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Archive for January, 2010

Obama’s blue screen of death

January 29, 2010 6 comments

Rocky thought that reading President Obama’s entire State of the Union speech would be virtuous and useful. He was sadly wrong.

Rocky’s primary computer contracted a horrible virus yesterday from a website which re-printed the speech.

If this was a political conspiracy, then Google is behind it too — as Google directed Rocky to this insidious site. And, if Al Gore “invented” the internet, then President Obama’s speech just un-invented it (for Rocky.)

The site implanted the “Internet Security 2010″ malware program — which takes control of the computer … and eventually results in the “Blue Screen of Death.”

Several websites advertise repairs for the virus ($39.95), however after consulting with Computer Man, Rocky learned that the virus is essentially irreversible. And the software vendors are simply extorting money.

[Disclosure: Rocky’s primary computer was rebuilt from scratch, and his backup systems worked fine. Thanks to Computer Man for his expert advice. No thanks to President Obama. Rocky wonders whether a Republican President’s State of the Union might result in a “red” Screen of Death?]

Wardrobe decisions for congressional testimony

January 27, 2010 5 comments

Rocky lacks any substantive insights on today’s AIG grilling of Treasury Secretaries Geithner and Paulson by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. So he’ll instead focus on the important stuff.

Rocky notes that both Geithner and Paulson appeared to be wearing waterproof scuba diving watches.

Geithner’s watch came before the camera as he was pointing his index finger at the committee in a Clintonesque “I did not have sex with that woman, and even if I did, it was in the best interests of American Taxpayers” moment.

Paulson’s watch came before the camera when the Committee ran over Paulson’s self-imposed time limit, and he “graciously” agreed to stay for an extra eight minutes. The eight minutes ran to ten minutes, and Paulson objected. The Committee Chair graciously acknowledged Paulson for providing an extra two minutes.

If Paulson and Geithner had been Secretaries of the Navy, the waterproof watches would make more sense.

Perhaps Geithner chose a waterproof watch to protect against a waterfall of tears. In contrast, Paulson was probably enroute to a flyfishing date with Robert Rubin, Tiger Woods and Dan Rather at “The Perfect Cast,” a resort who’s list of celebrities is a who’s who of the morally challenged.

A spaghetti speculation scandal

January 21, 2010 6 comments

While the US CFTC aim their regulatory cannons at crude oil speculators, their Italian cousins have their daggers out for “spaghetti speculators.”

Roberto Sambuco (aka “Mr. Price”), Italy’s so-called Guarantor of Price Surveillance launched a fresh investigation into manipulation of the dry spaghetti market. See:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ioX0WHXK0S5zq2_cm4sIs-Sos_PQ

“The price of pasta is a scandal and the result of speculation,” Bloomberg News quotes Italy’s National Farmers’ Association. Bloomberg says Italians eat an average 62 pounds of pasta each year.

Rocky has been known to “throw around his weight” in the crude oil market, but if the spaghetti scandal heats up and boils over,  he’ll be forced to start watching his carbs.

He also added an Olive Oil (EVOO) / Marinara Sauce “spread” to both his Bloomberg monitor page and a loaf of Italian bread.

Lest the speculators and collusionists  drive prices even higher, Rocky’s “Plan B” will be a switch from Linguine #7 to Capellini #9. Alternatively, he may purchase the Ronco Pasta Maker Kitchen Appliance. (As seen on TV.)

Is there a housing-like bubble in the spaghetti market?
No. But there’s bubbles aplenty in Rocky’s boiling pasta pot.

[Disclosure: From the Ronco Pasta Machine User Manual: “With a powerful yet quiet motor, this incredible machine also makes sausage, cookies, and small bagels.”  Trophy Wife notes that Rocky’s fagottini already resembles a day-old bagel with cream cheese.]

Let’s play “stump the tax man”

January 14, 2010 6 comments

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman doesn’t file his own taxes because he believes the tax code is too complex. (See: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/75119-irs-commissioner-doesnt-file-his-own-taxes )

However the complexity has now reached the point where even accountants and the tax authorities don’t understand the rules.

From New York’s new Form IT-204-LL-I:

“A partnership, LLC, or LLP with no income, gain, loss, or deduction from New York sources who is filing a partnership return solely because it has a New York resident partner, is formed under the laws of New York State, or is dormant, is not subject to the filing fee.”

That seems pretty straightforward. Except the next paragraph reads:

“The amount of the filing fee will be based on the New York source gross income for the tax year immediately preceding the tax year for which the fee is due.  If the LLC or LLP did not have any New York source gross income for the preceding tax year, the filing fee is $25.”

These two paragraphs are 100% contradictory.  The first paragraph says if you have no NY-sourced income, you don’t pay any fee. The second paragraph says if you have no NY-sourced income, you pay a $25 fee.

Rocky’s corporate accountant called the New York State Tax Department professional assistance desk for an official interpretation of these paragraphs. After thoroughly researching the issue, The Tax Man’s answer: “We don’t know.”

The  Tax Man’s honesty is refreshing. This lastest example of  tax code lunacy is not.

A dumpling that broke the camel’s back

January 11, 2010 3 comments

Rocky always re-uses his lunchtime plastic fork. This is not a homage to Al Gore and the greens. Rather, Rocky is just plain cheap.

Rocky calculates that, over a lifetime, re-using his plastic fork should save nearly $1,000. Based on Fidelity’s retirement website, this amount should compound into $10,000 if invested 100% in stocks.

Sadly, a calamity just occurred. The tensile strength of Lean Cusine #17113 (“Asian-Style Pot Stickers”) exceeded the strength of Plastic Fork #15072-CC. A dramatic, violent and frightening fork fracture ensued. (See photo.)

The Lean Cuisine description reads, “Tender dumplings filed with a blend of chicken, cabbage, onion and carrots.” Rocky believes that “tender” is a mischaracterization, and he’s consulting with legal counsel to investigate whether a class action lawsuit should be filed.

[Disclosure: The Lean Cuisine box fine print also states: “CAUTION: Do not prepare in a toaster oven. A reheated plastic tray can warp or melt.” Rocky suggests that Lean Cuisine should add the warning: “Always wear eye protection when using plastic cutlery.”]

There’s still hope for the younger generation

January 11, 2010 1 comment

Rocky’s teenage daughter hosted a sleep-over party for several of her girlfriends on Saturday night. For entertainment after dinner, the girls purchased a video-on-demand movie. Out of 16,000 possible FIOS choices, the girls selected the original Wizard of Oz.

After the movie, the girls discussed the fact that Buddy Epsen was supposed to be Tin Man, but was replaced after the metal-colored makeup triggered an episode of allergic anaphylactic shock. (Yes, they really called it “anaphylactic shock”!)

Rocky watched the interaction with amusement, and pondered “Have the 1950’s returned?”

[Disclosure: Rocky’s daughter also cracked the “secret code” to the Verizon FIOS Video-on-Demand access screen. When next month’s bill arrives, Rocky will discover whether less savory films have been ordered as well.]

Infinity times zero = zero

January 4, 2010 12 comments

Ally Bank sent Rocky a letter apologizing for failing to pay interest on Leap Day 2008. Rocky grew excited at his unexpected windfall, until he sadly realized that anything times zero is still zero. And bank interest rates are extremely close to zero!

Rocky was also surprised by the Leap Day interest because his trusty Monroe Bond Calculator (vintage 1986) always assumed 30/360 for interest calculations.

Perhaps the biggest riddle is why the calculation error affects accounts “that were opened or matured between March 1 and December 31, 2008” — since Leap Day was February 29, 2008.

Ally Bank, the retail banking subsidiary of GMAC, last week received an additional $3 Billion in US Government bail-out funds….perhaps for leap day interest payments?