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2012 performance dates

Greetings. Things have definitely become more interesting, and rewarding, on the musical front in 2012. Besides the usual theXplodingboys shows here and there, I have had the fortune to be asked to participate in a collaboration of members of Tess Records/Projekt bands This Ascension and Trance to the Sun called Ascension to the Sun, which plays songs from both bands. I have been drumming on the Trance to the Sun songs, and Jeremy George has been playing the This Ascension songs. Soriah is also planning another tour later in the year, and I have been asked to participate once again.

Here are my past and future dates so far for the year.

21st January - theXplodingboys at the Lovecraft Bar, Portland

3rd February - Ascension to the Sun at Brickbat Mansion at the Lovecraft Bar, Portland

30th March - theXplodingboys at the Fez Ballroom, Portland for Night One of the 10th Annual Vampire's Masquerade Ball, along with David J of Bauhaus backed by Adrian H and the Wounds, Fever, Adam Hurst

26th May - Ascension to the Sun at Dante's, Portland opening for Sumerland and Adrian H and the Wounds
28th May- Ascension to the Sun at Sunset Theater, Seattle

September 2012 - Soriah West Coast tour

That's all for now, but I believe that there will be more to come.

Here are some recent videos from the two shows from earlier this year, both compiled by Ashkelon Sain, my cohort in all of these endeavors:

the blog I wish I wrote

Andrew Sullivan just wrote the blog I was meaning to write, but I'm glad he did because his is way better than mine would have been.

In it, he revisits the Obama Administration to date from a perspective we rarely hear about, a factual one. He systematically goes through Obama's presidency, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses, but his overarching thesis is that Obama is and always has been a long-game president. It's not political points that he's after. He wants things to work out into the future, and he's willing to take the time to see it happen.

Here's the article, entitled How Obama's Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics.

I don't want to quote too much, because its beauty is in its continuity. But here are some of my favorite passages, beginning with his caveat:

"I write this as an unabashed supporter of Obama from early 2007 on. I did so not as a liberal, but as a conservative-minded independent appalled by the Bush administration’s record of war, debt, spending, and torture. I did not expect, or want, a messiah. I have one already, thank you very much. And there have been many times when I have disagreed with decisions Obama has made—to drop the Bowles-Simpson debt commission, to ignore the war crimes of the recent past, and to launch a war in Libya without Congress’s sanction, to cite three. But given the enormity of what he inherited, and given what he explicitly promised, it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb. Their short-term outbursts have missed Obama’s long game—and why his reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country’s future as his original election in 2008."

I don't like that no one seems to be talking about how Obama's economic inheritance was second only to the Great Depression that FDR inherited. And a major testament to that NOT being brought up is why it's so important--it worked.

"When Obama took office, the United States was losing around 750,000 jobs a month. The last quarter of 2008 saw an annualized drop in growth approaching 9 percent. This was the most serious downturn since the 1930s, there was a real chance of a systemic collapse of the entire global financial system, and unemployment and debt—lagging indicators—were about to soar even further. No fair person can blame Obama for the wreckage of the next 12 months, as the financial crisis cut a swath through employment. Economies take time to shift course.

"But Obama did several things at once: he continued the bank bailout begun by George W. Bush, he initiated a bailout of the auto industry, and he worked to pass a huge stimulus package of $787 billion.

All these decisions deserve scrutiny. And in retrospect, they were far more successful than anyone has yet fully given Obama the credit for. The job collapse bottomed out at the beginning of 2010, as the stimulus took effect. Since then, the U.S. has added 2.4 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s far better than what Romney would have you believe, and more than the net jobs created under the entire Bush administration. In 2011 alone, 1.9 million private-sector jobs were created, while a net 280,000 government jobs were lost. Overall government employment has declined 2.6 percent over the past 3 years. (That compares with a drop of 2.2 percent during the early years of the Reagan administration.) To listen to current Republican rhetoric about Obama’s big-government socialist ways, you would imagine that the reverse was true. It isn’t."

What struck me most in that passage (other than me saying "thank you!" over and over again in my head, grateful that someone else besides me was pointing all of this out) was the phrase "he continued the bank bailout begun by George W. Bush." Just ruminate on that for a moment. Obama continued Bush's bailout. He didn't say, "now things are going to change around here!" and cancel it. He didn't change it once he took the reins.

No. He let it work. And then he expanded upon it as he saw fit, based on the unexpected intensity that followed. And it was unexpected...

"The right claims the stimulus failed because it didn’t bring unemployment down to 8 percent in its first year, as predicted by Obama’s transition economic team. Instead, it peaked at 10.2 percent. But the 8 percent prediction was made before Obama took office and was wrong solely because it relied on statistics that guessed the economy was only shrinking by around 4 percent, not 9. Remove that statistical miscalculation (made by government and private-sector economists alike) and the stimulus did exactly what it was supposed to do. It put a bottom under the free fall. It is not an exaggeration to say it prevented a spiral downward that could have led to the Second Great Depression."

And then there's his actual record on taxes:

"You’d think, listening to the Republican debates, that Obama has raised taxes. Again, this is not true. Not only did he agree not to sunset the Bush tax cuts for his entire first term, he has aggressively lowered taxes on most Americans. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts, affecting 95 percent of taxpayers; he has cut the payroll tax, and recently had to fight to keep it cut against Republican opposition."

And spending:

"His spending record is also far better than his predecessor’s. Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms. Under Bush and the GOP, nondefense discretionary spending grew by twice as much as under Obama. Again: imagine Bush had been a Democrat and Obama a Republican. You could easily make the case that Obama has been far more fiscally conservative than his predecessor—except, of course, that Obama has had to govern under the worst recession since the 1930s, and Bush, after the 2001 downturn, governed in a period of moderate growth. It takes work to increase the debt in times of growth, as Bush did. It takes much more work to constrain the debt in the deep recession Bush bequeathed Obama."

It goes on. Obamacare, foreign policy, gay rights. All strategic, long term, and fundamentally misunderstood by most of the media, and almost all of us.

And then, after the Republican spin, he addresses the liberal spin--how Obama hasn't accomplished nearly enough, as if nothing happened at all. It reminds me of Stephen Colbert's quote that he said the other day:

"Yes, Obama duped young people by not doing every single thing they want," Colbert said on his show Tuesday night. "So now, they'll all vote Republican. It's like when I want some bread, I won't settle for half a loaf. Instead, I will have a muffin made of broken glass."

This is all but liberal logic in 2012.

Sullivan ends on this note, and by then I wanted to give him a hug because reading this article had felt like ten minutes of feeding dark chocolate to my soul:

"If I sound biased, that’s because I am. Biased toward the actual record, not the spin; biased toward a president who has conducted himself with grace and calm under incredible pressure, who has had to manage crises not seen since the Second World War and the Depression, and who as yet has not had a single significant scandal to his name. “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” George Orwell once wrote. What I see in front of my nose is a president whose character, record, and promise remain as grotesquely underappreciated now as they were absurdly hyped in 2008. And I feel confident that sooner rather than later, the American people will come to see his first term from the same calm, sane perspective. And decide to finish what they started."

You know a president is a strong one when no one really likes him. There's no story line, no narrative. The president just does what is called for, while those in his party complain it isn't enough--or backward--and the opposition party spins around issues like a top while continually trying to stay on the opposite side of every issue, even if Obama sides with them. That's why the GOP looks so insane.

Yup, definitely a better blog than I could have written. Bravo, Mr. Sullivan.

my year in status 2011

hi all.

I enjoyed making 2010 My Year in Status thingies last year, and have been looking forward to doing it again. That necessitated 2011 ending first, and it has. So here we go...

First off, a general timeline:


Next up, some thoughts on life in general.

Life in General

Here are some favorite quotations that I passed along.


Lastly, what review from me would be complete without some thoughts on politics?


Thank you for your patience. Happy New Year!

FDR and the tenacity of fear itself

As you doubtlessly know by now, I am enamored by President Harry S. Truman (1945-1952). As FDR's Vice President in his fourth term, he succeeded FDR following the President's inevitable death early the next year. Like many after him, Truman was profoundly inspired by FDR's New Deal, and promised to continue its goals.

I have been hearing so much garbage about FDR and his New Deal, but so little about fellow social program advocates Truman, Kennedy and LBJ, lately. This sounded like parroted character attacks instead of anything based on history. So I decided to watch FDR's biography a few days ago to get a better understanding of the man and what he did.

FDR had no ideology at first, other than to end the Great Depression. As Governor of New York, he watched Republican laissez-faire President Hoover do nothing to stem the Great Depression from 1929-1932. Banks were closing every day, millions of people continued to lose their jobs, and farms were being foreclosed upon all over the nation.

FDR tried a few government programs in New York while Governor. After some success, he became convinced that Federal Government should use its growing power to do something big about the economic situation, for the first time in US history. He ran for President in 1932 on these ideals and won by a landslide. Once there, he took a very pragmatic strategy: try something; if it worked, keep it--if it didn't, scrap it and try something else. He assuaged the American people that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Hope returned to the weary nation.

Meanwhile, his wife Eleanor Roosevelt had become an activist on her own over the years, and was touring the country as First Lady, learning about the plight of the poor and litmus-testing progressive societal ideas using FDR, who could publicly embrace popular proposals or basically write unpopular ones off as his wife's progressive ideas. As FDR worked to weaken the Great Depression, Eleanor pushed FDR farther, faster than he was willing to go on social issues as well. They were an amazing, daring team, and they had the public mandate for it.

Right after FDR's New Deal programs raised tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, his generationally wealthy peers immediately marked him as the enemy. No one had expected him to "attack" his own class, and big business interests immediately lined up against him. The conservative Supreme Court began hearing various pieces of FDR's New Deal plan, and struck down many components. But many of his programs continued on to this day, including Social Security and the GI Bill. And the American people were doing far too well under FDR to fall for the tripe spewed by big business to try to sully FDR's reputation. They loved FDR for lifting them up, helping them out, protecting their livelihoods. It was working.

FDR's actions were not enough on their own to end the Depression. World War II ultimately did, along with ending FDR's hope of continuing his New Deal progress. But he inspired Truman, Kennedy, FDR, and others to continue his liberal progressive ideology that the stronger a nation's people are, the stronger the nation becomes. And the people agreed with them, for they and their nation were benefiting from it. The middle class grew out of and were strengthened by these programs.

But the wealthy never stopped spewing irrational tripe. And people are people. They eventually began to listen to this constant message.

As FDR's grandson stated in the biography, the irrational hatred and fear of FDR's programs by the wealthy remains to this day, now nearly 80 years strong. The difference is that those wealthy voices are now joined by millions of people, many in the middle class, who now also irrationally believe that weakening the very social programs that brought millions of Americans into the middle class is what is best for them, as well.

The people of prior generations knew better than to believe this propaganda. They were keenly aware of what social programs had done for them, were doing for them. No longer is this the case.

During the 1960s, bolstered by Eisenhower's eight year run as Republican President from 1952-1960, the GOP began to regroup. It recruited religious leaders and the Dixiecrats splintered from the Democratic Party by civil rights legislation first championed by Truman in 1948. It campaigned on fear rather than hope, and it did well. By the 1970s, Republicans were primed and ready to act on the conservative feelings of the nation's largely white middle class, brought about by Vietnam war protests and race rioting all over the nation which effectively ended the momentum behind LBJ's New Society programs, and ultimately the 33-year era of FDR's New Deal--1932-1965, the year that the Voter Rights Act and Medicare were signed into law. Reagan's set this progress in reverse, single-handedly returning the wealth distribution in America to what it was before FDR's tax reforms.

Every time conservatives act like they are losing ground in this country it makes me furious. Democrats and the liberal movement have been limping along for the past 45 years, too weak to flourish from the irrational barrages of the wealthiest intent on keeping their wealth, but too full of hope and continuing renewal to die out. What Republicans are saying today is what they've been saying since 1932, and the message is just as full of irrational hate and fear, but since 1968 the message has somehow become more and more believable.

Imagine if we all suddenly realized this.
I just watched LBJ (1963-1968) and Nixon (1968-1973) biographies last night. Two stubborn, power-hungry sons of bitches, both very human, who lived and breathed politics, had to win, and accomplished some good and some bad.

LBJ was a complicated, heavy-handed Texas Democrat who didn't really have a platform other than to rise to power until JFK's death galvanized him to pursue civil rights as his VP-turned-successor. Once he did, he knew most presidents only accomplished what they wanted in their first two years in office, so he moved with passion and speed on his Great Society objectives to eradicate poverty and increase access to education for all. He passed dozens of bills in two years, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voter Rights Act, and signed Medicare into law in 1965 in Independence, Missouri in front of Truman, who had first advocated for it 20 years before.

But Vietnam was becoming more and more of an issue. From 1966-68, a relentless belief of an achievable victory in Vietnam despite popular opinion, combined with rioting all over the nation in spite of his civil rights victories, crushed his spirit. Johnson was so distraught that his Great Society dreams were burning up in front of him that he refused to run again in 1968. Vietnam had consumed his presidency, and effectively destroyed the end of the liberal movement begun by FDR in 1932. He refused to run for a second complete term as a result, and died in depression four years later.

Nixon was a Californian Republican and a ruthless campaigner who had to win at all costs (he got his "Tricky Dick" nickname for it during his second campaign in the late 40s). He powered his way into Eisenhower's VP spot in 1952, barely lost to JFK in 1960 and failed to become Governor of California in 1962, only to make a historic comeback to President in 1968.

The race riots and anti-war protests of 1965-1968 left people wanting a law and order president to reign in all of the chaos around them--over 150 American cities were burning, and war protesters were everywhere. He was voted in as President over LBJ's VP Hubert Humphrey by a slim margin by the "silent majority"--everyone who wasn't rioting, who were coincidentally overwhelmingly white and middle class. Nixon was referring to the anti-war protesters as bums months before the 1970 Kent State shootings, which were brought on by America's entrance into Cambodia (much like Pakistan these days) to attack North Vietnamese hideouts combined with nervous National Guardsmen in response to the increase in outrage. A parent of one of the dead students said "My child was not a bum." But you had to understand how scared a lot of people were that the country would eat itself at the time. OWS is but a shadow of that outrage, and no one is burning cities to the ground right now.

Vietnam dragged on, but Nixon and Henry Kissinger did make progress with negotiations, eventually ending the war. His visits to China, which were designed to split China and Russia apart, and subsequent talks with Russia to negotiate the first arms talks of the Cold War, were his biggest triumphs. He was the first President to set foot in Beijing in 50 years, and the first ever in the Kremlin. He also created the Environmental Protection Agency and began America's first dedicated attempts to clean up our environment, which wasn't covered in this biography.

But his insecurities and long trail of enemies caused him to record White House conversations, make enemies lists, and eventually send some of his staff to break into the Watergate Hotel to bug the DNC offices before the 1972 election. The bugs didn't work, so they had to go back and were caught, which ultimately resulted in his resignation in 1973 amidst a flurry of stonewalling, staff resignations, hearings, and his own impeachment. Watergate and Nixon's impeachment left a permanent blemish on the US presidency.

After watching these biographies, as well as FDR's and Truman's biographies, it's difficult not to conclude that war and social advancement are mutually incompatible. The unfortunate coincidence of the social movements of the 20th century with the rise of the Cold War destined the two to battle for both the public mind and the nation's wealth. And the clash of the Vietnam War with the civil rights movements of LBJ's Great Society programs ultimately drove the nation back to a more conservative direction from which it would never successfully waver again.

integrated health care works

My lovely wife just sent me an article about CareMore, purchased in 2006 by WellPoint.

CareMore is an excellent example of integrated health care. For a flat fee per patient, they practice pre-emptive health care by investing in patients up-front to avoid greater suffering and costs down the road. These investments are things like buying heart patients scales with internet connectivity so the doctors can monitor patient weight as closely as the patient, who may only guess that a change is a bad sign, and free rides to the clinic to make sure that appointments and treatments are not missed.

On a national scale, integrated health care is known as a public option--although CareMore sells its own insurance and delivers the health care, whereas in a public option the government only provides the insurance. In a public option, the government doesn't deliver the health care. But unlike a public option, which covers everyone, CareMore concentrates solely on the Medicare population, the most expensive and riskiest sector of the health care system.

So how does CareMore's integrated strategy work? Very, very well. Here are a few Medicare patient numbers:

"A hospitalization rate 24% below average; hospital stays 38% shorter; an amputation rate among diabetics 60% lower than average. Perhaps most remarkable of all, these improved outcomes have come without increased total cost. Though they may seem expensive, CareMore’s “upstream” interventions—the wireless scales, the free rides to medical appointments, etc.—save money in the long run by preventing vastly more costly “downstream” outcomes such as hospitalizations and surgeries. As a result, CareMore’s overall member costs are actually 18% below the industry average."

The article also points out that the entire health care system is not broken:

'The population that CareMore serves—the elderly, and in particular the frail, high-risk elderly—is crucial when it comes to controlling overall health-care costs. “We talk as if we need to overhaul the entire health-care system,” [CareMore CEO] Hoops says. “But that’s not quite correct. The biggest problem—and opportunity—lies with the part of the system that serves our high-risk populations. That’s the part of the system that’s unsustainable.”

[WellPoint CEO] Braly believes that as CareMore continues to expand, it will help redirect the health-care conversation in Washington. “Many people are skeptical that it is possible to significantly improve quality and reduce costs at the same time,” She says. “The CareMore experience shows that if you change the underlying process, you can, in fact, achieve both objectives, and you can do so consistently.” '

Another parallel to this invest-up-front-to-save-money-later strategy is social programs. This is true whether politicians choose to tell us this or not. Democrats fight hard for them because they know this, but disregard the inefficiencies within them--every large organization or program has inefficiencies. Republicans choose to leave people in the dark about this, even as their constituents take advantage of them, to make it seem like the programs are useless without acknowledging the massive costs saved by them.

Unavoided costs from social programs don't appear on budgets and accounting spreadsheets, which is a pet peeve of mine. However, they do appear on Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyses.

The CBO is a bipartisan organization. When they speak to costs savings, they're the ones to listen to because they've done the analysis--not the politicians (unless they're quoting CBO analysis, of course). They review legislation and give a financial comparison of what future costs would be with the legislation against what future costs would be without them. This must be done to incorporate future savings as well as up-front costs, and is the only way to judge the overall savings of a program--not by what it costs now .

For reference, the latest CBO savings estimates as a result of the Obama Administration's March 2010 American Health Care Affordability Act over the next ten years is $230 billion. This is also the cost of repealing it, were we foolish enough to allow that to happen.

Seeing these up-front investments as costs to be purged is naive and dangerous. Accepting this strategy is known as the "win-win" in sustainability and systems efficiency circles. Many who only see their part of the equation fight it, and since most people are paid only to see their part of the equation, it's easy to set up resistance to this strategy by threatening people about the near term costs and leaving out the long-term benefits.

Things to keep in mind when listening to the rabble about "ObamaCare." The compromises made early on, including the rejection of the public option by members of both parties and several other overall cost savings mechanisms, has cost us billions of dollars more. The compromises reek of short-term political calculations of politicians, who listen primarily to local pharma companies and wealthy constituents who can afford health care already and who aren't afraid of racking up more pain and suffering across the board so that things stay where they are and they get re-elected.

progressive taxes and wealth creation

A progressive tax structure, however unfair it initially sounds, is very important to increasing wealth distribution.

As I just mentioned in a post earlier today, a common axiom in the efficiency field is "you can't improve what you can't measure." So, in order to judge our inequality, you have to know what the wealth distribution is, and where we would like it to be. Fortunately, this was just done not too long ago.

You may have seen this graph before in a prior post of mine:

"A Harvard business prof and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable."

So here we see that not only is the distribution of wealth far worse than we'd like, but we don't even realize how bad it is! I think this is enough for most people to see the severity of our wealth inequality.

Progressive taxation is a great way to redirect wealth. Income taxes are only a means to keep more money active in the economy so that someone else might acquire it and grow their own wealth--indirectly, through taking advantage of social programs to keep their costs lower and save money that can go toward debt or savings. And even if it isn't put toward debt or investment, the money recirculates back into the economy instead of (presumably) ending up in a wealthier person's investment portfolio, inactive in the economy until it's withdrawn years later.

The conservative rebuttal to progressive taxation is that the money being diverted from higher income individuals to lower would have been used to invest instead in business, thereby creating jobs. But a very progressive tax code and the GI bill (another federal program) built the middle class after World War II. Ironically, taxing those making $1 million or more in today's dollars at 91% during the 1950s encouraged the wealthiest to do exactly what conservatives claim they wouldn't do--reinvest in their businesses instead of pulling the money out for themselves.

There is probably some merit in the conservative point, but for the past 30 years those jobs they referred to have been being created overseas to save money and build shareholder wealth, which only matters if you own stock in those companies--and if it wasn't your job that went overseas. Meanwhile, due to corporate and conservative pressure, the tax rates have also become less progressive over the past 30 years. Seeing how the middle class has also been collapsing during the same time frame, I personally feel that is a pretty good argument for a progressive tax code and wealth distribution. Wealth begets wealth, and without some sort of diversion it all ends up at the top.

This is partly why a progressive tax system is so vital in wealth distribution. Another part is that a 5% income reduction to someone making $250K a year feels a lot different than a 5% reduction to someone making $25K a year, but that's several other conversations.

Friend and fellow enlightening-article-hound urizanegao found this article comparing, as the all-too-usual inflammatory headline put it, "tightwads" to "spendthrifts." That is, people who guard their money versus people who spend more than they have, and the spectrum in between.

The more I learned about finance--which, as it turns out, is actually wealth creation--the more thrifty I became by choice and need/desire for something better for myself.

There's a lot of outcry these days about the wealthy, but I believe that it's largely framed in reference to income levels, not wealth. People with higher income are in the cross hairs. And that's unfortunate, because it shows:

a) how few people understand what wealth and wealth creation really are
b) how much the powers that be are able to avoid exposing the real problem, which is
c) how few Americans have wealth

The public discourse likes to talk about income and income taxes, because it seems that it's all there is to talk about--income is tangible, present and (hopefully) constant, so most everyone is familiar with their own numbers and can follow comparisons to everyone else's. But income is not wealth. The "richest people in the world" don't have the highest incomes.

A common axiom in the efficiency field is "you can't improve what you can't measure." Personal wealth, or net worth, is total assets--cash, house and real estate, big stuff you bought, investments, a personal business, etc.--minus total debt--credit cards, mortgage, school loans, borrowed money, and so on.

Income is merely the money you make--in accounting terms, your cash flow, where cash refers to any money you can get right to now, not just the dollars in your pocket. Income is only part of the cash in your assets--money in a savings account that you can withdraw also counts as cash assets. The richest people in the world have the highest positive net worth of anyone, regardless of their incomes.

People who make more money are more likely to have a positive net wealth, but it's not assured. Wealth can be negative. Very negative. And anyone can have a negative wealth. It is a pit that anyone can fall into.

Perhaps now the phrase wealth distribution means something much different than you might have thought. This is much bigger than income and income taxes. There are lots of factors.

"How to become a millionaire" (how to build a personal wealth of $1 million) books teach how to understand and control these factors to build assets. I say control debt instead of eliminate because debt can equal investment. Investment debt is called good debt, a phrase you may have heard. School loans are a great example of good debt, because with it you can increase the income you make and, if I may, enable yourself to live a happier, healthier life as well, even if you never make more money. More simply though, it's debt that implies a return higher than the initial payment and supports wealth creation. And that's good. Social programs are good debt, even if they could be run more efficiently. EVERYTHING could be run more efficiently.

I read an interesting one once called The Millionaire Next Door. In it, I read that many millionaires make $55K per year, don't live or look like a wealthy person, and are married to a school teacher. They save and invest money to build wealth instead of spending their cash flows on stuff. Chances are, if someone's living like a millionaire, they have a near-negative wealth.

On the other hand, someone who owns nothing ($0 assets) but owes nothing ($0 debt) and gets handed $5 now has a net wealth of $5. This is ultimately what wealth measures. If you sell all of your assets and pay all of your debts, wealth measures how much money you have left. Total assets minus total debt. And it should really be more than $0!

The best and simplest advice I got about wealth creation (also known as debt reduction, since many start with negative wealth) was this:

1) put a budget together so you know how you spend
2) adjust spending accordingly so there is extra money left if at all possible
3) pay down the debt with the highest interest rate first

4) save and invest as much as you can after that

The first step is getting a budget together to figure out where money goes, and cutting back where it makes sense. With a little adjusting and discipline it's highly probable that a "chocolate/shoes" fund can be secured. No one said budgets only had to have the boring stuff... we have a budget for both "Entertainment" and "Other" in ours. Everyone should, income-willing. But we also pay down our highest-interest debt first, and invest. And we also use an investment strategy called "paying yourself first," where money from my paycheck is automatically invested each week. That way it's off-limits and out of mind, but we're still building our assets.

I do think that people also place value on things accordingly. Someone will choose to buy the generic dishwashing detergent, but will purchase only the best chocolate and shoes, for example. Free mp3s have no value to someone who doesn't like the album, but if they do then they may well go out and buy it even though they already have a free copy (this is the "free samples" argument). Everybody makes their own choices, and many don't match their desires to their cash flows--hence the debt. But from my own experience, once you understood wealth generation and your own cash flows it gets a lot easier to justify buying less and paying less for stuff!

Perhaps this is where the tightwad/spendthrift difference comes in. The degree to which one understands their finances may well influence their spending habits. Without knowledge of one's own finances there are plenty of psychological reasons to buy stuff instead, but bill collectors are really good about not letting your psychological needs get in the way of their income so fiscal discipline is always worth bearing in mind. I am a strong advocate for some sort of fundamental finance and investment class in high schools for this reason.

Even knowing what I do about our finances, I'm more inclined to buy something or pay down debt right now than save money, because the market needs activity to keep it in recovery. If spending money now helps get the economy back on the tracks, then it will pay me investment dividends--literally--down the road.

Soriah tour 2011

I just got back from the 2011 SoRIAH west coast tour this morning. What an amazing experience it was. Here were the dates:

Thurs, September 15th: The Star Theater -- Portland, OR
Sunday, September 18th: El Corazon -- Seattle, WA (my first time playing in Washington)
Weds, September 21st: The Red Devil Lounge -- San Francisco, CA (my first time playing in California)
Thurs, September 22nd: Club Apparation at Lido Lounge -- San Jose, CA
Sat, September 24th: Bar Sinister -- Hollywood, CA

The first two shows were day trips, and I worked the next day so it didn't feel so much like a tour at first. KD was able to attend these dates, enough to get a taste of the rest of the tour and one road trip. I was glad for that, but for me the real "tour" began once the California dates approached.

We left for the California leg on Tuesday, September 20th. I didn't get much of a chance to record what happened while it was happening once we hit the road because we kept a busy schedule. I was also busy enjoying it, as Ashkelon and Enrique are old hands at both California and touring and for the most part we traveled, ate and slept in the finest of styles. But I collected my Facebook posts along the way, and wrote a short journal entry for the six days we spent touring California. Enjoy!

September 15 at 8:33am
TONIGHT! Come see me perform with Tuvan throat singer SoRIAH at the Star Theater in downtown Portland. Show starts at 8pm. Then our tour takes us to Seattle (18th), San Francisco (21st), San Jose (22nd) and Los Angeles (24th) if you're down the coast. Hope to see you out there!

September 16 at 9:04am

Had a great time performing at the Star Theater with SoRIAH last night. Thanks to all who came out. Next stop--Seattle, Sunday September 18th! Now to drag my tired ass to work...TGIzzzzzz

September 18 at 9:01am
TONIGHT IN SEATTLE! I will be performing with Tuvan throat singer SoRIAH at El Corazon. Vox Vespertina, Sataray, and dancers will also be performing. Hope to see you there! Then it's San Francisco 9/21; San Jose 9/22; Los Angeles 9/24.

About to begin our odyssey to Seattle... back tomorrow for another day of work. YAY. Then off on tour I go.

September 19 at 9:58am
home from Seattle, technically awake.

September 20 at 9:34am
I leave today for the California leg of the SoRIAH tour. SoRIAH is a Tuvan throat singer and the show is a transcendental experience, so come experience it if you can! Tomorrow SoRIAH performs in San Francisco at the Red Devil Lounge. Thursday I perform with SoRIAH in San Jose at Club Apparition. Then Los Angeles 9/24. Come see me perform in California for the first time! Portland and Seattle have been transcendental experiences, come experience SoRIAH if you can! See you out there!

Here's video footage of Tonacayotica from Thursday's SoRIAH show at the Star Theater in Portland!

The latest SoRIAH with Ashkelon Sain CD 'Eztica,' which I am currently touring down the west coast, is now available at Amazon.com!

Amazon.com: Eztica: Ashkelon Sain Soriah: MP3 Downloads

Here are a couple of pictures from the Portland Star Theater show, courtesy of Lucretia*Renee:

Daniel P Henderson performing with Soriah/Ashkelon Sain (photo by LucretiaRenee Rathmann)

Daniel P Henderson and Jonathan Howitt with Soriah/Ashkelon Sain at the Star Theatre, Portland, OR (photo by LucretiaRenee Rathmann)

alright, enough Facebooking. Time to go on tour now! See you in San Francisco? San Jose? Perhaps Los Angeles?

September 21 at 2:05pm
via mobile

Soriah tour, day 1. Spent a lovely late night and morning in Fairfield, CA with Papa Enrique and Marilyn. Now heading to San Francisco--perhaps squeezing in a stop to the sake plant!

September 22 at 12:08pm via mobile
Soriah tour day 2. Played the Red Devil Lounge last night. Just about everything exceeded expectations. Mercury's Antennae and Jill Tracy were fantastic openers, the crowd was great and we shared a great experience. Then we went out to the Wave Organ, rode on cars and in taxis, and were young and free.

Bay area peeps--I'm playing at Lido's in San Jose tonight at Club Apparition with the Tuvan throat singer SoRIAH on their west coast tour. Come out and see me!

Friday at 2:49pm
via mobile
Day 3 had us eat a nice late lunch at Pancho Villas in the Mission, then we hit the road to San Jose, checked in and headed to Lido Lounge for Club Apparition. Interesting venue--had a whole other half upstairs doing karaoke. We applied our sound engineering skills to essentially run it ourselves, but after dealing with that the show went well and was very appreciated. DJs Albert and Ash (their soundman) ROCKED after, and cousin Bridget and friend came out. Then after it was back to the motel for some rockstar action until 6am. Now we're almost to San Luis Obispo for a day off of fun, and a visit with dad and uncles as well

Friday at 9:30pm via mobile
Greetings from Soriah from the Madonna Inn! 9/23/11 .

Greetings from Soriah from the Madonna Inn! 9/23/11. — with me, Marshal Serna, Enrique Ugalde, Crystal Zingsheim, and Ashkelon Sain (photo by Abel, our pro photo waiter who insisted on the perfect shot!)

Saturday at 12:20pm via mobile
Day 4 was a pleasant day in San Luis Obispo. While the others played on Avila Beach I headed to the hills of Arroyo Grande with dad to hang out with him, uncle Bob and their pal Lupe for a laid back afternoon in the sun. Then dad, Bob and I hit McClintock's for steak dinners, and I was dropped off after at the Madonna Inn for dinner with everyone. What followed was awesome, but you probably wouldn't believe it.

Tonight is our final Soriah show of the 2011 tour at Bar Sinister in Hollywood, where we will be joined by Jonathon Howitt on hand percussion. It will be a blast! Please come and let your area friends know if you're in SoCal!

Saturday at 5:52pm via mobile
performing with SoRIAH — at Bar Sinister.

23 hours ago via mobile
Day 5: those who are busy living life should not stop to blog about it. We drove to Hollywood, stopping at Andersen's Pea Soup for brunch. Checked into the Magic Castle and headed over to Bar Sinister, a large partially outdoor club. London Below from San Diego opened for us, and David J from Bauhaus, Aaron from my old New York band Mr.Downstairs and Lucas from Cinema Strange came to the show. We partied into the morning, with throat singing lessons and singalongs being the order of the evening.

Currently on the big drive home from Hollywood. In the Sacramento area, bound for a late dinner before trying to get some sleep. Day 6 won't be ending until around 9am, which should make work very interesting tomorrow...

8 hours ago
Day 6: a late start from Magic Castle, then off to breakfast at a dark, empty Mexican place instead of standing around for something better known. We dropped Johnathon off at LAX, then headed for home. A couple of meals, one California sunset and one Oregon sunrise later we arrived home safe and sound at 9am this morning. Thanks to all who came out, liked, or wished well the 2011 SoRIAH tour! It's been life-changing.

natural beauty

I wanted to look at comforting nature scenes after perusing Facebook this morning, so I typed 'natural beauty' into Google Images, and got beautiful landscape imagery mixed equally with airbrushed, made up women. Guess I should have expected that.

We are an odd species.