Category: Money

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Lemonade Stand

The Fujifilm X100F is now my nearly-always outdoor companion—a role iPhone 7 Plus had filled. The camera is compact and light and comfortably slings over the shoulder attached to the ONA Lima strap. Earlier today, my wife and I walked down Maryland Ave. toward The Hub plaza in Hillcrest. Along the way, we passed a lemonade stand, with some kids fundraising for the local elementary school, Alice Birney. They had already raised $60 when I snapped the pic, at 1:15 p.m. PST. Somebody paid more than the requested 25 cents a cup. Hehe.

The Featured Image is a crop of the original, which is visible below the fold. Both versions are unaltered, except for horizontal cropping to the first and straightening of both. The visual cue is different in each, though. The first is aligned vertically with the lemonade stand and the original against the house in the background. 

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How Did It Come to This?

Surely somewhere in the collapse of retailer American Apparel there is a metaphor appropriate for the policy platform put forth by Donald Trump. The President talks about bringing jobs back to the United States and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ironically, with AA, we see the demise of an iconic, hip “Made in the USA” brand, with its remaining assets being sold to Canadian-based Gildan. What’s up with that? Eh?

The Featured Image, and the pic following below the fold, tells a different story: Recent remembrance of another American Apparel, which allure popped pop culture’s cherry, for coolness and sex-appeal. On May 8, 2010, the retailer’s San Diego store held a rummage sale that drew long lines that wrapped around the block such that the end overlapped the beginning. I captured the moment with the Sigma DP2s. What a change in 7 years—and not just for the one clothier. Last year, local company Sports Chalet went out of business, around the same time as national chain Sports Authority. The Limited is shuttering all its stores, and Macy’s nearly 70. Should we blame China or, hehe, Amazon

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Apple Fiscal Q1 2017

The measure of Apple fiscal first quarter 2017 isn’t record revenues ($78.35 billion) but comparison to major competitors: More than three times Google ($26.06 billion) or Microsoft ($24.1 billion). Amazon announces tomorrow, Groundhog Day. Will the retailer’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, see his shadow? The 3x multiplier nearly applies to net income: $17.89 billion, versus $6.64 billion and $5.2 billion, respectively, for the two rivals. Looked at differently, compared to Apple’s same quarter in fiscal 2010, seven years later, profits exceed total revenues ($15.68 billion). That’s an astounding comparison.

The results defy pundits’ prognostications, including my own, about gravity pulling the company back to Earth. iPhone, as major source of revenue, can only stay up for so long, before slowing smartphone sales wreck havoc. That said, credit where it’s due: CEO Tim Cook is, as I’ve asserted before, a logistics and manufacturing genius. He is a strategist, but not an innovation leader like predecessor Steve Jobs. Cook masterfully manages his inheritance, but he, nor Apple observers, should get lost in the quarter’s glow: iPhone remains boon and bane. 

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Amazon Books San Diego

My wife and I drove to Westfield UTC to walk around on this bright sunny day, and to reminisce. Soon after we moved to San Diego in late 2007, my daughter started skating at Ice Town (since renamed UTC Ice), which is inside the mall’s food court. There, Firefighters gave her a Santa’s hat on Christmas Eve, 2008. We hadn’t visited the La Jolla retail complex for at least six months, and I suspect much longer. Hehe, we missed out. In September 2016, the second Amazon Books store opened there. The first is in Seattle, and there is another in Portland, Oregon.

Eleven months ago, when Wall Street Journal broke Amazon’s plan to open the shops, I offered some good reasons why the strategy makes sense, even if it might seem nonsensical when bookstores are shutting around the nation— the online retailer’s Kindle ebook business being a major reason. I had no idea then, or until today, that San Diego was among the locations. UTC is a good choice. Amazon Books is diagonally across from Apple Store, in a mall that is very outdoor shopping/walking friendly and courts a clientele that would shop for titles they can hold and read; no device or screen required. 

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This is Me Then and Now V

My past personal photo comparisons focused on a decade’s separation. Two years can make a difference, too, in terms of weight, health, and appearance. Both pics are self-portraits—the left from Jan. 11, 2015 and the other Jan. 7, 2017, shot using iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively. In the older photo, I weighed 63.4 kilos (139.8 pounds). The newer: 15 kilos (10 pounds) less, or about the same as 40 years ago, during my senior year of high school.

Occasionally, someone locally who hasn’t seen me for awhile will with concern ask if I’m ill, for being so skinny. Not at all. I tightened up my diet, cutting carb consumption by 80 percent-plus—and sugar by even more, when aware of its presence. The sweetener is in everything, and it is not so easy to expunge from the diet. Before changing my eating habits, and weight-loss was a byproduct not the purpose, I tipped the scale to 82.6 kilos (182 pounds). 

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Apple Store, Bah Humbug

Apple sure knows how to keep its store stocked for the holidays. Ho, ho, ho, bah humbug. The shelves are bare, and you can get your must-have pretty thing some time next year. If you’re lucky. Let’s start with the delayed AirPods, which went on sale online last week. They arrived in stores on Monday, and whoosh were gone before the waiting line ended. My local shop had about 30 pairs. If you want them, first available retail pickup date is—cough, cough—February 8th. That is 2017. I had to confirm not 2018, because you never know with these dumbfounding delays. Straight-to-ship orders move your way in six weeks. Donald Trump will be president sooner!

Perhaps you’re pining for one of those pricey MacBook Pros—you know, the ones with Touch Bar that no sane person knows what to do with. Apple will miss Christmas, but you can still beat Martin Luther King’s birthday, with orders made today delivering sometime between January 4-10 or available for in-store pickup on the tenth. God Bless America and Made in China! 

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Outrageous! Digital Wall Street Journal Costs 708% More Today Than Did My First Subscription!

As a journalist, I appreciate the importance of paying for quality journalism—but my budget only can absorb so many paywall subscriptions. I am disappointed to, once again, abandon the digital Wall Street Journal. Cost is too high. I resubscribed this year for a 6-month, election special promotional rate of $87—and received great value. The Journal became my newspaper of record during the brutal, belabored, blood-sucking Presidential campaign.

My sub would have auto-renewed on December 9th. But for how much? Nowhere (that I can find) does the account page disclose this vital information. So yesterday afternoon, I called customer service and received a shock that required the guy to repeat the renewal amount four times. Surely I misunderstood him: $98.97 for three months. That’s $395.88 per year! I pleaded for a deal and got one that isn’t low enough: $130.44 for six months. The WSJ rep compared the monthly costs for the incredible savings: $21.74, rather than $32.99 monthly. But as I told him, the meaningful comparison is to my other paid papers (digitally). 

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You Don’t Need Overdraft Protection

I knew it! Today’s Wall Street Journal story “Wells Fargo Managers Pushed Overdraft Services” exactly recounts my experience as the bank’s customer. Few years back, during a routine phone call, a banker offered to add overdraft protection to my account. She pitched it as an important benefit. I paused and replied that the account never overdraws. But she pressed, encouraging me to take the service—and did so four more times.

See, we had an exchange, where I pushed back hard. “If I overdraw the account, you don’t pay, right?”—being well aware of the 2010 Federal Reserve regulation regarding overdrafts. If customers don’t opt in, the bank doesn’t pay the bill and there is no fee. “You can charge only for overdrafts if I sign up, right?” She sidestepped, at first, avoiding the answer and touting the benefits to me. 

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Be Careful What You Wish For, Mr. Thiel

A report available today from Pew Research Center finds that 62 percent of American adults “get news on social media, and 18 percent do so often”. Those statistics should frighten new and old media, but more so critics like billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrolled wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker; the blog and news site lost. Depending on the outcome of a court hearing, Gawker could be shuttered or sold, if forced to put $50 million in escrow during the appeals process. The amount exceeds yearly advertising revenues.

Thiel admittedly put up about $10 million, if not more, to support Hogan’s lawsuit and unnamed others. Destroying Gawker might seem like an enviable outcome for one of Silicon Valley’s tech elite—he is a PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor—but, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum, which replacement isn’t waiting around. Social media increasingly fills the niche that Gawker vacates. 

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The Man on the Street

This afternoon, while walking along Adams Ave. in Normal Heights, I passed what appeared to be a homeless man sitting on a cement step inside an abandoned storefront doorway. He was grizzled but neat, with the leathery-brown skin hue common among people overexposed to the Southwestern Sun. His hair and beard bled gray all over what might have one time been black.

As I passed, he stopped over, arms resting on knees, alongside a small, black luggage bag with wheels and pulled-out handle. About 5 meters beyond him, my pace slowed. I rarely carry cash but today had a 10 dollar bill, which is more money than I usually give—and he had asked for none. I turned around and walked back, finding him up and moving. We passed. I hesitated once more then spun back and spoke. 

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A Few Bad Apples Shouldn’t Spoil the Whole Bunch, Mr. Cook

Listening to Apple’s fiscal second quarter 2016 earnings conference call yesterday was like attending a funeral—where the eulogy is for someone whom you know has gone to Hell. There’s no way to sugarcoat that the good days are over and an eternity of burning flesh awaits. I kid you not. Haul over to iTunes and download the replay. You’ll feel the grim reaper looking over your shoulder while CEO Tim Cook talks as joyfully about Apple’s performance as a man granted last words before the gallows.

And I wonder why? So what that Apple reported its first revenue decline in 13 years, or that iPhone sales fell for the first time ever, or that Q3 guidance is a few billion short of Wall Street consensus? This friggin’ company still mints money, and that ain’t changing anytime soon. Revenue reached $50.6 billion—more than Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft, and PayPal combined. Apple’s $10.5 billion net income exceeds that of Alphabet and Microsoft together. Oh, and iPhone generated more revenue ($32.86 billion) than either competitor’s total sales. Apple ended the quarter with a $232 billion cash horde. And we get a wake, not a celebration? 

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The End of the iPhone Empire Begins

The spotlight shines on the world’s most-valuable company this fine Tuesday, as Apple revealed results for fiscal second quarter 2016. Wall Street expected the first revenue growth decline in more than a decade and iPhone’s first-ever sales retraction . Is the sky finally falling? Eh, not yet. But the sun slowly sets over the vast smartphone empire.

Ahead of today’s earnings announcement, Wall Street consensus put revenue down 10.4 percent year over year to $51.97 billion, with earnings per share down 14.2 percent to $2. Apple actual: $50.557 billion sales, $10.5 billion net income, and $1.90 EPS. Three months ago, the company told the Street to expect between $50 billion and $53 billion in sales. You read the numbers correctly: Apple uncharacteristically missed the Street’s targets and came in on the low end of its own guidance.