Withholding Craters!

I am reporting this one day early because this year is a leap year. So, it is fair to make a quarter-over-quarter calendar-based comparison using one less day in March.

Note on the chart how growth in the Treasury’s withholding of taxes from paychecks dropped to nothing in the first quarter of 2008:

Withholding - Quarterly Minus Leap Day

The exact number is -0.09%.
1Q07 withholdings were $473,719,000.
1Q08 withholdings were $473,275,000.

This is the first quarterly drop since 4Q03. Any jobs that were added over the past year are gone – and then some when you account for wage inflation.

Not good.

I will add this chart to my main Withholding page tomorrow, along with an “official” one that includes the leap day.

Those Mysterious Chinese Hedge Funds

Remember a couple of years ago when the housing bubble began to burst? And the financial media told us that homeowners could not even figure out who to re-negotiate their mortgages with? And that the mortgage derivatives market had become so complex that nobody could figure out who owned what? And that all the mortgages were being held by Chinese hedge funds for all anybody knew?

What kind of reporting was that?

It turns out that the mortgages were sitting right there on Wall Street the whole time. A big stinking pile of them were right at Bear Stearns. I’m wondering how exactly these things were hidden for so long on the balance sheets of public companies.

Even if it is Enron all over again, at least we know where some of the mortgages are now: they have been purchased on behalf of the tax payers and are safe-and-sound in the coffers of the Federal Reserve Bank. Your tax dollars at work…

Let’s hope that Chairman Bernanke can eventually turn a profit with the fire-sale prices he got on them.

How I Saved Warren Buffet’s Life

On November 20, 2006, Warren Buffet was on CNBC saying that he had no personal security, wandered around Omaha with no escort, and said: “Nobody’s out to get me.” He drove by his house with the CNBC reporter, and they showed the house on TV several times as the piece repeated over the next few days.

After I saw that, I went into misc.invest.stocks and wrote a post about how Eddie Lampert, CEO of Sears, was himself kidnapped in 2003. I suggested that somebody pass on my advice for Mr. Buffet to get himself some security, which he eventually did. And it was a good thing because on September 6, 2007, somebody did try to break into his house while he and his wife were at home.

Did my advice reach Buffet? I don’t know, but CNBC people do troll misc.invest.stocks for story ideas, and they have Mr. Buffet on frequently, so there is a good chance that one of them mentioned it to him.

Click here for my original post archived in Google Groups.

If my post did influence Mr. Buffet to hire that security guard, a gratuity might be in order, right?

A Different Kind of Recession

If the GDP data eventually shows that we are in a recession, I think it will turn out to be a lot different from the last recession.

  1. A weak dollar keeps exports strong.
  2. Deficit spending on Iraq keeps the economy stimulated.
  3. The real-estate mania did not result in billions of dollars wasted on worthless dot-com’s as the stock mania did in 2000. Instead we are left with a lot of perfectly good houses and condos. Pets.com was a total loss, but while developers might not make their profit goals on Miami condos, I don’t see any high-rises being torn down. Instead of smoking craters, we are left with shinny new real estate this time around.
  4. There was no mania in US stocks in 2007 like there was in 2000. Americans put their money in other countries like China and India, and commodities like oil and gold. So, we are unlikely to see anything anywhere near the historic decline we saw in the S&P 500 during 2000, 2001, and 2002. We are simply not unwinding a massive bubble.
  5. Businesses have been running a tight ship in regard to inventories. So, we don’t need to layoff lots of workers until excess inventory is worked off.

Many of us are expecting this recession to look like the last one, like generals fighting the last war. It probably won’t turn out that way.

How to Get Comments onto Pages in WordPress’s Default Theme

As you may have noticed, if you use WordPress’s default theme, “Kubrick”, the comments form does not show up on pages even when you have the option switched-on for a page. I regard this as a theme bug. I fixed it by adding the PHP call to WordPress’s comments function to the bottom of the page.php file.

I did this with WordPress v2.3.3, and have no idea if it will work with other versions. Be careful when editing theme files. Make sure to download a copy of the file first with your FTP program so that you can upload it again if something goes wrong. If you blow up your blog, it’s not my fault.

Steps:

  1. Go to your admin panel
  2. Click Presentation
  3. Click Theme Editor
  4. Make sure that “WordPress Default” is selected
  5. Click the “Page Template” link
  6. Make sure that you are editing “page.php”
  7. Find this line near the bottom: <?php endwhile; endif; ?>
  8. Right below it, enter this: <?php comments_template(); ?>
  9. That tells WordPress to add the comments form.
  10. This is code, so each and every character must be typed exactly.

I don’t have a lot of comments on this site, so this hasn’t been battle tested. Let me know how it works for you.

Biting Yourself While Chewing

Have you ever accidentally bitten your lip, cheek, or tongue while chewing your food? If so, then you know how painful it can be. Some people think that they are eating too fast, or just being clumsy, but I don’t think that is the case. The process of chewing is like the beating of your heart: it’s not something that you have to learn and practice. There was no “Chewing Food 101” class in school.

I think this phenomena is caused by a malfunctioning nervous system due to an electrolyte deficiency. Your nervous system needs sodium, potassium, and calcium to work properly. (Yes, that’s right, you need salt – salt is not evil.)

If your electrolytes are out of whack, then your body can’t control your muscles properly because it is either sending the wrong signals, or all the signals are not reaching the muscles, or both.

How does this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  1. Chemically-induced dehydration – Caffeine and alcohol are well known to dehydrate you. If you stay out late drinking, and then guzzle coffee in the morning to stay awake, don’t be surprised if you start biting yourself. Adding some Gatorade to the mix might help.
  2. Eating a diet that is too acidic – This depletes your calcium. See the post I wrote on the cause of stiff necks and back pain for the full explanation and instant cure.
  3. Mineral Supplements – Taking extra mineral supplements can create a mineral imbalance. For example, when my skin breaks out, I take some extra zinc, which usually helps. However, one day, I must have taken too much because I started biting myself like crazy during lunch. I had been keeping a good acid-alkaline balance with my diet, sticking to one Dr Pepper per day, and a beer or two, so I’m pretty sure it was the excessive zinc.
  4. Getting Low-Sodium Religion – While your body can adapt to a lower sodium intake, going cold-turkey is not a good way to get there. If you suddenly reduce your normal sodium consumption, you just might start biting yourself for a day or two while your body adjusts.

Of course, I am a programmer, not a doctor, so if you don’t get a quick cure by adjusting your diet with the steps above, you should definitely see a doctor. If your nervous system is telling you to chew on yourself, then we can only imagine what other wrong things it is telling the rest of your body to do.

Miracle Stiff-Neck Cure

Bottom Line: Your diet is too acidic.

Have you ever had your neck stiffen up so that it was extremely painful just to turn your head? A doctor would call this a “sub-clinical” condition because it is not caused by a disease. Sub-clinical conditions also do not get much research because they are not considered serious. Of course, if you cannot turn your head far enough to see where you are going when backing your car out of a parking space, it could become very serious indeed for somebody walking behind you.

Sub-clinical conditions are a hobby of mine. When you have something as complicated as the human body, and no research being done on a condition, you have a good mystery to solve.

One day in February 2008, I woke up with intense pain in my upper back, between my shoulder blades. It was incredibly intense; like I had been stabbed. I literally almost could not get out of bed. I eventually staggered over to my computer and started researching. Once I made the “too acidic diet” conclusion, I ate a handful of Walgreens brand antacid tablets, which are a Tums knock-off. (If you don’t have Walgreens or Tums in your country, any calcium-carbonate antacid would work fine.) I felt the difference almost immediately. I was up and shadow-boxing in just a few minutes. It felt like a miracle. I used the antacid because everything I had in the house was acidic, which is how I got into this condition in the first place, of course.

There are many reasons to “eat your greens”, but probably the most over-looked one is that they help you maintain your acid/alkaline balance. Staying in balance is crucial to health and probably why the folk remedy of using fresh fruit to cure the cold, flu, etc. works so well. The slogan, “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away” probably has its roots in the fact that apples are alkaline.

While researching this, I found many web sites claiming that you can incur this sort of pain by “sleeping wrong.” I think that is crazy. The very idea of “sleeping injuries” seems ridiculous to me. Yes, you can sleep on your arm and cut off the circulation, but do we really need to work on our sleeping skills to avoid injury in this “dangerous” activity? I don’t think so. Rather, I think that while you are sleeping, you are not eating anything that your body can use to reduce acidity, so that is a prime time for your muscles to stiffen up. I have also had this pain strike me during the day, so I’m certain that it has nothing to do with sleep itself.

I am no biochemist, but it appears that your body can use calcium to reduce the acidity of your blood. By using up all your calcium, you develop an electrolyte deficiency. Your nervous system uses sodium, potassium, and calcium to propagate signals along your nerves. So, what I think causes the pain is nerves going haywire due to lack of calcium. That would explain how eating something alkaline (especially calcium-carbonate) can provide instant relief: your muscles are not really damaged at all; they are only malfunctioning because your nervous system is not sending them the right signals. So, you don’t need any time to heal.

The first thing I did after making this discovery was to eat a lot more fruit. I had some juice with every meal, and ate a couple of pieces of fresh fruit each day. It worked, but my weight started to go up from all those extra carbohydrates. Then I noticed that lemons were at the top of the alkaline-foods list, so I ditched the juice and started putting lemon juice in my drinks. It worked beautifully.

While I was googling around researching this, I found several good clues, but nobody who had put them all together as I have done here. It is possible that somebody wrote this in a health book somewhere, but if Google doesn’t know about it, does it really exist? Until further notice, I am claiming to be the originator of this miracle cure.

Here is a web page you can use to check how acidic your diet is. Also, see my “Acidic & Alkaline Foods” page.

If you think you can continue eating your acidic diet and balance it out with a lot of antacid, you are mistaken. The calcium in the antacid will cause a mineral imbalance. For example, it might induce a zinc deficiency and cause persistent acne. It’s just not a good idea. Only use antacid in an emergency.

This, of course, is not professional medical advice. If your pain persists, you need to see your doctor since it could be something serious like tetany.

Why Vegetarians are Weak

Bottom Line: Not enough phosphorus, which is used in the universal energy molecule, ATP.

Phosphorus is an essential mineral just like calcium, and is used for all kinds of things in your body. Not only will you be low on energy without it, but a lot of other things will go wrong too. The best sources of phosphorus are meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. So, if you give those things up, you might run low on phosphorus and start to feel un-energetic.

The cure is very easy; you can google-up some high-phosphorus vegetarian food choices, order a phosphorus supplement, or simply drink some Dr Pepper. Many sodas contain phosphoric acid, but check the label to make sure because some of them, like Sprite, use citric acid instead.

I googled around before writing this, and as far as I can tell, I am the first person to make this discovery. I am claiming to be the originator of this concept until proven otherwise.

Note: I am no longer a vegetarian. I have since discovered that people with Type B blood such as myself must avoid chicken. I can eat any other kind of meat and feel fine. I learned this from Eat Right For Your Type by Peter J. D’Adamo, a diet book that you should read if you want your body running at 100%.

SDB File Extension Warning

Bottom line: Windows thinks that files using the .sdb extension are registry patch files, and during a system restore, will roll them back to previous versions.

Many applications use the SQLite database engine, and a good number of them use the .sdb extension for the database files that they create. This is fine on the Mac, iPhone, and Linux, but definitely not a good idea on Windows. If your system crashes, and Windows forces you to do a system restore, you might lose important data. Windows thinks that your .sdb files may have been responsible for damaging the registry and tries to return your system to its previous state by rolling back the files to previous versions.

For example, if you have a customer-database program that you update throughout the day, Windows will replace it with a copy that it has stored in the most-recent restore point. Having a back-up copy of your database won’t help unless you make copies throughout the day.

Another consequence is that if you have many large database files, Windows will use up more time and space for restore points. Windows appears to scan your system, and make copies of any file that ends in .sdb, regardless of whether or not it was used to modify the registry. If Windows puts a lot of large database files into its restore points, they will take up more of the allocated space, and you will have fewer restore points. When you have to do a system restore, you want to have a few restore points to choose from.

Search your system for all files that end in .sdb. If you find anything that looks important, make a back-up copy of it every time you update it. You should also complain to the software company, and request a new version of the software that evades the problem. A programmer can fix this problem pretty easily. Nothing more than choosing a new file extension is required. While there is no “official” extension that I know of, I think .sqlite is reasonable. I use .rsd, but only because that’s what the REALbasic language likes.

I learned this .sdb hazard the hard way after a power outage. When my Vista Ultimate system started-up, Windows insisted on doing a system restore. It re-assured me that my data would not be harmed. So, I clicked the OK button, and soon realized that Windows was lying. It most certainly did harm my data. Each of my SQLite database files was missing recent updates, while my other files were fine.

I googled around and didn’t find mention of this problem elsewhere, so I am claiming to be the originator.