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We are off to LA

Lakers win, Spurs go home and we are going to LA.  Yes, now that that is over until next Thursday, I don’t have to worry about missing a game while we are in West Hollywood for a book reading.  We have gotten to the point where driving somewhere has to entail a lot of different tasks.  So since summer is on the cusp and the fair season starts in June we have to stop at our storage lot in El Toro to check out the equipment. Then it’s on to West LA for a cruise of the Santa Monica Blvd. shops before we get to the book reading by Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge. 

It’s weird but the more I wrote the above the more it felt like a Twitter post.  Weird because I normally don’t do much on the social networking side of blogging.  It has taken me three years just to add an avatar to this site.  My main reason for that is that I am mostly scornful of the cell phone, text-message crowd.  I really do see most of their constant chatter back and forth as meaningless.  Of course, that isn’t true.  Amidst all the chatter, is a hard core of real work getting done.  People who use the net, and their cell connections, to actually save time and save on energy use by not having to travel physically.  That I applaud.  But people are strange to me in the way they over-indulge in talking.

There is a new movie out I want to see that deals with this issue.  Tim Robbins is in it and it’s called Noise.  Maybe we can find it on our LA trip. 

Speaking of noise, and back to that Lakers game, am I the only one who feels that the announcers have gone crazy?  They are covering a televised game.  We can see it, too.  But the play by and the color, just keep on talking.  Can you imagine watching a game in person and the fellow sitting next to you keeping up a constant chatter?  On top of that, it feels like most of the time they aren’t talking about the game, they are talking about their own experiences.  What are they afraid of, that we will switch channels because they aren’t telling us what to see?  Talk about noise.

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Weekly Tags

Yes, it’s that time again.  You and I get to go back into the future as we look at the varied and sundry.

  • Frugality is in.  Who knows, maybe we will even hear GWBIII telling us to save instead of spend those stimulus checks.  Well, I don’t know that seems a little far fetched.   Anyway, for those of you who always wanted to be like your grandparents, here’s a great place to start clipping those coupons and banking those pennies in the cookie jar.


  • Everyone has probably heard of Life Hacker the blog but I never took the time until I was reading a post by Trent at the other day and he mentioned that one of the ways he has discovered to save money is to take up a hobby that doesn’t cost a lot to start and almost nothing to continue.  Like buying a basketball and a hoop for your garage door, like I did a 66 key keyboard to teach myself how to play.  Once I laid out the $200 for the board, the only cost is time spent playing.  And just like shooting hoops, it is just as rewarding.  Now Trent pointed me at this post on the LifeHack site.  Yipee.


  • I came across this site while researching my post on the real estate wasteland.  And because wordpress has some funny protocols about using javascript I haven’t yet taken the time to figure out if it will work for me on this blog but if it doesn’t work here I can always take it over to by blogger blog.  I know it always likes a brainy quote.


  • PC World lists it in its top five best blogs and I came across Alex Eckelberry because of a comment he made on jtaplinsblog about conservatism’s rise and fall.  But I visited the site out of a curiosity about security concerns on the internet.  How much firewall do we need?  I know that wordpress uses a screen to keep out spam and still I get one or two comments a week that could only come from a bot.  Anyway, I plan to go back to this site when I have time and ask some more questions.


  • And finally, it is Memorial Day and stores and banks are closed while outdoor barbecues and baseball games go on.  Somewhere a soldier is killing or being killed.  Somewhere a family is mourning their loss whether it be the soldier or the ones she killed.  On this site which I think I’ll be visiting quite a bit in the future I discovered a different sort of party. 



And I leave you with this poem I penned anon:


On the day outside my mind,
           bike rides like wind flies and trains of inconsequence trade themselves for
                        thoughts as I wish for more than I can have or hold or even use in this
                world gone mad as a hatter,

In a world where anything can un happen, can re happen, can happen more or
              less with consequences and all the trimmings,
While we (you and I) still stay in a quandary, at a loss,
Up in the air like a coin star-crossed, our minds flipping, tripping

                        at all the evil dripping from the last bomb tossed.


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Fear in the marketplace

I started reading a new author yesterday, Nicola Griffith’s, Always, a tale told in classic noir style, the hero viewing the world for my eyes.  At one point, she has a need to quote Andrea Dworkin:

“We are taught systematically to be afraid.  We are taught to be afraid so that we will not be able to act, so that we will be passive, so that we will be women…”

Don’t worry men you are taught the same thing and for the same purpose.

“the information we get, every day, from TV and newspapers and online, is all about the rapes that are completed, the lives lost, the pain suffered — preferably with blood and body parts and panicky eyewitness accounts.  Why? Because that’s what get an audience, and the bigger the audience, the more media can charge for their commercials.  More than eighty percent of us spend our lives afraid because that helps soap makers and computer manufacturers sell product.”

One of the most popularized strategies of the 80’s “War on Drugs” is the scared straight method.  Take a group of potential users to a hospital or a jail to see the end result of drug usage, and, so the story goes, they see what there is to be afraid of and thus change their evil ways.  Last year, over 870,000 people were sent to jail in America for drug related crimes.  Adding their lives to the 70% of the prison population that were already there for the same type of crime.  But I bet a lot of commercial time accompanied the TV showing of this strategy.  Today, you can see its progeny in the spate of Cops, Jail, Coroner, and Law and Order shows that clog the cable system networks. 

These days, though, the fear and purchasing power of these show may be on the wane.  Too much of a good thing?  Maybe.  But I think fear of something else may be pushing its way to the surface.  Right now what is selling TV and newspapers, and even here online, is the fear of a Recession or even worse a long term economic Depression.

The imagination is a powerful thing.  Feeding it with the news that sells is the purpose of our advertising.  But, and this is a big But, being scared straight into supporting an increasing and ongoing trillion dollar debt-laced budget, that’s just foolish.  We need to take a deep breath and remind ourselves to use our fears to Think Straight about what the true nature of our economy and our part in it is.

Here are some questions that might help frame our answers:

  • Where do we live and how close are we to the work we do?
  • How often do we use alternative forms of transportation?
  • What active part do we play in deciding what is happening in our own neighborhood?
  • What is happening in our neighborhood that contributes to a sustainable life?
  • How often do we participate in local government?
  • What are the political forces at work in our local economy?
  • What are the long range plans for our local economy?
  • What are the real problems that face our local economy:  job loss, business failures, not enough affordable housing, air pollution, increased utility costs, education system breakdowns ?

If we think straight about the answers to these questions, I believe we will see that there is much we can do and much to be worried about, but if being afraid is the result, it is the wrong one.


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Don’t forget to save, bloggers

In my continuing pursuit of blogging expertise, I recently checked out The Everything Blogging book from my local library.  I am always hoping that I’ll find something new to add to what I’ve learned since I became a blogger.  Keywords, search strategies, trackbacks, pings, and plug-ins are phrases that now trip across my tongue as easily as babies batting balloons. But something from the past is what brought this book’s scope into focus today.  Each of the 23 chapters has something unique and valuable to say.  A fact I’ll cover later this week in my review.  For now I just want to point out one thing.

In Chapter 20, on Maintaining Your Blog, the author reminds us that backing up your blog is a necessarily sensible thing to do.  You forgot didn’t you?  Just like I have.  But last week’s dust up over changes in the format here at wordpress should have reminded us:

Web servers everywhere can be vulnerable to a  whole host of problems, including, but not limited to, crashes, where all or parts of the data on the server is lost or damaged; hacking, when someone infiltrates the server and wreaks havoc; failure, when a server simply dies and the data cannot be retrieved; or human error, when one false programming  move wipes everything out.

She goes on to explain several methods one can use, starting with Blogger’s back up the whole blog into a separate site method, and Typepad’s ability to let you back up your whole blog as a file.  Some people go so far as to back up each post on paper which can be time consuming if you have to reenter the whole thing.  Some folks short cut the process by writing posts in a word processing format and then pasting them into the blog.  (I’ve used this method but sometimes the blog might not like or accept the formatting of the WP)  Backing up to your computer is also mentioned but if it can happen to your host it can also happen to your computer, so saving to disk is the final, safest, and most efficient method. 

  1. Name a folder by your blog name and save it to a disk.
  2. Copy each post, or each page of your blog (highlight and hit control c) then save it to wordpad or a WP under a distinctive name.
  3. Paste your copy into the folder on the disk.
  4. Set yourself up a reminder to do this once a week, a day, a month, or after every post, whatever you feel an amount you would mind losing is, and so that backing up becomes a habit.

It may be time consuming but once you get the habit, it will get easier.  It definitely is worth it since losing everything you have written can make you want to give blogging forever, almost.


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Weekly Tags

Every week I find myself enjoying the side trips I have to take to research my posts and to follow up on links sent to me from the posts I spend my time reading.   This week at the tip top of my list is this item from the alternet on the addictive nature of consumerism.  Charlie Shaw writes in his review of last year’s documentary, What a Way To go, that,

 Through a pastiche of revolutionary thinkers including Derrick Jensen, Daniel Quinn, Jerry Mander, Richard Manning and Chellis Glendinning, What A Way To Goconcludes that industrial civilization — and its end product, consumerism — has disconnected us from nature, the cycle of life, our communities, our families and, ultimately, ourselves. This unnatural, inorganic, materialistic way of living, coupled with a marked decline in society’s moral and ethical standards — what the French call anomie — has created a kind of pathology that produces pain and emptiness, for which addictive behavior becomes the primary symptom and consumption the preferred drug of choice.

There isn’t a day that goes by that Trent at The Simple Dollar doesn’t reach into his grab bag of writing ideas and come up with some gold.  This rumination on the State of the Economy is no different.  In this post he covers two sides of the issue in a discussion of eight questions about the state of our current economy and how it affects you.  By defining the Fed as the banker of banks he is able to talk about what it has been doing and how this has been rippling out in a series of waves to deal with sub-prime lending, the banking system and with you. 

What I love about this poster is her absolutely eclectic approach to understanding and illustrating personal finance.  This post on Singing the Sub-Prime Blues is no different.

Another writer who bears watching is Kathy G at the aptly named blog, the G-Spot, and this week is no different as she continued her explanation of the history of a two party system on people’s income.  Her postition that the party in power makes a difference to what you and I earn  leaves little doubt as to the direction we need to be thinking in this next election.

 Since the emphasis this week was on figuring out what to do in the current economy to keep one’s personal finance balance, I thought paying a visit to JD at Get Rich Slowly wouldn’t hurt.  This review of high yield savings account for holding your emergency fund just about cover it all.

The final stop on this week’s tour is one of my favorite places for getting clear and accurate definitions, How Stuff Works, where I took a little time to clarify for myself how savings accounts are really supposed to work.  

Well, that’s all for now.  See you next weekend.

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Tuesday’s links to catch you up

Once a week I plan to take the time to clear my bookmarks and share some of them with you.  It is what surfing the web 2.0 is all about:

At Paul Stewart casts a rather jaundiced eye at the world but he makes some fine points about where we are and where we might be heading, too.

Meanwhile, veteran stock market analyst, Martin T. Sosnoff, on InvestorGuide summarizes the situation as to how the market is handling this roller coaster ride.

And at the Huffington Post, you might find this playful dissection of David Mamet as funny and insightful as I did.

One of the many aspects of the blogosphere that I’ve come to respect is the world wide nature of it.  Take this blog for example. 

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A week of books, day one

starts with Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.  I think Ms. Smith to be one of our most inventive story tellers and this novel, published in 2005, is her third.  It follows her immensely popular and awarded White Teeth and just as entertaining  and rewarding The Autograph Man.   The best feature of her writing is that while the characters are always unique and entertaining in their predicaments she really has something deeper to say about this world in which we live.  Nothing pat, no formulaic happiness to the ending though this story does end with everyone moving forward and having learned from their experience.

Carl Thomas, Zora, Claire Malcolm, Monty Kipps, Howard Belsey, Vee, Kiki Belsey, here’s a question:  Can you pick out the characters of African descent?

Money plays a part in their lives.  Caste and class, too.  The youngest son, Levi Belsey, longs to be black, street, rich, and politically correct to his soi disant revolutionary brothers.  The youngest daughter, Vee Kipps, strives to show through her sexuality that she can control the world.  The fathers of the families feud.  Politically they are at different ends of the spectrum but of course you know that puts them a lot closer to each other than they can admit.  The wives unite in their realization that they have lived their lives in hopes of being valued by their husbands, though their reasons for doing so are clearly different in nature.

And in the end, things fall apart.  It turns out that family values aren’t something you say you have.  You actually have to have them.  And it doesn’t matter whether that’s God on your side or not, you can still die of cancer and you can still decide to cheat on your conscience.

My favorite character, Carl, disappears at the novel’s end.  Gone back to the streets or where ever the music is.  But he represents the point of the novel that I like best.  He is honest to his talent but unable to handle the social responsiblity that the people he trusted actually feel towards him.  He is no project for a liberal leaning idealist to raise up.  He is definitely no project that a neocon Clarence Thomas can look down upon. 

Give Carl a free market and he goes to the head of the class.

This story looks inside this social system that we have, that defines a person without knowing that person, and asks us to reflect on our own motives for picking a side in the question.  A question that comes back to our own world’s current financial dilemma.  Does government have the responsibilty to even the odds or should it rely on the free market to resolve the dilemma?  If the answers are provided by men like Howard Belsey or Monty Kipps, you get one answer.  If they are provided by women like Kiki Belsey, then you get quite another.

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