Striking a balance


It’s hard to find a balance in life.  It seems we never have enough time anymore and always have too many things to do.  When someone calls and asks how I’m doing, my standard reply is usually, “Very busy!”  We’re always so busy, busy, busy.  Where does the time go?  Why do I have so much to do?  I suppose that the transition period before moving to Korea exaggerates the amount of work we have to do–moving from an old life to a new life while trying to live day to day.  I keep hoping though that life will be different once we arrive in Seoul and settle in, but who knows.  I may just be someone who thrives on multi-tasking.  I can’t live without that trusty personal digital assistant (PDA) to help manage my schedule.  If something doesn’t get done today I can always move the deadline out to tomorrow or later.

Sometimes I get nostalgic thinking about the way life used to be.  Life definitely used to be simpler, no doubt about it.  I read somewhere that Americans today work about 80 more hours per year now than they did in the early 1970′s.  In fact, according to the International Labour Organization Americans work more hours than workers in any other industrialized nation.  It leaves us with a lot less time to do other things outside of work.  Another factor is choice.  We now have so many choices to make, far more than we ever had.  It makes life utterly more complicated.  Take the media, for example.  In the 1970′s our media choices included ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and the local newspaper.  With the advent of cable and the Internet however our choices have multiplied infinitely.  Life has become one big clutter.

Do I advocate going back to a simpler time?  No, but I definitely want to simplify my life and strike a better balance.  I want to spend more time with my family and less with a language learning book, more time developing spiritually and less time micro-managing the day to day, and spend more time doing activities and less time in front of a computer.  Can I do it?  Time will tell.

Humdrums and investing strategies


I didn’t feel well today.  In fact, our whole family caught a bug brought home by our son last Sunday.  He was sick for a few days, but he’s been doing better since last Wednesday.  On Thursday both my wife and I came down hard with the same illness–probably the stomach flu.  I don’t know if it’s the same infamous flu related to the flu-shot shortage people have been panicking about.  We ate some canned soup that didn’t sit well with us, and we wondered whether we had come down with food poisoning.  It now appears to be a stomach flu because my mother-in-law is also experiencing the same symptoms, and she didn’t eat the soup.  I had an awful night last night and left work a bit early today.  Thank goodness I’m here in VA in training and not working full time in Korea.

I started doing some miscellaneous tasks this week to get ready for our move to Korea.  Just 2 1/2 months away!  I can’t believe how much there is to do.  Moving to another city is one thing; moving overseas is a completely different dynamic.  We set a date of February 11th.  Our pack out will be on the 9th and 10th, so I put in 60 days’ notice at our apartment and requested a furnished apartment on the night of the 9th and 10th.

November’s U.S. jobs report came out today much lower than expected.  The economy added 112,000 new jobs, much lower than expected by analysts, who forecast around 200,000 new jobs.  Still, the overalll U.S. unemployment rate decreased from 5.5% to 5.4%.  These mixed messages are a symptom of what’s really going on in the U.S. economy–the economy is doing fine but not outstanding.  Don’t believe the economic doomsayers or those who always wear rose-colored glasses.  For example, the dollar is now around 1 euro:$1:32, but the dollar is still up against 40 other basket currencies, making it harder for the U.S. to narrow the trade deficit by depreciating the currency.  The economy is improving but not where it should be.  Germany recently announced an unemployment figure of 11%, twice the U.S. figure.  Imagine if the U.S. jobless rate doubled.

The markets took it in stride buoyed by rosy forecasts from Intel, and stocks were up slightly to end the week.  I’ve been chasing a couple of good prospects but I just missed purchasing them on some downward trends.  I bought Blue Nile and Overstock.com, two Internet retailers, this week.  Why these two?  Blue Nile is niche, profitable, recently came down from the IPO stratosphere, and it has an average buy rating.  Overstock.com is a small Amazon.com competitor with a much lower P/E ratio, a strong buy consensus, and is on the cusp of profitability.  I’ve also had my eye on a couple of other tech outfits–InfoSpace and an upstart called eBay, but the price just isn’t right.  eBay is very pricey.  I think eBay is a must-have for any portfolio, but the run-up in the last couple of months has made it less attractive.  InfoSpace is a strong buy.  Its current price is around $47 with an analyst consensus price target of $63 and a strong buy average rating it appears to be a good buy.  I had a chunk of change to invest, and I thought about letting it ride on a single stock but ended up splitting it into four portions to invest in four promising tech stocks.  If you’re interested in investing, check out The Motley Fool for some good recommendations.  I didn’t take their advice on my purchase of Google at IPO or DreamWorks Animation, but I do think they have some great recommendations.