Hotels and fresh towels

In every hotel I stay at there is a flyer on the bed. Or on the clock. Or hanging on the towel rack. Or stapled to the forehead of the desk clerk.

With lush green leaves and glittering waterfalls, it explains that hotels use the equivalent of the Pacific Ocean everyday to wash towels and sheets. They dump the equivalent mass of the moon into the environment in the form of laundry detergent -- just so your sheet will be clean every day.

Won't you please think of the environment and the health of the planet and pretty please reuse your towel for just one more day? By doing so, you will personally save half the Emperor Penguins in Antarctica. If you do it again tomorrow, you will save all of the pandas in China.

And all you have to do is put this flyer on your pillow. Or take it off your pillow. Or hang up your towel. Or turn around the door hanger. Or put a check mark on the desk clerk.

I can never keep the instructions straight. So I don't really make any particular effort. If I have the same towels and sheets for the stay, that's fine. I don't really care if they change them every day. And I'm usually too tired at night to pay attention to the instructions and in too much of a rush in the morning to deal with it. I'm fairly clean. Unless I have another Chicago Incident, I comfortable with the sheets I used the night before.

But how do the number turn out?

Scientific American just reported on tactics to encourage people to reuse the their towels.

They looked at what happens when they used two different messages. In one set of rooms, they implored guest to protect the environment. In another, they said that most other guests reused the towels.

In rooms with the latter message, guests reused the towels 25% more often.

It seem peer pressure trumped altruism.

When they took it a step further and said that previous guests in that particular room often reused their towels, the numbers went even higher.

The discuss various reason for this, including various social science discussions of human behavior.

They also discussed the cynicism guests have about the environmental message. This may come as a shock to you, but I actually share that same cynicism. It the belief that the hotel doesn't care about the environment, but just wants to lower their own energy and water costs.

Regardless, there are some interesting lessons in that short article.


What is your Twitter grade?

Mine is 70.

You can check yours at Twitter Grader. They consider the following things:

  • The number of followers you have
  • The power of this network of followers
  • The pace of your updates
  • The completeness of your profile
  • ...a few others
What's the point? Well, if you are targeting Twitter as a marketing tool, I suppose this analysis could be helpful.

Or if you are looking for a new Internet benchmark to chase, you can try this one.

Educause in Orlando

I'm torn.

I'm in Orlando this week for Educause. It's a higher-ed technology trade show and conference.

Of the various shows I do in a year, this is one of my favorites (along with NECC). Most of the attendees work with technology in their jobs and know their stuff, but the tech business is not their primary industry.

Which means they are less cynical about the products and technology. They are excited about the products filling the show floor, and they are enthusiastic about the possibilities. That's an excitement I just don't see from attendees are technology industry technology shows.

There's important business that goes on at both types of shows. It's just that the education shows are a little more fun.

So the show is great. But it's in Orlando. While the convention center may be huge, this is still one of my least favorite cities to do a trade show in. Does anyone enjoy doing shows in Orlando?


Disturbingly Profound

You Are Disturbingly Profound

You're contemplative, thoughtful, and very intense.

Taking time to figure out the meaning of life is a priority for you.

Because you're so introspective, you often react in ways that surprise people.

No one can really understand how you are on the inside... and that disturbs them.

It think this quiz only offered two answers. And I'm okay with the answer I got.


Carroll Collge Talking Saints conduct their own presidential debate

From an article in the Helena Independent Record:

Based on audience response, the not-so-serious presidential debate hosted by the Carroll College Talking Saints forensics team Sunday was determined a tie.

In the end, the point of the debate wasn’t to declare winner, but rather to provide a venue for the team’s supporters to see the 18-time regional champions in action. The team travels for all its competitive meets.

“We have no home games,” forensics coach Brent Northrup said.

... More

It's great to see the Carrol College Talking Saints doing this. It's a great organization over there.

I joined the team in 1989, the same year current coach Brent Northup took the reins of the organization. The four years I spent traveling the Northwest competing for the team gave me the skills I still use in my work life today.

Even in the early days, Brent started working on exhibitions and outreach to both the larger Carroll College and the Helena, MT communities. It's great to see these types of activities continuing.

And it's also great to see them getting some press.

Book Review 32: Bedtime Stories

I was happy. I loved the night, I loved it so much it almost hurt. In the night everything seemed possible. I wasn't sleepy at all.

Page 112

Banana Yoshimoto's "Asleep" is a short novel made up of 3 stories. They are "Night and Night's Travelers," "Love Songs," and "Asleep."

The book is a quick read, but those few pages transport the reader to another world. Yoshimoto's meditations on the night and her descriptions of sleep as a force resonated strongly with me. While I haven't had the experiences here characters have, the world they live in both frighteningly and reassuringly real.

The common thread in these stories is that people are stuck in a transition phase in their life. They are waiting for a morning that never seems to come, until they do what it takes to make the sun rise themselves.

In the first story, Yoshimoto tells the story of one woman's night wanderings after the death of lover. The woman's cousin is the one telling the story.

The narrator describes her cousin the way:

Looking at her, you had the feeling that she existed in some way more real than any of the other people in the crowds waiting for the plane -- that she more thoroughly filled the space she occupied.

Page 23

This is an interesting choice. By choosing to tell the story through the cousin's eyes, we get a bit of distance from the actual heart break and we can look on the heart broken woman with a melancholy that might not have been possible had she told the story herself. There would have been too much self-pity.

It's also easier to see how the world continues to spin, despite the tragedy that comes in to people lives.

Yoshimoto's describes another character this way:

But Sarah was still enough of a child that she could have such dreams, and she had enough leeway to do so. The courage of a person who has no fear of the future.

Page 8

In Yoshimoto's stories, the night itself is a character. She describes the night as a force that engulfs the day. And what many people see as fearful, Yoshimoto describes as comforting.

It was that time of the evening, when off in the distance the other bank of the river is just beginning to drop away into the darkness of night. Soon the halo of light that always hung over the town at night would be reflected in the river, and even now the clear air was gradually filling with indigo, the indigo air drifted up, so that you almost felt as if you were seeing the air itself. The sky gleamed ever so faintly with the last traces of daylight, and everything was blurred, difficult to distinguish. Everything was beautiful.

Page 10-11

Like in the passage I opened this article with, Yoshimoto sees the night as something truly special. Even though it happens as often as day, there is something precious about it. That appreciation for the night makes these stories possible.

Another passage I liked in this story is her description here:

The lobbies of these giant hotels always feel deserted. It doesn't matter how crowded they really are; the feeling is a fundamental part of these places, it drifts through every corner.

Page 45

The contrast with the night is striking. Whereas the night is a place of possibility, the bustling hotel lobby, with people running everywhere, may as well be a dead space.

In the second story, Yoshimoto's character has trouble sleeping and begins to think back to a woman she knew before -- a woman with whom she competed for the attention of a man.

She once stormed out after a fight with this woman and described her this way:

Her small, tackily made-up face was half hidden by her long hair. I noticed how lovely and insubstantial she looked when you saw her from a distance. Without saying a word, I closed the door.

Page 84

In comparison to the first story, we see a character drifting slightly out of our reality, as opposed to being more firmly real than most other people.

As the story goes on, we learn this woman has died, and the main character has to come to terms with that relationship.

While the first two stories in the book are great, the third story is in another league. In this one, Yoshimoto's main character has trouble staying awake. She is dating a married man whose wife is in a coma. Her life is stuck in neutral because the man won't leave his wife, and still has deal with her relatives. As time goes on, the main character finds her self sleeping more and more, as there is little else for her to do.

Sleep would rush over me like an incoming tide. There was nothing I could do to resist it. And this sleep was infinitely deep, so deep that neither the ringing of the phone nor the rumble of the cars driving by outside found their way to my ears. I didn't feel any sort of pain; I wasn't even particularly lonely. Nothing existed but the free-falling world of sleep.

Page 107

This story is a fascinating exploration of her consciousness, her lover's relationship with his wife, and what happens when there is nothing to do.

Yoshimoto fills the story with descriptions of this woman's decent into the bowels of sleep, the stories of her friend's negotiations with sleep, and the relationship with a guilt-ridden husband.

One of the narrators friends also has a peculiar job. It's sort of a sleep prostitute. It's not a sexual gig; her job is to stay awake while the client sleeps, and attend to their needs should they wake up. It's to provide comfort and take on the person's burdens. I seem to recall a character having this same sort of job in a Haruki Murakami novel, but it's not something I've heard about in American literature.

The story also spawned this line which stuck me as oddly philosophical:

Photocopying requires almost no time at all when you take it seriously.

Page 169

I'm going to have to give that some more thought one of these days.

Yoshimoto has a beautiful way of telling odd stories about people. The plot in these stories doesn’t go far, but it does go deep into the characters. Her characters are different -- they are not like everyone else in the world. But that's what makes them interesting. And while she does leave most things unresolved, it's okay, because they're supposed to be that way -- people need to work their way through these intense issues in their lives.

Yoshimoto's descriptions of the night, the non-physical world, and places throughout the book are magical and compelling. And the book is over far too quickly.

I heartily recommend Asleep. It's a quick read with some lovely characters and vivid descriptions. It deals with issues of sleep, death, and, most importantly, going on to live life in the morning.

You can find more of my Book Reviews here.


Bar 14 bars my salad

When I first moved to Seattle, my job had me driving all over the Northwest. Any time I drove to Spokane or Boise, I stopped at the Bar 14 Restaurant in Ellensburg, WA. I did that for one reason.

The Smoked Chicken Caesar Salad.

This was the best salad I had ever had. The chicken had a great smoky flavor. The dressing was thick and rich. The lettuce was crispy (though that's hard to screw up). It was the perfect flavor for the road. And I could even pretend it was healthy.

So tonight I was looking forward to it as I drove my rental car from Kennewick to Seattle.

I sat down at the Bar 14 for the first time in more than four years. The waitress handed me a menu and plunked a large coffee pot on my table. She walked away, and I opened up the menu. The excitement quickly faded from my face as a I scanned the salad list. My beloved Smoked Chicken Caesar Salad wasn't there. I asked the waitress and she confirmed they got rid of it a a few years back.

I ended up having a ham, turkey, cheese, and tomato melt with fries. It was very good but not why I was there.

The coffee was still good. The sandwhich was good, and the people are great.

But unfortunately I have to downgrade the Bar 14 from, "Oh my God. You HAVE to stop there," to, "It's a nice place if you're hungry."

I'm sure this declaration of mine will make restaurateurs tremble throughout the state.


Bose QC2 Replacement

Lots of people have equipment that goes along with their role. Softball players have gloves. Artists have sketch pads. Clarinetist have reeds.

Frequent Fliers? We have noise canceling headphones.

Several years ago, I got a pair of Bose QC2 noise canceling headphones as a gift. These things are great. The knock out much of the engine noise on a plane, which makes flying much more comfortable. I can hook them up to my media player and disappear from the plane without ever leaving my seat.

Unfortunately, there is a weak point where the headband meets the ear cup. I've read a posts in several forums where people complain about this problem, and eventually it happened to me.

It's frustrating, but they were out warranty by quite a bit. And I have gotten many hours of use from them.

So tonight I stopped by the Bose kiosk at the Seatac airport and related my tale of woe to the Bose saleperson.

Bose had a program for just this situation, though. For $50 I was able to trade in my old, broken QC2 for a band spanking new pair of the same thing. Since they normally sell for $299, this was definitely a good deal. Now my flights will once again not be quite such an obnoxious roar.

I also had the option of switching to the newer QC3 for $100, but I'm not a fan of that design.

Anywhere, here is my shiny new baby.


Ready for summer

A couple weeks back, I finally got access to my deck. The first thing I did, of course, was get some plants.

Then I began looking for deck furniture. Unfortunately, that was more challenging. I was about a week or two late for most of the clearance sales. And I didn't think a snow blower would be an appropriate choice.

Then I got lucky. I checked on a store off Fairview in Seattle that was a bit out of the way. The only way I knew about it was that they had a giant chair on top of a nearby coffee shop.

I stumbled into David Smith & Company at just the right time. They were wrapping up their teak end of season sale and I picked up a table and four chairs at 50% off.

The next day and the rain and cold weather started.

Now I'm all set for summer. In 2009.

Boeing Dreamlifter at PDX

A couple years ago, I wrote about the Ugliest Plane in the World. It was a converted Boeing 747 that Boeing planned to use to haul parts of the new 787 Dreamliner from factories around the world to the Boeing plant in Everett. There are actually four of these behemoths.

It's big. It dwarfs a regular 747. Which makes sense since it's job is to spit out parts of new wide bodies.

This is how it looked back then:
Well, she actually cleans up pretty well. Here she is at the Portland (PDX) airport over this past weekend:

I shot these pictures from Marine Drive, just north of the airport. They're not great shots, but I was glad I had my zoom lens.

Actually, I was pretty surprised to her. I didn't know the Dreamlifter made trips to PDX.


Sleep 07: Broken sleep

I read Fark fairly regularly. It's informative, entertaining, random, and offensive. It can also be a huge time suck.

Tonight, I ran across this link to an article on Yahoo! It basically says that if you don't get enough sleep every night, you will die. The article is interesting and worth a read, although it does seem to confuse cause with effect.

The useful content is actually in the Fark discussion thread about the article. It takes a turn for the serious while some users seek help and others offer advice about sleeping problems.

Sleep apnea. Depression. Insomnia. Not being able to fall asleep. Being tired throughout the day. They're all in there. If you think the way you sleep is different, or broken, someone else may have a similar experience. I'd suggest reading through the thread.

There is some advice about sleep hygiene, but the key thing that most users suggest is that if you have issues with sleep, you should tell your doctor yesterday. They can help, and life can get much better.


Hotel TVs and HD

Wide screen and HD TVs are the newest feature hotels are promoting to draw travelers in. It's great...in theory.

But they take these new TVs and then run a standard signal to the TV. To make things worse, they set the TVs to widescreen mode, even when the signal is a standard 4:3 signal. They do this so people don't have to see bars on the side of the screen. Of course, this screws everything up because the stuff on the screen in s stretched and squashed terribly.

And then they disable the settings so someone who knows what they are doing can't even fix it.

So not only do they not take advantage of the cool HD hardware, they make sure that the picture looks worse than it would on a 20 year old RCA.

Has anyone else noticed this?

A cheap brake "repair"

Tonight while puttering about my apart, I listened to NPR's "Car Talk" podcast. If you are not familiar with Car Talk, it's a highly entertaining call-in car repair show. You don't need to be a car expert to appreciate it; most of the callers aren't. Tom and Ray answer questions, tell jokes, pick on one another, and generally have a good time for an hour.

People often call in asking about warning lights on the dash. It got me thinking about my experience with warning lights.

The first car I owned was an 85 Subaru GL that I bought with 103,000 miles on it. I drove it for years until it finally dies at about 187,000 miles. But that is a tale for another time.

One night while driving from Great Falls to Helena, I encountered a sudden red glare out the corner of my eye. I looked down and there on the dash was a bright red warning sign that said "Brake."

I was zipping up and down hills on the interstate at, um, "Montana Appropriate" speeds. A few light taps on the brake pedal seemed to slow that car, and it was late, so I decided not to worry about it too much.

But the big problem was that the light was so bright. I had dimmed my other dash lights because it was dark out, but this one was making it harder to see. Why do danger warning have to be so obnoxious?

So I pulled over at an empty exit, dug around in my trunk and found the tool I needed to fix the problem with the brakes -- black electrical tape. I tore off a small piece and stuck it right over warning light and solved the problem.

Anyone else fix their brakes this way?

After a week or so, I took the car in. For some reason, the mechanics were appalled at how I handled the situation. It turns out I needed a new hill holder switch.

Which is pretty cool because at that point I didn't even know my car had a hill holder switch.

I worked out a little better than that time I decided to repair the windshield crack with duct tape.


Plan your own electoral college map

What will happen to Joe the Plumber? Now you can figure it out.

CNN is now showing Obama ahead of McCain 277 electoral vote to 174, with 87 still up for grabs.

But you can plan your own strategy for the candidates with the Electoral Map Calculator.

Visit the map here. Then click the Blank Slate link, and click on a state to assign it to a candidate.

This would have made that high school project in 1988 so much easier.

You can find previous elections here.


Shatner-Palooza: Driving is all a matter of intimidation

William Shatner takes a drive with his wife and daughter (both named Elizabeth), explains his theory about driving, complains about the cinematography, and spends a lot of time talking about not talking. All in less than two minutes.


Sarah Vowell in Seattle: Clear but not generic

Tonight I barreled through a sudden downpour to Town Hall in Seattle. It's only a few blocks from my apartment, but I was dripping wet when I got there. Layers of water droplets stuck to my glasses leaving me with the vision of a myopic bat. I went in, picked up my package at the will call window, wandered down to the bathroom to find some paper towels for a my glasses, my face and my hair.

Once I my head was downgraded from "creating its own precipitation" to "thoroughly moist" I took a look at my package. In the middle of the book was my ticket for the evening. And the book itself? Sarah Vowell's newest sarcastic tale of lesser known history, "The Wordy Shipmates."

You may know from Sarah Vowell from work on NPR's This American Life. She reads her wonderful essays with that trademark voice that has the gravel on someone who has been around the world, and the tone of a 12 year old girl. Or you may know here from her books, like The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Assassination Vacation, or Take the Cannoli (my review is here). Or you may know her from appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brian, or the The Daly Show with Jon Stewart. Or you may know here from her role at Violet in The Incredibles.

If you don't know her work, it's worth checking out.

She took the stage dressed in a black top and olive cargo pants (very Seattle appropriate) and got right down to business. The pages of the book reflected off her glasses, blocking her eyes. She looked up from time to time to add context to what she was reading (since we hadn't read the earlier passages) or to provide additional historical content. Then she took questions.

Town Hall set up microphones for people to ask questions. Surprisingly very few people got up to stand in line. I expected dozens of people to crowd the aisles, waiting for their chance to talk to the fascinating Ms. Vowell. But they didn't . There were hundred of people in Town Hall, but just two or three got up. I guess Seattle produces extraordinarily shy crowds.

The first question concerned how the Cherokee owned slaves. Sarah's expression seemed to scream, "Are you kidding me?" and she joked about the tone that set for the questions. As she began speaking, her answer started as a ramble, but gradually coalesced into a discussion about the humanity of the Cherokee, and Sarah made some fascinating points.

That was the pattern her answers took that evening. It was interesting to see that process, where she starts out speaking in a first draft, gradually revises and refines it over the next few moments, and ends up with the finished product.

Some might suggest an author should already be prepared for all the different questions they are likely to get, however, I don't think that's possible. The variety of things people asked Sarah about included slavery, the Forest Service, National Parks, historical markers, historical holidays, the sex habits of the Puritans, FDR's fireside chats (and the nature of fear), and more. Sarah spoke intelligently on all these questions.

But at no point were there long lines to ask questions. I don't think there were ever more than two people on deck. When it looked pretty clear, I stepped up to the mike.

I asked about her writing process. Specifically, I was curious how she balances her different roles as a historian, humorist, journalist, etc, and whether those roles come into conflict while she's working on here material.

Sarah said she doesn't think about those roles. She just thinks of herself as a writer. The content determines the tone of her writing. Sarah said she "tries to be clear, but not generic."

Now, I don't know if she's used that phrase before, or if it came to her while she was speaking. So it's entirely possible Sarah would cringe to see that phrase quoted here and in this post title. Or maybe she wouldn't.

Regardless, that's the writing tip I took out of this event. Strive to always be clear, and never be generic.

After questions, Sarah stayed behind to sign books. Again I was surprised by how few people lined up for her autograph. Given the hundreds of people who bought their ticket to see her, or who bought Sarah's new book to get the free ticket, I expected a lot more of them to stick around for an autograph.

The line moved quickly, and Sarah spoke with each fan. She was friendly and professional. While she signed my copy, we chatted briefly about the deer problem in Helena.

So now I'm at home, dried off, and looking back on the evening. I've got a new book, learned something about writing, and got to meet someone whose work I appreciate, respect, enjoy, and laugh with .

I'd say it was good evening.


Book Review 31: How to become wealthy

"The Millionaire Next Door" is a great read for anyone who wants to be wealthy, or who wants to understand what it means to be wealthy.

As the economy slows down and stock market declines dominate the news, it has never been more important to understand these issues than it is right now.

Are the nation's wealthy really bathing in Champagne, living in 100-room mansions, driving sports cars, carrying Hermes purses, and driving around in luxury BMWs?

According to Thomas J Stanly and William D Danko, in "The Millionaire Next Door" the answer is no. Most millionaires do not live the millionaire lifestyle. They drive older, domestic cars, shop at discount stores, and live in middle class neighborhoods. They don't wear flashy clothes and they didn't inherit their money from wealthy parents.

The book I read was published in 1998. It would be interesting to see how much or how little things have changed in the past 10 years. But I imagine it would mainly be some minor shifts in the statistics, an increase in younger entrepreneurs, and and increase in the number of female millionaires. The core elements of the book are unlikely to have changed, though.

There are two main points in the book:

  1. The wealthy don't look wealthy; those who look wealthy are often in debt.
  2. The most important key to wealth is to spend less than you earn.

What is so profound about these discoveries? Just this: Most people have it all wrong about wealth in America. Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.

Page 1
While each section may not appeal to every reader, there is something for every one. Those who relate to raw data will appreciate the charts and stats discussions. Those who prefer actual stories will find something here as well. And those who look for summaries of the key learnings will appreciate the authors' descriptions.

The book starts out with a description of the typical millionaire.
Usually the wealthy individual is a businessman who has lived in the same town for all of his adult life. This person owns a small factory, a chain of stores, or a service company. He has married once and remains married. He live next door to people with a fraction of his wealth. He is a compulsive saver and investor. And he has made his money on his own. Eighty percent of America's millionaires are first generation rich.

Page 3
The language here is intentionally gender specific. Generally, they discuss millionaire households where the husband runs the business and the wife runs the household expenses and budgeting. They don't do that to diminish the role of women in the millionaire household; in fact, appropriately managing the household expenses is a critical role in turning income into wealth.

They expand from this description of the typical millionaire and identify the key characteristics of millionaires.
  1. They live well below their means.
  2. They allocate their time, energy, and money efficiently, in ways conducive to building wealth.
  3. They believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status.
  4. Their parents did not provide economic outpatient care.
  5. Their adult children are economically self-sufficient.
  6. They are proficient in targeting market opportunities.
  7. They choose the right occupation.

Page 3-4
The authors get into deep discussions about the purchases most people associate with millionaires, and their data shows that millionaires aren't spending money on luxury cars, $1,000 suits, Rolex watches, and expensive homes.
About half the millionaires surveyed reported they had never spent more than $140 on a pair of shoes. One in four had never spent more than $100. Only about one in ten had spent over $300. If not millionaires, then who is keeping the high-priced shoe manufacturers and dealers in business? Certainly some millionaires purchase expense shoes. But for every millionaire in the "highest price paid" category of over $300,there are at least eight non-millionaires.

Page 34
The people who are buying the high-end consumer goods and luxury goods are not the wealthy -- they are people who may have a high income, but haven't accumulated wealth. Those individuals are often financing a millionaire life style with debt, and therefore, will never be wealthy.

The authors also touch on the question of immigration. It turns out that immigrants to the US disproportionately become millionaires. It's not that they are bringing wealth with them. They are starting from scratch and then building successful businesses.

Their grand children, however, less likely to become millionaires.
What about the number of years that an average member of an ancestry group has been in America? The longer the time here, the less likely it will produce a disproportionately large percentage of millionaires. Why is this the case? Because we are a consumption based society. In general, the longer the average member of an ancestry group has been in America, the more likely he or she will become fully socialized to our high-consumption lifestyle. There is another reason. First-generation Americans tend to be self-employed. Self-employment is a major positive correlate of wealth.

Page 21-23
The more integrated into American culture and ethnic group becomes, the less likely it will produce millionaires.

While the authors cite the mixing of cultures as the reason for that, I expect it has more to do with the individuals involved, and less the culture. The fact that someone is willing to uproot their life, move to a new country, settle there, and do what it takes to be successful indicates they have the level of drive necessary to start a business and grow their wealth.

The other area that is particularly interesting is the question of economic out patient care. In other words, what happens when parents give their children money. Do the children build on that?

Sometimes. We often hear stories about successful people who are that way because they inherited wealth and built on it. Donald Trump is one such example. But that's the exception to the rule. Remember, only 20% of millionaires inherited their wealth.

The authors tell stories of people with middle class incomes who live in upper class neighborhoods because their parents are wealthy. The parents subsidize the adult children to help them afford their lifestyle. The problem is that the life style still exceeds their income and subsidy. The adult children come to rely on these handouts and never develop the skills or drive to build wealth on their own. Further, since they do live beyond their means, even if they did have the drive, they don't have the seed money to build true wealth.
There are countless examples of the inverse relationship between economic productivity and the presence of substantial economic gifts. …Independent of college tuition, more than two-thirds of American millionaires received no economic gifts from their parents. And this includes most of those whose parents were affluent.

Page 165
The children of millionaires who receive the least financial assistance (excluding education) form their parents are the one most likely top be successful.
Most affluent people have at least two children. Typically, the most economically productive one receives the smaller share of his or her parent's [sic] wealth, while the least productive receives the lion's share of both economic outpatient care and inheritance.

Page 165
The book can be summed in this story told by one of the millionaires the author interviewed:
My family in Nebraska understood the value of a dollar. Dad used to say seeds are a lot like dollars. You can eat the seeds or sow them. But when you would see what seeds turned into…ten-foot-high corn…you don't want to waste them. Consume them or plant them. I always get a kick out of watching things grow.

Page 129
The presidential campaigns are all talking about wealth. The economic challenges the country faces raise questions of wealth. The housing crisis raises questions of wealth. To understand these issues, don't get caught up in media portrayals of what it means to be a millionaire. Those portrayals don't reflect reality.

The Millionaire Next Door
does. It's a great read for anyone who wants to become wealthy or understand what it means to be a millionaire.

You can find more of my book reviews here.

Tough choices

As I look at the stack of unread books on my shelf lately, I am struck by the fact that each one limits my choices. By choosing to read one book, I am choosing not to read another one this week.

I think this is why I haven't read the Silmarillion yet, nor Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. By investing time in those tomes, what books am I giving up?

I'd love to just borrow the time piece from "The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything" and resolve this conundrum.


Lord Destructo applies to the Evil League of Evil

Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible doesn't end with just the webisodes. Web 2.0 and new media are all about user generated content and allowing artists and fans to interact.

The Evil League of Evil is now accepting applications. Users create their own video applications. What happens next?

The best applicants, as determined by the League or its designated agents, will be included on a special DVD commemorating our.

So without further delay, I present the next new member of the Evil League of Evil -- Lord Destructo:

You can find this video on YouTube here.

Jon did a great job putting this together.

Bonus Appetizer

Do you every wonder if the bread plates at a restaurant table are fresh? Or do they just use they same ones for every diner?

Tonight at dinner with an old friend, I picked up picked up the clean bread plate, from the clean table, and here's what I found:

Spaghetti is no good without sauce. Fortunately, I found several teaspoons on the bottom of the plate.

Much as I appreciated this bonus gesture, it was reason enough to not order pasta for an entre.


Driving Quiz

What Your Driving Says About You

You are generally an easy going, laid back person. However, you can't help but feel a little jealous and competitive sometimes!

You are a fairly aware person, but you can't help but make judgment errors from time to time.

You are a very fair person. You treat everyone equally, even when it's difficult to do.

You can be a rather tense, grouchy person - but you try to maintain your dignity.

You have the utmost respect for authority figures. You feel that rules - and their enforcement - are important.

You are somewhat focused, but you are also a bit scatterbrained. Distractions can get you in trouble.

You are a very responsible and conscientious person. You often consider the feelings and needs of others.

Your ego is normally in check, but sometimes you get a bit egotistical. You tend to be a little self-important at times.

Okay. This one's not too far off.


Joss Whedon's Dr Horrible is Awesome

Any dolt with half a brain

Can see that humankind has gone insane

To the point where I don’t know

If I’ll upset the status quo

If I throw poison in the water main

Sure, I'm a few months late getting on the Dr. Horrible band wagon, but that doesn't change the fact that this is very cool.

Dr. Horrible is a web base musical Created by Joss Whedon. Neil Patrick Harris plays the lead role of the villain trying to get into the Evil League of Evil, pull off a major heist, and figure out how to talk to girls.

Each of the three parts runs about 15 minutes and you can watch it for free at Hulu.com or at DrHorrible.com. You can also purchase it on iTunes and watch it on your iPod.

I expected something mildly entertaining, with Whedon's trademark wit. It exceeded my expectations. The story starts out simply enough, but quickly develops additional layers about the nature of good & evil, socio-economic problems, what it means to be heroic, the nature of achieving one's dreams, nerd shyness, and bullies. And the end (both plot and flavor) came as a complete surprise to me. Yet is couldn't end any other way.

This is not just a rehash of Once More with Feeling. Whedon's style has evolved and grown as he's gained more experience with alternative media.

While Firefly was awesome, Whedon sometimes lost the flavor of the show and a chunk of text better sutied to Buffy or Angel would slip in. That doesn't happen with Dr. Horrible.

Dr. Horrible is also a great experiment in the world of new media. As TV and movie artists start experimenting with web as a primary medium instead of just striking over it as a supporting medium, there will be quite a learning curve. Whedon is already attacking that curve.

One top of that, Dr. Horrible is just plain fun to listen to. Now I have to get the soundtrack.

If you you like musicals, web media, comic books, or Joss Whedon, you owe it yourself to checkout Dr. Horrible.

And then sing along.


Book Carnival

In a blog carnival, a group of bloggers who have some sort of organizing principle in common, submit posts to be included. One blog, acting as host, writes a post, on the appointed day, which includes links to all of the blog posts submitted and accepted for the carnival. This post is then a central point from which readers can go to red those posts, which all hold an interest to their readers, through that organizing principle.


Tired of reading my book reviews? Check out the reviews from a number of other bloggers.

Cromely's World is featured on the first Book Carnival at I'll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book.

My Big Over Easy review is part of the event. You can see the other participants here.

Snoqualmie Falls in 1999

Digital cameras are everywhere today, and they give us a lot more flexibility than cameras in the recent past.

In 1999, I took my Pentax K1000 film camera to Snoqualmie Falls for an afternoon. I was using Seattle FilmWorks film, and when I go the images processed, they also gave me a CD with the scanned images. I just stumbled across this CD last week.

Snoqualmie Falls is a known to most of the country for its appearance in Twink Peaks. It also serves as a local attraction and a hydroelectric plant. It's about an hour east of Seattle.

Here are some of the pictures I took that afternoon, nine years ago.

1999-08 Snoqualmie.jpg (1)

1999-08 Snoqualmie.jpg (3)

1999-08 Snoqualmie.jpg (4)

1999-08 Snoqualmie.jpg (9)

1999-08 Snoqualmie.jpg (10)

1999-08 Snoqualmie.jpg (7)

1999-08 Snoqualmie.jpg (18)

1999-08 Snoqualmie.jpg Birks (1)


Can I call you Joe? Notes on the debate

Like many Americans, I watched the VP debate hoping for some sort of trainwreck. Unfortuantely, it wasn't quite that entertaining; both candidates did a very good job.

I thought about writing up a fascinating, deep analysis of the debate and the implications the candidates' positions have for the future of the country. I was going to publish a missive that would either sway the nation, or get lost in the mass of similar such missives.

Then I has the idea of giving everyone insight into my debate watching process of watching the debate unfold through my raw notes. This would become some sort of meta-analysis of the blogging of the rhetorical process.

Either that or I wanted to get to be earlier.

But a little encouragement was all it took (thanks, LDK) so here are the raw notes.

6:03: Can I call you joe?

6:04: Gov, it's a pleasur ot meet you

Went right to Obama's plan

6:05 go to a kids soccer game?

6:06 Mccain sounded warning bell two years ago
Suppsort mccains

Cited Campaign suspension?

6:07: Bidne asked to respond to pla

Kept citeing McCain's saying Ecomony was great

6:08: Palin said mcaidn was talking about the work force
Goes to her record as gov

Track record of reform

96% of obama supports the party

Americans craving something new and different

6:09: blamed the predatory lenders for problem

Greed and corruption on wall street

Demand stinct oversight form federal govt

Don't get our selves in debt (spiked on the CNN meter

6:11: obama warned two years ago, while obama warned, mccaing said he was always for cutting regs

Jon want to deregulat healtcare like he did banking

6:13: Obama supported hihger taxes 94 times

6:14: Called out govern on the votes track record

6:14: said she wouldn't answer the questions the mod or biden wanted

6:15: not tac warere to raise tax abve 250k it's fairlness

6:16: saiys mccain want 350b tax cuts for business

6:17: says small business pay more taxes

6:18: invoked reagan = gov't is problem

$5K med ins tax credit is budget neutral?

20: busget netutral by taxes health care benefits

"ultimate bridge to nowhere"

6:21: what will you cut due to the crisis?

Biden slow down foreing aid
Oppose corporate tax cuts

Cannot skimp on energy
Cannot skimp on education
Won't slow up on healthcare

Cut wastefull spending

100b tax dodge that allows people to take their post office box off shore

6:23: obama voted for oil bonuses a few years ago.

Thinks she overrode fed tax policy?

I havne't promised anything so there's nothing for me to cut

Obama voted for the bill to suppot alt energy funding
Obama opposed cuts in early bvotes but had to support the whole thing
McCain supported cuts the whole time
Palin supporte windfall taxin al maybe she can convinve mccain

6:27: starts rambling about toxic mess?

6:28: obama said there was sub prime crissi 2 years ago

What we should be doing now is letting bankruptcy courts adjust principal and interest

I bleeive Mcain and go oppose that

6:29: goes back to energy

Focus on independence

East coast politicaisn don't let us tap into the resources

6:30: what is happenign with climate change

Alaska knows it is real both cyclical and man's impact

6:32: if you don't understand the cause you can't come up with a solution

3% of reserves 20% of use

McCain opposed clean fuel

Obama believes in safe nuclear and clean coal

McCain voted 20 times agianst it

6:35: palin said bidne referred to of shore drilling as raping the earth

6:36: support same sex benefits

6:37: won't support actual gay marriage
Benefits okay, don't go down that road
Will be tolerant
I have a idverse familiy and group of friends

6:39: Biden leave it the faiths

6:40: presurge numbers?

6:41: with all due respect I did not hear a plan

Our plan is the one iraq prez and bush are negotiatin

As for not voting for funding, mccain voted the same way

CNN lines spike on bidne discussing the iraq surplus and

6:42: Your plan is a surrender

6:43: you would run with mccain, and you said obama would not be ready to be commander in chief

6:45: mccain siad oil would pay sunnis and shiites would get along

Pakistan has nuke now

6:46: threat is in the hills of afghan and pakistan

6:47: I would believe petraus and that leader of alqeada

"The Castro brothers"

6:50: Achmandinajan does not control Iran

Our friends and allies have been saying sit down and talk

After 5 years bush finally sent a diplomat to meet with Iran

McCain said he would not even sit down with the govt of Spain

6:53: Rice is now trying to turn around a failed Isreal policy

6:54: Huge blunders throughout this admisnistration
Huge blunder in the war

Cites her reform efforts
Putting particsianship aside

6:56: I haven't heard how his policy will be different from Bush's
great rant

6:57: Palin --Surge principles need to be implementin Afghanistan that's how we're different from Bush
Dodge nukes

6:58: commanding general said Iraq surge will not work in Afghanistan

6:59: spent more in three weeks in iraqus = 6.5 years in afghanistan

7:01: Americna public has a appetite for success

Bosnia worked
Voted for iraq war because the president wanted the power not to go to the wra
I was right on iraq

We can impose a no fly in Darfur
We can lead NATO in Sudan
We should rally the world to act

Support heleicpters to get troops to there

Palin -- we agree on Darfur

Wesupported pulled as permanent fund out of sudan

7:05: where is the line
Can e do anythign about it?
Genocide and harboring terrorism means we can intervenee

Tied mccain to cheney, not just Bush

7:08: I would carry out Obama's policies

7:09: as a team of maverick we wouldn't agreee on everything

I would continue his good work

7:12: shout outs to friends?

7:16: agre with Cheny that VP is not executive branch then touts her executive expereince

7:18: my connection to the heartland of america is key?

7:22: he's bipartisn because of how many republicans support him

7:23: he's no maverick on things that matter

7:30: National Security Freedoms?


Not Always Right

On The Futility Of Signs
Pizza/Arcade Combo | Flagstaff, AZ, USA

(One customer complains about a game that is not giving tickets. Upon looking at the game, I discover that a fuse is blown. I place several “Out of Order” stickers over the coin slot and refund the customer. Two minutes later another customer approaches.)

Customer: “I just put a coin in this game and won tickets but none came out.”

Me: “I placed an ‘Out of Order’ sticker on the coin slot. Is it not on there anymore?”

Customer: “You mean these? They were in the way so I removed them. Can I get a refund?”

One of my favorite blogs is Not Always Right. It's a collection of stupid customer stories submitted by salespeople, customer service reps, tech support, waiters, and other service industry employees. They send in their favorite (or most miserable) customer stories.

And they are hysterical.

If you work with the pubic now, or have worked with them in in past, you will have a special appreciation for these tales.

Some of these stories may stretch credulity, but I've spent enough time in customer service that little surprises me.

They usually post three new ones each day. It's worth a visit.