Monday, December 31, 2007

Why is investment news still surprised of housing glut

OK, so I'm watching the business news this morning and the story is that the markets are reacting badly to the housing market, that there's no recovery in sight, and other such blah...

"Old story" we should be thinking. That'd be like me reacting negatively to news that I'm fat.

We've talked about the housing glut, falling sales, and inflated home prices. Sure there are pockets where it's better, but at the macro level we have too many empty homes sitting out there (they're still building more), priced too high, and there aren't as many buyers as there used to be. It's ugly and it's going to stay ugly.

Here's a story from the Businomics blog that covers the housing glut pretty well. He calculates that at current construction and purchasing rates it'll take almost 5 years to work off the surplus.

Now we can quit being surprised when the housing market doesn't turn around any time soon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Discover Magazines Science Stories of the Year

Discover Magazine put together their list of the top science stories of 2007. I've been a subscriber for as long as I can remember and pretty much read cover to cover - albeit I'm always a couple months behind.

Of the 20 top stories, the most interesting to me was the story of scientists implanting electrodes in the brain of long term coma patient to awaken him.

Reawakening the Dormant Mind

It’s almost as if his brain was stuck in idle. “He still had these network connections that could in principle be recruited,” Schiff explains, “but the brain was not regulating its own level of activity properly.”

If this is indeed an accurate summary of the biggest science stories of the year it's a pretty depressing list overall.

Marketocracy update - year end 07 at Dec 28.

I think there might be another trading day left in the year next Monday, but I wanted to go ahead and review the year's Marketocracy investment results.

For the past 12mo, my main Marketocracy fund SMF is up 10.99%. A decent year overall, but it is worth noting that the fund actually declined 1.11% over the past 6 months. The past 6 months have been wheel-spinning. Not good.

For the past 12mo, my secondary Marketocracy fund SOS is up 9.64%, and virtually flat over the past 6 months.

While investing in similar stocks and having similar selection criteria, the secondary SOS fund is more aggressive in selling positions than the primary SMF fund by design - it's a test in sell strategy. Again like in past years I find that it's better to follow the SMF approach and ease out of positions slowly - to let them run a little longer. The SOS approach of selling more rapidly when my opinion of a stock changes just doesn't seem to be quite as effective.

The 10 largest holdings in the SMF fund are (53.4% of fund):
GRMN Garmin
LIFC Lifecell
GOOG Google
HANS Hansen Natural
CTSH Cognizant Tech
SAY Satyam Computer Services
INFY Infosys
HWAY Healthways
VDSI Vasco Data Security
NTRI Nutrisystem

The 10 largest holdings in the SOS fund are (65.95% of fund - the SOS fund is more concentrated at the top because I sell full positions faster here)
GRMN Garmin
VDSI Vasco Data Security\
LIFC Lifecell
CTSH Cognizant Tech
GOOG Google
HANS Hansen Natural
INFY Infosys
TRAD Tradestation
SAY Satyam Computer Services
CEO China National Oil

Sunday, December 23, 2007


My wife threw away an old worn and torn pair of my underwear.

I saw it in the bottom of the garbage can.

It's in a better place.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Bear's tale

Read about the adventure of this poor bear.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dynamic Demographics

I found this presentation by Hans Rosling fascinating. He has dynamic graphs/charts that show how relationships between variables in different countries move over time. Birth rates vs. life expectancy, income vs. child mortality, etc. You can watch countries evolve over time.

Warning: This is a long video (20 minutes) and the file size is large (68 meg), so only try this if you've got a good broadband connection. If you want to just read the article look to this Discover Magazine article.

I had trouble getting the whole presentation to play online, but I could download a zip file and view on my PC in Quicktime after unzipping.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

7 favorite unsigned bands or artists

Over the past 4-5 years I've listened to quite a bit of music by unsigned bands / artists. As with most unsigned music there's a bunch out there to listen to, and it takes alot of wading to get to the stuff you like. But there are some excellent artists out there who for whatever reason never get signed.

Below are some of my favorites:

Rose Reiter. The first phrase that comes to my mind is 'a true artist." There's something special here. Rose is an incredibly talented vocalist and songwriter whose work is uncompromised but still melodic and accessible. Rose's music is comparable to that of Sarah MacLachlan or Paula Cole.

Here's the first of her songs I heard, and still one of my favorites:
Play Phantoms by Rose Reiter

Here's an interview with Rose on, a link to Rose's website, her MySpace page, and a link to purchase her most recent CD at CD Baby.

Ghotti This band from Brighton England is no longer together, but these guys are by far my favorite unsigned rock band. Excellent musicianship, songwriting, and vocal performances.

Here's one of Ghotti's more popular songs "Control" that's reflective of their sound - patient with underlying and building intensity. Here's my personal favorite: "Fallen"

An interview with the band, and band page.

Here's a few more who I'm buying some CDs for this year:

Adrina Thorpe - another excellent female vocalist. "Did you think" is a representative tune. Similar to Rose Reiter. Here are some samples.

Five Nickel High
- This is a rock band whose guitar player reminds me alot of Nuno Battencort - one of my favorite guitar players growing up. Sound is 80s guitar rock. Listen here.

Goodnight City - these guys are a pop rock band. I just think they have some very high quality stuff, fun music. Listen here also.

Rachel Merchand - hypnotic layered vocals. This is some unique sounding material. See if you don't agree with either of these: "Humble" and "Angel"

Wiser Time - Black Crowes southern rock sound. Like their vibe. I posted a bit about them a short while back. This tune "10 years" has some good stuff going for it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Guantanamo hearings

I was watching Guantonimo hearings on C-Span this morning (recording of meetings on Tuesday) and one of the presenters was professor Mark Denbeaux from Seton Hall who along with his students studied government documents on the status of detainees. I was surprised by his report and thought you would be too.

While certainly some at Guantanimo are very dangerous people, the report finds that many of the detainees fail to approach the "worst of the worst" variety that official public statements would have us believe.

Some of his key findings:
- fewer than half are known to have committed a hostile act against the US or allies. (most are not captured on field of battle - more below)
- 8% of detainees are characterized as Al-Qaeda fighters. 40% of detainees have no definitive Al Qaeda connection.
- 93% of detainees were captured by those other than US forces and handed over at a time when bounties were offered for turning in suspected enemies.

Here's some of the language in one of the flyers regarding bounties:

"Get wealth and power beyond your dreams....You can receive millions of dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces catch al-Qaida and Taliban murders. This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life. Pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for all your people."

A link with an image of the flyer referenced in the report.

Here he quotes the record on one of the detainees who was a conscript and was apparently a cook's assistant for the Taliban forces in Afganhistan:

The following is an example of the entire record for a detainee who was conscripted into the Taliban:
a. Detainee is associated with the Taliban
i. The detainee indicates that he was conscripted into the
b. Detainee engaged in hostilities against the US or its coalition
i. The detainee admits he was a cook’s assistant for Taliban
forces in Narim, Afghanistan under the command of Haji
Mullah Baki.
ii. Detainee fled from Narim to Kabul during the Northern
Alliance attack and surrendered to the Northern Alliance.

All declassified information supports the conclusion that this detainee remains at Guantanamo Bay to this date.

Certainly this is not a typical record for someone classified as an enemy combatant, but if you're like me you're wondering why is he in Gitmo? He doesn't sound significant, and doesn't seem much different than any of the thousands of Taliban forces in Afghanistan when we invaded the country. The report concludes there are many others who were likely in the wrong place at wrong time and/or turned in for the bounty without much corroborating information.

My main concern with all of this: If the war against terror lasts generations how long do we hold people in Gitmo without a trial? And even if we conclude that it's a necessary cost of a "war", how American is that?

Here's a link to the full report by professor Mark Denbeaux.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wind generator - wind belt

check out this video of a different type of wind generator - a generator without a turbine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A little elfin fun

Check out these talented elves (turn on your speakers)

Talented family 1

Talented family 2

Have a digital picture? You can make your own here courtesy OfficeMax.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dinosaur stripes

Soft tissue fossil of dinosaur shows first hard evidence that dinosaurs had stripes.

It's amazing to me that soft tissue can survive through at least 65 million years.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Links 12-02-07

Check out this tiny sculpting.

.. and some microscopic pictures of snowflakes.

... and let's finish with this misunderstanding.