Thursday, 15 July 2010

Find My Calling

When I was a kid around age nine or ten....if you'd asked me for a profession in life....I probably would have jumped on this idea of being a bus driver because it seemed a pretty good lifestyle. You drive for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon....and just pick up folks. For probably a year....I was settled on this.

Somewhere around age twelve....if you'd asked about a profession....I would have said that I'd like to be a postal guy (as my dad). Again, there was something about just driving around all day and just handing out mail. That lasted maybe a year.

Around age fourteen.....if you'd asked about a profession....I would have settled on being a writer. I'd been introduced to John Steinbeck and felt it was something that I could easily do. For around three years....that would have been the response.

Somewhere around the end of 1976, I saw the writing on the wall with school ending and having to do something....and latched onto the Air Force. I had zero ideas when I was in front of the recruiter, but ended up picking civil engineering. A year into this profession....I kinda realized that it was ok but I really didn't get much out of this. It was great to be outside all the time but the thrill of jackhammers and hot asphalt just didn't appeal to me.

Sometime around around 1980, I was told by my boss to find a career that really interested me and challenged me for the future. I picked intelligence. I went off to the Air Force school and for around ten years....kinda felt at home in the profession. Everyday was different and you felt a fascination over events that occurred.

Around 1990, I started to lose some interest in the intelligence business. By 1993, I'd gotten into the systems business. I became this jack of all trades---master of nothing guy who trained on software, ordered equipment, did the logistical side of IT, and talked to frustrated customers.

When I retired from the Air Force in 1999....I came to be this planner. I would examine issues and plan out a strategy to fix problems. And for almost twelve years.....this was my core function in life.

In January, I packed up and moved to the Pentagon and became this operations guy....lead a band of merry men through some disfunctional "forest" (the basement of the Pentagon). Everyday was this emergency of the day where you had to find the root of a problem and take five steps forward....only to discover you needed to take four steps back by the end of the day.

So I'm thinking a new job is in my future. For a fifty year old guy.....it's a challenge. I can't go and become a scientist or propane salesman. I can forget about working for Windex and trying to be a developer for the company. Selling cars is out.....as is getting into the minster business because I'd just tell you to get a life and be happy.

I probably could be a school teacher but I'd toss out the recommended curriculum of the state and go back to basics....then demand the punks find respect somewhere in their guts before entering the classroom.

I probably could go and work for some newspaper....but they'd probably put me out to handle garden shows, high school football games and taser battles between retirees.

I probably could work for the parks and recreation system of some town.....but I'd shut down vast operations because only a couple of folks were using them.

So it's a process now. I need to move on.

KFC in Korea

It's a 'cute' commercial...all in Korean though.


The Iranian Nuke Dude

This past week, all of a sudden, this missing nuclear Iranian scientist turns up in the US and says that he'd been kidnapped by the US and just wanted to return back home to Iran.

The US said 'no problem' if he wanted to go home, then responded that they never kidnapped the guy. Little else was said, obviously.

So the Iranian nuke dude boarded a plane and flew back into Iran to a hero's welcome.

Today, the Washington Post put some more hints onto the story.....in that the US paid the Iranian nuke dude around $5 million for his information.....that he apparently volunteered for this deal while wanting the cash.....and he made a statement that the CIA was going to pay him $50 million to stay in the US. In fact, he said a number of dopey things....which don't quiet add up if you read through the various tidbits.

At some point while back in Iran, he proudly proclaimed that he was a simple researcher at a university job.....and little else.....so he didn't have any Iranian classified information.

I pondered over this entire story and finally came to this conclusion. Here was this dopey 32-year old Iranian nuke scientist....barely five years out of his master's degree program (I'm guessing)....working for some state-run research program at some Iranian university (kinda like being at Auburn). You probably aren't making much money because you don't have real tenure (foreign universities likely run the same way as US colleges).

Along comes some dopey idiot who suggests this wild idea involving $5 million from the CIA if you just dump your vast knowledge as the number eight guy down the program. To be honest, you probably know enough to fill up two or three legal pages on whatever Iranian nuclear program is going on.....and if you weren't the smartest guy in the world.....you probably knew more about the coffee shop at the research lab than the lab itself.

So the minute you figure you've got a chance for $5 million from some CIA idiots.....you wrap up a deal....haul off to Saudi Arabia and pretend to be taken there. The CIA guys probably fly in their fancy jet....offer up a cup or two of Pepsi on the rocks (ice cold, of course)....with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken that they picked up before leaving DC.....and you start to shut up because you really don't have alot to tell the CIA idiots.

Several weeks go by, and you give a piece here....and a piece there about the program....but it's mostly gossip that you heard because you really weren't in the top row of the program. Naturally, the CIA guys are quick to dispense the $5 million out but it's in some account in Switzerland (normally illegal for Americans to have such an account but the CIA guys have some waiver probably).

At some point, a real nuclear expert from the US sits down with you and kinda hints that he's read everything and there's not much of value here. He's wondering why. You, the Iranian nuke scientist dude.....kinda grin like a University of Alabama Alumni fellow in front of the NCAA investigation team and admit that there's only so much to what you know and what your department did.

The next day....things have become a bit intense and you decide you've outstayed your visit, and run off to claim the evil Americans kidnapped you and tortured you. Never mind the fact that you gained ten pounds while visiting with those evil Americans (that doesn't help when you stand in front of cameras).

So you, the naive and innocent....formerly kidnapped Iranian nuke scientist dude....arrive back at Tehran and accept a big welcome from everyone. There's ten thousand folks to sing praises for your safe return. Then, some Iranian-version of the CIA wraps up everything and tote you off for their interrogation episode to find out what valuable information you told about the coffee shop at the university and your third-rate lab which did some projects.

The $5 million? Well....I'm guessing that the US has accessed the account and relieved it of everything. Maybe this dude moved a little around but I'm guessing he wasn't very bright about this and missed out on even $1k. So in the end.....he ended up with some nice suit from Maceys, a $100 pair of loafers, and maybe a $500 watch that he bought via the CIA credit card that they gave him.

Now, a dozen CIA guys are wondering what this entire effort was about because the guy didn't have a vast amount of information that he claimed. Some Iranian-version of the CIA is wondering what vast information he had because he wasn't supposed to have any at all. His wife is probably yelling at him over being stupid. His former buddies won't call back because they would never have returned from the US and would have spent the $5 million on liquor, women and a Cadillac.

Just my humble guess....but some CIA chief somewhere is sitting there and sipping a Tom Collins....wondering if he'll have to explain this entire adventure to his boss.....who can't consume more than six bullets of vast information on a good day via a 3x5 card, and how he can tell this entire story in six simple lines. Just my humble guess.

UPDATE: The US admits that the nuke scientist was working for years for them (or at least they say this and you can't be sure). If true....the Iranians have to wonder who else is working for the CIA and if their entire nuclear development crew is a combination of CIA, British secret service, French secret service, Chinese secret service, KGB, and the Tonga secret service. It might be time to contract out to North Korea and bring in some folks you can trust.

Best Small Cities?

Money magazine came out today with this list of the best small cities in America. Generally, this means you met a dozen filters and were between 50k and 150k in population. Generally, everyone from these cities mentioned gets excited and then a bunch of guys on the verge of retirement start thinking about these cities.

I looked at the top three cities mentioned: Eden Praire, MN, Columbia, MD, and Newton, MD. There's a funny thing about the top three....if you wanted a house there....then your average price deal is around $400k or better.

Course, my filters would probably rearrange this entire list of one hundred cities by Money and I'd use different variations to come to my choices.

The amusing about this list by Money....only one city out of Tennessee made it. And if you were wondering Bama had any cities on the list....the answer is no. The filters couldn't bring any Bama town into the mythical land.

So if you up around retirement age and feel peppy about this exciting list deal.....pull out a six-pack and settle back and think about reality. What made Money to list these cities.....probably won't work in your case as you think retirement. I'd draw a different list of priorities and probably find myself a place where houses run in the $100-$150k range, where crime is just a minor issue, where it never snows more than ten inches a year, and where you still have peace and quiet existing.

Using those priorities....maybe Pulaski, TN might actually make it on your list.

Sun Setting on 65?

There's a discussion underway with both the Republicans and Democrats over social security and the magic retirement age of 65. Frankly, it's now likely that it will be shifted in some way....for Social Security to survive probably another ten years (my own humble opinion).

For most folks over forty today....there's this mythical view of age 65. It's the point where you know that something magical will occur. Your worries are over. Your house payments are finished. Your last big car purchase has already occurred and been paid off. You've done your best and these golden years are now within reach.

So comes the 'threat'. What will likely occur? I'm guessing that a minor step or two this year....mostly geared toward those who are forty and under. They will have to work until 65 to collect anything (not 62 as currently offered with lessened pay). Those who are twenty today might even have to work to 66.

The guys and gals over fifty today? I'm thinking that neither party wants to intimidate them because they will vote this fall.

The truth here? Basically....our medical processes are paying off and we've extended life beyond what was normal in 1965. We've keeping edging the pay-outs up, and barely nudged the percentage taken from folks or their employers. And to be honest....the vast number of folks aren't taking enough to really pay for retirement anyway but that's still the only vehicle they have at 65.....so they adapt.

Fixes? Well....it's interesting that we cap (for 2010) Social Security at $106,800. This means that after we take from you and your boss the 12.4 percent of your pay....once you go past $106k....we can't take anymore. So if you make one million.....we are still taxing your social security level at $106k. Naturally....what you can take at 65....is also capped (otherwise, this would be a total mess).

The general easy fix to slide by for another decade or two....is to raise the cap to $120k, and we take in a little bit more. These guys in the $106k to $120k range of salary....won't be happy because they are losing $800-plus on their income.

This idea has been suggested for several years and generally was thought to be the best and least hurtful. Currently, for some odd reason....it's not being pushed. Everyone is on the wagon to raise the retirement age, period.

My advice....if you are eighteen....settle back because they will eventually fix it so you will have to work till 68 to collect anything. It's kinda like Vegas-gambling. You need to rig the odds in favor of the house....otherwise, this whole element of Vegas crumbles to the ground. We need you guys to think that the mythical retirement cloud really exists and you keep paying. Otherwise, this dream shatters fairly quick.

And if you wanted some advice here at eighteen.....start an IRA by age twenty-five and seriously pay into it by age thirty-five on. Maybe you've got enough by sixty.....to just say screw the political system and you retire and use the IRA or 401K to enjoy six years before your Social Security kicks in.