Losing Faith in Banks

Two of my banks go under, two of my credit cards comprimised. I’m quickly losing faith.

I have two banks. One is a credit union that was based in Fort Collins with whom I had been a member since 1988. It’s name was Norlarco but is no more because it died and was merged with another Denver-based credit union. From what I hear, Norlarco’s board allowed someone to make risky investments in Miami property and that essentially killed it. (Ironically, when I was wanting to buy a home in Los Angeles they told me they couldn’t help me unless it was in Colorado. I guess I didn’t grease enough palms!) The biggest pain has been changing my checks and all of the settings for all my various auto-payments, from utilities to Netflix. Ugh.

Last year I opened an account at Washington Mutual because I neede the convenience of a local bank here in New York. As everyone knows, that died and got sold to JPMorganChase.

Now my drama continues with credit cards. I was notified last month by my credit union that due to an internal security breach all their debit cards were comprimised and would have to be replaced. New card just showed up in the mail. New PIN for me to memorize.

Last night I just got an e-mail from USAA (a credit card issuer) stating that there’s been a security breach, and they are going to have to replace my credit card.

This is crazy! I’m just about ready to start stuffing money into my mattress!

Dow Jones: Apocalyptic or Not?

I have one other perspective that I would like to share: that of a mathematician. And using my mathematician’s careful eye I see a way in which this is both deeply troubling and surprisingly calming. For the sake of dramatic tension, let’s start with the bad news.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, arguably the most well-known index of Wall Street’s value, has been on pretty much everyone’s’ mind lately. I’ve watched with mixed emotions as it has sunk with no signs of rebound. We hear about how much ‘wealth’ has evaporated, and it seems our collective mood is incredibly sour. I have to admit that I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this, both because I live and work in New York City—where the jobs market is probably more tied to Wall Street than any place, and because of my interest in what this has done to the political landscape in the eleventh hour of election season.
I have one other perspective that I would like to share: that of a mathematician. And using my mathematician’s careful eye I see a way in which this is both deeply troubling and surprisingly calming. For the sake of dramatic tension, let’s start with the bad news.

The Dow Jones Average, as of the close on Friday, was 8378 points. A pretty far drop. And if you look at a historic graph of the DJI (Dow Jones Index) you will see that it first climbed to that level somewhere around 1997. So one could argue that we’ve slashed all the value that we’ve earned over the last 11 years. Depressed? Wait, it gets worse! Yesterday I realized that I hadn’t considered inflation in my historic comparison! If I include inflation (the fact that today’s dollars don’t buy as much as yesterday’s money did) I have to slash another 25% (approximately) from that calculation. Hence, our Dow Jones Average of 8378 points becomes closer to 6283!!

Okay, before you start hyperventilating let me give you the good news. If we’re going to look at numbers, let’s look at a graph of the Dow Jones. Below we have the DJI since 1980.

DJI since 1980
DJI since 1980

I added the red line, and I used the DJI value from 1985 to 1995 as a baseline. If you consider that previous decade’s growth (which I would argue was a lot more reasonable than the crazy Dot-Com-Boom years or the crazy Housing Market years) you might see that we’re now EXACTLY WHERE WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALL ALONG!

You know what we call that? We call it a correction. So get out of your bomb shelter bunker, put down those Valium, and get ready for a lousy recession. I’m afraid that WILL hurt, but every 8-10 years they normally happen, and we always come out of them in a newer age of prosperity.

UPDATE: See Dave’s comment below. Wow! I really should have my Mathematician’s Vulcan Ears revoked for that oversight. Here’s an updated graph (sorry, no time to add the red line, but it should be obvious) :

More accurate (and depressing) graph
More accurate (and depressing) graph

Click on the above picture for a close-up.

Things Are Looking Up in ’08

My life right now is so dramatically different than it had been both one and two years ago. Two years ago I was screwing up the courage to pack it all in with regard to my life in Los Angeles and to make back to New York City. My career path [as a computer freelance consultant] was completely stalled, my love-life was nonexistent, and I was generally not a happy person.

Guess who has a new job!

And in many ways I could say “Guess who has a new life!!” My life right now is so dramatically different than it had been both one and two years ago. Two years ago I was screwing up the courage to pack it all in with regard to my life in Los Angeles and to make back to New York City. My career path [as a computer freelance consultant] was completely stalled, my love-life was nonexistent, and I was generally not a happy person.

One thing I did enjoy: I was blogging a lot, including articles about my political views on the world. Being a freelancer, I was able to create and live by whatever image I wanted. My decision to move back to New York and to try to find a “corporate job” meant, for practical issues, that I would have to prune (one might even say “neuter”) my blog. Why? Because let’s face it: the first thing a (responsible) HR department does is to Google a job applicant. And with my livelihood at stake, I wasn’t about to take the risk of being considered a job candidate who lacked discretion.

For many personal reasons, I didn’t write about the last two years here in New York, nor am I likely to go into it publicly. But I will tell you this: I have seen some of the brightest and some of the darkest hours of my life. The job search was an endless, soul sucking, ego-degrading toil that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I spent about a year and a half searching for a job. Then when I finally settled on a pay-so-low-it-didn’t-cover-the-mortgage job this last February, it turned into the worst employment experience of my life. Long story short, after they missed paying my second paycheck (and after getting in a shouting match with my evil superior) I walked out, and mystically my Dream Job appeared out of nowhere!

The abbreviated summary: I now work for Accenture, and specifically I work for the Accenture Marketing Sciences division, for the Digital Optimization group which consists mostly of a newly acquired company called “Memetrics”. My job is as an “integration engineer” which is really stimulating and exciting, and I even get to wear my “Statistician’s” hat every now and then!

The other great thing in my life is my boyfriend/partner Bill. This is the first long, solid relationship of my life, and it is incredibly enriching. (That also mean all the spare time I used to spend doing things like… er… blogging has dwindled away to something approaching zero.) I’m going to let that personal part of my life remain private, but I will encourage anyone to visit his website (which he maintains daily, and which I helped build and design) at http://www.scroggiestudio.com/.

Well, that’s about it for the recap. I don’t know how much blogging I’m going to do in the near future. I might write about the website design work I’m going to do for Bill’s website. It uses iWeb and Apple’s MobileMe right now, but I want to maybe integrate WordPress and direct hosting, strategic marketing, etc. Developing his site has really been a wonderful case-study for me in all these things. (And an important one—his livelihood depends on it!)

Apple Leopard and the iPhone… Random Thoughts

OS X Leopard has introduced Core Animation, and it may very well be the feature (or the software development theme) that revolutionizes the “embedded” market. The iPhone demonstrates what Windows CE should have been

Up until a week ago I couldn’t say much about OS X (specifically the new 10.5 Leopard release) or the iPhone (which I broke down and bought two months ago). The reason I couldn’t talk about Leopard was that I’m an ADC (Apple Developer Connection) member and I’ve been play-testing 10.5 for months, and I was bound by a non-disclosure agreement.

Well, Leopard has been released so the NDA doesn’t apply (much). I mention the iPhone because my iPhone thoughts are related to OS X Leopard. Let me explain…
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Facelift

As you may have noticed, this site has gotten a much-needed (interim) face-lift. The old Wulan theme was nice in its simplicity, but it was ultimately broken.

I spend a couple hours this morning browsing through the big ol’ WordPress Theme Viewer to see if I could find something that would serve my purpose, and I’ve got to say I’m amazed at the amount of sloppy work out there! I went through almost 800 themes looking for something that had (a) Clean Design and (b) Complete Functionality.
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