Robert Reich’s Wealth & Poverty Class

I recently stumbled upon Robert Reich’s (link 1, link 2) Poverty and Wealth YouTube lectures. It’s only up to episode 5. I’ve already watched the first 4 episodes. In these first 4 episodes, Reich sums up some of the current social, political and economic ailments that are affecting the US and the world at large. I expect him to explore different facets of these topics over the next few weeks.

So far, he’s has so far talked about income equality, investor’s perspective, globalization and housing inequalities. He does a good job discussing the history of how the situation came to be by engaging listeners to think about these issues while also providing possible avenues of solutions.

I really recommend any of my readers to listen him.

Evans Brothers Coffee Roaster

January’s Angels Cup comes from Evans Brothers Coffee Roaster. It’s a “signature blend” with beans from Columbia and Brazil that’s a medium roast. Opening the bag, I’m greeted berry and nutty aromas. However, after making my latte, the sweet berry flavor dominates each sip. With each sip, the aftertaste though has a pleasant chocolate flavor that really makes this latte delicious. I wonder what ratio of high quality beans were mixed to make the sweet fruity flavor profile.

More Thoughts on Russia’s invasion

With all the reading I’ve been doing on the invasion, the gods of algorithm showed two interesting viewpoints of why Russia is invading Ukraine.

1) It’s for the resources. Apparently, there are huge deposits of resources in the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine/Crimea as well as natural gas deposits under Ukrain.

2) It’s historical. The birthplace of Soviet Russia originated from Ukraine and are thus “one people” with Russians.

Again, I absolutely believe the western democracies HAVE to retaliate in force. It’s democracy at stake. Where are all the Republican hawks who are spouting how great US democracy is and how great freedom is?

My thoughts on Russia Invading Ukraine

In the past 48 hours, Russia is invading Ukraine.

Let’s think about it… a soveriegn nation is actively attacking and invading another sovereign nation. The last time this happened might be when Iraq invaded Kuwait (I think?). The rest of the world MUST respond by sending troops to defend and free Ukraine. It is the ONLY ACTION to take. If the world doesn’t commit any military action, it sends a signal that any nation who has a large military can attack and invade a smaller weaker neighboring nation while only suffiner “sanctions.”

The current sanctions will not do any good now that the fighting has started. Sanctions probably would never have worked against Russia. Russia doesn’t care about the money. It has enough resources and neutral parties (namely China) to trade with. What Russia wants is to annex Ukraine via puppet government similar to the old Soviet Union/USSR days. Russia is actively calling out Western democracies bluff on the use of force and the world needs to come together to show Russia cannot bully the world.

What can the world do? Here are my thoughts:

1) The United Nations should also seek to remove Russia from the Big 5. It should be replaced by another country (India? maybe an African country? a vote from the remaining assembly members?). There should be some sort of bullshit rule the UN assembly makes that specifically amends the UN rules that kicks out Big 5 members by a vote… maybe a majority of Big 5 + majority (or 60%, 65%, 75%?) of the assembly members. Russia after all has to be punished.

2) The democracies of the world MUST react with force to defend the principle of democracies.

3) China… yes China… if they want to take an active role as the 3rd super power… China should actually be leading the charge and be the first to put ground troops in Ukraine. Why? In the weeks leading up to this invasion, Russian “rhetoric” to justify invasion was centered around “freeing/liberating” the breakaway Ukrainian provinces. Or “supporting the breakaway provinces” plea to free themselves from “Ukrainian tyranny.” US intelligence apparently debunked most of these stories. Does any of these “free from tyranny” language sound familiar? Tibet? Xinjiang? What if a neighboring country decides to “Free Tibet” like how Russia is “freeing these breakaway provinces”? China absolutely needs to take a stand against Russia if anything to protect it’s own borders but more importantly shift the focus away/out of the bad parts of China and brand itself as Ukrainian liberators against Russian hegemony. China is probably in the best global position to act. They either need to stand up and become the 3rd super power or remain as a lackey to the Russians.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

January’s Trade Coffee comes from Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Looking at the label, it’s a single origin light roast from Guatemala’s Huehuetenango region. Smells wonderful even after a month. Making my latte, I’m blown away at how sweet and fruity it is. I taste this wonderful mix of honey and apple-like flavors that morphs into milk chocolate. The latte’s are so delicious that I’ve made probably two lattes every day since opening the bag.

The Ocean Cleanup

Readers of this blog may have heard of this “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It’s actually two regions in the Pacific Ocean where the ocean currents are collect and “round up” so to speak the various floating plastics and other man-made debris gets washed off, tossed off, drained away, and generally discarded on land and somehow makes their way into the ocean and ocean currents.

ALmost 10 years ago, I heard a Ted Talk of a young environmentalist seeking to change and clean up the oceans. From time to time in the past 10 years, I heard about his successes and failures in the news but much of that news was drowned out by COVID19. Late last year, I read an article that demonstrated the successes of one of his systems. After many years of not seeing/reading updates, I read through and watched quite a few of the Ocean Cleanup YouTube videos. It turns out the Ocean Cleanup has been busy not only developing more efficient systems to clean up the garbage but also on ways to recycle and reuse the recovered plastic into more interesting things. One of these reuses is to make sunglasses and sunglass container.

This effort to clean up the garbage is admirable. To support this project, I paid and recieved these $199 sunglasses. Are they expensive? Yes… but instead of thinking how expensive it is… I’d like to frame it as paying to clean up the plastics in the ocean while also paying to fund alternative methods to resuse the plastics collected. These sunglasses show that the technology exists to reuse discarded plastics. The biggest issue now is to be able to scale up the process enough so that this Ocean Cleanup is self-sustaining to support itself. I bet the founders would love to tell people that they have recycled/reused all the plastics in the world and there is no longer any more plastics to recycle and reuse.

One man’s trash is another man’s $199 treasure….

Mad Priest Coffee Roasters

December’s Angels Cup (yes I’m very late) comes from Mad Priest Coffee Roasters. With all the various beans available during the Christmas season, it’s been very easy to stay caffeinated but difficult to actually finish the beans in a timely manner. These beans come from Guatemala and have maintained a wonderful fruity aroma for so long. Making my latte, I’m impressed at how fruity and sweet it is. Each sip leaves a milk chocolate aftertaste that makes this particular roast delicious.

On another note, is it me or does the picture look like something out of an old school RPG game.

Angels Cup Holiday Gesha Box

I managed to snag one of the Angels Cup Holiday Gesha Box for 2021! I received four bags labeled A, B ,C and D. The descriptions of the Gesha beans had to be pulled online since Angels Cup is trying to be more eco-conscious and stopped providing the little cards describing each of the bags and the origin of the beans. I took snapshots of each of the bean description for your perusual.

Bag A: This bag has such a pleasant floral, and fruity smell. It’s very similar to the powerful aroma of Bag C. Very fruity and sweet to taste with hints of dark chocolate aftertaste. The latte smells amazing.
Bag B: This bag also has a floral smell and hints of fermentation/yogurt aromas. It’s not as fruity of an aroma as Bag C. The sweet fermentation flavor comes through immediately and overpowers the subtle fruit flavors.
Bag C: This bag is probalby my most favorite. It has floral, fruity, caramelly aromas. It’s fruity and sweet with slighty nutty and caramel after taste.
Bag D: This bag has the most floral aroma of the four. The florals dominate the taste ending with a nice nutty, toffee, milk chocolate after taste.

Overdraft Fees

I recently heard The Indicator from Planet Money’s Overdraft Fees podcast episode. Two statistics immediately jumped out at me.
1) Banks made $15.5 BILLION dollars on the fees in 2019 (CFPB Link).
2) Less than 10% of the banking population generated approximately 80% of the fees.

HOLY CRAP… #2 surprises me the most yet at the same time doesn’t really surprise me at all. Given the income wealth inequality… many people on the lower end of the income distribution are literally cash strapped and living paycheck to paycheck. I’ve heard instances when banks charge a set fee for every transaction that’s overdrawn. That’s fucking ridiculous. Why doesn’t the consumer opt out of this predatory behaviour? Apparently the consumer was under the impression that they HAD to sign up for overdraft fees without realizing that they can opt out. EGADS!!!

I will say that early in my career, I also got hit with overdraft fees. I learned two valuable lessons at that time. First, the ACH transfer delay is a fucking joke since the ACH transfers now could be same day if the banks wanted it so. Also, why use ACH when payments can be electronically delivered immediately through other applications like the bank supported Zelle, Venmo, and Paypal? Second, pending transactions by the bank doesn’t work in your favor and acts as if money is not there. I got hit a few times mainly because I didn’t plan ahead to transfer the money I needed.

I wonder though… if this issue masks a much larger issue of the lack of financial literacy in the US population.