Monthly Archives: May 2017

Epitaph: I did Not Like It Here

Is Life Wonderful?  Certainly!  Life is full of wonder.  The sky the trees the grass the hills the rain the snow the “put your own thing here” are all wonderful.  Falling in love and getting married is wonderful.  Having friends is wonderful.  Helping others and being helped is wonderful.  In fact, I can’t think of a single thing about life that is not wonderful.  Including evil.

{oh boy, here he goes again.}

Why do we tend to lower our interest when people start talking about evil?  Is it because we think evil doesn’t exist?  Try watching the local news sometime.  People killing other people, sometimes chopping them up and spreading their body parts among several different refuse containers.  Hmmmm….  That takes pure evil, I think.

So evil exists.  But why, and how?  How could someone do something so heinous as that described above while you yourself would never consider consciously hurting someone else?  And does refraining from killing other people make us good ourselves, or can we still be a little evil?  How did that killer get so thoughtless and uncaring that he could kill another human being without blinking an eye?  Was he born that way?

No.  He was not born a killer.  He was born a baby, just like you and me.  Was his early environment conducive to changing him into a killer?  Maybe, but he was born with the same Holy Spirit and guiding conscience that you and I were born with.  In order to reach the level of murderer he had to first refuse to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It might have been a little thing at first.  Bullying a kid at school.  Hurting small animals or other kids for “fun.”  Stealing candy from the corner store.  His conscious told him not to do these things, but he did them anyway.  And that is called blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  As he got older and continued to do things against his conscience, the Holy Spirit’s guiding voice became smaller and smaller, until finally he could not hear it anymore.  The Bible defines that, btw, as hardening the heart.

Most people believe that Murder is just about the worst sin we could commit.  But that’s not true.  The worst sin we can commit, as stated in the Bible, is blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  It’s not necessary for us to know about the Holy Spirit, nor for us to even believe in any religion to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  It’s as simple as not following your conscience.  Because that’s what the Holy Spirit is.  And blaspheming the Holy Spirit is blaspheming God.  And the very FIRST commandment tells us to Honor God.

God put us here for a reason.  It doesn’t matter why He put us here, (none of us really knows why anyway.)  But one thing we agree on is that He wants us to come back.  He sent His son to die for our sins so that we can come back to Him.  And with Christ’s death came the Holy Spirit to guide us there.  So blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the worst sin because it can lead a person away from God, and not toward Him.

The murderer’s victim was not led away from God because of the murderer’s action.  He could very well be in Heaven now.  The murderer only hurt himself.  And that’s true of all sin.  The things you may do to hurt me or anyone does not truly hurt me.  It only hurts yourself.

Are we susceptible to ignoring the Holy Spirit?  Even though we might think of ourselves as good?  Did you act on that tugging feeling in your heart when you saw solicitors trying to collect money for starving children?  Or not?  What was that tugging feeling anyway?

The Bible, in fact Christ Himself told us that we can gauge our actions by determining if the things we do to others would be things that we would like others to do for ourselves.  And that coincides with what he called “the most important commandment.”  Christ said “Love one another, and love the lord your God.  Do these things and you will go to Heaven.”

None of us are immune from evil, no matter how “good” we think we are.  Are you spreading horrible gossip about others at your workplace?  Would you like someone else to do that to you?  Did you not return the money when the cashier gave you too much change in return?  Did you consciously ignore the hungry, homeless person as you passed by him?  There are a million ways that we choose not to listen to the Holy Spirit every day.  Our actions are what count.  If we had an opportunity to love another and didn’t – then that makes us evil, no matter how good we think we are.  There is no such thing as being a little good and a little evil.  Christ told us that we can not follow two masters.  Follow good.  Or follow evil.  Those are the two choices.

And going back to an earlier question: the reason we shy away from conversations about evil is because there is evil within us, and evil does not want us to believe it exists.  But it does exist.  Inside every one of us.

Anyway, that’s why I think my epitaph should be “I did not like it here.”  In all the wonderful and good things about life, I hate tests.  And life is a test.  Period.  But I like the good things too.  And I love my wife and kids.

 

 

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Lease vs Owning Your Vehicle

On the big picture, leasing a car vs buying a car is much more attractive.  The payments are much lower and in many cases the payment is around half the cost of buying a vehicle with a loan.  Every two or three years you turn it back in to the dealer and get another brand new vehicle.  The depreciation is the same as it is for owning the vehicle. So why would anyone want to “own” their vehicle instead of leasing it?

The first and main reason is that the owner is taking a chance on the notion that his vehicle will remain fairly serviceable for a period of  ten years or more, saving him thousands of dollars in leasing payments for at least 5 or more of those years.  Of course he would need to be willing to drive a ten year car around without fearing what other people might think about his old car.  But the owner likes his odds.

Of course there is always the possibility of acquiring the inevitable lemon, but he can ditch that if he has to  while the Leaser would have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get out of a lemon deal.

If an individual can afford to pay a monthly lease price but would hesitate at the monthly owning price then that means he/she can not really afford to drive around in this fancy, new vehicle.

What causes him or her to want to drive a vehicle he/she would not be able to afford?  Vanity.  Simple vanity.  They get off on the idea of driving down the road marveling how others must envy them in their shiny new BMW or Mercedes.  That’s just human nature.  So they jump at the chance of owning a new car for half the price, even if it costs them a couple thousand bucks every other year.  I often wonder what my vanity point is?

What does that do to the market when a large group of people lease cars instead of buying them?  It drives up the market with increased demands for new cars and so we all have higher payments, whether we choose to lease or buy.  It’s simple economics.  When you increase demand the price goes up.

The same thing happened with the housing boom and bust.  Banks and lenders found a way to increase business by temporarily lowering interest rates.  So people could afford to make payments on houses worth much more than they could really afford.  And when the temporary ARM payments increased to reality 5 or 6 years later – BOOM!  the people who once signed a loan at 3% interest were now looking at 9% or 10% – affectively doubling their payments.

So why did they go with an Adjustable Rate Mortgage that they knew would rise to triple or quadruple the interest rate in 5 to 7 years?  Vanity.  They wanted more than they could afford.  And they thought they could sell before the higher interest rates kicked in.  BOOM!  A large number of them suddenly found themselves unable to sell the house because the housing market tanked.  And os their interest rates climbed and climbed, and that, dear folks, was the moment they realized that they had screwed up.

So where did they turn to?  The banks and the governments.    So not only did they increase demand by their stupid adventure of buying houses they couldn’t afford, foreclosure on their loans costs all of us through higher taxes and loan interests.  Not to mention the fact that it devalued the price of all of our homes which are currently selling for the same price they sold for before the debacle.

Now they are tricking people with lease options into things they can’t afford.  It is driving up the price of cars tremendously.  But we didn’t learn our lesson from the housing debacle.

I’m one of the people who demanded a fixed rate mortgage on my home because I specifically did not want to buy a home I could not afford.  Myself and everyone else like me got screwed by these vain people.  First for having to bail them out and now to absorb the higher costs of doing business with lenders.

So you vain people out there, yes, I see you driving smugly around in your BMW’s, Mercedes, and mid-life crisis sports cars.  But given the results of all the homes that were foreclosed and covered by Uncle Sam, I might as well lease my vehicle too.  After all, if I’m going to get screwed I might as well get something for it.


Supply and Demand of Vanity

My wife walked into a Duncan’s Donut shop for a black-no-frills-coffee and was promptly asked to pay $2.23 US dollars for it.  Now if you are reading this 20 years from now that may not seem like much.  But today that is a sizeable amount to charge for something that cost only 30 cents to make.

Back in the days of the early 60’s and 70’s most establishments offered low cost or free coffee just to bring in your business.  That was when coffee was not the actual commodity.  The commodity was a friendly sit down meal.  Starbucks and other coffee houses have since turned coffee itself into a commodity.  And that has upset the theory of supply and demand.

Supply represents the rarity of an item.  So what is the rarest item on earth?  Certainly not coffee.  Most people would say diamonds.  But that’s not true.  We have more diamonds than we could throw away.  They are expensive because of a perceived shortage of supply.  And a shortage of supply causes prices to go up, real or perceived.

If you only have one thing-a-ma-jig then it is pretty rare.  And if twenty people want to own that single thing-a-ma-jig then the highest bidder gets it.  So the price goes up and up and up.  But what if we have 100 thing-a-ma-jigs and only twenty people want to own one?  Then you have to keep lowering the price until the last of those twenty people finally decides it’s worth it to buy it.  And you still have 80 sitting on the shelf that you have to pay storage for.  Once I worked for K-Mart and at the end of the season we were forced to throw away about $2,000 worth of spring clothing.  It was cheaper to throw it away than to store it until next spring.  I suggested to the manager that we give it to charity but was told that liability prevented that.  Apparently some homeless people tend to make lawsuits for anything, like pinching skin when it gets stuck by a K-Mart zipper.

But anyway, that’s basically how supply and demand is supposed to work.  And for the most part it does a pretty good job in a free market economy.  Unless vanity is involved.

One of the offshoots of supply and demand is perception and vanity.  Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s we learned that sports shoes could be profitable.  Before that there was a very limited number of sport shoes available, like Converse which were made from some sort of canvas or denim material.  And of course there were generics like the KMart brand and such.  So although the variety of sport shoes were in short supply, sport shoes themselves were not in short supply.  Addidas was one of the first to come out with a “better” sports shoe.  It’s high price indicated the fact that it was a better shoe than other sport shoes.  Which was probably true.  But it’s high price also became a status symbol for quality and since perception and vanity play a part then probably half of their sales were from kids who bugged their parents to get them the latest and greatest shoe and had nothing to do with sports.

Later on Nike came out with the most beautiful leather sports shoes with a “swoosh”!  How cool were they?  Everyone had to have a pair or two regardless that they sold for more than ten times what it took to make them.  There was no shortage of leather or shoe strings or “swooshes.”  Let’s face it.  Buying them at those prices was pure vanity.  And then in the ensuing years shoes like Michael Jordan’s skyrocketed, and soon gangs were attacking children waiting for their school buses in the morning to steal their expensive shoes and starter jackets.  Some kids were actually beaten and killed.  Vanity.  It upsets supply and demand.

Back to coffee.  I want you to imagine the last Starbucks building you were in.  I mean an actual building, not like at the mall or airport.  But maybe there too.  How much do you think Starbucks paid for prime real estate in a heavily trafficked business area?  A half million?  Probably.  And then they spent another roughly half million on the building and taxes.  So let’s say that it cost Starbucks a million dollars just to put that store there.  So when you or I go in and spend $5 on a mocha latte with whipped cream – where is most of that money going to?  To pay off the building, of course.

And added to that they have their mall and airport shops, which are much more profitable because the overhead is significantly lower.  So these shops are the meat and potatoes of the companies main profit.  So the company and any shareholders (if they are public) get the profit.

Now let’s look at the supply of coffee.  Has the supply dwindled since the 50’s or 60’s?  No.  In fact the supply has actually increased.  If that’s true then why has the price of coffee grinds at the grocery store risen – if supply hasn’t fallen?  It’s because Starbucks and these other coffee houses are willing to pay higher prices for their product because they can afford it.  So we grocery shoppers are competing with these coffee houses for our own coffee.  And the price continues to rise.

Kuerig owner?  The smart Kuerig coffee shopper waits until their favorite coffee goes on sale for about a dollar a cup.  That’s a dollar per cup of home brewed coffee.  If you don’t know, a Kuerig cup is a small plastic container with about a dime’/s worth of ground coffee inside.

In the end vanity of shoppers who “must” have their Starbucks every day is what causes the price of our own coffee to soar through the roof.  As I’ve always said, this world would be wonderful without other people.  At least in terms of Americans spending $5 on a cup of coffee to enrich business owners while people in many other areas of the world do not have safe, clean drinking water or food.


Ploppity plop, fibidy poo –
what’s a boy to do?
Climb a hill, take a spill,
or count to twenty-two.

Little frogs and bugs with claws
fit nicely in a pocket
while empty boxes taped together
make a fine little rocket.

Climbing the highest trees,
through itchy poison oak,
or solving mysteries
with a dagger and a cloak!

So many things a boy could do,
so much fun to play.
So live as though the moment’s true,
For there comes another day.

And another.
And another.

Until some day little frogs and bugs with claws
are not fun anymore.