Monday, December 29, 2008

Maybe Gold isn't the Perfect Investment

Fradulent housing refi offers have disappeared from my mailbox and I just have to do something to fill the void, and I need to avoid shooting off my mouth about Israel honing the art of over-reaction as I don't know enough about that very deeply tangled situation. (Few do.)

Terri has been listening a lot to Air America and other liberal radio networks which is on AM radio on Green 960 (used to be called The Quake which is a much better name). I love it and really, really hate the ads. Even the legit ads like Laurel Langemeier's, sound like snake oil. Most of them are based on half truths and it drives me nuts. I'm forever shouting at the radio "That's NOT true!" which amuses Terri at least.

So I should spend time analyzing the ads, but it takes more time researching it than a simple fradulent refi offer that shows up in the mail, so I won't be able to do it as often.

But here goes. One thing I really hate is that they sometimes pay the announcers themselves to read the ads. These are people whose opinion I respect and I really resent that I suddenly have to carefully filter what they're saying (I'm sure they hate it too). One ad nearly all of the radio hosts has read is about Buying Gold with ITM Trading (and other companies).

The claim and implication is that gold is a great stable investment especially given that the dollar is down, the economy doing poorly, and with "geopolitical concerns" and that "some experts" claim that "gold's rise has just begun." After I'm done loudly exclaiming "WHAT rise??" I wonder just what the heck they're talking about. I've noticed that the ads change slightly every, so often just to keep the spin going.

If you bought gold in 2001 when it was under $300 an ounce, you'd be doing pretty well especially if you sold it around March of this year when it was in the high $900's. Now it's hovering in the $800's.

The trick with gold is that the prices are generally all over the place (I'll be referring a lot to the charts on the left - click to enlarge), much more so than the stock market which over the long (long) run tends to trend upward. Gold and other precious metals like silver, trend up and then correct steeply downward. If you get that wrong, it will hurt. An example (again, see the chart) is in 1976, gold was around $150/oz and if you bought it then you would have seen it go as high as $750/oz in 1980. But what if you had bought some right then (since it was clearly the thing to do). If you did - I'm so sorry. It plunged to $350 and for the next 19 (!) years has stayed between $350 - $450.

You would have been much better in the stock market even through the dot com crash and maybe even now. It's not that gold or other precious metal are a bad investment, from a diversity point of view it's fine. It's just not the (ahem) silver bullet that it's being pitched as. I personally have no idea which way gold will go. Given that the stock market is doing so horribly, it will probably trend up some, but there's been so much loss of cash that people don't have quite as much money to spend, so I really have no clue. The reason they're advertising so much is that they know that people are disenchanted with the stock market and are looking for other places to put their money. AM radio advertising is all about selling a dream which is a theme I'll be coming back to over and over. When evaluating investments it's really important to look at the long term.

Basic disclaimer, while I'm a fan of analyzing pitches, scams, and other financial lures, I'm not a certified financial expert by any means. Before investing please consult with a financial expert - one that you pay them for their time and who has nothing to sell. Remember that Free is rarely Free.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Social Significance of Shoe Throwing

I with the media would talk more about this. I'm no expert, but even I know that in the Arab world, having someone throw a shoe at you means you have been royally insulted. According to this reference, the sole of your foot is the dirtest part about you and flinging something associated with that at someone else is a grave personal attack.

The fact that no one publicly filled the president in on this is kinda sad That journalist is being hailed as a hero.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jerry Brown - My Hero

Jerry Brown, doing what I didn't think it was within his power to do, filed a lengthy brief with the court asking them to invalidate Prop 8. He doesn't even go in the historically losing direction of arguing that it's a revision and not an amendment to the constitution, but flat out says that it's not consistent with the rest of the constitution (Ref.) which is what Ive been hoping the judges would rule anyway. I'm really relieved that he has placed something that says so for the court to rule on as I don't know if judges can make up their own arguments or have to have a filed argument to rule on.

Apparently Brown is required to defend the Calif law unless he "cannot find reasonable legal grounds to do so."

The article goes on to say that witch hunter Kenneth Starr (the same) says that judges don't have an obligation to protect minorities. What planet has he been living on anyway?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama's inugaural religious bookends - a steep high road

So Obama has chosen Rick Warren to do the inaugural opening and Joseph Lowery to do the benediction. The LGBT community is angry at the choice of Warren since Warren has compared gay people to pedophiles and opposes abortion. Lowery is much more liberal and opposed Prop 8 (Ref.) It will be interesting what Lowery has to say.

Obama swears he fiercely defends LGBT rights, but that he thought it was important to reach out. I can see his talk to your enemies approach and it is brilliant but it still grates. I really wish he chose someone else though I'm sure there are no shortage of bad choices out there. But think about it. He's got Warren talking to Democrates and that way Warren can't help, but come in contact with LGBT folks and familiarity is how social change happens.

I can only hope it works and Obama doesn't start making compromises I wish he wouldn't. And I really dislike being tossed under the bus.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Enough Already, Just Loan Them the Money

The American Automakers that is.

For years I've been saying American cars suck, but it's one thing to whinge about them and quite another to torpedo the entire economy just because you think they deserve it.

This has been a series of hard lessons all the way around. First and foremost is that what people say they want and what they need are two different things. Hinging all your marketing decisions based purely on what people say they want will only work when things are going well. People say they want big cars so the Big 3 make them. Trouble is when things don't go so well with the economy, consumers change their mind in a heartbeat and after they take a reality pill, go buy that Toyota or Honda, and leave the US automakers who spent years making said big car holding the keys.

Thing is, the US Automakers are what I consider to be on Iconic industry. They're an important part of our history and culture. There is precedent for helping out such businesses. We helped out Harley Davidson many years ago with Trade Tariffs (need to find a ref for this).

Also Japan, who has no business growing rice when it is so much cheaper to get it from Thailand considers rice such an important part of their culture that they susidize growing it within the country (find the ref).

The point is that some things are considered important and it's worth helping them along. Sure Toyota and BMW who have non-union factories here may not agree, but they don't have the same amount of history.

And maybe the US Automakers should be history, but not until we find a way so they don't influence the economy quite so much. Maybe they need to be broken up into smaller companies.

And let's be fair, the US Automakers are working on more efficient cars. Yes, they're slow about it (killing the EV was a horrible mistake), but they are and they should be given a chance to make a car that sucks less.

Oh and I totally agree with Frangela on the Stephanie Miller show. Don't go begging for money in your private jet (they learned that lesson - duh). In fact, sell your freakin' jet.

Dealing with Muscle Weakness and Fatigue

I've been dealing with muscle weakness and fatigue these past few days. To the point of having to sleep off a couple of afternoons. It's really discouraging and I can't figure out if it's a weird virus or an MS attack. It kind of doesn't matter as I'm maxed out on MS treatment (until they come up with something better), unless I wanted to switch to Copaxone, but I've been doing so well on Rebif I'm loth to change.

I'm still struggling climbing at altitude - I feel like I hit a wall at 7300' - and I'm trying not to worry that this attack or whatever it is happened after a Shasta climb. (albeit a short one.)

Researching what causes muscle fatigue here:

Interesting that there is perceived and real muscle weakness.

After some digging I found this article
which talks about how a virus causes fatigue by causing inflammation of the muscle fibers which interfers with proper contractions. The author goes on to say though that it's important to not be too sedentary as
Movement builds up the proteins needed for muscle contraction. If you're barely stirring, the proteins deteriorate. "After a week spent flat on your back with the flu, you'll be weak as a kitten for days afterward," says Dr. Siegel.

I've been going to work 1/2 days for a couple of days wondering if I was doing more harm than good. The above implies it was the right choice.

It just occurs to me that if the fatigue is caused by inflammation I should be taking an anti-inflamatory - I'll try that.

Over doing it has its cost though. The proteins in the muscles link up so they can cause contractions. Over-stressing them causes the links to tear and it can take days for those to rebuild that article doesn't say where normal weight training falls. You want some break down to occur but I don't know how much.

Other things i happened across:
Glasgow parkour:

Oh and in the category of don't believe everything you see on the internet:
Hokum hokum hokum:

I did do a sit against a wall test to see if I was doing any worse.
I'm not. I was able to sit against the wall for 1 minute 30 seconds which is double the excellent level for men.

I want to climb and climb strong. This is driving me nuts. I get these brochures of beautiful places and trips that I want to go on, but if I can't keep up I can't. I'd love to be able to climb and to run and to do adventure racing or whatever else I want. I'm not giving up on this.

I want to keep working on this, but winter is coming and I'm going to have to snowshoe to get to those altitudes which is fine but that takes more time. But of course the big project this winter is learning to ski (wa hoo).

I can't figure out what to do on Saturday. common sense would say just workout easily in the gym and maybe do a little yard work, but it's way tempting to go on a hike as well. I think one way to get a handle on this is to get really good at weight training as that helps weakness (I read that somewhere - can I remember where? - of course not).

Prop 8 The Musical

I'm a little bored of Prop 8 coverage but people are coming up with some very brilliant ways of addressing the issue.

I saw this first on the front page of SFGate:
A community college in Sacramento (allegedly) managed to convince some very famous people to participate in a Prop 8 "musical" and made a short video of it. It is just stellar and it's fun picking out all the famous faces. You can see it here. (I usually like to put the text of the actual link in so you know where you're going, but it was way too long.)

And in another very insightful video, the creator uses text, historical images, and an odd choice of music to tell a very powerful story:

A couple of times I've hear religious leaders, one catholic and one mormon both local oddly enough, say that it's time we moved on (meaning we should just accept what happened and accept the will of those particular churches). Wow, what wishful thinking and I think I'm hearing an edge in their voice (though I may be putting it in there) that is really saying something like: We see the writing on the wall and are just trying to forestall the inevitable.

One thing I couldn't work into my own video was Mark Leno's speech which mentioned all the things the conservatives tried to prevent (equal rights for people of color, segratation, no mixed marriages) and he kept saying "And they lost again." His words still echo in my head and every time I hear a prop 8 proponent saying that I hear those words. "And they lost again."