Wrestling the Anaconda

Friday, 6 March 2009 04:47 by The Lunatic

The year was 1996.  My wife had graduated from Medical School a few years earlier, and she was in her second year of residency at a large university medical center.

The time was about 1:45 in the morning. And we were Wrestling the Anaconda.

Ok, I need to back up a little bit.  My wife did her residency in Pathology.  She studied in both Anatomic and Clinical Pathology – but this particular year was strictly clinical work.  Although most people think that pathologists primarily perform autopsies (which is the “Anatomic” branch of the specialty), the majority of pathologists are actually on the “Clinical” side of the business.  Clinical pathologists run all the hospital lab functions – blood banks, specimen analysis, frozen sections, lab tests, etc.  During surgery for example, if a doctor is removing a cancerous cyst, they will send the specimen to the lab to have the margins checked.  The pathologist needs to analyze the lump, diagnose it while the patient is still under anesthesia, and make sure that the surgeon has cut into “clean” tissue all the way around.  If not, the surgeon needs to cut a little more.

Most of these specimens are pretty small – typically a few millimeters up to a few centimeters.  But not the Anaconda. That was More...

Categories:   Science
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What are we REALLY bailing out? Not mortgages ...

Monday, 23 February 2009 05:57 by The Lunatic

There is absolutely NO WAY that any kind of a mortgage bailout will be fair.  The people who would benefit from mortgage assistance are generally the ones least likely to deserve it.

Hardest hit are people who either bought a bigger house than they could really afford, and people who snagged one of those great “no money down” loans.  Are YOU willing to subsidize someone who is living in a luxurious home they shouldn’t have been able to afford in the first place?  Is that the kind of behavior that we are trying to encourage?

Absolutely not!

While I do have great sympathy for someone who is losing their home after 20 or 30 years, let’s look at the reality of who this might be:

Assume someone bought a house More...

Categories:   Economics | Politics
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AloeBoost and AloeRest - Two New Products From USAloe

Thursday, 19 February 2009 02:28 by The Lunatic

aloerest-final USAloe, a company in California that I've been doing some consulting work for, is launching two new products this week:  AloeBoost (an energy drink) and AloeRest (a relaxation and sleep aid). Both are made with Aloe Vera juice and other healthy, all natural ingredients.

What's interesting is that these products are going into a network marketing channel instead of a traditional retail channel, and I think people are going to make pretty good money from it.

Now, over the years, I've had plenty of people pitch me on different network marketing companies. All of them have said pretty much the same thing: "I'm going to be retired in two years!"  I've checked back with a few of them, and none of them had the financial success that I've had.

The truth is, a lot of people HAVE made a very substantial income with network marketing (or multi-level marketing, or whatever you want to call it) but these people are More...

Categories:   Economics
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A few universal questions

Friday, 30 January 2009 05:26 by The Lunatic

All the data we have at this point says that the universe that is just under 13 billion years old.  The universe exploded from a big bang and after a brief period of inflation, it has been expanding steadily at the speed of light. Although there are still some unanswered details, most cosmologists agree on these basic points. From here, however, there are numerous opinions and conflicting theories on the basic nature of the universe.

There are a few different mathematical models that show it’s possible that we can be living in an “open” universe which will continue to exponentially expand forever, a “flat” universe where the expansion will slow down and eventually stop at a certain size, or a “closed” universe that will reverse direction and eventually contract into a “big crunch” – presumably to explode again in another big bang (and with multiple series of “big bang/big crunch” cycles, we have an “oscillating universe”).  While all of these are mathematically feasible (and yes, I’m leaving out a few other good theories), the current data strongly suggests that we are in the “open” model, where the universe will continue to expand forever, until all the stars burn through their remaining fuel and all that’s left is ashes and space dust.

Of course, there are many unanswered questions – such as, More...

Categories:   Science
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Statehood for the District of Columbia? NO WAY!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009 03:23 by The Lunatic

It sure is interesting living in Washington D.C.

I’m not talking about the inauguration yesterday, which was spectacular by the way – but in general, you just can’t get away from politics here.

The latest issue that’s getting my goat is this idiotic push to make Washington DC the 51st state.  The DC license plates proudly proclaim “Taxation without Representation” and there are posters all over the city pushing for DC statehood.

The underlying issue is the fact that DC has no representation in congress.  Some residents feel that More...

Categories:   Politics | Social Issues
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Investing in stocks? Try options instead!

Friday, 9 January 2009 07:36 by The Lunatic

When people think about trading options, their first response is usually "too much risk". While it's true that options can be misused, they are often used to REDUCE risk by hedging other investments.  For example, buying a stock and selling a "covered call" is a substantially more conservative investment than just investing in the stock itself (less risk, but also potentially lower return).

And yes, I have learned the hard way what can happen if you lose your head.  After about ten years of successfully and profitably trading options, I entered into an overly aggressive position in 2006 that went south - and pretty much wiped out my entire gains of the previous ten years.  Lesson learned: stick to your strategy and stay within your limits!

But in general, even with that painful experience, I am still a firm believer that trading options is more prudent than buying stocks.

Admittedly, options are far more complicated.  More...

Categories:   Economics
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Are home prices still too high?

Wednesday, 31 December 2008 09:29 by The Lunatic


I've been doing a little research on historic real estate price trends.  I don't think that many people realize how much appreciation we really had in home prices from 1998 to 2006 - it was an amazing run! Even with the bottom dropping out of the market, we're still above the 30 year "average trend line":


But as history has shown, real estate prices are cyclical.  Just like the tech stock crash in 2001, the faster the run-up in prices, the further things fall.  Most people who've owned their homes for More...

Categories:   Economics
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Who would want to be the CEO of an airline?

Tuesday, 23 December 2008 05:04 by The Lunatic


I love to fly, and I was a pretty serious “road warrior” for many years.  From the mid-80’s through the late 90’s, I travelled the world on business, racking up over 750,000 flight miles (this is actual miles flown, not counting bonus miles and frequent flyer credits).  I’m sure I’ve added at least another 250,000 miles on various trips since then, so I think I’ve flown more than a million miles in my life.

Whew, that’s a lot of time in an out of airports, going through security, eating those absolutely YUMMY meals they serve up …

I can’t imagine what the world would be like without airlines – it’s a fascinating business that’s indispensible to our modern economy and lifestyle. But for the life of me, I can’t think of a job that would be worse than being the CEO of an airline.

Think of it this way – you have HUGE capital investments, low margins, four different unions you have to contend with More...

Categories:   Economics
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Three Tax Laws That Should Be Changed Immediately

Wednesday, 17 December 2008 02:13 by The Lunatic


Tax reform is coming - again (and again, and again!)  It seems that every few years, the government realizes that the tax code is broken and they make a bunch of changes to "fix" it. More precisely, they usually ADD a bunch of new laws, making the labyrinth of regulations so complex that not even the trustiest and experienced of tax advisors can really say what's what anymore.

There are three tax laws that, in my opinion, should be first on the chopping block:

  • The Alternative Minimum Tax

This is one of the least popular (if ANY tax law can be considered "popular") regulations on the books.  It came about in 1970 as a way to make sure that the wealthy paid some minimum tax, no matter how More...

Categories:   Economics | Politics
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I want to see a "Personal Responsibility" constitutional amendment

Saturday, 6 December 2008 09:42 by The Lunatic


All my life, I've seen these crazy news reports about people suing someone else, often times getting huge sums of money, for something that was partially - or mostly - their own fault.  We all cringe when we hear these stories, but it's a real issue that goes deep into our pockets. Our whole society has a warped mentality that someone else should be responsible for ... your own bad decisions, your health problems, your physical handicap, your depression, your failed investments, your smoking/drug habit, or the fact that your kid can't swim yet she snuck down and found an open door and decided to try a few laps in the hotel pool at midnight (yes, the hotel had to pay).

That "someone else" usually is your employer, your government, your doctor, your neighbor, or the store that sold you the gun which your wife used to shoot your brother (yes, the store owner had to pay).

The cost to society for all this overhead is astonishing.  It's disgusting. I'm not talking just about the money More...

Categories:   Social Issues
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