Monday, June 28, 2010

Recovery: Economic and Personal

When will the economic recovery begin? That is the question asked of me by students and associates almost every day. My answer, the recovery has begun but very, very slowly and it depends on what your individual place is in the economy.

A widespread recovery is under way among many companies. Since January, 136 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index have either increased their payouts or initiated new dividends, increasing dividend payments by $11 billion this year. This resumption of dividend payments can be seen as a sign of improved financial strength and confidence. Board of Directors won’t declare dividends or increase them if they feel that the companies need those resources for other purposes (working capital, product development, etc.).

As corporations have tried to cut debt (laying off workers or not hiring) and improve their finances, they have been accumulating a great amount of cash. This is where the downside of our current recovery is; unemployment. Many companies will wait until they see consistent growth and recovery until the hiring process heats up or they now realize they can manage their businesses with fewer people. So count on unemployment to remain high well into 2011. What this all means, well if you are an investor dividend return will grow but public confidence will remain shallow until unemployment decreases, thus stock prices will flounder. For the consumer, debt must remain low and saving must remain high. The recession is not over but there are positive signs for new growth but not until the third quarter of 2011.

Many people believe the Federal Government must continue to create stimulus packages to give the economy a kick start. But as we have stated here in the past can we realistically assume any more debt? The recovery now should be driven by corporate capital and consumer spending. Policy and actions will be debated in the months to come. This leads us into our next topic for the week; should we go on a vacation this summer, where to go and how much to spend?

The answer is definitely yes for going on a vacation. We all need time to get away from work, freeways, Facebook and Larry King. The main question for this writer is where to go, because that will determine how much to spend.

The age old question, a family vacation or go someplace cool. Someplace cool: go watch the Space Shuttle launch before the program closes; go to that cabin or cottage in the middle of nowhere and tell no one; go to a golf academy for a week and finally really learn how to play this stupid game; or just go to a far away beach and do nothing. Well like many things in our lives compromise comes with the territory, so family it is. But down deep that is not a bad thing anyway, because without family all the cool things would no longer be cool.

World Cup Final Picks – Argentina vs. Portugal

Next week: Independence Day and a mid-summer nights dream.

Until next Monday, Au Revoir.

Claremont, CA
June 28, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Modern Day Idealism

A belated Happy Fathers’ Day to my Dad and to all Dads, in my opinion there is only one role model, your parents, especially your Dad.

The first day of summer; school is out, portable heaters are back in storage, sweaters are in their plastic containers, state and local budgets are late, and former Vice President Dick Cheney is complaining about the new administration. Wait a minute all are true but one, we have not heard from Mr. Cheney. In a time when the economy is still sorting itself out, the BP oil disaster is becoming President Obama’s Katrina, and the public is yearning for leadership – why has Dick Cheney not spoken?

An interesting question, perhaps he is too busy playing golf, writing a memoir, studying human rights law, or maybe he just feels like most of us the heck with it all. I don’t think so. Mr. Cheney feels he and his followers are just as responsible for all this mess as the current administration – the same holds true for former President Clinton. Current and past administrations are to blame for this economic and environmental mess we got ourselves into. The policies of relaxing controls and economic oversight have turned government into one large inefficient bureaucracy, with the lobbyists as the only players who know what they are doing.

Mr. Cheney cannot point a finger at the current administration and say you have done wrong because he knows the Bush “43” administration, the Clinton administration and the current Obama administration have been consistent in one form of governing, help the rich and your friends first and worry about the little guy and the environment later. This phony idealism of modern day governing where our leaders say one thing and do another must stop. The participants in this folly are many and cross party lines: President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Harry Reid, John McCain, David Drier, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dennis Hollingsworth, Dean Florez and last but not certainly least Antonio Villaraigosa. Quite an impressive list of leadership by polling and not what is right. So for once Mr. Cheney you are not alone and that’s what really scares me.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for their victory over the Boston Celtics. It is always comforting to me to witness my fellow citizens behaving in such a playful, innocent and civil manner when our athletic teams win. Also congratulations to the Pebble Beach Golf Club for humbling the world’s best golfers into complaining, swearing, hackers. I really enjoy watching Tiger Woods hit one in the ocean and the trees just like me.

Next week: our monthly financial review and where to go to on vacation this summer.

Until next Monday, Au Revoir.

Claremont, CA
June 21, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Relaxation of Gardening

There is no better way of releasing stress than spend a couple of hours each week in your garden. Be it a large flower and vegetable garden or a simple patio garden, gardening is relaxing and peaceful.

No matter if you live in Vermont, suburban Detroit, the Rocky Mountains or the Inland Empire of Southern California, there are two key words in gardening: water and feed. Not to over water or not to under water is always an issue. In the dry heat of Southern California I water thoroughly two times a week (Wednesday and Sunday). It is important to understand the demands of each and every plant in your garden. I keep track of my plants using my computer: type, date planted, etc. Yes I am a geek, but keeping accurate data helps me maintain my garden year round – from the heat of the summer to the dampness and low light of winter. The computer also helps me determine when it is time to feed my plants and vegetables. Proper soil (mulch) and plant food are essentials for gardens especially where top soil is thin and lacks proper nutrients.

I strongly recommend you find your local botanical garden and horticulturists to aid you in your research of your garden. Here in Claremont we have the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens: They can offer information from the best local and water resistant plants to how to properly crop your garden. The more you pick your crop in your garden, the more vegetables you will have. If you leave mature vegetables sitting on the plant, the plant will focus on nurturing that instead of producing new vegetables. Harvest and trim consistently so that your garden plants continue to produce and grow.

My final tip is do not forget to weed your garden and treat for any pests. Proper weeding maintains root systems and encourages a more attractive garden. Also the treatment of pests is important, I find that a few lady bugs and lizards work wonders on keeping pests away.

Restaurant Review – Nestled in Claremont Village, La Piccoletta has been a favorite with the locals and a hidden treasure to those who delight in true Italian food. I visited La Piccoletta recently and found the food and service continue to be the best. The menu consists of several specialties including filet mignon, cioppino, shrimp scampi, oso bucco, polla all pina, stuffed meatballs, antipasti, and featured pasta along with different types of authentic sauces. I had the spaghetti and meatballs with garlic, meat sauce, a delightful meal.

The pasta each week is presented with four different types of sauces which are specially chosen to compliment the shape and texture of the particular pasta offered. The wine list is good, and the Italian desserts are excellent. Seating is limited to approximately 40 people, so reservations are recommended.

$$$, Claremont Casual (meaning do not wear anything Republican), reservations recommended, 909-624-1373, located at 114 P. North Indian Hill Boulevard, right behind the famous Heroes Bar, just west of Yale Avenue in the Village of Claremont. The Rink Rats rating of 1 – 10, with 10 being the Parkway Grill, we give La Piccoletta an 8.

Next week: has any one seen or heard from Dick Cheney lately? Also, a final thought on the Association playoffs and the U.S. Golf Championship.

Until next Monday, Au Revoir.

Claremont, CA
June 14, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Summer Begins

The Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial beginning of summer. Three events of this past week began the summer on an uplifting note.

The world we all live in now is a complex one, filled with technology, time management, and events that we have no control over but still frustrate and confuse us. There are events though very small in the overall scheme of life that occur to lift our spirits and empower us to deal with this complex life we live. Here are three such events that influenced me greatly this past week.

• This week the University of La Verne held their annual Spring Commencement. Though many people east of Ontario, California and west of Pasadena, California have never heard of La Verne, this small, regional University awarded approximately 1,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees. To witness graduating students celebrating with family and friends their pride in accomplishment was a great experience. When students from Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, Beirut Lebanon, Veracruz Mexico, and Riverside California all personally thank you for helping them achieve a goal, to be the first in their families to achieve graduate degrees, to see the look of happiness and gratitude in their eyes made all the hassles of everyday life seem so minor.

• To view the events of this past week in Detroit with the bad call by the umpire, Jim Joyce, to spoil a perfect game by pitcher, Armando Galarraga, provided me with a great perspective on sports. Baseball is just a game, but the sportsmanship and class exemplified by Mr. Joyce, Mr. Galarraga, Jim Leyland the Detroit Manager and all the Detroit fans celebrated what games are all about; fun and fair play, not ticket prices, salaries and awards.

• Finally the passing of John Wooden this week, though sad, celebrated that men and women for what they represent and teach are much more important than how many championships they have won or lost. John Wooden throughout his life was a teacher, he taught family first, character second, and be the best person you can be. If we all remembered these more often the world would be a much better place.

So thank you graduating students, the sportsmanship of Detroit Tiger baseball and the memory of John Wooden for giving me and hopefully many people a great start to the summer of 2010.

Stanley Cup Playoffs - With the Red Wings hopes diminished in the early rounds I must admit my passion for the playoffs has been curtailed. But as a fan of the “Original Six” I say go Chicago. Though I believe the overall play of this final round has been average at best, the Blackhawks have too much talent and experience to not beat the upstart Flyers. I thought from day one of this season the Western teams were far superior than the Eastern teams in the National Hockey League. The Chicago Blackhawks will win their first Stanley Cup in fifty years.

The Association Playoffs - All we hear and see in LA, LA land is “go Lakers”. To listen to the sport talk show hosts life will end as we know it should Los Angeles lose to Boston. The more important sports question of the day for this blogger is can the Detroit Lions win more than three games this coming season and will Michigan get rid of that crook running their football team? Be that as it may, back to the playoffs – LA will beat Boston because simply they are a better team. Enough said.

Next week: summer gardening tips and another restaurant review.

Until next Monday, Au Revoir.

Claremont, CA
June 7, 2010