Great quote...

Thomas Sowell's latest column says this,

A reader suggests that members of Congress should wear uniforms, like NASCAR drivers, so that we will know who their corporate sponsors are. Many of those in Congress should also wear logos representing the teachers' unions, environmentalist extremists and other special interests.



My mouth's bleedin' Burt!!!

One of my favorite holiday experiences is getting tears in my eyes at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life" when Harry Bailey toasts, "To my big brother George, the richest man in town."

I broke-a the juke-a box too!!!

Happy Holidays


Economic Downturn...

This summer I read a book about the Great Depression called The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes.  In it she says that the depression wasn't that bad if you had a job.  Unemployment numbers during the 1930's reached as high as 23% - today I think they are 6-7%.

Companies are laying people off and trying to make up for lost revenue. I think the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) is starting to sell booze on the trains to bridge their budget gap.  Yesterday there was a beer cart on the train in the vestibule!  How's that for being creative?  Most people I talk with say that their business is "slowing" down; I would say the same about my job.  We do not seem to be as busy.  Which is actually a little bit of a relief because an 8 hour day is much more feasible than six months ago.  

Today I read that California, the world's eighth largest economy, may be out of money in March.  How can this be possible?  Where does all the money go in that state?  I guess The Govenator can always put a windfall profit tax on Hollywood. Do Brad & Ang and TomKat really need all those millions?  Spread the wealth around a little in Cali.  ;)

I really do not know a whole lot about economics because in high school all we did in economics class was play the stock market with fake money.  (Not to go off on a tangent or risk offending people but I really think the public school system will be obsolete in my lifetime.)  My pseudo economics teachers are Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell.  Check out there columns if you have time.

Some do not believe the market can correct itself.  I am seeing an example of supply and demand at work.  A few months ago you couldn't find a contractor and if you did his price was extremely high.  Today you can easily find one and their prices are much lower.  Score one for the free market.

I'm not sure what I can do to help the situation.  This is what I will reflect on this weekend. 


Twilight - When you can live forever what do you live for?

Laura wanted to go see the movie Twilight because she heard a lot of buzz and hype - long lines, sold out shows, etc.  Neither one of us knew anything about it or seen the trailer.  I thought it was going to be about aliens for no other reason than the title is Twilight and aliens generally come out at night.

That was my only presupposition going in (however, I was a little miffed paying $21.50 for two tickets and 10 bucks for popcorn - in the words of my grandfather, "I'm not cheap but I know when I'm being ripped off"). Otherwise my mind was pretty open which can be a rare experience.

I am still reflecting on the movie.  It wasn't really about sitting there and being entertained.  I felt like there was a message - though I'm unable to articulate it at this time.

For what it is worth I recommend dropping the $10.75 on a ticket.


Last minute election advice...

Watch the election coverage on mute.  The pundits sound so much better that way.



I don't know why but I'm just not comfortable going through my wife's purse,  even if she asks me to.  

Today I was looking for a piece of gum and fumbled around in there for like five minutes until I finally found one.  I even had specific directions as to where the gum was located but could not quickly fish it out.

When I need a specific item and I ask Laura where it is, I cringe when I hear the dreaded phrase, "It's in my purse."


Let it snow...

So it snowed yesterday in NY (12" in some places) and has been cold in much of the Northeast.  Even London has seen its first snow in October since 1922 (as they debate a global warming bill).  Seems like this has been a trend the last few years- cold temps and snow in the midst of all the talk about global warming.  

In all of our efforts to prove our point one way or the other, I wonder if this irony is G0d trying to tell us we are missing the point?


Redistribute this!!!

Joe the Plumber made the presidential campaign a little more difficult for the Obama/Biden ticket when he asked Senator Obama about his tax plan - raising taxes on those who make over $250,000/year to give tax cuts/credits to those who do not.

I believe Obama's words were "spreading the wealth around".

Should Obama be elected, I will be one of the beneficiaries of his tax cuts.  He can keep it.  Instead I want him to give me a view out of my apartment window like this.  (These pictures are from the 73rd floor of an apartment building on 59th street in Manhattan.)

Unbelievable, right?  The view, not the fact that they want to spread the wealth around.   It just doesn't seem right.  Although it doesn't seem right for a such a great disparity between the rich and poor either - a CEO and a waitress is the popular example.   Why don't they ever say between an actor like Tom Cruise and the janitor who sweeps the sets or an athlete like Tiger Woods and the guy who mows the fairway?  Why doesn't that wealth get spread around?

There has to be a better way.  I am exploring the idea of a redistribution of worth or a redistribution of value.  But I do not think the government will able to lead in this.  It will have to be a grassroots movement by people with good hearts and self-less ambitions who will not only look after their own interests but also the interest of others.


Where's the Rage Part II...

Our presidential candidates want to put government back on the side of the people and want to make it cool again. 


I renewed my vehicle registration last month.  The check to pay the fee has been cashed 4 weeks ago.  I have not received my new registration.  Right now I am breaking the law by driving an unregistered car.  But what else am I suppose to do?

So I finally got a ticket(s) while parked downtown from a meter maid.  Not only did I get a ticket for an expired registration but also an additional ticket for failure to affix a current registration.  Is that not unbelievable???

The state inspection is up-to-date so I am okay there.

It is so frustrating - the 100 bucks but more so the two tickets for the same offense.  Twist the knife big brother.


Where is the Rage???

In both the presidential and vice-presidential debates a majority of the blame for the current financial meltdown has been placed on greed from Wall Street.  A closer look at the history of the situation seems to prove otherwise.

The government needs to take full responsibility for this collapse of the financial markets because they are at fault.  By the government I mean specific Congressional Members who ignored the warnings and made reassuring statements that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were sound institutions.

Whether Republican or Democrat these men and women should resign.  If not, the people of their states should not re-elect them.  I do not know how Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Chuck Schumer and others can show their faces in the midst of this crisis.  For lack of a better words they need to be cursed out.  They put those responsible for the fall of companies like Enron through Congressional hearings.  They too should be subject to the same grilling and then fired.

Neither presidential candidate is addressing this and because of that I find it very difficult to respect them and believe that they will bring the "change" they claim to represent.  If they do not do it now in the campaign I do not believe they will do it during their term in office.  I am disappointed, especially in John McCain and Sarah Palin.  They seem to speak the loudest about reform and being "mavericks" yet they have said nothing.  They seem ignorant when they speak of Wall Street greed when we know this is not the whole story.  Barak Obama received $126,000 in campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (McCain received $21,000) so there seems to be conflict of interest.  I wouldn't expect to hear any criticism from his lips.  But wouldn't it be refreshing if we did?  One of his advisors is Franklin Raines, former CEO of Fannie Mae who stepped down because of an accounting irregularities.  Awesome.

Fear is driving the markets right now.  I fear our politicians do not know what they are doing.

Check this out:


This shall be my greatest performance...

 I heard Joe Biden say that he wants to "take" money away from rich people, via taxes, to redistribute through government.  Conservatives will call this the Robin Hood theory.

Unless I am mistaken, or Walt Disney is wrong, but didn't Robin Hood spend the entire movie stealing from the government (poor Prince J0hn) to give to the poor?

Out of 300 million Americans our choices are these four people.   Wow.


Get Physical...

Riding the train in and out of Manhattan for 3+ hours each day doesn't leave much time for the gym.  So I have instituted a little program called the work-out at work.  

My office is on the 9th floor of the building- that is a lot of steps for 8 in the morning.  And with no air conditioning the elevator is the only sensible option. 

All summer I have been working up the courage to start taking the stairs.  So a few weeks ago I started small getting off at the 8th floor and walking to the 9th.  The next week I hit the button for 7.  It is a little embarrassing writing this but two flights of stairs can get the heart rate up quick. This week I am ending my elevator ride at the 6th floor. I wonder what people think when I immediately get out of the elevator and go to the stairwell.

In a month, if I'm taking all 9 flights, I'll be surprised.  



"It is a mistake to think business men are more immoral than politicians."    John Maynard Keynes



We have been staying up late watching both party's conventions. I will be glad when this week is over and I can get some sleep.

Wednesday night, Guiliani's speech was uncomfortable for me. The applause from the convention crowd was obnoxious and wouldn't help your view of Republicans if you are an undecided voter. Obviously he is there to fire up the delegates so I can take it with a grain of salt.

Anyone expecting bipartisanship at a convention is delusional. (However it is interesting how the Republicans will invite Democrats to speak, e.g., Zell Miller & Joe Liberman and those in their own party like Rudi and Arnold who lean left on social issues.)

Palin's speech was actually rather refreshing. I enjoyed seeing her family there. They seemed so genuine and real.

Some of her jabs at Obama were uncomfortable and unnecessary although I am glad she made his experience a major theme. I do not think she came across as smug. She was having fun as well as making serious statements.

Here are the excerpts that surprised me:

To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House

In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.

Our nominee doesn't run with the Washington herd. He's a man who's there to serve his country, and not just his party.

And though both Senator Obama and Senator Biden have been going on lately about how they are always, quote, "fighting for you," let us face the matter squarely. There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you ... in places where winning means survival and defeat means death

To the most powerful office on earth, he would bring the compassion that comes from having once been powerless ... the wisdom that comes even to the captives, by the grace of God ... the special confidence of those who have seen evil, and seen how evil is overcome.

Gov. Palin has helped me see a different side of John McCain. During the primary debates he appeared angry and dull. Now he seems almost likable as a person and candidate.


The Forgotten Man...

Started a new book on the history of the Great Depression.  Just read the introduction and I am excited to get into this book.  The title is called, "The Forgotten Man" which comes from a 1883 essay by William Graham Sumner.  Here is his quote:

As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X.  Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X, or in the better case what A, B and C shall do for X...What I want to do is look up C.  I want to show you what manner of man he is.  I call him the Forgotten Man.  Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct.  He is the man who is never thought of...
He works, he votes, generally he prays- but he always pays...

In case you need the definition of appellation:  the action of giving a name to a person or thing.  I am not too proud to say I looked it up.   !


Rock N Roll Jesus...

I was given Kid Rock's new album Rock N Roll Jesus.  I am not endorsing it cause I am just listening to it for the first time.  The reason I mention it is because of the quote on the inside cover of the album:

If it looks good, you'll see it.
If it sounds good, you'll hear it.
If it's marketed right, you'll buy it.
But...if it's real, you'll feel it.

Whoa.  Let that soak in.



To unwind after work I have been indulging in a few games of Chess on my computer.  (That yelling you hear in the background is my wife calling me a loser.)  I am not an avid Chess player.  I will play twice a year at most, but I get the basic gist...so I thought.   I am taking on all the forces of Chess playing against the computer.  It is humiliating....

Hopelessness overwhelms me as I watch my pieces disappear from the screen as I sit helpless against the onslaught.  It is a good lesson in being in over my head and how a little knowledge can lead down the wrong path.  It also shows me what can happen being up against an adversary of overwhelming knowledge and power.  


Citizen of the World...

A few years ago I was asked to speak to a group of people about friendship.  Now everyone knows how to be a good friend right?  So how do you put an interesting twist to this topic of friendship? Well for me, I entitled the talk, "Being a Friend to the World".  These words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian churches guided me:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. 

How does this translate into being a friend to the world? For me I guess it begins with my attitude and hopefully that will somehow trickle down into my actions.

Recently presidential candidate Barak Obama gave a speech in Berlin, Germany addressing the crowd as "citizens of the world".  I agree with the spirit of that phrase.  Every country should have that attitude while of course looking after its own interests.  

As far as Senator Obama's interests for our country, as noble as they may be, I do not necessarily agree with them and the means in which he will carry them out.  Senator McCain may very well be an impressive person but he has yet to impress me with his campaign for president.  It has been a while since a Senator has become a president.  I think that I am going to start hoping and praying for a new candidate to emerge who will bring fresh ideas and leadership to carry them out.  That's the change I'm hoping for.

Saving the World...

Started reading a new book - Saving the World at Work, What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference - this weekend.  The author is Tim Sanders.

Sanders believes a revolution is underway that will redefine how companies do business, how consumers choose who they buy from and how new college graduates choose who they will work for.  He calls it the Responsibility Revolution.  

Do you want to be part of a great company? If so, you need to understand that 'great' is getting an extreme makeover. Today, 'good' is the new great.
A good company is one whose mission is to improve the lives of everyone in its footprint: employees, suppliers, customers, supporting communities and the planet.  (page 5)

I have read 46 pages so far.  He lists interesting facts such as 65% of American consumers will switch to brands associated with a good cause if price and quality are equal; 66% of recent college grads will not work for companies with poor social values; and that 60 million people are willing to pay a premium for socially and environmentally responsible products.

Recently I started buying from a clothing line called Nau that is socially and environmentally conscience.  It is expensive to live this way.  It is rare to find a similar product for the same price.  I can get four polo shirts at the GAP for one shirt at Nau.  

I am excited to continue this book.  It is a good companion reader to N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope."  I am interested to see how I can incorporate his ideas into my career as a Structural Engineer.


Conservative vs. Liberal - an illustration...

Read this article by Lloyd Marcus.  

Makes me think of the movie 300 where the hunchback is selling out the Spartan army to the Persian king.  The Persian king, Xerxes, is offering the hunchback all the pleasures of the senses, if he will divulge the secret passage to defeat the Spartan army.  

Xerxes says (my paraphrase), "Leonidas -the Spartan king- asked you to stand, all I require is that you kneel."

I hope that we do not kneel before our politicians who offer us a better way of life (in their eyes) if we will just let them take care of us. 


Surprised by Hope...

N.T. Wright says (at the risk of gross oversimplification)  there are two quite different ways of looking at the future of the world.  

" The first position is the myth of progress.  Many people, particularly politicians and secular commentators in the press and elsewhere, still live by this myth, appeal to it, and encourage us to believe it. Indeed (if I may digress for a moment), the demise of serious political discourse today consists not least in this, that the politicians are still trying to whip up enthusiasm for their versions of this myth - it's the only discourse they know, poor things - while the rest of us have moved on...  That is why the relentlessly modernist and progressivist projects that the politicians feel obliged to offer us ("vote for us and things will get better!") have to be dressed up with the relentlessly postmodernist techniques of spin and hype: in the absence of real hope, all that is left is feelings.  Persuasion will not work because we're never going to believe it. What we appear to need, and therefore what people give us, is entertainment.  As a journalist said recently, our politicians demand to be treated like rock stars while our rock stars are pretending to be politicians.  Sorting out this mess-which the Christian hope, despite current opinion, is well suited to do-should mean, among many other things, a renewal of genuine political discourse, which God knows we badly need."

Page 83 of "Surprised by Hope".

Let the discourse begin...or continue...



Every town can boast about something whether the restaurants, sports teams, scenery, weather, etc.  Long Island is made up of many towns that have a different flavor and feel.  This weekend we went to a local brewery in Patchogue called Blue Point Brewing Company.  We went on a tour and learned how they brew their different varieties of beer.  Whenever I am in a new bar I always try the local beer on draught.  Blue Point is by far (in my limited tasting experience) the best I have tasted so far.  My favorite is called a black and blue - they take oatmeal stout and mix it with blueberry ale.  Amazing.  In fact, I'm drinking one right now.

Let me know if you have a favorite local beer.

Another local favorite, for breakfast, is Toast Coffee House in Port Jefferson.  This place has ruined breakfast at most other places because nothing really compares.  I recommend the Hawaiian Quesadilla and the Good Burrito.  Laura always gets the French toast or pancake special of the day - Today was Apple Pie Pancakes (she housed them).  Toast also serves tappas on the weekends that I have not tried yet but will sometime soon.  Along with a great breakfast, Port Jefferson offers an historic downtown to walk and a ferry to Connecticut.  



A year ago you would never have been able to get me to part with my Birkenstock sandals.  I have consistently worn (through) a pair for the past eleven years.  Last September blasphemy came into my house when Laura purchased me a pair of Sanuks.  And that is all she wrote.

Recently I updated my wardrobe with clothes from a store called Nau.  I learned about Nau from an outdoor magazine.  Jack Johnson was on the cover so I picked it up and found a list of environmentally friendly stores and products - Nau was one of the featured stores.  Buying clothes online is a little odd because it takes some guessing as to whether the clothes will look good and fit right.  I took the risk and was very pleased.  The clothes are pricey but hopefully worth it.

For Christmas my parents bought us a Bunn coffee maker.  It is awesome because it brews coffee in 3 minutes and supposedly it makes really good coffee.  I'm not a coffee connoisseur quite yet.  I used to load up on the cream and sugar or flavored creamers.  Now I've been drinking it black mostly because Laura does and I can't be asking for cream and sugar when my wife is drinking it black.  I haven't had cream in my coffee for at least 6 months.  

Whole Foods has great coffee.  I prefer them to Starbucks.  At home we grind our own and brew it in the Bunn.  Trader Joes has good coffee and it is very affordable.  I just started getting Boca Java sent to me.  I have to recommend the flavor Surfin' Safari.  Typically flavored coffee is just a treat for me and this is one has an aroma that overwhelms the senses. 


William F. Buckley, Jr., Word of the Day:


1. Done, made, or acquired by stealth
2. Acting or doing something clandestinely 

"It turned out that several of my coconspirators had fathers with similar prejudices, so that when our little syndicate was formed we all agreed that communications among ourselves on the subject of our surreptitious hobby would go out discreetly, lest they be intercepted."


How U Doin'???

This is the view from my desk in our new office.  Working in NYC never really gets old. The commute to and from can but I am able to read a lot of books.  Right now I am reading what the author calls "a literary autobiography".  The only reason I have the book is because I joined a book club and got it for free.  Here is an excerpt from William F. Buckley's 
"Miles Gone By":
It is wonderfully comforting to reflect that the New Testament speaks other than invidiously of wine.  There is always the sin of excess, and I comply with the biblical injunctions against greed by making it a hard-and-fast rule never to pay excessive prices for wine

A good book can make or break the train ride home.  I was forcing myself to read "Pride and Prejudice" and I dreaded going home because I couldn't stomach those two sisters rambling.  Perhaps when i mature.

My friend James Shanks took this picture of lightning hitting the Brooklyn Bridge.  Screw Ben Franklin.


Stuff that in your carbon credit pipe and smoke it...


There are two sides to every story so I would love to hear the other side of this one!


No stop signs...no speed limits...

Saturday as I was walking in the bank parking lot after getting some cash out of the ATM, a car rolled up blaring AC/DC's "Highway to Hell". For a moment I was whisked off to my youth when the ringing of church bells drowned out the 1979 classic and gave me a smile. I don't want to read into it, but with all that is going on in my life, this brief moment in my weekend was a humorous reminder of who is to be heard - rather who will be heard.



Starbucks has a new label/logo. I kinda like the brown. The weird posing mermaid is not very very appealing

I was a a gas station and saw the price of cigarettes is $6 a pack. Being a nonsmoker I cannot fathom how someone can drop six bucks every few days or everyday on a pack of cigs. Then I thought about those how will casually spend the same amount at Starbucks everyday. Choose your habits (or addictions) wisely.

That being said it is hard to sympathize with some who is complaining about not having any money as they stand there with a Starbucks in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It wouldn't surprise me if the same person is an anti-capitalist.

I don't know how much longer I can live in a country that will put Kevin Federline on the front of their magazine and think it is a good business decision. Or maybe I should say that I can't live much longer in a country where it is in fact a good business decision to put Kevin Federline on the cover of their magazine.

This is my first blog post from my MacBook. No more blue screens!!!



Is there a term for a person who doesn't update their blog regularly, or even yearly?

Just paid my tax burden, or I should say my remaining balance. I'll stop there before the explicatory language flies.

I live in Islip, NY. We spend $9962 a year for each student in school. The average expenditure in the U.S. is around $6000 (according to Sperling's Best Places). There is an 89% graduation rate here in Islip. Not bad I guess. Should we have those students who don't graduate pay back the money?

I ran some numbers and if a child chose to forgo the education system and put the cash in an interest bearing account (say 3%) they could have about $144k by the time they are 18. Doesn't seem like all that much. If they were savvy and found a way to get 8% return they could have $200k. That's enough for a quality liberal arts education.

I think that when something is "free" it is less appreciated. That's why making college free for all is probably not the best idea. I wonder what the unintended consequences of free health care would be. It's already free for many of us cause our employer takes care of it. I have little to no responsibility for my health care.

The other night I watched "As Good As It Gets" with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. I was too much of a young head full of mush to realize when the movie came out in 1997 that it was one big universal health care infomercial. No wonder it won a Golden Globe.