, aside from their large six figure salaries. Middle-class wages, however, are fairly stagnate and benefits are cut regularly. I don’t agree with unions but they may have to come back to bring fairness into the equation. The rich are getting richer off the backs of the middle-class who are working just as hard as always, maybe harder, and getting less for their work.
Is Obama or his tax plan going to completely level the playing field? It absolutely will not. Most of the wealthy that would be affected by Obama’s tax plan will barely feel the pinch. Most of them can afford to pay tax advisers to find loop holes and other ways to avoid paying all the taxes they are supposed to anyway. Hell even we in the middle class do that! We look for any way to reduce our taxes we can. No one likes paying taxes, but the wealthy can certainly afford to do so much more than I. When gas prices jump, when food prices jump, when equity in our homes plummets, what are we left with? Living paycheck to paycheck wondering if we’ll have enough gas to make it to work tomorrow? Fearing that if your wife loses her job that you’ll lose your house? Having to go to a food bank for the first time in your life so that your children can have a decent meal? The wealthy don’t have to worry about that. They should be ethically and socially responsible and help those who need help. It should be their personal duty to spread the wealth. They shouldn’t have to be told to help but some have to be told.
To all those very wealthy who would be adversely affected by Obama’s tax plan:
- Do you really need more than a couple houses? I can understand a vacation home and your ‘regular’ home but why more?
- Do you really need a $100,000 car, in some cases multiple high-priced cars? A $30-40K car is pretty nice these days.
- What are you spending your money on anyway? Are you wasting it on silly toys and rare foods? Are you hording it away?
- Why is it so bad to give a bit more to help keep the country that made you so wealthy running well? Help educate the children. Help the less fortunate get on their feet and make something of themselves. Help make wages fair and equitable for all. These things would help the entire country excel. Isn’t that a good thing?
Thursday, October 16, 2008
My mind is now made up. Here is how I saw the debate:
McCain: It's all about the Benjamins! Money money money, that's all he seemed to care about. Not in relation to the middle-class but in every case. When talking about Columbia he talked about all the money we can make from them but didn't give a shit if it was blood money or not.
Obama: Long term growth. Obama was looking at the long term picture, something that has been sorely lacking in Washington and the economy for awhile now. Invest now so that we can reap the rewards later. This is a sound and logical plan!
Body language was also important in this debate. Obama frequently talked directly to us the watchers of the debate. McCain did better this time on that front, but not as well as Obama. If McCain said something that needed correcting, Obama would smile and have a look of, "There goes grandpa again.". When Obama said something that McCain thought needed correcting he rolled his eyes and sighed a lot. Careful Obama I think you're making grandpa angry.
Respect. I know Obama respects McCain, you can hear it in the way he talks to him. On the other hand McCain does not seem to respect Obama much. Experience may be important but it's not what makes a great president. Bob asked the candidates to explain why their VP pick was better than their rivals, I thought, OK here is where the better man will shine. I was wrong, both did well, but I can't help but wonder if Obama going first set the stage for McCains answer. The fact that Obama didn't take any shots at Palin showed great diplomacy and respect. He certainly could have torn into her, especially comparing her against Biden, but he didn't. He let Biden stand on his merits. McCain did the same and I give him credit for that.
This was definitely McCains best debate. It was more focused and it felt like real information was shared with the voting public on what both candidates would do if they won the presidency. Despite how much better McCain did, he was overly aggressive, attacked constantly and came off angry and hot headed. I don't personally want that kind of person leading diplomacy for the USA, not right now. There are too many hot beds where that kind of personality could lead this country into more conflicts that we simply cannot afford.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
The 'town-hall' style debate was a joke. I feel bad for those individuals up on stage (no not the candidates). They came in with questions and maybe six got to ask theirs. The answers, from either McCain or Obama were many times generalized to the point that the question really was not answered. In a couple cases the response had nothing to do with the question. That was disappointing. I (and I'm sure many others out there) wanted straight answers. We didn't get them.
Additionally, Tom Brokaw was like a mother with two bratty kids. He had no control over them and they pretty much ignored his requests for more order and keeping to the time limits. Tom failed as a moderator in my opinion.
Despite the failures the debate was not a complete waste of time. It was good to hear some more from the candidates on what they planned to do as President of the United States. McCain was the weaker of the two here.
More often than not he talked about what is HAS done rather than what he will do. Now he seemed to have some pretty firm ideas about foreign policy. That was good but I did not agree with most of his thoughts there but I can see where that would connect with some. However the statement about how fixing Social Security would be easy was a, "WHAT!?" moment for me. How do you fix a program that has more money going out than going in? Tax us young people more? Cut other programs to fund it? What IS your plan there McCain?
Obama seemed to have a much better idea for what he wanted to do if elected. We all know that not everything will happen over night and it was good to hear the question of what would be their priorities. Though Obama answered the question with options that were not part of the question I think he successfully resonated, at least with me, on making energy a priority. He successfully used energy to spring board into the economy and foreign policy. Job growth/creation, energy independence, energy export, energy leverage, all strong points and good ideas.
Obama really seemed to focus on letting the public know what he was going to do for us. McCain seemed more focused on reminding us of all the work he's done in the past and pointing fingers at, "That One."
I was getting very upset at McCain for the attacks. He slung mud more than he talked about the issues at times. Obama had to go on the defensive numerous times because what McCain was spouting was inaccurate. Obama was guilty of this a few times too. Why do we need to hear from the opposing candidate what their plan is. Focus on your plan and let the other candidate explain theirs and let the public decide which one they like.
What scares me the most is that, on both sides, people will believe what the opposing candidate says about their opponents plans, rather than going to listen to the other candidate themselves. People will believe that Obama is going to raise taxes because of what McCain says. Just as people are going to believe that McCain is going to keep doing what Bush has been doing, because that's what Obama says.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
I've been a Last.FM user for over two years now and I've really enjoyed the service. The song tracking and recommendation engine is robust and mature.
Last Christmas I got an 80GB Zune. I love it. I love the interface and the device quality. It's a nice solid piece of technology.
My big issue is that there is no scrobbler for the Zune. A scrobbler is software that monitors your music listening habits and reports it back to Last.FM for your account. I have a plugin for iTunes that tracks my listening at work but when I'm listening to my Zune in the car or at home, I have no way to track that music, with Last.FM.
Sure I could switch over to the Zune software exclusively, however there are a couple of problems.
- My song counts and listening habits are not well done at Zune.net. The count and last track played haven't updated in weeks and even when they did, it was frequently wrong.
- I have over 21,000 songs of history on Last.FM. I would loose all of that by switching services.
- The recommendation engine in Last.FM works better, in my opinion, than the one on Zune.net. I'm sure over time it will improve, but not if they don't collect data accurately.
So why no scrobbler for the Zune? Two issues:
- As noted above, Microsoft and Zune are trying to create their own social music ecosystem. Rather than give their users a choice they are tying users to their exclusive system.
- The system is locked down, either because of #1 or because of technical reasons. Last.FM relies on a plug-in system, which other applications, including Microsoft Media Player, allow. The Zune software does not.
There have been a couple attempts at creating a scrobbler for the Zune but they've always been hacked together and require additional user intervention or can only collect a certain amount of data.
At the end of the day either some very smart developer will have to figure out a way to bridge these two products or Microsoft will decide to allow plug-ins. I'm not terribly optimistic about either frankly. As much as I love my Zune the market is small compared to the iPod/iTunes Juggernaut.
Friday, October 03, 2008
I lost my buddy yesterday. Loki was about 5 years old and a great cat. He had gotten into a fight awhile back and got an infected abscess from an injury. The vet took care of that but it didn't heal right. I took him in yesterday morning to have it looked at. They needed to stitch up a hole in his skin that didn't heal over. During surgery he died.
Even the vet is uncertain what happened and why, so we agreed to let them send his body to be autopsied, to determine why this happened. Loki was healthy and happy so it was a great shock to everyone.
I'm still sad about it but I'm getting by fine. He was my buddy though. I had him since he was a tiny kitten that could fit in the palm of one of my hands. He's always slept with me too. He liked to curl up in my armpit at night. He got the nickname "TeddyCat" for that, because he was. He was my teddy.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
A Homeowner Rescue Bill was already passed back in May of this year to help home owners who were fighting foreclosure to have their home values reassessed and refinanced at an adjusted (presumably lower) value.
So why has this program not been pushed? It passed. It's out there. The government is already setup to pay for the losses that the banks would take in this program, yet still allowing the bank to retain ownership of the mortgage and arguably it would be in better shape then. The home owner could afford payments, giving the bank interest. Additionally since the government would absorb the loss on the value, assuming that prices don't drop considerably further down the bank would have something of value to claim if the owner still foreclosed.
The major problem I see with this is the bill basically makes all these home owners take an FHA loan with a steep mortgage insurance fee associated, so their monthly payments certainly won't drop as far as they could. The insurance helps pay for the program and was a necessary component to get the bill passed, however it does not help the people with the problem very well. These individuals are not going to have great credit so they are not going to get a great interest rate. The FHA loan will give them some help with the interest rate but not a lot. In the end it'll help some of those home owners that are right on the edge of foreclosure but for some this will not be a viable option.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
So banks gave billions in credit to people who could not afford it. Home prices ballooned out of control. We had a bubble that was created by sub-prime lending.
Now that bubble has popped and the value of all those mortgages has tanked. Many home owners ended up upside down, in homes that no longer were worth as much as they where when they purchased them. So they cannot sell and get out. Foreclosure was/is the only option. This is still occurring for many people.
So how is this bail-out going to fix that situation? The market was over inflated. Throwing $700 billion at it will not change that. It might prop up a little bit of the fragments that are still standing but the reality is that the market needs to drop back down to reasonable levels.
Sure the market will dip, but it'll come back up to where it's really supposed to be, which isn't where it was. The market would be smart to be more conservative with it's growth after this blows over.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Now that my house is on the market the the credit market has to freeze up. Ugh! Well that just means the buyers will be the cream of the crop and I can just hope that my house floats to the top of the heap of houses on the market. I think it is nice and creamy personally.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
1) Those at or under the poverty line: They have few dollars invested so the loss of money in the investment markets will not affect them...directly. Indirectly the reduction in value of the US dollar in response to the drop in the market will affect this group (as it will all). Food and shelter costs will increase. However, this group is often under some kind of social welfare. Those programs will likely still continue, though potentially pinched by an influx of people from the lower-middle class.
2) Lower-Middle Class: As noted above, some of these individuals could be vulnerable to job layoffs. When most companies start looking for employees to trim in hard times, it can affect the lower wage employees, especially in manufacturing (which is already a hurting industry). These people are then stuck with few job opportunities and have to fall to assistance to make it by. You can certainly understand why this group is looking at the candidates for the next President and asking, what are you going to do to help keep us working?
3) Retirees and those nearing retirement: This is the group that should be most worried. Of course it's also a very large group. The "baby-boom" group is getting close to that age where they want to retire or are already retiring. Their pensions and retirement funds are in dire straights. I suspect that is why the government is passing the bailout package. That's a LOT of people who suddenly might not be able to retire at 65 or would put even greater strain on the already feeble Social Security system.
4) New Yuppies: (I include myself in this group) It'll be a pain in the ass but at the end of the day it's not going to be Armageddon. It'll just suck getting credit for a car or house. We might have to rent more or be more frugal in our major purchases. Oh no, we might not be able to get that 65 inch TV! I had to drop HD and DVR functions to help offset increased costs. It's a pain but really did I NEED those things? Nope.
We yuppies will recover fine but I think we'll have to pay for this mess long term regardless if the big finance firms are bailed out or not. We'd be paying for the social programs to help the retired or the poor or we're paying to keep the market stable. Either way we pay in the end. I'd sure like to think that the post-'baby-boom' generations can do better but I'm not too confident of that either. We like our toys too much.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Well it's on everyone's minds so here are my thoughts. First, the US shouldn't buy the bad debt from investment banks who made poor choices. They should have to suffer for those choices. Any other company would have to, even if it meant going out of business. Could it hurt the market? Sure it might be ugly for awhile but the markets would self correct, as they should. Maybe banks will think twice about giving credit to those who shouldn't have it or giving more than the person could afford.
When I was financing to buy my house I prequalified. The bank was willing to give me about $220K for a house, even though after doing the math I knew I could only afford about $150K. Now if I knew this why would the bank have been willing to give me more than I could possibly afford? I wouldn't have had enough for food or anything else! I was then pushed to get an ARM and borrow against the equity of the house to put more down on the house. What? That never sounded good to me and I also was lucky to get sound advice telling me to get a fixed rate, even if it was a bit higher.
So today I'm not being killed by my mortgage payment and I'm not worried about foreclosure. In case there was any question, the reason I'm trying to sell our house has nothing to do with the economy or my finances but the fact that I'm tired of spending all my spare time doing house work and maintenance. Being a home owner is a pain in the ass. Sorry, that's a rant for another day.
So what if the markets crash or at least dip badly? Well jobs could be an issue because so many public companies rely on that money and most companies sell something to another business. If those businesses are closing or tightening the belts then money is tight for everyone. That is my biggest worry. That wages will dip and jobs will be lost, at the middle-class level.
I realized recently that I'm not upper-middle like I was dreaming I was. I'm square in the middle. I do reasonably well but it wouldn't take much to push me down. It wouldn't take much to push me up also. But I'd still be in the middle-class. The jump from middle to upper is huge! I could probably make $100K per year if I worked hard but that would be about it. After that you have to make huge leaps in education and social standing and investment. Frankly I don't have the stomach for that. Plain old hard-work isn't enough for most people to make it big.
I don't want to say that all rich people are lazy jerks. Many worked very hard to get their riches. But many of them also took advantage of those under them, making their money off the sweat of others. So back to the investment banks wanting this government bail-out. How much do you think their CEOs make/made? I don't need to see the data to know it's more than some people will make in their entire lives. How is that right? Because of their mistakes those in the middle-class will be screwed over one way or another. Why are they not stripped of their wealth and that money put into the market to help stabilize things? Sure it's a drop in the bucket but it would be a symbolic win for the middle-class and give other greedy SOBs something to think about before they gambled with other peoples money so loosely. Bring them back down to our level. If they are so well educated and hard working, they'll be able to rebuild. If not then perhaps they never deserved to be part of the financial upper-class to begin with.
If the markets tank I know my 401K is going to tank. I'm not very happy about that but I also know that the markets will rebound eventually. Even if I loose it all, it's not a massive amount of money and I'm yet young enough to rebuild my retirement fund.
I also know that if the job market goes south that I have a number of marketable skills aside from my computer skills. After the remodeling on the house I've realized that I could do that very easily if I needed to. It's hard back-aching work but it's work that will always be in demand regardless of the market.
I honestly don't believe the market will get that bad. There are still lots of options for the banks yet. They might not like some of them but things will work out one way or another.
Oh and a note to those making runs at their banks, You are only making things worse. Panic is not helpful in any way shape or form. Storing your money under your mattress will still loose value if the FED has to inflate the value of the dollar, so you might as well leave it where it is, where it can help keep the market functioning.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The first picture was pretty early this morning, maybe 9am. Just got done tearing off the old wood, scraped some old peeling paint and got the tar paper up.
This next picture is after all the siding is up and ready for paint. I had to give the caulking time to dry so I did some other touch-up painting around the exterior of the house.
Done finally. The results are nice. It's not as 'perfect' as I would like but it's good. Certainly good enough for prepping for sale. The new owners shouldn't find much to complain about.
I don't have pictures but I also painted the shed. It was an old barn red before. Now it's the same cream color as the house. It'll at least look like they go together now. I still have to paint it's trim white, but that'll be for tomorrow afternoon.
Things are getting close! Nearly done with all the work before putting her on the market.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
As you can see from the picture below, the drive way was pretty dirty. I'll need to finish it up in the next few days.
However, the priority was working on the gables because they take much longer than I have time in the evenings after work.
This pile is all the old wood that was replaced. If you look carefully you might see some of the wood rot. It was primarily due to water damage rather than insects. Though, I did find, to my delight, a wasp (Polistinae)nest while removing the wood. They were not happy that I found their home but surprisingly they were not aggressive. I got the bug spray and went to town. A few flew off to return later, but they were quickly disappointed to find that they could no longer get to their home and
These last two pictures are when I was putting up the tar paper and finally being done with the main gable. I still need to do the small one over the porch. Hopefully that'll go much faster.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
I'm glad to see that the comments surrounding the opening ceremony pictures that are floating around online are generally positive.
So where do I stand?
I will not disagree that China has done and continues to do things that are not agreeable to many people who believe in human rights and freedoms. I will not attempt to condone or excuse those things.
That said China has an amazing history of great and wonderful art, culture, ideas and beauty. To ignore those things is ignorance, just as it is equally ignorant to ignore their human rights violations.
Now put yourself in the shoes of the Chinese people. You are excited and proud to host the Olympics and yet many in the world are trying to steal it's golden moment for political gain or to make a statement about something not related to the Olympics. What if we (in the US) were hosting this year and much of the world protested the US for it's mistakes in Iraq and because of the BS that Bush has allowed in Guantanamo Bay?
My point is that so many people are forgetting what the Olympics stand for and are tainting them. Should the IOC have given China the right to host the Olympics. Maybe - Maybe not. That argument is past. It does not matter now.
Enjoy the Olympics for the sportsmanship and strength of human spirit stories and ignore the politics, at least for a couple of weeks.
Companies are no longer allowed to be the best at what they do. They have to increase profits quarter after quarter at the expense of employees, quality, integrity, and identity.
What is so wrong with a business growing to a certain size and staying there? If said company is profitable enough to keep everyone paid and happy why be forced to continue growing?
Public investors are only interested in the bottom-line. How much money will they make from investing in these public companies? Is that healthy to anyone but the investor? Nope, not at all.
This situation has crushed smaller companies and left our economy on the brink. Look at how many monopolies or near monopolies we have created in recent years. Public investors did that, at the expense of consumers. And so it creates a nasty feed-back loop, one that feeds on itself.
I'm not suggesting that all investment is bad. I think private investment is a good thing. It allows those individuals or groups to invest and thus help smaller businesses get going. I see this as more of a loan than an on going income for the investors. Once the company is strong and profitable, pay off the investor and move forward. There is plenty of private funding around for businesses to do this.
A positive side effect of this kind of investment is a more hands on approach to investment. Sure the investor is going to want the business to be profitable but they are less likely to be just sitting on the sidelines wanting profit at all costs. They will be more inclined to see the business succeed based on it's business plan. These are the investors that will be mentors as well.
I'm not saying that private investment is perfect either, but we have been destroying our own markets by making them so easily accessible and public. Any Joe with a computer can become a day trader. Does that mean his investments make sense or are somehow helping the economy? No. These kind of traders are only after the pay off, the reward. They are not interested in their investment helping a business grow or become better, only that they are profitable and produce dividends.
So when times are lean, such as now, companies trim the things that make them good companies because we wouldn't want to piss off the investors. You do that, as a CEO, and you risk being tossed out, even if you were the founder.
I'm not anti-capitalism, but something has gone horribly wrong with our investment system. It should be corrected soon before it completely crashes and the 1930s looks like a boom time.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Here are my impressions:
The atmosphere was friendly and fun. The staff smiled and showed interest. They were also quick to help and had no problems with special requests. I needed my beer separated from my food since I wouldn't be able to expense the beer. My waiter, Derek, did so without complaint or attitude.
The food was really good but way too much. The main dish was enough for two people alone and you get two sides plus rolls with it. Some may say that's silly to complain about but I would have been happier if the portions were halved. It would have made me feel as if I got my moneys worth. Though I only paid about $11 plus tip, which isn't bad.
I would recommend Texas Roadhouse to others visiting or living in Springfield.
Mexican Villa South
In a word, disappointing. The hostess showed me to my table but that was it. She didn't tell me who my waitress was nor gave me any more attention than was absolutely necessary. I don't recall seeing a smile from her. My waitress, Sara, was trying hard but was clearly over worked and it showed. She just could not get beyond the average. Not that average is bad but quality wait staff can make or break a dining experience, especially when the food is mediocre.
The beef was greasy and the salsa was more of a spicy ketchup. My burrito was smothered with cheese and sauce. The sauce and cheese were both tasty but they simply covered the weak burrito. The lettuce was bagged shredded. That is disappointing. It's not like buying whole heads of lettuce and cutting it fresh is really that hard. The tomato looked more like a tomato barfed on the lettuce. Not appetizing at all.
The bottom line is go to Taco Bell before this place. You can get better quality, better taste and save $5. My meal was over $11 plus tip.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
This pas weekend the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association had a car show at the LP Field in Nashville, TN. Well it wasn't actually on the field, but in the parking lots and grounds around the field.
I have no earthly clue how many cars were there but it was a lot. A decent variety too. Nothing much older than 1972 though, maybe a couple of newer cars but I suspect they would have been frowned on.
There were some very beautiful cars there. Let me break it down as I saw it.
Oldies Restored: There were a number of these great old cars. They were well cared for/restored. They looked original. I personally liked that. Sure they weren't hot rodding around or anything but they were classy.
Hot Rods: This group doesn't need me to describe it for them. They ranged from super expensive custom rods to old classic rods to WTF is that? I'm not a big hot rod fan but they were fun to see.
New Restored: I say new within the context of the cars there. Like 60s and early 70s vs. the oldies. These were really fun for me. There was one particular Mustang that literally looked like it had just rolled off the factory floor it was so clean. My buddy Dave who owned cars in this time frame kept telling me about how these cost only a few thousand dollars. Wow, if they did today the dealers wouldn't be able to keep them on the lots, even if they didn't have the greatest fuel efficiency.
Customs: These were very pretty cars too. Clearly lots of love and money were put into these cars and it showed. The best ones, in my opinion were the cars that looked like they could have maybe come off the factory but were in fact customs. Like the stuff that Chip Foose does. Respect for the original car.
Restored...NOT: These cars I didn't like at all. They'd look great from the outside, like really nice restorations, and then you'd see the engine and think, what? Why?! I don't know how many new Corvette engines I saw in classic muscle cars. Why? Even a crate engine would have at least looked more original. I didn't care for these cars over all. There were a few exceptions, but those were typically dragsters or some other kind of car that wasn't trying to look original.
I had fun with Dave and his son, along with Antonin and Nicolas from France, that day. I got a bit sunburned, but it was fun seeing all those cool cars. Maybe some day when I have a garage I can consider restoring an old car, but it'll likely be a VW.
See all the pictures I took from the show here.
Friday, June 27, 2008
In recent years there has been a lot of anger, on both sides of the argument, regarding the current political administration. To the side that says to not support the administration is disloyal and un-American, I invite you to read this excerpt from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by the very American Mark Twain;
You see my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its office-holders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags--that is a loyalty of unreason, it is pure animal; it belongs to monarchy, was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it. I was from Connecticut, whose Constitution declares "that all political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit; and that they have at all times an undeniable and indefeasible right to alter their form of government in such a manner as they may think expedient."
Written in 1889 and the sentiments are true today as they were then and should not be forgotten.
Our current clothes don't fit right and we need to change them.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
No I'm not working out, though I probably could use that too. Baby steps!
I've recently cut or reduced some bad things from my life.
- Caffeine. I must admit that this is something I yo-yo on a bit. I love the punch, but I don't like getting headaches when I don't get my fix. Of course there is a Mountain Dew in front of me now, but I'm still cutting way back. One caffeinated beverage per day. I know some geeks wear their caffeine addiction like a merit badge but I'd rather be healthier.
- Corn Syrup. Nasty stuff. I hate how it ruins a perfectly good soda and pretty much makes anything sweetened by it into a sticky mess that upsets my stomach. I cannot even eat pancakes with artificial maple syrup, because it's mostly just corn syrup. After about one pancake I'm ready to barf.
This one will be difficult, not because I'm an addict but because it's everywhere! On the positive side it'll just encourage me to eat even less prepackaged foods and thus be healthier!
- TV. This is the big baddie for me. The TV screen is like a big magnet that pulls all thought from my head and leaves me a glassy eyed zombie. Bottom-line, I am totally an addict. A TV show now and again for entertainment is perfectly OK. The problem is that I'd watch even when there was nothing worth watching. Watching when I should be doing many other things, like and especially spending time with my wife.
I'm not cold-turkey with TV but it's only been one show in four days. My wife and I enjoy watching Dr Who and it was recorded and it was her idea and I turned the TV off as soon as it was over. Good start, but too early to start claiming victory. Though I have to admit that it feels good.
I've gotten a bunch more work done around the house and learned how to play Rummy.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
This story says it all. I don't have a problem with Ethanol, though I think corn-based ethanol is NOT the way to go and we need to spend money on switch grass and algae based ethanol production. This could be pretty damming for Ethanol though. Everyone is trying to squeeze as many pennies from their dollar as possible and the 'green' aspect isn't going to change things.
Bottom line is that if you are buying Ethanol to save money, you're not saving. If you are buying it to save the planet, well you really are not helping any but go ahead if it makes you feel better. Don't believe me? Check this chart of ethanol production and efficiency.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I had Kasespaetzle (Spaetzle in Swiss cheese sauce, mushrooms and onions). Mellie had an Apple Glazed Chicken breast. For our sides we had German Potato Salad, Corn Fritters, Onion Rings and Steamed Veggies. Everything was great. No complaints at all.
So if you are in the Black Hills area we highly recommend this German food restaurant/cafe. The only complaint I have is that they are fairly new (just opened) so they are still dealing with some inefficiencies, but the food makes it well worth it.
Thier address: 434 Highway 16A, Keystone, SD
View Larger Map
Today was a bit slower than other days. We had some specific goals, see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, then the rest of the day was open.
The morning was still a bit foggy and old so we drove to Rapid City. Sorry residents of Rapid City, I was not impressed with your town. We needed some basic goods and while we don't like shopping at Walmart we would have settled for one. However, one could not be found. We finally found a Walgreens and were able to get most of what we needed. Mellie asked the cashier if he knew where we could get a pet carrier and he gave us directions to PetsMart. Figures it, and many other stores, was right next to the Interstate. We got everything we needed for our soon to be new kitties and headed back to Mt. Rushmore.
By this time the fog had lifted a bit and Rushmore looked great, even if there wasn't a blue sky. There were a surprising number of people from all over the country and even the world there. The monument is still as impressive as an adult as it was when I was a kid. We enjoyed some of the history exhibits and then headed to Crazy Horse.
When we tried to see Crazy Horse yesterday the fog/cloud cover was too dense to see anything. So we were hoping today would be better. Well the fog wasn't as bad but we still couldn't see a lot. So we went into the visitor center. We also had lunch there. We both had some 'Native American' dishes. Mellie had a Buffalo stew and I had the 'Native American Taco', which was a taco on a native flat bread. Was kinda like a Chalupa from TacoBell, but better. Not sure how Native American it was but yummy never the less.
We then came back and did some tourism shopping in Keystone. Now it's time to relax. Tonight will be a lazy night. Probably get some food and bring it back to the hotel.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Wow what a day. It started a bit slow but a lot happened.
The drive up to South Dakota was a bit uneventful, though we did stop and see Carhenge just outside of Alliance, NE.
Hi me Melli here, oh my Buddha!! cows cows and more cows. serious cows by the acres. I have never seen so many cows across the landscape to the horizon! And trains miles and miles long wow weee!! When we came to Toadstool place Marc didn't won't to go down the road as it was a dirt country road and he get is car dirty and muddy, drove a few more miles and was going to see the buttes but there again muddy country roads. So through the prairie lands we so did drive. After first few hours it was neat landscape to see. BUT after 4 hours I HAD PRAIRIE FEVER!! And then Marc,
I (Marc)then thought it would be fun to go over to a smaller highway (HWY 71) rather than the main highway. It was isolated and quiet. It was actually a nice drive, until we crossed into South Dakota. There we ran into Ardmore, SD. I thought it might be a small town, but at least have a gas station. No, not really. It was a freaking ghost town. There were, maybe, a couple livable homes, but most were old, open and vacant. Not some place you'd want to drive through at night.
Then just up the road a couple more miles, road work. No not like you'd expect. The bridge was out and the road was GONE! You had to drive down around the bridge, in the MUD! The Super GLI ninja car was barely able to get through the mud at all. It has slick speedy tires not even all-seasons. How we made it out I don't know. It was probably a mile of that before we got back to pavement. Oh did I mention it had been raining pretty much all day?
Well back on the road with Mellie laughing the whole time, (cured her prairie fever) we found a place to pull off and potty and enjoy some of the Black Hills scenery and flicked off some of the larger chunks of clay/mud stuck to my car.
We got to Hot Springs, SD and right at the main intersection was a car wash! Yay! There was a lot of crud to wash off. Even now there is junk still stuck in places here and there. But at least it doesn't look like we were mud-bogging any more.
Next stop was Wind Cave National Park. It was fun, a cave. Took lots of pictures in the dark so only about half turned out and even then only a few were any good. We had a good tour guide though. Nice history and entertaining, though a little long winded sometimes. ha ha, that pun was unintended.
When leaving the park we saw a couple of Buffalo (bison) they cross the road within about 10-15 feet of us. I was dumb enough to get out of the car and take pictures when I remembered that they are actually wild free-roaming. Tried to do a movie with the camera and managed to screw it up. I thought I was supposed to be Mr. Tech-Dude. Oh well, at least Mellie can take movies.
After some more driving through beautiful country we got to the Crazy Horse Memorial & Monument. Unfortunately it was cold and foggy. We couldn't see a damn thing...except SNOW! There was snow on the ground and in the trees. We watched a little historical movie at the welcome center and got a receipt to go back, hopefully tomorrow the weather will be nicer so we can SEE!
At this point we were getting kinda tired and ready to find our hotel for the evening. We decided to stay at Keystone. It's close to Mt. Rushmore so we don't have to drive too far tomorrow.
We then went to Powder House Restaurant and Lounge for dinner. We both got something that we'd not easily find in Nashville. Mellie got Elk medallions and I got BBQ Buffalo (bison) short ribs. Both were yummy. Elk tastes a lot like venison (Deer). Buffalo, to me, tastes like Beef x10.
Now it's time to relax and chill for the evening.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Well we rested at the hotel for a few, but I, that being Mellie need some air, so we got jackets on, and headed to Scott's Buff monument. I wasn't sure if I needed my sweater or not but by the time we got there I was glad I did. It was $5 a vehicle to get in and drive to the top. It is beautiful up there, but all so very very cold!! Marc froze his hands off and so did I. The trails have not guard rails, so in places it was pretty scary. Marc was scared more then me but he won't admit it!! we got a lot of great scenic shots. We had fun!! Froze are butts off! Got back to the car and boy we was glad the car came equipped with butt warmers. I picked up an ole timey cook book. I'll have to rave the reviews later.
Once we got back in the car and headed to the bottom I thought I was going to die!!! You go down and it looks like we are going of the edge, I started freaking out I can't look! can't look! Then I had this image of Marc say, "honey honey you can look now" and when I do only seeing blue sky, I'd ask Marc, "Where are we?" And he say,"Flying honey, see!!" As his super GLI ninja car flies through the air!! Looking down a nearly barfed!!!
But the best is yet to come after we got back down to visitor area I had to go potty. Oh and there is no heater in the 3 stale potty room, so you guessed it girls, cold bottom!! and no way around it. no locks on the stall doors either. So I am sitting there doing my thing when I hear some one else coming in to potty, 3 stales mind you and i am in the one further away, and this young girl opens my stall do. I hollered, "Hey!!!" and scared her!! I had all I could do was not to laugh!! I held it in tell she left then busted a gut!!
Then off to dinner at Runza's. Then back to the hotel to watch SpaceBalls.
We left Grandma's around 7:30 this morning. Got into Scottsbluff around 3:30 PM CST.
We stopped by Ole's Big Game Bar for lunch, in Paxton, NE. It was an interesting place. Not sure Paxton would even be on the map if not for Ole's. I had a Buffalo burger and Mellie had a Buffalo sirloin steak. Not like Buffalo wings, I mean Bison meat. It was a lot like beef. The distinction was mild but there. Worth trying for sure.
We then headed off to Scottsbluff. Once we got off the Interstate it was a bit more fun driving. The road wasn't busy at all and the scenery was interesting. I know Nebraska isn't "Big Sky Country", but you can understand that phrase driving out here.
We stopped at Chimney Rock but it started raining. I got a couple photos but when we got to Scottsbluff we decided to just find a hotel and relax. It was a long drive and with the weather all crappy it wasn't worth going back out. Maybe if the weather is nice in the morning maybe we can get some early shots before we head north to the Black Hills.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Headed to Lincoln, NE this morning around 10am. My childhood buddy Dean and his wife live there. We went to Bennigan’s for lunch. Dean and I both had Monte Cristo sandwiches. My first time. It was...different. Not bad, but just really different.
We then went back to their new house (really nice) and played some pool for a bit. We were all pretty bad. heh! But we had fun.
We then had to stop by Goodrich Dairy/Colby Ridge Popcorn for some ice cream and popcorn. Mmmm...Caramel Milk Shake.
Tonight is going to be quiet. Have to get ready for the drive tomorrow. First though we are going to go look at some kittens. We may be driving home on Saturday with a couple mewing puddy-cats!
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I (that be me Mellie) awoke at my normal time of 6:30am. Shower got up and had a cup of Joe with Grandma. Marc got up at 8 am slacker!!!! Ate breakfast then headed out shopping. I needed hiking shoes and rain sleeker. My Buddha why doesn’t anyone sell rain sleeker!! Making this shopping drama short after several stores, Dicks, JC Penny, Lane Bryant. I ended up at WALMART*ewwww* and finally found a suitable rain sleeker.
Then there was lunch on grandma at
Went to dinner with Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanine at Plattsmouth Keno. It was a good dinner. The food was pretty good. I tried the Philly sandwich in my ever expanding quest to find the best Philly. It was good but not the best. The search continues.
We saw a VW Fahrenheit just like ours in south bound lane. Very exciting!!! Potty break at Rend lake rest stop, I seen no lake though, hmmmm
11am to 11:45am – Stopped for lunch at TGI Fridays in O’Fallon, IL. Almost to
3:00 PM – Stopped at mile marker 58 on I70 towards KC for gas. Mellie and I switched off. Been listening to a Starwars audio book. I forget the name. It was a free promotional download. Not bad. Well read and includes sound effects.
The highway patrol in
Guess I should have driven through the KC area. The traffic was heavier than I expected and I435 was closer to town than I remembered. Mellie doesn’t really like driving in heavy Interstate traffic. Doesn’t really bother me so much so I usually take those legs of the trip. Oops.
4:20 pm Ran into some construction that closed a lane. It slowed us down but never stopped. The construction signs said to merge left miles ahead of the construction. That led an idiot in an SUV to ride between the lanes, trying to block traffic driving in the right lane. While I think it’s rude to zoom ahead of the line, it’s not illegal (perhaps it is in different states). However I know that driving between two lanes IS illegal. One person who got stuck behind this dumbass wasn’t even trying to ‘cut-in-line’. They were trying to get to the exit just before the construction. So this person in their wisdom caused others unnecessary frustration. Vigilante justice rarely is justice.
4:34 PM – More construction on I29. They DO know that it’s a holiday weekend right? This slowdown seems worse than the last. Ok, so when the work is a bridge with an entire lane missing, it’s not like they can put it back just for the holiday weekend.
4:57 PM – Potty Break in
6:15 PM – Stopped at Earl MAY in
7:30 PM – Finally made it to Grandma’s house! We’re pooped!
Friday, May 23, 2008
6:29 AM – Off we go! Got the car packed up and we hit the road. Traffic is pretty light so far. We are going against traffic for one and two, I think a fair number of people took the day off.
7:11 AM – Made it to the Kentucky state line. Geebus Kentucky Interstates suck!
7:17 AM – Neat, the Flying J truck stop’s WiFi reaches the Interstate. Too bad we went by too fast for me to connect .
7:32 AM – Playing Hearts. Not getting sick from doing it…yet. Also it seems that I’m static charged or something because every time I touch the Zune we hear buzzing in the speakers. Maybe it’s the laptop. Oh and did I mention how terrible the Interstate is in Kentucky?
8:18 AM – Stopped in Paducah KY for Gas
Monday, May 19, 2008
We are pretty close to being done now. There are some details that have to be worked out still. Nothing major. I still need to learn how to properly cut crown molding, so I can install that. Some of the trim still needs paint. Minor stuff.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Well we got a lot done since I last posted. The sink is in, the toilet is in, the bead-board is up and some of the trim is done. We are nearing the end! Thank god!
Tomorrow our custom cabnets for the closet should be here so we can install those too. That and some embelishments should pretty much finish it up.
Oh that and painting. We have been looking at a green (see pic above) but I'm not sure we will go with that. If that is the worst thing we have to worry about now then we are in good shape.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Well this afternoon was gut wrenching. Melly got home to find out that two stray dogs attacked and mauled poor Cleo really badly. Our neighbor was able to save her from death but she was pretty hurt.
Melly took her to the vet, I was still on the way home. The vet said she didn't appear to have any broken bone, her back was ok, and no signs of internal bleeding. She was in pretty bad shock though. She was seeming to be doing better when we left the vet though. If she makes it through the night she'll still have a long recovery but I suspect she'll be past the worst. God I hope.
Loki, our male cat was no where to be seen. We were scared that he might be hurt some where, but he finally came home. He was visibly shaken when he came in, like he was scared to be around the house. But he's safe and sound. Needless to say he'll be staying in the house tonight and probably tomorrow. But we can't keep him inside forever, that's not fair and he's not as dumb as he sometimes acts. He clearly found a safe place to hide today.
It's hard dealing with that kind of emotion. I was nearly sick, physically ill, on the ride home knowing something happened to Cleo. I was very angry too. Angry at the dogs and angry at Nashville Animal Control, who is too under funded, under staffed, etc etc, to take care of all the strays in Nashville, much less our neighborhood. I'm still angry, but I have to let it go a bit or the bile will build up and I'll get sick again. I'll probably still be popping antacids tonight.
Tomorrow morning I'll call and find out how Cleo is. I hope she is ok.
UPDATE: She didn't make it through the night. :( Animal control is supposed to come out and find the other dog responsible. The 'brother' was picked up yesterday.