Monday, August 31, 2009

The Rockford Files

Rather than writing a quality post this evening, I reposed on the couch and watched a classic episode of The Rockford Files from my complete archive on DVD. In this episode, guest-starring the ever lovely Linda Evans as a former flame, our hero goes toe to toe with Sergeant Becker and a surly captain over some undercover cop whose been shaking Rockford's ex down for years. Evans "has no money", despite an opening chase sequence in a pretty sweet Mercedes spider (240 SL?). In any case, it was perfectly decent watching, and I'll have to return to the well for more soon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The gentle roar of the acceleration of history

After a run around the lake, I stopped in for a quick swim at the shared beach area behind our house. The last other swimmers were leaving, and I had the place to myself. The water was end of August brackish, but I drifted out a little on my back and could see the almost full moon rising over the trees at the top of the hill above the grassy park area.

In the not so great distance (1.2 miles), I could hear the gentle droaning of our new neighbor, I-40, which is nestled over a rise or two to the Northeast. It makes for easier commuting to RTP, and quicker beach access, but is it worth it? A toughie.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wrong number

Some teenage girl in New Jersey keeps calling me and insisting that she has the right number and that I'm lying when I say there's no Thomas there. "Thomas?" she says. "No," I say. "I'm Graham and this has been my cell number for the last seven years or so." And she says: "But I looked it up." My guess is that Thomas works for Verizon, he ran out on his girlfriend and changed his listed number to be mine to get the whiner off his back.

But it's definitely getting old.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gossip from the bus stop

A dad at my kids' bus stop is the son of a former Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools' Athletic Director, and he told me a little anecdote today about hiring a basketball coach for Chapel Hill High School back in 1981 or so. Roy Williams was, at that time, an assistant to Dean Smith, and he interviewed for the job. The AD looked at him and threw him out on his butt, because it was clear that he was too talented and would never stick around.

Then Ken Miller came in wearing sweats. He was hired.

Apparently Ken Miller never tipped when he went to restaurants. He claimed that it wasn't his responsibility to pay those people, they weren't his employees.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Downtown Durham

Had a meeting in Durham today. Prowled Main St. looking for my dad's old office. Vacant storefronts jostled with fancy eateries and lawyer's offices for space. Waited on at lunch by a guy who was a waiter at a restaurant when I started there as a dishwasher in 1984, and whose mullet has not changed substantially. Nor, for that matter, has his skin.

Haunted by memories of shopping at a long since departed department store in Downtown. Long gone.

Update from the pile

It appears that the Grouse will have to obtain a compost bin or somesuch device here in the South, as his open pile is being pillaged by the local fauna nightly.

In other news, while walking home just now from Estes Hills Elementary Kindergarten orientation, I saw some intense mushrooms and caterpillars.

Next, a trip to Durham for lunch with the man who Forbes has called the "Ralph Nader of mortgage lending," more or less.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sitting at my desk

Another day of disruption at the desk. Graham puking on what was supposed to be his first day of school. Puking and very whiny.

And then I tried to set up my printer, this Hewlett-Packard Photosmart C7280 which has been such a pain in the butt when talking to my Dell Latitude D420 running Windows XP. When it talks so nicely to Mary's Macbook. I downloaded 193 megs of crap only to be told that I needed the original installer disks to install a bunch of features. If I needed the disk, I wouldn't have downloaded the .exe, for chrissakes.

Anyway, now I can print.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wet n Wild

At the Wet n Wild water park west of Greensboro, NC today, the Grouse experienced extreme culture shock, despite running into the son of a regular reader, a certain Jake. I haven't seen as much skin as that in a long time, and the incidence of obesity meant that the per capita square inchage of skin was high, too. Tattoos were also very much in evidence, including on otherwise bourgeois looking women who looked like they might in other times wear black cocktail dresses and comment on the oakiness of a Merlot. There were one or two of those.

And blaring metal and soul oldies, in blazing hot sun.

I was very glad Mary had not come. This was not the new South whose praises we have sung.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Driving south

After a deeply anticlimactic struggle to get our sorry butts out of our beloved Princeton house while our obese movers huffed and puffed and cursed our three stories, we finally set out caravan style at 3pm in a torrential downpour. We got across the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and soon thereafter diverted onto 896/301 to skip the Baltimore/DC traffic scene.

Before long, a two-lane road through generic Delaware suburbia opened out into a rural two/four lane highway, and it was us and farms and trees and trucks, and I had the distinct memory of the seeming endless monotony of pine forest and the loneliness of it all. In the North, there's all too often a sense that you're chasing after something going on over there, or down there, whereas in the South all too often it's just between you and the trees with no illusions of something you might be missing out on, because no one cares, or it's easier to believe that they don't, or that you shouldn't care if they do.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Fear not, faithful readers, the Grouse's plaintive song has not been silenced or even stunted, it has simply been stifled momentarily by transit. The family has now arrived safely in the bosom of the Great North State, but, for shame, I must wait till Friday for real internet service. But I'll make an effort to post here and there.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Apologies for the lack of posting to those few faithful of my regular readers. I've been packing to move this Thursday, which was interrupted by a need to inter my recently and sadly departed father-in-law George Berridge, whose eulogy needs to be adapted to fit the needs of the blogosphere. I'll climb back on the horse soon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Aren't TIPS a type of derivative?

Are they not kissing cousins to interest rate swaps? You pay a fixed amount and then get yield plus the adjustment on an underlying instrument, in this case the CPI. There are, of course, a good number of arguments against the efficacy of CPI in reflecting inflation as it is actually experienced, and TIPS are relatively young (born in '97) and not that large an asset class in general, so there sort of not quite battle hardened. So if China is going to bully us into using them as a primary means of debt issuance, we need to think long and hard about what that might mean for us down the road.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How bad does Verizon suck?

Let me count the ways. I've been on the phone an hour now trying to disconnect my FIOS service. I guess they don't staff anyone on that branch of the phone tree. That's not really a good client retention strategy.

For one, it just gives its customers time to mouth off on the blogosphere.

Lots of members of my former firm worked for Accenture in the 90s and they told horror stories of what a cesspool Verizon was and how they would spend many millions of dollars on projects that just failed outright. And for this I spend $250 or so a month for all of my home and mobile data services. I look forward to severing this relationship, if I'm ever able to do so.

Talking heads on CNBC

One of the benefits of working at home recently has been that I haven't been subjected to CNBC in public spaces, but I tuned in the other day while constructing boxes. And there before me was a familiar face, an attractive blonde Russian woman with her own "quant trading strategy" firm -- an energetic self-promoter, met with her in summer of 08, had a beverage in the basement of Grand Central, where she was all too happy to minimize expenses and jumped at the chance to advise on a simple FX transaction.

As of August '08 co-published an article (with her husband) on raising capital from high net worth customers (rich people but nonetheless retail clients) through structured products, which seems like a relic of a bygone era.

The other day she was talking about whether CITI is too big to fail, she talked too much and tripped over herself and got beat down by a more media-savvy guy from Connecticut AG's office.

Generally speaking, this is indicative of CNBC's status as a good source of analysis: this woman really didn't need to be commenting on Citi, nor was she particularly qualified to do so, but she fills the screen better than she does the air waves, and she'll do it, so hell, run with her.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The supply side is dead?

This afternoon I had the displeasure of getting my haircut in a place where the guy was watching Fox News. I should have had the backbone to tell him I wouldn't let him cut my hair and walk out, but I wanted it shorter.

So I was watching the Neil Cavuto show, and he was all bent out of shape -- among other things -- about Geithner and Summers getting on the talk shows yesterday morning and hinting at raising taxes on the middle class. And he brings on Governor George Allen, a Virginia Republican, who says: "the only way to pay down these big deficits is by raising taxes."

Hmmm. Since the age of the great Arthur Laffer, the Republicans have been the party of the supply side. He're a not so ancient quote from our buddy McCain: "Don’t listen to this siren song about cutting taxes. Every time in history we have raised taxes it has cut revenues." — McCain, [1/17/08]. So Allen should be arguing that raising taxes will make budget deficits worse. But somebody handed him the wrong script, I reckon.

CIT playing catch up

CIT is still working things out. Today it revised a tender offer to buy-out noteholders, and has left in place some outdated company profile boilerplate in its press releases.

CIT is a bank holding company with more than $60 billion blah blah blah... Founded in 1908 and headquartered in New York City, CIT is a member of the Fortune 500.

In fact, CIT was dumped from the S&P 500 a couple of weeks back and replaced by Raleigh, NC-based open source vendor Red Hat. I guess CIT has been cutting back on its flack expenditures.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

CAPCO busted

Friday's NYTimes had a story on CAPCO, a captive excess insurer of deposits for brokerages. The long and short of it was that CAPCO, founded in 2003 by 12 major and minor brokerages, including Lehman, Goldman, Wachovia Securities, Morgans JP and Stanley, Credit Suisse, Fidelity, Edward Jones, Raymond James, and some smaller fish.

When I called my broker in October following the “breaking the buck” freak out, I was told that SIPC plus Capco coverage protected my shares if not their value (as if the latter were an issue at that point in time). As of February: poof goes CAPCO.

I’m not generally one for the general free for all pile on Goldman and Wall St in general thing, but it seems that, to the extent that the remaining big banks and other CAPCO participants may have $11 billion unfunded liabilities emerging from Lehman litigation, that some of the YTD profits could have been steered to a recapitalization. At the very least, we may hope that CAPCO participants are now reserving adequately against the possibility of future Lehman-related claims.

If anything, this should raise red flags for customers of Fidelity which, as a private company, is itself pretty opaque.

Humorously, there is a warning on the CAPCO site that some unscrupulous firm is misrepresenting itself as being covered by CAPCO. After Friday's article, that firm may regard its nonparticipation as a boon.