The Deipnosophist

Where the science of investing becomes an art of living

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Location: Summerlin, Nevada, United States

A private investor for 20+ years, I manage private portfolios and write about investing. You can read my market musings on three different sites: 1) The Deipnosophist, dedicated to teaching the market's processes and mechanics; 2) Investment Poetry, a subscription site dedicated to real time investment recommendations; and 3) Seeking Alpha, a combination of the other two sites with a mix of reprints from this site and all-original content. See you here, there, or the other site!

31 March 2012

The iPad's magic

Really a wonderful act...

With added color here.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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25 March 2012

Happy Birthday (blues), Josh

Two Nelson, BC (Canada) grandparents recorded this song, and its hilarious video, for their grandson’s 18th birthday...

CNN and ABC each have featured the video; deservedly so, I believe, as it brings a smile to my lips!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

PS: Thank you to Harvey A. for the video and link.

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23 March 2012

Fascinating interview with Marc Andreessen

Marc Andreessen (he of Netscape fame) has lived the 'quiet' life since, as commentator on all topics technology and as venture capitalist.

In this interview, Andreessen pairs both passions into a unified whole...
"I think 2012 is the year that retail - retail stores - really starts to feel the pressure. And I don't say that because I don't like retail stores. I loved going to Borders. I thought it was a great consumer experience. And I was a huge fan of Tower Records. But the economic pressure is huge as e-commerce gets more and more viable and as these category killers emerge in the superverticals. If I own mall real estate or retail stores in cities, or if I own chains like electronics chains, I'd be concerned... I think electronics and clothes are going to be a real pressure point. Home furnishing is going to come under pressure. It's going to get harder and harder to justify the retail store model. The model has this fundamental problem where every store has to have its own inventory and every store is also a warehouse. The economic deadweight of that entire inventory in each store--that's what took down Borders..."

I agree with Andreessen's main and general points - that the increasing viability to purchase anything and everything online leads to the inevitable destruction of brick and mortar retailers' profit margins. This notion harkens back to Bill Gates's comment about friction and the Internet. It also contributes to the phenomenon of showrooming.

And yet I disagree re his specific remarks that 'explain' the case study that is Borders. Borders had its own problems; inventory issues only hastened its demise. If you understand the publishers' distribution model, then you also understand that inventory serves as both curse (inventory = money) and blessing (inventory = money). Borders used this odd model to stave off its ultimate demise several times during its final years. Borders, in the end, finally cried "Uncle!"

So, too, will other companies. The interview with Andreessen brings into stark relief some conceptual winners and losers. Or, for investors, longs and shorts.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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15 March 2012

The new iPad from Apple

First, Walt Mossberg's (WSJ) hands-on review...
"iPad could be described as a personal display through which you see and manipulate text, graphics, photos and videos often delivered via the Internet. So, how has the company chosen to improve its wildly popular tablet? By making that display dramatically better and making the delivery of content dramatically faster. ... These upgrades are massive. Using the new display is like getting a new eyeglasses prescription — you suddenly realize what you thought looked sharp before wasn't nearly as sharp as it could be."
This makes it seem as though the new iPad is designed and built for an audience of one, me. I use my iPad regularly and intensively. And daily as an e-Reader. My eyesight, while not horrible, is not very good, so I appreciate all the innovations and upgrades that Apple keeps providing... Miraculously, at the same price.

So, yes, I await my new iPad with outstretched hands and welcoming eyes. You see, I have taken the measure of my iPad 1, and found it wanting. Specifically, its processor and 256Mb of RAM, and, for an app, iBooks. To wit,
  • iOS 5.0 (and its successive upgrades, 5.01 and 5.1) tax the processor and RAM to the point where apps repeatedly time out or crash; no problems prior to iOS 5.0
  • iBooks 1.5 (and 2.0 and 2.1) is neither designed nor built to accommodate a library the size of mine (6100+ ePub files, ~10Gb)
What I have found, and confirmed independently, is that the larger the library, the more frequent the timeouts, low memory issues (check your diagnostics and usage page), and repeated crashes of iBooks. This all means that its functionality - nay, its usability - as eReader is rendered nil.

I would not ordinarily complain or moan about such items. Technology - heck, life - is about discovering limitations, and expanding beyond them, whether by design or effort. No, what bothers and troubles me is that Apple - which by all measures designed a gorgeous interface for iBooks but stinted on its functionality (though, I admit, Apple continually improves iBooks over successive generations) - hides the fact that iBooks cannot handle a library larger than x size. (Well, I have seen no ad nor fine print that states this shortcoming.) Such an item would be good to know; certainly in advance of a device pushed beyond its limits. And, for the record, my 10Gb of ePubs take up only 15% of the 64Gb hard drive; why should such a small usage percentage cause such fits?

And, to make matters worse, Apple's engineers hide behind the scrim of minor app tweaks (stop syncing, etc) that have nothing to do with the hardware that lacks necessary oomph, and an app designed for beauty and elegance but not functionality. Apple's engineers are not stupid - these problems have been known since day 1 (do a Google search) - but neither are Apple's customers (stupid). Why must we waste our time on minor settings tweaks all the way up to and through complete restores... when the company knows the problem and its causes? (btw, the iPad 2 has 512Mb of RAM, the new iPad purportedly offers 1Gb of RAM.)

Which all means I am forced to upgrade. I would buy the new iPad anyway; I loved my iPad 1, and am certain to propose marriage to my new iPad. Nonetheless, I sure would appreciate more honesty and transparency from Apple.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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10 March 2012

Boeing 747-8 performs the ultimate rejected take-off (RTO)

The more I fly, the more concerned I become; so many things can go wrong. The oft-stated quip comes immediately to mind when asked how your flight was, "Landings equalled takeoffs."

Precisely so. Many things can go wrong anywhere along the journey, from takeoff to flight to landing. Most problems occur, though, during landings. So I derive great comfort that engineers test for the most extreme events, such as Boeing does here.
"Full brakes are applied when the aircraft reaches 200mph. No engine thrust reversers are used. Boeing engineers and designers then watch to see if, when, and where the plane will stop."
Yes. Test. Test. And test again. I feel better already.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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04 March 2012

12 minutes to happiness

Hmm, make that a capital H, Happiness. Clever, witty, entertaining...

... and worth every moment of the 12 minutes to learn what Shawn Achor has to share. Spot on!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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