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Stuff white people like

Stuff white people like

Wow oh wow do I love this book:

If you want to know what living in Portland is a lot like, read this book.  Becuase if it doesn’t accurately describe half the people I know in Portland – I’ll quit.  It’s pretty much a stinging satire of all things that Portland loves – but probably true for most major metropolitan centers.  I’ve personally seen almost every one of these things on the list occur.  It started as a website, but now is in book form.  I picked one up for cheap at Powell’s today (another place/thing white people like!).

Here are some of my favorites:
#2 – Religions that their parents don’t belong too
#15 – Yoga
#16 – Gifted Children – favorite quote of the book:

Because if a white kid gets crappy grades and can’t seem to ever do anything right in school, they are still gifted! How you ask? They are just TOO smart for school. They are too creative, too advanced to care about the trivial minutiae of the day to day operations of school.
Eventually they will show their creativity in their elaborate constructions of bongs and intimate knowledge different kinds of mushrooms and hash.

#18 – Raising awareness – My favorite
#19 – Traveling Abroad – this one is so spot on in the book they have an actual form letter that a traveler can send to their friends that sounds almost exactly like letters I get from friends traveling abroad.  Even the order they write it in is the same.  Freaky
#27 – Marathons
#32 – Vegetarianism
#40 – Apple Products
#53 – Dogs
#61 – Bicycles
#75 – Threatening to move to Canada
#80 – The idea of Soccer
#82 – Hating corporations
#94 – Socialized Medical Care

Or, just read them all.

I think I might start a Portland version of this very thing – since the bicycle situation in Portland isn’t quite the same as his version.  In fact, in the book, he mentions Portland specifically several times…

The Police

The Police

Got to go to The Police reuinion tour concert last Friday.  That was awesome.  Had planned to go with some friends – but that all feel apart at the last minute.  Fortunately we didn’t buy tickets, so I popped online to get one off trusty craigslist.  Which I lined one up, but when I got to the gate, couldn’t find the guy.  By then, I could hear The Police were getting introduced (I came late to skip the opener).  What?  A concert actually starting on time?  That’s wierd.  Anyway, I found a guy that was kind of desperate looking and sold me a 10th row seat right in front of Sting for $80.  We ran in just in time for the second song.  Amazing seats.  I later found out those tickets were $400.  Even though it was sold out, none of the tickets on craigslist were selling at even face value – seems it wasn’t quite as popular as some folks thought.  Anyway, we ran right up front and I was close enough to the stage I could have walked about 10 steps up and jumped up myself.  Never been that close to stage at a big concert like this – and on top of that it was Sting who was right in front of me:

(I stole this from the Oregonian, but the photographer was literally taking shots right in front of me. The guitar looked old enough to be one of the originals he used.  Along with the police badge on the guitar strap – nice touch.  More photos the photographer took here)

It was a great concert, but not very long.  The guys only played about an one hour thirty minutes, and put on a good show – even if it felt a bit mechanical at times.  They started on time, but ‘finished’ almost exactly an hour in.  The first and second oncore took it another 30 minutes.  It felt really short because of that.  It was obviously still almost a completely Sting-lead show.  They methodically played all their classics: Walking on the Moon, Don’t Stand so Close to Me, Every Breath you Take, etc.  They were really close to the original versions and they churned one after the other with little embelishments and modifications.  Even after all these years, he’s still got an amazing voice; but you could tell a few things had changed with time.  One – he’s porting a beard now – which is odd.  The whole band was greying and age was certainly creeping into the wrinkles.  Sting was drinking from a coffee cup the whole time (yep, I was close enough to tell – but not if it was really coffee).  They were kind of no-nonsense.  Do the tunes, play and sing well, and then be done.  Sting made a big point to keep pointing out the band members – which was a nice show of comradery.

I definitely got the sense of a much older, wiser and more collegial atmosphere.  Gone were heady 20-something angsty in-fighting of their earlier years.  You could tell they were doing this for each other.  Overall, great experience and I’m super-happy I went.  Even happier that I scored 10th row tickets for $80.

Who I’d vote for

Who I’d vote for

I’m going to show some libertarian roots here – even though I’m not a libertarian by profession/nature.

While I haven’t found a candidate I’m happy with in this latest presidential election, I have been looking to hear some of the right things come out of the mouths of these babes.  But unlike our founding fathers who were brilliantly educated in philosophy and politics, our current generation of politicians make me sad.  Mostly because our founding forefathers had actual jobs, were inventors, ran businesses, etc – while our current crop of ‘career politicians’ don’t seem to have much in the way of practical sense or classical understandings of what was really meant by words like ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ (hint: it’s not the ‘right’ to do anything you want – think more towards the good and nobility of all).

But anyway, I am giving the supreme court and Federal judge Thomas F. Hogan a huge hurrah.  First, they indicated that the government’s detainees do have habius corpus rights (they do have a right to a trial and in general – have a right not to be locked up indefinitely without recourse – something I think is mentioned in one of those pesky Bill of Rights articles).  Then, yesterday, the judge said that the government had had long enough to present the cases against the detainees – and their statement that they ‘needed more time to prepare their case’ fell on the rightfully deaf ears of the judge who pointed out some of them had been being detained for 6 years now.  Exactly how much more time could one need?  But we’re understaffed they said, and the judge said basically – tough.  Drop all your other cases – these come first.

List of what I’d like to see our next president do:

  1. Investigate the Bush administrations destruction of the liberties of the citizenry – and figure out exactly how much damage he did with all these wartime acts.
  2. Repeal the blanket pardons Bush has been handing out to those doing the detention/’interrogations’ of prisoners, telecom wiretapping, and God only knows what else they did while running rough-shod over the constitution.  Politicians on both sides of the isle as of late have had an all too comfortable ability of pardoning and shoveling things under the rug.  This is one thing that wrong things that crosses the aisle – since neither side wants the other to hold them accountable to the people – because one never knows when they’ll need their back scratched when they mess up.
  3. Prosecute or release our ‘war prisoners’ in Guatanamo and other hidden locations- come *completely* clean to the world about what we did, and make a public commitment to the world that such desecration of life and liberty will not be stood for again.  Enact the stiffest legislation or a new amendment to this course curtailing the president/congress/military authority in this realm.  The world has long looked to us for our neutrality and good treatment of prisoners – work earned in the last 50 years during WWII has now been nearly destroyed in one presidency.  Oh yes, we stand and fight for liberty and freedom – unless we don’t like you – in which case we’ll hold you forever without charging you or giving you redress.  A right granted since the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.  Yep – that’s the land of the free I know and love.
  4. I’m willing to get back my freedoms and risk a little terrorism.  There WILL be other terrorists attacks in the future – but I doubt seriously that the department of homeland beauracracy will stop most of them with the shoe removing and mostly-for-show activities they currently use.  And boy are we pouring money into those sorts of worthless things.
    I know why they are doing it – because people are running around scared and crying “Oh why doesn’t our government save us!”  “They should have known better”.  The reality is that life is not safe – never was – never will be.  I’m willing to take the risk a bit more and not go running around pointing fingers when the inevitable does happen to get some of my freedoms back: and the dignity to keep my shoes and belt on when going through an airport, and the joy of meeting and being met at the gate by those I’m flying to see.

“Those that are willing to trade their liberty for security deserve neither”
-Ben Franklin

Dreamworks + Intel

Dreamworks + Intel

Dreamworks switches over to using all Intel for it’s render farms:

I had been holding my tongue for some time about this since one of the cool side benefits was this deal was won by our division.  As a bonus prize, we had gotten to see Wall-e in a rented out theater about 2 weeks before everyone else did – even before they screened it in Hollywood.  It was a really nice perk.

In Japan – your waist owns YOU!

In Japan – your waist owns YOU!

Wow – can you imagine what various civil liberties groups would have a field day with this here in the states?  After all, it couldn’t possibly be your fault or the results of your decisions that you’re overweight…

Japan measures your waist at work

If you fail, your company receives a healthy fine until you get back to the right size.  My favorite quote:

Those exceeding government limits – 33 1/2 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women and suffering from a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.”

“Re-education” sounds pretty awesome to me. Wonder how that works…

I gotta say – today it was a good day…

I gotta say – today it was a good day…

So many updates!

  1. Brutal hours lately – been pulling a good number of 12-18 hour days lately – ugh.  Thank goodness they’ve come to a close.  Great stuff at work – argh – I can’t tell anyone about it.  But I needed a break so…
  2. I went horseback riding on the 4th – ahhh – analog systems rock – especially when they are horses.  Analog controls, force feedback, rumble seat.  Went on a ride on Cannon Beach and it was exactly what I needed.  Got to ride a big beautiful Belgum named Waffle. 🙂
  3. New round of graphics cards that are an actual improvement – nVidia drops the 200 series – which are what I expected the 9xxx series to be – an actual performance improvement over the 8xxx series.  And they do deliever the goods – nearly 2x performance.  Sadly, though, they are a hefty $600 price tag.  However, ATI comes along with their 3800/4800 series at 1/2 (or less) the price – and almost exactly the same performance(!) .  Benchmarks show the $300 ATI 4870 as faster than the nVidia 260 for $600.   nVidia was surely surprised by this – and is now likely going to have to eat some crow and drop prices after having promised it’s fabs a nice profit.  Rumored as early as today.  The profit earnings correction and chipset problems gave nVidia stock a huge one-day 26% spanking on Thursday and a 60% year-to-date drop – OUCH.  The chipset problem was a manufacturing problem, but it must sting to see your stock options go in the tank.  I should I know – I owned some of Intel back in the day. 🙂
    But I picked up a 4850HD this weekend to play with and I found it to be really nice and smooth.  Very rock-solid performance/framerates and no software hickups – even in Vista64.   Not sure if it’s a keeper yet.   But at $200, I could get 2 of these in crossfire mode before I could get a 260. Would love to get one of the 4870’s, but vowed never to do a dual-slot ATI solution again after my x800.   The performance is great -but those fans are just horrifically loud.
  4. Hand-held cel-phones while driving banned in California and Washington – THANK GOD.  This has been WAY too long in coming.  There has never been a legitimate reason to allow this behavior.  Just pull the heck over and talk – is it that hard?  Mythbusters showed driving and talking is as bad as driving legally drunk.  Folks that call me and I can tell they are driving get told to call me back when they’re not driving.  Last thing I want to hear is your death on the other line in a pile of twisted metal.  Com’on socialist republic of Oregon – you can follow suit – ban texting too.  No, just in general – ban it.  I’m tired of spending time with friends/coworkers/people I just met who are constantly fiddling around in their phones – its rude and tells the other person you don’t care about them/you’d would rather be doing something else.
  5. Pending Mt St. Helens climb?  We canceled an earlier climb, but looks like enough snow has melted that we might be able to go.  Plan is to climb up and snowboard down.  Nice!  Now to get back into a little better climbing shape.
Goodbye little Nissan

Goodbye little Nissan

Guy came and bought my car last night.  Goodbye little Nissan Altima.  In the end, here are some of the stats:

Years owned: 10.2 (15 total years old)
Mileage I put on it:  138,000 miles (197000 total miles)
# tanks of gas: 424 (approx)
# gallons of gas: 5520
Cost of that gas ($2 avg): $11,040
Price of vehicle/years owned: $945/year
Cost of driving/owning per year (vehicle+gas cost): $2049/year
Insurance+repairs would have been about:  $1200/year

Cost of driving per year = $3249

So when your teen comes wanting a car, put this figure in front of him/her and see if they want to put that kind of money down per year.

Ramsey observations over time

Ramsey observations over time

Dave Ramsey does a radio show where people who are having financial issues call in for advice and help. His attitude is that everybody should be successful with their money – no matter what they make – and that you are ultimately the decisionmaker and responsible when it comes to your situation.  He’s also a big fan of not living beyond your means and paying off huge debt instead of filing bankruptcy. His personal experience with having filed bankruptcy several times showed him that until you change the behavior (i.e. living within your means and paying off debt) you will just continue the cycle of going bankrupt every few years and ruining your life/marriage/etc .

My personal reason to listen to the show: I really like listening to the amazing and varied things people have gotten themselves into, or have happened to them in financial matters.

A few of my own observations from the show:

1. You are only one debilitating accident/illness away from bankruptcy/complete ruin. This is shocking but amazing and consistent. This was pointed out by this guy (12 things I learned by 42 that I wish I knew at 22) as well as numerous people that call into the show. But it came home for me when a very successful $200k+/year software engineer called in and after a car accident – and in just over 1 year from the accident had lost all his contracts, lost his home, and was likely going to file bankrupcy over nearly a $100k+ in medical bills.  His injuries caused him 6 mo of recovery in which he lost all his contracts (and got sued by a few of them he couldn’t meet) and now could now barely work 4-6 hours a day due to his disabilities.  He was only in his late 30’s. That shocked me – if that guy got clobbered by one accident – so could anybody.

Probably one of the most common call-ins I have heard is ‘We were doing ok, then my wife/husband had X medical thing happen’. X being: back injury, cancer, car accident, accident on job, some kind of illness that sporadically popped up made keeping a regular/shift job that requires 9-5 5 days a week difficult. You absolutely must have health insurance and long-term disability – or you’re playing with so much fire you can’t even begin to imagine. One major illness can get you to $100k in medical bills in no time. This goes for car insurance too.

But it also showed me how many mid-income families run with minimal or no coverage – and one bad thing comes along and it completely ruins them. It does tell me something needs to be done in this department, but exactly what has been debated for years now. I’m not a fan of completely socialized medical coverage, but there are far too many people falling into these black holes and there is little or no way out.  If you declare bankruptcy, you’ll just keep running up more debt if the condition is a long-term debilitating condition.

2. People get ripped off by partners in business more than I imagined. Seems like there are lots of call-in stories of folks that start getting shafted by friends/family/partners in business. Things start off cordially enough – even when both parties want things to work. But people don’t adequately set up financial accounts, expectations, and protections early in the business dealings – then get left holding big bags of debt the other partner’s decisions left on them. Common ones:

  • Partner gets divorced and partners share of business becomes part of settlement – crippling your companies financing/day to day operations.
  • Business goes bad and now you’re about to lose your own home/car/etc because you didn’t isolate exposure.
  • Partner starts stealing from company and when they get arrested (or you can’t turn them in without having all your clients sue you too) – you get left holding the debt they ran up living the high life or going to jail/being sued with them.
  • Business idea just didn’t fly and the other guy and you get into huge lawsuits over the debt/assets
  • You see the business permanently going south and want to close up shop to cut loses – but the partner doesn’t and now you can’t get out of the mounting debt that can’t be paid off or stopped while the partner continues the downward trend.
Google – are you losing it?

Google – are you losing it?

I use Google to search for everything. But you know what? In the last year, I’ve had to go to Yahoo search to find things that Google doesn’t seem to be able to find. A few interviews reveals that Google tweaks its engine regularly (450 times in 2007 alone), but I was looking up some author bios and papers for work, and Google stubbornly refused to find anything useful on them. Yet Yahoo search popped up what I was looking for right in the first ten hits. On top of that, I’ve noticed Google maps (my favorite) has also been somewhat glitchier and slower lately – especially when searching for local businesses (looking up ‘Chinese’ or ‘bike shop’ or the like). I still have Google as my default search, but things feel a little less solid than before.

Anyone else notice this?

Dave Ramsey quotes/ideals

Dave Ramsey quotes/ideals

I’m a big fan of this guy. Not so big a fan of his mutual fund approach (that’s after all where he makes his money), or his absolute no credit card rule (but I know why he makes it) but his advice to those getting started in their financial affairs is solid. I listen to his nightly radio show when I can. Here’s a few of his core tennats or opinions I really like:

1. There is NO reason for you not to retire rich in this country – no matter what you make now. You have a responsibility to be saving for your retirement and future medical needs. This can be done by people making $35k/year – but it requires you budget, take responsibility for yourself, and not live outside your means (which few people do). Our country provides miriads of ways to save money tax free (401k’s, Roth IRA’s, etc) that many other countries do not – and people retire there too. You’re now going to ask that they pay for you after retirement when you piddled away what you should have been saving? You are not owed a comfortable retirement by anyone. It’s your responsibility to plan for and live within your means.

2. Never buy a house in which you are paying more than 45% of your take-home pay on a 15-year mortgage. Yep – you’ll be living in 1/2 the house other folks are buying, but you’ll have it paid off in the time it’ll take them to finish their car payments. And then you can upgrade. The 45% rule keeps you having a real life and covers needing new roofs and other maintenence.

3. Home ownership in the current climate likely costs more than renting. When housing prices aren’t rising faster than inflation, pound for pound, if your living modestly you can get by renting for cheaper (because of home ownership costs of repair, taxes, etc). Long-term, however, it’s better to get into a house as an investment – but wait until conditions favor you.

4. If you’re waiting for the government to fix your life – you’ll be waiting a LONG time. Seriously, you’re actually expecting the government to fix your life? I mean really. These guys can’t even get their own lives in order. Additionally, if you buy into this, you’re buying into socialism – and you should look long and hard how governments/countries as large as ours that adopted the philosophy turned out. Socialism CAN work on smaller scales by dedicated individuals (I know, I lived at a monastery for 4 years). Idealistically, it should work on a country scale – but in reality people aren’t ideal and don’t always think of the other’s good as equal to their own. In fact, it required a lot of effort and constant vigilance even at the monastery. It starts getting really rocky the larger it gets.

5. Who’s in the White House has very little to do with your personal situation. Your attitude has far more influence over the state of your life/finances than any government official or whether a democrat or republican is in office. If you’re in trouble, odds are very good the problem lies largely with your decisions. Examine those first. Do your homework and learn about what you need to be doing. Failing to plan is a plan for failure.

6. You don’t have a right to other people’s money. You have a responsibility to yourself and making sure you are on track. If you can’t make a living doing what you’re doing – then it’s telling you that you’re not offering a service or value to your community that anyone wants. Demanding that others support you is selfish and destructive to a working society; because you are providing (or not providing) something of no value to the world. Regardless of what you think you’re doing. If everyone did that, then society would be in grave danger of collapse as critical services might not get done.

7. Never buy a new car – unless you pay cash and all your other goals are met. New cars are a luxury that depreciates faster than you can say ‘fiduciary irresponsibility’. But maybe once in your life, if it fits easily in your long-term plans, you may want to splurge and go for it. A reward for a life well lived. Other than that, buy a used one. Never lease (he calls them ‘fleece’ cars)

8. It has been shown that conservative people donate more of their time, money, blood, etc than moderates or liberals– Living in Portland, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a non-profit organization. And talking to some of the folks living from working at them is enlightening. Does anyone actually stop and ask the question where the hundreds of thousands of dollars these things take to run each year come from? Hint: it’s not the government for most of them. It’s large funds set up by Carnige, Gates foundation, and donations by folks who can give 100’s of thousands of dollars. Yet, some of my friends that work at them are constantly decrying Gates and his ilk.

Prof Aurthur Brooks, himself a registered Democrat, released his results on the most extensive analysis of public data on giving patterns of liberals, moderates and conservatives. The results? Even to his surprise (he says he himself hated writing what he wrote), he found conservatives give more money, donate more time, give more blood, and in short, out-give their liberal counterparts by wide margins. He also documents that because of this, conservatives reap extra health benefits from the secondary effects of feeling wellbeing. All this is backed up by extensive peer-reviewed data. Read the articles for more info – they’re based on public databases you can get yourself.