Your Amazon History

Inspired by this post I decided to ask a few folks what their earliest Amazon purchase was, and when was it purchased.

Add yours in the comments!

If you click “your account” on and “your orders” you can see it there.

  • I (Ben P.) bought the Royal Tenenbaums Soundtrack on 1/19/2002
  • Shamus P. – State Variables for Engineers in October of 2002
  • Kurt O. – Big Trouble in Little China in 2000
  • William H. – 2 Christmas CDs and Lewis Black’s The White Album in November 2001
  • Jon A. – Shakespeare in Love in 1999(!)

Add yours in the comments!

More Financial Trouble Fun Facts

Live from the inside of this crisis, I thought I’d give you another (much quicker) fun fact.

The term Credit Default Swap (CDS) refers to basically an insurance contract that’s sold as a security (like a stock or bond). It goes something like this:

Mike D lends Sander $1,000,000 at 10% for a year. Ten seconds after he does that he realizes… dang! Sander is never going to pay me back. So he calls up Ryan and asks if he’ll issue insurance at 1% of the $1,000,000 a year, so if Sander doesn’t pay then Ryan will pay mike the difference and Mike will be fine.

This in itself is a pretty good idea, it’s not all that difference from your life insurance policy. The issue comes with two things:

  • The CDS market is totaly unregulated, anyone can issue a policy with no money backing it up.
  • You can buy a CDS against something you’re not exposed to.

So if we think about insurance policies, this would be the equivalent of you being able to buy insurance on Mike D’s car. Now if the whole town buys insurance on Mike’s car, there’s a sudden benefit to something bad happening to said car. That’s why you can’t do that to start with (amongst other reasons, I’m sure.)

So what does this all mean? It means, if I’m enormous hedge fund XYZ, I will buy CDS’s against (say) Goldman Sachs while simultaneously short selling GS. That means I benefit when GS’s price drops from my short sale, as well as my insurance policy (which is worth more as GS is in more and more trouble).

Additionally, I can CAUSE the price to drop by buying these policies (as more people buy policies, their price goes up, and that makes people think GS is in trouble and drives their price down.) I can also cause price drops by massive short selling.

This is one very good theory as to why businesses that are fundamentally sound were getting beaten up, and why short selling rules have helped.

So all of this is pretty scary, especially when you realize the current value of the CDS market is 55 TRILLION dollars.

Further reading.

Fannie and Freddie

Special thanks to BDP for this write up. Take it away BDP!

So you’ve all heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac… I’ve been doing some research at work on the topic so I thought I’d give a very high level overview.

A Brief History Of…

Fannie Mae (FNMA – Federal National Mortgage Association) was started by FDR as part of the new deal… it was a government, not a private corporation.

In 1968 LBJ privatized Fannie into a Government Supported Enterprise, aka GSE, due to “fiscal pressures.”

Now that Fannie was a private corporation, Freddie Mac (FHLMC – Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) was started in 1970 to eliminate Fannie’s monopoly. Fannie and Freddie are almost identical corporations.

Read more

Office Arguments

I work at a small company, and we have a few standing arguments that will never be resolved and will likely continue forever. I’d like to know if this is normal.

Do any of you have something similar? Leave your stories in the comments.

I’ll share a few of our standing arguments:

  • In a one-on-one fight to the death between a coworker of ours and a female cow who would win? (no tools, weapons, sticks, rocks may be used)
  • What is a sport, what is a game. Is a given activity a sport or a game or a contest.
  • Are fish closer to vegetables than animals? (food-wise, i.e. are the advanced enough to feel pain or is it morally equivalent to eating celery)
  • The Monty Hall problem.

There are so many more, and none of them are more useful (or resolvable) than those.