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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Roman Mitz's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
12:22 pm
If anyone has Dan Root's contact info, I'd like to get in touch with him while I'm out here in Seattle. I believe thekeep's address has been dead for a while.
Monday, February 9th, 2009
10:28 pm
The republican right-wingers are really getting desperate
Just check this out. I didn't get it--Kelli did. I suspect they might have seen my name on the Obama donation list.


I think now might be the time to start mobilizing for a real replacement for the current Republican party.

As most of you know, I am fiscally conservative (but pragmatic) and socially liberal. History has already begun turning away from intolerance. It will not be quick, but it looks like it's coming.
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
9:48 am
Obama and The Middle East

First off, on the general policy shift of actually talking to people--kudos, that's wonderful, etc. We'll see how it goes, but it can hardly be worse than the previous strategy.

I do have a bit of an issue with one rhetorical flourish here, though.

Obama said the U.S. had made mistakes in the past but ''that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that.''

Let's see. That math works out to 1979-1989. That would be the time of Contra, the time of the Iranian Hostages, the time of the Arab-manipulated oil scare, etc. Admittedly, it got somewhat better at the end of that range. Originally I thought we were talking about 1970-1980, which would have been bleaker, but I'm behind the times. Going with "relatively recently" would have been safer.

(Aside: 20 years ago. Next year that will be 1990. Yikes.)

There was a relatively small window of better times, and it was never all that great. I wouldn't have tried that rhetoric, especially since most Muslims are hyper-historically aware, compared to an average American.

One other thing, look at the difference of quality in the questions in the actual interview, here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/26/obama-al-arabiya-intervie_n_161127.html
Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
10:38 am
PAT Sucks.
I forgot how freaking bad the busses are when the students come back.

Goddamnit, PAT, it's hardly a mystery. The class schedules are published. Maybe you want to make changes in your own schedule? I'm just saying.

I'd biked most of the time, but I am too much of a wimp to do so in the snow and such. And my rear rim got bent again, so it's not like I could just take it out during the nicer days. (I suspect the cold helped generate that issue).
Friday, January 9th, 2009
2:50 pm


(CNN) -- Robbie Tolan sits in a Houston, Texas, hospital bed with a bullet from a police officer's gun lodged in his liver. The son of a famed baseball player was shot in his own driveway.
Thursday, December 18th, 2008
10:05 am
Following up on my in-person play in the hotel here in Aruba, here we go:

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

The WBCOOP is an online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers.

Registration code: 957954

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008
4:01 pm
Warren Buffett: I Haven't Seen As Much Economic Fear In My Adult Lifetime

At this point I think the economic consequences might be unavoidable, with or without any sort of emergency plan. It is the people's attitudes which needed the most help, and that's not going to happen now, without time.
Saturday, September 27th, 2008
8:17 am
Followup Article(s)
I'll be editing this message with additional articles in the future, but this first one is extremely important to read now.


Today, there are many municipal bonds that were originally sold to expire 10-15 years from now. But projects finished early and the issuers wanted to pay them off. However, the bonds often have a minimum time before they can be called. So, issuers simply buy US Treasuries and put them into the bond, to be used when the bond can be called. Now, for all intents and purposes this is a US government bond which has the added value of being tax-free. I had a friend, John Woolway, send me some of the bid and ask prices for these type of bonds. One is paying two times what a normal US Treasury would pay. Another is paying 291% of a normal US Treasury. And it is tax-free! Why would anyone sell what is essentially a US treasury bond for a discount? Because they are being forced to sell, and no one is buying! The credit markets are frozen.
Thursday, September 25th, 2008
10:07 am
Why The Bailout Is Important (Probably)
One of the common claims is that no one is going to starve if the bailout doesn't happen. That's probably true, but picture the following situation.

The grocery chain that owns all the stores in your area was expanding rapidly in the last couple years, and went into large amounts of secured debt (i.e. mortgages) to do it. They used this money to build new stores, warehouses, shipping depots, etc. They even have a line of credit for covering cash flow needs for purchasing inventory before they can sell it.

Now, we have the current situation. Their real estate values have to be marked down, even though they have no intention of ever selling the properties at a profit. They are now in a negative equity situation on paper. This violates the debt covenants on their rotating line of credit. They can no longer purchase anything until they have hard cash.

Stores in most areas do not have much of a cushion in terms of their inventory supply--usually nor more than a week, and often less for perishables. While the run off in some of their inventory happens to build up enough cash to make purchases, people see the shelves emptying and panic. People hoard whatever they can, leaving lots of others with no food reserves.

Now, you might say, this solves the problem. They should have enough liquid money now, especially if they stop making some of their debt payments temporarily. But you've got some period of time where people are out of luck.

Now, what if this happens to some segment of their middlemen or end chain suppliers instead? What if the lenders for these lines of credit go bankrupt themselves? What if people simply start pulling lines of credit because of fear?

This possible chain of events are what people are talking about in the "Seizing up of the credit markets". In this country (and in large portions of the rest of the world), we have built up a system where almost everyone borrows for almost everything...from end customers all the way up the value chain. When this system breaks, the results are so unpredictable that no one really has any clue of what would happen--so the potential for a worst case scenerio needs to be the one which is considered.

Now, people probably wouldn't starve. They'd just have to live on rice or some other staples for a few months. Most people would probably not loose their jobs--but a large portion would, and this feeds back into the earlier problems. You have entered a positive feedback loop, and it's impossible to predict just how bad things could get.
9:47 am
Bailout Articles Roundup
I'm skipping some of the early commentary here, and concentrating on why the bailout is a good idea, probably necessary, and will end up not costing the government anything--in fact it should make money over the long term.

As reference, the text of the orginal draft of the bailout plan:

This draft is obviously inadequate in detail. Lots of people have made the points for needing oversight, etc, so I won't rehash those. We also seem to be nearing an acceptable compromise which includes these needed revisions (from popejeremy http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/paulson-senate-dems-reach-tentative-bailout-deal-2008-09-24.html )

Bush's speech transcript:

(Overstock CEO Comments on President Bush's Speech Outlining Bailout Plan)

Not what you might expect. These are important revisions in how we handle short sales which need to happen, as well as support that the government shouldn't pay prices which are too high for these SIVs (Structured Investment Vehicles).

(Bill Gross - How Main Street Will Profit)

This (and the follow up interview below) are hands down the best information I've seen anyone write on why this could work out quite well, why it's necessary, and why it's not really a windfall for Wall Street - they will be paying for their mistakes, because they cannot play out their hand.

(Follow up TV Interview on CNBC)

Another good article along these lines from Andy Kessler in the Wall Street Journal (got out of the .COM bubble when it started looking completely insane.)

Warren Buffett Articles


Transcript on CNBC inteview about Goldman Sachs investment. Lots of commentary on the fed Bailout--indicates some of the same ideas as Gross has but less elaborate).


The above article makes the claim that Buffett's deal with Goldman Sachs is not an investment, it's an endorcement deal.

While there is certainly an element of that (which is why it makes financial sense for Goldman), these kinds of preferred share investments are quite common. How is Buffett handing over 5B in cash NOT an investment? Sure, he gets a nice premium, and there is no equity risk--but in terms of risk, while he would get his principal back before shareholders in the event of a bankruptcy, he would be subordinate to all normal debt holders.

The Warrants are important and have value, but not actually part of the current investment, they are the outline of how future monies could be invested. Warren could by up to 5B worth of shares (at a $115 value). Warren has used this sort of structure before. So, claiming it not an investment is just hyperbole.
Saturday, July 19th, 2008
10:38 pm
Getting Rid of Stuff - Board Games
Kelli and I are getting rid of some games we don't really have interest in. Let us know if you want any, and can come by at some point to pick some up.

Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame
The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring Strategy Battle Game (Games Workshop)
Twister moves
Battle of the Sexes
Scruples (may be missing stuff)
Get The Picture
Memory Madness
Mad Gab
Mensa Mind Pack

Kids jigsaw puzzles:
Winnie the Pooh (24 piece)
Hello Kitty (64 piece)
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
4:11 pm
News Feed
Now that Google Reader allows me to add commentary to shared items, I believe I will start using it more extensively. If you're more of a "direct in RSS" person, go to the primary feed off of the web page here:


In addition, I've created a syndicated feed in LJ for convenience for LJ people, and it might be good for discussions. It's rmitzshare.
Friday, March 21st, 2008
10:02 am
On Stupid Protests
Well, I'm just posting today because of the stupid LJ strike, which says you *shouldn't* post today. I think the reasons for the strike are stupid, and people are getting riled up over nothing.

True, I am a paid LJ user (The only feature I use is stylesheets so I can get a single RSS feed for all my friends), but you get better functionality with the ads level of service than you did with the simple basic.

Furthermore, I looked at the Russian interview, and it really wasn't as inflammatory as the original translator claimed.

In sum, don't just react to something because someone is whiny tells you to, do think a little bit for yourself. If you have investigated and thought about it and still support the strike, well, I support that--but don't expect me to do so.
Monday, October 15th, 2007
9:02 am
In today's news...
CEO Option Grants Considered Harmful

It didn't really become clear to me how this would be true until reading Buffett's Letters to Shareholders, but he makes the case very clearly, though he doesn't actually emphasize the gambling aspect.

Stock options themselves are fine vehiclesfor getting an investment in a company, and I personally will probably never directly short shares when put options are available. (That said, my strategy is almost completely on the long side--the short side is too unpredictable to time properly.) However, there are two problems.

We have, thankfully, corrected the accounting problems in terms of stock option grants, so that's a step in the right direction. But when you give out options, it only makes sense to give them to people who can make a difference, not in return for goals which have a negligable impact on the bottom line. This means that in startups there can be some good use of stock options because things are so small that everyone has a signficant impact on company performance, and it will frequently be *less* dilutive to investors than trying to get another round of funding.

In large companies, however, options tend to be given out to people who don't have such a significant aspect. And, if they're actually destructive when given to CEOs, not just a shower of money, it's hard to see why you'd use them as incentive compensation at all. A restricted stock grant as opposed to an option for a CEO makes a lot more sense. The bottom line is, you want the people running to business to think and act like the own it, not that they're playing with someone else's toy.
Friday, October 12th, 2007
4:00 pm
Seems like fun...

Texas Holdem Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 2755410

9:12 am
Unconscious Sabotage
I was reading this article in my RSS reader this morning, and a thought occured to me.

Dropped Call Earns Ousted Sprint CEO $55.3 Million in Severence

It is a matter of fact in many mergers like this, that many of the people helping to integrate the merger are going to lose their jobs following the merger. This clearly means that it is in their best interest, consciously or not, to delay the integration. This could be in the form of deliberate non- or slow- work, or it could simply be a decision to jump ship before they're pushed overboard.

Billions of dollars were spent on this initiative, and I've got to think, that some portion of that would have been better spent in "exhorbitant" seeming bonuses to a large swath of relevant technical people. The first structure that occurs to me is a year's salary when the merger is completed, and an additional year in severance if their job is lost during a certain time period, rather than saying "as a result of the merger" which would be too easy to work around.

I clearly have not looked at specific numbers and have no idea how well this would work. I know it's been done for "higher-ups" in various mergers...but where it would be most efficiently applied seems like it'd be the higher level rank-and-file.

Friday, October 5th, 2007
3:17 pm
Another meme from mightyjesse.

Your Brain Usage Profile:

Auditory : 53%
Visual : 46%
Left : 52%
Right : 47%


Read more...Collapse )
Monday, August 20th, 2007
8:54 pm
I was inspired to do this after seeing the initial bit in a Questionable Content comic. What autocompletes in your browser after hitting one letter?

a amazon.com
b berkshirehathaway.com
c cnbc.com
d diamondcu.org
e ebay.com
f finance.google.com
g gmail.com
h hondata.com
i idm71[redacted-work]
j jot.com
k kerberos.org
l livejournal.com
m mail.google.com
n nationalgeographic.com
o overcompensating.com
p phx.corporate-ir.net
q questionablecontent.net
r reader.google.com
s southwest.com
t travelocity.com
u usbuirt.com
v vanguard.com
w webiso.andrew.cmu.edu
x xe.com
y yahooligans.com
z zones.com
Sunday, July 22nd, 2007
8:31 pm
Car: Acquired
Yeah, I bought the car I posted about last time. I like it. I like it a lot. http://rmitz.org/AT-D5D72D7.pdf

It'll take me some more practice to get smooth with the stick, but that's OK. Thanks to Kelli for driving out with me.
Saturday, June 23rd, 2007
7:21 pm
In the "Problems that are OK to have dept."
I'm currently struggling with what kind of car to get when I return to the US. There is a set of parameters that are fixed: I am getting a convertible, probably 2-3 years old, stick, under $30k. Within these parameters, though, there are two major contenders and I don't know which way to go.

The crux of the problem is that there are several competing factors, and I just don't know which ones are more important to me at this point. So in way of explanation, I will toss out the models I've considered:

1) Honda S2000. I've been in love with this car for some time now--I actually considered purchasing one here in Qatar. It's a sweet car, sporty, and I'd bank on it being reliable since it's a Honda (as a subset of Japanese cars). I'm not actually going to be commuting to work by car anyway, so I don't need a car I can car pool with, or anything like that. Drawbacks: 1) Only 2 seats, 2) favorite color only came out in 2006 (minor). I don't know that I feel comfortable with only having room for one passenger, as it's mainly a pleasure vehicle, and my vision would be to use it for enjoyable trips, particularly since I'll be living with Kelli and Jamie. It also means that I'm hamstrung in being able to help out in giving rides to people, but perhaps this really isn't much of an issue these days. Trunk space might also be something of an issue.

2) BMW 3-series. It has 4 seats. The body is quite nice, though I'm not crazy about it, available colors are OK. I suspect the reliability somewhat more, and the resale value doesn't seem to hold up quite as well--though coming in at the 2-3 year mark probably equalizes things quite a bit. The performance will probably be more than reasonable for what I really want and would use it for. I'm not going to be taking it out on the track or anything like that. There seem to be some good deals if I look nationwide, though I'm not really comfortable buying a used car site unseen. One other problem is that the rear seats might not really have enough room to be very useful--I've never really looked closely at one in person.

3) Toyota solara. If it weren't for the fact that the car is completely uninspired, it'd probably be the right compromise. The exterior is OK but more eh than the BMW. The interior...looks exactly the same as every other Toyota ever. Which is to say, "boring".

So, gods of Livejournal, I would appreciate any thoughts you may have. Anything else I might be missing/forgetting? I'm pretty down on American cars, and whatever it is, I want it to be very reliable.
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