Misc


I’ve been on business travel the past four weeks and I’m really tired.   Sure staying at four star hotels, eating at the finest restaurants and drinking the best wines is fun but it does get tiring and quite honestly lame.  I’m at that point now where I need a break but I don’t think it will come.  I will be traveling again next week and quite possibly the next three weeks.

I also just finished my second semester of MBA school and I’m not sure if I’ll return in the fall at this point.   With all the business travel and the expected upswing in the volume of business activity I’m expected to take care of I’m not sure that I can give the courses any focus.  Besides, most of the professors are academic isolationists that don’t know a damn thing about business.

As for personal finance quips, I haven’t had the chance to write up too many posts but I do have many stories to tell about the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen.   I was having dinner in downtown Naperville not too long ago and the place was packed and happening.   I was having dinner in downtown San Diego and the place was dead.   The airport in Chicago often feels like a ghost town while the one in San Diego is happening and jam packed.   I don’t get it.

Well I meant to write this post on the 31st of January but I’ve been too busy with MBA school, work, projects, family and more.  But on the 31st I weighed myself and lost a whopping 18 lbs in one month!   I seem to have hit a plateau for now but I’ve also been eating a bit more carbs than I should be.    If I hope to lose another 10 lbs in February since it is a shorter month and I will inevitably fall off my Atkins wagon during Valentines Day as I go out to eat or otherwise celebrate the holiday.    I have to keep up my writing before it falls into complete disarray.

Well… haven’t been posting lately because I am swamped at work, school, family, and other obligations that I just don’t have enough time to write any posts.   It literally feels like every single hour of my day from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. is accounted for leaving me very little free time to do anything.    I normally write posts on the weekend and have them post daily but even my weekends are gone.   Yeah, corporations are making money because they keep letting go of people and everyone left behind is picking up the slack!

Unfortunately, with the holidays coming up, I will have less time as I will be traveling and engaged in other activities.    I am seriously considering going on hiatus until the start of the new year so if you don’t read any more posts you know why…..

Are you freaked out about swine flu yet?  It seems every time I log on to the net there is something about the swine flu.  Evertime I watch the TV news there’s something about the swine flu.   At work, I’m being offered FREE swine flu vaccine and now when I come home I have a pre-recorded message telling me that swine flu vaccine is ready at my local health provider.

Perhaps I live in a bubble but I personally know of ZERO people who have gotten the flu.   The news reports in my city say a few people have gotten sick but no one has died and only a couple of people in the state have died from the disease the best I could tell so what’s with the fear-mongering?

According to the CDC, Fifty six thousand people die of flu/pneumonia every year so why is it now on 24×7 all the time.   What is really perplexing are conflicting news reports that there is a shortage of vaccine then I get calls and e-mails that flu vaccine is available everywhere!    This is taking the whole supply vs demand paradigm to a whole new level.

Once again, I am considering putting my blog on hiatus for a long while as, despite being unemployed, I find myself busier than ever.   Between gardening (just replanted corn seeds), mentoring people over at LiveMocha, learning a new language at LiveMocha, spending time with kids, checking on my investments and preparing for going back to work and possibly school (MBA) I am feeling a bit stretched but I also have a few blogs and other forums that I contribute material to almost daily and it’s getting a bit overwhelming.

I was recently asked to go get a Breathalyzer test as part of my pre-screening process for a potential new job.   When I got to the lab, I asked the technician if it made any sense for me to take a Breathalyzer test.  She asked who I was working for and I said I was unemployed but doing a pre-screening.   She said it doesn’t make sense because you’d have to be an alcoholic to show up to a Breathalyzer test knowing full when, where and how it would be taken for you to fail.

I’m guessing these tests cost a few hundred dollars and I’m not sure what the purpose was since the job I’m intending on getting isn’t a driving job at all.   Oh well, I guess some companies have money to burn…

I’m sorry to hear of the passing of a great capitalist Billy Mays. At first I was usually annoyed by his late night commercials but after watching the show Pitchmen it became one of my favorite shows and I found a whole new level of respect for the man and his profession. I had planned on writing a series of posts on the show and the inventors featured but I never got around to it.

I guess that’s an example of how procrastination isn’t good for any of us long term.

TAMPA, Fla. – Billy Mays, the burly, bearded television pitchman known for his boisterous hawking of products such as Orange Glo and OxiClean, has died. He was 50.

Tampa police said Mays was found unresponsive by his wife Sunday morning. A fire rescue crew pronounced him dead at 7:45 a.m.

Goodbye Billy, I’m gonna miss you and in your honor, I’m going to buy some Oxi Clean later today.

I’ve been thinking about those 78 million baby boomers again but this time I’ve been playing a thought game about how the world would be different if these boomers, instead of being broke and poorly prepared for retirement, had prudently saved and were now all millionaires.

Let us posit that each boomer has a retirement fund of $2 million dollars and it’s in bank savings CD’s earning 5% which means each boomer has $100,000 of interest income to spend.   We’ll assume a capital tax rate of 15% so each boomer has 85k of spending power.

The key question I have churning in my thought experiment is whether these boomers would all retire and spend the remainder of their life in a world of travel and leisure or would they continue to work?

Intuitively, I think most people would chose to retire and travel or play golf or do whatever takes each particular persons fancy.  If this hypothesis is correct then millions of people would be leaving the workforce in hordes.   In this alternate scenario, I can foresee problems with the US economy and a simple scenario where there are simply not enough workers to do the work.   In this alternate universe, banks would be well capitalized and boomers would have a large amount of money to retire on but there wouldn’t be enough workers to do the work.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in this alternate universe as baby boomers are woefully unprepared for retirement.   The average boomer 401k has about 50k or money and that simply isn’t enough.   With $14 trillion dollars of “wealth” evaporated from the world over the past few years it’s difficult to understand what’s going to happen to the silver generation.

I’ve been contemplating dropping my satellite service and hooking up a computer to my TV and watch shows on Hulu and iTunes for entertainment.    I began investigating this seriously then discovered several flaws in my diabolical plan.

First, when I tried to use Hulu I received a friendly message that I needed to upgrade my flash player.  Hmm….so I might be subjected to frequent requests to “upgrade” my player every few months eh?

Second, iTunes shows aren’t exactly free but I’d be willing to pay for the content but it seems iTunes is heavily laden with DRM and I’m not sure the viability of  “broadcasting” shows to numerous TVs in my household.

Third, I’m wondering how obsolete all my equipment will get with time.   To illustrate the point, one of my pet projects I’ve been working on during my time off was to convert all the video I’ve recorded over the years (in various formats analog, digital 8, dv, etc) onto my computer.    My original plan a couple of years ago was to edit and put all the video on DVDs but then BluRay came out promising to be the be-all end-all of video format.

Of course, now I’m hearing about 300 gb and 1 tb optical disks that may be coming out in the near future so why bother burning anything to BluRay?  I’m sure in a year or two we’ll have PurpleRay then GreenRay and then something else so I finally opted just to convert the video onto hard drives and watch the video directly from the computer to the LCD screen.   It actually works great because I don’t have to worry about 4:3 or 16:9 formats or whether to burn something onto DVD-R or DVD+R or DVD+RW or BluRay etc.

Unfortunately, there is always a catch and I’m worried that the video format I’m converting video to won’t be easily readable in the future.   There are a ton of video formats: mpeg-2, mpeg4, mov, avi, wmv, etc.  Which ones will last and which ones will not?   Initially, putting the video on my mac was easy but now I’m running into many problems which I won’t get into here.

With regards to Hulu, I’m wondering what hoops we’ll have to jump through to watch TV.  Upgrade flash players every few months?  Upgrade browsers? Buy new hardware?  Increase internet speed?  Sign a service agreement every 3 months? Just thinking about it is already getting me frustrated so I’m not sure I’ll ever take the plunge.

Hulu may be “free” if you don’t factor in the “aggravation” cost and I can only compare it to the iTunes experience.  At first iTunes was easy and friendly but now iTunes is a bloated program with Genius, DJ, Music, Movies, TV shows, Apps, and CONSTANT service agreement legalese that you have to agree to every few months!  Oh yeah,  iTunes needs to be upgraded every few months too.

Hulu may seem free but you don’t get something for nothin’ and just wait until Hulu execs try to figure out how to squeeze money out of it; that’s when the aggravation will begin to take hold!

Every year, almost like clockwork, during the holidays, we get together to visit family and friends that we haven’t seen in a while and almost inevitably, a decision is made to make plans for a “group” vacation sometime in the upcoming year. Usually the idea revolves around a cruise to the Caribbean or maybe a beach house or two in Florida but inevitably the vacation never happens.

I began to ponder why the vacation never happens and the reasons vary. Over the last decade, the reasons vary from someone losing a job and not having the funds to go on vacation to someone being ill, losing a loved one, or poor planning. On one particular year, I thought the vacation would actually happen with everyone being in full agreement that we would all go on a cruise during a particular time frame only to be thwarted by the cruise ship being fully booked for that time period!

This holiday season was no different, there is a large contingency on one side of the family that is intent on spending a family vacation on a beach house or two in Florida this year. I’m debating whether or not I should become the “project manager” for this adventure to make sure it happens but the problem resides in committing monetary funds for a group vacation from people that may pull out at the last minute thus leaving me with an oversized beach house in a location that I may not be particularly fond of for a vacation spot

I’ve never actually seen anything good come out of these group vacation though. During my youth, they did actually happen as planned but inevitably there would be branches of groups of people that wanted to do different things. One group would want to go shopping while another would want to spend the day at the beach. It begs the question, if people want to do different things, why bother with a group vacation? I think the best way to go about this is to try to plan as much of the activities and itinerary beforehand, get people’s opinions and adjust accordingly so everyone could participate at different things together.

Even doing this however would lead to a highly complex schedule and some people would still feel like they weren’t doing what they wanted to do during a vacation so is it even possible to do?

I’ll be on a blog-free vacation from today thru January 2nd so there won’t be any posts this week but I will return on January 5th.

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