Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Up, Down, All Around

Stocks crash, then jump up, crash, jump, crash, jump. At least the lower oil prices are starting to kick in. Gas dropped another $.10 a gallon in the last 24 hours and diesel is below $3.00 for the first time in a long time. That should help prices a bit. I've increased our grocery budget by 50% since the beginning of the year and we are still coming up short. There's always the 100% ramen diet if things get really tight....

And the Wall Street Journal has an article on its opinion page by one of the authors of the book The End of Prosperity. Make sure the Prozac is handy before you read it.

Today was very slow at work. I made exactly two salads in a 6 1/2 hour shift. And one was for the owner. And the other was actually a half salad. Half of the smallest and cheapest salad on the menu. Yea. I raked it in. I feel like such an asset to the organization. At least I got a couple dried out hot dogs that had been cooking on the "hamster wheel" all day. They were more like Slim Jim's than hot dogs, but they were free. Debbie has been sent home early both days this week, so things haven't picked up at her job either.


I don't worry much about us as we have a pretty good cushion. I know that isn't true for most of the people I work with. Some can barely make it from one paycheck to the next, so missing a paycheck would pretty much end them. But personally, I'm getting tired of watching my jobs fade into oblivion.

Ah well. I'm going to cheer myself up by reading about cadavers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

"We're Here! We're Here!! We're Here!!!!"

I had a three-day weekend, so I used it to catch up on laundry, reading, and sitting on my butt. Yesterday, we made a trip out to Arcosanti. The place is a tomb. Bell sales are in the toilet, as anyone would expect. Most of the problems that were there when we left are still there or have gotten worse. Every once in a while, I get nostalgic for the foundry. These occasional visits are a good cure for that.

This week, I'm working Tuesday through Saturday so I can fill in for one of the Saturday kitchen guys that needed the day off. So, this week, it's a three-day weekend, but next week it's a one-day weekend. Ugh. Tuesday will be my first full-up paycheck, so I'll finally be able to get our budget back in order. The last couple months have been pretty much a disaster anyway with Debbie going back to Michigan and the closing on the property. Normally, I worry mostly about year-to-date numbers, but I started using a new software package in August, and I was too lazy to enter in all the previous months. That meant that everything was skewed to begin with. Then throw in a bunch of travel expenses and a 5-figure deposit and, well, yeah. And now Christmas is coming up.

Ah well.

That's pretty much it. Just wanted to give a quick "YAP!" in case anyone was trying to boil our dust speck.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Right direction

Finally gas prices went under $3/gallon here in Prescott at some places. Two days ago, it was $2.99, yesterday $2.98 and this afternoon when I came home for lunch -- it is $2.89!

Now we need the other things in life to go the right direction --- like our savings interests rates need to go up, not down. We just transfered some money this week into a 1yr CD -- interest rate at 3% since we have an account still at this bank in Michigan. Too bad our money market account keeps going down and is around 2.9%. :-(

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Gore Effect

Defined as:
The phenomenon that leads to unseasonably cold temperatures, driving rain, hail, or snow whenever Al Gore visits an area to discuss global warming. Hence, the Gore Effect.

Read more on climate cluelessness at Harvard.

Down, Down, Down Again

American markets were down yesterday, Asian markets are down today, and European markets are down so far today.

The good news is that oil is down, meaning gas, diesel, and home heating oil are also down. Seeing gas prices with a "2" in front is good.

The bad news is that the IMF says no growth for at least a year. That may be conservative. Many people like us have made large, structural changes to their lives that we aren't going to instantly reverse because gas prices came down a little. I still walk to work. Debbie still drives 3 miles each way to her job. We still live in a small apartment. We still live in a place where it is 70+ degrees in October. We're not going to run out and buy a $300,000 house just because the credit problem seems to have bottomed out. We aren't rushing back to the frozen north just because propane is a little cheaper. Debbie isn't planning on taking a job 40 miles from here just because gas prices dropped from ridiculous to merely insane. We have no plans to buy a second vehicle. We still only eat out once a month. We still get books from the library instead of buying them.

Over the last two years, we have made major changes to our lifestyle that we have no intention of abandoning now or likely ever. We can't be the only people to have done so, either by choice or necessity. That's very bad news for the companies, even whole industries, (cruise lines?) that have built their fortunes on rampant consumerism.

We all know when it's over, and the fat lady ain't even warming up back stage.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cafe Update

I haven't mentioned the cafe in a while, so I thought I would catch everyone up to date. And yes, you know you care.

The official opening was repeatedly delayed mostly because of missing menu items. But since the menus are printed on demand each day, the manager finally took the stuff off the menu that we couldn't make and turned on the "Open" sign. With no advertising other than word-of-mouth, business increased every day last week. Today broke the streak. At 1pm, after being open for six and a half hours, we had $50 in sales. Oops. I'd be surprised if total sale broke $100.

But Mondays were always horrible at the bakery as well. Many small businesses are closed or open for reduced hours on Mondays. No one has an explanation. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that tomorrow at least brings in enough cash to cover one person's pay for the day. We also have some articles announcing the opening of the cafe in a couple weekly papers that are due out this week, and the manager is trying to arrange for some face time on a locally-produced TV show to talk up the place.

In many ways, the slow start has been very beneficial. Everyone has had a chance to settle into their jobs and work the kinks out of their work area without the pressure of crowds lined up outside trying to get in. Last week was a very-much-needed shakedown cruise for us.

So we'll see what happens. There hasn't been a worse time to start a business with high elasticity of demand in a decade, so if we survive the next six months or so, we'll probably make it. If not, maybe Debbie and I will both lose our jobs about the same time and go off on a one-year vacation someplace.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Revisiting the Patch of Grass

Another bit on global warming or climate change or whatever Al Gore is calling it this week. These are some excerpts from an open letter from the Viscount of Monckton of Brenchley to John McCain. It is very long, but take an hour and read the entire thing. It is, to say the least, enlightening. At the very least, it will educate you in what voting for the lesser of two evils means in reality.
... From 1700-1998, temperature rose at a near-uniform rate of about 1 °F per century [Akasofu, 2008]. In 1998, "global warming" stopped, and it has not resumed since: indeed, in the past seven years, temperature has been falling at a rate equivalent to as much as 0.7 °F per decade [Hadley Center for Forecasting, 2008; US National Climatic Data Center, 2008]. Very few news media have given any prominence to this long and pronounced downturn in the temperature trend.

... Greenhouse gases keep the world warm enough for plant and animal life to thrive. Without them, the Earth would be an ice-planet all of the time rather than some of the time.

the "worst" greenhouse gas - the one which, through its sheer quantity in the atmosphere, accounts for two-thirds of the 100 Watts per square meter of greenhouse-gas radiative forcing reported by Kiehl & Trenberth (2007, op. cit.) - is water vapor. Carbon dioxide accounts for little more than a quarter.

Sea level has been rising since the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. It is 400 feet higher now than it was then. The rate of increase has averaged 4 feet per century. Yet in the 20th century, when we are told that "global warming" began to have a major impact on global temperature and hence on sea level, sea level rose by just 8 inches.

Given that glacial recession began long before humankind could have had any appreciable effect on global temperature, and given that the rate of recession has remained uniform, on what basis can it be said, as you have implied, that it is anthropogenic "global warming" that is causing the glaciers to recede?

In the very cold winter of 2007/8, during which the biggest January-to-January fall in global temperatures since records began in 1880 was recorded, several glaciers in Greenland began to re-advance.

It has long been settled science that a warmer climate would reduce the frequency and intensity of severe storms outside the tropics. Until recently, a minority of dissenting scientists had held that "global warming" might intensify not the frequency but the intensity of hurricanes, tropical cyclones, and typhoons in the region of the Equator. However, it is now known that warmer weather reduces the temperature differential between the Equator and the Poles; and that wind-shear tends to dampen the intensity of the worst hurricanes.

... even if the West were to close down all of its industries and transport systems and factories and hospitals and schools and power stations, and even if we were to revert to the Stone Age but without the ability even to light carbon-emitting fires, the growth in China's and India's emissions would entirely replace all of our emissions within little more than a decade.

... whatever we cease to make, China will make in our place; whatever we cease to emit, China will emit in our place, and will emit in greater quantities because her systems of power generation are far less efficient than our own.

... One of the founders of Greenpeace - a man with a genuine concern for the environment but otherwise with no political opinions - has told me that he was compelled to leave the movement after a year, when the international Socialist Left took it over and used its true objectives as a mere front for what is in all material respects indistinguishable from Communism.

... In our schools, the slick, relentless propaganda of the alarmists - based not on fact but on fear - infects the minds of innocent children. Gripping children in a self-serving, manipulative state of fear robs them of their childhood.

... if you truly believe that the planet is menaced by an insignificant and harmless increase in the atmospheric concentration of a trace gas that is essential to life, then your first duty as President will be to do the reverse of what you propose: in short, to shut down all unnecessary functions of the federal administration altogether, and to transfer as many as possible of the remainder to the private sector, which has already done a better job of disincentivizing the consumption of fossil fuels in just two years than your proposed "cap-and-trade" system is expected to do in almost a third of a century.

... In Haiti, the doubling of food prices that resulted directly from the "biofuels" fiasco has forced the poorest of the poor to live on mud pies. Here is the recipe. Mix 6 oz. of soil with enough water to make a paste. Add a pinch of salt and a tiny knob of butter. Stir vigorously. Bake in the sun until dry and hard. Serve, or sell to neighbours for 3 US cents.

... The Environmental Defense Fund, as one of its lines of argument when obtaining the ban on DDT, had said that, even if there was no scientific case against a ban, a ban should be imposed anyway, as a precaution. That "precaution" killed 30-50 million children.

[Aside: the Viscount repeatedly expresses amazement that Republican McCain is such a flaming socialist. I'll just repeat what I've been saying for almost two years; McCain is Hillary with bigger boobs and smaller balls.]

Mom? Dad?

Too bad my parents don't have internet access:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sleepless in Prescott

Guess it's my turn to not sleep at night.

Maybe I'm just excited about playing with my new Drobo. One of the drive enclosures died a couple days ago. I could have just bought another one, but decided to bite the bullet and get the Drobo along with another 500 GB hard drive instead. I just finished consolidating all the files from three external drives onto the Drobo, which will simplify things considerably. I didn't bother with the DroboShare as we only have one computer so it's just a really big USB drive. Our data is relatively safe at this point. Still need to do some sort of off-site back-up. Probably something like Carbonite, but not until I have a couple paychecks under my belt.

So I still have about 1 terrabyte attached to the laptop, only now it's on a single logical device with automatic redundancy. It really is a sweet little device. It takes literally 20 seconds to add a hard drive with no need to worry about formating or defining the drive. New drives can be added, existing drives removed or swapped out without worrying about where anything is stored. I've worked with RAID arrays in server rooms for years, but I never expected to be able to have one sitting in my living room.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Something to Watch

Other than the stock market crashing, that is:

[Embedded video removed after several attempts to get the thing working correctly failed.]

Each of the five first-stage Saturn V engines produced 1.5 million pounds of thrust. The most powerful machine ever built by humans.

Assuming I can get the video to imbed correctly in Blogger.

Which, of course, I couldn't do, so just click here.

Some day, I'll figure out how this whole intertubes things works....

Work News

Well, we got the 'big talk' Friday after Connie got back from her manager's meeting Thursday. AAA is not doing so hot compared to last year. Membership numbers are way down....and we are a membership based organization. Our Prescott branch numbers are really bad ---- considering just over a year ago we moved into a new and bigger location. Our office might be one of the first to see closures or layoffs. Ouch!

The funny thing upper management came up with is a new program (called AUTO or something like that) When Connie first started to talk about this "new program", I thought it might have something to do with automobiles. LOL. Nope .... each day there will be a sign up sheet in Connie's (the manager) office. We now can sign up to go home early -- unpaid time off -- does not count against us or affect our benefits. We have to come in and work at least 1 hr --- Connie will determine if we can leave or not. We sign up and put in an estimated time of getting off.

The "funny thing" about this, is I had previously asked about taking unpaid time off and was told no; "because it would affect my benefits." Now, that it is in their best interests, I can now take unpaid time off. Go figure!

I hope things pick up ---- I would hate to have to commute to another AAA office closer to Phoenix. I'm hoping with my computer knowledge and such I wouldn't be one of the first to be laid off. I would guess they would start with the part timers -- lay them off first. Who knows.

I know alot of people are playing the wait and see game. I kinda wonder what will happen after election day. If things are still grim, will people hold on tighter to their money, or say, it won't get better soon, but I need a vacation from all this!

Monday, October 13, 2008


...some good news?

Gas prices have dropped like a rock over the last two weeks. We paid $3.19 on Saturday. Demand is falling pushing down the price, which is a good thing, but for a not-so-good base cause.

Meanwhile, governments all over the world are "rescuing" the stock markets by devaluing currencies, and taking over banks. In the US, the banks have not yet been nationalized, but there is a great deal of pressure to do so. (Because we all know that we must, must, do everything England does. Two-hundred-plus years later, and we still have the colonial attitude.) Why stock investors view this as good news is beyond me, but all the indexes are way up this morning.

Quiet weekend here in Arizona. We cleaned, watched movies, took naps, etc. It's getting below freezing at night, but being a cheap-skate, I haven't turned on the heat. It isn't getting warm enough during the day to heat up the apartment, so our indoor temperature is gradually dropping day-by-day. But a) it's supposed to be warming back up in a couple days, and b) like the great Jimmy Carter said, put on a sweater.

The cafe opens for real today. I still have no idea how to make the signature salad, and don't have all the ingredients for two other salads (or didn't have as of Friday). It should be an interesting day. Got to run.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How... Interesting

The last couple days have certainly been... entertaining? enlightening? enraging? Anyway, on the one-year anniversary of its all-time, record-high close, the Dow closed at 8,579.19 for a loss of 39.4% in one year. GM and Ford closed at $4.76/share and $2.08/share respectively. The Wilshire 5000, an index that covers essentially every stock traded in the US, has lost $8.33 trillion in value in one year. That's a lot of retirement dollars to have evaporate in a mere twelve months.

The good news is that some people continue to innovate. Some even manage to create things more substantial than the latest Facebook app. I can't help but wonder what $700 billion spent on developing that sort of technology (or this sort) would do for our economy.

But despair is a sin. Never forget that.

Meanwhile, in the more mundane world of cafe jobs, things are progressing towards opening the place to the public. We have served a few random souls who happened to wander in and see if we were open. Saturday, we will be open, but not advertising the fact in any way. The hope is that business will be slow enough to allow some of the kinks to get worked out before the full-blown opening next week. A great plan as long as we can manage to rustle up people willing to spend enough cash to cover our paychecks next week.

But despair is a sin. Never forget that.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Awake again

I'm not sure why I haven't been able to sleep well lately. I woke up around 215am this morning and was still lying awake at 330a, so I got out of bed. I came out to start reading a new book and had a pop tart since the milk didn't quite smell okay to put onto the cereal I was planning on eating.

My mind has been racing when I wake up and try to go back to sleep. This morning I was thinking of our 2yr anniversary coming up and my last trip back to Michigan. Then I jump to thinking about the new stamp set I got and how I might do some Christmas cards. Jump back to wishing I had gone to Caleb birthday party -- jump to the layoffs at AAA (outsourced call center place) -- jump to our road trip here -- jump to the Alaskan cruisetour we are thinking about for 2010 -- jump to not being able to "talk" to the Tanners -- jump to hearing some bad news about a friend -- jump to being so thankful for the hug from Caleb -- jump to work being slow -- jump to Ric and his new job -- jump to the election coming up in Nov -- jump to maybe going to Carol's church -- jump to trying the church here in Prescott -- jump to kidney donating -- jump to my niece's open house (when/where/getting tickets) -- jump to another niece's wedding (getting tickets/where to stay) -- jump to "remember to ask for their social security numbers" for the savings bond that will be part of their wedding gift -- jump to the savings bonds that are "lost" that I got while at Peerless -- jump to the Pembertons -- jump to Gomer (grrrrr) -- jump to --- well lost track----- and I'm sure you are all wondering about why I bothered to type this all out. Who knows ---- what can I say, this is our blog and we can say what we want to say! LOL Nobody is making you sit there and read this all.

Well...back to my book until I feel tired again and try to lay down or it is time to jump in the shower and get ready for work. We are planning on doing to see a college soccer game tonite if the weather is decent. This is the team I helped with travel plans last year to go to the finals.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Cafe Job, Day 2

Today, "work" consisted of going through more paperwork, recipes, procedures, etc. In all, a pretty easy five hours. Tomorrow, the real work starts when we begin prep'ing out food, figuring out the best placement for everything on the lines, what we are missing, what needs to be relocated, and about a million other things. The manager has already decided to delay the opening by one day just to be sure everyone was up to speed. The way things work is very similar to how it was when I worked at Rugggero's in Flint, which was probably the most efficient place I ever worked. The kitchen crew that I will be working with really seem to have it together. I'm sure I'll be complaining before long, but for now it's good.

The real test will be if we can put butts in the seats. The local economy seems fragile, based largely on retirees wandering around spending their money during the week and tourists doing the same thing on the weekend. I'm not convinced either of those groups will be out and about much in the current economy. The menu, location, serving times, etc. seem like they will be appealing to people on the way to work or running out for a quick lunch that want something a little higher-end than In-and-Out Burger or What-a-Burger. (And yes, those are both chains out here in the territories.) We all have our fingers crossed that those people will still exist in six months. Of course, for me the alternative was to stay at the bakery until it closed.


Today was certainly... um... interesting for many people. Asia led things off with all it major indexes tanking, then Europe, then us, with the Dow closing below 10,000. The only positive things were the late-day rally in US markets and oil falling below $90 because oxen seem to be coming back into fashion. (They eat grass instead of diesel fuel, they self-replicate, you can burn their poop to heat your house, and when they break down, you eat them. What's not to like?) But never fear, the Fed is rushing in to save the day by further devaluing the dollar.

I'm thinking local businesses should consider wampum.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Our Masters of the Universe

NPR has a good piece on the history behind the current financial mess. It tries to answer the question "What could these people have been thinking?" Unfortunately, the answer seems to be, "They weren't." It's almost an hour long, but probably one of the better uses of an hour.

And an article on Pajamas Media that tries to look at what comes next. I think it is far too optimistic, at least in the next 3-5 years. Innovation is a wonderful thing, but it needs the proper regulatory and fiscal environment. Which we no longer have. Some places do and the "entrepreneurs and smart corporate executives and hard-working everyday people" most likely won't be American (or, more precisely, won't be as overwhelmingly dominated by Americans as in the past).

Last but not least, a complete list of the pork attached to the "rescue" package. What I want to know is why bicycle commuters get money, but pedestrian commuters like me don't. I should write a letter....


Friday, October 03, 2008

Anti-Terrorism Fail

Why all anti-terrorism efforts fail. What motivates a US politician living a life of privilege is not what motivates a twenty-something third-generation refugee camp dweller. That seems obvious to me and probably anyone reading this. But then these are the same Lords of the Universe that thought loaning out money to people who could never pay it back was the road to prosperity.

Oink, Oink

What do the following things have in common:

Wooden arrows
Puerto Rican rum
Corporations in American Samoa
Small-budget movies
Alaskan salmon fishers
Alternative fuels

Give up? Read this. Yet another article that can be made hysterically funny by saying "Doomed!" after each paragraph.

Ye flippin' gods.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

We're Pissed

Yahoo! Finance has a good video segment on the social aspects of the current financial mess. After you watch it, click on the link to go to the tech ticker main page and just let the videos run for as long as you can stand the bad news.

Interesting times.

(And not to brag or anything, but as you watch those videos, remember what I have been saying for eight years: Get fast. Get small.)

Good Question

McCain is constantly throwing his POW experience around. Is being a former POW actually an asset for the Commander-in-Chief? Fred Reed asks the question: Is McCain able?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It's Done

The Senate passed it's version of the bailout and it looks like the House will pass something similar sometime this week. (Slight Digression: I just noticed that I said a bailout bill had passed late last week when in fact it had just gotten out of committee and was the bill killed in the House on Sunday. I knew that when I wrote that entry, but my fingers didn't get the memo.) It looks like what started out as a narrow bill to do one specific thing (buy up the worst of the non-performing loans) has become the typical congressional bill loaded up with all sorts of vote-buying. The bill has expanded from its original three pages, something that could actually be read and understood by a member of Congress, to 451 pages that I seriously doubt any Congressman will read or understand. All I know is that as someone who has never been as much as a day late on any credit payment, I will be paying out the nose (either through higher taxes, inflation, or both) for people that took out loans they had neither the ability nor any intention of ever repaying. Just great.

It also looks like the auto industry, and by extension the state of Michigan, will get it in the neck some more. Of course, the unstated assumption in the article, that buying a new car is impossible without credit, really should be seriously looked at. Does it really make sense for an average family vehicle to cost $30,000 or $40,000? Maybe true low-cost vehicles, instead of these rolling mini Best Buy's, will become popular again. And by low-cost, I don't just mean initial purchase price but the total lifetime cost of a car. With every car maker jumping on the hybrid concept, I'm not hopeful.


Good news: I am officially done at the bakery.

More good news: We are officially landless peasants. Some time this morning, a large sum of cash was deposited electronically into our Michigan checking account. Woohoo! Cha-ching!

Still more good news: All the cafe employees had a meeting with the cafe manager yesterday. There will be a three-day delay in getting the place open, so I have today, tomorrow and Friday to sit on my butt and do nuttin'. So far, it's everything I imagined doing nothing could be.

Even more good news: I finally found out my pay rate at the cafe job; I'll be getting an instant 20% raise. Count in the increase in hours, and my take-home pay should go up almost 70%. Woohoo! Cha-ching!

So today I'm sittin' and chillin' doin' a whole heap 'o nuttin'.

OK; enough of the redneck blogging. On to more serious stuff.

The markets today are just holding their breath so far just wobbling around what they closed at yesterday. European and Asian markets did the same thing. Everyone awaits our messiahs' return to Washington DC to craft the most brilliant legislation that man has ever seen and save us all.


Meanwhile, Kip has some thoughts on the fallacy of intrinsic value and whether or not markets can be "wrong" (short answer: no, they cannot).

With about a month to go before the entire nation (well, 60% of the nation anyway) casts the ballot that will change history, there are a couple studies that you may want to read about. The first one shows that when people are given evidence that their "facts" are wrong, they don't take it in. In fact, there is some evidence that being shown real facts that contradict beliefs actually reinforces the counter-factual beliefs. The second shows that the more stupid you are, the smarter you think you are. The title of the study is "Unskilled and Unaware of It." The assumptions of the study are precious:
  • Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  • Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  • Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
Pretty much says it all. Scott Adams had links to these. He said that you can make both of these articles hysterically funny by saying "Doomed!" at the end of each paragraph. It works. At least it cracked me up. YMMV.

Happy ........

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! to my Mom

Happy day to us --- today is the official closing of our Michigan property. Our bank account will be a bit richer.

Not happy about me being awake at 430AM --- oh well --- I can get the computer all to myself for a few hours.

Happy few days to Ric. He does not have to go into his new workplace for training until Sat. So, he is off for 3 days -- works a few short shifts -- then officially goes on his new schedule (9a-4p M-F) a week from today. Other happy news ---- this place is planning on starting him out at $10/hr. Woo-hoo!!!!

30 pounds

That is what I need to lose before I can "sign up" for a certain program. My BMI is considered too high to be put on the list right now. So, according to our scales I have to lose at least 30 pounds before I can be considered. I was down that much before we moved to AZ, but I know how I dropped those pounds and do NOT want to go thru that again. I am going to try --- watch my meal portions and adding exercise (besides my once a week walk to work with Ric) Keep me in your thoughts --- a life may depend on it.