I started this weblog 5+ years ago as a successor to my original pro-John Edwards blog. (At one point I owned some pretty good John Edwards presidential domain names, but have let them lapse). The idea was to harness the progressive maelstrom that was building, that the forces of change were accumulating, that incremental change was not the path forward. We needed to define The Next America. Then create it.
Needless to say, I've wandered off track in this weblog. Right now my most popular posting is exercise bike repair tips. Fortunately, America has surpassed my expectations in the meantime.
It's hard to pin a desire for radical change on a 52/48 vote. Then again the map shows more of a mandate.
Obama ran a campaign like no other -- one that used the web, embraced youth, embraced those outside the political inside track, mobilized people. While he did all the conventional campaign things right too. Every week I was getting emails trying to get me to help -- go to New Hampshire, make some calls, send cash. In the early days, they were phone calls (Rhode Island was of more interest in the primary than the general). I couldn't help, other than sending cash -- a new baby and a overwhelming job combined for that.
The most important part of the Presidency isn't the man in the White House. They're a cheerleader, a decision maker of last resort, an inspirer. It's the 500 senior executives that they appoint to run the federal government. That was the difference between Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush -- both were hands off visionaries, but Reagan had a team of gifted leaders that could accomodate and support his management style. If I had to pick one person to be king, I would have picked John McCain. But I was picking one person to be team captain for our national schoolyard, to pick the 500 kids on our kickball team who are going to have to lead America through some overwhelming challenges. This week there is so much energy, so much hope, so many people who have spent years at work hoping for a spot on the kickball team, so many people who spent years just to give a new team captain a chance. The current kickball team wasn't cutting it and neither would a mere reshuffle of the same old players under a new captain.
This is our shot at the Next America. This is the time for a new generation of leaders in Washington -- the mid-level leaders from Clinton II are at their prime -- not hardened and wizened as they will be in 8 or 12 years. There won't be this passion, this acceptance of change in America as a whole. Not for another generation. This is 1980. This is 1964. This is 1932. This is 1904. This is 1792.
In 4 years or 8 years, we'll be back to incremental change. We may be derailed by bad luck or forces beyond our control. But we've backed a visionary longshot before and he won this week. Why can't his kickball team win the big game if we put the same amount of energy, passion, and ideas behind it? Yes we can.
If you're going to rip people off, you should at least have the courtesy to disappear.
Edited: Brian Jones, CEO of Adventure Training Concepts, may be having some tough financial times which caused him to default on a prosper loan. But he's man enough to face things immediately when confronted. I've changed my opinion to legitimate default and genuinely wish him the best of luck going forward.
Prosper was/is a great idea, but turned out to be unbelievably poorly executed. Their idea of due diligence on borrowers was completely pathetic. They are plagued with massive fraud and unpaid loans. And an occasional loan that appeared low-risk, yet cratered after 4 months. The loan defaulted and eventually sold for about 8 cents on the dollar. Definitely something to consider if you're thinking about doing business.
Considering the other loan I have which is about to default, I'm break even on prosper (15-20 loans). Pretty interesting lessons learned for the opportunity cost of parking $1K for two years. There's a great community at prospers.org. The company has proven itself both incompetent and completely unable to regain the confidence of lenders, almost all of whom have been burnt badly (even senior prosper employees).
The best part is the information is public with open APIs. So there's lots of third party sites that help you look at your portfolio or that can calculate just how ripped off most lenders have been over the last 3 years.
I feel really bad for many lenders who are in for 100K+ and are taking huge losses. I learned a lot for my minimal investment -- just hope I get the rest of my money back at this point.
The story is yet to be posted....but I needed two side windows replaced on my car today (based in Bristol, RI).
Bristol Glass came through for me. $290, same day service (though I needed to go 20 miles to Attleboro and spend a couple hours at a dunkin donuts with dysfunctional wifi). They are a full service glass shop and I'll probably be sending over some glass shelves for a piece of furniture to be cut soon. As a bonus, they did an outstanding job cleaning the broken glass which I considered out of scope for the quote.
Diamond Triumph Glass was $485, next day at their facility in Cranston. Very difficult to explain which windows to the likely foreign-based phone agent. I was surprised since they had replaced a windshield last year for $175, the lowest price of several quotes, and did a great job.
JN Phillips was $550, two days later in my driveway.
Two others didn't answer the phone quickly enough.
Since my deductible was $500....my problem. Auto glass is something you can shop pretty hard and pretty quickly. Most normal mechanics can't do it anywhere as cheaply and quickly as specialists.
For holiday vacation this year, I went to Bermuda and stayed at Horizons, as I have done every year since 1996 (except 1999 when deployed to the Middle East).
Horizons closed this week permanently, slated for redevelopment with a neighboring property, the Coral Beach Club. Redevelopment is long overdue. The rumor is that it will become a Four Seasons (the rumor status appears to come from Four Seasons policy to ensure standards are met prior to agreeing to use the FS name).
What I won't miss: the tennis courts amazing state of disrepair, the erratic lunch service, opaque billing, unresponsive management (they even ran out of tennis balls).
What I will miss: the loyal, amazing, and long-serving staff, an outstanding multi-course dinner from a unique menu every night, the community of people who visited every year at the same time, clotted cream at afternoon tea, the ability to play par 3 golf on a walk-on basis starting and ending on any vacant hole, the cottage format with public spaces and balconies and breakfast served in cottage (we miss you Blanche).
I grew up going somewhere different every year and every vacation. Except the beach, because we got a really good deal from my aunt. But only because of the deal. We went all sorts of places, but nowhere twice. Every hotel, every attraction was always new. I'd sit in the backseat reading the AAA guide. Some detours (Canyon de Chelly) were amazing, some less than that. My father could never understand why someone would go on vacation every year to the same place for almost 25 years. Why not try Jamaica? or the Bahamas? or....
I now understand. For all the faults and flaws of Horizon's management, they were always outweighed by a community of people. To have true friends at the bar that you look forward to seeing again the first night of every trip. If you can successfully incorporate community into a business model, it will carry a business over many hurdles.
How to leverage the modern toolset to bolt community on existing or planned destinations? Not clear. Though the opportunity appears massive.
I received my honorable discharge from the Navy Reserves last week, making me a full civilian for the first time since 1992.
Too much uncertainty on recalls. Too much bureaucracy and paperwork rather than productive work (even after being made good, not being paid for 4 months annoys). Great people at every level. They need to change the catastrophic consequences of not being selected for O5 (=not able to retire which is effectively half of your reserve pay). Forcing senior officers to travel long distances for billets (and thus spend their paycheck on plane fare) does little to motivate junior officers. Once my chances at O5 began to diminish due to leaves of absence and IRR there was little incentive to try to regain the path.
It is clear that fundamental changes to the Navy Reserves are overdue. The nation is not getting its moneys worth.
Centralized, public job assignment is a good start. ZBR helped focus on key missions. The next key step is either automating musters, berthing, medical, orders, etc. in a reliable, authoritative system or having units drill together on the weekend. The administrative burden of trying to align drills with customers who work during the week and Reserve systems which assume that units are regularly assembled on weekends is incredibly frustrating.
The people are great and committed. They deserve a Reserve system that is worthy of their service and sacrifice.
My first thought is that the system worked.
The system where hedge funds and certain other things (like toxic waste CDOs) are limited to high net-worth individuals and institutions. For all the market problems, normal investors haven't been affected (unlike people who need mortgages).
It is unbelievable that hedge funds (and European banks) put their futures on things they couldn't really measure or understand. This should put the nail into much of the quant model. Instead of minting money, they're actually collecting insurance, collecting pennies on an annuity basis until every couple years the market collects dollars.
While the jumbo mortgage market has melted down, the normal people mortgage market appears to be going strong.
I do feel sad about the people who were counting on refinancing their ARM and now have that option closed. I am pretty surprised they didn't understand the terms of the loans and the risks they were taking up front.
I did. 4 years ago I was a perfect buyer for a 5 year ARM. My reset will be financially painful but survivable. I made a conscious financial decision which turned out to be a loss. Given the same situation (without knowing the future) I would make the same decision. Plenty of real estate investors took a financial risk and lost big. Hopefully they (like me) had this as part of a diversified financial portfolio.
I'm leaning towards mandatory financial education. Especially for people who can't come up with a "normal" down payment. A no down payment ARM really should be limited to knowledgable investors. Or at least someone who has had to go through an hour or two of basic finance and potential scenarios.
The biggest surprise is that savvy investors haven't jumped into the jumbo resale market. Or subprime/Alt-A with reasonable (20%+) downpayments. If there was a way to participate as an individual investor, I'd be all over it. This should be a down payment crisis, not a general availability crisis.
And for people who have relationships with credit unions or small banks (that hold mortgages and know local areas) the window is still open. The whole brokerage system of national lenders is great until it falls apart.
My new Media PC is great. Except it skips on recordings. Watching recorded programs in stop-motion animation is pretty bad.
The main reason appears to be processor power. With up to 4 simultaneous recordings (2 HD, 2 standard) this isn't completely unreasonable. The problem is that power maxes out at 50% because much of Windows/Media Center/Tuner drivers appear to only use one core. Which is definitely not something I thought of when purchasing my processor. I'm actually considering getting a cheap one-core processor to see if I get better performance.
During research though, I found the E4300 to be eminently overclockable. Even in my less than ideal Shuttle PC I got 10% easy already with more yet to come. Hopefully that will be enough to solve my problem until Microsoft/Hauppauge catch up.
How come there aren't any utilities to help analyze recorded files (post or during recording) for problems like this? Sounds like a moneymaker.
A year or two ago, mail carriers started refusing packages without a pickup slip (they initial it and put it in your mailbox as a receipt). Easy enough to crank out in 2-3 minutes onine. Why? My carrier said because of theft (my response was I doubted anyone was going to risk their job and pension over a $20 amazon return).
With the latest increase in postal rates, carrier pickup is only allowed for priority or express mail packages. So media or parcel returns you're out of luck. My carrier picked the last package up anyway. Good luck stuffing these into the big blue mailboxes.
One reason I ship almost everything UPS is that if I need a pickup I don't pay -- I just order something using Amazon prime (a $10 book or CD I was probably going to get soon anyway) and they pick up in two days.
Time and gas are too valuable to be running around on routine packages.
If you're considering it, don't. Or at least know there's a 50/50 chance of returning it. Pretty compact house -- dismal signal one room away. Ended up hardwiring CAT5 -- which is what I should have done all along. Second house in a row that I broke down in the end (though actually G with a newer laptop with integrated antenna would have solved the problem in house #1). The open-source Linksys replacement firmwares really help with signal with the ability to max out power.
Its somewhat amazing that I have three things under my TV with ethernet (PS2, Tivo, Media PC).