Thursday, September 23, 2004

The most dangerous intersection in Pasadena

I like near the corner of Craig and Orange Grove, and it seems like once a month or so there's an accident there. Yesterday a couple of guys in a pickup hit a tree. The worst accident since we've lived here was a motorcylclist who was killed when he was hit by a car. My truck has been hit twice just parked on the street, and our neighbor's jeep was also hit while parked.

Most of the problem is that Orange Grove makes a little s-curve so that it can run a little further north. Drivers turning left onto south Craig or left onto west Orange Grove can't see cars on that curve until it's too late. Also drivers speed on both streets. Craig doesn't look busy, but since it goes under the freeway and past Colorado, it carries a lot of traffic south of Orange Grove.

I sent a request to the city to put in a traffic signal, which would help matters. I have some hope, since they did replace the stop signs with signals near the freeway on Craig. We'll see what happens.


Yesterday, less than 8 hours after I submitted a suggestion to through the Pasadena city website, the manager of the traffic engineering department wrote an email telling me a study would be finished around the end of next month. Apparently, some of my neighbors had already petitioned the City about it. Talk about a fast response!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Short PeopleSoft?

It looks like PeopleSoft executives are creating a golden parachute for when Oracle finally buys the company. As an Oracle shareholder, this isn't good news, but it's rotten news for PeopleSoft investors. As this takeover attempt drags on, the odds are Oracle will lower its offer price to reflect increased costs, such as these, and PeopleSoft's decreasing earnings.

Which is all to say, I wonder if shorting PeopleSoft (currently at $19.34) would make any sense? Most of the risk seems to be limited, since the price is currently capped at $21. If Oracle lowered the total offer by $2.2 billion, that would put it in the $15 range. If Oracle failed to buy PeopleSoft, I would imagine the price would fall even further. Management hasn't exactly been acting in the best interest of the owners.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Sourdough and composting

I started composting when we moved to our rental house -- the previous tenants had left a compost bin and I read about composting at the San Diego Zoo. Joy was happy because it gave us a good excuse to buy fruit and vegitables that we knew had a decent chance of going bad before we ate them. Coffee grounds, tea leaves and egg shells are supposed to be pretty good compost material, so it fit well with what I consume too.

On vacation to Idaho this summer, I took some sourdough starter to make pancakes and biscuits. Last Saturday I finally got a decent batch of bisuits. I think the starter might have died off a bit on the way home, but now it looks pretty good. I think I'll consider making bread soon.

Both of these things harness (or at least theoretically harness) organisms that would normally be considered harmful. Bacteria, worms and insects work together to break down the compost material so that I can spread it around our garden flowers. Bacteria and yeast work together to break down water and flour so that I can add it to dough to make it rise and add a bit of flavor. It's very satisfying.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Why I bought Oracle

Oracle was the first stock I researched and bought as an investment. At work, we use the Oracle database and I've spent several years learning how to use it.

Relational databases are designed based on a mathematical model invented by E. F. Codd, who was a researcher for IBM at the time. IBM didn't pursue the idea of relational databases because the assumption was they'd be too slow. The state of the art at the time were various designs that tried to match the data to the hardware that would be storing and manipulating it. What Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, attempted was to use the logical model pioneered by Codd to create a relational database.

It's a truism of computer science that you can't optimize for everything: if you make a program faster, it tends to be harder to change, for instance. Relational databases optimize for logically ordered data, rather than speed. But they also turned out to be fast enough, at least for most purposes. Over the years, Oracle has turned its early leadership in relational databases into huge profits, because there are now many more uses for databases than anyone could have imagined.

One of those applications, of course, was the internet, which drove Oracle's sales, profits and price to astronomical levels. So when the bubble popped, speculators panicked, and sold their Oracle shares down to under $8 from a split-adjusted high of over $46. It's obvious looking back that Oracle's price was far out-pacing its value. At $8 (where I bought my shares), it seemed to me there was plenty of room to grow. I like using the discounted earnings tool that Quicken provides.

So far I've been right.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Labor Day

This weekend, Joy and I put in quite a few hours fixing things at home. We finished painting our bedroom ceiling, installed a new ceiling fan, pulled off three doors for painting[1], spray-painted a bookcase, installed a locking doorknob on the bathroom[2], attempted to install new cabinet hinges in the kitchen[3], replaced the kitchen light, and made a trip each to Home Depot and Lowe's. Still on the on-deck circle are bathroom lights, finishing the various painting projects and replacing the bathroom outlet.

Because of the ancient wiring, electrical work is always a bit tricky. The electrical box in the kitchen didn't work with the new fluorescent light fixture we bought, but fortunately it included a mounting bracket that did fit. After I had finished, the circuit breaker would trip right away. I assumed it was a problem with the connections I'd just done, so I rewired and rewired. Finally this morning I tested with the old fixture and discovered that it still tripped. So I pulled out the new bracket and everything worked. The new screws had made contact with the rat's-nest of wiring stuffed into the box. In the end, I pushed around so that the bracket didn't cause a short and everything worked. I'm going to have to check the smoke detectors more often and make sure my renters insurance is up to date.

The result is very pleasing. Better light helps in almost every way. Now I wish we had taken some "before" pictures.


  1. That took longer than you might think thanks to the paint in the hinge pins.
  2. This was harder than it should have been because I had to drill more holes in the door so it would take modern locks.
  3. But failed because the screws were painted over. Whoever painted our kitchen should be tossed in jail.