Friday, August 31, 2007


Have you heard about this giant spider-web in Texas?

You can also view the video from the CNN site to get an idea of the scale.

From the video you can clearly see that there are several different species of spiders included as part of this web. It's not one big clump of the same type of spider.

Subprime Assessment

Here's one of the better short articles I've seen on subprime mortgage problems.

From the article:

Now there is a lot more that I can get into here, but I wanted to just briefly focus on what I see as the key issue that has made the word "subprime" sound like "Long Term Capital Management" -- namely, the availability of 100% financing.

I have no problem with 100% financing when you're talking about a big screen TV or maybe a nice sectional, but 100% financing for a home is asking for trouble if you ask me. Even worse is allowing subprime borrowers to use 100% financing. Of course, I'm not just talking about full 100% loan-to-value [LTV] loans, the same applies to the so-called piggy-back loans that provided 100% financing through 80/20 or 90/10 paired loans. And don't even get me started on 110% LTV loans...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In case you find yourself without your space suit...

I've not seen this discussed before, but this post discusses what would happen to you if your body were unprotected in space. Actually it's not quite as extreme as portrayed in the movies, and surprisingly it indicates you could probably survive for a while in space without a suit. And despite the extreme cold you wouldn't immediately turn into an ice cube because despite the cold there's so little air to take your body heat away.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fantasy Football Roster 2007

We had our fantasy football draft today after work.

Here's the first 12 players in my work league for 2007. It's a 14 team league starting 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 Defense. I picked 4th in a serpentine draft order.

Rd pick player
1 4 Shaun Alexander RB, Seattle
2 25 Brandon Jacobs RB, NY Giants
3 32 Torry Holt WR, St. Louis
4 53 Plaxico Burress WR, NY Giants
5 60 Javon Walker WR, Denver
6 81 Adrian Peterson RB, Minnesota
7 88 Ben Roethlisberger QB, Pittsburg
8 109 Tatum Bell RB, Detroit
9 116 Bernard Berrian WR, Chicago
10 137 Alge Crumpler TE, Atlanta
11 144 Rex Grossman QB, Chicago
12 165 Arizona Team Defense

We have a salary cap league and I have enough left under the cap to pick up a kicker and perhaps a backup Defense and hopefully a backup TE. I'll do that once we open free agency in a few days.

I'm pretty happy with everything I have right now, except I'm slightly concerned at the RB position. I may have stretched a bit to take Brandon Jacobs in the late second round and might should've taken Chad Johnson or Reggie Wayne who were both still on the board and hoped that Jacobs would still be there in the 3rd round, but I didn't want to risk it because almost all of the decent calibur starting RB were getting snatched up at that point.

For my #3 RB I picked upside potential with Adrian Peterson in the 6th round rather than taking a player like Jamal Lewis or Lamont Jordan. Hopefully my RB picks don't come back to bite me.

I feel very good about my WR - I feel like I got 3 #1 WR somehow (I'm not sure why Javon Walker stayed on the board until the 5th round but I couldn't pass on him).

Was also very pleased to be able to pick up Alge Crumpler in the 10th round. Everyone seemed afraid to take him because of all the issues with Atlanta this year, but he's a top 10 TE.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fantasy Football - Team Defense

At work our fantasy football draft is tomorrow and I've been busy this weekend on my pick sheets. I think there's something inherent in most who play fantasy football that we think we can outsmart the experts, find sleeper picks, find over-valued players, etc... For some reason we think we can go home one weekend and come up with a better list than several dozen professional websites - who've probably spent 100s or 1000s of hours putting player projections together... Heck, we might not have even seen one game last year by some of the players we're projecting, but we've read somewhere that a player's having a great pre-season...

But I guess that's the fun of it. We'd rather go down in flames with our own mis-guided player list than just blindly using a carefully researched cheat sheet from a professional website.

Well, today I've been looking at Team Defenses and have come to the conclusion that they're very difficult to project - at least not with the certainty to warrant a high draft pick.

For example:

In 2005 the top scoring defense in my league was Carolina with 220 points - about 60 points better than average. So it should make sense that they would've been good in 2006? Nope! Carolina had a below average defense score in 2006 - ranking 19th in the league. (Defenses in fantasy football include things like sacks, interception, fumble recoveries, return game TD, defense scored TD, safeties, blocked kicks/punts, points allowed, etc)

In 2006 the top scoring defense was Baltimore scoring a whopping 275 points - a full 109 points better than the average defense. So should I step up and draft such a powerful defense early? I don't know, because they only scored 172 points in 2005.

Here's another thing. The 3rd best defense in 2006 was San Diego - scoring 208 points. Was 2005 any indicator that they'd be that good? Not really. In 2005 the San Diego defense ranked 23rd in fantasy defense only scoring 148 points.

Why should defensive scoring be so volatile and seemingly unpredictable? The Baltimore defense would seemingly be drafted very early - probably a first round draft pick if they could be relied upon to score 270 points again this year, but in our league the top defense generally doesn't get drafted until the 3rd round, and in most leagues the defense doesn't go until much later - 5th or 6th round. It does seem they're highly unpredictable.

Some stats: The top 10 fantasy defenses in 2005 scored an average of 195 points, an average of 35 points above average. In 2006 those same 10 defenses averaged 167.4 points - less than 2 points better than the average for the league. In fact, 5 of the top 10 2005 performers were below average in 2006. In fantasy defense, past performance seems to often have little to do with future performance.

It makes me think fantasy scoring for defenses is based largely upon random or at least unpredictable results and that the level of certainty of future defensive scoring is very low.

There is one defense that has been consistently strong over the past 2 years: Chicago Bears. They performed well above average with 216 points in 2005 and 248 points in 2006. That seems more the exception than the rule though.

My plan? Unless the best defenses drop farther than they normally do in my league I'll probably try to take two defenses late and play the best match-up in a given week.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Singing Horses

And this is just kind of fun... Turn on your speakers.

Backyard Helium Balloon Launch

Is this not cool? Check out these photos taken from an amateur helium baloon launched from their backyard in Alberta Canada. The balloon reached over 117,000 feet.

Aid organisation refuses food subsidy

I found this story interesting. I've blogged before about the concern that the way U.S. foreign aid programs are structured may damage local economies of the countries they're designed to help by undermining local farmers. (Farm subsidies that send under-priced agricultural products overseas can put farmers in those countries out of business increasing dependency...)

At least one major NGO has refused the food subsidy for this reason.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shadow Puppets

My friend Steve pointed this video out to me. Pretty incredible stuff. To Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Here's the thing

How much do we really need and why do we think we need it? Why are we wired to compare ourselves to everybody else around us? These are interesting questions to me.

I figure we live like kings compared to even the most well-off people from even 100 years ago. I mean there wasn't even electricity then, and thankfully I haven't ridden my horse to work in a while. (The horse is thankful also). How many people even 100 years ago could wake up to a warm shower? By all objective measures the average Joe today lives like a King compared to almost anyone living 100 years ago.

But I wonder if the average Joe perceives himself as any better off?

I wonder if in 100 years people will be orders of magnitude "better off" than we are now, but will they still be slogging away at jobs they don't enjoy, trying to pay mortgages and buy stuff, and just trying to figure out how to get ahead... Will we ever get to the point where we're satisfied, or are we wired against it?

Friday, August 17, 2007

No bailout

I like this comment from Warren Buffett on a potential bailout of the many troubled lenders.

"If lenders lent money that they are not going to get paid back, that's their problem, frankly"

Here's the commentary from

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


This story about squirrels "heating their tails" and harassing rattle snakes is one of the stranger things I've heard in a while. Apparently adult squirrels can survive rattlesnake bites.

from the story:

Because the snakes, which are ambush hunters, can sense infrared radiation from heat, the warming makes the tails more conspicuous to them — signaling that they have been discovered and that the squirrels may come and harass them

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football season is almost here. At work we picked numbers to determine our draft order today for our 14 team league. I got lucky and picked #4 this year, the best pick I've had yet over the past several years.

Players like Frank Gore, Shaun Alexander, and Larry Johnson will likely be among those I'm picking from at that spot.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Newt Gingrich

I tend to lean to the liberal or even libertarian side of things politically, but I am a big fan of the Newt Gingrich's ideas and the way he thinks. Whenever I catch him on C-Span I find his talks to be always engaging, insightful, and even visionary. I saw one of his speeches recorded at Vanderbilt where he discussed this same "World that works" critique of bureaucracy similar to the one illustrated in the video below.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Quotes of the day

Here are some good quotes I saw on the Big Picture Blog.

A couple of my favorites:

"It is pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness; poverty and wealth have both failed."
— Kin Hubbard

"There was a time when a fool and his money were soon parted, but now it happens to everybody."
— Adlai Stevenson

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Lotsa buying/selling today

I took the day off of work today and made quite a few changes in my portfolio, taking the chance to trim some poorly performing stocks. I find it's good to clean the decks sometimes after major market pullbacks as there's usually stuff out there I want to buy, and that's what I've tried to do.

I reduced further my position in CRDN Ceradyne. It's been very profitable, but time to lessen exposure here given the poor performance since the conference call.

I eliminated my final small position in PMTI Palomar - a big looser for me.

I sold my position in NGPS Novatel. I made good money on this one over the past couple of years, but it's been trending poorly, and sales growth has been anemic recently when GPS components should be performing better.

I added to my position in Vasco Data Security (VDSI).

I tried to purchase more Cognizant CTSH, but the order did not fill.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

What I've been reading

"Trend Following" by Michael Covel. Trend following is a trading philosophy designed to capture benefits of longer term trends. It details successes of many trend followers and along the way bashes about every other method of investing. I found it good to have read, although like most books it's padded with too much fluff. Could've gotten the same point across in 100 pages. Suggestion - read the first couple of chapters and turn to chapter 10 to get the gist of the trend following approach.

"Hot Commodities" by Jim Rogers. I'm reading this right now. Jim Rogers is a well respected investor (you probably see him on the financial news occassionaly) who advocates moving some of your asset exposure into what he sees as a long term commodities bull market. I've been learning about trading systems and many trading systems (including trend following) incorporate trading in commodities (like oil, natural gas, wheat, cocoa, corn, cotton, pork bellies, etc).

"Foreign Currency Trading" by Russell Wasendorf (Jr and Sr). I'm still reading this too, but is an introduction into foreign currency trading. Just trying to expand my options as I work on a trading system. Many traders trade currencies.


Here's an interesting story regarding the over-use of leverage putting selling pressure on the current markets. I found it interesting reading for perspective.

"The Minsky Moment is important because it means the beginning of forced selling. Buying driven by ever-increasing leverage stops, and selling to decrease leverage begins. The deleveraging sellers are there because they must sell."

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Homes carved from stone

Check this out. It's not an optical illusion although it's hard to believe the scale of the first image. These are homes carved into stone towers in Cappadocia.

This photo gallery has many pictures of the region. I'd never heard of it until I came across today.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The song that launched "unplugged"

I remember this performance from when I first heard it on an MTV award show around 20 years ago. While soon after this it became popular for bands to play acoustic versions of rock songs, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were really doing something unique for the time period when they unplugged for this performance medley of Living on a Prayer / Wanted Dead or Alive.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Conference Call Transcripts - Garmin and Cognizant Tech

Here's a link to Garmin's Conference Call Transcript. Garmin makes personal navigation devices, and reported some very strong results, and are hinting at what sound to me like run-away product demand.

Some Highlights.
- Revenue up 72%
- Unit Volume up 99%
- Automotive Unit Volume up @173% is driving unit volume results.
- margins higher than expected
- unit price decreases being offset by component price decreases, although expect margin compression in last half of year due to spike in flash memory prices.
- market seems to be growing faster than they thought.
- sounds like they expect eventually over time 40%-60% of cars to have a navigation device.

Here's a link to Cognizant Technology's Transcript also. Strong quarter there too. Europe is clearly a focus for growth going forward. They don't see capacity constraints being too much of an issue, especially not the employee count constraints so often mentioned in analysis. They feel like they have excess capacity built into their business model already.

High School Graduation Rates

Ever wonder where your state stands in its efforts at graduation high school students? Here's a table that shows Public School Graduation Rates in the US in 2000.

It's really a pathetic showing. I honestly didn't realize it was this bad in some areas. In my state of TN 6 of 10 high school students graduate. And there are some states that are worse.

That's really scary considering how it limits future opportunities for so many kids. And Lord help you if you're a non-Asian minority.