Category Archives: Life

Any idea worth putting out there.

Movie Review: The Big Short

I just watched the movie The Big Short. It portrays itself as exposing the truth. It exposes the truth about the actions at the very top of the “housing crisis” problem, but it fails to really drive home the scope of the problem. Yes, people at the banks were apathetic, irresponsible, and crooked, and their actions ultimately resulted in taxpayers footing the bill. However, it portrays the other participants in the problem as victims, and I believe this is an injustice.

One statement in the movie in particular clearly emphasizes my point and I want to bring it up because it is so pervasive in our language. They quote a statistic about people being evicted from homes they lived in that banks bought for them by saying, “X million people lost their homes.” No. Those X million people never owned homes in the first place. The first people to be evicted in such a situation are those who took low-money-down, teaser-rate mortgages. That means they never paid a dime for “their” home. That’s the nature of such loans. The bank took a huge chance trying to give them something they never earned in the first place. They were irresponsible and undisciplined enough to take it and not pay. Maybe you could say they were naive enough to take it. Maybe even the loan sharks practically forced it on them. Regardless, they were part of the problem and nothing was taken from them that they actually earned. X million other people weren’t greedy enough to fall for such obvious gimmick loans, remained living right where they were, and happily waited out the crisis watching it on network TV over a new digital antenna.

Is the problem behind us? No. I don’t know what the next “crisis” is, but I know how to survive it. Avoid the following irresponsible, undisciplined decisions: cable TV (yes, that’s right, you will not know what to do with your spare time, see suggestions below), car loans (yes, save up then drive a used car), smoking pot (it makes you dumb and lazy I’ve seen it personally), credit card debt (pay it off by all means necessary especially by quitting the other items on this list), excessive alcohol (quit entirely if you have to).

I’m going to add to the list: ridiculously expensive but worthless college degrees. Students are the latest fad hapless debtor voters  for the government to victimize and force taxpayers to bail out. Oh, but certainly education is important! Getting drunk and high for 4 years and talking about your feelings is not an education, even if you pay $35K per year to do it.

Do: read. Information is out there.

Do: exercise. Bad health is expensive.

Of note, they show a guy with a family in the movie who is evicted even though he paid his rent because the owner defaulted. That is truly unfortunate. However, I personally work hard to ensure that those who pay their rent, as is reflected by their credit score, have a safe and stable place to live and pay their rent on time!

Nate’s Favorite Things 2016

I have just two favorite things this year. They must be good then!

1. Audible and The Great Courses

The Great Courses are separate from, but available through Audible. They each deserve to be on my list in their own right, but I group them together because that’s how I buy them. I have an Audible subscription and I use many of my monthly credits on The Great Courses. Audible is Amazon’s way of selling audio books. For me, they have transformed several otherwise boring tasks such as removing wallpaper, yard work, and driving between Ohio and North Carolina, into riveting adventures. The Great Courses are series of lectures organized into 30 or 45 minute segments given by the best professors that academia has to offer on each subject. I am currently listening to my 4th. I highly recommend “History’s Greatest Stories of Exploration,” to start. You’ll be hooked! Better than fiction!

2. Darn Tough Socks

Have you ever been down to your last socks and thought, “This is gonna be a bad sock day.” Why? Why wear cheap, thin old socks? Throw them out! Donate them! The industrial revolution has brought all the comforts that technology can offer and you reject the efforts of our ancestors by wearing third-rate socks to save a few dollars? Socks touch your skin all day long. They have to deal with your sweaty feet. They support you when you stand and walk. They have to fit like gloves. If you spend more than $10,000 on a car in which you spend less than an hour per day, how can you justify saving $10 on socks? It’s ridiculous!

Darn Tough socks were part of the gear issued when I was in the military before we went on deployment. Great gear. Everybody loved them. They are expensive, but worth the money. There is only one drawback, they are not good for hot weather.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! I hope you kick back with some new socks and listen to an audio book!

Oprah has 104 favorite things this year. That’s 2 new things per week, each week, all year long. Really!? Clearly my list is 52 times as authentic as hers.

Our Best Song Lyrics

Have you ever learned the words to a song and found that it totally changes your experience? For example, have you ever known a couple whose first dance was to Every Breath You Take by The Police? It’s a nice song, but it’s about an obsessive stalker. Sting even says that’s what it’s about. Have you ever been to a wedding where they play Get Low by Lil Jon? Those lyrics require no explanation.

What are we listening to??? The following are three more songs with interesting lyrics:

  1. Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid released in 1984. You have heard this on the radio during Christmas. This was the all-time top selling single in the UK until 1997 when It was passed by Candle in the Wind by Elton John. I heard it on the radio just days ago.
  2. Just Dance by Lady Gaga, 2008. Lady Gaga’s first single, it topped the charts in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.
  3. Talking Body by Swedish artist Tove Lo, 2015. This peaked at #12 on the Billboard Top 100.

They are all 3 super-catchy. Total toe-tappers. I like all 3.

However! Read the lyrics out loud to somebody. How does it make you feel?

Just listen to this wholesome 2016 jam from Australian artist Sia to cheer yourself back up.

Thanks, but No Thanks

Dear Federal Government,

This just doesn’t feel right. I’ve seen your balance sheet and you can’t afford to send me this “disability” check. I’m not cashing it.

If I’m not taking the money, then why did I submit a claim? I submitted a claim because it is the only way to not be forced to pay for medical coverage that is falsely expensive because of your, the government’s, involvement.

For the record, I did not lie on my claim. I listed all my aches and pains–which thankfully are minor–and let the system decide. I got 10%. I really don’t know all the politics behind this issue, and I’m not a health care professional, but there is no way that I should be receiving free money.

I will be at my first annual check-up at the VA medical center, where the nurses and doctors have been very accommodating and professional, on the 16th because that is what I need. I will continue to live a healthy lifestyle for myself, and to fulfill my responsibility to not be a drain on the system.

I will continue to save my money when I can. I hope you can do the same. You can start with my two hundred some dollars a month. It would be nice to cash the check and throw it on the giant pile that I’ve saved by not buying into the American consumer society that you’ve promoted, but I really don’t need it.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Nate’s Favorite Things 2015

Oprah has 87 favorite things this year. For her favorite things, click her picture.

Oprah Christmas
Click the picture for Oprah’s favorite things.

Notice she has teamed up with Amazon this year! She must have stolen that idea from me, since I have been doing that right here on my website since March 2014. Oprah is rich and trendy. Her favorite things are expensive and trendy. My favorite things are just awesome. See below.

1. GE LED Light Bulbs

Technology has finally produced a bulb to truly replace the incandescent light bulb. These have all of the advantages of the incandescent bulb with none of the drawbacks of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), and use less energy than CFLs. They even look just like regular light bulbs. Perfect for that guy on your list who just wants cash. One 60W equivalent that costs less than $6 saves more than $100 in electricity over the 22 year life of the bulb!

40 Watt Equivalent

60 Watt Equivalent

I have not bought anything more than a 60 watt. Maybe next year.

2. Simple Kneads Gluten-free Bread

Brand new product available to order only since last week! The best gluten-free bread available. Get it while it’s hot! My favorite is the sourdough.

3. The Best Phone Charger You Can Buy

Ever notice that some chargers charge your phone fast and some take a long time? That is because of the current rating of the charger. This thing puts out enough power to light that 40 watt (equivalent) bulb above! It also has a long cable with a little light on the end and a USB port so you can remove the cable.

4. The Best Car Charger You Can Buy

Same as above, but for your car.

5. Supplemental Battery

This will run any phone (even smart phones) for several days on a charge. I used it while traveling on my bike for days at a time.

6. Trailer Hitch Bike Rack

While not as beefy or secure as its name-brand $450 counterparts, it gets the job done for 130 bucks. It is certainly heavy-duty enough that the bikes will not come off on the highway. You can get it stolen twice and still spend the same as for the name-brand!

7. Go Buckeyes!

8. At a Glance Phrasebooks by Barron’s

For whatever language, At a Glance phrasebooks are the best you can buy. They have the usual phrases, as well as pronunciation, and a handy dictionary in the back. I have personally used the Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese. Good pocket size and sturdy cover. Only one fits in your pocket. This is the best one.

9. The Best Pens

How many different types of pens are out there? Way more than there should be. This should be the only type. They are the best.

10. Kindle Paperwhite and Carrying Case

The Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader out there. I haven’t used the other e-readers, so how do I know? Because you can’t improve on perfect. The screen looks like paper, the pages flip fast, and it has a built-in back light for reading at night. You’ll want to be able to carry it without scratching the screen and this case is just that. Nothing fancy, just a well-fitting cover.

11. Jump Rope

A great product for a great exercise. It has ball bearings, adjustable length, and what else do you need in a rope?

 

Book Report: The Bible

This is a work in progress, but that’s the point! Download the template, fill it out for your favorite book of the bible, then let’s discuss and I will post! I started with Judges, so you can use it as an example.

0. Blank Template

7. The Book of Judges by Nathan, Spring 2013

07 Judges Image

 

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. -Romans 15:4

Nielsen Survey

I was recently solicited to participate in a Nielsen household TV survey. They have a unique way of enticing participation. The first envelope has a lot of explanatory material and a request to participate, as well as–without explanation–$5 cash, a single five-dollar bill. I agreed to participate, so after a few weeks they sent me a second envelope with a “TV Viewing Diary” to be filled out in detail for two weeks; and again the cash–this time the envelope contained six five-dollar bills, $30 cash! I spent the fives on groceries, filled out the TV viewing diary (blank because I don’t watch), and took their TV survey. Now, like Pavlov’s dogs, I am expecting a thank you letter with more cash. I can’t wait to hear from Nielsen again!

At the end of the diary, Nielsen leaves space and asks you to “comment on TV in general.” This is my response:

Except for about two years in the middle, I haven’t had TV in my house since 2003 (for two years my roommates had one). At first I felt like I was missing something and like I didn’t know what was going on. After a few months, I no longer missed it and I gathered from conversations at work and with friends what was in the news and what was going on in various shows. After a few years, I started having the opinion that TV actually prevents people from really knowing what’s going on. I hear conversations about current shows and it’s all sensationalized fantasy.  People’s world view from the news is this chaotic, scary place, when really the world, for the most part, is fairly well-off, happy, and stable. When I see TV now, much of it is shocking and some of it is offensive. I do miss sports and ESPN. I watch ESPN
whenever I can! -Nathan Ruffing

Words to Live By

These are my favorite quotes. Some are famous, some are my own, and some are things I’ve heard friends say. Feel free to suggest some more.

Famous:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”
-A summation of Aristotle’s ideas by Will Durant

Friends’ Quotes:

“You don’t have to explain doing the right thing to me.”
-Sergeant Brad Johnson to my brother, at a party during college, when my brother was explaining why he had to leave the party to study. I prefer this variation,
“Never explain doing the right thing to anybody. Let them figure it out.”

“I strive to be a value, not a success.”
-Staff Sergeant Brandon Hayes during fitness report debrief. It is a variation of an Albert Einstein quote.

“The first one with a power point wins.”
-Major “IKE” Rossman to the company grade officers, meaning be the first to come up with a plan and it will become the plan.

My Own:

“Prepare: today is not over until you are ready for tomorrow.”

“Enjoy your meals. Work to eat. Don’t eat to work.”
-A variation of, “Work to live. Don’t live to work.”

My Favorite Things

Oprah and I have a few things in common. For one, we both have favorite things. If you want to see her favorite things, click her picture. If you would rather see my favorite things, read on.

OPR120113_000

Check out the Amazon Affiliate program for an explanation of why I made this post.

If you have never read your e-mails, browsed Facebook, Netflix, or YouTube from your couch, then you are missing out, trust me. With this on my lap, my wireless roller ball mouse in one hand and the King of Beers in the other, I am king of my domain (my domain being my living room).


Borderline sadistic, this product makes you want there to be more flies to kill. For an extra $10, there is also a PRO version for those man-eating horse flies.

This flashlight got me through many aircraft pre-flights in Afghanistan with the white light, then switched colors to green for the flight. Single AA battery, durable metal, bright enough. Must-have flashlight.

Favorite movie, hands down.

Seriously? They sell Snickers bars on Amazon? It is my favorite candy bar, but I actually don’t recommend buying 48 at a time…

The Ultimate Commuter Bike

Bike to work, because driving cars everywhere makes us soft and weak. Here are my latest rides:

This is the Ultimate Commuter Bike. The bike and accessories are tried and true by me for over 1400 miles and counting. Build one with the links in this post.

In order to set yourself up for commuter success, the right accessories are the key. Flat tires, you can’t have them. Theft, it might happen, but it can’t break the bank if it does. The sun is down half the time. You are going to have to ride in the dark.

It is simple and reliable. The bike is a single speed. The single speed chain never comes off and rarely needs adjusted. The bike itself, the Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno costs $399.

The “egg beater” pedal clips are great for beginners. They are designed for mountain biking, making them easy to get in and out of and impervious to dirt.

I have never had a single flat on the tires. The bike pump is portable and effective for keeping those tires hard and ready to ride.

Inexpensive: A simple, lightweight cable that you can wrap around the frame prevents crimes of opportunity, but short of carrying a U-Lock everywhere, theft can happen. $400 for the bike is the least you will pay for a legitimate bike. If it does get stolen–like mine did in 2012–hopefully you’ve gotten a few hundred miles out of it first.

Versatile: the cyclocross bike is good on the road, and still able to go off road when necessary unlike sissy pure road bikes with tiny tires.

Day and night: with the bright rechargeable AA battery powered headlight and AAA battery powered tail light, day and night riding is safe. With the single speed bike, you won’t go too fast for your light at night.

Other items that make your ride more enjoyable on the good days and bearable on the bad are a good pair of gloves. A good bike tool that is light and versatile is useful for on-the-road and at-home repair. Back sweat from a back pack is no fun, a good messenger bag eliminates this and gives you lots of compartments for little items you want for every ride. A water bottle with a removable bottom makes cleaning easy.

None of these accessories will make the ride easy. It will still be cold, dark, wet, and scary on your ride at times. Your success will always depend on your own fortitude, but these will remove any excuses you might have. I personally own and use each of these accessories and each is worth every penny I paid after hundreds of miles. The total accessories I purchased cost about $400.

Biking makes us lean and strong.

The Ultimate Commuter Bike