Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Location: United States

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Five billion years and it still comes down to money." - The Doctor, Doctor Who


An early Texan flag, wherein they indicate that if the Mexican Army wants the cannon, they should come and take it. Which was the Mexican plan anyway, right? Am I missing something?

Sorry I was away last week – I seem to have discovered the only place on Earth where there is no Internet. Sadly, there was no beer there, either. As Heaven above is my witness, a man can live without beer for a couple of weeks, and can live without Internet.

I was actually joking about the 401k conversation at the end of the last post in the attempt at a cheap joke, but, what the heck. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, so I guess I can guffaw and poke fun at the ongoing destruction of billions of dollars daily. It’s a target-rich environment.

I was thinking that it might actually work, the Fed and the Treasury Department showering the financial firms with billions of dollars to make sure that the party didn’t end on a sour note when Lindsey Lohan went face first into the punch bowl.

Yeouch. Not so much.

The first question you might have is: what’s the big deal?

Good question. Glad I asked it. If you live in California, you can already see that the price of a house has dropped. This is not uncommon when you remove hordes of borrowers from the market by, for instance, taking the drastic and intemperate step of making sure that they can repay you. Oh, sure, if you or I owned a bank we’d like to lend $1.2 million to an unemployed lettuce picker so he could buy a cozy two-bedroom condo, but after getting burned several hundred thousand times on this sure fire transaction, they’re getting a bit skittish.

So, to cover the horrible irresponsibility of lending money out like it were somehow radioactive (“C’mon Harry, let’s make a few more loans today, or else my genes will mutate enough that I grow a fourth arm”) Congress has decided that unsound banks that did stupid things should fail.

No, just kidding. Congress is rewarding their utter lack of financial prowess by giving them laundry baskets full of cash so that they can bathe in it and laugh maniacally.

Is the pain over?

Sadly, no. These same banks that would lend $2.1 million so that former members of “New Kids on the Block” could buy a clubhouse and hang together are now scared to death to lend money to anyone, especially each other. If you owned a bank, would you trust another bank? See. They’re getting smarter.

The downside to this is that literally dozens of businesses depend upon loans for thing like keeping their inventories of Pez® and pantyhose. Down the street, we have a little, independent guitar store. I’m pretty sure that the owner has borrowed money to keep his inventory stocked, and soon enough the bank will say, “Were we drunk? We loaned money to a musician?” and their credit will disappear. Not to mention that all the parents of budding young Angus Youngs will be saving their shekels so that they can pay for gas to get down to the bread line. This business? Toast.

This will happen with big companies, too. The major problem isn’t that there isn’t enough money. There’s plenty of money, piles and piles of it. It’s just that it’s not moving anywhere. If you do the math, the air pressure in a balloon is determined in part by the temperature of the air. Increase the temperature, increase the pressure, since those air molecules go zinging around ever faster. Decrease the temperature? Decrease the pressure. Same with money. We’re watching our economy implode right now because the money isn’t moving.

The Pez® farmer is saving money because he’s worried that no one will buy his Pez©, so he doesn’t go and buy pantyhose, figuring he can use those old ones that have the little tiny run up the side instead.

The pantyhose brewer isn’t buying Pez™, because he’s worried that nobody will buy his pantyhose, and chews on a bit of broken glass instead.

Investment ideas? Hmm. My ammo didn’t decrease 20% in value last week. Neither did my beer. I think those steaks I have in the freezer actually jumped 20%.

Me? I’ll keep enjoying this ice-cold Natty Light while I fiddle.

So, if I’m going to talk about the economy and such, I should probably end with the disclaimer. “The writer of this blog is not aware of owning any stocks, though there may be some dwindling amounts in mutual funds in his 401k that he tried to get out of several weeks ago with the Dow at 10,000 if the transactions didn’t go through. Oh, and there’s that whole “attempting to move the 401k” thing that may or may not have worked. The writer of this blog is not a financial advisor, nor licensed to give financial advice, and if you act on the financial advice of a blog writer on the Internet, you get what you deserve.”
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Dolphin meat! Dolphin meat! Nature's greatest treat! Oh what fun, it is to eat dolphin, dolphin meat!" - Marco, Sealab 2021


The Mrs. took this incredible picture of a big fish (I think they called it a dol-fish) as it leapt from the water to eat a child that wasn’t doing what he was told. At least that’s what The Mrs. and I told Pugsley and The Boy.

One of the places that The Mrs. wanted to take the kids was Sea World®. For some reason, the logic of having an oceanic museum in a landlocked portion of the world that nearly borders a desert eludes me. Maybe it was cheap land?

Anyhow, packed our Wilder-things and then we checked out of the hotel. I asked the nice clerk at the desk, “How do I get to Sea World©?”

Her response? “Become a killer whale.”

Okay, she didn’t really say that, but instead gave me an incredibly complicated set of directions (go South, turn left at the SEA WORLD sign, tourist) and sent me on my way.

My car has all sorts of gadgets that tell me all sorts of obscure facts about it’s functioning, such as that it’s lonely, it needs oil (wonder what that means), it’s tired of hearing the same “Scorpions” CD again and again, and how fast I’m going.

The Mrs. noted that one of the gauges indicated that within the span of several hundred feet (distance) we would soon all be using our feet (actual) to push the Wildermobile to Sea World™. And that she wasn’t at all good with that (okay, the gauge didn’t tell me The Mrs. wasn’t good with that, The Mrs. told me she wasn’t good with that, and, besides, I’d have to do all the pushing because three-year-olds like Pugsley cannot steer). That seemed awfully hot and sweaty.

So, as I passed exit after exit I reasoned, “Hey, it’s Sea World©, right, and it’s in Texas, right? They have to have the biggest gas station EVER right out front. Perhaps it has shower stalls so I can take a shower in nice, warm Super at $0.10 a gallon.”

No. There is a McDonald’s, though. Then? Everybody in the car professed a deep, soul-ripping hunger so bad that they were all sure that they hadn’t been fed in weeks. I turned around and managed to find a Chili’s® and we ate, and then to a Shell® where we fed the car for good measure.

At the entrance gate to the parking lot at Sea World©, they offered me $10 for regular, and $15 for preferred parking. I chose the regular.

If the sea were an ocean of asphalt parking lot, then I’ve seen it. The Sea World® parking lot is easily fifteen thousand miles long. I could see the curvature of the Earth as the parking lot faded in the distance. Fortunately, we had enough supplies to make the trek from our car (hence called “Basecamp” to the entrance. Some notes from my journal might explain:

Day one: Spirits are high as we make our way from the car. We hum marching songs and laugh often.

Day two: Entrance still not in sight. Spirits still high, but somewhat depressed that we forgot sunscreen. The Boy upset that I had him set up the tent in the back of a Dodge Ram™ pickup we passed on the way. Hard to drive the tent pegs through the pickup bed.

Day three: It is clear that we have not provisioned well enough for this trek. All hungry and filled with despair.

Day four: Ate stroller. Rubber wheels chewy.

We finally made it to the main entrance. They charged for all, even Pugsley. Cost: $206. Not kidding. Would have been more but I had a coupon for $2 off. Really.

Despite the fact that I mortgaged my kidney, I must say that Sea World® was really, really neat, and (it makes my cheap soul whine) probably worth the cash – everybody had fun for hours. You can only imagine how I’d whine if I’d gotten there and it was just a fish in a jar.

Instead, we had hours of fun, and I only lost my left hand when that wild loose seal attacked.

Next: John Wilder discusses 401k 301k 201k 101k tips.
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Sunday, October 05, 2008

"There's no basement in the Alamo." - Tina, Pee Wee's Big Adventure

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The Alamo. Despite my preconceptions, there were very few musket-wielding Texicans fighting off Santa Ana inside.

We made it finally to San Antonio. The biggest, most important thing there? A hotel where Pugsley hadn’t flushed The Mrs. deodorant down the toilet. I’m thinking we can blame someone else, like feral Greek leprechauns, if we have to. Oh, sure, there are no Greek leprechauns, but that just makes the story more believable.

One of my main goals was so see The Alamo – having seen it on Davy, Davy Crockett® way back in the day when Fess Parker was thought of as bigger than, say, Obama®, The Alamo had a special place in my heart.

San Antonio has a bus system that connects most major hotels with downtown, and costs approximately nothing to ride. The driver picked us up, asked us where we were going, and dropped us off a block from The Alamo.

Despite rumors to the contrary, I could find no basement at The Alamo. I did, however, walk through and see one of Davy Crockett’s rifles, some of Jim Bowie’s knives, and some of Sam Houston’s missing REO Speedwagon albums.

At the opening to the main area (after you cross the line that Travis drew in the dirt, memorialized in bronze) a sign requests that men remove their hats. In truth, I was honored and humbled to be on the grounds where men flocked from all over the United States and Europe to fight and die boldly for freedom. I’m not at all sure that they were sold on the whole “die” part, but they did manage to stare down Santa Ana for seventeen years (my history might be a bit off here) while he and his 10,000,000 men tried to take one monastery filled with six guys and some squirt guns. Okay, that’s a big exaggeration, but the Texicans fought and died for freedom there – knowing when they didn’t cross the line that it was likely that they’d die. I’ll gladly take my hat off for that.

As The Mrs. read from a brochure, “Santa Ana was a man born to greatness, who rose to greatness, and who had greatness thrust upon him and managed to screw it all up.” Needless to say, Santa Ana is as popular in Mexico as Nixon, Carter, or Paris Hilton. He was the winner at The Alamo, if you would call Mike Tyson taking on the Chinese Gymnastics Team in a boxing match and knocking them out after twelve rounds a win.

Directly across from the museum is the Guinness Book of World Records® exhibit. Why? To snare gullible tourists. Like me. Hint: DON’T DO IT. It made me feel cheap and used, though Pugsley did manage to get in some exhibit meant to entice you into (I’m not kidding here) spinning basketballs. Because the rest of the exhibit sucked so much. Really. Eisenhower still had the record for most sex in the Oval Office, and, well, we know that Jimmy Carter probably beat him by a whole bunch.

Next we went off to Madame Tussad’s House of Wax™. When I was a kid, my folks took my brother (John Jingleheimer Wilder) and I off to Disneyland©. They gave me the choice of going to the Queen Mary or Madame Tussad’s. I chose the Queen Mary. Dang, how right was I? Perhaps the only redeeming feature of Madame Tussad’s was their wax statue of Evil Abraham Lincoln:
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Evil Abraham Lincoln didn’t want to defeat the South, he wanted to eat the South. Bad, bad, Abraham.

We got back on the bus after hearty steaks at the Hard Rock Café San Antonio®.

Next day? Sea World® and home.

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