Saturday, August 06, 2011

More Dogs

Gus wants his swimming pool inside the house:

Which makes perfect sense to me. Why would anyone want to be out in full sun when a nice, cool, shady, house is sitting right there?

Debbie's cranking out cruises like crazy. More people have quit/got fired while the business keeps pouring in. At every other place she's worked, this time of year is dead, but this place seems to work by different rules. Which is good, considering the alternative. I'm still neck-deep in tax code; at some point next week, I should be ready to sign up for the first test.

And I'm still doing the bicycle thing, running the same 10.4-mile route in gradually shorter times. I managed to keep my average speed above 12mph for the last two weeks except one day that I fell below that. In my defense, the humidity was so high, I had problems seeing because my glasses kept fogging over even though the temperature was over 80 degrees. I'll probably stick with my current route until August is over and the temps and humidity start to back off a bit, then switch my focus from increasing my average speed to increasing distance while maintaining average speed. I'd like to be doing 15 miles in an hour or less by the end of the year. I'd also like to win the lottery. We'll see which of those happen in the next five months.

Standard and Poor's followed through on its threats and down-graded US debt. I'm sort of on the fence on this. It's certainly true that the US, like many of the recipients of liar loans during the housing bubble, has neither the ability nor intention of ever repaying its debt. (Or repaying it in currency so debased that it may as well default.) On the other hand, this smells political. S&P, along with other ratings agencies, have been taking a beating from politicians for slapping AAA on complete junk during the last bubble, making this seem like petty revenge rather than a carefully considered decision. Lending support to the political angle is the countries that S&P still considers AAA, like Britain and France, whose economic and political situations are even more buggered than ours is. After last week's drop in stock markets all over the world, it will be interesting to see what next week will bring. We can hope that having a couple days to mull this over will mute the reaction somewhat. We can hope.

Meanwhile, it looks like a few people are finding paying jobs, even though manufacturing is slowing and consumer spending is down. It's pretty simple: we spent more than we made at every level from households to the federal government, for decades. It will likely take just as long to work out the consequences of all those accumulated bad decisions, both large and small. Part of that will be a deep restructuring of our economy that is currently based on borrowing money from the Chinese to buy useless crap from Vietnam. You cannot solve a debt problem by going further into debt; you have to fundamentally change how things are done. Until that restructuring happens, we will continue tumbling down the staircase like ol' Aunt Bessy after she's had a few too many at the family New Years Eve party.

The Post Office is threatening to default on money it owes to the federal government. I know that many people who use the internet think that the USPS needs to just dry up and blow away. I mean, we have this cool internet thing that we can use to send all those letters and cards that we used to send by snail mail, so who would miss it, other than the banks, who send us no fewer than a dozen credit card applications a week, and other junk mail purveyors? My opinion is that of all the stuff the federal government does with my money, the postal service is one of the few that it is constitutionally required to do. (Which is why I'm not clear on why the USPS is being treated as if it were separate from the rest of the federal government in the first place, and how the federal government can default on a payment to the federal government in the second.) Sure it can use a major overhaul, but how does that make it any different from the Parks Service or any other part of the federal government? And then we have the question of just how long will our shiny new internet toy will be around. The postal service was seen by our nation's founders as an essential part of keeping the republic intact. If we give that up in favor of some high-tech toy that proves to be unsustainable, what then?

Oh, and Fanny Mae needs another $5.1 billion. Obama needs to ring up the Chinese. Or not.

For anyone wondering what a sustained economic contraction looks like, we have a couple examples. The first is life in Greece. The riots may have abated for now, but that doesn't mean everything is fixed. A second example is Detroit. Unlike the rest of the country, Detroit (and its mini me, Flint) never fully recovered from the late-1970's and early-1980's recession(s). For anyone bothering to pay attention, they are showing us our future.

One way for the federal government to save money:

Which would also be a way for it to save American lives.

Twenty years ago, Tim Berners-Lee put up the first ever web page. Contrary to popular belief, the internet existed before the web; they are not one-and-the-same. But Berners-Lee laid the groundwork that made the internet "useful" (to the extent that things like Facebook and this blog can be considered useful). Unfortunately, the web has had some undesirable side effects:

Way too many people in that last category, which is bad enough, but nothing compared to your neighbors being able to disable your alarm system through the power lines (which is one reason why the best home security system is still a good deadbolt and a chihuahua), or even shutting the power off completely with 14 bytes of code.

In health-related news, anti-oxidants don't actually work as advertised and may cause harm. Not that such a minor quibble means much when we seem bent on bringing back whooping cough. We have also had yet-another reminder that raw ground meat must be cooked before being eaten. It doesn't matter what kind of meat it is. All ground meat must be thoroughly cooked before being consumed. I do love the solution being pushed by the author: more authority given to the federal government. Or people could, ya know,  just use some common sense and take a bit of personal responsibility. Ha! Just kidding. More federal government on the way!

And that little thing that happened over in Japan earlier this year? Something about an earthquake and a lot of water where it wasn't supposed to be and something about a nuclear reactor? Still a problem. Nothing earth-shaking (heh) like the incoherent ramblings of brainless sluts, but still somewhat important.

Another flash-mob robbery; this time a Victoria's Secret. First beer and chips, now lacy undies. Next up: Jewelery store? Bank? Maybe the whole ubiquitous cell phone thing wasn't such a great idea after all.

Add dolphins to the growing list of tool-using animals:

It was in 1984 that researchers first observed the dolphins fitting basket sponges over their beaks, then scraping through seafloor mud to disturb hidden fish. Research subsequently showed this behavior to be full-blown tool use, taught by mothers to their daughters and representing a profound difference in lifestyle between them and Shark Bay’s other bottlenoses.

Yes, but have they invented collateralized debt obligations? Didn't think so. Humans still Rock!!

We also have the possibility of liquid water on Mars. Not at some distant time in the past, but now. Today. That certainly raises some intriguing questions. Maybe we can get some answers before NASA is completely de-funded.

I haven't posted much lately about the whole global warming/climate change/climate weirding debate because for a long time, it was just more of the same: the original data is suspect, the data is intentionally being manipulated by those with political agendas or economic interest in creating warming, the models don't work, the IPCC is a political organization rather than a scientific one, the consensus is not nearly as complete as we are lead to believe, blah, blah, blah. So up pops this article with the typical inflammatory title we've come to expect from our "news" organizations. The article itself doesn't live up to the hype, as expected, but instead reveals yet-another real-world data point that indicates we don't really understand how energy flows through the system and that the models are once again shown to be inadequate because we really don't understand how energy flows through the system. The response from the IPCC politicians was also predictable, complaining about a paper being published that shows real-world data in disagreement with their precious climate models. What's troubling is that the paper in question points the way to more-accurate models. While the map is never the territory, it would be nice to have climate models that can at least land in reality's general neighborhood.

Oh, speaking of maps and territories, Tropical Storm Emily was a complete bust. It stalled well south of Florida on Thursday, then fell apart sometime early Friday. We are closing in on our first anniversary of living in Florida without having any major cyclonic activity anywhere in the state. It will happen sooner or later; I'm just hoping we get something small as a warm-up before a big one comes grinding in. But for now, all is quiet in the Atlantic.

Well, off to do a bit of running around, then spending the rest of the day cleaning up the apartment and rearranging our stuff.

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