Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fat People and Hate Speech

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The link, unfortunately, doesn't make my point. Because it's an email I received from the New York Civil Liberties Union about school bullying laws. Now, I'm sure there's a way to feel about school bullying laws, but I don't feel it. So, let's not talk about that.

However! The subject line of the email to me, which you can't see, is "Homo, Towelhead, Fatso. Enough is enough!" This got me really worked up, and it's a flaw that the body of the web page doesn't have.

Fat people are not a protected group.

It's important that they never be. Shame, ridicule, goading, these are things we use to oppress minorities and people different from us. Well, OK. We shouldn't abuse folks for their religious dress, their gender orientations, their accents. But! The reason the good Lord gave us the capacity to abuse one another was so that we could change maladaptive behavior. Like being fat!

I know. There's like 8 guys in America that are fat because of some medical thing. It's these guys who suffer because of all the optionally fat people bringing shame upon them!

OK. There's that.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Address books and maiden names

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This is really just a gripe. I send out announcements, invitations and whatnot to married people using online applications. I don't think I'm unique in this. And yet, they always assume married people have the same last name. Right? Say I have two friends, James Johnson and Mary Smith*. I can enter them as 'Mary & James Johnson.' But, that'll sometimes anger Mary. And frankly, they could be living in sin. I don't think the protocol is really worked out in same sex marriages. But, the little announcement machine takes a first name and a last name. I could enter 'Mary Smith a' as the first name and 'nd James Johnson' as the last name, but I don't feel like I should be having to try to trick the machine.

This seems like a pretty common design flaw, so I'm griping about it.

* -- I just took the most common male, female and sur- names from this site.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

German Tourist Shot on Circle Line

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He laughs it off.
Mr. Bolowski suffered a nonlethal wound, a shot clear through his right shoulder blade, apparently from behind. With Mrs. Klein and Mrs. Bolowski still at his side, he was taken to Lincoln Hospital, aware and uncomplaining....
"He feels good," said Robert Bolowski, the victim's cousin. "He's not in a lot of pain...."

I wonder if the Times will follow up after he gets his medical bill. The US is the last place you want to get injured.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Integrity Meme

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This keeps coming up. As I've mentioned before, backing out of a no recourse mortgage is perfectly OK if your house's value has dropped below the outstanding mortgage, i.e. if you're 'underwater.' Even if you can make the payments, it's not your problem. The bank was also gambling, and they should have been way more aware of the economic environment than you.

I just wanted to make that point. Even though former Secretary Paulsen is largely discredited, his assertion that "people who can afford their mortgage payments but decide to walk away from their homes because of falling home prices were nothing more than 'speculators'" is maintaining some cultural currency.

I'll make the point again -- walking away from an underwater mortgage is the right thing to do. You're already propping up the banks through your tax dollars, you don't need to do it with your housing payments.

Not all home loans are non-recourse. It sounds sleazy, but some banks look past their culpability in approving frankly insane loans and go after the borrower. This was predictable, but it's a fad -- once this drives, say, 1.5 million people into bankruptcy I think the Federal Government will stop it. Say, 2013. Oo! Next president! I don't want to go out on a limb here, but I think it'll be Obama.

Fair and Balanced

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Nephos brought up Fox News old slogan, "Fair and Balanced," in the comments recently. Hold on, I'll check if they're still using it... they are.

Isn't it kind of nutty? 'Fair' is just there to distinguish 'balanced' as meaning something different from 'fair.' What can it mean? Here are the facts, on one side, and then we'll balance them with non-facts.

How could that possibly be attractive to a news consumer?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Why Goldman Sachs Executives Go Into Government

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So, we know there's a revolving door between Goldman Sachs and government. We also know that government jobs only pay a couple of hundred thousand dollars at most, and we believe GS people became GS people because money motivates them.

So, what gives?

[O]ne reader writes... “There is a special IRS law/code passed in 1991 that says when someone appointed to a government position needs to sell stock to avoid such a conflict of interest, then the sale will not be taxed. I wonder how many former Goldman employees working in government have used this tax loophole.”

The 5: As you know, we put Ian on the case. In the meantime, here’s a little back-of-the-envelope math turned out by CNNMoney. Paulson owned $480 million in GS stock with a cost basis anywhere between $50-240 million. At the time of his nomination in 2006, the capital gains tax break would have amounted to somewhere between $3-8 million over three years, depending on the cumulative rate of return on his investments.


There's a what? No wonder the American voter handed over control of Congress to the GOP. That's a pretty corrupt move. Can we get a role call vote on that? And did it go into effect under Bush 41?

Huh. This is the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. And it 'passed by voice vote.' It was first used under Clinton. And the New York Times discusses how Paulson could make $48M off it in 2006.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Letter to Nydia Velázquez

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Do you suspect that your representative may be one of the House progressives refusing to pass the Senate bill as is? Write her a letter!

Representative Velázquez,

I am not sure where you stand on passing the Senate version of the health care reform bill, but I plead with you to vote to do so.

Senate Republicans have not been shy about filibustering bills. It may be the case that the Senate will be able to pass no substation legislation at all for a year, until the 112th Congress is seated.

I am not very familiar with the particulars of the health care reform bill that the Senate did pass. I was disappointed that it did not include single-payer health care, or even a "public option." However, I trust that the bill is better than nothing, and I strongly believe that nothing is the other option.

The tasks before Congress involve ending two wars, reforming Wall Street, reversing Climate Change, republicizing and reforming incarceration, ending mercenaries, navigating the downturn and investigating the crimes of the Bush 43 administration. You have been hung up for nine months on health care reform. It is time to accept victory and move on.

Yours,

RFM

Could you tell I rang the bell at NASDAQ today?

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It was down 1 1/2 per cent by 11:10 AM. If you think that's bad, it was 2 1/5 % off yesterday's close. As of this writing, it's doing worse than both the DOW and the S&P 500.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Truth Lies Somewhere In Between


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I don't know if you've tried this, but try pointing out some obvious falsehood that we're supposed to believe to someone who is willing to engage you in conversation. They almost always say, "Well, the truth lies somewhere in between," which you can read as "I am going to sum up all of the expressed opinions I hear, and believe their rough consensus." This is why FOX News has more than one correspondent. If 8 of them say universal health care is a fascist doctrine, a viewer has to hear that's not true from 8 separate people before she or he even has a shot.

But, really, I'm just posting an XKCD strip, because it illustrated this problem so well.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Once the tipping point is reached, there would be essentially no opportunity for humans to react

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My expectation is that the Greenland Ice Sheet will start accelerating quite quickly, and one day plunge so quickly into the sea that it touches off a global tsunami, killing everyone within a topographically dependent distance from a coast. My gamble, as I don't want to live in Chicago, is that we'll have several months warning if we watch the sheet carefully, and my vague hope is that this is tens of years away.

That's just to express where I'm starting.

Canadian William Patterson suggests that tsunamis and sea level rise might not be the only problems.

Previous evidence from Greenland ice samples had suggested this abrupt shift in climate happened over the span of a decade or so. Now researchers say it surprisingly may have taken place over the course of a few months, or a year or two at most.

"That the climate system can turn on and off that quickly is extremely important," said earth system scientist Henry Mullins at Syracuse University, who did not take part in this research. "Once the tipping point is reached, there would be essentially no opportunity for humans to react."

...

[Isotope biogeochemist William Patterson at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and his colleagues]' findings also suggest that it may have taken 100 to 200 years before the lake and climate recovered, rather than the decade or so that Greenland ice cores had indicated.


So, well, I guess this isn't really news. We've expected Arctic melt to shut down the "Conveyor Belt" and plunge Europe into coldness until direct warming by the Greenhouse effect compensated. But, still, the timing's important.

Are the Southern Taconics the best place to hide? Where will the cities of the 22nd Century be?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

El Niño and the 2009 Hurricane Season

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Well, that's it. The 2009 Altantic Hurricane Season is officially over.
Nine named storms formed this year, including three hurricanes, two of which were major hurricanes at Category 3 strength or higher. These numbers fall within the ranges predicted in NOAA’s mid-season outlook issued in August....

"We were right kind of late, but we were right." So many people feel they can call a football game at the end of the third quarter.
“El Niño is expected to reach peak strength this winter, and will likely continue into the spring. It is far too early to say whether El Niño will be present next summer,” added Bell.
Funny thing is, when I asked Kerry Emmanuel about the impact of the Southern Oscillation on Hurricanes, he asked if I meant the North Atlantic Oscillation. So, I guess this is another story he's slow to accept.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ida's not quite done with us yet

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There's a lot of happy talk like "The NHC has issued its final advisory on this system" coming out of the National Hurricane Center. However, if you pay attention, forecaster Gerhardt also says stuff like "THE LOW IS EXPECTED TO REDEVELOP AND STRENGTHEN OFF THE CAROLINA COAST."

Ida's already killed hundreds of people in Central America, and she's coming for us. Have your go-bags close to hand.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ida done for?

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OK, It looks like Ida is going to dissipate in the uninhabited Gulf States of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and it's remnants will be discarded in the Atlantic, where they will move North before rebuilding serious convection.

At least Georgia's safe.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Called It

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Nephos has asked that I point out when I've been right. You may remember this little gem
I expect builders and banks both to start reaching out to management companies to rent all of these condos and houses that are starting to sit around. I don't know if there even are any national players, but that seems like a business that's going to seriously take off.


And today(PDF)?
Introduction
Fannie Mae is introducing the Deed-for-Lease Program (D4L), a program designed to minimize family displacement, deterioration of neighborhoods caused by vandalism and theft to vacant homes, and the effect these have on families, communities and home price stabilization. D4L allows qualifying borrowers of properties transferred through deed-in-lieu of foreclosure (DIL) to remain in their home and community by executing a lease of up to 12 months in conjunction with a DIL.
...
Effective Date
Servicers can begin offering D4L immediately.

Servicers are third parties. This is a great business. Short sale to Fannie Mae, then a third party charges enough so the tenant can't save up to buy back his or her house, but not so much that they have to evict.

Update: I should point out that was a 25-month lag

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ida

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ACE in October was only 18 % of normal, but November is looking to be a different story.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at1+shtml/145613.shtml?table#contents(click for current outlook)

Four days from now, we have a 1-5 chance of having a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Ida could then wiggle East and start coming up the coast for us. This will be our first Hurricane Ida, by the way. They had to retire the last 'I' name after Hurricane Isabel attacked the Pentagon and White House simultaneously. Not to suggest Al Qaeda's involved, but you never know.

This season has a fair way to go to meet the last given estimate. So, November may be a little punchy and we could get a number of post-season storms. I suspect the Atlantic is just trying to lull us.

Instant Runoff Voting

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Minnesota's mayor was just (re)elected by Instant Runoff Voting, on the same day that spoilers threw the Gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Florida and New York's 25th Congressional District (and actually won in New York.)

So, thanks, Minneapolis, for showing us how it's done. And, rest of the country, aren't you sick of spoilers? If New Jersey voters had been allowed to show their displeasure with Governor Corzine without voting for Chris Christie, wouldn't the world be a better place?

I think the iron is hot, now, and it's time to strike.

Puzzled about Fair Marriage

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As far as civil rights issues of our time go, Fair Marriage is definitely in the top ten in terms of currency -- there are a lot of worse injustices, but Fair Marriage takes up a lot of attention (for example, yesterday's ballot measure in Maine in our political sphere. And it puzzles me as an issue.

I have kind of two pole view of politics. There are people who believe in human rights, human dignity, human freedom, people who desire the future to be better than the present and for harmony to reign. We'll call such a person a 'Malech' and use the Hebrew pluralization style to call them collectively 'Malechem.' And issues get created when a powerful, entrenched interest sees a way to seek advantage by spreading confusion. Either they feel threatened -- and we get political issues around Climate Change -- see a way to benefit -- and we get private prisons and the Iraq War -- or just want to divert attention -- and we get US Weekly. I want to be super clear here: I don't believe 'values voters' have any values. I think issues generally are thrust on an unsuspecting public by the wealthy and powerful. I know that makes me explicitly a conspiracy theorist, so let's take back the term.

Nobody's pressuring Goldman Sachs to marry anybody, and I don't believe there's a material benefit to keeping homosexuals single (although tax codes always surprise me,) so it has to be a distracting measure. But, it simply doesn't seem to be tied to anything, or get called into service in response to an upswelling of interest in anything in particular, so it's not just a generic 'focus on the irrelevant' issue like abortion. Somebody really wants to keep gays from marrying.

More married couples would probably buy more houses and adopt more children, but there's a surfeit of both. So, one might think the intention is to keep the political activism of LGBT on marriage so they don't move on to the next thing. What would that even be? Whom would it threaten?

I just don't even have a clue here. Feel free to help me out.

Green Party Nearly Wins NYC Mayoral Election

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To borrow a line from the Democrats, if a local independent candidate hadn't siphoned off 50.6 % of the electorate, Billy Talen (G) would have gotten 51.4 % of the vote, easily besting second-placer William Thompson (D).

As it was, we beat the Rent is Too Damn High, Libertarian and Socialist Worker Parties, and come in fourth with nearly half the support of the Conservative Party candidate. Go, Team!

Update: You've kind of got to love Jimmy McMillan, of the Rent is Too Damn High party. 23 seconds in to the first entry on his videos page, he claims, "We can run this campaign without any money," definitely marking him as the anti-Bloomberg.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bad News for China and India

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So, it's now possible to sort bull semen so that dairy farmers have a 90 % chance of having a cow.
After it is collected from a bull at a stud farm, semen is mixed with a dye that sticks to DNA. A machine detects the extra dye sticking to X chromosomes and sorts the sperm. The sorted semen is frozen and sold to farmers who use it to inseminate their livestock.

(A fertility institute outside Washington is studying whether the same technique can be used safely in people. If it won approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the technology would let parents choose their baby’s sex.)
You can bet technologically advanced patriarchical cultures are working on this technology the world over. If it went into American cows in 2006, it'll go into Chinese and Indian people by 2011. So, 20 year old women per capita will drop to 0.1 in 2031, and China and India will suck the women out of Afghanistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and what have you. They will then be at war with these countries by 2041, and will have to drop their front with us, giving us some breathing room to rebuild our shattered economies far from our submerged coastal cities.

So, that's it. 32 years from today, we'll be back in business!

Monday, September 28, 2009

ACE in August 30 % Higher Than Normal

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So, check this out.
FOUR TROPICAL STORMS FORMED IN AUGUST...ONE OF WHICH REACHED MAJOR HURRICANE STATUS.

Well, OK. Fine. That sounds like a lot, but is it more than average?
THE LONG-TERM AVERAGE FOR AUGUST IS ABOUT 4
TROPICAL STORMS...2 HURRICANES...AND 1 MAJOR HURRICANE.

Oh, OK. So, despite the climate change and all, cyclone activity is down? We should have had another hurricane. That's good, right? Does this mean Kerry Emanuel is correct?
IN TERMS OF ACCUMULATED CYCLONE ENERGY...ACE...WHICH MEASURES THE COMBINED STRENGTH AND DURATION OF TROPICAL STORMS AND HURRICANES...AUGUST WAS ABOUT 30 PERCENT ABOVE THE LONG-TERM MEAN...PRIMARILY DUE TO HURRICANE BILL.

Well, to be fair, Dr. Emanuel has given up his conviction that climate change has nothing to do with hurricanes, which should make seeing him Tuesday night less contentious. But, the promise wasn't really more hurricanes. It was more hurricanes that did an insane amount of damage. So, ACE is up 30 per cent. I know the tendency is to simply count, so I wanted to bring that out.

The hurricanes in 2009 have apparently given up striking places we don't care about, like Mexico and the Confederacy, and barreling straight for the Union States, uncomfortably close to Manhattan. Sorry, Brooklyn. Danny canceled a boat ride I should have been on. That's not a good trend, either.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mail.com: Gangsters of the Internet

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I logged in to my mail.com account -- they offered free forwarding addresses for a few years, which degraded to crappy web mail. I think they've been bought and sold a few times. I gave a lot of people that address, because it was free forwarding. Like bigfoot.com. Don't use my bigfoot.com address, either, but that ship sailed years ago. Anyway, I have free forwarding from more reliable providers now, so I use my mail.com account to

1) see if anyone I knew in the 90s was trying to get back in touch. It happens.
2) look up email I received or sent from the mail.com web mail service.

All gone. The mail was all gone. This was their response to my complaint:
Dear Member,

Your account was deactivated because you had not logged in for 120 days.
UNFORTUNATELY THE EMAILS AND FOLDERS HAVE BEEN DELETED AND WE CANNOT RECOVER
THEM.

To avoid this type of unfortunate incident, we suggest you consider
purchasing one of our premium email services, which can be found in our
Premium Services section. They may be purchased for a reasonable price per
year, and your account will be safe from deactivation as long as the
subscription is current.

If you do not subscribe to one of our premium email services, you must log in
at least once every 120 days in order to keep your account active.

Please let us know if we can assist further.

Regards,
Your Support Team

--



Oscar P
Mail.com Support

"This type of unfortunate incident?" That's like "my brother's clumsy, he breaks things." So, mail.com was a corporation based in New Jersey a few years ago, I recall that they invited me to apply for some sort of position in 1998 or so. But, their business model seemed stupid. So, they were bought by some Hong Kong corporation, and passed through some hands. But, now they seem to be back under Jay Penske. And probably back in New Jersey, from their Sopranos-style emails.

So, Mail.com apparently owns Movieline and OnCars. I'd recommend staying away from those properties as well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hurricane Bill is Coming Right At Us

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I'm expecting it to make landfall in Manhattan next Friday, 8/27. I've got my plane tickets.

Ana, Bill and Claudette

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It's not looking like Claudette's going to become a hurricane, so we're not going to have last year's definitive progression where every cyclone became a named storm became a hurricane. But, still. Kicking off with three at once is pretty impressive.

Friday, August 14, 2009

When I type 'www' my browser autocompletes '.nhc.noaa.gov'

Is that wrong?

We have tropical depression two, by the way, and another tropical wave
looking like it could be Ana, just as the Great Book of Tuesday's
Christian Science Monitor predicted.
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/gtwo_atl.shtml
http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0812/p02s01-usgn.html

Oh, storm frequency's doubled in the Atlantic coast:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0813/p02s10-usgn.html
Although the New York Times changes the stress in the story.
Comically, really:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/science/earth/13atlantic.html?scp=1&sq=tropical%20storm%20one&st=cse
"Although current numbers are relatively high, they say, both
analytical methods suggest that a period of high storm frequency,
possibly even higher than today's, began in the year 900 and lasted
until 1200 or so."

OK, now I'm not trying to panic you, but that's just stupid. We're at
the beginning of a trend, and ten years in we've hit the previous high
point for a three-hundred year span of recorded history. Cornelia
Dean's bringing a very weird bias to the grey lady.

RFM

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Great Lesson of the Bailout

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I wanted to make this a longer posting, but... you know. Anyway, we've see AIG's first quarterly profit since 2007 and Goldman Sachs' -- who was largely the recipient of the credit default swaps we covered -- something like best quarter ever, as well as the biggest and most sustained sucker's rally in the history of the markets. Cash for Clunkers has teased a lot of money into Ford's pockets.

So, I just wanted to capture and crystallize what we've learned, which I think is this:

If you give money to corporations, they will then have that money.

Anyway, CfC is no doubt creating a lot more uncoverable debt; I kind of wonder who's financing it.

My father was always intrigued by the Hebraic tradition of the Jubilee Year, where all debts were forgiven. I kind of wonder if the government will pass a law making it illegal to collect on debts incurred before the enactment date.

I kind of wonder if we'll go to war over it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

1992 Was The Last Time We Had No Named Tropical Storms in the Atlantic by August Sixth

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I know you were wondering that, so I looked it up for you. I seem to have completely missed Tropical Depression One, although it's correct to say we've had no tropical depressions since the official beginning of the season, and that the only one we have had didn't last two days.

I was on the West Coast in 1992, so when people talk to me about Hurricane Andrew, I'm all like, "How about that new Coldplay album?" This is from the link

Hurricane Andrew is the second most powerful, and the last of three Category 5 hurricanes that made U.S. landfall during the 20th century, after the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Andrew caused 65 deaths.[1]

The first named storm of the 1992 Atlantic hurricane season, Andrew struck the northwestern Bahamas, southern Florida at Homestead (south of Miami), and southwest Louisiana around Morgan City in August.[2] Andrew caused $26.5 billion in damage ($38.1 billion in 2006 US dollars), with most of that damage cost in south Florida, although other sources put damage between $27 billion to $34 billion in total costs. Its central pressure ranks as fourth-lowest in U.S. landfall records and Andrew was the costliest Atlantic hurricane in U.S. history until surpassed by Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 season. It was also the first of two Category 4 or higher storms to strike the United States that year (Hurricane Iniki in the Central Pacific struck Hawaii a couple of weeks later).



So, OK. Here we go.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Speak of the Devil

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Here come old Ana.
A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED ABOUT 700 MILES WEST-SOUTHWEST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS IS PRODUCING DISORGANIZED SHOWER ACTIVITY.

ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM...IF ANY...IS LIKELY TO BE SLOW TO OCCUR AS IT MOVES WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15 MPH. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...LESS THAN 30 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

The Right to Bear Arms and Proactive Imprisonment

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Watching this little excerpt of the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, I had a bit of an epiphany regarding elected Republicans.

So, as an elected Republican, there are a few stances you are expected to take -- abortion is wrong, firearms are a fundamental right, poor people are bad -- but the firearm thing is kind of a nuisance, because people shoot each other with them. Nobody in the DC area was particularly tolerant of John Malvo, but if you think people's right to bear sniper rifles can not be infringed that sort of thing is difficult to stop.

The only way to maintain this unfettered access to all sorts of weapons is to develop predictive models about who might use them to shoot you or your constituents, and lock them up. John Malvo was an illegal alien, caught and released when he immigrated. If we kept all illegal aliens locked up indefinitely, he could not have killed anyone. If the Guantanamo inmates stay in Cuba forever, they're not shooting anyone here. Every moment that one in three black men spend behind bars, they're not exercising their constitutional rights to wander the Halls of Congress with handguns (Hey! Wait a minute! Even when the Republican Party was in power, that right was infringed. They've got metal detectors and humorless guards at the door! Cynthia McKinney was forced to strike one!)

While the GOP looks like histrionic cowards whenever they talk about law and order related issues, it's simply because they're trying to preserve everyone's right to take out a room full of people at a whim. You have to remove all the citizens who might do that for this to be a working philosophy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obesity now a risk factor for the swine flu

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I just want to point out the containing virtual folder for this Reuters story is 'latest crisis.' This kind of suggests they feel they should always be alarming us about something. I'm perfectly happy to blog about typography or flower arranging, I don't need manufactured crises.

Anyway, more bad news for the obese. Earlier today, we learned that they made their same sex children obese. Now...
Saying the new H1N1 virus is "unstoppable", the World Health Organization gave drug makers a full go-ahead to manufacture vaccines against the pandemic influenza strain on Monday and said healthcare workers should be the first to get one.
...
"Obesity has been observed to be one of the risk factors for more severe reaction to H1N1" -- something never before seen, [Dr. Marie-Paule] Kieny[, WHO director of the Initiative for Vaccine Research] added. It is not clear if obese people may have undiagnosed health problems that make them susceptible, or if obesity in and of itself is a risk.

So, I guess I'll stop by the gym and weigh myself. If I've fallen out of obesity again, I'll join you in pointing fingers at them and blaming them for their problems.

let the bank walk away

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While I didn't have the stones to do it myself, I've long advocated for buying a house you couldn't afford with easy credit and no money down, stop paying your option ARM when everybody else does, and live rent free while your bank works toward your foreclosure.

It turns out that this story can end more happily than I imagined.

The foreclosure, however, failed to go through after the California-based lender decided it didn't want the gutted house. Lass said he found out for certain that he still owned it from the Journal Sentinel.

Today, the house at 703 E. Lincoln Ave. sits condemned ...

The home represents a growing phenomenon known as walkaways - properties for which lenders sue for foreclosure but never take the title.

It's mid-July -- no tropical cyclones

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So, it's a strange year on our march to Armageddon. We've had cool, rainy temperatures, which I've been attributing to glacial melt, and no names storms. I heard some news guy say that Tropical Storm Carlos was the second named storm of the season -- that's right, the Atlantic has been so unforthcoming that the media is now blending our oceans.

This is after a year in which every identified tropical cyclone in the North Atlantic became, I believe, a hurricane. It's a nice experience, but of course I assume it's a transition to a much worse state of affairs. It doesn't seem like there's anything you can do about that, though, so you may as well enjoy the hurricanelessness while it lasts.

Obesity 'link to same-sex parent'

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[I]t was probably because of some form of "behavioural sympathy" where daughters copied the lifestyles of their mothers and sons their fathers.

Sorry about the extra 'u.' It's British. But, yeah, crap. I guess I've got to lose the obesity if I'm going to have children. I'd hope for girls, but my family's been overwhelmingly boys for generations.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Climate Change expectations getting more realistic

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I can't tell you how happy this makes me.
The new projections, published this month in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees. This can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees. The difference is caused by several factors rather than any single big change. Among these are improved economic modeling and newer economic data showing less chance of low emissions than had been projected in the earlier scenarios. Other changes include accounting for the past masking of underlying warming by the cooling induced by 20th century volcanoes, and for emissions of soot, which can add to the warming effect. In addition, measurements of deep ocean temperature rises, which enable estimates of how fast heat and carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere and transferred to the ocean depths, imply lower transfer rates than previously estimated.

Yeah. The estimate's more than doubled in 6 years because the model's have all changed. Or is it that scientists who present these inconvenient truths no longer fear getting shot in the face by Richard Bruce Cheney? If it's actually model improvement, and model improvement causes a doubling rate of five years, we're pretty much toast. The mean July high for New York City is 83 °F. Adding 5.2 °C would give us the same mean July high as Miami.

Professor Krugman yesterday pointed out some issues
[T]he House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill... [b]ut if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth.... [T]o believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.


We can start to have some hope around Climate Change science affecting policy, although I still don't think there's a big chance Congress will meet my goal of ceasing electrical production with greenhose gas emissions by July 17 of 2018.

I'm sort of hoping that if we do start to take our imminent demise seriously, we can still avoid war with China.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We're the reason Iran is not democratic

link
So, people settled Iran a while ago, and a lot's happened since. I'm going to zero in on the last 56 years. As I've mentioned, Iran actually struggled out from underneath a history of autocracy and colonialism to install a democratic government in 1951, and was deposed by us in 1953. I know that sounds like Belgians shooting Lumumba or any number of wacky conspiracy theories that you hear, and that the truth must be more complex. Well, do your own research. You can start in the New York Times.

But, when Iran comes up, and especially when we talk about their making democratic reforms, we really have to keep returning to this point. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei didn't arbitrarily designate us as 'The Great Satan.' We really did overthrow the democratic government and install a dictator in service to British oil interests. They're in a theocracy now because they didn't like that.

When I searched the New York Times for the above link, I found Nick Kristoff's column yesterday, where comments 4 and 5 refer to the coup, as does an Op-Ed today by a Columbia history professor. So, it's in the public discourse, which is a little comforting.

Five Mature Adaptations

link (it's not going to take you very far)
So, returning to the last blog post, one needs five or six of the Seven Pillars of Happiness at age 50 to be 'happy well' at age 80 according to George Vaillant's analysis of Grant Study data. I don't know what happens to people with Seven, but it's probably not good. Anyway, my current plan is to go for all seven with the expectation that one (or two!) will be unattainable.

The First Pillar is 'mature adaptations,' altruism, humor, sublimation, anticipation and suppression. I believe the idea is, you have to walk around ready to use one of these five adaptations in any (otherwise) anxiety-producing arena. So, we have to remember what they are. One problem is, they make a sucky mnemonic acronym, first because there are no end stopped first letters -- one of the two consonants is 'H' and the other is 'S' -- but because the five words start with only three letters. If you went with 'assha[t]', for instance, you right off get confused with whether your talking about altruims or anticipation first, and you've got to make something up for 't.' Maybe 'tidiness'? The planets (my very educated mother just served us nine... oh, sorry. Um, jumped straight upon Neville?) or g-clef (every good boy deserves fudge) have little mnemonic sentences, which fails on the one hand for the same reason, and on the other because there's no intrinsic ordering for adaptations. We can be expected to keep Mercury and Mars straight, so the two Ms in the first sentence don't really create a problem.

In these cases, I don't think we have a lot of options other than digging down a level into the semantics, and making a rhyme based on the meaning. Something you can crochet and hang in the nursery. Something like

Do for others when you can,
when you can't, laugh at 'em;
plan for miseries to come
and when they come, postpone 'em;
Follow your base prim'tive drives,
in a way that none can see


Clearly, that's not going to catch on. But, submissions are welcome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happiness

link
So, I fell off the edge of the World, and am now in Brooklyn. But, since I had to blog anyway to note that I'd run up again in an Overheard in New York Headline Contest, I thought I'd check in in a slightly more rural, salt of the Earth sort of way.

So, happiness, really, is the goal. Not the Todd Solondz movie, which while a fine movie is a terrible date movie, but the state of being which Bhutan purports to let drive its public policy. Here's the current conventional thinking:
[H]appiness scientists have come up with all kinds of straightforward, and actionable, findings: that money does little to make us happier once our basic needs are met; that marriage and faith lead to happiness (or it could be that happy people are more likely to be married and spiritual); that temperamental “set points” for happiness—a predisposition to stay at a certain level of happiness—account for a large, but not overwhelming, percentage of our well-being. (Fifty percent, says Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness. Circumstances account for 10 percent, and the other 40 percent is within our control.)

That's pretty useful to know, but there was this astonishing latitudinal study done on JFK, former WaPo editor (and 'Vice President at large') Ben Bradlee and 266 other students from the Harvard classes of 1947, 48 and 49 (WW II vet age) and further informed by a group of poor Boston boys identified in 1937 and high IQ girls from 1920s California written up in the Atlantic Monthly this month.

It seems pretty 'sensitive dependence of initial conditions'-ish, but the article is about a study which originally sought to make prescriptive statements about happiness. I'm going to allow the possibility that stuff that happens to one can have an effect. But, the article suggests a lot to watch out for. It's also fun to read, and has a lot about the study's current steward, George Vaillant, who in his most recent book suggests faith in God is essential to happiness -- I've come to believe this myself, so he's already winning me over.

I do recommend you read the whole thing, but here's the money graf:
What allows people to work, and love, as they grow old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant, who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically.

Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.”
Let's make this about me. I'm 41. I'm educated, I don't smoke, I exercise some. That's three. Eh, abusing alcohol. There doesn't seem to be any level that's really good for you([A]lcoholism... is probably the horse, and not the cart, of pathology.), so I don't know where abusing starts. I've been married less than three months. It seems pretty stable, but it's where it is in nine years that matters, apparently. Assuming I... or, you know, we can nail that down, I've either got to stop drinking or get to a healthy weight. Or, I could get into these 'mature adaptations,' so let's look at what they are.

The article mentions
  • altruism,
  • humor,
  • anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort),
  • suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and
  • sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship)
I feel like I'm doing pretty good on those, so I guess I can stop worrying about obesity.

This is another bit I love:
Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak.
I am always counseling people to open themselves up to emotional pain, to stay vulnerable in the face of the terrors of others, for some abstract payoff. It's nice to have Science on my side. There's more great relationship advice.
"On the bright side... reaction formation allows us to care for someone else when we wish to be cared for ourselves.” But in intimate relationships... the defense “rarely leads to happiness for either party."
Maybe I'm just hearing what I want to hear, but it sounds like emotional reactions have to be pretty carefully managed.
Regular exercise in college predicted late-life mental health better than it did physical health.
That's not good. Maybe some of you who went to college with me can help me out, but as I recall it, I quite running when I was 19 because it interfered with my smoking, and that's pretty much where things stood for five years. I can't be expected to remember myself, because...
[O]lder people tend to remember fewer distressing images (like snakes) and more pleasant ones (like Ferris wheels) than younger people. By giving a profound shape to aging, this tendency can make for a softer, rounder old age, but also a deluded one.

Overheard in New York: Ran Up Again!

link
Thought I'd let you know.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Quiz: Do private interests outdo government at assessing and pricing risk?

there's no link
It seems like there's two possible responses to this question: yes and no. If yes, then you'd have to believe having the government buy structured derivatives products to 'make a market' is foolhardy on its face. If no, then we really don't need investment banks at all, and we should take this opportunity to let them fade away (for what it's worth, this is my side.)

I don't know if I've said this in the blog, but I think desecuritization is a goal we should take on. Maybe assess a tax on tranches, to incite financiers to put the mortgages, credit card balances and student loans back together, and then a regulation that the owner of a loan had responsibility for seeing it serviced.

These credit backed securities were fundamentally misguided, I think everyone accepts now. But, I don't hear about any initiatives about unwinding them. I don't know why this is not generally accepted as a goal.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The 80s called... they want their usufructs back

link via Agora
No good, in fact, will come of a campaign to sustain the unsustainable, which is exactly what the Obama program is starting to look like. In the folder marked "unsustainable" you can file most of the artifacts, usufructs, habits, and expectations of recent American life: suburban living, credit-card spending, Happy Motoring, vacations in Las Vegas, college education for the masses, and cheap food among them. All these things are over. The public may suspect as much, but they can't admit it to themselves, and political leadership has so far declined to speak the truth about it for them -- in short, to form a useful consensus that will allow us to move forward effectively.
I'll save you the trouble. 'Usufruct' is the right to use something you won't damage. Like, when a developer builds a building in a public passageway, forcing people to walk through private property? That's a usufruct.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Afghanistan is bigger than Iraq

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So, I'm traveling for business, and I have a rental car. So, I listen to the radio, and to broadcast news. In broadcast news, you just sit and hear whatever some corporation or other feels you should know -- in general, this is pretty bad for democracy, but you do hear things you wouldn't seek out.

NPR told me yesterday that Afghanistan was not only bigger, but more populous than Iraq. I could have told you that Iraq had about 27 million people when we invaded, but that Afghanistan had 32? I would have said around 5. But, no. It's big. Closer to California than Texas in population.

Obama-era survey on Bush

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A lot of hay has been made over this C-SPAN survey of 36 historians, which puts Bush 43 not at the bottom and Ronald Reagan -- friend of petroleum and defense interests, enemy of public welfare and education, who turned America into history's largest creditor (while Dubya exacerbated every problem he encountered, he did not create every difficulty he left us with), in the top half. It sort of makes you wonder how much presidents suck in general.

The survey gives us two things to talk about -- movement from the 2000 survey and components. Three if you count the participants, but I don't know anything about historians. The public story is that they moved this one after inauguration so they could do it for Darwin/Lincoln's 200th birthday, but you feel they kind of wanted to get the end of Shrub's episode; Clinton was rated 21st in the last year of his administration before the Marc Rich pardon. Now, he's rated 15th.

The Clinton movement is pretty interesting. In 2000, there were people who thought the internet bubble wouldn't all end in tears, NAFTA might work out, and NEWCAG was a genius. The biggest things weighing him down were military actions in Kosovo and Somalia, and some personal peccadilloes. I guess we've decided that presidents are entitled to their little invasions here and there, and all we ask is moderation, as well as the idea that integrity and capability in your role as a public servant don't have a lot to do with whether or not you cheat on your wife. 8 years of a teetotaler with no known record of adultery and a military service record have warmed us up to Bubba, although even his successor beat him on moral authority. It turned out our signifiers were all wrong.

Americans are taught as children that the slavery compromise in The Constitution made the Civil War inevitable, but apparently adults blame it on James Buchanan. I don't have a personal opinion on what caused the Civil War, but it's bad and he's the scapegoat, but shouldn't Bush 43 be at best second worst? Anyway, it's Carter that chaps my ass -- he's ranked under Cleveland, Taft and McKinley! And going down!

I find it hard to talk about the breakouts because they seem a little crazy. "Pursued Equal Justice for All" is Guantanamo George's, best known before running for President for condemning the retarded to death, best ranking. If he's 24th in that, what should we think of the bottom 18*? "Performance within context of times" still damns Buchanan as worst, but 43's ranking is the same as his overall. Apparently, historians don't buy this "historical context" hogwash, except to say that JFK had it easy: he's 6th overall and 12th in context. George W. Bush even beats Buchanan (and Hoover, which I could see) on economic management, so I'm thinking there's some anti-Buchanan bias around. You'd think if we can rehabilitate McCarthy, we could do a little work on Buchanan, but no. He only beats our former President in International Relations -- Nixon's, as you'd expect, best rank at 11, down from 8 in 2000.

64 historians participated. The methodology's not super clear, but I think each historian rated each president as a percentile in each of ten categories, and C-Span used massive parallel supercomputers to average them. Then, they summed the average for a total score (the methodology, averaging the input then summing, suggest they didn't get responses back from all historians in all areas. So, there's some hidden bias.)

* -- As Cleveland served twice, 85-89 and 93-97, there are 43 presidencies, but only 42 presidents.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Obama-era polls on Bush

link
I'm in a hotel in South Bend, Indiana, and they bring me USA Today. My rewards profile says to bring me the Journal, but they bring USA Today, which always makes me feel like I'm on the business end of a misinformation campaign.
Close to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.

Even more people want action on alleged attempts by the Bush team to use the Justice Department for political purposes. Four in 10 favored a criminal probe, three in 10 an independent panel, and 25% neither.
Of course, what do you want to know when you read a public opinion poll? You want -- and it's not like I can see into your heart from here, everybody wants this -- to know how that's changed. But, USA Today isn't going to tell you, because it didn't know. I would have answered 'yes' to the question "Should the Bush Administration be investigated for probably illegal practices?" in 2002, and frankly for most of 2001. I'd guess that between 30 and 70 per cent of the American public felt a special prosecutor should be appointed at any given moment in the Bush 43 Presidency.

But, USA Today didn't ask. It sort of tried to make a frame in which everyone was OK with illegality as long as Oceania was at war with Eastasia. But, we weren't. We just weren't asked. So, the headlne should maybe be
Newspapers try to reingratiate themselves with American People after totally abdicating their responsibilities

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unmotivated

there's no link

I'm trying to explain why I'm not posting. And, you know, here's the problem. If the Zeitgeist is with me, I've got nothing to say. A year ago, I could say, "Our economy based on retail spending fueled by a ludicrous expectation of eternally accelerating increase in real home values will detonate, obliterating the fantastical idea that 'innovative finance' was anything more than theft by the well-connected" and have some disagreement. Now, people just say, "Obviously. But, how do we get back on track?" It's sad. Over the past, say, twelve years we've been living on imaginary money, and that's got to balance out over the next few decades. This is neither a fun nor an interesting thing to say. There's an interesting drama playing out, where possible stakeholders in our future world of finance are (at least) one of two things: complicit or clueless. That is, anybody who can speak comfortably of the milieu of modern finance is probably partly responsible for its problems. The problem with talking about how this process plays out is that it's all behind the scenes. There's nothing to link to -- I'd become a source of information myself, and I'm really happier as an analyst.

WARFism is also arising on the climate change front. We've gone from people who don't really feel they have a stake in whether human life gets wiped out -- this was the kind of odd impression the Bush 43 administration made on me -- to people who, as they grapple with the issues, will come to understand that We Are Royally Fucked. Even if American meets my challenge to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production by July 17, 2018, humankind has at best even chances to make it to the end of the century.

I could talk about what 200% inflation is going to be like, but 'unpleasant' really sums it up.

It's not like people don't know there's trouble. What is there left to say? The current presidential administration wasn't elected on a platform of perfidy, or reelected after assuring the people that he'd had the epiphany that his job was 'hard work.'

The people who were enforcing the central lies of our lives have had it blow up in their faces. They're either begging for TARP money or registering for jobs as lobbyists, so I don't feel like I have to argue against them strenuously. I'm not officially hanging up the laptop, but....

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Relativity for Kids

there's no link.
A friend sent me this email regarding her son:

Hi there. I need help with a question that Max just asked.

If someone is traveling at the speed of light, could they see themselves in a mirror?
This was my reply. I'll point her here if you'd like to chime in with supplements.
Well, that's very similar to the question that Einstein asked -- what happens if you run as fast as a beam of light -- and to answer it, you have to change the way you think about the world. Fundamentally.

The speed of light isn't a speed you can go. It's just the end of what 'fast' is. A fuel tank has a gauge, it reads 'empty' to 'full.' For speed, 'Empty' is analogous to not moving. 'Full' is the speed of light. It doesn't make sense to talk about speeds past that any more than it would make sense to add gas to a full tank.

So, OK. The speed of light is the end of acceleration. You can't go the speed of light, because if you could, you could just juice it a little more and go faster, which wouldn't make any sense. You can only approach the speed of light. Acceleration gets harder and harder the closer you get.

Now, what does speed mean? If I leave my house, and trot along at 3 MPH, I'm moving at 3 MPH relative to my house. But, what about when I can't see my house? How would I know how fast I was moving? There's a bunch of other stuff in my neighborhood that moves at the same speed as my house, and I can choose one of those things to measure myself against. But, I have to choose something. And, as I measure it, I'm really measuring how fast that thing is moving relative to me. I really never move, from my perspective, right? We're all the center of our worlds, just like it feels.

Those are two points.
(1) I don't ever actually move. Things move relative to me.
(2) Those things never go as fast as the speed of light.

I forget how old Max is. Ah... you got married in, what, 1993? So, he was born in 1994? He's 14? Einstein was 16, you know. Anyway, I'm not going to muddy the waters with quantum dynamics. I'm not super sure I resolve them off the top of my head, anyway -- I think there's some outstanding paradox; I believe there was some news in recent years, but I didn't follow.

Clearly, there are some implications for time, here, and resolving that has some implication for linear distance. But, I'll let Max work those out for himself.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Liberals

link
Hee, hee.
Now added to the pantheon of "liberal" dogma is the shrill, ideological belief that high government officials must abide by our laws and should be treated like any other citizen when they break them. To believe that now makes you not just a "liberal," but worse: a "liberal score-settler." Apparently, one can attain the glorious status of being a moderate, a centrist, a high-minded independent only if one believes that high political officials (and our most powerful industries, such as the telecoms) should be able to break numerous laws (i.e.: commit felonies), openly admit that they've done so, and then be immunized from all consequences. That's how our ideological spectrum is now defined.
You tell 'em, Glenn.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Patent and Trademark Giveaway cartoons

link
If you're still angry about the Boston Garden being renamed the 'Failed Bank Auditorium for Sports,' or whatever it is, this is a pretty funny series of cartoons. Don't miss Frito Lay the Verizon Middletown City Council meeting.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Two Words: Forest Fire

link at 1:02
Now, the very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it's not beyond our ability to solve.

That's not what that means. If a crisis is of your own making, you have to change your patterns of behavior and responses to events -- that's hard. Not to be not hopeful, but I'm not tracking the rhetoric.

Foreskin

link
So, I was just coming to this blog to post this apology; I typed 'Male' into Firefox's address bar and hit 'enter.' I got the Google search for 'male', which included this fascinating page on foreskins, which I know almost nothing about. I'm sure I've seen them, but I've never noted one outside the movies.

The foreskin performs several important functions. Most of these functions center on making sex more enjoyable, not only for just one, but for both partners.

Protection
Makes sex feel better
Lubricates during intercourse
Lubricates during masturbation
Reduces the drop insensitivity through age
Allows the erection to grow
Increases sensitivity slowing intercourse


They sound like great things.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Manhattan Exceptionalism draws to a close

link
In Manhattan, the inventory of apartments listed for sale rose almost 40 percent from a year ago to 9,081 units. Apartments sat on the market for an average 159 days before selling in the fourth quarter, up 21 percent from a year earlier, Miller Samuel and Prudential said.
...
Almost no new contracts were signed on condominiums in the quarter, said Miller.
...
New Yorkers paid less for smaller apartments. The median price of a studio fell 8.5 percent to $420,000, according to Miller Samuel. One bedroom prices were $715,000, down 4.5 percent.

Prices rose 9.1 percent for two-bedroom apartments to a median of $1.62 million. Three bedroom apartments slid 6.4 percent to $4.05 million, Miller Samuel said.
...
In the luxury market, defined as the top 10 percent of sales by price, the median fell to $4.13 million in the fourth quarter from $4.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. Inventory rose 26 percent to 1,730 apartments. Luxury units stayed on the market 169 days, 52 more days than the same period a year earlier.
...
“Foreign investors are having a real tough time getting mortgage money, and a lot of those young affluent buyers aren’t so affluent any more,” [Pam] Liebman, [chief executive officer of Corcoran in Manhattan] said.

Still, if you can borrow at 5.1 % ... say prices deflate 2%/year over the next two years before 20% inflation hangs around for another eight years. Prices will have gone up (.98)^2(1.2)^8 - 1 = 313%. If the real value of your house is half what it is now, the nominal value will still have more than doubled, or gone up 7.2 % a year. So, you're borrowing at 5.1% to get a 7.2% return. That's like free money.

Sticking with our assumption that the next two years will have 2 % deflation and ten years from now your house will have half its real value, you'd break even if years three through ten were at 16.6 %. If you expand the time horizon to 15 years (and your house will probably hang steady at half it's Q109 real value), you could let years three through fifteen be at 12 % inflation. You've got to agree that a twelve per cent inflation rate from 2011 to 2024 is a pretty conservative estimate. Paying off a 5.1% fixed interest loan on a depreciating asset will feel airy and light!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

iPod Platelet

link
To review, I started accumulating platelet donation points in the interest of getting an iPod Nano 3G at 2600 points.
I bought an iPod Nano.
I had the NYPD write my driver's license number on it with indelible ultraviolet ink.
I went to a Yankees game and lost the iPod. The police said that to even file the thing as missing, I'd have to go back to the Bronx. How could I have ever thought going to a baseball game was going to work out for me?
I've reached 2200 points in platelet donations. On January 11th, I'll reach 2550 points (100 pts + 100 pts for Sunday, 100 pts for a triple and 50 points for a critical period.) So close.
So... they don't offer the iPod 3G any more. The 4G looks suckier, doesn't power by firewire, and won't fit the various 3G paraphernalia* I own. The big problem with it is that it's 4044 points -- another 15 100 point donations (or 5 300 point donations) after Sunday.
Well, OK. I can accept that I get punished for cheating. But, I'm going back to Maya-land at the end of March. My last trip to Cobá kept me from donating for 6 months, as it's malarial, and not donating for 6 months invalidates all of my points.
Apparently, I'm in a race against the clock.

* -- A win for Firefox's spell checker. Apparently, I've been incorrectly dropping the second 'r' from that word my whole life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Powell Aide Lawrence Wilkerson backs me up

link
I haven't received the general agreement I expected to my assertion that Sarah Palin was "George Bush without Connections." But, here's something.
Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that as a new president, Bush was like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee whom critics said lacked knowledge about foreign affairs.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Conventional Wisdom Update on Climate Change

link via TalkingPointsMemo
Could the time for Happy Talk be drawing for a close? It seems like sections of the government are forgetting Shrub is still president. One of my prospective brothers-in-law was saying the other day that Bush 43 had been a disastrous president -- it always makes me anxious to hear the President being spoken of in the past tense. He's still there, doing terrible things, and to forget that renders us blind to the danger.

Anyway, the USGS, who you'd think would be out trying to find kleptocrats to turn over mining rights to (just kidding, I know that's the Bureau of Land Management,) released a study announcing climate change was happening faster than they'd previously been willing to admit.

Are you ready for what the Federal Government now believes? This is from the [PDF] executive summary:

Based on an assessment of the published scientific literature, the primary conclusions presented in this report are:

• Recent rapid changes at the edges of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets show acceleration of flow and thinning, with the velocity of some glaciers increasing more than twofold.... Inclusion of these processes in models will likely lead to sea-level projections for the end of the 21st century that substantially exceed the projections presented in the IPCC AR4 report (0.28 ± 0.10 m to 0.42 ± 0.16 m rise)....

• [S]ubtropical aridity is likely to intensify and persist due to future greenhouse warming. This projected drying extends poleward into the United States Southwest, potentially increasing the likelihood of severe and persistent drought there in the future...

• The strength of the [northward flow of warm, salty water in the upper layers of the Atlantic, and the southward flow of colder water in the deep Atlantic, {which} plays an important role in the oceanic transport of heat from low to high latitudes.] will decrease over the course of the 21st century in response to increasing greenhouse gases, with a best estimate decrease of 25-30%.... [RFM: this means the lower latitudes will heat up much faster than the upper latitudes, and New York City, to choose a place at random, may even get colder for some time.]

• A... doubling of northern high latitudes CH4 emissions[RFM:, a much more intense greenhouse gas that Carbon Dioxide,] could be realized fairly easily. However, since these models do not realistically represent all the processes thought to be relevant to future northern high-latitude CH4 emissions, much larger (or smaller) increases cannot be discounted.

So, there you are. The main point here is that scientists continue to discount the impending global tsunamis predicted by this blog. They laughed at me! I should build a giant robot, or something.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hope

link
I popped open my Christmas Kindle today to get the paper, and what did I see?
John P. Holdren, a physicist and environmental policy professor at Harvard, will serve as the president’s science adviser as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology. Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist from Oregon State University, will lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which overseas ocean and atmospheric studies and performs much of the government’s research on global warming.

Dr. Holdren will also be a co-chairman the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology along with the Nobel Prize-winning cancer research Dr. Harold Varmus, a former director of the National Institutes of Health, and Eric S. Lander, a genomic researcher.
It struck me that maybe our perceived cynicism about politics was because bad things kept happening to us, and our apathy was because we didn't seem to be able to do much about it. I'm ready for good things to happen.

I do think it's too late to stop a catastrophic collapse of civilization. However! I've been wrong before -- as, uh, regular readers know -- and I'm very open to being wrong about this. It's really nice to see government being set up to respond in powerful ways. I don't even know how to respond, other than positively. Gobama!

I was 11 years old when Reagan took office, and we've just been in a world of shit since then. I'm giddy about the prospect of good governance.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Geek Out with some hurricane animation

link
I did.

Congress Catches On

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Mel Watt, a Representative from Charlotte, North Carolina, asks Interim Assistant Treasury Secretary Neel Kashkari what I think is a key question: Is Goldman Sachs running this country? Ah... this isn't going to end well. Still, I guess it's better to know the truth.

Update: Apparently my fact-checking team failed to confirm which state Charlotte was in. It's updated from South Carolina.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prosperity is just around the corner

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The Simpsons features a bratty child, and starts every episode with him repeatedly writing upon a chalkboard some assertion that an authority figure wants him to internalize, like "I will not [do some prank.]" This episode, he writes "Prosperity is just around the corner."

Ah, adulthood. I can repeatedly warn you about stagdeflation, and a depression which will compare to the Great Depression like World War II did to World War I, and I still get supper. Heck, I could have dessert if I wanted it.

Ha!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Inflation on and after 2006

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So, to quote Nephos, who linked to a very pretty picture
An interesting example is looking at US inflation around WW1: Inflation skyrocketed at the end of the war as the US invested in sending its work force toward futile engagement in the trenches. And then deflation skyrocketed once they came home. The average over this period was probably somewhere in the vicinity of something small.
Using the linked table -- and there's a line between quoting and stealing I'm never sure when I cross, but I make you click in to the table -- inflation in the year 1924 was zero, so we'll treat that as a turning point (even though the year before was positive, at 1.8%) and end in 1923. Inflation jumps from 1% in 1914 and 1915 to 7.9% in 1916, so we'll start in 1916. This gives us inflation rates of 7.9, 17.4, 18, 14.6, 15.6, -10.5, -6.1 and 1.8 per cent per year, which add up to a 1915 dollar being worth 93 cents at the end of 1916 and 59 cents at the end of 1923. Deflation starts in again about half-way through 1926 -- remember that's supposed to be the middle of a great economic boom -- so the 1915 dollar bottoms out at 58 cents in 1926 before zooming back up to 78 cents (nearly its 1917 value) after 1933. In 1943, it's back to 58 cents.

Look, I made a plot.
The four post WWI years 1930 - 1933 had a lot of deflation, and it took ten years to undo them. Using this as a precedent, buying a house could still be an extremely sucky investment. However, I think the path of inflation will be the one we'll follow.

More on the Pessimism Bottom

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This is from a[nother] reader of Agora Financial's Five-Minute Forecast. As you know, I like to make obvious points seem more credible by having someone else repeat them.
“Barton Biggs is no doubt a great moneyman,” writes a reader in response to a Biggs essay we published last Tuesday . “His assertion... ‘We must be pretty close to maximum bearishness’ sound[s] like... cheerleading, to me.”
...
“We’ve hit the point of maximum pessimism? The point of maximum pessimism can only be known in hindsight. People will get more and more pessimistic as their personal conditions/news get worse. If you are saying it’s not possible for people to be more pessimistic than they are now, I disagree. Whether or not they do become more pessimistic is another argument and will depend on what happens to them. (I have a couple of friends who left Liberia at the start of the civil war. They were really pessimistic then. In fact, I was so concerned, I recommended counseling, but they still felt they would be back in Monrovia before Christmas. Ha. Somewhere over the next five years, they hit their point of maximum pessimism.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

I'm now eligible for a Pulitzer

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The Pulitzers wouldn't be the Pulitzers without the Christian Science Monitor to give them to. With the CSM going online-only, this means...
Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler told E&P that "we are expanding the Pulitzers to include many text-based newspapers and news organizations that publish only on the Internet." At the same time, they are "stressing" that all entered material should come from news outlets that publish material at least weekly, "are primarily dedicated to original news reporting, are dedicated to coverage of ongoing stories and that adhere to the highest journalistic principles."
Which leaves the door open for yours truly.