Monday, April 28, 2008

Investing Right Now

I have little to add to the great internet conversation of investing, but I thought I would throw in my .02 to the problem facing American who don't spend all of their cash. Where do we put the extra? I know there are some of you out there who did not go 'hog wild' the last 10-20 years, and therefore, have some money that you would like to invest to earn a little return for retirement or maybe just to keep up with inflation. My audience might be 5 people, 10 tops. Where to put it? What do I try to latch onto as the next bubble? Are banks safe? These questions keep me awake at night. I emailed my family members, the tribe of penny pinchers, to give them a heads up on bank failures, as the FDIC at least gets ramped up for them. They said, "OK, but where do we put it?"

I'd start by saying that the S&P and most equity markets around the world are in a stage of confusion, doubt, uncertainty, volatility, and a whole slew of adjectives with negative implications. Even China is going through pains, check out the Chinese stock market as a 1 year chart. I guess selling knick knacks with lead paint can backfire. I'd say most emerging market stock markets are bad buys right now because of the food riots and hyperinflationary elements in the economies for basics. I wouldn't even individually buy solid names of multinationals because they are expensive now and will probably be cheaper when the markets come to grips with a worldwide recession. Try to play roulette with an alternative energy company? Good luck picking the right now with the right power play and political connections. Maybe play the commodities boom. I don't know if there's much money to be made as the prices fo basic staples have risen so much that there is the threat of international intervention. The bond market is completely bonkers as short term bond funds are paying negative interest rates in some incidences when you factor in expenses, and who wants to lock into long term bonds paying 3-4%? In a bear market or deflationary epoch, cash is king.


Where do you put this cash if banks are going to fail? Good question. This bothers me so much that I have spread out my cash holdings amongst multiple institutions. Look to have FDIC coverage for the CDs, checking, and savings accounts that you have. I previously had most of our down payment cash tied up in a money market fund, but I decided to spread it out between that fund, a checking account that earns comparable interest, and then the ultimate tool to fight the sinking dollar: an Everbank foreign currency account. These foreign currency accounts are FDIC insured CDs that hold the foreign currency and earn interest that in some cases are much higher than money market accounts and CDs through your local bank and even those ING direct Orange online accounts. Of course, you are at risk of currency appreciation/depreciation. This could hurt your investment if that currency loses money vs. the dollar, but with short 3 month terms on the CDs, it would take an awfully large swing to lose even the interest.
I'm extremely sad though because I looked forward to growing up and having money to invest as that is something I have always loved to track and read about. I read the Money section of the USA Today right before the Sports section growing up. If I lose a decade because the Wall St bankers, the FED, the federal government, and crack head consumers made a giant mess of things, I will be mildly depressed.
Speaking of the FED, many folks are crying to financial and investment websites that the FED cutting rates is hurting savers and punishing savers and giving away savers' money. Sure, yup it is. Look, I am mad at the FED but for many different reasons, not this one. The FED is slashing rates and hurting savers to try to keep ARM mortgage holders & Wall St afloat and keep the economy rolling. Think about this sad savers, the US savings rate is so close to zero or negative, that it doesn't make sense for the FED to protect savers. A majority of Americans are not savers. Bernanke's main target is the giant group of consumers out there who save nothing. They have us savers outnumbered. Why would Bernanke do anything to protect the 10 savers left? I know there's 10 tops because they view every single investing blog to leave comments with the same dumb handles. Theya re almost as bad as peak oil doomers.
Bernanke is sacrificing everyone else though for Wall St. Banks. The Bank of England is doing it with their banks, and very shortly, the ECB will be doing it for the bank problems across the continent. I have little faith in 3rd world country banks in China and the Middle East. In the end, the same cronies will make out OK, while everyone else eats shit.
I think the best investment people can make right now is in the relationships they have with friends and family. In times of uncertainty, the familiar things and occasional reminiscing can be comforting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Koan

Is it better to have great sex with an ugly partner or bad sex with a beautiful partner?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ridiculously Cool Action Sequence

Solution to the Democrats' Two Headed Monster Problem

The Democrats are in an a terrible position right now. They have two candidates that would be great personalities to run in the general election as long as they were not running against one another nor against any decent moderate Democrat. Obama and Clinton have star power, charisma, instant recognition with casual voters, and they speak well in public. Unfortunately, they are running in the same election cycle for the same position. Neither candidate can get the needed votes to get the nomination, and neither has the humility to bow out and do good for the party. I have the solution. A deal.

A perfect run for the presidency is a lightning in a bottle opportunity. McCain will see it this fall when he realizes that he was a few dirty tricks in South Carolina in 2000 away from crushing Al Gore in 2000. Bill Clinton in 1992 was perfect timing because of GOP fatigue and the recession. JFK was perfect timing because of the mob fixing Chicago for him and the first televised presidential debates. This is it for Clinton. If she doesn't win now, she is damaged goods and 4 years older in 2012. This is perfect timing for Obama because in 4 years, all of America will truly know how liberal he is, and he'll probably insult the other half of middle class and poor Americans that he hasn't insulted yet. Clinton is in the tougher spot because she is 'behind' by the rules, and the media ia preparing to crown Obama, especially NBC. Still, she can hang in and hurt Obama more and more, doing the GOP's job for them just to keep her selfish hopes alive. She's a Clinton. She must be dealt with, and sooner rather than later.

Howard Dean, the assclown in charge of the DNC, should get Obama and talk him into a deal. It's a deal that works so well for Obama, and in the end, the execution of the deal is out of his control. He can hold up his end fo the bargain and Clinton can get nothing. Here it is. Clinton ends her run now, right now, before the PA, IN, WV, KY and NC primaries, which are just going to hurt Obama more and endorse Obama. This gives Obama a summer to bash McCain and heal the party. Obama in turn has to promise to nominate Clinton for the first Supreme Court Justice opening that occurs during his term. No one can say a word to anyone else. Obama has nothing to give her that she would want: VP, no way, Cabinet spot, too little for her ego, Ambassadorship, takes her out of the spotlight, Secretary of State, she doesn't have the resume and might steal his thunder. This is it. A justice spot is a lifetime appointment. It creates a real Clinton legacy. She would have a huge marker to hold over Bill's head in the twisted marriage.

Obstacles
1. Obama has to win the general. - With a summer to run attack ads and a ton more cash than McCain, this should be easy. I question his ability to win swing states, but in the end, this might come down to a HDTV debate that shows McCain looking very very old.
2. The Democrats have to pick up a few more seats in the Senate. - As long as they retain the majority, this should still work. I think the GOP would fight this, but having a CLinton on the Supreme Court is going to make funraising easy for the next 25 years.
3. Someone has to step down as Justice Stevens and Ginsburg are both over 75, and Ginsburg has health issues. Small obstacle, but still, this is power, and few give it up.
4. Someone talks. If this leaked out before the general, McCain and the GOP could say the Dems are dealing to fix your future. If it leaked out afterwards, it could hurt Obama's chances of re-election.

Hillary has the credentials, and everything feels right about this on the liberal side of the world. Just know that you read it here first if 3 years from now a President Obama is proud to nominate Hillary Clinton for the Supreme Court.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

90210 Theme Song and Credits

90210 Guilty Pleasure

90210 used a tried and true formula for entertainment. Take a fish out of water story, set it in California, show rich people having drama, and populate the show with pretty teens. I could not stand the show when it first aired. Then it grew on me. Jennie Garth always had my attention, and I always hoped for a fight for someone to kick the shit out of Luke Perry. I would never tell anyone I watched the show, and I was not a big fan, but I would leave it on if I turned to it. Does this make sense?

I'll admit a big part of my draw to this show was the female cast. It might have been the loss of Shannon Doherty and addition of Tiffani Amber Thiessen, formerly of Saved by the Bell, Kathleen Robertson, Alyssa Milano, and Vanessa Marcil, with cameos by other young starlets. I was a teenage boy, and this show was in my strike zone when I put it on mute. This was and is a murderer's row for me.

The second key was the development of unintentional comedy on the show. Things became more ridiculous as time went on. Jennie Garth got hooked on drugs or slept with a professor. Luke Perry would be a bad boy and win fights. Gabrielle Carteris was 40 and playing a high school kid. Ian Ziering acting. He switched between terrible and awesome every other scene. Despite a receding hariline that somehow stopped fading in 1996 and a horrible decision to star in Skinemax fare, Subliminal Seduction, he still has a career. The show had unbelievable plots, and ridiculous turns. Fox had to make Melrose Place even worse just to give 90210 cover. Hardly a Luke Perry scene would go by without me laughing out loud. The guy could not talk above that "forced whisper like he is pooping" level.

Luke Perry's character and acting always bothered me. I was always hoping for someone to kick the shit out of him or for him to get in a car accident and be written off of the show. It might have been because he was such an unrealistic character, and Luke Perry is an awful actor. Atrocious. He had maybe 3 facial expressions, and most of them looked pained. Had they cast someone with a shred of acting ability, it might have helped the show, as they were weak when it came to male characters. Jason Priestley left early, and they were stuck with the Ziering. If they had a true male lead, the show could have aged better.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sister's Visit

3 days with my sister. I love her dearly, but sheesh, sometimes I wonder if I truly was left on my parent's doorstep.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

South Park Reads My Mind

South Park did an episode that had one story arc around the transgender issue; thank you Mr./Mrs. Garrison. I have loved this show from day one and they never cease to amaze me.

Odd Coincidence

I can't believe I had not created a 'love' tag yet. Love is one of the greatest gifts humans have. I know some animal people like to say that animals experience love as well, but c'mon, I'll believe it when they throw expensive parties to celebrate their unions with way too many guests and decorations. I have only loved a few women in my life. Fortunately, I am married to one of them, and she loves me in return. What a great coincidence? Concerning the others, in the last week, I received word that one ex from college moved to a small town in New England, and that another is engaged now to some toolbox from our frosh dorm and lives in New England as well. I only had 3 ex girlfriends of any significance from college. Most college relationships were completely frivolous. Usually, I was substituting the physical rewards of those relationships for the lack of emotional rewards from the big ex girlfriends. That sounds pretty lame, but hey, it was the case.

I am a big believer in the idea that we love different people at different times for different reasons as different people. The person you were 5 years ago is not the person you are today. The ex who moved to a small New England town listened to friends who didn't approve of me as the small town Mainer. Look at where she has moved... to a small town in Connecticut. Just stuck me as kind of funny. So how exactly did the rich girl go from rich suburb in Jersey to small town in NE? Is it cosmo enough for you? I harbor no ill will towards her, and if I ran into her at a future reunion, I'd be really nice. I'd be hiding a shit eating grin the entire time, but I'd be nice. I can't stop my wife from punching her in the face. For what? I don't know, but she is a loose cannon.

The engaged ex girlfriend, Spanky, is a funnier and odder story. I fell in love hard and fast. First time love story. Hit me like prize fighter. I manage to muster up the courage to say "I love you" for the first time in my life and in return she says... >crickets< "thanksssssss" >crickets<. Should have run then. We kept it going for another month, but when there is a giant emotional deficit, a relationship is bound to unravel. It was handled poorly by all parties involved. Ultimately, neither of us won the battle for the circle of friends because the guys mostly got kicked out of school, and she turned the rest off when they realized she used them to boost her self esteem by having a few guys who treated her like a queen all of the time in between relationships. We made peace by the end of sophomore year.

She started dating a douchebag that we called "shovelface" because he looked like he had been hit in the face with a shovel. Creative, I know. I found the couple surprising, but I have long since given up trying to understand women. Their relationship went on and he first acted cool with me and asked me to decode some of her zany artist moods and attitudes towards him, and then that stopped. By senior year, he was talking to me again, and I found out the why behind the lull. One, I had bigger things on my mind than keeping up with douchebags and ex-girlfriends. Two, he started to develop a jealousy when Spanky and I talked. Believe me, nothing was happening, but shovelface developed it and then realized it was dumb, so he chilled out. Third, in that stupid Marco Polo male thing with sex, he was weird with how I had behind closed doors time with his lady. This is so stupid, but it was the truth. He admitted to it senior year. This is how nerds get because they rarely have relationships growing up. It's a natural fact of life that nerds don't handle well at first.

This lacks comedy to people who do not know the full story. I apologize. What I always found funny was that when Spanky and I dated, he would point it out when we were together to say "king and queen of the dorm". This fed into her ego and annoyed me, like she was some kind of prize. Please, she was like a 7.5 out of 10 at Cornell; 6.75 in the real world. He and his dorm unit friends did a lot of stupid things and put up odd magazine photos with which they would make short dialogues or plays. One involved a photo with post-coital dialogue starring me and, thankfully, a girl, Heather. I immediately checked with Heather to make sure she laughed at it. Eventually, one of the d-bag guys came down with Guillian Barre (sp?) syndrome, and because it was early April, we all told them to stop playing an April Fool's joke. This pissed off those d-bags, as they didn't appreciate us joking on their concern for their friend who happened to rip on lots of other people. Amazing when karma is put into action. When Spanky broke it off, shovelface maybe went a bit over the top to help me move on, and would poke fun at a physical feature or habit or annoying dialect/phrase. Maybe it was all a scam to get other guys to back off of her to leave her open to his advances months later? He criticzed her often to 'help' me. Now it's 10 years later, and they are getting married. I guess all of those little quirks he pointed out being annoying turned out to be cute after all.

"If love can feel so wonderful with the wrong person, imagine what it will be like when it's the right woman".

Monday, April 07, 2008

Boycotting the 2008 Olympics

I'm boycotting the 2008 Olympics. Check out this wonderful article on the current state of China and their economic miracle. It's no miracle. It is corrupt, crony capitalism taking advantage of tons of poor folks to bring in tons of investment and dollars for Party members. I love the Chinese people, but the oligarchy in charge of that nation bothers me. People, mostly lefty bloggers, bitch about the police state known as the USA, but they have nothing to bitch about in comparison to what the people of China go through because of their Party leaders. I'm making my stand right now, no Olympics, I will not watch you.

How come the Chinese can prop up horrible military governments in Burma and perform countless atrocities against their Buddhist Tibetan citizens and Muslim immigrants and get a free pass from the mainstream media? They are beating on Buddhist monks. These are pretty peaceful guys that are the local leaders as they are usually the only ones who can read in their villages. They live amongst the people and provide services that the Chinese commies damn well aren't providing the people. The French are at least saying they might boycott the opening ceremonies (wait, so does Clinton, must be because the Euros think it's a good idea). Whooptedoo, boycott the games. Do not give this regime a sense of acceptance.

My disgust with the lack of leadership from any corporation in helping these tyrants manipulate and exploit their people. We have the capital infrastructure in place. It is a matter of hiring the people and having the jobs here. Taking into account the rising wage problems in China, the environmental damage production in China causes, and the supply chain disruptions of their Mad Max economy, paying workers in Cleveland 30K a year can't be that much more than what you pay someone in one of China's coastal provinces to do. For feminists out there, we're talking about a nation that sets a one child policy that forces abortions on women. A policy that in a culture that values boys, has lead to a 120 male to 100 female live birth ratio. Where's your outrage? Oh yeah, it's tucked away with your outrage over Muslim treatment of women that you have failed to recognize, and how you fail to, ahem, take pride in the fact that Afganistan suddenly has thousands of young girls in school after our overthrowing of the Taliban.

I'm sick of this shit. If I am one person doing this on my own and sound like an idiot, so be it. I'm out.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Transgender

I just don't get the transgender people who go through surgeries to become the other gender. I can't comprehend it. I have a friend from high school days who when I last knew was not in the process anymore to become a guy, but had been thinking about it for a while and had doen the 'live as a dude' for a year requirement. Living as a guy meant that she pouted in pictures, wore baseball caps and sweater vests often, and looked 13. I'll never forget the day that she came to my folks' house and my mom thought someone's little brother had come over.

For a bit of background, this person was my first friend to declare themself gay. It was quite a shock to me as she had dated two of my friends the previous year, and had been pretty darn straight. One of my best guy friends who had dated her had told me, "how can i tell my parents that the first girl i loved is a lesbian now... i'm gonna kill myself". What was odd to was that she still made out with boys from time to time despite declaring herself really gay. What was odd was that for 3 years no one ever asked her about how or why. Shows what kinds of friends they were. One afternoon I sent her a long email and asked her when she first felt gay and why she seemed to stray from gayness. We had lots of back and forth and she thanked me for finally wanting to hear her story. I learned she had been dying to tell it rather than just have people say "cool, i have a gay friend now". In our email conversations, it seemed that she was caught in declaring herself gay but really would just love 'people' for what they were. She had felt attracted to women and men for years, and didn't know what to make of it as it was different. I respectd that. I think she also wanted to enjoy the shock value of coming out when she did at age 19. Tough to crawl back to being straight after you give your mom and dad a near death shock.

One argument that popped up our senior year in college was the issue of her lesbian friends who dressed up as guys and were calling themselves "tim" and "john" when they were tina and jen just a few weeks back when I first met them. These girls were ugly men, too. I joked with my friend that I was her sole male friend no matter what. She didn't like that. We then got into a huge discussion of gender, and she took refuge in the gender arguments that professors, who would do book tours and put thoughts in confused college kids' heads rather than try to get the thoughts out of the students themselves, provided in nice books. My argument rested on a basic idea that works both ways. I, as a man, will never ever know what it felt like to grow up as a girl, never ever know the feelings of puberty as a woman, the changes in women, the pains of women nor childbirth. I never will. A woman would never ever know the peculiar things of a boy growing up like morning thunder or wood and really good dreams, never know the need to scratch one's balls for a bit, nor the embarassment of getting an erection in Spanish class every 5 mins. (How exactly do you hide it? Carefully placed Trapper Keepers.) I argued that the need for surgeries was stupid, as all one is doing is putting on a costume to play a part. A person can never go through those other experiences that are peculiar to the opposite gender. A person might feel they are the other gender, and maybe, just maybe, they can "be" that other gender without getting the equipment. If they truly feel it, they don't need a surgery to show the world.