Archive

Archive for November, 2009

Help! My hand is stuck in a turkey…

November 25, 2009 4 comments

Thanksgiving traditions vary widely. In the Rocky Humbert family, the tradition includes an emergency call to the Butterball Turkey Hotline.

From the ButterBall Website: “No question is too tough for these turkey talkers, and they are ready and excited to tackle any challenge you throw at them. Give them a call at 1-800-BUTTERBALL.”

2008: While reaching inside the bird to remove the gizzards, Trophy Wife’s hand becomes stuck. She twists. She turns. And despite agility acquired during years of Pilates training, her hand remains jammed inside of the avian cavity.  The Butterball Hotline Expert solution: “Cook the bird with the oven door open, and leave Trophy Wife’s hand inside. However, be sure that the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees before removing from the oven.” 

2007: While eating the bird, Rocky swallows the Butterball’s plastic pop-up timer (which had not popped-up during cooking.)  The Butterball Hotline Expert advice: “Butterball pop-up timers contain non-toxic ink. If you feel a poking sensation, it probably means you have a fever. Take two aspirin.”

2006: It’s always a challenge to lift a fully-cooked 25 lb turkey. Rocky was responsible for this year’s roast, and he cooks the bird with the plastic webbing intact. He thought this would make lifting easier.  He was right. It made the lifting easier. It also resulted in a plastic-covered turkey. The Butterball Hotline Expert advice: “Sir, there are several hundred callers on hold with genuine emergencies. I don’t have time for a crank caller.” Click.

2005: Trophy Wife loves to make sweet potato casserole with a coating of mini-marshmellows. The challenge is to get the marshmellows perfectly brown (but not blackened.)  Trophy Wife  places the casserole under the broiler and walks away. Four minutes later flames are visible. Rocky doesn’t call the Butterball Hotline. He calls the fire department.

[Disclosure: Let’s talk turkey. Rocky wishes his blog readers a Happy Thanksgiving. And in the words of Norman Bates, (a carving expert,) please be careful with your ccc-ccc-cutlery!]

The Federal Reserve and Elvis Presley

November 20, 2009 10 comments

Homebuyers will face a new and  important “development”  in the next 90 days — and anyone thinking about buying a house (and even  a bank  CD) should pay attention:

As part of “Quantitative Easing,” the Fed purchased $1.02 TRILLION worth of “Agency MBS securities” (aka home mortgages) in the open market. The Fed will complete their purchases  within the next 90 days. As the chart above shows, they will have purchased a total of $1.72 TRILLION of securities including $1.25 TRILLION home mortgages.

Putting this in perspective:

 In 2009, home buyers borrowed a total of $1.01 Trillion. ( See: http://www.sifma.org/research/pdf/Mortgage_Related_Issuance.pdf  for the data.)

The Fed has purchased EVERY new home loan made in 2009, and they  pegged mortgage rates at an entirely arbitary yield !

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Federal Reserve has left the building!

Once the Fed steps back from the mortgage market,  the “free” market will re-price home mortgage rates…presumably at  higher yields.  Rocky doesn’t know if the upward move in mortgage rates will be violent or gradual, but it will happen — and it will dwarf the effect of Congress’ homebuyer tax credits.  It behooves homebuyers to bear this in mind when they consider when to lock in a mortgage rate.

[Disclosure: Rocky acknowledges that the one Elvis reference in this post was weak. So he’ll add a second one: Elvis said, “The only thing worse than watching a bad movie is being in one.”]

Did Yale lose $57 Billion in three months?

November 17, 2009 4 comments

The Yale University endowment is valued at “only” $17 Billion, yet their March and June, 2009 SEC 13F Filing reported total stock investments of $62.7 Billion.

Rocky yelled “Boola-Boola” and rubbed his eyes. The obscene leverage shocked him, as did Yale’s September filing which reported investments of “only” $5.2 Billion.

How was this possible? Was this some sort of novel high-frequency trading strategy engineered by David Swensen in the Yale Investment Office? Or had a Harvard student hacked into Yale’s computer system (again)?

Alas, no — Yale’s Associate General Counsel issued a press release stating that there was a “defect” in their reporting program — which caused the March and June SEC filings to be wrong by a factor of 1,000!

Rocky wonders:

1) What would happen if the decimal points on his 2009 Tax Return “accidentally” move three places to the left? Would the IRS notice?

2) What would happen on a Yale economics final exam if a student’s answer is wrong by a factor of 1,000?

Here are the SEC filings for the green-eyeshade crowd:

Yale930
Yale530

Madoff jewelry auction & Valentines Day 2010

November 11, 2009 8 comments

madoffThe US Marshals Service will auction Bernie Madoff’s possessions on Saturday.  Proceeds will benefit the victims of his fraud. 

For the auction catalog, click on :  http://www.proxibid.com/asp/Catalog.asp?aid=23422

Rocky looked through the odd collection of watches, necklaces and Lynn Swann-autographed footballs (“certificate of authenticity not included.”)

He decided that Lot #7, a heart-shaped pendant would be a perfect Valentines Day gift for Trophy Wife.

Fast forward to Valentines Day 2010….

Rocky (to Trophy Wife) :  “Honey,  I got you a special present for Valentines Day.”

Trophy Wife: “That’s nice. What did you get?”

Rocky:  “It’s an 18KWG heart-shaped pendant set with 7 princess, 4 half-princess & 40 baguette cut diamonds, total weight 2.75 cts.”

Trophy Wife: “Why is it in a brown paper envelope? And not a nice blue Tiffany box?”

Rocky: “Because I got it special. It was a deal.”

Trophy Wife: “A deal? That’s typical.  Let me see, what’s this little paper tag with a star on it?  Hmmm. Marshalls??? You bought me a piece of jewelry at Marshalls????”

Rocky: “No, silly. That’s US Marshals. I always think of you as the Wyatt Earp of our family.”

(Unimpressed, Trophy Wife examines the heart under her jeweler’s loupe.)

Trophy Wife: “Rocky, these diamonds are fake.”

Rocky: “I guess I should have known better. The price was too good to be true.”

[Disclosure: Jewelry gifts purchased at the Madoff auction may contain dangerous levels of bad karma.]

World toilet day: November 19th

November 10, 2009 13 comments

toiletRocky notes that some of his most popular posts involve “toilet humor.”  Mindful of the risks of “straining too hard,” but desirous of maintaining the “flow” on this subject, Rocky notes that November 19th is World Toilet Day.

Although Trophy Wife serves on the boards of numerous charities,  she refuses to become an officer of the World Toilet Organization.    Her apathy towards this venerable, yet disrespected charity, is typical amongst philanthropists. 

Fifty years ago, no one discussed Breast Cancer in polite company. According to the World Toilet Organization, toilet problems face the same taboo today.

Rocky urges his readers to visit the World Toilet Organization website (http://worldtoilet.org/ ) and learn about their work, including  the World Toilet College, where they help train people to “help themselves and others.”

The website includes a quote from Jimmy Carter, identified as  “Ex-President” (not to be confused with “ex-Lax”):

“Now instead of my being famous for negotiating peace, I’m famous for being the Number One latrine builder.”

November 19th is World Toilet Day.  Consider a donation. Or even better, volunteer and “dive- in,”  head-first!

Getting married in India & the price of gold

November 3, 2009 2 comments

gold ringThe Central Bank of India announced this morning that they purchased 200 metric tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund. See: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2009/pr09381.htm

This is ostensibly bullish for the price of gold. But is it bullish for Blue Nile stock? (NILE)

Rocky does the math:
1 Tonne = 32,151 Troy Ounces
1 Troy Ounce = 31.10 Grams

 This fashionable Blue Nile wedding ring contains 1.6 grams of gold:

 http://www.bluenile.com/wedding-ring-gold_6673

Rocky’s X-22 computer calculates that the Indian Central Bank just bought enough gold for “only” 125 MILLION wedding bands. Since the population of India is 1.1 BILLION, the Indian Central Bank is sensibly planning ahead.

[Disclosure: Rocky has been, is, and may continue to be, long gold bullion. But he may change his mind if he reads that scientists have finally succeeded in turning lead into gold.]