Thursday, February 22, 2007

Word Choices

I find it interesting to listen to how people phrase things to their advantage - sometimes to the detriment of others. Of course, this is especially apparent in politics.

"This President" - This is the phrase I have noticed more and more over the last few years. It ties in with the widespread hatred of President Bush, primarily among liberals. They are very careful not to address him as "President Bush" or even "The President". They use the phrase "this President". Example: "This President decided to take us into a war for oil under false pretenses." This phrase seems to somehow emaciate the President - implying, among other things, that he does not have the support of the people. It reminds me of one parent saying to another "hey, your son just hit that boy over there".

"Democrat": In the interest of balance, here is a phrase the conservatives have started using when describing the Democratic party ("Democrat party"). They claim it is an unintentional shortening of "Democratic", but it hardly seems as innocent as they make it sound. And in response, I have recently heard democrats referring to the "Republic party". All very childish indeed.

I am reminded of pledging a fraternity. One of the early things they teach you is never to use the word "frat", always "fraternity". Even to this day, it is easy for me to hear the sense of disdain or superiority that is usually implied when people choose the word "frat".

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Love Broken Things

You have to hand it to Google. Even when their stuff doesn't work for an unknown reason, they find a way to make you happy about it.

It seems that Google's irreverent attitude is catching. Just 2 days later, I got this message in Bloglines:

Saturday, February 17, 2007

And Buildings

Apparently there are building that look like letters. I am posting these things for the unlikely chance that someday I find a need for these tools.

Fun Stuff on Flickr

Letters letters everywhere.

M01 i K E RED B Eeeeeeee R oozy M A N

Thanks to spell with flickr.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Financial Planners

We experimented with financial planning a few years ago. We tried a planner that doesn't charge any fees. But it is implied that they will try to sell you their products, which give them the best commissions. As I've now seen the process from both sides, I think I've learned a bit about incentives in the financial planning industry.

Of course, some things are abundantly obvious. When we looked at life insurance, the planners pushed very hard for us to get whole life insurance (big commission). They were disappointed when we made the decision to get term insurance (small commission). But some other things were more subtle.

One strategy I noticed is that when they calculated our "net worth", they included the entire value of our house. I asked why they wouldn't just include the down payment (since we had just moved in). They basically said "don't worry about it". In retrospect, I think their goal is to inflate your apparent net worth as much as possible, to loosen up your perspective about investing.

Something else I've been thinking about recently is that 529 plans (college savings) are really being oversold. The advisors give you these frightening projections, like how 4 years of college will cost $200K in 2020. Then they push these 529 plans, which let you get tax-free investment earnings as long as you earmark the money to pay for college. The problem I figured out with these plans is that they are preying on people's bias about their children. Everyone thinks their children are geniuses who will be going to a top 4-year college. But in reality, only about 50% of people go to these types of colleges. (I actually think too many people go to college, but that is a topic for another time.) I really have my doubts about whether the tax break on this investment is enough to offset the risk of paying a stiff penalty if the child does not ultimately use the money for college.

The Day We Lost The War On Terror

People become terrorists because they believe that the current condition of the world is not as it ought to be, and they blame a specific group for this situation. Only a very small fraction of members in any group (Muslims, for example) become terrorists.

Small groups of terrorists have essentially no army and no weapons, so it is difficult for them to change the world order. So their strategy is to commit sensational and provocative attacks against the group they villify, luring them to retaliate against the broader organization that they claim to represent. This incites the broader group to take up arms against the enemy, thus giving the small group of terrorists the best chance of achieving their goal.

Clearly, the way to avoid succumbing to the terrorist plot is to retaliate only against the very narrow group of terrorists. You must be very careful not to attack the larger group, which would feed right into the terrorist strategy.

The day we lost the war on terror was a few days after 9/11. President Bush over-reacted to the attack. This human reaction was understandable, since he was surrounded by grieving widows and angry Americans. He created a doctrine that not only will we retaliate against Al Qaeda, but we will attack any nation that harbors terrorists or might be expected to harbor terrorists. We invaded the Muslim nations of Afghanistan and Iraq. This played right into the terrorist strategy of having the U.S. attack millions of Muslims, drawing both sides into a massive conflict.

The terrorists who committed the 9/11 bombings were already dead by the time anyone knew about the attacks. But the "success" of their mission continues to grow each day that we bring war to Muslims around the world. We must do a better job of staying collected and properly targeting our military responses after terrorist attacks.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Coal Mine Sans Canary

It's still early, but it may be tough to top this headline for most ironic of the year:

If only some small bird could have made its way into the mine to warn them...

And to top it off, The Police reunited later that same night, after 20 years apart, to headline the Grammy telecast on TV. I heard that they played Roxanne. I think emotions were still too raw for Canary in a Coal Mine.

Note, you can read the entire article here. I found this part somewhat disturbing: "The group probably got lost because they ventured in without their guide, who had to cancel and give them instructions by cell phone before their descent."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Going through hundreds of movies on Flixster, I've come to the stark rezlization that I will not live long enough to see even a fraction of the movies that I have rated as "Want To See It". Thus, I really need to start looking harder at my selection criteria for the few movies that I see each year.

These are some criteria that I have come up with. Please let me know if you have any additional suggestions.

- No Sequels
- No Teen romps
- No adaptation of TV shows
- No remakes of movies that I've already seen
- No movies that I already know too much about (?)
- No movies that were universally panned by the critics (?)

Favorite Albums

Up to date list of my all-time favorite albums.

1. Pink Floyd - The Wall
2. White Stripes - Elephant
3. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
4. George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
5. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
6. Julee Cruise - The Voice of Love
7. Radiohead - OK Computer
8. Weezer - Green Album
9. Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
10. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning