Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm Back

I just recently returned from my hitchhiking tour of Taiwan. Man it was a whirlwind tour. Met a lot of interesting people and encountered many new experiences. I will write more when I get the energy. I have fallen ill since I returned to Taipei.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sunday Post - Want $25 Million? Save the World

Global Warming - Read this paper and see what you think. Read this before you read:

GreenHome - About a green home built in Raleigh, NC. An interesting site of a prototype green home decked out with the latest in green technology. Many need to know facts and ideas here.

Tax Season - For you United Staters, our favorite time of the year. Prepare and file online. "You need to do it too," my dad reminded me.

Iwillteach... - I got scammed by my bank (Chase) with overdraft fees, then late fees, then more late fees. And I paid it. I should have known about this site before.

Stingy Students - Looks like a nice shirt and sounds like a good deal, except the salmon color and the tie. But I'm sure you can choose other colors and pass on the ties.

New York Times - Obama Runs! I want to see him do well. Whether that means he becomes the frontrunner, gets many votes, wins or isn't shot, time will tell.

$25 Million to Save the World - Billionaire entreprenuer Sir Richard Branson and former vice-president/environmentalist Al Gore team up with offer of $25 million dollars for the The Virgin Earth Challenge. You could be rich biatch!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Greatness Achieved

I have been pondering an idea lately of something I call "ultimate expression." It is almost self-explanitory, but allow me to indulge a little. I read an article from Fortune Magazine titled, What It Takes To Be Great. The article spoke of people such as Tiger Woods and Warren Buffet, performing at the top of their game and at the top of the world because of something called deliberate practice . The stories thesis was: anyone can achieve a level of greatness with time and deliberate practice. The key is deliberate practice, also known as dedication/due dilligence/determination. This article may have prompted the idea of the ultimate expression.

There is something in life that everyone is passionate about. There is something inside that, when it comes out, makes you feel great. Some play an instrument, some sing, others play sports or teach. There are endless ways to express this passion. If you are fortunate enough, your work can fulfill this desire. But for most of us, our job is well, a job. We find other ways to make us feel whole.

This expression is the soul escaping into the external world. It is the reflection of what is in you, casting its presence into the material world. For Picasso, it was through his vision and by extension, his hand and the canvass. For Pavarotti, it is thorough his sonorous voice. For Ali, it was with his graceful movement and handspeed in the ring, and to some extent his ability to manipulate his opponents' mind. For those of us watching, they make it look like childplay, like it's the easiest thing they've ever done. It is amazing when we get to see someone's soul on display. We are left in awe in the presence of a great soul at its zenith.

But we know that it isn't easy. It takes years of dedication to reach these levels. Take Ali for example. Do you think he spent all his time praying to Allah to help him win fights? Of course not. He spent hours circling and pounding a bag, hours dancing in a ring, countless hours perfecting his footwork and technique and always pushing and improving himself. It does take this much to be "The Greatest."

Although some of us are lucky enough to find our ultimate expression, others spend their entire lives searching for something that fulfills this desire. You need not become (and likely will not become) as famous as Tiger Woods or Muhammad Ali, but the feelings can be the same. For those of you who have found it, then, it is your duty to make use of it, to nurture and let blossom this inherent beauty. For the rest of us, I pose these questions:

What is your ultimate expression? How does your soul speak to others, or to yourself, for that matter?

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Trickle Effect

Do you often find yourself with no money at the end of the month? You think to yourself, "Where did it all go?" I'm sure we've all had times like these, or at least known someone who has. Always down on their luck, waiting to get paid. I had a friend like this back home. He had a decent job, but for some reason, never had money when the 30th was approaching. I always wondered how it felt to live like that. He wasn't poor; he had nice clothes and was quite social. But he often changed his lifestyle towards the end of the month.
I didn't know what to tell him at the time. People often take advice on money quite personally, and I think he would have done so also.
Where did it all go? Was there a hole in his pocket, disappearing money? Probably not. But if he learned how to budget or keep a budget, he would know where it went.

This is what we will discuss today. Budget basics. There are many reasons to keep a budget: awareness of how much money you have, to know where you spend the most money, to see where you can trim back, to have a sense of your finances, to have control of your finances, and to set realistic goals. All these are great reasons to create a budget. Let's make a simple budget (if you have Microsoft Excel, you can get a budget template).

Step 1: Record your monthly salary

Step 2: Creat budget categories such as: rent, bills(you can break bills down in to smaller parts such as phone, electricity, insurance, etc.), food, entertainment, transportation, savings, and misc. You can add or delete catagories as you see fit. Once you know how much of your money is going where, then you can make reasonable amendments. For example, your rent shouldn't cost you half your income or your entertainment allotment shouldn't be more than a basic such as food. Here is a breakdown in percentages, of where your money should be going.

Let's say you make US$4000/month:
Savings: at least 10%, preferrably 20-30+% (US$400-1200)
Rent: less than 30% (US$1200)
Food: about 15% (US$600)
Entertainment: about 5% (US$200)
Bills: about 10-15% (US$400)
Transportation: ~15% (US$600)
Debt: 5% (US$ 200)
Misc.: 10% (US$400)

The reason I place savings first is because you should pay yourself first.

This is a simple thing that once created, will become easier, save you time, and allow you to keep track of your finances. then you can alter it if need be. But you will always know where your cash is going. If you are really interested in creating a useful budget, you can purchase software created just for this such as Quicken or MS Money.

Don't you think they should teach this is high school? Basic economics, instead of trigonometry. I don't mean to deny trig its importance in life, but I think personal finance is more applicable to more lives than learning about angles. I took trig. in high school but didn't remember much, so I looked up the definition:

trig·o·nom·e·try - the branch of mathematics that deals with the relations between the sides and angles of plane or spherical triangles, and the calculations based on them.

WTF!?Maybe if you plan to be a mathmatician, physisist, or math teacher this is useful stuff. But for most people learning how to make a budget is much more useful. It directly applies to their life.

Think about it...

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Big Green Boxes

I read an article in BusinessWeek citing how corporations are taking environmental issues into consideration when planning for the future. I'm glad to see big business taking interest in things other than profit. The article demonstrates how some companies are combining profit agendas with eco-friendly agendas. Although the "green" objectives may be initiated from profit-minded goals, they are nonetheless working towards cleaner, more efficient methods of doing business. They may also realize that business can no longer interact in the vaccum of profit-making, and that they must work with external factors such as the environment to stay in business. Assisting the world to be sustainable allows them a population to serve.
There is a company cited in the article, the Innovest Group, that rates companies according to their policies and governance when it comes to green issues. The article states that there may be some contradictions within the rating system, but it is a good start to seeing who considers a cleaner future important.

We can't do it all, but we can start small.