Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Review | The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is absolutely worth it's weight in gold. I'll be honest, when I finished the book, I felt equal parts overwhelmed and motivated to go through my things and start to clear out the clutter. I've recently lost a bunch of weight and haven't gone though to clean out my closet of items that don't quite fit me anymore, but this book gave me a good starting place.

Kondo lays out what she terms the KonMari method of going through your house item by item and getting rid of stuff. In short, she suggests that you shift from the mindset of "what should I get rid of" to "what should I keep," and you should only keep those items that truly bring you joy. If you're indifferent about an item or are keeping it out of guilt, it needs to go.

Some of her methods were a little extreme and felt kind of silly as I acted them out in my head, but her basic principle of only keeping the things that actively add positivity to your life is a good one. She has an app out now that walks you through the parts of your life from clothes to books to keepsakes to help you make a schedule and stick to it.

I highly recommend her book to help everyone de-clutter their homes and reduce the junk that piles up after years of letting it go.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Great Books on Big Data Teaser

Everything is boiling down to big data and what to do with it these days. On the one hand, there’s data collection, from the polls we take voluntarily to the information we just give away on our phones and social media accounts about our locations, preferences, and more. Then, on the other hand, there’s the analysis side of it. Companies have these huge stores of information and need to analyze them so that the information is of use to their decision making. Given the huge asymmetry between the US election predictions and outcomes, there’s clearly work to be done on this front. A lot of this information seems really complicated and much too sophisticated for the average mind, but some new books have attempted to crack the code and make this mystery of big data accessible to regular people. To see my list of favorite books on big data, read my blog at ArthurPrelle.com.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bitcoin plummets 20% after trading halt on Mt Gox

Virtual currency bitcoin lost nearly twenty percent of its value on Thursday evening, after major exchange Mt Gox halted trading to try to resolve ongoing technical issues. The digital currency - which is known for its wild price fluctuations - was trading at $680.52 on Friday morning, having traded around $850 for most of the week, according to CoinDesk, which tracks the price of bitcoin. Mt Gox told customers that in a effort to resolve an issue with withdrawals, the system needed to be in a static state. "In order for our team to resolve the withdrawal issue, it is necessary for a temporary pause on all withdrawal requests, to obtain a clear technical view of the current processes," Mt Gox said on its website on Friday morning. "We apologize for the sudden short notice. All bitcoin withdrawal requests will be on pause, and the withdrawals in the system will be returned to your Mt Gox wallet, and can be reinitiated once the issue is resolved."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Laughing in the Face of Financial Depression

Euro worries prompt global stock market falls

We must place what is happening today in proper perspective. That Great Depression lasted from October 1929 to 1942. And it was not Roosevelt's quasi-socialist/fascist "New Deal" that ended the Depression. Rather it was the massive wartime production required by World War II that finally ended the downturn - but at the heavy price of 72 million lives, including over 400,000 Americans.

In the Great Depression, there were massive layoffs, with U.S. unemployment rates of over 25% by 1933 (April 2010 it is about 9.5%).

Banks that financed huge stock investment binges began to fail as debtors defaulted. Millions of dollars worth of stocks had been bought on "margin," meaning they only paid a fraction of the purchase price.

When the banks suddenly demanded payment on this margin debt, depositors tried to withdraw their money en masse, triggering multiple bank runs. In those days before the FDIC, with only meager government guarantees and few Federal Reserve banking regulations, bank failures caused the loss of billions of dollars in assets.

As unpaid debts mounted, farm and other commodity prices and incomes fell by 20% to 50% - deflation with a vengeance.

After the 1929 stock market crash, during the first 10 months of 1930, nearly 800 U.S. banks failed. (In all, over 9,000 banks failed during the 1930s.) By 1933, individual bank depositors had lost about US$140 billion, (which adjusted for inflation would be well over US$1.5 trillion in 2008 dollars).

With a creeping fear gripping America, capital investment and construction slowed, then almost completely ceased. In a crisis of bad loans and worsening future prospects, surviving banks became even tighter in lending. Banks built up their capital reserves and made few loans, which further intensified deflationary pressures.

A vicious cycle developed and the downward spiral accelerated. This kind of self-aggravating process ballooned a 1930's recession into the Great Depression.

Must we repeat this national economic suicide from 2008?

Are we, as an American people, so abysmally ignorant that we learn nothing from history?

If you want to better understand what is happening now, go to www.google.com and enter Panic of 1837, Panic of 1873, the Depression of 1893, the Panic of 1907, and the Great Depression et al. What is happening today is neither new nor unique.

In 2008, the ambitious Senator Barack Obama ridiculed Senator John McCain for stating the truth - that the economic fundamentals of America are indeed sound.

Our vast natural resources, abundant commodities, our human productivity, our world trade, our accumulated capital, still lead the entire world economy in this age of financial globalism.

Yet because of mortgage bankers' rapacious greed and a near total lack of risk judgment, Wall Street traders, financial "experts" (and their power-hungry political allies), we're now facing financial panic and paralysis.

Americans and the world at large collectively need to stop for a few moments of serious reflection.

That could lead to the inevitable realization that history teaches us:

a) That for the most part we are causing this panic ourselves

b) That we can and will survive what some day will be looked back upon as another in history's many economic backslides - certainly serious, but certainly not fatal.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's words at his inauguration on March 4, 1933, still ring true:
"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."