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1st-Apr-2009 03:00 pm - Xfce 4.6 -- Mandriva rules Wind
Okay, I've got quite a nicely working Xfce 4.6 finally set up on my Wind U100.
I first tried Xubuntu 9.04 beta 1, the first to provide wi-fi support, but window sizig was such that some cotrols couldn't be reached in the 600 pixels vertical.  In fact, I has to install it usig their "alternate," text-based CD because of that.
I tried several others that failed wifi, but Intel's Moblin alpha 2 initially seemed promising -- certainly very fast -- but proved unsatisfactory because I couldn't find any way to install non-free codecs.  That got me to thinking about Fedora (on which Moblin is based) -- perhaps version 11 would support the Ralink wifi? Nope.
Finally, Mandriva "One" Spring 2009.  It has KDE 4.2+ on the CD I had (I'd not used it because I saw sizing problems on my ATI graphics desktop), but it was a 12-minute task to dowload Xfce from their repositories, log out and log back in with Xfce selected in session manager.
Most importantly, Firefox loads almost as fast as Chrome does in Windows. Second, the trasparency effects are similar to OS X Leopard and add considerable fuzz-pleasure.  Finally, it seems most video files can be played, albeit without picture controls one takes for granted in KMplayer (the Windows Korean one) or Media Player Classic Home Cinema with ffdshow. Xine crashed to a new session playing a Matroska with both srt and ass subtitles embedded; mplayer impressed by playing it very nicely.  Xine is better for XviD  avi files with external subs.
I do gotta wonder about what's going one with Intel developing a netbook Linux, HP cosidering an Android netbook, Nokia considering selling netbooks (what OS?), Windows 7 slim-down tailoring for netbooks, and a slim-down, too, in OS X Snow Leopard, seemingly making that a feasible netbook OS.  I fact, I do have Leopard bootable from a 16Gb SD card in this Wind, and it is quite usable...
In truth, I think Xfce is the "nicest" OS of the three now installed here, setting aside issues of software availability.
Summarizing, I suppose Xfce.org deserves a tip of the hat, and, as to Madriva... Mandriva really isn't getting a fair share of plaudits.  Their "One" CDs install easily on more occasions on more of my five Wintel PCs than any other distro.  Most particularly, that includes Ubuntu which has ever more complications and misfires.
Edit: I belatedly discovered that WEP doesn't work in Spring 2009 Mandriva One RC1.
Aaaah, shucks!
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24th-Mar-2009 03:20 am - Topsy-turvy option contrarianism
I imagine that today's 7.1% gain for the S&P 500, bringing the 10-day run to 21.6% -- said to be the S&P's largest since 1938 -- can be pointed to as the happy event I've been awaiting for too long (since early February).
I wondered on Friday whether to go with Bill Luby's alarum about exceptional call vs. put volumes on the CBOE (typically a contrary indicator since that says many expect rises) or go with the less-well-documented "Down on Friday betokens fear" (especially when Monday rises) tool I attribute to myself. 
I'm finding that many investor sentiment indicators based on activity in calls and puts have done a 180 degree turn -- the option buyers now seem to be right! Why this might be... Perhaps we're seeing only one side of the activity and the other part of it involves futures in some sort of intricate arbitrage?  Weird things are possible in a world with zero percent interest rates.
I remain confident that markets aren't operating in a manner that will enrich; if anything, the urgency of today's rise signals some desperate activity to cut losses.  Likely it'll take a while for us to learn who got burned.
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19th-Mar-2009 04:58 pm - Money slosh?
I liked a headline in the Dow Jones Market Watch column today which said, if I correctly recall: "Comic books and baseball cards next?" It referred to the expanded list of acceptable collateral that can be offered the Fed for monetization.
Granted, there's lots of people who understand these things far better than I (James Grant has, I think, a private line to the Almighty), but I do see signs of money going into very speculative miners.  Might arctic diamond explorers be next?
Oh, I'm pleased enough with a 2.57% for my portfolio overall today (three of five up, with AGQ 2x silver leading), but I see not just Coeur d'Alene (+32%) but some gamy Vancouver-type specs up very sharply.  OMG, that Inca Pacific I bought years ago (in a package which included a penny stock, Mar-West, that has ultimately turned into Goldcorp) was up 33%! Perhaps that Peregrine Diamonds embarrassment I dare not look at the quote for may yet soar!
I recall one penny gold miner (it actually produced the stuff) going bankrupt, and yet I still got out with a profit because it turned out that Continental Illinois Bank had illegally loaned them money they didn't have to repay.
I think that today I saw tender springtime shoots of money slosh speculation.  Seemingly, as in the second half of 1982, it's happening in the gamiest "real asset" explorers.
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18th-Mar-2009 03:01 pm - don't do something...
"Don't just do something..."
That's the motto that works best for me currently.
I'm amazed that any portfolio change I consider immediately proves itself wrong-headed.
Boy, to think I seriously the double-short Treasury ETF. TBT is off 7% as I write this on news the Fed is buying it's own securities.
Breathtaking, too, is how that goosed gold, up $50 from day's lows.
This does have to restore one's faith that some secrets can be held in Washington.
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12th-Mar-2009 02:59 pm - The consumer amazes
That's how I see today's major economic indicator.
It pretty well matches evidence of my eyes: the hell with doom, I want to buy something!
Especially good for the stock market is that this evidence is yet again being pooh-poohed.
I think recovery is already in progress.  I now suspect that the force dragging markets down the last two months was fear of government-sponsored death spiral financing -- commonly referred to as nationalization.
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This week's American Association of Individual Investors sentiment survey reports investor bearishness att 70.3%, vs. 18.9% bullish. This is the highest bearishness level report since AAII began tracking investor sentiment in 1987.
Something wonderful is going to happen?

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Boy, that's what I thought first when I saw tonight's (US - EST) headlines about political/corporate payoffs.  So many years later, the Japanese bubble STILL hasn't been popped -- it likely hasn't been allowed to by continuing fraud knowingly acceded to by politicians.
Gawd, I recall kicking around notions of long yen positions as somehow being "safe"...
The magnitude of mysterious "macro" forces have been overwhelming lesser forces like contrary opinion psychology.
After 30 hours I have to remind myself that the one thing that can lead the world out of recession is the American consumer.  Let's not expect China to be the new "engine"...
Saying or acting on anything else is the sucker bet: "This time it's going to be differen."
Now, one thing that worries me is how often I see that phrase.  But, what comforts me is that it usually appears in the context of somebody admitting that it usually isn't any different, but, all the same, this time it really, truly IS different.
A dedicated and unapologetic (though bruised) contrarian, I fancied the first two of these these headlines as signaling resignation to endless bear-dom.
The third is intriguing because it suggests the question:
Can China lead the world out of recession?

Stocks Drop Worldwide, Treasuries Gain on Concern About Economy

March 2 (Bloomberg)
By Cristina Alesci and Lynn Thomasson
"Options investors are paying twice this decade’s average to protect against losses in U.S. stocks through 2011...
'There’s a real panic in the markets, with some people wanting to buy long-term insurance at any price,' said Peter Sorrentino...at Huntington Asset Advisors Inc. 'People have lost hope.'
Options traders see little chance of relief..."

Asian Shrs End Higher; Shanghai's Surge Leads Rebound
Dow Jones Newswires
By V. Phani Kumar, Rosalind Mathieson and Kirsty Green
"It's difficult to expect anything right now, because there are multiple uncertain factors at work. Anything goes wrong in Europe or the U.S. and we have a ripple effect globally," said Steve Cheng, associate director at Shenyin Wanguo. 'The one thing I can say confidently is that this year isn't going to be good for the stock investor.'"

Beijing May Need To Step Up Spending Compared To US
Wall Street Journal Asia
By Terence Poon
The stimulus plan as it now stands is likely to produce a budget deficit equal to 2% to 3% of China's gross domestic product, according to analysts. That's up from last year's slight 0.4% deficit and a reversal of 2007's 0.7% surplus.
In the realm of budget deficits, the 3% China is contemplating is small compared with what U.S. President Barack Obama is asking for -- 12.3% of GDP -- from Congress.
China's government debt -- at 20.9% of GDP in 2007, based on data from the Ministry of Finance -- is comparatively low.
U.S. government debt was 61% of GDP in 2007, and Japan's debt was nearly twice its GDP in 2006, according to the most recently available data from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF estimates Japan's debt ratio rose slightly in 2007.
Steve Leuthold, whose Grizzly Short Fund returned 74 percent last year betting against U.S. stocks, said now is the time to buy equities because investors are too fearful about the economy. The economy isn’t as bad as it was in 1974, when stocks began rebounding, said Minneapolis-based Leuthold. He predicted the S&P 500 will surge to at least 1,000 in 2009, representing a gain of 44 percent from yesterday’s 12-year low of 696.33.

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25th-Feb-2009 03:43 pm - Monetizing SIVs
"The money supply is expanding at its fastest pace since 2002 notes Jim Grant [publisher of Grant's
Interest Rate Observer] because the Fed is"stuffing the banks with dollars." The question is when the
economy recovers whether central bankers will affect an orderly wind down of the money supply.
Grant for one doubts it.
Part of the problem the Fed will have with reducing the money supply when the economy recovers is that
the securities it has to sell are less liquid than its typical holdings of U.S Treasury bonds. Shrinking the
money base by selling Treasury securities is a breeze compared to selling, say, the structured
investment vehicle (SIV) called Maiden Lane III L.L.C. a current holding of the Fed. This SIV is stuffed full
of "multi-sector collateralized debt obligations", which happen to be the former toxic mortgage assets of
insurer AIG."
Source: Financial Post Feb 19,'09
FEDERAL RESERVE statistical release

Factors Affecting Reserve Balances of Depository Institutions and
Condition Statement of Federal Reserve Banks
                                                                                          February 19, 2009
1. Factors Affecting Reserve Balances of Depository Institutions
Millions of dollars
Reserve Bank credit, related items, and                            Averages of daily figures
reserve balances of depository institutions at            Week ended   Change from week ended     Wednesday
Federal Reserve Banks                                    Feb 18, 2009 Feb 11, 2009 Feb 20, 2008 Feb 18, 2009

Reserve Bank credit                                       1,907,301   +   76,895   +1,040,281    1,897,237
  Securities held outright                                  570,419   +   56,301   -  142,945      573,625       
    U.S. Treasury securities (1)                            474,790   -      120   -  238,574      474,756
      Bills (2)                                              18,423            0   -  181,937       18,423
      Notes and bonds, nominal (2)                          412,914            0   -   57,096      412,914
      Notes and bonds, inflation-indexed (2)                 39,378            0   +      941       39,378
      Inflation compensation (3)                              4,077   -      120   -      481        4,042
    Federal agency debt securities (2)                       32,558   +      727   +   32,558       33,577
    Mortgage-backed securities (4)                           63,071   +   55,694   +   63,071       65,292
  Repurchase agreements (5)                                       0            0   -   43,536            0
  Term auction credit                                       447,563   +   34,680   +  387,563      447,563  
  Other loans                                               143,230   +       24   +  143,007      140,493
    Primary credit                                           65,992   +    1,418   +   65,772       65,144
    Secondary credit                                              4   -       31   +        4            0
    Seasonal credit                                               3   -        1            0            2
    Primary dealer and other broker-dealer credit (6)        26,001   +      196   +   26,001       25,268
    Asset-backed Commercial Paper Money Market
      Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility                         13,875   -    1,236   +   13,875       12,722
    Credit extended to American International
      Group, Inc. (7)                                        37,355   -      322   +   37,355       37,357
    Other credit extensions                                       0            0            0            0
  Net portfolio holdings of Commercial Paper 
    Funding Facility LLC (8)                                250,358   -    5,795   +  250,358      248,671
  Net portfolio holdings of LLCs funded through
    the Money Market Investor Funding Facility (9)                0            0            0            0
  Net portfolio holdings of Maiden Lane LLC (10)             25,883   +       20   +   25,883       25,917
  Net portfolio holdings of Maiden Lane II LLC (11)          18,631   -       43   +   18,631       18,640
  Net portfolio holdings of Maiden Lane III LLC (12)         27,639   +      111   +   27,639       27,674
  Float                                                      -1,903   +      405   -      612       -3,205
  Central bank liquidity swaps (13)                         379,687   -    9,984   +  369,687      375,005
  Other Federal Reserve assets (14)                          45,793   +    1,176   +    4,606       42,854
Gold stock                                                   11,041            0            0       11,041
Special drawing rights certificate account                    2,200            0            0        2,200
Treasury currency outstanding (15)                           38,772   +       14   +       92       38,772
Total factors supplying reserve funds                     1,959,314   +   76,909   +1,040,373    1,949,250

Note: Components may not sum to totals because of rounding.  Footnotes appear on the following page.

1. Factors Affecting Reserve Balances of Depository Institutions, continued
Millions of dollars
Reserve Bank credit, related items, and                            Averages of daily figures
reserve balances of depository institutions at            Week ended   Change from week ended     Wednesday
Federal Reserve Banks                                    Feb 18, 2009 Feb 11, 2009 Feb 20, 2008 Feb 18, 2009

Currency in circulation (15)                                894,231   +    4,629   +   77,171      895,101
Reverse repurchase agreements (16)                           72,993   +    2,746   +   35,016       70,804
  Foreign official and international accounts                72,993   +    2,746   +   35,016       70,804
  Dealers                                                         0            0            0            0
Treasury cash holdings                                          270   -        3   +        1          277
Deposits with F.R. Banks, other than reserve balances       252,604   -   16,512   +  241,588      228,031       
  U.S. Treasury, general account                             31,082   -    5,424   +   27,221       20,501
  U.S. Treasury, supplementary financing account            199,950            0   +  199,950      199,950
  Foreign official                                            2,445   +      426   +    2,347        2,777
  Service-related                                             4,474   +       42   -    2,274        4,474
    Required clearing balances                                4,474   +       42   -    2,274        4,474
    Adjustments to compensate for float                           0            0            0            0
  Other                                                      14,653   -   11,556   +   14,343          329
Other liabilities and capital (17)                           50,231   +      457   +    7,759       50,374

Total factors, other than reserve balances,                                        
   absorbing reserve funds                                1,270,329   -    8,682   +  361,535    1,244,587

Reserve balances with Federal Reserve Banks                 688,984   +   85,590   +  678,837      704,663
Note: Components may not sum to totals because of rounding.

1. Includes securities lent to dealers under the overnight and term securities lending facilities; refer
   to table 1A.  
2. Face value of the securities. 
3. Compensation that adjusts for the effect of inflation on the original face value of inflation-indexed
4. Guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae.  Current face value of the securities, which is 
   the remaining principal balance of the underlying mortgages.  
5. Cash value of agreements.
6. Includes credit extended through the Primary Dealer Credit Facility and credit extended to certain
   other broker-dealers.
7. Excludes credit extended to consolidated LLCs.
8. Refer to table 6 and the note on consolidation accompanying table 9.
9. Refer to table 7 and the note on consolidation accompanying table 9.
10. Refer to table 3 and the note on consolidation accompanying table 9.
11. Refer to table 4 and the note on consolidation accompanying table 9.
12. Refer to table 5 and the note on consolidation accompanying table 9.
13. Dollar value of foreign currency held under these agreements valued at the exchange rate to be used when 
    the foreign currency is returned to the foreign central bank.  This exchange rate equals the market exchange 
    rate used when the foreign currency was acquired from the foreign central bank.
14. Includes other assets denominated in foreign currencies, which are revalued daily at market exchange rates.
15. Estimated.
16. Cash value of agreements, which are collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities.
17. Includes the liabilities of Commercial Paper Funding Facility LLC, the LLCs funded through the Money Market 
    Investor Funding Facility, Maiden Lane LLC, Maiden Lane II LLC, and Maiden Lane III LLC to entities other 
    than the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, including liabilities that have recourse only to the portfolio 
    holdings of these LLCs.  Refer to table 3 through table 7 and the note on consolidation accompanying table 9.

Sources: Federal Reserve Banks and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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I saw that Mushi-shi is in the top ranked TV anime series at AnimeNewsNetwork, so I got it.
Halfway through episode 1, I recognized that this is an artistic masterpiece on a par with Bambi (think Monet), and with a story line better than the other well-liked animist anime (unimpressive to me) Mononoke.
So, the challenge was how to put it on my iPod Touch.  It turned out that my favorite converter program, iLove 3.83 final, doesn't work.
I found the basics of the solution by cetra3
XViD4PSP has been maintained and improved in the more than a year since, and I especially liked the "Unblock" and "Vivid" settings for image tweaking especially good for this anime; there's also a +1, +1 deeper in X264 encoder settings (supposed to soften edges) that I set because that's what's best in Handbrake (which doesn't work on this).  I confirmed what Handbrake warned: enabling Cabac prevents playback on the iPod.  I like how the image can be resized to the Apple 480x320 1.5 aspect ratio using an option called SAR, which is said to squash the pixels.  With this anime series, output looks fine, quite possibly because the original art may not have been 16:9 aspect ratio.
My one addition to the procedure cetra3 described is a step of converting the extracted *.ass subtitles file to more standard *.srt using Subtitle Workshop .  Unfortunately, the /Temp directory has to be cleared after each encode; that's where the sound track is placed and it's necessary to do the audio rip (of the Japanese, not English, of course!) first; (check that folder to see that the file is in Japanese before proceeding). Happily, there's an option to amplify the sound and down-mix to stereo.
Each encode is taking about 40 minutes using two passes and aiming for 135Mb per episode.  That's way over the top, but for a show this beautiful, it seems appropriate.  The program can encode in the background while doing other tasks -- I wrote this while episode seven got done.
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24th-Feb-2009 12:16 pm - Unseen guiding hand
The median price for a home sold in Phoenix is down more than 40% in a year, to $130,000, and sales are up 63% from a year ago.
Two homebuilders with significant involvement there are up on the report: DR Horton and Pulte Homes, by about six and nine percent respectively. 
Since the November 21 stock market close, the two are up 98% and 34%, respectively.
If this time is just like all other bear market turnarounds (think 1974-5), homebuilders should be early leaders.
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21st-Feb-2009 03:07 pm - Gloomy Fridays
It's more than distressing to have been so wrong for so long -- the latter in two ways. Keeping me to the plus is my rightness on silver and Buffalo Wild Wings; the latter I really have got to count as luck.
I'm still uncontritely bullish, drawing special comfort from the prognostication of Alan Abelson in this week's Barron's that Dow 6000 is inevitable.
I suspect that many contrarian indicators count for little since people aren't backing up their opinions with money; what they foresee has as much weight as an answer to: "Do you think it'll rain?"
In commentary espied, I especially liked WSJ's Tomi Kilgore's suggestion that woory about gummint action on banks weighs more on markets than worries about bank soundness. I admit I'm troubled that the domino of Eastern Europe is not getting much attention...
One indicator I find encouraging is that we've had two down Fridays in a row -- that's as should be when investors worry what horrors could befall over a weekend.  When followed by a strongly up Monday, that's a sign that Murphy's Law is on the way to repeal.
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