On the Financial Meltdown

As they say on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, “and now for some quotes from this week’s news.”

First, a delightful blog I discovered called The Big Picture by Barry L. Ritholtz. In a post titled The Underlying Basis of Finance and Credit, Mr Ritholtz observes:

Over the entire history of human finance, the underlying premise of all credit transactions — loans, mortgages, and all debt instrument — has been the borrower’s ability to repay.

Except for [the 5 year period from 2002 to 2007] the entire history of human finance was rather reasonable about the basis for making loans in general, and extending mortgage loans in particular.

For 99.9996% of the last 1.2 million years, loans were granted primarily on the condition of whether or not the lender believed that the borrower could repay. Between 2002 and 2007 this condition was dropped.

Gorilla Marketing

I am an avid fan of podcasts. I listen to many hours a week of interesting and compelling content completely on my own schedule. The TWiT Network produces some of the best, including This Week in Tech, MacBreak Weekly and Roz Rows the Pacific. Leo Laporte is a master behind the microphone.

Leo continues to chase profitability by adding an ever-increasing array of sponsors for his “netcasting” ventures. Drobo and GoToMeeting are recent additions and he is pushing the boundaries of tolerance with the seemingly endless droning on about Visa’s security protection for online fraud. …

Redefining WMD

MSNBC ran the startling headline this morning: Man arrested near Capitol faces WMD charge. How intriguing! Was a criminal mastermind skulking through the streets of DC with a nuclear bomb in his trunk?

[The suspect] tried to manufacture a “weapon of mass destruction, that is, an explosive device capable of causing multiple deaths or serious bodily injuries to multiple persons, or massive destruction of property,”

At the height of the Cold War, “weapons of mass destruction” meant nuclear warheads that were capable of eliminating broad swaths of humanity with a single explosion. With the onset of the “war on terror” we expanded WMD to include bio-weapons that could infect the water supply for an entire city or chemicals that could poison the air of a local community. …

What’s wrong with online advertising

When the news broke today that a crane had fallen in New York City I immediately went to the web in search of video footage. CNN was my first stop. As expected, they had a video clip at the top of the page.

The next two minutes were a stunning realization of all that is wrong with the current attempts to monetize online video. The clip was 75 seconds long. In order to watch the clip I had to endure a 30 second pre-roll advertisement . . . for VIAGRA! …

FedEx Trumps UPS

A few years ago Book of Joe inspired me to open a personal FedEx account. His logic was impeccable and extremely practical. Since then I have shipped numerous packages enabled by the wonderful tools on my account at the FedEx web site. Some of the outstanding features include:

  • Create the order online.
  • Print the shipping lable.
  • Send emails to yourself, the recipient, and any third party when the item is picked up, delivered and if there is any interruption in the delivery.
  • Track your shipments based on your account history.

A few weeks ago we moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. …

The Demise of Lofts

I fell in love with the idea of living in a loft in the early 80’s. I was just about to graduate from college and Jennifer Beals was dancing across the screen in Flashdance in a beautiful, industrial-strength loft. It was a beautiful living space — about 2,000 square feet with no walls and no rooms. Ever since then I have dreamed of living in a completely open floor plan. Bed at one end, kitchen at the other, living and dining and working in between.

We are in the process of relocating to North Carolina and have entertained the idea of living in a loft. Unfortunately, today’s brain-dead developers have co-opted the term “loft” in their attempt to be hip. The marketing people have not been talking to the architects and builders. …

Contracts, Contracts, Everywhere

Long term contracts and petty fees are everwhere.

When we moved to Princeton last year we signed up for Poland Springs water delivery. (Poland Springs is owned by that bottled water juggernaut, Nestle Waters.) They offered an inflexible monthly service plan of 4 bottles per month for $32.96, which was the best deal in their array of undesirable options. You can skip a delivery, but not a payment.

When the first bill arrived I was surprised to find a $2.00 fee for an Oil Surcharge. What? This is nothing more than a price hike disguised as a fee, hiding behind rising fuel prices. They are in the delivery business. Fuel charges are integral to their cost of doing business and should therefore be integrated into the price.

My biggest disappointment came when I set out to cancel the service due to a pending move to North Carolina. …