Saturday, April 25, 2015

McLaren P1.



I think this has to be my favorite car right now. I wasn't sure how black was going to turn out. Since the day was so overcast my shots look a bit overexposed.









Meanwhile Back at Santana Row. Part 1.



Last month there was a Pagani leaving the Santana Row show as we arrived, so we got up extra early this month to see if we could catch it if we just got there earlier. We weren't even sure they were going to have the cars out today because we actually got rain last night. Do you drive a Pagani in the rain? I don't know.

Anyway, we show up and start to walk the mall, and all I see are Corvettes and Porches which I was not happy about. Throw in a DeLorean and I'm flat out miserable. These ingredients make up for the worst car show ever in my mind. Bored, bored, bored. I mean, the new Corvettes are okay. I'm just not into them.



Mr S. and I start trying to figure out how to kill time until the burger place opens for lunch. Usually we are entertained until about noon and right now this thing looks like a complete bust. So we keep walking the mall and off in the distance I see gull wing doors. At first I thought it could have been a wedding because people were pretty dressed up. Santana Row seems like and odd place for a wedding but it can really look magical at certain times of the year. They have fake churchy looking buildings and the whole bit. Who am I to judge someone's venue?



A whole bunch of people were all clustered around this car which I'd never seen before. It's an Ultima GTR. Apparently it's a kit car like the Noble. You can assemble it, or pay to have someone assemble it. The Noble's have someone in my city that does that. It turned out they had car models this month. It wasn't a wedding after all.

I have to say, kit cars are way better then when I was growing up. When I was growing up they always looked a little junky. These days they look really professionally done. Most times I have to ask if it's a kit or not. I wasn't sure with this one, but Mr S. thought it was a kit. In the day you never had to ask. They always looked kit-ty.

To be continued...















Friday, April 24, 2015

Sorry! I got spazzy and didn't include the link.



This has to be the funniest dog on the internet right now. Right? They've got their own channel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Exoskeletons are getting really good.



SRI has been working on this project for a few years, but it was the first time I'd seen it in real life and it really filled me with joy.

You see, this is science near and dear to my heart. As a child we had a close family friend who went out drinking. Passed out that night with his arm trapped between the bedpost and the wall. When he woke up the blood had been cut off to his arm, and they had to take it. This was back in the day when prosthetics looked like claw hands, and you used rubber bands to provide tension. It really affected me as a kid because he would tell us stories of the people who were in therapy with him. One was mauled by a bear and lost both legs and both arms. It was just really affecting how these people carried on with their lives afterward. I tried to be ambidextrous for a long time after that. The memories have always stuck with me and I'm always delighted at how much progress is being made to make these peoples lives more normal. Here.

I think the war has helped with the overall acceptance of people missing limbs. I love that prosthetics are at least somewhat fashionable these days.

The first thing that really excited me about seeing the Ekso exoskeleton was it looked like you could wear it under clothes and almost no one would know. It weighs only fifty pounds. I think people with traumatic injuries probably get tired of the extra attention a life altering injury hoists on them. I think they want to just look as normal as they can. The electronics in the back have gotten really small as you can see from this picture. Barely bigger than a back pack. Watch the video at the end because science may not be able to fix everything, but it can at least make things a little better. Eventually.

This gentleman was able to wear the Ekso to his wedding where he could stand instead of being in a chair. It's just really amazing stuff.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You can't make it real just by saying so.

Last night after Mr S. got home he asked me what I was thinking about. Since I'm a girl I said nothing. Isn't that what girls do? He replies - really? Because you have your thinking fist on. Immediately I'm like - what? Is that a thing? Then I realized - apparently I do have a thinking fist. Imagine resting your chin on your palm with your fingers covering your mouth. It's totally a thing. The thinking fist usually comes out when I am terrified.

Usually I get super terrified when the media tries to convince me that everything is great. For instance when I got up yesterday I'd read that Halliburton had bad earnings. Then good earnings. Then the earnings were so good that was the explanation of why the market was up so much. I actually spent a little bit of time trying to figure it out and finally gave up only to get my shit together later because they just laid off like 20,000 people. It's not a sign you are doing just fine. It's really hard to tell what is real right now.

Yesterday I read that everyone thought oil was going to repeat the rally of 2009. Which I thought was bullshit because in 2009 China was sucking up all the resources it could. It was the only growth on the planet. Also the oil market freaked me out a bit because it was apparent people in the oil industry seem to be taken by surprise by what was going on. In Silicon Valley maybe one or two companies in a sector misjudge the market - but not the whole sector! It was a huge red flag. If a whole sector does go tards up, you've got bigger problems.

As it turns out, I've been more right than the analysts just by looking at behavior rather than their words. Read: Where are all those peak oil assholes now? From Nov 11, 2014. What if oil doesn't go back up? Jan 29, 2015. And even as far back as Oct 2014 on Captain Capitalism in the comments under she_said. Here I predicted people might not spend their gas savings.

I don't even care about the oil market. I care about houses. Which is why this is a two-fer post. The same influences that make it delusional for the Fed to raise interest rates, are also at play in oil. A frighteningly weak global economy. These are the countries I can pick off the top of my head that are in record low interest rates. India and China are not included, but give them time. They keep lowering their interest rates as well. They just aren't in record territory yet.

UK/EU
Canada
Hungary
Mexico
Australia
Poland
Japan
South Korea
Germany
Sweden

This makes our dollar stronger because their currency is weak and hurts profits for US companies. I believe there is ZERO the Fed can do to change this factor except for printing to weaken our dollar. I bet every single one of those global companies are tightening their belts internally. Their profits are down. All of the employees in those  respective companies know this and also take small steps to tighten their belts. Who knows how the invisible hand works, but I believe this is the feedback mechanism for the deflationary spiral.

I don't think the oil carnage is over by a long shot because I don't see how those other countries get out of record low interest rates. I don't see how WE get out of record low interest rates. But then, it's always healthy to think you are wrong. I hope I am wrong. I just want to go back to my old life where I don't have to care about this crap all of the time. I'm tired.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Painted hills - end.



I've been debating on posting this shot. Since the hills are nearly brown now, most of the wildflowers now just look like a big ugly bruise. If I showed you shot show 180 degrees in the other direction, I would call it completely brown. But this area got some of the super spotty rain about a week ago.

Look, it's all I've got. From here on out, things get super sketch and irritating.

As a side note - People are willing to rip out their lawns all over town, yet are too cheap to put in more efficient sprinklers. Most people have sprinklers that send a mist up in the air, but if you pay a couple more bucks for each head you can buy the kind that gives you larger droplets. I'm just putting this out now because I'm pretty sure the whole effing low flow toilet market has been tapped. They have been selling them the whole time I've been alive.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Big Wow comicfest 2015



San Jose doesn't normally have the comic fest - it normally has anime. The comicfest used to be in S.F. before it moved to SoCal. So - not as many people were dressed up, but there were still a few interesting shots.









Dogs are okay with Darth Vader......... mostly.



Some days I feel like that.









Friday, April 17, 2015

Still negative after all this time.

I follow interest rates like no ones business, and I don't even work in that field. This morning rates fell into the 3.54% range. They are all over the map today, but most are still in the 3.62% ish range. They have been telling the true story all along. If things were getting better, interest rates would be rising - not falling.

Housing starts in the West fell almost 20% which was eye widening because we have been having stellar weather. I've been reading credit is harder to come by and I'm guessing that is translating down to the builders as well. This is setting up a super crappy dynamic for renters called a rent trap. Which I'm actually super conflicted about because I have a rental. By the time I was a teenager I fully understood the rent trap even though I didn't know it had a name. We moved every year because we were poor and the landlords raised the rents every year. Luckily I have never had to tell someone I was raising their rent. When they moved I raised.

During the recession I couldn't believe people gave up their houses so easily. People that were not even in trouble just mailed their keys back because everyone was telling them property would never be worth what they paid for it. They were called "strategic defaults". I kept asking Mr S. - where are these people going to live!

During that same time I saw economist after economist say what a bad idea owning property was. And to say it hasn't been painful is an understatement.  But I never saw an article about what a bad idea it was to rent. I hope people are now starting to realize they need to live somewhere and rents have been going up way faster than what happened during the housing crisis. Apparently rents are up a stunning 44% since 2010!!!  I can't even believe it, but it is roughly accurate. I never read even one article during the recession where people were freaking out because their mortgage payment went up 44%. San Francisco is up 52%, and Oakland - yes that Oakland, is up 20% YOY. Can you believe that crap? You'd think the new recession would tamp that down a bit, but even through the whole great recession rents never fell more than 100 bucks a month for my place. I always thought they would cave but they never did. The whole time!

Two more houses fell into price reductions since yesterday in my city. And they aren't the small price reductions like last summer. I don't really know how this is going to work out. Logic tells me prices will fall, but we have had recessionary building levels for 7 years now. And the way things are looking, that isn't going to get better soon. Banks don't like to lend in deflation. Those two things are fighting it out. I don't know which side is going to win.

And even worse I think rates could freak out at some point. The Fed has been trying to get high yield bondholders not to freak out. They have been telling them inflation is right around the corner so people bought bonds to take advantage of this. They are going to run for the exits at some point because they will just get tired of waiting to make money. I don't know when that point will be, but every day I feel like I could wake up to sharply higher interest rates. That is why the Fed is so hellbent on raising rates. It's to pacify those bond holders. I bet they give up before this administration is out. Which is how investors normally work. They hold too long, and sell right before a turn around.

Next week I will talk about how the drought is set to make inflation look worse than it really is AGAIN.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cracks in the ice, or nothing?

I haven't been paying attention to real estate as much as I normally do because sometime after Christmas - all the markdowns disappeared. January, February, and March basically had none. With all the housing shortages going on I figured there was too little supply for there to be many markdowns. Although I still couldn't resolve how sales kept falling but prices kept climbing. I don't understand a market like that.

At any rate - my rental is up so I'm keeping a closer eye now. I like to see what I'm competing against. Last night I'd gone through the available rentals and decided to look at the sales just for kicks. Just to see what prices across town were doing. I was a couple pages in and I started seeing markdowns starting on April 14. One of these particular houses piqued my curiosity so I went to check it out.

This is when I saw something really strange. It had a 30,000 dollar markdown - but it had only been on the market two days! Who marks down a house after two days!? I thought surely this must be a typo or a newbie realtor, so I went to the next house marked down on the same day - April 14. It had an odd 10,008 dollar markdown. I don't know if it's a lucky number thing, because that is an odd number. To my surprise it had only been on the market 10 days. These were both middle range houses.

Then I thought, maybe I'm mis-remembering the dates. I haven't been checking as much, so it's possible. The oldest markdown is from March 26. So I wasn't mis-remembering.

It's such a small sample, I don't know if it means anything yet. But it's super odd to mark down houses so quickly.

I've been reading that credit rejections are way up. I don't know the make up of which kind of credit so it's hard to make a good judgement. But when I read the article I thought - the banks see it now. They start refusing to lend in deflationary conditions. You are a worse risk for them. I also have been reading tons of articles where liquidity is drying up. Which also makes banks not want to lend.

I don't know if there are any conclusions to draw right now. But it is definitely an interesting development.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

These will have to go.



I seriously thought we would get a more normal rain pattern this year. It definitely is not working out that way. This type of pine tree is really struggling now. I bet half of them in my town will need to be cut down. These are probably 100 year old trees. They are all over town in small groves, so I bet they may have been here before the city was.  I guess the pines in Palo Alto were looking just as bad, so maybe it will be a 50% across the board cull. P.A. is much wetter than we are. They just seem not not be able to take it anymore. If we would have gotten more rain this winter they could have made it.  Now not so much.

This year is going to be really rough unless something changes dramatically. I would expect see to a lot of dead tree pictures. Maybe stuff even more dramatic as those pine trees are like matches. We are completely into unknown territory now. I guess it's time to pray for Pacific hurricanes?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

That is some Sick Lidar.



I saw this company last week and didn't even go up to the booth. It was obvious they were selling Lidar (which I'm in love with), but their demo really consisted of a bike with Lidar sensor. I didn't really understand the need for that so I moved on.

The second time I saw them, I was more intrigued because their Lidar was super small. And apparently the lidar on the bike was hooked up to a bell you ring to get people to move out of the way. Not an earth breaking use, but it probably does suck to have to ring all the time for people to get out of the way. Sometimes it's windy and you don't hear bicyclists until they are just way up on you. This system just rings when someone is in your proximity. Screw using your hands like a sucker!

It's exciting to see Lidar getting so small, and much less expensive. If it became half as small again, it makes your brain go wild thinking of the possibilities. Maybe one day we all will have personal Lidar. Here is their home site. But I have to warn you - it isn't really suited that well for average consumers.



Pray to a God that I don't believe in.



Last week Mr S. and I commuted together for a couple of days. On Friday after my conf I had a little time to kill before picked him up, so I wound up at Our Lady of Peace - who I refer to as Our Lady of Technology because I am an atheist. Still I like to imagine what people are praying about when they visit her. Love, sadness, good luck? What!?

If I believed in a mommy in the sky I would believe that she was there to watch over the tech companies in Santa Clara. Which frankly, she isn't that good at. That building over her left shoulder used to be a Mccafee building. All of the buildings in her sight have turned over since the recession. For instance Yahoo is now Palo Alto Networks. I like to imagine her saying - you're really going to put that company there?



I do kinda like that people put flowers at her feet. I like flowers. I am a little germaphobic about all the rubbing and kissing of the feet though. But maybe it's made out of silver or something that doesn't retain as much bacteria.



I'm not sure which company is constructing this in her line of sight.  Someday she will be surrounded my nothing but sky scrapers. I grew up in Santa Clara, and she's always been there looking out over the freeway. And it weirdly does provide some comfort. But then new construction also provides me some comfort too. It's always been a sign the valley still has a heartbeat. We go through a lot of boom and bust cycles.





Monday, April 13, 2015

It's harder to tell which one is stupider than the next.

This many years into the recession I'm convinced that most people don't actually know how the economy works. Still. Even people who are paid to know! I hate that I even have to know, and I'm not even paid to know this crap. But having two houses deeply underwater during the worst makes you learn a lot of crap you didn't think you would need to learn.

Take this moronic analyst. The economy has given the Fed an 'epic, historic window' to raise interest rates. When I read this article I ran right over to see what interest rates were doing today. Because the bottom line is that if things were getting better - interest rates would be rising. Not falling. Rates today were pretty firmly back in the 3.62-ish range. They'd been creeping up to the 4% range.

Last night I was reading through my twitter stream and started seeing that the UK is expected to fall into actual deflation (not just disinflation) for the first time in 60 years. I still see layoffs almost every single day from Canada. China is slowing dramatically. Russia is probably in recession. Some parts of Europe are still in negative interest rates. And these idiots think the Fed is going to raise rates. I still think there is a very good chance the Fed will start printing at some point. When all the other major economies are in such bad shape - that makes our dollar stronger relative to their currencies. This creates a lot of earnings problems for US companies. I was stunned this morning I read an article that said this is all priced in.

Everyone keeps saying that deflation will be very temporary. But I think that is a lie. I think it will probably last the rest of this administration. A strong dollar combined with caving economies tell me that oil is going to keep building. Cushing has to be very nearly full. Oil will take another leg down, and prices will respond accordingly. I mean, now I see people applauding that oil might reach 70 bucks  a barrel by years end. When you have that much inventory, you don't just work through it right away. It can take a couple of years.

The previous Cushing build took until 2013 to resolve itself. In 2008 Cushing stood at 13,421 thousand barrels. The begging of 2013 was the previous high at 51,862. That took 5 years. It obviously didn't pile up in a straight line. Unlike our current situation.

At the end of 2014 Cushing stood at 17,899 million barrels. We are currently at 60,175. Which is actually even higher than when I checked late last week. It took us three months shy of a year to get this much oil. I will again give the link to the Cushing site so everyone can see for themselves. Here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I just got my life back.

Tax season was so hard this year. And I've had some seriously hard years before. This year basically took me two solid months of Sundays, and an occasional full weekend like this one.

Stuff that used to be pretty routine, suddenly became super painful. For instance companies started taking "some" taxes out of ESPP sales last year. Which is a totally new rule.  They never used to take any taxes out of ESPP sales. If you don't file right you will get double taxed on ESPP sales. Here.

I literally had three rooms splayed out with documents. I actually get paper audited every few years. I just got paper audited right before Christmas. So far I've never had to pay any extra money. I'm scared to even gloat because as fastidious as you try to be, one day I'm going to make a mistake. You can't be perfect forever. But I've been paper audited at least 5 times. One time when I called them, they told me they thought I owed so much money they were sure it was wrong and didn't even start sending the mean letters first. This was back before the recession.

The funny thing about my November audit, you could already tell the IRS was crushed. They sent me two letters basically saying we got your documentation but we are too busy to look at them. In February they cleared me. But with the new IRS rules, and Obamacare - I would not want to work at the IRS right now. I don't find them to be horrible people because I don't cheat on my taxes. Usually they just want extra documentation. They've been very professional every time I've talked to them. But I totally believe a lot of people probably aren't getting the help they need because they are so swamped.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Fisker in the wild.



Yesterday was one of those days when Google Maps went crazy took me on a giant circle tour of Palo Alto. Honestly, I'm all on board with self driving cars, but when I can't even get Waze or Maps to give even basic helpful info - it makes me lose all hope. For instance it would be nice to know what lane an accident is in so I can start adjusting before the accident is in my line of sight.

When I was in Ohio - you couldn't imagine my delight when they had trucks with giant billboard signs pointing you around the problem lane. You could see it for miles! But Google and Waze think suck it up woosie. You'll find out what lane the accident is in when you can see it. Lately they have been closing down one side of the freeway so much because of major accidents, it would be nice to know if any effing lanes are open and moving.

Or when Google tells you to turn without letting you know which road you should turn on, which invariably is the wrong road, and then you get to go on a bit of a journey. It just says "turn right or left". No road name. And that is how you get to go on a giant circle tour of P.A. Not like it's the worst place in the world to drive aimlessly around. But still.

This is how I ran across this Fisker. If I could have found a place to pull off I would have gotten more shots, but this particular neighborhood was jam packed with cars. And I was obviously running late. I did find out there is a ton of remodeling going on in P.A. One residential block I drove there must have been 10 projects going on.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

From the way back machine.



I have to admit, when I saw this company today (Anybots) - in my head I was shocked they were still alive. I hadn't seen them anywhere in a few years. Not even an occasional spotting at Maker Faire. I thought it was possible someone bought them. They were one of the early pioneers of robotics. I really thought they were close to an entry point way back when I first saw them close to a decade ago.

They were doing humanoid robots at the time, although they were tethered. I wrote about them seven years ago. Here. And possibly other times. I just don't want to hunt my blog right now. I use the most unhelpful subject lines. Don't you think?

It sort of makes me melancholy. I understand the cycle of life in The Valley. But, these guys must have sunk a crazy amount of money into research. Their robots at one point had articulated hands. Sometimes I just want companies to live because they put everything into trying to make something amazing. You just want them to win.

It just reinforces my opinion from my conference yesterday. For all the media hype, we are still a pretty long way off for robotics. For the most part I think it's stalled. And it sort of bums me out. When I look back on all these companies, they put in an immense amount of effort. And the bundles of cash they must have gone through.....

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Everybody settle down.

I was at a conference a couple of months ago that really didn't have anything interesting to write about, BUT....the one of the interesting things I discovered was that Lidar had really come down in price. I've been watching this tech for years. Lidar gives robots the best depth perception of all the different types of sensors. It is also used in self driving cars. I used to think Lidar would win the sensor wars for robots, but now it seems clear robots will have lots of different sensors. And probably multiple Lidar sensors.

I bring this up because I used to think once the price of sensors came down, that would be the tipping point for robots. So, I was kinda excited to go to my conference today. Some Lidar sensors cost as little as 300 bucks now. You can buy old drum Lidar systems on ebay apparently!

After all this time, we must be on the verge of the tipping point by now. I read all these articles telling me that robots are coming to take our jobs. Which always makes me a little crazy. I go to a handful of these conferences a year. Robots are very complicated creatures. Mind bendingly hard. With many different modalities. Yet the way people write about them is just fanciful. It's taken them roughly 10 years to get to really good object avoidance.

Today after listening to all the speakers I left disappointed. Robots for the most part are still a solution in search of a problem. Outside of manufacturing and warehouse work. And worse, it seemed to me that the industry got a little over-hyped a handful of years back and promised too much, and now since they haven't been able to deliver on a huge level - it's harder to find venture capital. At least, that was the impression I got. Robotics in particular are massively expensive. A lot of those companies ate through a ton of cash and didn't deliver much that people would buy.

It's easy to see stuff on the internet and think we are closer than we are, but sadly we aren't as close as you think. No matter how much I want to be wrong. Are they going to take "some" jobs? Yeah - but not as many as you think. Not yet.

Now I wonder if self driving cars might be a missing piece of the puzzle. Because sensors are relatively super cheap. Cars are going to be learning how to recognize objects in the real world. Robots also need to learn about objects in the real world. And that is deeply complicated and expensive. Car makers have tons of money to crunch the insane amount of data that is going to take. This is my new tipping point.

Just as a side note I find it funny that people seem to be less scared of cars driving themselves than robots taking care of us. It's crazy how much energy this sector has to spend trying to make robots not scary.

I used to have a robot mowing my lawn with spinning blades of death, but that took several hours. It takes me 15 minutes. I also got  super self conscience of people just stopping in front of my house to watch it. Seriously.

I brake for rainbows.



Rain is so rare around here these days that I was taking pictures solo on the freeway.



You can see how brown the hills are already. I'm sure this storm will perk them back up a little.



Fremont still has some of those yellow flowers up and since everything was dark around them I was having Mr S. get some shots. Then a rainbow popped out. I got off the freeway trying to get a better angle, but it didn't work out so well.



This being California.......I ran across someone watering their lawn in the rain. That is a fine we can all get behind. Cant we? You can buy a rain sensor for like 20 bucks. Normally I'm not a water narc, for for shits sakes people - really?



The rain didn't come in time for these pine trees. Or any of these types of pine trees. A ton of them are going to need to be cut down. They have given up almost universally. The rain makes them look even worse than they did before. It's gonna be an awesome fire season. Said in the most sarcastic way. These trees in particular are like match sticks.



 
http://www.wikio.com