Chocolate Holiday

February 14, 2009 at 11:00 pm (Family Life)

Many who know me, know that I like chocolate.  Really like chocolate, especially the dark stuff.

Many also know that I’m a ‘frugalskate’.  Those two things combine quite nicely four times a year, the day after Haloween, Christmas, Valentines day, and Easter.  That’s when chocolate goes on sale.  Usually %50 off the day after, and %75 or more by the end of the week – if they have any left.

After last haloween, we had 50+ pounds of chocolate.  And I’ve been conservative in doling it out, too.

Just so that you can also participate in these chocolate holidays (or more precisely the days after), here’s some information that you might find useful.

Candy, and especially chocolate, will go bad or stale after a while.  Details can be found at CandyFavorites and CandyDishBlog.

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Bad Moon Rising, part 2 – Disjointed thoughts on the Economy

January 31, 2009 at 12:10 am (Family Life, Politics, Uncategorized)

To me, the superbowl has really never been important.  This year, as we approach the precipice of a depression, I see irony in it.  The U.S. steel industry was once the model of efficiency and quality for the world.  Now, it takes serious thought to remember why Pittsburgh’s team is called the ‘steelers’, or where the logo on their helmets came from.

Nobody seemed to be concerned that a ‘service economy’ just can’t exist stably.  It translates to ‘consumer based’ economy.  If all we do is consume goods created elsewhere, eventually the ‘elsewhere’  has collected all of our capital.  That leaves us with broke, but with lots of stuff.  It’s a bit like the star-bellied sneeches from Dr. Seus.  Except that they didn’t have jobs, apparently.  Don’t worry, we’ll get there.

Knowing what lies just around the corner for our country, I can’t help but think of Rome.  They continued to enjoy their circuses and gladiatorial holidays while their empire crumbled out from underneath them.  Our beloved government is going to try to borrow their way out of debt, which will only give us double-digit inflation for years.

And for a comparison between this depression and it’s place in U.S. history, here’s a video from itulip.

Update:

From the International Herald Tribune:

He now estimates that $2.2 trillion in new government debt will be issued this year, assuming the stimulus plan is approved.

“You either crowd out other borrowers or you print money,” Ferguson added. “There is no way you can have $2.2 trillion in borrowing without influencing interest rates or inflation in the long term.”

“This is a crisis of excessive debt, which reached 355 percent of American gross domestic product,” he said. “It cannot be solved with more debt.”

“People are not stupid,” Zedillo said. “They see the huge deficit, the huge spending, and wonder what comes next.”

To that last I would add that he is referring to economists that are NOT in the U.S.  Nobody around here seems to have gotten that far … yet.

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There’s A Bad Moon On The Rise…

January 27, 2009 at 9:04 pm (Family Life, Guns, Religion)

I’ve had this feeling that things are going to get bad. I’m not sure how bad here, but elsewhere I would expect really bad.

And it has nothing to do with our new president. The economic problems that we are running full-steam into are beyond government’s ability to fix now. They’ve been coming for quite a while, and we have been pushing the problems off into the future.   Paying one credit card bill with another, so to speak.  Well, the future is here now.

The Federal reserve is basically printing money, as the interest rate it charges is now at or nearly zero. This will have the effect of ‘flooding’ the market with money, making inflation rise sharply.  To give you an idea, here is the Federal Reserve’s own chart.  That vertical line on the right is NOW.

Combine that with China no longer buying US Treasury debt, and that sets up quite a problem. An insufficient number of treasury bills will be sold, so to sell more, we will have to promise a higher interest rate, which means that the debt of the government will increase faster. And it’s not just in the U.S. either. The Bank of England recently lowered their interest rate to the lowest it has ever been.   The value of anything drops when supplies are drastically increased, and the U.S. dollar is no different.  So, while the governments flood the economy with money, some companies realize that the value of money in the future will be much lower than it is now. If we’re lucky, we won’t have to take a wheelbarrow full of money to go grocery shopping.

The economic mess is truly a global problem, causing the government of Iceland to fail, just weeks after the state bank failed.  They’re the first.  I doubt they will be the last.  Argentina’s solution to their financial problems was to steal all the retirement savings.  We’re at least a few years away from having all our IRAs and 401Ks ‘reinvested’ in the social security ponzi scheme.

Add to that a record pace for unemployment growth, and you get a really bad scene. Tons of excess inventory will idle production worldwide as people finally realize that their spending sprees of the last ten years are over.

Food prices will rise drastically, partially due to the lowered value of the dollar. If we have another bad year for food production, prices will rise drastically.  Last year also saw the spread of more virulent forms of wheat rust, which is expected to hit the entire middle East and Asia this year.  Fresh foods, especially those grown in California, will be scarce and expensive.  Food banks, which were strained last year will fail miserably. And I’m not the only one concerned about it. Hopefully rat-farming will remain an exclusively overseas thing.

Last year also saw dramatic shortages of fertilizer. Not so much in the U.S., but overseas. And since we’re in a global market, a shortage elsewhere increases prices here, but at least the materials are still available.  But only for those that can afford them.  People will have to choose between keeping the heat on and eating.  And it has already started.

There is a general sense of unease running through people.  Munchkinwrangler and Crankyprof are two good examples.

Now, I’m not predicting a Mad-Max type scenario, but I’m not entirely ruling it out, either.  I doubt it will be a drastic crash, I expect more like a steep downward spiral.

What I will guarantee is crime, and lots of it.  The last time the economy was this bad was in the 70’s.  I wasn’t old enough to realize just how bad the economy and crime were then, but what I do remember were the movies.  Movies like ‘Mad Max’, ‘Death Wish’, and ‘Dirty Harry’.  If art imitates life (or makes it a caricature) then things don’t bode well for our immediate future.  Again, I am not alone in this thinking.

And if you have the same feeling, now would be a good time to prepare.  Non perishable food & water for a week or so would be a good start.  And since you don’t really posess anything you are unable to keep, get a gun.  A shotgun for home is a good choice, but probably not the best one.  A better choice would be a handgun with training.  You shold find a comfortable holster and wear the handgun all the time.   Most robbers won’t call and warn you, and unauthorized people or children will find it difficult to misuse if it is attached to your body.  A concealed carry permit should be next, to allow you to protect yourself and your family while away from home.  The most important thing is to practice with it, and carry it everywhere you are allowed.  It should be as comfortable as a pair of broken-in shoes.

And to any believers out there who expect to be raptured (as I do), we are promised that we will avoid GOD’s wrath poured out on the world.  We are NOT guaranteed to escape tragedies and hardships caused by man.  How much will God allow us to go through?  Look no further than the unrest after Katrina, or the Janjaweed militias.

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Two Incidents, Different Results

January 18, 2009 at 1:03 am (Uncategorized)

Locally, there were two break-ins recently that have made the news.  The first was in a gated and guarded community.  Men forced entry through a rear door, and killed the couple who were there.   The second was a daylight robbery where men again forced entry through a rear door of a home where the woman had stayed home from work sick.

The difference?  The people in the first were relying on someone else to protect them.  The woman in the second took it upon herself to be ready to defend herself if the need arose.

When seconds count, police are only minutes away.

If you are unwilling to use appropriate force to defend yourself, why do you expect overworked and underpaid government employees to do it for you.

The after-effects of both are quite different, too.  The first set of criminals have learned that robbery and murder can be done and gotten away with – at least for a time.  So did everyone else that heard about it.   Everyone else also learned that the security in that neighborhood is probably not as good as it is advertised to be.

The second set of criminals, as well as anyone who watched the news or heard about the incident, learned that breaking into an occupied house can be quite dangerous.

Any guess what the crime rate in the two different areas is?

It is a citizen’s DUTY to resist all crime.  It shifts the balance of the cost/benefit equasion against it.  If every crime were effectively resisted by the victim, criminals would stick to stealing unattended stuff.  Some might even get a (gasp) JOB.

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Stupid Dog

January 3, 2009 at 2:00 am (Family Life)

Completely unintentionally, I have the ‘last word’ on the recent incident with the annoying little drop-kick dog that lives in our house.  My Wife, my Daughter, and even my Son have already had their say about it, so now it’s my turn.

The facts are quite simple.  The Pomeranian walked over to my wife and peed on her foot. I watched him do it, and didn’t realize what he was doing until it was too late.  I then asked my wife if she wanted the big gun (.45) or the little gun (.38).  Unfortunately, she chose the camera instead.  Apparently  illustrating the story was worth leaving the pee on her foot until pictures were taken.

So, why did he do it?

The simple answer is because he is stupid.  He’s so stupid that calling him stupid is an insult to stupid.  He’s stupid enough that him peeing on my wife’s foot is really no surprise to anyone that knows him.  He’s just stupid, stupid, stupid… well, you get the idea.

He’s stupid and useless.  He might make an acceptable alarm, if he would only bark at people or animals in or near our yard, but no.  He barks when someone comes to the door, but he also barks at us when we walk upstairs.  He even barks at people walking OUT the door.  Frequently (read multiple times an hour) he barks at… nothing.  Nobody walking on the street, no critters in the yard, just – nothing.

And he’s not house broken, and never will be.  Before you try to tell me that any dog is trainable, remember that this dog is STUPID.  To house break a dog, you typically scold him when he piddles in the house, and take him outside.  Most dogs figure it out fairly quickly.  Sometimes you even have to crate the dog, and only allow him in the house after he’s gone.  But not with Dudley, because he’s stupid.   The crate trick works, because dogs won’t soil a confined area like a crate.  Most dogs, but not Dudley.  Leave him in a crate for more than an hour, and you have to take the crate outside to hose it down.

Is he unique for a Pomeranian?  I don’t know.  I’ve never seen a completely housebroken Pomeranian.  But I think it has something to do with the ‘toy’ dogs.  Their heads just aren’t big enough to hold a brain, so they run entirely on their spinal cord.

In summary, the bigger the dog, the bigger the brain; the bigger the brain, the better the dog.  Oh, and Dudley is STUPID.

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So where do I fit in?

December 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm (Family Life, Politics, Science)

I’m an efficiency nut.  Not nutty, just really interested in getting the most ‘bang for the buck’ so to speak.  As such, we’ve replaced all the lightbulbs in the house with compact fluorescent ones.  My wife can tell you how much that saved on our electric bill, but it was significant.

The next major breakthrough for lights will be LEDs.  Currently they’re very expensive, but use roughly half the power of the compact fluorescent ones.  EarthLED does make a socket compatible series of lights, and once the prices come down, they will be a very viable choice.  They also don’t suffer the warm-up time or strobe-effect that some fluorescent bulbs do.

I’m always looking at new stuff relating to efficiency.  Most things I find are only simple and inexpensive if you are building a new house.   If our energy prices go up much more, I’ll probably consider retrofitting the house with a GFX heat exchanger.   It’s a really slick device that uses the hot wastewater from the shower drain to preheat the water going to the water heater, or cold water to the shower.  Many studies have shown a significant savings of energy with it.

Now, where do I fit in?

Most people who are interested in efficiency seem to be zealots about it.   I’m not.  I drive a truck, eat meat, refuse to pay more for organic food, and think that the poor children of Southeast Asia are better off making cheap clothes that I buy at Wally-World than they would be if everyone wore only hemp clothes made locally by hand.  It’s really hard to talk to off-the-grid types who think that you should use a composting toilet and grow plants with your own urine about anything.

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Just when you thought it was safe to sit back at the keyboard…

December 1, 2008 at 8:27 pm (Writing)

I heard about NaNoFiMo, the Novel Finishing Month challenge.  After just having completed NaNoWriMo, and having the novel incomplete (let’s not even talk about last year’s novel), it seems like a good idea.

Maybe I’ll be able to feel my fingers again in January.

Thanks to Natnie for the participant badge

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NaNoWriMo ends (sigh)

November 30, 2008 at 8:04 pm (Writing)

I finally finished my 50,000 words on Saturday night, a whole day early. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish this year, because I had fallen quite far behind. I did, however, exert an heroic effort, and won. (yay me.) This effort started Friday evening, when I wrote two thousand words before going to bed. It was so bad, that towards the end, I was writing with my eyes closed. On more than one occasion, I wrote the same sentence multiple times, and had to erase it. I did much better on Saturday. I wrote 9217 words, with several breaks. While writing, I averaged over a thousand words an hour. I’m happy to say that I can now feel the last three fingers of my left hand once again.

Two things significantly hampered my writing this year. The first, fallout from ENRON. Sarbaines-Oxley. We have been implementing new internal controls, and I have had a part of getting it running to the satisfaction of the auditors. Definitely non-trivial and time consuming. Hence, I have been completely unable to write at work at all. If I stayed at my desk during lunch to try, someone would find me.

The second cost an entire Saturday of writing. I had already fallen behind by a bit, and had been counting on catching up. It was not to be. A friend of a friend needed a broken car hauled to their house, and I voluntold to do it. After that, things started going wrong. The first contact I had for a car dolly fell through the morning I was to pick it up, costing a few hours of scrambling. The alternate contact was for a full trailer, but an hour off my preferred route. Two hours total for the side trip. The car was obnoxiously parked, requiring me to putz around with the trailer, trying to get it lined up. The winch wouldn’t work properly while hooked to an undercharged battery (go figure). Then, when I was ready to unload the car, it wouldn’t go into neutral. Half an hour on the phone, and I found that it had a manual override for the electronic interlock – the battery was dead, so the shifter wouldn’t release. A little prying on the console, and we engaged the override, dropping the car at the shop. Finally finished, I drove home, picked up my Wife, drove the truck back (full tank of gas, of course), and then returned home. Total time – fourteen hours. And that’s fourteen hours, after getting a two hour delayed start. Needless to say, I didn’t write much that day.

But it’s over, the frantic part, anyway. And I’m enjoying the story.

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NaNoWriMo ’08

November 9, 2008 at 10:27 pm (Writing)

More than a week into NaNo08, and I’ve finally gotten an excerpt that I like.  It tells nothing about my story, but that’s ok, because I’m not sure that I’ve actually told any of the story yet.  Backstory is a pain.  15,000 words, and all of it backstory.  Bummer.

I’ve put a wordcount widget in my sidebar, so you can see how I’m doing.

Now to the excerpt…

In the kitchen, he sat across the table from Rebecca.
‘Do you get the feeling you’re being watched?’ she said in a mock whisper.
‘Daddy!!!’ his two older children screamed as they ran to meet him.  He scooped both of them up, and trotted to the living room.
‘Thomas, Margaret, Have you been eating your vegetables?’
‘Oh yes, daddy.  Every night.  Sometimes we even ask for seconds’ They both said.
‘Have they been?’ he asked his wife.
‘Oh yes, they ate like little piglets.  But not too many vegetables.’ she replied.
‘Nooooooo!’ screamed the children.
‘The only one way to tell if children are being fed properly’ he said in an extremely serious tone. ‘Is to see how high they … BOUNCE!’ he dropped both of them on the couch.
They completed the evening ritual, including a bedtime story, when Margaret asked ‘Daddy, did you bring anything for us?’
‘You’re not supposed to ask that til tomorrow.’ Thomas whispered to her.
‘Do you know where I was?’ Stephen asked them
‘Memsis’ Margaret said
‘Memphis’ Thomas corrected
‘Memphis, Tennessee’ Stephen said ‘On the Mighty Mississippi River.’
‘The Mississippi River, the same one that Tom Sawyer rode down?’ Thomas asked, his eyes wide.
‘The very same one.  And one of the things I got for you – both of you, Margret so you can suck your lip back in – is a new story about Huckleberry Finn, who is one of Tom Sawyer’s friends.’
‘Will you read it tonight?’ they asked.
‘Not tonight.  It’s still in the railcar.  Tomorrow night, I promise.  Tonight, I have a sick friend to look after.’
‘Do we have to go to bed now?’ Thomas asked.
‘No, you can play for a while longer’ Rebecca said ‘As long as you play quietly, and nicely. We’ll be up in a little while to tuck you in.’
Stephen and Rebecca were part way down the stairs when they heard Thomas ‘You heard that, we’re suppose to play quietly.  If we play real quiet they’ll forget about coming back up, and we can play ALL NIGHT!’
Rebecca looked at Stephen. ‘Did you ever do that?’ she said with a grin ‘Because I know they didn’t get it from ME.’
‘I don’t know’ Stephen said seriously. ‘All we had to play with in the old country was rocks and sheep droppings.’
‘YOU!’ she said, giving him a shove.
‘Come to think of it, they may have all been sheep droppings.  I don’t remember many rocks.’
She shoved him again, propelling him into their living room.

Hope you get as much of a chuckle out of it as I did.

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NaNoWriMo 2008

October 6, 2008 at 9:23 pm (Family Life, Writing)

NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month is celebrating its 10th year this year.  I’ve signed up again, and have a sketch of an outline for this year’s book.  Just 25 days left to finish the outline, and the hardest part for me, selecting character names.

Last year was fun.  Fast paced, occasionally frantic, but fun.  My wife was happy to see my daughter and I when December finally rolled around.  Apparently we were somewhat secluded during that month.

My daughter is planning on doing it again this year, and my oldest son is going to try his hand at it.  We are trying to talk my wife into trying it this year also.

Last year’s novel, which reached 50,000 words on November 29th, has had a pathetic 5000 words added to it since then.  I haven’t given up on it, and the story really needs to be told, I just haven’t gotten around to finishing it.  One of these days…..

If you’re participating, I still recommend yWriter software (version 5 is in beta, version 4 is stable).  Since the author does NaNo also, I wouldn’t expect 5 to be stable before December.   I also still recommend Freemind for the ‘mind map’ outline.

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