February 2013


Greece

I read an article in Barron’s last week that basically said that if our government continues to spend more than it brings in over the next few years, by 2030 we will be the next Greece – insolvent, unstable, and mostly hopeless.  Some argue that this could never happen because the US is too big to fail.  The counter to that argument is that we are also too big to bail. 

With just a few days until we face the sequester, I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated with the fiscal incompetence of our government.  Make no mistake – both parties are responsible here.  First we got ourselves into horrible debt, then we raised the debt ceiling, then we faced the fiscal cliff, then we made the cliff higher, and now we face across the board cuts whether they make sense or not because our “leaders” can’t do the jobs they were elected to do.

There is a lot of widespread panic about what the sequester may bring.  I’ll be honest and admit that I recently took measures to significantly reduce my stock market exposure in my 401(k)s and 529s.  Maybe I’m overreacting, but I don’t want to lose 50% of the value in those stocks like I did a few years ago.  Sure, I gained it back (five years later), but something tells me that this roller coaster is about to go downhill fast… and after it drops, I’ll hop back in and ride it up.  All of that was just my 2 cents, I’m not a financial advisor, but they don’t know what’s going to happen either.

Back to the government:  States are required by law to have a balanced budget.  Thousands of companies balance their budget or else they go out of business.  Why does the federal government get a bye when it comes to fiscal responsibility?  I think it’s time to clean the politicians out of Washington and bring in some business people who have figured out that if you spend more than you make over an extended period you will go bankrupt.  It’s these nonstop political games that may just severely jeopardize my children’s future.  So to our President, House Republicans, and Senate Democrats:  you have proven to be incompetent and ineffectual in regard to the economy.  Please stop playing games and start using common sense.

Oh yeah… I am also proud to be an American where I can say what I just said without worrying about a federal agent  knocking on my door… we have unmanned drones for that now.

ObiWanOne of the best things about spending time at our cabin is that there is no television.  With two kids, it is also one of the biggest challenges.  When I say there is no television, what I mean is that there is no satellite receiver to give us 200 channels to choose from.  We to have a television and a blu-ray player to watch movies on… I also added an indoor antennae last week but because we are so far out, we only get three channels and they are all PBS out of Dalton/Chatsworth, GA.

The kids were a little appalled that we were only able to get three channels on the antennae.  Of course, I had to explain to them that this is the way it was for me for most of my childhood.  I remember when we got UHF and were able to add a whopping two more channels to our plethora of choices – we thought it was amazing.

Anyway, since our channel selection is limited, we watch movies in the evening when it is too cold or rainy to go outside.  With two young girls, you can imagine what those movies are typically like… lots of princesses, rainbows, ponies, and that kind of stuff.  A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to introduce my girls to the awesomeness that is Star Wars.  Don’t worry, I didn’t start them out with the complex darkness of Revenge of Sith or the has-George-Lucas-lost-his-mind ridiculousness of Jar-Jar Binks.  I went to the old standby – A New Hope – the original… which was actually Part IV and says so right in the beginning with the monolithic blue font scrolling up the screen.  Why didn’t anyone question that in 1977?

I just made sense.  I’ve probably seen the movie a few dozen times and still love it.  I thought of the movies that the girls liked and did a comparison.  Princess… check, hero… check, a big, furry doglike thing… check, a temperamental sidekick who comes back at the end to help the hero… check, a romantic tension between the princess and the hero (who we later find out are siblings)… weird, but check.

I have to admit, I was more excited than the girls were.  We got everything set up and I tried to get the girls to sit in my lap on the couch while we watched the move, but they didn’t want to.  Obviously they did not understand the magnitude of what was about to happen.  About 121 awesome minutes later, Olivia was hooked.  She said she wanted to watch The Empire Strikes Back with me (which is my favorite of the saga) and I couldn’t be happier.  I even have a recording on my phone of the girls doing an impression of Princess Lea – “Help me ‘Toby’ Wan Kenobi.  You’re my only hope.”  Now if I can just get them to watch more football…

TravelerI was traveling again last week, making it two out of the last three weeks that I lived in a hotel.  I don’t mind travel from time to time, but changing your address to room 351 of the Courtyard Marriott takes a toll on you.  I am very much a creature of habit but travel definitely takes a person out of their routine.  First of all, I drink about two gallons of water a day.  I always have my 32-ounce Nalgene bottle nearby when I’m at home.  In a hotel, however, you get those little 8-ounce glasses.  I never get ice out of the machine, so I’m left with the tepid tap water that tastes like it came out of a fireman’s boot after he just battled a sewer fire.  Couple that with air travel and you get a nice little dehydration headache.

Then there’s the fact that the person in the room directly above me always to be some kind of nocturnal Lord of the Dance wannabe wearing wooden clogs.  I’m a light sleeper, so I’ve learned to always pack earplugs… but I usually have to put the earplugs in so deeply it makes my brain kind of tingly.  I once lost an earplug in my sleep and am slightly afraid that it may still be somewhere inside my head.

That person above me isn’t the only one who annoys me – there’s also the other business travelers.  I’d say about ninety percent are decent, hardworking people who just want to get back to their families.  But then there’s the other 10 percent… the ones who think spending the night Irving, Texas is the somehow on par with a bachelor party in Vegas. 

I can’t conclude my complaining without mentioning the “fitness center”.  I typically get up early and work out in the morning when I travel.  I’m almost always sharing the equipment with somebody who obviously has no clue what they are doing.  I wanted to use one of the two treadmills one morning, but couldn’t because both were in use… one by a guy in jeans and walking at a leisurely pace with a cup of coffee in the treadmill’s drink holder… seriously.

Of course the worst thing about travel is being away from my family.  Admittedly, there are some days that I can’t wait to put the girls to bed because they’ve eaten up every last nerve.  But there’s something magical about bedtime.  The hugs, the kisses, and the “love you, daddy” are sorely missed when I’m on the road.

Happy Valentine’s Day, sweethearts!

I’m on the road in Dallas today, so there won’t be a post this week… y’all.