Tag Archives: San Diego Office Space

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

The Economy: Economic numbers have surprised to the downside this week. Oil is off 20% from its high of a few weeks ago. Home ownership is at its lowest since 1965. GDP came in 50% below expectations. Some are saying the U.S. economy is stalling. Central bank activity has likewise been muted. The Bank of England and the Bank of Japan were both supposed to initiate massive stimulus programs. It didn’t happen. The Fed met this week and did nothing. Ennui, exhaustion or summertime blues, no matter. Financial markets took the poor numbers as confirmation that slowing economies would keep interest rates lower for longer. Poor economic numbers should keep the monetary printing presses running full-out.

Food for Thought: Thank you Talking Heads, Supreme Court Justices, former Mayors and other professional blowhards. We get it. The Donald is dangerous and The Hillary is a criminal. The Donald is the most dangerous man in the history of the planet. Worse than Cain, worse than Attila, worse than Stalin. The Hillary is the worst criminal in the history of the planet. Worse than Jezebel, worse than Bloody Mary Queen of Scots, worse than Bonnie Parker. That’s why as Americans we’ve selected them to be our Champions. Because warts and all, they are Our Champions. Now, let’s get on with it.

Music of the Week: The Essential Etta James.

Stem Cell Therapy: A Journey, Part 2

Stem Cell Therapy: A Journey, #2

After watching the stock markets implode on quadruple witching, We left my La Jolla office to drive to The Stem Cell Treatment Center on Directors Place, one block north of Mira Mesa Boulevard. Directors Place is located on the new frontage road on the east side of I805.

“We” is my wife and myself. Though stem cell therapy is considered an outpatient procedure and you are told you can drive yourself to and from the appointment, I wanted to make sure I had a backup driver.

My appointment was for 1PM. $8,000 cash. $4000 per hip. As of the date of my treatment, Stem Cell Therapy was not approved by the FDA. So it is called “experimental medicine” and is not covered by medical insurance. A hip replacement, which is approved by the FDA costs a minimum of $35,000 per hip. It is massively invasive and results in cutting the largest bone in your body and replacing it with a manufactured ball and socket. Welcome to life as a Borg.

We drove up the hill from the beach on Camino Del Oro and got on La Jolla Village Drive East. It was a judgment call to go La Jolla Village Drive or to get on I5 north and go east on Sorrento Valley Road. To my chagrin, I chose the former.

It took us 30 minutes to drive the 4 miles from my office in La Jolla to the doctor’s office. We hit every single stoplight during Christmas lunchtime rush hour. Count ‘em 17 stoplights.

The German logic embedded in the BMW navigation system proved to be maddening as we approached the stem cell center. The Prussian My-Way-Or-The-Highway algos didn’t allow me to input the exact address so I had to rely on memory to guide me in to the doctor’s office.

We parked the car, entered the lobby of the surgical building; then went up to the third floor Suite 360. Nobody was in the office except for the nurse receptionist Kathy who I had swapped emails with but had never met.

Medicine is like the Navy; Hurry up and wait. I throttled my impatience and chatted with Kathy. At 10 minutes after 1PM the entire plastics and orthopedic crews showed up. They had been shopping at Costco. They were good naturedly honest about it. They apologized for the traffic; the only legitimate late excuse in Southern California, and all was forgiven. “Andale!”

The stem cell treatment was to be performed in three parts. First was harvesting adipose tissue (fat cells) through liposuction of love handles on the upper butt area. Part two was to centrifuge the extracted 50 mL of fat to get the stem cells. Step three was to inject three vials of 1) stem cells, 2) growth factor and 3) Hyaluronic Acid. Think of the three as, the cells, their food and the molecular lattice structure for the cells to grow on.

Still waiting, I decided to take a coffee break; maybe it would counteract some of my growing impatience. It seemed to work because I was in better spirits when I got back to the waiting room. Bob the Physician’s Assistant introduced himself and told me to saddle-up for lipo.

At this point, I was the only patient in the 3000 square-foot surgical suite. Later my wife told me that after I disappeared behind Oz’s curtain for the liposuction, there was a steady stream of Baby Boomer cash buyers who came through the complex.

I followed Bob back to the treatment room where the liposuction would be performed. I left my Kindle, IPhone, wallet and car keys with My wife in the waiting room.

It turned out that Bob had been a Navy Corpsman. As an Asian American he’d spent his Navy time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Glad I missed Vietnam,” he said. “It was easier to be around the camel jockeys than it would have to be around the gooks.” After getting out of the Navy a few years ago, he tried pharmaceutical sales before coming back to the surgical suite.

Bob began to place me on the lipo gurney when the Plastic Surgeon, Craig, came into the treatment room. Craig explained that he was the Plastics Guy and was only going to do the lipo. When I asked where his medical offices were, he told me that he was an active duty Navy Captain stationed at the Navy Regional Medical Center in Balboa Park.

He said that in a war zone he did wound reconstruction but that most of what he did now was breast cancer reconstruction of the kind done on Angelina Jolie. I mentioned the Boat School and Craig laughed saying, “I was born and raised in Annapolis. My grandfather and uncle were Ring Knockers. I’m 47. It’s taken me 19 years to make Captain. Time to transition.”

“Amen Brother,” I replied. “I did 4-Westpacs when Hong Kong, Olongapo and Singapore were full of the wildest women on the planet.” “I love you, no shit. Buy me a drink!” Bob chimed in. The three of us erupted in laughter

With the testosterone at the appropriate level, I took off my old topsiders and laid face-down in my navy blue sweats on the gurney. Bob asked me to pull the top of my sweats to mid chest and pull down the bottom of my sweats to the bottom of my butt cheeks.

I had met Craig last week at the pre-op conference. As we chatted while Bob prepped me for the liposuction, Craig told me that in order to comply with all regulations, he would take a leave day to perform the lipo on a specific patient group. This was why the stem cell treatments were scheduled for all patients only twice a month on Fridays. The scheduling allowed Craig to take a leave day, perform a couple of dozen liposuctions, make more money in a day then he made in a year as a Navy captain and then go back to his work at Navy regional medical center Balboa Park.

As a Bob draped my butt, Dr. Craig explained what was going to be happening during the liposuction.

He said the most painful part of the procedure was going to be the process where numbing solution was injected into the fat to be removed. He then proceeded to numb the skin in a dozen different places on both sides of my upper butt just below my belt-line.

Next was injecting the numbing solution into the fat … and he was right. The injection of the numbing solution was painful. My body jerked involuntarily in spite of my trying to remain relaxed. I was aware that the jocular talk had tapered off as I focused on the task at hand; trying to play the Terminator without flinching..

My mother was a Registered Nurse. Early on I realized that medical personal never use the word “pain.” Instead, the euphemism “discomfort” is substituted.

I can imagine the field hospital scene at the Battle of Gettysburg. A young soldier whose leg has been shattered by gunfire, is brought into the surgical tent. The drunken butcher who is going to amputate the leg, asks 9-men to hold the patient down because there are no anesthetics. Even the whiskey has run out. As the doctor picks up the bloody saw and positions himself to hack off the offending limb, the terrified patient looks up and whimpers, “Doc, is it gonna hurt?” … and the doctor says, “Son, you’ll just have some discomfort.” …. as piercing screams fill the air … fade to black.

So there was some discomfort; uncomfortable but not unbearable as the area was numbed. Then two small vertical incisions, about ¼ inch in length, were made on each side at the top of my butt cgurney and the lipo began.

Liposuction consists of ramming a hollow tube, called a cannula, back and forth through your fat. The dislodged fat residue is then sucked out of the area. There is nothing delicate about this process of having a foreign object jammed in and out of your body. The motion is the same as that you would use when shooting pool. But unlike shooting pool, the doctor is putting his back into this effort. This “rammin’ and jammin’” was done in silence as the banter gave way to the very physical task at hand.

There is discomfort. But anesthetics do a remarkable job. The occasional pain spike caused my body to jump but Craig was responsive saying, “We won’t go there again” as he rammed and jammed in another direction. He worked a fan shaped area on both sides of my upper butt. When he was done with the left side, he immediately went to work on the right side. In a few short minutes he was done.

He then asked if I was interested in seeing the 50 ml cylinder of extracted fat cells. I was interested. It looked like a cigar size syringe full of pink Smoothie from 7/11..

After 20 minutes of which included prep, the lipo and post lipo wrapping, I was back on my feet and in the waiting room.

Kathy, the reception area nurse, told me that it would take an hour for them to centrifuge the fat cells and extract the stem cells. She recommended that I leave the office and kill an hour with a cup of coffee. She gave me a $20 Starbucks Gift Card and recommended that I drive down the hill to the Scranton Road Shopping Center on the North East corner of I 805 and Mira Mesa Boulevard. Kathy recommended that we be back in the office at 3:30. So at 2:30 PM we left, drove down the hill and got some Christmas cookies and hot chocolate at Starbucks.

The shopping center is adjacent to the infamous red “Dog Dick’ sculpture that is in front of the San Diego Tech Center building. The sculpture was erected in the mid 1980’s. It used to be easily seen from I805. Now you have to be on Scranton Road to see it. But there it is. “Dog Dick” reigns supreme in its turgid 100 feet of .fire-engine-red glory; pointing at the sky awaiting the Mother of all Bitches.

After sitting out in front of Starbucks enjoying the 70 degree weather, we drove back to the surgical center.

We arrived back in the surgical office at 3:30PM. I was met in the waiting room by the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Pete, who was going to perform the stem cell injections. My wife again sat in the waiting room while I was ushered into the treatment room which was located across from the nurses station. After a quick introduction, Pete disappeared after turning me over to Bob for prep.

When I entered the treatment room, I noticed that there was an intravenous drip (IV drip) set up next to the treatment gurney. Bob commented that my stem cell count was about 85 million cells which was the upper end of the norm. Bob asked me to lay on my back on the gurney. The IV drip contained saline solution. Bob told me that treatment now included a systemic injection of a portion of the stem cells through an IV drip back into the patient’s body. He said that this had reduced or eliminated a variety of aches and pains in patients that had received it. This was good news. Self-medication continues to recede. “Fire when ready Gridley!”

As Bob searched for an appropriate vein in my left arm, I told him that my veins rolled. As a blood donor I’d gotten in the habit of telling the help because my rolling veins had been problematic. On more than one occasion I’d had to stop some dullard who confused vivisection with medical care, as they continuously tried to harpoon my rolling veins. Eventually I began to address all medical technicians as Doctor Moreau whenever I sat down and began to roll up my sleeve to give blood. Many times the technician would disdainfully tell me, “I’m not a Doctor.”

Duh!

But Bob was the real McCoy. His aim was true and in no time my own stem cells were coursing back into my body on the IV drip. When the injection was done, Bob removed the needle from my left arm, and put a bandage on the spot. Then the door opened and Pete came in.

While Bob prepared the sonogram transducer with KY and positioned the screen, Pete explained the injection procedure. He showed me the three vials and explained that the largest containing the stem cells would be injected first, followed by a smaller volume of growth factor and a third volume of hyaluronic acid aka “rooster comb.”

The procedure was similar to the cortisone injections that I’d previously had. With me lying on my side, the Doc selected a spot directly above my hip joint. Then an aerosol can of numbing solution was sprayed on the point of entry for the 4-inch hollow needle. The Doc drove the needle straight down into the hip joint while Bob sprayed the impact zone with the local anesthesia. Once the needle had been guided into the joint using the sonogram, the stem cells were injected with Dr. Pete looking at the sonogram display and injecting the cells into specific areas of the hip joint. On my left hip this was a slow and painful process as he moved the needle around within the joint. I could feel the stem cell solution going into my joint and the resulting pressure of having the area around the hip joint expanded by fluid. The stem cells were followed by the growth factor and then the hyaluronic acid.

The process for my right hip went much faster. Pete again drove the needle straight down into my hip joint. He then injected the entire stem cell solution quickly without having to work the needle. Next, as he injected the growth factor and hyaluronic acid, he explained that my left hip had been “dry.” Injecting the left hip had been more painful and had gone more slowly because there was little natural lubricant in the left hip joint.

My right hip, however, was full of fluid because it was more inflamed. This is consistent with what I had experienced since my last Cortisone shot 90 days ago. I went into that Cortisone shot with my left hip more painful than my right. I came out with my right hip more painful. It has subsequently remained more painful. Uh …. I mean there had been more discomfort!

The stem cell injection procedure from beginning to end took half an hour from the moment that I walked in and lay down on the gurney until I got back up and was escorted out of the room by Bob.

When I left the treatment room, Pete, Craig and Bob were all standing at the nurses station. I stopped for a moment to thank them. They asked what I did for a living. When I said that I owned a wealth management firm, they began talking about the venture-capital opportunities available in the stem cell space in San Diego.

My wife and I left the Stem Cell Center at 4:15PM with a Vicodin script. We drove straight to Ralphs Pharmacy to get it filled. Sorry Charlie, Pete had mis-dated the script 12/19 instead of 12/18 so the pharmacy wouldn’t fill the script. The pharmacist wouldn’t give the script back to us so we were stuck with having to come back after midnight to pick it up.

I just laughed. Thank you God for all my blessings!

Higher Oil Prices are Good for You!

The Economy:  Economic numbers have disappointed this week. Housing disappointed. Manufacturing disappointed. The Fed met and as expected, maintained the status quo; no change to interest rates for the foreseeable future. Lower for longer or never forever. With respect to oil, for decades the mantra was that low oil prices were good for the USA. In the past 6-months policy wonks have championed the idea that low oil prices are bad for the ol’ USA. Oil prices are up almost 50% in the past few weeks. That must be a good thing as we spend more on everything petroleum. So who’s on First? Oil is up 50% and that’s now a good thing. So, oil moving back up to $140 must be a great thing. Confused? You should be. The mindless noise is deafening. Here’s a sample of recent headlines from the chattering media class courtesy of the “Daily Reckoning” website:
4/5: Dollar Rises as Investors Anticipate U.S. Data
4/6: Dollar Falls on Fed Minutes
4/13: Dollar Climbs Before Data Forecast
4/15: Dollar Falls on Lackluster U.S. Data
4/21: Dollar Rises After Solid U.S. Data
4/25: Dollar Sinks After Q1 Growth Takes Another Hit
You got that?

Food for Thought: We’re midway through the first quarter earnings reporting season. Stock buybacks and dumbed-down earnings expectations have given us earnings that again are beating those reduced expectations. Lower the bar enough and any caveman can stumble over it. Financial markets are lovin’ it. But for many investors this seems to be the stock market rally to hate. Beware. We believe that the US economy is fundamentally sound but until the Fed decides to stop supporting asset bubbles, we’re leery. Protecting your assets should be at the forefront of your decision making.

Oil Production Caps

The Economy: The Fed Beige Book was released today. It confirmed the “New Normal” of our slow growth economy. The Fed found the consumer healthy and spending. Ironically, the Commerce Department released the Retail Sales numbers today. Their numbers showed a decline in consumer spending with a sharp drop in automobile sales. Right Hand; Left Hand. Oil ministers meet this weekend in an attempt to prop-up the price of oil with a production cap. Iran is considered to be the linchpin in this effort but their oil minister will not be attending. Like a wedding with a runaway bride, the meeting is DOA without Iran. The Fed minutes and Yellen’s recent comments have been parsed for read-the-tea-leaves guidance to monetary policy. “Global” and “uncertain” were repeatedly used by Yellen to describe issues facing the Fed. One pundit noted that the Fed has never publically used the term “uncertain.” So again, the end of the world is nigh. We continue to temper our concerns for slow-growth megatrends. Demographics and student loans may be problematic but we don’t think entitlement laden Americans are anywhere near rioting in the streets as some talking heads have opined. After all, this Sunday is Opening Day at the San Diego Yacht Club.

Food for Thought: The Department of Labor (DOL) has released its proposed “fiduciary” rules. The proposed rules have significant impact on 401ks. Many 401ks and deferred compensation plans haven’t been reviewed since they were implemented. Now is a good time to get that review process going. Contact us if you would like help with this issue.

Annuities

The Economy: Data released this week shows a US economy that is continuing to slowly expand. Consumption, GDP and employment appear to be growing. The Beige Book, which is the Fed’s summary and analysis of economic activity, confirmed a mixed picture of slow growth. Manufacturing is flat and productivity growth is questionable. Confusing? Yep. The question is: Can the US avoid the fallout from the confirmed slowdown in China, The EU, Russia, Brazil and Venezuela … to name a few. Think Global Act Local. It’s hard to feel your pain in San Diego, the land of eternal sunshine. Here we have booming tourism, real estate, biotech and massive defense spending as the US reorients its focus from NATO to our “Strategic Competitor” China. (Shoutout to Glenn for the PC euphemism. Back in the day when men were iron and ships were wood, they were called enemies).

Food for Thought: Annuities can be an effective part of your investment and retirement planning. Their features and benefits continue to evolve with the changing economic environment. Like any investment, they must be reviewed periodically to confirm they are still relevant to your goals. Contact us if you’d like help in evaluating these complex instruments.

Oil Opportunities

The Economy: Fed Chair Yellen appeared before Congress this week. She put on her most patient Grandma Face for the Alfred E. Neuman grandstanding of her inquisitors. Yellen acknowledged that the economic environment had become more uncertain. She mentioned falling stock and commodity prices, tightening credit conditions and uncertainty over China as causes for concern.  She observed that weakness in the global economy had made life more challenging for U.S. businesses. In response to questioning she indicated that while an interest rate cut was not in the cards, 4 increases this year was still a possibility. When asked about a possible Fed move to negative interest rates, Yellen said that the Fed hadn’t determined the legality of such a move. In short, specific targets are out and Fed opacity is back in.

Food for Thought: Oil is presenting a rare opportunity. Timing is everything. There are a variety of ways to position for this. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange traded funds and notes, futures and options are examples of how to participate in the coming price rise. We believe that a pure oil play is the most effective way to capture value. Contact us if you have questions.

Interest Rate Liftoff

The Economy: All eyes are on the Fed meeting next week. This is the long awaited meeting where Interest Rate Liftoff is supposed to be announced. Nothing else this year, in the realm of finance or economics has commanded the attention, anticipation and anxiety of this meeting. The Fed goes into this meeting with its credibility in question and its 7-year old policy of Quantitative Easing (QE) widely viewed by some as a failure. Having masterminded financial engineering on an unprecedented scale the Fed is clearly at a loss as to how to normalize interest rates and the financial environment. Like the unanticipated consequences of the 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse, ending QE and normalizing interest rates is fraught with unknowns. While a ¼ point increase is considered insignificant, the Fed itself has no idea what it will bring. The fact that they are going to pull the trigger during the holidays, another unprecedented action, is further evidence of supreme hubris or cluelessness … or both.

Food for Thought: Our recommendation as we go into the last few weeks of the month is to be prepared for whatever the Fed serves up. Like Y2K, Liftoff could be a non-event or it could be the beginning of dramatic changes. It’s a given that financial markets are disconnected from the economy. So whatever gyrations we do or don’t see, should be taken with initial skepticism. Whether Liftoff will actually result in the end of QE is up to speculation. This is a presidential election year and the Fed is arguably the most political of animals. Regardless of what they say, they won’t be doing anything to raise the ire of their political overlords on The Hill, Pennsylvania Avenue or at either The Democrat or Republican National Headquarters. Stay liquid; stay nimble.

Terrorism and Interest Rates

The Economy: We’re the quintessential optimists so it’s with the risk of sounding like Chicken Little, that we again note the economic data is weak to mixed. The manufacturing sector is worrisome. Earnings season has ended with the note that corporate profits declined. Higher sales of cars and trucks are due in part to subprime auto loans. (Yep, subprime loans, the red-headed-bastard-sons of the Financial Crisis and subsequent Great Recession) Compounding this fog of uncertainty is the recent spate of terrorist activities. The Beirut bombing, the Russian airline bombing and the assault on Paris have heightened the sense of worry. The Fed released the minutes from their last meeting today. They were interpreted as being hawkish and in favor of interest rate Liftoff in December. Financial markets were ecstatic. But lost in the excitement is that fact that the minutes are pre-terrorist attacks. So we remain skeptical that we’ll see Liftoff in December. The much anticipated 25 basis point (1/4%) hike shouldn’t have much of an impact. It’s the unanticipated consequences that are causing the willies. After a decade of zero interest rates, no one knows what those consequences will be. Now that France has declared war on ISIS those consequences are more unknowable.

Food for Thought: The Russians have had boots on the ground in Syria for more than 40-years. To say that Putin and Company preempt the U.S. in Syria would be a gross understatement. In the aftermath of the Paris attack, the French are reaching out to Russia as an ally. With this diplomatic caress, Russia is on its way to being rehabilitated. Sanctions will quietly go away. Putin, bare-chested astride his white charger, crossbow in hand shooting whales, is the man of the hour.

Veterans Day San Diego

The Economy: The jobs report last Friday came in better than expected Unemployment dropped to 5%; the lowest since 2008. The U.S. economic expansion appears to be on track Yet, there is little consensus on how well the economy is doing. For those saying that this is one of the longest economic expansions in history, an equally vocal group points out that it’s one of the weakest. For those saying that earnings season was strong, others point out that earnings growth is in decline. As we move into the holiday season, attention is beginning to focus on next year. 2016 is just 7-weeks away. Between now and then there’ll be a raft of statistics. But if a lid can be kept on Syria, the Spratly Islands and the European immigration scene, we expect an uneventful end of the year.

Food for Thought: The deep budget cuts known as Sequestration, have been kicked down the road to 2018. San Diego should benefit as increased defense spending flows into the economy. Looking further out into the future, Northrop Grumman has won the contract for the next generation of Air Force bombers. Word is that drone technology will eventually replace the pilots. San Diego is Northrop’s unmanned systems center. As the unmanned models become reality, this should become more of a growth business for San Diego.

San Diego Labor Day Advice

Investing as Entertainment

A headline shouts, “Roger Federer talks … market volatility” and I think, “Here we go again!” CNBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, CNN and thousands of blogs and websites cater to the investing public. Daddy gave you a quarter for an allowance when you were 5 years old. You’ve been writing and cashing checks for a lifetime. You know money. The internet and the media tell you that you should be investing your own money. You can do it for free. Even a Neanderthal can do it.

Seriously? Can you be a part time astronaut, a part time neurosurgeon, a part time NFL quarterback, a part time Supreme Court Justice? Every successful endeavor requires dedication, discipline, hard work and luck. But the zeitgeist is that investing is for part time fun. The meaningless noise from the Talking Heads is deafening. Not to mention the theatrics of shouted insults, horns, bells, sirens, cream pies and fashion.

The snake oil salesman has been recast as the investing guru screaming at you to gamble with your estate. Why are you listening? As a prudent investor you should avoid the Las Vegas casino mindset. Seek professional advice. At Higgins Capital We Quarterback Money®.