I admit it. I like trains. Frank and I went out to the Illinois Railway Museum today in Union, IL . Great day for it. They had a WWII exhibit / re-enaction thing going too, but I was all about the trains.
I entered my first book review on Goodreads today. I’ve rated books, but this is the first time I wrote up a review. Perhaps I will write more of them – thinking of reviewing a book makes me read them differently. I pay more attention, knowing that I will have to write something intelligent-sounding later. Often times I read a novel and remember nothing about it – even the title and author are gone from my memory banks! I may have enjoyed it, but there’s little reason to remember anything about it. Here’s the review:
Last Days by Adam Nevill
This book started out very good. The premise is interesting: a documentary filmmaker is hired to do a piece on a cult from the 1970s with an emphasis on paranormal events. The cult has called forth creatures from another world that threaten everyone involved in the film. There are some truly scary scenes and the beginning of the book flows nicely. There are some problems, especially in the final 1/3 of the book:
1. The main character turns into a whiny, incompetent dolt. It is very hard to like this guy, or care if the demons kill him or not. In fact, in some of the more tedious scenes I was rooting for the “bad guys”.
2. Some of the scenes in the final 1/3 of the book are way too long, especially the climax. They are long and confusing – and therefore tedious.
Despite the problems with the ending, the book overall was worth reading.
Two articles caught my eye today:
First, in the Tribune business section:
“The problem is that the Fed has created one of the greatest stock and bond bull markets in history, and yet, we have one of the weakest economic expansions in history.”
Second, one of the articles on the Atlantic website referenced recent Pew research on wealth distribution. The research shows that the top 7% increased their wealth by 28% from 2009 to 2011, while the bottom 93% saw a decline of 4% during that same period.
This is not a new trend. There has been a lot of research that shows the top tier of wealthy people have accrued wealth much faster than the rest for at least a decade now. But, it really accelerated recently because the top tier is heavily invested in the raging stock and bond market and the lower majority is heavily invested in flat, or declining, real estate.
I have come to a few conclusions:
1. We have to give up the myth that the top 7% (or 1% – whatever) are the “job creators.” Even without messing with the tax code, we’ve seen them accrue more and more wealth yet our economy stagnates and unemployment remains high. Why? Are they evil? No. They can’t create jobs. Technology has allowed industry after industry to do more with fewer people. It defies common sense to hire more people if they get more productivity out of those they already employ. I observed landscapers at my neighbor’s house the other day. Two guys arrive with a massive lawn mower. One guy cuts the lawn with this huge machine that he stands on while the other walks around the yard with the weed-whacker. They’re done in 15 minutes. If Google has cars that drive themselves, it can’t be long before robot weed whackers are wandering around our neighborhoods. The landscape company owner – the so-called “job creator” – can do more lawns with fewer people because he uses superior technology. He makes more money; few, if any, new jobs are created. And, this is happening in industry after industry – blue-collar and white-collar. And this trend will continue as technology becomes more capable.
2. People need more common-sense financial education. The government should stop promoting home-ownership as a way to financial security. If more people had spent less money on homes and more money investing, they would have been far better off – much like the top 7%. Of course, this isn’t always the way to go – you have to pay attention, but so many people don’t know the options.
3. This isn’t about income redistribution. The real issue, which I don’t hear anyone talking about, is what will we do with a large number of permanently unemployed people? Even if we gave them money, whether that is through private charitable organizations or the tax system, does anyone think it’s good to have 20+ million people sitting around with nothing to do and very little money to spend? I just can’t see that working out well. The people that work and give will naturally resent those that don’t. And many that don’t work will feel useless and hopeless – which is surely a breeding ground for trouble. Education can only do so much – not everyone will be able to handle the high-value-added jobs of the future. And, there’s only so many of those jobs to go around even if we could educate everyone to the high standard the future good jobs will require.
What to do about it? I do not have the answer. Smarter people than I will have to figure this one out. The first step is admitting we have a problem and that it’s more than a short-term problem. I don’t think we’ve even taken that step yet.
What do the terrorists want? And, do they really think they’re going to get it by bombing innocent people attending a race?
There are people driven by envy and hate. They’re less interested in improving their lives, or the lives of “their people”, than they are in dragging the rest of us down to their level of misery. There’s a song from 1971 by Ten Years After called “I’d Love to Change the World”. One of the lines in the song is: “Tax the rich; feed the poor ’til there are no rich no more”. Why not: “Tax the rich; feed the poor ’til there are no poor no more”? The original line is such a negative sentiment, driven by envy more than a noble desire to help the poor. It just seems like some people don’t want to elevate everyone as much as possible but rather drag down those that are already doing well. I see terrorists in the same light: they don’t want a better life as much as they want to make our life crappy.
A friend of mine posted the number of days he has lived on Facebook recently. It was his birthday. I thought that was pretty cool. I calculated mine: 20, 597 days as of April 5, 2013. Of course, being the Voice of Doom and Gloom, I also calculated how many days I might have left. I went to the Social Security web page and looked at their estimate of my lifespan: 83 years. Based on that, I have approximately 9,719 days to go. I was shocked at the number, at first. Obviously I already knew I was well past the halfway point, but seeing it in days made it more tangible in some way. Still, 9,719 is a pretty big number.
Malcom Gladwell wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master an activity. That’s 1,250 8-hour days. That means I have time to master 7 things. I would be thrilled if I could master one thing. I think I can do it.
If I can manage to write 500 words per day, that’s two pages, I would have time to write:
If I can walk 2.5 miles every day I will walk 24,297 miles – around the earth and a little more.
If I read 1 book every week (which is a little light for me), I’ll have 1,388 books to look forward to.
Plenty of time.
I was watching the Sunday morning shows: Meet the Press and This Week with George S. Of course, one of the big topics was the Supreme Court and gay marriage. On both shows, pro-gay-marriage folks mentioned that there are more than 1000 laws at the federal level alone that benefit married people. And then it hit me: this is yet another government created crisis! To me, the solution was obvious: don’t legalize gay marriage – declare unconstitutional the 1000+ laws that give married people preferential treatment. Single people are not treated equal under the law any more than gay people are. If the 14th amendment applies to gay people, it should apply to single people too. It seems that when government sticks its nose into areas it doesn’t belong, WE get bit. Marriage, housing, health care… let’s try an experiment: let’s stop giving certain groups, industries, or belief-systems preferential treatment and see how that works out.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~ Seth Godin, Tribes
Borrowed from The Daily Rant.
I run a small tavern in the western burbs of Chicago. We have regulars, and folks we only see once in a while.
A regular, Tom, stopped by last night. He came in around 7 and sat at the bar.
“I’ll try one of those new Bud Black Crowns,” he said.
“No problem,” I replied.
I brought his beer over and started cleaning glasses. Another guy walked in and sat at one of the tables. The bar had 3 people in it, including me. Why sit all the way over there? No one sits over there except on Friday or Saturday nights when the place is crowded. Whatever. I walked over.
“What can I get you?” I asked.
“Club soda,” he replied. He was dressed in a dark suit, white shirt, blue tie. He was pretty formal for my place, but it takes all kinds. He took out a smartphone and started typing away on it.
“Coming right up,” I told him. I walked back to the bar to pour him a club soda.
“Who is that guy?” Tom asked.
“No idea. First time I’ve seen him.”
“I’ve seen him all over the place the last day or two. I think he’s following me.”
I raised an eyebrow and looked at Tom before delivering the club soda.
“Here you go,” I told the new guy as I put the drink on the table, “Let me know when you want something else.”
“Thanks,” he said. He didn’t look up the whole time. I walked back to the bar.
“I’m leaving,” Tom said. He got up and walked out. The new guy got up a few seconds later, threw a 10-dollar bill on the bar and left. I walked over to his table and collected the untouched club soda. I was worried about Tom.
Tom came in the next night.
“Bud Black Crown?” I asked him.
“I need something stronger. Give me Jim Beam. Rocks.”
I poured his drink while keeping an eye on the door.
“Have you seen your buddy today?” I asked. I set the drink down in front of him.
“Yea. This morning I saw him at Starbucks. He came up to me and told me he was with the FBI. He sat down and asked me why I quit Facebook! Why would the FBI care whether I used Facebook or not?”
Tom took a pretty big swig of bourbon.
“I went online and googled ‘FBI Facebook’. I saw all these sites that I would have thought were whacko just yesterday. Stuff about Facebook being a government program to track people’s whereabouts, their political inclinations, even their known associates.”
He finished his drink. “Another please.” I poured him another one.
“And the beauty of it is, we put all this stuff in voluntarily, knowing it’s public! No search warrants needed. Now, when someone drops off the grid – the grid now being Facebook – the feds get interested.”
He drank his bourbon, sipping this time.
“He suggested I reactivate my account. Since I did, I haven’t seen him at all. That reminds me, I should check in.”
Tom took out his cell phone and started typing in Facebook: Having a drink at Kevin’s.
A while ago I put up a post about who is responsible for the budget. A reader, Bill, posted a link to information about the The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. Here’s a portion of it:
The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 (Pub.L. 67–13, 42 Stat. 20, enacted June 10, 1921) was landmark legislation that established the framework for the modern federal budget. The act was approved by President Warren G. Harding to provide a national budget system and an independent audit of government accounts. The official title of this act is “The General Accounting Act of 1921,” but is frequently referred to as “the budget act,” or “the Budget and Accounting Act.” This act meant that for the first time, the president would be required to submit an annual budget for the entire federal government to Congress. The object of the budget bill was to consolidate the spending agencies in both the executive and legislative branches of the government.
Turns out the President IS required to submit a budget. However, I still think this was a bad idea. They should have stuck to the Constitution, IMHO.
The full article is at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_and_Accounting_Act_of_1921