Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Moved to SuckyBlog.com

:: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO SuckyBlog.com ::
Jack's SuckyBlog has moved to SuckyBlog.com.

Please visit there from now on. All of the posts and comments from this site have also been ported over. I pay money to host the new site. It's much better and worth all the trouble. Really. Seriously. I mean it! No, no, no, I shouldn't have just stayed on Blogger. And now I can't because I just dropped a hundred non-refundable bucks to host it elsewhere. That's like 100 orders of 6-piece Chicken McNuggets (if you buy them all on Thursdays). Ok enough of this complaining to myself (what is the sound of one man complaining and nobody listening? If nobody heard it, did he complain at all?).

***Please also note that the RSS Feed has changed. You can find the new RSS link on the right sidebar at the new site.

***If you have me added to your blogroll, please change the link to point to the new web address. Much thanks in advance.

See you all on the new site!

Jack

SuckyBlog.com

Monday, May 01, 2006

Promoting World Peace

:: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO SuckyBlog.com ::
I am much too timid in real life to insult stupid people. Thank goodness for the blogosphere, where I can do it using [square brackets]. Especially if it's to teach geography or promote world peace. Because it just feels so rewarding.

This was from several years ago. I'm back in California now.

Moving Co Sales Lady: So, you're moving to Singapore?

Jack: Yes, and I need you to tell me how much it'll cost to send all my stuff there. [And what's with the mustache on your face. I thought they sell something that melts that stuff. Please consider using it so your upper lip doesn't look like a bright red broom after you eat a Popsicle.]

Moving Co Sales Lady: Singapore...is that, in, like, Africa?

Jack: No. It's an island-nation towards the bottom of Southeast Asia, right on the equator. [That would be the north/south midpoint on the globe. We'll skip the lesson on lattitude and longitude for now, and stick to one- and two-syllable words.]
Not near Africa. [Please buy a globe and study it. And please seriously consider not having children.]

Moving Co Sales Lady: Oh, yes. I should have figured, since you're Asian.

Jack: (trying hard to ignore last comment because, again, I'm timid). Since you're asking, [Even though you didn't ask, but I'll tell you anyway in the hope of furthering world peace.] Singapore has the highest standard of living in Southeast Asia and a very advanced mass transit system. Everybody there speaks 3 or more languages, because learning English and Mandarin in addition to their native Hokkien or Malay is mandatory in their schools. They operate the world's busiest shipping port. [This is a sincere attempt to reach out and tell you about an interesting place you may want to visit someday. I hope you paid attention instead of getting bored with your eyes glazed over.]

Moving Co Sales Lady: (eyes glazed over, returning to attention) Tell me which items you are going to send, so I can write up an estimate for you.

Jack: Well, pretty much everything here in my apartment. Except for the electrical items, of course. [And please don't touch anything I own. I know that your touching my stuff is unlikely to cause my future children to flunk geography, but I'm not taking any chances.]

Moving Co Sales Lady: (lower jaw touching floor, expression of horror on face) They don't have electricity in Singapore?!

Jack: They do have electricity there. [See my short intro to Singapore from 2 seconds ago. They have a subway. It runs on electricity, not hamster wheel power. I guess my hopes for world peace are shot until natural selection phases out people like you.]
They just use a different voltage, so my alarm clock and toaster won't work there. [You dumb pud. Here's ten bucks for the peach fuzz remover.]

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

My Awesome New Band

:: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO SuckyBlog.com ::
I was just thinking about that band Live. You know, the one with the hit single Lightning Crashes.

So I was thinking about starting up a new band, called Live. Not like the Live I mentioned earlier, which is pronounced like "Live at Budokan". No, this name is completely different. It's pronounce Live, as in "I live to blog".

And their first hit single would be called Thunder Strikes.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Why Babies Suck

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They gotta eat, don't they? Sheesh.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Our New Aristocrats

:: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO SuckyBlog.com ::
Seems like these days a lot of people can become famous even without any sort of talent. How did we come to this?

Talented people being famous, I can understand. Charismatic actors, talented musicians, athletic dancers. Even people who don't seem like they spend much time preparing, like Kurt Cobain. Well, I can see how his music and lyrics resonate with a lot of people, sloppy as the musicianship may be.

But what's all this stuff with Paris Hilton? Anna Kournikova? There are probably a whole lot more of them, but I don't read Us Weekly so I don't know their names. I just find it strange that some people can become celebrities even if they have no talent or other means to justify their fame, like having lived through some extraordinary experience.

While we're on the topic of fame, what's with all the media obsession over famous people these days (the talented and talentless alike)? I can understand why movie and rock stars are rich- they are key ingredients in products that are consumed by tens of millions of people. I am a big consumer of movies, tv and music, but it mystifies me as to why anybody should care how much Ryan Seacrest's new house cost, or what the hot glam boy-girl hook-up of the week is.

Why are we so curious about celebrities' personal lives, as if we want to vicariously live through them? Do all the people who are so interested in these celebrities' lives honestly want to trade places with them? Really? Do they want a complete lack of privacy? To be surrounded by an army of sycophants and suck-ups? To worry about their weight and complexion all the time? It'd be nice to live in some movie star's phat pad, but you gotta figure that being in the business of projecting glamour is hard work at best and a total nightmare at worst.

Chalk it up to whatever you want: 24/7 media always searching for "safe" stories; the constant barrage of pop culture in so many media channels, new and old. It almost seems as if our society is coping with the lack of a true aristocracy by creating one of our own.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Knee-Jerk Biases

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I have personal views on a bunch of things: Abortion, the War in Iraq, immigration reform, the religious right, liberals, elitism, the environment, environmentalists, capitalism, social equality, taxes, certain celebrities' sexual orientation. You name it, I've blabbed about it at one time or another.

Lately, though, I've been very self-conscious about expressing my views. I fear that many of my opinions are not very well-considered, and drawn from an out-of-touch perspective. Sometimes I wonder if I gained some beliefs simply through osmosis after hearing them from others for so many years.

We are all prone to making judgments based on our personal points of view. That's just human nature. But nowadays I definitely try hard to weigh the validity of my views with a candid assessment of 1) my own perspective, and 2) whether my opinion is truly well-considered.

And my own self-conscious fear of forming -and voicing- an ill-considered, knee-jerk opinion makes me sensitive to it when I hear other people express their views. Admittedly, I don't always know how much the other person has considered the topic or to what extent it affects them personally. Which makes the whole thing inherently hypocritical. But every time I hear someone voice their views on a topic, I always wonder if they suffer from the same syndrome that I do.

Take one popular topic: Wal-Mart bashing. I often get annoyed when I hear people bash Wal-Mart, because I think it's easy to hate it if you can afford to shop somewhere more expensive. But in being annoyed, I reveal the hypocrite that I am. How do I really know how much the Wal-Mart hater I'm speaking to understands the underlying issues? Who am I to judge them for judging Wal-Mart? My friends certainly know that I am both abundant in opinions and lacking in knowledge (the worst of both worlds), so I certainly have no right to the moral or conceptual high ground.

It's a bit sad and perverse how my desire to open my own eyes has ultimately resulted in blinding me. I've become so averse to my own tendency to form unsubstantiated opinions that I often think I see the same fault in others. And in forming my own ill-considered, pre-conceived prejudices about others' beliefs, I have become exactly what I tried so hard to avoid.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My Foot is a Size 11. My Mouth is Much Smaller. MMMmmrmmphmrpm!!!

:: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO SuckyBlog.com ::
That is what it sounds like when I try to speak with my foot in my mouth. Which is most of the time. I've had more than my share of embarrassing moments, when I said the wrong thing or did something really dorky.

I often blurt out something totally stupid when I meet new people at parties. This would be a classic symptom of the social awkwardness exhibited by most people who register as high as I do on the geekger-counter (doo doo doo doO dOO DOO DOODOODOO DOOOOOOOOOOOOOO).

One time at work I really pulled the worst foot-in-mouth maneuver in the history of the human race. We were busting our asses on a really important deal for a really important client. Let's call them KissMyAssCo. Now KissMyAssCo had been driving me crazy for months. They were extremely demanding, and I for one felt that many of their demands were both unreasonable and unecessary.

One day, KissMyAssCo calls us up and demands that I and some others on the team fly to their headquarters (KissMyAssQuarters) to go over some mundane stuff that we'd been over with them a million times before. Realize that KissMyAssQuarters is nowhere near North America- it's in KissMyAssCountry, where everyone speaks KissMyAssLanguage and smokes. I'd been there every other week for the three months prior. My body couldn't take it any more, and my wife was about to leave me for her favorite pillow, with which she had apparently developed a fond relationship while I was eating partially-thawed, freezer-burned airplane food at 30,000 feet.

So one of my co-workers sends a voice mail about this to my company's internal KissMyAssCo working group (the KissMyAssCoAssKissers), to discuss whether we really needed to fly over to KissMyAssCountry, land at KissMyAssAirport, take KissMyAss limo to KissMyAssHotel, for a repetitive meeting with KissMyAssCo's KissMyAssExecs over KissMyAssDinner at KissMyAssRestaurant while sharing a bottle of KissMyAssBooze.

I was in my mid-20s back then, and arrogant young men in their mid-20s vying to become Master of the Universe often think it's better to shoot first and think later. Actually, they don't think it. They just know it. This was before I came to the sudden realization, many years later, that I know nothing. So what happens next is only appropriate for schadenfreudesters who revel in the pain of others. Namely, my pain. So all you readers can feel free to proceed to the next paragraph.

In my haste to express my extreme frustration with the whole request, I hit reply all on the voice mail system. If I ever find the engineer who invented that button I will thank him by sticking his devil-spawn button (phone attached) up his ass with my foot. That is, if my foot is not in my mouth at the time. I start off my voice mail ReplyAll with "This message is for the KissMyAssCo circle jerk team...". I distinctly remember emphasizing the phrase "circle jerk" (to represent the verbal emphasis I conveyed back then, I am italicizing the text here. How clever of me). The rest of the message was filled with sarcastic remarks that clearly expressed my disatisfaction with the whole situation. I thought my awesome 'tude would reflect my wariness with the whole thing and generate some mutual concern among my fellow KissMyAssCoAssKissers. I had successfully pissed on KissMyAssCo's lamppost, marking my territory. Yes, I was a badass.

About 2 minutes later, my voice mail light blinks on. I am huffing and puffing, still thumping my chest after leaving my I-don't-give-a-crap-because-I'm-awesome voice mail. I pick up the handset. The person leaving the message, unfortunately for me, was Big Boss Number Two. We'll call him BBN-2 even though he is in no way affiliated with British television (neither is anything else named BBN, because it's BBC). Apparently the original voice mail wasn't sent just to the immediate KissMyAssCoAssKissers team- BBN-2 was also cc'd on all the previous voice mails, which I had replied all to.

My palms start to sweat. I had described a very important client's very important deal in masturbatory terms to a very senior member of my firm. And not just in normal or generally kinky masturbatory terms, but in mutual-homoerotic masturbatory terms. I figured I was so deeply in trouble that my toes were already touching the bottom of the quicksand pit. There was, after all, a response from BBN-2 to my homo-masturba-orgy voice mail in my inbox.

How wrong I was. Oh so deeply, horribly wrong. The sandpit wound up being much, much deeper. I realized this as soon as I heard BBN-2 start his voice mail by addressing Big Boss Number One. I will call him BBN-1 for the purposes of this blog post, and to prevent myself from jumping out my second floor window right now (I'm still traumatized just thinking about it, several years later). Because even as I am calling him BBN-1 in the Blogosphere, in the office everyone calls him CEO. (Yes, I know what you are thinking. All together now: "Holy Crap"). So the voice mail goes like this: "This is BBN-2, with a message for the KissMyAssCo team as well as for BBN-1, who was also on the cc list for all the previous voice mails. Um...I think Jack was just expressing a bit of frustration about the situation..."

For the following paragraph every time you see quotes like this: ", unless otherwise instructed please do the little two finger quote gesture with your hands, like in Austin Powers...thanks. The really sad thing is that I am just dorky by nature, so oftentimes when I'm acting "normal", and especially when I'm trying to act "cool", I do or say something that most people who are actually "normal" find to be "awkward" at best and "dorky", "lame", or "pathetic" at the all-too-often-occurring extreme.

Side note: How funny that Mike Myers employed a written expression on film with great humorous effect, and then I employ a derivative converted-from-text-to-film-back-to-text expression, to a totally non-humorous effect. I wonder if it's the concept, the execution, or both. Who am I kidding. It's both.

These things stay with a person. I think about some embarrassing moment in my life at least once a day. Usually several times, because I shouldn't play favorites so I try to give each esteem-sucking, ego-deflating vignette sufficient airtime. Some are from several years ago. Others are from the recent past. Several are from the past few hours. I have a vast and extensive library of them tucked away in my mind- there's certainly no lack of material. Good thing most of them will simply go with me to the grave when I die.

Except for the ones that my friends witnessed. Those are the most embarrassing ones, and will live on in infamy for at least 1 or 2 future generations as stories of dorky Uncle Jack. After which time they will become cautionary tall tales. So if, many years hence, your kids tell their kids the story of "The Boy Who 'Replied All'", you can tell your grandchildren where the story came from. I wonder how they'll work the phrase "circle jerk" into a children's story.

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Investing in Bonds

:: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO SuckyBlog.com ::
A few friends have asked lately about where to buy Treasury and California Municipal Bonds, so I am posting a little primer here. A quick word of warning: I am not a professional investor, so use the information below at your own risk!!!

Treasury bonds you can buy directly from the government at TreasuryDirect. You can also buy them through most brokers, like Vanguard or Fidelity or whatever company you use. For new issue auctions (when the government issues new bonds and sells them directly to investors like you and me), the brokerage may add a small fee of $10 or so, but sometimes it's worth it to do that just so you can have everything in one place to ease the record keeping.

Brokerages usually also sell secondary bonds, which are previously issued bonds that the brokerage now owns and offers to sell to their customers. The price will be different (not $1,000 like most new issue bonds) depending on what interest rate the bond pays vs current rates. For example, if today's prevailing rate for a 5 year bond is 4%, and a broker has a 7 year bond in its inventory that matures in 5 years (meaning it was issued 2 years ago) but that bond pays 4.25%, they will want more than the original $1,000 for it since it pays a higher coupon than the current yield for the same maturity. Treasury securities are exempt from state income taxes but not federal taxes.

For California municipal bonds, you can also go through your broker. Large brokers will have a decent sized inventory of munis that they can sell you. These are almost always secondary purchases. Bear in mind that there is no "exchange" for bonds like there are for stocks. Since there's no common market for bonds, sometimes pricing can vary between brokers and you have to check a few sources before buying. Treasuries are very safe (if the federal government goes down, we've got much bigger problems than lost savings, so they're considered essentially risk-free), but munis can vary in quality (remember OC went bankrupt in the mid 90s). You have to check the credit rating and whether the bond is insured, among other factors. That information is available from your broker.

CA municipal bonds for us CA residents are completely tax free at both the state and federal levels, which makes them an excellent deal if you are in a high tax bracket. To calculate the taxable-equivalent yield (i.e. how the tax-free yield of a particular muni compares to the yield of a taxable bond of comparable risk and maturity), it's:
tax-free yield/(1-tax rate) = taxable-equivalent yield

Most people will ladder bonds- take the chunk of money they want to invest, and split it into 5-10 equal parts to invest in bonds that mature every year out to 10 years or so (for example, if you have $100,000 to invest, you will buy $10,000 of bonds that mature in each of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10 years). And then when the 1 year bond matures and returns the principal to you, you would simply take that money and buy a new 10 year bond with it at the prevailing interest rate. This method allows you to average out short- and long-term rate exposure, and also protects you from adverse interest rate environments because you have money coming back at least once a year that you can reinvest at the prevailing rate at the time.

Now lately short term rates have been rising very quickly (the Federal Reserve sets short term rates, although they seem to have little control over long term rates), so recently there has not been much difference between the yield on a short term money market account and a 10 year bond, or at least not so much of a difference that you would be willing to lock up your money for 10 years. As a result, a lot of people I know are not investing in long term bonds at all and just watching the short term rates in their money market accounts go up every few months. The Fed has recently announced that they will likely cool down on raising short term rates, and long term rates do look like they're rising, so hopefully sometime in the next few years we will be in a more normal market with a regular yield curve where the long term rates are materially higher than short term rates.

Again, this is all based on my rudimentary knowledge- I have enough experience with these things that a lot of friends ask for advice on topics like this one, but I do not profess to be an expert in personal investing, nor is this meant to be a complete tutorial on bond investing (there are a lot of variations that would bore most people to tears if I were to post them all). A great resource with tutorials and calculators is Bankrate.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

I Could Care Less!

:: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO SuckyBlog.com ::
Its so rediculous how bad grammer and spelling rears it's ugly head everywhere I turn. And all this self-publishing on the Internet makes it even worse. I hope that one day they will license and test people before they are allowed to post on the net.

Until that great day finally arrives, I abhor you to please get a copy of Strunk & White. It will be the best $10 you have ever spent, and a service to English-speaking and -reading people everywhere. Because if I hear you say "Where are you at?" one more time, I swear I will roll up my own copy into a stick and beat you with it.

While I'm ranting, this whole Carpool Tunnel Syndrome thing is totally overblown. Yes, employers should be more careful about repetitive driving. Maybe they should encourage their carpooling employees to take a different tunnel to work every day. Or, better yet, they should outfit company car dashboards with a whole panel of buttons and knobs that are each randomly assigned a new function each time the ignition starts, to limit the number of potentially harmful repetitive motions that occur while carpooling through a tunnel. Maybe their insurance premiums will benefit as a result. Who cares if the drivers can't figure out how to turn on the wipers. It is, after all, a syndrome. Besides, they're driving in a tunnel anyway, and their fellow carpool passengers can help them test all the buttons.

And what's with all this controversy about Youth in Asia? There are youth everywhere. Deal with it. How do you think the human race continues its existence. Do Asians have less of a right to procreate? I can't believe so many people are up in arms over Youth in Asia.

And if you are inclined to email me about this post to point out all of the misspellings, improper using of English, and grammatacal errors in my own blog, please save your bandwith. I am well aware of my own crass hipocrasy, and I really, really could care less what you think. ;)

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If You Can Read This

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79 6F 75 20 61 72 65 20 61 20 74 6F 74 61 6C 20 67 65 65 6B 20 6A 75 73 74 20 6C 69 6B 65 20 6D 65 00

To see the answer click your mouse here, hold down the mouse button, and drag down over the space below:

in hexadecimal: "then you are a total geek just like me!"



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