Building shelves

What dodoes every smartypants do when shown a  shelf set in the Room and Board  catalog  for four thousand dollars?  He thinks he can build it!  How hard could it be, right?  🙂  The thing is, you probably can build it, but it’s a lot harder than you think.   While Room and Board’s  linear cabinets are made of solid wood, I chose to use Baltic birch plywood, and plan to save about $2900, including tool,plywood, veneer, and stain cost, but not including labor.  Solid wood would require a table saw and a lot of woodworking skill.  Since people who know me know I have an attention span only slightly longer than that possessed by the target demographic for ‘Sesame Street’ (more in the ‘Electric Company’ range), a table saw would not be a good fit for me, at least right now.   Since the rule is, do every home improvement project, but always get a new tool, I decided to buy a track saw and a plunge router and tackle this project.  Festool makes good equipment with superior dust collection.  However, after I saw the prices for Festool equipment, I went to my Makita dealer and bought the SP6000K1 track saw on clearance (it has since been discontinued) as well as the RP2301FC plunge router.  The SP6000K1 instruction manual had some interesting stuff in it, including the helpful hint not to hold the saw upside down in a vise.  Good to know!  I have done stupid stuff with tools before but I hope I never do anything that stupid.  Hard as it is to believe it had to happen enough that Makita would write this up in their instruction manual.  A contractor told me that he’s seen guys forgo the vise and just hold the skillsaw upside down,  while somebody pushes a 2×10 into it…


I found you can make really accurate cuts with the tracksaw, and track.  It’s basically a skillsaw with an integral guide track the saw rides upon.  You get good value with the Makita system but there are two problems with the Makita saw: there is no riving knife, and the vacuum port is a terrible design.  The hose port always wants to stick straight down, it isn’t articulated or anything.  Because of its position, this means the hose can get hung up, especially on the track.  When this happens, you have to take one hand off the saw and try to move the hose (not good), or turn the saw off.  If you turn the saw off it will leave a burn mark on the plywood as the saw spins down.  You can’t pull the saw up because it will pull backwards because the hose is hungup and prevents it from moving out of the plunge.  The alternatives are to forgo the vacuum, which will leave a mess, or to position the vacuum hose over your shoulder.  The RP2301FC is a great router except it leaves sawdust everywhere.  I wondered why people would spend the money for Festool, and well, now I know.  Anyway, this is what the shelves look like so far…

Photo1 (2)

Mafia sets up shop in Long Beach

This circular was sent to my house when I was in Germany.  Who on earth take out a loan that starts at 196.96% APR?  Too good to be true?  Don’t worry about that ‘teaser’ low initial interest rate,  it will never exceed 199.99% for the life of the loan.  I’m sure you could get better vig from your local thug down the street.

rip off interest rate

rip off interest rate


My mentor and good friend Pat passed away last month. I met Pat when I was a young engineer at Motorola SPS (now Freescale), which was an incredibly dysfunctional company. Motorola had made its fortune in the early 1990s on pagers and analog cell phones, and cruised from about 1993 onwards. I joined in 1999.  They missed the boat completely on digital cell phones, fast low-power embedded processors, ARM processors, integrated GPS chipsets, Apple CPUs, fabless, Physical Layer chips, etc. etc. There was no product definition, or strategic vision that I could discern. I remember grown men shouting about whether the PowerPC was big endian or little endian. This was a chip that Motorola designed, not a competitor part.  (it’s big endian, but IBM’s documentation shows the MSB as 0).Many of the people there were not helpful, especially to a young engineer.  ‘Don’t mess with my rice bowl’ as Pat would say. Anyway, in that environment I met Pat. He would put a dry erase mark every day on his board like he was in jail, counting down the number of days until he retired.  I learned a lot in the lab working with him.  The products we supported had a lot of issues, and we were under a lot of stress.

Some of his best phrases (clean ones):

after something is finished: “that’s another ‘don’t care’ in my Karnaugh Map of life”

“there’s a half life for everything”

Is Jay Cordaro Smarter Than a Chimpanzee?

The old saw is that you could get a better return on your money by hanging the Wall Street Journal stock listings on the wall and have a chimpanzee throw darts at it and buy whatever stocks the chimp hit with the darts. Warren Buffett bet some hedge fund managers an S&P 500 index fund would outperform link. I have my method for picking stocks which I’ve detailed in this blog, and nobody cares about. Anyway, I compared my actual 5 year returns on an annual basis, including all fees, to passively buying the S&P 500 on 1/1/2008. Here’s the results:

Year Jay the Chimp S&P 500
2012 10.83% 15.88%
2011 12.37% 2.07%
2010 8.77% 4.87%
2009 2.49% 27.11%
2008 -13.15% -37.22%
Total Return 20.58% 8.42%
Annualized Return 4.11% 1.68%

Although 4.11% annualized return is not great, I’ll take it. I still think you can select a subset of stocks which will outperform the stock market as a whole. When I get around to it, I’ll show the data going back to 1999, when I started investing seriously. By the way, visit Money Chimp if you haven’t already. I got the S&P 500 returns data above, and most of the information I’ve used as the basis of my investing, from that site.

Gallup Survey on Americans’ Opinion on Guns


74% of Americans oppose banning possession of handguns, and 51% of Americans oppose banning possession of so-called ‘assault rifles’.
So why is every gun store barren of even bolt-action hunting rifles?

Show me the EBT!

Show me the EBT!

Sign on Subway restaurant, Long Beach, 2013


Somebody wanted to give me a warm welcome when I returned to California. More like beg. Who has been feeding this guy?