Friday, February 24, 2006

Two interesting articles

First, here's an interesting one about household debt in the United States. If we assume these are truly means (averages) and not medians (reporters are notorious for abuse of statistics), we would assume that the average household is paying about $5000 in mortgage interest, $1500 in credit card interest, $1000 in vehicle loan interest, and an additional amount for home equity loans. Multiply that by about 100 million households, and you're talking about 750 billion dollars being paid in interest annually.

What could your family do with an extra $7500 or so?

Here's another one linked by World Magazine's weblog. The author effectively argues that it is a tragedy for women to raise their children at home when they could be climbing the corporate ladder and succeeding in politics, and even makes a case that women ought to avoid the liberal arts because they're not the fast track to high paying professions.

It's all described, tragically, in terms of power, and the author doesn't even seem to have any idea of that fact. For her, power is fulfillment, and that power comes from a corner office and a business suit. In other words, forget about being Lemuel's wife (Proverbs 31) and become C.S. Lewis' (Abolition of Man) "trousered ape." Never mind, of course, that very few people ever get that corner office. We need the trousered (or skirted) apes to apply for the job.

Never mind, of course, little things like love, music, art, children, family, and faith. Gotta get a few women in corner offices, even if it kills them. How sad.

And I wonder how many of those corner offices are filled by women who have debts they need to pay off, and are working to get more of their friends into debt. It'll eat you up if you let it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A definition and TWO recipes

First of all, the etamology (word history/roots/definition) of "nice"; it's from the Latin nescius, meaning "ignorant." I'll try being "kind" or "loving" instead if people don't mind...

Second, two recipes. The first is for good BBQ; simply go to Big Bob Gibson's and either buy a meal or (for those outside Alabama) order some sauces and dry rub. Get the smoker out and make a treat for the family--it can be done in the cold, so don't you fellow Minnesotans wimp out now!

The other recipe is for hot fudge. Take 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar, and three ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate. Mix them and heat them to a boil in a medium saucepan, boiling until the mixture turns noticeably thicker. Remove from heat and add a bit of cinnamon, a shot of espresso or strong coffee, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Return to heat and boil again until you've gotten rid of that yucky water and you have a pure mixture of saturated fat, sugar, and chocolate.

Allow to cool, and spoon over ice cream, preferably a premium brand like Breyer's. Enjoy with friends and family.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Are we too nice?

I know, I know; it's counter-intuitive to ask whether we're too nice these days, given that "the bird" and harsh "Anglo-Saxon" invective is almost the rule in communication. But bear with me.

What I'm getting at is the tendency to "let things slide." Did the stereo we just bought fail suddenly? Do we return it for replacement or refund, or do we simply do without or buy a new one? Did a business colleague fail to honor a commitment? Again, do we note this, or do we just let it slide?

Now certainly "love covers a multitude of sins." That said, it covers them as people repent of them and make restitution where possible, not just as a matter of "letting it slide." In other words, those who sin against us (and we ourselves) are forgiven as the matter is brought up, not as it is shoved under the carpet.

There is a parallel bonus from the product quality side. The company that sold you the defective radio will never find out about their design errors if people simply ignore the matter. Your product return allows them to improve their product.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another way.....

to take care of your wife is to take her to Cabela's--and buy her a delightful skirt. I was looking for a Mackinaw coat, but they're not real prominent down in Owatonna. The kids love the taxidermy exhibits.....almost like going to the zoo, with the added bonus that they learn that it's often OK to shoot a wild animal for food and hides.

Progress on goals; resolutions; weight isn't budging, but time spent on frivolous pursuits is much reduced. Praise & prayer for both....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Speaking of assets and inflation...

word has it that M3, said to be the best indication of the money supply, has been increasing far faster than the value of goods and services produced and consumed in this country. This is historically a harbinger of coming inflation, so there is one asset you might want to have around in case it turns out to be true. It doesn't need to be a big item in your portfolio, but if bad turns to worse, it's nice to have some real money in your hands.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

An investment, or just an asset?

Whether it's your local financial representative, a car dealer, the piano sales man in the music store, or even the guy trying to sell you new windows, there is a phrase you're almost guaranteed to hear:

"It's a great investment."

But is it? Strictly speaking, "investment" is the "clothing" of an enterprise with the resources it needs to operate. An "investment," therefore, is money provided for a share in a productive enterprise--a "productive asset," if you will. Thus, cars, houses, windows, and even "real money" (gold and silver) are assets but not investments--being inherently unproductive.

The Bible points to this as well. The King of Israel was forbidden (Deuteronomy 17:17) from accumulating horses, wives, or gold. When Solomon got rich, he hoarded gold until silver became (1 Kings 10:11) of little value. In other words, there was horrendous inflation in that country due to the hoarding of assets. When Solomon died, the kingdom was split in part due to....high taxes described in 1 Kings 12, used by Solomon to finance his splendor.

The consequences of hoarding assets--especially via debt--in lieu of making prudent investments, can hardly be overstated. It is not for no reason that Proverbs 24:27 notes that a man ought to work on his house only after his work in the fields is completed. The former is an asset, but the latter is an investment. Tell that to the next salesman you meet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Some fun, and some encouragement

The fun to start; here's a Pioneer-Press article that points out that child care costs more in Minnesota costs more than elsewhere, and then recommends more government aid to solve the problem. Apparently, the study didn't consider the fact that we're already spending a lot to support child care here, and that it might be causing, not solving, the problem of expensive child care.

And for young parents; the cost of two kids in daycare here is about 20 grand. To break even after taxes, transportation, and such, one must earn at least 30 thousand dollars annually. Ouch.

But here's some encouragement related to yesterday's post; don't sweat Valentine's Day. Now the discouragement; if your relationships key on one day, you're already losing the battle. If you wife can sing (with Da Yoopers) "I'm married to a couch that burps and talks to the TV. The last time he took me out was 1963....", then you have some serious problems. Get her her roses today, but don't fail to make her some pancakes or Kaiserschmarrn tomorrow and the day after.

And if she works and you have kids, do the calculation of how much you're really taking home by putting your kids in daycare. It's probably less than you think, and may even be negative.

Monday, February 13, 2006

For Valentine's Day, a thought.

Or rather, an encouragement. To make this day the best it can be, think back, way back. Back before people celebrated Valentine's Day like we do today.

Yes, I'm serious. Although it is certainly dangerous to view the past over-romantically, our forebears do seem to have understood how to keep a marriage going better than we. The best two books (besides the Bible) I've ever seen on the subject--by J.R. Miller and John R. Rice--are over 50 years old.

Now, I won't spoil the fun by telling you everything I've learned. Hopefully, I'll make things even more fun; read some older books for yourself, and see what you learn. Take C.S. Lewis' advice and read something out of copyright or with yellowed pages.

The Great Conversation vs.

....Nick Coleman is my topic today. I had the misfortune of reading his column yesterday (somebody else paid to put a Red Star-Tribune in my driveway), and his points were apparently that it was horrible and shocking that supporters of President Bush might also take out advertisements supporting the war in Iraq.

Maybe I should have recommended that you sit down before reading that. My apologies for the shock. :^)

Even more fun than that, however, were the massive jumps in logic employed. Coleman paraphrased, but did not quote, the commercials, and then countered them with a paraphrase of the claims of a liberal activist group. There was, to put it mildly, enough "wiggle room" in interpretation to maneuver an oil tanker without a pilot. Gary Larsen's "and then a miracle occurs" scientists have nothing on this Air America host.

And what does this have to do with the Great Conversation? Well, it points out the limits; you cannot engage in such when the other person insists on being the filter through which all data is processed.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Are you interacting with the world,

or are you just watching TV and movies?

That is, the argument is often made that when we partake of modern entertainment, we somehow manage to gain credibility in our interactions with other people. From time to time, I'll concede that it might be true. If they're talking about the latest movie or game and you haven't seen it, you'll be left out to a degree.

On the other hand, how true is it? What does one learn by watching that one cannot learn by reading an account in a magazine or newspaper--in less than a tenth of the time and cost? One watches because one enjoys the watching, not to better witness to the world.

Plus, look back a little to find out what happens when you remove the TV from your bedroom. Can the Vikings compare with this?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

On debt and the Word

I'd like to issue a challenge based on Romans 13:8. Look at your finances, and consider what else you could do with the interest you're paying on your debts. Look at your assets. Do you really need all those things you have?

Consider what that debt really costs you. Is it keeping your wife at work, instead of with your children? Is it keeping you in a miserable job, or away from what you dream of doing?

Is all that stuff in your house (and/or storage unit, barn, etc.) necessary, or are your heirs going to sell it by the wagonload when you die--and hardly bother to come to your funeral?

If you're in debt, I challenge you; look around and see what you can do without. Sell some of it, pay off some of that debt, and grab a sweet taste of freedom.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What's wrong with....

...the use of music, lighting, and such in movies and other video entertainment, I've been asked. My answer; in itself, nothing. However, there is often a fine line between legitimate special effects and manipulating the viewer.

To understand it better, turn off your TV for a month and then see what you think of video entertainment. Your wife may approve.