May Day for Traders

The Day Wall Street Changed


On May Day 1975, fixed-rate commissions were abolished by regulators. Until then, a broker who tried to charge customers less than the fixed rate to trade shares ran the risk of being expelled from the stock exchange. With some minor exceptions, for 183 years it had cost the same amount per share to trade 100 shares as it did to trade 1,000 or 100,000—and brokers regularly shaved 2% or more for themselves off the typical trade. May Day blew that cozy world to smithereens. One of its lessons for today’s investors is obvious; another is more subtle. The obvious lesson is that when brokers treat their customers more fairly, the customers prosper. May Day smashed Wall Street’s monopoly, unleashing the discount-brokerage industry, fostering independent research and democratizing the world of investing. The subtle lesson is that when brokers treat their customers more fairly, everyone prospers. May Day, which brokers at the time expected to be the most apocalyptic event in their industry’s long history, turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to them. Trading boomed, investors flocked back to the markets and brokerages minted money for decades. To understand the changes wrought by May Day, consider what it cost to buy 100 shares trading at $25 on the New York Stock Exchange before May 1, 1975. You would have paid a minimum commission of $49 and a bid-ask spread (the difference between the selling price and purchase price) of $13, reckons Charles M. Jones, an economist at Columbia Business School who studies brokerage costs. That totaled 2.5% of the $2,500 transaction.
Comment: Image snap from WSJ article and from Tradeking. On a personal note, we use Wells Trade. Last week we bought a lot of GE for no commission. Trade deals abound

Al Sharpton's “no peace” was an implicit threat of civil unrest

Al Sharpton’s Baltimore “No justice, no peace” finally blew into an urban riot.


‘No justice, no peace.” In Baltimore now, they’ve got both. When Al Sharpton popularized the chant, “No justice, no peace,” it was unmistakably clear that “no peace” was an implicit threat of civil unrest. Not civil disobedience, as practiced by Martin Luther King Jr. Civil unrest. Civil unrest can come in degrees. It might be a brief fight between protesters and the cops. It might be someone throwing rocks through store windows. Or it might be more than that. Whenever groups gathered in large numbers to start the “no justice, no peace” demonstrations and listen to incitements against “the police,” we would hear mayors, politicians, college presidents and American presidents say they “understood the anger.” They all assumed that any civil unrest that resulted would be, as they so often say, “containable.” Meaning—acceptable.
Comment: Image source. Rights. Modified with.

Reports: Mayor told cops to "stand down .... retreat"

Sheriff: ‘I Was Sick To My Stomach’ After Being Told To Stand Down


“I was sick to my stomach like everybody else. … This was urban warfare, no question about it. They were coming in absolutely beaten down. The [city officers] got out of their vehicles, thanked us profusely for being there, apologized to us for having to be there. They said we could have handled this, we were very capable of handling this, but we were told to stand down, repeatedly told to stand down,” he said. “I had never heard that order come from anyone — we went right out to our posts as soon as we got there, so I never heard the mayor say that. But repeatedly these guys, and there were many high-ranking officials from the Baltimore City Police Department … and these guys told me they were essentially neutered from the start. They were spayed from the start. They were told to stand down, you will not take any action, let them destroy property. I couldn’t believe it, I’m a 31-year veteran of law enforcement. … I had never heard anything like this before in my life and these guys obviously aren’t gonna speak out and the more I thought about this, … I had to say a few things. I apologize if I’ve upset people, but I believe in saying it like it is.” Lewis said though he didn’t hear the order to stand down come from the mayor, he did hear it from police officials. “I heard it myself over the Baltimore City police radio that I had tethered to my body-armor vest, I heard it repeatedly. ‘Stand down, stand down, stand down! Back up, back up, retreat, retreat!’ I couldn’t believe those words. Those are words I’ve never heard in my law enforcement vocabulary,” he said. “Baltimore City police, all law enforcement agencies are very capable of handling that city. They’re trained to handle that city. These guys were hearing words that had never been echoed in their lives, in their careers.”
Comment: Let that CVS burn ... we don't care! Sickening. Image source. Rights. Modified with.  More. Next up ... if cops aren't indicted ... more violence. Ferguson all over again!


About the Data - Digital Footprint


Comment: I saw a report on KSTP tonight. Register above to view your digital footprint. aboutthedata.com is an Acxiom product. Footprint image source.

An empty Camden Yards

Baseball's first ever game behind closed doors gets underway in Baltimore as Orioles and White Sox stand for National Anthem in front of empty Camden Yards...but at least the mascot got the day off! Excerpt:

The players of the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox lined up for the national anthem this afternoon in front of an empty stadium, in unprecedented scenes never before witnessed in the history of baseball. With the National Guard posted outside Camden Yards and debris still being cleaned up off the streets of Baltimore, the Orioles played the first ever MLB game behind closed doors. Just before the players took the field The Beatles 'Day Tripper' blared out from the PA system to an otherwise eerily silent stadium and 45,000 empty seats. Sirens could be heard ringing outside as a reminder the city is still reeling following Monday's tumultuous riots that hit after the funeral of Freddie Gray who died after suffering a fatal injury in police custody. 'Baseball history will be made here today,' said broadcaster Gary Thorne and the game began. As the sound of ball on bat echoed around the stadium, a first-inning home run was met with only cheers from the Orioles dugout. The game played out under a huge police presence outside and inside the stadium while fans tried to get a glimpse through iron fences around the ball park. Indeed, all around the stadium concession stands where hordes of fans would usually line for hot dogs, peanuts and beer were closed, making the picturesque arena resemble a ghost town. The scoreboard charted the Orioles race into an early 7-0 lead and the cameras followed the play. But the only thing missing on a perfect spring afternoon to take in the nation's favorite pastime were the fans.
Comment: 2nd image snap from the Star Tribune

Baltimore Babble: On "massive investments in urban communities" ....



During his press conference today, President Obama addressed the violence in Baltimore, claiming his political agenda would help solve some of the problems found in impoverished urban communities, such as the one where the violence occurred. “There’s a bunch of my agenda that would make difference right now in that,” he said, calling for more funding for early education, criminal justice reform and job training. Obama criticized members of Congress for blocking his agenda items, but encouraged Americans to do some “soul searching” during his joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this afternoon. Obama criticized members of Congress for blocking his agenda items, but encouraged Americans to do some “soul searching” during his joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this afternoon. “I’m under no illusion that under this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities,” he said, adding that it was important to work to improve communities anyway. He explained Americans should not “just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns,” but rather work together to tackle poverty around the nation.
Comment: Image snap from the Daily Mail. If you were an executive at CVS, would you build again there? Also consider the sports equipment small business woman.


Trip Panic - The Craziness

  • By the time this is published, I should be back from our Texas trip. I don't post pre-trip because I don't want to expose my house to thieves who would be aware in advance of my travel plans.
  • Firstly we had a nail in the right rear tire of the Buick. Kathee came home from shopping on Saturday 4/18 and the tire was low. We inflated it to 40 lbs. We went out to dinner that night and when we arrived at the restaurant it was down to 36. The next day as we went to church it was less. Looking ahead to leaving on Wednesday 4/22 at 6 am, we knew we had to get it repaired. I was able to get it into Tires Plus in Plymouth and they repaired it. It was a small nail. Cost ... about $ 30. 
  • Monday and Tuesday were craziness at work. It can always be an frenzied environment but it was much crazier than normal. At 4:30 pm on Monday a lot of things came my way and was dumped on me at the last minute. Tuesday 4/21 was the same. 
  • Then on Tuesday, Kathee who was working from home, discovered that a water valve in the basement was leaking. It was rapidly filling a bucket. Fortunately we have a good relationship with Weld and Sons Plumbing in Plymouth and they were able to make an emergency call to the house to repair it. 

Greece's "Chicken Run"

The James Dean Movie That Explains the Greek Debt Negotiations


The negotiations between Greece and its creditors are a classic game of chicken, a rather more complex version of the one in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Jim Stark, James Dean’s character in that film, is challenged to a “Chickie Run,” in which he and his rival, Buzz, drive stolen cars toward a cliff, with the loser being the young man who jumps to safety first. What makes a game of chicken scary is that each competitor needs to risk his life to get the best outcome. The safest thing for the rivals to have done would have been to jump out of their cars to safety immediately (or perhaps never get in them at all), but that would mean conceding total victory to their opponent. Similarly, the Greek government is most likely to get agreeable terms the closer a Greek exit from the eurozone, with its attendant unpredictable fallout, appears. Part of what has been happening the last several weeks is that everyone is trying to assess just how bad that outcome would be. If their cars go over the cliff, does it mean certain death or mere injury? If the latter, both parties are likely to hold out longer, and the risk of going over the cliff thus would become higher.
Comment: Rebel is one of my favorite films!


Ten Seconds at a Time

Americans are deluded about when they will retire


There’s a big gap between when workers expect they will retire and when people who’ve actually retired say they left the workforce, according to the latest retirement confidence survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Half of retirees say they retire earlier than they planned. Fewer than one in 10 workers say they expect to retire before age 60, when in fact 36% of retirees say they stopped working before 60. Comparatively, only 29% of workers retired between the ages of 60 and 64 and only 9% retired at the traditional age of 65. The odds of making it until age 70 and still working — which more than one-quarter of workers say they want to do — are even slimmer. A mere 6% manage to last that long. “Most retirees retired earlier than they planned predominantly due to health problems,” says Luke Vandermillen, vice president of the Principal Financial Group, a co-sponsor of the study. “All you can do is try to control what you have planned, how you have saved, and whether you’ve taken steps to prepare for retirement as best you can.” What’s clear is that the vast majority of premature retirees did not leave work because they wanted to. Sixty percent of premature retirees cited health issues or a disability as the reason. Others had little choice in the matter — their company downsized or closed, leaving them out of a job (27%), or they needed to care for a spouse or family member (22%).
Comment: In the elevator today ... chatting briefly with a woman whom I see from time to time. Me: "When are you going to retire?" She: "Three years". Me: "Sometimes I don't think I can take it anymore". She: Laughs, "My financial advisor says I need to work until I am 62". Me thinking ... 49 more weeks .... to quote Kimmy: "Just take it 10 seconds at a time and everything will be okay". Some Kimmy Schmidt motivational posters.

More: Work in Retirement? Don’t Bet on It

“People consistently overestimate their ability to work in retirement,” says Mr. Vandermillen. Among the things that can cause people to leave the workforce earlier than they expect are health crises, layoffs and ageism on the part of prospective employers.

... Jim Emerman, executive vice president at encore.org, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that promotes second careers in the nonprofit sector, says he isn’t surprised by the large gap between those who want to work in retirement and those who actually do so. Due to ageism, he says, “those who expect to find paid work in retirement often can’t.” Over time, Mr. Emerman says, he “expects we will see the gap narrow” as employers come to realize that older, experienced workers can help solve projected skills gaps and labor shortages. “If we want a healthier, more productive, more engaged society, employers need to make opportunities available to older people and meet them halfway,” by providing flexible arrangements, he says. “These opportunities aren’t there yet but we will see more of them as we see a rethinking of the roles older people can play.” According to the EBRI survey, 83% of today’s retirees who are working say they are doing so because they enjoy it. Almost 80% say their motivation is to stay active and involved. But 54% say they enjoy earning money to pay for extras. And 52% say they need their paychecks to make ends meet.

Comment: Why I'm still working ... I enjoy investing and the the income enables that. Also I enjoy my friends at work.

The Man behind the first Monster Truck

Meet the Man Behind the First Bigfoot Monster Truck - The giant pickup’s creator celebrates 40 years of driving a vehicle with 700-pound wheels


The first Bigfoot is still my original Ford pickup. The tires come from fertilizer spreaders that farmers use to lug 30,000 pounds of fertilizer. They’re 66 inches tall and 34 wide. The axles comes from a five-ton military truck, and the engine is a modified Ford—640 cubic inches. The truck runs on alcohol, not gasoline. As for fuel economy, it’s not so much miles per gallon, but gallons per mile. The name Bigfoot comes from my shop manager, who used to make fun of me for breaking my truck, because I’d stomp on the accelerator too hard.
Comment: Official Site. Image snap from Roadside America

IPOs and "Unicorn" Investing

Horses vs. unicorns: Public companies at big disadvantage to hot startups


Many wolf whistles and eye rolls have been directed at the swelling valuations of marquee private young "unicorns," or private companies worth $1 billion or more: Uber valued by venture capital firms at $40 billion, Airbnb at $20 billion, Snapchat at $15 billion, Spotify at more than $8 billion. Yet less noticed is how tough it is for already-public companies that operate adjacent to these private juggernauts to compete for attention and market share. They need to struggle to produce bottom-line results for demanding investors today, rather than a glorious payoff in some bountiful, idealized future. It's tough to be a workhorse when being judged against unicorns.
Etsy shares have been getting smoked since last week's crazy debut


After a crazy debut, Etsy shares have been getting crushed. The stock fell by up to 9% in trading on Monday afternoon to as low as $24.87. Shares of the Brooklyn-based online craft marketplace are now 24% lower than their debut price of $31 per share. The stock jumped 87% on its first day on the market and closed at $30 after its IPO priced at $16 per share the night before. In a note Friday, Wedbush analysts said the stock was overvalued: "We believe that at 84x estimated 2015 EBITDA after the IPO, ETSY is trading well beyond the high end of any comparable group." They maintained a "neutral" rating on the stock with a price target of $14.
Investing in IPOs: Why Investors Should Proceed with Caution


The allure of an initial public offering [IPO] is much like a Siren’s song—so captivating that it can make investors lose sight of reason, and so tempting that it often causes investors to abandon the fundamental principles that guide sound decision-making. Warren Buffett aptly described the IPO market recently, stating that “initial public offerings are almost always bad investments.” Indeed, the hype surrounding IPOs frequently pushes those companies out of “attractive value” territory, oftentimes before shares are even made available to the public. There are five main qualities investors should look for in a company before they buy shares. Those five qualities are: strong earnings, attractive valuations, experienced and proven management, competitive advantage over peers, and a positive macroeconomic environment that should support the company’s future growth. The great irony of IPOs? They often lack strength in many or all of those categories, yet, investors are still willing to pay exorbitant premiums to own shares! From a human nature standpoint, I understand why—the prospect of making a quick fortune is enticing and the possibility of being an early investor in the “next big thing” can get the better of our impulses. Sure, sometimes it turns out to be a good bet however, in my experience and based on research—most of the time it’s a bad one.
Comments: Unicorn image source. ETSY image is snap from homepage.  My take on IPO's is that an investor is buying "buzz".  The ETSY chart displays faintly but for a direct link ... here.

Who uses checkbooks?

Why we still use checkbooks to pay the rent - A fragmented rental market and old habits help keep checkbooks in existence


Across the U.S. economy, check use fell 57 percent from 2000 to 2012, according to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve.

... “Most young renters only have a checkbook to pay the rent,” says Jonathan Eppers, chief executive at RadPad, a Santa Monica (Calif.)-based startup that facilitates electronic rent payments. Despite the convenience to landlords and tenants of managing lease payments digitally, 70 percent of U.S. renters still pay by check, according to PayLease, another e-rent facilitator.

... old habits die hard, even for the tech-savvy. A survey published by the National Multifamily Housing Council found that 79 percent of renters would prefer to pay electronically. But the companies that help landlords accept e-payments have had to dangle goodies in front of tenants to get them to make the switch. RentMoola, a Vancouver-based startup, offers deals from companies that include Uber and 1800Flowers to renters who pay online. International Bancard, which operates an electronic rent-pay service, hosts pizza parties at which company employees walk tenants through the sign-up process, says Jessica Fields, a senior vice president at the company. Checks, as a common way to pay rent, will almost certainly go away, eventually. The question is what type of payment will replace them. Smartphone payments service Venmo sees spikes in usage around the first of the month, spokeswoman Lisa Kornblatt says. Landlords, meanwhile, will likely continue to add options for tenants to pay online via bank transfer. And third-party players such as RadPad accept debit- and credit-card payments from renters, then cut checks to landlords.
Comments: Image source.

  • We use bill pay for almost everything. Most purchases go on a credit card. Bill pay is used for everthing except (examples):
    • We sent a handwritten check to a small Methodist church as a memorial upon the death of my cousin.
    • When we send birthday gifts to loved ones we include a handwritten check in with the birthday card.
    • We have a separate checking account just for handwritten checks
  • I estimate that we write 20 checks a year.  


King of ♧ killed in battle

Saddam aide Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri 'killed' in Iraq


Fugitive Iraqi militant leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was right-hand man to Iraq's ex-leader Saddam Hussein, has been killed, Iraqi officials say. They say he died in fighting in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad. His supporters have denied the claim. Douri, 72, led the Naqshbandi Order insurgent group, a key force behind the recent rise of Islamic State (IS). He was deputy to Saddam Hussein, who was ousted when US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003 and executed in 2006. Douri was regarded as the most high-profile official of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to successfully evade capture after the invasion, and had a large bounty on his head for years. He was the King of Clubs in the famous pack of cards the US issued of wanted members of Saddam Hussein's regime after its defeat.
More: Paraded in a glass coffin, the King of Clubs returns to Baghdad: Body of ISIS commander who was former Saddam henchman is handed over to authorities. Part of gang known on the famous deck of cards (of which my son, who served in Iraq, brought home with him.). Wiki article

Burger Flippers verses Momentum Machine: Who will win?

Will Minimum Wage Protesters Order Fries From Their Burger-Flipping Robot Replacements? Excerpt:

The Momentum Machines website is low-key right now, but that may have something to do with high-profile arguments in the press and protests in the streets demanding that fast-food chains pay workers $15 an hour to do the job the company's robots are designed to fill. Even before those placard-wielders decided to raise their costs in terms of dollars and grief, the San Francisco-based start-up announced that they were obsolete.
Comment: Image capture from Fast Food Robot Builds The Perfect Burger. Momentum Machines website. Johnny Cash's "The Legend Of John Henry's Hammer" comes to mind: "I'll die with my hammer in my hand, but I'll be laughing, cuz you can't replace a steel driven man". But I'm guessing that MM will beat the flipper!


Death Wish: "Do not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016"

Larry Upright Obituary

Larry Darrell Upright, 81, passed away Monday, April 13, 2015, at CMC- NorthEast in Concord. Darrell was born Aug. 15, 1933, in Cab- arrus County to the late Arthur and Mary Ruth Upright. He was also preceded in death by his son, Joel Allen Upright. He is survived by his beloved wife and devoted caregiver, Colleen McDonald Upright; son Michael D. Upright; daughter Jill Upright McLain and husband Phil; granddaughters McKenzie Upright Brady and husband Logan, Lindsay McLain Leece and husband Jason and Laura McLain. He was a member and past Master of Allen-Graham 695 Masonic Lodge and a former Shriner of the Year at Cabarrus Shrine Club. He retired from the Building Automation Industry and in his retirement was an avid golfer and member of The Club at Irish Creek. Darrell's greatest joy was his family, and he will forever be remembered as a loving husband, father and Grandaddy. Arrangements: The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Whitley's Funeral Home. Services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 16 at Whitley's Funeral Home Chapel officiated by Mr. Bill Jolley. Burial will follow at Carolina Memorial Park with Masonic rites. Memorials: In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Shriners Hospital for Children, 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL 33607. Also, the family respectfully asks that you do not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. R.I.P. Grandaddy.
Comment: HT: Article

Adderall abuse on the rise

Workers Seeking Productivity in a Pill Are Abusing A.D.H.D. Drugs


Fading fast at 11 p.m., Elizabeth texted her dealer and waited just 30 minutes for him to reach her third-floor New York apartment. She handed him a wad of twenties and fifties, received a tattered envelope of pills, and returned to her computer. Her PowerPoint needed another four hours. Investors in her health-technology start-up wanted re-crunched numbers, a presentation begged for bullet points and emails from global developers would keep arriving well past midnight. She gulped down one pill — pale orange, like baby aspirin — and then, reconsidering, took one of the pinks, too. “O.K., now I can work,” Elizabeth exhaled. Several minutes later, she felt her brain snap to attention. She pushed her glasses up her nose and churned until 7 a.m. Only then did she sleep for 90 minutes, before arriving at her office at 9. The pills were versions of the drug Adderall, an amphetamine-based stimulant prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that many college students have long used illicitly while studying. Now, experts say, stimulant abuse is graduating into the work force. Reliable data to quantify how many American workers misuse stimulants does not exist, several experts said. But in interviews, dozens of people in a wide spectrum of professions said they and co-workers misused stimulants like Adderall, Vyvanse and Concerta to improve work performance. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs or access to the medication. Doctors and medical ethicists expressed concern for misusers’ health, as stimulants can cause anxiety, addiction and hallucinations when taken in high doses. But they also worried about added pressure in the workplace — where the use by some pressures more to join the trend. “You’d see addiction in students, but it was pretty rare to see it in an adult,” said Dr. Kimberly Dennis, the medical director of Timberline Knolls, a substance-abuse treatment facility for women outside Chicago. “We are definitely seeing more than one year ago, more than two years ago, especially in the age range of 25 to 45,” she said.
Comment: My drug of choice is java. Image source


Coke spill took down Bloomberg servers?

Did a spilt can of COKE cause the City computer blackout that brought the world's financial markets to a standstill? 


Bloomberg blamed a 'combination of hardware and software failures in the network' for the outage, which was first reported at around 8.20am and lasted into the afternoon. But reports from inside the company suggested that a spilled can of Coke in one of the server rooms had been responsible for knocking out systems across two continents.

Bloomberg had a massive unexplained outage this morning


Bloomberg terminals went down for nearly two and half hours on Friday. All around the world, Bloomberg terminals refused to connect. No clear cause has been announced yet and hundreds of thousands of traders were pretty much locked out of the world's dominant trading and data platform. Bloomberg confirmed the outage but no cause has been mentioned so far, tweeting: "We are currently restoring service to those customers who were affected by today’s network issue and are investigating the cause." It also looks like some people switched to the less popular Reuters system during the outage.
Comments: You can scare your local IT server administrator with the faux Coke spill (above) that you may purchase here. Middle image is a screen shot from the above article. I have my own soda spill story during a conversion. It wasn't my spill and it wasn't in a server room but it did mess up some documentation.

Israel Switt's Double Eagles returned to Family

Court Orders U.S. Mint to Return Famed Coins to Family - Government confiscated Double Eagle gold coins from Langbord family in 2004


A federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Mint must return 10 rare gold coins to the heirs of a Philadelphia coin dealer who obtained them decades ago under mysterious circumstances. By a 2-to-1 vote, a panel of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on Friday ruled that the coins, famed Depression-era $20 gold pieces known as “Double Eagles,” were improperly confiscated by the government in 2004, and must be returned to Joan Langbord and her two sons. In 2003, Ms. Langbord found the coins in a safe-deposit box originally owned by her deceased father, Israel Switt. According to the court, “at the insistence of the Mint and against the wisdom of the Secret Service and multiple other agencies, the Government opted to ignore” a federal law governing seized property. “Now, the Langbords are entitled to the return of the Double Eagles.” A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department in Philadelphia, which handled the case for the government, said the office was weighing its options. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury Department, which operates the U.S. Mint, declined to comment. “Today’s decision upholds the rule of law and makes clear that the government will be held accountable when it violates the rights of its citizens and the clear mandate of Congress,” said Barry Berke, an attorney for the Langbords.
Comment: Image captured from 2012 article that has the background. More from 2011 Coinweek article. Wiki on the famed Double Eagle


The Ultimate Final Exam

Ultimate Final Exam

Instructions: Read each question thoroughly. Answer all questions. Time limit - four hours. Begin immediately.
Describe the history of the Papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrate specifically but not exclusively, on the social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Be brief, concise and specific.
Compose an epic poem based on the events of your own life in which you see and footnote allusions from T.S. Eliot, Keats, Chaucer, Dante, Norse mythology and the Marx brothers. Critique your poem with a full discussion of its metrics.

Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate it and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.
Explain the Mona Lisa's smile.  Relate all interpretations associated with it.
Assuming the Judeo-Christian moral structure, take the stand for Adam and Eve, and the eating of the forbidden fruit. Explain your position fully to a Chassidic Rabbi, and answer his arguments. An Anglican bishop will moderate this debate.
Using accepted methodology prove all four of the following: the universe is infinite; truth is beauty; there is not a little person who turns off the light in the refrigerator when you close the door, and that you are the person taking this exam. Now disprove all of the above. Be specific; show all work.
Sketch the development of human thought; estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.
Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.
You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your own appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have fifteen minutes.
Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed five hundred years earlier, with special attention to the probable effects on the English Parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.
Employing principles from the major schools of psychoanalytic thought, successfully subject yourself to analysis. Make appropriate personality changes, bill yourself and fill out all medical insurance forms. Now do the same to the person seated to your immediate left. Also, based on your degree of knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following Alexander of Aphrodisias, Rameses II, Gregory of Nicea, Hammurabi. Support your evaluations with quotations from each man's work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.
Estimate the sociological problems that might accompany the end of the world. Construct and experiment to test your theory.
Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of you plan in the following areas Cubism, the Donatist controversy, the wave theory of light. Outline a method from all points of view. Point out deficiencies in your argument as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.
Computer Science
Define computer. Define Science. How do they relate? Why? Create a generalized algorithm to optimize all computer decisions. Assuming an 1130 CPU supporting 50 terminals, each terminal to activate your algorithm, design the communications to interface and all the necessary control programs.
Management Science
Define Management. Define Science. How do they relate? Why? Create a generalized algorithm to optimize all managerial decisions. Assuming an 1130 CPU supporting 50 terminals, each terminal to activate your algorithm; design the communications interface and all necessary control programs.
Public Speaking
2,500 riot-crazed students are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.
Explain the nature of matter. Include in your answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.
Modern Physics
Disprove Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Construct an experiment to prove your position.
The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed in a box on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In ten minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel is appropriate. Prove your assertions, and be prepared to cost- and motion- justify your decision.
Agricultural Science
Outline the steps involved in breeding your own super high yield, all weather hybrid strain of wheat. Describe its chemical and physical properties and estimate its impact on world food supplies. Construct a model for dealing with world-wide surpluses. Write your Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
Three minute time test. Read everything before doing anything. Put your name in the upper right hand corner of this page. Circle the word name in sentence three. Sign your name under the title of this paper, after the title write yes, yes, yes. Put an X in the lower left hand corner of this paper. Draw a triangle around the X you just put down. On the back of this paper multiply 703x668. Loudly call out your name when you get to this point. If you think you have followed directions carefully to this point call out "I have." Punch three small holes in the top of this paper. If you are the first person to get this far, call out "I am the first person to this point, I am leading in following directions." On the reverse side of this paper add 8950 and 9850. Put a circle around your answer and put a square around the circle. Now that you have finished reading carefully, do only sentence two.
Political Science
There is a red telephone on the desk behind you. Start World War III. Report at length on its socio-political effects, if any.
In Part 2 of Shakespeare's "Henry VI", Jack Cade, the leader of the Populist revolt, proposes that the first order of business following a successful coup d'e'tat could be to "kill all the lawyers". In light of the present populist mood in the United States, assess the utility and any potential impact of such a policy today.
Foreign Affairs
It has recently been suggested (especially after Black Monday) that only a foreign war can restore America's lost national consensus. Propose the ideal opponent(s) for the US in such a war, and how the conflict might be engineered so that US would seem not to be the aggressor in the situation. Discuss the pros and cons.
Give today's date, in metric.
Transform lead into gold. You will find a tripod and three logs under your seat. Show all work including Feynman diagrams and quantum functions for all steps. You have fifteen minutes.
General Knowledge
Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.
Extra Credit
Define the Universe. Give two examples.
Image source Source of exam: This has been floating around for decades but here is a webpage.


Modern Day Abomination of Molech - The Killing of One's Own Chidlren

"Molech babylon" by From Menant, "Glyptique Orientale" - Jewish Encyclopedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Pierre Collins Charged With Murder In Son’s Death


According to the criminal complaint, Pierre Collins’ cell phone was pinged at the park along the river both at the time of Barway’s disappearance and earlier that morning at 9:27 a.m. A witness at the apartment complex also reported to police seeing Barway get into his father’s vehicle before going missing. Pierre Collins was unemployed, but his wife didn’t know. Two days before the disappearance, Pierre Collins increased Barway’s life insurance policy from $30,000 to $50,000, the complaint said. “Both of them were unemployed and we knew they had debts,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at the press conference Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, police spoke to Pierre Collins. He said if police had enough to arrest him, they should come and get him, the complaint said. He was arrested that day. The complaint continues that Barway’s feet were bound with duct tape and there was also duct tape on his torso. His body was in the water for several weeks. His cause and manner of death has still not been released.
Comment: Molech.  Mr. Collins is the alleged killer and is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.


Moneyball for Churches

This blog post is neither about Money nor Baseball!

Rethinking Church Planting


There are scores of white collar, middle and upper income, educated, successful professionals in our churches who have untapped capacity in terms of their time and energy. These guys can be motivated and equipped to plant churches.
Comment: Moneyball  is fundamentally about player evaluation and winning with the most cost-efficient use of talent. The book was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. What this has to do with church:

  • Every Christian has a set of spiritual gifts sovereignly granted by the Holy Spirit
  • Every Christian additionally has talents, abilities and life experiences
  • Wise church leadership will strategically utilize those whom God has lead to that local church
  • To not tap that talent is ... well foolish and a waste.


Higher Risk Investing - and Why None of Them are for Me

On the Hunt for Higher Returns


Stocks in the U.S. look expensive and bond yields remain paltry, leaving investors with a quandary: Where should they go for diversification and a shot at greater returns? Wandering off the beaten path almost invariably leads to taking more risk, seeing bigger swings in value and, sometimes, higher fees. ... Here is a look at five options that are generally available to a broad swath of the public.
  1. Peer-to-Peer Lending
  2. Frontier Markets
  3. Farmland and Timberland
  4. Rental Property
  5. Art and Collectibles
Why off my radar:

  1. Peer-to-Peer Lending: Tried it with low returns
  2. Frontier Markets: Nigeria or Romania? Seriously not for me!
  3. Farmland and Timberland: REITs are an option. I haven't looked into REITs in these categories. Although Weyerhaeuser (WY) pays a 3.6 dividend
  4. Rental Property: REITs are a possibility but I don't care to be a landlord
  5. Art and Collectibles: I know nothing about these.
Image source.


Retirement: The More You Save, the Less You Will Need

Why You Will Need Less Money Than You Think for Retirement

Conventional wisdom says you need retirement income equal to 80% of your final salary. But there is a decent chance you could happily retire with far less. ...

  • You no longer are saving 10% a year or so toward retirement.
  • You are no longer making an employee’s 7.65% payroll-tax contribution to Social Security and Medicare.
  • Your children are off the family payroll
  • Your mortgage is paid off.
Comment: The more you save the lower the lifestyle you have to replace. In our case, we have been able to save more than 10%. Our children all support themselves (thank you Nathan, Roger, and Rachel!). Another item we won't "miss" is the downtown parking contract.


"Brave New Prune" Adman(and more) dies

Stan Freberg, Madcap Adman and Satirist, Dies at 88

 Stan Freberg


Sunsweet pitted prunes: Depicted as the "food of the future" in a futuristic setting, until science fiction icon Ray Bradbury, a friend of Freberg's (shown on a wall-to-wall television screen reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451) butts in: "I never mentioned prunes in any of my stories." "You didn't?" "No, never. I'm sorry to be so candid." "No, they're not candied" (rim shot). Bradbury reportedly refused to consider doing a commercial until Freberg told him, "I'm calling it Brave New Prune", prompting Bradbury to ask, "When do we start?" Prune sales increased 400 percent the year following the campaign


Wells Fargo Advisor Jason Jones killed in plane crash on way home from NCAA championship game

'Ride to the game wasn't bad': Tragic last tweet of basketball coach before he and six others were killed in plane crash on their way home from NCAA championship game

Jones an impact player on court, in business


A Lincoln native and former Illinois Wesleyan basketball and baseball player, Jones was among seven people who died early Tuesday in a plane crash east of Bloomington. Jones was a point guard on highly successful basketball teams at Lincoln High School, graduating in 1987, and at IWU, where he was a senior co-captain on a 1991 conference championship team. Jack Secord first encountered him as a player at IWU, calling Jones “a feisty scrapper” who “made things happen.” “He brought a positive attitude and disposition to business,” Secord said. “This has been one of the very worst days of my life. It leaves a permanent hole in my heart. My heart breaks for his family.”
Comment: Sad

National Debt Clock Frozen at $18,112,975,000,000 for 21 Days and Counting

21 Days: Treasury Says Debt Has Been Frozen at $18,112,975,000,000


According to the Daily Treasury Statement for Friday, April 3, which was published by the U.S. Treasury on Monday, April 6, that portion of the federal debt that is subject to a legal limit set by Congress closed the day at $18,112,975,000,000—for the 21st day in a row. $18,112,975,000,000 is about $25 million below the current legal debt limit of $18,113,000,080,959.35. .... “Because Congress has not yet acted to raise the debt limit,” Lew said in his March 13 letter, “the Treasury Department will have to employ further extraordinary measures to continue to finance the government on a temporary basis. Therefore, beginning on March 16, I plan to declare a ‘debt issuance suspension period’ with respect to investment of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and also suspend the daily reinvestment of Treasury securities held by the Government Securities Investment Fund and the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.”
Comment: Middle image is the debt clock in New York City. Bottom is screen shot of www.usdebtclock.org. Observation:  The debt clock being frozen is a lot like 1984's Newspeak

Is .sucks only for Vacuum Cleaner companies? Or Extortion?

A New Internet Domain: Extortion Or Free Speech?


A rash of new Web domain suffixes have popped up in recent years to supplement .com or .net — terms such as .bargains or .dating. Several new suffixes seem to invite negative feedback. There's .gripe and .fail. There's even .wtf — a colorful variation on "what the heck." And soon, there will be .sucks. J. Scott Evans says his objection isn't that it sounds whiny. It's the price. Evans is associate general counsel at Adobe Systems, and for a trademark owner like his to claim Adobe.sucks would cost $2,500 a year. That's more than a hundred times the typical fee. "I basically think it's extortion," Evans says. Adobe purchased relevant suffixes like .photo, Evans says, but it will not buy defensively to protect the brand. "We are not going to participate in any sort of extortion scheme," he says. Someone else may register the name. But, Evans says, there's a remedy: "I told my people the best way not to get included is not to suck," he says.
Kevin Spacey, Apple buy up .sucks


What do Kevin Spacey, Apple products, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Justin's nut butter, and Yahoo all have in common? They are all newly registered ".sucks" domains. The newly created ".sucks" domains are currently open to trademark owners, but will become available to the general public on June 1, according to Vox Populi Registry, which manages the generic top-level domain. Domain Incite, a news blog focused on the domain name market, reported Friday that Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey was one of the first ".sucks" buyers, according to Vox Populi's running ticker of recent registrations. Other recent registrations on Monday morning's list included "yahoo.sucks," "soulcycle.sucks," "internetexplorer.sucks," and bofa.sucks." Domains for Apple's iPod, Apple Watch, and iMac also scrolled across the ticker.
Comment: My domain: jrpeet.com

Student Debt Traps Parents Too!

How a mother and son got locked in $115,000 student debt trap - "I’m 63 years old and I’m afraid I’m going to have to work the rest of my life.”


Stephan eventually fell behind on his student loan payments. And, as lenders are wont do, they turned to his cosigner to pick up the tab. Both son and mother field dozens of phone calls from lenders and debt collectors each week. “It’s one of the biggest burdens on me because I know that [my mother] is struggling financially and it’s not her debt,” Stephan, 30, says. “It just adds to the stress of everything I’m going through and inability to pay back these loans, defaulting and worrying about what they’re going to do next.” To keep debt collectors at bay, he and his mother pool their resources each month, paying roughly $1,000 when they can. His loan balance, which totaled $88,000 when he graduated, has since ballooned to over $115,525, thanks in part to ever-accruing interest and late fees. “This is after both of us paying literally thousands of dollars over the last several years to try to keep the loans from defaulting,” Deborah says. “My savings are gone. I’m going on 63 years old and I’m afraid I’m going to have to work the rest of my life.” The consequences of their debt go beyond dollars and cents. Both of their credit scores have plummeted. When Deborah needed to buy a new car, the only loan she qualified for came with a 20% APR. Stephan and his wife haven’t been able to qualify for a mortgage, so they continue to rent. They have applied for medical relief services to help manage their sons’ expenses, but are consistently denied based on their combined income without consideration for the amount they pay toward student loans each month. “If I could do it all over again, I would never, ever go to that school and take that money,” Stephan says. “I would rather have zero college debt and work at a convenience store than deal with what I’m dealing with right now.”
Comments: Deborah and Stephan image a snap from the article. The top image from Forgive Student Debt (not a view I expose!). Robert Reich on student debt (I don't agree with his position either but worthwhile read and has another photo of the 'ball and chain' student). My own views:

  • There is a moral hazard in debt forgiveness. 
  • On a personal level we did not cosign on any student loans for our children. As far as I know 2 of my 3 did not undertake student loans. All have college degrees. One soon to have a Masters from M.I.T. 
  • Kathee and I both worked and paid our way through college. I know that was eons ago (I graduated in '71 and Kathee in '73) and that times were different then. 
  • Options for students: PSEO (not an option for me in the '60s), working and saving, living at home, community college, join the military and use GI Bill (my son), Starbucks
  • We have friends who cannot retire because of the very same issue in this article. 

SEC Charges Former N.Y. Giants Will Allen of operating Ponzi scheme

SEC Charges Former N.Y. Giants Player With Fraud


A Boston federal judge froze assets of former National Football League cornerback Will Allen, after the U.S. securities regulator charged him and a business partner with operating a Ponzi scheme that purported to loan money to professional athletes. The Securities and Exchange Commission accused Mr. Allen, who played with the New York Giants, the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, of paying some investors from money received through other investors, rather than from legitimate business income. The loans to professional athletes were made from 2012 to earlier this year, the SEC said. According to a complaint unsealed late Monday, Mr. Allen and Susan Daub, who together founded a group of companies that included Boston-based Capital Financial Partners, told investors they could receive interest of up to 18% from Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and NFL players. They marketed the business as giving athletes access to at least $75,000 loans in the off-season or early in the season, when they may be strapped for cash based on their contracts. The pair raised $31 million from at least 40 investors but allegedly misled them about the terms of the loans. They used investor funds to pay for personal expenses, including charges at pawn shops, casinos and nightclubs, according to the complaint. “As in any Ponzi scheme, the appearance of a successful investment was only an illusion sustained by lies,” said Paul Levenson, who heads the SEC’s Boston office, which investigated the case.
MORE: Excerpt:
“From July 2012 to February 2015, Capital Financial received approximately $13.2 million of loan repayments from athletes,” the SEC alleges in its indictment. “During the same period, the company paid approximately $20 million to investors. Lacking any other significant source in revenue, it is apparent that Capital Financial managed to pay nearly $7 million more to investors than it received from athletes only because Allen and Daub recycled a substantial portion of the approximately $31.7 million raised from investors. In other words, they used money from some investors to pay other investors, while at the same time funneling millions of dollars of investor money to themselves — the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme.” The SEC alleges that Allen and Daub took more than $7 million for themselves, paying for personal expenses and making charges at casinos, pawn shops, jewelry stores, grocery stores, cigar shops and clothing stores. They also made purchases at storage facilities, airlines, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and limousine companies.
And so the ancient quote: "A fool and his money are soon parted." Image from Wiki

Christianity: Eight Essential Books for the Honest Seeker (versus the Hostile Scorner)

  1. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, by Gary R. Habermas
  2. Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus, by Michael J. Wilkins
  3. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, by Gary R. Habermas
  4. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F. F. Bruce
  5. The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel, by James Montgomery Boice, Philip Graham Ryken, et al.
  6. I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, by Norman L. Geisler, Frank Turek
  7. Basic Christianity, by John Stott
  8. The ESV Study Bible
  9. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, byMichael Reeves and The Forgotten Trinity, by James White
  10. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Tim Keller
  11. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Evidence I & II Fully Updated in One Volume To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians in the 21st Century.
  12. Messiah in Both Testaments
  13. The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story, by D.A. Carson
  14. The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses, by Chris Bruno
  15. What's Your Worldview? by James N Anderson
  16. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, by J. Warner Wallace
  17. Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, by Lydia McGrew
Over the course of my 45+ year journey of faith (I became a Christian in 1969), I've often been asked about why I believe in Christ. I commonly use a variation or amplification of C.S. Lewis's trilemma (Liar, Lunatic, or Lord). My amplification adds "Legend" as a preface, because if Jesus is mere myth the trilemma has no force. I used this formula in a Toastmaster's speech at work in December 2013. There is a plethora of Internet resources for skeptics. There are also a robust Internet resources for Christianity. Here are a few of my favorite Christian resources:
Comments on the above 8 books and why I recommend them:
  1. Addresses the point as to whether there was a real historical man named Jesus (The "Legend" argument)
  2. More on the above but speaks to the flawed logic of the Jesus Seminar
  3. There are many books about the resurrection of Jesus. This is but one. Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection: "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, athen not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that bhe raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and cyou are still in your sins. Then those also who dhave fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." (I Corinthians 15:13-19)
  4. This is somewhat technical but easily readable to the collegiate level student. 
  5. Addresses issues around Divine election. 
  6. Speaks to Athiesm being a faith-choice too! 
  7. Explains Christianity in a nutshell. Collegiate level reading. 
  8. Every honest seeker needs to read the Bible. The ESV is a modern translation. The study Bible has a plethora of resource articles. Comes with an on-line component. The link is to the hardbound edition.  Fancier leather bound editions are also available. 
  9. Essential reads on the the Trinity.  Essential to know: Allah is NOT the Christian God! 
  10. Because indeed we live in an Age of Skepticism!
  11. Josh McDowell classic. Answers tough questions
  12. Fred John Meldau classic. This work identifies some of the major messianic prophecies of the Old Testament and shows their New Testament fulfillment in Christ. Also can be found as The Prophets Still Speak: Messiah in Both Testaments
  13. Rivals Basic Christianity in importance. Read the excellent reviews on Amazon
  14. The theme of redemption from Genesis to Revelation
  15. Defends Christian Theism 
  16. New book along the lines of Who Moved the Stone?
  17. Just released in 2017. About the author
Lewis's trilemma:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.
Brief comments to the Atheist:
  • Atheism is not a new thing: As a matter of fact it is an ancient belief system. The Psalmist has a stark assessment of atheism: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." (Psalm 14:1)
  • I don’t base my faith on this particular paradigm but consider this:
    • If I am wrong about these things: There is a true God. There is a creator. God created the universe. God is triune. Jesus can be called God. Jesus was the promised Messiah fulfilling a number of prophecies. Jesus died to redeem lost sinners. He rose from the grave. He ascended into heaven (Acts 1). He is coming again. ... If I’m wrong about all of these things and: There is no God. The universe is complete chaos controlled by random chance. I have evolved from lower life forms. There is no heaven or hell (channeling John Lennon's “Imagine”). I die and that’s it!
    • For the atheist: If you are wrong. Hell for the rebels. You’ve rejected the Savior who invites you to repent and commit your way to him.
    • For me, I am risking nothing but my own credibility. I am a fool!
    • For the atheist: You risk you very own soul
On my own faith journey: I see myself on a journey (think Pilgrim’s Progress) to the heavenly city. I’m on that path. I’m hand in hand with the love of my life and we are on this journey together. At 65 ½ and 64 we know that we have limited days “in the flesh”. But the destiny for us looms large and real. We are not turning back and we are not turning aside. Like “Christian” in Pilgrim’s Progress we invite other travelers along on the journey. In John Bunyan’s work there is “Atheist” who is “a mocker of Christian, who goes the opposite way on the "King's Highway" because he boasts that he knows that God and the Celestial City do not exist” I am Christian!