A better USB cable – 28/24 AWG and Gold plated connectors

Posted By on July 31, 2014

cablesamazonA couple of days ago I whined about my failed or failing charging/sync cables used  on phones, tablets and electronic devices. I then started searching for the replacements but was discouraged with the delayed shipping for non-branded cables from China. Then after reading about the cheap quality, I revisited Amazon decide to find out if there were better cables. Usually I ignore the “words” used in marketing … like “gold plated” and “premium” … but perhaps some “premium” cables are better? Check out the post earlier this year in Lifehacker.

Cables Can Significantly Impact the Charging
Speed of Your USB Device
by Adam Dachis

USB chargers can impact how fast your device’s battery gets back to 100%, but they’re not the only determining factor. The wrong cable can slow down charging speeds as well. Redditor Esteef explains.

(more…)

Viewers opine on $FB vs $TWTR as an investment

Posted By on July 29, 2014

FBTWTR_cnbc

My morning routine includes turning on CNBC for my business news, trading and investing “fix” and the segment on the Facebook vs. Twitter social networking challenge peaked my interest. As expected, the focus was primarily which stock would make an investor the most money. Obviously Facebook has a significant lead both in platform maturity and revenues … and looks to have the business model figured out. So from the perspective of a company that is “working,” $FB would make the most sense as an “investor.” From the “trader” perspective, $TWTR has a better chance to make a high percentage move on any news … partnership, earnings, etc. So Twitter in the short run and Facebook for a company running on all cylinders.

facebooktwitterstock140729

EDIT 4:30PM: The afterhours buzz is “all a Twitter” after some positive news … $TWTR stock is up over 30% in afterhours trading.

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) – Twitter Inc.TWTR +29.65% on Tuesday reported a second-quarter loss of $144.6 million, or 24 cents a share, compared with a loss of $42.2 million, or 32 cents a share for the year-earlier period. Revenue soared to $312.2 million from $139.3 million. On an adjusted basis, the San Francisco-based social network reported a profit of 2 cents a share. Analysts polled by FactSet on average were expecting the San Francisco-based social network to post a loss of a penny a share, on revenue of $283.3 million. Twitter also reported 271 monthly active users in the second quarter. Analysts were expecting 267 million monthly users. Twitter shares rallied more than 24% after hours

LINK

Let’s see how Griffin and Jawbone respond to my complaint

Posted By on July 29, 2014

griffinwire griffinguarentted

FAILED … is a common complaint with the charging and synchronization cables used on portable electronics. First (above), my premium Griffin branded power blocks cord that I use at my desk (not rolled and unrolled) for charging my iPad failed. usbjamboxconnectorI suspect it is the connector, but maybe the cable?

The second is only a near failure. My micro USB Jawbone or possible Jambox cable at the right. I use it regularly since the cable is flexible and the USB plug has a nice flat side making it easier to plug it into my multiple devices needing a charge. My issue is that these “premium cables” should be reinforced a little better since these wires/cables are packaged with premium priced devices.

So I’m going to try a customer service test (will post follow up below). I have sent a politely worded letters to both companies praising their products, but questioning the cheapness of the cables (and in Griffin’s case ask if it may have been a knockoff package in an Ebay purchase?) At any rate, it will be interesting to see if my petty complaint is answered or how each company deals with their customers. Stay tuned.

Be sure to accurately factor inflation when retirement planning

Posted By on July 28, 2014

I regularly eyeball the government’s reported CPI inflation data (although question the applicability for real living in America?), and am concerned for those planning or already retired living on their cpiinflationcalculator“conservatively” invested savings. Many that I’ve talked with moved to cash positions after the 2008 recession or moved to much more conservative investments. Others hold a good chunk of their personal IRAs and 401K savings in low paying CD, bonds or even lower with money market savings. They do it thinking that they are protecting their capital … but fail to look at what the dollar is worth in buying power. A quick look (above) at what inflation can do to $50,000 sitting in cash over ten years should be a wake-up call when it comes to trying to live off ones saving for 20 or 30 years.

Inflation of goods and services averages about 3.2% a year.* Right now, we are in a period of very low inflation. But over time, inflation will return, maybe at the high rates we experienced in the early ’80s or maybe at lower rates. The smart bet is to plan on about 3% a year. While that doesn’t sound like much, here’s what it means: If you need $50,000 to live per year in retirement today, in 25 years you’ll need $100,000 per year to maintain the same standard of living. That’s because at 3% a year, the value of your money will fall by 50% over 25 years. Social Security is adjusted for inflation, giving you some protection, but your specific inflation rate might be different from the general inflation rate as a result of rapidly rising healthcare and long-term care costs.

You have to keep growing your investments throughout retirement or you could find your standard of living dropping each year. Another way to say it is that investments like CDs, bank accounts and certain bonds that protect 100% of your principal will give you the illusion of safety while slowly guaranteeing a reduction in your buying power over time. A smart financial plan accounts for inflation and can help in the pursuit of a lasting retirement income.

Waiting on our Elio

Posted By on July 27, 2014

ElioInSnow

The interesting Elio “personal vehicle” has interested me since I first saw the companies marketing some time ago, but recentely decided that I wanted to get my reservation (with the 50% promo) in before it expires. The car, if you call it that, is price much lower than one would expect and looks to offer just about everything needed in a budget minded commuter vehicle … including great fuel economy – 84mpg. Sure I’d prefer a diiesel or hybrid, but then that would add to the cost and complexity. This new all-American company could be the next Tesla, although I wonder if their business model with current promoted pricing, reminiscent of the Yugo of the 1980s, will be profitable? Personally I expect that the price will be higher when the vehicle is finally available.

Elioshots

That said, I’m “in” with this little 3-wheel commuter and really want to see them do well. Get your pre-order reservation in before September 1, 2014.

In praise of teachers who go above and beyond

Posted By on July 26, 2014

It is pretty easy to be cynical as a squeezed taxpayer seeing the waste and excess by those who manage public money. I regularly deride the inefficiencies in publically funded programs … particularly those highlighted in the news. (ie. VA, IRS, quirky grants and crony project contracts like Solyndra or “the bridge to nowhere” – I could go on forever!) I actually had a discussion on “squeezed taxpapers” this week with my dad about my brother retiring from WPAFB as a  federal civilian worker at age 52 and wondered just how much longer the Average Joe/Jane will support the current benefit packages?  Currently it seems if public employees have significantly better retirement options than those who also pay taxes and will be working well beyond the accepted retirement age … some may never feel they can retire?  I have no ill feelings for those who are enjoying early, mid and late 50s retirement with an actual pension (what’s that? – sarcasm) and fully paid healthcare insurance … reminiscent of plans that existed before implementation of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare … but does this model really work long term? I’m not sure it can since our nation is nearly $18 Trillion in debt and has fewer private sector citizens with pensions and company paid health insurance … let alone the option to receive it in their 50s.

Whoa … did I go off track! Back to my point of “praise” for teachers.

greatteachersgraphic

Both of my children were fortunate have an excellent public school education. Well I say “fortunate,” but really it says something about the choices we parents make as well. We “chose” the community we live in based on the school districts reputation. In fact, it may have been the primary consideration when we moved here. We also took an interest in how our schools were managed and tried to stay involved with our kids education … sort of a working partnership with their teachers.sandeecoatshaan2014 If any of the above is missing, don’t expect a positive outcome. Still there are differences in teachers. Some treat it as a paycheck while others see it as a “calling” or at least a profession. My praise is for two of the many “public school teacher” that were part of my children’s education. 

For my daughter it was her Lakota East High School Physics teacher, Sandee Coats-Haan, who besides being an excellent teacher, went beyond in her off time to suggest and write a letter of recommendation that awarded Katelyn a summer internship in the johnsevernsNASA Sharp program out in New Mexico. What an excellent growth experience as well as something that enhanced her college résumé.

For my son, that special teacher was John Severns who besides being an excellent science teacher, decided not to pick a top student to be his teaching assistant. Instead, he gave the extra classroom time and job of teacher’s pet assistant (smile) to Taylor which kept him focused on a a subject that was challenging for him. Taylor worked a bit harder in that class so as not to disappoint Mr. Severns  and was an experience that prevented him from giving up in science. This past week, 6 years after graduation from both high school and college and now gainfully employed, Taylor reconnected with Mr. Severns, and his son, who were traveling through Williston, North Dakota on vacation. I sure was nice that they took time and stopped for a visit. It likely was rewarding for both.

I doubt many teachers realize it at the time, but their extra effort can impact students in profound way. I’m glad “some of them” put in the extra effort.  Parents –  pick your community wisely, elect a passionate school board and make sure you give your local schools what they need in order to hire and retain the best teachers (of course with unions this opens up an entirely different discussion — another day). 

While I’m at it, t is probably a good place for me to remember a couple teachers in my life too … Mrs. Hopkins (6th grade) and Dana Stahlman (High School); I don’t think either knew how they impacted me, but thanks … AND thanks to all those teachers who strive to be like Sandee and John.

Are you prepared for a Coronal Mass Ejection–CME?

Posted By on July 25, 2014

Did you know that in July of 2012 that the earth was nearly hit by a CME (video)? According to the Nation Academy of Sciences, the cost of a large CME similar to the July 20, 2012 “storm” could cost $2 Trillion.

flare

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

More at the WashingtonPost

Video: Slo-Mo shooting clays with a silenced shotgun

Posted By on July 24, 2014

A miscellaneous filler video that I found interesting both for the silencer on a shotgun (haven’t seen that before) and the slow motion.

Fires in Canada spread smoke south of the border

Posted By on July 23, 2014

smokefiresnwterrjuly2014Last weekend while traveling in North Dakota, we ran into the smoke from the many boreal forest fires burning in the Northwest Territories in Canada on Sunday. At first I wasn’t sure why the normally crisp clear skies were so hazy, but then Taylor told us about the smoke blowing south from the 156 currently burning forest fires in Canada. According to the ClimateCentral blog, one of the fires stretch over 250,000 acres (see photo from that Birch Creek Fire below and smoke over Alberta, Canada at the left). Boreal forest (or Taiga – new word for me) burning is common each year, but this year the number of fires is “six times greater than the 25-year average to date” according to Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center.

nwterrfiresjuly2014
An aerial view of the Birch Creek Fire complex, which seared 250,000 acres as of Wednesday.  Credit: NWTFire/Facebook

 

(more…)

Reducing the IRS corporate tax bite with oil industry MLPs

Posted By on July 22, 2014

After my recent visit to North Dakota and the oil fields … AND seeing what has happened in one short year, I talked with my son ways of trying to invest in this oil boom (the “invest in what you know” philosophy). Of course I tried to look at what he sees from a “planners” perspective, but the more I looked for ideas, it sort of felt like I was late to the game. The Bakken boom is far from over when it comes to oil, but it is more challenging to find right way to invest in this American boom. Currently the players are companies like Continental Resources ($CLR), Kodiak Oil and Gas ($KOG) or Whiting Petroleum ($WLL) — the last two will become one. I also discussed the safer (?) Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway play ($BRK.B) since so much of the 1 million barrels of oil per day (new record for North Dakota) are moved on the expanding Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railways.

investinwhatyouknow

willistonzillow140722Then there’s the real estate angle where single bedroom apartments rent for over $2000 per month and even modular homes sell for $250,000. You’d be hard pressed to find a nice “small” city lot home for $300,000 in Williston. I even saw in-town older homes on a postage stamp listed for nearly a half million dollars! Maybe real estate?

willistonhomezillow

 

(more…)

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.