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Archive for October, 2008

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Claiming my WordPress Blog on Technorati

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

A long time ago, I claimed my Blogger-based Blog on Technorati. Now that I’ve migrated to WordPress, I need to claim my new blog as well (hat tip to Scalzi for inadvertently pointing this out to me).

At any rate, claiming a blog on Technorati involves typing in the URL, and then putting this link on the front page of your blog:

Technorati Profile

…which I’ve now done.

They tell me I can delete this post after the registration is complete, but I think I’ll leave it here for all those who have switched blogging providers recently and want Technorati stats on both blogs. Quite the public servant I am, amn’t I?

UPDATE: I think I found a bug in Technorati. Here are the stats for my two blogs, as well as a query of my root domain (www.familygreenberg.com):

Site Authority Favorites Rank
Root Domain 5 0 1,103,858
Blogger Blog 4 0 1,284,225
WordPress Blog 4 0 1,284,225

How, pray tell, can two blogs have the exact same rank? I always wondered if that was just a random number generator….

Categories: Blogging about Blogs | 1 Comment »

This is Up, This is Dow…

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

It’s not every day that the markets provide the financial media with the opportunity to use terms like Best Day Ever!, but that’s what happened yesterday and, if the futures market is any indication, today’s shaping up to be similar.

The reason? There were three: Hank Paulson announced yesterday that the U.S. Federal Government was going to make direct equity investments in the nation’s banks, the FDIC announced that it would insure all non-interest bearing bank accounts with no maximum dollar amount, and the Federal Reserve invoked Depression-era emergency powers that allow it to buy commercial paper, providing liquidity in a market that has seized up like an engine with a giant oil leak.

This is bad for a number of reasons and good for one reason, but the one reason it’s good trumps all the others, so I’m glad to see it happen.

It’s bad because it’s a step toward socialism. The federal government now has a significant, minority stake in our nation’s banks. And it is already using the power of that investment to tweak corporate policy – executive pay and severance packages (i.e., “golden parachutes”) are already restricted, and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is recommending that participating banks eliminate their dividends and “stick to safe and sustainable, rather than exotic, financial activities,” whatever that means.

It’s bad because despite all of these restrictions, it’s only semi-voluntary. From today’s New York Times:

Mr. Paulson outlined the plan to nine of the nation’s leading bankers at a meeting Monday afternoon. He essentially told the participants that they would have to accept government investment for the good of the American financial system, according to officials.

Among the bankers attending were Kenneth D. Lewis of Bank of America, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, John J. Mack of Morgan Stanley, Vikram S. Pandit of Citigroup, Robert Kelly of Bank of New York Mellon and John A. Thain of Merrill Lynch.

Bringing together all nine executives and directing them to participate was a way to avoid stigmatizing any one bank that chose to accept the government investment.

So, a well capitalized bank like Bank of America or JPMorganChase is semi-required to accept government investment in order to avoid stigmatizing less secure banks, and is then penalized for accepting that investment with restrictions on executive pay and possible restrictions on shareholder return and operational business activities.

It’s bad because it represents a change to the intended use of the $700 billion bailout plan that passed just days ago. The plan was sold to us as an authorization to buy toxic assets from banks that can’t get them off their balance sheets, and now 35% of the funds are being used for equity investments in these banks. Given the acrimony around getting the bill passed, a significant change like this just after the president signs it into law is pretty brazen if you ask me.

And it’s bad because an outgoing administration is making sweeping reforms and calling them “limited and temporary.” I think we all know how difficult it will be for individual congressmen and senators to vote for legislation that allows caps on executive compensation to expire, especially when they weren’t the ones who put them there in the first place.

But for all of those reasons why it’s bad, it’s good because it’s inspiring investor confidence and driving liquidity back into the markets. And that is our biggest problem right now. If Hank Paulson could inspire investor confidence by doing an Irish jig in front of Macy’s window on Broadway, he should do so at this point. I just hope that the kinds of things I’ve discussed above don’t become fodder for the advocacy groups and lobbyists, driving our leaders to bad mouth the plan until it crumbles and is replaced by something substantively the same, but with more oversight and pork. That’s what happened to the bailout bill, and what could have been a confidence boost became the impetus for an honest-to-goodness stock market crash.

The way out of these woods is to let good news be good news for a while, even if there are nits to pick.

Categories: Money Talk | 1 Comment »

OK, who didn’t see THIS coming?

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

And the winner of the most obvious typo award of the year goes to Rensselaer County in upstate New York for their 2008 presidential election absentee ballots:

The absentee ballots sent to voters in Rensselaer County identified the two presidential candidates as “Barack Osama” and “John McCain.” In the United States, the best-known individual named Osama is Osama bin Laden, leader of the al Qaida terrorist group behind the 2001 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City.

The typographical terror error was first reported by the Times Union of Albany.

When they discovered the mistake, officials shredded the remaining “Osama” ballots and mailed correct versions to the roughly 300 people who had already received them. McDonough said the “Osama” mistake was made in only one of the 13 ballot versions mailed throughout the county, located east of the state capital of Albany.

Voters who received both versions will be allowed to send in either one and have it counted, McDonough said.

Obama spokesman Blake Zeff said the campaign is “glad officials are working to correct this error and we assume it won’t happen again.”

Yeah, like in 2012?

(Hat tip: Joe Catania)

Categories: Political Rantings, The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

Imagine a Video…

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

This has always been one of my favorite songs, but I so rarely see the video. In case you’re the same way, here’s the video (the one with the white piano):

Categories: Words about Music | No Comments »

The Kiss of Death

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

A truly odd story about a boy who died on his fifteenth birthday in 1909, while trying to avoid the affection of a group of girls who wanted to wish him a happy birthday:


(click to view larger image)

The tombstone reads, “Lost Life by Stab in Falling on Ink Eraser, Evading Six Young Women Trying to Give Him Birhtday Kisses in Office.  Metropolitan Life Building.”

Here’s an excerpt from the 1909 New York Times Article:

Yesterday he came down and remarked that it was the anniversary of the wreck of the Maine. He explained that he knew it because the ship had been blown up on his birthday and that he was 15 yesterday.

At once the girls began to tease him. They told him that on such an occasion he deserved a kiss, and every one of them vowed that as soon as office hours were over she would kiss him once for every year he had lived. He laughingly declared that not a girl should get near him, and was teased about it all day.

As 4:30 o’clock came, and the day’s work was over, the girls made a rush for him. They tried to hem him in, and he tried to break their line. Suddenly he reeled and fell, crying as he did so.

“I’m stabbed!”

At once the joking stopped. . . . A knife ink eraser, which the New York Hospital authorities found in [his] outside coat pocket . . . had a very sharp edge, and would make exactly the kind of wound which killed him. There was a cut on the inside of the coat, and the edge of the knife was coated with blood.

What a way to go, huh?

Categories: The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

What Happened? A Summary of the Financial Crisis

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

UPDATE: Those who find this post informative should also check out What Happened? A Summary of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, a similar analysis of President Obama’s plan to re-stabilize the mortgage market

When I was growing up, I remember being told that The New York Times was written at an elementary school reading level, so that any reader could understand it’s content. Now, living in the information age, where The New York Times has morphed into a plethora of newspapers, wire services, aggregation portals, blogs, 24-hour news channels and pundits, it occurs to me that they really do treat us like elementary school children – they speak in simple words, and they lie to us about complex subjects (the storks bring babies, Santa brings presents, stop that or you’ll go blind…) in order to hide the fact that they don’t know the real answer or to save themselves the trouble of explaining a series of uncomfortable details.

I say this as a 15-year veteran of the capital markets industry, an active investor, and an avid consumer of current events news. I say it today, in particular, because we’re going through one of those periods in history that my kids and grandkids will ask me about when they read about it in their textbooks (or whatever textbooks have become when they reach that age). I say it because the information coming from my commonly-used information sources has been so scrubbed, so watered down, so sanitized, and so reduced to inaccurate sound bytes and oft-repeated tag lines that I literally can’t watch it anymore. I’ve resigned myself to learning a college course’s worth of material during each eight hour workday, and then surfing the internet for Hollywood gossip and watching TV for sitcoms and cartoons. In times like this, one struggles to keep one’s sanity.

As you might expect, my friends and family have come to me frequently over the past few weeks with questions about what’s going on at work, and what’s going on in the financial sector in general. I’ve probably written around 5,000 words on the subject in the last couple of weeks, explaining basic terminology, squashing rumors, and reassuring people who are understandably flummoxed by the amazingly complex problem we’re all facing. I don’t claim to understand it all (people much smarter than I have, in the recent past, successfully proven that they don’t understand it all themselves), but I hope I can provide a basic primer to help navigate this ever-changing drama.

This lengthy post is intended to be that primer – a place I can refer people to rather than typing it over and over again in response to frequently asked questions. If you’re interested, I encourage you to click through and read it, and then e-mail me with questions or comments. As time permits, I’ll update it as we go with new information and correct errors that others find in my analysis.

Two warnings, though: first, this comes from me and from me alone. While I’ll do my best to remain factually accurate and politically dispassionate, no one should take this as a statement made by or on behalf of my employer. I haven’t vetted it with anyone at work, and I can’t say with any certainty that some of my colleagues wouldn’t disagree with all or part of it. Second, it’s rather long. I mention this not as an apology, but to reinforce what should be an obvious fact – complex situations require a lot of words to explain them. Our news media, pundits, and politicians have repeatedly tried to violate this basic axiom, and have failed repeatedly. There are no shortcuts here. Get comfy and read awhile. And when we’re done, maybe we’ll talk a bit about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny…

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Money Talk | 30 Comments »

Getting Along with Everybody

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Well, some of my regular readers (one in particular) will find this fascinating. It seems I’m a left-leaning moderate:

Moderate on political map

Your views call for roughly same amount of goverment and liberty that we have today, for both personal and economic issues.

It appears that you are relatively happy with the status quo. However, this could be wrong if you averaged out to the center by opting for a an equal mix of big and small government positions, vs. opting for mostly moderate positions.

Approximately 6% of the takers of this quiz scored in this area, 36% for all within the centrist circle.

Now, to be fair, I think this quiz paints with very broad brushes, and had it been weighed more heavily on fiscal matters and/or foreign policy, my yellow dot would likely have moved to the right a bit. Nonetheless, at least someone out there thinks I’m a left-leaning & happy with the status quo…

Categories: Political Rantings, Random Acts of Blogging | 4 Comments »

Familygreenberg.com Health Check – August & September Edition

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

I’ve gotten away from my monthly features here on I Should Be Sleeping – the Health Check and the How People Found Me posts. This disturbs me (even as I know that it disturbs little, if anyone, else), and so I offer this as an attempt to get “back in the game” as it were…

I’m going to skip “How People Found Me” once again, because I’ve found that Google changes so frequently, that once you get past the first or second of the month, the cute/interesting queries that brought people to my site no longer register highly on Google, which makes it tough to track them. But the health check, that I can do retroactively. Here’s what the last couple of months have brought:

MetricJulyAugustSeptemberJul-Sep Chg
Visits2,1963,079 (+40.21%)1,422 (-53.82%)-35.25%
Pageviews3,7245,262 (+41.30%)1,999 (-62.01%)-46.32%
Pages/Visit1.701.71 (+0.78%)1.41 (-17.74%)-17.06%
Avg Time on Site1:170:59 (-23.95%)0:57 (-3.18%)-25.97%
Bounce Rate74.86%49.89% (-33.36%)82.07% (+64.51%)-8.79%
% New Visitors87.11%92.11% (+5.73%)84.81% (-7.92%)-2.64%

August was a fantastic month, almost exclusively because of one of those link aggregators called StumbleUpon. Someone “stumbled upon” my 20 Most Overrated Movies post, and it generated a whopping 1,622 links, over a span of just three days. On this site, that’s enough to send the stats into the stratosphere.

Correspondingly, September was a lousy month. Not only was it a big let down from August (to be expected, given the unsustainability of a “Stumble Upon”), but it was also down 30-40% from July in most categories. This, despite 21 posts (relatively high for me, I think) and a variety of topical posts (politics, sports, etc.). I’m not sure what to make of this. Either I’ve become boring, or my loyal readers have become busy, or Google has been so inundated with posts on these topics that I’m not rising to the top of as many queries as I used to.

In any case, I’m motivated to do better. I know, you’re all a flutter in excitement. Try to contain yourselves… ;-)

Categories: Blogging about Blogs | 1 Comment »

A week of funny images

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Three funny images in the inbox this week.  First, the financial crisis:



(Click to embiggen)

Next, Dick Fuld – the now-former CEO of Lehman Brothers. This painting by Geoffrey Raymond was placed outside of Lehman’s world headquarters in New York, where former Lehman employees wrote various things all over it. It eventually sold on his website for $10,000. This picture was taken by one of my former Lehman colleagues, so it holds special meaning to me. If you want to see all the comments, the fully “annotated” picture is here.

Finally, Sarah Palin’s debate flowchart (Hat tip: Melanie Foreman):


(Again, click to embiggen)

 

Categories: Money Talk, Political Rantings, Random Acts of Blogging | 1 Comment »

The Most Anticipated Movie Ever: You’ll Wish You Didn’t Know…

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Disney’s High School Musical 3 opens in London in three weeks, and London movie theaters have already sold more than £500,000 in advance ticket sales.  Why does this affect my life, you may ask?  Here’s why:

Work has already begun on High School Musical 4.

This kind of behavior is not to be encouraged.  Ilya – can’t you do something about this?  ;-)

Categories: Movie Talk | 1 Comment »

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