Friday, June 29, 2007

NBA draft & Billy King Must Die

After watching the first round of the NBA draft, I couldn't help but want to put out a contract on Billy King's life. How many dumb moves can one GM make before he is fired? He passed up on Al Thornton and Julian Wright. It's the absolute final straw. He bungled the cap witht he Sixers for AI's prime years, messed up with Chris Webber by believing in that poseur, and then spoiled these three first round picks. Awful.

The draft was lacking the usual panache and style of the NBA. The style was much more subtle. I think people's agents and handlers are working harder to make everything look polished. I think Oden will be a force for the next 10 years. Durant is going to be excellent as well, but Oden should have fun in the West matching up against Duncan, Yao, Garnett and Amare for the next decade. Offensively, I feel that he was limited last year by idiotic teammates who forgot to pass him the ball. With a talent like Oden, he should touch the ball every single time down the court. The Lakers did this with Shaq, and because of his great passing ability, he helped find guys open for 18 footers in the triangle.

If Oden can develop a turnaround jumper or a steady hook shot, I can see him being a center in the Hakeem/Duncan mode. Shaq is a once in a lifetime physical presence. He never developed a repertoire of moves and shots. Hakeem had that hook and turnaround jumper on the baseline. His baseline jumper gave himt he opportunity to pumpfake and attack along the baseline, too. Duncan has that nice jumper that he calls "glass" on almost every shot. Hakeem and Duncan aged well. Shaq has not aged as well. I hope Oden works on his game and sticks around for 15 years. With all of the talent in the league udner 25 right now, we could see great battles throughout the playoffs like we saw in the '80s. A western conference with Durant, Oden, Amare, Carmelo and an eastern conference with Wade, Lebron, Bosh makes for exciting match ups. Everybody is a winner, especially the fans.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pimco Sounds a bit like Pimpco

Bill Gross is the bond guru in charge of the biggest bond funds in the business. He has a really funny looking mustache that has an early '80s look to it. His mustache looks like the mustache on that dorky looking guy from Evening Shade. He writes a monthly 'here's my take on the market' column for Pimco's home site, and he tries to inject humor into his columns. His most recent column breaks the comedy ceiling for economists and bond investors.

Mr. Gross commented on the subprime meltdown, rating agencies and CDOs made up of those horrible home mortgages to poor folks with 2/28 teaser rates. He attempted to say that the agencies that rated those CDOs had lowered their standards for what good risk was, and turned a blind eye to the finagling that was going on in the CDO world. An analogy of rating agencies moving from Gidget in Hawaii with surfers to Heidi Fleiss (love Heidi Fleiss references) was followed by this line, "You were wooed Mr. Moody’s and Mr. Poor’s by the makeup, those six-inch hooker heels, and a “tramp stamp.” Many of these good looking girls are not high-class assets worth 100 cents on the dollar."

I want to break this down so you can appreciate this line. William H. Gross is a highly educated bond investor, who played blackjack in Vegas for a while card counting most likely, and manages giant bond funds for PIMCO. Pimco is a subsidiary of Allianz, which is one of the biggest insurance companies and the largest financial services provider in the world. They pay him a $40 million retainer bonus every single year. The dude is rolling in money, investing in crafty ways, and cracking jokes about tramp stamps.

For an investing dork to make the rating agencies human and by mixing them up with hookers, implies men with loose morals themselves, it is a pretty big deal. To describe the dolled up trash as wearing 6 inch hooker heels and having tramp stamps is pure genius. For those of you who do not know, a 'tramp stamp' (the man put it in quotes) is a tattoo on the small of a woman's back. I only know one guy over 50 who knows this phrase, and that is my dad, who actually told me that he can't wait 8 more years so he can say 'bad' things and he can be considered a harmless little dirty old man. I tip my hat to Mr. Gross for that great line, and for weighing in on the subprime meltdown. Might have been good to hear some form of warning from you beforehand, but being a housing bear is a new hat for many people.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

State of Maine Rejects Overhaul of Tax Code

What a relief! The State of Maine rejected moving the personal income tax code to a flat tax. This was handled by the legislature, and did not need a referendum by the people. Fortunately, the GOP in Maine stood their ground on the goal of lower taxes, now only if they could get Baldacci to cut government spending. Why might the average citizen be against this program? The Devil is in the details.

It sounded like a good idea, Maine would move their tax system to a flat income tax. Deductions would pretty much vanish and be replaced by a tax credit that was valued on a sliding scale depending on a household's income. The plan would have saved the average family $338 in taxes. That is less than $1 a day. It would not even cover a cup of coffee. The wonderful mortgage deduction that so many people use as a justification for a home purchase would evaporate. This would be thousands of dollars in deductions gone. Forget deductions for dependents and medical bills.

A major problem with the plan was that it did nothing to cut spending. Once Mainers knew that, they started to see that this was not a tax cut, just a tax shift. A way to sell Mainers on this plan would have been to cut back benefits or spending of some sort. A comment I heard from Mainers who followed this was that, "their gonna get you one way or the other". Any reduction in spending would have helped increase the flexibility in altering the tax code down. Maine has a problem with capping their spending. The legislature just pushes the burden on working people by squeezing pennies out of them with progressive tax system.

Maine has a rainy day fund, and this is for years when the their is a deficit in tax receipts caused by unforseen events. Maine's rainy day fund was capped to not exceed over 6% of annual expenditures. In recent years, the state government has used it to cover budget shortfalls, but this shouldn't be happening in an expanding economy. Maine's spending has grown out of control, and the government has tapped this rainy day fund to cover its problems with spending. If the state had a real desire to help taxpayers, they could cut a check to people who paid taxes last year (not the welfare recipients of Northern and Eastern Maine). With Maine being the oldest state in the union now, this would have meant that the number of people eligible for a refund check would have maybe been 300K. The rainy day fund has been around $180 million in years past, and spread out over 300K taxpayers, would have been $600. This is almost double the crappy tax changes suggested by the legislature.

This tax shift was not enticing enough to earn taxpayer or GOP support. Mainers know bullshit when they see it, enough tourists from Massachusetts expose them to it each summer. The worst of the details in the state tax reform was the neutral effects of reducing the income taxes recovered by increasing the number of items taxed by the sales tax and increasing the sales tax on certain objects. This would have screwed over many Mainers, as it is a poor state, and just about any economist will tell you that consumption (sales) taxes are regressive. By shifting the tax burden more on sales taxes, this would have made Maine's tax system more regressive. This paper shows how the different state handle taxation, and it highlights how states with flat income taxes or none at all are more regressive. Basic needs for daily life are shared by all people, but when you have a higher income they matter less to you. The legislature was just trying to hurt poor Mainers further. They would have picked up the deficit caused by the tax savings from the upper middle and middle class. Sure, tourists would have made up part of that shift in tax burden, but think about elderly Mainers who would have suddenly paid taxes on basic goods they need to live. This sales tax expansion combined with the removal of all deductions were the fatal flaws in the plan that Mainers noticed.

As a libertarian, I believe in freedom of the individual and limited government & taxation. While these taxes would have reduced the total tax bill for the average citizen by a small amount, it would not have reduced overall tax receipts. It would have not reduced the size fo state government programs. While I do not live in Maine, I do look out for my fellow citizens in these United States. My challenge to Mainers, most of whom probably did not know of this tax overhaul plan, is to hold your state government accountable. Become more involved in what happens around you. Vote the clowns out of office, or better yet, run against the clowns in office.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Do Not Hate China

Ok ok, clarification I do not hate China. I love the respect for ancestry. I love the strong ties of family. I love the traditions of philosophy and the love for the complexity of time. I have the The Art of War, and have Chinese friends that I miss seeing on a regular basis (The Penguin). I love how the East sees time as something beyond comprehension. I like how China is stubborn and is only in 1 time zone. I like Chinese modern literature (mostly made up of expelled artists). I like the obsession with food, drink and gambling. I like the love/hate relationship with vice. I watched the student protests on CNN like a lot of 10 year olds and thought the kids were brave (why do you think the govt needs 10% GDP growth annually?). My favorite image of the power of an individual is of the nameless man with his groceries standing in front of tanks.

What I dislike is a communist slave state that: murders anyone who practices religion, stifles freedom of speech, limits the rights and freedoms of their people, limits the right to bear more than 1 child, kills dissidents and purposefully has starved their people, exploits poor farmers for foreign companies, takes over factories that USA companies abandon in other countries & then pay the employees even less than the US companies previously did, puts on a smiley mask whenever talking to foreign leaders or the media, turns a blind eye to North Korea when they could cut off all trade ties with them and ruin the Stalinist regime in of Kim Jong Il, and oh yeah, drops 3 year old girls from the 10 meter diving platform to see who has the 'right stuff' for the Olympic diving team. It's the State, not the land or the people, that offends me.

Made in Japan vs. Made in China

Everyone talks about how much crap, and I mean it, crap is made in China these days. Why can't we buy something that says made in the god damn USA! Our country. Yes American manufactring is on the decline in number of manufacturing jobs, but total American exports have hit all time highs. See this little thing called the productivity miracle in the 1990s made the American economy super efficient, but like a double edge sword, in times of growth, that higher efficiency meant we did not have to hire more workers to produce more goods. Doh! Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz, who does answer the emails of lame bloggers like me. Instead of paying attention to this and writing about it, the media focuses on jobs going to China. Oh yes, those Commies who found capitalism and combined it with forced, slave labor. Made in China is just following in the footsteps of Made in Japan as a source of grief and cause for angry outbursts. In reality, Made in China enbodies a totally different idea: cost vs. quality.

This horrifying story in the NY Times shows how Chinese products can be dangerous and poorly made. Better yet, let's put poison in pet food. Maybe I could bring up the other dangerous exports. Nah, the list is too long. Thanks China. Or should I say thank you American corporation who saw fit to move manufacturing into China with the help of an oppressive regime to save dollars and increase profits... Let's think about this. We're getting what our companies, which we as investors in the stock and bond markets paid for by shipping jobs over there. This is not computer coding and other white collar customer service center work that requires some skill like the giant operations in India. This is brute manufacturing, performed usually by poor peasant farmers leaving the horrible conditions of the interior for the growing coasts. These entities do not have standards, and our ports can only inspect so many crates that enter US ports (ask Homeland Security). No one thinks of Made in China and thinks "this is quality top notch shit". It's wow, this knick knack is a piece of shit that will probably break in 2 years.

That feeling is completely in contrast with what Made in Japan meant 20 years ago and still means today. Japan is a democracy, but where the elite have even more power and control than conspiracy theorists acuse rush US citizens of having. The economy is vibrant but has an odd tradition of being made up of keiretsu. It is a scary idea to think of how much capital is controlled by so few "houses". A Japanese classmate of mine once explained keiretsus in this basic concept. A bank facilitates capital being spread out in diverse enterprises to protect against risks. Some keiretsu even go so far as to make sure that all subsidiaries are owned 51% by the higher company. Therefore, final control always goes up the chain. These companies took advantage of their nation's compulsion to save and made huge capital investments. High quality products were made, and standards for production and manufacturing were created that many companies globally follow today. Teh chinese can follow those standards today and have success. Still, the Japanese had one major power over their current Chinese counterparts. Innovation.

Innovation is truly what drives an economy's growth. If you do not create, think and innovate, your power will erode and you will be replaced. This is what makes America so great economically. We innovate. If things don't work well, companies crash and burn, and like the phoenix, new ideas or companies emerge. The Japanese were known for making highly dependable cars, small yet outstanding electronics, and refined technologies. There is a reason the US markets get the high tech toys a year after the Japanese market. They are created there. Japan is currently a leader in robotics, with a ton of space between japan and number 2. This is a critical difference: Japan innovates with electronics, industrial robotics and ideas, China just duplicates.

An esteemed economist from Singapore once presented to my International Trade class his fears about Singapore. He was from Singapore and had been a consultant for his country's government, but they did not listen to all his advice. He spoke of Singapore 'making' things, saving money, but never innovating. The entire process of industrializing brought with it materialism, erosion of traditional values, and what the red hot chilli peppers call "californication". His biggest fear would be that foreign companies would find a cheaper place to make their knick knacks and move production there. He wanted more variety to the economy and to the type of job. His fears were well founded, and the economy is in the process of diversifying. (I know it is trying to be the Asian version of Switzerland for banking.)

This fear of a cheaper foreign market of labor is something China does not have to worry about right now. China has countless poor citizens looking for work, who will continuously pump the supply of labor so that it keeps wages down. When that fails, forced labor will keep wages down. China has not shown the innovative touch that the Japanese economy has, and they do not need to for a while. I still think they have major political hurdles to clear before full potential can be realized. In addition to the political challenges, China has no 'exciting, new' products for consumers worldwide. China's problem of innovation is not solely restricted to China as other Asian countrie just believe in export, export, export never bothering to create. They artificially keep their currencies depreciated, which makes it impossible for trade balancing to happen for the US. The bill will come soon when the crack addict known as the US consumer goes to rehab and comes clean, and the dealers (Asian exporting economies) are left holding tons of product. In the end, they will holding onto boxes and crates of useless knick knacks.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ichiro = awesome-ness

Ichiro Suzuki is an excellent all around baseball player. I love how he is a hitting mahine and is dedicaated to his craft like a surgeon with a scalpel. He is always working on refining his swing and trying to get the best contact while making a move towards first base. He is amazing to watch. He recently had this to say,

"To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to,' Ichiro said through an interpreter. 'If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.'"


This is awesome as Cleveland is a shit hole. My hat is tipped to Ichiro. I also like how he treats the Japanese press like shit. He rarely gives them bits of information and acts like a dick. Supposedly, he is a pretty funny guy in the locker room, but he never shows this side tot he Japanese press. Awesome.


Ichiro poses a problem for the BBWA when it comes to voting for the Hall of Fame. Ichiro will have 10 years under his belt, and possibly 2000+ hits, a career BA of .330, MVP & ROY awards, and cultural significance as he was the groundbreaker for Japanese position players. You might call his case flimsy, but he matches up well with Kirby Puckett. I say this because there are folks who consider Curt Schilling and John Smoltz HOF guys (I agree about Smoltz), but Jack Morris is not in the HOF. Puckett and Ichiro match up well with one another. Puckett was a number 3 hitter, so he had more opportunities to drive in runs, but their numbers look similar. The big difference in their resumes is the 2 World Series championships for Kirby with the Twins. Ichiro lacks World Series success, and batted .421 in the one postseason he played in with the Mariners.


If Ichiro keeps up his pace for 3 years beyond the current season, and with his great conditioning, that is possible, he could reach 2250 hits. He could see a drop off in production to around 200 hits a year, instead of his annual average of 229, and still reach 2000+ hits. His OBP is very good for a guy who does not walk a lot, so teams could request his services until he said "I'm done". If that went on towards his 40th birthday with a drop off to 150 hits a year after age 36, he couldend up just shy of 3000 (2250 + 4 X 150). His case would be strong for a guy who did not play his first game in the majors until he was 27. It is a strong possibility that if he cracks 2500 hits, that some writers use him as a cause to champion the international flavor of the MLB by putting him in the HOF.

The Sopranos Finale

Oh man, what a ball buster. Rarely does a finale please the fans. I am a douche that thought the Seinfeld finale was not bad, and my favorite part was that Art Vandelay showed up (it won me a bet). I enjoyed the Cheers finale, the MASH finale, and even the X Files finale. Still, it did not prepare me for a finale like the Sopranos.

Theories:
I think Tony lived.
I think David Chase showed you what a despciable human being Tony Soprano is after getting you to love him over the course of 6 seasons.
Meadow Soprano is like my tv mistress or my tv ex-girlfriend from school. I used to dig Jersey chicks as a single man in college.
Life goes on for Tony and his family. The Sopranos universe continues. Our view of it ends with a paranoid Tony eating a diner with his suicidal son and enabling wife. His trusted and loved friends and all dead. It's not a glorious ending.
A lot of people have talked about the death imagery of the final scene. I think if you strip away all your built up tension while watching the final scene over the course of the episode, the scene looks really normal. I do think some of the death imagery is a nice wink at the idea of a show dying. Of a character or family that a nation met and knew ending before their very eyes.
Chase wanted to do things his way, but I think the death of Livia Soprano because the actress died, really screwed his original plans. He wanted Livia to kill Tony. She died before she could do it, so he had to create something that would be remembered. This will. Good for you David.

My favorite episode: Pine Barrens (season 3)
My favorite character: Christopher Moltisanti
My favorite chick to hope to see naked: Drea di Matteo (Adriana), she had a bombing body that got upgrades as the show went on, thank you good Doctors.
My favorite Mistresses on the Sopranos: The Italian chick when Tony was in Italy, and Annabella Sciora from season 3 (suicidal crazy chick)
My favorite comedy moment: Chrissy's intervention
My favorite ancillary plot: When Tony ruins his old buddy who owned the sporting goods store
My saddest moment: Toss up between Chrissy's death and when the dumb stripper was killed by Ralphie
My favorite word: when they stretch whore into Hoo-ah, like "But she was a Hoo-ah"
Biggest Douche: AJ Soprano
Favorite idea/plot through a season: When Tony's cousin Tony was released from jail and Tony Soprano had to deal with the guilt, the shame, the source of his anxiety attacks, and ultimately deal with his cousin when he flipped out.

This was a once in a lifetime show that will not be duplicated. I have season 1-4 on DVD and love to watch them to see more clues or read into the actions more now. I will miss you Sopranos.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rodin

If you travel to Paris anytime soon, be sure to find the little hole in the wall known as the Musee Rodin. It truly is a hole in the wall as a high wall has gates and above the gates it says Rodin. You step inside to see a garden and a rather large house. It was the home of Rodin that was converted into a museum of his work. You don't even need to go inside the actual museum and pay the fee if you just want to stroll the grounds and see what happens to lie in the gardens. Hint: the dude to the right.

The original The Thinker is on display off to the right of the house. It is powerful to see the original image that we have come to accept as the symbol for a human in thought. It is powerful to behold, and the body sitting there with a furrowed brow is striking. For me, the lowered shoulders rounding the body center and forward always gave me the impression of progress of thought, immersion in thought and dedication.

When I went tot eh Museum, it was after some floods in Paris and the back garden and lawn area was closed. Still, I could see The Thinker and The Burghers of Calais. These works are in other museums as well because Rodin kept his casts for the pieces of art to allow others to make sculptures of his work. I enjoy Rodin's work because when you gaze upon the sculptures, you can draw your own conclusions about their meaning, what are the people doing or emoting, does it have to have a meaning. It is up to you to decide.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Books I Have Recently Read

Right after the move to a new part of the country, I did not have furniture, a tv, a wife, and countless other things of luxury for 30 days. In that time, I had to rely on books for my entertainment. I happen to read very quickly, and within 3 days had cruised through the 4 books I had brought with me for the month. This begat cycles of buying books at the nearby store, cranking through them, and then buying more books. My nights were spent like this: get home from work and change, go to gym, eat dinner, read, talk to wife on the phone, and lastly, sleep. Weekends were spent exploring my new surroundings and then reading. Needless to say, I had read over a dozen books by the end of my month without furniture. Here's a breakdown of my reading.....

The Painful
1. Moby Dick - This book was painful because I did not know that it was instructional on whaling and a novel. Some of it was highly entertaining and wonderful, but full chapters were horribly boring. These lame chapters were full of descriptions of how the whaling ship works to get to the whale's oil, what a whale's skull is like and other whaling theories. It was not what I was expecting and was not appreciated.
2. Confessions of an Economic Hitman - Great idea of a tell all book by a guy who worked for an American corporation with foreign countries to get them to take loans to pay US companies to put in huge construction projects. He rails against a lot in US foreign policy, and this could have been an amazing book. Unfortunately, he wrote it himself. He does not go into detail as I would have loved to have read, and he preaching seems pretty weak when he knew what he was doing was 'wrong' but he still worked for that company.
3. The Mote in God's Eye - This is a sci-fi book about first contact of a human space empire with an intelligent alien species. The aliens are incredibly interesting in their psychology, physiology, and history. I loved the aliens. The humans were pretty lame, made stupid decisions for the most part, and were not sympathetic. There were a couple of human characters I enjoyed following, but most were complete stereotypes and idiotic. Read it at your own risk because you might become really frustrated by the humans' actions.

The Good
1. Rant - This is the first book by this author (the author of Fight Club) that I did not love. It is an interesting concept of interviews with people about one particular person or events. Great concept. It also is set in a near future dystopia that was an interesting frame for the story. Only knowing the protagonist through the words of others creates limits with how much you can identify with a character. It adds mystery, and I like that, but it sets up a wall.
2. Starship Troopers - This book is amazingly different and better than the so bad it is good movie. This is a good satire of fascism, and I loved the frame story of the soldier who looks back on boot camp and enlisting. Some of the technology described reminded me of Halo or other future soldier shoot 'em up games. It is a fun read.
3. The Martian Chronicles - This is an awesome collection of short stories that are loosely tied together because of the subject (Mars, threat of nuclear war on Earth) and the author. Some of the stories are haunting and imaginative. Bradbury uses Mars as a blank sheet to draw up history, conflicts, first contact, you name it. While not every story is excellent, most are good and make you imagine or think.
4. Jennifer Government - Good novel set in a dystopian society where the government has little power and corporations run things. Kind of a slap at libertarianism, and it is pretty wicked in its commentary on consumer culture. I found it very entertaining, and it is a world that I would gladly read about more if the author chose to write more titles set in that universe (highly doubtful).
5. Busting Vegas - This is the 2nd Ben Mezrich Vegas book on MIT students who take millions from casinos through exotic blackjack card counting and other schemes. I enjoyed this story more because it tackled the darker side of Vegas than in Bringing Down the House, and the team of players in this book were much more sympathetic. This is borderline excellent.
6. Bringing Down the House - I liked the main guy in the book, I enjoyed the topic. I just found most of the card counters to be greedy, lazy bastards. You don't want to go to class? No way! Neither did I, but I did not go down to card counting and sneaking around levels of risk for a fortune. What shocked me and ticked me off was that some of the card counters did not think they would get caught at all or harmed. They kept pushing and pushing more and more. So stupid for such bright kids.
7. Positively Fifth Street - This is the Vegas book about the Binion murder trial, the history of Poker, the rise of the World Series of Poker tournament, and how the author won his way into the tourney and found himself sitting at the final table. A fun read, and with less personal history from the author, I would have moved this to excellent. Sadly, for 20 pages at a time I would be reading about his family history/life (like a Bill Simmons column). I do not care.
8. American Psycho - This book is much better than the movie. I wish I had a first edition of it, because supposedly, the editions in circulation now are tamed down. Scary book to read because of how I saw myself in the book. We all have a darker side, and some of us may not contain it as well as others. Because of the deliberate moves of the author, you are left wondering if any of the murders ever happened.
9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - This is the children's classic we all know from the movie. Book are excellent for their own merits. I enjoyed the book because of the back stories, the history, the detail the book could give us the readers about the land of Oz. This is a quick read as it was designed to be about a child and for children to read.
10. Into the Wild - This book is about a young soul who went into the wild and lived as a bum/wanderer for years. He met a grisly death, and this book details that and the stories of other wild souls.

The Excellent
1. The Cryptonomicon - This is a 1000+ page novel on code breaking in WW2, a treasure hunt in modern times, corporate battles, and much more. The detail on code breaking was good for a novel that can be read by anyone. Many of the characters are 3 dimensional, and pages fly by.
2. The Devil in the White City - This book is about the World's Fair of 1893 and the serial killer who lived in Chicago at the same time. He was the first US urban serial killer, and the World's Fair was a gigantic undertaking by the city of Chicago. There are a number of details in the book which will interest readers.
3. Manhunt: The 12 Day Search for Lincoln's Killers - This book is about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and the others involved. It was amazing how killing Lincoln came about, and how it was such a dynamic time for the nation. The fear of the nation slipping into anarchy or Civil War again was extremely high. The number of primary sources used and how the author tells the story is top notch.
4. Fahrenheit 451 - This is a classic about a society where they burn books sure, but where, if you read the details, they didn't need to burn books in mass burnings as fewer and fewer people even wanted to read them. It's a society that has gone mad. It's horrifying to read at times because you can see how modern society in the USA could go down that path (extremely unlikely, but still a possibility). Bradbury has one of my favorite quotes about the Internet ever. He commented about the wonder and positives about young children using computers by saying "what good is a computer to a kid if he cannot read".
5. Love me, Hate me - This book on Barry Bonds' life is rich in details, tries to be fair, and really strikes a nerve. He is an amazing talent and an unbelievable asshole.
6. State of Fear - Michael Crichton's take on science being tainted by political motives. The book is about the "state of fear" that is constantly pushed on people in modern society. This is lost in most reviews because they focus on how anti-global warming the book is. There is a ton of action in it, and some interesting science discussions in it. I do think the Earth has become warmer. I do think humans have a part in it. I do also think that scare tactics like Cosmo magazine telling women that NYC will be underwater in 15 years are ridiculous. How were we doing good with the environment and really making a difference 10 years ago to suddenly facing Armageddon now?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reflections on the Move

It took one month, but I have internet access once more. I have moved once more because the love of my life could not stand Massachusetts anymore, and a company gave me an offer I could not refuse. The company has treated me very well in my first month, and my coworkers have been doing their best to make me feel welcome.

That is more than just an attitude to help a new employee fit into their new environment. I think that the people in this part of the country are just nicer than what I am accustomed to coming from the Northeast. I have had random people assist me in the supermarket when I appear lost. People are always smiling and saying "hi". It's actually weird to experience.

It has made me reflect on my homeland, the Northeast of the USA. I've spent all of my life in the Northeast with a short stay in England. Is it just a cultural thing? What about the Northeast akes it a colder, less hospitable area? I was there on business in mid-May, and one of my field operatives talked about how the people we were there to talk to and have meetings with had no desire to engage us in conversation. As he was from the South, he kept talking in a slight drawl about the uptight Yanks. I told him how I was from this area of the country, and believe me, it's too cold in the spring for people to want to be friendly. I have always denied that New England was an emotionally colder place, but now living on the outside, I see the validity of the accusation.

As stupid as it sounds, think about it when you walk down the aisles at work or through a supermarket. Do you make eye contact and smile or do you turn your head and avoid faces?