Country First?

Yes, that was one of the many tag lines of the McCain campaign. For those who voted for the losing ticket, this clip below (from the only news station you trust) should both give you pause and make you question your own judgement...


Never thought I would see the day...

I'm 39, and in my lifetime I never thought I would live to see this day. It is a day in which I had the privilege of voting for a man who was raised by a single mother from Wichita, Kansas, and whose father was from Kenya, as a candidate for President of the United States. I have faith our next President will end the war in Iraq, invest in American infrastructure, and restore America's standing in the world. My selection of Barack Obama for President gives me hope that my daughters will grow up in a renewed, openly diverse country with opportunities I never imagined.

Regardless who you voted for, here is a bit of levity:


McCain/Palin ticket and ethics

Lawmakers in Alaska released a 263-page report on Friday which concluded that Governor Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, abused the power of her office and violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

As highlighted by the Washington Monthly:

Our nation has had 102 major-party tickets covering 51 presidential elections over more than two centuries. And we've never had a ticket in which both candidates on the same ticket were responsible for ethics violations before a national election. McCain/Palin is the first.

In 1991, John McCain was rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for exercising "poor judgement" over his involvement in the Keating Five scandal. McCain later wrote that his attendance at two meetings with banking regulators was "the worst mistake of my life."


Biden vs. Palin

And to think this folksy "hockey Mom" could actually be a heartbeat away from the Presidency...


McCain and Obama's tax plans compared


Free 10-year Term Life Insurance

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance is giving away $1 billion worth of life insurance coverage in 2008. Through a program called LifeBridge, MassMutual is offering a free $50,000 term life insurance policy (10-year term) for those individuals who are:

- age 19-42
- parent or legal guardian of a dependent child under the age of 18
- permanent, legal resident of the U.S.
- employed full or part time with annual family income between $10,000 and $40,000 per year
- in good health (as determined by their underwriting guidelines)

Only one policy per household is allowed. Death benefits are paid into a trust for the educational benefit of the insured's children.

A FAQ on this program is available by clicking here, and the LifeBridge eligibility form is here.

For those living in metro Atlanta, MassMutual will be taking applications in person on September 28 between 10am and 2pm at the Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta.


Green lodging in Georgia

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Arthur Frommer
has nothing on me. There are few destinations where people can travel, stay at a beautiful mountain retreat, enjoy a hearty family-style dinner and breakfast, and do so for less than $90. The Len Foote Hike Inn is an hour and a half drive from downtown Atlanta and located in the Amicalola Falls State Park. There is also a 5-mile hike to get to the Hike Inn--there are no roads leading to this property. And they ask that guests bring no cell phones, pagers, or radios... so I'm guessing that also excludes my Blackberry and iPod.

The Hike Inn is the first lodging property in the country to receive the Gold Level Certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for an Existing Building (Gold LEED - EB) by the United States Green Building Council. Given its remote location, the Hike Inn is all about conservation, from the composting toilets and solar panels to its policy of "pack it in, pack it out" since there are no trash cans at the Hike Inn!

This weekend will be my first stay at the Hike Inn, and I have but one concern: my 4 1/2 year old daughter I'm taking with me. I'm scheduling two hours for the 5-mile hike and am planning on packing as light as possible in the event I have to carry her on my shoulders part of the way. Once we get there, I know she'll have a blast. Each of the 20 guest rooms have bunk beds, and she's already claimed the top bunk.

Become a Friend of the Hike Inn for just $15, and you'll recoup this fee through the end of August as the Hike Inn is running a 30% discount for members. Other benefits of joining Friends of the Hike Inn are discounts on merchandise (only available at the Hike Inn) as well as the ability to serve as a volunteer at the Hike Inn.


It's a Landlord's Market

In any economic downturn, there are always opportunities. One such opportunity is the result of higher lending standards, which makes it more difficult for people to purchase homes, as well as a doubling in the number of home foreclosures in the 2nd quarter of this year: higher demand for good quality single family rental homes.

This was my hunch, but it was confirmed this week after receiving a signed lease agreement for a rental property being vacated today. The new lease includes a 5% increase in rent over the previous one and will be the first time I've had no lapse in vacancy upon a tenant's move-out, quite a relief. I've been considering the purchase of another rental property, and after this experience I plan to start researching prospective investment homes.

And watch this to see a disturbing encounter between Will Ferrell and his landlord:

See more funny videos at Funny or Die


Mid-year review

This entry is more for me than anyone who stumbles upon it, as I wanted to do a mid-year review of some life resolutions which will some day become habit. I'd give myself an arbitrary grade of B-, as good progress has been made in some areas while others are untouched. Below is each area with its respective grade:

- Pare down: F. I'm preparing for an October and November barrage of eBay activity, but that doesn't help in the interim.

- Make running a habit: A. The real evidence is that when I pack running gear on a business trip, it gets used; I now run at least twice a week and more if the schedule allows. I've shed over 15 pounds and moved from "Overweight" to "In Normal Range" according to the WHO and CDC, which defines overweight as having a body-mass-index/BMI of 25 or more. A good BMI calculator can be found here.

- Travel more for leisure: B. Gasoline over $4 a gallon doesn't help, but we've been on three trips so far this year with a big vacation scheduled in early December.

- Reduce exposure to media/news: B. I'm a political news junkie, but you won't find me at a methadone clinic as long as I can get my fix of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.

- Invest more in community: D. It's not what I originally had in mind, but right now this investment in community is through time and money directed at helping to get Senator Obama elected President.

- Manage ADHD rather than having it manage me: A. Just after the first of the year I switched from Dexedrine to Vyvanse, and it's much more effective with zero side effects.

- Simplify investments: B. I'm down to just four individual stocks considered long-term holds (DIS, MRK, SHPGY, and MSFT). All other holdings are in the form of exchange-traded funds. Unfortunately I'm still down 14% since the first of the year compared to a 12.7% decline in the Dow Jones and a 13% decline in the S&P 500. Fortunately the rental properties are all occupied and throwing off good cash flow.


Revisiting the past

I enjoyed attending my 10-year high school class reunion, and that didn't seem so long ago. But it was. Now even further removed from those awkward and painful high school days, I just attended my 20-year class reunion last weekend.

There were hints of this 10 years ago, but even more obvious today is that:

  • academic and athletic success does not translate into success in life
  • beauty is fleeting
  • people are resourceful--even idiots find a way to earn a living
  • if opportunities exist, people don't move far from home
  • the relationship between money and happiness is not linear
  • extreme social retardation does not wane over time

Our reunion committee did a great job finding and contacting the nearly 700 alumni in a rather short period of time, but unfortunately turnout was rather low. There were only a half-dozen people I really wanted to see, and only a few of them attended. Fortunately there were others I didn't know in high school who I got to meet and live pretty interesting lives.

Like many reunions, there was a 20-question survey to be filled out prior to attending. As someone who didn't participate in extracurricular sports, I was annoyed that 3 of the 20 questions asked about high school, college, and pro sports involvement. Somewhat in protest I left a snarky response detailing how I trained and then walked on and made the roster as a linebacker with the Atlanta Falcons from 1997 to 1999. At 5'7" and weighing 150 pounds soaking wet in high school, anyone who knew me would have immediately identified this as a ruse. But walking around the room Saturday night reading the "Did you know..." posters about my classmates, I was amused to see that my "success" with the Falcons had made the cut.


Segway tours in Atlanta

My family loves living in metro Atlanta and are always up for learning more about out adopted home. Early this spring I was excited to learn that City Segway Tours had an Atlanta office, offering 3-hour tours of downtown. For once I knew had the perfect birthday for my wife!

Purchasing a birthday gift for one's spouse gets more and more complicated once kids are in the picture, however, especially when the gift is an activity and a babysitter needs to be scheduled. It was for this reason that my wife's birthday gift was two months late...

We booked our tour a couple of weeks out because the tours often sell out. The 3-hour tour is $70, but if you book through Viator, enter FAB7 for a 7% discount. Tours run twice a day at 10am and 2pm, 7 days a week.

My wife and I arrived 15 minutes before our 2pm tour at the City Segway Tours' office on the top level of Underground Atlanta at 50 Upper Alabama St SW, Suite 256. After signing away our lives we watched a brief video on how to operate the Segway. Afterwards we made our way outside to Upper Alabama Street which is open to pedestrian traffic only, making it a perfect place to learn how to use a Segway.

While tours can have up to 8 clients with a guide, there were only four of us paired with our guide and six in the other group. With help from our guide, we individually learned how to mount, move, turn, and dismount the Segway. Each of us spent about 10 minutes practicing, and then we were off!

The tour took us past the former World of Coca Cola museum to the Georgia State Capitol. From there we went through the campus of Georgia State University, past Grady Hospital, to the Sweet Auburn Historic District. Along Auburn Avenue we saw the Soul Food Museum, Wheat Street Baptist Church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. After a brief stop, we headed northwest past Woodruff Park to Centennial Olympic Park, where one of the few fountains in Atlanta is currently running due of the drought. After a photo op, we circled the park and then made our way back to Atlanta Underground.

Fortunately my wife loved it and says it was worth the wait.


Summer garden

Last year's garden was a success in that we had a good supply of tomatoes for salsa, and the peppers did finally deliver even though they weren't receiving enough sun. Despite the garden's southern exposure, I underestimated the amount of shade from trees on a neighbor's property from mid to late afternoon, not optimal for a vegetable garden.

So last summer I didn't lay sod on a plot of land in the northeast corner of the yard during the backyard renovation in order to dedicate this area as the new garden location. Since last summer I've spent countless hours digging out rocks/boulders and tilling in compost to prepare the soil. Late last month my wife and the girls planted 10 tomato plants, 15 strawberry plants, and assorted herbs and flowers from seed. The seeds have sprouted, and the garden is on its way to producing!


Hypermiling: Teaching an old dog new tricks

With gas approaching $4.00 per gallon, the economics of driving can no longer be ignored. I knew attitudes were changing when my Dad, who loves driving and commutes about 350 miles a week to work in a car that gets about 30 mpg, told me that he had started carpooling. Others are boarding commuter trains and bus service in record numbers to travel to and from work.

I'm cheap, so last year I read with interest an article about a guy getting over 50 mpg in a non-hybrid vehicle, but many of his methods were extreme (never using the air conditioner) and often dangerous (like taking a 25 mph turn at 50 or drafting directly behind a semi). With gas at $2.139 last February, these "hypermiling" tactics weren't worth it as I only fill up once or twice a month. Times have changed, and even though it cost over $75 at $3.769 per gallon, I was looking forward to filling up my '96 Ford Explorer (an automatic with all-wheel drive) this morning because I wanted to calculate its fuel mileage.

For the last month I've been utilizing several hypermiling techniques:

  1. Inflating my 35 psi-rated tires to 40 psi
  2. Removing excess weight (tools in the trunk)
  3. Eliminating jackrabbit starts by accelerating gradually
  4. When approaching a stop sign or red light, putting the car in neutral and coasting to a stop (known as forced auto stop)
  5. Turning off the ignition at long stop lights
  6. Using cruise control
  7. Maintaining a highway speed of 55-60 mph

Fortunately I was already in the habit of documenting mileage, gallons of gas, and price per gallon at each fill-up, so I was able to calculate my average gas mileage for 2007 at 15.6 mpg. My average cost of gas last year was $2.74 which correlates to 17.5¢ per mile (cost per gallon ÷ miles per gallon). Thus far in 2008 I was averaging 14.8 mpg at $3.13 per gallon or 21¢ per mile.

After utilizing the above hypermiling techniques, I am now averaging 17.3 mpg, an 11% improvement over 2007 and 17% better than my average this year! And while gas now costs 20% more than my 2008 average, the cost per mile remained steady at 21¢ per mile.

For additional information on hypermiling, visit this post on CleanMPG.


Never again: Self-storage rental

Reading a story about how the foreclosure crisis is impacting other industries reminded me that several years ago I made a thousand dollar mistake. That's right--I rented a self-storage unit for just a few months. And as anyone who has ever rented a self-storage unit can attest, a few months can quickly turn into a year or longer.

For reasons I believe involved an offer of a free month's rent as well as a plan to clear out part of our basement in preparation for an upcoming yard sale, my wife and I signed the paperwork to rent a unit for $99 a month and filled up our temporary garage. We moved furniture, full-size arcade games, unused equipment from my wife's former startup business, and building materials for our rental properties. I recall the warm and fuzzy feeling of being able to park a car in one bay of our drive-under garage. Of course we still had too much crap to be able to park both cars in the garage, but it was a start.

And then I'm sure that life just got in the way. A year later I moved whatever hadn't sold back into the basement, where I'm sure it is again collecting dust. There is no longer room to park a car in the garage, but one day I will reclaim the basement and the garage with the help of eBay and Craigslist. Soon, I hope!


Adrenaline rush at the airport

I was traveling this week on business. At my departure airport, on my way back to Atlanta, I arrived four hours early for my scheduled flight in hopes of catching an earlier one. Unfortunately the next flight was full, so I decided to enjoy my found time by writing some postcards and eating lunch.

It was while eating a Quizno's sandwich that I heard the thud behind me. I turned around to see an older man laying flat on his back, and so I rushed over to see if he was okay. The man, probably in his mid to late 70's, was out cold with his eyes rolled back into his head, and a woman came up and asked me if he had a pulse? I guess that would be a good thing to check, but I was in a complete state of shock that this was happening in front of me.

I put my fingers on his neck and told her that if he had one, it's too weak to feel. Only then did it hit me that this was serious. In the mean time, the man stopped breathing. So the woman took control (she later told me that she's a doctor) and directed me to give him chest compressions after she blew into him. She directed someone else to get the defibrillator and told another to call 911. After several series of breaths and chest compressions, the gentleman's lips and face started to turn red and then blue. The woman checked his pulse again, and there was nothing. He was dead. A few more series of breaths and chest compressions, and I opened up his shirt since the guy with the A.E.D. had returned. Someone read what the heck to do with this thing, and then they put it on his chest.

As this happened, though before he was shocked, his chest rose, and he opened his eyes. "What is your name?" someone asked. The man replied with his name. By then the paramedics had arrived, and I got the hell out of the way. The gentleman was stabilized and was taken to a nearby hospital.

It took me well over an hour for the adrenaline rush to subside. I was surprised and disappointed at my paralysis when confronted by the situation, and thank God that there was a doctor nearby who heard the man fall, was willing to get involved, and knew how to manage the situation. She saved a life today.


Perhaps I'm getting old

I "get" LinkedIn, which helps real, live professionals connect... but I just don't understand the fascination the press has or the appeal users have with "social media" sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, Friendster, and Twitter. As a business model, while the sites have millions of users, most lack the fundamental criteria for success: a path to profitability. As a user, why do I want complete strangers... or my boss to know what I'm up to in my personal life? To me (and some others) the negatives greatly outweigh the positives.

If I want to correspond with friends and family, I either pick up the phone or send an email. And of course when I'm in the same town, I actually visit and have real, live, face-to-face social encounters. I have enough friends, really. I'm not looking to make virtual ones.


Vacation locally

My wife just enjoyed a well-deserved long weekend in New York away from the family for the first time in 4 1/2 years (since my girls were born), which meant I had sole responsibility for the first time as well. The full-time parenting I was prepared for... what I feared was having to do their hair for the first time!

The girls and I kicked around the idea of going out of town for the weekend, but circumstances led us to stay close to home. We definitely wanted to get away, though. So we decided to book a hotel room in downtown Atlanta for the weekend and take a vacation in our home town. It was a great solution, despite the street closures from the tornado that struck downtown Atlanta a week ago (note photo taken on Saturday: the Omni Hotel's new tower on the left is open while their older tower in the center is closed).

We had a very full weekend and with the exception of the Georgia Aquarium, visited the main tourist destinations: Zoo Atlanta, Centennial Olympic Park--the Children's Playground was a hit, and the World of Coca Cola. We walked and used MARTA rail to get around downtown, and riding MARTA made me wish Cobb County wasn't so ignorant as to not support a regional light-rail transit system. Perhaps that will change with gas approaching $3.50 a gallon, since years of poor air quality have not.

Stretching The Budget: To save on admission to the World of Coca Cola, show your MARTA Breeze card for $2 off each ticket. For other fun things to see and do in Atlanta, visit Viator and enter "FABSAV" (without quotes) as the promotion code for a 7% savings. I'm giving my wife an Atlanta Segway Tour as part of her birthday gift. To keep the hotel cost down, go through Ebates for a 2% rebate and then book the room through Hotwire. Lastly, to save on parking (my hotel charged $18 a day for self-park), consider parking at one of MARTA's stations with long-term secured parking for as little as $4 per day.

Soap box warning... If Atlanta wishes to ever become a major tourist destination, it needs its tourist attractions to be open during minor holidays such as Easter. Both the World of Coca Cola as well as Imagine It!: The Children's Museum of Atlanta were closed last Sunday. I understand the desire to allow employees to be with family on Easter, but you don't find Disneyworld closed on Easter (nor any other day of the year).


Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!

I'm a fan of NPR, and my favorite weekly program is "the oddly informative news quiz" called Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! My wife and I have listened to this show for years, and I download the podcast weekly. The program is hilarious, and I often get strange looks from others at the YMCA as I laugh out loud listening to the program on my iPod while running on the treadmill.

Hosted by Peter Sagal with Carl Kasell acting as scorekeeper, the show is co-produced by Chicago Public Radio along with NPR, and live tapings are done at the Chase Auditorium in downtown Chicago most Thursday evenings. Despite having been to Chicago dozens of times, I've never been in town with a Thursday evening free. But as luck would have it, I'll be there next week for work and no plans that night.

Panelists for the March 6 taping of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! are Kyrie O'Connor, Roy Blount Jr., and Adam Felber, and tickets are $21.99. Being a cheap bastard, I Googled for information about discounted tickets and stumbled upon Goldstar, a website that offers such tickets to events in several cities, including Chicago. As a result, I picked up the last two half-price tickets available for $11 + $4 service fee each, and saved $14.00--thanks, Goldstar!

My wife would like nothing more than to have Carl Kasell's voice on our home answering machine, and the only way to make that happen is to be chosen as a contestant on this show. So if one of the producers (are you listening, Doug Berman, Rod Abid, Mike Danforth, Melody Kramer, and Emily Ecton?) would call me to confirm I've been picked to be a contestant... I'm waiting!


Republicans and fiscal discipline

To secure any change in how the United States is governed, two branches--the Legislative and Executive branches must work hand-in-hand. Not to be insulting but just as a quick primer for those not awake during high school civics class, Article I Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States reads that, "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives." Further on, Article II Section 1 of the Constitution states that "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." So the legislative branch = Senate + House of Representatives (Congress), and executive branch = President.

The purpose of the legislative branch is outlined in Article I Section 8, and in brief, the responsibility of Congress is to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States, borrow Money on the credit of the United States, declare War, and make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The President of the United States is responsible for signing or rejecting bills into law (Article I Section 7), act as Commander in Chief of the armed services (Article II Section 2), and enforce the laws of the United States (Article II Section 3).

The Republican party controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the entire legislative branch, from 1994 until 2006, when the Democratic party took control by slim margins. Since the disputed 2000 election when Bush edged out Gore to win the Presidency, the executive branch has been in the control of the Republican party. The Republican party has recently controlled both branches of Congress for 12 years and simultaneously controlled the executive and legislative branches for 6 years, so how does a party which runs on a platform which includes fiscal discipline (see page 46 of the RNC platform, just after "War on Terror" and Lower Taxes) measure up?

The Republicans have a history of failure by any measurement when it comes to fiscal discipline. The federal debt is up 92% since the Republican "Revolution" in 1994, and it's up 62% since George W. Bush became President (see chart above). Actions truly speak louder than words.

Wonder why I'm supporting Senator Barack Obama's candidacy for President? He has a proven record of supporting PAYGO (pay as you go) federal budget rules.


Accidental tree-hugger

I'm a member of their #1 Club Gold, so when I arrive at a Hertz location I look for my name on a board and proceed to the parking space indicated. While I haven't been specifically requesting them, my last 5 rental cars have all been a hybrid Toyota Prius rented as a compact vehicle.

My guess as to why I'm getting them with great regularity is that Hertz has excess numbers of these vehicles as they're awful if you've never driven one before. Examples of why:

  • There is no actual key--just a key fob that gets plugged into the dash
  • The ignition system is not intuitive at all--you need to press the brake while you're hitting the [power] button to start the car
  • The shift control is weird
  • When the car uses battery power it doesn't sound like it's running
  • When the vehicle is stopped and it switches from the gas engine (with sound) to battery power (no sound), you'll think the car has just died on you
  • The 8" monitor staring you in the face while you're driving can be really distracting (see pic)

On my first rental, I arrived into D/FW feeling like I was coming down with a cold. I managed to get the vehicle started and on the road when I stopped to pick up some Alka-Seltzer Plus Cough & Cold. Getting back into the Prius, it took me 15 minutes of frustration (i.e., I was pissed) followed by a short phone call to Hertz to learn the secret of problem #2 above. I've gotten used to the car's quirks, and I now don't mind when I find a Prius in my assigned space.

I used to own a 1999 Volkswagen Beetle TDI (turbo diesel injected) that got 50 mpg, so one of the things that has really surprised me about the Toyota Prius is its gas mileage. After 5 rentals, I've gotten around 40 mpg doing "normal" city and highway driving. This mileage is great compared to gasoline engines, but it sucks compared to a diesel.

Until car rental companies start building an inventory of fuel-efficient diesel vehicles, I'll do what I can to rent a hybrid as I try to reduce my carbon footprint.


North Point Sermons on iTunes

Andy Stanley is a fantastic preacher, but last year the PITA factor of attending North Point Community Church (NPCC) became so great that our family quit going to church for a while. We've since resumed attending, though now we visit the Buckhead campus as it's closer and their early (9:00am) service is less crowded than the main North Point campus. Last Sunday my oldest daughter asked to go back to our "old church" because "they had better (more) toys", so we attended the main Alpharetta campus for early service. If anything, the PITA factor of attending NPCC has gotten worse, and I don't think I'll ever return.

If you've ever attended North Point Community Church on a Sunday morning, you know the hassles: parking is about a quarter mile away (unless you have preschool kids, in which case you need to arrive a half hour early in order to find parking in the preschool lot); Waumba Land classrooms fill up, so again you need to arrive early (otherwise you and the kids are stuck attending the adult service); and forget about sitting in the East auditorium to see Andy Stanley preach live as regular-attenders save full rows of seats leaving others relegated to the non-live West auditorium.

Perhaps in acknowledgment of this fact, Andy Stanley and North Point have now made sermons available for download through iTunes as a FREE podcast! If I didn't think my girls were getting "something" out of attending church, I think I'd probably avoid North Point completely except for my weekly time with Andy on my iPod. For now, though, I'll go back to attending Buckhead and offer to buy whatever toys my daughter's classroom lacks.

Update: North Point Community Church is now using YouTube to extend its reach as well.


Living green

Having traveled for work each week since the start of the year, I've been on a lot of planes. That bothers me, and not for the obvious reason that I don't like to be away from the family, but I know that air travel is the largest component of my carbon footprint.

A Carbon Footprint is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. I'm not a rabid tree-hugger, but I do want to live responsibly and leave the earth in good shape for my kids after I turn into compost.

The first step in trying to live green is to know how well (or poorly) you're doing right now. There are numerous calculators to help you determine your carbon footprint, and they vary wildly. On an annual basis, Climatecrisis.net calculated my footprint to be 5.7 tons of CO2, Conservation International pegged my output at 7.9 tons of CO2, GE said I produced 5.76 tons of CO2, and CarbonFootprint.com calculated my output of CO2 to be 7.758 tons. So which is it? I think GE is probably closest as they asked more in-depth questions about how I live. According to GE, the average American is responsible for 9.96 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

So great--I'm below average. But the above calculations excluded my air transportation. Add those in, and I'm an abuser of the planet. Climatecrisis.net now has me at 16.2 tCO2, Conservation International shows I produce 27.6 tCO2, GE reflects 13.52 tCO2, and CarbonFootprint.com calculates my annual CO2 output at 24.766 tons.

Until my employer offers me the ability to pay for (and expense!) carbon offset credits from a company like TerraPass, Carbonfund, LiveNeutral, or NativeEnergy, I'll continue to work to reduce my carbon output from other activities. Click here for some simple steps to help reduce your carbon footprint.


DorkyDad endores Sen. Barack Obama for President

My politics are pretty simple. I'm for limited government, an equitable tax structure, diplomacy over bombs, balancing the budget, and paying off our $9 trillion federal debt (over $30,000 for every man, woman, and child in America--scary!). I fall solidly in the Libertarian camp, and so I gave very serious consideration to the candidacy of Republican Congressman Ron Paul for President, the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President. While there is no perfect candidate, I completely disagree with his ideas on healthcare reform (I believe health coverage for all should be a right, just as is police and fire protection) and believe that Congressman Paul's answers to charges of racism lacking.

America needs to end the war in Iraq. I want diplomacy and peace. I want to save the environment. I'm tired of fear, and I'm tired of division. I'm ready to help change the world for good, and I am endorsing Barack Obama for President.


Let it snow!

Just a few weeks ago, Atlanta was surprised with several inches of snow--twice within the span of a week. The first snowfall was gone within 24 hours, but the second stayed on the ground several days.

On the evening of the first snowfall I fashioned a toboggan out of cardboard, rope, and duct tape. It worked well enough, but I longed for one of the plastic discs from when I was a kid. When it snowed 3" just days later, I began my quest for a pair of snow saucers for my girls, and there was no use looking in Atlanta as they won't be found.

This past week I found myself in a pair of cities with lots of cold weather and even more snow--St. Louis and Grand Rapids. Fortunately I was in-and-out of St. Louis, but during my visit to Grand Rapids I stopped by Meijer where they were beginning to close out their winter merchandise despite getting about 4" of snow the day before I arrived. I purchased exactly what I was looking for--a pair of foam snow saucers, which attracted plenty of unwanted attention from the TSA (Thousands Standing Around) going through airport security on my way back to Atlanta. Until the next snowfall the saucers will add a splash of color to my garage wall, so let it snow!


I love paying federal taxes

Am I insane? Perhaps, but my insanity doesn't stem from an appreciation of our convoluted tax laws. No, those convoluted tax laws enabled me to have an effective tax rate of just 1.36% for 2006. In fact my taxes (both dollars paid as well as the tax rate itself) were higher 15 years ago than they were last year.

Under our watch, our federal government has racked up a national debt of $9,190,316,700,166.26 as of this morning, which equates to a debt of $30,305 for every man, woman, and child in America. Our representatives are not balancing our federal budget, and federal spending continues to rise. So paying this low of a tax rate scares me, and I'm not alone.

Last year Warren Buffett made news when he suggested that, "The taxation system has tilted toward the rich and away from the middle class in the last 10 years. It's dramatic and I don't think it's appreciated, and I think it should be addressed." To make his point, he surveyed employees in his office to compare tax rates. Warren found that his total taxes paid (FICA + federal income tax) came to 17.7% vs. an office average of 32.9%, and he paid the lowest tax rate.

For those who think I'm a bleeding heart liberal, here are my politics: I'm for limited government, an equitable tax structure, diplomacy over bombs, and paying off the debt along with balancing the budget. My concerns regarding taxes/tax rates are that they are not equitable and not enough tax income (to the government) is being generated to pay down the national debt.


Life resolutions starting now

No New Year's resolutions for me. I'm not interested in being part of the majority who commits to a new way of life, only to fail. If I'm going to commit to change, I want it to stick. So below are several commitments I've made to myself that my friends and family are welcome to hold me accountable to. And perhaps it's just a symantics game, but I'm not calling these New Year's resolutions, they're life resolutions.

- Pare down. If 2007 was the year to de-clutter, it was just a start. I'm committed to eliminating physical clutter and unnecessary material items which only lead to mental clutter.

- Make running a habit. Since Thanksgiving I've added an extra 15 pounds, and that needs to go permanently.

- Travel more for leisure.

- Reduce my exposure to media/news, more mental clutter.

- Invest more in my community. I need to practice what I preach to my girls.

- Manage my ADHD rather than having it manage me. Two years ago I switched from Adderall to Dexedrine, and while effective, Dexedrine just isn't working as well as Adderall XR did.

- Simplify my investments. For me this means moving cash investments from individual stocks to index funds. This will help avoid mistakes like NovaStar, down 97% over the last 2 years, despite its hefty dividend (recently discontinued). I'd rather have base hits than strike out swinging for the home runs.