Nov 182008

Anna, Pete, Paul, and myself had a great time on Catalina Island last weekend. We started in Avalon, had a nice night in the Aurora Hotel, and then took a taxi van overland to Two Harbors. The ride was a bit crazy but provided great views of the island and even a few bison along the way.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The Santa Ana winds that were burning north LA were calming the seas and warming the air on the island. We did several dives over the course of the weekend, here is a quick round-up:

  • Friday afternoon we swam over to the north point off of two harbors for a nice easy dive.  Run time was about an hour due to the shallow depth.  Visibility wasn’t amazing, but there was a fair bit of life around to explore.
  • Saturday morning we dive Ship Rock with a bit of current.  Loads and loads of blacksmith in the kelp with a curious sea lion buzzing the divers.  The swim south was tough going against the current, but gliding back around the rock in the current on the way back was a lot of fun.  Visibility was decent, 25-50 feet.
  • Late Saturday morning we dove the NE side of Bird Rock.  We started to the east on the fantastic gorgonian walls – I love em.  After that we explored the north wall and the shallow kelp.
  • Saturday afternoon we kayaked over to the marine preserve and went free diving and snorkeling in the kelp.  No seal buddies were there to play, but the lobsters and horn sharks were fun.
  • Sunday morning we tried a kayak dive off Isthmus Reef.  The reef wall was interesting, but very bare.  The life at 20′ more than made up for it – lots of leopard sharks and other fish.
Nov 172008

The Boston Globe has an interesting piece on what a sustained economic downturn (like the great depression(s)) would look like in modern times:

We are separated from the 1930s by decades of profound economic, technological, and political change, and a modern landscape of scarcity would reflect that…

By looking at what we know about how society and commerce would slow down, and how people respond, it’s possible to envision what we might face. Unlike the 1930s, when food and clothing were far more expensive, today we spend much of our money on healthcare, child care, and education, and we’d see uncomfortable changes in those parts of our lives. The lines wouldn’t be outside soup kitchens but at emergency rooms, and rather than itinerant farmers we could see waves of laid-off office workers leaving homes to foreclosure and heading for areas of the country where there’s more work – or just a relative with a free room over the garage.

Nov 122008

I found this to be a very interesting behind the scenes read: The End of Wall Street’s Boom

His dinner companion in Las Vegas ran a fund of about $15 billion and managed C.D.O.’s backed by the BBB tranche of a mortgage bond, or as Eisman puts it, “the equivalent of three levels of dog shit lower than the original bonds.”

FrontPoint had spent a lot of time digging around in the dog shit and knew that the default rates were already sufficient to wipe out this guy’s entire portfolio. “God, you must be having a hard time,” Eisman told his dinner companion.

“No,” the guy said, “I’ve sold everything out.”

After taking a fee, he passed them on to other investors. His job was to be the C.D.O. “expert,” but he actually didn’t spend any time at all thinking about what was in the C.D.O.’s. “He managed the C.D.O.’s,” says Eisman, “but managed what? I was just appalled. People would pay up to have someone manage their C.D.O.’s—as if this moron was helping you. I thought, You prick, you don’t give a fuck about the investors in this thing.”

Whatever rising anger Eisman felt was offset by the man’s genial disposition. Not only did he not mind that Eisman took a dim view of his C.D.O.’s; he saw it as a basis for friendship. “Then he said something that blew my mind,” Eisman tells me. “He says, ‘I love guys like you who short my market. Without you, I don’t have anything to buy.”

It might be a little too finance heavy for some folks, but I found the people behind the story quite fascinating.

Nov 112008

Divebums is a local website that shows weekly photos taken by divers in Southern California (hopefully a great field ID section soon). Each year John puts out a fantastic calendar made up of photos from the local dive community. In fact, I’m looking at one on my office wall. This year, I was lucky enough to be included in the calendar – my photo is featured for January.

Information & order details for the Divebums Calendar

Nov 112008

Though I’ve lived in the US for 7 years, it feels a little odd to be working today. Today is Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth (Veterans Day in the US). Many in Canada attend ceremonies today to see or place wreaths laid to honour the fallen. It is common to wear a red poppy on your lapel and the day tends to be reserved and respectful. I miss it here. That’s a funny thing with traditions and I – easily adopt new ones, but hate to drop old ones.

Nov 062008

It seems the question I asked early in the year has been soundly answered, for now. Deflation is the name of the current game, not inflation. Money supply has been demolished through credit collapse and hording of the leftovers. The surprising thing in all of this to me is how strong the US dollar has stayed relative to other currencies. This seems to be because of three things:

  1. In some cases the US wasn’t as exposed to its own bad investments as the rest of the world was
  2. The rest of the world is not decoupling from the US economy, this is a global downturn
  3. There is still a perception that there are few places to stash a lot of cash safely other than US bonds

The third point is surprising to me. I would have expected the market to hunt out new strongholds to stash their cash. Perhaps that shift will only happen gradually.

Long term the value of the dollar depends on what happens with the economy. As the CS Monitor asks – Who will bail out the US Govt? Currently it is foreign investors buying US bonds and others looking for safe haven. However, if stimulus after stimulus are given or the upcoming debt obligations with Social Security and Medicare obligations are not handled, I don’t see how the US dollar is going to stay stable. At some point the debt load for the US will become critical – once that happens there is a very real risk of the US defaulting or trying to inflate its way out of obligations. Both would be catastrophic.