Gardening Interlude: Observe and Interact

Raised Bed Under Construction, Spring 2012

Diversification is a good thing.  As in investments, so in garden soil. Organic gardening is more than eschewing chemicals and chanting hippie-dippie mantras at dusk to attract garden faeries (seriously, some people do this).  Organic strives to feed the soil.  Good soil is alive with billions of microorganisms active within the strata of a typical garden bed, all busily eating, excreting, getting on about their business of life and death, and in the process contributing to soil fertility. The no-till method builds fertility from the ground down.  Layer enough organic matter on top, and bacteria and fungi and microorganisms do the rest. Earthworms aerate the soil with air tunnels, eventually distribute biomass downwards, creating … [Read more...]

Minimalists Make for Lousy Neighbors

A chaotic shedful of hand tools

  Live next door to committed minimalists, there's more than an even chance they won't be the ones lending you a shop vac or lawn trash bags should a dire need arise.  More likely, they will be the supplicants at your door, mooching and beseeching. Then again, if you own a home in a typical suburban neighborhood, cheer up.   Chances are also good the neighbors won't be modern minimalists:  minimalists typically live in sparsely, yet tastefully furnished urban apartments. Generally Speaking... More sweeping, totally baseless generalizations about hard-core minimalists: + Relatively young and childless + Urban apartment dwellers + If not in apartments, couch-surving or RV-living + Work in a service industry (or blogging … [Read more...]

Hot Sauce Success, Hot Sauce FAIL!

Santa Fe Grande Peppers - all credit to mschmidt62 on Flikr

Frost finally hit the backyard garden early last week, prompting the harvest of the season's last explosion of peppers both hot and sweet. Moderately hot Santa Fe Grade peppers, smokin' hot Thai peppers, Cubanelle, Big Early Bells, Bonnie Greens, Sweet Bananas, what do to? Never mind that according to the good Dr. Gupta on CNN, ... Researchers are finding that capsaicin, the compound that gives chili and cayenne their zing, has a lot of health benefits. For centuries, folk medicine practitioners used capsaicin to aid digestion, fight infection and stimulate the kidneys, lungs and heart. Capsaicin has even been put into topical creams that soothe sore muscles and joints.... The fresh peppers taking up room in the veg crispers in … [Read more...]

Caffe’ Corretto: How to Properly Accept a Job Offer

"Black Coffee" -- Aubrey Beardsley, 1895

Time for a serious coffee break.  Caffe' Corretto is something you need to drink when you need all your wits sharp about you, and yet other people's stupidities life's little mysteries have got you baffled and in need of getting hammered a little fortification.  Today, it's a strong cup of Cafe Bustelo from the French press, with a healthy shot of Wild Turkey 101.   Right, then...   First best way to accept a job offer:  "It's a good and fair offer, I accept" Second best way to accept a job offer:  "I would like to think about this and discuss with wife/husband, and get back to you latest by 9 a.m. tomorrow." There is no third best way. Worst way to accept a job offer:  "I'd like to think about it … [Read more...]

Wednesday Morning Fish Wrap: The Speed of Crime

Somewhat off-topic, but funny nonetheless

A semi-occasional collection of links and topics, delivered to you about as fresh as shrimp from the Gulf Coast... only a few days old, iced, and still palatable. Personal security sometimes gets talked about in the realm of personal finance, but not in this kind of insightful detail.  Want to learn how to write well, then go read good authors.  Aspiring finance whizzes best find a mentor. Keeping your car safe and having to replace broken windows, then this post from TB at Blue Collar Workman is a good start:  Tips From A Former Car Thief on How To Protect Your Car.  The important takeaway from TB's knowledge is how fast crime happens to the unaware.  Leave your valuables, or anything that even looks to be of value to the … [Read more...]

Sallie Mae, What A Tramp…

Me Top Dog.  You... not.

Whilst Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) are languishing in  penny-stock purgatory, SLM Corporation (Nasdaq: SLM), or Sallie Mae as it's commonly known, is doing just fine, thank you very much. A former government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), SLM Corporation enjoys tidy profits of over 12% on yearly revenue of around $6 billion, reasonable returns on equity,  and a nice little 2.97% yield (for you dividend hounds). On the face of it, SLM appears to be a decent good place to invest  (more on that later, things are not what they seem). Sallie Mae, Flying Low Under The Radar Chances are most people have only heard of Sallie Mae in the context of Freddie Mac, Farmer Mac,  and Ginnie Mae, fuzzycute monikers for grossly inefficient … [Read more...]

Losing Weight Slowly, part 1

Losing Weight Slowly, Starting point, July 2012

Spend enough time desk-jockeying, dozing in meetings, or business traveling, and next thing you know you're shopping for larger pants in the plus-size section. The modern-day sedentary lifestyle is hard on the waistline and the arteries. Inevitable, really.  More energy acquired, less energy expended, more energy stored, where energy=food=cookies-n-cream, and storage=fat=jellybelly.  Simple. After our last vacation to Italy in May/June, and the gross -- and wonderful -- overindulgence during the 4th of July festivities, enough was enough.  I was heading north towards 200, about to cross the Rubicon of a new pant size. Time for a plan of action. Getting Fat Slowly Weight doesn't just balloon. It sneaks up like a stalker on a … [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: Revolving Doors

"Harvest - 1915" by Zinaida Serebriakova ---- because the subject of political lobbying and body scanners is an ugly one, but this painting is most beautiful.

In a post a few days ago, the focus was on political entrepreneurship. Specifically, how some companies and organizations have inveigled themselves into the political process and are profiting handsomely by it. The head of H&R Block wound up at the IRS, Monsanto's executives are making tracks at the USDA, Justice dept, and the FDA, and Goldman Sachs at Treasury.  The revolving door is spinning like a top. For just one little example, look at Rapiscan and L-3,  the makers of the those odious scanning machines that allow TSA agents to ogle naked passengers.  Airline passengers are virtually disrobed by these scanners courtesy of Michael Chertoff, former head of Homeland Security, and later gainfully employed by RapiScan, … [Read more...]

Risky risk factors for your investments

financial times

  The typical retail investor will normally prefer to invest through mutual funds or exchange traded funds.  In Modern Portfolio Theory, there are several risk factors that will determine how the fund’s performance measures up against broad or narrow market benchmarks.  Investors would be well served to have at least a passing familiarity with terms like alpha, beta, and R-Squared. Alpha Alpha is a risk-adjusted measure of the performance of an investment. Taking the volatility, or price risk, of a security and comparing this to a benchmark index gives you the ‘alpha’. In simple terms it is what has been added or lost from your investment’s return: a positive alpha of 1.0 means it has outperformed its benchmark index by … [Read more...]

Gardening Corner: Winter Prep and Proper Mulching

Straw mulch on on the hugelkultured tomato bed

November is good time to start thinking about next spring's gardening season, and prepping the raised beds for winter. The tomato bed below is the same one that was heavily modified this spring, into a hugelkultur bed of sorts.  Now it's done producing its hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, and it's time for a rest.  With the hacienda being further out east towards the Ozarks, temps are a little cooler than Tulsa, and the tomatoes were hit with an early frost.     The winter prep task list for this bed: Disposing of the tomato plants.  Most important to not just pull them up, root ball and all. Soil structure and integrity are an important part of soil fertility, and just simply eradicating plants releases soil … [Read more...]