Home > Archive: September, 2008

Archive for September, 2008

mad lib morning

October 1st, 2008 at 03:11 am

Saving log - $7 tip box
Spending log - $9 lunch + $15 groceries

We had a bit of excitement this morning back behind our offices. Still don't know the objective story, so let's play some Mad Libs, shall we?

blank 1: bank robbery, hostage situation, bomb scare, extreme gaiety

blank 2: Money Tree, Washington Federal, Pacific Northwest Title, icky food court

blank 3: the robber, the disgruntled employee, the bomber, my congressman

There was a ...blank 1... at the ...blank 2... back behind our offices on 3rd and Cherry. Police cordoned off the street waiting out ...blank 3....

Looky, I can write for the Seattle Times!

Seriously, rampant rumors, and with the big updraft in the stock market (our crops is saved) I never heard the right story.

N.B: This

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story I could not resist blogging about. I'll have to follow this one. Sheer genius if she gets away with it.

welcome to Kondratieff winter

September 30th, 2008 at 01:58 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $25 lunch (chipped in for a birthday lunch)

I don't know Julie Tuesday, but she was quite the philosopher today.

I was in a training session, so I didn't see the 778 pt stock market drop until I clicked into the news this afternoon.

That the bailout failed really didn't surprise me - the extreme left and the extreme right didn't like it, the partisanship on both sides is (and was) so poisonous that no one voting for it would get any cover. A Rep voting for it would be accused of raising taxes like a Dem, a Dem voting for it would be accused of caving in to Reps and everyone voting for it would be accused of believing a lie. Its what GWBush over-estimating the case of getting into war w/ Iraq did. If you lie once, you could lie again. Everything is now a possible over-estimate ... are we now into an economic apocalyse - or not?

I do think we are now in a first phase of very steep patch of

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deflation - money is disappearing, stocks are dropping, assets are consolidated, the credit bubble is popping, margin and debt is left to default, consumption contracts. This unwinding is a process with more pain to come - even during the
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GD, its not as if stockbrokers jumped on Oct 30.

Fear is rampant. Still, when one of the IT guys is telling me its time to buy ... its not time to buy anything yet. Smile But it is time to window shop. And wait.

vegetable gifts

September 28th, 2008 at 03:31 am

Sister mailed me another box of vegetables of various sorts. Mostly root vegetables, but a few ears of corn, husk still on. I'll have to mention that while the corn looked fine, a day or two in dark in the mail turned lovely sweet corn into bits of starch.

Made a ratatouille out of what I got. I only got a little Japanese eggplant, so its less rat and more vegetable stew. I only had to buy a large yellow onion to start things off, which I got for $1/lb.

DH sometimes reads my blog so I really shouldn't write that there was kohlrabi, turnip, beet, that little eggplant ... all the veg that he hates, but what the hey it cleared out my countertops wonderfully.

I also sacrificed our large chard for the stew. I was sad to see it go, so here's a picture in memoriam.

And yes, I got my new camera 2 days ago. I wanted to post a topical picture yesterday - 2 honesty boxes each with the WaMu dead headline - but the picture was too large for the blog. I dropped the megapixel setting. We'll see how well that works.

A couple of economic items at work, overshadowed by the WaMu collapse:

1. A

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largish law firm is going under; we won't get pledge payments from them from now on. I worked with their payroll officer and sent my condolences.
2. Our non-profit moved in 2003. We use a bond to pay for the commercial mortgage. Apparently the interest rate our non-profit pays has gone from a pittance (0.1%) to not a pittance (+6%). A case where we see the strains.

requiem for an overweight

September 27th, 2008 at 04:09 am

Last night DH and I were

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here until 10:30 pm; we got home and heard
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this ... the whole effect made it seem like we heard a whole fiddle concert while Rome burned.

Right now the WaMu failure is a bit of a non-starter; the downtown Seattle street vibe during the lunch hour was flat. I walked past the WaMu center. Inside and around the sidewalk that vibe was a bit like the last day of college when your dad would show up. Not quite sad, not quite happy ... just transition-y.

I want to take the time here to say that I will really miss WaMu. I lived in Seattle between 1985-1992 and now 1999 - present and had banked with WaMu since 1986. WaMu was close by U Washington (convenient for a grad student), charged no fees if you didn't overspend, their ATMs didn't charge on other bank cards, the tellers were friendly, and their math was right on your account ... at least it was on mine.

I remember when the WaMu Tower was finished in 1988. I wondered a bit even then how a bank could afford to build it when they didn't rip their clients off, still, WaMu generated a certain amount of civic pride.

I came back in 1999 to a bit of a juiced up WaMu...but then again, during the era everybody was juiced up. Still, the staff and tellers were friendly in less of that you-have-money-I must-be-friendly and I was happy that my neighborhood WaMu was about 10 blocks from the house while WaMu Tower was 6 blocks from work. There were some fees for the careless; by 2001 or so WaMu would charge non-WaMu cards $1.50, in line with everyone else. I seriously looked at starting a DRP when their stock was at about 23$. In '06, I was kicking myself that I hadn't. "Overweight" the stock analysts said.

But in '06, when I got my first bits of the inheritance I started to notice the harder selling - if you can fund a 30K CD for 6 months, think about buying a house. Real estate only goes up! (yeah, maybe later). On the other hand, they were flawless when the WaMu ATM ate my card.

In other words, still useful for the basics. They flew too high, their profits got juiced up with the returns of evil and crappy mortgages, their shareholders expected that the good times would always roll. However, with return there is risk; with continuous return, continuous risk. A bit like always hearing "heckuva job!" without hearing the "Brownie" at the end of it.

I chatted with a co worker this morning, who was originally from the east coast. He sighed and said, "Sucks. I escaped being a Chase Bank customer."

I hear you, brother.

little bits

September 24th, 2008 at 03:02 am

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $10 lunch + $1.85 Financial Times + $3 apple, bagette

Its the collection of the small today.

Well this week my little T-bill will generate $1.09 in interest, a slight improvement over last.

I got a .35 check from Capital One. Better than a .35 charge.

$2 in the tip box, along with 2 cents I found on the sidewalk.

During this financial, now economic, crisis, I've been picking up the Financial Times, as sort of a European version of the Wall Street Journal. Its perspective seems somehow more objective. At least it is from a distance.

with last week, a 403B clarification

September 22nd, 2008 at 06:06 am

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3.25 bagel, coffee + $1.13 apple + $20 groceries

Forgot to mention that since our 403B is administered by Merrill Lynch, we asked about how that was going to work now that Merrill Lynch was bought out by Bank of America.

The answer is nothing much would change. Our plan administrator is in the now Merrill Lynch Wealth Management division, and for the moment is going to be our plan manager. In our 403B the old Merrill Lynch funds were bought a year or so ago by Black Rock.

Was just going to buy tomatoes and a red onion to go with all the cucumbers sister mailed to me. But then I saw a decent deal on bananas, a great deal on whole chicken and a BOGO free on chicken drumsticks and thighs. (DH is a dark meat guy). So I walked home with two large, heavy grocery bags - $20.


September 21st, 2008 at 05:04 am

Fall is back in Seattle. Trees that are turning color early look a bit yellow and bedraggled in the rain.

Oh yes, its raining. We might get a last few days of summer sun, but its wise not to count on it.

Had breakfast at our usual spot - now Crown Hill Bistro (nee the Library Cafe), but used a get-cheaper-second-entree-for-free coupon. Saved about $12 from our usual, and we got credit for it on the punch card. So in a couple of weeks, we can save the same amount again.

Took the bus to the Greek Festival and spent $70 - I got a lot of olive oil, bag of feta, bag of olives, a jar of tarama, a couple jars of grape leaves, bag of butter cookies, a Greek pastry cookbook, a set of coasters.

Sister mailed me a box of cucumbers. Odd, I know, but they did make it all right. Its time for a cucumber, feta, red onion, olive salad.

I also bought a $2 raffle ticket at Greek Festival. I know that I have no hope of winning, and frankly, this is the only raffle ticket I ever buy for the year. Reminds me of the old joke:

An old woman prayed to God that she would win the lottery. She prayed for years, nothing. When she died and met God she asked, "why didn't I win? Not even a little bit?" God said, "you had to meet me halfway - you had to buy the ticket!"

Finished up the day by watching some Looney Tunes. A little reminder that some of the best art was created during the Great Depression. Life goes on.

O risk! (and taking it in the shorts)

September 21st, 2008 at 04:35 am

So part of the grand plan is to temporarily stop the short selling of 799 stocks. And actually its not just the US that is regulating it; several other European exchanges have also temporarily stopped it, while China doesn't allow it in the first place.

Probably that alone caused my financial stock to nearly double from its low last month (11.10$ low/ 29.50$ yesterday).

Shorting a stock is reversing the order buying, owning and selling a stock. When you are long, you try to buy shares for a low price, hold it for a bit, then sell for a higher price. When you are short, you borrow the shares from a broker at a higher price, then arrange a time for when you will actually buy and deliver the stock. You hope that the stock will be lower by the time you have to buy it.

Shorting is useful - the main use is to add liquidity. Short sellers, like long sellers, actually have to buy the stock (at the end, not at the beginning), which means more buyers. Liquidity is a fancy way of describing that with those extra buyers stocks get traded more often and at more price points.

Another use is that short sellers are good markers for risk. Short selling is much more risky. A stock can only go down to zero, but can theoretically go up to any price. And if the stock goes up (to any price), the short seller has to buy it, losing much, much moolah. Stocks that attract short sellers should tip everybody off that something risky is happening.

Without the short sellers and only the long sellers, stocks of course can rise higher - only the optimists are allowed to trade. But what if the risks aren't quite as well defined and there are no optimists to be had? Stocks then drop in a much more sickening fashion - you can find an optimist if the price is low enough. Without liquidity, sometimes it has to be very, very low.

We'll see over the next few weeks what happens. Offhand it sounds like the "cure" is worse than the disease.

blog like a pirate day

September 20th, 2008 at 02:29 am

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Because its Sept 19

collectings - $1 treasure box
lootings - $15 raw fish cut by ninja

Avast ye hearties! The day was one big aaaarrghh! I took me treasure box to the bank, got one hundred doubloons (my jaw be tired from biting down on EACH of them!) in case we were raided over the weekend by the FDIC navy, then walked over to a spot where I knew that if Woo Hoo made other pirates walk the plank to keep their treasure, I would get a good picture. One picture is worth a thousand aaarrrghs, ye know.

The flat side of me spyglass was busted! No picture! I would ave thrown someone to the sharks if I could. Maybe draw and quarter them first.

Back on the ship, I went over the log of other possible pirates. Bad times means good slaves and wenches could be had for cheap. Spent the time between high sun and grog time clicking fer more of me doubloons.

Translation: Put in the tip box savings into the bank, got 100$ in case things got frozen over the weekend. Walked past the WaMu Center and was about to take a picture when I discovered that the LCD screen on my camera was busted. I was mad, and depressed. (and yes, I will replace.)
At work, I looked over who we were going to interview for temporary staff. The recession means we are getting some applicants who look really good. The rest of the afternoon I finished up a database project.

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comparing 18th century pirates to 21-century investment bank.... Couldn't resist.

what next?

September 19th, 2008 at 04:11 am

Savings log - $3 tip box + $7.18 dividend
Spending log - $3 coffee, scone

Big down
Little up
Big down
Big up

At least in Las Vegas, when you go bust, the dealer says, "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for playing."

And we should be thanked, even if we aren't explicitly in the stock market. After all, all of us as taxpayers will be playing.

And paying.

And taking risks that a 300x-paycheck CEO apparently will foist off.

Where's my free cocktail?

grape leaves and routing numbers

September 18th, 2008 at 05:59 am

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $17 dim sum lunch + $9 groceries.

Just finishing making stuffed grape leaves for the work potluck tomorrow. The guest of honor is vegetarian, so it didn't seem right to make a meat-stuffed grape leaf. Rice stuffed grape leaves are a bit boring, so I went and got small amounts of various rices - red, purple, saffron, fragrant, regular, wild - along with a little bit of quinoa. Flavoring is onion, garlic, parsley, chopped apricots, salt and pepper. If it makes a decent pilaf, it will make a decent stuffed grape leaf. The final thing I do is to cook the filling, then roll the cooked filling into the grape leaves. Its a lot less nerve racking than stuffing with raw filling - you can just heat the grape leaves through and you don't have to worry about the filling getting done.

What is on my mind, still...beating a dead horse WaMu. Will we soon have the Citigroup Tower? We already have a Wells Fargo Building, so maybe just the WF Tower. Of course we could baffle future descendants by keeping the nickname - what is the WaMu of which you speak? But corporate takeovers are a bit like war - if they take prisoners, they shackle them and change their name.

I'm also thinking about routing numbers. If my WaMu accounts are the antechambers to my saving, and WaMu gets taken over, then my accounts will change their routing numbers. Suddenly I have to keep an eye on my little savings empire.

93 cents

September 17th, 2008 at 02:22 am

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $11 lunch + $2 Wall Street Journal + $13 groceries + $11 coffee

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $9 lunch + $4 contribution

I have some of my EF in 4 week T-bills, split into fours and recurring, so every week something matures or if necessary, I have a month of EF coming up for use every week. I looked at the auction rate for this week's 4 week T-bill. Wait for it...


It means I make 93 cents in interest on that T-bill. I've found more sidewalk change most months than that. This flight to safety means my little boat is getting swamped by Wall Street cannon balls. Ah well, better luck next month.

Here's an another article near and dear to my heart -

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backyard gleaning. I live next to a male cherry tree - the flowers are right with a few cherries in it. I've seen its girl friend - that tree lives about 7 blocks away. Across the street lay an apple tree (decent sized apples). In grad school I also lived with a plum tree and a cherry tree, with a neighbor that had a productive pear tree. And then all the blackberry brambles within 3 blocks of my house. In Tucson in November, I used to pick the raw green, purple, and black purple olives on Olive Way at the U of A, and cured them in salt. In Tucson in April in another part of the U of A campus, I used to pick loquats and can them in a sugar syrup. In other words, I think this is a fantastic idea. It would be great to map out all the fruit trees and bushes of Seattle all quietly making a little produce stand.

Oh yes, the collection. In the end I advertised once, did a little once around, collected triple digits, and added a bit more to get the gift card to end in a "0". I passed the collection to the person buying the gift card. Project finished.

historic times

September 15th, 2008 at 04:26 am

Tomorrow will make fiscal history on Wall Street. Lehman Brothers will declare bankruptcy; Merrill Lynch will be bought out by Bank of America.

How this credit crisis is unraveling is unprecedented by the non-tin hats among us.

The asteroid has fallen, the dinosaurs are fighting or gasping their last. Its up to the mice to find their safe, deep holes and wait things out.

wag the dog (bowl)

September 14th, 2008 at 01:44 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $4.50 groceries + $40 weekend money

Saving log - $0 tip box + $100 Drp
Spending log - $5 latte & 3 tea cookies + $15 groceries

Yesterday I along with several other co workers went on a volunteer project - painting hallways. Those of you who are budding gym rats will appreciate that painting walls with a roller is all lats. Because I was stiff and sore from yesterday (not to mention was working out lungfuls of paint fumes), I took it easy this afternoon, walked a little bit, and spent a nice 40 minute break with a green tea latte and a couple of cookies.

Lately I've noticed other symptoms of recession - several local businesses that I frequent now promote coupons and have punch cards. I use punch cards as much as the next person - religious with a few, not so religious with most. My only tip on how to use punch cards (and their cousins, gift cards) is to store them in

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a business card carrier, rather than busting your wallet. And when you fill your business card carrier, its time to clean it out of the punch cards you don't use. Anybody trade cards?

The final thing that I've really noticed is the proliferation of water-filled dog bowls in front of businesses on Greenwood Ave. Dog bowls started first with some of the coffee shops around, signaling a dog-friendly business. Today I saw a dog treat dispenser beside the dog bowl in front of one coffee shop (okay the one I stopped at), a high end silvery dog bowl in front of a sidewalk ad listing spa services, and a large tupperware bowl full of water in front of a hair salon. No dog bowl in front of the business you'd expect a dog bowl in front of - a pet food store.

So what gives with all the dog bowls? I can kind of see it if you are setting a dog bowl in front of an in and out service. Tie up your dog and give him something to drink while he waits for you. But the one in front of the spa? Hmmm. That could be a long wait. Maybe its smart - the dog stops for the water, forcing its owner (the tail) to stop and read the signs about what the business does.

The dog treat dispenser definitely picks up the game. Its a modified bubble gum machine. Treats are .25 apiece, with a sign that plaintively tells the owner not to hide this fact from the dog.

Well, if the dog had its own allowance...