Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy New Year? Happy OLD Year!!!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! God Bless Ya to anyone that I missed!

I hope this finds every one of you enjoying whatever holiday is appropriate to your circumstance, as well as the companionship of family and friends, and that your cup is more than half full!

Christmas in the Hoover home this year was a very good one. Lots of family time, great food, movies, and just general enjoyment of all that is Hoovdom. I can’t remember a holiday season when there wasn’t at least one stress related disagreement, but there wasn’t a single one this year.

And that got me thinking: in spite of everything that’s taken place this year, from my own personal career changes to the global economy—I am truly so very blessed in every way.

I had a promotion in January that most people would have been thrilled with, and a seemingly great opportunity ahead of me. Of course, as usual, there are two sides to every coin: the promotion came because I lost a two horse race for the higher job; I now report to the guy who won out; and the transition has been less than easy to figure out or navigate. Maybe the most stressful work year of my life. The bright side (and remember we ALWAYS look on the briiiiight side of LIFE…) is I still have a great job at a well run company.

My two kids occasionally forget to check in or miss a curfew. But they are both doing great in school—one has a 3.4 GPA at one of the fifteen toughest business schools in the country; the other has a 3.4 GPA at one of the ten toughest high schools in Indiana. They both have their health, a healthy respect for life and others, and a great sense of humor. They are really good kids who make you feel lucky to be a parent. And they both love racing!

We have a very nice home that had serious wind damage from Hurricane Ike related storms in September, and no one seems interested in fixing it—or giving us a bid for that matter. But it is well heated, we have nice cars to drive in the driveway, and we have plenty of food to eat.

And every single day I’m thankful for a basketful of family and friends that any one person would be thrilled to have a quarter of.



I lost one of my lifelong best friends this past June, when Jim Bazini succumbed to the kidney disease he had battled for ten years. Jim and I were best friends from the time we were four, and there hasn’t been a day that’s passed that I haven’t thought of him or his impact on my life. That said, I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have had him in my life. Cheers Jimmy D, save half a glass for my arrival.

Another lifelong mentor passed away the week before Jim, when I lost Reg Lammers. Reg taught me more in twenty years than most people learn from ten others in a lifetime. His sons Larry and Dan are like brothers to me. I’ve probably thought about Reg more this Christmas than I have my own deceased parents in fifteen or twenty years. But his presence in my life was a blessing and source of wisdom that can’t be bought, and in most cases is never had at all. And through knowing him, I have two lifelong friends—and their families—that are like an extension of my own. Godspeed Pops.

I’ve got lots of others who are still here: and this summer presented the opportunity to get reconnected with four of them during a guy’s weekend at a rented lake house. We listened to music, played our guitars, drank beer and grilled. Oh yeah, and I remembered how cool it is to have such smart, fun, and humorous friends who have given you so much over the course of your life. People you knew, and who knew you, thirty or forty years ago, and shared so many of those seminal experiences in your life. People whose parents as often as not were called Mom or Dad by your entire group.

I heard from my long lost pal Fred Goodman for the first time in seven or eight years, and am looking forward to his trip back to visit this summer. What’up Mumby???!?!?!! :-)

And of course, I had countless texts from Andy during all of those painfully long Notre Dame football games this year, as well as other moments and our annual laugh until you cry/ultimate trivia/more pizza! weekend. If you have a friend like Andy in your portfolio, that’s like quarter a gallon gas: you’re the luckiest person in the world to have it, and you aren’t ever going to find it again.

I don’t know if gas will be $1.50 or $5.00 a year from now. I have no clue where home sales will be. And I surely don’t know what any of that will mean for our economy, our foreign policy, or the moving business. But I do know it will still be good.

Yes, the economy sucks. And fortunately, so far, I’ve made good decisions along the way leading up to this that haven’t hurt me.

Yes, we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we have the world’s bravest young men and women there, keeping us safe and bearing the banner of freedom.

And I woke up this morning, smiling, thankful, and going off to a day at work that I didn’t want to spend there, but felt lucky to be able to do.

It’s all good. God bless us, every one.

Happy New Year! And Happy Old Year too!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Glass-half-full? You bet!


I’m always been referred to as a “glass half-full” kind of guy. A recent boss called me that on a semi-regular basis, and didn’t consider it a compliment. That said, I think that characterization is correct…I like to pull out the best of a given situation, and build on that. I take pride in being a "glass half-full" guy.

So in that spirit, and of course that festive holiday mood that overtakes me at this time of year—no matter how dark the day, I was thinking last night about possible “silver linings” to our current malady.

It wasn’t hard to find several.

First off: look what’s happened to the price of oil in just the brief two months since it hit $4.00 a gallon. People have stopped driving as much, and hence, reduced their consumption. Result? Gas back at $1.60 a gallon—according to my local news this morning, the cheapest it’s been in over five years.

LESSON ONE: WE CONTROL OUR FATE A LOT MORE THAN PEOPLE THINK.

LESSON TWO: WE ARE COMPLETELY CAPABLE OF CUTTING BACK .

LESSON THREE: CUTTING BACK DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Whenever times get tough, it’s hard not to remember my parents. Both are gone now, but I grew up on a hardscrabble farm in northern Indiana, and my folks were both kids in the depression. My brother and I use to share a joke at Christmas as we rifled through the pens at my Mom’s house—literally dozens of them, all stowed atop the desk in three or four orange juice cans wrapped in decorative shelf paper—just looking for ONE that would work, which we would use to fill out gift tags on presents. “Doesn’t she EVER throw anything away?!”

The answer of course was no. No farm kid who went through the depression ever did. And as a kid growing up in my house, things like Kleenex and Band-Aids, and even soda pop for crying out loud, were treated like precious resources. My dad never bought a car that he didn’t pay cash for, and he had a new one every third year. People saved. People didn’t waste. Everything from the steak you had every couple of months (if you were lucky) to the clothes that seemed to stay in style for years was treated with the respect it deserved…our heritage was a time when families ate eggs and bean soup for days on end. Eating out was a rare treat, and many times was McDonald’s.

Fast forward to today—where everything from movies to gourmet food to satellite radio in our cars is on demand 24/7. $50 jeans; $100 sneakers; state-of-the-art stereos and TV’s and grills and refrigerators; all financed to the hilt. Fast food and restaurant dining are de rigueur. Save? Ha! Why save when you can borrow???

Maybe we’ll get back to that way of thinking I remember when I was a kid. I don’t mean in the extreme, but at least to the point where our debt is reasonable, our home isn’t five times our salary, and our egos don’t demand the latest designer flavor at the high-end cookie boutique.

LESSON FOUR: CONSUMPTION IS EXPENSIVE.

LESSON FIVE: ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT.

LESSON TWO (REPEATED): WE ARE COMPLETELY CAPABLE OF CUTTING BACK .

In the end, it’s as I’ve told myself for years: most things in life are in our control. Every single action has a reaction, and if the outcome is something you don’t like, then change the inputs. I remember once in the 6th grade, one of my favorite all time teachers—Chip Light—came into the men’s room as a group of guys was horsing around, which was developing into a fight. I was trying to wash my hands and get out when the melee overtook me. Mr. Light rounded us all up and trooped us out into the hall, where he furiously lectured us and then lined us up for a mighty swat of his paddle. As tears came to my eyes, I said, “But Mr. Light, I wasn’t doing anything…” He had the saddest look I’ve ever seen, but I’ve never forgotten what he said next: “Then maybe this will help you to remember not to be in places where bad things happen.”

Assuming he didn’t mean I should never go to the men’s room again, I have always remembered that advice. You have much more control over your life and the events in it than you know. Don’t like your job? Improve your work record or your education. Don’t like your weight? Stop eating or see a doctor. Don’t like how people treat you? Change your attitude.

LESSON ONE (REPEATED): WE CONTROL OUR FATE A LOT MORE THAN PEOPLE THINK.

So, maybe these tough times will lead us back to a more conservative approach—both to consumption, and our personal finances. Maybe we’ll be less of a “throw away” society, and we’ll better understand the true value of things. Maybe $100 jeans won’t be so important, and the lives of our fellow man will be.

Maybe.

LESSON SIX: ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE.



Feel free to whistle along here if you like...

Can I fill up that glass for you? ;-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Government to Bail Out Patriots and NFC North



In a brief press conference today, President-elect Barack Obama announced the latest piece of the government's bailout plan, following discussions yesterday with President George Bush. The plan calls for the federal government to step in with immediate measures to make not only the New England Patriots, but the entire NFC North Division, more competitive.

"I'm proud to announce these latest aspects of the bailout," said Obama. "We have clearly set the precedent that the government must step in when a crisis takes place, and I know of no more dire crisis than the Patriots having lost three games already this year."

Citing the fact that New England, and in fact the entire NFC North, must not be allowed to crumble, Obama thanked Nancy Pelosi for her efforts in bringing the House together to support this precedent-setting, uh, precedent.

"These icons of the sports world...from the lowly Detroit Lions to the Princes of the NFL in Boston...must not be allowed to squander their resources. We must save them, just as we should any business that isn't capable of making a profit."

The first step of the bailout calls for all of New England's remaining games to be forfeited in favor of the Patriots--that way their players can all rest up while they automatically win their division. "We want to see how this will affect them first," noted Obama, "but I would add that I think we're prepared to have the entire season called off and just present them with the Lombardi trophy if that's what it will take."

In the case of the NFC North, all four teams have been declared winners of an NFC division. "That was a little tougher," said Obama, "because clearly, at least three of them will lose in the playoffs. And of course, that lone winner would then potentially have to forfeit to New England. But you take the gains where you can get them in these kinds of circumstances."

Officials who were cited off the record said that the move gained support once everyone realized that while the government was supporting non-profitable businesses or bad business models, there clearly had to be something done about non-competitive teams.

When Obama was asked if the Patriots three losses really represented a non-competitive entity, he responded, "Look, you have to nip these things in the bud or you get a real crisis. Just like Bank of America didn't want government funding, how can the Patriots really know what's in their best interest? Tom Brady is hurt for God's sake! Do you really expect them to be thinking clearly?"

Asked if this was the extent of the government's intervention into sports, Obama demurred but left the door open. "You take these things one step at a time. I think the Tampa Devil Rays would clearly have been a candidate this year but they solved their own problem. That said, what about the Red Sox? After literally decades of losing, those fans suddenly expect a World Series win every year or so...who are we as a government to let those people suffer?"


The Patriots, while grateful, questioned the timing of the move. "Sure, it's great," said Head Coach Bill Belichick. "But you have to wonder, what's changed since we lost to the Colts nine days ago? I mean, it sure would have been nice to have had this happen prior to losing our third game..."


(This blog and the content herein is strictly fictional in nature, and is not intended to be a true and accurate representations of the facts. This blog was written by Greg Hoover, and he approves this message.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

No Insurance? No Problem.

Here’s the problem with what I consider a leftward drift in our country: it does away with boundaries. And clearly, life needs boundaries. Without boundaries, there can be no definition. And without definition, well, then what?

You see, somewhere along the way, there have to be requirements. There has to be discipline, and things that must be done, and rules, and winners and losers. Otherwise, there is nothingness.

Part of the problem I have with the whole illegal alien thing is about boundaries and discipline. Look I want everyone in the world who admires freedom and the right to succeed to be able to come here and live the American Dream. I just think they should have the same responsibilities and requirements for that dream that I had to pay: taxes and citizenship.

But we as a society seem to keep slipping closer and closer to this amorphous world of “don’t worry be happy”...take what you want. No charge. No problem.

Didn’t get your homework done? No problem, there are no grades, just stars for various levels of effort. We wouldn’t want anyone to be left out or feel bad because they didn’t achieve at the level of their neighbor.

Don’t want to practice hard to be a champion? No sweat—literally. Everyone gets a trophy for coming out. Heck, we don’t even keep score~!

Don't want to save up money for a down payment on a home or car? Want to drive that car without insurance or financial responsibility for the damage you cause? No problem Bud...land of the free...especially when it comes to insurance.

Two weeks ago my daughter was involved in a collision while driving to class at Indiana University. The other driver—in addition to making an illegal left turn into traffic—was uninsured. $9000 worth of damage to Alex’s car later…we are left to deal with the loss of a car for three weeks, the hassles of getting it fixed, and oh yeah—our insurance rates going up.

Did I mention that this is the fourth uninsured accident to come upon my family in the past three years? None of them our fault. None of the other motorists insured. State Farm even CANCELLED us after the third of these occurred with my wife.

“But sir, none of them were her fault…”

“Yes, but they were all uninsured motorists, so they went against your claim record…sorry. You have 30 days to find new insurance.”

To date, uninsured motorists have inflicted over $30,000 worth of damage to Hoover family cars.

Which begs the question: why should you have to produce proof of insurance when you plate a car or get your license, if it doesn’t matter at the time of your accident?

The very first one of these that happened to my wife was laughable: a woman with a suspended personal license, driving an old Ford pickup which was not registered, did not have side mirrors, and had a piece of plywood where the back window was supposed to be...suddenly throws the truck into reverse and starts backing up. I’d say she did this without looking, but given that she had no mirrors and a piece of wood where the back window was supposed to be—that would be somewhat redundant, wouldn’t it? So she slams into my wife. The police show up, issue citations to the woman, and then, listen carefully here…LET THE WOMAN DRIVE OFF IN THIS TRUCK. NO LICENSE…NO INSURANCE…NON-REGISTERED VEHICLE…WITH NO MIRRORS AND NO WAY OF LOOKING BACKWARDS OUT OF THE VEHICLE.

Good God…

So, when these times come along and I feel grumpy and cranky and whine about us having no discipline as a society anymore, I just wanted you to know where I was coming from.

Operating a car is not an inalienable right. And neither is you costing me more money because you don’t want to fulfill your obligation and responsibility when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.

I miss discipline. And the trappings of a society that held us accountable when we got outside the boundaries. And you know, I really miss the boundaries too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Government by Poll

So, let’s say you’re teaching a class of first graders and you’re approaching lunch time. You aren’t sure what to give the kids to eat, and you need to make a decision.

You could make them lunch—at least that way you’d know they were getting something healthy. Ah, but they HATE spinach.

Ok, you’ll spend some time and think up a really creative meal that will not only be healthy but they’ll LOVE it! Hmmm, well yeah, but that would be a LOT of work.

Wait! I know! Let’s just poll the kids and see what THEY want! What a great idea! Then they’ll be fed, and it will be whatever the group decided, so they’ll be happy…perfect!!!! We’ll POLL them!

Huh? Not a good idea? Why not? Because the kids will all want cookies and ice cream? Well, sure. They’re kids. But hey, you got ‘em fed and they’re happy, right.

Nope. Not right. This isn’t what you were hired for. You were hired to lead, educate, and leave the kids better than you found them; not govern the classroom by poll. Even if it doesn’t make the kids happy. A GREAT leader would probably find a way to do that more palatably, but that isn’t always possible. Sometimes tough love is the best love.

Boy, good thing you aren’t running to be ELECTED to the role of teacher, huh? After all, what KID would vote for a teacher that is going to feed them healthy food and expect a disciplined classroom? What kid is going to WANT to have homework every night and be forced to work hard to improve both their grades and their intellect?

Welcome to U.S. politics…2008. Where the first graders are electing their teacher.

Government by poll.

More tax cuts! Government health care AND insurance AND banking! No Army, no Air Force, no Marines! We don’t wanna have to do NOTHIN!!!! Wheeeeeeeee!!!!

Tougher education standards? Not for us buster…we just want education to be free. No standards or anything. Just everyone feelin’ great about their meaningless PhD that didn’t cost a nickel of money or an ounce of work.

Sure the economy needs to be bailed out, and yeah, we know there’s a deficit…but so what. I want mine! Gimme gimme gimme! There aren’t rules here…heck, WE make the rules! No rules, just more money! And candy and cake and principal-free mortgages with low interest rates too. Nothin’ costs anything…everything’s FREEEEEE!

And then you wake up someday and you’re 19 and you haven’t learned a thing.

And you don’t know how to read or write or even hold an interesting conversation, let alone an interesting thought.

And you can’t compete for jobs.

Or worse yet, your country is on the verge of collapse, and you STILL don’t get that you need to do your homework.

What’s for lunch?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Of Sleepless Nights, Canadian Medicine, and Horses

This whole financial crisis thing really hadn’t phased me up to this point.

I mean, obviously in my professional role, it concerned me that our business has completely sucked for going on two years. But business is cyclical, and that kind of thing is to be expected. I’m working for a very conservative organization that has always been exceptionally well run financially, so we’re in a good position to weather this storm. Good people, smart management ( J ), and a solid market and plan.

And like a lot of other people, I’d seen my 401(k) drop by more than 28% from October 1st to October 10th. A pisser for sure, but I’ve never been the kind of guy that was going to retire at 55 or 60 anyway. I like to work and be engaged. Plus as you’ve probably read elsewhere by now, if you don’t do anything stupid it’s really just a cost averaging investment strategy at this point: don’t pull your money, and your regular contribution is just buying x times more the number of shares. So when the market comes back, you’ll make it up, as they say, by volume.

As for the regular market, I had pretty much gone cash, so there wasn’t a great deal to be lost for me there.

Not a big deal. Surf the wave and look for the next good opportunity. Happens all the time in our country; at least four or five times since I’ve been out of college.

Ah, but Tuesday, they really rattled me. Tuesday, they kept me awake all night.

And I didn’t even really comprehend it at first.

I read all the headlines and thought, “Hmmm, that’s a little unusual…” But then it started to sink in. And at 2:39 a.m. on Wednesday morning I rolled over in my bed, stared and the clock, and thought, “Oh my God…we’ve nationalized the banks…”

I’m still not sure the rest of us have caught on yet.

We’ve nationalized banking in the U.S.

NATIONALIZED BANKING! IN THE U.S.! DO YOU GET IT????!!!!

Now on the simplest level, think of it this way: how many people in the United States do you know that would love to be on Canada’s medical plan? You know, nationalized medicine. That gets big raspberries every time I hear it come up. Heck, I personally know a guy in Canada who had been told he needed heart bypass surgery, but he refused to have it done because of the level of care in his own country. One day he started having chest pains and suspected a heart attack. So he and the wife packed a quick bag, ran to the airport and flew to Myrtle Beach for a “vacation”…where he went to the hospital, they checked him in via the emergency room, and he had his bypass surgery—paid for by his coverage since he was on vacation. Some endorsement for a nationalized industry huh?

Or think of it this way: we’re in the middle of an election where all we hear about is how inept our government is. They can’t be responsible with their own budget. The ANNUAL deficit will approach half a trillion dollars this year and is projected to be close to a trillion in 2009. That’s annual deficit, not total. This is the same federal government that took over the infamous Nevada Chicken Ranch in the late 80’s and early 90’s due to a tax lien, and ran it out of business. A brothel. These guys couldn’t make money on hookers and booze. In Nevada. Where it’s legal.

These are the people who are running our banks now.

But even with all of that, that wasn’t what bothered me the most. It was two other points.

First: maybe I’m na├»ve, but it’s hard to believe that the government can just swoop in and take over businesses. I mean, I know it’s legal, and that in dire times they can do this. But from what I’ve read, several of the banks did not want the cash infusion. The government just felt like they needed it. That’s scary to me. Soviet Union, Red China, big brother kind of scary. “I know better than you little buddy, now give me your business. We’re smarter than you, bigger than you, and we can do this, so let me have your bank.”

Oh, I know it was just a partial investment, but trust me—the government is calling the shots now.

Second, and maybe even bigger than that: We now have a democrat congress, a democrat senate, and probably in two weeks will be electing a democrat president. I can very clearly see a scenario where Nancy Pelosi is now holding major sway over our banking industry. Yikes.

Does this bother anyone else? That our government—in their INFINITE wisdom—how holds this kind of control over our financial system and processes? Does it frighten you that THIS would ever be considered a viable option to letting the market sort itself out?

The same democrats who are blaming the republicans for the deficit suggested yesterday that another $400 billion of “recovery aid” may be in order. They’ve taken over the banks, and the first thing they want to do is DOUBLE THE DEFICIT????

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the GOP is any better. I mean, in this environment, they’ve selected John McCain to be their Presidential candidate. Great guy. An American hero in every sense of the word. But does anyone remember the “Keating Five?” If you don’t, look it up. McCain and John Glen were basically cleared but still found guilty of poor judgment—in a scenario that played a major role in the savings and loan crisis.

Speaking of the savings and loan crisis—were those the good old days or what? When you could bail out a financial institution for a measly $3 billion? Ah, I remember when…

But I digress.

C’mon America. Get your collective heads out of your you-know-what! We’ve spent ourselves into this crisis, and now the GOVERNMENT is in charge! Wake up!!!!

I’ve always had great confidence in our country and our system of government, but this one cuts deep. My government, THIS government, the government that possesses a list a mile long of poor judgment and mismanagement and over-spending and lousy decisions by committee is now running the banking industry in the last great bastion of capitalism in the world.

Does anyone have a copy of Revelation handy? What color horse is that standing over there? I know the red horse is war and the black horse is famine, but I always get the white horse and the pale horse mixed up…a little help? “Program, get ya programs! You can’t tell Death from Conquest without ya program!”

Dude. Do you think I can fake a heart attack and go to another country to bank?