Finding Adventure...

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Can anyone tell me what this sign means? These chairs were just out here like this along a road in someone's yard in Hatteras Village, NC. There is nothing but swamp across the road from here. It was really odd.
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Spending versus Saving

So, I don't know how generations of Americans through around 1970 knew how to save money and retire comfortably on a single income with a family. But I do know that since about that time, Americans have chosen to skip that in large quantities. And it's becoming a serious economic problem we need to fix. The best idea I've heard is that we need to be educating everyone at the high school level on money management.

My idea is to call the class "how to get rich." Hey, it's what most people want and certainly gets your attention. The reality is there is no easy answer to the question of how to get rich, but what I do know is that if you can get yourself a steady middle class job and maintain a reasonable lifestyle such that you can save 10% from a fairly early age, well, you can retire before you're too old to enjoy life and live off your money. You will have to know exactly how to live responsibly and how to invest money wisely (and no, that doesn't mean how to "beat" the stock market nor does it involve knowing ANYTHING about the stock market, really). But it can be done. It can even be done in today's "normal" life of a two income family with kids.

A friend pointed me to this article that refutes some of what Elizabeth Warren has to say. As you might expect, I don't agree with the article. Warren is just trying to level the playing field somewhat so that consumers have a chance. Right now, most don't because they can't even understand what the products are that are offered. They're so complex because we can't understand them and the banks can hide ways to benefit themselves and not us. But my argument here is that once those things are simplified then consumers have a better chance of understanding the impact of choosing a particular product will be on their bottom line. It's not the entire solution, I admit. People are still CHOOSING to spend themselves into debt they can't satisfy. But it's a start, and education is the next logical step.

But think about this. If current Americans are spending level or negatively from now until retirement age, how do they retire? And if they can't retire, do they work until death? Someone is going to have to not only take care of the old people, but will have to absorb that debt sometime. It could get very ugly.

How does this work?

How can an entire industry with millions of customers be terrible? You might have guessed I'm talking about the cellular telephone industry, but in reality I could be talking about several different sectors. I'm going to focus on the cellular industry in spite of the fact that it's so common for people to complain about their carrier that it has become quite tired to hear people do it. I mean who cares to hear about how bad someone else's carrier is when your own carrier is so bad?

The thing here is that it seems that every single carrier has serious customer service issues. Everything from the technical side of the world (no coverage in needed areas, data being slow, etc) all the way to a complete inability to solve basic problems with billing or even selling proper accessories. Companies have come and gone and consolidated and been acquired and sold and split in so many different ways it's crazy. But the only result of all this seems to be things stay the same or get worse, never better.

Companies only seem to get customers by acquiring them, by having an exclusive phone contract (can you say iPhone?), or having coverage in just the right place. But I think a poll of cellphone users would find that there are very few that don't have serious problems with their current cellphone carrier. That carrier just happens to "suck less" than everyone else.

So how does this happen? How can there be no room in the market for a company to actually do a good job of solving the customer's needs? I have no idea. I do know I don't see any of the current carriers doing anything much to make the situation better. AT&T doesn't seem to be expanding their current network to new areas, they're just making the data side faster where they currently are. Verizon is stuck with none of the new wave of awesome smartphones (iPhone and Palm Pre). Sprint has always had network coverage problems in big ways, so they went and bought Nextel, which was worse. Yeah, that makes sense.

My theory on how these things happen is that the stock market puts so much emphasis on growth yet very little on actual, oh, profit that companies make decisions based on growth. And when they have a captive customer base (we all require cellphones in our lives now), well, it's easier to acquire/merge/whatever than it is to do the right things to take your competitors customers. The contract model seems to also hurt their ability take customers with upgrades in actual customer service. Perhaps it's time to end that as a major business model? Or at least regulate the telco industry again? I really don't know, but I know there's something significantly broken right now when an industry so large can suck so bad.
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At your own risk...

This sign was on the back of the door of the workout room at my hotel in Blytheville, AR. The misspelling is what caught my eye, but it also has another could be what really started this new "hobby" of taking pictures of interesting signs to post here. I had to stare at it for an hour while using their "equiptment" and the idea was born.

Consumer Financial Protection Agency

Well, assuming there's nothing hidden or insidious that might happen behind the scenes (a tough assumption, but let's go with it for now), I can't help but agree with Elizabeth Warren on our need for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. This video is under eight minutes. Tell me what you think about it.


All my logged workouts...

...are available by clicking here. Pretty interesting to compare my 14 mile day in Pisgah to the ride I did today. I was really in better shape then, I thought, but maybe not by much. There is more climbing in Pisgah, but still, things look fairly comparable. For those curious, I use a Garmin 405 GPS and heartrate monitor watch. Very nice little device, I must say.

Epic local mountain bike ride.


Didn't remember to start my data logger until about 15 minutes in, so this was a 16 mile plus day of mountain biking. How, I don't really know, because I haven't mountain biked since my trip to Pisgah other than one little ride that wasn't even three miles long last week. But I actually seemed to last okay on this day, so that's good. You can click here for the full gory details of the data, but the map pictured here shows the route, too. This isn't even all of the trail available in Chapel Hill near the airport.
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Debt is normal. Be weird!

The title of this blog post seems attributed to Dave Ramsey thanks to the bumper stickers he sells, but I'm not sure he didn't lift it from somewhere else. My good friends, Matt and Angie, have this sticker on one of their vehicles, and I've always loved it.

I know on the surface that staying out of debt is important, but I've never really thought about how truly important it is. My wife and I had some very significant (to us, anyway) credit card debt at one point. We managed to get it mostly under control when a life altering event meant never having to worry about that kind of thing again. But I still vividly remember what it was like. I'd like to think had my event not occurred that I would have still found a way to get on the good side of the debt curve, but I'm not totally convinced of it. At any rate, what I do know is that most Americans aren't convinced of the importance or we wouldn't have a lot of the economic situations that exist today.

I implore every hard working person to take an hour of your time to watch this video:

I want to thank Sarah Street for turning me on to Elizabeth Warren. It's a shame that it takes a law professor turned statistician and researcher who happens to be a good public speaker almost an hour to articulate this kind of data properly, or more people might get the message. And you can skip straight to minute five and miss the introduction if you're time sensitive. Watch at least ten minutes and you'll find a way to watch the rest even if it is in pieces. It's well worth it.
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Talk about full service!


This place has it all!


These are just some random things I've realized about myself lately.

I fold my underwear and I can't figure out why. Every time I start to fold a load I think "there's no point in this" and then I continue to do it anyway. The entire time I'm doing it, well, it sort of bugs me. Every time I take a pair out of the stack it sort of bugs me. At no point do I ever think "man, I sure am glad this stuff is folded." Is this new? No, I've lived in this paradox for years now.

I am waking up earlier and earlier. These days "sleeping in" only goes past 9am in strange and dire circumstances. Most of the time 8:30 is sleeping in, in fact. I used to be able to sleep until noon if I didn't have a reason to get up earlier and would do it quite often. But it did screw up my sleep habits a lot when I did that, so I'm actually starting to appreciate getting up earlier. Well, that's a lie. I want to appreciate it because I want it to make me go to sleep better, but in reality it doesn't. I seem to have chronic insomnia, though it's mild enough that it's hardly worth doing anything about. At least not yet.

I never played soccer as a kid in ANY fashion and thus grew up with a deep disdain for it. I enjoy basketball, then football, then baseball, and I think the order is like that because of scoring. I like sports where you score more. Soccer is generally a pretty long game with a pretty low score. But as soon as your kid goes out on that soccer field and does well...'nuff said.

I know I've been blessed and I try to enjoy what I have, but it only takes one evening at someone elses house to realize that all we really need is a charcoal grill and a yard and good company. You got that, you got it made. Everything else is gravy, and you ought to enjoy it while you can.

Eating good is hard. Eating bad is easy. Eating good means you live longer. Eating bad means you don't. Hard is worth it.

I like who I am, but I know I can be a much better me. I think it's important for your own mental health to always be improving yourself somehow. Not for pride or for the improvement itself, but for the sense of accomplishment. Sure, it feels good to get a chore done, but it feels way better to know you just handled a situation in a way so much better than you might have a year ago. Or ten. Or even the day before.

I'm a better basketball player today than I ever was. No, my legs won't do what they used to. Yes, I'm 40 pounds heavier than when I was 18 and in my athletic prime. But the simple fact of the matter is if I could play my 18 year old self, I'd crush that guy. Like a bug. I really like that. Sure, it only means that I wasn't very good then because I'm still not very good, but it's the improvement that matters. I'm not going to the NBA or anything, but the game has a different meaning to me now. Things happen slower because my body is slower, but things happen WAY slower in my head, which is why I've improved so much. I still have a lot of room to grow as a player and it seems to be happening faster and faster now, which I really like.

I like teaching. I'm terrible at it mostly for lack of patience. I'm getting a lot better at it, though, especially the patience part. Coach 5-6 year olds in ANYTHING and you'll acquire more patience than you thought possible (or get arrested!). I don't take as many opportunities to teach my kids as I should, and I'm working on that. This week Mom was gone and while we did a lot of really fun things and had a lot of "firsts", what I enjoyed the most was the fact that I think they learned a lot and grew as young men. I need to do more of that while they're still sponges.

I'll end this sappy pile of steaming dung with a nugget that my friend Matt and I came up with a couple years ago: Life is a rut, might as well dig it! Yeah, we need to get that on a t-shirt or a spare tire cover with a cartoon of a Jeep making a big rut in the mud and sell it. Could make millions I'm sure!
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