Saturday, September 29, 2007

Generational Collegiate And Residential Thoughts

With almost all my projects finished, I turn to one of the many items that piqued my interest this week. I have a somewhat jaded view of our education system, as you may have noticed. So, upon hearing of Hillary Clinton's suggestion to the Congressional Black Caucus of providing a $5,000 bond to each child born every year to be used towards purchasing a home or their college education, I couldn't hold my tongue. Don't think that I'm using this as a means to slam a presidential candidate as the idea was implemented two years ago in Britain and brought up here in the U.S. by Time magazine.

When it comes to colleges, they already figure in the average amount in government grants when setting their per-credit costs. (In the last 10 years the cost of tuition and room & board rose 79% at public colleges and 65% and private universities.) This measure will not slow nor hold the price of education down but increase the speed it rises. The scarcity of funds for 4 million students to enroll will be lessened providing the limited number of universities reasons to raise costs. In 18 years, at a yield of 4.5% (which may be dependent on current economic factors when setting it up), you would earn $225 on the first year... in aggregate, it would more than double the initial $5,000 put in. (At 3% interest, the $5,000 baby bond would build to $8,512 by the time toddlers turned 18.) Of course, some stats show that only 25% of all children leaving high school will continue on to college (even though 94% of parents believe their children will.)

So, 75% will have to put the money toward homes. These new home purchasers will have a good chunk of their down-payment ready after high school. But, most will not have a sufficient job or credit history to purchase the home at a decent interest rate. Many lenders may see someone using only what was saved in the bond as a riskier loan. And, as any influx of cash into a market, the price of that home will inflate (which could be good news for some home sellers.)

Of course, I could be upset with the spending of $20 billion in tax dollars yearly (as well as several billion more in administrative costs) on what some people see as an entitlement to housing and higher education for the next generation. A chicken in every pot! But governments find ways to spend money. Programs that get started rarely get shut down for ill or lack of performance. I foresee fights over raising the bond that will be similar to minimum wage hikes. The problems I have with the program are with the unintended consequences. The creation of Social Security instilled a sense that one was provided for and didn't need to save for their retirement (most people have learned their lesson on this one.) The providing of tax dollars toward college tuition or house down-payment will likewise discourage saving for these areas and enlistment in Section 529 plans.

Of course, as with mentioning any entitlement, the immigration issue will come up and I'm not going to beat that dead horse... the bones are poking out and the flies don't even visit anymore. What I will say is that this allows the government to assist another country's citizens in their competition with your children in attempting to go to college or buy a piece of the American dream. I also wonder what government agency the money goes if one can't purchase a house (credit or other reasons), decides not go to college or sadly, dies before either become possible.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Last Projects... At This Address

I went across the street to take this picture over 4 years ago. You see, I was looking for my first house and had just agreed to purchase this. I had to get a photo as soon as I heard the good news. The house has changed a lot since then. I've mentioned that I've been busy recently but now, I'll explain things further.

In less than a week, the house goes on the market. Sure, it's not exactly the best time to do so but then again... it's not a good time for the people I'll be buying my next home from either... so it's a wash. So that project with the bathroom, the one with the wall and several others have become my main focus. Just moments ago, I put stain on the kitchen cabinets and master bedroom cabinets... polyurethane goes on tomorrow. Sunday night, I finally got the tile up in the bathroom with grout tomorrow, sealant to follow as well as caulk. At some point... I still need to talk to the neighbor about restraining his dogs so I can re-set the bricks in the wall. And there is even a little touch-up paint and a small painting project to throw in there.

What I do need to say is that I wouldn't be anywhere near being this close without Kerry's help. While I worked on the early part of the newsletter on Sunday, she sanded the cabinets, returned some products and purchased other products that I needed to complete these projects. Of course, she wants me to sell the house as quick as possible (as much as I do) as she has placed her condo on the market. If everything goes well, it looks like we'll be moving into a house in a nice little gated community in the southeast part of town. (No more traffic issues with the freeway on the way to work.) But of course, it's all forward looking as things have to get done first. Off to sleep and back to work.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Classically Martin: Tin Tin/Stephen Duffy

There are a lot of things I can say about Mr. Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy. The first thing to note, which isn't obvious from these examples, is his 'lyrical genius.' I don't use the phrase lightly. One of my favorite example phrases comes from "She Makes Me Quiver": "Well, if I can't be debonair, I'll just be gaunt and gothic." Still a lot of cheese on the first album but it was the early 80's. Songs like "World At Large Alone" and "I Love You" are personal favorites (probably to be played at some point on the podcast.) Maybe it is some of the some of the pining and heartbreak found in songs like "Darkest Blues": "A marriage made in heaven, we don't suppose. But, who on Earth informed you, heaven knows. I am the one that you ignore. You are the one that I adore. Won't you come back again..." Or in "But Is It Art": "Can I ever be the one you want? Can I ever be the one you love? What if the tide against us proves too strong? We'll have to wait until it gives enough."

Anyhow, here are the videos for his biggest hit "Kiss Me" and another single, "Icing On The Cake," that came off his 1985 debut album, The Ups And Downs. He also found success with his other band the Lilac Time but will always be known as the original vocalist for... Duran Duran. (Don't hurt your brain trying to place him in their biggest hit videos though. Just doesn't seem right and he left before recording anything.) I think I'm happy things went the way they did, though, as what he recorded may never have seen the light of day. He even recently reunited with Nick Rhodes to record an album under the name, The Devils.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sign In, Check, Sign Out And Repeat

During the last week or so, I've become enamored with the program Trillian. There aren't many that I get excited about but right now, this is it. I have about 6 different email accounts that I keep track of (one for the talkcast, one for the website, one for my bills, one for junk mail, one for an AOL account I don't use anymore and another junkmail account.) Usually, when I check my email (usually 4 different times a day), I am jumping in and out of accounts just to see if anything new is in there. Keeping track of passwords is a pain.

Almost all of those email accounts have messenger programs (Yahoo and AOL) which I use very very sparingly. The reason for that is that whenever I seem to get talking with someone, I feel like I have all the time in the world to chat... I know that I don't. I haven't been doing half of the things here at that house that I should. Yes, I love talking to people but I keep thinking that I could spend 5 minutes on the phone for every 15 typing.

Anyhow, a while ago, I heard about Trillian. It sounds like a perfect program as it allows you to juggle multiple instant messaging accounts. It was after I started looking at it seriously that I remembered that I didn't want to be tied to my computer with IMs. So, I bypassed it. Until recently. You see, it also juggles your email accounts. So, here I am looking at my email addresses and when an email arrives, I'm notified as to what account it's at and can double-click the account to open it to check the mail. Yes, it's the free basic version and I'm sure the pro version probably has a lot more options but I'm just delighted with the functionality of the program. I am still not going to be going IM crazy but I may be enticed to type out a quick hi here or there.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Pop Eye Interview

One of my favorite bloggers, Beckeye at The Pop Eye, went after guinea pigs... I mean, kindly asked for volunteers to be interviewed. She has a sarcastic wit that I enjoy immensely and it's well worth checking out her homepage. Anyhow, I agreed to the challenge which meant defending my town, considering my 80's music love/research, getting creative and talking football. How'd I hold up under pressure?

P.S. - She promised to post dirty pictures if more than half of you think I did well.

1. They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Being a resident, can you explain then what happened with Panic! At The Disco? How the hell did they slip through, and can you please take them back?

Heard one of their songs but can't say they are amazing. I will say that if everything that happens here, should stay here... the Killers, Slaughter, 702 and a member of Korn would be flipping burgers. I believe that the Las Vegas City Council will resign before designating an official Panic! At The Disco day.

2. Like me, you’re a big fan of the ‘80s. However, the decade wasn’t all sunshine, lollipops and Brat Packers. What was something about the ‘80s that you don’t miss at all?

The memory of the January 28, 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster. The risk of space travel became painfully aware to millions and I think I saved a few of the newspapers from that day (as I was a paperboy at the time.) I'd gladly have that erased from history. Otherwise... Grease 2.

3. How do you feel about the proliferation of reunion/nostalgia tours by ‘80s bands? Totally rad or bogus and sad?

This is a touchy subject as I've interviewed a several of these bands for my talkcast and website. I think reunions of original band line-ups are a blessing for kids that either weren't taken to concerts by the acts or they lived in an area the act never toured. There is something about seeing a band that made a profound impact on your musical tastes. Classic line-up reunions can be great also as some acts really didn't gel until later in their careers (I mean, how many really would like to see the Beatles with Pete Best on drums? Didn't think so.) There are also single members of bands touring under the name of their original band. If they wrote and sang the majority of the music, I can understand that but some are purely offensive. Some bands are fighting over the name of the act (L.A. Guns, Gene Loves Jezebel and many others) leaving fans unsure who they are actually going to see. With the passage of new laws in more than 20 states, less bands are able to tour under the name of an act without having an original member on stage with them. This is good as it killed the act FGTH several years ago who claimed to have Holly Johnson's brother singing in his place because of his illness as well as a former roadie (FGTH... Frankie Goes To Hollywood.) So... the answer to your question is if there is a 'true' reunion, yes, it is totally rad.

4. Hasbro has approached you to create a new trivia game. What’s your pitch?

Who Did It? The game is a boardgame with DVD use. Players start from point A on the board working to get to point B first. To move, they have to name the performer of a random song performed on a multi-DVD set. As the song goes on, 3 hints will be displayed lessening your movement for each hint given before a correct answer. An incorrect or non-answer moves you back a space (only as far as point A.) What will keep this from ever happening is song licensing but the idea is there.

5. You consider yourself something of a football expert. Without pissing me off, give us some predictions including what you think the Steelers chances are this year.

I love all pro football, not just my team, so let's focus on yours for now. I can honestly say that the Steelers will do better this year. They have all the players they need (sure, Porter isn't there but youth is good for the position.) Willie Parker, Hines Ward and Heath Miller are studs. Pittsburgh's most recent Super Bowl season came with a limited quarterback playbook for rookie Ben Roethlisberger and a run-heavy offense. The following season, Roethlisberger had a bigger playbook following his motorcycle accident and concussion which was an abrupt change for the young QB. I believe that 'Big Ben' comes into the season with a little more time in training camp this year, a clear head and a playbook that will build with the season. I'm not going to predict how many wins they will have but they will do a lot better and, yes, possibly playoffs. Pending injuries, of course.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Classically Martin: New Monkees - Burning Desire

Everyone has skeletons in their closet. The New Monkees are one of mine. I remember being told by my friend Phil about them when I was in junior high. I didn't get to watch enough of the television series to really make a decision on it but... the music was good.

I actually bought their self-titled 1985 cassette in about 1988 and upgraded to CD when I got the iPod. Songs like "Affection," "What I Want," "Boy Inside The Man," "Carlene," "Whatever It Takes," "Do It Again," "Corner Of My Eye"... actually, I can't really think of a bad song but do yourself a favor and search out the album after you check those YouTube links as they have many videos from the show.

I've actually been thinking that Marty Ross (the one singing here in this video) would be an interesting interview. He's still writing and puts free downloads at his site.

It seems a reunion is planned for December of this year and more information can be found at: