3.23.2010

The Best Kind Of Music: The Kind You Like

For this lucky dog Pandora Radio ranks right up there with Apple's iPod. Both are great "inventions" of all time for the music lover. Check it out to find artists similar to ones you like. Create your own radio station. Listen at work.

Awesome. Tell a friend.

3.20.2010

The Big Vote



They interview. You decide. After watching the interview compare your thoughts to those of Peggy Noonan of the WSJ.

ObamaCare up for a vote this Sunday, it's said. This is a very historic and important weekend for Americans. I am a lucky dog to have good health care through my employment, albeit a plan that takes a chunk of my wages. It could be worse. Much worse if I had to pay it all. And I suspect I might like this bill more if I were unemployed...except that the care part doesn't start right away. Just the taxes part.

While I believe our health care system needs some fixin', I'm not convinced the health bill in question does it in the most genuine way. I will admit that I fear an Entitlement Nation wherein there are more takers than givers (read tax payers). And I don't just mean welfare recipients.

{The Entitlement Nation link above takes you to a site called Five Boxes (the soap box, the mail box, the ballot box, the jury box and the ammo box). I'm more than a little suspect of sites that don't advise who is behind the endeavor--and this one doesn't-- and although I don't agree with all comments in the six part opinion, it strikes me as worth a read.}



"The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money." --Alexis de Tocqueville

3.19.2010

Pet Peeve. No! A Raging Pitbull Peeve!

"Thank your calling Cheapskate & Partners. If you know your party's extension you may dial it at any time. For sales press one, for manufacturing press two..." blah, blah, blah etc.
1m30s later

"To access the company directory press one."
"1"

"Please spell your party's first and last name using the telephone keypad, followed by the pound key."

B-I-L-L-J-O-H-N-S-O-N #

"Sorry, no such name in the directory. Please check spelling and try again."

B-I-L-L-J-O-H-N-S-O-N #

"Sorry, blah, blah, blah..."

"0"

"Thank you for calling Cheapskate & Partners. If you know..."

1m30s later

"To access the company directory press one."
"1"

"Please spell...blah, blah, blah"

B-I-L-L-J-O-H-N-S-O-N #

"Sorry...blah, blah, blah"

B-I-L-L-F-U-C-K-I-N-G-J-O-H-N-S-O-N-T-H-E-P-R-E-S-I-D-E-N-T-O-F-T-H-I-S-C-R-A-P-A-S-S-C-O-M-P-A-N-Y-T-H-A-T-I-S-T-O-O-C-H-E-A-P-T-O-H-A-V-E-A-N-O-P-E-R-A-T-O-R #

"One moment, please and we will transfer your call."
30s later

"Thank you for calling Cheapskate & Partners...blah, blah, blah"

SLAM!

Epiphany: William Johnson, maybe?!

"Thank you for calling Cheapskate & Partners...blah, blah, blah

W-I-L-L-I-A-M-J-O-H-N-S-O-N #

"Sorry...blah, blah, blah"

SLAM!

Total Elapsed Time: Around 9 minutes. Ate two Reece's Cups to calm down. Made the next dial.

"Thank you for calling The Uppity Privately Owned High Tech Company. Many of your questions can be answered on our website at www dot... blah, blah, blah. For access to the company directory press 1."
1m 45s

"1"

"Thank you for calling The Uppity Privately Held Tech Company. We're changing the world one customer at a time. On March 21 TUPHTC will be holding a webinar to present...blah, blah, blah"
2m later

"To reach sales press 1, to reach HR press 2, to reach the lab press 3, to reach customer service press 4, to reach the executive directory press 5."

"5"

"Thank you for calling The Uppity Privately Held Tech Company. We're changing Bio Science with unsurpassed customer service and streamlined...blah, blah, blah."
SLAM!

Found the Vodka bottle in my desk. Took a swig to calm down. Made the next dial. My Kingdom to have an operator answer my call.

3.17.2010

Think Green

The river in Chicago will turn green today and in Spring Training camps throughout Arizona and Florida many teams will don their green baseball hats. We'll all look for that one green thing to wear today and many will leave work early to start the pub crawl.

The Empire State Building and the famed Opera House in Sidney will be awash in green light. A half million people in Dublin will line the parade route, in a country with only six million inhabitants. There will be parades! With bagpipes! And men in skirts!

May the Luck of the Irish be ours today.

3.13.2010

More Reason To Be Tactical: Breakfast With Dave

David Rosenberg is the Chief Economist and Strategist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates, a well respected Canadian money manager. "Rosie", as he is affectionately called by many, was formally the Chief North American Economist at Merrill Lynch. He left that firm about a year ago to return to his native Canada to be better able to tend to family matters.

His reports have always been keen on facts others ignore, insights that others do not draw out of data (or ignore) and prescient in their ability to forecast market moves. Rosie called the real estate meltdown and the ensuing economic reverberations. The guy's good. Real good.

Unfortunately,
he is not very constructive on the world economy and thus is not bullish on the equities markets. Some call him a perma bear. His retort to that claim is that it is not his job to be bullish or bearish, but to deliver to clients and their advisors an objective view of the economic realities that affect markets--now and into the foreseeable future. And as I said, the guy is good. Real good. If you listen. This is from the March 11, 2010 daily Breakfast With Dave email:

"When we go back over the last 12 years to LTCM and the bailout that ensued, we have endured a 60% rally, followed by a 50% sell off, followed by a 100% rally, followed by a 60% sell off, followed by a 70% rally. The whole way along, the equity markets are basically flat for the buy and hold investor."

{Long Term Capital Management, a hedge fund run by a bunch of professors that blew up and, similarly to the credit default swap conundrum of recent years, sent shivers and financial negative ripples through the markets--LD}


Rosie draws conclusions as to what is causing the bloody volatility and what happens next, but I'll leave it to readers who are interested to log on to the GS+A website where it's possible to subscribe to a daily dose of economic reality compliments of David and to read previous daily observations. If you have money in the markets this would be a "must do" for you, in my opinion. If not him, somebody.

You don't have to believe everything Rosenberg espouses or forecasts. You don't have to act based on his observations. You don't have to radically change your modus operandi regarding your investments. Yet, I do think one does need to read objective commentary from respected economists that many astute institutional and individual investors rely upon. Then decide if your approach to the market should change.

It might not be Rosie; as they say, opinions are like--well, you know, everyone's got one. Especially economists. When it come to economics, DR is my go to guy. If nothing else he always reminds me to keep some cash on the sidelines and to be tactical.

Some obvious (to economists) but not so well reported observations from David's 3/11/10 email:

  • More than 5 million homeowners are behind on their mortgage.
  • There are over six million Americans who have been unemployed for at least six months, a record 40% of the ranks of the jobless.
  • Roughly 30% of manufacturing capacity is sitting idle.
  • Nearly 19 million residential housing units are vacant. This is about 15% of the housing stock.
  • The average American worker has seen his/her level of wealth plunge $100,000 over the last two years. {If they're lucky--LD}
  • One in six Americans are either unemployed or underemployed.
  • Commercial real estate values are down 30% over the past year.
  • Bank credit is contracting at an unprecedented 15% annual rate so far this year as lenders sit on a record $1.3 trillion of cash.
  • Unit labor costs are down an unprecedented 4.7% over the past year and what has replenished household coffers has been the federal government as transfer payments from Uncle Sam now make up a record 18% of personal income (and the Senate just passed yet another jobless benefit extension bill!).

Enough! My eyes are starting to bleed just thinking about all this and I'm sure you get the point.

Be tactical, unless a total return on $100 of $108.80 (.7333 annualized) over the 12 years noted above is OK with you, as many other than David Rosenberg believe we are in for more volatility in the coming years and a flat market at best when all is said and done over the next ten years. Bummer.


Bob Doll and David Rosenberg are both highly respected former Merrill Lynch "Big Guns. " Bob went to BlackRock when Merrill sold controlling interest in its investment arm (Merrill Lynch Investment Managers) to Black Rock. Bob's nick is "The Trillion Dollar Man", as he is responsible for the investment of over 1 trillion dollars. This video shows a a very interesting divergence of opinion about the state of the economy.

3.11.2010

Be Tactical!

Feeling financially funky and can't quite put your finger on why? Well, I mean because other than the big ugly mess our country is in and the paranoia we all seem to be experiencing about job stability.

Maybe it's this: Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the 2009 March stock market bottom famously noted as 666. Yikes. That's intraday. Your portfolio should be up but most investors are certainly not made whole.

And today is the ten year anniversary of the infamous Tech Bubble Burst. Remember sock puppets and Internet grocery shopping?

Have we as investors learned anything? After the tech bust Modern Portfolio Theory came back to the forefront as financial advisers went back to helping clients invest "by the book." After the recent meltdown--during which if your portfolio was beautifully allocated a la MPT it didn't help very much, if any--advisors and clients are moving toward "go anywhere, buy anything, turn on a dime, get defensive when called for" global tactical asset allocation mutual funds. This type of fund bested the classic indices by a good 10-15% during this meltdown. Down, yes, but less loss by a good measure.
(Above: 10 year growth of a well-respected global allocation/asset allocation fund)

It's sort of a MPT approach but with no set parameters. Sometimes it's right to have half a portfolio's assets in a combination of cash, gold and Forex plays (Yen/Dollar trades, for instance). That's what one of these funds held in the midst of the recent meltdown. They were down 25% in '08 rather than ~38%.

These funds may not be for you and I am not recommending them. Just stating the facts. But there is something about macro allocation and global diversification and a wide mandate by prospectus that appeals to me and has for years. I want the folks running my money to be able to go to cash in a big way or greatly pare down bonds or cut way back on US equities (blasphemous!) as they see fit. Because I like it when the annualized return number is higher than the standard deviation risk number over periods of time (especially like now) and many of these funds do just that.

The investment mantra to remember: Be Tactical!

3.07.2010

In Rut?!

Spring and summer approach and this boy's thoughts turn to baseball, the beach and "beach music". And sex, evidently. I can tell the season is really changing because my inner innate clock has me pulling out the beach music CDs to put in the car, looking for a baseball under the bed to hold and toss and I'm opening emails from pals that I know contain nekked pictures, instead of automatically deleting them. All that gets me thinking about my ill-spent youth. Maybe I'm in rut.

Not too long ago a buddy and I were having lunch and the conversation turned to (Carolina) Beach Music which is what we listened to during our ill-spent youth and to this day. We kept reeling off favorites. One of my bud's choices as an all-time great beach music song was the Jackie Gore song I Love Beach Music, an Embers Band staple.

My take on that pick is this: any song with the words "beach music" in the lyrics can't be a beach music classic. It's impossible. That song is about the genre, not of the genre. Can you imagine tooling down Route 66 in a pristine old Corvette on the way to Whatever You Find with the song I Love Road Trips blasting through the speakers? I didn't think so. This is a problem with much of the present day "beach music." A song cannot be written or exist specifically to be beach music and really succeed. The song must become beach music, often over time and always through some mysterious acceptance by a cadre of arbiters all through the South.

Beach Music (aka Shag Music) can be defined by a certain rhythm and mood. Can you dance in that swing/jitter bug permutation that is slowed-down and (frankly) more erotic, called The Shag, in which the male's vainglorious fancy footwork is akin to the peacock showing his feathers to the female. Another attribute of the genre involves lyrics emoting some natural human frailty, just like the blues. Here's the telltale sign of "beachability": does the song arouse...well, does the song arouse at least a some level, your sexual impulses.

Jackie's masterpiece may be just right for a Saturday in the summer at an all day Beach Music Fest in a Johnston County field a few miles off the interstate. But brothers and sisters, I'm talking about music for near midnight at some funky, smokey dance club in Sin City South (Myrtle Beach) or Atlantic Beach or Red's in Raleigh. The music, the style of dance and the hot, steamy beach venue is a ripe recipe for "gettin' in the mood" when you are young.

The music is called Shag Music after all, and like the term Rock and Roll, that means something. It's music derived from primordial race music that happened to catch on with white kids at the beach. One day I'll tell you what I know about an ol' boy from My Town nicknamed Chicken who many music historians name as the Father of bringing that race music to the beach. To Carolina Beach first by the way, a stalwart blue collar beach town, not Myrtle Beach.

But anyway, back to that lunch. My bud and I hit upon that "in the mood theme" and changed our focus to the best beach/shag songs to get a girl in the mood in the old days. I know that smacks of malevolence, but we were young. Our picks are featured below. In a "then and now" kind of way.

My choice is the sultry, almost exotic and hypnotic Stay, by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. Stay... A command or a plea? Either way sexy, psychologically intoxicating and compelling.

My bud's choice is Ms. Grace by The Thymes. "Satin and perfume and lace"... every Carolina Girl with any sensuality and ego at all will relate to you looking in her eyes and singing those words as you dance. Even thought it's a moderate up tempo song the next thing you know she'll be pulling you closer into a slow moving embrace. If she's loaded enough at the time she might even want you to call her Grace. Had that happen to me once. A long time ago. A long, long, long time ago. Oh God, I may regret this post.

Judge for yourself the legitimacy of my anthropological rant. The music and the dancing will speak for itself.




















3.02.2010

A New Food Treat

As much as I love Krispy Kreem donuts I can't believe I'm just hearing about the KK burger, AKA the Luther Burger. It's true; named after its originator, Luther Vandross. This fine food is credited with saving a minor league baseball team by boosting attendance.

If this doesn't float your boat just heat a KK in the micro about 10-15 seconds and put a big scoop of vanilla ice cream in the hole. Sex on a plate.