Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spider creates his own decoy

Here's a cool story about a spider that was found in the Amazon who creates a large clone spider decoy from debris and puts it on its web.  It even apparently attaches silk and animates the decoy legs like a puppet.  The discoverers think the decoy attracts the attention of predators, who attack the decoy instead of the smaller real spider who built it.

Here's the link with a photo

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Night-time satellite photo of earth

Check out this night-time satellite photo of earth

Egypt in particular really stands out.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hostess Bankruptcy

I guess everybody's heard of Hostess heading toward bankruptcy again by now.

Here's a line in the most recent article:
"But the new private equity backers loaded the company with debt, making it difficult to invest in new equipment. Earlier this year, Hostess had more than $860 million of debt."

Normally it's a line that I'd read right past.  A company coming out of bankruptcy with a lot of debt shouldn't be surprising.  But the thing is this is a theme that I increasingly see - and a theme pointed out by more and more writers that look at these things.  Wall Street (I'm not saying this derogatively - I just don't know what to call it except Wall Street) has evolved so that many of the restructurings of failing companies seem to take advantage of the opportunities to spin out a new company and collect alot of fees, sell more debt to investors - (why your should care:  this includes pension funds, retirement funds) on the premise that it is actually an investment, but in the end the company is loaded down with more debt than it can manage and the company ultimately fails multiple times.  Wall Street gets its fees and everybody else is worse off.

It sounds similar to what happened the mortgage backed securities.  Package up bad loans, and sell them as AAA investment grade.  Make alot of money in the process, but when it all goes under society loses as a whole.  Similar with bonds sold that bankrupted Jefferson county Alabama (Birmingham).

 Now, obviously, if companies are in bankruptcy there's something wrong with the business and changes need to be made, but are the incentives so messed up that Wall Street is incentivized to do deals that have too high of a risk of failure?   Again, it's just a theme I keep seeing.  A recurring theme. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Last chance for Hostess Twinkies

Hostess is going out of business.  There's a run on Twinkies.

Inflation: Coca Cola style

Here's a cool article from NPR about how a bottle of Coca-Cola cost 5 cents for 70 years, and why it stayed that way until apparently 1959.

Now it's about $1.29 or more at the local Mapco.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

High Speed Internet Options

Hi all,  I was getting disgusted w/ the poor quality of my Comcast internet service that was always freezing up during downloads - especially things like you tube that are nearly impossible for me to stream without reloading /refreshing multiple times - and was trying to shop around.

If you've done some shopping you quickly realize there aren't many option or much competition.  If there is supposed "competition" it seems like they're all priced about the same.  Almost seems like the competitors are working together.

In the process of looking for options I came across these stats in review of a book called "The Fine Print."  If even some of this is true it bugs me a lot.  I'm putting the book on request at the library.  I've already killed my home phone which I rarely used (saving about $40 per month), and have gotten rid of my cell phone which I rarely used (saved $65/mo).  I really have to keep internet though - but I would like for it to work better for as much as we pay for it.

Here's the article.  "Why your phone, cable, and internet bills cost so much."

Some of the bullets from the review:
"- Americans pay 38 times as much as the Japanese for Internet data.
- America has gone from #1 in Internet speed (when we invented it) to 29th in the world and falling.
 - Americans pay four times as much as the French for an Internet triple-play package—phone, cable TV and Internet—at an average of $160 per month versus $38 per month.
- The French get global free calling and worldwide live television. Their Internet is also 10 times faster at downloading information and 20 times faster uploading it"

also from the article "The relationship between phone and cable providers has essentially become a cartel"

On the other hand, maybe I should just invest in Comcast despite my dislike.  Where I live they've carved out a monopoly of being the only cable company in town.  I've owned the stock before - maybe I should just get back in.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Picture of Curiousity Rover on Mars

Wow - check out this photo from Mars. Apparently the rover took several photos of itself from it's camera arm and then they edited the multiple photos so the arm holding the camera was edited out.

Added some more Apple today

Not much to add, but just added a bit more Apple today.

Portfolio looks like (from large to small)  Larger positions:
BRK.B Berkshire Hathaway
CMI Cummins
NEU Newmarket
AAPL Apple
INTC Intel
CSTR Coinstar
WDC Western Digital
CF CF Industries

Smaller positions of note:
GES Guess
APEI American Public Education
TESS Tessco

Monday, November 5, 2012

Added some Western Digital and Apple today

Added AAPL Apple and WDC Western Digital back to the portfolio again. I've owned both these multiple times before, so we'll see how it goes again.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Self-healing concrete

This is kindof a neat idea if they can make it work. Mixing a bacteria in with the concrete - that when the concrete cracks and gets exposed to water - the bacteria acts to create calcite (white crystals like you see in limestone gravel) that would reseal the cracks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Titan Supercomputer

Is your Excel running a little slow. Maybe try this. Check out Titan - what is to be the worlds largest super computer - currently being built in Oak Ridge to study nuclear core reactions. "uses more than 18,500 NVIDIA GPUs, along with nearly 300,000 CPU cores"

Friday, October 26, 2012

More pictures from the past

Here's some more spaceship pictures from when I was little - this time in striking crayola color. A couple of the pictures are inspired by my favorite cartoon: G-Force. I kindof crack up at some of it - but heck - I still can't spell Commander = Camander Boomerang = Bomerang not sure? = Twerters - I think I must've made this one up - more like Bolas I guess The Yo Yo Bomb needs no further explanation

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I'm putting MSFT on my watchlist again for possible investment. I really want to wait and see how the Windows 8 launch goes, and how the reception for the Surface tablet is, but once we get past that I'm starting to get interested again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Futuristic Pencil Drawings

I was going through some old boxes of stuff to throw out and came across these pictures I must've drawn when I was little.  Kindof funny to see this stuff.  I particularly like the little guns on the spaceships and the ships in the landing bay - probably influenced by Battlestar Galactica (the original) and my favorite cartoon as a kid called G-Force.
Although I think I apparently mistakenly thought JCPenney and Sears might exist in the future. Good to know that McDonalds and Pizza Hut were part of the vision though.

Apple Patent Overturned

Ooh.  Here's a big story.  The Patent behind Apple's $1Billion verdict over Samsung has been disavowed by the U.S. Patent Office.    Why companies tie up courts and wage legal wars over things like screen "bounce" is beyond me (well - I understand you do it if you can make money via suit, but why else?), and I don't really see how patent laws protecting such things make any sense.

The next black swan?

I've been thinking for a while that one day we're going to see a cyber-attack like this on a large scale, and our ATMs won't work, the internet will come to a standstill, and normal daily activity will come to a halt because everything runs online now.  To me it seems like more of a "when", not "if" scenario - and I worry I might get financially wiped out when it happens - but I guess I just hope the world will have too much at stake to destroy the economy that way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Remember Cold Fusion?

Here's a new hypothesis at explaining what might be going on that creates the additional unexplained heat - .  Called Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) by the scientists doing the research estimate that if the hypothesis is confirmed - "LENRs could potentially satisfy the world’s energy needs at a quarter the cost of coal."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Japan to become US top creditor soon

This article is interesting - indicating Japan is about to overtake China as the top U.S. creditor.  Japan is currently purchasing more U.S. debt than China and should become our top creditor by January per this article from Businessweek.

quote:  "“Whatever deficit we’re running, we’re going to supply a lot of Treasuries and someone’s going to buy them, and if it’s not China it will be someone else.”"

Whale imitating human speech patterns

This is kindof cool.  It's a recording of a whale who imitates human speech patterns.  Article from Discover Magazine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This is a good story - are general physicals worthless?

Are General Physicals Useless? - from the Washington Post

quote:  "What the researchers did find, however, was an increase in diagnoses among those who went to their general exam, compared to those who did not. Those additional diagnoses, however, did not appear to have any impact on health outcomes"

So bottom line:  General physicals might find something "wrong", but it probably won't make a difference.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poor Dog

video taken from a home security camera...  poor dog

Monday, October 15, 2012

Planet w/ 4 suns

Another interesting discovery:   Planet with Four Suns Discovered

quote: "It's absolutely not what we would have expected."

Retiring on the Go

Good article about living without a "home" - staying mobile.  One of the options mentioned is Lake Cumberland, KY - the "Redneck Riviera."

Rambling Retirees Trade Homes for Boats, RVs, Sofas

Interesting Read

I thought this was an interesting project.

Mix It Up at Lunch Day
"On Mix It Up at Lunch Day, schoolchildren around the country are encouraged to hang out with someone they normally might not speak to."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lit Motors

Check out this 2 wheel car/motorcycle - steadied by gyroscopes, with an outer enclosure, and with a steering wheel and foot pedals.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Made a Move Back into the Market

This might be bad news. I've been out of sync with things going on in the stock market for a while which caused me to lighten up this spring, so I'm probably a contrarian indicator for what it's worth, but I made a move today to increase my market exposure today.

 This moves me up to about 70-75% market exposure from well below 50% where I was previously. Again, this is probably a sign of impending apocalypse, but here's what I did:

Moved retirement accounts into
- S&P 500 index,
- Russell index,
- and Intn'l Index.

Purchased half positions in
- INTC Intel
- CMI Cummins
- CSTR Coinstar
- CF CF Industries
- NEU Newmarket

I've had position in INTC and NEU before, so I'm back exposed there.

Everybody probably knows Intel's business, but main thinking here is how they're finished building new facilities giving them a big tech lead going forward on most other chip vendors out there (they're not just PC chips anymore), and they do pay a 4% dividend which is nice. The big concern is global PC demand. Opportunity is getting more chips into so many other devices - including possibly more chips in Apples devices given Apple's fight with Samsung.

Newmarket makes petroleum additives. No real big ideas here other than I like it's numbers and it looks like a solid long term growth story. This is a growth story - dividend is only 1.2%, but it helps.

Cummins is one that I've had my eye on for a long time. They make heavy duty engines for trucks and equimpent. Cyclicals have burned me in the past, but I'm giving it another shot. 2.2% dividend here. Many like Boone Pickens think Natural Gas engines are an opportunity in trucking, and Cummins will be a player here. Also - I just like their numbers. They're a cyclical and it scares me some because they can be volatile, but I'll go with it here.

Coinstar owns the Red Box business. Alot of folks think they've had their one big idea and there's nothing more to get out of the business. To me, they seem like a cash generating machine and as long as management doesn't pursue bad ideas they should be fine because of all the cash being thrown off by DVD rental. I don't expect that business to fall off as quickly as others expect, and even with possible price increases it's pretty cheap entertainment. I hear they're maybe going to put out automated coffee machines next, and I hope they don't just try to grow for growths sake, but instead keep an eye on rates of return - but that'll have to play out. I really wish they'd pay a dividend (they don't right now) as I worry they might be tempted otherwise to plow all the excess cash into possible bad ideas, but maybe that's coming.

CF Industries is another company I've been watching for a long time. They're a chemical company that makes fertilizers. I understand low natural gas prices help financials for these type companies alot, so rising natural gas prices would be bad. I have no insight on the issue but have watched the natural gas glut for years and it shows no signs of abating. New techs seem to allow access to a whole lot of new gas deposits they previously just couldn't get to.  0.7% dividend.

That's about it. Put on your hardhat now because me buying might be the sign you were looking for to run for the hills.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Geysers on Mars?

Here's an interesting article with very detailed photos of strange features seen on Mars. Apparently the leading hypothesis is CO2 geysers.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October Tomatoes

Just picked these Roma tomatoes from the plant in my backyard today. It's doing better now that the temperature has cooled down. I think the hot summers might just be too much because 2-3 years in a row I've had tomatoes almost stop producing in the summer - only to really start growing after it cools off. All of these were from one plant. I would've probably had more but the weight of the vines has caused a couple branches to break/bend hurting the fruit on those branches. September and October have been really good months for tomatoes so far.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Helmets hurt bicycle utilization

Here's an interesting article arguing that helmet laws hurt bicycle usage. Quote from the article: "Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified" The idea here seems to be that helmet regulations complicate adoption rates of bicycling programs (who wants to carry a helmet around all the time?), and that even though a helmet does protect in some crashes, those type of accidents are very rare. The net health benefits of exercise, reduced traffic congestion, and the like are estimated to be far more beneficial than cost of requiring helmets. When I was younger I used to ride my bike quite a bit, but where I live now - I think I'd get killed if I took a bike off of my street.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Is this the best song ever written?

I kind of smiled when I came across the song Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder today. I remember the first time I heard this song. It came on the radio when I was riding in the car with my Mom when I was little. I checked wikipedia and it says the song was released in 1976/77 time-frame, so I was probably about 7 yrs old. I think the trumpet part in the musical break is what grabbed my attention and it still strikes me as cool even today. Back then I don't think I'd ever heard anything like that and about halfway through the song I remember asking my Mom if this was the best song ever written.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Image from Mars

I missed this image from Mars Curiosity Rover about a month ago. I just happened upon a few minutes ago. Here's the link from astronomy pic of the day. I really like this photo.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

TV ad

I cracked up the first time I saw this commercial and love it's oddball humor. I've seen it on TV a few times now, but in case you haven't seen it - here it is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tilt Shift manipulation in GIMP

I've been messing around with the image editing software GIMP recently, and thought I'd post a before/after sample of trying to simulate tilt/shift type photography using GIMP tutorial from Daniel Veazey's website. It's kindof neat for making things look somewhat minituarized.



Money Markets

Here's an interesting article about an upcoming SEC vote that would reduce or eliminate the government backstop of money market funds and require the money market funds to set aside reserves for unexpected runs/withdrawals when securities may be down in value.  According to the article several large money market funds' values had fallen below the $1.00 mark during the financial crisis of 2008.  I guess bottom line:  this is worth paying attention to.  If it happens it will place more emphasis on safety - probably driving me to pay more attention to what my money market invests in.  I don't get hardly interest from my existing money markets anyway (I think 0.1% apr anyway on most of them), so maybe just leaving it all in cash makes more sense anyhow.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cancelling Home phone service

Well, a short while ago I got off the phone with my home phone provider (the big American telephone company), and found the experience both humorous and frustrating.

First off: All I was wanting to do was cancel my home phone service.

I spoke to no fewer than 4 people over the course of about a 20 minute call to accomplish this task. (23 minutes if you count me dialing customer service twice because I mis-input my phone number into the robot that answered the phone the first time and this put me on hold so I redialed). I'm aware of the times because I made the call at the beginning of riding my exercise bike and I was into the 24th minute of the ride when the call was finally completed.

While waiting on hold between all of my transfers I found out repeatedly from the automated attendant that it would be very simple to pay my phone bill if I went to, but unfortunately I had to wait on hold and be transferred around for the privilege of not paying.

So at the beginning of the call the automated attendant asks me to input the phone number on my phone bill. I do so. I'm not sure why they wanted that, because I think each of the four people that finally talked to me asked me for both my name and all that information again, 3 of whom would only transfer me to someone else who would ask me the same information again.

I may be getting the order of conversation wrong and have generalized and embellished, but it went something like this:

1st customer service rep: After waiting on hold for a long time - maybe about 8 minutes listening to how I could conveniently pay my bill online at - the first customer service rep picked up. I told them I wanted to cancel my home phone line. No problem, they said - let me transfer you to the people that do that. They'll be right with you.

2nd customer service rep: This rep again asked who I was and asked for my name and phone. I said I just put it into the system, it should be on your screen. He may have asked for the last digits of my social to just to make sure I hadn't changed who I was sense I talked to the last person.

After confirming my name, phone, and that I was someone who knew the last four digits of my social security number - they also confirmed that what I indeed had told the first rep was true - that I wanted to cancel my home phone.

I think they wanted to try to give me some secret deal that nobody else ever gets unless you win the lotto, but I told them I already had my new line and wanted to cut my bills. I'd already looked online on the website to try and find a way to keep my home phone at a lower cost, but all their plans were way too costly compared to alternatives. Anyhow, they said, OK, let me transfer you to someone who'll take care of your cancellation for you. It'll be just a minute. I'm like why can't you do this, but I'm like whatever, let's just get this over with.

I wait on hold for a while longer listening to more exciting advertising and information on how to pay my bill online. I'm a pretty good way into my bike ride now, getting kindof sweaty, and have flipped the TV and ESPN to listen to Skip Bayless and others talk about Chad Johnson's problems and Rex Ryan/Tim Tebow.

3rd customer service rep: This rep again starts by asking my name and phone number, and surprisingly asks what I'm calling about. I'm beginning to think the reps at this company don't talk to one another or know who they transferring me to or why. Surprise, I'm trying to cancel my home phone. This rep is very friendly and in the nicest voice possible says, OK, let me transfer you to someone who will take care of that for you. I kind of laugh and ask if they were sure.

At this point I'm increasingly glad they're monitoring this call for quality control, because I'm having difficulty imagining how much better customer service quality might be if they weren't paying attention to it.

4th customer service rep:
When I got to the 4th person he again asked for my name, phone number and again confirmed the last digits of my social. He also wondered what I was calling about. I told him I heard mythological tales of one who could process the cancellation of my home phone - and that I was on a quest to find the one who could fulfill my wishes. I also made him promise that he was the last person I had to talk to. Luckily I'd found the elusive person in the company with the great power to fulfill my request. He really was a nice guy - I just wish I didn't have to spend 20 minutes to do something simple like tell them to stop sending me bills.

Yeah, all done with that. According to my exercise bike's readout I'd burned nearly 180 calories while cancelling my phone, so it wasn't all bad.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Perseid Meteor shower

Went outside between Saturday/Sunday to view the Perseid meteor shower. Stayed out about an hour or so from about 2:30 to 3:30 - saw a few good ones, but I think the city lights obscure most of them except for the really bright ones. Was kindof disappointed but just need to find a darker spot to watch I guess.

Sculpture looks like cartoon drawing on hillside

Look at this. I couldn't believe the picture when I saw it. It's a sculpture that produces a very cool effect.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More Mars Curiosity images

images from orbit and from the ground of the Curiosity landing site and descent, as well as the first low res color image they've downloaded. From .

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mars Curiosity Image

I'm watching a NASA press conference on the Mars Curiosity landing right now, and just checked the web for the most recent image. It landed near crater rim near what they have called "Mount Sharp."

Look at this very cool photo

Sunday, August 5, 2012

History of bringing foreign auto manufacturing to U.S.

This NY Times article gives an interesting history of the past 30 years and what happened to bring so much of the growing foreign auto manufacturing (like Nissan/Toyota) to the U.S. I vaguely remember some of this as I grew up in KY around where a large Toyota plant was built, and now live near the large Nissan plant in Smyrna TN mentioned in the article.

Here's a quote from former TN governor and now Senator Lamar Alexander:
“We were the third-poorest state in the nation back then,” Mr. Alexander said. “President Carter had told all the U.S. governors to go to Japan and persuade the Japanese to make in the U.S. what they sell in the U.S.”

The article states that TN now has around 60,000 jobs related to automotive and parts supply manufacturing.

The article goes on to discuss if some of the more aggressive tactics used to bring automotive jobs to the US (diplomacy, arm-twisting, quotas, legislation, tariffs, tax-incentives - by the way - aren't tariffs and/or tax incentives the same thing by different names?) could/should be use used to bring some tech manufacturing jobs to U.S. Essentially- it's a discussion if the U.S. should have a manufacturing policy (or not).

One of the final quotes of the article makes a distinction:
"But consumer electronics are different. Though some jobs have moved to Asia, many were never here to begin with. And the biggest technology importers — like Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Microsoft — are American companies."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two creatures in one body?

Here's an interesting hypothesis I've never heard. Could Caterpillars and Butterflies be two separate creatures in a single body? Again, I've never heard of this, but it's one of those type of ideas that gets in your head and makes you think. Conventional thinking makes it difficult for me to believe, but then again I've never thought about it much either. The key idea here is that the explanation involves the caterpillar actually "dying" and the moth or butterfly constructing itself from the dead organic material left over from the dead caterpillar - not a continuous life cycle. Fun thought anyway.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Placebo and Nocebo effects

Here's an interesting article talking about the placebo effect and it's counterpart - the nocebo effect. Not only can taking a fake medicine have positive effects, but the nocebo effect finds that people taking a fake medicine can also develop some of the side-effects of the real thing. Apparently we can trick ourselves both into getting better and developing side-effects. Article is from Discover magazine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Skydiving from 18 miles up

Check this story out: Skydiver jumps from 18 miles up

Says he's going to go for the world record and try 23 miles next, and expects to reach a speed of 690mph on his next jump. (doing the math that's falling a mile about every 5.2 seconds)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What does space smell like?

Here's something I've never heard asked or described before (from

What does space smell like?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Economy as a Garden

I thought the metaphor of the economy as a garden in this article was interesting. The metaphor is that a garden left to it's own devices quickly is over-run with weeds, but a good attentive gardener can make that garden productive. HOw applicable is this metaphor to the economy? Hard to say, but as some recent posts show, I think we probably have our share of weeds right now - most recently the big banks rigging interest rates- that need some serious trimming if they can't act better. :_)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Golden Parachute

CEO resigns after one day, gets $44 million severance

Here's another related story about possible ratings downgrade for Duke Energy after the change in leadership.

Here's more on the deal from NYTimes. Apparently it was a board of directors "coup".

Friday, July 6, 2012

More on Banks

...yet another tale of big banks as parasite - this time bid rigging in local bond issuances...

"The scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia" - from the Rolling Stone Magazine

"It turns into a kind of unbroken M̦bius strip of corruption Рthe banks pay middlemen to rig auctions, the middlemen bribe politicians to win business, then the politicians choose the middlemen to run the auctions, leading right back to the banks bribing the middlemen to rig the bids. When we allow Wall Street to continually raid the public cookie jar, we're not just enriching a bunch of petty executives ... we're effectively creating an alternate government, one in which money lifted from the taxpayer's pocket through mob-style schemes turns into a kind of permanent shadow tax, used to maintain the corruption and keep the thieves in place. And that cuts right to the heart of what this case is all about.""

Read more:

I really am beginning to think the big banks have gotten too big - not only too big to fail, but too big to act properly even in non-crisis times. This shows they're acting like a cartel now.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Images from FUEL video game

I've recently been playing a video game called FUEL. It's mostly a racing game in a free-roam world, and I'm very impressed with the large world and the quality of graphics. I took a few screenshots just running around today and have posted them as samples.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Phantom limbs

I thought this article about phantom limbs was interesting, and may say something about how our brains are to a degree pre-wired to expect certain sensory input.

The patient was born with a deformed hand that didn't have several fingers. After a bad accident that required the amputation of that hand, she started having phantom pains of a 5-fingered hand that she had never had.

Click here for the article: "Phantom Finger Points to Secrets in the Brain"

Monday, June 25, 2012

First tomatoes

So far my tomato plant seems healthy - better than the past 2 yrs where the tomatoes tended to die on the vine. Here's the first red ones of the year.

John Mayer's version of Crossroads

I was listening to my playlist today and John Mayer's funky take on the blues standard "Crossroads" came up. I really like Mayer's interpretation of this song. Here's a youtube video of a live performance with extended intro and solos from the Letterman show. I know some folks, especially blues fans, don't like to or want to give Mayer credit for his fretwork, but I dig his style.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Alternative Energy statistic

Alternative Energy stat of the day from

"Renewable power, excluding large hydropower, accounted for 44% of all new generating capacity added worldwide in 2011 - up from 34% in 2010."

You don't see it as much yet, but it seems a tipping point is nearing wrt power generation. More and more applications are seeing alternative energy approaches becoming feasible.

The investment implications are still cloudy. I eventually want to be long in this space, but now there's so much competition that hardly anyone is making money.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pet statistic that surprised me

I'm a shareholder of online Pet pharmacy PetMed Express PETS. I was reading their annual report and came upon this statistic for the United States which surprised me a bit: "The dog and cat population is approximately 165 million, with approximately 62% of all households owning a pet."

I found the 62% figure to be high. I don't have pets right now so I guess I tend to think that the majority of people are like me and don't have pets - but I'd be wrong. I guess I'm in the 38% minority that doesn't have pets.

Some more info on spending on pets: "According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, pet spending in the United States increased 5.3% to $51.0 billion in 2011. Pet supplies and medications represented $11.8 billion, or 23% of the
total spending on pets in the United States.."

If you do the math on that it works out to $11.8 B / 165 M = approximately $71.50 in average spending on each animals pet supplies and medications annually.

In total spending on pets it works out to $51.0 B / 165 M = $309 annual spending on each pet.

These annual spend figures really are pretty low and don't surprise me alot.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Noah/Grimmie duet

A friend posted a link to a viral video of Noah's cover of LMFAO's tune "I'm Sexy and I know it", which I thought was awesome, so I looked at some of his other tunes. I actually thought this cover of Gotye's "Someone that I used to know" was even better.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hey Dad

Here's a pic of what we did with that broccoli you gave us. This isn't the crappie you gave us (it's catfish from Kroger), but the crappie will be looking like this too before too much longer:

and here's one from memorial day

Bill Gross quote

I read this quote from super-investor Bill Gross on Forbes' website today:
"The whales of our current economic society swim mainly in financial market oceans. Innovators such as [Steve] Jobs and [Bill] Gates are as rare within the privileged one percent as giant squid are to sharks, because the one percent feed primarily off of money, not invention."

Here's the full story: What Investors Can Learn From Apple, McDonald's And Wall Street's Blunders.

This quote encapsulates much of what I've come to believe about how the financial industry has become a parasite on the economy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Images - Tepuis - Tabletop Mountains

Check out some of this otherworldly landscape of the Tabletop Mountains - Tepui - in Venezuela.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Warren Buffett - writes about when he was 25

Here's a cool little piece by Warren Buffett talking about his thinking back when he was 25 years old just starting out.


The thing is, when I got out of college, I had $9,800, but by the end of 1955, I was up to $127,000. I thought, I’ll go back to Omaha, take some college classes, and read a lot—I was going to retire! I figured we could live on $12,000 a year, and off my $127,000 asset base, I could easily make that. I told my wife, “Compound interest guarantees I’m going to get rich.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

Nashville Hail

Pics for my Dad (and others) - Nashville Hail 3-2-2012. Not snow. It's about 75-80F degrees here. This all fell in about 10 loud minutes as the storm moved through.

I hear just about 10 miles away they got it much worse. this isn't that bad I guess.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The last remaining in the world

check out this story about some big bugs thought extinct - except they found some under one bush on an otherwise deserted rocky island. fun story - and the bugs are huge.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

selling a bit into market strength

It's been an exciting few months in the stock market recently as long positions have done well. Following the run-up and run of buying I've decided to take a little bit off of the table given some uneven economic data along with international concerns like Isreal/Iran, and the always present Greece and significant economic slowing across Europe that I've heard discussed in several conference calls.

In addition I was just running out of interesting buy opportunities so I changed approach and raised some cash. (Most of my funds are in retirement accts so tax impacts don't come into play very often for me).

These are my first sells of 2012.

NEU - Newmarket was my largest position and it has continued to act weak following the conference call, so I liquidated. I actually expect to re-establish the position as mgmt characterized the slowdown they saw in Q4 as inventory drawdown, especially in Europe, and said it was not due to lost customers. They sell petroleum additives and there's only so long folks can go without re-ordering. But the stock currently is just short of buyers so I'll step aside for a while.

TEO - I took about half of my Telecom Argentina off the table. Again, I'll be glad to re-establish the position at lower prices, but it's just too weak in this market. The conference call for the company sounded excellent to me, so I gotta think the market is concerned more with international issues (seems like it reacts particularly negatively to bad news in Europe), and concern over Argentine regulatory issues the company may have to deal with. Sounds like alot of analysts are concerned the dividend may be in question due to Argentine govt influence. (TEO is traditionally a big dividend payer). This is still a long term hold for me, it's just smaller now than it was. Will re-buy more on pull-backs. All the metrics tell me this is still cheap.

CHL - China Mobile. Sold my full stake after watching it bounce around in a trading range for several years. It pays a very nice dividend also. I expect to repurchase should it fall back to the 47 range. The metrics look very good on this one. They may be getting the AAPL i-phone soon so might see upcoming bump, but it's near the top of it's range and I promised myself the next time it got here...

WFR - a small position betting on rebound of semi-equips/solar. while those areas in general have done well for me - WFR was the dog of the bunch and it may be too wounded and not the best vehicle to invest in this theme.

In selling I normally try to pair losers and there's a couple of recent buys in the material area I'm keeping an eye on (CLF and BBL in particular), but here are my larger position by size now.

LHCG - LHC Group - home health
SNDK - Sandisk - digital storage - flash drives
AFAM - Almost FAmily - home health
EBAY - eBay
TEF - Telefonica SA -
CLF - Cliffs Natural Resources - mining - iron ore in particular
DAR - Darling Intl - grease recycling
ASML - ASML HOlding - semi equips
HITK - Hi-TEch Pharmacal
VECO - Veeco Instruments - semi equips
TEO - Telecom ARgentina
BBL - BHP Billiton - diversified mining
.... and I'll stop there. the rest tend to be smallish positions, many more speculative small caps so I'll stop here.

Happy investing all

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dichotomy of Small Jobs

Here's an important observation I was unaware of. I'd always seen statistics showing that almost all the job creation in the country is via small business - footing the idea of creative destruction, that as part of economic growth the old companies die and are replaced by the new.

Interestingly, it's easy to slide into an overly broad generalization that that small business creates jobs -which is true - but the deeper truth is that NEW STARTUP small business creates jobs, not existing longer-term small business.

This AP article gets a little politicky - but if you just ignore that part and read the economic references inside an interesting fresh observation is in there regarding new startups that I hadn't heard before:

"Haltiwanger and two other economists showed, in a study of millions of companies over 30 years, that small businesses no more than five years old — that's about 40 percent of them — are the only ones that create more jobs each year than they cut.

In 2005, for instance, more than 99 percent of the 2.5 million net new private-sector jobs in the United States came from these startups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But the 60 percent of small businesses that have been around more than five years act as a slight drag on the number of jobs available in the United States. They have cut about 0.5 percent more staff than they have added in a typical year, according to Haltiwanger.

By contrast, big businesses, the ones that get all the headlines for layoffs, have hired more than they have cut — about 0.1 percent in a typical year."

Summary/Key Takeway: If we want job creation create incentives targeted not to small business broadly, but to NEW small business formation specifically.

Anyhow - I found that portion very interesting and not often discussed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Have been adding funds back to equities

Over the past few weeks I've been a net buyer of stocks. I don't trust the feeling that the market wants to go up, but this just feels different than the long grind of most of last year. I had raised my portfolio to a fairly high level of cash - well over 50% - so it'll take me a while to move back in, but here's some of my main stock holdings as of the end of today

NEU Newmarket corp - petroleum additives
TEO Telecom Argentina - Telecom
LHCG LHC Group - home health
CLF Cliff's Natural Resources - iron ore / coal
CHL China Mobile - wireless
EBAY Ebay - retail / paypal
ASML ASML Holding - semiconductor equip
DAR Darling Int'l - grease recycling / biofuel
HITK HiTech Pharmacal - generic drugs
BBL BHP Billiton - oil / gas / mining

along with some smaller positions in much more speculative
GTAT GT Advanced Tech - solar
WFR MEMC Electronics - solar
ESIC Easylink services
ARCI Appliance Recylcing

still a lot of cash on the sidelines, but less than 2 months ago.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Good article on Apple iPhone manufacturing and supply chain

Here's a really good article detailing several key drivers pushing electronics manufacturing to Asia - with the specific example of Apple's iPhone used to illustrate. Here's the article: Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class

For Mr. Cook, the focus on Asia “came down to two things,” said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.” The result is that “we can’t compete at this point,” the executive said.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Restatement of Existing Home Sales by NAR

The National Association of Realtors just "restated" their existing homes sales from 2007 to present. While it was in their interest to keep the boom going and make the market seem better than it is, this should be enough of a datapoint to make you never trust their announcements regarding home sales going forward.

Here's the chart showing the initially reported homesales over the past 4 yrs. vs. restated figures. The decline was much worse and more rapid than initially reported.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Solar "gardens"

New models for solar - solar gardens
from Forbes. Pretty cool idea.

"The first such project in the country is currently underway in Colorado Springs, Colo., where an old landfill is being given a second life as a community solar garden. Three-and-a-half acres of the 40-acre site will soon host 500 kw of solar panels, all owned by local residents who will be seeing an average 10-percent reduction on their energy bills (the panels cost $550, with a minimum purchase of two panels)."