Silent Archimedes

Archive for July, 2008

Longest Path – Amazon Shipment Tracking for UPS Ground

Posted by silentarchimedes on July 28, 2008

Don’t you love the shipment tracking that UPS, USPS and other delivery companies have now? Watching your package coming closer to your residence has this exciting feel to it. However, it is also sometimes very slow as it starts from across the country and makes its way to you. Well, as I am waiting for my new package to arrive from Amazon, it has been gut-wrenching to see it stop at the most number of locations I have ever seen! It’s almost as if it’s doing the sightseeing tour! Below is the path my package has traveled since it left Amazon. It is finally in its destination post office.

Date Time Location Event Details
July 29 05:37:00 AM SPARKS MD US Out for delivery
July 29 05:36:00 AM SPARKS MD US Arrival Scan
July 29 04:39:00 AM LAUREL MD US Departure Scan
July 29 12:38:00 AM LAUREL MD US Arrival Scan
July 29 12:02:00 AM BALTIMORE MD US Departure Scan
July 28 09:37:00 PM BALTIMORE MD US Arrival Scan
July 28 03:29:00 PM ROANOKE VA US Departure Scan
July 28 01:29:00 PM ROANOKE VA US Arrival Scan
July 28 09:27:00 AM KNOXVILLE TN US Departure Scan
July 26 01:10:00 PM KNOXVILLE TN US Arrival Scan
July 26 08:16:00 AM NASHVILLE TN US Departure Scan
July 26 05:19:00 AM NASHVILLE TN US Arrival Scan
July 26 01:20:00 AM MEMPHIS TN US Departure Scan
July 25 07:18:00 PM MEMPHIS TN US Arrival Scan
July 25 10:04:00 AM OKLAHOMA CITY OK US Departure Scan
July 25 12:38:00 AM OKLAHOMA CITY OK US Arrival Scan
July 24 10:15:00 PM TULSA OK US Departure Scan
July 24 08:24:00 PM TULSA OK US Shipment received by carrier
July 24 07:09:49 PM US Shipment has left seller facility and is in transit
.

Two cities in Oklahoma, three cities in Tennessee, a stop in Virginia and 3 in Maryland. Well, at least the direction was always correct, and it never went backwards. 🙂

Has anyone ever had a longer path? My total number of post offices stopped is 9! I dare you to beat that!

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Book Review: Crash Proof

Posted by silentarchimedes on July 10, 2008

Book Review: Crash Proof

How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse

Author: Peter Schiff with John Downes

After seeing the striking similarities between Stephen Leeb’s The Coming Economic Collapse: How you can thrive when oil costs $200 a barrel and Jim Rogers’ Hot Commodities: How anyone can invest in the world’s best market, I decided to read one more book on this topic to verify the similarities. The first two books, in simple terms, describes the American economy as teetering on a precarious cliff due to horrible economic policies that have stripped it of its purchasing power and flexibility from a mountain of debt. With the growth of China and the East, prices of raw materials such as oil and metals are skyrocketing. This will only hurt the American economy as our current standard of living requires huge amounts of oil and imports. However, we are required to use our future earnings to continue this consumptive economy.

In all likelihood, this book will basically say the same things as the other two books. However, it will be interesting to see how it is presented and if a more convincing argument is used.

THE AUTHOR: PETER D. SCHIFF

Peter Schiff doesn’t have as much clout as a Jim Rogers, but nonetheless is well-known in the business world. He has the nickname “Dr. Doom” because of his extremely bearish views on the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar. He is currently the president of Euro Pacific Capital Inc., a brokerage firm that specializes in international investments. Schiff became the economic advisor to Ron Paul in his presidential campaign because of Paul’s commitment to constitutional values to stimulate savings and production.

THE REVIEW

As expected, the book’s general cause and effect of why we are in this economic state are the same as other recent books on economic gloom. That is not to say this book is unoriginal, as some people have mentioned in the Amazon reviews. Since this is the third book on the topic I’ve read recently, I might be inclined to label it unoriginal, but that’s being unfair. I could easily have read this book first. Additionally, I am not reading these books for originality. As mentioned, having three experts (and I’m sure lots more because of the books out there) write books on the same dour predictions due to the same causes, should make one take action. I am also interested in reading about the suggestions of each of them; whether they are the same or different.

That being said, this book definitely has its own unique style of conveying its arguments. The first three chapters are very fun to read. This historical perspective on how our country went from producers to consumers, how the government massages economic data to its own benefit, and how the dollar has declined is written with simplicity, logic and a wry humor. Schiff is the master of analogies and simple stories to demonstrate how stupid some of the economic actions are in this country. If you are not an expert at economics these chapters will clear up some confusion you have about debt, economic indicators, and the state we are in. The stories using Farmer Chin and Farmer Smith to explain how China is buying our wealth makes it easy to understand.

On our consumptive behavior, he equates it “to a philandering playboy who inherits a huge fortune and then proceeds to squander it. during the dissipation period, he lives a good life, and by all appearances he seems prosperous. but his prosperity is a function of the hard work of his ancestors rather than his own. once the fortune is gone, so too will be the gracious lifestyle that it helped support.”

In the second chapter, sections are divided by “comforting distortions” and “disturbing realities” to differentiate what the government wants the public to perceive about the well-being of the economy and what the actual reality is.

I’m not sure why, but Schiff goes away from his fun use of analogies and stories. It becomes a little more technical and dry in the chapters where he explains inflation, stock market chaos, real estate, and debt. It’s unfortunate, because the first three chapters rank as one of the best I’ve read. Experts will probably reverse my views with these two sections, but as a pseudo-beginning contrarian, the first three chapters cleared many things up for me.

His last three chapters are reserved for what you should do to protect yourself against the upcoming crisis. Nothing too crazy here, although Schiff is more on the conservative side than a Rogers or Leeb. Investing in gold is still the common theme in all three of them. The other two are less commonly suggested but still make sense. His advice is general and not so in depth.

This book is pretty much in line with other books I have read about the upcoming economic crisis. They help confirm the dire situation we are in. However, there are some negatives about this book that leave it open for criticism. Although this book has lots of charts and graphs, the source of them are all from the same website, prudentbear.com. By using only one source, and that source being well known as always being bearish (their phrase is “The One Stop Shop for the Bear Case”), it leaves an atmosphere of bias. He should have used more sources, especially those coming from the government and neutral sources. Additionally, every few pages in the book, he reminds the reader that he will later give advice on how to protect yourself from the crisis. We know that! Almost everyone reading this book reads it for the advice given. You don’t have to keep reminding us. Finally, during his last three chapters, there is a constant stream of subtle to not-so-subtle pressure to sign up with his investment group, Euro Pacific Capital, Inc. Talking about it once is enough. If we believe in what the book is preaching, we will naturally consider the author’s company when we do invest.

VERDICT

This book is not for experts or those that are already truly in the know about the economic situation of this country. Just from the title, it’s apparent he is trying to capture readers unaware of the situation. If you are still trying to understand the problems, this book is easy and fun to read. The first three chapters definitely stand out; not just in this book but in other books I’ve read. In terms of advice, the Roger’s book Hot Commodities ranks first (although all of them are in commodities). In terms of specific advice, Leeb’s book The Coming Economic Collapse gives more only because he is allowed to legally. Since Schiff is an investment advisor for a specific company he cannot give specific stock advice. Without the first three chapters, I would rate this book lower, but with it, it’s a good book to read overall.

Rating: 8 out of 10 bears

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Analysis: New York Yankees at the half

Posted by silentarchimedes on July 2, 2008

Now that the Yankees have played 83 games (2 more than the halfway point), it is time to take a look at their first half performance.

2008 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

It was a very tumultuous off-season for the Yankees as Joe Torre was let go in favor of the younger and more aggressive Joe Girardi. Girardi was picked over the fan favorite Don Mattingly (left, Torre on left, Girardi on right, courtesy of Newsday) In essence, this turned the page on the Torre era of 4 World Championships and two other World Series appearances. The Yankees then went through the Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) opt-out debacle in which he opted out only to later save face and re-sign with the Yankees. Then, the Yankees overpaid the market in order to keep their aging superstars, Jorge Posada (4 yr, $52mil), Mariano Rivera (3 yr, $45mil) and Andy Pettitte (1 yr, $16mil). The Yankees also decided to drop out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes to hedge their bets on their three rising but unproven young pitchers, Philip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.

However, before the season even started, problem already began surfacing regarding their offseason decisions. Soon after Pettitte picked up his player option, he was embroiled in the Mitchell Report as a user of HGH. Although the Yankees stuck with him, it was not a good start to the 2008 season.

It was one of the craziest off-seasons in recent Yankee history. The new season hinged on its starting pitching, the performance of its three youngsters (Joba, Hughes, Kennedy), two oldies (Pettitte, Mussina), and a underappreciated sinkerball ace, Chien-Ming Wang. At best, the Yankees hoped for a wild-card berth.

TEAM REVIEW

At 44-39 after 83 games, has been a disappointment, although not so surprising. There were too many question marks heading into the season that no one was sure what to expect. The home record stands at 22-19 and away at 22-20. They battled to stay above .500 for most of the season, until the past 2 weeks they finally stayed more than 1 game above for good. They have pretty much been a .500 team all season. Their run differential is a measly +20, which ranks only 4th out of the 5 teams in the East. Since this year is the closest the Yankees will come to rebuilding, their record is not surprising. Additionally, with the Red Sox still not at full swing, and the Rays in first place, there is time for the Yankees to make up ground.

Grade: B

PITCHING REVIEW

The team ERA is a so-so 4.18, which is 8th in the American League. The Yankees have Mariano Rivera to thank for their respectable record, as they lead the Majors in fewest blown saves with only 4. As far as their starting pitching, the veterans have proven quite efficient. Mussina  (left) has learned to pitch smarter with his slower arm speed, posting a 3.87 ERA and third in the AL in wins with 10. Pettitte seems immune to the preseason HGH issue, posting a 3.98 ERA and 9-5 record. Coupled with Wang’s 8-2 record, the top 3 Yankees pitchers are a combined 27-13. That accounts for more than the +6 games above .500 the team is at. That means the young pitchers and the 4th and 5th slots have not performed to par. Hughes and Kennedy are both injured. However, prior to injury, neither one of them posted a win. They were a combined 0-7, with 75 hits in 59.2 innings pitched. Not exactly what we expected from them. As for the bullpen, except for Rivera and Chamberlain, no one has been dependable. Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins, and the list of others have been completely inconsistent. Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez have been dependable at times, but without experience it is hard to predict what will happen each time. The only other bright spot has been  Chamberlain. His dominance in the bullpen has carried over to his starting pitching. Since his switch on June 3, the team has won 4 of the games he’s started. He has a 1.80 ERA, 22 hits, and 26 Ks on 25 innings pitched. As he becomes more comfortable, he will solidify the starting pitching staff.

With the trials of Hughes and Kennedy temporarily over, the Yankees appear to be in decent shape in starting pitching. Wang’s possible season ending injury was a definite negative, but with the addition of Chamberlain, and the veteran (even if somewhat unstable) status of Sidney Ponson, the second half might not be too bad. The Yankees have a stable of young pitchers waiting in the wings in the minor leagues and giving some of them experience might prove positive.

Grade: B+

OFFENSE REVIEW

The Yankees offense has carried them since the end of the championship run in 2001. They have consistently ranked in the top 3 in runs since. The likes of Gary Sheffield, Bernie Williams, Alfonso Soriano, Robin Ventura and the current Yankees have provided much power, patience and hits. However, this year, the offense is starting to become a liability. Although A-Rod, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui rank in the top 10 in batting average, all three have been injured at some point or another. Bobby Abreu’s career ~.400 OBP is no where to be found since the 2006 season, when the Yankees acquired him at the half. Derek Jeter is having one of his worst offensive seasons in years, posting a .340 OBP and a .284 AVG. The only other highlight consists of a moustache-wearing Jason Giambi, whose home runs (17) and OBP (.399) have bailed out the Yankees several times this season already. With Robinson Cano continuing to play the part of slow starter (.245 avg, .282 OBP, 6 hrs) and Melky Cabrera not improving since his early years, the Yankees can only hope some the players catch fire.

There is hope however. It appears that Jeter is still hampered by his quad injury and should improve in the second half. If Cano follows his pattern, he will have another strong second half. Along with Damon, A-Rod, Posada and Abreu, the Yankees should be fine offensively. Bringing up young players such as Brett Gardner should help energize this team as they fight for a playoff spot.

Grade: B-

MANAGER REVIEW

The main reason the Yankees picked Joe Girardi instead of Don Mattingly (both left, courtesy of CNN) to succeed Joe Torre was because he was less Torre-like than Mattingly was. He was a hard-nosed, statistics-crazed, blue-collar grind-it-out type of manager, whereas Torre was laid-back, supportive, conservative, father figure. It appeared that Mattingly might continue that laid-back attitude. Halfway thru the season, Girardi is looking very similar to Torre, in terms of managerial decisions. His loyalty to certain players borders on pure insanity. Farnsworth gives up 1+ runs every other outing, and Cabrera is first on the team in games played even though he’s in a perpetual slump is plain stupidity. The Yankees rank 7th in stolen bases and 10th in triples, both being much closer to the basement than the top. The intentional walks and pitching matchups are completely identical to Torre’s. As a matter of fact, Torre’s strategy appeared to be more liberal than Girardi’s. Where is the aggressive attitude we were supposed to see. His workout regimen was suppose to reduce injuries, but that has not changed. His crazy statistics analysis has not lead to anything different.

Whether Girardi’s managerial style is influenced by the veteran Yankee team (versus the young Marlins team) is debatable, but at some point Girardi will have to make a mark on this team. Don’t get me wrong, Girardi is a manager that can handle New York. He has transformed his more impatient style to accomodate the media. He has also shown patience and handled young Steinbrenner’s criticism. He is to be commended for all those things, but from a baseball point of view, I would like to see him be more aggressive.

Grade: C+

What grade would you give the Yankees so far?
1) A+
2) A
3) B
4) C
5) D
6) F

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