December 2008 Archives

Happy New Year!

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Christmas Dinner Menu

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On Christmas Day Timber and I went over to her parents' house and had dinner.  The menu itself was a bit non-traditional, but is was very good.  Here is what we had:

  1. Two different kinds of tri-tip
  2. Teriyaki chicken
  3. Baked beans with ham and steak in it
  4. Fried rice
  5. Lumpia
  6. Steamed Broccoli
  7. Pumpkin pie
I'm full just thinking about it.  :-)


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Gas Tax Needed

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I've been talking with Timber about this lately and I saw this op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman in today's paper talking about need for a gas tax.  The gas tax (in my mind) would directly do a few things:

1.  Keep the price of gas at the pump high enough so that people are willing and able to take public transportation and/or user alternatives to the one person per car commute.
2.  Take that money from the tax and put it towards public transportation and alternative energy research and development.

Indirectly I think the gas tax would do a few additional things:

1.  Get people to think about gas mileage when it comes to buying cars (which they don't do when gas is cheap).
2.  Send less money to the countries that we buy oil from.
3.  Keep people thinking about energy policy and national security every time they fill up at the pump.

I can think of a few arguments against the gas tax, and I have responses for them.

1.  The government should not be trying to modify our behavior through taxes.  My Response:  This one is easy, the government already does this through crv taxes, federal income taxes, state income taxes, sales taxes, cigarette taxes, etc...  The precedent for the gas tax has already been set.
2.  There are struggling families out there that can't survive if we have a gas tax.  My Response:  This argument can be used against any existing tax, and the various government entities don't seem too concerned about it, so my lazy argument is that with all taxes, some people will come up just short.

The core problem, which is why we need a gas tax, is this:  We, Americans, are very price driven people.  When the prices of gas was high, we did change our driving habits, opting for less trips, more gas efficient vehicles, public transit, working from home, etc...  But with gas prices going WAY down from their highs we are starting to forget about all that stuff.  And I'm worried that we are going to go back to our big, bad, SUV driving ways.  If you don't think that will happen, look at the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis.  If we forget these lessons yet again we have no one to blame but ourselves. 

Innovation in Milk?

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Timber sent me a link to this NY Times article about innovation in the packaging of milk and the feedback it is receiving.  All in all I thought it was interesting.

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas everyone! Be thankful for your blessings and hug your family.

Christmas Dinner Menu

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For Christmas this year we are going deviate from the tradition a little bit by having Chicken Cordon Bleu as our main dish instead of Turkey or Ham.  We are doing that because we don't want to have as many leftovers and want to have something a little different.  Other than that we are probably going to have lots of traditional side dishes like mashed potatoes and stuffing, but since Timber is out getting the ingredients right now we may end up doing something completely different.  :-)

Funny Cloud Computing Quote

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I recently read this San Jose Mercury News article which talked about cloud computing and why it was becoming so popular all of a sudden.  If you are not familiar with the term "cloud computing" it essentially means moving applications off into the "cloud in the sky" instead of running them locally on your laptop or desktop.  Some examples of cloud computing include Google Docs, cvsDude, Flickr, Smugmug, etc...  The best part of the article was a quote by Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, saying:

"The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we've redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do,  I can't think of anything that isn't cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?"

In some ways I completely agree with Larry.  In my mind, the question is not whether or not to move some application off into the "cloud", but instead the question should be "How USEFUL would it be to move some application off into the "cloud".  And on top of that, is this any different from the old mainframe days?  Also, how secure is this data on the cloud?  I really don't care if someone can see my todo list for work or around the house, but I do not want my tax return information freely floating around for anyone to see, at least not until I decide to run for president.

Hamster On A Piano

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Thanks to Donna for telling me about this video. Since I've been annoying Timber with this song lately I thought I would share it with everyone. Try playing this song 3 times in a row and see if the song sticks in your head for the rest of the day. :-)

Electronic Books

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Over the weekend Timber and I found ourselves inside a book store talking to a representative from Sony about Sony's electronic book device.  It is basically a device that allows you to download electronic books to it and then read them on the device.  We got to spend some time playing around with it, and I have to say that I was mildly impressed.  The main benefit of it is that you don't need a huge bookshelf at home to house your books, and you can take way more books with you when you travel if you have an electronic book device.  The part that impressed me the most was how close to a real paperback black and white book the screen was.  It was almost like reading text off of paper, which is what people seem to want from an electronic reading device.  Also the device seemed to have pretty good battery life and felt good and comfortable in my hand.  I think electronic book devices have been around for 10 years or so, but it seems like they are making great strides.  I also looked into the Amazon Kindle, and I would not be surprised if these devices start to get a real foothold in people's homes in the next 10 years or so.  I'm not sure if paper books will ever really go away, but the better these electronic book devices get, the more likely they are to become really useful.  For myself I think I'll revisit them again in 5 years or so to see where they stand.  Until then I'll stick with my good old paperback.

Quick On His Feet

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I just saw this video on the news.  I have to say that Dubya is quick on his feet and did not seem afraid at all.
I've been reading financial articles recently (here and here) talking about the financial crisis, depression, how we got into this mess, and how the government should bail us out of it.  And the one word I have to describe all of it is "insanity".  Why insanity?  Here's why:

Banks handed out money like it was candy (insane) because they were making too much money.  They would do a loan and then repackage it and sell it to someone else.  The good times were rolling.  Home buyers had the incentive of big, fancy new houses, rising home values, great interest rates, and easy money to get them into homes.  Times were good (insane).  Things started to unwind when people had their adjustable rate mortgages adjust upward and they started not being able to make their payments.  When more people were unable to make their payments they had to sell.  When more people had to sell that slowed down the rate of home value increase.  When the rate of home value increase reached 0 and house values started to go down, the snowball effect was complete and got larger...  Home values started going down, more mortgages went into foreclosue, people started to owe more money on their homes than they were worth, etc...  and here we are today.

Consumer Spending:
People were borrowing heavily to buy new cars, new boats, new clothes, all great for the economy as long as home values continued to go up (insane).  They would either rack up debt on credit cards and then fold that into home equity lines of credit or go straight to the home equity lines of credit to pay for things like investments, vacations, renovations, etc... (insane).  Again, as long as home prices kept going up things seemed to be going well.  Once people could no longer borrow against their home, and on top of that home values started to fall, people started to feel poor, and hence slowed down spending.  Consumers slowing down spending is bad for the economy (insane)..

Lots of businesses depend on consumer spending, when consumer spending goes down then the businesses usually shrink and start laying people off.  And the downward spiral continues.

The articles that I've been reading talk about fixing the current recession by having the government bail out banks and inject cash into the system to restore "liquidity".  That means that the government should give away money and allow people to keep borrowing money so they can spend it (insane).  And they also seem to say that having normal people slow down their spending, pay down their debt, and start saving money is a bad thing because it will cause the economy to get even worse (insane).  I say that is exactly what people should be doing.

Total Money Makeover:
The total money makeover was made popular by a guy named Dave Ramsey.  He even has his own tv show.  The funny thing about his message is that it is not anything new, it is common sense.  Just like the common sense way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you eat, the common sense way to be more financially secure is to get out of and stay debt free, pay for everything with cash, and save and invest your money.  It is simple in theory but difficult to do.  Imagine if it became the norm in America again to buy a car with cash?  Or to pay for that trip to Costco with cash?  Who would lose out?  The predatory banks of course, those same predatory banks that we just bailed out. 

Our Government Needs A Total Money Makeover:
In order to bail out the banks and inject capital into the economy to get people to start spending borrowed money again, our government is having to borrow money.  At some point the US Government credit card is going to get maxed out.  What are we going to do when that happens?  Have the US government go bankrupt?  Print more money and get rapid inflation?  How about paying down our debt and balancing our budget?  I guess it is hard to do when it is someone else's money...

In conclusion I think we need a return of common sense.  Here's the plan, work hard, pay off any debt you have, pay cash for the things you buy, and save your money because you are going to retire some day, and no one else is saving for your retirement.  That probably means not eating out as much or going on as nice of vacations or whatever for a little while, but in the long term we will all as individuals and as a country and world be better off for it. 

Bad Idea Christmas Presents

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I was thinking about Christmas presents earlier today, and I was thinking about what makes a great Christmas present and what makes a bad Christmas present.  A great Christmas present, in my mind is:
1.  Something the recipient actually wants.
2.  Something they really enjoy and possibly finds useful.
3.  Something that was thoughtful, in that the giver actually put some thought into it.

Bad Christmas presents, on the other hand, are presents that:
1.  Are not thoughtful.
2.  Cost the recipient money and/or mental anguish.

In my mind, bad Christmas presents include:
1.  A car lease.
2.  A puppy.
3.  Rent to own anything
4.  A 3G iPhone.

You might wonder why I would consider a 3G iPhone a bad present.  Well, I assume that the giver pays for the phone itself, but the recipient has to pay for the monthly fee.  So here are my calculations around the 3G iPhone:

1.  The 3G iPhone costs $199 for the 8Gb model and $299 for the 16 Gb model.  Merry Christmas.
2.  The cost to the recipient (at least in the SF Bay Area) varies from $1680 - $3120 for the 2 year contract. 

So what are other comparable "Christmas" presents to the 3G iPhone?  They are:
1.  A large traffic or misdemeanor fine. 
2.  A large tax bill.
3.  A decently sized car repair bill.

So, if you are thinking about getting someone a 3G iPhone you should instead borrow their car, wreck it, and leave them with the bill.  It will be cheaper.


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Wow, it looks like it is not only Alaskan Senators that are corrupt, the current Governor of Illinois just got charged with corruption.  From reading the transcripts of things he is alleged to have said, he seems to be as dirty as they come.  You can read more about it here.

The Scarf Trend

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Disclaimer:  If you are a coworker that reads my blog or stumbled upon it please do not take what I am about to say personally.  This rant is not aimed at you, it is more aimed at groupthink in general.

I've noticed at work that a lot of people are wearing scarves.  This was even back in late September when we still had temperatures in the 80's and 90's.  I took a mental note of it and didn't give it any further thought.  But now that it is a little bit cooler, not much by the way, and I'm seeing that roughly 25 % of my coworkers are wearing scarves in the office.  And they are wearing them with everything from tshirts to dress clothes.  Luckily no one in the engineering team has fallen into this bit of groupthink just yet.  I guess engineers are either more independent minded (not really) or we just don't go along with the same fashion trends that our colleagues do (most likely the case).  At any rate I'm wondering why, when it is 72 degrees in the office, do so many people have scarves on?  I mean really, doesn't that make you too hot?  I started seeing scarves being worn regularly as I was forced to watch, and eventually attend a concert for, American Idol.  My guess is that this "trend" started then and has continued to spread virally around the world.  Isn't it funny how something becomes trendy?  Remember the World Poker Tour, Tickle Me Elmo, the Razor Scooter, subprime mortgages, and Barack Obama?  They were all trendy and their time came and went.  Surely Obama is still trendy, but don't worry, he won't be trendy forever.  I wonder what the next trends will be, maybe winter hats in summer?
On Friday I decided to do an alternative commute experiment.  I ended up getting a ride from Timber to work, but for my trip home I decided to take Light Rail.  The light rail trip took me from Mountain View, down to South San Jose.  The total duration of my trip that I timed was from the time I left my office to the time I arrived at the light rail station in south San Jose.  My overall time for this, which included walking to the light rail station from work, waiting for a train, getting off to catch another train, waiting for the other train, catching the other train, and finally arriving at my final light rail station before Timber came to pick me up.  All that time added up to a whopping 1 hour and 37 minutes.  To compare that to driving, if I avoid bad commuting times I can do the drive in 25 minutes.  I love the environment but I'm pretty sure that I will be driving on most days.

CNN Holograms

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The night of the election I was watching CNN and was shocked to see them employ "hologram technology" to do several interviews.  Here is a link that talks about how it works.  Overall I first thought of Star Wars and then I thought that this technology, or something similar, will be in our homes within a decade.  Forget video conferencing, how about holographic golf lessons, tennis lessons, sports shows, etc...  

Obama Victory

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 OK, it has been a little while and I've been really busy with work, but now I have a few minutes to say something about the Obama Presidential Election Victory.  First, I expected Obama to win even though I voted for McCain.  Just because everyone else is doing something doesn't make it the right thing to do.  That's why I voted for McCain anyway.  So now that we have Obama as the next president I hope he does a good job.  He certainly has a lot of problems to deal with such as:
1.  Bad Economy
    a.  Rising Unemployment
    b.  Bailouts
        aa.  Banking Bailout (FUBAR)
        ab.  US Car Company Bailout
    c.  Rising home foreclosures
2.  2 Wars
    a.  Iraq
    b.  Afghanistan
        aa.  Thing deteriorating, need more troops & updated strategy
3.  Energy
    a.  No longer high energy prices, but they will come back
    b.  need to move more toward green economy
4.  Healthcare Reform
5.  Misc
    a.  Need to pick out new puppy for the girls
    b.  Need to send out moving cards to friends and family
    c.  Need to build cabinet
    d.  Need to look into budget deficit problem (kinda bad)

So all in all, I wish him luck but also wonder why anyone would want the job.

New Business Card

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Here's a look at my new business card.

September 2010

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Contact Info:
email: tom.carroll[at]
Y! IM: tomcarroll_95123
AOL IM: parb0y77
Skype: troutm8
Campfire: link


Adventure Race
Desolation Wilderness
Eastern Sierras
Half Dome
Hetch Hetchy
John Muir Wilderness
Lost Coast
Mount Shasta[2][3]
Mount Whintey
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP
Skyline to the Sea Trail
White Mountain Peak[1][2]
Clouds Rest