Update On Moving Accounts

I made some more progress on moving accounts and leaving JPMorgan Chase (see previous posts here, here and here).

I got an account with a credit union. The point is to get a credit card through them, and get rid of my credit cards with Chase. The credit union only has branches in Texas, but if I move I can still do online banking.

I opened the account via video conference. Someone led me into an office, and I spoke to someone in San Antonio. I filled out all the forms and scanned in my ID. I was able to join because I work for a company that has an affiliation with them.

They do offer a credit card that gives cash back. The teller told me that if I don’t redeem the cash, they automatically put it in my account once a year.

I was thinking about getting a credit card that is affiliated with the broker who holds my IRA accounts. I could get cash back and have it go into my IRA. But I did some digging, and I found out they are owned by Bank Of America. That would put me right back with a big bank.

Plus, I worked for Bank Of America for about nine years. I would say things did not end well. When the big financial crisis happened, they lost billions of dollars, and they made some of it up by canning me and a few thousand other people. I got a severance of a few months. I do not know anyone who made the headlines, but there was a bozo a few levels up who was able to negotiate a severance. Even though lots of us got the axe plain and simple. This guy was supposed to oversee three groups. I found out through the grapevine that all three of us thought we were being ignored because he was focusing on the other two. So what was he doing that whole time?

I honestly think once you make about $300,000 or so a year, you get to skate from one job to another without any penalty no matter how badly you do.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use, linked on the page for theft.

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Language: Taking Responsibility

I used to listen to Loveline with Dr Drew, when Adam Carolla was on it.

Sometimes Dr Drew would tell people they need to “take responsibility” for their life. Sometimes people would object to that, especially if they were dealing with mistreatment from significant others or their parents.

I think that these people would object because they thought that Dr Drew was telling them to admit guilt or accept blame for the bad things that happened to them, or admit that they deserved it, or wanted their lives to be in bad shape.

I think instead of telling people to “take responsibility”, it would be better to tell people to take control of their life.

If someone mistreated you, then you cannot expect them to try to make things right. If they wanted what was best for you, they never would have mistreated you in the first place. It is not fair that you have to clean up someone else’s mess, but sometimes that is the way things are.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.


Thoughts On New York

This past Christmas I went out to New York to see my brother and his family. The live on Long Island. Two boroughs of NYC are on Long Island, but when people in the NY Metro area say “Long Island”, they mean the parts of LI that are not NYC.

He is very religious, a Roman Catholic, and we don’t always get along. (He is also a libertarian; how you can be both is frankly beyond me.)

We were not raised religious. Our parents are from Irish Catholic families. My mother went to Catholic school all the way through college. She went to Dominican University in River Forest. At the time it was called Rosary College. They had all three of us baptized, but they stopped going to church before I was born.

He has tried to convert all of us. He even tried to convert our mother, even though she has heard it all before. I don’t understand why religious people can’t get it in their heads that if something was not convincing the first 500 times, I won’t be convinced the 501st time.

Sometimes our phone conversations would degenerate into shouting matches. At one point I decided to limit them to five minutes. That worked a few times. Then once I hit the five minute mark, and I thought that things were going well so I would continue. Then it went south.

He and his wife have two kids. I did not go to the baptisms. I am not going a thousand miles out of my way to go to a church. But I can’t put this off forever, so in late November I called him up and asked if he was open to the idea of a visit. He said he was, so I went.

I drove out there just before the 24th, and I came back starting on the 28th. I really do not like flying. I finally got to Maryland, but only for 12 miles along Interstate 81. So I have now been in all states east of the Mississippi River outside of New England except Delaware. My mother thought I should fly because she was worried a long drive would be a lot of wear and tear on my car.

It was a lot of wear and tear on my car, but it was all in New York City and on Long Island. The roads are in really bad shape; they are very bumpy, there are a lot of potholes, and manhole covers don’t make for smooth driving either. I thought that roads in parts of Illinois were bad. It hurts my back just thinking about it. I know there is a high population density, but they really need to fix their roads. People in the rest of the country wonder why New Yorkers seem so rude. Probably because their brains are getting scrambled every time they drive. Yes, it would be difficult to change things. But in all seriousness, I cannot understand why they don’t do something about it.

On top of that, Long Island roads are not in a grid. It’s like they were planned out by a blind man with no arms. On the way there I got off of one expressway onto another, and I went around 180 degrees, and the street names for the exit were the same but in reverse order. So they seem to have two expressways that cover the same territory. I just want to get from Point A to Point B. If I want scenic, I will walk. I don’t like a layout that forces me to think about things I should not have to think about.

My brother got married on Long Island. Our family came in from all over. Just about all of her family was from there and living there. Long Island seems like a black hole. People go there, or they are born there, and they never leave. My sister-in-law went to college in upstate New York, and that was a big deal. At one point I overheard a women go on about how blessed they were to live on Long Island, in New York and near the ocean. First off: If you like the ocean, fine. Don’t complain the next time there is a hurricane. Secondly: I was a bit irritated that I drove over a thousand miles and I hear the same mentality I hear all the time in Texas.

I also had to pay four tolls for New York City. One to get in and one to get out each way. It would be nice if there was a way to go from the mainland to Long Island without paying a fee. I know Bloomberg did it to end congestion, but if you are just passing through are you really adding to the congestion as much as people who are going to stop in the city?

I made a comment to my brother that people seemed to wait a long time at red lights. A lot longer they need to. I thought that New Yorkers did not seem as intense as their reputation. My brother agreed. He has been told by new Yorkers that he is abrasive and that he talks quickly.

My brother named his son after our great-great grandfather. I knew that our great grandfather had been born in Ireland. I thought that he came over as a young child with his parents, but apparently he only came over with his mother. His father died in Ireland. His daughter is named after our great grandmother. She was born in Ireland and came over with her parents when she was young. She died when we were young.

My nephew is the spit-up king. Fear him.

For the most part there was not a lot of religion. My sister-in-law told me that my brother discourages their daughter from using her left hand for things. Most of our ancestors were from Ireland. Some were from the Scottish Highlands. At one point my brother said he hoped that our Scottish ancestors were not Presbyterian. I don’t know if they were, and there is not much we could do about it if they did.

I did tell them about dividend growth stocks. When I was an indexer, I sent him some books (a few mentioned here). But when I explained the concept of dividend growth investing. It’s like compound interest with an increasing interest rate. He seemed interested. I will see if I can find a few good books to send him. I might send him some links to a few good sites.

Climate change data point: I drove from Chicago to Long Island in 2007 for my brother’s wedding. There was a lot of snow in Pennsylvania on the way back. I took a different route this time, but there was no snow at all.

I might go again in July for the first birthday of The Spit Up King.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Babylon 5

Recently, the Austin Geeks and Gamers meetup had a Babylon 5 viewing party, and I attended.

Like Deep Space Nine, I had seen some of Babylon 5 in college. I was intrigued, so I got a hold of all of Babylon 5 (all five seasons, the movies and Crusade) and I watched all of it. I liked it. If I had to give a one sentence assessment:

It was a good story.

When I was in college, sometimes I would catch an episode in the dorm. There was a TV in a lounge that a few of us would gather at. I also remember looking at the Lurker’s Guide when it was hosted on Hyperion.

Like Deep Space Nine, since I had seen some episodes and I was familiar with the characters and the actors, the episodes that I had not seen seemed new and familiar in a strange way.

The organizer of the Meetup had met the creator of the series, JMS, around the time JMS was starting work on Babylon 5. I think JMS set out to create science fiction that was on the same level as great literature. I think he succeeded. Granted, one issue with science fiction is that even with great characters and stories, the special effects will get heavy weighting in people’s assessment. All the ships in the series were done with computer animation, which today looks dated. The CGI in The Lost Tales looked amazing.

I don’t know if I have decided if I like it better than Star Trek. As JMS pointed out in the Lurker’s Guide, a lot of people who don’t like Babylon 5 are expecting it to be like Star Trek, and he is trying to do something different. Plus there are multiple series in the Star Trek franchise. I think JMS does not plan on doing anything more with Babylon 5, and it looks like Star Trek will be re-invented every few years. I heard that JMS might re-do Babylon 5, but to my knowledge those are just rumors. If he were to re-visit the Babylon 5 universe, I would prefer he finish (or reboot and complete) Crusade. I think he was onto something special there.

One difference between Babylon 5 and The Next Generation is that it seems like in TNG every character was in every episode. Sometimes the character would only have one line, usually just summarizing the episode for people who were not paying attention. It was kind of annoying in a way. Maybe there were some contractual reasons for that. Deep Space Nine was better about keeping people out if they were not in the story, and even when they had one line it was not just a synopsis for stoners, but something more seamless and less obvious.

I also thought that the Earth Alliance uniforms in Babylon 5 were some of the best uniforms in science fiction. In Star Trek, I thought the uniforms for Enterprise and the movies with TOS cast (the second through the sixth) were the best. The uniforms from TOS itself looked like pajamas, and the uniforms from TNG did not look very military either.

I also like the use of intercutting between two (or more) things happening simultaneously. I know that is not unique to Babylon 5, but it reminds of something about what my brother said about seeing priests in The Godfather films: It is a signal that something major is happening.

It was a bit sad to know that quite a few of the important cast members had died. I knew that Andreas Katsulas had died a few years ago. At some point in intervening years I saw from the article about him on Wikipedia that Richard Biggs had died very suddenly and unexpectedly. Some of the lines by Doctor Franklin are more touching knowing that he had died pretty young.

Jeff Conaway also died a few years ago. He looked pretty bad towards the end of his life. I did not know he was kicked off of Taxi due to drugs. I remember reading a comment on a site about Babylon 5 while he was on the show from someone that they were glad to see he had gotten his life back together. I also found out at the Austin Geeks and Gamers meetup that Michael O’Hare died, and why he left the series. Unlike Star Trek, people never seemed to comment on the voices of the actors in Babylon 5. I think O’Hare had a voice for the ages.

There was some wisdom in Babylon 5. Who could argue with the notion that Susan Ivanova is the most beautiful woman? There was a scene where someone said unlike everybody else, they wanted life to be unfair, because if it was fair, then all the bad things that happen to you happen because you deserve them.

And I think I may have figured out the fourteen words to make someone fall in love with you forever:

  1. If
  2. I
  3. said
  4. you
  5. have
  6. a
  7. beautiful
  8. body
  9. would
  10. you
  11. hold
  12. it
  13. against
  14. me

Image from Babylon 5 Wikia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Update On Moving Accounts

I have moved my checking and savings accounts away from JP Morgan Chase.

Granted, in the big picture it is not that big of a deal. Until rich people and large corporations start using credit unions or there is more regulations on banks not much will change.

I think we should go back to Glass-Steagall. Things were fine with Glass-Steagall for decades. It gets repealed, and everything falls apart in about eight years. I know a lot of people love to say that correlation is not causation. But sometimes it is a reason to pay attention.

I think other countries should also look at how Canada regulates its banking sector. Canada is the only country that did not have to give its banks any money. No Canadian banks failed during the Great Recession, and I do not think any big Canadian banks merged.

I still have two credit cards with JPM. I might keep one of them. One I have had for twenty years. It might hurt my credit score to get rid of it.

When I started my current job, I had a lot of money in savings, and about $4K in checking. When I made this move, I had about $30K in checking. I have had my paychecks go into my new checking account. I moved my old checking account into a second savings account. I may try living off of that. I will see what I spend each month, and transfer that amount to my new checking account. I think it would be interesting to see how long my smaller savings account would last.

I don’t know if I will be in Texas for the rest of  my life. If I ever move back north, I think I will go with a Canadian bank. Some of them have branches up north.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On Scotland, Water and the Future

During the decade or so I was living in Chicago, I thought that I was going to be in Chicago for the rest of my life. Then I wound up in Texas. But I do not think I will spend the rest of my life here.

One major reason is water. There was an excellent article in Men’s Health called “Who Stole the Water?” about water in Texas. Governor Goodhair is telling everyone to come down here, but not telling people that the water is running out. And since this is Texas, nobody wants to spend any money. As I wrote before, when you want to point out magical thinking, you say, “X does not just fall from the sky.” Water actually does fall from the sky, just not when and where you want it to.

I think Texas will not do well in the future. Climate change will hit Texas hard. It is already too hot for me already. According to the Drought Monitor, Illinois is doing fairly well. So I might go back to Chicago. Or perhaps up to Canada. I had thought about Portland or Seattle, but it looks like the northwest is getting a bit dry as well. I always thought the northwest was the best place to be to deal with climate change. Plus I don’t understand how Portland can have a drought. They are right on the Columbia River. Are they starting bonfires every time they light a joint?

I am toying with the idea of checking out Scotland. Part of my family is from there. Part of my family is also from Ireland. (Being Scottish AND Irish is NOT the same as being Scots-Irish. Scots-Irish are Lowland Scots who moved to northeastern Ireland. Some of them were not Scottish at all.)

My mother offered to take me to Scotland for a few weeks. I have not given her an answer either way. She is retired, and needs her money more than I do. But all the news about the independence referendum has got me thinking about looking into moving there. It would be a long shot. If they become independent, they will probably allow more people in. I hope they need software developers.

Another reason to go would be to find a wife. I have not had much success with women, so the idea that one woman will choose to do something that no woman until now has chosen to do is pretty slim. Plus, I do not want to break the chain.

I do not know too much about my family history. My great-grandmother came to the USA from Ireland with her parents when she was very young. She married an Irish man. All of her siblings went into interracial marriages. Polish and German I think. My grandmother married a man who was mostly Scottish with some Irish. Again, her siblings got their swirls on with Polish or Germans. Same with my mother’s siblings. And now my siblings are in interracial marriages. My sister-in-law is badda-boom-badda-bing, and my brother-in-law does not speak any Polish but has a last name with five consonants in a row that none of us can pronounce. (The “ski” at the end I can say.)

So if the chain is going to continue, it is up to me. Women have picked guys who beat the crap out of them over me. They can write me off in two seconds knowing nothing about me, yet somehow everybody fools everybody else. I do not assume that I will rank any better over there, but I could not rank any worse.

I did look at Craig’s Lust for Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are a LOT of American women who are interested in Irish and Scottish men. I am guessing it is the accent, because being Irish and Scottish has not worked at all for me. Seeing some of these ads gives me pause. Moving to another country is a lot more difficult than moving to another state. Moving inside of Chicago was a major hassle. Some of them are really delusional. One said “I want a older rich man who can come t the states (florida) and take me to vegas and marr and take me back to their country. And live happly forever.” Another said she was part Irish and part Croation. She’s soooooo Croatian, she doesn’t need to spell it correctly. Why place a personal in another country? What do these women think will happen? Then I think to myself: I am reading these ads, so maybe I am a bit off the wall thinking about this as well.

My employer does have an office in Edinburgh. I am guessing that the clients are probably in the financial sector, which I have heard is pretty big in Edinburgh. Many financial firms said they would leave if Scotland voted to become independent. (After that news came out, the “No” gained a bit in the polls; it makes me wonder who does Scotland really need to be independent from?)

Lately I have been spending more time learning some new software languages. That is one reason I have not posted here as much. I need to get a Plan B ready. So I guess my future might lie in Chicago, Toronto, or Edinburgh.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Star Trek Videos Are Back

It looks like most of the episodes for the different Star Trek series are back up at the Star Trek site.

Lately I have been watching some videos by a trader who goes by the handle Aileron. (He used to go by “Airelon”, but now he seems to be going by “Aileron”.) I came across his now-defunct podcast a few years ago, and I liked it. He has a few playlists on getting started trading. I am going through the ones on money management now. He also has a forum and a website. I will get back to Deep Space Nine when I am done with the money management playlist.

My cable bill also went up. I will have to look at my bill. It was only ten dollars, but then again that is a lot for a $48 bill. I will call them to see if I can get a better price for just internet. When I was in Chicago, Comcast was charging me $70/month. When I got to Austin, TimeWarner was charging me $34/month, then $48, now $58. Their P/E ratios are a bit high, and their yields are a bit low, but maybe I should just buy some stock in the cable companies.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing what unfolds in Deep Space Nine (although I think I have an general idea). Then I will finish Voyager. I might also watch Babylon 5. I was at a Meetup event this weekend for a sci-fi meetup, and we watched a few Babylon 5 episodes. The host had met JMS, the creator of Babylon 5. I saw a few episodes in college, but since I have never owned a TV, I never got really into it.

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Conversation With A Libertarian

I was at a conference in Minneapolis recently. I talked to a lot of people. One guy said he was a libertarian. He seemed like a nice fellow. He may be a guy who can say he is a “true” libertarian.

A lot of times, people who call themselves “libertarian” are using that term to put lipstick on a pig. Frequently they are racist or homophobic, or really just don’t like paying other people a day’s wage for a day’s work. There was a good article on Pando pointing out that a lot of people think of themselves as “libertarian” without realizing that other people call themselves “libertarian” and have some pretty nasty ideas.

So this guy said he was into Bitcoin. I just kept nodding as he kept talking. But after a few minutes I thought this guy might be sincere about libertarianism and freedom.

He worked for another crypto currency and got paid in Bitcoin (using a three-day moving average). He was involved in a Meetup in the Bay Area about Bitcoin. Two of the other organizers were on the far left politically. He reported his Bitcoin income to the IRS.

He even said that Bitcoin may not replace fiat currency, but complement it. He also said that Bitcoin itself might be replaced by something else in the future. A lot of Bitcoiners (like a lot of gold nutjobs) think that all we have to do is go to Bitcoin and everything will be wonderful. Just press this magic red button one time, set the dial right there, and everything will be okay. The fact is if you change the rules, then people just find new ways to cheat. Plus they seem oblivious to the idea that changing society in their image might hurt other people, even if other people think society is just fine. A lot of Bitcoiners sound like the Underpants Gnomes from South Park: 1. Dislodge fiat currency. 2. ???? 3. Utopia. What is step 2? No idea. So for a supporter of Bitcoin to say that Bitcoin might not be the final answer is surprising.

He also talked about how Bitcoin can be used in Africa. Apparently cel phone minutes are used as a form of currency. He pointed out that the banking system in many African countries is not that great, and that Bitcoin can do some good there. (The conference was a few weeks ago, and I honestly have forgotten some of what he has said.)

A lot of glibertarians are pretty racist (see the Pando article I linked to above). So here was a guy who actually thought that he was doing something to help people in poor countries. He seemed pretty sincere about it.

I am still skeptical of libertarianism in general. But I will say this encounter opened my eyes a bit.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Voyager Is Offline

There are now only 13 episodes of Voyager available on the Star Trek site. I will wait a few months to see if they will bring the episodes back. I still have not seen a big chunk of Deep Space Nine either. CBS has taken episodes offline and brought them back before, so I will wait to see what happens.

If they do not come back, I may have to break down and spend money to watch what I have not seen. I might try Amazon Prime. Someone at work told me about this. It looks like you can get a LOT of stuff for $20/month.

I was hoping to get more Star Trek for free. It looks like Comcast will be buying Time Warner Cable. I am pretty certain my cable bill will go up. I know Netflix has had some conflicts with Verizon. I wonder if anyone is on Comcast’s hit list. It would be nice to be able to watch stuff without dealing with all the corporate shenanigans.

I mentioned before that I didn’t think they needed to bring on Seven of Nine to make Voyager fun to watch, and that the other women on the show were pretty damn hot. Well, I think Kes and Torres (forehead, temper and all) are hot. But still, Seven of Nine does have an amazing body. The chest is nice, but for me the waist and the figure are what capture my attention. And the legs. And the rear.

I did not watch Voyager when it was first running, since I did not have a TV. I knew a woman at the gym I went to who was upset that her husband became a huge Voyager fan when Seven of Nine came on. She was very attractive in her own right. I told her that I thought she was at least an 8. She didn’t get it at first.

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Random Rant

I am not too thrilled with my job these days.

I work at a large consulting firm that was spun off from one of the then-Big Six accounting firms.

I work with a “business rules engine“. Nobody seems to know what on earth this is. One time I told someone the systems I help create implement health care policies for states, and he thought that I made the policy. I told him the state governments create the policy. Another guy thought that I did something with firewall rules.

The Austin office mostly does government work. I can’t say why, but I would prefer to be in the private sector. Plus I don’t really like the technology that I am working with. If I tried to get another job, I think all the offers I would get would be for what I am doing now.

I am not too confident in my status at work right now. I was on one project for a year, and since January I have been on four different projects. Perhaps they are sending me a message. I have never really liked any job that I have had. The benefits are nice. They were nice at the large, multinational bank. But there I did not really like the technology I worked with either. I spend some of my own time learning a new (to me) programming language that I would like to get a job in. I know it is odd to some people that I spend all day at a desk in front of a computer, and then I go home to sit at another desk in front of a computer. But if I don’t learn on my own, then I will never get a job in it. A lot of people who do not work in technology either think that it’s all the same, or that you can just go out and get any old technology job any old time. It is not like that at all. At least it never has been for me.

Granted, I do not work as much as I should on my own. I will drive home on Friday, and think about all the things I plan to do, but spend most of the weekend pacing, looking at other sites, or just not doing much of anything. I don’t go out too much. That is partially by choice. I do not like spending money. But it not conducive to meeting the ladies. I don’t meditate as much as I would like or as much as I plan. I don’t work out as early as I would like. I would like to do it when I wake up, but, as stated, I just put it off. Some days I don’t do it at all.

WRT working out, maybe I am worried that the neighbors will complain about the noise, and I will have to cut it short. Or maybe I have this weird fear that I will weaken the structural integrity of my apartment. Granted, if that is the case, the people above the people next door are really hurting this building.

Speaking of the ladies: I go to meetups, some tech related, some not, but they are still mostly guys. Even the non-tech ones. The non-tech ones are usually related to atheism, skepticism, or geek culture. I seem to go for activities that elicit little to no interest from women: atheism, martial arts, science fiction. Maybe there are plenty of women in those fields, but I have just spent my life in cities where women only care about going to church, getting drunk, or going shopping. (I don’t know about other countries, but if you do not have a religion or drink booze, the USA is a large empty space.) I know that some people get married and have children, but somehow I think that does not explain the imbalance.

When I was in Chicago I did ask a woman in the Chicago Skeptics what the heck women do with their time. She said that a lot of women feel socially isolated because their husbands/boyfriends go out and leave the ladies at home. So much for pairing off and having lots of hot sex. I guess I am even more disconnected from humanity than I thought.

It has also occurred to me that maybe I am not as smart as I thought I was, or as smart as people have been telling me. I don’t seem to get the hang of things at work as quickly as others. I have been going to a few meetups centered around board games. Usually I come in last. A few times I won at Thunderstone, and I won twice in a row in Ticket To Ride. (I have retired with my record intact.) But at just about all the others I do terribly.

Anyway, I hope I don’t get caught in The Chasm Of Death: Let go from my job before I have enough skills in the technology that I like to get a job in it.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.