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Posts Labeled with ‘news’

Isn’t anyone ever happy?

Al and Tipper Gore are splitting after 40 years of marriage.

I’m sure that there are things we don’t know. Maybe they were miserable for a long time, maybe their marriage was just a well-orchestrated farce. I don’t want to spend time focusing on them specifically, per se. I’m just noticing the pattern of baby-boomers who bail out on long-term marriages late in life.

Does anyone think that they are going to find another great love in their mid 60′s? Perhaps. But lonliness is rampant in the world today. To me, ending a long marriage late in life tempts fate.

Can being single really be attractive to anyone at 62? (Trust me, no matter what your age is, the dating scene isn’t pretty.) The dating scene can be a ridiculous mating dance that challenges the confidence of even the most grounded of humans. In my mind, a main benefit of part of a long-term relationship the fact that you have shared your life. You have someone who knows where you’ve been. Ego melts away after all those years of cohabitation; and that can be a good thing if you celebrate and embrace that aspect of life.

Also… divorce is the single biggest destroyer of wealth of all time (Bear Stearns not withstanding!) I recognize that the Gore’s can afford to divorce, but it seems to me that the wealth they’ve accumulated could have helped the progeny of their family for many future generations. To whittle away at the fortune by forcing a partial liquidation of the estate now, rather than letting the interest compound over time seems massively self-centered to me. The Old European royalty had this one correct. They used to officially remain married (no matter what private agreements they came to) just to keep the estate in tact.  (New Royalty didn’t take that approach, and you can see what  Sara, Dutchess of York has been reduced to in her attempts to pay for the lifestyle associated with her position.) Seeing the money troubles of the modern British monarchs makes the concept of marriage ’till-death-do-you-part-the-estate’ seem quite practical to me!

I understand the need to officially divorce if you’re going to go off and start a new family.  Don’t want the kids to be bastards after all.  But late in life?  What’s the point?  Why not, especially late in life, just come to an agreement that doesn’t include the need to officially separate and divorce? That’s such a formal decision that leaves very little room for further moves (whether practical or emotional.) For example: suppose one of them has a heart attack? A divorced person probably wouldn’t go to the bedside of the ex, and even if they did, the ex wouldn’t legally be allowed to make medical decisions on their behalf.  Just when medical decisions become important, you’re cutting out an important emergency contact.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, I am dismayed that human happiness is so elusive to modern humans.  After reading books like Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, I am glad that we’re finally taking a more scientific approach to understanding how to create and sustain happiness (beyond pharmaceuticals!) I am still on my personal journey to foster more and more sustained happiness in my own life, but I don’t want to sound too Eat, Pray, Love about it.  Happiness is, to some extent, a personal journey and a personal decision, but love can not be experienced as a singularity.  I think love is more of a narrative of interaction between yourself and other humans as you create your shared future.

I hope the Gore’s can create happiness as they go through their relationship transformation. We all need a little love.


Bombing the moon

We’re bombing the moon. It’s really quite absurd if you think about it. So sci-fi!


What the heck is going on in Del Mar?

8 horses dead so far this racing year! That’s just horrible! Is this bad luck in a dangerous sport or is the new track surface a killer?

I’m not a huge supporter of animal sports (horse racing, dog racing, show jumping, bullfighting, etc.) and this sort of bad string of events just makes me wince. I hope that they can get this figured out.


Debt Slaves and the Return of Lay Away

Do you ever feel like there is a vast conspiracy to make everyone a debt slave? Credit is not inherently good or evil. It’s just that good-hearted, overly optimistic people can really can get into trouble when the world knocks them on their keister. Think about it: everyone who uses the credit system is making a bet that things will be as good or better in our future.

When I was a young adult, I took out roughly $100K in grad school loans. I was making a bet that, after receiving that silver-plated education, I’d make enough money to pay back the debt plus interest & make enough to live. It worked for me, but what if it hadn’t? That’s a lot of debt! It was a BIG gamble, and it wouldn’t have panned out if a few things in life had cut in the other direction.

When we buy homes, we take out loans based on our already-accrued downpayment and a multiple of our annual salary. We’re making a bet that we’ll maintain or increase our earning potential. And, if not, that we’ll be able to sell the house for the value of the loan. See all those realtor lockboxes? Let’s just say that this gamble hasn’t worked out for a lot of people.

When we buy a car on credit, we take out a loan making the bet that we will be able to make the monthly payments, in addition to the cost of ownership (gas, insurance, repairs over the life of the car). And, if not, that we’ll be able to sell the car for the value of the loan.

You’ve heard of this new Cash for Clunkers program, right? The top selling new car is the Ford Focus. Edmunds says list = $16K. Minus $4500 for the clunker trade-in. That means roughly $11.5K of debt at 6.38% (national average) interest rate for 48 months = $243/month. Soooooo… you’re telling me that poor people in this economy can suddenly swing a $243/month payment & keep it up for 2 years? Hmmmm…. I’m having some difficulty believing that this program really benefits poor people. I think maybe it IS a good thing for some folks, but perhaps some of these gamblers are making a bad bet. This economic “recovery” is incredibly tenuous. I’m still hearing about new layoffs and job losses. Maybe this isn’t the time to be doubling down & betting on a rosy future!?!

Contrast this way of being in the world with: saving up and the concept of lay away. When you save up for something, you don’t have to pay service fees or interest. Put it in a cookie jar and enjoy the total cost savings associated with delayed gratification. Lay Away often has a small fee associated with the service (at Kmart the layaway fee is $5) you pay scheduled payments and get the item at the end. If things change and you can’t or don’t want to pay, all you are stuck with is a $10 loss. I actually think that the return of Lay Away is really, really good for society.

Isn’t that a lot more SANE? What if we set up programs that funded bank accounts and promised funds if people achieve the targeted saving amount? If you really want to help poor people, that seems like a better way to do it. This other way just helps car companies, credit companies, banks, and all the people who make money off of bankruptcy filings.

Really, I’m not an ideologue. I’m not a partisan. I’m not reciting the Fox News anti-C4CProgram talking points. I want to help poor people. I want to stimulate the economy. I also want to stimulate savings. Can’t we all just think a little differently about how to do it?


A Recent Clinton Admin PII Breach Affects Me!

I received notice that “The National Archives Records Administration (NARA) learned in late March 2009 that an external hard drive containing a copy of Clinton Administration Executive Office of the President data is missing from a NARA processing room… The hard drive includes files that contain personally identifying information (PII.)” Specifically, this hard drive includes HR information… and I used to work at the White House… so my information was compromised.

The brochure also says what NARA is doing about the situation:

  • “NARA’s Office of Inspector General, with the assistance of the US Secret Service, has launched a full-scale criminal investigation into this incident. NARA is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of the missing hard drive.
  • NARA informed the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team of the Department of Homeland Security, the White House Counsel’s Office, staff of our House and Senate Oversight Committees, and a representative of former President Clinton.
  • NARA is sending notification letters to affected individuals and offering free credit monitoring services to help protect individuals from identity theft.
  • NARA is revising its internal policies and procedures to ensure maximum protection of electronic and textual records containing PII. NARA is also implementing stringent physical and technical safeguards in place to protect protect personal information and prevent this type of incident from occurring in the future. Other initiatives include annual and refresher training for our employees and contractors to ensure they are familiar with privacy rules, regulations and standard operating procedures aimed at reducing the risk of breaches of PII.”

This is all pretty interesting stuff for me. My thoughts:

  1. I currently specialize in IT Compliance, which includes designing, implementing, and testing controls for protecting PII. I now have a new anecdote for sales meetings!
  2. I am annoyed that it took so long to inform me. Four months?!?! There’s time for some serious Identity damage in that amount of time!
  3. I am not particularly concerned, since I took Identity Theft protection measures after my computer was stolen… so much of the work is done… I’ll take up NARA on the extra protections, but it is duplicative at this point.

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Nobody’s worthless, they can always serve as a bad example

Obama makes a plea to men to be better fathers than their own.


Holocaust Museum Shooter

For those of you who don’t know, I used to work at the Holocaust Museum in DC (USHMM). To preemptively answer the inevitable next question: no, I am not Jewish. My first MA was in European History with an emphasis on Holocaust history.

In order to work at the Holocaust Museum, I had to become inured to death, depravity, and radicalism. To do so, I accepted it at a very academic level: it was not personal, or present-tense. But then again… I didn’t have to address it in any personal way. I am not a member of a despised minority group. Furthermore, I specialized in history, not modern politics. I suspect that there are others like me who are currently working at the museum. And the shooting surely changed their world-view. Regardless, I truly feel empathy for everyone who works at the museum, because their work just got a lot tougher, a lot more personal, a lot less historical.

P.S.: Did anyone else notice that James von Brunn wrote screeds about blacks and Jews; then proceeded to kill one black man in a Jewish museum? Shockingly lucid action for a crazy man.

P.P.S: And another thing… why is it that all of these guys look so obviously nutty? I mean… if you put von Brunn’s photo in front of me, I’d immediately classify him as either a racist or a child molester. Probably both. I am very hesitant to suggest that you really can judge a book by its cover… but you have to admit that you’d probably grab your kid if this guy offered a piece of candy.


Bears in Long Skirts

If the sociological correlation is accurate, we should start seeing longer hemlines now that we’re in a recession.


And to offset the long skirts, the designers will be featuring short hair with spit curls (think flapper-girl hair) and/or tightly-pulled hairstyles.

Well, the haute couture runway shows just happened within the past couple of weeks. And guess what? It’s happening! Expect even more next season (remember… designers have to start their collections several months in advance of a runway show, so there is a delay.) Here are a few links:


Breast Cancer Awareness

I went to a breast cancer fundraiser last night at a local bar. It had a funny title: Blackout for Boobies.

Did you know:

  • There’s a girl scout badge for Breast Cancer: In the Pink
  • The patron saint of breast cancer is Saint Agatha… who was tortured by having to undergo breast amputation after rejecting a suitor in favor of her faith. (Yes, Catholicism is definitely weird at times.)
  • Frequent migrane sufferers aren’t highly correlated breast cancer victims. Reuters link


Another Solar System, much like our own

Recently, scientists have discovered a solar system that is much like our own.

“It looks like this may have formed in a similar way to our Solar System. And if this is the case, it looks like [our] Solar System cannot be unique in the Universe. There should be other similar systems out there which could host terrestrial planets.”

Perhaps they’ll make the trekkies happy and adopt the Star Trek classification system. Are there any Class M planets in that solar system?

Oh gosh, 2 Trek references in the past 3 blogs. I am such a geek sometimes — please excuse the pocket protector!


The Biggest Educational Reform in 700 Years

According to The Economist:
Europe is, in theory at least, now just three years away from one of the biggest overhauls of higher education in its history. By 2010 the Bologna Process is scheduled to sweep away idiosyncratic national systems and replace them with a standard Anglo-Saxon progression of Bachelor’s degree-Master’s degree-PhD.

This represents a major paradigm shift in education. It’s completely unprecedented too, since the European model hasn’t changed much since the middle ages.


First Babyboomers Apply for Social Security

The first baby boomer has officially filed her paperwork for Social Security. This event signifies the beginning of the end. A whole generation of naval-gazing baby boomers who thought they were entitled, are going to find out that the entitlement programs aren’t worth the paper they were written on.

Old Age Sucks

We are about to see a lot of people scramble to live the best life that they possibly can on a smaller amount of income than they have ever lived on before. They didn’t save, neither did they raise their kids with a sense of responsibility to take care of them in old age.

The government realistically can’t help very much. Politicians and institutions will break their promises (by drastically cutting benefits), and they will raise taxes (which will eventually harm the economy) and even if doesn’t break the economy, there’s no way of ‘growing’ our way out of this one.

Don’t believe me? Read: “America’s Fiscal Future: A Call for Citizen Involvement” by David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the USA. It is a wake up call. A quote: “We aren’t going to close our fiscal gap through strong economic growth, massive spending cuts, or huge tax increases. The gap is simply too great, and the math and politics don’t work.”

Atlas Shrugged Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

If Mr. Walker is right, Atlas Shrugged might very well occur. The producers within society, weary from the taxation and constant nagging of the entitlement junkies, will cast off their burden and move to another country. It is already happening… with some well heeled folks already getting dual citizenships to places like Australia and Costa Rica.

I wonder if there will be a massive move toward changing the value system along-side the exodus to John-Galt-land. Maybe some sort of shuffling of American values such that individualism is downplayed and communal living (resource pooling) is thought more highly of. This would make people’s lives better even though they are poor. And the baby boomers can harken back to their flower-child, hippie, utopian roots.

Bull's Eye Investing: Targeting Real Returns in a Smoke and Mirrors Market Bull’s Eye Investing: Targeting Real Returns in a Smoke and Mirrors Market by John Mauldin

MAS leans more toward the efficiency theory cited in John Mauldin (Bulls Eye Investing, page 137. There is a knowledge gap combined with a population gap (there are simply fewer Gen X-ers and those GenX-ers don’t have the wisdom of years of business knowledge.) If the Boomers just take some anti-depressants and trudge to work a few more years, then go home to 200 stations of cable TV, then everything will work out. As for the inevitable inefficiencies along the way? Well, they can be exploited by enterprising Gen X-ers like us.

So which will it be, Bulls Eye Investing or Atlas Shrugged?


7 Point Pledge

Unfortunately, it is a little difficult to **find** the 7 points of the anti-global warming 7 Point Pledge on the Live website. Harrumph! I’ve excerpted from this MSNBC article and reprinted them here.

The Seven Point Pledge related to Global Climate Change

  • Demand that my country join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth.
  • Take personal action to help solve the climate crises by reducing my own C02 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become “carbon neutral”.
  • Fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the C02.
  • Work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation.
  • Fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal.
  • Plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests.
  • Buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crises and building a sustainable, just and prosperous world for the 21st century.


Recognizing a Smart Child

Lots of parents think that their kid is gifted. By definition most kids can’t be above average. That said, it is great when parents find something to promote and praise within their child’s development of identity.

Here’s one documented case of a very very smart two year old.

Recently, I was around another smart kid: Dillon (Kelli and Chris’s progeny.) His IQ probably hasn’t been measured yet, but my assessment of this kid is that he’s well above average. I don’t know if he’s Mensa material yet, but he’s probably in the running.


Great Turtle Race = Great Idea

The Great Turtle Race is a fantastic idea for many reasons, including the following:

  • It speaks to the non-scientist person’s human concern for the world. Conservation is presented as something that can be helped by an incremental contribution.
  • It elicits a feeling of membership as we gather in groups to root for one turtle or another. A sense of ownership and/or membership is a powerful component of a conversation for action.
  • It is an affirmation of life; these female turtles just laid eggs, after all. This positive message underscores the threat of extinction at the same time that it focuses on the goal of life.
  • It utilizes the human predilection for competition, rather than bemoaning it. When you stop to think about it, the turtles aren’t racing each other. The human narrative, however is one of competition, therefore we’re calling it a race. Understanding the human situation and working within it is a wise move on the part of people who desire to change the course of huge populations of humans who are affecting ever smaller populations of leatherback turtles.

I applaud the race organizers, especially TOPP Tagging of Pacific Predators. It looks like they led the charge and essentially came up with the idea. Brilliant strategic marketing!



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