Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Maybe someone can explain this bailout to me ...

* Why do we need to bail out some people to the tune of $700 B-B-BILLION?

* Whom shall we be bailing out?

* What happens if we don't?

* Will someone bail me out?

Guess what:

* We are not bailing out the Government. The Government will not go bankrupt.

* We are not bailing out the poor people on welfare. The Government pays them.

* We are not bailing out people with savings accounts. They are insured by the FDIC to the tune of some $100,000 per person per bank. If they are keeping more than that kind of money in a bank uninsured at typically stupidly low interest rates then they are not very smart and deserve to lose it. (Yes, Social Darwinist, deal with it.)

* We are not bailing out those of us who choose to park our savings in real estate and durable goods. These shall not lose their value. They are real and durable. Duhhh...

* We are not bailing out the cash economy. You know, like Newport, RI, where all transactions are in cash and nobody reports any income.

So who is left? Shareholders, stock brokers, corporate magnates, money people, that's who.

Which is where all this problem started: People trying to be cute, knowingly at the expense of others, with rampant disregard for their fiduciary responsibilities to others:


This citation recommends reestablishing a standard for value that is independent of the "unbridled greed and recklessness" of men. A standard such as gold or a bimetallic (gold and silver) that would provide such a buffer. The point is, that if you back your value with reality (gold, silver, real estate, durable goods) then you are insured against the stupidity and greed of market manipulators.

* So, why should I bail them out? Guess what: high risk investment is just that: possibly high gain, but possibly high loss. This time they got caught out and should pay the price.


Here is some basic math; all it takes is simple division:

+ Let's see: I have some $300K left on the house mortgage and another say $50K on various personal property items. $350K in round numbers, which happens to divide nicely into 700,000,000,000.

+ 700,000,000,000 divided by 350,000 gives 2,000,000. TWO MILLION people like me.

* So who is going to bail me out? Why not bail out ME?! Isn't it better for society at large to bail out TWO MILLION honest, hardworking, and responsible people than a much smaller number of predatory and irresponsible people?

How much smaller a number? The census bureau points to some 3,512,000 people working as financial specialists:


Not all of them are irresponsible, of course, but if two-thirds of them are then we are back to this magic 2 MILLION number. So it starts looking like $700 billion is going to bail out 2 million financial workers with lifestyles like mine.

But hang on, these dudes are NOT like me. They make a whole bunch more than I do. Looking at the same table I find that there are 492 thousand financial workers making over $100 grand. Wow!

So let's get real:

Let's be generous. Let's round this up to 500 thousand such people in the financial sector making over $100K a year. Divide that into $700 billion.

* That gives $1.4 million to each one of these dudes!!! Tax Free!!!

Yikes! Better than the lottery.

Will anyone give ME $1.4 mil, tax free (or otherwise)??

Of course not...

Oh, and by the way, they may already have parked their fortunes elsewhere. The following article cites $3.4 TRILLION (that is $3,400,000,000,000 - man, look at all those zeros!) as residing overseas, or just under $7 MILLION for each of those 350,000 money people making over $100K:


Think about it.

Of course, I know my conclusions are guesses. As someone said, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

But they give you a sense of the magnitude and scope of the problem:

* The proposed bailout will benefit a relatively small number of people who do not deserve to benefit

* The proposed bailout will not benefit the vast majority of us who are not at blame for, nor at risk from, the situation.

* The economy and those of us not at blame shall survive, as evidenced by today's quick market rebound.

* If anything is to be done it is to return the money system to a reality based standard, such as the gold standard or a bimetallic standard to preclude this sort of damage from predators and speculators (one and the same...)

So, the immediate and correct answer is NO. To any of these schemes, but especially to the bailout.

Ye reap what ye sow.

Deal with it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Doers and Losers

As noted by the previous post sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the events of stupidity, laziness, and ignorance that surround me, resulting in a huge storm in my mind.

The following article is an affirmation that it is not only I that suffers in this manner:


I am having my own travails with Pantaenius UK and Fedex.

The former, when presented with an invoice for some 5000 euros has allowed only 2000 euros and refuses to forward this up the chain to higher authority. So I have to take my precious and billable time to try to track down an address for higher management, someone with common sense, to resolve it.

The latter quoted me (over the phone of course, but "conversations are recorded for purposes of quality control" so we can get to them if necessary) some 470 USD to ship a 50 lb bike to the Netherlands, but then charged me some 2400 USD.

How the heck it can cost 2400 USD to ship a 50 pound bike worth no more than 2400 USD is beyond me.

Stupid people.

These shall be resolved, if only by extracting a pound of flesh.

The point is, how can people behave in such stupid ways? They must know that they are misbehaving, behaving in an irrational manner. But they have such a storm in their minds that they simply cannot behave correctly.

We have to fight this. Every time you walk away it makes it easier for them to blow you off. Every time that you push back you make them just that little bit less likely to behave in that manner again. Just hoping that someone will read your blog and do something is not enough.

So you just really must push back.

So I am calling, writing, and using my excellent lawyers to threaten and cajole these people into behaving correctly. Fortunately I have the means to do so, and hopefully my doing so will result in others not having to do so.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The storm in our minds

I was amazed, impressed, and saddened by today's article in the Wall Street Journal that gives an extract of David Foster Wallace's work.

Who the heck is David Foster Wallace? I never heard of the guy before. But it seems he was brilliant and prolific.

And suicidal.

He was found to have hanged himself last Friday:

I was saddened by his death. I have known several folks who took their own lives, my mother, Mike Boorda, and now this person. That is incomprehensible to me, but these people obviously were miserable beyond comprehension.

I am so sorry for their misery, but equally sorry for our loss of their presence.

But it is what it is.

OK, now that we are past all that, let me tell you why this person was so special.

The cited article


describes exactly what is going on in each of our minds, and what we can do about it.

Just one excerpt that I am sure the WSJ will allow me, especially since I am flogging their excellent article:

By way of example, let's say it's an average day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging job, and you work hard for nine or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired, and you're stressed out, and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for a couple of hours and then hit the rack early because you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home -- you haven't had time to shop this week, because of your challenging job -- and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the workday, and the traffic's very bad, so getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping, and the store's hideously, fluorescently lit, and infused with soul-killing Muzak or corporate pop, and it's pretty much the last place you want to be, but you can't just get in and quickly out: You have to wander all over the huge, overlit store's crowded aisles to find the stuff you want, and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts, and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacey people and the ADHD kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by, and eventually, finally, you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough checkout lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day-rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating, but you can't take your fury out on the frantic lady working the register.

Anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and pay for your food, and wait to get your check or card authenticated by a machine, and then get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death, and then you have to take your creepy flimsy plastic bags of groceries in your cart through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and try to load the bags in your car in such a way that everything doesn't fall out of the bags and roll around in the trunk on the way home, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive rush-hour traffic, etcetera, etcetera.

David was able to describe in detail the storm that rages in each of our minds every single day, every single moment. He also pointed to, but obviously did not attain, the solution.

This section is so much like the Gilbert and Sullivan monologue about Crossing the Channel from Harwich, a brilliant description of a nightmare (do th following in all one line):
http://verb-ops.blogspot.com/ 2006/01/blog-post_113764713618167128.html

I'm an engineer and like having things be orthogonal: separate, independent, identically distributed.

Life unfortunately is not so.

I see each person as a tiramisu: layers upon layers of different stuff.

Consider your life as a set of layers:

+ A layer for your spouse, your health, your kids, your job, your dreams, your accomplishments

Then consider each layer to have a slider bar from 0-10 (or 0-100 if you think you can be more precise) and grade each of these layers on that scale, sliding the slider to the proper position.

These shall all arrive at different positions, unless you are extraordinarily extraordinary.

Your "Happiness Index" shall be the aggregate you choose (mean, median, mode) of the layers. In this case a simple mean (average) is Good Enough.

On this system, I am pretty well off, but still some layers have very low scores.

I wonder about David.

His article is so very much like my own thoughts while going home on a Friday night with a zillion other harried drivers. I saw three bloody, yes bloody with blood flowing down the street, accidents on the other side of the road, driving home from Logan to Newport. I had already read David's article, and spent a lot of the time thinking about the poor souls who suffered these events, their families, their children, the dads or moms who could never come home again.

So I drove much more carefully, for a while.

So what is the message?

We are all in our own personal envelopes of trials and tribulations. We all have our sliders on the various layers at various settings. Some of the settings are at the extreme ends of the scale, either high or low. When those occur we are distracted from what may be vital issues, like paying attention to the road.

So we need to do two things: 1) temper our own behavior to recognize the distractions and provide for them, like by paying attention to the road, and 2) to recognize the existence of distractions in others and accommodate their distractions.

I also think that we have the right to 3) point out to others, kindly but pointedly, when their behavior indicates that they are distracted and their distraction is affecting us.

So it was a bitter sweet day, and I am so very sorry for David and his family and the victims and their families of the scenes I observed.

And I identify with David's observations, but have no intent whatsoever of doing away with myself over them.

What a loss. What a loss when anyone dies, but especially when it is someone so brilliant who could have done so much for us all. And very especially, when that person could not recognize his own worth in a manner to prevent him from doing away with himself.

That is the bitter. What is the sweet?

That we can recognize the difference. We can change this by changing our own behavior.

David recognized this but could not follow through.

Bitter sweet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

There really is hope for the airlines

I have despaired of the future for U.S. airlines. They have seemed to be in an uninterruptible downward spiral. But today's experiences seems to reverse this trend.

I have several theories on the cause of this effect. The first is the greediness of CEOs and management. I am well acquainted with their abilities to suck the life out of golden eggs.

But mathematics suggest something else is afoot.

At first you want to blame fuel, unions, and the employees.

But a recent experience shows me that some of this emerges as a consequence of the
airline being embedded in the airport culture. The airports of course hire the lowest capable people who are enmired in a very negative frame of mind.

So perhaps, the airline people, who are a bit of a cut above, are being dragged down by their environment.


Today's experience started to put flight to these miserable thoughts: In short, I was amazed at, and delighted by, the cheerful professionalism and attention rendered by a host of people in the transportation industry, including Logan International Airport in Boston, U.S. Airways, and the Sheraton Crystal City in Arlington, VA:
+ I was amazed at how efficient Logan is for parking and checking in for the USAIR Shuttle at Terminal B. They seem to be picking up on the Dutch (AMS) system of having smaller distributed security checks for individual airlines - the Dutch have a mini security for each *gate*. Makes life MUCH easier.

+ I was amazed at how courteous, cheerful, and attentive the USAIR desk people were. A huge change from previous experience, indicating a huge change in leadership. They have been, in my experience, the most offensive, surly, and dismissive crew I'd seen. This is a HUGE change.

+ I was prepared to snarl at their nickel and diming fees (ok, $5-15 fees), but the apparently sincere courtesy defused that. Yes, I know they just want my money, but they did a good job of pretending they were actually pleased to have us there.

+ I was pleased to be able to get a Caesar salad that was not all stalks, pepper, and dried out chicken. The Terminal B Creative Host actually had minimal stalks and still moist chicken and a glass of Cabernet. Good. (Although the only beers they had were Bud, Bud Light and something else Light. Yuk.)

+ I was amazed to see that the boarding agent actually was enforcing the "take your turn, board by row" rules and actually turning away queue jumpers. I thanked her for this when it came to be my turn.

+ I was amazed to see the flight not packed elbow to armpit. There was actually an empty seat between me and the lady next to the window.

+ I do continue to be amazed at the size of a large number of passengers and their luggage. I had a short discussion of this with the flight attendant. She sighed and said, yes I know, you must be the millionth person to mention this to me... If the fuel is so dear then I think my weight and size footprint (half the size of others) deserves a break. But I digress.

+ I was really amazed to find that despite the dire reports of nickel-dime fees, beer and wine are *free* on the shuttle. I don't know if that was just this flight attendant thumbing her nose at management, but it is what it is. A free glass of wine.

+ I was delighted to find that the hotel has a free door-to-door shuttle from door #9 (luggage rack #9) and a very cheerful and helpful driver who offered maps and all kinds of tips. Including where to go best for dinner (23rd street, a couple of blocks south from the hotel). Am I really in DC? Not Amsterdam????

+ I was amused to find that the lady answering the hotel phone had a curious accent that I identified as being Nederlandse. And indeed she is. :-)

+ 23rd Street is indeed a diner's nirvana. Easily a couple of dozen outside sitting Italian (mostly but also:), Thai, Korean, Japanese, sports bar, and others.

I met one of my colleagues and had a lovely dinner at
Cucina Vivace
509 23rd St S
Arlington, VA 22202

+ My other colleague, who will not arrive until about an hour from now will be disappointed to find that he is at the Sheraton National, in the boondocks of Pentagon City, not Crystal City. These are two quite separate Sheratons in this area. So I am glad my agent did not book me there. My colleague will need a shuttle just to get to the Metro.

So I think for future flights we should always investigate the BOS connection, not only PVD.
So all in all, a good day. There is hope for the U.S. Airlines.