Fierystudios Vögelein Clockwork Game

Why didn't they leave?

A very interesting, articulate and sensical rant about why thousands are still in New Orleans.

I agree with everything in the article. I am still of two minds on the looting -- I know for a fact that if I were in a similar situation, I would absolutely break into a store for food, water and medicine -- but I still can't help shaking my head at the people stealing guns, electronics and jewelry. Some say it'd be useful for barter. Some say it's better to have something than nothing. Some say that it's better to remove it, since everything in the stores would most probably be written off as a loss, anyway.

But still -- the image that sticks in my mind is the report of a man with a pallet jack loaded down with cases of booze, with a toddler perched precariously atop. The first thought through my mind is, I wouldn't be the slightest bit pissed if those were cases of water and diapers. But that much booze -- ? Sure: Barter, trade -- hell, cleaning wounds. Maybe there was nothing left to eat or drink besides the cases of booze. I wasn't there. But still, something turns my stomach at that kind of feeding frenzy. The reports of people storming through Wal-mart, carting off electronics when there's not likely to be electricity for months.

Someone made the very good point that the residents doing the looting would be hard pressed to find any employment and at least might be able to sell a big-screen Teevee for money to feed their families. Good point. But they're evacuating everyone, and the chances are far greater that the looted booty will still wind up destroyed by the floodwater.

Looters are shooting looters. Store owners are shooting looters. Looters are looting homes. Homeowners are getting carjacked in front of their houses. Can pure survivalism and human decency coexist?


Facts.

According to this government website, the population of America is 295,734,134.

Over one million people are now homeless because of Katrina.

That means that, on average, one in every three hundred Americans has just lost their home.

Close to three million people lost power because of the storm.

That means that, on average, one in one hundred Americans is now living without power.

Have you donated to American Red Cross yet?


While NO lies submerged, Bush plays Country Music Star

The morning after the disaster of Katrina, here's where our President places his priorities.

Several cities, including Biloxi and Gulfport, MS, were almost literally wiped off the map. New Orleans will take months to just dry out, let alone restore power, water and security. Apparrently, a catastrophe of these proportions was enough to get Bush to cancel the remaining two days of his vacation, but not enough for him to sacrifice one more grandstanding photo-op.

Disgusted yet?


Money Earmarked for the ACoE to Repair NO Levees Repeatedly Diverted to Iraq

Interesting article... Just skip all the venomous comments below: Read it.


Beaner est icumen in

On a lighter note, I got good news from the kind folks at Wacker Oil -- while everyone else's gasoline gets more expensive, BioDiesel's going to be getting cheaper because.... the bean harvest's coming in. The guy ahead of me bought 35 gallons in various jerrycans, stocking up so he wouldn't have to brave the tangle at the gas pumps. The guy who worked for Wacker also told me that they're going to move the semi-trailers which have sat in the same spot since I was a kid, and replace them with more self-serve BioDiesel pumps, because the program's been so successful. He also hinted that the supplier that services the Meijer BioDiesel pumps might be making their B20 with #2 heating oil.

Good lord, I'm glad for businesses like Wacker Oil. Please, if you're in the area, even if you're driving a straight gasoline car, give them your business. they're at the corner of M-52 and Pleasant Lake Road, between Chelsea and Manchester. They're good folks, a family-run business, and they give a damn about farmers, their neighbors, and the environment.


Katrina

I've been watching the New Orleans coverage off and on all evening. It's horrifying. Bagus, sure hope you and your family got out safe. I just keep thinking -- what if that were my street, my house? What if that were Paul and I, huddled on our roof in 100-degree temperatures and driving rain?

Go donate to the Red Cross if you haven't already. This is going to make the WTC cleanup look like a cakewalk.

Love and prayers to everyone in the area. Love and prayers and hope. Hang in there.


Financials.

Car's officially paid off. Woo!

I did this for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is saving over $600 in interest payments over the course of the next 2 1/2 years. More important, probably, is keeping the monthly outgo down in case of a major shift in either Paul's or my income. It could happen -- could happen very easily -- and we're both battening down the financial hatches in case it does.

Okay, so here's the next question, for those of you with financial backgrounds -- (I'm looking at *you*, Winkler...) Is it more financially prudent to pay off your mortgage or invest that same money? I've heard arguments from both sides, the strongest of which is that I'm not really trusting the stock market right now, in either the short or long term. I already have my money in what's known as a "good samaritan" fund (no alcohol, tobacco, big oil, anti-union, heavy-polluter or firearms stocks) but I'm just a little twitchy about putting that much income in something capable of totally disappearing (my IRA has *still* not recovered from the beating it took between the years of 2001-2004). At the moment, we have the opportunity to start whittling away the smaller of our two mortgages (the mythical "15" of the 80-15-5) and I'm thinking that paying that off while Paul and I are both still working full time is a better large-scale investment (provided that we are also still putting away savings and other retirment money) than dumping the same amount directly into the stock market. Short-term, we'd save $150 a month; long-term we'd be out of a twenty-year loan. Checking on an amortization calculator, if we paid it off today, we'd save over $12K in interest alone.

The idea, beyond the wonderful peace-of-mind that comes with being completely debt free, as opposed to the debt-free-but-still-with-mortgage that we are right now -- not to mention the pride in actually owning our home outright -- is to reduce our monthly outgo to the point where two artists could support themselves without two full-time jobs. One of us would have to keep a job that would provide insurance, but beyond that we'd be free to do art without the constraints of a mortgage, or at least a small enough mortgage that we could hit our goals without straining too hard.

Ideas? Articles? Conflicting opinions? Hit me.


Look who's gettin' attention from our West Coast buddy, James Sime: http://www.isotopecomics.com


Supacool

Post Secret


Oil Endgame

Neato: http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/invest/extra/P113797.asp


OmiGod OmiGod OmiGod

The most exciting, biggest news happened last night. I can't talk about it till it's set in stone, but it could be big, really big news for Paul and I. Stay tuned.

W00t!


Gig

So Whiskey Before Breakfast called me up on Wednesday night. They got an offer to do a last-minute fill-in gig at Kraftbrau and their bodhran player's out at Pennsic War. I finally get to quit riding the pine and be a bodhranista again. Should be fun, especially since I haven't played in over two months.

If you're wanting some good beer and some fine Irish music, come on down to Kraftbrau, if for nothing else than to watch me crash and burn. You can see me playing my paintbrush whackety drum starting at nine pee-em.


... but I know what I like.

New Guy at Work: So, these are yours? You did all this?

Me: Yeah, those are my comics.

NGaW: Well -- these aren't really comics are they? I mean, these are really good -- they're almost art!

Me: *twitch* Well, some of us think they are art.

NGaW: Well, these actually took time, you know -- not like that -- what is that one, posted in the hallway?

Me: "Dilbert?"

NGaW: Yeah, "Dilbert." I mean, that's not really --

Me: Well, it's pretty minimalist, comparitively speaking --

NGaW: That's not really art, is it?

Sigh.


Saturday, Saturday

We did the Vine Street French Market today, a kind of get-together experiment that our neighborhood association is doing. It was really cool. We all set up at 8am in the parking lot behind Kline's, and sold stuff til 1pm. The local shops turned out with cookies and dragged their cappuccino machines outside and circulated bagel coupons. There were people selling homemade sorbet, jam and popcorn. There were artists selling jewellry, photography and paintings. I also met a friend of mine from high school -- though we only became friends after high school... wish we'd known about each other more then because he would have made a fairly hellacious experience more bearable -- who just moved here to Kzoo with his quite talented artist girlfriend. He played Joni Mitchell and Steve Earle on a beat-up 6-string and talked about the gigs he played down at Kraftbrau. It's amazing how many talented local people we have 'round here.

And then it rained and drove everyone away, which sucked. But they hope to do it all over again in September, so we'll be there too.

**

On another note, some vandalous bastard yanked out my yearling cherry tree and ran off with it. Poof, gone, vanished -- and it was finally starting to perk up and leaf out. A pox on whoever did it. A literal pox. I hope their private parts get very itchy. Very very itchy.

Grump.


Ahem.

ATTENTION, BATS OF SOUTHWEST LOWER MICHIGAN:

We are not running a free Bat Hotel, gigantic sodium driveway light notwithstanding. There is nothing cool inside our house. Nothing. There are no extra mosquitoes in here, only a couple of profoundly stupid and geriatric cats, and two resident artists who will concuss you with brooms should you decide to make another appearance.

THANK YOU. END TRANSMISSION.


And now for something completely different...

... and on a lighter note, I made myself some "gearrings" tonight. I won an eBay auction of assorted loose watch bits and looped them together with some jump-rings. They're spiffy.


Praise the Lord and pass the tax rebate!

A few years back, when I was still terminally single, I invested in a housing project. I pulled out a few months before Paul and I got engaged, as it looked like I was going to be moving to Kalamazoo.

Today, I got my investment back, in full. I am so Goddamned happy I could cry.

This will let me pay my car the rest of the way off, put some long-overdue money into my IRA, and give us some substantial liquid savings. It will also allow us to spend an extra day down at SPX, screwing around, playing softball and enjoying the pig roast. It's our anniversary, and we were tight enough on money that we decided not to shell out for the extra night in the hotel. Fitting, too, since your first anniversary is "Paper."

Hoodie-farking-hoo.


You know what they say about beans and gas...

Now you can get soybean gasoline. No joke. Cheggidout.


Gotta get political / Political I gotta get

It's been a while since I posted anything overtly political, so I'm overdue. Here are three links to articles that I found particularly relevant. Thanks to Cecie for posting them all in her blog where I could get hold of them.

An op-ed from the New York Times explaining why Toyota chose Canada for their new Rav4 plant, over the US South: http://www.knowledgemessenger.com/Prod/KMTasks/uploads/Toyota%20op-ed.pdf

A link about how Ireland became the second-richest country in the EU (and an object lesson for the US about the value of social investments):http://www.knowledgemessenger.com/Prod/KMTasks/uploads/Ireland%20op-ed.pdf

An article in the New York Times about the labor practices of Costco versus those of Walmart, including disparaging comments from analysts: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/business/yourmoney/17costco.html?ex=1279252800&en=8b3103305fea6d68&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

Excerpt:

... [N]ot everyone is happy with Costco's business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well.

Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."

Mr. Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands.

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco's customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers' expense. "This is not altruistic," he said. "This is good business."

....

Emme Kozloff, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, faulted Mr. Sinegal as being too generous to employees, noting that when analysts complained that Costco's workers were paying just 4 percent toward their health costs, he raised that percentage only to 8 percent, when the retail average is 25 percent.

"He has been too benevolent," she said. "He's right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden."

I'd write my own commentary on these, but I'm too busy and mindblown to do so, so you'll just have to read them on your own and comment here.


Baked beans are off.

MT-Blacklist is such a good thing. Killed around 600 spam entries yesterday with just a few clicks. Thanks Dan, you continue to kick ass.