Fear == money

The 2009 budget for homeland security is $50 billion.
The budget for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is about $1 billion.

From the article: “We fund terrorism prevention at about $17,000,000/fatality (i.e., $50 billion/3,000 fatalities) and accident prevention at about $25,000/fatality (i.e., $1 billion/40,000 fatalities)”

This is just one more example that the government’s priorities are way messed up based on where it’s spending money.

original article here

Katadyn Guide Filter replacement leaking coal

I recently ordered a couple of replacement filters for my Katadyn Guide water filter through Amazon. They arrived today (yay! I love getting packages!) When I opened the box one of them looked normal but the other was pretty dirty and appeared to be leaking activated carbon (which is used in part of the filtering process.) When I gently shake it, something is rattling around inside the filter. There is no such noise when I gently shake the good one.

Looks like a defective filter to me. I immediately contacted the 3rd party seller (backcountry.com) through Amazon and Katadyn to see what can be done to resolve this. Obviously, my expectation is that it will be replaced at no cost to me.

I’ll post updates here as things progress. If I were a betting man, I know who I’d put my money on but I don’t want to spoil things for anyone else who may be reading.

Update: 3/3/09 – 10:40am: I just heard back from Katadyn. I’m a bit surprised that they beat backcountry.com in responding. Here’s the response:
It is not necessarily defective. A few loose granules are completely normal. How many are there? If it is a smallish amount, that is ok, but if there is a lot of it, that might indicate a problem.
Please let me know.

My reply:
Hi Sarah,
Thank you for your response.
It seems like more than just a few loose granules. I've posted a picture of it (click on the image to enlarge it.) http://altj.com/blog/katadyn-guide-filter-replacement-leaking-coal
Please let me know what you think.

Update: 3/3/09 – 11:44am: Another reply from Katadyn:

Yes, that is more than a few.
I will send you a replacement cartridge.
Would you like me to use the address in your original email?

Awesome! It looks like this is going to be resolved very quickly.

Update: 3/3/09 – 6:55pm: Received an email from Backcountry.com

Thanks for contacting us at Backcountry.com.
Sorry about that! If the item is damaged just give us a call at 1-800-409-4502 and we will be glad to help you out in returning this product and getting a replacement for it.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to tell us, anytime… we don’t really sleep. Enjoy your day, we’ll talk to you later.

Update 3/4/09 – Called Backcountry.com

Told them about the problem and within 30 seconds they said a new one would be shipped out to me. They also sent me a shipping label to return the defective filter.

Update 3/5/09 – Received replacement from Backcountry.com

Wow, that was fast. I contacted Katadyn informing them that Backcountry.com has handled the problem and they don't need to send a replacement.

Backcountry.com wins! Although their initial response was slower, they took care of things efficiently. I’ll be purchasing from them again!

What about the other Ponzi shemes?

If you’ve heard about the recent Bernie Madoff scheme where over $50 billion has been taken from investors, you know what a Ponzi Scheme is. If not, here’s a brief video for you which explains it:

Basically, the schemer pays returns to investors with money from subsequent investors. Normally, it falls apart and the schemer is exposed. Here are two cases of Ponzi Schemes that are still existent and legal.

Ponzi Scheme #1 – House Flipping
This one is interesting in that it is a distributed ponzi scheme, there are multiple schemers. Think of the recent real estate bubble in the process of correcting itself. All of those people that “invested” in real estate as this bubble grew, flipping houses to make money, were contributing to the scheme. They were all schemers trying to make easy money. (To clarify, by house flipping I’m referring to those people that purchase houses on speculation that the price will increase, slap on a coat of paint and sell it as recently remodeled.) Sadly, the victims in this scheme were those that purchased and still own the homes purchased at over-inflated prices. I’m not currently aware of any legislation or pending legislation that will prevent or even discourage house flipping in the future.

Ponzi Scheme #2 – Social Security
This one is especially disturbing because we are all victims of it and are required by law to “invest” our money. By 2017, Social Security will have to pay out more in benefits than it receives in taxes. Sound familiar? Current workers are paying into a Ponzi Scheme that will not be able to pay them back when it comes time for them to retire. I’m not counting on Social Security funding my retirement and neither should you. I just wish there was a way to opt-out of this one.

Crash Proof – A must read if you care about your savings

I just finished “Crash Proof: How to profit from the coming economic collapse” I must admit, it was a very interesting read. Published in 2007, Mr. Schiff does a pretty darn good job predicting the burst of the real estate bubble. More alarming, he’s predicting the collapse of the dollar. I’m a bit surprised that the dollar hasn’t lost more value through the recent economic turmoil.
He goes through and explains what’s been happening to mask current inflation and what you can do to come out ahead when all this comes crashing down. Unsurprisingly, his company (Euro Pacific Capital, Inc.) specializes in the kind of stuff he’s suggesting you do to protect your wealth. He also explains how to do it on your own (without Euro Pacific.)
Anyway, I strongly recommend you read this book. It offers a unique perspective on what’s going on all around you in the financial world.

For you locals (in Salt Lake) here’s a link to the book from the library’s website.
For everyone else, here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

Today only – Quickbooks Pro 2009 for free (after main-in rebate)

Quickbooks Pro 2009If you’re running a small business or are thinking of starting one in the near future you should take advantage of this deal. Quickbooks Pro 2009 Edition for free from Staples after mail in rebate:
$199.99 Reg. Price
– $40 Instant Savings
– $159.99 mail-in-rebate
= FREE!!!

Today only!

Beware the bouncing Checker rebate check

We just got a bounced check back from our bank for a Checker Auto mail in rebate we had deposited. Apparently, Continental Promotion Group has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. I love it that we were hit with at $5 fee on a $12 check because it bounced.
I found this news story that explains how Costco is dealing with the situation. To summarize, don’t deposit your rebate check unless you talk to the store where the rebate originated first.

Detroit CEOs time valued at $0/hr

According to this AP article, Detroit CEOs save more than $15k by driving instead of flying to Washington D.C. One thing they neglect to factor in is the time required to drive. The 14+ hours of CEO travel time saved by flying is valued at $0 according to the article.

Is their time worth more than $1k/hr? I don’t know, but mine is definitely worth more than $0/hr.

My promise to be a better driver

Driver PledgeFirst of all let me say – I’m a good driver (yeah, we all think that.) I’m alert. I drive the speed limit (which sometimes drives my wife crazy.) I’ve only gotten 2 tickets in my life and the last one was over 7 years ago (it’s amazing what having kids does to you.)
I started riding a motorcycle this year and it has been a real eye opener to how many bad drivers there are out there. I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you.
On a motorcycle, you don’t have a big metal frame to protect you in case of an accident. In an accident you always lose. As a result, I’m much more alert and aware of what other drivers are doing. I try to be ready for worst case scenarios as I’m driving and give myself plenty of space between me and other vehicles.

As I’m paying closer attention to driver behavior, I have found that about 85% of the time someone was driving like an idiot poorly, they were distracted by talking on their mobile phone. I have decided to reduce my cell phone usage while driving even further. I already don’t use my phone much when I’m driving so it won’t be too big of a stretch. An officer in traffic school (over 10 years ago) reminded me that when you’re driving a car your primary responsibility is driving, everything else is secondary. Pull over if you need to yell at your child pick up that toy for your child. Don’t think you can turn around and do it while you’re driving because you’re a good driver.

Drunk drivers have always angered me. I’d think to myself, “How can they think it’s a good idea to get behind the wheel while they’re drunk?” But I’ve come to better understand one of their justifications. It goes something like this, “I’m such a good driver that I can handle it.” The same justification goes for those who talk on cell phones while driving. Many studies have shown that talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as drunk driving (here’s one.) By the way, 80% of drivers think they’re above average – hmmm, you do the math on that.

Here is my pledge to drive with fewer distractions:

  1. I will not talk on my phone while driving unless I’m doing it hands-free and even then I’ll use discretion.
  2. I will never compose or send text messages while driving.
  3. I will not even look at my phone unless the driving situation is low risk (i.e. no nearby cars, not residential area, not approaching intersections, …)

Obviously, I will take exception to these rules in case of an emergency. Me running late for an appointment is not an emergency.

What this means to me:

  • I’m going to be a safer driver on the road.
  • I might be yelling/gesturing/honking at you if you’re driving like an idiot and have a phone up to your ear.
  • My chances of making it home alive have increased dramatically.

What this means to you:

  • If you call me and I’m driving, I may not answer. Leave a message or send me a text message, it’s nothing personal.
  • One more driver out there is more aware of what’s going on and less likey to be in an accident with you.
  • I challenge you to do the same and remove or reduce any distractions you have while driving.

Thanks for letting me rant a little and I hope you take a moment to think about how you can be a safer driver.

Propane tanker crash

Here’s a quick video on the tanker crash near my sister’s home. There are a few short snippets of their interview with her.

Free Dr. Pepper for everyone!

I was just made aware that Dr. Pepper will be giving away a free 20-ounce soda to anyone that wants one. This according to their promise to give a free soda to everyone in America if the Guns N’ Roses album, “Chinese Democracy” was released in 2008. The album goes on sale Sunday.
Beginning Sunday at 12:01 a.m. coupons for your free soda will be available on Dr. Pepper’s website.

Original news story here
I’m not much of a Dr. Pepper fan (I’m more of a Dew man), but I’ll take a free soda. Thank you very much.