Monday, June 29, 2009

A note to my daughters/daughters-in-law

Last week, I published a note on the Sanford affair and included a note to my sons/sons-in-law. Now it's time for a counterpoint, a message to the girls in my life.

I need to start with a couple of strong caveats. I do not mean this as an attack or even a statement about Mrs. Sanford. I don't know (and don't want to know) anything about her marriage and (to date) she has acted with class. In fact, this doesn't apply to anyone who has had problems in the past, it applies to future actions only. Second, no where does this give any man any excuse to cheat. That's inexcusable. I'm hoping I can tell some women how to make their marriage better.

And my final caveat is that I am not now, nor ever have been (or desire to be) a woman. I struggled with the mars/venus thing when I thought it related to planets, once I discovered it was about men & women I was even more confused. I claim no special knowledge about women, a lesson I've learned the hard way several times.

That said, I saw something in Mark Sanford's letters that needs to be pointed out. He was looking for someone to confide in. He was looking for someone to share his daily life with. He found it in the wrong place.

There's a song that says "he'll have good times doing things that you don't understand." You don't have to understand the things your husband enjoys. But you can still listen to him talk about those things. Or go watch him do them. Cheer him on. And "if you love him, ... be proud of him." There isn't a man alive who doesn't want his woman to be proud of him. And he needs to hear it.

You also need to watch yourself and choose your friends carefully, especially the opposite sex. If you're confiding with another man things you haven't confided with your husband, you're committing emotional adultery. This can quickly lead to physical adultery.

Ok, there I said it. I've probably proven how little of the mars/venus thing I understand. And who knows how many times I'll have to clean up the mess I created with this post, but at least it's out.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

SC Governor found out

A couple days ago, I posted that the SC Governor was missing. Well, he turned up yesterday. Not in a good way.

By now, most everyone knows the whole story. Originally, no one knew where he was for 5 days, then they said he was hiking, then it was found he was in Argentina. Having an affair. A tryst. A fling. Whatever name you want to put on it.

At this point, I think the governor should resign. He has lied to his staff and to the state for the last year. Some of the lines were not overt, he never said he wasn't having an affair. No wagging his finger at the TV saying "I did not have sex with that woman." But regardless, he lied. And the next time he stands up to fight fiscal irresponsibility, we will wonder about his purpose. He has shown a willingness to lie to his wife, his children and to all of us.

I don't think he should be impeached. I haven't read the SC constitution, so I'm assuming it's like the US constitution. That allows impeachment for "high crimes and misdemeanors." This (so far) was neither. Lying is not the same as perjury (like lying to congress). There may come some facts about his misuse of public funds and my feeling on this may change. But for now, I don't think he should be impeached.

My hat is off to his wife. She has shown a willingness to try to rebuild the marriage. She didn't have to do this. The choices are all hers at this point. But, she seems willing to try. What a classy lady.

I want to give a message to my sons and sons-in-law. Watch yourself carefully. If it can happen to this man, it can happen to you. Never, never develop a "dear, dear friend(ship)" with a lady. It can only lead to problems. In this case, Sanford apparently had a friendship with this lady for 7 years, before it turned sexual. In my opinion, his adultery started long before the last year. I firmly believe that you can't have a close relationship with any woman other than your wife.

And finally, we need to pray for this man. It's not clear to me if he is truly repentant yet. But he has completely destroyed his wife and family. If he takes my advice and resigns, he will lose his job. Where will his income come from? We need to pray for his wife and his kids.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Profit revisited

Last November, I posted an entry about profits. (see here) The basic point I tried to make was that profits are not immoral or evil and it's actually good for companies to make a profit.

Lately, I've dug up an old memory from back in the 1990's related to profit. It seemed very important to me. During that time, we were experiencing what some people called a "rolling recession". One industry would be hit with hard times for a while, then another. One of my co-worker's parents ran a fishing boat, somewhere up North. Small, family-owned business at it's best.

One day he reported a story where he asked mom & dad how the business was doing. "Hard times" they said, they had to run the business with just 3 or 4 workers. The output was higher than ever, but competition and the "rolling recession" was hitting the business hard.

He explained that in good times, they had 8-10 people working for them. "How are you able to make it with just that few people?" he asked them. "What's different?"

Their reply was that in good times, they hired more, in rough times they trimmed down. A higher gross profit allowed them to spread the wealth (at their choice).

It seems to me that when companies like this profit, it's a good thing. They hire more workers. Sure, they aren't as efficient as they could be, and the consumer ends up paying for it, but (if there is competition) the consumer doesn't really lose out.

More about profits on another day...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SC Governor missing?

It's been all the talk on the local news, our governor is missing. Most of my readers are out of state, and therefore unconcerned. But I promise you, this story gets better.

Seems at least one person has a unique idea of what he might be doing. You see, Governor Sanford is known for being conservative. In fact, he takes conservative to a new level, refusing to ask for some of the stimulus money because it would cause more debt for US citizens.

In the Governor's first term of office, he decided to make a point out of his desire for fiscal conservativeness. He wanted to come out against pork spending in the state budget, so he walked into the legislative office with a pig under each arm.

His latest disappearance occurred over the weekend, with his last known location somewhere outside Atlanta. His own wife said she didn't know where he was. Finally, last night, his spokesman said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

The interesting turn of events is pointed out by this Christian Science Monitor story that realizes that the hiking takes place on Naked Hiking Day.

Now the thought of this conservative governor hiking naked may amuse some people, but it's a picture I personally don't need. Even the write of the article admits it's unlikely.

Alas, I just heard news that Governor Sanford will emerge tomorrow (hopefully fully clothed). The mystery will soon be over. But it's had a lot of play on the local news.

And the blogs were silent

Ok, maybe a little over-dramatic. It's been about a week since I posted, I promise to get back at it. In addition to the funeral last week, my wife went in for back surgery. So I spent Friday-Monday sitting at the hospital with her.

The surgery went well and she was able to walk some and even take on steps. We're home and she's made it up the stairs to our room (hopes to make it back down today). She continues to progress and gain strength.

We had an interesting experience at the hospital ("interesting experience" and "hospital" probably shouldn't be in the same sentence). This hospital is relatively new (1-2 years) and ONLY does surgeries. They have NO emergency room. No Pediatric ward. No Labor & Delivery. ONLY surgeries. Mostly hips & knees, but other miscellaneous surgeries too (I wish had more information on that).

There are two floors active - one for administrative, X-Rays, Labs, etc, one for surgery and patient rooms. The third floor is built out, but has not yet been used. There is a fourth floor, but it's not built out yet. There are 36 patient rooms on the second floor.

Since these type surgeries are elective and can be scheduled, they tend to be scheduled early in the week. Doctors don't want to be on call on weekends. In our case, we went in on Friday. So the hospital was less than full capacity. In fact, for part of the weekend, there were eight patients, for the rest there were only four. During one "event" in our room (sounds ominous - it wasn't) we had 100% of the on-duty hospital nursing staff in our room - two nurses and a nurse supervisor.

I was VERY impressed with the way everything was handled. Job separation was very fluid among the nursing staff, various levels of nurses, even housekeeping. If you needed something, it got done. No one said "I'll have to call someone else, that's not my job".

But the world moves on, and a lot happened while I was out. I'm going to catch up on my blog reading and news reading and post more this week. Oh and there's that silly thing called a job, whereby I work a little here and there and my employer sends me a little money (not enough) here and there.

More to come...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a great loss

Yesterday, my former father-in-law passed away. Some of you know that I was married before I met my current wife. I still kept in touch with her family, especially her dad. He was an important man in my life and one that I admired greatly.

I never called him by his first name, it was always Mr. Tumblin. For someone to have gone through as much pain and suffering, he was an exceptionally happy man. He grew up in the depression and I never heard him complain about it. He dropped out of college to go to war, but I never heard him complain about that either. And believe me, I heard a LOT of stories about his time in the army.

After the war, he went to college again, but never finished. He got married and started a family. He was a rural route postal carrier and was proud of what he did. His daughter had open heart surgery at the age of four. Being the man he was, he just kept going, dealt with all the fears and pains without complaint.

One of his greatest joys was his grand-children. having 5 grand-daughters and one grand-son, he loved having them around. Once he decided to buy hearing aids and spent a small fortune on them. Unfortunately, they didn't solve his most pressing need - he wanted to hear his grandchildren. These little ones had high pitched voices and even with the aides, he couldn't hear them. The hearing aides wound in in a drawer, unused.

He lost his wife to cancer. He sat by her side for the few months she was in the hospital. He taught me an important lesson - we asked what we could do and he said "Just pray!". Several years later, he lost his only daughter after a short illness. The lesson I learned from him then was we just needed to be thankful for the time we had her.

One of the most important lessons he taught me was on the unlikely subject of racism. He grew up in a time and place where races were treated differently. It wasn't a matter of hatred. It was just what was done. But he also showed love to one individual of another race who touched his life. He showed it by caring for her when her own family wouldn't. And he showed respect to others, based not on the color of their skin, but based on what they did and what they could do. He showed me that racism can be overcome, one person at a time.

I had breakfast with Mr. Tumblin last week. We talked and he told stories. I'm not sure if I could remember a single one, but I'd probably heard them all several times. I'm glad that I was able to share the time with him and hope that I made his heart a little lighter for that day.

The last several times I had breakfast with him, I had noticed some of his problems. Trembling hands, sometimes forgetting where he was in a story, other problems that he wouldn't want me to mention. He was beginning to face the reality that he might not be able to take care of himself. Because of the man he was, I knew this would be a problem for him. In some ways, I'm not sure if he could have lived that way. Now that problem is solved. I've heard him talk about his faith and I know he was a Christian, so I'm not worried about his soul. I know he's in a place of no more suffering.

I knew him for for 30 years and if I live another 30, I hope that I can begin to live like he did. We will miss him greatly.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Anyday payday, how about today - revisited

Last May (slightly over a year ago), I did a three part series on Payday lending. In the first part (here), I talked about the business and some of the requirements for the business. In the second part (here), I talked about what two states (SC & Ohio) were doing to try to stop the business and in the final part (here), I gave my opinion.

I won't rehash all that was said back then, but I will say that this conservative who prefers less government interference spoke in favor of more government regulation and less payday loans. If you're interested in the details, go back and read those articles. I'll be glad to answer any posts.

Since that time, Ohio passed new legislation aimed at killing the Payday loan industry. The industry used loopholes in the law and kept working. SC failed to pass any legislation, but this year tried again. The legislation passed, however, it was vetoed by Governor Sanford.

According to the Greenville News, "The regulations this bill would place on payday lending would not force the lenders out of business." Of course if you read my initial posts, you'll see that this only partly true, Payday lending can't survive outside its current business model. The bill would have limited the loans to $550 and "consumers would be prohibited from having more than one payday loan outstanding at any given time." There would also be "a one-day waiting period would be established between loans for the first eight loans, with a two-day waiting period on any loans beyond that." This would keep borrowers from paying off one of the loans with a new one. "A statewide database would be created to track who is eligible for payday loans."

All of this seems reasonable. However, the governor disagreed. He said "it is this administration's abiding belief that government's role is not to protect people from their own actions." (Newark Advocate). He also said "he recession leaves consumers needing the ability to get access to cash to avoid eviction, foreclosure, bankruptcy and having their lights turned off."

The bill had an unexpected advocate - Advance America. Now you may be surprised that a payday lending company would support the bill. They said the bill "would have provided consumers who choose to use the cash advance product in South Carolina with comprehensive reforms and protections." (Charleston Regional Business Journal) Advance America realizes that if the bill had succeeded, it would have been free to continue to compete, while smaller companies may have had trouble with the new legislation.

Remember, the best payday loan is your own payday loan. Put $500 in the bank for the emergencies that come up. When an emergency comes up, pull it out, then put it back just like a payday loan. You'll save yourself large fees and maybe even gain a little interest.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book 'em Danno

This morning our local station did a "Timeline" story, a story where they explain something significant that happened this day, June 13. Now I would have thought they would have recognized my son-in-law's birthday or maybe granddaughter #3's one month birthday, but rather they focused on a court decision, the decision of Miranda v. Arizona.
Most of us are familiar with the Miranda decision, from watching television (analog or digital). The decision (1966) marked a time when the Supreme Court ruled that an individual must be told his rights when arrested, you know, the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc.
But I got to thinking, whatever happened to Mr. Miranda? Well Wikipedia is always a good source, especially if you aren't writing a paper. In this Wikipedia article, it's all spelled out. Seems 22 year old Ernesto Miranda was arrested for robbery and while under arrest, he confessed to raping a girl 2 days earlier. At trial, his victim positively identified him and his confession was entered into the courts.
The Supreme Court indicated that Miranda didn't know (or wasn't told) his rights and sent the case back to trial. Now Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story. When the case went back to trial, the prosecution entered the same witnesses and "other evidence" (Wikipedia isn't known for detail). The result? Miranda was convicted, sentenced to 20 to 30 years, served 5 years in jail, was released on parole and went on to lead the life of a prosperous citizen.
Well, maybe not that last part. Seems he spent time autographing Miranda cards for police officers and then was stabbed to death in a bar argument four years later. Even when given the protection of his full rights, he was still convicted. And in his final trial, he was afforded the same rights he gave his earlier victim.
Moral of the story: Just because someone gets a big case named after them, doesn't mean they weren't guilty.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My newest granddaughter

Frequent readers of my blog may be experiencing a little deja vu or thinking "wait, Randy's rerunning blog posts." Quite the contrary, this is a NEW blogpost about a new granddaughter. Yes, I told you about Kayden back in December and Audry in January (actually came 12/31) and about Caroline a few weeks ago. Now, it's Anna Grace's turn.

Last night at around 8:45, Anna Grace made her entrance. She weighed 7,11 (Oh thank heaven!) and measured 20+3/4 inches long. She joins her three girl cousins (all 6 months old or younger) and her lone boy cousin (3 years old - details way back here).

Although I had nothing to do with the name choice, I think it's perfect. She will teach all of us, so much about God's grace.

Congratulations Adam & Emily, you have a beautiful little girl. And no idea what you have coming at you. (But I'll give you a hint - it's wonderful!)

For more information, see my wife's blog in one of her very infrequent blogposts.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

NC Law bans texting while driving

I'm traveling through NC this week, so I heard on the radio about this new law in NC that bans texting while driving (see news story here). The station I was listening to asked listeners what they thought of the idea.

I confess I only heard one or two callers and then not completely, definitely not a representative sample. One caller complained that police officers had enough to do as it was, burdening them with more workload was counterproductive. He claimed they "barely knew enough about the law to make arrests." His tone was very anti-police.

I also confess to wanting less government interference in our lives. But this one seems reasonable. I've seen people texting, sending notes on Blackberries, etc and it just doesn't seem safe. Passing a specific law, rather than having police interpret bad driving, seems like it will help.

First, some number of people will follow the law, simply because it's the law. Ok, that's a small number, but it's significant. Then, some will be afraid of the $100 (plus court costs) fine and will stop. Others will hear about friends who were ticketed and decide to save the $100 for themselves. Regardless, the number of texting drivers will decrease and that's good.

I've also heard of an increasing number of warrants being drafted for cell phone records. Seems you can't hide, they will find out if you've been texting while driving. And expect the lawsuits to be quite large.

I once held an instant messenger conversation with someone and then found out he was using his laptop while driving. My last message to him was that I was not going to do this and I shut down the instant messenger session. I have no doubt that he continued to use his laptop while driving, but I didn't want to be a part of the wreck he caused. That's been 2 or 3 years ago, he now has a Blackberry and I don't want to know what he does with it or when he does it. But I don't have to be a part of it...

My favorite hotel chain

I've been traveling a good bit lately and I'm trying to book all my stays at a hotel in the Hilton chain. These include Hilton, Hilton Gardens, Hampton as well as Doubletree and Homewood Suites (mostly, I use the first three).

Recently, on two separate occasions, I stayed for free (once for two nights) using the points I've built up. I like a free weekend (even if I was helping someone move).

Last week I found an extra charge on my corporate charge statement for a hotel that I have used several times. I made a few phone calls and found out that the charge was for a reservation made in my name, but was a no-show.

What really bothered me about the charge was they didn't award my any Hilton points. If I was going to pay for the stay, at least I could get reward points, right?

So, I made a few other phone calls. Looks like I made the reservation, the date of travel was a week where my plans were very fluid. I must have made the plans, then changed them and never cancelled. I don't remember it, but it must have happened.

So today, I called the Hilton again. Monica in accounting (who I had talked with last week) answered the phone and I explained the situation. She remembered me and I asked if there was something we could do about the charge. I explained I was a frequent guest and didn't feel I should have to pay.

To my surprise, Monica agreed to reverse the charge - "this time" - but she admonished me to please call next time so they could rent the room. I told her I would and that I would definitely stay at her hotel again. I thanked her and will be watching for the credit to show up on my account.

Now, the last time I stayed at this particular hotel, they were no where near full. I doubt that the room would have been rented even if I had called. But the hotel had within their rights to charge me for the room and I (or my employer) would have had to pay. I'm very glad they reversed the charges.

This particular Hilton gives me a free buffet breakfast including a made to order omelet, so it was already top on my pick list, but after this treatment it will stay there.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Voicemail 101

Some people hate dealing with voicemail. Actually, I typically don't mind. It's an effective way to communicate. You can call someone, tell them what you want, they can call you back, tell you the answer - effective communication.
So what happens when someone calls and leaves a message like this - "Hi this is John, I need to talk to you, call me." Then you call him, he's not in - "Hi, this is Randy, returning your call, call me back."
Then you get on the phone, John calls back, blah, blah, blah.
So, instead of getting on the phone, you wait on John to call back. And wait. And wait. How long is the appropriate time to wait?
Wouldn't it be better if John left a message instead?
(You might guess, this was a frustrating day).

Friday, June 05, 2009

Stock picks

I mentioned in my last post that I purchased some GM stock last year. I have never made public my stock picks in the past, so I decided this might be a good time to explain.

I'm not a big believer in buying individual stocks and in fact, I'm not sure I'm a believer in mutual funds. The former bears more explanation, the latter, well, it's just not time to discuss that now. With individual stocks, you put a lot at risk. One of my MBA professors said that a stock's value represented the market's opinion on future value. It's sorta like taking a vote on how good you think the company will be 5 years down the road. And if you think voting is the right way to determine value, take a look at our presidential elections over the last several cycles: Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama - I think the word "fickle" applies.

So if you assume the market is fickle, individual stocks are scary. However, I decided several years ago, that I could afford to invest a small amount of money in individual stocks. My first attempt to beat the market was by buying Palm stock. I was impressed with the product, they were way down in price and I thought they were making some good technical and marketing decisions.

After about 2 years, my value was up about 50%. I saw some folks using Blackberries and decided to sell. Timing on the buy and the sell was not perfect, but who can argue with 50% over 2 years.

My second attempt at stock picks was a company named Ahold. Years ago, Ahold moved into the U.S. by buying the grocery chain I worked for, Bi-Lo. They had grown since that time and reached a peak. Then they hit some accounting scandals. When I chose them, they were making several corporate decisions to restructure and to sell Bi-Lo. To make a long story short, there were some good days and some bad days, but I made about 100% over 3 years. Again, no one can argue with success.

My goal has been to pick stocks on companies that are down, but have a solid product and a decent plan. Then hold the stock for at least 2 years. Don't try to time the entry or exit to the best day, but choose a "season" when it's low to enter and a "season" to exit when it's high.

In August of last year, I chose GM & Ford. I did this because I thought they were "too big to fail" and the government would bail them out. They did, several times, but finally, the downward momentum killed GM. Ford is up about 30% from where I got into it and I think it will go on up. I'm not sure it will go up enough to recoup my GM loss.

My fundamental mistake here was buying not what I thought was a stable company, but based in what I thought the government would do. I should have remembered the word "fickle" (see above).

I should also point out that this is not a pump-and-dump blog. You won't see other stocks mentioned here, at least not daily. I won't try to convince you to sell or to buy. If comments show up about the latest greatest thing or something "they" don't want you to know, I'd strongly advise you to ignore them or at least investigate before you make a decision (I typically don't edit comments out, but may if needed). I just wanted to share my experience and see/hear your opinions...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Misc topics and random thoughts

Camping trip was great. I took about three short hikes. The first one was on a trail I hadn't seen before, part of the Palmetto Trails to Jocassee Gorges. It's a 12.5 mile hike, I did a small part of it, but was expecting visitors, so headed back. From what I can see, it's a good hike but not real scenic. The second hike was along the Carrick Creek. On this hike I was accompanied by my three year old grandson. We hiked for about 20 minutes, took a 10 minute break, then hiked another 10 minutes before heading back. The hike is supposed to last about an hour, but with his short stride, I'm sure we didn't go half way in 30 minutes of walking. The last hike was back along the Palmetto Trail, but he was tired so we didn't go far.

All in all the trip was great. Two nights in a tent, far from everything. I'll post more about it later.

While I was gone, GM announced bankruptcy. I haven't blogged about it, but last August I bought some shares of GM on a lark. This was back in early August, before the bottom fell out. My theory was that the government would bail them out and the stock would go up. They did get a bail-out that month and the stock ticked upward for a day or two, then the credit market fell and, well, it was a lark.

I don't mean to imply that I backed the bail-out. I think it was a bad idea. But I really didn't think the government would let them go bankrupt. Who knows what will happen now. Maybe I'll blog more about that later too.

This past weekend, an abortion doctor was shot and killed. Make no mistake, this was murder. The conservative blogs that I read agree. The doctor has been called a killer (and I agree with that), but it doesn't make his murder any less of a murder. His (alleged) killer has been arrested. He deserves a fair trial, but assuming he is found guilty (and I see no reason why not), he should probably face the death penalty. It was simple pre-meditated murder.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Camping trip - take two

Last August I tried to go camping but was rained out (read about it here). Today, I leave for another attempt at the trip. If the weatherman is accurate, and if I believe in signs today like I did last August (see the post), this trip is meant to be.

Some family members are supposed to visit tonight and I'll grill some burgers. My 3 year old grandson is supposed to stay with me and tomorrow, we'll do some hiking, then come back the following day.

Wish me luck.
P.S. Sorry, that's not my tent in the picture. But one can hope....