Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The recent mass deletion of "objectionable" communities and journals has me on edge. Not that it affects me directly -- none of the communities I visit were affected -- but the attitude being taken is so very big brother-ish. You can argue about legalese and how, as a corporation, Six Apart is not bound by the Constitution of the United States -- at a basic level, I feel there's been a violation of an implicit trust.

And, as an engineer, things that put me on edge spark me into looking for solutions to the problem. Technical solutions, not diplomatic ones (though I did pass the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Service Exam, I decided this isn't exactly my calling). It makes me wonder if there's a way to ensure this doesn't happen again -- e.g., by decentralizing the power that's currently centralized.

Ironically, solving this would solve a similar issue we're facing at work (, you might have seen my thread on sde-feedback@ about my ideas for a decentralized package store). I even have the basic idea in my head.

What I can't figure out, however, is how to restrict access in the manner of friends-only entries and the like. I mean, it's certainly possible -- a friends-only entry just becomes an entry encrypted with various friends' public keys. However, today I can trust that my restricted entries won't be reposted because I trust those on my friends list. With what I'm proposing, I would have to trust not only you, any software that you might run, and anyone who might acquire (illicitly or via other means) your private key, now and in the future.

That's a lot of trust.

I'm going to mull this over in my head a bit more. I don't know if it'll actually go anywhere -- honestly, work has left me in a zombie state most days. I'm angry, but I don't know if I'm angry enough to overcome zombie dacut.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oof. Only a mile and change, but this left me wiped:

Swimming with a wetsuit feels like someone has attached rubber bands to my limbs. It's also nice, though a bit exhausting, to not have to turn around every 25 yards. :-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Moron^H^H^H^H^H More on investing

Amazon's stock is up 7% today -- for no reason. I decided to sell my (small) holdings entirely.

I mean, rah rah company and all, but this is just irrational. Our P/E ratio is 107. In plainer English, this is thinking along the lines of: "If the stock price is tied to a company's performance, if I give you $107 today, I can expect this to be worth $108 a year from now."

This is a worthy investment in, say, a charity (where I expect to reap zero financial return). In a for-profit enterprise, however, it's silly. With inflation running a little over 1% per year, this is a net loss. Most banks will pay you a higher interest rate!

Now, there can be other assumptions being made in the valuation. Some of this is a correction for previous assumptions about stagnant profits, which were blown away during our last earnings report. It could also be shorts covering (an activity I'll explain below). Either way, this is not a position I feel a comfortable basis for investment.
What's this about "shorts covering"? No, it's not a way to hide your underwear. A short seller is someone who makes a bet that a stock fall over some time period. An example of how this works is:
  • Alice thinks Amazon's stock will fall over the next three months.
  • Alice borrows 100 shares of Amazon from her broker, Bob, which she immediately sells for $5/share, netting her $500.
  • Three months pass, and Amazon is now at $4/share. Alice buys 100 shares, costing her $400.
  • Alice returns the 100 shares to Bob and keeps the $100.

Ok, sounds reasonable. But what if Amazon's stock actually rises a month after Alice sells her (well, Bob's) shares? She could hang on, hoping that it will fall in the next couple months; on the flip side, she could decide to cover her losses and buy the shares back right now (before they rise further).

Like anything else, stocks are subject to supply and demand. When a lot of people want to buy the stock, this increases demand and the price rises. You can see how short sellers can create a feedback loop here: A positive report about the stock causes the price to rise; shorts cover their losses, causing the price to rise further.

Anyway, if this sounds a bit abstract and sketchy to you, you're not alone. I prefer a firm connection between a company's performance and its stock price.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I think this short is going to give me nightmares.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Canada does away with paper money

At least, that's what appears to be happening. They've just issued a C$1 million coin. It's 50 cm wide, 3 cm thick, and weighs 100 kg.