New Music: Hevia

Thanks to V.D., he's pointed out music by Helva.

I like Enigma and do find Helva interesting enough.  I'll have to check out Deep Forest, too. 

For general reference: My tastes are extreme: pretty much any instrumental pop music (heavy metal [which my wife loves] to Jazz and new age) as well as Early music (Gregorian chant, Renaissance, Baroque music, especially J.S. Bach).

Other artists I like:
  • Exchange
  • Mannheim Steamroller
  • Michael Gettel
  • Spencer Nilsen
  • Checkfield
  • John Tesh

Copyright 2009, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.



Cheap and Anonymous Phone

These days, it's possible to get decent prepaid phones. For $100 or so they have internet capable phones. And at places like Walmart you can buy the phone and prepaid minutes completely anonymously by paying cash.

When I first tried to buy one about 3 years ago, they asked me for name and address at a wireless carrier's kiosk in Circuit City. At Walmart, you can buy it like any other goods and activate the phone at home.

We bought phones for our sons and I make sure that they remain anonymous (always paying the minutes with cash -- once they leave home, all bets are off if they have the discipline to be cash only).

The reason I went with prepaid is that it's cheaper than adding extra phone to the family plan: $120 (+ tax) per year vs. $100 per year flat fee. Plus what they use they pay for since $100 doesn't go very far (we require that at least $20 be left in their account so that we can call them at any time).  For $10 per month, they can get unlimited texting to those on the same network. 

We're still learning how the prepaid works since we haven't really played with it until this year (first 2 years, I didn't really do much with it)...

Copyright 2009, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.



Teenage sons

Now that my younger son is in high school, challenge is how to raise them to be real men. They had it easy until now but in few years they will leave the coup and I'm not sure how ready they are.

Hearing about children who mooches off parents is a wake up call for me.

What to do about it, is a good question.....



Market craziness again

Looks like another bear market rally today: I got tired of waiting with SDS so I sold them all with 1% profit.

I still have DXD and SRS and will ride out the storm for now (I may add to SRS)....

Copyright 2009, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.



Depression Cookin

(gotten it from Mish's blog.)



Of Market Actions

It's good to feel being right but at the same time, seeing a historical downturn of the stock market gives me a tinge of guilt (more of survivor's guilt). I certainly feel sorry for those who trusted the market experts saying that holding on for the long term is worth it. Letting go was the right thing to do last year, at any point, since we are way below the lowest point of 2008. I bought some SDS on the day of the lowest close of 2008 (Nov 20) and I have finally gotten back to black this week (after accounting for ex-dividend) -- short ETF's do not track the index perfectly over the long term so do expect some divergence from the index over time.

However, I believe the general trend is down (still) since we are far from hitting the bottom (i.e., no real capitulation, yet). The VIX index is still much lower than the peak of last year (hit almost 90 while today we are at around 50). People on TV are still saying hang on, we may hit bottom any day now or stocks do great over the long run (even though we hit record 52-week low almost every day now). When everyone talks about shorting or never touching the stock market ever (maybe the sign would be when the POTUS confesses that buying stocks was not a good idea after all), then we should all cover our shorts (sell my short ETF's) and go back to buying stocks (i.e., going long instead of short).

So: Sell now before things get worse is my message -- or better yet, join me and go short the market since I expect we have much lower to go. We may not hit -89% like during GD1, but another 20-30% down won't surprise me (-70% from the peak) nor would I be surprised if we break GD1 and go below -90% -- we had the greatest bubble in US history when it comes to housing prices -- never before did we have investing environment where people were leveraged infinity to 1 with 0% downpayment on a huge investment (10x median income). Even in the 20's, people had to put 10% down on stocks (at most 10 to 1 leverage). The stock market bubble should have ended after dotbomb crashed. However, it was temporarily saved and moved onto the housing bubble. It seems we have only gold and Treasury's bubbles left today. And do note that baby boomers are hitting retirement ages which means they will sell their stocks (to retire or just to go to safer investments) exasperating the stock decline!

I did sell off some SRS shares to raise cash earlier this week at US$91.39 (it went down few bucks more afterward [so for about one day I felt like a genius] but then it has been climbing up since then). Right now, it's being quoted at US$107-110. So much for my market timing....

Copyright 2009, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.

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Depression story

Our 2 sons take classes once (younger) or twice a week (older) and it seems that the younger one was taking his money and buying lunch there for few weeks (I guess he got tired of packing his (free) lunch).

Anyway, this week, he decided due to bad economy that he's going pack lunch now. But get this: instead of slapping some sandwich or hot dog together he boils hot water and put it into a thermos plus one cup a ramen package.

We always remind him to save money and don't spend money so freely. And he also knows how we invest our money (short such that market down days are celebrated by yours truly -- not something I talk about at work nor much to my church friends). (We also tell him not to blabber how we're doing to his classmates since we know most people are suffering on all fronts: lower pay (job/hour cuts for some), lower investments and lower home prices).

The reality of GD2 is slowly gaining traction, even among school aged children. (Our sons had to do a book report on GD1 last fall so they have read about the history and some feel for the time we're about to face.)

Copyright 2009, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.



Wealth of Americans Wiped Out

At least that's the head line at MarketWatch.

Sad to see many people lose a lot of money the past 7 years due to the Ponzi economy run by the government. The Fed (Federal Reserve Bank) is the worst of the bunch but don't forget
CONgress and Executive branch either.

In 2001/2002 I knew things couldn't continue business as usual so I went all cash when I had a chance to roll over my 401K to IRA early 2002. From Dec '01 I was contributing to S&P 500 index at work just to get emploer matching but I but went all cash in Mar '07. At my current job from Jun '07 I was in international mutual fund until Apr '08 when they changed 401K provider and I went to all cash too.

Starting in summer of 2007 I started to go short in my IRa and I'm now 20% cash and 80% short. Last year I made about 20% and this year I'm just breaking even YTD (thanks to the Obama mortgage rumor I am no longer strongly in the black).

In summary, the past 7 years we didn't go through ups and downs of the market and we've done very well: total return of +48% in 7 years with my rollover IRA. We lost money on our home in TX when we sold in 2005 but the market returns more than made up for that loss!

As for the future I expect further decline of the stock market as people face the realiity of GD2 (Great Depression 2). Whiich is why I'm still 80% short in the market...

Copyright 2009, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.



more home projects

We more or less finished the kitchen (sewage plumbing of the kitchen isn't quite right so I'll have to redo it eventually but the leak is minor so no big rush).

I've put in ethernet cables, so now I have to pretty up the walls covering the big holes left over from electrical work we had done before -- which I took advantage of for the ethernet wiring. I also brought in outdoor TV antenna from bedroom to living room using the same hole as the ethernet wiring. We've gone cheap by cancelling cable and watching only off the air HD programming: we have a PC with HW encoder to convert the analog signal to digital TV and has 1.5TB of diskspace to record plenty of hours of TV.

Our TV PC will also serves as our majicjack host. I was using an old Pentium 4 @ 2.4 GHz which was too slow and produced garbled line quite often. Newer PC is core 2 duo with 2GB of memory so it should handle the phone better. I also set my router to prioritize the media PC since it doesn't
normally need the bandwidth. Plus the media PC is on all the time so we didn't have to keep 2 computers on always.

BTW: Fixing up drywall isn't something I'm looking forward to. One of those have to do but not fun work.

Copyright, 2009, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.



Attempted break in

Last week two low lives tried to break into our garage. We were in the process of replacing the door so even though it didn't close properly, I didn't bother to fix it.

Well, the criminals noticed it as an opening/invitation to enter the garage. So they tried to pull it open (and broke the some bolts and broke the frame). The old garage door was one piece but also had a regular door cut into the middle and they tried to force open the door, too (and jammed it in the process).

Our neighbor approached them to ask what they were up to and apparently they claimed to be deliverying something and pretended to leave a message and took off.

When I came home, the neighbor informed me about it as soon as I got out of my car. I glanced at the garage and did noticed that it was open a bit more than usual but didn't look into it. Well, my wife insisted that something wasn't right so I tried to go and open the door and couldn't. I called out my younger son to craw through the opening and open from the inside but he couldn't just unlock and push open. It was jammed such that he had to kick it open!

When I got in, I saw the various damage done and tried to close it up. My neighbor came over with craw bars to help me put the door back to the point where I can nail/screw in the door to the frame.

Apparently there are criminals who knock on doors to see if anyone answers and then rob the place if no one appears. With our home, they only went for the garage before our neighbor got nosey. My wife tells me that she has seen in the local news where some of the nicer neighborhoods, they would go to the back and break in the house.

At the time of the attempt, neither my wife nor myself was at home, but our sons were (we do homeschool our children). We have told them to keep out of sight so they did and they didn't get a look at them. At least my eldest has permission and training to unlock the shotgun and shoot at "targets". When we talked about the incident, my youngest wanted permission to wield a 9mm handgun, but I said no since I don't trust his shooting abilities (yet). Maybe after we take some self defense training course (I hope take one on shotgun and another on handgun with my sons later this year).

Copyright 2009 DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.



Relearning the joys of home debtorship

Now that we "own" a home, we have the "privilege" of fixing and upgrading our own home.

Since our home is over 50 years old, there's a lot that needs to be upgraded and repaired:
  1. Replace our heater: first thing to get replaced since it was old and some black stuff (smoke?) were coming out the output of the machine.
  2. Sand and refinish our hardwood floor: we removed all the carpet (seemed new just to sell the home) in the house and then hired a general contractor to sand and stain the floor. They didn't do a good job of staining (smeared some on the walls, here and there) but we did get what we paid for and can't really complain.
  3. New blinds for all the windows.
  4. Replaced the shower head from fixed head to hose kind with multi-spray.
  5. New external door locks (4 doors).
  6. Replaced 2 bedroom door knobs. 3 more to go (2 bathrooms and 1 last bedroom)
  7. Various electrical work: we hired electrician to add GCFI to our bathrooms, kitchen and garage. We also had wiring added to support garbage disposal and dishwasher in the kitchen. We had 2 electrical outlets converted from direct wiring for garage door opener and kitchen vent. And 3 prong wiring to our sons bedroom and 2 to our living room (one for entertainment center and one for treadmill).
  8. Replaced the vent hood with microwave/vent.
  9. We replaced a ceiling fan in the dining room and added a new ceiling fan in the kitchen. (We paid our son to do the work.)
  10. Put in a new sink.
  11. Put in a new garbage disposal.
  12. New refrigerator. (The house came with an old one [which we just dumped] and we got rid of our old one in Austin: the past 3 years, we were using my sister's hand me down: here in SoCal, our electric company is offering $50 rebate for turning in old frig, so we made money on ours :-)
  13. Replaced the garage door and opener
  14. This past week, we: Replaced the kitchen countertops, replaced the cooktop (from old electric with heating elements to smooth top), put in dishwasher, new kitchen faucet and reverse osmosis water filteration system. For a while, our kitchen was a mess with various appliances in and out of the kitchen and tools all over the place.
  15. We bought a new front door but haven't installed it yet. Maybe this week sometime.
This is on top of unpacking our stuff from boxes and organizing them. And bolting down things like bookshelves (for earthquake safety) and gun safe. And hope to start normal up keep like mowing the lawn.

And to think we're just getting started...

Copyright 2009, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.

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211: Help for the new poor

LA Times article as the scoop for those who are newly poor (thanks to commentator fried at CR): "A guide for the newly poor: A major financial or personal blow can make obtaining just the necessities of life a challenge. Here's how to cope." I don't recall seeing such article in the downturn of the '01/02.

I was living in Austin back then and things were bleak but not this bleak since it was only the dotcom and related hitech businesses -- things were tough but not impossible to find jobs. All the coworkers I knew from a company which went bust in '02, they all found jobs that year (not all in Austin but still). This time around, it's not just the hitech and financials which are suffering. Real estate in Austin went down such that we had "naked" buildings (steel frames rusting away for years) and cities where talking about raising tax rates to make up for lower appraisals. In fact, when we sold our home in 2005 (bought in 2002), we did lose a good chunk of money (right at the peak of the California & Florida real estate bubble peak). Austin didn't get the bubble until last year but that bubble was rather small compared to what happened here in Orange County.

Anyway, we're just getting started with GD2, so hang on tight: you ain't see nothing yet....

Copyright 2008, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.


"Progressive" South: Asians in politics

I read "Louisiana delivers GOP 2 seats in Congress" out of vague curiosity, but was surprise to read about first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress as a Republican.

Congrats to Anh "Joseph" Cao! Louisiana has claims to not only the first Indian-American governor but Asian-American Congressman, too. What is the South turning into? I would have thought Democratic Californians would put Indian-American as governor or Vietnamese-American as congressman. So much for the "progressive" Californians...

Copyright 2008, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.


Jobs for GD2

It seems that president-elect Obama wants to pump up the economy with keep busy jobs (like changing light bulbs).

As a libertarian, I say that less is more and government should stay out of the economy (other than cutting spending and taxes: less intervention is better).

However, some commentator at CR pointed out the too many have negatives and contribute no positive way out of this economic downturn. Well, here are some of my thoughts:

1) Allow people to farm at home. There are people who do quite well on a regular plot of land (e.g., Dervaes family farms about 3 tons (6,000 pounds) of food on 1/10 acre of "farm land" in Pasadena, CA not too far from downtown L.A.). This means getting rid of dumb laws like you must have green lawn in your front yard. For those who don't own a land with dirt (renters and condo owners), why not open up unused land like city parks and allow people to farm there? Also encourage the youths to help their neighbors who are elderly or disabled.

2) Harvest rain water. By collecting rain, you can save lots of money. And helps the environment too (need to take less water from the source, like what we do in California: piping it from North to South).

3) Free energy regulations so that small generators can grow (be it natural gas based or mini windmill or solar or geothermal or whatnot). Too much regulation hampers innovation (most safety regulations are a joke: why do so many people die even after FDA approval of drugs?) and prevents small inventors from creating and selling products to local home owners (or even renters). (I bet there are tons regarding electrical generators as well as how the power can be used/transmitted -- I mean if one person wants to "sell" to his neighbors, I bet he would be shut down by electric regulators.)

4) Free communications (i.e., deregulate FCC). Allow people to create neighborhood wireless internet system. Why should big companies get monopolies?

5) Deregulate vehicle rules. Too much rules make it hard for inventors to innovate new propulsion technology for cars (or other alternative vehicles). I can't believe that even biodeisels are taxed/regulated (I heard of a case where one can't process used oil and pour into your diesel engine without paying taxes).

Just as we had a lot of technological process without government interference, a lot of innovation can happen as soon as government gets out of the way. Now that Great Depression 2 is upon us, we should allow small guys have more freedom to explore and allow them to innovate out of this economic downturn. What we don't need are more bridge to nowhere and other boondongle projects.

Copyright 2008, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.

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Rent vs Buy

Here's our calculation: Rent is currently at $2150/month (that $50/month is for our dog). We could probably get $1750/month if we sign up for a lease.

The home we're buying is $320,000. The downpayment of 20% equals $64,000. Plus closing cost of about 3% which would total $73,600. Which, if we were earning 3.77% interest (5 yr CD according to bankrate), it would generate $231 per month.

So, renting is about $1,519/month.

With 256K mortgage at 5.62% the payments would be about $1473 per month. Taxes $290, insurance $60. Total of $1823. With about $350/month of tax savings the first few years.

That's $1,473/month. About $46 per month cheaper.

However, things aren't so simple since there is the issue of maintenance (adds to the monthly cost) and expected inflation (lowers the worth of savings and increases the worth of a home) and price change of the home itself (which, if in the normal economy, things will rise with inflation). Unfortunately, we are not in a normal economy, we are in Great Depression 2 (GD2) and we're already 1 year into it: we probably have another 5-15 years to go (depending on how badly the government intervenes, so the more intervention, the worse things will get -- if Japan is any indicator, we may even be down 20+ years). We will lose money on our home if we have to sell in the next 20-30 years (or more). Try to put that into monthy equation!

Note that since we'll be leveraged 4:1 (i.e., 20% downpayment), it won't take much to wipe out our downpayment (i.e., 20% decline = zero equity for us). If I ever get unemployed, maybe I too can get a bail out!

Copyright 2008, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.

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Sensible Rules (for once)

Interior Department rule issued Friday allows an individual to carry a loaded weapon in a park or wildlife refuge — but only if the person has a permit for a concealed weapon, and if the state where the park or refuge is located also allows loaded firearms in parks.
Now, if only California would turn into shall issue state....

Copyright 2008, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.