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Month: November 2008

China could buy US auto makers – with petty cash

China could buy US auto makers – with petty cash

Guess what years and years of record trade deficits and more recently, record exports of debt have got us? I’m not a huge fan of bailing out the automakers. They’ve been entrenched in poor performance for years – and it’ll take a big shakeup to get them out of their doldrums. But this could be the beginning of socialized corporations in America – just much differently than anyone anticipated…

At current market valuations (GM is worth less than Mattel) the Chinese government can afford to buy GM with petty cash. Even a hundred billion dollars would barely dent China’s more than $2 trillion in currency reserves. For nobody in the world would buying GM and (while they are at it) Chrysler make more sense than for the Chinese. Overlap? What overlap? They would gain instant access to the world’s markets with accepted brands, and proven technology.”

article here

iFinally got one

iFinally got one

Well, after receiving my free iTouch from Key Bank, I’ve had a lot of fun with the device.  What’s more interesting is that with each app I play with, I come up with a few ideas for others.  So, I decided to look into the Apple iPhone/iTouch SDK.  Well, the SDK only works on a mac.  One might try a hack-en-tosh – but I had a better plan – exploit the current economic situation.

Buy one
I posted an ad on craigslist asking for a cheap Core2Duo iMac for $350.  And within a day or two, I had two offers.  So after years of swearing I’d never buy one – I went and picked up the better of the two:

There’s a lot of hungry folks out there.  Got a Core2Duo 2.8ghz iMac, 8gb ram, 80gb hd, and 3 years of Applecare for $350.  Includes box, docs, and everything it came with.  I picked it up right next to the Apple store so we could run it over and I had them run the serial number to see if it was stolen, verify it’s capabilities, and they did a quick test on everything.  Checked out ok.

Take it home
I blew away the machine and reinstalled everything from the install disks. About the same as doing anything on windows – took about an hour or so.  Another 2 or so hours of downloading updates and rebooting after each pack.

Set up VPN
I don’t want a KVM switchbox on my desk, so I decide to set up VPN.  I download Real VNC’s free viewer – and then set up VNC on the mac.  OS X includes a VNC server by default, but there are a few tricks.  Here’s the procedure:
1. On your mac, open System Preferences
2. Under “Internet and Networking” pick the “sharing” icon
3. Turn on the “Remote Management”option/checkbox
4. Click the “Computer Settings” button
4a.  Check “Anyone may request permission to control screen”
4b. Check “VNC viewers may control screen with password:” and enter a password
4c. Click ok
5, Select ‘Allow access for All users’ or enter the names of the users that you want to give VNC to
Done with mac side.

Download realVNC and install it on the computer you want to use to connect to your mac (client).
1. When you open realVNC, you’ll need to enter the IP address for your mac in the ‘Sever’ box.
2. BEFORE you try to connect, hit the options button.
3. On the Colours & Encoding tab, select Full in the Colour Level box.  Make sure your own desktop is running at 32 bit color or the eqivalent of the mac side or you’ll get the dreaded “Connection refused: connect()” message from realVNC.
4. Enter your password specified in step 4b – and you should see your desktop

Now I can control my mac remotely from my pc desktop.  No monitor switching/extra keyboards/etc.  My headless mac is happy.

Download iPhone SDK
Go to Apple dev center and download the iPhone SDK. Watched some of the videos and realize I need to learn Objective C. Started reading some of the tutorials and they’re not bad. Now to get hello world up…

Don’t get the flu

Don’t get the flu

I did – have been in a drugged state of half-awareness for 3 days now.  Sigh.  Ohhhh…are those the purple flying elephants again?  Must be 10am…

Update: I got some good decongestant from the doctor – wahoo. I love Oregon. They’ve completely banned over the counter ephedrine. You simply have to have a prescription. You can no longer just present ID to a pharmacist who keeps it behind the counter. However, I can drive 15 miles up to Washington state and still buy ephedrine over the counter with a drivers license. Still, the stuff the doctor gave is working great – so no problems there. Should be back up in a day or so.

Error: File ‘is too large for the destination file system’ – but there is tons of room!

Error: File ‘is too large for the destination file system’ – but there is tons of room!

Fun fun.  I was trying to copy 6gb iso file to my 8gb flash drive (where 7gb was free) and I kept getting an error message that the file ‘is too large for the destination file system’.  I didn’t have time to fiddle with it – so I left it.  Yesterday during a backup, I got the same message again trying to back up my Windows Media Center recorded tv shows.  The 1tb drive was empty, yet I kept getting errors about not having enough disk space.  Ok, what’s going on?

USB drives and external HD’s are often formatted with FAT32.  You cannot copy a file larger than 4gb to a FAT32 system.  Unfortunately, Vista gives you the cryptic file is too large for the destination file system error instead of telling you the real reason is that FAT32 cannot handle files that big and what to do to fix it.

So, how to get around it?  You need to convert the file system to NTFS (or other file system that can handle files that big).  You can obviously reformat the drive,  but that’s a pain if you have data on the drive already.  You can, however, do a one-way convert to NTFS without data loss on the drive by using the command:

convert X: /fs:ntfs /nosecurity

Where X: is the drive letter you want to convert.  As long as you have about 10-15% of the volume empty, and you don’t have any files on that drive open, the file system conversion will happen and all your files will be there as before.  It’s a fairly quick process – about a minute or two on my external 1tb drive (drive was almost empty).  So, a very poor Vista error that doesn’t tell you how to fix it, but a very smart tool that does what you need.

The hits keep on coming…

The hits keep on coming…

The latest Department of Labor report that shows 240,000 jobs were lost in October alone wasn’t great news.  But if you read the historical data behind these numbers, the picture sounds bleak:

-At a total jobless rate of 6.5%, we’re at a level that hasn’t been seen since March 1994.
-September’s losses of were the largest monthly job loss total since November 2001 – which as you’ll recall was the start of the dot-com bust.
-1,179,000 jobs were cut in the last 12 months – a 12-month loss window that large hasn’t been seen since 2001
-Most economic indicators signaling even more difficult times ahead, job losses will likely deepen and continue through at least the first half of 2009.
-“We may be in a severe recession, in which case these job numbers are not even big yet,” said Robert Brusca, economist at FAO Economics; suggesting monthly job loss totals could grow in excess of 300,000 an unemployment could rise to around 7%
-Interestingly, the female unemployment rate as of October was 5.8%, it was 7.1% for men.

To add more good news, Brian Dunn, president and chief operating officer of Best Buy, was quoted today saying “In 42 years of retailing, we’ve never seen such difficult times for the consumer”
-The Dept of Labor’s report echos this ominous sign indicating retailers trimmed payrolls by 38,000 workers last month – right before the holiday season that typically counts for 50% of yearly profits.

Matt’s Oct 2008 prediction hit rate:
1. Stocks will have a sharp decline, and continue to decline for rest of the year with no meaningful recovery for 2 years.  – After a little bubble in late Oct, it has gone down again and looks like I’m still on track.  Below is the dow tracked since I made the prediction.
My new concern is that we’ll see another big 1000-2000 point drop on/after the holiday as it becomes apparent how bad the retail season is going to be.  Could be another big tumble before Q2 of next year.  I don’t think people realize how bad the holiday shopping season is going to be.  People are already cutting off the credit card use, so with folks just using cash – you better believe there will be a lot less buying.

2. Downward Housing spiral is going to continueS&P’s numbers for August indicate a continued decline for most cities; but we’ll need to get a few months under our belt to say for sure.  Still, most are seeing a month-to-month decline in value of 0.0-1.0%.  Still, Portland saw a very slight uptick between July and Aug.
3. Job losses will continue – Right on the money with this one.  My prediction to a friend was we’d be at 7% unemployment by Q2 of next year – looks like we might hit it sooner than that.
4. Depression is a real word – and we may just get one – All the indicators are pointing towards a recession in the same range as the dot-com bust a few years back.  And that was an economy without the debt-saddled home problems we have now.  This one is shaping up to be worse by about a factor of 50% by my guess.
5. Days of easy credit and easy ownership are over – well, duh.

So, tips:

1. Cut your discretionary spending as much as possible.   Cash is already king; but if you’re sitting on a pile of cash towards the end of this (whenever that will be) – you’ll be able to buy up stocks/property/etc at fire-sale prices.
2. Save up an emergency fund of at least 3-6 months.  I’d say even more if you can as this unfolds.
3. Hold off on purchases – even if you can afford it.  Right now everything is going down – and the longer you delay your purchase, the better the deal you’ll get.  At least for the next few months.  I’m already seeing this in electronics – and car dealers are likely bending over backwards right now.  Depends on the item you’re buying (houses are different than home electronics); but it’s a good rule to follow.  I predict some amazing after christmas blowouts.
4. Plan your contingencies – are you in a job area that is already teetering?  If so, they will really be getting creamed by early next year when things will be worse.  Start making those contacts with other employeers, friends, update your resume, start getting your linked-in and other networking going NOW.

Nissan Skyline GT-R

Nissan Skyline GT-R

A coworker just bought himself a brand new Nissan Skyline GT-R – it’s sitting out in the parking lot right now.  The Skyline was re-introduced to the US market this year after a long hiatus.   In their day, they were considered one of the best street legal cars made; and if reviews are to be believed – this version is even better.  The new versions currently run about $75-80,000; and if you’re the first to buy one at a dealership – they’ll try to stick you with a $20,000 ‘retooling’ fee so their shop can maintain it according to specs. (yes, he got this exact grey color)

I actually, seriously, looked into buying one of these the last car purchase, but just couldn’t justify it.  However, to give you an idea of how amazing these cars are for the price, $80,000 will buy you a car that beat every single porche, lambo, and all but 4 other super-cars reviewed on Top Gear by their professional driver.  These cars are simply that amazing.  And they don’t even stand out gaudily in traffic.  They just look awesome.  As a friend put it: “They look like they’ll steal your lunch money – and you’ll happily give it to them.” My hope is that in a few years I can pick up a used one of these for a considerably more reasonable price.

My hat is off to you Marty – you lucky, lucky b@stard.

Catholic voters principles

Catholic voters principles

Well, it’s a bit late for the latest round of voting, but we got into a conversation at work on how Catholics vote.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no ‘vote for this guy  don’t vote for this guy’ list that we all get.  Quite the contrary in fact.  Instead, it’s the duty of the local parish+priest to teach the relevant principles of the faith, and then require each of us to apply those principles ourselves.  There is not to be any mindless following (as many love to claim).

Our bishop simply pointed to the US Catholic Bishop’s article on faithful citizenship.  It’s a very good document that is worth the read if your curious – and good for Catholics to get a good brush up on what principles you’re supposed to be following.  If you’re not interested in all the background – just shoot to the principles on page 12/13 for the basic idea.

Some interesting bits:

  1. The Catholic Church does not endorse candidates nor ballot measures as a policy.  Bishops, priests, and church leaders are not to directly promote or discourage voting for any particular candidates or issues from the pulpit or privately.  They’re primary duty is to teach and comment on the principles of our faith relating to the issues, but it is up to the individual’s Catholic’s well informed conscience to choose candidates and measures.
  2. Voting your conscience isn’t just a gut-feeling.  It involves going out and becoming well informed on Catholic teaching, current state of the matter/society, and careful reading about the actual candidate/issue.   Then, doctrinal (church teaching) and scriptural research about the matter is to be preformed.  Finally, after careful prayer and quietly ‘sitting with God’ in prayer to receptively listen to His guidance with all this information about the issue, one forms an course of action.
  3. Catholics are not to be single-issue voters.  They are also to see beyond any partisan politics and vote on the best candidate based on the issues of the day and what their faith and conscience tell them. Catholics are not Democrats nor Republicans – but faithful citizens that will vote for the best candidate.
  4. Due to our particular political situation – one might be able to vote for a pro-abortion candidate in certain cases – but only if they are not voting for the candidate for the purpose of promoting pro-abortion policies (and a few other conditions are met – definitely see the fine print for hows and whys in the document for details – it’s not a blanket clause).

Anyway, there’s some really great stuff in there, and it references all the documents they came from in case you want to read more.

Metallica trip report

Metallica trip report

Wow!  Wow!  Wow! (videos are at the bottom of this entry)


What an amazing concert.  I was having flashbacks to my teen years to when I would listen to Metallica with friends on our way to farm jobs.  Never would I have thought that 15 years later, I would be close enough to read their tattoos.  My ears are still ringing!

The Good:

  • Second row aisle seat – so close I could read their tattoos – epic! (all for $65!) Could..almost…touch…the gods of rock…
  • It was Metallica as you’ve always known them.  About half the songs they played were classics – and they played them really well. So well done that I pulled out my old CD’s to listen to them again.  Here’s the set list:
    01. That Was Just Your Life
    02. The End Of The Line
    03. For Whom The Bell Tolls
    04. Ride The Lightning
    05. One
    06. Broken, Beat And Scarred
    07. Cyanide
    08. Sad But True
    09. …And Justice For All
    10. No Remorse
    11. The Day That Never Comes
    12. Master Of Puppets
    13. Fight Fire With Fire
    14. Nothing Else Matters
    15. Enter Sandman
    – – -Encore- – – – –
    16. Last Caress
    17. Stone Cold Crazy
    19. Seek and Destroy
  • Energy of the concert was amazing – crowd was great, fire effects were great, lighting and stage was really well done.
  • Next day you can download your show! – Go here to download all the individual mp3’s of any concert for $10
  • No ‘front’ stage – they all moved around the stage and played at different locations.  So there wasn’t a bad front seat anywhere in the front – very well executed, even had a rotating drum set.  I had each of the band members right in front of me at one point.
  • Surrounded by VIPs – I think the reason I got my amazing ticket was it was an unused VIP ticket that opened at noon the day before the concert.  I was surrounded by people with VIP and ‘band pass’ badges. Was that just Hetfield’s wife I saw?  No, really…

The Ugly:  Crowd control – the two guards in charge of our section fail miserably.

  • There was a small mosh/GA area below stage level in front of us.  About 1/2 way through the concert in a 5 minute span, about 5-10 people started individually rushing and jumping the fence in our section.  It got bad enough at one point I really feared a general rush/riot might be coming.  People were tackled by guards, idiots refused to take being thrown out like men.  Fortunately the staff popped over with a bunch of bouncers and got things under control – but it ruined two songs while the local theatrics were attended to.

The Priceless:

  • 2 old rockers that were clearly not all there (about 40-50, and looked like Ozzie clones) decided to light up huge blunties – only 2 seconds later to realize they were standing right by the guards.  Bye bye guys. 🙂
  • The lower mosh/GA area – the most violent offender award goes to a girl in 80’s pink shorts and yellow tank top.  Man, guards had to come in twice and calm her down.
  • Friend of mine was up in 300 level – and when a guy got caught toking up, instead of getting caught – flicked the bluntie over the wall to the crowd below.  Somebody down below either got an early christmas present, or a roach burn. 🙂
  • The fellows that jumped the railing, then got owned by the mosh guards.

The Awesome:
Wanna see how a concert is from the front?  Here’s clips from a guy using camera video that was sitting right near me.  I gave him my email and he was good enough to give me copies.  Thanks man!

For Whom the Bell Tolls:

Ride the Lightning:


Nothing Else Matters:

(Movies are AVI)