May 15, 2013 | Leave a Comment
One has to admit that Smith is the perfect exemplar of the regression fallacy with the luck being ephemeral and the skill a constant expectation. Whenever he plays and hits some lucky shots, the Knicks are sure to try to give it to him the next game and lose as the luck vanishes. What a terrible player he is, almost as bad as the other regression fallacy, Robinson, who at 4'10 likes to fight with all the bigs and is guaranteed to lose for Chicago. They should have special brands on people like that in Basketball and life so they could not cause continued damage. The forecaster who is hot is generally like that. The regression fallacy tintype should be distinguished from the useful idiot. People like Kaufman and "you know who" would be on this. I "got a little list".
Tyler Cowen writes:
I say Miami beats Memphis in six, which is OK for NBA ratings.
Smith simply isn't any good in the playoffs when others are playing real defense. The preferred model is that some individuals have zero or negative productivity in key situations.
Plus Jason Kidd woke up one morning and was 56 years old, all of a sudden.
Scott Brooks writes:
Looking at this strictly from the "what is best for the NBA" perspective:
What the NBA wants is a NY/Miami and OKC/SA semi-final.
Then a Miami/OKC final…..although SA would be alright too as they have Duncan. However, OKC has just a bit more star power right now, so I give OKC the edge.
And with all due respect to NY…….. Even though NY has the more attractive population base, Miami just has too much star power (and a pretty good population base).
A Memphis/Indiana final would be a disaster….but the good news is that even if Indy can get past NY (which is very possible), they ain't getting past Miami.
Cicadas leave the depths below to mate on prime numbers every 13 or 17 years so as not to be eaten by predators with normal life cycles of 1 or 2 or 3 years. One wonders whether other living things in nature have such prime cycles. The market has prime cycles. It likes to do overnight what a person that has to sleep can not take advantage of. If it's down big one night, and you cant sell a position, then it knows you can't stay up the next day or two, so it will go up to let others but not you get out of the position the next day. The idea can be generalized one thinks.
Scott Brooks writes:
Another thing to consider is the confluence of cycles leading great highs or great lows.
The year was 1998 (give or take a year or two) in MO. We saw the normal group of Cicadas make their appearance as always in the summer. But that year, we saw something that we only see once or twice a century. We saw all the groups of Cicadas make their appearance at once.
I remember the normal soothing sound that I fell asleep to at night as a child become a constant irritating and often uncomfortable non-stop drone of Cicadas looking for love.
My backyard was often a fog of Cicadas flying through the air. The carcasses littered the ground and the trees. It became almost impossible to even walk a short distance outside with several Cicadas landing on you. Of course, they were harmless, but that didn't matter. It was a little freaky to know that you were surrounded by millions upon millions of Cicadas many of whom just wanted a place and decided to make you that place.
Although I didn't try it, I'm sure that if I were to have stood perfectly still out in the yard for any length of time, I would have had dozens, if not hundreds of Cicadas covering my body.
I had never seen anything like it in my life before. It was as though the world had become a horror movie with Cicadas starring as the monster that ate the Midwest.
I have lived through Cicadas' highs and lows. I believe I prefer the normal years, when their population is steady and stable and they lull you to sleep at night with melodic song.
Pitt T. Maner III adds:
You have to wonder what the collateral, human irritation effects will be this time with the billions emerging from Brood II. More crime? More accidents? People who are even more sleep deprived than normal? An increase in the sale of ear plugs? Might be interesting to look back for things possibly associated/correlated with the 17-year cicada cycle (1996, 1979, 1962, … etc.)
"The insects, though harmless, are considered a nuisance both for their size and sheer numbers, not to mention the noise pollution that has been measured at up to 94 decibels, loud enough to drown out the sound of overhead planes according to the Associated Press."
(but they do have a couple of positive effects):
"Additional effects linked to the cicada mating swarms include higher yield for fruit trees, beneficial tree pruning, as well as an increase in bird populations."
Oh, and by the way:
From the Dept. of Stork/Baby statistics.
Who knew there is a "cicada market theory"? If only some of the critters could make it into the city!:
"The large insects — which emerge every 17 years — turn out to be great news for the market. During years when the critters appeared — going back to 1928 — stocks posted an average annual gain of nearly 21%, roughly double their historical average. That's a far better track record than most active mutual fund managers enjoy, the majority of whom tend to lag the market average over time." and 'Standard & Poor's market-data guru Howard Silverblatt agrees. When MarketWatch called to sound him out this morning, it turned out he'd already thought to check out the cicada market theory and had been pleasantly surprised by the results. Of course, that doesn't mean he's rushing to buy. Just like when we gaze at the stars or tea leaves, it's easy to read too much into stock market returns, he warns. "You can prove anything you want," he says. "Start with your answer, and I have the data to prove it."'
2) But the "flash crash" of May 1962 would have occurred during a cicada emergence too.
Lives there not one spec here
whose profits have caused all hope to disappear
who's meager talents and frailty
would not qualify him for disability
Here are some good definitions on the 54 million American with disability.
David Lilienfeld writes:
That's an ADL-based definition, and includes persons with Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and several other conditions–including osteoarthritis, which is prevalent among those of us over 50.
Scott Brooks writes:
Still, that's 17.25% of the population. That's 1 in 5.8 people on disability. That number should give even an ardent liberal like David pause.
We have over 15% of American's on food stamps (of which many are both on disability and food stamps).
We have 40 million on SS.
How many taking Section 8 housing? How many others "entitlements" are we paying out?
How many government programs can even an ardent liberal find in the budget and say, "the government shouldn't be doing that"? I'll bet there's more than a few.
Let's start a contest and all throw $100 into a pot. The winner is the person who correctly identifies the "straw that broke the camels back".
Stefan Jovanovich writes:
David's liberalism is to be treasured. Liberals have been the people who — throughout American history — got the rest of us to admit that the country had a problem. The difficulty is with their command and control solutions — public education, for example. Penitentiaries (thx friends), planning for land use, minimum wage and child labor laws, drug laws — the list of foolish solutions is endless. (I am not saying these are David's). The "welfare" problem is real — there are tens of millions of adults who are too slow sick or stupid to be profitably employed. That is the problem; what we constitutionalists have to do is find a solution. Offering up the market is a good way to begin the diagnosis but by itself it is the same kind of malpractice that had doctors blaming ulcers on their patients behaviors.
Russ Sears writes:
Rather than disability a better definition would be unrecoverability. What spec still here has not had their dreams shattered more than once and has not, after some soul searching, found the strength to get up and learn from it.
Frankly, hope is fickle, fleeting, but it only appears to be extinguished. After a few hard runs in the woods and a few days time, hope has always reappeared and shown a path to turning the pain into greater future strength. Not that the path shown is ever easy or sure, but it has always reappeared, sometimes 360 degrees from the path I thought was the way previously.
Running has taught me that training is mastering recovery.
Jeff Watson writes:
And right away, getting back up on the horse after he's bucked you and cracked a couple of ribs is very important. Or, when you are surfing in huge waves, wipe out, break your board, and suffer a three wave hold down and nearly die, grab another board and paddle right back out….who knows you might get the ride of your life.
March 25, 2013 | Leave a Comment
Check out this picture of my deck …and the snow is still coming down!
The ground is already highly saturated. This is a heavy wet snow, and it's still coming down. They expect it will snow continuously until early Tuesday morning (3/26/2013). If our deep soil moisture and water tables are not completely filled up yet, they almost certainly will be after this snow.
And to think…..the spring rains really haven't even started yet. Any "upstream" land that drains into the Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois or Meramec Rivers is going to pass through St. Louis and other agricultural parts of the Midwest. If that land "upstream" from here get's a lot of moisture, we could be in for some real flooding.
I'm not a weatherman and I'm not making any predictions, but this sure smacks of 1993 to me.
March 22, 2013 | 1 Comment
I thought the group might enjoy reading the 1879 classic of Political Economy: "Progress and Poverty" by Henry George.
Stefan Jovanovich writes:
Scott and I seem to be in permanent disagreement. Henry George got all the publicity, but Terence Powderly is the important figure. He was the "mainstream" figure whose doctrine of producerism, now completely forgotten — was the essence of American political thinking in the years before WW I. Unlike George and the other neo-Socialists Powderly had equal scorn for government-protected financial capital, large, politically connected institutions and the underclass, including illegal immigrants. It is no surprise that the Ohio Republicans - Grant, Sherman, McKinley - were in complete agreement with such a "radical".
Scott Brooks writes:
Actually, Stefan and I are not in disagreement. I was not advocating for or against the work of Henry George. I was merely sharing with the list something that I thought would interesting and spur debate.
The following (copied from Mebane Faber) is so counterintuitive that it's worth considering. I don't think in these terms, and there could be outliers that explain the phenomenon. But (if they did the arithmetic correctly), it is what it is….
Should You Buy at New Lows? Or New Highs?
So we tested which strategy works better: Buying near 52-week lows… or buying at 52-week highs. We looked at nearly 100 years of weekly data on the S&P 500 Index, not counting dividends. You might be surprised at what we found… After the stock market hits a 52-week high, the compound annual gain over the next year is 9.6%.
That is a phenomenal outperformance over the long-term “buy and hold” return, which was 5.6% a year. On the flip side, buying when the stock market is at or near new lows leads to terrible performance over the next 12 months… Specifically, buying anytime stocks are within 6% of their 52-week lows leads to compound annual gain of 0%. That’s correct, no gain at all 12 months later. Using monthly data, our True Wealth Systems databases go back to 1791.
The results are similar… Buying at a 12-month high and holding for 12 months beats the return of buy-and-hold. And buying at a 12-month low and holding for a year does worse than buy-and-hold. Take a look… 1791 to 2012 All periods 4.3% New Highs 5.5% New Lows 0.9% The same holds true for a more recent time period, this time starting in 1950… 1950 to 2012 All periods 7.2% New Highs 8.5% New Lows 6.0% History’s verdict is clear… You’re much better off buying at new highs than at new lows. You might not agree with it… but it’s true.
Victor Niederhoffer writes:
That's a shocking result. Heavily weighted one might think to the depression period and the 2008 period, and probably not taking into account durations from hitting the new lows. i.e. the 1st new low in a period or the tenth. Probably even more copacetic to the trend followers with individual stocks.this is how Rocky and I first met, but I don't think he remembered it. A loss of mine was reported in the papers and Rocky wrote to me to memorialize what a woeful idiot I am. I wrote back saying "You seem to take great pleasure in my losses et al". But as you know, you can never win a dispute with Rocky. Now we're friends again.
Scott Brooks writes:
I have been privileged to buy the low and sell the high on multiple occasions. It's all those other darn trades in between that drag down my return.
I had a friend tell me once that there are 50 perfect days in a year….. a bluebird sky, cool temperature, perfect humidity, occasional slight breeze (you know the kind of day I'm referring too).
Most people make the mistake of living for those perfect days. The key to a great life is to make the best of the perfect days when they arrive. And the way you make the best out of those perfect days is to make the best of the other 315 less than perfect days per year.
It's about having a good positive attitude so you can make the best out of whatever you get. And they way you do that is through practice…..you practice and practice and practice…..until a positive attitude and making the best of things becomes habit.
So make the best out of our less than perfect trades, for they are the ones that are ultimately going to define you as a person and a professional.
Jim Sogi writes:
Amen to what Scott says. In surfing you got to go on the crappy days so you are in good shape when the big waves come. You can't just wait, like many do, for those rare perfect days. Then they are so out of shape they can't make the drop and have no legs.
Alston Mabry writes:
I'll assume the data for 1791-1950 is more troublesome, so let's just consider this result:
1950 to 2012
All periods 7.2%
New Highs 8.5%
New Lows 6.0%
The obvious question is: When do you sell?
Jordan Low writes:
It seems that there is never a good time to sell. You can beat 6% by say investing in short term bonds. It has to be short enough for the turnover of the strategy, so say duration of less than 1Y.
Also, the new high strategy has not really worked since 2000 with the market risk-on/risk-off, so are we in a new "regime"? Or do I keep to the strategy and pray that I will end up ahead 60 years from now — i.e. not a repeated game, you get one dice roll!
Ed Stewart writes:
I have noted that including historic t-bill rates or alternative short term rate benchmarks as an estimate for return while in cash dramatically alters the return of long term timing models. However, I am not sure if t-bill or similar has been a fair estimate of cash holding returns - I am sure others no much better than I do.
With regard to the article idea, It does seem to be the logic of a simple trend model - something like Long on first close in top X% of range 52 week range, Flat when close in bottom X% of 52 week range. A bunch of rule sets similar to this (some type of very long term trend indicator or look-back) seem to give similar results - and like was mentioned much of the benefit comes from missing a small number of significant market declines.
In other periods (like the 90's) the models can trigger whip-saws that would likely have frustrated many "believers" at that time into giving up on them - which of course means they would have missed the benefits that accrued since 2000.
In thinking about timing models, one real benefit is that they provide a framework for the panic instinct while including a signal to get back in. The problem with the public is that they can panic, become traumatized, then never get back in until years have passed (if ever). In other words, even if one is skeptical about the future performance of timing models, such models might be a useful tool if the realistic alternative is very poor money-weighted returns with a near certainty (rather than the theoretical return of buy and hold).
A commenter writes:
I take the view that when any sign is known to the market, it will start to disappear; and when it is no longer a sign, it will start to reappear.
I would think it applies to this case as well. The advantage of buying at market high is not news. When was it first exploited? Were the turtles first known to the public for doing this? In the 90'es?
But anyhow, I think a plot of the returns across the time span is more meaningful (and clearly more revealing) than the average. With that, I presume that we will see the advantage of buying at market high is diminishing in the recent decade. More meaningful I think would be how much it has diminished so that we can anticipate the future when it returns.
Russ Sears writes:
I suspected that the results depended on the period looked at. Kim gave the 250 day period results. But what happens in other periods. I looked at the S&P index from 1950-2013, with cut-off dates determined by period's length. I defined it a "first new high" if there were X day high within X days. and looked at the next X days log normal returns.
5 day period
avg 0.14% Stdev 2.18%
count avg next period T
new low 1006 0.06% (1.24)
New high 1004 0.29% 2.14
25 day period
avg 0.71% Stdev 4.77%
count avg next period T
new low 208 0.99% 0.85
New high 179 0.86% 0.44
50 day period
avg 1.40% Stdev 6.75%
count avg next period T
new low 100 1.16% (0.36)
New high 96 0.87% (0.78)
100 day period
avg 2.78% Stdev 9.67%
count avg next period T
new low 44 3.69% 0.63
New high 35 4.51% 1.06
500 day period
avg 13.42% Stdev 21.96%
count avg next period T
new low 8 8.33% (0.66)
New high 7 7.24% (0.74)
Margin Call is available on Netflix and has been available "On Demand" on various cable services.
I don't know how accurate the behind the scenes dramatization is of what happened, nor do I know if the sudden discovery amidst the layoffs is true, but I have to say that I found the movie fun and compelling to watch.
If you have some free time, I'd love to hear from those in the know just how accurate the movie is (or isn't).
I'm sure time frames have been collapsed as the movie takes place over ~ a 36 hour period of time, but if want to watch decent movie with pretty good acting, it's worth 107 minutes of your time to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and relax. You can rarely go wrong with a movie that includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Demi Moore and few others.
For some reason, I enjoyed the performance of Simon Baker (The Mentalist). Although he had a small role, I liked his cool, cold matter of fact demeanor in the face of adversity.
I also enjoyed the subtle conflict between "good and evil" protracted by Irons and Spacey as they butted heads when the realization of the collapse of mortgage market was all too clear. The fight between going down with honor or going down with dishonor (a bucket load of cash) is interesting to observe.
The scapegoating, the back stabbing, and the "omission of facts" (some would call it lying), gives this movie a tasty flavor even though the truth may be embellished by Hollywood.
March 5, 2013 | Leave a Comment
I found this video fascinating and mesmerizing…….especially the ending.
Ralph Vince writes:
"The intricacies of designing a proper portfolio can often balance on the weight of a feather."
There's a LOT in that statement. The generally-practiced mean-variance style portfolio constructions miss this point however — that a single component can readily offset all other components in the portoflio over time — even if that single component is profitable!
Driving through the Owens Valley on a beautiful sunny clear day, the entire 150 mile stretch with 14000 peaks towering above showed the geological effects of immense glaciers that filled the entire valley during the past ice age. Ice could have been 3000 feet deep gouging up mountains. Even Mauna Kea in Hawaii has clear geological evidence of glaciers! The last ice age was as recent as 10-20,000 years ago and ice covered a large part of North America. Global warming is the end of the current ice age and has provided good weather and prosperity and the growth of civilization and the human race for 20,000 years. The reverse of global warming, namely cooling, is not an attractive alternative. Imagine if cooling began. It would mean summers with snow that did not melt lasting through destroying crops. 4 years of snow on the ground through summer would wipe out most of the world population. 4 years of 40 foot snow accumulation would erase most signs of civilization under a layer of ice. When Krakatoa went off in 1883 the ash plume circled the world and there was no summer in the US that year. Imagine the impact on gnp and the markets if cooling commenced. Its awful to imagine. So its a case of unintended consequences or be careful what you wish for should they figure out how to reverse global warming.
A commenter writes:
Cold weather crops like rye and barley would come back in vogue if we had an ice age which is not unthinkable. The zones for planting crops would change drastically. One would expect that researchers might do some genetic tinkering with corn, wheat, and soybeans, allowing them to flourish in a colder climate. Quite a number of scientists are predicting a Maunder Minimum at the end of this current solar cycle, which coincided with the "Little Ice Age.".
Steve Ellison writes:
Quite a long time ago, I reviewed Evolutionary Catastrophes: The Science of Mass Extinction by Vincent Courtillot. Every one of the 7 mass extinction events identified by M. Courtillot was caused by global cooling. Therefore, I agree that global warming (which I see no reason to doubt) is the lesser evil.
David Lilienfeld writes:
In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the asbestos industry maintained that "there was reasonable disagreement" among scientists about asbestos as a cause of lung cancer; no asbestos-related regulations were needed. In the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the same was true of the tobacco industry for tobacco and lung cancer (and other sites, too). In the 1980s, 1990s, and last decade, many in the social conservative school of thought maintained that there was little evidence, or at least controversial evidence, about the role of human papilloma virus in the development of cervical cancer (I won't get into the matter of hand and neck cancer and HPV). In the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s, the US salt industry insisted that the data linking consumed salt and hypertension were controversial and that no regulation of the salt content was needed. The argument against the consensus view holds only so long as additional data do not validate the view of that majority. With Copernicus, that was the case. It was the same with the role of bacteria in the development of peptic ulcers.
Absolute certainty and uniform conclusions by all members of the science community shouldn't be needed for policy formulation. If they were, then the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel would still be roaming the ranges and desserts of our television screens.
Ralph Vince comments:
What a logical stretch David.
In the tobacco litigation, we found secret emails amongst the defendant employee's indicating a nefarious conspiracy to keep their methods and activities secret.
The East Anglia emails are similar in that regard.
I can tell you, from firsthand observation of the computer code that was in the email trove (because I have been writing code since the 70s, and I can tell you from examining someone's code what nationality they are, what mood they were in when they wrote it, and often what they had for breakfast). The code that was dumped was utterly damning to their cause. Not only does it show that the data does NOT sufficiently show that we are experiencing (anthropomorphic or not) temperature rises, but taints the issue because it raises the question of motive. We're left knowing that CO2 in the atmosphere has increased, a seeming understanding that this should have caused temperature rise, and the facts that do not comport to this, and as-yet no legitimate scientific reason (there are some theories, but that's all) to account for this.
Scott Brooks writes:
I suggest that we look at the motives of the people involved in perpetuating what I believe is a giant con job.
Let's say the earth is warming. Is this a man made phenomena or is it just a normal cycle that the earth goes thru from time to time? Who stands to profit from these suggestions to stop global warming? Al Gore and his ilk?
Why do we trust these idiots in DC to make decisions that are common sense based and "special interest group" based?
If we start down this path that global warmists like yourself want us to go down, what happens when the earth keeps warming up (i.e. let's say it's really just a cycle the earth is going thru and not man made)…….what will happen then? Do you think the politicians will say, "Well, it's not mans fault. So let's roll back all the regulations", or do you think that they'll bloviate about how they need even more power to solve this horrible problem?
Why are you so willing to give more and more power to the government when they have a LONG history of abusing that power to their own selfish ends?
If you chose to go down that path, you will find people like me standing in your path actively trying to stop you.
Garrett Baldwin writes:
I wasn't going to jump in on this, but I wanted to shadow something Scott said.
With regard to motives, pay attention to the way that the hearings and the solutions to solving this problem are handled. Some of us want the market to solve the problem. For example, let's say that the biggest threat in the world were something that is hard to measure, like the earth is running out of fresh air.
I'd argue that if that were a serious problem, a man would come a long and invent a machine to solve it. We'd rely on human ingenuity. We'd beat back that threat…
But the people who stand to profit through centralized alchemy only want to do it one way — their way. And any solution that is market based, creates competition, and doesn't enrich allies or decision makers or centralize more power with the government is either demonized, destroyed or regulated from the conversation.
The reality is that central planners can't solve this problem. They claim that they invented the internet, but if the government were still operating the internet, it would just be two dudes from DoD playing pong back and forth between New York and Camp Pendleton. This entire hype has evidence of scam all over it. Naomi Klein has demanded that the U.S. distribute $2 trillion to third-world nations who are "victims" of the U.S. and our energy policy. Ironically, the nations that are demanding the money are also the ones that are near the bottom of the Heritage Economic Freedom Index. Countries that aren't developing because they keep they limit their own people's ingenuity and production are going to get $2 trillion and then do what with it? Usher in a green economy? Come on…
So, when I hear the idea that we have to "do something" and do it fast without exploring the data, without asking questions, and without being allowed to have a debate because doing so would cast the distrustful of government as people who don't care about the children or the future or humanity. Meanwhile, the alarmist will have a moving wardrobe of children follow him as he spouts off how important his intentions are and how we are monsters.
Beyond that, we also ignore one thing in this discussion.
What are the positive benefits of global warming? After all, Greenland had a booming farm trade 1,000 years ago. I'd like to get some beach front property in Greenland. I'd also think that trade through the Arctic Circle would be nice and reduce shipping to Asia in half. Why is global warming such a terrible thing? Is it because we refuse to embrace the challenge, and because there's profit to be made by saving us from ourselves?
So, I will say from my perspective this. I don't consider climate change a big deal, and it's not something that I worry about. Humanity will adapt after government spends trillions of dollars chasing this dragon..
Have you guys heard about this guy:
"Hawaiian big-wave surfer Garrett McNamara will go to any lengths to chase a massive swell. On Monday that pursuit took him back to Praia do Norte, a tiny coastal village about 60 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal, where he got pulled into a massive wave that has the entire surfing world in awe. "
youtube video of him at Nazare, Portugal
Could the surfing aficionados please explain to me how these people do not die?
Jim Sogi responds:
Scott, First they train and train and train so they are prepared. They have a system with the sled driver so they can get rescued if they fall. The maximum hold down would be 20 seconds for one wave, and possibly 40 seconds for a two wave hold down. With training one can hold their breath that long fairly easily. A three wave hold down for 60 seconds gets dicey and black out is possible. Thirdly, they are wearing life preservers that float them to the surface. Shane Dorian has also developed an air bag that inflates to bring the surfer to the surface. The statistics of surfing demonstrate it is rather safe overall.
We lost one of the great one's yesterday — Stan "The Man" Musial dies today at age 92.
One night after his longtime friend and teammate Red Schoendienst was honored on his upcoming 90th birthday, fellow Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial died quietly at age 92 at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at his St. Louis County home under Hospice care.
This makes me very sad. He was one of the greatest to ever step on a ball field, but more importantly, a role model and honorable man.
When will the drought vibe hit the grains if things continue weatherwise? Drought is a slow creep type of price impetus that suddenly pounces.
Ever since Jeff Watson asked about wheat and what to do with it a few months ago I have been poking around the river scraping bottom articles. With everything else up yesterday, I have to turn a head towards the left behinds and consider them as worthy orphans.
Scott Brooks writes:
One thing to watch for in a drought is the amount of snow that falls. Snow is very important in agricultural land. A good snow cover will slowly melt and drip into the soil, thus giving the soil water but in a way that allows it to soak deep into the ground without too much run off or evaporation (i.e. the snow cover keeps the water from evaporating thus allowing it to soak deeply into the soil.
Soaking the soil deeply followed by consistent and gentle spring rains helps end a drought.
The problem that these drought stricken area's have is that they are not only dry on the surface and in the rivers, but also deep within in the soil. And since water goes down (or evaporates up), we have to fill up the watershed from the bottom up, thus the need for snow. Otherwise, even gentle consistent spring rain won't help as much as you'd think…..as most of the water is going to go deep into the soil and not be of use to the plants.
Think about it this way. You have a cup that is 12 inches deep, but you only have a straw that is 8 inches long. You gotta fill the cup up 4 inches just to get a taste of the water. And to drink from it on a long term and consistently (i.e. throughout the whole growing season) you need the base amount of water to be closer to 5 inches and then have consistent rains to keep the water at a level where the roots can reach it.
a commenter replies:
10 inches of snow is equal to 1" of rain. This article speaks to what you say: "Drought in 2013? Major Pains Ahead".
November 9, 2012 | 3 Comments
It's now been 12 days without electricity. And unlike Bo (who lives in
boxcars), I'm still paying the highest real estate taxes in the nation.
So, turning lemons into lemonade, here is a list of things I've learned:
1. A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when
you lose your job. A storm is when your neighbor loses his electricity
for 12 days. A catastrophe is when you lose your electricity for 12
2. ConEdison has a real time outage map. It is updated every 12 minutes. But you cannot view the map unless
you have electricity. Ironic. It provides the date and time of
restoration to the nearest minute. Their precision is eerily reminiscent
of companies that guide earnings to the nearest penny.
3. Beware of the weakest link. Where we live has no town gas. We have a
well. So without a generator, we can't flush toilets. But the generator
runs on propane. And that's the weakest link. Getting a propane
delivery is almost impossible.
4. Bad incentives create bad behavior. Our propane company told us that
they are only making deliveries to customers who have run out of fuel.
But we were running our generator only a few hours per day to CONSERVE
fuel so we would not run out. Hence our responsible behavior was not
rewarded. And profligacy was rewarded. Only after I pointed this out to
the propane company manager and threatened that I would make it a
personal mission to go door-to-door afterwards and convert all of my
neighbors to a competitor did we receive an 80 gallon delivery. (The
generator burns between 2 and 4 gallons/hour.)
5. People don't change. Our neighbor who built a 12,000 square foot
McMansion (that blocked our view) was running his generator 24/7 and
running his landscape lighting 24/7. I was looking forward to a good
night's sleep without his lights coming into the bedroom window. No such
6. Send more food gifts to our troops. They were distributing beef stew
MRE's and water bottles at the local firehouse. After things return to
normal, I'm going to send more food baskets/etc to our troops. Those
MRE's are rude.
7. Traffic lights are optional. On the first few days, there were
horrible traffic jams since all of the lights are out. However, by day
5, a self-enforced ritual developed at 4 way intersections where people
yielded to the person on their right … and things actually
worked…not perfectly, but surprisingly good.
8. Francis Galton lives. Next week is the deadline for the Intel Science
Talent Search (formerly known as the Westinghouse Science Competition.)
My daughter is submitting the results of a 3 year research project in
an arcane and slightly bizarre topic. As we sat by candlelight reviewing
her hardcopy for typos, I discovered that she had made a reference to
Sir Francis Galton's work in her paper and she cited him. There is some
irony that in 2012, a promising young scientist is editing a paper by
candlelight that cites Galton. I pointed out the irony to her. She
didn't smile. She just said that all of her friends have electricity.
9. Some people like to complain. Some people lost a few trees. Some
people had trees crash through their roofs. Some people literally lost
their houses. Some people have no generators. Some people were annoyed
that school was closed for a week. A few people lost friends and family
to the storm. Listening to people, there was little self-awareness of
relative fortune and mis-fortune. Lots of people asked how we were
doing. My answer was: it sucks. But a lot of folks are much worse off.
And this too shall pass….
Que Sera Sera
10. Out of state line crews are nice guys. I've now had the pleasure to
chat with crews from Wisconsin, Maine, Atlanta and Alabama. All of these
guys are part of the mutual aid system. Sure they are getting paid time
and a half plus a per diem. But these guys are clearly aware of the
importance of their mission. And they are proud of it. And they don't
bitch and moan. They get the job done. And that's what makes America
Are there any market lessons here? We report. You decide.
Scott Brooks adds:
Speaking of traffic lights and/or stop signs…….
At my university, there was an intersection in one of the parking lots that was a bit of a bottle neck (actually, it was a big bottle neck). Vehicles
approached the intersection from directions. It had no stop sign, or light,
or anything. But the students developed their own system wherein each car
would take their turn pulling out into the intersection. Your turn came in
a clockwise fashion. It actually worked very well. It was all on the honor system and there were no posted rules.
Conclusion: people will figure things out on their own over time, and not a single law was passed by a bureaucrat and not a single regulator was needed
to make it work.
I recently read this interesting National Geographic article called "The Secrets of Sleep" :
If we don't know why we can't sleep, it's in part because we don't really know why we need to sleep in the first place. We know we miss it if we don't have it. And we know that no matter how much we try to resist it, sleep conquers us in the end. We know that seven to nine hours after giving in to sleep, most of us are ready to get up again, and 15 to 17 hours after that we are tired once more. We have known for 50 years that we divide our slumber between periods of deep-wave sleep and what is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when the brain is as active as when we're awake, but our voluntary muscles are paralyzed. We know that all mammals and birds sleep. A dolphin sleeps with half its brain awake so it can remain aware of its underwater environment. When mallard ducks sleep in a line, the two outermost birds are able to keep half of their brains alert and one eye open to guard against predators. Fish, reptiles, and insects all experience some kind of repose too.
All this downtime comes at a price. An animal must lie still for a great stretch of time, during which it is easy prey for predators. What can possibly be the payback for such risk? "If sleep doesn't serve an absolutely vital function," the renowned sleep researcher Allan Rechtschaffen once said, "it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made."
Richard Owen comments:
A favorite pastime of mine is spotting that well held societal nostrums are in fact most often false. For example, Europeans holiday excessively relative to Americans, Mexicans are lazy, that the USA is the land of Horatio Alger and opportunity, etc. I once collected a lot of these for a slide called "Is Everything You Know False?"
Unsurprisingly, the floated nostrum typically serves some form of vested interest.
Sleep and leisure time probably also fall into this category. Sleep has become a deprecated activity. Many myths surround great men and their willingness to sleep only four hours a night. In many cases it is a myth. In others, like Thatcher, it's probably true. But Thatcher also allegedly was borderline nuts by the end of her premiership.
The greatest real time experiment in this regard was the three day week introduced during the miners strike in Britain under Edward Heath. Despite 2/5ths of the working week being cancelled, GDP dropped hardly at all.
Contrast this to an industry such as M&A advisory where 100 hours weeks are mythically common (and myth then dictates reality). Most of the work completed in this regard is surplus to actual transaction requirements and of zero utility. Back when the City was staffed by Etonians, they could take a 100bps spread and simply answer that they had got their client $10/sh more than expected, so surely the fee was just. Now, instead, a senior banker must recruit a handful of young slaves to work to the bone and spread rhetoric of 100 hour weeks as a form of justification for the perceived premium.
Contrarily, those whose achievements are without question are often willing to be totally open. In this regard, Churchill slept twice a day and felt it essential to his productive output. Einstein, when pushing against difficult problems, notched up a few extra hours of z's.
October 9, 2012 | 1 Comment
Ok, I need some help.
My friend recently sent me this video of a 7 year old conducting an orchestra with the subject title "unbelievable!"
As someone who can barely play a guitar, can't sing a lick, and has no musical talent whatsoever, what is the purpose of a conductor, and why is it such a big deal that this 7 year old can conduct a symphony? I've nothing against what the young man has done, I just don't understand it.
My take as a non-music person is as follows:
1. I believe I could stand there and wave the baton and face towards the correct instrumental group that is getting ready to play.
2. Does the conductor really do anything of value standing there. For instance, if someone were to just count of 1 - 2 - 3 -4 couldn't orchestra all start at the same time, and then play their instruments at the right time to the right beat and so forth?
As I watched the video, I really didn't see anyone looking at the conductor. It looked like they were all looking at their sheet music most of the time.
So any elaboration on this subject would be much appreciated.
David Lilienfeld writes:
Sure. I speak as a former cellist and pianist. The role of the conductor is three-fold:
1. The conductor sets the beat so that all players are playing to the same one. Otherwise, you may have one player who is slightly faster or slower than the rest. The conductor provides the means around that problem, since s/he sets the beat and shows with with his/her baton movement. In a similar way, the conductor cues the various instruments.
2. The conductor provides an assessment to the players concerning whether they are playing too loudly, not loudly enough, or just right.
3. If any of the instruments are being played out of tune, the conductor provides the feedback to that player
4. Through movement, facial expressions, and the like, the conductor communicates emotion about the music to the players. A good conductor can use his/her facial expressions and the like to coax the best music out of the members of the orchestra. von Karajan and Bernstein (and to a degree, Ormandy and Toscanini) were masters in the use of their faces and body movements to bring out a uniform interpretation of a given piece.
I hope that helps.
One finds it very dysfunctional to lose my temper on all occasions, but especially when trading or with the children. It could even lead to tilt. So forgive me if I don't mount the high horse in my disapproval of talk about Fibonacci and Elliott wave and Gann waves on the spec list as our raison d'etre is almost as antithetical to such things as it is to politics, religion, and honeys (may they never meet).
Scott Brooks writes:
Losing one's temper is among the worst decisions you can make. Emotions supplant logic and all is lost.
I coach my oldest son's high school age baseball team. On that team we have a few hotheads. Those kids are the bane of my existence. They cause us more problems and are the source of 99.99% of the drama on the team.
Their inability to control their emotions only makes the situation worse. And even when I am able to calm them down, get them to reasonably understand that getting emotional was a bad choice, they still get emotional the next time something doesn't go their way.
They boys that have the most trouble when it comes to controlling themselves will likely, IMHO, have a very difficult life.
This recent book by John Coates, "The Hour Between Dog and Wolf" is certainly relevant to the topic of controlling one's emotions, though I disagree with some of the author's conclusions. He documents how our biological changes under conditions of risk and uncertainty impact our processing of information, often for the worst. His conclusion that markets would be less volatile if we populate the trading world with more females and older men strikes me as simplistic…some of the greater episodes of tilt that I've noticed have come from members of the fairer sex and those long past their biological primes!
Jeff Watson writes:
Jim Lackey writes:
A lack of emotion in sports or trading can be very dangerous due to lack of focus. If there was certainty, there wouldn't be an emotion. The most uncertain outcome and the greatest risk is quite often the best opportunity. The fight or flight emotions should not be ignored.
We will make mistakes following our emotions and that experience will teach us when to ignore the fear response. The best trades or moves on the race track are when we are fearful, yet we attack. The best saves are when we begin an attack with confidence, slip, then quickly withdraw. Learning by making mistakes in real time is the only way to gain the experience to overcome.
Deception is a funny thing as it's difficult to call someone on it, unless they are a friend. If you're wrong and call someone out, you make enemies. Which is part of the reason deceptions work on the inexperienced.
At the race track there is always someone mad as Hades. On the track he is as cool and smooth as can be. There is always some one sick, wounded or coming off an injury. On the track he is as strong as an ox. Every year a new pro says after the races, "I thought they were going to fist fight! or Wow! That was an amazing performance for a guy that was sick or coming off injury". The old pros burst out laughing, "ride your own race, kid".
August 29, 2012 | 4 Comments
This is a very interesting article on "What Happens to Stolen Bicycles":
It seems as if stealing bikes shouldn't be a lucrative form of criminal activity. Used bikes aren't particularly liquid or in demand compared to other things one could steal (phones, electronics, drugs). And yet, bikes continue to get stolen so they must be generating sufficient income for thieves. What happens to these stolen bikes and how do they get turned into criminal income?
In 1968, Chicago economist Gary Becker introduced the notion that criminal behavior could be modeled using conventional economic theories. Criminals were just rational actors engaged in a careful cost-benefit analysis of whether to commit a crime. Is the potential revenue from the crime greater than the probability adjusted weight of getting caught? Or, as the antagonist in the movie The Girl Next Door puts it, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?"
Criminal activity (especially crime with a clear economic incentive like theft) could therefore be modeled like any financial decision on a risk reward curve. If you are going to take big criminal risk, you need to expect a large financial reward. Crimes that generate more reward than the probability weighted cost of getting caught create expected value for the criminal. Criminals try to find "free lunches" where they can generate revenue with little risk. The government should respond by increasing the penalty for that activity so that the market equilibrates and there is an "optimal" amount of crime.
Are there any events these days that make people inordinately happy or sad. Perhaps these would influence the market? An event like an earthquake or a mass tragedy in a theater would seem to qualify. Perhaps there are classes of events that effect particular groups like flexions that cause them to be happy or sad that have a measurable effect also, like intervention by the EC, or the Fed. What do you think? Is it worth quantifying?
Rocky Humbert comments:
Yes, there are such events. Flying a Boeing 767 into a tall office building is one such example.
Scott Brooks writes:
Not sure this is an event, but…..the realization that massive fraud is occurring. For instance:
The Accounting debacle (i.e. Arthur Anderson, Enron, Worldcom, Global Crossing, etc.) of 2001.
The Mortgage Fraud Debacle of 2008.
Jordan Neuman writes:
The 2003 rally began with the freeing of Elizabeth Smart. Certainly the market was sold out, but I thought a collective sense of gratefulness served as a catalyst. But file this one under the difficulty of setting up the study.
Craig Mee writes:
Potentially state dinners and the like, when the flexions are busy cleaning their shoes and are getting ready for another free meal. Maybe that's why silly season (late Nov through December) appears to do ok. Plenty of back slapping, industry awards and the like. Also maybe Oscars week (or award month) is a winning combo for listed movie stocks.
Jim Sogi adds:
Here's a couple of ideas. Use facial recognition software to detect a "smile" tune in all the security camera in the world, process for correlation. It's a bit big brother-ish, but there are cameras all over in cities now around the world.
How about using beer sales? Old Chinese proverb: If you want to be happy for two hours, drink wine; if you want to be happy for two years fall in love. If you want to be happy forever, take up gardening.
Track gardening sales, or farming yields. It's said one of the few real producers of wealth is farming. Good weather=good farm yield=good production=happy markets.
July 19, 2012 | 2 Comments
Where does one learn about the economics of the farming business. I'm curious if there is a good place to read up on a sort of income statement on farming on a per acre basis (averaged across different crop types and soil grades). I'm curious to understand the economics of the business of farming.
Vince Fulco writes:
King Corn is a short and amusing documentary (found on netflix) which documents two college graduates who decide to return home to their grandparents' town in Iowa. They rent an acre of farmland and attempt to grow corn all the while profiling the inputs and costs. Needless to say with no economies of scale they make a pittance netted mostly from govt programs.
Big River was their second movie documenting the amount of pesticides which go into our food supply and the prevalence of odd cancers in farming families; striking more wives than husbands.
Scott Brooks writes:
I wrote this post back in January of 2008…..so it is very dated, but I think it will give you a good primer on the subject of growing and the economics of corn from a ground level. List member, Mike Ott is a MUCH better resource on this subject, but I think this will give you, at least, a decent idea of what's involved in growing and raising corn.
Russ Sears writes:
While not an expert on the subject, my in-law are crop farmers and my paternal Grandparents rental farmed until they passed.
Much of the individual farmer's income statement depends on the type of agreement from the land use. (Rental, share expenses and crops, debt on land, corporate owned, farming own land etc.)
But I believe Scott posted the basics with perhaps a few notes. Property taxes are a big expense for most farmers. Also profit/losses on the value of the land should be considered. Most farmers are asset rich and "cash poor". Often they take out short term loans on the seed and fertilizer. Plus they often have some leverage or debt on the land. They generally keep this to a minimum so they can withstand some shock and long term downturns. (lessons learned from 70's and 80's) Most farmers budget their living expenses They often put off purchasing equipment and new cars/pickup until a good if not great year. Darwinian nature of the business has left a pretty conservative bunch for the individuals who still farm.
They also sometimes leverage to diversify their holdings investing in stocks and bonds.
The average farm owner is generally above 65. But if not often they take second jobs or have the wife work for health benefits. As independent business health insurance can be very high. Social Security and Medicare are also part of the taxes or part of the income depending on age.
My dear friends,
Just now Athens city in every corner have fire. Shops, banks, hotels, are burning. As about the stupid politicians they are in the parliament looking how they will offer the last pieces of our country to Merkel & Sarkozy. I am so sad as all the people. Also sad for Whitney Houston, because I liked her voice. Good afternoon to you, goodnight to me.
Scott Brooks shares:
I don't feel the least bit sorry for her. She did this to herself. I feel sorry for her innocent children and the innocent people in her life that will be so adversely effected by her reckless behavior and her inability to control her desires for the immediate satisfaction that "Dr. Feelgood" delivered. Her children have been given the worst possible example of how to be a responsible adult and as a result will be scarred lessened as human beings. Hopefully, they will escape the chains of bad parenting and the weakness of addiction that destroyed the life of their mother and turned their father into an abusive loser.
Hopefully they will find inner strength that all too few in their circumstances find and rise up from the ashes of lost childhood and become the best they can be.
Can they? I don't know. But let's hope they have inside of them burning desire to live….to survive…that Viktor Frankl wrote about in the first half of the book, Man's Search for Meaning.
I feel the same way about Greece. They did this to themselves. What I do feel sorry for are the innocent Greek people who are going to have their lives turned inside out by the insidious devil known as statism. Because of the reckless behavior of several generations of people indulged in the immediate satisfaction of political "Dr. Feelgood" (statism, living off the government teet), several generations of Ggreeks are going to have to suffer.
A whole generation of Greeks is about to riot….a generation that doesn't understand why there is no pellet delivered to them when they push the lever and, as a result, becomes angry and burns down their maze. They are a generation made weak and crippled by the "Dr. Feelgood" of statism.
It will take their children to begin to realize that the maze was simply a cage and the pellet was drug of statism. Some of them will escape and find freedom, but many (most?) of them will stay in the maze wailing at the machine to give them the pellet that they deserve…..but they'll know not why they deserve it……they'll only "feel" that it's owed them as they wail and chant and burn.
This is cancer of statism. The Dr. Feelgood of political philosophy.
In case the Dr. Feelgood analogy is lost on anyone, I give you Motley Crue and Dr. Feelgood.
Not to be hostile or anything, but I have never had dealings with Chinese where they haven't cheated me. I am told that there is a Northern Chinese persona and a Southern Chinese persona, and that I believe in the South, everyone is dishonest with Westerners, and the more you have done business with such a one without a wrong being committed the more likely it is that it will happen the next time, a very strange kind of hazard rate by the way. I may be wrong about this, it cost me much of real time wrongness, many years ago which compounded, my goodness—I'd be a wealthy man— but I'd like to know if there's a kernel of truth to it. You, Mr. Jia seem like a very worthy and honest man, and nothing in this is personal, but the memory still stings, especially in these markets.
Yishen Kuik writes:
China today is often compared with America in the 19th century. What I find remarkable is how true this can be.
The Chinese in China will cut corners, bamboozle, harass, deceive and cheat you on par with any 19th century "wily yankee". They are energetic, entrepreneurial and as hungry as any red blooded capitalist can be.
The melanine milk poisoning scandal is often held up as the worst example of Chinese business men run amuck.
And it is an echo of New York City in 1858 where "swill milk" killed thousands.
The horrors of working conditions in Chinese sweatshops is an echo of Upton Sinclair's expose of the Chicago meat packers — which created such an uproar that Roosevelt sent a secret fact checking mission that largely corroborated Sinclair's novel.
If you have ever been on a boat or a plane in China and it is about to land, they will all surge towards the exit, pushing each other out of the way to save a few seconds on exiting. They are a nation that has industrialized late and are pushing and shoving to catch up.
Scott Brooks writes:
I believe Yishen is correct. China as a nation is where the US was back in the 1850's (of course, with modern technology and infrastructure mixed in). They are still transitioning from a 3rd to 2nd to 1st world country. If you stop and think about it, they are really all three mixed into one. To expect a country to act and behave like a mature adult when they are really more like an adolescent, raised by dysfunctional parents is simply not foolhardy.
It will take the Chinese several generations to move into full 1st world status, and several generations to after that to mature into a moral system that is akin to the US.
We all go through our growing pains, the key is recognizing where the other person, or country or trading partner is on the "national maturity continuum" and the relate to them accordingly.
However, it is also a mistake to underestimate or minimize someone or a group of people because you see them as "less sophisticated" than you. That's why there is such a divide in America between the coastal elite snobs and us backward country bumpkins out here in fly over country.
Jay Pasch writes:
One of my best friends had an IT business selling computer mainframes and services into overseas markets. He did fine everywhere he went until he wound up in China; he had the equipment shipped, put boots on the ground, bolted the mainframes together, bus & tag to the disk systems and tape drives, IPL'd the system and turned the project over to the Chinese with a perfectly turned-up MVS system complete with blinking cursor. To his dismay the Chinese all of a sudden wanted application support, which was not in the contract, nor part of the company's forte. The Chinese government detained the engineers for six months, holing them up in their hotel rooms, and withheld contract payment until the company was forced into bankruptcy after the big bank notes came due. That was a long time ago, but even today we can't get through a pitcher of beer without the inevitable cussing about dealing with the Chinese…
Rocky Humbert writes:
My dealings with the Chinese are largely limited to my contact with the venerable General Tso. I should note that The General has treated me well over the years. However, one serious exception comes to mind: It was in a small, nondescript restaurant inaptly named, the Jasmine Rose, located on a hardly-traveled road in northwestern Massachusetts where my friend, who was seriously allergic to garlic, and I ordered dinner. We advised the waiter of his food sensitivity and were assured that our dishes would be prepared without any garlic. After my friend started to show preliminary signs of anaphylactic shock, we discovered some garlic in the dish and called over the manager. What amazed us was not that the kitchen had made a mistake (which happens), but rather that the manager when faced with irrefutable evidence simply kept repeating (in broken English), "NO GARLIC! NO GARLIC! NO GARLIC!" as if his protestations were proof that we were wrong and that he was right. It was a bizarre, but memorable experience, and left an indelible impression on my mind, and on my friend's medical chart.
More relevant to Specs is some below-the-radar-screen litigation currently underway against certain Chinese companies and their US underwriters. A lawyer friend, working on these cases has explained to me that vast numbers of listed Chinese companies are complete and total frauds — and that in fact, a variety of (private) Chinese firms exist solely for the purpose of providing seemingly-kosher accounting paper trails for the fraudulent Chinese companies– so legitimate US accountants will see their (completely bogus) payables, receivables and assets, and provide a clean bill of health. Every time I am tempted to buy a Chinese stock (or index), I think of this story and I stay away. It's not that US companies are immune to malfeasance (Worldcom, Enron, Adelphia, MF Global?), nor it is true that US companies don't massage their earnings (GE, etc.). But, rather, if you throw a dart at a list of US companies, the odds are good that you won't hit a complete fraud. It's my impression that the same cannot be said about Chinese companies, hence I will not invest there directly, but prefer to invest in world-class US companies that can complete their own on-the-ground due diligence in China. Lastly, the Chair has opined periodically on nature vs. nurture. At the risk of putting words into his mouth, he has usually come down on the side of nature. Without taking a position, I would suggest that corporate and personal behavior MIGHT BE more influenced by genetics than by culture. If this is so, certain countries and people will be inhospitable to passive investors for a very very very long time, while other countries and people will demonstrate very different characteristics. Again, I am NOT taking this position. I'm just putting it out there…
Jackie Robinson swinging a bate many New Yorkers leaving home for work on April 15, 1947, he wore a suit, tie and camel-hair overcoat as he headed for the subway. To his wife he said, "Just in case you have trouble picking me out, I'll be wearing number 42."
No one had trouble spotting the black man in the Dodgers' white home uniform when he trotted out to play first base at Ebbets Field. Suddenly, only 399, not 400, major league players were white. Which is why 42 is the only number permanently retired by every team.
Jackie Robinson's high school teachers suggested a career in gardening. Robinson's brother, Mack, had finished second to Jesse Owens in the 200-meter dash at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Whites who won medals found careers opened for them. Mack, writes Jonathan Eig in " Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season," wore his Olympic jacket as a Pasadena, Calif., street sweeper, while Owens found himself racing against horses at county fairs, "one small step removed from a circus act."
To appreciate how far the nation has come, propelled by what began 60 years ago today, consider not the invectives that Robinson heard from opponents' dugouts and fans but the way he had been praised. "Dusky Jack Robinson," as the Los Angeles Times called him, alerting readers to the race of UCLA's four-sport star, ran with a football "like it was a watermelon and the guy who owned it was after him with a shotgun."
full article here.
When I traded on the floor, superstition gave rise to very ritualistic behavior among traders. A bad day suffered, meant that certain abstract actions and physical items would be avoided if perceived to have caused bad luck. Conversely, if a trader had a good day, he would look to repeat the events that led up to his good fortune.
Not enough time to shave, and then a profitable day? Good chance, you were now growing a beard! Often times, boxers failed to be discarded in the laundry hamper in a timely manner, and most assuredly, ties were never changed after a good day in the pit. Pens were saved and reused, along with the repetition of parking spot, route to the building, and ingress into the pit; as long as your propitious streak persisted.
This perverse protocol even extended to the members bathroom. Inside this veritable sanctuary, every member had their lucky stall, having mentally claimed “squatters rights” after spending time there prior to a particularly profitable day. Conversely, losing stalls were avoided like a trip to OIA.
What are your trading superstitions or idiosyncratic behaviors?
Scott Brooks shares:
Anyone who thinks shaving or not shaving has never watched hockey playoffs…..a bunch of unshaven guys wearing one of two different uniforms, all skating around. One wins, one losses, and both have itchy scratchy beards that played no role in their success.
However, routines, based on logic and reason, can have a huge impact on outcome.
I have routines for hunting that I've used for years that I know work. From the time I get up to the time I am situated in my tree stand, I follow a routine. A routine that minimizes scent and the chances that deer will know I've moved into the area are followed religiously.
Reading my reports, news articles checking the spec list and communicating with other traders are all a part of the routine that I follow every day.
But the most important thing that I do when it comes to trading is this: If I have an up day, I don't change underwear, shower or brush my teeth as long as the winning streak continues, because I don't want the good luck to rub off…..but yeah, I know that's pretty obvious as I'm sure everyone else does the same thing…..right?
Jeff Watson writes:
I remember knowing a very nasty wheat trader who was very superstitious and wore the same unwashed blue trading jacket for about 4 years straight. The thing was so dirty it stood up on it's own and smelled like a combination of sweat, nicotine, and BO. Although he ascribed many powers to the jacket, he was very careless with it and would leave it hanging on a coat hook after market hours. One night after the close, after about 5 hours at our local watering hole, a couple of us partners in crime went back to our clearing firm's office, in a prankster-ish mood and sufficiently lit, and hid his jacket at the back of a closet. The next morning, before the open he came in and couldn't find the jacket and went absolutely nuts. He was inconsolable, irrational, and out of control….and this was before the open. After the open, he went on tilt, made a hundred mistakes, and ended up losing a ton of money, all in one day.
The trading jacket, like any other talisman, had no power. What had the power was his faulty belief system and his delusions that he could not make money without the jacket. He was one of the most rational people I ever met and he thought a jacket had supernatural powers. He gave the jacket powers because of a couple of untested, unscientific, irrational, anecdotal observations.
Back to the story…..He lost money all week long and I felt very bad and ended up coming in early on Friday morning and put his jacket back up on the hook. He was very happy and thought his jacket would turn things around. Needless to say, he continued on his losing streak, bidding instead of offering, buying the spread instead of selling it, and making a million other costly mistakes. The jacket made no difference and it took him a couple of months and a few weeks off to right his head. Although it was a cruel joke, it wasn't the jacket that was keeping him from making mistakes and he ended up realizing that talismans are what they are….talismans.
Gary Rogan writes:
These were cool stories, thanks for sharing Jeff!
I am researching and reviewing my contact with hats over a not uneventful life. I am considering their value, their uses, their symbolic significance, the great people I know who have worn them, the hat corporation of America I bought as my first trade, the hat that Tom Wiswell always wore to prevent sunburn and cover up baldness, the hat that Shane wore that made him an icon, the hat that the accountant in Monte Walsh wore that Hat Hendersson just couldn't resist noting was just right for a pistol shot, the hat that I wear now to show my respect for those previous, the man I called Hats H. because he always had a million different conflicts of interest while working for us. The importance of a hat outdoors in the West to shield from rain, sun, and the elements. Et al. What value do you see in hats these days? What anecdotes? They seem to have gone out of style because of the automobile. You don't need protection from the elements any more. Also they're hard to store. How do they relate to markets?
Alan Millhone writes:
I remember well the hat Tom wore. The ball cap I wear has a board on it (see picture). The Market trader might wear such a hat to remind them to look ahead and make the right moves (trades).
Sam Marx writes:
On the subject of "Hats". I am reminded of the aversion that John F. Kennedy had to hats and the picture that has stayed in my mind, since 1961, is of his carrying and not wearing his hat at his inauguration. I believe it was his attitude that caused the downswing in hat wearing in the U.S.
Tim Hesselsweet writes:
Seems like a good example of ever-changing cycles. The hat has been making a comeback for the last several years. Kate Middleton has become a popular figure and she frequently wears hats. Upscale department stores like Saks now carry a large selection of hats as well.
Alston Mabry responds:
Yes, but…mens hats are a different dynamic:
Scott Brooks writes:
When I graduated high school, the guy who measured my head for my mortar board said, "Young man, I've been doing this for 35 years and you have the biggest head I've ever measured".
As a result of my freakishly large cranium, hats rarely fit me. I wear one from time to time, but only out of necessity, and occasionally for functionality.
Necessity is when I need to keep my bald head from burning in the sun or freezing in the winter or dry in the rain. Never under estimate the insulating and protective qualities of hair.
Functionally is because I need a hat when I hunt to keep the sun out of my eyes when I'm scanning for game, peering through my scope to place the cross-hairs on the shoulder of my intended quarry, or placing the aiming pins of my bow in the middle of said quarries chest cavity.
I avoid hats otherwise as I can rarely get one big enough to fit. If I wear one too long, it gives me a headache. Therefore, when it comes to trading, if you see me placing a trade while wearing hat, fade my position as I'm likely making a losing trade because my mind is clouded by the hat that is squeezing my brain all to tightly.
Pete Earle writes:
I wear a hat, and have for seven or eight years. When I began to wear one, I expected to be lightly razzed by friends; that not only didn't deter me, but never occurred. Instead I've received unexpected compliments, and over the last few years other have seen a higher frequency of hat wearers in Manhattan, Washington D.C., and even when I'm down in Auburn and Atlanta.
Christopher Tucker writes:
The grandfather of my best friend from college was one of the kindest and most sensible men I have ever met. He was a traveling sales rep for the John B. Stetson company. The man always had the best (the absolute BEST) hats.
GAP Capital comments:
Born and raised in Chicago, so "hats" remind me of only one person…Dorothy Tillman!!!
Anton Johnson writes:
"By some accounts, Christopher Michael Langan is the smartest man in America……….he has a fifty-two-inch chest, twenty-two-inch biceps, a cranial circumference of twenty-five and a half inches–a colossal head, more than three standard deviations above the norm"
Esquire article on "The Smartest Man"
Alan Millhone sends another photo:
Here is Tommie Wiswell with his trademark hat tilted back. Might also been used to keep
overhead light from his eyes while he focused on the many boards.
Russ Herrold writes:
I am traveling, and so cannot conveniently post, but I placed orders this week for a new Stetson, a couple of Fedora designs, and some other … I forget …and have in my car, for the conference I am at this weekend, easily 5 or so, which I use both for their protection of my head from the cold, and also so I can 'do some branding' work in the community the conference represents (I also have other 'branding' in my clothing, and appearance), such that people I deal with, who don't know me by sight, can recognize me anyway.
Marion Dreyfus adds:
I think I am fairly well known as a hat person, and have been since I wore unusual chapeaux /to synagogue and school when 12 or 13.
Aside from style and stating an individualistic aspect, I think a hat harks back to a gentler, more mindful age, perhaps 100 years ago. It also keeps the head, inside of which are all these excellent ideas and scenes for a better tomorrow and a niftier evening today, comfy-cozy. Hats also show, oddly enough, respect. Hatless men in the 1970s were declaring their freedom from the mindfulness of suit and hat, and perhaps we are the poorer for having abandoned hats.
They also keep milliners in funds, and milliners I went to grad school with in the early 90s were aghast at the drop in hat-wearing citizens, alleviated only by temporary crazes or fads that fade as swiftly as they arise.
As a biker, for me, even mild days produce a breeze when one is on that leather seat, and a hat prevents sunstroke and sun in one's eyes as well as too much wind over one's head.
In the Orthodox world, wearing a hat connotes one is married, so it may be foolish of me to wear hats, because i communicate a status I do not currently entertain. But i do like the fashion and focus statement being made by wearing a lid, many of which, actually, i create myself.
Finally, one can maintain a superior air of mystery in a hat, which is impossible to the same degree in a hatless state.
Alan Millhone adds:
What really amazes me on hats are the clods at football games I attend who don't remove their head cover when the National Anthem is played.
Ken Drees muses:
The baseball cap trend: rappers wearing the caps askew, wearing caps with logos of designers and companies, wearing caps for status/advertising, caps as gang signal, wearing caps in restaurants/indoors, wearing hoodies in lieu of caps, caps as fashion, caps on backwards, caps with brim curved just so, it all has to do with being cool. Lebron James wears Yankee cap to Indians games–it's all about me, fool.
Gary Phillips writes:
"Wearing a cap backwards is a baseball fan tradition that started with Yankee fans. It wasn't because they liked Yogi Berra, either. The Yankees and Red Sox have a century-old rivalry. A group of young guy Yankee fans, around 1980, took the train up to Boston to catch a couple of games. Boston fans are loud and boo other teams. The young Yankee fans were seated in front of loud Bostonians. The New Yorkers didn't want to start an altercation, but made statement. Those guys turned their Yankee caps around backwards to show the Bostons that they were Yanks fans and proud of it."
Anton Johnson writes:
On baseball's rally cap superstition:
"A rally cap is a baseball cap worn while inside-out and backwards or in another unconventional manner by players or fans, in order to will a team into a come-from-behind rally late in the game. The rally cap is primarily a baseball superstition."
And hockey's Hat-trick.
Victor Niederhoffer writes:
It would be nice if this worked in the market. But then the adversary could always tell if you were weak or strong, especialy if signals could be reflected from the hat. I was surprised to see that in all the uses for hats I have collected, including flopping the rump of your horse, and fanning a fire, and collecting water from a stream or the rain, I did not see many variants of using it as a signal to get a cab or alert a Native American that a interloper was near, or to collect bets, or to conceal a salt shaker. This latter is particularly effective in the west because to ask a man to remove his hat is akin to a date with boot hill.
Gary Phillips adds:
Surely not a hat, barely a cap, let us not forget the kippah or yarmulke. The Talmud says that the purpose of wearing a kippah is to remind us God is the Higher Authority over us. He alone is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. When we pray and worship with our heads covered, we are saying that we are in total and complete submission to the will of God Almighty now and forever.
I was recently in the hunt for 2 of the crocheted variety for my 2 and 4 year olds to wear to school. My elder son demanded that the kippah be white with a blue Magen David. The synagogue gift shop was unable to fill our order, so I turned to a higher authority - E-bay. As J. Peterman would say, it is 6" in diameter — one size fits all. Handmade in Israel with a *very small* fine stitch. The yarmulkes are from Israel and are made by people who have made Aliyah; low income and handicap people, generating income to make a living.
I grew up and observant Jew until I had my first taste of bacon and blondes, and I never looked back. However, I now find myself lighting the candles, saying the hamotzi, and making Kiddish on Friday nights… Nice.
Jim Sogi writes:
A hat is essential in Hawaii to keep off the sun, rain and wind, to keep glare out of your eyes, and at night on the mountain for warmth when it gets cold. There are different hats for different situations. A baseball cap is good all around since it keeps the sun off your face, stores easily, can be worn in a car and is cheap and stays on in a brisk wind. A good brim hat is good to keep the sun and rain off the back and shoulders as well. A nylon hat is light and can be washed. A waterproof rain hat is good for extended rain, and a light nylon brim is good for hot sun. A small brim bucket with a strap is worn in the water while surfing to keep intense sun at bay for hours in the water, and to stay on in the surf. A knit or fleece watch cap is good for boating at night or sleeping in the cold. A helmet is good for sports to protect the skull from boards, rocks, trees and impact. The Original Buff is an adaptable piece that can be worn as a hat, scarf, or facemask. A balaclava is good for winter conditions and can be used as a hat, or face mask in windy conditions. I must have 20 or more hats.
As with all equipment, each type of hat is specialized for specific conditions, and there is not one that is good for all conditions. As with markets, its good to have specialized systems and rules for the differing conditions or cycles and no one rule is good in all conditions but must be tailored to match the expected conditions.
Rudy Hauser writes:
I do not wear a hat indoors with the exception of trains and planes or if there is no good place to put the hat. If there is a draft from air conditioning it helps to keep me from getting a headache. But more important is that unless I just want to hold my hat in my hands there is no good place to put it. I prefer to read, not hold a hat. I once made the mistake of putting a Panama hat in the overhead rack in a plane. The motion of the plane bounced it around enough to ruin it. That gives me little choice but to wear it. If I have a hat without a brim, such as my winter hat, I can a do take it off aside from trains which are not that warm.
Bill Rafter adds:
Glare, particularly from lensed overhead lights or high-hat floodlights can cause headaches and eyestrain. That can easily be counteracted by wearing a baseball cap or other large-brimmed hat indoors. I have kept one at my desk for decades.
For years I noticed that whenever I saw a certain actor & director, he was always wearing a hat, even indoors. Then I saw him entering a food emporium at a ski area and he removed his hat. I immediately understood why he always wore one — his particular baldness aged him at least 10 years. So his vanity choice was either a wig or a hat, and he chose the hat.
Hats indoors also provide a level of anonymity for those who do not want to be recognized in an airplane or robbing a bank.
My first "real" hat was a Homburg, which was required for one of my college jobs: pallbearer.
December 12, 2011 | Leave a Comment
I have recently found myself in a somewhat unfamiliar environment. I find myself being around people who live on the periphery of society to whom honesty and integrity are subjective whims, used only when they are of benefit to themselves.
I am continually amazed by the waste of intellect that I see around me everyday. Obviously smart people with a major character flaw that causes them to consistently fail or, at the very least, underachieve.
I watch as those around me, directly and indirectly, waste their potential because there is something inside of them that compels them to take the harder path. And let's be honest, it's harder to be a liar, a con man, a gossip, and a back stabber than it is be a man of good character who treats others they way they want to be treated.
I am amazed every day when obviously smart people make incredibly horribly stupid choices. Choices that may, in the moment, give short term satisfaction, but long term become an anchor around their neck dragging them further and further down. I find myself these days speaking to my kids more and more about the twin virtues of honesty and integrity and applying it to their lives. I also find myself speaking with them about protecting themselves against the less honorable people who infect our world.
One of my children wanted to know why people are dishonest and why they lie. The best I could do was explain to her what I've come to believe. The reason that liars lie is because they're liars. The reason that cheaters cheat, is because they're cheaters. The reason that thieves steal is because they're thieves. The reason that the scorpion stung the frog is really very simple: It's his nature.
We are going to watch this short video at our next family home evening. It not only discusses honesty, but it shows the courage needed to stand up to the dishonesty that surrounds us. I thought the group might enjoy it.
Russ Sears elaborates:
Much of it has to do with their time frame and vision of sight and their view of other.s Lying is a way to maximize the short term gain. Lying also the best way to maximize your gain if everybody around you is expected to lie. However, honesty and reputation take time to build but maximize the long term "happiness".
Think of it in terms of the prisoners dilemma. If it's a one time thing the best option is to rat on your friend and give info to the police. However, if it is a reoccurring event the optimal choose is to stick together and hope they return the favor. That is unless your partners continually rat on you first, then you become the narc.
That is, honesty is the best policy in the long run only if you hang out with those that return the favor. Honest people will be able to cooperate, hence get much more done. But if you expect that those others are going to be lying to you, you should return in kind.
Think of negotiating with a car dealer. You don't tell him your wife must have that car. And he tells you 3 or 4 "best" offers. But once the contracts signed, honesty again is the best policy.
We are creating a world very different from our grandparents. What will your last tweet/post be like?
Stefan Jovanovich replies:
Indeed, it is certainly a world without any training in grammar or usage. First sentence from this professional journalist: "people that". His presumption is fittingly modern. The literal explosion in writing and newspaper publishing that produced and required mail deliveries 5 times a day and fast mail trains that delivered Special Delivery letters and major city newspapers in 3 days to anyplace in America with a railroad depot is ignored completely in favor of a portrait of our grandparents with their snapshot albums and "diaries". Even as Google and others make the archives of what people wrote in the past available for free, the ignorance of what the past grows exponentially among the technocrati.
Seems like a couple years ago this site had a discussion on sleep each night. Scott, you posted on this I think?
Note tonight H. Cain gets by on four hours a night. Is this a plus for a candidate?
Scott Brooks comments:
As long as he gets what he needs.
I can only make a few days on 3 - 4 1/2 hours of sleep before I need a night of power sleep. If I can get 6 - 7 1/2 hours of sleep a night, I'm usually fine.
It's also a function of what you're doing with your life, too. I'm up at the farm right now bow hunting. When I'm here, I usually work pretty hard, so I need a bit more sleep. Something about being out on the farm taking in the fresh air that makes me a little more tired at night.
But everyone is different. The key is find out what you need and make sure you get it in 90 increments (+/- a few minutes on each side of the 90 depending on your personal sleep cycles).
After what I heard on NPR this morning I would say the Cards are doomed. It appears to me that they are looking for a great excuse in case they lose.
NPR was gleefully reporting a good excuse. It turns out the bull pen did not warm-up the pitcher for the guy that hit the double, like the coach called for because, get this, they did not hear what Coach La Russa said on the phone. Great excuse! That was painful to hear.
Here is the story
Why does this matter?
In the heat of a grueling marathon I've learned that once you are searching for an excuse in case you lose, you sure will.
George Parkanyi writes:
To your point, one of the biggest chokes ever was the Ottawa Senators going down to the Toronto Maple Leafs a few years back. They were leading the series 3-2, and the 6th, clinching, game 1-0 late in the third period. Toronto had been completely shut down to that point. Toronto got one penalty, and right after, another. What a glorious opportunity for Ottawa -a 5 on 3 power play! What did they do?
They didn't even go into the Toronto zone, they passed it around and just generally wasted time to eat up the clock. But there was still about 8 minutes left to go in the game. I still remember jumping off the sofa and literally screaming at the television "What the ^*&&*% are you doing, you idiots!!!!" Sure enough, playing not to lose, they gave up a late goal to an energized Toronto, who then won the game in overtime and also won the 7th game after that.
That game is etched in my mind as the poster-child example of why you don't play not to lose when you're in a competitive situation. I remember this when I play soccer, and never play more conservatively when we have only a 1-2 goal lead no matter what stage of the game. My philosophy is keep doing what got you there. That's also why I absolutely HATE late-game prevent defenses in football.
Peter Saint-Andre comments:
The Wikipedia page about baseball points out the following:
clock-limited sports, games often end with a team that holds the lead
killing the clock rather than competing aggressively against the
opposing team. In contrast, baseball has no clock; a team cannot win
without getting the last batter out and rallies are not constrained by
time. At almost any turn in any baseball game, the most advantageous
strategy is some form of aggressive strategy."
Some form of aggressive strategy is always advisable in investing, too. You can never simply run out the clock.
Stefan Jovanovich writes:
And, for racquet sports, even more so; they are the only hand to hand combat sport where you cannot be saved by the bell or blame the loss on the manager or the rookie who tried to steal second. Speaking of extraordinary sporting events, did anyone see what City did to Manchester United? Remarkable. Lazio's loss is Manchester's gain.
Scott Brooks comments:
This is not completely true of baseball. In little league, most (all) games have a time limit. So there is a strategy to playing to the clock. The home team always got the last at bat (unless they were ahead) after the cut off point.
So if we were the home team and were ahead and the cut off time is approaching, we would make the inning last as long as we could. We'd have our batters run the count up. We'd have them step out of the batters box between pitches. We'd call time out several times, etc.
All to ensure that the opposing team didn't get another at bat. Sure we'd have gotten another at bat after them if they tied the score or got ahead of us….but why take the chance.
Peter Saint-Andre responds:
So is the lesson that little-league investors think they can run out the clock, but big-league investors know they don't have that option?
Scott Brooks writes:
Whatever league you're in……..
……Know the rules and use them to your advantage so you can win. I don't
care what the rules are, just make'em clear and let me play/coach/invest.
As Vince Lombardi said, "The object is to win, to beat the other guy"
David Brooks is a "useful idiot" for the left who masquerades as a conservative in much the same way GWB masqueraded as a republican. Heck, if I were the head "Progressive" (or whatever sexy euphemism the statist are using at the moment to disguise themselves), I would take my talented writers/journalists and make them all put their names in a hat. I would then draw out a few names and say, "Your guys' job is to (pretend to) be "conservative writers", and fool the naive' conservatives into buying into creeping statism, while the rest of the Progressive writers/journalists in the statist MSM will, from time to time, refer to you as a "sensible conservative" who is merely pointing out how ridiculous and unreasonable the real capitalist are".
My wife and I are making our way from Houston, TX to central OH and back over the next 2 weeks with our truck and fifth wheel trailer. Sunday was Houston to Dallas, yesterday was Dallas to Little Rock, today was Little Rock to Sikeston, MO. (I45, US380, I30, I40, I55). Because of time constraints and the size of our rig, we tend to stick to the interstates, but explore when we are unhooked. Just thought I would share some business/market related observations with the list.
1) Traffic composition. I typically drive 40-50K miles a year, mostly interstate, and would say I have a good feel for what traffic looks like. I've been struck by the composition of the traffic so far. It is very truck heavy, more like what I would expect for late night (midnight to 6 AM). I did some estimating and would say it is about 60-70% trucks, all apparently well laden (ie, no bouncing trailers). Good mix of flat, van, reefer and tank. So companies are ordering stuff and it is being delivered. There are enough loads that the trucks do not have to run empty. People are not traveling casually; in particular, the RV traffic is very light. I've been making reservations as we go, but no park has been full yet. Hotel/motel parking lots are vast waste lands. Think the travel industry is in for a rough summer.
2) Truck speed. Typically a good percentage of the trucks have the "hammer down" and are traveling well above the speed limit. Not so the last 3 days. My cruising speed with the trailer is 65MPH (or the speed limit which ever is less). I've yet to have a truck blow by me at 75MPH. And East Texas and Arkansas are prime speeding zones (flat and straight). A good number of the trucks are running 60-65, even when the limit is 70. Very unusual. My guess is that they are all looking for the sweet spot (RPM, engine, transmission combo) where they can milk the mileage allowance for an extra penny or two a mile. No more racing to be an hour early. The price of fuel is starting to cool the American racing tradition. This might have the effect of reducing demand considerably. Depending on the driver, you can vary from 6 to 10 MPG with a semi (I have 2 children who are/were drivers). So if a significant number are being incentivised to save fuel rather than deliver on time, it could have a major impact on diesel consumption. I'm also seeing a lot more trucks with under the trailer skirting and tight fenders over the tractor rear tires, which are both fuel saving devices. The under the trailer skirting almost all looks hand made (ie, semi pro body shop). Again, the truckers are facing tight enough margins that they are willing to sacrifice some load capacity as well as maneuverability (the skirting will hit the ground on railroads, etc) in order to gain a few pennies per mile. If this works, then the big fleet operators are either going to retrofit their trailer fleets or replace them.
3) Small town death While we drive mostly interstate, we do get off for food, fuel and sight seeing. Small town rural America is in deep trouble. Lots of empty stores. Many towns appear to have done some 'revitalization' or 'historic district' which all appear to be failing. Pretty banners, nice signage and empty store fronts sandwiched between antique shops, hair salons and second hand stores. The nicest building is usually the offices of the "economic development commission", or the bank. Was there Federal largess doled out in the last few years for this type of activity? If so, it has failed and appears to have dried up. While not strictly a "small town" North Little Rock has a beautiful riverfront trail and minor league baseball complex. The homeless seem to appreciate the nice grass to sleep on and the restrooms to cleanup in. One intersection appeared to have a section of bleachers for the homeless/pan-handlers to sit on. Not sure if the bleachers (one section 4 rows high) was provided by the city, or if the users had the gumption to haul it in from somewhere.
4) Agriculture Crop planting is WAY behind. I already knew this since my brothers in central Ohio are just now planting corn, which should all be in the ground by May 15. I can just confirm it based on my own observations. The numbers say that they have already lost 25% of their yield potential by missing the optimum planting season. In years past, significant acres would be switched from corn to soybeans (which get planted later). I need to get the details from my brothers, but I think the government "price support/insurance" programs have become so lucrative, that it is better to plant the corn, harvest what you can and collect the difference from Uncle Sam. If this is true, then there will be extra payments due from the Treasury in the fall that are probably not accounted for anywhere. And in the great scheme of things, it is probably only a few billion (rounding error). Perhaps more importantly is what a 25% crop short fall will do to the world and domestic supply, demand and pricing. I am not really in tune with agriculture anymore, but it should make for an interesting commodities futures ride.
5) Outdoor advertising. Lamar (the most common name I see) and similar are in for a rough time. LOTS of empty billboards, or billboards touting the advantages of bill boards. Also a lot more of churches, hospitals, public service announcements, short term (gun show, event, concert). I take all these as indicators that the market is still very soft and that the billboard companies are dredging the pond looking for new customers, and adjusting the pricing to fit.
6) Replacing rest stops Texas, Arkansas and Missouri are all redoing rest areas. It seems to be driven by green/ecology forces. The new ones feature "eco friendly" designs, solar power, recycling toilets etc. Again, is there Federal largess involved? Or are the states just trying to save some operating costs by reworking old high maintenance rest stops into lower cost "green" ones? I doubt that this is a very consolidated market, probably lots of one off designs.
7) Arkansas Freeways. The state appears to be figuring out how to build smooth freeways. Though stretches of I40 still make you want to walk. And it is not potholes, they just did not understand how to lay 2 slabs of cement beside each other in a level fashion! I've been on gravel roads that were smoother than the remaining bad sections of Arkansas interstate.
Scott Brooks writes:
If you pass thru Sikeston, MO again, you MUST stop at Lambert's Cafe (Home of "Throwed Rolls"). It's something that must be experienced at least once!
If you are passing anywhere near St. Louis on your way back, stop on by my house and I'll throw some pork steaks and venison (from my farm) on the grill and give you a real St. Louis treat!
And as always, all specs are always welcome to stay in my guest house anytime they're in St. Louis!
Rocky Humbert adds:
Revisiting this post, a little bit of arithmetic puts point #2 into clear perspective, and allows one to calculate the optimal truck speed versus truck driver hourly earnings. The Kenworth Truck Company website says: "A general rule of thumb of thumb is that every mph increase over 50mph reduces fuel mileage by 0.1 mpg" See this paper.
That means reducing the average MPH from 75mph to 55mph will increase the average fuel economy by 2mpg.
Let's assume that a typical day's journey is 500 miles. That means the journey will take 9.1 hours at a speed of 55mph or 6.7 hours at a speed of 75mph. And increasing one's fuel efficiency by 2mpg will burn approximately 16 less gallons of fuel. So, if diesel fuel costs $4/gallon, reducing the speed takes an extra 2.4 hours of driver time, but saves $64 in fuel. So the incremental driver time is worth $26.66/hour.But if fuel costs $4.5/gallon, reducing the speed takes an extra 2.4 hours of driver time, but saves $72 in fuel. So that's worth $30/hour.Everything else is ceteris paribus. Conclusion: if the trucker's salary is less than $50,000 per year (and most are, based on industry surveys), then it makes sense to drive slower…. and the pivot point is likely somewhere around $3.75/gal … which is EXACTLY the current national average diesel price.
We just had a tornado pass within a few hundred yards of my office.
I watched it out the back window until it got within a few hundred yards of the office then I ran out of the office to safety of the stairway. Unfortunately, my 17 employees ran into the south stairway…which was on the same side of the building that the tornado was on…..so I had to run down there scream at them all to get to the middle stairway. Of course, my step mother, Patti, was down there, too. Patti has Muscular Dystrophy and can't do stairs. So I had to throw her on my back, carry her up two flights of stairs, run 100 yards down the hall with her on my back, then carry her down the middle stairway, and finally drop her off in that vestibule.
No one was hurt…but my back is gonna be sore tonight!
All in all, it was quite exhilarating!
What % of NBA games these days are won by the team that puts in the first point, and can this be generalized to markets?
Jeff Watson writes:
My grandfather used to tell me that a fist fight among boys was usually won by the kid who got in (not threw) the first punch. As an aside, I wonder if markets are susceptible to rhetorical sucker punches?
Russ Sears writes:
In distance racing it is the opposite. You do not want to be out front at the start. This is especially true at High School races and at the big road races. Too much adrenalin spent at the beginning will waste it. The amount of aggression used at the start, may vary from sport to sport. But might I suggest that one on one sports or team against teams are different than sports like running or poker and trading where it is not just about beating the guy closest too you. You don't want to crush your opponent but use them or propel you to the front.
On the other hand you must be watching for signs they can hold the pace. Exhaustion can be contagious if the pacer slows, all follow. Plus you must have confidence in your plan and stick to it. Do you beat all with a kick or do you win with a blistering last mile?
Having thousands chasing you can be a rush, but it is also very draining to wear the target on your back. You take the wind hardest without any wind blocks and you are also wasting mental energy setting the pace.
What I think all the comments below suggest is there are really 2 questions you need to ask yourself…How aggressive do you want to be at the start? And the second one is how intimidating should you be?
As Scott implies below, thugs will nip at you until they know you are or are not armed. But to answer these 2 questions in most civilized matter, you have to know yourself; be confident in your capabilities and and equally realistic about your limitations.
In racing, poker and trading, patience is the key. Be aggressive when you truly have the edge. Believe in yourself enough to wait for that edge.
What may be more fruitful questions are: what are the signs that the opponent has started too fast? And what are the signs that they are exhausted?
A Mr. T.C responds:
I spent years running, and I choose to disagree a bit. I don't know what type of resume is required, but I did manage two state championships and posted a 4:12 mile time in college.
Going out first doesn't always mean having to go out fast. Runners settle in as soon as someone takes the lead, whether it be track or cross country. If you can use just a quick burst at the beginning to get the lead, you can then set the pace you need in order to win. If it buries others, then great, but if you not, then you know what you have in terms of a kick when it comes to the finish because you set the pace.
Losing stinks, but there is nothing worse than losing and still having something left in the tank. That can happen if you let someone else set the pace, and you can't outkick them. Why? Because they set a pace knowing they could still have a strong finish. Yes, there are rabbits, but they are pretty easy to ferret out. They sprint out too far, too far, plus in any race you should have a pretty good idea of who your competition is not just who are the participants are. The wind is a factor, but only when the wind is actually a factor. Giving yourself some distance gives those behind you no benefit. They will hit the same wind. The idea of having to chase someone down can be tiring, and mentally it can crush you if you catch them, then they pull away.
The real key is any race with hills. A leader can really stretch a lead on the hills. It is where races are won and lost. I can tell you from experience, you do not want to be chasing on a hill nor do you want someone else to set your pace on a hill. If you have the discipline then being in front means you do not have to catch anyone else, and you merely only have to run the race. The same race you've trained for day in and day out. The same race you've run in your head so many times.
When I was good (and believe me when I say I am not good anymore), there was a span of 12 races that I did not lose (it was the 800m for those that care). In that time, I did not even trail a single lap. My first loss came when I altered strategy and ran with the pack. Through a combination of injury and mental roadblocks, I didn't win again after that…until the 4:12 road mile in which I never trailed. It is rarely about adrenalin. It is about preparation, planning, and running your race. And no, for some, it isn't from the front, but for others, they become almost unbeatable if you give them even an inch.
Russ Sears responds:
Yes, there definitely are times to be the front runner. If you are better than everyone in the field and know it, taking the lead, pushing the pace is the way to go. Winning 8 races in a row shows that you had out grown your competition which does happen in high school and college. But as you imply, if a rabbit sprints to the lead let them go. The goal is not to win the first 100 meter, but the race.
A 4:12 mile would never have happened without preparation, planning and running your race, but also a personal record also never happens without digging deeper and find something extra within yourself at the end. As a 2:58 1200 meter runner, but only a 4:05 miler; I did not have a kick. So I understand that often you do not want to leave it down to the last 100 meter and you beat them when you can. But having to lead from start to finish sets yourself up for mental roadblocks in tough races.
Finally, I must disagree somewhat about the hills. If you are clearly better than your competition then the hills may further show this. But if your competition is equal or slightly better than you, extra resistance of the hills prevent you from putting too much distance between you.
On my hill workouts, I would practice relaxing at the punishing pace up a hill. In a race I would let my equal push trying to get away but near the top when the heart rates are at the highest, I take the lead. After the peak I then tried to stretch the lead on the level or down hill parts.
As a high school coach, kids would often think that we did hill work so we could beat the competition on the hills. So they would try to demolish the competition on the hills. But I would tell them it was to withstand the hills, and learn to relax while still giving the most effort, so that you can beat them when they are hurting the most. It is like buying the dips or taking out the cane.
Sam Marx writes:
4:05 is very impressive.
The greatest mile race I ever saw was Roger Bannister defeating John Landy at the Empire Games in the early 50s. For those of you unfamiliar with these names, etc., Bannister, of England, was the first one to run the mile in under 4 minutes, a major athletic feat at the time. John Landy, an Australian, broke Bannister's record shortly thereafter.
The two greatest milers in the world, both of English background, by a strange quirk of scheduling would then shortly meet thereafter and compete at the Empire Games.
In their race, Landy had the lead on the 4th lap going around the turn and looked over his left shoulder for Bannister. As Landy was looking, Bannister darted past him on the right took the lead for the last 100 yds and won.
It was the first time two men ran the mile in the same race in under 4 minutes or the first time anyone ran the mile in under 4 minutes and lost.
Maybe the film clip is on the net. An exciting race to watch and historic.
Russ Sears adds:
The distance runners are posting some incredible times. Granted the Boston marathon was wind aided point to point course, but simply amazing.
Thimes remained flat and perhaps a bit slower from 1985-1994 then times started dropping again.
Some of it is in the new training methods, some is due to the coaching available to most that show a promise, some is due to more ways to make a living while still coming up the ranks, and some may be due to the drugs available, but I suspect many of the best are clean, and those that aren't add motivation.
Jay Pasch writes:
Jeff, quite the interesting post as my father coached the same thing, and being small in stature, that it's not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog, and to work in tight, inside, where you have the advantage.
Scott Brooks writes:
Having grown up in a "rough" neighborhood and in light of the fact that I've been stabbed 3 times, I have always found that the best course of action was to avoid the fight at almost any cost.
I learned early on in life that there are "guys" out there who don't see the world the way 99% of the people do. They don't feel pain or fear like like 99% of the world. They are capable of a level of brutality and violence that is, quite simply, mind boggling. The way they fight and the things they are willing to do to their opponent in a fight is truly scary. They win fights because they are willing to go to a level of violence that 99% of the people in the world are not willing to escalate too.
My brother and three of uncles were "those guys". I witnessed them do things in fights that was truly stunning. My uncles grew up in one of the worst toughest neighborhoods in St. Louis. They were, hands down, the toughest guys in that neighborhood….no one was a close second to them. Two of these uncles were only a 2 - 5 years older than me.
I remember one time when I was around 12 years old, I was over at my grandmothers house visiting. I was playing down the street from her house when these 4 guys came up to me and started to "accost" me. They surrounded me, started shoving me around and telling me to give them my money, and that they were going to beat the $#!% out of me. Basically, I think they picked on me because they didn't recognize me (they left the rest of the guys I was playing with alone….all of whom were from the neighborhood). One of the thugs asked me what I was doing in their neighborhood and I told them I was visiting my grandma. They kept picking on me. I was really scared and my mind was racing as they were starting "the process" of beating me up. It was then that a possible way out of this situation occurred to me. I asked the guys if they knew my uncles. They, of course, didn't care about knowing my uncles. So I said, you don't know my uncles, Mark and Kerry?
The next moment became frozen in time. You could have heard a pin drop. They immediately stopped shoving me around and all they stood perfectly still, first staring at me with a shocked look on their face, then their eyes began to dart from side to side looking at each other with the same stunned look on their face.
They immediately began to back peddle. They became my best friends and let me know that they were just joking around and were just messing with me. They said they were good friends with Mark and Kerry and that there was no reason to tell either of them. The "fear" in their eyes and their body language was as visible as lava pouring out of an erupting volcano. The mere mention of the names "Mark and Kerry" was like flipping on a light switch in a dark room. These guys who were just getting ready to steal my money and beat me up, who quickly became my friends, were now really anxious to leave the area as quickly as possible.
What happened next was really interesting.
When I saw my uncle Mark later in the day, I told him what had happened. He asked me to describe the guys who tried to mug me. Mark knew exactly who the guys were. Mark told me to stay at the house and he left. He returned some time later with bloody knuckles. He said he took care of the problem and that no one in the neighborhood would ever bother me again.
He was right. I was never bothered again. I saw those guys a few times after that. They not only never bothered me, they were semi-pleasant, while at the same time trying to get away from me as quickly as possible.
Between the level of violence that my uncles, my brother were capable of administering, I have decided that avoiding a fight is always the best policy….why take a chance on running into someone like my brother or uncles.
And anyway, even if you get into a fight and whip the other guys butt, if lands one good punch, you'll be laying in bed for the next week saying to yourself, "yeah, I won that fight, but man oh man, does my broken nose really hurt".
Call me a wuss if you want, but know this: I've been in more fights than most and had my butt WHUPPED by numerous people……and I never enjoyed any of them. I'll take "avoid" over fight any day of the week.
Sam Marx writes:
I grew up in the Weequahic section of Newark NJ, in the '40's (popularized in Phillip Roth's books).
We didn't fight we sued.
Steve Ellison writes:
I find it nearly impossible to literally score the first point in the market because of the bid-ask spread. If I hit the ask, chances are the next transaction will hit the bid. If I have a limit order to buy, it will not be filled unless the price is going lower. The best I can hope for is the analogy Mr. Sogi once made to a football play: the quarterback always has to retreat a few steps from the line of scrimmage to start the play. Similarly, the strategy on a hockey face-off is to draw the puck back to the defensemen so they can establish puck control and start a play.
Vince Fulco writes:
I often dream of being in the inner circle particularly under the scenarios of a nice outsized move off the O/N lows before the cash session. Then cash opens, declines all of 1/2 pt quickly, stops on a dime then zooms higher doubling the overall move.
Steve Ellison writes:
There are interesting parallels to the three choices for commerce posited by William J. Bernstein in his book A Splendid Exchange: trade, raid, or protect.
A favorite quote:
"Die Macht einer Weltanschauung bewährt sich nicht durch die Antworten, die sie zu geben weiß, sondern durch die Fragen, die sie abzudrosseln versteht" Gunther Anders [Die antikiertheit des menschen]
My amateur translation: "One doesn't measure the power of an ideology only through the answers it's able to provide, but also through the questions it's able to suppress".
Scott Brooks adds:
That is a perfect portrait of the evil influence of political correctness.
I would like to give a book to the young officers of my ship when I leave my command in a few months. The idea would be to transmit the idea that one should look at opportunities today having a vision, a road map for tomorrow's journey.
As Randy Pausch said: "It is not about how to achieve your dreams. It's about how to lead your life."
Basically it is all about the curiosity to experiment and explore your dreams. Mistakes made are not about being good or bad. Don't be afraid to pursue your dreams. Opportunities occur randomly. If the environment is favorable there is a great chance that these opportunities will be favorable. Work to create this environment. If you are not happy, change. Do something. Don't whine. Do things with passion. Exploit and realize your potential and talent to the maximum extent.
Could you please give me some advice? What is the best book?
George Parkanyi writes:
Yes Man by Danny Wallace is a lot of fun. It's very funny (not sure if its translated into Italian though), but the central idea is that Danny wasn't happy with his life as it was and decided to see what would happen if he simply said "yes" to every opportunity and request that came along, without filtering. The book documents what happened. This addresses the curiosity/exploration part of the message you wish to convey, done in a fun way.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is an excellent book. It has many very good, uplifting life messages and very practical prescriptions for success.
Scott Brooks writes:
I agree with George that Think and Grow Rich is a must! It had a huge impact on my life.
Since part of vision is proper communication, I also recommend Dale Carnegie's, How to Win Friends and Influence People. I know the officers of a ship aren't there to "win friends", but communicating properly and in a manner that is receptive to the listener is a vital characteristic of all great leaders.
April 6, 2011 | 4 Comments
When I coach basketball, what I emphasize is defense and boxing out. Here's why…..
Everyone wants to be LeBron or Kobe and do all the acrobatic scoring. The reality is that most of the kids will never be able to do all the fancy moves that those men do. Nor will most of the kids be prolific scorers. So take the road less traveled and do what no one else is really doing.
Do the dirty work. Not every kid can be a prolific scorer, but every kid can be taught to play tenacious defense. Since the vast majority of kids are unwilling to do the non-glamor work, it pays to be "blue collar worker" on the floor.
Every kid can be taught to be the vicious and feared rebounder on the floor…..no matter what their height. Watching youth games today, it very apparent to me that kids are NOT being taught how to box out for rebounds. Proper rebounding, done right, is a team effort so that THE TEAM can get the rebound. If I do my job right, and my team mates do their job right, and rebound caroms my way, I'll get the rebound. If I do my job right and my team mates do their job right and the rebound caroms away from me, MY TEAM MATE will get the rebound.
And contrary to popular opinion, basketball IS a contact sport. And the contact happens during the rebounding process. When done right, rebounding should be painful for your opponent, and over time, create fear in his mind. When that ball is shot, rather than him looking to get into position, he will be looking for you to avoid getting your hips shoved into his groin/thighs, or avoid getting your elbow shoved into his rib cage. He needs to know that challenging you for a rebound is going to hurt. Even guards play a key (and painful….for the other team) role in rebounding….remember, not all rebounds fall under the basket for the big men to grab. Lots of them bounce off the rim hard and end up away from the basket where the guards can grab them.
Most every kid can be taught be aggressive and dive into every scrum and tenaciously attack every loose ball. Whenever one of my kids bleeds, I make a big deal out it by praising them and thanking them.
I also teach my kids that unless I tell them otherwise, they get 4 free fouls a game……so use them wisely. No stupid fouls. If you are gonna foul someone, make it count. Never trip them or tackle them, never upend someone on a break away. But use your elbows and use your hips.
This is the path that will lead kids to a position on their high school, probably lots of playing time and maybe even a role as a starter.
Coaches love players who are willing to leave a little "red DNA" on the floor.
February 17, 2011 | Leave a Comment
Saw the Oracle get the Medal of Freedom yesterday. Will this enhance his stock?
Scott Brooks writes:
Another question: Who, on that stage, was truly deserving of receiving the Medal of Honor? I know there was at least one person on that stage who deserved the award for personifying what America is all about…..Stan "The Man" Musial. One of the 5 best baseball players of all time and a man who has lived to high standard all his life. He exemplifies what America should be….do the best with what you have and treat others with honor and integrity.
1. For the early evening when you wanna dance and set the mood:
Toes - Zac Brown Band
Kiss Me - Sixpence (None the Richer)
2. Time to slow it down and hold your sweetie tight!*
Vincent (Starry Starry Night) - Don McLean
Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World - Israel Kamakawiwo?ole
3. Songs to close the deal!!!!!
Make You Feel My Love - Bob Dylan
Angel - Sarah McLachlan
Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers
4. For those that want to reminisce on Valentines Day
Night Moves - Bob Seger
What Might Have Been - Little Texas
Times of Your Life - Paul Anka
January 24, 2011 | Leave a Comment
First, why are so many people unemployed? The answer is very simple.
Because there is no profitable work for them to do as present labor
rates. Thanks to previous meddles, the US economy focused itself on
building houses and importing geegaws from overseas for people who
couldn't afford to pay for them. This was a dead-end economic model. And
the end came in 2007. Now, the latest figures show an uptick in
manufacturing…which is clearly the direction to go. But it will take
years before the US economy has made the adjustment to a new, healthier
model…making and selling things at a profit.
In the meantime, unemployment levels will remain high.
But wait…there's more. For which the adjustment is taking place, US
authorities are trying to block it. How? By taking resources from the
new, unborn industries and using it to prop up the old, dying ones. Like
Wall Street, for example. The financial industry grew like Topsy in the
bubble years. It began to shrink in the crisis of '07-'09, but the feds
came in and pumped more than a trillion dollars into the financial
sector, producing record profits for the big banks, but depriving the
rest of the economy of much needed capital.
Not only that, the feds also take the pressure off labor to make
adjustments. Food stamps, minimum wages, unemployment compensation,
make-work, shovel-ready boondoggles - all these things cause workers to
think they can continue as before…that a "recovery" of the good ol'
days is just around the corner…and that they'll soon be earning as
much as they were in 2007. Maybe more!
Want to really fix the unemployment problem? Listen up. Eliminate all
bailouts, subsidies, giveaways and support systems - both to business
and to labor. Abolish all employment restrictions and employment
paperwork. All free labor - undocumented non-citizens - to compete
equally with native-born workers. Cut taxes to a flat 10% rate for
everyone. Abolish every government agency that begins with a letter of
the alphabet. Then abolish the rest of them.
We confidently guarantee that the nation would be back at full employment within 30 days.
Tyler McClellan comments:
This whole argument is bullshit.
The productive industries are by their own choice and for their own
reasons net suppliers of capital to the rest of the economy. It's a
myth, complete myth that capital flows to where it is most profitable.
It flows from where it is most profitable to where it will be accepted.
Stefan Jovanovich writes:
I wish I could agree with Craig, but he omits a significant handicap.
Because of the catastrophic decline in the productivity of American
elementary and secondary and college education, the skill sets of
workers under 30 are far, far lower than they were in 1945 - 1955. The
transcripts are immeasurably more impressive that they were for people
coming out of the military service and leaving college after the GI
bill. That Army confirms this sad fact in its recruiting statistics. The
handicaps for inductees in WW II were that some had had very little
formal education and were underweight from having struggled through the
Depression. The Army found that these could be remedied with "basic
training" in the 3 Rs (Reading, writing and arithmetic) - usually a 3-4
month course - and some decent chow.
The handicaps for recruits now are obesity and the creeping dumbs -
almost all the kids from the inner cities and slum suburbs are fat,
illiterate and without any learning skills. No entrepreneur in his or
her right mind is going to hire these kids, even if Craig's hallelujah
miracle of sane political economy suddenly appears. Full employment is a
long, long way off - as far away for this generation as it was for
people like my father-in-law in 1930. He had degrees in geology and
petroleum engineering from the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma, and
it took him half a decade to find steady work - initially as a
roughneck. These poor (in all senses of that word) kids don't stand a
Gary Rogan responds:
While I agree with all the recommendations, guaranteeing full
employment within 30 day while possible contradicts some fairly recent
Nobel prize work (of course the very fact that Krugman has one
invalidates it stature, but still it's something to consider).
The work of the winners,
Professor Diamond of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dale
T. Mortensen of Northwestern University and Christopher A. Pissarides of
the London School of Economics, is best known for its applications to
the job market.
The researchers spent decades trying to understand why it takes so long
for people to find jobs, even in good economic times, and why so many
people can be unemployed even when many jobs are available.
Traditional economics, after all, would predict that wages should simply
drop, helping the labor supply to meet labor demand automatically and
sweeping jobless workers into whatever positions were immediately open.
These researchers’ explanation addresses the complications that come
from searching for jobs and job candidates: it takes time for unemployed
workers to be matched with the proper opening, since people are not
identical, cookie-cutter units, and neither are jobs.
While all this may seem intuitive, in the 1970s it was considered quite
radical. The resulting insights about how search costs can affect
markets also helped revolutionize not only labor economics, but fields
like public finance and housing economics as well. The work is
especially relevant today, as policy makers try to understand and combat
the causes of stubbornly high unemployment in countries like the United
Stefan Jovanovich responds:
The equilibrium assumption behind the Diamond, Mortensen, Pissarides
study is fascinating. Why should there be any necessary match between
ALL the skills being offered and ALL the skills being demanded? Prices
can adjust supply and demand where markets exists; they cannot produce
demand for skills that offer no profit to the buyer at any price. The
neo-Keynesian fallacy is that money dropped from helicopters will cause
private employers to find profits in having holes dug and then filled up
again; the original Keynesian fallacy was that the government can take
money from the incomes of people whose skills are marketable and give
the money to the hole diggers without reducing the amount of savings
available for investment.
Scott Brooks writes:
Capital doesn't flow where it will be accepted, it flows to where the government allows it to flow.
America is like a sick body riddled with metastasizing cancer. Nothing
works properly in a body that is fighting for it's life. Nothing "flows"
properly. The "Body America" is riddled with the cancer of statism. As a
result, the entire "financial organ" of the "Body America" isn't
Mr. Albert comments:
The 'Greatest Generation' had an enormous advantage. After the war,
the US faced essentially no mercantile or manufacturing competition, and
thus dominated foreign markets at a time of enormous replacement need.
It was easy for the unskilled and unlearned to find work in that
environment. This advantage lasted essentially for the career length of
that generation. Fortunate circumstances coupled with the wealth
transfer of government borrowing and spending fuels the illusion that
somehow they had it right and the next three generations don't.
Craig Mee writes:
Thanks Stefan and co. It
seems he brings up many areas, but at the heart of it, is protection,
and political correctness and slowly slowly, and looking after the
flexions. When in fact a case of strong medicine is often needed, and a
swift kick up the butt.
Stefan Jovanovich comments:
Tyler makes the conventional mistake of assuming capital and savings are
equivalents. People, by and large, have been remarkably canny about what
they do with their savings as long as their money is immunized from the
manipulations of the government and the better class of people
(academic joke). "Capital" - that Marxist construct now used by central
banks presiding over fiat monetary systems - will always want to snuggle
up to the Emperor and the Praetorian Guard and stay as far, far away
from the unruly uncertainties produced by the getting and spending of
the plebs in the marketplace and their insistence of being paid in
Gary Rogan comments:
While there is something to the paradox of thrift as a game-theory
type concept, the idea that the government can solve it through directed
spending is one of the more evil ideas that ever occurred in terms of
Tyler McClellan comments:
I feel very confident in saying you simply
don't understand the paradox. you have likely never read it, have no
idea (unlike stefan) that it arises from the identity of private sector
account that savings must be equal to investment but that our motivation
towards the one is the opposite and equal of the other. That they are
intermediated by the financial system under any circumstance just at a
level that is previously not computable because it would require knowing
what everyone's planned savings and investment were prior to some of
their income being destroyed by or added to based on others similar
calculations. In aggregate society cannot save by dissaving.
Oh yes it can via the production of indeterminant claims by the
government which is a result of excess private sector savings demand
over and above each individuals in aggregate investment demand (real
investment as a flow).
Now Stefan is learned enough to admit that he at least simply doesn't
believe in the identity, which I must admit is too difficult of a
concept for me to think about after years of trying to have kept at it.
Stefan Jovanovich responds:
Tyler and I have a quarrel over the nature of money, and his is most definitely the majority opinion. Mine is the quaint antiquarian notion that (almost) predates utility curves. You find the odd vestige of it (like a kind of monetary appendix) in the valuation of gold at the price set by President Roosevelt's order under the Trading with the Enemies Act (the loophole that allowed the provisions of the Federal Reserve Act to be superceded). This pricing of gold at a U.S. dollar figure other than the current market serves no evolutionary purpose in a world where Tyler's tautology is not only the economic rule but also the legal tender law.
But these odd remnants of a past economic world should serve as a reminder that the idea that a bank's reserve should be specie - a monetary thing tangibly powerful enough to stop even the most severe breaches of trust - was once common wisdom. It is no accident that the term "reserve" came from military doctrine; a reserve was supposed to be the troops strong and brave enough to held back from the front lines with the understanding that they would be sent forward when the frontline troops had been routed. We have nothing like that now. The Reserves of the Federal Reserve and every other central bank are to be found behind the curtains of the neo-Mussolini architecture (both inside and out) of their buildings where there lie printing presses (excuse me - computer keyboards - with linkages so vastly powerful that no skepticism about the ultimate exchangability of the bank's units of "capital' dare be whispered, even by the girl in the ruby slippers. Until now, that is.
Those odd people who insisted that the Federal Reserve Act itself affirm the exchangeability of U.S. Notes (what were to become our Federal Reserve Notes) into gold under the Constitutional standard thought Tyler's aggregations were dangerous because they established a full substitution between money and credit in the name of "capital". Most of the time this aggregation did no harm; but when people were tempted to borrow and spend (as they had in the American Civil War/War Between the States) without any regard to whether the borrowings could, in fact, be repaid in money as good as gold, the ability of the government to create savings by simply increasing paper bank reserves was a fatal temptation. As we have seen, that temptation has been impossible for modern governments to resist whether the war is one "to end all wars" or "against poverty".
Gary Rogan writes:
Whatever the nature of money is, sooner or later there is a war that interrupts even the most stable tax/spend regimes, and there is never enough political will/desire/ability to tax enough to support it. Or there is a "crisis" and the voters in the next election are always more important than the ones in the following one. So sooner or later the government will find a way to corrupt the monetary standard. It just gets irritating when someone like Bernanke is p***ing on everybody's shoes an telling them this is the rain that will finally end the drought.
George Parkanyi writes:
And what government/country/civilization in the past hasn't done this? It's the nature of the beast. Different regimes will do it a different pace, but the long-term historical result will be the same. Read Machiavelli's "The Prince". This is an excellent treatise on how politics relates to human nature. You could always try working your way into office and try to change the government, or become some kind of guru and try to change human nature -good luck with either.
Stefan Jovanovich responds:
No, George. Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a satire. That is why the book was banned by the Pope aka the Medici's ally Julius II. Machiavelli was a republican - i.e. someone who thought tyrannies were bad because they were so ultimately stupid. Under the Florentine Republic Machiavelli was in charge of the militia and he insisted that only citizen-soldiers serve, breaking with the tradition of hiring foreign mercenaries. If you want to know what the man actually thought about "how politics relates to human nature", read Discourses on Livy. Machiavelli had no doubt that people can and do change the government and the world of political-economy they live in; it is the Princes who want us to think that history is a Hobbesian monotony.
If you are looking for a good book, try The Shadow Elite by Janine Wedel. She coined and documented the flexions of all stripes. Also very good is The Short Stories of Jack Schaefer, and Mathematics Unlimited, 2001 and Beyond by Engquist, Schmid et al
John Tierney writes:
OK, if you are looking for non-fiction try The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates
Kim Zussman recommends:
"This Time is Different" by Reinhart and Rogoff
(Spoiler hint: the common ploy of sovereign debt default via confiscation and hyperinflation appears not to apply to U$)
Scott Brooks writes:
We've talked about it on the list before and I I found it very good: Amity Shlaes "The Forgotten Man"
Easan Katir writes:
To the Last Penny is an excellent but little-known Edwin Lefevre work, which, thanks to Google books, one can read online.
Bud Conrad writes:
How about my book, which explains how the economy works from the view of an engineer looking at the total system. It also gives investment recommendations in the second half. It is titled Profiting from the World's Economic Crisis and published by John Wiley. Amazon has reviews and some sample pages. It is number one in one category on interest rates.
Craig Mee adds:
I recommend the Book on Games of Chance. A few of you may be no doubt already connected with it. Here is an interesting excerpt about it:
Cardano was an illegitimate child whose mother had tried to abort him. His father was a mathematically gifted lawyer and friend of Leonardo da Vinci. Cardano studied medicine at the University of Pavia, but his eccentricity and low birth earned him few friends. Eventually, he became the first to describe typhoid fever, a not inconsiderable achievement in itself, but today, he is best known for his love affair with algebra. He published the solutions to the cubic and quartic equations in his 1545 book Ars Magna, but Cardano was notoriously short of money, and had to keep himself solvent by gambling and playing chess. His book Liber de ludo aleae ("*Book on Games of Chance*") written in 1526, but not published until 1663, contains the first systematic treatment of probability, as well as a section on cheating methods. I told you he was bad.
Vince Fulco adds:
A little late to this thread but "Panic" by Andrew Redleaf and Richard Vigilante is proving to be a good read. Redleaf is a convert arb manager out in my neck of the woods who runs Whitebox Advisors. He is in print in his Dec 2006 letter stating, "Here is a flat out prediction for the New Year. Sometime in the next 12-18 months there is going to be a panic in credit markets. Spreads which now hover at an extremely tight 300 bps or so, will gap to more than 1,000. To put it another way, prices of HY securities will drop by something like 20 percent with some weak paper plunging even deeper"
A few powerful paragraphs from the first chapter:
The ideology of modern finance tears capitalism in two, then abandons the half beyond the ken of bureaucrats and the professors. Capitalism demands free markets because it needs free minds. Modern investment theory says efficient markets can moot the minds entirely. The entrepreneur cherishes freedom including the freedom to fail. The bureaucrat of capital dreams of a world in which failure is impossible. Confronted with demons of uncertainty, the entrepreneur wrestles with them till dawn. The bureaucrat of capital crafts idols of ignorance and worships in the dark.
Prevailing in Washington as on Wall St. were the most vile and self-destructive assumptions of anti-capitalists everywhere who imagined they could wield capital while abandoning the principles that created it; that systems could substitute for the moral standards they once embodied; or that men who lost trillions of dollars of other people's money might somehow recover it if only the govt gave them trillions more. Crony capitalists on the right and socialists on the left united as always behind their most fundamental belief, that wealth is to be captured by power and pull rather than created in the minds of men.
January 2, 2011 | 6 Comments
There is something about True Grit that is truly loathsome. Each of the 3 main characters is deeply flawed. Marshall Rooster Cogburn is a drunk and dead beat who speaks unintelligibly. Texas Ranger LaBoeuf is a show off, loser, and a chauvinist. The girl is sharp tongued, litigious, and naive (no wonder she didn't get married). It all fits in with the idea that has the world in its grip, that the purpose of life is to keep oneself small by sacrifice. There is no chemistry or romance between any of the characters except for Pepper the Quixotian leader of the outlaws, who as could be predicted was the only man good in his every day business of being a outlaw. No wonder this Western follows the code of the west breaking, denigrating Brokeback Mountain and no wonder that Louis L'Amour's novels have sold more than all western authors combined since the beginning of time, and that they dare not make one of them or an Atlas Shrugged, in favor of this disrespectful Portis trash that violates all the rules of good mystery by having one hair breadth, extraordinary, lucky escape after another, and stereotyped snake bite scene (a la Larry Mcmurtry) release the tension.
P.S I have never written about a subject not directly related to the multivariate analysis of time series that Mr. Jovanovich has not corrected and amplified on where I was astray. And I must admit that I didn't realize that the Western Novel was yet another of his expertises. Okay, I want to know from him if he agrees with me, on this one point that Monte Walsh is the greatest western novel, (if the chapter where the accountant comes to reduce the pay of the hands that took vengeance on the trainmen doesn't make you cry, I'll eat that hat the accountant wore that was so tempting to Hat, Cal and Monte), and the best business novel of all time.
Stefan Jovanovich replies:
Grub street used to honor the basic code for reviewers: read the book first, then slander the author. We should do the same. Portis' book is like neither of the movies; the John Wayne version comes much closer in spirit, but it is still far, far too "nice". The actual novel is a memoir written by a tough-spirited, one-armed spinster Presbyterian capitalist remembering the one man whom she loved and how they avenged the murder of her father when she was– by other people's standards– "still a girl". Blaming authors for what Hollywood makes of their books is like blaming men for the conduct of their ex-wives after they finish paying the alimony; all the authors can be held accountable for is the size of the check they cash.
I am old enough to have lived near (but definitely not in) Beverly Hills when Louis L'Amour still gave readings at the library. He was a great and good man, and– yes– Monte Walsh is the classic. As is often the case, my anger is misdirected; what infuriates me about this latest version of True Grit is what is says about the Coen brothers' decline and fall. The novel will survive their abomination of it; hell, it will probably be reread again. But for the Coen brothers, what hope is there now? Intolerable Cruelty is the best and funniest film ever about Hollywood and lawyers and now the guys who made it can only do splatter trash.
P.S. Eddy just called. She thinks our only hope is to pray that South Park's explanation once again holds true and blame it all on Matt Damon and his friend.
Dylan Distasio writes:
At the risk of raising some hackles, I'd make the argument the McCarthy's "Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West" is one of the greatest Western novels in that genre and one of the best I've read from 20th century authors in general.
J.T Holley writes:
If you like Blood Meridian then go read Suttree. IMHO, it is an existential masterpiece. Cornelius being a man of the "made, trust-fund baby, life of given not earned goes to be a fisherman in TN. Though the content could be considered as a rebellious misguided stab at the establishment, I found it a read that was of self-introspect, self-realization, self-reliance while battling vices with choice by going to the extreme to find such. Once again not oft mentioned amongst Cormac's works, I feel it is one of my favorite reads to crack open and read again. I'm a Southerner so the read is much suited to me, so some of the "in between the lines" stuff might not be appreciated.
Jim Wildman writes:
My personal favorites in the Western genre.
"The Virginian" (Wister) if for no other reason than "Smile when you call me that"…and the baby swap prank.
"A Man Called Noon" (L'Amour) always makes me think about how I define who I am.
In "The Last of His Breed" Mr L'Amour applies similar themes from his Westerns to modern times. For my taste, the book is a bit long, but in fairness, it takes a while to walk across Siberia. And it has a great last line.
Trader Craft comments:
Another great classic of the West is Thomas Bergman's "Little Big Man". Much better than the Dustin Hoffman movie.
Scott Brooks writes:
As one who doesn't read a lot of westerns, (and I'm sure the purist will scoff at me) I have to say that Larry McMurtry's, "Lonesome Dove" is my favorite of that genre.
Good guys and bad guys. Multiple story lines all intertwined. Sudden and unforgiving death. Fortunes made and fortunes lost. Adventures piled on top of adventures. Good choices and bad choices. Friendships that are strong, but that don't override honor. Human foibles that override honor to do what is perceived as the "right thing". False friendship's that never were except to be used as seen fit by the "user".
Story of youth and aging and lesson's learned, lessons shared and lesson's taught. Love found, love spurned, and love lost. The superficial wannabes intermingled with the intellectual drivers. The high self esteem and low self esteem of characters revealed for the world to see.
Characters that arrive unexpectedly and stay and others that depart just as unexpectedly. Ego's that clash and feelings that are hurt. Life and time wasted on loves that can never be.
High risk adventures fraught with deadly consequences. People that love risk, taking more and more risk because the downside never happens to them…until it does.
Their are cowboy versions of "Eddie Willer's" (hard working and reliable) tying their horses to the wagon's of cowboy versions of "John Galt" (hard working reliable, but intellectually superior)…..but in a much more realistic sense….i.e. there's no mythical "static electricity generator" or "nearly infallible hero's"….just really smart people who make more good decisions than bad decisions…but who make bad decision…sometimes with catastrophic consequences.
I could go on and on, but something has just struck me as I write this general description of "Lonesome Dove"…..am I describing a Western Novel, or the modern day "Spec List".
Jack Tierney writes:
The Chair's mention of L'Amour reminds me that I've neglected to comment on the man's autobiography, "The Education of a Wandering Man". Unpublished during his life, the manuscript was found in his desk only later. The author of the Introduction speculates that L'Amour purposely put off publication fearing charges of braggadocio.
After reading the book, it's a possibility. For many years he kept a written record of the books he had read– the selections are so diverse and numerous that it's impossible to pigeon-hole his preferences or determine how he found the time.
Because of finances, he left home at early and, Hoffer-like, rode the rails in search of employment. He also shipped out for as many foreign ports as he could find, baby-sat an abandoned mine for three months in the middle of nowhere without any human contact, and took up small-town prize-fighting when he really needed money and the locals really needed a fight.
But no matter where he was or how broke, he always had books. If there's any drawback in his story it's the realization that one could have read much, much more if he hadn't been sidelined by trivialities.
Pitt T. Maner III writes:
It looks from L'Amour's autobiography that, from the years from 1930 to 1937 in particular, he tried to read approximately 100 books and plays each year. They were not what you would think a man writing Westerns would be reading.
Not a bad New Year's resolution if one has the time. It takes discipline too.
A quick perusal indicates he liked to read several books by one author or playwright that he liked within each year. Certain themes or genres captured his attention. Perhaps he was buying books in bulk or series from bookstores.
In 1930, for instance, he read many of the plays of Eugene O'Neill. In 1931 he read Flaubert. Shakespeare and Detective stories were popular with L'Amour in
1932. It looks like works by H.G. Wells and Conrad were favorites. L'Amour's lists are interesting because there are many books included that are not commonly read these days.
For instance "Trader Horn" by A.A. Horn and Ethelreda Lewis was a book made into a movie with filming done in Africa under extremely difficult conditions (they don't make movies like the used to).
The world was less explored and a bit more mysterious just 80 years ago.
The best writers often do a tremendous amount of critical reading and know a little bit about a vast array of subjects— even things that would be considered controversial today.
December 31, 2010 | 61 Comments
- 31 Spec-listers contributed to the 2011 Investment Contest with "specific" recommendations.
- Average 4 recommendations per person (mean of 4.2, median and mode of 4) came in.
- 6 contestants gave only 1 recommendation, 3 gave only 2 and thus 9 out of the total 31 have NOT given the minimum 3 recommendations needed as per the Rules clarified by Ken Drees.
- The Hall of Fame entry for the largest number of ideas (did someone say diversification?) is from Tim Melvin, close on whose heels are J. T. Holley with 11 and Ken Drees with 10.
- The most creatively expressed entry of course has come from Rocky Humbert.
- At this moment 17 out of 31 contestants are in positive performance territory, 14 are in negative performance territory.
- Barring a major outlier of a 112.90% loss on the Option Strategy of Phil McDonnell (not accounting for the margin required for short options, but just taking the ratio of initial cash inflow to outflow):
- Average of all Individual contestant returns is -2.54% and the Standard Deviation of returns achieved by all contestants is 5.39.
- Biggest Gainer at this point is Jared Albert (with his all in single stock bet on REFR) with a 22.87% gain. The only contestant a Z score greater than 2 ( His is actually 4.72 !!)
- Biggest Loser at this point (barring the Giga-leveraged position of Mr. McDonnell) is Ken Drees at -10.36% with a Z Score that is at -1.45.
- Wildcards have not been accounted for as at this point, with wide
deviations of recommendations from the rules specified by most. While 9
participants have less than 3 recommendations, those with more than 4
include several who have not chosen to specify which 3 are their primary recommends. Without clarity on a universal measurability wildcard accounting is on hold. Those making more than 1 recommendations would find that their aggregate average return is derived by taking a sum of returns of individual positions divided by the number of recommends. Unless specified by any person that positions are taken in a specific ratio its equal sums invested approach.
- A total of 109 contracts are utilized by the contestants across bonds, equity indices (Nikkei, Kenyan Stocks included too!), commodities, currencies and individual stock positions.
- The ratio of Shorts to Longs across all recommendations, irrespective of the type of contract (call, put, bearish ETF etc.) is 4 SELL orders Vs 9 Buy Orders. Not inferring that this list is more used to pressing the Buy Button. Just an occurence on this instance.
- The Average Return, so far, on the 109 contracts utilized is -1.26% with a Standard Deviation of 12.42%. Median Return is 0.39% and the mode of Returns of all contracts used is 0.
- The Highest Return is on MICRON TECH at 28.09, if one does not account for the July 2011 Put 25 strike on SLV utilized by Phil McDonnell.
- The Lowest Return is on IPTV at -50%, if one does not account for the Jan 2012 Call 40 Strike on SLV utilized by Phil McDonnell.
- Only Two contracts are having a greater than 2 z score and only 3 contracts are having a less than -2 Z score.
Victor Niederhoffer wrote:
One is constantly amazed at the sagacity in their fields of our fellow specs. My goodness, there's hardly a field that one of us doesn't know about from my own hard ball squash rackets to the space advertising or our President, from surfing to astronomy. We certainly have a wide range.
May I suggest without violating our mandate that we consider our best sagacities as to the best ways to make a profit in the next year of 2011.
My best trades always start with assuming that whatever didn't work the most last year will work the best this year, and whatever worked the best last year will work the worst this year. I'd be bullish on bonds and bearish on stocks, bullish on Japan and bearish on US stocks.
I'd bet against the banks because Ron Paul is going to be watching them and the cronies in the institutions will not be able to transfer as much resources as they've given them in the past 2 years which has to be much greater in value than their total market value.
I keep wondering what investments I should make based on the hobo's visit and I guess it has to be generic drugs and foods.
What ideas do you have for 2011 that might be profitable? To make it interesting I'll give a prize of 2500 to the best forecast, based on results as of the end of 2011.
David Hillman writes:
"I do know that a sagging Market keeps my units from being full."
One would suggest it is a sagging 'economy' contributing to vacancy, not a sagging 'market'. There is a difference.
Ken Drees, appointed moderator of the contest, clearly states the new rules of the game:
1. Submissions for contest entries must be made on the last two days of 2010, December 30th or 31st.
2. Entries need to be labeled in subject line as "2011 contest investment prediction picks" or something very close so that we know this is your official entry.
3. Entries need 3 predictions and 1 wildcard trade prediction (anything goes on the wildcard).
4. Extra predictions may be submitted and will be judged as extra credit. This will not detract from the main predictions and may or may not be judged at all.
5. Extra predictions will be looked on as bravado– if you've got it then flaunt it. It may pay off or you may give the judge a sour palate.
The desire to have entries coming in at years end is to ensure that you have the best data as to year end 2010 and that you don't ignite someone else to your wisdom.
Market direction picks are wanted:
Examples: 30 year treasury yield will fall to 3% in 2011, S&P 500 will hit "x" by June, and then by "y" by December 2011.
The more exact your prediction is, the more weight will be given. The more exact your prediction, the more weight you will receive if right and thus the more weight you will receive if wrong. If you predict that copper will hit 5.00 dollars in 2011 and it does you will be given a great score, if you say that copper will hit 5.00 dollars in march and then it will decline to4.35 and so forth you will be judged all along that prediction and will receive extra weight good or bad. You decide on how detailed your submission is structured.
Will you try to be precise (maybe foolhardy) and go for the glory? Or will you play it safe and not stand out from the crowd? It is a doubled edged sword so its best to be the one handed market prognosticator and make your best predictions. Pretend these predictions are some pearls that you would give to a close friend or relative. You may actually help a speclister to make some money by giving up a pearl, if that speclister so desires to act upon a contest–G-d help him or her.
Markets can be currency, stocks, bonds, commodities, etc. Single stock picks can be given for the one wildcard trade prediction. If you give multiple stock picks for the wildcard then they will all be judged and in the spirit of giving a friend a pearl–lets make it "the best of the best, not one of six".
All judgments are the Chair's. The Chair will make final determination of the winner. Entries received with less than 3 market predictions will not be considered. Entries received without a wildcard will be considered.The spirit of the contest is "Give us something we can use".
Bill Rafter adds:
Suggestion for contest:
"Static" entry: A collection of up to 10 assets which will be entered on the initial date (say 12/31/2010) and will be unaltered until the end data (i.e. 12/31/2011). The assets could be a compilation of longs and shorts, or could have the 10 slots entirely filled with one asset (e.g. gold). The assets could also be a yield and a fixed rate; that is one could go long the 10-year yield and short a fixed yield such as 3 percent. This latter item will accommodate those who want to enter a prediction but are unsure which asset to enter as many are unfamiliar with the various bond coupons.
"Rebalanced" entry: A collection of up to 10 assets which will be rebalanced on the last trading day of each month. Although the assets will remain unchanged, their percentage of the portfolio will change. This is to accommodate those risk-averse entrants employing a mean-reversion strategy.
Both Static and Rebalanced entries will be judged on a reward-to-risk basis. That is, the return achieved at the end of the year, divided by the maximum drawdown (percentage) one had to endure to achieve that return.
Not sure how to handle other prognostications such as "Famous female singer revealed to be man." But I doubt such entries have financial benefits.
I'm willing to be an arbiter who would do the rebalancing if necessary. I am not willing to prove or disprove the alleged cross-dressers.
Ralph Vince writes:
A very low volume bar on the weekly (likely, the first of two consecutive) after a respectable run-up, the backdrop of rates having risen in recent weeks, breadth having topped out and receding - and a lunar eclipse on the very night of the Winter Solstice.
If I were a Roman General I would take that as a sign to sit for next few months and do nothing.
I'm going to sit and do nothing.
Sounds like an interim top in an otherwise bullish, long-term backdrop.
Gordon Haave writes:
My three predictions:
Gold/ silver ratio falls below 25 Kenyan stock market outperforms US by more than 10%
Dollar ends 10% stronger compared to euro
All are actionable predictions.
Steve Ellison writes:
I did many regressions looking for factors that might predict a year-ahead return for the S&P 500. A few factors are at extreme values at the end of 2010.
The US 10-year Treasury bond yield at 3.37% is the second-lowest end-of year yield in the last 50 years. The S&P 500 contract is in backwardation with the front contract at a 0.4% premium to the next contract back, the second highest year-end premium in the 29 years of the futures.
Unfortunately, neither of those factors has much correlation with the price change in the S&P 500 the following year. Here are a few that do.
The yield curve (10-year yield minus 3-month yield) is in the top 10% of its last 50 year-end values. In the last 30 years, the yield curve has been positively correlated with year-ahead changes in the S&P 500, with a t score of 2.17 and an R squared of 0.143.
The US unemployment rate at 9.8% is the third highest in the past 60 years. In the last 30 years, the unemployment rate has been positively correlated with year-ahead changes in the S&P 500, with a t score of 0.90 and an R squared of 0.028.
In a variation of the technique used by the Yale permabear, I calculated the S&P 500 earnings/price ratio using 5-year trailing earnings. I get an annualized earnings yield of 4.6%. In the last 18 years, this ratio has been positively correlated with year-ahead changes in the S&P 500, with a t score of 0.92 and an R squared of
Finally, there is a negative correlation between the 30-year S&P 500 change and the year-ahead change, with a t score of -2.28 and an R squared of 0.094. The S&P 500 index price is 9.27 times its price of 30 years ago. The median year-end price in the last 52 years was 6.65 times the price 30 years earlier.
Using the predicted values from each of the regressions, and weighting the predictions by the R squared values, I get an overall prediction for an 11.8% increase in the S&P 500 in 2011. With an 11.8% increase, SPY would close 2011 at 140.52.
Factor Prediction t N R sq
US Treasury yield curve 1.162 2.17 30 0.143
30-year change 1.052 -2.28 52 0.094
Trailing 5-year E/P 1.104 0.92 18 0.050
US unemployment rate 1.153 0.90 30 0.028
Weighted total 1.118
SPY 12/30/10 125.72
Predicted SPY 12/30/11 140.52
Jan-Petter Janssen writes:
PREDICTION I - The Inconvenient Truth The poorest one or two billion on this planet have had enough of increasing food prices. Riots and civil unrest force governments to ban exports, and they start importing at any cost. World trade collapses. Manufacturers of farm equipment will do extremely well. Buy the most undervalued producer you can find. My bet is
* Kverneland (Yahoo: KVE.OL). NOK 6.50 per share today. At least NOK 30 on Dec 31th 2011.
PREDICTION II - The Ultimate Bubble The US and many EU nations hold enormous gold reserves. E.g. both Italy and France hold the equivalent of the annual world production. The gold meme changes from an inflation hedge / return to the gold standard to (a potential) over-supply from the selling of indebted nations. I don't see the bubble bursting quite yet, but
* Short gold if it hits $2,000 per ounce and buy back at $400.
PREDICTION III - The Status Quo Asia's ace is cheap labor. The US' recent winning card is cheap energy through natural gas. This will not change in 2011. Henry Hub Feb 2011 currently trades at $4.34 per MMBtu. Feb 2012 is at $5.14. I would
* Short the Feb 2012 contract and buy back on the last trading day of 2011.
Vince Fulco predicts:
This is strictly an old school, fundamental equity call as my crystal ball for the indices 12 months out is necessarily foggy. My recommendation is BP equity primarily for the reasons I gave earlier in the year on June 5th (stock closed Friday, June 4th @ $37.16, currently $43.53). It faced a hellish downdraft post my mention for consideration, primarily due to the intensification of news flow and legal unknowns (Rocky articulated these well). Also although the capital structure arb boys savaged the equity (to 28ish!), it is up nicely to year's end if one held on and averaged in with wide scales given the heightened vol.
Additional points/guesstimates are:
1) If 2010 was annus horribilis, 2011 with be annus recuperato. A chastened mgmt who have articulated they'll run things more conservatively will have a lot to prove to stakeholders.
2) Dividend to be re-instated to some level probably by the end of the second quarter. I am guessing $1.00 annualized per ADS as a start (or
2.29%), this should bring in the index hugging funds with mandates for only holding dividend payers. There is a small chance for a 1x special dividend later in the year.
3) Crude continues to be in a state of significant profitability for the majors in the short term. It would appear finding costs are creeping however.
4) The lawsuits and additional recoveries to be extracted from the settlement fund and company directly have very long tails, on the order of 10 years.
5) The company seems fully committed to sloughing off tertiary assets to build up its liquid balance sheet. Debt to total capital remains relatively low and manageable.
6) The stock remains at a significant discount to its better-of breed peers (EV/normalized EBITDA, Cash Flow, etc) and rightly so but I am betting the discount should narrow back to near historical levels.
1) The company and govt have been vastly understating the remaining fuel amounts and effects. Release of independent data intensifies demands for a much larger payout by the company closer to the highest end estimates of $50-80B.
2) It experiences another similar event of smaller magnitude which continues to sully the company's weakened reputation.
3) China admits to and begins to fear rampant inflation, puts the kabosh to the (global) economy and crude has a meaningful decline the likes of which we haven't seen in a few years.
4) Congress freaks at a >$100-120 price for crude and actually institutes an "excess profits" tax. Less likely with the GOP coming in.
A buy at this level would be for an unleveraged, diversified, longer term acct which I have it in. However, I am willing to hold the full year or +30% total return (including special dividend) from the closing price of $43.53 @ 12/30/10, whichever comes first. Like a good sellside recommendation, I believe the stock has downside of around 20% (don't they all when recommended!?!) where I would consider another long entry depending on circumstances (not pertinent to the contest).
Mr. Albert enters:
Single pick stock ticker is REFR
The only way this gold chain wearing day trader has a chance against all the right tail brain power on the list is with one high risk/high reward put it all on red kind of micro cap.
Basic story is this company owns all the patents to what will become the standard for switchable glazings (SPD smart glass). It's taken roughly 50 years of development to get a commercialized product, and next year Mercedes will almost without doubt use SPD in the 2012 SLK (press launch 1/29/11 public launch at the Geneva auto show in march 2011).
Once MB validate the tech, mass adoption and revenues will follow etc and this 'show me' stock will rocket to the moon.
Dan Grossman writes:
Trying to comply with and adapt the complex contest rules (which most others don't seem to be following in any event) to my areas of stock market interest:
1. The S&P will be down in the 1st qtr, and at some point in the qtr will fall at least
2. For takeover investors: GENZ will (finally) make a deal to be acquired in the 1st qtr for a value of at least $80; and AMRN after completion of its ANCHOR trial will make a deal to be acquired for a price of at least $8.
3. For conservative investors: Low multiple small caps HELE and DFG will be up a combined average of 20% by the end of the year.
For my single stock pick, I am something of a johnny-one-note: MNTA will be up lots during the year — if I have to pick a specific amount, I'd say at least 70%. (My prior legal predictions on this stock have proved correct but the stock price has not appropriately reflected same.)
Finally, if I win the contest (which I think is fairly likely), I will donate the prize to a free market or libertarian charity. I don't see why Victor should have to subsidize this distinguished group that could all well afford an contest entrance fee to more equitably finance the prize.
Best to all for the New Year,
Gary Rogan writes:
1. S&P 500 will rise 3% by April and then fall 12% from the peak by the end of the year.
2. 30 year treasury yields will rise to 5% by March and 6% by year end.
3. Gold will hit 1450 by April, will fall to 1100 by September and rise to 1550 by year end.
Wildcard: Short Netflix.
Jack Tierney, President of the Old Speculator's Club, writes:
Equal Amounts in:
TBT (short long bonds)
YCS (short Yen)
GRU (Long Grains - heavy on wheat)
CHK (Long NG - takeover)
BONXF.PK or BTR.V (Long junior gold)
12/30 closing prices (in order):
Bill Rafter writes:
Buy: FXP and IRWD
Hold for the entire year.
William Weaver writes:
For Returns: Long XIV January 21st through year end
For Return/Risk: Long XIV*.30 and Long VXZ*.70 from close today
I hope everyone has enjoyed a very merry holiday season, and to all I wish a wonderful New Year.
Ken Drees writes:
Yes, they have been going up, but I am going contrary contrary here and going with the trends.
1. Silver: buy day 1 of trading at any price via the following vehicles: paas, slw, exk, hl –25% each for 100% When silver hits 39/ounce, sell 10% of holdings, when silver hits 44/ounce sell 30% of holdings, when silver hits 49 sell 60%–hold rest (divide into 4 parts) and sell each tranche every 5 dollars up till gone–54/oz, 59, 64, 69.
2. Buy GDXJ day 1 (junior gold miner etf)—rotation down from majors to juniors with a positive gold backdrop. HOLD ALL YEAR.
3. USO. Buy day 1 then do—sell 25% at 119/bbl oil, sell 80% at 148/bbl, sell whats left at 179/bbl or 139/bbl (whichever comes first after 148)
wildcard: AMEX URANUIM STOCKS. UEC, URRE, URZ, DNN. 25% EACH, buy day 1 then do SELL 70% OF EVERYTHING AT 96$LB u http://www.uxc.com/ FOR PRICING, AND HOLD REST FOR YEAR END.
Happy New Year!
Ken Drees———keepin it real.
Sam Eisenstadt forecasts:
My forecast for the S&P 500 for the year ending Dec 31, 2011;
S&P 500 1410
Anton Johnson writes:
Equal amounts allocated to:
EDZ Short moc 1-21-2011, buy to cover at 50% gain, or moc 12/30/2011
VXX Short moc 1-21-2011, buy to cover moc 12/30/2011
UBT Short moo 1-3-2011, buy to cover moc 12/30/2011
Scott Brooks picks:
Evenly between the 4 (25% each)
Sushil Kedia predicts:
3) Japanese Yen
30% moves approximately in each, within 2011.
Rocky Humbert writes:
(There was no mention nor requirement that my 2011 prediction had to be in English. Here is my submission.) … Happy New Year, Rocky
Sa aking mahal na kaibigan: Sa haba ng 2010, ako na ibinigay ng ilang mga ideya trading na nagtrabaho sa labas magnificently, at ng ilang mga ideya na hindi na kaya malaki. May ay wala nakapagtataka tungkol sa isang hula taon dulo, at kung ikaw ay maaaring isalin ito talata, ikaw ay malamang na gawin ang mas mahusay na paggawa ng iyong sariling pananaliksik kaysa sa pakikinig sa mga kalokohan na ako at ang iba pa ay magbigay. Ang susi sa tagumpay sa 2011 ay ang parehong bilang ito ay palaging (tulad ng ipinaliwanag sa pamamagitan ng G. Ed Seykota), sa makatuwid: 1) Trade sa mga kalakaran. 2) Ride winners at losers hiwa. 3) Pamahalaan ang panganib. 4) Panatilihin ang isip at diwa malinaw. Upang kung saan gusto ko idagdag, fundamentals talaga bagay, at kung ito ay hindi magkaroon ng kahulugan, ito ay hindi magkaroon ng kahulugan, at diyan ay wala lalo na pinakinabangang tungkol sa pagiging isang contrarian bilang ang pinagkasunduan ay karaniwang karapatan maliban sa paggawa sa mga puntos. (Tandaan na ito ay pinagkasunduan na ang araw ay babangon na bukas, na quote Seth Klarman!) Pagbati para sa isang malusog na masaya at pinakinabangang 2011, at siguraduhin na basahin www.rockyhumbert.com kung saan ako magsulat sa Ingles ngunit ang aking mga saloobin ay walang malinaw kaysa talata na ito, ngunit inaasahan namin na ito ay mas kapaki-pakinabang.
Dylan Distasio comments:
Gawin mo magsalita tagalog?
Gary Rogan writes:
After a worthy challenge, Mr. Rogan is now also a master of Google Translate, and a discoverer of an exciting fact that Google Translate calls Tagalog "Filipino". This was a difficult obstacle for Mr. Rogan to overcome, but he persevered and here's Rocky's prediction in English (sort of):
My dear friend: Over the course of 2010, I provided some trading ideas worked out magnificently, and some ideas that are not so great. There is nothing magical about a forecast year end, and if you can translate this paragraph, you will probably do better doing your own research rather than listening to the nonsense that I and others will give. The key to success in 2011 is the same as it always has (as explained by Mr. Ed Seykota), namely: 1) Trade with the trend.
2) Ride cut winners and losers. 3) Manage risk. 4) Keep the mind and spirit clear. To which I would add, fundamentals really matter, and if it does not make sense, it does not make sense, and there is nothing particularly profitable about being a contrarian as the consensus is usually right but turning points. (Note that it is agreed that the sun will rise tomorrow, to quote Seth Klarman) Best wishes for a happy healthy and profitable 2011, and be sure to read www.rockyhumbert.com which I write in English but my attitude is nothing clearer than this paragraph, but hopefully it is more useful.
Tim Melvin writes:
Ah the years end prediction exercise. It is of course a mostly useless exercise since not a one of us can predict what shocks, positive or negative, the world and the markets could see in 2011. I find it crack up laugh out loud funny that some pundits come out and offer up earnings estimates, GDP growth assumptions and interest rate guesses to give a precise level for the year end S&P 500 price. You might as well numbers out of a bag and rearrange them by lottery to come up with a year end number. In a world where we are fighting two wars, a hostile government holds the majority of our debt and several sovereign nations continually teeter on the edge of oblivion it's pretty much ridiculous to assume what could happen in the year ahead. Having said that, as my son's favorite WWE wrestler when he was a little guy used to say "It's time to play the game!"
Ill start with bonds. I have owned puts on the long term treasury market for two years now. I gave some back in 2010 after a huge gain in 2009 but am still slightly ahead. Ill roll the position forward and buy January 2012 puts and stay short. When I look at bods I hear some folks talking about rising basic commodity prices and worrying about inflation. They are of course correct. This is happening. I hear some other really smart folks talking of weak real estate, high jobless rates and the potential for falling back into recession. Naturally, they are also exactly correct. So I will predict the one thing no one else is. We are on the verge of good old fashioned 1970s style stagflation. Commodity and basic needs prices will accelerate as QE2 has at least stimulated demand form emerging markets by allowing these wonderful credits to borrow money cheaper than a school teacher with a 750 FICO score. Binds go lower as rates spike. Our economy and balance sheet are a mess and we have governments run by men in tin hats lecturing us on fiscal responsibility. How low will they go Tim? How the hell do I know? I just think they go lower by enough for me to profit.
Nor can I tell you where the stock market will go this year. I suspect we have had it too good for too long for no reason so I think we get at least one spectacular gut wrenching, vomit inducing sell off during the year. Much as lower than expected profits exposed the silly valuations of the new paradigm stocks I think that the darling group, retail , will spark a sell-off in the stock market this year. Sales will be up a little bit but except for Tiffany's (TIF) and that ilk margins are horrific. Discounting started early this holiday and grew from there. They will get steeper now that that Santa Claus has given back my credit card and returned to the great white north. The earnings season will see a lot of missed estimates and lowered forecasts and that could well pop the bubble. Once it starts the HFT boys and girls should make sure it goes lower than anyone expects.
Here's the thing about my prediction. It is no better than anyone else's. In other words I am talking my book and predicting what I hope will happen. Having learned this lesson over the years I have learned that when it comes to market timing and market direction I am probably the dumbest guy in the room. Because of that I have trained myself to always buy the stuff that's too cheap not to own and hold it regardless. After the rally since September truly cheap stuff is a little scarce on the ground but I have found enough to be about 40% long going into the year. I have a watch list as long as a taller persons right arm but most of it hover above truly cheap.
Here is what I own going into the year and think is still cheap enough to buy. I like Winn Dixie (WINN). The grocery business sucks right now. Wal mart has crushed margins industry wide. That aside WINN trades at 60% of tangible book value and at some point their 514 stores in the Southeast will attract attention from investors. A takeover here would be less than shocking. I will add Presidential Life (PLFE) to the list. This stock is also at 60% of tangible book and I expect to see a lot of M&A activity in the insurance sector this year and this should raise valuations across the board. I like Miller Petroleum (MILL) with their drilling presence in Alaska and the shale field soft Tennessee. This one trades at 70% of tangible book. Ill add Imperial Sugar (IPSU), Syms (SYMS) and Micron tech (MU) and Avatar Holdings (AVTR) to my list of cheapies and move on for now.
I am going to start building my small bank portfolio this year. Eventually this group becomes the F-you walk away money trade of the decade. As real estate losses work through the balance sheet and some measure of stability returns to the financial system, perhaps toward the end of the year the small baileys savings and loan type banks should start to recover. We will also see a mind blowing M&A wave as larger banks look to gain not just market share but healthy assets to put on the books. Right now these names trade at a fraction of tangible book value. They will reach a multiple of that in a recovery or takeover scenario. Right now I own shares of Shore Bancshares (SHBI), a local bank trading at 80% of book value and a reasonably healthy loan portfolio. I have some other mini microcap banks as well that shall remain my little secret and not used to figure how my predictions work out. I mention them because if you have a mini micro bank in your community you should go meet then bankers, review the books and consider investing if it trades below the magical tangible book value and has excess capital. Flagstar Bancorp(FBC) is my super long shot undated call option n the economy and real estate markets.
I will also play the thrift conversion game heavily this year. With the elimination of the Office of Thrift Services under the new financial regulation many of the benefits of being a private or mutual thrift are going away. There are a ton of mutual savings banks that will now convert to publicly traded banks. A lot of these deals will be priced below the pro forma book value that is created by adding all that lovely IPO cash to the balance sheet without a corresponding increase in the shares outstanding. Right now I have Fox Chase Bancorp (FXCB) and Capital Federal Financial(CFFN). There will be more. Deals are happening every day right now and again I would keep an eye out for local deals that you can take advantage of in the next few months.
I also think that 2011 will be the year of the activist investor. These folks took a beating since 2007 but this should be their year. There is a ton of cash on corporate balance sheets but lots of underperformance in the current economic environment. We will see activist drive takeovers, restructures, and special dividends this year in my opinion. Recent filings of interest include strong activist positions in Surmodics(SRDX), SeaChange International (SEAC), and Energy Solutions. Tracking activist portfolios and 13D filings should be a very profitable activity in 2011.
I have been looking at some interesting new stuff with options as well I am not going to give most of it away just yet but I ll give you one stimulated by a recent list discussion. H and R Black is highly likely to go into a private equity portfolio next year. Management has made every mistake you can make and the loss of RALs is a big problem for the company. However the brand has real value. I do not want town the stock just yet but I like the idea of selling the January 2012 at $.70 to $.75. If you cash secure the put it's a 10% or so return if the stock stays above the strike. If it falls below I' ll be happy to own the stock with a 6 handle net. Back in 2008 everyone anticipated a huge default wave to hit the high yield market. Thanks to federal stimulus money pumping programs it did not happen. However in the spirit of sell the dog food the dog will eat a given moment the hedge fund world raised an enormous amount od distressed debt money. Thanks to this high yield spreads are far too low. CCC paper in particular is priced at absurd levels. These things trade like money good paper and much of it is not. Extend and pretend has helped but if the economy stays weak and interest rates rise rolling over the tsunami f paper due over the next few years becomes nigh onto impossible. I am going take small position in puts on the various high yield ETFs. If I am right they will explode when that market implodes. Continuing to talk my book I hope this happens. Among my nightly prayers is "Please God just one more two year period of asset rich companies with current payments having bonds trade below recovery value and I promise not to piss the money away this time. Amen.
PS. If you add in risk arbitrage spreads of 30% annualized returns along with this I would not object. Love, Tim.
I can't tell you what the markets will do. I do know that I want to own some safe and cheap stocks, some well capitalized small banks trading below book and participate in activist situation. I will be under invested in equities going into the year hoping my watch list becomes my buy list in market stumble. I will have put positions on long T-Bonds and high yield hoping for a large asymmetrical payoff.
Other than that I am clueless.
Kim Zussman comments:
Does anyone else think this year is harder than usual to forecast? Is it better now to forecast based on market fundamentals or mass psychology? We are at a two year high in stocks, after a huge rally off the '09 bottom that followed through this year. One can make compelling arguments for next year to decline (best case scenarios already discounted, prior big declines followed by others, volatility low, house prices still too high, FED out of tools, gov debt/gdp, Roubini says so, benefits to wall st not main st, persistent high unemployment, Year-to-year there is no significant relationship, but there is a weak down tendency after two consecutive up years. ). And compelling arguments for up as well (crash-fears cooling, short MA's > long MA's, retail investors and much cash still on sidelines, tax-cut extended, employee social security lowered, earnings increasing, GDP increasing, Tepper and Goldman say so, FED herding into risk assets, benefits to wall st not main st, employment starting to increase).
Is the level of government market-intervention effective, sustainable, or really that unusual? The FED looks to be avoiding Japan-style deflation at all costs, and has a better tool in the dollar. A bond yields decline would help growth and reduce deflation risk. Increasing yields would be expected with increasing inflation; bad for growth but welcomed by retiring boomers looking for fixed income. Will Obamacare be challenged or defanged by states or in the supreme court? Will 2011 be the year of the muni-bubble pop?
A ball of confusion!
4 picks in equal proportion:
long XLV (health care etf; underperformed last year)
long CMF (Cali muni bond fund; fears over-wrought, investors still need tax-free yield)
short GLD (looks like a bubble and who needs gold anyway)
short IEF (7-10Y treasuries; near multi-year high/QE2 is weaker than vigilantism)
Alan Millhone writes:
I note discussion over the rules etc. Then you have a fellow like myself who has never bought or sold through the Market a single share.
For myself I will stick with what I know a little something. No, not Checkers —
Rental property. I have some empty units and beginning to rent one or two of late to increase my bottom line.
I will not venture into areas I know little or nothing and will stay the course in 2011 with what I am comfortable.
Happy New Year and good health,
Jay Pasch predicts:
2010 will close below SP futures 1255.
Buy-and-holders will be sorely disappointed as 2011 presents itself as a whip-saw year.
99% of the bullish prognosticators will eat crow except for the few lonely that called for a tempered intra-year high of ~ SPX 1300.
SPX will test 1130 by April 15 with a new recovery high as high as 1300 by the end of July.
SPX 1300 will fail with new 2011 low of 1050 before ending the year right about where it started.
The Midwest will continue to supply the country with good-natured humble stock, relatively speaking.
Chris Tucker enters:
Buy and Hold
Wildcard: Buy and Hold AVAV
Gibbons Burke comments:
Mr. Ed Seykota once outlined for me the four essential rules of trading:
1) The trend is your friend (till it bends when it ends.)
2) Ride your winners.
3) Cut your losses short.
4) Keep the size of your bet small.
Then there are the "special" rules:
5) Follow all the rules.
and for masters of the game:
6) Know when to break rule #5
A prosperous and joy-filled New Year to everyone.
John Floyd writes:
In no particular order with target prices to be reached at some point in 2011:
1) Short the Australian Dollar:current 1.0220, target price .8000
2) Short the Euro: current 1.3375, target price 1.00
3) Short European Bank Stocks, can use BEBANKS index: current 107.40, target 70
A Mr. Krisrock predicts:
1…housing will continue to lag…no matter what can be done…and with it unemployment will remain
2…bonds will outperform as republicans will make cutting spending the first attack they make…QE 2 will be replaced by QE3
3…with every economist in the world bullish, stocks will underperform…
4…commodities are peaking ….
Laurel Kenner predicts:
After having made monkeys of those luminaries who shorted Treasuries last year, the market in 2011 has had its laugh and will finally carry out the long-anticipated plunge in bond prices.
Short the 30-year bond futures and cover at 80.
Pete Earle writes:
All picks are for 'all year' (open first trading day/close last trading day).
1. Long EUR/USD
2. Short gold (GLD)
MMR (McMoran Exploration Corp)
HDIX (Home Diagnostics Inc)
TUES (Tuesday Morning Corp)
PBP (Powershares S&P500 Buy-Write ETF)
NIB (iPath DJ-UBS Cocoa ETF)
KG (King Pharmaceuticals)
Happy New Year to all,
Paolo Pezzutti enters:
If I may humbly add my 2 cents:
- bearish on S&P: 900 in dec
- crisis in Europe will bring EURUSD down to 1.15
- gold will remain a safe have haven: up to 1500
- big winner: natural gas to 8
J.T Holley contributes:
The Market Mistress so eloquently must come first and foremost. Just as daily historical stats point to betting on the "unchanged" so is my S&P 500 trade for calendar year 2011. Straddle the Mistress Day 1. My choice for own reasons with whatever leverage is suitable for pain thresholds is a quasi straddle. 100% Long and 50% Short in whatever instrument you choose. If instrument allows more leverage, first take away 50% of the 50% Short at suitable time and add to the depreciated/hopefully still less than 100% Long. Feel free to add to the Long at this discretionary point if it suits you. At the next occasion that is discretionary take away remaining Short side of Quasi Straddle, buckle up, and go Long whatever % Long that your instrument or brokerage allows till the end of 2011. Take note and use the historical annual standard deviation of the S&P 500 as a rudder or North Star, and throw in the quarterly standard deviation for testing. I think the ambiguity of the current situation will make the next 200-300 trading days of data collection highly important, more so than prior, but will probably yield results that produce just the same results whatever the Power Magnification of the Microscope.
Long the U.S. Dollar. Don't bother with the rest of the world and concern yourself with which of the few other Socialist-minded Country currencies to short. Just Long the U.S. Dollar on Day 1 of 2011. Keep it simple and specialize in only the Long of the U.S. Dollar. Cataclysmic Economic Nuclear Winter ain't gonna happen. When the Pastor preaches only on the Armageddon and passes the plate while at the pulpit there is only one thing that happens eventually - the Parish dwindles and the plate stops getting filled. The Dollar will bend as has, but won't break or at least I ain't bettin' on such.
Ala Mr. Melvin, Short any investment vehicle you like that contains the words or numerals "perpetual maturity", "zero coupon" and "20-30yr maturity" in their respective regulated descriptions, that were issued in times of yore. Unfortunately it doesn't work like a light switch with the timing, remember it's more like air going into a balloon or a slow motion see-saw. We always want profits initially and now and it just doesn't work that way it seems in speculation. Also, a side hedge is to start initially looking at any financial institution that begins, dabbles, originates and gains high margin fees from 50-100 year home loans or Zero-Coupon Home Loans if such start to make their way Stateside. The Gummit is done with this infusion and cheer leading. They are in protection mode, their profit was made. Now the savy financial engineers that are left or upcoming will continue to find ways to get the masses to think they "Own" homes while actually renting them. Think Car Industry '90-'06 with. Japan did it with their Notes and I'm sure some like-minded MBA's are baiting/pushing the envelopes now in board rooms across the U.S. with their profitability and ROI models, probably have ditched the Projector and have all around the cherry table with IPads watching their presentation. This will ultimately I feel humbly be the end of the Mortgage Interest Deduction as it will be dwindled down to a moot point and won't any longer be the leading tax deduction that it was created to so-called help.
Short Gold, Short it, Short it more. Take all of your emotions and historical supply and demand factors out of the equation, just look at the historical standard deviation and how far right it is and think of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story and when he thought he was actually flying and the look on his face at apex realization. That plus continue doing a study on Google Searches and the number of hits on "stolen gold", "stolen jewelery", and Google Google side Ads for "We buy Gold". I don't own gold jewelery, and have surrendered the only gold piece that I ever wore, but if I was still wearing it I'd be mighty weary of those that would be willing to chop a finger off to obtain. That ain't my fear, that's more their greed.
Long lithium related or raw if such. Technology demands such going forward.
Long Natural Gas. Trading Day 1 till last trading day of the year. The historic "cheap" price in the minds of wannabe's will cause it to be leveraged long and oft with increasing volume regardless of the supply. Demand will follow, Pickens sowed the seeds and paid the price workin' the mule while plowin'. De-regulation on the supply side of commercial business statements is still in its infancy and will continue, politics will not beat out free markets going into the future.
Long Crude and look to see the round 150 broken in years to come while China invents, perfects, and sees the utility in the Nuclear fueled tanker.
Long LED, solar, and wind generation related with tiny % positions. Green makes since, its here to stay and become high margined profitable businesses.
Short Sugar. Sorry Mr. Bow Tie. Monsanto has you Beet! That being stated, the substitute has arrived and genetically altered "Roundup Ready" is here to stay no matter what the Legislative Luddite Agrarians try, deny, or attempt. With that said, Long MON. It is way more than a seed company. It is more a pharmaceutical engineer and will bring down the obesity ridden words Corn Syrup eventually as well. Russia and Ireland will make sure of this with their attitudes of profit legally or illegally.
Prepare to long in late 2011 the commercialized marijuana and its manufacturing, distribution companies that need to expand profitability from its declining tobacco. Altria can't wait, neither can Monsanto. It isn't a moral issue any longer, it's a financial profit one. We get the joke, or choke? If the Gummit doesn't see what substitutes that K2 are doing and the legal hassles of such and what is going on in Lisbon then they need to have an economic lesson or two. It will be a compromise between the Commercial Adjective Definition Agrarians and Gummit for tax purposes with the Green theme continuing and lobbying.
Short Coffee, but just the 1st Qtr of 2011. Sorry Seattle. I will also state that there will exist a higher profit margin substitute for the gas combustible engine than a substitute for caffeine laden coffee.
Sex and Speculation:
Look to see www.fyretv.com go public in 2011 with whatever investment bank that does such trying their best to be anonymous. Are their any investment banks around? This Boxxx will make Red Box blush and Apple TV's box envious. IPTV and all related should be a category that should be Longed in 2011 it is here to stay and is in it's infancy. Way too many puns could be developed from this statement. Yes, I know fellas the fyre boxxx is 6"'s X 7"'s.
This is one category to always go Long. I have vastly improved my guitar playin' in '10 and will do so in '11. AAPL still has the edge and few rivals are even gaining market share and its still a buy on dips, sell on highs empirically counted. They finally realized that .99 cents wasn't cutting it and .69 cents was more appropriate for those that have bought Led Zeppelin IV songs on LP, 8-track, cassette, and CD over the course of their lives. Also, I believe technology has a better shot at profitably bringing music back into public schools than the Federal or State Gummits ever will.
Long - Your mind. Double down on this Day 1 of 2011. It's the most capable, profitable thing you have going for you. I just learned this after the last 36 months.
Long - Counting, you need it now more than ever. It's as important as capitalism.
Long - Being humble, it's intangible but if quantified has a STD of 4 if not higher.
Long - Common Sense.
Long - Our Children. The media is starting to question if their education is priceless, when it is, but not in their context or jam.
Short - Politics. It isn't a spectator sport and it has been made to be such.
Short - Fear, it is way way been played out. Test anything out there if you like. I have. It is prevalent still and disbelief is rampant.
Long - Greed, but don't be greedy just profitable. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was the pilot fish.
I had to end on a Long note.
Happy New Year's Specs. Thanks to all for support over the last four years. I finally realized that it ain't about being right or wrong, just profitable in all endeavors. Too many losses led to this, pain felt after lookin' within, and countin' ones character results with pen/paper.
Russ Sears writes:
For my entry to the contest, I will stick with the stocks ETF, and the index markets and avoid individual stocks, and the bonds and interest rates. This entry was thrown together rather quickly, not at all an acceptable level if it was real money. This entry is meant to show my personal biases and familiarity, rather than my investment regiment. I am largely talking my personal book.
Therefore, in the spirit of the contest , as well as the rules I will expose my line of thinking but only put numbers on actual entry predictions. Finally, if my caveats are not warning enough, I will comment on how a prediction or contest entry differs from any real investment. I would make or have made.
The USA number one new product export will continue to be the exportation of inflation. The printing of dollars will continue to have unintended consequences than its intended effect on the national economy but have an effect on the global economy.. Such monetary policy will hit areas with the most potential for growth: the emerging markets of China and India. In these economies, that spends over half their income on food, food will continue to rise. This appears to be a position opposite the Chairs starting point prediction of reversal of last year's trends.
Likewise, the demand for precious metals such as gold and silver will not wane as these are the poor man's hedge against food cost. It may be overkill for the advanced economies to horde the necessities and load up on precious metals Yet, unlike the 70's the US/ European economy no longer controls gold and silver a paradigm shift in thinking that perhaps the simple statistician that uses weighted averages and the geocentric economist have missed. So I believe those entries shorting gold or silver will be largely disappointed. However in a nod to the chair's wisdom, I will not pick metals directly as an entry. Last year's surprise is seldom this year's media darling. However, the trend can continue and gold could have a good year. The exception to the reversal rule seems to be with bubbles which gain a momentum of their own, apart from the fundamentals. The media has a natural sympathy in suggesting a return to the drama of he 70's, the stagflation dilemma, ,and propelling an indicator of doom. With the media's and the Fed's befuddled backing perhaps the "exception" is to be expected. But I certainly don't see metal's impending collapse nor its continued performance.
The stability or even elevated food prices will have some big effects on the heartland.
1. For my trend is your friend pick: Rather than buy directly into a agriculture commodity based index like DBA, I am suggesting you buy an equity agriculture based ETF like CRBA year end price at 77.50. I am suggesting that this ETF do not need to have commodities produce a stellar year, but simply need more confirmation that commodity price have established a higher long term floor. Individually I own several of these stocks and my wife family are farmers and landowners (for full disclosure purposes not to suggest I know anything about the agriculture business) Price of farmland is raising, due to low rates, GSE available credit, high grain prices due to high demand from China/India, ethanol substitution of oil A more direct investment in agriculture stability would be farmland. Farmers are buying tractors, best seeds and fertilizers of course, but will this accelerate. Being wrong on my core theme of stable to rising food/commodity price will ruin this trade. Therefore any real trade would do due diligence on individual stocks, and put a trailing floor. And be sensitive to higher volatility in commodities as well as a appropriate entry and exit level.
2. For the long term negative alpha, short term strength trade: I am going with airlines and FAA at 49.42 at year end. There seems to be finally some ability to pass cost through to the consumer, will it hold?
3. For the comeback of the year trade XHB: (the homebuilders ETF), bounces back with 25% return. While the overbuilding and vacancy rates in many high population density areas will continue to drag the home makes down, the new demand from the heartland for high end houses will rise that is this is I am suggesting that the homebuilders index is a good play for housing regionally decoupling from the national index. And much of what was said about the trading of agriculture ETF, also apply to this ETF. However, while I consider this a "surprise", the surprise is that this ETF does not have a negative alpha or slightly positive. This is in-line with my S&P 500 prediction below. Therefore unless you want volatility, simply buying the S&P Vanguard fund would probably be wiser. Or simply hold these inline to the index.
4. For the S&P Index itself I would go with the Vanguard 500 Fund as my vehicle VFINXF, and predict it will end 2011 at $145.03, this is 25% + the dividend. This is largely due to how I believe the economy will react this year.
5. For my wild card regional banks EFT, greater than IAT > 37.50 by end 2011…
Yanki Onen writes:
I would like to thank all for sharing their insights and wisdom. As we all know and reminded time to time, how unforgiven could the market Mistress be. We also know how nurturing and giving it could be. Time to time i had my share of falls and rises. Everytime I fall, I pick your book turn couple of pages to get my fix then scroll through articles in DSpecs seeking wisdom and a flash of light. It never fails, before you know, back to the races. I have all of you to thank for that.
Now the ideas;
-This year's lagger next year's winner CSCO
Go long Jan 2012 20 Puts @ 2.63 Go long CSCO @ 19.55 Being long the put gives you the leverage and protection for a whole year, to give the stock time to make a move.
You could own 100,000 shares for $263K with portfolio margin ! Sooner the stock moves the more you make (time decay)
-Sell contango Buy backwardation
You could never go wrong if you accept the truth, Index funds always roll and specs dont take physical delivery. This cant be more true in Cotton.
Right before Index roll dates (it is widely published) sell front month buy back month especially when it is giving you almost -30 to do so Sell March CT Buy July CT pyramid this trade untill the roll date (sometime at the end of Jan or begining of Feb) when they are almost done rolling(watch the shift in open interest) close out and Buy May CT sell July CT wait patiently for it to play it out again untill the next roll.
- Leveraged ETFs suckers play!
Two ways to play this one out if you could borrow and sell short, short both FAZ and FAS equal $ amounts since the trade is neutral, execute this trade almost free of margin. One thing is for sure to stay even long after we are gone is volatility and triple leveraged products melt under volatility!
If you cant borrow the shares execute the trade using Jan 12 options to open synthetic short positions. This trade works with time and patience!
Vic, thanks again for providing a platform to listen and to be heard.
Phil McDonnell writes:
When investing one should consider a diversified portfolio. But in a contest the best strategy is just to go for it. After all you have to be number one.
With that thought in mind I am going to bet it all on Silver using derivatives on the ETF SLV.
SLV closed at 30.18 on Friday.
Buy Jan 2013 40 call for 3.45.
Sell Jan 2012 40 call at 1.80.
Sell Jul 25 put at 1.15.
Net debit is .50.
Exit strategy: close out entire position if SLV ETF reaches a price of 40 or better. If 40 is not reached then exit on 2/31/2011 at the close.
George Parkanyi entered:
For what it's worth, the Great White North weighs in ….
3 Markets equally weighted - 3 stages each (if rules allow) - all trades front months
3 JAN 2011
BUY NAT GAS at open
BUY SILVER at open
BUY CORN at open
28 FEB 2011 (Reverse Positions)
SELL and then SHORT NAT GAS at open
SELL and then SHORT SILVER at open
SELL and then SHORT CORN at open
1 AUG 2011 (Reverse Positions)
COVER and then BUY NAT GAS at open
COVER and then BUY SILVER at open
COVER and then BUY CORN at open
Hold all positions to the end of the year
3 JAN BUY PLATINUM and hold to end of year.
. Markets to unexpectedly carry through in New Year despite correction fears.
. Spain/Ireland debt roll issues - Europe/Euro in general- will be in the news in Q1/Q2
- markets will correct sharply in late Q1 through Q2 (interest rates will be rising)
. Markets will kick in again in Q3 & Q4 with strong finish on more/earlier QE in both Europe and US - hard assets will remain in favour; corn & platinum shortages; cooling trend & economic recovery to favour nat gas
. Also assuming seasonals will perform more or less according to stats
If rules do not allow directional changes; then go long NAT GAS, SILVER, and CORN on 1 AUG 2011 (cash until then); wild card trade the same.
Gratuitous/pointless prediction: At least two European countries will drop out of Euro in 2011 (at least announce it) and go back to their own currency.
Marlowe Cassetti enters:
FXE - Currency Shares Euro Trust
XLE - Energy Select
BAL - iPath Dow Jones-AIG Cotton Total Return Sub-Index
GDXJ - Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners
AMJ - JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN
VNM - Market Vectors Vietnam ETF
Kim Zussman entered:
long XLV (health care etf; underperformed last year)
long CMF (Cali muni bond fund; fears over-wrought, investors still
need tax-free yield)
short GLD (looks like a bubble and who needs gold anyway)
short IEF (7-10Y treasuries; near multi-year high/QE2 is weaker than
Most books and movies have a indirect way of indicating that their talent and authors are fellow travelers. The common thing is to have the radio or tv on showing some stereotyped situation where the rich are living in mansions while the homeless are on the street, or a Republican President like Regan or Bush or Nixon saying something that looks evil and cold-hearted when taken out of context. A new technique would be "Fox News would have us believe that"…."tenure gives university professors the green light to teach that revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system is appropriate." What are some of the other techniques? How does financial news color the news to make us do and think the wrong things?
Scott Brooks writes:
It doesn't matter what you say, it can be edited to be anything that the "opposition" (whoever they may be) needs it to be. Witness Alan Grayson's attack on Dan Webster.
In today's MTV short attention span 10 second sound bite world, the media can easily manipulate the 90% of the population that are the "unthinking masses". They lack the critical thinking skills necessary to put 2 and 2 together to get 4. Unfortunately, in today's society, the world is much more complicated than 2 and 2. The media, the government and complicit so called capitalists industry (which they are not) have complicated things so much that we're way past 2 and 2….we're easily at 3 and 3 and with the housing market derivative meltdown we're at 4 and 4.
Asking 90% of the population to put 4 and 4 together is ridiculous…..you may as well ask them to explain how gravity works.
Ken Drees writes:
Looking back at 2010 and market / news coverage related trades I would confess that I missed a big one–being taken in by fear even when intuitively I knew I should have tried to buy that fear.
The coverage was oppressive. Obama was going to keep a boot on the throat, x billion was for "starters". BP would have to sell off divisions, they would be constantly garnished—every market guy on tv said BP this and BP that but always ended the interview with "Of course I would not buy it at this level yet".
I made up my mind to pass it up since I couldn't figure out how the USgov was going to handle it. BP CEO looked out of touch–yacht racing when he should have been in the bunker, then he gets sacked. Someone was buying all that BP stock and Jeff Watson framed the big picture of how much was spilling into how big an area–but the logic of this was weighed with the fact that cap was still leaking and the blowout may need a nuclear option and the shrimpers were committing suicide.
The news was the most bleak and black–and not only network news but blogs and such. In the end I missed a biggie—there is a lesson to be learned here that I still have not completely distilled out in terms of what triggered me not to even "try" a trade. Even when the leak stopped–it seemed like it would not hold!
George Coyle writes:
Having recently read some books on screen writing techniques, it becomes apparent that certain structures are conventions and are generally present (or should be if one wants to sell dreams to studios for production). Also, the biggest grossing films tend to be either love stories or Horatio Alger style rags-to-riches tales of the poor boy turned not so poor. People love these stories because they allow escape into the ideal growth toward fame and fortune (financial or otherwise) and provide hope. We don't see many modern videos selling being green or moral values either…it is all g5 this, bling that, etc. Take Avatar of late, crippled none-too-bright man on earth becomes champion of a new world, gets the girl, becomes the leader, etc. Hollywood is notorious for sticking with what works and the fact is selling love and rags-to-riches tales just trump the alternatives because who wants tragedy in fantasy or to come out of a situation we paid for feeling bad, life provides more than enough of that. It is a story telling norm and is rarely violated in mainstream commercial profit seeking films. So patterns not only exist, they were specifically tailored to what made a profit last time and will again. As pretty much everyone is seeking more wealth and/or love and wouldn't turn down becoming the hero of a new world we all become fellow travelers on these stories. The stories feed our hope of being something greater.
As for popular media, especially the financial variety, they seem to filter their speakers to suit the topic du jour. During the crisis Roubini was a financial God and was quoted by everyone I knew but he doesn't get near as much air time at present with the spx nearly double the crisis lows. Should the market collapse again they will undoubtedly trot out the doomsday seers to explain why the longs got it so wrong. Media giants allow price action to dictate program lineups such that when markets go one way or another out come the biggest advocates of that move to tell us all why. It serves as a reinforcing phenomenon and can foster buying more or widespread panic depending on the environment. But I feel people will generally believe what they hear on tv (especially people who aren't market professionals). It would be interesting to see the p n l of following the recommendations of all of the commentators. Who knows if they are telling us the truth or dumping their positions profitably to the general populace.
Galt Niederhoffer writes in with a comment:
Movies have always been a populist medium and the structure of the plot is best suited for very simple ideas to be proven or disproven with beginning, middle and end. I don't think writers are socialists by nature. I just think that movie plots best lend themselves to tales of good and evil and it's easiest to prove the error of new, mass or radical ways than the opposite.
Gary Rogan writes:
The most important tool at the disposal of the information industry is choosing what not to cover. If it's a politician they like, they will not cover significant concerns about their background, like the lack of basic information about their past. If it's a financial bailout, etc. they will create an illusion that there is a consensus supporting it by concentrating on those with the "right" opinions.
From a Mercatus study on pensions:
Pension plans operated by state governments on behalf of their employees are underfunded by an estimated $452 billion according to official reports, with total liabilities of $2.8 trillion and total assets of $2.3 trillion in 2008. However, many economists argue that even these daunting liabilities are understated. Current public sector accounting methods allow plans to assume they can earn high investment returns without any risk. Using methods that are required for private sector pensions, which value pension liabilities according to likelihood of payment rather than the return expected on pension assets, total liabilities amount to $5.2 trillion and the unfunded liability rises to $3 trillion. The ability of governments to pay for the retirement benefits promised to public sector workers runs up against the reality of limited resources.
In this study, we consider the case of New Jersey, which operates five defined benefit pension plans for state employees. The New Jersey Senate unanimously passed legislation in February 2010 that would put a question on the November ballot to constitutionally require the state to begin to make its full annual payment to the state's pension system. The bill requires the state to catch up to paying its full obligation by FY 2018. From that year forward the state will be constitutionally required to make the full payment to its pension systems each year as calculated by plan actuaries. The state reports that its pension systems are underfunded by $44.7 billion, when liabilities are discounted at the 8.25 percent annual return that New Jersey predicts it can achieve on funds' investment portfolios.
However, when plan liabilities are calculated in a manner consistent with private sector accounting requirements, methods that economists almost universally agree are more appropriate, New Jersey's unfunded benefit obligation rises to $173.9 billion. This amount is equivalent to 44 percent of the state's current GDP8 and 328 percent of its current explicit government debt. This calculation applies a discount rate of 3.5 percent (the yield on Treasury bonds with a maturity of 15 years) to reflect the nearly risk-free nature of accrued benefits for workers. It is estimated if state pension assets average a return of 8 percent, New Jersey will run out of funds to meet its pension obligations in 2019. If asset returns are lower than 8 percent, they will run out of funds sooner. State actuaries estimate that under certain assumptions, New Jersey's pension plans will run out of assets to make benefit payments beginning in 2013.
Scott Brooks comments:
So basically, all that needs to happen for pensions to be fully funded is to pass legislation to require that they be fully funded. Now, all the states have to do is pass legislation that allows them to print money and they could make all their problems go away over night!
If one were to squint one's eyes and put on a "fact blind-fold", you can see that there is no problem with pensions. This is obviously alarmist claptrap.
I seem to remember bringing up the underfunded pension problem on this list over the last several years and getting "poo-poo'ed" for being a bearish chicken little.
Nothing to see here, move along, move along.
December 22, 2010 | 12 Comments
The other day, I was forced to attend an amateur showing of Dickens "A Christmas Carol." The production was well executed, the stagecraft was excellent, and the scenery was first rate. I've seen the Dickens classic so many times, I either just nod off, daydream, or try to improve my mind. During the show, I started to think of how the author, Charles Dickens, really hated capitalists and was a socialist at heart. He portrayed Ebeneezer Scrooge as the prototypical capitalist of the day, but his real "sin" was that he was a miser, only interested in his self, mistreating everyone. The fact that Scrooge had a bad attitude and dour personality did not work in his favor and was a great device used by Dickens to generate hatred for capitalists and the rich in general.
This got me thinking on many levels. For one thing, Scrooge was a businessman who earned his money fair and square. He cheated nobody and expected his contracts and debts to be paid as per any previous agreements, Scrooge ran a tight ship, to the point of being called miserly. He was a demanding employer of his clerk Mr. Cratchit, who accepted the employment contract with Mr. Scrooge with good cheer. Much has been said and written about the evil Mr Scrooge, his name has become part of the lexicon of the definition of an evil capitalist. Even the people in the neighborhood made disparaging remarks about Scrooge, and this mistreatment and lack of respect added to his dour personality. There was no evil to Mr Scrooge, and his unfavorable treatment was a literary device, a populist reaction by the left, the socialists who portray all rich as greedy, evil people who allow people to suffer while they live rich, extravagant lives.
As I said before, Mr Scrooge had an employment contract with his clerk, Mr. Cratchit who was a man of good cheer. Cratchit's wife constantly complained that Scrooge was an old miser with a flinty heart of stone. She neglected to mention that Mr. Cratchit was free to seek employment elsewhere if his working conditions were so bad, but this aspect and so many others were left out by Dickens. As for Scrooge's miserly description, some would call his miserliness thrift, which is an esteemed Franklinian virtue.
Scrooge's refusal to participate in a festive dinner with his nephew and wife was his business and he certainly didn't deserve the ridicule heaped upon him by the women folk, nor was he required to offer an explanation or apology. He was merely exercising his freedom to do what he wanted, and if he chose not to celebrate Christmas, that was his natural, god given right. During Scrooge's pre ghost phase, he was a hard nosed flinty business man, albeit a bit ill mannered. There is no law against being ill mannered, dour, mean, or miserly. Scrooge was free to do whatever he wanted, with no worries what society would think as long as he behaved within the law and remaining scandal free.
Every good story likes to make a case of human redemption, a change from self interest to the interest and service of the collective. In popular culture, rich are inherently evil, their gains ill gotten off the backs of workers, and the poor always triumph over the rich. Dickens masterfully pulled this off when he had three ghosts visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve to scare the hell out of him and change his evil ways. His powerful scare tactics caused Mr Scrooge to abandon his own self interest, abandon his personal freedom for the good of society, destroy the profitability of his business, and spend his hard earned wealth on charity to repent for his earlier miserliness.
The messages Dickens made in a Christmas Carol were very clear. Productive people must give to the more deserving poor to be considered worthy, rich people are not happy due to guilt, producers must abandon self interest in order to satisfy the needs of others in a society who don't work as hard, businessmen must run their personal business for the sole benefit of their employees, conversely to the detriment of the stockholders. And finally one must give exorbitant sums to the poor, provide medical care for the employees, and give retroactive raises to allegedly underpaid employees. Benevolence is not a virtue in this world, it is a requirement. Scrooge was manipulated into this transformation by the three ghosts creating immense guilt and fear, and by the end of the story Mr Scrooge was more concerned with what people thought of him, his personal image, than the real work of creating profits, creating jobs, growing a business, and contributing to the general business climate.
At the end of the story Mr. Scrooge was a transformed man. He was happy, benevolent, highly thought of, giving,almost giddy, much like a person who has had a drink or ten. A good case could be made that he was a better man, but w hat he lost was the real tragedy. Scrooge lost his independence, his freedom, became dependent not on profits, but on the opinions of others. He was required to give money away, raised expectations of others, and caused economic imbalance by changing the market pay scale of employees in his business. In a way, Scrooge's new found largesse probably was bad for the economy as a whole a la the theories of Hazlitt. On another note, happiness tends to be fleeting much like health and I suspect that with Mr Scrooge, old habits die hard.
When the curtain closed, everyone was cheering. I felt a bit of sadness, as here's another story of poverty trumps wealth, rich is evil while poor is good, and being a second hander is more important than being a real, virtuous free man. In the end, Mr. Scrooge was the real loser and the real story was the transformation of a rich, productive man into a welfare state.
Rocky Humbert comments:
Considering "A Christmas Carol" to be an indictment of Victorian Capitalism is not a novel idea, yet I still find your words and spirit to be sad, indeed.
While you are free to intrepret Dickens however you see fit, you have no such freedom with respect to core Judeo-Christian values, which parts of Dickens' play embodies. The principles which you lament are the core principles of Judaism and Christianity.
What you find lamentable, I find laudable. When you find trivial, I find grand. In short, I celebrate the charity and goodness toward man that Christmas celebrates, while you mock it as political correctness.
I wish you a happy holiday, and hope that you someday discover what Scrooged learned– that there is no greater joy than bringing happiness to others.
Scott Brooks adds:
Let's not confuse charity with force of threat.
Scrooge offered a fair deal at a fair price. The way we can infer that this is the case is that people came to him, and willingly signed a contract. Scrooge performed his half of the contract by loaning them money. What is wrong with him expecting that they honor their portion of the contract?
And, let's not confuse what Scrooge did for charity. Giving to other under threat of force…..i.e. the spirits (under the direction of Dickens) threatened him with the threat of eternal damnation if he didn't commit business suicide.
Another problem with "A Christmas Carol" was that the story ended on December 25th. Let's flash forward to the "The Week After Christmas":
Bob Cratchit shows up at work on the 26th only to find that he doesn't have a job. Why? Because Scrooge, in his "fit of charity to bring happiness and joy to others" tore up all the debts owed to him and there was no more accounting work for Cratchit to do.
Later that day, and throughout the next week, a bunch of former Scrooge customers come to the office to borrow more money, only to find it closed because Scrooge has no more money to lend out. If he did, it would be evil (under Rocky's view of the world) to unfairly loan out money. And he couldn't just keep the money, he would have to give it away to atone for his supposed sins.
Therefore, the vital role that Scrooge played in the community…i.e. loaning money to people that had need of a loan for whatever purpose they felt they needed a loan for (and that Scrooge deemed as a good "loan risk")….that vital role was no longer available in the community.
And what happens when credit dries up in a society….well, I think we can all agree that that's not a good thing.
Sorry Rocky, but you're wrong in your assessment. This is not charity or Christian/Judeo ethics. This is a story by a man who didn't like Capitalism, that slams capitalism. It could have been written by most any journalist or university professor in today's society.
David Hillman writes:
And then, there's the contrarian point of view…
….which makes as much sense as does the interpretation of A Christmas Carol as an indictment of Victorian Capitalism [which, by the way, was far different from what we generally think of as 20th Century capitalism, i.e., the kinder, gentler Fordist model or the so-called millennial capitalism that has been evolving since the 1980s.]
I don't know much, but two things I know, 1) what Dickens' meaning and intent in A Christmas Carol was is about as clear as what the founding fathers intended in the Constitution, or as clear as whether the origin of the universe was a God or a Big Bang, and 2) we don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
That said, I would posit that one's interpretation of A Christmas Carol, or just about anything else for that matter, tells us far more about the interpreter than it does of Dickens.
Gary Rogan writes:
It's interesting that with all of his supposedly anti-capitalist novels, Dickens undertook two trips to America mostly to lobby for copyright enforcement. He also blamed his bankruptcy and later health and financial problems close to his death on being deprived of his rightful royalty stream. Somehow various American software companies and their hyper-liberal billionaire founders fighting intellectual property theft in China come to mind, although they are all in decidedly better financial shape.
Kim Zussman chimes in:
It's not every day you see Jewish pro-Christmas arguments against Mormons; a market top indicator?
The 1938 Christmas Carol is a great film, and if you don't tear up your trading accounts are definitely too flush.
Scrooge's encounters with ghostly futures cause us to ask what is really important. It is difficult to balance the race for money with taking time for things and people who will too soon be grown, old, or gone.
Stefan Jovanovich writes:
"A Christmas Carol" is far less about what our List calls "capitalism" - i.e. pricing by competition - and far more about Dickens' wanting the world to have a universal catcher in the rye and not be like the America he saw in 1842. He was appalled by our slavery and by our insane "push". He was also upset by the fact that, like the East Asians today, Americans were notorious copyright pirates. We were also the source of his growing wealth by being the best customers for his books. During his visit to New York his American publisher and his admirers (Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant) held a gala in his honor, with 3000 people attending.
Dickens knew almost nothing about business by 1843 (the date of A Christmas Carol's publication) from direct experience or observation. His father had worked in the Navy Pay office and lived on a family inheritance. Dickens' only job in any "dark, satanic mill" was a few months sticking labels on bottles of shoe polish. He then went back to school. After school he worked in a law office as a clerk, taught himself the new short-hand and became a court reporter through a family connection. That led to political journalism. Sketches by Boz - his first book published in 1836 - is a collection of his political pieces for the Morning Chronicle, covering the Parliamentary elections.
The socialism Jeff finds in the story is there; it is the same socialism you find in Thoreau. It came from the same source - Unitarianism - which Dickens became interested in while visiting the U.S. And, capitalism in its modern forms was still in its infancy. It would be another decade and more before limited liability was formally recognized in Britain in the legislation of 1855-1856.
Gibbons Burke writes:
A Christmas Carol is not anti-Capitalist as such. But it makes a case strongly against Capitalism run by capitalists who serve Mammon rather than God. Scrooge, who initially perfectly represents that anti-human form of Capitalism at its worst soul-less excess, is the perfect picture of a seemingly-self-satisfied soul roasting in a Hell on Earth of his own devising, and he seems certainly destined for the eternal flame pit until his heart is converted later in the book. At that moment he becomes filled with the Joy that is the gigantic secret of the Christian (according to Chesterton).
Here is Dickens' initial description of old Scrooge - which seems to have plenty of editorial voltage:
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.
External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often "came down" handsomely, and Scrooge never did.
Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?" No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!"
But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call "nuts" to Scrooge.
The book is available in several illustrated editions for free on Project Gutenberg.
Jeff Watson responds:
So, in other words, while Scrooge was unpopular, he enjoyed total freedom. That sounds pretty good to me. At least If I had his rep, I wouldn't have to say no to 30 requests for donations a day. Can you imagine how refreshing it would be to perform an essential service, perform admirably in business, deliver superior service, and not give a damn what people thought of you? That would make Hank Reardon proud. It is not a crime to be disagreeable, a skinflint, self serving or any other eccentricity. If we punished men for their eccentricities, Henry Ford would have never created and revolutionized the automobile business, J.P. Morgan would never have risen beyond the level of margin clerk, the old Commodore Vanderbilt would have probably died in a house of ill repute, Barney Frank would have been hanging out on…, and Bill Clinton would probably be in an Arkansas … for a very youthful indiscretion.
John Tierney writes:
In 1899 Elbert Hubbard viewed the "Scrooges" thusly:
We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the "downtrodden denizen of the sweat-shop" and the "homeless wanderer searching for honest employment," & with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.
Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne'er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with "help" that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away "help" that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues, only if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer- but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go.
It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best- those who can carry a message to Garcia.
I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him. He cannot give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, "Take it yourself."
Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled No. 9 boot.
Tim Melvin comments:
The question of scrooge and how we view him is one that men of business have wrestled with since the damn story was published. The thing is that Dickens does not paint Scrooge as the example of every businessman. We tend to take much of the Scrooge story out of context, I think. Business itself is not painted as evil or wrong. Was not Fezziwig the owner of a prosperous and successful business when young Ebenezer was employed there in his youth. Judging by the Christmas party it was prosperous business indeed. Yet Fezziwig was a generous soul to his employees who treated then well and asked for a fair days work for a fair day's pay and got it it cheerfully from those in his employ. Scrooge described his time employed there and his boss thusly, "The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune ."
In contrast Scrooge underpaid Bob Cratchitt and treated him poorly. To say that Mr. Cratchitt could simply look for other employment is as ridiculous a statement as it is heartless. With a large family and a sick child he would be foolish to change what employment he did have by seeking other employ. Given the hours he toiled when would he had the time anyway?
Scrooge is indicted not for being a man of business but for being a man who shuts out the world and pursues only business in a mean spirited way. I greet my lender when I see him on the street. Scrooge was harsh man who was probably the lender of last resort and treated his customers poorly. Good business is a win win were the partied walk away feeling that both have scored a victory in my experience. To have your neighbors ignore you in the street and cackle over yor corpse does not paint the idea that he did business fairly in my mind. To be sure we all have probably made some enemies along the way, but we have made friends as well who would mourn our passing/ not so in this case.
Scrooge is indicted of closing his heart to all of humanity. He chooses commerce over the love of a woman and the potential for a life and a family. He helps no one with a kind word, a gentle lesson or a shared idea. The concept of charity is unique to us all. But hard asses as all of us are, as libertarian and objectivist rooted as we are, would we hesitate to assist a friend, relative or even employee who had an ill child if we had the resources to do so? Which of us would not give our nephew, our only family a visit on a holiday eve or at least a kind word, a lesson in the ways of the world that might help them succeed in life?
Scrooge was not indicted and sentenced to haunting for being a business man. He was convicted of living without love. The love of a child, of a woman, of humanity. He hated himself as much as he hated the rest of the world. Scrooge's crime was not being a business man but for failing to appreciate the wonder that life actually can be. I like so many other readers of this site detest the corporate charities, and I say no quickly and clearly in my best bah humbug fashion. But just like everyone else here there are charities and causes I believe in and donate my time and money. I do not buy the in the give to all philosophy or faceless giving anymore than the rest of you. I do believe in libraries, special olympics and a few other causes and I give. So do you whether it's a church, a cause, a philosophy of a friend in need so quit pretending your are an objectivist hardass who helps no one. Not only is that so much BS, it's a heartless life that would create a scrooge like existence and so far I have met no spec who fits that description.
Scrooge's crime was not business. It was living with love, without the touch and hear of another, without a child's smile, a lover kiss or the hand of a friend. By Dickens account he denied himself all the makes life special. There is no account given of good food, or beautiful music or even good books. Scrooge's crime was not one of business. He was guilty of crimes against life itself.
Jeff Watson responds:
(While I agree with much of Tim's premise, I'd like to see the statutes Scrooge violated regarding the aforementioned crimes). If those are indeed crimes that Scrooge committed, I fear the state is on the road to becoming more totalitarian if they feel the necessity to regulate those areas of normal but eccentric human behavior. Again, it's not against the law to be a total dick, nor should the government concern itself with forbidding person to be rude, self absorbed, cheap, hated, or mean spirited. I certainly can't find anything in the constitution addressing this issue.
Stefan Jovanovich writes:
Dickens wanted women to stay in the kitchen; Hubbard wanted them to own the restaurant.
His company - Larkin Soap - gave Frank Lloyd Wright his first big commission. The friezes on open galleries of the building had these mottoes: GENEROSITY ALTRUISM SACRIFICE, INTEGRITY LOYALTY FIDELITY, IMAGINATION JUDGMENT INITIATIVE, INTELLIGENCE ENTHUSIASM CONTROL, CO-OPERATION ECONOMY INDUSTRY.
Here is Hubbard's story of how he started the Philistine magazine and the Roycroft shops. Begins at page 309
December 17, 2010 | 1 Comment
Any Boy Scout who achieves his Eagle in 2010 not only gets an Eagle Pin, but this year, their Eagle Pin will even have a "100" on it to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts.
If this site will indulge me to boast a little…….
Tonight, David had his Eagle Scout Board of Review and passed with flying colors. He is very excited about getting his Eagle pin with the 100th anniversary logo on it. He worked long and hard to achieve Eagle.
Those on this list that have met my son know that he is one of the finest of the rising generation.
I am honored and blessed to be his father!
David Brooks writes:
Hi everybody, this is David. Thank you everyone for the kind words on me getting my Eagle. My father asked me to give a short report on how I got my eagle and my eagle project.
Well the first year of scouting one works on getting first class. In order to get this there aren't any merit badges needed, its just stuff like getting enough camp-outs and knowing the scout oath, scout law, etc.. once a person achieves first class the new challenges are merit badges. In order to get one one has to work on the badge and meet with the counselor for that badge. A person needs twenty-one merit badges to be an eagle (plus the eagle project). I believe 15 of those 21 are not optional, one needs to get merit badges like: citizen ship in the nation, first aid, swimming, etc.. and 6 optional merit badges-one can pick six out of the over one-hundred optional merit badges. That is the relatively easy part.
Then work on the eagle project begins. After thinking of ones project and getting it approved from the organization one is doing it for the first step in this drama is begins. one meets with the eagle board with there proposed eagle project. they 'ingterigatin' of the persons eagle project and will hopefully approve it with only a few minor changes-on mine I only left out a few minor details on the report-. a typical eagle project a takes about twenty hours of the actual scouts time and about fifty hours of the troop and other volunteers time(all their time combined). On mine I spent about twenty-four hours personally and my troop and volunteers spent about fifty hours on the project. After this, one writes a report on the project and sets a date to meet with the final eagle board. I spent an hour and thirty minutes in the room with the scouting 'enthusiasts' and, thankfully, they passed me. This is just a brief overview of what one can do in scouting, but there are definitely many other things, enjoyable things like campouts, canoeing trips, the Klondike Derby-a sled race- but its not all just boring merit badges and writing reports, I have definitely enjoyed my scouting experience.
For my eagle project we picked up trash, planted twenty native MO trees, and built six wildlife bundles. My project was located on a flood plain and there was an abundance of trash that had been washed into the park from the previous flood. I instructed my team to make a police line and pick up all the trash in one quick sweep. then I instructed my team to divide into smaller groups and plant the trees. After this we built the six wildlife bundles which are basically six feet high 'teepee' like structures to house the small game in the area.
Pitt T. Maner III writes:
Coincidentally, I was going through some old books the other day and ran across my grandfather's Boy Scout handbooks from around the time of WWI. He was born in 1902. If you were able to learn all the things in the handbook you would have had a very good start on a practical education. I imagine that some of things you have to learn today are similar and perhaps some of the tasks remain the same.
Unfortunately I was pulled from scouting after the local troop asked for an extra donation. But I did participate long enough to help carve and build a small, hand-sized, wooden racing car that finished in 3rd place after running down a short ramp. It was a nice summer memory. Don't imagine that many kids do a lot of whittling these days!
Planting trees is a very commendable endeavor. You may be interested in the following organization. I have enjoyed doing a bit of field volunteer work with them– environmental preservation and restoration certainly is a great cause.
Jonathan Bower adds:
Congratulations David! As a fellow Eagle Scout I know the amount of time invested by you, your troop, and your family in this achievement. It takes hard work and commitment to achieve the rank of Eagle as evidenced by the fact that less than 2% of all Scouts have ever achieved this milestone. The lessons in life learned from Scouting will provide you with a solid foundation for great things ahead in your personal, scholastic, and professional life. Well done!
Payroll tax receipts are a very good surrogate for jobs. The data is daily with a 1-day lag. It is reported by the Treasury rather than the BLS, and is NEVER revised. It does have the disadvantage of being presented raw rather than seasonally-adjusted, a fact which keeps many from considering the data. The series tends to lead the unemployment numbers (which are the opposite side of the coin) by some four to five weeks. All of the above is a repeat announcement. Now the news: At this time the growth/slope of that data is decidedly negative, almost to the point of being scary in our opinion. This is not what we expected and put it out as a word of caution. Of course, remember that the economy is not the market.
Scott Brooks adds:
Two anecdotal observations:
1. My insurance brokerage clients and insurance industry clients are reporting that their workers comp premiums are down and not coming up.
2. My small business clients that are hiring are reporting that they are having a very difficult time hiring at the lower end of the pay scale. They simply can't compete with unemployment benefits that are paid for doing absolutely nothing. People would rather earn slightly less money without the hassle or expense associated with actually working.
In 1980, our family's life was changed by a drunk driver. My mother barely survived the act of this horribly irresponsible man….but out lives were changed forever because of his actions.
I have no tolerance for anyone who drives under the influence. This video (I believe from Australia…it's not the one from Britain that was making the rounds a few months ago) is a must watch for anyone (and especially your kids) who is thinking of drinking and driving. Your actions don't just effect your life, but the lives of many innocent bystanders.
Even though we've raised our children to not drink, I will show them this video so they can clearly understand that choices have consequences.
This video is graphic and heart wrenching. But it is worth a watch.
Peter Vinicius writes:
Oddly enough, the above reminds me of a fond memory. It has nothing to do with the important topic of drunk driving above. It's about my father.
No, he never injured anyone while driving and being addled by age, though in his latter years he was no stranger to wreaking havoc on the aplomb of strangers.
You see, he was what they call a live wire. Didn't get married till he was 39, though that hardly deterred he and my (younger) mother from having 11 kids. There's something to be said for any guy who still dutifully picked up the tab for college tuition when they're 80.
So once upon a time when he was in his mid-80s it was time for him to renew his driver's license, though mercifully he hadn't driven in years. So my mother takes him to the DMV, where he gets on line until the clerk behind the counter tells him to approach the window. Once there she asks him to read the eye chart, which of course he can't. Actually she probably had to ask him 4 or 5 times because he couldn't hear anymore either.
Those limitations all extraneous to the task at hand though as far as he was concerned, because there's no way in the world a guy like this was walking out of there without a driver's license. At least what he thought was a driver's license.
So once he had cleared the communication hurdle with the clerk, he called over the next guy on line, a total stranger, and right in front of the clerk nonchalantly asked the dumbfounded guy, "Son, what does that bottom line on the eye chart say?" I later found out that "Son" was about 60, but when you're pushing 90 everybody's a kid.
My cagey mother meanwhile is watching this deal unfold from afar because she knew full-well that immediate proximity would have run the risk of putting her apple cart in harm's way. Ever the stoic, probably figured this was a job for New York State, not her equilibrium.
So the young clerk figured out how to best handle the situation and politely instructed my father to proceed to window such-and-such for his new photo. Whereupon he was presented with a state-issued ID card that surely looked like a license, which was the government's idea all along.
It would have been an affront to his dignity to deny somebody like that something he's had for close to 70 years, yet there had to be some sort of mechanism in place to ensure that drivers were still capable of the responsibility of driving. I thought that they struck a nice and sensitive balance there by coming up with the ID card solution.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will name Warren Buffett as one of fifteen winners of the 2010 Medal of Freedom, a White House official said on Wednesday.
Buffett, one of the world's most successful investors who has donated a vast chunk of his multibillion dollar fortune to charity, will receive the medal at a White House ceremony early next year. The award is the highest U.S. civilian honor.
Buffett is one of Obama's closest defenders in the business community and the president has sought his counsel dating back to the 2008 presidential campaign and since.
Nigel Davies adds:
A person in Sage's position would be wise to support both sides so that whoever wins will be grateful.
Scott Brooks comments:
Whoever wins will go to him with cup in hand. He's a "made man".
Jeff Watson shares:
Barry Ritholtz, on his blog, crafted an excellent parody of the Oracle's thank you to Uncle Sam note in the NYT.
Scott Brooks adds:
We as a nation have foolishly allowed the federal government, which was set up to by the states to serve the states and endowed with less than 20 enumerated powers, to exceed it's mandate. Today, we not only have a nearly omnipotent federal government, that is controlled by two political parties that are only nominally different in key area's (i.e. they are taking different paths to the same destination), but we have a single leader that is so powerful that our entire country revolves around this one man, regardless of who "he" is.
We are learning the hard way that when we put together a "gang of voters" to elect a person ("our guy") to give us favors, that we are endowing that "office" (position) with the power. And when "our guy" is no longer in the office, power to "give favors" doesn't leave with him, they stay with the office and are/can be used the person who occupies that position next.
That is legacy of Lincoln playing out before our eyes. He saved our nation is a contiguous geographical/demographic cohort, but the ultimate legacy of his power laid the groundwork for what we are as a nation today. (that noise you just heard was Stefan's head exploding.)
Stefan Jovanovich responds:
I can't argue with Scott about the disease– imperial Federalism; but he and I will always have very different opinions about its causes. Lincoln had no actual legacy; that is why he was a safe saint for everyone who wanted to ignore the 14th Amendment. Anyone who takes the trouble to watch Birth of a Nation will see that. What makes my hero, Grant, a universally-reviled figure is that he was willing to use his powers as Commander in Chief to enforce the individual rights granted to citizens by the Constitution (which is what the powers are there for) and, at the same time, he had no taste for having the government "manage" life in America or the country's money. The Big Lie in the tradition of American conservatism is how much the doctrine of "states rights" was about imposing slavery on the territories and free states by using the Federal power and how much it continued to be about keeping the darkies down and those awful immigrants away from our shores. Conservatives were more than happy to extend government's reach for those purposes. Roger Taney's career– first as the enabler of Jackson's "spreading the wealth around" with the state banks and then as Chief Justice - is the best evidence of this unavoidable historical truth.
I know it does not fit Scott's construct, but it is what happened. Thanks to Grant and his Republicans, the Federal government had far less power of citizens' lives in 1890 than it had in 1848; and, if you exclude the political tyranny over black citizens, the country's government as a whole was not only smaller and less expensive but also less authoritarian under Harrison than it had been under Polk. The modern expansion of Federal authority has its sources in the two World Wars and the Progressive reforms in banking and trade laws that preceded them. Lincoln can rest in peace. As for my head, the only thing that even gives it an occasional ache is the continuing belief of otherwise sensible conservatives that the tyrannies of county sheriffs and the state drug laws are somehow less offensive than those of the Department of Agriculture. As my favorite Justice– Hugo Black– once said, "No law means no law". We have far too much of all kinds in this country, and that - not the relative distribution of the presumption of authority - remains the problem.
Gary Rogan writes:
Once again an excellent educational post from Stefan. I just have a quibble with this statement: "As for my head, the only thing that even gives it an occasional ache is the continuing belief of otherwise sensible conservatives that the tyrannies of county sheriffs and the state drug laws are somehow less offensive than those of the Department of Agriculture." Without commenting on the "merits" of either form of tyranny, anything Federal IS more offensive because (a) the Founders' idea was that you could escape a state much more easily than the Federal government if the state becomes offensive, by moving to another state as opposed to leaving the country, thus actually providing feedback to the state that it has gone too far (b) ANY claim by the Federal government of non-enumerated powers is likely un-constitutional and against the spirit of the founding of the country.
Stefan Jovanovich responds:
I wish what Gary wrote was true. Mobility in 1787 was practically non-existent. People rarely moved between counties, let alone between states. There were more French soldiers at Yorktown than American because the French could move on ships while the Americans had to march. Gary may know the Constitutional debates better than I do; but I can't find a single remarks by any of the Founders regarding the idea that a citizen could somehow escape state tyranny by moving. What the Anti-Federalists disliked most about the Constitution was that it placed real limits on the claims of the states to absolute authority. Patrick Henry is, in that regard, all too typical: brave words about tyranny followed by persistent lobbying that the boundaries of the state of Virginia should extend as far west as the Pacific Ocean. The Founders who voted in favor of the adoption of the Constitution wanted a Union that would guarantee citizens' Federal rights and a supremacy clause that would assure that those rights could not be abolished by State or local action. They wanted the doctrine of "non-enumerated powers" to apply as much to the states as to the Union, and they were so adamant about establishing a balance of authorities precisely because the states had behaved so badly during the Revolution. I should have recommended Calvin H. Johnson's book, Righteous Anger at the Wicked States: The Meaning of the Founders' Constitution before now. It is the best history on the subject, and - like Grant - it remains thoroughly unpopular because it refuses to accept the rightist cant of slave-states rights or the leftist fantasy of inherent Federal moral superiority.
As always, the historical truth struggles to get its boots on.
"A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its boots." - This quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, but Twain stole it ("geniuses steal") from Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92), who said: "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on."
Here is a nice article on the "greatest president of the past 100 years." He shows the value of restraint. Just what we need today.
Scott Brooks writes:
When ranking the greatest American presidents, I believe one has to use separate categories.
One for the Founders who became president and one for everyone else.
Coolidge, in my opinion is at the top of the "everyone else" list.
Now as to the bottom of that list…the worst presidents ever (in descending order):
7. (a tie) Bush 1, Bush 2,
4. (a tie) Nixon, TR, Wilson, Hoover
Stefan has laid out a well thought out argument as to why I am wrong on Lincoln, but I still stand by my assessment. And BTW, I believe Lincoln ranks at the bottom because of acts of "omission" and not acts of "commission". The rest are there because of acts of "commission"
And as a future prediction: If Obama keeps going the way he's going…well, let's just say he is fighting for the top spot (at least #2).
Stefan Jovanovich replies:
The only reason it is safe for me to argue with Scott (who is decades younger, in much better shape and a much, much better shot) is that his fierce opinions are always tempered by his piety (yet another argument in favor of that bizarre practice known as faith). So, here goes:
I think ranking Lincoln is like assessing the performance of a captain of a ship in a typhoon when someone else decided how much ballast the vessel should take before it left port. Susan and I are doing the ancestry hunt for the Lipscombs, Austins, Gayles, Turners and Gaudelocks from whom she is descended by searching the graveyards of South Carolina and Virginia. Among the sites we have seen on the way have been Appomattox, Blacksburg Junction (the logistical Gordian knot that Grant, with his usual genius, cut within a month of taking effective command of the Union Armies in the East) and Limestone College (largely funded by Jefferson Davis' daughter). The Civil War (War Between the States, whatever) was the greatest single disaster in American history; it dwarfs everything else, and we still live with the legacies of its idiocies and nobly mistaken loyalties. Whatever anyone says about it is going to fall far short of telling the truth.
October 5, 2010 | 2 Comments
Certain (unmentionable) positions in my portfolio are starting to act like a runaway freight train. It therefore seems an opportune moment to consult my copy of The Worst Case Scenario for the correct methodology for "how to jump off a runaway train." (One notes the instructions do not mention the purchase of puts and put spreads.)
1. Move to the end of the last car.
2. If you have time, wait for the train to slow as it rounds a bend in the tracks.
3. Stuff blankets, clothing or seat cusions underneath your clothes.
4. Pick your landing spot before you jump. Avoid trees, bushes and of course rocks.
5. Get as low to the floor as possible, bending the knees, so you can leap away from the train.
6. Jump perpendicular, leaping as far away as you can.
7. Cover and protect your head with your hands and arms, and roll like a log when you land. Don't try to land on your feet, or you'll likely break your ankles and legs. Do NOT roll head over heels.
Vince Fulco jokes:
Come on Rocky. The ice floating in the punch bowl has just settled after getting a "perceived" refill which may, just may, overflow the bowl. This is when the Bernanke dance party really starts to pick up with the fast music. Earning ZIRP and saving is for the wallflowers.
Scott Brooks comments:
Rocky's mention of some stocks acting like a runaway train makes me think that it's time to review my very simple fool proof methodology for stock investing.
Take two pieces of paper, one green one red.
On the green sheet, put all stocks that are going to go up. On the red list put all the stocks that are going to go down.
Then, go long all the stocks on the green list, and short all the stocks on the red list.
Sell any green list stocks once they go on the red list and cover your red list shorts once any stock goes onto the green list.
Repeat this process early and often.
Enjoy your profits!
John Lamberg writes:
And I thought the secret to the stock market was to buy low and sell high. Similarly, in the casino the secret is to bet big when you are going to win. Unfortunately, I seem to buy high and sell low, and every time I bet big it seems the dealer gets blackjack, although occasionally I get blackjack too, but being a fool I take even money when that happens.
Wondering if the more politically savvy specs could venture some opinions as to the relative flood of departures in the last few months and timing? I've read all sorts of reasons from the left/right and in between varying suggesting the pragmatic to the audacious. Normally I don't pay too much attention but given pols enhanced effects on the markets these days…as Buffalo Springfield sang, "…there's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear…"
I have my own thoughts on this but they border on the less probable and would only exacerbate the tensions in the country.
Rocky Humbert writes:
This doesn't address Vince's question, but one of the more obscure points of the conflict of interest laws waives capital gains taxes on required divestitures for individuals who accept government positions. This provision incentivized certain people (particularly in the Clinton and GW Bush administrations) to leave the private sector and sell large blocks of appreciated stock tax free. The tax savings in some cases were worth millions of dollars. If the capital gains tax rate goes up in January, it would be sensible to expect more people with this tax situation to join the administration and address the noted lack of industry executives.
Scott Brooks comments:
I was unaware of this. Thanks for sharing, Rocky.
But I gotta think that unless you're really really rich, this tax savings will not be as much as the lifetime of earnings one will receive from having held a high level position in the government.
On the other hand, there is that whole analogy of rats and a sinking ship. Of course, if the ship was really sinking, I never understood where the rats were going to go as there isn't a $25,000/speech speaking tour available to members of the non-political rodent community.
On the other hand, I think a lot of these political rodents realize that after after 8 years of pushing towards "statism lite" and nearly 2 years of a full on push towards "statism", they see water level rising below decks coupled with a huge lack of support for their policies on deck, that has metastasized into near outright rebellion……well, with all this going on they are scrambling for the life rafts as fast as they can.
Gary Rogan writes:
Summers is leaving in time for the election because he is very unpopular with the base and while he can still count on a couple of years of consulting engagements, and because of the failure of the stimulus. Romer, the architect of the stimulus and the effect it was supposed to have on unemployment , left to keep whatever little is left her credibility, to be the one to actually take the blame for the failure of the stimulus, and to make room for Goolsbee in time for the election because he is supposed to be much better at explaining away any problems. Orszag lost the debate on the deficit, he argued for taking some steps to bring it down.
They just announced 1 1/4 years late that the recession ended. Many interesting questions arise. What would happen if you bought and sold a swing system, when they announced recession and when the announced expansion? What are the chances that a random number generator or intelligent robot could do better at calling turns in the economy than the NBER? Many others.
Scott Brooks comments:
The recessions over?!?!!!?
I find that hard to believe. Just a minute….let me turn around and check something….looking….looking….OH MY GOSH!!!! There ARE monkeys flying out of my butt….the recession MUST BE OVER!!!
I work with a lot of insurance related organizations (brokerages, TPA's, insurance companies) and there is nothing happening in the insurance world that indicates the recession is over. Workers insured under workers compensation is down 20%+ off it's high. Workers comp premiums are down. Business insurance premiums are down. There are still more companies that are going out of business than there are start ups. There are still more companies that are contracting than there are companies that are expanding.
At the grassroots level, there is a lot of pain….and the bad stuff outweighs the good.
The recession is not over.
Jeff Sasmor writes:
What they said was that the last one ended June 09. They also said a decline now would count as a new recession. Talk about a lagging indicator!
NBER said "The committee decided that any future downturn of the economy would be a new recession and not a continuation of the recession that began in December 2007. The basis for this decision was the length and strength of the recovery to date.
Pitt T. Maner III writes:
Not only is the recession over but now the technical purists say it is impossible to have a "double-dip" since another downturn would be counted as a separate recession. Let the cheerleading begin…
Stefan Jovanovich shares:
"The Business Cycle Dating Committee was created in 1978, and since then there has been a formal process of announcing the NBER determination of a peak or trough in economic activity. Those announcement dates were: June 3, 1980; July 8, 1981; January 6, 1982; July 8, 1983; April 25, 1991; December 22, 1992; November 26, 2001; July 17, 2003; December 1, 2008; and September 20, 2010."
From NBER FAQ
It's amazing to me how certain songs can cue up such strong memories. It's even more amazing to me how my 46 year old mind filters out the negative emotions and focuses on the good…or at least the good that should have been…the good my young mind was not capable of grasping.
I had an apartment at 124 S. Lorimer Street in Cape Girardeau, MO during my junior and senior year of college. My bedroom was a basically a giant bay window that hung over the south side of the house. I could look out my east window and see over the Mississippi river to fertile plains of the Illinois bottom land. Below me, lay the river front of Cape with it's old buildings, and giant flood wall to block the high waters that inevitably came.
Every morning, I would awake to the sunlight breaking in through east window. I usually just pulled the blankets over my head went back to sleep. But often I would get up and sit in the chair next my closet and watch the sun come up over Illinois and glisten on the surface of the greatest river in America.
In the evening, I would often be studying at my desk, which, unfortunately faced the wall to the west. But I was no immune to the lure of the setting sun to the west. So I would often get up, go sit in the furthest bay window and watch the sun set over the 100 year old houses across the street to the west. Then as the sun dropped below the horizon, I would turn to the east and watch the radio towers in Illinois light up their blinking red lights.
Looking back, I realize that those were good times…good times that I wasted on the things that are important in youth…but now, as an adult, I realize they were largely meaningless. Melancholy days wasted on pinning for lost love. Days of distress over boredom with school and an inability to stay focused on my goals…I look back on those days and think of that young man sitting there in that room, not sure what was going to happen to him, seeing my goals shatter before me and I want to tell him to enjoy life and not worry about things that will (I promise) look so trivial in the hindsight of maturity.
But I guess in hindsight that it was important that I go through those times to make me appreciate what I've got and the journey that I took to get where I am today. You can't understand how good the sweet is until you've tasted the bitter.
When you're young, you don't understand that high waters come and may make things look hopeless. But if you just hold on, those waters will eventually recede…and in their place they leave a new, changed landscape, filled with fertile opportunities.
That was 25 years ago. I wonder, 25 years from now, how I will look back on these times. I wonder what I will clearly see then that I can't see today?
I look forward to that journey and all the wonders that remain to be discovered when whatever rising waters I will face in the future eventually recede….just like they always do.
What's the worst that could happen? Potlatch! Everyone who owes goes bankrupt and the government just issues new currency. It's happened many times before in many countries. People, roads, buildings and all that will still be there– only the medium of exchange, and the mix of who owns what, will change. People will still produce and consume, so there will still be an economy. Granted, it may get messy for a while– the lawyers will need something to do. If you have something in hand that gives you title to real property of some kind, you'll be able to keep most of your chips unless they are forcibly taken. If it's all paper and electronic blips, well …
If we pollute our planet beyond repair, that's a little more problematic. I guess we'll just cross that bridge when we get to it.
Scott Brooks says:
I have given this further thought and have determined that a potlatch and camp out at my farm is in order. Gary, Rocky and Stefan please make arrangements to fly to Missouri and we'll make smore's, roast wieners and marshmallows, drink some ice cold beverages, and debate until all of this is settled….or until the haunting silence of a beautiful full moon night is broken by the howls of coyotes. Or, if there's a new moon, we can get out the optics and gaze up at the heavens and see constellations with the naked eye (or a good pair of binoculars) that you could never see in the city.
You will be entranced with the simple beauty and simplicity of life, and all these debate issues will slowly melt as we all discover our commonality of purpose under the stars that one can only see in the middle of nowhere.
We can debate or just share life stories as our friendship grows thru the night. And then, when the skies begin to turn from black to blue, to purple to red, and the world comes alive around us with song birds, and whippoorwill's cry fades off into the distance, then is when we'll all realize that all of these debates are mere exercise.
When the turkeys fly down from their roost and the first deer of the morning move from their feeding area's to the edges of the forest and creeks to bed down for the morning, then we'll realize how tired we really are and how pleasant our camp out has been.
We'll head back to the farm house, crash for 5 or 6 hours, get up, eat a hardy breakfast around noon and then I'll take you on a tour, around the place. Maybe we'll ride in a tractor. Or if the family that farms my land is harvesting, I'm sure we can go get a ride in a combine and watch the miracle of the harvest.
Early in the evening, we'll grab a fishing pole and see if we can't catch a bass, bluegill, crappie or catfish. Maybe we'll shoot some clay birds. Then we'll go to town and sit in the local bar and grill and watch the locals wander in. I'll even introduce you to a few. You'll meet small town businessman and farmers and ranchers. You'll meet laborers, and school teachers and those just passing thru. And you'll find many of them to have unique stories of success. Their scripts will be different, but you'll see that they are really just like you and me….only with a different calling in a different geography.
We'll eat small town food and feel our arteries clog in the process. I'll have a water with lemon and you guys can then start a different kind of debate….a debate about trying to remember who owes who a drink. And then you'll decide to just not worry about it.
And that, my friends, is the effect that the BrooksFarms has on one and all that take the time to travel there.
So smile guys and enjoy the debate and remember, it's all amongst friends…..friends who are only a plane flight away from a campfire, some smore's and the haunting howl of a pack of coyotes under a blanket of stars.
Being from St. Louis, I'm partial to the Arch and what it stands for. The construction of the Arch is quite a story to behold. But what the Arch stands for is even more impressive. There is a reason that St. Louis is called "The Gateway to the West", and the Arch symbolizes the spirit of all those brave men and women who went into the great and untamed wild of this country.
The Arch is probably one of the most under appreciated monuments in the world–the true embodiment of Manifest Destiny and the "Mind of Man". The same spirit that built the skyscrapers and great cities of America was found in those that ventured west to settle this great land and lay foundation for the revolution of freedom that was to come.
Mr. Brooks has regaled us with a litany of bad things about the current state of affairs versus the late 30s. Yes. however, the question is whether this is bullish or bearish? The market does move to levels consistent with the state of affairs so that the anticipated rate of return takes into account the constellation of current events and future cognizables and reasonable unknowables taking account of randomness in the process.
Mr. Brooks responds:
To be more clear, I am bearish. I don't see the market doing well, now, or in the near term. My money is where my mouth is. I'm short Europe, NAZ and long long gold with a large cash position to take advantage of opportunities that will arise.
I work closely with insurance companies, insurance brokers, TPA's, and small businesses. There is universal pessimism amongst these organizations (and these are quality proven businessmen/women). They are NOT hiring. They are hording cash and not spending on capital expenditures. They are fearful that their lines of credit will be cut. They don't like the onerous regulatory environment that metastasizing around them.
I am not a bear, but I am a realist. But I am not a trader like most of this list. I have, historically held positions for well over a year (on average), but that isn't working anymore. Therefore, I search out short term opportunities where I can find them (and they are few and far between), and I am looking at PE opportunities in businesses that produce cash and do well in hard economic times (I wrote about that on this list in the recent past).
I don't care whether the market is up, down or sideways, with either low or high volatility. The bottom line is that I have to make money for me, my family and my clients. If I'm wrong, I'll be a man, fess up to my errors take my lumps and move on…but I'd rather be right!
If you want what I think is a real good indicator for what is really happening in our country economically, look at Workers Compensation insurance. Look at the numbers of employees that are employers are paying for (i.e. that are covered under a corporate WC plan), and look at the total premium dollars being spent on WC. Both are down substantially.
The total # of employees covered by WC are down substantially, and the total WC premiums are down (proportionally) even more.
Look at the money that companies are spending on things like liability insurance. They are cutting their premiums, and cutting their coverage.
There are many things that you can learn from this information.
Now, where to find this data? Well, I get mine from my insurance clients via conversations. I don't know where to find it out in the real world, so I can't supply a link….my anecdotal data will have to suffice. Sorry I can't give more than that.
Rocky Humbert adds:
Further to the chair's comment and just to shake things up a bit, I will confess that I am bullish on stocks over the next decade, and believe that they will substantially outperform cash and bonds (from these yields ). From these prices, I expect returns in the order of 6ish percent. I also have a ton of cash right now because I want to exploit the volatility of the markets which will probably dwarf that 6% drift.
yet, other than valuation (which got me out of stocks prematurely and into bonds prematurely) in 1997, the single best reason to be bullish is that none of the really smart people on this list can articulate any reason to be bullish.
For example, I owned Intel pre-internet-bubble at a 10-12x p/e … and sold it in the 2nd inning of the bubble, and felt like a fool as it rose to 70+ times earnings. As of this afternoon, Intel is back to 11x earnings and it's a stronger company today than ten years ago and it has a 3.1% dividend yield to boot. With all due respect for my bearish speclisters who see a permanent lack of prosperity (and who may indeed be right), the single most important thing to an investor is the price you pay for an asset. To think that you see things that the rest of the world doesn't see over the next decade is repeating the same mistake that people made in 1999.
I have no clue what the market will do over the next month or six months. But when no one can spin a bullish story, it's important information…. And if you look back to 1958, you'll discover that an entire generation of investors had been turned off the stock market by the great depression and who swore that they'd never buy stocks again…only to miss wonderful opportunities always looking into the abyss for the next shoe to drop. We're all Alan Abelson's now!
Jeff Sasmor writes:
I could buy into Rocky's thoughts but I have the conviction that humans have less and less to do with what's going on; and market makers aint what they used to be.
Indexing, etfs, double etfs, double inverse etfs, commodity & metal etfs have changed the landscape quite a bit in ways I needn't elaborate for this group. For sure, Jeff is in the bearish camp, for the (intermediate) time being. But not really on emotion as on observation. One can't be married to these concepts as we all recall the ever changing cycles.
That said, I agree with Rocky that cash is a good thing to have right now, and wait for some real panic as we wait to see whether the various indices' "death cross" is actually a predictive thing or not.
What will it be this time? China dumping Treasuries? Some new allegedly pandemic disease? Radioactive ash from fires near Chernobyl? Eddorians or some other intergalactic baddies?
There'll be something…
For what it's worth from a lowly daytrader.
Ken Drees comments:
I am bullish since the dollar is no store of value and stocks at least promise a share in profits. How that anti dollar hedge plays out is a whole other can of worms.
But you must consider equities at some point when they are finally puked up and sworn off by the public if that time does come. The gov will probably force treasury purchases for retirement on the masses during their exodus from risky stocks.
And I like the idea of cash to a degree –relating to that Buffet comment from a while back–in that you have the ability to buy panic.
Jim Sogi writes:
I am of the 60-70's persuasion: 40 % up 40 % down multiple times. That would mess up the most people. We've seen one pump already.
Charles Pennington coments:
I agree with Rocky. Every week I lazily read Barron's, and they'll have an article about some solid growth company at 12 times earnings, paying a big dividend, and holding a lot of cash in the bank. J&J is a good example, but there was even an article about Ebay recently, and the stock valuation sounded like it was Bethlehem Steel. If you step back and look, though, there's never anything special about the stock that Barron's is covering, it's just that the market as a whole is offering all this pretty much everywhere you look. And if these companies can earn money now, when can't they?
My family has decided we're doing a triathlon in September, so they're making me do stuff to get ready for it.
Well, tonight on my 16 mile bike ride (the most I've ridden a bike in 30+ years), I saw something that made me think of Mr. Sears:
I saw a juggling jogger! He was jogging and juggling sticks at the same time!
As luck would have it, he and and both got stopped at the same traffic light so I compelled to inquire about…..well you know…
He informed me that he loved to jog, but never felt like his arms got a good workout. So he started juggling while jogging. He says not only does he get a great workout from jogging, but his arms are also now getting a great workout too!
I figured this meant one of two things:
1. This gentleman has come up with a great new training technique, or
2. The end is near, because (and I'll have to check my scriptures to confirm this), I believe that juggling joggers are one of the 7 signs of the Coming Apocalypse.
Is it me, or is it easier to bluff and steal a pot when the pot is small and less is at stake? It seems like players are not quick to defend or contest when the stakes are "not worth it".
Can this be seen in markets? Do sellers dump near lows or not care to squeeze you when you are trying to trade through their midst when action has lost its edge? What are some examples where the markets let you steal a little–out of nothing more than fatigue or lack of interest?
George Coyle writes:
I think about this often but in a different way. Looking at the concept of the bluff from another perspective, the amount of capital a player has certainly influences play and outcomes in both poker and markets. The person at the table with the most chips can often “lean” on the other players without much risk. As an example, if the pot was say $25 then the person with $250 in risk capital will be exponentially more averse to attempting the bluff (or holding on to a questionable hand) than the person with $2500. In instances where you hold the majority of the chips the cost to see how things play out and/or wait for a potential reversal of fortune or increased probability of success with new cards coming out (or information/prices in markets) is worth it more often than not so long as the stakes don't get too high relative to your risk capital (unless you truly have a terrible hand then discipline is prudent). The blinds (commissions/spreads in markets) will eat away at the little guys in the meantime to the tune of a much greater % of holdings. Leads me to wonder if there are any studies to this effect showing the tipping point wherein an uneven distribution of holdings presents an inevitable conclusion in outcome (i.e. the big fish wins/the rich get richer) should the majority holder choose to play conservatively and never risk too much going “all-in” (and barring social revolution)? I would imagine Warren Buffett rarely gets margin calls and his “genius” at this point could just be by virtue of having the most chips and ultimate staying power (mindful that he did manage to get himself to his current position).
Similarly, I would imagine the player with the most chips wins hands s/he probably shouldn't (statistically speaking) by the same virtue. The film director Oliver Stone said, "Luck comes from persistence and talent. If you're talented your luck will eventually come." Perhaps this is the root cause of lots of modern success, a little well timed luck leading to a "lean" advantage which serves as a self-reinforcing phenomenon. In horse racing they use "claiming" races to account for this effect. These races have a fixed cost where the horse can be bought should anyone want to pay the cost. This keeps the $20k horses from consistently stomping the $4k horses (the owner of the $20k horse entering the $4k race would run the risk of having to lose $16k selling his horse at $4k). It would be interesting to see how markets would play out if a similarly tiered structure existed.
Scott Brooks adds:
Ken is right. When I played poker in the 80's (I played strictly 7 card stud back in the day), the size of the pot mattered. But at the same time, it also had to do with the pain associated with the final raise. Of course, the final raise wasn't the end all be all. It was the build up to the final raise……i.e. slowly suckering the guy in with a series of raises that were painful, but not so painful that he wouldn't make call the raise, or even raise the raise.
It was also helpful if earlier in the night you had the nut hand and suckered him into a sure loser hand (loser hand for him). It was key that when you suckered him into the sure loser that you not make the loss too painful. Save the pain for the big bluff to come later that night (or on another night….it might be weeks before you get cash on this set up).
One of the keys with this set up (I'm sure professional poker plays have a name for this set up, but I don't know what it's called) is that after you sucker him into calling your last raise, you show him your cards and tell him, "Fred, I'm sorry man, I stole it from you" (or some similar phrase). But it's very important that you show the cards in a humble manner, with a contrite look on your face, and say the words "Fred, I'm sorry man, I stole it from you", in the kindest most humble manner possible, looking almost ashamed. You are conveying to empathy to him.
But if you did all that right, later in the evening or even weeks later, you could sucker him into a big bluff. But you have to use this bluff wisely. You have to make sure that he's got a decent, but not great hand. You have to use your best judgment to determine that he has, at least a high straight but no more than a low full house. And you have to make sure that your hand is mystery to him, but that it doesn't appear to have the potential to be too big of a hand.
You have to slowly sucker him into matching raises or raising raises and suckering him in without him noticing the financial commitment he's made and how painful losing at this point would be. He needs to think that your bluffing again. You then hit him with a big raise, a raise large as to be painful……so painful that you can almost always see the fear on his face.
You can see the fear in his eyes as he realizes, "I've got a lot of money in this pot and losing this pot now would hurt, but I'd survive. But if I call his raise and lose, I'm gonna lose my house payment for this month".
At that point, you have them. The fear of losing this months house payment is too much and they usually fold out of fear.
You can then decide whether or not to show him your cards (since he didn't "pay to see them….i.e. he folded), either way, be gentle.
Later in the evening, make sure you're compassionate to him. For instance. If later on you have the "nut hand" and he wants to keep raising you (i.e. he thinks he can beat you), tell him, "Fred, I've got the nut hand". If you've done things right, Fred will know that you're being honest with him and fold. Show him your cards and let him know that you really did have the nut hand.
That way, Fred will have a good feeling about you (and feel less bad about his earlier losses) and will want to come back to the table, night after night after night so you can slowly bleed him of more and more capital.
That is how poker players bleed gamblers dry.
And that is why I quick playing poker. I couldn't stomach what I was doing. I loved the money, but not how I was making it. I couldn't look myself in the mirror.
If I win a trade or beat out a competing businessman I can feel good about that win. But I felt like a hustler win I took money from the "Freds" of the world.
Gains without integrity are hollow and empty….and if they're not, then you are a hollow and empty person. I was not that person. So I quit.
RIP Don Coryell, innovator and aerial conductor.
Scott Brooks comments:
St. Louisan's suffered for years with the Big Red (the football Cardinals). But under Coryell, we had several years of great excitement! If only we'd had a better owner (Bill Bidwell) and a better draft department (George Boone), we might have done something.
Don Coryell, should be in the Hall of Fame for no other reason that he took a pathetic franchise, with a pathetic owner and a pathetic draftnik, and turned them into a team that contented.
Stefan Jovanovich adds:
More about DC:
He played quarterback and running back at Washington but was never good enough to start because his classmates happened to include Don Heinrich and Hugh McIlhenny. He was the university champion in the light heavyweight division; people who saw him fight said he was a copy of Jack Dempsey as a teenager, pure aggression for 3 minutes of every round.
Dan Fouts: "He was an atypical coach. A lot of football coaches believe it's my way or get on the highway-thing. But Don gave us as players a feeling of ownership of the offense, the plays. He took our ideas and tried them. He wasn't afraid to try things."
John Madden: ""It was the way he treated players. I think that was something that was missed. We tend to jump right to the coaching part, the offensive part, and the passing game. But his No. 1 thing was his handling of the team. He was a master of it. As an assistant, he treated you as an equal. Players were always the most important thing to him. I think he had more respect for his players and coaches than anyone I've ever known."
Like Pete Newell and John Wooden the man put literally everything he had into coaching. When someone asked him in 1992 if he was sorry he had retired, his answer was: " I don't miss coaching one bit. Not a lick. I miss the people, the coaches and those great players. Those great guys. But I gave it everything I had. I didn't want to die on the football field, and I might have if I had stayed around much longer. I was tired. No question, I was physically and mentally shot."
No one who knew him can remember his having ever been cruel or even petty.
Scott will get his wish; they will get round to voting him into the Hall of Fame now that he is safely dead. When they voted him down earlier this year, he told his daughter not to worry because they would get round to it some day. Committees always have an impeccable sense of timing.
Andrew Briggs: "State pension funds are underfunded by over $3 trillion; this is more than six times the $438 billion in underfunding the plans themselves report. Pension shortfalls far exceed explicit state debts." The humor starts when you get to the part about "actuarial assets".
Scott Brooks writes:
I have been accused of crying wolf for years on these lists about the problem of underfunded pension. This is a huge problem that isn't going to go away with actuarial slight of hand. There are so many straws being tossed on the metaphorical camels back that eventually there will come a day of reckoning. But this pension problem (think PBGC) and the big lie that is the Social Security Trust Fund aren't straws tossed on the camels back, they are Volkswagens.
At $25 million a year, plus a larger amount in endorsements, of course Lebron James chose Miami over New York, LA and Cleveland. Florida has no income tax. While those other states are among the highest tax states in the country.
Scott Brooks comments:
But that tax wouldn't make up the money he lost ($30 million) by signing with Miami over Cleveland.
J.T Holley writes:
The math is 12 million in difference for the length of his contract in State Taxes saved. That's over 35% saved in my book, better supporting cast, nice climate (Miami has never had a 100 degree weathered day recorded), So. Beach, he gets to finally be a man and leave home, and the insiders could've shorted MSG from let's say 21 to 19 leveraged? I'm just sayin'.
The King seems to be following the advice of his consultants rather well. In the Navy the ole' sayin' is "loose lips, sinks ships". I was quite surprised that MSG didn't spike more than it did and go a few more deviations to the upside. The tight lipped coverage and suspense was brilliant and had to be hard to keep up. This is especially amazing to me considering Wade and Bosh were also involved in the dealings ultimately in the decision.
There has to be a study of "high profile" free agents and "warm weathered" correlation to be done when it comes to money and choices. Does anyone know of a high profile athlete that choose a "cold weathered" city when the initial contract was up? Just sayin'?
David Wren-Hardin comments:
Jody Rosen over at Slate had a short piece that I think nails it.
New York is no longer the hip place to be. For a young, minority millionaire, the post-racial (or allegedly post-racial) melting pot of Miami is the place to be. Everyone scratching their heads about tax breaks, endorsements, and culture is living twenty years in the past.
General Petraeus' testimony before Congress included this comment:
What impresses the Taliban is not the rules of engagement. It's the precise targeted operations that are designed to give them no rest. The idea is if you can get your teeth into the jugular of the enemy, you don't let go. This word "relentless" is an important word to describe the campaign against the Taliban.
These are the only tactics that win a war, and they are, inevitably, costly. Grant's campaign against Lee from the Wilderness to Appomatox was relentless and bloody and successful; so were the final assaults by the Allied Forces against Germany in both World Wars. Okinawa, which did more than the 2 atomic bombs to end the war against Japan, was by far the bloodiest single battle of the Second World War for the United States. More U.S. Navy sailors died in that battle (sailors!) than all the American KIA so far in the two Iraq Wars and Afghanistan.
It remains a crime against American history that our politicians repeatedly honor the veterans of D-Day but no public acknowledgement is ever made of the even greater sacrifice in the Pacific. (No doubt the explanation is that it is far more pleasant for members of Congress and the Executive to visit Normandy than to fly all the way across the Pacific to the one large island that has never developed a profitable tourist trade.)
Scott Brooks agrees:
Stefan is right. It's almost like those men who fought in the Pacific have been largely forgotten compared to their counterparts in Europe. The war in the Pacific was a horrific expedition in both blood and treasure.
And I'm quite confident that today's politicians and press completely lack the ability to wage that kind of war, which is why (IMHO), the war in the Pacific is largely ignored. We can demonize the Nazis for what they did (and rightly so), but we must ignore the atrocities of war that occured in the Pacific. If we shined the light on them, it would cause too many people to become uncomfortable.
June 24, 2010 | 4 Comments
[When it comes to the war on terror,] we need to show the world in absolutely clear terms not only what we can do, but that we are willing to do it.
Unfortunately, there are far too many people in this country who are under the mistaken impression that [people everywhere] want the same things we want, and respond to the same set of incentives that we do, or respond to the same set of values that we do.
Yet, we naively apply our "higher standard" to them. I almost hate to say it, but this is akin to the animal rights wacko's who actually think that they can give rights to animals. You can't give rights to anything that isn't capable of understanding them, or who is incapable of handling the responsibilities that go along with those rights…..let alone reciprocate and respect your (our) rights.
You have to deal with an animal at the level of that animal.
Laurence Glazier comments:
Is this not false logic? The mentally handicapped have rights which they may not understand. The rights of the human fetus are the subject of fierce debate. One could argue that the propensity of humans to wage war is a form of projective identification to avoid facing the moral question of the abuse of animals. Those that have resolved the latter issue in their own minds are not noted for forming battalions.
Moreover referring thus to the level of animals is unfair to animals which are less violent than humans.
In the UK animals have limited rights and there are frequent cases of conviction for cruelty to animals. Progress is slow in this area as we are still in the secondary cannibalistic era.
Jeff Watson writes:
The 9th district court in California gave Dolphins (Porpoises) the right to sue the Navy. Somehow, the rights of animals were being denied when the navy was training them to place limpet mines on ships and other tasks. Animals have rights, in fact, those rights should be extended to spirochetes, and they should be able to file a class action suit against the makers of penicillin which is the Zyklon-B of their species..Never mind service animals, the labor board ought to look into their working conditions, no pay, and hazardous duty. Equal rights for seeing eye dogs! As for slaughterhouses and eating animals, we need, as humans to go back to foraging for roots, berries, and lichens in order to protect the dignity and rights of our bovine and porcine citizens.
Kim Zussman comments:
Does it make any sense for the species at the top of the food chain to debate hunting (cultivating, slaughtering, farming, taxing, etc) its lessors?
What if we were somewhere in the middle: "Well, they ate our children again. But really, they deserved to die; in order to feed and perpetuate more successful species. And in any case the Good Book says we were put here for that purpose…"
Jeff Watson writes:
One of my favorite places to surf in the world is New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Best wave in the state, funky beach town vibe, very cool, mellow tropical paradise. It also has more shark bites than any place on the planet. It's a rather disconcerting feeling when I'm out on the water and realize that I'm not at the top of the food chain. http://tinyurl.com/49wgkf
If you are looking for a movie that is completely unexpected (or at least you wish it were unexpected), one that will force you to confront the reality of your beliefs, Unthinkable is the movie for you.
I will state right at the beginning of this review that this movie is a must see. It was stunning, breathtaking and a slew of other adjectives that I won't bother to write.
I said at the beginning of this review that this movie was "unexpected". It was…..in that you'd never expect a movie like this to come out of Hollywood. I also stated that you wish it were unexpected, because it makes us face a reality that we all know and fear could be real, but are not willing speak out loud or acknowledge in polite company.
Not to spoil the plot (you can read the jacket cover to get this much), but you have a terrorist (played brilliantly by Michael Sheen) who claims to have planted 3 nuclear devices in three different US cities. You have an FBI agent Helen Brody played by Carrie-Anne Moss (of Matrix fame) brought in to help with the interrogation. Already present at the interrogation is the man known only as "H" (played by Samuel L. Jackson).
Sheen represents all that is evil in the world. Moss represents that which is supposed to be good. Jackson represents all that we could become, but hope we never have to. Jackson is revealed to be the man that none of us want to acknowledge exists, but we all secretly hope does. He is the man with the expertise and skill necessary to derive information………..he tortures his victims until they tell us what we want know.
When Brody see's what "H" does she confronts him ("Torture doesn't work. You torture them enough, they'll tell you what they think you want to hear to make the pain stop!"), Jackson is cool and pragmatic ("If torture doesn't work, why have we been doing it for thousands of years?"), and goes about his business.
As I watched this movie, I was initially struck with how it was shaping up to be another PC Hollywood claptrap….with the usual left wing propaganda BS about how "America is bad". Yes, the movie did have a lot of Political Correctness…….but before long, you were sucked into the reality of what a PC point of view really means………quiet literally, slapped in the face with it.
The reality that slaps you in the face, over and over and over again during this intense movie is simply this: How far are you willing to go?
The movie forces you to face the reality of that question and, quite literally, takes you through the process, step by step, of what it means to go down that path.
And it doesn't pull punches. It doesn't leave gray area's for later debate. It takes a nightmare scenario and makes it one of the worst possible situations you can think of. It doesn't let us off the hook by making the terrorist an "unlawful military combatant from a foreign country". He's an American citizen, a former military guy with special forces expertise. It doesn't avoid the obvious and pretend that terrorist is one of those extremely rare apparitions of the left (i.e. a Christian conservative extremist), the terrorist is a Muslim.
But to take it a step further, he's a natural born American, who looks, acts and talks like an American……and he's white. They make it clear that he has all the rights of an American Citizen….but that he's also a man who has planted 3 nuclear bombs in three major metropolitan areas. They are also clear that it is estimated that 10 million American's will die when those bombs explode.
So those with a left leaning point of view are put through the ringer when they have to face the reality of the failure of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and weigh the lives of 10 million people against the "rights" of this one man.
Similarly, those that lean to the right are put through the ringer by having to face the reality of what it truly means to torture a human being.
Whether you're a card carrying member of the ACLU, or a Mitch Rapp loving Vince Flynn fan, you will feel like you are in the torture chamber and "H" is working on you, except in your case, you are being forced to watch what it means to really find out, "just how far are you willing to go".
And that takes us to the title of the movie. "Unthinkable". Why "Unthinkable"? Why that name?
Because it makes you confront the unthinkable……and yes, it really, really does!
The movies doesn't let us off the hook with any kind of a plot twist. That would be way to easy (and quite frankly, exactly what I'd expect from Hollywood). This movie grabs you by the throat, forces your eyes open and makes you watch what you don't want to see, what you don't think a human being can do, and what any of us would pray should never happen.
And I'll tell you now, it's not the gore that it makes you face. No, the gore is not "unthinkable". Although there is a lot of blood in this movie, there isn't any true "gore". There isn't a last minute rescue or reprieve…..each and every time you think you're off the hook, you are brutally confronted with reality that is "the next step"……steps that eventually become, "Unthinkable".
If you think about what a movie would NEVER EVEN DEPICT….what Hollywood would never even allow to be brought out to the light of day in anyway other than to show just how bad and evil America is (which is not what this movie does) then you'd know what you're about to be confronted with.
In the last 30 minutes of this movie, it became very clear to me where it was going to go and what was going to have to happen. When that crystallized in my mind, I grabbed the remote and hit the pause button…….for I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether or not I was going to be able to watch what I knew was coming. Even though I was confident that the movie maker would handle it discreetly and there would be very little gore…….I was actually confident that there would be little or no actual scenes of violence regarding what I knew was coming (and I was right, there wasn't)….still it was enough to give me pause and think about whether I was willing to go where "H" was going to take me.
"H" set the scale beautifully. He masterfully weighed the rights of one man on one side of the scale, against the lives of 10 million on the other side of the scale. He was clear about what he was doing and in his mind he was doing nothing more than saving 10 million lives. Samuel L. Jackson played the role of "H" with breathtaking perfection, drawing you into his world of "torture as a means to an end". As the movie progresses, it is clear that even though this is a job to "H", he is ultimately just a man. He was not a sadist, nor did he seem to enjoy what he was doing. But it was clear to him that it had to be done. What he was doing was merely a means to an end. But it is very clear what effect the "means" have on the human being that they call "H".
Watching "H" pull Agent Brody (Moss) down into her own personal Hell is unbelievable. Brody is appalled that a man like "H" exists…..at first……then she is forced deeper into the abyss. She finds "H" and his techniques vile, but if forced to confront the reality of weighing the rights of the terrorist against the lives of 10 million. The inner turmoil she experiences leaps through the screen at the viewer and you can personally sense the revulsion she feels as that question weighs on her very soul.
And Sheen is everything that you don't want in a terrorist. He is a maniacal psychopath one minute, and a loving family man the next. He is a sadistic animal and yet has a human side. Sheen is absolutely brilliant in this role.
As I watched this movie, I kept waiting for the Hollywood plot twist. I kept waiting for the PC world of the ACLU to win out and save the day. But, much to my surprise, and I'm sure to the surprise of all who don't think much of "left-leaning Hollywood", it didn't happen. Even the last 13 seconds of the movie…..right down to the last second……it didn't happen.
But that doesn't mean that the right got off easy, either. You want to know what it means to find out "Just how far are you willing to go?" You want to know what torture means and just how far you may have to go? Watch this movie and you'll find out what that really means.
This movie is a must see for every thinking American, no matter what you're political persuasion.
There are a few obvious plot holes in the movie, but those are easily overlooked if one appreciates the overarching theme of the movie. The counters amongst us will notice an egregious counting error early on in the movie (that is revealed later in the movie)……although it is necessary for the plot, one would hope that this kind of counting error wouldn't occur in real life.
But all that aside, "Unthinkable" is a movie that gets a thumbs up from me!
Prudish Dad alert: This movie is NOT for the kids, the squeamish, or those that prefer to live in a Pollyanna world. There is no nudity, or sexual content. But there is pervasive language and intense scenes of violence (and I do mean intense). There are also thematic issues that are not appropriate for anyone under the age of 15. I may consider letting my oldest son watch the movie (he's 15), but I doubt it. My wife would kill me if I let him see it.
If you're old enough (repeat: NOT FOR THE KIDS), and are willing to face what we all hope and pray we never have to face, then "Unthinkable" is a must see!
From St. Louis Post Dispatch, 6/03/10:
When most people think of farmland, they think of open fields lined with long, neat crop rows. But some farmers and researchers picture something else: trees."The practice of combining farming and trees, known as agroforestry, has caught the attention of more farmers in recent years. And Missouri, with its ample forests and one of the country's premier agroforestry research centers, is leading the way into the woods.
"Proponents say agroforestry allows small-scale farmers to earn much needed extra income by growing certain shade-loving crops in unused forests, while larger-scale farmers can use trees to mitigate the environmental costs of agriculture, from soil erosion to water pollution.
This makes an awful lot of sense. They could learn a lot talking with pot farmers in the forests around Corbin, KY and Redding, CA.
Scott Brooks comments:
Two thoughts on this:
1. A friend of mine is the head forester for the state of Missouri. She is a driving force behind this kind of initiative and really knows what she is doing. She is very much a market oriented, capitalist person.
2. "Ditch Weed" used to be pretty big here in MO, but the buzz and profitability of meth has put it on the back burner (no pun intended). Back in the 80's and early 90's, we'd be out hunting and would come across "ditch weed" on a semi-regular basis.
Most ungulates, browsers and other wildlife love to eat weeds as their main food source, but I didn't notice them eating "weed". Although I'm sure a few did eat the "weed", because if we left our cheetos outside over night, we'd be overrun by deer quoting Jeff Spicoli. (Ok, that last sentence may not be completely true).
Pitt. T. Maner III comments:
Perhaps as revenues begin to lag federally-licensed growing will take hold. I suppose medical marijuana is helpful in some cases but not sure if the long-term health effects and future generation genetic effects are fully known–is it really that safe a drug?
"Looking at the economic analysis, we will generate a considerable amount of additional revenues, and that will certainly help us weather the hard economic times that all urban areas are having to deal with," Reid said. How much money is at stake isn't clear because the tax rate and the number of facilities the law would allow haven't been decided. A report prepared for AgraMed Inc., one of the companies planning to seek a grower's license, said its proposed 100,000-square-foot-project near the Oakland Coliseum would produce more than $2 million in city taxes each year…
We are emulating the wine industry, but instead of 'from grape to bottle,' it's 'from plant to pipe,'" Mann said. "Or seed to sack," offered Peterson
Al Corwin writes:
Tree farming of all types has been a solid business for some time. One of my college projects forty years ago was a comparative analysis of various tree farming operations. It wasn't a get-rich-quick scheme by any stretch of the imagination, but it was hard to find anyone who had gone broke in the business. At the time, Christmas tree farming was the most profitable on a per year per acre basis.
As someone raised on a dairy farm, the contrast between the incessant demands of milking and the barely intermittent demands of tree farming couldn't have been more dramatic. Fire and minor problems with bugs were the only significant hazards.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, there have actually been some great advances in tree farming in the last few years. I am most fascinated by the cottonwood farms. The trees are actually planted in a river. The trees grow so fast that you can see the difference day by day, and the fact that they are already in the water reduces the hassle and cost of harvesting. In addition, the tree farmers claim that the farms are good for fish and for the health of the river. Cottonwood is primarily used for paper.
One of the interesting discoveries that has changed tree farms is that irregular spacing is critical for fir trees. If the trees are planted in regular rows, they are at risk from a certain parasite that does not attack irregularly spaced trees. If you notice any acreage replanted in the last twenty years, the trees have been replanted almost haphazardly on a few years, giving the new plantings much of the look of a mountain clearing gone back to the wild.
At work I have been helping coach a friend who has turned his future around since he started exercising regularly.
At over 300 pounds he hit his breaking point with stress of work, and the stress of his only child turning into a normal teen had turned his life into a vicious loop of no sleep, despair and poor health. He had a blunt talk with his doctor. He started lifting weights and doing cardio. He has lost over 50 pounds over 2 years and has about 20 to go. Recently he had an injury to his back not related to exercising but had to stop lifting. But now he has taken lessons to learn to swim and is swimming every day and back on track.
He got most of his specific advice from his weight coach, but I was helping him with his cardio work and just keeping him motivated in general. He went from never being on a competitive team to an athlete over these two years. Before his back injury he was doing amazing weight workouts. Now that he sees the benefits from exercising he is hooked on it and has been thanking me for helping him through those hard first days, when the road seems impossibly long. A few things he has repeatedly told me he learned from me are:
1. We are most vulnerable to self sabotage when we are feeling most stressed. Recognizing this is half the battle of overcoming your self defeating excuses of why you can't. But the reverse is also true, stress leads to feelings of hopelessness and excuses of why we can not possibly exercise and do anything which bring more stress. He now spots those sub-conscious sabotages. I think what he likes most about lifting is how you can surprise even yourself when you think you can't and positively encourage yourself.
2. Do it when you can. Always look for that window of opportunity and the opportunity that is there, not the one you ideally wish for. He was really down when he had to stop lifting, but was grateful that he did it while he still could. Now he sees how taking advantage of those small opportunities that you do have leads to bigger and better things. Dropping his weight and staying in shape now has his doctor hopeful that he can return to a modified lifting program again. People think that if they try and fail they will have a lifetime of regrets, but most people end up having bigger regrets thinking back on missed opportunities. If you try and fail, you can always be grateful that you tried when you could.
Scott Brooks lectures:
Too many people in our great country are unwilling to accept responsibility, and there are way too many people that are willing to let others do most, if not all, of the work. There are certainly far too many people that are unwilling to lead, let alone exercise the qualities of a true honorable, virtuous leader. But far too many people lack any discernible talent beyond being absolute experts at finding the "Perfectly Legitimate Excuse."
Al Corwin agrees:
The larger the bureaucracy, the more you can survive as an excuse maker. Small organizations can't tolerate excuse makers because one excuse equals one failure, and that can bring down the organization. Only large organizations can tolerate excuses, and the excuses often even [destroy] them.
However, I am not alarmed by the pursuit of the legitimate excuse. Excuse makers are my competitors. I just don't want to slide into their camp myself. I've been there and probably will occasionally go there again, The perfectly legitimate excuse is just for oneself. When you try to pass it to others, they will almost always see it for the counterfeit that it is.
June 11, 2010 | 4 Comments
The following is not a rhetorical question; I genuinely don't know the answer. The 12 hours of school, music lessons…sports programs–is that really what's going to be best for these kids?
There seem to be fewer and fewer pre-scripted routes to success these days. Alan Corwin wrote about highly skilled database programmers who found themselves obsolete. Medicine has gone from being very cushy to modestly cushy. (A few pathways that might still exist: 1] do well academically/go to law school/ become partner at law firm, 2] get a government job, or 3] be nice to your very wealthy parents) Increasingly you have to invent yourself.
So what happens to regimented and highly educated kids when they grow up? They can hit a passable forehand, play some of Beethoven's piano sonatas, and do integrals (on Matlab), but they grow up and find that what they really need out there is something that's unique, which they don't have. Most of the successful people that I know personally had unstructured lives as children, and they had to figure out for themselves what to do with all that time. Most unsuccessful people though had the same situation! That's why my question is a real one, not a rhetorical one, one in fact that I'm facing with my own children.
Scott Brooks writes:
Having an unstructured life as a child equating into success as an adult depends on your upbringing, parental guidance, and environment. I saw a lot of my friends growing up living unstructured lives because of single family households (mother couldn't do much more than work to support family), alcoholism of one or more parent, or other factors.
I think a lot of these kids would be much better off if they were in a structured environment that allowed them freedoms most of their day (12 hours or more), at least 6 days a week.
The problem is that the kids who need this environment are stuck in some kind of a governmental system whereby the teachers unions control the environment. I believe that is what has lead us to being a country of non-thinking sheeple and is destroying our children today.
Jeff Rollert writes:
Improv is the best training I've had, and I use the trapped time in the car to make the kids do it. Doesn't matter if it is story telling, music, jokes, etc.The only consistent skill I've seen in life that doesn't get obsolete is on-the-fly storytelling.
Jack Tierney comments:
This is an important question and one that has great significance for the future. Recently I've come across more and more articles regarding this cohort and their predicaments.
The recent spike in student loan defaults has highlighted the fact that many of our "highly educated kids" have gone deeply into debt. Unfortunately, many have been highly educated in specialties that offer little opportunity to secure a wage sufficient to pay off the debt and live in a manner to which they've become accustomed.
In many of these households, the parental unit(s) have also taken on substantial debt to provide the education; unfortunately, their 401Ks and pension plans have been whacked by the market, and chances that junior will be offered a comfortable, all-meals-provided, rent-free existence dwindle daily.
I recently re-read "The Grapes of Wrath" for a discussion group. There was some conversation on whether current events could lead to a re-run of those days; it was suggested that our many undocumented immigrants would supplant the equally powerless and under-educated Okies. I suggested, however, that while both groups presented problems for their times, our well educated but un- or under-employed youth could present a significantly greater one.
During my lifetime it's been rare that major anti-establishment protests have been led and peopled by the under-classes…the poor rarely had enough time or resources to be regular participants or prisoners. Those movements were conducted by an educated but unhappy coterie that was rarely underfed or unqualified for well paying positions. Tomorrow's protest leaders could well be both.
Another disturbing element in this education scam is the adult re- education programs being offered and underwritten by the Feds and the States. There's heavy emphasis on computer skills, auto repair, finance, education, business admin, accounting, and nursing - fields in which there already exist many unemployed but experienced professionals, and others which have little future.
I can appreciate Dr. Pennington's concern. Of my three sons, only one appears to be moderately secure. All are now in their forties, so options are limited and not very promising. For my grand-daughter and grand-son (I have one of those now), I have major concerns as I feel they, too, are being offered yesterday's curricula for yesterday's jobs. Will they be tomorrow's Joads?
Stefan Jovanovich writes:
We already have Steinbeck's world here in California; but the traffic is heading east away from the state. The only people driving to our state are the people behind the wheels of the empty rental vans. (I urge List members to check out the differential rental rates to and from California.) People here are literally packing up and heading out because there is no work; and they know there will not be any.
Not to argue with John but the "anti-establishment protests" in American history have never been led and peopled by the underclasses. The Homestead strike was by the best-paid steel workers who were protesting the hiring of cheaper immigrants who spoke languages other than English. The Reuthers, the founders of the UAW, were skilled machinists; so were the auto workers who staged the sit-down strikes in the 1930s. The poorest workers - the blacks, the hillbillies - had already been laid off. The Wobblies my grandfather knew were skilled miners who had learned their crafts in the European mines before coming to America; the "scabs" (sic) were the Mexicans and poor white Southerners. Now, riots - like the Rodney King uproar - are another thing; then, the underclass comes out to smash windows.
I'm going to keep this year's Memorial Day thoughts short.
What is Memorial Day about?
I went with my son's Boy Scout Troop to Jefferson Barracks Cemetery today as we always do on Memorial Day. Today was the 62nd year that the Scouts had gathered to honor the soldiers buried there by place flags on their graves.
It was a moving site. 5,000 Scouts showed up, plus adults. The heat was oppressive. And although the talks were no longer than usual, they seemed a bit longer today in the heat. Still when it came time to place the flags, the scouts dispersed in an orderly fashion and went about their task in a reverent manner.
Sure, there was frivolity (boys will be boys), but for the most part, it was a moving site.
Because there we so many Scouts, there wasn't enough flags for the all the adults. So I gave my flags to a "flag-less" scout and opted to stand in the shade….not out of laziness, mind you (although it was nice), but to make sure all the Scouts had an opportunity to place their flags on the soldiers graves…..something I've had the privilege of doing many times.
To stand there and watch the boys work was especially heartwarming this year….especially after listening to one of the talks at the flag raising ceremony…..for this speaker spoke of two former scouts from our group who had fought in the middle east. One had died and was recently buried, the other, had lost both of his legs. Both former scouts from our BSA Council. Both stood where these boys were standing now around this same flag pole, listening to the same bagpipe band, listening to speakers. Both placed flags on the graves in this cemetery, just as the boys 5,000 boys gathered around that flag pole were about to do that day..
Now, one of them was without his legs……and the other……..well the other was waiting for his flag.
Remember these men and the millions of others just like them. That is what Memorial Day is about.
Chatting with a friend of mine today who contends that the big boys keep the DOW at 10 to keep the fray from pulling money out of the Market?
Scott Brooks writes:
Who are these "big boys"?
Why do they care if the market is supported at 10k (maybe they've got some options they need to protect)?
If they know they need to support the market to keep it 10k, why not just * not* support the market, let it go down and profit from shorts/puts/selling calls, etc.?
If by "big boys" you mean politicians, governmental or quasi-governmental organizations, I might be more inclined to give credence to the theory, but on the surface, as stated, I can't.
In the last week I have rented two units.
I just left my last new renter. A young couple with a little girl.
They had to make deposits on gas and electric and water. A deposit to me and I pro rated this months remaining rent.
Very rough for the average person to come up with all of the above funds to rent a place.
Having lunch as I type. Vickie served me a treat today. Pickled beets at 7.00 per quart !
Note not a good day for the Dow. Good to see oil decline further.
I hope the US Dollar gets stronger.
Scott Brooks writes:
The decade that offered home ownership for no money down and then allowed you to use your house as an ATM ends with people struggling to come up with security deposits and 1st months rent.
As to Alan's comment about the dollar appreciating, maybe I'm channeling chicken little here, but the appreciation of the dollar seems less like blue skies and more like a precursor of the sky falling.
My rationale? Simple. I am of the opinion that the only reason the dollar is appreciating is because the rest of the world is: 1. printing money faster than the US and 2. while the US has a horrible case of "financial pneumonia", the rest of the world is the early stages of "financial respiratory arrest"
The world is playing musical chairs and no one is paying attention to the fact that the chairs are disappearing and being replaced with paper machete' chairs. Sure the paper being used is the American greenback, but when you get right down to it, it's all just paper.
Nothing to see here, move along.
May 3, 2010 | 2 Comments
I am writing a letter to Aubrey on his fourth birthday and as part of my introduction where I emphasize the importance of a proper foundation, something that will take account of the load and settling, and the variations when the temperature and water changes, and taking into considerations Galton's method of starting the day with shaving and brushing the teeth as a proper way to start, and all good scientists who keep a lab book with their previous days' effort, and where they left off, and every trader's proper foundation of writing down what happened over night since he left off writing down what happened the previous day, I want to emphasize to Aubrey the importance of taking good care of your teeth. I believe that very much of life expectancy and health depends on good teeth as germs start there and migrate. But I don't have any evidence. What is the best way to make this point?
Scott Brooks comments:
Be a good example and do it with him every morning, noon, and night. Kids watch what we do far more than they listen to what we say.
Make it fun for him. Don't just make it about brushing his teeth, make it your time with him. Talk about things that are important to him, and make it fun by talking with your mouth full of tooth paste and a tooth brush….i.e. so your speech sounds funny (kind of like when you try to talk to a dentist with a mouth full of cotton swabs).
And be consistent. Give him 'marker phrases', things that will stick with him his entire life (I don't know that "marker phrase" is the technical term, it's just the term that I use).
For instance, a marker phrase I say to my kids constantly is, "What happens when you listen to Dad? Good things! What happens when you don't listen to Dad? Bad things!" And then every single time they do what you tell them to do, reward them somehow and say (with a smile), "what happens when you listen to Dad?" (and they will say "Good things!"). BTW, the reward doesn't have to be anything other than a smile or acknowledgment that you know they did something good. And when they do something wrong, say to them, "What happens when you don't listen to Dad?" Much of the time they won't say "bad things" but they'll understand.
Here's another "marker phrase" that I use with my kids. Every night before I put them to bed (or if I'm out of town I call them and do this over the phone), I say this to them (we call it the Brooks Success Creed):
Remember, in order to be successful in life, you have to be:
A man of good character
A student to the best of your ability with ambitious purposes
of congenial disposition
Possessed of good morals
Having a high sense of honor and a deep sense of personal responsibility
You must always do unto others as you would have them do unto you
And above and beyond all else never get up (they usually say that phrase)
And remember, if you ever need me or mom for any reason, we'll always be there for you, we'll always take care of you, we'll always love you forever and ever unconditionally, no matter what. You can always count on us, you can come to us with anything, we'll always help you, we'll always take care of you. And remember, I'm your protector, I'm your Knight in Shining Armour! I Love You!
There are, I believe, many meals for a lifetime in that creed. But the key to it is that, embedded within it, are many key marker phrases that you can reference for the child. For instance, lets say that I'm having a tender one on one moment with one of my kids, I will say something like, "you are really becoming a 'man of good character' and I'm so proud of you". Or if they are struggling with something and eventually fight their way through it (i.e. a math problem), I always praise them and say something like, "You did so good figuring that out. And do you know how you did it? You 'never gave up'! You can even do this when they do something wrong. For instance. "When you behave like that you're not having "a congenial disposition".
Back to brushing one's teeth. If you want Aubrey to develop the good habit of brushing his teeth, tie brushing his teeth back to one the many "marker phrases" that you share with him multiple times a day and every night before he goes to bed. When he brushes his teeth, especially when he does it on his own, make a point to say something like this: "Aubrey, you are such a 'man of good character' for brushing your teeth? Brushing your teeth and taking good care of yourself really shows me that you have a 'deep sense of personal responsibility'! I'm proud of you, son!" Ingrain the marker phrases into his mind by consistently saying the phrases over and over and over again. Bed time is critical as are other tender one on one, moments. Tie activities to the marker phrases by pointing them out to him in real life/real time situations so he will attach the activity to the "ideal" of the marker phrase.
I'm no child rearing expert or anything, but I do know that this is what my wife and I have done with our kids and they seem to be turning out ok…although we do have to remind the younger one's to still brush their teeth from time to time!
Ken Drees writes:
This reminds me of billboards I saw in Jamaica: "Remember to Brush your Teeth", next to a picture of a toothbrush and a smiling child. It also reminds me of the site's traveling hobo who said that if he could have a suitcase full of toothbrushes when he was in the Amazon, he would be rich.
Pitt T. Maner III writes:
Based on the amounts of money spent the diamond analogy is not too far off. Sealants may be worth investigating…
* Tooth decay (dental caries) is the most common chronic disease of childhood.
* Only 1 in 3 of all U.S. schoolchildren and only 1 in 5 of children in families with low incomes have received dental sealants.
* In the United States, 53 million children and adults have untreated tooth decay in their permanent teeth. Much of this problem could have been prevented by greater use of fluoride and timely application of dental sealants on chewing surfaces of back teeth.
* African American and Mexican American adults have twice the amount of untreated decay as non-Hispanic whites.
Oral Health Problems are Costly
* Each year, Americans make about 500 million visits to dentists.
* In 2009, an estimated $102 billion was spent on dental services in the United States.
Marion Dreyfus comments:
Buy a poster of the body's blood system, capillaries, veins, and show by tracing down from the rich supply in and to the mouth how germs make their way from the mouth's cavities and capillaries down to the heart and elsewhere. The same poster will also serve to show how drug addiction and the use of tainted needles carries the poisons from injection site to the far reaches of the brain and everywhere else.
I spent the weekend planting 150 baby trees on our property.
The trees of Westchester and Fairfield County suffered mightily during the spring storms, and many of our wealthy neighbors purchased large shrubs and full-grown trees to mitigate the aesthetic damage. One neighbor's estate now looks like a Christmas Tree farm.
In contrast, I planted dozens of random six-to-nine inch tall native species seedlings — and for the price of two Home Depot shrubs, I left a bequest to future generations. Even if there is only a 10% survival rate, it will provide an awesome return-on-investment.
The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation runs the Saratoga Tree Nursery, and since 1902 has produced and sold more than 1.6 billion seedlings at a low purchase price.
Surprisingly, NY State says that the major cause of seedling mortality isn't wildlife or competing plant species. It's lawn mowers.
For more information about this excellent resource, go here.
Other states probably have similar programs.
Scott Brooks comments:
Although I'm not expert, here are a few tips from a guy who's planted more than a few trees in my day.
I don't know what it's called, but it looks like an inverted cereal bowl that you put over your tree and slide it to the ground (bowl side down). This keeps sunlight from hitting the ground under the "bowl" and thus keeps weeds and grass from growing right around the base of the tree and competing with the tree for water, nutrients and sunlight.
Use a "tree tube" (that's what I call the) and put them around the tree to protect them from wildlife eating them. It also makes it easy for the person on the lawnmower to see them. It also doesn't hurt to tie a piece of surveyors tape to the top of the tree to make them easier to see.
Fertilize the hole you are going to put the tree in, then fertilize around the drip line, but don't over fertilize (NB: small seedlings won't have a "drip line" yet, but when they do, fertilize around the drip once or twice a year). Then dump a bucket of water on it. If it's been particularly dry, feel free to water the seedlings.
Don't be shy about weed whacking around them to knock down any weeds or grass.
Rocky Humbert adds:
If you have a bad back, they sell a device that allows arborists and forest rangers to plant seedlings while fully erect. And if you are planting thousands, you can rent a mechanical planter.
Nigel Davies comments:
Yuk. 450 minutes on one's knees is precisely 30 minutes worse than being a pawn down for seven hours…
Russ Sears writes:
Indiana has a similar program. When each daughter was young I planted several hundred trees– 700 trees in all on our 2 acres. Walnut and oak mostly. Pine trees were planted between rows of hardwood to make them grow. By the time we sold the house the hardwoods were just beginning to over take the smaller pines. The kids loved marking time by the size of the trees as both the trees and they grew the 12 years we lived there. It also turned out to be profitable as the buyer said they wanted the house for the trees. Plus, on visiting an old neighbor, each neighbor bought several large trees from them. A super Walmart moved behind them bringing with it multiple fast food joints, etc. This ruined the lovely view, rustic trails and the low traffic runners love, which were the things that made me buy the place to begin with. It left an island of nature that hides the modern development.
April 28, 2010 | Leave a Comment
It is chilly as we step out onto the front lawn. The sky is a bit dark and the clouds skirting by overhead carry a hint of menace. And it is snowing. But the flakes are large and pink. There is a constant stream of them fluttering in the breeze as they drop from the blossoms of the big cherry tree that overhangs the driveway. There is a thick carpet of pink fluff covering the grass and blowing in swirls down the street.
The kids and I don helmets and mount our bicycles for a trek around the neighborhood. The wind bites as it cuts right through my normally cozy sweatshirt. As we climb a small hill I look over my shoulder and notice my son has stopped and is looking down at something on the pavement. It's a squirrel that has been struck by a car and luckily is thoroughly dead. My son looks down with curiosity and obvious empathy for the poor creatures plight. "Dad!" my daughter shouts, "Can we cut it open? I wanna see its brains!", this last with a bit more glee than I care to see in such a situation. "Don't touch it" I say, "you can get very sick". "Can I run it over?" she asks. "I already did by accident" my son moans. I drag them away and we zoom down the incline with the chill wind at our backs. We round a couple of turns and begin the climb up the tiny but steep hill with the big cherry tree on top that signals our yard ahead. Again I look back to see how my son is managing and I see that he is off his bike and crying loudly. I dash back and ask him how he has hurt himself, "What happened? Are you okay?". He is inconsolable, sobbing and squealing, tears pouring down his face, his chest heaving. "What is it Jack?". "Its not me", he moans between sobs. "Its because of the squirrel". Mom rushes out the front door to console him. We stand together for a moment amidst the swirling cherry blossom snow.
We get inside, I wrap both hands around a hot mug of tea and we sit at the kitchen table. "I really wanted to see its brains!" my daughter squeals with obvious delight and a wicked smile. "I think when I grow up I'll be a doctor 'cause then I can do a surgery and see someone's brains!" My poor son sits with his face in his hands, still gasping a bit and trying to catch his breath, mom hovering over him to see how she can help.
As he regains his composure I am struck by how completely different they are. And how much like their dad.
Scott Brooks writes:
Great story, Chris!
One of the great pleasures we have had on the Brooks Farms is to dissect the animals we've harvested. I know this squirrel was not killed by you guys, but getting a plastic bag and dissecting the squirrel could have very well put your son at ease. Get some surgical gloves or plastic gloves from the local drug store or big box store and make it a learning experience.
Use it as an opportunity to explain to your kids anatomy, the science of life and how the animal kingdom operates. I explained to my children how the death of an animal is no tragedy and is just part of the whole cycle of life in this world.
I should write more about that someday soon to add clarity to that somewhat vague last sentence, but it's 4:23 am and I have to wake the kids up shortly so we can go out turkey hunting and partake of the many life lessons that are involved in hunting, harvesting, dressing eating and "recycling" of the wild game that are on our farm.
Last summer I had to take down a large Birch tree that had died from infestation of Bronze Birch Borers. The tree overhung the site where I was preparing to build a shed and I decided to remove it first to prevent damaging my new creation.
Upon climbing the tree in preparation for its removal I found myself reflecting on trading metaphors. There are tremendous risks in being high in a tree with a powerful chainsaw.
When one gets very high in the branches of a tree one finds it is critical to take the effects of the prevailing wind into account before doing anything. The wind can determine which part of the tree to remove first and where to drop the debris.
I think about safety first and at all times during the operation. I wear a climbing harness and attach myself to the trunk of the tree in two places with two separate lines. I pay close attention to where I place my feet and hands.
Familiarize yourself with the tree. Is it recently dead or has it been for some time? Can it be climbed safely or should it be taken down from below or from a cherry picker? A recently green tree will support large weights on a one inch diameter branch, a dry or rotten tree will do no such thing. Can you drop branches safely or are you too close to the house? Sometimes each piece has to be secured prior to cutting and lowered carefully with a line.
Use a ladder to get into the tree. Tie the ladder off to the tree in a way that prevents it from wobbling or rotating. In markets, sometimes one must stand on others shoulders to get oneself in place.
Have the necessary tools with you before you climb. It is time and energy consuming to have to go back for them. And not having the proper tool can induce you to use the wrong one rather than go all the way down and back to do it right.
Be familiar with your tools and know how to use them and care for them. Powerful tools, like leverage, allow you to do big jobs quickly but they bring powerful risks. It is amazing the number of ways a chainsaw can ruin your day. Chainsaws can bounce back out of the cut right at you so it is important to keep your face and body off to one side when cutting. Chains can break and fly back as well and fly or wrap in entirely unexpected directions. Be aware of the damage that your tools can do to you, not just the tree. Pay attention to them and treat them with the respect they deserve. Try to make allowances for the unpredicted. I've seen a chain fly off the saw and become entangled around the large branch it just removed and very nearly pull the user out of the tree.
Secure heavy tools to you or to the tree with a line strong enough to hoist them but light enough to part if the tool becomes ensnared in falling debris.
Never start using a heavy power tool until you have secure footing. I usually rest my weight into the harness and let my lifelines support me, using my feet to keep me stable.
Take your time. Being rushed will get you hurt.
Never bite off more than you can chew. When removing large portions of the tree with a single cut, they can behave in unpredictable ways, such as twisting or bouncing the tree or grabbing your lifeline and pulling it down with them. Once a very heavy piece begins to fall, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.
Never extend your reach beyond what is comfortable. Using a tool at more than arms length puts you in a position that prevents you from reacting quickly if something goes wrong. It puts undue stress on you and the tool. It removes whatever leverage you have on the tool. It also prevents you from "feeling" properly through the tool. When using a power tool you receive signals about the material you are cutting and the nature of the stresses on that material. You can always tell when a branch is about to go if you are listening carefully to the tool. That feedback is denegrated by reaching too far or by using only one hand.
Several years ago a friend was cutting off a tremendous horizontal limb from a large oak. He was on a ladder extended to its maximum height and leaned up against the limb. The ladder was resting on the limb between the trunk and the cut and as the limb came off, this stub end jumped up and the ladder fell away beneath it. My friend tossed the saw and grabbed the three foot thick trunk and tried to hold on but slid down and finally fell off, shattering his femur and tearing up his chest and the insides of his arms. Had he and the ladder been secured to the tree he probably would not have fallen.
What have I missed?
Scott Brooks adds:
Hunting is considered by many to be a dangerous activity, what with a bunch of guys running around with shotguns or rifles. However, there are very few actual injuries from shooting accidents. The main cause of accidents are not the inanimate objects that send forth projectiles, but another inanimate object…tree stands.
Every year, people who feel that they are immune from the laws of gravity climb into stands and sit or stand waiting for their prey to wander by. And every year there are people who are stunned to find out that the laws of gravity are much more brutal and punishing than they thought.
There are only two types of tree stand hunters: Those that have fallen and those that haven't fallen yet. No matter how much you think you'll be able to hang on, or how adept your dexterity, you simply can't react fast enough to ward off an accident or mechanical failure.
I can personally attest to the feeling of bile rising in my throat from the fear of lost balance while perched 15 up in the air…and that was when I was wearing a safety strap.
I have a standing rule on my land. If you climb up into a tree stand, you must not only wear a safety strap, but it must be the first thing you put on when you get into the stand, and the last thing you take off when you climb down. I have asked (told) people to leave my farm because I caught them up in a tree without a safety strap.
So why even climb a tree stand if it has that much risk? It's about risk vs. return. I love the return I get from arrowing a nice buck. Same is true with trading. I love it when I get a great return for my clients. But the reality is that it's important to wear a safety strap when trading. Just as I profited in my poker playing days by taking a slow grind it out approach (never going all in), I do the same with trading. I'm satisfied with the inferior returns of a non-leveraged portfolio. My theory is that the more you leverage, the higher you're climbing and the thinner your safety strap gets.
All of my bad losses and sleepless nights have come from leveraging or taking too much risk.
That's why I'm a pretty boring guy these days.
Jim Sogi comments:
Professional tree trimmers all use a belay. Mountain climbers also belay themselves for protection or to 'hedge' their position in case of a fall.
Ken Drees writes:
Never lend your chainsaw to someone who doesn't use them much. As in don't give stock advice to people or just give them advice that is general in nature–this saves on friends. Always remember torque and twist. If you don't read and predict how the cut will behave, rethink it. I have seen trees twist and pull the wrong direction, seen limbs bind back on the saw and have trees fall off course because of hidden dead spots. Be ready for the twist of the market as it takes your trade and bends it slightly the wrong way. Once I saw a dead tree being taken down by a friend. This large straight tree as it was falling broke apart into 3 huge sections. The trunk part closest to the ground went the right way and the other two in tangents like a V. Market wise–don't mess around with a junk-trade–its just not worth it and you can get hurt. And lastly don't drink beer before operating a chainsaw, nor chop wood with only shorts on, or put your hot saw down in a pile of dead leaves.
Pitt T. Maner III adds:
Ok, this is a little bit like what I have been doing the past 2 years–namely Health and Safety oversight for pipeline and tank construction workers… guess who the least favorite person on the jobsite is?
There are probably better business analogies than below but here it goes (this is the short list! and not complete by any means, OSHA website would be a good resource):
1. I would have a health and safety plan in place with contact numbers and how to get to the hospital. Is there a written plan of action for each step of the process with the risks involved and the ways to mitigate the risk. (Investment plan)
2. Use a "buddy system". Have a friend nearby that can help you in case of an emergency. Have a 1st Aid Kit and someone Red Cross trained in 1st Aid and CPR. (Mentors and advice of others)
3. Survey the tree to make sure there are no hazards you have missed. Electrical lines. Red ants. Poisonous plants. etc. Ask yourself what is the worse thing that could happen (What could go wrong with your investment? What could come back to bite you?)
4. Inspect your equipment. Is your climbing harness worn anywhere? Are the lanyards of the proper length? (Guys have died or hurt themselves badly by not having the proper length on the lanyard, yeah they had their fall protection on it just didn't stop them in time from hitting the ground). Is the ladder rated for your weight? Do you have a GFCI if you are using an electric chan saw? Do you have cut resistant gloves? Do you have on hearing and eye protection? Level D OSHA clothes?
5. If it is hot or cold you need to take a break. Drink water. If you get tired you are more likely to make a mistake. (Take regular breaks from the computer screen)
6. Do you have enough light? Night time operations are doubly dangerous for workers. You need visibility. (Transparency in your investments)
7. Have you set up for disposing of the branches and such. You don't want the city to fine you unnecessarily for yard trash. (Tax consequences)
8. Wouldn't it be cheaper given the risks to have a professional service do it? (ETFs/mutual funds vs. individual management)
9. Are you sure the tree won't fall on someone else's property or their fence? (What are the liability issues?)
10. If I do get hurt what will the effects be to my family and others? Do I have the skills, knowledge, and physical abilities necessary to do the job right and do I understand the risks? Am I in a good state of mind and able to stay calm and not get angry if something doesn't work out right? Do I have a fear of heights?
We always carry a card around in the wallet for safety reference and it sort of boils down to 3 steps: 1) Assess; 2) Analyze; and then 3) Act.
It sounds like overkill but an effective safety "culture" within companies has been shown to dramatically reduce injuries, deaths and all sorts of economic and emotional costs. And it is a good idea to teach everyone at home how to stay safe too. If you do not have a sense of vulnerability then you are susceptible to hurting yourself or others around you.
Russ Sears comments:
In the last four years I took down three cedar trees that were dying. Here are a few things I did that were missing from the lists above.
1. Limit the access to the area. Shut down the drive-way, no extra people or kids allowed etc. Tree cutting is not a spectator sport. The trading room is sacred. No extra people or kids. Never show off.
2. Notify the neighbors when near their property. Likewise no kids. They let me know if they would be outside etc. I worked around their schedule. When working with others money, its all about them, not you.
3. Call the buried cable hot-line to have it marked before. Know the hidden risks and try to avoid them.
4. Have lots of rope. Extra rope tied to the tree and other trees can help prevent the tree from going the wrong way onto the house. Controlled slack on a large trade is a must.
5. Keep the area clean, limbs dragged away as they are cut. You never know when you may need that exit.
6. Rent what you do not have, but get the right size saw above all. It may cost more, but do it right.
7. Have patience. Take it in small pieces. It is only impressive in the vast woods when it all comes down at once. In your yard it will only be damage. Know your size. And do not try to meet a schedule. Pay that extra day's rent, Leave the stump up till next weekend. Do not try to swing for the fences to meet some arbitrary goal.
Vincent Andres writes:
All valuable advice in this tree thread! Not to say it's missing, but I often add an iron chain as a line (with mountain climbing equipment).
Among dangerous things a falling tree is able to do, having the foliage act like a spring is a rather vicious one. The tree falls nicely with its big round green foliage, everything seems OK, but the green foliage is slowly compressed/crushed (for 2 or 3 seconds) and then the compressed unbroken foliage uncompresses and moves the 3 ton trunk in whichever direction. If you're in the way you're killed without even noticing it. (Certainly a market analogy here!)Folded branches are also a very classic cause of injures.
Many things can happen when cutting trees– unexpected things, so as a general rule, better be largely too cautious then slightly too incautious. Even if other people do not understand, you are in the tree with the chainsaw, not them.
The human body after a certain age (25 - 30 - 35?) doesn't take impact quite so well as it did prior to that age. My desire to jump or tumble or fall is diminishing by the day. Pain seems to hurt more and recovery time is increased. I think this phenomenom is a function of how many blows you took when you were younger/immortal/bullet proof.
What I mean is this: Had I know then what I know now (i.e. how much my knees/ankles/back would hurt today), I probably would have done things differently. But alas, my athleticism fooled me into thinking that I was destined to play professional sports someday so I played hard and threw my body into every scrum, pile up, oncoming blocker, went across the middle and jumped to my full ability to catch every high pass, blasted through every catcher guarding home plate and took every hard charge to draw the offensive foul that came my way.
Unfortunately, athleticism does not make one aworld class athlete. High jumping for the college track team my freshmen year was the end of the road for me (well, except for church ball, and pick up games here and there).
The Bottom Line is this: The aches in my 46 year old body outweigh the adulations from the former glory days of my youth. Those days are but a memory, but the aches, unfortunately, will likely never go away.
Jeff Watson notes:
Being no stranger to skateboarding, skateboarders, and skateparks, I will note that the helmet issue is a very contentious issue with the skaters. I tried insisting with my son on wearing a helmet, which was a battle I quickly lost. especially for the freestyle casual skating. His excuse was that he never saw me wear a helmet while skating or riding a bicycle, for that matter. Plus, the peer group pressure was just too great for me to overcome. However, almost everyone wears helmets when they are lucky enough to find a pool, bowl, or good concrete drainage ditch to skate in as the danger level is moderately high. Personally, I still skate decently and quite often at the age of 53 and I always wear a helmet, as I learned that from the school of hard knocks.
Pitt T. Maner III writes:
Having had bad wrist injuries in my family I would worry a little bit about that too. It's a balancing act though with being too overprotective and letting kids learn the risks themselves. My worst accident was falling out of a tree and breaking my arm. A memorable learning moment was shooting a BB gun at the ground and having it richocet right back between the eyes.
At age 8, started thinking about safety after that. You don't forget stupid mistakes like that. Better to learn with a BB gun then with a .22. You wonder though how my dad's generation survived– sending up home-made hydrogen balloons with Roman Candles, playing around with any number of electrical circuits, Windhurst machines, transformers/electrical coils, making thermite "bombs" to burn holes in the asphalt street outside, making home-made wine from Scuppenong grapes with occasional explosion of bottles, shooting at each other with BB guns, shooting guns in general, slingshot accidents, riding unruly ponies, high pressure German steam engine toys, playing with massive M-80s and other potent fireworks from Texas and on and on. Wild Indians and Mad Scientists at work.— keep looking »
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