Friday, January 31, 2014

Movie Review: Lone Survivor

Every now and again some real scoops on the course of events in Afghanistan come my way. Here is the latest, in the form of a heartfelt review of the movie Lone Survivor.
The film does the SEALs and Army SF and aviation guys justice-- it's not just a typical, Hollywood over-the-top, shoot-'em'up full of wisecracking heroes, or with violence for the sake of violence, or just a vehicle for the "Special Effect of the Week" -- it's extremely well done from the human perspective of the members of the teams and supporting folks in AFG at that time, and sticks to the facts of the incident about 90%, much closer than most "based-on-a-true-story" movies in the past 40 years, which are often share only the title of the movie as the "basis" shared with the real-life event.
I cannot recommend it highly enough, as an example of "this is the way it was" (or is) in the Afghan War, complete with SNAFUS, etc.--  an understatement.   Warning though -- the folks in the movie talk like modern US special ops soldiers when they're among themselves on a combat deployment, so there is the "F-word" factor to deal with, but other than that, there's no gratuitous cussing, or violence, and being Afghanistan, no sex, but also, thank goodness, no over-the-top villain, nor smart-aleck Rambo-esque uberHeroes, or compilation of every odd or heroic event that ever happened to a SEAL team in Afghanistan, ever, all rolled into one to make a film. In fact, far from it, and the facts of the particular mission depicted were well-documented and known by a whole lot of people at the time in Theater and back here as well.
Even though that mission (that went bad) involved some serious shootouts, the blood is "realistic" but not deliberately gory.  The firefights that occur are possibly the most realistic portrayal of modern small arms, sounds, rate of fire, usage, etc. that I've seen, very much a la Saving Private Ryan. There's few technical details that they didn't get right -- even down to the skimpy little plywood huts, dust, and constant activity etc. endemic to a forward airfield, though in order to film the events and have the viewer see what's going on, they had to alter the lighting to daylight conditions for some scenes that actually occurred at night, and in some cases had to shorten the ranges involved so that the viewer will be able to discern what was happening -- as simply filming a modern battle in progress would be unable to show the intensity of what's going on, due to the distances often involved, though this mission did, in fact, involve some very close combat.
Above all, the film captures the personalities and lives of the people involved, and is a fitting homage to our troops "over there" for the past 12 years.  It was reportedly very difficult to even get this film made, as the SEALs, Navy, and Army SF didn't want it made, as they didn't feel that Hollywood could ever do the subject and the people involved "justice" -- a la, the idiotic portrayal of the military and intelligence community in the hunt for Bin Laden as depicted in "Zero Dark Thirty", which is so utterly ludicrous, I, and virtually everyone else I know, refuse to watch it and just-as-heartily recommend AGAINST wasting your time & money to see.
However, that is not the case with this movie --  I think it really did the teams over in AFG, and their families very well, without trying to embellish or be larger-than-life, and succeeded very well in that regard.  I recommend it, especially for the Big Screen.  Of course, you can tell how good it is by the fact that the critics (which don't know crap about modern military and military-political affairs, period) and view the military with disdain, gave it only about a 70% rating, and of course, they don't like or appreciate what the "common people" like or appreciate-- there were tears in the theater when we went, mine included, as I knew some people on that operation, and have met other that were on it, and many, many others like them over the years, and have often wondered (and in some cases, later found out) which of the faces in the room wouldn't live out the coming months, so since this is, thus far, the "only" film on the war in Afghanistan worth seeing. Ya' gotta wonder why Hollywood just doesn't "get it", and hasn't even made an attempt to produce such a movie about the war in Iraq or Afghanistan in all these years.

Check it out.

Government Can't Do It, Duh!

The Washington Post buried the damning Obamacare poll results in the last paragraph.
It [the Kaiser poll] found that a quarter of the uninsured had a favorable view of the law this month, while nearly twice as many held an unfavorable view. While the uninsured were negative overall about the law in December, they were less so then, with 36 percent of uninsured people offering a favorable assessment and 43 percent responding unfavorably.
Here is a full and transparent look at the poll results now that the website is supposedly fixed, comparing the last data point (Jan.) to the old days of the failing website, free of double and triple negatives, obfuscation and sad sack excuses.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll

Those without health insurance, whom Obamacare was supposedly intended to help, are turning their backs on the monstrosity. Less than one out of four of the alleged beneficiaries have a favorable impression. As the uninsured have learned about the law, support has dropped over 60 percent (from 57 to 24). With all the promotion, education, navigating and speechifying, subsidized by billions of dollars of taxpayer support, as many as ever of the target audience don't know what to think about the spaghetti mess. Obamacare is an epic government failure.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Things to do in Three Forks, Montana.

If you ever stop by Three Forks, Montana, check out the Iron Horse Cafe. Then amble down a few blocks to the Three Forks Justice Court. We heartily recommend tracking down Ernie Wayne Tertelgte.

"I am the living natural man, and I have a right to forage for food." "I only understand natural law and the right to live." "Do not tell me to shut up!." I've got a rebellious streak. I like this dude.  I hope you do too.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Prius Driver Goes Ballistic

One thing I love about living in Bozeman is that a Prius is essentially useless and virtually nonexistent.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4d: I. J. Foster -- They Came to Make Sure He Was Dead

This post, and the On the Road to Bathgate series as a whole, are a journey in learning about, understanding and documenting a family's legacy. This journey began 4 years ago in a small grove of trees on an otherwise open plain near Bathgate, North Dakota at the protestant cemetery (located on land donated by my great grandfather William K. Foster). My oldest daughter launched the journey at the grave of my grandfather, Isaac J. Foster, who on this earth was supported by a cast of 11 children, his wife, Laura Elizabeth Armstrong Foster, and a host of others. I. J. was called from the mortal world 80 years ago but left an unmistakable trail.

When the family went out west in 2010 to scout potential retirement locales, we stopped at my father's home town of Bathgate. I stuck my head in at Reiny's (a bar and the sole remaining retail business in town, now population 43) and inquired of the cemetery's location. We followed the directions kindly given, going south down Garfield Street, left on County Road 1, and beyond the old Great Northern railroad right of way, in total about a half mile out of town. Looking off to the right I spied a grove of trees whose vision triggered memories of my last visit, more than 40 years previous.
Bathgate Cemetery satellite view screenshot, Google Maps
We drove to a parking strip next to the grove, parked, explored the cemetery, and located the Foster family plot. We brushed away leaves and grass clippings from the family headstones and cleared dirt that had accumulated across the edges. My kids found flowers to place on the graves. When we departed the cemetery, my daughter turned to me and said, "Dad, I really feel like I come from somewhere now."

The Foster family plot at Bathgate -- a place from where she comes.
This journey is about filling in missing blanks in that "somewhere." 

The year was 1934 and the Foster era in Bathgate was coming to an end. It had begun when William K. Foster and sons (including my grandfather Isaac) homesteaded quarter section (160 acre) claims in 1879, perfected those claims, and worked with a developer to build the town of Bathgate on one of those claims. Fosters lived in, promoted and served the town for fifty plus years thereafter. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Morning Musings on the Misleading

I was momentarily encouraged.

On the front of the paper this morning, we learn that "North Dakota's congressional delegation is pressing the Obama administration to reverse course on proposed changes that would significantly reduce the amount of ethanol in the country's fuel supply." Wow, something sensible I thought. The government is pulling back on one of its green in name only environmental follies -- a corny requirement. Alas, it is not to be. The EPA is merely maintaining the current insanity which has driven up food prices, polluted rural environments, and recklessly put sensitive and marginal lands into crop production. Only in Washington, DC is maintaining the status quo considered a significant reduction.

Then, a dose of redemption on the editorial page was Thomas Sowell's latest column, beginning thus:
Someone summarized Barack Obama in three words -- "educated," "smart" and "ignorant." Unfortunately, those same three words would describe all too many of the people who come out of our most prestigious colleges and universities today.
Sewell recounts the collapse and destruction country states and regimes over the centuries whose overarching goal is economic equality. He points out that
President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom
to the richest of Americans, Warren Buffett.
there is no income gap between men and women when they are "in the same occupation, with the same skills, experience and education, hours of work and continuous years of full-time work."  He points out that the income studies about the status of the 1 percent do not concern "flesh-and-blood human beings" who contrary to the studies' implications "are moving from one bracket to another over time."  Sowell is a good read.  Check him out. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4c: By George We Got It

We are knitting together stories, finding and fitting missing pieces of information, and adding granularity to the picture of our family heritage. 

Like many, we have old family photos of people long departed from this world whose identities are in dispute, taken in places no longer directly recognizable. One of those is the following photo that was posted on the internet a year ago by a cousin, a direct descendant of my aunt Florence Foster King, looking for people to share stories about family history and the early days of Bathgate, North Dakota.

Undated Foster family photo.

The two young ones are comfortably settled in a coaster wagon, pulled by a lamb and a turkey harnessed to the same. The young girl is holding the reins, and the little boy is posing towards the photographer. The photo is said to be of Fosters. Outbuildings are in the background, framed by small grove of medium trees. Charlotte had written in the Hamilton Fair paragraph on page 17 of her third-person perspective family history, "A buck sheep and a tom turkey had been trained to pull us in a child's wagon," but it was not clear who "us" referred to. We surmised, based on appearances, that the girl was my Aunt Charlotte and the boy my father George, but we could not be positive, not by any means.

But digging through microfiche archived copies of the Bathgate (N.D.) Pink Paper, I found a previously unknown and confirming information link, which is about the
Bathgate Pink Paper, May 31, 1911
turkey no less, who went by the name of Tom. It turns out the turkey was quite the celebrity. On May 31, 1911 the Pink Paper reported:

There is great mourning among the little ones at the Ike Foster ranch. Tom, the old turkey gobbler which was such a pet and which Herby drove in harness and cart at the Hamilton Fair last year, took cold in the storm of Thursday and died of pneumonia a few days later. Most of the visitors at the fair will remember the oddly assorted team driven by Herby, consisting of a pet lamb and old Tom the gobbler. The matter of the loss of a turkey, more or less, may not seem a great matter to most people but to the dozen young Fosters he was an institution, a playmate, an old friend, almost a member of the family and his going left them quite disconsolate, for, had they not raised him from a chick and taught him many things, most important of all, that driving in harness. They had made him unique in his line, the only track turkey in the state and it was the results of their efforts and their success in an effort. No wonder they feel his loss.
Herby was my Uncle Herb who drove a more conventionally propelled bus for the Chicago Transit Authority after serving in the navy during World War II. Herb turned 12 years old in 1911. My Aunt Charlotte Foster Von Alman was the the only girl among the final four of the Foster children who survived childbirth. She turned 5 years old in 1911. My father, George Foster, would have been 21 months old at the time of the turkey's demise. The age profiles, picture and supporting newspaper story fit our surmise perfectly -- no other Foster kid combination would do. So now by George we got it -- picture positively identified for posterity. Case closed.

By the way, one of those Wagner Coaster wagons sold for $675.00 on eBay earlier this month. Dig that stuff out of the attic, the storage shed and the hay loft -- it pays.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Beware of the Straight Line: Or How Do You Spell Parabola?

Gauged by the ice cover extent on the Great Lakes, the global warming "trend" is beginning to look more and more like a parabola.

Great Lakes Ice

Comparison of ice coverage since 1980 for Jan 22nd each year from Environment Canada (essentially the National Weather Service of Canada)
And continuing from the National Weather Service Forecasting Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
The image below (from Environment Canada) shows the current year weekly ice coverage for all of the Great Lakes versus the median value (green line) since 1980.  You'll notice that we are more than double the median value for the week around Jan 22nd, and that the current value is actually about 20% higher than the typical peak of ice coverage that occurs around March 12th each year. 

But always remember and never forget -- only evidence that supports global warming theories is actual evidence.

Texas Lunatics to Take up Golf

That is the essence of how I came to play the sport. But the headline is from the Cavalier (N. D.) Chronicle on September 28, 1928 (source, microfiche at the State Historical Society of North Dakota) long predating my birth. Here is the article in full.
           TO TAKE UP GOLF 
State Lays Out Course on
Grounds of Asylum
Austin, Texas -- Lively times are in prospect on the new golf course which the state board of control is laying out on the grounds of the state insane asylum at Austin. Inmates of the institution make it their principle topic of discussion, and they are already preparing to challenge some of the best golf players of the state for match games.  It is theory of R. B. Walthall, chairman of the board of control, that playing golf will result in much physical and mental benefit to insane patients.  The board is
The Cavalier Chronicle 9/28/1928
preparing to establish golf course at ll of the other nine insane asylums, sanitariums, training schools and hospitals of the state.
"Some of the institutions have more ground than others, but we shalll see to it that all get golf courses" Mr. Walthall said. "It will be recommended to superintendents that they set certain hours of the day for certain groups in order that all may get a few rounds each day. If this can be arranged, the 2,000 inmates at the Terrelll asylum and 2,000 at the Austin asylum will get in their 'daily dozen.' The Wichita Falls Insane hospita has but 1,029 inmates.  
"Many of these inmates already are doing outdoor work, such as gardening, but some kind of sport also is needed. Most of these institutions raise their own garden truck and have dairies that produce sufficient mile and butter. This largely reduces the states expense and nearly all of the work is accomplished by patients. We tasked patients recently to put up a building at San Antonio and they thoroughly enjoyed the labor. It did them much good." 
Over in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Sentinel published a snappy rejoinder.
So do lunatics outside the State Asylum at Austin.
You would think the poor souls at the Austin asylum had enough to worry about without running around all day replacing imaginary divots.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. There is no more sane place to do that than at the golf course.

Update: No sooner I had published this post then the following banner ad showed up on my computer.  Help! They are reading my brain waves!

Friday, January 24, 2014

North Dakota Is Number One

North Dakota is the first state when it comes to a having a unique state capitol.

North Dakota's 19 story art deco Capitol tower completed in 1934, photo January 24, 2014.

And growing population, low unemployment and blistering economic growth.

In today's Bismarck Tribune we learn that North Dakota is leading the nation in population growth.
 BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota had the largest percentage growth of population in the latest U.S. Census Bureau release of such numbers.
The agency says the state grew by 3.1 percent from July 2012 to July 2013.
North Dakota's population has bounced back to exceed its previous high, experienced in 1930. This is a major short term turn around for the state as well, economically and oil driven.
Just a decade ago, North Dakota held the dubious distinction of being the only state to lose population. But its strong economy, led by the booming oil patch in the western part of the state, has attracted thousands of new residents in the past few years, reversing a decades-long trend of outmigration, where more people were going than coming, said Kevin Iverson, manager of the Census Office at the state Commerce Department. 
"Obviously, the reason people are migrating here is for economic opportunity," he said. "The economy in the rest of the country isn't very good, and if the rest of the country wasn't helping us out, we wouldn't be where we are at." 
North Dakota has gone from the nation's ninth-biggest oil producer in 2006 to the second, behind only Texas. The state has thousands more jobs than takers and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, at less than 3 percent, Job Service North Dakota data show. 
"After years of out-migration and population decline, it's great to see that our economic growth continues to keep North Dakotans home and that we are attracting new residents throughout the state," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a statement.
And the rebound here is bringing young people and all that vibrancy stuff into the state.
North Dakota Black Gold
theme hat, January 2014.
North Dakota's loss of young people between the ages of 25 and 39 was the highest outmigration rate of that age group in the United States from 1995 to 2000. The state's population is now getting younger. Census data show that the median age of North Dakota residents increased between 2000 and 2008, to 37.3 years of age. Since 2008, the median age of North Dakota residents has declined to 36.1 years of age, data show. 
Iverson said people have moved from all states to North Dakota. 
"Oil is the engine," he said. "It's just opportunity. People are realizing this is where the future is at."
Oil it is, black gold, North Dakota tea.

For more than 15 years, New York state has led the country in domestic outmigration: For every American who comes here, roughly two depart for other states. This outmigration slowed briefly following the onset of the Great Recession. But a recent Marist poll suggests that the rate is likely to increase: 36 percent of New Yorkers under 30 plan to leave over the next five years. Why are all these people fleeing? 
The drivers are clear.
For one thing, according to a recent survey in Chief Executive, our state [New York] has the second-worst business climate in the country. (Only California ranks lower.) People go where the jobs are, so when a state repels businesses, it repels residents, too.   
Indeed, the poll also found that 62 percent of New Yorkers planning to leave cited economic factors — including cost of living (30 percent), taxes (19 percent) and the job environment (10 percent) — as the main reason.   
Upstate, a big part of the problem is extraordinarily high property taxes. New York has the country’s 15 highest-taxed counties, including Nassau and Westchester, which rank Nos. 1 and 2.Most of the property tax goes toward paying the state’s Medicaid bill — which is unlikely to diminish, since the state’s most powerful lobby, the alliance of the hospital workers’ union and hospital management, has gone unchallenged by our new governor, Andrew Cuomo. 
North Dakota yes, New York state no.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4b: I. J. Foster the Land Man -- Before He Was Sheriff

Microfiche -- anyone remember that?  At the Historical Society of North Dakota a helpful archivist gave me a refresher course today. When we got the reader warmed up and a spool of old Pink Sheet (Bathgate, ND) newspaper images (starting in 1905) installed, we fast forwarded, and the reel stopped randomly at the following image. We had barely started and we were already drilling down into sources on Grandfather Ike.

In early 1905, I. J. Foster, "The Bathgate Land Man," beseeched readers to look for and buy land through him and then secure the purchase with hazard insurance -- a one stop shopping concept. He brought buyers and sellers together and serviced the sales.

I. J.'s advertising evolved. By 1906 the one man land show was an agency ("Foster Land Agency") adding loans, leasing, purchasing for investment and managing properties for non-residents to the portfolio. The advertising was tweaked again.

In 1907 Ike de-emphasized the purchasing role and highlighted the lending facility. One can surmise that buying land for his own account was not doing as well as arm's length transactions.

1908 was the year of diversification.  Lest there be any doubt, I. J. informed the Pink Sheet's readers that picking up the auction sales role did not mean he was out of the real estate business, "for I am in that to stay."

In 1910 the message was simplified to a picture and a short declarative. Later that year Ike ran for Sheriff of Pembina County -- and won.

Christie is Chump Change

I have not said a word in defense of New Jersey governor Chris Christie and his minions concerning their a-bridging traffic at the George Washington Bridge. And I won't. But Christie's escapade is chump change compared to the crap that goes on in the Obama administration. Take for example, this episode involving Obama confidant, tax cheat Timothy Geithner, as U.S. Treasury Secretary.
In an affidavit filed this week in federal court in the Central District of California, McGraw Hill Chairman and CEO Harold McGraw III describes events in the summer of 2011. On Friday, Aug. 5, S&P stripped the United States of its longtime triple-A credit rating. Mr. McGraw says that on Monday morning Aug. 8, he was told by an official of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that Mr. Geithner, who had previously run the New York Fed, "was very angry at S&P." 
Mr. McGraw says that later that morning Mr. Geithner himself called. Mr. McGraw says that when he returned the call, "Mr. Geithner expressed anger at the downgrade." The two men then argued over whether S&P had made a calculation error, with Mr. McGraw saying that the firm had relied on official statistics from the Congressional Budget Office. According to the affidavit, the Treasury Secretary continued to insist that an error had been made and then told Mr. McGraw: "You are accountable for that." 
In his sworn statement Mr. McGraw adds that, "As I reported contemporaneously to my colleagues, [Mr. Geithner] said that 'you have done an enormous disservice to yourselves and to your country', that the U.S. economy was bad and that the downgrade had done real damage. S&P's conduct would be 'looked at very carefully' he said. Such behavior could not occur, he said, without a response from the government."
Subsequently, among all the ratings agencies whose faulty bond ratings contributed to the financial meltdown, the U.S. moved in court only against S&P, claiming $5 billion in damages. This is an example of retribution beyond the pale. I mean, by God, I have history with McGraw Hill and S&P. They are unethical. I don't like them, not in the least. But that does not justify abuse of power. Period.

Thoughts and Greetings From North Dakota

Welcome to North Dakota postage stamp.
The world is happening all around us. Thank God for the opportunity to look around, experience, engage and enjoy.

We are in Bismarck (population 61,272 as of the 2010 census) today, the state capital of North Dakota. People are happy, excited and friendly. You can sense the oil money all around. The roads are wide and smooth and heavily populated with late model full-size SUV's and extended cab pick-up trucks. Buildings are new and bright -- construction projects abound. Help wanted signs are everywhere. Traffic volume is up, stores are buzzing and restaurant parking lots are crowded. The daily newspaper is four sections thick. Awash in oil revenues, the state has created a massive legacy fund, and a revolving school construction bond fund that parcels out loans to local school boards charging one percent interest. If you want work, if you need work, this is the place to come.

It being January, the deal -- of course -- comes with some conditions. In the eastern half of the state there are ground blizzard warnings, as 50 plus mile an hour wind gusts roil down the plains from Canada stirring up snow to cause limited -- as low as zero -- visibility. The forecast for this afternoon in Bismarck is for wind chills down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Tonight, the raw temperature is expected to drop to 24 below zero.

Four "March for Life" buses loading in Atchison, Kansas.
 Photo Kansas City Star.
Meanwhile today, back in DC, in the Nation's capital, the March for Life goes on on this anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, despite the ice and snow that closed down your federal government yesterday and most schools throughout the region staying closed today. During the decades I worked in DC, this usually was the largest demonstration of the year, yet it receives scant media attention. I could not help but notice the hundreds of buses that ferried in passengers from throughout the country, parked along and surrounding the three mile loop that rings Hains Point. No other event brought in so many.

I admit, that most of my adult life I was indifferent to abortion. I would say, I can't get pregnant. It's not my issue. Then we had kids in what are referred to geriatric pregnancies, which means that every time mom twitches, someone is doing a sonogram. Early term in multiple pregnancies, I repeatedly saw the squirmy, active, engaging humanoid within and saw and heard the tiny beating heart. After that experience I don't see how I could have the heart to be party to a decision to terminate a baby. I wish that, somehow, others could have the same experiences to assist in bringing the scourge of abortions to an early end. God bless my wife for sticking with it and giving birth to our three little miracles.

Our three little miracles.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

That Will Be a Titleist on the Rocks Please

Left, right, left.

Then in.

Congratulatons in the second round of the 2014 Humana Challenge, to amateur Chris Mohan who makes a “rocky” birdie on the par-3 17th hole.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lake Erie Ice Covered

As of yesterday, Lake Erie is virtually 100 percent ice covered, according to satellite imagery developed by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).

GLERL January 19 image of Lake Erie. Blue is open water.
Being covered with ice is different form being frozen over because the ice is of varying concentrations. Most of Lake Erie's ice cover is in the 90 to 99 percent range with small portions considered 99 to 100 percent or 70 to 90 percent covered.  But the partial freeze will not last long.

On the southern shore of Lake Erie, where the temperatures normally are warmest, the forecast is frigid.  In Cleveland the outlook is for highs in the teens and lows in the single digits. 

Cleveland 5-day forecast screenshot courtesy Accuweather.

Odds are strongly in favor that by the end of the week, Lake Erie will be completely frozen over.

Lake Erie last froze over in 2010 much later in the season (February 13).  And prior to 2010 the last time Erie froze was the 1995-96 winter season.  

We will continue to watch the epic freeze as the winter marches on.

How Not to Invest

If you accused me of talking up successes and ignoring failures in my investment posts you would be largely correct. Investing is like golf. You need to think positively. Don't think about not hitting the ball in the water to the right; envision your ball landing safely in the fairway on the left. Don't hit the ball over the gaping sand trap in the front of the green; strike a solid shot to the green's center. 

Forget about what not to do. Sport psychologists say your subconscious focuses on the "to do" and forgets the preceding "not." If you are thinking I don't want to hit the ball in the water you pretty much doom your shot to a watery grave. For that reason, when I write about investing, mostly what I write about is what I've done well. I get better results thinking about making money than about not losing it. You probably will too.

That's not to say there is nothing to learn from the negatives. Get mad for a minute or two if you need to, but get over it. Whether it is investing, relationships, lifestyle, work or sports, when you bottom out, it is best to learn quickly -- think in terms of what could have been done better and different so the lesson can be brought forward. While there is no payoff in dwelling on failure, there is even less payoff in repeating it. But when it comes time to execute, see the shot you want to hit, the swing you want to make, or the return you want to earn, and execute accordingly.

Now let me talk about one of my most bone-headed investment moves, starting with the lame excuse that I had conjured in the beginning, an excuse that pretty much doomed the effort before I even started. The amount was $5,000. It wasn't much money I thought. I mean, $5,000 is a lot to spend.  It is plenty to make.  But not much to invest, right?  Well, I wasn't thinking clearly because that is a lot of money to waste.

It was 2008. My managed IRA money was in old-style tax-deferred IRA accounts that I had first opened in the 1980's. The way the numbers worked out in 2008 I was eligible to contribute $5,000 to an IRA. I contributed whenever I could. And I bought into the conventional thinking that a Roth IRA was the right choice, which doesn't shelter current income but excepts investment proceeds from income for all time. 

To start a Roth I needed to open new account. I realized that I probably would not be able add to the Roth IRA in subsequent years. So this was to be a one-shot deal. At the time, because of the market volatility, I was managing my other accounts day by day. But I convinced myself, under the circumstances, the best and easiest thing to do for this small account was to forget about market volatility. Don't waste my time managing $5K. This would be an invest it and forget it account.

With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, the assisted living space seemed like a can't miss proposition. I chose Sunrise Senior Living as my primary Roth IRA investment. Sunrise was an industry leader, flooding affluent ZIP Codes with its mansion concept facilities.
McLean VA Sunrise Senior Living "Mansion"
Accounting irregularities had surfaced and beaten down the price of the stock, but it looked like the bad accounting affected timing of revenues and profits more than the ultimate amounts. 

I invested virtually the entire Roth IRA in Sunrise and tried to forget about it. The stock went down I noticed. It will come back I thought. The stock went down further. Oh, it will come back I thought again. The stock dropped further and further. In less than a year my $5,000 plummeted to less than $400, a decline of 93 percent.  It turned out that Sunrise had played the real estate bubble to get itself into a horrible mess in Europe; and in the U.S. it had started several high rise condo developments that became insolvent. Sunrise cratered, it seemed almost overnight, from industry leader to a leading candidate for bankruptcy.

I felt like a fool.  My tax shelter turned into a tax liability because Roth IRA losses were not deductible, and neither could they be used to offset capital gains earned elsewhere.

What were the lessons? I learned to diversify. I learned there is no such thing as invest it and forget it. And I learned to sell a stock in free fall. Then buy it back for less if I think it has a chance.

And I started paying close attention to Sunrise. And what I ultimately learned, most important of all, was that Sunrise was not likely to fold. Sunrise really was everything that I initially thought it was. It was merely a question whether and when Sunrise could get beyond its huge missteps. Over a period of months, reviewing SEC filings and press releases, listening to Sunrise's quarterly conference calls and carefully reviewing its financial statements, I concluded that Sunrise's lenders were in control and were working diligently to help it remain solvent. So I bought thousands of additional shares of Sunrise at a dollar and change in my other brokerage accounts.

The fall and rise of my Roth IRA.
I also held on to Sunrise in my Roth IRA account. The assisted living company's came back to the point that I sold my Roth holdings of Sunrise in the summer of 2012 for close to half their initial purchase price. I promptly used the proceeds to buy Facebook stock near its all time low. Now my Roth account balance is closing in on the initial investment; I may actually benefit from the Roth tax advantaged status some day.  

Effective January 9, 2013 Sunrise sold out to Healthcare REIT for $14.50 a share. We went out to dinner that night and had a nice little celebration. Good luck to all!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cooke City Avalanche

This video is a lesson in what not to do.

This dude was foolish and lucky.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate: The Odyssey Continues

When the sane among us here in Montana travel in the winter, we go to places like Scottsdale and Tuscon, Honolulu, or the Florida Keys, South Beach and Tampa Bay. As for myself, I am planning a trip to North Dakota -- not a remunerative journey like some of our neighbors, who drive over for a week out of every two or three to work the Bakken oil field, but travel for pleasure. The destination is the state capital city of Bismarck to delve into the records of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

We have documented in our Road to Bathgate series that my father was born and raised in Bathgate North Dakota.  His father (and my grandfather) was I. J. (Isaac) Foster.  His mother (and my grandmother) was Laura Elizabeth Armstrong Foster. There were 11 children who lived to adulthood, with my father the last born in 1909. Among other things, the State Historical Society of North Dakota maintains records of Bathgate newspapers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I am hoping to find a treasure trove of family references and lore and to learn more about the founding, rise and zenith of Bathgate.

To conduct pre-research I opened my wallet to get behind the paywall of which has digitized copies available of the Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune beginning in 1873. It is proving to be quite a resource.

Saturday Pictures

Saturday Pictures
January 18, 2014
(click to enlarge)

We had some good light yesterday.  Enjoy!

Can you find the very same white horse in the following picture?

See final picture for white horse location.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Obamacare Lies Go Viral

The White House is grossly overstating (i.e., lying about) the number of people who have signed up for accounts as a result of Obamacare -- the Medicare component by possibly a factor of ten and private insurance by a yet undisclosed amount. The Barack Obama originated and perpetrated frauds continues.

The only question about this is why the horse manure that is spewed forth by Dear President, his political organization and his White House lackeys only gets three Pinocchio's from the Washington Post.

Look closely at this tweet by the @BarackObama account, maintained by the pro-Obama group Organizing for America. The 6 million figure comes from combining a figure of 2.1 million for people selecting a plan via state and federal exchanges, through December, and 3.9 million for Medicaid, through November. Thus the claim that “6 million Americans have already signed up for coverage thanks to health reform.”
There is much less to the Medicaid figure than meets the eye. (The exchange figure has been updated recently, to 2.2 million, but not the Medicaid figure.) Indeed, there has been vast confusion about what this figure means, especially in the news media. The Fact Checker cited the 3.9 million figure in a few recent columns, but prodded by a colleague as well as an interesting analysis by Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics, we decided to take a closer look. 
Bottom line: This number tells you almost nothing about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting Medicaid enrollment. Reporters need to stop using it.
So nice, the Washington Post looking our for other reporters. Wondering who is going to get fired for misleading the American people?  The answer to this, of course, is no one, for the political whores installed in the White House have no integrity whatsover. You get what you vote for and you vote for what you get.  Good luck to all. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Freezing Your Butt Off

You don't need to live in Montana to experience this.

It's fun to go back every now and then to get an update on our old haunts in Virginia from the Arlington Yupette who keeps us appraised of profligacy in the inside the Beltway spending bubble. Take the million dollar bus stop, for instance.


Warning: County's Million Dollar Bus Shelter May Be Hazardous to Your Butt

Hey, Yupette,

I visited the County's famous Million Dollar Bus Shelter on Columbia Pike at Noon today and no one was sitting down while waiting for a bus. Outdoor temp was 15 and I wondered how cold the steel seats were. So I brought my refrigerator's thermometer and put it on the steel bench inside the bus shelter in the sunlight. As you can see, after about 5 minutes the thermometer read 18 degrees.

Sheesh. You would think that after spending a million the County could install a nice piece of non-endangered species hardwood over the steel, in the winter at least. Guess all the County's spare disposable income will be going to fund the Pike streetcar.

Another reason I won't be voting for a Democrat as the successor to Chris Zimmerman this year.

Pike Rider

It's all being done in the name of "green," "mixed use" and "transit oriented" development supported by the global warming and peak oil (man, they are in hiding now, aren't they?) crowds, development that is built for and owned by massive corporate, tax advantaged REIT's. Keep it up Yupette, keep it up.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Beware the Avalanche

I am not talking about hockey. One thing that is new and different about living among the northern Rockies is the ever present danger of avalanche. That hit home huge during this new year when one of our eighth grader's classmates lost his father in an avalanche down near Big Sky (more on that to come below).

Avalanche dangers are severe this winter with a mostly deeper than normal snow pack, a soft sugary base, extreme changes in temperature and high winds leading to multiple unstable snow and ice layers. Getting caught in an active avalanche is like being trapped in a spinning dryer. After the avalanche settles, even if a victim survives without serious injury, the troubles have only just begun. Victims are likely to be disoriented, buried alive and trapped with little or no available oxygen.

An avalanche can be triggered by snow or ice falling off a bow of a tree, by a hiker, skier or snow shoer, by a wild or domesticated animal, by a snow machine, or by some other movement or projectile, or by the sheer weight of accumulated ice and snow and a gust of wind.  

"What should you do if you are caught in an avalanche?" The Los Angeles Times asked John Snook, avalanche forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Monday, January 13, 2014



Think Your Employer Plan is Safe? More Cancellations Coming

So says the Washington Post,
When millions of health-insurance plans were canceled last fall, the Obama administration tried to be reassuring, saying the terminations affected only the small minority of Americans who bought individual policies.
Employer mandates are coming.
But according to industry analysts, insurers and state regulators, the disruption will be far greater, potentially affecting millions of people who receive insurance through small employers by the end of 2014. 
While some cancellation notices already have gone out, insurers say the bulk of the letters will be sent in October, shortly before the next open-enrollment period begins.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on the high level and reliability of coverage for those whose health care has already been cancelled and replaced -- not.
FORT WORTH — Paul D. Donahue and his wife, Angela, are among more than a million Americans who have signed up for health coverage through the federal insurance exchange. Mr. Donahue has a card in his wallet from his insurer to prove it. But when he tried to use it to get a flu shot and fill prescriptions this week, local pharmacies could not confirm his coverage, so he left without his medications.
Similar problems are occurring daily in doctors’ offices and drugstores around the country as consumers try to use insurance coverage that took effect on Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.
In addition to the difficulties many face in proving they have coverage, patients are also having a hard time figuring out whether particular doctors are affiliated with their health insurance plan. Doctors themselves often do not know if they are in the network of providers for plans sold on the exchange.
CNN agrees,
Jeanne Patterson really needs to see a doctor but had to cancel her appointment last week.
Why? Because her new Obamacare benefits were not in order, forcing her to spend hours and hours on hold with her insurer, Independence Blue Cross.

Many folks who signed up for coverage through the state and federal exchanges are running into roadblocks now that they are trying to use their new benefits.
Obamacare is self immolating.
And though exchange officials and insurers have urged consumers to call their insurers if they encounter problems, many say they either wait endlessly on hold or get the runaround. Coverage for the first wave of Obamacare applicants took effect Jan. 1.
If you like your health care plan you can keep it?  If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor? America, so happy you elected the callous, graceless, inept, deceptive, lying skunk in the Oval Office.  Good luck to all!