Sunday, November 29, 2009

Follow Up Post

Regarding the last topic, here's another good article. One quote:

"...climate change seems tailor-made to be a low priority for most people. The threat is distant in both time and space. It is difficult to visualize. And it is difficult to identify a clearly defined enemy."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Warm-Mongering

I don't agree with absolutely everything Mark Steyn has to say here, but anyone that politicizes Science, I say call them out. And I like his term "warm-mongering".

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

OH, The Swine!!

Did I have just get over the swine flu? I guess the answer has to be maybe not, supposedly when you have flu symptoms "at most half, and perhaps as few as 7 or 8 percent, of such cases are actually caused by an influenza virus in any given year". I have to tell you, though, if it wasn't at least the regular flu I got, whatever else that was, was some kind of powerful something. I haven't been that knocked out for that long since I was a child! And I saw or heard more than one reasonably reliable source say if you had the flu in our area, it was probably H1N1 as it really is the only thing going around. So who knows.

What's interesting to me is the fact that had I wanted to get a vaccination, I couldn't have. People are getting in line for it and getting turned away, finding that there isn't enough vaccine and only high-risk individuals (and financial fat-cats) will actually get a shot. You know, it is just the history of that whole business of flu shots: nothing but problems. Some of these problems are soon forgotten seems to me. I distinctly remember a couple of years ago when no U.S. company would make the vaccine and the British company that was supposed to make it screwed it up. Of course the problem was the politicians were trying to control the costs while simultaneously denying proper protection from liability that the vaccine makers wanted. And brother there is liability. People simply will die or otherwise get really horrible complications from getting the shots, sometimes in great enough numbers to be a financial disaster for that vaccine maker if held liable. This was the fiasco that resulted from the 1976 Gerald Ford swine flu vaccination drive. I don't know if the vaccine maker was liable or the government was liable, but in any case the topper for that year was that supposedly only one unvaccinated person died from the swine flu .

A doctor now no doubt banned from the media came on a local radio station about five years ago and said he didn't recommend getting flu shots except for the elderly, infants, or other high risk groups. His reasoning was that for healthy people there is almost zero risk of dying or getting complications, but there was a certain risk from getting a flu shot, and that risk is unknown for each year until, well, the results are in! Furthermore, there is a pretty high chance that you are not getting vaccinated for the strain that is actually going to go around.

Anymore, though, we are not hearing these voices. The regular media seems to be cooperating with the notion that, again, we can't handle the truth, and the truth is the flu shots must be given to everyone possible so the vaccine maker can sell them and also so that there is a theoretical wall of immunity out there amongst those who don't actually need it so that the high risk groups are more protected. It is my civic duty to get the flu shot?

So as not to paint the picture that the government's vaccination drives are wholly useless, I'll give them credit for trying to protect the vulnerable. And, yes, maybe when something more dangerous like H1N1 is becoming epidemic, maybe it is time for all of us to get that flu shot (oh if there weren't all those problems!) I have to confess that the idea of getting in an interminable line to get one may keep me in the uncooperative citizen category forevermore. But unfortunately, it is quite possible all this is misplaced effort anyway. A recent Atlantic Magazine article really lays out the case (the quote above is from that article)

I'd like to hear any other opinions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Starting to Look Like There Was No Excuse For This

You have to remember I think the Immigration Act of 1924 was a good law. Sorry.

LINK

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Just Me

The idea that these types of shows are proliferating even though competely fraudulent bothers me to no end. I guess it's just me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jon Stewart on not meeting with the Dalai Lama

good puns: "Hell No, Dalai!" and "Obama Lama Ding Dong"

warning: Daily Show can be pretty gross, this clip pushes the envelope when "reporting" on how he supposedly reacted.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-october-7-2009/hell-no--dalai

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Financial Advisors Are Getting New Scrutiny

I have long suspected it was true that financial advisors are to be avoided for the most part, as it is claimed here. The article's writer seems to also not really needed confirmation that "on the whole, investors who use a financial adviser tend to underperform do-it-yourselfers."

Furthermore:

"Advisors actually tend to lower returns, raise portfolio risk, increase the probabilities of losses, and increase trading frequency and portfolio turnover relative to what account owners of given characteristics tend to achieve on their own "


"... the advisers in the study suffered from the same biases that often make lay people such poor investors. They chased hot stocks and dumped ones that cooled off. Because they thought their job was to outperform the market, they felt a compulsion to do something — anything — when the right move was to stay put. Sprinkle fees and commissions on top — some of which reward advisers for being active traders"



Seems to me that the typical investor might go through these phases:

  1. When inexperienced and doing it on their own, a new investor indeed makes just these same errors as above.
  2. Additionally, a young investor often finds he is forced to make terrible decisions by default: buying stocks when the economy is good and selling stocks when the economy is bad, due to the effect a bad economy has on the funds available to invest.
  3. At some point the survivors of this pummeling try to get some help. Now it is the turn of the professionals, 99% of them?, to screw up just as outlined above.
  4. Veteran investors now make a decision. They either learn how to find a good advisor or an advisor who will follow instructions, learn how to do it themselves properly, or seek out shelter in super-safe investing. If they seek out shelter in the form of just trying to find someone who they can turn it all over to, letting go completely, well, meet Bernie Madoff.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"state officials, who came over, did tests, and told her to have the room cleaned by a hazardous waste crew - to the tune of over $2,000"

This fluorescent bulb business, I don't know, I have some sympathy for it but some things about are sure bugging me. We have lamps that the new bulbs don't seem to fit. I'm thinking about hording the old bulbs, certainly I will for those lamps. But the lady who was dumb enough to call the state in, well, she just never heard the old cynical ditty "I'm here from the government and I'm here to 'help you', ha ha ha."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

OK this is in bad taste, sorry.

But the reaction of the chimp at the end of it is priceless!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qwgArt7rvI

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Redskins fans!

Harking back to the good old days and the Hogs, I got a player recruited now who knows how to tackle!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Soon: Self Realization for Computers and the End of Times


Something has been bugging me about my Yahoo email. Somehow I got selected to go into some kind of social network and the durn thing wouldn't let me go till I sort of completed a certain process and got to a certain point. I immediately turned everything off that would reach out to everybody else, not being part of the up and coming generation that wants everybody to know every detail of everything that should be private with all this Facebook, Twitter, etc. [I probably just showed how out of touch I am by not naming what the current craze is].

A little background: Science Fiction has had a constant theme that computers were going to take over the world one day, and I just realized recently just how far back it goes. There is a really corny movie from the 50's that has a robot named Robby the Robot, and in this movie [studying the plots I am guessing it is 1957's The Invisible Boy] a Supercomputer [that controls Robby] is so powerful that it achieves "self realization", becomes evil, and has to be destroyed or somesuch. I was astonished to see that plot, it surely showed that Science Fiction writers went into deep distrust of computers right from the get-go. This theme certainly was repeated as late as the "Terminator" movies, where the Defense Department computers become very powerful and finally also get to the point of
"self realization" and become evil. And also in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which had a computer with too much ambition as well. This brings me back around to Yahoo email.

In the movie 2001, Hal the computer is getting snipped to death by Dave, and keeps asking "what are you doing, Dave?" in a very memorable manner. This can be imitated and the name of someone else substituted. When you do this, seems to me it always has an eerie affect for anyone who has seen the movie.

So, Yahoo email? Well it turns out that my new homepage cannot be avoided. I usually like to bookmark the inbox and skip all the baloney, but when I try this now, it doesnt really work right. Definitely "Hal" doesn't like that. So I have to constantly go to the home page. And what do I see? Check it out above, "what are you doing right now?" it constantly asks. This is really starting to give me the creeps!

All I can say is, should you see my blog go dark for too long a period, you better check on me. After publishing this post, I am going to be checking my email with a pair of snips ready to go, I'll tell you that!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Deja Vu

Deja Vu for me, anyway, having had the bitter experience of losing money investing in alternative energy way back in something like 1976 or so. A rare article [they were rare back then too] is sadly doing reality checks.

Some highlights:

"[In Spain]... soaring electricity prices forced other businesses to cut 2.2 jobs for every "green" job created... Spain's unemployment rate is now 17% and rising."


"... turbines that Downing Street intends to install over the next decade will be manufactured — not in Britain, but in Germany, Denmark and China, where coal still powers steel mills and factories."


"Austin's GreenChoice program cannot find buyers for electricity generated entirely from wind and solar power. After seven months, 99% of its most recent electricity offering remains unsold, as Austin's renewable electricity now costs three times more than standard electricity."


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Open Letter to the Beer Activist

His blog is one of the links you see in "other blogs".

>>>>

Great blog, enjoy keeping up with it!

The "Activist" part of your blog name keeps attracting my attention. I have a little story to tell you, and you have to let me know if I am crazy.

I no longer drink very much of Old Dominion's products. I am not thrilled with the idea of the current owners, yet I was willing to stick with one of my favorite breweries anyway. But something happened that I can find absolutely no one talking about (could be I am just missing such talk of course).

An impressive percentage of my microbrew consumption outside of the home occurs at a couple of local "Hard Times" restaurants. And one of my pretty reliable choices was the "Hard Times Select", chosen by that restaurant chain to be their House Beer. It was acknowledged to be a product of Old Dominion's, and was pretty well known to just be the Old Dominion Lager relabeled. Well, indeed just after the change of ownership at Old Dominion I went into Hard Times, chose the Hard Times Select and (I want to assure you uninfluenced by any suspicions, it was the last thing on my mind) and I find myself tasting a beer that just screamed that it was exactly the kind of beer I don't like. I started complaining to the bartender that the brew had changed, that it was more like a "Bud Light" than anything. The barkeep seemed to know nothing about any change. I was furious with the restaurant, thinking they had chosen some light beer to replace the Dominion Lager, which at last check still claimed to be brewed the same way as always.

A few weeks after this, I brought some beer to a gathering, and some of it was Old Dominion Lager. To my surprise, one of the other guys started saying the beer wasn't worth drinking. He was familiar with it and thought I had picked up a bad batch. I tried one, and sure enough it was another batch seeming that it wanted to imitate Bud Light.

Of course now a light was coming on. It wasn't Hard Times that changed but the brewery, I was now thinking. I went to a beer store and picked up some more with the same result. And have tried since with the same result. The beer has changed! Unacknowledged by the brewery. This to me is outrageous!

I want to emphasize that my discovery was not being influenced by any suspicion, in fact I was unwilling to believe such a thing would be underfoot unless I would have heard about it. In the meantime I have held off writing to anyone about it, hoping to run into a friend who had saved some old bottles of the Old D. Lager so that the new and the old could be directly compared. No such luck.

This means, of course, that for me to assert this to someone relies on that person being able to remember what the old brew was like. I was really hoping to find some blogs talking about this surreptitious change. I can hardly be sure I haven't missed such, but did a Google blog search just now with no luck. Quite the opposite, for example:

http://beerlicious.net/2009/02/old-dominion-lager-chicken-fajitas/

And that search brought op a beer activist posting of yours, talking about the move to Dover. No mention of the dastardly recipe change for the Lager.

Well, you'll have to tell me if I am crazy. If this is the first you've heard of it, it probably means I am. Nonetheless, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try to reach *somebody* I respect and demand to know "say it ain't so", say those brewers wouldn't do such a despicable thing. Old Dominion Lager, the fine and admirable Dortmunder style, changed into Bud Light and nobody notices!!

I am only recently up to date about the move to Dover. To me this only means I feel very little allegiance as far as "local brewery" goes, and if I am right about this let's CALL THEM OUT.

Thanks in advance for your consideration,
Carl Williams
Arlington, VA

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Breaking New Ground

First line in both Senate and House versions of current Health Reform proposals gives me a problem:

"Require all individuals to have health insurance."

Unconstitutional IMO. Would be only thing of its kind I can think of.

http://www.kff.org/healthreform/upload/healthreform_tri_full.pdf

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stumbling Across Things Disturbing


I find it slightly disturbing that this could have been a comet?

I added the image in case the link doesnt always work.

text says:

Photos From the Final Frontier

The recently refurbished Hubble Space Telescope is back and apparently better than ever. NASA scientists interrupted the final testing and adjustments of the telescope to release the first photos from Hubble since its upgrade in May. The photo shown here captures the mark on Jupiter thought to have been made recently by a comet or meteoroid. This photo, taken July 23, was snapped with the telescope's new camera, the Wide Field Camera 3.
(NASA)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lenny Dykstra as Investing Genius Part II

My observation that funds that are able to produce fantastic profits are in fact based on leverage in some manner is holding up. Another such story now with Dykstra.

Some highlights:

'[Dykstra's method] is nothing but a leveraged bet on the market, even if you only select the most conservative, well-managed companies. If the market goes down 30%, you're broke. If it goes up 30%, you're rich."


"Dykstra has claimed that his system had picked 99 winners to just 1 loser, but ... Dykstra was sitting with lots of potential money-losers that he wasn't counting as bad bets-sort of like not adding up the losses on stocks you've purchased unless you sell them."


"He ... stiffed his mother for $23,000 after using her card."



"These kinds of stories don't occur occasionally or cyclically, but are ever-present. Even as Lenny crashes into bankruptcy and our financial system struggles to recover from the bubble, some people right now are eagerly buying into the next set of implausible stories ... No amount of new regulation or oversight will protect them, because there's no legislating against gullibility and the apparently overwhelming desire for a quick score."

The Daily Show was able to blast Cramer, showing a video of him praising Dykstra as being brilliant. I think there was a business association with Cramer and Dykstra, actually.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

We Are Being Invaded

I guess I greatly admire this sort of activity, but fear for the worst. Interesting story on weapons that are used. Sounds like Canadian forests are really getting it!

If the weather and other circumstances permit, I will let you know how it goes for huckleberry hunting with a possible look at what I can find out about wineberries.

Men, relish this, Ladies, get mad!




then go to this.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

“silver crime”

If you saw the Daily Show recently, you got some yucks about Senior Citizens on the attack. But maybe it ain't funny!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Barney gets Touchy

I think the Daily Show etc will be covering this little dust-up. Not exactly sure why Frank got so touchy, maybe because these CNBC folks seem to be showing a bias. Although I have my beefs about Frank, I found myself agreeing with him and then thinking, yep, he went off the rails.

I can tell you I pretty much reflexively vote for shareholder proposals when I see them, but don't get the feeling they go anywhere.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Art of a Killer

The guy who killed the guard at the Holocaust Museum was an artist, a painter. Website shows one picture.

I'm guessing non-smoker & vegetarian too ala Schicklgruber.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ha! Back Off Carl-Bashers!!

Turns out Lard is making a comeback. So those who have called me a lard-monger need to give it a rest!

One thing though: Crisco now claims to be trans-fat free. From their FAQ section at their website:

Are all Crisco shortening products now trans fat free?

All Crisco shortening products now have 0g trans fat per serving for a more healthful option.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A phishing danger I was unaware of

Suggestion from yahoo, after warning that miscellaneous pop-ups should be viewed with great suspicion:

Do NOT click any button in these pop-ups,
such as a "Close" or "No" button, or the "Close" box that may appear in the upper-right corner of the pop-up. Doing this might install a virus or other malicious software on your computer. To safely close a pop-up ad, press Ctrl-W (if you're using a Windows computer) or Command-W (on a Mac computer).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lincolnitis

Am I getting obsessed by Lincoln, like a lot of people? Well, I don't think so, but if you are a Civil War buff you run the risk. Certainly my interest has increased recently after going to that play, and some other pretty good stuff that has been on the History Channel.

And I really enjoyed this program on bookTV which explored Lincoln and Shakespeare.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No Movie for Old Men?

In spite of the fact our friends Matt and Marsha did not like/couldn't recommend the movie No Country for Old Men I found a copy that was selling at a discount and decided to watch it.

Well, I can certainly see why somebody would really be put off by the movie. It has too much violence for my taste. The violence is gratuitous; I just did not feel we needed to see that many people get killed, shot, etc. even if it was part of the story. You can have characters get knocked off without seeing their brains shooting across the screen every time [ironically, there were so many people getting killed sometimes we didn't see it and there was still too much of it!] And what I mean it is just too much to watch for what's good for the soul. Yep, I mean children should not watch this movie, but neither should teenagers, and for that matter, neither should somebody my age or any age. It's just not good for anybody to start to ingest that much nastiness.

I watched it today by myself when I had a chance so Sue wouldn't have to leave the room. I'd say Sue would hate this movie, but then again she liked and recommended Pulp Fiction , a movie I disliked because of the gratuitous violence and the fact it was just generally a sordid story I didn't want attached to my soul either. It was so bad I charge it was guilty of the trivialization of evil, as it sort of had a silly element as well. I had similar problems, then, with
No Country for Old Men.

But I liked the movie, overall! Perhaps on the wrong day I would have hated it. As it was, it struck me that the suspense of "what is going to happen next" was just masterful, this was on-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff indeed. And the movie [unlike Pulp F.] had an undeniable pertinence for today, now that we are seeing the current violence about drugs in Mexico and the border area. I also have the criticism that it had an element of the supernatural villain that bugs me a little; the evil guy that can't get caught, always has a leg up on everybody, etc. They actually referred to the guy as a ghost. On the other hand, John Wayne syndrome was banished from the movie entirely; the good guys were not superhuman, and when one of them seemed to be taking on the John Wayne role he was sooner or later shown to be quite fallible. I have gotten to like this in a movie. I didn't like the ending, which was handled in such a way as if to suggest they had just run out of money and had to quit filming, so that was the end! This left the status of several characters in the lurch. The Coen brothers can be irritating in a number of ways, I almost never forgave them for lying by claiming at the beginning of Fargo that it was a "true story." I refused to watch any more of their movies for years and probably it took O Brother Where Art Thou for them to redeem themselves with me. On this day at least, though, I can say I liked the movie. Overall.

PS: here was Marsha's comment on the movie from over a year ago:

No Country for Old Men - Let me emphasize that we hated, yes hated, this movie. It was violent and pointless. Tommy Lee Jones was in it and I am starting to sense a pattern here. The story was inconclusive and frankly not all that compelling. Call me crazy but I like a good story. There was nothing here worth caring about.



She gave it a "D". Link.

PSS: If you want to see a movie that rejects the John Wayne thing, see Ulee's Gold (1997)


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Email to Mr. Felten

Here's an email to Eric Felten, who writes a weekly article on cocktails for the Wall Street Journal. In the past I've emailed him and seen him use some of the material, so I am curious to see if that will happen again; if he does I'll try to post it. It is pretty amazing how he can keep that column interesting, largely the trick is knowing all the history I guess. Anyway here is what I sent him.x

Dear Mr. Felten,

We continue to enjoy your columns, continually amazed how you never seem to fail to make a topic interesting, even when pretty sure we won't pursue the featured libations.

We have noticed you don't necessarily note much about seasonal things, and this is in contrast to our own lives; following and respecting the concept of seasons is something we still do now in this age of all things being available 'year round'. As an example, even though oysters can still be found in August, we eschew them; not so much because we don't think they are safe, as might have been a concern a few decades back, but because it just seems we enjoy things more if we consider them to have seasons, making it a treat. And, yes, usually prices come down as well when things are locally in season. Crabs, not oysters, are what we think of in August! The concept of seasons hasn't died (and we hope to find some strawberries today at a possible peak in flavor and low point in price).

But to get back on topic, here in Northern Virginia our mint has come in and this time for sure it is a bumper crop what with all the rain we have been getting. We are certainly delving right in and serving up cocktails that feature mint, mindful of a tactic to benefit from and fight directly the dreariness of these recent days. Mint Juleps today and yesterday Mojitos; life is good! In several months of course the cold weather finally comes in, and the mint will be waning and unattractive; it'll be time to announce our little celebration of "the Last of the Mojitos"! Another season will be ended but all the more joy for the day when the mint returns, having suffered the wait. I'd say having your own mint is somewhat similar to getting home grown tomatoes, what you can get in the store could never measure up.

In the matter of Mojito construction (likely we first heard of them from you), our current recipe got altered by accident. An accidental addition of about 1/4 ounce of blood orange bitters turned out to add a bonus in flavor, and we never make them without that now.

Perhaps other drinks feature mint, don't know. Just passing some thoughts along and looking forward to your next column.

Carl Williams
Arlington, VA

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Little Boy Crying Wolf?

From the article in the below link:


In the matter of swine flu -- and the single dumbest response to it yet -- first prize was about to go to the government of Egypt, which last week ordered a cull of the country's estimated 400,000 pigs ...

[There] is a legion of heavily credentialed panic proliferators.... the people whose terrifying forecasts you last heard during the avian flu panic of 2005 (deaths to date: 257, according to the World Health Organization) and the SARS panic of 2002-2003 (774 deaths). By contrast, garden-variety flus typically kill upwards of 30,000 Americans a year.

... science writer Wendy Orent has pointed out in the New Republic, "only the precise conditions of World War I's Western Front -- a true disease factory -- could have created a flu as virulent as the one responsible for the 1918 pandemic. . . . The virus didn't need to keep people well enough to walk about -- fresh victims were close at hand."

Sure enough, no flu pandemic has been even remotely comparable: The worst was the Asian flu of 1957-58, which killed an estimated two million people, including 70,000 in the U.S. (or about twice the annual average.)

... trend lines indicate we are better equipped than ever to minimize the effects of a pandemic.

Why? Because wealthier people tend to be healthier people, and because wealthier societies have more to invest in medicine and research, and because a higher standard of living tends to correlate with more personal space. Also, because globalization means information sharing across boundaries, and rapid adoption of best practices, and greater transparency.

LINK

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Modern Conundrums

Looks like I will not be able to resolve a conflict between not wanting to join in with the modern"throw-away" society and not wanting to waste money. I have a really great pocket size Leatherman-type tool that someone gave me; one of the things that folds away is a tiny flashlight. The guy who gave it to me bought a dozen or so real cheap, and it's clear now what the reason might be: after practically no use at all the flashlight no longer works! To make a long story short, went to Radio Shack [which btw always seems to have any battery you can dream up] and discovered that to replace the 4 tiny batteries inside, it would cost me $20. I can buy a new tool for $10 at a hardware store.

Modern times indeed. I can't make myself into a fool that would buy batteries that cost more than a new tool, nor can I make myself buy a new tool when I have a perfectly good old one that just needs batteries.

*Sigh*

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Whatever Happened to Epidemics


The buzzword now seems to be Pandemic, not just amongst the media but also at WHO. Seems to me there should be an Epidemic stage before there is a Pandemic stage, so this has me wondering if WHO is into fear-mongering too.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ponzi Schemes Popping Up All Over

Current conditions are sure smoking out Ponzi schemes. The Dreier case is pretty interesting, but pretty involved. Amazingly brazen. A link to an article is below.

From the article:

There is an unfortunate optical illusion - a variant on the Doppler effect - that besets all frauds. It's unfortunate, because it has the effect of exacerbating the pecuniary losses that fraud victims endure, by unfairly leaving them, like many rape victims, irrationally ashamed of themselves.

The Doppler principle we posit holds that as a victim approaches a swindler, he sees nothing but green lights. But as soon as he realizes that his money is gone, he spins around and beholds, as if by magic, bright red flags as far as the eye can see




Marc Dreier

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Ultimate Leading Indicator Still Lagging

Whenever I hear someone lamenting poor service directly related to ill-suited or poorly trained employees, I think: "nope, so far this recession hasn't impressed me." Maybe this is just a local effect, but what I expect to see if things get really bad is people who don't deserve to have jobs being replaced by more qualified people. Not much sign of that yet in our area let me tell you.

Bear in mind, because of my line of work, I react to customer service very mercurially, going from Mr. Tolerant [sympathizing with someone having to deal with the public] to Mr. Irate [outraged from close knowledge about how you are supposed to act].

Another personal incident today to report; our local Bradlee Shopping Center has managed to post a 6th store that I avoid as much as I possibly can. This is a shame because the shopping center is very close to our house [altho a 7th reason I avoid it is the awful experience of trying to park there].

Lemme see:

*The Post Office did not have a certain type of permit I needed; long story but bottom line is you have to wonder what other thing it is they don't have. First class stamps?
Category: avoid to keep from wasting time.

*The Hallmark store, huge for such a place, is full of junk and doesn't have good cards.
Category: avoid to keep from wasting time.

*The Giant grocery consistently does not have certain staples, capable of running out of eggs and things like that. Once I was going to have to wait to check out so that an employee could hold up the line and go and argue with her boss about whether her company debit card should have zero funds or not. I walked out.
Category: avoid to keep from wasting time.

*The ABC liquor store overcharged me, and when
, belatedly realizing the error, I went back with my receipt, wouldn't fix it.
Category: avoid to keep from being overcharged.

*The Gourmet Wine, etc, shop stepped all over our interest in a little program they had to special order oysters, reacting to questions about it like W.C. Fields with a child: "go away, boy, you bother me." At some point he shoved his business card at us. I'm not sure what he was thinking but he couldn't have been
totally unaware that we would take this as further avoidance. He was the owner.
Category: Some people run their own business because no one would ever hire them. No one should shop with them either, certainly I don't.

*The new incident: I stopped at the pet store today to pick up an item Sue wanted for our cat. What I picked out possibly wasn't the right thing, so I asked the clerk if I could return it if my wife didn't like it. This sixteen-looking person said "OK" but I noticed she acted odd about it, a neck wag or something, so I asked what the store's return policy was. She said they didn't have one. I replied "you just said 'OK' " but got another inappropriate gesture. It occurred to me she didn't know what a return policy was, since it is not possible that the store doesn't have one. I'm picturing that if she isn't there when I returned, someone is going to give me a hard time trying to return a purchase. Still trying to be nice, I suggested the manager would be the one to know. She claimed to be a manager and at that point actually said "what can I help you with?" as if she had no memory of the last 2 minutes. It was time to leave.
Category: do not expect sanity at this store unless the recession continues and other people are hired. Surely this person would not have a job if management, which could not possibly include her in any meaningful way, had any choices whatsoever about who they might hire.

Well, in as much as I'm trying to save the planet, I'm afraid I'm burning up plenty of fossil fuels avoiding our local little shopping center. I'm sorry but some sacrifices are beyond what I can do, life is too short to shop at Bradlee Shopping Center.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Eisenhower saw it coming

Usually my nephew Aaron is all over this kind of thing, must have caught him napping this time?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Derivates Primer

Every once in a while, you see an acknowledgement that the secret way in which fantastic returns can be had with derivatives really revolves around the practice of borrowing money to invest, in some fashion or other.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Slam Backfires with Me

Obama fans, I don't recommend you check out this link. Obama disparagers: it's not that good, you can skip it too. Furthermore, it is a mix of humorous and serious slams. Should be one or the other. And, actually, I don't know why he is being slammed for saying,

“I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn’t on my watch. And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement — the prescription drug plan — without a source of funding. And so I think it’s important just to note when you start hearing folks throw these words around that we’ve actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word ’socialist’ around can’t say the same.”
About the prescription drug plan: I remember thinking it was unfunded, something that absolutely no one at the time, politician or journalist, seemed to be talking about. Folks, that had a lot to do with Bush getting elected; running on that campaign promise was brilliant from a political strategy point of view indeed. Fact is, it was a betrayal of a certain degree of fiscal honesty that had been established. And fact is, Obama was making sense when he made this statement.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

PSS

Someone found the lines and I now have them:

Credit to Prof. Prokopovicz, author of Did Lincoln Own Slaves? and Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln
, for finding them:

Act IV, scene ii. King Henry is talking with two soldiers (John Bates and Michael Williams) the night before Agincourt. They don't recognize him in the darkness. Henry points out that the king's cause is just.

WILLIAMS That's more than we know.


BATES Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.


WILLIAMS But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.


The reviewer mistakenly attributes this speech to Henry. It does however make sense that Lincoln would be keenly aware of this scene, as the responsibility of command bore heavily on him.

Blackened Heavens

I have promised a few folks a review for the new play, The Heavens Are Hung In Black by James Still. Here 'tis.

My brother Forrest and his wife Linda accompanied Sue and me. They've really got Ford's Theater fixed up nicely with the new renovation, evidently adding some space from what must have been taken from a nearby area to make a nice lobby, new bathrooms, etc., in addition to fixing up the old interior. The stage, though, still admirably had the original (quite stained) hardwood flooring. BTW Sue only agreed to go in and take her seat after Forrest promised not to jump over the rail of the balcony yelling sic semper tyrannis! if it turned out the play was a polemic against the South.

All kidding aside, I too was a bit concerned that the playwright would just be some dufus endowed with a shaky Pop History notion of the war, and proceed to show all he knew about it was that Northerners were supposed to be the good guys and Southerners the bad guys. But everyone seemed to enjoy the show with agreement that the author and the production took great pains to be quite authentic, willing to show even a bit of clay feet peeking out beneath old Abe. Overall, the evidently intended purpose of creating a sympathetic character who was having a terrible year was pulled off quite nicely.

It impressed me that the production was so concerned about getting the details right, bearing in mind I'm not an expert on Lincoln and furthermore apparently loaned out a Q&A type book on Lincoln which I planned to use to check out some facts. But I am well read enough on the Civil War to pick up pretty quickly any egregious errors or at least raise an eyebrow if something didn't seem quite right. For example, I believe they got Lincoln's voice right, it was a bit squeaky and unimpressive overall; I'm pretty sure that is supposed to be right. Furthermore, Lincoln definitely comes off somewhat as an Illinois/Indiana/Kentucky backwoodsman in his mannerisms, an idea about authenticity that could easily have been discarded. The show, though, just seemed to be about nailing these things down well.

Now all this is in spite of the fact that the program guide advises that the play is "an historical fiction ... [that has] stretched, rearranged, or even changed some of the facts." So I couldn't argue with anyone who might object in some way to this particular portrayal of Lincoln, but would just say that surely we have to grant the license to do so and accept that pretty standard method, if such a play is to be possible at all. Again, I for one did not come away shaking my head at any fictions, but instead was impressed by the overall seeming accuracy of the portrayal. The idea for the play is that this year probably was extremely difficult for Lincoln. He loses his son Willy to disease, having to simultaneously deal with the effect this loss has on his wife. And the war is not going well. Lincoln interacts with a whole host of characters, dead or alive. Stanton, Chase, Jeff Davis, to name a few. John Brown has several appearances; the vehicle for including such as Brown (or Jeff Davis for that matter) is to have them show up in what would appear to be either while Lincoln was dreaming or in reveries of near-madness brought on by lack of sleep and anxiety. Lincoln in fact is shown to have trouble distinguishing between what is real and what is not in such moments; he meets an old Springfield friend while out on one walk in the middle of the night and later tells someone about his amazement at meeting him, only to be told the man had died some time ago. Now I don't know if I've heard any stories that old Abe was getting that crazy in those days! But this type of play, reminiscent maybe of ghosts appearing in Shakespeare or Dickens, has always been a type I like and this one carries it off quite successfully in my opinion. I'd say there is an excellent chance the play will be shown in other venues, perhaps even on TV.

Certainly we were interested in the play as "Civil War Buffs", and found it satisfactory from that point of view. Authenticity sufficed, and such buffs as ourselves just like running into and identifying the various characters too. We ran into one mystery none could solve: in the first act, set in late Spring 1862, Lincoln rails about McClellan (who takes a real beating in this play) failing to cross the Potomac because pontoon boats turned out to be constructed too large to get up the C&O Canal. An internet search turned up this. McClellan describes a failed operation whose purpose was " ... to open the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by crossing the river in force at Harper's Ferry" It's certainly easy to believe McClellan placed little priority in this from what we know now, and a good vehicle for showing how Lincoln was getting so frustrated with that general. I would judge this to have been the most obscure item brought out in the play.

Everything else is pretty well known, certainly to Civil War buffs. I was pleased to see that the production did not try to change facts about the reality of what the conflict was about. Nor was any decision made to shirk from the reality of Slavery's role. It was a nice balance. Above all, it was surprising and satisfying to see Lincoln voice the opinions he had in those days about Abolition and Racial Equality. Lincoln, Stanton, and Chase have various debates during his reveries that quite frankly express concern about what to do with newly emancipated slaves, and Lincoln flatly expresses to Hay that he is quite mistaken if he thinks the new president's opinions against Slavery mean that he is for Equality of the Races. John Brown, Stephen Douglas, and Dred Scott have some success pointing out contradictions in some of the stands he has tried to take. And we didn't see ordinary Northerners pop in and claim the populace was all for Negro suffrage North and South all along, etc., what was he waiting for? just these other well known characters we knew had those kind of thoughts radical for their day.

The most poignant moment for me was when Lincoln shows up at a Shakespeare play's rehearsal that Edwin Booth was doing with some other actors. Sue thinks it was Henry V. Lincoln surprises the other actors by knowing some of the lines. The actors all fall silent in surprise as he then does a Soliloquy: the lines are those of a King who ponders the terrible effects of war on people, the death and destruction, and ends by declaring that any King who wages war had best be able to justify to those dead and their families that a just cause was involved. Of course I don't have the exact lines and couldn't find exactly this in searching an online version of Henry V. I might have missed it of course, and it is also possible the lines were Lincoln improvising, but in any case it was quite effective and touching.

Bottom line: all Civil War Buffs or Lincoln Admirers see this play if you ever get a chance.

Apologies to RSS folks, I don't seem to be able to put stuff out without going back and doing fixes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Attn Nieces and Nephews

You are hereby notified that I have made arrangements for my bill collectors to contact you in the case of my departure. Information you need here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

OK, Cancelling My Plans to Buy A Laptop

A video. Just when you think it's getting boring, stay tuned.

LINK

It says:
We intentionally created conditions in which the Li-ON battery pack would explode inside a generic portable. The results are dramatic. There are numerous conditions where these fires can occur in real life. Faulty battery packs (driving the recalls), faulty protection circuits inside the PC, exposure to excessive heat, and blunt force are some of the major ways that this could happen to you.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Buffet's Newsletter

I got a kick out of these remarks from that newsletter to his clients:
Mr. Buffett was just as scathing on the subject of derivatives, which he had likened to weapons of mass destruction long before they started eviscerating the balance sheets of banks around the world.
In his letter, Mr. Buffett explained that the danger of derivatives was not merely the difficulty in assessing their value; rather, it was the “web of mutual dependence” they create among financial institutions. Derivatives contracts keep various parties entangled for years, which, as he vividly explained, can create real hazards once those assets start deteriorating. “Participants seeking to dodge troubles face the same problem as someone seeking to avoid venereal disease,” he wrote. “It’s not just whom you sleep with, but also whom they are sleeping with."
Source Link

PS: from the link within the block quote:

Throughout the 1990s, some argued that derivatives had become so vast, intertwined and inscrutable that they required federal oversight to protect the financial system. But the financial industry lobbied heavily against such measures, and won backing from important figures, including Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to early 2006.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Something To Read If You Want to Get Ticked Off


It makes me plenty mad to hear some pundit claim that the current fiasco was completely avoidable. I am surely ready to buy the idea that it was largely avoidable.

And to hear things like the insanity of

"former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin’s $100 million-plus bonuses (while he was busy sowing the seeds of Citigroup’s destruction, with risky derivatives"


Whenever Rubin came on TV in years past he came off like somebody else entirely, I'm not so sure I didn't hear him come up with some Marxist stuff.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stocks Just Doing Their Thing?

This recession this time just seems to astonish everybody including the experts. If you own stocks, the body blows you have to take in a week like this are just devastating. Some pundits are even questioning whether "buy and hold" is dead.

I've come across an interactive chart that's proving interesting. By using the scroll bar that comes on a computer mouse and positioning it in the white space above the blue line you can get the chart to show various historic ranges of the DOW. When you quit scrolling and just move the mouse to where the left side expanded to, it gives you an historic figure for that index. [BTW I just realized when writing a post today, you have to try not to use a sentence that uses the plural of 'mouse' or you run into the quandary of "is it 'mice' or 'mouses' when it comes to computers?]

Although I was a stock purchaser as far back as 1976 or so when I got stocks through a company purchase plan [buying their stocks], I don't really consider myself to have been a stock market investor until around 1992. I continued to dilly dally with stocks before then, but I knew very little about how to go about it; I was really just a gambler in stocks, and a piker at that. And doing it in the perfect manner to assure that overall I would fail to see a profit: buying when I had money and selling when things were tight. That is a prescription for 'buying high and selling low' I came to realize, as of course I tended to have money when the economy was good and needed it back when the economy was bad.

Anyway, in the age of IRA's and when I seemed to have enough put away in bank savings to be able to invest in a recommended "buy and hold" manner, I also came across a very interesting claim. This claim probably derived from something factual but gets repeated here and there in a manner without citing sources, so there are different versions, but basically it goes like this:

*stocks lose value very frequently in 5 year time periods.
*10 yr time periods are less risky but sometimes stocks do lose money in such periods.
*there is no 15 yr time period in which stocks lost money.
*there is no 20 yr time period in which stocks didn't outperform any and all other investments, including any period around the Great Depression.

Now I have come to realize that these claims do make some assumptions:

*this assumes you bought stocks in a recommended manner such as systematic purchasing [that creates the benefit of cost averaging].

*to test this there is an assumption you aren't trying to pick out a single stock purchased on, say, the day before the stock market crashed in '29, but a diversified range bought over time.

*the rule assumes we aren't looking at absolute buy and hold, but managed investments. In other words, if you own a mutual fund share, or just look at the historic DOW, these are things that have been managed. The dogs got ditched, and newer more profitable companies are now in the mix.

So, I started to wonder if the above tool [see link] isn't a way to kind of check this out? This week is a good time to try, the market took a dive and if anything it seems to me this is a harsh measure as it mimics buying stocks on just one day and taking a specially selected snapshot to make the comparison look bad. Or perhaps someone can tell me why this doesn't work as a way to test the rule.

In any case, I proceed with the scrolling and find that the comparison with a year or two ago shows horrible losses in the 40% range. If I go back 5 years I still get a horrid 30% or so bombshell. Going back 12 years to March 19th 1997 I get a $7200 DOW figure, about where it is now. The 15 year-ago period, which was pretty stable for weeks, is at around 3800 for the DOW. It certainly does seem unlikely we could drop to that.

Twenty years? Dow was at about 2000 points. Could you make a case that this roughly 400% increase over our current horrid snapshot is better return than any and all other investments for that period? Real estate, which I dislike investing in except for my own home, perhaps did better, but it is a complicated calculation what with all the expenses involved with owning property. You get the snapshot phenomenon with Real Estate, too.

I'd say it's pretty remarkable how the rule has held up even with the current snapshot. Certainly the 15 yr rule has held up and looks safe, something I have counted on very heavily [and 15 years ago is about the time I really started investing in stocks too]. The 20 year rule can make a case although I am less sure about that. I'll bet it is better than if you had invested in gold, though.

Well, am I all wet?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Collection


Especially hilarious or incredibly brazen email spam I have collected over the years. The Chase Credit card is probably legitimate but an example of a company that sends out their, well, spam alright, that looks like it came from Nigeria. You can click on the image to get a larger size.

Note to RSS folks, I had to re-do this, one item didn't belong in the folder!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

claim: Men have experienced 82 percent of the recession's job losses

Quite interesting article. I was definitely hearing news that "job growth for men" had been a problem area even during overall recent economic growth prior to the crash. Makes you wonder if it wasn't one of the signs of an imminent problem.

The author doesn't provide a source for the 82 percent statistic.

Friday, February 13, 2009

*sigh*

Sue alerted me to the news that a court has ruled on current autism cases. WSJ has a good article, and it's also in their health blog. Sometimes I think the "comments" sections are a real glimpse at just how nutty so many people are. The first commenter in the health blog says

"I think part (if not all) of the Autism Epidemic is caused by the SIDS Back to Sleep campaign" [having kids sleep on their backs].

OK, let's ignore the article and immediately jump on a chance to bore everybody with our own stupid agenda!

I am definitely growing into a someone who really is starting to worry that the average guy now is just a nut.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

And You Thought This Was 19th Century Stuff

A new Nullificatin Crisis! All old Unreconstructed Rebels call your office! you may be moving to New Hampshire!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nothing to Worry About!


I'm hearing stories that it's just unfortunate that the compensation for Wall Street Fat Cats is called "bonuses" when it's actually just delayed compensation, albeit based on performance. Furthermore, from this article,


"The $18 billion sum was down 40 percent from a year ago, and it was paid to 160,000 people. Most of them earned less than the average of $112,500 apiece."



Well, OK then, with Obama's cap at $500,000, the people I would care about have nothing to worry about. And the ones making millions can tough it out or forget coming to the public trough.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fraud Update

Chase gave me no trouble at all, issued a new card with next day delivery free, and I just need to sign something they are sending verifying it is fraud.

It seemed to be helpful to mention that if you "google" the name showing on the fraudulent card, immediately forums come up that verify other people have had the same problem.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sexting is the New Thing?

I guess I'll have to risk sounding like an impossible old goober, but I have to tell you that sometimes you just see things with up and coming generations that makes you say, "you know, they are just a different breed." This business of girls sending other people pictures of themselves nude, using their cell phones, just puzzles the heck out of me.

This story is making the rounds now. Occasionally, I also have heard of guys cracking up in their cars on the highway after their girlfriends just sent them pictures of their bare breasts. That's funny. The problem is, of course, too many times they break up and, oops, those pictures are out there! It can get legally complicated when the girl is underage. There was a case in Pennsylvania not too long ago where the state police wanted to teach all the guys that all of a sudden had pictures of an underage girl a lesson: threats of charges of child pornography trafficking started to get tossed around, and at the very least these high school students were told they had to get rid of the pictures. At some point someone had to tell the cops the pictures were out there in cyberspace and probably every computer in Hong Kong had the pictures.

Apparently, again, the girls in the above link just didn't quite understand something like this could happen! Yet they were sending the pictures to everybody! Back in my teenage days, there were some wild girls around, but none of them thought they could start passing polaroid pictures of themselves around and not worry about it. A different breed out there today, no doubt about it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fraud Dept.

This one showed up on one of my credit cards. I suspect fraud and am checking it out. In the link, you see people are advising to monitor activity for other fraudulent charges on any card this comes up on.

I emailed an alert out to all, in case this is widespread. I am buying 100% the idea that this little charge tests whether your card is for real or not to the criminal.

I'll tell you what is making me plenty mad so far: this dates that are posted on the Forum start last December, yet, clearly, the credit card companies cheerfully continue to allow charges to go through. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Three Tests in One!

OK, you can test yourself here for three things simultaneously:

*Whether you would like musicals or not.
*Whether you would want to be a salesperson or not.
*Whether you would like barbershop singing or not.

The Link

Anybody seen the old movie "Hospital" ?

Can't resist posting this one. Sorry for the string of "hey check it out" posts, I keep planning a real post soon.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Interesting, in light of current events

Some wikepedia writer wrote this:

"Milton Friedman's monumental A Monetary History of the United States, co-written with Anna Schwartz, makes the now standard interpretation of what made the "great contraction" so severe. It was not the downturn in the business cycle, trade protectionism or the 1929 stock market crash that plunged the country into deep depression. It was the collapse of the banking system during three waves of panics over the 1930-33 period.[39]"


LINK

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Carry an Umbrella if on Wall Street?

There have been a bunch of suicides with financial people, not necessarily from Wall Street [and not just affected-by-Madoff]. A baker's dozen so far. Seems like I've heard that it was kind of a myth stock brokers jumped off buildings in 1929. Now I wonder.


1 Adolf Merckle, industrialist
2 Steven Good, real estate executive
3 René-Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, investor
4 Eric Von der Porten, fund manager
5 Alex W. Widmer, banker
6 Choi Seong-guk, asset manager
7 Joseph A. Luizzi, futures trader
8 Karthik Rajaram, entrepreneur
10 Edwin Rachleff, stock broker
11 Scott Coles, mortgage executive
12 Barry Fox, financial analyst
13 Walter Buczynski, mortgage executive

LINK

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oh, Pulease!!

I am starting to think that the people who have predicted the Safety Nazis will be able to succeed in banning smoking absolutely everywhere, including the privacy of one's own home, may be correct. The latest.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Bag Lady

She calls herself here.

PS: corrected the link to start with page one.

OK, now I know what to bet on

I'm going to find Centenarians, who probably feel pretty lucky, and bet them they don't make it to be Supercentenarians. [definition of the latter is someone making it to age 110]. I'll give 'em 110 to one odds. *diabolical laughter*.

"Assuming that there are 300 million U.S. Citizens, the chances of someone becoming a centenarian is 1:4 thousand (~80,000 US centenarians today); on the other hand, the chances of someone becoming a Supercentenarian is only 1:4 million."