Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A couple of observations

For the most part, I've sat in stunned silence at the utter devastation that has occurred in the tri-state region.  This will be a post of many of the best photos that made their way onto twitter and that brings me to a second point.

The value of twitter is unbelievable in a time of crisis.  Real-time information is unbelievably powerful.  By watching the twitter stream I knew that my brother's street was nearly flooded in Massachusetts and that there was an arcing wire at the end of my sister-in-law's street in NJ.  I also had all of the big stories - the crane, the ConEd explosion, the flooding of the different tunnels, etc., roughly 20-30 minutes in front of the traditional media outlets.  The downside is that there is no editorial filter so when a GOP operative went off the deep end last night and started posting some irresponsible rumors they are often retweeted before anyone can verify the information.

Within 5 years someone will have a twitter-like news channel that will replace CNN/Fox/MSNBC/Drudge as the future of news. My bet is on Henry Blodgett to take on the role as the Ted Turner of the next generation. You heard it hear first....

Enjoy the electricity and heat flowing through your home!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fed day and a Modemgate update!

The markets wanted to rebound sharply today on the heels of lots of rumors coming out Europe but alas today is a Fed day and that means no real movement until after 2:15pm.

Steve Jobs once said there was no use for a 7" ipad.  Thus, a year after his passing, Apple introduced the ipad mini (aka, Ipod XL) at a higher than expected price point - most thought it would be about $249, instead it came in at $329 - and the market yawned.  I think Coke and Pepsi could learn a thing about marketing from Apple.  Instead of "cutting the size of their 2 litter bottles" to 1.5 liters and now 1.25 liters, they should just called them the Pepsi mini and the Pepsi mini XL.  People would line up around the corner for them :)

Attempting to be politically agnostic in an election year is difficult, but this chart is about as apolitical as you can get.
via azizonomics.com
This shows one of the greatest flaws with our economy.  Nearly 6% of our workforce is now "disabled" which is up 50% + since President Clinton left office.  I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to why this number has jumped (poor hiring prospects, obesity, wars in Iraq/Afghanistan) but it is important to note that when you hear about the challenges facing social security, disability payments are an increasingly factor.
Just a follow-up to the post on buying your own modem for Time Warner --- be aware that it might be a good idea to pay 1 month of rental fees before switching.  There is some work that has to be done at Time Warner customer service when you switch and EVERYONE in New York City is trying to switch right now before 11/1, so I've heard that wait times for customer service are obscene.  I'll buy a new modem and switch in November.
To those that are concerned about not being able to buy a modem b/c they have bundled phone/internet, I'd say dump time warner for a better VOIP provider.  I pay about $8/mth for an adequate voip service, but you can find a good provider for $15/mth if you are a little tech savy.
BTW - Thanks to all of the blog readers that have stopped by www.nnymath.com at the mall.  It's been a pleasure to meet some readers face to face.  NNY Math --- Math, science, fun at the mall!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Did you get a Time Warner postcard this week?

Oh, Time Warner it's not enough that you stick us with slow download speeds, constant rate hikes and reductions in service, now we get the pleasure of forking over another $3.95 a month for the privilege of leasing their Internet modem which many of us have been using (lease free) for the past decade or so. 

I assume many users will just grumble a bit and say, "Well, I need the Internet what am I going to do?".  Thankfully, Time Warner gave us an option and I think my audience is a little smarter than the average bear so I hope you'll seize this opportunity.

If you visit this website, you'll see list of approved modems for our area.

If you are a turbo/extreme user (ie, overpaying for service but that's another story) you can get the

at Amazon for about $130.  Given that the rental fee is going to cost about $50/year (assuming it never goes up) it would take about 2 - 3 years before you're in the the black.  You can find refurbished models for around $100 on eBay, so that might be an option.

However, I presume that the vast majority of users are on a basic/standard plan which can be served quite well by the


which goes for $65 on Amazon.  However, it might be even better to buy the more advanced SB5101U for a very reasonable $55.

At that price you will be in the black in roughly 14 months.  So, you can agree to hand over $4/mth for the rest of your life to Time Warner for the right to "lease" their modem or you can declare a little cable independence by buying your own modem for about $55.

Let me know if you decide to move buy your own in the comments!


PS - thanks to all of the readers that have stopped by my new venture in the mall - www.nnymath.com.  Classes are filling up but we're always making room for new students.  Stop by or send me note with any questions.

Quotes from students this past weekend:

"I told my Mom we were working with Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate at NNY Math."

"I extinguished a candle with CO2 and everyone thought it was a magic trick!"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Houston do we have a problem?

Here's the issue as I see it - the stock market clamored all summer for more Fed easing.  So, despite the fact that all of the major indexes were near record highs and the fact that the jobs data seemed to be improving, the Fed caved on QE3 and promised more easing.  That calmed the markets and they are now patiently awaiting word on QE4 (I'm only half joking, some are already talking about the next round of easing before this round has kicked in).

However, if the Fed's goal is to suppress interest rates to punish savers.... I mean spur investment and jump start the economy how do we explain the last week?  Unemployment is now under 8% and today new jobs claims tumbled SHARPLY to a level not seen in years.  If the economy has turned the corner then surely the Fed won't be buying up all of those mortgages?  And if that's the case, interest rates will rise and the stock market will fall (despite an improving economy).

Here is the situation we find ourselves in today.  The market can only go up for extended periods based on hope and fairy dust from the Fed.  The real economy has little bearing on the market.  To that end, consider this stat I read over the weekend from the founder of a leading market data firm who said that "99.9% of all quotes in the market today are high frequency trading related".  Think about that for a moment.  If a stock has 1,000 bid/asks only 1 is from a human!! The rest are computers just waiting for the human to slip up.  Hence, my decision to hang up the my trading jacket though I do remain active with several longer term positions.

It's worth it take a look at the increase in high frequency activity in the markets over the past 5 years by visiting the NANEX site.  It takes a little while for the GIF to run but it's worth the effort to see the change in the markets.

I won't get into the whole host of conspiracy theories out there re: the dip in the unemployment rate from last week.  The rate dipped but I expect it will rebound a bit in October (or hold steady with a revision to the September data).  The big story remains the low participation rate, but I'm not a believer that participation is low because the economy is weak but rather it is the baby boom generation which was decided they like early retirement.  The traditional retirement age of 65-70 has been replaced with a huge segment of our population that is retiring at 60-62.  This trend is going to continue for a long-time until someone in Washington decides to change it (very unlikely).