Sunday, May 31, 2009

EyeClops BioniCam Second Test

Well, I'm growing less pleased with my BioniCam. Momma Daisy was nice enough to hold still while I photographed her petals. Here's one at 100x.

I can't tell if this is Jupiter or a Gerber Daisy.

Here's one at 200x.

You can see some of the structure of the petal, but it's kind of hard to make out.

The BioniCam is a serviceable and very inexpensive device for getting magnified photos, you just have to acknowledge its limitations. It's really designed for photographing objects that are held perfectly still on a flat surface where you can take the time to focus properly. Despite the way it is advertised, it's not the kind of thing you would carry around with you on a hike for quick and easy photos.

So Now What Happens to Ford?

Now that Chrysler and GM have become state enterprises, what's to prevent the government and unions colluding together to bring Ford into the fold? First off, there are lots of benefits to the unions. Since Chrysler and GM are government industries, Congress has an interest in running them to the benefit of the unions. Dig this. GM makes lots of money on the cars it builds outside of the US.
Almost lost among the momentous events of the GM denouement are the international trade implications. GM, of course, is a multinational company. In 2008, according to GM's annual 10-K report, GM made almost half of its $148 billion in revenue outside of the United States.
Err, make that they made lots of money on cars they used to build outside the US.
GM had recently informed Congress that it planned to produce roughly 50,000 subcompacts per year in China to sell in the U.S market in the near future. However, on Thursday, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said that GM had agreed not to import the cars from China and to produce them in the United States instead as part of its deal with the UAW.
Because they're now bankrolled by anyone holding a dollar in their hands*, there's no reason to make decisions based on profits. Instead, they will make decisions based on political forces. After the unions and the state consume and digest GM and Chrysler, they'll begin to eye Ford hungrily. When they see Ford do things not in the interests of the unions, laws will be passed, marketing budgets increased, and all manner of tricks will be played to crush Ford and bring them under the control of the state.

Because that's what fascists do.

We're all Peronists now.

* - Lots of people are making the mistake of claiming that taxpayers will be supporting these companies. That is errant nonsense. The deficit is being funded to a large part by the Fed. They are printing money out of thin air to pay the bills. As they do so, they are inflating away the value of the dollar. Anyone holding dollars or dollar-denominated investments will be paying for this.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Link of the Day

This one goes to our Pater of Prowling. If it doesn't put a smile on your face, then you must be dead.

There's Hope

... that the Washington Post might yet understand what's happening and call it to the attention of all. They've got an editorial out today questioning the wisdom of our takeover of GM. Here are some tidbits with a little commentary.
So how did we get from there to here? Here, according to media accounts this week, is an imminent transformation of General Motors into a government-owned company, infused with upward of $50 billion in federal money. The United States will accept stock in lieu of the cash the company owes, and Washington -- that is, you, the taxpayer -- will become the owner of 70 percent of the new GM.
You the taxpayer may be the owner, but you'll have no more say in it than the residents of Buenos Aires did when the Argentine government took over various businesses. All will be handled within the palace of el presidente.
When might the company stand on its own, to paraphrase Mr. Obama? When would the government exit the stage?
Never and never. If they wanted to spin the thing off, they'd get it making a profit as soon as possible. That would mean big cars and low wages for the union. That's the exact opposite of what they're doing.
But is a massive, unbounded federal commitment to a company that evidently still can attract no private capital really the only option? It doesn't take much imagination to forecast the political pressures that will buffet the government-as-auto-executive.
They're not concerned about these political pressures, they're counting on them. With much of the industrial midwest in thrall to the government after this takeover, they can hand out goodies to their supporters.
When the Bush administration first assessed its unpalatable options, Congress played an active and constructive role. Where are the legislators now?
They're licking their chops, baby. If you thought Michelle Obama's gig where she doubled her pay after her husband was elected to the Senate was sweet, just imagine the vast patronage that will be possible now. Family members eight levels removed will be able to get cushy jobs in auto parts manufacturers three layers removed from the government-controlled company. Just try tracking those down and accusing people of corruption.

Look, this is no accident. Obama is a fascist and this is what fascists do. They do it on purpose, too, to get just these kinds of results. Given a few more editorial sessions, the Washington Post might just stumble onto the truth.

Here's hoping.

We're all Peronists now.

EyeClops BioniCam First Test

At the recommendation of the Puppy Blender several months ago, I bought the EyeClops USB camera / magnifying glass from Amazon at a huge discount after Christmas. I bought the Planet Earth USB Microscope at the same time which turned out to be a huge fail. I'm happy to say that the EyeClops is significantly better.

Here is a photo of my jeans at 100x magnification taken with the EyeClops.

Since I didn't read (or keep) the manual, it took some thrashing around to get the sequence of button-pushings correct, but in the end it took a decent photo.

Now on to botanical photos! Hurrah! More details on the EyeClops BioniCam later.

Seth Green Layin It Down For His Homies

I love it!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Death to ... Potatoes?!?

Thanks to a tweet by our Court Jester, we were turned on to this little bit of nuttiness. Apparently, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is handing out free spuds to voters right before the Iranian elections.
The Government is handing out 400,000 tonnes of free spuds in rural towns. It says that it is merely distributing the surplus from a bumper crop, but Mr Ahmadinejad’s opponents accuse it of bribing the poor. “Death to potatoes,” they chant at rallies.
What's with these people? How does everything have to end up in a chant of "Death to ______!" What kind of conversations do they have?
Iranian 1: Man, today was a bad day on the road. It took me 30 minutes to get home.

Iranian 2: I know what you mean. Death to traffic! Did I tell you about how my insurance company accidentally billed me for my doctor's visit?

Iranian 1: No, really? Death to insurance!

Iranian 2: I hear you. Well, I gotta run. Going bowling tonight.

Together: Death to the pins!
Death to potatoes. Maybe they're doing this to make themselves too difficult to parody. Ya think?

Today's Dose of Debt Porn

... comes partially from the USA Today of all things.
Taxpayers are on the hook for an extra $55,000 a household to cover rising federal commitments made just in the past year for retirement benefits, the national debt and other government promises, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The 12% rise in red ink in 2008 stems from an explosion of federal borrowing during the recession, plus an aging population driving up the costs of Medicare and Social Security.

That's the biggest leap in the long-term burden on taxpayers since a Medicare prescription drug benefit was added in 2003.

The latest increase raises federal obligations to a record $546,668 per household in 2008, according to the USA TODAY analysis. That's quadruple what the average U.S. household owes for all mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debt combined.
We are the ones we've been waiting for to pay the debt because the rest of the world has had enough.
For the first time since another Democrat occupied the White House, investors from Beijing to Zurich are challenging a president’s attempts to revive the economy with record deficit spending. Fifteen years after forcing Bill Clinton to abandon his own stimulus plans, the so-called bond vigilantes are punishing Barack Obama for quadrupling the budget shortfall to $1.85 trillion. By driving up yields on U.S. debt, they are also threatening to derail Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s efforts to cut borrowing costs for businesses and consumers.
Dave Ramsey, please call your office!

Someone Isn't Going To Be Invited To The Fashionable Cocktail Parties Any More

... and our Precentor of Measurements has the scoop.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Catholic Church Oppresses Women!

... but not as much as the secular world does. You see, we don't kill them. Our buddy Scipio makes this point as he dissects the traditional feminist complaints about the Catholic Church.

Take a look at abortion. The Catholic Church calls it murder, yet our feminist calls it ‘oppression of women.’ There have been 44,000,000 abortions in the US since Roe in 1973. Around 22,000,000 of these have been females. And nothing so oppresses a female as murdering her. The Church has been one of a few voices—the others being Islam, conservative Protestant Christianity and Orthodox Judaism— defending the rights of all those unborn girls. All those 22,000,000 slaughtered females, never to grow up to be oppressed by the Church—or for that matter, to be indoctrinated into the joys of radical feminism.
Lucky for them, those dead girls won't ever have to suffer through the male hegemony of a world where the Catholic Church is allowed to exist.


Then go visit this site regularly. It has fun things like this.

Using the F-word

Thomas Sowell, no one's idea of a wild-eyed loon, uses the dreaded "F" word.

We're all Peronists now.

The Rope to Hang Yourself

The Puppy Blender linked to an NRO piece which linked to a Catholic Online article about Islam in Rotterdam. While it's badly written and badly edited, perhaps by people for whom English is a second language, it shows what a generation or two of multiculturalism and secularism have done to the Dutch.

They're screwed. A single example illustrates the problem.
Chris Ripke is a well-known artist in the city. His studio is near a mosque in Insuindestraat. Shocked in 2004 by the murder of director Theo Van Gogh by an Dutch Islamist, Chris decided to paint an angel on wall of his studio and the biblical commandment "Gij zult niet doden," thou shalt not kill. His neighbors at the mosque found the words "offensive," and called the mayor of Rotterdam at the time, the liberal Ivo Opstelten. The mayor ordered the police to erase the painting, because it was "racist." Wim Nottroth, a television journalist, camped out on the spot in protest. The police arrested him, and his film was destroyed. Ephimenco did the same in his own window: "I put up a big white sheet with the biblical commandment. Photographers came, and the radio. If you can no longer write 'do not kill' in this country, then you are saying that we are all in prison. It is like apartheid, whites living with whites and blacks with blacks. There is a great chill. Islamism wants to change the structure of the country." For Ephimenco, part of the problem is the de-Christianization of society. "When I arrived here, during the 1960's, religion was dying, a unique event in Europe, a collective de-Christianization. Then the Muslims brought religion back to the center of social life. Aided by the anti-Christian elite."
Civilization arises from married families. They pay the taxes, raise the productive members of the next generation and provide stability for society. Whatever its warts, Islam has married families. The secular Dutch have this:

Live it up, boys and girls. Your time is running out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'm Investing in PPG

... because the demand for paint will skyrocket, thanks to our brilliant new Energy Secretary!
President Obama's energy adviser has suggested all the world's roofs should be painted white as part of efforts to slow global warming.

Professor Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, said the unusual proposal would mean homes in hot countries would save energy and money on air conditioning by deflecting the sun's rays.

More pale surfaces could also slow global warming by reflecting heat into space rather than allowing it to be absorbed by dark surfaces where it is trapped by greenhouse gases and increases temperatures.
Why stop there? Let's eliminate everything dark! Dark animals, dark leaves, dark dirt, it's all got to go!

Paint! Paint is the answer! Paint for all you're worth!

Leading by example, the brilliant Steven Chu has painted all of his upward-facing body surfaces white in order to prevent global warming!

Caption the Photo!

... I've got one of these things going on over at TwitPic. Come on by and leave your comic thoughts or just read what others have done.

If Argentina Can Nationalize 401(k)s, Why Not Us?

... because we may need to in order to continue "private" investment in chosen favored partially-nationalized certain companies.

First off, we have that problem of greedy bondholders again.
GM, propped up by $19.4 billion in emergency U.S. loans, will file for bankruptcy protection after failing to get 90 percent of bondholders to swap their debt, Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson has said. The exchange offer was opposed by both institutional and individual investors, who said they’ve been treated worse than a union retiree-medical fund.

“The offer probably cost them more to print out than the offer is worth,” Gary Thomas, a retired auto mechanic vicious, greedy tycoon and GM bondholder, said in a telephone interview from Kingston, Tennessee, before the results were announced.
Corrections mine. The People have spoken, Gary. You need to pay your Fair Share.

Next, we have investors as a whole reconsidering the deal.
"There are a number of creditors that are not happy with the preferential treatment afforded to the United Auto Workers at the seeming expense of creditors," said John Lonski, chief economist for Moody's Investors Service ...

The GM and Chrysler bankruptcies may be unique situations in a long-politicized industry, but they also could mark "a new period of uncertainty for the debt recoveries of favored-political-class companies," Garman said in his report.
It's getting harder and harder to find investors for these kinds of firms.
As GM teeters toward a bankruptcy filing and Chrysler attempts to restructure in bankruptcy court, the Obama administration is offering most of the recovery value of those companies to "a favored political class, in this case the United Auto Workers, leaving creditors with very slender debt recoveries," Christopher Garman, founder of Garman Research in Orinda, California, said in a report released late on Friday ...

To gauge whether those cases have made debtholders wary of other companies with so-called favored political classes, Garman compared spreads, or bonds' extra yields over U.S. Treasury yields, for companies with collective bargaining agreements with the high-yield bond market as a whole.

While the two performed in line with each other since 2003, they diverged sharply in February, with spreads on companies with organized labor gapping nearly 11 percentage points higher than the market as a whole, according to Garman's research.
Wait a minute! That's not working out well at all. It's clear that Amerikkka (thanks, Rev. Wright!) is filled with reactionary forces that are struggling to prevent the president from ushering in a glorious, new paradise.

You dirty private investors just aren't putting enough money into our new private-public partnership companies (or those we are about to sieze cooperate with). Our fellow Peronists in Argentina recently took control over all private retirement accounts to better, er, manage them. We may need to as well.

We're all Peronists now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Art Car

I've got a friend who drives this beauty.

Would it be cool to pull up to work in that or what?

I Probably Didn't Need to Post This

We're flooding the world with debt as we spend, spend, spend.
The US Treasury is facing an ordeal by fire this week as it tries to sell $100bn (£62bn) of bonds to a deeply sceptical market amid growing fears of a sovereign bond crisis in the Anglo-Saxon world ...

The US is not alone in facing a deficit crisis. Governments worldwide have to raise some $6 trillion in debt this year, with huge demands in Japan and Europe. Kyle Bass from the US fund Hayman Advisors said the markets were choking on debt.

"There isn't enough capital in the world to buy the new sovereign issuance required to finance the giant fiscal deficits that countries are so intent on running. There is simply not enough money out there," he said. "If the US loses control of long rates, they will not be able to arrest asset price declines. If they print too much money, they will debase the dollar and cause stagflation.
Sounds like we'll need another Stimuloid Porkgasm™ to deal with this!

Oh, and by the way, we're flooding the world with debt as we spend, spend, spend.
China has warned a top member of the US Federal Reserve that it is increasingly disturbed by the Fed's direct purchase of US Treasury bonds.

Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said: "Senior officials of the Chinese government grilled me about whether or not we are going to monetise the actions of our legislature."

"I must have been asked about that a hundred times in China. I was asked at every single meeting about our purchases of Treasuries. That seemed to be the principal preoccupation of those that were invested with their surpluses mostly in the United States," he told the Wall Street Journal.
At least Rick's got his finger on the real problem.
"This situation is of your own creation. When you berate your representatives or senators or presidents for the mess we are in, you are really berating yourself. You elect them," he said.

This Made Me Laugh

... but then, I have a silly sense of humor sometimes.


Some (Borrowed) Thoughts on Happiness

Our Nun of the Above posted about happiness on her blog. Here's a tiny excerpt that rang true for me.
  • Happiness has very little to do with income or social position.

  • Happiness has everything to do with relationships.

  • Just because someone is behaving a particular way at one point in their life doesn't mean they'll continue to act that way throughout the remaining years--either for good or bad.

  • Perhaps the greatest inhibitor of happiness is ease and lethargy.

  • Don't count someone out, we all mature and progress at different speeds.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Guess I Need to Write Something More Prudicious

... because William A. Jacobson over at Legal Insurrection named me "Blog of the Day." I'm not sure why, but thanks a million, Mr. Jacobson!

Welcome to The Scratching Post to my new visitors! This is an eclectic blog with some focus on politics, economics, theology and sociology with photos of cats and flowers thrown in. The term "prudiciousness" comes from our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings who coined the phrase as a mix of prudishness and judiciousness.

Whatever. On with the show.

So over at our Prelate to the Primates is this post, wherein a portion of the transcript of Obama's talk with CNN is excerpted. I've seen the YouTube embed on a variety of blogs, but I'd avoided watching it. The transcript portion I read was more than enough. It's vintage Obama.
SCULLY: You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?

OBAMA: Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we’ve made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we’ve seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.
First, you start with the truth. "We're out of money." You then move on to a conclusion you want. "We need health care for all." The connection in between is strictly grammatical - that is, it's there so that you recognize the prose as English. Other than that, there's no connection at all.

Obama has two primary goals, saving the planet and wealth redistribution. There's nothing else that's close. Creating wealth and jobs is not part of the plan. The sooner you learn to accept that, the better off you'll be. Words are an ends to the means and have no intrinsic meaning. Obama's critics make the mistake of debating his words. His words are simply a feint, a ruse designed to get you to argue and fight with a minor distraction while he does whatever he wants.

The country is bankrupt because we as a culture have bankrupted ourselves. We want what we haven't earned and we've discovered that other nations will loan us the money to get it. We've also learned that marriage is optional for procreation, so long as we build lots of prisons.

Obama is a Peronist. That is, he is a fascist whose goal is wealth redistribution. Instead of dissecting his words and trying to apply this week's news to his speeches, I'd suggest stepping back and looking at a broader hypothesis.

Obama is the symptom of a cultural problem - a president who promises to give us more free goodies than anyone in history in exchange for our freedoms. He's the presidential equivalent of those emails you get from the Economic Minister of Ghana who's brother just died leaving him $35,500,000. Just like those emails, we need to discard his promises of free wealth and get back to working and saving. People like Obama should have their messages immediately routed into the trash bin.

Some (Fake?) Abraham Lincoln for You on Memorial Day

Our Pater of Prowling shared this with us. I thought it was apt for the world we live in today.

Update: Ha! This is (at least partially) a fraud!
The quotes were published in 1942 by William J. H. Boetcker, a Presbyterian minister. He released a pamphlet titled Lincoln On Limitations, which did include a Lincoln quote, but also added 10 statements written by Boetcker himself.
Whatever the source, they're pretty apt quotes for today.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Peronism in Context

Paul Kedrosky links to an outstanding piece in the Financial Times comparing the economic development of America and Argentina over the last 100 years. Inspired by a commenter here, I've spent some time in the last several weeks exploring Juan Peron as a model for Barack Obama and this article is easily the most comprehensive, if implicit, comparison I've found. The thing is long - it took me 10-15 minutes to read it. There's not much econobabble in it, so I think it's accessible to all.

I found it worth the read, maybe you will, too.

Short excerpt:
Peronism endured, and indeed endures: Argentina’s ­current president calls herself a Peronist, and so did her predecessor, who happens to be her husband. One reason is that, in a limited way and under its own distorted terms, it succeeded. The state had become strong. The government owned and ran not just natural monopolies such as water and electricity but anything that looked big and strategic – steel, chemicals, car ­factories. The economy did industrialise. But it was still falling behind. In 1950 Argentine income per head was twice that of Spain, its former coloniser. By 1975 the average ­Spaniard was richer than the average Argentine. Argentines were almost three times richer than Japanese in the 1950s; by the early 1980s the ratio had been reversed. Argentina’s was a fragile and superficial progress that masked relative decline.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's a Double Header Today!

Daughter Daisy's got a two-headed flower out right now.

My Flirtation With Linux Is Over

... and so is my time spent with Open Office.

I've got an older desktop PC that I decided to convert to Linux. Linux was free and I was hoping I could use the machine as a host for multimedia files. While I was able to do this, the effort required to manage the thing was just too much. It's not that it was hard, it's that it was all a foreign language to me.

Many of the tools and applications I installed on the Linux machine were quick and easy to do. Just like a Windows machine, I could click on a few things and they would magically self-install. Yay! A few things required me to get into the command line prompt and compile packages of code. Ack! Do not want!

I used to know Unix moderately well as a programmer way back when. I haven't used it in years and I don't use it anywhere else right now. Every time I wanted to do something on the Linux box I found myself dreading it, wondering if I needed to get into the Unix command line and struggle to remember just what I was supposed to do.

So we're kicking Linux out the door and trying Windows 7 on the geriatric beast machine instead.

Meanwhile, being a total tightwad, I had eschewed MS Office in favor of Open Office because it was free. I'm done with that. While it's serviceable, it's not nearly as good as MS Office, even MS Office 2003 which is what I use. In particular, the spreadsheet program is a total pain in the neck. It just doesn't work the way I expect it to work and I'm forever trying to get it to do simple things and failing. Yuck.

So it's back to Microsoft for now. Yay?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Obama Might Bail Out California

... because the numbers are so small.

Say California needs $20B. Well, what's the big deal? We're already going to borrow (and print) $1.8T this year. What's the difference between 1.8 and 1.82? Would anyone be able to tell them apart? You're only adding 1.1% to the deficit. You can save the state and all the wondrous progressive spending priorities with what amounts to a rounding error.

This is the problem with running gargantuan debts - adding a little more doesn't make any perceptible difference. Let's make this more personal. Say you owe $30,000 on your credit card. 1.1% of that is $333, the cost of an iPod Touch. If you're already $30K down and your MP3 player breaks, why not put the iPod on your credit card?

On the plus side, it's shiny!

Bailing out the unions in California and gaining mastery over the entire state just like he has siezed the banks and the car companies is substantially more attractive than an iPod touch. If I was a betting person, I'd wager that at least a portion of the California deficit will be backed by the Feds.

I Need Some Quality Time

... with my camera. Between getting ready for a wedding, buying a house, helping kids through the last weeks of school, the beginning of soccer and so forth, I've neglected my photoblogging.

For this, dear readers, I'm heartily sorry.

Momma Daisy has got several blooms as does her daughter. Our Maximum Leader has been posing, but I've not had my camera out. There are lots of other cool things around to share as well. I promise to try and do better.

And where is Jacob with his Captchadefs and Safety Tips? Sheesh! This blog is going to seed.

Keep Those Printing Presses Going!

In my debt snark post of the day, we have this to offer:
Treasuries rose yesterday after minutes of the Fed’s April policy meeting showed some officials are considering increasing debt purchases. Policy makers announced the buybacks on March 18, promising to buy as much as $300 billion of the securities by October to reduce consumer interest rates.
For those of you to whom this is Greek, it means that the US Government will print $300,000,000,000 more to pay its bills. Those dollars are backed up by ... nothing. No taxes, no debt, no sales, nothing. It's money created out of thin air.

Earlier, I predicted the Fed would print about $2T of fantasy money this year. When they plop out this $300B, we'll be at a total of $1.5T for the year to date.

If you want to see what the future holds, try these two tidbits.

The UK is just slightly ahead of us.
May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Britain may lose its AAA credit rating for the first time as government finances deteriorate in the worst recession since World War II.

Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook on Britain to “negative” from “stable” and said the nation faces a one in three chance of a ratings cut as debt approaches 100 percent of gross domestic product.
Hungary is a little bit further out in front.
May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Hungary’s government is committed to overhauling its budget and expects austerity measures to boost investor confidence, paving the way to a potential international bond sale, Finance Minister Peter Oszko said ...

The European Union member needed a 20 billion euro ($27.2 billion) emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund, the EU and the World Bank last October to avert a default after its bond market froze.
OK, that's enough for today. I think.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Now I Know How Our Maximum Leader Feels

... because I just gave blood. Here's how it works:

You lay down on a bed for a while and when you get up, someone gives you treats and praise. Yep, that sounds like one of her days to me!

And she deserves it, too!

Now This Sounds Like Fun!

It’s a Cheezburger Night wif teh Seattle Mariners! Join Cheezburger and Tofuburger and all of ur Cheez Frendz at Safeco Field on Thursday, July 9 for a speshul Cheezburger event!

Der will b sum fun pre-game festivitiez and u can meet lotsa Cheez Frendsz cuz we awl will b sittin in our speshul Cheezburger section! Buy ur tickets heer and join in teh fun! Hope 2 c u awl der!

A Temporary Victory for California

Yesterday, California voters soundly defeated all of the ballot measures that would have increased taxes and/or cooked the books to temporarily lower the state's budget deficit. Yay! Victory!

This is a fleeting victory. The sense I get from reading the blogs and opinion pieces is that voters wanted to spank their representatives and make them do their jobs properly. Allow me to suggest that they already were.

The problem across the board, across all parties, across all states, the entire country and the entire Western world is that we don't want to earn what we get. At the same time we're voting down fiscal chicanery in California, we're debating universal health insurance across the nation. We're borrowing $6,000 per person this year for all the goodies we want to receive, but we don't want to pay for and we're talking about another monstrous entitlement.

Someone, somewhere has to earn what we receive. Until we collectively decide that the someone is us and we start talking in terms of earning things rather than giving things, we'll keep having elections like yesterday's where we had to decide which pocket to pick to keep getting our treats.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hope and Change!

I hope I can change my US Dollars into Brazilian Reals!
May 19 (Bloomberg) -- China and Brazil are researching how the two nations can conduct trade in yuan and real, the latest signal that developing nations are seeking to reduce their reliance on a weakening U.S. dollar.

“The discussions have focused on how to improve the financial service system,” Celso Amorim, Brazil’s foreign minister, said today at a briefing in Beijing. “In terms of what currency to use, we are still discussing.”

China is seeking to promote the yuan as an international currency after signing 650 billion yuan ($95 billion) in swap agreements with Argentina, Indonesia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Belarus in recent months. The Chinese yuan has gained 21 percent against the U.S. currency since a dollar peg was abolished in 2005, eroding the value of exporters’ dollar- denominated profits.
... or maybe into Chinese Yuan.
“The process of moving away from the dollar will be faster than expected,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist at SJS Markets Ltd. in Hong Kong. “A few years from now we will see the dollar having a reduced importance in international trade.”
My prescription for this: more US government spending!

Laurence Simon, Artist

One of my blogging inspirations and the originator of the Carnival of the Cats, Laurence Simon, is big into Second Life. While I don't partake in that pleasure, I love what he's done there. Here's a taste.

Here's more.

Hotdog of the Day

H/T: WannaSmile

Monday, May 18, 2009

If This Works, Let's Give Everyone The Bomb

I came across this jaw-dropper on Bloomberg today.
May 18 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama is counting on Iran to accomplish what six decades of diplomacy haven’t: forge a regional Mideast peace that includes a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It isn’t Iranian diplomacy the U.S. president is banking on; it’s the widespread unease over Iran’s nuclear program and its support of militant Islamic movements, which U.S. officials say may motivate Israel and the Arabs to finally overcome their antipathy in the face of what both perceive to be a long-term threat.
So what we're hoping is that if one set of homicidal maniacs gets the ability to incinerate entire cities with a single weapon, other sets of homicidal maniacs, some aligned with the first set of homicidal maniacs, will be encouraged to give up terror, mayhem and slaughter.


Here it is in picture form.

Even Neville Chamberlain wasn't this stupid.

Who Says Shakespeare's Dead?

I'd place this one above Troilus and Cressida, but below Julius Caesar.

Meerkat Yoga

... at least I think that's what this little fellow (or is it a lady as skyehaven suggests below?) is doing.

Any other guesses?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fred Astaire Was Born Just A Few Years Too Early

Fred Astaire

You know, if he'd been born in our time, there's no doubt he would have been involved in something like this.

I'm so glad I live in an enlightened and charming era. I'd hate to think I would have been born in a time when dignity was treasured.

H/T: Our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings.


Momma Daisy's at it again. You can't stop her, you can only hope to slow her down!

Lion Silhouette

My parents took my daughter to the San Diego Wild Animal Park yesterday. Amidst an avalanche of photos from her camera was this gem.

Does Omniscience Negate Free Will?

So I was driving around the other day when this conundrum came to me. If God is omniscient, is the future foretold? Doesn't omniscience negate free will? It seems to me that any determinism outside of molecules obeying the laws of chemistry and particles obeying the laws of physics eliminates the essence of free will. I've always objected internally to statements such as, "God knew what you were going to do before you did it" or things of that nature.

I suppose you can reconcile such statements with free will by suggesting that an omniscient God could map out all possible permutations of decision and thus He knows not only what you did before you did it, but all the other choices you didn't end up making as well.

For me, free will trumps omniscience. That is, I believe in a God that created the world and then let it go, save for occasional interventions. While He knows all that is and was, what is to come is as much a mystery to Him as it is to us.

Thinking out loud (or rather, in prose), if you decide that God lives outside of time, then you could reconcile free will and omniscience. That is, it's possible for you to know the temperature in Wichita and San Diego simultaneously because we humans can communicate across distances. If you could travel with similar ease across time, you would indeed know last night that I was going to give our Maximum Leader gushifud this morning. I would retain free will, but your ability to traverse time the way we traverse distance would give you omniscience about my decisions.

Hmm. That seems like a more reasonable answer to me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Why the Republican Party is Irrelevant

... because they want to be DemocratLite. That they are irrelevant is illustrated in this post by our Monestary of Miscellaneous Musings.
And more evidence how this (the Tea Parties) isn't a G.O.P. thing:
Something hugely significant just happened here at the Sacramento Tea Party. Organizer Mark Meckler singled out GOP opportunists who wouldn’t give him the time of day weeks ago — and then wanted to hitch their wagons to the Tea Party bandwagon at the last minute.

Meckler said he heard that California GOP chair Ron Nehring was in the audience. Meckler invited him to say hi to the crowd — and then ripped him for waffling on the massive tax hike ballot measures (particularly Prop1A - $16 billion tax hikes).

Massive boos from the crowd of thousands here against the Calif. GOP establishment.
My best example is the health care reform craze that's sweeping the nation. Every time you hear some Republican talking head discuss it, they always say something like, "Yes, we need it, but we don't want it in the form Obama is suggesting ..."

The reason the Republicans are irrelevant is that this is total nonsense from beginning to end. All of the health care reform efforts on the table vow to give things to people who haven't earned them. It doesn't matter how nice this would be or how much those people need health insurance, they can't have it. We're out of money. There is no money to pay for this, not in taxes, not in borrowing, not even in printing.

Health care for all will never, ever happen. Oh sure, we might manage to pass legislation and we might allocate funds in the budget, but those funds don't exist. It's simply a fantasy to talk about health insurance for all.

The time is coming when we will not be able to print money to cover our deficits because the Dollar will have been replaced as the global reserve currency. The time is already here when there's no one available to lend us the money we want to spend. Very, very soon, everyone in the US will only be able to consume what we as a nation produce, less the interest payments on our gargantuan debt. We will have less than we have right now and right now we don't have universal health coverage.

The Republican Party is irrelevant because it's the me-too party of a doomed governing philosophy.

Cheezburger of the Day

A Cautionary Tale

The only reason we might have been surprised at this

is because we never learned things like this.

A close examination of their finances shows that the Obamas were living off lines of credit along with other income for several years until 2005, when Obama's book royalties came through and Michelle received her 260% pay raise at the University of Chicago ...

In April 1999, they purchased a Chicago condo and obtained a mortgage for $159,250. In May 1999, they took out a line of credit for $20,750. Then, in 2002, they refinanced the condo with a $210,000 mortgage, which means they took out about $50,000 in equity. Finally, in 2004, they took out another line of credit for $100,000 on top of the mortgage.

Tax returns for 2004 reveal $14,395 in mortgage deductions. If we assume an effective interest rate of 6%, then they owed about $240,000 on a home they purchased for about $159,250.

This means they spent perhaps $80,000 beyond their income from 1999 to 2004 ...

The Obama family apparently had little or no savings during this period since there was virtually no taxable interest shown on their tax returns.
Of course, there was always the data point from Obama's stint running the Annenberg Foundation Challenge where he and William Ayers blew something like $150M on useless education projects in Chicago.

If only we'd known. Maybe next time it would be helpful to have a free press, one that actually tries to examine both candidates. Otherwise, we could end up right back here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Comment of the Week

... comes from Brad Setser's blog. He's been posting about How China has been moving out of Agency bonds into short-term Treasuries because Agencies are not backed up by the US Government, but Treasuries are. They're getting out of all unsecured US Government debt. Brad argues that this is not necessarily an indication that they're planning to move away from the US Dollar like they've been threatening, but commenter WStroupe disagrees.
I would suppose that, being patient and deliberate, China’s CB managers would like to come near to finishing their conversion out of Agencies before they take on any other potential conversion, say from longer-dated Treasuries to short-dated ones ...

You task China’s leaders to put their money where their mouth has been recently - you just might get what you asked for when their conversion from Agencies gets sufficiently far along. Once they get into the short-dated Treasuries, it’s much easier to sprint from there to somewhere else that’s more desirable from a safety and/or return perspective. While short-dated Treasuries are certainly the safest and most liquid financial assets around, there might turn out to be other assets (not necessarily financial assets) that are even more desirable, going forward. Conversion from short-dated Treasuries into such other assets could be the planned 3rd leg of a 3-leg strategy. 1. Get out of Agencies and into short-dated Treasuries. 2. Get out of a significant measure of long-dated Treasuries and into short-dated ones. 3. Expend a large measure of short-dated Treasuries for other non-dollar assets.

All over time - not too suddenly. China’s leaders probably know they have a couple of years or so to get this all done to a sufficient degree so as to measurably decrease China’s exposure to the dollar.
That's a brilliant comment. I'd never looked at it that way. If he's right and the Chinese are slowly unwinding themselves from the Dollar, we're going to be in real trouble as Obama burns through mountains and mountains of money.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rescuing a Gazelle

... may be easier than you think.

Should I Pick Some Up For You?

... after all, they're quite delicious!

Err, at least I think they are. I've never tried them myself, you see.

Spreading the Addiction

The Obama Adminstration and the Democrats in Congress have been spending money by the truckload, money that didn't exist up until a few weeks ago. They're not getting it from taxes, they're getting it from the Fed, who is simply conjuring it up out of thin air. It's like crack cocaine for these people. It's completely addictive because it allows them to throw money all over the place and not have to propose tax hikes.

Now California, long the perfect laboratory for progressive policies, wants in on the act.
California Treasurer Bill Lockyer asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday to authorize assistance for his state from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, warning that depressed tax revenues may cut into basic services and halt the building of infrastructure.

In a letter, Lockyer asked Geithner for TARP assistance for California and "other financially strapped states and local governments which face a severe cash flow crunch."

"If we cannot obtain our usual short-term cash-flow borrowings, there could be devastating impacts on the ability of the State or other governments to provide essential services to their citizens," Lockyer wrote.
Rather than confront their problems, the California Legislature is turning to the Federal government to hand them crack cocaine money out of thin air.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Solution, Of Course, Is To Have The Government Sieze Moody's

... and then they could never, ever discuss nonsense like this again!
Long before the current financial crisis, nearly two years ago, a little-noticed cloud darkened the horizon for the US government. It was ignored. But now that shadow, in the form of a warning from a top credit rating agency that the nation risked losing its triple A rating if it did not start putting its finances in order, is coming back to haunt us.

That warning from Moody’s focused on the exploding healthcare and Social Security costs that threaten to engulf the federal government in debt over coming decades. The facts show we’re in even worse shape now, and there are signs that confidence in America’s ability to control its finances is eroding.
We need a Congressional committee to start looking into Moody's. They can't be allowed to stop our march to a glorious new future based on Hope and Change!

Coporate Web 2.0 at its Best!

Where I work we have an Integrated Product Team working on how we can use Web 2.0 tools to improve recruiting at colleges. I am not on it, nor are any of our Web 2.0 users. In fact, as far as we can tell, no one in the group even has a Facebook account. Twitter? Nope! Blogging? Never!

And so this band of experts is crafting our Web 2.0 Strategery.

Oh that's gonna work out well.

Next up for the team: manned, interplanetary spaceflight!

The Coast Guard Gets It

Dig this from the Coast Guard Commandant's blog, where he just celebrated his 200th post.
We are going to try tweeting on the FY-2010 budget hearing with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. The hearing starts at 2 p.m. You can follow user iCommandantUSCG.
Now that's the way for a modern executive to communicate to his workforce.

Do You Think She Knows?

Here's a Blackberry photo of our Maximum Leader doing what she loves to do - snoozing on the couch next to me. Do you think she knows that we found a way to keep her?

I've been taking photos with my Blackberry when something like this arises and I don't have time to go get a better camera. For distance shots it is serviceable, but it seems to have a minimum distance for clear pictures.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Populism Looking Backwards

Like the generals of World War I who took four years to realize the machine gun had changed warfare, President Obama and the rest of the populists in both parties are fighting the last war, unaware that the world has changed.

I've been doing more reading about Juan Peron and Peronism. Peronism is a fascist government system that was created to break the power of the oligarchs of Argentina who dominated the working poor. It looks very similar to Obama's policies. Companies were siezed, unions were aided, government spending on the general public was increased and regulations over all manner of activities were strengthened. Despite initial successes, within ten years of its inception, the Argentine government had overspent, was unable to raise more money and ended up with runaway inflation.

While Peronism may or may not have worked for Argentina - it was a pretty mixed bag in the long run - it sought to solve problems that don't exist here. Peronism doesn't just fight the last war for us, it fights a war that never existed in the first place. The US has never had the conditions of illiteracy and tremendous poverty that Argentina suffered from. There is no landed gentry dominating a working class of peasants here and there never has been. Instead, we're on the far side of the societal development curve where our problems come from too much wealth and the expectation of rewards without effort.

Fighting the last war has never worked. I can't imagine that fighting someone else's last war is going to work, either.

Cheezburger of the Day

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Future of GM

And Now They Run GM and Chrysler

When faced with this.
(California) State Controller John Chiang made a similar point Friday in releasing his cash balance report for April. Through the first 10 months of the fiscal year, revenue is $2.1 billion below budget estimates.

"Beginning this summer, we face a cash problem unseen in nearly eight decades, and the magnitude of that problem grows with every projected revenue dollar that fails to appear," Chiang said in a statement. "The state's last shortage and the resulting payment delays in February hurt California taxpayers, businesses, local governments and public works projects - and yet the crisis looming could be at least three times as bad."
The Obama Administration responds with this.
Reporting from Sacramento -- The Obama administration is threatening to rescind billions of dollars in federal stimulus money if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers do not restore wage cuts to unionized home healthcare workers approved in February as part of the budget.
Luckily, the days of borrow and spend are over.

Meet the new boss.

What's Your Sign?

Playing along with our Official Artist, here's mine.

You Are STOP

When you're confronted with a problem, you drop everything else you're doing at the time. You need to take a moment and collect yourself before you proceed. Once you've taken a quick break, you're ready to tackle almost anything that's come your way. But if you're not given time to figure things out, then the likely result is chaos.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I Installed iTunes

... and I hate the stupid thing. It went out and converted all my music to a format it likes and now my Internet backup program, Mozy, is backing it all up. Two days of backing up these new, extraneous files created by iTunes.

What a piece of junk.

How Barack Obama is not Like Benito Mussolini

... because by age 45, Mussolini had only written one autobiography while Barack had written two.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Google Trends: Peron and Mussolini

Here are the Google search statistics for Peron and Mussolini for 2009 for the US. Hmmm.

Red is Mussolini, blue is Peron.

I Love my BerryTunes!

On Thursday I bought and downloaded BerryTunes for my Blackberry. I love it! I can listen to streaming Internet radio and podcasts from the web through my Blackberry with it. I've been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts while I drive. The thing downloads them across the Verizon network so I don't have to download them at home and then transfer them to the Blackberry. Its wonderful!

Next up, tuning in to WWL so I can hear New Orleans Saints sportstalk. Yay!

Link of the Day

David Harsanyi has a great piece in the Denver Post translating Obamaspeak. Here's a tidbit.
Washington always has been a thermonuclear cliché generator. But the Obama administration, with all its super-smarts, has taken the exploitation of the euphemism to spectacular new heights.

This week, we learned a bit more about what the terms "sacrifice" (do what we want, you filthy, unpatriotic swine), "era of responsibility" (double the "sacrifice," half the prosperity) and "investments" (we squander money so you don't have to) really mean.
There's lots more at the link.

A Map of Europe

... and it's hilarious! Click on the image for a better version.

H/T: UK Housing Bubble

Friday, May 08, 2009

See Your Edsel Dealer Today!

Just for fun.

Good News About Our Maximum Leader

A while back I posted some sad news - it looked like our Maximum Leader was not going to be able to make the move into our new house. My fiancee loves her, but is allergic to cats. The neighborhood is prowled by coyotes both day and night. It looked grim for our little muffinhead.

I had plenty of offers to take her in. One in particular was attractive as it was with a family who had no other pets. Change is hard on cats and change that involves moving into someone else's territory is particularly difficult. Not having to deal with another animal would have made it easier on her.

The whole affair was very hard on me. She and I have been close friends for 10 years. She's nursed me through some very tough times. I was tempted to give her away early, long before the move, because each day was so excrutiatingly painful. Every time I petted her or gave her water from the sink or a bit of tuna, all I could think of was what the very last time would feel like.

Many tears were shed.

Last week, I was sitting in church after Mass, waiting for my fiancee to finish up her duties (she's a Eucharistic Minister), meditating on the Cross when I started thinking about the whole problem. Our new house has a 3-car garage with an open attic over one of the stalls. It also has an enclosed back yard. Coyotes can't jump the fence and our Maximum Leader is long past her jumping days as well. All I needed to do was keep her inside the back yard and keep the coyotes out.

Once posed in this way, the problem was easy to solve. We're going to make the garage and attic cat-friendly and install a cat door that opens into the back yard from the garage. The fence in the back yard will be made cat-tight so she can't get out. She'll live in the garage and the back yard and when we're home, she'll be allowed inside to hang out on the first floor. She'll be given plenty of cat furniture and kept off the human furniture.

She'll get socialization, access to the outdoors, a big living area and protection. She won't be able to sleep with me any more, but there's a price to be paid for everything.

Was this the right decision? If she had been given away to the other family, she'd be able to sleep with anyone she wanted all night long, but she would never see me again. How much would that matter to her? Would she be forever wondering why I had left her? Would she be constantly waiting for me to come and get her so we could be together again? Would she immediately adapt to the new family and forget I ever existed? Who knows?

What I do know is how I would feel. I would miss her terribly. Faced with saying goodbye to my little girl, I couldn't work up any enthusiasm for my future. What happened in church that Sunday was that I realized that I still needed her. I wouldn't be as good of a father or a husband without her. The sadness of losing her would take away too much energy from the family. I had to find a way to keep her.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

This post is getting long, but I want to share one more thing with you.

Our Maximum Leader has indeed nursed me through all kinds of horrific things. No matter how dark and how desperate things were in my life, she was always there for me. She greets me with her little tail straight up in the air and rubs against my legs and purrs and likes to lay pressed up against me, sharing her warmth with me. Her poetic cat love fills the house every day. As I thought about what she had meant in my life, I was reminded of this story.
Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.

Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
God sent me this little cat to carry me through those dark times.

San Diego Skyline

A while back, I took a walk with my fiancee on Harbor Island. It was a beautiful day and the sun was perfectly positioned to illuminate the San Diego skyline. Here's a cropped version of one of the best photos.

I love the way my Nikon D60 picks up the blues in the image. Clicking on this one is worthwhile, I uploaded a larger than usual version of the image.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Peron Instead of Mussolini?


Peron pushed redistribution policies throughout his country in an earnest desire to improve the lot of the working classes that made up the base of his supporters. The problem, a significant amount of wealth was stolen by people around him, capital flight began as international business looked for safer pastures, and the workers themselves began to demand more pay for less work, a totally natural desire but when taken to an extreme capable of destroying a nation's economy. Even worse was the dramatic expansion of the state as government owned enterprises became corrupted by massive featherbedding and incompetence.

Cheezburger of the Day

Calling Dr. Heimlich!

The world is choking on our debt.
The benchmark 30-year bond yield climbed 16 basis points, or 0.16 percentage point, to 4.26 percent at 1:22 p.m. in New York, according to BGCantor Market data ... Thirty-year bonds yielded 3.64 percent at the last sale, on March 12.
For those of you keeping score at home, that's more than a half point rise in interest rates in the last two months. The debt tsunami is just beginning.

Let's Elect Santa Claus President!

... or did we already do that?

So far, the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have been forking over money to everyone in sight. Well, everyone that normally votes for them, like the UAW, or could be used as a weapon against other groups, like the banks. It's been Christmas for months. Every day we get to run downstairs and open the Interweb Tubes to find out what presents are being unwrapped.

Everyone is happy and Santa's approval numbers are high. Aren't they always?

No matter what you do, January always follows December. The credit card bills come in the mail and the family has to figure out how they will pay them. No worries, though. It's still December 24. For a little while longer at least.

Whoops! Looks like the bill came in the mail and Santa handed it out to the people who will really pay it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It's All Coming Together

The Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) was an organization set up by the Italian fascist government in 1933 to combat the global depression. Its function was to rescue floundering companies which could no longer afford to repay their creditors.

Although set up as a temporary measure, the IRI continued to run for as long Mussolini was in power. It was able to reorganise companies so that production was maintained. The main action of the IRI was to buy shares of failing companies from banks. In 1937 the IRI's powers were extended so that it could nationalise companies, although no effective nationalisation were carried out. By 1939 the IRI controlled 20% of the Italian industry through government-linked companies (GLCs)
Apparently, the $34 billion figure (in additional funding to bail out Bank of America) is good news because BAC (Bank of America) has all those preferreds at Treasury that can be converted to common stock, leaving Treasury with $34 billion of common and $11 billion of preferreds. But Joe Weisenthal asks a good question:
If this is how the conversion goes, and the bank does pay off the remaining $11 billion over the next year or so, are they considered to have repayed TARP? How does a bank that's taken the conversion ever actually repay the TARP?
This is troubling, because it's now clear that the worry many of us had at the time of the bank bailouts has come true: the government is using its intervention in the banking system to pressure banks to give special deals to the government's special friends.

Some Quick Thoughts

Some semi-random thoughts.

  • Obama's words are meaningless. As the details of the Chrysler deal emerge, it's clear that they saw an opportunity to sieze control of a car company and they took it. Between that and the budget and the downpayment on the health care plan, his pronouncements are the opposite of what he's doing.

  • Private investment is secondary to government investment, regardless of where it comes from. For all we know, the Nebraska Teacher's Union may have invested in Chrysler as a bondholder, but that's irrelevant. Bondholders are private investors and are therefore evil. Wipe them out!

  • All this talk about the taxpayer bailing out these companies is misleading. The taxpayer isn't bailing out anyone since taxes aren't going anywhere. The dollar is bailing out these companies as the Fed prints the money the Obama Administration needs to continue siezing assets. It's not the taxpayer that's getting the bill, it's anyone holding dollars.

  • The Republicans and the press and all the rest of us are indeed irrelevant. We will continue to be irrelevant until we start calling this what it is - economic fascism. There's nothing inherently wrong with fascism. It's just a system of government. Until we start discussing it, however, we won't have any say in the matter. Right now we're all like the family dog watching dad build a swingset (or a gallows) in the backyard. We don't quite understand what's going on, we think we have an opinion, but we don't really have an impact on the situation at all.

John Galt in Point Loma

I saw this sign in Point Loma today.

I love it. We need to start putting these up everywhere.


Over the weekend, as we were cleaning out our new home*, I tripped and fell, injuring my right hand. It's just a sprain, but I've temporarily lost much of the use of my right thumb. As I now have only an opposable thumb and not thumbs, am I at risk of devolving? Does that explain my recent, heartless, paleolithic posts?

And what of our Maximum Leader**? Shall we soon be dealing with this?

* - it was a foreclosure and the backyard was filled with junk that had to be removed.

** - I'm almost certain we'll be able to keep her. I'll know on Friday when I have a chance to go back and check out the house again.