Monday, December 9, 2013

My Work Space

Organize the desk, and the mind follows. Even the most modular, bland work space tends to succumb to the tastes and/or personality of its inhabitant. I thought this week I share my work space with my blog followers.

OFFICE LOCATON: My main workspace is in my home, though I have other offices and work locations, I am most comfortable at home and recently spend most of my time at this location.

COMPUTER: I have a Dell Inspiron desktop, with a HP Photosmart 7520 printer/scanner/fax, when mobile I have an iPad 2 and a Dell Inspiron mini laptop. The keyboard is a Dell QuietKey. I do not need the fastest computer in the world; NASA needed a lot less to send men to the moon. My smartphone is a Blackberry Q10.

CHAIR: An ergonomically designed office chair from Costco.

FAVORITE PEN: The Uniball Vision Elite. It is the best pen. It writes so smoothly. I also love ultra-fine-point Sharpies, permanent markers, because I review many papers and documents.

OFFICE MUSIC: I always have on KUSC classical from Los Angeles, a wonderful station. From Noon to 2:00 PM (if I am at my desk) I also listen to CNBC Closing Bell on Sirius internet, channel 112.

ALWAYS ON MY DESK: Two paper weights – (1) International Fire Fighters Never Forget 9/11, (2) St. Lawrence University Hockey 1,000 wins puck.

FAVORITE SOFTWARE – Skype; I teach at different campuses and have clients at multiple locations thus the need for dependable communication tools is essential. Though I am now looking at CISCO WebEx for a future upgrade.

FAVORITE ORGANIZATIONAL TOOL: I love clear plastic bins. They have tops you can snap close and the clear material is handy to see what is in the box.

OLD TECHNOLOGY: I still have DayTimers calendars to keep track of expenses and journalize the days’ events. My college professor Dr. Robert Wells once told me to write down daily where I went, who I spoke to and what it was all about. Someday these journals will be the most important thing I have.

OFFICE HOURS: I am up at 5:30 a.m. I start the day with 90 minutes of e-mails and prep work for the day. I end each day around 7:00 p.m. (unless I am teaching, then it is 11:00 p.m.). The end of the day is more e-mails, the days’ journal, and social media review (Twitter, Facebook, Google+).

WHAT I AM READING: Two books; “Howard Hughes” by John Keats, and “Lords of Finance” by Liaquat Ahamed.  Next up: “From Kristallnacht to Watergate” by Harry Rosenfeld, and “I’m Staying with My Boys” the life of Sgt. John Basilone by Jim Proser.

WHAT I NEED: A better desk lamp, I have poor lighting which is bad for the eyes. I have been looking for a Luxo lamp but having a difficult time finding the right one.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – The U.S. Department of Education reported last Tuesday that the average price of attending a four-year public university increased by $1,700 between 2008 and 2012 and by $3,900 for a four-year private school. That includes everything from tuition, fees, books, housing, food, transportation, and personal expenses.

The news doesn’t come as much of a surprise. A college education has long been considered one of life’s major investments, and even though countless studies have shown that college is worth the cost, the returns have increasingly come under attack as graduates fall deeper into debt amid a weak job market.

That aspect has been widely reported, but less attention has been paid to universities, which aren’t raking in enough from tuition even as costs rise – albeit, at a slower pace during the past two years compared with previous years.

After more than a decade of robust growth, tuition revenue is expected to decline by 28% at public universities and 19% at private universities in 2014, according to a report released last month by credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service.

Various reasons are behind the decline: For one, enrollment is expected to fall as the economy improves – a trend that hit mostly for-profit and community colleges in 2012-2013. Tuition revenue is also declining in tandem with family incomes. Parents are more sensitive to tuition hikes and higher debt.

U.S. campuses have reached a crossroads. They will need to cut costs or look for revenue sources beyond their students, at least their American students. Regional public universities and smaller private colleges/universities may be more at risk, while larger universities are likely to be better off as they’ve been relatively successful at recruiting students from abroad, who do not qualify for the same aid packages and tuition discounts that domestic students receive, but it’s hard to view foreign student recruitment as a long term solution. After all, tuition costs could reach a point that would put off even affluent international students.

To stay alive, U.S. campuses will need to dramatically change their business model and the way they do business.

BIDEN OVER TROUBLED WATERS - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Beijing has become an urgent diplomatic mission, following China's recent declaration of a new air-defense zone encompassing disputed islands also claimed by Japan. Vice President Biden must serve as a bridge of sorts, easing tensions between China and Japan before conflict over the territory in the East China Sea escalates any further. We note, however, that the air zone issue isn't the only irritant in U.S.-China relations. We also report that the U.S. has privately told South Korea that its new plan to use Chinese telecom firm Huawei could lead to communication lines becoming less secure. Remember: the Pentagon has accused China of hacking American computer networks. Meanwhile, we find that China's efforts to gain influence in the world economy might be paying off: The yuan recently overtook the euro and the yen to become the second-most used currency in trade finance after the dollar.

FINANCE BULLETIN - U.S. unemployment rate hits 5-year low, eyes on the Fed: U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in November and the jobless rate fell to a five-year low of 7.0 percent, which could fan speculation the Federal Reserve could start reducing its bond purchases this month.

MANDELA FUNERAL - Trip to Mandela Memorial on Air Force One an Exclusive Ticket: Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will join Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Air Force One, while former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Clinton's daughter, Chelsea Clinton, will travel separately to the event. ... Two dozen U.S. lawmakers were set to depart for South Africa before sunrise today aboard a government jet from Joint Base Andrews, ... returning in time for votes on [Thu.], so that the House of Representatives can begin its holiday break on [Fri.] as planned.

PALACE INTRIGUE -- Family, politicians battle over 'Brand Mandela: The scramble for control of the Mandela legacy -- both financial and moral -- will involve his family, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), and the Nelson Mandela Foundation he set up to protect his broader message. At stake is the inheritance that will go to Mandela's more than 30 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, some of whom already use the Mandela name and image to market everything from clothing to reality TV. There are also the Mandela brands and trademarks that help fund the Foundation. And for the ANC, Mandela's reputation as an anti-apartheid hero is worth votes for years to come.

There are no available public figures of Mandela's wealth, making it difficult to put an exact value on his estate, which includes an upscale house in Johannesburg, a modest dwelling in his rural Eastern Cape home province, and royalties from book sales including his autobiography 'Long Walk to Freedom.' ... Mandela divided the management of his legacy between a series of trusts to handle his finances and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which serves as custodian of his wider moral legacy. In total, he set up about two dozen trusts, mostly to pay for the education of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. ...

According to an affidavit filed by [Mandela's long-time friend, lawyer George] Bizos and the others, ... two [of Mandela's] daughters, Makaziwe Mandela and Zenani Dlamini, had been trying to gain control of the main Mandela Trust since 2005 and eventually became trustees without Mandela's knowledge. Mandela became angry when he found out what the daughters had done ... A portion of the revenue from the Foundation's 46664 clothing line - named after Mandela's prisoner number on Robben Island - and the artworks also goes to pay for family members' education, according to Bizos.

THE NEW RICH - Rising riches: 1 in 5 in US reaches affluence, twenty one percent of U.S. adults become rich for parts of their lives, wielding outsize influence on America's economy and politics. ... Made up largely of older professionals, working married couples and more educated singles, the new rich are those with household income of $250,000 or more at some point during their working lives. ... Companies increasingly are marketing to this rising demographic, fueling a surge of 'mass luxury' products and services from premium Starbucks coffee and organic groceries to concierge medicine and VIP lanes at airports. Political parties are taking a renewed look at the up-for-grabs group ...

Today's new rich are notable for their sense of economic fragility. They're reached the top 2 percent, only to fall below it, in many cases. That makes them much more fiscally conservative, ... and less likely to support public programs ... Sometimes referred to by marketers as the 'mass affluent,' the new rich make up roughly 25 million U.S. households ... In 2012, the top 20 percent of U.S. households took home a record 51 percent of the nation's income. ... Once concentrated in the old-money enclaves of the Northeast, the new rich are now spread across the U.S., mostly in bigger cities and their suburbs. They include Washington, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Tracy Austin (51), Bob Barker (90), Ben Bernanke (60), Tim Conway (80), Kirk Douglas (97), Secretary of State John Kerry (70), John Malkovich (60).

DETROIT BANKRUPTCY MOVES AHEAD - Detroit News' Robert Snell and Chad Livengood: "A federal judge ... ruled Detroit is eligible to file for the nation's largest Chapter 9 bankruptcy to help dig out from under $18 billion in debt and that city pension payments can be cut to help make that happen. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes determined the city meets the criteria for bankruptcy, ruling the city is financially insolvent and that the filing was properly authorized. He dismissed challenges to Michigan's emergency manager law and ruled that pensions are not protected by the state Constitution. ...

"More significantly, Rhodes ruled that Detroit pensioners do not have any additional protections outside of normal contract rights ...He said the city could slash those benefits, though he had a warning for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. 'The court emphasizes that it will not lightly or casually exercise federal bankruptcy law to impair pensions,' Rhodes said. .... While a small federal team is helping to speed up federal aid to the city, the White House has steadfastly ruled out any federal bailout for Detroit."

HOLIDAY COOKIES – Iced Sugar Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
One 12-ounce box confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1/3 cup warm (80 to 90 degrees F) water
Food coloring, optional
Assorted sprinkles, colored sugar and small candy pieces
For the cookies: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, one spoonful at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla. Chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out half of the dough at a time, keeping the remainder of the dough in the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness and cut into desired shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cutout cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for a few minutes before baking. This will help the cookies to retain their shape. (You can roll out the scraps to make a few more cookies.) Bake until just before the edges of the cookies start to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the cookies for 1 to 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

For the icing: In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, meringue powder and warm water with a wire whisk. Stir until the icing is smooth. Adjust the consistency of the icing by adding more confectioners' sugar or more water, as needed. Add food coloring, if desired, to the icing. Spread the icing on the cooled cookies and then top with assorted sprinkles and candies.

Cook's Note: Meringue powder is available in a can. (I use Wilton.) It is used in place of egg whites in many icing recipes.

Total Time: 1 hr 55 min
Prep:  25 min
Inactive: 1 hr 20 min
Cook: 10 min
Yield: 15 to 17 medium cookies

BCS BOWL SCHEDULE - Florida St-Auburn title game to usher out BCS era: Top-ranked Florida State (13-0) was the only team to get through the regular season unbeaten ... Auburn (12-1) won the Southeastern Conference ... It'll be the 'Noles and Tigers at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6 for the national championship. In the other marquee bowls: Alabama will play Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. ... Clemson will play Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. ... Michigan State will play Stanford in the Rose Bowl. ... Baylor will play UCF [University of Central Florida] in the Fiesta Bowl.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/14, 3:00 PM ET, CBS: Army Cadets (3-8) vs. Navy Midshipmen (7-4). The historic Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Navy in a walk: 42 – 20. Season to date (10-5)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/14, 12:00 PM ET, ESPNU: The D-III semis - #1 Mount Union Purple Raiders (13-0) vs. #4 North Central Cardinals (13-0) in Alliance, Ohio. This is the Purple Raiders year, 21-20.  Season to date (9-4)

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 12/15, 4:25 PM ET, Fox: Arizona Cardinals (8-5) at Tennessee Titans (5-8). The Titans are playing good ball we like them in an upset 30 – 24.   Season to date (11-2)

(NCAA D-III semis, Dec. 14)  #3 UW-Whitewater Whitehawks (13-0) 35 at #2 Mary Hardon-Baylor Crusaders (13-0) 42
(NCAA Hockey, Dec. 14) Colorado College Tigers (2-10-3)  1 at Wisconsin Badgers (6-5-1)  4
(NHL, Dec. 14) Pittsburgh Penguins (20-10-1) 3 at Detroit Red Wings (15-9-7) 5
(NFL Upset of the Week, Dec. 15) Green Bay Packers (6-6-1) 24 at Dallas Cowboys (7-5) 21
Season to date (47-42)


I have family coming into town over the Christmas holidays and need to get out of the house for an escape. Can you recommend any good holiday movies?

Dysfunctional Family Man

Dear Dysfunctional Family Man:

Yes, the holidays are a great time to escape to the movies. This year we can recommend three fine pictures:

“American Hustle” in theatres December 13. This excellent ensemble cast portrays a con man’s escapades.

“Saving Mr. Banks” in theatres December 20. Tom Hanks portrays Walt Disney and his attempt to film Mary Poppins per the wishes of his daughters.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” in theatres December 25. Martin Scorsese’s latest effort with Leonardo Di Caprio playing a penny stock trader.

Enjoy the movies and enjoy the family.

Rink Rats

MARKET WEEK - It's that special time of year, when stock traders say Santa takes the reins. Stocks should be buoyant in the week ahead, helped by year-end seasonality—or maybe Santa. The "Stock Trader's Almanac" says the official "Santa rally" takes place in the several days after Christmas, but traders expect to see a fairly merry market clear on through December now that the November jobs report is out of the way.

One Grinch that could spoil the stock market rally this coming week is the bond market, should yields rise too quickly. There are a few pieces of economic data, with the most important Thursday's retail sales, and the market will also be digesting $64 billion in Treasury auctions.

DRIVING THE WEEK - Treasury Secretary Jack Lew presides over an FSOC meeting this afternoon. Topics include cyber security and a report from the OFR on financial market conditions. ... President Obama heads to Johannesburg, South Africa for Nelson Mandela's memorial service on Tuesday ... Regulators are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a final version of the Volcker Rule ... Both houses of Congress are back until Friday, when the House is scheduled to recess. Negotiators will try and finish up a deal to fund the government in 2014 and take some of the bite out of the next round of sequester spending cuts ... HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius is back on the Hill on Wednesday to testify before a House subcommittee.

Next week: a Rink Rats Christmas.

Until Next Monday,Boas Festas!”

Claremont, CA

December 9, 2013

#IV-34, 191

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