Brandon's Articles, Page 8 of 32
Wachovia, the United State’s fourth largest bank, reported nearly a $9 billion loss in the second quarter of 2008, representing a $4.20 loss per share. Excluding a one-time, $6.1 billion charge related to "declining market valuations" (as is commonly done) reduces the loss to $1.27 per share, but this is still behind the $0.78 loss predicted by analysts. The first half of 2008 contained the first back-to-back quarter losses in 20 years for Wachovia, which may make it an attractive purchase for larger companies.
I recently dealt with a large (50%) auto insurance premium increase as a result of an accident (which was my fault). I’m frustrated with making insurance payments for years and years without asking for a penny, and then when I actually need the insurance company to do what I pay them for, they penalize me. I understand the need to establish benefits for good drivers, but ~$1,000 in claims over four years must qualify me for the lowest risk category – unless they’re including a $0 group, which would seem almost dishonest. (If there’s a zero risk group, then they wouldn’t need insurance.)
First, a couple of quick questions to ask yourself, just to prime the discussion:
- How is the Texas compound (recently raided) related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or "Mormon Church") based in Salt Lake City?
- To which religious organization do members of the polygamous group belong?
Take your time here and actually figure out what you know (and don’t know) off the top of your head.
If you aren’t sure how to answer, you aren’t alone. And if you are sure, you might want to double-check. According to a press release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these same questions received the following response when posed to 1,000 U.S. adults (91% of whom had heard or read stories surrounding the religious compound):
Albums I purchased in June 2008:
- Against Me! – As the Eternal Cowboy
- Air – Moon Safari; Pocket Symphony
- Cave In – Antenna (BUST!)
- Decemberists, The – Castaways and Cutouts
- Denison Witmer – Are You a Dreamer?
- Fear Before the March of Flames – The Always Open Mouth
- Hot Snakes – Audit in Progress
- mewithoutYou – Brother, Sister
- Receiving End of Sirens, The – Between the Heart and the Synapse
Speaking of George Carlin, I just ate in my office cafeteria for the first time. Noticing a sign listing the "maximum price" for the salad bar as $7.99, I loaded up a large container with salad and two smaller containers with sides. The checkout lady tried to charge me nearly $16, however, informing me it all had to be in one container. "I don’t want the two smaller containers, then," I told her – and she promptly threw the extra food in the trash and rang me up again for just $8.
I’m at it again. I’ve compared the high-yield savings account to numerous things, and the certificate of deposit is the latest investment vehicle to catch my eye. I received an ad in the mail from Discover, who is currently touting some of the best CD rates out there (according to bankrate.com), at least starting at the 2-year mark. With the recent plummet of interest rates (e.g., my "high-yield" savings account with Apple Bank dropped from 5.27% last year to just over 2% last month, and then recovered slightly to 2.71% right now), I find the idea of a locked-in rate being more attractive.
I don’t really keep up with the movie scene. I despise the Grammys, can’t remember the last time I went to the theater, and rarely watch television. I am, however, a relatively new convert to Netflix (which has continued to impress me both in customer service and value) – and, combined with the screening magic of ClearPlay, I have been slowly catching up on what I’ve missed.
One of my most recent rentals was There Will Be Blood, based on a strong recommendation from my brother (and just about everyone else, it seems). After watching it with some friends, however, the reviews were not positive across the board. My outlook was probably the most forgiving (spoiler warning):
I purchased the following albums in May 2008:
- American Me – Heat
- Belle & Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap and The Life Pursuit
- Chariot, The – The Fiance
- Cross My Heart – Temporary Contemporary
- Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs
- Good Riddance – Split EP
- My American Heart – Hiding Inside the Horrible Weather
- Protest the Hero – Fortress
- Thrice – The Alchemy Index: Vols III & IV: Air & Earth
I received an email with an attached article by Will Manly entitled, "Dear Barack: You’re wrong about small towns; Thinking it was witty and written reasonably well – and also knowing I had some friends/family who would enjoy it – I forwarded it on. I did attach a note, however, saying the article didn’t reflect my thoughts on the issue exactly. Here’s why:
I agree with much of what the author wrote concerning basic "why democrats’ approach to government is wrong" stuff, but I think he fell victim to a common phenomenon in political writing: moving too quickly into the "why the opposition candidate is a bad person" area. Case in point, consider the hubbub about Obama not having his hand on his heart during the Pledge. Now, if he was fundamentally against putting his hand on his heart for some reason, or even if he just had a habit of not doing it, I think it’d deserve more attention. As it is… well, let me get back to the issue at hand.
I have a few thousand dollars left of student loans, and I was hit with an idea recently to avoid paying further interest. (The interest rate is very low, but 0% is lower.) It goes like this:
- Open a credit card account with a 0% APR introductory offer for balance transfers.
- Pay off my student loan with an existing credit card.
- Transfer the balance from my existing credit card to the new card.
- Enjoy paying off the loan interest free.
There are some potential downsides, of course:
- Opening a new credit card can be dangerous if you aren’t frugal.
- Applying for a credit card results in a credit check, which can negatively affect your credit score.
I love music. (Consider it my alcohol, drugs, gambling, cheating, stealing, adrenaline, anger and lying all rolled into one addiction.) My passion, however, is hampered by the inability to keep up with all of the musicians I like.
For example, Death Cab for Cutie has a new album coming out tomorrow. I happened to find out about it while researching allofmp3 alternatives for a friend, but it was merely by chance. I could have run across a blurb saying the band had broken up and I wouldn’t have known the difference. This doesn’t mean I enjoy their music any less, mind you – I just can’t keep up.
It’s always interested me there is no percentage listed next to the protein value on Nutrition Facts labels. The values of other items, such as "Total Fat" or "Total Carb," are listed based on an assumed caloric intake – usually 2,000 calories, or so. When it comes to protein, however, there is nothing. Even obvious percentages (e.g., corresponding to 0g protein in bottled water) are omitted.
While waiting for a smoothie at Smoothie King the other day, though, I examined the back of a random protein bar and saw a percentage value was present. Curious, I checked the protein powder tubs and saw it was also listed there. "That makes sense." I thought. "They’re selling a product based on its protein content."
Albums I purchased in April 2008:
- Jeff Hanson – Son
- Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath
- Sufjan Stevens – Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State
- Tokyo Rose – New American Saint
It was relatively slow, but I needed the extra time to dedicate to the awesomeness of the Mars Volta album.
Last month I published an article both presenting and analyzing a set of data concerning the recruitment of the 2007 NCAA Division I All-Americans back when they were coming out of high school.1 The analysis included tables and graphs displaying things such as the distribution of star ratings by position. It did not, however, accomplish one of its aims – to see if the star ratings attributed by scouting websites Rivals.com and Scout.com accurately predicted success (or, at least how well they did compared to each other). This failure was largely due to the claimed "unavailability" information on the distribution of star rankings given out in an average class. In other words, because I didn’t know what percentage of a class was made up of 4-star recruits, I couldn’t tell if the number of 4-star recruits in the All-American class was too many, too few, or about what I’d expect.