Archive for January, 2009

Which Floor Do You Want?

I put sheet vinyl flooring in the bathroom. It is the least favorite of my flooring types. By least favorite I mean least favorite to install.

Here are my rankings, in order of easiest to hardest to install:

  • Vinyl tiles are the easiest to install but they are also the easiest to mess up.
  • Laminate flooring is easy to install. Plus it is not permanent – you can remove it with no destruction to the sub-floor.
  • Ceramic tile is nice because the grout will fill in many mistakes. But it requires the most surface prep and can be messy.
  • Sheet vinyl is awful because of the large size (unwieldy to maneuver) and messy glue.

I have not installed hardwood floor, but I assume I will like it slightly less than laminate.  I plan on never installing carpet myself, so I’m not going to rate its ease of installation.  (Carpet, drywall, and now sheet vinyl are on my list of things that are not do-it-yourself).  Also, thinset and grout for ceramic tile can be messy, but they clean easily. Vinyl glue is messy and does not clean easily.


Ceramic tile needs a flat, solid surface. That would not have worked in the bathroom that now has the sheet vinyl flooring. That floor was not level and not even, so it would have taken quite a few fixes to get the sub-floor in good shape for the ceramic tile. But for the sheet vinyl, we just put down luan plywood so that the surface is smooth. That left slopes and dips and such, but the vinyl conforms to that pretty well.

My Experience

The worst part about the sheet vinyl was the gluing part. The sheet was cut to fit the room exactly. The room is not square – it is more like a L shape. So I couldn’t just unroll it, because no matter which way I rolled it, it was longer than the part of the room where I was rolling it.

The theory is that you spread the glue on the floor and then put the sheet of vinyl on top of that. Then you press it down with a heavy roller and you’re done. If your room doesn’t change width at all, then it might be that easy for you. But if your room has angles or changes widths, think twice about sheet vinyl (or contract it to a professional installer).

Because I could not unroll my vinyl in one shot, I couldn’t put all the glue down at once. The vinyl is thick enough so that it won’t conform nicely. If your roll of vinyl is 8′ 3″ and your walls are 8′ 2.5″, then it’s not going to unroll. It just gets stuck and scrapes your wall. But the vinyl is thin enough that it will tear if you pull on it and it will crease (and tear) if it gets folded.

For my L-shaped room, I had to put the vinyl in place first. Since I couldn’t unroll it, I had to carefully bend it. Once it was in place, I peeled back one leg of the L, put the glue down, and put the vinyl back in place. Then I had to peel back the unglued part of the vinyl. That was both the corner and the other leg of the L. So I had to do two folds or bends without creasing it. Watch the corners – those are the first places that the vinyl starts to rip. But I got it in place, spread the glue on the floor, and restored the remained of the vinyl to its proper place.

All that had to be done with the door closed, because the door opens inward. And the glue gets all over the handle of the trowel but it does not come off very easily. And it has fumes, so I had to keep the window open, which is normally a bad thing to do when it is freezing outside.

Finally, the floor was glued. Then I had to roll it with the 100-lb roller thingy. There was once spot that had a bubble. I would roll over the bubble and the bubble would be pushed along. But as soon as I flattened it there, it would pop back up over where it started. There are no bubbles with any other flooring types.  They cooperate nicely.  But sheet vinyl does not.

One Chance Only

And the last knock against sheet vinyl is that it is all or nothing when you install it. With the vinyl squares, if one goes on crooked you can peel it up and try again. If a square gets damaged, you can throw it out and use the next one and you’ll lose only a dollar or so. The same is true for ceramic tile or laminate flooring or hardwood flooring. But sheet vinyl is not so nice. Once you put it down, it’s not coming back up. Theoretically, you could try to pull it off the glue and re-set it.  But I don’t want to even think about that.

And if it gets damaged in the process, you’ve lost $100-$200. Or you can try to repair it, which will either look bad or create seams. And the reason to get the sheet vinyl is so there are no seams. And don’t forget about the cutting of holes.  I had to cut holes in the sheet for this like the plumbing and the heat vent.  You have to measure very carefully and cut very carefully.  Otherwise you ruin the sheet.  With tiles (ceramic or vinyl), you just mess up a single tile at worst, and it’s not that much of a setback.  If you mess up multiple tiles trying to get a single hole or notch cut, then maybe you should re-think the idea of installing it yourself.

Seams and Gaps

The vinyl tiles (peel and stick) are the simplest to install and are great for small spaces, not much square footage. The problem is that you need to align the edges perfectly. Ceramic tile is similar, but the edges don’t need to be perfect because there are gaps between tiles and they are filled with grout. So slight offsets are okay, because they will be helped by the grout. But with vinyl tile, there is no grout because there are not supposed to be any gaps. If one tile is skewed ever so slightly, there will be a noticeable gap somewhere in the floor.  If the tiles are not perfect, you will notice it.


There’s just too much that can go wrong, too much to worry about, when installing the sheet of vinyl.  Main complaints: the glue is annoying and the big sheet is awkward.  I like ceramic tile for bathrooms.

Then he built the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar; from the floor of the house to the ceiling he overlaid {the walls} on the inside with wood, and he overlaid the floor of the house with boards of cypress.

1 Kings 6:15

All Means Mostly

To cut down on our mail, I selected the option given to us by our credit card company to just do everything online and skip the paper account statements.

One of the benefits of that is that now I don’t have a collection of papers piling up. I like to save things, and financial statements are one of those things. But if they don’t mail them to me, I can’t save them and so I won’t have to wonder how long to keep them. Perfect!

But they still sent me things in the mail, like this:

letter from credit card company

Read it closely, and you see that they were sending this letter as part of their All-Electronic Program. And we got this letter every month!

text from letter from credit card company

At the very least they could do is stop claiming that it is All-Electronic (not to be confused with All Electronics) and call their program Mostly-Electronic.

The letter went on to say how to update our email address and how to update our postal address and how we should enjoy the benefits of the All-Electronic Program. The letter never gave any indication why it was being sent.

After a few months of these letters (and no problems with the online access), I decided to check my contact information. They had my old email address and so their emails were being rejected and so they were sending me letters. I assume the letters were supposed to get me to update my contact information, but they did a lousy job. Nowhere in the letter did it say anything about my email address being invalid. All they had to do was say that their emails were being returned and I need to provide a good email address. Then I would have known what to do.

So if you’re wondering why the program you enrolled in to receive your statements online only instead of in the mail is still sending you mail, wonder no longer. Just update your email address in their system and the letters will stop.

“Just now the wise men {and} the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message.”
– Daniel 5:15

Halftime Shmalftime

The NFL seems more interested in the Super Bowl halftime show than the game. I have heard numerous ads about the show, and they are over-hyped. Not just hyped, but over-hyped. They are ads about just the halftime show, with no mention of the actual game.

So they got Rick Springfield to perform. “Watch as history is made!” Just because he has never performed in a Super Bowl show before, that makes it history? I’ve never performed in a Super Bowl halftime show either. If I performed, that would make history also. There are billions of people who fall into that group. I am not as impressed as the NFL would like me to be.

I think the reason they promote the show more than the game is that people who are going to watch the game are already going to watch the game. The NFL has them captive, so they don’t need to market it so much. They already know who is going to be playing the football game.  But there are probably people, fans of Bruce Dickinson or whoever he is, who would not normally watch the game but would tune in for the music.

Last year (Superbowl 42) there were 97 millions viewers for the game and 148 million for the halftime show. The show doesn’t need to be promoted – the game does. And the game lasts longer than the halftime show, so there are more ads to be sold for the game than for the show.

I, as usual, plan on skipping the halftime show. Not that I want to protest the music – just that it’s not football and therefore not as entertaining to me. I have other things I would rather do. Maybe I’ll check it occasionally to see if there are any good commercials.

“So I will silence the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps will be heard no more. ”
– Ezekiel 26:13

Non-Commissioned Offer

We bought a washing machine from an appliance warehouse store. The salesman was of the pushy type. And he was a salesman, paid on commission, not a helpful clerk. I suppose my definition of pushy would be when he asks us more questions than we ask him. And they were “Why don’t you…?” questions, too. That just put me in a defensive mode.

I don’t haggle or negotiate very well. Just tell me the price and let me buy it and get out of there. So I chased the kids around the store while my wife dealt with the salesman. She did a good job of haggling with him, and he ended up giving us a washer for a good price. How good a price was it? He told us that he wouldn’t be making any commission on the sale.

You could think either “Yeah right, that’s just one of your salesman tricks” or “You poor thing, not to be making any money today.” One response that we didn’t give was “If you’re not going to be making any money, then it wouldn’t bother you if we just walked away without buying it.”

We were wondering why he would even bother selling us something if he’s not making any money on it. Does he still have a minimum quota of number of items to sell? But it was only the 9th of the month – nowhere near the end of the month when you would expect quotas to be due.

I don’t like buying things from salesmen working on commission. That’s why the internet is great – price compare and purchase things with no pressure from salesmen.

You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.

Leviticus 19:11

Obsessive-Compulsive Driving

I have the driving habit of avoiding bits of paper or plastic that are on the road, especially if they were just kicked up by a vehicle in front of me.

Sometimes a vehicle will drive by a piece of trash sitting in the road.  The wind from the car will swirl around the debris, causing it to tumble or dance along the road.  If it’s near the lane markings, I will swerve slightly in order to avoid it.  If it’s in the middle of the lane, then I just run over it.

Either way, after I have gone by the spot where the thing was, I watch my mirrors carefully to make sure that it didn’t get stuck on my car somehow.  I will keep checking both the side mirrors and the rearview mirror until I see the paper or whatever it was.

I have seen another car with a plastic grocery bag stuck to the bottom of the car.  And the person’s just driving along with no clue that they have it.  And I don’t want that to be me.

If I do see the debris in my mirror, then I can relax and continue with my drive.  If I don’t see it after several seconds, there’s not much I can do.  So I keep driving.  I don’t do anything differently, but I do like knowing that nothing’s stuck to my car.

I had that problem once.  A fast-food sandwich wrapper ended on my antenna, and I did not find it until I stopped at my destination.  So I had been driving down the highway with paper stuck to the middle of my antenna, like a flag on a flagpole.  I wasn’t embarrassed while I was driving, because I didn’t know that was there.  But it was rather embarrassing to see my car once I got out of it.

Oh well.

“Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone {that} he is a fool. ”
– Ecclesiastes 10:3

Presidential Stock Market Returns

I get a quarterly publication from a brokerage company. The issue before the presidential election had a little article thingy with the title “Will Investors Win or Lose on Nov. 4?” Now that’s just a blatant argument-starting, trying-to-be-controversial headline. It implies that one side of the election will cause investors to lose money and the other side will cause gains.

But the text just under the headline shows that investors have come out ahead under both parties. So the headline should have been “Which Political Party Has Been Better For Stock Market Returns?”

The article went back 6 presidents under each party (Democrats and Republicans). It started in 1933 under FDR (coincidentally, that was just after the crash of 1929 was done and the market was headed up). The results were that $10,000 invested only under Democrat presidents would grow to $315,000 whereas $10,000 invested only under Republican presidents would grow to only $74,000. The Democrats had 40 years of presidencies and the Republicans had 36. Even if I removed 4 years of Democratic presidency, I wouldn’t expect the numbers to be much closer.  And other studies have the same results.

Those 76 years of data might be enough for a reasonably large sample, but I thought I would conduct my own investigation and go back farther. I started with the 1900 elections and checked the S&P500 (or equivalent) every 2 years, coinciding with the congressional and presidential election cycles. I had to get the 1898 stock prices too, so that I could get returns for that first election.

My results show that yes, the market has gone up more under Democrats than under Republicans. There have been papers published about this correlation, and some researchers and journalists are wondering why investors don’t notice this and invest accordingly. “Invest accordingly” would mean put money in the market under a Democrat president and take it out under a Republican.

The main answer is that the market still goes up under both. Investors know that leaving their money in the stock market long term (regardless of which party is in the White House) is the best policy. If investing were as simple as putting your money on a political party, it would have been figured out a long time ago.

I don’t know the exact method that the article writers used. Mine was rather simple and I expect it has some flaws. I started with $10,000 and had it go up or down by whatever percent the market did from the start to the end of a given term. I didn’t use exact days of the president’s terms, as did the article. My data was the price of the market, every 2 years, at the transition from one year to the next (close of December/beginning of January). But my numbers did approximate the article’s numbers, so my method was good enough for generalizations.

The article had the market returns as 5 times better under Democrats ($305,000 gain versus $60,000 gain). My results showed about 3 times better returns for the Democrats, but mine were $200,000 versus $70,000 (rounded).  The article did not include inflation as a factor.

Say that the market doubled under a president. Go ahead, say it. So you started with $10,000 and ended with $20,000. That means you made $10,000 and you are $10,000 richer and can buy more stuff than you could before, right? But what if inflation totaled 100% under that president’s term, so that the cost of everything also doubled under his watch? Although your money doubled, your value didn’t. All you did was stay even. So if one president had the market go up 8% but inflation was also at 8%, should he be considered better for investors than a president who had the market increase only 6% but kept inflation to 3%? I contend not.

I factored inflation into the mix, using numbers provided conveniently by Robert Shiller, and found that returns evened out significantly. The results changed to $23,000 for the Democrats and $21,000 for the Republicans. That still had the Democrats ahead officially (1.8% annual return vs. 1.2%), but realistically there is not much difference. At least not enough on which to build an investing strategy.

The article also did not include Congress as a factor. The President of the United States of America has some power, but Congress has a lot to do with monetary policy as well. I factored Congress into the mix, using the records of the Senate and House of Representatives. Because Congress has two divisions, the results got complicated: 3 entities and 2 parties means 8 categories.

I tried to simplify things, but I still wound up with a bunch of categories.  I have listed the results of what $10,000 would become under those terms, along with the annualized rate of return.  I used just the years that the money would be in the market, not the time of the whole study, as that seemed better for comparison.  So each category has a different time base for the annualized rates (President: Rep. 62 years and Dem. 48, House: Rep. 44 years and Dem. 66, Senate: Rep. 50 years and Dem. 60).

“n” means “not adjusted” and “i” means “adjusted for inflation”

Single Indicators:

  • President Only:
    Democrat: $202,000 (6.5%) n / $23,000 (1.8%) i
    Republican: $79,000 (3.4%) n / $21,000 (1.2%) i
  • House Only:
    Dem: $342,000 (5.5%) n / $24,000 (1.3%) i
    Rep: $47,000 (3.6%) n / $20,000 (1.6%) i
  • Senate Only:
    Dem: $143,000 (4.5%) n / $6,100 (-0.85%) i
    Rep: $112,000 (5.0%) n / $51,000 (3.3%) i

Compound Indicators:

  • All Three Matching:
    Dem: $106,000 (5.8%) n / $22,000 (1.9%) i
    Rep: $16,000 (4.0%) n / $11,700 (1.5%) i
  • President Opposite Congress:
    Dem. Pres, Rep. Con.: $25,000 (9.6%) n / $16,500 (5.1%) i
    Rep. Pres, Dem. Con.: $17,800 (2.7%) n / $6,900 (-1.7%) i
  • Mixed Bag (split Congress):
    D. House, R. others: $19,300 (8.6%) n / $14,300 (4.6%) i
    R. House, D. others: $8,100 (-10.6%) n / $5,700 (-24.7%) i

The best single indicator, accounting for inflation, is the Senate.  The President and the House of Representatives are almost a wash when it comes to returns after inflation.  But the Senate – the difference there is quite obvious.  A negative return for the Democrats versus a strong positive return for the Republicans.  I say strong positive because it is about twice the return rate that you’d get if you played the presidency.

And you could play around with the compound indicators some more.  I wouldn’t put too much stock in the Mixed Bag category, since the second one (-25%!) was only two years.  It may have no correlation to anything at all, but it’s a fact that the worst combination for the stock market was a Democratic president with a Republican House and Democratic Senate.  You’re not going to be able to prove cause and effect, but you could sure make a headline out of it.

If you ever need something to do, you could waste a whole day just playing around with market returns to come up with statistics that benefit your particular party or cause. Or read someone else’s investigation of the issue. There are even futures markets for presidential elections (that’s a link to the old blog. The new one, but without that post, is here).

In conclusion, don’t trust dramatic headlines and don’t invest based solely on presidential political party. Now you can consider yourself a more enlightened investor.

“But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as {it is} this day.”
– Deuteronomy 8:18

Don’t Waste Your Shower

As it is frigid outside and the furnace is running much of the time, we use humidifiers.  We have a couple of stand-alone units that spend most of the year in the garage.  But they are back in the bedrooms, helping keep people from drying out.

Just about everyone has at least one humidifier in his house.  It’s called a shower.

I leave the bathroom door open when taking a shower.  What do we want in winter?  Warm moist air.  What is in the bathroom during a shower? Warm, moist air.  Why run the bathroom fan and send all that good air outside, just so you have to run the furnace some more to replace that warm air that left the house?  Send all the humidified air to the other parts of the house instead.

On a somewhat related note: why does the garage freezer run when it is below freezing outside?  We have a freezer in our unheated garage.  The temperature in the garage has been well below freezing during the previous two weeks, but I would go into the garage for something and the freezer would be running sometimes.  I’m tempted to unplug it and leave it open during the winter.

While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22