Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Holding Water...

As I listened to the Inaugural speech by President Obama I was struck by comments people have made to me over the years that were focused on the power of the President of the United States of America to evoke real change. I tried to think of any other country where the swearing in of the leader would be watched by 300,000,000 people around the world, at the same time. I thought that at that moment, the words of Barack Obama were in fact changing the perspective of all of those people.... and when others read the papers and magazines and watch the news with the reruns of the inaugural address... yet more will have a new perspective.

The idea that the president doesn't really make a difference started when many folks didn't like the fact that during the Clinton administration the USA was in a boom period... they said that the president didn't make that happen. Of course, their argument went somewhat limp when President Bush made so many things happen, particularly at the opening of the Iraq war... do we remember how the collective "we" endorsed President Bush's push into Iraq... where were we when "shock and awe" was on TV... I remember that day, as the TV at the office was on, louder than ever before, and the collective "we" cheered as bombs burst in the air. It was quite a display, the President was demonstrating that he could cause things to happen... we should not forget!

This new President, too, will in fact make a difference... we expect that it will be a positive difference, for most if not all Americans. Let us hope it is also good for the world, as was the intent of President Bush, I am certain. But let us not only hope... let us participate in ways we as individuals perhaps haven't lately.

A few months ago, I recognized that I wasn't drinking enough water. All sorts of physiological things were telling me that, but I couldn't seem to get on the program to start drinking the proper allocation of water. It seemed my commitment waned not only over a week, but even over a day! This I adjusted to by writing a Post-It note... "have you drank a glass of water in the past two hours" and sticking it to the fridge. Suddenly I was having to pee all the time...proof that indeed, I was drinking the water. After a few weeks, through which I continued to drink my water almost every two waking hours, I began to notice that I wasn't having to pee as much... in fact my capacity to hold the water seemed to be improving... in fact, it has...

Could this be the way for Barack Obama to get everyone to hold their PEE longer? Perhaps, although it is obvious that that is not his goal... but could it be our individual way to remind ourselves that we are a part of the solution to that which needs fixing in America. Obama did allude the need for everyone to work together to fix the economy, to fix bigotry, to help heal the wounds of the past, what ever they are...

What will your Post-it note say?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some Sage Advice

We received this note from Ken Mitchell, our friend from Oyster Pond. He asked that we pass it on, thinking it is potentially a vital issue concerning how we protect our selves and our net worth. Thanx Ken for this insight

This gives us something to think about with all our new electronic technology.


A couple of weeks ago a friend told me that someone she knew had their car broken into while they were at a football match. Their car was parked on the green which was adjacent to the football stadium and specially allotted to football fans. Things stolen from the car included a garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard.

When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked and just about everything worth anything had been stolen.

The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house. They then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house. The thieves knew the owners were at the football game, they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and so they knew how much time they had to clean up the house. It would appear that they had brought a truck to empty the house of its contents.

I never thought of this.......
This lady has now changed her habit of how she lists her names on her mobile phone after her handbag was stolen. Her handbag, which contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet...etc... was stolen.

20 minutes later when she called her hubby, from a pay phone telling him what had happened, hubby says 'I received your text asking about our pin number and I've replied a little while ago.'

When they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text 'hubby' in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account.

Moral of the lesson:

Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc.... And very importantly, when sensitive info is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back. Also, when you're being text by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you don't reach them, be very careful about going places to meet 'family and friends' who text you.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cabbage and Turtles

There is an old saying in rural areas that goes " when something smells rotten in the cabbage patch, you just need to look for the head ". Typically, a good farmer would find the stinking, rotten head, cut it out, and throw it in the compost pile with the cow patties, horse puckie, and BS. I don't really think it takes a farmer to figure it out. For example, here in Florida, the highest peak in the southern part of the state is a dump just off the Florida Turnpike at Sample Road... proof, that when something is rotten or useless, even city folk can figure out what to do with it.

The nice thing about compost heaps is something not only the farmers have figured out; anyone with a garden understands that when you pull out things that are rotten or overgrown, and put it in the compost, add a regular helping of dirt, water, some sunshine and the smell goes away. One ends up with a fertilizer like substance that when sprinkled back on good plants, helps them grow.

That said, I can smell something rotten in our financial districts around the world. The stench is the worst when we get close to Wall Street, but I hear from people in London, Frankfurt, Beijing, Hong Kong, Sydney and so on, that the same smell is there, too. It reminds them of rotting cabbage, has a hydrogen sulfide nose, and doesn't seem to go away with a stiff wind. It almost follows one around!

I think the smell, if followed to its "head" will lead us to the leaders of the financial communities that have been living off the land of plenty for entirely too long. Lately we have seen a few of them claiming to be refusing to accept annual bonus payments this year. We are talking totals of billions of dollars of bonus (just to keep employees from leaving and going to the blood sucking hedge funds where they can earn even more ill-be-gotten income). They also claim to not be paying out the levels of bonus to the senior employees that they have in the past. When they open their individual mouths, you can just get a whiff of the smell, but collectively, they stink.

When I got my latest whiff, as I read a financial report, I decided to start looking for the head cabbage, and found him in the US Treasury Department... Secretary Henry Paulson. Before getting this position he was the Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs where he made hundreds of millions of dollars promoting many of the strategies that have recently gotten the economy of the globe into financial trouble. Why are we not looking to him for answers as to why there is a smell? Why is he still in his job? Oh, one can excuse him because his company wasn't the biggest ring-leader... that's why they too had to write down tens of millions of dollars of exposure to sub-prime mortgage derivatives!

The stench is all through the various companies that have been involved in the sub-prime mortgage debacle, and the bundling and trading of the derivatives of those mortgages. The development of the scenario we are living through now, likely resulted from some propeller head mathematicians who convinced the leaders of the largest financial houses (like Goldman Sachs) that they could make money on these. At the same time, the financial houses had to lobby politicians to not put rules or laws in place that would limit this trading, and require full documentation of the risk involved. Now folks who know me, know I am not a mathematician (I needed spell check just to spell it) but I do have a good nose and I know there is something rotten in all of this. The large financial houses came up with these strategies, and now we are letting them get away with the ...

o one is being excised, and thrown in the compost heap or even the dumps of the financial districts. Why is that? Probably because the rot goes all the way through the cabbage patch! There is a fear that if we start throwing out the bad parts, there might not be enough left for the resulting fertilizer to nourish. But that doesn't mean that we can't get to the biggest stinkers! It does mean that we have to demand that something be done, and done now! We can't let these rotten executives get away with ruining the lives of countless people. I'm not just talking about guys like Bernie Madoff (who would still be running his Ponzi Scheme if the sub-prime mortgage debacle hadn't undermined the investments of the people he was ripping off making them have to call him for cash to cover their margins and losses).

I am referring to the Chairmen and CEOs of all the companies that were involved in the selling of sub-prime derivatives when they didn't understand them, when they didn't do their due-diligence, and sucked the investors who trusted them and looked to them for investment advice. Throw them into the compost piles. Demand restitution of all ill-begotten bonus payments that were based on the upswing of those mortgage derivatives. They say it can't be done... perhaps we should remind them that it was once said that a black man would never be elected President of the United States of America.

We have to do something, or we will start to smell the stench coming from the offices of the various States Attorney General around the country. Perhaps they don't want to throw out their rich buddies!

All of which comes back to the Turtle in the picture with its camoflage of green algae and duck week. He carries his house around, moves slowly, but steadily forward. Turtles rarely stick their necks out too far, use their tails as a rudder in rough water. They lay their eggs deep in the sand and protect themselves from the elements. They have survived millions of years with this strategy, and live very long lives. I have the Turtle at this masthead, because I suspect that he is a great mascot for my future investment strategy.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Part of a Day at Green Cay

Green Cay, the natural area near our place here in Palm Beach County, Florida... I have mentioned it on the blog before... this morning I went there with my friend Bill Graubard for a walk... I was a replacement for my wife Lynnda who usually walks on Saturday with Bill, but she has fractured her heel, so I had the pleasure... and WOW... what a day...

This is already one of my favorite pics that I have taken of a Great White Egret... I was on a long lens, and watching... it decided to take flight, and raised those awesome wings above its torso to show the absolute beauty of the bird. It flew a matter of twenty meters, and I got several other pics... but I have dozens, and have posted a few here... so I will spare you.

Below is a female Anhinga, aka the Water Snake for the way it looks when swimming... most of its body below the surface, and just the head up... like a water moccasin. This is another water bird that spends a lot of time in trees... I have several beautiful pics of Anhinga, and will bring them to the blog at some future time. The female has this beautiful gold colored neck like the one in the tree...

The one below, drying its wings seems to be an immature female... she is not showing much gold. The mature males appear black and have white markings on the wings... when you click on the picture, you may be able to see some white on the top of the wing... perhaps it is an immature male... someone tell me. Hell, this one could be mistaken for a Cormorant which we have all along the Atlantic coast, and are pests in Nova Scotia.

The four turtles sharing the log with him don't seem too upset... there was a Great Blue Heron in the trees to the right, I have a pic of all of them somewhere in this mess of pixels, so when I find it, I will add it to the blog.

Below is a spectacular Red Shouldered Hawk. This bird was too patient for me... I waited for him to go after what ever he was hunting... but he out-lasted me. He is nesting nearby, along with a Red Tailed Hawk pair and an Osprey pair... will forward pics when they show up and I have this 300mm lens on board.

So that's how we spent the start of the day... finished with Will Smith's movie, Seven Pounds... a test to follow it at the beginning, but it is a very strong movie... Lynnda and I recommend it... Ciao for Now.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Winter Wonderland... Not here in Florida

I have been looking for a warm color to use with this font, for this note, but I have settled on blue and hope one of two things... if you are in the Northlands as you read this, you will have the heat on in your house... if you are in the south, the cold weather pics and this font color will be as welcome as air-conditioning.

We received these pics from our good friends Paul and Therese Spike, who are our neighbours in Oyster Pond, this morning. Paul and Buddy (the Border Collie that they have as a 'boarder') went for a walk this morning... January 1st, 2009. The first picture is the road that leads from their home to ours, a few hundred feet from this spot.

The mail box, well decorated reflects Therese's friendship with Charlie Brown... you can just see Snoopy's nose poking up through the snow as he reclines on their mail box... he will need a snorkel soon, just to breath in the snow!

This is Buddy... he is a great friend, an incredible soccer player, swimmer and fetcher of any and all things lobbed, thrown or dropped... easily the largest Border Collie we have seen... willing to go and be anywhere with Paul

When I look at the Spike home, where they have lived on the water for 29 years, I realize how appropriate the blue font is... it is freaken cold out there!

Well, it is warming considerably... this is the view out the breakfast nook window at Paul and Therese's home. It still looks bitterly cold outside, but I sense the tea and coffie are hot, and there is always something warm to eat at the Spike's.

It was great to receive these pics this morning... it reminds us of our many friends in Nova Scotia, and we hope that they are warm and cozy this day. I won't show any pics of what it is like here in Florida this morning... suffice to say, it takes the chill off the images and gives new color to the font.
We will watch the Rose Parade from California and the Sugar Bowl this afternoon, just to stay warm. We hope you will be warm this day, and that 2009 will be a Vintage Year to Remember well. Happy New Year.


My photo

Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!