Monday, January 28, 2008

Refund Fun

It's been a little while since I posted last. Sorry about that, my sister and her husband were visiting, and that obviously took priority. We had a wonderful time, and were sad to see them leave.

But now you get more posts, so that's good, right?

Actually, it's unclear how many new posts you'll be getting in the near future because my laptop is once again in the shop. Details to follow. Eventually.

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Here's what I want to write about today: the economic stimulus package being pushed through Congress. I'm rather conflicted about it. On the one hand, I love the idea that there'd be $1200 coming back into the collective pockets of my marriage. On the other hand, I don't think this will in any way stimulate the economy.

Unless giving money to credit card companies stimulates the economies. Because that is what's going to happen with this money. Two major ways credit companies (and I suppose banks too) will benefit from this refund. First, a lot of people will use this money to pay back debts, specifically credit card or other loan debts. I'll probably put a big chunk of it to student loans. That's what people in debt try to do: pay back that debt. Of course, this will just free up more money for the banks and credit companies, so they'll be able to turn around and loan more money.

The other way credit companies will benefit is because people will anticipatorally spend their refund. They'll purchase something ahead of time on credit, knowing full well that they've got extra money coming in later. I'm willing to bet there are people who have already spent their refund checks this past weekend, even though the bills haven't been passed yet. This of course means that the money the people are getting isn't really worth the full amount to them. If they plan on paying their credit company the $600+ then they'll have to make sure they spend less than that so that the interest rates don't jack it up over that $600 (or, conversely, if they spend $600 they'll have to pay more than that to their creditors). Again, who benefits? The credit card company.

All in all, this is going to create a windfall for creditors. The people who have enough money to loan it out are already making money without producing anything new in society (good grief, I sound like Marx!); they just let their money itself be their source of income. That's not all bad, and I'm not railing against the institution of credit here. It is valuable to our society. But I seriously question whether creating a windfall for those who already have plenty is really the best way to stimulate our economy.

Will these refunds help individual consumers? Yes. They'll be a nice little perk that will help people pay back a few debts or pick up a nice little gift. But will these refunds really stimulate the economy? Probably not. Realistically we won't be creating a ton of new jobs as a result of these refunds. We'll just be lubricating the wheels of credit. It's a great benefit for creditors and a small benefit for consumers. It's a real nice drop in the bucket, but that's all it is.

Of course, it might not even be the right bucket. Woo!

As they took his soul they stole his pride

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'd Like To See Hulk Compete

I admit it... I watch American Gladiator. It's a guilty pleasure. Though maybe it's not all mindless entertainment after all...

Last night one of the contestants gave himself the nickname "The Hebrew Hammer." After he went out with an injury a substitute took his place, inheriting all his points and carrying on in The Hammer's stead. The substitute happened to be an ordained Christian minister.

Hmm... a Christian taking over where the Jew left off... I didn't expect it, but it seems there might be some subtext to American Gladiator.

We got fun and games

Monday, January 14, 2008

Phickle Thoughts

Restaurant Week! Woo! Gonna eat good food tomorrow!
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This past weekend we went to the Health and Fitness Expo. Saw some pretty interesting exhibits. A chef trying to cook "healthy" rice krispy bars. She didn't sell it at all. Worst live cooking experience I've ever seen. Also the best one.
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We also saw two excellent movies: Juno and There Will Be Blood. Both were, as I said, excellent. Juno was quick and witty and a really hopeful, realistic take on teen pregnancy. The soundtrack was a little flat and boring, but that's not much of a detraction. And J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney were perfect as the parents. A riot.

There Will Be Blood was amazing. Simply powerful. Probably the best drama I've seen since American Beauty. The acting was superb, and this movie deserves to win all the awards. Daniel Day Lewis gives a flawless performance. It's been compared to Citizen Kane, which I've unfortunately never seen. I think though, like Citizen Kane, this is a movie time will favor mre than immediate critical consensus. Kane and Blood were both recognized as brilliant but flawed films. Over time, Kane has come to be seen as one of the best movies ever made, and I wonder if Blood will get the same treatment. I'm not calling it one of history's best just yet, but with some time and reflection and further viewings, it just might make it there.
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Finally, in response to an anonomous comment on my last post:

Yes. I do still watch SNL. If I'm not doing anything on a Saturday night, I often sit down and catch the show. A couple points need to be made in response to your criticism.
1. Since Seth Meyers became head writer, the show has gotten funnier.
2. While some segments show up on YouTube, you're still missing out on some gold. And YouTube never does segments of anything justice. Watching a clip isn't as rewarding as watching a full show that has that clip in it.
3. There's something to be said for discovering artistic gold on your own. You say that watch what YouTube makes popular. Do you also listen to just Top 40 music? Do you only enjoy movies once they've achieved box office success? Probably not. Catching SNL clips on YouTube is like exposing yourself to only those artistic works that populism have deemed worth the time. But so much slips through the cracks. I often enjoy the stuff put up on YouTube, but I also often enjoy SNL on its own. Discovering what is good on my own is a more rewarding way of living.
4. Finally, and quite obviously, it is a good thing that people expose themselves to originals: how else would the rest of us catch the best stuff out there?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

But Bobby's World Rocked

Has anyone else notice that you can no longer just ask someone, "deal?". You now have to follow that with "or no deal?"

Darn you Howie Mandel!

I'd put the Bobby's World theme song here, but it doesn't have lyrics.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Quick Politic

I'm tremendously happy to see Clinton take the New Hampshire primary. Every day I'm hoping more and more that she's the Democratic candidate. Because she honestly stands the best chance of winning the presidential election (that probably has something to do with the fact that she'd do the best job out of all the Democrats).

Sure, Obama is shiny and new and kind of exciting in a let's-ignore-reality sort of way. But I seriously doubt that he'd be an effective national leader. Plus, there's a very good chance he'd never get elected.

Yeah, sure, he could beat Romney or Guiliani in a national election. But so could __________ (insert joke here)(I was going to write 'Ralph Wiggum', but The Simpsons preempted the line I had planned for this post. Seriously.).

I seriously doubt Obama's ability to beat either Huckabee or McCain. McCain has legislated circles around Obama in Congress, and he'd do so in the run up to the election too. If Clinton's experience card is worth playing against Obama, then McCain is sitting on the whole trump suit. No way the country picks blind youthful exuberance over Vietnamese-prison-camp fortitude.

And though Obama is a likable fella, he'd be out charmed by Huckabee any day. Sure, some people aren't sold on Huckabee's down-home, old fashioned, laid-back, Christian summer camp style, but those folks aren't voting Republican anyway. The middle of the road people - and there's a ton of them - are going to like the guy who seems most like them. And without a doubt, that's Mike. See? You know a dozen guys named Mike. See how normal he is? Ain't no way Obama can compete with that. Oh, and Chuck Norris helps neutralize the Oprah edge.

So all in all, if you want the Democrats to have a shot in '08 (which I do), then plain and simple, Clinton's your candidate.

With a skill that knows no measure,
From the golden store of Fate
God, in His great love and wisdom,
Made the rugged Granite State

Friday, January 04, 2008

Phickle Thoughts

As some readers already know, and as some have probably notice, my blog address has changed. Once upon a time I was mbnovak.blogspot.com. But a generous friend gave me a brand new domain for Christmas, and from here on out I'll be at www.philosofickle.com Everything automatically forwards, and I'm still using Blogger to write my posts, so the practical effect is pretty small for most.

Still, I'm excited by this change.
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Speaking of changes, I'm starting to look into a site design change. I've browsed the default templates that Blogger provides, but I'm not a huge fan of any of them. I'd like something simple, but not quite as plain as what I've got now. If anyone knows of any good designs I should copy, feel free to suggest them. And while we're at it, if there are any other features I should add (like a currently reading section, or other similiar items), I'd take those suggestions too.
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I'm going to be trying to post more in 2008. With this post I've already matched all of December 2007's total.
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Christmas was a blast, as usual. The best part was seeing family and friends, some of whom I get to see extremely rarely. And there was a terrific reunion of the gang from college, including our very own Iraq war veteran, recently retired from the army. Hooray! Fittingly, we ended up hanging out at the VFW.

Plus, I got a great haul of Christmas gifts, including some terrific new music (Dan Wilson's Free Life, Feist's The Reminder, and the Robert Plant/Allison Kraus album Raising Sand)(all three of which get a hearty recommendation), and some awesome games: Apples to Apples, Stratego, and Carcasonne. I think the new collection of games calls for some sort of gathering to play them. I guess I'll just have to invite friends over to play with my new toys. Kind of like winter break back when I was a kid.
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And the weather was pretty nuts back in Minnesota. My winter driving skills were well tested.
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Happy New Year!

I hear in my mind all of this music

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Did You Know His First Name Is 'Willard'?

Mitt Romney gives me the heebie jeebies.