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First, I freely acknowledge that this is an incredibly dense (requiring much of the reader) boring diary of use only to myself. Go read somebody else, somebody who panders to readers. This is my diary, and the fact that very few people read it (and those who do generally don't like it, and sometimes let me know as much) is just an added bonus in my book. Someday I'll stop writing here. But not today.

Systems of coercion playing the role of a full life.

I am ready to move on. The Honeymoon with Denton (at least this part of Denton proper) is loong over (it was during the first seven or nine months of 2000). Trouble is, I have exactly 479 days (or just about sixteen months) left here. And I'm not quite sure exactly where I'll end up. (to be fair, there are parts of Denton county I'd be ecstatic to live in.)

I suggest a steady pace, not a brisk one.

I figure I lost six years. I graduated (with huge expectations and potential--top 5% of the class, NHS, Summa Cum Laude, Honors, an award, two scholarships, etc.) in May 1993. These days, a standard "four year" degree takes about four and a half years (assuming fifteen-hour semesters and no Summer classes). Okay, that would put me at December 1997 (right smack at the beginning of the fat years for the economy, when companies couldn't hire enough people). Only I'm graduating December 2003. See, six years. I'll have just turned twenty-nine years old, I SHOULD have just turned twenty-three. When I turn forty I'll be six years too old.

The life we're missing is nothing without us.

So what's it like being six years late to your own life? First of all, while it mostly goes unspoken, I'm a terrible disappointment to my parents, particularly my father, who surely believed I'd be doing something great by now in a career I love, with a comfortable lifestyle. Next, I'm skipping my high school reunion. My peers, that is, people my age, are mostly professionals and career people who don't have to tote home noodles in a backpack on a bicycle to eat, who never sit there and sweat because air conditioners are so damned expensive, who haven't had to budget away every single discretionary dollar for the next twenty months in order to make ends meet. Witness my college roommate ('93-'94) who's built himself an extremely rewarding career and a satisfying life.

We've lost our old skill at being left on our own.

One of the nice things about this country is that what you are is what you make of yourself. Where you are and how you're doing are generally traceable to your own choices and actions. There's really no mystery as to where my six years went. I made poor choices. I made lazy choices. I underachieved. I failed. I rebelled so hard against the perfect student I was for the first three years of high school that I forgot how to find my way back to that when it really counted. I let a token female decide the course of a year and a half of my life. I got seduced by a life of supposed leisure, which was really a life of sloth and weakness.

I'm at an awful age.

And that's about all I'm going to say about it right now. Getting old is hard enough. Doing it like this is even tougher. You'd think Vicki Falde would have been cautionary enough.
--Short-term savings. I figure about $4000-$5000 in 5-year I Bonds (Inflation-Indexed US Bonds) for saving up for large planned expenditures. My six month emergency living expense savings will obviously depend on how much it costs me to live. If it's $1000 I'll need $6000 in CDs for living expenses in case my job is lost (this account doesn't ever get touched unless it's needed for just such an emergency, though I may add to it as my living expenses increase). For normal emergencies--car repairs, plumbing damages/repairs, water heater, AC, health problems, etc.--I'm figuring somewhere between $2000 and $3000. I'll still keep my credit card and checking account (which itself should contain two-three months' worth of living expenses). That system works well. This whole short-term savings deal could be close to $15,000. But it's the second step toward long-term investing (the first is to pay off all extremely high interest credit card debt, which I'm in the clear with).

The third step is insurance. I'm going to get a long-ass warranty on my car and tons of insurance for it. Then there's health, dental, short and long term disability, and renter's/homeowner's insurance. Once I've built up my short-term savings and I can handle my monthly insurance premiums, then I'll open a Roth IRA and possibly a section 401--if my employer matches contributions. I still might start a Roth this Summer though.

Some people might find this boring or unnecessary. I say I can't believe I never thought about this before. I was a Grade-A moron for not giving thought one to any of this. I was busy indulging in transient gimmicks and nickel-and-diming myself to financial death. And buying M a car. Oh, I've been budgeting for years, and it's helped me stay afloat, but that's all I did, because I wasn't prepared for the lean times (Summer 2001 comes to mind) and the unexpected expenses (car repairs on the Stealth come to mind), and I made poor buying decisions (Interceptor comes to mind).

--I finally beat Hoy Quarlow. Yeesh, his learning curve was steep, but now he's easier than Super Macho Man. However, the next guy is just ridiculously hard and follows none of the established rules. His animation is also pretty K-Mart brand compared to the rest of the game.

--I was checking out Hero Games the other day. Wow, Steve Long has been BUSY! They have a ton of products out already. He really has kept his promise. It's a shame I couldn't get something together, but without a vehicle it was impossible to game in person, and the Talon Comics games dissolved, and when my computer went last Summer that was the end of chat gaming. Factor in the fact that I wouldn't have been able to buy any other books or supplies, and then the huge time issue, and it's no surprise. Just another activity that has fallen by the wayside, along with buying comics, electronic gaming, motorcycling, watching movies, reading fiction, buying new music, going "out", etc.

--Washington state will soon become the first state to make it a crime to sell or rent out certain games to people under the age of eighteen. Many other states are sure to follow suit. Jack Thompson, a lawyer who testified in support of the bill, said he supports it "on behalf of all the victims killed by kids who trained on those murder simulators". Which murder simulator? That sounds interesting, I'd like to check that out. What system is it on? Does it have a good plot? Is it kind of like one of those Sue Grafton novels my mom was always reading?

--I guess I should give my prediction for Mavs-Blazers. Very tough. I take Mavs in six in at least five very difficult, hard-fought games. I think they'll be exhausted and the Kings will slaughter them in the second round. If it were the Lakers I'd go with Lakers in five. We shall soon see...

--Diatribe time.

--I didn't pay any income tax for 2002. You know what? I think we should INCREASE taxes for lower-income folks (like me). They ought to shoulder their own share of the load that the middle class has been burdened with all these years. But you see, the Democratic master plan is to move as many people as possible into non-income-tax-paying-status. That's no real secret.

The fact is, you have to PAY taxes to get a tax CUT. The fixing of the double taxation of dividends will affect tens of millions of people. If you don't have a retirement account yet, your parents surely do. Are your parents "rich"? My mother sure isn't. This is called "expansionary fiscal policy", and if it's done right, it can pull us out of a double or triple dip recession (if it's done wrong, due to too much emphasis on spending, it can plunge us into large budget deficits, and I can't help pointing out that not only do Democrats love to spend (in fact that's how they woo their constituents), but it benefits them politically if we see large budget deficits). A dividend tax cut benefits even those who don't own any securities. Why? It increases the real (realized) rate of return both individual and institutional investors can expect to receive from an investment while not putting any extra burden on the free cash flow of the corporation/agency/trust/fund doing the paying. Money, capital, flows to investments, more investment opportunities become feasible, companies large and small are able to expand rather than contract (or "right-size" as the euphemism goes), and JOBS are created. I'm so sick of hearing how tax cuts "only benefit the rich". Those rich pay for this country, and they employ everyone else.

--On the looting of the museums in Iraq: I had a little discussion today with some people, one of whom was confident that "someday you'll be enlightened" or something along those lines.** Look, some of the looting was "okay"; the raping of the palaces built on the poverty and powerlessness of the Iraqi citizens, for instance. But some of these street thugs were stealing a variety of things the city needs to help its people. It's important to remember that it looks a lot worse than it is. Baghdad's citizens might not be the most principled in the world at this point (look how they've had to live for two decades), but only a small fraction were actually out looting.

Now some folks are "outraged" that a museum was broken into and priceless artifacts stolen from it. And, of course, they're blaming who else, President Bush, General Franks, and the US military. Do you think it was our responsibility to protect Iraq's artifacts from Iraqis? Do you think we ought to have made sure to draw up somewhere in the battle plans that we needed to protect this museum because Lord knows those Iraqis are going to go steal and destroy Iraq's national treasures? This is a slippery slope. We will be blamed for EVERYTHING bad that happens for years. Yes, the regime change was the proximate cause of the looting. Does that mean WE should bear all the blame for something other people are doing? Does that mean that just because things are going to be a little rough for a little while that we shouldn't have done it? No one said it would be a piece of cake. That doesn't mean you don't do it.

Dare I say it? Maybe some of the concerned Iraqis ought to have picked up a weapon to protect their own artifacts. Novel concept, I know. Just take it slow.

And what about the vocal minority of Baghdad citizens who decided to give the US military some lip about the power and water being out and the "occupation"? I say it's an excellent sign. That is Iraqi citizens doing what they couldn't do before--having FREEDOM OF SPEECH, part of the backbone upon which Democratic process is based. They obviously trust us enough to speak their minds--they know our guys aren't going to pull guns on them or torture them or kidnap their families. These are fundamental roots of "government by the people" taking hold. It's public political discourse, which four weeks ago they would have disappeared for participating in. Bravo.

No one really knows how things are going to go. It's an exciting time, and no, things aren't going to go smoothly at every step, but that doesn't mean you stop or that it isn't worth it.

**I also find it completely amazing that otherwise intelligent people can still be so easily sucked in by ten cent arguments like "it was just an oil war" (without a single decent support to back it up). I've explained all about that a couple times here, so I won't go into that again. I think that before you start spouting what you heard some protestor on TV shout you ought to spend some time forming your OWN opinions. Maybe you'll find the world isn't quite as black and white as you wish it were. Maybe you'll reconsider your pat "if he said it, it must be bad, because he's this, and if they said it, it must be good, because they're this" response. And stop coming to political discussion gunfights toting a dull pocket knife.

--Do you trust THESE MEN? I sure as Hell don't. They do yield some chuckles though. Putin: "We always said that the regime of Saddam Hussein does not correspondent to democracy and human rights... but you cannot solve such problems with military means." Reeeeally... Well, I guess he'd know, considering what he did to Chechnya! Chirac: "The task of restoring the political, economic and social system of Iraq is enormous. Only the United Nations has the legitimacy to do that." Bwaaahahahaha!! Legitimacy? Please do give us a break. The UN has proven once again its monolithic illegitimacy and irrelevance. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, addressing the US Senate: "The United Nations can't be in charge."

'Nuff said.