Tuesday, July 31, 2007

“House Wants Apology from Japan”


That’s the headline published by AP that was printed in many of today’s newspapers. Gadabout knows that Congress is determined to solve the world’s problems and this most recent resolution shows that Congress cares.

It is no secret that the Japanese military committed countless acts of genocide and other countless unimagional acts of aggression during their attempts at domination. If you were a service member engaged in combat with the “Japs” during WWII, you sure as hell never wanted to be captured and become a POW. Those bastards were SAVAGES! Read up on the Bataan Death March in the Philippines if you have any doubts. During that 25 mile, 3 day march, 75,000 Filipino and American POWs (12,000 Americans) were brutally handled by their Japanese captors. 10,000 Filipinos and 1,000 Americans were either executed or died of exposure along the way.

So here we are today, with Congress, the NY Times, and a disproportionate number of Americans lashing out at the President and the military establishment for our harsh treatment of Muslim Terrorists at Gitmo and other prisons in Iraq. Gadabout knows through very trusted sources that we are not SAVAGES in our treatment of these Bastards.

Dear Congress, if you demand apologies from 60 year old atrocities from Imperial Japan, how about cutting Americans a little slack in this very humane war we are fighting against evil? Get your head out of your butts and start supporting America.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fixing Social Security


Gadabout has always taken interest in Social Security. As a young boy I recall my mother saying, “Social Security won’t be around when I retire.” Well, she was wrong. "Live it up, Mum!" Social Security is around, and it always will so long as we maintain a government.

The Federal Insurance Contributions (FICA) sets guidelines for employer and employee contributions for Social Security and Medicare. Both parties make payments of 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare: that equals 12.4 + 2.9 = 15.3%. That’s lots of cold hard cash, to be sure. The top income level for contributions in 2007 is $97,500; after that a person stops making payments. Some consider this ‘Regressive” arguing that higher wage earners dodge additional taxes. Others will take the position that is “progressive” since the amount deposited into FICA far exceeds what will be recouped in the out years. There is plenty of room for both punctilious pundits to square off on this issue--mostly until the end of recorded history.

The $97,500 cap is adjusted every year to flow with inflation, so at least the rich dodge that loophole.

Well, let’s talk about those 13 million illegal Mexicans running amuck and messing with our schools, hospitals and other government services. What happens if all those hard working Mexicans became Americans? I’ll tell you what will happen! They’ll start paying into Social Security--that’s what.

What happens if receipts into FICA exceed income to the system? Nothing, we’ll just fund it through taking on additional debt, increase retirement thresholds and freeze COLA levels. Remember, everybody dies at some point, so it is not an infinite problem.

Maybe it is time to rethink the cap on income levels to, let’s say, something like $250,000. Yeah, it might be an inflationary pressure, but the rich, in my opinion, need to pony up a bit more. I am certain that all of Rush Limbaugh’s fans wouldn’t like the idea much, but if they ever stopped to think about it, they are the people making less than $97,500 per year. Lemmings!

Want to save Social Security? Open the borders and tax the filthy rich!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Natalie Merchant - Verdi Cries


Years ago, Gadabout wrote his epitaph , and I will share it with you today:

Below sleeps a man

He loved
He lived
He served

In success he knelt
In failure he rose
He fought and he felt
Promises he kept
And he often wept
Never to forget
That Goodness triumphs
Forever

I have read those words in public only twice. The first time was for a fallen friend, Nick, at his memorial service. The second was during my father’s eulogy after he was killed. Dad died three weeks before I completed my final overseas deployment while on active duty. Both died flying. Gadabout respects all who fly.

I wrote these words not as a testimony for my life. Quite the contrary, I wrote them as a template for my yet unfinished work that lies ahead. This is Gadabout’s challenge; to live up to these few simple lines of poetry. I read them for both because they both deserved those words. I am still on my quest.

Before my time does come, I would like to make a request from whoever is still around: please play Verdi Cries at my wake, if I lived up to the promises penned above. You must agree that Natalie Merchant is on her game here, and I want this touch in the end.

If you are a tenacious Gadabout reader, then you might have noticed his trademark photo of him knelling before a gravestone. If you were observant, you would have noticed that his name was inscribed upon that stone. This finding rocked Gadabout, and reminded him once again of the limits placed upon our lives from the Master of Mystery. Gadabout’s girlfriend reluctantly took the picture.

Remember, we are all just actors, playing a bit part in a high-budget, limited engagement film. Make the best of it. After our final appearance, Verdi cries only once and then the show moves along.

Verdi Cries

The man in 119 takes his tea alone. Mornings we all rise to wireless Verdi cries. I'm hearing opera through the door. The souls of men and women, impassioned all. Their voices climb and fall; battle trumpets call. I fill the bath and climb inside, singing.

He will not touch their pastry, but every day they bring him more. Gold from the breakfast tray, I steal them all away and then go and eat them on the shore. I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand, sing of a lover's fate, sealed by jealous hate then wash my hand in the sea. With just three days more I'd have just about learned the entire score to Aida.

Holidays must end as you know. All is memory taken home with me: the opera, the stolen tea, the sand drawing, the verging sea, all years ago.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gadabout is Taking a Break


Dear Gadabout Readers. I have decided to let Gadabout Jack rest for a while, and quite honestly it may be a terminal rest bit. I think that what I considered harmless confabulation has been interpreted as hateful and disrespectful, and that was never my intent from the outset. If I have offended anyone, or engendered feelings of anger, then I sincerely offer my apologies to you.

I will no longer respond to comments, and will discontinue any further posts henceforth from this day forward. I will, however, post a final poll so as to discover some insight for consideration.

I thank all of you for your interest in Ask Gadabout Jack, and for your assistance in generating 4,000 plus hits per month on this site. I have been amazed at the rapid acceleration of the number of readings per day. Sort of neat! I felt great pride in creating Gadabout, but I never intended to create a monster.

Have a GREAT summer!

With Greatest Sincerity and Respect,
Gadabout Jack

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dear Gadabout Jack: Politics


Dear Gadabout Jack,

It is ironic that as I'm contemplating a run for my local government that you have addressed Citizenship and Leadership in your columns. The tiny town I live in (8000 people) has a Board of Selectmen (BOS) that act as the managing team. There is also a Town Manager that weighs in on some decisions. The BOS has not been as transparent about their dealings as I would like and I want to change that.

My trepidation is this: I've got two little kids (boys 5 and 6) and I know that this position, on top of a full time 50-60 hour-per-week job will take me away from them. Is that worth it? My wife is less than thrilled that I am looking into this as well.

My feeling is that I have more common sense then the members on that board and I can do better then them. I guess the decision comes down to how much crummy leadership I can take until the kids don't care about me, and then I'll make a move towards action.

Signed,
Eager upstart politician in a Tiny Town


Dear Upstart: First off, Gadabout firmly believes that family comes first! Don’t ever forget that. But let’s not lose sight of what a tight family unit can accomplish as a team. The wife is part of that team. Look, good wives raise the kids and the father is pretty much just the figure head. Your kids are already in school, so that leaves plenty of time for your life long mate to take on added responsibilities. Empower your wife to raise the family while you take on the thrill of the hunt, the adventure and the election!

Listen, do you want to be the kind of dad who comes home at 6:00 PM, mows the lawn wearing black socks and sandals, and then forces the kids to study before they hit the rack? No, of course you don’t, because you are a man. It is not surprising that your wife is not thrilled with this idea because it means more work for her and it is YOU who will reap all the glory of success. This might lead to difficult times ahead in your relationship, but when this happens just remind her that you made a vow to stick with her through “good times and bad.” If she gets really upset, then you might want to buy her jewelry, a new car or a complete spa treatment.

Okay, the premise is that you are seriously considering a bid. Gadabout has some background in politics since he was on a failed campaign staff for a US House seat back in ’96. What I took away from that experience was that politics is nasty—really nasty. So fasten your seat belt and be prepared to drive your SUV into a brick wall at 100 mph and pray that the airbags are operational.

Here are a few pointers, and it mostly boils down to research and subtle actions:

Fully understand the organization of the local governmental structures. From what you mentioned, you may have underestimated the roll of the city manager. You must read and understand the charters, budgets, limitations of power for all the players, and ordinances. You must understand informal structures and behind the scenes actors too.

Get to know the backgrounds, habits, lifestyles and family members of major players. It is a small town, so it is very likely that you are already connected to them through church, school and other communication nodes. If you can say to one of them, “hey, I saw your son Billy hit that home run last night, please tell him I pass my congratulations,” then you are moving in the right direction.

Remember, this is a small town, and if you haven’t paid your dues regarding length of residency, you’ll be fighting an up hill battle. McCain tackled this obstacle when he ran for his first house seat in Arizona. His opponent made the mistake of challenging him on his newly established residency, from which he replied (I am not quoting here, so don’t hold me to task on this!), “yes, I am new to Arizona, but I spent the past 30 years of my life serving my country in the United States Navy and 7 of those years were spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.” How do you fight that come back?

Your wife MUST take on a civic role. It could be something as simple as president of the gardening club, or as significant as the City Manager’s Chair for improving education.

You need to be seen too. Attend open forums of debate and ask ONE respectful, soft, yet important question concerning policy. Be polite! Ramp up over time, but never take on a disrespectful platform.

Discover your platform. Make a list of what you see is right, and what you view as wrong. From that list create 3 positions of change, and know every aspect of those three planks. Then make a list of three aspects of the community that is GOOD. Know these positives like the back of your hand. Your final list is based upon what you value. Your values will drive your repeated rhetoric and keep your message focused.

I think that’s enough for one morning of advice. Remember, Dale Carnegie once said, “If you want to get something done, look for a busy person.” The task at hand is enormous, and I applaud you for your aspirations. The road ahead is dark and treacherous—good luck.

Oh, and one final point. Don’t start writing a blog that takes pot shots at the media, women or marriage—it will come back to haunt you.

Sincerely,
Gadabout Jack

The Intimate Aspects of Hair

Big Ernie "Ern" McCracken, sported the most famous Comb Over of all time
Gadabout has been cutting his own hair for the past year. I have been doing this not to save a buck, I starting cutting it myself because it isn’t very hard to do so when you don’t have much crop on top. Like so many other men in their late forties and early fifties, plenty of our once vibrant appearances take a nose dive, and loosing hair is one of them.

It all started five years ago when the “peninsula” on top started to separate itself from the “mainland” and the beginnings of an island took shape. This insidious turn of events was alarming to Gadabout, so I fought back with creative combing techniques to buy time in an attempt to keep a youthful flair. A close “friend” at the time had been biting her tongue long enough and in an explosion of trenchant wisdom she informed me that I had a “comb-over.” Ouch, that hurt! But she was right, so I shamefully allowed her to march me over to the local barbershop where she directed a “buzz cut.” It was the right thing to do, and I thought it looked pretty good afterwards. This marked the beginning of Part II in Gadabout’s life.

Well, I started getting tired of waiting in line for 15 minutes and then paying $13 bucks a pop for sitting 5 short minutes in the barber’s chair. Getting a buzz cut is similar to changing oil in a car. I can change the oil in my car in less time than it takes to drive to Jiffy Lube, and I do it for a lot less cash. Last year I bought an electric razor kit with all the attachments (made in China) for less than $30, and started cutting my own hair. Yeah, it was rocky at first, but we are talking about a buzz cut here—how hard can it be?

There is one difficulty with cutting your own hair, and that is trimming the neck line. If you try to do it in front of a mirror using a second handheld mirror, all movements are opposite. Left is right, and right is left. It is easier for someone else to handle this delicate task, and for this simple reason is why men continue to use barbers!

But this is where intimacy comes into play. You see, if you have your “special friend” finish the job of shaving the back of your neck it brings both people together in a wonderful and gentle way. Allowing someone else cut your hair or shave your neck uniquely connects both individuals; similar to caring for another when they are sick or injured. The simple gesture of bringing two aspirins and a glass of water to friend in bed is an act of kindness, and both parties feel the connectedness.

This is one topic that is ripe for the psychology journals and marriage counselors. Take stock in your relationship and hairline, and if they both need a makeover, Gadabout has pointed the way.

I wonder how "The Donald" is doing these days?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

David Bowie - Heroes (live)



What is Cool? One of Gadabout Jack's friends recently asked his take on “Cool.” Cool? That is a tough question for me, so I first looked to music for answers. I ran across this David Bowie video on YouTube, and David Bowie is cool, and so is the song Heroes. I include the lyrics for Heroes (below), since most of us never really know the lyrics to songs much less have an understanding of the story behind the song. But as usual, Gadabout is here to help:

“This song tells the story of a German couple who are so determined to be together that they meet every day under a gun turret on The Berlin Wall. Bowie, who was living in Berlin at the time, was inspired by an affair between his producer Tony Visconti and backup singer Antonia Maass, who would kiss "by the wall" in front of Bowie as he looked out of the Hansa Studio window. Bowie didn't mention Visconti's role in inspiring this song until 2005, when he was sure that knowledge of this fact would not affect Visconti's own personal situation - he was married at the time of the affair.” [www.songfacts.com]

I don’t understand how Bowie managed to bridge having an affair with being a hero, but the song is pleasant and inspiring. Songs that inspire are cool. Bowie, The Stones, Roxy Music, and all the other musical avatar’s of the 70’ and 80’s brought great comfort and peace to many, including myself. Songs, like Heroes, motivated me not only in my artistic pursuits and but also with the demands of studies while in college. In this sense, music is motivational and cool. Music is a medium of communication that offers messages—lasting messages. And when the messages are positive and promote a better world, we are given something very special indeed.

We know that most Rock Stars don’t usually abide by social norms. Their behaviors are often less than admirable; drugs, alcohol and so on, but they are creative and know how to touch the heart. Freddie Mercury of Queen died of AIDS in 1991. Mercury was a genius and we ALL loved his music, but after it was disclosed that he died of AIDS his death touched off a monumental movement of support and sympathy for those inflicted with the disease. Freddy Mercury changed the world through his music and his death. Freddie Mercury was cool.

Coolness is subjective. Coolness is watching a thunderstorm toss lightning about. Coolness is friendship. Coolness is laughing. Coolness has many faces. Coolness is, well, Cool!

Heroes

I
I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins
Like the dolphins can swim
Though nothing
Though nothing will keep us together

We can beat them
Forever and ever
Oh we can be heroes
Just for one day

I
I will be king
And you
You will be queen
Though nothing
Will drive them away
We can heroes
Just for one day
We can be us
Just for one day

I
I remember I remember
Standing
By the wall by the wall
The guns
Shot about our heads all about our heads
And we kissed
As though
Nothing could fall nothing could fall
And the shame
Was on the other side
Oh we can beat them
Forever and ever
We can be heroes
Just for one day

We can be heroes
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
Just for one day

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Cougar Wearing Librarian Glasses

Photo of future Cougar in training
Cougars on the Hunt

Sipping fresh cocktails
Competing Cougars take aim
Upon young male prey

Gadabout and friends recently spent time together dining and drinking, and during the drinking stage of the evening our discussion wandered to women (no surprise here). Our not so sotto voce musings brought to light two very significant discoveries of the female species that arouse men (and I guess in some cases, other women) that are distinctively separate, yet connected in a jagged, somewhat erotic sort of way.

The first is the thrilling use of eye glasses by women, but not just any style of eyewear. No, it is the librarian style with the black frames that drives men loony. Those simple black spectacles have a hypnotic effect on men, and Gadabout is at a loss for an explanation. They’re sexy and alluring. A plausible explanation may be that they suggest a bridge between intellect and promiscuity, but for whatever reason the effects are immediate and stimulating. In "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” Ferrell’s character falls in love with a member of his PR team played by Amy Adams (as I recall, anyway). Yep, once she took off her wire rimmed lenses we were introduced to a knockout sweetheart. If they were Librarian glasses in the first place we would have demanded that she kept them on!

The second topic was devoted to Cougars. Cougars are older women who prey solely on younger men. A Cougar’s victim is usually no older than an eldest son, and they take great pride in their youth oriented hunting and stalking abilities. You see them out and about in great numbers. They are the forty and fifty set, divorced, wealthy (or nearly so), maintain a stunning appearance, drink expensive wine and booze and travel in packs of two or three. At times, they can be spotted solo, but usually this is only after others in the pack have separated themselves for the purpose of making a kill.

Okay, put your thinking caps on and envision a Cougar wearing librarian glasses. I just got a little dizzy, please excuse me while I get a drink of water...I’m back now! That was close—I almost fainted. This discovery is so very powerful, and I expect social change in the behaviors of Cougars worldwide. This is cutting edge stuff and you heard it first from Gadabout Jack! Buy stock immediately in any company that manufactures eyeglass frames for women. This is hot, hot, Cougar hot!

Note: I have set up a poll on the right side of this page. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to vote and share your views. Remember, you can check more than one box.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Lesson in Taxation


Gadabout has taken interest in the battle brewing between Virginia’s citizens and elected state politicians over recently adjusted fees for traffic violations. Virginia ratcheted up the penalties for DUI, Reckless Driving and so forth. A DUI conviction will cost you plenty in Virginia; to the tune of over $2,000 smackers. Reckless driving is over $1,000. The rub isn’t really that the costs are excessive; it is that repeat violators from other states will not be fined at the same level as Virginians. That's the general argument, and Gadabout does not have the complete “fact sheet” at hand, so let’s all just hit the “I believe button” and move on.

Okay, the Commonwealth of Virginia needed to raise revenues (no big surprise), and since it is too politically incorrect to raise “Taxes” they decided to raise “Fees” instead. Raising fees is usually a win-win for politicians on both sides of the aisle, but not this time. Nope, the proletariat is speaking up and the old codgers in Richmond are running for cover and executing damage control plans. Kind of cute, actually.

Let me give you a short lesson in collecting funds for transportation. It all comes down to the efficiency of a tax or fee, and the distribution of the effects of a tax or fee on the rich and poor. That’s why tolls usually don’t work well. They hit the poor at an equal rate as the rich, which is actually disproportionate. Tolls are also inefficient because you have to buy and maintain all the toll equipment, hire a staff, and account for the cash. In the 1990’s, most toll road systems were only 50% efficient; meaning that only 50 cents goes to the treasury for every dollar collected. Today’s automated collection methods have most likely reduced this inefficiency, but I doubt is by a large degree. I don’t have the facts, so I am only guessing here.

The most efficient way to collect revenues is to raise the GAS TAX. Raising this tax is transparent and nearly 100% efficient, but Americans just cannot tolerate any increase in a gas tax. Why? Because we are stupid and driven by emotion, that’s why! We force our elected officials into a corner on gas taxes, and we end up with toll roads and other ridicules fees. We get what we deserve. We are idiots.

Americans consume 384 million gallons of gas per day. A one cent increase in a national gas tax would generate $3.84 million per day, which equates to over $1.4 billion dollars per year. In Virginia the numbers are startling. The per capita consumption in Virginia is 464 gallons per year. With a population of nearly 8 million, Virginia could raise over $35 million per year for every penny increase in the State’s gas tax. The actual figure would most likely be less since many exceptions are in place for state vehicles and public transportation, but we are still looking at some serious cash here. I cross checked the numbers, and they correlated using multiple sources.

Do the math, Virginia. A family of four consumes, on average 1,856 gallons of gas per year. If the state raised the gas tax by just 5 cents, that family would pay an additional $92.80 per year in taxes. A single person would pay just $23.20 more. The result would be $175 million in revenues for the state.

And lastly, remember that the higher the cost of gas, the more we conserve. Americans are being stupid and emotional over taxes and fees. Virginia, you don’t need bread because Richmond will keep you happy eating cake.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Friend and Foe


In light of the interest in yesterday’s post dealing with Citizenship, Gadabout would like to take this opportunity to discuss two examples of Friend and Foe that have made headlines recently. Both headlines relate to two adult males. One 27 and the other is 39. The 39 year old is Jerry Yang, a psychologist, of Temecula, California. The 27 year old is Michael Vick, the starting quarterback for the Atlantic Falcons who hails from Virginia.

Until yesterday, Yang was an unknown, he was born in Laos and somehow along the way made it to California, became a psychologist, and took up an interest in playing poker a couple of years ago. Yesterday he won the coveted World Series of Poker tournament and took home a whopping $8.25 million prize (as reported by Ryan Nakashima, AP). That, my friends, is cool! This guy seems to be on a winning streak. What’s this unassuming 5 foot 3 inch Yang going to do with his winnings? Well, for a start he is planning on donating 10 percent to charity. Yep, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Feed the Children and the Ronald McDonald House will be receiving sizable contributions soon. Jerry Yang is a Friend.

Vick on the other hand, is buried in a tortuous and humiliating battle with the Feds over an alleged dog fighting scandal at his Surry County, VA., home (Virginian-Pilot, David Forster and Linda McNatt). This story has been gaining strength for the past month and it looks like the hammer is coming down on Atlanta’s superstar. Dog fighting is scary stuff, to me at least, and some of the details are horrific. I quote from the V-P article of 19 July: “Some of the animals in Vick’s outfit that lost fights or lacked promise were drowned, electrocuted, hanged or shot, the indictment said, and at least one dog was slammed to the ground.”

Now, I don’t know much about Jeff Yang and for all I know he could be an evil dude at heart, but on the surface he seems like a good citizen. Vick? I don’t know much about him either, except that he is has true talent on the playing field and that he enjoys killing dogs. The truth on the dog fighting and dog killing will play out over time, but it doesn’t look good. Vick appears to be a bad citizen.

As a kid, I used to manipulate my magnifying glass to burn ants. I thought that was cool, but I soon passed that stage of evil destruction once I started noticing girls and playing baseball. I’ve never won the lottery or a poker tournament either, but if I ever do most of it, if not all of it, is going to charity. Jerry Yang taught me that lesson. The only lesson Michael Vick taught me is that killing and abusing dogs is bad. I already knew that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Citizenship


Gadabout has noticed a void in citizenship these days, and he is the first to admit that he has great failings in this area of his life. Citizenship is a value system, and with all value systems it is tested and challenged everyday of our lives. I am not going to get “deep” on this subject, so let’s take a surface approach and have some fun.

People posture for advantages over others on a daily basis. When forced to merge on a roadway when a lane is blocked due to construction or a traffic accident, many drivers will deny merging opportunities. The proper method of citizenship in these occurrences is to use the “zipper” method to account for lane closures. Have you ever intentionally blocked someone’s merge attempts? Yep, I have, and I am ashamed for it. I am no saint, and never will be one, but I try to learn from my mistakes.

How about long lines at, let’s say, the grocery store? A cashier opens up a new lane and person at the END of the line rushes up and cuts off those in front—not nice! Using the Express Lane when you are packing 25 items is a bust in the face of good citizenship also. Yes, I have done this too.

So, you need 2 parking spaces for your shiny new Lexus? Thank you very much! No, I have never done this.

Americans are, in essence, a very good lot. Often times, though, we have lapses in memory and judgment on how to live with one another and maintain harmony, good order and discipline and courtesy. Let’s try a little harder folks, and oh, I almost forgot, flipping me the “Bird” isn’t all that nice! Yes, I have flipped people off too. Gadabout has much room for improvement.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dear Gadabout Jack: Bachelor Spending


Dear Gadabout Jack,

I've had a hell of a week, it's only Monday, and the forecast looks even bleaker for the rest of the week. All your talk of saving up for college has made this bachelor think that it is high time I make an investment in my soul. Your many successful days as a bachelor have been inspirational to many and some have even referred to you as the "the Godfather." I digress...I want to spend some money for no good reason other than I can. What has been your best bachelor purchase under three grand? Lastly, what was Nova Scotia like?

God be with you,
Bachelor with Money Burning a Hole in My Pocket


Dear Bachelor Packing Burning Cash: Gadabout has confronted his inner most demons over this topic and I am enthusiastic to share my advice and offer shallow opinions. Yes, so often I have pondered how to squalor away vast sums of cash in pursuit of discovering the true self. It is not a simple task, and I regard your inquiry with great respect and admiration. You asked about Nova Scotia, so I’ll have to tell you that it was fantastic and that every young man should avail himself to a summer enjoying the pleasantries of the Canadian Eastern Provinces. Canada is very cool and the women are beautiful—lots of French influence! Canada is the foundation for this adventure. Canada is great.

I was pulled over for speeding just south of Halifax, and when the Copper noticed I was in the military he let me off the hook. All I told him was that I flew fighters for the navy and that was it. He was genuinely proud of me. Now, that is cool. It is easy to forget a face or an event, but I’ll never forget that guy—ever! That doesn't happen in Virginia.

Okay, this is what you do with $3,000. You research Nova Scotia and find out some really cool facts about the place. The television program “Trailer Park Boys” is filmed there, so you’ll need to youTube in advance. They also have had UFO sightings. Go to those places! And lastly, hire on as a hand on a fishing boat for a few days and enjoy meeting the common public! You’ll come back home with a fresh outlook on life and be a better person for it. Live, my fine young friend—LIVE!

The Budget (9 days):

Flowers for Mum: $50.00
Dinner with girlfriend before departing: $110.00
Airline fare: $400.00
Rental car: $400.00
Lodging: $1,000.00 (you’ll sleep on the beach a few nights)
Food: $400.00
Stupid gifts: $100.00
Booze: $300.00
A cool gift to yourself: $100.00
“The Tab’s on me:” $100.00
Stuff you forgot to pack: $100.00
Misc.: $100.00

Total $3,160

And remember, you must take this trip with a trusted buddy. Never forget the “Buddy System.” And if you go with a buddy, he’ll pick up part of the expenses, so you should be able to accomplish your mission for under $3,000.

My best buy for $3,000? Memories! You’ll be buying memories with this trip to Nova Scotia. Execute Plan Alpha.

Monday, July 16, 2007

False Alarm on Rising College Costs

MSU's Campus
College Life

Sky-high rising costs
Tuition, housing and books!
Football and beer bongs.

Gadabout is throwing up the Red Flag concerning the rapidly ringing alarm bells over the costs of higher education. On the surface it seems to the average American that 9% increases in tuition fees are unjust, appalling and out of control. Nonsense, college is still a bargain. A 9% increase in Tuition does not equate to a 9% increase in total college costs, because related costs of housing, food, books and other fees are not increasing by the same amount. The reason that tuition costs exceed inflation rates is because Americans keep saying NO to increases in state taxes, resulting in flat contributions by the states to their university systems.

I ran the numbers for Michigan State University (MSU)—Gadabout’s Alma Mater. MSU recently announced an increase in tuition rates by 9.4% for the 2007/08 academic year. Yep, Michigan is in the dumps and the State has actually REDUCED contributions to MSU. The facts (note: I had to manually adjust tuition costs since their website still posts 2006/07 rates):

Average in-state tuition for undergraduates per credit hour: $282.00
Cost of 15 credit hours (a semester): $4230.00
Housing with meal plan: $3,022.00
Registration and Matriculation fee (per semester): $564.00
Books (a guess here): $500.00
Mad Money: $1,000
Car: Screw ‘um, they don’t need one
One time prep fees for computers, travel and registration: $2,000

Total per semester: $9,316
Total per year: $18,632
Total 4 year cost: $76,528

Is this out of reach for many Americans? No, not if you plan properly, and insist contributions and some sincere effort by little Johnny and Debbie. Here’s how:

Open a college savings plan and contribute $50 per month. If a family were to have started investing in a tax free plan 18 years ago, they would have about $17,460 available NOW for college.

Children can save too. By working for 11 weeks after graduating from High School, at $9 per hour and 40 hours per week, then they should be able to save $1980.

Undergrads can work 10 hours per week while attending college. At $9 per hour that amounts to $2,300 after taxes.

Student loans are a maze, but they are available for students and whether they are tax deferred or not, just about every student can take-on a minimum of $3,500 per year and that amount generally ramps up by a $1,000 per year.

Let’s add up the numbers:
Savings plan: $17,460 (based on 5% rate of return)
Student Contributions: $17,120
Student Loans: $18,000
Total: $52,580

That leaves a deficit of $23,948 that mom and dad will need to cough up, and they only set aside $50 bucks a month in the first place! This equates to only $5,987 per year, and I never touched upon scholarships, increased savings rates, Military Academies, community colleges, Grandmother, contracts with universities to “lock-in" lower rates and so forth. And the $50 per month savings plan was based on money market returns. If that money was invested in the S&P, you would have taken a huge chunk out of the deficit! A 10% rate of return would have compounded to $30,028 over 18 years!

It’s all about the facts, and the facts of life! Stop whining, America, and start planning!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dear Gadabout Jack: The Name Game


Dear Gadabout Jack,

I'm trying to make sense of the 21st century "Parent" and their rationale on the names they are bestowing onto their children. My wife and I are pregnant with our second child (a girl) and we're discussing names for the baby. It would appear popular names for boys such as Michael, David, or Christopher has now been replaced with Cameron, Parker, Carter, Cody and Chase. Friends of ours named their first born boy Forrest. Forrest? Another friend named her oldest son, River. River?

I think parents need to feel "Trendy" and in turn give names for their children that are "unique" and different from the status quo. Now, it is none of my business why parents name their children what they do, perhaps it’s a family name or a distant relative name or there might not be any reason at all!

Maybe I'm just off base and confused, and need to get with the 21st. century, but the good old fashion names like Mark, Jim and Scott bode well with me over the Logans, Cassidys, and Fullers.

Signed,
Confused Dad and name Hunter


Dear Name Hunter: Gadabout has a position on this matter and been waiting patiently for someone to bring this topic up for a long time now. You are correct, names have been going through change over our lifetime and on the surface this trend may seem troublesome and confusing. Names like Hunter, Scout, and River have taken off in popularity and are “shaking up” traditional standards.

Name selection, and the changes noted over time must be taken in the context that measuring time is difficult since humans live for relatively short periods of time. Changes in children’s popular names can be compared to changes in global temperature shifts. Global Warming, with all its charm, occurs very slowly over thousands and millions of years. The big question is whether the temperature shift is moving towards or away from a mean or norm. Riddle me that, Batman, and you’ll solve one of our greatest mysteries!

For anyone to expect or demand that Mother Earth remain constant is foolhardy. It is simply scientifically improbable. Change is the inevitability of existence. And existence is a process structure. A River, for example, remains a river from one instance to another, but from one glance to the next it has changed. The water in front one’s eyes has been replaced by upward flows, the sands and sediments have tumbled and the aquatic life forms multiply, flourish and die. In this sense, all patterns in life resemble process structures, and name selection is no different.

Children will most likely always be given names but those names will always change. [As a side note, Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” offers a chilling outlook for possible future outcomes and is a must read for those engaging in thoughtful reflection on societal dynamics.] Let’s face it, once popular names like Ethel and Jeremiah have gone by the wayside. Can you imagine naming your daughter Ethel? It would enslave her to a life of humiliation and disgrace. Times change, my soon-to-be dad. And don’t think that female name selections are stable either.

Have you ever heard about a hot looking chick living in California who goes by the name, Paris? Remember the movie To Kill a Mockingbird? In that film Gregory Peck played the roll of “Atticus Finch” and his daughter’s name was “Scout.” Atticus and Scout! The film claimed three Oscars. My advice is to look to the movies for answers. Movies are fun. Movies bind us together as a nation and makes America GREAT!

Good Luck…GJ

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Blue States Wasting all the Oil



Gadabout’s tenacious research has uncovered a hidden truth of oil consumption patterns in the USA—the Northeastern Blue States are using most of the home heating oils! There are about 107 million households in the US and 8 million of them use heating oil as a source of energy to heat their homes. 78% of these 8 million house holds are in the Northeast (all Blue States). In 2001, 5.4 billion gallons of heating oil was consumed (I am using some 2001 data since the posted distribution chart is from 2001) which is equivalent to 289,810 thousand barrels of oil in that year.

675 thousand barrels of heating oil was consumed a day in 2006. 2006 had a warmer than usual winter season, resulting in a sharp decrease in heating oil demand by roughly 25%. In 2005 the daily demand was 914 thousand barrels per day. Heating oil accounts for approximately 4.4% of all US oil consumption.

Using precious oil for heating homes has to stop immediately. If we were to reduce heating oil consumption by 50% over the next ten years, coupled with a continued increase of more efficient automobiles, the USA could easily decrease total consumption rates. This could flip the oil industry upside down.

Let me make this point absolutely clear: we should not consume heating oils in homes when other energy sources are available that cannot be used in internal combustion and jet engines. Cars cannot run on natural gas, but houses can. Cars cannot run on solely on electricity, but houses can. Cars cannot run on coal, but houses can. Airplanes cannot operate on natural gas, electricity or coal either. We need to be smarter on what we use OIL for, and heating homes with it is a waste.

The sooner we eliminate heating oils, the sooner we’ll achieve oil independence. Whether you believe it or not, we are ostensively fighting a war on terrorism, but the bigger picture is about oil. Keeping uninterrupted supplies flowing from the richly endowed Middle East is of absolute necessity for the security of the United States. And using this most precious resource for heating homes is absurd, ridicules and counter intuitive.

The pejorative use of heating oils in the United States continues to cripple our attempts at independence. It is arguable that our national attempts at conservation have been lackluster at best, but a Greening of America is underway and old habits are under fire from multiple fronts. The Northeastern Blue States need to wake up and take a critical look in the mirror and acknowledge that their consumption patterns are injurious to the entire nation.

We may not be as lucky this upcoming winter as we were last year regarding warmer weather and an attenuated demand for heating oils. If we get hit hard by dipping mercury levels, look for misery in the oil markets. It is time for Blue State Democrats to take immediate action and reduce their oil dependency.

Friday, July 13, 2007

How to Influence a Child’s Gender

Creation
Gadabout has been asked for advice on influencing a child’s gender, so to ensure that the Gadabout reading community remains content and happy I’ll address this rather delicate issue. As usual, I spent a hefty 5 minutes on the internet researching and discovering truths. I was shocked at the results of my investigation.

I was under the assumption that if you wanted to influence the gender of a child, the male had to choose wisely as to what type of underwear to wear. The lore surrounding this issue suggests that you need to wear boxers if you are “gaming” for a boy, or switch to whitey-tighties if you are “shooting” for a girl. I am guessing that going “commando” would be similar to boxers, but keep in mind that’s only a hunch.

The internet site, iVillage (http://parenting.ivillage.com/ttc/ttcsigns/0,,toniw_46n8,00.html), offers an opposing theory based upon science. Since Gadabout has a Master’s Degree in Science, he is uniquely qualified to interpret this information and report findings. In summary, a women needs to maintain a close watch on her cervical fluid by keeping records and using charts. The male is not going to do this, so it is up to the female for these record keeping duties. A couple needs to be aware of the peak of the ovulation cycle if they are choosing blue paint for the nursery. It seems that male oriented sperm cells are tiny and fragile, yet very quick; and that female sperm cells are hardier, but slower. So, if a male child is desired, you don’t want competition from the female side of the house:

“Those that adhere to this theory claim that you can improve your chances of conceiving a boy, for example, by timing intercourse one single time as close to ovulation as possible, then not again during the same cycle. The reasoning behind this being that the male sperm would race to their reward much faster than the female sperm. In addition, this will assure that the male sperm have as much access to the cervix as possible. Penetration should be deep at the moment of ejaculation in order to give the males a headstart, while the larger female sperm move slower.”

I am inferring from the above that if you desire a little girl, then the couple should copulate as often as possible, which might be tough if you have been married for a few years and don’t like each other very much any longer. This may be why families start off with girls, then follow with boys later in a marriage. That’s my theory, anyway.

But Gadabout has a question regarding all of this—Why try and influence the “gender” in the first place? Children are gifts from God, and all life is sacred, regardless of gender, race, intelligence, eye color or appearance. Children and families are blessings. My advice is that you leave the matter to the Master of Mystery, and focus on happiness, and a loving and caring home for your family.

Last thought—the underwear theory sounds like more fun since there isn’t any math involved.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Day Late, and a Dollar Short

An Idea Man
Gadabout is disappointed that he is often “late to the dance” with innovations. It happens to all of us. One day you are irritated trying to remove the plastic tab off the top of a to-go coffee cup, and a year later someone invents a better top that provides for easy sipping. You say, “hey, I knew that was a problem, I should have invented that!” Millions of lost revenue! Frustrating.

The latest craze in the soft drink industry is zero-calorie flavored bottled water. For years, I have turned my back to sweet drinks. Since I was a kid I have added lemon juice from those plastic lemon containers into my drinking water. I have even added a packet or two of the “yellow” or “pink” sugar free sweeteners to balance the bitterness. It's better than plain water, no calories, and is refreshing. I missed the boat again, and the answer was right under my nose!

Here is a list of other innovations that I should have profited from:

Tamper Proof Seals
Over the Ear Headphones
Automobile Gas Cap Tethers
Television Financial Networks (still waiting for a War Channel)
Toasters that bagels fit in without getting stuck
Dripless candles
Improved paper plates
Integrated shoulder and seat belts in cars
Caster wheels for refrigerators

This is just a short list off the top of my head. Al Gore invented the internet, and I am sitting here saying, “It could have been.” I have to start writing these ideas down! Michael Keaton, in the 1982 classic Night Shift, was an idea man. “Feed mayonnaise to the tuna!” I wonder how that idea is going?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

All Star Game Belongs to Dmitri Young



Gadabout is not going to take any cheap shots at the NL after a nail biting bottom of the ninth victory for the AL. It was a great game and will most likely go down in the annals of baseball history as one of the most exciting, professional and colorful All Star Games ever played. It was a class act from beginning to end. If you had to turn off the game because it was just too late in the evening for those of you on the east coast who had to get some quality rack time before hitting the office, then you missed out. The starting times for these games are always late for EDT households, but I guess the marketing department has it all figured out—we won’t win this fight.

What made this game sensational for me was that the players really seemed to enjoy themselves. The players played as a team, and the teams were both led by baseballs finest; Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa. Even Barry Bonds appeared happy!

The fans were treated to homeruns, an in the park homerun (the first in All Star History) by Ichiro Suzuki, 5 broken bats, stolen bases, A Rod and Jeter smiling together, an aging albeit tough umpire, and a bases loaded ninth inning finish. But there was another charmed whisper of goodness that occurred last night that was detected by Gadabout that was important, and that was the play making by Dmitri Young of the Nationals.

Dmitri Young was released last year by the Tigers because of a continued track record of personal problems. Problems ranging from divorce, drug and alcohol abuse to domestic violence, and most recently his battle with diabetes. Dmitri’s play is exciting. Upon first glance you have a tendency to dismiss him as a threat. He is frumpy looking, his shirt never stays tucked in, he sweats a lot and his grooming standards mirror 1970’s Detroit popularity. But when he walks to the plate and takes a swing, you think twice of those preconceived notions of a no-talent fat boy.

Young sat out the end of the 2006 season and watched from the sidelines, unemployed, as his Tigers made it to the World Series. That must have cut deep. But 2007 offered him hope as the Nationals picked him up for a mere $500,000. A bargain for the National’s, but the investment came with risk.

For Dmitri, his entire career came down to his plate appearance at the bottom of the ninth with 2 outs. The game was considered over—lost for the NL at that point. But Dmitri made it on base (an error, but he kept it alive) and subsequently scored, helping the NL make a run of it and load the bases with a one run deficit and two outs. The NL lost, but for Dmitri, well Dmitri experienced redemption last night. I saw a smile on his face that I hadn’t seen in years, and I am guessing those smiles turned to tears once the cameras were taken away and he settled into the solitude of his hotel room. I hoped he cried, because Dmitri made a difference last night. Last night belongs to second chances and forgiveness. Last night belongs to Dmitri Young.

The record books won't reflect this, but that's okay. You know it, I know it, and Dmitri knows it. Baseball is special this way.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NY Times Discovery


Gadabout had to search for a copy of the local paper this morning since Starbucks hadn’t had their stock delivered by 6:45 AM. I found this curious since the New York Times made it all the way down from the Big Apple in time for my morning reading pleasure, but the Virginian Pilot was tardy. Another demerit point for the local rag! No matter, the paper seems to always be late—sort of like how Napoleon Dynamite might always be late to gym class. “I’m sorry, gosh, stop making fun of me!”

Being stuck with the Times wasn’t so bad, though. I discovered relevant news stories in the Times, and the reporters on the staff seem to possess advanced talents for journalism. There aren’t any cartoons drawn on the front page of the Times either. That was a tough transition for me because you have to actually read words to read the Times, not just look at the pictures. Pictures are good, but I am learning that letters formed into words are important too. Gadabout is leaning into mighty winds and making progress.

Since Starbucks didn’t have any copies of the local paper in stock, I made a quick drive to the 7-11 down the street. They had copies, so I picked one up and waited in line behind the masses. Two clerks were manning the cash registers, but it still took about five minutes of waiting before I was rung up. It was the usual 7-11 wait. A money order request clogged up one register, and the guy buying two 16 ounce Buds and a donut took extra time because he forgot his cigarette request.

Making a decision to patronize a 7-11 is a little like going to a Tarantino movie, you know the slow motion scene is coming, you just don’t know when it's going to happen. Pedro was working the counter and he had his act together, which was a good thing—I’d vote for Pedro.

Monday, July 9, 2007

American League Might


Tomorrow we celebrate our mid-season baseball classic, the All Star Game. Hockey and Basketball are behind us now, and we are focusing our collective attention on Baseball (thank God!). This a great time of the year! It is hot, we are vacationing, and baseball dominates television programming. The game starts at 8:25 PM EDT. Late in the evening, yes, but worth it.

Now, Gadabout plays favorites when it comes to baseball. He is a big fan of the American League, and even a bigger fan of the Detroit Tigers. Gadabout grew up watching Tiger greats like Al Kaline (Hall of Fame), Mickey Lolich (3 game winning pitcher in the 68 World Series), Denny McLain (31 game winning pitcher in 1968, and convicted felon). The entire ’68 team was unstoppable. The Tigers have had up and down years since then, like most teams, but throughout it all I have remained a loyal and steadfast fan despite many dark years. Hey, they took the American League Pennant last year! And the won the 84 World Series! Respectable!

Now, if you are a Tiger fan like me, then you are going to be an American League fan. It's just that simple. Besides Detroit, the American League boasts the Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees, Indians, Orioles, A’s, Blue Jays, Twins, Mariners, Royals, Angels Devil Rays and Rangers. About the only thing that could make the American League perfect, would be if the Cubs jumped ship and joined its ranks. Everybody loves the Cubs. You are not human if you don’t like the Cubbies! The League lost the Brewers during a reorganization a few years back. That was a loss—a team has to be fun with a name like the “Brewers.” Oh well.

Since incorporation of inter-league play, the American league has cleaned up. This year’s scorecard shows a 134-115 lopsided advantage for the AL. It was the same story last year too. “Spank!” Two of the three cellar teams in the AL; Texas and Kansas City, recorded winning records during inter-league play. Nine of the fourteen AL teams have winning inter-league play records this year, three have loosing records and the remaining two teams were .500.

The National League is winless in the past 10 match-ups. There was a 7-7 tie in 2002, but no W’s for the NL since 1996. This year’s match up will be hosted by San Francisco. Grab a six pack of beer, fire up the grill and sit back, relax and enjoy our most American and cherished Classic. “We live for this!” Go AL!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Lost In Translation - Bob Harris sings More Than This

Gadabout trys not to abuse youTube for material, but Slag asked, so I feel I must post. Hold back the tears!

Surf Fishing Mystery Uncovered



Surf Fishing

Casting lines from shore
Thrust into winds, surf and wave
Total consciousness

Gadabout has uncovered a rather curious and seemingly unproductive American pastime. Since Gadabout lives off the tranquil shores of the peaceful and mysterious Chesapeake Bay, he is afforded many opportunities to observe aquatic life forms, sun seekers, joggers, dog walkers, sunsets, thunderstorms and fishermen. Of all there is to do and see along the two miles of shoreline, the most baffling are the surf fishermen. Surf Fishers (SFs) line the banks near a bridge (Lesner Bridge) along the western mouth of the Lynnhaven basin (the heart of Virginia Beach), where they cast lines and wait patiently for a nibble. After 6 years of living here and taking daily walks and jogs along this stretch of beach I have never seen a single fish pulled in from the shore. I have witnessed a few successes from those who wade out 40 feet or so and cast closer to the channel, but never have I actually seen anyone pull in a catch from the shoreline.

SFs are a serious crowd, despite their humble failures. They are usually outfitted with elaborate and expensive gear and tackle. They use white PVC piping that is drilled into the ground to secure their poles. Some of the more advanced SFs own specially designed equipment transportation carts that incorporate special tires to ease soft sand movement. These carts are capable of carrying everything required for a day of fishing; beer, bait, radio, fishing poles, meditation chairs and towels. Very impressive!

Impressive? Yes. Productive? No. They may not be a productive lot, but they certainly seem to enjoy and embrace their pastime. Perhaps it is an advanced form of meditation not shared with the rest of us. Maybe they are achieving a state of consciousness unimaginable to the Dalai Lamas. We're talking serious Zen here! Gadabout is seeking to understand this unusual sliver of the population. Their existence has been uncovered, but a complete understanding of their motives and purposes remains a mystery. This story has only just begun.

I have included photos that were secretly taken on the morning of 7 July, 2007. They are not close-ups, since Gadabout feared being detected, but they do provide proof of their existence and support my claims that they never actually catch fish.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Roxy Music - More Than This



Gadabout has always thought More Than This to be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I had the rare opportunity to see Bryan Ferry live and listen to him sing this classic at the Olympic Theater of Seattle in 2000. I sat in the front row and never blinked an eye the entire evening. It was a riveting experience. God bless you, Bryan, for sharing your talents with the world.

Music binds us together as a society. Music is beautiful and radiant. I am guessing there is plenty of music in heaven, where as hell most likely plays music backwards. Maybe in hell you have to listen to the Beatles White Album over and over again. Not in heaven though, you only have to listen to the Beatles if you really want to. Yep, music is good, it provides us a soothing medium with which we can share our passions and beliefs with others. Music brings peace.

More Than This

I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where they're blowing
As free as the wind
And hopefully learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning
CHORUS
More than this-there is nothing
More than this-tell me one thing
More than this-there is nothing
It was fun for a while
There was no way of knowing
Like a dream in the night
Who can say where we're going
No care in the world
Maybe I'm learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning


Note from Gadabout: Youtube has over 100 metric foot tons of Roxy Music videos!

Dear Gadabout


Gadabout likes reading “Dear Abby” and other advice giver columnists, but not really for the advice. I like to understand how really f$%&ed up the American populace is, which provides comfort to Gadabout knowing that he is actually well balanced compared to his fellow citizens. The advice is usually dry, soft and conservative. “You should contact a mental health care provider as soon as possible.” Nice work ladies. I could suggest calling social services or “taking a cool approach to the situation,” but that’s not what Gadabout is all about. I possess the keen ability to detect truths distorted by false claims and self pity. This “awareness” is often a burden, and I carry it humbly and with great respect.

Okay, this morning I read about a bride-to-be seeking advice on how to address her alcoholic mother’s potential belligerent behavior at the upcoming wedding reception. “Should I invite her?” “Should I demand that she refrain from drinking?” The advice giver offered the usual diatribe outlining, in less than 125 words, that the situation should be addressed immediately, and so on and so forth.

Here is Gadabout’s advice to “Bride in the Midwest:”

Dear Bride: You’ll never keep your mother from boozing it up, so stop trying and get on with your life. No, you won’t be able to keep Mom from attending the ceremony and she’ll show up at the reception whether you like it or not. Any attempt to keep Mommy from attending will worsen the situation and possibly lead to out of control behaviors, violence and binge drinking. Simply put, you’ll just piss everyone off. Look, everyone knows your mother is a drunk and makes a fool out herself at public gatherings. By now the future in-laws are certainly aware of this since you are making your family secrets and issues public by writing to a nationally syndicated columnist. Chances are that she was a normal woman, full of dreams and aspirations until she got married and was forced to raise a family of screaming and over demanding children. Lastly, alcoholism is a disease, your mother is sick, show some compassion. Focus on the details of the wedding, let your mother booze it up and smile when you deposit all the wedding checks into your savings account. Count your blessings!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Time and Friendships

Gadabout was offered, and accepted, a very generous invitation to have dinner with old friends last night. It had been too long since we had last broken bread together, and chance events of fate brought me into their home for beers, steaks and blessings. When you are invited into a family’s home and spend a few short moments as part of that family, you are touched by the finger tips of goodness and grace. Exceptional families are exceptional to be with, and make you feel like you are genuinely a member of the clan. Gadabout felt as if he was part of the clan last night, as he once had years ago.

The last time I recall spending time with the Gordon’s was probably 15 years ago. The kids were runts back then, running around the house as children do. But that was 15 years ago and now those kids are adults—successful adults. Rip is a full fledged pilot and towers over me. Kate is into the arts and lives in San Francisco. Rob will be finishing college soon. They all grew up, while Gadabout grew apart. Life is funny that way. One day people are an important part of your life, and the next you become aware of lost years that have drifted by, spoiled by neglect.

Hey, Gordon Clan thanks for the dinner, wine, conversation and the many blessings bestowed upon me in my quiet and gentle quest of understanding the true meaning of life and the everlasting importance friendships. I hope others learn from this experience. Can I come over next week for dinner?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rocketing Markets and Retirement Plans

5 Year Dow Chart
1 Year Dow Chart
Gadabout has been sitting on edge, watching as all major USA stock indices have soared over the past 5 years. The DOW is up over 20% the past year alone, and up nearly 90% from 5 years ago. This rather rapid growth is not slowing and has a different feel from the late 90’s dot com boom. The 90’s were frenzy years, highlighted by throwing money at the markets based upon emotion where fortunes were made and lost over just a few years. Today, despite war and contentious relationships in DC, the markets are silently jogging up smooth pathways. No hype, just pure money making, and it is not a newsworthy event.

Gadabout believes that part of the resilience is attributed to government employees and their supplemental retirement plans. These plans are called Thrift Savings Plans (TSP), and most employees maximize their allowed deposits of around $15,000 annually. TSPs offer only a handful of options ranging from government securities to index funds. There are over 22 million government employees (the statistics are more difficult to break down than I thought, so errors are expected in the numbers I am throwing about, but they are close) and if only half are maxing out their accounts $165 billion dollars is being invested in US stocks and bonds annually.

The uniqueness of these deposits is that they are stable. Stable in the sense that they are not likely to be liquidated since penalties would be applied if withdraws are made. They are essentially 401Ks for governmental employees. These accounts are also invisible to their owners. Once set up, deposits are automatic and continue to pump cash into the markets regardless of market performance. The word “predictability” comes to mind.

We started off with the IRA experiment in the 70’s, 401Ks and there similar instruments in the 80’s, and rocketing TSP participation in the 90’s and the new millennium. The middle class is joining forces with the upper classes through active participation in these programs, and future outcomes may prove dramatic. Consider that as retirements increase over the upcoming decades, retirees will likely have IRA, 401K, legacy retirement plans and social security to pay the bills. Even low level government employees making less than $45,000 per year, will be retiring with 3 retirement plans—excluding social security. I think that is real progress and this may be the most remarkable story not being told—except by Gadabout Jack that is.

I am keeping my humble assets invested in the markets, and if I take a fall, no matter because it feels so good at the moment! Why say no, when it feels so good to say yes?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Flag Goes By


After enjoying my morning Venti Half Caf and reading the local newspaper this morning, Gadabout unfurled his fifty-something year old Old Glory and displayed it with great care and humility above his garage. He did so sharply at 0800 hours, and snapped a picture for posterity (shown above). At nine o’clock, I reconnoitered the neighborhood and found that my flag is flying solo. Maybe everyone forgot today is the 4th of July. The editors at the newspaper may have forgotten too since the main stories on the front page were about dangerous dogs (I found this interesting), the costs of decommissioning nuclear submarines, navy day care and boat taxes. The front page of the Local section featured navy day care, a winery that suffered wind damage, Beach nightclubs seeking an injunction against regulators and a piece about the how Portsmouth’s school superintendent looks like President Bush. To the paper’s credit, they did note (in very small type) locations of fireworks at ONE location for each city in the Tidewater area.

Well, I guess the 4th of July isn’t really newsworthy. It comes around every year on the same day—it is predictable like that. Just as predictable as Christmas, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and Saint Patrick’s Day. Other holidays float about to ensure they fall on either a Monday or Friday, so as to schedule three day weekends. But the 4th does not fall over a weekend this year, and slipping in on a Wednesday makes the prospect of a four day weekend an impossibility. This is an inconvenience for Americans since it is difficult prepare properly for annual celebrations when you have to show up at the office on Tuesday. Add the fact that Thursday is a workday too, and you have all the ingredients for a boring, lackluster affair with little to do. If you can’t drink a case of Bud at a backyard barbeque or get slammed at a nightclub, what’s the point? Right?

Okay, enough of the sarcasm. Below is Gadabout’s favorite 4th of July Poem, written by Henry Holcomb Bennett. Share it with the family, and have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

The Flag Goes By


Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines,
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off!
The colors before us fly;
But more than a flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land’s swift increase;
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverend awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong
To ward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honor,--all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

F-14 Tomcats Go To Heaven

Yesterday
Today
Like many former Tomcat flyers, Gadabout was horrified, but not surprised, that the mothballed fleet is being destroyed. Those wonderful Tomcats are being chewed up at a hefty cost of $37 million, so as to keep spare parts out of the hands of the evil Iranian Air Force. Since Iran still keeps a few older model Tomcats flying, the demand for spare parts has increased over time and what better source of hard to find parts is there other than the DOD? When there is a buck to be made, there will always be a few enterprising traitors who will sacrifice national security to keep food on the table.

When aircraft are built for military purposes, more than just airplanes are delivered. Lots of other stuff comes along with the deal. Sort of like getting married, you don’t just get the bride; you end up with the in-laws, 100 pairs of shoes, friends from college and so forth. Fighter jets come with spare parts, engines, support systems, special tools, logistic programs and training systems. Lastly, funds are set aside during the acquisition cycle to cover destruction and disposal costs. That’s why the unit cost of military systems seems incredibly high to the casual observer. Bet you didn’t know that!

In this case, it appears that too many spare parts were not properly managed or destroyed and they ended up on the black market. Very embarrassing for Uncle Sam. So, like so often in governmental decision making, the solution was to throw cash at the problem and destroy all traces of the once mighty Tomcat; even for those resting peacefully in hallowed Valhalla (also know as Davis-Monthan Air Force Base). It is not likely that any spare parts were actually vulnerable at Davis-Monthan, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the DOD won’t tolerate further embarrassment, so everything must be destroyed—now and forever.

Gadabout is guessing that a few individuals in high ranking positions got slapped around for this breach of security. Read that to mean they were fired, reassigned asked to leave. Hit the road!

Now, don’t believe that the true cost of disposal is actually $37 million; it is most likely many times that amount. There must have been an extensive investigation when problems initially surfaced. Once identified, money was probably tossed around in failed attempts to fix the problem. Then the studies were commissioned. Consulting firms competed for contracts and published various reports outlining various options for consideration. Thousands of hours were then expended in meetings and briefings at numerous locations. Yep, this $37 million is the final cost, and most likely they’ll need more cash to finish the job. Remember, there are hazardous materials in those fighter planes, and disposing of those materials will be expensive.

Good bye, my fine Tomcat friend. At least you went out with a bang, and grabbed the national limelight one final time before your very sad demise. Rest peacefully knowing that you will be missed by many.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Gadabout's History Lesson


Alert!

The sky is falling
Upon blind, sheltered Lemmings
Talking on iPhones

Gadabout believes that the health of the economy is much healthier than most of us are led to believe. Yes, some people are scrapping by and facing challenging hardships, but for the vast majority all is coming up roses. During the presidential election of 1980 (the first presidential election Gadabout voted in), candidate Reagan proposed the question, “Do you feel better off today than you did 4 years ago?” Those were powerful words that led to a landslide election victory. For the benefit of younger readers, the country was a mess in 1980. Home interest rates were above 15% (that’s right, 15%), unemployment was nearly 10% and personal income was flat. We were in the dumps! Gadabout joined the military after graduating from the number 1 Mechanical Engineering College in the state because there weren’t any jobs!

If you have been keeping an open ear to the endless campaign rhetoric, then you have noticed that the dialog never touches upon a skyrocketing stock market, low unemployment, a firm housing market (excluding a rather small correction the past year), and an upbeat national personality. We are led to believe that the rich are too rich (yes, I believe we should examine taxing the super rich), we are loosing a war and the health care system is out of whack. Yep, we need to work on all of these areas and make further progress, but Gadabout feels better today than he did 4 years ago. Except for being 4 years older and feeling the years in my hips and knees, I certainly don’t feel worse.

Look, Apple’s iPhone sold 500,000 units during its debut weekend. $500 for a phone! How bad can things be in the country when we are all running around celebrating paying $500 for a phone when Verizon will give you one for FREE if you sign up for a 2 year service plan? Americans like feeling bad and depressed regardless of their personal successes and fortunes. The Talking Heads tell us the sky is falling, so we all seek shelter and hitch a ride on the “bitch and moan” bandwagon. In the 70’s and 80’s very few could have afforded a $500 dollar phone, let alone buy a new car or home. Come on, folks; the cold war is history, we are working and creating, and paying our bills on time!

Last point—do you spend more money on your pet’s health care than your own? Yeah, I thought so.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tattoo Mania



Gadabout has been observing tattoos, and has noticed an accelerated upward trend occurring across all segments of society. Tattoos are no longer symbols of adventure and daring exploits adorned upon the biceps and forearms of returning sailors and soldiers from exotic far reaches of the globe. Nor are they sole symbols of power worn by biker guys threatening innocent family vacationers. Nope, not at all, it is a craze sweeping the nation, and you might be surprised by who is voting yes for durable body art.

Gadabout’s mum always warned, “If you get a tattoo, honey, you’ll never be able to have it removed.” To which I would reply, “Yes, mother, I know, I understand completely." Today, many mothers are getting tattooed. Not trailer park mothers, mothers that drive SUVs, check books out from the library and bake pies. An extraordinary shift in beliefs has skyrocketed over night, right in front of our noses. This trend has longer legs than the cigar craze of the 90’s, minivans of the 80’s and flavored bottled water combined!

Yes, I know what you are thinking and the answer is NO. Gadabout does not have a tattoo, and not because of any deep rooted belief or value system, but because I don’t know what I would want tattooed on my body. It just doesn’t appeal to me. Sure, I have considered it, but the question always gnawed as to what would be cool or desirable. It is like opening a menu at a Mexican restaurant and not really being hungry—too many choices and not enough appetite. But after drinking a few beers and frosty margaritas, hunger starts knocking.

Alcohol and tattoos go together nicely, almost as good as alcohol and tobacco, or alcohol and driving. A few years ago, one of my buddies had our squadron insignia tattooed on his butt cheek after a hard charging night of drinking in Key West. I don’t think his wife favorably embraced the artwork upon his return home. Oh well, it was a hell of a night and am certain it has made for a few laughs with the ladies after the divorce. My brother has a tattoo. He had the Greek letters of his fraternity tattooed on the inside of his ankle. Cool.

Other tattoos are cool too. Another buddy of mine has a twin brother, and the two of them had the “twin” symbol tattooed on identical locations upon their chests. I thought that was cool. Some choose symbols of accomplishment like if they complete the “Iron Man” triathlon, defeat cancer or overcome overwhelming odds and succeed. All of this is understandable to Gadabout, but what is confusing is the extreme nature selected by many. You have all seen what I have seen—entire legs and arms covered with mythological creatures, thorns and swords or an entire chest covered by multiple symbols, shapes and messages.

Gadabout is confused. Gadabout is seeking answers. Gadabout is not getting a tattoo anytime soon. Gadabout will report back on this very important topic.