Friday, November 30, 2007

Sugar Plums For Your Dog?

The other day I saw this sign outside of a local shopping mall. Please excuse the poor pic.

So who would take their dog to sit on Santa's lap?

It turns out I happened to be there yesterday afternoon with my camera. It was quite the madhouse, er doghouse.

I didn't capture it but to the left was a line 20 animals deep. It's one thing to worship your mutt in the privacy of your house, but to do so publicly?

I'll say it again, animal worship, much like Earth worship, is one giant deflection.

It's an attempt by the lonely, the bitter, and the family-less to fill their life with meaning.

Heck, who doesn't like to come home to a warm, unconditionally loving pet?

But, in this age of decadent wealth and anti-social individualism, too many people have gotten carried away.

See my old post Deranged Dog People.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Cartoon Brainwashing

Oh, how to describe the television show Dora the Explorer...

Let's just say, that for the past three years, all my friends and family that read the New York Times newspapers have excitedly asked me, "Do your kids watch Dora? I heard it is really good".

Up until three weeks ago, the answer was a "no". I didn't censor Dora out, my son had just never seen the show, nor had I run across it. The show airs on Nick Jr and I guess we never got around to that channel. Who knew there were about six cartoon channels now?

Admittedly, since my son got turned on to Dora, I haven't watched a lick of the show. I don't watch any of these cartoons because I swear they hemorrhage adult brains cells at a high rate.

Alright, now I am getting long-winded. I set out in this post to say one little thing. If you want, go google Dora and you'll see what all the fuss is about. The show has been construed as political correctness run amok. Many people think it pure propaganda to "Mexicanize" America. The commercial success of this show has spawned a spin-off based around her cousin Diego (Go, Diego, Go!). Though he's not technically a little handyman, he tends to hang out at Home Depot looking for odd jobs, only takes cash, is obviously of dubious immigration status, and allegedly undercuts Bob the Builder on price.

What I wanted to mock today was this disclaimer that I noticed on Diego's program.

Yeah the entire gamut is laughable but particularly the bullet point that asserts Go, Diego, Go! "develops listening skills". Couldn't rap music make the same claim?

How about I fart on someone and demand thanks for sharpening their olfactory awareness?

There's a whole lot of brainwashing going on in these programs but it's not just the kids who are targeted; far too many parents believe the propaganda behind the shows - namely that the shows are educational. Kids are learning all the time. If they spent those hours outside playing they'd learn at least as much as from vegetating in front of the TV. Parents are either gullible or in complete denial. Nobody wants to think they are a horrible parent for plopping the kiddies in front of the TV for hours on end. Even if Dora doesn't really teach anything, if nothing else, it mitigates the guilt of parental neglect.

By the way, when I try to turn the television off my son goes ballistic. He gets wrapped up in his shows and addicted like everyone else. By all evidence, his listening skills DO NOT IMPROVE from watching Dora, Diego, or anything else.

That's why I try to keep the television watching to a bare minimum. It's for 6:30 in the morning or when there's absolutely no one available to play with.

I don't worry about my son being brainwashed by the show; he'll be sick of it in a week or two.

Tell the Morons you are teaching your kids about real explorers like Lewis and Clark and Vasco da Gama.

Wordsmith Rubbish

The nearby town of Hingham, Massachusetts has signs up for its "transfer station". Having mostly lived in curbside-pickup cities my whole life, I didn't realize that a transfer station actually referred to the DUMP.

I must have driven by the sign for it two dozen times before I realized what the heck a transfer station was. I feel like making my own "DUMP" sign and plastering it over the misnomer. Allow me to scaffold from this little incident to the philosophical. Read what Will Durant said about Confucious:

"When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not, to admit the fact – this is knowledge." Obscurity of thought and inaccuracy of speech seemed to him national calamities. If a prince who was not in actual fact and power a prince should cease to be called a prince, if a father who was not a fatherly father should cease to be called a father, if an unfilial son should cease to be called a son – then men should be stirred to reform abuses too often covered up with words.

So, getting back to the DUMP. I thought to myself, what is it? Do the lunatics in Hingham (and Seattle, Goffstown, etc.) think their trash doesn't stink? Why are they vainly trying to protect the image of nearby real estate? I could smell it in the summer.

Of course I had to google "transfer station". Apparently the label is arguably apropos because the trash isn't buried there. It's just disaggregated and shipped off elsewhere.

Guess what, I DON'T CARE. Every person in the town calls it a "DUMP". And whether they transfer my rubbish or not, I, along with everyone else, still DUMP our sh*t there.

Confucious would probably go insane he he had to live in present day America with all of our misnomers.

Here's a lengthy, but worthy, essay on today's chief obfuscators - Nostalgia Of The Wordsmith Intellectuals. Don't quit on it; it's starts out slow but gets better.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

You'd Never Remember...

My son turned three last week. It's so hard to believe he's that old. Thankfully, I have preserved all the precious memories with the help of modern technology. Below find running six month snapshots of his life thus far. I couldn't find the sonogram so a pic of my wife's pregnant belly will kick off the reel:

My son actually has a dedicated website of his own. It's got over 3,000 pics of him and his sister, scores of video, and profound commentary as well (channeled through CaptiousDad). We don't use any of these stupid registration-required photo sites like Kodak EasyShare or Snapfish. In fact, if you send me a link to any of those sites I won't even bother to look at the pics.

Last year I started putting his videos on YouTube. So far they have been viewed, in total, about 11,000 times - mostly by total strangers and the two grandmothers.

Two days after my wedding, my wife and I were on a plane to Hawaii for our honeymoon. Of course all we could talk about was the wedding. We rehashed every little incident we could remember; after all, it's a long flight.

How much could we actually recall? Well, we thought we absorbed a lot until we got home after the honeymoon and started re-communicating with our guests. One or two sets of eyes and ears, no matter how perceptive, can never compete with dozens.

But then, a few months later, when we got the video footage of our ceremony and reception, we realized that hearsay and hindsight aren't even in the same league as recorded video. There was so much that happened, right in front of our eyes, that nobody could remember even a couple of days hence. These are all golden memories that now captured, can be enjoyed for decades, heck, for posterity. I made it my personal mission to convince everyone planning a wedding to get a videographer. Like all my sage advice, few heeded it.

Anyway, my point is, that both life and your memory are short so take some pictures and shoot some videos.

A little modern technology put to good use today will warm your aging bones tomorrow.

Lastly, how annoying is it to hear old coots brag about their athletic exploits from the 1950s? Soon future CaptiousKids will be able to snap at the Biff Loman's and Al Bundy's, "Show me the videos of you scoring touchdowns on YouTube or shut your pie hole!"

UPDATE - Thanks for the web traffic OdieLicksALot! My wife is starting to get embarrassed by all the attention from that pic. It's a good thing I cropped out her face!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Moron Chromosome

No vehicle other than a cartoon is more suitable to ridicule modern day political correctness.

The other day I was astounded by it yet again when reading a Wikipedia entry on hysterectomy.

Here's the sentence that blew my mind:

This surgery is exclusively performed on those who are chromosomally female....

Chromosomally female? What the heck does that mean?

Is that like saying that, I don't know, maybe "...Geraldo Rivera is chromosomally male"?

It reminded me of the time I learned the word "heteronormative" from some Harvard ditz on television.

If you seek bewilderment, go read the Wikipedia entry on that word, er neologism.

UPDATE - From today's newswires, San Francisco Approves ID Cards That Exclude Gender.

Marginalizing Bank Of America

If BoA were a trader in the pit, ball-breaking colleagues would be asking,

How much more CFC do you want?

CFC is Countrywide Financial Corporation, a ravaged mortgage lender. Look at its precipitous decline over the past five months from $40 to $9.56 per share as I type this.

As the stock was sliding towards bankruptcy, Bank of America made a $2 billion investment in Countrywide. The stake took the form of warrants (long term call options) with a strike price of $18. Roughly speaking, Countrywide shares were trading for just over $20 at the time.

Back when the news broke, I predicted that BoA would be buying more Countrywide - at a lower price (see my comments in this thread). As the stock is now south of $10, the "lower price" is available. Bank of America may be prohibited from buying more - I am really not up on all of the banking legislation. Regardless, they should have waited a few months and gotten a lower strike price.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vaccinate Yourself Against Doctors

Anyone who has had children knows the drill. Over the first two years, regular checkups with the pediatrician are marked by all sorts of vaccination shots for the baby. With all the adventure of new parentage, who really has the time to thoroughly research the wisdom of inoculations against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, Hepatitis B, etc.? Here, look at the the exhaustive list:

Why do my kids need inoculation against chicken pox? I had it as a kid and suffered no lasting damage. It's not even close to a fatal disease.

How about meningitis? That seems very rare.

Again, I confess I hadn't really researched any of this before mindlessly taking my kids to the doctor. But last winter, they wanted to give my six month old angel a flu shot. I told them to forget it - for better or worse, I went with my formidable gut instinct. The nurse looked at me a little cross-eyed and fortunately that is all the condescension I had to bear.

Listen to what happened to Michelle Malkin. Back in 2004, she told the pediatrician she wanted to omit the Hepatitis B vaccination for her son. Here was her reasoning:

Why on earth should we vaccinate our newborn baby against Hepatitis B – a virus that is contracted mostly through intravenous drug use and sexual contact? That is the question my husband and I had for the doctors and nurses at the hospital where our son was born two and a half months ago.

We didn't get very good answers. It was "convenient," "recommended" and "routine," the medical staff assured us. We wanted more information. A nurse gave us a brochure, which explained that babies whose mothers had the Hep B virus were at high risk of developing acute Hep B infections. Well, I tested negative for Hep B. The Centers for Disease Control named unprotected sex, IV drug use and being stuck with a needle on the job as the likeliest routes of Hep B transmission. Well, my husband and I both work primarily from home, our two children stay at home, and neither we nor our 3-year-old daughter nor our baby (for heaven's sake!) live the Kid Rock-and-Pamela Anderson Lee lifestyle.

Now before continuing, please read her entire article - it is short but I didn't want to cut and paste it in its entirety.

So for you lazy bastards, I will give away the ending.

Michelle, because she refused some of the vaccines for her little boy, was told by the pediatrician to find a new doctor. This is simply incredible. Are doctors now little Microsoft monopolies bundling AON ("all or none") treatment? Why the heck would a doctor care so much about one patient's independent thinking?

Small scale or not, this was fascism.

I'll get back to the doctor later on.

So I sent my firstborn son mindlessly through the vaccination schedule and wouldn't have thought about it at all if it weren't for a good friend of mine. His son was diagnosed with mild autism. My buddy swears that his son was developing fine right up until one of the vaccination rounds. No distant doctor or researcher can ever know a child better than the parents who are there, at home, raising him 24 hours a day. All the doctor propaganda insists that vaccinations have nothing to do with autism. Nonetheless they are a profoundly biased group of elitists so I weigh THAT against all their conclusions.

Devil's Advocate - How are they biased? They spend their entire lives studying medicine. Who knows better than them?

Haha. Remember Napoleon asserted that doctors have killed more men than generals. While that may be embellishment, it has more than a kernel of truth. Step back for a moment and consider the pharmacopoeia of present day medicine. Just as we laugh at the astrologers of yesteryear, I submit that one day future generations will ridicule our addiction to cholesterol drugs, anti-depressants, invasive back surgery, stomach stapling, etc. The medical industry is biased toward doctor induced treatment; they are biased toward drugs, surgeries, and just about anything that only THEY can do and which costs considerable MONEY. No orthopedists are out there recommending yoga for their back-pained patients mostly because there is no yoga lobby; there are no AMA-certified yoga schools. In short, while it may be the most efficacious treatment for bad backs, doctors aren't about to outsource back-pain treatment to non-medical healing.

Doctors will no sooner do this than will Professor Mankiw recommend employment in the free market to learn about economics instead of taking college classes and reading his theoretical textbook (for $110).

Now back to my aforementioned friend. Yesterday I emailed him the story of what befell Michelle Malkin. He responded back to me that upon refusing some shots for his daughter, he too was told by his pediatrician to "go elsewhere". Now put yourself in his shoes for a minute. You just had your son develop mild autism right after some inoculations and then when you try to decline some shots for your daughter, the doctor pulls that staggering arrogance on you. Even without the context of having one son already diagnosed with mild autism, if my kids' pediatrician told me to "go elsewhere" I am not so sure that I wouldn't start pounding the snot out of his nose.

Again, why would a doctor care if a few patients refused a couple of immunizations?

About a decade ago, I heard my brother pontificating about doctors and the "god-complex". Using his reputation against him, I totally discounted his diatribe. The god-complex refers to an arrogance and self-righteousness assumed by doctors. It obviously refers to them playing god with their patients' bodies.

Now that I am a little more experienced and knowledgeable I have warmed to this god-complex stereotype. Almost every doctor I have met in my entire life has exuded profound arrogance. Categorically, they are the must cocksure know-it-alls I have ever met. They are never wrong about anything, be it politics, sports, the economy, and especially about medicine. I can't tell you how many doctors have given ME investment and trading advice.

Sure medical school is hard to get into. Sure, becoming a doctor takes many years, much effort, and financial sacrifice (at first). BUT, doctors are seldom polymathic and never infallible. Apparently the elitist selectionism and the lucubration have given doctors an haughty pride; it's given them the sense that they are simply not to be questioned.

But I would add to that the self-assurance that comes from self-employment. Most doctors do not have bosses or any oversight. Who among us doesn't get self-righteous and set in our ways after decades of answering to no one. How incorrigible will I be after another twenty years of working for myself and Marginalizing titans?

Arrogance is easy to establish, but how to understand the vehemence?

Again, I ask what's the big deal with having a patient refuse certain immunizations?

Most doctors don't like their authority questioned - especially not by a pissant patient who's read stuff on the internet. Let's remember that five doctors will always render five different diagnoses for a single ailing patient. So their authority and credibility are essentially always under question.

Consider the hypothetical doctor who's overseen thousands of inoculations. Someone comes in and refuses a treatment for fear of harm...his narrowly-educated, arrogant, defensive mind is going to react. They don't want to believe, even for a nanosecond, that their thousands of vaccinations have hurt anyone. Remember, they are benevolent deities.

A more balanced, more circumspect, more secure doctor should have no problem accepting a patient's decision to omit a vaccine or two.

As a parent, I must say that I am more afraid of the inoculations than I am of the diseases. Doctors will fire back that the diseases are now rare BECAUSE of widespread immunization. Of course, autism is widespread now as well - but the docs deflect any responsibility thereof. Something crazy like 1 out of every 100 kids now has some degree of autism. Have 1% of the people you know suffered meningitis?

In a complex, highly specialized society it makes complete sense to outsource our medical treatment to professionals.

BUT, it never makes sense to outsource our thinking.

Even brilliant, honorable doctors like Dr. Nathanson have to rack their brains, and struggle for years to subjugate the god-complex. I would never equate Dr. Nathanson and abortion to that of current vaccination "orthodoxy" but I would recommend going back and re-reading his story at least for another glimpse into Big Medicine and the god-complex.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What Inflation? - Soybeans And The Lying CPI

That is a side-by-side pic of the bottle of soy sauce I just bought and my penultimate purchase. I don't know how long it's been (6 months?) but the price tags tell the story of this post.

Last time it cost $2.29 while this week, the same exact bottle cost $2.89.

I am 33 years-old and I must admit, I have never contemplated anything about soybeans until a couple of months ago. But these days, as a fledgling commodity trader, any tiny 60 cents (26%) increase in my grocery bill jumps right to my attention.

I never realized how many foodstuffs contains soybeans, soy oil, or soy meal until I started scanning food label ingredients on account of my son's little allergies. Soy, is seemingly everywhere. Good luck substituting this rising cost out of your diet.

China has started to import soybeans which obviously implies that they can't produce enough domestically to sate the national appetite. Jim Rogers has said that eventually China, as it prospers, will start drinking coffee and eating cocoa and will therefore become an importer of those commodities as well.

As for overall "inflation". Let's say there are two kinds. One is nerd/government inflation. They call it the CPI - consumer price index. The other we can call "personal inflation". It will refer to the rising costs of your household/personal budget. Obviously, if a person is more concerned with the former than the latter, they are a blithering idiot.

Now the government, via its CPI, has been telling us for years that inflation hovers around 2%-3%. That's BS and we all know it. Food inflation alone was 8% last year. Gasoline has more than doubled in the past four years. Heating oil is up a few hundred percent over the past six years. I hardly need to go on.

The government can add up 2% numbers anyway it pleases but it'll never add up to the total increases in anyone's personal inflation index over the past several years.

I learned something the other day. I knew that the government always plays games with the stats so as to smooth out official inflation statistics, but I didn't know this specifically (link will be further down):

One of the things he points out that during the Clinton administration, the way the BLS calculates inflation was changed. He calculates his own inflation number using the old pre-Clinton inflation model. Using that methodology suggests that inflation is at 7%. And if you use other methods, inflation might even be substantially higher. Look at the chart below.

There you have it. By the government's own "old" metric, today's rate of inflation is around 7%.

Now is this the fault of President Clinton, of Congress, or of an apathetic, econo-illiterate American public?

Check "D" for "all of the above".

By the way, did y'all get a 7% raise last year to mitigate these higher prices?

Why would the government lie about inflation? Well, it's been the tack of governments since the beginning of modern society to debase their currency. Acknowledging "inflation" with an accurate CPI would be to officially admit as much.

For one LARGE thing, Social Security benefits are indexed to CPI figures. I will let John Maudlin and Walter Williams do the talking:

"Shortly after Clinton took control of the White House, however, attitudes changed. The BLS initially did not institute a new CPI measurement using a variable-basket of goods that allowed substitution of hamburger for steak, but rather tried to approximate the effect by changing the weighting of goods in the CPI fixed basket. Over a period of several years, straight arithmetic weighting of the CPI components was shifted to a geometric weighting. The Boskin/Greenspan benefit of a geometric weighting was that it automatically gave a lower weighting to CPI components that were rising in price, and a higher weighting to those items dropping in price.

"Once the system had been shifted fully to geometric weighting, the net effect was to reduce reported CPI on an annual, or year-over-year basis, by 2.7% from what it would have been based on the traditional weighting methodology. The results have been dramatic. The compounding effect since the early-1990s has reduced annual cost of living adjustments in social security by more than a third."

Then to confuse the process even more, the BLS uses something called hedonics, from the root word hedonism. Essentially, the adjust the price of an item based on the "pleasure" or increased value you get. Thus, they don't price automobiles based on the sticker price, but on what you get for your money. If the manufacturers load in more items like new electronics or anti-locking brakes that were not standard the year before that means you are getting more value for your dollar, so therefore the price in terms of inflation goes down even though you may be paying the same or even more to get out of the car show room.

The same is true for computers. We clearly get more power every year, so for the BLS the price of computers are going down, although it seems to me that the price I pay for a top of the line computer is about the same as it was five or ten years ago.

If the government mandates an additive to gasoline that costs 10 cents more, that is not included in the inflation numbers, because we get a new, improved gasoline that pollutes less. Supposedly the pleasure of breathing cleaner air reduces the costs to our pocket book, or something like that.

My health insurance costs have tripled over the last ten years, and I know that is the experience of many of my readers. Yet, the BLS has medical costs rising by less than 50% for the last ten years. Their data suggest the cost of housing has risen by about 30% over the last ten years. Again, that is not the experience of many of my readers.

Social Security expenses are $657 billion per year. If Williams is right (and I think he is) that under the old methodology that expenses would have risen by a third, then that means we are spending $200 billion a year less. Add $200 billion to the deficit. And then watch politicians panic.

I am not one to suggest conspiracy, but if the CPI reflected the real world, the US government would be spending far more money on Social Security and a host of other pension programs. The crisis we will be experiencing in about 8 years would have already hit us. Thus, there was an incentive for leaders to find economists who could argue for new, more "progressive" methods for calculating inflation. Notice that this was done by the BLS without any protest from Congress.

Do you know what TIPS are? They are Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities; they are bonds that supposedly protect the lender against inflation. I remember when they came out back in 1997. Over the years I have heard several people recommend buying them. Here's the problem - the "inflation" is measured by the dubious CPI.

WHY the heck would anyone buy a government bond that is not only issued by the thugs but is also valued by lying government statistics?

Right from the get-go in 1997, I thought one had to be a complete Moron to buy TIPS.

If someone really wants protection against inflation, then the only protection is to buy what is inflating. In other words, figure out how to get long commodities and definitely, short US Treasury bonds.

Now getting back to measuring true inflation. I submit that it is impossible. The changes that the Clinton BLS made aren't without theoretical foundation. But all theory falls forfeit to economic and political history. The fact remains that all governments have debased their coinage, all of them waste money, and they all lie about the malfeasance. The question is begged - why does the government even need to compute a CPI? Why do we need the government to tell us how much goods and services cost?

Oh, that's right, they need, or think they need, an official measure of prices to conduct policy - to mete out Social Security benefits, and to give raises to government employees.

How about this? The government just prints money and stays away from economic "policy", they get rid of entitlements, and they only give raises to government agents when they get promoted and take on more responsibility?

I must say that it's not so surprising that the CPI formulation was changed under the reign of, let's just call him the man who has THE MOST flexible relationship with the truth.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pot Calling The Kettle Black

Just days after increasingly acrimonious exchanges in Thursday’s Democratic debate, agents of Mrs Clinton were quoted as saying that they had obtained unspecified “scandalous information” about Mr Obama.

If this is indeed true, that he has scandalous skeletons in his closet...

Then Barack Obama is finished in terms of his presidential aspirations.

We all know that a dirty Obama can't compete with a squeaky clean Hillary!!!

(If you live under a rock, in profound stupidity, or in the distant last remark was a jest).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Is It The Math Or The Poop?

My current babysitter, the obese, disheveled lesbian, is an very kindhearted person. She does all sorts of work with disadvantaged, urban kids. One of her tasks has been to teach classes, informally, to these kids that might help them deal with any facets of the real world.

When lecturing on teenage promiscuity, she came upon an interesting discovery. The standard fear-mongering on venereal diseases, AIDS, and whatnot never really hits a nerve with underpriveleged youth. Maybe over the years, they've heard so much of it they've grown deaf. Pregnancy, yes, it did worry some of the kids. But many of them grew up in broken homes and really didn't know what it took to maintain a family. She said more than a few of the girls somewhat relished the idea of motherhood - that is until she started talking about diapers.

She would go up to the blackboard and illustrate via simple arithmetic, how much a mom would have to shell out for diapers throughout infancy. Say 7 diapers a day for a newborn times 30 days a month, and so on and so on.

Apparently, this exercise scares the bejesus out of these brash young women.

So again, I pose the question, "Is is the math or the poop?"

Probably a little of both.

Here's my pontification on diapers from a while back:

PEE AND POOP ARE EXTREMELY OVERRATED (no doubt because of incessant MSM bias).

Of all the lifestyle changes and new parental responsibilities, diaper changing is really one of, it not the easiest new thing to acclimate yourself to.

And you will be sure to get a kick out of the in-laws changing the baby's diapers as well (remember, your parents are in-laws too).

For one thing, they think they have just time-warped back 30 years and are still experts at the whole gamut of childcare. Granted they are inherently a few notches ahead of the baby's parents in terms of knowledge but they have also aged considerably too - no doubt seemingly more from raising the thankless, snot-nosed newbie parents.

The in-laws may have changed a few thousand diapers in their day but now they are prone to putting the diaper on upside down, not fastening it properly, and doing some pretty piss poor wiping jobs (pardon the pun). Not only that, but to see if the kid needs to be changed, invariably the old folk actually stick their finger down a diaper and then smell it!!!

That's right. Those are the hands that cooked us thousands of meals!!!

So fear not, changing diapers is a breeze. The only gross part is perhaps watching the grandparents do it.

By the way, referring to someone as an "obese lesbian" is not inherently offensive - at least not any more that referring to me as a skinny straight. So lighten up you losers. This issue came up on Boston talkradio and though the host who called a gubernatorial candidate a "fat lesbian" was fired, since it is Boston, I actually take that as even more evidence of my certitude.

Lastly, I did a generic Google image search on "fat lesbian" and Rosie O'Donnell came right up. If Google's search results make her the poster child, then who am I to argue?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

$90 Jeans and Morphing Into My Father

It's come to my attention that, when judged from the parochial standpoint of 2007, my wardrobe is deficient in style.

My friends and family have started to bust on me for everything from my shoes to my pants to my shirts to my jackets. I take it all in stride.

When one is as perfect as me, others are just itching to bring you down in whatever small-minded way they can. Can you say "insecurity"? I have been dealing with the externalities of my perfection for decades so I can handle it.

At the focal point of their mockery are my jeans. Even my wife has sheepishly piled on. Everyone has started denouncing my jeans as "acid washed", "stone washed", or "from the 80s/early 90s".

They absolutely are not. I bought all of my jeans at Old Navy, on Flatbush Ave, in Brooklyn less than four years ago. They were $17 a pair. Having paid $32 a pair for God-awful Levi's back in the 1980s, I considered $17 in early-2004 a coup. Thank you China!

I could see if I were wearing Wranglers, Lee jeans, or something more antiquated like Levi's, but Old Navy, I thought I was somewhat hip.

After some meticulous surveillance, I have discovered that dark blue jeans are all anyone wears these days. When did this happen? So maybe my jeans are of a lighter hue - they certainly aren't "out" if they are only 4 years old, are they?

Looking at my brother-in-law's apparently hipper, dark jeans I asked him how much they cost. He said $90. My jaw dropped.

Furthermore, he started justifying, "If I get two years out of these jeans, then $90 isn't so expensive..."

What? Two years? I have had mine for four years already and they only cost $17 to begin with.

I thought the whole point of jeans was that they were comfortable, they last forever, and heck you can paint in them. When did jeans become a fashion statement?

For the sake of argument, say that I am O-U-T; that everything I wear is one big wardrobe malfunction. So what?

I work from home. I hardly leave the house AT ALL. I am not trying to impress broads at the bar anymore. In short, my clothing is a purely functional enterprise. Should I buy $90 jeans and sit in them at home all day? Wear them while I am toting two nose-running, regurgitating, diaper-leaking kids with chocolate-covered hands?

Right now I am sitting here in sweat pants and wearing an old Structure golf shirt that has to be from the 1990s. Should I dress up for my baby-sitter - an obese, disheveled lesbian? (Ponder, for a moment, why my wife was so excited to hire her - instead of shapely, kempt, breeder - to come to my house everyday.) Also, it's a good thing I didn't write this post yesterday because I wore my parachute pants and a slightly faded denim shirt - a combo that might not have buttressed my arguments.

The peanut gallery, my wife included, have deemed the above explanations as "excuses". They are not excuses. I have provided an accurate description of the parameters that shape my clothing purchases - yet the gallery doesn't want to hear it; in their minds I minimally look like a clown, and at worst, I am turning into one of those dads.

Yes, I admit it. I have morphed into my father. As a child, I couldn't take how "OUT" his wardrobe was. His goofy shirts, big glasses, and funky mustache were just more reasons to fear parentally-induced embarrassment. Whenever he arrived to pick me up at school, it was a mad race to make sure I was ready and on my way to the parking lot - lest he (or my mother) exit the vehicle and make themselves visible to my peers. I don't care what anybody says, if the kids at school discover you have parents...your social life is OVER.

As bad as my father dressed back in the 80s and 90s, he is seemingly much worse today. He wears ironed, logo T-shirts out in public and to social gatherings. All he needs is the fanny pack and random strangers will start calling him Clark Griswold from National Lampoon's Vacation. He just has an uncanny knack for always wearing the wrong clothes.

Is this what the future holds for me? Am I sliding down the slippery slope of wardrobe malfunction? Will I embarrass the sh*t out of my kids too?


The fact is, there are other scary signs of similarity between my aging self and my father. Nowadays, just like him, I don't sleep more than a few hours a night. I wake up several times and wander around the house, investigating noises, adjusting thermostats, going to the bathroom, etc. My knees and joints are creaking all the time, just as I remember his did when I was a child. There have been a few other manifestations of morphing as well - like how I have to rip boxes up into minute little pieces before dumping them in the trash, just like my father. Though thankfully, I haven't yet inherited his crepuscular flatulence.

Late last night, after using superglue to repair my two torn sets of flip-flops I asked my wife if she needed anything glued, as the glue was about to be tossed. She was eerily silent. Why was she ignoring me?

Then I chuckled and told her that I felt like I was her dad (God rest his soul) who used to have a dozen or so pairs of running shoes that he repaired/re-soled all the time with glue.

She turned around and looked at me gravely,


Haha. Maybe I should go on a show like Extreme Makeover - Wardrobe Edition.

Or maybe I should contact Elliot Yamin's image consultant. I can't believe how they polished up this ugly toad. If only they could do for my clothes what they did for his teeth...

Then again, I'd require the same $0 price that he got.

Beyond Subprime

All you hear and read about today is the "subprime crisis", the "subprime contagion", the "fallout from subprime lending", etc. Seemingly every day another financial institution announces another new billion dollar writedown on collateralized debt. Today it was Barclay's $2.67 billion. Yesterday it was Bear Stearns $1.2 billion. Tuesday we had Bank of America and HSBC writing down $3 billion and $3.4 billion respectively. I imagine that if I were still in a trading pit we'd have a little gambling pool on which firm will be next to announce another writedown.

Don't worry, writedowns are only an accounting event (sure!). Cash flow is still strong enough to fund operations. And, my favorite, "the worst is behind us". That is unless you are say, GreenPoint Mortgage.

That is the front page notice on its website. It says, "Please note that effective August 20, 2007, GreenPoint Mortgage has ceased accepting new residential loan applications...."

For Greenpoint and every other lender, real estate agency, mortgage broker, etc. the BEST is behind them.

The only small, but salient point that I wanted to make in this post is to brace yourselves for *prime* defaults. It's very easy for investors, policy makers, and sundry other Morons to paint subprime problems as an isolated mess.

It ain't.

The entire financial world is intertwined and co-dependent in an almost infinite number of ways.

Again, "subprime" by the very nature of its moniker sounds shady. Subprime loans sound like they not only should never have been made in the first place - they sound like loans whose imminent default was totally expected. But they clearly weren't priced that way. If subprime mortages were priced with a realistic expectation of default, they'd be starting at least a rate of 10% - we aren't even there yet!

Now who, besides me, expects prime mortgage borrowers to default?

Banks certainly don't as these days they aren't marking down anything other than subprime debt.

Those juicy markdowns are coming in the next year or two.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Society Rests Upon Her Breath?

Dancing, is practiced in order to see whether lovers are healthy and suitable for one another; at the end of a dance the gentleman is permitted to kiss his mistress, in order that he may ascertain if she has agreeable breath. In the manner...dancing becomes necessary for the good government of society. (Jehan Tabourot)

I love it!

Go to some club; grind with some floozy, then, when the song ends, tell her she needs to kiss you both as an incumbent breath test AND for the good of society.

It's a darned shame that I am only learning these fail-safe techniques AFTER I got hitched. There's plenty of wisdom in these ancient adages and strategies: "get a good look at her mother", choose a tergo (link), etc.

But getting back to the halitosis theme - I do have friends who've dumped girls because of disagreeable odor emanation (from nooks and crannies additional to the mouth). And no doubt many of my buddies were themselves dumped on account of their hygienic negligence. In fact, a girl that worked with my wife was shocked when her fiancee moved in. She discovered that he didn't EVER change his boxers. He took them off at shower-time, bathed, dried off, and put the same exact pair back on. He reasoned that he was always clean when he put them on so the boxers must retain that integrity. (They did make it to the altar.)

It's probably a tautology, but my buddies who are still single in their mid-thirties, they have always been the most superficial. They are the ones unshakably hung up on the issues of breath and breadth.

Happy hunting.

Why Hug A Tree?

When you can hug the entire planet!

It's called Hugg-A-Planet Earth and retails for $19.95 at

Boston's PBS station is promoting them AND marking them up big-time to their gullible patrons - Can you say "gouging"?

In this one-upping game of moral superiority, no doubt soon they will be making a planet earth with the same functionality as this doll:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bought A Little NASDAQ

As my faithful blog reader(s) know, I have been gone for a couple of days. Meanwhile the stock market has been getting hammered. (Click the chart to enlarge).

I did catch about half of the move down in the NASDAQ (6% out of the 11% drop) but unfortunately covered my short NASDAQ-100 futures position, my BIDU puts, my AMZN short, and my Goldman Sachs puts two days too early.

After 12 years of poor market timing, hindsight is a stick I no longer beat myself up with.

So, moving on, I came home last night and decided to get a little long. While most people were watching armor-clad cavemen jostle over a ball on Monday Night Football, I bought some December NASDAQ-100 futures at 1990. I figured I could make a quick 30-50 points.

Now as I type this, they are up 18 pts to 2008.

The dilemma of such a rapid profitable development is that now I am thinking about holding the position for longer (more points) than I originally anticipated. In this world, it's so easy to convince yourself that you're a genius.

And there's when the trouble starts...

UPDATE - I just sold my position at 2015.25. I just don't have any patience.

Many other traders would insist that, in this scenario, one must only sell say half of your position - and let the other half ride. Sometimes I take this approach but overall but it's not really my style. I am trying to juggle a portfolio of positions. My biggest bet is a short position on the long bond. I figure if the market rallies, the bond will dump as the "flight to quality" trade will unravel. I feel like I am "long" the market aplenty.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Out For A Few Days

I am in the Detroit area visiting my sister. It's the first time I have ever been to this neck of the woods. I'll be back blogging probably on Tuesday.

In the meantime, enjoy this pic of two dozen turkeys that invaded my backyard at the crack of dawn on this past Wednesday.

I couldn't venture any closer because the birds must have smelled me creeping up. One large turkey took serious umbrage at my encroachment. These birds have actually been attacking people closer to Boston (link). I was told by my brother-in-law, a hunter, that to ward of turkey aggression, one must raise his arms, spread them out, and try to make himself "big".

Click the pic to enlarge.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Shorted The Euro

Between Wednesday and Thursday this week I shorted the Euro (versus the Dollar).

Why did I do it?

Well, I have been itching to short it and a recent spike offered me an attractive entry point. I did short it around 1.44 a few weeks ago but liquidated it with negligible damage. So now I am back in at an average price of precisely 1.47.

Outside of a generalized desire to short it, I am also shorting it as a hedge against some of my precious metals exposure. My two mining stocks, CDE and NEM ran up a bunch in the past week or so and I deem them fit for a breather. Since I don't want to sell any delta (shares) in them directly or short gold or silver against them - I have decided to put a small hedge on via a stronger dollar bet.

Now you jokers may want to trade the Euro to slake your gambling problems. One E-mini contract covers 62,500 Euros. So a one contract position would be like buying or shorting 62,500 shares of a $1.47 stock. It sounds like a lot of moolah but that $90,000 or so investment doesn't fluctuate that much - at least not nearly as much most $1 securities.

A one penny move down to say 1.46 would net a trader $625 (less about $4 in commissions).

If I am fortunate, I will look to cover around 1.42 or so.

I haven't really ever shorted the Euro since currencies have never been my cup of tea, but I never really believed in it going back to its inception. I feel that its rise was just because it represented a safe haven from the dollar more than because a united European Union would present anything in the way of an economic powerhouse. What sucks today is that there really aren't that many currencies robust enough for investors to diversify their risks. There's the yen, the dollar, the euro, and the pound and that's about it. I always figured that the evaporation, er consolidation, of European currencies would raise the value of gold - a point I have not really heard anyone else utter. Look how the long term charts compare:

I have to get on a plane to Michigan right now. I'll elaborate later tonight.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I'll Take The Chinese Toys

I just received this email from one of my original, most indefatigable readers.

Do you think that this latest China-made , Aqua-Dots recall will destroy the over-priced, junk-plastic toy habit for the more-money- than-brains crowd who get up at 3am every Fri. after Thanksgiving to run out to be first in line to purchase Toxic Crap ??????

I sure hope so !!

My answer is an unequivocal "NO".

First of all, the Chinese/Asian toys are so much cheaper AND better made than the "mom and pop" American-manufactured toys.

For example, those Hot Wheels cars (made in China) are indestructible. I have stepped on them a hundred times without injury (to the cars). But whenever we get some little collectible, American-made car, my baby daughter can chew the wheels off and furthermore, they don't survive one of my son's simulated "crashes".

Some toys are a profound rip-off, like Thomas the Tank and his $200 train set. Go into Barnes&Noble and you'll see that an 8-piece expansion set is $40. Forty-freaking bucks!

Another jam-job are Lincoln Logs. Everyone wants to get them for their kids because they themselves grew up with them. They were an original American-made toy that is now owned by Hasbro. I don't know if they are still made in the States but they are certainly priced that way. I recently spent $18 for a small set that only has enough pieces to build a cabin as big as an outhouse. Luckily, most of our cluttering relatives save these types of things and young parents can usually procure an old set from someone. (Yard sales by grandchildren-less clutterers are also an option.)

I am not really an expert on toys. My kids have about 10% the amount that their peers have and most of what we do have comes from birthdays, Christmas, yard sales, and doting relatives. In fact when we moved this summer, my wife and I left an enormous box (big enough to house about 3 Rosie O'Donnell's) of toys in the storage shed. We figured we'd pull them out as novelties for rainy days. But it turns out we haven't even had to break them out. As everyone knows, we can all get by with so much less in the way of possessions.

I don't know anything about this "Aqua-Dots" recall but I am sure it is terrorizing all the stay-at-home parents who have time (and mental deficit) enough to watch Oprah and The Today Show. Having your thoughts dominated by the current news cycle is, as far as I am concerned, modern day serfdom. Turn off your Asian-made television and emancipate your minds!

Those old toys were expensive and dangerous in their own right. Look at this metallic truck my son commandeered from his nostalgic grandmother's garage.

It's heavy, rusty, and has sharp edges. My son fell and split his lip badly on one of those white bars. This would have never happened on a cheap, plastic Chinese toy car of 2007. Not to mention, do you realize how hard it is for the father to lift and maneuver this relic?

Now here is my son on some foreign-made, cheap-as-sh*t, electric tractor. He's only two years old and it is at least as safe for him to be zipping around in this thing - sometimes with his baby sister clutching his arm - and braving the 12 foot drop-off from my yard than for him to be playing with breakable, expensive, American-made toys.

Note that I am, once again, flouting child labor laws.

Young people today shouldn't be complaining about a China that's drastically eased the strain of parenthood with innovative, cheap products; we should be complaining that our parents smoked in front of us, had us sit on a sibling's lap instead of securing us in a car seat, painted our rooms with lead, and made us eat canned vegetables!