Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Money (and Fitness) Tips - There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch....So Bring Yours!

Ramit Sethi has an interesting post about how getting rich is not about trying harder. I tend to agree. Although it is difficult for me admit, since I attribute many things I have accomplished in my life to hard work, I think I have to agree that personal finance hasn't really been hard work for me. First off I enjoy learning about the topic so that helps. I think that getting my finances in order has had more to do with educating myself and developing good habits. We are creatures of habit and finance is no exception. If you develop good habits they become "the way it is" and less of a struggle to make to the right decision.

One habit that has worked well for me over the years is one that is multifaceted in its benefits. Bring your lunch to work! It sounds so simple that I shouldn't even be writing about it, however I can't tell you how many people I know or see that go out to eat every single day for lunch. 

Let's assume that you are 'frugal' in your lunch purchases and you spend a mere $5 per day on lunch. Most people would agree that going out to lunch and getting a meal for $5 is a pretty good deal. I would argue that it is a good deal, relative to the times you are actually going out to eat. However, when compared to bringing your own lunch $5 is pretty steep. Bringing your own lunch is a fraction of that cost per day. 

Let's run some numbers. Five days a week at $5 a pop comes out to $25 a week, or $100 per month. That's roughly $1,300 a year! If you invested that $1,300 at age 22 and earned a measly 6% return, you would have roughly $13,371.43 when you retired at age 62. And that is just one year of not going out to lunch every day. Imagine if you invested that much every year. Imagine if you got a larger return that 6%. Imagine if you were honest and admitted that you spend more than $5 per day on lunch!

The numbers don't lie and bringing a lunch is such an easy habit to form. That is why, as stupid as the recommendation sounds, I think it really is powerful to see the monetary benefits of simple daily habits. The same people who go out to eat everyday are the same people who haven't started investing yet because they have to do X excuse first. They are the same people who are missing out on a company matching 401K plan. They are the same people driving our nation's savings rate further and further into the negative. To be honest, they are probably the same people who are complaining that they can't lose weight.

Do you see a little bit of yourself in the description above? Good. You should. Going out to eat is enjoyable. I personally love to eat. And typically when I go out I eat and order twice the amount I would had I just brought my lunch. I am well aware of the social benefits of going out to eat lunch with co-workers and clients. The key is to make bringing your lunch the norm and going out to eat the exception. Is someone having a going away luncheon? Great go splurge on that day. Are you friends going out for their daily pizza and sandwich run? Not so great. Bring your lunch along, and recommend that you eat outside or back at the office.

I treat my work week as my monetary/dietary regimen so that I can treat my weekends like a vacation. This post is not about self denial, it's about setting yourself up for success while still enjoying your life. I hate the frugal approach to getting rich. I can't relate to the bloggers and columnists that say to cut up all your credit cards and live on sardines. What's the point of being wealthy if you cannot enjoy your life on the journey there? I go out to eat all the time on the weekends with friends. I probably eat and spend too much on the weekends. However I know myself well enough to know that I have formed good habits during the week. Know thyself, be realistic, set good habits, and enjoy your progress.

Don't beat yourself up for not working hard enough just form a simple habit and start building your wealth, who knows you might lose some extra weight in the process!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Is Anyone Else Nervous?

Am I the only person getting a little nervous about the dynamic between American government and American business? Rick Wagoner has been asked to step down by a presidential task force. Read one of the many articles here.

There are a few things that disturb me about what is going on. First and foremost, any time the government decides to try their hand at making business decisions I get queasy. This however is not any business decision, it is a request from the government of our nation for the CEO of a publicly traded company to step down. Talk about blurring the lines. Isn't that the shareholders' job?

Not when the government uses taxpayer dollars to keep the company afloat you say. My point exactly! This is the embodiment of the slippery slope argument from my previous posts on government bailouts. The companies who sought government intervention should have been careful of what they wished for because they are definitely getting government intervention.  

Amidst all the actions that rub me the wrong way are a few that are just leaving me utterly confused. Try and stay with me on this one. A company that was deemed too big to fail was being kept afloat by taxpayer dollars. The creditors and unions, seeing that the company was not going to left by the wayside, refused to make any meaningful concessions. The administration who ran a heavy pro-labor campaign is now firing the CEO and refusing additional bailout funds for the company that we originally deemed too big to fail. Upon being fired Wagoner, who was making a whopping $1 salary, became entitled to a roughly $20 million retirement package. What is going on here? Does anyone stand for anything or are we just knee-jerking each and every week. I am all about being pragmatic in our approach to government problems but this just seems indecisive to me, not to mention it shouldn't be a government problem! 

Furthermore, I don't buy the too big to fail argument. I know the stats surrounding the big 3 and the amount of jobs both directly and indirectly they provide. However, I don't believe that if one of them went out of business it would be the end of the US as we know it. People need cars and that market share would shift to another car manufacturer. This is where it gets politically sticky, because the companies who are doing it best happen to be foreign manufacturers. Constituents don't like that. Consumers don't mind, but constituents do (we are all both). Ironically, most of these 'foreign' makers have plants right here in the USA. 

I have no doubt that there are consequences to these companies going out of business. The period of adjustment would be difficult to say the least and a lot of workers would be displaced. But does that justify our government using the tax dollars of everyone to string along a broken company that will likely not last in the long run anyways? Which is the greater evil? I guess no one can really be sure until everything plays out. I just think that the government is always so concerned with being fair and taking care of those in need, but what about those who need to fail? Who is not to say that five new American auto makers would rise to fill the void left by a fallen GM? Creative destruction anyone? Only time and tax dollars will tell!

From Stock Broker To Pizza Delivery Man

I read this article a few days ago and I knew I had to blog about it. I love this article because it affirms my definition of being rich. Here is this larger than life stockbroker who at one point in time was making more that $750,000 a year, had all the toys and the big house, yet he is broke within 3 years once his income stops coming in. I don't want to make it sound like I am relishing in someone else's pain because I am not. However, I think that his story is an excellent illustration of how the conventional definition of rich is flawed. Making $750,000 a year does you no good if you have $751,000 going out the door. It is all about managing you cash flow and making the surplus of cash coming in work for you through various investment vehicles. I think it is ironic that Ken was paid very handsomely for managing other people's money yet it took him becoming a pizza man making $7 an hour to learn to manage his own. Take note of this lesson and don't fall into the consumerist trap of upping your lifestyle faster than your income, it's not realistic for one and it surely won't make you happy in the long run.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Air Force Hockey Advances To The Elite 8!

Air Force has just defeated Michigan 2-0 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament! Wow. It was only a matter of time until the program took the next step. Its amazing what a group of character guys can do when they are committed to a common goal. To be honest I am pretty speechless at the moment. I am just really proud of the guys and how far the program has come. Wow I can't believe it.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Masks Collapse

I read Ben Casnocha's blog quite often and I think I enjoy reading his blog because he seems like a pretty normal dude that writes about a lot of different topics. In the short time I have been blogging, all the articles I have read have doused me with advice to focus your blog on one target niche, but my life isn't one focused area. I am interested in a lot of things, hence my blog encompasses a lot of things. He does the same thing, although I would argue much better than I do.

I came across this post of his today and I found it pretty interesting. He talks about how we put on different masks depending on who we are interacting with, and what professional or personal situations we are in. He argues that technology is driving us to ditch our masks as our personal and professional lives become more intertwined.

I wrote a related post on my initial resistance to blogging and the repercussions of forming Internet footprint. I eventually concluded that I had nothing to hide and attributed my change of heart to growing older and progressing as a person. I found it very interesting that Ben placed more emphasis on technology. Interesting theory that I am sure holds some weight. Check out his blog.

Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

Read this article I came across today. I have heard more and more mentioned about this recently. From what little I know about the topic I see nothing wrong with drug testing welfare recipients. To be completely honest I am pretty amazed by some of the arguments against doing drug testing.

"It's an example of where you could cut costs at the expense of a segment of society that's least able to defend themselves," said Frank Crabtree, executive director of the West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

What are they defending themselves against? If you are using drugs you are breaking the law. It is pretty cut and dry. Not only are you breaking the law but the government is in essence subsidizing your drug use at the expense of the American taxpayer. I just don't understand how this isn't common sense? I played division I sports where drug testing is a yearly occurrence. These are amateur athletes we are talking about. Yet when we are providing American tax dollars to those without a job we are acting like it is a trampling of their civil liberties to make them take a drug test before we hand them a check?! I don't know maybe I am just missing something here, if so I would love to hear it in the comments section.

Another Blog Update

I have added Yielding Wealth to the blogs that I follow. I have a grace period where I typically follow blogs for a few weeks to see if I will actually continue to follow them. This one passed the test and I am adding it for your viewing pleasure as well. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Metalist Update

I came across this beauty! This one is for all you metalheads. I can't wait for this DVD release. These guys are one of the best things going right now and they are awesome musicians. I used to describe them as a guitarist's wet dream but then I realized that the whole band is unreal so I've moved on to less offensive descriptors.

THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER upcoming DVD will not suck

Posted using ShareThis

You Can't Legislate a Recession

I happened to be near a TV for a few minutes today at work and I am glad that I was. I caught a few minutes of this interview on Fox News with British Parliament member Daniel Hannan. Before I get bombarded with "Fox News is the most biased right wing propoganda machine" accusations please actually watch the video. Daniel Hannan took on the British Prime Minister and expressed many frustrations that many Americans are feeling right now. What I found particularly intriguing about Mr. Hannan was that he is a politician who actually says what he thinks, not what his party or self interest dictates. Within his 15 minute interview he slams the current bailouts taking place in the US, UK and beyond, admits he would have voted for Obama, condemns GOP spending for the last 8 years, and acknowledges that he thinks banning gay marriage is an invasion of states rights. Talk about someone who doesn't vote along party lines. What I liked even more was his Warren Buffett-esque ability to make every point so simplistic and reasonable. That is an invaluable quality that, coupled with his seeming honesty, is very refreshing and something I wish our political fleet had more of. His best line has to be "you can't legislate your way out of a recession." I love the friends with credit cards comparison as well. No matter your political makeup you have to appreciate the straightforward approach to standing up for what you believe in that Daniel Hannan displays in these videos. And if that doesn't do it for you, you have to admire the cojones he has blasting by the Prime Minister for all to see (see it here). Check out the video below first and then enjoy the Prime Minister scolding.

More Stimulus Updates

I read this article in the Economist today and it is very interesting. I was talking to a friend at hockey last night about the new proposed stimulus by Tim Geithner and we hit some of these points. However, I think that this article does a great job of taking this complex proposition and explaining it in layman's terms. 

Upon first glance, I actually thought that the proposal was much more interesting and in a sense appropriate than all the actions thus far. I must say that my knowledge of the plan is somewhat limited, but I liked that the government was almost incentivizing private investors to stimulate the economy instead of spending mindlessly and egregiously on what they deemed was stimulus ($1.7M for pig odor research in Iowa?). There are large potential gains to be had and the acknowledgement that the government is not the end all be all answer to fixing our economic crisis was refreshing to say the least.

With all that said, the parts of the article I found most interesting were the critical questions it raised. Firstly the article brings up the paradox that in a time when most most private firms are shoring up their balance sheets and paying down debt, it seems ironic that getting them to take on massive debt and leverage would be the answer to our crisis. Actions are being taken, through co-investment, cheap loans, and guaranteed debt but who is willing to put themselves out there like that in our trying times. 

I also really like the point that taking advantage of these government stimulus tactics is too politically dangerous for any firm that is seeking the potential profits that are being predicted. After the AIG bonus skewering, who wants to risk all the government intervention into how they do business? I am in no way saying that AIG bonuses were justified. However I think it is a complete joke that the very same Government holier than thou pukes who enabled AIG to take the bonuses are up front and center screaming taxpayer blasphemy. Not to mention many of these bureaucrats accepted campaign contributions from the likes of AIG (and probably worse) while these companies were receiving government bailout funds. It's strange that I haven't heard of too many politicians trying to pass laws taxing campaign contributions at 90% that were a result of bailout funds.

Maybe I am being to simplistic, or maybe I am just playing the I told you so game, but I have warned of the numerous slippery slope scenarios that unfold when the government decides who "needs" to be bailed out. I am interested to see how this new plan plays out and would love to hear another point of view on the topic so post away in the comments section if you so desire.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Today I went down to Dover AFB to benchmark their Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO 21) program. This is the Air Force's equivalent of industry's Lean/Continuous Process Improvement initiatives. I took over as the base's officer in charge around the end of 2008 and it has been an amazing experience so far. There are many times where I feel as though I am trying to drink out of a fire hose as far as the learning curve goes, but I will take whatever I can get and I truly enjoy seeing things improve around the base.

I have learned about benchmarking all through college and I guess in a sense I have been doing it in hockey all my life. But as we were driving back I started to think of how little benchmarking that I, and probably the majority of you out there, actually do. The term win-win is a buzz word that gets thrown around a lot, especially in business. Benchmarking is one of those things I think is truly a win-win situation. Seeing where you are at on the totem pole is always valuable even when you're eating some humble pie along the way. 

I think getting together with like minded individuals, companies, and/or organizations is the quickest way to share best practices. In truth, I feel like we didn't really have a grasp on what some of our best practices really were until we got in a room and starting talking. I also think it is a great way to know what you don't know! It was great to hear that others had tackled a problem in a completely different and possibly more effective way.

Benchmarking also serves as a motivator. There is something very assuring about hearing another organization struggling with many of the same issues that you are. Its almost an us against them mentality that forms, even if their isn't necessarily a "them." 

All in all it was a great experience. Hopefully I can look for other opportunities in my life to benchmark.

Trump on Child-rearing?

I came across this article on Ivanka Trump yesterday. Say what you will about the Donald but I think the way his children turned out speaks volumes about what he is all about. Now I am not saying that the way children turn out is all attributed to the parents. But I do think it is a very large and important part. 

I have read a few books that talk about wealthy parents and their fear that their kids will not have the same outlook on money and more importantly the same work ethic as them. The millionaire mind is a book about the common attributes among America's real millionaires, the balance sheet millionaires. The book actually shows that the overwhelming majority of millionaires in this country are self made. The book shows that very few have any significant wealth inherited through their parents. I am sure this is contrary to popular belief, but it seems as though many wealthy fear that their kids will squander what wealth they have acquired. Warren Buffet spoke on this very topic on the CNBC special I watched a while back and he spoke about how he wasn't planning on leaving his kids any of his wealth. When asked why he said something along the lines of, "why would I do that? What good would it do them to inherit that much money? It would ruin them?"

That's why I like Trump. He has the very brash New York side that I think he really plays up on TV. But his actions show that he is a competitor that likes to win. I like that his ultimate insult is calling someone a loser. To him that is the ultimate low. I think that is awesome. I am aware that his marital history isn't what most people would call picture perfect. Well his business history isn't either. But I think the article above shows that he raised his kids right in a situation that many in his shoes could not. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Live By The Social Die By The Social

Can you get fired for using Twitter? Check out this article for the answer. OK the answer is yes. Well sort of. Yes if you are an idiot. All kidding aside, it is articles like this that almost perpetuate these urban legend like tales of Internet stupidity. They make it seem like you have to be a total loser to negatively affect your professional career via social networking sites. I must confess that I was and often still am conflicted about blogging and networking while still retaining my anonymity. 

Only recently did I get back into the Facebook game, start my own blog, and start writing tweets. I have always had some apprehension about what image I am portraying to a potential employer. Recently I weighed the benefits of staying connected to those I care about, exploring my beliefs and ideas through blogging, and expanding my network of like minded individuals with my fears of negatively affecting my future employment opportunities. If I was an employer the first thing I would do with an applicant is Google them. Please don't take this as self indulgent, but I have Googled myself. Its a very interesting exercise and one I recommend especially to those who are particularly forthcoming with information online. 

The reason I decided it was worth it to start putting myself out there into cyberspace was the fact that I really don't have anything to hide. Sure there are some things on this blog that many people may not agree with. But I started thinking, why would I want to work for an organization that doesn't embrace who I am? Why would I want to work for an organization that stymies creativity instead of unleashing it? Do I write the occasional mindless post about metal, 80's pop culture, and the latest and greatest watering hole I have frequented? Yeah I do. I think my college coach said it best when he said, "our guys aren't angels, but they are good character guys." No one is perfect but as I said before I have nothing to hide and hopefully my Internet fingerprint emphasises my positive attributes and shows my desire to consistently be a better person than the day before. Who knows it could backfire on me, but in my experience people generally fear the unknown much more than the known. I figure if I keep working hard I will eventually end up where I am supposed to be. 

The Power of Blogging

I found an interesting article today on how bloggers are influencing customer service in a variety of industries. You can read the full article here.  I mention the article because it got me thinking about the power of blogs. I think that the power is being shifted more and more to blogs and away from mainstream media outlets. Will these mainstream media outlets ever go away? No. However, many people like myself are much more interested in getting news and learning from blogs than we are from reading CNN or MSN or a major newspaper. While the majority of print media outlets are complaining about having more overhead and the shift away from print, they are not asking why. I think that there are a lot of people who trust an up front biased blogger more so than a biased media outlet claiming to be neutral. Blogs covers things that those in the blogosphere deem worthy, and those bloggers are rewarded if what they cover is what people want to read. Major media outlets tend to be large, bureaucratic entities that cover what the other guy is covering. Content seems to be an afterthought for some of these outlets. People identify with blogs because they are like word of mouth from a friend. But this word of mouth has the potential to reach thousands of people in the time it takes spoken word of mouth to reach ten. That is the power of the blogosphere. The ability to remain personal while still reaching out to the masses. It's a very interesting concept and one of the reasons that I, like many others, am shifting my attention to the curiously glorious blog.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Personal MBA - 10 Days to Faster Reading

10 Days to Faster Reading by Abby Marks-Beale wasn't the book I was most looking forward to reading from the Personal MBA reading list. However, having finished the book and seeing the results it yielded I am really glad I read it.

The book was not only incredibly insightful, it served as a 10 day training regime that increased my words per minute and in many cases comprehension before my eyes. "When was the last time you had any training to develop or polish your reading?" When I read this line in the book I was definitely caught off guard. I don't think I can even remember having any training. I don't even really remember learning to read so that tells you how long it has been. That question struck me because I typically pride myself on working to get better at things I want to be good at. Yet it never occurred to me that I could be a better and faster reader. I really like how the book is broken into 10 specific days with various tips and actual time trials on each day. You don't have to wonder if you did get better by reading the book, you have the results written down to prove that you did. I went from reading at about 220 words per minute with about 80% comprehension to fairly consistent trials of 480 words per minute with similar comprehension or at times better.

I feel like this is one of those books that I will be recommending to everyone I meet who is a reader. One of my biggest frustrations is how long it takes me to read books. And the more I read the more I realize how much is out there to learn. However, we as humans can only read so fast. I think that this book validates that we can only read so fast, but it also validates that most of us haven't reached that level and are currently reading well below our potential. If I improved that much in 10 days I am excited to see the results of consistent practice. 

Here are some major points and principles from the book as well as my results throughout the 10 days.

- The book will help you:
1. realize the value of what you may already be doing
2. introduce a wide spectrum of ideas to pick and choose from
3. enhance your level of reading confidence

- Benefits: read more less time, improve conversation, understand w/ greater depth and accuracy, retain information better, enjoy reading more

- Attitude matters. You are only human. Lack of reading training. To read pile. No time

- First time trial: 1 min 53 secs, 5 estimated correct, 8 actually correct, 80% comprehension, 220 wpm which is "average reader"

- Fallacies: read every word, sound out loud or in head, don't use hands or fingers, you need to understand everything, remember everything, go for quantity, don't skim, don't write out, doesn't matter what you read, speed is not important

- Eyes follow movement

- Pacers - hand, pen or cards can increase reading speed
1. Move pacer down not across
2. Do not stop or go back

- 3 x 5 card - prevent regression block where you have been instead

- Get rid of non valuable reading. What value does it add?

- Second trial w/ pacer - 50 secs, 6 estimated correct, 9 actually correct, 90% comprehension, 480 wpm

- Function more productively in a fast paced world, more in less time, emulate an important characteristic of successful people....focus, tap into a reservoir of energy, improve quality of life

- 1. Why am I reading this? 2. What do I need the info for?

Third time trial w/ pacer and left side pull: 1 min, 6 est. correct, 6 actually correct, 60% comp, 400 wpm

- Use note making when: you are going to refer to info again, quickly locate info like stat or quote

- Only highlight keywords

- Keywords are generally bigger than others. Read only keywords

- Use margin notes to write keywords

- Time trial 4 - 50 lines x 12 words per line = 600 wpm

- Read between lines, focus on white space and top half of letters

- Indenting - focuses and limits how far and wide your eyes go

- Gain some knowledge about a topic prior, set the stage -- Pre Viewing

- Pay attention to subheads and the first sentence of paragraphs and roadways and conclusion summary and questions

- Time trial 5 w/ previewing only: 4 est correct, 2 correct, 1219 wpm

- Be critical! pros and cons of writing

- Time trial 6 preview and read: 44 secs, 7 est correct, 3 actually correct, 30% comprehension, 600 wpm

- Time trial 7: 58 secs, 6 est correct, 7 actual correct, 70%, 400 wpm

- Emails: who its sent to and who sent it, subject lines, preview them

- Skim, scan, and skip

- Time trial 8: 50 secs, 7 est correct, 10 actually correct, 100% comp, 480 wpm

- Time trial 9: 52 secs, 6 est correct, 7 correct, 70%, 480 wpm

- Knowledge of topic affects speed and comprehension

- Time trial 10: 48 secs, 6 est correct, 8 actual, 80% comp, 480 wpm

- Keepers: pacer card, keywords and phrases, wide eyes, large chunk reading rhythm, top half of words, preview

Air Force Hockey Update

The Air Force Academy Falcons hockey team won their third straight Atlantic Hockey Championship on Saturday night. I am really happy to see my old team dominating and once again getting a chance to play at the NCAA tournament. You can read the full article here

I am often asked if I am upset at the fact that team has gone to the tournament each of the three years after I graduated. The first thing I say is thanks for rubbing it in! Next I tell them I can honestly say that I am not. I have an eternal bond with every guy I played with over the course of my four seasons at the Academy and knowing that they had the chance to experience something like that makes me very happy. Am I disappointed that I never got the chance. Of course I am. I wouldn't be a competitor if I wasn't disappointed. The two seasons I served as Captain are particularly difficult to swallow because I take added responsibility for not materializing a championship. 

But being disappointed that we never made it to the Frozen Four tournament while I was there does not taint the great feeling I have regarding my time playing division I hockey for the Air Force Academy. I played at Air Force during an interesting era and during a time when the team really began to turn the corner competitively. In the article I linked to above there is a quote by head coach Frank Serratore that really struck me. He said, "I am humbled to be part of this team and what they have done. We have some great players, great competitors and some great people." 

This is not an isolated quote. This is something Frank cites often and it is something that I attribute to the strength and growth of the program. The team is built around character guys. Being a service academy there are certain standards that shape the kinds of people that attend the school, generally for the better. However, I must call the baby ugly a bit here. Everything is relative and there are some people who are just better human beings than others, and the Air Force Academy is no exception. This is where the hockey team separates itself from other programs at the school. All the guys are world class guys. Period. Just world class guys. They are overachieving guys that sell out for the good of the team. Culture is contagious and Frank has built a culture that has strengthened the program. The success has snowballed and will likely continue to do so. The team is bound by the same entry requirements of every other program at the academy, and while others cite that as a limiting factor, Frank and the guys on the team treat it as the core competency of their team. We didn't, and I am sure they still do not, have the time, the patience or the effort necessary to deal with people who were not of the caliber character-wise of the rest of the team. 

Being a part of the rebuilding of that program and, maybe a little selfishly, taking pride in the fact that I in some way contributed to the success of some of the teams to come after me is a very rewarding feeling. Some people can't and won't ever be able to understand that feeling and it is fairly hard to describe. But I think it is similar to the innate human desire to leave the world a little better for your kids than it was for you. Hopefully this team takes the program a step farther than the last and knocks off Michigan next weekend in the NCAA tournament. Good luck boys.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Don't Judge A Book....

I got this joke in an email and thought that, besides its comedic value, it had a great lesson to be learned. Don't judge a book by its cover!

A Redneck from North Carolina walked into a bank in New York City and asked for the loan officer. He told the loan officer that he was going to Bakersfield on business for two weeks and needed to borrow $5,000 and that he was not a depositor of the bank.

The bank officer told him that the bank would need some form of security for the loan, so the Redneck handed over the keys to a new Ferrari. The car was parked on the street in front of the bank. The Redneck produced the title and everything checked out. The loan officer agreed to hold
the car as collateral for the loan and apologized for having to charge 12% interest.

Later, the bank's president and its officers all enjoyed a good laugh at the Redneck from the south for using a $250,000 Ferrari as collateral for a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then drove the Ferrari into the bank's private underground garage and parked it.

Two weeks later, the Redneck returned, repaid the $5,000 and the interest of $23.07. The loan officer said, 'Sir, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow $5,000?'

The good 'ole Tar Heel boy replied, 'Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for only $23.07 and expect it to be there when I return?'

Ironic Thoughts

As terrible as Alanis Morissette's music was during the nineties, she posed an interesting question in her biggest hit. "Isn't it ironic, don't you think?" Please know that I in no way want to be like this dance-pop turned alternative flavor of the decade (sadly). However, I have asked this very same question a few times in the last couple days. Here are my ironic observations for the last week.

My wife and I were talking with a friend about about pregnancy (don't worry friends not anytime soon for us) and somehow we got on the topic of pregnancy tests. We were talking about the fear that is associated with pregnancy tests. I said that I think that it is pretty ironic that almost universally in life, we as humans are petrified of the unknown. Yet, when it comes to things like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases we would rather embrace the unknown than deal with a truly definitive answer. Most people would rather not get tested and live in the realm of uncertainty than find out what their situation is and do something about it.

I had another conversation with the consultant that serves as my mentor in lean and continuous process improvement. We were talking about consulting and I told him about an interesting paradox I had observed. I told him that I thought it was ironic that the majority of lean consultants came from the automobile industry, but that I thought it wasn't until they became consultants that they truly had an understanding of what the automobile customer truly wanted. I was referring to the fact that each week he had a rental car of a different size, model, brand, etc. but that during a consultant's time in the auto industry they most likely drove the same car to work every day and never experienced anything outside their personally owned vehicle.

As I was thinking about how I would write up this post, another ironic musing popped into my head. I started to think about the headlines this week. All I could think of was the AIG executive bonus outrage. Congress was furious and saying anything from "if you don't want to give it back we will take it" to "I think you should kill yourself." What is so ironic about Congress' outrage? Well if you have to ask, I would say that it is quite ironic that they are enraged about AIG executive bonuses, yet they just passed a so called stimulus worth roughly 1 trillion dollars jam packed with over 8,000 earmarks. It is ironic that they refused to vote on a bill that would eliminate automatic pay raises for congress (almost like a bonus during a net loss for the company). I would say it is ironic that they are not upset about the announcement that the Fed will be buying nearly 1 trillion dollars of Treasury bonds and mortgage securities that no one else wants to buy. Isn't it ironic.....don't you think? Maybe it is more convenient than ironic....don't you think?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Music Review - Lamb Of God "Wrath"

I recently bought Lamb of God's most recent release entitled "Wrath" and I must say that it reigns. I think it is pretty cool that these guys are like mainstream metal (Videos on MTV2 and Billboard 200 are considered mainstream to metal) yet they still are an extremely heavy band. No pop choruses, no songs about girls, no ballads, just a fresh dose of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. I don't even really like that phrase but that seems to be how this band always gets described. I think it has more to do with the fact that they are from Virginia and have redneck beards, but rest assured these guys aren't just a redneck band from Virginia. They are a well oiled machine both on stage and off.

Wrath is definitely the most mature album Lamb of God have done. Their last album Sacrament made a huge leap musically from prior efforts, yet it sounded very produced. Still a great album, but it sounded like a Pro Tools' proudest projects release. Wrath did an excellent job of getting back to a more raw sound and production while still showcasing the band progressing as song writers. These are some heavy but well written tunes, and all the songs highlight the fact that these guys can really play. I think their enhanced playing is showcased in the majority of the songs and they have pulled out some tricks that haven't been done before on prior releases. Randy Blythe the drunken screamer of a singer tried his hands at some cleaner (still far from clean) vocals on Sacrament but like I said before they had a very produced vibe. He continues the trend on this album but it just sounds so much better without an excess of reverb and echo. He is really hitting tones and is nailing down pitching his screams which has increased his range from either high or low to encapsulate everything in between. He sounds like a new age Chuck Billy from Testament at times and the rest of the time stays true to the Randy guttural growls and high pitched screams. Guitar work is flawless on the album. Very heavy riffs with very few actual breakdowns. I really like that they can make riffs sound heavy as hell without chugging through 25 open C chords (tuned down two steps of course!). Where there are breakdowns, they are not forced and they generally are layered upon after a few measures to deny monotony. The rhythm section of the band spearheaded by Chris Adler is as tight and creative as ever which must be a blessing for guitarist Mark Morten and Willie Adler who can have even the most generic riffs transformed to sound intricate and creative. All in all a strong album from start to finish.

What I really respect about Lamb of God is the way they go about their craft. They are true professionals that run, in essence, a very innovative start up business. They started in college dorm rooms in Virginia and worked to where they are today. These guys don't complain about the nature of the music business today. They think creatively and provide the fans with the extras that keep them buying albums. I bought their CD and it came with a bonus CD that is all studio mp3's of individual tracks from the album. I can jam alongside each dude in the band or just hear clearly how each guy plays their part on the tracks. Very simple, very cheap, very effective. These guys give away lessons with the band, backstage passes, whatever you can think of. They have a few gold DVDs that basically let the fans enter into the world of Lamb of God to see the good, bad, and ugly. They do whatever they can to brand themselves as a fan's band and in return they actually sell records, as a brutal metal band no less. They are passionate about what they do and the intend to take their b(r)and down the long touring road for as long as the fans will let them. I have embedded some new shreddage for your personal listening pleasure. Take care of that neck!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Personal MBA Update

The Personal MBA reading list has been updated for 2009. Luckily the books I have ordered/read are still on the list. If you haven't gone and read the manifesto and checked out the reading list you can find it here.

I just finished my second book from the list, well actually it was an audio book. The audio book is titled "The Art of Exceptional Living" by Jim Rohn. The first thing that struck me about the audio book was how short it was. The thing only had two discs which is quite short compared to most audio books I have listened to. The second thing that I noticed was how ridiculous Jim Rohn's voice was! Wow! This guy sounds like a combination of Dana Carvey's George Bush "Read My Lips" impersonation and the Church Lady. I must say that voice aside he was a pretty good speaker. The disc was a combination of live lectures and studio recorded lessons. For how short the recording was, it was packed with lessons, quotes, and little tidbits of information that are pretty powerful. I know it's probably not the safest thing in the world, but I was jotting down notes at stoplights and while I was cruising down the highway just to capture important concepts and quotes. That was pretty much the only downfall of the audio book is that it put a damper on my new note taking strategy. All in all I think the book was good with some great points and an even better message. If I had to summarize the message it would be: develop your personal philosophy, don't change circumstances change yourself, take responsibility for everything, read and learn constantly. I have included the key points I could decipher from my chicken scratch while driving notes below.

- Philosophy is the key to success - Your personal philosophy is everything

- People complain about their circumstances. Don't bash the stuff you have because it is all you got. It is how you react that matters

-Study what you want- money, happiness, etc.

- "Leaders are readers!" The one constant among all successful people is that they read!

- "What you have at the moment, you've attracted by the person you have become"

- Do something different with your same circumstances

- You can only change the outside by changing what is on the inside

- Self improvement typically starts with money because it is the most measurable and tangible. People start with money because you can count it!

- Become more valuable as a person. If you make $5 per hour that is what you are worth to the marketplace. Disney CEO makes $52M per year because he is more valuable

- "Work harder on yourself than you do on your job"

- Life and business are like the seasons and you can't change the seasons so change yourself
1. Learn to handle the winters. There are always down times and down markets.
2. Take advantage of spring opportunities. These are the times after the winters
3. Nourish and protect in summer. All good gets attacked and all values must be defended
4. Reap in fall with out complaint. Accept responsibility when bad and don't feel guilty when you succeed.

- Five Principles
1. Ability to absorb - welcome to the university of life, soak it in
2. Ability to respond - know how to feel
3. Ability to reflect - reflect on days, months, years
4. Ability to act - know the law of diminishing intent. Act now but not irrationally
5. Ability to share - by sharing you gain more than you give. If you tell to 10 people they hear it once and you hear it 10 times

- Most people say take care of other people or do things for other people. He says "I will work on/take care of me FOR you" This is similar to Ayn Rand's theory that the rational pursuit of one's own self interest is the highest virtue

- Only 3% of the population has a library card. A library card is all it takes to begin to better yourself. Be the minority join the 3%!

- The best you can do is not all you can do. It's not enough. If you do 5 push ups and say I did my best that's all I can do is that really true? No. If you wait a minute you can do 5 more. And in a few days you can do 10. Eventually you can do 50. Doing your best over time will yield results and begin your personal development.

I realize that some of my notes probably don't seem very insightful. In fact some might seem just downright dumb. However, they are key concepts that I absorbed by actually listening to the audio book. Don't be tempted to try and pick the key concepts out of someone else's notes or a summary of the book. Experience the books for yourself and start your own learning journey whether it is with the Personal MBA or your own program.

Strategic Life Focus

I have been thinking a bit more about the Post For The Optimists and how we as humans react to adversity. It is not easy to stay positive. I think most people would describe me as a positive person, however those who know me also know that I am extremely emotional and in the short term I can get very discouraged and sometimes a little negative. Typically after I get the heart pumping, I settle down and try to analyze the situation and move forward. I have been trying to figure out my reactionary paradox and I think it is all in the way you view the cards you are dealt. I am trying to view things through a strategic life focus. What I mean by that phrase is that you should look at the grand scheme of things. Try to see how the circumstances you are in will affect your life as a whole, given that it plays out how you envision. Will this moment matter in 10 years, a year, a month, a week? In short, think long term. I think that if you view a tough scenario through this lens it can temper some of the childish reactions that we as humans naturally revert to. Just a theory but I am going to give it a shot.

Monday, March 16, 2009

6S Your Way To Success

I must admit that I didn't come up with that crafty little title. I stole it from the base newspaper that printed this story on 6S which is a lean methodology acronym that stands for sort, straighten, shine, standardize, sustain, and safety. It is a workplace management tool that is pretty useful in making some quick gains in your work and personal life (ie your wife cleaning out your closet). This is probably one of the most basic projects I have done in my relatively new line of work implementing lean and continuous process improvement throughout my base, however it always amazes me how much waste you can eliminate by doing something so simple. As simple as something like 6S is we often find ourselves sawing away instead of sharpening the saw (see previous post here). I have never been what you call neat and organized, however the older I get the more I see the value in setting myself up for success through organization. That's why I think this process is so cool. You wipe the slate clean and create an ideal process that makes it almost difficult to not follow the process. It becomes easier to keep things organized and in control than to revert back to the old, inefficient way of doing business.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Guest Bloggage - Heidi Bader

Guest Bloggage with Heidi Bader - In this installment of Guest Bloggage I am bringing in a special guest.....that's right it's the boss, the wifey, the ol' ball and chain! She will be addressing a topic that is very important in both our lives and one that I intend to write about more extensively in the future. The topic that I am talking about is fitness. I am a huge believer in the interconnectivity of the body and mind, and a believer that how someone treats their health and wellness can tell you an awful lot about how they live their life. Heidi has a degree in Physical Education from the University of Arizona, teaches 4th-8th grade P.E. and health, is a certified and practicing spinning instructor, an aspiring personal trainer, and a lifelong embodiment of the benefits of physical fitness. She is a wealth of knowledge and she looks better than she ever has so you know that she walks the walk. For those who think think that I am just saying that just because I married her think again and look at the picture above! She inspires me to be a better person and hopefully her words of wisdom can do the same for you.

One of my biggest challenges in my job as a middle school P.E. teacher is creating lessons that teach my students the fundamentals of fitness and exercise while still having those lessons include stuff that they like. Most middle school kids could care less about lifting weights, improving their mile time, or learning pilates; they would much prefer to play a game of hockey, soccer, or lacrosse. After several months of trying to get the point across to them that their personal fitness is much more important than their middle school floor hockey skills, I developed two simple personal fitness rules that have helped me have a different outlook on working out and hopefully they can help you too!

Rule #1
Go Hard or Go Home

My middle school students have the shortest attention span. I like to teach them different weight lifting skills (with our sweet 5lb. weights). The first time I did this, I taught them three or four different types of lifts for each muscle group. I am guessing that a lot of you out there may lift in a similar way. You do your bicep curls, hammer curls, some curls on the cables, I think you get my point. I noticed with the kids that after about the fifth rep on the first set of the first exercise, they seemed over it already. As the different lifts progressed, their effort and form was pathetic.

This is where my new Go Hard or Go Home theory comes into play. The next time I did weight lifting with them, I taught them only a few different exercises that incorporated several muscle groups, such as a bicep curl with a squat, or a walking lunge with a shoulder raise. Obviously, these exercises were much more challenging for them, and they tired easily. They pushed themselves so much more because they knew that they only had to preform a few different exercises. The workout time went much more quickly, the time was spent much more efficiently, which allowed them to still get in a few minutes of floor hockey. They got a good workout so I was happy, and they still got to have fun doing the things that they like.

So back to the rule- PUSH YOURSELF!!!! Nobody wants to spend over an hour at the gym doing countless exercises. Pick a few very challenging things, do those and then go home. Incorporate different muscle groups into one exercise, add plyometric jumping moves, or get back to the basics with push ups. A great arm workout is doing as many plain old push ups as you can. That takes like 2 minutes, and I guarantee that you will be sore the next day. There is no reason for you to be doing muscular strength activities for more than 20-30 minutes per session. If you are doing weights for more than that, you are not pushing your body. More time does not mean more results.

For those of you out there who are cardio lovers, this rule applies to you too. As Matt said, I teach spinning classes. At my class on Saturday, this lady kept riding her bike after the class had ended. The class is a 60 minute class, 5 of which are a warm up, and a 5 minute cool down. This lady didn't stop her ride when the class was over because she said that the class wasn't quite 60 minutes. She was right, my routine was 58 minutes. She had told me that she wanted to ride for an extra two minutes in order to get her 60 minute workout in. At first I felt kind of bad because I let the class out two minutes early, but when I got to thinking about it, if you are working hard enough during the 58 minutes, you should not need to do an extra two minutes at a mediocre pace. GO HARD OR GO HOME. If she followed the directions of the class, she should have been so tired and worn out that she wouldn't have been able to do another two minutes.

MORE TIME DOES NOT EQUAL MORE WEIGHT LOSS!!! You won't get skinny doing 60 minutes of cardio doing a half ass job. You could get better results going all out for a much shorter time. How many times have you seen some out of shape person on a piece of cardio equipment for an hour or more? If you take a close look at these people, they are not sweaty and their form sucks. If they shortened their cardio time, pushed themselves a little more, and actually broke a sweat, they would get the results they want.

Rule #2
Have Fun

If you hate running, don't run. If love yoga, do yoga. Its simple. Don't try and do something that you hate. Personally, I hate going to exercise classes. I had tried countless classes and didn't like them. I always felt like it was a waste of my time. Then I found spinning. It was the first class that I felt like I was getting a good workout in and actually had fun. Now I do it all the time and teach it too. So many people think that in order to be in good shape they need to look up their favorite celebs workout plan, or ask their best friend what they do to stay in shape. Don't do what other people like to do, find your niche and stick to it. Working out needs to be fun.

Good luck on your fitness plans, and thanks for reading!

If you are interested in being the next Guest Bloggage muse on BadskiBlog email me at Truecore27@aol.com.

A Post for the Optimists

Life can wear on you. Between the adversity you have faced in your life and the day to day trials and tribulations there are times when you are just tired of things being difficult. It seems without fail that it's that during these times that you run into some individuals who test your will. Bad experiences, dealing with losers, depressing news in the media, it becomes quite easy to focus on the negatives. Well this post serves as a personal reminder and a challenge to those who actually read this blog to focus on the positive. Sound cheesy?! Well it kind of is, but I am believer that we are surrounded by greatness and by focusing and acknowledging examples of greatness we gravitate towards greatness ourselves. I am not immune to feeling down and going through rough times. And usually when I think that things can't get any worse, they do. I also can't believe that, without fail, things always get better and I look back at the bad times and realize that they weren't that bad. Or if they were, they served as a painful yet valuable experience that only make the good times all the better while helping me to grow as a person. I typically find that the good things in my life aren't things at all, they are people. The greatness constants in the life o' Badski are always shining examples of great human beings. My wife, family and friends are typically the things that keep my spirits high and my ability to recover from the lows strong. I started writing this post a few days ago and since then I was forwarded the following article from my old coach. I don't know Jacques Lamoureux because he came in the year after I graduated but I know quite well the company that he runs with. I was lucky enough to play four seasons with people of this caliber and have no doubt that I would feel the same way about him as I do all the other guys I played with at the Academy. This story illustrates the kind of greatness that I am referring to. The great human feel good factor of overcoming adversity and growing as a person. As bad as your situation is there is always someone who has it worse than you do. Be grateful for what you have, take the hand you are dealt and keep moving forward. Hopefully this story inspires you as it did me and serves as a reminder that the eternal optimist always wins, always succeeds, and has a hell of a lot more fun doing it than the next guy.

History of depression initially keeps the North Dakota-native out of the Air Force Academy.

Jacques Lamoureux has a knack for making his shots count.

A sophomore at the Air Force Academy and a center on the Falcons' hockey team, Lamoureux is college hockey's national leader in goals with 29, and power play goals with 14. He also leads the nation with eight game-winning goals, making him the hero of one-third of the Falcons' wins this season.

"He has that dirty little habit of finding the back of the net," said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. "He's got that knack. He kind of has a sixth sense of where pucks are going to go. He's got great hands, he's aggressive around the net, and when he gets his chance, he puts it away."

Still, of all the shots in Lamoureux's life, the one that looms largest is the one he never took.

A goaltender on two NCAA championship teams at the University of North Dakota and a junior hockey teammate of Mark Messier, Pierre Lamoureux was all too happy to put hockey sticks in the hands of his six children. However, there was a time when Jacques Lamoureux took his father's shotgun to bed instead.

"It was kind of a question, one hour to the next," Lamoureux said, "if I was actually going to commit suicide."

In a family filled with hockey talent, 15-year-old Jacques had junior hockey on his mind as a high school sophomore, but after his high school team won the state championship, his drive to perform took an unhealthy turn, and his life off the ice didn't help, either.

"I had a breakup with my girlfriend at the time," Lamoureux said. "That (relationship) was kind of the last thing holding me together, and then when that happened, everything fell apart so fast. I lost control of my emotions. I wasn't able to control and understand what I was going through."

Lamoureux went to therapy, but was unable to shake his emotional turmoil, complicated by the feeling that, as a hockey player from a good family, he wasn't supposed to struggle with depression or be vulnerable. Eventually, Jacques got his mom, Linda, to take him to the emergency room.

"One night," Lamoureux said, "I was laying in bed, and my dad's gun was right next to me, and my little brother Mario was sleeping next to me, and I went to my mom about 11, 12 at night and said, 'Mom, I need to go to the hospital.' I told her what I was doing, and she immediately took me to the hospital."

Shortly thereafter, visits to a psychiatrist led to prescriptions for anti-depressants and anxiety medication.

"Those medicines helped to mellow me out during that really bad time," Lamoureux said. "There was about a month, month and a half when I was at my worst. It was so bad that I would have had to have somebody holding my hand all the time to keep me from possibly doing something to myself, and those medicines helped me to mellow out and keep me from having those low, low feelings."

Through it all, Lamoureux did make it to the junior ranks, heading off with younger brother Pierre-Paul to play in the North American Hockey League with the Bismarck Bobcats. Still, Lamoureux struggled on and off the ice, partly due to the same medicines that had kept him together at his lowest point, but were now weighing him down, literally and figuratively.

"From the meds, I had gained quite a bit of weight," Lamoureux said. "I was 210 pounds, which was a lot at that point. I wasn't very fast in the first place, so that didn't help the situation."

In late November, 2003, Jacques and Pierre-Paul headed home from Bismarck for Thanksgiving. Rather than enjoying the holiday at home with family, though, Jacques found himself alone at a parking garage.

Six stories above the ground, with a handwritten note on the dashboard of his car, Jacques Lamoureux was mere inches from ending his life.

"I was standing at the edge of the parking ramp," Lamoureux said, "pondering whether I should jump off or not."

Thankfully, the family that had stood by Jacques Lamoureux's side throughout his struggles helped him once more - even though they didn't know it at the time.

"I knew I couldn't feel any worse than I was," Lamoureux said. "I was feeling so down, but our family had had an incident with one of my cousins, who committed suicide when I was really young, and I couldn't leave my family with that kind of hurt.

"Up to that point, they had worked so hard to try to help me. My parents bent over backwards; whatever kind of help they thought I needed. They had worked so hard for me, and in return, I don't think I felt I had done my own part to accept what they were trying to do for me. I hadn't really tried to work through the problems. I said, 'I can't do that to them. I'm going to stop feeling this way.'

"I opened my mind to the thought of getting better: knowing that it was going to be tough but doing it anyway."

Lamoureux came down from the ledge, left the note in the glove box, and went home to join his siblings for pond hockey. Later that night, determined to beat his depression naturally, he threw away most of his medication.

The decision is a controversial one - a sudden stop when taking antidepressants can lead to antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, or even a major relapse - but Lamoureux was determined to truly feel better, and not just numb, or in his words, "like a zombie."

"I kept just enough," Lamoureux said. "Every day, (Pierre-Paul) would watch me take my medicine, and I'd kinda do it, but when he turned around, I just spit it out. Everyone thought I was still taking my medicine, and then after a month, I told I everyone I wasn't taking it anymore."

Instead of meeting an untimely end, Jacques Lamoureux had found a new beginning.

As Lamoureux turned the tide in his battle with depression, his play on the ice improved as well. After recording just six points in 36 games in 2003-04, Lamoureux went off for 42 points in 50 games the following season and 70 points the season after that. He also began to attract interest from Division I college hockey programs, including Army and Air Force.

Even in wartime, knowing what a service commitment could mean, Lamoureux was attracted to the two military academies, particularly Air Force, and he committed to join the Falcons for the 2006-07 season.

"A lot of players, we have to go through a long educational process," Serratore said. "When they see everything that the Academy has to
offer, then they buy into it. Jacques wanted the military right from the get-go. It's not often that we get a kid who's a good player and a good student who embraces the military portion of it."

Before he could become a cadet, though, he had to be cleared by the Academy's doctors. Serratore knew what Lamoureux had gone through - by this point, he was giving talks about his experience for suicide prevention groups - but didn't think that getting into the Academy would be a problem. Unfortunately, he was wrong: the Department of Defense's Medical Examination Review Board denied Lamoureux's application, and the Academy doctors agreed.

"It was a well-publicized thing," Serratore said of Lamoureux's history with depression. "There was quite a time period since the last time that he had suffered from depression. We were disappointed, because Jacques was a good player and a good student who wanted the Academy."

For the time being, at least, Jacques Lamoureux's Air Force dreams had been grounded, but his response showed just how far he'd come.

"We were right in the middle of playoffs," Lamoureux said, "so I didn't have time to sit and whine about it. I talked to my parents about it, and I just said, 'I guess that's the way it's going to be. There's nothing I can do about it."

When he found out that he couldn't bring Lamoureux to Colorado Springs, Serratore made a few calls on his behalf. One of those calls landed Lamoureux at Northern Michigan University, playing for former Rangers assistant Walt Kyle.

"I had a blast," Lamoureux said. "I loved going to school out there. I had fun out there. Made a lot of good friendships."

Lamoureux played 16 games for the Wildcats as a freshman, recording one goal and one assist in a conference filled with big-name programs like Michigan, Notre Dame and that season's national champion, Michigan State. Off the ice, Lamoureux had no problems in Marquette, earning a 3.9 grade-point average. Still, he knew where he really wanted to be, and watching Air Force give the WCHA champions from Minnesota the fight of their lives in the NCAA tournament only served to drive the point home.

"I watched that game," Lamoureux said. "I said, 'I should be playing right now.'"

With his heart still set on Air Force, Lamoureux went to Kyle's office to ask for permission to transfer. Then, with Kyle's blessing, he called Serratore to inquire about re-applying. The Falcons coach, caught by surprise, made no promises.

"He asked me if I thought it would be a waste of time to reapply," Serratore said. "I told him, 'I don't know if it's going to do any good, Jacques, but I guess it wouldn't hurt.'"

Lamoureux was optimistic as he reapplied.

"The first time around," Lamoureux said, "I was three years removed from what happened. I'd been living away from home, paying some of my own bills, and playing a high level of hockey, and they didn't think I was OK. Maybe they'll think I'm OK now, after having all that and going to college and playing a Division I sport and getting a 3.9 GPA."

Sure enough, Lamoureux passed muster with the Academy doctors on his second go-round, and before long, he was packing his bags for Colorado Springs.

NCAA regulations would force him to sit out the 2007-08 season, but that was of little concern.

Jacques Lamoureux was finally getting what he wanted.

This fall, as Lamoureux restarted his college hockey career, both he and Air Force came out soaring. Lamoureux had 11 goals and eight assists in his first eight games as a Falcon, and the team won its first 13 games - including a win over crosstown rival and perennial power Colorado College - before falling to WCHA frontrunner Denver.

"I didn't think that I would start out the year the way I did," Lamoureux said. "I think a lot of that, I can attribute to my teammates. I get to play with Josh Frider and Brent Olson. They do some work and get me the puck, and I've just got to shoot it in the net."

While both Lamoureux and the Falcons have gone through struggles since that hot start - Air Force wound up in a dogfight with Rochester Institute of Technology atop the Atlantic Hockey standings - the Falcons claimed a share of the regular-season title and the top seed in the conference tournament, and Lamoureux finished the season strong. Lamoureux finished the regular season third in the nation in scoring with 1.35 PPG, and has reasserted himself in the race for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, which his brother, Jean-Philippe, was a finalist for last year as a senior goaltender at North Dakota.

Given that the award's namesake, the first great American hockey player, was an Army Air Service pilot in World War I, there would be a special connection inherent in bringing the trophy back to Colorado Springs.

"I think that does add a little more mystique to it," Lamoureux said, "an Air Force guy being considered for the Hobey Baker, but I think it comes down to who's the best player in the country. There's a lot of good players out there."

Off the ice, Lamoureux has been nominated for the BNY Mellon Hockey Humanitarian Award. At the Academy, he's made the superintendent's list for excellence in academics, military and athletics, and completed the parachute and Global Engagement programs this past summer.

He keeps tabs on his siblings' hockey pursuits as well: Jean-Philippe is enjoying a strong rookie season with the St. Louis Blues' ECHL affiliate in Anchorage, Mario is following in his footsteps as a Fighting Sioux freshman, Pierre-Paul is at the University of Manitoba after a junior career with the Red Deer Rebels (where he played for Devils coach Brent Sutter), and sisters Monique and Jocelyne are leading scorers at the University of Minnesota, where the Golden Gophers are preparing for a run at the women's national championship.

"I'm just happy to be able to see all my siblings doing well," Lamoureux said, "and achieving the goals they set out for themselves and be able to be a part of all that."

At the moment, though, in a family whose hockey pedigree could make the Sutters sit up and take notice, Jacques Lamoureux is taking center stage, for all the right reasons.

"I think at the beginning of the year," Lamoureux said, "if you said, 'At the end of the regular season, you're going to have this many points, this many goals,' I would have gotten a laugh and said, 'There's no way.'"

Six years after he nearly jumped to his death, there's no telling how far Jacques Lamoureux will fly.

Badski's Consumer Report - Devil's Alley

Badski's Consumer Report - Welcome to another edition of the post that celebrates greatness in all things consumer related. Last night Heidi and I went into Philadelphia with some friends to take advantage of Beer Week. We ended up seeing a dinner and beer deal at the Devil's Alley bar and grill and decided to check it out. The weekend was also the pre-celebration for St. Patrick's Day (which is huge in Philadelphia) so the drunken Jersey masses were out in full force. Other than the occasional annoying drunk girl dressed in all green it turned out to be an awesome night.

Devil's Alley was advertising "3 Big Courses, 3 Great Beers $29.95" so it was the obvious choice for the night and it did not disappoint. I was a little nervous that they would skimp on the food or the beers or both, however they did not take that lowly route. The menu had about 4-10 choices for each course and a specialty beer paired with each meal based on the complementary basis of the barley pop. Course number one was the appetizer course. Some examples of our tables selections were crab, pepper, and pepper jack cheese quesadillas with tangy salsa paired alongside an apricot wheat beer, beer battered tempura vegetables with a dark stout. The second course was the main course and it picked up right where the last left off. The portions were as advertised and the quality of the food (and beers) were awesome. Some examples of our tables choices were ground rolled steak strips with onion rings and a coffee stout, a fruit glazed salmon with mac and cheese and beans served with a dark wheat beer, a half chicken with sweet potatoes and beans served with a dark wheat beer, and BBQ ribs with stuffing muffins and mac and cheese with an IPA. I tried a bit of everything, food and beers, and they were all great. The final course was the dessert course and we indulged on chocolate raspberry cake, orange cake, banana splits, and banana blueberry bread pudding all paired with more great beers.

The place wasn't decorated anything special but it had a quirky vibe and served as both a restaurant and a cool bar. Drinks were reasonably priced and the selection was great. Couple that with some good service and some great friends and you've got yourself a spot on Badski's Consumer Report.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You CAN Buy Happiness?!?

I have to give credit to Ben Casnocha's Blog for leading me to The Happiness Project a blog based around, well no surprise here... happiness! I have provided this link because the author addresses the myth that money can't buy happiness. That's right I said the myth. Before you start accusing me of being a shallow, money obsessed loser check out her reasoning. She uses some reasoning that is very similar to my Money Tips post on my definition of rich.

China and Our Growing Deficit

I read this article on multiple websites today, however it has been replaced on ABCnews by Jennifer Aniston's relationship status update. I think this article is a huge wake up and it should be a huge boost for fiscal conservatism. However, thinking that America will come together to embrace one belief is naive and...well very un-American.

I think what the article does illustrate is a fatal flaw that our nation, its elected officials, and the media has embraced. We believe that there will always be a market for our nation's debt, with complete disregard for the financial state of our nation and its ability to repay that debt. To me this is no different than the mentalities that have led us down the numerous financial crises that mark our nations history. This is the same mentality that recklessly handed out mortgages to all that applied because home prices would always rise. The same mentality that caused price to earnings ratios of pets.com to soar above that of Coca Cola or Toyota. The same mentality that had the Dutch mortgaging their future away to buy tulip bulbs. You know when the Chinese and our interests are suddenly aligned (making sure that we can handle our debt) that things are getting interesting to say the least. My college coach used to say, "Don't try and make chicken salad out of chicken shit" when players tried to do too much. I am worried that if we overextend ourselves as a nation we will be in the same scenario; a handful of bad debt that we can't make good on.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guest Bloggage - Kristen Muir

Guest Bloggage with Kristen Muir - This installment of Guest Bloggage is taking a slightly different turn. But I guess when your first two guest posts are about Chris Isaak's contributions to adolescent males and the power of networking then anything in between is a different turn. Kristen is the wife of Scott. Wow, that sounds really possessive (sorry Kristen). I went to college with Scott where he played D1 soccer, so needless to say we spent some time together in the gym and amongst our circle of friends. About six months ago the two of them moved to New Jersey and Scott and I reconnected and we all have been hanging out ever since. I would like to say that we equally reciprocate our dinner parties, however I would definitely be lying. Kristen is a culinary champ and future Giada/Sandra Lee/Rachel Ray (she's a beauty and she can cook), so naturally Heidi and I find ourselves indulging at their casa more than we find ourselves hosting. Kristen also works for a wine distributor and knows more about wine than most of my friends know about beer. I asked her to write a guest post for BadskiBlog about food and wine and I must say I am a little disappointed that no wine references were made. However, I now have leverage to make her write another post about wine. I hope you enjoy her advice and recipe, and keep her name on your radar screen so when she hits the Food Network with her own show you can be like a tenth grade emo kid who brags about how they were My Chemical Romance fans before they got big and sold out.

Many steer clear of the kitchen and claim "I'm not a good cook" but in reality anyone has the power to be a master chef. The most important factor in my opinion is loving food and loving all of it. I used to hate bacon. My narrow-minded view of this salty and savory meat only recognized it as a fatty breakfast side. Once I opened my eyes, I realized bacon was one of the greatest ingredients of all time. Bacon wrapped fillet mignon, chopped and crispy pancetta over a salad, crispy bacon mixed in to good old mac'n'cheese...the list goes on and on. If you are a vegetarian, vegan, don't eat pork because its the dirty meat kinda person...sorry you'll never be a well rounded cook.

I think people are just intimidated by all of the ingredients and styles that can be combined to create one simple meal. Should I learn to cook Italian, French, Mexican, Southern Comfort...where do I begin and what will I be good at?

Start with the basics. Watch the Food Network. You don't know how to properly cook pasta... Rachel Ray goes over the basics ALL the time. Watch and learn how to chop an onion and all vegetables for that matter. Learn about cooking meats...always best to only flip it once and let that meat rest for a bit after your done cooking to let the juices set.

Learn this simple rule... garlic, onions/shallots, olive oil/butter(yes butter), salt & pepper are essential in the majority of food that is made. I don't even attempt to make a meal without these.

When you become brave enough to start making different types of food (Mexican, Italian, etc.) learn what the key spices are.

Know this...delicious meals do not have to be unhealthy if the right amount of spice and fresh ingredients are combined together.

The recipe below is a perfect example of spice, freshness, and simplicity. Grab and apron and enjoy... the food and the cooking!

Teriyaki Chicken with Pineapple and Coconut Rice

Chicken Glaze
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 shallot minced
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp dry chardonnay ( reserve the rest for drinking with the meal)
- 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp honey

Saute garlic and shallot. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and let cool. Marinate chicken in this glaze or favorite teriyaki sauce for 24 hours. Best if grilled. Pair with grilled pineapple skewers and garnish with chopped green onion and cilantro.

Coconut Rice
- Medium grain rice - desired amount
- 1 can coconut milk - desired amount
- 1 lime
- chopped cilantro

Cook rice. Add lime zest, juice, and desired amount of coconut milk. Add cilantro right before serving.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Money Tips - Asset Allocation Continued

Last Money Tips post we spoke about Asset Allocation. It was more of a crash course on what asset allocation is, and it gave very general ideas on what to consider when creating your strategy. This post I am including my current asset allocation strategy for my Roth IRA, some other concepts to be aware of, and some examples of what I do to ensure that I am carrying out my strategy. Above you see a pie chart detailing my ideal asset allocation for my Roth IRA. I currently have all my investment holdings in funds from USAA and Vanguard. Both are renowned for their low expense ratios, customer service, and ease of use and I can attest that their reputations are well earned. As I touched on a bit in my other asset allocation post, I have a few different asset classes represented in my portfolio. I have mutual funds made up of stocks, bonds, real estate, and precious metals and minerals. Typically, these different asset classes are not heavily correlated, but in times like these it seems that way! Within those classes I have large, mid, and small cap holdings, foreign and domestic holdings, and every sector from financials to technology. What am I trying to illustrate here? Diversification and lack of correlation as to limit variation and lock in gains.

Here is my basic justification for what I am trying to do. I have 5% in my income fund which is a bond fund. I did this because bonds typically aren't correlated heavily with stocks and they are less volatile with regard to their returns. With lower risk comes lower returns and the bond fund is no exception, although many are predicting that the near future could be a great time for bonds. Since I am young and far away from cashing out my retirement fund I have a small percentage of bonds in my portfolio opting instead to take stocks that, although are more variable in their returns, provide a higher historical rate of return. 70% of my holdings are funds that are made up primarily of stocks. As we become more intertwined in the global marketplace I think more and more growth opportunities are going to be available overseas. For this reason, I probably have more of my portfolio than most people invested in foreign securities. I figure with a long term time horizon this is a safe play as well. I am also probably exposed more than most people to small caps and technology assets. This also goes back to time horizon and my ability to tolerate risk and accept short term losses. The largest fund in my portfolio is the S&P 500 fund. This fund is represented by the largest 500 publicly traded companies, and it serves as a very good indicator of how the economy as a whole is performing. If you think investing is too hard or you don't know where to begin, invest in an index fund like the S&P 500 or a total market index fund and you will likely be ahead of many people who try to outperform the market through buying and selling. I make this a large portion of my portfolio because it represents the market as a whole and traditionally it is a good diversified fund of large cap stocks. The rest of my portfolio is made up of a REIT fund and a valuable metals and minerals fund. I chose a REIT a while back because it is not normally heavily correlated with stocks (except in our current crisis when real estate caused the crisis), REITS are required by law to pay 90% of their income back to shareholders, and REITs are a low cost option to diversify into the world of real estate. REITs are also great to put into a Roth IRA (taxed on the way in, not on the way out) because the income returned and reinvested by the shareholders into the fund dodges what would be taxable income. The metals and minerals fund serves as a diversification fund that is not heavily correlated with my other holdings, and also serves as an inflationary hedge.

My portfolio is far from perfect and I would love to hear some comments on your recommendations. However it is a strategy that I created on my own that I follow and enjoy working with. And as I have said before, my returns are currently beating all the major indexes in the current economy so I am doing better than I would have by putting it all in the S&P and probably better than I would have turning my money over to an actively managed account with a broker. Some concerns that I have about my portfolio are that my funds have overlap. Some of my Emerging Markets holdings may be represented in my International fund or one of the other funds. I am sure the same holds true in most of my funds. This skews my actual percentages and naturally diminishes some of the diversification I am attempting to achieve. I also replicate some of my Roth funds in my non retirement holdings which alters my overall exposure to a certain asset class, segment, fund, or holding. I could probably track down funds with higher historical performance as well. However, all things considered with the time I put in I am fairly content with the strategy I have.
The chart above shows where my actual holdings are. They are off my ideal asset allocation based on a few factors. First reason is the gains and losses (mostly losses) over time. It also stems from adding new funds, and not investing up to the ideal amount based on IRA limits or lack of money. And finally it can become unbalanced due to a change in strategy. So what do we do about it? We can re-balance! Re-balancing is key to buying more when prices are low and less when prices are high alongside with another concept know as dollar cost averaging. Re-balancing is just what it sounds like. You are adjusting the amounts you have in each fund to return them to their ideal percentages. You can do this by shifting money from fund to fund, or by adding more to the lacking funds. Obviously you don't want to remove money from your retirement investments. As you can see, my REIT and Metals funds are the ones that are drastically lower than their ideal percentage. I like to look for the ones that are lower instead of ones that are over their ideal percentage because it forces me to add more money instead of just shifting money around. It makes the math a little more difficult but I just play with it in excel based on how much money I have to invest until I get close. Some people recommend re-balancing every quarter. I must admit that I typically do it around the end of the year or tax time as I am either putting last minute funds in to max out my contribution for the year, or I am putting money that I got back from my taxes into my next year's contribution (not a good habit as I should figure out my W-4 withholding and make that money work for me all year). The re-balancing shows you which funds have performed well since your last re-balance and which funds have not. When you buy more of the ones that have not to bring them to their ideal percentage you are buying when the fund is cheap. By buying less or none of the funds that are over their ideal percentage you are avoiding funds that are priced higher.

The other way to effectively buy low is through dollar cost averaging. Dollar cost averaging refers to investing the same amount each selected time period no matter how the market is performing. So if you invest $50 per month in each fund you will be buying fewer shares the higher priced they are and you will be buying more shares of the lesser priced funds. This is an excellent way to avoid timing the market while mindlessly, intelligently investing. I must say that I have not been dollar cost averaging as of late as I have been striving to reach another financial goal which requires more liquid assets. In this market I am actually making more on my money market anyway, but as a contrarian I want to take advantage of the sale the bear market has created. I have almost reached my cash equivalents goal and plan to start my dollar cost averaging habit again for my other investments.
The chart above shows what I described above. As you can see I added money to my REIT and Metals fund in order to get my percentages closer to the ideal state. I am expecting some money back from Uncle Sugar in taxes (again a bad habit I plan on breaking) and I will likely max out my Roth contribution for the year which is set at $5,000. I am sure if you Google asset allocation you can find a wealth of information out there, some good some bad and some that probably doesn't fully match all that I have told you. My advice as always is find what works for you. Is my method the most efficient and highest earning strategy in the world? Highly unlikely. But I am maxing out my Roth and learning a bit along the way and that is what truly matters. Like I said before please leave comments on my portfolio or request feedback on your own portfolio and start investing!