Thursday, April 28, 2011

How Not To Handle Rising Prices

As you've no doubt noticed, the price of gasoline has soared recently. We're now beginning to see the trickle-down effects of this in other areas. Comparing prices from this time last year to now:

  • A loaf of bread costs on average seventeen cents more.

  • A gallon of milk costs on average thirty-one cents more.

  • Twelve ounces of ground coffee from Starbucks? A dollar more.

  • A half-gallon of orange juice costs on average sixteen cents more.

  • A pound of ground beef costs on average forty-seven cents more.

  • A five-pound sack of potatoes costs on average thirty-eight cents more.

  • A pound of chicken breasts costs on average thirty-nine cents more.

It adds up fast. And for the record, nationwide a gallon of gas costs on average $1.03 more than at this time last week. In California it's $1.12 and nine-tenths.

Since not eating isn't an option, and since unlike the federal government's actions simply printing money isn't legal, the question becomes how to handle this additional strain on our individual budgets. Most of us can trim back here or there. But when you depend on your car for the job, making driving less not possible, you cut elsewhere. You don't go to that movie. You don't buy that new outfit. You skip that ballgame.

You don't get that insurance coverage.

It's easy to say "well, you're an insurance company; of course you're going to tell people not to skimp on their insurance." Which is true insofar as we are an insurance company. However, let's take a moment to look at who actually pays the cost for inadequate insurance, or none at all.

Let's say you're in a car accident in California. You have insurance. The other person doesn't, even though the law says it's mandatory. Hopefully you have UM (Uninsured Motorist) coverage as part of your auto policy. If not, good luck getting any kind of compensation, be it for repairing or if need be replacing your car. As well as repairing you and/or your passengers. No insurance carried by anyone can handle replacement of same.

Next, take a look at your bank account. Can you afford to replace your residence, and everything in it, out of pocket? If so, congratulations. If you're like the other 99 44/100% of us, the answer is no. Might want to think twice before low-balling yourself on coverage.

Yes, times are tough and money's too tight to mention. However, in trying to budget things so you don't come up short, don't short yourself.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Visit From The Board Of Directors (Part Three)

Following the greetings and introductory remarks, a meet-and-greet session took place where CSE employees mingled with the Board of Directors members. Special thanks to Vicki George for providing many of the photos below:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Visit From The Board of Directors (Part Two)

President and CEO Pierre Bize welcomes everyone. Thierry Derez stands nearby.
Patrice Forget (R) smiles as Pierre continues with the welcoming comments.
Pierre presents Thierry with a clock commemorating the years of partnership between CSE and COVEA.
Dominique Salvy says hello.
Thierry thanks everyone for the reception.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Visit From The Board Of Directors (Part One)

Recently, we were visited by our Board of Directors, for whom we had a reception. We have a number of photos to share with you from the event. Here are but a few:

What would a reception be without cake?
The employees gather to the left...
... and to the right.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Using "Cars" to teach about driver safety and other valuable lessons

As you're probably growing ever more aware of, especially if you have a young son who's prone to going through the toy department at Target, Cars 2 will be hitting theaters in June. Since Pixar is apparently genetically incapable of making a bad film, it goes to reason that the continued adventures of Lightning McQueen, Mater and others will be something both kids and adults will enjoy. However, I'm not here to promote the movie; there is no doubt Disney will do just fine in that area. Instead, a few illustrations from the original movie that can be used to both teach driver safety, as well as an appreciation for what the automobile has brought to American culture, are suggested.

It's never too early to start teaching kids the fundamentals of driver safety. While no one is advocating putting a six year old behind the wheel of the family car and letting them have at it, planting seeds is always worth the effort. In the movie, Doc Hudson challenges Lightning McQueen to a race on dirt. Lightning McQueen, overconfident in his abilities, takes off at the start of the race... and then runs off the course when he attempts to turn left and skids out of control. Doc Hudson mocks Lightning McQueen as he tells him that on a slick surface, such as a dirt track, in order to turn to the left you have to steer to the right. This creates a controlled skid. Which will most likely mean little to a six year old, but ten years from now when they find themselves hydroplaning on a rain-soaked freeway knowing what to do not solely from a half-slept through drivers education course, but through a beloved cartoon, can be a lifesaver. (As an aside, should you have a teen in the house having them watch this six-minute cartoon starring Goofy will most likely have a greater impact on their driving than any number of lectures.)

The other lesson one can take from Cars comes later on in the movie when Lightning McQueen, mostly through the efforts of Sally, learns about the freeway that used to go by the town of Radiator Springs before a super highway was built that bypassed the town. Take a moment to share with your children what this is referring to, namely Route 66. While to today's kids a car ride without DVDs to watch is as foreign as, well, Route 66 itself, much of Cars is devoted to Lightning McQueen discovering the past he never knew existed. Take the opportunity this offers to teach your children how to value and cherish what the past has to offer, when you can bringing in people who lived during the middle part of the last century to tell the stories first hand. For the musically inclined, picking up a copy of the CD Old Angel by a band named the Lost Dogs which plays a musical style generally referred to as Americana can also help. It's also available on iTunes.

It's not as hard as it may appear to teach about driving safety and the place the automobile has in American culture. Give it a spin. Without spinning out, of course.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Both Sides Of The Story

It's far too easy in this world to generalize, compartmentalize and stereotype others. A prime example of this is the ongoing debate about public employees.

In the face of those who attempt to portray all government workers as irresponsible and sponging off the taxpayer's money comes this stinging retort from the wife of a federal law enforcement professional:

Do you remember the last time you were zapped while scaling an electric fence chasing a criminal illegal alien because you needed to deport him? Oh, you’ve never done that? Well, my husband has. Where did you spend Christmas ’05? My husband spent his working a double shift. Yes, he got paid overtime. Many in the private sector get overtime for that too.

I also have a loved one who works as a social worker for the state. She worked her way through college for the masters degree required to do her job. She lives in a lovely mobile home park not far from here, but we don’t get to see her much. She’s very busy.

(T)he fight for smaller government has led to many using a ridiculously broad brush on federal employees (and public school teachers and law enforcement), and I just can’t be any part of it. Mainly because every time I read this stuff feels like getting slapped in the face.

I take comfort in my caviar and luxury car’s soft Corinthian leather. Just kidding. My car doesn’t have leather seats, but it does have 130,000 miles and a squeak that’s getting louder and louder.

It's always good to hear both sides of the story.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Former Scholarship Winner Shares

As our 2011 Youth Scholarship contest rolls along, we'd like to take a moment and look back to last year's contest. More specifically, at one of the winners who recently send us a thank-you card including this note:

Thank you so much for making my dreams possible. My first two quarters at San Luis Obispo have been absolutely wonderful and could not be possible without your contribution. The money you have generously donated has been used for various architecture projects, for books, and for general fees on campus. As an architect major, I have worked on dozens of projects. Some pictures of my most successful projects are included.

I am having a wonderful time at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. All of my classes are incredible and I love going to class every day. Thank you for making it all possible and allowing me to pursue my dreams as an aspiring architect. Thank you so much for making my dreams possible.

So what has our winner from last year been accomplishing? Quite a bit, actually. Here are the photos of some of his projects, with his description:

A simple compositional project made from wire placed on a base.

A basswood model using the same ideas of the wire project.

A remodeling project of Hartford Pier, a pier located in Avila Beach. This bridge was designed as a lookout point out to the ocean that separates itself from the chaotic and busy pier deck. The primary focus of this project was on craft along with the design aspect.

Known as paraSITE, this is the most involving and experimental project to date. Made of over 130 pounds of steel, with over 80 pounds suspended on the two points, one at the box and the other at the wall. This taught me how to use many of the tools that CAED had at its disposal such as a complete welding shop, metal shop and wood shop. I have learned how to use many of the various saws and sanders, metal shears and spot welders, and the welder and plasma cutter. These lifelong skills could only have been obtained through your contribution.

It's good to have this reminder of how helping the children of the people who serve the people yields positive returns for everyone!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If Shakespeare Wrote The Annual Report

We've just finished work on our annual report. For those among you who have never read one, an annual report is a summary of the preceding year, filled with facts and figures detailing how everything went for the business in question.

By nature, annual reports are usually rather dry reads, as people read them to get technically correct data about a company as opposed to seeking to be wowed with florid prose. However, while putting this year's edition together, a thought did come to mind:

What if, in-between plays and sonnets, Shakespeare decided to pick up some freelance work by writing an annual report for one of the insurance companies of his day -- yes, there were insurance providers doing business in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries-- and in the course of doing so becoming confused as to the assignment's nature and therefore wrote it as a play?

Let's see how this might have worked out…



Gentlemen! I greet you with the excitement of the new day.
For lo, the sun doth rise brightly in the eastern sky;
Scattering its beams across hills and valleys
As they brush away the slumber from eyes across the land.
We must seize this grand opportunity provided by Nature itself
To travel across hill, dale and if need be Chip;
Proclaiming how our fine products and service
Bring comfort and renewal to all
Even as the fiery globe now above us warms and soothes.


Do not make haste to so travel.
We must proceed with caution most diligent,
For not all in this land are of fine nature.
Nay, some are of a scurrilous peculiarity,
Seeking compensation for losses not their own,
Or of a time so firmly rooted in the distant past
Whatever grievance they might have suffered
Has long since been erased by time's incessant march.


Thou kiddeth not.


I too urge caution.
For whilst I am in the midst of my work,
We know not what compensation from the people
Is correct exchange for the protection we extend.


Upon my word, you three
Erect such barriers of reticence
You truly drain the light right out of the sky.


Better to drain the sky
Than draw from the reinsurance fund.



Underwriticus, Claimicus and Actuarius, my good men!
Fret not over the plans of Marketus.
For I have provided him such tools and implements of exquisite nature
As to soothe any fears of overreach.
You have my most solemn word
That naught will spin out of control.


Thy pun is most unforgivable.



What have thee to offer me
With which I can entice the people who serveth the people
To entrust me with their trust?


We provide products most fair;
Protection for their domicile and carriage.



And place of business
Or apartment or townhouse complex!




Uh… I'll explain in a few hundred years.


As was being said,
We offer service and comfort
Great of value yet small of price.
Should ever thy customers suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune,
Swift will be the hand of care we provide
To right that which has been made wrong.


Verily thou hath inspired me!
Go forth I shall
To sell thy wares,
For you are most favored among all such businesses
And offer such goodness.



We concur.



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tax Truths

For most of us, April 15th is a day filled with dread. Why? It's the deadline for filling out and sending in your federal income tax papers.

Exactly why it has never been set up that in lieu of withholding and all the assorted financial gymnastics that take place when it comes to income tax a set percentage is taken out of your paycheck and that's the end of it has oft been discussed. There's no doubt a perfectly good reason, although other than keeping a lot of people on the government payroll while working for the Internal Revenue System quite possibly has something to do with the matter. However, we're getting off track here; back to the significance of April 15th. More precisely, two days after April 15th.

If you live and work in California, should you take your yearly salary starting January 1st and pay every penny of it as tax until you had paid all of the taxes you will owe during the year, April 17th would be the first day of the year you would actually start keeping what you earned. Another way to look at it is this: if you were to be paid every day of a non-leap year -- 365 days -- everything you earned in 106 of those days would be taken away from you in the form of one tax or another. In Arizona and Nevada the first day you's start keeping what you earned would be April 3rd, while in Utah it would be April 11th.

There are states with even higher tax burdens than California. The first day working for themselves for anyone living in New York is April 25th. In New Jersey, it's April 30th. The, uh, "champion" in this category is Connecticut. The first day its residents keep what they earn? May 3rd.

Ah, but it gets better.

If the above formula was applied to paying what the government actually spends, the first day we would keep what we earn would be May 24th.

Makes you wonder about where it's all going, doesn't it?