Friday, April 30, 2010

Worst Kung Fu Movie Ever

... was this one.

My wife and I watched this last night and there wasn't even the tiniest scrap of kung fu in it. Pathetic.

How to Escape an Integrated Product Team (IPT) Meeting, Excuse #1

Every so often (too often) some of us have to attend corporate IPT meetings. An IPT is a collection of people who know practically nothing about the topic being discussed, but have been gathered under the assumption that if you get enough uneducated positions on a subject, you'll end up with a well-rounded decisions.

These meeting are horrid and we all need some kind of way to get out of them before our brains implode. With that in mind, I offer you a new series of posts giving you excuses to help you leave the meetings early.

Excuse #1 - My doctor has told me I can't spend more than 50 minutes at a time listening to confused gibberish. I need to leave due to medical constraints.

Roubini on Greece (and Spain)

Yesterday, I listened to this panel discussion of the Euro crisis featuring Nouriel Roubini. It's worth hearing what Nouriel has to say and if you start at about 22:00 and listen until Nouriel is done, you'll have a much clearer idea of what's going on in Europe. It will take about 10 minutes, but is well worth it.

If you don't want to watch or the terminology is too dense, here's the synopsis. Greece has borrowed money until they can't service their debts. Also, they aren't competitive in the world market - their wages are too high relative to what they have to sell. You can tell this because they have huge trade imbalances. Greece is insolvent - that is, it's not that they need a loan to carry them through bad times, it's that they don't make enough money to make their loan payments. Bailing them out now will just sign you up for another bailout later.

If Greece is in bad shape, Spain is worse. I hadn't known this before, but Spain is an economy too large to bail out. It has the eighth largest economy in the world. Just as there is no IMF for Japan or the US, there probably isn't an IMF for Spain, either, especially in a fiscally exhausted world that has borrowed and spent in a futile pursuit of compassion™ for decades. Spain's unemployment rate is over 20% and their labor market is even more uncompetitive than Greece. Spain's deficits and debt are similar to Greece and their bonds are teetering on the edge of the abyss already.

Nouriel compared Greece of today to Argentina of the 90s and Greece is in far worse shape. Argentina collapsed.

All of this is applicable to the US, save for the fact that we can print money to pay our debts, a fact with limited appeal since printing money would annihilate all savings in the country and eliminate our currency's supremacy in the world. We are boxing ourselves in to a single solution that will be an unpleasant, one-shot fix.

If we want to escape the noose that is tightening around our necks, we need to sell off every privatizable business our government owns - GM, Chrysler, student loans, health insurance, mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie and so forth. We need to end every subsidy that encourages American companies to work on things that are unprofitable like alternative energy. We need to reduce the minimum wage so we are competitive once more in the global economy. Finally, we need to slash the pay of government workers and reduce promised pensions to both government employees and social security recipients, either by reducing benefits or pushing out retirement ages.

We are doing exactly zero of these. Socialist Spain is doing almost all of them. They get it. We don't.

It's a good bet that almost none of the people who were in this stadium will ever understand what's going on financially. Chances are good that you will, whether you want to or not.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to Prevent Charges of Racial Profiling in Arizona

... pull a play from the Stalin playbook!

Here's the problem: the new Arizona law is trying to enforce Federal laws against illegal immigration. Illegal immigration in Arizona is coming from Mexico because that's their international border. Mexico is full of Mexicans, but we're not allowed to recognize that. Instead, we have to pretend that in Arizona, Swedes are just as likely to be illegal aliens as Latinos. The goal here is to make sure your population of detainees does not overweight the people you know will be illegal, but instead, looks like the population at large.

The best solution here is to use paid informants, preferrably children*. The informants will report suspected illegal aliens to the police who will then round them up and ask for their proof of citizenship. Here's where Uncle Joe's lessons come into play: The key element will be quotas for each neighborhood. It won't matter if you really suspect that someone is illegal, you just need to round up enough people each week. But be careful! If the police don't have enough Swedes / Asians / blacks / Italians, they might just round you up after you turn in your neighbors!

It's the perfect solution! It allows us to be purposefully stupid while tipping our caps to one of the greatest lefties of all time. It's a win-win!

This little tyke ratted out his parents. Good job, young man! Unfortunately, we haven't rounded up enough Northern Europeans, so into the detention facility you go!

* - Children work best because they can be paid a pittance and we can use the already totalitarian-friendly public school system to drive the campaign through slogans and classroom "education" campaigns. This will take time away from their lessons on income redistribution and how to apply condoms, but that's a price we're willing to pay!

Chart of the Day

... comes from Der Spiegel where they're blaming Angela Merkel for the Greek crisis getting worse. How it's Angela's fault is totally beyond me, but this chart shows how saving the Greeks (and Portugese and Spaniards and Italians and Irish) is going to be an ongoing saga. Click on the image to see it full size.

Month after month after month, the profligate PIIGS will have to refinance the loans they have coming due. With the Greeks facing interest rates about ten times what they were when they originally borrowed, refinancing will be excrutiating every time. This story is nearer to the beginning than the end, no matter what rabbits Angela Merkel manages to pull out of the German hat.

What to do When Your Family Gets too Loud

Sound the klaxon to signal that everyone should go to their rooms and be quiet!


Explanation: I took a parenting class once that recommended some kind of signal to let the family know they needed to calm down and relax. For those times when the kids were fighting or the parents were yelling or things were generally out of hand, there needed to be a chance to break it up with a Quiet Time signal. And what suggests Quiet Time better than a klaxon?

Update: You can find these things on eBay. Outstanding!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why the Greek Crisis has the Euros Spooked

In many of the articles I've been reading on the Greek fiscal crisis, they talk about contagion. I finally understood it today. Yesterday, investors came to the conclusion that the Greek government is probably not going to pay them back. No one wanted to be holding Greek debt, so rates on their 2-year bonds skyrocketed to 26%. Government debt usually pays trivial interest rates because it's so secure. Well, the Eurosocialist fantasy world is starting to implode and it's becoming clear that their debt isn't secure at all. And if Greece can't pay theirs, then maybe Portugal can't pay theirs. And if Portugal can't pay, then Spain, Italy and Ireland might not be able to pay, either. And if those guys are going to stiff you, then the French and Germans might not be far behind ...

This is what happens when you carry massive loads of debt that you have to regularly refinance. If these countries ever ran surpluses and payed some of that debt off, investors would be far less likely to be frightened. To do that, however, you'd have to cultivate profitable businesses and as we all know, profit is greedy and evil.

By the way, if you think this one's bad, just wait for Japan. Their debt is almost twice as bad as Greece and their economy is too large for anyone to bail them out. It's not a question of "if" with Japan, it's a question of "when" and when might be soon. They just elected another leftist government that is blowing money in an Obama-sized way.

Cheezburger of the Day

You Can't Help Someone Who Doesn't Want Help

... well, it certainly seems that way. The yield on Greek 2-year bonds went from 3% to 26% yesterday. 26% is what you would pay on your credit cards if you missed a payment. It's a clear sign that rational lenders don't think you can pay them back and they're trying to get the most they can out of you before you go bankrupt. The Greek problem is still not being clearly stated, however.
The force of the market reaction to the downgrades suggests that the EU's fraught, months-long effort to stem Greece's debt crisis has all but failed ... Like past debt crises, this one has fed on itself. Europe's failure to act decisively has led investors to sell off Greek debt, making it far more expensive for the country to borrow money, and prompting further downgrades.
By analogy, then, if you miss a credit card payment, it's because your neighbors didn't pay it for you. It's not because you spent too much money on things you didn't need, it's the fault of everyone else. While you lay passed out on your lawn, dressed in boxers and a tank top with empty bottles of Mythos beer all around you, they need to pick up the mail from your mailbox, sort through the bills and pay them.

That'll work, right?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jammie Wearing Fool Gets Close, But Still Misses

Some authorities in Chicago are calling for the National Guard to step in and quell the violence in the city. This is an opportunity to mock the Organizer-in-Chief and make hay against the Democrats that run the government there, but after all the fun has been had, it doesn't really address the problem. JWF (linked above) gets close to the answer.
Oh yeah, root causes, whatever those are. But if we point out some of those root causes, like an alarming out-of-wedlock rate, a culture of entitlement, the gangsta rap lifestyle, well, you're reflexively called raaaaacist.
After which he veers off into politics.
What the folks in Chicago really need is regime change in City Hall, for starters.
Political change is not the answer. Chicago's violence is the rich harvest of cultural degradation. It's Two and a Half Men having fun with sexual promiscuity, it's political speeches discussing the "less fortunate" as if poverty is the result of a lottery draw, it's hip hop music using the word "nigger" while screaming about racism, it's payday lenders and credit card companies finding easy prey in our materialistic culture, but most of all, it's moral relativism.

There really are root causes and each of them, in turn, are treated as things we won't pass judgement on. For decades we've denied that there is anything larger than gratifying our own bodily pleasures and now we reap the whirlwind. And what pleasures have we truly gained?


Nat King Cole knew true racism, not the ersatz, fantasy racism of the Black Congressional Caucus acting like carnival shooting gallery ducks walking back and forth through protestors hoping to catch someone shouting a forbidden word. The song above, (I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons, is not a tender ballad on a disc of otherwise obscenity-laced chanting, it's not the opening theme to an "edgy" HBO sitcom featuring necrophilia, bestiality and underage sex and it's not music to get baked by. It's part of a larger, consistently prudish body of work by an American culture that knew racism, apartheid, intolerance and poverty deeper than we have today. That American culture also saw much smaller prison populations, illegitimate births, divorce rates, sexual assaults and other social pathologies.

We've tried the libertine, moral relativist way. It has failed spectacularly. Suggesting that the failure can be repaired by electing Republicans trivializes our failures and the damage and hurt we've done to the poor people in Chicago. The source of the failures that have led to requests for a military presence in the streets of our cities to stop the violence looks back at us in the mirror every day. Until we address that, we're going to keep carting bodies off the streets in ambulances no matter how many troops are out there.

An Outstanding Video Analysis of UC Students Protesting and Greeks Rioting

This is either a kid throwing a tantrum over not getting McDonalds or UC students protesting or Greeks rioting. I can't tell which.


This is outstanding.

Your Daily Greek Update

Greek bonds are continuing to rise. Their yield is almost 10%, up about a full point in the last 5 trading days. Investors do not believe the Greeks have their act together yet. The Greek stock market took a dive yesterday, dropping about 3.6%. Greece has a roughly ten billion dollar bond coming due in three weeks and they can't pay it off, so they will need to borrow money to refinance it. They will be borrowing money at the new, much higher rates.

All of the screaming and rioting and protesting done by the Greeks who have fought the austerity measures accomplished nothing. Inexorably, the mathematics of the situation devoured their efforts and marched on.

You have to pay your bills or face the consequences. Throwing temper tantrums doesn't absolve you of your need to rollover all of the debt you've accumulated.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Try Sears Parts Direct

... their site is fantastic for finding appliance parts. It's got interactive diagrams of the appliance with labels for every part. I'm looking for a drawer guide assembly for my freezer and Sears Parts Direct was the only one with the drawings that gave me the confidence to know I was buying the right part. They also had the cheapest price.

This is not a sponsored post and I am not getting any referral money. It was just so easy to use I had to share.

Ravening Parasites

H/T: This preview of the Greek crisis in America is courtesy of the Secular Apostate.

Straighten Up and Fly Right!

... is the message I'm getting from Meg Meeker's Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. Holy Mackeral. By the time I'm done with this book, I'll be walking around the house with a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica on my head to ensure proper posture while I enunciate clearly the moral lessons my daughter needs (and craves).

It's an outstanding book and has already changed my behavior. I'd highly recommend it to all fathers. When I get some time later (curse you, proper sleep habits!), I'll post a better review.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Wacky Explanations for the Greek Collapse

... and both come from the New York Times. Go figure.

First, we have Bobby Kaplan arguing that the reason Greece has melted down its credit cards is ... wait for it ... geography. No, really! It's geography. Apparently, Greeks are losers because they're next to other losers or the Northern Euros look down on them or something like that. The argument is such a bizarre "dog ate my homework," no, make that "aliens landed in my backyard and zapped my dog with a ray and then my dog did my homework" chain of reasoning that it's impossible to tell what Kaplan is trying to say. At least he winds up predictably. The Germans need to write more checks and hand them to the Greeks.

Telling the Times' dwindling readers things she should have reserved for the therapist's office, Philomila Tsoukala informs us that the real problem is her family. Err, not her family, really, but a family she heard about in the neighborhood. Really, she's just here to get help for a friend and there's nothing wrong with her at all. You see, most Greek businesses are family-owned and women can't get divorces easily and the kids work without pay. That's why the government has gone on a thirty year bender and hasn't shaved in three years and is laying in the gutter snoozing under a piece of cardboard that reads, "To hell with work, I need money for ouzo."

Philomila can be excused for her idiocy - she's an associate professor of law at Georgetown. One can hardly expect her to read up on the economic history of various successful societies that were built on family businesses. But the divorce thing is a problem. Nothing leads to financial success quite like pouring thousands into the pockets of divorce lawyers, dividing your assets in half and traumatizing your kids. That works every time.

In all seriousness, opinion pieces like these, printed in what many consider to be a serious newspaper, are further indicators of societal decline. The Greek problem is relatively simple. Their economy is based on two industries that overshoot global economic trends, shipping and tourism. When times are good, the Greeks are doing great. When times are bad, the Greeks get hammered. The way to deal with this is to save up a big pile of rainy day money when times are good so you can deal with the inevitable downturns. It's not that complicated. The Greeks, like the rest of us, overspent in the good times and have nothing in their pockets now that times are bad. The fact that seemingly educated people come up with hip and trendy explanations for Greece's problems is in itself something to worry about.

Bobby and Philomila aren't serious people. Yet. But they will be soon, whether they want to be or not.

Intellectuals like Bobby and Philomila are contributing to what is becoming a global bank run.

A Catastrophic Dinner

Well, that didn't work out well at all.

Last night I made ham with red eye gravy, collards with ham hocks and buttermilk biscuits. All of it was from my new Gullah Cuisine cookbook although the cookbook was less to blame than my execution. We had some close friends over for dinner. Each entry on the menu was horrid in its own way. On a scale of biblical catastrophes, this was a "plague of boils." Here's how it went down.

First off, I got home from shopping and took Bodie the Wonder Dog for a walk. When I got back, I cracked the book and found that the hamhocks should have been simmering for two hours before adding the greens. Instead, they got about 15 minutes of simmering before the greens were added. I had time to boil them for the requisite hour before serving, but the bot never developed the ham hocky broth it needed. In any case, the recipe itself was pretty weak. Terry Thompson's mixed greens with turnips and tasso is miles better. The greens were edible, but bland.

Next up was the ham in redeye gravy. That went well (it's a very simple dish to make) until it came time to remove the ham from the skillet and sautee the onions and garlic. While I was doing this, I was mixing shortening in with the flour for the biscuits. I made the mistake of using my fingers to scoop chunks of shortening out of the measuring cup and got my hands all covered in goo. While I was waiting for the water from the faucet to heat up so I could wash my hands, the onions and the garlic burned. Yay!

Burned onion gravy. Note the black flecks in the pan.

Finally, my wife came in, rolled and cut out the biscuits and tossed them in the oven. They looked good and they flaked nicely, but the taste was wretched. The shortening was rancid. Bleeooorgh!

Rancid biscuits.

Reviewing the menu items, I finally understood the redeye gravy thing. I'm a lousy gravyologist, but this one came out OK. The consistency was fine and if I hadn't burned the onions and garlic, it would have been decent. The flavor is much like the gravy you make from those packets of gravy mix where you add hot water and stir. Meh. The greens were unsophisticated and Terry Thompson's recipe is miles better. The biscuits could have been good. They just needed unspoiled ingredients.

In the end, because I have a wonderful wife and good friends, the results were hilarious and not unpleasant. They looked good, even if they didn't taste good.

Cheezburger of the Day

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Menu for the Week (Part I)

In an attempt to get a handle on our freezer situation, I've taken the time to prepare a menu that will carry us from tonight to Tuesday night. Here it is:

Saturday: From my new Gullah Cuisine cookbook - country ham with red eye gravy, collards with ham hocks and buttermilk biscuits.

Sunday: Chicken fricassee from Julia Child's French cookbook.

Monday: Spaghetti with Italian sausages.

Tuesday: Pork chops with mustard sauce and pasta with vegetables and pesto sauce from Nick Stellino's Mediterranean Flavors.

Let me know if you'll be coming over so I can make double helpings.


The Problem with the Titanic was that it wasn't Big Enough

One of our favorite commenters, Jeff Burton, left this link recently. Here's what you find when you go there, a page on the IMF's website.
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a ten-fold expansion of the Fund’s New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB) and the transformation of the Fund’s premier standing credit arrangement into a more flexible and effective tool of crisis management. The NAB will be increased by SDR 333.5 billion (about US$500 billion) to SDR 367.5 billion (about US$550 billion), representing a major increase in the resources available for the Fund’s lending to its members.
If this isn't a distress call from the Keynesian world, nothing is. If socialism was working, you wouldn't need this. This is your credit card company telling you they've doubled your limit while you still haven't developed a budget and are living by borrowing more and more and more.

Out of control.

Is It Illegal To Make Doing Something Illegal Illegal?

OK, I really don't get this one. Arizona passed a law saying that illegal immigration is illegal and that people who break the law at the Federal level are now breaking it at the State level as well. This caused a Presidential Freakout.
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama on Friday harshly criticized a proposed law in Arizona to crack down on illegal immigration and said his administration would examine the measure to see if it is consistent with federal law ...

It was the first time the president addressed a controversial Arizona bill that would make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. The bill would also require police to question people they suspect to be in the U.S. illegally about their immigration status.
Huh? This doesn't make any sense from any perspective. If you commit a Federal crime and a state makes it a crime as well and then wants to enforce that law, the state is wrong?

My head hurts.

A Rich, Oral Tradition, Part II

This is a follow-on to my previous post on the topic.

Don't you think that the stone age Greeks had a rich, oral tradition, too? How about the stone age Germans? Stone age India must have had some great storytellers, as well. What's so special about having a rich, oral tradition, anyway?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Too Big to Fail, Global Style

Does this reasoning sound familiar?
"It's really important to have a quick package in place in Greece," said Astrid Schilo, head European economist with HSBC in London. "Parliament in Germany may have to vote in favor of support, even if the public opposes it. The consequences are too high if it doesn't."


Like day follows night, it was inevitable.
April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Greece called for activation of a financial lifeline of as much as 45 billion euros ($60 billion) this year in an unprecedented test of the euro’s stability and European political cohesion.

The appeal for help from the European Union and International Monetary Fund follows a surge in borrowing costs to what Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou called unsustainable levels that undermine efforts to cut a budget deficit of more than four times the EU limit. Greek bonds and stocks rallied after the announcement.
They did practically nothing to solve their problems, they still haven't figured out that their statist / socialist / econofascist / compassionate™ society is the root of the whole problem and so over the cliff they go!

So now that they've thrown in the towel and are begging for alms, where are the alms going to come from? Why, fiscally insolvent Europe and the IMF, of course! And doesn't that leave less alms for the next ones in line - Portugal, Spain and Italy? This is starting to smell like a bank run.

Greece got into line first, so they'll get their money. Unfortunately, unlike a normal bank run, this line is circular. Since they haven't solved any of their problems, they'll just get right back in line.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Without a Touch of Irony

...President Obama will accuse Wall Street of irresponsible behavior.
President Barack Obama will return to Manhattan's Cooper Union on Thursday, two years after a campaign speech that laid out his vision for Wall Street, to castigate a financial industry that he will say has too often forgotten the ordinary Americans who have suffered from its reckless irresponsibility.
Obama and the Democrats are running insane deficits for no business reason at all and he's going to puff himself up and preen before the cameras to yell at investors. Meanwhile, his cronies in Congress are planning to simply skip budgeting this year. Unreal.

Kalá, aftós den leitoúrgise tóso kalá

Is what Google's translation tools gave me for the phrase, "Well, that didn't work out so well." Despite all the promises to loan the profligate Greeks still more money, down, down, down go the Greek futures. The Greek budget deficit has been revised upwards, the Greek bonds are now commanding an 8.49% 9.03% interest rate (higher is worse) and, of course, the Greek public sector labor unions are striking.
ATHENS—Public services were shut down across Greece on Thursday as tens of thousands of civil servants took part in the latest of a series of protests over the government's austerity measures.

Hospitals were working on skeleton staffs and local government offices were closed, while teachers, university professors, customs and tax officials also joined in. Museums and archaeological sites were also shut as culture ministry staff walked out.

The 24-hour strike by Greece's public-sector umbrella union ADEDY, its fourth strike this year, was called to oppose deep spending cuts in civil-service salaries and entitlements—part of the government's efforts to slash this year's budget deficit to 8.7% of gross domestic product, from 13% last year.
Strike all you want, folks. It isn't going to matter. Math trumps compassion™. When the last Euro is spent and the Greek Treasury is finally empty, all of those contracts will only be useful to start cooking fires in your backyards.

The most amazing thing here is how such a large number of Greeks can hold opinions so totally out of synch with reality. When everyone has burned everything they can and the last stone is thrown at the cops, the money will still be gone*.

It's like watching college students riot in California.

* - Predictably, the AP reporter doesn't mention this as she does the voice over for the strike. It's reasonable to assume she doesn't understand things any better than the Greek protestors. This is yet another marker for societal decline. So long as these are predominantly covered as human interest stories, we're screwed. Until the voiceover mentions the mathematical facts with phrases like, "During the 8 hours of protesting, Greek debt increased by 12.5 million Euros (or whatever it is), just like it will every 8 hours until spending cuts are made," not much will change.

Why Don't We Live Like Caligula?

At the office the other day, we were discussing the legalization of marijuana. The primary argument in favor of it was that resistance to it was futile. People were going to smoke pot and there was no point fighting it.

So why don't we all live like Caligula or any other libertine from history? You can go back in time and find eras where personal gratification was greater than it is today. If Man's natural state is one of submitting his will and ambitions to the gratification of his bodily desires, how is it possible that we would live with less abandon than some time in the past?

If resisting our desires was a waste of time, wouldn't the march towards libertine perfection be unimpeded?

Associated question: If prostrating ourselves to sexual and chemical indulgences was the pinnacle of human evolution, how do you explain the recent successes of nations like China and India where such actions are not the norm?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pork Chop Apple Casserole

I made this recipe from Cook's last night. It got a great reception from the family. It smelled fairly sophisticated until I added the BBQ sauce, whereupon it became a good, down-home dish. When I do it again, I'm going to omit the BBQ sauce. The other modification I made was a pour in some unsalted beef stock right before I covered and simmered it. That kept the sugars of the apples from burning on the bottom.

Nom nom nom!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"A Rich, Oral Tradition"

Update: This is a really grumpy post. I'm not sure why I wrote it this way. I don't have time to rewrite it right now, so my suggestion is that you let it simmer on the cooktop for about 15 minutes until the grumpiness is reduced by about a half.

I've seen this phrase a bunch of times, usually relating to some culture that never developed writing. It describes how that particular people are great storytellers and they're not worse, just different and in some ways better than people with a written language. It sounds like a lot of nonsense to me.

I'm sure whatever civilization this is used to describe had great storytellers and all, but come on. Some guy telling stories over a communal fire pit vs. Shakespeare? Please. One of the primary advantages of writing is that you can preserve the good things you had to say. That makes your storytelling better, not worse. And drama? Without writing, there is an upper limit on how complex your dramas can be because direction becomes significantly harder with every character you add to a scene.

The whole thing sounds like a load of rubbish created by multiuculturalists who didn't want to say that one culture was more advanced than another.

Shoreline Sunrise

Despite the lack of low-lying clouds to give real drama to the sunrise in Charleston last week, I was lucky enough to get some nice reflection shots off of the wet sand on the beach of Sullivan's Island.

Why the Euros Are Hosed

Dig this.
The European Union has declared travelling a human right, and is launching a scheme to subsidize vacations with taxpayers' dollars for those too poor to afford their own trips.
Now that's some good compassion™!

How to Fill Your Freezer

Every week we go shopping at Costco. I have some idea of a weekly menu in my mind and we have a big family, so we load up with food for the week. The meat won't keep all week in the fridge, so much of it goes into the freezer. On weekdays, on the way home from work, I realize that I haven't taken anything out of the freezer to thaw, so I stop at the local grocery store to get something to make that night.

Things go into the freezer, but never come out.

On a side note, I love to cook with "Best of Fryer" - a whole chicken, cut into pieces. None of the stores around me carry it any more, so I've been forced to learn how to quarter a whole chicken myself. It's not hard, it just takes some extra time. I even found a video on YouTube that shows you how to do it. I was explaining my freezer dilemma to my wife last night and, being a wise woman, she had an immediate solution to the problem. If I cut up my whole chickens when I got home from Costco before I put them in the freezer, they would be ready to cook and would thaw in cold water in less than an hour.

Duhhhh. I think I'll have another beer and watch some ESPN.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reversing Cause and Effect

One of the risks you run when you write about illegitimacy is that you can be called a racist. American statistics on illegitimacy are dominated by blacks where it's something like 70%. Thank goodness for the British. They help remove that risk by proving that behavior and its results are independent of race.
THREE-QUARTERS of children in some parts of Britain will be born to unmarried mothers within the next parliament, official figures indicate.

The number of births to single mothers and unmarried cohabiting couples is set to exceed 50% across the country in the next five years.
The issue is not political, nor is it solvable by governmental solutions. The problem is 100% cultural as can be seen in the grammar of this excerpt.
"Marriage is closely linked to class,” said Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent University. “Being married is a marker for lower middle-class and middle-class behaviour.

“But for people who are relatively economically marginalised, marriage is not really seen as something that you associate with bringing children into the world.” Furedi said regional disparities were linked to class and social deprivation rather than a simple north-south divide.
All the facts are there, but the sentence construction is wrong. Poor people are not having illegitimate kids because they're poor, they're poor because they're having illegitimate kids. The way in which the facts are presented tell you everything you need to know about the society in which this is occurring.

Our modern culture makes it natural for the author of the piece to write this way. It's the way you see the same statistics presented in the US, too. The cause and effects have been reversed and so long as that's the natural way for people to present the issue, nothing will change. If you claim that poverty creates illegitimacy, then the solution is more government programs to alleviate poverty. That's not working out very well anywhere, but the author is so steeped in the libertine culture that they can't see it. If you reverse the cause and effect and see that behavior creates results, then it becomes obvious that there is no government program that will reduce illegitimacy - it will all have to come from cultural change.

Articles like this are societal markers. When the architecture of the prose changes, then you'll know we're on a path to success. So long as they're written like this, you can safely predict that we're going to keep seeing the same unpleasant results.

Greek Red Beans and Rice

I like to use Cook's to find recipes. Here's one they may want to try in Greece. It's very inexpensive, something they're starting to consider very important.

Nutritiouse and delicious!

The whole IMF / EU bailout thing is starting to unravel.
Credit-default swaps on Greece’s borrowings jumped 17 basis points to 455, according to CMA DataVision. The contracts peaked at 470 intraday on April 8. The premium investors demand to buy 10-year Greek government debt over benchmark German bunds rose to the most since before the euro’s debut ...

“There is an intensifying concern that even after receiving support, Greece’s problems won’t ease,” said Philip Gisdakis, a Munich-based strategist at UniCredit SpA ...

The country’s financing costs remain at levels that Prime Minister George Papandreou has called “unsustainable” as investors remain sceptical that he can trim the EU’s biggest budget deficit.
Yummmm! Red beans and rice are on the way! It's the perfect dish to serve after a long day of rioting over austerity measures that you helped to by bring about demanding more benefits than you had earned.
April 19 (Bloomberg) -- European Union and International Monetary Fund officials are due to travel to Athens this week to start laying down conditions for a 45 billion-euro ($61 billion) bailout package as public anger mounts over more austerity measures.

Prime Minister George Papandreou’s decision to call for the talks prompted a reaction of “rage” among 48 percent of Greeks surveyed in a poll in the Eleftheros Typos newspaper yesterday. Nine of 10 people surveyed said they expected the IMF to insist on more belt-tightening. Labor unions have threatened new strikes over the prospect of more budget cuts.
I haven't done the legwork, but I would imagine that if you went back in time about 10 years, you'd find Greek newspapers full of articles about this or that poverty-stricken family and the desperate need for some government program or another. They'd be railing against profit and corporate greed and yelling that the nation needed a fairer distribution of income.

Well, their wishes are coming true. The greedy corporations are getting whacked and everyone's income is heading in the same direction. Yay!

Politics and debates are all well and good, but Mathematics will always win in the end.

Miracle-Gro: Now with 23% More Enriched Uranium!

Warning: some garden insects may grow more than twice as big. Much, much more.

Can I Use WoW Gold to Pay for Costs of Meeting Single Russian Women?

For this endeavour is important! To me! I am doing the wondering and hoping someone leaves an answer. In the comments! I would like more WoW Gold and want to employ it for something with many uses.

(Explanation here.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

We Are *So* Screwed

Dig this.
Congress is poised to miss its April 15 deadline for finishing next year’s budget without even considering a draft in either chamber ...

Indeed, some Democratic insiders suspect that leaders will skip the budget process altogether this year — a way to avoid the political unpleasantness of voting on spending, deficits and taxes in an election year — or simply go through a few of the motions, without any real effort to complete the work.
Yes, I know, this has happened before, but never in a fiscal environment like this where we're borrowing at levels equal to the height of the Second World War.
The practical consequences of failing to produce a federal budget for next year are about the same as they are for a family that doesn’t set a plan for income and spending: Congress doesn’t need a budget to tax or spend, but enforcing discipline is harder without one. And, like a family that misses out on efficiencies because it hasn’t taken a hard look at its finances, Congress can’t use reconciliation rules to cut the deficit if the House and the Senate don’t adopt the same budget.
Note that the Second World War was relatively short compared to the Democrats' plans for monster deficits. It lasted only 4 years for the US. Our current trillion-dollar deficits will go on for a decade or more.

"We had it easy. All we had to do was defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan simultaneously. You have to provide compassion™!"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Charleston Sunrise

I just got back from a business trip to Charleston. I stayed in a hotel near the shore so I could get photos like this. I think it's worth a click.

Note the tiny shorebird almost in perfect alignment with the rising sun. I think this is a sign of the Apocalypse. After all, Nostradamus said, "And when the flitting avian spirit comes in alignment with a huge ball of fire, then shall boxes of Sugar Pops come to life and dance the Rhumba!"

Well, I think it was Nostradamus. It might have just been some wacky dream brought on by too much travel.

OK, I'm Confused

Not being compassionate™, I have to admit that my training in business and mathematics isnt helping me to figure this one out.
As a result, the EU executive body says it will come forward with concrete plans on 12 May to toughen up the bloc's fiscal rules, measures that it argues can be carried out under the current Lisbon Treaty ...

The document will also explore mechanisms to limit the build up of macro-economic imbalances between member states, and outline proposals to set up a permanent crisis fund to help struggling states.
So here's my conundrum. Every one of the Euro states runs an annual deficit every year. There are no surpluses anywhere. They now want to start a crisis fund to help out states who have borrowed to much. This means that they will:

borrow more money to stock a crisis fund for states who have borrowed too much money.


My vision for the Euro Crisis Fund.


When I'm out in the garage, reading and blogging, our Maximum Leader wants snacks. All the time. She's taken to perching on her food cannister and looking down at me, insisting on more noms.

I've been trying to catch this on film and I finally got it with my Droid.

Link of the Day

... is this one from our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands. Hilarious!

The Spek-a-lators Are A-comin'!

... and there a-comin' to Port-e-gal!

LONDON — Next target: Portugal.

Speculators have begun to zero in on another small member of Europe’s troubled monetary zone, highlighting the same economic flaw that brought Greece to the verge of insolvency: a chronically low savings rate that forces a reliance on the now-diminishing appetite of foreign investors to finance persistent deficits.
It's always the speculators' fault. These nameless, faceless forces of financial greed and evil, are at it again, wrecking peaceful, compassionate, socialist nations. And this is a small one, small, helpless Portugal. Poor dears, there are only 10.7 million of them and they've only been around for about a thousand years. How could anyone expect such a tiny group of naive waifs to protect themselves from the evil speculators?

Carn sarn it! If them spek-a-lators come 'round here, I'll give 'em a blast or two from old Bessie!

The New York Times, home of NOBEL PRIZE WINNING economist Paul Krugman*, is no stranger to debt and the evil nature of spek-a-lators. They've identified the problem with laser-like precision (probably with the help of NOBEL PRIZE WINNER Paul Krugman**).
For Athens and Lisbon, it is a risky combination: low reserves of capital when the cost of new debt is increasing, while their ability to generate tax revenue to pay for these obligations is shrinking because of tough austerity measures.

Portugal’s debt, at just under 90 percent of gross domestic product, is lower than Greece’s 113 percent level. The government in Lisbon has taken pre-emptive steps to cut spending and raise taxes.
Yep, that looks like the problem is spek-a-lators to me. After all, what could possibly be wrong with an organization taking on nearly a full year's gross receipts in debt just to make payroll? That sounds like a total winner. I mean, imagine if this was your family and you had a full year's income (before taxes) in credit card debt that you had rung up just on living expenses. Would you think that your standard of living was too high, or would you blame the credit card companies?

Well duhhhh. Of course it's their fault!

Well, America, it's time to roll up our sleeves and help out. We need to join the Euros to craft a rescue package for Portugal. After all, when it comes our turn and those evil speculators come after our debt, we're going to ask the rest of the world to do the same for us***.

* - Did we mention that he WON THE NOBEL PRIZE IN ECONOMICS? Well, he did. He WON THE NOBEL PRIZE. That's why they call him the NOBEL PRIZE WINNER. Just yesterday at the office, Maureen Dowd asked her editor whose coffee cup was in her office and the editor replied that it belonged to Paul Krugman, NOBEL PRIZE WINNER.

** - I can't remember, did I tell you he WON THE NOBEL PRIZE? No, really, he did. It's sitting there on the shelf in his office next to the certificate that tells you it's a real NOBEL PRIZE FOR ECONOMICS.

*** - Brother, can you spare $20,000,000,000,000?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Who Owns GM and Chrysler?

The Treasury Department does.

I've been wondering which government agency is managing these toads for a while now. I found the answer in this portion of a Pensions & Investments article.
U.S. Treasury Department officials “expect both GM and Chrysler to return to profitability,” the report said. “If this is the case, and the companies are able to make the required contributions to their pension plans as they become due, then Treasury's multiple roles (as an owner and regulator) are less likely to result in any perceived conflicts. However, if the funding of any of GM's or Chrysler's defined benefit plans declines below (statutory required) funding levels, the company may request a waiver” from the IRS “to reduce its required contributions to its plans over an extended period.”
Outstanding! People who know nothing about cars or running businesses are overseeing GM and Chrysler for us. Yay!

Shadow CEO of GM Timmy "Lugnut" Geithner suggesting that engine block studs should be unscrewed a quarter turn while replacing that dangly thingamajig near the oil filter.

Q: Why Do You Rob Banks?

A: Because that's where the money is.

In my continuing attempt to understand the Greek debt crisis and drive away all readership from this blog, I have this latest installment. In today's WSJ there is this article discussing how the Greek government is riddled with corruption.
A study to be published in coming weeks by the Washington-based Brookings Institution finds that bribery, patronage and other public corruption are major contributors to the country's ballooning debt, depriving the Greek state each year of the equivalent of at least 8% of its gross domestic product, or more than €20 billion (about $27 billion).

"Our basic problem is systemic corruption," Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou said after he took office late last year, vowing to change a mentality that views the republic as a resource to plunder.
Bzzzzzzt! Wrong answer, George. Your basic problem is that your economy is more than 50% government spending. Allocation of government resources is based on politics and politics is all about favors and influence. The problem is that your government is massive, not that Greeks are any more or less corrupt than anyone else. The more money the government controls, the more motivation there is to try and get some through bribery. Here in the US, ObamaCare was loaded with it.

Louisiana Purchase, anyone? How about the Cornhusker Kickback?

This is a feature, not a bug, of statism. Greed is part of the human condition and greedy people flock to money. If the money is in the government, that's where they'll go. It's not about Greece, it's about the unintended, but preordained endstate of the statists' dream. If you don't think it's happening here in the US, dig this little bit from Sweetness and Light:
As we have noted numerous times, saving the UAW’s pension fund was the real raison d’être for the automakers bailout in the first place.

And, as we have also mentioned, the just enacted ‘healthcare reform’ legislation includes a discreet injection of $10 billion into the UAW’s pension fund.
ObamaCare helped more than just sick people. It helped the UAW, too. That's what happens as the government grows and grows and grows.

So Greece has problems with corruption? Well, duhhhhhh.

Cheezburger of the Day

Thursday, April 15, 2010

ObamaCare Will Cover Lasik Procedures for Marsupials

... at least that's my anticipated next entry in Dean's series of higlights about strange clauses in the 2400-page bill. Here's his latest installment.

50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills

... can be found here. I'm also going to put a link to it up on my sidebar. As I click around the list, I'll blog about my favorites.

Photoshop Art and Photography

Fun, little projects like the bridge I posted earlier today are going to change the way I take photos from now on. In addition to looking for beautiful, natural scenes, I'll be looking for any scene with interesting structure and some amount of color. So long as those two exist, you have a chance to create something interesting with Photoshop.

The Magic Wand tool allows you to use the structure of the photo to grab interesting geometric components and the Adjust Hue and Saturation allows you change the color palette of those structures, provided they are not somewhere in the grays. A final wash with an artistic tool such as the Watercolor Filter and you've got an odd, wacky-looking image.

It opens up a much larger percentage of the world around me as candidates for photography. Yay!

Dave Ramsey Trumps John Maynard Keynes

... because if you lived within your means (or less), you wouldn't see stories like this one. Dave says, "Don't borrow." John says, "Go for it!"
April 15 (Bloomberg) -- The worst global financial crisis in 70 years arrived in Saint-Etienne this month, as embedded financial obligations began to blow up.

A bill came due for 1.18 million euros ($1.61 million) owed to Deutsche Bank AG under a contract that initially saved the French city money. The 800-year-old town refused to pay, dodging for now one of 10 derivatives shocks on contracts so speculative no bank will buy them back, said Cedric Grail, the municipal finance director. They would cost about 100 million euros to cancel today, he said.

“It’s a joke that we’re in markets like this,” said Grail, 38, from the 19th-century city hall fronted by an arched facade and the words Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. “We’re playing the dollar against the Swiss franc until 2042.”
Blame the greedy bankers and the wacky investment tools all you want, but here's the money quote for me.
Under the interest-rate swap deals popular with European municipalities, a bank would agree to cover a locality’s fixed debt payment and the government or agency would pay a variable rate gambling its costs would be lower -- and taking on the risk that they could be many times higher.

‘Hopes of Gain’

The deals were often based on differences between short- and long-term rates or currency movements.

“This is speculating in the hopes of gain,” said Peter Shapiro, managing director at Swap Financial Group LLC, in South Orange, New Jersey, an adviser to companies and governments. “The investor is taking a chance in hopes of a high return. It has nothing to do with hedging.”
Their social spending went way beyond what they produced (because they, those wise Euros, had compassion!) and then they did what any knuckle-dragging moron would do when faced with big debt payments. They went gambling to try to win back the money. Now it's all blowing up on them.


Watercolor Bridge

I started with this image, played around in Photoshop for a while, and came up with this.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Zombie Greece?

... that's the mental image I got reading Matthew Lynn of Bloomberg's commentary on Greece that comes to the same conclusion I have over the last few weeks. Here's some snippets.

This version of the rescue package isn’t going to work any better than the last one did. All it does is buy more time. The only real solution to Greece’s problems is Irish-style austerity. One way or another, it’s going to happen. The sooner they make a start on it, the better for everyone ...

The issue facing Greece is simple. It isn’t that the bond markets won’t lend the country money on reasonable terms. It is that the markets have looked at the Greek economy, decided it is in deep trouble, and resolved not to lend it any more money. Not even 45 billion euros can solve that.

Greece has a budget deficit of almost 13 percent of gross domestic product. It has borrowed too much money for too long. Worse, rather than using that money to invest in improving the efficiency of its economy, it has blown it on lavish public spending and generous welfare benefits ...

The only realistic solution is the Irish one. An over-indebted country has to accept that once the money runs out, it must cut spending. If necessary, living standards must fall. Once that hit has been taken, you can start growing again. But it can’t be avoided.
So they spent lavishly on social programs and now they might* see living standards fall to pay back the debt? Now that's compassion!

* - Might? What might? They will see living standards fall. That's what happens when you have to get on the beans and rice budget to pay off debt.

An Avian-Friendly Idea

Wouldn't it be cool to put birdhouses on the top of street sign poles?

They seem to be made for it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Inject Insulin Before Viewing

A Biblical Conundrum About How We Treat the Poor

Here's the parable of the Good Samaritan.
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
In this parable, why didn't Jesus have the Samaritan go forthwith into the nearest city and form an inter-governmental agency for distributing social welfare? Why was this parable and all others focused on personal action instead of collective action?

No Man is an Island

... but three men form a plane, so long as they are not colinear. Provided the plane is not parallel to the surface of the ocean (which they won't be because the ocean is spherical), they will, in fact, form an island.

You're welcome.

How to Care for the Poor

... can be learned from history. U. S. history. After all, we weren't always rich. Nearly everyone who came to America came here in poverty and came to a country without the monstrous social spending we have today. Those people created this country. If it worked then, why is it condemned as a failure today? Why is the answer to poverty now the opposite of the answer a century ago?

This idea came to me while watching the Milton Friedman video in this excellent blog post over at our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings. Watch the video and see what you think.

Fortunately for these immigrants, they did not receive endless government assistance.

Good News for Greece!

The wolf has been kicked away from the door.
April 13 (Bloomberg) -- Greece’s auction of Treasury bills drew stronger demand than at a previous sale as yields more than doubled in the first offering of debt since the nation won a pledge of aid from the European Union.
The bad news is, the Greeks just borrowed more money. In all non-snarkiness, this is exactly what they needed to execute their plan. As I understand it, the idea is for the rest of the Euro nations to lend them money while they get their house in order.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Perfect Spam Attractor

Every once in a while I get spam comments about WoW Gold or working from home or stuff like that. There's always a pidgin English paragraph that suggests that they liked my blog post in some vague way followed by the link to the site they want me to visit. I wonder what kind of post I would have to write to attract the most spam comments possible.

Goals Geekery

One of the most important lessons I've learned in my efforts to set and reach goals is that you need to keep them in front of you at all times. If you don't, well, as Aslan tells Jill in The Silver Chair,
I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. There is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances.
Life has a way of distracting you from your goals. In an act of total goals geekery, I've found a way to use my drive time to strengthen my pursuit of my goals.

First, as I go through Brian Tracy's book on goals, I write my answers to his thought exercises at the end of each chapter in a document on my PC. I spent a tiny amount and bought an account on It converts my written document into speech and creates an MP3 for me to download. I do so and copy it over to my Droid. On the way to and from work, a couple times a week, I listen to my goals document. The results have been fantastic. (Here's why.)

Viewing Greece as a Turnaround

So I spent some time clicking around the Interweb Tubes and learning about the Greek economy. Here's the scoop.

Greece has two cash cows - tourism and shipping, both of which have been crushed in the current global recession. They've got an agricultural sector which probably is just muddling along as well, but the two big cash earners are tourism and shipping. They've got a smattering of other industries, but the real problem is that they created a nation designed to react wildly to economic cycles. When things are good, they're better, when things are bad, they're worse.

If I was viewing Greece as a turnaround, I'd be hard-pressed to do anything other than slash overhead spending. The government accounts for around 50% of all spending in Greece. That's totally unsupportable when your two major product lines are susceptible to dramatic swings in performance. Recurring overhead spending needs to be based on your minimum expected profit so that when bad times like this happen, you don't run a deficit. In good times, you can spend lavishly on one-time investments. Right about now, they can look at their tax receipts and have a pretty good idea of what their recurring government costs ought to be. If I recall correctly, they need to cut their government by at least a third in order to make the thing sustainable.

Cutting overhead would have to be done on a priority basis. Those cuts are not going to come back. Basic services, national defense, debt servicing and care for the disabled and elderly might be all you could afford. Able-bodied people would be on their own. This is where borrowing money just kills you. Because they're so deeply in debt, your cutoff line for basic services has to be much lower than it would had you not been borrowing all along.

In the long run, they will eventually see good times again. When those good times returned, you would have to pay off their massive debt first so you didn't get hurt so badly in the next downturn. After the debt was paid off, I'd be finding a third industry to invest in, something that wasn't so sensitive to recessions.

So how does this compare to what they're actually doing? Lousy. They're borrowing more money and resisting any cuts in government spending. Good luck with that.

Greek shipping has run aground.

Note: There's a very good blog called Greece Economy Watch for those of you interested in more on this topic.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Like Taking Candy from a Baby

Dig this.
Turmoil in Kyrgyzstan has thrust the fate of the Manas air base -- which is crucial for fighting the Afghan war -- to the forefront of rivalry between the United States and Russia.

Russia has long dreamed of evicting the United States from Central Asia and a Russian official said on Thursday that Moscow would urge the interim Kyrgyz government to shut the U.S. base.

Suspicions of the Kremlin's hand in the unrest were raised when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin became the first world leader to recognize the authority of the self-proclaimed government, just hours after it took power.
That thumping sound you hear in the distance is Obama getting his butt kicked. Again.

That's Smart Diplomacy™!

Update: Anyone want to place bets on the respective directions Polish relations with the US and Russia will go now that the Polish president has been killed?

On Parenting, Goals and Soccer

A while back, I posted about my new goals as a parent. I'd been reading Brian Tracy's book on goals and the thought exercises therein led me to change from trying to get my kids to accomplish things directly to trying to get them to make decisions in the right way. It's had huge payoffs already.

First off, I don't get angry nearly as much. It's not that I was a raging tyrant, it's that their setbacks seemed to me to be so easy to avoid. Instead, since my goal is now to make sure that when they leave the nest they have the mental and moral tools to make the right decisions, mistakes are teaching opportunities.

For example, yesterday my daughter tried out for a local club soccer team. She had tried out for three others and missed the cut each time. This time, we practiced for several days in preparation. After her last failure, I had told her that in order to have choices in life, she needed to be good at something people valued - in this case, soccer. Her friends who play on premiere-level teams could go to any of these tryouts, make each team and then pick the one that offered them the best position and the best chance to win. That lesson wasn't lost on her and she really put some effort into it.

After yesterday's tryout where she didn't think she did well enough, but might still make the team, I asked her if she wished she had practiced more or less. She instantly told me she wished she had practiced more. We stayed behind and spoke with the coaches (they made encouraging noises) and on the way home, she vowed to work on the things they suggested the very next day.

Without the goals program I've been on, I might have been angry. She certainly could have practiced more and more practice might have meant there was no doubt at all about making the team. I would have been ticked off at her risking failure in exchange for a few hours in front of the TV watching junk. Instead, she and I had a long discussion about how badly she wanted to play on the team and how she now wished she had really gone all out.

She may not make the team, but she took steps towards learning the lessons I hoped she'd learn. Instead of anger and defeatism at the uncertainty of the outcome, I had nothing but pride and praise for her. I felt good about the whole affair because I had accomplished my goal, that of helping her learn to make good decisions.

The Latest on Greece

As I read it, the Germans have agreed to join with the Euros (well, really, lead the Euros) in lending the Greeks money at below-market rates. This means that German citizens will invest stupidly. After all, if your bank offered 7% on a checking account, would you ask them to reduce it to 5% just for you?

Why anyone is lending the Greeks anything at all is beyond me. They can't pay back the debt they've got right now, how are they going to pay back still more debt later? In the end, I would still bet on bailouts.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day (Maybe of the Year)

I laughed so hard at this that I had tears coming down my cheeks.

Forget About Greece, Protect Germany

Something just dawned on me as I went through my daily Greek Debt Geekfest. The symptoms of the problems that have gotten us all to this point, Greece, Italy, Iceland, Japan, the US and all the rest, are manifested in the articles written about Greece. Dig this tidbit.
April 10 (Bloomberg) -- German resistance to subsidizing emergency loans for Greece may hold up efforts by the European Union to reach agreement on terms of a proposed financial lifeline for the debt-strapped nation.

As officials in Brussels hammered out details to a framework for joint EU-International Monetary Fund aid, Germany restated its opposition to below-market rate loans. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou says without the subsidies Greece can’t cut the EU’s-biggest budget deficit. Finance ministers plan to hold a teleconference tomorrow, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Having done a turnaround, let me assure you that they need to be far less concerned about bailing out nonperforming assets (Greece) than they do protecting and nourishing productive ones (Germany). The Greeks are nowhere near solving their problems and running at neutral, much less a profit. Without Germany around, the whole region is hosed in the long run. Someone, somewhere has to produce things and sell them*, otherwise everyone's going down.

Nowhere in these articles is this discussed. It's all about helping Greece and how sad it is for Greece. Well, if you continue to abuse the productive Germans by demanding they be the region's mommy, Greece is going to have a lot of company.

This is a global contagion, this world view. The Japanese have buried themselves alive with debt because of it. The Greeks and many others in Europe are in the late stages of the disease where the symptoms are obvious and unpleasant. Our current administration is riddled with it. There was even a book written about it and where it all ends.

Who is John Galt?

* - Here in the US, we hate these people. We call them "fortunate" as if Zeus handed them bags of gold and we demand that they "pay their fair share" which amounts to, well, almost everything our government spends.


Bodie the Wonder Dog.

In Need of a Caption

I took this photo with my Droid yesterday at the vet's office where our Maximum Leader was being given a clean bill of health after her surgery. This fellow is an elderly resident at the office and must live the life of Riley. His long fur is never out of place or matted - the whole team must be assigned the job of keeping him groomed. He always gives off this air of being totally happy with life.

In the End, It Will Be a Handout for Greece

The Euros promised loans for Greece. Greek bonds tanked. They promised to back Greek debt. Greek bonds tanked. Now they're right where you'd expect them to be if they were dealing with fiscally irresponsible bums. They're just going to hand them a wad of cash.
Despite the ratings cut, Greece's 10-year bond spread— the amount of interest it has to pay to borrow, above what ultra-safe Germany pays—narrowed and the euro rose. The 10-year yield skidded at one point to 7.11%, from 7.38% Thursday, still well above the 3.17% yield for comparable German debt, considered the euro-zone benchmark. The moves came amid signs that European Union finance officials meeting in Brussels had made progress on the technical details for a potential bailout.

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy told several European newspapers on Friday that the bloc "will be ready to step in if the Greeks ask." French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi echoed those remarks, saying at a news conference that their countries were ready to help.
This is happening because it's not possible for the Greeks to get their own house in order unless they change their world view completely. For decades, they've focused on helping unproductive people at the expense of the productive ones. Now there aren't enough productive people producing things to pay the bills. Loaning them more money and handing them cash is going to do nothing in the long run.
Greece is likely to meet its big debt repayments this month and next—either by scraping up enough cash from capital markets or by taking an international bailout. What has many investors worried is what happens after that.

"It has dawned on investors that solvency is a major issue—not a minor issue," says Stephen Jen of the hedge fund BlueGold Capital Management.

Underscoring such concerns, Fitch Ratings cut Greece's credit rating two notches Friday, to BBB-minus and said its outlook for the future was negative. The agency cited doubts that Greece in the medium term would be able to stick to tough budget cuts and tax increases.
Greece's Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. I think.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Photoshop CS5

Dig this preview. Adobe will be unveiling the whole CS5 suite on Monday.

From the comments on YouTube: This isn't even a program anymore. It's obviously MAGIC.

Why Do We Become What We Think About?

Due to time constraints, this is a very short treatment of the subject, but it's part of some work I've been doing in my own life that has made a big difference to me and I wanted to share it with you.

In the process of reading books on goals and listening to audio CDs by Zig Ziglar and Earl Nightingale, particularly this one: The Strangest Secret,I've been flumoxxed by one of the claims - we become what we think about the most. It seemed like a lot of mumbo-jumbo to me. Then, while watching this video (actually, listening to an MP3 I made of it), I think I figured it out. If you go to about the 18:30 mark and watch for about 3 minutes, you'll see what triggered my thoughts.

The brain is continually trying to refine behaviors to match what it sees as "successful." In the example in that video, the children are learning to use a spoon. In our cases, this same process is continually running in the background whether we're aiming it or not. If we don't think about a given goal, the brain's refinement processes operate almost randomly. If we do think about a given goal, the brain is focusing its refinement efforts on that goal.

In the talk, the speaker says that the most powerful aspect of the brain's learning is the creation and constant refinement of a mental model of success. When you focus on a goal, your sensors are tuned to be on the lookout for others who have achieved your goal. If you decide to become really good at soccer, you key in on soccer games on TV and watch the professionals.

I'm pressed for time, so I'll have to table the rest of this thought for later. As an exercise for the reader, I'd recommend visiting Tim's outstanding blog and consider how he got to be so good at what he does. I would suggest that his brain, like ours, was constantly running improvement processes in the background, but that his decision to focus on a particular topic harnessed what was already going on and led him to be the excellent specialist that he is.

Green Jobs!

... have been created by government mandate. Now all we need to do is figure out how to pay for them.
Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel warned this week that the city's general fund could run out of money and fall $10 million into the red by May 5 unless the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power transfers a planned $73.5 million payment it has so far said it would withhold...

The Los Angeles utility, the nation's largest municipal utility, said it wasn't making the payment because the city council earlier this month failed to approve substantial increases in electricity rates.

Utility officials say they need those higher rates to help cover the costs of investing in renewable energy, such as wind and solar, that are mandated by state and municipal laws.
But wait, don't worry, there's a solution on the horizon!
On Wednesday, City Councilman Greig Smith moved to put a measure on next March's ballot that would ask voters to allow it to shift control of the utility—and its massive budget—under the auspices of the council.
Outstanding! The government will mandate "green" energy requirements, remove the utility's ability to pay for them and then when the budget falls apart, they will absorb the utility. The fiscally insolvent government will force the utility into fiscal insolvency and then subsume it making an even bigger fiscally insolvent entity! Yay!

Now would be a good time for Henry Waxman to call a hearing to find out why bigger numbers are bigger than smaller numbers. That sounds discriminatory to me, if not out-and-out racist.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Global Air Traffic

I found this on The Corner and thought I'd share.

Austerity Happens

... whether you want it to or not.

Greek bonds are still getting hammered. The Euros have stroked their chins in deep thought, shaken hands, nodded heads and made agreements with the IMF. The Greeks have mumbled promises about some budget cuts that might be made some time in the future if they really, really need to do so. Greek bonds are still getting hammered.

In getting my Greek Geek on this morning, I came across this little bit of gloom regarding the latest victim on the altar of compassion.
The Greek general government had total expenditures of 44% of GDP in 2008, and tax revenues of 41% of GDP. If the 13% adjustment effort were to come entirely from expenditures, this would imply a cut in public spending of 30% of GDP. Conversely, if all the adjustment were to come from taxes, it would require a tax hike of a similar scale. Given the degree of corruption and the inadequacy of the Greek tax collection system, there is no way that taxation could take the lion share of this adjustment.
The math is complicated, so let me clarify it for you. Greece is facing the need for budget cuts of about 25% of their government spending. In the US, this would equate to $850B in budget cuts at the Federal level to prevent default, bank failures, a run on the currency and the advent of carteneros. In Greece, they have practically no defense spending at all, so all of these cuts will have to come from public sector pay and social services.

Compassion kills.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Problems with Comments

I'm really struggling with comments right now. I'm getting duplicates that aren't really duplicates and missing others that should have been published. I apologize if I've deleted some of yours (sorry, Jeff!). If you're using Blogger and are seeing the same thing, I'd love to hear about it.

Why Do We Have CAFE Standards?

The whole thing seems stupid to me. Oil is a global resource. With the 2,000,000,000+ people in India and China rushing to catch up to the West in living standards, what possible difference will it make if I drive a car that gets 18 MPG or 38 MPG?

Brain Plasticity

If you've got a spare hour and a half, here's an outstanding* Google Tech Talk on brain plasticity.

* - Well, I think it's outstanding. To tell you the truth, I've only heard 20 minutes of it so far. I downloaded the flv file from YouTube with my Real Player, converted it to wmv with Real Converter and then converted it to MP3 with Adobe Media Converter. I've now got it on my Droid and am listening to it while I drive. I mean, when I drive. I'm not driving now; that would be really dangerous - blogging while driving.

Update: The presentation is really well done. The fellow is a great speaker and has organized his material in an interesting and understandable way. A big part of my professional life is based on me doing public speaking. This guy can run rings around me. I'm going to listen to it a couple of times just to break down his style and technique. He's a joy to hear.