Stop, now... What's that sound?

So, the DOW is going nuts, and yet things don't feel like they did back in the 90's when it first crossed the 10,000 mark. The housing market sucks rocks (at least that's the perception) and generally things "just aren't the same" as the first time around. I wondered why that was.

I am no student of the economy, so I found this post from last October fairly enlightening.

I would like to see more current (preferably light-weight and understandable) analysis, though.

To Read

How Not to Talk to Your Kids by Po Bronson (Interesting considering some gossip I've heard regarding how Bronson's kid is handled day to day.) With nice extras in Po's blog.

Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they'd learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck's team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The "smart" kids took the cop-out.

As a so-called "smart" kid, I can recognize that. Luckily, my upbringing also offered example after example of work ethic and perseverance.


Pharm Animals Crank Out Drugs -- Ew... I'm generally fairly pragmatic about stuff like this, but yeesh this makes my skin crawl.

This might be scarier, though.


This is awesome!

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, signed into law by George Bush the elder, led to creation of the ragingly popular Do Not Call List. But tucked away in the bill was another important provision that entitles consumers to take what's called a "private right of action." For each violation of the act, consumers can sue for a $500 penalty. Violations include calling after a consumer has told a company to stop, or failing to provide the consumer with a copy of the firm’s Do Not Call policy.

That's almost enough to make me start answering those "Unknown Name / Unknown Number" calls I get every day.


Good News: I'm on vacation for two weeks starting today. The Wife and I will be doing our annual road trip to LA to see her brother Chris. On the way, we will hook up with his S.O., Kate, who is in Vegas working on Ocean's 13. We'll be hanging out in Los Feliz for a week with no specific plans - just maxin' and relaxin'.

Bad News: It seems like work always has some kind of upheaval when I go on vacation. Last time we were acquired by a major corporation and the deal was finalized and announced just as I was leaving. This time we (just our office, not the major corporation) had a "10% workforce reduction" yesterday. It's a major hit to the psyche of the remaining workforce, I'll tell you that much. On a personal (and professional) level, I'm super bummed they decided to eliminate Matt's position in particular. I'm not worried about Brozo - he'll land on his feet without a doubt, but I'm gonna miss having him around day to day for sure.

Yvon Rocks

In case you didn't know, Yvon Chouinard is the man.

... Because he just won the inaugural award of OutDoor Celebrity of the Year. The jurors said he is renown for his “visionary business strategy and high degree of environmental awareness.� Stating he is “an outstanding figure above all because of his contributions to environmental protection.� Yvon is best known as the founder and owner of Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company, with over $240 million USD in annual sales. Yvon committed his company to only using organic cotton 10 years ago, even when there was no reliable supply. They had to built the infrastructure to obtain the fabrics they needed. He was also the first to convert his line of fleece jackets to using recycled PET bottles as feedstock. ...

Back when I was just coming out of college with a degree I had already pegged as useless to me, one job I thought I wanted a lot was doing anything for Black Diamond. Sometimes I still kind of wish I could work for them...

What Should I Do with My Life?

For the record, Po Bronson's book by that title doesn't really provide any answers. It just tells you about some of the lucky bastards who have figured out an answer to the question. So, yeah... This is something I'm thinking about a lot these days. Unless something changes drastically and some switch gets flipped in my head, I don't see myself doing what I'm doing now for more than, say, another five years.

So what do I want to do instead? I have absolutely no idea.

It's a hell of an exercise to try to figure out where your passion lies and what work would make you happy day-to-day. Lately, I've been asking myself the lottery question:

What would I do if I won PowerBall today?

The thought is that even if I had buckets of cash falling out of my ears I would do something to keep myself busy. I figure that if, I can find the answer to that question, I might be able to translate that into something that would actually pay the bills. As of yet, the answer hasn't come to me. I have no effing clue.

And aside: For those of you who might be thinking "Why is he all freaked out about this now? He's in his early-mid-thirties, shouldn't he be settling into a groove right about now?" Well, maybe / maybe not. Let me just use my darling mother as an excuse: While I was in college studying to be the rocket scientist I never became, she took the opportunity to go to Tufts and become a veterinarian. Total mid-life (a bit early) career change. This is the precident I'm working with.

One option I've long carried in my hip pocket is the posibility of becoming an architect. It's what I wanted to do before I got distracted by airplanes and went into Aerospace. It would take me three and a half years of full-time school to get a Masters Degree, after which I'd be starting at basically zero. Not that it's really the part that matters to me, but the salary would probably be about 50-60% of what I'm making now. Truth be told, I have no real idea if I would enjoy the work, or if I'd be any good at it. It's a scary gamble.

Then there's the idea of making things and earning a living with those creations. Right now, I always think of furniture when I go down this path. Problems with this idea include the fact that I'm really not that skilled at the woodworking yet, and I really don't want to be in the position where I have to beat the streets to self-promote (If you're making furniture, you have to let people know somehow, right? I'm doubtful that I'd be any good at that part. And then I'd starve.).

(The self-promotion angle comes along with the architect idea, too.)

Friends and I have talked about refurbishing houses (with custom furniture and all that jazz) and flipping them, but it doesn't seem realistic to me. Especially since we'd have to start out doing it part-time while coninuing to crush our souls at the office (that's a joke, it's not all that bad). It's be cool though - and might even work, because these people are talented in areas where I am not.

Maybe I should just come up with a few more t-shirt designs or something...

Now that I'm petering out a bit, let me say out-loud that I really don't hate my current job. I love the people I work with, and we solve extremely interesting problems every day. This career path was a complete accident, and I am grateful for it.

I just don't think it's the path I want to follow for the rest of my life.

God Bless the Socialized North

Good news for inmates who aren't already tattooed

"The program has advantages in that we can take a practice that already occurs, and make it safer," said Holly Knowles, a spokeswoman for Correctional Services Canada. "We're trying to reduce the amount of make-shift needles."

Isn't that nice? Now the boys in the joint can get their prison tattoos without fear of infection. Yay!

I wonder if the authorities will try to censor content at all.

Oh, and since when are Canadian dollars almost neck and neck with US greenbacks?!

Prisoners are allowed a one-hour controlled session with an inmate tattoo artist for C$5 (US$4.25).

Wasn't it almost two-to-one a couple years ago? Looks like the Loonie has been on the rise as of late, while the green stuff has generally been sliding. So much for that "act like a millionaire gansta" vacation to Canada, eh?


The End of the Rainbow -- Ireland is now Europe's second richest country.

... In a quite unusual development, the government, the main trade unions, farmers and industrialists came together and agreed on a program of fiscal austerity, slashing corporate taxes to 12.5 percent, far below the rest of Europe, moderating wages and prices, and aggressively courting foreign investment. In 1996, Ireland made college education basically free, creating an even more educated work force.

The results have been phenomenal. Today, 9 out of 10 of the world's top pharmaceutical companies have operations here, as do 16 of the top 20 medical device companies and 7 out of the top 10 software designers. Last year, Ireland got more foreign direct investment from America than from China. And overall government tax receipts are way up.

This is fascinating. Yet we can only wish that leaders of other countries (Like maybe, the USofA) would/could use this as a model.

I just wanted some fly kicks, yo!

DSW Data Theft Much Larger Than Estimated

DSW Shoe Warehouse said Monday that it has contact information for about half of those people and started sending letters notifying them of the thefts, which happened at 108 stores in 25 states between November and February. A list of the stores is available on the company's Web site.


Besides the credit card numbers, the thieves obtained driver's license numbers and checking account numbers from 96,000 transactions involving checks, the company said. Customer names, addresses and Social Security numbers were not stolen, DSW said.

Suck. I'm a total show whore, and I love me some DSW. This doesn't give me good feelings, though.

Luckily, we haven't seen any untoward activity on our credit cards. Judging from the DSW site, though, it looks like we should keep watching:

... if you shopped in one of the following stores between mid-November 2004 and mid-February 2005, and you used a credit card, debit card or check to pay for your purchase, your information was most likely included in the stolen information ...

Yep. We're on there.

I wondered about that...

Reality TV winners get tax reality check

"You can ruin someone's life by giving them everything they want," one Hollywood producer told the trade paper. "If you take a log cabin and replace it with a mansion, there are tax consequences to that."

The tax pain isn't limited to the initial renovation costs. Property taxes, insurance rates and utility bills all could rise too.

The producers of "Extreme Makeover" try to lower contestants' tax bills by leasing their property during the two-week renovation and filming. Those renovations are then usually tax-exempt.

I admit it: I love Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It makes me cry like a pubescent girl. I'm glad they actually think about the consequences of the rennovation and try to alleviate them, but I always wonder how these (usually) poor families can afford the upkeep on their new homes.

My Millionaire Wife

Hezzy and I often joke that she owes it to me to become rich and famous. It would only be fair payback of the time I supported her while she went to grad school, etc., right? Well, if you believe WIRED, she may be poised to become the next breadwinner in our household after all: Revenge of the Right Brain

To flourish in this age, we'll need to supplement our well-developed high tech abilities with aptitudes that are "high concept" and "high touch." High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to come up with inventions the world didn't know it was missing. High touch involves the capacity to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one's self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.

The article is adapted from A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel Pink.

Sounds interesting to me. Now if only I could get back in touch with my artistic/poetic self, I might actually be in good shape... ;)

Conserve! No, wait...

States Mull Taxing Drivers By Mile

And that saves him almost $300 a month in gas. It's great for Just but bad for the roads he's driving on, because he also pays a lot less in gasoline taxes which fund highway projects and road repairs. As more and more hybrids hit the road, cash-strapped states are warning of rough roads ahead.

This stuff makes me batty.

Here in Colorado, we've had a drought going for the past several years. Of course, all the powers that be tell us we have to conserve water — even going so far as to start up police patrols to ticket people who water their lwans on the wrong days. Then what happens? Well, the water people lose revenue and have to raise water rates!

It's like nobody is thinking about the consequences of conservation. I mean, really. Conservation means consuming less. That's going to cost someone some money. The "powers that be" need to think about these things before it becomes an issue.

Reactionary Big Brother shenanigans are not a proper incentive for beneficial (and important) behavior changes.