Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Predicitions: Entertainment and Sports

Here are my predictions from the lighter side of life:


1. This will be the year for multiple couples to split. My prediction is for Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux will break up by summer. Will Smith and Jada Pinket will separate as tales of their open marriage start to come out. Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott will divorce. All of the Kartrashians will be single by the end of the year.

2. New Shows of 2014:

Renewed: Rake, Klondike. Helix, Black Sails, Those Who Kill, Turn
Cancelled: Enlisted, Chicago PD, Chozen, Resurrection, Mind Games, Friends with Better Lives, All NBC new comedies, All Fox new comedies

Top 10 Movies of 2014 in Order:

1. Amazing Spider-man 2
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2

3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
4. The Hobbit: There and Back Again
5. Captain America: Winter Soldier
6. X-Men: Days of Futures Past
7. The Expendables 3

8. Guardians of the Galaxy
9. Transformers: Age of Extinction
10. 300: Rise of an Empire

Top 5 Bombs/Disappointments of 2014:

1. Godzilla
2. Divergent
3. 22 Jump Street
4. Sabotage
5. I, Frankenstein


College Football National Title: Auburn Tigers
College Basketball National Title: Connecticut Huskies
NFL: Seattle Seahawks
NBA: Portland Trailblazers
MLB: Texas Rangers
NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson
NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins

Premier League Title: Manchester City
Bundesliga Title: Bayern Munich
World Cup: Germany
Most Golds in the Winter Olympics: USA


2014 Predictions: Politics and the Economy

Well here are my predictions for 2014.


1. The Syrian war will grind on without the world taking much notice. Eventually there will be a cease-fire brokered by the Russians and the Saudis and the country will be virtually partitioned. In will take years before the UN actually gets around to an actual partitioning of the country.

2. The Sochi Olympics will overshadowed by fear and uncertainty. The Russian military presence coupled with the threat of terrorism will be a big story in the games and will cut into the enjoyment. There will be several terrorist attacks in Russia during the games but none at the actual Olympic village although it is feared.

3. Russia will slowly start to destabilize as cheap oil from the US brings oil prices down. More and more pressure will be put on Putin from reformers and terrorists and his government will waver. He holds on to power but has to put some reforms into place to solidify himself.

4. The US will quietly leave Afghanistan and the Taliban will make peace with the Afghan government. This war will slowly leave the consciousness of the US government and a tentative peace will come over the area.

5. The World Cup in Brazil will be a huge success and will usher the country onto the world stage. Much of what people see are the large gulfs between the rich and the poor and see how bad poor Brazilians live. It will bring in much needed reforms that will help the average Brazilian for decades.

6. The Democrats will retain the Senate by a slim 2 vote margin. The GOP will again control the House. There is a new spirit of bipartisanship as various GOP White House hopefuls hope to get the centrist vote. The "Conservative Industrial Complex" of the Heritage Action, Freedom Works, Club for Growth, Rush Limbaugh etc. power will be diminished by a large margin as men like Paul Ryan and Chris Christie try to jockey for the center in time for the next election. The GOP makes fewer gaffs and does not shut down the government and welcomes more women and minorities into their ranks.


1. Tapering will be a non-event with the FED slowly withdrawing the bond buying and the market hardly reacting. Yellen will be confirmed without issue and kind of go about her business without creating much uproar. The economy will grow strongly at 3% or higher and prosperity will replace quite a bit of the dark clouds of past years. Housing prices will rise and the stock market will stay near record high levels for much of the year.

2. Energy Independence will finally be realized in many parts of the US. Gas prices will start to come down and the US will decouple from much of the world oil market. The Oil Majors will have record profits and the Energy Sector will lead the rest of the market.

3. There will be a true split between old tech (HP, Cisco, IBM, Dell) and new tech (Samsung, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter) and their stock prices will tell the tale. The personal computer will hang on and grow modestly as companies just can't shake the form factor. The consumer side will be a mess with double digit losses in growth from year to year. Microsoft will again flat-line as the Xbox One will pretty much carry the company for 2014.

4. The Phablet will be very popular in 2014 with more people carrying around an oversized phone instead of a tablet and a phone. Samsung will again lead the pack with Apple failing to bring about a similar Phablet form-factor in 2014.

5. Facebook will finally seem long in the tooth and will start to loose much of its cache to Twitter and other social media. They will go on a spate of acquisitions to stay relevant and swallow other social media sites like it did Instagram.

6. Here are the end of 2014 numbers:

Dow: 17100
NASDAQ: 4210
S&P 500: 1941
Eur/Dollar: 1.15
10 Year Bond: 3.10%
Gold: $1240 an ounce
Oil: $72 a barrel

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Predicitions: A Look Back at Entertainment and Sports


1. Reality TV starts to grate on the public as American Idol has its lowest rated season ever. People talk of cancellation but it is still renewed for 2013. Many other reality TV staples are cancelled to make way for more Mad Men style adult dramas.

American Idol had its lowest season ever but it was renewed for 2013. Adult Dramas dominated the news with Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones capturing headlines. You don't hear much about the Bachelor, Housewives of Whereever, Survivor and such. However Duck Dynasty seems to be huge and everywhere so reality TV is still a staple. At least the Kartrashians are hopefully going to be off of TV for 2014.

2. The Jersey Shore miscreants disappear from the national consensus as their 15 minutes of fame fades. This ignominious fate befalls Honey Boo boo, Dog the Bounty Hunter, the Storage Wars cast, and any American Idol not named Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood.

I assume all of the Jersey Shore people are still alive and have not fallen all the way off of the face of the earth. Honey Boo boo seems to be still lurking but Dog the Bounty Hunter is no more. I assume Storage Wars is still on the air and I cannot name an American Idol for the last several years.

3. New Shows of 2012:
  Renewed: The Following, How to Live with your Parents, the Carrie Diaries, Cult
  Cancelled: Goodwin Games, Do No Harm, Save Me, Deception, 1600 Penn, Hannibal, Zero Hour, Red Widow, The Family Tools, Mistresses

The Following and Carrie Diaries were renewed but all the rest were cancelled. I never called the two breakout hits the Blacklist and Sleepy Hollow though.

4. Top 10 Movies for 2013 in any order:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Thor the Dark World, Iron Man 3, Star Trek into Darkness, The Hunger Games Catching Fire, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Kick-ass 2, Despicable Me 2, The Lone Ranger

Kick-ass 2 (85th ugh,) Thor the Dark World (just missed at 12,) and the Lone Ranger (36th) do not belong in this top 10 list at all. However, the Hobbit will probably get there (its 16th now) if you give it a few more weeks. All the rest were spot on.


College Football National Title: Alabama (Alabama won)
College Basketball National Title: Indiana (Kentucky won)
NFL: Denver Broncos (Baltimore Ravens won)
NBA: LA Clippers (Miami Heat won)
MLB: Los Angeles Angels (Boston Red Sox won)
NASCAR: Kasey Kahne (Jimmie Johnson won)
NHL: none season cancelled (season did go on and the Chicago Blackhawks won)
Premier League Title: Arsenal (Manchester United won)
Bundesliga Title: Bayern Munich (Bayern Munich won)

Ugh dismal 2 for 9 turned in on sports predictions.

2013 Predictions: A Look Back at the Economy


1. There will be 3% GDP growth by the end of the year as companies have more of an idea of what their taxes and hiring costs will be. Obamacare is not the debacle as many fear and its pull on the economy is not felt by many Americans. The $800 Obamacare Tax Penalty will quietly be repealed with changes to the bill tacked onto a different piece of legislation.

Well missed this one because GDP growth was 4% and Obamacare is a big fat debacle by any measure. The Obamacare tax is still in place but with diktats from the White House it might be delayed past the midterms at least.

2. Banks will have record profits during 2013. Having large cash hordes and an incentive to start loaning money out will bring billions of dollars in profit into the banks. Many banks will be enriched by the same things that made them money before the bailout. Private banking will flourish in 2013.

Hit this one right on the nose. Banks are doing very well and might be doing even better in 2014 as interest rates rise so they make more money on loans with the FED still keeping rates low. Private Banking seemed to be about the same as it has ever been.

3. Hedge Funds lose quite a bit of their luster as their outsized gains disappear. There are record redemptions as rich people pull their money out and chase after tax free yield. Municipal bonds and Master Limited Partnerships become very popular since they avoid higher capital gains tax rates that come out of Washington deal-making. Dividends become less popular and stock buybacks soar.

Hedge funds seem to be trailing the stock market by a large margin as the market soars. Other high flying funds though have been hurt badly by being in the wrong thing (gold) or messing up timing the market. Municipal Bond prices have dropped though due to uncertainty in Washington. Stock buybacks did soar in 2013 with a few from huge firms like Apple and IBM.

4. The Apple TV becomes the most talked about new tech product of 2013 as it challenges the idea of Internet connected TV. Saving TV shows to ICloud and viewing movies from the Apple Store challenges Netflix and Amazon. People cancelling their cable becomes even more widespread than before. Windows 8 is a dismal failure and hastens the demise of the desktop as we know it. A big screen attached to a tablet or a smartphone becomes the new PC form factor of 2013.

No Apple TV as they just pretty much just put out upgrades of their existing lines. A new iPhone and a new iPad is pretty much it for 2013. They also benefited from a deal with China Mobile but Samsung is pretty much the big winner for 2013. Cutting the cord is a real issue to the cable companies and they seem to be running scared. Windows 8 was a dismal failure by most measures and the desktop is slowly bleeding out.

5. There will be a Facebook and Twitter backlash as many people tire of having to update their lives and document it for people they barely know. Saying "I don't have Facebook" becomes a new way of being hip instead of being luddite. The social revolution hits a definite snag in 2013 as people cease to see the point.

This was unfortunately not true as Facebook and Twitter grows like weeds. The Twitter IPO is huge and Facebook stock is at an all-time high. Plus they seem to be making money as advertisers pour money into their mobile platforms. Younger people are kind of moving away from Facebook into other social networks though.

6. Here are the end of 2013 numbers (These numbers as of today:)

Dow: 13400 (16479, way off)
NASDAQ: 3210 (4167, really way off)
S&P 500: 1410 (1842 off again by 400 points)
Eur/Dollar: 0.84 (1.37 the exact opposite)
10 Year Bond: 2.58% (2.99% not too bad)
Gold: $1640 an ounce ($1210 this was a big miss)
Oil: $85 a barrel ($99.64)

2013 Predictions: A Look Back at Politics

Well the fun thing about doing a blog is that I can make predictions and see how they turn out a year later. Well here are the things I predicted back at the end of 2012. Lets see how right I was:

1. There will be another fight over the debt ceiling with the GOP getting blamed for stalling and "holding the country ransom."  They will eventually cave and we will be put back on debt downgrade watch again. This time we are not downgraded.

Yup this happend exactly how I predicted. There was a debt ceiling fight and the GOP was blamed for exactly that "holding the country ransom." They did cave and there was no debt downgrade.

2. Benghazi disappears into the woodwork as we slowly ease out of Afghanistan. Most of our foreign entanglements are finished by the end of the year. America's robust foreign policy on the early 2000s takes a backseat to new actors such as the Turks, the Russians and the Chinese. Europe moves further into the drivers seat of world affairs again.

This one was spot on with Afghanistan a distant footnote in the US. The French are pretty much in the drivers seat when it came to Libya and now in Africa as well. The Russians pretty much ran the show in Syria and stopped us from acting there. The Turns are in turmoil and the Chinese are still throwing their weight around.

3. Bashar Assad's government falls and he flees to Russia. The new Syria emerges out of the rubble and Lebanon returns to an active peace. General tensions ease in the Middle East and a relative calm falls over the region by year-end. Some of the Arab Spring governments become Islamist but it does not affect their relations with Israel. 

This one was wrong. Bashar Assad still stands and Syria is a sucking wound of destruction as the rebels are being ground down with no support from the West. Egypt did become Islamist for a bit but went back secular after a coup d'état.

4. The world will become a somewhat more peaceful place with much less warfare and death on the front page. People start looking inwardly and fixing some of their long running problems. The news becomes focused on solar panels in Africa and micro-transactions in Brazil and less about wars in the Middle East.

Well the world is a bit more peaceful but there are still wars in different parts of the world. Myanmar is opening up to the world at least. There was a bit of terrorism in the Boston Bombing but nothing close to 9/11. Lone gunmen shootings seemed to be a big part of the news but nothing was really done. No solar panels or micro-transactions though.

5. There is less partisan infighting as America tires of the whole "political divide" that has typified Washington for the last few years. No new gun laws are passed through the Congress and Sandy Hook unfortunately becomes just another footnote.

This one was unfortunately wrong with the fever swamp of partisanship being worse than ever throughout the year. Luckily by the end of the year they passed a bi-partisan budget which give me a little hope for the future.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why do Men Hate Obama? This Article Makes Sense of the Dilemma

This article provides quite a bit of food for thought on why Obama lost the white male vote by such a wide margin in both elections. It isn't that they are all racist either.

It may be the case that men see Barack Obama as a kind of romantic competitor — not the man himself, but the vision of government he stands for. The more the state steps into the role of provider, the less men have to offer in that capacity. This is especially true of men with modest earnings potential. I doubt that very many of those non-college-educated, working-class white men follow the careers of Hanna Rosin or Maureen Dowd, but the message — “men are obsolete” — infiltrates the culture at large. President Obama is the messenger, and an agent of the Rosin-Dowd worldview: His vision of the good life is universal kindergarten and universal graduate school, a coddling welfare state, etc., and a gimlet eye cast upon much of what used to be thought of as man’s work: drilling for gas, timbering, mining. President Obama is first and foremost the public face of his own agenda and his own economic record, which is a poor one. But he is also the face of something else, an unbrave new world with little use for men whose Christmas plans do not involve buttonholing family members for precious and grim-mouthed homilies about Obamacare.

Yeah a Welfare State envisioned by Obama and his ilk have no place for men in it. Men as the provider or the bread-winner is totally obsolete when it is the Government providing the check. So men without college degrees fear that Obama will become their wives' proverbial baby-daddy. The Welfare State is not made to make everyone rich but maintain everyone at the same level of near poverty with no real way to get ahead so they can be controlled.

Women are also becoming far more educated than men as well. We see men retreating into Call of Duty and bro-ism while women are getting multiple degrees and going after top jobs in research and the corporate world. Unemployment for men is much higher than ever. Obama the metrosexual is the standard bearer of the fear that there will be no place for men in the world he wants to create. Men are right to fear a driven woman that has a PHD is gunning for his job (or has already taken it) while he is getting drunk with his bros and playing video games.

As of 2013 Things Are Looking Pretty Good

Well the stock market is up big this year and it seem global growth is accelerating as well. It seems there shouldn't be very much room for pessimism at all.

“The airwaves are crammed with doom. In my own adult lifetime, I have listened to implacable predictions of growing poverty, coming famines, expanding deserts, imminent plagues, impending water wars, inevitable oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, mad-cow epidemics, Y2K computer bugs, killer bees, sex-change fish, global warming, ocean acidification and even asteroid impacts that would presently bring this happy interlude to a terrible end. I cannot recall a time when one or other of these scares was not solemnly espoused by sober, distinguished and serious elites and hysterically echoed by the media. I cannot recall a time when I was not being urged by somebody that the world could only survive if it abandoned the foolish goal of economic growth. The fashionable reason for pessimism changed, but the pessimism was constant.”

I have to agree with the 24 hour news cycle and with the immediacy of social media like Twitter it amplifies any tragedy that comes along. So if there is a school shooting or something it resonates quite a bit more then it did in the 90s or the 70s. When the news cycle gets running it turns a crazy person with a gun into a national issue about gun control with everyone choosing sides. I mean two guys with pressure cookers shut down the entire city of Boston.
You add to this fact that quite a few climate scientists make a pretty decent living out of gloom and doom you have even more "wall of worry" material. Even though climate change might be happening the polar ice sheets have not melted totally away like Al Gore claimed. Also there aren't more typhoons and twisters than ever before there seems to be much less.

Things are just so much better and people cannot put them into perspective. Our phones are more powerful than super computers in the 1970s. Our TVs are larger, thinner, and lighter then they have ever been in history. Even if you have a minimum wage job you can afford quite a few things that only a corporate CEOs had in the 1980s. I mean a cell phone cost $3500 and was 85 cents a minute in the 80s. Now a tablet that costs $225 is more powerful than a $2500 Apple Macintosh. Technology is so accessible and easy to use that it is mind-boggling. 

I think part of the problems with the GOP is that they are the fear party. Obamacare will destroy America. Atheists are killing Christmas. Run away spending will leave our children destitute etc. I remember Reagan was quite optimistic (the shining city on the hill) and didn't try to out-scare everyone else. The GOP needs to take back the the future is so very bright mantle.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Target got Hacked for 40 million Payment Cards for 19 Days Strait? Glad I Shopped at Amazon

I guess it isn't a good idea to shop at some brick-and-mortar retailers this holiday season.

Target Corp said hackers have stolen data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards of shoppers who visited its stores during the first three weeks of the holiday season in the second-largest such breach reported by a U.S. retailer.

The hackers worked at unprecedented speed, carrying out their operation from the day before Thanksgiving to this past Sunday, 19 days that are the heart of the crucial Christmas holiday sales season.

I'm so glad I shopped almost exclusively at Amazon to buy my gifts this year so I don't have to deal with Target and their sieve-like security.

Woman Worked to Death at Young & Rubicam

I guess this is a cautionary tale on not letting work totally absorb your waking life.

Mita Duran, a 24-year-old woman who worked as a copywriter in Indonesia, slipped into a coma on Sunday after tweeting that she had worked for 30 hours straight. She died not long after.
Duran often kept herself awake by drinking Kratingdaeng, better known as Thai Red Bull, writes Lee Moran at the New York Daily News, while working late into the night at Young & Rubicam, an ad agency owned by multinational advertising and public relations company WPP.

I'm sure the work that caused her death contributed .0001 % revenue increase at WPP and will result in a bonus for someone sitting in a corner office. Where was this woman's supervisor and why didn't they hire someone else to help her do her job?  

McDonalds Must Get Rid of 10 Million Pounds of Might Wings: Might I Suggest Burying them in the Desert?

It seems McDonalds has a Mighty Wing problem.

McDonald's has 10 million pounds of Mighty Wings it needs to sell soon. 
The wings, which represent 20% of the chicken wings produced for a promotion, are in frozen storage, writes Julie Jargon at The Wall Street Journal

McDonald's was "unable to sell enough," according to Jargon. 
Earlier this year, CEO Don Thompson said that the chicken wings aren't the smash success it had hoped for. 

While Mighty Wings apparently met internal targets, the item "was not strong enough to offset" weak sales trends, Thompson said on a conference call.

I think they need to take them out into the deserts of New Mexico and bury them next to the E.T. Cartridges that Atari got rid of in the 80s.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Avoid KlearGear.com At All Costs: They Dinged a Couple's Credit for a Negative Review on a $20 Gift

Talk about a company sticking it to a consumer for writing a bad review.

The story goes back to December 2008 when KlearGear.com didn't deliver Jen Palmer's online Christmas order of a desk ornament and keychain that cost less than $20. Jen Palmer, now 40, wrote a negative review on private business review site RipoffReport.com, saying KlearGear.com had "horrible customer service practices." 

Last summer, her husband, a senior network engineer, received an email from KlearGear.com demanding $3,500 pursuant to a non-disparagement clause that it claimed was in its "Terms of Use" on its website. 

The Palmers say they asked RipOffReport to take down the negative review, but the site has an arbitration process that requires the involvement of the business. The couple say they shared this information with KlearGear.com, but the company didn't respond. 

The Palmers refused to pay the fine, prompting KlearGear.com to report their "debt" to one or more credit reporting agencies, the suit claims. When the Palmers disputed the debt with several credit reporting agencies, KlearGear.com continued to maintain that the debt be paid and then demanded a $50 "dispute fee" because they attempted to dispute the debt, the couple claims.
KlearGear.com did not respond to a request for comment. 

I'm still marveling that a company had a non-disparagement clause in their "Terms of Use." It takes all sorts of gall to actually send a letter asking for $3,500 to a customer for writing a bad review. Then they go the extra mile and reported it to their credit company as a debt that the customer didn't pay. I wonder if they actually expect someone to buy their products after this story became public? They should have just read the review and endeavored to do better. Now you have to worry about a company dinging your credit because you wrote a bad review on a $20 purchase.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Indian Diplomat Arrested and Strip Searched for Giving False Statements

Well isn't it SOP when you are arresting someone to have them strip searched?

Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, is accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her Manhattan housekeeper. Indian officials said she was arrested and handcuffed Thursday as she dropped off her daughter at school, and was kept in a cell with drug addicts before posting $250,000 bail.

A senior Indian official confirmed reports that she also was strip-searched, which has been portrayed in India as the most offensive and troubling part of the arrest. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

I guess the Indian government thought she would get preferential treatment because she was a diplomat or a woman or something. If you are arrested for a crime in America you will be strip searched most of the time. I guess it is funny to have the Indian government freak out about a little nudity and cavity search when women are getting raped to death on city buses.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Senate Crawls Toward Passage of a Budget Much to the Tea Party's Chagrin

It seems that we might actually have some bipartisan agreement on Capital Hill for a change.

The accord, struck by Senate Democrat Patty Murray and House Republican Paul Ryan, lays out spending caps for the next two years and dramatically reduces the prospects of another government shutdown like the one that hog-tied Washington in October.

It creates $85 billion in savings and repeals some $63 billion in crippling automatic spending cuts -- known in Washington as sequestration -- that take effect January 1 unless Congress acts.

It seems that the Tea Party grip on the Congress is starting to slip because there seems to be only $20 billion worth of savings in this thing. As long as there is no negotiation by brinksmanship the markets and my portfolio will be safe from Congressional meddling for the next two years.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Unbundling the Cable Industry would Devastate the Crap out of It

Now this is what we call one change damaging an industry to its core.

In a report that attempts to quantify the costs of an à la carte pricing for cable television, Needham & Co.’s Laura Martin estimates that $45 billion of TV advertising would be at risk under such a change, along with 1.4 million jobs, $20 billion in taxes paid by such cable operators as Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC), and $117 billion in market capitalization. And maybe you wouldn’t miss the Christian-themed Smile of a Child channel or Jewelry Television, but if you love any of those niche networks you could almost certainly kiss them goodbye for lack of financial support.

Yeah I noticed the other day that I only watch a few cable channels total. I watch HBO on Demand for Boardwalk Empire, Girls, and soon Game of Thrones and True Detective (which looks great.) ESPN and its various offshoots for College Football, Monday Night Football, NBA and College Basketball and SportsCenter. AMC for Walking Dead. Comedy Central for the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Cartoon Network for reruns of the Family Guy and American Dad. BBC America for reruns of Star Trek Next Generation. And CNBC for Squawk Box and Mad Money. So 7 channels is pretty much the sum total of my cable viewing. If they let me unbundle my cable I would probably end up with 25 channels or so and end up dumping the rest.

The Case Against a Minimum Wage Hike by Fast Food Retailers

This is a compelling counter argument against raising the minimum wage too highly.

The retail industry is just one in which workers are at risk. It’s hard to find many jobs that are not threatened by automation, by Internet expansion or by overseas competition. That includes people working in the fast food industry — where union organizers are currently pushing for a big jump in minimum pay. They should not assume that burger joints won’t eventually automate. Last year, Momentum Machines in San Francisco previewed an apparatus that created 360 burgers an hour. Noting that the fast food industry spends $9 billion a year on wages, the company predicted a lively reception for its space- and cost-saving machine.

I would be willing to bet that if the minimum wage is hiked to $15 suddenly installing these machines will become a very lucrative alternative to hiring a person to do it. With a machine you can do the following:

1. Regulate the amount that goes into each burger (you can put exactly 2 pickles, 2.5 ounces of lettuce, an exact dab of mayo and ketchup etc) so you can tell costs down to the penny.

2. Put something on the machine to track exactly how many burgers are created and when. It will allow McDonalds headquarters to do trend analysis and such and tinker with production. So if ketchup prices rise they can adjust the amount of ketchup that comes out with a few keystrokes.

3. Stop mistakes in creating the burgers. I once had the strings that tie burgers together still attached to an Ultimate Cheeseburger from Jack-in-the-box one time. That shouldn't happen with an automated burger machine.

4. Fire half or more of your staff. You pretty much only need a person running the register and filling the orders and someone to load and service the automated burger machine. That would probably be a higher paying technical job but you could probably train some staff members to do. Especially if they are getting $15 an hour. Overall there will be far less jobs in the fast food industry then we have now if this burger machine becomes economically viable.

5. Limit the store footprint if you have to reduce the rent per square foot. A burger making machine will probably take up much less space than the aisles and such that humans need. More space can be used for seating and such or just go down to the bottom line as savings in rent.

I guess raising the minimum wage to $15 might invoke the laws of unintended consequences.

Quiznos Circles the Drain

It seems that the Subway-killer of 2008 is running of fumes now.

Quiznos, meanwhile, shrank to about 3,000 stores world-wide two years ago, and to around 2,100 today, including roughly 1,500 stores in the U.S., people familiar with the matter said. Hundreds of the U.S. stores are underperforming and could close in the next year, some of these people said.

I remember that there were tons of Quiznos opening in Hawaii all over the place but they slowly closed their doors one after another. There was one in Ala Moana I used to go to every now and then but I stopped going after I tried to redeem a coupon for a free cookie with a meal deal and they wouldn't honor it. I would have just gotten only the sandwich if I didn't have the coupon.

So this advertisement did what it was supposed to do by getting me in the door and altered my normal buying behavior. However, it lost me as a customer because they didn't honor something and had no sign saying "we do not accept coupons." Instead they waited until I was ready to pay before springing this on me. I seriously felt like walking out the door but I was hungry. That Ala Moana franchise went out of business a few months later.

It seems franchisees are up against long odds:

Current and former franchisees said high costs ate into stores' profitability, causing many to close. With fewer stores contributing to an advertising fund, the chain had fewer resources to promote new products, hurting sales, which resulted in more store closures, they said.

"It's a vicious cycle," said Brian Peticolas, who owns a Quiznos in Alton, Ill. "I almost closed my store five months ago, but I didn't have any other prospects so I kept the doors open."

Mr. Peticolas said his store averages $5,000 a week in sales, down from $7,000 a week three years ago. He estimates the restaurant is losing up to $300 a week.

"I've had two Quiznos close near me recently and I've been getting calls from people asking if I'm still open," Mr. Peticolas said. "We're not visible, so people wonder if all the Quiznos have closed."

This was the case in Mililani. My dad and I did not know if the local Quiznos was open or closed and decided to chance it. Luckily it was open but we had no way of telling that fact. There was only one employee who looked like the franchisee and she was running everything all by herself. Luckily we were the only customers in the store. After we got our food I was kind of regretting not going to Subway instead because they have toasted subs as well.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Guy that Wanted to Poop on Sarah Palin, Martin Bashir, Resigns

I guess advocating copraphage on a former Alaska governor can actually get you fired at MSNBC after all.

And the statement from MSNBC President Phil Griffin on his resignation:

“Martin Bashir resigned today, effective immediately. I understand his decision and I thank him for three great years with MSNBC. Martin is a good man and respected colleague — we wish him only the best.”

Bashir hasn't hosted his normal 4 p.m. show for the past two weeks. When asked about his absence, a network spokesperson only said that he was on vacation. The spokesperson didn't respond to follow-up requests asking if he had been suspended.

I guess he fell on his sword rather then being shown the door himself. In any case the less people that throw around this sort of rhetoric the better America will be.

Red Chinese Heap Pressure on Kids and Ace PISA Test: Check With Me When they Win a Bunch of Nobel Prizes

Well it seems that the Chinese can certainly teach to the test.

As a ninth-grader, Shanghai's Li Sixin spent more than three hours on homework a night and took tutorials in math, physics and chemistry on the weekends. When she was tapped to take an exam last year given to half a million students around the world, Li breezed through it.

Sounds impressive if you want to build a test-taking robot.

"They listen carefully in the class and do the homework," said Bai Bing, the headmaster of Li's school, where about 40 students were chosen to take the global test. "They respect the teachers, and do exactly the assignments that teachers ask them to do."

"And it is a tradition that the Asians pay more attention to mathematics," Bai said.

If Li Sixin wins the Fields Medal for Mathematics then I will be impressed. Until then "teaching to the test" does not guarantee that these kids will actually be able to turn this knowledge into something greater. Looking at the Chinese-born Nobel Laureates I see that the hard science guys did their thing at American universities and labs. It seems that the rich Chinese parents know this.

Ironically, many Chinese parents — especially those with means and bemoaning the pressure their children must endure in local schools — are increasingly sending their children overseas for what they consider a more well-rounded education.

Our PISA test taking might be 20th but I would put our universities head-to-head with anything that Red China has to offer.

Millennials turn on Obamacare and Obama Himself

Well I guess they are finally understanding that Obamacare is ripping them off in order so the old and the sick can get cheaper rates.

A new poll out today from Harvard University's Institute of Politics shows that the majority of young people, a core support group throughout President Obama's time in office, disapproves of the Affordable Care Act, with less than a third saying they would sign up, an essential element to the success of Obamacare.

The survey polled 18- to 29-year-olds, and twice as many respondents said they believe health care under the Affordable Care Act will get worse than get better - 44 percent to 17 percent. And half of the respondents said they believe costs will increase while about 10 percent said costs will decrease.

Hey Millennials you are supposed to buy insurance at higher prices in order for others to have savings. You are supposed to lower the "risk pool" so that the whole creaky edifice that is Obamacare can work. You are supposed to pay for insurance for years and never use it or pay a penalty levied by the IRS of all people. There is nothing like paying $300+ for student loan debts and then adding another $250 for insurance that you must buy or be fined.

I also love the sop that the White House keeps using by saying that you can stay on your parents insurance until you are 26. I'm pretty sure some Millennials feel bad enough that they cannot find a decent job on the O-bomb-economy and cannot move out of their parents home. They then have to use their parents insurance (if it didn't get cancelled by Obamacare) like they were still in 3rd grade.

It seems that the bloom is off the rose for Obama in general in the eyes of the Millenials.

The president's approval ratings have also plummeted and are at the lowest point this survey has found since the beginning of his administration. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, the survey found 41 percent approve and 54 percent disapprove, an 11-point decline in seven months.

Lying to people about your signature domestic policy does that to a guy.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

College Scorecard from Whitehouse.gov Has to Define the word "scholarship"

I was pointed to the College Scorecard website by this article and I had to laugh at what came up.

The average net price for undergraduate in-state students is $10,484 per year. Net price is what undergraduate students pay after grants and scholarships (financial aid you don’t have to pay back) are subtracted from the institution’s cost of attendance.

They actually had to give a definition of the word "scholarship" for some reason. I had to do a double take because is you don't know what that word means maybe college isn't the kind of place for you. It probably means your high school was so bad that you don't know certain very basic vocabulary words. In any case this College Scorecard is a pretty decent tool. You can compare a perfectly okay state school to some "expensive for nothing" private school that no one has ever heard of.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Black Friday Physical Sales Down: People Buy Online Instead

Well at least some people are smart enough to avoid death and dismemberment at the mall this black Friday.

Customers may have been fighting each other over store sales this past weekend. But, they weren't spending as much. According to the National Retail Federation, Thanksgiving weekend store traffic was up 27% from last year. However, total sales were $57.4 billion, a drop of nearly 3% from 2012. So, should retailers be worried?

Maybe not, says CNBC contributor Andrew Busch, editor and publisher of The Busch Update. The reason has to do with online sales. ComScore sees Black Friday's online shopping up 15% compared to last year. And, while stores may have opened earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year to compensate for the shorter 2013 shopping season, online Thanksgiving shopping was up 21% compared to last year. Shoppers may have avoided bedlam at the stores by pointing-and-clicking at home.

Yup even though those stores were open at 6PM or midnight those people just rolled over after a turkey fueled slumber and got up late on Friday and logged onto Amazon. That is how Black Friday should go. I did some Black Friday browsing but didn't actually buy anything because the deal on Nexus 7s at Staples.com was sold out. If it was in stock I would have bought it for sure.

Windows 7 Beats Windows 8 and Windows 8.x in Market Share

Well Windows 7 is just a nice solid operating system without a bunch of Balmer crap all over it.

The total gain of 0.05% is a weak figure. The main competitor to Windows 8.x, Windows 7, spanked its homegrown rival in November. As The Next Web's Emil Protalinski pointed out earlier today, “Windows 7 grabbed 0.22 percentage points (from 46.42 percent to 46.64 percent). In November, Windows 7 thus managed to gain more share than Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined.” That 0.22% is more than four times the aggregate growth curve for Windows 8.x during the month.

I think this is actually indicative of the death of the PC. Let's say you bought a Windows 7 machine a few years ago. You were interested in maybe upgrading to Windows 8 before you heard it was totally crappy. You probably won't buy a Windows 8.1 machine because your Windows 7 machine is perfectly serviceable. Most people are browsing the Internet on a tablet or a phone so in some households that Windows 7 machine might not even get turned on.