Friday, February 22, 2008

The Money (and Time) Pit

We acquired a rental property about 40 miles south of us one year ago. Originally, it was all wrapped up in one deal where we provided the financing, received a chunk of cash up front, and saw a minor amount of cash flow each month, with no involvement on our part - we leased it to an outfit who took responsibility for taking care of the place, getting renters in, etc, etc. Well, they defaulted on the terms of the lease and so we had to take the property back and terminate the lease agreement. It is an up-down duplex, with a tenant living in the upstairs, but the downstairs is not currently liveable. So, I am pretending to be the general contractor and having the whole thing re-done. It's been educational so far. I have a long way to go. More to come...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Amazing Harmonica

This is worth your time...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Snowy Valentines' Day

Well, we got pounded again. I would guess around 9-10 inches, with deeper drifts next to the fence or other large objects. It started around 2 PM yesterday, and ended sometime in the night. It was very heavy and wet, and the ground was warm to start with, so it was very difficult to move. I finished about 8:30 this morning with the front driveway and sidewalks - about an hour of snow removal, even with the help of my neighbor and his snowblower. This first picture is Prince #4, to give perspective of the drifting on top of the little white car.

Next we have two pictures of the entire front yard, again with #4 for perspective. We had a really warm spell for several days prior, and the big piles had nearly melted, but now it looks like it did before the melt. I drove down the street and decided that it would be unwise to try to make it to work. I have a perfectly good wireless connection here at the house.

Take a look at the cornices off the edge of the roof. Clearly the wind has played a role in this storm. Unbelievably, it is only at 121% of "normal" as reported by KSL. Of course, we still have at least four more weeks of winter according to Punxatawney Phil (reported February 2nd). I haven't been skiing at all this year, but I'm sure the resorts are just loving these snow totals - 136" of base reported at Alta, and 74" at Steamboat.

Monday, February 11, 2008

World Trends

I just finished the book Mind Set! by John Naisbitt. He is the author of Megatrends, among other things. He has a unique and highly successful method for observing large-scale trends and predicting how they will play out in the future. All of his predictions in Megatrends came to fruition.

This book (written in 2006) is about how our mindsets play into what we see in the world around us. By having the right mindsets, we improve our chances of understanding the world around us and anticipating how the world will be shaped in our immediate future. This can help us in our decision-making.

Part I lists eleven mindsets:
  1. While many things change, most things remain constant
  2. The future is embedded in the present
  3. Focus on the score of the game
  4. Understanding how powerful it is not to have to be right
  5. See the future as a picture puzzle
  6. Don't get so far ahead of the parade that people don't know you're in it
  7. Resistance to change falls if benefits are real
  8. Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly
  9. You don't get results by solving problems but by exploiting opportunities
  10. Don't add unless you subtract
  11. Don't forget the ecology of technology

Part II gives some insights into five trends for the future:
  1. A visual culture is taking over the world - visual communication has overtaken written communication as the most common form of spreading information or ideas
  2. The influence of nation-states is diminishing as economic domains become more predominant
  3. Nations that adapt to economic domain centrality will lead the world (China) - economic domain centrality encourages entrepreneurship and encourages growth (Adam Smith model)
  4. Nations that fail to adapt to economic domain centrality will decline unless they redirect (Europe, USA) - this is because you cannot simultaneously maintain economic supremacy and promote social welfare (in the Marxian sense) without overly regulating entrepreneurship and thereby discouraging growth
  5. Success in the future will be built by opportunity feeders, not problem solvers

Incidentally, I read the book because of a class that I attended this weekend at George Wythe College - we discussed the five trends and spoke about current events.

I loved the book - I fully intend to keep track of John Naisbitt in the future. He is easy to read and makes a lot of sense. I recommend it for people who are hungry for modern cultural understanding.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Liberalism is a Religion

I just finished listening to an audiobook entitled Godless - The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter. She is one of the most vocal opponents of liberalism around today, and she is regularly vilified by her liberal opponents.

I had never read anything by her before, and decided that I needed to hear for myself. I have friends who spend a lot of time on talk radio and cable news shows, so I've heard their opinions, but I was a little surprised by what I heard.

I don't espouse the liberal agenda - I tend to agree with the opinions expressed by Coulter - but the method that she employs is extremely abrasive. She will not win any converts, build any bridges, or solve any problems with this method. She will succeed in further polarizing an already highly polarized debate.

So - enough about the tone of her book - the content was very clear and challenging. Ann makes the point that liberals attack Judeo-Christian religious tradition while in the same breath their belief system has all the same attributes as a religion, namely:
  • Holy Sacraments - Abortion
  • Canon - Roe v. Wade
  • Clergy - public school teachers
  • Churches - public schools prohibiting prayer and handing out free condoms
  • Doctrine of Infallibility - absolute moral authority of spokesmen (Cindy Sheehan, Max Cleland, etc.)
  • Cosmology - humans are the result of an accident
  • Creation Myth - Darwin's theory of evolution

She spends the most time on evolution - she calls its proponents "Darwiniacs" - and exposes it as a story without any true scientific backing. I especially enjoyed the many scandals, frauds, and hoaxes that have been played out upon mankind in order to show "evidence" to back the theory of evolution - she outlines them all and explains their history, and shows how the doctrine of infallibility seems to insulate Darwinism from any criticism.

Since Ann Coulter is an active voice on the political stage today (I watched her in a Q&A session on C-SPAN tonight) I recommend the reading of this book - but be warned that she won't pull any punches. Last week I saw a picture of her posted inside of one of my co-workers cubicles - he is a Democrat - and he had used a sharpie to draw horns, a pitchfork, and a pointy tail. So I guess I can add one more bullet point to my list above:
  • Devil - Ann Coulter

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Tribute to Gordon B. Hinckley

A Lot of Snow

This photo was taken this morning after I shoveled the driveway - I believe I have shoveled more snow this winter than ever before in my life. Each storm is generally only a few inches (this morning we had about 4 inches) but it just keeps piling up, with relatively little respite between storms.

After shoveling, I decided not to go into the office, since my road has not yet been plowed and I have the means of telecommuting from home. I've attended one meeting via telephone already, with one more to go a bit later. Generally speaking, if I telecommute once or twice a month, I actually get more done on those days. I can shut myself in the downstairs office and crank away at a report, attend meetings, etc. And of course make a post to the blog...