Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sure Google maps takes you on the craziest routes to get to places - but sometimes you find funny stuff. So you keep putting up with it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

She's going to talk about robots? No way.

I'm sure many of you come to this blog - see at the title and say WTF - I've never seen her post about robots here. What is up with that?

Well, it's not that I don't go to conferences reasonably often that have robots at them - I just don't always have anything interesting to say. Until today.

That's because the news flashed yesterday that Orchard Supply Hardware is going to roll out the OSHbot next month in San Jose. I swear I already planned to visit every single OSH in San Jose to track this thing down. Yes - every single one of them if I had to. Because I already kinda know how this story ends.

I bring this up because I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago that had an Adept manufacturing robot. I thought about posting about the experience after the first US Ebola case, because you just couldn't believe how well this bot autonomously navigated a packed conference room with people. And I've been watching this stuff for more years than I can remember now. I've been waiting forever for a tipping point.

People are always fearful of robots taking their jobs - but if a robot can enter a room and take care of a very infectious patient - people might change their minds. Especially because they have been working on ways to teleopertate the autonomous robots. Which I hadn't seen until this year.

IMO robots have really been in a plateau period for a few years. The lion share of the work has been in improving robot spacial awareness. There are at least a handful of ways to achieve this from a point cloud to contrast algorithms, heat sensors and sonar.  But the best improvement so far is has been with LIDAR getting less expensive. The Adept bot had two LIDAR sensors. One for horizontal vision and another one for vertical vision. And this is exactly why I haven't blogged about robots lately. Posting about these various methods is sort of dry.

All of the methods give robots different depth perception. LIDAR by far has the longest range vision ability. I believe up to three meters.

Sensors getting cheaper is what is going to propel this segment forward. And I think that day is possibly upon us.

At any rate - the job the Adept bot was fitted for was carrying silicon wafers to wherever chip manufacturers wanted them to be. This is usually a very sterile environment. You placed the wafers inside that plastic box in the above photo (or the third photo). But I'm sure it could be almost anything you wanted to keep sterile. There were four slots for the boxes, but the bot only had one box at the time.

The last photo in this series was the charging station.

So, get ready - robots are definitely finally coming to take your jobs. The good news? It's takes of a lot of components to make robots which will create new jobs. And the jobs that robots take - people might not really want anyway. Like helping treat Ebola patients.

Grab the popcorn. It's gonna get messy.

Well, the Fed has stopped buying bonds. "allegedly".

This will cause interest rates to rise because people want to be compensated for the extraordinary risk that exists in buying them. You could already see a move up this morning in rates.

The funny thing is (said in the most sarcastic way) last week or the week before when rates fell well under 4%, home sales barely budged. Everyone who thought they could now refi started rushing through that door. But, that door will soon close. Then both home sales and refi's will be completely caved.

Buckle in.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why lower gas prices might not juice the economy as much as you think.

Right now you can not throw a dart without hitting an article about the "new housing" bubble. Which frankly I think is bullshit. Are prices going to go down? Yeah. Of course I think so. But if you are smart you will look past price declines and realize that if you can not afford a house at interest rates around 4% - you shouldn't be in a house period.

The reason I bring this up is because people keep screaming about a housing bubble all the while ignoring how much rents have gone up in the last year. I haven't been keeping track of rental increases as much because my renter is under contract until May. But in  the last couple of weeks I've been noticing a lot of stories that even make my mouth drop. People are getting notices of their landlords trying to increase their rents by several hundred dollars per month. Likely these are the same demo that got tossed out of their houses for similar rent increases when they owned.

San Francisco YOY increase - 9.4%
Oakland YOY increase 19.1%.
San Jose YOY increase 9%
Bay Area as a whole YOY increase - 10.3%.

I don't know what is happening in the rental market in the rest of the country - but in California - those types of increases are going to eat up any savings they are gaining with gas prices being lower. And then some.

I'm not really sure how this is going to pan out. Since the recession started, they have build about half of the units they normally night. Population increases will outstrip that supply.

Normally these types of issues are easily resolvable. If they are able to gain financing and can find land to build on. In the Silicon Valley they have already started getting creative by putting a lot of new developments on the tiny slivers of land next to the railroad tracks as I wrote about here in June.
This weeks writing stoppage was brought to you by the IRS. I am okay now, but it's taken me about four days to feel like I wasn't going to die. While you are in it - it's the only thing you can think about.

Plus, who knows what is really going on in the economy right now. We have an election next week - so everything is great! Just great.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

That is *so* random.

I was still in my conference today. And Mr S. and I commuted. Sometimes I like to try and smuggle him into the expo halls if I can to see some of the cool stuff.

When he came to pick me up he texted me he was at the Santa Clara convention center and told me there was a DeLorean in the parking deck. Which made me roll my eyes. I don't get what it is guys see about this particular car. They are not that rare. They make me crazy. But guys just love, love, love them.  For reference you can see Levi Stadium in the top left of the shot.

Turns out they shut the hall down directly at 3:30, and I couldn't get him in. But when we got back up to the parking deck and I saw the car I was like - that is NOT the same DeLorean as we saw in Ohio is it? The exhaust scoops looked exactly like the ones on the car we saw in Ohio. I was immediately excited because I knew if it had an Ohio plate - that was the same car.

When we got up to it we started laughing because - randomly seeing a car that you spotted in another state half away across the country - then running across it again is like finding a needle in a haystack. If someone told me they had driven the car here, then told me to find it in a convention center parking lot - it would seem impossible. But there it was!

I have video of it here from the Ohio trip. You don't think he had to drive 70 miles an hour the whole way here. Do you? That would make me crazy.

Update - after I posted this Mr S. told me it wasn't the same car. I don't even watch my own videos sometimes. What's up with Ohio and the DeLoreans?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

3D printing posts are back on.

I haven't blogged about 3D printing in a while because it's become super main stream. And I've been waiting to see which type of printer is going to win the "betamax" style printer wars.

Turns out they are still trying new ways to print things that turn out super realistic. It's the first time I've seen this style of printer - so, watch the video at the end. And yes, the ad is actually longer than the video, but you can skip out early. The printer is from Mcor Technologies. These items are printed with paper rather than a polymer or additive plastic.

I'm giving you two shots because most of this stuff was under glass. It doesn't give you much photographic range.

Printed bananas.

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.