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Showing posts from 2007

Banks DON'T want to help you

OK, this is a bit of a rant but I'm a bit frustrated with banks right now.  They have all of these cute commercials about how they want to help you achieve your goals.  The truth is that they don't.  They don't want to help you, they want your money.  They'll say and do whatever they need to get it but that's what they're really after.

Bank policies are based on how much income they get from their customers.  They will charge you for anything they can get away with.  There are fees for everything.  They also encourage you to borrow money for anything you want.  I recently saw an ad for a medical credit card encouraging customers to use their credit to get plastic surgery.  This is a card that charges about 17% interest.  Oh and that's another thing: interest.

It seems to me that interest rates are backwards.  Those that need money the most seem to be charged the highest interest rates while those that already have a lot of money are charged less.  That doesn&…

My new favorite car is a ... MINIVAN?!

Something must be wrong with me. All my life I've been a car enthusiast. I've been enamoured with cars like BMWs, the Dodge Viper, Ferraris, the Mazda RX8, some of the new Mercedes, etc. In the last few years, I've also really appreciated the Mini Cooper, the Chrysler PT Cruiser (which I am lucky enough to own), and even the new Honda Civic.

Through the years, all sorts of cars have spent time as my "favorite" car. Mostly sports cars and classy luxury cars. Cars with edgy designs and high performance. However, I have somehow found myself really impressed with a minivan. A MINIVAN! Can you believe it. I never would have expected it even a couple of weeks ago. However, this minivan is cool!



It's the new Chrysler Town and Country. What makes it cool? It's the perfect family road trip vehicle. Let me explain. It has swivel seats in the middle row (so the seat turn to face the back seats) and a table you can set up - anyone up for cards or a board g…

Trying a new Security Software Suite

Although I'm not a big fan of Windows, I still have a couple of Windows computers that I use. Well, there's my wife's laptop and one of my desktops (that I dual boot into Windows every now and then). Anyways, whether you've one Windows desktop or many, you need security software. There are just too many viruses, trojans, etc. out there to avoid it. I had been using Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare but I just switched to Kaspersky Internet Security Suite. Why? I'll tell you.

Windows Live OneCare is not a bad system as far as usability goes. It installs easily, isn't intrusive, and has a neat color-coded icon in your system tray that shows the level of protection you've currently got. I found it easy to use and it didn't bog my system down. As much as I dislike Microsoft, I've got to give them an A+ on their user interface. It's great.

Sure, it's not perfect. On one of my computers, it always showed that I was only partially prote…

Finally a Fair Tax!

Maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be but folks over at fairtax.org have what looks to me like a long overdue fix to our horrible tax system. Their premise is that it would be far easier (simpler to define, simpler to run, simpler to monitor) to tax consumption rather than income. In other words, have a federal sales tax replace the federal income tax.

To me this has the following advantages:

No more filing tax returns (except for those states that have income tax).
No more taxes on savings. The more you save, the less taxes you pay.
The tax base is expanded from those who have legal work to everybody that buys stuff. This includes illegals, tourists, etc. Basically anybody who buys stuff in the US.
Makes the US more business friendly. No more worrying about corporate income tax. No need to incorporate offshore to avoid taxes.
Lower prices. The current income tax is built into the prices of our products. If you buy an apple, the price includes income tax for the worker t…

Global Warming?

Global warming has become quite an issue lately. Temperatures are rising but that seems to be just about all anybody can prove. There are so many slogans and sound bites on global warming that it's hard to tell what's really going on. Well, here's my opinion:

The problem with global warming is that it is a very complex issue that too many people are trying to oversimplify (including Al Gore). The real "inconvenient truth" is that we simply don't know enough to make some of the judgements that are being made.

Is global warming happening? Yes. I doubt you'll really find anyone knowledgable on the subject that doesn't think it's happening. That's the easy question.

Are humans causing it? Nobody really knows. There is some evidence that human activity plays a part in it. However, the data doesn't show the extent. Are we causing 90% of global warming or 1%. We simply don't know. There isn't enough data.

Is catastrophic climate change …

Cleaner air... with a lawn mower?

Who would have thought that you could clean the air with a lawn mower? OK, more specifically, my lawn mower simply doesn't pollute the air, after all, every little bit helps. How did I pull it off? I got an electric mower. It's really cool!

SRP, one of the local power companies, runs an annual event where you can trade in your old lawn mower and get $100 off of a new electric lawn mower. Being both a tech nut and being concerned about the environment (yes, I really am!), I jumped at the chance. So, a couple of weeks ago, I got myself a new mower and got rid of my old mower. It was good to get rid of that old thing because, somewhere in the move to Arizona (5 years ago) the gas tank cracked. So not only did burn gas but it leaked gas and made the whole garage smell like gas for a couple of days after mowing. Yeah, I was ready to get rid of it. The only downside of my new mower is that it's a plug-in. The battery powered ones cost $150 more and, with a lawn as smal…

Which Web Portal: Google or Yahoo?

I don't like searching for my information. I don't want to go to 10 different web sites for national news, political news, tech news, comics, etc. With the advent of rss feeds, I was able to get headlines from my favorite web sites and that was good. However, I use a lot of different computers (at work, at home, sometimes at other people's houses) so I needed a good web-based rss reader, or more specifically, I was looking for a web portal.

Now I'm not your average web surfer. I needed my portal to compatible across several platforms. I regularly use Windows, Mac OS, Xandros Linux, and openSUSE Linux so the web portal had to work on just about any operating system. I'm also a huge fan of the Opera web browser. I know this isn't the choice for everyone but I love its speed, its interface, its mouse gestures, its email client, and especially its ad blocking. So I was looking for an Opera friendly, multiple operating system web portal. Oh, and it had to be…

Cleaner air in AZ

It's nice to know that there are forward thinkers in government. Arizona has just revamped its alternative fuel vehicles statute. Now, instead of bi-fuel vehicles (cars that run on gas OR an alternative fuel) being able to use the HOV/carpool lanes, only cars with a 45% or better fuel efficiency qualify. Right now that means the Honda Insight or Civic Hybrid or the Toyota Prius.

Finally we'll get the huge SUVs with single drivers out of the HOV lanes. Many people purchased these SUVs because of an ill conceived Arizona law that subsidized the purchase if you altered it to run on gas or an alternative fuel. So a bunch of people collected big subsidies to buy their new SUVs and now run in the HOV lanes even though they're burning gas. Oops! Well, that's finally been fixed and now the alternative fuels statute is a high efficiency statute.

It may be a small step forward, but it's a step all the same.

Exxon Makes $36 Billion in Profits!

The big news is that Exxon-Mobile made a $36 billion profit. There has been outcry from people all over the country that it's sick and wrong for an oil company to make that much money. Hillary Clinton was even quoted as saying that the government should take it and use it for alternative energy development. Everybody is eager blame the oil companies or "Big Oil" for all of our problems. Unfortunately, it's not true.

The problem isn't Exxon, it isn't our government, it isn't the middle east; our problem is us. We've somehow come to the belief that we're entitled to cheap oil the same way we're entitled to free speech. How is it that we blame everybody else for our problems. It's the oil companies, it's the government, etc. We're like drug addicts complaining about how rich the cartels are. We GAVE them our money!

If we want to do something about it, we need to get OURSELVES off of our oil addiction first. Sure we can't do it …

State of The Union

I watched President Bush's State of The Union last night and personally thought that it was one of his best speeches. Instead of spending the whole time trying to get people fired up for the war in Iraq, he spent most of the time on domestic items. I was impressed by his ideas and, if implemented well, I think that they will do some good.

His tax exemption for healthcare will allow millions of people who don't have employer supplied healthcare to purchase their own and have it count as a deduction (it's currently not a deduction if you pay for your own insurance). I think it's a good step forward. It's a bit of a risk as some who pay a lot for insurance may have to pay some taxes on their premiums. On the other hand it may help keep premiums down since people won't want to pay more than what's tax deductable.

I also liked the idea of reducing malpractice suits and of streamlining medical records. Both of those could reduce medical costs and thus insurance …

Michelangelo

I just finished reading The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. It's a biographical novel of Michelangelo (you know, the famous sculptor/artist whose statue of David and the paintings in the Cistine Chapel are super famous) that gives a very interesting view of his life. It seems that while Michelangelo had a very productive life, it wasn't a very happy one.

One of the first things that I noticed about Stone's portrayel of Michelangelo is that he was obsessed with creating sculptures and a true perfectionist. For a large portion of his life (into his 60s it seems) his every action was calculated toward a goal of sculpting marble - either getting a commission or improving his talent (or both). Not only did he want to sculpt, he wanted his pieces to be as real as possible.

His obsession with carving perfect sculptures drove him to do endless studies of the human form. He even spent months sneaking into a morgue to dissect bodies so he could figure out how the body real…

Shocking New Report: Santa Claus Arrested!

In a shocking blow to children everywhere, Santa Claus was arrested on Christmas Day as he returned home from a night of distributing gifts. It seems that these items are not actual brand-name items but high quality knock-offs produced by workers at a secret North Pole factory. Mr. Claus has been charged with thousands of counts of copyright violation, patent infringement, and theft of intellectual property, with new charges being added every day.

Children and teens all over the world are aghast at a deception that has aparently been going on for centuries. Thousands of teen-age and college age girls, especially in the US, were outraged upon learning that the designer clothes they got for Christmas were not authentic. Charity groups and landfills alike have been swamped with tons designer clothes, shoes, and accessories. Several charities have asked that people stop donating and learn to live with the shame of being not quite authentic. After all, they said, you can't really …