The Market Ticker
Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Musings]
2017-05-15 17:20 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 367 references
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Sarah's blog is at http://sdtraveler.org 

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2017-05-01 12:49 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 304 references
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In 2014 I penned an article called In Closingwhich you can still read today.  It chronicled what I had seen in the previous seven years of writing The Ticker and operating tickerforum -- a bit of my own personal business history, why I started writing and more, most-importantly, why I was slowing it down and shutting down most of my revenue operations in that regard.

That trend has continued because not only has the attitude of the American public not changed, but if anything it's gotten much worse in that the scams are now being cheered by a huge percentage of the population -- particularly in Health Care.

This last week marked a few more movements in this regard.

First, I've moved The Market Ticker to a very inexpensive "cloud" host.  Not, it's not Amazon, because believe it or not it was impossible to compare their pricing for what I needed against Digital Ocean's.  I ran some tests and found that, to my shock, the software runs very well on a much smaller configuration than I ever imagined it would.  It certainly didn't hurt that I had been running secondary DNS over at Digital Ocean for ~2 years without a single problem (as an aside, if you're interested in trying them click here; they have a nice deal where you get some free time to play with and if you stay and buy I get a small referral credit.)

This in turn has allowed me to radically deconfigure the hardware here at Ticker Central.  It's long-since paid for, but turning off a lot of it means less power consumption and less A/C. My numbers say that between those two I will likely pay for the cloud host bill.  Yeah, it's basically free to put it up there.

This also means that my "business class" Internet connection is going to get disconnected too.  Yes, a cheap personal one will replace it, but that comes with a big difference in price.

Is there a cost to this in terms of operational integrity?  Yes.  I am not paying to run the "all the time, always hot" backup system I used to use.  If there's a "bad incident" there will be comments and perhaps a few articles actually lost, because the backups are now a timed thing that I run, rather than an "always-on, always current" streaming replication.  Do I care?  Nope.

I may, incidentally, decide to publish my Raspberry Pi3 "firewall" SD image.  It turns out that the Pi3 can handle over 30Mbps through a single ethernet interface on two vLANs (that is, input and retransmit on the same cord) which is pretty damn good for a 100Mbps base link speed.  I'm going to test it with a second USB interface plugged in, which might get within spitting distance of 100Mbps wire speed.  That configuration, by the way, runs read only off the SD card and thus is extremely tolerant of "problems" (like unannounced power yanks) and provides full isolation and port forwarding.  In other words it keeps all the jackasses off the computers in your house.

By the way, if you're one of those people who is on a "Wordpress" site I wish to advise you that there's some nasty new thing going around targeting it.  I don't know exactly what it is, but my systems have been repetitively probed for evidence of Wordpress on them -- which this system isn't. I assume that would shortly be followed by an ugly if the file they were looking for was found, however.

If you're an online publisher with a blog, newsletter or similar maybe you ought to talk to me, seeing as The Market Ticker software runs really nicely, including the Postgres backend database, on a $20/month server.  I guess programming it in "C" pays off in efficiency, eh?  Want a business opportunity?  Talk to me about buying the code and selling it (or just selling publishing instances on it.)  It's not like the software base isn't stable..... (it's been running this joint for a long time!)

Anyway, the point of this article is simple: Given what I continue to see, including the idiocy of those on their knees before our President who openly admits he'll blow the deficit to Hell, and the math on the impending crack-up in the federal budget caused by Medicare and Medicaid which is being intentionally left unaddressed because to fix it means accepting an immediate and deep recession, I'm pulling in my horns even further -- in fact, to the point where I take what was a six figure LLC and turn it into a four figure one -- on purpose.

My attitude will change when the people of this country change their attitude and what they're willing to accept -- but since I no longer expect that to happen, ever, I'm going to continue with my approach of reduce, walk off, and fly the bird.

Bonne chance mes amis.

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2017-05-01 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 195 references
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A few weeks ago the kid's car starts leaking a bit of anti-freeze.

It's an older car -- '03 Jetta -- used to be mine.  Given to her on her 18th birthday, with the proviso that all she got was the car -- no tag fee, no title fee, no insurance, all that she had to pay for on her own, initially and forevermore.  Oh, and all of her own gas and maintenance stuff too.

Not too long ago she said there the coolant light came on. The source of the leak wasn't obvious; there was no liquid anywhere I could see, it was very slow, and fortunately there was no evidence that it was head-gasket related.  I warned her when it started that she better contemplate thinking about the idea that perhaps it's really getting to be too old, and that all things eventually break in a way that can be fixed, but isn't worth fixing -- and this might be that time.  She didn't like that idea very much; she loves the car and, surprise-surprise, took the warning of years ago if you wreck it you own all the pieces to heart -- and hasn't.  Never mind that these particular cars are worth shocking amounts of money, even at this age; it's not uncommon for one to fetch upward of $6,000 with the very-undesirable automatic gearbox, which has a nasty habit of detonating somewhere around 150,000 miles or so in it!

Anyway, about a week ago that little coolant loss, which fortunately was never detected in the cabin (changing a heater core on these things requires ripping the entire dash out of the car, which is a full-day five-alarm pain in the ass) turned into a puddle on the garage floor that I noted when she went to work.  Uh, that's an emergency situation.

So I stuck it up on the ramps, took off the solid aluminum engine protector and had a look.

It appeared the leak was coming from the water pump.  That's a very bad place on these cars, because the water pump is driven by the timing belt.  There are two places that pump can leak; from the O-ring that seals it to the block (a mess but not dangerous) and from the shaft, which is very dangerous because when the bearing gets compromised the pump will probably seize and strip the teeth off the belt.  Pistons, say hello to valves.  That's expensive and you get no warning either.

I had changed the belt about 70,000 miles previous.  Everything in there has a "nominal" 100,000 mile rating, so it's about two years of "average" driving early and has to be done right meow.

I had the parts in hand Wednesday evening and Thursday morning I tore it down.  In the process I found a small oil seep from the camshaft seal (which I fortunately had from the last time I did the belt and it wasn't leaking), so I took the time to replace that, and I also found a pressure leak on the coolant reservoir at the electrical connector.  Oh, and it was leaking from the shaft seal; once I got all the access covers off the source was quite visible.

Whoever she prays to did her a favor; that's a problem VW had in the early 2000s with coolant reservoirs, and I had changed the one in the car about 6-7 years ago after VW said they fixed it as a means of mitigating that risk.  VW lied about it being fixed in the newer parts.  Oh, and the consequence of not catching this problem early is that it will drive coolant under pressure into the wiring harness and eventually, over time, destroy the things it's plugged into -- like the instrument cluster or engine computer.

Thank you Mexican auto parts -- or thank you "NAFTA" if you wish.  I'm sure having it made in Mexico saved VW a whole $5 on a $50 (retail) part at the cost of thousands in damage when the seals fail on it.  Don't even get me started about CRAP -- that's the vernacular for Chinese Replacement Auto Parts.  Yes, all the "common" places you can buy parts such as Autozone get them from China.  Yes, they'll "warranty" them for life.  You will need that warranty and by the way, while they'll happily give you another one at the counter when the "replacement" fails the labor is not included.  Nor is any consequence of the part(s) failing, which means you never, ever use anything from these places somewhere that (1) takes all day to get to or (2) can destroy other things when (not if) it fails.  Someone quite close to me discovered this the hard way a number of years ago with their replacement CV Axles on his Jeep -- he went through three of them in a year and did one in my driveway after it threatened to disintegrate on him while on his way to my house.

So that bottle got replaced too, and while I was at it I chased down and (hopefully) fixed some oil seepage from the quite-old valve cover gasket, which (thanks VW) is integral to the cover and can't be replaced independently.  No, I'm not buying a $100 valve cover to take care of a $5 gasket; Permatex is my friend and if it still weeps a bit that's ok on a 15-year old car.

So what's the point of this post?

Quite simply this: If you took the car to the stealer doing this job "by the book" plus their markup on the parts would easily set you back $1,000 and they probably would have missed the coolant bottle leak, which in another few months would have led to another $1,000 bill or more when the instrument cluster shorted out.

Yes, the parts to do this job right were $300.  Yes, the labor was an all-day job, plus waiting for "best results" from the re-seal jobs, so it was close to 24 hours (heh, I gotta sleep) between starting and the car starting again.

But as it turns out due to that nice bit of work everything is back to normal, the belt job is good for another 100,000 miles (assuming there's not another early failure like this one) and I'm either lucky or pretty damn good because when I fired it up there was zero fine-tuning of the injection timing required (you usually do have to fine-tune it when you change these belts.)  Oh, and electrically the car is just fine.

Don't know how to do this stuff?  Learn.  It's not hard at all but the work itself, done properly, is tedious.

Don't like grease under your fingernails?  Bend over.  It only takes one of these to ruin your year financially.  This particular one resulted in two dodged bullets, and one of them would have probably still found its mark had a "professional" done the job for her at ridiculous cost.

Want to be the "white knight on steed" that gets my kid's attention?  She's not a computer geek like me by any means but she is smart, cute and very creative -- she outshoots me with a camera by a wide margin.  But you need to be the guy who isn't Pajama Boy when it comes to things like this.  You don't have to be materialistic, or a rocket scientist yourself, and it probably helps if you're neither. But you damn well ought to be able to fix a car.

I suppose you could also decide you're not going to own a car, and be an "Uber" rider, or one of those urban dwellers who doesn't need one.  Hell, I lived in the "don't really need a car" world for quite a long while -- the "L" was around the corner, there was a bar next door (and 20 more within a half-mile walk) and a little market a block and down the street.  I still insisted on a garage (which cost extra) and kept a car though, and these days you damn well better do it; when I lived in a big city it was for economic opportunity and convenience.  Today, if things go sideways and you can't get out you're going to be food when, not if, the government's finances blow up and all the "free money" folks get a DECLINED on their SNAP cards.

I'll tell you what distresses me though.

Last night I was having a beer and the "how was your week" thing came up.  I explained what I had just gotten done doing because I hadn't been there the previous night for the Thursday run club get-together and the people in the bar were astonished that I could handle it.

What?

Folks, work like that isn't hard.  Yes, it's detailed -- this bolt is tightened to that torque spec, this bolt is not to be reused (it will break if you re-use it) and similar.  So what?  It's not difficult when you get down to it; it just requires that you pay attention to what you're doing and it does consume time.

What the hell is wrong with us as a nation when we can't handle something like this any more -- virtually to an individual?

Wake up folks and pick up a screwdriver or wrench today.  Not only will it save you a lot of money it will also greatly reduce the risk of you having bad things happen without warning that greatly inconvenience you (or worse.)

PS: When the "thing" that is breaking is in your residence it's even more-important.  It' just little things like ruined ceilings, floods (from a leaking water heater) or even a fire that come from inattention to these things wherever you live.

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