Friday, September 30, 2011

Pegging The Irony Meter

Barack Obama think's we've gone a little soft.
"I mean, there are a lot of things we can do," Obama said. "The way I think about it is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track."
This is from a guy who spent trillions of dollars that the Fed just printed up and handed him. He rails all the time against people who earn money and demands they give him more of what they've earned. His team blows money on one idiotic, fantasy-based escapade after another, never doing the hard work of determining returns on investment ahead of time.

Soft? Yes. The softest place of all is Washington, DC.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Herman Cain Can Take The Heat

I've seen a lot of videos of the guy now and he always does a great job dealing with serious, substantive criticism. He doesn't seem to fumble his way around difficult questions.

We Must Firewall Contagion!

Jonathan Weil, writing in Bloomberg, has a great dictionary of European Financial terms. Here's my favorite.
3. Firewall: A partition made of fireproof material to prevent the spread of flames from one place to another. Of no use in containing a financial crisis, except as vague public- relations catnip for readers of news articles who can’t tell the difference between napalm and a 10-year bond.

Usage: U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is fluent in both Euro and Mandarin, last weekend urged euro-area nations “to create a firewall against further contagion.”
These kinds of statements always get to me. Another great one is to talk about the "peripheral" countries like Greece or Portugal as if those two going bankrupt isn't going to drag down a whole bunch of big banks across the Continent. They're peripheral in the same way the hole in the hull of the Titanic was peripheral.

Read the whole thing. It's darkly funny.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Link Of The Day

Our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings has a take on Ford's decision to pull it's anti-bailout ad from the airwaves and from YouTube. Here in the Catican, that ad was very popular. We thought it would have made for a very manly F-150 commercial.

"Real men don't take bailouts." Or something like that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Arts And Sciences Require Wealth And Stability

This is a tiny bit of something I've been noodling over since the London riots. Artists and scientists are luxury goods. In the short- and medium-term, you don't need them to live. You only buy luxury goods when you've got plenty of disposable income and you're secure in the future. I think the London riots, in the context of massive social spending in England, are symptomatic of societal poverty and disorder.

I would further suggest that by fighting traditional societal mores, artists and academics in general* have cultivated the very conditions that threaten themselves. They've fought to overturn and subvert traditional institutions like churches and societal mores and have replaced them with the relativism that led to interviews like this.

Buildings burned, businesses ruined and no remorse. Where will the artists and academics get their money now?

Related and a very good read: Our Precentor of Measurements has a short post and a link to an excellent essay on being a Superversive. It was quite provocative and clarified things for me.

* - Originally I had called out scientists, but I think this is unfair. When I think about my own alma mater, I'm not sure the science and engineering departments cared a hoot about which way the societal wind was blowing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

My wife has had a terribly stiff neck lately and is seeing a chiropractor about it. Hence ...

The Future Was Been Sold

... to pay for the present.
Since 2010, the government has raised taxes and slashed pensions and state salaries across the board, in an effort to rein in the bloated public sector that today employs one in five Greeks. Last week, the government announced it would put 30,000 workers on reduced pay as a precursor to possible termination and would cut pensions again for nearly half a million public-sector retirees.

A clerk in her local town hall, Ms. Firigou, like all public-sector workers, took a precipitous pay cut last year — in her case to less than $1,300 a month from $2,000 a month — as the government slashed wages to meet the terms of its foreign lenders. Her husband, who sells used car parts, has seen his commissions drop. Her mother’s pension was cut to about $800 a month from around $920.

Like many families here, the Firigous cushion the impact of such cuts and the rising cost of living with property acquired in the past. Her grandfather built the two-story apartment house in this Athens suburb, Psychiko, where the six now live, starting in the 1930s and finishing it after the Second World War. And so the new tax, probably in excess of $2,000 per year for the Firigous, stings particularly hard. “The house is the only thing we have left,” she said.
Three things jump out at me.
  1. The increases in government spending did not buy "infrastructure". If they had, then these families would have seen their real assets increase over this time. If what you buy does not result in increased capital holdings then it isn't "infrastructure", it's just spending.

  2. This mirrors what Victor Davis Hanson says about California. Our freeways, dams and major construction projects are decades old. Monster government budgets have not bought anything solid. We're living off the decisions of people 40 years ago.

  3. Read this article and then consider the question from a recent Republican presidential debate where a guy with a pre-existing condition asked them if they would cut his benefits. The real answer, the one that will really occur, the one that is occurring in Greece right now is this: Someone's benefits will be cut. If not yours, then whose?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

Time to replace Cat 5 with Cat 6

The Kodak Playsport Is More Robust Than They Think

Preface: Here's what I'm doing, how I'm doing it and what the final chamber looks like.

On Friday, I finally performed pressure tests on my Kodak Playsport camera. Using a brilliant idea contributed by Tim Eisele, I connected my pressure chamber to a tire on my MGB. This avoided the risks associated with charging the chamber with a air pump at a gas station where it might explode from overpressurization.

I decided to test the camera as is, with no silicone protection over its ports. The camera is rated to 10', but I wondered if it could handle more. I turned the camera on, started it filming and then sealed it up in the chamber and pressurized it.

The pressure chamber leaked, so the pressure was not constant. I left it alone for 38 minutes and during that time the tire pressure declined from 35 PSI to 15 PSI. That would be roughly equivalent to submersing it to 81' and slowly rising to 35', using 0.43 PSI per foot as an estimate. This is way beyond what we want to do with the camera. For one thing, I'm only rated to 60' and for another, we feel we can get good footage in the kelp beds at about 30-40'.

The camera did not leak and it kept filming the whole time. However, when the pressure was released, the camera turned itself off. I'm not quite sure why this happened, but I suspect the power button thought it was being pressed and when the chamber suddenly depressurized when I disconnected it at the end, it felt like the button had been released.

The camera surpassed all expectations without any modifications. With a good dose of silicone over all inlets, I think it's ready to hit the water for real. Thanks again to Tim and all the rest of you who helped me work through this idea. I hope to share some cool La Jolla kelp bed videos with you real soon.

Update: Tomorrow morning, I'm going to hop on Kodak's support chat and share this with a company rep. I can't wait to hear what they have to say!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Solyndra As A Metaphor

What if the improper loan guarantees to Solyndra weren't deliberate theft and its bankruptcy was not the work of greed? What are you left with? Just this: Solyndra as a metaphor for the West.

It was an investment in a future of clean technologies and clean energy bought with borrowed money, money that was limitless. That was the vision. The truth was that ignorant and incompetent people blew through hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to accomplish the impossible.
Former employees of Solyndra, the shuttered solar company that exhausted half a billion dollars of taxpayer money, said they saw questionable spending by management almost as soon as a federal agency approved a $535 million government-backed loan for the start-up.

A new factory built with public money boasted a gleaming conference room with glass walls that, with the flip of a switch, turned a smoky gray to conceal the room’s occupants. Hastily purchased state-of-the-art equipment ended up being sold for pennies on the dollar, still in its plastic wrap, employees said.

As the $344 million factory went up just down the road from the company’s leased plant in Fremont, Calif., workers watched as pallets of unsold solar panels stacked up in storage. Many wondered: Was the factory needed?

“After we got the loan guarantee, they were just spending money left and right,” said former Solyndra engineer Lindsey Eastburn. “Because we were doing well, nobody cared. Because of that infusion of money, it made people sloppy.”
Solyndra didn't have to earn those loans, it simply sold a utopian vision of the future to credulous and willing buyers. Because the money wasn't earned, spending was free and easy. There would always be more money out there to spend.

Sound familiar?

What if Solyndra had survived? What if it had somehow managed to get grants or subsidies or favorable import taxes levied on its Chinese competitors? Would we have bought anything of value?

Well, the goal of the Solyndra investments was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions are global. Reducing them a little here while they're increasing hugely elsewhere is worthless. Since China, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, India and the entire developing world in Africa and South America aren't doing a thing to prevent these emissions, the entire Solyndra debacle was pointless even before it started.

Kind of like Eurosocialism where life's bumps and bruises were going to be legislated away, paid for by and endless stream of someone else's money. It's not just that the effort failed in the execution, it's that it was doomed from the start.

Britain's generous welfare state was supposed to raise the poor out of poverty and create a more just and civil society. Oops.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Working on the MGB Today

... and I have proper supervision.

What Is It About Waterfalls?

At lunch the other day, I wandered over to one of my favorite lookout spots on Sunset Cliffs. The tide was out and some rocks were exposed. A stared at these tiny waterfalls for quite some time and then pulled out my Droid and got some video.

I'm thinking that waterfalls are shiny, sparkly and moving and that's why we love them.

If You've Ever Had To Watch A Chick Flick And Didn't Want To

... or if a woman in your house is into those softcore vampire books and movies, I think this ad series was made for you.

I love them. Just love them!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

They're Selling, You're Not Buying

Everything is sales. In terms of the economy, the Administration and the Fed, you are the customer and what they want out of you is for you to buy things.

That's grammatically complicated, so let's see if we can spell this out.

The Administration and the Fed make a "sale" when you buy goods or labor. If you're a company, they want you to buy labor - hire people. If you're an individual, they want you to buy things - houses, cars, appliances, llama food, whatever. The economy is in the tank because you're not buying. In fact, some of you are selling - selling houses, selling labor (firing people) and selling stocks. Working with the Administration, the Fed has a new plan to help you make the "buy" decision.
The latest move by the chairman was a decision to dramatically recast the Fed's $2.65 trillion securities portfolio in an effort to reduce long-term interest rates. The Fed plans to shift its holdings so it will have more long-term U.S. Treasury bonds and more mortgage debt than previously planned. It hopes the lower rates will boost investment and spending and provide a shot of adrenaline to the beleaguered housing sector.
Just how this is supposed to work is beyond me. Interest rates of all durations - long, short, medium, microscopic, galactically huge - are all near historic lows. We just refinanced our house and we're now practically borrowing money for free. We're paying about 4% or somewhere around there. Going from 4% to 3% isn't going to make me go out and buy a house. Interest rates are now irrelevant. Just look at this.
  • Payment on a $250,000, 30-year loan at 4%: $1301.87

  • Payment on a $250,000, 30-year loan at 3%: $1162.34

They've been trying this same thing for a few years now and it's not working. They keep lowering interest rates and borrowing and spending and nothing's happening. It's like they have no idea at all why you aren't making that "buy" decision.

The only thing they refuse to do is to drastically cut regulations and surrender power to you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

News You Can Use

Despite the presence of air bubbles, it's not a good idea to breath in toothpaste foam.

I *Can* Drive 65

I was at the dog park the other day, giving some R&R to the Catican Guards, and was noodling around on my Droid2. I decided to look up the most efficient speed for the FredMobile (a Nissan Altima) and came across this link and this chart.

It turns out that at lower speeds, fuel economy is dominated by your RPM and gear ratio. At higher speeds, wind resistance is king. Recently, I've tried setting my cruise control at 65 MPH on longer freeway trips* and I've discovered that the car seems to feel better at that speed than it does at 70+. At the higher speeds, it feels like its straining.

* - and also when I want to have fun just tooling around the neighborhood. Man, that Wilson kid can run!

A Flying Giraffe?

The Catholic science blog, The Deeps of Time, has the story. Wild!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nouriel Roubini Needs To Get Away From The Office

... and spend some time doing things.

Nouriel is a really cool guy. He correctly predicted the crash, he talks a lot about debt and best of all, he's got a great accent, so while he's talking about interest rates and sovereign defaults, you feel all sophisticated and worldly for listening to him. He also has a huge blind spot. Here's what he has to say about avoiding a global depression and how to restore growth.
(T)he reasons for advanced economies’ high unemployment and anemic growth are structural, including the rise of competitive emerging markets. The appropriate response to such massive changes is not protectionism. Instead, the advanced economies need a medium-term plan to restore competitiveness and jobs via massive new investments in high-quality education, job training and human-capital improvements, infrastructure, and alternative/renewable energy. Only such a program can provide workers in advanced economies with the tools needed to compete globally.
Emphasis mine. Nouriel, buddy, I love you, but you have no idea at all what you're talking about. Here's the main reason we've got slow or no growth.

A very tiny subset of the overall process by which the government buys products and services.

All that yap about infrastructure spending is just baloney. What it really means is that more money will be spent this way (government) and less money will be spent your way - pulling out your cash and making the purchase. Government stimuli don't buy infrastructure so much as they buy Integrated Process Teams, Working Group Charters and Lean Six Sigma Events.

Nouriel needs to push himself away from his desk and go work in a government contracting office for a year. Then he can come back and write things that actually have a basis in the real world.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hugh Hefner is an Emasculated Drone

Update: In honor of the new TV series, The Playboy Club, I'm bumping this post from May of 2010. Enjoy.

... that's one of the things I learned from watching this video from the Witherspoon Institute's report on the Social Cost of Pornography. While clinical in nature, the portion of the video I'm referring to is still not safe for work nor is it safe for children. Go to 45:05 to hear how Hugh gets off.
Update: The video has since been moved to a private area. Suffice it to say that Hugh requires the ministrations of several playmates in sequence followed by a viewing of porn followed by more ministrations. Getting Hugh to fruition requires slightly more work than writing a 15-page paper analyzing Paradise Lost and seems to be less satisfying for all concerned.
The video originally interested me because the researcher was discussing brain plasticity (I used to do research in neural network artificial intelligence) as it applies to pornography rewiring neural pathways. It's sparked an interest in brain plasticity that might generate some blog posts here, but after thinking about this vignette for a while, something else occurred to me.

Hugh Hefner has totally emasculated himself. His own porn has rewired his brain to the point that he can no longer function as a normal, healthy man. The researcher describes the irony quite well, but doesn't take it the final step.

Hugh helped destroy all of our social norms and remove barriers to open sexuality. Now he's a wimp, a sissy, a girly-man. All of the music stars who make videos where girls with fake boobs are draped all over them in various states of undress, suggesting an orgy to come are simply walking down the road to total emasculation. All the flexing of muscles, the primping in front of the camera, the guns and fast cars and other trappings of masculine success are just props in what amounts to a reenactment of Poe's Masque of the Red Death. They're poisoning themselves, slowly but surely until in the end, the pleasures they pursued so hotly are denied to them forever.
He (the chief rapper or rock star) bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure (the porn filling his video and his life), when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry -- and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which most instantly afterward, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and seizing the mummer whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpse-like mask, which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
Party on, dudes.

Feelin' Groovy

This weekend, we trimmed the monster catnip plant that lives in one of our raised beds. Our Maximum Leader, who loves to be with us while we garden, thoroughly enjoyed the event.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Success Breeds Enthusiasm

My daughter played two games this weekend and now she's outside working on her juggling. I had no idea what she was up to until I heard a ball bouncing on the the pavement outside.

So much for not wanting to play soccer.


Deliberate Practice Works

... and some firm love doesn't hurt, either.

My daughter wants to play socer in high school. She's a freshman so this season in club soccer is very important. She's got to spend this season getting ready for the tryouts that are coming up. She's a tough, aggressive player, but her ball control skills were very rough. Enter Deliberate Practice.

In Deliberate Practice, you work with a coach to pick out small, individual skills to work on. You work on one at a time, obsessing on it in individual practice until you've got it down pat. You then move on to the next one. You pick skills that you can almost do right now, not ones that are way out of reach. I made sure she listened to a bit of Talent is Overrated and I explained the technique to her. She bought in to the program initially.

As long as I worked out with her, she practiced cheerfully. On her own, she did nothing. When told she neeeded to seriously work out on her own, she claimed she didn't want to do soccer any more and was just doing it for me. We said we didn't care and she had made a commitment to the other girls and the coach. We had a huge row. Next time she needed to be honest with us and tell us if she didn't want to do something, but for now she was going to do everything she needed to do to get good at the sport. We made support of future hobbies and sports contingent on her being the best player she could possibly be this club season.

At that point, the season had about 4 months to go. It must have seemed like we were condemning her to an eternity of forced labor at that point.

We kept going on the Deliberate Practice and she started working on her own. I found YouTube videos illustrating the techniques she needed to work on and gave her the links. She started getting better. Soon I was coming home and she was telling me how she had worked on this or that after school. I noticed big improvements when we worked out together. Each game she did better and better. She decided she wanted to work on her ball juggling skills and I found her in the Catican one day, going through YouTube, finding instructional videos on her own.

She kept getting better. She was still starting on the bench in games, but soon, when she came in as a sub, she didn't go back out. Other girls got subbed out, but not her.

Yesterday she played the best game of her life. She looked natural and relaxed. For the first time in her playing career, she looked like a soccer player, not a girl playing soccer. While playing right fullback, there was a moment where her goalie was way out of the box and she had to face two opposing players with the ball right in front of the goal. She fought them to a standstill and eventually cleared the ball out of the box.

Her teammates, instead of yelling her name in exasperation, yelled it in praise. She beamed.

Her team is not very good. They got absolutely thumped yesterday, losing 6-0. It didn't matter. She played well and had a great time. We talked on the way home about the game as we always do and she told me how natural she was feeling out on the pitch. It was lovely.

As we've gone through this, we've done our best not to criticize her or do anything to demoralize her. Deliberate Practice is demoralizing enough on it's own. When we go out to the park and practice high ball collections for 85 reps (seriously, we do 50-90 reps on the skill we're praticing), I don't want to be out there with someone who is depressed because Dad's been yelling at her or Mom's been tearing her down. She needs to be as full of energy an enthusiasm as possible. This is tough work.

Deliberate Practice becomes its own reward. When we come home from a game and she talks about how she's feeling better doing this or that, I laugh and say, "It's almost like you've been working on it." She laughs and says, "Yeah, almost." I don't know if she's going to make the high school team, but I'm sure she's learning the more important lessons I want to teach - work leads to success and success leads to happiness.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Investing Has Become The Lady Or The Tiger

There's an old story wherein a prisoner is forced to choose one of two doors to open. One has a girl behind it, the other has a tiger*. That's the way I feel about my 401k right now. Safe and stable bonds or volatile and growable stocks? Under ordinary circumstances, I go with Dave Ramsey and pick stocks for the long run. I've still got a long way to go before I retire - 10+ years, but now it's harder to make that choice.

With the Euros about to collapse and their banks clearly underwater, there are lots and lots of voices of doom out there. Even my favorite stock analyst, the brilliant Jim Jubak, is warning of an impending crash. Then there are articles like this, which go more towards the way I'm thinking.
I have been amazed that (the Europeans) have managed to limp along this far, but if they don't do something aggressive pretty soon, their entire banking system is going to collapse. Time is definitely against them and, as I say, if something big and bold isn't announced this week, I expect massive red ink in world equity markets. The epicenter will be European bank stocks.

So, to sum up my expectations, I believe that not only will we get a bold new round of QE from the Fed this week, but other central banks will join the party. (The Bank of Japan and Swiss National Bank are already printing money in an attempt to weaken their currencies.) If that happens, I believe that assets (stocks, bonds and commodities) will rally rather dramatically, at least for a while, with the length and size of the rally depending on the individual idea/asset.

If no QE is announced, and we basically see nothing done, it will probably be safe to short stocks for investors who can handle that strategy. Markets would be pummeled until the central planners (i.e., these bankers) are forced to react to the carnage.
The forces at work here are unpredictable, irrational and orders of magnitude larger in importance than your normal market influences.

Dow Chemicals has just announced a new process for manufacturing light plastics. Invest in Dow! Uh oh, Greece declared bankruptcy and Portugal, Italy and Spain are close behind. Sell everything!

The only thing I can think to do is spread my investments out as widely as possible. These are not ordinary times. Trying to predict what politicians and central bankers, both clinging to broken models of the world, are going to do next is impossible.

As a closing aside, this is another argument for small government. As government power has grown, more and more power has gone into a smaller number of hands increasing instability and unpredictability. Investing has become like riding Space Mountain at Disneyland - a rollercoaster in a dark room where you can't see the tracks ahead of you.

* - Presumably, he wants the door with the girl, but there is the possibility that he's a gay member of the World Wildlife Fund, in which case he wants the tiger.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Don't Attribute To Malice What Can Be Explained By Naïveté

So Solyndra got a $500B+ loan guarantee from the Obama Administration and then went bankrupt. Touted as a shining example of the Green Jobs at Good Wages, it turned out to be a fantasy. Now lots of folks are piling on and suggesting something evil might be at work here. B-Daddy says this.
(T)he whole Solyndra unfolding scandal shows the extent to which the administration supports crony capitalism.
Dean says this.
And as for that "active interest", that just might be George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire and 2008 Obama campaign bundler who owned 39% of Solyndra's parent company.
Here's my take on what happened. The Obama Administration is filled with True Believers in two propositions:
  • Government investments can lead to wondrous growth in certain industries.

  • Global Warming / Climate Change is an existential threat to our way of life.
Solyndra bundled these two things together in a beautiful way. How could it lose?

It lost because the people doing the investing were childlike in their innocence of real business. Cash flows and balance sheets and marketing and sales and labor costs - all of this was alien to them except as a theoretical construct. This administration has less private sector experience than any other in history, by a long shot. All of this free market stuff is unpleasant and mysterious.

In short, the folks who did this investment had no idea what they were doing. There was no skullduggery, just a lot of naïveté and a firm belief that they were doing what was right and good.

Update: Peggy Noonan, our Holy Ambassador to the Court of the Mainstream Media, is thinking along similar lines.
History will write of this era when history has the time and the distance. The president would have been helped by wise old aides with wise old heads, people who somewhere along the line had had to meet a payroll. Instead he was surrounded by bright, committed, energetic naïfs who didn't know what they didn't know. They knew Democratic Party politics.

Link (and Video) of the Day

You've got to watch what Kelly has posted here. Hilarious!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Awesomeness Squared


I just made a simple change to my right sidebar - I added two blogs to my "friends" list and now my blog's layout is trashed. The sidebar is showing up below the main column. Argh!

Update: It's fixed. Blogger threw in a random div tag on a previous post. Crazy!

Chaos! Six Year Olds Roaming The Streets!

Well, back in 1979, that wasn't a cause for alarm, but a cause for celebration! It's amazing we ever made it through the Dark Ages of Disco.

In between sips of a Schnauzer Smoothie, the Puppy Blender recently posted a link to an article on Slate which, in turn, referenced this blog post on Chicago Now giving a kindergarten readiness list from 1979. The most culturally shocking one was this:
Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?
There's been plenty of commentary in the blogosphere about how, 32 years later, this seems insane. It's not insane because 6-year-olds can't do it, it's insane because we're all convinced that child predators are lurking everywhere. Going back further in time, that 4-8 block reference number was probably larger. I've got a great aunt in Wisconsin who, in the 1930s, regularly walked 2 miles to school and back. It was no big deal then.

I've always tried to give my kids a lot of autonomy, but I don't recall giving them that much freedom at 6. A block, maybe, but not 4-8. Looking back at my own childhood, I think I was allowed 2 blocks, but that limit was only because my friends all lived within that radius.

I do know I didn't wear a helmet when I rode my bike. :-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If This Doesn't Make Your Head Explode From Overexposure To Cuteness, Nothing Will

On a cuteness scale from 1 to 10, this is a 135.

We're From Australia And We're Here To Help

Tired of your dead-end job in Greece? Worried that all career opportunities are slipping away down the drain with the rest of Eurosocialism? Concerned about public employee unions rioting in the streets like jackals fighting over a dead animal? Then come to Australia*! Come to the Land Down Under where the people are friendly, the beer is plentiful, the weather is sunny and the nation's finances haven't been ruined by enacting doomed progressive fantasies.
The Commonwealth of Australia is officially extending a helping hand to Greece, a country currently being put to the test by the ongoing financial crisis. “Skills Australia Needs,” a two-day event scheduled to take place in Athens on October 8 and 9, is being set up by the Australian government’s Department of Immigration & Citizenship to provide information to Greek citizens interested in emigrating to that country.
The Aussie Welcome Wagon awaits!

* - Only those with useful skills are invited. There's no need for the public employee union members to show up. They get to stay behind and cannibalize an ever-dwindling set of productive people.

We Can Recreate Paradise

... was the concept behind Eurosocialism. Libertine secularism, good wages for all, secure jobs and plenty of government benefits would lead to a new kind of Garden of Eden. Man is not fallen, he is perfectable through political action.

That's not working so well.
Let us be clear, the chief reason why Greece cannot meet its deficit targets is because the EU has imposed the most violent fiscal deflation ever inflicted on a modern developed economy - 16pc of GDP of net tightening in three years - without offsetting monetary stimulus, debt relief, or devaluation.

This has sent the economy into a self-feeding downward spiral, crushing tax revenues. The policy is obscurantist, a replay of the Gold Standard in 1931. It has self-evidently failed. As the Greek parliament said, the debt dynamic is "out of control".

We all know that Greece behaved badly for a decade. The time for tough love was long ago, when the mistakes were made and all sides were seduced by the allure of EMU.
The only tough love you can expect is the type that comes from within yourself. It's never going to come from political action. No one else cares enough to make you do the things you need to do in order to succeed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Death Cult Diplomacy

... or, "Multiculturalism Meets Madmen."

So we've decided that everyone is equally at fault in the Middle East. Or, rather, we've decided to blame the people who are most rational because they won't retaliate by blowing us up.
Last week, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was quoted by Bloomberg News calling Mr. Netanyahu an "ungrateful'' ally who hasn't done enough to advance the peace process despite U.S. diplomatic and military support.
Meanwhile, we have this.

When people explicitly tell you what they want to do (kill all Jews) and how badly they want to do it (kill themselves in the process) and when they want it done (now), you might want to take them seriously.

Buttery Plumeria

I love Plumeria. I love the shape of the tree, the rich, dark green of the leaves, the perfume of the blooms and especially the buttery-soft look and feel of the flowers.

Now I Can Get Wired

My wiring package for the MGB just came in from British Wiring. Yay!

MGB Wiring / Sports Cliche: One circuit at a time, man. We'll just take it one circuit at a time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunbeam + Couch

You do the math.

Catholic String Theory

After hearing about the fellow from Peter Robinson, I'm now reading David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion.

I'm enjoying the book more than any other I have read in a long time. It's a polemic, whacking away at scientific atheism and Mr. Berlinski is a good polemicist. There's lots of juicy red meat in there to gnaw on. Rather than reproduce raw meat, here is my first take on what I'm learning, something that makes me smile.

I need to do some more research, but here are two things that seem to relate. First, Catholic theology says that science and theology cannot contradict one another. If science proves theology wrong, then the theology must change. Second, string theory gives equations for the behavior of the Universe, but far fewer than there are unknowns.

This last bit might need some explanation. This equation has an infinite number of solutions:

x + y = 7.

For any value of x, you can find a y what will make the equation work. There isn't one solution, there's an infinite number of them. In what little research I've done, that's the way it is with string theory. There are lots more unknowns than there are equations. The unknowns are our physical constants, the ones that govern gravity, molecular bonding, chemical reaction rates and so forth. Yes, string theory describes the Universe, but it would work equally well for an infinite number of other possible values for these constants.

So what?

Well, if you change the values of those constants, you pretty much get death. Dead Universes, dead planets, dead dust, dead light radiating out from the Big Bang, dead everything. Those constants have to be very precisely tuned in order to get an Earth where we can watch Newcastle on

We have the right values for our constants! Yay!

In short, those constants look like Someone fiddled with them, deliberately making a world just right for Maximum Leaders and Momma Daisies. They look like the Universe was planned from the start.

Is that cool or what?

I Don't Get This Whole Stimulus Thing

OK, so we want to spend more money on infrastructure and other goodies to create jobs. So saith the President in his his speech. Since we now have a debt commission, it looks to me like new stimuli is just moving money from one government pocket to another. If the debt commission has time to work with, then it's just moving government money from one year to another. This leads to a couple of points.
  • If rearranging spending leads to jobs, why not make these changes permanent?

  • No one has explained how letting the government, which can't even balance a budget, much less make a profit, can create economic growth. (Well, they explained it last time, but it didn't work they way they said, so there's no reason to believe it will now.)

  • How is more of this a good thing?

  • We want to spend some of this stimulus money for teacher salaries. Borrowing money to pay salaries is a good thing? Isn't that an indication of a financially doomed organization?

  • If printing money and handing it out didn't work before, why will it work now?

  • Abraham Lincoln's administration may have built railroads, but how is that relevant? Compare the transportation infrastructure of 1860 and 2011 and see if you can find a difference.

  • Roads and bridges, roads and bridges, roads and bridges. How does this lead to jobs? Are there any businesses that aren't expanding because they can't get their goods from point A to point B? Any?
Seriously, I don't get it at all.

Update: Here's B-Daddy's take.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This Is Just Creepy

Government-funded PBS altered it's transcript of Obama's speech earlier this week to redact a historical error.

What he really said:
"We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future - a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges."
PBS' transcript:
"We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future - a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges."
Emphasis mine. Abraham Lincoln was not the founder of the Republican Party.

The only reason to do this would be to keep the "(Rick Perry / Sarah Palin / Michelle Bachman) is a dunce" meme alive.

They're not even trying to be subtle any more.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

So What Did You Do Today?

I made this video for my daughter and thought you might like it, too. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

Link Of The Day

Welcome Legal Insurrection visitors! It was very nice of Professor Jacobsen to throw me that link. I used to be more of the red meat conservative, but my faith journey is leading me to a gentler line of blogging. I hope you find something worthwhile on my front page. I'd deeply appreciate feedback and comments if you've got the time. I blog to learn and as you know much more about so many things than I do, your comments are always illuminating.

My old and very dear friend Kelly the Little Black Dog is a progressive* who is unhappy with President Obama, having this to say in a discussion with me the comments.
We seem to live in different realities. You see him as this socialist Marxist. I, and many progressives, see him as right of Mitt Romney.
Sincerely, I think President Obama was about the best the progressives could have hoped for, but apparently I'm wrong. Since most of my regulars are conservatives, it might be enlightening for all concerned to pop over to that post and put in your $0.02.

Devoid of rancor and anger, we might be able to learn something from each other about how we each see the world.

Kelly moderates his comments, so it might take a while for the conversation to develop. I'm still certain it's worthwhile for all concerned. Kelly is very smart, very well educated and as kind a person as you'd hope to meet. If you ever wanted to engage in a civil conversation with someone who didn't see eye-to-eye with you, he's your little black dog.

* - When I go off on progressives here, I wince a bit inside, knowing I'm taking a jab at my buddy. I certainly could use a little more prayer and allow a little more influence from the Holy Spirit before I write, of that I'm sure.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Answer Is "Everything"

... according to our Maximum Leader*.

Time asks a silly question.

* - Well, everything made with meat and no spices.

Three Persepctives On Jobs

There's some great stuff out there today in the blogosphere related to jobs. First, an employer lets us know why companies aren't hiring.
(W)ith a national debt of more than $14 trillion and unfunded, future “off the books” debt of Social Security and Medicare combined at $104 trillion in present value ... Uncle Sam ain’t the man he used to be. This in turn makes American businesses that are sitting on a pile of cash focus on deleveraging. The American consumer is doing the same. In fact, from where I sit, it appears as though everyone except Uncle Sam is working like mad to strengthen his balance sheets. The legitimate fear across the country is that Washington’s refusal to join our common-sense parade will result in higher taxes, more regulations, more inflation and Japanese-style stagflation. In other words, Washington’s attempts at stimulus through spending are having the opposite effect. Businesses and consumers stay hunkered down.
That's exactly where I'm at. Europe is done. Greece is now paying 50% on 2-year bonds. They will default leading to failed banks or wild spasms of money printing. Portugal, Italy and Spain are all on the way. My focus at home is to ensure that I can pay my bills as far off into the future as possible if things get really bad. If I possibly could, I'd be completely debt-free. That's a bridge too far, but I'm still deleveraging as fast as possible.

In California, regulations have created the income inequality so disparaged by the progressives. We have met the enemy and he is us.
California's pain is not restricted to farming towns. The state's regulatory vigilantes have erected a labyrinth of rules that increasingly makes doing almost anything that might contribute to increased carbon emissions—manufacturing, conventional energy, home construction—extraordinarily onerous. Not surprisingly, the state has not gained middle-skilled jobs...

There is little chance that the jobs lost in these fields will ever be recovered under the current regime. As decent blue-collar and midlevel jobs disappear, California has gone from a rate of inequality about the national average in 1970, to among the most unequal in terms of income.
Finally, the Atlantic has published a bunch of angry letters from Millenials about their employment blues. Here's the best of the lot.
Much of my rage is reserved for a predatory system of higher education and the failures of a generation that came before...(M)any, if not most of the students who attend, treat the experience like a 4-year version of MTV's Spring Break. Massive grade inflation means one less standard deviation between myself and those who don't try...

But most of my anger is reserved for myself. I pursued a "Liberal Arts Degree" in communications rather than a B.S. in engineering or computer science. I spent all four years at a state university rather than the first two at a community college. I worked in the summer instead of getting an internship. I worked harder at my classes than making contacts and networking with professionals. Not everyone is suffering in this economy, and if I were going to college for the first time this fall I'd know how to prepare. But I didn't at the time and now I'm left to face the consequences. I want to blame the universities and "grown-ups" who I feel should have known better.
At our house, our kids are going to college without student loans and we've refused to pay for degrees that won't lead to careers.

At the risk of looking like a self-quoting blowhard, I'll end with this: All over the world, childhood is ending.
(S)ociety became infantile and possessed a childish view of the world. They looked to someone else to give them treats so they could do what they liked. The editorial is the words of someone who is waking up to what they've done.

Safety First?

I tried pumping air into my PlaySport depth tester, but didn't see any change in the pressure gauge as I did so. That concerns me, as I wonder if I would be able to detect the pressure buildup before it reached explosive levels. As someone noted in an earlier post, the ABS pipe becomes a grenade at high enough pressure levels.

Below is a possible solution to the worry. 30 PSI is 2 ATM, equivalent to 60' underwater. If I used a pressure relief valve on my PlaySport depth tester, I wouldn't need an air pressure gauge.

Monday, September 05, 2011

OK, That's It. No More Monies For You!

Dig this.
The MSCI All-Country World Index sank 2 percent at 4:31 p.m. in New York. Banks led the Stoxx Europe 600 Index down 4.1 percent in the biggest two-day slump since March 2009. Italy’s 10-year bond yield rose 27 basis points in the longest sequence of gains since the euro’s debut in 1999. The German bund yield fell to a record low of 1.84 percent. Rates on two-year Greek debt exceeded 50 percent for the first time. Gold futures jumped 1.4 percent. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures lost 2.3 percent at 6:24 p.m.
Emphasis mine, but I'm not sure why I bothered.

50% interest rates on 2-year government bonds.


(I blame the Tea Party, George W. Bush and Racism.)

You've Got To Be Careful When Yo Hide Your Motives

... because you'll end up having to defend things like this.
Many Tripoli residents — including some local rebel leaders — now often use the Arabic word for “mercenaries” or “foreign fighters” as a catchall term to refer to any member of the city’s large underclass of African migrant workers. Makeshift rebel jails around the city have been holding African migrants segregated in fetid, sweltering pens for as long as two weeks on charges that their captors often acknowledge to be little more than suspicion. The migrants far outnumber Libyan prisoners, in part because rebels say they have allowed many Libyan Qaddafi supporters to return to their homes if they are willing to surrender their weapons.

The detentions reflect “a deep-seated racism and anti-African sentiment in Libyan society,” said Peter Bouckaert, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who visited several jails. “It is very clear to us that most of those detained were not soldiers and have never held a gun in their life.”
Allegedly, we went into Libya to prevent human rights violations. Richard Miniter, speaking on the Ricochet Podcast, suggests that the real reason we went in was at the request of the Europeans who were:
  1. Terrified of a massive wave of refugees pouring out of Libya into Southern Euope just as Southern Europe's finances were falling apart and

  2. So completely self-disarmed that they were utterly incapable of preventing this wave of refugees on their own.
Rather than tell the American people the truth - we were bailing out the militarily enervated and fiscally exhausted Europeans yet again, we were told that this was a humanitarian operation. Now that one humanitarian crisis has been partially averted, another, possibly larger one, is springing up. The egg has been scrambled and we did the scrambling.

I'm inclined to be generous towards the Obama Administration. Their every action has been characterized by a naive and childish view of the world, whether that was the stimulus, Obamacare, the Arab Spring in Egypt or their approach towards Libya. The rebels used Facebook, just like the hipsters who work in the natural food coop, so they must be OK. That the rebels were just a different band of ignorant racists* must be coming as quite a surprise**.

These surprises would look a whole lot different to the rest of us had they just been honest with their motives at the beginning. To tell us, "We're engaging in military operations in Libya to prevent an even bigger crisis in Europe" would have allowed them to shake their heads in sorrow at the oppression and slaughter that may now follow. Instead, they chose a fantasy world of pure, noble aims and are ending up with the NYT writing about racism by their new found clients. Oops.

* - It may be hard for some to believe it, but these racists don't talk with a Southern accent!

** - Surprises are popping up all over the place these days. Shockingly, massive government spending didn't result in jobs. Uh oh.

Garden Cat

Sunday, September 04, 2011

How Do You Buy Music?

Mark Steyn penned a polemic this week that rails against the coarsening of our cutlure and in the process, he mentioned some old songs that I love, but don't own. One thing led to another and I ended up listening to Nat King Cole on YouTube.

Almost all of the music I own comes from my old collection of CDs. It was easy to rip them onto my PC and then transfer them here and there. I'm not sure I want to be buying CDs any more, though.

How do you buy music? Do you get it off Amazon? Do you use iTunes? I don't have any Apple products, so iTunes concerns me - every time I've ever loaded it onto my PC it turns out to be a annoying, insistent, bloated toad of a program, trying to take over every aspect of my multimedia, trying to convert all of my files and constantly update itself.

So how do you buy music?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Completed PlaySport Pressure Chamber

Here we go!

I tested it out by screwing the lid on tight and immersing it in a bucket of water. Even without plumber's tape on the threads, no air escaped. I might do the pressure tests that way, with the thing in a bucket. That way, if it does blow somehow, the water will reduce the velocity of the shrapnel. I still don't see it exploding. ABS pipe is really thick and the inflator stem is affixed really well.

Still, I haven't had the courage to try inflating it too far yet.


Background info here.


... is all about working enthusiastically at the things you love in the service of others.

How's that for a recipe? As I listen to Zig Ziglar, Gary Vaynerchuk, Scott Stratten and read Jim Collins and Thomas Stanley, that seems to be the best one-sentence summation of what they've got to say. It seems to be born out in observing others as well.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Poor As House Pets, Part II

After the last post, I went back and rewatched the Gary Vaynerchuk video I posted yesterday. Gary is hip and modern. He swears a lot, has a cool haircut and wears funky t-shirts. He has no time for traditional business behavior or dress.

He also tells you that effort and caring will get you ahead. You need to be persistent and patient and work your tail off.

Is that the message of all of our recent chatter about income inequality?

The Poor As House Pets

So yesterday as I drove to work, I was listening to Scott Stratten's book, UnMarketing from Audible. It's only so-so, particularly if you've seen him in person. It lacks the energy of his live keynote speeches and most of what he has to say in the book can be found in YouTube videos of his presentations. Still, what he has to say is worthwhile, so try to catch him one way or another.

In the book, he casually trots out his open-minded sensibilities as he talks about a business colleague he knew on Twitter who had come out against gay marriage. He tut-tuts with appropriate modern disdain and all is well. He takes pains in the book to mention that he is apolitical, but his style and patterns are all quite hip and up-to-date: he is up on all the latest social networking tools and is suitably unimpressed with tradition.

The book is very much a business and marketing book. He works hard to tell you how to use Twitter, Facebook and blogs to expand and improve your market reach. Suffused throughout is the notion that you want to spend your time developing relationships with people who will perform. Don't get me wrong, he doesn't see people as tools. Quite the opposite. He wants you to do your best to serve those around you, suggesting that such service will develop great business relationships.

It's difficult to argue with this. You need to expect yourself to do well by others and conversely, you want to interact with those who perform and avoid those who do not. Behavior, as it were, leads to success.

So where is the connection between this common sense attitude and our own attitude towards the poor? When we talk about the "less fortunate" we speak of them as if they were house pets we forgot to feed, but when we listen to the latest hip business books, we nod and stroke our chins when we're told that the best way to improve our lot in life is to be valuable to others.

When was the last time you saw inequality discussed by an advocate for the poor where this was the cornerstone of the talk?

Bill Maher cares about the poor. Doesn't he?