1.01.2005

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» RANT: Is the housing market trying to tell us something?
» RANT: How we work more to accomplish less
» MISC: Good things come in small packages
» MISC: Sick days, Coffee, Jokes
» TIP: Ten bucks says you're probably not going to get rid of all your bad financial habits
» MISC: Sometimes Silence Speaks Greater Wisdom
» RANT: Enslaved by our independence

RANT: Is the housing market trying to tell us something?

via WSJ - New-home sales fell in January and the number of unsold homes on the market rose to nearly a 10-year high, signaling continued cooling in the housing market... Many economists were surprised by the January decline, having anticipated that unseasonably warm weather last month would boost sales, much as it had stimulated big jumps in housing starts, retail sales and construction. Instead, sales in the Northeast, South and Midwest all dropped more than 10% from December, overshadowing an 11.3% rise in the West. Rising interest rates and lower levels of mortgage applications in recent weeks have further darkened the outlook.

Still, January's sales rate was 3.3% higher than a year ago, and yesterday's report was viewed as the latest evidence that the housing market is undergoing a gradual slowdown rather than a sharp freefall. The new-home sales report weighed on the stocks of major home builders. On a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced, the share prices of Toll Brothers Inc., Ryland Group Inc., KB Home, Centex Corp. and Beazer Homes USA Inc. all lost ground.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Something vs Nothing > Signal vs Noise

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RANT: How we work more to accomplish less

via News.Yahoo - Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research... The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say. "Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it's slowed everything down, paradoxically,"... "We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing," Challenger said on Wednesday. "It's harder to feel like you're accomplishing something." Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail, computer messages, cell phone calls, voice mails and the like, research showed...

A decade ago, 40 percent of workers called themselves very or extremely successful, but that number fell to just 28 percent. "We think we're faster, smarter, better with all this technology at our side and in the end, we still feel rushed and our feeling of productivity is down,"

Expectations that technology would save time and money largely haven't been borne out in the workplace... "It just increases the expectations that people have for your production,"... Even if productivity increases, it's constantly outpaced by those expectations... "The irony is the very expectation of getting more done is getting in the way of getting more done," he said. "People are stressed out."...

Businesses that have moved to 24-hour operations, bosses who micro-manage and longer commutes all add to the problem, they said, while downsizing leaves fewer workers doing the work of those who left.

Finally, there's a trend among companies to measure job performance like never before, said Challenger. "There's a sense that no matter how much I do, it's never enough," he said.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Opportunity vs Trap

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MISC: Good things come in small packages

via ScientificAmerican -- Small acts that create immediate pleasures can add up to long-term satisfaction. Personal happiness has two components: short-lived/immediate and long-term/habitual. Short term pleasures create a stirring of emotions that psychologists refer to as positive affect. Most individuals underestimate the power this factor can have in both their private and professional lives...

One extravagant annual company picnic does not create a healthy working environment; it takes many immediate, smaller happy moments to achieve this atmosphere...

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > When Less is More

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MISC: Sick days, Coffee, Jokes

via RD - One of the workers on my construction crew didn't show up for work on Monday, and he didn't phone to explain his absence. On Tuesday morning, though, he did call. "I won't be able to make it to work today," he said, "or yesterday."

The chef of the upscale restaurant I manage collided with a waiter one day and spilled coffee all over our computer. The liquid poured into the processing unit, and resulted in some dramatic crackling and popping sounds. After sopping up the mess, we gathered around the terminal as the computer was turned back on. "Please let it work," pleaded the guilt-ridden waiter. A waitress replied, "Should be faster than ever. That was a double espresso."

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Jokes

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TIP: Ten bucks says you're probably not going to get rid of all your bad financial habits

via CNNMoney - So many bad habits, so little energy to change them. At some point in life, you reach the flaws-and-all years. You accept yourself as you are, complete with sins and shortcomings. Sure, some improvement is possible. But those of us who sip from the fountain of reality realize the changes won't be fast and furious in coming. That's as true of our bad financial habits as anything else. I'm not talking about crippling problems like compulsive gambling, but more everyday behaviors like procrastination and sheer neglect.

Still, just because you're not likely to reform your ways doesn't mean you can't sidestep them. So, here are some ways to outwit your bad self if you're a:

  • Piler-filer drawer stuffer: The thicker your stack of bills, statements and other financial detritus, the more reasons you'll find to clean the bathroom. When it comes to organizing files, forget perfect. Think simple. Keep a single file by your front door, suggests Ruth Hayden, author of "Your Money Life." Throw into it every bill and financial document you get in the mail. Then deal with the contents once or twice a month. You might even do so during your lunch hour at work....
  • Casual spendthrift: You don't have a debt problem. You just gasp a little when you see how much you charge every month buying things you don't really need or even want... exercise the 3-day rule. Write down what you want and then wait three days before buying it. By that point, you may decide to keep your money instead, Hayden said.
  • List-making procrastinator: You organize all the financial stuff you need to do on one list. Exhausted, you take a break ... for weeks. Then you realize you have to add to the list. To take the "sting" out of confronting all your to-dos, Rita Emmett, author of "The Procrastinator's Handbook," suggests that you:
    • Select just one thing to do.
    • Time yourself. Give yourself an hour to finish the task.
    • Ignore everything during that hour...
    • No breaks, no phone calls, no checking email.
    • Give yourself a reward. Do something you love, but rarely have time to do...
  • Accidental investor: You figure a chimp could do as good a job as you managing your portfolio. In any case, he'd certainly do it with more enthusiasm. So keep your investments simple: no individual stocks or bonds, just as few mutual funds as possible.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Ordinary vs Extraordinary > Getting Things Done

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MISC: Sometimes Silence Speaks Greater Wisdom

Buddhist Mystic James blogged - A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Strength vs Weakness > Style vs Substance

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RANT: Enslaved by our independence

via WashingtonPost - Slogging around with a backpack, a notebook and a bottle of water, you stop for a while and stare at the historic black-and-white photographs in the National Museum of American History. You know, the ones depicting Americans going about their everyday lives: folks waiting for District trolley cars circa 1900, for instance, or people crisscrossing Pennsylvania Avenue in 1905. Notice something missing? That's right: stuff.

The people -- all ages, all colors, all genders -- are not carrying any backpacks or water bottles. They are not schlepping cell phones, cradling coffee cups or lugging laptops. They have no bags -- shopping, tote or diaper. Besides a small purse here or a walking cane or umbrella there, they are unburdened: footloose and fingers free. Now walk outside and take a look around. People on the same city streets are loaded down. They are laden with books, newspapers, Gatorade jugs, personal stereos, knapsacks, briefcases and canvas totes with high-heel shoes inside. They have iPods strapped to upper arms, fanny packs buckled around waists and house keys Velcroed to shoelaces.

Perhaps it's because we are multitaskers. Or because we're insecure. Maybe we are becoming more independent. Whatever the reasons, we are more and more burdened by our belongings...

Contemporary life is so fluid. Work bleeds into leisure activity, which oozes over into family time. We never know what we are going to need or when we are going to need it. A book when we get mired on the Metro; a juice box when we are trapped in traffic; cookies for low blood sugar moments; a flashlight in case we have a flat tire at night. "It's sort of like a safety net," Douglass says of the things we carry... The increased quantity of carry-on items for our flight through life, he says, reflects "the tendency of our society to dispense with sources of shared stability -- the long-term job, neighborhoods, unions, family dinners -- and transform us into autonomous free agents."

The Walkman, introduced in 1979, Hine says in an e-mail, "probably set the precedent; it allowed people to be physically in a space, but mentally detached. The plethora of 'communications' devices we carry are also tools of isolation from the immediate environment. And, in the words of the recruiting ad, we each become 'an army of one' carrying all our tools of survival through a presumably hostile world." It's the perfect posture for the Age of Insecurity. We fret about our jobs, families, country, manhood or womanhood, ability to be a good parent. We believe someone is out to get us. And to get our things. So, like the homeless, we carry our stuff with us. Just in case something, or anything, happens.

If wealth is judged by freedom and freedom is the state of being unencumbered, then we are a poor and burdened people...

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Strength vs Weakness

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