Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Absolutely brilliant business idea

Ok, people buy a bunch of crap they don’t need, don’t want, and won’t use.  They buy this crap all the time and it sits in a closet, or garage, or storage unit for years on end.  Soloflexes, “Beans”, doggie sweaters, pots and pans, and all kinds of other crap just sits there and collects dust.  Americans spend $50 billion on pet products that pets don’t give a crap about.  They spend billions on health equipment that they don’t use.  Just gobs of money floating around being pissed away.

Here’s the pitch:


Build a website where they can plug in the product they want and the dollar amount they saw it advertised for.  You knock off 5% for coming through your site rather than the manufacturer.

They send the money, and you tell them—up front—that you’re not going to send them the product.  Tell them that instead of actually getting the worthless piece of crap that they’re not going to use, you’re going to simply take their money and send most of it to a charitable organization.  Imagine what the $50 billion a year would do for an African health care organization.  Or cancer research.  Or AIDS research.  Instead of pissing money away on useless crap they don’t need, don’t want, and won’t use, they can pay for it as if they were really getting it, but that money would go to a more useful cause.  You tell them up front so there’s no trickery involved.  They click the “accept” button on the terms of sale.  They’re doing a good thing for the wrong reason.  You’re doing the wrong thing, but for a good reason, and then paying for the wrong thing with a good thing for a good reason.  Everybody wins.


Month is up

1 month.

10 lbs.


Not bad.  Not good enough, but not bad.  It’ll do for a cruise.


Now to get those passports…


Something troubling

Iraq is not Vietnam in the 60s.


It’s Afghanistan in the 80s.


It’s the place where militants go to “train”.  The build a few bombs, set them off, then go home with the knowledge of how to build bombs.


It took the UNABOMer 5 years to figure out how to make bombs effectively with the right combo of weight and potency.  These guys get to do what Ted did over 5 years in 6 months’ time.


And if they track down and kill a couple of these guys, it’s cool.  They have 4 or 6 in a class and the rest get away and go home to blow stuff up on their own. 


That’s troublesome.


Even without overthrowing the Iraqi government and setting up whatever stupid idea they claim they want to do, they accomplish the goal of disrupting normal commerce.  I know Ted Kaczinski is a nutter, but if you read his manifesto you can get a glimpse into what these terrorists are trying to do.  They’re trying to DISRUPT things now to such an extent that things collapse and a new order takes the place. 


The problem is that they don’t understand how large the disruption has to be.


No matter, though.  The fact that they can blow up a market is evidence that they can do what they hope to do, all they need is more recruits.  And recruits they get.


And these recruits train, and go home, and disrupt.


Lather, rinse, repeat.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

He set me straight

I said a few days back that Al Gore was beginning to sound like a leader, not just a politician.


Well, he set me straight.  He’s dismissed outright an independent run at the White House.  Turns out he really is beholden to the party and not willing to stand up and lead.


Whew.  I was beginning to worry that he might earn my vote.


Finally, Cindy's message is being delivered

For all the hijacking of Cindy Sheehan’s message during the previous election cycles, finally, and at long last, her message—the real message, not merely the anti-Bush/anti-republican message the dems and media wanted to present—is being delivered.

What she found, she wrote, was a movement “that often puts personal egos above peace and human life.”

But she said the most devastating conclusion she had reached “was that Casey did indeed die for nothing ... killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think.”

“Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives,” she wrote. “It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.”

Well said, and almost very true.  When war is propagated to further party goals, then the reason to go to war has gotten off track.  When war is protested to further party goals, then the reason to stop the war has gotten off track.  In this case, my enemy’s enemy is not my ally. 

No, my enemy’s enemy is also my enemy.

Just as war at all costs is corrupt, so to is peace at all costs.

Good luck, Cindy.  While I share your cynicism for the direction of the nation at large, I still hold hope that each individual isn’t as vacuous as our national identity suggests. 

America may be off course, but there is still hope for Americans.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Pride Houston

My lovely female wife (or at least someone with a name very close to hers) and I, her lovely male husband, received a letter from “Pride Houston”, the organization the sponsors the annual gay parade here in town.

We were given the opportunity to be a “Friend, with benefits!”


For those of you who don’t know, a “friend with benefits” is someone you have no particular amorous feelings for, but have sex with occasionally.  You know, a friend with benefits.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that… I was a college student once, too.


But at the not-for-profit organization I worked at (and at several LEGIT non-profits I have friends at) they would be appalled at the notion of sending out a direct mailer that included a double entendre of becoming a casual sex partner.

I know the invitation wasn’t to be a casual sex partner, but I also know what the double entendre means, and I’m 100% certain the fine folks who sent this out do as well.


Something I though I'd never find myself actually considering...

First, no, I haven’t paid off my house.  I was just reminding myself why I’m focusing on that first, THEN an investment portfolio.

Second, and even more disturbing…


Al Gore is beginning to sound like a (gasp) leader.  When the hell did that happen?  And where’s my coat, I have a feeling hell’s freezing over.

And just to be clear, when I say “leader” I don’t mean democratic or republican leader.  No, that’s a politician.  He sounds like a guy who has seriously dumped politics and has decided to simply be a leader.

I never though I’d even be thinking such crazy thoughts.



Wednesday, May 16, 2007

That stupid caveman

So, how bad does your show have to be for it to be replaced by a 30 minute commercial for Geico every week?

Seriously, Mr. George Lopez, you have brought shame to yourself, your family, your entire village… you should at this point consider changing your name.  If ever there was a person who was completely safe from identity theft, you’d be that guy.  In fact, identity theft might be your best course of career resuscitation—just be sure to steal someone’s identity who has a brighter future than your own.


On the up side, ABC has replaced a show that I don’t watch with a show that I won’t watch.  So it’s a win/win situation.


Breakfast has changed to 1 egg plus 2 pieces of toast and a glass of OJ.


Lunch and dinner are still wild cards.

The Gym is paying off.  I feel absolutely great the day after a workout.  1 hour in the gym and you’re a new man.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Drinking coffee, and I don't care

It was a good weekend.  I mostly behaved myself by way of grubbing down.

Dinner Friday was chicken and rice.

Breakfast Saturday was … uh, I can’t really remember.  Maybe poptarts.

Lunch was Whataburger.  Yea, I know.  Bad me.

Dinner was some horrid chicken thing at the Movie Tavern in Spring.  Awful servers.  Awful food.  Awful everything.  The one in Deerbrook is much, much, much better.

The movie was weak, too.  Don’t pay full price for Spiderman if you can avoid it.


Breakfast Sunday was eggs, ham, and waffles.  Yum.  Yummiddyum.

Lunch was … nothing.  I think we skipped lunch.


Then we ate at Joe’s Crab Shack.  Every goddam thing there is fried.  Even the tablecloth.  What the hell is up with that?

Fish and broiled shrimp.  I asked for a substitution.  And a beer.


This morning I’m drinking coffee and I just don’t give a crap.


Tonight I’ll go to the gym again.  Tomorrow I might run.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Fun with math

Lets say you have a $200,000 home that’s paid in full.

Should you take out a loan on the home and invest the money in the stock market?


Common sense says “Yea!  Sure!  With interest rates so low, why not?!?”

Math doesn’t agree.


Let’s go with a 15 year time line and the cheapest possible loan—an interest only loan where you only pay interest and at the end of the 15 years you liquidate your investment and pay off the loan.  At the end you should be ahead anyway and you can take the profits and live fat and large.


Ok, so the interest only loan is going to be 5%, your home is going to appreciate in value 2% a year, or 10% every 5 years, and the investment will give an average 8% a year—roughly what the market does over time.


You cash out the loan into $185,000, or almost 93% of your home, because you want to have a little for home improvement or something.  You then take the $185,000 and invest it all, less 10% commission, into something that is a sure fire 8% return (something that doesn’t exist, but I’ll humor you for awhile).


The carrying cost for the financing is $770.83.  The monthly appreciation of your home is $333.33 and your assets appreciate at a rate of $1110 a month.  It’s a net worth increase of $672.5 a month.  You’re getting richer each month by sitting on your ass.


At the end of 15 years your balance sheet will look like this:

Loan:  -$185,000

Home value: $269,173.67

Investment:  $550,602.43


There will also have been a cash outlay of $138,750.0 to cover the interest of the loan, which is part of this calculation as well.  Plus, there’s a “hidden” item that I’ll discuss later.

The net result over 15 years is a net worth of $496,026.09  Not bad considering the alternative would have simply been a house worth $269,173.67.


But there’s another alternative.


If you can afford $770.83 in carrying costs for the loan, why not forgo the loan and simply plow that money into an investment account for 15 years?

The resulting stream of payments and earnings on the payments would have been $266,737.80.  About 48% of the future value of the $166,500 investment made from the financing option.  However, there are 3 big differences.

1 is that you don’t have to pay off that big loan that’s been looming over your head for the last 15 years.  Another is that you didn’t have negative cash flow going to some finance company.

The net result is that your home and asset totals $498,931.59.  All of which is yours.  Compared to the $496,026.09 net value from the financed option.


But wait, I mentioned 3 big differences and only described 2.


The third is the “hidden” item mentioned earlier.  That $770.38 you sent to the finance company to carry your loan was a straight expense in the financed option.  Those lost payments would have generated $127,987.80 had they been invested (the difference from the future value of the series of payments in the unfinanced model).  So the $496,026.09 that the financed option yielded doesn’t show the $127,987.80 in opportunity costs that don’t get added into that model that are captured in the cash model.


So it turns out that mortgaging your home to invest in the market really doesn’t get you ahead—which is what you’re doing if you choose to invest in the market rather than pay off your home.


The difference is even greater if the returns on the investments are flat—0% for 15 years, which never, ever, ever would happen—and the resultant net worth at the end of the game is $111,923.67 versus $370,943.79.

To actually end up ahead of the game using financing, you’d have to invest to earn 11% over the course of 15 years—an unprecedented return on investments in the history of the market.  Not that it can’t be done, just that you shouldn’t normally plan for abnormal returns.


Much better to pay off your house (as quickly as possible) and continue to invest that house payment into something that brings returns free and clear of any liability.


Another day

Lunch yesterday:  3 bean burritos and a medium Dr. Pepper.

Dinner:  Lemon pepper chicken, green beans, taters, with water.

Desert:  Li’l Debbie swiss rolls.


Didn’t hit the gym on account of 1. laziness and 2. rain.  Yes, I know the gym has a roof, but that’s why 1. was part of the reasoning.


Breakfast:  Cinnamon swirl coffee cake (reduced fat from Starbux) and a venti mocha latte.


Lunch:  Probably a sandwich… not sure yet.


Still haven’t visited the scale in the AM, though.  Maybe tomorrow.


Tonight should be a gym night, but we also should recycle more.  One of those will happen first.



Thursday, May 10, 2007

Day 4 and going strong

Last night, shrimp primavera, with salad.


Also a frappachino from the bottle (mocha, yum).


I didn’t check in with the scale this morning.


This morning, 2 brown sugar pop tarts, no frosting of course, with a glass of OJ.


No coffee, thank you, only tea without sugar.


Lunch will be another sandwich and it’s looking pretty good that I’ll be heading out for a run this weekend.


Of course, it’s looking equally good that I’ll let the baby wake me up at 8 and we’ll sit on the living room floor watching him play until noon.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Ham, turkey, pepperoni sammich with provolone, cheddar, and mustard.


Fritos on the side, water chaser.


My tomatoes will be ripe pretty soon, so I’ll be able to add some organics to lunches soon enough.


No snacks.

Had another tall cup of tea, though.  I’ll probably have a Cliff bar when I get home to tide me over to a late dinner—which will likely be left over chicken parmesan.


My arms are killing me

Last night:  Tomato soup and grilled cheese sammiches.  Yum.


Water and milk to drink (separately, not combined.)  A quick 6 minute run at a brisk pace.  Don’t know the distance.


This morning:  Croissant, eggs, bacon, cheese, no butter.  Potatoes.




My arms are killing me.


Lunch:  TBD.


Dinner:  TBD.


I have a long night, so I may eat some garbage for lunch that’ll get me through to around 8:30 or 9:00.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Lunch = ham and pepperoni and cheddar hoagie with mustard.  Side of Fritos corn chips.  Yum.  Washed it down with water.


I so want coffee so freakin’ bad.  I have grapes in the ‘fridge, though.  I may be able to hold off the urge for coffee, but this drowsiness in the mid-afternoon is killing me.  AND I’VE GOT TO READ 3 TRUST CONTRACTS AND PROOF THEM FOR ERRORS AND SUCH!!!


Dear god, kill me now.


Anyway, I’m going to run when I get home.  Just a couple of miles, but at a brisk pace.  No walking.  I’ll work my way back up to 30 solid minutes, and then maybe make a surprise appearance at one of those weekenders up in the Woodlands.


Check this out


Yea, a running link.  Who’d have thunk it, from me of all people.


Anyway, last night was a gym night, and I actually made it there.  Bally’s and 24 Hour Fitness have some serious hotty bo botty talent on the floors, but dollar for dollar I’ll take the Y any day.

And the workout equipment is pretty good, too.


Had some water and a Cliff bar.

Dinner was chicken, pasta, and green beans (fresh, not canned).  Water to drink.

Desert was a little cake and ice cream.  That’s the last of both, so no more of that for awhile.


Sleep at 10:30, woke up at 1:30 for the monkey, then back down for a restless few more hours to 6:00am.


Morning weight:  217.5.  1lb down from yesterday, but not yet a trend (I actually started the eating part early last week, even if I wasn’t admitting it yet).
Breakfast was 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter (salmonella free).  Gots to have my protein, you know.


This morning I have tea rather than coffee.  Earl Grey, to be exact.  I can drink tea with nothing in it, unlike coffee that I enjoy loading with sugar and crème or hot cocoa.  Yum.

I’m going to download and print out some calisthenics programs for my off days.  I won’t be able to make the gym every day, nor should I be able to make the gym every day.


Monday, May 07, 2007


Popcorn.  Yum.



Deli sandwich.  Hoagie, turkey, pepperoni, mustard, provolone cheese.  Bag of fritos.  Cup o’ water.

Nothing exciting.  I opted not to drink a soda nor eat garbage for a snack.  I may have a swiss roll when I get home, or some grapes.  Not sure which, yet.


20 in 30

Crash diet.  Yup.

20 lbs in 30 days.  It’s not all diet, there’s gym time as well.  But it’s going to have to get done.  Period.


To that end, the next 30 days (27, actually) will feature a daily diary of what I ate, what I did, and where I stand.


This morning:  218 lbs.


Breakfast:  2 non-frosted brown sugar poptarts with a tall glass of OJ.

I’m about to drink a cup of coffee—16oz—with cocoa in it for the yummy chocolatey flavor.  This will soon give way to tea, I believe.


Lunch:  TBD

Dinner:  TBD, probably chicken.  This is generally the healthiest meal of my day.


Gymwork:  weights, upper body mostly, and some treadmill work, probably.


By the end of the week I hope to transition into a much, much healthier breakfast.


June 1 is the finish line.