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Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

Originally published at CyberFOX Software Inc..
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"We just wanted to choose a really large number."

That quote is from a Treasury spokeswoman, quoted by Forbes, on why the bank bailout will need $700 billion. A spokeswoman who probably has joined the unemployed today.

There's a lot of people suggesting that we should let them all die (including me, in a fit of deep fury, when the bailout first was proposed). Others have suggested that simply improving the more stable banks ability to give mortgages would help, so folks could refi with those, and leave the bad financial companies to wither.

Unfortunately it's long past being just a mortgages issue.

The original sub-prime mortgages have been securitized into investments which returned a good percentage with an aggregated low risk, and were part of the formula that many companies used to approximate future revenues. They loaned and invested based on that approximation. Several relatively small companies sold 'insurance policies' (its more complex than that, but it comes down to hedging against risk) that they weren't sufficiently collateralized to back. It turns out there was a lot more risk involved than was visible. When the bad loans became endemic, these insurance policies were called in by the major companies to preserve capital. The small companies folded, not able to actually provide the liquid assets needed to back the policies.

Where we are now is that there have been huge losses, and companies who offered hedges against those losses are backing out of their obligations because they don't have the liquid funds to meet them. Those companies will close, bankrupt, and because nobody will ever want to do business with them again (and there's probably quite a bit of legal action that will happen). They are mostly small to medium sized hedge funds and independent insurers, basically.

This leaves the larger companies holding the bag for billions in risky, unhedged investments. They want to get rid of them, not because they are all going to go to $0 worth, but because there's NOBODY who's willing to provide insurance on them right now, and in the financial market an uninsurable investment is not acceptable.

The bailout plan is to allow the government to acquire these securitized mortgages and hold onto them while the financial system rebuilds itself, and companies who are sufficiently capitalized to insure against the (now recognized to be higher) risks. Then the government can re-sell them back into the system slowly, hopefully recouping a percentage of the amount that ends up being spent.

The problem right now is that EVERYBODY wants to sell, and NOBODY wants to buy. In that kind of a market, even good quality doesn't protect you from being pounded flat.

The reason for the government investment is to provide the market time to come to its senses, and breathing room to realize that these are not universally bad investments, the risk was just underpriced. To make up a homily on the spot, if everybody's terrified into immobility of the mouse in the room, nobody's able to go and bring the cat in.

The reason this is far beyond mortgages is that when all these big companies have a large amount of risky investments that they can't hedge against, they don't lend money, because they aren't comfortable knowing how much spare they have.

When these large financial institutions don't lend money, people can't get home loans, home improvement loans, student loans, car loans, business loans. This trickles down to every single segment of society, from CEOs to greeters at Home Depot to startups to teachers to mechanics.

That's the disaster that we need to avert. And it pisses me off to no end that we're in the situation where we HAVE to hand money over. I've railed against this in public and private, but of all the insane things about it that make me deeply infuriated, the worst of all is that now that it's gotten to this point, we have no real choice. We're forced to make a move like this.

I too want heads to roll. The most common phrase around the office regarding this is 'Heads. On. Pikes.' There must be accountability, and it must be large and visible, not detail-oriented and generally annoying like Sarbanes-Oxley. Several CEOs should lose their jobs, sans parachutes. Several of the regulations which were eliminated in 1999 will be reinstated. Maybe there'll even be CEO compensation limits, and some government ownership of these companies in exchange for government assistance.

The reason that '700 Billion' was picked out of the air, is not because there's some knowledge of how much of these securitized mortgages there are out there (there isn't, and if there was, I bet it'd be a lot more than $1T). It's because what is needed, far more than anything else, is a symbol of motion. It's for one person to come into that room of fear-frozen people, and corner the mouse for a few minutes while someone else goes and grabs the cat. It had to be a number that shocks the conscience, because otherwise people would be asking nervously, 'Is..that going to be enough...?' And calming fear is, in the end, what this is really about.

That all said, one political party has de-regulation as an express political plank of their platform. I know I'm generally preaching to the choir here, but they should learn just how out-of-touch that particular political plank is on November 4th.

-- Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

Originally published at CyberFOX Inc. Blog.
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Hmph. Music memes...

I don't know why this post from shaterri drew me in...but it was pretty easy.

All I had to do was pull up iTunes, and look at the top played songs from that list...  :)

The first is one of my favorite lustful-but-not-explicit songs.  The second is an iconic 80's song for me.  The list is generally part of my caffeine replacement plan, with a few exceptions for cute...

Anyhow, all of these are in my regular playlists.  Luka is last, because if it comes up, I have to be in the right mood, or I'll skip it.
44. Touch Me (I Want Your Body), Samantha Fox
1. Walk Like An Egyptian, Bangles
12. Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung
19. Mony Mony, Billy Idol
18. I Think We're Alone Now, Tiffany
98. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party, Beastie Boys
24. I Want Your Sex, George Michael
37. Control, Janet Jackson
75. Big Time, Peter Gabriel
40. Land Of Confusion, Genesis
26. Only In My Dreams, Debbie Gibson
58. La Isla Bonita, Madonna
52. Luka, Suzanne Vega
1987 also saw the release of New Order's Substance album, which contains one of my all time favorite pure energy songs, Shellshock.  It was actually released in 1986, but I encountered it off that album.  Also, Erasure released Circus that year, which had a bonus CD track, a wonderful synth version of "In the Hall Of the Mountain King" which has remained on my playlist in one form or another since then.

--  Morgan
  • Current Mood
    amused amused

S. California wants to be...Western New York


So I've had this in my playlist for years,  but shuffle just brought it up again, and the need to push it welled up.  It may only make sense to folks who've lived in New York and California, but...

Dar Williams - Southern California wants to be Western New York

It's not my usual fare (leaning more towards meaningless high energy pop, techno, etc., and the occasional story-rock), but it makes me oddly nostalgic.  :)

--  Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

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  • Current Music
    Dar Williams - Southern California wants to be Western New York
  • Tags

Re: "When vendors get nuts"

This is in response to:
"When vendors get nuts"

I'm not sure I deserve the shout-out from Kelly G, but I appreciate it! :)

To address one point in the post, though, you have to step back a minute and remember that those McAfee posts are probably made by one of their devs.  They're human and, while it's been over 13 years since I've been anywhere near there, they probably wish that the company was unnecessary as much as we did back then.

We (meaning I) always used to dream (not fear!) that Microsoft would destroy the anti-virus business by actually implementing a good file and disk security system in DOS...only in nightmares did we imagine that it'd be 2007 and this crap would still be around.  I lay most of the blame at Microsoft's door, for some fundamental design failures (too-easy blending of data and code), but it's also possible we didn't do enough to evangelize TO the OS vendors.

Still, shareholders be damned; for the people in the trenches of anti-virus work, what many REALLY wanted is the world to be a better place, so our software wasn't necessary.

It was often quite exciting work, and I freely admit I made a small bundle out of it (not anywhere near as much as some, and I got screwed by the IRS in the end!), but there was always that thought of, 'I wish these twits would stop writing this crap.'

Every single time you talk to a customer (which even devs did back then) it was driven home once more how much heartache viruses caused people.

What I wouldn't give to take every person who wants to write a virus because they think it's 'cool', to sit on a customer support line for a few hours, talking to people who've been hurt by viruses.  :(

I've never (before or after) been exactly a law-abiding citizen online, but after my experience at McAfee I had a very strong aversion to building things that can cause pain to others.

There are people who build viruses because they're paid to, and there's nothing really to be done about that, and there are people who don't care about anybody because of psychological issues...
If you just think it's cool, though...just imagine someone you cared about, losing all their data, because of what you're doing.  Find a better hobby.

--  Morgan Schweers

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The Daily Show!


Melissa and I got to see the Daily Show! June 4, 2007, with Ron Paul (the Republican's Kucinich). Melissa found out about 2 days ago that tickets had become available, and we jumped on it. We got there in line about 3 hours early, and were about 10th in line.


They had a warm-up with a comedian who came out and joked around with the audience, and then introduced Jon himself.

Jon was GREAT. I'm really happy we got to go and see it in person! It's really just as long as the show, no retakes or anything.

We're still giddy, it was a real blast!

-- Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

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A Knife, a Fork, a Bottle and a Cork...


I'm in New York.

Glen Cove, my home town, to be precise. Even more precisely, I'm staying at a mansion converted to a hotel that is one block away from the high school I graduated from. :)

I still remember the structure of Glen Cove (despite having never driven here), but most of the details are new... It's a strange feeling coming back after about 14 years.

Anyhow, I'm off to show my wife around my old stomping grounds...
-- Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

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George, WA


(Sorry, technical will have to be included later!)

So my wife and I are in the midst of a grand adventure, driving across the top of the country. Starting from Seattle, heading to New York, puttering around there for a few days, and heading home.

We left on Saturday, around 1pm, after saying good bye to our good friends who are watching our house and cat (whom we also said goodbye to). First, a stop at a local drugstore to pick up a chotsky to act as our talisman for the trip. We then started for the eastern half of Washington, with the fervent hope that we could get out of the state before the end of the day...

Cresting the Snoqualmie pass, there was a traffic advisory for just a few miles accident had left a mess of traffic behind. A mess that mostly involved putting the car into Park, while still on the freeway (but by a beautiful lake!), and just waiting.

That seemed to clear up entirely all at once, without much of the slow growing back to speed that normal traffic jams get, so about an hour later we were moving at a decent clip again, and once again hopeful (although less so) that we'd make it out of the state.

At one point along the way, we saw a sign for 'Wild Horses Monument', and decided to take a breather and check it out. It was also a lookout point, which gave a beautiful view of the valley below. The main point of the monument, however, was a metal sculpture set up on the top of a nearby hill (with a very steep climb up to it) of a herd of horses along the hilltop, silhouetted against the sky. It's very evocative, and worth a stop, although we decided it wasn't worth climbing up to also...

Washington is a truly exquisite state, and the forests and lakes gave way to rolling farmland, and some neat traveler-friendly features. For example, for about 14 miles, someone decided to put signs on the fence beside the freeway, every odd while, with the name of the crops that were being grown at that particular point. Peas, Field and Sweet Corn, Potatoes, Wheat, and even Peppermint flew by.

And then things turned ugly. :) In the back half of WA, we found a small town, whose city name in the ubiquitous green freeway signs, read simply, 'George'. A few groans later, and we had reached this annoyingly named town... There, they had a business named 'Valley Forge Fruits', and 'Martha's Inn', and the home of the Half-Ton Cherry Pie. *sigh*

We started punning (*I* started punning, I should say, despite physical threats against me, and it dragged out my wife's competitive nature to respond with puns), and that brought us through a lot of the remainder of the state...

After reaching Spokane, and realizing that indeed, we would make it out of state (albeit barely), we made the decision to end in Couer d'Alene, ID. The small panhandle of Idaho was our stopping point for the first day.

Driving down the main street, the first thing we saw were a pair of Very Large feathers, like from a seagull, but scaled up to truck size. Confused, but dutifully camera-happy, we caught one of them in the camera, and moved on...

Also in Couer d'Alene was the large burger-hoisting Paul Bunyan cutout, which we dutifully took pictures in front of, and Melissa got an onion rings from the associated Paul Bunyan Famous Hamburger. (Mini-review: 'Greasy and tasty as onion rings should be.')

Back to our hotel, across the street for some Outback (and a photo with the outsized alligator in front), and back to the hotel to crash...

Oh, and I finished about 1/2 of The Hobbit over the course of the day, another purchase in the drug store we started from.

All in all a good first day; out of the state, and the speed limit started being 75, which didn't really change my driving, but more merely legitimized my normal speed.

Sunday was all about the Future Pot Roasts of America. ;)

-- Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

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Hackety Hack!


Programming should be fun, it's what gets us programmers into it in the first place, and it's what keeps us going at it.

Too many layers have been heaped on programming these days; most IDEs are oppressive, process-oriented beasts.

I, and many other programmers, have been concerned about how the next generation of programmers are going to be introduced to the joy of programming when all the tools out there seem to suck the fun out of it.

Enter why the lucky stiff, and Hackety Hack!. Taking one back to the days when programming was as easy as typing something in, and hitting enter. :)

Hackety Hack! is about learning to program, and being able to do really cool things in a very few short lines.

I've been a fan of _why for a while, with a really wild approach to teaching Ruby, and a lot of really interesting code, and this is even cooler.

If you're new to programming, or have kids, or just want to play with one of the simplest ways to write programs, get Hackety Hack!

-- Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

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