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.