Archive for the 'Social aspects' Category


Down, But Just a Hair

I haven’t run all of the numbers I usually do, but due to all the concerns about March for investors–the downturn late in February, the unrest in Egypt, and the natural disaster and nuclear concerns in Japan–I did a quick run of numbers for the S&P 500 for that month.

That broad index was indeed down for March–all of 2.81 points.

That translates into 0.21%.

So yes, the market went down–at least this index of the market, anyway–in the month of March. But very, very little.


Helping Hands for Japan

I’m half Japanese (the other half is Okinawan, and yes, there is a difference).

That said, many of us in Hawai’i have been trying to raise–and give–funds for disaster relief.

I took part in the Flock of Cranes fundraiser organized by my Twitter and in real life buddies Appi Yashiro and Ricky Li. A thousand cranes representing healing were folded, plus money was raised, for disaster relief. There’s more, of course: local clothing manufacturers are donating money from the sale of the Aloha Japan shirt, for instance. The Red Cross is taking donations directly; through sending a SMS message a $10 add on to your phone bill becomes a donation to Japan disaster relief.

Let’s do what we can to help those who were devastated by this disaster.

As news of the horrific Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami spread, my first thoughts were of protecting my family here, followed immediately by my friends in Japan. Many people I know are either working or studying there and it was frightening to think of what could have happened to them with the tragic pictures and videos coming from the area.

Fortunately, all of my friends and family are safe. How did I find out, especially with so many issues with telephone communication there and here?

Interestingly, through social media.

Through Twitter and Facebook I found out relatively quickly that all of my contacts in Japan were faring well post earthquake (although we were worried for a few hours on one of our friends who had to walk many kilometers home and wasn’t able to let us know she was safe due to mobile phone issues).

On the flip side of the coin, my buddy Eric “Sheppy” Shepherd (world famous Apple II programmer) checked in on me via Twitter, leading me back to the Internet relay chat for the first time in ages (talk about some old school social networking).

I’m grateful that my friends were all safe and I hope that they continue to be. Social media made this into less of an ordeal than I thought it might be.

If there’s any one thing to compare energy price increases (like the current spike in the price of oil) with, it’s a tax. We’re paying more for the same thing we got a few weeks ago, and unlike with a lot of other goods, we have to pay it, or we don’t get the energy we need.

Unless we’re willing to invest in large infrastructure changes (even on a micro level, such as installing a bunch of solar panels or going to an electric car), we’re going to end up paying more.

And, just like a tax, since we’re paying more there, we have less to spend elsewhere, in the areas that contribute to the economy, like retail goods and services.

My belief is that this is temporary, and once the unrest in other countries settles, oil prices will not only come back down, but the quality of life for the people of those countries will improve–over time.

I’ve been big on eBay and Amazon (and, at various times–including now for eBay–owned both stocks) for awhile. And I find that I do lots and lots of shopping on eBay and Amazon.

I guess it’s why, unless I need something right away, shipping is ridiculous, or there’s some kind of sale locally, it’s unlikely I’ll buy from many other sources.

Then again, I realize there are lots of people who are not like me.

Still, there’s no denying the impact that Web shopping has had. Big chains like Circuit City and CompUSA have gone away. In a different realm, Blockbuster is on the edge due to Netflix and Borders is bankrupt at least in part due to Amazon. There’s no question new technology has turned retail upside down.

There’ll always be a market for in person shopping. It’s just changing.

While the recession was going on, many Americans started doing something interesting for the first time (at least for them): they started saving money.

Now that the recovery is on, are people just spending money again like there’s no tomorrow?

My guess: yes.

This article has the question in the blog post title as its title, but reading it says that indeed poor spending habits have returned. Personal income is up, spending is up, and savings is down.

I would like to believe this is a blip–but I doubt it.


Enjoy the Long Weekend!

As I desperately try to regroup and catch up after many, many weeks of life happening too fast for me, I’m taking a few days off to catch up and run the Great Aloha Run (as well as do a hike). Have a great weekend!

Groupon has been making news everywhere, but unfortunately, not the best news recently.

Groupon’s suffered from concern that while its business is fine and the deal for the consumers are great, the companies offering discounts through them often get hammered financially, despite the great promotion that it offers.

More recently, a Super Bowl ad that was considered racially insensitive and a deal with FTD that apparently ended up being close to worthless for the consumer as FTD’s special Groupon Web site had prices that were raised enough to negate just about all savings from Groupon.

Still, I check Groupon and its workalikes daily and I hope that they are able to rebound from this. I still love you, Groupon!


Giving on the Small Scale

A little while ago I discussed what kinds of causes I give money to–these are often causes my friends champion. But on a small scale, there are other things I give to that aren’t quite the same.

For example, recently one of my friends had a birthday so another friend used Chip In to have people well, chip in to try to get him an iPad. I think the effort ended up a bit short but it was quite interesting.

It does point out the same kind of thing that snowflaking money does: little amounts of money (this time from many different people) can create a large difference when taken together.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday (by the time this is read it won’t be). Dallas is the host city this year and, like many cities that host large sporting events–or just have professional or major college sports teams–they were banking on a boost to their local economies.

Sadly, for Dallas, this does not appear to be true this year. Poor weather is keeping visitors away from businesses.

Hawai’i is not immune to this either. The Pro Bowl, which, aside from in 2010, has been in Hawai’i for decades, is considered hugely important to the local economy, yet in 2010 the world didn’t end when it wasn’t here.

How much does sports actually contribute to local economies?

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