Why am I so strapped for cash?

Man, every payday rolls around and I still can’t do what I had planned on doing. Remember I was going to save up some cash in the form of silver and gold. Well, I’m covering my expenses, but I don’t have anything left over. Grrrr, why is that? Well, I do eat out a bit more than I should. That’s one possibility. Oh, and there’s the fact that I am saving 25% of every paycheck in the form of my 401k contribution and stock purchase.

 

Right, that probably has something to do with it. I keep forgetting that I am saving a decent amount of money, and it’s being invested rather well actually, better than any CD you’ll be able to find. Apple stock is generally seen as a safe thing right now, and 10% of my income is going towards discounted purchases of it. It works the same way a CD does, I don’t have access to it for 6 months at a time. When I do have access to it, it is still just illiquid enough that I’m not tempted to use it.

I have been wondering how long I should keep that in Apple stock though. It is a tech stock and those are hardly known for their stability. I think long term I’ll turn them into something else, but for right now I’ll hang on to them.

 

In the meantime, I’m going to give myself a bit of a break. I am saving at a pretty good clip. With the money I have left over I can pay bills and if I have any left over, I will enjoy. Yes, part of that enjoyment will be with bullion, but I think there are some frivolous purchases coming up too. I’ll let you know if any of those are worth talking about…

Not for the faint of heart…

Wow… Here’s a smattering of some really, truly awful album covers, with a special treat at the end! First up, STUFFPARTY!!!!

 

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God only knows what kind of music(?) they play, but anything with hair that bad has to be feared…

 

Imagine if she was your mother… yelling at you… in GERMAN!!!

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Will the roses keep her quiet?

 

And the rose theme continues… Ladies and Gentlemen I present Joyce!

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And if are as captivated by her as I think you are, you should listen to her sing “I Get All Excited” Go on, I dare you….

Ramadan TMI… almost

I went over to my favorite Pakistani place for lunch today. I wasn’t even sure they’d be open since Ramadan had started. For those of you not in the know, Ramadan is a month long holiday that involves fasting during the day. They were open, too many white folks to feed apparently…

 

Anyway, I was talking to the waitress and mentioned that I almost felt bad eating in front of them (although clearly not bad enough to not eat). When she asked why, I said because of Ramadan. She waved away my worry and said, “I’m not fasting right now either.” I started, thinking that she had just told me she was menstruating. It’s not the kind of thing you expect to hear from your waitress… You see, menstruating women, the sick, children, and (everyone’s favorite modern day loophole) travelers are exempt from fasting.

She continued on and explained that she is working three jobs and simply can’t keep up with the fasting. Luckily, I don’t think she caught on that I know enough about Ramadan for her to be embarrassed. Yay for narrowly avoided awkward religious moments!

What’s worse, deflation or inflation?

Inflation is the general rise in prices. We get less stuff for the same amount of money. When you look at it in that way, inflation is obviously bad. Our money is worth less since we can’t buy as much with it. Any money we have, or will get in the future isn’t worth as much. This is what leads to the inevitable reminisces of “I could buy a zillion pounds of x for 10 cents!”  when talking about our childhood.

All of us have lived with inflation over the years, mostly of the incremental variety although there was a time in the 70’s when it was a little more aggressive. This was accomplished by manipulations of the federal reserve. You see, causing inflation is pretty easy, all you have to do is create more money and things get more expensive. Why would they do that? A lot of it has to do with fear and political pressure.

It’s like this, as long as there is a moderate amount of inflation, all costs, including the cost of labor go up. People are fooled into thinking that they are actually making more money, that they can actually buy more, at least over the short term. Eventually, they catch on and demand more money, and then a little inflation kicks in and they are happy. There is an irrational fear of deflation, any movement downwards in the amount in the paycheck make people freak out.

That’s what deflation might bring, but what does it mean? When there is deflation, money increases in value. Things drop in price, so we can buy more with any given amount of money. The trick is that wages are just more things, and they will drop if there is general deflation. Never mind that everything else is dropping in price too. Somehow wages rising in order to keep up with inflation doesn’t cause any consternation at all whereas wages dropping to keep track with deflation will cause riots. Never mind that inflation kills value, never mind that inflation kills savings.

And that’s the real crux of the issue. Americans do not, in general save. If we were a nation of savers, we would welcome deflation with open arms. Deflation would make our savings worth that much more. Instead, we are a nation of debtors. As deflation sets in, debts are more difficult to pay back, all debts. That includes mortgages, credit cards, and T bills.

No, inflation suits us much better. The more inflation there is, the easier it is to pay off debts. Inflationary pressure is built into the very foundation of the banking and financial sector. It encourages people to incur debts, hell, it encourages governments to incur debt. It simultaneously makes it more difficult to save. In addition to have to get paid enough in order to forgo spending the money right away (i.e. interest) we also need to make enough to cover the devaluation of our savings (i.e. inflation).

Imagine a world in which currency continued to increase in value over time. We would be regaled with stories of how our grandparents were paid with $100 bills whereas we now count our micropennies with care. Imagine a world where depositing 10% of your paycheck in the bank would accrue value just sitting there, where the fifty dollars you made last year can now actually buy you more now than then. Imagine how important it would be to save instead of spend…

That’s fantasy of course, there are some real complications of a constantly deflating currency but I mention it just to point out how fully we have incorporated expectations of inflation. Our inclination is to spend and go in debt first. We have seen the results of too much debt when the economy doesn’t do so well. As someone that doesn’t hold any debt and has a small amount of money set aside, I wouldn’t mind some deflation at all. Instead, I am sure that the Fed will do anything it can to prevent it, and therefore overshoot and cause larger inflation that is necessary. Hold on to your hats folks, it could get a little wild…

Saw the doc and looked at the MRIs

Saw my neuro today. The MRIs were better than I had thought they’d be. Yes, there were a few new lesions in my head, but they were pretty small. The big one I had before on my spine has healed up to a large degree.Turns out there are more lower down on my spine, but I’m not sure if those are new or not.

So, it doesn’t look as though there has been much progression, WHEW! One thing that really stuck out in my mind was how one lesion can have such a large effect. When I had the first MRIs done, I was having some trouble walking even a half mile. Nowadays I can do a mile fairly easily. I might still weave a bit and stumble, but I can do it. That one lesion caused a lot of my problems. It occurred to me that another one could be just as bad, or worse…

So that cemented it for me. I am going to start on Tyssabri next month. It is a once a month infusion and it seems to have the best results of all of the MS medications out there. I am also going to try a medicine that is supposed to help send signals down to my lower extremities better. I’m hoping I’ll get some of my strength back with that.

My doctor had a good analogy for how he treats MS. He sees big things coming for MS in the future. So for now, what he wants to do is keep things from progressing so that I will be ready for the new treatments that come along. He wants me to stand there with my finger in the dike for as long as it takes to get an actual treatment. I’m OK with that. Let’s hope that those new treatments come along soon.

Turns out I’m pretty healthy

I’ll always remember my grandmother’s next door neighbor. Mike was a nice guy, a great cook (in the neighborhood grilling kind of way) and as far as I could tell practically a saint when it came to dealing with his abusive mother-in-law. He had a whole variety of health issues. He was a long time diabetic, and the last decade of his life he suffered through a series of heart issues as well. He ended up dying of cancer…

Moral of the story is that just because you have one physical issue doesn’t mean you can’t have others. Most of my worrying involves MS of course, but in the back of my mind is the worry about my heart and cancer. I don’t exercise as much as I should, and I’ve had more than a few suspicious moles cut off of me.

Had my physical today and it looks like I’m the picture of health. All of the cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. numbers are right where they are supposed to be. I don’t really have any other complaints (other than the regular ones) and there aren’t any sign of worrying moles.

 

So I’m feeling pretty good. I’ll have my neuro exam on thursday. I’m expecting bad news from the MRIs lesion-wise, but I’m also pretty sure that I’ll start a treatment program too. With any luck that will lead to an improvement in my motor skills and maybe even some healing in my neurological health. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you up to date on what goes on. On second thought, worry cause I will keep you up to date:-)

The real value of LastFM

A little while ago I mentioned that I subscribed to Slacker. I’ve been using them pretty extensively, and the caching of the stations has been awesome. I can load up my custom stations on my iPod and listen to them in the car. I have not had the actual radio on in the car for quite a while.

I still listen to LastFM too. Until now, I had mostly been using them to get my library in a good mix and to hear their recommendations based on my library. Now that I have a few “friends” on LastFM, I have figured out another great thing about that service. I can essentially borrow my friends’ music collections any time I want to. Some of them (Mary, Adam, I’m looking at you) have very similar tastes in music. A couple others aren’t so close, but I’ve heard some amazing things on those stations too. Have I mentioned how much I love internet radio?

Putting things into perspective (military spending)

CATO’s Christopher Preeble makes a lot of sense in his post about Gates’s proposels for trimming down the military.

 

“Gates claims that the U.S. military needs to grow because the world is becoming “more dangerous.” More dangerous than what? The notion that a few hundred al Qaeda ragamuffins and their Taliban allies poses a greater threat to Americans than a nuclear-armed Soviet Union is absurd on its face, and yet we spend more on our military today than at the height of the Cold War.”


The plan to cut down on waste by shutting down the Joint Forces Command in Hampton has gotten the predictable responses from the local politicians. The senators, house members, the governor, and the local politicos are unanimous in declaring that the closing of that command will be disastrous to the national security of the nation… oh, and it will adversely affect the local economy too. If military spending is going to be cut, things will have to go away. And guess what Virginia, states that have a heavy military presence are going to get things cut. Trying to make the case that everyone else in the country needs to support this base because Hampton will suffer is absurd. The fact that no one mentions the unfairness of this arrangement galls me. It’s one thing if the base actually does protect us in some way, but when the military itself considers it expendable, that should tell us something.

I suppose that this base actually did something at least. There are several senators and congressmen pursuing projects that the military has explicitly stated that they do not want and will not use. This doesn’t stop politicians from trying to waste our money for their voters. The building of an alternate engine for the joint strike fighter and the C-17 airplane are conspicuous in their egregious waste of money. These are projects that will not be used, but politicians are pushing them to create jobs in their districts. It’s akin to paying people to dig holes and then fill them in again.


I need to stop reading the news, all of this makes me sick.

Awkward dream #5425454

Last night I dreamed that the Who performed at the school I was attending. Things were going along pretty well until a piano player going to the school screwed up a solo during “Baba O’reilly”  and the whole thing came to a screeching halt. Everyone was kind of pissed at how everything turned out and I was hanging out with John Entwisle, the bass player from The Who. I couldn’t stop putting my foot in my mouth..

Me: So you must have trouble going to bars and stuff since you’re so famous.  I mean, not as much of a problem as Roger (Daltry, the lead singer) and Pete (Townsend, the guitarist) cause their really famous.

JE:

Me: Crap, I mean.. you know what I mean… I mean in bass guitar circles, you’re huge, but everyone knows who Roger Daltry is… err….

JE:

At this moment, I had the same realization as I’ve had in many other dreams, he’s dead. What is he doing here? How can I casually bring this up in a conversation without being rude? I’ve already made an ass out of myself, how is this going to go over?

I woke up while trying to come up with a good approach to this. I’ve had this same situation come up a fair number of times and I’ve never handled it gracefully. I’m scared witless that one time the person I’ll be speaking to will ask me, “What are you doing here? I’m dead!”

Newest coin

Got these in last night.

 

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Unlike the other coins I’ve ordered, these are actual, official coins. They have a face value of 5 Canadian dollars but are worth around $18 US dollars just in the silver weight. These are the types of coins I’m going to try to keep as a way saving cash. If nothing else, they sure are a lot prettier than pices of paper or bank statements:-)