Friday, November 4, 2011

Stimulating the economy with campaigning

Picking thought the mail today, I counted at least 5 pieces of nice laminated political mailings.  With the election date next week, I'm sure there will be calls and more mailings over the weekend.  Between this season and my experience within a campaign, I'm starting to wonder if maybe campaigning can stimulate the economy.

Looking at a piece of literature, it may not be apparent, but there is a lot of work that goes behind it.  Someone has to determine the verbiage, formatting and design of the piece.  Pictures have to be taken (maybe not specifically for this piece, but at some point).  Someone has to put it all together in a way that the printer can make the mailer.  That's a lot of work and time behind all that.  Of course, the glossiness of the mailer, the size, and the number of components all influence the cost of the mailer.  The ones I got today, all top dollar!  Finally, the post office gets the postage for each piece (okay, they get a bulk rate, but still have to pay).

Just think if all these positions were unopposed.  For instance, one of the local races is unopposed.  I didn't get anything for that "race" nor do I expect to receive anything over the weekend.  Suppose also that these campaigns didn't raise much money and couldn't do the mailer (my garbage would be lighter).  In both of these circumstances, the economic activity is much smaller.

Given the state of the economy, instead of suggesting, as the Governor of North Carolina did, that we should suspend elections, maybe we should have them more often.  Just think, if we could get this amount of economic activity every year instead of every other year.  Wow!  Then, if things don't improve, we could have 6 month terms, then 3 month terms ....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Libya may be the new Afganistan

In today's Wall Street Journal, Paul Wolfowitz discussed the current situation in Libya and what opportunities the US has.  In the course of reading this article, I started to wonder if perhaps Libya would at some point look similar to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a country with lots of space between people.  Because of it's location, and relative lack of strong sovereignty, the USSR, Taliban, Al-Qaeda,  and arguably now the US has tried to control it.  The people are very tribal and suspicious of other tribes and other countries.  In the conflict with USSR, the tribes organized together and the US had a chance to eliminate some of the suspicion of the US.  Unfortunately, the US backed out and confirmed the suspicions that they had.  The tribes also reverted back to warring with each other.

So now, the conflict is in Libya.  It's also conveniently located, very tribal, with lots of open space.  Mr. Wolfowitz discusses how the US didn't fully take advantage of the situation in order to eliminate doubts that people in that country would have about US support.  One could argue that the US did everything to reinforce the unreliable tag.

Libya doesn't have the same rugged terrain that symbolizes Afghanistan, but you can argue that what it does have can be just as brutal.  Today, Libya's tribes seem to mostly have come together to fight a common enemy, but how long will that last.  We've already sown the suspicion of the US into the "new" Libya, if the tribal coalition falls apart ....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Driving in the Middle Lane

Where is it written "Thou shalt drive in the middle lane"?  I get a little tired of driving on the highway and streets with slow cars in the middle lane (or worse yet, the left hand lane).  Many states, including the one I live in, have laws along the lines of "stay right except to pass."  My state even posts signs says such on the highway.

I've been tempted to mount a camera on my dash to record the gyrations that I have to go through to get through traffic.  Mind you, I don't have to be speeding to have this problem.  People are comfortable driving below the speed limit in every lane (at the same time).  Slow cars in the middle lane, slow cars in the left lane, so I wind up spending a lot of time in the right lane.  That is, until I find the 1 percent who is a slow car and knows to drive in the right lane.  Then I'm having to weave through the middle and left lane to get around that car.

I think that I've figured out why people tend to stay in the center lane.  They don't like the right lane as cars entering and exiting the road would use that one.  They then leave the left lane for passing.  This seems like a reasonable explanation if you ignore the ability of their car to change lanes to go around cars exiting or give room to a car entering the road.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reflections on Windows Mobile 7.5 Update

After waiting for about four weeks after receiving the update coming e-mail from Microsoft, my phone finally received the update.  I was on a trip when that happened, so I had to wait to get home in order to install it.  I've been using the update for just over a day and I have a couple observations.

First, it wasn't one update.  It turned out to be three.  I don't know yet what the updates included individually.  I'm sure that it's probably out there somewhere (a simple search didn't find it though).  Most applications seem to have been updated.

The mail tool now allows the linking of multiple inboxes, so that you can sync them all at the same time and see all e-mail from them together.  The process of linking them allows you to rename the new linked mailbox.  I use three e-mail addresses, so this is pretty convenient.  The new item is now the only one that you'll see in the program list.  If you want to see them individually, select options and folders, which will allow you to see that inbox alone.

Probably, the best non-functional change is that the programs are now indexed so that you can find them by their first letter.  The same search as is used by the Zune software, so it's intuitive.  I call it the best change because, it is a great idea for something that really didn't bother me previously (i.e. I didn't think of it).

Pictures can now be shuffled for the icon on the start page, which is nice.  Office documents can now be accessed through SkyDrive and there are some new templates included.  Phone numbers and e-mail addresses in these documents are still not recognized as such where tapping them would either invoke the phone or an e-mail.  (This was my plan in bypassing having to put all my contacts on

One item that seems a little unsettling though, is that my eBay application (which I rarely use) started beeping at me that things on my watchlist were expiring.  While that's a handy thing, I didn't turn that option on.  Can't really blame Microsoft for that, except that the tool started doing it after I installed the update, and it didn't do it previously.

As for the timing of the update, my spouse (same plan, same phone) received the update on her phone two and a half weeks before me.  The schedule is online.  Everyone that I talked to about the update already had it before me.  I'm sure I'm not the last, but I really was disappointed to have been notified of the upcoming update and then had to wait four weeks.

This update does improve the workability of the phone.  However, I'm still waiting for my contract to run out so that I can get a phone that can sync my calendar, contacts and e-mail between the phone and computer, not using an intermediary.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bernanke Issues Warning: Don't Buy My Book

Today's Wall St. Journal includes an article about the Fed. Chairman issuing a warning about the economy.  However, given his actions since taking over the Fed. in February, 2006, he should be warning people not to buy his book on Macroeconomics.  Basically, if you read this book, you'll find explanations for exactly why what he's been doing doesn't work.

I was studying Macroeconomics in business school in the first quarter of 2008.  During this time, he proposed stimulus checks as a way to encourage the economy.  I remember chatting with a fellow student about how his book explicitly discussed how this doesn't stimulate the economy.  We weren't quite sure why his book would strongly recommend against stimulus checks while he recommends doing it as Fed. chief.

The argument against is basically that people recognize that the government handing out money is actually a deferred tax, so they don't increase their spending.  This behavior was explained to be true regardless of the size of population that received the stimulus.  If a subset receives the stimulus, they may increase their spending, but the population not getting the stimulus decreases their spending.  In fact, the group receiving the stimulus has been found not to significantly increase their spending, so basically the net effect is to decrease consumption.  Governments frequently try this technique, so researchers have had plenty of data upon which to base their findings.

However, this particular item is not the only one where his actions disagree with his book.  The book lays out explanations of savings, investment, and the effects of increased government spending and taxation.  Long term answers to our economic problems are what we need and can be found in the book.  Granted the book I used in business school was the 6th edition published in 2008.  Maybe the new edition has changes which explain his actions as Fed. chief.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

To Speculate or Not to Speculate, that is the question ...

According to, Speculate means "to engage in any business transaction involving considerable risk or the chance of large gains."  So typically, speculation has been associated with Wall Street traders and other evil doers.  However, most people are engaged in speculation in one way or another.

Anyone who has bought stock or any commodity expecting the item to increase in price has engaged in speculation.  I have a couple thousand baseball, football, and hockey trading cards that I hope one day will be worth more than I paid for them.  That is a business transaction with hopefully the chance of a large gain.  But I don't hear anyone complaining about all those kids sitting on their trading cards waiting for the price to go up.

Finally, as we have seen by the "collapse" of the housing market, people buying a house are engaging in a transaction involving considerable risk.  I'd say that losing your house and damaging your credit is a considerable risk.  Again, most people don't think of a house that way (for various reasons) nor do you see anyone railing against people for taking such a risk with their finances and ultimately our economy. 

Instead, people are railing against "Wall Street" for taking these risks and trying to make "speculation" into a four-letter word.  When in fact, many more people speculate much more often than they think and it isn't always a bad thing.  At least that's what I tell my better half now that I've got an out of the way place to keep my baseball cards.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Aging and Declining Options

At what point in life do the number of options available to us start to decrease?  I suppose that you could say that options just change, some new, some lost.  However, the older that I get, it seems that my options seem to go away.

I started wondering about this a couple weeks ago.  I've been having trouble with my knees since hurting them both playing basketball in college.  I started playing basketball again about 5 years ago after taking a couple decades off.  Once starting, I realized that I had to lose weight as I was hurting every part of my body each week.  So I took a year off, lost some weight, started basketball again.

Having lost weight, I was better off, but it wasn't until I started working out a few times a week that I became able to play a full basketball game and still walk the next day.  But then golf season started.  So I was playing golf on the weekends, working out during the week, and playing basketball once a week during the week.  Then came the fateful weekend that I played four golf days in a row.  On the fourth day, I tweaked the stronger knee (go figure).

So for the last couple of months, I've had to wear braces on my knees to play golf and stopped playing basketball.  I also stopped working out for a while until my knees were no longer swollen.  One of my favorite workouts was cycling, as last year I decided to try to start competing.  So my cycling training was stopped and I wasn't able to compete either.

So it appears that I have to come to the realization that competing in cycling is unlikely and I should give up playing basketball again.  That being the case, I started wondering what options did I have.  I used to train and teach karate, but that was also hard on the knees.  Baseball, softball, and running don't seem like reasonable activities to take up and I used to play organized tennis, so I know that's probably out.

I then started to realize that my option of being a professional athlete probably ended in my late teens or at least in my early twenties.  So doors were closing as early at that.  But surely, as I received my degrees about that time, doors opened that were closed before.  So maybe things were equal then.

When I was a child, surely options were open, but mostly looking forward to the future not so much at the time.  I could take piano lessons, play baseball, for example, so I still had a number of options.  While learning a foreign language is easier the younger you are, that option seems to stay open for quite a while.  Of course, their options on driving or other adult activities is limited (legally anyway).

It still seems that at some point, more options are going away than are presenting themselves.  I'm sure that attitude has a lot to do with perceptions too though.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Measuring Unemployment like the age of a child

I was talking to someone the other day who is unemployed. When asked for how long, they replied three years, 2 months. It struck me as strange as this seemed like the way a parent would give the age of a child. When reviewing comments from other unemployed people, it was a similar method: 6 months, 14 months, etc.

Unlike reporting the age of a child, though, people aren't happy when reporting how long that they have been unemployed. I believe that for a lot of people, unemployment may be as stressful as raising a new baby. I don't believe that anyone unemployed is as happy as someone raising a child. There are a few people who like getting paid for not doing anything, but these people wouldn't be telling you that they are unemployed either though.

We really need to get this country back to work and we don't have to worry about these types of issues anymore.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oregon Pinot Noir

Wow! So we finally got to the Willamette Valley. I wasn't really looking forward to it as I haven't liked many Pinot Noirs. I guess my problem was too many California Pinot Noirs, because I became a fan of PN while in Oregon. There was a lot of variety, some too much like California, but overall it was a great experience.

I'd have to say our favorite from top to bottom was Argyle. They have really good still and sparkling wines. We enjoyed tasting the wines and talking with the people there.

Another good winery was Bergstrom. A number of wineries recommended that we go there, so we made it there on our last day. Their wines were also very good from top to bottom. The previous night we had dinner at the Painted Lady where we had a Bergstrom wine as part of the wine pairing dinner.

I suppose the biggest disappointment, besides only have a few days there, was Domaine Drouhin. The grounds and views are stunning. We enjoyed sipping their wines on their patio. The people were really nice. The disappointment was that we found their wines to be average. Not the worst we tasted for sure, but clearly not the best. Many people recommended them, so we may have had great expectations.

Tasting fees in the area ranged from a few at $5 to $15 (most at $10). Although most credited the fees if you purchased a bottle (one $15 winery refunded with a $100 purchase). Visiting the tasting rooms was better than going to wine bars. We visited a couple of wine bars thinking that we'd be able to experience multiple wineries without the travel. We didn't find the wines or experience to be remarkable.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Windows 7 Mobile : Flash forward to backward

Windows 7 Mobile is cool and such a backward application. I've been using a Samsung Focus for about two months now. I find that I still have to carry my old smart phone (Treo 800w) around. I've taken to saying that I've got a smart phone and a dumb phone.

So let's just start with the obvious criticisms. You can't cut and paste. Strange, I thought Windows was part of the name of the application. You also can't put the cursor within the middle of a word, if say you misspelled a word and wanted to insert a missing letter. Your only option is to erase to that point. If perhaps you buy the LG with a keyboard, that unit has arrow keys and so you can actually do this. However, the soft keyboard in the phone does not have those keys.

My biggest beef is actually that I can't sync my phone with Outlook. I don't use an Exchange server. If you do use Exchange, setup and syncing is so much easier than with the old smartphones. The new phone syncs using the Zune software, so I can get pictures, videos, music, and podcasts onto the phone (and off). So I plug my phone into the computer, but I can't sync Outlook. Which means that I don't have my calendar nor contacts on my new phone. (Which is why I tend to carry my old smartphone.)

So, to answer the questions that I get frequently.
- The smartphone doesn't have a card so I can't import from a card
- The bluetooth interface to another phone isn't working on Win 7 Mobile yet so I can't beam contacts

The syncing method built into the software is through You use the Hotmail connector to sync Outlook with Live and then your phone syncs to Live. First, that gives me three places that I have to keep my data. Second, my contacts include some private information that I'm not interested in having on a website. (I don't really care how secure is supposed to be, I don't want the information there.) My phone is plugged into my computer, why can't I just move data over?

Which leads me to the next complaint. The Office software expects you to be connected to a Sharepoint server. So, it isn't built to support a lot of documents resident on the phone. There is no capability to create folders on the phone to organize your documents. Which brings up the issue of getting Word, Excel, or Powerpoint files onto your phone. My first attempt was to put my contacts into an Excel file, put that on my phone, then select phone numbers or e-mail address from there. I had to e-mail myself the file, open it on the phone and save. But wait, the phone will not recognize the data as a phone number to be dialed nor an e-mail address to open an e-mail.

My second attempt for getting a file onto my phone was my resume. I interact with employers and recruiters through my phone. I'd like to be able to respond to them with my resume if appropriate. However, this leads to my last document complaint which is that the only e-mail attachment to an e-mail originated on the phone is a picture. So now I'm trying to play a game of keeping an old e-mail on my phone that has the resume attached and forwarding it to the recruiter.

Getting back to the Zune component of the new phone, the sound is good. I like the navigation. I think the phone should work more like the Zune when it comes to navigation, I sometimes forget which I'm using and get a little frustrated moving around. The SmartDJ feature on the Zune is something that I'm currently excited about, and that isn't on the phone either.

So my last quandary is with regard to software development. I thought I'd build a few applications for the phone for fun. However, since I can't move documents (except through Zune) to my phone, I can't just drop them onto my phone and run them. I haven't registered in the Marketplace yet (waiting to have enough apps to make it worthwhile). So there may be additional options then, but I wouldn't bet on it. My wife asked me about building an app, but the only way I can put it on her phone is to load it into Marketplace and let her buy it.

Really wanting to be excited about this phone, I went to the Microsoft forums to find out about getting my contacts on my new phone. They didn't seem to care why I wanted to do anything but put everything on the web, that's the new paradigm.

I really like the weight and the interface on this phone. I'd like to be happier with it, but until these issues get resolved. It's just yet another Microsoft disappointment.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rhetoric is Only a Conservative Issue

Rhetoric is apparently only an issue if you are conservative. I've heard a number of stories on CNN, ABC, etc talking about how we need to decrease the rhetoric. The Seattle Times this past Sunday (here) also ran an article about how we need to be more civil.

What do all of these have in common? When they use examples of rhetoric, they only cite examples from Conservatives. Wow! They can't manage to find any example of harsh rhetoric from any left sources. That's amazing, one would have to come to the conclusion (as many of my liberal friends already have) that harsh rhetoric is the problem of those on the right.

What's amazing about this, is that it would be easy to find examples from the left. For more than eight years, we heard about how President Bush was akin to Hitler. There were movies and books on assassinating him. Further, false accusations were made against many on the right and nearly right.

What a missed opportunity for all of these organizations. Can you imagine how 'objective' they could really appear had they sited examples from all sides? But alas, they once again show their true colors.