Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job

Over at Making Light, Teresa Nielsen-Hayden has a long post about the Bush administration’s poor showing in New Orleans a year after Katrina. This is my favorite part of this excellent post:

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, “The president has set the federal government on the course to fulfill its obligations.” You know the guy in the meeting who, when asked to report on the progress he’s made on his part of the project, says “I’ve made some preliminary phone calls”? You know how that actually means he hasn’t done a damned thing since the previous meeting? “Setting the federal government on the course to fulfill its obligations” is just like that.

I think this guy used to work with me! Ha!

The lending bubble

I’ve been concerned about the U.S. housing bubble for a couple of years now. The Big Picture blog has a post that explains the U.S. housing situation quite thoroughly yet in a way that an economic layman like me can understand. Here’s a simple to understand bullet list of some aspects of the current situation:

  • 32.6% of new mortgages and home-equity loans in 2005 were interest only, up from 0.6% in 2000;
  • 43% of first-time home buyers in 2005 put no money down;
  • 15.2% of 2005 buyers owe at least 10% more than their home is worth (negative equity);
  • 10% of all home owners with mortgages have no equity in their homes (zero equity);
  • $2.7 trillion dollars in loans will adjust to higher rates in 2006 and 2007.

When we decided to ‘upgrade’ houses in 2003, we decided how much we could comfortably spend each month on mortgage, insurance and taxes, correlated that to a home price range, and got a fixed rate 30 mortgage at a very good rate (6%)for a house in that range (and not at the top end, like I’d expected!).
The house we bought is relatively well built, in an area that’s still experiencing big growth (won’t start to suffer suburban blight soon), is one of the less expensive homes in the neighborhood, is right around the median home price for Austin, and had a very good price per square foot for Austin. We also put some of our equity from the last home as downpayment on this one (though not much). So, barring an unforeseen family economic crisis, I think we made a very conservative and sensible purchase.

Skills for the ‘real world’

Guy Kawasaki offers twelve skills “students should learn in order to prepare for the real world after graduation.” They are:

  1. How to talk to your boss
  2. How to survive a meeting that’s poorly run
  3. How to run a meeting
  4. How to figure out anything on your own
  5. How to negotiate
  6. How to have a conversation
  7. How to explain something in thirty seconds
  8. How to write a one-page report
  9. How to write a five-sentence email
  10. How to get along with co-workers
  11. How to use PowerPoint
  12. How to leave a voicemail

(Go read the entire blog post for Guy’s comments on each item)
I don’t think that these skills should be explicitly taught in college, but I agree that they are valuable career skills.
For the record, I hate it when people refer to ‘the real world’ vs. college. It tells a lot about the speaker though.

OMG! Death by exploding battery!

I’m the guy who always points out how irrational many people’s fears are. Fear of terrorists while flying? You stand a far greater chance of dying in your car on the way to the airport. I’m the life of the party, I tell you!
Anyway, along those same lines, Christopher Null has compared the chance of dying because your Dell laptop battery caught fire to other common risks. Long story short: if you’re hysterical about your battery, don’t get out of bed (though, according to the post, your chance of dying by falling out of bed is higher than dying due to laptop battery failure).

Work-life balance

A few months ago, Apple was criticized for the working conditions in its iPod factory in China. So, Apple made an investigation–good for them (and good for PR)–and put the investigation’s findings on its web site. This caught my eye (emphasis added):

We found no instances of forced overtime and employees confirmed in interviews that they could decline overtime requests without penalty. We did, however, find that employees worked longer hours than permitted by our Code of Conduct, which limits normal workweeks to 60 hours and requires at least one day off each week. We reviewed seven months of records from multiple shifts of different productions lines and found that the weekly limit was exceeded 35% of the time and employees worked more than six consecutive days 25% of the time. Although our Code of Conduct allows overtime limit exceptions in unusual circumstances, we believe in the importance of a healthy work-life balance and found these percentages to be excessive.

So, working more than 6 days a week and more than 60 hours per week jeopardizes an employee’s ‘work-life balance”? Wow.

Same ol’ same ol’

This morning, I called Katie from the office:
Katie: Hi honey. What’s up?
Me: Just trying to get this damn release out the door.
Katie: That’s what you always say.
Me: Well, we’ve been working on this release for a while.
Katie: No, I mean, that’s what you always say at every company where you work.

War on Terror in a nutshell

From Kung Fu Monkey:

FDR: Oh, I’m sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we’re coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How’s that going to feel?
CHURCHILL: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We’ll be in the pub, flipping you off. I’m slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I’m sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.
US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike … NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!