Truth About Jury Trials

"Attorneys reveal why they eliminate potential jurors: UT employees, engineers, police officers and lawyers among those attorneys don't want on jury" gets to the point, which you hear about it and I've experienced when I was put in the jury pool. Who gets pick makes big difference in how a case turns out. I guess I can act dumb and try to get on the jury but I don't know if that's worth it....


Condemned Generation

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-- George Santayana
I read "How Far Do You Trust Your Pastor?" earlier and now, I'm watching PBS' "American Experience: The Man behind Hitler," as I blog this entry. Wow! To think that Hitler made it up to the top of Germany via election, not by force.

What really got to me was when Goebbels talked about religion and wanting to replace Christianity with National Socialism. I found the following blurb, online:
the Nazi Party's political platform, which was adopted in 1920, supported freedom of religion for all Christian denominations, but as long "as they do not endanger [the German state's] existence or conflict with the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race."
So, how close are we (U.S.) to worshipping the State?

Copyright 2006, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.


How to be a flipper

"Flipping houses is harder than it looks" the title says it all. A good lowdown on real world flipping issues. Good way to view home as investment, and various costs to keep in mind: it isn't as easy as buying and selling stocks!


Home ownership: road to riches or ruin?

I saw 20/20's "Is Buying a Home the Ticket to Financial Freedom?" And was touting Bach and others who promote real estate as a way to wealth.

Yet so much assumption is made: real estate prices will be steady state or go up, jobs will always be plentiful and inflation is always around. And worst of all, that real estate debt is good.

As people saw with the dotcom and Enron bubble, profits can be realized only when you buy low and sell high. If you didn't, you had a loss, no matter how much money you "made" on paper. Real estate is no different: until you sell at a profit, you haven't made any money and unlike stocks, you can't sell a home with a phone call or a click of a button. And when the real estate market drops [as it seems to be doing now], there is no way to avoid a loss if the need to sell is there [job transfer, change in family size, family emergency, etc.]. And if the drop is like in Japan, it can go down for 15+ years (and still counting).

And, there is always the issue of opportunity cost: If you had waited for the price to come down, that same money [say your downpayment] could have been earning interest. And don't forget the emotional cost of owning something that's going down in value: be it Enron stock or a home, knowning that your "asset" going down day after day (or with homes, month after month) will take emotional toil, especially if you're leveraged (i.e., bought it with a loan).

One thing I learned from housing bubble blogs recently is that real estate was hot in Florida in the early 20's, before the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. And lo and behold, the Florida bubble seems to have begun to unwind, again. Will we get a depression?
Some would expect only a recession but personally, I don't think a depression is not impossible. So much of the U.S. economy is tied to real estate that the post bubble economy may be even more painful than what, say, Japan experienced. But even if we merely have a recession, a lost job is a lost job which can mean foreclosure and fire sale of homes. If your mortgage is upside down (you owe more than your home can be sold for), you may end up owing the IRS since that loss, if written off by the bank, will turn into an income with taxes due! Talk about double wammy: you lose your job then your home and then find that you owe money to the IRS. And don't think a government job will keep you safe since most local and state governments are dependent on taxes on real estate (from property taxes to income tax on realtors to sales tax on building materials). If people stops paying taxes, the municipal government will have no choice but to get rid of employees since, unlike the U.S. federal government, cannot print money to pay for unfunded expenses. If recession turns bad, even the feds won't be able to retain everyone since we are so much in debt today that extra borrowing will not be possible and turning on the printing press will only result in hyperinflation: a financial ruin for all.

So home ownership via debt is a safe choice if economy is growing and jobs are plentiful, but when things turn sour -- as we are about to face, I believe (and some/many on the bubble blogs would agree with me) -- homeownership can result in serious debt which can take years to pay off ... the IRS!


Creative Cheating

I got a chuckle out of this article: "Colleges chase as cheats shift to higher tech"

I recall "snitching" on my classmate who was asking around questions about the comprehensive graduate level tests we had recently taken -- and he took the tests afterward. The teachers confirmed and he had to retake the test.

Now that I think about it, it really was none of my business. If a person insists on cheating, have at it, since at issue is a heart and moral problem not a checking or testing problem.

Just like in the security business, if the attacker is determined, they will "get in." The bar can never be raised high enough -- it's really a matter of how long before they are successful [again].
As a parent, the goal is to raise children with a moral compass, not a desire to get good grades (or "win" the gold stars or promotions) no matter what...


Challenger: 20 years

[a bit late since I'm in the process of moving and couldn't find my original article I wrote 20 years ago at my college newspaper -- back before the internet -- until today. With very little edit, I've retyped my old writing:]

People die every day, every minute all over the world. We hardly think of them, let alone death itself. Yet when some "important" person dies, we make a big deal about it; but when we do, we talk of past achievements, present grief, future outlook -- anything but death itself.

Why suppress talk about death? Is it because we are a "Christian" nation, and believe that death is another transition (like birth)? Or because death is it -- nothing more to talk about? Or, as Walker Percy suggests in Lost in the Cosmos, because death is the pornography of today?

From what I can see, I have to agree with Percy. Sex and violence are on display everywhere, but death is hardly ever touched. (Try to recall the number of sermons or worship talks -- even at a funeral -- you have heard on death. Now compare that with the number of talks on sex or violence!) Case in point: the 28 January explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The explosion and its "impact" occupied the attention of TV news teams throughout the day. The following is my impression of the day's coverage:
Dear brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today (in front of our TVs) to honor the seven astronauts martyred for our God, Technology, the God of our Church, the USA. These brave souls were willing to risk their lives for God. They died for His cause to spread His truth to increase our knowledge of Him. Now, our mission can go forward at even a greater pace thanks to them, for like all martyrs, their blood will be seed that yields an abundant crop. Although it is a sad event, we must rise above our misery and continue forward, for our God does not tolerate idleness. We must help Him increase and must preach the salvation He offers (i.e., "better" living standards) to all nations, especially the Third World countries. May we all keep this to heart as we go through life...
Plenty of eulogy, but nothing on death, or even life after death.

Fortunately, the Bible doesn't beat around the bush, but deals with death very candidly and realistically (e.g., Ecclesiastes 9:10) with triumph rather than gloom:
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:55-58)
February 7, 1986

Futures for the common man

"$2.73 a Gallon? Not at First Fuel Banks" is about buying gasoline now and using it in the future. A taste of the futures market for the common folks, without the leverage (other than paying via credit cards) of the typical futures contracts.


Gangs in the military: what's the news

I saw Michelle Malkin point to Chicago Sun-Times "Gangs claim their turf in Iraq." She probably never saw the article "How Racial P.C. Corrupted the LAPD By Jan Golab" with a quote like:
[B]ack in 1981[,] the LAPD first entered into a federal consent decree that instituted quotas for female and minority hiring. To meet these demands, the standards for physical capability, intellectual capacity, and personal character were lowered. The result was that many incapable or mediocre recruits -- even significant numbers with criminal links or gang associations -- were accepted into the department.
So gangs are part of the government, like it or not. Why is it a surprise to see them pop up in Iraq? Not only do they get paid by the government, they get trained in both desert and urban warfare and take their skills back home to their 'hood and fight the "powerful" gangs like MS-13 as well as the [gang infested] cops, etc. What a deal!


Why Home Educate?

On a mailing list, they were asking how people got into homeschooling. So, my late night comments were:

I made the decision to homeschool my [future] children about 5 years before I met my wife. [Turned off some of my dates with my insistence on home educating.] In fact when I learned about home education in mid-80's, I was so excited to find out I was already practicing it myself [autodidactic with computer science or C.S.] that I dropped out of my C.S. PhD studies and haven't looked back since.

My wife married me in spite of my insistence and took about 5 years before she "bought" into doing it herself. The "break through" moment for her was when she interacted with a church friend who had a home educated teenager. When we moved to Austin, we joined a church with
many home educating families (including the pastor's family) and that gave her the confidence to start herself.

What's making me to blog is when someone commented that at least one person's reason for homeschooling is about no longer waiting for external assistance. Well, I was going to reply but decided to blog instead:

To me, home education is all about empowerment: I can do it myself! In highschool, I learned calculus and then computer science independent of the teachers (mainly via book reading). This helped me gain confidence to learn all kinds of other subjects (art, theology, music, history, etc.). I didn't have to learn things at the teacher's pace but my own and in my own terms. Waiting for someone to do something for me is a waste of time and energy. I've taken control and taken charge: if I want to learn, then I'll take the time to learn it [via books or other writings or through paid trainer]. And since I'm paying, I can quit and change any time I choose.

It all started as merely educating myself and then I logically extended the same to my children [even before I got married : I was that confident]. If I (or my wife) can teach it, then we just do it. If it's new, we take the time to learn it first or better yet learn/explore together with my children. If I can't learn (or don't have the time), then I delegate and pay [or barter with] someone who can.

But now I want to take charge of all kinds of things: from personal protections[i.e., police and fire] to political independence [stopped voting in summer'04] to spiritual growth [check my Men's Study blog for being "far out"]. I've been contemplating starting my own business but I haven't made the leap yet. Sigh...

Copyright 2006, DannyHSDad, All Righs Reserved.