Saturday, February 28, 2009

Omega-3

I think over the last couple weeks I’ve had at least two people recommend taking Omega-3 supplements for some reason or another.  One person I was telling how I was tired, I think.

Anyway, today I was at Walgreens and saw some on the shelf, decided to buy it and try it.  I’ll report back if I feel any differently in a couple of weeks.

17th Amendment: Beginning of the End

What's the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States say?

"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; "  etc.

Previously, the 3rd section of Article I of the Constitution read:

"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years;"

Notice the difference?  I highlighted it for you.

After this Amendment passed in 1913, the Federal power grab began in earnest.  The states themselves no longer had any way to control their destiny through the indirect election of Senators.  Senators back then would not have been as easily swayed by special interests -- given that those interests don't directly get to donate money to a campaign.

Not coincidentially, the Federal Income Tax began in 1913 with the 16th Amendment.  After that, our money has gone towards supporting the Federal Government, not the states.  I've long contended that our taxes should be flipped in percentages (i.e. 30-odd percent to the state, single digits to the Federal Government).  That won't ever happen as long as special interests, and not the legislature of the States, can control who gets seated in the senate.



Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's all in how you phrase things

Lately I've been realizing just how insidious the choice of words can be when talking about political topics.

"Repealing the Bush Tax Cuts" = "Enacting the Obama Tax Increase"

Just something to look out for as you read the news.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Trade-In Scam at Wauconda FlipSide

I’ve mentioned a couple times on the blog that I worked in a couple record stores in 1989-1991.  One of the ones I mentioned was “The FlipSide” in Wauconda, IL.  As far as  I can tell, that organization is completely defunct so I might as well publicly divulge one of its dirty secrets.

During these netheryears of cassette-to-compact-disc transition, FlipSide offered a deal that if you brought in an old cassette, you’d get $2 off a new CD.  Pretty good deal. So one day a guy comes in with an old tape by the band “U.F.O.”  It was so old, in fact, that it had the thicker, solid plastic slide out cover with a label on it, rather than the clear plastic cassette case with a paper insert you usually see.  The case kind of looks like something out of the 8-track era.  Fine.  I gave him his $2 off his new Stryper CD or whatever the hell he bought and away he went.

Next day, the district supervisor jerkoff named Adam comes in to check on things.  He basically did this once a week to come by, give us a hard time, then tell us we need to play more shitty music he likes.  One example is this god-awful band called Horse, pictured nearby.  Adam would come in and play this shite album, making us all want to hang ourselves, and as soon as he would leave, we’d put back on our Skinny Puppy, Real Life, Jack Frost, The Church, John Zorn or whatever the hell else we wanted.

Anyway, Adam starts going through the box of tapes that people have traded in.  He picks up this aforementioned UFO tape, holds it up and asks everyone who works there who had accepted the tape for trade-in.  I said that I was the one who had allowed it.  He then berated me because the tape was not one listed in “the catalog”.

Aside:  the catalog is the bible of albums that you can buy from the record labels – i.e. the ones still in print.  Someone could go over to it, look through it, give us some numbers and we could order it for them. 

I quickly asked Adam, “Why does it have to be in the catalog?  Don’t we give these tapes to charity?”  That was what Adam had told us to say if people asked us where the tapes went, and there was no requirement I had heard of for charitable donations to be in print.  Adam kind of shut up right then and dropped the subject.

Well, I mentioned the incident to my store manager and it turns out that FlipSide was sending the tapes back to the record companies as defective.   So let’s add this up.

  • List price of CD:  $14
  • Discount to purchaser turning in tape:  $2
  • Returned cassette merchandise discount for FlipSide:  $5 (?)

Basically FlipSide would make $3 of additional profit when you turned in a cassette to get your $2 discount, because they would send that tape back to the record company as a “defective”.  That’s why the tapes “had to be in the catalog.”  I wish I had thought of that scam, but I was just an unwitting pawn.

 

I thought of this story today because I was listening to Pink Floyd’s “A Momentary Lapse of Reason.”  I honestly think that is Pink Floyd’s best album.  Yes, that’s right, the first one AFTER Roger Waters left the band.  Consider this though… what are the best 3 songs on “The Wall”?   “Young Lust”,  “Comfortably Numb”, “Run Like Hell”… maybe?  All co-written by David Gilmour.  AMLOR is a slow, sometimes depressing album, but is just astounding.  If you haven’t listened to it lately, I recommend checking it out again.  I can listen to that album now, but find it hard to listen to anything else by Pink Floyd… with the exception of “The Wall”.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two thoughts about Capitalism… and a rant

I had two thoughts about capitalism today.

One is this notion people started promoting in the last several months to defend capitalism in light of deregulation: “well, it’s not capitalism that’s bad, it’s unregulated capitalism that’s bad.” Well, what do you call it when government allows these things to run amok, then bails them out? Is that deregulated? In the true sense of the term “regulation”, I imagine it is, but I am just wondering, when we’ve never seen the real results of just letting the idiots who got themselves into a mess deal with their shit—and be held personally accountable by shareholders—will markets ever regulate themselves? That might be the key we’re missing to a truly “free” market.

The other thought I had is, if Henry Paulson, Bernanke, Geithner, or any of these other guys talking about a “global meltdown” is right, then did we ever have a free market at all? Or do we just have what’s essentially a Ponzi scheme, controlled by an oligarchy? Because, in theory, a good chunk of the population of the world will come out on top of this thing. Most people I know never overspent and they have money in the bank. I happen to be one of these people. If prices collapse, that would actually be a good thing for people like me, and it should be relatively indifferent for people who have 30 year fixed mortgages in homes they actually intend to live in for a while. Why is this bad?

And yet, Obama wants to bail out the people who bought houses they can’t afford…. with our tax dollars (sorry – grand children’s tax dollars, since this is all borrowed). I just don’t get the logic behind this if we live in a “free market.” And I certainly don’t get why people are happily going along with all of this. Every one of these bailouts should have been stopped immediately. Bailout 1.0, aka Paulson’s gravy train, aka T.A.R.P., had a lot of people calling their congressmen and complaining. It got voted down once. Since then, we haven’t seen anything but more bailouts go right through. Obama’s newest one is the homeowners who bought overpriced homes with not enough income.

Furthermore, the programs that Roosevelt set up in the New Deal, which failed in their own right, were already going to bankrupt this country! Now we’re enacting even more programs, borrowing even more money. Soon the US will be borrowing to pay the interest on this debt. Our government will be rescuing all of the clowns who took out Option-A “Pick your Payment” mortgages by taking one out on itself.

If I wasn’t just so shocked that people are ok with this, I’d be angry. Now I’m just resigned to all of my earnings, children’s earnings and grandchildren’s are going to be pissed away into the black hole of irresponsible debt they formed. That’s capitalism? Sounds like socialism to me.

Oh well. Who is John Galt?

Is the iPhone App Store good for anything except games?

Let’s look at the issue for app developers trying to make something non-game oriented:

  • If the App needs to do anything interesting in the background, like… oh, I don’t know… alert you to having a new twitter direct message, Apple does not support it.
  • If the App competes with Apple’s iTunes in any way, they won’t let you publish it.
  • If the App includes any kind of media playback functionality (e.g. video), they won’t let you publish it.  South Park ran into this recently.
  • If the App includes interpreted code of any kind (C#, Java, Actionscript), they won’t let you publish it.  Obviously this is Adobe’s beef.
  • If the App competes with AT&T, they won’t let you publish it.

This excludes a lot of interesting apps.  Like Skype, for example.  It would be one of the most useful iPhone apps ever, and yet it has at least three of the problems here.  (Plus the iPhone has no video recording, which in the case of Skype could be pretty handy).

Apple pretty much is putting the iPhone into an even worse position than they put themselves with the Mac in the 80s and early 90s.  At least with the Mac, they failed because they insisted on making the hardware.  This time, they’re going to fail because they insist on telling developers and users what they can and can’t do with the device.  I just don’t see this working out very well in the long run if they refuse to ever budge on these points. 

Granted, the recent Mobile World Conference had mostly disappointing stuff.  WinMo 6.5 looked pretty lame, and the new HTC Magic was ok but not great.  We’re still waiting on Motorola and all of the other companies that supposedly are fully on board with Android to launch some cool handsets with it.  If Apple is unwilling to budge on these, I still believe in the long run – and this might even take 5-10 years – Android or something more open than the iPhone will rise to dominate this market.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cool Microsoft Ad

Why can't they actually AIR ads like this, rather than just make them on spec for products that no one in the world has heard of except those of us who read Thurrott's blog?


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I feel cool because I got dissed

Mark Cuban apparently removed my comment from his blog.  Mark Cuban read my comment and removed it!  Whoo hoo.

He has this ridiculous idea that a profitable, growth-oriented business can be started in 90 days.  My response on his blog was “Franchise a Dairy Queen.”  He deleted it.

Ok, so I understand that that response is a little cheeky because Cuban once said that the referees in the NBA couldn’t manage a dairy queen, then ended up having to manage a DQ for a day to save face.  But still, my point remains.  The kinds of businesses that you can build and make profitable in 90 days are pretty lame.  Maybe a lawn mowing or dog walking business could do it.  Writing software and make it profitable in that amount of time?  Please.  Maybe if you’re doing yet another Twitter knockoff or some stupid shit.  But his other requirement is “no ad sponsored businesses.”

And if you read the ideas there you quickly find out that the ideas proposed will never make money.  Maybe that’s what Cuban is trying to prove, that there are no simple businesses left.  I don’t really know.  But you just can’t make the kind of money you used to with a simple business unless you have a massive ad budget (e.g. Walmart, or Safeway).

I wish him luck trying to find something good in all of the chaff posted to the comments on his blog right now.  I personally think he has his work cut out for him.  There just aren’t that many great ideas that can be profitable that quickly.  Or maybe… how about repossession or foreclosure.  That could be pretty good.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A taste of socialized medicine

Congratulations, you guys who want socialized medicine might be getting your wish in the "stimulus" bill. See this column.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I had an epiphany about fractional reserve systems today

A few years ago on “24”, there was a scene where Jack was talking to one of the bad guys.   Here’s the scene:

poster70525211"24: Day 5: 12:00 a.m.-1:00 a.m. (#5.18)" (2006)

Jack Bauer: [to Christopher Henderson, who is holding Audrey hostage] Why are you doing this? Why are you protecting Logan?
Christopher Henderson: I'm protecting something much more important than Charles Logan...
Jack Bauer: What?
Christopher Henderson: The integrity of our government!
Jack Bauer: Our government has no integrity!

Here’s the thing I realized today:  fractional reserve systems rip off the middle class.  The reason is based partly on fractional reserve itself, and the other based on FDIC limits.

First, FDIC.  The limit of FDIC insurance is $100K, $250K between a married couple.   So people with more than $100K to save are going to put it into a financial instrument other than a deposit at a bank.  Maybe a mutual fund, or maybe a bond ladder.  The middle class, they mostly have savings accounts.

Now consider fractional reserve.  Banks loan that money at a 9 to 1 ratio.  So for every dollar of that $100K you’ve put in, the bank has loaned out possibly 9 dollars.

Doesn’t this sound like it’s diluting the money you’re putting in?  It is.

The fractional reserve system is purely designed to benefit one group:  banks, who can make 9x the interest they’d make if they could only loan the same money you had deposited with them.

The result is inflation, and your money being worth less.  The long term result is we have an economy that isn’t based on production.  It’s based on borrowing and consumption, because that’s the incentive built into the system.  The incentive is to grant as much credit as much as possible.

And that’s all of what we see today, almost 100 years after the Federal Reserve Act was put in place. 

  • The country is overleveraged.
  • Production has moved out of the country.
  • The middle class has no buying power left.
  • The thrifty people we borrow from are all foreign entities.

The only solution is to abolish the fractional reserve system and return to a non-fiat currency.  These frauds in Washington like to pretend we need to spend another trillion to save the country even before the last trillion has run out.  They believe currency is a confidence game.  And, you know what… it is, if it’s left to the bankrupt scam called the Federal Reserve that’s in place today.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

This blog with Bacon

Click here to check out my blog with bacon.

Preventing sudden death in athletes

http://www.slate.com/id/2210332/?GT1=38002

A list of some athletes who have died:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17971296

It’s kind of surprising to me that the American Heart Association doesn’t recommend more early screening.  It seems like an EKG is a cheap thing to do. 

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I've been asked to spice up this blog a bit

And stop only talking about how bad the economy is and how washington is screwing up. So here you go, here are more human interest stories.



  • You have to check out the WifeSwap episode with this guy Stephen Fowler. He lives right in my neighborhood and is a world class jackass on the show. Here's a link to the first of 6 parts on Youtube of the whole show. Why ABC doesn't have episodes on their website is beyond me... they could be making a fortune off of all the internet publicity on this guy.
  • Joey DaVilla had a great blog post about this interview question: "What do you do in your spare time?" In the case of Sully Sullenberger, the captain of that US Air jet, it would have been very telling to look at what he does in his spare time.
  • 'This Is The Happiest Day Of My Life,' Lies Man Holding Baby

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Why the hell are people still using Quicktime?

I just went to look at some samples at a local ad and graphic design house.  Guess what!  They’re still posting their videos in Quicktime.

Who does that?  Are they that isolated from the real world?  Ever heard of “You Tube”?

I’m amazed that people on the “cutting edge” can be so behind the times.  As far as I’m concerned there are only three acceptable formats for video on the web anymore (soon, one):

  • FLV.  Plays in a Flash viewer.
  • VC-1.  Plays in Silverlight or Windows Media.
  • H.264.  Plays in Flash and soon Silverlight.

H.264 will be the single format for everyone to use soon. 

In the meantime, why the hell do I have to put up with Apple’s annoyo-ware[*] just to look at your reel?  Make the level of entry as low as possible.

[* – if you don’t believe me, try using Quicktime on Windows.  Not only don’t the play and timebar widgets display properly half the time, but Quicktime is constantly bugging you to be updated.  Apple, you lost the format war, revoke quicktime now!]

Monday, February 02, 2009

Oh this is priceless

It’s February 2, and the tax data is in.  My initial tax figuring shows that the Federal government owes me money and I owe the state of California money.   Perfect.  No IOUs coming from Sacramento in this household.  Only crisp, clean, newly printed dollar bills thanks to the Federal Reserve, which I will then turn around and pay about half of to Sacramento.  (I usually plan on no refunds of any kind, but these stock losses killed me this year).

So I’m going to wait until 11:59pm on April 15 to send that check to Sacramento, encased in a block of concrete and covered with tar.  Screw ‘em.  This California legislature is a complete joke.  I’ve voted against the establishment in Sac-town ever since I’ve voted here in California.  It’s made no difference.  The people keep voting in the same people over and over.  Carole Migden, and now Mark Leno.  Is there any difference between these two?  Please.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

This guy is a genius.

"Now's a good time to buy"

I hate it when I hear people say that, but I hate it more when people believe it.

Consider this, in May 2000, the Nasdaq had fallen 35% from its height. Did you think at the time it was a good time to buy, just because it was cheaper than it was before? Hopefully not, because you would have lost more than 60% on that investment over the next two years.

A deflating bubble is not a good time to buy, it's a good time to watch. The only time to buy is when there's confidence in that market.

The case in point today is the housing market. How many times have you heard someone alluding to it being a good time to buy over the last year or so? For me, it's plenty. And they're all wrong so far. The market has kept dropping even though people say it's a good time to buy.

So when I look at a crappy house in Burlingame where they're asking $1m for a house with a musty, spongey floor and beer mirrors on the wall, I just have to laugh a little.

Now, if you think you're paying a fair price for that house, then bless you... you're helping all of the homeowners on the block. But consider this house for rent, a block away, for half the price of a mortgage on the first house (assuming 20% down).

Buy a smaller house for that much more than renting a bigger house, in a climate where the prices are almost sure to drop? No thanks.

If you don't believe me that real estate has much further to fall, consider this tidbit gleaned from Mish's blog:

"Moreover, historically, the ratio of real estate loans to cash averaged 1.25 to 2 (!!!) on a sustained basis, whereas the ratio at the unprecedented hyper-leveraged point in 2007-2008 reached 12-13:1, with real estate loans as a share of all bank loans reaching almost 60%. Real estate loans/GDP topped out at 26-27% (!!!)."


If that's not a recipe for disaster, I'm not sure what is. Mattress, meet your friend Benjamin Franklin.