Saturday, January 31, 2009

Free markets not so free

I had to wait in line for little over half an hour today to return my Charter cable TV receiver and modem. Our bill for cable TV and internet jumped from the $79 promo to $140 at which time I decided to switch to DirectTV ($39) and naked DSL (without a voice line) from AT&T ($37). I also subscribe to VOIP phone service through Packet8 for $20 a month. These 3 services from 3 different vendors cost me roughly $100 a month, yet Charter's TV and internet service cost $140! So, I wasn't surprised at all to see so many people waiting in line to return their cable boxes. A lady waiting in line even commented about how Charter is a monopoly and how glad she is to get out of it... which reminded me how unwillingly I signed up for Charter as it is the only cable TV provider servicing our subdivision. I also had a long held grudge against AT&T for unsuccessfully trying to stick me with an exorbitantly large phone bill that shouldn't have been. So my choices were very limited at the time; I didn't want anything to do with AT&T, Direct TV and Dish didn't make much sense at the time and Comcast wasn't even available for us. A few years later, Charter is still the only cable provider for our subdivision, and out of necessity to save a buck and punish one monopoly, I had to subscribe to another. There are many other legal monopolies such as oil and energy companies, airlines, and even Microsoft, that we have come to accept in our daily lives. So whenever I hear people talking about free markets, what comes to my mind is how can we have free markets when we don't even have the choice to choose our cable provider. The day when we can truly choose what we want is still far far away, as monopolies try to divide regions and markets where they can operate in and extort money from consumers without much of a choice.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

The Chinese New Year, marking the beginning of the year 4706 in Chinese calendar, begins on the 26th of January 2009. According to the Chinese Zodiac, this is the year of the Ox, which signifies prosperity through fortitude and hard work. Taipei Economic and Cultural Office is hosting a 2-day New Year celebration festival from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, on January 31- February 1 at 5377 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee, GA 30341.

Every "drunk" has his day!

We have all heard of research articles that keeps popping up every now and then about how wine is good for your heart. 60 Minutes ran a story about a substance found in red wine called resveratrol that could prevent a number of age related illnesses. In the CBS article, "Fountain Of Youth In A Wine Rx?", Dr. Christoph Westphal of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc states that it maybe possible to slow down the genes that control the aging process. From my personal experience, I can agree with him in that it at least seems to slow things down when you are drunk! ;-) I have learned to take these "research articles" with a grain of salt since a lot of these "research" tends to be funded by parties with a vested interest. However, having one more reason for having a drink is all always good news!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inspirational Videos

A few days ago, an African American man achieved the highest position in the most powerful nation in the world; the thought of which was just a dream less than 50 years ago. The power of the human spirit is amazing. If you really want something, it is truly within your grasp, if and only if you really, really want it, and are willing to work for it. Looking into the world of business, here is the inspirational speech given by Steve Jobs for the commencement Speech at The Stanford University in 2005 and one from Bill Gates given at The Harvard University. But some times things don't go so well and life throws some curve balls, but to face it bravely or to be defeated by it is truly your own choice. I ran across this amazing video of an amazing man with an inspirational message about how to get up when you are down.

If that didn't inspire you enough, heres another amazing video of two other amazing people who have made the best of what they have. The message is simple; life is what you make of it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A unique day in history

President Barrak Hussein Obama took oath as the 44th president of the United State of America today, marking a historic event in many ways than one. This day is living proof of the American and the human dream that every man is created equal, should be judged only by their actions, without prejudice, and not by any superficial features. This wondrous day has come to America, peacefully, through the power of choice, free will, and self determination. I hope that this day will come to people of all countries that are fighting each other, without realizing that what they fight for is the same pursuit of Peace, Liberty and Justice for all.

Congratulations President Obama! May you have the wisdom and courage to become a great president of this great nation and in making our government a government of the people, by the people, for the people!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Foreclosures rise in Gwinnett

The number of foreclosures recorded in the Gwinnett Daily Post's legal section for the Gwinnett county has hit an all time high of 1,685 properties. These properties will be auctioned at the county courthouse next month. Even though you may be able to find a good deal, buying foreclosure properties has its own set of pitfalls. If you are considering buying foreclosure properties at auctions, read this well written article titled "Should I buy a foreclosed property?" by Monika McGillicuddy. If you are facing the unfortunate prospects of foreclosure, please read this article I wrote a while back on Foreclosure Prevention, to find the help you need.

Here are some auction sites I found for Atlanta. I am neither affiliated with any of these companies, nor have I used any of their services, so I cannot recommend or warn you about these companies. If you are looking for the auctions conducted by the county court house, they are generally held on the first Tuesday of every month at the county court house.
Williams & Williams
Interstate Auction Company
Atlanta Foreclosure Homes
Hudson and Marshall
Georgia Foreclosure Listings
Neighbors Auction

Thursday, January 8, 2009

HBO secures rights to Presidential inaugural ceremony

HBO has secured rights to telecast the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony for an undisclosed sum. HBO is claiming that they are working with Cable and Satelite providers to make the service available to the public for free, but this remainst to be seen. It is sad that such public events are up for the grabs to the highest bidder. From what I gather from the Wikipedia, inaugural ceremonies are organized by the Joint Task Force-Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, which is a public entity, organizing a public event. So why are the rights to telecast this event sold to the highest bidder for an undisclosed sum? Given that the costs for the ceremony has to be recovered, it is reasonable to charge a fee and find sponsers. However, there should not be exclusive deals that has the possibility of restricting the public from being able to witness such historic, public events. Why not charge a standard fee from all broadcasters willing to broadcast the event and do away with exclusive deals which gives the upper hand to a broadcaster that charges subscription fees? Secondly, public events should not have the stigma of any undisclosed sum deals attached to it, all funds should be well accounted for, and should be an open book. I would like to know what others think of this subject.

U.S. household debt decreases

The Wallstreet Journal is reporting that the U.S. household debt declined in the third quarter of 2008 for the first time since The Federal Reserve started tracking it in 1952. The article states that the consumer spending groweth also declined for the first time in 17 years, painting a grim outlook for the future by focusing on 2 families that have been forced to save due to job losses. Being a Wall Street article, it is written as if the cost cutting and savings are a bad thing and we are heading back to the middle ages. One family is even quoted as having bought a calf, which they plan to slaughter and eat the meat! However, I believe that the end of consumerism and return to saving is a good thing as people get out of careless spending sprees and start taking responsibility for creating a financially secure future for themselves. If this article titled "Hard-Hit Families Finally Start Saving, Aggravating Nation's Economic Woes", is trying to suggest that these hard hit families go out and start spending to save the economy, they are suggesting bad advice. Yes, there will be a lot of pain ahead, but if we continue to get bigger and bigger as a nation of debters, the implications will be far greater. According to the Treasury Direct our national debt as of 1/6/09 stood at a mind-boggling $10,638,425,746,293.80!!! So getting into more debt to solve a crisis of debt is not the answer.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year

Wish everyone a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year! I was out on vacation in Daytona Beach over the new years eve and got back home late last night. Having lived close to the ocean in San Diego, the urge to go to the beach became too intense to resist :-) The weather was pretty nice, but the water was a bit too chilly to take a dip in the Atlantic.
"A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life."
Now that the new year has arrived, we should try to make New Year's resolutions to better our lives. I received this PowerPoint presentation with beautiful thoughts in it. I'm not a chain letter person, but since it was a thoughtful presentation about things we forget or overlook in life, I thought of putting it up on my blog for those who would like to read it. Its a year old, but its never too late to live a good life.