Monthly Archives: March 2010

Quote of the day (Rhodestown Edition)

The QOtD comes from the one and only Matt Rhodes

You want real gains, take a gram of test a week and save your money for a house.

Financial Friday: Budgeting and Debt Repayment

This is part of a weekly series on personal finance and wealth building.  If you care to read them all, please click on the ‘Building Wealth’ category on the right.

Most people giving and taking financial advice focus on the budget as the key to building wealth.  I disagree, but budgeting is a very important tool in the process of paying off debt, and can play a role in building your net worth by helping you live beneath your means and effectively plan and meet your savings goals.  I don’t think having a budget is a requirement if you aren’t in debt; I don’t use one, although I do track some of my spending.

One of the running themes in this series is to keep things as simple as possible to meet the requirements of the process.  My approach to budgeting is no different (and if you’ve known me for a while or remember anything I’ve written on lifting, you’ll see some similarities).

To build your budget, you first need to know how much money is coming in during a period of time.  Most people use a month, and that’s just fine with me.  We discussed how to get a good picture of your income and expenses last week.  We also need a detailed list of every bit of spending for the month.  It’s a bit of a record keeping hassle, but for this one month, it is absolutely critical that you know exactly how much you spend and what you spend it on.  As we get in to budgeting, you’ll find that you spend a lot of money on stuff you don’t need, and you’ll find a lot of waste. Continue reading

Everything old is new again

This is an interesting little movement.

The Sabbath Manifesto was developed in the same spirit as the Slow Movement, slow food, slow living, by a small group of artists, writers, filmmakers and media professionals who, while not particularly religious, felt a collective need to fight back against our increasingly fast-paced way of living. The idea is to take time off, deadlines and paperwork be damned.

In the Manifesto, we’ve adapted our ancestors’ rituals by carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, get with loved ones and, if we’re lucky, get some booty, too. The ten principles are to be observed one day per week, from sunset to sunset. We invite you to practice, challenge and/or help shape what we’re creating.

The Ten Principles
1. Avoid Technology
2. Connect With Loved Ones
3. Nurture Your Health
4. Get Outside
5. Avoid Commerce
6. Light Candles
7. Drink Wine
8. Eat Bread
9. Find Silence
10. Give Back

I’m thinking this weekend’s National Day of Unplugging might just fit perfectly in to what I need to get done (work outside, clean out garage).

Quote of the day

Today’s QOtD comes from the awesome Karen De Coster.

But you see, veganism is all about hating people, hating progress, hating freedom, and hating life. They are all a bunch of depressed, angry, unhealthy, gaunt, bored pissants.

Still Not Training: Update

So, another 10 days without training.  Last Friday, I woke up a little stiff and drove to Hainesport, NJ for a meeting.  When I got home, my back was bothering me a bit.  Then J and I went to see Working It Out at Centerstage.  Our seats were barstools, so I was a little uncomfortable, and when we got home, my back was really tight, but I wasn’t concerned.

Saturday, I could barely get out of bed.  Sunday was worse.  Monday I went to the chiropractor, and he asked if I was on anything (painkillers) for my stitched up finger.  I responded that I wasn’t, I had taken ibuprofen for a couple of days to keep the swelling down, but had stopped mid week.  I was, however, on Cephalexin, an antibiotic.  He checked really quickly, and found one of the side effects is joint pain.  Well, that explained the little bit of knee and elbow pain I had that I thought was just from not being mobile for a couple of days, but not the overwhelming spasms running from my neck to my lower back.

So he did his thing, I took an Epsom salt bath, and started the ibuprofen back up.  Tuesday morning, I was able to move, and drive to The Meadowlands and back.  After the adjustment, bath, and NSAID, it was clear the pain was starting in my SI joint, so damn if it doesn’t seem that it’s a result of the antibiotic, which was a result of the finger cut.  I had stopped taking them Monday night.

Oh, and while my stitches came out Monday afternoon, I still have to keep it completely dry for 3-4 more days.  I’m no gremiphobe, but I’m not going to the gym if I can’t wash my hands.

Anyway, another Epsom salt bath last night, sticking to 800mg ibuprofen 3x a day (please don’t tell the FDA), and my back feels better, but not great.  I guess I have to wait for the antibiotics to get out of my system.

So maybe this weekend, but more likely we’re looking at next week.

Since it’s been so long, I’m probably just going to do something like Starting Strength for a while to get back to normal with some conditioning worked in, then move back to Wender’s 5/3/1 or a Conjugate system.  the plan to get into a meet early this year is out the door, so it looks like I’ll be looking at late in the year.  By then I’ll be a Masters division lifter, so my lifts will look more impressive, I guess.

I’m blaming the Polish Lucky Fish I ate on New Years Eve.  Since then, I’ve sprained my wrist, been pretty sick twice, sliced my finger and got 4 stitches, and had my back go.

Fantastic example of the failure of central planning

Chinese airports built to accommodate what central planners thought would be hot tourist spots are not meeting expectations.

This is not how things were supposed to be when the $57-million airport opened in late 2007. Local officials were so confident that tourists would flock to this beautiful, mountainous county in southwestern China that they made the terminal big enough to accommodate 220,000 passengers annually, and built a runway capable of handling a 140-seat Boeing 737.

But only a few charters and budget carriers have established service here. A grand total of 151 people flew in and out of Libo last year.

At a time when anxiety is growing over the United States’ aging infrastructure, China is pouring billions of dollars into improving its transportation network to catch up with the developed world.

China has added about 40 airports in the last decade alone, bringing its total to 166. The U.S., by comparison, has 503 airports that serve at least 2,500 passengers a year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

But in the mad dash to expand China’s civil aviation system, many new airports are lacking one important thing: passengers.

Spurred by federal infrastructure money, easy bank loans and the cachet of having planes land in their backyard, many small cities jumped at the opportunity to lay down runways and open terminals.

“An airport is like a business card for the city. It can boost tourism and the economy,” said Xu Hongjun, a professor at the Civil Aviation University of China. “But a lot of small airports are not doing well. They need a lot of subsidies from the central government. They were too optimistic.”

With lessons like this all around us, why do we continue to do it?

“Friendly Black Optimistic Advice…”

This is funny

Via The Jerk Store

Suicide Mission or Scorched Earth?

Robert Gibbs says the health care bill will pass by next Sunday, so maybe the Democrats are doing both?

Certainly passing the health care bill as it is now is going to lead to a Republican majority in at least one house, and possibly both, with many Democrats losing their jobs to folks campaigning to repeal the law.  It’s clearly unpopular, and while the election of Brown to replace Ted Kennedy wasn’t as earth shattering as some might think, it did foretell what will happen in many ‘safe’ Democratic districts.   So it certainly seems it’s a suicide mission.

I think the Democrats have realized, though, that even if it doesn’t pass, they are in big trouble in November.  As such, they are going to get their bills through, regardless of what the people actually want, knowing repealing the bill will be very difficult (probably impossible) until there is a new President in 2012.  So they are scorching the earth on their suicide mission.

And taking us all out in the process.

Baltimore settles secret lawsuit

How is this possible?

The city Board of Estimates this week approved a secret $200,000 settlement to a person who had sued the Baltimore Police Department, saying the terms and name would be kept confidential to avoid “unfair damage to the career and reputation of the plaintiff.”

Officials disclosed the amount Friday and said that the figure was wrongly left off the agenda by the comptroller’s office. But George Nilson, the city solicitor, provided the amount and said the city agreed not to discuss the details of case. He called the secret nature of the settlement “extreme” but with good reason.

“It was an honest mistake, quite clearly, that resulted in unfortunate and unintended harm to a citizen’s reputation,” Nilson said. “The community reached a cruelly wrong conclusion about this individual, based on this mistake, and this individual was harmed in personal and professional ways. I’m just not going to participate in furthering that unfortunate harm.”

Nilson said in his three years as city solicitor, such a private settlement was a first, and he did not anticipate the city handling future claims in a similar manner. He also said the plaintiff was not a city resident, but he declined to provide additional details, citing the settlement agreement.

The five-member board approved the payout at its meeting Wednesday. The board meets weekly to approve city spending, including legal settlement payments.Ryan O’Doherty, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, said the plaintiff “demanded confidentiality as part of the settlement agreement. Had we not provided that, the cost of the settlement may very well have been higher.”

“We’ve attempted to provide as much transparency as possible within the confines” of the settlement, he said.

Baltimore City has settled a lawsuit where they will not name the plaintiff, will not name the tort, and will not discuss the details, other than the amount of MY MONEY they used, $200,000

Poor Study + Poor Reporting = Misinformed Public

Over the past week, several stories like this one have shown up in my Google News feed under “wine”.  At first, I ignored them, making the assumption that the NYT or some other bastion of reporting had taken a study out of context and it would die off, but it hasn’t.

The news stories all pretty much say the same thing.

Never mind those aerobics classes and boring raw vegetables. Normal-weight women may stay in shape by sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, if one long-term study is to be believed.

The research, reported by the Daily Mail, focused on nearly 20,000 women who were asked about their drinking habits. The researchers found that participants who drank one or two glasses of wine per day gained fewer pounds than women who drank soft drinks or mineral water.

I see several gigantic issues with the study based on this information, so I went to see if I could find the actual text of the paper.  I found it, but can only access the abstract (the article is on a pay to read site.)

Some of my issues with the study:

  • A survey for both alcohol consumption and weight?
  • How did they control for caloric intake?
  • Did they normalize anything (or take into account) other common factors among women wine drinkers, such as wealth, education, diet?

The abstract doesn’t say, so all we can assume is that these are issues, as they are not addressed (where smoking and geography are).  It does mention adjusting for non alcohol energy intake and physical activity, but I don’t see how you do that on a survey.  Self reporting is highly variable and unreliable.

It is nice to see that n is greater than say, 18, which explains in part the statistical significance.  However, statistical significance doesn’t mean causation.  To their credit, the authors of the study don’t make that claim in the conclusion, saying:

Compared with nondrinkers, initially normal-weight women who consumed a light to moderate amount of alcohol gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight and/or obese during 12.9 years of follow-up.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find a very well done study that says the same thing, but making the leap from that relationship to ‘wine makes you skinny’ is a big problem with the reporting on the story.

No reporter asks the very basic questions I just asked.  They just report that drinking wine will make you skinny because it’s science.  They also don’t address the serious questions of physiological explanation, only to say that there might be one.  so we end up with the story suggesting the study claims a relationship where it doesn’t, and no explanation of what the real implication or value of the study might be.

Fact is, you can not make the connection based on the information provided that drinking wine is related in any way to fitness, health, or weight gain.  Frankly, it’s far more likely wine consumption is a result of the causal factor as well.

This is all too common in both science and journalism, and leads to a misinformed public.  It is another example of failure of the press.

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