Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yard and garden journal entry 8/17/2011




This is our last daylily of 2011.  It has been a good gardening season and a lot of fun, but the fact remains that summer is ending.  On our property, our growing season officially ends when the clusters of Rudbeckia wilt away in September.  By then, the petunias and impatiens are looking tired and out of season and it is time to clean up the flowerbeds in preparation for next spring.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Hard Times Investing Update 8/8/2011

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Back in February of this year, I went 100% OUT of the stock market (other than a couple of small-change speculative items).  Paraphrasing what I said at the time in an email to a trusted friend, “I’ve been too lucky for too long.”  My market-exit-point was near but not at the market high for the year; for me (and most others), hitting exact market tops and bottoms is impossible.  The best we can hope for is to come close to the mark.  My wife quit her job in February so our household income went down and our expenses went up (for example, our health insurance is now $14,412 annually) so my tolerance for risk suffered a hit.  The markets historically have been subject to manipulation, mostly illegal unless done by the government.  IMHO, the Fed’s Quantitative Easing and the program trading by the Quants at the major trading outfits make the market a “less level” trading field than ever before.  While no market event surprises me, things akin to the Flash Crash are most unnerving.  On July 25, 2011, unbelievably huge trading volume for the DOW and the S&P-500 should have been headline news but was not.  Marketed as prime rib the equities markets smell like rotting flesh. 

Via merit, manipulation, or Federal Reserve Masturbation, there is always a chance that the markets will rally from here and sustain unheard of record levels, which would cause me some remorse for staying out of the game.  However it all plays out, I have to do what I believe is best for my family and me.  I trust my market-models, and the S&P-500 around the 1285 level for this year is my comfort zone.  The current selloff is not worrying me, my model said that the S&P-500 was overpriced and a range between 1158 and 1415 would be “normal” for this year.  Should the S&P-500 drop to around the 1029 level I would consider putting some money back into equities but I doubt that I will ever again risk (for me) great sums; I am just getting too old and time favors the young.

When do I believe the S&P-500 will return to the pre-crash levels of the upper 1500s?  My non-scientific, computerized, wild ass guess, investment projection model says somewhere around the 1587 level will be my S&P-500 comfort zone for the year 2014.  However, the ever-ominous dark cloud of fate warns that the markets don’t give a damn about what my model says.  OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog entry is financial advice, or advice on investing.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dear Commonwealth Edison, your power-outage reporting system sucks.


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Storms with heavy rain and damaging winds rolled though again early yesterday evening, knocking out my power, but sparing most of my neighbors. Our little neighborhood has several electrical feeds and I’ll be darned if I will ever understand the engineering logic they used during design and construction. When outages are isolated, there is always a chance that the repair crews may not get the word from someone else, so I decided to make a phone call. Actually, I had to make SEVERAL phone calls because our utility company’s touch-tone reporting system FAILED. With a current bill in my hand, so I had ready access to my account number AND which of my telephone numbers they have on file for use in indentifying my address, their system kept reporting that my location could not identified. I tried again…, again…, and again. Finally, I got through to a real person and reported it the old-fashioned way… with my booming voice. Five hours later, they restored power.

The sump pumps kept our basement dry thanks again to my noisy little generator, which performed in the face of waves of driving rain. A prudent high priority project would be for me to replace both aging sump pumps BEFORE they fail, along with installing a sizable battery backup system. If Edison had not restored power when they did, I would have had no choice but to run the generator all night long, keeping many of my neighbors awake. The fridge and freezer will keep food cold and safe for hours without power, but after a soaking rain, it is essential that the sump pumps keep running. Running a generator, especially at night, requires that you guard it against theft. I was contemplating spending all night in my GMC van parked next to the generator when Edison finally restored power. Having enough AGM batteries and inverters to power essentials for six hours would be a good contingency, but at the moment I don’t have the money needed to put it all together.

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