Sunday, December 31, 2006

More underlying drivers of the housing bubble

I think if I stop pretending each post is going to be my last, I'll get out of here sooner.
Why is Freddie Mac granting all of these illegal campaign contributions? Could it be, say, to perpetuate pernicious policies promoting private property purchase?

OK, Just one more post for 2006

I'm back from vacation, and catching up on some of TPM before heading off to New Year's parties. But, I have to suggest this piece on Saddam Hussein's hanging:
Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.
It's nice to read! This is more or less the gospel that I've been spreading through the country when encountering news of Mr. Hussein's death. This is really a wonderful blog.

I yield the remainder of my time to the Gentleman from Good Harbor Consulting

Talking Points Memo sent me to this little piece by Richard Clarke, which lists 7 major geopolitical crises that are currently being ignored. He charitably blames the Iraq Occupation, but does remind that Shrub was a bumbler even before he got it into his head to steamroll a foreign country to show strong leadership.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Margarine is as evil as we've always suspected

So, The Wall Street Journal is as for the New York City Trans Fats ban as you'd expect.
You wouldn't know it from the media coverage, but the science on the dangers of trans fats is still being debated
You have to love the "I'm lying to you, but I expect you to not notice" formulation. Anthropogenic Global Climate Change is being debated. The Holocaust is being debated. This just means that somebody feels obfuscation is in their interest.

But, margarine -- like all these 'low fat' substitutes for real foods -- has always been suspect. And here's the official word from the New York City Department of Health:
Trans fat is the most dangerous fat. It increases LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and lowers HDL ("good") cholesterol. Based on conservative estimates, trans fat is responsible for at least 500 deaths from heart disease in New York City each year. Trans fat has no known health benefits. Unlike saturated fat, there is no safe level of artificial trans fat consumption.

A little good news about flu vaccines

It turns out that getting a flu shot can be beneficial even if they predict the strain mix wrong. Now, I don't know how quick I'd be to extend that result to the bird flu, but the professional scientist people seem to.

Suzanne Ohmit of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and her colleagues found that in the fall of 2004, Sanofi-Pasteur's FluZone vaccine was 77 percent effective and MedImmune Inc.'s Flumist worked in 57 percent of the cases even though the flu strain making the rounds that year was not selected for the vaccine.


Bird flu is expected to be so novel nobody will have any immunity to it, said Monto. As a result, people are going to need two doses of the vaccine, just as children who have never been exposed to regular influenza need two doses of the flu vaccine to be protected.

He Questioned All Things

This is a neat little quote from The History Of Love.
That he questioned all things, even the most simple, to the extent that when someone passing him on the street raised his hat and said, "Good day," Litvinoff often paused so long to weigh the evidence that by the time he'd settled on an answer the person had gone on his way, leaving him standing alone.
I can tell you, this is a paralyzing way to live. But, I like to think, in a Lemony Snickett way, it makes it harder for your enemies to find you.

Iraqi Red Crescent shown what being attacked really is

Dec 15: Iraqi Red Crescent Complains Of Harassment by U.S. Forces
"The main problem we are facing is the American forces more than the other forces," Dr. Karbouli told reporters in Geneva. "The insurgents, they are Iraqis, a lot of them are Iraqis, and they respect the Iraqis. And they respect our [the Red Crescent's] identity, which is neutrality."


"We have flags, we have everything, we have [the] logo, so [U.S. forces] know everything, but unfortunately they come again and attack us many times," Dr. Karbouli said. He complained that U.S. forces broke doors and windows at the Red Crescent headquarters "and they didn't find anything, and they left."
Dec 17: Gunmen Carry Out Mass Kidnapping At Baghdad Red Crescent Office
Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms burst into Red Crescent offices on Sunday and kidnapped more than two dozen people at the humanitarian organization in the latest sign of the country's growing lawlessness.


In the latest violence, gunmen in five pickup trucks pulled up at the office of the Iraqi Red Crescent in downtown Baghdad and abducted 25 employees and three security guards from an adjacent building, police said. A Red Crescent official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said the gunmen left women behind.

The Red Crescent, which is part of the international Red Cross movement, has around 1,000 staff and some 200,000 volunteers in Iraq. It works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which visits detainees and tries to provide food, water and medicine to Iraqis. "We don't know who they are. We don't know why they did this," said Antonella Notari, a Red Cross spokeswoman in Geneva.

She also said the organization was in contact with the Iraqi Interior Ministry, which denied any involvement and had assured that they were searching for the abductees.
Well, OK. Please stop attacking the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The New York Times, typically trying to toe the administration line while hinting it knows better, suggests in its headline that the Iraqi Resistance attached the IRC, which has now suspended operations, which pointing another way in its text, to wit
Dr. Jamal Al-Karbouli, the vice president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, ... told reporters. “[The insurgents] respect our (the Red Crescent’s) identity, which is neutrality.”

And then, as if on cue (and only to prove him wrong), gunmen wearing police uniforms — easy to come by on Iraq’s black market, Marc Santora and John O’Neil note in today’s Times — raided the headquarters of the Red Crescent yesterday, kidnapping more than 30 employees.
Yeah, well, OK. Do you still think the good of our staying outweighs the good of our leaving?

Another thing I don't understand

More from the Housing Bubble Blog. Todd Martin (some economist) in a linked article in the New Haven Register is quoted as saying, ‘We’ve seen a seller’s market turn into a buyer’s market very quickly.’

Now, we hear that a lot. It was a seller's market, it's now a buyer's market. But, really, does it have to be either? If the property values have only started to slide down, isn't it not really a buyer's market? I'm waiting until prices absolutely crater. It's a 'somebody else's money' market now, I'd think. If you're trying to sell in one of the regions that has started to deflate, your best bet would seem to be to get elected to office.

One thing I don't understand

OK, so there's a website where you can sign up for a sugar daddy. Now, you quantify the financial relationship you're -- or 'your are' -- looking for.

And they're very clear that they won't tolerate their platform being used as a platform for prostitutes.

But, the line. I don't see the line.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Proving I'm only theoretically anti-pet

If I were sending out Christmas cards, I'd use this photo. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

America Wins Again

Briefly mentioned at the end of a NYT story is news that President Bush
signed a bill extending the mandate of the
inspector general for Iraq reconstruction
until 2008.

You'll recall there was some anxiety about this.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Little Victory

You are, of course, familiar with Keith Knight's "Life's Little Victories" series in the K Chronicles (check the link.) I had one, so I wanted to share it. The nearest ATM that takes deposits for my credit union is at Grand Central station. I get paid like a bus boy, so I have to go deposit my own checks. Next closest is sneaking past the dogs, guards and metal detectors at the Federal Building, and then I'm in some place called 'Bergen County'.

Recently, the card stripe reader at Grand Central hadn't been working, which is how I found out about the dogs. Today, I slipped in at about 8:20 and tried my card. Nothing. I tried it in various configurations, speeds and with special patterns, pretty much what you'd do if your magnetic card stripe reader was ignoring you. I melancholically accepted my fate, and began to trudge out of the building when an incoming woman confronted me. She was there to fix the machine! It had to be reset every morning because of a network problem! This had been going on for a month!

So, I chatted with the guy behind me about industrial art (we were actually in the Whitney Museum Annex in the Altria building, across the street from the actual train station) while she fixed the machine, and I deposited my check.

I win!

Monday, December 18, 2006

More on pets

Sherry Turkle has come out against robot pets. She doesn't have any specific fears, but is uncomfortable with the emotional bonding and dependence that children and the elderly have been shown to develop with the neotonous mechanisms. We can presume this vulnerability spreads through our whole population.

Now, one of my more controversial recent posts -- and I have to warn you again to think twice before following the video link -- dissed the idea of pets as being dishonorable to the status of free animals. I get my politics from Wicked. But, this point is important, too. That our affection for pets -- robot or otherwise -- is something that wicked overlords can use against us. It's just a thought. But, if we can train dolphins to shoot divers, why can't we train a puppy to seduce a cabinet secretary into snapping the neck of ... well, I won't say whose. I don't want to end up in Gitmo.

And speaking of controversy! I had dinner tonight with the volunteer coordinator for the local Red Cross. I told her I had a blog, and she said she'd never seen one. When I told her mine was "Fears and Frets," she corrected herself, as she'd seen this.

This blog! For at least one person, the only blog she recalls seeing. It's not nothing! I believe it was this post, inviting you all out to Staten Island. But, the point is, at least one large sovereign body is aware of me. I'll try not to let it get to my head.

One more point! This is my first post with Blogger's new interface. It's almost exactly the same, both for you and for me. But, let me know if there are any problems.


I was walking -- to church, actually -- through Union Square today and a guy handing out long cardboard boxes decorated with minorahs asked if I were Jewish. Now, I'm kind of a mutt, but ended up looking vaguely scandinavian -- people guessing my religion generally go for Episcopalian or Lutheran. A fair number hit Presbyterian dead on.

Now, the New York branch of Jews for Jesus is between my apartment and the subway. So, every day I walk past while they harrass passersby, "Have you heard the good news?" or whatever they say. But, they never talk to me. I figured it was a lost cause to try to make myself look Jewish, so I was just sort of hoping to get hit at random, maybe by somebody new to the game.

I explained all this to the guy in the park, and thanked him for finally including me in being possibly chosen. It was super important to him that I understand he was not with Jews for Jesus, but a regular Jew for Judaica, but once he felt he communicated that he said that made him feel good, and thanked me for sharing.

I don't know why that made him feel good, but I''m glad it did. It was our Christmas miracle.

Later that same day, I was visited by what would in the movies have been an angel. A panhandler asked me for some money, and I demurred. He persisted, and I asserted, "I shan't help you." He wanted me to explain why.

I didn't really have a good reason. But, I didn't see a reason to help him. He told me that as a Christian (this one guessed correctly) I had an obligation to help him. This is correct, but it's never seemed workable. I pick and choose how I'm going to help the poor and contribute to the community -- but I don't know if I get to. While on the one hand it seems arbitrary to give money to whosoever asks me, I'm back to pondering the question. Which is probably a good thing.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

CNN a tool in the gender wars, as well

This was a link from the Housing Bubble Blog. But, it's a fascinating story. Girl marries boy, girl and boy have children and buy rental homes, boy loses job, girl and boy avoid talking directly about the need to unload speculative properties in a weakening market, girl goes to national magazine to relate her side.

It's amazing! "CNN Money requests the attentions of pigheaded husband Brian Schuett to this part of its website and magazine."

So, keep those lines of communication in your marriage open. Otherwise, this could be you!

Housing bubble explained

You have to love criminals; they always have such a fresh perspective. If you saw insane increases in residential property valuations, what would you do? If your answer was "collude with the seller to inflate the price of a house, buy it with borrowed money, keep the margin, and default on the loan," then the housing bubble has really been working for you.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Wondering what to get me for Christmas?

I'm not a soldier in the 'War on Christmas.' But, I'm not going to pretend it's not coming up. And I feel no need to treat Hannukah and Kwanzaa with equal billing. 'Happy Holidays' and its ilk are ways to use corporate and public money to celebrate Christmas while trying to stay seemly -- I'm totally for that. I just don't understand why individuals say 'Happy Holidays.' But, for you non-Christians, does hearing 'Merry Christmas' make you feel oppressed? Is 'Happy Holidays' better?

Is it still a digression if you lead with it? This post is really about CorpWatch. You know I think Bunnatine Greenhouse and Stuart Bowen are two of the real heroes of Iraq. If the occupation is about funneling money to Bechtel, CH2M Hill, Halliburton, SAIC and their ilk, then we lose as long as that goes on. It's fine to talk about all the disasters we create there and in Afghanistan, but the reason why we did it persists.

I saw this today in Talking Points Memo (it's from The Nation):
[In] New Orleans ... [f]ederal dollars are flowing to corporate bailouts and disaster profiteers, not to affected citizens, revealed an August analysis by CorpWatch, a San Francisco-based organization that previously investigated profiteering in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And now I'm all hot on CorpWatch. And I'm going to go get me a deck for WTO Loteria.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

If I publish a book, can I count on you to acclaim it highly?

Fellowships for Writers [and thinkers] at UNLV

This is new opportunity for RPCV writers [and thinkers] this was set up by Richard Wiley (Korea 1967-69) and others at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, check it out.

Founded in 2006, the Black Mountain Institute (BMI) is an international center dedicated to advancing literary and cross-cultural dialogue. Named after the long defunct Black Mountain College in North Carolina and Las Vegas' own Black Mountain, it is composed of the Forum on Contemporary Cultures (The Forum), the North American Network of Cities of Asylum (NANCA), and the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). A center of excellence in modern letters, BMI provides an environment where thinkers and writers from all segments of global society can fight against entrenched perspectives, whatever their political or cultural source.

Beginning with the academic year 2007–2008, the Forum on Contemporary Cultures at the Black Mountain Institute (BMI) is pleased to offer from two to five nine-month fellowships to published writers and public intellectuals. Fellowships will be awarded to candidates whose work ranges away from the American experience and into international terrain, and who have an ongoing project that would benefit from a period of sustained immersion. The program accepts applications from novelists, poets, playwrights, historians, political scientists, independent scholars, and anyone else whose work is meant for a general, intelligent lay audience. The Fellows Program will offer its first fellowships in August of 2007.

The Forum awards from two to five fellowships each year to outstanding writers who have published at least one highly acclaimed book before the time of application. Foreign nationals conversant in English are welcome to apply. There are no degree requirements.

Terms and Conditions
Fellows receive a $50,000 stipend, an office, a computer, and full access to the UNLV Lied Library. They remain in residence at BMI for the duration of the fellowship term (approximately
August 27, 2007May 16, 2008) and work on-site, daily, at the BMI offices. Fellows are required to give a talk on their work-in-progress to other fellows, as well as to a wide range of invited guests, and to take part in BMI programs. Additionally, fellows must make themselves available, on occasion, as visitors to UNLV graduate classes in fields related to their own work.

The Forum on Contemporary Cultures Fellows Program is Deadlines
Application deadline:
February 28, 2007
Notification of selection results:
May 1, 2007

end application and materials to:
Coordinator, Forum on Contemporary Cultures
Black Mountain Institute

Box 455085
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV 89154-5085

Program and application queries should be sent to

Prof. Richard Wiley
Associate Director, Black Mountain Institute
Director, Forum on Contemporary Cultures

Richard Wiley is the author of five novels: Soldiers In Hiding (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for best American fiction), Fools' Gold, Festival for Three Thousand Maidens, Indigo, and Ahmed's Revenge. His most recent novel, Commodore Perry's Minstrel Show, will be published next year in the new Michener Series at the
University of Texas Press. In addition, also next year, Hawthorne Books will reissue Soldiers In Hiding. Wiley has been a member of the UNLV English Department faculty since 1989

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wait! I think I get it

I was just cramming an anonymous neighbor's laundry into a hamper either they or someone else left in the laundry room, and I realized that Ralph Kramden's name refers to his being 'crammed in' to his tenement, bus driving job, and depressing marriage! It's not that he was larger than life, it's that the life he was being forced to live was so small.

That took me, what? Thirty-eight years?

Kenneth Pinyan

I was clearing out old emails, and ran across a thread on Kenneth Pinyan, the Boeing Engineer who was video-recorded being killed by a horse. (ed. Please read the comments before clicking the link)It's not for the squeamish -- and perhaps only for the totally squeamless. Are you back? Do you remember I said it wasn't for the squeamish?

Mr. Pinyan, the linked story relates, inspired an anti-bestiality law. This is probably because it would be hard to hire regulators (is it a job you'd want?) and it's the Washington State legislature's job to regulate things that can kill people.

But, I'm now thinking about bestiality. And I don't know that it's wrong. I'm sort of against pets, as it seems cruel to keep this degraded animal forms around us to amuse us and reassure us that it's OK nobody likes us. I'm for breeding animals for tasks, but I think it's just indulgent to breed animals as emotional crutches or ornamentation.

However, once we allow that, why not breed animals to have sex with us? Or even allow animals bred for other uses to be dual-purpose? I'm not suggesting a specific business here, I just miss what I suspect is an obvious argument against bestiality.


So ... about the Thermohaline Circulation

Well. OK. You'll recall the thermohaline circulation shut down, dooming us all to nasty, mean, brutish and short lives. Now, in the link, they say they can only show that it decreased 30 %, but you know how these reporting scientists are always so conservative.

They're getting worse!
Variations up and down within 1 year are as large as the changes seen from one snapshot to the next during the past few decades
The story is that the first result was from an instantaneous reading from a ship. Before they did that, they also lay in some long term instruments in the same area, and they've started to collect data from it. So, now they can see the variability, and they'd like to mitigate the panic.

The upshot is, some of us might live. I'm going to bed more hopeful than I was when I woke up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mixed Results in Public Policy

So, I bought a New York Times yesterday. Not to find planted Administration talking points on WMDs or such things, or to see what US Acts of Aggression were currently being glossed over, or even to see if the White House had recently OK'd the delayed reporting of one of its criminal acts.

It takes a little bit of cognitive dissonance, but on top of being a party organ, the New York Times has a lot of fine news in it.

Two issues I've been following got an update in the newspaper. One, trans fats are now banned, and 'restaurants with static menus' have to publish calorie information. I know that's two things, but they're both implementations of the same set of recommendations.

In other news, I've been foiled again! Apparently, the government uses birth certificate gender for separating prisoners and other useful things. Private institutions segregate hospital beds and so forth. It was, I'll grant (as does the City Health Commissioner), a not "fully thought through" plan. However, it means I can't have a same sex marriage.

You win some, you lose some, I guess.

Top One Percent "far from an exclusive club"

Well, that's a relief. To be part of the top 1% of the world's asset owners, you only need $200,000. Like the Finns who wrote the report, I belong to a decimal culture, and -- armed with the knowledge that the world is on a path from being difficult for the poor to being difficult for the non-wealthy -- I'd be comforted to know I was in the "top 1 %".

The press release for the World Institute for
Development Economics Research of the United Nations University
's new study on The World Distribution of Household Wealth goes on to talk about why economic stratification is such an obsession with me: I'm an American
The concentration of wealth within countries varies significantly but is generally high. The share of the top 10% ranges from around 40% in China to 70% in the United States, and higher still in other countries.
Our stratification is worse that China's. Well, we can be comforted to think that China has a lot of poor, and there might be a fair number of them in the top 10 %.
The Gini value, which measures inequality on a scale from zero to one, gives numbers in the range from 35% to 45% for income inequality in most countries. In contrast, Gini values forwealth inequality are usually between 65% and 75%, and sometimes exceed 80%.

Two high wealth economies, Japan and the United States, show very different patterns of wealth inequality, with Japan having a wealth Gini of 55% and the USA a wealth Gini of around 80%.
Man, why are those Finns always dumping on us? Do they hate Freedom? Gini's 89 % globally, so we're marginally better than nature red in tooth and claw. Of course, we have an edge...
The authors go on to note that `many people in high-income countries have negative net worth and--somewhat paradoxically--are among the poorest people in the world in terms of household wealth.'
Ha! Take that, Japan.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Architecture is the art of how to waste space

This was a Google 'Quote of the Day (by Philip Johnson.)' The popularity of books like "A timeless way of building' and Vesuvius' 'Ten Books on Architecture' among system architects reinforces the idea that there's some correspondance between building architecture and system (or what I call 'regular') architecture.

So, I'm thinking about how this metaphor works.

People Accepting Climate Change

Part Al Gore movie, part Katrina. And actually? I think the penguin movie made people care about the poles somewhat more, which allowed them to realize the glaciers were missing. Over the last three years, Climate Change has moved from 6th to 1st in a ranking of Americans' environmental concerns. I suppose it's hard to take wetlands destruction seriously if you believe we're about to get a whole lot more of them.
In the 2006 survey, 28 percent of the respondents agreed that it is a serious problem and immediate action is necessary--up from 17 percent in 2003. All together, almost 60 percent of the 2006 respondents agreed that there's enough evidence to warrant some level of action.
I could not explain to you what was going on with the other 40 %.
In 2003, people were willing to pay on average $14 more per month on their electricity bill to "solve" global warming. In 2006 they agreed to pay $21 more per month--a 50 percent increase in their willingness to pay.
As the guy says, that's $25Billion dollars, which is enough to buy every last Senator and Member of Congress.

On the topic of Al Gore's role in all this, I read a Slashdot comment today that irritated me.
if anyone else had tried to get congress to act on Global Warming, there would have never been An Inconvenient Truth. Had Gore been more successful in convincing congress to join the Kyoto treaty or strengthen EPA guidelines, I don't believe there never would have been the movie.
Now, Senators do hard things -- enriching yourself without crosssing any standing laws is trickier than you think, as is stovepiping legislation written by corporate malefactors. But, getting Congress to join the Kyoto treaty? Is anyone out there trying to think of an argument that would finally bring Senator Inhofe around? It was really a tough crowd -- the idea of starting at the top showed a little too much institutional bias; it was the people that needed to hear the message the whole time. But, having chosen to convice Congress instead, it's disingenuous to suggest Gore failed because of a lack of commitment or charisma.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another business model being swiped

Among other things, [New York City's Department of Environmental Protection] was concerned by the damage storm surges might inflict on a city surrounded by water. Although city officials declined to discuss concrete solutions for this article saying they were still in the "assessment" phase, scientists foresee potential fixes ranging from raising key infrastructure and building dikes, to flood gates and temporary seals over tunnel entrances. One group proposes raisable flood barriers large enough to protect all of Manhattan Island.

Sea levels have risen almost a foot in the past century, partly because of ice melt and thermal expansion (warmer water has more volume), and partly because of naturally occurring land subsidence of the Northeast. In the same period, area temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees F. About two-thirds of that increase occurred in the past 30 years and sea-level rise has accelerated in the past decade. "The core body of knowledge has solidified" on climate change, says Cynthia Rosenzweig, the lead GISS scientist on the climate-change task force. "We're moving into a solution phase."

Hmph. I wanted to lead the Manhattan seawall boondoggle. I mean solution.

10 years for Manhattan?

So, twice in the last week I've heard people near me refer to a magazine article that claimed Manhattan would be underwater in ten years. Now, of course, the official Red Cross position is that there'll be a Category 5 hurricane in Manhattan in the next five years; I know they don't know, and I wouldn't expect magazine writers to be any more on the ball.

By which ball I mean crystal.

But, I'm happy to hear it's in the zeitgeist. The faster we start responding to climate change, the more we should be able to mitigate the damage. Well, that's the whole argument for prudence. But, I'm curious as to where the ten-year figure came from. James Hansen believes we have no more than ten years to act meaningfully, not that Manhattan will be underwater in ten years.

Does anyone have this reference? What magazine is this?

The 2006 Hurricane Season

Remember the August 8 Update? Don't you maybe think we should have had one since?
1. Expected Activity - 75% chance above normal, 20% chance near normal, 5% chance below normal
Now, things with a 5 % chance do happen, roughly one in every twenty times. But, shouldn't we have expected some Bayesian updating? They told us "For the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, the expected ACE range is 110%-170% of the median... A value of 117% of the median corresponds to the lower boundary for an above-normal season." So, we expected above normal to way, way above normal.

This concerns me, because I can't shake the feeling that there are a bunch of potential hurricanes still out there, and that the tropical ocean has to relieve itself. Also, last hurricane season went into January, and this year's much warmer, at least in Manhattan. Generalizing about the rest of the world from what's happening in Manhattan is a core value of American writing, so it can't be wrong. So, I think that maybe the whole seasonal evolution thing is badly skewed enough that hurricane season is still kind of stuck in the middle.

I'm a little worried that January 2007 will be like September, with one tropical depression after another growing to hurricane status, half of them major. It's really important that hurricane season end by mid-February, because I'm going sailing in the Virgin Islands.

All I'm saying is, it'd be nice to have a new update from the NHC.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'm looking at this site in Internet Explorer 6.0

I can't recommend it. Firefox and Opera work great, but I guess there are still some holdouts on IE -- if IE7 doesn't fix it, I'll look into what's wrong.

And I think I'm using 6.0sp2 or some such thing. What's the point of the '.0' if they're going to call their minor releases service packs?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What the Red Cross is preparing for

Um ... don't panic


The message below is part of an ARCGNY drill to assess the availability of our volunteer base to respond to an event with similar conditions and timing. Please give your availability as if you were now being asked to respond to this event, taking into consideration your real-life schedule and commitments; however, nothing beyond you’re email response is required for this simulation. The data collected from this request will be used in a tabletop drill tomorrow.


An incident has just occurred at Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan , NY . Over the next several hours and the days to follow the American Red Cross in Greater New York may be called upon to assist in any necessary evacuations of the areas surrounding this nuclear facility with the establishment of shelters in our northern counties. At this time we are asking disaster volunteers of all areas of training to submit their availability and standby for more information.

Transportation will be available from 520 W 49th Street leaving/returning at the following times: 6am-6pm, 2pm-2am, 10pm-10am.

For volunteers able to stay in the northern counties for several days, lodging will be provided.

Please let us know the following:

  • Name:
  • Phone number:
  • Area(s) of training:
  • Are you able to stay for several days?
  • Dates/Times available:


Thank you for your participation.

The Staffing Team

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm the big winner!

Or, you know, the last runner up. But, I have momentum.

I actually agree with cartoon Karl Rove

Why did anybody anywhere vote for a Republican candidate?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Audience Extras

It's mystifying how people live in New York, primarily because it's so expensive. I like live theater as much as the next guy, but any show you'll see advertised will set you back some $80 - $140 per seat. This is a lot more than a movie or a game of pool, so theater rarely wins the "what will I do on some night four months in the future" question.

But, there are secrets. I've come to believe, for instance, that only tourists pay to see comedy. And I've joined the $30 opera ticket club. So, now I'm starting to crack the code around play acting. I've just joined Audience Extras -- for $115, I can get ten tickets, alone or in pairs, over the next year. And I can keep adding money, at $3 per ticket. It certainly sounds like a good deal. For example, there's a concert Wednesday selling on the venue website at $40, to which I could get two tickets. Granted, it's all public domain music ;)

I'm looking forward to this!

EULAs we're not meant to read

A friend invited me to a new social network, and I obediently went to their site to sign up. Next to a checkbox, there was a link saying "I have read and agreed to Terms of Service", which I clicked. This launches a 500-pixel wide window. The content width is explicitly set to 755 pixels, which makes the Terms of Service unreadable.

Nothing suspicious there....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Finally some liberal crackers

I was pretty offended yesterday when some talking head said that despite the grotesque unreliability, unusability and general systematic disempowerment of the electronic voting machines, at least the expected hacking problems hadn't arisen.

So, I just wanted to point to David Dill of Verified Voting's statement that part of the problem of the vulnerability is that you wouldn't know it was happening. A cracker would just flip enough votes to ensure his side won, so in a squeaker, the black hat's candidate probably got fewer actual votes.

Since most of the close races went to Democrats....

Oh, one more thing. All Hail Micheal Young!

March Deadline

As a blogger, I'm a self-proclaimed member of the media. And, as a member of the media, I have the inherent right to dictate policy and political strategy to politicians. So, I want to lay out a March deadline.

The Democratic legislature does have to come out swinging on climate change, gun control, universal health care, deficit elimination, financial services regulation, Iraq, trade policy, environmental protection and a host of other policy topics. They also have to aggressively pursue investigations into corruption and abuses of power, especially regarding Iraq reconstruction, lobbyist-written legislation and electoral shenanigans in 200, 2002 and 2004. Really, they have a full plate. I can't see them succeeding, being Democrats, but this is what the country needs.

But, this is all continuous stuff that we can't expect them to actually solve in the next two years. But, what President Pelosi needs to get done by March is the impeachment and conviction of Richard Bruce Cheney and George Walker Bush. There's no way the body politic will see that as anything but an insane power grab, so they'll need as much time as possible to adjust. A year later, she'll be in the middle of a reëlection campaign and it will be too late. This will anger Senator Clinton, but I've never seen quite why she thinks she should be president. It'll anger Tom Vilsack and other presumptive candidates, as well as delusionals like John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. I imagine Wesley Clark will be relieved.

The President and Vice President will clearly be an ongoing hindrance to any positive change in this country, and you have to imagine anyone who put some effort into it could find some high crimes and misdemeanors. The Democrats will not be able to stay united in purpose past, say, May. President Pelosi needs to step up early to take advantage of this unity and to get some solid governing history before she gets swallowed in the electoral cycle.

Get to it, Dems!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bush of Troy

So, now that Jacob Kreuger mentions it, George Bush's presidency does sort of read like a Greek Tragedy. The gods set him up only to make a gentle point about hubris by tearing him down, incidentally incinerating whole populations. But, that's how the Greek Gods roll.

George Bush, the demigod love child of Aphrodite and GHW Bush, is given a choice -- Love, Wealth or Power -- by Artemis, Hera and Aphrodite. He demands all three, and gets spurned. Hera later relents, and offers to grant him a desire, which is to make George Bush president. When she interprets that as his father, Dubya gets a little testy. Artemis secretly sends her son by an underworld monster, Richard Bruce Cheney, to play on his ambitions. And you know the rest.

Oh, the humanity! Four Chairs Theatre was only doing a reading tonight, as they're trying to get enough money to stage it. But, it was a well spent 2 1/2 hours. While the gods were in a Greek tragedy, the humans (including renamed daughters Cass and Sandra) speak in iambic pentameter, which is cool. Not enough playwrights use iambic pentameter anymore! And it forwards one theory on one of the great mysteries of the Bush Admininstration, which is what happened to Colin Powell.


The world holds its breath

It's come to this then. Our hope lies with moving legislative control from the part of Climate Change Denial to the party of Climate Change Inaction. So, we have these fantasies of energy policy, presidential impeachment, rapproachment with Iran (and the dealienation of much of the rest of the world.) And a cavalcade of congressional hearings! Katrina, Iraq, (finally) the 2000 elections!

We know the Democrats will disappoint us if they do take power, but if we in our hole can't stop digging, at least we can dig more slowly. And we can hold hope in our hearts, at least through this evening, and maybe through, say, March.

Best of luck to the Dems!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

GOP outstrips my ability to mock it (part 2)

One of the reasons that it's so hard to get behind any Republican politician -- and I say this as a fair-weather fan of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- is that the national party so clearly thinks that anyone who would vote for one is a moron. There are a lot of memes in models like "Well, they have to lie to the public, so we can't interfere with what they're doing", and "Facts and analysis are only one side of an argument" floating around.

But, this National Republican Congressional Committee ad playing in Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District is just delightful. It accuses the Democratic Incumbent of being "funded by an organization[that would be the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] that used an image of flag-draped coffins in a commercial. Now, if you don't like images of flag-draped coffins in campaign commercials, that might speak to you. But, it's kind of undercut by the fact that they illustrate it with the same image of flag-draped coffins. To both watch TV and vote Republican, I guess you have to be able to say:

"I am a moron, and I accept this message."

Friday, November 03, 2006

What's Stuart Bowen up to?

The NYT fronts word of a provision tucked inside a military authorization bill that orders the termination of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Now lawmakers from both parties are saying they did not realize the provision was slipped in and want to reverse the decision.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I love big brother

I really have to say, I saw this story and just felt like I lived in the greatest city in the world. The Bloomberg administration has gotten a lot of press out of its proposed trans fats ban, but I'm even more taken with their idea to list calories on menus. Not to mention the continuing cell phone ban in schools.

Just a little laudatory note.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Laura in the magazines

So, I was in the Food Emporium buying kielbasa, and I saw the headline "Laura wakes up!" I immediately thought of Laura Bush coming to the realization that she was part of something very big and very bad, and that she could leave it.

It was Soap Opera Digest, and there was some subtitle suggesting it was talking about a television character. This is a pretty normal mistake, and I wouldn't mention it (I do have some standards) but for the cover of the Globe, which was actually at my register. "The Bush Divorce Papers: An Angry Laura is ready to leave."

So, I got the gist of a totally different headline! It's all part of the cosmic unconciousness.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Shivved by the spam email

Oh, so I met this girl on the internet. One of your challenges with the internet dating is to pick a first date place, and my great idea was to go to Build a Bear. We never actually went to Build-a-Bear, but the idea gained some currency in our relationship. It was always the kind of place we might go, and sort of a touchstone.

So, we dated for several months, I fell in love with her, and the relationship eventually collapsed under the stresses we put on it. This was unfortunate, and made me quite sad. I still have a suitcase she asked me to bring on a trip, which I have filled with things to return to her. I called her yesterday, to try to arrange a drop, and it turned out it was still too early. My Hallward sobbed madly.

I get home (I was out buying wood expanding solution -- I know that sounds like an ED treatment, but I was just fixing some furniture) and who has spammed me? Join the Build-a-Bear Workshop® Friends Club.

Spam! My old nemesis. This round is yours.

That was a pretty good answer

So funny. I'll transcribe it for when the link goes stale:
Fox trot cartoon -- Jason is wearing a computer user interface on his head, and talking with his brother.
Jason: Like my costume?
Peter: What is it?
Jason: I'm a touch screen electronic voting machine. Computer experts have been warning for years that these things can be easily hacked, and without a paper trail there's no way to verify the vote counts weren't tampered with.
Here we are nine days before the election, and reportedly one third of all precincts will use them. Seriously, can you think of anything scarier?
Peter: Jason, most people don't care about this stuff.
Jason (musing afterward): Hmm. That was a pretty good answer.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bill O'Reilly's a freaking genius

The truth of it is, a reasonable person can't believe what you're saying
So, that's David Letterman's take on Bill O'Reilly. And this is largely true. But! During this interview, O'Reilly notes that if we leave a non-stable Iraq, Iran will take it over. So, the choice is:
  1. Keep enough troops in the middle of that bloody chaos to deter an Iranian invasion
  2. Pull out and let Iran stabilize the country.
Now, the Bush Administration keeps defending its use of the tools of a dictator by noting that Iraq's a difficult to manage place. But, Iran would be way better at it. I think that O'Reilly's right: the best solution for Iraq is for us to leave and try to reach rapproachment with Iran. Turkey would have to change its thinking about the Kurds before it could annex Kurdistan, which would make this a better solution, but I hold out hope. Iranian Shias have a long history of coexisting with (well, oppressing, but it is a dictatorship) Sunnis, so I think the problem there is overblown.

Wouldn't you rather help fund an Iranian restoration of Iraq than keep throwing lives and money into a worsening situation? This is a great idea.

Pass it on.

GOP outstrips my ability to mock it

I was working on a new piece for the Spoof about how the nation's leadership simply fired everyone investigating its malfeasance. And then it happened.
I'll try to be quicker next time.

Friday, October 06, 2006

On Praise

Dean G. Popps, the director of Iraq Reconstruction and Program Management Office for the Army, wrote in a congratulatory e-mail to the Army's reconstruction teams: "Never has so much been done, so well and so quickly, by so few."
So, the Army's apportioned all its money for reconstruction, so it figures Iraq's all reconstructed. And that they've done a great job. Do you ever get a pat on the back that rings false? So, OK, you feel like a miserable failure, which is normal enough, and some authority figure praises you. If you have trouble accepting the praise, recall that you didn't spend 15 billion dollars to
[raise] production capacity levels in the critical areas of oil and electricity to exceed pre-war (2002) levels
This is a country that was under sanctions for a decade by 2002. Despite whatever oil-for-food scandals you may have heard about, Iraq's oil market was curtailed, and their infrastructure was failing. And that's the level we've done such a great job climbing back up to that we can pack up and go home.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

I'm not sure if this is spam, or some complex linguistic puzzle

The title was "propose a title: 5", if you'd like to try for the prize.

Enter text here
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What's Scattergories for, anyway

So, there are many games. And, like little lions, wolves and other predators, we play games to develop our useful skills. The game Scattergories gives you a term, and five ways you may not describe it, your goal being to get your partner to guess what the phrase is.

How does that help you in life? Obviously, it gives you practice at piercing ellipticallity, but as a spam connosieur, I have discovered an application for being good at describing things with indirectly related terms.


I was just cleaning out my gmail spam filter, and that subject line from some sleazeball selling strychnine over the internet as an erectile dysfunction cure caught my eye. Really, it's clear what he means, but you'd never phrase it that way if you were trying to subvert UCE solutions. I'll be that guy's pretty good at Scattergories.

Is Clinton Magical?

Sorry, I didn't want to get sucked in to this conversation -- right wingers think Bill Clinton had an on-air breakdown, Democrats think he returned to save them -- but I was amazed this morning by Secretary Rice responding to his allegations.

Now, as far as I know, The Bush Administration abandoned terrorism as a priority when they took office, busy as they were inventing stories about keyboards. So, when the Secretary of State says "What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," I just pray that somebody ask the follow up question, "What was that?"

This is where the political debate belonged after 9/11, and what should have dominated the terrorism part of the 2002 midterm election cycle. Since then, we should have been evaluating the current administrations skill at execution, but its failure in preparation for attack should have been the question of the hour for many, many hours. And it took five years and an ex-president to bring it up.

Well, we'll see if this catches fire. I can't wait.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Online Check-in

When I was a small child, Imelda Marcos was securing power in Manila, The Who were playing live concerts, and a reckless, despised GOP President was ensuring decades of Democratic legislative rule. Also, when you flew, the checkin agent would spend a good ten minutes typing the fact of your arrival at the airport into her keyboard.

Now, if you enjoy difficult and unrewarding tasks, you can check in online 24 hours before your flight. More sensibly, you can stick your credit card into a kiosk, push a touchscreen a handful of times, and be on your way to cracking bomb jokes in the security line.

I still have no idea what the business was with the keyboards.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

New Favorite Rumsfeld Quote

"If you're chasing the chicken around the chicken yard and you don't have him yet and the question is, 'how close are you?' the answer is, 'it's tough to characterise because there's lots of zigs and zags.'"

The words of the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld just weeks after the 11 September attacks when asked how close his government was to catching Osama Bin Laden.

Roots of Fascism

So, I went to Italy. And because of a series of late trains, I ended up spending 40 minutes in Fornovo -- where the promising pizza shop only had enough people in it to tell me it was closed -- instead of having a nice dinner in Parma. If the night train from Florence hadn't also been delayed, I wouldn't have been able to run across the station and hop aboard it.

So, everything turned out great. But, it's not clear how resonant that phrase "at least Mussolini made the trains run on time" is to the average Italian until you experience exactly how unreliable their train system is.

Weird registration failure at AOL

Well. Netscape Mail is no more. I'm not sure there'll be a lot of mourning of its passage, but I still used it for the occasional mailing list. AOL has merged it into AIM mail. When I tried to log in today, I got the registration screen shown here.

I hate passwords as much as the next guy, but isn't this stupid? Maybe I'm particularly disloyal, but my favorite song, town, food and book change from time to time. I don't think they'd be a super good way to recover a lost password.

But, it's nice to see people thinking outside the box.

A point about net neutrality

Illiad here addresses the idea of "Common Carrier Status," which I don't think I've heard discussed before. If Comcast et al start prioritizing traffic, they become responsible for it. And you're not going to publish anything they'd disapprove of.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm consistently amazed at how poorly I communicate my paranoia and hysteria

"The oldest saw in banking is that bad loans are made in good times," [says Frederick Cannon, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., which specializes in the financial-services industry.] "We have never really faced a weakening housing market with the structure of the mortgage market as it is today."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Random Affirming Guy

Tivo's guide to the Fall Pilots is linked. "My Name is Earl" is 9/21, The Simpsons is 9/10, you can decide what else you'd like to watch. I've no idea what "Ugly Betty" is about, but at least one episode is set in SoHo. I know this because I walked through the set, and asked a guy what they were filming.

"Ugly Betty."

"Oh, I think I dated her."

"I doubt you dated anyone called that."

So, if you think New York is overrun by meanies, I'm here to assert that arbitrary strangers do sometimes give you superficial reinforcement. So, come to Manhattan.

Awards show banter is not pablum

Genius. While these guys have been excellent at the Oscars and White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, I think they might push irreverance out of style. But, let's enjoy it while we can.

Shouldn't our boondoggles use American companies?

Now, I don't know if you've been following the RFID Passport story, but it's happening. As of August 14, The State Department has actually started putting RFID Chips in passports. And, you know what's going to happen:
  • The read rates are going to be unexpectedly low
  • Maintenance costs for the readers are going to be unusually high
  • There'll be a public announcement of someone having tricked a reader, shelving any staff reduction plans
  • Privacy concerns will force the State Department to offer RFID-less passports as an option
  • The chips themselves will prove vulnerable to things like laundry, storage in hotel safes with electronic equipment, begin driven over, and other things that passports go through. I might have unusually unlucky passports, but I don't think so.
The technology is not ready for this deployment, and so much of the State Department's management structure has decide their jobs left "inadequate time to fulfill possible future commitments" that you have to imagine they've lost some ability to adapt to change. RFID Passports aren't going to work. Seen from the street, they're just a way to move money from the taxpayer to campaign donors.

But, why are we then buying our chips from Germans? I expect our contracting process to be somewhat corrupt, but it should definitely be buying American. Alien, Impinj, Avery Dennison and Texas Instruments, just to name some chip vendors off the top of my head, would love to get a piece of this action. Buying chips overseas totally does not keep the money on shore!

Somebody needs to read up on his Reaganomics.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The rabbit hole starts here

three quarters of Iraq now gets twice as much [electricity] today as it did before the war.
Do you suspect that maybe the major cities are all in that last quarter? I'm assuming they're quartering by land mass, not by population or pre-sanction energy consumption.
The reporter didn't write about the Water Treatment Plant he visited that will provide fresh potable water to more than half a million people in southern Iraq in just two more months.
That's funny. Two more months was always the amount of time my Master's Thesis was going to take. You have to wonder why they didn't show a completed one.
The Corp of Engineers planned to complete three thousand two hundred reconstruction projects. Today they are focusing on the completion of three thousand seven hundred projects. The Corp has also started three thousand five hundred of those projects and completed almost twenty eight hundred and the work is continuing.
Could there maybe be a rollover project or two? It seems like the number of projects is increasing.

I'm not suggesting we're doing no good in Iraq. We're doing far less good than we're doing harm, but I expect that there are little patches of incremental immediate benefit. But, the statements of it are designed to make it sound better than it is. It's quite dishonest, whether the author is an Army Sergeant or a thinktank intern. I think that explicitly identifying things that are dishonest or crazy wrong was a large part of what Congress and the media failed to do in the run up to the war, so I'm trying to model good behavior.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Debby's cranking up the heat again

hoo buoy.
I love the comforting curvature of the predicted track. "Oh, yes, Debby's been heading right for you. But, she'll target Iceland instead any day now."

Ernesto's got an even chance of rolling over cuba as a hurricane

And it'll be headed to the Gulf Coast after.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Krugman finds me a buddy

Now, apparently this blogger copied the protected Krugman article from NYTimes Select wholesale. This may be only worse in degree from what I do (posting WSJ email links) but it seems somehow wrong. That said, I found this hopeful:
As far as I know, Nouriel Roubini of Roubini Global Economics is the only well-known economist flatly predicting a housing-led recession in the coming year.
A major economist agrees with me!

Stockholm Syndrome?

Natascha Kampusch was 10 when she vanished in 1998 while walking to school in Vienna.

Yesterday she leapt from a black BMW and ran into a nearby garden....

Police spokesman Erich Zwettler said she seemed to have had "Stockholm syndrome", a psychological condition in which long-held captives begin to relate to their captors.

I don't think that's Stockholm Syndrome. That's being raised from the age of ten -- it's supposed to create a certain amount of affection. And, in this country, end at the age of eighteen. You don't normally jump out of a black BMW, but you can look at that like a metaphor. In fact, the whole thing has 'opera' written all over it.

UB313 is never going to tell you whether Wednesday is good for romance

You know how when the Bush Administration attacks really any fallacy, you just want to say "Dude! This is exactly what I've been saying! It totally invalidates your decsion to [for example] prevent eventual publication of Presidential papers!" So, when other groups do this, they provide a nice parallel.

Michael Lutin, columnist for Vanity Fair, considers UB313 really too far away to affect our day to day life. You know? Of course it won't. The thought that it could is absurd! But, can you take that thinking one step further?

Central Park has heat and humidity

Now, you're aware that the University of Utah began its push to be the premier American department of Atmospheric Sciences by hiring Nephologist Tim Garrett in 2002. In that vein, they've now released an update to their popular Mesomaps tool. Really, it kept me from building one of my own.

Check it out -- you, too, can make pictures like this, too.

Debby? Ernesto? Florence?

So, days after it was predicted that Debby would have a rough couple of days and then spin up again, Forecaster Knabb attempts to put the nail in her coffin. We'll see, new guy. But, enough with the Cape Verde type Hurricane that ate Manhattan! We've got some good old down home Carribean tropical cyclones to kick around. Now TD-5 may not seem so promising, but the devil's in the discussion:
It's important to remember that although we may worship it as a God, what the National Hurricane Center specialists do is look at a bunch of divergent model solutions and trust their respective guts to form a consensus track and intensity forecast.

shortwave IR from GOES-East
That image I just stuck in by directly editing the HTML.

Now, earlier discussion of TD-5 mentioned a nearby cyclone that would take over when TD-5 failed to evolve. But, their keeping mum now. Ah, the politics of hurricane forecasting.

On another topic, does it look like somebody corrupted this poll?

Plutonic Relationships

The issue around fair marriage is basically, as I understand it, that states feel that since the federal government gets to slaughter millions of Iraqi citizens, they should get to discriminate against homosexuals. In the US, gays were unable to marry in the eyes of the law thoughout the 20th Century. While that doesn't actually benefit anyone, it's a cruel and inconsistent thing we've been doing entirely out of inertia. People who are struggling to make the law consistent upset people who like things compartmentalized in the arbitrary ways they've always been.

I had an unexpected moment of fellow feeling with the repugnant supporters of oppression today when Pluto lost its status as a planet in the eyes of the International Astronomical Union. I'm a post-Enlightment guy -- I was a deist in college -- and I have an affection for consistency and order for its own sake. So, I get that it would have taken a lot of semantic acrobatics to make Pluto a planet and exclude Ceres, Charon and Xena. But, still, I say, 'why not leave well enough alone?'

In stark contrast to Fair Marriage, nobody benefits from this new consistency in celestial taxonomy. And 'planet' to my mind didn't really need a consistent definition -- the dynamical properties of bodies aren't going to change with their labels, and they're not going to play a different role in our lives. Planetary status didn't get Pluto a tax break. So, I would let custom rule over consistency in this instance.

All of which leaves me eager, as I always am when I see a chance for me and the biodiesel president to agree on something. Because the IAU is an international decision making body, and which rocks you refer to as planets is really up to you, I expect President Bush to publicly and boldy refer to Pluto's continuing status as a planet in the weeks upcoming.

Stay tuned....

Lost insight on housing affordability

Firefox 2 Beta 1 has now blown up twice in the attempts to post this post. This time I'm writing in Microsoft Notepad first -- it seems to be the spellchecker that detonates on uploading an image. The first time the session management saved the Link and URL fields, but not the text. Now, I've got to recreate it all.
The NAHB released data, and I made charts. Housing affordability in the Wayne-White Plains MSA (which includes Manhattan) spiked after 9/11 and is now half its previous nadir for the years since Q191. It's plotted against the ratio of median income to price to show the impact of interest rates.

The second plot shows how afforability nationally has fared over the same period. It's plotted against the percentage of adjustable rate mortgages, which has been dropping, although not fast enough to keep us out of the crapper. Anyway, I said a bunch of predictable things based on those plots and the associated data tables.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Debbie's ramping up

If you saw the Al Gore movie, you'll understand that the next few days over cold water will only provide a temporary respite. On the plus side, it's starting to look more and more like Debby will hold off until I get out of the City.

Taking nothing away from the heroism of the Flight 93 Passengers

Does that look like an airplane to you?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Funktop in Niger

I was hanging out this morning reviewing satellite pictures of Hurricane Debby (really the water vapor animations from the Eastern Atlantic) and I noticed a similar scale storm coming out of Niger in the Funktop.

Can these things come out of Africa to get us, like africanized killer bees? We really don't need two in a row.

Can I just ask one favor?

Can you slow the 'tropical wave' down a little bit? I get on an airplane in Newark bound for Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris next Friday night at 10:00. Can we ask Tropical Depression Four to bounce around the Carribean Sea for a few days before smashing into Manhattan as a Class V Hurricane? I'd really prefer that the bulk of the immediate cleanup be done before I get back.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Keep an eye on the East Atlantic

And this is before the running start

Don't Panic, but check the lifeboats

Hurricane Debby may well be gearing up for a run at New York City. This has been a year of tenative tropical storms getting in a frenzy off Cape Hatteras and then thinking better of it, but complacency isn't called for. The Accumulated Cyclone Energy index is still set to 'ass kick.' And what we have now is what forecaster Pasch calls "A VIGOROUS TROPICAL WAVE IS LOCATED A FEW HUNDRED MILES EAST-SOUTHEAST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS."

To paraphrase Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a Cape Verde-type hurricane can rain destruction on Manhattan. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Central Park Overly Green!

There's a long post on the National Weather Service at Upton, NY's website about why the Central Park readings were lower than those in the rest of the City during the run of 100+ degree days we had recently. One might immediately suspect broken equipment, which maybe loses its sensitivity in high temperatures, and this was an effort to dispel such suspicions. But the use of the phrase 'overly green' was, I thought, funny.
Is this some attempt by the liberazzi at the NWS to suggest that there's more carbon dioxide in the air?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Crazy Eddie Insane Tribute Page

If you'd like to know more ... I Google so you don't have to.

Prices so low, it's like he's giving it all away! Except that which he takes to Israel

Ran across this in the journal. Did you know what happened to Crazy Eddie? He was quite the television fixture in the 70s, if you were given to skipping school and watching television all day. He immigrated to Israel, was extradited back, and was convicted of racketeering!
Maybe he got the low price goods off of other people's trucks?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Perseids tonight! Peaking at 7 PM EDT

But, as they say,
The theoretical Northern δ-Aquarid maximum on August 8, and the major Perseids (whose maximum is most likely between 23h1h30m UT on August 1213, though other peaks on August 13 around 2h and 9h UT are also possible from recent past results), both suffer badly from August's full Moon.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Iceland Melt Accelerating! Rate Constant!

Meet the new rate, just like the old rate. So, OK

Estimated monthly changes in the mass of Greenland's ice sheet suggest it is melting at a rate of about 239 cubic kilometres (57.3 cubic miles) per year.

This figure is about three times higher than an earlier estimate of the mass loss from Greenland made using the first two years of Grace measurements.

But, then the article goes on to say
This would amount to a contribution to global sea level rise from Greenland of about half a millimetre (0.02 inches) each year.
Now, my 20th hig school reunion is this weekend, so I'm reminded of the big ugly box I went to about 180 days out of the year for two years. They had a little class there they liked to call 'Physics.' And in Physics, we learned that accelerating phenomena don't proceed at constant rates. Remember the little triangle to show how much ground an accelerating car covered?

I think we need a new estimate of when the sheet will be gone.

Climate Change and Beach Front Property

Adam@Home picks up the climate change creates new beachfront property meme. As water levels rise, coastlines change. And this gives us an excellent chance to screw the rich -- who are primarily responsible for climate change -- by buying the new beachfront property before theirs is even properly submerged.

There are a couple of problems with this
  • We don't exactly know where the new coastlines will be. Is all of the ice going to melt? As humid as it gets, the water in the atmosphere shouldn't make that much difference to the sea surface height, so this is all about ice.
  • If all the ice does melt, there's some disagreement about when this would happen. The official forecast is something like a decimeter SSH rise by the end of the century. This is because climate scientists, as much as they make fun of financial analysts for doing this sort of thing, seem to favor a stable year-over-year rise in global average temperature.
  • We won't get beaches right away. We'll have to suffer through possibly decades of extreme wetlands. Good for the mangrove farmers, bad for beach tennis. If you knew where the coastline would be when the ice was all gone and when that would happen, it wouldn't be sandy for another several decades.
  • Climate change will cause crop failure and major disruptions in transportation and probably communications, as well as pandemics and surprise effects like these beach bacterial infections we have now and (pet theory alert) tsunamis. It seems unlikely our challenged democracy will survive, and we should end up in a more pronounced plutocracy, where the private army of some rich person will just take whatever property that rich person wants.
So, realty in the light of climate change is tricky to predict, and the rich are hard to steal more than. Profiting off climate change is really all one can do at this point, but the beachfront property thing may be a little hard to play.

I now have an obesity-related blog to go with my obesity-related lifestyle

Guy contacts me for a link exchange. He's all like, "I would also love to post about your obesity related blogs on my messageboard. Please feel free to use any of the obesity related information I have compiled as well."
And I'm all like, "Link exchange is cool."
So, as careful readers will note, I now have a links section.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Of course, in 1988, Alberto didn't strike until August 7. There was no sign of Chris until August 21. So, while the hurricane season starts June 1, we should maybe not be expecting cyclones then. Wikipedia provides a list of Atlantic Hurricane Seasons. In 2000, the first three named storms (also Alberto, Beryl and Chris, as the NHC does not have ZipCar's commitment to unique names) were on the 3rd, 14th and 24th of August. In 2003, Anna formed April 20th, Bill and Claudette on June 29 and July 7th. By this time we were past Danny, and by the end of August to Grace. Last year, though, we were in Harvey by August and Lee by its end.

No real pattern leaps out, but we'll wait and see.

Chris is here!

Well, OK. We're averaging about a tropical depression a month. Bad day for Castro to take off, though.

Impeachment process kicking into high gear!

John Conyers is putting together a list of crimes. You might think that this is some Democratic trick to keep you from voting your conscience, but it's still nice to see.

Wheels coming off the wagon

So, you're familiar with the Laffer curve. This is the thesis that states:
  1. If no one was taxed, no revenues would be raised
  2. If taxes took everything, no one would bother to generate wealth, and no revenues would be raised
  3. We're between 0 and 100 % taxation
  4. Some tax revenues are raised
  5. Since we have two zeros with an non-zero number in between, the dependence of tax revenues on taxation is a parabola
  6. Since more than half of all economic wealth is absorbed into taxes, reducing taxes would increase revenues
Now, assertion (5) may seem blind-faithy to you. And assertion (6) might not sound true. But, JFK's reducing the top levels of income tax taxation below 91 % did precede an increase in tax revenue, which proves the point. Or, supports the point, which is the same as proving if you're lying and powerful.

But! Two kind of crazy otherwordly things happened, as reported in Slate.
  • Dick Cheney ordered a study to see how true this was
  • A report was released debunking the Laffer Curve nonsense
Now, these people had clearly learned their lesson with the global warming report and the State Department Patterns of Global Terrorism report. You can't just let these eggheads run away with the questions, as they'll come back and tell you you're wrong. Which they've done again!

Here you are. The introduction seems very line-toeing, but turns around into brutal irony the deeper you read.
Extending the remainder of the tax relief – the 10 percent rate, the expansion of the child tax credit, and the reduction in marriage penalties – stimulated economic activity during and immediately after the recession and served other purposes, such as making the tax code more progressive. However, these elements of the tax relief do not have positive growth effects in the longer term in ways that this type of model can measure.

Which is to say, tax cuts are only good for the rich.
Second, the initial steady state assumes that current law polices are fiscally sustainable.
If the revenue cost of that tax relief is offset by reducing future government spending, the increase in output is likely be about 0.7 percent under plausible assumptions. If, instead, the tax relief is extended only through the 14 end of the budget window (i.e., it is temporary), the tax relief would increase national output in the short run, but long-run output would decline as future tax rates increase.
Well, OK. But, if Mr.-Tax-Cut president can't get spending down with a friendly Congress, I think we'd best keep an eye on our revenues.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

More on obesity

Slate today warns against reaching for the easy answers on causes of obesity. This piece was based on a University of Alabama at Birmingham study, so a big shout out to UAB! Contributing factors less obvious that bad food and sedentary lifestyles may include...
  1. Inadequate sleep -- this can apparently make you fat.
  2. Chemical contamination -- the environment is contaminated with endocrine-like substances.
  3. Heating and air-conditioning -- you don't burn off calories to stay warm, and the heat doesn't kill your appetite.
  4. Smoking cessation -- well, if you've quit...
  5. Medications -- Prozac, birth control pills and more promote weight gain.
The piece also contains a pithy response to problem solving by common sense: "what's obvious isn't necessarily true." This seems like a nice motto for a scientific college.