Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Vianen Hoard

This hoard of about 500 gold and sliver coins was discovered by waterworks employees during excavation work in Holland:


NL Times, March 1, 2018
courtesy of NL Times

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript

This isn't in the same league as the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred's Necronomicon, or the accursed The King In Yellow. But at least it actually exists. 

The Voynich Manuscript: Decode the World's Most Mysterious Book

Monday, March 12, 2018

Childrens' TV of the 1960s

Before senility robs me of these memories, I have assembled this list of lesser-known childrens' TV shows and short serials in the New York metropolitan area during the early 1960s.  In alphabetical  order:
  • Bozo the Clown - made a friend of mine cry as a guest on his show
  • Clutch Cargo - got a few seconds of screen time in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction
  • Diver Dan - never managed to hook up with Miss Minerva
This list would not be complete without these highlights from the original Mickey Mouse Club show. Although it doesn't fit my "lesser-known" criteria, it was definitely my favorite, in part due to: 
  • Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie, my very first crush - I would have died of embarrassment if anyone suspected back then, but now it can be told.
  • The serials, especially The Adventures of Spin and Marty, The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure and Annette

Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie
It was my fondness for these shows that lead my parents to impose restrictive "TV watching hours." The rules were taped to the television set in the basement. But that is another story. 


These two web sites are simply outstanding, comprising the deepest dive into their subjects I've ever seen. 

New York City Local TV Shows Roundup

The Original Micky Mouse Club Show

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Strange Things

I want to be clear on this: I don't believe these things. But they are strange.
  • Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger and other public figures are in fact dead and are being impersonated by "organic robotoids," according to attorney and financier Peter David Beter. 
  • There is a longstanding theory that the Earth is hollow, with access points to the interior at the north and south poles.
  • Horror fiction author Whitley Streiber claims that non-human "visitors" to his secluded cabin in upstate New York changed his life forever. 
    Ball lightning
  • The existence of ball lightning has been debated for centuries.
  • A drilling project delved so deep that it reached Hell, according to The Well to Hell hoax. 
  • Mel's Hole, an allegedly bottomless pit in the state of Washington, was the subject of a 2008 art exhibit curated by LA Times art critic Doug Harvey.
  • The Emerald Tablet, an ancient alchemical treatise, was supposedly discovered in a vault beneath a statue of the god Hermes in Tyana, Turkey, where a corpse on a golden throne held the tablet.  
If you have your own strange story, I'd love to hear about it.

Further Reading

Beter, Peter David. Index of Audio Newsletters.

Biblioteca Pleyades.

Coast to Coast AM Radio: The Latest Paranormal News.

Colby, C.B. Strangely Enough. Scholastic Paperbacks. 1963.

Streiber, Whitley. Communion - A True Story. Avon. 1987.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Cridling Stubbs Hoard

Now in display at Leeds City Museum, this hoard of copper coins lay buried in a Yorkshire field for over 1,600 years. Experts believe it may have been hidden around 346 AD to keep it safe from Irish and Saxon raiders.

Yorkshire Evening Post, February 1, 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Ring-A-Ding UFOs

By Bob Tralins
Belmont Books. 1967. Paper.

“Ring-a-ding” was an expression popularized by Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack pals. How did it end up being combined with UFOs and a tied-up woman in go-go boots on the cover of this 1967 spy novel? That was a stroke of marketing genius.

The Ring-A-Ding UFOs was the third in a series featuring femme fatale Lee Crosley, aka The Miss From S.I.S. She also appeared in an eponymously titled book and The Chic Chick Spy, both published in 1966.

Other works by author Bob Tralins (and there were many) include Wild Dames, Primitive Orgy (both published in 1961; the guy was a writing machine), Law of Lust (1962) and Jazzman in Nudetown (1964).  Based on the titles alone, they remind me of the cheap paperbacks my father kept in the basement when I was a child. 

Further Reading 

Allmusic Guide. Ring-a-Ding-Ding! by Frank Sinatra. List of Books by Robert Tralins. Pulp Covers: The Best of the Worst. 
Wikipedia. Robert Tralins

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dow 3000

by Thomas Blamer and Richard Shulman
Wyndham Books, 1982; 206 pages
ISBN 0-671-43224-9

When Dow 3,000 was published in 1982, it was advertised in the back pages of The Wall Street Journal, where dubious books about economic collapse, market timing and investing in gold were often promoted.  
As the title implies, it predicted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would increase to around 3,000. The index was around 1,000 at the time, so achieving that prediction would require it to triple.  

With the hubris of youth, I told my friends that this was ridiculous.  I had recently earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, so I was pretty confident I knew what I was talking about. Here, it seemed, was yet another case of overreach by financial advisors who would push the envelope unmercifully to get customers to buy stocks. 

Dow 3,000 is long out of print, but I recently picked up a used copy. It's my way of keeping myself humble, because the 3,000 I scorned so long ago seems ridiculously small compared to where the index closed today: just over 26,000. 

I spent an interesting afternoon paging through this book recently. To my surprise, it's far from being promotional. It's actually a careful analysis based on fundamental valuation methods and a seven-year forecast horizon: Dow 3,000 by year-end 1989. 

Readers of my generation will recall the horrendous conditions in place when this book was written. In late 1980, when the manuscript was submitted for publication, U.S. markets were in turmoil, beset by double-digit inflation.  30-year Treasury bond yields were in the 12% to 14% range. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was trading well below its book value, and at less than 8 times earnings.

In this bleak landscape, Blamer and Shulman did a two-pronged valuation analysis. 
  • Method #1 was a price-to-book value analysis. The authors presented historical data showing that over long periods, the Dow tended to trade at or above "inflation-adjusted" book value. (Note the focus on inflation, which is everywhere in this work.)  Then they projected the inflation-adjusted book value of the index seven years into the then-future, based on assumptions about return on book value, dividend payout and retained earnings. Result: a projected book value of 3,150. Assuming the market would eventually trade at a price-to-book value ratio of 0.95, it's easy to get to Dow 3,000 with this valuation method.
  • Method #2 was a price/earnings forecast. Blamer and Shulman assumed that the price-earnings multiple for the Dow would eventually return to a level consistent with its 60-year average, and that the earnings of the Dow Jones companies would rise in line with inflation. Applying a P/E multiple of 14 to their earnings forecast, they projected the value of the Dow to be around 3,400 by year-end 1989. They then presented an earnings forecast for each of the companies in the index. 
So there you  have it: Dow 3,000 within seven years, supported by two conventional valuation methods. What I thought was stockbroker overreach was actually a nicely reasoned case for multiple expansion and regression to the mean: price/book and price/earnings ratios would eventually return to levels more in line with long term historical averages, driven by a return of confidence. 

Of course the devil is in the details. Blamer and Shulman's forecast assumed an 8% annual inflation rate. That's understandable in light of what was going on when the book was written. But the actual inflation rate turned out to be 3.7% over their forecast period. So something else must have happened to offset that faulty assumption, because the authors of Dow 3,000 came very close to being right about the stock market recovery. Although the Dow Jones Industrial Average did not reach 3,000 by year-end 1989, it did so the following year. In the treacherous realm of market forecasting, that's a fine outcome.  

But what I marvel at is how far the index has climbed since then. As noted previously, the Dow closed at around 26,100 yesterday. An investment of $1,000 in the Dow at year-end 1981, just before Dow 3,000 was published, would be worth an eye-popping $29,832 today. That's a compound annual return of 9.86% for 36 years.

I am humbled. All those years ago, if I’d thought it out carefully and applied what I’d learned in my finance classes, it would have been apparent that "Dow 26,000" was within reach over a 36-year forecast horizon. Regrets aside, this is a great example of the power of compound growth. If you can grow something – anything -- at 9.86% per year for 36 years, you’ll get an amazing result at the end of the line. 

Historical data courtesy of