Bookmarks for April 18th through April 19th

These are my links for April 18th through April 19th:

Bookmarks for April 12th from 17:02 to 19:13

These are my links for April 12th from 17:02 to 19:13:

Bookmarks for April 11th through April 12th

These are my links for April 11th through April 12th:

  • Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds – Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.
  • The dark side of Dubai – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent – "Dubai was meant to be a Middle-Eastern Shangri-La, a glittering monument to Arab enterprise and western capitalism. But as hard times arrive in the city state that rose from the desert sands, an uglier story is emerging."
  • Topless Robot – Hot Girls Have Lightsaber Strip-Fight for Your Viewing Pleasure – Star Wars CGI meets fake body spray ad
  • Poll Result: Best VPN to leap China’s Great Firewall? – Thomas Crampton – - Witopia – Undisputed winner. Quality of service, speed of surfing, though it is said to be relatively expensive at US$50 to US$60 per year. Hotspot Shield – Bandwidth limits can be painful. Force you to wait until the next month if you use it too much. – Ultrasurf – StrongVPN
  • InfoQ: Facebook: Science and the Social Graph – In this presentation filmed during QCon SF 2008 (November 2008), Aditya Agarwal discusses Facebook’s architecture, more exactly the software stack used, presenting the advantages and disadvantages of its major components: LAMP (PHP, MySQL), Memcache, Thrift, Scribe.
  • The Running Man, Revisited § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM – a handful of scientists think that these ultra-marathoners are using their bodies just as our hominid forbears once did, a theory known as the endurance running hypothesis (ER). ER proponents believe that being able to run for extended lengths of time is an adapted trait, most likely for obtaining food, and was the catalyst that forced Homo erectus to evolve from its apelike ancestors.

Bookmarks for March 12th through March 16th

These are my links for March 12th through March 16th:

Bookmarks for March 3rd from 05:48 to 12:10

These are my links for March 3rd from 05:48 to 12:10:

Bookmarks for March 2nd from 10:48 to 21:40

These are my links for March 2nd from 10:48 to 21:40:

Bookmarks for February 28th through March 1st

These are my links for February 28th through March 1st:

  • Community Data – Swivel – User contributed datasets, for visualization and graphs with Swivel
  • Obamameter – Map visualization of economic stimulus outlays. "Keep tabs on the the US economy, the global economy and the stimulus through our dashboard for the economy."
  • – Slide presentation on data sources and construction of initial site in Jan 2009, from talk at Transparency Camp.
  • Virtual Hoff : DoxPara Research – Slides from Dan Kaminsky's talk at CloudCamp Seattle on network and application security issues in cloud and virtualized computing environments.
  • Can You Buy a Silicon Valley? Maybe. – from Paul Graham – "If you could get startups to stick to your town for a million apiece, then for a billion dollars you could bring in a thousand startups. That probably wouldn't push you past Silicon Valley itself, but it might get you second place. For the price of a football stadium, any town that was decent to live in could make itself one of the biggest startup hubs in the world."
  • Berkshire Hathaway 2008 shareholders letter (PDF) – Warren Buffet reviews the state of the financial markets, his worst year ever, and the outlook for 2009.
  • White House 2: Where YOU set the nation’s priorities – Not the actual White House, but an interesting experiment in collaborative input for setting government agenda.
  • Python for Lisp Programmers – Peter Norvig examines Python. "(Although it wasn't my intent, Python programers have told me this page has helped them learn Lisp.) Basically, Python can be seen as a dialect of Lisp with "traditional" syntax (what Lisp people call "infix" or "m-lisp" syntax). One message on comp.lang.python said "I never understood why LISP was a good idea until I started playing with python." Python supports all of Lisp's essential features except macros, and you don't miss macros all that much because it does have eval, and operator overloading, and regular expression parsing, so you can create custom languages that way. "

Bookmarks for February 16th through February 17th

These are my links for February 16th through February 17th:

  • Top 100 Network Security Tools – Many many security testing and hacking tools.
  • FRONTLINE: inside the meltdown: watch the full program – "On Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008, the astonished leadership of the U.S. Congress was told in a private session by the chairman of the Federal Reserve that the American economy was in grave danger of a complete meltdown within a matter of days. "There was literally a pause in that room where the oxygen left," says Sen. Christopher Dodd"
  • The Dark Matter of a Startup – "Every successful startup that I have seen has someone within their ranks that just kinda “does stuff.” No one really knows specifically what they do, but its vital to the success of the startup."
  • Why I Hate Frameworks – "A hammer?" he asks. "Nobody really buys hammers anymore. They're kind of old fashioned…we started selling schematic diagrams for hammer factories, enabling our clients to build their own hammer factories, custom engineered to manufacture only the kinds of hammers that they would actually need."
  • Mining The Thought Stream – Lots of comments around what is Twitter good for and how will it make money, revolving around real/near-time search, analytics, marketing, etc.
  • Understanding Web Operations Culture – the Graph & Data Obsession … – Comparison of traffic at Flickr, Google, Twitter, during the Obama inauguration. "One of the most interesting parts of running a large website is watching the effects of unrelated events affecting user traffic in aggregate."

Bookmarks for February 14th through February 15th

These are my links for February 14th through February 15th:

Rice shortage reaches Mountain View Costco?

In the recent weeks the rising costs of agricultural grain production has lead to shortages and riots in various parts of the world, including Indonesia, Vietnam, and other countries. Nonetheless, I was surprised to see this article today describing rice shortages in the US, including at the local Costco over in Mountain View:

At a Costco Warehouse in Mountain View, Calif., yesterday, shoppers grew frustrated and occasionally uttered expletives as they searched in vain for the large sacks of rice they usually buy.

“Where’s the rice?” an engineer from Palo Alto, Calif., Yajun Liu, said. “You should be able to buy something like rice. This is ridiculous.”

The bustling store in the heart of Silicon Valley usually sells four or five varieties of rice to a clientele largely of Asian immigrants, but only about half a pallet of Indian-grown Basmati rice was left in stock. A 20-pound bag was selling for $15.99.

I’ll have to take a look next time I’m over there. Fortunately we’re still pretty well stocked up with big sacks of rice from the Korean grocery store.


Update 4/24/2008 18:00 PDT – Some pictures of empty pallets and a sign at Costco

Current NYSE circuit breaker levels: -1350, -2700

Looks like no one was impressed by Bernanke’s non-intervention on Thursday and the Bush/Paulson send-everyone-800-bucks stimulus package. US markets are closed for Martin Luther King Day, but the rest of the world is open, and down hard. DJ futures are showing something like -520 for tomorrow’s open, around 11586. The NYSE circuit breaker rules don’t kick in until a 10% move (1350 points), which would be somewhere around 10740. (The thresholds get reset every quarter.)

Don’t think we’ll see that tomorrow, but the way things have been going recently, it’s not out of the question. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a last-ditch central bank intervention tomorrow morning before the open, either. I think they missed their chance on Thursday, but I also don’t think the Fed has the luxury of waiting until the official FOMC meeting January 29 for their next move.

Hey, remind me again, who’s the Fed Chair?

Fed chair Ben Bernanke appeared before the House Budget Committee this morning, giving a prepared statement, then taking questions from the panel members. Aside from the content of his comments (growth is slowing, we’re not in a recession, some quick economic stimulus would be good), I always find it unsettling to see and hear the questions from our elected officials on the budget committee, as they tend to make speeches posing as questions, that sometimes border on the absurd. Basically, they pretend to ask questions, and the Fed Chair pretends to give answers.

One congresswoman had Ben Bernanke confused with Hank Paulsen, (former head of Goldman Sachs, now Treasury Secretary) in a prepared question asking if the bankers who caused the credit market problems would repay their bonuses and salaries to the American people. You’d think at least her staff would be able to keep track of who was at Treasury and Fed. Ben probably wishes he had the bonuses she wanted him to repay.

The short term trading question tonight is whether we see the widely-expected “surprise” rate cut premarket tomorrow to ambush the index option traders before the open, like the discount window cut before the August 17 options expiration. Unlike equity options, US index options mostly settle based on the opening trades on expiration day. Futures are creeping up overnight, in case. But they already pulled that trick once, and everyone is watching for it, which means that even if they do it again, it won’t work as well as last time.

2008 so far: S&P down 9.2%, DJ -8.33%, Nas -11.51%

Update 01-19-2008 09:15 PT – The confused congresswoman is Marcy Kaptur currently on her 13th (!) term as US Representative from Ohio.

“CEO of the Princeton Economics Department”. At least he has a sense of humor.

US housing and the stock market

In the past ten years (1996-2006), the NAHB homebuilders index tends to lead the performance of the S&P 500 by 12 months. The index goes from is based on a survey of homebuilding companies views on current sales, the outlook for the next 6 months, and the current level of prospective buyer traffic. This month was the 7th monthly drop in a row, and is a 15-year low.

In the period from 1985 to 1996, there is no correlation between the housing and stock market, so this could optimistically be viewed as a temporary coincidence. On the other hand, asset class correlations have been going up for a while. Draw your own conclusions, but real estate prices, home builders, and mortgage lenders are clearly having a difficult time recently.

John Mauldin has pulled together some observations on the housing market in his newsletter this week, leading with the graph above from David Rosenberg at Merrill Lynch. (Free e-mail registration required, but worthwhile reading.)

Here in the Bay Area, real estate prices are chronically high, ranging from “insanely high” to just “overpriced”. Here’s the pessimistic view. At least you can live in your overpriced house if you have enough cash to support it. I know of at least one dot-com zillionaire who lucked out by overpaying for his house in cash before the crash. The house went from something like $6M to $4M, but his stock went from something like $100M to $2M.

More on the housing market from Barry Ritholtz.