"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Concerns over lack of change on WallSt

The authors wrote back on June 7th about the lack of change in the rules of the game (hint, it's rigged).

My answer to their series of questions is that Wall St. has hijacked both major parties. The Democrats just as much as the Republicans, if not even more.

Serious reform may just be too hard to pull off.

Op-Ed Contributors - The Economy Is Still at the Brink - NYTimes.com:

"The storm is not over, not by a long shot. Huge structural flaws remain in the architecture of our financial system, and many of the fixes that the Obama administration has proposed will do little to address them and may make them worse. At another fund-raising event, for Senator Harry Reid, President Obama said: “We didn’t ask for the challenges that we face. But we are determined to answer the call to meet those challenges, to cast aside the old arguments and overcome the stubborn divisions and move forward as one people and one nation .... It will take time but I promise you, I promise you, I’ll always tell you the truth about the challenges we face.”

Keeping that statement in mind — as well as an abiding faith in the importance of properly functioning capital markets — we have come up with a set of questions meant to challenge a popular president, with vast majorities in Congress, to find the flaws in the system, to figure out what’s being done to fix them and to get to the truth about the difficulties we face as we set out to restore the proper functioning of our markets and our standing in the world."

Editor's Pick: Automated Numerical Search Speeds Design Optimization by Desktop Engineering

Big congrats to the folks at RCT (Red Cedar Tech)
Shameless plug as I own just short of a quarter of this little startup.

Editor's Pick: Automated Numerical Search Speeds Design Optimization by Desktop Engineering:

"I don't believe that I've ever seen 60 Minutes exposing the truth about numerical search algorithms. And I'm certain that when some of you tried to get your CFO to pay heed to them, you got that eyes-glazed over, I'll look into it kiss-off engineers know so well. But engineers in all sorts of manufacturing industries apply numerical search algorithms to linear and nonlinear acoustic, electrical, electromagnetic, fluid, structural, thermal, and multidisciplinary problems every day. And too many are wasting an incredible amount of time and compute resources wrestling with their search algorithms, jacking up costs and squandering time to market. HEEDS Professional from Red Cedar Technology optimizes your design optimization workflow by harnessing numerical search algorithms."

But but but ...

I thought it was case closed, unanimous agreement that mankind is the greatest, nay, the sole cause of climate change...

Strassel: The Climate Change Climate Change - WSJ.com:

"Among the many reasons President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority are so intent on quickly jamming a cap-and-trade system through Congress is because the global warming tide is again shifting. It turns out Al Gore and the United Nations (with an assist from the media), did a little too vociferous a job smearing anyone who disagreed with them as 'deniers.' The backlash has brought the scientific debate roaring back to life in Australia, Europe, Japan and even, if less reported, the U.S."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shout out for Detroit

Despite Wall St. and Washington bringing Detroit's automakers to their knees, they DO make products that people buy.

We can advance the American dream: AutoWeek Magazine:

"Now, some reading these words might scoff. These are the same people who believe that Detroit failed to build cars America wants--micro-hybrid green cars--even though before the economic implosion, Detroit's market share accounted for nearly half of all vehicles sold. These are also the ones who pooh-pooh the fact that Detroit makes more hybrids than any other automaker. They also refuse to accept that Detroit holds more green patents than all other automakers combined."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Inflation issues

Viewpoint on pending inflation
Alan more concerned about deflation

Economic View - Cross Inflation Off the Long List of Worries - NYTimes.com

Alan S. Blinder is a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. He has advised many Democratic politicians.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Problem solving

The forward by "King Kenny" does a good job of capturing why I liked racing so much.
Problem solving, and you are never finished

The Grand Prix Motorcycle: The Official Technical History (Hardcover)
By Kenny Roberts Sr.

I’ve been involved in motorcycle Grand Prix racing for more than half of my life. In racing you live day to day, season to season. You work all the time to solve problems – if you gear for turn three it’s wrong for turn eight. Which one will cost you more time? The bike is pushing or we have chatter. The crew can’t make the carburetion right. Because you can’t fix everything, you go to the starting line with problems, and you work through them in the race.

Afterwards, win or lose, you talk about it with the crew, the tire people, the engineers. Can we fix this before next race? When – and especially where – can we test this new front tire? Racing isn’t a fairytale with a happy ending – it’s a stream of problems, half answers, and coping with the rest. The team and rider that copes best has some chance of winning. It’s all about confidence – if your front tire starts to push, that stops you psychologically. You have to fix it.
After I’d been 500 champion a couple of times someone asked me if racing had become just a job for me. I said no. No one pays you enough money to do this if you’re miserable. We were based in Amsterdam then, where the North Sea makes the weather dark and rainy. I wanted to go testing even if it was raining and cold. I wanted to race.

Since then I’ve a team owner and then a “constructor” – we built our own three-cylinder 500 and then a four-stroke 990cc V5. Doing that gave me new perspectives on racing – and a lot more problems. Riders have personalities. When are those castings coming? Why does it have to be the welder who’s sick? They’re doing what to the rules?

This book is a history of the top-class Grand Prix motorcycle, 1949 to now. It shows that riders, crew, and the engineers have struggled with the same basic familiar problems (and each other) for 60 years – making tires grip and last, making bikes that do what the riders wants them to, making reliable power that the rider can use. Methods and materials change and computers get a lot of press now, but riders of the 1950’s would recognize the some old problems in their new clothing. The result of all those years of work on those problems is today’s much more capable race bikes and production bikes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sows ears to silk purses

Brilliant summary

Public debt: The biggest bill in history | The Economist

Careful on fiscal tightening to avoid inflation or hyper-inflation, but make long term, serious changes.

Changes to reflect the reality of an aging population.

Simple : raise retirement ages, workers work longer, pay more taxes (over time), and draw less in pensions.
Retirement/Pensions have not kept up with increased life expectancy.

Also : in the US... healthcare reform.
Focus on health and healthy lifestyles, not cures after the fact.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Whoo Hoo

One of my all time favorite investments

Neogen Named to Fortune's List of 40 Stocks 'To Retire On' :

"In making its selection, Fortune said: 'Newcomers include biotech Neogen (NEOG), which sells an array of products focused on food safety from farm to factory, including test kits that help foodmakers detect allergens, toxins, and bacteria like E. coli. This business should benefit from increased regulation and growing consumer concern about the food supply. The company, which boasts zero debt, posted its 64th consecutive profitable quarter in March.'"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

file under WTF ?

So, during a taping of an interview for NBC News, the President swatted a pesky fly.
Tape was broadcast last night ... and ...

The PETA Files: Obama and the Fly:

"In a nutshell, our position is this: He isn't the Buddha, he's a human being, and human beings have a long way to go before they think before they act."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's mornings like this

That make winter's worth it ... long days upon us now



A bit late this AM when I came down to make coffee
Grabbed camera first
Nice start to the day

Flight 1549

Talk about "cool" ...

Hero Pilot 'Sully' Stars at Safety Hearing - WSJ.com:

"After spotting a flock of birds that 'were very large and filled the entire windscreen' of the jet, Capt Sullenberger noticed a dramatic drop in thrust. Investigators later determined at least three birds were sucked into the engines. Disregarding air-traffic controller suggestions to return to LaGuardia or try to swoop into another nearby airport, Capt. Sullenberger set his sights on the surface of the Hudson.

With the plane's flaps out, speed dwindling fast and splashdown barely seconds away, Capt. Sullenberger asked his first officer: 'Got any ideas?' Co-pilot Jeff Skiles instantly replied: 'Actually not.'

Once the plane settled in the water and the crew realized the fuselage remained intact, Capt. Sullenberger told the safety board, he turned toward his first officer and both instinctively blurted out at the same instant: 'That wasn't as bad as I thought.'"

Buy vs Rent

Some things change quickly, some don't
The hangover will be long and slow.

When nobody wants to be a broker, it may be time for a turn.

Economic View - Why Home Prices May Keep Falling - NYTimes.com:

"Several factors can explain the snail-like behavior of the real estate market. An important one is that sales of existing homes are mainly by people who are planning to buy other homes. So even if sellers think that home prices are in decline, most have no reason to hurry because they are not really leaving the market.

Furthermore, few homeowners consider exiting the housing market for purely speculative reasons. First, many owners don’t have a speculator’s sense of urgency. And they don’t like shifting from being owners to renters, a process entailing lifestyle changes that can take years to effect."

Monday, June 08, 2009

Prius ?

Not everybody loves it

New Car Reviews, Ratings & Pricing, Auto News for New Models – TTAC:

"If Ralph Nader had been an engineer, this is the car he would have designed, a vehicle for people who loathe automobiles."

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Powerful thiking on organization

How organized do you need to be, can you afford to be?

Clay Shirky on institutions vs. collaboration | Video on TED.com

about 20 min clip

Tribal Thinking

Worthwhile talk (about 17 min) by Seth on the post-industrial, post mass media world and changes in the world

Seth Godin on the tribes we lead | Video on TED.com

Nobody wants your stuff until they are inspired to ...
Don't sell to those who don't care, connect with those who do caree

What sort of business to be in

Read it:

Seth's Blog: Harvesting

Good business rules
Big one is moat
Warren Buffett seems to have missed this one with newspapers
Moat dried up - internet

Ten years ago

It was just 10 years ago that Doc and friends threw down some dam good ideas

Doc Searls Weblog ...Cluetrain @10

Some business's got it, many didn't

Markets are conversations

Irony - as I post this, Grosse Pointe Blank is on and a character (Jeremy Piven) is at the wheel of the car screaming "Ten Years .... TEN YEARS AGO"

(John Cusack as hit man returning to High School Reunion)

Genius ... pure genius

Well, maybe not when it comes to business and public policy
Great at getting PR, and selling movies but not sure of some of his "industrial policy"

MichaelMoore.com : Goodbye, GM ...by Michael Moore

I will grant that GM made some massive mistakes, but to be a cheerleader for the fall, that strikes me as a bit too far.

Washington has it's share of blame too.
How about higher gas taxes to encourage changes in behavior, how about shifting costs to the union earlier, how about the fact that, until the recession, the auto industry has been strong (foreign plants in the southern states churning out product).

Mass transit - yup, where you have mass populations, but not in rural areas.
Miss the bus, and you ... miss the bus.

Back to movies Mike

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Gold Bugged

I've never been "long" gold (held a position in the metal anticipating a rise in price)

I HAVE taken short positions, and have made some good money.
The point, as is pointed out below, gold has little intrinsic value, it costs money to own, and does not generate income.

ROI: Is Gold Headed For a Bubble? - WSJ.com:

"Ordinary U.S. investors, on average, aren't timing this market too well. Money flows into, and out of, exchange-traded bullions funds like GLD, and are tracked monthly by Financial Research Corp., an analytics company. Comparing them to gold prices over the past year is disheartening.

Gold spiked well above $900 an ounce in July 2008 and again this February and March. Those, of course, were the months when bullion funds reported by far their biggest net inflows. Yet when gold slumped, as it did last October and November and again in April, so did fund sales.

Rarely does anyone discuss the biggest problem with gold -- no one actually knows what this metal is really worth. After all, it generates no income. All the gains come from capital appreciation. And that, of course, is a gamble."

File under Duh

Pigeons come home to roost

S.E.C. Accuses Countrywide’s Ex-Chief of Fraud - NYTimes.com:

"Citing e-mail messages in which Mr. Mozilo referred to Countrywide loan products as “toxic” and “poison,” S.E.C. officials said that he had misled investors about growing risks in the company’s lending practices from 2005 through 2007. During this time he also generated $140 million in profits by selling stock in the company, the S.E.C. said.

“This is the tale of two companies,” said Robert Khuzami, enforcement director at the S.E.C. “Countrywide portrayed itself as underwriting mainly prime-quality mortgages, using high underwriting standards. But concealed from shareholders was the true Countrywide, an increasingly reckless lender assuming greater and greater risk.”"