Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The auto industry bailout - Part 2

I've written before about the auto industry bailout. I'm disappointed that Congress failed to act. I hope that President Bush can do something soon.

So why am I concerned about the auto industry? Because it will put a lot of people out of jobs. It will ripple throughout the economy in ways that we can't and currently don't understand and comprehend. It has the potential to put auto parts suppliers out of business, which would mess up Toyota and Honda manufacturing operations. And if these companies liquidate, it means that foreign companies, such as Tata of India and Cherry of China, can come in and purchase GM and/or Chrysler's assets and start building cars in the US. And then that money will again go overseas. I have enough of a problem with jobs being sent overseas. Cars are like a national identity. If you loose your name plates to the foreigners, then what else will we loose? Imagine a Jeep Wrangler made by Tata or Cherry. The thought sends chills down my spine. Or the thought of our US forces using vehicles made by Hummer, which is owned by a foreign corporation.

Yes, the US auto industry has done this to themselves. Yes, they need to make some concessions. But at the same time, this is a delicate game of chicken. Who's going to blink? Who will call the other side's bluff? People, wake up!! Get off your butts and make some concessions. Working for less is better than not working at all. If there is no auto industry in Detriot, you're gonna be in a very bad way. Your house won't be worth anything. There won't be any auto jobs in the state. So it is better to hold on to something you already have than to give it up and be messed up for a longer period of time.

A part of me wants them to fail. But another part of me, the pragmatic, the "I own two Chevy vehicles and I want to get parts for them for the next 10 years" part of me wants them to succeed. I've waited a long time for an inexpensive, well built automobile to be made from Detroit. I want to buy one, but I don't have the nerve to do so yet. I'm still scarred from my youth and the crappy (and embarassing) vehicles I had to endure while in my youth.

Washington, help the auto industry. Auto industry and the UAW, the government ain't gonna help if you don't make some major concessions. Strike a deal while you have some support. The more time you waste, the worse off you'll be. So get it done. And get it done NOW! I want my spare parts, dang it!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gun sales, post election

Electing Barack Obama into the White House has been a boon for gun manufacturers. Why? Simple. The pro-gun citizens of the United States fear that another Clinton style gun ban will be put in place by President-elect Barack Obama and the Democratically controlled Congress. I've been to numerous local gun stores since the election. I have also searched the gun stores on the internet. Any assault style weapon is gone. Any high capacity magazines are gone too. Poof! Obama says that he won't pursue gun control. If he's smart, he'll keep to that promise. When President Clinton passed his gun ban, he lost House control in Congress at the very next election.

So the gun manufacturers can personally thank President-elect Barack Obama for the brisk weapons sales. They will be making record profits, until the gun laws get legislated and passed. Then they will be scrambling to make something that is legal.

Stay tuned. This should be an interesting topic to watch. Let's see if Obama will stay true to his word. Let's see if the Democrats can resist playing with fire.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The automakers want a handout/bailout

First the financial institutions want a bailout. Now the automobile manufacturers want a bailout. Hey, I'd like a bailout! Seriously folks, this is getting a bit ridiculous. Do I want the automobile manufacturers to survive? Actually I do. If we loose one automobile manufacturer, we might be able to survive. But what's going to happen if we loose two or even all three of the big three? It would not be a good thing for the US economy. Think about it.... How many of you have domestic automobiles made by one of the big three? Think about your car loan. How much longer do you have on your car loan? Now, you have this car loan. The manufacturer goes under and does NOT come back. They are gone. Out of business. Kaput. You have three, four, five, maybe six years left on your car loan. Six years more of car payments. What happens if your car needs repairs? Will you be able to get your vehicle repaired? Will there be parts for your vehicle? And if there are parts, will they be new or used/reconditioned? How much will those parts cost?

If one or more of the big three go under and never come back, if your vehicle needs to be repaired, you could be stuck. Stuck with a dead vehicle and car payments for xx number of years. To me, that doesn't sound like much fun.

I recently purchased an urban assault vehicle, otherwise known as a Chevy Suburban. It is three years old and I've got a car loan on that thing for a lot longer than I ever want it to be. I have a wife and six kids. So my options for vehicles are limited. I'm concerned about GM going under. If GM goes under, what am I going to do with this beast if something major goes out on it? When I go to trade it in, I won't get much on trade for it. If it dies, it will be like paying for a dead horse. I'm not real thrilled about paying on a dead horse.

So what happened with the US car manufacturers? Why are they in such dire straits? Here are the reasons that I can see that caused chaos in the US car market.

  1. Domestic automobile manufacturers gave up on the small car market and let the imports (Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Kia, Hyundai, VW, etc.) own the segment. Instead, they decided to focus their fleet on large SUV type vehicles. Why? Because there is more margin in the larger vehicles. And the larger margin is there to pay for higher domestic costs.
  2. The benefits paid to union employees at the big three are greater than the benefits paid to the imports. That increases manufacturing costs which makes it harder to build small vehicles and sell them at a profit.
  3. Resale value. The big three are known to heavily discount their vehicles. That is due to the fact that they have more manufacturing capacity than they have ability to sell cars. This causes their vehicles to depreciate at a much faster rate than the import vehicles. We were able to purchase our Suburban for about half the cost of a NEW vehicle. We're talking about an SUV that is three years old. Now its worth half of what it was three years ago when it was sitting on a dealer's lot. Honda does not directly discount their vehicles. They do offer the dealers incentive cash, but they do not offer direct cash like other automobile manufacturers do. If you look at Honda's resale value, it is near the top for resale value.
  4. Styling. Honda updates the styling on their vehicles, especially the Accord and Civic, every four years. Toyota updates their models every five years. GM updates their models whenever. I think some models don't get updated for up to nine or ten years. Folks, in car terms, that is an eternity. Besides, have any of you ever been to Detroit, Michigan? I've been there. Once. I drove past the Ford facilities in Dearborn. The buildings are like square blocks. The landscaping is bleak. The whole area has no style. Everything looks the same. Boring. Boring. Boring. The Detroit airport is run down and boring. With that kind of environment, no wonder American cars are boring. There just isn't any inspiration to be bold, new, and exciting. (NOTE: I do love the new Chevy 2010 Camaro. Great style and design. In fact, I have a photo of the concept Camaro as my background on my computer. If GM goes under, this new Camaro may never see the light of day.)
  5. Quality. I've seen the TV commercials from Ford and GM that their vehicles are as reliable as Honda and Toyota. They may be right. But with crappy resale value, would I rather purchase a domestic or import? And initial quality may be the same, but how does the car hold up over time? Will I need repairs? Does the car squeak and rattle? Does the interior look cheap? I get into a Toyota or Honda and the styling is clean and crisp. I get into an American car and I'm not impressed. Too much holdover from an earlier period. I grew up with parents that purchased domestics for a long time. We had Ford LTDs. Chevy Chevettes. Plymouth Satellites. Buick Skylarks. Ford and Chevy trucks. All crap. These vehicles were prone to rust. The Chevette was absolute crap. I think it got like 13 MPG (it had a 3-speed automatic) and was a gutless wonder (0 - 50 in like 2 years). These domestic cars that I rode in when I was a kid was uninspiring. Crap quality - always in the shop. My parents finally woke up to the imports. They purchased a Toyota Corona. Then another Toyota (Corolla). And then another Toyota (Corolla). Then another Toyota (Tercel). And then another Toyota (Cressida). And then a Honda Accord. I got in on the action with the Tercel, Cressida, and the Accord. And I was hooked.
I think the quality issue has been a big issue for a long time. There is apathy towards bailing out the big three car manufacturers because people think that they brought this upon themselves. They made junk cars. They know they made junk cars. But they kept building them. And they made junk cars for a LONG time. People got sick of it and went elsewhere. So they lost the car market. The big three have woken up, but I still think they have issues with big labor. Issues that may end up killing the companies as a whole. I'd like to have a domestic automobile manufacturing. I think its good for the economy and for the country. I think we need a domestic automobile manufacturing for a military and domestic security perspective. That's why I think we should help them. But at the same time, these guys need to get lean and mean. And the unions will need to give some major concessions in order to help save the companies. And let's face it, if you're a union worker, wouldn't you rather take a pay cut than loose your job altogether? So bail them out. Give them some loans. But make these guys restructure so that they will be around for another 50 or 100 years. If that doesn't happen, then let them sink and die. If they die it will hurt the US. But from the ashes, something should show up. Someone could pick up one or more of these brands for pennies and from the ashes bring them back to life.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

President-Elect Obama - Best Wishes and Good Luck!

As I predicted, Senator Obama is now President-Elect Obama. Congratulations Mr. Obama for a well run campaign. You will inherit a war in Iraq, huge budget deficits, a sharply sagging economy, and foreign countries that will test your mettle. Sir, you have a hard job ahead of you. And even though I did not vote for you, I do wish you the very best at such a daunting task. I hope that your friends and supporters on election night will still be your friends and supporters in four years. Please remember to govern from the center. It will be better for you and for the country if that happens. In reality, you only have two years to get what you really want to do, done. That's because your party will hold power in the Congress and the White House. Don't squander it like the Clintons. Don't upset the middle class who helped put you there. If you do, your Democratic buddies in the House will be gone. And then your plans for change won't occur.

Again, I wish you the very best. Please spend time on your knees asking for devine assistance. I will be on mine asking that you be blessed with wisdom, knowledge and courage to do what is right.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today's Presidential Debate

I watched most of the debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. I believe that Senator McCain did better in this debate than he has in past debates. Will it be enough to get him into the White House? I don't know.

Senator Obama is a smooth talking man. He is very well spoken. He articulates his ideas well. However, I'm not a fan of the smooth talking politician from Illinois. I'm not a fan of Senator McCain either, but I think he's the lesser of the two evils. Its sad to think that I'm not so much voting FOR someone as I am voting against the other person.

I don't know how this is going to turn out. We'll find out in a few short weeks. And then we'll have four years to think about our decision. Regardless of your political ideals, you need to get out and vote. Make your voice heard. Don't waste your vote. Make it count!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tom's predictions for the rest of 2008 and possibly beyond

Throwing caution to the wind, putting on Mr. Murphy's philosophical glasses, and adding in a bit of my cynical and pessimistic self, I make the following predictions:

1.) If the US Congress passes and President Bush signs any bill to bail out Wall Street, it will be so neutered that it will really amount to nothing. That isn't to say that the original bill that flamed out today on Capital Hill would have spared the country of a financial melt down. It just means that the flames are going to be a little bit bigger and we're all going to feel the heat from this fire. As stressful as my job is, I really like the paycheck that I bring home. It allows me to feed my family. It allows me to pay my mortgage. And it allows me to watch about 30 minutes of cable TV a day, if that. I'm afraid that the Wall Street melt down is going to reverberate on Main Street. And that we could be looking down the equivalent of a 16 inch barrel of the Battleship Missouri, pointed straight at our heads. Are we willing to pull the trigger? Today is sure looks like we are. We are going to cut off your heads so we can spite our bodies.

Am I mad that Wall Street has messed themselves so badly that it is affecting Main Street? Oh man, you better believe your last pair of pink underwear that I'm furious about this mess. I remember thinking to myself when I heard about sub-prime mortgages what the heck were banks thinking when they were loaning money to people who have bad credit histories. What is up with that? And when housing prices were soaring, I was thinking that my kids will never be able to purchase a house of their own. Then the housing bubble popped. And when the housing bubble popped, so did all the sub-prime mortgages. The house of cards started to collapse. And it continues to collapse. The problem is I don't know how big this house of cards really is. Is it done yet? I don't think so. I think its just getting started.

So as much as I absolutely, positively, and totally hate this bail out package for Wall Street, if something doesn't pass, we're going to be toasted. You. Me. And the rest of the country. I hope you have your year supply of food and money. Because if not, you're going to be toasted as well. And I'm not talking just a little brown here. I'm talking black charcoal toast. The kind that my Dad used to call, "Golden brown." The kind that my Mom would scrape the layer of charcoal off the toast so that you could gag down the rest of the toast. The kind that would set off all the smoke alarms in the house. The kind where you could smell the burnt toast for a week after it had been burned. That kind of burnt toast bad. I don't like eating charcoal.

2.) Senator Barack Obama is going to win the presidency on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. I am not a Senator Obama or Senator Biden supporter. Honestly, I'm not all that thrilled about the Senator McCain/Governor Palin ticket either. This presidential election is about the lesser of the two evils. And as much as I would like to see Senator John McCain win, I just don't think it is going to happen. I think there is too much negativism about Republicans and the Republican ticket. And I think the voters are going to take it out on the Republicans this election, and maybe some Democrats. But I just don't see Mr. McCain taking it.

3.) Government bailout - too little, too late. I think that when the emasculated bailout package fails to give the economy the credit bounce the President was looking for, and Main Street starts feeling the heat of the Wall Street melt down, you will then start to see Main Street clamoring, pleading, and begging for a Wall Street bailout package. The problem is that the economy will already be torpedoed, joblessness will be going up, and people will be gun shy about stimulating the economy courtesy of their pocketbook. At that point in time, why even bother to save the economy? Just let it sink and run its course. Let's wipe out any wealth in America. Let the US Government go bankrupt. Let's start over from scratch. The bankers went bankrupt. Might as well let the whole country go as well.

So, what will be the positives of not bailing out Wall Street? Here's Tom's top 10 list:

1.) The price of gasoline will drop. We'll probably end up with gas less than $2/gallon.
2.) Fat Americans will be forced to go on a diet and we'll end up getting into shape.
3.) Over-population in America won't be a problem any more.
4.) Americans will learn to be humble again.
5.) Americans will re-discover God in their lives.
6.) Americans will start to grow their own food.
7.) Americans will go back to hunting and finding their own food.

You know what, I really can't do a top 10 list. I'm sure the price of things will go down. But the economy can end up like the economy of a third-world country like Argentina with hyper-inflation. Or we could go through another depression with the likes of what our parents and grandparents went through in the early 1900s. (I think it will be harder on our generation than our parents and grandparents. Why? Because the majority of the country then were farmers. People were able to take care of the basics. Our economy is so specialized and we are so far removed from farming, that we won't be able to grow our food. All we know how to do is write blogs, spend time surfing on the computer, watching television or playing xBox that we won't be able to take care of ourselves.) Honestly, I don't like either scenario. But I believe that our anger for Wall Street will eventually come back to haunt us. Our economic hardships will humble us. The humility will hopefully bring God back into our country. Citizens will learn to fear God. However, if we fail to become humble, we're going to suffer for a while until we find that humility.

I love this country. I love the people of the USA. I love the freedoms that we all enjoy. I hope that we don't completely destroy our country with our little temper tantrum against Wall Street. We have very little to gain from the deal. But we have everything to loose.

In six months, let's see how these predictions went.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crazy commodities and financial markets

Wow. What a crazy ride. The market crashes 1,000 points or so last week. Then it gains 800 points. And then today it drops another 300+ points. What is going on?

Well, I'll tell you what's going on. People are freaking out. They are freaking out that all the banks are going to collapse. They are freaking out about all these sub-prime mortgage securities. And honestly, why the banks ever started lending these sub-prime mortgages is beyond me. But they did. And now we have a nice little mess because of it. A $700 billion dollar mess to be exact.

Oil prices have also done a whiplash of sorts. In July, oil topped out at around $147/barrel. The last week or two it has dropped down in the low $90's. Today it went as high as $130/barrel, but dropped back down to about $120/barrel. Oil never should have gone beyond $50 - $70 per barrel. But it did. And you can thank speculators for that.

If you're like me, you're just an average person out there trying to make an honest living. You're probably sick of paying $50 to fill a 13 gallon gas tank. And you've probably noticed that food prices have gone through the roof. Problem is that you food isn't grown where you live (unless you're a granola person and you buy at the local farmer's market). And because it isn't grown locally, it has to be trucked in. The farmers have to spend more money on fuel so that they can harvest their crops. So they have to raise their prices to cover their production costs.

Well, the oil speculators have rained on our parade enough. Now its time to rain on their parade. There is a web site called http://www.stopoilspeculationnow.com/ . It is a great little site. You can send letters to Congress via the site. The US House of Representatives recently passed HR 6604. The Senate has failed to vote on a similar bill. If you are sick of paying the high prices, I suggest you write/email you Senator and put the screws into them. If you have a Senator up for re-election, tell him you'll vote for someone else unless they get off their duffs and do something about this problem. People are hurting. The economy is hurting. Let's get it fixed ASAP.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

No more car payments!!

Good news! No more car payments!!

Bad news! No more car!

Tom! What happened? Well, my wife and two of my kids were in a hit-and-run car accident. They were going south on I-15 going through a construction zone when an orange construction barrel was in the middle of her lane. She slowed down looking for a way to get out of the lane and then BAM! A vehicle behind her slammed into the back of her. She pulled over and stopped. The vehicle that hit her never stopped.

So we are down to just one car. We haven't been a single car family for at least a dozen years or more. We've decided to take the insurance money and then paying off some bills. So the good news there will be bills taken care of. We'll pick up another small car probably in another six months or so.

UPDATE: We received our insurance settlement check and we just paid off our Astro van. The Astro is now making weird (expensive sounding) noises that really do not sound very good. So all the car payments are GONE! We had some left over cash and we are paying down our other debts. I wish we had more money so we could pay more debts off.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

California's gay marriage ammendment and the LDS Church

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also commonly known as the LDS Church or the Mormon Church. It has come to my attention recently that the LDS Church leaders sent a letter to all the congregations in California supporting a California constitutional amendment seeking to define marriage being between a man and a woman. I read an article on ksl.com that some members of the Church are upset that the Church is pushing this California Constitutional amendment defining marriage. The full article is found at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=3641668

I disagree with the dissenters in the KSL article. I agree that the LDS Church has the right and opportunity to defend itself and its beliefs, including supporting a constitutional amendment supporting the definition of marriage to be between a man and a woman. I believe that if the LDS Church does not fight this California Supreme Court decision, it can have negative long-term consequences for the LDS Church particularly and for society as a whole. In order to understand where the LDS Church is coming from and why they are doing this, you need to look at the doctrines and history of the LDS Church and faith.


The LDS Church believes that all humans lived with God before they were born. We were born so that we can receive a physical body and to progress. Thus the power of procreation is a sacred power. Why is it sacred? Because it is the power by which mortals can bring God's children to earth so that they can experience mortality. This sacred power should only be used in the bonds of matrimony (and as marriage defined to be between a man and a woman). The LDS Church does not condone sexual relations outside the bonds of matrimony. This includes all forms of sexual relations, homosexual and heterosexual. In 1995 the LDS Church issued "The Family: A Proclamation to the World".

With this in mind you can see that marriage is not an institution developed by man. It is an institution developed by God to serve His divine purposes. Since it is impossible for two women or two men to become pregnant, homosexual relations - even monogamous homosexual relations - frustrate God's plan.

The LDS Church also builds temples, or places of worship, where men and women can be married for time and for all eternity.


There are several arguments that can be made as to why the LDS Church has become involved in the California Constitutional amendment. I think there are two main reasons why the
LDS Church has done this. They are as follows:

1.) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is standing up to the world as a beacon of moral values, which happen to be God's values. As the values of the world change, the LDS Church's values (God's values), have not changed. The LDS Church is standing up against these winds of change. It is the LDS Church's duty and obligation to remain fast to the values that God has revealed to their leader and prophet.

2.) If California does not approve of this Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, then other states can legalize same sex marriages. And if that happens, it will only be a matter of time before homosexual LDS Church members sue the LDS Church to allow them to be married for time and all eternity in LDS temples. And if the LDS Church looses that legal battle, then heaven help us. It is my firm belief and conviction that Church leaders do not wish to ever be faced with that kind of legal action. So they are trying to head that possibility off before it ever becomes an issue.


I am not a homophobe. You are free to do as you want and choose. However, God instituted marriage between a man (Adam) and a woman (Eve) when man was created on Earth. Mankind should not mess with this definition.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why I like my job

The thing I like the most about my job is the sense of satisfaction I get when I've helped a customer through a problem. In fact today I had a customer pay me a compliment that I've been the best tech support engineer that they've had. Kind of sad since I've only been with the company for a mere 4 1/2 months. But I have some experience that few of my other fellow employees have, and in this particular customer's case, it helped. That customer made my day. The last couple of days have been brutal on the phones. Yesterday I was slammed. Today I was slammed as well until the afternoon. I was feeling a bit down about work and how well I was doing. This customer's comments made my day.

So a word to those out there who call technical support, please don't be shy about saying thank you and being gracious. Especially if you have received good or excellent technical support. It is always better to be nice than a jerk. And if someone goes out of their way to help you out, please pay them a compliment. And if you receive a survey about that person's assistance, please honestly fill it out and send it back in. These little nuggets of kindness reflected back to your helper are priceless. The verbal kudos help for the moment. The positive surveys help when salary review time comes around. I've had several repeat customers. And it is a joy to work with those who are nice to you. Its better than, "Oh crap, I have to work with this person again..."

Working from home

At the end of January 2008 I quit my longstanding technical support job of eight plus years with a software provider to join a much smaller company that was rapidly growing. They were hiring. I needed a change so I jumped at it. It didn't hurt that they also offered me more money than I was making at the job I was at. And I was given the opportunity to work from home. Hey, this is a no brainer.

So I travel to California and work at company HQ for three long months. I'm married with six kids. And my wife is my best friend. It is hard to leave your lovely wife and best friend home alone with six kids. I missed them. They missed me. But now the time is over and I'm now home. And what doesn't kill you makes your stronger, right?

I've been home for about six weeks. And I've been working out of my home for those six weeks, never touching foot inside an office once during that time. So how has it been? It hasn't been too bad. There have been a few challenges and speed bumps along the way, but I'm getting the kinks worked out. I work in technology. As long as I have electricity, high speed internet and some peace and quiet, I can work anywhere. So far, here are the pros and cons of working from home:

  • Short commute (I have to walk downstairs into the basement to "go to work")
  • Huge savings in gasoline because I'm not driving into work
  • Eat lunch with my wife and kids every day
  • I can go to more of my kids' activities because I don't have to come home from the office
  • I am more productive because I don't have co-workers coming by to chit-chat with me
  • I am more self-reliant because I have to learn to search and dig for answers. That searching makes me a better at what I do.
  • The kids are sometimes noisy and people can hear the kids in the background
  • I miss the interaction with my co-workers, although proximity also increases the chances of office chit-chat, which I don't really miss all that much.
  • A little bit harder to bounce ideas off of co-workers. A lot of that has to be done via IM or IRC, which can be painful.
  • I don't have the commute time to decompress from the stresses of the job
  • Having adequate resources to work with
  • Work is only a few steps away. You just can't leave work at the office. It is always there. Ever present.

One speed bump that I had is that my wife would come and ask me to do something, such as watch the kids while she leaves to go somewhere. I can't do that. I can't take care of the kids. If I were at the office, I wouldn't be able to watch the kids. And just because I work from home doesn't mean I can do that any more than I was able to before. The first couple of weeks I had those requests. But now she realizes that I really can't do stuff around the house, unless it is on my lunch hour. I feel that it is extremely important for me to be honest to my employer and work my designated time. They are giving me an opportunity and privilege to work from home. I don't want to mess with that opportunity. I want to work from home as much as possible and not be forced to commute 100 miles round trip on a daily basis. Even though I own a Toyota Corolla that gets 30 - 40 MPG, with gas prices around $4/gallon, that is $10 - $13 of gasoline burnt in a day. That is $260+ in gasoline a month. I would rather keep that money and use it for something else. Besides that's just one less car on the road. Less pollution. Less oil that has to be imported. Less maintenance on my car. Overall, its good to work from home.

I am fortunate to have a job that allows me the opportunity to work from home. I think more employers should allow their employees the opportunity to work from home. It will help reduce our oil dependence. It will let people keep more money in their pockets so they can weather the economic storm that is raging. Employees need to be responsible enough to give their employer an honest days work. Employees need a room in their house that is their office. They need to keep interruptions to a minimum. They need to focus on their job and take a few short breaks. They need to remember that if they don't perform, they can be gone. Or their employer may ask that they come into the office.

So, do I work in my pajamas? Do I take a shower in the morning? The answer is no and yes respectively. I get up in the morning like I would for my job. I get in the shower. I get dressed. I eat breakfast. I go to work. I break for about an hour for lunch. I go back to work. And then at the end of the day I turn off my computer and go back "home". I think it is important that we prepare ourselves for a day of work. I don't want to work in my pajamas. But then again I don't wear slacks and a shirt either. Getting up in the morning and going through a routine helps me become prepared to work. I think it makes me a more effective employee at home.

I hope that employers give their employees an opportunity to work from home. Work with them. Spell out what is expected. Give them some boundaries. But in tough economic times where employers can't give raises but they want to keep good employees, letting people work from home will give people a raise. Because they won't need to spend money on gas to commute. Employees, be honest. Work hard. Be productive. Don't watch TV or waste your time. Give your employer what they need.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More on the effects of high oil

I saw this article about the cost of high oil:


I totally agree with the author of this article. As oil increases in price, there will be more and more resources spent in developing more oil resources. Eventually there will be an over abundance of oil and price will need to fall. The problem is that we need to survive this oil shock long enough for the new sources of oil to emerge.

We will see what happens. If I had the money, I would purchase a CNG car, or purchase a CNG conversion kit for my van. I'm still thinking about the CNG conversion kit for my van. If I can fill up my van for $25 instead of $100, I'm all over that. And it probably would not take too long to pay for itself. However, we need to get the car and van paid off before we can do that.

Friday, June 6, 2008

New oil record - $138.54 / barrel

I've been home from California for about five or six weeks. I've been watching oil climb in price over the past little bit and this is just plain and absolutely ridiculous. Oil jumped on the following news:

"Oil jumped following a Morgan Stanley analyst's forecast of $150 oil by July 4, and in response to a drop in the dollar and fresh tensions in the Middle East."

( http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080606/wall_street.html )

Because some bozo at Morgan Stanley said that it will go to $150 by the fourth of July, the market jumps. What kind of crap is that? Who is this guy? What is going on here? I don't buy into the whole oil shortage argument. I see the price pressure being caused by speculators. People who are dumping their money into oil. Just like houses, this bubble is going to pop. And I'll be glad when it does indeed pop. And I'm sure the rest of the world will also cheer when the oil bubble bursts.

Last Sunday I did something that I've never done before. I sat down and wrote a letter to President Bush. You might ask, why send a letter to the President of the United States about the price of a barrel of oil? What are you thinking? He can't do anything about it? Or can he? Maybe he can. Maybe he can't. But he needs to feel the heat that the common American is feeling about the increase in gas prices. I wrote the letter because I feel part of the problem is that the United States does not have a comprehensive energy policy. If the US had a comprehensive energy policy, then I think the price of oil would go down. Why? Because here is what I suggested in my letter:

The US needs a three tier energy policy. Short-term goals, mid-term goals and long-term goals to help get the price of oil down.

Short-term goals:

  • Open up drilling for oil and natural gas in ANWR (Alaska)
  • Open up drilling in other locations that are currently prohibited from drilling
  • Create incentives so that people will convert their vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG).
  • Encourage businesses to allow people to telecommute
  • Create incentives for people to car pool

Mid-term goals:
  • Research alternate fuels
  • Build more mass transit
  • Build geothermal power plants
  • Build solar power plants
  • Build wind power plants

Long-term goals:

  • Build nuclear reactors
  • Use fuel cells in automobiles
  • Move away from the use of fossil fuels and more to renewable fuels
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Biofuels (ethanol) are a mistake. They are driving up the price of corn in American and the world. The amount of corn it takes to fill one SUV's gas take can feed one person for a year. That isn't a very wise use of corn. I'd rather eat it than burn it in my car. Fuel made from things we can't/won't eat are OK. But don't use my food to propel my car.

Why will this work? Because if the President can sell the idea that there will be more oil out there on the market in a fairly short amount of time, the price of oil will drop. It has to. People are freaking out about oil. They are dropping money in it. In my opinion, the price is frothing. It is insane. People are going crazy. You drop a comprehensive energy policy on top of that stating that we will have more oil shortly and now the nation as a whole will move away from oil, that will cause these guys to lock in their profits and sell like crazy. The price will have to drop. But the comprehensive energy policy needs to be implemented or the whole feeding frenzy will reoccur at some future time again. And in all honestly, we should probably start moving away from oil quickly. The faster we move away, the better off we'll be. Why? So that we aren't dependent upon foreign oil. So we can quit funding terrorist nations like Iran. So we don't get screwed again by a major oil increase.

You'll notice that I put nukes here as something we should use. The US Navy uses nuclear power to power their submarines and aircraft carriers. Those are safe and efficient. Let's use nuclear power to split water molecules so that we can use the hydrogen to propel our fuel cell cars. If you are opposed to nukes, then use solar power. I really don't care. But use something to power the water molecule splitting so that we can use hydrogen.

Anyway, that's my proposal to President Bush. I think it would be a great thing for him to do. He's a lame duck President anyway. It would push the whole energy crisis into the 2008 election as a campaign issue. I don't know what Senator Obama's plans are for energy. Senator McCain's solution is to repeal the federal tax on gas. Ooooohhh. That's original and exciting... NOT! C'mon guys!! Let's get real here. Suspending the federal gas tax is like putting a band-aid onto an amputated person's leg right after surgery. It just won't help solve the underlying problem. Someone needs to take the energy bull by the horns and tame it. And it sounds like a great job for the President. So Mr. President, we're waiting....


Monday, April 14, 2008

Time flies when you're busy

Two weeks from today is my wife's birthday. Two weeks from today I will be home with my family. I actually leave Cali on April 25th, so I have less than two weeks of my training left to do. Its hard to believe that the time went by so fast. The month of March I went home three times. The company paid for two of those trips. I paid for the third trip home. Since I'm not made of money, I decided to stay here and not go home until the end of April. I think that is better. It doesn't freak out my kids and I'm not so homesick.

So, how has it been? Busy. Stressful. If none of you have ever done technical support of a product that is mission critical, you don't know stress. Today was a good day. I took care of several people. Got them all fixed up. Its a good feeling. I was able to actually get caught up on my work. Last week was nuts. Slammed to the hilt. Today wasn't so bad. I've been told that later in the month it will get busier. I don't doubt it.

So when you're busy, time flies. That has been so very true. The days I'm busy, time goes fast. It doesn't drag on. You don't get bored. Its when you don't have anything constructive to do that time drags. And drags. And drags.

UPDATE: I'm finishing this blog entry out on April 22. I go home in three days!! Yea! I really can't wait to go home.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Married, but single

Strange posting, I know. That is the only way I can describe my current situation. I'm married. Heck, I'm married with half a dozen kids. But yet I live alone in a 700 square foot condo in Silicon Valley hundreds of miles away from my family. I have a sister that is married. She lives in Texas. Her husband lives in California. They see each other about once a month or so. Now I understand to a small degree how she lives her life. I don't care for it much. I prefer my six noisy kids and my beautiful wife to solitude. Solitude will come with time when the children move away and I become older and (hopefully) wiser. Then it will be my wife and I. The children probably will not be gone until 2022 or 2027. That's a long time away.

Today was my first day on the phones. I took three calls in a three hour period of time and I closed two of those three calls. It was a good day. I'm glad to be here and contributing to the cause.

Friday, February 8, 2008


The summer of 1989 was the last time I spent any considerable time in California. In 1989 I sold books for Eagle Marketing. They sold illustrated scriptures with cassette tapes to families. I did OK, but other guys on my team did a lot better than I did.

Now I'm back in California for some training. The last time I was here, California didn't seem like it was that much different than the rest of the country. But this time around, there are some noticeable differences. Bottled water seems to be out. Instead, drink water from a tap. People are a lot more conscientious about recycling, good gas mileage, mass transit, turning off equipment when not in use. I have seen more Toyota Prius cars here in my short two weeks than I have in my entire life. Businesses have multiple garbage cans so that recyclable materials can be placed in bins that get recycled. Its amazing how people are conscious about recycling, about using more fuel efficient cars, etc. I'm not an avid recycler, but it is refreshing to see that kind of an attitude make its way into a society that accepts and encourages recycling.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My first photo sale

Last year I purchased my first real digital camera. I've taken approximately 5,500 photos in the eight months or so that I've had the camera. One of my friends suggested that I submit my photos to an online, royalty-free, stock photography web site. So I decided to take him up on the offer and I did. The website is www.istockphoto.com . Well, I uploaded one photo and nothing happened. I uploaded two more photos and nothing happened. I got busy doing the job interview thing and ignored my photo portfolio. Well, I checked it a few weeks ago and I actually sold a photo! Yea! And I checked again today and I sold another photo! Double yea! So how much money have I made selling photos? Well, about four bucks and some change. I know. Its not a lot of money. But I only have three photos. And the site has millions of photographs for people to choose from. Its a psychological "high" that you get when someone thinks your photograph is good enough to purchase and use in whatever way they deem. Perhaps its being purchased as an example of how NOT to take a picture. Hopefully not. Hopefully the photos will be put to good use.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A new job...

Right now I'm sitting in a one bedroom condo in San Jose, California. No kids. No wife. Just the three of us - me, myself, and I - are sitting here with my laptop blogging away. What am I doing in California? Well, a couple of weeks ago I quit my job with my former employer to take on the same position (tech support engineer) for a firm based in California. I was with my former employer for eight years and a month and some change, but who's counting anyway, right? My former employer has struggled for years. The last couple of layoffs at the company were a little scary. So I decided to look for other opportunities. The amazing thing is that when you start looking for another job, you usually find one. So how did I get here? Here's the story....

Backup to October 2007. My former employer was in the throws of their annual layoffs. I happened to be in Wal-Mart when I bumped into another former employee of my former employer in the store. We talked for several minutes and I told him what was going on. He said that his current employer was hiring and they were growing like crazy. So I decided to send him my resume. Well, one thing lead to another and I got a new job, leaving my old job far behind. Was it hard to change jobs? Absolutely!! When you've been with a company for 8+ years, you start to have a lot of friends and feelings about the place. I knew a lot of people in the support organization that I worked in. I had won awards for doing a job well done. I had sacrificed being with my family for the fourth of July one year to go onsite to Belfast, Ireland to take care of a large customer. So I had plenty of skin invested in my employer.

But the company changed in the eight years I was there. The benefits slowly began to erode. Annual pay increases turned into semi-annual (every two years, not every six months) raises ("Just be grateful you have a job....." was the quote from my boss one year when I didn't get a raise). Bonuses and other fun stuff dried up and went away. And then came the outsourcing. Jobs moving from the States to India. And not just development jobs, but support jobs. I knew when that happened it wasn't a matter of if, but when. When would I be disposed of like a used Kleenex (I'd use another metaphor but I may offend), cast off like 70's fashion? (Wait... 70's fashion is back in fashion!) When would my number be drawn and when would I be asked to leave? I decided that I didn't want to be left hanging, so I started taking things into my own hands. No better way to shape my destiny than to decide to shape it myself. Yes, to a small degree, you do control your destiny. You don't and won't get everything you want (I'm still waiting to get my Corvette), but you can control what you do and what you spend your time, talents, energy, and money on. And when you focus your energy on change, change does indeed come.

So with the writing clearly written on the wall, I made my quest to search for new employment. It was in the midst of this quest that I ran into my friend at Wal-Mart last October. I had applied for and interviewed for one other job. This was the second job that I applied for and I got the job. Yes, I was extremely blessed. And yes, I did feel the hand of Divine Providence in my life as He took care of me like no one else ever could. And yes, I openly acknowledge my faith and belief in a God and His divine nature. And He cared enough about me to take care of me and my family in our needs. I am truly blessed and cannot complain.

My new job requires that I spend three months in California being trained. Hence the one bedroom condo in Cali. I get to fly home once a month to spend the weekend with my wife and children. I've installed Skype on my home computer and my laptop. And I've spent considerable time watching and talking to them over Skype. Its fun to see them. We've even had family prayer a few times. So we're able to be a family as much as possible. But to say that's its hard to be away from them is the understatement of the year. My wife comes out to California for President's day weekend. I can't wait until she arrives. Once you've been married, it sucks being alone again. But I take it a day at a time. I try to stay busy. I'm exercising about 15 - 30 minutes a day.

Well, I've got to get into bed. I need to get to work early in the morning.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Oil at $100 per barrel

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Nothing rings in the new year like oil hitting an all time record of $100 per barrel. So what's driving up the price of oil? Speculators and speculators and, let me see, speculators. Yes, demand is high and supply is tight. And yes, there are problems out there. But the oil is still flowing. There haven't been any real shortages like there were in the 80's when oil hit $40 a barrel. If there were real shortages, the US government would release oil from the strategic petroleum reserve to help meet those shortages. That's what they did for Katrina and Rita a few years ago. I think there is this fear factor in the oil business that something is going to come in and whack supply without affecting demand and that is causing oil prices to spike. OPEC announces that they won't be able to meet their share of global demand by 2024. Hmmmm.... That's like 16 years away. The higher cost of oil is dampening demand. I know that I don't drive near a much now as I used to. Sooner or later we'll experience stagflation (this same economic situation happened in the 80s), the economy will tank, and demand for oil will drop like a rock. And the price of oil will drop as well. But until the US and worldwide economies cool down enough, oil won't plunge. And we'll all be held hostage by increased oil prices, which in turn raise the price for everything else that we consume. Have you noticed the price of food lately? Can you say sticker shock?

And yes, it doesn't help when the dollar is at an all-time low against practically every major currency in the world, and that is caused by lower interest rates here in the States. But still, I don't think half a percent drop in the interest rates in the States would have this profound effect on oil prices.

So I'll sit and wait. I'll wait for the economy to cool. I'll wait for the speculators to get burned. Because they are burning everyone else right now. They are making some incredible money right now, but eventually normalcy will return. One good thing that this has done is it has caused people to purchase more fuel efficient automobiles. It has caused Congress to pass new mileage standards for automobiles. This is a good thing.

Again, Happy New Year! Have you hugged your oil speculator lately? ;-)