Friday, March 26, 2010

Did not get into the college of your dreams? Lots of successful people did not either...

From WSJ:  Before They Were Titans, Moguls and Newsmakers, These People Were...Rejected At College Admission Time, Lessons in Thin Envelopes
Few events arouse more teenage angst than the springtime arrival of college rejection letters. With next fall's college freshman class expected to approach a record 2.9 million students, hundreds of thousands of applicants will soon be receiving the dreaded letters.  Teenagers who face rejection will be joining good company, including Nobel laureates, billionaire philanthropists, university presidents, constitutional scholars, best-selling authors and other leaders of business, media and the arts who once received college or graduate-school rejection letters of their own.

 Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

After Harvard Business School said no, everything 'I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better.
'Today' show co-host

Had she not been rejected by Harvard, she doubts she would have entered television journalism.

Rejected by Princeton and Harvard. 'I want to be sure to make this point: I did everything I did without a college degree
Broadcast journalist

Harvard rejection prompted him to settle down and stop partying. 'The initial stumble was critical in getting me launched

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere AND there IS a drop to drink...

Getting access to water and cleaner water is improving but still has a long way to go...Lets acknowledge progress when it occurs...

From The Economist:
Wishing well

More people are getting improved access to drinking water
Mar 22nd 2010
From The Economist online

THE glass is more than half full: according to the World Health Organisation, some 5.9 billion people, or 87% of the world’s population, enjoyed access to drinking water from an “improved” source in 2008. In other words, those people had water piped to a dwelling, or got it from a public tap or a protected well. Back in 1990 only 77% of the world's population enjoyed such a luxury. Yet in some parts of the world, notably in Africa, great improvements in water supply are still needed. Some 884m people are still not using an improved water source, more than a third of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Eastern Asia has seen the greatest recent progress: 89% of the population in that region now have access to an improved water source, up from just 69% in 1990.

Will Johnson has his work cut out for him...

From The Economist: Global deforestation decreases, but still remains high

Mar 25th 2010
From The Economist online

THE pace at which the world’s forests are vanishing has slackened over the past decade but it is still alarming, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, a UN agency. Between 2000 and 2010, the net loss of forest was 5.2m hectares per year, compared with 8.3m in the previous decade. South America and Africa had the biggest net annual decrease over the past decade—at 4m and 3.4m hectares respectively. But tree-planting programmes in China, India, Vietnam and the United States helped to offset this. Most of these programmes are due to end in 2020, and the current situation is at best a “short window of opportunity” to stop the disappearance of forests, says the co-ordinator of this year's quin-annual assessment.

Calories per dollar---How does that Big Mac/Whooper REALLY cost you???

I am eating McDonalds as I post this...Blehhh!!
From HERE:  When New York City adopted a new rule last year requiring chain restaurants to prominently post calorie counts for every item on their menus, it was supposed to be the Day of Judgment for the fast-food industry. Knowledge is the key to winning all modern wars, and calorie information is the new weapon in the war on fat. Who could bear to utter the words "super size" while staring at the calorie counts? 

Actually, a lot of people. In fact, calorie counts are just as useful a tool to increase your calorie consumptionas to reduce it. For those seeking to maximize their calorie count per dollar, the bounty of nutrition information available is a huge boon.  Years ago, in a period of extreme undergraduate poverty, I spent a lot of time staring at fast-food menus and wondering what would get me the best payoff per dollar. Usually, I settled on cheeseburgers, because at the time (this was some years ago), they came at two for a dollar. This seemed like the wiser, more frugal choice than the Big Mac, which I preferred. Yes, I was that broke.  Fortunately, nobody has to face that kind of choice now without adequate information. But doing the calorie-per-dollar math is still a pain, so we've decided to do it for you for a sampling of fast-food choices. We've stuck to the items that could reasonably hold body and soul together for some time. You can take in more calories by just eating donuts. But you will die.  The overall winner in our survey in the Pizza Hut Meat Lover's Personal Pan Pizza, at a price of $4.09 for 890 calories. Prices do vary somewhat: We sighted the same pizza at $4.59 at a second Pizza Hut, which would put it only in the middle of the pack. A number of choices cluster below that in the 200-calories-per-dollar range. Burger King's (BKC) Double Whopper stands out. It's basically tied for the No. 2 spot with Taco Bell's Fiesta Taco Salad but clobbers it in the protein count with 53 grams.  The good old Big Mac is a mediocre deal. It's got what by contemporary standards is a very modest 540 calories, putting it closer to Subway's Footlong Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich from the chain's low-cal menu than to many other options. In fact, you can have a sit-down meal with IHOP's 1,535-calorie chicken fried steak and eggs and do about as well as with the Big Mac.  The new Bacon Cheese Angus Burger did much better. It comes in at the upper end of the range, and is, in addition, an excellent burger. It's been tested in New York and other cities for a while and is now getting rolled out nationwide. I was hoping very much it would win in the value category. It doesn't, but if price is your main but not sole concern, it deserves special consideration. Three of those will nicely fill the daily caloric needs of a teenage boy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nations Biggest Spenders are in Austin....well, DUH!!!

To the list of things that are bigger in Texas, please add: Spenders. According to Bundle's first "How America Spends" report, the top-spending Americans lived in Austin in 2009. Households in the Texas capital averaged $67,076 in overall household expenses (excluding mortgage and rent, which are not included in Bundle's breakdown). Austin's annual spending is 77 percent higher than the national average of $37,782. Households in Scottsdale, Arizona, ranked No. 2, spending $64,687 on average for 2009.  So where's New York City? The five boroughs came in No. 53, with $37,435 in spending for 2009, just below the U.S. average. But if Manhattan were its own city—and some people do think it is—the richest of the boroughs would land at No. 3 on Bundle's list, with annual per-household spending at $59,602.  Bundle's data excludes spending on mortgage and rent, which explains why New York City doesn't top the list, and why the top 25 includes relatively affluent towns with low housing costs. (Ditto for Los Angeles, with its sprawling geography and socioeconomic diversity. That city is No. 42 with $39,422 spent in '09, 4.3 percent higher than the national average.)

What is a "Cadillac Healthcare Policy" and why is it being taxed? My simple explanation....

    One of the components of healthcare reform is the treatment of  so-called "Cadillac Healthcare Plans/Policies"  What is a "Cadillac Healthcare Plan?"...The word Cadillac implies a certain level of luxury and status.  One might say this type of policy has more bells and whistles, as far as what is covered in the policy, than other health insurance policies.  The Cadillac health insurance plans have been identified as one of the culprits in the escalation of heathcare costs. These plans provide extra benefits and expanded coverage for the policy holders.  Because they have lots of benefits that cover alot of healthcare needs (doctors, hospitalization, prescriptions, dental, vision, etc) AND low co-pays (what YOU actually pay for a doctor visit, prescriptions, etc) policy holders tend to use these benefits more than they perhaps would with a more standard policy.  This leads to "over-consumption" of healthcare, therefore driving up the cost of healthcare services (this is a simplistic explanation and it is more complicated, so bear with me).
     Why do these "luxury" policies exist  in the first place?  They are offered by businesses to their employees as a "non-wage" benefit.  For tax purposes, this "fringe benefit" does not count as income for an employee, therefore not subjected to tax like regular income is.  Although not considered income and not taxed the plans are considered part of an employees overall compensation package that is mostly borne by the employer.   Not all companies provide these high end policies to their employees, and it appears that these plans are a benefit for primarily high(er) wage employees and/or executives.  One exception would be Unions members, because of collective bargaining agreements, who are known to have these types of policies as well.  I do not know the number of people who are the holders of these types of policies and how it breaksdown on income levels.
     The cost of these plans are shared by the employee and the employer.  However, in general, the employer bears most of the cost of the policy.  The employee usually has their part of the cost of the insurance taken out of their paycheck.  The employer negotiates with an insurance company for the total cost of the policy, then decides how much to charge the employee and how much they will pay themselves.
     These plans are certainly going to vary in cost for a variety of reasons, but the cost IS the central issue in regards to its treatment in the Heathcare Bill recently passed.  The bill is going to levy a 40% tax on dollar value of a health insurance policy that EXCEEDS $10,200 for an individual policy and $27,500 for a family policy.  They have determined (I do not know how they arrived at these numbers) that any plan whose cost exceeds these amounts is considered a Cadillac Plan and is subjected to taxation.  Example---You are single and  your policy has a value (or cost) of $14,200.  This is the TOTAL cost--you pay some and your employer pays the rest.  The FIRST $10,200 is exempt from the tax but $4,000 is not ($14,200 minus $10,200 = $4,000).  The $4,000 is then subjected to the 40% tax, ($1,600), which is paid by the INSURANCE Company (not you AND not your employer).  Two things can happen as a result of this---(1) the insurance company will pass on the cost of the tax to the company and/or you in the form of higher insurance premiums for your "Cadillac Plan" or (2) not offer the high cost policies and offer lower cost, lower benefit policies.  It is the Congresses/Presidents hope/expectation that the second will happen.  If so, then a lower cost, lower benefit policy will reduce over-consumption of healthcare and reduce healthcare costs by reducing demand for services that the Cadillac Plans purported to do.  This policy IS NOT scheduled to take effect until 2018...  Hopefully I have presented this in a neutral way.  I tried to avoid loaded terms and not discuss either the positives or negatives that will result from this policy.  Y'all can comment/discuss....:)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Men are STUPID! WORST reason EVER for staying home to watch College Basketball...

Really, guys...REALLY????
Vasectomies Soar Couple of Days Before NCAA Big Dance Starts -- Great Excuse For Couch Potatoes

We're here at work, occasionally (really) checking the scores on the Internet, just like millions of other March Madness junkies.  We already are rethinking our Final Four picks of Kansas, Syracuse, West Virginia and Duke (in one pool, at least).  Too late, buster. Speaking of March Madness, come to find out, American males at this very moment are propped up in front of their television sets at home, bags of ice strategically placed in their crotches.  See, Cleveland urologist Dr. Stephen Jones has noted a 50 percent increase in recent years in vasectomies performed a day or two before the start of the NCAA men's tournament.  That's a lot of slicing and dicing....

Best Cities for Working Mothers...

Budgets –

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Check your NCAA brackets based on the earning potential as a graduate...Maybe you WON!!

Click on image to get a better view...

PayScale Salary Madness

Lehigh University SalaryWake Forest University Salary

PayScale Salary Madness

University of Maryland SalaryCornell University Salary

PayScale Salary Madness

Georgetown University SalaryUniversity of Washington Salary

PayScale Salary Madness

Georgia Institute of Technology SalaryClemson University Salary

PayScale Salary Madness

Gonzaga University SalaryDuke University Salary

PayScale Salary Madness

Vanderbilt University SalaryTexas A&M University Salary

PayScale Salary Madness

University of Minnesota SalaryUniversity of Notre Dame Salary

PayScale Salary Madness

Brigham Young University SalaryVillanova University Salary

PayScale Salary Madness

March (Money) Madness

Interesting twist on the NCCA tournament brackets.  This one is based on the median salary of graduates of the school in the tournament,  not their basketball prowness...From

Schools with higher-paid graduates tend to have a better (i.e. lower) seed. This could relate to the idea that better-paid graduates might donate more to the school and thus provide more funds for sports programs.

Teams in the Southern bracket have the highest median pay ($70,800 vs. $68,100 in the East, $66,900 in the Midwest, and $67,600 in the West). 

Lehigh is the highest-paid seed 16 team — beating all other No. 16 teams by at least $17,000. This enables them to make it to the Top Earning 8 (4th round of the playoffs). All other seed 16 teams are out in the first round.

 Duke is the best-paid seed 1 team by ~$40,000. All other seed 1 teams earn a median pay in the mid-$60,000s, which causes them to leave the salary tournament fairly early.

Price of Oil Going UP! Gasoline over $3.00 by summer? Maybe, Maybe not...

The Organisation of Oil Exporting Countries (Opec) has agreed to keep to its existing oil output quota. The decision was widely expected but nonetheless sent the price of the UK benchmark, Brent crude oil, up by 72 cents to $81.25 a barrel.  US light sweet crude was up 77 cents at $82.47 a barrel. The oil producers' cartel is already exceeding its stated production target of 24.84 million barrels a day, but expects demand to mop up that extra. Saudi Arabia's oil minister said he expected demand to rise strongly.
With some of the worlds economy's (mostly in the developing world) already in recovery and the impending recovery in the "rich" countries (yes, it will happen), it is anticipated that the demand for crude oil will increase in kind.  For better or worse, oil is the resource of record for powering any economy's energy needs, ie. gasoline, power generation, etc.  Graph #1 below shows the relatively fixed nature of the supply of oil (S* at Qe).  As stated by the Saudi Oil minister, demand WILL pick up and drive the price higher, to say, "P1". 

A problem arises because often another member or members of OPEC (click HERE for list) tend to cheat on their alloted quota. The price will only stay elevated if the cartels quotas hold together and no one cheats.   If another member country goes over their quota it will INCREASE the supply (Graph #2) and shift the supply curve to the right (Q1)and decrease the market price (Pe(?)).  Point "C" on graph #2 represents the likely outcome when all is said and done.  When one member cheats then another may dump oil also to try to take advantage of any higher price that remains.  Unless some other variable comes into play, the price will retreat from its high, perhaps back to where it started.  Even with increased demand if there is a corresponding increase in supply then there is little effect on the market price...If we want to wean ourselves off of oil, this makes it very difficult....

A Plastic Bag with a Life!! Very enjoyable short film on the life of a Plastic Bag...

Whether you are concerned about the environment or a fan of short films, I think you will find this rather enjoyable...The narration makes it even  more engrossing..."Plastic Bag" (via The Daily Dish)
Struggling with its immortality, a discarded plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) ventures through the environmentally barren remains of America as it searches for its maker.

Going Bald---Doing my patriot duty to control healthcare costs---Your Welcome...

I am glad that I can once again be of service to my country...:) (Picture is NOT me...)

From BBC:  Baldness 'could be good for your health' say scientists
A receding hairline can be a good thing, according to US scientists, who say men who go bald by 30 appear to be less likely to develop prostate cancer.  Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine studied 2,000 men aged between 40 and 47. They were able to link high levels of the male hormone testosterone in those who lose their hair earlier with a lower risk of tumours. The findings are published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology. Half of the men in this study had suffered prostate cancer. Researchers compared the rate of tumours in those who said their hair had thinned by the age of 30 with those who did not suffer hair loss. Men who had started to develop bald spots on the top of their heads as well as receding hairlines had a 29% to 45% reduction in the risk of prostate cancer.

Exciting News!! The latest Big Mac Index is out! Where are you going to buy your next Big Mac???

This is most recent update of the Big Mac Index as compiled by The Economist magazine.  This is a measure of a concept known as Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which suggests that in the long run currency exchange rates should reach an equilibrium in which the purchasing power of a dollar to buy a good in the US will have the same purchasing power of a foreign currency to buy the SAME good in the foriegn country.  I explain this in more detail in a previous post HERE. Also, HERE, you will find a similar index for IPOD'S.. Looking at the graph, the yellow bar extending from 0% to the right means this currency may be OVER-VALUED relative to the Dollar and to the left means the currency may be UNDER- VALUED relative to the Dollar. If you were an arbitrageur, where would you buy Big Mac's to bring them to the US to re-sell (if you could do that!)?   From THE ECONOMIST:
RECENT renewed American calls for China to revalue its currency have so far fallen on deaf ears. China has rejected accusations that America's huge trade deficit with it is caused largely by an artificially weak yuan, which has been pegged to the dollar since July 2008. Economists point out that an appreciation of the yen did little to help reduce America's trade deficit with Japan in the 1980s. But the yuan is unquestionably undervalued. Our Big Mac index, based on the theory of purchasing-power parity, in which exchange rates should equalise the price of a basket of goods across countries, suggests that the yuan is 49% below its fair-value benchmark with the dollar.
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