The Economy: Just how bad is bad?

31 01 2009

An interesting article on quantifying just how bad the economy is. Is it as bad as the Great Depression? Is the Great Depression the only thing that is worse than our economy today? Just how can you tell?

Read this article and find out how aggregate data from is helping to provide information on the impact the recession/depression is having on the average Joe.


The Top 17 Molecules in History

3 01 2009

Earth shattering. World changing. These molecules rewrote history. Well, they made history, not exactly “rewrote it”, which sounds like some Communist or Orwellian Department for the Public Good. Soap, Salt, Silicon – they’re all here.

A couple of critical molecules – Oxygen and Water – were not included because, I suspect, they occur abundantly in nature without requiring synthesis, extraction or some other form of modification in order to be available in massive quantities like the others do.

Intelligence, poverty and sperm

6 12 2008

An unusual line of of subject words, but that’s the interesting thing from these two studies: one from Berkeley on the differences in brain function between poor and rich kids, and the other from King’s College, London, on the correlation of sperm, health and intelligence.

What to make of it? I’m not sure, though superficially one would be tempted to conclude that nerds and geeks are far studlier than gansta’s. However, I’m not in the appropriate field to be able to draw that conclusion. Maybe someone who is qualified can shed light on whether or not that is a valid correlation.

7 Tips from the Great Depression

23 11 2008

Back in the day our parents or grandparents – maybe great-grandparents – lived through a financial crisis called the Great Depression. Unemployment ran as high as 32% – making our current levels a veritable picnic by comparison, except for those unemployed – and the national net income fell by over 50%.

So, those who lived through the Great Depression took steps to stretch the dollar or two that they had. Here are a few of their tips that you can begin putting into use today: tips from the Great Depression.

Hypermiling – 60 accessories to help

15 11 2008

Yeah, gas prices are sub-$2/gallon now, but why give up hypermiling now? Cutting fuel mileage may not offer the same payoffs that they used to, but if prices head back to the stratosphere those who didn’t pay attention to the warning will be whining. (I’m not sure how, but there are some goldfish out there masquerading as humans: as the price of gas dropped below $2.50/gal the sales of big vehicles picked up! Incredible!)

So, what can we do? How about checking out this article on 60+ mods that will help! The mods are rated for mechanical ability required, gas savings, and initial cost. Which are right for you is up to you.

We’ve seen the writing on the wall, so go help yourself while we have the reprieve.

Book Review: The Richest Man in Babylon

18 10 2008

I read this – The Richest Man in Babylon, by George S. Clason – over the last couple of days, and I find the book both useful and a very easy read.

The theme of the book is on getting money – wealth, specifically, because money is what we use to pay for housing, food, clothing, etc., while wealth is the money we accumulate – and making it work for us. Related topics include budgeting, getting out of debt and home ownership, and in a very minor way insurances are addressed.

This information is shared by way of stories, parable-like, of people living in and around Babylon at the time it began flourishing. King Sargon, desirous of having a stronger city and nation, asks the wealthiest man in Babylon, Akbar, to share with the rest of the population his secrets on becoming wealthy. And the stories shared illustrate different facets of wealth creation and building.

I couldn’t help thinking, as I read some of the “secrets”, that if the traders on Wall Street, the whizzes in Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac and other banks, and the people on the Main Streets throughout the country could have read and taken to heart the secrets, the rules, for becoming wealthy, that we would not today be in the jamb facing our country and the world:

  • Pay yourself 10% of your income – would have helped people develop the fiscal discipline so they could make a reasonable down payment on their house, and the habit thus established would have carried through for the rest of their lives.
  • Make your money work to make more money – even interest in a bank account helps it grow, though today we have other mechanisms to help money grow faster through stocks in good companies, bonds, and other secure devices.
  • Put not your money into schemes promising great reward, because that carries with it great risk – well duh! Let’s see: the Savings and Loan scandal involving the Keating 7, World Quest, Enron, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac; how many of these would have been avoided by taking a bit more cautious approach? And if the people wanting the loans had been been saving and had a reasonable down payment, they would not have needed sub-prime loans. And venerable institutions of long and prestigious history would not have been trashed.
  • Every man, unless the gods take him early, progresses from youth to old age, and the wealth accumulated in one’s youth can take care of him and his family in old age. Well, that addresses issues with Social Security!

For a book written in 1926, this has some seriously useful and sound advice. I would go so far as to recommend it to every high school as a part of their life experience class. The principle are few and simple, the concepts are easy to grasp. Everyone may not become J. P. Morgan, but everyone can live a fiscally sound life, becoming reasonably wealthy – comfortably wealthy – into their old age.

Two items touched upon, but are not principles of gaining wealth, are that this requires self discipline and personal responsibility. People must understand that; we must understand that. Once we begin being personally responsible, we are able to take the steps to gain respectable wealth.

Obviously I recommend this book. The material and concepts are appropriate for all ages. The book is well written, is very readable, and the story format is entertaining. The chapters/sections are short, so this works well as a pick up/put down book.

Put your business budget on a diet

16 10 2008

As we drift ever closer to recession – or are already in a recession according to Paul Volker in a recent speech in Singapore – businesses that are not fiscally lean and disciplined will be more likely to go under than businesses where someone is paying attention to where the money goes.

To that end, this author gives us a list of 78 ways we may be able to trim fat from our business. (You may already be doing some of these, so would be unable to take advantage of all 78.) And once you see these, you may get ideas for a number of other ways you can discipline your budget.