Tuesday, February 28, 2006

4 Things

Collecting My Thoughts seems to be collecting Memes. She didn't tag me (or anyone else for that matter.) But she suggested that anyone who wanted to do this one should give it a try. So here's my version. Maybe you'll want to do it also.

4 jobs I've had
Waiter at Sheraton Elms Hotel and Spa
Retail clerk
Printer at Cal Poly Pomona

4 movies I can watch over and over (not that I would, but have seen these more than twice)
Princess Diaries
True Lies
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Lethal Weapon

4 movies I have watched over and over the most. Sometimes 10, 20 or even more times.

Lion King
Finding Nemo
Toy Story
Can you guess why I've seen these so often?

4 places I've lived
St. Louis County, Mo
Excelsior Springs, Mo
Diamond Bar, Ca
Inglewood, Ca

4 TV shows I love
Law and Order
24 hours
Bill O'Reilly

4 places I've vacationed (I’d gladly return to) (not mainland USA)
Venice, Italy
Anywhere, Spain

4 places I've vacationed (I'd gladly return to) mainland USA)
Moab, Utah
Orlando, Fl
Philadelphia, PA
Indian Country along Arkansas River in Colorado

4 of my favorite dishes
Hot Cherry Pie Ala Mode
Mushu Pork
French Toast

4 blogs I visit daily

4 places I'd rather be right now
Snuggling with my wife
Reading a book on the beach in Maui
playing with any of my grandkids
my own home is a good place, too

4 favorite books in the Bible

Shoofly Pie - A Great Mystery Read - Christian Author, To Boot

Just read it! How's that for a review. There is no way to describe this book, the first in a series by Tim Downs. It is just that unusual. On the one hand, you could say it was written for 10-25 year old males, in that so much of the content is about bugs. Uh huh, bugs. This is the story of a guy who cracks murders using maggots and such (think CSI with a very narrow focus.)

On the other hand, there is a great love story to attract the ladies and those men who like love stories (o.k. that's me. I even watch Lifetime Channel.) The mystery aspect is outstanding. Tim Downs is always leading you along and usually astray. Suspense, too.

But the best part is that this book is REALLY well written. Powerful characters and word pictures bring the story and the folks alive. Hero, Dr. Nick Polchak, the bug man, has a winning wit and weird personality (makes sense in his line of work.)

There's a bit of Christian content weaved into the story line, but if you weren't looking for it, you wouldn't probably even be aware of that part. However, the Christian heart is there for sure.

Book Review
Christian Books
Mystery Books

So, my birthday is coming up. I have Shoofly Pie and Tim Downs's second book Chop Shop. But there are others I'd love to own.

P.S. My 16-year-old son loved it also. Here is one you can suggest to your teen boy to get him reading.

Monday, February 27, 2006

First Review of Running A 21st Century Small Business

I may not post every review, but hopefully you'll indulge my posting those as nice as this in the Houston Chronical.

I don't know if this review caused it, but the book moved from #160,000 best selling to 5,600th best on Amazon. If you and all your friends go buy one, maybe we could get into the 100's!

Small Business
Business Books

Tried Any Spork Lately?

Some sites are interesting. Some profound. There are some that just tickle you. I have my daily reads which provide wisdom and direction to my life. Then there is the Daily Spork.

I'm not sure why I have shared this picture with you. I have no idea what it signifies. It could be a self portrait. A nightmare. A pathology. I went to a lot of work to put it up here. She saved it as a .bmp on her site. I had to figure out how to save it as a .jpg, cause Blogger doesn't like .bmp's.

I suppose the main reason for bring you this art from the early period of Spork is that it so exemplifies the rest of her blog matter. If you find the art intriguing, you should probably go read what else comes from her mind.

Science - Nothing Else Like It

Science is the best. It has great appeal to some folks because it can change its mind every day, and still have folks believe it to be the best source of truth. Los Angeles Times:

The discovery of the remains of a furry, beaver-like animal that lived at the time of dinosaurs has overturned more than a century of scientific thinking about Jurassic mammals.

The find shows that the role of mammals in the time of dinosaurs was greater than previously thought, said Zhe-Xi Luo, curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

The animal is the earliest swimming mammal to have been found and was the most primitive mammal to be preserved with fur, which is important to helping keep a constant body temperature, Luo said.

Until I reached the ripe old age of 40, I pretty much thought that science ruled. You would have had a hard time convincing me that Darwinian Evolution had any major holes in it. I am still not among the "so called" fringe who believe that men walked with dinosaurs 6000 years ago. But now that science believes large mammels lived at the time of the really big reptiles, we might not be arguing about that much.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Move Over Powerade. Chocolate Milk for Athletes

Chocolate continue to be all over the news. Health Mags headlines for last month included a chocolate diet. Turns out it was not very much about chocolate, but you can see that chocolate is starting to compete with sex, diets, and gossip as reasons to buy a magazine.

Now, regulars to this site know that I'm dark chocolate fan. The real benefits are found in the high fat, low calorie bits of absolute delight. But this new study opens up a whole other set of possibilities. Fox News Reports

During a 2004 Summer Olympics awash in controversies over steroids and supplements, one sportswriter wryly noticed that top American swimmer Michael Phelps was playing it safe -- he preferred to drink Carnation Instant Breakfast between races.

Now it appears that the six-time gold medalist may have been onto something. A new study shows that plain old chocolate milk may be as good -- or better -- than sports drinks like Gatorade at helping athletes recover from strenuous exercise.

In other words, the study found that after streneous exercise, if you want to bounce back quickly so you can move on to the next sports or other activity, chocolate milk worked at least a well as the best sports drinks and much better than some. I'm sure there will be more studies of this. Stay tuned.

Dark Chocolate

Update: The Fear-Greed Curve

I can’t take credit for the following concept, and I can’t quite remember who said it previously. However, it makes such sense, and is far more understandable to the average person than supply-demand. The world economy is driven by the fear-greed curve.

Gasoline Prices got you down. Want someone or something to blame. It is so easy to blame big, nasty corporations who want to rip of consumers, neighbors across the continent or around the world who are driving gas guzzlers, or the Bush administration for not taking some action (the action would depend on your political point of view.)

However, I propose that the real culprit is the natural way of mankind. We are driven by many things, but two of the most powerful are fear and greed. The major energy corporations are afraid to invest in new equipment, exploration, etc., because they are afraid the price will come back down to $12 a barrel. (Remember the last energy price bust and what it did to Texas banking?) However, as the price stays high, some of the competitors in the energy biz (be it companies or countries) get greedy, and try to increase markehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gift share by lowering their price. Others then become fearful that they will lose market share or end up with mountains of inventory, so they lower their price also.

As the price goes up, the greed factor also plays in. Some companies or countries artificially raise the price to see what the market will bear, and are all too willing to take advantage of shortages, real or imagined. This only works for a while, because at some point, somebody is going to start adding capacity to maximize profit (greed.)

You act the same way on a smaller scale in your business and personal life. Think about it. Our company's products are primarily made from plastic. The plastics we purchase are based on natural gas. The cost of natural gas spiked in the fall as did our costs. Now the price of natural gas has plummeted by 30%, but our costs have gone down by less than 5%. The major plastics producers have not yet been hit by the fear part of the curve.

In the meantime, I am trying to figure out how to price my product. Catalogs in the advertising specialty industry usually get mailed before the first of each year. But I have not even printed mine as of Feb. 25. I fear raising my prices and losing market share. I also fear losing margin. But if my costs were to drop 30% would I lower my selling prices? Would my competitors?

Energy Prices
Natural Gas
Energy Policy

Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals - Duh

According to the Pew Research Center and thanks to George Will

WASHINGTON -- To bemused conservatives, it looks like yet another example of analytic overkill by the intelligentsia -- a jobs program for the (mostly liberal) academic boys (and girls) in the social sciences, whose quantitative tools have been brought to bear to prove the obvious.

A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that conservatives are happier than liberals -- in all income groups. While 34 percent of all Americans call themselves ``very happy,'' only 28 percent of liberal Democrats (and 31 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats) do, compared to 47 percent of conservative Republicans. This finding is niftily self-reinforcing: It depresses liberals.

This may be the most commented on research in the blogosphere this week. However, I think not that conservatism causes happiness or contentedness. I think folks who are happy and content wish to maintain the status quo. Thus they would naturally be conservatives. Folks who think things are all messed up, and want to change the world, are bound to take a liberal bent.


Why DOES Gas Cost $2.69

Speaking of energy prices, I buy LDPE by the carload. The underlying raw material is natural gas. Our pricing almost doubled last year, and is only creeping down a bit at this point. There are many components to this whole mess, but among them:

Actual Supply and Demand
Perceived Supply and Demand
Fear by major purchasers creating hoarding
Greed by major suppliers creating false shortages
Unrest drives up futures markets
And my own personal touch - I think the major countries who supply energy are creating the crisis of the week to keep prices high. One week its Russia, then Venezuela, then the middle east, then Africa. I even suspect there are phone calls: "Your turn."

No, I'm not a wacko conspiracy theorist, but check out the news over the last two years. With the exception of Katrina, the rest of the spike in pricing can be attributed to the "news" of the week spooking futures.

energy prices
Natural Gas
gasoline prices

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A New Business Idea

I'm thinking about creating a curriculum to teach 3 year olds to read. The goal would be to have them reading at the 3rd grade level by age 5. If you have a toddler, or even if you don't, do you think this is something most parents would want to do?

The method I would use has been tested and works.


Dissing Those Who Are Doctrinally Different

An e-mail crossed my desk the other day from a fellow I respect a lot. He raised an interesting question. At this point, he doesn't want to go public with the actual issue, so I won't name him. Hopefully I can disguise the content enough so that it won't point to him.

When Christians are engaged in political debate, we sometimes treat those who disagree with us regarding Christian doctrine rather badly. A major such group would be Catholics. I have folks who I regard highly who believe that Catholics are heretics or worse. They will, if pushed, say that it is only the Catholic Church that they so disparage, and not individual parishioners. But I wonder.

Many Catholics are quite conservative politically, and share very strong feelings with evangelicals regarding issues like abortion. In fact, evangelicals are more likely to find themself agreeing politically with Catholics than they are Methodists or Anglicans which are still not on the heretic list anywhere that I can see.

I want to be very clear. I am, and always have been, and ecumenacalist. Does this mean I don't believe in absolute truth? Am I some kind of wishy-washy Baptist, ready to drop my defense of immersion or inerrancy? No. However, I'm also not so sure of these fine points that I'm going to war over them. Nor am I going to look down my nose at those who I believe to be wrong on these issues. I can assert my point of view without discounting the possibility of there's being true.

Most of my friends in the faith agree about the core things that really matter. And these things clearly separate us from Mormons and LDS. Now here is the real point. What do our doctrinal differences have to do with politics? Even for those whom we believe are totally confused, and not headed for heaven. Why is it important to draw these distinction in political discourse?


Blogger Analysis

Sorry for those of you who don't blog, this is an inside baseball post. I generally get about 15-25 visitors a day. I post about 6 times a week. Lately, I've been posting less and my hits haven't gone down at all. One of my other blogsites gets as many hits as this one and I post once a month over there.

Other of my friends post two or three articles per day, and have far more hits. I'm not sure if their content is better, the extra posts make for more key words, or what.

So, I'm going to try and experiment. I'm going to post several articles at a time, even if I don't post as often. Stay tuned for the results of the experiment. (those who really give a rip.)

Search Engine Optimization

Retire at 85 to Get Full Social Security Check

The age of retirement should be raised to 85 by 2050 because of trends in life expectancy, a US biologist has said.

Shripad Tuljapurkar of Stanford University says anti-ageing advances could raise life expectancy by a year each year over the next two decades.

Drudge headlines this storywhich would be a bunch more life changing than global warming. In an earlier post I suggested that there are many things that we might fear in the future of this planet, and that your politics may be responsible for the specific fears you choose. The fear of everyone in developed countries living to 100 on average might be a fear Republicans and Democrats could share.

Personally, I plan to retire at about 85, should the Lord tarry until I reach that ripe old age. My grandfather retired at about 88, so its not too far fetched. However, a bunch of my 50 something friends are already retiring, and if they all live to be 100, the economy will go bust for sure.

Now, along with this potential crisis, we also have the wealth transfer effect. The current crop of old folks (the great generation) will be transferring unheard of wealth to the baby boomers. Theoretically, the baby boomers will be transferring another huge mountain of assets to the busters in 20 years. Of course, if the boomers don't die, the busters will get the short end of the stick...again.

Now, for those of you who like to ponder such things, try to imagine what our world will operate if the average age of the population is 55 and there is tons of wealth, but a very small population of workers. We can get a peak at such a situation by looking to Europe and Japan, but it is the magnitude of the "problem" will be far greater if these predictions come true.

Bird flu? Short term problem. Energy prices? Foregetaboutit. Islamifacists? Could be a real concern. Don't discount the potential for great upheaval from this. Especially when combined with the aging of Western Culture and the wealth transfer. Global warming? Talk to me when we have actual increases in warm weather with only bad effects and no good things. An extra month of Spring in Chicago might be a good trade of for more a slight increase in sea levels. (Disclaimer. I live in LA, but I live on a hill.) So pick your calamity. I still say barbarians trying to destroy developed cultures is historically likely. The wealth transfer and aging of America are absolutely going to happen.

Wealth Transfer
Aging of America
Populations trends
Economic Trends
Social Security
Fear Factors

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Drinking Bottled Water is Causing Major Problems

Disclosure. I make my living manufacturing a selling bicycle style water bottles. They are reusable and can commonly be used daily for five years or longer. One of our biggest competitors is the bottled water business. For a very long time I have wondered why the main stream media has given bottle water a pass. It uses massive amounts of oil and creates huge amounts of trash. And all for very little convenience.

The cost of bottled water is generally more than the cost of gasoline, and yet the same amount of water from your home tap is close to free. Even if you filter the water or have it go throuugh a reverse osmosis machine, it is still almost free.

Mike Williams, who still has my favorite blogpoints to an articlethat speaks directly to these issues.

The study said that demand for bottled water soared in developing countries between 1999 and 2004 with consumption tripling in India and more than doubling in China during that period.

That has translated into massive costs in packaging the water, usually in plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is derived from crude oil, and then transporting it by boat, train or on land.

"Making bottles to meet Americans' demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 US cars for a year," according to the study. "Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year."

Once the water is consumed, disposing the plastic bottles poses an environmental risk.

The study, citing the Container Recycling Institute, said that 86 percent of plastic water bottles in the United States end up as garbage and those buried can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

The really ironic thing about all this is that the very folks who drink the most bottled water are commonly those who are claiming to be the most eco friendly. The very same material that they read and folks they listen to with regard to ecological issues, are usually quite concerned about tap water. But as the article goes on to say, this is bogus at best:

It said that while consumers tend to link bottled water with healthy living, tap water can be just as healthy and is subject to more stringent regulations than bottled water in many regions, including Europe and the United States.

"In fact, roughly 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water," the study says. "Often the only difference is added minerals that have no marked health benefits.

So, you can help the economy (lower oil consumption), help the environment (lower trash accumulation), and help me all at the same time. Stop using disposable water bottles and start using California Springs Bicycle Style Water Bottles.

Bottled Water
Water Bottles
Water Quality

When Is Really Busy, Too Busy?

Some wag pointed out a while back that the greatest "brag" today is how busy we are. Instead of opening up the hood of our hot new sportscar or talking about the foreign lands we've traveled, we "complain" about how busy we are to prove how important we are.

None of the reasons I'm busy right now have to do with how important I am. But being busy can be a positive thing. I greatly prefer having things to do to having nothing to do. But at times, the list gets long, and the choices get hard, and frustration builds. Now this post is starting to sound like complaining.

Not wanting to be criticized for either bragging or complaining, I said all the above to say this. I've been too busy to blog. I hope to get back in the groove this week.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

If You Build a Perfect Church, Don't Join It

Not clear if this is game idea has hit the market yet. But surely Aspyre Media gets hold of it, we'll have a new Sims game.

I think I'd start with lazy boy chairs instead of pews to make it more comfortable while sleeping. How would your church look?

Thanks to Norma, Again!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

What Did Things Cost Back Then

I've been strolling down memory lane on a website devoted to St. Louis in the '40's thru the 60's. While there are many WOW moments for folks who grew up there, and many of the comments would be interesting to everyone who lived in that era, it just got me thinking about the cost of things again. I might even start a whole blog devoted to this.

One fellow said that it cost $6 to see your doctor in his office, but $12 if he came to the house. This would have been in the 50's.

White Castle hamburgers were normally $.05, but on Sundays you bought a bag of 25 for a dollar.

Everyone seemed to have a movie price. My recollection was double features were $.25 and the Saturday kids matinee was $.20. Sometimes you got a dish or other premium for going to the shows during the week.

Regular gas was $.199, but went as low as $.129 during price wars.

Candy bars 5¢, 12 ounce soda 5¢. Pin ball 5¢. Juke box 5¢ (six plays for a quarter.)

Also a nickle: 5 pack of gum, pay phone call, daily newspaper in the stand, single dip ice cream cone, popsickles off the ice cream truck. Dreamsickles, fudgesickles, and eskimo pies were a dime.

Here things get a bit fuzzy. Decent bicycle $100? New car $1000? 2 bedroom home $3000? TV $100? Hair cut? Perm? Rides at amusement parks? Deliver a baby? Whole chicken? 5 pound ham? Shoes - 2 for $5 for Payless type. What about at a nicer shoe store or department store? New jeans?

Help me out through the comment section or send your thoughts by e-mail to Quixote77@sbcglobal.net

Wall to wall carpet? Paper backs were $.35, right? Comics $.10? How much was Mad magazine?