April 27th, 2013
The book, Cheap: The High Cost of
The book, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, describes the history
of cheapness in our country. It exposes some of the players involved and
incredible examples of how far this culture has gone. When you track this
history, you can start to see where we are headed. Here are a few items I
took away from the book:
The book helps define the difference
between frugal and cheap. I often call myself cheap and
maybe sometimes I am but in reality, I try to be frugal. I might quickly
define being cheap as trying to save money at all costs. I could describe
being frugal as being wise with money. A smart person may spend more for a
particular item if it will last longer, like a quality piece of furniture.
A frugal person will also buy quality but also look for one that is used
so he can get quality at a low price.
The book helps to explain how the
ideal of cheapness became part of the American culture.
The proliferation of cheap and disposable products did not happen by
accident. The drive for mass manufacturing brought cheaper products with
it. Unfortunately, aggressive cost cutting measures lead to cutting
corners and lower quality.
Cheapness hurts us as a country in
ways that are not always obvious. Being cheap often
leads to Pyrrhic victories. Countries who can manufacture cheaper than we
can get the jobs that we have become accustomed to. Products that don’t
last doom us to buying them over and over again.
Unless people start to look for
quality, cheapness leads us into a downward spiral.
Cheapness makes manufacturers race to the bottom in terms of price. Low
cost increasingly becomes the only positive aspect of cheap products. It’s
a temptation that grows stronger the more we become dependent on cheapness.
It seems like a hard choice but you really can switch from being cheap to
being frugal. This book will help open your eyes as to why you should.
April 2nd, 2013
This is a remarkable story of people
who survived through the dust bowl. It was well written
and I found it extremely interesting. I thought the style of detailing
first person accounts was very effective. Here are a few thoughts I had
while reading the book:
- I had no idea just how bad things
had gotten during the dust bowl.
I remember reading about the dust bowl in history class as a child.
But to hear written first hand accounts of the situation and to know the stories
of particular people brought the misery of the dust bowl to life. The book
is a very effective tool in communicating this part of our history.
- The dust bowl is a clear warning of
unintended consequences of central planning.
A government commission that studied the problem clearly saw that a large
cause of the problem was the government itself. The desire to settle the
midwest was push with incentives instead of allowed to grow naturally.
Governments should only get involved when a problem cannot be solved
without its input.
- The book confirms me in my interest
in more sustainable practices. I am in the process of
buying some land at the time of this writing. My interest in gardening is
growing and I have plans to add different aspects. But I plan on paying
attention to the land with an eye towards the future. Hopefully I will
leave the land in better shape than when I arrive.
I recommend this
book. I think it is a great way to learn about our
history. It is important to know mistakes of the past so we can recognize
them as they occur in our lifetimes. When we see them, we can hopefully
make better decisions in how to respond to them. I was surprised to learn
that there were people who stayed in some of the hardest hit areas out of
pride. They stayed even as family members left or died and they had no
hope of doing much better than simply surviving. Having a historical
perspective will at least hopefully save people from flawed thinking such
as, “It can never happen to me” or the sunk cost fallacy.
family during the dust bowl
March 20th, 2013
This is the interesting story of the battle to set the standard for electrical systems in America. The tale is both inspiring and frightening.
Photo credit: frenchbyte from morguefile.com
Here are three observations that I made:
- Some people will abandon morality to feed their ego and pocket book. This is not news to us but the book is a good reminder of the extent that people will go to. An interesting part of the story was how part of the battle tried to prove systems to be both safe and a good choice for execution of criminals. I remember thinking, “Run that past me again…”
- We should closely scrutinize people who drive our lives “forward”. Some of the famous names in this story have questionable pasts. The experiments to determine how much electricity could be withstood before death were hard to read.
- What defines the “best” can change over time. As our technology has changed, our needs for how our energy is delivered has changed and continues to change.
The story of energy and electricity is far from over. Arguably, it has become more important as we are now dependent on it. It will be interesting to see how the rise of DC (think battery powered devices such as smart phones, laptops, etc) continues to erode the assumption that AC has won the war.
Photo credit: bobby from morguefile.com
The future may belong to the two standards working together such as DC battery banks which remain charged through AC power, then used to power AC devices.
Overall this was a pretty good read.
February 22nd, 2013
This book is the follow up to Dinesh D’Souza’s book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage. It was written before the election and gave his idea on what what drives Obama’s policies and where we may be going in a second Obama presidential term.
Here are three quick thoughts I had after reading the book:
- Dinesh D’Souza strengthens his case. D’Souza provides more arguments to support his thesis and adds new information that helps his argument. For example, the role his mother played in his formation is examined.
- Obama’s plan is the decline of America to a more “fair” position with other countries. This plan is not considered being anti-American in Obama’s eyes because it is not good for America to be imperialist It’s not neighborly to dominate, so we must take it down a notch. If you haven’t read the book and this seems preposterous I recommend you read the book then draw your own conclusion.
- The fastest way to achieve his goal is by creating massive debt. There is no doubt our spending is out of control. When we spend more than we have in such huge amounts it is the equivalent of taking out credit cards and running them up to the max. Some may argue we have to do this spending now because of the needs we have but the more we do this, the harder it is to get back in good financial shape again.
To carry the analogy further, what we are doing now is like me taking credit cards out in my kids’ names and running up their bill, assuming they will be able to pay it later. Which ever child of mine ends up making the most money will get more of the share of the bills to pay his or her “fair share”. To me this sounds like taxation without representation, considering future generations are not old enough to have a say in this mad spending spree. I worry for future generations, and how they will cope with our recklessness. Of course in this case, according to D’Souza’s theory, it is not recklessness but a premeditated plan.
I read this book after the election. We have President Obama for another full term unless he gets impeached and removed of his office for some thing or another, such as assassinating American citizens without due process, for example. I don’t think that is likely though and we have who we deserve. I think the best course of action at this point is to pray for our future.
February 16th, 2013
I picked this book for a long drive I had to make a couple of weeks ago. I had to spend 8 or 9 hours behind the wheel and needed something to keep me entertained. Luckily I was able to download the audio version of this book from our library in just a few minutes. It was a spur of the moment decision.
The book, written by actor/comedian Richard Belzer, reminded me of Art Bell. Before I got married, when my future wife and I were dating, I would have some late drives back to my place after spending the day with her. I enjoyed listening to AM Coast to Coast when Art Bell was the host. The show covered topics such as UFO’s, exorcisms, ghosts, etc. Anyway, back to the book.
Here are three points I drew from the book:
- If there is a conspiracy, you can be sure the right wing is behind it. The left gets a pass on everything because they are good and pure and the right are bad and shady. Well, at least that’s what I gather from Belzer. Yeah, sure.
- Only a fool would believe the single bullet theory. The warren commission was a sham backed by you know who (the right wing). There are too many problems with the theory with logistics, witnesses, odd characters, connections between the people involved, ability, and it goes on. Lots of info here. This is a big part of the book
- I would like to be able to recommend this book as a fun read for families but I can’t. It is funny but some of the material is unnecessarily unsuitable for younger ears. It’s kind of a shame.
In summary, this book was entertaining enough. The audio version has these annoying noises between segments, sounds of springs for example. The JFK assassination half of the book was interesting. The other parts were pretty light with materials at times. The book did it’s job though, I made the 9 hour drive and managed to stay alert and keep from getting tired the whole way. I was entertained and maybe learned a few things about the JFK assassination and a few things about Richard Belzer.