November 2008


Question:  Would you ever leave your front door open and invite passersby the right to roam through?  Caveat being that of course they can’t take anything, but they should feel free to camp out and see what’s going on?  Maybe watch you and your significant other have a huge argument (again) about whether football is more important than family board game time?  Possibly the make-up session in the bedroom later?  How about sitting and chatting with your kids about school, their friends or if they have ever kissed a member of the same sex?

No?  I thought not.  Which is why I find it utterly fascinating the number of people who have little difficulty exposing their lives on MySpace or Facebook.  Now, I know what you’re going to say – “You can control the access by controlling who your friends are…”  True.  But who here only wants to have the same 9 friends? 

It becomes almost a competition to suddenly find yourself with 82 friends, three of whom are famous thank-you-very-much, and endless strangers trying to add you to their cool list.  As time passes, you relax and start responding to all the random conversational leads on your page until one day you look back and realize that with very little effort a total stranger could find out enough about your life to ruin it.

Or maybe you’re not that paranoid.  I am.  I read the news and see some terrible things.  I always wonder, “How did he / she know enough about them to do that?”  Sometimes we just let people in, but other times they take the back door.

What did we do without these sites before?  Pick up the phone, visit, send a letter – send an email?  But I haven’t seen them in 20 years… and maybe there’s a reason for that.  For every 100 happy reunions I’m sure there’s probably not even one unhappy reunion, right?  So what’s the worry? 

Maybe there isn’t one, but human nature is pretty predictable and history shows that where information is available there is always someone waiting to abuse it.

Signed,

Anonymous

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I will not be joining the masses shopping Friday for a Christmas gift deal.

Why not? 

Because I have my doubts that there will be masses.  There are some pretty good deals floating around and if you haven’t visited www.bfads.net to check them out, get with the program.  However, there are also a lot of companies not giving out bonuses this year, cutting back hours, laying off staff and dumping their retirement programs matching gifts.  So far, my company isn’t one of them but I have to admit I worry. 

Budgets being what they are don’t generally contain a lot of room for discretionary funds when you are in a recession.  It just doesn’t make sense to waste what you might need for the real bills.  All that being said, I do have to wonder how many people will be seduced by some ridiculously low item they never knew they needed?  It’s such a tough time all around for the business owners, especially the small and boutique niche businesses and the consumer alike.

My advice is make a list of the items you’d like to get this year or need around the house.  Things you would have purchased anyway.  Try to find them on sale and enjoy the discount.  Make sure you bring your checkbook register along, however, and keep an eye on that bottom line.  I, personally, am avoiding any extra credt debt and only spending what I can actually afford.

Unless that 42″ Vizio LCD goes on sale around $600 – then I might have to rethink my plan.  Otherwise, I might come out for a few minutes – we few and frugal.  I don’t think there will be masses… just mini-masses.

So I used to think layaway was a great thing, kind of like credit.  You can’t afford it now, but if you budget you can have it in a few weeks.  The catch being you don’t really need the “program” to do the same thing – it’s called sticking to a budget and saving.  But in theory, it helps the less disciplined.

In theory.  But then I ask myself, why did they get rid of lay-away in the first place?  My opinion is that everyone became credit card budgeteers and charged it anyway, so what’s the point delaying paying it off twice.   The business is just slowing down their bottom-line intake.  But then the credit market hit a major bump in the road – they were lending to people who didn’t have a way to pay them back.  Oops.  And unlike lay-away, where you can pay down the principle without paying some ridiculous interest on top of it – the debt just grew.

So now Kmart is bringing back the lay-away and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  I’m not sure if it’s a good sign or if it’s just pandering to people living outside their means.  In either case, the bottom line is you’re trying to get something you don’t have the money for.

So maybe you just shouldn’t get it?   More on this later…

I very deliberately try not to comment on specific political personalities, policies or partisan debates because most of the time, my voice isn’t necessarily that divergent from one group or another.  Why egg on a fight?  In this case, however, I feel like I have something different to say.

First I read this article in the Washington Post.  http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/2008/11/obamas_impossible_high_expecta.html?hpid=topnews

Now, put aside the rhetoric on “what kind of paper” the Post is and take the article at face value.  After listening to many of my peers talk, I feel this article reflects a lot of the feelings his voters in the DC Metro area have.  I worry about it – greatly – because a pedestal that high is a long way to fall.

Asking President-elect Obama to represent the healing of massive racial issues in the country is like asking Jesus (whether you call him prophet or Son of God) to represent the healing of two warring nations that dated back to two women having sons by the same man and one of them not inheriting.  (Oversimplified for the sake of brevity – forgive me please.)  Pick up a paper, even that argument is still on-going.

The responsibility of healing the racial divides in this country belong solely to the citizenship of this country.  Regardless of race, social status or geographic location, we should all be working to teach our youth that everyone is equal and forgiving grudges of past hurts. 

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My family is Southern. That’s right, a capital S is required. Not only are we Southern, but our roots are the Southern Genteel. You know, the cotillion-having, who-are-your-people-asking, butter-wouldn’t-melt types. If we were white, we’d be rich to boot, but we are Creole and that’s a whole other ballgame.

Anyway, my family is Southern. Which means I was raised with certain tenets:
1. Do not wear out your welcome. (Friends, family or stranger alike – you spend a little quality time and always leave long before they start hinting for you to go. Always think about the fact that they may have other things to do.)

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So what is perfect and why are we all trying so damned hard to achieve it?

Putting all spiritual discussion aside, let’s just have an honest airing of a reality check. Not one of us currently walking this round ball called Earth is perfect. None. Not even that newborn over there, his screaming is bothering someone, hence – imperfect.

So, we tell children to “be themselves” and that it’s ok “if everyone is different”. (Aside: This does not hold true for primary education in America, unfortunately. With the standardized testing ruling the pocketbooks of the education administrators, everyone needs to be the same. Even if they aren’t. Lying is encouraged. Learning, sadly, is not.)

Anyway, we feed our kids these lines then suddenly, about puberty, we start telling them they aren’t good enough. They are doing it all wrong and if they don’t change – they will be failures as adults and human beings. Mind you, two weeks prior we weren’t declaring winners and losers at T-Ball because God forbid our kid be a loser.

Then we become young adults and go to college where we get the startling dose of reality that, Hey we are NOT all winners. You can (and probably are) a loser at something. Sometimes it’s academia (more and more these days) and sometimes it’s sports and sometimes it’s social skills. Regardless, we suddenly think our parents were right and we are doing it all wrong.

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The economy sucks.  It’s not a newsflash, but why it has gotten to this point might be if you’re not paying attention.  I love my country.  My father was in the military for 26 years and I grew up a died-in-the-wool patriot.  That being said, America is nowhere near perfect.  We have some growing up to do as a nation and while we’re ahead in some areas, we’re tragically young in others.

Take for instance the “air of entitlement” most of us have.  Yes, I said us, because I’m as guilty as the next of spending recklessly because God forbid I deny myself something or have to wait for it.  I’m an American, by God, the wealthiest country in the world (really?!) with milk and honey flowing over every valley, couture clothing for all and a free latte from Starbucks for anyone who completed high school.

Well, OK – maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s the behavior of a nation in trouble.  The United States of America, a country built on the premise that you could have anything, be anything, go anywhere if you were willing to work for it.  We are quite proud of this heritage, but in the past few decades we’ve tried to drop an important piece – the “willing to work for it” part.

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