Kodak

It came across on the news today that the Eastman Kodak Company has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It’s been a long time coming, not just in the last couple of weeks/months, but rather for years.
The news was rather sad. I had worked there when I had first gotten out of school in the image science program, over 10 years ago now. I haven’t been back to Rochester since then. I wasn’t there too long, but it was still the best job that I have had. I got to spend most of my days writing image processing algorithms, reading papers, and learning from some of the best. I loved it. But, I couldn’t stand the winters and didn’t want to be in Rochester if I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to, so I left.
Already, by that time they were floating aimlessly as a company. They didn’t want to leave the silver halide business due to the amount of dollars that it was printing them. They had been talking about digital photography, but couldn’t seem to focus on it like they had to. Inkjet was going to save them, digital sensors was going to save them, a lot of things were going to save them, however they never really stood behind anything that could take them into the future. It’s unfortunate. They invented the digital camera, but it ultimately led to their downfall.
In a way, they were also arrogant. They thought that they knew imaging better than anyone (in many ways they were right) so people would always turn to them, but most people don’t care. Their pictures are good enough. They snap pictures on phones and upload and share them. If a photo isn’t good, it gets deleted and you try again. It’s not like film where you don’t have the luxury of seeing at the time how your pictures come out.

There is an interesting article relating Fuji Film and Kodak at The Economist here

Is the Gold Bubble Ready To Pop?

For the past few years, I’ve noticed an increasing interest in people buying gold. Advertisements on television, radio, endless banners proclaiming cash for gold around town as you drive around. The price of gold has soared in recent memory. But what about now? The tune has started to change. Now, the tide is slowly turning the other way. More and more, you see signs proclaiming that you should buy gold. Today on the radio, I even heard an advert for a gold backed IRA. The kicker was that they will give you an extra $150 for buying into the gold fund.
What does it mean? Well, instead of buying up your gold, investors/speculators are trying to offload it. What better way to do that then proclaim how it’s gone up so much in value. Originally, you heard about selling gold, now they’re looking for suckers to buy it while the price is still high.

Remember, gold is a commodity, just like everything else. It has value, but it has price fluctuations like everything else. It can be overvalued, it can be undervalued. You could possibly trade with it, but it still needs to be converted into money. While it can store value, but it’s not an investment. It cannot generate returns on it’s own.

You heard it here first, folks.
Gold is currently at USD $1830.79

What a time to go on vacation

I’ve been gone the last two weeks, but it’s been a busy time in the world. We finally got a budget deal that averted the federal government’s default (yay), S&P downgraded the credit of the United States government (ugh), Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll and Rick Perry entered the presidential race the same day, the Euro is currently under the stress of Italian and now French debt (ugh), the stock market is imploding (double ugh), Google is buying Motorola Mobility, HP is closing shop on WebOS and exiting the consumer market, there was rioting in London of all places, a more assertive crackdown in Syria of protesters, and upheaval in San Francisco over the decision by BART to shutdown wireless access in the underground stations with protests leading to stoppage of service during rush hour and sites being hacked by Anonymous (please don’t hack me).

There are lots of angry people in the world out there, perhaps justifiably.

Tax Cut Deal

I’m starting to get a little tired of Obama’s almost constant use of analogies. There was the hostage situation, and also driving the car into the ditch. He needs to speak more to the point. I don’t think that he’s giving the American people enough credit. They can be spoken to clearly. Americans don’t need the constant analogy to understand what’s happening. What they want is to be spoken to like intelligent people.

Obama’s speech about the tax cuts wasn’t very clear and was clouded by talking about hostages. Yesterday, he had Bill Clinton come out and speak about the cuts. It was like night and day. Clinton just spoke right to the point. It was clear, to the point, and effective. Obama could take a lesson from Clinton.

Today is election day

This is the single most important thing that you can do as a citizen. So go out and vote if you hadn’t already.

Speaking of this election, it has been very upsetting. There’s been a lot of misspeak on both sides. It doesn’t matter much to me to which party you belong, or if you even belong to a party, but whatever happened to debate based on facts and addressing actual policy.

Here is an email that I got as an example:

— On XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX wrote:

From: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Subject: Fwd: Fw: Remember January 3rd 2007
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXX
Date: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Every voter should read this:

Remember January 3rd 2007…………

Just to set the record straight:

The day the democrats took over was not January 22nd 2009,

it was actually January 3rd 2007, the day the Democrats took over the

House of Representatives and the Senate, the start of the 110th Congress.

The Democrat Party controlled a majority in both chambers for the first time

since the end of the 103rd Congress in 1995.

For those who are listening to the liberals propagating the fallacy that

everything is “Bush’s Fault”, think about this:

January 3rd, 2007 was the day the Democrats took over the Senate and
the Congress:

At the time:

The DOW Jones closed at 12,621.77

The GDP for the previous quarter was 3.5%

The Unemployment rate was 4.6%

George Bush’s Economic policies SET A RECORD of 52 STRAIGHT MONTHS of
JOB CREATION!

Remember the day…
January 3rd, 2007 was the day that Barney Frank took over the House Financial
Services Committee and Chris Dodd took over the Senate Banking Committee.

The economic meltdown that happened 15 months later was in what part of the
economy?

BANKING AND FINANCIAL SERVICES!!!

THANK YOU DEMOCRATS for taking us from 13,000 DOW, 3.5 GDP and 4.6%
Unemployment…
to this CRISIS by (among MANY other things) dumping 5-6 TRILLION
Dollars of toxic loans

on the economy from YOUR Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac FIASCO’S! ( And
Bush asked Congress 17 TIMES to stop Fannie & Freddie – starting in
2001 because it was financially risky for the US economy).

And who took the THIRD highest pay-off from Fannie Mae AND Freddie Mac????

OBAMA

And who fought against reform of Fannie and Freddie???

OBAMA and the Democrat Congress

So when some one tries to blame Bush…

REMEMBER JANUARY 3rd, 2007…. THE DAY THE DEMOCRATS TOOK OVER!” Bush
may have been

in the car but the Democrats were in charge of the gas pedal and
steering wheel they were driving.

Set the record straight on Bush!

“It’s not that liberals aren’t smart, it’s just that so much of what
they know isn’t so” -Ronald Reagan

Here is what bothers me about this. Well, lots of things about this bother me. But let’s just talk about one (although, as an aside, I love the statement basically implying that you can cause a financial crisis that almost topples the largest economy in the history of the world in the span of less than two years. Oh, and BTW the Dow didn’t close at 13,000 until late April of 2007). I find this statement (“George Bush’s Economic policies SET A RECORD of 52 STRAIGHT MONTHS of JOB CREATION!”) to be dubious at best. Data from the BLS based on the 1-month net change in the civilian labor force does not validate this statement.

Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National)

1-Month Net Change

Series Id: CES0000000001
Seasonally Adjusted
Super Sector: Total nonfarm
Industry: Total nonfarm
NAICS Code: –
Data Type: ALL EMPLOYEES, THOUSANDS

Either way a statistic such as this is of extremely questionable value. This data is based on a differential variable which first of all needs to be above approximately 100,000 just to take population growth into account or you’re participation level in the workforce is actually going down. Secondly, the data that you actually care about is the integral of the differential change (cumulative number of jobs created). In which case it’s far behind what has happening in the 1990’s. And the fact that inflation-adjusted median US earning was essentially flat, I would hardly regard the Bush economic policy as success. It points to the fact that the US is having a difficult time transitioning out of an industrial and into a knowledge economy.

Series title: (unadj)- Constant (1982-84) dollar adjusted to CPI-U- Median usual weekly earnings, Employed full time, Wage and salary workers

Earnings: Median usual weekly earnings – in constant (1982-84) dollars

I don’t even understand the above argument. On the one hand they argue that the recession is due to the Democrats in congress and not the president, and then on the other they state that the president’s policies are a success. So is it because of the president or congress? You can’t have it both ways.

Regardless, the reason that things are bad is because of the complete cratering of the american middle class over the last 30 years. If it was simply due to the financial crisis, things would be great right now as companies are sitting on piles of cash. No one is hiring because there is no demand. There is no demand because no one has spare money. Wages have been flat and debt has gone up. America as a whole has been over-spending, under-investing, and racking up debt. And now we are living with the hangover. And that’s due to Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats and Republicans

The Democrats have real problem on their hands. They haven’t been able to put any coherent story together for the coming election. The Republicans have been much better about it. The Republicans have been able to stir up anger about government, and spending, and deficits. The Democrats are instead too busy discussing the minutiae of policy, and talking about the keys to the car. No one really cares for policy. And most people don’t vote on the merits of it. Most people vote on issues that compel them. And no one wants to hear about blame being put on an administration that’s been out of power for two years. Unfortunately, regardless of why things are bad right now, the Democrats need to start talking about why they should be reelected, and what they are doing to make things better. They need to write a story about where we’ve come from *and* where we’re going. And the second part is what’s been missing. There doesn’t seem to be any emotional connection to the voters.

It’s strange given how the person that inspired so many to come out and vote and filled them with the hope and optimism for the future gas been so inept at connecting with people once he ha gotten into office.

Drowning Mortgages

Underwater mortgage
I heard this story on Morning Edition the other morning. Basically, the guy has a $300,000 mortgage loan on a house that’s only worth $125,000. He worked with the government to get a mortgage modification and his payments were cut in half. But, while the bank reduced his interest rate on the load, he still has a balloon payment at the end to payoff the remaining balance.

Now, I understand that he doesn’t feel that he should have to relay the loan on the house since it’s worth so much less, but I would hardly call it “extortion”. He signed a legal document that he would repay the amount of money that he borrowed to buy the house with interest. I don’t see that the bank is doing anything illegal to try to have him repay the loan. Besides, the guy felt that the house was worth that much if he was willing to borrow so much money to make an offer on the house. Please, because you make a bad decision doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for the repercussions. Which goes for the bank too buy the way. What is this crap that you have “a moral obligation to repay”? Give me a break. Legally the bank can take his house if he walks away, which he can do. Of course, that means that the bank is now stuck with it’s bad decision – a house that’s not worth nearly as much as the money that they paid out.