The latest (long)

So, its been a while since I last wrote, and I know you are all waiting for an update (Yeah, right). Here’s the lastest.

As many of you already know, my truck is no more. I was in an accident in February, and the truck was totaled. In my last post, I mentioned that I was about to purchase a Honda from a friend. Well, I did, and it rocks. It is in great shape, and gets excellent gas mileage. Being the cheap fellow that I am (my wife hates when I say that!), I was also quite happy when I realized that I would break even on the deal with the money that I received from the “other guy’s” insurance company. I’d still rather have the truck – it would have ran forever – but the saving on gas mileage is more than a fair tradeoff.

In other “interesting” news, I nearly sliced my finger off at work yesterday. I was using a knife in the kitchen, being an idiot, and sliced my left pinky finger. I tried unsuccessfully to get it to stop bleeding, but ultimately needed to go to the hospital to get stiches. I was pretty worried about the tetnus shot, as my wife told me that it was a HUGE needle that HURT, but it turns out it barely hurts at all, and the needle is quite small. What really did hurt was the injection of the local right into the slice in my finger….

So, does anything good happen to you, Tom? Well, yes. I’m on train right now heading into NYC, destination, Philadelphia. Let me just say that it is a glorious morning. Sunny and warm, it gives me a new appreciation for getting up early (5am!). Up until about a year ago, I was pretty diligent about getting up a 5:30, and getting things done before work. I’ve slacked off, but I am now again inspired, and with the warm weather (hopefully) approaching, it will be a great opportunity to get things done.

Ok, back to some ranting. Taxes stink. I understand that we need to pay taxes. Fine. But when you look at how much you pay, you come to the realization that you basically live to pay taxes. Here’s a thought: we’re so concerned about the state of Social Security, and the amount of debt the country has racked up, why not let me keep more of my money for those two issues. I know, I know, exploitation of tax laws is rampant, but something really needs to be done. I would also like to see money earmarked for economic growth and innovation via small business startups. I’m sorry, but The Country doesn’t need more politians and government employees. We have too many as it is. Enough. What we need is innovation, new ideas and production of goods (moreso than services) that will contribute to the GDP. Hey, guess what? YOu can tax the heck out of it once it goes big! Until then, let it grow. Here’s what I propose:

Get the “young” saving for retirement early. Why? Buy-in. If we all believe in the system, we won’t let it fail. I can’t say the particulars, but those a few years out of college should be given strong tax incentives to save up to 20% per year of their income for retirement. This will create good habits and a strong nest egg for them going forward. It will also involve the young in finance, which will help all of us police fraud alot better – those young folk, they’re a fiesty bunch!

Small business incentives: You’re paying taxes and fees before you even start the company. Ridiculous. Now, yes, a business can “write off” plenty, but we need to take this to the next level. People are either too scare or too lazy to start their own businesses. Ask any college student today, and they will most likely tell you that a government job is the fastest and easiest way to get rich. In a capitalist society, this is the absolute WRONG message to send. We need everyone trying to innovate and create, not sit around and wait for their next union-sanctioned break.

Reduce debt: It is no secret that we Americans carry too much debt. Now debt makes the world go ’round, I understand. But consumer credit card debt is expensive, and as a society we need to do something about it. Why? Because credit card debt can “ruin” a person, without them having a fighting chance. This is not as easy a problem to solve, as debt is accumulated by choice, unlike taxes. But, we need to do something. Focusing on the young, we could do something like the following:

Training in school. Teach people what it means to have a credit card, and what the implications are. We may not need an entire class on it, but a few weeks of study will go a long way.

Some extra tax break for people who carry low balances. Again, the particulars need to be worked out, but a tax incentive for those who have a low balance could inspire some to cut back on spending. This one would never go through – no way the credit card companies would allow it.

An alternative to this may be to go the complete opposite direction and encourage CC spending, and then just mandate how high the interest rates can get. I don’t really care for this idea though, as it is really a bandaid, and doesn’t distribute responsibility properly. But, it is possible.

The national debt troubles me, and I’m sure that I don’t even understand the full ramifications of it. I do understand, however, that it is a debt nonetheless, and eventually our creditors are going to want their money back, especially as the global economy really kicks in, and the American economy isn’t as fruitful of an investment as it used to be. What exactly all of this means to us, I’m not sure. But I doubt it is good.

So, I’m now on Amtrak cruising off to Philly. I took the recommendation of my boss and am riding the Accela Express – nice train indeed! Big, comfy seats, lots of leg room, conference tables, relatively quiet and even power outlets so I can charge my phone. Very sweet. There is even a snack card. WooHoo!

So, the show was good. I really got a good sense about the direction of the company, and what needs to be done to get us there. Some people operate well in the “I do my job and that’s it” space – I’m not one of of them. My background (like it is really that deep) is really in bootstrapping, so I need to understand everything. I don’t necessarily need to be involved in it, but as a self-proclaimed information junkie, I need to know about it. When I understand the entire picture, I perform better. I guess it is also the competitive streak in me – I really enjoy beating the other guy where it counts – in his wallet. I guess it is all a big game, and I’m not a gamer, but I REALLY like winning at this one.

New Car Day (I hope)

So, my post is overdue, and a few things have happened since then. I probably wouldn’t be posting, except that I’m not feeling too great today (I think I’m getting a cold), and don’t feel like doing much of anything at the moment.

First off, my truck is no more. I was in an accident on the way to class, and the truck was declared totaled. An older man slammed right into the front driver’s side, and that was it. Everyone is OK, but I am now carless. I am really pretty bummed about the whole thing, as I had a vehicle that may not have been the prettiest, but was very mechanically sound, and now I have nothing. His insurance company did cut me a check pretty quick, but since the car was 19 years old, they hardly gave me anything for it. I really feel like something was stolen from me. I invested alot of time and effort into maintaining that truck because I knew (or thought I knew) that I could keep it for 5 to 10 more years without issue. It had low miles, and was running great. Oh well, such is life. It could have been worse, thank goodness it wasn’t.

The good news is that it looks like (fingers crossed) that I am getting another car today. A friend is selling a Honda with low miles at a good price, and I will most likely buy it. At this point in my life, with the house and general Long Island living, I really don’t want a car payment. I guess I don’t look at it the way others do. It is not a status symbol to me, especially since with the leasing options today, nearly anyone can drive a Mercedes or BMW. Elissa’s car is still going strong, but we’ll probably replace that with a “new” (or newer) car once it goes. As long as we have one “nice” car in the family, I’m Ok with that. Plus, I have my Z, which needs tons of work, but man, is that a ride!

In other news, Elissa and I took the plunge into furniture. She found a really great set at a reasonable price (can you tell that I’m cheap?) and it got delivered way sooner than expected. I tried to FreeCycle the Futon, but it ultimately went my co-worker/buddy Mark, who needed it. Hopefully it works out for him.

The PHP class at Farmingdale has been going well. I find that a good number of the students are at least attempted (and mostly completing) the extra credit assignments that I’m handing out. That’s really great, because I purposely try to give assignments that reflect what I’ve encountered in the real world. One of my goals with this course is to ensure that the students have something in their toolkit (read: resume) that is marketable. I’m all for academics, and I personally enjoy them myself. But I think the gap between college and the real world got very wide in the last decade or so, and is only recently starting to retract. I believe the Farmingdale staff is on top of this though, as they are often investigating new and different technologies specifically to address this problem. If it wasn’t for the folks there, this PHP course never would have gotten off the ground.

My classes at Post are going fine. I’m anxious to graduate though, as I have other things on my mind which I’d like to focus more on. I really like what we’re accomplishing at Bascom, the system is so vast, it really is technological playground for the geeks. There’s always new and fun things to try, and our bi-monthly wing nights are a big hit, too.

LIPHP will be having its 24 meeting on Monday. I can’t believe it has been two years. We have a hearty mailing list of over 100 strong, and decent attendance at most meetings. I’d like to find the time this year to do some promotion of it, as it is a great group with great topics, and I often encounter people who are actively developing in PHP who have never heard of it.

Well, that’s it for now, I think I’m going to grab a quick nap.