Under the Power and Influence of Moore’s Law

Power and influence is usually attributed to the stature of people in various positions, or occupations. Today it seems that one of the most compelling and far-reaching life changing influence is not coming from any so-called “Power Player” it’s coming from a very simple formula that has become so powerful, it’s changing everything…again. Welcome to Moore’s Law in real-time.

I need not remind anyone on how the world has changed in just a few years, however putting it into perspective is what I do, so here goes.

Just a little more that 15 years ago in what was also considered spam-mail were the millions upon millions of little cd’s you found in your mailbox from….AOL. Remember when “You got mail” was all the rage? How about this one…an iPod was just becoming in vogue way back in 2004…yep, that’s just 6 years ago. I could go on but you catch my drift. We take these things for granted now, but they weren’t even understood let alone conceived just a mere few years ago. And guess what? It’s getting much,much,much faster.

Look around you. Look at your children, your neighbors, people in cars, people you work with. Everywhere you turn you see it. Instant video, instant communication, instant TV, instant quotes on anything, now it’s all taken for granted. If you have to wait for a video to load more than 2 seconds, you have to hold yourself back from throwing the hand-held device into the garbage, and walking 30 feet into the new gadget store to get the newest 4G, 5G, 6Z…who knows how fast is next?

My own case study happened this weekend while setting up a new computer my wife gave me for Christmas. As I was moving things around I came across the paperwork of the one it was replacing, it was only a few years old, but needed repairing and wasn’t worth it. The new computer is…ready? 10 times the speed, 8 times the memory, less than 1/4 the size, and……….less than 1/2 the cost of the first.

I know, I know, you’re all saying…”Right..big deal…everybody knows that” but that’s where it gets interesting. Everybody knows…but few understand the implications. Just imagine the mobile phone that you have today, even if it’s the latest and greatest. In just a little over 2 years it will be 10 times faster, and smarter, and probably able to do that in less than 1/2 the current size. The numbers are just staggering at the levels we are now at.

Industry, business, people, and just about everything else will change even more rapidly in the next 5 years than they have in the last 20. Just a fantastic time to be alive is all I can say.

Maybe the flying car thing isn’t that crazy after all.

Mark

Don’t be Confused be Dazzled

Feeling a tad confused lately? Don’t be confused, be dazzled should be the mantra that describes the year 2010. All and all it has been breath-taking to view. I have always been fascinated with the sleight of hand, or the artful misdirection plays. The team of Penn & Teller is one of my absolute favorites. One of the reasons I find them so fascinating is right before they perform the trick or immediately after, they show you in stunning detail just how the illusion is created, and yet it loses none of its magic.

If I were to tell you about a performance I witnessed and I want you to see it also, I might start out something like this…It opens with a scene showing  2 short years ago the wheels coming off the economy, and there is a terrible crash in the stock market rivaling the plunge of 1929. It also shows the value of people’s homes  in some places dropping 50% or more, some  losing fortunes, retirement accounts being devastated, and unemployment would be almost double and moving higher. When might you feel you’ve heard enough? What if I  also said, but wait there’s more….much more, we’re not even at the good part. The most interesting and dazzling part of this will be how we “recover” from it. It’s a show that can’t be missed, here’s a few of the highlights.

First…What they did was state over and over again we need to cut back on spending, but then they spent double and doubled that…it was fantastic.

Second…Just when you thought employment was a measure of the economy, they turned it around and stated publicly that Unemployment benefits were the way to grow the economy…that was amazing to behold.

Third…I thought the Fed buying Treasuries was the equivalent of monetizing the debt, or printing money. How foolish I was on that one. I obviously forgot what the meaning of  “is” is. There was a standing ovation on that one.

Fourth…The European Union is beginning to unravel once again, N.Korea has sunk a S.Korean naval ship, fired missiles  killing and destroying a fishing village prompting the US to place an aircraft carrier group along with the S.Korean navy to perform war drills off the coast of China who protests, and they’re our banker now. Just stunning in every detail, well worth the price of admission alone.

I can’t tell you everything about the show, you have to actually see it for yourself. It’s one thing for me to try to explain, but if you really want to get the “Full Monty” just look with open eyes and an open mind. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh I almost forgot one of the best parts, towards the finish, they were able to raise the stock market back to levels not seen since before the crash of 2008! It’s a balancing and high wire act that rivals anything Cirque du Soleil has to offer, I mean I’m talking spectacular, but I don’t want to ruin the show for you, see it for yourself and be dazzled.

I don’t want to be a spoiler and tell you how this performance ends.

Mark

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Celebrating the Holidays….Jetson style!

As traditional as the holiday season is, I was jolted into how far technology has changed it at my home, and quite possibly yours as well.

Like most we enjoyed the traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings. As always it was a fantastic meal. As the day lumbered on with all the other trappings that go with the event such as movies, football, and more. I was walking across the living room when something just struck me that at first I never really gave a second thought. I was walking across the house wearing a set of wireless headphones listening to a news program that was coming out of Asia. This broadcast was playing on my computer where the visual portion was playing on  HD monitors in my office. My mother in-law was with us for the holiday. She flew in from New England for the holiday and was watching a television show that was being recorded live  so that she could pause every so often to see if another family member had called without missing any part of the show. The call she was waiting for was not going to come over the telephone. That would come over the computer via Skype where they could converse face to face seeing that the other was in Costa Rica. My wife at the same time was sitting in the room, but she was on her iTouch surfing the net, and emailing, and texting her friends. Moments before we ate, we had a face to face video chat with her brother back in New England in real-time. We were showing him how the house was decorated for the holiday and such. All in real-time via a mobile phone.

It hit me like a ton of bricks how we now take a lot of the conveniences of today as if they have always been there. Just think, it was only a few years ago there were no such things as DVR’s, Smart-phones, Live Streaming video, High Def, or wireless anything. But now we seem to act like it’s always been like this. It’s all just simply amazing when you really give it some thought.

So in that spirit is where I truly found thanks. Not only for the blessings I have in my life such as family and friends, but also for being able to have the other blessings that I now take for granted.

Now if we  can only get that flying car thing happening, that would be something.  Maybe next year.

Mark

Texting the World Away

I am amazed on a daily basis watching how many adults ( never mind the teenagers) who seem oblivious to their surroundings. Seemingly intelligent people walking with their heads down flailing away on a keyboard built for ants trying to alert the world on some sort of social networking platform what they ate for dinner, if they just showered, or posted their 2,375 picture of themselves in a compromising pose or situation. They Tweet, Twit, Post, Paste, Share, Spread, etc.,etc.,etc. But ask them a question about a relevent subject that might impact their future, and all you’ll see is some form of soul-less expression of bewilderment. You know that look, it’s the same one you get when one of these clueless figures walks straight into you almost knocking you down as they’re tweeting, texting, posting, pasting, sharing, or talking. Do they say sorry, or excuse me?  No…you’ll just get that animatronic look that says ” Were you not watching where I was going?”

This is the attitude now coming from people who put more effort into exercising their texting dexterity than they’ll put into educating and informing themselves. It’s even becoming apparent there’s something a foot when you start seeing it parodied on TV. One of my favorite commercials currently running that brings the point home is where a a person is viewing the Christmas decorations on his neighbor’s house. He texts the owner making backhanded insults on his phone, yet he is standing right in front of him. After two or three one liners the home owner yells at him saying..”Look me in the eyes!”  That one little quote sums it all up for me. No longer are people addressing one another face to face. There is no conversation, no interaction, no listening, only people stating comments oblivious to any true discourse. People are losing the ability to interact face to face, and I feel it’s a troubling new reality.

The trouble with this new reality of communication is this. What are you going to do when the power is out or the lines are down? Talk? Think? Write? Hope you remember how…It’s not the same as riding a bicycle. You stop using the former skills, and you’ll look pretty foolish once again needing training wheels.

But then again, when the power comes back on, just post the picture of you trying , you’ll remember how to do that right?

Mark

The Holiday Shopping Experience…more pathetic than ever

Cutting right to the chase I am not a Grinch, actually I love the holiday season like most, but as of late it’s hard to be anything but annoyed when you go to any store recently. One of the most glaring things both my wife and I notice on a disturbingly frequent basis is how messy stores have become. At some of the more famed holiday retailers who are synonymous for putting on the holiday cheer it’s not only pathetic, it’s down right disgusting.

Retailing has been an art form since the dawn of time. Put your merchandise in the best possible spot, and if there is a theme to be exploited, exploit it, pure and simple. That formula has worked brilliantly, but now…not so-much. The main culprit? Bottom line  numbers only mentality, no more empathy for the season. Playing Christmas music over the store speakers while allowing the atmosphere within the store to seem like Bastille day is not what the holiday season is all about.

Here are just a few particulars that I see with glaring regularity that are not only obvious to all, but are darn right pathetic.

1. More than one seasonal decoration up at one time. Seriously, can you take down the witches and skeletons before you put up Ole Saint Nick?

2. Can I please find at least 1 item on a shelf that is priced?

3. If you’re going to send me coupons because you value my business, please don’t send me a 50% off any single item only to find that there is only 1 single item I can actually use the coupon for.

4. Does anyone go through the shelves any longer to straighten out the merchandise? I’ve seen more organization in a kids closet than in most stores.

5. If every transaction seemingly needs to be approved by a manager, can you either hire more managers, or allow staff to possibly make a decision?

6. If you’re going to decorate, then decorate. Putting up decorations that are left fallen down, or came unglued from the wall and are dangling like a rope, or even worse, look like you rummaged through the lost and found bin of holidays past, please stop. Nothing would be better than the something you have up. Trust me on that one.

7. Make it a punishable offense of maybe life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if a customer approaches an employee to ask a question, and they are either texting or talking on their phone only to say  ” Hold on I’ll be with you in a minute.”

8. Clean the store, clean the store, clean the damn store! I have never in my life seen such filth in so-called upscale retailers. The first thing to cut is the cleaning crew when trying to hit numbers, and it not only shows, it’s on full display.

9. Buy one get 2 free, only to see the next week buy 3 get 7 at half off, only to be replaced the next week with buy 1 at regular price and 50% off the next then 75% of the next 2 is really putting my math skills to a test. It also leaves me with the feeling every time I come back that I really didn’t get a bargain, as a matter of fact, I think I actually got hood-winked and payed more than not on sale prices. Just makes me feel cheery when that happens.

10. Why have this charade of ” Black Friday” only to see it offered before the date as a  “Pre-Black Friday” or some other foolish new stunt. I’m needing a day planner just to keep up with the sales planner, and as far as I’m concerned, they can’t plan.

I could go on and on with this list, but you get the picture. The holiday shopping season has been morphing into some ugly monster for decades. It just seems to be so revealing lately that it’s too hard to gloss over any longer.

Maybe that’s why they leave the Halloween decorations up so long. To remind us of Christmas shopping past, because the holiday spirit of late is frightful.

Mark

 

“Pass the Champagne!”

We’re getting close to end of another year. It’s been a sobering experience for any of us whom try to see the forest through the trees. The more one looks at things that don’t make sense, the more senseless it is to try. Forget trying to use your experience over the years, or for that fact any experience you’ve garnered over time. No one cares, and no one seems likely to care unless it all falls apart. Call me sentimental, but I remember a time when critical thinking mattered. It seems oh so long ago when it had relevancy, but for now it’s just talking the yarns of Ole. Maybe at sometime the resulting hangover will serve as evidence that staying too long at the punch bowl is not healthy. But as long as the bubbly is pouring I guess who is to say different. Besides, when everyone is inebriated with high hopes of never having to deal with a crisis again because they are now more sure than ever they know just what to do this time, well I guess you just pass the champagne. So let them toast to their new-found ideas, and out with the old and in with the new because we are oh so much smarter now…..

Remember when the USA was the engine of growth around the world and if GDP was under 4% it was a bad thing?……How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when we thought unemployment above 7% for any length of time was considered bad for the stock market?…..How foolish we were back then….pass the champagne!

Remember when we thought that the engine of growth for the world would be free market capitalism?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when it was a bad thing if a government nationalized a corporation?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when we thought spending a billion dollars was a large figure, and a trillion was near impossible?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when nearly 15 million people unemployed was a bad thing for the economy, and would hurt spending?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when if you took out a mortgage you would have to pay it back, regardless if there was a typo?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when if you were in foreclosure it meant eviction not a rent free time period to be exploited?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when keeping interest rates too low for too long would mean you were creating bubbles in the economy or bring on inflation?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when the US dollar was something you always thought would have value no matter what?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when monetizing the government’s debt was  something that was considered the same as paying one credit card with another and crazy?…How foolish we were back then…pass the champagne!

Remember when praising anything like what’s being toasted now was considered the babble of a bunch of drunkards?

There’s a great deal to be said for staying sober in my book.

Mark

Wrong or Early?…The Perils of Forecasting

If you would like to be revered as the “All knowing” just forecast what you believe to happen and have it come true. If you want to be shunned and mocked, do the same but with the opposite results. If you want unconditional reverence, my advice is get a dog.

Forecasting is done by everyone. We do it all the time when talking with peers or friends. It usually takes the form as an opinion rather than what can be explained as a forecast. You give some type of answer based on what you think will happen and if it does so be it, it was just an opinion. That same scenario changes dramatically when it goes from opinion to advice. Opinions are worthless and cost the same, everyone has one, but advice is usually paid for and has some form of actionable details contained within. Most people treat opinions and advice as equals. That’s foolish, but that’s for another column.

Whether you own a business or run one you need to forecast. Even if you are just planning a one day vacation, you’ll do it. However what most fail to predict, or neglect to calculate into any forecast is this…If a forecast event happens later than anticipated, was the forecast truly wrong? This is where most get it wrong in both business and life.

Problem with forecasting is most take it out of context. It’s a forecast of what might happen, or what should happen, or based on historical data points what is likely to happen. It’s not an all-seeing what will happen. All one needs to put this into perspective is think about your local weatherman. Look at all the scientific knowledge, computer models, historical data, radar systems, and much more at their disposal and look at the results. How accurate are they really? I give them the benefit of doubt most times, but if ones misses that thunderstorm call by saying afternoon and it comes in the morning? Look out is all I’ll say.

For months I’ve written on these pages that I believe there is a terrible storm brewing on the horizon. I’ll be the first to say I have been wrong in how soon I thought it would land, but I have not changed my original thoughts or calls for what I believe is coming. Many have said I just don’t understand the “New Normal” we are in. Some have said, “Why don’t you just admit you’re wrong.” All are fair points, all might have some validity to them, but I keep looking at the data points which most who are calling me wrong not only wont include, but even worse, act as if they never happened. I might be wrong and so be it, but refusing to look at other possibilities based on hard data is just nuts.

If you think there just might be some validity in the thought of early vs. wrong I’ve included the most recent cover of Barron’s below. As far as everyone is now concerned the stock market is healed and better than ever. Based on this alone, you should be readying the plywood for the windows.

Just a forecast from your lonely weatherman.

Mark

Giving Charlatan’s a Bad Name

char·la·tan

–noun

a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.
or…..
A charlatan is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception.

We’ve all seen them. Just turn on your television on any given day and there they are staring in their own show. Oh wait, their own infomercial. That’s right, don’t want to get the two mixed up, but isn’t that the point of the show? At one time it was a clever ploy to make one feel like the information being discussed had real validity. Now the lines have been blurred to such extremes that watching a reality show might be more educational. (Heaven help us!)
Infomercials are a great way to express an idea or pitch a product. It gives unlimited time and freedom to put the product or service in the spotlight for the viewer to see. I am a firm believer and a proponent of infomercials. I like the ability and the positioning one can do for a product. It’s also a great revenue stream for the media companies to help fill airtime that would go unsold or unfilled. If one doesn’t think the media companies have free time on their hands, just count how many PSA’s ( Public Service announcements) you hear, or how many times you see the same commercials over, and over, and over again for some new and improved pimple cream, or the long-standing radio cry “commercial free hour of non-stop hits.” That’s because the non-stop advertisers have stopped advertising, nothing more.
In good economies and bad the charlatans are always there. They stick their finger in the wind, see what magical tricks they can conger up and sell to an eager public who might be down on their luck, or just have too much luck and need away to part with some of it. Today as I watched TV, even I was taken back by the brazen exploits of one.
The show starts out with a very familiar pitch man. He’s been on for years offering his self-help and how to books for quite a while, but today took the cake. It seems that the “interview” is done by a pair of TV show hosts that look like they belong standing next to a brass pole rather than sitting on a TV set. The co-anchors attire is more Victoria Secrets than Ann Taylor. I feel even Madonna would blush at the audacity of the outfits. Maybe that’s a stretch, but you get my point.
Charlatans have been around since the dawn of time, and don’t look for them to go away anytime soon. All one can do is try not to fall for the shenanigans.
Especially if they’re on full display.
Mark

The All You Can Eat “$” Buffet

Step right up and don’t be shy. Feeling a bit of a rumble in your portfolio? Maybe that’s because it’s hungry. Just step up and feast your eyes on this glorious buffet of stocks. It’s an all you can eat ( ah I mean buy) smorgasborg of funds. No …not just any single fund. All funds, everything. Just pick your fancy and dig in. The price you ask? Who cares…we’ll pay you for dining. That’s right, we’ll pay you. How’s that for a deal. It beats any senior citizen discount any day, any where. Who’s the chef of such a fine buffet? Chef  (uh hum..Chairman) Ben Bernanke. Watch for his new show coming to a TV near you. Maybe it’ll be called “Hot sizzlin’ stocks…Benny style.” You’ll be able to watch it on the TV’s they have in the banks while you’re standing in line. Word has it they’ll have a special channel there just for him, but for now just watch the stock market. You’ll get to see his creations albeit by osmosis of course, but who cares. They are delicious!

Sometimes you need sarcasm or parody to bring home to roost just what is happening in the bigger picture, and more important…why. It’s very easy to now explain. It’s probably never been easier. It’s almost as easy as ordering off the numbered menus at your local fast food chain. It’s all about the Dollar. Forget about corporate earnings, unemployment, bond issuance, all of it. It doesn’t matter. Not a bit. Oh yes, some will say it does, but I must point to the evidence. If real data mattered, why the are the  economic reports that are so bad treated as…”Ohhh so good”..Hmmmmmm? Because Chef Benny will keep the buffet open and serve it up as long as there are dollars to sell. That’s why.

At one time, you had to have an understanding that took years if not decades to master the financial world. Not now, just watch the dollar. The three card monte game that is now available to the participants is…Sell the Dollar…use that money and Buy Stocks. Don’t bother reading the ingredient label, it doesn’t matter, just eat. The opposite holds true also. If for any reason the dollar finds some footing, and starts to go higher..Oh Oh! The market will fall also. That’s what happens when it gets hooked on fast food with no real nutritional value. Great taste, but a lot of empty carbs.

It’s amazing to watch this correlation. All you need to do is now ask..”What did the dollar do today?”..and you will have everything you need to know. Dollar UP = Stocks Down,  Dollar DOWN = Stocks Up.

Who would have thought in the 21st century it was to be the dreaded “hamburg flippers”, and not the “college elite” who work in the pure models of high-powered finance. After all, you do get your dollars at the Fed by using the “Discount window.”

Can I get fries with that?

Mark

What “Captain’s” Understand, and Others Don’t

To say the last 3 years have been challenging would be quite an understatement. Whether you own a business or employed by one, as of late both have been in the same proverbial boat. Both sides have been doing what they can to keep the ship afloat. For some it meant hitting the lifeboats before it took on so much water that no one could be saved. For others, it meant putting a freeze on anything and everything that was an expense, right down to deciding the cost effectiveness of using either paperclips or staples. However, this is where charting the next course can only be decided by the Captain, for the next leg in this voyage is truly about understanding everything that goes into running a ship.

It would appear to most that the seas have calmed because of their lack of understanding of what it takes to actually run or own a business. For the Captain’s and the few employee’s who are of the entrepreneurial class, they are fully aware they might be in the eye of a hurricane.

Everywhere you turn, you see headlines that the stock market has come back with a vengeance, unemployment although at high levels has flattened, corporations are flush with cash, mergers and acquisitions are on the rise, and so on, and so forth. You hear friends and family members repeat sound bites from the TV or radio that “things are on the rise, get with it, now’s a great time to buy, rates have never been lower,” yet when you try to counter they just say…”You’re just being negative” or the more you try to explain, the more their eyes gloss over, so you stop trying.

It’s not easy being a Captain, an Owner, or an Entrepreneurial employee. Don’t look for it to change in the future either. If it was easy, everyone would be one. Your job in this ocean of ever-changing waves and tides is to navigate by what you know and understand, not what the land lubbers tell you. Reading a book titled ” Being a Captain for Dummies” doesn’t qualify them to chart the course of a true ship at sea, though they will argue otherwise.

Sometimes there are only a few decisions to make, but their importance is paramount. Here’s my top 3 at this moment…#1 Stay in port and wait for more favorable weather, #2 Decide to set sail, but never allow anything to compromise the worthiness of both the crew and vessel. Safety, and stamina must be unyielding.. If it’s not vital to the journey, it stays at port, not on the boat, or #3 If already at sea, check and recheck all details for ensuring staying on course, prepare and be open to all crew members what strategies will be employed if another storm is encountered. Can the hatches be battened down quickly, and if there’s no safe harbor within reach, what will be expected of them.

This is why you wanted to be in charge, this is what you understand must be done, and others don’t. They only see clear skies and smooth sailing. Your job is to always keep the ship afloat, after all…You wanted to be in charge, didn’t you?

You chart your own course.

Mark