Two more reasons to be optimistic about Cuba

Raul Castro, the new President, has “already signed two human rights treaties”:

bq. One of the pacts, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, guarantees "civil and political freedom," including the right to self-determination, peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, privacy, *freedom to leave a country*, and equal protection before the law.

Does that mean that Cubans can leave Cuba?

Pigs' House (What $150K buys in the Seattle area)

Our neighbors _finally_ sold their house and moved. Price: $150,000. The new owners are cleaning it up so we got the chance to go inside and check it out. Bear in mind that the house has been cleaned up by the new owners.

We affectionately refer to them as “The Pigs” because they used to own two pot-bellied pigs that roamed the property and we never knew their last name.

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Lexus LS 460L is almost perfect

Consumer Reports gave “my car”:, the Lexus LS 460L, “99 out of 100 points”: and ranked it #1 in the Luxury Sedan category in their 2008 Best & Worst Cars:

bq. With a score of 99 out of 100 in our road test, the LS is our highest-rated vehicle. It provides a no-compromise environment of comfort and roominess, coupled with an isolating quietness. It also delivers quick acceleration and relatively good fuel economy. This car is brimming with electronic amenities, but the controls are easy to use. “See the video”:

I’m not a fan of Consumer Reports and their empty/half/full circle rating scheme and the emphasis they put on things consumers shouldn’t care about — or, at least, the things I don’t care about — but they do occasionally get things right. 🙂

And I don’t have the LS 460L, I have the LS 460 (no L).

Source: “The Passionate Pursuit”:

"Buying American" is anti-American

Buying something that is made in the US _just because it’s made in the US_ is bad for the US. And if you’re paying more to buy patriotically, it’s bad for you personally. It seems like it’s a good idea to help your fellow Americans to buy products they make, and it _is_ good for _those_ people, but it’s bad for everyone else in the country. Trade with other countries helps the US prosper.

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Always pay cash for a car

Never, ever take out a loan to buy a car — always pay cash. Think of a car as a really bad investment because it is, it is guaranteed to be worth less in the future. Forget about the classic car phenomenon where cars actually appreciate in value, they don’t, they just seem like they do because of inflation. And even if they did actually increase in value, you’d have to keep your car for 25 years or more and work very hard to maintain it over the years. And definitely don’t drive it, that’ll hurt its chances of becoming valuable.

If you wouldn’t borrow money to buy an investment you knew was going to be worth less in the future, you shouldn’t do it with a car. The only reason to buy a car that you can’t afford is for emotional reasons (or worse, you want to impress strangers). If you do that, realize that you are paying a lot for those emotional reasons. And if this is the way you think about all purchases, accept that you will never be financially-sound. That’s okay too, money isn’t the most important thing in life and driving a new BMW is more fun than driving a used Honda, but if you do this you aren’t allowed to complain about your lack of money. 🙂

If you don’t have the cash for your car, buy a less expensive car that you can pay for with cash. If you don’t have the cash to pay for a new car, buy a used car. If you still don’t have enough cash, find a less expensive car. If you still don’t have enough cash, save until you do. If you don’t want to save, go buy a car that costs more than you can afford, but realize that you’re making a financial mistake, one that will take you a while to recover from, if you can recover from it. And don’t claim that you can’t get a decent car for cheap, eBay “shows”: plenty of decent cars have been sold for as little as $1,000.

Now that you have the cash to buy your car, if you still think a loan is the way to go, keep reading.

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Paper and the environment

Slate “compares environmental differences between the paper and electronic versions of newspapers”: and concludes, in my view, that it’s likely a wash. Besides, over time, things that consume electricity (servers and home computers) are becoming more energy-efficient over time, which will make the electronic version the clear winner eventually.

Even so, I believe that consuming more paper is better for the environment than consuming less paper. If we use less paper, paper companies need smaller tree farms, so they sell that property which will be used for parking lots, houses, shopping malls and other things besides trees. But ultimately, I’m on the side of electronic media because it’ll be less expensive to distribute, which will make more people consume it, which will make more people educated. More educated people makes it more likely that we’ll solve the environmental problem through technology and innovation rather than the untenable “consume less mentality.”.

Why Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD doesn't matter

The war is finally over, Blu-ray won. Congratulations, Sony. But plastic discs are temporary, movies will be downloaded. We can already do it today, we just have to buy a proprietary device (“Apple TV”:, “Vudu”:, etc.) or use a computer connected to a TV. The next war will be between online services. The factors involved in this war will be the cost of the device, selection of movies, convenience and ease-of-use. I’d bet on Apple TV, Apple excels in all of those areas except hardware pricing, but they continue to prove that people value money less than the other three. And “they are successful”: in their online music service, so they have the experience.

iTunes is #2, people like plastic discs less

“iTunes is the #2 music retailer”: in the US, behind Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart may be cheap, but iTunes is convenient. The report clearly shows that CDs are dying, but Wal-Mart dropped their online store “two months ago”: to focus on selling plastic discs. Amazon used to be #4, presumably because they sold CDs. Now that they have their download store open, they’ve fallen from #4 to #5 since “June 2007”:, despite “good”: “reviews”: of the service. It’s all about the iPod integration, I think. iTunes will be #1.