Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stories from the Road: State of Confusion

My travels have brought me to Texarkana, TX, which happens to be right next to Texarkana, AR. It's a fun and quirky border town, their post office even sits directly on the state line with one half in each state. Plus they've got a mall and Books-A-Million within walking distance to where I'm staying, so I'm pretty happy.

Last night I happened upon an independent ice cream/shaved ice shop, and as is my custom, stopped in to support local business and my sweet tooth. After striking up a conversation with the woman behind the counter I come to find out she's got an interesting identity crisis. She was born in Texarkana, AR. Went to school in Texarkana, TX. She also lived in a house that was bisected by the state line, just like the post office. She said after all these years she's never really known whether to consider herself a Texan or an Arkansan. I suppose it I didn't want to end the suspense, so I didn't bother to ask about her drivers license.

She even joked that she could have probably gotten in-state tuition in either Texas or Arkansas. Looking for something of a tie breaker I asked where she did end up choosing. Her answer? Louisiana. So, when posed with the question Texas or Arkansas she chose none of the above.

Oh, and the ice cream infused shaved ice was great too.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Why I Couldn’t Vote for Mitt Romney

I waited to post any conclusive thoughts on this election until it was over because frankly neither candidate has done enough to inspire me to do anything that’d be considered an act of campaigning on their part. Despite the claims from the right that he’s been a complete failure, Obama has made progress as president. Wall Street is back on track, Osama is dead, he made headway on healthcare (we’ll see if for the better), though he’s obviously failed to get the middle class economy and job situation back where it needs to be. Obama and I will never line up perfectly together ideologically though, so I couldn’t help but allow myself to give Mitt Romney a chance to convince me he could make things right. Here’s why he didn’t even come close to winning my vote.

-Health Care: Emergency Rooms are a Big Part of His Coverage Plan
On the topic of health care he’s mentioned emergency rooms as his answer for where people without health insurance would receive care. I’m not a huge fan of Obamacare, but actually putting ERs out there as a viable source for regular care for the uninsured is completely ludicrous.

Health care is never as expensive as when it is administered in the ER, so you are encouraging those with the fewest means to rely on literally the most expensive form of care out there. Any good business man shouldn’t construct a system that alots so much health coverage to a ERs that are the least financially sensible way for people to get treatment.

Anyone out there who doesn’t want to have to pay for the care of other people should probably be made aware that they already are doing just that when the people who rely on the ER for healthcare have to file bankruptcy because of this health care setup. 50% of all bankruptcies are related to medical bills, in my opinion America can be better than that, but Mitt Romney has shown no intention of finding a way to make progress on that front.

-Mitt Romney: Create Your Own Candidate
Mitt Romney has taken both sides of almost every issue. Seriously. Want to vote pro-life? Romney is your guy. Pro-choice? Romney from a few years ago has you covered. Government mandated health care? Old Romney all day long. Private health care? New Romney represents you. This could go on for hours.  Voting Romney based on his constantly changing positions is like buying the mystery bag at a dollar store.

-What Tax Loopholes Will He Close? 
He hasn’t offered ANY legitimate specifics on the loopholes he’d cut in his tax plan. You can’t tell me you’ll be the savior of the deficit , tell me that you’ll be able to make it all work by cutting loopholes, then give me nothing worth listening to in regard to what loopholes you’ll be closing. My faith might impact how I vote, but I don’t want a completely faith based tax plan.

Had Romney taken the chance to say under his tax plan he’d insure that no company like GE would ever again earn so much while paying $0 in taxes he would have had my vote.  Instead of getting tough where it would matter in regard to taxes and spending he decided to attack PBS, a mere sliver of the budget. “Conservatives,” let me know when you’re serious about cutting where it matters, like those tanks nobody wants, or when you’re ready to close loopholes that would make a difference.

-“Corporations are people too”
Even though I know this comment from Mitt wasn’t in relation to the Citizens United case both that Supreme Court decision and this statement from Mitt represent a mentality I find abhorrent. Corporations are legal entities that have a legal duty to do one thing, create as much profit as is legally possible. Human beings are the height of God’s creation. If you don’t believe there’s a significant difference in the rights that Adam Samons should have compared to those $amon$ LLC should have I have no desire for you to run our country. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Finding Long Lost Fast Food Friends

As I type this I am both satisfied and miserably stuffed, full of fast food Italian the likes of which I though I'd never see again. Yes, I just went to Fazoli's. 

Not a big deal you say? I beg to differ. I thought the chain had gone out of business years ago when all their Florida locations that I am aware of were shuttered. So tonight's dinner felt more like a reunion with an old friend...or perhaps an old acquaintance, I never really frequented Fazoli's when it was in Florida anyway. Ok, yeah, it was a reunion with an old acquaintance, but one that I was always very fond of,  I did enjoy the occasional visit after all. Perhaps that fact also lent tonight's meal an aura of exoticness that any fast food place has no business evoking. 

So, chalk this up as another benefit to life on the road. If you can call being so full you can barely move a benefit. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hotels Into Hometels

I’ve always loved hotel rooms. Swiping the lock and taking the first steps into an exotic new space has always brought an unreasonable feeling of giddiness over me. Perhaps it was the excitement of a new, albeit temporary, homestead. Growing up I had done no shortage of traveling as my family was fond of roadtrips around the southeast. Though we were very much of the “drive all day and stay with family ilk, resulting in a stay at the Holiday Inn feeling like a true luxury. Dad’s absolute refusal to stay in anything other than the cleanest of rooms no doubt also helped shield me from a lot of potential negative hotel experience.

Going on into the middle and high school years hotel rooms took on the feel of a rented Ford Mustang. A little hopping on the bed, sure, why not, press that accelerator down just a bit (full disclosure, this still happens from time to time). Though, much like with rental cars I’ve refrained from going completely buck wild because of possible ramifications, both moral and financial. Clearly others are more comfortable flooring it in theirtemporary playground.

Now after about three months on the road some of the giddiness has subsided just a tad. Every new room is greeted with a check of what amenities it does or doesn’t have, though I’m easy to please. At least give me a treadmill and a laundry room and I won’t complain. Fortunately I’ve been staying at very nice hotels, so I still have yet to run into any horror stories. Hotel rooms may have moved from being an exotic luxury to a commodity to me, but fortunately they’ve remained a commodity I rather enjoy. Having your own staff of housekeepers is easy to get used to.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shipping Out to Boston

Haven't mentioned it here yet, but I've got a new job traveling the country as part of a blimp crew. I've been at it for two weeks and I'm loving it. It all started with getting all the equipment needed for a blimp tour organized and driven from Orlando, to Elizabeth City, NC. Then from there we went through Atlanta to our destination in Smyrna (near Nashville), TN.

Originally I was supposed to head to LA after getting to Nashville, but plans have changed and now I'm sticking with the blimp I was helping assemble equipment for as it goes through New England during August, September, and possibly October.

To record as much of my adventures on the road as possible I've set up to have links to my Tumblr, Twitter, Foursqure, this blog, etc. You should check it out.

It's been a great trip so far, especially since I've had family in most of the places I've stopped at so far. Now it's on to Fenway, I just wish the old Garden was still standing.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"You Didn't Build it" Looks Like Very Bad Copy Editing

I don't care who built this gif, it's funny every time I see it.
We're not even to the conventions and we've already had a seemingly disproportionate amount of needlessly alienating comments from both candidates. We've had Mitt's classic "Corporations are people too," his wife's recent "You people" comment, and of course the latest gaffe, Barack's "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." The interesting difference to me is that while the slip ups on the Romney side have come from extemporaneous comments Barack's statement came from a prepared speech.

I can't comprehend any speech writer or copy editor worth their salt thinking that that line should be in a presidential speech. No matter how much Obama intellectually understands the importance of small business in the American economy this statement shows that he doesn't truly "get" small business or entrepreneurship. Saying an entrepreneur didn't build his or her business is akin to telling a pastor that God had nothing to do with answered prayer. It's like wearing garnet and gold into the Swap. It's serious tone deafness.

Especially puzzling is why such an insulting line would pop out of a generally benign speech. The very next paragraph starts with a sentence that would have been a perfect replacement for the offending sentence "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

Instead of denying entrepreneurs credit for their hard work this sentence acknowledges their contributions while still giving a tip of the hat to the ideas of infrastructure improvement and the successes of government that Obama so badly wants to highlight. It boggles my mind that in the space of 5 sentences the speech writer had the president start by denying the impact of business owners in a sloppily thought out sentence only to then credit their individual initiative 3 sentences later.

Here's the offending paragraph with a quick little cut and paste, as I would have edited had somebody passed it along to me before Barack got to the podium. I know you're reading this Barry, give me a call if you want my help;

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Health Care Thoughts With an Animated GIF of the Whammy

These are just my initial reactions to today's Supreme Court decision. I hope to find time to edit them a bit later, but in case I don't here they are as is.

To my surprise the SCOTUS upheld the new healthcare law and did so in what I found to be the most convincing and honest argument for its being upheld. Finding the law's mandate to actually be a tax shifts the terminology to a more realistic linguistic plain upon which these sorts of issues should be debated. Instead of talking about mandates and penalties it keeps it in the conventional realm of "if you want more services you'll have to pay more in taxes."

Personally, I'm not sold on all aspects of the bill, but at the end of the day find myself supporting it. I do hope that the impacts on small businesses won't be dire, but the impacts of the current system are already dire to those who aren't wealthy enough to acquire great coverage.

I spent a year filing bankruptcies professionally. The most common cause of those filings were medical costs. We can't run our nation like a game of Press Your Luck where those in the middle or lower class just hope they don't land on the bad health Whammy
I find it very unfortunate nobody seems to gain any mainstream traction talking about the inefficiency of our current (or should I now say former?) health care model. Conservatives love to knock the quality of universal health care, but we are paying more than those countries for a lesser quality of coverage.

Lastly, it's hard to wrap my mind around the situation the laws biggest opponents are in. They are wholeheartedly opposed to, and seemingly morally outraged by, a law that was birthed by a conservative think tank and first implemented on a state level by the current Republican candidate for president. I'm not saying that this position is totally untenable (Romney's plan was a State plan, this is federal, etc) it's just a pretty precarious spot to be in when videos like this are readily available;

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kickstarter Recession? Yeah, I Highly Doubt That.

Slate has an article up from Matthew Yglesias about potential negative impacts of Kickstarter's growth. Let's just say I'm not sold on the author's arguments.
- Yglesias seems to focus on the idead that "the government can’t tax psychic returns" without acknowledging that psychic returns won't pay the bills of a less than profitable Kickstarter project creator in the long run either. If the projects kickstarter funds are as financially unsound as the Yglesias suggests (and I'd agree the majority probably are) then they won't provide the kind of income that would rob the economy of bus drivers and nurses. Far more likely is that we'll just have nurses and bus drivers with Kickstarter funded projects they work on during the weekend.

- The premise that Kickstarter and similar future crowd funding sources wielding enough financial influence to slow the economy in any significant way seems highly unlikely given that it's the shrinking middle class that (presumably) make up the vast majority of those donating. Let me get this straight, a group of people with shrinking financial influence will be donating enough of their income to chip away at the banking industry's influence? Highly unlikely. Much more likely is that the banking industry will just assimilate some of Kickstarter's ideas into their process in the future such as increased online pitches to banks, though those pitches would obviously include credit checks and the like.

-Even if Yglesias is given the benefit of the doubt and crowd funding becomes a challenge to the banks and US tax structure this is at least in some part due to the bank's failure at their own jobs. We are not very far removed from the biggest economic downturn in decades, brought about by poor allocation of capital by the banks. As a result many people are left unable to secure loans for even legitimate ventures. If people are unable to secure funds from banks Kickstarter is evidence that they will find try to find another way. If by some unlikely chance those creative funding options eventually come back to bite the banks it will be problem partly created by the banks themselves.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

More Impressive: 23 Miles in 2012 or 20 Miles in 1960?

Today I found this fun little article about Felix Baumgartner's preparations for an attempt to break the record for highest and fastest skydive. He just jumped from 13 miles up. Instead of leaving it to me to describe how epic that is Red Bull has provided the world with this handy image:
Surprisingly, that's not the most impressive part of the article. Near the end you find out he's trying to jump from 23 miles above Earth, to break Joseph Kittinger's record of 20 miles up set in 1960. Yes, 1960. In the last 52 years we haven't gotten around to jumping from 3 miles higher? Shouldn't we at least be putting the finishing touches on that Space Elevator by now?

The true moral of the story is that you should check out Joseph Kittinger's Wikipedia page. He's a legend around Central Florida as he's from here and holds the records for having the highest, fastest and longest skydive, was the first person to make a solo crossing over the Atlantic in a gas balloon, and spend 11 months in a North Vietnamese POW camp.