Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Zune Brick

You'd think Microsoft and Toshiba engineers would account for this.
Owners of Microsoft’s 30GB Zune player will be counting down to midnight tonight - not to ring in a new year but to see if their Zunes will miraculously start working again. Apparently, some sort of glitch prompted the internal clocks in the 30GB (only) Zunes to freak out and lock up the machine because they couldn’t handle the extra day in the leap year.
What was it that Steve Jobs said about third-rate products?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Adios, 2008

This year has sucked on so many levels for so many people. For me, two massive hammers. But I shouldn't whine. I have my health, my kids are healthy, I have a job (works hard to provide value to company and keeps fingers crossed like many of us), I have a roof over my head, I have food in my belly, I am not living paycheck to paycheck. I realize and appreciate that I am better off than 95% of the people living today. If you're reading this you are likely in that same narrow strata of humanity.

Still, 2008 sucked for a lot of people. I hope 2009 is better. I wish you a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Terminator Salvation

The Pundit guy links to a trailer for Terminator Salvation, but I think Chandni Chowk to China looks more interesting. Hey Hollywood, just like newspapers and television you're gonna lose your grip on us. While you're cranking out forgettable movie franchises Part II, III and IV, people in other countries are creating truly interesting and fun movies like Kung Fu Hustle.

The Andromeda Strain

I mentioned last month a book that I have re-read many times. Another book that I have re-read 10-15 times over the years is The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I have been reading it the past 2 days late at night and even though the story is almost 40 years old it is still fresh and very intriguing. (It also strikes me as the book from which Stephen King lifted half of his ideas for The Stand.) While the movie version is highly cheesy and dated (with references to "the kids getting high"), the book still packs a serious punch. The death of Michael Crichton last month was a big loss.

Barack the Magic Negro

Republicans still don't get it.
Ever since Chip Saltsman, a candidate for Republican National Committee chairman, circulated a CD with a parody on it called "Barack the Magic Negro," Republicans, pundits and more Republicans have been debating whether Saltsman's move was racist, racially insensitive, dumb or just a good ole boy's idea of clean fun.
I'll just say it was stupid, even though "Barack the Magic Negro" was coined by David Ehrenstein, a (very left) (Hillary-loving) writer for the LA Times. Yeah, the RNC could waste time pointing out that it was a leftist who first painted Obama as a "magic negro." That's besides the point. The real point is this: The RNC is void of ideas to get this country moving again and like their DNC counterparts they are dilly-dallying on irrelevant nonsense that serves as nothing but preaching to the choir while alienating everyone else.

Frankly, both parties are off to a lousy start. But like I've said before, poo floats to the top and this is what we get.

Hey RNC, you want some issues that will gain traction with voters? Here are some:
  • Eliminate Congressional pensions.
  • Index all public sector retiree and medical insurance benefits to what the public (i.e., us bill payers) sector gets.
  • Eliminate a range of stupid and inefficient government mandates. Start with boutique gasoline and ethanol subsidies.
There are three ideas right there to get you started. Quit wasting our time with the veiled racist crap, even if a lib dem came up with the idea. Come up with practical solutions instead of confirming the belief that the RNC consists of nothing more than obese and stupid middle-aged white men.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

UAW country club and golf resort

Good to know the UAW is sharing the sacrifice.
The United Auto Workers may be out of the hole now that President Bush has approved a $17 billion bailout of the U.S. auto industry, but the union isn't out of the bunker just yet.

Even as the industry struggles with massive losses, the UAW brass continue to own and operate a $33 million lakeside retreat in Michigan, complete with a $6.4 million designer golf course. And it's costing them millions each year.
The UAW is proud of Black Lake Golf Course.
Since opening in 2000, the UAW golf course has piled up numerous awards. Black Lake Golf Club placed 25th in Golf Digest's "100 Greatest Public Courses in America" 2005-2006 rankings. The course was also named one of the Top 50 public golf courses for women in the country by Golf for Women magazine.
An annual membership is bargain-priced at $1,000 per UAW member.

Hey Gettelfinger, remember the uproar when Big 3 management flew by private jets to beg for money before Congress? By the same token it's hard to take your organization seriously when the UAW shakes down auto workers so that UAW leaders can keep their swank private golf club and resort.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Apple vs Microsoft

Steve Ballmer on the failure of the iPhone.

Steve Jobs on Microsoft.

Bill Gates on Apple.

Desktop PC's and operating systems are the walking dead. The future lies in handheld devices. PC's are destined to become nothing more than interfaces between your mobile device and your nice display and keyboard/mouse. This will become reality sooner than you think.

A wager for Ali Khan of Arqaam Capital

Let it be remembered that in December 2008, Ali Khan, executive director of investment bank Arqaam Capital, said that the complete and total collapse of the Dubai real estate bubble is just a mere hiccup.

Senior financial executives put Dubai in a good position to face the challenges of the global downturn.

The fall in real estate prices in Dubai should reach a bottom in just three to four months, according to Ali Khan, executive director of investment bank Arqaam Capital. 'The real estate market will reach a bottom a lot quicker than people are anticipating,' he said.

50 big ones says you're wrong, Ali. I am good for it. Dubai real estate will be down 90% from peak value when all is said and done.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What the oil bust means to Houston

The current retail price for gas implies oil trading in the $15-$20 range.

At the Christmas Eve party I attended last night there were a lot of oil and gas people. This was a big topic of conversation: How will this bust differ from the 1980s? One big difference this time is the majors did not go on a wild drunken hiring binge. Even with the collapse in prices there is a desperate shortage of talent because so many of the engineers and geologists are in their 50s and 60s. There are few young people in this field. (Hint hint for you college freshmen who are wondering what you should major in.) Hiring has been slow and steady for the past decade, and it seems that none of the majors priced their operational costs on $100 oil or even $50 oil.

So that's the buzz at at least one party. Is it true? I dunno.

One thing everyone agreed upon is the small players and wildcatters drilling out there in remote areas of Texas and Oklahoma are gonna get hammered. Plenty of small town roughnecks will be unemployed very soon. Big layoffs for oilfield service workers lie ahead. You good folks in Midland-Odessa? Brace yourselves. You folks up in Parachute, CO and in northern Alberta working the oil sands? Sorry, the good times are over. Oil trading at $20 means your operations will be shut down.

Gas was .99/gallon in 1999. Oil was trading under $10. Houston still did OK then. This time? Who knows. Petrothugs like Melonhead will quickly come to the realization that extracting oil is an increasingly complex business, one that is not efficient when it is turned over to untrained, uneducated petty hand-picked bureaucrats. It requires highly-trained engineers and scientists. Most of whom just so happen to live here. One thing is certain: Citizens of Iran, Venezuela and Russia will be very, very restive in 2009.

All of you people touting "peak oil" nonsense who failed to recognize the oil and gas bubble for what it is: Don't you study history?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Flint mother Latrica Ryan of 10 looks to community for help

This article from Flint, Michigan has generated a lot of heated words that verge into racism. I loathe her lifestyle choice. It disgusts me that she continues to knock out kids and wants you and me to pay for her poor decisions. But let's face it. Ms. Latrica Ryan is small potatoes compared to Bank of New York Mellon and JPMorgan Chase. New York bankers are the real welfare queens.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I don't feel very well.

I was struck by a sudden wave of nausea after reading this article from Whitney Casey.

Bond with destitute Himalayans by appreciating shrubbery, getting a massage, cooking a nice curry dinner, taking a bubble bath, lighting scented candles and giving yourself diarrhea by "cleansing" the Casey way. (Cleansing the Casey way works on two levels!)

What a load of self-centered rubbish. I sense that nasty stomach juice taste traveling up my throat.

No segue.

Desperate for Christmas gift ideas for kids? Got one for you. Frigits. Rube Goldberg on your refrigerator. I had relatives in town this weekend so the kids got some early Christmas gifts. They have been playing with this thing for hours, constantly adjusting the placement of the various pieces for new ways to move the marble. I am shocked! Something so simple is more fun than a new video gaming system.

Shop around. It looks like most places are out.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why French socialists are allergic to Google

The cretins who run France's newspapers hate Google.
The head of Google News, Josh Cohen, who came to Paris specially to see how Google could "be part of the solution" for dying newspapers, was given a rough welcome Thursday when he appeared at the ongoing French government and industry initiative to seek solutions for the survival of newspapers in the digital age.
French socialists would LOVE to ban Google. Remember, it was the French government which decided that it is important for the state to spend taxpayer cash on a state-owned French search engine. From EE Times in April 2006:
"PARIS — In the hope of stimulating local technological, industrial and economic development, President Jacques Chirac of France announced Tuesday (April 25) a 2 billion euro (about $2.5 billion) plan to back a series of projects including one on a Franco-German search engine intended to rival Google."
Just Google (heh!) "Quaero" for more information about what socialism does to search. The fact that you never heard of Quaero shows how successful they were with those hundreds of millions of Euros.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Texas Toast

I was in college when this issue of Time came out and it caused quite a stir. Leaving aside the fact that many high school and college boys (raises hand) thought that Molly Ringwald was hot, look at the top right corner. They billed the article as a tale of two states, but what it really was was a comparison of Boston and Houston. At the time Boston was peaking thanks to the rising stock markets and Houston was in the absolute pits of hell. It wasn't a local recession. Houston was experiencing a localized economic depression, which has traumatized many of us to this day.

Time got a lot of it wrong. They wrote about downtown streets being deserted during business hours, neglecting to mention the fact that downtown workers travel beneath the streets via the Tunnel System. They also said the the largest employers were Houston hospitals, failing to mention that the Texas Medical Center has always been the largest employer. It's a city for sick people.

But the gist of the article was accurate. Houston was completely hosed, and Boston was boomtown. Then came the 1987 stock market crash and the end of the last real estate bubble. Boston tanked, Houston slowly crawled back. By 1993 the Houston economic depression was over.

15 years later I am seeing a new oil mania unwind and I don't like what I see. Spec commercial buildings are still being thrown up along I-10. A new 30-story building in Memorial City has a "please lease space here, pretty please?" banner hanging from its sides. I am glad that residential housing starts have dropped dramatically, but the strip shopping centers are still being built. Hello? Doesn't anyone remember?

Except for some locations inside 610, Houston didn't participate in the real estate appreciation mania, and high oil prices have shielded us from what has gone on the rest of the country. That shield has fallen and Houston is about to get wacked in a big way. Bill White is hoping to keep the leaks in the levee plugged until he gets his chance to run for the US Senate, but I don't think the flood can be kept in check for his candidacy that long. It will get very bad here.

Update: My memory is faulty. Here is the article from 1986. Hey, it was 22 years ago, give me a break. I think I am mixing up that Time article with other articles that appeared during the same period. Fellow Houstonians, remember that 9.2% unemployment rate? I do. I remember coming home from college one summer and working a fireworks stand with the parents for money to pay for a new roof on our house.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chrysler shuts down

Not good.
Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Chrysler LLC, awaiting a federal rescue as its cash dwindles, will shut all 30 of its plants for at least a month starting Dec. 19 as unsold cars and trucks pile up at showrooms.
See prediction 13. I question whether those factories will ever reopen.

Side topic: I was listening to Savage tonight and he raised a point: Why haven't we heard anything from George Soros regarding the Bernard Madoff calamity? Soros is normally front and center during these types of financial blow ups. The biggest Ponzi scheme in history with losses on par with Enron? It's very odd that for once Soros has no comments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What is it? (Part II)

Earlier in the year before I nuked the site I asked readers to identify a large object being transported on the Katy Freeway. I was amazed at how quickly a reader identified it as a wind turbine. Any idea what this is? The truck was headed inbound. I assume it was headed towards the Ship Channel.

Blagojevich's hair

I know this has been discussed ad nauseam, but I am still amazed by that thing on his head. It's like a mullet in reverse.

Bernie Madoff

A Houstonian loses big.
In 1999, Greenberg returned to work as a stock broker and received special permission to stay with Madoff even though the firm usually forbade its brokers from having outside accounts. But when the firm contacted Madoff to ask for documents related to Greenberg's account, with the aim of preventing conflicts of interest, Madoff called Greenberg, she recalled. He was angry and told her she must resign because he would not manage accounts for other brokers. She refused; he terminated her account.

After retiring, Greenberg said she did "something stupid" and reinvested her money with Madoff. In hindsight, his insistence on secrecy should have raised red flags, she said.
Ya think? And didn't Bernie's investment returns seem more than a bit suspicious? So sorry you lost your money.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dubai Fire Sale

I continue to receive spam from desperate Dubai real estate bag holders. Only thing I can figure is they see management in my title and that I've worked overseas trade shows. So I must be a moneybags dumb enough to sink my small nest egg into the most absurd real estate bubble in human history.
Subject: Choice of properties for users.... from us.
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2008 01:20:56 +0400
Organization: (deleted) Relal(sic) Estate


Pick Properties on sale now at throw away price:

Yes, this is the time for end users to anchor. We help you find the best. We deliver them with merits.

1. Plots and warehouses at various locations.:
Land 30,000 to one million sq.ft. or larger and ware houses from 5000 to 200,000 sq.ft.

We arrange ware houses in Free Zones - JAFZA, SAIF, Ajman Free Zone, etc for immediate possession and functioning.

2. Factories and equipments.
Oil refinery, lubricants, paint, block Making, Plastic, Joinery,Enginering Unit, etc.

3. 4 star and 5 star hotels on rent or sale in free hold or non free hold areas.

4. Villas on sale or rent.

5. Apartments ready or getting ready.

6. Labour camps in DIP, Jabel Ali, Al Quoz and Sonapur. (Plots also available)

7. Full Buildings in Free hold and Lease hold areas.

Sincerely yours,

(see image for last name)

Sales Manager,

Real Estate Broker's card No. : (deleted)

(deleted) Real Estate Brokers,
Post Box (deleted), Dubai. UAE
Mobile : 050-(deleted)

An appeal to honorable owners of property:

We have ready clients looking for:
1.Full building in Discovery Garden V or U type at best price - buy
2.Full floor in International city for staff accommodation - any cluster with title deed - wants to buy.
3. Labour camp 200 rooms in Jabel Ali/DIP
4. G+50 Waterfront Plot
"Labour camp". Isn't that charming? Doesn't that sound like a swell investment? Maybe in Germany circa 1939. But it is almost 2009 and the semi-slave labor is returning to Pakistan and Bangladesh. You wealthy Hollywood schmucks who bought into the Dubai hype should be ashamed of yourselves and I hope you lose every last cent.

Dubai will be an outstanding archeological ruin in 50 years. Ghost buildings in Thailand crumble fairly rapidly thanks to the humidity. Dubai is bone-dry, so the buildings should appear to be better preserved for future archeologists who won't be born for another 20 years. The buildings will look good, but don't set foot in them!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Roadside Louisiana

I drive from Houston to Winnfield, LA twice a year. Most of the route is rural. Each time I make the drive I see more abandoned houses, more abandoned businesses. These little towns will soon be dead, and all that will remain in these counties and parishes will be the towns that have the courthouse, consolidated high school and post office.

One thing I noticed for some reason this time around: 20 years ago massive satellite dishes would be ubiquitous at each rural house. Now? It's a trampoline. It's like the Johnny Appleseed of Trampolines walked the rural highways and byways of the deep south and delivered the latest in expensive trampoline technology to each household. There may be a car or two on blocks in the front yard, there may be a blue tarp on the roof, but a trampoline is a must.

Friday, December 12, 2008

How do you spell excitement? Winnfield, Louisiana!

I am in Winnfield, Louisiana for our annual family reunion, and let me tell you, this place is the entertainment capital of Winn Parish! They have a Walmart, a McDonald's, a bar made out of cinder blocks near the creosote plant and numerous statues of the Long family. Plus dogs fighting pigs! I tell ya, I don't ever want to go home.

I'd like some bailout money too, please.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Have we reached the bottom of the trough? OPEC is in panic mode. So is Russia. But demand destruction continues. So does the cheating on quotas.

The bubble has collapsed so quickly that Shell hasn't even had time to replace the marketing signage on their pumps.

So what happened to the hand-wringing and calls for investigations of "Big Oil" and their supposed "illegal" profits? Hello? (taps microphone)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Have yourself a magical Mickey Rourke Christmas!

Anyone in the Houston area able to make a snowball today? I was able to make a snow pebble with the flakes on my car.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

General Motors' stock price soars

From The Economist, September 30, 1916:
Bethlehem Steel's amazing market rise has been eclipsed. This week General Motors stock sold at $697 per share, the highest price at which any stock ever has sold on the New York Stock Exchange, with the exception of Northern Pacific. The latter issue sold on one occasion at the record price of $1,000 per share, but this was a forced price during the corner of 1901. The record high price for a stock on the Boston market is held by Calumet and Hecla, which brought $1,000 per share in 1907. The stock market career of General Motors stock has been spectacular in the extreme, surpassing even the rise of Bethlehem Steel. In 1913-14 it sold as low as $25 per share; for many months after the market soared as a result of munition and motor orders, it lagged behind other issues of its class. Even in 1915 it sold for only $82 per share. Then it began to advance under steady buying, and its low point for the present year never went below $405. The advance on September 12th last was an experience to which even old-time traders were unused. The stock rose $52 for the day. Just by way of comparison, Bethlehem Steel, hitherto the premier war stock, gained 24½ points the same day, to 524½, a new high record. Next day General Motors rose $55 per share, to $697, making a gain of $107 for two days, and Bethlehem Steel gained $30¾, to $555, per share, a rise of $55¼ for the two days.

Like Chicago, only National

What to do?
Finalizing the circle, if U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is to indict and try Gov. Rod Blagojevich, that will require a President Obama to appoint Fitzgerald to what would seem to be an unprecedented third term as U. S. Attorney. Fitzgerald was first brought in to the N.D. of IL in 2001, from New York City, at the urging of President Bush by then maverick Republican U. S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relation to Patrick), over the objections of local Republican and Democratic pols, who preferred prosecutions be handled by a local prosecutor. Outsider Patrick Fitzgerald has piled up significant, numerous public corruption convictions of state and local Republicans and Democrats.
I predict that Obama will reappoint Fitzgerald. That will defuse the situation in the short term, and I suspect that a year from now few voters will care about the sleaze in Chicago politics. There are bigger problems than even a supreme sleaze with a bad toupee who has lots of high-profile connections.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Eid

I received Happy Eid cards from some of our business partners in the Middle East today. I am not offended. Every year I receive cards from partners in China and Vietnam wishing me well on Chinese New Year. I am not offended. I receive cards from our Japanese associates and they go whole-hog on Christmas wishes, even though they aren't Christians. I am not offended.

I like getting these cards, even though they celebrate different cultures and religions. Why would anyone be offended? The sentiment is nice.

As the Instaguy posted the other day, Amazon's US operations see things differently. So I wrote an e-mail to their IR department yesterday and told them since they refuse to use the word "Christmas" I refuse to shop for Christmas presents there. I suspect I was just one of thousands, because Amazon changed their tune today.

I still won't do any "holiday" shopping at Amazon. The fact that they have marketing nimrods on their staff that met and decided to eliminate the dreaded "C" word means that my dollars are better spend elsewhere.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Noble Road Trail

I spent two peaceful hours riding the Noble Road Trail in George Bush Park this morning. I didn't mean to ride the trail, I was cycling by on a paved trail and saw the sign. I didn't see a soul the entire time and heard nothing except an occasional airplane flying overhead.

There isn't much information about the Noble Road Trail. It's not on the park map (.PDF file), which shows a stub of Noble Road after it cross over Barker Dam. In fact I couldn't find any information about the trail on the county web sites. So hopefully this post will be Googled by those curious about this sign:
The trail head is about a half mile north of where Barker Clodine Road is closed off (Google map).

Eagle Scout Dan Shamlian of Troop 939 created the only map of the trail I was able to find, but it is severely weathered. Any Scouts looking for a project idea? Here's one.

The park is 20 square miles (Google satellite), with the larger Addicks Reservoir on the north side of I-10. Both are islands of wilderness, surrounded now on all sides by development. Large wildlife in these reservoirs is trapped. Which can be bad, because these parks serve as massive flood control basins. The picture of the Noble Road Trail above is at least 2 miles from the dam, and you can see the water level after Ike. Which can cause problems: Where do the animals go during floods? They wind up in people's back yards that ring the parks.

There is a lot of wildlife which you don't see from the paved trails. I was running across deer every 10 minutes. I also saw a group of three large feral hogs that made me more than a bit nervous. I didn't want to stick around and take pictures. I read stories.

Deep into the trail I spotted what may be the only crystal-clear stream in the Houston area. The bayous and creeks are normally Yoohoo-colored.

If you have a mountain bike and you're looking for something new, go check it out. It's an ideal ride in the winter when conditions are dry. You do not want to ride this trail in the summer or after heavy rains.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The last monarch

The last monarch "flew the coop" today. Out of 10 that we had collected, 9 survived. One emerged from its chrysalis and promptly died.

The last one was a female (see here for identification) and it seemed reluctant to leave. I encouraged it to grab onto my finger and it wouldn't let go. After a few minutes in the warm sun it finally flew off, heading to Mexico.

A very special O.J. Simpson Christmas

Friday, December 5, 2008

I feel so sad for the East Hampton residents

Vanity Fair, the magazine that wealthy people keep on their coffee tables but don't actually read, sympathizes with the struggling Wall Street crowd.
With Wall Street hemorrhaging jobs and assets, even many of the wealthiest players are retrenching. Others, like the Lehman Brothers bankers who borrowed against their millions in stock, have lost everything. Hedge-fund managers try to sell their luxury homes, while trophy wives are hocking their jewelry. The pain is being felt on St. Barth’s and at Sotheby’s, on benefit-gala committees and at the East Hampton Airport, as the world of the Big Rich collapses, its culture in shock and its values in question.
I hear that Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton and Westport residents are suffering as well. Boo hoo. I am 100% for helping those folks in productive industries who are out of work and need re-training for new careers. You formerly wealthy Wall Street dipshits who go us into this mess, I hope you wind up in the soup lines.

What crisis will the petro thugs gin up reinflate oil prices?

There are no easy answers for them. Melonhead and his poodle the Evil Dwarf are facing massive budget problems. So is Putin's poodle. No longer can they shower goodies upon the restless masses.

The Evil Dwarf:
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has for the first time admitted that the fall in world oil prices will affect the economic projects of his government, local media reported on Thursday.
Vladimir Putin's poodle Dmitry Medvedev is throwing the Russian hat into the ring with OPEC.
Russia will "coordinate" with OPEC nations to keep oil prices from being "too low or speculatively high," President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday in Caracas.
Uh huh. Meanwhile, Melonhead has an expensive lifestyle to maintain:
The dynasty was saved and its members had come to give thanks - one shiny sports utility vehicle after another turned into Plaza Bolivar to deposit a Chávez in front of the church.

A brass band struck up Venezuela’s national anthem and throngs of supporters in red T-shirts reached out to touch the triumphant clan as it made its way to the front of the altar.

President Hugo Chávez was in the capital, Caracas, but his parents and five brothers were in Barinas this week to celebrate their continued rule over a rural fiefdom dubbed the cradle of the Bolivarian revolution.
But just as we saw during the early 1980s, this latest batch of petro thugs are all doomed. Saudi Arabia will continue to flood the markets with cheap crude.
"Saudi Arabia is playing ball with the U.S.," said Gheit. "It is going to punish Venezuela. It is going to punish Russia. It is also going to curtail Iran."
Melonhead has no options. He will just spout off crazy talk and become yet another failed South American dictator facing the execution squad. Iran and Russia are different. Watch as Putin's poodle engages in some wacky Russian military adventures. See the Evil Dwarf try to restart the tanker war. Or announce he has a nuke. Anything to reflate the bubble by establishing a fear premium.

Ain't gonna work, fellas. You failed to study history. You're effed.

Casey Serin's blue ball

Snowflake's auctioning his blue ball it on eBay. Current bid $1.25. He should have done this 2 years ago when he was an infamous online personality. Now? He is the Anson Williams of the internet. (Who?)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dixie Chicks update

Remember the Dixie Chunks? Natalie is in the news.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines is the target of a defamation lawsuit by the stepfather of one of three 8-year-old boys slain in West Memphis. Maines spoke out for three people convicted of the slayings and alleged the stepfather was instead involved in the killings.

Exxon Falls on $25 Crude Forecast

Crude oil tumbled 6.8 percent to $43.59 a barrel in New York, the lowest price since January 2005. It has plunged 70 percent since the closing record of $145.29 set in July and may fall below $25 next year if the recession that’s slashing fuel demand around the world spreads to China, Francisco Blanch, commodity strategist at Merrill Lynch, wrote in a report today.
Sorry to be smug, but...

Update: Francisco Blanch doesn't have the best track record. Even as of August he still didn't recognize the bubble for what it was (Bloomberg video).

The Electric Car Bubble

Let me be the first to say it: The electric car craze (currently in vogue in Congress as the savior of the once-Big Three) will vanish within a year or two and we'll still be building gasoline-powered cars. I like the idea, but gasoline prices will remain so low that just like during the prior oil crash, people will quickly forget high fuel prices. Even if Congress jacks up a national gas tax to $1.00. The petroleum infrastructure is already in place and we will have an abundance of oil and gas for decades to come.

The only thing that would change this is if taxes were raised to put a floor under gas prices so that the retail price stays above $4.00. You think that's gonna happen?

Refer to image for subject matter

As seen by readers:
And from me, I think that Melonhead will be on the smoking end of an executioner's rifle within a year.

BTW, fellow Houstonians. A family member who is pretty high up in the food chain says that the oilfield service companies are gearing up for layoffs. Heads will be rolling as of next month.

I am certain that as these vital companies shed workers and struggle to stay afloat, Congress will want to help them. Right?

The Vice Guide to North Korea

Lots of interesting stuff here. Happy viewing!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Newspaper layoffs

There's a bloodbath going on right now as you are reading this. See:
My advice: If you get laid off from a newspaper and your true passion is reporting and you are talented, go independent. Read Michael Yon and see how he does it. Become an expert on one subject and build a name for yourself.

Meanwhile, cities will continue to have daily newspapers. Only they will be free. It will just take another year or two for newspaper management to grasp the reality that no one wants to pay for dead tree carcasses, not even when it's a lousy $3/week.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

China Syndrome

One of our vendors sent me this today.
For the past Ten years (deleted), Inc. has earned a reputation for selling quality board level components:

* We never stock pulls or parts from China.
This is a growing problem, but this is the first time a vendor has actually stated this problem upfront in a promotion. As margins are squeezed, more and more counterfeit components are showing up. On someone's home PC this is no big deal, really. Your computer is toast, you buy another one for $400. Who cares. But how about on an airliner? What about a critical data center? Sub-standard, defective crap is not acceptable.

This is not to bash the Chinese. They normally do a good job. But there is an extreme urge in the field of electronic components right now to cut costs. That means there is a buttload of mis-marked and defective stuff out there, and much of it will wind up in critical infrastructure. Be aware.

What credit crunch?

I don't see any credit crunch. I carry two credit cards and a gas card. I never carry a balance. Visa upped my credit line to $20k earlier in the year; I received a letter from Citi bumping up that credit line today. I didn't ask, they just did it. Then there's my Chase rep who I have mentioned before. He calls me every month wanting to lend me money.

This is unbelievable to me. I never forget that I would be considered rich by global standards (and for that I am grateful), yet by American standards I would be considered solid middle-class. Now these financial companies and banks are virtually begging me to take their money. I guess it's because I pay my bills on time every time and I have never been a deadbeat. I am not bragging because if you are reading this you are almost certainly the same way.
You have more buying power and more flexibility.
What I have is the much greater potential to dig myself into a bottomless financial pit. No thanks.

So repeating the question in the subject line: Are you finding your credit lines expanded, or are they reigning you in?

We have monarch

Update from November 18. The first monarch emerged late this afternoon.

Publicity Apple doesn't need

What computer brand does a dictator's poodle prefer? (From Reuters.)