Philosophy


Although this blog is primarily focused on finance related topics, I have mentioned my side hobbies on occasion, one of which is the study of mythology, prophecy and astrophysics.   Perhaps it’s a crazy coincidence that the day of the big oil spill, a large field telescope named LUCIFER was brought online to see distant stars and galaxies.   You can read about it here.

Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) partners in the U.S, Germany and Italy announced April 21 that the first of two new innovative near-infrared cameras/spectrographs for the LBT is now available to astronomers for scientific observations at the telescope on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona. After more than a decade of design, manufacturing and testing, the new instrument – dubbed LUCIFER 1 – provides a powerful tool to gain spectacular insights into the universe – from the Milky Way to extremely distant galaxies.

So a new powerful telescope will allow humanity to see distant stars.   Perhaps one was found that will be named Wormwood soon?   Why Wormwood?  Because according to end of days prophecy, a passage reads that a star in the heavens named Wormwood will be the harbinger of 1/3 of the water on earth becoming bitter.

Although the passage reads, “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;  And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

Often, something gets lost in the translation and it may be that simply seeing the distant star’s light land upon earth’s telescope is sufficient to reveal the silliness of the things man does on the planet to seed his own destruction.  It is ironic that the new telescope is named LUCIFER after all.

Read the prior two verses and you’ll easily see global warming fit in nicely along with the recent rash of volcanic eruptions in Iceland, Guatemala and the Pacific.   I could relay more correlations but that would be too spooky…

Well here’s an interesting story… I received my property tax appraisal document in the mail this week and thought it was interesting that my home value has been assessed 20k lower than last year.    I certainly don’t mind the lower valuation as it means I’ll be paying less in property taxes but while I received a lower valuation, I also received notice from the city that water & sewer rates would rise over 15 percent.

Worse than the 15% hike is the fact that the city has continuously cut back on picking up garbage.   At the rate the city is cutting services, we’ll have to soon resort to burning garbage in old drums like I remember people doing in my childhood neighborhood over 30 years ago!

Along those lines, I received a letter this week from Chase stating that one of my credit cards would be “upgraded” to the new Slate Chase card provided that I met their new credit worthy standards.   Sorry Chase but I have my own new “Ethical Worthy Standards” and you don’t make the cut.   I closed another Chase account this week and I am now down to one checking account and two credit cards – those will all be gone by June or July if I am able to meet my transfers and schedule for complete severing ties with all big banks.

Many people were talking about the consumer credit dropping in February and I’m not surprised:

U.S. consumer credit unexpectedly tumbled in February, reversing the prior month’s surprise increase, as households refrained from taking on new debt in favor of deleveraging.

February’s total consumer credit outstanding dropped $11.51 billion or at a 5.62 percent annual rate to $2.45 trillion, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

I’m not surprised because banks are still cutting credit lines or imposing new standards on consumers so accounts will continue to drop off.  Additionally, some people (like me) continue to be disgusted with big banks and are purposely closing accounts.   By the time I’m done moving my money and closing accounts, I will have shut down over $100,000 worth of credit lines with big banks.   I am currently 40% of the way there and I’m replacing those credit lines with credit union credit lines and other debt instruments.   Someone has to take a stand and I’m doing my part…

It’s amazing what the web has done to retail sales but more amazing is how my buying decisions are impacted by reviews I read on Amazon.   I’ve been in the market for so many new gadgets and gizmos that I’ve often gone online to read reviews and do some research.   Often, after reading a few reviews I usually make the decision not to buy something because of users opinions.

For example, I wanted to purchase a Kindle at one point but after reading this negative review I opted not to buy it.  “Gadget Queen” makes some serious and valid points that would have really irritated me if I had encountered those same problems.

Next up is a storage solution that I’ve been looking for and this is just one review of a product that convinced me to keep looking.   I am close to finally buying either a Synology or Thecus box and loading it up with 5 to 10 TB worth of drives to store my video, photos and music.

There are plenty of other items which I won’t cover but you get the idea.   It is no longer good enough to read reviews of products as I’ve come to expect actual user feedback on a product.   It’s great to review a product in a laboratory but real world use gives you the real picture.

Ironically, this level of thorough online review is needed because otherwise I wouldn’t be shelling out thousands of dollars for products that I would prefer to buy at a local store in the event that I needed to return it.  Clearly, if the vast majority of users/reviewers have little or no problems with the product then it’s a good indication that it’s a solid product.    I just don’t get why more online retailers don’t get the power of these reviews!

I’m halfway through my second semester at MBA school and one thing is becoming fairly apparent.   MBA programs seem to be entirely geared to creating worker drones than independent thinkers.   The course work I’ve had so far has not been challenging but rather tedious.   From calculating statistical ratios to creating common size statements and analyzing balance sheet statements to writing management reports on mundane topics with narrow scopes have all proven to be fairly useless in my line of work.

I honestly feel sorry for the young kids in there thinking that they are learning valuable skills for their future roles as executives because they’re not teaching much beyond how to be a worker drone accountant or worker drone low level manager or worker drone analyst.   My conundrum is that I’m addicted to low cost nearly interest free student loans otherwise I’d bail out.    My other conundrum is that employers want to see this degree on resumes which is the biggest farce ever!

I’ve decided that I will definitely not take any summer classes since I plan on taking a long vacation to Europe or elsewhere this summer.   I need a break from all the tedious and pointless busy work.

There should be a show on TV called “Banking Makover” along the lines of the Home Makeover show.   The premise of the show should be normal everyday struggling Americans being freed from the shackles of big banks and being moved to small community banks and credit unions.   Personally, I’ve begun my own bank make over journey.   Unfortunately it’s going to take at least 30 days if not more to move all of my accounts.   I’ve already sent letters to Bank of American and HSBC advising them of my displeasure with their little cartel and my intention to shut down all my accounts.

I’m in the process of slashing and burning my accounts at Chase but I’ve got so much money and things tethered to those accounts that it is going to take a while to undo but once done, I won’t be going back.   Hopefully, I’ll post an update by the end of the month but to give you a taste, it takes two payroll cycles to move from one bank to another and although I only had a small amount of my paycheck going to Chase, it’s going to take a whole month to unravel that process!

If you’re angry about the bank bailouts, bank bonuses, and the fleecing of the American taxpayer, I would encourage you to move your money to a credit union or community bank.   So far, my credit union has given me a credit card with a low 7% interest rate compared to the ridiculous rates at the big banks.  It’s not a bad deal altogether.    As an added bonus, my credit union offered to move my remaining auto loan over to the credit card.  This will create two bonuses for me:

1. The title to my car will be released to me – I’ve switched from a secured loan to an unsecured loan.

2. I ended a business relationship with a big bank and will not be paying them any more interest.

Before you fret about paying the credit card interest rate, I don’t plan on paying interest on more than a month or two since I’ll pay that off once all my money has settled after all the moves.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Icqrx0OimSs

What lessons have you learned from the financial crisis?   Did you catch the most important lesson?   It wasn’t about the dangers of leverage nor the malfeasance by banksters and fraudsters.  It wasn’t about the dangers of diversification or lack thereof in the stock market.

The main lesson I learned from the financial crisis is that at the end of the day, every single person is out there only for himself or herself.   Did you prudently save a large amount of money and only see it nearly disappear in the puff of smoke known as mortgage fraud?   Did your bank almost go down and leave you with nothing?   Is it possible that your bank  may still go down and leave you with nothing?

The financial shocks of 87, 98, 2001, 2007 seem to be getting closer and closer and greater in magnitude as time moves on and at this rate, we can expect to see another major blow up 2012 if not sooner.   Perhaps we’ve never really recovered from the 70’s crashes or perhaps the 60’s crashes or perhaps this is just the way it is but the serious demographic changes in the boomer population don’t bode well for the future of the stock market.

Based on my calculations, I expect boomers to start cashing out in droves around 2012 but perhaps this whole death tax thing may accelerate that as heirs cash out of the market.   No matter what happens, don’t expect anyone to come to your rescue as the most important lesson is that you’re on your own.

As part of one of my goals for the year, I started the Atkins diet at the beginning of the year and I’m currently going through carb withdrawal.   I’m not nor have I been hungry for most of the day but I do have a craving for carbs: any carbs!  I keep thinking about snacking on some chips, a slice of bread, some crackers, or baked goodies but those are definitely not on the diet.

For the most part, I’ve been eating eggs for breakfast, beef/shrimp/chicken for lunch and fish for dinner.   I plan on buying some lobsters this week too!    The Atkins diet is the only diet that has ever really worked for me….at least temporarily.   I’ve been on the diet before and within the first month or two I’ll easily lose 30 pounds then another 10 to 15 pounds until I get sick of eating the protein stuffs.

This year I plan on doing something different, I will be on high protein, low carb diet for 6 to 8 weeks (the induction phase) and then I’ll take two weeks off and restart the induction phase again after the two weeks.    I don’t plan on pigging out during my two weeks off, I will eat low fat food probably Subway veggie and <6 grams of fat sandwiches during that period and then return to induction.

I am hoping that the two weeks off will provide enough variety so that I don’t get burned out of the Atkins diet.   I plan on sticking to the program for all of 2010 and the only thing that may derail me is a great deal of business travel that is anticipated for the year but I’m going to give it my best.

Well here is a brief list of my goals for 2010.

1. Lose weight – goal is to lose 70 pounds.

2. Take kids to see Total Eclipse (options include Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Cruise).

3. Move My Money – Depending on what happens the 1st quarter of 2010, I may move all of my money out of big banks and into credit unions and community banks.

4. Have at least two cool family vacations: one international to Europe or South America, one domestic.

5. Go somewhere by myself exotic and crazy that I’ve never been to before (South Korea, Thailand, etc).

6. Continue this blog – yeah, it’s becoming a goal to keep this blog running with my work, school and family load.

7. Pay off all debt  – depending on how the economy recovers (or not) the 1st quarter of 2010, I may opt to pay off all debts which currently include my mortgage and one car note which is nearly paid off.

There are many other goals that I have but these are the ones that I will share with the public.   I’m still reconsidering the whole MBA thing and a few decision trees are based off of that so I can’t summarize them here briefly.

As some of you may know, this fall I went back to school to get my MBA.   There are several reasons I went back to school for my MBA.  First, when I was unemployed I didn’t know how long I would be unemployed and wanted to build a great “cover” story should I end up being unemployed beyond six months.  It’s pretty hard to explain to perspective employers how you were hanging out for that length of time without doing anything.  The “easy” explanation was going to be that I went back to school for my MBA!  Secondly, student loan money is dirt cheap right now and with a huge explosion of inflation coming sometime in the foreseeable future, it is great to lock in a large chunk of money at low interest rates.   I think my student loan money has a maximum lock of 8% or 9% and if inflation hits like it did in the late 70’s/80’s then I’m a shoe in for great profits and I may be able to write off the interest on my taxes to boot!   It sure beats the hell out of credit card rate jacking!   Third – college chicks!  Err…well…no that’s not the real reason, I am married after all 😉

The third reason for returning to college was to obtain a credential that is more and more in demand for the type of position I’ve held the past fifteen years and although I do have some regrets these days about the whole thing.  In any event, I’ve been having to work on a serious research paper for one of my classes and when I’ve added up all the time I’ve spent on the damn thing and multiply that against my current compensation (broken down by hour), I get a figure of around $6,000 and I’m not done yet.   I’m seriously wondering why I can’t hire some kid out of India to write this stupid paper and throw $1,000 at him/her; that’s like 40,000 rupees and a mountain of money over there.  Come to think of it, if I add up all the time I’ve spent on classes, studying, exams and papers I’m probably into the $25k range of opportunity cost.   I am seriously beginning to wonder if its going to be worth it because this is my first semester of a three year gig and when I contemplate how much this is going to cost in lost hours, the amount is staggering!

The real big question of course is if this is going to lead to any greater opportunities that I haven’t already had now.   I’ve already held various executive level positions over the years so what am I going to get out of this?   I’ve got some serious thinking to do….some real serious thinkin’ to does.

Can someone please explain to me the magical transformation that occurs when a person (a.k.a human being) enters the workforce as a government employee?   I ask because I frequently seem to find myself arguing with people that don’t seem to have any capacity for logic.

In my most recent discussion and deliberation with a collegue, the argument centered around the effectiveness and efficiency of any government employee.   My collegue is a huge advocate of eliminating any and all government entities, firing all government workers and privatizing all government jobs.

I understand his position fairly clearly, in some of my day dreams, I too often think of a world like this but then I snap back into reality and realize that it would never happen and if it did nothing much would change.

The logicical conststuct is as follows:

Government workers are the same people that exist on the planet as everywhere else (like the private sector), they are not robots or aliens with a different intellect, capability, capacity or goals.

If indeed we are to assume that all government workers perform in a mediocre way then what magical transformation will occur when a government worker goes into the private sector?   Won’t this same person be as medicre in the private sector as they were in the government sector?

If the above statement is not true then it must be the environment that “transforms” a “good” private sector employee into a “bad/mediocre” government employee right?   So let’s explore this phenomenon….

The government environment consists of levels of hiearchy, departments, staffs, and a great deal of bureacracy.   Hmmm….that sounds a lot like almost every private sector job I’ve ever had…

Perhaps it’s the source of income that these entities use that distinguishes “good” private sector jobs from “bad” government jobs right?   The private sector gets its money from the public and other public sector entities it sells its products and services too and government gets its money from taxpayers (you know, those people that make up the public) and the government taps the private sector for money too.  Hmm…strange come to think of it, it seems the money comes from the same places.

Aha!  I’ve got it!  It must be POLITICS that makes a big difference between the government sector and the private sector.  After all, we all know that government is full of politics and we all know that the private sector is totally and completely free of any politics right?  Well, no…there is plenty of politics in the private sector and I can attest to that since I’ve worked there my whole life.

Well I’m running out of ideas, it seems we’ve determined that the people, enviornment, money, processes and politics are all the same or fairly similar in government and in the private sector so how will eliminating government solve any problems?

What magical transformation takes place when we move a person to/from the private sector to the government sector?   Does anyone have an answer based in rational logic?

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