Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You can take your minimum wage and shove it up your kiosk.

I wanted to recount this story before I completely forgot about it. Plus I'm going to be in a conference tomorrow.

I am not a big fan of Panera Bread, but they do have these cherry turnovers I'm kinda into right now.  So.... late one night we found ourselves at the new Panera Bread in the city next to me. Sure I have one in my town, but they were out of cherry turnovers - and this one had a drive through.

When we got there Mr S. decided to go in rather than us going through the drive through. That way if they were out, we wouldn't have to wait in the drive through line. But it was taking him a super long time to come out. So, I had to text him.

Me - What's going on yo.

Him - There are no order takers. It's all automated. You enter your order at a kiosk, swipe your card, and wait.

Me - What?

You see,  Just the week before I'd gone in there for my cherry turnover fix and it was fully staffed. I did notice they had a stand up kiosk, but there were people taking orders.

Him - No humans at the front desk. Only humans in the kitchen delivering food.

By the time he got out I was fully interrogating him because I was just in there. I didn't have that experience at all. Now apparently, at each station where a human would take an order stood a tablet interface kiosk.

Sure it takes a little longer - but you don't have to pay people to take orders. I'd started to get the impression kiosks were never going to make it.

Personally I think you should all pray to god (if you believe in that - I don't) that robots will take your jobs. At least they need skilled labor to be repaired. Kiosks are fairly simple technology.

Old Morgan in the wild.

Normally I'm not into these old cars, but for some reason I have a soft spot for Morgans. I'm pretty sure it started a few years ago when I saw a Morgan EVAGT. Which is a newer version of the old time-y Morgans. At any rate - it probably wasn't the best day to pull out the convertible. Mountain View got some trace rain yesterday.

I found this trolling the parking lot on a break because there were a bunch of important people at my conf yesterday. I wanted to see what they were driving, but I didn't turn up much.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another try at the BMW i8 concept car.

This was being shown at the C3 Connected Car conference today in Mountain View.

Normally I hate when the doors are all up because it's really hard to get good shots, but this time I was pretty happy because it's the first time I've seen the inside. I got this concept (not the exact car) in Monterrey a couple of months ago by accident. Pictures here. And yes - I'm skipping right over wearables to connected cars.

I think the mirrors have either cameras or sensors on the underside. I didn't ask. But it definitely looks like some kind of lens.

Dream big buddy. Dream big.

A Fisker of Silicon Valley licence plate holder on a Prius. It's just funny.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My town don't spell so gud.

I thought this was really funny because it's literally about 100 feet from what I am now calling Stree Street. Previous post here. And I got the embarrassed bear this time.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dear Google.

It seems analysts can't figure out why your growth is slowing down. Here.

Google - Let me help you out. Ready?

Web admins have gone full tard when it comes to loading their sites up with ads. They are ALWAYS on auto play. You have at least two of those on every site. If you are extremely lucky. Then you might have some asshole that adds four auto play vine videos. Dancing emoticons. A laser light show. Dancing panda bears. You get the picture.

Then sometimes you have an add for a product in the sidebar, and because the effing web admin thinks you aren't paying attention it, they pop up a giant add that covers the whole page which is also on auto play. Two ads for exactly the same item! But one you have to close down. 

If you want to play an actual video the site is trying to get you to watch, forget it. All those things combine to be the biggest pain in the ass ever. IF YOU CAN EVEN GET THE PAGE TO LOAD. And if you want to just keep a window open.... all that shit runs your machine out of memory if you leave the window open long enough. Sometimes it doesn't even take that long depending on the site.

So dear Google - we basically can't even load most sites now and it's really effing irritating. Especially if you are on a phone. So we aren't even seeing any of your fucking ads. Or even  able to read the content on the site to begin with. 

You see, if we don't get to load the site, we can't accidentally click on your stupid ads by just moving the mouse around in a window. Maybe that is why your click revenue is down.

And really Google, since they have decided to make every site like a circus, we've been actually started tuning out your ads. We've all got inattentional blindness now because every site has so many moving objects. All you do is look around for the close button to make the pain stop. The next minute I don't even remember what it was the ad was for. The only thing I remember is how much I hate you.

I don't know who is paying who - but neither of you are not getting your monies worth. You are just pissing all of us off. 

I'd show you how it feels, but you'd have to sit through a 30 second ad for a video that is only a minute 23 seconds long. You are assholes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Traders turn into real estate agents......

Because as always - it's never been a better time to buy.

I am a little freaked out because preliminarily it sounds like what I posted about yesterday was closer to the surface than even I realized.

"Investors are blaming an unprecedented lack of liquidity for Wednesday's gut-wrenching stock market open, which saw the S&P 500 fall as much as 2.2 percent from Tuesday's close, sent the VIX screaming to 28 and led to outsized moves in major stocks like Disney. ". Here.

Every morning I check interest rates now. This morning you could find a rate at 3.75%. The previous low was August 4th at 3.87%. Here. After market close - I can find one at 3.673%. That is flirting really close to the March 2013 time frame. I am not sure exactly how close to March,. I only know I refi'd my rental in March of 2013 at 3.50%. But I started that process in November of 2012.

Who knows what happens next. I mean, I'm guessing refi's will pick up. Psychologically though, it makes people think there is no rush in interest rates going up. That might affect purchases.

Everything is just a guess at this point though.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We are coming in for a hard landing.

1. The Saudi's are in a stealth trade war with us. Oil is collapsing and no one is blinking yet. When oil goes down more than 20% in four months - that is a huge deal. Markets can not adjust that quickly. Some people think they are in a trade war with Russia. Maybe they are. But the only change in this equation is that we are producing more. But really - it doesn't matter who the trade war is with - the end game is the same. Price deflation rippling through the economy.

2. Food inflation is almost over. Excluding animals. It takes a few years to rebuild a herd. But farmers in other parts of the country had good enough weather to produce bumper crops of wheat corn, and soybeans.

"Rising production and large stocks have sent prices of corn, soybeans and wheat down by more than 40 percent from their 2014 highs, according to Hamish Smith, a commodities economist at Capital Economics. " Here.

The drop in prices is significant enough that Monsanto had to issue a profit warning.

"Prices for commodities such as corn and soybeans have plummeted to their lowest levels in four years as bumper crops have flooded the market with billions of bushels of the widely used commodities. Many farmers, accustomed in recent years to robust prices, have struggled to cover operating costs. Farm equipment and seed companies also have been heavily impacted, with some cutting jobs and temporarily shuttering facilities." Here.

I honestly think this is why everyone in the market is peeing themselves a little. Food inflation has been masking downward pressure for months. They could convince themselves that growth was right around the corner because "how can you not see inflation! - have you seen how much milk costs lately"? Never mind that money printing had nothing to do with food inflation.

I am deeply loath to agree with anything Janet Yellen says, but she was right about "transitory" inflation. Now we get to see what the real economy looks without everyone screaming about how expensive their limes had gotten. Also.... see item number 1. When something goes down 40% in six months (in this case wheat) - you should really start paying attention. Food inflation is the easiest and quickest to fix. This also points to deflation.

3. Mortgage rates.

This morning when I checked, rates had pretty solidly fallen below 4%.  This is not an inflationary environment.

I haven't checked today, but as of yesterday the price reduced homes from last month had not cleared in my city. This is notable because this is the first month they haven't cleared before the next month starts. And... it is a little concerning that it's almost the 15th of the month and they still haven't all cleared yet.

I am not sure how this is going to turn out at this point. I think there is a troubling scenario shaping up. Some bond investors thought we were going to be in serious inflation by now. We aren't, and I bet they are getting tired of holding dead money. And if the economy starts to look shittier, that is going to make them all the more nervous. They might panic sell.

But - there might not be anyone on the other side to buy. Right now I am super fearful of liquidity drying up.

If the market goes - which I think it will - things are going to get very bad very quickly. Wall street can not "necessarily" count on momma Fed to to come in and save the day. They have been trying to tell us that everything is fine. Just fine. And with interest rates at 0, there is no place for the Fed to stimulate.

This isn't even accounting for markets that are not markets anymore. Africa had actually been doing pretty well before the outbreak. Now it is quite possible several nations could collapse. When productive parts of the population start dying (like farmers) and doctors, That only leaves the non-productive segment.

May parts of the Middle East were markets. Now they are hell bent on rejecting modernism.  To put it really kindly.

And then there is Europe.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's starting to look more likely I will drive to Vegas this year. It took two hours to clear the Philli plane (video below).

It's now three months to one of the largest trade shows in the US. Even if all these are negs - it's still a huge pain in the ass for travelers. Especially when a trade show like CES rolls into town. Many people just fly in for the day. Like me.

Passenger With Ebola Symptoms Quarantined At Las Vegas Airport.

There goes another one.

Found this while I was hunting down a newly dead tree. You can see it on the right.

The house also had a carved bear in front that seemed embarrassed by the whole thing. I should have  gotten a shot with the sign and the bear together. But, I didn't. Maybe the bear ate the T.

This is the street view so you can see how tall it is. We are losing quite a few trees in this height from the drought.

There is no doubt at this point it will have to be cut down.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

You know it was only a matter of time.

Man sneezes on a plane. Makes a joke that he is from Africa. To absolutely zero surprise - no one found that funny. So in came the hazmat suits.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Meanwhile in Sydney.....

As I said at he beginning of the month - they better get this squashed before cold and flu season. All sorts of planes are going to start being diverted. This could create significant financial instability.

"Sydney Airport health scare sparks panic".

"A HEALTH scare has thrown Sydney Airport into chaos with a sick passenger who was vomiting blood causing a flight to be grounded and quarantine officials called to the scene."

He tried to warn you...

When the Dallas patient turned up the only thing I could hear in my brain was the following words from from an article I read early on in the outbreak -  " There is still a window of opportunity to tamp it down, but that window is closing".

I couldn't even remember who'd said it. I only remember the part about the window closing. It made my eyes grow wide at the time because I'd been watching to see if medicine would win out over human nature. I mean - your life stops for 21 days if you have to be quarantined. I think that is right at the edge of people's tolerance. They weren't even killing peoples pets at the time. Some people will not even evacuate natural disasters because they can't bring their pets.

I mean, in America you could hide out for 21 days in the house without much problem. You have TV and all the comforts. But in poor countries that means no work for almost a month. People here go to work sick all the time.

Anyway. Fun fact, and i actually hate that phrase - turns out it's that same guy that only a week ago was telling us not to panic. Yet on Sept 2, 2014 he was clearly telling us we should sort of panic.

"The Ebola epidemic is “spiraling out of control,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Tom Frieden said Tuesday.

“It is the world’s first Ebola epidemic, and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s bad now, and it’s going to get worse in the very near future. There is still a window of opportunity to tamp it down, but that window is closing. We really have to act now,” he said on “CBS This Morning.” 

Frieden recently returned from a trip to countries in West Africa affected by Ebola. He described it as a “horrific” situation but said treatment centers are increasing survival rates." READ MORE HERE.

Early on you could see this could be a big problem because the education level in Africa was pretty sparse. From time to time you'd read these articles about armed gangs raiding hospitals because they didn't believe Ebola existed. Which I thought was a self resolving problem honestly. But when they tried to capture the patients it was straight out of a movie. Dragging them back into trucks. I'll try to find the pictures. That's when you could tell people would do almost anything not to be quarantined. That is human nature. Even people on Big Brother get tired of being isolated and they have everything they need.

Also early on someone modeled how many people might get infected and it was so large I didn't even pay attention to the exact number. Then reports started filling out that the number might be 1.4 million by January. Every week the number of patients goes up by 100%. Not to mention the huge amount of medical waste that they have to figure out how to get rid of.

When they hauled that Dallas mans family out of that apartment I said - can you imagine being the property owner of that complex? You can never rent that apartment again. In California if someone dies in a house - it's a disclosure item for 5 years. If someone died from Ebola - you might as well burn that house down. You will never be able to sell it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The problem isn't the "trade up" market - it's the "trade down" market.

Today the headlines are filled with news the housing market is headed for a triple dip. I'm not sure exactly when the "second" dip happened to warrant a "triple dip" category. But whatever.

Everyone is obsessed with the idea that the housing market is flattening because people can not trade up to non starter homes opening the door for first time borrowers. I don't see this as the problem at all and I'll tell you why.

A curious thing happened through the recession that I never could have predicted. There was an enormous compression in housing prices. It started a couple of years ago and only grown worse until this day. Low price houses got way more expensive, and expensive houses became way cheaper.

What started to happen was the only area that banks were lending to was the under jumbo market. Million dollar houses were caved for the first four years of the recession. I don't actually track their prices because I've always thought million dollar houses were hard to move. I would never consider buying one even if I could afford it. For me, they are either moving or not moving. I don't care about the price because I'm not interested in that market. They have started to move in the last year or so which has warranted article after article about how great the 1% are doing. But they have to move eventually!

The interesting bit is what happened in the neighborhood my rental is in.

When we bought our rental, it cost pretty close to half of what we paid for my house. The neighborhood is solidly working class. While only 10 blocks apart - my neighborhood is filled with nurses. The rental neighborhood is filled with teachers.

Now my houses are worth almost exactly the same amount. Within 50 grand. Slightly more than 10%.  This happened within two years. Houses in my neighborhood have actually been declining in price for a few months now. (maybe 6) The slightly over jumbo area (still my neighborhood) has regained some price power, but it is the snail in the housing ointment. This is the "trade up" market sector. If the problem were people not being able to "trade up", price appreciation in this area would be much better. In reality this particular segment has almost stagnated in price. I still have quite a bit to go before I'm not upside down.

Now however, the first time homeowner segment is almost as pricey as the trade up market. Universally across the whole town. And it doesn't seem to be breaking at all. I keep thinking it will, but a house on the block of the rental was just listed at 50 grand under what similar houses are selling for in my neighborhood. And I think they might have gotten it. After nine days the listing was removed from Zillow. I'm just waiting to see what the final price is. Sure I have two agents who are willing to give me that info, but I just don't want to deal with them. They make my brain hurt. Their reality is not my reality. I will know soon enough anyway.

All I know is from my perspective - there is no first time buyer housing segment currently. That is the problem. Everything is way too expensive. This is the problem with the market.

Monday, October 06, 2014

I didn't get anything fun or interesting for you this weekend because today is like our fifth day in near hundred degree heat. It's suppose to break today - but yeah - I guess we get a repeat performance this weekend. And I'm feeling sort of surly.

I know it will probably start raining in 30 days or so - but for now, I'm just completely over it.

Friday, October 03, 2014

In other troubling ISIS news.

Time tends to run together these days with the news cycle. I think it was a few weeks this group openly stated they were trying to gain anti aircraft weapons.

This morning I started seeing tweets out of Syria that they'd downed an Iraqi attack helicopter. Sacbee has the article. Although I'm not sure if you will be able to read it without subscribing to them. I don't. I read around their little sign in pop up window.

Even more troubling is the tweet that came later in the day out of Nigeria.

"Lagos, Nigeria:  A new Boko Haram video shows the beheading of a man identified as the pilot of a missing Nigerian Air Force jet and burnt out parts of a plane - the first indication that Nigeria's homegrown Islamic extremist group has the capability to bring down aircraft." Read.

It's one thing to bring down a heli, (they fly lower) but the second report seems to indicate they brought down an Air Force jet.
I'm tired of people using the phrase "hot mess", when the subject they are talking about isn't hot. It's just a mess. Just sayin'.