Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It Isn't a Recession Yet

The economy grew by 0.6% last quarter
. Yeah, that sucks, but it isn't a "recession". In fact, it means we can't technically be in a recession until 3Q since one requires two consecutive quarters of contraction. And we sure as hell aren't in a "depression" as some pundits like to say.

Part of the perception problem is that the press is focusing on losers who over-leveraged, over borrowed, or who just can't manage money. Next to the above link on Yahoo is this one about people "selling their prized possessions just to make ends meet". Boo hoo. Perhaps if they had saved money instead of buying crap when times were good they would have savings to fall back on. But no, Americans are looking to the "government" to bail them out of their bad decisions on everything mortgages to health so they don't have to save, eat right, exercise or do anything else that requires discipline.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Great Read: Retribution

After seeing a review in the WSJ, I decided to pack this on my last trip even though it is a 2.4 lb. hard cover. I'm glad I put up with the weight - I was totally absorbed for the entire 12 hour flight.

Retribution covers the last two years of the War in the Pacific - pretty much the period after the Allies turned the tide until surrender. It covers all aspects of the Japan theatre, including little known ones like Burma. Here are some observations:

  • After reading this, you can't help but think that MacArthur was a total megalomaniac who killed thousands of troops just to satisfy his own personal desire to recapture the Philippines.
  • Australia really didn't pull its weight in the war. On the domestic front, strikes held up shipping and loading since the Australian unions were more concerned about internal power than they were supporting the war (the side-by-side comparison of Australian vs. U.S. ship loading efficiency is damning)
  • I found the Asia mainland chapters a bit boring (the only parts of the book that were). England's Burmese campaign was little cared for then and virtually unknown today for good reason - it did little to advance the cause of the war. The China chapters are interesting, only because they provide the background for that country's civil war (the bottom line is that the Chinese factions were more concerned about fighting each other than they were fighting the Japanese).
  • The naval battles and island campaigns are, of course, the most fascinating parts of the book.
  • Everyone knows about Japanese brutality during WWII, but this book really hits it home. Everyone thinks the Germans were the only ones vivisecting live humans. It also covers the brutality of their occupied "colonies" and prisoner camps.
  • The book totally annihilates critics who argue against the use of the atomic bombs. All data, then and now, support the use of the devices (I always wonder why some people say we should have "demonstrated" the Bomb. Japan didn't surrender after Hiroshima - the ultimate demonstration. It took until after the SECOND bomb before Japan would surrender). The book also dramatically accounts the firebombing of Japan with conventional weapons, a tactic that killed far, far more people that both bombs put together.
If you have just a little interest in the Pacific War, you should pick up this book.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Being Forced to Clear Out Your Freezer

My daughter noticed water dripping out of the freezer. I looked in the ice compartment and saw that the cubes were half their normal size. I poked into some of the Costco-purchased meat and felt it give. The freezer was out. I opened the fridge and found it out as well.

The side-by-side Whirlpool is only five years old (POS!). The service center said they could send someone out the next day. I could put refrigerated items in my bar fridge, but what in the hell was I going to do with all the bulk-purchased meat?

There was only one solution: Block Party BBQ! .

That's oven a dozen steaks and some chicken on sizzle. I had, of course, just completed a Costco run. If it had happened just a week before the freezer would have been empty except for pizzas and peas.

The repair guy found the problem in only five minutes (and took 30 mins to repair). The bad news is that the repair was nearly $300. Add in the cost of the meat give-away and I am out some serious bucks this week.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

That's What I Call "Fried"

My personal IBM laptop (as opposed to my business laptop) went on the blink. So I couldn't just drop it off at IS and ask for a new one. I had to fix it myself or buy a new one.

The problem was that the screen backlight went totally out. I did an internet search and found a handy site that lists the most probable PC laptop failures and what to do about it. Sure enough, I pull the screen inverter, and it seems to be just a little fried:

Replacement part on Ebay: $10. Fixing it myself: 15 minutes. Not buying a new PC: priceless (okay, maybe about a grand).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Sales Definition of "Know"

One of mentors, when I would mention anybody, would exclaim "I know him!" After a while I just rolled my eyes when he said this. After a few more years of sales experience I figured out that "know" is thrown around quite a bit and can mean a whole range of things:

  1. I was best man at his wedding - we are like brothers.
  2. Would let me babysit his kids
  3. Invites me to his house for dinner
  4. Has accepted a dinner invitation to my house
  5. We do lunch
  6. Will return my phone calls
  7. Would recognize me in a line-up
  8. I would recognize him in a line-up
  9. I recognize the name
  10. His company sounds familiar
About the only way "know" is not used in sales is in the Biblical sense.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Can I At Least Have a Replay?

"You're going through life now and can't postpone it until another time." - Irvin Yalom

I'd like to live life when I am more in the mood for it, but I guess I can't do that.

What I really want is multiple lives like video games, so when I get to one those parts where I mess up, I try it again and can take another path. Or even better, if someone would give me the cheat codes.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Not An Economic Indicator

On my last trip to Seoul, I remarked to my colleague how crowded the bars were, and that must mean the Korean economy must be holding up well. His response:

"No. When the economy is well, everyone goes to drink to celebrate. When the economy is bad, everyone goes to drink to forget. So this is not a sign either way."

Good point. The volume of drinking probably stays constant, it's the quality of drink that changes with the economy; less champagne, more Boone's Farm.