Short faucets

Like everyone, I have a few pet peeves.  One of the big ones on my list are faucets that are too short for the sinks they’re installed in.  I’ve seen them everywhere, from hotels to office buildings to homes.  Residential installations seem to have the most culprits.  I’m not entirely sure why since many of the residential types are installed directly on the edge of the sinks so they shouldn’t have a problem with clearance.  Yet I’ve run into enough of them to know that just 3″ from the back of the sink is not enough to prevent splashing when you’re washing your hands or doing the dishes.

In my recent remodel, I made sure that the faucets I selected for my bathrooms & kitchen were sufficiently long enough.  I even made sure that the kitchen faucet cleared large pots when they’re placed into the sink.  If enough people are annoyed with this and vote with their dollars appropriately, I would think the problem would solve itself in time.

A good time to invest?

It’s been a volatile 2014 thus far in terms of investing.  The market went down quite a bit and then recover.  The S&P 500 made a new record high but even with that it’s been down for the year.  Some are nervous if this economic recovery can continue given the unwinding of the Federal Reserve unprecedented monetary policy (quantitative easing 3/QE3/”the taper”).  That’s understandable as prices have not given anyone much confidence.  Toss into that mix Ukraine’s abrupt change of government and Russia’s aggression in the Crimea.  Now people are really nervous.  The Russian rouble have marked a new low against the dollar and markets around the world are reflecting this jittery.

But perhaps because of all of the above now’s the perfect time.  The famed Warren Buffett did say to be greedy when others are fearful and we’re getting close.  It’s worth looking at this market to uncover some undervalued issues and see if you would like to allocate some of your capital there.  Speaking of Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report and letter to shareholders have been released.  They are all worth reading for the serious investor who wants to be well informed.  You can find back issues of both on Berkshire’s website and they are worth more than their weight in wisdom.  The part I find very interesting in this year’s annual report is the bit about pensions.

The bottom line is not to look at this as a time to worry… it may just be an opportunity in disguise.

Done with taxes!

I just filed my taxes and both Federal & state returns were accepted.  The online filing process was even easier this year compared to last year.  The government accepted the returns within minutes of my submission.  It’s pretty crazy how far home tax preparation has gone.  I used TurboTax but I would think any modern package would get the job done for most people.  I only picked it by virtue of being able to import my information from previous tax years.  I’m glad I got done (relatively) early.  This year I had to wait bit since some tax forms that I needed weren’t released by the IRS until late into the new year.

Many people are intimidated by taxes and doing it by themselves would not even enter their mind.  However, there’s really nothing to be concerned about with these modern software packages and really no need to pay anyone to prepare them for you.  The key is to have all your documents ready (W-2, 1099′s, charitable donation receipts, etc.).  The rest of the process is straight forward with the software walking you through every category.

So what are you waiting for?  Get going and cross filing your taxes off your list!

YTD Return

Speaking of retiring, my retirement account is sitting at -2.5% YTD.  I always thought this year was going to be flat in a sideways range or down.  Comparatively speaking, that’s better than the general market, the NASDAQ excepted.  Klarman says not to compare your performance to the market, i.e. don’t put too much stock in relative performance – think absolute performance, and he has a point.  You should always judge an investment on its own merit.  I hate being down, even if better than the market as a whole.  But since my time horizon is long, I’m still feeling great about the investments that I’m holding.  I do have a large position in cash and that’s OK.  But if things are going to go south, I hope they go big.  I want to do some bargain hunting.  Analysts are calling for a 10% correction, but what do they know?  I’m hoping for a little panic so I can pick up stuff cheap.  Not a big, herd wide panic that will put a halt quickly to everything, but just enough so quality issues become undervalue enough that they’re a good pickup.

Once recent pickup for me has been Target based on the same rationale.  The whole credit hacking debacle really did a number on Target.  I believe their response is right on the money.  They didn’t shy away or make any excuses and accepted responsibility.  The exposure for them should be manageable.  Yet the market beat them up pretty bad, putting them at a new 52 week low.  Even if they can get halfway back, it’ll be a nice return.  In the meantime, I’ll collect my dividends and hold onto a quality retailing company.

Chaudhry Aslam and Extra-Judicial Killing

Chaudhry Aslam was Pakistan’s “super cop” and had escaped many attempts on his life.  Recently though, the Taliban succeeded in bringing him down with a bomb.  He was ruthless in pursuing criminals & gangsters and many feared him.  He was however, not without critics.  Many have accused him of human rights violations by purposely engaging suspected criminals in gunfights, killing them and claiming self-defense afterwards.  A recent PBS radio story on Aslam gave me pause.  A human rights activist said there’s never a right time for extrajudicial justice.  Officials though say there is no choice in a society where crime is rampant yet the judiciary is either frightened, corrupt or both.  The question that came into my mind is what does society do in a situation like that?  Do you suspend some human rights for immediate security or do you maintain what due process might remain and run the risk of criminals over running everything?  If you stick to your guns and do what’s right, there may not be a society left after the criminals win.  At least not a society that you would recognize.  If you don’t and play by their rules, there’s a risk that you’ll go down that slippery slope and be as lawless as the criminals.

So what should a society finding itself in this situation to do? Aslam believed he had the answer.  He gave his life for that belief and now his 16 year old son wants to continue in his footsteps.  It’s an interesting dilemma.  What would you do?

Prego Spaghetti Sauce – it’s flavored with meat!

I bought a jar of Prego Flavored With Meat pasta sauce today.  I was in a mood for a good bolognese and was just too lazy to make it from scratch.  I know the jar stuff can’t even come close but if I recall, I had some pretty decent bolognese sauce from a jar when I lived in Paris.  Surely this can’t be much worse.  I was wrong.  At $2 for a 24 oz. jar, it’s certainly good on the wallet.  The 3rd ingredient after tomato puree and diced tomatoes was beef.  That’s a good sign right?  Well, perhaps.  I made some pork chops to serve with my spaghetti and gave this sauce a whirl.  First impression is that I can taste sugar but not the beef.  It’s not a bad sauce… it’s just not a particularly good one.  If I had to rate it, this would be a 2.5/5 for me and I wouldn’t recommend it.

prego_meat

Deleting my Facebook account

I’ve recently decided to delete my Facebook account.  In the past I’ve only deactivated the account, which basically preserves everything for you until you log in again.  This time, I chose the delete option.  It’s eerily similar in the sense that it still gives you two weeks to log into the account and then it’ll be as if nothing as happened.  However, the difference here is that after 2 weeks, your account is permanently deleted and you’ll have to join again as a new member, with a new account name (if someone has already taken yours), etc.  It’s been about 2 days so far.  I’ve been tempted.  Let’s see if I can actually let it go to deletion.  There’s nothing there that I would miss or couldn’t rebuild if I needed it.  I’m just getting to worn out from Facebook, am concerned about privacy on there, and am sick of the drama.  But I suppose only time will tell if I can actually go through with it.

Down to the wire!

I’m getting the house ready for my fiancée to come over and things are down to the wire.  She’s due over Tuesday night.  I have painting to be completed and then final cleaning.  As of yesterday, all the baseboards are in and the walls & ceiling are patched.  They still need to be sanded and the baseboards need to be caulked before painting can begin.  The painter is one site and he has started some of the caulking and prep work for painting.  He tells me that he will finish tomorrow early.  That doesn’t give me a lot of time!  Once he’s done, I’ll spend most of Monday afternoon & evening cleaning up.  And perhaps even some of Tuesday.  Yes, I’m certainly feeling the pressure as I’m leaving for LAX on Tuesday around 2:00 PM to pick her up.  I lost 3 days last week going to New York (which ended up being just a day and a half in the city since the rest of it was spent traveling).  That certainly didn’t help and I’m feeling the pressure.  I don’t like these last minute things at all!

The new iCloud

I just logged into iCloud today and I must say, I like the changes.  It now reflects the new iOS 7 theme.  Gone are the skeuomorphs for Calendar, Contacts, etc. and in is the new flat theme of iOS 7.  The other thing that’s nice is that iWorks (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) are now in the cloud.  The other thing is that once you go full screen, your computer now looks like a Mac, even if you’re on Windows or a Chromebook.  The changes are drastic for some but in the whole I like what I’m seeing.

Cleaning up

I’m back home now pretty much full time.  I have a date when my fiancée will arrive (September 24!) so now it’s all about getting final clean up on the house done so it’s ready for her.  I don’t think it’ll be perfect and we’ll have to do some stuff together but my hope is that I get as much of it done as possible.  I’m taking off for the East Coast for 3 days next week so that will put a hamper on things but I think that I’ll have enough time to get things ready.  It looks messy at home but it’s an illusion – it’s not nearly as bad as it looks.

Once the cleaning is done, then it’s a matter of getting the painters in to paint the walls & ceiling and install the new baseboards.  Then we’re good to go.  I really can’t wait for it to be truly completed.  It’ll be nice.  Afterwards there’s a lot to do planning for the wedding and we have almost no time.  Currently the wedding is set for November 2nd.  The first thing to do is to get the restaurant squared away.  Then it’s a matter of getting invitations printed, sent out, shopping for a dress, etc.  We’re shooting for just a very small reception so hopefully it’s not something that will get out of hand.  I can’t afford a big wedding anyways!

Things are coming hard & fast but it’s exciting so I’m not worried.  Yet.  :-)

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