My Official Opinion On The Matter


Been reading up on this whole Facebook IPO debacle.

Oh so very ugly.

As I think about it, I am reminded of my old NMSU Finance professor Dr. Hawkins, and his Ten Investment Rules.

And so…my official comment on the FB disaster?

Keep #5 always in mind. And #7 too.

Originally posted December 29, 2010


Sometimes, the cranky old man is the smartest man in the room

Back in the good ol’ days, that wild time known at the 1980’s, I was full of youthful optimism, and I was attending New Mexico State University.

My undergraduate major was Finance.

Ooh, those were heady days when I wanted to be a stockbroker when I grew up. This was back before I realized that “stockbroker” and “salesman willing to sell underperforming securities to your family in order to make commission” were synonymous.

While the dream was still alive, I took courses at NMSU from some really fine professors with a lot of experience.

Among them, several courses with Dr. Lowell Catlett, now the Dean of the College Of Agriculture, and a noted expert on futures trading.

There was also both undergrad and grad level classes with Dr. Clark Hawkins, a man who had actually worked as a commodities trader on the NYSE floor. In his words, he had tried pretty much every investment vehicle out there…and lost money on ’em all.

Dr. Hawkins was a strange little man. Wiry, small of frame and nasally of voice. He referred to himself as “Uncle Hawkey.” He often told us that, as Finance students, we should have our Wall Street Journal under one arm and our financial calculator under the other.

And this was to be done while wearing a t-shirt imprinted with “Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules”.

At the end of each semester, he gifted us with a copy of the ten rules.

Recently, I was searching around in all the old boxes under my house, picking through my crap looking for things I can sell on eBay.

How ironic, then, that I should come across my framed copy of Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules in my search for something to sell for money.

Well, I sat down and read the rules.

Goddamn if Uncle Hawkey wasn’t right. He was right then. He’s right now. Right is right.

Now…snap your Wall Street Journal in place, put your finger over the “future value” button on your financial calculator and get set.

Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules:

1. Don’t invest in things you don’t understand.

Ah, every single customer of Bernie Madoff…take note!

2. Remember the fundamental mathematical rule of finance.

You know what? I don’t.

I suspect this was about future value and present value of money. He was a stickler on that.

Because I understood and could calculate time value of money, I kicked the salesman’s ass when I bought my first car.

I got that salesguy demoted because he was such a dunce. Thank you Uncle Hawkey.

3. Know the difference between investment and speculation.

Oh I remember this one. I rant about this one. A lot.

Let me just say his own words, with the same shouting nasal tone…


If you do not think putting your money in the stock market is gambling, then you need to re-examine yourself and your money.

Sure, it may return better odds than Vegas, but not always.

For those of you wailing and gnashing your teeth in the current economic downturn because you had all your money in the stock market, I suggest you get this rule tattooed on your arm and look at it daily.

4. Don’t invest or speculate in financial securities that you can’t easily find quotes on.

Dangling participle notwithstanding….Uncle Hawkey was right.

Once again, I’m looking at you friends of Mr. Madoff….paging investors of Mr. Madoff….

5. Don’t buy a closed end fund on initial offering.

Oh yes, everyone gets oh so very excited about IPO’s. Especially during the dot com boom of the early 2000’s.

Look how well that worked out for most people.


But Uuuuuncle Haaaawwwkkkey, people in his class would wail…what about _____ and they’d name some company.

And by tracking the history of the stock price, he’d show them how they were wrong. How the price would be driven up on IPO and would, over time, settle back down.

He recommended waiting out an IPO for a company you liked, and buying the shares after the initial flurry of the IPO wore off and the stock had settled down.

6. Be skeptical of people who say they can forecast the future.

Well, if more folks did this, then people like Jim Cramer would be a lot less interesting, wouldn’t they?

7. Don’t do business with a man you can’t trust.

Too true. I would also substitute “man” with “company.”

(And for 2012 I would substitute “man” with “egomaniacal manchild“)

And yet…how many of us do anyway? (*coff* AT&T *coff* Comcast *coff*)

Honestly…it’s getting a lot harder to find honesty these days.

8. If the brokers are pushing it hard, it probably should be avoided.

So simple. So true. Yet….

Paging followers of Mr. Madoff!

(seeing a trend here?)

9. Long range planning gives the dangerous notion that the future is under control.

Oooh, this one hurts.

Remember how great things felt in, oh, say mid-2008? When we all had some money and maybe a big mortgage on a great house and the financial future looked, well…bright?


I broke this one. Uncle Hawkey, wherever in the world you are now, I give it up to you.

You knew. You always knew.

10. Don’t lose money.

Well sh*t. I broke this one too.

However. Slowly but surely, it’s coming back.

Because Uncle Hawkey warned us about short term and long term.

My wise investments will, eventually, find their way home.

And finally….

11. (Bonus rule) Remember Rule 10

Fair enough.

And so…as we slowly but surely dig our way out of these ugly financial times…

May we all remember Rule #10

Thank you Uncle Hawkey.

As a post script…

In my senior year of undergrad, Uncle Hawkey decided to go on a sabbatical from teaching.

He invited us, the students that he had so tortured, to join him for happy hour at El Patio. Ah, that venerable old Mesilla Plaza bar (former home office of the Butterfield Stage).

Uncle Hawkey slapped down a credit card and said we could have all the beer we wanted. Nothing else. Only beer.

Oh, the pitchers flowed that day, and Uncle Hawkey paid for it all.

Maybe all of us college students were, on that day, a good investment.

Don’t Forget Your Tissue Pack


According to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a towel is the most “massively useful” thing you can bring along when you are traveling.

I suppose that covers all of the galaxy except that unique corner of the universe known as Singapore.

In Singapore, the tissue pack is king.

You see, the restaurants in Singapore don’t provide napkins and the bathrooms don’t have paper towels.

So every true Singaporean keeps a small pack of tissue handy in pocket or purse because some of the best food available involves getting your hands pretty dirty.

But the humble tissue pack is more than just a clean up device. It’s a calling card, perhaps better described as a place holder.

In the many Hawker Centers in Singapore serving up fabulous street food, things can get pretty busy, especially at lunchtime. There are usually a lot of tables, but they fill up quickly.

The best way to hold an open table while you order up your food is to lay a tissue pack on the table or seat.

I’m totally serious.

There is a social contract amongst the people of Singapore that says if a table has a tissue pack laying on it, that table is reserved. And everyone honors this.

No one simply pushes the tissue pack away and sits down. The tissue pack carries clout.

I was told that the tissue pack hold can last for at least a half hour or possibly longer.

And then once you get your heaping plate of chilli crab you settle into your saved seat and dig in to crack claws and legs and extract every savory morsel. The tissues are there to help you clean up.

Tissue packs are relatively cheap if you buy them in a drug store, like five cents a pack, but so valuable that it’ll run you up to a Sing Dollar (about .80 US) if you forgot your pack and have to buy one there at the Hawker Center.

It’s best not to show up unprepared.

Oh yes, in Singapore the most massively useful thing is a good clean supply of tissue packs.

Image from the Musings on Communication blog.

Whaaat? I Can’t Hear You.


It’s so rare that I express any sort of kindness for ANY California politician from either side of the political spectrum, but today I am feeling a small bit of fondness for one Mz Anna Eschoo.


Loud TV commercials to leave quietly, thanks to FCC

The Federal Communications Commission today is expected to pass regulations requiring broadcasters and cable and satellite TV systems to maintain constant volume levels. The order, which goes into effect one year from today, “says commercials must have the same average volume as the programs they accompany,” says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Last year, President Obama signed into law a measure that Congress passed giving the FCC authority to address the problem. A Harris poll taken around that time found that 86% of people surveyed said TV commercials were louder than the shows themselves — and, in many cases, much louder. “It is a problem that thousands of viewers have complained about, and we are doing something about it,” Genachowski says.

While normal listening levels average about 70 decibels for a typical TV broadcast — 60 is equivalent to a restaurant conversation; 80 to a garbage disposal — levels on a TV channel can vary by as much as 20 decibels.

To comply with the new law, broadcasters can use audio processors to measure the loudness of a program over its entirety and adjust the volume of commercials accordingly, says Joe Snelson, vice president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. He said the goal is to avoid an abrupt change in volume when a show goes to commercial break.

Some broadcasters and pay-TV providers already have begun implementing the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM). DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer says the satellite provider is “ensuring that our commercial inserts are at the proper volume level and … (we) are working with our programmers to be in compliance with the rules the FCC adopts.”

Similarly, Cox Communications plans to make sure that local ads and commercials on national networks “are compliant,” says Cox spokesman Todd Smith.

“Slowly but surely, consumers are going to get something they have been wanting,” says David Butler of the Consumers Union.

“I never characterized this as saving the Union,” says Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the original sponsor of the bill. “But consumers have been asking for it. We may not have peace in the world, but we may have more peaceful homes.”

All that said, one *might* ask why, exactly, this issue had to pass through legislature.

I mean really, people.

Original link found on

Caw! Caw!


Ooooh, it’s getting a bit raven-y outside my office door right now. You see, there have been recent changes in my organization. Some of our team moved to another location, and then some people left the company entirely and weren’t replaced.

The result is, for the past three months or so, we’ve had about four open hard wall offices along my row and about six open cubicles.

Now, if you’ve ever worked at any corporate entity, you know that office space is *always* a big deal. Especially hard wall offices.

For us, it’s been great, the open offices have been used as conference rooms in a pinch, and we have plenty of hotel cubes for when people are visiting. Also, when my UK Boss comes to the states for three months every quarter, he’s able to have space to work.

It was great to have a little open space around here. But I knew it wouldn’t last.

It couldn’t last.

At this very moment, there is a coven of crows Executive Admins outside my office squabbling over the space.

My Big Boss got dragged into the middle of this since technically he owns the empty space. It should be noted that Big Boss is only about 5 foot 5 inches tall on a good hair day.

Poor Big Boss, he never stood a chance. He listened patiently for a while then said, “Just let me know what you decide” and walked away (that he can pull that off is what makes him the Big Boss…just sayin’ )

He left much cawing in his wake:

“But I need two offices for my team!”

“No! I need all of the offices, I have all directors! They can’t sit in cubes!”

“What about my team? We can fit into that space which means they can all sit together!”

“But then you have to move everyone!”

“But you can have my old space!”

“Then my team doesn’t sit together!”

Lest anyone every think differently, the true power of this company lies right there in the center of that circle of post-menopausal women.

They are negotiators, leaders, deal makers and will claw your eye out for a hard wall office on the right floor in the right corner.

They own everything that happens around here and everyone in it.

Which means I’m hunkering down in my office. Except when they look in here to check out my space. Then I sit up quite tall and make my little room look VERY occupied.

I’m scared, mommy!

Photo by Justina Kochansky, and found on the Articulate Matter Flicker photostream.

Little Miss Goody-Goody

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Yesterday, after a long day of being a good corporate citizen, I climbed into The Jeep and pointed her nose toward home.

Near my office there is a very busy intersection located just near the entrance to 101. The intersection gets jammed up after work as everyone is trying to make it through at the same time. I don’t need to go on 101, but I have to pass by the entrance.

So in the busy 6:00 hour it’s all a matter of timing to get to the other side of the intersection while the light is green, hoping the other light another three blocks ahead also turns green so you don’t get left hanging out in the middle of the intersection.

Generally speaking, the local police don’t really find humor in people jamming up the intersections with their bad sense of timing and impatience.

Yesterday I just wanted to get home. I wanted some dinner and the chance to not think about work for several hours before sweet magical sleep.

As I rolled to the intersection, I looked at traffic, I weighed the odds of the light ahead turning green, and decided to go through the intersection and get in line. My front wheels made it into the lane, my back end was hanging out into the intersection.

I kept looking at the light, thinking “uh oh, this green is getting stale.” I mentally begged the other light to turn and save my bacon. As my light went yellow, I implemented evasive maneuvers. I was in the center lane, so I turned the wheel to move into the left lane, thus getting me out of the intersection.

Only problem was, there was something blocking my egress to the left lane.

A police car. With his lights on.

He had been headed the other direction and made a half u-turn, thus blocking the left lane. I looked at him, he pointed, I nodded, then pulled over to the far right lane instead, over to the curb and I stopped.


Then another car pulled in behind me, the guy who was ahead of me in line. Seems that nice police officer got himself a two fer one deal. A traffic ticket BOGO.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

The policeman approached the other vehicle first. I turned off my car, found my license and insurance and opened my windows to wait. I heard things like “Sir, are you aware that you….” and “…being charged with a moving violation…” on the breeze.

A moving violation? But I was standing still! Ok, I moved into the intersection. I get it.

The mind was racing: How long ago was it that I got my last ticket? Remember when I got popped by the stupid red light camera? If it was more than eighteen months ago, then maybe I can apologize my way out of this. Be calm. Be calm. Be nice to the cop. Say please and thank you. Say you are sorry. Say you misjudged the flow of traffic.

The officer brought a ticket back to the other guy, he signed it, took his copy, then drove off. The officer lingered near his police cruiser for a bit. He was on his two way radio. Must be calling in my plate.

I waited. And waited.

Finally the officer approached. I held out my documents like a sacred offering.

“Ma’am, are you broken down or something?”

“Uh, no officer. You pointed to me.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry! I just wanted you to know that I was going after that guy. You’re good. Have a nice day.”

“Oh? Thank you officer, you have a nice day too!”

Then I almost peed myself with relief. Holy. Crap.

When I told this story to The Good Man he said “you get good-kid karma points for stopping and not just driving away.”

I hope that’s true. I suspect I’m gonna need ’em.

Photo from