Friday, December 31, 2010

India, China and Indonesia Were Unavailable for Comment

The EPA is swinging into action, preventing Global Warming*!
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its plan for establishing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution standards under the Clean Air Act in 2011. The agency looked at a number of sectors and is moving forward on GHG standards for fossil fuel power plants and petroleum refineries—two of the largest industrial sources, representing nearly 40 percent of the GHG pollution in the United States. The schedule issued in today’s agreements provides a clear path forward for these sectors and is part of EPA’s common-sense approach to addressing GHGs from the largest industrial pollution sources.
Hooray! This will be a major victory for planet Earth! The United States (pop. 350M) must take the lead in preventing Global Warming*! Soon, China (pop. 1,330M), India (pop. 1,173M) and Indonesia (pop. 243M) will follow.

I mean, they will follow us, right? This isn't just a collosal waste of time to make a bunch of smug, fatuous narcissists feel good about themselves, is it? I mean, because if they don't, their failure to take similar actions with their aggregate population of 2,853M will make this a totally worthless, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the American economy.

* - Err, not Global Warming, but Climate Change. Yes, definitely, it's Climate Change.

Kodak PlaySport Test

On Wednesday, I took my brand new Kodak PlaySport camera and put it in a tub of rainwater, looking up at the patio overhang and the water dripping off of it. I like the results.

Before I take it down to the tidepools, I need to do some focus tests to find the minimum distance from camera to subject. I've got a hot tub that will be perfect for this.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yes, But Corporations Are Different!

Pallavi Gogoi had an excellent article in Slate yesterday about how American jobs continue to move overseas.
All but 4 percent of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial meltdown.

But the jobs are going elsewhere. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas this year, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S.
This being Slate, the comments attached to the article are all about how corporations are greedy and the fatcats are getting tax breaks and blah blah blah, but they all miss the point. Corporations, like the commenters, shop around to find the best prices for what they want to buy. In the case of the commenters, it's food and clothing and transportation. In the case of the corporations, it's labor. The corporations are just doing what the commenters do - buying what they need at the lowest price available.

If you don't want the jobs going overseas, then cut the regulations and wages that make us more expensive.

Tim Robbins explains how it all works.

The Best Hummingbird Video You'll See This Year

Click. Watch.

Thanks to our Grand Inquisitor for sharing this with us!

This Thing Needs To Be Melted Down And Formed Into Little Statues Of Hitler

It's a serrated blade attachment from my Cuisanart food processor. It's the single most destructive and dangerous kitchen implement in our house, responsible for more pain and bloodshed than everything else combined. I can't use the thing without it leaping up at me or falling down on me or sidling over towards me to attack. Slicing, poking, impaling, sawing, you name it, this hideous monstrosity has done it.

Evil? Oh yes. It's evil.

The blade and a Hitler statue. The resemblance is uncanny.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Intellectual Chaos

... is what happens when you mix mountains of government funds available for climate research with a pro-warming political agenda. The UK's Meteorology Office claimed the winter was going to be mild.
The Met Office’s forecasts of warmer-than-average summers and winters have been so consistently at 180 degrees to the truth that, earlier this year, it conceded that it was dropping seasonal forecasting. Hence, last week, the Met Office issued a categorical denial to the Global Warming Policy Foundation that it had made any forecast for this winter. Immediately, however, several blogs, led by Autonomous Mind, produced evidence from the Met Office website that in October it did indeed publish a forecast for December, January and February. This indicated that they would be significantly warmer than last year, and that there was only “a very much smaller chance of average or below-average temperatures”.

The New York Times tells us that the harsh winter was a foregone conclusion.
In Brooklyn and Newark, it exceeds 24 inches, and, in Boston, which has received 18.2 inches, the story has not yet fully been told. Nor is this a freak accident. Seven of the last nine winters in the eastern United States and Eurasia have been exceptionally cold.

And what do we learn from the Grey Lady? Listen to Judah Cohen – “director of seasonal forecasting at” a suspiciously nameless “atmospheric and environmental research firm,” which, as you might guess, depends on government funding to support its research – who writes in that estimable journal that “the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes.”

Got that? “We’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.”
What did you expect? Climate forecasting is notoriously inaccurate, but there were millions up for grabs if you claimed you could do it or if you just claimed you could predict some kind of consequences. What we've ended up with is a hodgepodge of contradictory research papers that can be used to find anything you wish.

There was another comment thread somewhere on the web where the original article claimed the cold winter disproved global warming. In the comments, activists posted links to journal articles which had predicted that global warming would cause such winters. These were immediately countered by journal article links claiming it wouldn't. This is a natural outcome of politicizing science.

The global warming industry used the press to peddle tales of doom in order to get more politically-based funding for research. Now those (contradictory) tales of doom can be used by either side to prove anything you want since the predictions were all over the map. Meanwhile, reality provides one refuting data point after another to each of them.
Nils-Axel Morner, head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University in Sweden, argues that any concerns regarding rising sea levels are unfounded. "So all this talk that sea level rising, this comes from the computer modeling, not from observations. ... The new level, which has been stable, has not changed in the last 35 years. ... But they [IPCC] need a rise, because if there is no rise, there is no death threat ... if you want a grant for a research project in climatology, it is written into the document that there 'must' be a focus on global warming. ... That is really bad, because you start asking for the answer you want to get."
The end result of all of this will be cynicism from the press, the politicians and the public. Anyone standing with the global warming alarmists will end up looking like a fool, just like the UK MET Office.

It's another mild winter in England due to global warming.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Underwater Videos Are on the Way!

Santa was good to me this year!

How about you? What kind of loot did you score?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eucharistic Ministrations on Christmas

Yesterday I had the good fortune to be a eucharistic minister during Christmas Mass. Every time I do that I get choked up for some reason or another. I can't explain it and I didn't expect that when I started, but it just happens. Yesterday my wife and I served at a different Mass than usual and there was a larger than normal choir. Communion was out of rhythm - it was like square dancing with a new partner. It didn't seem like Communion was going to have the same emotional pop as usual because of the confusion. That is until the very last fellow came up to me.

He was a big, rugged man carrying his son who looked to be about 2 years old, maybe 3. I was serving the wine. The man took the chalice from me with a hearty, "Amen." His son watched him with a look of pure innocence, pure concentration and pure love. It was a beautiful, Norman Rockwell scene and I got to be a small part of it.

That was all it took. Another glorious, unforgettable moment. Thank you, God, for letting me be a part of that.

I hope your Christmas day gave plenty of the same kind of memories to you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How to Time Your Blackened Prime Rib Steaks

It's 2 minutes a side for each steak. Nothing could be better to let you know it's time to turn them than a little Papa Nez, particularly with Micky's harmony in the background.

Monkees Trivia: Peter played guitar on this one as he did on Mike's other song on the first album.

Comment of the Day

... is this one by Julia Dye over at the Wall Street Journal in response to an article describing how legally childish the ObamaCare bill is.
If you truly believe that you should pay more so that others have better health insurance, buy someone who needs it a health insurance policy. If each American who wanted to see this happen did so, even just a catastrophic care policy for someone else, most of the problem would be solved. But that's not what pro-ObamaCare folks want. They don't want to pay for it...they want to force others to do so.

And yes, I have in fact paid for an insurance policy for a few others I know that need a temporary hand until they get on their feet. In each case, the person worked hard to get themselves solvent, and in some cases paid me back when they could. They knew a real person with a real face had helped them...which is quite different than a faceless handout happens.
Julia, you rock on so many levels!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

AAPL as Tiffanys

Brett Arends is going to get a lot of hate mail from Apple fanboys for this article giving 10 reasons why he doesn't want an iPad. No matter what you think of his overall point, he's got at least one gem in his 10 reasons.
3. Check out those profit margins!

OK, I admit it: I've been wrong about Apple stock lately. After correctly turning bullish at $85 two years ago, I turned cautious waaay too early. My mistake? This isn't a technology company. It's a luxury brand, like Hermès or Tiffany. And it's wooed customers so they'll pay almost anything for its products. Last Christmas, Apple's gross margins were 41%. That's incredible. It's good for Apple, good for stockholders—but not so good for shoppers. Me, I don't want to support someone else's 60% markups with my own dollars. Generally speaking, the smarter move is to invest in the Tiffanys of the world—and shop at the Wal-Marts.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Remember, Charity Agencies Are The Government's Competition

... hence this editorial from Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago.
NOW that Congress has actually managed to enact tax legislation, it may be time to consider some bigger issues. I hope that broad-based tax reform will be high on the list of both major parties.

Any meaningful reform will face intense lobbying from those who stand to lose. The tax deduction for charitable giving is a case in point. Although changes will be fought both by the givers and the receivers of tax-deductible donations, there is good reason to disregard their pleas.
You bet there is, Ricky. If we allow private individuals to engage in charity and it turns out to be more effective than the government, who knows what could happen? Haven't we learned anything from the past 40 years of government intervention? Just look at the successes we've had! Poverty is higher and we're $13T in the hole.

Err, maybe we shouldn't look at the results of handing social work over to the government ...

Review: Transend Email Migrator

Short version: It is the greatest thing ever created by human hands.

Longer version: I'm reluctantly migrating from Eudora to Outlook 2010. I figured Outlook would be able to vacuum up all my email fragments into a single system, fragments created by more than a decade of hard drive recoveries and email upgrades. I was wrong. This is what I got from running the email import wizard in Outlook 2010:

Dear Microsoft: You suck.

I then did a Google search on email conversion and found Transend. Having nothing to lose, I bought it for $49 and it converted my email perfectly, importing it into my existing PST file, thoughtfully placing these new folders in a subfolder which was clearly labeled so I could move the folders around afterwards as required.

Transend rocks. It does exactly what I needed done. It's going to solve a long-standing problem that has been driving me crazy. I hope that each member of the Transend team gets one of these for Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's the Regulations, Stupid, Part 3

Here in San Diego, we can't clean our storm drains.
Flood-control work across San Diego is stuck in the mud after a court ordered the city to stop for failing to do the proper environmental review...

The main hazard is flooding of lowland areas such as Sorrento Valley and Chollas Creek — an issue that pops up every rainy season. City crews want to clean out muck and plants that slow the flow of water and cause it to overtop storm drains. But they need a host of environmental agencies to sign off on the work, and the slow process has hampered efforts to reduce the backlog of clogged areas.
Awesome. Once upon a time, we built interstate highway systems and large hydroelectric dams. Now we can't even manage to clean out our storm drains.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Moving to MS Outlook

I've used Qualcomm's Eudora email client since the 90s. Sadly, I just can't use it any more. Qualcomm no longer supports it and the new version, based on Mozilla, is an open source piece of junk that won't import my old email. Due to hard drive crashes, I've got email chunks all over the place and the new Eudora can't pull them all together.

I've never liked Outlook, but today I had to pay for it and downloaded Outlook 2010. It's a sad day in the Catican.

LA Towers

I took this photo while at Adobe MAX a few months ago.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Click here.

Call Me Back in 2000 Years

... after some large, atheist society has had a nice, long run.
In a widely read and commented upon post, Nigel Barber examines some of the evidence and trends related to atheism and the decline of religion. Barber closes his thought-provoking post with the following:

"The reasons that churches lose ground in developed countries can be summarized in market terms. First, with better science, and with government safety nets, and smaller families, there is less fear and uncertainty in people's daily lives and hence less of a market for religion
Government safety nets. Oh yeah, that's working out well.
The third fear factor is: reality. In Washington and in statehouses around the country, the reality of the pending Fiscal Armageddon is starting to seep into the thick skulls of the elected class. Jerry Brown pronounced himself “shocked” once he got a good peek at California’s balance sheet. Off the record, politicians of both parties are starting to concede that a lot of the old ideological disputes at now moot, because there simply isn’t any money. It’s not a question of whether there are going to be deep cuts and fundamental restructuring, but when and how much.
Churches are losing ground? Err, maybe not.

Better science is linked to atheism? Not really.

The problem with claiming societal victory using data from a decade or two is that societal oscillations have a periodicity much greater than decades. It's more on the order of generations. Modern, enlightened, wealthy, secular nations are not not reproducing, are spending themselves into fiscally-induced convulsions and are crowing about non-existent links between science and atheism. Mike Austin's well-reasoned response is complete overkill. The entire premise of the article he's refuting is crumbling as we speak.

Before we rush about claiming that one or another societal structure is superior, we probably ought to let it play out for a couple of centuries and check the scoreboard then. Right now, in terms of personal freedom and living standards, it's a runaway for Christian, capitalist democracies.

Update: Our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings has a short post illustrating the trouble with claiming that atheist regimes are the wave of the future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lord, Give Me Patience

I just accidentally pressed the doorbell as I was going out to the Catican. The dogs were right there and saw me do it. Despite knowing no stranger was there and knowing I was around to ward off any dangers, the doorbell set them off on a barking spasm.



... and in Other News, Moodys Picks the Washington Redskins to Win Super Bowl XVII

Talk about being ahead of the game! Nobody can beat Moodys!
LONDON—Moody's Investors Service Inc. downgraded Ireland's debt to Baa1 from Aa2 Friday, warning the government's financial strength could deteriorate further if economic growth were to miss its projections.

The five-notch downgrade was made as "Ireland's sovereign creditworthiness has suffered from the repeated crystallization of bank-related contingent liabilities on the government's balance sheet," said Dietmar Hornung, vice president, senior credit officer at Moody's.
Ireland has a debt servicing problem? You don't say! Who could have seen that coming?

Another successful prediction for Moodys!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Link of the Day

... comes from the Secular Apostate who has the best explanation yet as to why we're seeing such a jump in temporary employment.
“Kelly girl” used to be a term describing a pert and ambitious young person just beginning a career and working toward steady employment by building experience in temporary employment assignments. Very few Kelly girls imagined it as a way of life. But the jobs data show that Kelly girls are the New Normal.
I won't give away the ending. It's worth the read.


Let's buy another round of ouzo for our Greek friends!
ATHENS — Thousands of Greeks took to the streets of the capital on Wednesday for a protest against a fresh wave of austerity measures which was marred by violence as a general strike brought international travel and public services to a standstill.

Why are they burning down their own city? Why, for justice, of course!
As dusk fell and tear gas lingered in the air, police helicopters circled over Parliament, where rows of police officers in gas masks and shields stood guard. “This is unacceptable — it’s worse than the junta,” said Giorgos Papageorgiou, a 52-year-old factory worker, referring to a seven-year military dictatorship in Greece that fell in 1974. Mr. Papageorgiou said the new law voted through Parliament would lower his monthly wage to ¤700 from ¤1,000 and make it harder for him to support his wife, who does not work, and their teenage daughter.

“Is this the democracy we fought for?” said Mr. Papageorgiou, wiping the white chalky remnants of tear gas from his face. “This is fascism.”
No, Mr. Papageorgiou, what you had was fascism. This is fiscal collapse, the natural denouement of fascism. Fascism is where an all-powerful government tells you what you can and can't buy, do, make and sell. Some markers of fascism are lots and lots of state-owned or state-controlled companies and rampant corruption because bribery is how you market to the all-powerful state bureaucracies. Sound familiar, Mr. Papageorgiou?

Too bad your school system taught lefty economic theory. Had it taught reality instead of garbage, you might have avoided this or at least been able to see these budget cuts for what they are - a well-deserved kick in the pants to a load of wastrels.

Oh well. Open another bottle of ouzo and drink deep, Mr. Papageorgiou. Tomorrow morning will come soon enough and you'll need to be out there with a broom and a dustpan.

A Little EuroDebt Factoid

Dig this.
Portugal held its last debt auction of the year on Wednesday, selling 500 million euros of three-month treasury bills, but at a punitively high yield of 3.4 percent. Last month it sold the same amount at 1.8 percent.
Two things jump out at me on this one.
  • The interest Portugal is paying on its debt has doubled in the past month. Not year, month.

  • Portugal is issuing three month bonds. That means those 500 million euros of debt will have to be resold this coming April, right about the time Spain should be slipping into obvious fiscal crisis. This bond issuance only bought them three months of breathing space.
The leaders of Portugal probably aren't so stupid that they can't see what's happening. To me, it looks like they've lost control of the situation and a 3-month reprieve is the best they can do.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


What is this? Seriously. What is it?

A Quick Comparison of Science Diet and Purina Cat Foods

... specifically, those our Maximum Leader would be fed.

  Science Diet m/d Science Diet Mature Adult Indoor Purina Healthful Life
Protein 51.5% 34% 36%
Fat 22% 20.1% 13%
Carbs 14.7% 31.9% not listed
Crude Fiber 5.9% 8% 6%

Science Diet m/d is their weight loss and diabetes prevention diet. It's a prescription diet* that you can only buy at a vet's office. It looks to me like Healthful life compares reasonably well with Mature Adult Indoor. Regular Science Diet food can only be found at pet stores. I've got to take Her Serene Furriness in for a vet appointment soon and when I do I'll pose the question for them, but until then, it doesn't look like I'm doing any harm feeding her Healthful Life.

* - A prescription diet?!? Huh?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why ObamaCare Was Defeated In Court

... because if the government can force you to buy health care, it can force you to buy anything. Having a deal now where the government chooses to restrict this power over you to health care is no guarantee that the deal won't be altered in the future. Sort of like this.

That Sinking Feeling

... is shared today by two groups: insurance companies and sane Democrats.

Yesterday's court decision in the Virginia case that the government can't force you to buy a commercial product is a pretty serious blow to ObamaCare. There are two groups who are probably feeling sick right now.

First off, the insurance industry supported this bill for just this provision. They could deal with the price caps for everyone so long as they received legions of healthy customers forced through their doors at bayonet point. Without those healthy customers who would pay premiums, but not require service, the insurance companies are screwed. This deal is now all pain and no gain.

The other group has to be the Democratic party operatives who are not insane*. They just got killed in the elections in exchange for ... nothing. The entire effort to jam health care down our throats wasn't just a political disaster, it was a failure as well. ObamaCare is more unpopular than ever and now its financially untenable as well. Without the ability to force people to buy insurance, the whole thing falls apart. It's been a steady stream of failures already, but this removes the entire financial foundation of the scheme. A logical set of questions to ask the surviving, sane Democrats is this: "What in the world were you thinking? You actually thought you could tell us all what to buy? Are you crazy?"


Think about this: If the government can force the healthy to buy insurance, it can force hipsters to get haircuts.

* - How to tell them apart: Use the phrase "Sarah Palin" in normal conversation and see if they go into a paroxysm of slanderous rants. If they can maintain their composure, they're sane.

Review: Healthful Life Purina Cat Chow

Our Maximum Leader loves the taste of Healthful Life Purina Cat Chow. I recently switched over to it from one of the Science Diet versions and she's completely bonkers for Healthful Life. It's nutritional value is great, too.

It is teh awesome!

Note: I get no recompense for this recommendation. She just loves it and I wanted to share.

Two Links for Tim

... and anyone else who like beautiful bugs.

Why dragonflies were larger in prehistoric times.

A very nice dragonfly video. Try it in HD.

Monday, December 13, 2010

North Korea's YouTube Channel

... is loaded with visual treats. This one seems like a real crowd pleaser!

Obama to Meet with Vulgar, Greedy Swine

Dig this.
Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama plans to extend his outreach to the business community by convening a meeting in Washington with about 20 chief executives, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said ...

Since his party’s losses in last month’s midterm elections Obama has held meetings with current and former top executives including Michael Duke, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Alan Lafley, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble Co., and Steven Reinemund, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon.
How do you think these conversations go? How about this:

Obama: I hate you. You're poisoning the atmosphere and oppressing the workers.

CEO: Yes. Yes I am.

And why would the conversations go any differently if a Republican held them? Our political class does nothing but excoriate big business and demand that they pay their fair share, a share whose value is always a little bigger than what they pay now. Meanwhile, they eat because of Archer Daniels Midland, drive because of Exxon and email each other because of Apple, Microsoft and Cisco Systems.

If they're meeting, then it must be that Obama has something to learn from the CEOs. Just what would that be, given how he and his people speak of them?

Video: Metrodome Roof Collapsing

Update: How rude of me! Our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings posted the same thing. It's as bad as going to the holiday party wearing the same dress as someone else.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Odds and Ends

Here are some miscellaneous blog bits from the Catican. Enjoy!

  • There's a great article in the WaPo today - 5 Myths About North Korea. It's definitely worth a read.

  • I finally removed Mish Shedlock from my read list. Mish is an econoblogger with a huge following. He's right much of the time, but he has massive blind spots and his posts are endlessly gloomy and sneering. In Mish's world, the only wise person is Mish. There's got to be someone better out there.

  • We went and saw Voyage of the Dawn Treader yesterday. I highly recommend it, but for Narnia fanatics like me, I'll have to see it a second time to really see the movie. It deviates sufficiently from the book that as I was watching, I was trying to figure out why they chose the plot lines they did. It's a fine movie, but the changes in the story were distracting.

  • As I watched it, near the end, I got the uncomfortable feeling that the creative team didn't trust the original story. Just as they did in Prince Caspian, they amplified the action sequences and tightened the plot considerably. The slow and gentle story was revved up.

  • If you're going to make changes to a classic, you'd better be a darn good writer. You're not likely to make changes for the better. The most you can hope for is to not screw it up.

  • I'm starting to feel sorry for Obama. The episode the other day where he ran out of the room and left Bill Clinton to face the press was sad and disturbing. To me, it reeks of fear and a lack of self-confidence. He didn't want a side-by-side comparison. B-Daddy thinks Obama has thrown in the towel.

  • As a secondary thought, it also reflects ill on Clinton. He couldn't be trusted to take a submissive role to Obama. Had they done a joint press conference, there's no way Clinton would have deferred sufficiently to Obama to make him seem like the top dog.

  • Our Maximum Leader wants more food. Now.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's the Regulations, Stupid, Part 2

On the same trip running errands with my dad described in a previous post, we stopped at a small appliance repair shop. It had only a few employees, maybe two or three. They repaired toaster ovens, clocks, lamps and assorted low-cost electronics. Judging from the customers I saw, each transaction had an average value of about $30.

ObamaCare was going to force this guy to fill out a 1099 form for every business transaction over $600. He was already getting 1099s from his suppliers in the mail in obedience with the new regulations.

He threw them away as fast as he got them. They were totally without value.

He told us he didn't have the staff to keep books to the level of detail required to fill out 1099s for every $600 transaction. It just wasn't possible for him to follow the rules, but he had experienced audits in the past for similar tiny infractions and expected more. This one was absolutely over the top for him.

Who is going to pay for all of our lovely social services once this guy quits?

HHS. They're here to help.

On Hostages and Ransom

Why didn't the president exhort his followers to do what it took to get rich and then pay more taxes? If the problem is that the rich aren't giving enough money to the government, then the people who want that should get rich and give the government their money.

Why not?

It's the Regulations, Stupid

More data for my assertion that it's not interest rates and taxes that are killing us ...

On Tuesday, my dad and I stopped by a place where you buy soil in bulk. Topsoil, ground bark, gravel, they had it all, along with a single dump truck they used to deliver large orders to big projects. The owner told us that the truck was a 2001 model. The EPA had recently told him that the truck needed to have a completely new engine because the current engine's emissions were too great. The cost of replacing the engine was going to be $70,000.

EPA regulations, not high interest rates or onerous taxes, were going to cost him $70,000 to replace a perfectly good engine on a perfectly good truck. The guy sells dirt for a living. Where's he going to get $70,000? Meanwhile, in China and India, hundreds of thousands of far dirtier engines were pouring emissions into our common atmosphere.

The EPA was going to force him to spend $70,000 in exchange for absolutely nothing.

Ben Bernanke is going to print $600B to save the economy. The Republicans are going to give you a couple hundred dollars in tax breaks to save the economy. God only knows what Barack Obama thinks he's doing to save the economy. Meanwhile, a guy who sells dirt was getting a pointless $70,000 engine replacement shoved down his throat by a bureaucracy that didn't even know he existed.

You know all those entitlements we love? Who's going to pay them when this guy goes out of business?

We'd all be better off if this was replaced with a rickshaw. Green jobs at good wages!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Video of the Day

Dig this.

Digital Tutors

I recently came across a site called Digital Tutors that offers instructional videos for all kinds of Creative Suite products, general graphic design and color theory and 3D drawing and design packages. I love it. You have to pay for it, but if you're picking up this stuff for the first time or are trying to learn some more sophisticated tricks, it's worth the investment.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Link of the Day

If you haven't read the excellent The Economic Incompetence of the Political Class yet, you should. Here's a tidbit.
In the U.S. at least, the looming debt crisis among states and municipalities also reflects a lack of diligence on the part of the citizenry. This can be attributed in part to a naïve assumption by the electorate that those in government, freed from the profit motive, could be trusted to do what was "right" for the community as a whole.

Instead, what we now can see is that elected officials, following a power motive, can be as greedy and irresponsible as anyone in the private sector. In many cases, officials from both parties have been captured by powerful interests, including public sector unions and recipients of transfer payments. As a consequence, they have willfully committed current and future taxpayer money to benefit those with political power at the expense of the community as a whole.
Emphasis mine, placed there to reinforce the notion that the election of Jerry Brown will be the high water mark for progressives and liberals. The notion in italics is at the heart of the philosophy that lead us to endlessly grow the size and scope of government.

More and more and more and more leads to a POP!

I Blame the Pie

After letting our Maximum Leader out for her nighttime snack and stroll, I, too, had a late-night snack last night and then slept like a baby until 6:30. There was no time to blog when I got up.

It's all the pie's fault. It was down there in the kitchen, calling to me. I'm a victim of the oppression of Baker-Americans.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Surprised by Bernanke

I don't think I did a good job of describing my surprise at what Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said on 60 Minutes in my previous post, so here goes another try.

I was seriously shocked by his comments. I had always had an image of the Fed chairman being this fiscal Solomon, stroking his beard and tut-tutting at the economic novices in Congress and the Administration, regardless of the era. Back in the day, Paul Volker would utter words of warning about overspending against Republican and Democrat alike. Instead, Ben Bernanke turns out to be a true believer in the power of the state to manage the economy.

Instead of claiming that America's chickens are coming home to roost, as a certain racist, lunatic mentor of Barack Obama might say, he showed that he's one with the crew that thinks that our problems can be solved with government spending and Fed-set interest rates. Ben could have gone before Congress and refused to print the money or offered to print the money with strings attached. Instead, he didn't offer a peep of warning or advice to a gang whose new regulations* have made the business environment uncertain for all.

Ben Bernanke has reduced the Fed to the boiler room crew on a steamship. They feed the government, but have no control over the direction taken. I'm totally blown away by his (utter capitulation to or complete belief in) the government.

Shovel more money into the government! Captain Obama and First Mate Pelosi know what they're doing!

* - Don't think that the thousands of pages of laws that this group has passed is the end of it. Tens of thousands of pages of regulations interpreting these laws will be the real result. Want to hire someone? You have no idea at all what that will cost you.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Link of the Day

It's not political. It's not debt pr0n. It's not snarky. It's just clever, beautiful and wondrous.

Click here.

What Is Ben Bernanke Investing In?

Last night, Fed chairman Bernanke went on 60 Minutes and had this to say:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the economy is barely expanding at a sustainable pace and that it’s possible the Fed may expand bond purchases beyond the $600 billion announced last month to spur growth.

“We’re not very far from the level where the economy is not self-sustaining,” Bernanke said in an interview broadcast yesterday by CBS Corp.’s “60 Minutes” program. “It’s very close to the border. It takes about 2.5 percent growth just to keep unemployment stable and that’s about what we’re getting.”
When I buy shares or corporate bonds of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), I'm investing in a company that supports all phases of American agriculture. I invest in them because I think they're going to grow by creating more of what people want and need and will pay for. Implicitly, I'm saying that ADM will create economic growth. ADM does so because their managers want to make a higher profit. When they make more profit, they can expand and hire more people to make still more profit.

When Ben invests his $600B in Federal debt, he's investing in an organization that is not motivated to produce profit or build things that people want and need and are willing to pay for. Why does he think this is going to lead to growth?

In simpler terms, if you wanted economic growth, would you put money into the hands of Congress and the President or would you put it in the hands of ADM?

If you don't like ADM, how about DOW? Watch this Kiwi commercial and ask yourself how that $600B given to the government will lead to more growth than this.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Help Support a Friend when You Shop at Amazon

Our Holy Scribe could use some help. He and I have corrresponded for some time on the blogs and elsewhere and I know him for a brave and hard working fellow.

Please click, read and see what you can do. It will cost you nothing at all and will help out someone who needs it.

The Inner Sanctum of the Catican

My wife, a devoted follower of our Maximum Leader, recently bought this charming one bedroom apartment for her which we have installed in the Catican.

It's been pretty cold in the Catican lately, so this snug little abode, with an additional plush blanket, keeps our Maximum Leader quite toasty. Lately she's been sleeping inside with us until about 1 AM when she wakes up and wants to go outside. That means she's outside during the coldest part of the night, so we sleep sounder knowing she's got a warm, soft place to snooze once her night time explorations are over.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Aslan Calls for a Jihad!

... and none of us would ever have known this had Liam Neeson not let us in on the secret.
Ahead of the release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader next Thursday, Neeson said: ‘Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries.

‘That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.’
A mentor figure? Hey, wait a minute! Maybe Aslan is just some schlub working on the Head Start program for HHS.

Here, Aslan gets the kids up so they can all get a good breakfast through a government meals program before heading off to a seminar on using condoms.

Update: There's something tragic about this story. By all accounts, Liam Neeson is a swell guy. It's like he's been marinated for so long in the fetid stew of multiculturalism that reflexively he comes out and says stuff like this. C. S. Lewis was an unapologetic Christian. Aslan is a Christ figure and that's that. There's no doubt that Liam was trying to say something nice and inclusive, but it's just wrong.

The Scratching Post Challenge

Don Surber has issued The Surber Challenge suggesting a way to make a debating point with those who want to raise taxes.
Why don’t we skinflint conservatives with our miserly ways and narrow minds write a check to the Treasury and show that even though we oppose higher taxes, we are willing to — as patriotic and loyal Americans — voluntarily bail out our national government?


While liberals talk, conservatives act.

So I wrote a check for a hundred bucks today to United States Treasury and mailed it to:
Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
Hyattsville, MD 20782
That is a $100 donation that is not tax-deductible.

This is my protest against being required to pay higher taxes.

Readers can do the same. Write a check for $10 because this is not a contest to top one another, but rather an odd protest against the self-righteous hypocrisy of Warren Buffett and Fareed Zakaria and all the others who complain they are not taxed “enough” but do nothing — absolutely nothing — to increase their taxes voluntarily.
I think I've got a better one. Almost all of the people suggesting that the rich should pay more taxes are not rich. They know not of what they speak. Hence, this proposal:

Participants should first get rich and then pay more taxes.

What's the point of sending $10 in to the Treasury? Even if we all did it, that would only be $3.5B. We'd blow through that in a matter of hours. No, what we need is the rich to pay their fair share.

You first.

Mr. William H. Weideman is the Chief Financial Officer of Dow Chemicals. He makes $920K a year. You go get his job, or an equivalent, and then pay more in taxes. Start a blog and let us know how it goes. Provide the leadership in financial sacrifice that America so desperately needs.

$10? Bah! If you're going to set an example, make it a meaningful one.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

For Jeff

Our Maximum Leader, contented.

Link of the Day

Click. Watch.

The End Is Not Near

As the European Debt Crisis unfolds and talk swirls about a breakup of the EU*, it's comforting to note that this time the fiscal trainwreck won't lead to war and destruction. Unlike the 1930s when the statists were publishing tracts claiming that the Slavs were racially inferior to the Aryans or the proletariat was best served by slaughtering the bourgeoise, these days all they worry about is making sure the spigot of social spending and benefits doesn't get turned off. No one is beefing up their armies, either.

Things will change dramatically, but there won't be war and devastation. The potential participants don't have the motive or opportunity.

* - Dittos for the American Debt Crisis and the California Debt Crisis.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Groveling as Leadership

GOP leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell got out their box of crayons and wrote an editorial for the Washington Post this week. Allow me to give you the highlights.
When congressional leaders of both parties meet at the White House today, all of us will have an opportunity to show the American people that we got the message of the elections earlier this month.

Republicans heard the voters loud and clear...focus on the priorities of the American people...he conceded that "the overwhelming message" he heard from the voters...they want both parties to work together...the message voters have been delivering for more than a year....We can work together...It's time to choose...It's time to get serious...Americans have been together on common-sense...Time is running out...the things we know Americans want...Together, we can focus...the things Americans want...time to do the right thing.
If you had just landed in Washington DC from the planet Gormaria* and you heard this, would you think these two had any ideas in their heads at all? It's like they're begging to be puppets. There's listening to the voters and then there's abject abasement. In theory, we hire these guys because they know how to run the government better than we do. If all they're going to do is follow the polls, we could have done their jobs ourselves.

Oh Most Almighty and Noble Voters, to hear you is to obey!

* - If I had just landed in Washington DC from Gormaria, I'd bang my GPS** unit against my dashboard, reset my coordinates and take off for Maui. Washington DC?!? Are you crazy?

** - GPS: Galactic Positioning System

A Tiny Bit More on Wikileaks

The Wikileaks fiasco underscores how hard it is for a president to come back from poor approval ratings. Fate seems far more likely to deal you an embarassing setback than a chance for redemption. In this case, a fellow about 20 levels removed from Obama has made him look like a nitwit.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Your Euro Debt Pr0n Post of the Day

Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Spain’s banks may struggle to refinance about 85 billion euros ($111 billion) in debt next year as costs surge on concern continental Europe’s fourth- biggest economy may need an Irish-style bailout.

“There’s a universal dumping of Spain going on,” said Andrea Williams, who helps manage about 623 million pounds ($968 million), including shares in Banco Santander SA, at Royal London Asset Management. “The fear is that Portugal, Spain and Italy are now in line after what happened in Ireland.”
Freight train.

A Tiny Take On Wikileaks

Wikileaks is like a high school girl's very personal diary falling out of her backpack at school. In no time at all, everyone is pouring through it to see what she wrote about them. Every tiny criticism is blown out of proportion and the girl has to go into full-time damage control mode.

Elsewhere, Dean isn't impressed by the whole thing while Secular Apostate is less sanguine.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Link of the Day

The Wall Street Journal has created a fantastic multimedia explanation of the European Debt Crisis' results. Check it out.

Keep in Mind, This Is Just the Beginning

Ireland is saved!* Now on to Portugal and Spain!
Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- The cost of insuring against default on Portuguese and Spanish government debt soared to record high levels as an aid package for Ireland failed to reassure investors the region’s debt crisis will be contained.

Credit-default swaps on Portugal jumped 36.5 basis points to 538.5, and contracts on Spain climbed 24.25 to 347, according to CMA...

“The market seems to think it’s inevitable Portugal requests assistance next -- perhaps in January? -- and then after that Spain will be scrutinized with a fine tooth comb over the coming months,” said Jim Reid, head of fundamental strategy at Deutsche Bank AG in London.
Just like the mammoth marital fight that occurs when you and your spouse come to the realization that having 5-digit balances on 6 different credit cards plus a mortgage plus two auto loans means that you're practically bankrupt, this is the part with all the yelling and jumping up and down. Once the screaming has stopped, the bills have to be paid. The real change will occur once priorities are reassessed and you have to live within your means while struggling to pay down those monstrous debts.

* - Well, at least until they realize they can't pay back a $113B loan.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Iceland Teaches, the World Ignores

Lost amidst the sturm und drang of the European debt crisis is the story of tiny Iceland.
Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Iceland’s President Olafur R. Grimsson said his country is better off than Ireland thanks to the government’s decision to allow the banks to fail two years ago and because the krona could be devalued.

“The difference is that in Iceland we allowed the banks to fail,” Grimsson said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Mark Barton today. “These were private banks and we didn’t pump money into them in order to keep them going; the state did not shoulder the responsibility of the failed private banks.”
This is the story of plenty of financial and fiscal crises before now and only Iceland seems to have it figured out. Lost amidst the wailing and grinding of teeth that this is the worst economy in (insert random number of decades here) is that human societies imploding from time to time is a natural consequence of the imperfections of humanity. In the past, the fastest recoveries have been the ones where the government didn't engage in massive interventions, FDR's endless, large-scale experimentation in the Great Depression included. This isn't just noise, the Iceland recovery is really happening. Unemployment in Iceland is less than 7% and their economy is starting to grow.

Michael Derks points out another unspoken truth in all of these bailouts - the debt problems are too big to rescue through nationalization.
“The taxpayer has no realistic prospect of being able to save their banks, such is the magnitude of their bad loans and their extraordinary dependence on central bank support,” wrote Michael Derks, chief strategist in London at foreign-exchange firm FXPro. “Both junior and senior bondholders in these insolvent banks need to suffer huge haircuts,” he said.
Meanwhile, closer to home, we nationalized GM, Chrysler, the entire home mortgage industry in the form of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ...

Bloomberg has disabled embedding, but here is a great interview with Olafur Grimsson. It's worth watching a national leader who gets it. Compare this to the serial statist spasms you see everywhere else.

Don't Panic About California Defaulting

... because it doesn't seem likely, given the state's constitution, writes Jamers Altucher in a column earlier this year.
The California constitution mandates that education costs be paid first out of any revenue coming in. California has about $90 billion in revenue. About 40% of that goes to education. After that, as per the California constitution, all debt payments have to be made. After that, California can spend on whatever it wants: police, landscaping, random buildings, etc. Debt service payments come to about $5.5 billion per year. In other words, each year California makes its debt payments, with an extra $50 billion to spare. This is why it has no problems refinancing and why municipal bond yields are at record lows. Most states have similar clauses in their state constitutions: that debt service payments come before anything else.
I know I'm a broken record on this, but it reinforces what I've been saying since the elections - Jerry Brown's victory was the high water mark for progressives. When California can't pay its bills, it doesn't default on its bonds, it whacks its services and employees. And who has the largest chunk of the slashable budget?

And the big winner is ... Health and Human Services! Let's hear a big round of applause for the unsustainable social programs!

In the comments of that article is this contrarian view:
As a investor, I have one simple question to ask - where is the money? Lets check - States like California are not independent countries like Greece - they are part of the US - so factor in Federal debt to the equation. State + Federal + muni debt. So where is the money to pay for all this debt? I expect a default. You can not tax people who do not have the money.
I don't see how this disproves the author's point. The bond servicing payments don't seem so large that the objection, "Where is the money" will ever come into play. With businesses leaving the state, there's no question that raising more taxes will prove to be fruitless, but that still doesn't lead to insolvency in terms of debt servicing. Insolvency will lead to an employee and benefits crisis instead, which is what we've been seeing with furloughs, mandatory days off without pay and the state issuing IOUs in lieu of benefits checks.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tromboncino Squash

... from my mother's garden, arrangement by my wife.

More info on Tromboncino squashes here.

Celebrating Caturday

I shot this one yesterday. I love the way the background is overexposed and blurred. It really sets off our Maximum Leader's regal face. The exposure on her fur was just right and you can see individual hairs if you click and look at the larger version. She's a bit dirty and rumpled as moments before she had been happily rolling around on the ground.

Surf Movie Saturday

We're going to see this one today. Can't wait.

Friday, November 26, 2010

And in Other News, You Can't Stop a Freight Train Quickly

From Bloomberg, with emphasis added by me.
Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Borrowing costs for Europe’s most indebted nations are at record highs as Ireland’s capitulation in accepting a bailout of its banking industry stokes concern that other countries also will have to seek aid.

The average yield investors for 10-year debt from Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy reached 7.57 percent today, a euro-era record. The average premium investors demand to hold those securities instead of German bunds widened to as much as 492 basis points, the highest level of 2010. The average cost of insuring against default by the five nations using credit- default swaps reached a record 517 basis points on Nov. 23.
It's time for a Marc Faber encore.

You can't have the kind of debts (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy) has with (olive oil, sardine, tourism, lousy Italian cars) income. This is like a runaway freight train and the bondholders and European Central Bankers keep getting surprised every time the thing smashes through another flimsy barricade.

Jerry Brown's election as governor of California was the high water mark of the progressives across the Western world. This freight train of debt was started when we began making social spending promises we knew to be unsustainable and it picked up speed every time we launched another doomed-to-fail War on Poverty program.

It won't stop until many of those social spending programs have been dismantled, either deliberately through austerity measures, or involuntarily through the inflation that comes with printing money to pay for them.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving as a holiday was begun by Abraham Lincoln with a proclamation that contained this passage:
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
In the spirit of Honest Abe*, I'd like to say that I am deeply thankful that God has given me innumerable chances to recover and learn from mistakes and friends (which includes all y'all) and family who have shown me supportive kindness and understanding forgiveness throughout my life. God bless all of you.

* - Sometimes you can be a little too honest. :-)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Arthur thought his annual moult was a little severe this year

In for a Dime, in for a Trillion

A thought occurred to me as I was reading a couple of articles about the European debt crisis yesterday. Right now, the European Central Bank (ECB) is printing money and loaning it to Greece and Ireland (soon to include Portugal and Spain) because these countries can't pay their bills without access to more loans. The ECB is holding interest rates low to make it easier on these borrowers, but the money is still borrowed and that debt still has to be serviced. What happens when (not if) they discover that, say, Portugal is insolvent?

Once you've printed the money and loaned it out, it's too late to get it back. Unlike loans from German and French banks, no one is going to immediately go under if the loans are simply forgiven and the money is effectively gifted to Portugal. If you aren't going to draw the line now and force bankruptcies and liquidations, what would make you do it a year from now when you've got so much more invested? Once you start down the road of printing money to cover government debts, where do you stop, particularly if the government you're lending to has no hope of ever paying it back?

This is the point Marc Faber has been making for quite some time - these nations are insolvent and will never be able to pay back these loans. The money quote starts at 0:30.

So once the ECB has bought up the debt and the commercial banks in Germany have quietly sold theirs off to the ECB, the only one taking the hit when you finally forgive the debts of Portugal or Greece will be people holding Euros and that will happen through inflation. Inflation is relatively indirect and politicians can point fingers at each other about it while the banks and investors get out from under the loans they made to insolvent countries.

This is a long way of asking, "What's the real problem here?" Is there a real debt contagion risk? Does anyone think that the ECB or Fed, once having printed tons of money to loan to governments is ever going to grow a backbone and demand a liquidation once it becomes obvious the debts will never be repaid? Or will they instead, just forgive the debts and wash away the problem in a cataract of printed Euros and Dollars?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Amateur Video from North Korean Artillery Attack

Dig this.

I'll Bet Black Widow Spiders Are Drunk Half The Time

Here's a photo of one that lives right outside of our office at work.

I've read that they're indifferent web builders. This one looks like something a petulant 3rd grader would do on a homework assignment she hated. It's just a random spray of silk spattered across one corner of our window. After all, what's the point of doing a good job? All the web has to do is slow the prey down so the spider can run over and bite once. The spider is saying, "Whatever. I don't have time for this web stuff, man, I'm busy. Grab me another beer, OK?"

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Don't Know Why I Love This, But I Do

I Think Every Grilling Attempt by Young Men Involves Food on Fire and Beer

... and, oh yes, some young ladies wondering aloud if the grill is supposed to be a mass of flames. Like this.

Man, does that look familiar.

Hedgehogs Are Full of teh Awesome!

No, really.

Losers Don't Dictate Terms

... that's the only thing I can think of every time I read these kind of sentiments coming from the White House.
Nov. 20 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said countries running trade surpluses should boost domestic demand and allow their currencies to strengthen, repeating criticism he made of China a week ago at a meeting of global leaders.

“Countries with big surpluses have to figure out how they can expand demand,” Obama said today at briefing after a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Lisbon. “Countries with significant deficits, we have to save more and focus not only on consumption, but also on production and exports.”
We've worshipped consumption and demonized production and now we're prostrate before our creditors, forced to print paper money to cover our debt payments. Obama and his buddies' sound like Wesley Mouch from Atlas Shrugged issuing Directive 10-289.
"In the name of the general welfare," read Wesley Mouch, "to protect the people's security, to achieve full equality and total stability, it is decreed for the duration of the national emergency..."
Everyone around the world should stop trying to make money by producing valuable things at good prices because, well, we're losing. Oh yeah, that's going to work out well. It's like the academics think that everyone else is out for "fairness" just like they are. They don't like the idea of competition and winners and losers, so they want to ban it. Instead, the Chinese and Germans are happily kicking our butts and will continue to do so.

The Obama Admnistration might be surprised to discover that the rest of the world isn't banning "touching" in their schools.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What Budgeting Software Do You Use?

I was just about to buy Quicken 2011 when I read its reviews on Amazon. Ouch! I've used it in the past and liked it, but the reviewers are telling me it's worse, not better.

Recently, I tried out, but I didn't like it. It was great for tracking spending, but lousy for projecting future balances. Excel works OK for large-scale budgeting, but it's horrible for managing actual accounts.

Which leaves ... what? If you've got a favorite or just something you muddle along with, I'd love to hear it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why the Irish Nationalized Their Banks

Blame the EU. Here's my undoubtedly inaccurate understanding of the situation:

When the Irish banks began to fail because the housing loans they made blew up on them, Ireland, naturally, sought to protect the banks' depositors. If Patrick and Erin O'Reilly's life savings in their local bank were suddenly vaporized as the bank went under, there would be mass povertyand chaos. If Ireland owned its own currency, the Irish Central Bank could print money to cover the depositors and let the banks and the investors go down the tubes. By joining the EU, Ireland lost control of the printing press and so their only option to save the O'Reilly's deposits was to nationalize the bank.

The Irish taxpayer took the place of a central bank printing press. Instead of a quick spasm of default where investors and banks would get slammed with the losses, the losses became a horde of zombies, banging at the doors and windows of the Irish worker for decades to come in the form of practically endless waves of debt servicing costs that have to be paid through their taxes.

The rescue plan being created by the EU and the IMF for the Irish does nothing more than stagger those waves of zombies. It's a series of loans that the Irish will have to pay back over decades. Chan Akya, writing in the Asia Times, claims that this feature, which will play out in Portugal, Spain, Italy and France*, dooms the EU. Even if he's wrong, the article is worth reading.

* - If France goes down the same road, then there really is nothing left of the EU.

Imports We Don't Want

Wow. The first thing I thought was, "Why isn't this just going to import the gang violence into the town next door?"