Jason’s Ranting & Raving

Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Archive for September, 2009

Book Review: Soccer for Dummies by Michael Lewis

Posted by jaystile on September 28, 2009

Soccer for Dummies

Soccer for Dummies

Overview
My daughter has started playing soccer! Being the American man that I am, I realized that I had no idea how to play soccer. I know you tried to kick the ball in the goal but I didn’t know the rules. Soccer for Dummies was brought home from the local library and read from cover to cover. It contains many facts about MLS (Major League Soccer) from the 2000 time frame, when the book was published, so it was a little dated. It really tries to plug you into soccer culture and history. It could have used more diagrams when the rules were explained. There were fine textual descriptions of the rules, but a diagram would’ve been a much better way to transfer the information.

Conclusion
It turns out the kids soccer book I got for my daughter from the library explained the rules much better. Don’t forget to check the children’s section for information too! You could probably skip reading this book and just do an internet search if you’re suffering from the same dilemma: what are the rules for soccer?

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Book Review: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

Posted by jaystile on September 25, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land

Wow! I have some catching up to do. I don’t really have many repeat readers, but I try and keep the blog up to date for myself. My friend recommended ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ by Robert Heinlein to me (that was before he was finished with it). After he was done he said it kind of fizzled. I would tend to agree with him. I generally don’t really get into fiction that much but this definitely was an interesting thought experiment.

Valentine Michael Smith was born on Mars. His parents were part of the first exploration/colonization project. Everyone in the party had died which left him the owner of Mars and the heir to these successful adventurers fortunes. The next set of explorers brings him back to Earth. Valentine Michael Smith has been raised by Martians and demonstrates super human abilities due to his upbringing. He goes about a journey to understand what it is to be human.

I’ll cut to the chase, he learns what it means to be human. Additionally, he learns that humans have the potential to become so much more. He begins a sex cult and considers his friends part of his nest and teaches his ‘water brothers’ the super human abilities. He starts to gain many followers. Then he gives himself up to other religious people to kill him for being a heretic. But not before he cuts off his own thumb and his ‘water brothers’ grok him.

If I found something other than the thought experiment interesting it is the mindset of the author and trying to place yourself into his point of view. This book was first published in 1961. That means he was probably writing it in the late 50s. You will find that is full of misogynistic comments. The most offensive being “Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s partly her fault.” The women successfully attain such wonderful careers as nurse, secretary, or priestess. The next thing is that there is a planetary government like the United Nations that makes the United States impotent as far as their power and influence is concerned. This kind of mindset is still prevalent when you hear extremist conservatives mention ‘The New World Order’.

You could do worse than spend some time enjoying this book. It definitely shows it’s age but the thought experiment will make you think a little bit more about what it means to be human.

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Parenting: Budgeting for the Young and Old

Posted by jaystile on September 2, 2009

This is a follow-up post to my parenting post about children and money.

Everyone needs to budget based on their income! (I’m looking at you House of Representatives, Senate, and White House) I would guess that most people don’t budget because they simply do not know how. And if they try and learn most of the online tools require you fill out approximately fifty thousand items to come up with your budget. This can be a little overwhelming for someone who doesn’t want to make a budget in the first place. I like the 60% Solution!

If you’re too lazy to read the link here is the short version.
The 60% Solution for Adults

  1. 60 percent: Monthly expenses — such as housing, food, utilities, insurance, Internet, transportation. This is the part most commonly thought of as a budget.
  2. 10 percent: Retirement — and if you’re doing it right, this is being automatically deducted from your paycheck for a 401(k) investment.
  3. 10 percent: Long-term savings or debt reduction. It’s best to invest this in something such as stocks or an index fund, and this can serve as your emergency fund. But if you are in debt (not including a home mortgage), I would advise that you use this portion of the budget to pay off your debts, and even draw some from the other categories such as retirement to increase this to about 20 percent for now. Once your debts are paid off, you can switch this to long-term savings. You still need to have an emergency fund, but while you’re in debt-reduction mode you can either create a small, temporary emergency fund out of the money from this category or the next.
  4. 10 percent: Short-term savings — this is for periodic expenses, such as auto maintenance or repairs, medical expenses (not including insurance premiums), appliances, home maintenance, birthday and Christmas gifts. For this savings account, be sure to spend the money when you need it — that’s what it’s for. When these expenses come up, you will have the money for them, instead of trying to pull them from other budget categories.
  5. 10 percent: Fun money — you can spend this on eating out, movies, comic books — whatever you want. Guilt free.

The 60% Solution for Children

  1. 60% – Long term savings. Car, College, or Wedding. There is a high probability that your child will want to have one of these in the future. The most important lesson for a child to learn is to save for the things that they want.
  2. 10% – Charity and gifts. Children will need to buy gifts for parents, siblings, and others. This will be a large part of their income and they will feel good when they can spend their own money on the people they love. If they are so inclined I like the charity of Heifer International for my charitable giving.
  3. 10% – Short term savings. Teach your children about planning ahead. So they can have a little extra money when back to school shopping to buy those clothes that you will not buy for them because they are dumb looking.
  4. 20% – Fun! Go ahead and spend on whatever you want after all they are kids still! (And you are making them save 60 cents of every dollar for college.

Do it! For my budget I’ve set up multiple savings accounts with online banks (like etrade.com; emigrantdirect.com; ingdirect.com). The money gets automatically transferred to individual accounts based on my budget categories when my paycheck arrives. For children you could use the envelopes method or setup online accounts for them. I’m more inclined to recommend the online accounts because they pay interest and it’s harder to get the money for an impulse shopping spree.

Envelopes This is an old-fashioned system that works. Have an envelope for groceries, gas and fun money. When going grocery shopping, bring the groceries envelope. You know how much is left in the envelope before you go grocery shopping. Spend the cash for groceries, and then you can easily see how much is left now. Simple, and no tracking necessary. When the money is gone, you’ve spent your budgeted amount. If necessary, you could transfer cash from one envelope to another, and there’s no need to adjust your budget.

Conclusion I personally subscribe to a more complex budget, but I’ve been using a budget tracked in a spreadsheet for at least the past seven years. What’s that you say? You cannot afford Microsoft Excel? Try the Free Open Source alternative OpenOffice. As you start keeping a budget it becomes more specific as you start planning for vacations, college funds, ‘soft retirement’. Budgeting is important to make sure you don’t get caught with you pants down when it’s time to buy new tires or rebuild the transmission, pay the max deductible for your health insurance because some a-hole ran you off the road on your bicycle and you had to go to the emergency room. Also, to make sure you know if you can afford a reoccurring monthly expense of hundreds of dollars for satellite tv, cable internet, and cellular phone service. If you’re not able to save you have not lived within your means. Time to get a roommate or move to the not so nice side of town.

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