Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eulogy Advice

So I was hunkered down working on my grandmother's eulogy late last week. Only a Moron would not utilize the internet for help as there's a wealth of resources available.

I found one website - click here - that was actually a forum. People wrote in saying things like, "Hi, my uncle just died....he was a carpenter and liked to fart....can you help me with his eulogy?"

And some chick there, "Amy", would thoughtfully respond and offer up the *perfect* poem for the eulogy. Either she was getting paid or is just the nicest person in the world because she must have answered 50 different people on that site.

Anyway, I came across a poem there that was, well, suitable for most funerals, but especially *perfect* for my grandmother. Here it is, The Ship by Bishop Brent:

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says She is gone.

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large now as when I last saw her. Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says she is gone there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon and other voices take up a glad shout. There she comes!

That is what dying is. An horizon and just the limit of our sight.

Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further.

I figured I'd use it to close my grandmother's eulogy, and there it sat, at the bottom of my fourth page.

Now, this was a Catholic funeral replete with a full mass. The priest actually gave a beautiful homily(sermon) but as he was wrapping it up, he mentioned that there is a great consolatory poem to help us understand death.

My heart slowed down a bit.

He said it was a about a ship.

Uh, oh. My breath bated....

And it was, "...written by a Bishop."

I seriously wanted to stand up and give him the cut-off sign, but refrained.

Then I had to listen to him read the entire poem that I was depending on.

The worst part was that for the next fifteen torturesome minutes, between my throbbing back, sweating my balls off, and trying to harness my two disruptive brats, that I had to re-figure out how to end my speech.

The whole point of writing it out beforehand is that one can defeat the nerves and emotions and just robotically deliver it. Now, I was a bit flummoxed.

Anyway, everything worked out. The priest mis-remembered and mis-cited the poem a bit; I made a joke of it; and delivered the accurate (I think) version anyway. Plus, I had plenty of other material and really could have omitted it altogether.

I thought it was sufficiently hard to compose my speech as it was. I certainly didn't plan on having a back-up poem - which is what my advice would be to anyone else confronted with this task. A speaker simply never knows what's going to be said right before they get the microphone.

In fact, this happened to me back in 9th grade. We were doing oral presentations in history class and some kid in front of me overstepped his subject and said everything I was about to. [I reckon it was about Cortes and the Aztecs.]

And, I was at a wedding some five years ago where the maid-of-honor (English major at Brown) got up first and gave such an unbelievable *toast*, that the best man, a total meathead who was sitting right next to me, cancelled his entire speech because it would have, well, most likely seem a joke in comparison. [They are happily divorced now.]

Getting back to eulogies - I think if one is short on material or happy memories, a poem is good *filler*. I actually had the opposite problem with my grandmother. There was way too much material, so much so that my main problem was cutting it down and tying it together.

There's another poem out there that everyone's using, it's called The Dash. It's a little trite, but still quite usable.

What Comes Around....

....goes around.

Or, should we invoke a Will Durant quote?

Justice is not only blind, it limps.

Article here.

Read - Aborting Morons And Thugs.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I captured that sunset leaving Sag Harbor Sunday night.

This evening I drove by that spot again, only it was overcast, and we were rushing to make the Orient Point ferry. Our trip to Southampton got shortened by a couple of days by the passing of my dear grandmother. She was in her ninth decade and had lived the fullest of lives when her time came.

As her most favoritest of all the grandkids, great grandkids, and great-great grandkid (only 1) I volunteered, and was quickly drafted, to deliver the eulogy. So obviously I'll be busy for the next couple of days.

At age 34, in my ethnicity, it was getting pretty darn incredible to still have had three living grandparents. So I've been more than blessed in that regard. Heck, this will only be the fourth funeral of my sheltered life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Enough To Implode This Country

That article says Federal tax revenues are down a staggering 34% YoY for this past April.

Those figures, all by themselves, are enough to crash our fiat currency, the equity market, and the bond market - especially Treasuries.

But apparently the day of reckoning isn't coming until all the prudent bears are wiped out. So no one will be unscathed.

Al Gore might very well be proven right about a global apocalypse....even if he may have been *slightly off* on the details!

Kids And Beer


A handful of 7 year old children were asked 'What they thought
of beer'.

Some interesting responses, but the last one is especially good.

'I think beer must be good. My dad says the more beer he drinks the prettier my mom gets.'
--Tim, 7 years old

'Beer makes my dad sleepy and we get to watch what we want on television when he is asleep, so beer is nice.'
--Mellanie, 7 years old

'My Mom and Dad both like beer. My Mom gets funny when she drinks it and takes her top off at parties, but Dad doesn't think this is very funny.'
--Grady, 7 years old

'My Mom and Dad talk funny when they drink beer and the more they drink the more they give kisses to each other, which is a good thing.'
--Toby, 7 years old

'My Dad gets funny on beer. He is funny. He also wets his pants sometimes, so he shouldn't have too much.
--Sarah, 7 years old

'My Dad loves beer. The more he drinks, the better he dances. One time he danced right into the pool.'
--Lilly, 7 years old

'I don't like beer very much. Every time Dad drinks it, he burns the sausages on the barbecue and they taste disgusting.'
--Ethan, 7 years old

'I give Dad's beer to the dog and he goes to sleep.'
--Shirley, 7 years old

'My Mom drinks beer and she says silly things and picks on my father. Whenever she drinks beer she yells at Dad and tells him to go bury his bone down the street again. But that doesn't make any sense.'
--Jack, 7 years old

A Real Estate Flurry?

As pictured above, foreclosure auctions nationwide are still jam-packed. That ain't anything near what a *bottom* looks like!

Here's Mr. Mortgage from a couple of weeks ago commenting on the recent flurry of distressed real estate SALES in California and the misplaced *optimism* therefrom.

Food for thought on housing: 50% of buyers in the bubble states are first timers buying at the low end of the market, vacating a rental. The majority of the remaining buyers are investors tripping all over themselves trying to get a deal — just like they have done all the way down — in hopes of renting the property to the very same renters (first time buyers) buying the low end properties. DOH!

In other words, the speculators' plans of leasing their speculations for yield are being undermined by a sinking pool of applicants. And why the heck wouldn't someone buy at the low-end instead of renting? They can put nothing (3%) down, have the note underwritten by taxpayers via FHA, and then just walk away, skin intact, if need be.

My real estate buddy in Naples, FL tells me that he has had a few very wealthy guys (centi-millionaires) from up North come down looking to buy foreclosures - 5, 10, or more at a time. They tell him that they don't want to have anything at all to do with the *investment*; that they are looking for someone else to find renters and *manage* the units for them.

Now, do these fellas sound like sophisticated investors to y'all?

To me, neither.

Make no mistake, these new players just represent another set of soon-to-be-disappointed *knife catchers*. [The first group was contractors.]

While the speculators gobbling up *bank owned property* these days may be theoretically considered *strong hands* because they are mostly paying *cash*, this by no means suggests a bottom in real estate is anywhere close. In fact, it's hardly relevant as their strength is offset by the weakness of today's FHA buyers.

Nobody really cares how many shares of IBM traded today - price is all that matters.

And nobody really cares about how much of a loss people buying IBM today can bear either.

See also:

Fannie Mae Reincarnated - It's Called FHA

Knife-Catching In Cape Coral, Florida

The Gov't Throws Knives....And Morons Try To Catch 'Em

Our Speculator Takes His Loss

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How Does One Even Comment On This Lunacy?

Perceptions of racism -- from being treated with suspicion in a store to unfairness in employment or housing -- can heighten stress levels and affect health, research has shown. A new study from Boston University links these smoldering signs of racism to weight gain in black women, suggesting a possible explanation for the their higher obesity rates compared to white women.

Yvette Cozier, an epidemiologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center at BU, led a survey of more than 43,000 women enrolled in the long-running Black Women's Health Study. Writing in the June issue of Annals of Epidemiology, she and her co-authors describe participants' reports on their weight, body mass index, and perceptions of racism.

At the beginning of the eight-year study, the women were asked if they sometimes felt they were treated poorly in a restaurant or store, whether they thought people considered them dishonest or less intelligent, and if they had felt unfairness on the job, in housing, or from police. The women, 21 to 69 years old at the study's outset, were placed in four groups based on how frequently they said they experienced these signs of racism. Their weight was recorded every two years from 1997 through 2005. Their waist circumference was measured at the beginning and end.

At the end of the trial, all the women had gained weight. But the women who said they felt higher levels of racism gained more weight and had bigger waist-size increases compared to the women who felt the least racism. That held true after accounting for factors such as education, geographic region, and beginning body mass index.

"Racism is real and it has real effects," Cozier said in an interview. "It can result in real changes in the body."

Here's the link to the Boston Globe(Who else?!) article.

This is sooooo Boston 2009!....everything from the 43,000 person *study* - no doubt funded by taxpayers, to the quack science, to the eager dissemination by the apparatchik Boston Globe.

It should give pause to anyone about to spend 200k on Boston University tuition anyway.

And great, because of crap like this, every future historian will mock the time and place of my worthless life - as they rightfully should.

Rooting For This Show!

Here's today's WSJ article on it.

I'll bet that Big Business conspires to withhold advertising dollars from this show. In other words, say Coca-Cola decides to buy a lot of commercials during The Goode Family, I bet they get lynched by a green mob of thuggish protesters - quietly, behind-the-scenes of course.

If I can remember to watch it tomorrow at 9pm, I'll make note of the sponsors - though out here in the Hamptons I am DVR-less.

Vedic Math?

The other day, a commenter on this blog mentioned *Vedic Mathematics* - something I'd never heard of. Just now I googled it and found this cool video:

Certainly, mathematics is a vast subject. BUT, it's hard to believe that up until now, I've never even heard of this so-called Vedic Math. I am increasingly discovering that a major flaw with my formidable math education is that it focused purely on rote problem solving; that it never addressed the profound and diverse history of numerical computation.

Heck, just yesterday I learned from Gladwell's book that the Chinese may very well *outperform* in math because they come from an assiduous rice paddy culture; because they believe in working 365 days a year (instead of our *summer vacations*); and because their numbers are *shorter* and their children don't have to learn irregular, senseless names for numbers - we have "eleven" and "twelve" and they have the more logical "ten-one" and "ten-two".

Mathematics is too important a subject to lose kids on. I believe a varied approach and a whole lot more historical context would go a long ways toward piquing juvenile interest.

Many *unschoolers* believe subjects should not be pushed on students; that their own curiosity is pre-requisite for meaningful study.

On this point I somewhat disagree. I think it's the teacher's responsibility to MAKE a subject interesting.

Logically, if it's true that a bad teacher and a bad approach can turn a student off....then it follows there must exist an optimal teaching approach, right?

Soon, after educating myself on the subject, I'm going to show my 4.5 year old son how to do long multiplication with *Vedic* intersecting lines.

Then we're going to do the same problem, our regular, vertical long-hand way.

Then, we'll check it on his new favorite toy - a calculator that he bought for $1.

And, definitely, down the road, we'll come back and prove the Vedic method algebraically.

By the way, what a wonderful thing this free, never-ending education I get from blogging is!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Another Child Prodigy

Read about Victor Niederhoffer's precocious 3 year old here.

Considering all the activities and *professional instruction* that (much younger) kid gets....I had to laugh at the fact that my father CALLS ME a TASKMASTER for having my son do a mere 30 minutes of *work* per day!

Thanks to West Coast Tom for this link.

The New Old Collectivism

I was speaking with my 95.5 year old grandfather the other day about Ukraine - the birthplace of his mother.

Although the whole conversation was extremely interesting in its own right, I just want to highlight one particular statement he made. You'll have to imagine a nonagenarian with a thick Polish accent:

You know they had that collective farming where the Soviets took all the crop [sic] and only gave back to the workers the little bit that they thought they needed....lots of people starved to death.

Hmmmm. Big Government confiscates the harvest and then metes it back out to the producers at its whim....

Ring any bells?

Well it should. It's been a while since I had to formally study history so I hadn't thought much about collective farming recently. Read Wikipedia for a refresher.

Though, you might want to skip the Wiki entry on Agriculture in the Soviet Union because it fails to mention the following:

And, of course, it has the obligatory American college professor, a nobody, from a nothing school, offer up a defense of a system that starved millions:

Economist Joseph E. Medley of the University of Southern Maine, US, while admitting to some inefficiency in Soviet agriculture, denounces the "myths" of failure propounded by Western critics. [3] He believes it to be ideological in nature and emphasises "[t]he possibility that socialized agriculture may be able to make valuable contributions to improving human welfare".


Think about that post I recently wrote about how the State of California has to lie prostrate before the Obama Administration to get back some of its OWN MONEY. Read - Federal Slavery, if you haven't already.

And compare what Stalin did to Ukrainian farmers with what goes on within your state. If you live anywhere like my current home of Massachusetts, you no doubt hear every state issue framed in terms of its impact on *local aid*. In other words, every proposed tax cut is batted away by politicians threatening to reduce the morsels RETURNED to the residents of cities and towns.

In fact, one of the reasons Mass Morons give for having voted to TAX THEMSELVES this past election is that...."our schools and libraries would have gotten hammered."

"So what?", I say.

For context on that graphic, see - Massachusetts - More Morons Than Your State!

While, the New Old Collectivism bears great similarity to collective farming - Big Government procures everyone's fiat wages (in lieu of the *output*) and it metes out far less than it steals....

But the modern wrinkle is this - Big Government may give back SOME of the loot to its rightful owners, but it only does so with serious, totalitarian strings attached like: seat belt laws, affirmative action, financial regulation, special education mandates, etc. If you are a municipality or a *rogue state*....just go on and try to flout the Feds on a particular issue. You'll find the spigot turned off....I mean you'll find your tax REBATE slashed big time.

Outliers - A Must Read

I read the 285 pages in less than 24 hours - a period that included packing, 5 hours in the car, and unpacking for my holiday excursion to Southampton, NY. For sure, the pages are small and it's an easy read....but how much more of an endorsement could I put forth?

The book is well reasoned, well sourced, and thoroughly coherent. I had heard criticisms before I read it, but just didn't find any obvious ones within the text. The implications of Gladwell's *theory* should have a profound effect on anyone who fancies themselves ambitious.

AND, importantly for my family, I believe the book has profound relevance for homeschoolers - even though Gladwell apparently knows nothing about our *world*.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Amazing Shot Last Night

By the duck-footed Lebron...

He seemed to shoot that one higher than normal.

The hard part about seeing Orlando - almost go up 2 games to none on Cleveland's home floor - is that it forces a Celtics fan to wonder....

Maybe Cleveland isn't that good? Maybe they wouldn't have steamrolled us?

Crap, we could have sneaked back into the Finals without Kevin Garnett!

And, THAT would have been even more amazing than this lucky shot.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Who Needs Textbooks?

Having exhausted the Kumon books on the lower level, I've had to create my own math *work* for Prince C-Nut.

One thing I have him do each day is fill out a blank multiplication table.

I would say this task is the perfect blend of addition and multiplication. And, more importantly, it really drives home the relationships between the numbers.

You see, when the kids start out, numbers are complete abstractions. 72 is simply the number that they are conditioned to believe comes after 71 and before 73.

But now my son also sees 72 as *8 nines* and *9 eights* - and he knows it's nestled between two *perfect squares* on the chart. Yeah, 4.5 year olds can certainly digest the concept of squared numbers so it need not be delayed until, what, 5th grade or higher?

In filling out these tables there are no rules. He can start wherever he wants so long as he finishes - which only takes about 5 minutes now. And it's been unbelievable to witness his daily progress; it's been amazing to see him grasp the symmetry of the table, that he can deduce "42" from both adding 6 or adding 7 to an adjacent box,....

And yesterday, when he eagerly asked me to extend the table to 11, 12, and higher I was not only excited and proud, but fully satisfied that I've imbued him with genuine curiosity - because that's the extent of a teacher's job.

This is no exagerration whatsoever, but when my son takes a leap with his *work* I get a full-fledged adrenaline rush.

It's better than chocolate, s*x, surfing,....or windfall trading profits.

Yeah, it's about equal to the feeling of a great round of golf!

Checking In

Yesterday, my internet connection was down all day.

And, I've been recently distracted by the weather. Was at the beach for 4 hours yesterday, and again tonight since we've been blessed with 90 degree days.

If we're going to live in a beach town, we may as well take advantage of it every chance we get. Right?

What used to pass for a good Friday night....oh, has it changed!

Now, it's couples sipping beer and wine on the beach amidst 9 million children. A *great time* is purely measured by how few times we have to deal with the kids: throwing rocks, going too far out, fighting with other brats, pee, poop, whining, etc.

Not too long ago, a successful Friday hinged upon *the chase*.

And how pathetic, or humorous, is my *good Friday* going to be ten or twenty years hence?

I shudder to even think about it.

Golf tomorrow and then it's off to Southampton, NY on Sunday for about a week.

What's that market doing anyway?

Ah,...who cares!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Update - My Moronic Landlord

First of all, a full five months before our lease was set to expire this year (end of July), the Moron asked us to renew.

He wanted a rent raise from $2,500 to $2,700 per month! In this economy!

He told my wife his taxes *went up*. Mrs. C-Nut asked by how much, "by $2,400?"

Idiot said he'd wasn't sure....would have to double-check.

Okay....didn't think so.

We told him we'd get back to him a few months. Why the bleep would we renew 5 months early, at that price?

So a couple of weeks ago, less than three months before lease expiry, we told him we'd renew but only at the same $2,500. He verbally acceded that point but informed us he wanted to "sell the house".

First of all, the house isn't his to sell. The banks own it and it's worth less than half of the outstanding debt of $1.2 million.

I asked, "What are you going to list it at?", and got no answer.

I persisted, "Where are you going to list it at? In the 500s?"

He answered negatively. Later on, after more badgering he said he was going to sell it in the 700s.

Okay, he had this for sale at 700k 3 years ago and it wouldn't move. But today, 3 years from the *peak*, he thinks it's going to fetch that number?

But again, it's not his house to sell. Even if some other Moron offered him 700k or even a tad more for it, the Moronic banks would in all likelihood decline the sale. I believe that 85% of all agreed-upon short sales are being rejected by lenders today.

So our dim-witted landlord asked if we can renew at $2,500 but go *month-to-month* to aid his *selling*.

Sure, idiot. He said he'd draw up the lease. Now, here we are three weeks later and the lease is nowhere in sight. Furhermore, the jerk walks by us without even mentioning it. Clearly, something shady is afoot.

Between our *last month and security deposit* this buffoon has 5k of my money - or, he had it anyway. I'm sure the money is long gone.

June 1st is just around the corner so that means there's only two months left on our legal lease. Without another lease, I have to assume he's going to try to boot us out on August 1st - so why would I pay any rent next month when as far as I'm concerned, I already paid my final two months? Fireworks could be early this year - as this coked-up mofo is one volatile dude! [As am I.]

There was another side issue in our lease discussions. For the past two years, this clown used to bring over his riding-lawnmower to help with our enormous lawn. But this year, the idiot wouldn't bring it over. He said it was broken - which I half believed. Regardless, he can't be changing the terms of our relationship, lowering his level of service, and at the same time be demanding a rent increase.

I couldn't take this uncertaintly about the grass anymore. We told him that if he kept the rent where it was, and renewed the lease of course, that we'd go buy a lawnmower and whatnot and unburden him of helping.

So I went out and bought a mower and weed-whacker for $700+ which I very well might have to resell at a loss in two months if I move out to a smaller place.

Tonight, while my homeschooled kids ran around the house completely unsupervised, I was toiling with the grass. Up into the driveway pulled my landlord in some souped-up hot rod convertible. He bought it last year for ten grand or so at a police auction; promptly showed it off to the entire town; then on day two, it just about blew up. He brought it to the local mechanic where it caught fire again. The mechanic got pissed and told the Moron to *get the effin' car out of his lot* - which he did.

So my landlord must have made a few grand or something recently because he pulled the time bomb out of his garage for a cruise on this beautiful day. He must have found some other mechanic willing to take his money in exchange for grease monkey quackery.

As knucklehead pulled into the driveway, I noticed that he had a new *woman* with him who was accompanied by a small child. I forgot to mention that my landlord's long-time live-in chick ran out on him this winter. Who could blame her for abandoning a bankrupt, melting-down, lying crook?

But today I saw his new squeeze for the first time. Clearly, he was trying to impress this ghetto ho and her illegitimate child with the hot rod. I chuckled to myself as I instantly digested all this incoming data. Marching my lawnmower onward I said, "Whatever, that car's going to blow up again anyway!"

Sure enough, not fifteen minutes later, smoke came pouring out of the idling engine. Some fluids were streaming onto the driveway; and Moron had to evacuate his ho and her kid from the scene. He went running to his cell phone and started yelling at no doubt the quack mechanic who just *fixed* the vehicle.

Right now the car is sitting right behind me and my wife's cars with its hood up. I would like nothing more than for him to take off so I could snap that pic for y'all!

Then, as the fire simmered, he walked the broad all over our property for a full tour (of the bank's house!). He took her down the the back woods and kept pointing at this and that. No doubt he was telling her about how he was going to *subdivide* and *build a new house* back there. I heard the same fantasy two years ago when I first met him.

But I'll bet the ho was more impressed than I was - that is, if she couldn't see through the *hot* hot rod and his steaming BS.

[Note that WaMu, GMAC, or Countrywide, gave this idiot a $600,000 cash-out refi on this property based upon his grand plans to subdivide and *build* in the back. But there was never a permit for his plans. Not even close as the lot didn't have near the requisite frontage for such an undertaking. Whatever bank it was gave him all that cash when the project never had a chance in hell! Can you say *due diligence*?]

[All told, this clown has $4 million in mortgage debt and no savings or income. And he's got some balls to be lying so much on a first date!]

For background, see:

Still Undefeated In Staredowns!

The Art Of Real Estate Self-Defense

My Landlord Is Still Dumb

First, Do No Harm...

Do A Credit Check On Your Landlord

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Folder Cleaning

In my web browsing I'm always coming across notable pics that I amass in a *blogpics* folder. Most of them get incorporated but a lot of good ones languish unused. Here I'm going to dump a bunch of the latter on y'all. Click on any picture to enlarge it. Enjoy:

Hover your mouse on the above pic to see how someone named it.

Funny, Like Dad

So a couple of weeks ago, while I was primping or something my son hollered out to me, "Dad, how do you spell 'barf'?"

The next thing I know, he and his sister are in my bedroom, at the computer, laughing their little hinies off.

Prince C-Nut was doing google image searches of *barf* and *puke*. It was pretty darn funny if I do say so myself.

Then, since my son, as part of his ongoing homeschool curriculum, has been sending out emails regularly, I saw a teachable moment.

I showed him how to attach a file/pic to his correspondences. So he sent the above *barfs* to an uncle and an aunt.

Believe me, the kid is going to be funny. He's literally the only one on the planet, including my wife, that NEVER falls for my sarcasm. He always knows whether I am serious or not - and he's merely 4.5 years young.

Lost - Season 5

This, amazingly the fifth season of Lost just concluded. I thought the action this year slowed down a bit midway through, but it ended spectacularly, IMO.

Whoever is writing, or wrote, this story is a without a doubt a dramatic genius.

As with all good drama/literature....Lost is philosophy in garb.

Go back and rent or buy the series from the beginning if you've missed out on this tremendous show.

Mark My Words - They'll Be Back At The Trough

And why the heck wouldn't they repay the Federal government the billions they borrowed?

This way, management can go back to compensating themselves *unencumbered*!

AND, if and when they get into financial trouble again, it's been proven that Big Government taxpayers will simply throw them another lifeline.

Is this a good development for equity shareholders?

Maybe. It may signify that these investment houses are a whole lot healthier.

Or perhaps not. If you're a shareholder of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan, do you really want them to have carte blanche to continue to pay out-sized bonuses? Do you really want them to *not have to substantially change* the way they run their businesses?

Do you really want the banks' revenue producers to resume sky-is-the-limit incentive plans?

This is precisely the moral hazard of bailouts - that insuring risky behavior only encourages more of it.

Now, if indeed the banks are in better, sustainable begs the question of whether or not that's *priced-into* their stock prices.

I'm hoping, and betting that whatever glimmer of good news there is, has already been discounted and then some in share prices.

Life Extension - A Big Medicine Ruse For Extended Revenue

Here, read what John Maudlin wrote recently:

Some Thoughts on the Health Care Problem
Now, some positive news. This week I visited the Cleveland Clinic and went through their Executive Health Program (more on that below). I got to visit for several hours with my doctor, Michael Roizen, of YOU: The Owner's Manual fame (not to mention all his subsequent books). They have now sold over 20 million copies, and I highly recommend them.

I have long been a student of medical trends, and long-time readers know that I think the next really big boom will be in the biotech world. I asked Mike what three things he thought would have the biggest impact in the next five years in medicine. What he said gave me hope, because he thinks there may be some advances in medicine that could help solve some of the basic health issues we all face, and at the same time give us some relief from the high and rising costs of medical care. I was aware of most of the research, but did not know that we were as close as it appears we actually are.

Briefly, he feels there are three developments in late-stage trials that could have major impacts. The first is the development of sirtuin, which so far seems to be delaying the effects of diabetes but also seems to work for a host of diseases that are inflammatory in nature (including many heart-related issues). It essentially delays the symptoms for 30-40 years. While the current trials are for very specific diseases, he thinks sirtuin will have a wide applicability and that it could be huge, as inflammation is the cause of a number of diseases. This could prolong useful life and forestall a number of debilitating conditions.

Second, there is a late-stage-three trial due out soon that promises to increase muscle mass. I have been reading about such developments, but was not aware that something might be available within a few years. This promises to help people stay active a lot longer than currently possible, which will be a good thing if we are going to live longer.

And finally, there is a study and trial which shows that DHA may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, which eats up a significant portion of US medical budgets.
I recently spent time with a research doctor at the University of California Irvine who believes that muscular dystrophy and other brain/nerve-related diseases may be conquered within five years.

We may just get lucky. Instead of high and rising medical expenses that we cannot pay for without bankrupting the country, we may be able to reduce our medical bill by staying healthier and living longer.

First, the *next big boom* will be biotech?

Hah! They've been saying that since Jurassic Park got everyone geeked up about DNA and whatnot some 16 years ago.

Investment professionals like John Mauldlin are perma-bulls by default. They can't help themselves from waxing euphoric about *the next thing*. But I thought the next thing was globalization? B2B e-commerce? Or was it nanotechnology?

Now what misanthrope could be AGAINST life-extending medicine?

Well I am.

It's a joke - putting 60-70 year olds on medication that will add 10 years to their lives, perhaps. So they live to 95 instead of 85. But at what cost? At what benefit.

If we have a health issue in this country it's certainly not early death; it'd be late living and the absence of life. People used to die, what's now considered young for millennia, but at least they procreated. Today, voluntary sterility is in vogue.

And, if today's policy-makers want to vitalize an obese nation, they can stop subsidizing a culture of government and wage slavery desk jobs.

To me, there's nothing more unhealthy than sitting a desk all day, so dejected and bored that a greasy lunch is the highlight of one's day!

Seriously, at a desk, your stomach muscles decay at an accelerated pace.

In the very same article, well before his *thoughts* on healthcare posted above, Maudlin also said this:

Yes, there are some savings on the margin; but the only way you really cut costs is to ration health care, especially health care in the last year of life, which is about 30% of health-care expenses.

Yeah, John, that's consistent. Acknowledge that *life extension* is already a 30%(!) problem and then cheerlead for more of it!

Yeah, this is the same Moron who said this:

My bet is that the taxpayer is going to make a real profit on this deal.

....about the federal government's nationalization of AIG!

Taxpayers have dumped over $180 BILLION into AIG thus far - well past the initial, mere, $85 billion.

Thanks so much for cheerleading that *bailout*, John.

Definitely check out my prior post - John Maudlin - Fear Peddling Elitist

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yes, You Can Drive A Clunker

I frequent a *retail establishment* every week. Let's just say, the part-time, weekend cashier there drives a shiny Toyota Highlander.

Now I know little about cars but that has to cost $400 a month, does it not?

And it begs the question of why someone would work for what must be around $10 per hour - ON THEIR WEEKENDS - so they could drive a nice car to and from a job that simply pays for the Toyota!

[And this ain't a *dumb kid*, let's just say that it's middle-aged government employee in the charge of *dumb kids*!]

Yes, people are self-spoiling Morons who all think they should drive nice cars. They think Toyota SUVs are really for the lumpen masses.

But I also believe that groupthink's at work here. Few even realize that they can in fact drive a clunker. If no one in your social circle has a crappy car, normalcy is simply redefined upward on the expense chart. For crying out loud, about a month ago I had to listen to a disgruntled, quitting busboy at a local bar jawbone about which new car he was going to lease!

Five years we bought our *nice* car. A 2000 Ford Explorer with 50k of mileage for $11,000.

Even if you falsely presumed it worth $0 today, our average monthly cost for the vehicle works out to $178....and dropping.

According to this article written in 2005:

The average car payment is $378 over 63 months.

So figure I've saved a hardly insignificant $10,000 over the average Joe just with my one clunker. [And I have another clunkier clunker!]

Now, the fact that I may have squandered that moolah on leveraged short ETFs is quite another story!

Getting you from Point A to Point B....that's all a car really does.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Government Schools - Vegetable Coercion

Kids balk at veggie burger, but Newton lunch lady suspended when she offers alternative:

A food services manager at a Newton elementary school said she was suspended this week for feeding students other items after they refused to eat the day's veggie burgers for lunch.

Kathleen Cunningham said she was suspended for an incident that occurred May 4, when Angier Elementary School received veggie burgers instead of the grilled cheese sandwiches that were on the menu.

When about seven or eight students refused to eat the veggie burgers, she said, she let them choose other lunch items, including a bagel lunch or a breakfast lunch.

The bagel lunch includes a bagel, cream cheese, fruit, vegetables, and cheese sticks. The breakfast lunch has cereal, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, and cheese sticks.

"Morally, can I let a kid go without a lunch when he’s telling me he’s not going to eat?"


Veggie burgers are indeed immoral!

Here's another distressing excerpt from that article:

Faced with an expected deficit of nearly $1 million in food services next year, the Newton School Committee is considering whether to privatize the breakfast and lunch program — a possibility that has the roiled relations with the schools’ roughly 90 food service employees and their union.

I find it hard to believe that a town's school system could have 90 unionized lunch ladies.

And I find it hard to believe the school's *food service* could run a $1 million annual deficit!

Newton, Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest towns up here. Parts of the town average, AVERAGE, $200,000 in household income.

Exactly why can't the kids bring their own lunches and they just sell drinks from vending machines?

Everything about the *schools* has long since passed the point of inanity.

The lunch ladies always were crazy.

Before I went to a *magnet* elementary school, I attended the neighborhood one (through second grade).

The cafeteria was run by a handful of *lunch ladies* so there were no teachers present. After eating, they made us line up at the door to go to recess. BUT, we most certainly were not allowed to put our coats on until we got outside.

If they espied any renegade grade-schooler who prematurely put their jacket on.....they'd go ballistic and scream, "TAKE YOUR COAT OFF....IF YOU PUT YOUR COAT ON BEFORE YOU GO OUT YOU WILL CATCH A COLD!!!"

Surely, if there were a pool outside, these 'old bags' would make us wait 30 minutes after lunch before we went swimming.

Written For Morons

I bought this book yesterday for $1.00.

Think about the title for a second. Do you get it?

My wife and I almost died laughing.

Now the explanation for, well, the intended audience of that *pocket book*.

If you care about, try to be, or think in terms of *green*, then yes, you are a Dummy!

And the book will help you act on your dumbness.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Caught In Web Traffic

Is it me or are Fridays always painfully slow days for the internet?

Or could it just be Comcast here in Boston?

I tend to doubt the latter. I'll bet there are more people online, at home from work or college on Fridays, with nothing to do besides cruise YouTube and other bandwidth-hogging sites.

It really sucks because my wife generally works from home on Fridays and I have a whole lot more time (20 minutes or so!) to blog with.

All day today, like most Fridays, I've been waiting for pages to load.

I can't take it anymore so I'm going to hit some golf balls now.

Only In Massachusetts.... the *truth* considered a virus!

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts directed employees earlier this month not to log onto the Drudge Report website with government-issued computers due to potential viruses on the site.

In an e-mail message sent May 4, Paul Harvey, an information-technology official for the Boston office, wrote that security specialists with the U.S. Attorney’s Office at the Department of Justice asked them "to reformat/reimage two computers because the user visited the site."

"Please avoid the Drudgereport website from the [United States Attorney’s Office] computers," Harvey wrote.

Alright, I admit I stole that line from the comments of the article.

By the way, Drudge just links to other, mostly major media outlets.

Ergo, censoring him out is pretty darn totalitarian.


Not even 2.5 months into 2009, after an inauspicious start, my *big* brokerage account was up 50% overall.

Now, here I am after this ridiculous short squeeze, down maybe 20% on the year.

One thing that I could theoretically beat myself up with is the fact that I closed out most of my flying positions at the very peak of my account. See - An Aggressive Flattening.

The only problem was, that I started putting those trades back on THE VERY NEXT DAY.

Then, those *trades* turned into long-term *investments*. FAZ and SRS got annihilated...yadda, yadda, yadda....goodbye profits, hello losses.

One of the reasons I got flat back on March 9th was that looking at my profits I figured I could take considerable time off from the grind, do whatever, and still be quite content with the finances. But performance momentum and ego got the better of me - only for about the 50th time though!

March and April were pretty rough months for me. I was seriously sick to my stomach most of the time. I couldn't concentrate on anything. My homeschooling discipline suffered, as did my blog output. Etc.

I generally brag that nobody handles losing money better then me, that no one has more experience at if that's something really worth boasting about.

But I've been through so many ups and downs, been banged up so many times, that at least the body blows aren't new to me. There's a whole bunch of y'all out there who've never lost money (or a job) before, who've never endured any economic hardship, and are snapping at your friends and family members these days. On this matter I'm truly sympathetic; but that still doesn't excuse your behavior.

Anyway, I recently decided that if my account should somehow get back to its old high....that I'll close everything out and take some time off from financial gambling.

What would I do?

Well, while I tremendously enjoy the intellectual challenge of trading, always have, the hollowness of it has started to chafe me.

I've gotten a whole lot more satisfaction out of this blog (1300 posts now!) which I could easily ramp up. I could write a book. Or I could develop and potentially market a homeschool curriculum.

Watching, raising, and educating kids is a full-time endeavor by itself. But I could really generate some productive momentum without the hassle of figuring out which Morons to bet against on Wall Street.

Let's hope I only get the chance to make good (or renege!) on this *deal*.

Retail Fantasies

Everyone walks or drives down their local streets and muses, "You know, I would really like to open a [insert retail enterprise] here...."

Whether it's a restaurant, bakery, dry cleaner, or discotheque,....we all fantasize essentially about the same thing. Then, when someone comes along, antes up, and opens a new *hit* there we get pissed - "That was my idea!".

My fantasy was always a bar. Heck, as much time as I spent in them, they were all I thought about for the better part of a decade. Draft beer is all *margin*, no?

A residual friend of my wife's has a *queer* obsession with opening a coin-op laundromat in Brooklyn. THAT'S what he dreams about while toiling away at a currency desk on Wall Street - runaway utility bills, quarters, and missing socks!

My wife, being 100% dago, everywhere we move she invariably exclaims, "This area really needs a high-end Italian deli!" I joke that her roots are really Brooklyn. Therefore she should rightfully think more along the lines of funnel cakes and egg creams!

Mrs. C-Nut's model would be Di Bruno Bros. deli in Philadelphia. Y'all should check it out if ever in Center City.

The fact is, retailing is one tough business - especially on the food and drink side. While those successful stores stare us in the face, and take our money for years on end, what we don't see, or can't see, are the voluminous emulators who have failed. We can't see them, well, often because they are gone. I think the phenomena of our collective fantasies can be partly described as *survivorship bias* or something.

Here we are approaching one of the chief subtleties of economics - the unseen. So much of what happens in the real world markets simply cannot be understood without a firm appreciation of non-obvious side effects.

And if you don't have a firm grasp of microeconomics....

....then good luck opening your organic veggie juice stand or whatever!

Forever Scheming To Waste Money

Last week the US Postal Service increased the price of first class stamps from 42 to 44 cents. Everyone was shocked!

I couldn't help but think of all those doom-and-gloomers that I've read recommend buying Forever Stamps in bulk as an inflation/deflation hedge. More accurately, they would be bought as a diversifying, hard asset sorta play.

The WSJ says that these stamps have historically gone up in price less than the rate of inflation AND that there are laws prohibiting rate increases beyond the CPI. Whatever. I don't want to have that trivial debate here. Clearly, one could not buy and sell enough Forever Stamps to *make or save* that much money on account of transaction costs and whatnot. What, are you going to buy $20,000 worth of stamps and then try to peddle them 15 years from now? Good luck and have fun!

My wife said to me the other day, "I get why people may buy Forever Stamps....but I don't understand why the government would sell them?"

I laughed.

There isn't an incumbent politician in the land that isn't hellbent on procuring as much revenue as they can TODAY, with absolutely no regard for the consequences TOMORROW.

Those pre-paid state college tuitions are a similar coffers-maximizing ruse by wasteful pols. I think any parent would have to be nuts to fork over tens of thousands of dollars to the State of Florida in hopes of what it might buy 10-15 years down the road.

Move Rec - Charlie Wilson's War

I give Charlie Wilson's War 3 out of 5 possible stars.

There wasn't much to it; but the film *moved* anyway.

Knowing very little about the history of this battle between Afghani rebels and the USSR, the film served for me as a rough primer. Exactly how factual was the dramatization, I have no idea - nor do I really care.

Charlie Wilson's War sported two, IMNSHO, of the most overrated actors in Hollywood - Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. For the latter, hardly an argument is needed.

But for Hanks, I submit that he transmits a ridiculous persona, almost like a Looney Tune cartoon character. I prefer actors more on the real side.

The end of the movie is marked by a pretty big political insinuation. But what do I know? It may be 100% true. Nobody really cares, especially not weekend chattering movie-goers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marginalizing Bad Breath

If someone hits you with their dragon breath, can you ever really look at them the same way?

I think not. And you'll keep a little more personal distance to boot. The worst is when you are at a loud bar with a stink face - because they'll invariably be up close hollering in your ear.

I brush my teeth multiple times per day. Have mints always at hand. I even keep mouthwash in the car which I utilize probably 3 times a day.

I've just always been paranoid about hitting someone with a halitotic breeze and them *not ever looking at me the same way again*.

I know - it's messed up. I generally don't care what people think one iota about my larger portfolio of folly and offense, but I do worry about what the lumpen masses might think of my breath.

So the other night, my wife, who I've been with for a total of 11 years now, made a remark about me having a$$ breath. WTF, I thought. Not me.

First of all, I'm certain it was a misdiagnosis. Secondly, there's a good chance she was messing with me. I'm by no means the only button-pusher in my household.

But still, I was agitated. If she was right, what more in the way of hygiene could I do?

In part my paranoia comes from the truism that *a dog can't smell its own*.

How could you ever really know if you were breathing fire?

They say to blow on your hand and then take a whiff.

But I've never detected anything that way - even when in sure possession of *nap-breath*.

Everyone has their stories, their personal examples.

I had to work with some Chinese grad student when I was in college. We were jammed into a tiny office for hours on end, collaborating on ginormous spreadsheets. This guy's teeth, what was left of them anyway, had probably never, ever been introduced to a toothbrush. In fact, another guy that worked with us ended up committing suicide in the middle of the project. I don't KNOW that it had to do with our working conditions, but I wouldn't be surprised - it was that bad. The deceased and I actually referred to the Chinese dude as "rat breath"!

We also had a friend in our high school clique with a serious mouth odor problem. He insisted that he didn't have to brush his teeth in the morning because *he didn't eat breakfast*!

In fact, predating that Seinfeld Smelly Car episode, that buddy of ours entire car ranked at all times. When called on it, he blamed one of us, who went swimming in the ocean and then entered his car. Yeah, it was the pristine salt water that made us gag....NOT!

When we met up again after freshman year at college, we all noticed that this buddy of ours was popping mints, one after another like a drug addict. So SOMEONE (a chick) must have told him. (Note that we went to a private all-boys Catholic school so female classmates in college were a novelty.)

Now, my poor 2.92 year old daughter has some serious bad breath. It's so bad, sometimes when your holding her you can't tell which end is up!

You'd never think such a massively rank aroma could emanate from a 23 pound little Princess - but it does. It reaches out and BITES you.

My wife, and the dentist, insist that it's from *post-nasal drip* and allergies. I've been ordered to *brush her tongue*.

If any of y'all are fighting with or subject to someone else's chronic bad breath, there are medical steps you can take.

1) Clean your tongue.
2) Chew gum.
3) Use cinnamon gum and mints.
4) Drink more water.
5) Get tested for kidney and liver failure.
6) Eat bread.
7) Get a water pick.
8) Verify your paranoia!

They're all explained here in - 8 Easy Steps to Banish Bad Breath.

If you want to mess with someone, convincingly hint to them that they have *disagreeable breath*. Don't just offer them a mint out of the blue, offer them two!

And If you really want to mess with them, recruit a couple others in their social circle to cast aspersions about stinky breath as well.

See also - Society Rests Upon Her Breath?

For You "The Office" Fans

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When To Yell At Your Kids

My father was here the past two days to see his grandkids and to *help*.

Yesterday, at the kitchen table he was astounded to see my 4.5 year old son read whatever it was (not a children's book) that Prince C-Nut had in front of him. I mean he was ASTOUNDED.

Now, let me tell you about this morning. I put the Prince in front of one of his workbooks and told him to do 4 pages whilst I shaved and showered. But when I was done, my son was still sitting there, literally mining his nasal passage, only halfway down the first page. I scolded him, strongly advised him to speed up, lest I add to his workload, and then set about vacuuming and mopping the kitchen floor.

Still he dawdled. Forty-five minutes into this *session* he wasn't even done 2 of the 4 pages of Kumon's Writing Sentences that I assigned.

The problems we are at the cusp of, are that of *self-motivation* and *concentration*. If I sit next to him, correct his posture, force him to utilize tissues, and keep him focused, he presently has the ability to do those particular four pages seamlessly in 15 minutes or so.

BUT, not only do I not want to be holding his hand constantly, it's a key part of the learning process - the ability to study independently and efficiently. I yearn for the days that I can just email him rough sketches of what he should be working on, and that he goes ahead and competently completes his tasks. After all, pretty soon I'll have just-about-3-year-old Princess C-Nut to educate as well!

So I was getting annoyed at the Prince's performance - and hollered at him more that a couple of times. To put it in perspective, not long ago we were doing 20 pages of different books each day. Admittedly, we've gotten lazy recently and therein lies the problem. If there's a distraction (e.g. *his sister* or *grandpa*) or if we take a few days off from what we refer to as *his work*, our momentum always disappears - and takes a couple of days to come back.

Halfway through my floor cleaning, I seen that my son has still made little progress - outside of probably *the other nostril*. So my hollering goes up a notch....and I tell him that we'll skip that pizza party tonight if he doesn't DO HIS BLEEPIN' WORK.

As the tears bubble from my son's eyes, my father becomes aghast; telling me to lay off; reminding me that "he's only four".

Normally, I don't take lightly the arrogance of anyone who comes into MY HOUSE and tells me how to talk to or raise MY CHILDREN....

But it just so happens that I've got 30+ years of solid experience ignoring my parents - so I effortlessly brushed it off.

Eventually, the work was completed, that pizza party attended, and everyone will live to see another day.

But I got to thinking more philosophically about all the things my father saw fit to YELL AT ME about in my childhood.

I mean, if as a kid I gave my sister a deserved punch (on the arm) my father went ballistic on me. If When I farted at the dinner table there was always hell to be paid. And if memory serves me, he and my mother weren't too cool about the three times I was suspended from school, the fires my brother and I set, or about the time I got caught shoplifting. Why didn't I yell back, "I'M ONLY 13!!!"

So what exactly makes an offense worthy of parental yelling?

It's got to be nothing more than the priorities of mom and dad.

And my priorities are well-thought-out. Expecting, and demanding my son to perform within the limits of his abilities is not child abuse.

No, having low expectations for him would be.

Remember, my father was ASTOUNDED at his grandson's reading ability. From where did he think that competency came? From watching cartoons all day? From pre-school?

His wife, my mother, is far worse. She's never once expressed anything but disapproval for how I am raising her grandchildren. I asked her how she thinks the Prince became so articulate, so literate, and so numerate.

Her response, "He's just a really bright kid."

In other words, not because of any time, research, and work put in by me and my wife.

There's a reason God had to codify this one into law:

Because otherwise....