Monday, June 29, 2009

Fishing With the Grand Kids

As I am sitting here at Billy D's Coffee Shop enjoying a delicious cinnamon roll and cup of coffee, I was thinking about yesterday's fishing trip with two of my grandkids. I actually bought a fishing license for myself to do this.

The first thing we had to do was to pry them out of bed so we could get ready to go. A half hour later,  we pried them out of bed again. 

While they were eating breakfast and getting ready, I got the rods ready, rewound a reel, talked to the neighbor for a good long while, packed some beverages and snacks. Then I prodded them to finish getting ready.

Then we loaded up and headed for the Georgetown Reservoir. This was an hour on the road through one of the prettiest parts of the world. They had their nose in books all the way. 

We arrived, and I prepared two lines for the kids. I started them out with worms, a weight, but no bobbers as the fish were on the bottom. Well, the kids got bored watching their line just disappear into the water, so I put bobbers on for them to watch. The bobbers kept drifting to the right with the current, so they had to keep re-casting their lines. I'm sure they scared every fish away, but they were having fun watching their bobbers. They equate bobber watching with fishing as neither one of them has ever caught a fish. 

They lost their bait a couple of times so I told them they must have had a bite. They said no, "See, it is over there floating in the water." So after about forty-five minutes of bobber watching we loaded up and headed for Burger King. I ordered fish. They ordered the usual. Each of us had a 50% chance of winning a prize. None of us won. After Burger King, we headed for home. We drove through some of the most beautiful country in the world. They had their noses in books. 

It was a great fishing trip. I wonder when I can take them bobber watching again.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thank God for Coffee

I'm tired, but the coffee is good. Blessed coffee. Early mornings, hard work, aching legs, little sleep. Coffee makes up for it all. I'm enjoying a cup at Starbucks right now before I head to work. At least my client will notice that I am awake. Being awake is a good thing when you are going up on a roof. 

Ah, yes, roofs. My clients don't like being on their own roofs. They pay higher rates to get someone else to go up there. It's actually safer than walking across the street. Definitely safer than kayaking..... in whitewater. I have never fallen off a roof yet. My ladder went down once. Shimmying down the down spout was an experience. 

Tony is the only guy I know of who fell off a roof. It was a cedar shingle roof, and he was painting. The roof was a little wet after the rain. With a gallon of paint in his hands he started skiing down the roof. When he got to the edge he leaped to the ground. So I guess he didn't really fall of the roof. Thankfully it was only a single story. We had to buy him another gallon of paint.

What's all this got to do about coffee? Well, nothing, really. Except it pays to be awake when you are on a roof. Of course, if you are not awake, you don't really feel it when you hit the ground. I'm not saying that out of experience, though. I'm just trying to tell you one of the benefits of drinking coffee. The best benefit, though, is that it tastes really good. Especially when it is unsweetened, un-creamed, unflavored, and really black (or should I say "no roomed). At Starbucks its "room for cream?" or "No room." They don't understand "black." So I have to order "dark roast, with no room." At home its just "French roast."

Anyway, remember, if you are going up on your roof, drink some coffee first. It will keep you awake as you are climbing up the ladder. You'll need to be even more awake as you are getting back on the ladder to come down. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Special Day

Today my coffee tastes especially good..... it's Father's Day! I'm sitting on my back deck under the gazebo in the shade. I just had breakfast and now I am having coffee and blogging. I haven't blogged much lately because there hasn't been much to say. But today is a great day!

I envy my wife who blogged about her father last evening. She has good, loving memories of her father. I wish I could say the same. I never knew a father that loved me, at least, not past my early childhood years. 

I remember the time he busted the belt on my backside.... a whipping I didn't deserve, although I got plenty of whippings I did deserve. I remember him shaking me and bouncing my head off a block wall because I didn't make curfew one night. I missed curfew by 15 minutes. I remember him sitting in restaurants talking with a slur and nearly falling asleep because he was drugged too heavily (he had a heart condition). I remember him and mom arguing and fighting into the early hours of the morning. And in his later years I remember him sitting at my kitchen table calling up all the bad things that everybody ever did to him, and how he could never forgive them. Most of these people were his parents and siblings. I remember my father as a broken and bitter man. 

Unlike my wife's experience with her father where he never told her that he loved her, but she knew he did, my father told me he did love me, but I knew he didn't. 

My father is gone now. He passed away several years ago. His memory does live on. I forgave my father several years before he died, but I could never get him to forgive others. Surprisingly, I miss my dad, the one I had and the one I wish I had had.

Yes, there were some good times with dad. He took us kids hunting in the north woods of Minnesota. He took us to the beaches of North Long Lake. And when we begged enough, he would buy us a nickel cone at the Dairy Queen (that's a dollar cone today). Every once in a while dad would help us sweep off the roof to our basement home and help us clean the garage.

I appreciate all my children, who remembered me this Father's Day! It's been an honor to be your father. And, thank you for the fine grandchildren you have given me. I want to be the best father that I can be..... even though you are now all grown and have families of your own.

I love you all very much!  That makes my coffee taste really good.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Counter to what you may think, gambling is not counter to Scripture. In fact, Scripture endorses gambling. You might think that I am off my rocker, but it is true. Scripture is loaded with examples of those who took great risks, and were rewarded for their risk. And sometimes they paid the price.... the ultimate price!

Many of the great corporations that exist today are here because someone had a vision, or a goal, and they risked all to obtain it. They took the gamble and were rewarded for it. Their other option was to just sit back and let life pass them by. They would have had a vision but would have never reached it if they hadn't reached out for it. Failure to pursue a vision is bitter later on in life. Taking the gamble can result in something great, or in failure, but not the bitter pill of failing because you never tried.

I consider myself a gambler of sorts. It was a gamble to go into business for myself. The first several months were bad. Business was really slow. With the recession coming on, I wondered what would happen. But I was pleasantly surprised. My volume of business soared. The gamble was paying off.

I trade stocks. I've been told that that is gambling, as though gambling is a bad thing. I've had my ups and downs. I now trade options which are much more volatile than stocks, so that must certainly be a gamble. I could play it safe and earn less than 2% on a CD. Is earning 2% really playing it safe, or is it foolhardy? The dollar is going down in value faster than that! Did I mention that since the first of the year my options have earned over 300%. I can live with that kind of a gamble, but I can't live with 2%. Frankly, I think that the guy who buys into the 2% is the person Jesus told about who buried his money in the ground. I believe that God expects us to put our money to work in areas where there is reasonable risk.

Do I gamble? Yes!  Do I go to the casino or buy lottery tickets? No!!! That kind of gambling is just plain stupid because everything is up to luck. I'll put my money and efforts into areas of risk that have a realistic hope of return. But I want it to be risky enough to carry the potential of a good return. The farmer farms grain for money. I want to farm money for money. 

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Invisible Cash Sucker Keeps Following

Someday soon I know he will go away, but for now he has made his presence known. His presence is almost imperceptible, but the results of his presence is loud and clear. If I have a dollar, he wants it. He showed up at my last job.

Building a deck is typically pretty easy and painless, not to mention, profitable. But this deck started going south from the onset. This is a second level deck set above a concrete patio. The owner had the slab poured a year earlier and claimed that it was only 3-4 inches thick. Therefore we had to cut concrete and set caissons under the posting. So we brought out the typical tools for cutting concrete of that thickness, only to discover that the concrete was 10 inches thick. So now that meant extra tool rental, time to get and return the tools, and extra cutting time. My carpenter wasn't donating his labor.

Then there was the lumber order. I did this over the phone and checked off the items as I read them to the sales person. The deck was to be redwood and so it it some of the pricier lumber. He gave me the price quote, I ordered. When the lumber was delivered, I was short two boards at an additional cost of $120.00. The sales person failed to get these on the order. So by now I have expended an extra $350.00.

Colorado's weather has not exactly been co-operating with those who work out doors. Mid afternoon thunderstorms tend to slow progress. You have to pick up your tools to keep them out of the rain, which takes time, then set them up again, which takes time. Add that time onto the time that you are waiting out the storm and you end up paying a lot of wages for exactly, nothing. Tack on another $200-$300 in extra labor. 

So, by now, the extra expense has eaten up 15% of the total job cost and 50% of the total profit. But wait! The job isn't finished yet. The invisible guy wants to line his pockets with more of my cash. He will keep this job going as long as he can. His goal is to suck out all of the profits for himself.

I guess I am finding out why a lot of contractors prefer to keep their prices up and sit at home with nothing to do. They make about the same money as I do, but they also don't have the hard labor. And as a bonus they get to go fishing. 

Things will change soon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Who is this Guy?

There is someone following me around. He may be following you, too! I don't know what he looks like, where he is from, what his name is, or any other personal information. But I do know what he does.... he follows me around. He seems to be everywhere I am, lately. He follows me and he knows if I am about to make some money. His main job is to prevent me from making money.

He was there the other day. We had just finished installing some doors at a house. I checked out the doors, they worked perfectly. In fact, the client kept opening and closing the doors and admiring the way they worked. He said they were the only two doors in the house that worked right. I got paid and sent my help on to the next job. About 15 minutes later, this client called and said that the locks on one of the doors didn't work right. So I called my installer and told him to go back to make the correction. He got just about back to the house and the client called again and said he was sorry, but he had a twig jammed in the door. Everything is all right now. Ya, everything is alright except for the hour I had to pay my installer to go back. That sapped 33% of the profits out of that job. The invisible follower was there.

Then there was the plumbing job. This was a real simple faucet change out. I was giving the elderly lady a break on the price. So my plumber had to shut off the main water valve to the house because their was no shut off at the bathroom vanity. The lady wanted shut-off valves under the sink so that it would now meet code. So my plumber cut the pipe for compression fittings, except, oops, what looked like a half inch pipe was actually not half inch. And now we discovered that the main shut-off didn't totally shut the water off. So now we had running water with no way to shut it off, because he had no part with him that fit. So, off to the plumbing shop he went. They didn't have the part and sent him to another plumbing shop. Who didn't have the part, so they made one. So, guess who was at the house emptying the bucket every couple of minutes. You got it, I was! Guess who was paying the bill for all the trips to the plumber? Yours truly. When my plumber finally returned and resumed his work, I left explaining that it was my wife's and my anniversary and that the plumber would finish up in just a little while. So, on my way to the dinner date, I called to plumber. He assured me that all was well.... he was making the last solder. Cool. All this was on Friday. On Sunday, I called my plumber to see how it all turned out. He said he didn't finish because the running water prevented him from soldering, so he got compression fittings to stop the water flow and on Monday he will finish. So all embarrassed over this, I called my client to apologize and let her know that she wouldn't be charged. She told me I was "one in a million."  Sometimes I'd rather be just like everybody else. I can just see this invisible guy snickering at me. I hope he gets a toothache. 

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Regardless of what the economy is doing, Goldman Sachs is doing great! Since the market bottomed out three months ago, GS has gone from $47 per share to a close today of $149 per share. They also received an upgrade today. More upgrades will follow. Strong financials usually precede market recoveries, and right now the financials are leading the way. 

Other stocks that are leading the way are Noble Corporation (NE) and TransOcean (RIG). These are both deep sea drilling companies showing good balance sheets and great potential. These companies each have good analyst ratings.

AK Steel has been one of the best performing stocks over the past few years and is currently surging. Ford Motor (F) is also surging. I'm also betting on Citigroup (C). Citigroup has poor analyst ratings, but is getting well, and their stock is cheap, really cheap.

You can't recoup your losses with CDs and money markets. Recouping requires some level of risk. Someone recently accused me of gambling. He's right, I'm gambling on the market and the economy. But I am also choosing wisely and spreading my risk over several stocks (actually options). 

Believe me, good stocks make your coffee taste even better.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I didn't wake of very rested because of an early morning dream. 

Audrey and I and Rana were  in New York City. This was when we were much younger and Rana was just a toddler. Audrey had just stepped onto the rear of this tram with Rana in her arms. The tram was just pulling away. I ran as fast as I could to catch up to the tram, and finally did and got aboard the rear. By this time Audrey had made her way to the front. Rather than fight the crowd to get to her, I had decided to wait until we were to get off. Somehow we got separate and I never saw Audrey and Rana again.

I searched all over in vain. I even tried calling her on my cell phone. But the operator came on the line and asked if if would be all right if he connected me later.

I found my way to a seedy restaurant and found a booth back in the corner where I continued to make cell phone calls with the same response from the operator. I was really scared and frantic. I thought Audrey and Rana would be lost forever. 

While I was sitting back in this booth, two tough guys came up to me and informed me that I was in their booth and that I had better get out. I told them that I didn't realize that it was their booth. They said that they always sit there and that it is their booth. I explained that I didn't see anything in the booth that had indicated that it had been taken. They said, "Are you arguing with us?" And they pulled out switchblades. I explained that my wife and daughter were lost in the city and I was trying to find them. They said, "Oh ya! Blame it on them!" I told them that I would be moving on. They said, "Too late, buddy." Then they started moving in on me.

Before I could take their knives away from them and tear them apart with my bare hands, I woke up. Audrey was right there beside me and Rana was no where to be seen. All was well again. Except, I wasn't very rested.

I'm still mad at the phone operator for not connecting us.