Saturday, February 28, 2009

Authors Attack Readers

Authors Guild, and thereby the authors represented, has successfully pressured Amazon to silence the text-to-speech (TTS) function on the Kindle 2 (K2).

Amazon announced in a press release that it will make the TTS function optional at the publisher's discretion.

If you can't tell this has made me extremely angry. I was angry enough that I wrote an email to Author's Guild complaining.

Now I hate audio books for myself. I understand there's a place for them but it isn't with me.

But I have found the TTS that the K2 provides to be very useful. I let it read to me as I drive home and to work and so on. Another surprising use I found was to let it read to me while I am exercising.

The picture is my K2 on my elliptical machine. This use had not even occurred to me before I bought the thing. It works great.

Now the TTS is not audio-book quality. I can't imagine people who like audio-books actually using the TTS on the K2 as a substitute. More likely it would be people like me who allow it to read to them when they can't read by sight.

A friend whose father has macular degeneration thought he might get his dad a K2 just for the TTS.

I can understand book publishers being upset about the Kindle. I guess I can understand a little bit how publishers might be upset about TTS. But honestly I do not understand why authors would be upset about it. Well, maybe the big authors that make mega-bucks selling books through the big publsihers. In those cases there is not a huge difference between the publisher and the author.

But nearly all authors should benefit from both the Kindle 2 and the TTS.

This is so much like the music industry. When artists start having battles to the death with the very people that make it possible for the artist to perform then it is obvious that there is a revolution going on.

Infuriatingly stupid.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Book: Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To

Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To:
Divine Answers to Life's Most Difficult Problems

by Anthony DeStefenao

I have my Kindle 2 sitting up against the screen of my lap top and taking the picture with my iPhone. Really can anyone get more geeky than that?

I did not think I would like this book beforehand and really had not intended to even buy it. But someone said nice things about it and there was a Kindle version and so I bought it. Saying I wasn't excited about it though would be a considerable understatement.

Not sure what I actually expected but what I got was different and surprising.

I knew from the first chapter that I was going to like the book because the first chapter set a tone that I found both true, familiar, and uplifting.

So it is not surprising is it that I should enjoy having my own belief reinforced? Now I do read opposing points of view and I do examine my own biases from time to time. But there are those fundamental truths that simply are incontrovertible. And, yes, I know we all have them and I know there is a group of people that holds the exact opposite of mine when it comes to God and prayer. And those folks won't enjoy this book nor will they appreciate it in the least.

The difference between enjoy and appreciate is another blog subject that I think I will address at some future date.

I am debating with myself about whether or not to list the ten prayers. I've compromised with myself and will list the chapters:
  1. I Wish I Could Believe
  2. Why Should I Get Involved?
  3. What's In It For Me?
  4. I Can't Take It Anymore?
  5. Am I A Terrible Person?
  6. This Stress Is Killing Me!
  7. Okay, I Admit It: I'm Afraid
  8. Sometimes Being Smart Just Isn't Enough
  9. Will I Ever Be Happy Again?
  10. Why Am I Here, Anyway?
Each chapter then has an associated prayer that DeStefenao says God always answers "yes." For instance, first chapter, "I Wish I Could Believe," is the condition that is addressed by the prayer "God, show me that You exist."

DeStefenao states in the Acknowledgments section of the book (near the end) that his background is Catholic but that he tried to make the book acceptable to all Christians and to people of all faiths.

I think he did pretty well and I found the book both enjoyable and helpful.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Got My K2!!

It arrived a day early!

I was uncertain for a long time about buying the Kindle 2. After all we are in a recession or depression or economic downturn or something.

After listening to the President's speech last night I think we are in a bureaucratic nightmare that is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

But that's a different subject and I should not allow myself to stray too far from my subject.

Even when I decided to order the K2 I was uncertain whether I would use it myself since I really have gotten used to my old K1.

It arrived just before lunch via UPS. We know our UPS driver and think very highly of him. This is another digression but I was thinking when he arrived how nice it was to know people who do thins for us like UPS and USPS and the folks at Chili's and Starbucks. We know a few at Chick-Fil-A and several at the Tractor Supply and some from the City. I like that about our little community here. It really is what makes us a community.

So our UPS driver actually brought the package from Amazon inside for me and we signed his electronic tablet device. He watched as I hurriedly and quickly opened the package and took the K2 out of its packaging.

I let it charge while we were at lunch. It takes about 3 hours to fully charge. The charger is much improved now being the USB type. I like that much better than the old one.

The layout of the controls and how they operate and the size and feel all are improved. Some things are vastly improved. All are going to take me a bit of adjusting. But they are better.

The best thing has to be the Text-To-Speech software!!

Okay, it is not audio-book quality by any means. But I don't like audio-books. The TTS is definitely sufficiently good that I intend to let the thing read to me on the way home. And I never thought I'd do that.

I think Amazon has hit a home run with this thing.

Better than I expected. Easier to use. I am excited about it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book: Stanley Tam's Incredible Adventures with God

Stanley Tam's Incredible Adventures with God
as told to Ken Anderson

A friend gave this book to me on Monday, February 23rd. I was at Starbucks and we were visiting. We'd just looked at Romans 12:1 and he said he had a book he wanted to give me out in his truck. He left and found the book and gave it to me and his only request was that when I finished I should pass it on to someone else.

My attention immediately went to Ken Anderson's name and I said "I know that name but I can't remember how." So I looked him up as soon as I could and found that he was the founder of Gospel Films which eventually became Gospel Communications (GCN). And the significance of that is that my son and I worked for several ministries that were hosted by GCN during the early days of the Internet.

Small world if you believe in coincidences or maybe more than coincidence if you believe in an actively participating personal God.

I enjoyed this book so much or at least the 1/2 I read until I felt the need to give it away to someone I thought would benefit more than I would.

The book opens with a story about young Stanley selling a Model T he rebuilt to a fellow for $75 except the guy only pays him $25 and a promise. The fellow doesn't keep the promise either. The rest of the first chapter then is a preview of the entire book which is just as the title describes it.

The first chapter ends with Tam meeting a fellow who was referred by another mutual friend. The fellow tells Tam that their friend had told him that Tam had changed the friend's life and he wanted to meet him personally. Tam leads the man to a relationship with Jesus Christ. It turns out the man has a terminal disease and Tam helps him until he dies. Several times the man tells Tam that if only he had met Tam earlier in life that things would have been so much better for him. It is not until after his death that Tam reveals that this was the same man that did not pay the remaining $50 for the Model T.

The rest of the book is about Stanley Tam's personal and business life and his ever growing dependence upon The Lord. Eventually Tam creates a business and makes God the 100% owner. The first attorney he asks to do the legal work refuses but finally he finds someone willing to do it.

It is a fascinating and inspiring book on so many levels. It will not be believed or appreciated by everyone but for those of us who actually have met and heard the Savior it is a wonderful book.

Copies of the book are available from the U S Plastics web site.

Or if anyone wants a copy and will email me privately with your address and shipping information I will send you one.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Divided United States

Back in November last year this Russian fellow, Igor Panarin, predicted that the United States would come apart at the seams in June or July of 2010. Actually he said there was a 45% to 55% chance of that occurring. He's been predicting the collapse since 1998.

He thinks that the changes in economic, social, and demographic conditions will cause certain wealthy states to begin withholding funds from the federal government. That will precipitate a civil war. The end result in his view is the splitting of the current United States into 4 regions, or 6 if you include Hawaii and Alaska, that will affiliate with other world powers.

The western region will be under Chinese influence as will Hawaii. The southern region will be associated with Mexico. The north east goes with Europe and the north central with Canada. Alaska goes to Russia.

Of course the end of the world occurs in December of 2012 according to the Mayan calendar so the new affiliations don't have a long time to exist.

Somehow I missed this back in 2008 but recently read several comments about secession and someone raised Mr. Panarin's prediction.

I found it interesting that there have been numerous proposals for dividing up the United States over the years. I really had not known that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Coming Home

My thoughts turned to home the last few days. But it wasn't my actual, current home that filled my mind but the concept of home.

I think it started the other day when my beloved commented that I always called our new place by the street name and referred to her place as home. And I call my Dad's old place "the farm" now even though it is less farm now than ever before.

Then at the office we had a meeting about some projects we are considering to promote the development of "the farm" and that naturally led to a nostalgic look down the memories of my mind.

Mind you they aren't the historically accurate memories necessarily but those happy, idealized memories. I probably could get the historically accurate ones but the idealized ones are more pleasant and easier to reach.

I was still thinking about it as I drove home today. My beloved's childhood home came into view as I approached our turn. It is more than 100 years old. There is an old cellar on one side. We just put a new door on that cellar and we are cleaning it out. Turns out there is an old well down there that is fed by a spring. There is a pump that no longer works that took care of any excess water. So the old cellar had water in it that had to be pumped out.

There were old Mason jars in that cellar that had been put down there no telling how long ago. We'll keep the empties but the others will be discarded along with now unidentifiable contents.

I noticed two cars there in the drive as I turned the corner. I knew they belonged to the oldest child and the youngest. They were there visiting their mother who did not know they were coming.

That's when it occurred to me that one of the major things about home is that it is a place you can go where you are always welcome and you never have to call ahead.

Undoubtedly there is more that defines the concept of home but I like that one.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book: The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History - Part II

The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History
By Harry S. Dent

I blogged about this book when I began reading it the other day.

Since then I finished reading the book, attended a lecture by the author, and discussed his ideas with others at some length.

Dent's premise is that economies are people spending money and that economic performance can be predicted based on how many people are in the economy, how old they are, where they live, and what they are buying. And the last two are largely dependent upon the first two.

So he believes that the United States baby boom population has now moved beyond the peak in maximum spending. He bases this on statistical research but also offers several possible reasons to explain it including the need to save for retirement, fear of economic uncertainty, downsizing, adopting slower life styles, and so on.

As an example he discussed the statistic that people buy their largest house at age 41. The friend and I who attended the presentation looked at each other and smiled because we were both that age when we built our largest homes. Dent showed a graph that plotted the age of Harley-Davidson buyers and it startling how sharply the graph shot up and just as sharply shot down.

I don't really like learning that my own buying habits are so predictable. I like to think of myself as being unique. And, yes, it is nearly hysterically funny that all of my group believe themselves to be just as unique. So even in that we are the same!

Now since all these baby boomers are now spending less and saving more it stands to reason that all the stuff we were buying is going to also decline unless someone else comes along to buy the same stuff.

But the people that will come along and will buy at least some of the same stuff are about 20 or more years away. And since they are our kids they will not buy exactly the same stuff as their parents just as we did not buy the same stuff bought by our parents.

So in Dent's discussion the good part is that there is another group coming up behind us in the United States. That's because our immigration adjusted birth rate is about 2.1 children per family. He says that is about the minimum to keep things as they are.

That's not true in Europe where rates range from as low as 1.3 to 1.7 or 1.8 per family. So in Europe there is no future population bubble and that means, according to Dent, that those economies are permanently declining. Japan is the same except even further along because in Japan there was no post World War II baby boom.

China is behind the United States according to Dent by about 10 years. They would be in much better shape except that about 20 years ago the government mandated that families must not have more than 1 child. Dent predicts this will eventually lead to a declining economy there as well.

India and other emerging nations around the world including several in South America will continue to have growth.

What all this means more specifically in the United States is that our present recession will turn into a major deflationary depression after a short recovery in the next year or so. That deflationary depression will last until about 2012 according to Dent.

Deflation is where the price of things continues to decline. Dent predicts that home prices , for instance, will decline to about the level they were in 1987 or 1988. In some areas that is a massive decline. In my area it is not so much because our property values have not bubbled up as much as in California or Florida and other places.

He believes everything will deflate including all commodities. And, yes, he does think gold will fall as well as everything else. Near term - next 18 months maybe - gold and oil and natural gas and some others are likely to increase. But afterward they are likely to fall is his prediction.

How far will they fall? Well he thinks oil may fall below $20 per barrel. That's really bad news for my area although that's about what oil cost in 1998 when I came to live with my Mom and Dad.

Dent believes that unemployment is likely to reach nearly 15% before it begins to decline.

Someone asked Dent in the question and answer session following his speech if he had presented this material to our president and congress. He said that many of them were aware of his ideas but that generally he was not well received by politicians. The reason he explained was that they concluded from his remarks that political action was largely irrelevant in relation to changing our economy. He said politicians do not like to think of themselves as irrelevant in anything. Moreover their constituents certainly do not like to think of them as irrelevant and demand action.

Now the $64,000 question (which I guess now might be $64 Trillion) is what do I think about Dent and his ideas.

I've thought a lot about what I think about him. And I've reached a conclusion.

I think his statistics are accurate.

I think his premise is probably correct.

But I think there are a couple of problems I see with his conclusions and predictions.

People can surprise you for one thing. They can act predictably for 50 years and then all of a sudden do some of the strangest things. That's especially true when there is stress. Sometimes it is good and sometimes not.

Then there are external circumstances. Dent tries to account for some of these. But I think the problem is that it is simply not possible to know them all.

So I do think there is going to be some deflation and I think the recession is going to be worse than anyone wants it to be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Tonight I'm going to attend a lecture by Harry S. Dent (see my February 10, 2009 entry) so I'll write about his ideas tomorrow as well as provide personal opinions about his book and his ideas.

Oddly enough I think that symbols and the economy are related though.

I've been thinking about symbols lately.

Sometimes when I drive across the pasture I see birds sitting around out there. A friend one time told me that my first problem was driving in the pasture. Maybe so. It must sound a bit strange to someone who has no pasture.

Anyway sometimes there are these big, black birds. Usually there are maybe 8 or 9 and they just sit there and watch me drive past them. They are menacing birds. I think they are American Crows.

At least that's the picture of an American Crow thanks to Wikipedia. Mine are more menacing than this one though and quite a bit bigger.

Something I've noticed is that often when I see these guys then something bad happens. Usually someone gets sick or something breaks. That kind of thing.

Sounds like a superstition doesn't it? It could be I suppose except I am neither fearful or irrational. It is more like I am just an observer and I've happened to notice these coincidences.

Then there are some other birds that are smaller and kind of a tan color and usually there are more of them. When the smaller birds arrive the black birds leave.

So this story line popped up in my imagination.

It's about this police detective and he notices that when he drives across his pasture and sees these crows that a crime always occurs within a few days. I had a pretty decent little story moving along up there in my head somewhere.

Sometime along the way though I began wondering if maybe we should be thinking more symbolically about things. Like cleaning up the poop as an example and how I noticed that it is easier to clean it up when it is dried out. Also doesn't smell as bad.

Numbers are actually symbols although we tend to think about them as being the thing they are symbolizing.

Stuff like that.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I was wondering about the Internet being referred to as "tubes."

Some people trace the idea to a speech by Senator Ted Stevens on June 28, 2006. Wikipedia has an article. His speech was widely derided as showing a profound lack of understanding about the Internet but that may have been more political than anything else.

Youtube ( was registered on February 15, 2005. Someone told me that they thought that had more to do with TV being called the "boob tube." Maybe but I always wondered about the use of both "tube" for the TV and "boob" meaning someone dumb and out of it.

I guess TV tube has to do with vacuum tubes. Have to wonder about that naming as those things aren't exactly tube like to me. I guess those things have a roughly cylindrical shape which I suppose is tube like - kind of.

Tube used to describe the subway in certain places seems pretty intuitive. That does seem like a tube more.

Then there is the inner tube. Except we don't have those much on cars now. I can more see it I guess on a bicycle. Wonder why we call the "inner" one "inner" but we call the outer one a tire?



There are a lot of web sites with "tube" in the URL. You can search using Google (I linked Google just in case someone has missed learning what Google is) and restrict the location of the phrase just in the domain name.

I thought that was pretty cool. When you go to the Google main search page click on Advanced Search. On that page there is a place to click "Date, usage rights, numeric range, and more" and that's where you can specify "in the URL of the page." Pretty nice feature. This link is for advanced search help from Google.

Also, the asterisk or star (*) character can be used as a wild card character in case someone didn't know that.

I decided to search in the URL for "*" which Google changes to "allinurl: *" or this link if you prefer just clicking. The search produced a lot of hits. I'd tell you how many but every time I did it the number was a little different.

I clicked a couple of those links a little too hastily without reading the summaries. Oh my!!

Some of the pages are quite nice and rather innocent and even helpful. Some are considerably more "adult." And I wonder why we use "adult" to mean pornographic?

So be sure to turn on the "Safe Search" feature on Google. I corrected the link I posted above to include safe search by the way. Didn't want anyone getting a shock.

It is interesting that there are places where people are willing and eager apparently to upload rather revealing pictures of themselves.

I guess that is another subject for another time though.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cleaning Up Poop

I cleaned up the dog poop out of my mother-in-law's yard today. For reasons not entirely obvious to me she told me the other day she thought I probably had never cleaned up poop.

This is poop factory number 1. His name is Buddy.

That's kind of a misnomer because he is not much of a buddy to anyone including me.

He spends a lot of his time being afraid and hiding in his house.

Fearful dogs are the ones that will bite you in my experience. So he's a good dog to leave alone.

He will come over and want me to pet him if I am petting one of the other dogs. But that's pretty much the beginning and end of our friendship.

And this is poop factory number 2. His name is Wally.

He's kind of the opposite of Buddy. He loves people and he loves to be loved.

He also likes to chew stuff up including bushes that are growing in the ground and garden hoses and garden hose holders and wood cellar doors and things like that.

He also likes to play with Buddy by grabbing the latter's left rear leg and hanging on. Buddy doesn't seem to think it is fun as does Wally.

Wally also loves to chase cars although all he can do is chase them from the inside of his fenced yard. Before the fence though he chased one that hurt his leg and from which he has not totally recovered.

There is a third little poop factory that I have no photo of. He lives inside the house and is a Chihuahua. But he's big for his breed I guess. That's kind of funny although I didn't exactly mean it to come out that way.

These are the tools I used to clean up the poop.

I just got these not too long ago. This was their maiden voyage so to speak.

They are better than the old shovel and the rake. Or at least I think they are.

In case anyone is wondering they came from Pet Smart. Actually they came from Pet Smart whether anyone wonders or not.

Pet Smart had a selection of tools and I chose this set from among all those offered. They seem to work pretty well for me.

They do have a downside. Namely that someone has to actually use them to get the poop cleaned up.

I've washed them off here and have them ready to go into the old shop building. It's where the car stays. The old garage is currently for the lawnmowers.

I had this sack left over from feeding the horses that I used to contain the poop.

It's full.

For a minute there I wondered if I'd actually be able to pick up the sack and set it in the trash can.

But I managed it thanks very much.

Now you might think this sack would be more appropriate for the horse poop but I would need lots bigger tools and sacks for that purpose. So this one is for the dog poop.

There were some things I observed while cleaning up the dog poop.

For one thing I noticed that dogs apparently have favorite places to poop. I know this is true for humans but never had really thought about it for dogs.

Another thing I noticed is that it is a whole lot easier to clean up old, dried poop than new, fresh poop.

That made me think about other things and I decided there are a lot of things that are easier to clean up after they've aged and dried out some.

I wonder if that's true of the economic mess?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Recession, Depression, Stimulus - Again

The congress is set send the stimulus (so called) bill to the President today. It is reportedly in the amount of $790 Billion but some of the details I've read make me think it easily could go higher.

The government does not have this money sitting around somewhere. It has to be borrowed.

I know something about borrowing. I've been on both sides. Still am for that matter although I am more on the borrower side right now than I like.

From the lender side I was taught the 4 C's of Credit. Some say it should be 3 C's. Regardless the first C is always character. It just means that you have to be dealing with someone who is dedicated to repaying the money you are lending. If you lend to people who don't care whether they pay you back or not then your chances of getting your money back is not so good.

The second C is usually stated as capital. That means there has to be sufficient assets owned by the borrower to secure the loan in case everything turns bad and the borrower cannot repay the loan and you have to take the assets and sell them. So you want there to be considerably more assets than debt.

The third C is usually stated as capacity. It means that the borrower has all the necessary skills and personality and everything else to actually undertake and finish whatever thing she's borrowing the money.

The fourth C is conditions. It just means that even if the other C's are all in place that sometimes you just can't get your money back no matter what.

And that's the one that is the big problem at the moment. Because our conditions are that we are in a really serious and big economic recession.

So we have the stimulus plan. It is the government's attempt to lessen the impact of the recession.

In my view there are three large parts to the plan.

The first and smallest part attempts to help the people who are now or will be receiving government assistance. Mainly it is for unemployment assistance, social security recipients, and some medicaid recipients. This part totals about $193 billion. I think social security folks get $250 or something.

The second part and the next bigger is some tax relief for certain payers. But don't get too excited because it is about $400 for individuals and $800 for couples and not everyone in any event. There were some provisions for business. General Motors and a couple of others as I understand it get some more help.

The third part and the largest is spending for various projects. The total for all spending is a little over $300 billion.

I really see nothing in this bill that I think will actually help end the recession.

I guess they have to try and do something and the numbers are big and sound impressive.

At least there is nothing there that will help me get any projects going.

Just my 2 cents.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Recession, Depression, Stimulus

It seems most everyone now accepts that the United States economy is in a recession that began in December of 2007.

But the definition of recession used to be two successive quarters of falling GDP (gross domestic product). By that definition the recession began in the third quarter of 2008.

The 4th quarter of 2007 did have a negative GDP as is seen in the graph I found on the Bureau of Economic Analysis web site.

Another interesting site is the U S Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate is 7.6% as of February 9, 2009. That's about 11.6 million unemployed persons. In December, 2007 there were about 8 million persons unemployed so some 3.6 million jobs have been lost since then. Half of those people were laid off in the last 3 months.

It is hoped that the stimulus plan will provide about 4 million jobs. If it does then that would make up for the 3.6 million lost since December, 2007.

The problem as I see it is that there are always unintended and unexpected consequences. If we knew what they were beforehand they would not be unintended.

Some people will benefit from these unintended consequences but I suspect there will be more losers.

Book: The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History

The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History
By Harry S. Dent

Harry Dent was born in 1950 so he's a couple of years younger than my age. He was born in Berkeley but received his B.A. from the University of South Carolina and later an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

He wrote his first book in 1969. It was titled "Our Power to Predict." And predicting is pretty much what he's been doing since with 6 more books, consulting, speaking, newsletters, and what not.

Predicting the future is fraught with problems as most of us have also experienced first hand. Predicting future economic trends is certainly no less susceptible. And several of my readers will remember that my political predicting success rate is as low as it is possible to achieve - or not achieve that is.

Iin 1998 Dent wrote this book called "The Roaring 2000s" and in 1999 another called "The Roaring 2000s Investor." You know like "the roaring 20's." He predicted a DOW of 32,000 back then and later revised that to 16,000. Well the DOW managed to get to 14,000 finally.

So because of that prediction and because now he's predicting a major deflationary depression, Mr. Dent is not very popular with stock broker and investment adviser type folks. Nor is he popular with folks who depend on the investment community. That's a pretty big population.

Dent's most basic underlying principle is that economies are comprised of people spending money and the most important facts about those people are: 1) how many of them there are; 2) how old they are; 3) what they buy; and, 4) where they live.

By way of example he writes that the age when adults buy the most potato chips is 42. He further analyzes this by stating that the average age of marriage is 26 and the average age of having the first child is 28 and 14 years later that child is at the peak food consumption age. And that coincides (but not coincidentally) with the peak in buying potato chips.

Since it is possible to predict some of these macro patterns of human behavior he concludes that it is therefore possible to predict economic consequences of that behavior.

In addition to this he believes he has discovered several great cyclical patterns over long periods of time and associated with large groups of humans. He believes there is a civilization cycle and a technological cycle and a geopolitical cycle and a few others.

What I find interesting is that he was able to predict the occurrence of a technological boom that roughly coincided with the Internet boom. He did that without knowing or even trying to predict what would drive the boom. Or in other words he had no idea bout the Internet. He just predicted there would be some kind of new or improved technology that would drive economic production.

That's a pretty amazing idea to me when I stop and think about it. So I can sit here in Starbucks and think that in the next 20 or 30 or 50 or whatever years there is going to occur another technological boom. I don't know what it is going to be but it is going to drive human productivity.

I think I've always had a kind of nebulous idea about something like this happening. But what is different and new is the idea that this is actually cyclical and predictable.

Do I believe that? I don't know. At first I dismissed it entirely. But the more I think about it and the more I read Dent's thoughts about it the more I am willing to consider the idea.

On the other hand sometimes coincidences are just coincidences, too.

Mr. Dent makes it sound like he was very accurate in predicting recent events. That's recent in the past 20 years or so. His critics make it seem he was not accurate at all. My conclusion is that Mr. Dent makes his own case seem better. But would we expect anything else from someone who makes his living on predicting? On the other hand his critics hardly are objective and have their own problems with the advice they've handed out.

Let's face facts. Everyone who is in the financial business is making some kind of prediction. That's even if it is the idea that one should invest in good companies for the very long haul as Mr. Buffett. And he's 78.

I think Dent raises very good points about the changing demographics in the United States, i.e., the changing age of that potato chip buyer. I further think he is probably correct about certain things he predicts even though he may miss some numbers and some dates.

If you can predict numbers, dates, and events then you are a prophet. He doesn't pretend to be a prophet either.

I'm going to write more about Dent over the next few days.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Kindle 2

I ordered my Kindle in November of 2007 when they first were offered for sale by Amazon. I didn't receive it until January, 2008 and I blogged about it.

I paid $399 for mine.

I've purchased more than 50 titles in the slightly more than 12 months since I received my first one. It broke by the way but Amazon replaced it for free as soon as I let them know about the problem.

I've also purchased 2 more Kindles. My brother and his family use one. My son uses the other. I think I am going to get my daughter one although the current economic crisis has caused me to postpone that decision.

My 50 or so purchased books for my Kindle cost about $450. I've saved between $500 and $750. My son and my brother share my library.

Amazon today announced the Kindle 2.

It is a little longer and significantly thinner. The buttons have been moved around a bit. I think that's likely an improvement although I've become quite adept at using the original buttons. It has text-to-speech so it can "read" to you. I might use this feature if I spent much time in my car. But I don't and I really don't like listening to books in general so I can't imagine using this feature.

It has more storage built in. With my first one I bought a memory card but honestly I don't use it. So I think the additional memory isn't a very big deal for me. I found that it is best for me to just carry around the books I'm reading right now on my Kindle. My entire library is at Amazon anyway so I can easily download a title anytime I want it which is not very often once I'm done with a book.

The thing that you notice right away though about the new Kindle 2 is how thin it is. That's not just compared to the original but compared to about anything - like - say a pencil.

Just look at this thing!

They are comparing it to a pencil!!

Now it looks really cool I think. Only thing is I don't know if I'd like it or not. Oh I'd probably become accustomed to it regardless.

But one of the things I do like about my original Kindle is its size. It kind of feels a little like a paperback to me and that is, strangely I grant, somewhat comforting to me.

So I'm not certain whether I'll buy one of the new ones or not. I am not much for fixing stuff that's not broken. And my Kindle is definitely not broken.

Sometimes people see me reading mine - usually in Starbucks - and ask me about it. Usually they want to know what it is. They have somehow missed hearing about it.

Of course that is a significantly smaller group since Oprah featured the Kindle on her show a while back: Oprah's Favorite New Gadget (10-24-2008).

It is reported in the blogosphere that some 200,000 units were sold right after that program. If true, and I suspect it is, then that means Amazon sold somewhere around 500,000 Kindles in 2008.

I've seen a graph where a guy compared the Kindle to Apple's iPod. So far he thinks that more people are buying Kindles than bought the iPod in the same year after announcement. And books for the Kindle are usually in the $9.99 range whereas songs for the iPod are in $.99 range. That's a big difference.

Anyway a lot of people believe the Kindle will provide Amazon with more than a billion dollars of sales this year.

So why do I like the Kindle so much?

Well, for one thing I like reading on it. It's the first e-book deal I've actually enjoyed using for reading. Apparently quite a few of us like it that way, too.

Then I like being able to carry all my books I'm currently reading with me in one small, convenient package. That's just so great.

I like having Amazon keep my library for me. Very handy.

I like being able to search books and add notes and "highlight."

I read my morning paper now on my Kindle. I like that. Costs me like $5.99 per month or something. Lots cheaper than getting the actual newspaper and then having to mess around throwing it away.

Yes, I could do that on my laptop but I don't always have my laptop and it is still a bit bulkier than the Kindle.

Maybe the best thing though is that if I hear about a book and decide I want to read it then I can usually buy it and have it on my Kindle in a couple of minutes.

I did just this very thing Saturday. I was reading my morning paper on my Kindle while I was sitting in the Starbucks at Fritts Farm. It was about 6 am. There was an article about this author, Harry S. Dent, who has written this book, The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History. He is scheduled to speak in Oklahoma City next week and my son and I signed up for tickets today.

The book came out on January 6th and is available in hard cover or audio. I checked Kindle availability when it first was published but it wasn't available. I clicked a link that let Amazon know I wanted it on the Kindle. When I checked again on Saturday it was available! How's that for good service?

Anyway I bought it and began reading. I never left my chair in Starbucks. I've done this much I'm already taking it for granted.

Very interesting.

I'll blog about Dent's ideas over the next few days.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Cow and I

Originally I titled this "Me and the Cow" but decided that was just wrong.

My brother insisted I have my picture taken with the cow.

I met some of the cows - or rather people who wore the cow suit.

One such person was a young woman whose name tag was printed "V."

Usually I am not so good with names but I was able to remember a single letter name. I think she was from Houston. She thought our weather was awfully cold but I assured her it was actually warm for us. She was one o the Chick-Fil-A employees who helped with the crowd staying out all night.

She also went to some of the schools to hand out coupons. She said she made at least one small child cry.

The manager of the store told us they sold more on Friday than they did on the opening day. It was insanely busy. On the other hand they are really fast about getting people through the lines - both inside and out. If the line outside builds they go out and have people taking orders before the ordering machine.

Tomorrow - we went to the movies last night and watched Taken. Cool movie.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chick-Fil-A Grand Opening

February 5, 2009 - Thursday - 6:30 a.m was the actual opening.

I wasn't there but one of the local TV stations carried the event live and I watched it. One hundred twenty-five (125) individuals stayed all night. The first 100 received 52 coupons each for Chick-Fil-A value meals when the restaurant opened. The other 25 participated in a raffle that awarded 5 more people a years' supply of meals.

Now this sounds crazy. But the Chick-Fil-A crew provides food and games and all sorts of things for those who spend the night. So it is more like a big party than it is anything else. There is a sense of community and being involved in something that makes the entire event exciting and rewarding over and above the value of the food.

Another thing is that a lot of people I met just really like the Chick-Fil-A food. I mean really like it. It is much like I would just as soon not drink coffee if I can't get Starbucks. It's that kind of customer loyalty.

Speaking of coffee I stopped at Starbucks about 7. In this photo to the left you can see the Starbucks building on the right hand side. This image was taken about 9 am and the driveway was already pretty full of cars.

The traffic increased then as the ribbon cutting hour approached. There was a Moore policeman directing traffic.

I've always thought that would be a difficult job - directing traffic that is. But this fellow did an admirable job of it.

The building in the background is a tire store. It was not there when I returned to my parents' home in 1998. We watched it being built from the porch - as well as several other buildings.

It still is hard for me to believe all these buildings now occupy ground I once played on with my brother and cousins. Where the Chick-Fil-A is was just pasture with a big old Cottonwood tree in it and then later it was a pond.

At 9 am my brother, son, and friends and I walked over to the new restaurant building for the ribbon cutting. I think there were closer to 200 people there than 100 - maybe more - hard to estimate.

Someone pushed me up towards the front of the line for the ribbon cutting but I held back as much as I could. The tall guy with the scissors is the owner/operator of this Chick-Fil-A. And the fellow just to his left is his father who is an owner/operator of a store in Norman just down the street a few miles from us. There were a lot of other owner/operators there from various stores around the country, too. I am in that picture somewhere to the right of the owner/operator.

After the ribbon cutting there was also a "first bite" ceremony. Someone handed out a whole bunch of chicken sandwiches and everyone took a bite together.

I did not participate in the first bite.

For one thing I haven't been eating much meat lately. I'm not sure why exactly.

But the folks who particiapted in the first bite were exceedingly happy about it and seemed to very much enjoy it.

I visited with a Chick-Fil-A fellow from Atlanta before the ceremony began. He asked a lot of questions about my family and our farm and our development and so on.

The sign was a big point of contention in our negotiations. They wanted a really tall one and we wanted a much shorter one.

We finally compromised on the one in the picture.

I am happy with it in all respects actually. I know it cost a lot of money for them to meet our standards but I think long term it will be worthwhile to everyone.

Those lights with the curved arms that have the kind of old timey looking globes cost Chick-Fil-A at least $25,000 more. I am impressed that Chick-Fil-A was willing to invest in upgrades. Many of the people who contact us about development locations are the opposite and want to spend the least amount of money which gets them the least quality.

We have this new school not far from us and the Pom Squad was invited to be part of the ceremony.

There were teams of marketing people that went to all of the schools in the area and handed out coupons to students.

I had several coupons to hand out myself and I can tell you that everyone I gave one to was just delighted with the gift.

Of course everyone asks me if we get free food there since we sold the land and it is our development. And the answer is "No!" Same answer for Starbucks, Chili's, and Home Depot. We get no freebies but it is amazing that everyone thinks we might.

This is just another image to show how many cars there were lined up to get in the place.

In the far background to the right in this picture you can see the Starbucks where I hang out a lot and beyond it is Chili's.

The sign that is sticking up above Starbucks is for the Home Depot which was our first deal.

There were a lot more cars all around the property. There were cars in Home Depot's lot and on our yard and just all over the place.

This is a picture showing the band from the new Southmoore High School that is about a mile from our place. It is the third high school now in our district. That's a far cry from when I began school. We had two first grade classes and that dwarfed the senior class that year that had about 12 kids. I think there are already 1200 or so at Southmoore and eventually there will be more than 2000.

In a way I think all the population growth is negative for the community. You get so many people and it is just increasingly difficult to maintain those things that make a community a community if you know what I mean.

On the other hand it is good that so many people can find nice homes and safe places to live and work. And increasing population definitely gets you more choices for stores and work and all sorts of things.

So it is mixed as I suppose are so many things.

People Gather For New Chick-Fil-A

Tents in the parking lot of the new Chick-Fil-A.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My New Blog

It has not been very long since I stopped posting at lifefromtheporch. Several of my blog friends have begun new efforts so I decided to join them.

Like a lot of things in my life right now I have no idea how this is going to go. But I decided to choose a title and at least reserve a space in case I wanted to say something.

I know there are a few people who will wonder what has happened in the last few months. The old house is completely gone except for the garage.

I was there the day we tore it down. It was painful. When I arrived my daughter was in the circle in front of the house with her daughter. My daughter was crying and her daughter was looking up at her just totally perplexed. It was cold and blustery with a stiff wind from the North. The excavator was sitting on the ground on the east side of the house and the operator who is a longtime family friend would take a bite out of the house with the jaws of the bucket. That image is stored away in my mind.

Last night I attended the pre-opening of the Chick-Fil-A. It was a great experience. Chick-Fil-A invited my parents' pastor, Stan Toler, to deliver the blessing. That's such a wonderful gesture on their part. I believe it is something that would please my parents.

The real opening is on Thursday. Today people are gathering to spend the night outside to be in the first 100 that orders food on Thursday.

Monday morning we met some of the Chick-Fil-A people at the Starbucks. They were from all over the United States. They told us they were giving out 35,000 coupons just for this one store opening among other things.

The operator told us that he chose our location because he wanted to be in a real community where he could both participate and be supported. I thought that was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about our little town. I think it is true, too. So on Thursday I will join with probably another 100 people from our town to attend the ribbon cutting.

Well I have to get ready to go so this post must end now.