Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Heard today

I laughed when I heard a quote from a frustrated announcer during Cincinnatti's 44 -43 victory over Pitt in the Jimmy V. classic.  The score tells alot, but at one point Pitt had gone about 9 minutes without scoring from the field in this clankfest and the announcer remarked something like:

"It's not a bad shot.  He's just not a good shooter."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Replaced some light switches

Replaced some light switches today.  Thank heavens for you tube instructional videos.  I opened up one and it was totally not the wiring I was expecting, but you tube straightened me out.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

White Box Bacon

I tried some of the cheap white box bacon from Kroger this week and it's been awesome.  I tried it after having several batches of overly fatty bacon in my normal brands got me to try something else.

I was looking at the options for other bacons and saw the white box cheapy bacon was the lowest cost per lb, and it looked good to me through the little window, so I grabbed some.  The only difference I've noticed is the cut consistency isn't quite as uniform, and it's a little more stretchy than I'm used to - but it fries up pretty good without so much shrivel.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Saving on medicines

Interesting article on people buying prescriptions from outside the U.S. much more cheaply than they can get them in the U.S., but then the shipments getting seized at customs.

quote: "So about five years ago, Mrs. Higman started ordering the tablets from Canada, where a year’s supply that would cost about $1,000 in the United States sells for under $100."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Updated Stock Holdings 10-22

Hadn't done this in a while, and just wanting to update my top stock positions as of today.

INTC - Intel
WDC - Western Digital
CMI - Cummins
BRK.B - Berkshire Hathaway B shares
OUTR - Outerwall/Coinstar
NEU  - Newmarket Corp
CHRW - CH Robinson Worldwide
CTSH - Cognizant Tech
QCOM - Qualcom
SNI - Scripps Networks
CHKP - Checkpoint software
VMI - Valmont Industries
CF - CF Industries

I guess the newest 2 additions were VMI Valmont Industries and SNI Scripps.   I think the only recent sell I had was liquidating my ORCL Oracle position (at a loss I think). 

I did purchase a small position in TIVO (TiVo) the other day, but it is small and not based in my traditional valuation methods.  My wife really likes her TIVO and I read a presentation about their new products and progress in becoming the set top box for more cable providers (who then won't have to develop their own), and it just felt like TIVO might have a good chance to build up a to a tipping point where the economies of scale tip in their favor.  The stock has not done much in a long time, and the earnings are not currently there - so support things - this is just a small gut call that seemed it might have a good chance of working out.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I'm getting kindof old so I figured maybe I should read a Hemingway novel before my time was up.  I'd been looking for examples of what many considered excellent writing and Hemingway's books seem to be on most lists.  Particularly he was held up as an example of clean, clear, precise writing.

I did a little internet search and decided on reading "For whom bell tolls" and picked it up from the local library.  I finished it last night.  I was hoping I'd like it better, but unfortunately the book sortof lost me around page 350 or 400 - and I had to force myself to plow through the remaining 100-150 pages or so to get to the end.   While the final scenes were pretty interesting I felt like a lot of the "middle" of the book could've been trimmed considerably while preserving the story.  There was a large section that felt like it was just marking time until we got to the finish.

Anyhow, overall I was pretty disappointed with the pacing in the middle.  It had a very strong first half, and an exciting conclusion, but that part in between...

Something very interesting in the writing style was how Hemingway often would change from third person point of view (he, she, they) to first person point of view (I,me) - often even within the same paragraph.   It actually worked pretty well in the narrative to quickly move in and out of the main character's head, but it seems like it's something that would be discouraged by editors today.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why Americans living abroad renounce their citizenship

I thought this was interesting.  It asks those who were American citizens but who were living abroad and renounced their US citizenship - why?   It seems alot of the comments are related to difficulties of living abroad while trying to comply with complicated U.S. tax filing laws that make it very difficult to live/work overseas.  Some also comment that overseas banks don't even want to deal with them due to all the complications.  Many don't seem to want to do it - but they seem to say it's financially too difficult to maintain.

Anyhow, I thought this BBC article was good reading:   Why I gave up my US passport

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Near Nuclear disaster over North Carolina in 1961

I never heard this story.  Nuclear bombs were dropped over North Carolina in 1961 when a B-52 bomber came apart in flight and released the bombs - and in the process one of the bombs began arming itself as it fell.  One of the bombs was only 1 fail safe away from detonating.  According to the story the bomb was @260x as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.

US plane in 1961 'nuclear bomb near-miss'

" three out of the four fail safe mechanisms failed"

Here's the event detail from wikipedia

Apparently the uranium from one of the bombs was buried so deeply after the bomb impacted into the field that it is still there - at estimated 180 ft below the surface of the ground.

 Here's some eye-witness reports from the local papers in Goldsboro, NC

"So despite the fact the the military claims to have recovered many components of that Mark 39, those who live near the site say there is still a bomb in the ground."

Here's apparently a picture of the land where the bomb is buried under

According to comments here (formerspook.blogspot.com) of the two bombs that fell, the parachute on only 1 opened (apparently the bombs are designed to float down on parachutes) and that bomb was the one that was only 1 fail safe from detonating.  The one has parts still buried in the field apparently fell so fast that it was less of a risk and couldn't arm properly as they were designed to fall slowly by parachute and that process would arm them.  There's good comments at that site.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Voyager 1 leaves solar system

Cool story for the day.  The voyager 1 spacecraft has left the solar system about 43 yrs from it launch - according to changes in measurements on it's internal devices.  It's now at a distance of @ 121 times the distance from the earth to the sun.  It's a really good article.

Monday, September 9, 2013

NSA spying and international cohesion

I try to stay away from political stuff on here, but I've found an interesting theme arising in international news that seems worth thinking about.  It feeds into the observed lack of international cohesion on the Syria question - but it speaks largely to the fracturing of U.S. allies due to revelations of the NSA spying activities.  In Germany news in particular there has been "heavy" coverage of the Snowden leaks.  Here's a story from Spiegel online that shows the ongoing theme:

NSA Affair: Germans Conduct Helicopter Flyover of US Consulate

This isn't the only article - other international news sources like the BBC as well as an Indian news source I read have run quite a few articles about U.S. spying activities.  The summary impression is that there's a very high level of doubt that these activities (even if in concert and collaboration with the the nations themselves) center primarily around security and terror prevention.  The underlying theme of much of it is the U.S. as a bad guy.  We don't see this type sentiment much in the U.S. as those country's leaders still seem to publicly align with us on the surface - these are difficult issues - but the underlying sentiments of the people seem to be eroding.

I can't help but wonder if the lack of international cohesion in Syria is to a large degree a statement about  NSA spying activities that have been revealed.  Dependable allies that used to act as if we were on their side now seem to be sending a signal that they think we don't have their back anymore and/or are not acting in western interests.

Overall - I wonder if we're seeing a wider move toward more hands-off isolationism globally and recognition that some of the issues at hand are not presently solvable no matter what is done.  They're messy and are likely to stay messy for a long time.  Good thing or not?  We'll have to wait and see. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Portfolio holdings 9-2013

It's been a while since I posted positions so just wanted to go ahead and do that.   Below are my top stock holdings from larger to smaller

INTC Intel   (added to this recently)
WDC Western Digital
BRK.B Berkshire Hathaway
CMI Cummins
OUTR Coinstar (now called Outerwall)
CHRW CH Robinson Worldwide   (added to this recently)
NEU Newmarket
QCOM Qualcom   (added to this recently)
CTSH Cognizant Tech  (added to this recently)
CHKP Checkpoint Software
ORCL Oracle
CF  CF Industries 
....there are several more smaller positions but I'll stop here

Just looking through it I guess I'm a bit tech heavy right now.  It's not intentional - I guess the tech just looks attractive to me right now.

What I'm interested in and might be opening positions in soon:
SNI Scripps Networks - based on valuation and diversification reasons.  They have quite a bit of cable TV content like HGTV, Food Channel, Travel channel, among others, and seem to have decent growth prospects.

VMI Valmont Industries.  - another pick based on valuation and diversification.  They make a whole bunch of stuff related capital infrastructure like stoplight poles, light poles, guard rails, irrigation equipment, communication towers,  metal handrails/steps...  

Both of these are kindof boring businesses, but seem to be run well with high returns on capital which is something I look for - so boring in this context is a good thing.  I'm also kindof into boring at the moment as I'm trying to put together portfolios that I can hold for extended period of time without monitoring closely.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Encouraging response in congress around Syria question

I've been watching some of the C-SPAN congressional member's responses to the briefing given  today regarding Syria.  It's been a long time since I've seen congressional members speaking as thoughtfully and in what seems to be a deeply considered way.  At least right now this is not a conversation of predetermined talking points - but is an adult conversation that even seeks to help the public understand the issues in a broad way.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Solar eclipse on Mars

Wow, check this out.  A picture of a solar eclipse on Mars taken by the Mars Curiosity rover.  You can see the oblong shape of the Martian moon Phobos as it passes across the sun.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jeff Bezos buys the Washington Post newspaper

This is interesting.  Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, purchased the famous Washington Post newspaper .   When I first heard this my reaction was that "It makes sense that Amazon would buy this to integrate into the Kindle" and their content distribution system or something similar.  But that would be an incorrect impression.  Note that Jeff Bezos individually purchased the paper - not Amazon, and from the sound of things it's more the case of a rich benefactor stepping in to save one of the most respected papers in America from it's financial difficulties.  

Per Bezos:  “But the key thing I hope people will take away from this is that the values of The Post do not need changing. The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.”

Here's an article musing about some of the plans Bezos might have for the Washington Post and includes the observation that a) when you're marketing to folks it helps to intimately know that person's interests - and a relationship with the post could aid that, and b) e-commerce hasn't really been implemented effectively in a newspaper (other than lots of banner ads).  Could the Washington post be a forum to try something more effective?  There are other cool thoughts here also.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Brazil Nuts just aren't very good

Thought this was funny. I don't like Brazil Nuts all that much and often there are lots of them in the cans of mixed nuts at the store - and there tends to be lots of them left at the bottom of the can after I've eaten all the other types.  Apparently  I'm not alone - here's an informal survey indicating they're one of the least favorite nuts.

I'd assumed they were cheap and just there to take up volume, but according to this (at least at the time of the sample) Brazil nuts cost as much as many other nuts (Almonds, peanuts, Walnuts, and Cashews are all less or similar in cost). My favorites - pecans - are quite a bit more expensive which likely explains their scarcity in the mix.

But seriously - if Brazil nuts cost about the same as Almonds, Walnuts, and Cashews - then please substitute.

Digital Evolution

Here's an interesting simulation looking at complexity vs. fitness as measured by ability for these little digital programs to find their way through a digital maze using a limited number of sensors. From The Loom

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cancer Study

Here's an interesting study on chemotherapy survivability in mice. The researchers found ways to increase survivability in mice to 50-75% in what were otherwise lethal chemotherapy doses. quote: In the study, 50-to-75 percent of the mice treated with the molecule survived otherwise lethal doses of chemotherapy. All of the mice that did not receive the molecule died, Geng said.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

From garden today

got a nice little batch of okra today - probably make a couple panfulls for frying. Got another good bunch of tomatoes - I'm falling behind eating them as it is. Got just a few beans. Got another cucumber today too. I'm going to have to start eating the cucumbers faster - they're starting to pile up on me. I think I've got 4 in the fridge right now.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Test Ignore

Ignore this - I'm practicing some code Test clickable image code to go to GOG. Picture should be clickable image to click

Saturday, July 13, 2013

More garden 07-13

A few pictures from the garden today pickings

okra bloom from a few days ago - I thought they look kindof cool
4 o'clocks

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Surgery Center that posts prices

Check this out: A surgery center that posts guaranteed all inclusive prices - in Oklahoma City. They claim prices well below half the prices that most hospitals would charge. Might be worth a scheduling a trip if you're paying out of pocket - but they don't take Medicare or Medicaid. quote from the site: "If you have a high deductible or are part of a self-insured plan at a large company, you owe it to yourself or your business to take a look at our facility and pricing which is listed on this site. If you are considering a trip to a foreign country to have your surgery, you should look here first. Finally, if you have no insurance at all, this facility will provide quality and pricing that we believe are unmatched." originally saw this on Marginal Revolution site

Monday, July 8, 2013


Some picks from the garden

The garden
Some close-ups - okra, cucumber, beans, squash
Little tomato plant coming up from where one of last year's plants was

Friday, July 5, 2013


This was an interesting article about minimal DNA genomes - and bacteria being able to find ecological niches where they only have to do one thing really well, and count on the surrounding organisms to do the rest. Kind of like economic specialization. How Simple Can Life Get? It's Complicated

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

National Security and Noise in the data

I was thinking about the problems with so much security data being electronic and the apparent ease of electronic file theft, and it made me think back to some studies of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942. After the fact, historians can go back and try to piece together info saying that the warnings/clues were there, but before the fact it's all very noisy. Hindsight enables us to see the important info. That same principle applied on 9-11. Even when you might have some clues about an attack that may be coming - it's very difficult to put all the pieces together in advance. It makes me think maybe one of the best things we could do with national security data (or for corporations - critical corporate data) is intentionally seed the data with all sorts of bad data - making it so noisy that the info would be very difficult to use by spies. In the case of an insider like Snowden, perhaps make it so that some folks working with the data may not know whether it's real or not - despite the layers of encryption. My guess is alot of this already happens - allowing spies to capture intentionally false designs and bad info but allowing them to think it may be real. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks some leaks of this nature are probably intentional just to see what happens.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interesting Observation on gridlock and it's wider effects

I saw this article on congressional gridlock in the Washington Post Today. quote: "But much happens amidst congressional gridlock. It just happens in other, often less accountable, branches of government." It's an interesting perspective/observation: things keep happening even when there's gridlock, it's just that the people elected to legislate aren't making the decisions when they can't agree on anything. Other branches of the government keep doing what they do - like the Supreme Court or regulatory agencies - but these other branches can't do what congress can do to address issues - so the efforts are tangential and oblique. And often these other arms of government become the target of blame when congress itself has the ability to correct things if they were less gridlocked.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Social Breakdown and Overpopulation - a study with mice

I don't know how I ended up finding this - but here's an interesting study from 1978 that that creates a closed ecosystem of mice that removes most external threats and resource limits and studies what happens when overcrowding conditions develop. Here's the link to the paper: Death Squared by John B. Calhoun. The study documents the social breakdown of the mice, who eventually lose ability to properly socially interact and maintain their social structures. The entire group of mice was on the way to extinction when the study ended despite a top population of over 2000 mice from early in the study. The contrast of instinctual and learned behaviors are far fuzzier than I would've expected. At the end, even when removed from the crowded conditions remaining mice were socially unable to form a social order and/or reproduce. They had been biologically "broken" absent proper socialization throughout their lives.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Unexpected link between cicada and bird populations...

...and it's exactly opposite of what you'd think. I've seen birds feasting on cicadas during an outbreak here and assumed birds were thriving on cicada outbreaks - so many to eat they fill up before they can eat them all - but it turns out something else may be going on. During Cicada Boom, Birds Mysteriously Vanish one of the more interesting ideas I've read in a short while

Monday, June 17, 2013

Little Garden pictures

It's not quite Danny's garden... I noticed the rabbits had chewed up about 3 of my bean plants in the past couple of days - in the back right. None of the rest of the radishes is going to turn out - they weren't very good anyway. I'm going to put some onions out in the front - none of the first came up. Click the photos for bigger ones you can see better

Friday, June 7, 2013

The devil made me do it

Aggh. Hadn't heard of this. Toddler's Exorcism Death... And apparently there's a lengthy history of deaths of children during attempted exorcisms.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bernie Madoff has some ideas on how to clean up Wall Street

In this interview of Bernie Madoff he gives some advice to investors to protect your investments. Among the tips: indexing is probably best way to go Some other ideas: 1) SEC needs more investigative resources. He says they don't have resources to investigate people like him, and even then rarely have good talent to catch dedicated scammers like himself. 2) Quote of Madoff: "Brokerages and advisers should have independent custodians and the government should have forced me to have an independent custodian." 3) Hedge funds should be registered. 4) Accounting firms should audit each other's audits to verify they're done correctly. Quote: "a proper audit would uncover most of the fraud that exists — including my own fraud."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cosmological natural selection

Here's an interesting hypothesis the researcher Lee Smolin calls "cosmological natural selection." Here's a quote from the article where he's asked a question about looking at universe formation and black holes in a Darwinian, evolutionary context. Pretty interesting thought experiment:

John Wheeler had already speculated that when this happens, the laws of nature are reborn again, in the new baby universe; he called it reprocessing the universe. What I had to add to this to make it work like a model of natural selection, was that the changes passed form parent to child universe are very slight so there can be an accumulation of fitness. This hypothesis leads to the conclusion that assuming our universe is a typical member of this population of universes as it develops after many, many generations, that the universe is going to be finely tuned to produce many black holes.
Anyhow, I thought it was an interesting perspective with interesting conclusions.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vertical Farming

Uncle Danny, if you read this - here's an idea for your next greenhouse for year-round plants. Uses colored high efficiency LEDs allowing you to stack plants vertically and densely and still give them the light they need. Vertical 'Pinkhouses:' The Future Of Urban Farming?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More people living inside this circle...

I saw this link from Marginal Revolution today. More people live inside this circle than without. File this under "something new I learned today."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Questions for the Day

1. Why is there a jet stream? Why does it blow from west to east?

2. Why is it so much colder on the poles than around the equator? Can more direct vs. more indirect exposure to solar radiation really explain such large temperature differences? Does stored heat transfer explain much of the rest (stored in ground/water/atmosphere)?

edit: so here's what I've read. 1 and 2 are related, so I'll start with #2 as it feeds into #1.

#2. There are several reasons for temperature differences in equator and poles, but the primary seems to be an effect of the curvature of the earth and solar energy incoming. While the amount of sun hitting the earth at the equator and poles is almost the same (we're so far away from the sun the difference in distance and slight incoming angle is negligible - like a lighthouse far away), but the amount of solar radiation at the poles is spread out over a larger surface area due to the curvature of the earth.

Here's the best link I could find that shows the difference and how the earth's curvature is the defining factor. According to the slides here it says at the equator each square meter of earth gets about 400 Watts / second of energy, while the same square meter angled at the poles gets about 180 Watts / second.

Here's another link that was good in this regard.

That said, there are considerable other factors in play. One good example is that the south pole tends to be 30-40 degrees F colder than the north pole - due in part to the south pole being on land and at higher elevation, while the north pole is ice on top of an ocean.

Now for #1. Why the jet stream and why does it blow west to east? This in part apparently is due to the rotation of the earth - but counter-intuitively the jet stream blows in the direction of the rotation of the earth. (The earth also spins west to east.). The answer here seems to tie into the fact that things at the equator are moving faster than things at the poles. (If you think about it like a record player, you could sit on the north pole/center of the record player and you'd spin, but you'd not go anywhere. As you move out from the center of the record player/toward the equator you begin picking up rotational speed).

Now where this gets counter intuitive to me the air at the equator is also moving faster right along with the earth spinning. As it gets hotter that air naturally seeks to mix with cooler air, so the only direction it can go is north or south. As it moves north or south that air also takes its faster relative speed with it - so as it moves north/south it also moves eastward through conservation of momentum. Scientists call this the Coriolis effect.

The jet stream itself seems more of a complicated interaction between different air fronts (I still don't really understand why distinct warm and cold air fronts exist in the first place as discussed in an earlier post), but the general direction is related to the spinning of the earth and the higher momentum of equatorial air as it moves away from equator.

I found this not intuitive at all, and difficult to get my head around how the wind advances in front of the spin of the earth, but here's a link

Now the most interesting post I came across was this: How would you make a planet similar to earth, but have more extreme weather? Very interesting discussion of impact of water, location of water, land masses, and length of day impacts on climate.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Funny (sad?) comment on budget issues

Army says it doesn't need any more tanks - "we need to use the money elsewhere." Congress says, "nope, you get more tanks." It's an interesting read as to "why" - but essentially it sounds like it's difficult to kill an un-needed program if you spread the money around to enough districts. Kindof hard to rail about budget deficits when this goes on.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tocqueville quote

I saw this quote of Tocqueville today

"our only options have long been co-thriving or no thriving."

I'd never seen it before, but it a keen observation on humanity and development of individualism. It seems a catchy way of saying "a rising tide lifts all ships" whether we see ourselves helped by the rising water or not. Here's where I saw it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Jammin on a Dean Z Select guitar

I had this guitar out the other day and had Trish take some pictures. I thought it was just a cool looking guitar and got it "for the video". I think it's called a Dean Z Select.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why does hot air rise / why does a hot (hotter) molecule rise?

I was opening the freezer earlier thinking about all the cold air that rushes out when I open the door. I got to wondering if it came out so quickly because of the "suction action" of pulling on the freezer door (would opening the door slowly make a difference?) and I was wondering if the cold air just came falling out because of gravity (kindof like if the freezer was full of sand and I opened the door I'd expect the sand to fall out). But that got me to thinking that there's already air at a lower level than the freezer (warmer air, but still air none-the-less). So why should the cold air want to trade places with the warm air.

In my mind the mental model was similar to the trick of taking a can of mixed nuts and shaking it. The big brazil nuts tend to shake to the top of the can, and the little peanuts tend to shake to the bottom. If the big nuts could move to the bottom of the can they would, but they can't - there are too many little nuts in the way. This by itself doesn't explain anything other than in a statistical way saying it's easier for the big nuts to move upwards.

Anybody shaking a jar of sand with a rock in it sees the same thing - put the rock in the bottom of the jar - fill the jar with sand - shake it - and gradually the big rock moves to the top. It's not that gravity acts any differently on the big rock or on the grains of sand, but the big rock just has less opportunity to move downward because every time it moves - a smaller grain moves in under the big rock preventing downward movement. The only direction the big rock _can_ move is up. Similarly in my mind gravity should work on a hot and cold air molecule similarly - so it seems gravitational force should cancel. (put a hot and cold molecule in a vacuum and is there any tendency for one to move upward and the other downward? so it seems like this is more of an emergent statistical system dynamic at work where the "hot air rises/cool air sinks" tendency may come from.)

So in this model the big brazil nuts or the big rock represent the warmer air molecules, and the little nuts or the grains of sand represent the cooler air molecules. The warmer molecules have more energy and bounce around more - so they're creating more space around themselves - which when the opportunity presents itself - the cooler air from the freezer is perfectly happy to fill if given the chance. The warm air molecule might certainly try to bounce downward but is more likely to run into resistance that prevents it. The cooler molecules are less bouncy and have less energy - so its tougher for them to rise vs. gravity, and being less bouncy can also be closer together (like the sand or peanuts).

Ehhh. Anyway, that's how I was thinking of it. I looked up a google search and this discussion came up as the first search result.

It's a pretty interesting read. Discussion of bouyancy, gas densities, behaviors of gases in magnetic fields, and some other things. It still has the feel of "here's what happens and it can be explained what will happen," but the underlying why it happens as it does seems a little more amorphous to me. There's one post that actually says something along the lines of: "why aren't the energetic warmer particles as likely to move downward as upward?" I think maybe they do try to move downward, but they're less successful because that's where more cool particles are likely to be - because the cooler particles have less of a choice - the cooler air can't overcome gravity as well and is more statistically likely to be in the way.

If you take this scenario into space without gravity, and have 2 equal cannisters of same #molecules of a gas - and released it - I'd think youd end up with with an expanding sphere, with more warm particles farther from the center, and more cool air particles toward the center of the sphere.

I wonder if you tried the same experiment in space with mixed nuts or sand/rock, would the bigger nuts and bigger rocks end up farther out from the sphere with more smaller nuts/grain sands staying toward the inside of the sphere?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Food Pics

I was cleaning off my camera and wanted to post a couple food pics I thought were cool.

I call this one celery:

And I call this one chili:

Friday, March 29, 2013

More Placebo effect

The Placebo effect is fairly interesting to me. I've probably blogged about it some before - but as most know it's a name given to the effect produced simply by giving people a "fake" treatment. It could be sugar pills. It could be a suggestion - like if you're told boys are expected to do better in math - they might. It could be the idea that you heard there's something in the water - and more people get sick - or even ideas of mass hysteria in cases. We seem to have a propensity to be able to "worry ourselves sick" as much as we can "expect ourselves to health." If given a placebo (fake treatment) - if the patient is told both of benefits and negative side effects - the patient will likely experience _both_ increased benefits and negative side effects of the fake treatment. Anyhow, the idea that our mental expectations influence outcomes and reality is quite interesting. And there's some data that the placebo effect is increasing over time. To the point that apparently it's becoming a problem for pharmaceutical companies when trying to show drug efficacy. Well, here's an interesting article discussion about a methodology pharmaceutical companies may start using to try to minimize the placebo effect. It sounds fishy to me, but is premised on the idea that some people may be more prone to placebos than others, and that perhaps placebo responders can be weeded out of clinical trials.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Massively Incomplete Markets

This blog post is thought provoking in an economics-sort-of-way. Why we do what we do when it's not our job. "We live in a world of Massively Incomplete Markets."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sounds like me - wide awake at night

I've always tended to be what is called a night owl - functioning best at night rather than in the mornings. When I should be going to bed I find myself most alert and engaged. Even when dog tired during the day I'd often find myself that same night forcing myself to go to bed just because I had to get up soon. Sometimes I'd find myself staying up to 2-3 even 4 in the morning even though I knew I had to get up in 3 or 4 hours. It wasn't insomnia - I could sleep easily - just not when I wanted to. But at night I was simply wide awake, not sleepy, and wanting to do things. If I tried to go to bed earlier I'd often just roll around until later in the morning.

Left to my own devices without a set schedule I find I'm very capable of getting completely off kilter with the normal day/night schedule. From a young age I often felt like my clock was set to 25 or 26 hour days - it's always been easy to stay up late - and generally a struggle to get going in the morning. I kind of felt like something was wrong with me because of Ben Franklin's quote about "early to bed, early to rise..."

Anyhow, I noticed this effect drastically the other day when I was draggy much of the day after about 3-4 hours of sleep. I found myself wanting to take a nap even about 12 hours after I woke up. But then I hit a certain point and it's like everything in me lights up at full go and I'm easily good for another 6-8 hours - very clear headed and motivated - and I have to force myself to go to bed just because I know I need to remembering how draggy I was during the day.

So I did a web search to investigate what may be going on. This interesting article popped up: Tired in the Morning and Awake at Night?

It says there's a thing called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome that is characteristic of this - and it's essentially due to biological clocks being out of whack. The fancy term is Circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Now I don't think what I have is very severe, because I can still force myself to wake up whenever I need to - but again - left to my own devices I do think my body may run on abnormally long days - and I've always had groggy mornings for as long as I can remember. Apparently there's a thing called light therapy that I could try if I wanted to test things - it'd involve sitting in front of very bright lights right after waking up each day to shock my clock back into time. (I think this idea has been shown to work for overcoming jet lag also). Maybe put a flood light staring me in the face while I ride my exercise bike?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pump and Dump

More on Wall Street gaming the system. Rotten to the core. This story suggests that investment bank practice might involve underpricing IPOs initially - and then given allocation to the IPO to preferred specific firms, who immediately flip the stock for profits when price moves upward to match market demand. Instead of the IPO company getting the cash, it's skimmed instead by these preferred clients. In return investment banks require the preferred clients to find some way to return the favor, completing the virtuous cycle. I guess the bottom line here - is firms going to Wall Street to help them raise cash for an IPO shouldn't expect the investment bank to be in their corner, even when they're paying fees to the investment bank to do the job.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bees like caffeine too

Just like people like caffeine in our drinks, bees seem to like caffeine in their nectar too and go back to flowers whose nectar has more caffeine. I didn't know this, but caffeine occurs naturally in plants as a poison to predators that eat them, but caffeine in smaller doses that is present in nectar seems to attract pollinators. So my question is: Are we built so that caffeine is good for us, or are we just addicted - or is a little bit of both?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rand Paul filibuster

I normally try to stay away from political-type posts, but I was riding my exercise bike today I came across Rand Paul's filibuster over the CIA director nomination on C-Span. While I'm normally not a fan of actions like this that add to gridlock - I appreciate what Paul was doing, and hope the focus he puts on privacy and rights gains some traction. His particular focus was on the usage of drones, but the bigger argument he stressed was about privacy, rights to privacy, and the scope of personal freedom and governmental security concerns.

I'd thought about this for a while - especially as it regards to terrorism and post 9-11 realities. I was particularly concerned about things like wire-taping, holding suspects indefinitely without charges, enhanced interrogation techniques / torture, and just the general framework of how you adapt to real and dangerous asymmetrical threats while still maintaining a free and open society.

I believe it was Newt Gingrich who I saw speaking about this quite a while back - and he proposed a dual law enforcement system with a "wall" between it and the normal law enforcement system. I could be misattributing to Gingrich, but I liked the model proposed where certain asymmetric threats like terrorism are prosecuted under a different set of laws - outside of the normal judicial system. Additionally, if increased surveilence is needed - it should be very clearly and restrictively defined as to how any data collected can be used so that this type of surveilance does not turn into "fishing" expeditions for other agendas. For example: with drones it would probably be easy for law enforcement to track any of us 24 hours a day for our entire lives, and use NSA data to sneak into all of our phone conversations, and probably eventually at some point have so many microphones set up that even just basic conversations we have everyday are captured somewhere. Facial recognition technology is being employed in places already to identify people, and as technology gets better anonymity in public is going to be greatly reduced.

When I've talked to friends about this, worrying about computerized monitoring of phone calls (is it so crazy to be concerned given the ability of computers to mass translate speech now?), they say "well, if you're not doing anything wrong what are you worried about?". The thing is that the people in power running those systems don't always use them the way they're supposed to. For example, Martin Luther King had has reportedly had a 17,000 page FBI file and had running wiretaps on him from 1958 until his death. Any chance info uncovered was used improperly to intimidate and put leverage on him? Or, Richard Nixon and staff utilized wiretaps to find information on political enemies and this ultimately led to his resignation. So the question to me isn't whether we should be concerned about privacy - I think it's pretty clear we should assume that those in power have a tough time respecting privacy when it's inconvenient to do so. As a result it makes sense to me to say that if this power to invade privacy is going to exist, very clear rules about how this power is used need to be designed.

If this requires a constitutional amendment, the so be it (it'd probably be a good national debate to have) but we've seen cases such as the Rico statute where the law is modified to see a pattern of behavior as constitution a criminal enterprise - and this in particular was used to target mafia crime families. It addressed how do you prosecute an enterprise that exists, but those running the enterprise only give orders - but never carry out the crime themselves? This sounds alot like the the asymmetrical aspects of terrorism where you have certain leaders who incite or command dangerous activity, but don't carry out the activity themselves. To me it would seem cleaner if we would have a constitutional amendment clarifying how we deal with these types of situations where it seems some basic rights like Rand Paul mentions are potentially being infringed - especially the right to privacy. I don't think there's any way to stop what technology is going to be able to do in the future, but we can carve out how that technology can and cannot be used and how it relates to civil rights.

edit: Gail Collins had a good op-ed in the NYTimes about this filibuster also.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Superbugs and Antibiotic resistance

Scientific American has been running a series of articles on antibiotic resistance recently. Here's a good Here's a good blog post building on that conversation.. quote: "Until there are restrictions on antibiotic use—saving them as a national security treasure—and requirements to use them judiciously, we will never control antibiotic resistance."

Friday, March 1, 2013

Harmonic Series Guitar

I was reading some stuff about the derivation of musical scales - the math behind why things sound the way they do - and came upon the harmonic series.

The harmonic series mathematically is the series (a sum) like this:   1+1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4+1/5 +.... +1/n up to infinity.  In nature there are natural resonances in vibrating objects (like a guitar string, or organ pipe) that are these ratios of the string or pipe's length, so there's thinking these resonances may be related to why musical scales sound good to us.

From the "A Mind For Madness" Blog, this blogger (that ties the harmonic series to musical overtones and discusses the idea that perhaps the musical scales used have their "musical-ness" due to their relationship to this natural resonant properties that's expressed in the harmonic series. I first read about this idea on his blog, so I'll give credit there, although it's entirely possible this idea may be out there elsewhere.

 Vocalist showing the harmonic overtone capabilities in his voice - kindof freaky right?

Now obviously, from the above video you can tell that the resonances don't tie directly the current dominant equal tempered musical scale that we have, but there are many resonances that happen right on the musical scale where we have musical notes.  The 7 note in this video (click link) really stands out as being foreign to our current musical scale, but most of other note positions are familiar.

Hear the harmonic scale in action. Here's guitarist Dante Rosati who's composed a piece of music using the harmonic scale.  It's definitely different, but something foreign it's still quite cohesive and even a bit hypnotic if you ask me.  Pretty cool stuff.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Smart Machines

Check this out.  A mini-helicopter that can balance a pole - and toss it to another copter which catches it - at least it worked once.  Pretty amazing.

Friday, February 22, 2013

1913 meteor event over North America and Atlantic

The recent meteor event in Russia has stirred up interest in other meteor events in the newswires, and I came across this account from a 1913 event over northern North America, with most of the sightings from around the Great Lakes area exteding to the coast and into several reports by ships in the the Atlantic.

This event was odd in that the meteors apparently were traveling nearly tangent to the earth's atmosphere, sortof skimming along at very high altitude and not crashing down like the more recent Russian event.  This cluster of meteors apparently skimmed across the sky in a long trail lasting several minutes.

The linked article has a picture painted by artist/amateur astronomer Gustav Hans from his vantage point in Toronto as it passed over the night sky.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dream Imagery

I occasionally take time to think about my dreams when I wake up, and recently I've noticed a change in character from the often disorganized/chaotic/confused mess that most dreams are.  There's occasionally a nice story arc I'm noticing in some.

As I thought about the most recent night's dream this morning I almost passed over/discarded some details until I thought about it some more.  The more I thought about it I just smiled as I was impressed with what was going on in my head.

Now, discarding a really bad haircut that I was conned into getting - the main image theme that kept coming back to me was that of being in a large sports arena.  For some reason I'd taken a long trip to get to this arena and watch the event.  But about half of the seats were empty, and the fans weren't all that excited about the game.  Just kindof sitting there passively watching.  All over the arena on the floor in front of the empty seats were blank pieces of paper - kind of like they were put there to advertise "this seat is available" when you go to pick out available season ticket seating in some places.  Anyhow, I was sitting there and wasn't interested in the game going on at all.  I couldn't even see it - obstructions in my view - maybe people standing/ or construction underway (not sure) - but either way I didn't care.  So I got up and weaved my way through all the other people scattered about rows around me and made my way to the aisle to leave.  Instead of walking upwards to exit though, I walked down toward the court (I think it was a basketball court) because the exit I needed was on the other side of the arena. The game wasn't over yet, but when I got to the aisle I found the aisle crowded with lots of other folks leaving too.  As I tried to go down the steps I had to step to the side because it seemed like work was underway down in front of the court.  I almost missed the significance of this part - or didn't pay attention to it at first, but it was cheerleaders who were folding up the chairs and pulling up the steps as I was walking down.

As I wound my way around the court and then outside all of a sudden everything was deserted.  The parking lots were empty.  No vehicles anywhere.  Setting was a small town not unlike some I grew up in.  Everybody had already left and I was wondering how I was going to get back home because I didn't have a vehicle.  So I started walking down the small street worried how I was going to make my trip back home.  I got to an old junk lot on the side of the road - with gravel on the ground - and was wondering where my ride was.  And then I just started hearing an engine running.  I looked around - nobody was anywhere - but I kept hearing the running of this old clunky engine.  Gradually I found it.  It was coming from an old timey car - like a Model T I guess - and it was stashed in with other junk.  It was a tiny car - like the size of a bumper car.

When I saw the little car with it's engine still running I remembered it from a portion of a dream I'd had very early in the night.  I remembered encountering this old little car running in the junk pile prior to going to the arena.  The little car was in terrible shape, wheels all bent, rusted, in a mud puddle, debris inside - but I remember the engine on it was running even then, and thinking or saying "Well, if all else fails I guess I can drive home in this."   Well, this image had returned to me at the end of the dream right before I woke up.  I started pulling out junk from around the little car to free it, dumping out accumulated water from the junk, worried about mosquitos, pulling debris off of it.  And underneath the debris were two big red gas cans.  And they sloshed when I moved them - they had gas in them.  So I put them in the trunk of the little junky car.  At this point I woke up with the feeling that I knew that little car could get me back home.

The story arc and ending of this dream was odd in that it resolved interestingly and positively.  I had a similar dream a few weeks ago that similar - with a positive resolution that was surprisingly logical.  Usually dreams for me would degrade into getting lost, nonsensical disconnected events, that type of thing - so it surprises me when they make a good deal of sense and conclude nicely.

My Interpretation:
So as I thought about this, at first I just recounted the events in my mind without really getting the gist of what was going on.  But gradually the big picture began to take shape that made me smile at the analogy that I think my mind was building.

You see I quit my job last year - and I think the dream imagery ties into thinking about quitting work.  To me, the arena and the game represented my company.  It's a place I wanted to go to - something I wanted to be a part of.  And the fans represented the workers.  It makes sense to me that we couldn't really see the game, because the work we do is often far disconnected from what happens in the overall game.  And it makes sense in that context that the fans just weren't that into it.  In my experience a lot of employees work hard and do their best, but really don't know whether what they're doing makes a difference to whether their team wins or loses - kindof like a fan's cheering.  Obviously, me losing interest in the game and walking to the exit represents my decision to leave the company....

But here's the interesting thing that almost missed - remember that the cheerleaders were putting away the chairs and dismantling the steps while the game was still going on.  I almost missed this part as part of the ambiance of the dream - but as I thought about it I realized this relates directly to an undercurrent I felt about our company at the end - that the cheerleaders were encouraging us in our work to achieve outwardly stated corporate goals - but in reality I did feel that some of it was exactly that: cheerleading.  I felt like the strategy we were pursuing wasn't working and despite our best efforts we weren't making headway.  And it would not be a stretch to say that I felt like they knew it wasn't going to work as designed, but that they had to continue to try to execute the plan given to them from higher up anyway.   Again, this is all my perception, but the image of the cheerleaders packing up the chairs and the steps while the game was still going on tapped into subtly into this impression I already had.   When even the cheerleaders a packing it up, it's time to go.

The deserted setting in after leaving the arena makes sense in this context of me now being out on my own now, and then wondering how I get home makes sense in this context.  Another thing that surprised me was this old little junky car on the side of the road.  Its' little engine was still "putting" along like it was before all the rest of the dream happened.  And despite the crooked wheel, small size, and rusty exterior - I thought this little car and a couple cans of gas could get me where I needed to go.

I had to smile at this.  And at the same time be pretty amazed at what sometimes goes on inside my head at night.

Things that go boom

NYT article had an article this morning pointing out renewed interest in dangers posed by meteors and the need to do some better sky surveys following the recent undetected meteor that exploded over Russia a couple days ago.

It probably also reminded us all of the Tanguska event in 1908 that occurred over a remote area of Siberia.  Apparently the Tanguska meteor (or maybe comet?) was only about an estimated 100 meters across (a little more than a full football field), and according to wikipedia "The Tunguska explosion knocked down an estimated 80 million trees over an area covering 2,150 square kilometres (830 sq mi) (i.e. circular area of 52km in diameter)."
Apparently NASA was recently awarded with 2 decommissioned high powered Defense department  telescopes - supposedly with capabilities greater than Hubble.  But while the telescopes are space ready, they'd need to be upgraded for space and then would need to be launched.  Could they perhaps /should they be put to use doing dangerous meteor hunting?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bubbles and talent diversion

I was reading a book called _Analyze This_ recently that was detailing many examples of how computer algorithms are increasingly used in the world.  It describes a lot of exciting things (like algorithms that write songs), and a lot of not so exciting things (like algorithms that create financial catastrophes).  The talent tends to go where the money is, and the book describes how the financial bubble siphoned off so much of the best talent - usually math, science, engineering students with advanced degrees - to Wall Street.  When Wall Street crashed that talent moved to Silicon Valley where much is being directed at Social Media and web interactions currently.

The chain of events led to this quote by Jeff Hammerbacher that summed up well his experience on both Wall Street and at Facebook as this:  "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads...  That sucks."

He's now founded a startup called Cloudera dedicated to organizing large sets of unstructured data that would have a wide range of applications.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Abandoned Images

I saw a link to this page on the Marginal Revolution website.  I tend to like images that show nature taking back from civilization, but these are exceptional photos of deserted places.

Reminds me of photos like this I took in in either Alabama or Florida.

Gaia hypothesis in action

This story about the recent spread of foraminifera across the ocean seems to fit James Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis" that the earth behaves as a large self regulating system.  The increased ocean temperatures and increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere create a changing environment conducive to the creatures which convert the excess carbon dioxide into calcium deposits.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More than Profit Maximization?

I normally don't agree with Paul Farrell's articles, but this resonated on so many points similar to a post a short while ago on January 13th "On Shareholders" that I wanted to post a link. 

10 Signs Wall Street's Soul Sickness Grows Worse

The article by Farrell follows a similar theme that corporate culture has morphed into a singular focus on profits (in this case bank's focus on profits) has caused our corporations to often behave psychotically - without regard for their impacts on broader society.  Underneath it all it seems like Farrell is pointing to a theme that doing the right thing is not necessarily in the scope of what corporations try to do anymore (if that's what they ever did), but especially now decisions are increasingly made based upon short term profit motives without regard for the rightness or wrongness of an action.  Instead, rightness or wrongness becomes a PR problem - a messaging problem - a smokescreen of discussion that obfuscates that a decision was made for profit maximization purposes only.

If you read Farrell's article I think you'll agree there's little defense for the terrible actions of the banks other than they could make a lot of money doing it, and they thought they could get away with it.

As a shareholder in companies I want them to behave better - even if it means a degree of lower profitability.  By all means corporations have to have profitability as a top priority, but it's not the only priority.  It's OK to leave a little bit on the table and still make a better effort to do the right thing.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Carbon capture finding

Interesting biological study finds apparently efficient way to convert carbon dioxide into a carbonate via chemical reaction with nickel.  Comes from a study on Sea Urchins as reported by BBC news.

quote: "Researchers say that the natural ability of sea urchins to absorb CO2 could be a model for an effective carbon capture and storage system."

The process is also called "very cheap." The article discusses possible implementation w/ power plant and has a nice image detailing the flow of the process.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Shadow of an atom

At first I was like:  "An atom is too small to cast a shadow,"  but it turns out they focus a very specific color light that's absorbed by this element to generate this rough image.  Here's the link

Here's another link with an additional illustration w/ perspective of how the shadow was generated.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What is a TV viewer worth?

I don't watch alot of TV, but when I ride my exercise bike I turn on the TV to try to distract myself from the boring ride.  Many (most) days I simply can't find a single thing on worth watching anymore - and even when I can find something to watch I began to notice all the advertising that keeps interrupting the shows.  And it got me to thinking about how much I pay to have the TV channels, and that I'm paying for them to ship all this advertising to me, and I should at least get something that can sufficiently distract me for the hour a day I ride my exercise bike.

So I got to wondering how much me watching a show was actually worth to the networks - and some of the estimates I've seen are pretty low.

Here's an estimate of $0.10 per hour that advertisers pay per viewer.

Here's another estimate of $0.04 per hour.

So I'm thinking the days of cable TV being able to charge $50-$60 per month are about to end, because even if I watch an outrageous amount of 40 hours of TV per week - that's only $4 a week at prices advertisers are paying for my eyeballs / or $16 per month.  If a forum is setup for me to buy my programming directly from the networks via internet download - costs should drop dramatically.   Should....

Here's a quote saying the Superbowl is getting $3.5 to $4 million for a 30 second spot.  Apparently 111 million viewers - or about $0.04 per single viewer for 30 second slot - (or $0.08 per viewer per advertising minute) and they run alot of ads on the superbowl - so obviously the superbowl per hour is much higher.  But lets say they run 20 minutes of ads during an hour of the Superbowl - so that comes in at 20 x $0.08 = $1.60 per hour per viewer, and that's the absolute upper bound of cost for the most watched show in the history of TV.

So my thought is related to digital products in this way -
- We have self publishing where authors sell directly to end customer without intermediary.  Amazon/Barnes and Noble.
- Music is being sold this way - we can all publish our own albums now.
- Why are TV shows not being sold this way via micro-transactions at closer to the cost that they're paying advertisers?  It seems the networks and content providers could make a good bite of cash and improve margins by selling direct to the end user digitally.

I'll pay more than $0.04/hr of content, more than $0.10/hr of content, just to watch the stuff without all the ads and actually have something interesting to watch when I want to ride my bike.  And I don't feel like I need to pay very high cable fees, or monthly charges for the access to DVR or whatever other technology exists.

An internet connection is a must, but it seems to me TV is doing to itself what radio did many years ago - through consolidation and by diluting and degrading the product in many ways.  This drove many to other outlets like satellite radio, and to their own portable music/entertainment on their phones/mp3 players.  Is TV programming not far behind from going this same route?

Some will say that it already has, but from what I can tell the costs for alternate methods can still be quite a bit higher than the costs I'm quoting ($0.04 to $0.10 per hour of viewing) - so I'm thinking there's considerable room for the market to shake out.  Buying DVD's or streaming services still seems to come in at considerably higher prices than what advertisers say I'm worth.

I really want something I can hook to my router - pick the shows I want to watch - and buy them ala-carte.  Of course I can't count on anything to stream via my internet connection right now - but in theory I would like to sit down at my exercise bike - click a button - and buy a couple old Seinfeld episodes to watch for $0.10-$0.20 or so and be done with it for that day.

I sortof agree with this post:  Here's what buying movies and TV shows looks like 
quote:  "people are actually trying to give Hollywood money, and Hollywood is just ignoring them."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gravity Wells

I thought this image portraying the gravity wells in the solar system was pretty good.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Holdings 1-21

Just a listing of top holdings as of 1-18 from more to less

CMI  Cummins
BRK.B  Berkshire Hathaway - B class
WDC  Western Digital
NEU  NewMarket Corp
AAPL  Apple
CSTR  Coinstar
INTC  Intel
JOY   Joy Global
CF   CF Industries
GES   Guess
APEI   American Public Education

- I'm a little concerned that NEU's value has run up quite a bit and their last quarter was slower.  They have earnings coming up on 1-29.  Currently they seem to be at or near upper bounds of valuation ranges, so I'm taking it that the market expects good results.  If not I'm a little worried.
- INTC Intel  issued cautious outlook, but I'm hanging in there with them.  I have a difficult time seeing them not being major player w/ big cost advantages.
- JOY Joy Global is the most recent addition.  They make heavy capital equipment for mining.

Looking out there - if I add money to the market right now it'll probably be more to these existing positions, or only in a few smaller positions in smaller companies I have my eye on.  I've looked at MSFT some, but am going to hold off now due to margins and slow revenue - but I'm going to keep eye open.  They look so inexpensive and are paying an easily sustainable 3.4% or so yield right now.   I'm also looking a bit at a dividend payer YZC, the largest chinese coal mining company with ADRs here.  Growth demands need energy, but it is coal and I read many stories about air quality problems in China, so not sure how demand situation will play out.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Shareholders

I've been thinking a bit about the fallacy of shareholder "ownership" in the context of stock ownership.  My thoughts on the matter increasingly have me thinking many (most?) companies are run for the benefit of the managers and that aligning incentives w/ those of managers is key.  Some of this stems from a book by Jack Bogle discussing how capitalism doesn't work without effective owners - sorry can't remember which book - but also stems from observations that most corporate execs make out pretty well whether the company does well or not (unlike shareholders).

Now granted, stockholders aren't really "all that."   In reality stockholders are largely a diluted group often without any long-term stake and without any real say in anything that goes on in the company.  There's this idea that decisions in the company should be made with consideration of interests of shareholders, but in reality it's fair to question how high on the list shareholders are. I mean really, what more have most shareholders done than provide liquidity in capital markets?  To make shareholders paramount greatly overstates their importance in the scheme of things.

Right now I'm reading a book by Lynn Stout called The Shareholder Value Myth that says we'd probably be better off being honest with ourselves and stop trying to say we run companies for the benefit of shareholders, because even though it's a nice idea - we don't (although sometimes short term shareholders can gain sway at expense of longer term holders).  Often the only say shareholders get in anything is either to buy or sell stock.  

I found this link on the web that has a good article arguing a similar point called "What do shareholders own?"

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just listened to my first LP (aka "record album") in decades

Hi all,   I just listened to my first LP / album / "record" in decades - probably since high school.  I've heard the children today call them "those big CDs."

Anyhow, my Mom used to have a Gemini turntable that she'd use for her square dancing classes, and I've had it here at the house planning to make sure that it works and probably list it for sale on craigslist assuming all works well.

Anyhow, I hooked it up and went and got one of the old albums I had from high school back in the 1980s to play to test it on.  The album was Van Halen's "Diver Down."  Yes, I'm such a pack rat that I still have albums in storage that I haven't played in 20+ years - "just in case."

As I was listening to the album it struck me how the listening experience of music has changed since when I was younger.    I couldn't just skip the songs very easily like I can now.  Instead I put the album on and let it play through one side continuously, and then flipped the records and listened to the other side - also continuously - until I got to the last song - the cover of "Happy Trails"- and I couldn't quite make it through that one.  But it made me realize how the format of the music influenced how I listened.  If a song came on that I didn't care for I couldn't just skip forward - I had to patiently listen.  It makes for a different listening experience - and I actually kindof enjoyed it.  It makes me want to hook up my "good" speakers and listen through them instead of my "sortof OK" PC speakers.

I have a small pile of records to go through, both 33s and 45s, so I'll probably pull out another one an listen tomorrow - maybe that big foldout Boston album!