Thursday, December 29, 2011

New goop, same grinder

 We give our kids new raw materials to drop into the same old grinder, turn the crank, and think it's fantastic when a different kind of goop drops out the bottom. But we're completely missing the point, because it's the grinder that Jesus wants to remake, not the goop.
le plus ca change le plus de meme chose

Another brick in the wall.

As always seems to happen when I try to write nowadays, I run out of time and energy long before the finished product says what I want it to say.  Oh, well, I'm hitting "Publish" anyway ;-)>

I don't typically fall into anger when I'm hurting anymore.  Part of me actually mourns this as a sort of loss.   I have to admit that there was a comfort there, a well of will and energy, a strength to fortify against whatever sort of doom one faces.

I confess that, at this point in my life, when I've been hurt deeply, I sort of mourn the ability to just REALLY FEEL this song again - to build a little wall, to withdraw from the world, to pace and strut and sneer at the object of my pain.  It's not tempting to go there again, per se - it's more an old friend that I miss.

The bottom line is that I have a choice in this, and as a disciple of Christ, I choose a different path.  I'll choose to love my enemies, and pray for those who persecute me.  I'll choose to give also my shirt when my coat is demanded, and to turn the other cheek so that they can strike me AGAIN, if they like.  I will choose to forgive, not once, nor twice, nor 7 times, but 70 times 7, and more if necessary.  I will empty myself, trusting that I will again be filled with something good.  I'll sit quietly, and close my eyes, and fill my lungs, and know that He is God.

A message to all humans

A message to all humans

One of the most important speeches in recorded history was given by a comedian by the name of Charlie Chaplin

Monday, December 12, 2011

What's really killing American Jobs

The real issue with the American Dream, circa 2012.

We can’t compete.  This isn’t because we’re lazy and stupid, it’s because the structural impediments are too great.  No matter how hard we work or how smart we are, we cannot make anything as cheaply in the US as it can be made elsewhere, period, so be it, amen.  Doesn’t matter if it’s software or marbles.

There’s a famous interview that I saw on the Colbert Report, in which the CEO of the last US company to make marbles.  The link to this interview is below:

She, a small business leader, has one plea:  LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD.

For a manufacturer of marbles from China, which she says is subsidized by their government (I don’t know if that’s ture - haven’t checked), they can produce marbles and ship them anywhere in the US for $0.28 / lb - bringing them half-way around the world, to any site in America.

For her US-based company, their energy costs alone, for Natural Gas, are $0.21 / lb, or 75% of the total cost for the Chinese company

So, I want to make sure that this point is not lost.  Even if you take American Labor, facilities, regulation, etc etc etc COMPLETELY out of the equation, she is spending 75% as much just for her energy as the Chinese company does to produce and ship the product, soup to nuts.

Apple makes a premium product (the i-phone) that they sell for a fantastic profit.  When last I checked, they had more cash on hand than the federal government.  You could reduce their tax rate and that of their top executives to zero, and it’s still not going to cause them to start manufacturing their iphones on US soil.  The ethos of the American corporation is "Why make a 1% profit when you can make a 300% profit?"

We have structural problems that destroy American jobs, and no one is even talking about fixing them.  Currency exchange rates, foreign subsidies for foreign industry, our health care system that burdens businesses with all of that expense and responsibility, tax systems that reward companies for hiring contractors rather than employees, and on and on and on.  

We need to drop the political crazy-talk and start having the conversation about what is REALLY killing American jobs, and start working the problem.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Blessed be Your name...

I didn't want to write this, but as I watch some of you suffer, I realize that you may benefit from it, so I humble myself.  This isn't meant to be a complaint.  Hopefully you benefit.  If not, ignore it.

I'm essentially a functioning agoraphobic.  This isn't nearly as bad as it could be.  For a while I was a non-functioning agoraphobic, which I have no words to describe.

What does it mean to be a functioning agoraphobic?  It means that I started getting panic attacks for really good reasons, but long after those reasons were resolved the panic attacks remained, having taken on a life of their own.  Consequentially, I now get panic attacks because I'm afraid I might get panic attacks.  These can range from symptoms normally associated with a heart attack, to a feeling that I'm very slowly passing out, to feeling as though I'm being sucked out through my face and the world is unreal and terrifying just by its existence.

The only effective treatment for such a thing is "exposure therapy", which essentially means to pick something that triggers an attack, and then do it and do it and do it until it becomes normal again.  Then pick the next thing.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

I could tell a million stories.  When I was getting used to driving again, I would have attacks.  One time, when one was getting really bad, I tried to call my wife.  However, my brain was so scrambled that I couldn't figure out how to operate my cell phone.

On another occasion, I laid in a hotel bed with pains in every part of my body that I can't even describe, moving from wondering if it would kill me to wishing it would.  The pain in my chest was easily a 10 on the 1-10 scale, and radiated into my shoulder and jaw, and I could see my arteries bouncing in a mirror from across the room.

I was willing to undertake such a thing as exposure therapy if the outcome was that I could again be fit an whole at the end of the process.  The big disappointment in all this is that I'm never cured.  I will overcome something for a while, but I eventually regress, and have to overcome it again.

As you can imagine, this is an exhausting process.  This is the part the I see in some of your writings.  It's not a sprint, but a marathon, and it never ends.  It's not a question of "will I finish", but "at what mile marker will I be when I quit or keel over".

When I feel like I absolutely, positively cannot face another moment; that my stamina is gone and I want to give in to it and just never again leave the house, I pull up this video and am encouraged.  I know that some of you don't share my faith.  That's OK - my faith doesn't require you to.   But because this helps me, I want to share it.  Do with it as you will.

I watch this video.  I bless the name of the the Lord, offering Him praise, surrendering to a sense of awe at the order of the universe which is so far beyond my grasp, and my part in it, and it's part in me.  I pray for strength for the task at hand.  I be still, and know that He is God.

And then, both figuratively and literally, I fix my eyes on the ground, ignore those around me, and move my feet, one, then the other, and again, and again ...

Youtube:Newsboys - Blessed be Your Name

"Blessed be your name
when the sun's shining down on me
when the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name.

Blessed be your name
on the road marked with suffering
through there's pain in the offering
blessed be Your name."

At the end of the video, probably my favorite part, he quotes Isaiah 40:28 - 31, and 41:10-13.

Isaiah 40
Do you not know? 
   Have you not heard? 
The LORD is the everlasting God, 
   the Creator of the ends of the earth. 
He will not grow tired or weary, 
   and his understanding no one can fathom. 
29 He gives strength to the weary 
   and increases the power of the weak. 
30 Even youths grow tired and weary, 
   and young men stumble and fall; 
31 but those who hope in the LORD 
   will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
   they will run and not grow weary, 
   they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 41
10 So do not fear, for I am with you; 
   do not be dismayed, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you and help you; 
   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 “All who rage against you 
   will surely be ashamed and disgraced; 
those who oppose you 
   will be as nothing and perish. 
12 Though you search for your enemies, 
   you will not find them. 
Those who wage war against you 
   will be as nothing at all. 
13 For I am the LORD your God 
   who takes hold of your right hand 
and says to you, Do not fear; 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wall Street CEO confronts "Occupy Wall Street" - CBS News Video

Wall Street CEO confronts "Occupy Wall Street" - CBS News Video

I wrote this response for a friend who wanted my perspective on what he's saying.
My response to the above video:

Bear in mind that he is a brilliant man arguing with kids.  I’ve seen folks on CNBC argue the other side much more eloquently.

I’ve seen Mr. Schiff a lot on CNBC.  He’s a capital & markets purist.  So, for instance, when he talks about the fact that true capitalism would have let the banks fail, he’s right.  The value judgment we have to make in that regard concerns pain management.  When we intervened in the banks, we were making a value judgment that we would incur a chronic, extended pain that was less severe and traumatic, rather than the large and explosive pain that would be much more unpredictable in terms of the result.

If we’d let the banks fail, it might have been a spike in unemployment to 18% - 20%, followed by a rapid recovery back to 4-6%, and we’d already be done with it by now. 

OR, it might have been an abyss that we fell into, world markets might have collapsed utterly, and we would now see mass starvation at home and abroad and be well on our way to WWIII.  That’s the risk reward scenario.  I’ll let you decide whether or not you agree with the approach that was taken, but bear in mind that the only historical precedence we have is the 20’s and 30’s, and that letting the markets work themselves out at that time, as Mr. Schiff proposes, lead to both the great depression and, subsequently, WWII.  Lots of prolonged, intense pain.

He’s spot-on about student loans.  No argument from me there.  It is essentially the same problem we have with health-care.  We have this intervening third party with deep pockets who is propping up the costs.  We need either true socialism or to allow the free market forces to do what they do well, which is set prices.  Either would work well if it’s done well.

Mr. Schiff’s underlying premise in many of his arguments is that markets are efficient and self-regulating, so we don’t need the gov’t mucking around. 

In my opinion, whether or not that is true depends on the goals of the markets.  Markets are great for setting prices for goods and services and creating wealth for those who have capital to invest.    However, markets are A-MORAL.  I could give example after example of this, but the easiest is the one sighted in the video, which is the slave market.  Mr. Schiff doesn’t seem to grasp that the slave market was a functioning market with capital, goods and services, communications of raw materials, supply, demand, the whole shebang.  And, it set cost of goods sold (slaves) and created wealth for slave-traders and plantation owners very efficiently.  That was absolutely the free market at work.  And it was absolutely evil, and required government intervention.

And that’s really the fundamental point that I should try to communicate.  Markets ARE fairly efficient at setting prices for goods and services.  However, I cannot find one historical example of a market behaving in a moral fashion.  They make money, period, whether it’s on orange fruit from Florida or black people from Africa.

And that’s why we need regulation.  To give markets a moral compass.  We need government to allow YOU AND ME the power to make markets behave in a moral fashion, through our elected representatives.

And, sometimes, the need for regulation is not moral, but entirely practical.  In an example that Mr. Schiff should be familiar with, one of the major factorsfor the recent banking collapse was the deregulation of the industry.  (In a rare instance, government and the private sector worked together to make a mess of this.  Both are to blame.) The Glass-Steagall act (the laws enacted after the great depression designed to prevent its recurrence) was repealed, and about 10 years later we have what almost amounted to another great depression.  You can Google it if you want to learn more, but in essence it created a separation between depository banks and investment banks, making sure that the gamblers (investment banks) aren’t gambling with your deposits or easy federal money they’ve borrowed at low interest.

His point about the 50’s is, at best, a fantastic over-simplification.  I frankly think it’s just false.  He states that we were fantastically successful in the 50’s because we had more capital, which was because we had lower taxes and fewer regulations.  I would point out the following:
-          The top marginal tax rate in the 50’s was 91%, as opposed to 35% currently.  The capital gains tax rate (which has a great impact on the wealthy) was %25 as opposed to the current 15% .  So, not sure why he thinks we had lower taxes.
-          I’m sure we currently have more regulation than we did in the 50’s, but do you really want to go back to a time when we were poisoning ourselves with DDT & Mercury, and you could light the Hudson River on fire because it was so polluted?
-          I BELIEVE that Unions (ie – labor) were much stronger in the 50’s than they are today.  I won’t assert that, though, I just have that impression.
-          In the 50’s, we were the only world power left standing after WW2.  England was bankrupt, Germany & Japan were in ashes, as was the rest of Europe.  Much of the rest of the world was not yet industrialized.  We were the only show in town.  We were LITERALLY the only county producing anything.  So, yeah, we did pretty well.
So, I think that’s crazy-talk.

The “Why don’t they quit” comment in reference to wall mart employees is a common refrain.  Again, those arguing against him were inarticulate.   This response is getting long, and I think this is one of the less important points, so I’m skipping it ;-)>

The point his opponent is making about apple is a really good one, but again his opponent is inarticulate.  We could lower apple’s corporate tax rate to 0, and they would not bring manufacturing of the iphone back to the US.  It is a product that they sell at a premium (it’s expensive), making a fantastic profit.  When last I checked, Apple actually had more cash reserves than the US Federal gov’t.  (that was sometime last year, don’t know if it’s still true).  So, what can we see from this?
Apple has the money to create American jobs and still be fantastically profitable, but they don’t.  Instead, they amass a huge pile of cash. 
What we have to accept is that a worker is a necessary evil to a company or business owner.  Job creators don’t create jobs because they have a passion for creating jobs, they create jobs because they have to in order to make their millions.  I don’t know a single one that would have workers if they didn’t have to. 

Which brings be to the last point I’ll make.  You can tell, in several of his comments, that he things that the fact that he’s made a huge pile of money gives him some sort of great credibility.  Does it?  Is that the goal of our civilization?  If so, then guys like him should set the tone.  If not, we need to look elsewhere.

And, on last note on the fundamental question of capitalism vs socialism – who should benefit from my labor, the guy who owns the capital, or me, and how much wealth should one person accumulate? Mr. Schiff correctly states that he’s created many jobs, and that he worked very hard.  I guarantee that many of his employees also worked very hard (I’ve certainly put in 20 hours days as well, although I control no wealth to speak of), and that he profited disproportionately from their labor.  This is a value judgment –who you think should profit most from your labor?  In my view, there needs to be a balance.  Let people who want to get wealthy get wealthy, but let them do it in an honest way, and let them pay a living wage to their workers.

I couldn’t watch past about the 10 minute mark.  Can’t stand to listen to people screaming at each other. J

Hope this helps you see the other side’s perspective a bit better. Sorry it’s so long.

And now, since I’m typing, to pontificate:
It’s all about balance, and in my opinion, we’re way out of balance to the right.  This is evidenced in Obama-care.  This is the same bill, essentially, that was the republican alternative to Hillary care in the 90’s, and today it’s socialism.  Or cap and trade, which Bush 41 was brilliantly successful in using as a free market system to end acid rain.  But when Obama proposes this tried and true republican solution, he’s killing jobs and destroying the free markets?  We’re so far to the right that the right doesn’t even realize how far to the right the left is.  The American people voted for a liberal government and got a 90’s era conservative government, and the 2000’s era conservatives still manage to paint him as a socialist and extremist.  That genuinely frightens me, because I really do believe that wisdom will generally lie in balance.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

One more reason to hate Windows 7

So, there is a service that I often need to restart.  I don't like pointing and clicking, so I'll run cmd and then type net start | find /I "cisco" to get the name.  Then I'll pipe that to net stop and net start.  Or, I USED to do that.
Now, when i try to do it, I learn that access is denied, even though I am logged in as a local admin.

OK - so, where's the SUDO equivalent that will let me run this command as an administrator when i'm, you know, administrating.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

I know it sounds crazy, but I struggle with veterans’ day. 
Several of my closest friends are vets, some still serving.  I watch people post poems or pictures or thank-you’s, and honestly, it gives me a lump of anger in the pit of my stomach.  We sit here, comfortably, doing nothing to make their lot better, watching as their lives are squandered, but it’s all good because we stand up at the parade when the old folks pass with the flags.
We have failed our soldiers.  They’ve gone off and been great soldiers, while we have sat here and been absolutely wretched citizens.   We owe our soldiers an apology.  I’ll start.
I’m sorry for not raising a bigger stink when we were getting involved in Iraq. Honestly, I thought it was saber rattling and wouldn’t really happen, but that’s no excuse.  I knew it was stupid, and I let myself be shouted down and intimidated.
I’m sorry that you have been deployed 3 and 4 times.  I’m sorry that you get panic attacks and have PTSD.  I’m sorry that your marriage is on the rocks and for the way the people you love are suffering with you.
I’m sorry that your deployments get longer, and that you’ve been called back even after you thought you were out.
I’m sorry that the recruiter wasn’t forthright with you, and that you aren’t doing what you thought you’d be doing when you signed up. 
I’m sorry that I go to movies and watch football and don’t even have to so much as pay higher taxes while you suffer in this way, much less have to share your burden through a draft or rationing.
I’m sorry that I haven’t been strong enough in voicing my opinion, as a citizen that you protect, to assure you are not abused or taken advantage of.

Monday, October 03, 2011


My relationship with Fear has never been casual; a brush in a hallway or a brief and superficial encounter in the midst of my comings and goings.  No, Fear knows my every thought, my every habit, my every weakness.  Long, now, I have been intimate with Fear.
As a child, Fear would visit my room in the depths of the night, unbidden and unwelcome.  Fear lay heavy upon me, crushing my breath, pinning my limbs, shattering my thoughts.
Fear has rode with me as I traveled, squeezing my chest between its mighty arms, making my head spin and my thoughts abandon me.
Fear has sat with me, alone in my home, its whispered lies seducing me, as I lay down before it and try only to remain conscious, crying out to God that, if Death would come, let it be now.
Though I try do disbelieve it, Fear is persistent, insistent, incessant, relentless.  At length, my defenses made weak, its lies win the day, and I believe.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

El-Erian: U.S. Outlook Darkens

El-Erian: U.S. Outlook Darkens

This guy's pretty sharp.  I always try to listen when he's talking.  He paints a picture that I'm not happy to hear.
People, both foreign and domestic, are in cash because of uncertainties and valuations that were artificially inflated by QE2 and don't reflect the realities.

Additionally, we are in a debt overhang that has the following characteristics:

1 - Unusually sluggish growth on advanced economies, partiularly those that rely on financial services industry
2 - persistently high unemployment that eventually becomes structural and embedded in the system
3 - Regulatory response that raises uncertainties.
4 - Recurrent balance sheet issues.  Formerly clean balance sheets will become troublesome.

Possible solutions to debt-overhang for a government are:
1 - Impose austerity.
2 - restructure debt
3 - inflate their way out of the problem
4 - impose financial repression (tell creditors to go jump in a lake)

UK opted for austerity.  US is using financial repression.  Greece did almost all of the above.

An unusual convergence between emerging and developed markets.  The wealth gap will narrow as they get richer and we get poorer.

Europe lurching from crisis to crisis.  It has structural problems and problems with execution.  Needs to be broken up or truly consolidated.  They're in a 'tweener.

We need a sputnik moment in the US.  There is currently no credible approach for removing structural impediments.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Find the CD Key. Wow. That was easy.

How-To: Find Windows XP Product Key from the Windows XP CD:
1) Insert Windows XP cd into a working computer.
2) Exit the Autorun introduction.
3) Open “My Computer”
4) Right Click on the Windows XP cd-rom drive and select explore.
5) Open the USWXP32P_ZX folder. (It may be as a hidden folder. If you cannot locate the folder, you may also search for unattend.txt and mark “Search Hidden Files”.)
6) Open the sysprep folder.
7) Open unattend.txt
Your CD’s product key is contained within the unattend.txt file.

UBCD4WIN bootable windows xp recovery

Wonderful system recovery application.
Contains bootable windows xp cd, as well as a plethora of anti-virus and anti-spyware tools.
Absolutely amazing :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's happening in the world today ...

So, here's what I think is going on in the world: The Euro is being killed given the problems in Greece, which are severe.  This is driving the dollar up, which is driving commodities and securities down.  Added to some weaker than expected economic data, we've had a correction that started on 5/2 and has taken roughly 8% off the S&P 500.  It's been a long, slow, choppy downward slide. I've not seen any sort of capitulation selling yet, so I believe we go farther, with the catalyst for reversal perhaps being the meeting in a few weeks where Europe finally does what it should do.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Timothy Geithner on Jobs, Debt, Taxes, Bailouts, and More (3)

On long-term debt reduction and RyanCareThe balance between revenues and savings is so important. The House Republican budget illustrates what you have to do if you are unwilling to touch revenues. If your objective is to leave in place these exceptionally low tax rates for the most fortunate Americans, then you are going to have to dismantle the basic commitments to our seniors, to the poor and to the elderly.
It's just not realistic, it's not going to happen, it's not possible. Balance is important not just for fairness, but for the credibility of the plan.
If people up there try to solve this by assuming away the problem, by using growth assumptions that create the illusion that we are going to solve it, by assuming there will be political courage in the future, that kind of magical thinking -- then the markets will say it's not real.

Timothy Geithner on Jobs, Debt, Taxes, Bailouts, and More (2)

Will "dark forces" undermine financial reform?
It's very clear they're trying to starve the agencies of funding so they can't enforce protections for investors, and they are trying to block appointments as a way to get leverage over the outcome, and they are trying to slow down, so that they can weaken over time, those reforms.
They won't have success ultimately.

Timothy Geithner on Jobs, Debt, Taxes, Bailouts, and More

This kinda cracked me up.  One or two of you might get a chuckle as well. 
Tim Geithner on threats not to raise the debt ceiling (from Motley Fool):
"I mean, really think about it: As a negotiating strategy, you are going to go say, "If you don't do things my way I'm going to force the United States to default?" It's not a credible negotiating strategy."
On Treaury's Plan B
"Our plan is for Congress to pass the debt limit. Our fallback plan is for Congress to pass the debt limit. Our fallback to the fallback plan is for Congress to pass the debt limit."

Friday, May 06, 2011


Oh, man.  I'm gettin' that urge.  The tension between the good of the many and the good of the one is high.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.
Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Iowans are, as it turns out, idiots

I'm an Iowan. But, I gotta tell ya', this doesn't bode well for us. 

Missouri is the "show me" state.  Iowas is the "show me.  show me again.  show me something different.  I don't believe you because it's not what I want to hear" state.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New perspective on flying

Some perspective:
On 9/11, 4 flights were hijacked. 246 people died in aircraft that day.

According to my calculations, in any given hour in the US, 225,250 are in the air.
I arrived at this by taking flights/day in the US, and then multiplying that by an average occupancy of 106.

So, even if you were IN THE AIR at the time of the 9/11 attacks, your chances of dying were
246 in 225,250
or .001
or 1 tenth of 1 percent.

I know this is precious little comfort for those who loved the ones who died, but it does put our airport and flight safety neurosis into perspective, IMO.

Call me crazy, but I'd rather go through a normal metal detector, sit in a big, comfy seat, and take those chances. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Scripting out existing database mail configuration

SQL Server Central Artical on Scripting out Existing database mail configuration I wanted to save this here so I can easily find it. Sorry ...