Ramit Sethi- Useless Black Friday Advice

OK, Black Friday was yesterday. I didn’t have a chance to write a blog post until now.

Ramit Sethi is one of my favorite bloggers. He’s the blogger behind I Will Teach You To Be Rich. He wrote a post yesterday about how the typical financial pundit the media digs up for segments will whine and complain about typical Black Friday behavior.

Black Friday: the biggest consumer spending day of the year. And also the day with the most annoying advice in the world.

Seriously, guys, you would not believe how many press releases I’ve gotten about how what a terrible, scary, foreboding day this is going to be for our country. And every “expert” is eager to take advantage of it.

“Americans are spending too much!” these so-called “experts” will cry. “They just need to _____ (keep a budget/stop spending/resist evil marketers).”

They’ve been repeating advice like this for decades, but has anything changed?

No. We spend more and save less than almost ever before.

When your entire philosophy rests on urging Americans to NOT do something they want to do, chances are very good that you’ll fail. It’s like trying to push back a tsunami.

I’ve been reading Ramit’s blog for years now. He puts an interesting perspective on personal finance. Rather than telling you to be frugal in all your ways, he suggests spending what you want in those areas that you value, and cut costs mercilessly in other areas. A friend of his greatly values eating out, and spends about $21,000 a year doing it. But he lives in a smaller apartment and drives a smaller car, as those things don’t mean as much to him.

I don’t quite understand Black Friday. I used to go Black Friday shopping with my wife, but eventually I got fed up with it. I’m not convinced the bargains were that good, and getting up at 0300 to save a few dollars on something that would end up on sale for the same price a few weeks later didn’t make sense to me. I started staying home with the kids.

This year, she did the midnight madness thing. She was out all night shopping. No thank you. It made me feel refreshed to get up at 5 for work.

Veterans and Active Duty, Here Are Some Veteran’s Day Freebies

With Veteran’s Day coming up in 2 days, several businesses are offering freebies for veterans and active duty service members. You can find one catalogue of them here.

I have a question I’ve always wanted to ask other veterans. Do you ever feel uncomfortable when people who have not served in the military seem to make a big deal out of “Thank you for serving our country!”?

Granted, I would not want to live through the 70’s when being military was a bad thing in some parts of the culture. But I did what I did because it was about the only option I seemed to have. I didn’t have many altruistic motives. OK, I had a few. But not many. I was 17, wasn’t ready for college, and had few options besides fast food. My dad retired after 21 years in the Air Force. I grew up in the military, most of my friends were military brats, and I didn’t really know any different. So I went in the Navy.

I served 6 years, went to some interesting places, learned electronics, a work ethic, and how to endure without sleep or comforts and how to get along with some really weird people. I got my GI Bill, VA Loan, and have had a decent career from the experience I gained.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not above a free meal at Chilli’s. I appreciate it. But sometimes I wonder if I really deserve to have a big deal made of my service. John T. Reed says we live in a nation of draft dodgers. Most are trying to make up for their guilt. I think from my observations, he has a point.

If you know of any Veteran’s Day freebies, feel free to post them here in my comments.

This Explains A Lot…

Blogger Vox Day took an empathy quotient test. He scored a 23. I took the same test and scored a 15. The test says that people with Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning autism score a 20.

Of course, you can only take these internet tests at face value. But it would explain a lot.

“Raising Awareness” vs. Getting Results

I really don’t want to write this post. I probably shouldn’t. I guess I can take solace in the fact that nobody reads my blog, so I can write whatever I want. But I also don’t want somebody to stumble by and misunderstand me. Some people can be incredibly irrational, and from the depths of misguided emotion, will draw conclusions that were never intended.

For instance, I once wrote a post that did little more than make my reader(s) aware of a humorous post Tim Challies wrote comparing Joel Osteen’s (ghostwritten) sayings to fortune cookies. Somebody stumbled across my post and somehow drew the conclusion that because he had a fortune cookie with a proverb in it, we should stop reading the book of Proverbs.

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The Burning of Any Book

I’ve been tempted to write this only as a journal entry. I want to organize my thoughts, but not to take any real risks. But few people read my blog anyway.

I pay very little attention to the media. Too much bias, and too many non-issues blown out of proportion. Normally, anything important enough for me to know about will find me. Lately, I’ve heard a bunch of noise about some apparent kook from a small church in (nowhere) planning to burn a bunch of Korans on 9-11.

Sounds like a silly and pointless stunt to me. Barely worthy of my attention. Had the Facebook posts stopped after the first one, I wouldn’t have noticed.

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How Twilight Works

Originally a comic by The Oatmeal, this has been turned into a YouTube video. Watch to see how Twilight works, and why the women in our lives go nuts over this cheesy fiction, featuring an immortal who has chosen to spend his immortality as a junior in high school, a fate worse than death.


How Madoff Got Away With It: The SEC Was Surfing for Porn

I stumbled across this today, ironically enough, through a humor site. And I am not surprised at all. Apparently, while Madoff was ripping people off and banks were getting ready to siphon billions off the economy and collapse, the SEC was too busy surfing for porn to care.

“During the past five years, the SEC OIG (Office of Inspector General) substantiated that 33 SEC employees and or contractors violated Commission rules and policies, as well as the government-wide Standards of Ethical Conduct, by viewing pornographic, sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images using government computer resources and official time,” said a summary of the investigation by the inspector general’s office.

More than half of the workers made between $99,000 and $223,000. All the cases took place over the past five years.

Believe it or not, I’m not shocked by this. I’m also not surprised. If anything, it explains a lot.

If you think this is an isolated incident, you need to get out more. You wonder why government bureaucracies have to be so large and inefficient? It’s probably because of the amount of people not getting anything done while they look for porn. Or play golf. Or do anything but the jobs they’re supposedly hired to do. You know, like watch over the economy. And regulate the banks.

I Hate Contrived Arguments

I wrote this draft last year, and never posted it. It's a point I wanted to make but lost track of. Sometimes I'll update an old draft to allow for the length of time that passed from the time I originally wrote it. I won't bother this time. Let me repeat that this post has NOTHING to do with politics. It has NOTHING to do with the issue behind the email I'm referring to. It is only about contrived arguments and leading poll questions.


The following poll question is from an email that I got today. I have no desire in this blog post to get into the politics surrounding the issue. They’re beside the point. Look at the following question:


Now, all politics and beliefs aside, can you tell which of the two answers you should choose based on how the question is asked?

I don’t think it’s an honest poll when the questions are this leading. I don't care what side of the issue the poll is on. This is like asking:

Choose one of the following:

1) I like red cars

2) I’m a complete loser who sleeps with his mommy

Not much of a choice, is it? Also notice that it totally leaves out plenty of other reasonable choices, like “I like green cars.” “I like blue cars”. “I like purple cars”. “I like to walk”.

I don’t like it. Even if I bothered to read any farther through this email, which I won’t, I’m not convinced that I’ll expect any better argumentation or reasoning from an email that starts off with this. Even if I agree with whatever point is being made in this email, I don’t trust it because it starts off with such a leading question. I’ve gotten other emails from this group before. I usually just delete them, but this time I’m unsubscribing from their email list.

Look around you, in advertising, on the news, or on your favorite TV shows. How often are you confronted with a choice between two options that are this leading? When you’re confronted with something this leading, stop and ask yourself if you’re even being asked the right question. Trust me, this is key. You don’t want to travel too far down a road that goes in an unproductive direction (I carefully did NOT say the wrong direction).

Cracked: The 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History

I came across an interesting article at Cracked about the 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History. As with all Cracked material, the language can be a little raw, so you should know that going in if it's an issue for you.

The article discusses moral panics like Comic Books, Dungeons and Dragons, Satanic subliminal messages in heavy metal, and Satanic ritual abuse.

Dungeons and Dragons

I was growing up when most of the moral panics were happening. I can remember some kind of stink about video games as well. As with all moral panics, I think there is a lot of excitability and a lack of critical thinking involved.

Let's take Dungeons and Dragons as an example. I remember one time in the early 80's when we were stationed in Germany. My dad came home with some D&D material. I don't think he had much. He had some cardboard tiles to make a dungeon out of. Maybe a book or two. He was excited about playing D&D with my brother and I. Then, nothing happened.

I asked him later why we never did anything with it. He said something about some kids were playing in a storm drain, and it flooded and killed them. Somehow, it was the fault of Dungeons and Dragons. I never really understood it. I even asked him if he really thought I was so stupid that I'd think it was OK to play in a storm drain just because I played Dungeons and Dragons. He didn't think so, but somehow the idea that some kids' deaths were related to the game kept him from playing it with us.

When I got a little bit older, I bought a Basic D&D kit. I played a little bit with a friend of mine. Then we got into AD&D for a while. Then I realized it was boring and I walked away from it. I couldn't get into it, and it wasn't worth trying anymore.

I've read some of the literature against D&D. I've read Jack Chick's stuff. I read William Schoenbelon's claims that the creators of D&D consulted with him as a high-level warlock to ensure accuracy of the material with the occult. Even if it's all true, I still believe that if people are going to do stupid, insane, or unsafe things, they don't need D&D to do it.

Comic Books

I never could get into comic books. The villains were dumb, the heros were cheesy, I wasn't impressed with a panel taken up by a "BAM!" or "SOCK!", and I had better things to do than worry about "Wait! I'm missing the 4th issue of the 31st edition!" I don't know the difference between Marvel and DC Comics. That is, I couldn't tell you which comic went under which label. I also don't feel like I'm missing out on anything because I can't. I'm not likely to end up on Jeopardy. 

I bought a Lobo comic once. It was amusing. I could have followed Lobo, but I couldn't be troubled to make sure I had EVERY SINGLE ISSUE so I didn't bother.

I think the moral panic surrounding comic books was silly.

Satanic Subliminal Messages in Heavy Metal

I agree with Cracked's assessment of this one. If a metal band had the idea to implant a subliminal message, "Buy more of our stuff!" would be more like it. Actually, I'd expect that to be placed by the record companies, which seem to have a direct communication link to evil. Of course, the Compact Disc rendered the "play a record backwards to hear our Satanic altar call" obsolete. When I was a teenager and this was going on, I couldn't understand why everybody appeared to be worked up over this. Of course, I didn't listen to much Heavy Metal at the time. Trans-Siberian Orchestra didn't exist.

I can remember an image of old people sitting around churches late at night listening to metal records backwards and painstakingly transcribing the Satanic messages supposedly implanted in them. 

I think history bears out that this moral panic was a huge overreaction to nothing.


I'm not denying that there are moral reason why we should get worried. There are moral issues that need to be confronted. But most of the moral panics that show up in popular culture are not those moral issues. At best, they are symptoms.

Lottery Budget: Dave Ramsey Nails It!

Apparently, one of Dave Ramsey’s callers asked if he should set aside a budget for buying lottery tickets. I’ve long since (independently) come to the conclusion that the lottery tax is merely a voluntary tax on greed, misplaced hope, and a poor mindset. Then I actually did some research on lottery winners, and was more than convinced that I’ve been right to stay out the the whole thing for most of my life.

I haven’t listened to the call. I’m sure when I get home and sync my iPhone,that podcast with sync across for me and I can listen to it then.

You can use the Google Search box to the right to look for the posts I’ve written over the years about the lottery. I have no use for it.