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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Celebrating 2015 by Reminiscing of 1965

Its just upon us..  tick tick tocking' closer.. (or its happened already depending on when you're reading this)...

A new year.. Another new year..

I've never been a big fan of the future.  The present is usually what it is and the past is usually quite better than things are at the moment.

Some might argue that and say the world is a terrific place compared to 10 or 20 years past.. 'Look at all the new technology!..  And all the scientific/medical discoveries and breakthroughs..  And all the political/social change' (That point I will happily debate anyone on)..
All I know is 10-20 years ago there were people in my life as well as yours who were here on earth who aren't today that are collectively missed and that makes 'Then' better than 'Now'

But to those who enjoy seeing the ball drop and think that tomorrow will always be better, brighter and happier than today, Bless You and I hope you enjoy this night..

As for A&G, let's go back in time to see what life was like 50 years ago in pics and captions to see even in a nation 13 months removed from the Kennedy Assassination, how innocent we were and what an exciting time it must have been to live then

Happy New Year's and We will be back on Friday Jan 2nd
~ Issue dated January 1, 1965

~ Issue dated February 5, 1965

~ Wonder if that is in HD? 

~ Teal appliances on a charcoal floor.. Gotta love the '65 color palette

~ 'Who's on first..'..  'Who?'  'Yes!..  'Huh, Who?'  'No, just the Who..'

~ A brand new convertible under $2k.. Gotta love 1965

~  Connery never looked better

~ The biggest film of '65

~ Real August 16, 1965 front page..  Newspapers never change

~ It didn't take long back then to galvanize opposition to war; Today we've been fighting for close to 13 years and still nothing even close to a genuine protest movement
~ Wilt Chamberlain scoring over Boston without breaking a sweat

~ Sports Illustrated's 1965 Baseball Preview issue; former KY Senator and HOF Pitcher Jim Bunning on the left

~ Common facial protection for most NFL players back in 1965

~ Good looking couple; Summer of 1965

~ Still brooding over his 1960 loss one supposes..

~ One drawback to 1965 is the world would have to wait another year for the beginning of one of the greatest TV shows (Star Trek) and one of the top 3 TV Characters ever -- Captain Kirk (the other two being Urkel and Family Guy's Quagmire  ~laughs)

And on that note, a 'Giggety Giggety Goo' & Happy New Year to You~

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

When You 'Assume'...

~ All pics today taken by us

There's something about assuming..  We don't know what it is..

Assuming what we're told by our leaders or agencies or the media is always true and factually correct

Assuming an accusations bear more credibility than that of on accused; the assumption that 100 cackling geese are more truthful than one silent gander

Assuming all is well in the economy because of one statistic here and one pie chart there..
Let's take all that hullabaloo over the film 'The Interview', a tasteless, offensive movie that really should never have been green lighted, much less actually made

We all assumed it was the North Koreans who were directly or indirectly responsible for the hack and subsequent email and movie leaks onto the Internet.

The FBI said so last week:   

"As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions."
Well OK then..  Oh..  wait.. what's this?


"Researchers from the cyber intelligence company Norse have said their own investigation into the data on the Sony attack doesn’t point to North Korea at all and instead indicates some combination of a disgruntled employee and hackers for piracy groups is at fault."

But.. But..  we all assumed..    And we were told..
And then there's all the accusers coming out of the woodwork like termites or roaches coming after the Coz with one ludicrously similar tall-tale after another while 77yr old man silently sits amid a reputation in tatters

Certainly the accusers must be telling the truth and victims, right?  

Oh but wait.. what is this?

A woman named Judy Huth sued Cosby in November claiming she was raped at the Playboy Mansion back in 1974 when she was 15
How juicy.. you have the image of "Playboy" mixed with her being underage (though why the hell was a 15yr old girl at a Playboy Mansion party?!) and 'Spanish fly'..  It just makes one want to reach for the lynching rope.

Cosby did speak out on Huth calling her a liar and an extortionist, who unsuccessfully tried to sell her story to the tabloids a decade ago and then demanded $250K from him in return for her silence.

And two weeks ago a judge dismissed Huth's suit.

And barely a mention in the papers.
More 'fun' and salacious to assume Cosby was some black breeding bull looking to sexually dominate and assault innocent, vulnerable white women and underage girls who simply wanted an autograph and a photo..

A 77 yr old comedian and innocent man living his life quietly doesn't sell papers

Then there's the assumption that the US had another robust Christmas shopping season because well would you expect most media to report any different?

We were told holiday sales were up 4% vs last year and online sales were strong and everything is super rosy..
First of all, the economy has to really be terrible for holiday sales to decline because of expanding population.   In 2014 alone, the US grew by 5 million inhabitants to 320 million; an increase of over 1.5%

But notice the media never talks about what always happens on Dec 26th.. the Massive amount of returns of merchandise.

The National Retail Federation reports 40%of Americans will return at least one gift this holiday season.

Best Buy Co. estimates that returns, replacements and damaged goods represent about 10% of revenue and for the year cost the electronics retailer $400 million
Yes, they rarely ever mention that aspect..

They want people to always embrace the assumption that all is well and all will continue to be well even if it really isn't.

Its called propaganda.. All governments do it; in wartime and in peace

And when vested interests between politicians, corporations and media are in simpatico,  and the masses possess the intellectual inquisitiveness of a tortoise, then you get a nation of assumers
And what do we always say happens to those to assume?

You make an 'Ass' out of 'U' and..  well, not 'Me'

Monday, December 29, 2014

Post X-Mas Thoughts & Investing: Stocks vs Roulette Table

Its the last Monday of the year and we're happy to be back..

Hope everyone had a good Christmas..

For myself it was quite minimalist and by design; an experiment to see if the holiday would feel any different (preferably for the better) if I held back buying every on-sale knick knack, paddy whack and deprived my dog a bone..

The answer..  ehh..
Same Christmas whether I had 2 presents to open vs 20 or 200..

The big difference is of course I had much more pennies left in the ole' coffee can by not going crazy with shopping zest n' zeal in the weeks and days before the big holiday we all have 364 days to prepare for but statistically 93% wait until the week before to begin shopping.

The simple life lesson so many tend to forget and which is clearly demonstrated when that January credit card statement arrives is this..

No matter how exciting, magical, delightful, joyous or any other adjective for terrific December 25th was, it is an inarguable Fact that there will be a Dec 26th then 27th followed by 28th..
And barring death, you and everyone else will be alive the days and weeks after

And life still will cost money; no one gets a pass because they were supremely generous during the Christmas season and now are a bit short.

That is a difference between an 'ant' and a 'grasshopper'

An 'ant' does not ever have a "lets have a big party & go out with a bang" moment..  It stores.. it saves.. it lives for today as well as the many tomorrows ahead..
The 'grasshopper' does not think beyond the moment, does not look beyond its nose and is the life of the party until the party ends then as Aesop depicted in his fable, becomes nothing more than a handout seeker.

So many people who think they are smart but are not.

I went to a Christmas evening party that a family member was holding..  And while co-mingling with mostly strangers who were friends of his, I encountered this one chit-chatty little bird of a man who was talking about stocks.

He was seeking my advice of investment (which I don't give) then bragging on his portfolio (which I don't care), but I listened as politely as I could
In particular he was wondering when oil would go up because most of his investment was in BP and he was quite proud of himself that he bought a ton of their shares right when they were environmentally Destroying the planet with their Gulf of Mexico oil spill then getting judicial protection capping how much they could be sued for...

Nonetheless, he bragged he still was making a killing.

Of course as soon as I got home, I investigated BP's share price.
On Dec 23rd, BP was selling at $39.12

On August 25th, a mere four months ago BP was selling at $48.55

That is a loss of $9.43 or approximately 20% the stock's value in 120 days.

So if he owned 500 shares, he lost $4,715

Everyone thinks they are brilliant when it comes to investment and yet so few really are..

Investing is gambling but the players are wearing nicer suits and have better hair cuts than the riff-raff you see in a typical casino
Really you have a far better percentage odd of making money playing a roulette table than buying stocks or commodities.

On a roulette wheel, there are only 37 different options that little white ball will land:  1 to 36 and "0" (some roulette wheels will also include "00" making it 38 possibilities for the ball to land which decrease odds a little bit.)

Because 0 (and 00 on some wheels) are green and not considered part of 1-36, when you bet odd/even, black/red or 1 to 18 vs 19 to 36, you have a 48.6% statistical chance of winning your bet.

That is mathematical fact; you put $10k on 'red' and you have a 48.6% chance that 10-20 seconds later you will have $20k, which obviously is double
Now many would never play such a bet.. too risky

OK, let's look at stocks a moment..

We could use any company as an example but let's say for argument sake you invested $10k in McDonald's and had the brilliance to buy it at its 5 year low; $61.84 a share on Jan 4, 2010

Today the stock is valued at $94.99 as of this writing.
Simple math:  $10,000 divided by $61.84 = 161 shares

161 shares x $94.99 (today's price) = $15,293

So in 5 full years of up and down and up and down, you would be right now at a profit of $5.293 and the money still locked in stocks you could not touch without selling to actually buy things with the $$

And you tell people you 'invest' and somehow get 'respect'
Yet you could have made 100% profit on your investment in 15-20 seconds playing roulette.

And then be looked at as if you're an addict.

Seems to us, keeping your $$ in a market for years and years while diligently daily checking stock quotes is more of an addiction

It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it..

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Factoids & Festive Pics

The following is a re-post of something we wrote a few years back explaining interesting and historical facts about Christmas and many of the traditions we partake in today.

We will return with a new post on Monday 12/29/14

Merry Christmas!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Yule Log: 

The tradition of burning a Yule log actually has its roots in ancient Scandinavia.

Supposedly the Yule log was a source of good luck and its remnants were saved to inspire good fortune throughout the year. It was such a widely held belief that people even threw the ashes in wells to make the water safer to drink.

Christmas Pudding:

The annual Christmas pudding was more than just a tasty treat. Small items were placed in them which had the power to predict what the New Year would bring.

Coins were associated with a gain in wealth, a ring was a sign of an imminent marriage and a button signified extended bachelorhood. This idea actually goes back to the middle ages where the cake being served on the Twelfth Night would come complete with a hidden bean.

Whoever found this bean was declared “king” for that one night.
12 Days of Christmas:

If you counted all the gifts that were given in the song “Twelve Days of Christmas” you would realize that the number of gifts being presented were 364 in total, thus a gift was given for each day of the year.

When Christmas was Illegal:

Christmas was illegal in England from 1647-1660.  This was enforced by the then leader Oliver Cromwell who believed it was immoral to hold celebrations on one of the holiest days of the year.

The celebration of Christmas was therefore a criminal offence which could lead to an individual being arrested if he or she was found guilty of condoning any revelry during the period.

The first President to decorate a Christmas tree:

Franklin Pierce- 1856.
Evergreen trees:

The evergreen tree, because it is perpetually green, has been used as a symbol of eternal life since the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews.  The Scandinavians believed that the evergreen could even scare away the devil.

Decorating an evergreen tree in honor of Xmas became popular in the Middle Ages, especially in Germany.  The decorations then consisted of candles and wafers, to symbolize Christ and the Host.

Martin Luther is actually said to be the first person to put candles on a tree.  (The decorated wooden Xmas pyramid was also popular then!) The tree became popular in Europe and America in the 18th century and the Victorians started decorating them with candies and cakes hung with ribbon.

Woolworth (a department store) began selling manufactured Xmas ornaments in 1880 and the custom became big very fast.  The first electronically lighted Xmas tree appeared in 1882.

Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer:

Created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930's for a holiday promotion

Silent Night:

Was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr.

He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music.

He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.

Why Christmas is sometimes called 'X-Mas':

Christmas is sometimes referred to as X-Mas because the Greek letter "x" is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Xristos. "Xmas" therefore means "Christ's Mass."

The abbreviation has been around since at least the sixteenth century and is not, as some people have claimed, an attempt to take the "Christ" out of "Christmas" and make it a secular holiday.
The Christmas Truce:

In the midst of World War I, At midnight on Christmas Eve 1914 firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped and a German brass band began playing Christmas carols.

Early Christmas morning, the German soldiers came out of their trenches, approaching the allied lines, calling "Merry Christmas". At first the allied soldiers thought it was a trick, but they soon climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the German soldiers.

The truce lasted a few days, and the men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, sang carols and songs. They even played a game of Soccer.
Christmas customs which are carryovers from pre-Christian celebrations:

 Hanging gifts on trees is supposed to stem from tree worship of the Druids, and the belief that the tree was the giver of all good things.

The Druids are also partly responsible for the use of mistletoe at Christmastime.  They regarded the mistletoe as sacred, made certain that it never touched the ground, and dedicated it to the Goddess of Love, which explains the kissing that goes on under it.

Originally, when a boy kissed a girl, he plucked a berry from the cluster and presented it to her. When the berries were gone, so were the kisses.
Wreaths & Stockings:

A wreath with holly, red berries and other decorations began from at least the 17th century. Holly, with its sharply pointed leaves, symbolized the thorns in Christ's crown-of-thorns.

Red berries symbolized the drops of Christ's blood. A wreath at Christmas signified a home that celebrated to birth of Christ.

Hanging the Christmas stocking on the hearth on Christmas Eve in the hope that it will be filled with presents the next morning is a custom that goes back about 400 years.

It derived from the custom in Holland of children placing wooden shoes next to the hearth the night before the arrival of St. Nicholas. The children would fill their shoes with straw and food for St Nicholas's for the donkey that carried the gifts.

In exchange he would leave them a small gift such as small cakes, fruits and other gifts.
Have a lovely Christmas~

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sam's Club as an Economic Barometer

There's so many ways a person can judge the strength or weakness of the economy and often one's personal bias i.e. their hope for sunny skies data or determination to find the rotten apple in the barrel, gets in the way.

Some people will say things have never been better..

The Dow is at 18,000 which is an all-time high and the price of gasoline in some parts of the country are just under the $2/gallon mark meaning 15 gallons cost about $30 instead of $60 last year which is a big benefit for consumers.

We kinda of look at the state of the economy like this (all examples provided are true):

There used to be a time if you wanted to join Sam's Club, it cost whatever its annual membership fee was (currently $45 for basic membership) and that was that...  No breaks.. no discounts..

Then a few years back while entering Wal Mart, there was a Sam's Club table where for a limited time, if you joined, you got a free roaster chicken and vegetable tray..  carrots, celery, etc..

This was valued at $10

Earlier this year I found a coupon where you brought it to the front desk of Sams' and it entitled me to 30 free days membership with no penalty cost for purchasing items,
And last week, I received in the mail a coupon for a free year.. 12 full months membership. a $45 value, which was recently redeemed..

So what does that all mean?

Some may wish to look at it as well Sam's Club may be having some difficulties but it doesn't reflect anything beyond themselves..

And others may correctly look at it as Sam's falls under the Wal-Mart umbrella, the largest company in the US in terms of number of employees who are employed by a specific business.

1.4 million people to be exact
Sam's Club isn't your typical store.. Like Costco and BJ's Warehouse, they sell in bulk and not everyone has the financial means to pay for a year's supply of toilet paper, paper towels and such at a given moment..

And let's get beyond what would normally be at this point a myriad of facts and figures to look at it from a basic dollars and cents perspective..

If Sam's Club was thriving and profits soaring as the masses demonstrate with their purchasing power the  undeniable 'strength' of the "recovery"...
~ Sam's Club global presence

Would it have sent me (and many others we're sure) a coupon to be a full member for 12 months for nothing?   Not one penny...

What does Sam's have to gain by giving some people that kind of discount?

How about warm bodies walking around and shopping in their store..

Yesterday I joined and ended up spending $28 on some food items..

Now $28 isn't a lot of money But that is $28 More that Sam's Club took in yesterday vs if I wasn't a member and went elsewhere for my food.
And there's still another 364 membership days..  Certainly I will be going back and every time I purchase anything, that's more $$ than if I wasn't a member

So then the question becomes, why not do that with everyone?

Then Sam's loses its exclusivity..   Its a psychological strategy they employ.

For instance anyone can enter Costco or BJ's and walk around with their shopping cart..  You just need to be an active member to actually purchase something.   Then your receipt is checked before you leave, and then you're on your way..
Sam's is different..  They want to see your card as you enter the store.

Does it really matter since one can't buy without the active membership anyways?   No.. But makes people feel like they are privileged; like they possess status.

So is the economy really better as the media says, or is it still in the toilet?

Admittedly the super low gas prices skewer what would otherwise be a simple and clear answer..

$2 a gallon savings is nothing to sneeze at..
Basic math using 15 gal fill up per week means if everything stayed as is over a 52 week period, that's an annual savings of $1,560 in each person's pocket which is 6x any stimulus check the government ever sent out in the past..

For some people in hard times, that $1500 feels more like $15,000

So the gas prices represent the short-term bump, and if it stays this way into summer, then honestly one can say things are finally getting better for everyday people

But what we take from Sam's Club, is there's still a lot of economic hurt out there; a lot of belt tightening and the better the discounts stores like Sam's or Target or Macy's give out, the more desperate retail is to draw in shoppers.