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Microsoft Customer Satisfaction Survey Sep. 13th, 2010 @ 10:39 pm
The customer service rep didn't even listen to my issue. I explained I couldn't download the tool that allowed me to install Windows 7 from a USB because my XP copy was non-genuine, which was the very reason I was trying to install genuine Windows 7. He claimed that Windows 7 can only be installed via DVD despite my thorough explanation about how I was attempting to download a Microsoft tool that allowed USB installation. It was clear that he was not listening to the issue at all and was just guessing at company policy. My experience with Microsoft Windows 7 and the customer support was absolutely infuriating. From now on, I will make every effort to avoid purchasing any Microsoft product. I have converted my home network to exclusively Apple products.

Wait, banks take bets!? Apr. 21st, 2010 @ 01:46 pm
Reference articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/20/business/20sorkin.html?ref=business

http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/20/lowenstein-gambling-with-the-economy/?src=busln&scp=1&sq=lowenstein%20goldman&st=cse

Once respected finance authors are falling over themselves to denounce Goldman and express shock (I mean SHOCK) that an investment bank would go so far as to place a bet. Yes, you heard it bets (!!!) I mean it's their societal duty to be scape-goats whenever the economy falters and here they are making bets (again, !!!) when they are supposed to be shopping for monocles.

Seriously, Lowenstein, you wrote a book on Warren Buffett. You have to be less dumb than you appear in this op-ed. What exactly is the difference between Goldman using their legion of quants to determine that buying a CDS is a good idea because it's discounted cash flows more than compensate for the expected risk and the venerable Mr. Buffett buying Coca-Cola right after the '87 crash? Fundamentally, how is one a BET, but not the other?? Furthermore, how is one more "socially beneficial" than the other? Did Buffett's winnings somehow cure cancer or lower anyone's home mortgage rate? Did even lower the deficit a little (no, because he probably never sold and never paid taxes).

Lowenstein goes further to claim that Goldman's actions are wrong because they were "gambling with the economy". The intention of this silly rhetoric is to convey a scene of Goldman bankers looking at their cards and saying "hmm, I'll see your US economy and raise you the souls of the US tax payers." What's lost in this fanciful allegory is that the only reason that taxpayers backed these losses is our political leaders forced us to back them. Lowenstein skips over this essential fact and acts as if it is a metaphysical given every time that Goldman spun the roulette wheel, the American economy was sitting on double zero.

YAKD: Yet another Krugman dis Apr. 21st, 2010 @ 12:53 pm
Since NYT didn't print my LTE, here it is for your viewing pleasure. Original op-ed:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/19/opinion/19krugman.html

Paul Krugman's op-ed "Closing Arguments on Health Care" inadvertently makes a persuasive case for the irrelevance of the health care bill's purported benefits. He spends half of his article detailing the abuses of Assurant Health. However, as he correctly points out, these abuses are already illegal.

So why do we need a 2,000 page health care bill, which no single person could possibly understand, in order to fix something that isn't actually broken? Krugman doesn't provide an answer because providing one wasn't the point of his article. The Assurant Health abuse story is merely a cheap rhetorical device to raise the hackles of his readers and muddy any real issues.

It is sad that the health bill’s proponents believe that the only way to pass such a bill is to resort to cheap rhetorical tricks and appeals to emotion instead of reasoned debate.

Krugman: Dangerously Delusional Dec. 21st, 2009 @ 11:53 pm
Letter to the editor:

Dr. Krugman's commentary on the imminent passage of the Senate's health care bill is dangerously delusional. The healthcare bill is deeply unpopular, with 51% of Americans opposing it. One party has cut special deals with its own members who dared to question it. And yet, under the guise of democratic principles, Dr. Krugman can only lament that this bill, which seeks to regulate and politicize 17% of the economy hasn't been rammed through fast enough.

Krugman asks why should we allow a minority party to stall a bill. I don't recall him having such misgivings when the current minority was in power. He also questions why a senate tradition should remain intact when it does not appear in the constitution. Maybe Dr. Krugman can explain where the constitution enumerates congress's power to dictate the terms and conditions of the healthcare provided to each and every American.

Health Care Question Sep. 9th, 2009 @ 03:14 pm
Answer to NYTimes question: What do you most want to hear Mr. Obama say about health care in that speech?


I'm sorry, this has all been a big misunderstanding. I just picked up a dictionary and a basic economics book over the holiday. I looked up the word "option" and it doesn't mean forcing all Americans to pay for each others health costs. I also read about the law of supply and demand. Yeah apparently, when you increase the demand of a product the cost goes up. So I guess my plan actually limits choice and will increase costs! Wow, I mean you really don't think of these things when you run for President. My bad everybody.

NYTimes link:

http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/what-should-obama-tell-you-about-health-care/
Other entries
» Death Panels
I tried getting my thoughts out on Twitter, but this issue is too complicated for 140 character posts (not that I didn't try - Twitter Gadget is down so that finally convinced me to change forums). My comments are in reference to the NY Time's article on the "False 'Death Panels' Rumors". This is another example of the NYT posting an Op-ed posing as journalism. As with every NYT health care Op-Ed in the last few weeks, the authors continue the "Republicans are being mean again" refrain.

In the article, they "report" that "There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure."

This is fundamentally misguided. This is another attempt by socialization advocates to hide from any implications of health-care "reform". For example, Obama keeps claiming (disregarding his contradictory comments during the primary) that the legislation does not imply a "single-payer". As many commentators have pointed out, any government run insurance implies that the government will set the terms for every other insurer and will eventually become a monopoly. Don't believe me? Just try competing with the USPS on first-class letter delivery - it can't be done because the gov't has effectively infinite resources to "compete", which means that it can always increase taxes and allocate more to its delivery "business".

Similarly, the death panels issue, while not specifically in the legislative proposals, is in a way implied by the legislation. The more intellectually honest proponents of socialization (e.g. Peter Singer) have pointed out that rationing is inevitable. Since socialization would effectively do away with any sort of "price-rationing" (Singer's awkward term for individual cost-benefit analysis), health care must be rationed or else the cost goes to infinity (what rational person wouldn't attempt to take more than his "fair share" from the health care garden?). Under socialized care, if a senior is facing the choice between an inordinately expensive operation to extend his life a month and death, suddenly that senior's death is in my self-interest as a payer into the system (it would both lessen my costs and increase my access to the health care garden). How to mitigate such conflicts of self-interest? Death panels are really not that far off.
» Food
Made some pretty good food this week:

Tuesday

Tequila Lime Chicken. I made this using the "original" recipe (see below), not my modified lower-fat version. It calls for 1.5 c of heavy cream! When you make it this way, it is quite rich and decadent.

Wednesday

BLT at Junior's. Nothing special, but I was so hungry I couldn't resist the diner-like smell of rendered fat.

Thursday

Made an inauthentic yet delicious version of Beef Rydberg. I first had this at Aqua Vit. It came with roasted potatoes and a mustard creme fresh sauce, which made it sing. For my impromptu version, I seared the cubed tenderloin and made a white wine sauce from the brown bits. I poured that over the beef and the potatoes, mixed the beef with an egg yolk (the traditional topping) and mixed heavy cream with a spicy brown mustard 1:1. Included a side of sauted kale. Overall, really tasty Swedish comfort food.

Friday

Was craving a cesar salad for some reason. Followed Alton Brown's recipe for toasted croutons. Shaved some parmesan over romaine lettuce and made a oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Not quite cesar, but it satisfied my craving. For the rest of the main course, I broiled some shrimp after brining in salt and sugar. Added the roasted tomato and garlic leftovers to the remaining Mac and Cheese that Stella made. Very tasty.

Saturday

Made a very nice brunch for Stella and me. I blanched then pan fried cubed potatoes. They didn't quite brown correctly, but because I added thyme to the blanching water and to the frying pan they were seasoned very nicely. Made my usual slow cooked eggs, but added prosciutto from Milano Market. Served the remaining broiled shrimp with lemon and cracked pepper. Of course, I made espresso roast coffee in my French press. I wish I could eat it again.


Tequila Lime Chicken

I found this on the Internet years ago, but I don't see it any more when I type it in to Google. I usually make this with only 1/2 c of cream, but if you really like a rich creamy sauce then the full recipe is the way to go.


Tequilla Lime Chicken

1 pound fettucine - cooked
1/3 cup fresh cilantro - chopped
2 tablespoons garlic - minced
2 tablespoons jalapeno - minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/4 pounds chicken breast - sliced 1/2" thick
1/2 red onion - sliced
1 large bell pepper - thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream


In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add cilantro, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, tequila, and lime juice. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until reduced to a pastelike consistency; set aside.

Pour soy sauce over sliced chicken breast. set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, melt remaining butter over medium-high heat. Cook onion and pepper until tender. Add chicken and soy sauce. When chicken is cooked (about 7 minutes), add tequila paste and cream. Bring the sauce to a boil; boil gently until sauce has slightly thickened. Toss with cooked fettucine. garnish with cilantro.
» Cheap Populism
I watched John Stewart "attack" on CNBC last night. Unlike when he makes fun of Obama (it has happened a couple of times), he was neither funny nor informative. At least part of the problem is that liberals (and Stewart is extremely liberal) are very funny when they make fun of liberal politicians because they are very aware of their foibles. It becomes less funny when they try to make fun of business leaders because liberal comedians are suddenly out of their element and their satirical rage just becomes self-righteous rage.

Apparently Stewart was miffed by Santelli canceling his interview. Stewart decided to strike back with all the venom of a stood up prom date. He played about three seconds of Santelli's mortgage rant where he describes people who can't pay their mortgages as "losers". From here Stewart launches an extended recitation of CNBC's bad predictions concerning the stock market.

Leaving aside the fact that you could say virtually the same thing about 90% of analysts that have to gave their opinion of the market (just look at the hedge fund indices), Stewart is attacking a straw man. His implied argument is that Santelli is wrong to criticize people for over-leveraging themselves and buying things they couldn't actually afford because CNBC wasn't able to predict the stock market crash. These two things are not the same. Santelli is criticizing people with shaky credit histories who took loans they couldn't afford and then demanded the government (i.e tax payers who did not take risky loans) bail them out. Stewart is trying to equate this with failing to predict the stock market crash. Nothing is better than criticizing someone's prognostication abilities by showing off your own ignorance. Not so funny.
» Propping Up a House of Cards
I don't understand why some columnists have jobs. I just read my first Joe Nocera article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/business/28nocera.html?ref=business

This guy doesn't even understand his own field. Basically, the whole article can be summed up "AIG is really naughty." When he actually attempts to describe why they are really naughty, the article falls apart (like a house of cards??) After doing some cutting edge research, he posits:

The word “arbitrage” usually means taking advantage of a price differential between two securities — a bond and stock of the same company, for instance — that are related in some way.

This is about the worst explanation of arbitrage (aside from hedge fund marketing pieces) I have read. Notice he is attempting to describe convertible arbitrage. But that only works if the bond converts into stock, not just any stock and bond of a random company. What's the point of explaining the concept with an example, if you clearly don't even understand the definition?

This bizarre definition is supposed to serve as a framework for the naughty things that AIG did:

When you start asking around about how A.I.G. made money during the housing bubble, you hear the same two phrases again and again: “regulatory arbitrage” and “ratings arbitrage.”

later he describes the details of this regulatory "arbitrage":

And because A.I.G. had that AAA rating, when it sprinkled its holy water over those mortgage-backed securities, suddenly they had AAA ratings too.

Despite all the buzzwords and weasel-words, this is nothing new in finance. A large and storied company is guaranteeing a bond and charging a fee. The problem is that investors bought it and more importantly, the ratings agencies, who are essentially government enforced monopolies, never batted an eye.
» Interesting
An article in the NY times that derides Che Gueverra supporters as dangerously naive? You saw it here:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/02/che-or-a-statue-of-an-actor-playing-che/?hp
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