Thursday, February 24, 2005

I resisted getting a cellphone for many years. Their obvious utility aside, I always thought of them as the obnoxious tools of pretentious yuppies. Now that they’re so ubiquitous, not to mention dirt cheap, my opposition has softened: I finally broke down and got my own phone.

What’s that? Did someone just say, “Welcome to 1997, Ace”? Hey, watch the smart mouth!

Anyway, now that I’m officially a denizen of the Wireless World, it occurred to me that many of the important sounding one-sided conversations I hear from people barking into their cells are probably not that significant at all. Take my call to the wife last night, for instance. I was saying things like, “He’s probably the leading candidate in the race”, and, “I’m not sure he’s got what it takes to pull it off”, and “he’s got to start thinking outside the box”, and, “well, isn’t that a contractual violation?” Were we discussing some executive level hire, or brokering a political deal? Hardly. We were actually talking about the finals of Bravo Channel’s fashion reality show, Project Runway.

What’s that? Did someone just say, “I thought you were straight, Ace”? Again with the smart mouth, eh?

As I was saying, the wife and I were discussing something entirely banal, yet to a casual eavesdropper it might appear from my phrasing that we were power players. I’ll keep this lesson in mind the next time I think I overhear something notable or salacious from a wireless corporate yuppie sitting next to me in the airport.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I was wrong. I only have to wait 3 years before applying for US citizenship, not 5 as I originally thought. The USCIS Adjudication Officer pleasantly informed me of that today as she stamped my passport. Now I be able to vote against Hillary and for (Condi Rice?) in '08. Sadly, I won't be registered to vote in time to oust Janet Napolitano as Arizona Governor in '06. I'll make sure my wife does so for me by proxy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Lest you listen to the news and start to think America’s position on the Kyoto Treaty borders on the satanic, I urge you to read this CalTech lecture by Michael Crichton, wherein he details the fallacy of “consensus” science and the absurdity of long range climate change modeling.

Some choice quotes:
Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?…Look: If I was selling stock in a company that I told you would be profitable in 2100, would you buy it? Or would you think the idea was so crazy that it must be a scam?

Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

This is it. At 2:45pm, I will have my I-485 Adjustment of Status Adjudication, otherwise known as the Green Card interview. I’ve compiled nearly a ream of documentation to prove my marriage is indeed legitimate and that I qualify to become a permanent resident of the United States. Next stop, citizenship, another 5 years away.

Dealing with the US immigration apparatus has been a nightmare. USCIS, formerly the INS, is a colossal, labyrinthine bureaucracy, run by feckless goons with little regard for the welfare of the immigrants with whom they deal. On several occasions, my livelihood as a legal resident of this country came down to the fickle whims of a sole USCIS officer, without the possibility of appeal. Come through the wrong Port of Entry, in front of the wrong officer who has the wrong attitude and the wrong interpretation of immigration statute guidelines, and one could find oneself stranded at the border.

The first time I entered the US for work, my application was reviewed at the Pearson International Airport immigration checkpoint by a very young agent who seemed to think the employment letter vouching for my credentials was a tad light. He made me leave the checkpoint, go back through security, and beg the Delta ticket counter to use their fax machine to get a new letter, revised with the latest bureaucratic jargon. I returned, fresh letter in hand, only to be sequestered in a small, barren room for 4 hours before being released, grudgingly. I don’t know how they thought I posed a potential threat to national security or to the labor market. What I do know is that while I was wrangling with immigration concerns, the INS was busy eagerly approving visa applications for Islamo-fascists who were conspiring to fly commercial airliners into several prominent East Coast landmarks. Can you say, “scathing indictment”?

Anyhoo, there’s a 99.98% chance that in a few hours I’ll finally be a bonafide green card holder. I’m currently taking suggestions for celebratory libations.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Wal-Mart is Evil!” is a popular meme in media circles these days, so it’s no surprise that news of the closure of what was to be the company’s first unionized store has been widely disseminated. Labor histrionics aside, the truth is that the store was losing money to begin with, and the wage and overtime demands of the newly ratified union local would have pushed the store further into the red.

I’m not a fan of unions. That’s not to say they don’t have a place in a healthy, diversified economy; they do, albeit a limited one. However, having grown up in a big pro-union town I’ve seen first-hand the lunacy that pervades leadership at the local level, which often pits petty self-interest against the greater good of the community. Think unions are “for the people”? That’s bunk. More often than not, unions aren’t for the people, they’re for their people.

Case in point: Mother’s been sending me emails of snippets in the local media about a rash of plant closures in New Brunswick’s beleaguered pulp and paper industry. In the City of Miramichi, two plants have been sidelined. One is a paper plant that’s been shutdown indefinitely due to a prolonged labor strike. The other, a pulp plant that supplies the aforementioned paper plant, was also forced to close indefinitely because there is no longer a market for what they produce. As long as the pulp plant’s sole customer, the town’s paper plant, is out of commission, the pulp plant will be closed.

Of course, the logical course of action for the pulp plant’s union was to pressure the paper plant’s union to return to the bargaining table for the sake of everyone’s well being. But no, they chose not to do so. Instead, they sat back and watched the paper plant’s labor situation deteriorate. When the time came for the pulp plant to cease operations, the plant’s union local, in their infinite wisdom, demanded that the government step in and force the pulp plant to stay open! Naturally, the government demurred.

The net result of this comedy of errors? Two high-tech plants sidelined, hundreds of well-paid laborers out of work for the foreseeable future, and the Miramichi economy taking a major hit.

Keep this story in mind the next time you hear a pinko friend or relative pine for the good ol’ days when unions reigned supreme.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My company lowered the boom today, announcing a massive restructing plan and the closure of several offices, including Phoenix. However, I'm one of a handful of employees who have been asked to stay on indefinitely as part of the US software implementation team. Here's the real silver lining: I get to work from home full-time starting in October. Just when I was ruing the prospect of commuting 65 miles a day from the new house, I'm spared. With this sort of luck, I should go back to Vegas this weekend.

Monday, February 07, 2005

In November, I wrote a cranky post lamenting my experience as a homeowner. So, what did I do about it? I bought a bigger house!

Somebody please stop me before I hurt myself.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I’m often asked for financial advice, particularly with regard to which stocks to buy. People seem to think I’m some sort of market wizard, though I’ll readily admit my personal record is somewhat spotty. Over the past few years I’ve tinkered with a number of homegrown fundamental and technical stock picking models. So far, I haven’t discovered the Holy Grail, that magic formula to generate enormous investment returns in perpetuity, but I think I’ve finally cobbled together a stable model that will at least outperform the market. As such, I’m putting my money where my mouth is, as the cliché goes. In the right margin of this blog you will find a link called 2005 Stock Picks. Click on it to see how my “For the Love of Christ, Let me Retire Early!” model portfolio prototype is doing throughout the year.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What? The Iraqi election was a success? Better than expected turnout, despite threats of widespread murder by the terrorists, you say?

But, I thought the Iraqis didn’t understand the concept of democracy, being simple-minded Arab folk and all. Weren’t the Americans wrong to depose Saddam, as he was an adored savior of the Iraqi people, who loved him so much they chose him unanimously in the last general “election”? Wasn’t Iraq actually a well-contained nation that thrived under despotic rule by a sadistic madman? At least, that’s what my learned, liberal friends have told me.

Could my friends have been wrong, what with all their fancy, top-notch education and worldly outlook on the most salient issues of our times? Say it isn’t so!