Friday, December 21, 2012

So, Does This Mean I'm an Adult Now?

I just cancelled the trip I was supposed to take to Miami this weekend. The reason? Not because I didn't want to see my friends or see palm trees or get a tan or relax on the white sand beaches (well, white in comparison to long island beaches) next to the turquoise ocean... damn.

No, I cancelled in order to meet my obligations here in PA for my MBA and the CFA exam I'm registered for. I have a finite amount of time to prepare for the CFA and my workload for school is already piling up. I've already missed four classes, so I've got my work cut out for me.

Here's what's out of character for me: I'm actually not doing something fun in order to fulfill my responsibilities! OMG, what a concept.

Another accomplishment for me: not buying everything I want just because I want it. I got a Microcenter circular in the mail, and being the uber-nerd that I am, I wanted almost every item on its glossy pages. 8-outlet surge protector? I'll take two! $150 laser printer?! I'm there. $799 iBook? Finally, I can play for both teams! (Microsoft and Mac, duh).

But no. I have $9,000 in credit card debt that I've managed to rack up over the last year. When I was working, I paid my $1,500 bill in full each month, and I when I quit I still had some savings to burn through for when I went back to school. Well, I spent well in excess of my savings, so now I've got to clean up that mess. And I'm doing it. My grandmother is going to help me out with about $400 a month and my father still gives me at least $780 a month ($450 every two weeks). This seems like enough, but transportation alone is about $500 a month between car insurance ($220 a month), train tickets ($203 a month), gas ($80), car wash ($20), oil change ($15), etc. And that doesn't even count the seemingly endless list of things my girlfriend wants (sigh). She sent me this article yesterday about wanting to redecorate the outside of our house. I get that she wants to make it more homey, but I don't have the heart to tell her how little money I have at the moment...

Anyway, I'm going to buy only the essentials now and delay consumption of other goods and services until I pay off my debt. Spending < cash available. Interesting concept. So far, I'm doing well following that. I'm going to shoot for paying about $333 a month towards one card, and about $200 a month for the other. That should put a dent in it until I get a job this summer and then I'll probably be able to wipe out the balances completely.

This is a step in the right direction. I thought I didn't make enough at my old job, but the problem was that I spent too much money. I don't need $350 wallets, and $100 umbrellas or two Palm Pilots, two mp3 players, two DVD players, $250 detailing on my car twice a year, $75 shirts for work, more jackets than there are days of the week, $170 pairs of jeans, $10 on lunch every day, etc, etc. Or do I? Sure I like to shop, but it has to be within reason. I can look good with less.

Breaking this habit is hard to do, but I'm up for it. I know that as much as I like shopping, getting rid of this credit card debt and rebuilding my savings will give me what I'm really trying to "buy."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How the G8 Looks this Year

CAMP DAVID, MD - MAY 19:  In this handout prov...

Next year when Germany takes the helm of the G8 it is expected to refocus on global economic matters and in particular global imbalances, according to an article in The Financial Times. Indeed, the Germans feel that recent G8 meetings have become a little too broad covering areas such as climate change and global poverty - very much a theme of the British leadership.

They also don't seem to keen on admitting new members to the club such as Brazil and China. Apparently, it makes meetings to difficult to manage and hard to find a consensus if there are too many participants. Yet the likes of China, India and Brazil are becoming increasingly important, it seems crazy to exclude from being part of the G8. China and no doubt India will soon surpass Germany in size and the former has already overtaken the UK and France. Maybe Canada and Italy should be dropped in favor of China and India, both are arguably more important economically. However, this doesn't appear to be up for debate right now.

But the refocusing on economic matters and in particular global imbalances is interesting. Looking at the back of my Economist the US is forecast to have a current account deficit of 6.8% of GDP for 2006. Others come in at -7.7% for Spain, -5.6% for Australia, -2.9% of the UK, -1.8% for France and -1.6% for Italy. The last two countries had surpluses in recent years. On the other side of the balance sheet you have Switzerland at +13.4%, Sweden at 6.6%, Netherlands at 5.9%, Japan at 3.8% and Germany (now the world's biggest exporter) at 3.7%. Then there are various Asian countries running surpluses of 2 to 7%.

Then there are other imbalances. The US economy tends to motor with rapidly rising productivity to boot. By contrast Europe tends to be much more pedestrian in these areas. Much to discuss about imbalances then. So when Angela Merkel takes the helm she could consider setting an example herself. German policy makers seemed to have decided to rely almost exclusively on exports to generate economic growth. This is fine as part of a strategy for growth. Consider for a moment that exports generate one third of the economy and contribute a quarter of the jobs. It sounds impressive and it is.

But the other 2/3rds of GDP, the domestic side of the economy, generates 75% of the jobs. This is arguably the much more important bit and it seems to be ignored with the result that Germany has a very low average growth rate - about 1%. Merkel could start focussing instead on stimulating domestic demand, ie scrapping those VAT hikes for example. This would be good for Germany, create more jobs and make the country a little more self-reliant for growth. It would also help stimulate growth across the rest of Europe, which in turn would be good for German exports. A kind of virtuous cycle. Germany is after all the number three economy in the world. But, Germany is very vulnerable to any vagueries in the world economy.

The Anglo-Saxons in contrast rely heavily on consumer spending (plus public sector spending for the UK) to propel their economies along and this has insulated them from slow downs in the world economy. However, they to have generated imbalances, in the case of the US they are extreme and matter a lot more to the world economy than the German ones.

Quite simply the US is relying on the status of the dollar to get away with those imbalances. It is the world's main reserve currency. But the Americans are debasing it by running huge current account deficits and the dollar will only hold its own out there for as long as people have confidence in it. Arguably, US deficits are compensated to an extent by the fact that the US regularly clocks up stellar economic growth figures. It makes the country very attractive to invest in. Also, the dollar is used as the main currency for commodity and many other international trade transactions, thereby creating a demand for them. With commodities prices rocketing this means people need more dollars to buy oil, gas, copper, nickel etc... Then of course there are the Euro markets which recycle all these offshore surplus dollars into loan instruments such as Eurobonds. Strong global growth helps recycle and mop up many of these surplus dollars.

But the general trend of the US importing $2 worth of goods for every $1 it exports must be unsustainable in the long-run. There will be a day of reckoning. That's regardless of clever theories of "dark matter" dreamed up by economists to talk away the seriousness of the deficit. They are basically nonesense. It is a problem the US must address or it and the rest of the world faces a potential financial meltdown at some point. As the deficit grows so does the potential for a hard landing as opposed to a gentler more managed landing. I wonder if Merkel has considered that her country's fortunes are so heavily tied to US imbalances? A US meltdown would hit Germany and many of her clients particularly hard.

But Germany is in a very different situation to China which absolutely needs exports to develop and grow. Germany is well beyond that stage. She has a large wealthy domestic population and if she can get them spending Germany would have a much healthier balanced economy and would be better insulated from the vagueries of the global economy. Germany would also import more and would act as another pole of growth in the world economy. China to an extent is starting to do that particularly for the Asia Pacific region. Then at least the status of US imbalances won't be quite so critical to the health of the world economy.

So far signs aren't encouraging. The Americans tend to see it more as everyone else's problem. However, they might change their tune should the Asians ever decide to pull the plug on the dollar. They not only help prop it up, but have played a key part in keeping US interest rates relatively low by buying sack loads of US Treasuries. Of course that is in their own interest, but one day it might not seem so important to them. Once the US is fataly weakened economically one can only imagine what that would do for world peace with the global policeman effectively bankrupt! All the thugs out there would feel free to settle scores as they pleased. It could be anarchy.

In the shorter-term, talking about imbalances at G8 Summits, particularly US ones, will no doubt bring markets to focus more intensily on those deficits thereby further weakening the dollar.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Selecting Vinyl Banners for the Right Project

Signage (Photo credit: Burwash Calligrapher)
At a college or school, having some cheap vinyl banners on hand can certainly be something smart to remember. Consider how much cash you’ll save if you have these types of signs if there is going to be a large occasion. You can with ease put up these banners without having to go to the trouble of hiring someone to create new ones for you right away. Having some banners all over the school is a smart way to make it more attractive it in a way that also implies that there is a strong school spirit.

You’ll want to pick out your cheap vinyl banners with lots of consideration, however, just since you are going to need to use these multiple times. So, do some browsing when it comes to picking out some new signs. You’ll want to cooperate with the very premier signage business that is available, which means that you should work with one that has a very extensive list of customers. Maybe you could look through some customer reviews that are put on the Internet prior to your final decision.

Another smart idea to implement would be to consider some signage solutions for your directional signage needs. You should certainly have these types of signs in place if your campus is rather big. You certainly will want to have these signs up if you know that some students or parents might have a bit of difficulty figuring out where the gymnasium is situated, for example.

Certainly pick out some signs that are in the colors of your school mascot or other image. If you sport Alabama apparel on the weekends, then crimson will certainly be your color of choice. This is something that is imperative if you are trying to evoke feelings of camaraderie among all of the students; they will certainly take note of whether or not you’ve done anything to buy some modern signs. Therefore, you should begin considering the design of these signs immediately.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cut Differences Between Women's Clothing and Men's

Men and women have different styles although there are times where it seems like the clothing is very similar. There are some great garments that may have a similar look, but the template for the designed may be tweaked a little for another gender.

When it comes down to the difference between clothes for men and women there are some incredibly discreet details in place. People that look at the end results may not even notice the difference, but there are definitely some different cuts for the opposite sex.

It may all start with the buttons. Men have buttons on the right; women have buttons for shirts on the left. This something that is clear in the design template, but it is rarely noticed in the end result. It would take a man trying on a woman's shirt or vice versa for the difference to come to light.

Another thing that is different is the sleeves. For most men the sleeves on a template are very straightforward. The design will either be long or short. Most of the time the shirts fit snug around the arms. There is room to move, but a man's shirt will hardly ever be loose around the sleeves. Women, on the other hand, will have more shirt styles with a loose look. Many female garments will have wider shirt sleeves regardless of the size of the female.

Men and women also have different clothes in concerns to their pants. It's somewhat ironic, but the bottom of half of most clothing for men and women is the opposite of the top half. Women may have wide sleeves, but most trousers are tight or firm fitting. Men, on the other hand, like to have a little leg room. This puts a stark contrast between trousers for men and women. Take a looks at these Dickies pants for example. It's clear to see the differences between the pants types even for work clothes where fashion is at a low concern. 

This contrast is marked even more by the different length and styles that are available. Females, for example, may have trousers that have slim fit with wide leg room. Others may have a pair of trousers that can be rolled up. A lot of the different styles near the leg area are designed to accommodate females that wear high heels.

The trousers that can be rolled or similar to Capri pants that resemble long shorts. This variation in size is also common with the sleeves for female clothing. Men, unlike women, do not have three quarter length sleeves.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Few Exercise Myths

Two views of local Extension leaders drilling ...
Two views of local Extension leaders drilling in physical exercise in middies and bloomers, ... (Photo credit: Cornell University Library)

Switching things up today, I’m going to tell you the moral of this post before I tell you the explanation behind it…Moral: Everyone’s body is different, everyone’s body responds to things differently, and what may or may not work for one person, might not work for another.

Now, based on this fact, I just found a great article about two more recent exercise myths that have been circulating.

First, the myth that Research has shown that pre-workout stretching decreases performance and doesn’t protect against injury. I tend to agree with the author of the article on this one, that while physiologically it probably does not do a great deal to protect your muscles from injury, it is the mental aspect that gets transformed and thereby helps. Stretching is a time before exercise to prepare your mind and body for the activity that is to come; that kind of reflection is much harder to do while running around.

Second, the myth that …exercise may not improve strength or cardiovascular fitness in some people. Again I’m going to have to agree with the author that there is absolutely no way if people are training consistently that their cardiovascular health will not increase. With the exception of some major heart condition, it’s just not possible.

Bottom line, find what works for you and stick to it. If it’s running, then run, if it’s circuit training, then do that. By the way, if it Is circuit training, go to a gym where they know a thing or two already about circut training.
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Conveyor Systems in the Steel Industry

Steel pattern.
Although frequently overlooked, the steel industry boasts one of the strongest and profitable manufacturing industries in the entire world. Once a major part of the United States industry, many businesses moved their locations overseas to save on labor costs. That doesn't meant that the assembly of cold drawn steel products of Capital Steel like manufacturers cannot be improved upon, and many businesses have devoted millions to finding ways to improve the production of their products to save them lots of money in the long run.

One of the most important aspects steel businesses look at first when trying to find ways to improve the efficiency of their production system is the way their conveyor systems work. Moving a product from A to B ideally uses minimum energy and wastes as little amount of the product as possible. Across industries, manufacturers also look for items that are considered waste and try to find better ways to either reuse or sell it, or dispose of it. Far too often, manufacturers only focus is on what they are actually selling, and do not realize the potential gains made from what they consider their waste.

Finding better automated ways to manage inventory and reduce the effort and energy workers have to put in to keep track of the large amounts of moving materials can save businesses big bucks over a long period. In hard economic times, pinching pennies becomes even more important, and the businesses that can make the most of what they have internally are often the ones that come out on top once economies start gaining steam.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blogging About Things

Image:Theatre topics.gif
Image:Theatre topics.gif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I like to write, and I like to write about interesting things. Hopefully you find what I feature interesting and insightful in the same way I do. I love writing about animals, industries, pets products and a whole shabang of other topics. If you have anything in particular you think I should review, like a product, service or industry, just let me know and I'll put it on my to do list. Thanks for following!
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