Showing posts from July, 2008

My new project: OpenRemote

I have been studying a new industry lately, it is called Home Automation or Domotics in Europe. It is really a fancy name to describe the age old problem of "why can't my mom operate my remote". Every self respecting geek has one day felt the urge to program his or her house. Home Automation in the field is lights, AV, AC, Security. Today it is a bit of an expensive hobby, even downright elitist in some cases, but the technology is rapidly democratizing, due to Wifi, Commodity software/hardware, the iPhone and the housing crisis.

What started for me as an infatuation with the iPhone as a universal remote (I built a prototype on Linux with Appcelerator to command comcast) has evolved into a full blown affair with an open community that congregates over at

The community is fun. Turns out HA is one of those things like sports, you can discuss it with pretty much anyone and they have thought about it. Those that want to participate in OpenRemote see th…

Spain move: D-6

We are moving to Madrid in six days and I am excited. I like moving, I like not knowing exactly what is coming up. Growing up I moved a dozen times and my parents must have moved 20 times. There is this sense that you don't really know what your life is going to be like in a couple of weeks. I like figuring new things out. For me it is also the return to big city life in Europe.

For Nathalie it is a couple of years outside of the country, living an urban life (we will be in the center of the Retiro), she has liked living in the center of Paris, and a welcomed break from the routine of Atlanta. For the kids it may be a unique opportunity to be immersed in both languages, French and Spanish. We are both tri-lingual, and would love for the kids to be as well.

So we are now in the maelstrom of moving, with well, movers moving stuff and our place emptying up. We have gone through layers of memorabilia in the house. Taking strolls down memory lane as we went. There is a sense of a…

The kindness of Strangers

Via Yves Smith's, Evans Pritchard from the Telegraph outlines how, in a funny twist of fate, the american financial system depends on the good will of its past ideological enemies: china, russia and the petro-states.

Basically the analysis goes like this: the subprime mortgage crisis is morphing into a credit crisis, that is threatening to reach the US Treasury level. We have a full-blown wage-price inflation in emerging economies, which combined with the continued slide of the dollar, would make US Treasuries less attractive to these foreign investors. Flight to safety be damned, the dollar and foreign inflation will give it the coup de grace. Problem is, a large chunk of that debt is usually funded from abroad.

Roughly $1.5 trillion of Fannie and Freddie AAA-rated debt - as well as other US "government-sponsored enterprises" - is now in foreign hands. The great unknown is whether foreign patience will snap as losses mount and the dollar slides.

Hiroshi Watanabe…

DeathWatch on the GSEs

Another apocalyptic day just passed in the market and another one just like it is shaping tomorrow. "Terrifying day of trading" says John Authers of the FT and the coverage is that the bailing out of Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae, who insure half of the mortgages of the US, is not enough to calm the markets.

From the FT

The US Treasury’s plan to bolster the two mortgage giants with extra liquidity and the pledge to buy a stake if needed, announced on Sunday, helped to steady the nerves of bond investors who queued up to buy Freddie debt.

But equity investors remained unsettled amid concerns that the two companies, which guarantee $5,300bn in mortgages – almost half the US home loans market – were still vulnerable. Fannie and Freddie shares saw early gains wiped out and ended 7.6 per cent and 8.4 per cent lower, respectively.

The equity gets wiped out but the debt remains attractive because it is guaranteed by tax-payers. The spread is 200 bips and the risk is nil?

I have a morbid …

Sign of the Times: Divorces go up in London

The most ignominious manifestation of the credit crisis has got to be this news tip from the FT (via Fintag).

Bonus fears keep divorce lawyers busy

Now that the bonuses are evaporating there is no reason for disgruntled wives to stick around they high strung financier husbands.

no ticky, no laundry!

China's achilles heel

Oil and the cost of transport.

A thought provoking article from the Telegraph (Via Yves Smith).

Oil price shock means China is at risk of blowing up

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Last Updated: 2:00am BST 08/07/2008

Have your say Read comments

The great oil shock of 2008 is bad enough for us. It poses a mortal threat to the whole economic strategy of emerging Asia.

Oil price shock means China is at risk of blowing up
An oil rig in China's Bohai Sea

The manufacturing revolution of China and her satellites has been built on cheap transport over the past decade. At a stroke, the trade model looks obsolete.

No surprise that Shanghai's bourse is down 56pc since October, one of the world's most spectacular bear markets in half a century.

The bad news is that this adds inflationary pressures. China was a net exporter of cheap goods, and that is gone, the products are now expensive. The good news it that some of those jobs are coming back onshore in US and EU.

I, convalescent IV: Encounter with The Male Surgeon

Post Script

Two and a half glasses of champagne (Veuve Cliquot), one half bag of Milano cookies later...

My surgery, a medically recommended procedure being related to the end-of-the-line as far as my (biologically) procreative life goes, offers in my choice of surgeon, a hilarious intersection in his clientele, divided between women like me with real medical conditions, and women whose procedures are purely elective and cosmetic. In my brief interaction with The Male Surgeon, whose tendency not listen to me and then interrupt me with pre-prepared answers that have little to do with anything I have said, has convinced me that, despite his superior anatomical knowledge of women, the only way he really likes dealing with them is completely knocked out under general anesthesia. Supposedly he's a wizard with trocars and laparoscope, which is more important than personality, under the circumstances.

I was supposed to be partially conscious for part of the procedure, but "freaked out&…

I, convalescent III: She Reads the Press

The TUE (totally useless education) offered broad de Tocquevillian cultural speculations on the difference between BBC English (RP) and the totally flat Midwestern American newscaster pronunciation, which is totally accent-less (to an American). I read both the high and the low press, and when I say low, I mean really low, the lowest of the low, "The National Enquirer." I love you Dominick Dunne, old fart and insignificant snob that you are, for admitting that you were thrilled to learn one could get a subscription to that publication. Sometimes, I read "Vanity Fair," then in Mallorca, I discovered "The Daily Mail,"Hello" and "Tatler."

Although their standard is hipness as opposed to old money, "Vanity Fair" and "Tatler" seem to employ a formula first popularized, for Americans of my generation, by "The Preppy Handbook." Referring to the latter, Angela Carter amusingly described it as symptomatic of Reagan er…

I, convalescent II: Southern Lady

Would I be a Southern Lady? A lot of ambiguity where I come from when it comes to the word "Madame." In the careers I considered but never pursued category, I did once aspire to a title I could have earned on my own merits: The Honorable," for current or former American ambassadors. After all, if you are going to represent a bordello, why not The Most Powerful Nation in The Free World? In my imaginary life, association of "The Honorable" is tied up with lots of creamy stationary and the third person address: "The Honorable requests the honor of your presence" or "The Honorable declines to attend your function, busy as she is with her important life, looking after Matters of State."

The Southern (as opposed to European) definition of lady has more to do with "maintaining your dignity in the face of adversity" than who begat or married you. At least that's what I came upon reading Tennessee Williams' autobiography. He offers…

I, convalescent I: Remembering JBoss

For somebody full of nervous energy, the hardest thing is to be still. The only other time in my life I have been in a similar situation was six weeks of bed-rest before giving birth to twins in 2002. My husband bought me a laptop and set-up wireless in the house for the first time. I can remember having about two hours a day in which I could get some work done, something that probably saved my sanity. At any rate, this weekend my parents have taken the three older kiddos for the first time in as long as I can remember, leaving us with His Babyship (ok he's not a baby anymore, he's 18 mos. old) who's chirruping about, the house with his nanny, and there's my husband--which leaves me with Time To Write.

Remembering JBoss

The difference between now and my bed-rest with the twins was a sensation, then, of germinating something, both biological and externally, with the fast growth of the company. The other day, a chance coincidence brought my husband back in touch with a fig…

SUV Sales Evaporate?

It is everywhere in the news and on every commentators lips. The absurdity once known as the Hummer is going the way of the Dinosaur. It went from hip to dead in less than a year. The first casualty of the great oil shock of 2008. I got to say this one was one of the icons of consumerism I most despised. It had become a social statement to have a hummer, they were perceived as "rich". They now look foolish at a 2008 gas station.

In other news in the FT this morning: Mini Cooper sales over take Hummer sales.

Sign of the times. Some of it welcomed!

Should we teach our kids math?

Via email a reader asks

"Hi Marc,

This blog posting struck a particular chord with me as I am at a cross-roads in my career; i.e., in my experience this US economy does not seem to value (especially in the form of compensation) engineering education and experience as much as I believe it should. E.g., it seems many other professions that do not require nearly the longer term and more rigorous education investment and intellectual fortitude such as "business" degrees and sales are rewarded and respected far more greatly and these economics do not seem to make sense. As you mentioned, given that engineering is HARD to learn, what behavior are we encouraging? Should we encourage our children to get an engineering degree or a business degree? And if technology innovation is important to our progress as a country and civilization, are we in danger of losing our competitive edge?

Given your international perspective, I'm curious of your thoughts and whether you see thi…

Arson in Foreclosures

Arsons Follow Foreclosures, from Financial Armaggedon.

``Home arsons follow foreclosure trends, with a lag,'' Quiggle said, pointing to an increase after the last housing slump when the number of blazes reached 116,600 in 1992 from 111,900 in 1990. ``We're facing a potential spike in arson like we've never seen before.''

A slow deterioration of law and order.

GM bankrupt according to Merril Analyst

One analyst doesn't make the weather, but comments such as "Bankruptcy is an option for GM" spark interest.

GM is about as American as the fourth of July.