Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cheezburger of the Day

funny cat pictures - Cue theme song
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The Puppy Blender links to this post today which features this alarming chart.

Allow me to simplify what's going on here.
Yes, I know, technically you can't default on a student loan. At least not right now. Once the higher education bubble bursts, there will be all kinds of political pressure to forgive loans or change their terms to the point where they are forgiven for all practical purposes.

This is just graft on a Federal scale.

The Infantile World View Of Austerity

... just blows me away.

No matter what you read about the Euro debt crisis these days, you keep getting shocked paragraphs like this one.
What if Europe and the US converged on a set of economic policies that brought out the worst in both – European fiscal austerity combined with a declining share of total income going to workers? Given political realities on both sides of the Atlantic, it is entirely possible.

So far, the US has avoided the kind of budget cuts that have pushed much of Europe into recession.
Budget cuts? No kidding, dude. They're hugely in debt. They spent today's money yesterday. It's all gone. You're not going to be able to spend what you've already spent.

How hard is this concept to grasp? What's the disconnect here? It's like these people can't do a simple budget. They must act surprised every time they find their wallets empty, like it's supposed to be some kind of endlessly regenerating magical bag of monies. This is the world of the child, the one where mommy and daddy bring me nommy-noms from somewhere and I eat them. It's pathetic.

Robert Reich, author of the above idiocy and darling of many of my lefty friends, views the sequence of events like this:

What a scathing indictment of our culture where there's no grasp of the concept of borrowing money, even among "educated" people.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catholic Answers As A Sales Tool

At work, our Intranet is under constant attack. No, not by hackers, viruses or denial-of-service ping blizzards, but by heretics. People who cling to the false worship of the Microsoft file system and Microsoft Office in general*. "There is no god but Sharepoint," they cry, "and Powerpoint is its prophet!" They then go on to mock our blogs, wiki and social networking tools as creations of silliness and stupidity.

Ignorant heretics.
"Hellfire and damnation await you if you use anything other than Sharepoint!"
We've heard all of the objections dozens of times. Blogging is a waste of time, I don't have time to read the blogs, blogs are nothing more than ranting, social networking is just egotism, wikis can't be trusted, I was never loved as a child and my tremendous insecurities lead me to lash out at anyone who seems to be successful and having fun.

OK, that last one is just some psychoanalysis on our part, but we're pretty sure it gets to the root of the problem.

I was in church about 30 years ago, probably attending daily Mass for Lent or something like that, when I came across a copy of Catholic Answers. I scooped it up, found where to get the rest and ended up reading a bunch of them. Catholic Answers responds to all of the most common objections about the Catholic faith and the Church itself. In that model lies our means of overcoming the Sharepoint throwbacks.

Catholic Answers gathers up all of the objections, doubts and misinformation and then responds to each in turn. It's a salesman's best friend. Your prospect comes up with an argument against your product and you've got a ready response. Catholic Answers, as you'll see from the link above, is now run using Web 2.0 tools. Questions are submitted, answers are prepared and published.

Why not do the same thing to respond to the Sharepoint fanatics?

After you've been selling a product for a while, it's pretty unusual to be surprised by a question or objection. In fact, that's true in most human endeavors. After a dozen or so interviews with customers, clients or users, you've picked up a good percentage of all of the objections you'll ever hear. As a salesman, it's your job to have ready responses to those objections.

Up to now, we've done a good job selling to the open-minded in our workforce, but we tend to blow off the Sharepoint maniacs as too stupid to convert. That's turning out to have been a bad choice. Most of the Sharepoint nuts are in their 50s and 60s, the prime ages for positions of leadership. Not surprisingly, that's the cause of our real problems right now.

I don't know how other sales teams do it, but we're going to start using our Web 2.0 tools to gather up all of our opponents' objections and prepare a ready list of responses, a la Catholic Answers. Instead of simply raging at the Sharepoint heretics, we'll use the mighty strength of our holy collaboration tools to convert them to the cause of righteousness and blogosity.
Blog for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant prose with embedded videos. (Psalms 98:4).
* - MS Office and Sharepoint have a place in the world, just not the central place that Microsoft tells you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

OK, Maybe I Don't Know What "Bold" Means

From Reuters comes this gem: France's Hollande makes bold debut on EU summit stage.
(Reuters) - At his first meeting of EU leaders, with the hotly contested issue of shared euro-zone debt top of his discussion list, France's new president made it clear on Wednesday that he intends to stand up to Berlin on European policy... 
It was an audacious debut for the newly elected French leader who, despite his placid manner next to his often pushy predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, believes firmly that Germany should not have the sole say in pulling Europe out of crisis. 
Emboldened by growing support for his pushback against German-led austerity, and mindful that voters are watching ahead of a legislative election on June 17, Hollande even broke with the usual Franco-German pre-summit meeting, instead holding talks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Paris.
I'm not quite sure how this works in the real world where Germany is the only nation in the EU with even the slightest financial ability to drag the rest of them to safety. It made me think of a family where only one member has a steady job and the rest spend their time getting wasted and living one step ahead of the bill collectors. I'd rewrite it like this.
(Reuters) - At a family party in the Quiet Valley Trailer Park, with the hotly contested issue of cosigned auto loans top of his discussion list, Frank Hollande, Angela's little brother, made it clear on Wednesday that he intends to take advantage of some MoneyTree short-term loans to stock up on Pabst while it's on sale at the MiniMart... 
It was an audacious debut for the newly unemployed high school dropout who, despite frequently drinking himself into a coma, believes firmly that Angela should not hold out on the rest of the family. 
Emboldened by growing family support for his demands that Angela pay off the car loan she cosigned with him, and mindful that other family members are facing similar threats from collection agencies, Frank even broke with the usual phone call to Angela promising to get a job, instead holding talks with his brother, Mariano, who is facing eviction from his duplex after Mom's inheritance ran out.
France's Hollande make a bold debut!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spam Of The Day

This is hard to beat.
It's time for you to marry. Very first, although, you need to survive through the marriage. The preparing and execution of a wedding ceremony might be a challenging task, however it is easy to do by breaking down the job into controllable steps. The following tips will assist you to make that big day the most effective it could be. Spend less on costly flower arrangements and centerpieces by creating a more enjoyable, casual, green tea celebration-inspired reception place or wedding ceremony breakfast. Feel fine: modest, dainty, fragrant pink and discolored rosebuds, cost-effective carnations, and very small daisies. You should use retro teacups and set settings to accomplish the style. As opposed to a huge, tiered birthday cake, find out about wonderful, completely portioned petit fors. Usually do not expect to remember to every person with the choices you will end up making. This very day is made for you.
Do we hamsters look good in white?

Cheezburger of the Day

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Playing Around With Flash

Ignore this. I'm just learning how to use Google Drive to host swf files so I can embed them here.

I found out how to do this here.

Update: I was not able to get the URL of the files in Google Drive. Static URLs for the files aren't available yet. I was able to do it using Google Sites as described in the link above.

MS Office And The Bicycle

That was such a great thread yesterday that I'm encouraged to do a follow up.

Here in the Catican we use MS Office 2003, save for MS Outlook where we've got the dreadful 2010 version. I just can't figure out what I want that 2003 can't do. Writing letters, shopping lists, missives to my kids, fax cover sheets, very basic budget calculations - that's about all we do with it. What's the point of an upgrade? With the filters that allow you to open 2007 and 2010 documents in your 2003 version, I don't have to worry about compatibility, either. With Office 2003, our needs were met and technology could stop as far as we're concerned.

How about bicycles? How much value-added change has gone on with bicycles in the last, say, 30 years? My bike today and my bike in 1982 could be interchangeable as far as I'm concerned; I'm not an avid rider. And therein lies the business conundrum for Microsoft.

As time goes on, each version of MS Office completely fills customer needs for a larger and larger percentage of the population. The set of potential customers for Office 2010 is substantially smaller than the set for 2003. Just as I don't need a frame made of titanium liberally dosed with Strontium-90 or whatever it is they have these days*, I don't need the #@^&**ing ribbon in Office 2010, either. I just want to do basic calculations or text formatting and then print the result.

So where have you stopped in the MS Office genealogy tree?
My kind of bicycle. And get off of my lawn! 
* - Goldarned kids with their newfangled contraptions! Carnsarnit, in my day we only had Strontium-89 and we were happy to have that!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Do You Still Use Microsoft Word?

.. and if so, for what?

MS Word is a great word processing tool. You can make all kinds of things with it. You can write letters, create technical manuals and develop lesson plans in it. When you're done, you can print or email the file to share it. Do you still do any of that?

Facebook, twitter, blogs, the web, texting and the rest of the new media don't lend themselves to MS Word documents. Yes, you can cut and paste from Word to your blog, but why? Blog editors are good enough now to do everything you want to do. At the informal end, Word gets in your way. It's an extraneous step in the process of creating content.

Printed materials are still useful, but if you're going to do a truly professional job, you don't use MS Word. My friends who publish magazines all use Adobe InDesign. So do the authors of graphics-intensive books that I've met. So do companies that make brochures. So at the high end, MS Word doesn't compete with Adobe InDesign.

Where does that leave MS Word? Here in the Catican we use it for writing our packing lists for travel, writing to-do lists for our kids and ... well, that's about it.

That browser war thingy isn't going so well for Microsoft, either.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

HBO And Legalizing Drugs

Quite a few of the SLOBs seem to be in favor of legalizing drugs. The arguments typically center around two themes:
  • Personal freedom. You can't tell me what to do!
  • Cost. We're losing the war on drugs and we're spending too much money doing it!
So let's assume for a moment that we legalize all drugs. What happens next? Well, for one thing, recreational drugs become commodities sold under some amount of regulation. OK, that seems pretty organized and tame. What else?

How about marketing? How much money do you think recreational drug manufacturers will have to spend on advertising? How's that whole drug pipeline thing going for Pfizer right now? Pretty bad, right? How about if we give them the opportunity to research opium derivatives and then advertise them? Think there'll be some money in that?

How about the media? HBO is larded up with "edgy" shows encouraging you to get it on with whoever you want. With funding from drug giants behind them, how long before using heroin-lite, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and pushed by Omnicom, becomes hip and cool and in? If they didn't care about whole neighborhoods regressing into little Mogadishus, do you think they're going to care what happens to your kids?

If the culture can change to the point where we're seriously considering letting two men marry each other, do you think you're going to do anything other than get steamrolled by the team of Novartis plus Ogilvy and Mather?

Yeah, you're Superman, pal. You're gonna stop that pair.

HBO cares about you and your family. Oh yes they do.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Few Lessons From Stephen King

I've been reading a lot of good books* lately, but not sharing them with you. How rude!

I went through Stephen King's On Writing recently and am going back through parts of it a second time right now. I don't remember how I found it. I'm not a fan of the kinds of books Stephen King writes so I couldn't have been perusing his cv. In any case, it's a wonderful book and he reads it himself.

Audiobooks are vulnerable to poor reading. Jonathan Cecil is such a good voice actor that you can't wait to hear the next of his P G Wodehouse renderings. Derek Jacobi is so bad that he takes one of my favorites - Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur and turns it into indigestible sludge. Stephen King is no one's idea of a great voice actor, but he was perfect for this.

By the end of the book I had a deep affection for him. He's genuinely in love with his craft and he wants to share that love with you. I felt like we were good friends when I finished. He didn't read it so much as he talked to you. It was like having him in the car with me. I drove and he shared. It was beautiful.

And now to the content. The key to being a good writer is to read a lot and write a lot. Every day. It's the same key to being a good artist, engineer, soccer player or whatever. There's no shortcut to success. With that out of the way, here are a couple of revelations from the book.
  • He doesn't believe in plot. He starts with characters and a situation and goes from there. His stories surprise even himself because he never really knows where they are going.
  • Write in your language. Don't dress up your vocabulary through learning and exercises. That will come through reading, but let it come naturally.
  • Know grammar. This echoes what Jerry Pournelle wrote. Learn how to write properly first. After that you can write the way you want.
  • Stephen King hates adverbs terribly. Longingly, he wrote about how he assiduously avoids them. (Blech. I get it now. Those two sentences were terrible.)
  • Writing is telepathy. You communicate with people separated by space and time with your prose.
  • Don't write to make money. Write what you want. If there was a formula for making money writing, everyone would be doing it.
  • Stephen classifies writing talent into four categories: bad, competent, good, great. If you're a bad writer, forget about it. If you're competent, you can work really hard and become good. Nothing can take you from good to great. Charles Dickens is Charles Dickens and you're not.
There were a few others I can't remember right now, but don't take my word for it. Pop over to Audible and buy the book for yourself. You'll learn a lot and make a new friend at the same time.

I looked for a really good video clip of Stephen talking about his craft. This was my favorite, but it wasn't embeddable.

* - Well, actually, I've been listening to most of them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Are Tax Increases Just A Diversion?

So Fitch has downgraded Japan's debt. Japan, you may be surprised to learn, is the most indebted country in the world, owing something like 200% of their GDP.
TOKYO—Fitch Ratings downgraded Japan's sovereign rating to A-plus and said it was maintaining a negative outlook due to the "leisurely" pace of the county's efforts to remedy its dire fiscal situation. The firm's long-term foreign-currency rating had been AA and its local currency issuer default rating had been AA-minus.
That's interesting, but it wasn't what jumped out at me. Here's the kicker.
The government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has been trying to push through a bill doubling the national sales tax, but its prospects are highly uncertain given the deeply divided parliament. Even if it does pass, raising the rate to 10% in two stages by 2015 is considered insufficient to restore the country's fiscal balance.
Whether or not the sales tax hike closes the gap sufficiently is temporarily irrelevant. What's the long term plan here? If the current level of government spending was going to lead to prosperity, then where is the prosperity? They've been doing it for decades and haven't been able to "grow their way out of debt" to borrow the tired phrase of the statists.

And therein lies the rub for all tax hikes. The deficit-reducing salve of a tax increase is a future good while the spending of government money is a current good. Forget the debt, where's the reward for the government spending?
This has nothing to do with anything, but I couldn't think of an interesting image and I didn't want to leave the post as text only.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's Time For Germany To Leave The EU

They've moved on to a new phase in the Euro crisis despite all the firewalls, bailouts, joint policy statements and stability funds. It's all about the bank runs now. In Greece and Spain, depositors are yanking their money out of the banks and shoving it in mattresses or moving it out of the country. When a bank run starts, the rational person joins in immediately.

French socialists' electoral victories are giving top cover for other nations to ditch the whole austerity thing, not that there was ever much of it anyway.The "growth" policies they're endorsing are just more money for social programs and public employee unions. If that was going to work, it would have worked by now. As a side effect, the most productive citizens are fleeing*.

The new French Prime Minister, Messr Hollande, is pressuring Germany to participate in Euro bonds where Germany would be one of the countries (read: only country) backing the loans the bonds represent. Meanwhile, Europeans across the continent are still in deep, progressive denial about the situation and refuse to make sacrifices or free their imprisoned economies by removing their layers and layers of regulatory shackles.

They are all going down. Well, all but one.

In the long run, German help won't do anything other than prolong the crash and impoverish Germany. If I were them, I'd be getting out now.

Strike while the iron's hot! With the Germans cranky over the Chelsea win in the Champions League final, Angela Merkel ought to rally them to tell the rest of Europe to shove it.

* - If you're a Californian, don't let this bother you. Punishing productive people didn't work in France, but it's going to work wonders in California. Right?


Thanks to everyone who showed support for Courtney over the weekend. Overcoming addictions can be a very lonely job. I think Mostly Nothing said it best with, "We're all pulling for you." When the demons attack your willpower, it helps to know that you're not going it alone.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Asking For An Act Of Kindness

For more than 6 years, we've had a blogging relationship with Courtney Macha. She posts over at Memoirs of a Feline Empress. We've linked back and forth and had lots of fun.

Courtney has had some really tough times lately. It would mean a lot to all of us here in the Catican if you popped over there and gave her some words of encouragement.

In more than 6 years of blogging, I think we've only skipped one day posting here. The Scratching Post has been the biggest non-family driving force in our lives. Everything else is a distant second.

To show you how much this means to us, we're going to stop blogging here until Monday so this post stays at the top and gives as many visitors as possible a chance to give Courtney a comment hug. Please, it won't take you more than a minute or two and it would mean so very much. If you would say a prayer for her, that would be great, too.

God bless and thanks for giving her support.
The Empress. One of the most beautiful photos of a cat ever taken.

It's All About Me

So Elizabeth Warren isn't a squaw after all. She checked a box on some of her applications saying she was an American Indian thinking, if we are to give her the benefit of the doubt, she was 1/32 Cherokee. Checking that box got her benefits and no one monitored her heritage claims.

Elizabeth Warren is a progressive. In the most credulous analysis of her positions, she's a True Believer in the cause. She devoutly defends Affirmative Action and all manner of racial set asides. In her mind, we need to make sure there are seats at the table for members of underprivileged groups and people who have faced discrimination.

Neither underprivileged nor discriminated against nor appreciably Cherokee, she took one of those seats. Ostensibly, there was someone out there with those qualifications who wanted her slot in college or her faculty job.

In summary, Ms. Warren believes there has been significant discrimination in the US that needs to be rectified through set asides, but only after she gets one of those positions for herself.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Cheezburger For Mut

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Tarantula Hawk

On our hike to the snow-capped peak* of South Mt. Fortuna a few weeks back, we spotted this charming pair - a tarantula and a tarantula hawk. The spider had been envenomed into a twitchy submission and the wasp was dragging it off into the undergrowth. I shot close-ups until the wasp lost its temper and threatened to sting me into submission. The last photo in the bunch shows a pretty ticked-off wasp.

I left the photos much larger than normal. The lighting wasn't optimal, so this isn't up to Tim's standards, but I think they're worth a click or two. Enjoy.

* - Well, to be honest, there wasn't really any snow, but if it had been a lot colder and it had been snowing, we'd have seen snow on the top of the mountain.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Way Cool 404 Error Page

Dig this. You almost want to click on a dead link if that's where you'll end up!

Umm, Because You Guys Spent All The Money?

From yesterday's San Diego Union-Tribune comes this front page headline and photo:

Come on, you're not serious, are you?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We're Doing Pork Chops And Gravy Tonight

This recipe.

Photos and analysis to follow.


Well, the kids liked it, so that was a plus, but on the whole, I wouldn't do it again. I started out on the wrong foot, forgetting to douse the chops in flour. Instead, I just added all of the flour at the end to the roux/gravy and made cement*. It tasted fine and my son put it on his rice and chops, but the consistency was like thick oatmeal. The lack of spices in recipe didn't seem to hurt; the bacon added it's loving touch to the whole affair.

Summary: A decent, very basic recipe that would be hard to screw up. Thumbs up from the kids. I paired it with white rice and a salad.

Frying chops are always beautiful.

This is not Quickset. It's gravy.

* - My gravies are almost always terrible.

Cheezburger of the Day

It's All About The Standard Deviation

So my daughter is heading into her fifth year of club soccer and will be playing next year as a sophomore on her high school team. Using Deliberate Practice, she's improved her skills dramatically, but she still has one glaring weakness.

She's slow.

Well, she's not actually slow compared to other girls her age, she's just slow compared to other girl soccer players her age. It affects her self confidence when she plays to the point where she concentrates more on running than on her skills. Playing defense, she has the added stress that every time she's outpaced by a forward, there's a chance of a goal.

Which brings me to this summer's training. Her team practices are all about skills and your speed is whatever God gave you. She's going to need to work on speed on her own. She'll never be a world-class sprinter, but she can certainly get faster through strength and technique. As her dad, I will need to set expectations for her. What should those expectations be?

It's all about σ, the standard deviation.

Click on the image for a better view.

For the 40 yard dash, a good benchmark for a defender, she's probably right around the 50th percentile of all girls. Since we know it's unreasonable to expect her to run as fast as the fastest girls, it's pointless for me to look up record times in the 40 yard dash and use those as a marker for her performance. Instead, I looked up σ, the standard deviation for high school girl student athletes. It turns out that for the 40 yard dash, σ=0.37 or thereabouts. Just as a reference point, the mean is about 6.05 seconds.

The standard deviation of all girls her age gives me a guide for what I can give her as my expectations for her training. Since she will be doing much of her training on her own, these expectations will spur her on to perform*. If her summer training improved her 40 yard dash time by just 0.4 seconds, she would jump from the 50th percentile to above the 85th. It's probably unreasonable to expect anything more than that.

* - If you think this is harsh, then I'm sorry. Real life has expectations, too and they aren't given to you by a loving father. Instead, failing the expectations of life can lead to job loss, divorce or worse.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Try To Get The Cling Of It

From our spammers' mailbag comes this gem: 
You really make it appear so easy together with your presentation but I to find this matter to be actually one thing which I think I would never understand. It kind of feels too complex and very vast for me. I am looking ahead on your next post, I'll try to get the cling of it!
We make it look easy? How kind of you! Some of us have the knack, you know. Keep at it and I'm sure it will be less vaster in no time at all!

When You've Lost Der Spiegel

Wow. Just wow.
Greece has been in intensive care for years, but the patient, instead of recovering, is just getting sicker and sicker. In a confidential report, which SPIEGEL has seen, experts from the IMF arrive at a devastating verdict. The country, they write, has only "a small industrial base" and is characterized by "structural incrustations" and an "excessively large role of the public sector."

In Greece's Best Interest

It's time to rethink the treatment. The Greeks were never ready for the monetary union, and they still aren't ready today. The attempt to retroactively bring the country up to speed through reforms has failed.

No one can force the Greeks to give up the euro. And yet it is now clear that withdrawal would also be in the country's best interest.
Der Spiegel isn't anyone's idea of a fringe publication. It's a vanilla center-left news outlet that rarely calls for anything more drastic than a slight increase in teachers' pay or increased negotiations with the Palestinians. When the editorial staff writes a long, thorough position paper recommending Greece exit the Euro, it's a very serious thing.

The Germans have had enough of this.

How To Solve The Problem Of Businesses Leaving California

A while back, our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings posted this tidbit about the mass emigration of businesses from The People's Republic of California. Businesses are fleeing the place because of oppressive regulations and punitive taxes. It's just like the old country, only we don't have an NKVD. And therein lies the rub.

What's the point of having a Soviet-style government if you don't have a Soviet-style border?

Except with Mexico, of course. That one can stay wide open.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

How Much Is That In Pesos?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s budget deficit has swelled to a projected $16 billion — much larger than had been predicted just months ago — and will force severe cuts to schools and public safety if voters fail to approve tax increases in November, Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday. 
The Democratic governor said the shortfall grew from $9.2 billion in January in part because tax collections have not come in as high as expected and the economy isn’t growing as fast as hoped for. The deficit has also risen because lawsuits and federal requirements have blocked billions of dollars in state cuts.
Tax revenues dropping ... businesses fleeing the state ... restive state employees suing ... strangling regulations from the Feds ... this sounds like ...


wait for it


Patria Socialista!

Mitt Romney Is A Big, Fat Bully And He Hates Gays

... we have the video to prove it.

See? This is what we've been talking about. It's homophobia running rampant all through the Rethuglican, racist, hatemongers. Just look at the pain in the faces of the people in that video. It's high time Democrats stood up for the victims of these sick monsters. No longer will we allow this kind of violence to strike down innocent lives while we stand silent. No! It's time for action. Please call your representatives today and let them know you stand with people like Cher and don't support Mitt Romney's vile hate.
"If ROMNEY gets elected I don't know if I can breathe same air as Him & his Right Wing Racist Homophobic Women Hating Tea Bagger Masters,"
You go, girl!

There's a serious problem of hate and violence in this country and it's people like Mitt Romney, Christian fundamentalists, rednecks and Teabaggers that are causing it.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Do You Need Government To Help You Buy Potatoes?

Well, in Greece at least, the answer used to be, "Yes." Now that the government can't borrow money any more, the answer is, "No."

Dig this.
Katerini, a once prosperous town and local hub for agriculture, transport and tourism, has been hit by the crisis as hard-pressed as any other in debt-laden Greece. Streets are full of shuttered shops. Pawnshops offering to buy jewellery are mushrooming. Just like everywhere else in the nation, unemployment has climbed to record levels.  
The Pieria Volunteer Action Team, a group of local activists, decided to use the internet to help people get cheap food. They first contacted a potato grower in northern Greece with surplus stock and a license to sell directly to customers.  
Then they invited members and friends to place their orders on the internet. "Within 12 hours, 530 people ordered 24 tons of potatoes. We had to stop taking orders," said Elias Tsolakides, a 54-year old member of the group.
A couple of observations.
  • The government is an impediment to feeding people. Once removed, people can find food cheaply.
  • It doesn't make sense that this is a new development. Unless something changed over the last few years, free market selling of potatoes had always been better. It's just that the government in Athens, bloated by borrowed money, shoved itself into every step of the process of bringing you a potato.
  • When the progressive, socialist system falls apart, what happens? People go back to the free market.
  • If socialism / fascism worked, you'd never leave it.
  • The event reminds me of stories from the Soviet black market. Hey, that's a coincidence, right? It can't be that the same forces that dragged down communism are at work in Greece, can it?
  • So just what is the difference between the Soviet Union and Greece? If it's just a lack of armed guards shooting emigres at the border, then Greece is going to have a problem with emigres.
  • Uh oh.
  • So, anyway, back to the potatoes. The potato has been cultivated as a food product for more than 7,000 years. It's doubtful that the farmers in the Andes ca 5000 BC filled out forms for government potato distribution. What kind of idiot thinks that government intervention saturating the simple production-sales cycle for potatoes was a good idea?
This kind of idiot.

Friday, May 11, 2012

This Is Like Our Maximum Leader

funny cat pictures - Ermahgerd  FishehTreats
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It's All About Me Getting What I Want

CEO Compensation over time. Give me more money.

Illegitimate births over time. Give me more sex.

Why do these correlate?

You Can't Turn Back The Clock

... is a common response to my prudicious rantings.

The sexual revolution is over and the libertines have won forever. The Catholic faith is an anomaly, practiced only by retrograde reactionaries who will never again see their beliefs ascendant. Sort of like how the Germans discovered the benefits of an industrial society and never went back from it.
Germany used to declare war on its neighbors. Today we explain how they can renounce nuclear power. We've lost the title of the world's top exporter and only manage to come in third place in global soccer rankings, but no one can get the better of us when it comes recycling our waste. Acid rain and forest decline have opened our eyes to the destructive force of civilization from an early age, even though Germany's forests, contrary to expectations, have somehow survived...  
Because environmental policy pursues noble goals, politicians who specialize in the environment have a moral advantage over those who deal with issues such as government finances, domestic security or pension contribution rates. The positive aura in the German Environment Ministry is so strong that it even managed to bathe a technocrat like former Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin in a soft light. Current Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, a cool-headed strategist who, only a few years ago, would have liked to become the managing director of the Federation of German Industries, now plays the environmental saint, riding his bicycle to meetings with the chancellor.
Err, maybe not.

The Germans discovered the cost of unbridled industry outweighed the benefits and so they're turning the clock back, trying to find a better balance between building awesome sports cars and having thriving forests nearby.

Some day we might care about the kids of East Cleveland like do about acid rain.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cheezburger of the Day

funny cat pictures - That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. I calls it A Day in My Life.
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Well, I Guess It's Time To Party!

There's not much else we can do. So says James Hanson, NASA scientist.
If Canada proceeds (with developing it's tar sands oil deposits), and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate. 
Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.
A 50' rise in the sea level might just give me beach front property. Game over? No way! I say, "Game on!"

He didn't say anything about Godzilla. I hope Godzilla shows up. That would be cool.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Just In Cast Mut Missed Google's Home Page Today

It's Howard Carter's birthday.

Does Spanking Your Deadbeat Brother Work?

Greece is about to test this question.
BRUSSELS—Euro-zone officials are debating delaying a €5.2 billion payment to Greece as the political backlash grows in Athens against a bailout program negotiated with international creditors, officials familiar with the discussion said Wednesday.  
The European Commission said earlier this week that Greece is due to receive the funds Thursday, part of a previously approved disbursement from the €130 billion bailout sealed in March with the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund. But Germany, Finland and others are wary of making the payment because of comments from Greek politicians following Sunday's elections calling for the bailout to be renegotiated.
 They need the money to make their loan payments.
Greece needs the funds mainly to repay €3.3 billion in Greek bonds maturing May 18 that are held by the European Central Bank and national euro-zone central banks. 
Someone's gonna get a paddlin'.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Link of the Day

Awesomeness. Try any of the videos at that link and see what you think.

Doesn't This Strike You As Odd?

For a guy whose country has borrowed 80% of it's GDP to do, well, whatever it wants, doesn't this quote strike you as a bit unusual?
France will be waking up today to its first Socialist President for 17 years – and bracing for radical change. There are all kinds of reasons why one might fear a François Hollande presidency, especially if you are a prosperous French person. 
The 57-year-old Socialist has openly admitted that he "does not like the rich" and declared that "my real enemy is the world of finance". This means taxing the wealthy by up to 75 per cent, curtailing the activities of Paris as a centre for financial dealing, and ploughing millions into creating more civil service jobs.
The quote of interest is in italics and the emphasis is mine. How do you get to the point where you've borrowed their money to the point where defaulting on your payments will utterly ruin them and you hate them? Make no mistake, Hollande's government has the power to completely destroy the French "world of finance." All they need to do is carry out his campaign promises and they will do just that.

But why the hate? Didn't the "world of finance" pay for the spending binges that got France to this point in the first place? If you borrow too much from the bank and blow it on big screen TVs, a fishing boat and trips to Branson, MO, should you hate the bank? Are you angry because your borrowing made them rich?

Shouldn't your real enemy be the people that just want to wreck the place?

Monday, May 07, 2012

If You Hold Euro Bonds

... will you still hold them tomorrow? How about savings in European banks?

The socialists won in France. "No austerity!" they cried. "We have no intention of ever paying back the money we borrowed!" is the more accurate translation.

Anti-austerity parties in Greece cleaned up this weekend as well. And in this case, "party" is the right term because the hangover is going to be merciless. In one weekend, the voters of France and Greece have destroyed the EU's economic foundations. Money no longer has any meaning. When you lend money to a government and they won't pay you back, you've got problems. When they owe their annual gross national product and they won't pay anyone back, everyone has problems.

There are no rules any more.

That may seem like hyperbole, but think about it for a minute. Just a few months ago, the Greeks kicked everyone in the groin to the tune of a 50% or so reduction in what they were willing to pay back on their loans. Now they've decided they won't even pay that back. Prior to this weekend's elections, the French had added weight to the Germans' demand that others honor their debts. Now the French have decided to drink cognac, wear a lampshade and party until they can't remember anything the next morning. If you've got a bank and you use government bonds as principle, as they all do, you've just opened your vault to find empty Courvoisier bottles and strange fluid stains on the floor. If you think you're going to be able to sell those in the open market to pay off people's savings when they come to make a withdrawal, you'd better think again.

Individual savings in European banks are no longer safe because the government bonds backing them won't be convertible to cash.

That's not entirely true, of course. The European Central Bank can always buy your bonds by printing Euros.

At least they've got experience doing it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Programming Note

... as Dean would say.

We're in Chicago for the weekend and I'm without my Lamborghini Laptop, so blogging may be difficult. I've got some favorite photos to share over the weekend from a recent hike that I hope you'll enjoy.

God bless!

The Best Bond Trailer You've Never Seen

I grew up watching Roger Moore as 007. I know Moore's not everyone's cup of tea, but I like him. Octopussy, despite it's faults, had probably the best plot of all of the Bond movies. I won't spoil it if you've never seen it. Instead I'll offer up this awesome trailer that was made by a fan. It's way better than the official trailer that came out back in the day. Enjoy.


I left this one pretty big and I think it's worth a click on the image. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Cheezburger of the Day

funny cat pictures - If he farts he's yours otherwise go walk yourself.
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Getting In Took Decades. Getting Out Should Only Take A Few Weeks.

The Euros are getting a little wobbly on all this austerity stuff.
Almost every piece of new economic data in recent weeks has reinforced the impression that swaths of the European economy are contracting. 
The worsening economic picture is raising political tensions around the euro zone—both French and Greek elections this weekend are expected to castigate incumbents. A growing number of politicians, led by François Hollande, the Socialist candidate in the French presidential ballot, and by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, have called for a shift in the focus of policies toward growth and away from austerity.
Because, you know, it's been, like, forever since they've spent crazy buckets of money, man.
A vote later this month in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous German state, will test the ability of Germany's left-leaning Social Democrats, who have called for more growth-friendly policies, to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right government in national elections next year. 
"It's now the time for economic stimulus," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Monday after a meeting with his Spanish counterpart, Luis de Guindos, adding that European Union leaders would discuss growth plans at a summit in June.
Growing up is hard.

The European Central Bank's secondary offices. Each desk has a bong.