5.23.2015

The Duggars, the Louds and me


The Louds were the first reality show family (c. 1973) and of course everyone knows about the Duggars.  Thankfully few know about "The Peets"! My observations:


  • We "The Peets" are an under the radar, no one wants to know about us, we would never do a reality show, kind of family. I advise more families to eschew the kleig lights of the media! 
  • What's been exciting about "The Peets"? Absolutely nothing! And i like it like that!
  • We are somewhat of a Modern Family and we have our own Bloodlines in that I am a Mayflower descendant.
  • We were married and still are after 204 Kardashian units
  • We've had kids and the grew up and moved out
  • There is no Wiki page on "The Peets" (Thankfully)
  • About the latest spectacle, it does not need to be rehashed here. But it is newsworthy not in a Benghazi kind of way, but rather in a tabloid way.
  • The Duggars are in the news because:
    • They have a lot of kids and kids are good!  
    • They have chosen to be very public about their family and they have had (up to yesterday) a reality show. 
    • They are portrayed as squeaky clean fundamentalist Christians. 
    • And when squeaking clean meets scandal, it's tabloid time.
  • About Christians: I am and we are (Kathee and me). 
  • We are kind of secularists to some of the fundamentalist persuasion because some of our practices are fundamentalist taboos. 
  • Excitement in our lives? I once was very sick and thankfully now I'm not. And I was once arrested. The first gross and the second rather boring. 
  • We are also flawed. I say this not to ridicule the Duggars because I know they would say the same about themselves. By flawed, I mean I am a sinner. I am less than the best husband. Less than the best father (kids please do not comment), and not the perfect employee. 
  • About being a Christian: with Paul I say "I am the chiefest of sinners". And I am redeemed (in that Christ died for my sins). 

5.18.2015

Mark Dayton - Crybaby!



My blog title bluntly reveals how I feel about the guy!

S.S. Badger gets upgrades and continues service



S.S. Badger sails again — and this time in accord with U.S. environmental law

Excerpt:

A $2.4 million renovation of her innards now enables the Badger to retain the ash on board until it can be offloaded ashore for use in cement-making and such. Under separate provisions of a consent decree negotiated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Badger will be burning about 15 percent less coal than it used to, the result of improved combustion controls.
Comment: Image source.  We've done the Badger multiple times and both directions. The Lake Express is also mentioned in the article. We've taken the Eastern passage with them. Driving around Chicago? Hate that trip! Our preferred driving method is via the U.P.

5.15.2015

Are stocks "Too High"?





Stock Prices: Is ‘Quite High’ Too High?

Excerpt:

Consider one of the most widely followed ways of measuring stock valuations—the cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratio, or CAPE, which was devised by Robert Shiller, a Yale University economist and Nobel Prize winner. The CAPE is calculated by dividing stock prices by average earnings over the prior decade, all adjusted for inflation. The ratio for large U.S. stocks in April was 27, while the long-term average since 1881 is 16.6, according to Mr. Shiller’s data. When the ratio is above average, future returns are often lower down the road. When the ratio is below average, future returns tend to be relatively high.
Comment: I was asked this question this week. My take is that some stocks are too high. I think Facebook is too high. DOW ... about right (see image above). A tutorial on the P/E ratio.

Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ



Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ Excerpt:

Finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious. It means living and dying in a way that shows Christ to be the all-satisfying Treasure that he is
Comment: Perhaps I have posted this before. John Piper's book Rethinking Retirement is a book that I've read multiple times and recommend to all. Follow the link above and download in PDF format. Image source = screen snap from here.  I am definitely in retirement countdown mode - I'm not announcing anything! The terminus ad quem of my retirement is when Kathee turns 65 in April 2016. Since I am already 65 (almost 66), I could retire at any time. I was thinking this morning about the personal economic / paradigm shift of retirement:

  • The ancients knew nothing about retirement. They worked and worked and died! This whole "retirement thing" is a new thing. Weird
  • What of the Biblical command to work? Adam worked the garden pre-fall (Genesis). The curse among other things is that he would work by the sweat of his brow and labor would be less productive. Think of the rebukes of the lazy and slothful (Proverbs) or the directive "if a man doesn't work, neither shall he eat". 
  • So today I labor to live. I've been laboring to live for all of my adult life. I have that Puritan work ethic as part of my DNA. You have to work! You want or need something? Work for it. When I raised support for campus ministry my parents were uncomfortable with that! To them it was wrong to ask for money!
  • In retirement, one lives off his capital. Pre-retirement, one lives off his labor. 
  • Here's an interesting blog post: Why Your Financial Goal Should Be to Stop Trading Time for Money: So today I am trading time for money. Every day I make XXX and every two weeks I receive a paycheck for that trade off.
  • What about working in retirement? I doubt I will need to work (I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that - so imprinted into me is this "I have to work"! What if I found a job that paid $ 15 per hour. Suppose it is something I might even enjoy doing? Is that a good use of my time? (not bragging but I make a multiple of that today).
  • Suppose there were an opportunity in a ministry (say a college or a church) to work? Is it sinful to NOT take a wage? What would that be like to be making $ 0 when others are being paid. Would that be demeaning? Would that devalue my labor?
  • Finally a Marxist quote (that I disagree with but I find interesting): "Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks." I personally view capital as stored labor (hence the image above). Capital is that which I have earned but not yet spent. 

5.11.2015

The Lottery preys on the poorest



Lotteries: America's $70 Billion Shame

Excerpt:

The national average hides a lot of variance among the states. In North Dakota, per-capita lottery spending is a pittance at just $36 a year. In South Dakota, however, it’s an egregious $755 per head. Lotto games bring in the most money per person in the mid-Atlantic and northeast: number-one Rhode Island (nearly $800 per capita!), Massachusetts, and Delaware are among the top five states, while New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania join them in the top 13 (so does Washington, D.C.). ... it’s the poor who are really losing. The poorest third of households buy half of all lotto tickets, according to a Duke University study in the 1980s, in part because lotteries are advertised most aggressively in poorer neighborhoods. ... In an age of rising income inequality, it’s pernicious that states rely on monetizing the desperate hope of its poorest residents. State lotteries take from the poor to spare the rich, all while marching under the banner of voluntary entertainment.
Comment:Image Source

5.05.2015

No Turkey for Thanksgiving?



U.S. bird flu outbreak may mean no turkey for Thanksgiving

Excerpt:

The largest-ever U.S. outbreak of avian influenza, which has devastated Midwestern poultry and egg producers in recent weeks, could be felt at Thanksgiving tables across the nation come November, farmers and some trade groups say. The virulent H5N2 strain has already spread to 14 states and led to the deaths or scheduled euthanizations of more than 21 million birds, including 3.3 million turkeys in Minnesota, the nation’s top turkey producer. And now, with Thanksgiving just seven months away, farmers say they may be running out of time to raise enough turkeys –the traditional centerpiece of holiday feasts – to meet the demand. Once a farm has been infected, flocks must be culled, composted in barns, then disposed of. Buildings must then be thoroughly disinfected. The whole process can take up to three months before a new flock of turkey poults can be brought in, said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. After chicks are re-introduced to the barns, farmers say, it typically takes about four months to produce a full-sized hen – the type of turkey most Americans prefer for their holiday feasts. If breeder farms that supply the young birds have also been infected – as some in Minnesota have – simply acquiring the chicks could prove challenging. And in Minnesota, there’s still no sign of an end to the outbreak, despite tight biosecurity measures and quarantines. Already, at least one turkey processing plant has cut back on workers’ shifts because of a lack of birds to slaughter. “We’re going to have fewer turkeys coming out because of this,”
Comment: Image source: Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want (painting)

5.04.2015

The Chevrolet Chevelle



Secrets of the Chevrolet Chevelle

Excerpt:

The Chevelle is one of America’s favorite classic muscle cars. If you turn on your favorite televised classic car auctions at random, chances are that there will be a Chevelle crossing the block.
Comment: This was my college dream car. I wanted to buy a '72 a year after graduation. Two years later I bought a 1974 Satellite Sebring Plus (400 cu engine, bucket seats). Image source = Ebay

Depression and Debt Linked



Does credit card debt lead to depression?

Excerpt:

Credit cards can carry more than high interest rates—they actually might increase your chances of depression. It's common sense that high levels of debt can stress you out. Now researchers have found a statistically significant link between short-term household debt, such as credit card debt and overdue bills, and increases in symptoms of depression. The link between depression and debt was strongest among unmarried people, people near retirement and those who are less educated, according to the new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The study also found that, on average, people's depressive symptoms tend to increase as their short-term debt rises. "Our results suggest that taking on unsecured debt may adversely influence psychological well-being," said Lawrence Berger, the study's lead author and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Institute for Research on Poverty.
Comment: Image details:
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  SalFalko

4.30.2015

May Day for Traders





The Day Wall Street Changed

Excerpt:

On May Day 1975, fixed-rate commissions were abolished by regulators. Until then, a broker who tried to charge customers less than the fixed rate to trade shares ran the risk of being expelled from the stock exchange. With some minor exceptions, for 183 years it had cost the same amount per share to trade 100 shares as it did to trade 1,000 or 100,000—and brokers regularly shaved 2% or more for themselves off the typical trade. May Day blew that cozy world to smithereens. One of its lessons for today’s investors is obvious; another is more subtle. The obvious lesson is that when brokers treat their customers more fairly, the customers prosper. May Day smashed Wall Street’s monopoly, unleashing the discount-brokerage industry, fostering independent research and democratizing the world of investing. The subtle lesson is that when brokers treat their customers more fairly, everyone prospers. May Day, which brokers at the time expected to be the most apocalyptic event in their industry’s long history, turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to them. Trading boomed, investors flocked back to the markets and brokerages minted money for decades. To understand the changes wrought by May Day, consider what it cost to buy 100 shares trading at $25 on the New York Stock Exchange before May 1, 1975. You would have paid a minimum commission of $49 and a bid-ask spread (the difference between the selling price and purchase price) of $13, reckons Charles M. Jones, an economist at Columbia Business School who studies brokerage costs. That totaled 2.5% of the $2,500 transaction.
Comment: Image snap from WSJ article and from Tradeking. On a personal note, we use Wells Trade. Last week we bought a lot of GE for no commission. Trade deals abound

Al Sharpton's “no peace” was an implicit threat of civil unrest



Al Sharpton’s Baltimore “No justice, no peace” finally blew into an urban riot.

Excerpt:

‘No justice, no peace.” In Baltimore now, they’ve got both. When Al Sharpton popularized the chant, “No justice, no peace,” it was unmistakably clear that “no peace” was an implicit threat of civil unrest. Not civil disobedience, as practiced by Martin Luther King Jr. Civil unrest. Civil unrest can come in degrees. It might be a brief fight between protesters and the cops. It might be someone throwing rocks through store windows. Or it might be more than that. Whenever groups gathered in large numbers to start the “no justice, no peace” demonstrations and listen to incitements against “the police,” we would hear mayors, politicians, college presidents and American presidents say they “understood the anger.” They all assumed that any civil unrest that resulted would be, as they so often say, “containable.” Meaning—acceptable.
Comment: Image source. Rights. Modified with.

Reports: Mayor told cops to "stand down .... retreat"



Sheriff: ‘I Was Sick To My Stomach’ After Being Told To Stand Down

Excerpt:

“I was sick to my stomach like everybody else. … This was urban warfare, no question about it. They were coming in absolutely beaten down. The [city officers] got out of their vehicles, thanked us profusely for being there, apologized to us for having to be there. They said we could have handled this, we were very capable of handling this, but we were told to stand down, repeatedly told to stand down,” he said. “I had never heard that order come from anyone — we went right out to our posts as soon as we got there, so I never heard the mayor say that. But repeatedly these guys, and there were many high-ranking officials from the Baltimore City Police Department … and these guys told me they were essentially neutered from the start. They were spayed from the start. They were told to stand down, you will not take any action, let them destroy property. I couldn’t believe it, I’m a 31-year veteran of law enforcement. … I had never heard anything like this before in my life and these guys obviously aren’t gonna speak out and the more I thought about this, … I had to say a few things. I apologize if I’ve upset people, but I believe in saying it like it is.” Lewis said though he didn’t hear the order to stand down come from the mayor, he did hear it from police officials. “I heard it myself over the Baltimore City police radio that I had tethered to my body-armor vest, I heard it repeatedly. ‘Stand down, stand down, stand down! Back up, back up, retreat, retreat!’ I couldn’t believe those words. Those are words I’ve never heard in my law enforcement vocabulary,” he said. “Baltimore City police, all law enforcement agencies are very capable of handling that city. They’re trained to handle that city. These guys were hearing words that had never been echoed in their lives, in their careers.”
Comment: Let that CVS burn ... we don't care! Sickening. Image source. Rights. Modified with.  More. Next up ... if cops aren't indicted ... more violence. Ferguson all over again!