Friday, August 22, 2008

Zero is Still Zero

If you watch the news, you won't be surprised to learn that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (and am I the only person who thinks those names are incredibly stupid?) have been having trouble lately. Today I read that Moody's cut the preferred share ratings on the two companies.

The section that caught my attention, however, read: Many analysts expect the government will have to exercise new abilities to recapitalize the companies, effectively nationalizing them. Those worries yanked their stock closer to zero this week from more than $65 a year ago.

The reason I found this amusing was the comparison of a stock at zero to that of a stock at $65 a year ago, like the fact that it was $65 a year ago is important. Would you rather have bought a stock for $65/share or $1/share and watch it go to zero?

It's a trick question--it doesn't matter. If the stock goes to zero, you've lost 100% of your investment. It doesn't matter at what price you bought in at--you lose 100% either way. Zero is the one stock price that your results will be exactly the same regardless of your buy-in price. It doesn't matter if you bought in at $100,000/share or 1 cent/share--you still lose 100% regardless if the stock price goes to zero.

The fact that the author of this article compares zero to $65 makes me think that the author of the article does not realize this point. It's not like someone who invested a year ago is hurting more than someone who bought in yesterday--they're both losing 100% of their investment. (Or at least heading in that direction--it's still not official as of yet.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Olympics!

I'm not really an Olympics kind of person. I can't say I really understand the enthusiasm people have for the event, who wins or loses, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's a big yawn to me. Does anyone even remember how many medals were won in Athens anymore? Does anyone even care anymore?

A bunch of people I don't know, competing against a bunch of other people I don't know. Whoopee. *twirling finger in air*

This year might be interesting for political reasons, though. I'd hate to be running things on the ground in China. Talk about a migraine. *shaking head* It's kind of surprising to me that China would even want to host the Olympics. What do they have to gain? They spent billions of dollars to host the Olympics, for what? Publicity? That's the kind of publicity I'd think they'd rather do without. I've actually heard more smog reports Beijing since it was announced they got the 2008 Olympics than I ever heard before they had it. It gives opponents to China a very visible place to make protests that they'd otherwise never have. If everything goes well, I'm sure the Chinese government will breath a huge sigh of relief, but they won't be any further ahead than before. And oh so many things could go wrong.... So many things that could embarrass them and stain their reputation for decades to come.

I was actually rather pleased when I first learned the Olympics would go to Beijing. I'm convinced that the more integrated they become with the rest of the world, the more pressured they'll be to become open and honest. I'm not naive enough to think they'll become a democracy overnight because of it, but can the Chinese government stop hundreds of thousands of visitors from talking about Tiananmen Square massacre? The truth will leak free, and the more their citizens travel beyond the China Machine and see the rest of the world, the more they'll see the problems in their own society. The Olympics, however, is bringing the rest of the world to China which essentially accomplishes the same thing. Those folks who can't travel outside of China or political or monetary reasons can now rub elbows with those who do on an unprecidented scale.

It's a huge risk that China is taking, which is why I'm so surprised they're taking it.

Four years from now, when the Olympics are being held in London, I may not know who won what events, or how many gold medals the various countries brought home. But I suspect I'll remember the polictical background for decades to come, and I hope China becomes a better place for it.

Now cute girls in tight outfits on ice skates--that's fun to watch. I still won't remember who won, but at least it's fun to watch. ;o)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Best Time of My Life....

'Tis the witching hour at the moment. I rarely stay up late enough to properly enjoy the witching hour, but it's a time of night I always find soothing for some reason. Streets are quiet and deserted. Shadows abound, however, and there's always something in the shadows. Mice, cats.... something....

I first remember learning the term witching hour while reading The BFG (Big Friendly Giant, for those of you not in the know) by Roald Dahl in the fifth grade, perhaps my favorite book in my entire elementary school career.

The witching hour is now upon me, as I continue tweaking a few ribbon colors on Atlas Quest. I had the television on, and at this late hour, all the channels tend to play commercials. Hour long, paid advertisements. It's shocking to me that anyone would actually watch such long commercials, though I have watched parts on occasion to laugh at the ludicrous claims they make. Using their "proven" techniques, I could become rich in real estate, the stock market, or by starting my own business. With their patented veggie cutter, I'll be a five-star chef in mere minutes. They can cure baldness, help you look like a supermodel, and give me six-pack abs in just three minutes per day.

It's really kind of funny to me, and I'm astounded that anyone would ever believe such hyped up claims. Do these people not realize it's just a commercial with hyped up claims?

I was pleasantly surprised to learn tonight, the special ad was a collection of music from the 70s and 80s. I remember adjectives such as "timeless" and "amazing" being thrown around with abandoned. The thing is, I generally like music from the 70s and 80s, and of course, they played clips from all sorts of them. I was actually enjoying the commercial!

My one complaint, though, was that they kept talking too much and not playing enough music. Alas, I guess we can't have everything. *shrug*

Which brings me to.... what is the best time of your life? Because one of their so-called testimonials. I know it's fake. Competely and totally faked. You know how I know this? Because the woman said the music brings her back to the best time of her life.... in high school! Raise of hands here--anyone think that high school was really the best time of their life?

I can't say I had a bad high school career. It was probably typical for the most part. I went to school, and.... heck, I don't even remember what I did for fun back then. Probably played Tetris too much.

High school has too many constraints to be considered the best time of one's life. Curfews, lack of money, lack of transportation..... For a month or two, I deliberately avoided one particular person in fear they might try to beat me up if they ever got me alone. (I will confess, however, that I brought this situation on myself when I deliberately whacked him in the shin while playing field hockey in PE--a fate he justly deserved. But I was careful to avoid him outside of class after that!)

All-in-all, though, high school was probably the worst time of my life. Isn't that kind of normal, though? To doubt what you'll do in the future, worry about college, peer pressures. To be stuck without money or transportation. Bleh.

No, it wasn't until college when I started to have a heck of a lot more fun. That was when I first started traveling. I rafted rivers, rock climbed up steep cliffs, backpacked up tall mountains, and saw a number of very cute naked girls relaxing in hot springs. Let me tell you--that never happened in high school! (Not my high school, at least!)

I can't really say that college was the best time of my life, though. I was still learning who I was. Turns out, I didn't really get into rock climbing. Hanging on the side of a cliff all afternoon got kind of boring after the initial thrill wore off. Backpacking suited my speed more, however, allowing me to cover more ground and see more places. Rafting and canoeing were also wonderfully fun, but I was too cheap to actually buy my own gear so was always dependent on others for those particular adventures. I don't get to hot springs much anymore, but I did do a bit of solo skinny dipping while thru-hiking the Florida Trail. =)

No, the best time of my life started when I was laid off from my job at Intel. I had saved tens of thousands of dollars and suddenly found myself with enormous quantities of time. All my life I'd either had school, work, or both. For the first time in my life, I found myself with neither--AND with money to spend. That was when I started the best time of my life, traveling through Central America and thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail being highlights.

Of course, most people probably don't get that particular luxury, so I could image that for a lot of people, college could be the best time of their life. High school, though? I just don't believe that. Even when I worked at Intel, I still considered that time better than my time in high school.

Stupid fake testimonials..... Was it really so hard to get some legitimate testimonials?