Posted by: patrick | February 18, 2009

really short investment advice

After all my investing and personal finance reading over the past decade, I can sum it up to some basics that’ll work for 90% of us. Here goes.

  • Live within your means. “In”come must be more than expenses in the long run.
  • Pay off credit card debt ASAP. Paying off a 15% card is better than saving in a 2% account.
  • Save up at least 6 months of spending in an emergency fund. Keep in a conservative savings or money-market account.
  • Find the lowest-cost investment accounts (Vanguard, Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, and a few others).
  • Index, index, index. 50% stock, 50% bond. Let simmer until you pull Medicare.
  • Stop reading all the investing tips elsewhere and go find a Haruki Murakami novel to lay back and relax with.

Hit me back with any other ideas or comments. Simplicity is bliss.

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Posted by: patrick | January 30, 2009

enter the 25 chambers…

There’s been this “25 random things about me” post rotating on Facebook Notes recently. While I will post out to the people who tagged me, I decided to publicize mine here as well. I usually don’t do chain forwards, but this one actually seemed fun to do. Here goes.

25. I believe everyone has (or should have) an internal soundtrack. Mine is co-produced my J Dilla and the RZA, with a smattering of 70s sounds, particularly Issac Hayes and Teddy Pendergrass. And of course, there’s the Hans Zimmer overture.

24. Social liberal/leftist, economic centrist/pragmatist, and believer in international co-operation, while keeping a big stick behind you…in the form of a carrier strike battle group with Marine Expeditionary Unit support.

23. My number one source of news: the BBC World Service. My number two: The Daily Show.

22. I see much of my life split by one divider: December 27, 2001. Events in my life happened to me either before my dad’s passing, or after it.

21. At one point, our house had 4 Macs in it (5 if you count the inactive one) and 2 iPhones. Talk about a company having your loyalty.

20. The other day, I was explaining why I’m going back to school now for my master’s in Economics. I believe I said, “I’ve done 8 years of participant observation, and it’s about time to start writing that paper.”

19. I was once a high school math and econ teacher…at a private… Catholic… independent… all-girls school. (To my male friends, I see your jaws dropping. Close them. Now.)

18.  I think I’m more mentally and physically exhausted on a daily basis working retail (at a certain electronics store) than by being a Marine. The Corps will definitely take the cake for the 20-mile hikes.

17. I love my recent LASIK procedure–but I do miss my glasses.

16. Back in the early 90s, MTV would broadcast this old, fascinating show called “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” I haven’t looked back since.

15. My brother and I had the Nintendo Entertainment System with the ROB for the Gyromite game. We hardly used him; he would play the scientist and I would be ROB. Sometimes I pressed the wrong button and instead shmushed the scientist.

14. I will watch visually disturbing, gory, bloody war movies any day–as long as it’s still a good movie. You shouldn’t sanitize the horrors of battle.

13. I DON’T watch horror films. Especially if they deal with Catholicism.

12. Whoever designed my Cuisinart coffeemaker with the built-in grinder needs a big bear hug from me. I HEART that machine.

11. Reading is my safety zone.

10. I’m a believer in VALUE home theater–get the best electronics you can afford at that time. It saves on upgrade costs later on.

9. I try to be as direct, forthright, and honest to everyone as much as possible. I believe brutal, blunt directness is less painful than tip-toeing around problems–then they fester into something worse.

8. I think I’ve internalized too many samurai movies, anime, and books in my psyche. (Miyamoto Musashi, anyone?)

7. I was definitely a geek in high school–which led to joining a fraternity in college to become more social and popular. Much later I realized that being socially skilled AND a geek are not mutually exclusive. Plus, if someone didn’t accept me for who I really was, then frak it! (Get it, anyone? Frak? F-R-A-K?)

6. As much as I complain about the Marine Corps when I’m in it, I know I’ll miss it when I leave.

5. I’m in better shape now than I was in my 20s.

4. I would hope my ideal relationship would be a Venn diagram with about 60%-70% overlap; plenty of shared experience but enough of my own and her own life to still develop and enjoy. (I don’t know how many women would be into playing Warhammer 40,000….)

3. Some people aspire to be wine connoisseurs. I aspire to be a BEER connoisseur.

2. When people around me discuss personal finance issues, my eyes light up. Think 1-million candlepower searchlights.

1. Ne-Yo got it all on point with “Miss Independent.”

Posted by: patrick | January 24, 2009

bandwagon jumper

Do it. Tell me I’m jumping on the bandwagon because:

1) I bought an OBEY shirt.

2) The shirt is a Barack Obama one, the “Yes We Did” design:

My saving graces:

1) I did vote for Obama.

2) It’s hard to publicly support a candidate when you’re in a combat zone (rules against politicizing in the military)…and you can’t wear civilian attire…and you get back home 5 days before the election.

3) I like Shepard Fairey’s work.

4) I had free cover getting into Levende yesterday. More for beer!

Posted by: patrick | January 24, 2009

@ levende

At here in Levende, enjoying my last bout of partying before the econ program starts next week. Music’s slammin’, but where’s all the old school heads? Oh well…enjoy the vibe. You can’t ever get enough old school hip hop.

Posted by: patrick | December 18, 2008

Posts via iPhone!

Just got the iPhone app for WordPress; let’s see what this baby can do!

Posted by: patrick | December 18, 2008

an argument for (more) open borders

Today I was up awake late when I caught Lou Dobbs’s show on CNN. I’m not a regular watcher of CNN, but I know of his rants against illegal immigration and his call to protect the borders. Today’s commentary included  how the “open borders lobby” is happily awaiting the inauguration of Barack Obama, so they can further their agenda, etc. etc. Plus they included a clip of the drug cartel violence happening in northern Mexico, in cities close to the US border.

Soon after I tried to go to sleep, but the words “you nativist prick” kept on ringing in my head. So I’m writing this post.

I’m definitely one of those card-carrying open borders advocates. I don’t discount the need for documentation and security precautions, but I know the vast majority of people who do come to the United States are seeking honest work. Can’t say I’m very impartial on this subject, since I’m the son of immigrants from the Philippines who created a very successful business here in San Francisco. I’d like to believe that 99.99% of all immigrants (legal and undocumented) fit the description of hardworking and dedicated.

Ever since I’ve studied a bit of economics over the past few years, I do agree with global capitalism’s belief that capital should travel freely from place to place, going to where it is needed or wanted. But capital should not only include dollars, euros, etc.; it should also include human capital. People in the world should have the freedom to work where they want, within reasonable bounds. Obviously I’m not looking for terrorists to travel unfettered from one continent to the next, but I believe the fear of terrorism and an over-emphasis on security have led to our entry processes for immigrants being too restrictive.

I believe that immigrants as a whole benefit the United States vastly more than the costs. One could say that the increased demand for consumer goods and services created by immigrants creates new jobs to fulfill that demand. While it is very possible that wages can be driven downward due to increased job market competition by an influx of immigrants (particularly in low-wage jobs), I think a zero-sum competition model for jobs, where a native-born American loses out when a immigrant finds a job here in the U.S., is too simplistic and pessimistic.

When it comes to high-skill careers and college/graduate students wanting to study here, we should be breaking down obstacles to their entry to America, not making new ones. Who’s going to keep Medicare and Social Security going with their payroll tax deductions? That’s right: immigrants.

I think that’s it for now. Haven’t been this worked up in a while.

Posted by: patrick | October 13, 2008

single digits.

This close to the end. Why am I not more excited?

I know I haven’t written much. Partly it’s been OPSEC (operational security), partly it’s my ability to vent personally via phone, email, and IM. Really though, it’s been an uneventful deployment. As far as my battery goes, it’s been 1 IED discovered, 1 IED detonation, and a ton of unverified reports. At my level, you really never see the big picture. My news of what’s happening in Anbar and greater Iraq comes from the Stars and Stripes (a newspaper for servicemembers) and news on the internet. I’d be almost clueless otherwise.

But still, this close to the end, and I’m numb. Going through the motions: wake up, work, eat, sleep. Knowing I’ll be home in a few weeks doesn’t excite me like it should.

Maybe it’s just a slow week, a down period.

I’m wondering how it will be like when I get back? I think I’ll need to take things slow…not try to do everything at once and catch up without being able to handle things.

I’ve thought about this often: have I changed during this activation, while the world’s stood still? Or has the world changed, while I’ve stayed constant? I believe now I’ve just traveled on a separate path that’s diverged from what I’ve known–and putting myself back in that world will take some adjusting.

I just hope that adjustment won’t be too jarring or painful. 

Hope this numbness will pass. Do what needs to be done here–finish up strong.

Posted by: patrick | July 30, 2008

4 months in–and books read.

I never thought ice-cold water could taste so good–until I came to Iraq. 

Oh yes, we have ice here. I think it’s shipped from the airbase at Al Asad in refrigerated containers. Your tax dollars at work.

Four months into this deployment. Eight months on active duty, wearing my Marine Corps uniform. It’s hard to believe I’ve been in this “on duty” mindset this long. The only other time I’ve been on active duty for this length of time was for boot camp and the follow-on training schools, and I was thinking like a recruit and a private back then. Now I have much more responsibility–and authority too.

I remarked to another Marine in the work hut today how my reserves of patience have been sorely reduced. I used to handle much more B.S. in the day before I got irritated. Now, it only takes one piece of bad news to get me thinking “uggghhhhhh….” Unfortunately, it’s like that with many of the other folks here as well. Maybe it’s the same routine each day, the lack of a dedicated day off ever, I really don’t know. I believe I wouldn’t be thinking this if more action was happening here in our AO (area of operations). Then again, slow and boring should be considered a good thing.

So, what have I been doing to fill the rest of my time, when I’m not making rosters and pushing paper? I’m currently midway through season 6 of The Sopranos–perhaps my lack of patience nowadays has something to do with Tony Soprano’s tendency to choke his problems–literally. Also just watched the first episode of HBO’s Generation Kill last week; I must say, as a Marine, I was impressed by the accuracy and the “real-ness” shown in it. I was also impressed by how quickly the tech-powers that be on this base tracked down a good quality copy of the episode. 

My brother had sent me my copy of Generation Kill (the book) a few months back–read through that book again pretty quickly after watching the episode. I’ve worked through a few other books: Panzer General by Heinz Guderian, to fill my World War II fix; The Assassin’s Gate, a history of the invasion and the aftermath, with much on the perspectives of Iraqis during the chaos; currently working through In the Company of Soldiers (about the 101st Airborne and their part in Iraq) and Angela’s Ashes–somehow I had found this in a give-away box in another office, and so far it’s a funny read–even with all the misery growing up in Ireland and all. Then there’s all my copies of the Economist and the Marine Corps Times. One issue of the Economist, read in detail, can take me a week (maybe 3-4 hours if read in one sitting).

I know I’ve read a few more books: Dune, Founding Brothers, The Firm…I know I’d be able to work through more if I had less on my plate.

Posted by: patrick | July 5, 2008

happy independence day

Hope you’re enjoying your 4th of July back home! For me, it was my 3rd Independence Day I spent with the Marines–so, another work day, with perks. They did have steak and lobster in the chow hall; can’t complain about that. 

Earlier this week we had a dust storm roll through. Not a major one, but our Marines were working 12 hour shifts, instead of 8. With all the briefings and transport time, it goes up to a 14+ hour work day, so we were all exhausted when the dust lifted after 2 days.

Some conversations overheard the last few days:

Marine 1: “Got anything to read?”

Marine 2: “Yep.”

Marine 1: “Still got that issue of Cosmo?”

Marine 2: “Uh-huh.”

Marine 1: “Can I look at it?”

Marine 2: “Sure.” 

(pause)

Marine 1: “It’s that kind of deployment.”

AND (in response to some paperwork in progress):

“Give it to me in the can later tonight.”

You just can’t make up this junk.

Posted by: patrick | June 27, 2008

3 months to go

In 3 months from now, I’ll be leaving this place. Other than that new thought, I’m up to the regular routine: chow, working in the shack, chugging down water to stave off the 110+ temps, and using my free time to read and watch movies and TV shows. 

Just transferred my albums of The Roots to my MacBook Pro’s iTunes library. My whole music collection is stored in my iPod, not my hard drive, and I’ve been lagging in putting my most played music on the computer, so I can jam while writing emails or working on documents. I’m glad I did–for some reason I haven’t played any Roots tracks in a while. Sometimes having a 40 GB+ audio library isn’t helpful–the jewels get buried under all the new music. Playing The Roots reminds me why they’re the hip-hop band. And why they’re even better live.

Lately I’ve been working through episodes of The Sopranos. The base here has a share drive with all sorts of video, including all six seasons of the show. I figure the next few months will give me ample time to finish the whole series.

How to describe the heat here…somehow I thought that above 100˚F, hot just means hot. No way. First off, if we had a day that was merely 100, it would feel much cooler than how I’m feeling right now. Effects such as a clear day for the sun’s beating rays, or high winds also play a role–when the wind’s blowing today, say, it feels like a giant hair dryer’s been put in front of you.  If I can think of better similes and metaphors, I’ll be sure to write them down.

Gonna keep this one short–sometimes, there just isn’t much to say. Until next time.

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