Mr. Sensitive

August 31, 2010

Comfort

Filed under: Girls — lbej @ 16:50
Tags: , ,

Doesn’t matter to some people.

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Pickett Wins

Filed under: House — lbej @ 13:38
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Gen. Robert E. Lee is often criticized, and very fairly, for insisting on the third crucial day at Gettysburg that Gen. Longstreet’s corps must take the unassailable Union position on Cemetery Ridge by way of a dramatic frontal assault.  This became known to history as Pickett’s Charge, which is stupid because George Pickett commanded only one of the three Confederate divisions involved and the actual charging was quite limited; it was more like Longstreet’s Steady March.   Whatever its name, the attempt was catastrophic for the Southern cause and the outcome was never in doubt.  It was a move that might have worked had Napoleon tried it fifty years earlier, but it had no chance of succeeding given the dramatic increase in the lethality of firearms over that time.  Federal guns simply cut the rebels to pieces at a distance and the assault was thrown back with 5o percent casualties.  Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia never recovered.  But imagine if the order was given for the Federals to fire, only all the muskets jammed and the balls just rolled out of the cannons.  Technology won the day at Gettysburg, as it does in every conflict above the level of fisticuffs.  The result of Lee’s misbegotten offensive–annihilation and repulsion–goes from inevitable to impossible.  The point is not that the South could have won the Civil War–it most certainly could not have.  The point is that the nursery is half-sanded because my sander isn’t sanding and the moulding is stacked up in the hallway because my air compressor isn’t compressing.  I’m losing the battle because these machines I don’t understand won’t do what I require.  I bet I would have been useless with a rifled musket as well.

August 30, 2010

Why I Was Right To Destroy That Table

Filed under: House,Stuff I Just Wanted To Say — lbej @ 15:23
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I am sometimes accused of failing to think things through.  This is because I sometimes fail to think things through.  The downfall of the dollhouse table/complex today was not such an instance, however, and I will explain why.

  • The table was structurally unsound.  It was 12 feet long, supported by two spindly legs at each end, and those legs were linked by a single shaft of wood attached to each leg by–I am not kidding–a one-inch dowel and some wood glue.  As a consequence, it fell off every time the table was moved and the result was a balsa wood (again, not kidding) table top that was supporting 100 pounds in its center with no central anchor of any kind.  The legs themselves had been visibly re-nailed on several occasions in an attempt to salvage the structure.  This was a little like putting duct tape on the deck of the Titanic.  When I tried to slide the table at all, the legs on the far end (whichever it happened to be) bowed outward like a door swinging open.  It was when this happened the last time that I made my decision.
  • The table was too big to be moved, and yet people move.  I measured it as five feet by twelve feet; that is ridiculous.  It was also too flimsy to be moved except by professional movers, and I don’t have any of those in my employ.  It was meant to stay in my grandparents’ house and never be moved.  After its third move it was ready to collapse.
  • What was lost, and what the impossible table was necessary to preserve, was the landscaping around the dollhouse.  All of that–the trees, the bushes, the yard works, even the grass–had been blasted away by the moves and my children.  The once-intricate dollhouse complex had been reduced to slabs of plastic screwed to a table and covered in a thin coat of pseudo-moss.  There was no future there, table or no.

So now the table is gone, the dollhouse is mobile and, I believe, salvageable, and the nursery/playroom just added 20% to its square footage.  I was right.  And I only chopped my leg once during the melee.

Look how absurd it was:

And now, perfected:

Give It Back?

Filed under: House — lbej @ 13:48
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In March 1945 Gen. Eisenhower ordered Gen. Patton to bypass the German city of Trier because four divisions would be required to take the city, and Eisenhower didn’t have them to spare.  Patton responded in a telegram thusly:

Have taken Trier with two divisions.  What do you want me to do?  Give it back?

I expect a dressing-down from the Empress for this, but I exercised command as I saw fit given the circumstances.  Trier was there for the taking, and I took it.

The blue thing embedded in the table is my axe, for those who don’t recognize it.  The dollhouse is fine, by the way.  Turns out I can move it by myself after all.

Family Stock Index Change

Filed under: FSX — lbej @ 12:17
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As I mentioned in my 8/27 FSX update, Rubio’s Restaurants was taken private last week, and so as of last Friday’s close the Family Stock Index said goodbye to RUBO.  My decision to represent Mario the Elder and Ruby with a single stock was made when the FSX was first constituted back in April, and I had three reasons at the time for doing so:

  1. I wanted to fix the number of stocks in the index at 20
  2. I had only one parental component from my side of the family in the index (Mom) and I thought one from Katie’s side would be appropriate
  3. Katie thought RUBO was funny and they’re her parents

All perfectly good reasons at the time, and all invalid now.  Mom wiped out reasons #1 and #2 by herself, and now last week’s delisting has deprived us of RUBO.  Since I didn’t have a reason to keep them together, I decided to split Mario and Ruby.  It took some time to come up with suitable replacements, but I’ve found two stocks that satisfy the ingrown sensibilities on which I base these things.  If it doesn’t work out I’ll just fix it when I rebalance at the end of next month.

Ruby will be represented by Rubicon Minerals Corp., selected because its ticker symbol is RBY.  Rubicon is a gold exploration and mining concern and thus gives us some appealing exposure to the minerals sector.  RBY is being added at its 8/27 closing price of $4.27, nearer to the high end of its 52-week range of $5.24 to $2.91.  There are 213 million shares outstanding, which translates to a market cap just above $900 million.

Mario the Elder will be represented by Pep Boys, the purveyor of auto parts.  Despite its relative prominence, the company’s market value is under $500 million and thus solidly in the middle of the pack for the FSX.  My thinking on this one is more of the ingrown variety.  Try to keep up:

  • My girls have traditionally called their lone grandfather by a nickname I would transliterate as Pee-Pah, although a spontaneous transition to the more staid Grandpa seems well underway.
  • Trivial Pursuit for the Wii limits player names to four characters and Mario used Pepa when he played with us.  Reagan thus started calling him Pepa from time to time (pronounced like pepper with an -a instead of an -er) because that’s the sort of thing she does.
  • Katie says her dad is peppy.
  • He’s something of a car person (less of a car parts person, but I’ve got a deadline here , so let’s not nit-pick).
  • The ticker symbol for Pep Boys is PBY.  This sealed it for me because I had decided to use RBY for Ruby and I jump on weird resonance whenever it presents itself.

PBY will be added to the FSX at its 8/27 closing price of $9.37, which when applied to its 52.5 million shares outstanding yields a market cap of $492 million.

Because it represented two people, RUBO had been given extra weight at the 6/30 rebalancing, and so I was able to reallocate its contribution to RBY and PBY without adjusting the weight for the other components.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t, just that I didn’t.  Now we’ve got a month left in the quarter to see whether cars and gold work out better than restaurants.  I’d like at least a month with no more changes.

Operation Dollhouse – Sandstorm Tactics

Filed under: House — lbej @ 11:09
Tags: ,

All the carpet and foam carpet padding has now been stripped, rolled up, and transported to the garage for gradual but irreversible expulsion as trash can space permits.  I applied stain remover and will wait until it is dry to begin the next phase of operations.  After lunch I expect to sand down the floor, a process complicated by the intransigence of the dollhouse, bed, and dresser, as well as the numerous carpet staples and nails I invariably missed in my initial sweep.  Once the sanding is complete I will deploy the leaf blower, propelling the sawdust, plaster, and filth into the air and out an open window, and also into my hair.  These sandstorm tactics have been applied successfully in the girls’ room and the office; importantly, using a leaf blower in the house is awesome.  The dollhouse itself is secure under a tarp, not that it matters.

After The Reconquest

Filed under: House — lbej @ 09:27
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I have recaptured and reordered a great deal of territory in this house and its environs in recent months, even considering the great extent to which my timetables have been alternatively compressed or extended owing to interdicting events and infirmities.  A satisfactory overarching organization has eluded me, however, and I have felt the lack acutely.  When I was chiefly concerned with offensive and defensive operations–movement and engagement of forces–it was appropriate to speak in terms of theaters and fronts.  However, as the mission transitions from conquest to security, the organizational vision must change as well.  In the past, I have talked about areas of the house and the associated tasks interchangeably, so I would say I have to start the basement, or work on the office, or finish the girls’ room.  Of course it was understood what I meant, but the organization was muddled.  I want to deliberately house all tasks, to associate them with specific locations and abandon the language of starting, working on, and finishing those locations as if they were tasks themselves.  It will help me to manage the work that remains here if I’m able to organize it in this way.  For this purpose I have created a new system of military districts located with larger zones.  Here is the initial structure, which I believe to be exhaustive:

 

# District Name Zone
1 Kitchen First Floor
2 Laundry Room First Floor
3 Dining Room First Floor
4 Family Room First Floor
5 Office First Floor
6 Downstairs Bathroom First Floor
7 Downstairs Hall First Floor
8 Downstairs Hall Closet First Floor
9 Main Stairs First Floor
10 Master Bedroom Second Floor
11 Master Bathroom Second Floor
12 Master Closet Second Floor
13 Girls’ Room Second Floor
14 Boys’ Room Second Floor
15 Upstairs Bathroom Second Floor
16 Upstairs Hall Second Floor
17 Upstairs Hall Closet Second Floor
18 Attic Third Floor
19 Apple Floor Room Basement
20 KS Garage Basement
21 LS Garage Basement
22 Basement Stairs Basement
23 Porch Outside
24 Front Yard Outside
25 Driveway Outside
26 Deck Outside
27 Patio Outside
28 Back Yard (ex-pond) Outside
29 Pond Outside
30 Headquarters N/A

Going forward, tasks will be assigned to individual districts, including both one-time and perpetual tasks, the latter having been inappropriate for a theater/front organizational scheme.  Tasks that cross over multiple districts will be assigned to all affected districts at once–assignment is not one-to-one.  Tasks that are not centered on a location will be assigned to headquarters, which is me.  The creation of districts will also allow me to assign military governors (me, not the Empress, because this involves the disposition of forces).  The only such assignments I am making at this time are District 13, assigned to Jenny and Reagan jointly, and District 15, assigned to Katie.  I remain directly responsible for the other 28 districts.  This organizational reorientation will not prevent me from returning to a war footing should conditions within a district or zone deteriorate.  It also glosses over the lawlessness rampant in the entire Outside Zone.  The districts within that zone are purely provisional.  I will need to adjust the particulars of the structure, no doubt, but I believe this change will help me to manage my domestic efforts more effectively.

August 29, 2010

If You Were The Worst Dog

Filed under: House,Pet Nasty War,Pets — lbej @ 21:10
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This is the sort of thing you would do to a rug:

Dozens of times.  It will take at least three showers to wash off the experience of rolling up this pee-soaked carpet.  I would be able to focus my powerful hatred on Wilson more consistently if his own self-hatred didn’t ethereally neutralize it.  When I enter a room he’s in I swear I can feel this happen.

August 27, 2010

FSX Friday Update

Filed under: FSX — lbej @ 17:21
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I don’t like it.  The financial markets rallied Friday when Fed Chairman Bernanke pledged to inflate the bejeezus out of everything in order to stimulate the U.S. economy and (implicitly) fight the threat of deflation, the boogeyman de jour.  I don’t like it.  I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.  The way you correct structural imbalances in an economic system–in any system–is not to push said system into an even more precarious state of imbalance.  There are enormous global trade, exchange rate, and interest rate deformities that must eventually be addressed and all Bernanke is telling us is that he’d rather do it later than sooner, even if that delay allows the problem to worsen.  Multinational companies are able to manufacture all the world’s goods in China and East Asia at artificially low cost and sell those products to jobless consumers in the West for a short-term risk-free profit, and all of it is subsidized by unprecedented debt-currency collusion between the governments of the U.S. and China.  It can’t go on forever.  U.S. debt will reach an unsustainable level (adding another $1 trillion plus this year alone), at which point a default or devaluation (just as bad for China) will occur, Chinese exports will be slammed, the Chinese economy will grind to a halt (the U.S. is already there), and political unrest will follow.  Everyone knows it can’t go on forever, but nobody wants to be the first to get off the ride.  It’s the housing bubble of 2004-2006 all over again.  I hate people.  So what happened today, make no mistake, may be be good for traders, but it is NOT good for investors.  None of this is.  In the meantime, savings bonds will be paying more than 10-year Treasuries before we know it.  Until they don’t pay at all.  My long-term investment advice: run.

The Family Stock Index rebounded with the broader market on Friday, and with a closing level of 913.67, finished less than two points to the downside on the week.  This came as a great relief after the FSX made a new historic low of 883.88 on Wednesday (that only covers the four months or so since inception, but still).  Just out of curiosity, I went back to March 2009, which happened to be an all-time personal low for me as well as a 13-year low for the market.  Based on current weights, the FSX would have bottomed out at around 550 then, so the tough times of late aren’t so bad in that context.  Of course, when I compare that to the level the FSX would have reached at the market peak in Fall 2007 (2200!), I’m left feeling more than a little daunted.  We closed above 900 this week, and we very nearly didn’t, so I’ll content myself with that for now.

The big news for the index itself is that RUBO went private this week.  I really liked that ticker, and now I’m going to have to find new representatives for Mario the Elder and Ruby.  I always try to be positive, but Jenny and Reagan are assisting in the search, so insults may ensue.

Advancers

  • Charlotte (BOOT) +12.1% (Charlotte rebounded hard yesterday and today on heavy volume.  Maybe life in Chicago won’t be so bad after all.)
  • Nicole B. (NI) +5.9% (A new 52-high for Nicole in the midst of a struggling market.  Greek Fire, indeed.)
  • Jenny (LEN) 5.5% (Interesting that housing stocks like LEN would rally when the declines in home sales were what triggered the sell-off early in the week.  Jenny loves school, though, so who cares that nobody wants to buy a house?)
  • LEE +5.1% (Slammed early in the week–down 9% at one point–I held at $2 and bounced.  Plan Vier is on schedule and the stairs have been beaten into submission, so I was due a break from the relentless decline in my stock.)

Decliners

  • Justin (WOLF) -4.3% (Justin has volunteered to pimp me to the publishing world once more, so he’s about to get a face-full of the shame and failure that entails.)
  • LULU -6.9% (It’s hot again, and she’s fat still.)
  • ZERO -11.8% (Zero and I have been neck-and-neck in the race to see who can suck it up worse in 2010, and he pulls back in front with this week’s performance.  I’m all for self-actualization, but reaching for a price that matches his ticker symbol would be taking it too far.)

Just the facts:

 

Name 8/27/10 Change
Charlotte $13.54 +1.46
Dustin $40.91 -0.76
Icarus $9.39 -0.28
Jenny $13.47 +0.70
Justin $2.00 -0.09
Katie $10.03 -0.14
Lee $2.28 +0.11
Lisa $8.44 -0.34
Lucas $1.63 -0.06
Lulu $35.53 -2.62
Machis $8.68 -0.01
Marcus $11.24 -0.21
Mario $19.53 +0.05
Marisa $18.22 -0.17
Nicole B. $17.47 +0.97
Nicole L. $55.82 +0.53
Reagan $22.78 -0.15
Wilson $6.19 -0.06
Zero $0.28 -0.04
Zondro $4.92 +0.05

Lessons Of Deep Battle

Filed under: House — lbej @ 14:49
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I believe I have successfully adapted Tukhachevsky’s deep battle theory for the prosecution of today’s campaign.  It’s not a perfect rendition, but the principles I applied today–simultaneity, depth, and combined arms–allowed me to achieve something qualitatively different.  In the past I have often relied upon the massing of force for a breakthrough, only to find myself unprepared to counter the true strength of the enemy: his ability to defend in depth.  Thus when the enemy deploys his reserves and reforms his lines, exploiting his natural familiarity with the terrain–I am almost always invading somewhere–I have all my forces committed and I must achieve victory there and then, at the point of the breakthrough, or not at all.  That’s how I end up with a chest freezer full of gasoline burning uncontrollably on my patio.  What I did differently today is apply pressure at multiple points–on the stairs and in the nursery/playroom–so that I could hold where the enemy presented strength and press where he did not.  That I would work from a single can of paint for the fronts of the stairs and the paneling alongside them was clearly not a development the enemy expected.  I was able to induce a degree of operational shock and thus disrupt the overall disposition of his forces, so that I was able to press him when he showed signs of collapse on the staircase.  This state of shock prevented him from calling for the cat reinforcements that were available nearby and with which he might have been able to turn my flank.  Paint plus cats equals disaster.  If I had no alternative but to force a decision in the n/p, who knows what might have happened when I faced reversal at the hands of the magic markers.  I would probably be knocking down the wall with a sledgehammer as we speak.

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