Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another Old Coot Marginalizing Himself

Forbes editor Rich Karlgaard had an interesting post the other day on his blog. He was at a hotel and sent out his pants for dry cleaning. Turns out, they sent him someone else's clean breeches. The dilemma was, he liked them much better than his own and thought about wearing them. You can go read the whole thread here if you want. My post today is about some Old Coot cluelessly admitting more stuff than he should in that comment thread. Here's his first comment:

Several items along this line.

I almost never buy my own clothes. Shirts, especially, simply show up hanging in my closet. Leather jackets. Blue jeans too. Even shoes. My wife shops.

I do get to go with her when good suits are involved, of course. But casual stuff...who cares? Knock yourself out, Baby.

There are three grown women in my household...In addition to my wife, our daughters who are 36 years old and 34 years old are unmarried, have their own homes in San Francisco and Chicago but visit their mother quite a lot. Especially when I am out of the country. The one in San Francisco seems to like our washer and dryer more than her soap? I don't know.

Sometimes shirts, etc. that I find hanging in my closet really do not fit me at all. Way too big or entirely too small. I do not ask any questions about such matters. All sorts of possibilities come to mind...none of them worth talking about.

Accuse a grown woman of...what... exactly? There's three of them. I don't even have a 50-50 chance of guessing right.

They would each just look at me like I might have been saying something...but they have no idea what it could be.

When I take my shirts to the laundry (20 at once) from time to time I discover that an orphan has found its way into my lot. Hard to catch this with the white shirts...but the colored shirts...I can pretty much pick out the newcomers. If the shirt fits...shoot, wear it!

When we played football we threw our incredibly sweaty and foul tee-shirts (worn under the shoulder pads) into a canvas bin on wheels and walked to the showers...We simply took a clean one from the stack the next day on the way into the locker room.

So what? Some of you are squeemish about any of this? What were we saying last week about the "Wussification of America"?

For crying out loud!

Did you get what this Old Coot just said?

He said that in his household, consisting of his wife and two daughters, random men's shirts make frequent appearances.

Bear in mind, that as a financial blog, almost everyone who reads Digital Rules is a dude.

This guy has no clue how bad that admission makes him look. Do you think a bunch of married women get together at tea parties and glibly divulge, "You know, I find random bras and panties lying around the's no big deal."

I THINK NOT! (at least outside France)

This situation reminds me of a frequent parley among the Neanderthals down in the trading pits of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. Some guy would come in donning a hideous new shirt:

OtherTrader - [laughing] Yo, where the *blank* did you get that ugly shirt?

UglyShirtWearer - Out of YOUR closet this morning, *sshole!

If you don't get the comeback, I'll translate - It means he diddled your woman/wife and grabbed the shirt out of your closet on his way out.

Down in the pit, every joke was your-mother, your-wife, your-sister, etc. Just like 4th grade!

But the rule most of us young coots understood, is that you certainly don't go into a roomful of men, paint yourself as a cuckold and set yourself up for such well-deserved ball breaking.

Though I have a slight antagonistic relationship with this fossil, out of the kindness of my heart I swallowed all jokes this time. I have had some pretty acerbic exchanges with him; nonetheless the Old Coot is likable in an avuncular sort of way.

But then he opened the door some more. Here's a subsequent comment he posted:

My girls are drop-dead beautiful and bright. Really. Just like their mother, they simply own just about any man they get around.

The older one brings home these heavy hitter Silicon Valley engineer types and the occasional professional athlete. She now tells people she is 27 (instead of 36)...She's simply having too much fun.

The younger one in Chicago manages clinical studies inside one of the major Pharmaceutical houses...and there is a guy that we do know about now...she never let us meet any of her young men before (although her girlfriends always whispered to my wife that she had them scattered around the country...) so this might be serious. Good.

My own little woman is known to everyone as the Big Boss...I myself took a Vow of Poverty after the divorce (when that first one) dropped me to zero a very long time ago.

The Big Boss owns everything...literally. Including the pants she lets me wear.


When I was dating girls in my own ill-spent youth I did notice that the easiest ones had the most-likely-to-take-a-human-life (again) fathers. When my daughters hit 16 I looked in the mirror and realized I was exactly that same way too (West Virginia breeding).

"Boy, let me explain to you how easy it is to turn a bull calf into a steer...if you got a razor blade and can count to two..."

Maybe that has been the problem all along. Thanks.

So, after blithely notifying the entire world that random dudes' clothes show up at his house, he goes on to elaborate lest anyone not fully understand.

One of his daughters simply has "too much fun" and the other has men "scattered around the country". Then, to boot, he compares himself to the fathers of all the "easiest" girls he's dated throughout his youth.

Talk about self-mutilation!

For the record, my daughter will certainly not be allowed to have any such "fun".

And if she does, I will be neither deluding myself about how flattering it is, nor blogging about it on the World Wide Web.

Furthermore, if I do devolve into an incontinent Old Coot myself, I am quite sure my kids will muzzle me.

As Will Durant has said - Silence is trebly golden after the age of sixty...


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Marginalizing Ben Bernanke

I am aware of the financial news scuttlebutt but twelve years of experience has conditioned me not to pay too much attention to it.

The other day, while idly watching my son at the park, I grabbed the only reading material I could find in my car - the April 2007 Futures magazine. (I DID NOT buy it. My buddy in Manhattan made me steal something from his contemptible roommate. This is just the type of service that I provide for my friends.)

Page 22 excerpts from Steven K. Beckner's Market Watch column:

Bernanke told the House Budget Committee there had been "no material change" in the Fed's economic forecast in the wake of the market slide and said he saw no "liquidity crunch" in the world or any breakdown in the workings of financial markets. He said he still expects moderate, if not improving, growth as the housing market stabilizes.

...Upside inflation risks, the Fed chief said, are the Fed's predominant concern.

Just to remind y'all the Dow dropped 416 points on Feb 27th, 2007. The media clowns attributed most of it to "subprime woes" but Wall Street roundly declared them "contained". Such was the backdrop to Bernanke's Congressional testimony two weeks later.

Let's fast forward to what we do know FOR A FACT today.

  • Subprime mortgage problems have not been "contained"; they are actually proving contagious.
  • August's market meltdown proves that the financial markets are prone to crunches of "liquidity". A liquidity crisis is not a singular landmine to avoid - it's an endless minefield. Or one can better think of it as a permanent gun pointed at the head of our financial system.
  • Six months after his testimony, the "moderate growth" from a "stabilizing housing market" has not materialized. If fact we have been riding lower growth and a worsening housing market. What a sage!
  • And back in April, with oil trading $64, soybeans trading $7.60, wheat trading $5.00, and gold trading $700 Bernanke was most concerned about "upside inflation risks". Yet today, on the eve of another Bernanke rate cut, gold is pushing $800, wheat is almost 70% higher, soybeans over $10, and oil is trading at $93 per barrel - I guess aside from the higher commodity prices, upside inflation risks can be brushed aside.

Remember when Bernanke dropped rates 50 basis points last month with the fierce intimation that it was "one and done"?

The guy is provably a walking monthly-contradiction of whatever he said last. Perhaps when oil is $100 a barrel he'll go back to worrying about "upside inflation risks"? In that case, you'll know to brace yourself for another "liquidity crunch"!

As I have said before, the hardest part about trading the financial markets is NOT UNDERESTIMATING the stupidity of all parties. For example, the Fed Chairman may well be a vacillating dolt, doing long term harm to our economy for short term feel-good, stock and bond upticks. Nevertheless, fund managers and sheepish investors (who should be farsighted) may go hog wild and bid up securities again after the inevitable rate cut tomorrow. I seemingly spend all my mental energy trying to figure out who the biggest Morons are, and how to bet against them.

It ain't so easy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Do A Credit Check On Your Landlord

I happened to run into a young lady who was the previous tenant of my current landlord. She told me that the guy essentially wouldn't return her security deposit.

After three full months of pleading, she received back $600 of the $2,000 she put up when signing the lease. He said she clogged the septic system and it cost $1,400 to repair.

Question: How can it be determined whether the septic failed because it was a sh*tty, poorly installed system or through some negligence of the tenants flushing?

Answer - It doesn't matter. You are at the mercy of the landlord and whatever he says (makes up).

Now before I even signed my lease with this guy I knew he was in financial straits. He was trying to sell this particular house we rented for over $1 million but I knew from researching the area that it wasn't worth a nickel over 700k. Furthermore, he candidly told me that he owed $1.2 million in mortgage debt on the property AND that he owed $1.8 million on his abode. I Zillow-stalked him a bit - meaning I researched the size and value of his other house and learned that it also was worth much less than its debt load. And it suffices to say that every other bit of info I discovered about this guy literally screamed that he was tapped out and broke. So I knew what I was getting into from the get-go.

The guy wanted "first, last, and security" upfront - $7,500 ($2,500 in monthly rent). We signed the lease and Fedexed it to him with our check on July 3rd. On July 5th, the guy literally called me four separate times asking where the check was. I said, "Hey buddy, settle down. Yesterday was a holiday. If it's not there later today, it will be there tomorrow or the next day. We aren't moving in for a month. What's the big deal?"

Don't think for a moment this guy deposited the money in an escrow account as the more professional landlords would do. He obviously needed it to pay his personal bills forthwith.

Renting from this guy was making me more nervous by the second and we had a month yet before we moved in. Once we did, he effectively only had $5,000 of our money that we could lose. Since we would not be paying rent again for our "last" month, he would effectively only have $2,500 to hold over our heads. My wife remains very concerned about this clown we rented from - especially after I just relayed her the conversation I had with the previous tenant. I had to remind my wife that our monetary risk was a mere $2,500 and that I lose that kind of money in split-seconds trading. Everything one ever does has financial risks. The trick is to stay on top of their probabilities and magnitudes.

It also goes without saying that the landlord always takes on more risk than the renter who could just stop paying rent at any moment. In most states it will take many months for a landlord to get an eviction notice executed on a non-paying tenant. I could very well decide not to pay my penultimate month's rent - as well as the "last" month's - and leave the landlord with effectively no security deposit to withhold. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Outside of the security deposit, tenants still bear other risks while renting from a bankrupt landlord. For one thing, he'll skimp on maintenance. I already noted that I have a fire hazard of a chimney that my landlord won't deal with. There's also the general issue of having a business relationship with anyone who is losing their shirt. They'll be understandably ornery. I once worked for a guy who was losing millions in his own trading accounts. The bastard took it out on me and that effectively ended our partnership. I don't know that most people have ever seen acquaintances, friends, or colleagues lose their entire livelihood via bankruptcy but I can assure them, it's nothing you want to be a party to. It doesn't matter whether the outcome is bad luck, tragic, or even due justice. I guess just as waiters and bartenders tend to over tip, as a trader well-accustomed to losing money, even when some people that I loathe have gone broke I feel for them.

My landlord is a phenomenally nice guy. He does just about everything he can for us but financial realities are tough to overcome with a smile. I'd be really surprised if our rental/business/personal relationship didn't deteriorate rapidly over the next few months. I've just seen this movie too many times.

Even if I lose some money, some hair, and some sleep by renting from an over-leveraged landlord, the hassle will be well worth it for the attributes of our abode and the tens of thousands of dollars I am saving by staying short the housing market for another year. That calculation was made back in July during my "credit check".

My initial assessment hasn't changed a lick. Put your helmet on. Real estate nationally is going to start looking like Florida in the not too distant future, i.e. 40% retracements from its high price point.

Nonetheless, if you are going to rent from a novice landlord, you might want to spend the $20 and run a credit check on them before you sign anything...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Red Sox as Religion - Take Two

The priest at our church decided to incorporate the Red Sox into his homily today. Ugh!

I just can't get away from this nonsense.

He had all the kids (it's a children's mass) come up to sit on the altar for the sermon. A good 80% of them were dressed in Red Sox gear. This would have NEVER happened down at our church in Charlotte. There everyone wore their Sunday best. They also sung ALL the verses of the songs, they came EARLY, stayed until THE END of the mass, etc.

Pathetically, in the short time I've been at my new church, the parishioners were never more animated, more awake, than I saw them today listening to the priest yammer about what apparently REALLY MATTERED: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and the Sox's 3-0 lead in the World Series.

Five minutes into this absurdity, a woman in front got up and walked out, muttering all sorts of unintelligibilities as she marched down the aisle past me.

I was quite sure she was, as I was, stupefied, disgusted, and defiantly protesting the Red Sox talk but it remains unproven if that was in fact the case.

On the other hand, she could have been a possessed Yankees fan...

Today's mass really was a symbolic clash, a religious face-off if you will and the victor spoke volumes about the times (and place) I live in.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Retard-able New York Times

In the tortured logic of the New York Times, all the ills of the world are profoundly interrelated. Today they ran an article tying the California wildfires to the pain, suffering, and exploitation of illegal immigrants. I was particularly struck by these two consecutive paragraphs.

The authorities have not given any causes[of the fires] linked to immigration.

Two men, one in San Diego County and the other in Los Angeles, who were arrested on arson charges, accused of setting small fires this week, are believed to be deportable, a federal immigration official said.

Do you see the stark naked contradiction? The first sentence/paragraph is completely refuted by the second. Deportable arsonists? Are you kidding me? That sounds like an "authority", a "cause", and a "link" at once!

Of course, as usual, the Times conflates "immigration" with what the rest of the real world calls "illegal immigration". And the other spicy morsel for me was the euphemistic characterization of "deportable". I hadn't read that whitewash before. I guess mass murderers can be now called "detainable"; and fat people can be euphemized as "diet-able".

I am posting the entire article below. You needn't read the whole thing to see the point I will make next:

October 27, 2007
Glare of Fires Pulls Migrants From Shadows
SAN DIEGO, Oct. 26 — Out of the burning brush, from behind canyon rocks, several immigrants bolted toward a group of firefighters, chased not by the border police but by the onrush of flames from one of the biggest wildfires this week.

Their appearance startled the firefighters, who let them into their vehicles. But with the discovery of four charred bodies in an area of heavy illegal immigration, concern is growing that others may not have survived.

“Their hands were burned, and they were clearly tired and grateful,” Capt. Mike Parkes of the State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported on what his firefighting team saw.

Immigrants from south of the border, many illegal, provide the backbone of menial labor in San Diego, picking fruit, cleaning hotel rooms, sweeping walks and mowing lawns.

The wildfires, one of the biggest disasters to strike the county, exposed their often-invisible existence in ways that were sometimes deadly.

The four bodies were found in a burned area in southeastern San Diego County, a region known for intense illegal immigration. It is near Tecate, where a chain securing an evacuated border crossing was cut and people were seen flowing into the United States until the Border Patrol arrived, said Michael J. Fisher, the chief patrol agent in San Diego.

As firefighting continued on Friday, makeshift camps for immigrants in the northern part of the county stood largely abandoned. Some immigrants were said to be hiding in even more remote terrain. Others sought help from churches.

“I was pretty scared. We had to leave in the middle of the night, and we went to the church,” said Juan Santiago, a immigrant worker in the Rancho Peñasquitos neighborhood, just south of the hard-hit Rancho Bernardo area.

Terri Trujillo, who helps the immigrants, checked on those in the canyons, urging them to leave, too, when she left her house in Rancho Peñasquitos ahead of the fires.

Ms. Trujillo and others who help the immigrants said they saw several out in the fields as the fires approached and ash fell on them. She said many were afraid to lose their jobs.

“There were Mercedeses and Jaguars pulling out, people evacuating, and the migrants were still working,” said Enrique Morones, who takes food and blankets to the immigrants’ camps. “It’s outrageous.”

Some of the illegal workers who sought help from the authorities were arrested and deported. Opponents of illegal immigration, including civilian border watch groups, seized on news that immigrants had been detained at the Qualcomm Stadium evacuation center as evidence of trouble that illegal immigrants cause.

The Border Patrol also arrested scores of illegal immigrants made visible by the fires. Agent Fisher of the Border Patrol said 100 had been arrested since the fires started Sunday.

He said that the agency never abandoned enforcing the border and that agents helped with removals and rescues. Fire blocked some access points to border areas, but Agent Fisher said, “We were very conscious in making sure our border security mission was met.”

Some people have speculated, including on the Web, that immigrants might have set some of the fires, as has occurred with campfires lighted in fields.

The authorities have not given any causes linked to immigration.

Two men, one in San Diego County and the other in Los Angeles, who were arrested on arson charges, accused of setting small fires this week, are believed to be deportable, a federal immigration official said.

The San Diego police detained people suspected of stealing at Qualcomm Stadium. Six were handed over to the immigration authorities when it became apparent that they might be in the United States illegally.

The Border Patrol said the six, and at the group’s request, an American juvenile with them, were returned to Mexico.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it had received reports that people had been denied help at shelters because they lacked proper identification. Officials have been checking identification to prevent people not affected by the fires from taking advantage of the free food, clothes and other services.

The concerns of the rights group drew a rebuke from Representative Brian P. Bilbray, a Republican who represents areas along the border.

“People are dying because we can’t control our border,” Mr. Bilbray said. “That’s what they should be screaming about. Anyone who knows the land and the illegal activity in that rugged terrain knows there was no way we would avoid deaths in this.”

Wayne A. Cornelius, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, who studies border questions, said that if the past was a guide there would be more friction over the fires and their effects on illegal immigrants.

“San Diego likes its illegal migrants as invisible as possible,” Mr. Cornelius said. “So whenever something happens that calls attention to their presence, it is fodder for the local anti-immigration forces.”

In one sign of cooperation, a Mexican firefighting team from Baja California helped American firefighters with a major blaze along the border early in the week.

For the immigrants, the fires may have dried up some work. But some speculate on strong work prospects like cleanups. By early afternoon near a heavily damaged neighborhood in the Rancho Bernardo area, four men stood on a corner, waiting for work offers.

“It is a shame what happened,” said a man who gave just his first name, Miguelito. “But we think there will be jobs to clean or build.”

Dan Frosch contributed reporting from Denver, and Carolyn Marshall from San Francisco.

They say that newspapers are written on a 4th grade reading level - whatever that means. But if I recall accurately, elementary schools taught us that paragraphs should consist of a topic sentence followed by a few supporting sentences. Grammarians and logicians have decreed long ago this as the best format for expressing a coherent idea.

Note the Times' paragraphs don't meet this standard. Their paragraphs are mostly one sentence long (I count at least ten examples above)- egregiously devoid of supporting sentences.

This article is nothing but a barrage of disjointed innuendo. It's anecdotal, laughably sourced, and as I pointed out above it's even self-contradicting.

I don't slice and dice the NYT that often anymore so if you'd like some more read this oldie but goodie from two years ago. (link)

Here's another good one (link).

Friday, October 26, 2007

CNBC's Morning Blog - RIP

(click the pic to enlarge)

Their last post was December 4th, 2006!

Here's what I wrote about their blog two years ago:

I have Marginalized CNBC in past blogs. They are the typical big, stodgy socialist media outlet. They are trying to show their progressivism by running blogs (Squawk Blog and The Morning Blog). All day they promote their blog web addresses, but there is basically nothing on their blogs. The CNBC hosts actually tout "new pics" of themselves on the blog, as if looking at their mugs all day isn’t enough. Do they really think anyone is interested this?

Also, you need a MSN Passport ID to post messages on their blogs. Since no one has one, there is nobody posting comments. I got a MSN ID just so I could criticize them. I figured that I needed an outlet after listening to their crap for 10 years, all day long. But they won’t publish my comments anymore. You can google “CaptiousNut” (click here) to see some of my hardly incendiary comments that some pissant at CNBC has decided to censor. So to sum it up, there is little blog content, a barrier to posting comments, and censorship of criticism. Somebody tell CNBC that “THAT IS NOT A BLOG”.

It won't be long before they obliterate that blog from cyberspace. It's never seen as a good thing to leave glaring evidence of your failures around - a concept that Greg Mankiw is keenly aware of.

ESPECIALLY, when the failure illuminates Big Media's fumbling embrace of New Media.

These are the signals that make Rupert Murdoch and his fledgling business channel teem with optimism.

Trade Suggestion

Usually, when the really good, "no-lose" trades come up, my position is already so big that I can't add to it. That is the case now. Along these lines, I knew a veteran trader who always put his "5th buy" in his Keogh. Despite paying Merrill Lynch a sodomizing .09 per share in commissions, his retirement account grew by leaps and bounds.

I have been bearish on, and short, the 30-Year Treasury for a couple months now. I am down a good four points. If I was flush, I would hit it with a baseball bat today. Here's my reasoning:

The stock and bond markets have exploded since the August "credit crunch". As I have blogged on before, market participants are all betting on more rate cuts from the political animal (Bernanke) that runs the Federal Reserve. There's no doubt in my mind that another 50 basis point cut is baked into both stocks and bonds.

Here's the wrinkle: oil just shot up to $92 per barrel today and the dollar is at a new multi-decade low. These are the only developments that MIGHT prevent those inflating idiots from dropping rates to "save" an unsalvageable housing market.

Ergo, markets shouldn't have a 100% likelihood of a cut priced in. Oil could very easily be $100 next week and this dollar weakness could cause an international run on our currency. As much as these politicians would like to artificially prop up asset prices, Bush's poll numbers, and their perceived re-election chances, they may in fact be forced to stand down and do something they've never endeavored before. They may have to sit back and do NOTHING. What a notion!

That's why I see shorting the long bond as very good bet TODAY.

For my mind it sets up as an ideal trade.
  • My best trades in the past 12 months have been shorting sharp upticks in the long bond. My first whack came when the clowns bid it up after the '06 election victory of the socialists. The second time was this past March when it popped to just about these same levels for seemingly "no reason". A good trader sticks with what's worked.
  • I believe the long bond is tired and at the end of a multi-decade uptrend. It's been ignoring ubiquitous inflation since 1998. In the old days, all it cared about was inflation. $90 oil and $10 soybeans should at least take a bite out of bond euphoria. So without even talking about the built-in tax increases and ticking entitlement bombs I see plenty of fundamental weakness to comfort me on the short side of bonds.
  • And as I mentioned above, there has been, what I perceive as a ridiculous, non-sensical move in bond prices. There's nothing more salivating than an insane uptick in a downtrending security. This not only gives an ideal entry point, it usually provides a rapid profit.
Summing it up, I am confident then that I have timing, fundamentals, and a good entry point all on my side. The risk/reward proposition seldom looks more actionable.

One can short the futures with very little money down. It's a 113 dollar number with minimum increments of $100,000. In other words, if you short one contract at 113 and buy it back at say 109, you would make $4,000, that would be one grand per point. To put it perhaps more simply, shorting one future's contract would be like shorting 1,000 shares of a 113 stock.

BUT, to short 1,000 shares of a 113 dollar stock one would need at least 50% of it as margin, i.e. $56,500. Whereas, shorting a long bond future only requires something like $2,000 worth of margin. (I would recommend you have $5,000-$6,000 as your mental "loss" provision).

So shorting the long bond is a cheaper, less risky way for the small investor to play the commodity bull market.

I will revisit this trade suggestion, hopefully very shortly and at lower prices.

Evolving Monomania

As most of my highly self-educated blog readers know, I grew up in Massachusetts. Stereotypically, all I cared about my first 18 years on this planet was sports. Back then, I would most probably have donated my right testicle for the present day sports euphoria of Boston.

The New England Patriots have hardly lost a game in the past 5 years. Tom Brady is probably the best quarterback of all-time. Currently they are 7-0 and poised to challenge if not break a few NFL scoring records.

The Boston College football team, fresh off a crazy win last night at Virgina Tech, is ranked second in the country - a plateau even saintly Doug Flutie couldn't take them to.

The Celtics just made two blockbuster trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. I am not so sold on the deal, nonetheless oddsmakers and hibernating fans are abuzz with their prospects this year.

And, of course, the Red Sox are in the World Series again - currently up two games to none. Nobody in town is even slightly worried that they won't win their second World Series of the last four years. Oh, how times have changed. Welcome to Winnersville!

If I was twelve-years old again, I'd feel like I was in heaven. Alas, I am not - I am 33, have two small children, and feel very much earth-bound.

Now all I think about is making money and taking care of my family. I'd like to be able to buy my dream house (at my dream price). I want a vacation home. I want to join a country club. I want a maid to do my dishes. I'd like enough financial "flexibility" to give my wife the option to quit her job. I'd also like the ability to give my kids the best education possible - whether that is me homeschooling them or shipping them off to some expensive school.

But this is the very definition of monomania. When you are passionately obsessed with one thing, nothing else matters.

One day, my family will be grown up (or I will strike gold in the markets) and my priorities will transmute into something completely different. It could very well be my grandkids, my religion, or a totally new career.

One day I could have a $1 billion in the bank and be miserable. I could be smitten by a family tragedy or personal health problems. Or maybe all I will want at that point is for my kids to be more ambitious or happier?

Our minds will never EVER be at ease. They'll always be pining for the greener grass and the superfluities that we DON'T have.

This is what I try to remind myself when I am glum. It helps. You should try it. Be grateful for what you have because things could always be much worse.

Fast forward a few years...

Saint Peter - So, Mr. C-Nut, it seems you spent your entire life worrying about Larry Bird, your handicap, mocking Morons on your blog, and how much money you could make. Where did you get the idea THAT was the grand purpose of your life? I hope you packed for a warm climate...

CaptiousNut - Oh sh*t!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nearby Clown - Steve Carell

I was just told by my sitter that Steve Carell lives nearby at the Blackrock golf course community in Hingham, MA. It's weird to think that a celebrity would want to live in such a commuting/family-centric sort of town. I am sure that it is just one of his many abodes. In fact, it looks like Marshfield claims him as one of their own as well.

Anyway, I love The Office and count it among of my favorite shows but this season's novelty, i.e. the new 60 minute format, I feel, is pushing it. Thirty minutes is kind of short but I just don't know that any comedy can pull off a full hour. Forty-five minutes would be probably be ideal.

The other problem I have is that the show is too much about Michael Scott (Carell). There are plenty of other great characters that get scant attention - particularly that dipsh*t Andy. But this is invariably what happens when the lead character plays a productive role in the show. Just as Denis Leary makes his entire show insufferably about him, I feel Steve Carell is overly enamored of himself as well.

These guys really want that Emmy...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Marginalizing Cheapskates

I was once drinking and bullsh*tting down at my old golf course in Philadelphia with the guys and I suggested that we create "All" foursomes.

We could have an All-Talking foursome which would be JoJo, Frankie, and two other talk-the-balls-off-a-pool-table blabbermouths.

We could form an All-Cheating foursome of Bruno, Fat Johnny, and two other guys widely known to have flexible relationships with the rules of golf.

We quickly formed an All-Slow Play foursome of the four most brutally slow players.

And so on and so on.

Then I suggested we conjure up the All-Cheap Foursome. To which, after a moment's contemplation, one of the guys quipped, "Never mind a foursome - we have enough for an All-Cheap league!"

Indeed it was true.

Every family and every social group has its cheap members. You know, the ones who buy the worst Christmas presents. The ones who nurse their beer when it looks like it might be their turn to buy a round. They've got the short arms and often the deep pockets. They've never had to ring your doorbell with their elbows!

So how does one manage them? Do you just buy them drinks and bear the disproportionate expense? Do you call them out and try to guilt them into pulling their own weight? No doubt innumerable relationships have been ruptured by one party's resolute cheapness.

What if, in a given friendship, one person makes substantially more money than the others? Are they morally obligated to ante up a little more of the restaurant tabs and whatnot?

Which particular groups are the cheapest?

Well, I liken this bigotry query to the one I posed in an earlier post about who were the worst drivers. For nearly every group/ethnicity/creed, you can find someone who thinks they are the cheapest (or worst drivers).

Of course in terms of ethnicities, Jews might bear the most stereotypy for penny-pinching but from my own experience, I can tell of extremely cheap genes apparent in certain Asians, Irish, Italians, Hispanics and blacks that I know. There are cheap old people and miserly young'uns. Women can be just as cheap as men - or is it vice versa? Rich people can be just as cheap as poor people. There simply is no winner in the cheap contest.

Let's throw out some examples.

Patrick Ewing, retired NBA baller was known to be notoriously cheap. He would regularly go out to restaurants in Manhattan and when the bill came would assert that he had forgotten his wallet. He was making $18 million per year his last few years in the league!

Michael Milken, the disgraced junk bond king of 1980s used to take NJ Transit to work rather than pay up for Amtrak. He also wore cheap suits and a bad toupee despite making several hundred million dollars.

My sister was recently invited over to her cheap friend's house for fajitas. He asked her to bring tomatoes. Turns out, he asked everyone attending to bring one of the ingredients. Someone had to bring the tortillas. Someone else had to tote the chicken, etc. It's a wonder they didn't all bump into each other in the supermarket beforehand!

There is a big shot trader on the Philly Stock Exchange nicknamed "Cheese". Cheese won't so much as buy himself lunch despite the millions jingling in his pockets. I used to watch him everyday not order lunch when everyone else was doing so. Then, around 1:00 pm or so he would procure the second half of some clerk's sandwich or the extra slices of pizza from a broker. The guy drives clunkers and once, took a trip to New Orleans with some other traders. Get this, the guy decided to room at the YMCA for something like $13 a night! Oh, and you should have seen him scramble to get his ticket in for a juicy one lot trade. He really needed that quarter ($25)!

There is one guy, a friend of a friend, on the periphery of my wife's high school social net. He's another one of these guys that has been out at a restaurant and insisted he "forgot" his wallet. The more egregious story with this guy happened one drunken night out in the Hamptons. Remember what alcohol does, it removes inhibitions. A bunch of people including this particular miser crashed at my wife's family's house in Southampton. The next day, while vacuuming we discovered a few kaiser rolls under a bed. It turns out, the cheapskate came back late at night and assessed that there wasn't much food left so he stashed away the remaining rolls under his bed LIKE A STARVING PRISONER. We would never of unlocked this mystery if we didn't find out that in the wee hours he was assuring one of the guys not to worry about eating because "We've got some bread". This was an odd episode to say the least. All other experience has shown this guy to be as tight as they come. How did he get way? Who knows. But supposedly his dad is demented similarly despite being a high level executive for News Corporation.

I worked for a guy, another multi-millionaire, who I listened to spend 20 minutes on the phone arguing with a customer (on his side business) over who would have to pay a $9 FedEx bill. This was a dozen years ago and the customer was across the country. The cost of the phone call had to be near half the disputed amount all by itself. I couldn't believe this boss of mine fussed so much over a pittance while he had a trading firm that flung around hundreds of thousands of dollars on a daily basis. It was surreal. Declare your bigotry and guess his ethnicity!

Now on to tipping.

The best tippers are, well, people who work for tips themselves: other bartenders and waiters. I used to sell food and beer at a golf course and this one guy, JoJo the bartender, was an absolutely insane tipper. It was two bucks for every little thing from coffee right down to if you told him the score of the Eagles game. I am not kidding. This guy would tip at toll booths and at McDonald's.

The worst tippers are blacks, Europeans, and younger people in general. All sorts of explanations abound but who really cares. This is an empirical blog, wholly insensitive to apologetic idealists. (By the way, I don't buy the 'the tip is included in Europe' so-they-don't-know-any-better excuse.) Blacks simply do not tip. Go google it - a ton of stuff comes up. When blacks come into a restaurant, waiters vie for other tables - including black waitstaff.

Also, I was a bit shocked when I was in South Beach a couple of years ago to see a $.41 tip included on my breakfast from Johnny Rockets. Miami has apparently taken it upon itself to automatically include tips on a everything - thank the Euros who've taken over the city. (Or is it the rappers' fault?)

I was always a good tipper. I guess it made me feel like a "big shot" and of course I worked for tips myself so I was sensitive to the practice. In fact I had to really work at NOT TIPPING piss poor service. I have found the profoundly rude Boston restaurants and bars to be really helpful in teaching me to tone down my gratuities.

At the conclusion of a wedding I attended in Vineland, New Jersey, I did what I always do. I sauntered over to the bar and left a tip - usually $20. The bartenders, all six of them, thanked me profusely. So I asked how they did for tips that night and they said they got "nothing at all". I couldn't believe it, there were 350 guests from all over the globe ordering pina coladas and glasses of white zinfandel (Hah! Old people drink that stuff). I wouldn't be surprised if any of those bar servers called out "sick" for the next wedding at that synagogue.

I know a girl who's worked at a wedding/catering hall for years. She also claims that blacks tip the worst. She said they can be nice as pie; they'll hug you and kiss you; but they won't leave a nickel. She also told me that cops and firefighters are the best tippers in her experience.

Bad tipping doesn't necessarily imply cheapness but they are kissing cousins.

There are so many ways cheapness can manifest itself. For sure you have older relatives that would go into cardiac arrest if you rolled the car windows down when they had the air conditioning on. As I have mentioned before, older folk are extremely cheap with food, technology, and energy. They should however get a bit of a pass because they grew up in a poorer generation and are mostly on fixed incomes. Well-traveled, wealthy, younger penny-pinchers who should know better get no pass at all.

I would surmise that most people are irrationally cheap about something. Me, I hate when cab drivers rip me off for $3-$5. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten into fights with cab drivers and jumped out without paying. I also hate to pay for haircuts. My head is essentially shaved and I can't pay someone $25 to spend the 4 minutes it takes to cut my luscious hair. So what if I have to walk the back alleys for a week or two after my self-administered cut? I also loathe spending money on housekeeping, yard work, snow shoveling, and childcare. I would rather do it myself than pay what I feel are ridiculous market wages.

There are many places that attract cheapos. Parks, bookstores and libraries immediately come to mind. I know a guy who used to manage a Waldenbooks. He told me that people would come in every day, take a newspaper, sit down with it, and do the crossword. Then they would put the paper back in the stack for sale. Now I would never pay a nickel for a newspaper myself, as they are vile worthless slabs of propaganda, but I'd never deface a 50 cent paper in a store without buying it.

I remember sitting in an economics class in college and getting blown away by a remark made by the esteemed Wharton professor (Robert Inman). The class was talking about tipping and the prof derided, "I just think of tipping as 'income redistribution'." It may not sound that bad by itself, but it was in a wider context of why would anyone tip a waitress in a diner while traveling. In other words, if one is eating in a restaurant that they'll likely never return to, it is irrational to leave any tip at all. I couldn't believe it. I was 19 and I fully understood the entire concept of tipping but this nerd teacher (Harvard PhD) and assorted other student nerds hadn't a clue about it.

I would have forgotten about this little incident if I hadn't more recently read a post of that Total Loser Greg Mankiw's a short while back. Here's what he said about tipping:

No, really, it's up to you

Economists do not have a good theory of tipping. Normally, we assume that consumers pay as little as they have to when buying the products they want. Yet, when buying meals, haircuts, and taxi services, most consumers voluntarily pay more than they are legally required. Why does this happen? Why is it more true for some services than for others? Why do tipping customs vary from country to country? I have no idea.

The rock band Radiohead is putting this phenomenon to the test: You can buy the download of their latest album for whatever price you choose. You can pay as little a penny or, they hope, much more. The whole price you pay is, in essence, a tip (but paid before the service is rendered).

Since we economists don't understand tipping, we can't really say whether this new scheme will work. But if it does, during my next ec 10 class, I will put a hat next to the lectern.

Oftentimes, a frank admission of ignorance demonstrates genuine wisdom - but not here. Mankiw, like the other Harvard-educated professor whose lectures I had to bear, doesn't understand why consumers ever tip. In his convoluted mind, the lumpen consumers are simply "not rational" (nor are voters). This is just his gutless, elegant way of asserting his intellectual supremacy. It's the professorial way of calling everyone else stupid.

I really wish he had left the comments in place. If he had, you'd be able to read several comments from incipient little socialists (students) echoing, less tactfully, the sentiments of these scumbag professors.

I failed somewhat in this post to stay on topic. My screed on the generic cheapskate devolved into a screed on bad tippers. I guess tipping is where cheapness most manifests itself. But in no way are customers the only penny pinchers in town.

I knew the now-deceased bar owner of Chaucers in Philadelphia pretty well and he was one cheap bastard. He regulated the amount of soap his bartenders used to wash glasses. He demanded a head on draught beer to shave his keg costs that 2%. He even put weird tape contraptions on the waitstaff's pens because he was convinced that they often rolled off the bar and into the trashcan. Meanwhile this filthy rich tightwad was always telling me about his million dollar semiconductor bets.

I also got a bagel recently from Bruegger's. It was early and for some reason the manager ended up serving me. He was very slow and quite stingy with the cream cheese. I very politely asked him for "extra"; without breaking any speed limits, he niggardly dabbed a bit more. I asked again for some more and he looked up at me above his nerdy accounting glasses and declaimed that he already put "extra" on it. I said, "I will pay you whatever you want for the bagel but if you don't put more cheese on it I won't take it!".

Man, you'd think I asked him for a pound of flesh...

Cheapness must of course be a gene but like everything else, I suspect it can also be an environmentally wrought disposition.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What Inflation?

So I played golf last week at Widow's Walk and got paired up with some random dude. He worked for a food company that made sundry products, primarily supermarket branded items. The guy told me that they were getting "killed" by commodity price increases.

Guy - We used to buy cheese (for frozen pizzas) at $1.10 per pound. Now it's over $2 per pound. Also, soy beans, SOY BEANS are killing us since we use tons of soy bean oil in our salad dressings. Who knows when this is going to end?....

Haha. I told him (tactfully) that in my opinion it was going to get much worse over the next five years. Luckily for his company, competing products all have the same rising input costs to contend with.

Nerd economists have always held that the demand for food is "inelastic" with respect to price.

We shall see.

Another Marketing Misnomer

How can you possibly call a retirement home Sunrise Assisted Living?

Shouldn't it be more aptly named SUNSET Assisted Living?

Or, how about these more accurate names:

Final Inning Care

Last Lap Living

Grande Finale Nursing Home

The DNR House


I love how when these Baby Boomers outsource their filial responsibilities to a nursing home their justification is invariably, "Well, it's better for them to be around their peers..."


It's better for your parents to spend their golden years with other doting parents who also have self-centered, irresponsible kids?

Stock Market Inflation

Is there inflation?

Again, that's like asking, "What is the temperature of the United States?".

Well, it very much depends on where you are looking.

The same trader who gave me that insight over a decade ago also posited that a "high stock market" was profoundly inflationary as it meant that it was currently "more expensive" to save for his retirement. I completely agree.

My wife works for a large financial company. A large portion of her pay is in restricted stock - so we already own a bunch of it. Now understand this, I DO NOT ROOT FOR THE STOCK TO GO UP. She gets her allotment in I believe January; it's a fixed dollar figure so the lower the stock price the more shares she gets. The last thing in the world I want to see is her company's stock jump 20% right before the disbursement.

Why do I bring this up? Well, if you hadn't noticed, the stock market recovered all of August's losses and then some. The NASDAQ is at a 7.5 year high while the Dow and S&P500 (notwithstanding the NYT) recently hit all time highs. If the stock market is going to be say on average 10% lower next year, then everyone who is dumping money this year into their 401k's, SEP's, Keoghs, annuities, mutual funds, etc., will be effectively losing 10% of their investment right off the top. That's an immediate asset erosion which can be construed as inflation.

I don't want to get into the very real possibility that the market could be higher still next year and retirement savers would be wise to buy at today's lofty prices. I just want to make this somewhat counterintuitive point that while high stock prices might be good for yesterday's investments, they aren't at all beneficial to present-day investments.

Say that no matter what, the Dow is going to be 75,000 in 40 years. Wouldn't you have wanted most of your "buys" to have been made at very low levels?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Greg Mankiw - Total Loser

Guess what the Harvard professor did, he disabled comments from his blog posts!

The guy couldn't take criticism so he did what all small-membered tyrants do, he banned it.

If you remember, first he tried to stifle negative feedback under the ruse of regulating civility.

Apparently that didn't suffice.

I haven't been following or commenting on his blog for quite a while, so alas, I can't take much credit for his capitulation. Read one of his explanations:

I just don't have the time to police comments and enforce good behavior, especially since some posts were generating more than 100 comments. And I don't want to host a party in which a small vitriolic minority consistently tries to ruin the event for everyone else. So I decided to turn the comments feature off.

There you have it, intellectual minorities are not welcome by the effete majority at Harvard. Diversity must remain only skin-deep.

(The guy didn't just "disable comments". He deleted all of them from old posts too!)

FLASHBACK Here is my favorite Mankiw post. It's a good thing I preserved the exchange with screen shots.

The New York Times Hits A Ten Year Low

As I type this, shares of the New York Times Co. are trading at $18.45 apiece.

I will bet you'll have difficulty finding ANY other stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index that is at such a multi-year nadir.

So, will S&P boot the company out of the index and spare the millions of passive index investors from blindly subsidizing this train wreck of a media company?

I wouldn't hold my breath.

On the bright side, this mutual fund welfare, courtesy of S&P, has probably helped the demise of the Grey Lady. Another company in these straits would have had its ratings slashed, its stock price pummeled, AND had to quickly re-invent itself as a rational, profit-maximizing entity. Ironically, just about everyone who DOESN'T read The Times understands that welfare kills.

The NYT's financials indicate that it has a mere $57 million in cash against a debt load of almost $1 billion. Bankruptcy still has an outside chance. Wall Street currently has shorted around 11% of the stock's float - that's no small percentage.

If one looks in the right places...he'll find plenty of justice in this world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Babysit or Manage a Subway?

So I was talking to a young lady who owns a Subway sandwich shop in the Boston area. She told me that she pays her managers $10 per hour and the minions $7.50 per hour.

Bear in mind that I pay my babysitters, cheapskate that I am for my locale, $12-$14 per hour - in cash (i.e. no tax withholding, Morons).

What would you rather do? Bean-count at a restaurant or play with my angelic kids for substantially higher pay?

Note that $7.50 per hour is the State of Massachusetts' minimum wage. No doubt if the Subway owner could pay the minions a little less, she'd be able to raise the manager's pay to the neighborhood of a babysitter's (unregulated) pay.

Furthermore, the owner told me that she has had problems with all the managers skimming (that means stealing money, Morons).

Gee, I wonder why they skim?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Real Estate - Fixer Upper Arbitrage

How many times have you heard someone exclaim, "You know if I buy that house, put fifty grand into it, I can sell it for a hundred grand more..."?

I have heard it more times than I could count - which is no small number!

The fact is, after you pay all the transaction fees: closing costs, title insurance, real estate commissions, etc., the theoretical profit of such a flip gets whittled down to nothing.

For example, if the house costs 600k and your "updating" yields a sale price of 700k, the 5%-6% real estate commission alone will erode $35,000-$42,000 of your massive 50k profit.

Sure, arbitrage as I have outlined is more doable with lower priced homes as the transaction costs are smaller in dollar magnitude but I submit that these opportunities, generally speaking, do not exist.

They don't exist because they have been arbitraged away by contractors. In this housing bull market run, all these obvious buy, fix-up, and flip-for-a-profit properties have been scooped up by professional contractors - men who know a little be more than everyone else about updating costs. Also, bear in mind that they can do the work cheaper than you as well.

So, the next time you contemplate buying a speculative fixer upper that's been languishing on the market for months, remember that all sorts of professional contractors have scouted and rejected its prospects already.

Oh yeah, and don't forget that housing prices, broadly speaking, are going to drop at least another 20% from today's levels.

Will Durant on Religion

I looted this passage from the beginning of The Reformation which is Book VI of Durant's The Story of Civilization.

RELIGION is the last subject that the intellect begins to understand. In our youth we may have resented, with proud superiority, its cherished incredibilities; in our less confident years we marvel at its prosperous survival in a secular and scientific age, its patient resurrections after whatever deadly blows by Epicurus, or Lucretius, or Lucian, or Machiavelli, or Hume, or Voltaire. What are the secrets of this resilience?

The wisest sage would need the perspective of a hundred lives to answer adequately. He might begin by recognizing that even in the heyday of science there are innumerable phenomena for which no explanation seems forthcoming in terms of natural cause, quantitative measurement, and necessary effect. The mystery of mind still eludes the formulas of psychology, and in physics the same astonishing order of nature that makes science possible may reasonably sustain the religious faith in a cosmic intelligence. Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance. Now life is rarely agnostic; it assumes either a natural or supernatural source for any unexplained phenomenon, and acts on the one assumption or the other; only a small minority of minds can persistently suspend judgment in the face of contradictory evidence. The great majority of mankind feel compelled to ascribe mysterious entities or events to supernatural beings raised above “natural law”. Religion has been the worship of supernatural beings – their propitiation, solicitation, or adoration. Most men are harassed and buffeted by life, and crave supernatural assistance when natural forces fail them; they gratefully accept faiths that give dignity and hope to their existence, and order and meaning to the world; they could hardly condone so patiently the careless brutalities of nature, the bloodshed and chicaneries of history, or their own tribulations and bereavements if they could not trust that these are parts of an inscrutable but divine design. A cosmos without known cause or fate is an intellectual prison; we long to believe that the great drama has a just author and a noble end.

Moreover, we covet survival, and find it hard to conceive that nature should so laboriously produce man, mind, and devotion only to snuff them in the maturity of their development. Science gives man ever greater powers but ever less significance; it improves his tools and neglects his purposes; it is silent on ultimate origins, values, and aims; it gives life and history no meaning or worth that is not cancelled by death or omnivorous time. So men prefer the assurance of dogma to the diffidence of reason; weary of perplexed thought and uncertain judgment they welcome the guidance of an authoritative church, the catharsis of the confessional, the stability of a long-established creed. Ashamed of failure, bereaved of those they loved, darkened with sin, and fearful of death, they feel themselves redeemed by divine aid, cleansed of guilt and terror, solaced and inspired with hope, and raised to a godlike and immortal destiny.

Meanwhile religion brings subtle and pervasive gifts to society and the state. Traditional rituals soothe the spirit and bind the generations. The parish church becomes a collective home, weaving individuals into a community. The cathedral rises as the product and pride of the unified municipality. Life is embellished with sacred art, and religious music pours its mollifying harmony into the soul and the group. To a moral code uncongenial to our nature and yet indispensable to civilization, religion offers supernatural sanctions and supports: an all-seeing deity, the threat of eternal punishment, the promise of eternal bliss, and commandments of no precariously human authority but of diving origin and imperative force. Our instincts were formed during a thousand years of insecurity and the chase; they fit us to be violent hunters and voracious polygamists rather than peaceable citizens; their once necessary vigor exceeds present social need; they must be checked a hundred times a day, consciously or not, to make society and civilization possible. Families and states, from ages before history, have enlisted the aid of religion to moderate the barbarous impulses of men. Parents found religion helpful in taming the willful child to modesty and self-restraint; educators valued it as a precious means of disciplining and refining youth; governments long since sought its co-operation in forging social order out of the disrupting egoism and natural anarchism of men. If religion had not existed, the great legislators – Hammurabi, Moses, Lycurgus, Numa Pompilius – would have invented it. They did not have to, for it arises spontaneously and repeatedly from the needs and hopes of men.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Idleness Update

I have to apologize to my millions of faithful blog readers. I have been too busy to post these days. Here's what I have been doing:

First off, I am trying to recover the boatload of cash I lost shorting this stock market bounce. For sure Wall Street is giggling at how it manhandled the Fed into lower rates. Politicians, because that's what Bernanke et al really are, are complete invertebrates.

Secondly, I just went down to a wedding on Long Island. In fact, the wedding was at the same yacht club that my wife and I got married at nearly four years ago to the day. It was quite fun to take in the beauty of the location as we weren't distracted this time by all the pageantry of our sacrament.

Thirdly, I recently endured a very traumatic incident with my mother-in-law. It has simply frozen my mind and sapped my zest for life. I have no idea what to do with it. My life coach has recommended blogging about it for "cartharsis". BUT my wife told me that to do so would invite assassination.

Fourthly, my scant free time has be spent trying to finish Will Durant's Story of Civilization. I have 2.5 books left out of 11 and hope to be done with them by the end of the year.

And my last weak excuse is that I went on my short, annual golf trip down to Naples, Florida. With all the driving, flying, and putting I haven't spent much time at my computer.

Fear not my wandering flock, I shall return shortly!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Convoluted Honesty

This recently appeared on CraigsList:

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful(spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy. I'm not from New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board?

Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 - 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won't get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms

-What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't hurt my feelings

-Is there an age range I should be targeting (I'm 25)?

- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I've seen really 'plain jane' boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I've seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What's the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

Please hold your insults - I'm putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm being up front about it. I wouldn't be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn't able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

PostingID: 432279810

Here's one of the answers Madame Gold-Digger received:

Dear Pers-431649184:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.

Firstly, I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way. Classic "pump and dump."

I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.