Last week as the carnage on Wall Street was in full swing, I actually found myself rooting for the DJIA to tank. I've always felt that its previous level seemed unrealistically high, probably because I remember back when values in the 1500 to 2000 point range were considered outlandish. Of course I also think that all of the numbers in the securities trading industry are just pulled daily out of someone's butt, so when they drop it doesn't really bother me.
But I have to confess that part of my indifference to the recent economic churn has a lot to do with laziness on my part, and the fact that it seems to have worked to my advantage is probably due more to dumb luck than anything else. When I found myself working at Wind River and had to do all that "congratulations, you work here now" paperwork, one of the many choices I had to make was to pick a 401K plan. I looked over all the papers and tried to understand where the upside was. "The contributions are made pre-tax," people kept telling me, with a nudge, as though I was supposed to realize some great truth from this advice and be enlightened. Honestly I couldn't see how that was supposed to help, since while the money going into the plan wasn't taxed, the money coming out was. (Uncle Sam _always_ gets his cut.) Also, I couldn't shake the feeling that the plan was designed more to help fund managers afford that summer house in the 'burbs than to help me enjoy a cushy retirement.
In the end, I chose the "take the money and run" plan, which is to say I decided not to participate in any 401K at all. I anticipated being told by others that this was a foolhardy and dangerous plan, but at least it was a plan I didn't need a god damned degree in economics to comprehend. Now here it is 7 years later and the funds upon which many 401Ks depend are being decimated, and I've quietly paid off all my debts and am still chugging along earning interest on my savings which is still safe and sound. The only thing I have to worry about is inflation.
I've also been criticized for some of my other financial choices, like the fact that I'm still renting an apartment. "You're not earning any equity," I've been told. "You're just throwing money away. You should buy a house." But a giant down payment would eat up all my savings, and would probably double my monthly housing expenses (at best). And I'm also not keen on owning a house while I'm still single. It strikes a very unpleasant chord in me.
No, after having only recently clawed my way out of debt, I don't think going back into debt is such a great idea. I may not be earning equity, but I'm still socking away the cash. And I can buy toys when I want to.
Speaking of which, I think after my next paycheck comes in, I'm going to finally invest in a Mac Mini. Ever since my AMD Duron machine crashed and burned (literally), I've been using my Sun w2100z workstation as my home system. It's a serious piece of computer, but it's noisy as hell, eats up way too much electricity and generates way too much heat. The Mini is the polar opposite of these things, and it's small enough to fit in a shelf in my entertainment unit. About all I do at home these days is read work e-mail and browse the intertubes, and I don't need a dual Opteron 250 with 4GB of RAM to do that. And the Mini is just so gosh darn cute. I would pinch its cheeks, if I could do it in a manly way, of course. And if it had cheeks.
Now that Noisebridge finally has a physical space, I've been going through my junk trying to figure out what stuff I can donate. So far I've brought over my oscilloscope and my old Radio Shack PRO-2004 scanner radio, both of which have been doing little more than gathering dust in my apartment. There was some talk of antenna constuction -- if that pans out, I may bring over my HF ham radio gear too. I'm a little on the fence about that though: I still have a warm spot in my hard for that old Kenwood TS-430, and I'm not sure I'm willing to put it in a quasi-public space where it might be abused. It's a moot point right now though, since it's unclear if we'll really gain access to the roof to put antennas up there.
Thursday and Friday at work, I spent the whole day attending a dry run of the some of the training courses WR provides to its customers about VxWorks development. These courses dealt with areas of driver development that I happen to be involved with, so I and a cow-orker were drafted to be on hand to answer questions and provide clarifications. Prior to this, I had been assigned to create and document a template PCI bridge driver and add improved documentation to the template network driver (which already existed). This was only supposed to take a couple of weeks, but I ended up in a grumpy mood, the likes of which tends to kill my motivation to work, and procrastinated on it until the last minute (and then some). I did what I considered to be an inferior job on it. And yet, the guy I tagged to do the pre-checkin review thought it wad fantastic. I find this ironic, because I when I conciously blow off work like that, it's because in some sense I think I want to be caught slacking off. But apparently I can't even do that right.
We have more documentation to work on before a deadline at the end of the month. I'm not really looking forward to it, but then what coder likes writing documentation. I really feel like I need to get out and do something fun. And by fun I mean naughty. I'm very much out of the loop when it comes to bay area naughtiness though, and on the rare occasions I actually do make it to any event these days, I find myself surrounded by people I don't know. And yes, I know: the object of the game is to turn them into people I do know, but I suck at that game.
Oh, on a different note, there's two movies that I really want to see: Religulous (which is out now) and 'W,' which opens this coming weekend. I'm a big fan of Bill Maher (even though I don't watch his show as often as I should, which is a shame since I pay perfectly good money on cable teewee to see it) and as for W, any movie that skewers Bush is relevant to my interests, and I would like to subscribe to its newsletter. Hopefully I will find others who feel the same way and a group outing will be forthcoming.