Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Clueless

We are back from our summer hiatus, as our blog title indicates we had a rather uneventful break. In regard to the “Summer To Do” list you can cross off leaking faucets, clean windows, fifteen student job recommendations. But still to do; clean carpets, organize storage, organize my office, golf game rehab, and what will never happen…the beach body.

Not very impressive.

As the temperature here in Clareville hits above 100 degrees for the fourth consecutive day, it is time to start another academic year. So, another year of wonderful students, committees, “reply all” emails, the ongoing struggles of real versus academic worlds, fundraisers, lousy meeting snacks, me, myself and I,  more stories from “The Brain”, and of course where is “Cersei Lannister” these days???

OUT AND ABOUT – Well the St. Lawrence University boys had their annual summer fling this past weekend at the Ken Brousseau (St. Lawrence ’76) compound in Whitby, Ontario.

Our first snap shot is the Stanley Cup paid a visit to the St. Lawrence crew: Jacques Martin, Assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins (St. Lawrence ’75) brought the cup to Paul “Cape Bretten Island” Gallagher (St. Lawrence ’77), Jeff Dillon and Murray Cawker (St. Lawrence ’76) and Scotty “Lunar” Graham (St. Lawrence ’75).

Our second shutter is taken of the crew at a brewery, minutes before they were arrested by the Ontario Provincial Police: Scott Graham, Joe O’Rourke (St. Lawrence ’76), “Caper”, Ken Brousseau, Jeff Dillon, and “The Murph”. Noticeably absent Scott “Cat” Morrison (St. Lawrence ’76) cruising in Alaska with his lovely wife Millie.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – Happy 125th birthday to Ithaca College, Ithaca New York as they begin their school year this past week.

-        -  Nicholas B. Dirks, a former chancellor at the University of California at Berkeley, will be paid $434,000 while on leave this coming year.

POTUS, WHAT WE MISSED – President Trump's undisciplined and incendiary style has left the most powerful man in the world with few friends — not one in the United States Senate, for instance.

Trump started with a pretty clean slate but has methodically alienated:

The public: Gallup has his approval at 34%, down from 46% just after the inauguration.

Republican congressional leaders — Senate Majority Mitch McConnell in particular are going their own way on tax reform. Hill sources believe his original targets, including a 15% corporate rate, are dead.

Every Democrat who could help him do a deal.

The media.


World leaders.




African Americans.

Military leaders.

The intelligence community.

His own staff.

And who's happy?

Saudi Arabia.


David Duke.

GOOD READ – “The Liberal Crackup” By Mark Lilla Wall Street Journal August 12;
Liberals should reject the divisive, zero-sum politics of identity and find their way back to a unifying vision of the common good.

GOOD READ PART DEUX - "Harvey Wasn't Just Bad Weather. It Was Bad City Planning ... Houston exulted in sprawling, free-form growth, but laissez-faire isn't the way to prepare for natural catastrophes," Peter Coy and Christopher Flagella write in Bloomberg Businessweek's  cover story:

"No city could have with-stood Harvey without serious harm, but Houston made itself more vulnerable than necessary."

"Paving over the saw-grass prairie reduced the ground's capacity to absorb rainfall. Flood-control reservoirs were too small. Building codes were inadequate. Roads became rivers, so while hospitals were open, it was almost impossible to reach them by car."
"Sprawling Houston is a can-do city whose attitude is grow first, ask questions later. It's the only major U.S. city without a zoning code saying what types of buildings can go where, so skyscrapers sometimes sprout next to split-levels. Voters have repeatedly opposed enacting a zoning law."

The big picture: "It's a minor event for the $19 trillion U.S. economy, since most of the economic activity that was interrupted will be made up later. It was a light hit for insurers, because few underwrite flood insurance and the wind damage they do cover was minimal; insurers' stock prices barely fell. The refining and petrochemical industries lining the busy Houston Ship Channel also got off fairly lightly (this time), because they've invested heavily in storm defenses."

"The impact on taxpayers is more serious, because Harvey is likely to generate tens of billions of dollars in emergency federal aid and claims on the money-losing National Flood Insurance Program ... Above all, Harvey is a humanitarian disaster."

HOW HARVEY WILL CHANGE TEXAS: The storm's most lasting legacy might be the end of the Lone Star State's rugged individualism: Texans might pride themselves on their rugged individualism, but this time, they'll have no choice but to accept years of state and federal help for the recovery. By the time Harvey leaves the city on Wednesday, Greater Houston will have been drenched with 1 trillion gallons of water and an estimated 30,000 people will be living in temporary housing. [FEMA] expects to receive at least 450,000 claims for damage caused by the storm. And early estimates point to least $150 billion in total economic losses.

LA TIMES CHANGES - Ross Levinsohn named new publisher and CEO of Los Angeles Times as top editors ousted: "In a dramatic shakeup at the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago-based parent company has installed new leadership and plans to invest more resources in the news organization to move it more quickly into the digital age. Ross Levinsohn, 54, a veteran media executive who worked at Fox and served as interim chief of Yahoo, was named publisher and chief executive of the 135-year-old news organization. ...

Jim Kirk, 52, a veteran Chicago news executive, who was publisher and editor of the Chicago Sun-Times until last week, was named interim editor of the storied newspaper. The two men replace Davan Maharaj, who has served as both editor and publisher since March 2016. Maharaj was terminated Monday morning, along with a handful of other senior editors, including Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, Deputy Managing Editor for Digital Megan Garvey and Assistant Managing Editor of Investigations Matt Doig.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Sean Connery (87) Glaskow, Scotland; Alexis Schiff …famous Leo 

BANK PROFITS HIT RECORD - Banks are earning more money than ever, raking in $48.3 billion in profits the second quarter of this year, according to the FDIC. That's roughly 6 percent higher than the previous record high of $45.6 billion, reached in the third quarter of last year.
Banks' net income, released by the FDIC as part of its quarterly banking profile, was also up 10.7 percent from the same quarter a year earlier. The increase in profits was due largely to higher income from interest earned on loans, the FDIC said, in the wake of multiple rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

DOLLAR BACK - A growing investor consensus that the dollar will keep weakening is rippling around the world, fueling rallies in assets from U.S. stocks to commodities. The dollar has been suffering through one of its worst stretches in years, weighed down by scant inflation and doubts whether the Federal Reserve will raise rates soon. Mr. Trump’s election sparked a brief dollar rally, as the market counted on the implementation of his policy agenda, which includes tax cuts and infrastructure spending, to buoy the economy and the currency with it. However, with gridlock in Washington putting those policies in doubt—or at least on hold—many believe the dollar stands to fall further. Investors last week held roughly $7.9 billion in bets on a weaker dollar, the biggest bearish position since early 2013, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

MARKET WEEK - Where we are investing the second half of 2017:

Stocks over bonds; the latest earnings season has affirmed our positive view on equity fundamentals, and we see solid equity returns ahead in the second half. At the same time, global economic expansion and monetary policy normalization point to a gradual rise in bond yields over the next five years. Long-term rates are being held down by structural factors including plentiful global savings, providing a favorable backdrop for equities. The earnings yield (earnings per share divided by the share price, or the inverse of the price-to-earnings ratio) still looks attractive versus real (after inflation) bond yields, meaning stocks may be cheaper than they look in a low-rate world.

Non-U.S. equities over U.S. peers: We like the U.S. market, but we think higher returns can be found in emerging markets (EM), Japan and Europe. We see opportunities in EM equities, assuming no sharp changes in currency, trade or other policies. Economic reforms, improving corporate fundamentals and reasonable valuations provide support. Elsewhere, we see a number of positives supporting the Japanese market, including more shareholder-friendly corporate behavior, ongoing ultra-easy monetary policy, low valuations and solid earnings. That said, a stronger yen is a risk.

European equities have done well this year, but they are still trading at a valuation discount to U.S. peers. We believe there’s further scope for this valuation gap to close, given the European economy’s strong fundamentals and a decline in populism. But a stronger euro could slow the pace of earnings growth among European companies, and other risks include politicians not delivering on reforms, the European Central Bank (ECB) winding back its stimulus too soon and renewed political instability in Italy.


NCAA Football Preseason Rink Rats Top Ten:

1). Ohio State Buckeyes                    2). Florida State Criminals
3). Alabama Crimson Tide               4). USC Trojans
5). Oklahoma Sooners                      6). Clemson Tigers
7). Penn State Nittany Lions           8). Washington Huskies
9). Stanford Cardinal                        10). Michigan Wolverines

SCIAC Football Preseason Top Five:

1). Redland Bulldogs                       2). California Lutheran Kingsmen
3). La Verne Leopards                     4). Claremont-Mudd Republicans
5). Chapman Panthers

College Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 9/2, 8:00 PM ET, ABC: #3 Florida State Criminals vs. #1 Alabama Crimson Tide, we like Alabama in this early season slug fest, 31 – 27.

D-III Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 9/2, 1:00 PM ET: #21 Alfred University Saxons vs. Ithaca College Bombers, big E-8 matchup on South Hill. IC in an upset, 24 -21.

SCIAC Game of the Week – Saturday 9/2, 7:00 PM PT: Trinity (Texas) Tigers vs. #25 Redlands Bulldogs, Redlands is the team to beat in SCIAC this season, they win this out of conference tilt,  35 – 24.

MLB Game of the Week – Boston Red Sox (73-57) at New York Yankees (70-59), Yanks are hanging in there, they win this one in the Bronx, 4 – 3.

Season to Date (46 - 25)

ON THIS DATE – Today in 1981: IBM announces they will sell a desk top personal computer.

ON THIS DATE PART DEUX - Today marks a big anniversary for the U.S. automotive industry - it was on this day 115 years ago that Cadillac was founded and that then-President Theodore Roosevelt became the first president to make a public appearance in an automobile.

Next Blog: Jack Ass of the Month and The Swami’s preseason NFL football picks.

Until September 6, Adios

Claremont, California

August 31, 2017

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Charles Schulz

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Beach Body

We are off for three weeks after this blog, time to get to that “Summer To Do” list: leaking faucets, clean windows, clean carpets, organize storage, organize my office, today my office resembles an English Literature Professor’s, fifteen student job recommendations to write, golf game needs serious transfusion and my beach body.  If I get to half of these it will be a miracle.

See you on August 28 with our preseason NFL and College Football picks, an update on the real life soap opera of “Trump In Washington”, and of course our usual mayhem.

I regret to inform readers that my beach body, slated for arrival in early June of this year, will be delayed, perhaps indefinitely. A number of factors, all under my direct control, have contributed to this unfortunate setback.

First and foremost, I still love a good hot dog. While I have done an excellent job of including more vegetables in my diet, I have also included more of everything else, like soft drinks. In the past month alone, averaging two-four a day, not good.

My metabolism is slowing down. Metabolic rate is difficult to determine, but what is certainly not slowing down is my intake of pizza. In fact, it is more than likely that one of those cheese-choked blubber-makers is circling inside my fridge at this very moment.

While my recent efforts to increase the intensity of my workouts has been admirable, a look at the numbers indicates that my treadmill speeds have increased only from an average of 3.8 miles per hour to 3.9 miles per hour. Not surprisingly, the impact on my beach body has been negligible. One might argue that it has worked to my detriment, given that my duration on the treadmill has plummeted by an average of fourteen minutes. My Fitbit just sent me a message: “You are kidding, right?”

As you know, motivation can be elusive. There are unseen forces that oppose motivation and seek to douse the flames of inspiration. In my case, that force is napping. I really do like a good nap.

As the summer days pass and the temperatures rise, I have found myself scrambling to re-calibrate my goals. To lose just five pounds instead of twenty, or to unearth just one ab instead of six. Sadly, when measured against the utopian physique I set out to achieve, these thoughts will quickly fade—drowned out, in all likelihood, by the crunch of a Dorito.

In conclusion, with some significant life-style tweaks I could, according to a consultant’s estimate, achieve my beach body by November. Just in time for Thanksgiving. Revealing my actual body before then, may trigger feelings of disappointment and guilt, even shame. Try to focus not on negative emotions but on ways in which I can stay positive and also stay submerged up to my neck for as much of the summer as possible.

Oh well, the White House is having an even worse summer.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - Over the past 15 years, 1.5 million more people have left California than have moved here from other states, according to estimates from the California Department of Finance. Remarkably, even in the face of this outflow, California still experiences net gains of college graduates (those with at least a bachelor's degree).

WHAT STUDENTS KNOW ABOUT MONEY - US Bank last week rolled out a study on college students' financial literacy. One of the main findings is that students across the board wish they knew more about how to manage their money.

From the bank: "Credit, in particular, stands out as an area where students continue to need more financial education during their college years: Many students believe common myths. For example, 55% of students do not know that their credit score is not impacted by how much money is in their bank account. There is a gap between white and multicultural students; 84 percent of white students say they know what a credit score is, compared with 77 percent of African-American students, 75 percent of Hispanic students and 68 percent of Asian students. There's a gender gap, too, although male students don't realize it. Females demonstrated more knowledge than males about what a credit score is used for.”

May I suggest Personal Finance BUS 345, thank you.

SYLLABUS - Bill Gates' resume, circa 1974, when he was making about $15,000 a year.

TOYOTA - Toyota says it is nearing a breakthrough in a type of lithium-ion battery system that has vexed researchers for decades. The company also says it plans to unveil a family of electric cars with a jump in currently available driving range, in the early 2020s.

Given the high stakes and risk of embarrassment if something goes wrong, Japanese companies virtually never flag a big tech breakthrough before it is actually produced and delivered to the market. Hence, Toyota's comparatively specific announcement suggests it is reasonably confident that it really has mastered a new battery technology.

AMAZON REACHES $500B - Amazon's market value last week smashed through the half-a-trillion dollar mark for the first time, underscoring the rapid appreciation in the e-commerce giant's share price. The market value has surged by $146.3bn since the end of 2016, rising as high as $502.6bn on the day. In comparison, Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer by revenues, has seen its market capitalization tick up by $23bn in 2017 to $235.4bn.

HOLY SNAP! - A high school in Mountain View, Calif., has a unique dilemma. A $15,000 investment by St. Francis High School five years ago turned into $34 million this past March when Snapchat parent Snap went public. The school has had to weigh competing ideas for what to do with the money. Students speculated they wouldn’t have to pay tuition next year. Parents asked whether annual fundraisers, including a Christmas boutique sale, were still necessary. Some advisers urged school officials to construct a new chapel and science laboratories. It is exceedingly rare to net such a huge return in an initial public offering. In fact, most venture-capital bets fail. “We are blessed,” the head of school said in his first interview about how St. Francis will spend the money. “But we don’t want to become a cautionary tale.”

SUMMER ENTERTAINMENT - Ah, summer. A time to kick back, sit under a fan, and hide from the weather in the shady comfort of the great indoors. Why go to the beach, where there are sunburns to be gotten? Why go to the park, where bugs eagerly await—ready to bite on any bare skin? And for the love of God, why subject oneself to the sweat and grass stains that come with—shudder—playing sports outside in the heat?

No, summer is for binge-watching. It’s the best time to catch up on all the shows you’ve meant to watch but put off in favor of more urgent-sounding things. The ideal summer binge is a show you can idly watch through a haze of second screens, rosé, and half-awakeness. Here, for your enjoyment, are a few shows that fit the bill.

Three seasons in, this comedy is as hilarious as ever. And Season 4 has one of Carrie Fisher’s very last performances—more than enough reason to catch up. The best part? As a Britcom, each season of the series only contains six episodes. You’ll breeze through it in no time. (Catch up on Hulu.)

You might have heard about this show; with its ‘80s focus and drug-toting robot, it’s all the rage on Netflix right now. Come for the zany fashion, stay for Alison Brie’s soulful Audrey Hepburn impression.

As Issa Rae’s comedy prepares for its second-season debut next month, make sure you’re caught up on all the laughs, dating woes, and girlfriend drama. Insecure was one of the freshest new shows of 2016, and its second season promises to be just as delightful. (Catch up on HBO.)

TRAVEL APPS - The last thing anyone wants to do is spend more money than necessary when planning a vacation. But luckily, there are plenty of great apps to help you cut your travel costs.

Hopper: Hopper shows the best time to buy a ticket and whether a flight you're interested in might change in price. Users can select their destination, and Hopper will show airline schedules months in the future. Each day is color coded by price, with green dates showing cheaper prices and red dates indicating more expensive flights. You can also ask Hopper to "watch" your trip and alert you of any price changes.

Hotel Tonight: Hotel Tonight searches nearby hotels for spots that same day, the next day or within a week, making it useful in case of emergencies like a cancelled flight. Hotel Tonight also has a website, its last-minute booking feature works better on the app. However, there are a few drawbacks: Users can't take advantage of any elite memberships and almost all bookings are non-refundable with full cancellation penalties. Hotel Tonight offers the best discounts outside of prime travel seasons.

StayAtHand: StayAtHand works similarly to Hotel Tonight, users can search farther ahead than the next week and can also use their elite hotel memberships. Although it's useful for short term booking and for searching nearby options, StayAtHand only lists rooms within the U.S.

Car Rental and Parking
Turo: Turo is sort of like Airbnb for cars. The app allows users to make make their vehicle available for use when they're away, and it also allows users to rent someone else's car. Similar to Airbnb, there's a wide range of options, with offerings including everything from Hondas to Teslas. Turo's options will generally be a bit cheaper than traditional car rentals.

SpotHero: For anyone tired of paying extravagant prices for hotel parking, SpotHero can help deliver some cheaper options. The app looks at parking in the area and lets users chose the cheapest and closest spot. It also offers cashless parking — users pay through the app and are given a barcode to scan at their parking destination. SpotHero also comes with great customer service, the app will try to find another vendor that will honor the same price if any problems occur.

BRUTAL – Peggy Noonan in the WSJ: "Trump Is Woody Allen Without the Humor: Half his tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn":"The president's primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It's not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity, skinny.

"He's not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he's whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He's a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity."

GOOD READ - "Justin Trudeau: The North Star," by Stephen Rodrick on the cover of Rolling Stone: "He was raised in jet-set privilege but overcame tragedy to become Canada's prime minister. Is he the free world's best hope?"

SILICON VALLEY - Think everyone in software works in the Bay Area? Think again. A new study by The App Association shows that 89% of U.S. software developers actually live and work outside of the Bay Area.

Software is the basis for the technologies — and therefore jobs — of the future: self-driving cars, augmented reality, student recruitment, and artificial intelligence, to name a few. The high cost of living in Silicon Valley has driven some workers elsewhere and therefore tech companies are starting to branch out to other cities to capitalize on that migration. For example, big names like Apple and Google now have engineering offices in Seattle, providing competition for talent to local companies Microsoft and Amazon.

This as a healthy sign for Silicon Valley and the software industry. Most key companies are still based in the Bay Area, with outposts elsewhere. But there are others based in hubs like Seattle and Boston. Having more jobs in more places, especially as software becomes more important, should help the U.S. industry to both grow and diversify.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Tony Bennett (91) Brooklyn, NY.; Tom Brady (40) Beacon Hill, MA.; Paula Creamer (31) Orlando, FL.; Martin Sheen (77) Malibu, CA.


Vim: noun - lively or energetic spirit; enthusiasm; vitality

ORIGIN - Vim began as an American colloquialism but became standard on both sides of the Atlantic within a generation. It is the accusative singular of the irregular Latin noun vīs (stem vīr-) “power, force.” Latin vīs is related to the Latin noun vir “man (i.e., a male person), husband.” The same Proto-Indo-European root wir-, wīr- in Latin vir appears in English wergild and werewolf. Vim entered English in the mid-19th century.

QUOTES – “Certainly no better selection of a leader could have been made, for Neil was full of the vim of youth, and had a newly acquired fund of scientific knowledge just waiting to be applied.”
-- Caroline Abbot Stanley, The Keeper of the Vineyard, 1913

Cibernauta: noun - internet user

Both Spanish and English share many words derived from Greek or Latin. In the case of el cibernauta, however, while the word cybernaut exists in English, it is not very common, and has a slightly different meaning from the Spanish. Cibernauta is the basic word for anybody who is an internet user, whether proficient or otherwise:

QUOTES – “Los cibernautas de todo el mundo.”
Internet users all round the world

MARKET WEEK - We're getting into the dog days of summer, but that's typically when the stock market cools off.

August has historically been a weak month for equities. The S&P 500 has averaged a 1.4% decline in August over the past two decades, according to Bespoke Investment Group.

Over the past half century, an investor who put $100 into the S&P 500 only for the month of August each year would have $98 today. That same amount invested only in December, another typically slow month for the market and the best for performance, would be worth $204 over the half-century span.

Markets are always subject to seasonal factors that can distort performance, and it's not surprising that the market lags during a low-volume period where traders and investors are often on vacation. But investors should pay particular attention this year as they contend with a stock market whose unusual calm has itself become a source of concern.

Stocks have marched higher this year almost unabated, even as President Donald Trump's agenda has stalled, geopolitical tensions have risen, and the economy has cooled off.

The S&P 500 is up 10% in 2017 and has gone more than a year without a 5% pullback, the longest such stretch in more than two decades, according to LPL Financial. In fact, it has been nine months since the market pulled back even 3%, the firm notes. That's led to worries that stocks are climbing too fast, making them subject to a sharp reversal.

Some say the seasonality in play in August could hasten a retreat in the market.

Still there are also reasons to believe stocks will keep chugging higher. The Federal Reserve has continued to hold rates historically low, keeping that nearly decade-long support for the stock market intact. Earnings are also robust, with companies set to report their best two quarters of growth in six years.

But if the seasonality kicks into gear in 2017, it doesn't paint a particularly bright picture for the market in the months to come. Over the last half century, September has been even worse for the S&P 500 than August.

WHAT’S ON THE iPOD? – five songs we are listening to this week:

1). “Blue Bayou”, 1977 – Linda Ronstadt
2). “Your So Vain”, 1972 – Carly Simon
3). “Whiter Shade of Pale”, 1967 – Procol Harem
4). “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, 1965 – The Byrds
5). “All Day and All of the Night”, 1964 – The Kinks

HERE WE GO AGAIN - It's that time again: NFL training camps.

This week, several teams report to training camp, beginning the grind of the NFL season and in just seven weeks, we'll be kicking off the regular season.

It was an eventful off season, with a hectic draft that saw the Chicago Bears make a controversial trade up to draft a quarterback and the Cleveland Browns continue to stockpile assets. Meanwhile, in free agency, the least likely team to spend big, the New England Patriots, landed some big names, while risers like the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans continued to fortify their rosters with some key acquisitions.

We will have Rink Rats preseason NFL and College Football picks when we come back from our summer break on August 28.


MLB Game of the Week (Aug. 5) – New York Yankees (57-48) and Cleveland Indians (57-48), both teams playing good baseball, Indians win 6 – 4.

Whitney Stakes (Aug. 5) – Week #3 at the Spa (Saratoga) is highlighted by the 90th Whitney Stakes. This Grade 1 stakes race for Thoroughbred racehorses three years of age and older run at a distance of  1 1⁄8 miles. The current purse is $1,250,000. The Swami likes a sawbuck to win on Keen Ice. Todd Pletcher’s horse Keen Ice beat American Pharaoh in last year’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Season to Date (46 - 23)

ON THIS DATE - Happy birthday time for one Bugs Bunny, whose formal name is apparently George Washington Bunny and who debuted on this day 77 years ago in an animated short called "The Wild Hare.”

Next Blog: Jack Ass of the Month and The Swami’s preseason football picks.

Summer break time - See you on August 28, Happy Trails.

Claremont, California

August 2, 2017

CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution