Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hobby Lobby

After reading another blog from time to time, I am convinced that the management of Hobby Lobby is stupid.
They are stuck in the middle of the 20th century.
While most everyone else is using laser scanners, and computerized inventory methods to keep track of their inventory, Hobby Lobby is still doing manual counts and restock lists by hand.
Machine-based inventory tracking eliminates human typographical errors, column entry errors, and time-consuming physical movement and hand writing.
Bar code printers and readers have been around for 20 years or more.
It is time to catch up with the rest of the world.

The other thing they waste time and money on is restocking inventory.
As the blog notes, customers have a bad habit of moving stuff around the store.
It is the job of the clerks to put this stuff back where it belongs.
But someone at HL needs to do some more careful accounting.

If the company is paying its staff $10 per hour (which I think they do now) that equals 16 cents per minute (16.66666 to be exact).[after you add health insurance, overhead, other state and federal taxes, they are paying about 20 cents per minute or more.]
If a misplaced item costs less than 16 cents, it would be more cost effective to just throw the item away than to waste clerk wage dollars chasing around the store to put it back on its proper peg/shelf/slot.

Obviously, some inventory is worth more than 16 cents and it is worth the wage cost to put the stuff back where it belongs.
But that is definitely not true of much of the inventory in Hobby Lobby (or any craft store).
The middle ground on this issue is to collect all the misplaced stock and restock it when the clerk has free time.
But still, some stuff is not worth the cost of putting it back in its proper place.

"If I ran the zoo, said young Gerald McGroo
I'd make a few changes, that's what I'd do"

In God we trust.

Monday, July 26, 2010


The following is some baloney I found on the net today.
It is so riddled with economic misinformation that I could not let it stand.
This is just another communist-style class envy rant against capitalism.
My comments are in bold.

"The Middle Class in America Is Radically Shrinking. Here Are the Stats to Prove it
Posted Jul 15, 2010 02:25pm EDT by Michael Snyder in Recession
From The Business Insider
Editor's note: Michael Snyder is editor of theeconomiccollapseblog.com
The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace."
Here are the statistics to prove it:
•    83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.

Is this measured as dollar value of all stocks or number of shares?
This is less alarming if we are measuring total dollar value.
It has always been true that the most wealthy own the greatest percentage of stocks.
This is nothing new.
It is also true that more Americans own stocks than ever.

•    61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.

Is this because more Americans are making less money or because more Americans are spending more than they can afford?

•    66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

Is this measured by percent of income growth or by total dollars?
If this is measured by percent of income growth, then this could be a bad trend.
If this is measured by total dollars, it is not alarming.
If you make $100 dollars a week and you get a 10% raise, you get $10 more per week.
If you make $200 dollars a week and you get a 10% raise, you get $20 more per week.
Whose income grew more?
Duh, the person who was making more.
But the rate of increase was the same.

•    36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.

And 36 percent of Americans are under 20 years old and don't give a (beep) about retirement.

•    A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.

And 43 percent of Americans are under 25 years old and don't give a (beep) about retirement.

•    24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.

Sometimes this is because of personal financial difficulties.
Sometimes this is because these old geezers like their job.
Lately, this could be because the federal government is raising taxes and workers are not sure if they can afford to retire.

•    Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.

Not an unusual statistic when we have 10 percent unemployment and many people living on the edge of their income.

•    Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

We have just been through a strong housing value increase and decrease cycle caused by unrealistic federal mortgage funding requirements placed on banks.
This is an almost meaningless statistic.

•    For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

This would be because the total value of new houses - those with outstanding mortgages - has become larger than the total value of older houses, which are mostly paid for, or have smaller unpaid balances.
Which is worth more, my 40 year old house with a $50,000 balance, or a 2 year old house with a $100,000 balance?

•    In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.

More communist class-envy bait.
Increased productivity has reduced the number of workers needed to build products.
Thus there are fewer line workers in relation to the number of executives.
This tilts the ratio in favor of the execs.

•    As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.

Depending on the definition of "liquid assets" meant here - usually cash and savings- this is not alarming in itself.
Generally, the poorer a family is, the more of their cash they must spend on everyday expenses, as opposed to a more wealthy family which can hold more of their cash as savings.

•    The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Many of the bottom 50 percent of "income earners" (not defined for us) are on government welfare, food stamps, live in government-subsidized housing, or are students flipping burgers on a part-time basis.
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit is classified as "income" and millions of low income people qualify for this benefit.
If you rent your home or apartment, you "own" less than someone who is paying the same amount as your rent on a mortgage.
Even thought they don't technically "own" their house.
For purposes of this statistic, they do.

•    Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.

Could this be because the stock market was up 17 percent in 2009 over 2008????
More communist class-envy bait.

•    In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.

This is very likely because on the increase in federal labor union membership.
While this item is meant to make us feel sorry for the poor downtrodden masses of private sector workers, it makes me wonder why our tax dollars are being wasted on overpaid federal workers.
This tilt also comes from the fact that many private sector jobs are in the lower paying retail and service industries (store clerks, restaurants, etc.) staffed by younger workers who are still in school or just out of school.
This lowers the AVERAGE earnings of private sector workers.
The federal jobs are generally staffed by older, more educated workers who have been working longer and thus earn more money.

•    The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.

If this is measured in dollars then this is no shocking news.
The dollar value of everything is nearly twice as much (or more) as it was 15 years ago.
If this is measured in total value of stock owned, this is still no big deal.
More executives are "paid" with company stock and/or stock options.

•    In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.

We are in the middle of a recession.
The average time needed to find a job always increases in recessions.
Not a good thing, but not abnormal, either.

•    More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.

Perhaps true.
But many of these workers are students working part time to pay for their education.
They will only work in these jobs until they graduate and are qualified for better-paying full-time jobs.
Many other workers in these jobs are spouses working to augment their household income a little.
This is not the main income for the family.

•    or the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

Perhaps true.
However, as the total U.S. population increases, and the percentage of unemployed workers/poor people remains the same, the number of people on food stamps will increase.
It is also not astounding that during a recession, there are more people applying for food stamps while they are unemployed.

•    This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.

Perhaps true.
But it also costs money to ship those Chinese-made and Cambodian-made products back here for sale.
BTW, there have been several strikes by Chinese auto workers demanding more money in recent months. (which they received)

•    Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.

Perhaps true.
But could this be because many of these children are born to poor black mothers who are promiscuous and believe that having more children will allow them to receive increased federal tax benefits, increased food stamp allowances, and increased rent subsidies?
It is also because many of these children have a mother who has been abandoned or divorced by her husband and must work a lower-paying job to support her family.
This is more of a moral issue than an economic issue.

•    Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.

Most of the wealthy are not affected by recessions.
If you have 10 million dollars and you lose half of it in a recession, does that really affect how much you spend for food this week?

•    The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.

And they pay 96 percent of all personal income taxes.
Your point?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sum Thots on Non-Insurance

Think about this.

Let's say you buy a new car.
Let's say it cost $20,000.
You call your insurance person and tell them you bought such-and-such new car for $20,000.
The insurance person may ask a couple of questions about options or features or horsepower, and how far you drive to work, etc.
The usual insurance questions.
Then the insurance person says that your annual insurance bill will be, say, $500.
You accept this price with the assumption that if you are involved in a collision that the insurance company will pay to fix it, or if your car is damaged badly enough that it is more cost effective to replace the car rather than repair it ("total loss" or "totaled"), the insurance company will pay you enough money to replace it.
Stay with me.

For the sake of simplicity, lets say that the cost to replace your new car, should it be in a collision and is damaged badly enough that it is more cost effective to replace it rather than repair it, remains the same for the rest of the year - $20,000.
So your insurance rate should remain the same for that first year of ownership.
Still with me?

Think about this -
If, while still on the dealer's lot, you finish signing your papers, jump in your brand new car, start it up and it catches fire.
You jump out of your new car and watch helplessly as it burns to a rusted metal shell on the dealer's lot.
The insurance company will likely pay you $20,000 to replace the car.
Your annual insurance cost: $500.

Let's say you have signed your papers at the car dealer, and pull out of the dealer lot in your brand new car, and are broadsided by a truck 50 feet from the dealer's driveway.
The insurance company will probably pay you $20,000 to replace your new car.
Your annual insurance cost: $500.

One year after you bought your car, you are driving along the street in front of the car dealer where you bought your car and are broadsided by a truck 50 feet from the dealer's driveway. The insurance company will pay you enough to buy a one-year-old version of your wrecked car - about $14,000 (not a new one - $20,000).
Your annual insurance cost: $500.

Five years after you bought your car, you are driving along the street in front of the car dealer where you bought your car and are broadsided by a truck 50 feet from the dealer's driveway. The insurance company will pay you enough to buy a five-year-old version of your wrecked car - about $7,000 (not a new one - $20,000).
Your annual insurance cost: $500.
Why is this?

There are two facts about car insurance that are in play here.
1 - Your car insurance only covers the CURRENT value of your car - not replacement value.
2 - Your insurance cost never goes down, even though the value of your car changes.

The replacement values used in the examples above were based on the following figures:
It is a verifiable fact that as soon as you drive a new car off the dealer's lot, it loses about 15-20% of its new value.
At the end of the first year of ownership your new car will have lost from 25% to 35% of its new value.
At the end of five years of ownership, your new car will have lost from 60% to 65% if its new value.

So, based on the above facts about depreciation, if the value of your car goes down every year, why doesn't your (collision) insurance cost go down by the same amount?
In theory, if your insurance cost doesn't go down every year, then your insurance should cover the cost of a NEW car, of equal value to your car when it was new, no matter when you "total" your car.

In fact, you should be able to buy an insurance policy to replace your car AT ANY TIME with a new version of that same car.
The cost of this type of policy would likely increase each year because the cost of a new replacement vehicle typically increases each new model year.
But you would still be able to replace your smashed car with a new one.
But you cannot buy such an insurance policy.
They do not exist.
Why can't you buy such a policy?

The reason, as explained by my insurance agent, is customer fraud.
If some people knew that they could get a new car to replace their current older car, simply by crashing it, they would do it.
So, to reduce the likelihood of customer fraud, the insurance companies do not sell full replacement value vehicle policies.

The same is true of house insurance.
You cannot buy an insurance policy that will fully replace the CURRENT value of your house and its contents.
The example given to me was similar to this:
Say, your current house is 20 years old and currently worth $75,000. The cost to build the identical house today is $100,000.
Some people would burn their current house down in order to cause the insurance company to build a new replacement house worth $100,000.
So the insurance companies will not sell full replacement homeowners policies.
Thus, if your 20 year old house burns down, the insurance company will only pay you $75,000 to "replace" your house.
Guess who gets to pick up the difference?

Enjoy your freedoms while you still can,
You will not have them much longer.

In God we trust....

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Another Run

I know both of you don't care about this very much.
If so, you can move on to more interesting stuff.

Ever since my walk last Saturday morning, I have been thinking about running up Bankhead Parkway again.
I made no conscious plans this past week, but had a open mind to the alternative to walking around my neighborhood.
I stayed up too late again last night - though not as late as some of the Nordstrom clan.....

So this morning, when I woke up before 5, I considered it an omen for a good chance to be with my old friend.
I have said this before, but I cannot say it enough - I love running.
I know it is irrational, but it is still a fact.
It surprises me how much I love to run.
Certainly my addiction to endorphins produced by the activity has to be part of it.

Anyway, after a face shave, I donned my running/walking costume and gathered up my after-run towels, water bottle, neck keys, hankie, and out the door I went.
As the plan always is these days, I would try to run the whole way.
If something broke, I would walk.
Either way it would be a good (= more taxing than my usual flat neighborhood course) workout.

I drove to Pratt Avenue and turned onto Grayson and parked the car.
I walked the few dozen feet back to Pratt wondering how long I would walk before I started to run.
I barely made it across the street before I started the engine.
Carefully, at first.
Small steps, not a lot of dig or thrust.
I wanted to let everything warm up a bit.
Though I was on an incline, it is more gradual on Pratt than Bankhead (for those who do not know, Pratt becomes Bankhead at the base of Monte Sano).
So, the reasoning was, just run the more gentle incline of Pratt and let that quarter mile or so be the warm-up.
And it was so.

The gradual left turn onto Bankhead Parkway included a not-so-subtle increase in grade, as well.
It was time to go to work.
I was already breathing heavily (but comfortably) and did not want to start the 3/4 mile or so hill at max VO2.
So I dialed back my pace a bit, even though the race horse in me was wanting to get on with it.

Having not run regularly in over a year (I stopped doing that after the 2009 Cotton Row Run), and run this same course over a month ago (maybe two or three), I knew I was out of shape for running to some degree.
But I knew that I could prolly do this without major problems because I had surprised myself at that last session.
So I took it easy and took the hill - about 200 feet in about a mile.

All joints and connections seemed to be pleased with the work at hand.
It was my breathing that was the concern.
A couple of times I flirted with the thought of stopping and walking but the runner in me and ego would have none of it.
So onward we ran.
I had to keep holding my pace down to keep my breathing at the level I wanted, though no one would fault me if I allowed my elevated respiration rate to kick in.
After all, I WAS running up a big hill.
But I wanted all things respiratory to remain nice and tidy.
And it was so.

When I got to Tollgate, I was looking forward to its relatively flat topography.
I felt good and the worst (well, most of it) was over.
By the time I reached Mountainwood Drive, I was a very happy old man.
I stopped and retied my right shoelace, which had suddenly begun to feel loose.
Then it was a walk down Mountainwood.
One of the steepest roads I have ever seen.

At the bottom, I noticed that Owens Drive had been repaved.
I wished that I was in shape to run the whole Cotton Row course again so that I could pad up the nice, new surface of Owens.
Oh well....

I turned around in the cul-de-sec and started up Mountainwood.
As has been my practice for several years of running this course, I walked up the steepest part of Mountainwood that is paved with concrete and began running when the grade leveled a little and the paving changed to asphalt.
It was a slog, but I took baby steps and just worked it a foot or so at a time.
This was not a race and I knew I was fragile (or assumed so).

It was on the return trip along Tollgate that I saw another runner.
She was almost a quarter mile away when I first noticed her.
Pale blue top, black shorts.
At that point I was not sure of the gender because of the powerful strides she was taking.
Then I saw the golden pony tail wagging side to side.
But that stride; I was impressed.
And envious.

She did not take the little short girly steps that many women do.
This lady lifted her knees almost even with her hips and took great chunks of territory with each step.
And yet, as we closed in on each other, she did not seem to be working hard (envy again - I was breathing like I was, well, running).
And it was early; only 6 or so.
And no iPod - good for her (one of the dumbest things a woman can do while running or walking).
This lady was a serious runner.
WAY out of my league.
I looked closely to see if I knew her from past races, but I could not be sure.
I waved, she said hi, then she was gone.
Do I need to say, I was impressed?
I was impressed.

I turned left onto Bankhead for the downhill jaunt.
This was the easy part, as far as breathing is concerned.
I was more concerned about joints and connective tissue at this point because of past history.
Many times in jaunts gone by, I have had foot, ankle, knee or hip issues on this very patch of road.
Part of it could attributed to the fact that I had already run three miles up hill.
But some of it had to do with the pitch of this stretch of the course.

And so it was today.
Not long after I landed on Bankhead, my left knee started whining with a sharp ouch just to the inside of my kneecap.
I wondered why; I had been trying to keep my left foot from flopping about, as it is wont to do.
I had not taken any awkward steps with my left foot, that I could recall.
So why the pain?
The question, briefly, was taken up by Running Central, is this the end of the run?
But before a vote could be taken, the pain went away.
As so many - if not all - of my running pains have done.

And on we jogged.
Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. (as they say)
At the bottom of the hill, Bankhead became Pratt once again and I cruised onto the less steep decline, loving every moment.
This (other than every finish line) was my favorite part of this course.
The gentle decline seemed to help me to float along the road.
Breathing at this point was up into my accelerated zone, but I was less than a quarter mile from the end.
It was time to let it all out.

When I reached my car, I wanted to keep going, just as I had last time I did this.
But I stopped.
I walked to the next street to cool down, turned around and walked back to my car.
Sweaty, tired, jacked up on endorphins, I felt awesomely.

According to Map My Run, this course is 1.62 miles one way.
Close enough to three miles to suit me.

In God we trust...


April 15 th of 2013 was my last year to work for HR Block. I disliked the corporate pressure to make us call customers to try ...