Archive for October, 2009

Wow, I was taking a look at the March 2010 call options for UUP (USD bullish) and I was amazed to see 155,000+ contracts interest at the $24 strike level.   The December 2009 $23 call options are trading 176,000+ contract interest and that’s just AMAZING!

I am seriously tempted at buying 50 or so contracts just to gamble with and see how that pans out.   Since the world over is now bashing the USD, then it must be naturally the time to invest in it.   Of course, it is possible that the USD descends into the abyss but the more deeply I think about it the less likely I think it is to happen.

I’ll wait till the end of October and make a decision next week to see what I’m gonna do but it is interesting the volume is so high.

According to the WSJ, Costco will begin to accept food stamps and I’m confused.   First, you need to pay a membership fee to be inside a Costco so who would be using food stamps there?   The last bastion of rift-raff free shopping is coming to an end!   I’m so disappointed by this that I don’t know what I’m going to do.  While the WSJ articles claims that membership rose after accepting the food stamps,  it’s only a matter of time before it suffers the “Wal-mart effect” of attracting the dregs of society and pushing away the more affluent customer.

It seems Costco has become yet another company accepting short term gains by sacrificing long term customers.   I can already envision that same lady I see at the grocery store and the rare time I shop at a Wal-mart arguing with the cashier, “what ya mean dis cu’pon not good?”   and of course the classic, “how much is it?  ok, put that back, how much is it now?  Ok, put that back, how much is it now?” routine.

Hey Costco, here’s what you can expect:

1. Dirty filthy isles.

2. Dirty filthy parking lots as people change their kids diapers (and car motor oil) and leave all the garbage behind.  Along with open bottles, wrappers and a variety of other garbage.

3. A bunch of opened, half-eaten packages of whatever.

4. Lots of arguing at the checkout lane with the cashiers.

5. Lots of time wasted at the check out lane as frustrated shoppers roll their eyes while they wait for the drama to be over.

6. Lots of left over items sitting at the check out lane as shoppers run out of food stamp money.

7. Eventually, crime will come to the parking lot and that will be the straw that breaks the Costco prestige and descent into the abyss.

This is what I’ve seen happen to almost every Wal-mart within a 10 mile radius of my home along with some of the grocery stores.    I guess Costco can’t wait to join the club.

Just after a few days after writing this post stating that I would give Microsoft Windows 7 a try, I have already come to the conclusion that Microsoft still sucks. They say you only get one chance to make a good impression and Microsoft clearly doesn’t subscribe to that philosophy. Perhaps that’s the attitude of a monopoly but so too was IBM once and look where they’re at now.

After downloading the file, I have been unable to successfully install Windows 7, after tired of repeated error messages stating, “not able to write files” I decided to harness the power of the Google to try to solve my problem and I ran across this article from CNN.

Windows 7 student upgrade hell
Posted by Philip Elmer-DeWitt
October 24, 2009 8:03 AM

Microsoft’s big launch, it turns out, was not entirely trouble-free

College students who took advantage of a “deal too sweet to pass up” have run into a bit of trouble.

The $29 electronic version of Windows 7 Home Edition sold for Microsoft (MSFT) through Digital River (DRIV) doesn’t seem to install properly on some 32-bit Vista machines.

Apparently the download files weren’t properly packaged and when some users tried to “unload the box” they got an error that read:

“We are unable to create or save new files in the folder in which this application was downloaded”

As you can imagine, that’s the exact error message I’ve been getting.  It turns out there are a few magical hoops that I could jump through to get this problem fixed but that will involve a commitment of time.    This is entirely the reason why I switched to Mac – IT JUST WORKS!

Microsoft you still suck and I won’t be buying any more of your crappy products; you’ve now climbed back to my blacklist of companies I don’t do business with so enjoy those $30 you charged me for crap.

I couldn’t believe my doublespeak ears when I watched this video by FDIC chair Sheila Bair.  She is literally lying to your face.  Here’s an interesting game, can you tell how many times she lies right to your face?

Lie #1 0:26 seconds into the video: “Your insured deposits are absolutely safe.”  – Correct me if I am wrong but aren’t deposits UP TO $250k safe (did you catch that carefully parsed sentence: insured deposits are safe) and not ALL deposits?

Lie #2 0:46 seconds into the video: “Since the history of FDIC no insured depositors have every lost money and no one ever will.”  – That’s a pretty bold statement, Sheila knows the future with absolute certainty.  No one will EVER lose money with FDIC.

Lie #3 0:57 seconds into the video:  “the overwhelming majority will weather this economic storm.”  – And how does Shiela know with absolute certainty that this statement is true?

Lie #4 1:04 seconds into the video:  “As the economy heals, so will the banking system.”  – Really?  What if people lose faith in the banking system, how will it be healed with absolute certainty?   Why are you on a YouTube video assuring us that everything is ok?  You don’t regularly do this do you?   Isn’t the mere fact that you are on telling everyone everything is safe a concern for alarm?

Lie #5 1:44 seconds into the video:  “for the bank depositor, a failure is a non-event.”  – A non-event huh?   I don’t seem to have the exact same feature that I once had in my bank account once it was converted over; my local branch office closed and now I have to drive further to make deposits.  This is a plain lie.

Lie #6 2:03 seconds into the video: “we are the government” (can borrow from Treasury) -  One the one hand the FDIC claims it is “An independent agency of the federal government” and then on the other it claims it is the government.  Which one is it?

Lie #7 2:09 seconds into the video: “in short we cannot run out of money” – While technically a true statement, the important thing to note is that being paid back with worthless pieces of paper is just as bad as not being paid back at all.

Lie #8 2:54 seconds into the video: “we can borrow $500 billion from Treasury (i.e. tax payer)” – This isn’t a reassuring statement, dumping banking problems to the tune of $500 billion on the tax payer is concerning not to mention that  you still can’t cover $4 Trillion dollar worth of deposits with $500 billion.

Lie #9 3:28 seconds into the video: “no insured depositor has ever lost money in the history of FDIC.” – Curious that this agency isn’t subject to the same “past performance is no indication of future performance” disclaimer any financial agency has to disclose these days.   I guess because FDIC is the government it doesn’t have to comply.

Watch the video for yourself:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BxiEJcOoo0&feature=player_embedded

I need to hire that facial recognition guy on Lie to Me to check out that eye twitch on Sheila’s left eye.   She almost seems to be having a difficult time telling the truth right to your face but I could be wrong 😉

While I’ve been lamenting my return to MBA school for a few posts now, there are some great benefits to being a student.   The most recent of course is getting the new Windows 7 version of Microsoft’s OS for $30.   Evidently, students can get it from this website for only $30 and I’m in the process of getting my copy.   I’m not entirely sure why I’m buying this other than to play with it and have a copy if the need should ever arise to use it.

I am a Mac user and the only way I would use this is to dual boot my machine or more likely using Vmware’s Fusion to run it.   I’m assuming I will be able to run it on my Mac but who knows.    If I ever decide to buy another non-mac desktop, I might slap this OS on it.    Of course, it’s not just Microsoft products that you can get at a discount, online academic stores give you discounts on hardware and software which save a great deal of money.

I’ve also recently (re)-discovered that I can get discounts at the theater, plays, and other venues for being a student as well.  Sometimes, little benefits like this make the difference in continuing on with the MBA plan.

As far as I know, most Ph.D scholars around the world make nowhere near the kind of money that Wall Street Fraudsters make so why is everyone “worried” about a brain drain on Wall Street if pay limits are imposed?   This is the stupidest argument I’ve seen in a long while for almost anything.    The entire concept that people will leave because they won’t get paid hundred million dollar bonuses is ridiculous.  Don’t let the door hit your ass on your way out buddy!

“These people are considered the brains of the machine. They are who can pull you through the tough times,” said Steven Hall, who runs an executive compensation firm that bears his name. “This will give them reason to leave.”

NewsFlash:  There are millions of hungry Chinese and Indian college graduates ten times smarter than any of the idiots on Wall Street that will work for $50k a year.    Most of these guys do all the back end programming for financial systems anyway so who’s kidding who here?

What a load of crap!

As some of you may know, this fall I went back to school to get my MBA.   There are several reasons I went back to school for my MBA.  First, when I was unemployed I didn’t know how long I would be unemployed and wanted to build a great “cover” story should I end up being unemployed beyond six months.  It’s pretty hard to explain to perspective employers how you were hanging out for that length of time without doing anything.  The “easy” explanation was going to be that I went back to school for my MBA!  Secondly, student loan money is dirt cheap right now and with a huge explosion of inflation coming sometime in the foreseeable future, it is great to lock in a large chunk of money at low interest rates.   I think my student loan money has a maximum lock of 8% or 9% and if inflation hits like it did in the late 70’s/80’s then I’m a shoe in for great profits and I may be able to write off the interest on my taxes to boot!   It sure beats the hell out of credit card rate jacking!   Third – college chicks!  Err…well…no that’s not the real reason, I am married after all 😉

The third reason for returning to college was to obtain a credential that is more and more in demand for the type of position I’ve held the past fifteen years and although I do have some regrets these days about the whole thing.  In any event, I’ve been having to work on a serious research paper for one of my classes and when I’ve added up all the time I’ve spent on the damn thing and multiply that against my current compensation (broken down by hour), I get a figure of around $6,000 and I’m not done yet.   I’m seriously wondering why I can’t hire some kid out of India to write this stupid paper and throw $1,000 at him/her; that’s like 40,000 rupees and a mountain of money over there.  Come to think of it, if I add up all the time I’ve spent on classes, studying, exams and papers I’m probably into the $25k range of opportunity cost.   I am seriously beginning to wonder if its going to be worth it because this is my first semester of a three year gig and when I contemplate how much this is going to cost in lost hours, the amount is staggering!

The real big question of course is if this is going to lead to any greater opportunities that I haven’t already had now.   I’ve already held various executive level positions over the years so what am I going to get out of this?   I’ve got some serious thinking to do….some real serious thinkin’ to does.

I keep getting weekly offers for 0% APR balance transfers but after all the bank shenanigans can you really trust them?   I have to say that what is really keeping me from them aside from the possible rate jack is the ridiculous 4% balance transfer fee.   Borrowing 50k at 4% is essentially $2,000 in balance transfer fees and that is too steep a price to pay in this deflationary environment.

I called a major credit card company a few days ago to activate a new card they had sent me to replace an expired one and the agent on the phone was probing to find out how they could get me to use my card more often.   I explained that I primarily use my Costco Amex card and get a generous rebate on my purchases and they immediately offered to switch me to another plan with 1% cash back but that still doesn’t beat Costco’s Amex program so I told them I wasn’t interested.

A few days later, I get a new credit card in the mail touting the new rewards on the card which I specifically stated that I didn’t want.   If I can’t trust these guys NOT to send me a new rewards card, how can I trust them on a balance transfer offer?

Now that I’ve returned to shopping at Costco, I’ve noticed something interesting, clipping Costco coupons seems pointless.   Before I headed out to Costco, my daughter and I carefully sat and looked through the coupons and she helped me carefully clip out the stuff we were going to buy.   I actually decided to bulk up on some items so we did go a little crazy clipping a lot of coupons.

As we shopped, the kids headed out and picked up some of the items we were going to buy and when we checked out I couldn’t help but notice that as items were scanned they were immediately being discounted.  I looked at the cashier and asked, “I guess you don’t need these coupons” and held out a stack of nicely and neatly clipped coupons.  “I’ve been giving you the discount price already…” is what she replied.

She did take the coupons but I guess she trashed them because she didn’t seem to be interested in them.    I applaud Costco for giving the discounts automatically because often I forget to take the coupons with me and then end up not buying some items at all but they should stop killing trees and simply e-mail me a list of stuff that will be discounted when I check out.   Even better yet, as I walk the aisles they should just have a sign that reads, “this item will be discounted $x.xx at the register” or “This item features a coupon value of $x.xx.”

What’s the point of Costco coupons?

This week I received phone calls and e-mails about some potential job opportunities and that’s a tremendous increase from the near ZERO I got from January thru July.   In one week I was solicited six times with some potential opportunities so something is actually happening out there that is causing some employers to think about hiring.

I must admit too that many of these companies have gone to extremes slashing and burning jobs over the past year and some of them may actually be smart enough to understand that there may be a huge labor crunch after many boomers have opted for early retirement and others have opted for different lifestyles like starting their own businesses.

A few people I know have given up on corporate America and I was on the fence on that one for a long time.   I am nearly certain that the next time I get laid off I may seriously consider starting my own business or never returning to corporate life.