Friday, August 31, 2012

Where has all the common sense gone?

For the life of me I just can't figure out Mitt Romney's economic logic.  I've enjoyed a pretty good formal education and nearly 40 years of business experience, but more than anything I am most proud of my common sense.  Mitt is a brilliant man, no doubt, but his plan to create jobs and grow the economy just defies (my) common sense.

He says he wants to cut taxes for the rich, or at least include them in the extension of the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts, and that they (the rich) will then use this increased wealth to create jobs.  But from all I've read, including in the Wall Street Journal (hardly a leftist rag), there is somewhere between one and two TRILLION dollars in capital sitting on the sidelines waiting to be invested long-term.  What's missing is consumer demand to buy more of the stuff these new businesses/jobs would produce.  If there's no demand, why produce it?

Because of their vast numbers, estimated to be 50% of all Americans, the middle class drives our consumer-based economy.  The poor can't buy enough to create jobs because they, by definition, have no money.  The rich have plenty of money, but there aren't enough of them to buy in the mass quantities needed to drive industry.  That leaves the middle class to "spend, baby, spend".

When the middle class has enough money (and is confident enough to part with some of it), then demand will increase, businesses will produce more goods and services to satisfy the demand, and jobs will be created, in that order.  To think you can create jobs and THEN wait for demand to catch up defies common sense.  No business is going to pay employees to just sit around and wait.

I'm sick of hearing about how the rich need more money.  I'm not saying they shouldn't have more money.  What I am saying is what we ALL need right now is for the MIDDLE CLASS to have more money, for it is they, not the rich, who will return us to prosperity.  That's just common sense.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maxine's advice to all politicians...

Had enough politics yet?  The Republicans have been shoveling it deep and stinky this week, and next week it's the Democrats turn.  Oh joy.

I see that Citibank has agreed to pay $590M to investors they defrauded by selling them near-worthless sub-prime loans a few years back.  So they make a couple of billion gross profit, they give back $590M...pretty sweet, huh?  Nowadays banks just figure in fines and lawsuit settlements as part of the cost of doing business.  Just like the light bill and the phone bill.  I guess this is the new Business 101.

Just curious....Do politicians start out in banking to learn the art of sleaze, or do bankers learn how to defraud people with a straight face after doing a stint in Washington? 

All is not lost, though.  There is some good news out there:  It's football season!  And I mean REAL football!  You know, the kind where your team finishes the season with the same players it started with.  Where players play for the love of the game.  And a new car and a couple of thousand dollars a month "laundry money".  *wink*


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Now you see you don't."

I recently read that the Greek government, which we all know is an economic basket case, is about to finalize a treaty with Switzerland that will allow them access to the records and the money, estimated to be up to 20 billion Euros, that wealthy Greeks have parked in Swiss banks as a tax dodge.  This follows on similar treaties that Germany, Austria, the UK, and I believe the US, too (?) have negotiated, all to catch tax cheats and bring in more dollars, pounds, and Euros to the respective government coffers.

The problem is, however, that there is a lag time of many months after signing a treaty before it goes into effect.  The wealthy, some say with the help of their Swiss bankers, are using this interlude to move their money to new tax shelters being set up in wealth-friendly Hong Kong and Singapore.  In other words, it's still out of reach of the tax revenooers.

Here's my question:  In this country at least, the wealthy argue that their taxes should be cut dramatically because it is they and their money that create jobs.  If billions of dollars (some say TRILLIONS of dollars) are constantly on the move in this giant shell game of tax dodge, how is that creating jobs?

Somebody please 'splain it to me.  What little business acumen I have doesn't understand how this ultra-high-roller game is played.  Seems to me this is just making the case for those who argue "the rich get richer".  What am I missing?


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's official!

Thurston Howell III and his wife Lovey have endorsed Mitt Romney....

....after his own bid fell juuuuust a bit short.

(Oh, chill.  It's just a joke.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Customer Service....RIP

"Our Director of Customer Service is Helen Wait.  If you want customer service, go to Helen Wait."

Is anyone reading this old enough to remember newspaper boys?

They were usually elementary or jr. high age kids who would make their delivery rounds by bicycle early in the morning before school started.  Part of their job was to deliver the paper TO YOUR PORCH.  Anything less would usually result in a call to the newspaper, who would dispatch the kid back out to knock on your door and hand you your paper, along with an apology.

Later, for whatever reason, the rules were changed.  I guess the kids' work ethic was beginning to slip, so the newspapers gave the kids plastic baggies and told them to bag the papers and just try to hit the front yard.  

Later still, I suppose they couldn't get enough kids to do the job so they recruited adults who had cars to cover larger areas of town.  They would drive down the street at 40 mph and just sling papers out the window.  If it landed anywhere at all on the property it was considered a successful delivery.

IMO today we've hit absolute bottom.  One of the (print) papers I like to read is the Sunday NY Times.  It's printed locally by the Dallas Morning News and distributed by their crack crew of delivery specialists crack heads.  At least every other week....sometimes several weeks in a row....we have to call the paper and remind them who we are, where we live, that we are one of their "valued" customers, and that we want our paper!

I'm surprised they don't just tell us to come on by and pick one up, or better yet, just go on-line and read it there (which is what I do M-Sat) and quit callin' and wakin' em up.  "Paying customers are just so darn demanding these days...sheesh!"

Listen up Amazon, REI, LL Bean, and those handful of others who still have excellent customer service:  Don't let your people mingle with the general public.  Filter the air in your buildings and boil all water before use.  Offer all available immunizations against this insipid "give-a-shit" disease that is devouring customer service across our land.  Your reputation, your very existence even, depends on it!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Am I in The Twilight Zone?

I thought it was August 26 and I was in Dallas, Texas.  But then at 5 pm I took the dog out and found it was 84 degrees and very pleasant.  No....wait....84 degrees?  Dallas?  August?  This can't be right.  And that guy over there....he looks like Rod Serling.  Hmmmm.......

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sleep? I don't need no stinkin' sleep.

Actually I would like some sleep, but thanks to the big construction project underway just to my south I can't get any.  I've been watching them for months build the humongous parking garage at the center of the project, and now they're building all the (4-story) buildings surrounding it. 

And yes, they were hard at it this morning at 07:00.  What's most annoying are the giant fork-lifts (that reach 4 stories high) driving back and forth right outside my window delivering materials.  This will be a mixed-use commercial/residential block, and I'm hoping there will be a coffee shop or maybe a nice place specializing in the preparation and serving of adult beverages.

Fortunately the day will end with a fun event....we're going to my brother's house where my daughters (and families) are grilling out for us all for my birthday get-together.  The kids can swim in the ce-ment pond while the adults can over-eat and reminisce about how cool we were before the days when we had to consciously suck in our guts when we stepped out in public.

AWKWARD:  I just saw Bobbie Wygant, the local NBC station's movie reviewer, interviewing The Candidates' Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis.  Bless her heart, she's just not the person to be reviewing this movie.  Imagine getting a guided tour of a "gentleman's club" from your grandmother.

Hope you enjoy your weekend,


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Now I know how Rodney Dangerfield felt....

"I don't get no respect", not even on my birthday.  ESPECIALLY on my birthday....

Haha!  Now that's funny!

I like these smart-ass kinds of cards.  Pretty much everyone who knows me knows if they get a birthday card from me, it's going to be highly insulting.  I reserve the serious kind of card to show respect for the deceased because (I'm told) a "bada-bing, bada-boom" sentiment just isn't appropriate.  (Even if the dead dude was a joker himself?)

Then there's the "grandma card".  You know the's the one with all the glitter on it.  I'm guessing years ago a card designer at Hallmark decided nothing says "I love you Grandma" like glitter, and apparently in the glitter hierarchy purple is  No really.  Just go to the greeting card aisle at the pharmacy and look at all the glitter on the floor under the "Grandmother" section.  Purple predominates, with some red and some gold scattered in for (I suppose) it's shock value. 

But by far the most popular way to say "Happy Birthday" these days is on your Facebook "Timeline".   I didn't even know I had a Timeline until yesterday when I was inundated with well wishers.  I was flattered, but at the same time baffled.  K said there is an icon or something that supposedly pops up on my Facebook page daily to inform me who's birthday it was that day, but I'll be damned if I can find it.  So to all my Facebook friends whose birthday has come and gone with nary a "Yo, dude!" from me, I'm sorry.  

Some day I'm hoping my technological savvy-ness progresses beyond 1992 and I'll find that elusive Facebook birthday icon.  Until then, gimme your snail mail address and I'll send you a highly insulting birthday card....sent with love, of course.  ;)


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I should do this more often

WOW!  What a great birthday so far!  I took the dog out this morning at oh-dark-thirty to find the temperature at 63 degrees.  Woohoo!  Then I came back in to a big plate of brownies K made for me, complete with "Happy B-Day" written across it.  I would show it to you, but I've already eaten "Happ..".  Yes, I had a brownie for breakfast.  Sue me. ;)

Today is supposedly the first day of my semi-retirement, but all I see ahead of me is work.  Besides the client I met with last Saturday, another one of our homeowners from 16 years ago has sold their home and wants us to build them another.  I've been helping them look for some property, and yesterday they made an offer on one and it was accepted.  Looks like the next step is to visit the architect.  Then another one of our homeowners, this one from 14 years ago, wants to meet today to discuss building them a new home, too.  Looks like I'll have to postpone "sleeping in" for a while longer.

Looks like this election will be the most expensive the tune of $2 BILLION dollars spent, which means at least that much was donated to the politicians all combined, right?

OK, let's think this through:  We have a TRILLION dollar deficit and our Congress / President are beating the bushes looking for ways to save a buck.  They've come up with the noble idea of closing tax loopholes and ending expensive subsidies to selected companies and industries, ideas which have been (on the surface) universally praised.  

At the same time rich individuals and large corporations and their PAC's have donated the vast bulk of that $2,000,000,000 the politicians have in their re-election war chests.  So we're to believe they're giving generously to politicians to show their support for them for closing THEIR tax loopholes and ending THEIR subsidies?

Why yes, I would like to buy a time share in a high-rise ocean-view condo in Nebraska, complete with a private white sandy beach and palm trees.  Who should I make the check payable to?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Who invented advertising?

Whoever he was, he was an evil genius.  He has had more influence on the world that we live in today than Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or even Carlo Ponzi.  I mean, any guy who could turn snakes into oil was either a genius or one smooooooooth talker.  

It was advertising that sold Ford Pinto's, women's "housecoats", and OxiClean.  ( think Billy Mays invented advertising?)  But not Twinkies.  They were a gift from God.  Advertising built the free market system, really.  They invented stuff we didn't need and via advertising made us think our life wouldn't be worth living without it.  

But wait....there's more!

I'm pretty sure an entire branch of advertising has been developed just to sell things specifically to my wife, and they've honed their pitch to a fine art.  I can't tell you how many exercise gizmos, kitchen implements, and hair care and beauty goops she's bought.  

Her latest must-have stuff:  Some kind of "nutritional shake".  This morning she asked me, "Will you be a doll and stop by Whole Foods on your way home and get me some Vega One?"  

"Uhh....What's Vega One?"

"Here....just walk in the door and give this $5-off coupon to anyone wearing an employee name tag and let them get it for you.  You'll never find it on your own."

"Holy Crap!  If it's $5 off, what's the regular price?"


But of course I'll buy it for her, mainly because I've never seen a grown woman leap over a tall building in a single bound.  At least that's what the advertising pitch promised.


Monday, August 20, 2012


Why do news stories always include the participant's age?

"Mary Jones, 46, was in the Ajax department store on Tuesday afternoon shopping for linens when a chandelier fell from the ceiling striking her, killing her instantly.  Sales Assistant Suzie Cumquat, 32, was explaining thread count to her when the incident occurred."

Does it matter how old they were?  Mary's still dead, and Suzie still missed her commission.

Why is it always referred to as "the South of France"?   

I don't say, "I live in the North of Texas, but I attended university in the West of Texas."  Or "I prefer the West of Colorado to the flatlands of the East of Colorado."

They need to stop it.  It sounds snooty.

Why, when you're far away from home on vacation, will someone ask you where you're from, and you'll answer Dallas (or LA or Chicago or New York), and then they'll ask, "Ohhhh!!! you know Rick Finkelbooger?"

Really??  There are 6.5 MILLION people here!  Thinkaboutit.  (I'll always answer, "No, but is he one of the Finkelbooger's from the East of Texas?")

Why do they put 40 cookies in a package, then tell you the correct serving size is TWO?

Really, TWO?  That's just enough to piss you off.

Why do they put an EPA mileage estimate on the window stickers of expensive luxury cars?

People who can afford a $250,000 V-12 Ferrari or Lamborghini or Aston Martin don't give a rat's ass about how much gas it's going to take to move it down the road.  If they did they'd just buy a Toyota Prius and put some cool wheels on it.

Why is the deepest sleep right before the alarm goes off?

Or is it just me?  All I know is it makes getting out of bed sooooo hard.

Why do people read this drivel I write?

I dunno, but I thank you.  ;)


Sunday, August 19, 2012

A preview of Autumn?

Our weather here in Dallas yesterday was very un-August like, which was a good thing.  It was cloudy all day with a shower here and there, but by late afternoon the rain became steady.  The best part was the was in the 80's most of the day, dropping like rock when the rain came.  We went out for dinner and found we could actually have used a jacket.  With the wet and the wind and the temp at 68 degrees, it felt great to this warm-blooded Texan.

Today it's sunny again, but the high is still expected to be only around 90, maybe less.   I'm going to Whole Foods today and pick us up a couple of nice steaks, and grill them this evening and serve them up with some big 'ol baked potatoes.  I'd have a hard time picking a "last meal" as there are a lot of things I love to eat, but a steak and a baked potato will always be my default fave.  Mmmmm....

Here's hoping you have a great day planned, too.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Goin' out with a BANG!

This afternoon I'm making a presentation to a potential client, hoping to build one last million dollar home for my retirement swan song.  IF (say long heart-felt prayer, rub rabbit's foot, stare at 4-leaf clover, knock on wood) they agree with my numbers, I'll be retired before we can actually break ground, so this job will be my first post-retirement consulting job.  Needless to say, bro is pulling for me.

I'm afraid it's going to be a tough sell because they are already "poor-boying" me, telling me how their income is down 25% this year.  (The wife is a doctor, and the reduced Medicare reimbursement scheme to doctors is taking its toll.)  I'm trying to make them understand that, even though their income is down, my costs are not.  But people hear what they want to hear, reason be damned, so....

I have all my documents, bids, numbers, etc properly assembled and collated, ready for their review. I have all my ducks in a row.  Wish me luck.

Let the games begin!


Friday, August 17, 2012

I think we've done this to ourselves

I think everyone in the US would agree that weather patterns the past decade or so have been totally off the charts.  Right now, for example, wildfires are burning in the Pacific Northwest, and the only reason much of the rest of he country isn't on fire, too, is because it's already burned up.

This has so far been the hottest year since records have been kept, and it's also the driest, with 63% of our land mass experiencing drought conditions, hence the wildfires.  And if you watch the news, it seems like the other 37% is flooding.  Things are just completely upside down.

Want more proof the end is near?  The official NOAA forecast for Dallas over the next five days calls for a 30-50% chance of rain every day, with the high temperatures in the upper 80's.  Pinch me!  

And now we have an invasion, caused by an abnormal amount of rain earlier in the year, of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus.  It's become so bad in Dallas County (I'm in Collin County, north of Dallas) that they have brought in a private air force to fog the area with an insecticide that will kill the nasty little buggers.  Now if there are any more mysterious deaths the medical examiner will have to decide if it's from the WNV or from ingesting the insecticide that is supposed to kill the WNV.  (Better living through chemistry!)

OK, now follow closely:  Very unexpectedly, scientists have found that the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the US has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years.  That's good, right?

Hmmmm....I'm wondering if maybe our atmosphere has undergone some sort of evolutionary change and has actually become used to CO2, so taking 20% of it out has actually pissed off the atmosphere, and now it's retaliating.  Maybe all these droughts and fires and floods and mosquitoes are just the consequence of a cleaner atmosphere.

Maybe its time we park all those Prius's and plug-ins and pull the covers off our beloved big block Chevy's.  Let's muck things up a little!  Fresh air is SO overrated.  ;)


Thursday, August 16, 2012


According to a recent USA Today report 21,000 retired federal workers receive a lifetime government pension (from YOU, the taxpayer) of $100,000 or more per year.

Those would include 326 DEA agents, 237 IRS investigators, 186 FBI agents, 444 Social Security agents, and...wait for it...714 retired postal workers.  POSTAL WORKERS for cryin' out loud!  One retired Smithsonian zoologist receives a $162,000 annual lifetime pension, and six other retired federal workers receive over $200,000 per year for life!

Gimme a second to regain my composure.... *deep breath*

By comparison, consider this:  The average federal pension is $32,824.  The average state and local government pension is $24,373.  The average social security recipient receives $14,760.  (The absolute maximum a social security recipient can receive is $30,156.)

Want a bit more sand kicked in your face?  The average federal employee retired at age 59.4 years old, and had served for 27.8 years (2006 statistics).  Full Social Security eligibility for the rest of us isn't until age 65-67. 

True, years ago government salaries were below private sector pay, which is why the retirement benefits were more generous, but those days are long gone.  Today federal government employees make 25-33% MORE than their friends in the private sector for comparable work.

Here's my point:  With a trillion dollar federal deficit every year as far into the future as we can see, and with virtually everything on the table for possible cuts, why aren't federal pay and benefit reforms on the table, too?  (If there is a major restructuring underway now that I'm not aware of, please enlighten me.)

IMO federal employee pay and benefits should be brought to parity with those in the private sector.  Pay, benefits, pension, retirement age....everything!  Why should civil servants have it SO much better than the taxpayers who are paying them? 

I suggest you contact your congressman and register your outrage!  Oh, wait....he's an overpaid federal employee, too.  (And besides, right now he's on vacation.)   *sigh*


EDIT:  Let me add this for the benefit of a retired federal employee friend of mine....once you're retired, your pension should not be tampered with....with one caveat.  If some day Congress deems it necessary to cut existing Social Security recipient's benefits, then the same % cuts should apply to retired federal worker's benefits, too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My interesting ancestry

A while back my brother, I suppose out of boredom, went on and began assembling our family tree.  So far he's traced things back 12 generations to the area around Aberdeen, Scotland.  I'll give you some of the more mundane facts later, but the name that stood out the most as possibly having an interesting story behind it was Alexander of Kingcausie Irvine (1606-1644), also known as "The Sixth Laird of Kingcausie".  This ancestry has been cross referenced and is apparently accurate.

My further research uncovered this about him:  The term Laird is not a title of nobility but is a non-peerage position of gentry.  Laird means "the owner of" a large estate, in this case Kingcausie in Scotland.  A Laird ranks above an Esquire, but below a Baron.  It only applies to very large landholders, so apparently Uncle Alex had quite a spread.  The interesting part is how he died....he was executed by his nephew for a wanted dead-or-alive bounty of 18,000 "merks".

Alexander was the "sheriff-principal of Aberdeen" from 1634, and had been made an Earl by King Charles I, but before he could "accept the Great Seal" a civil war broke out, the family not unsurprisingly supporting the King.  They tried to escape to England but were captured by a committee of rebels where Alexander was executed or murdered, depending on the sentiments of the reviewing historian.

Alexander's son was imprisoned, but not executed, and later "restored to liberty".  With the accession of King Charles II the king renewed to him the offer of peerage his father had been granted, but he denied it unless it bore the date of the one formerly granted to Alexander.  (I don't know why that was such a big deal.)  Some say his refusal was more likely because of the great reduction which his fortune and estates (plural?) had undergone.  Twenty years later the king gave the family a charter (whatever that means), expressing his "appreciation for their service and sufferings in the royal cause".

Here is the current and 
Sixteenth Laird of Kingcausie.  Looks like he could use some landscaping around the old home place.  

I wish I'd known all this a few months ago.  I figure it should have been at least good enough for a VIP pass to the London Olympics.  As usual I'm a day late and a dollar short.  ;)

Sir S

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A couple of questions....

It's obvious that Social Security and especially Medicare are going to be the hot button issues of the upcoming presidential election.  It's all about cutting the deficit, and these two things will bear the brunt of any budget reforms.

My questions are:

Are you reasonably happy with Medicare as it exists now, or are you just comfortable with it because it is a known quantity?  

Do you just accept Medicare with all it's flaws because you are afraid of the alternative?

Are you afraid a voucher-type senior health care program will force seniors to pay money out of pocket (that they may or may not have) in order to get comparable coverage to what Medicare offers now?  In other words, in your mind, is a voucher-type system a step backwards?

Monday, August 13, 2012

WHAT was he thinking??

Can anyone explain to me Mitt Romney's grand strategy in choosing Paul Ryan as a running mate?  If he has one at all it baffles me.  All he did was solidify those conservative / Tea Party folks who were going to vote for him anyway.  He might now be able to bring in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, but it will probably cost him Florida and several other states with large senior populations.

And politicians usually like to talk in vague, opaque language, giving out as few details as possible so the opposition will have a difficult time pinning them down with specifics to pound on.  Not this time!  Ryan has a detailed, articulate budget plan that will be a lightning rod issue.  Again, those who were already going to vote conservative will, while those who weren't still won't.  But now many of those absolutely vital moderate swing voters, many of them elderly, will have reason (Medicare / Social Security) to vote Democratic.  You just don't make the elderly's Medicare or Social Security benefits the centerpiece of a campaign, especially if it is to "reform" it.

This violates all rules of general elections.  You appeal to your core supporters in the primaries, and then move towards the middle when appealing to the larger population.  Just watch....Obama will appeal to the moderates with reassuring words while criticizing Romney as an extremist, and Romney will have to distance himself from his own Veep's controversial budget plan.  He should have brought Ryan on board later after the election (if he won) as a cabinet member.  

This is just bizarre.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

How do you walk a terrier?

You don't.

I've always envied those people who can take a brisk walk and have their dog trot along beside them.  Those of us who have terriers are not "those people".  We just amble from clump of grass to pile of rocks, our faithful mutt sniffing diligently, hoping to be able to uncover one of the rare mice terriers were bred to find. 

The fun is when they actually find a mouse.  A few years ago our dog at that time, Emma Belle (a miniature schnauzer), found one that had come in through the dryer vent into the utility room.  It made it's way to the kitchen pantry where it got in to some dry pasta, then tried to make a run for it back  under the washing machine.  Those little bastards can scoot!  Emma...not so fast.  She was running in place, slipping on the hardwood floors, while the mouse pulled away.   For the better part of a day Emma stood guard, keeping it holed up.  It eventually ate some rat poison I put out and that was the end. 

I wonder what Emma thought of all that?  "So THAT'S what I've spent my life sniffing for!"  I suspect she felt pretty darn proud of herself.  I guess that's why I just let Luke (the Yorkie) amble along like he does.  I'm sorta hoping he'll find something.  It would probably scare the crap out of him, but I would find it quite entertaining.  ;)


Saturday, August 11, 2012


I find it ironic that the Tea Party folks put Ronald Reagan on a pedestal and revere him.  Ronald Reagan was a pragmatic conservative and will probably go down in history as a consensus Great President.  I think if Reagan was alive and in good mental health today he would put a lot of distance between himself and the in-your-face, no-compromise-no-way Tea Party.

Things extreme seldom work out well....

What we need is more....

I'm "S", and I approved this message.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Who says crime doesn't pay?

It made a lot of Goldman Sachs execs rich....even richer than they were before.  It seems that with the Statute of Limitations governing fraud and the economic collapse of 2008 rapidly approaching, it's now-or-never time for the Justice Department to either prosecute Goldman or walk away.  They're walking away.  They say they don't have enough hard evidence to prosecute.  

By all accounts Goldman has been sweating bullets over this one.  I say Goldman's lawyers are better at hiding things than the government lawyers are at finding them.  Goldman has already paid Rockefeller-sized fines for their shady dealings, but they just paid the fines and didn't have to admit guilt.  There was a reason they accepted that plea bargain.  This is that reason.  (Uncle Sam...I think you were just "out lawyer'd"!)

Party time in the Hamptons!


It's party time in Dallas, too.  After yesterday's record 108 degrees, today's 96 seems downright cool!  Yea!  ;)


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Time to hang it up....

With my 62nd birthday just a couple of weeks away, I've come to the conclusion that now is probably the right time to retire, or at least semi-retire.  While of course things have changed considerably over the past 40 years, the change that my industry has gone through has been especially dramatic, and not in a good way. 

I used to thoroughly enjoy designing new homes, or more correctly, working alongside the architects (they "drew", I "tweaked"), then turning those 2-dimensional blueprints into someone's "dream home".  I loved figuring out how to put 'em together, visualizing the 3-D geometry needed to get all the parts to fit together right.  And there's really nothing like the sense of satisfaction you get driving down a street where you built years ago and saying to yourself, "I built that one, and that one, and that one, too", waving at the people working in their yards, recognizing some, but knowing others had passed along your creation to other families for them to enjoy.

But back then you had a minimal amount of paperwork, customers were more trusting, a handshake meant something, your competitors were by-and-large honorable people, and the bankers had yet to go over to The Dark Side.  Because I dealt with them fairly and paid well and on time, the best craftsmen actually wanted to work for me.  Going to work every day was a very pleasant experience.

But then some shady types invaded our ranks causing people to look at us all as borderline crooks, which I resented greatly.  Standardized contracts went from 1 page in 1972 to nearly 30 pages today.  Workman's Comp, liability insurance, audits, waivers, EPA, OSHA, storm water/erosion control....the BS just never ends!  Today actually building the home is the easy part.  It's everything else that has become the albatross around my neck.

Since the economic meltdown of 2008 my industry has gone over a cliff and will probably never fully recover.  Regardless of who wins the November elections, our political system is corrupt and dysfunctional.  The money interest's have hijacked our country, and because they own the rule makers, they have an unlimited supply of "Get out of jail free" cards. They have things rigged and can get away with darn near anything.  It's play by their rules, or don't play at all.  The risks I would have to take if I were to soldier on are simply not worth the modest rewards I might realize.

My brother / business partner wants to keep pushing on, and of course I'll help him get through the technical parts of construction on a consulting basis, hence the "semi-retired" status.  But for me, I'm tired of beating my head against the wall.  This isn't exactly the way I wanted to see my career curtain come down, but I can accept it and be happy.  I'm sure I'll work or volunteer somewhere as I'm afraid I'd be a lousy rocker and probably an even worse whittler.  ;)



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sounds like something I might have done....

A guy called to ask a favor of his friend, and the friend's little 5-year-old son answered the phone with a whispered "Hello".

The guy asked, "Is your dad there?"

The kid whispered, "Yes, but he can't come to the phone right now."

So the fellow asked, "Well then, is your mother there?"

Again the kid whispered, "Yes, but she can't come to the phone either."

So the guy asked, "Well, is there any adult there I can speak with?" 

The kid whispered, "Aunt Betty and Uncle Fred are here, but they're busy, too."

The fellow said, "That's strange...what's going on?"

The child whispered once again, "Oh, they're just talking to the police officers."

The guy, now alarmed, asked, "POLICE?  Oh no...oh no...what's wrong?  What are they doing?"

The kid again whispered, "They're looking for me."

*Heehee*  Hang's Hump Day.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

They bicker, we suffer

Have you heard the old saying, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned"?  Nero was a Roman Emperor, and many Romans believed he casually fiddled his lyre after he himself started a fire in order to clear land for his palatial complex.  It was said all he cared about was himself, and gave no thought to the plight of his subjects.

That's about what's happening right now in Washington.  If Congress does nothing, major spending cuts will go into effect in January and the Bush era tax cuts will expire, hiking taxes.  It seems that more than 40% of businesses cited this upcoming "fiscal cliff" as a major reason for their spending and hiring restraint.  Equipment isn't being manufactured and sold and people desperately in need of work aren't being hired because Congress won't work together to put an end to this stalemate.  

In fact, they've "abandoned ship", turning out the lights and going back home while the country goes down the tubes.   Of course they'll tell you they are going back home in order to "consult with their constituents", but honestly all they're doing is fund raising.  Right now the only jobs they care about are their own. 

Most everyone agrees spending needs to be cut, but both parties have drawn lines in the sand and refuse to let their (special interest's) pet projects be cut. By default automatic across-the-board cuts will go into effect in January, and they are draconian.  They refuse to get together and negotiate, everyone giving up a little for the benefit of the whole.   The same with the Bush-era tax cuts....Republicans insisting the rich keep their tax cuts, too, while the Democrats only want to extend cuts to the middle class.  They bicker....we suffer.

They're waiting until after the November elections to see how the power paradigm changes.  If there is a major shift, the big winner will dig in even more and beat the other to death to get what they want. They're playing a game where one side wins all the marbles and the other is crushed.  Not exactly a good way to bring the country together is it?

Leaders would sit down together and work something out for the good of the country.  Ideologues see thing in black and white..."we win, they lose".  We don't have leaders.  Our politicians are a despicable bunch.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Entertainment at its finest

Is anyone out there besides me a fan of women's beach volleyball?  (Well DUH!  Dumb question Scott.  Any man who can still fog a mirror loves women's beach volleyball.)

Let me try again:  Have any of you been watching Misti May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings compete for the USA in the London Olympics?

If you have you've seen some incredible volleyball. I'll watch them win a set and think, WOW!  Can it get any better?  Then they go out and do again...only better.  They know what the other is thinking, what the other is going to do before they even do it.   Every sports team in the world ought to study them as an example of the value of absolute teamwork.  

Count me a big fan!


Interesting comment from a Brit in a man-on-the-street interview....with the gold medal count showing 30 for China, 28 for the USA, and 16 for Great Britain, he said, "Yes, but if you look at the number of medals based on population, we're waaaaay ahead."  Hmmm....I think he's right.  Good for 'em!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Making reservations for the 2024 Olympic Games

I hope they hold the 2024 Games somewhere cool* as I'll be there cheering on my grandson.  And by cool I mean "cool" as in "not hot".  By then I'll be older than dirt and I don't want to pay big bucks to travel half way around the world to sit there and sweat.  I can stay in Dallas and sweat for free!

Today my daughter sent me pictures of her son intently mimicking every Olympic event he sees on TV:



even fencing.

And yes, he does live in the back of Toys R Us, thank you for asking.

Maybe by then they'll bring back baseball as an Olympic event.  Right now at 3-years-old the little Slugger can hit a (plastic) baseball over the house.  And with a trampoline in his back yard, that's a possibility, too.

Move over Shaun White.  Make room for the new Olympic cereal stud.  ;)


*A quick check with the Weather Channel shows that today in Stockholm, Sweden (which coincidentally is the home of the Swedish Bikini Team) it will reach a high of 72 degrees.  72 in August....I could handle that.  Just sayin'.  ;)