Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On the Way Out the Door

Just some quick links to keep everyone entertained while I work my last day in the bakery:

SpaceX made it to orbit on the fourth try. Things look good if they can get a few more successes under their belt. We, as in America, badly need an alternative to NASA.

Why we need that alternative is China. Mission accomplished. They are replaying Apollo step by step. And, it seems, with significant popular support.

Meanwhile, back here in the US, at least one person is talking sense on the economy. Taxpayers should not be picking up the tab for the gross negligence of the government or private lenders.

So far today, it looks like the bottom feeders have pushed most markets up about a third of what was lost yesterday, but it isn't strong and I doubt it will be sustained. More after work when the markets are closed for the day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Huh.

Go to work for a few hours and the world falls apart:

Dow: -777.68
Nasdaq: -199.61
S&P 500: -106.62
Number of companies on the NYSE whose shares declined today: 3,333
Number of companies on the NYSE whose shares advanced or stayed the same: 222

The House rejected the bailout plan.

There was no late-day rally that could possibly be continued tomorrow. That's not to say the bottom-feeders won't cause a bit of recovery over the next couple of days, but I wouldn't bet on any sort of sustained bounce. More important may be some of the psychological barriers: a loss on the Dow half the size of today's will push it below 10,000; a loss equal to today's loss on the S&P will drop it under 1,000; the Nasdaq is already below 2,000. There is nothing magic about these numbers; after all, 10,000 is just one more than 9,999 and one less than 10,001. But this isn't about logic. This is about emotion. Fear and panic, to be specific. The horses are stampeding into the burning barn.

I did finally get a bit of news: I now know my schedule at the cafe: Monday through Friday 9:30am to 4pm. Banker hours. Not a bad deal. Now we can start doing more stuff on the weekends and see some of the local sites.

Now if I just knew how much I was making an hour....

The Vote is In

Well, the world's markets have responded to the congressional bail-out deal. It doesn't seem to be any more popular than the congress that is voting on it. All the market indicators in Asia, Europe and the US are deep in negative territory.

Another long week.

In other economic news of a more personal nature, I still don't know the exact details of the job I'm supposed to be starting on Wednesday. I'm sure I'll hear something today.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm First Now!!

I was going to post last night, but I figured I'd let Debbie's post stay on top for at least twelve hours....

Anyway, after owning (and taking a bath on) two houses, I figured out what this guy figured out without losing $100K. There may be good political reasons to own a house, but the only way they make a good investment is if you ride a bubble. That's not to say that some people haven't made a killing by doing that, but, as everyone is finding out now, many more people get burned by bubbles than benefit from them. What we are seeing now is the tulip bulb craze writ large. (If you want a good illustration of how we never learn from history, read the entire entry on crashes.)

Early this morning, congress passed a bill to save us all from ourselves. Let's hope it works better than the Dutch government's attempt to save the tulip bulb market. We'll know in a few hours what the Asains think of it.

I also would like to point out something that Paolo Solari has been saying for nearly a half century: single family homes are extremely inefficient both in terms of energy use in the home and the transportation costs that are a direct result of the sprawl caused by everyone having a "right" to own a home. Tree-hugging granola-eaters take note: an energy-efficient single-family home is a complete misnomer (or, as Paolo will tell anyone who cares to listen, it is a "different kind of wrongness"). Our apartment, built in the 1960's with it's single-pane windows, uses less energy per square foot than any type of single-family home other than an underground home. And even then, you still have the issue of high energy use for transportation.

[Later]
I forgot to hit Publish before we walked downtown to pet all the doggies at Dog-Toberfest. I got some decent video of a couple of the fribee dogs that I'll stick up on Flickr at some point.

Lunch time!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The fight for the top

Ha....I won for a little while! LOL (Until Ric gets home from work and blogs again tonite or tomorrow!) Have a great weekend. We may mosey to Prescott tomorrow to check out all the dogs during the "Dog Toberfest" ---- I will love to see the look alike contest.
DOG-TOBERFEST !
September 28 to September 29

Sept. 28, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Prescott Courthouse Plaza Blessing of the dogs. Dog Contests, most glamorous-handsome, owner look alike, ugliest and best trick. Top winners win dog food for a year and other great prizes! Vendors, low cost vaccinations, mirco-chipping, demonstrations, give-a-ways, and lots more for the four-legged and two-legged friends. Take home your new best friend, dog adoptions throughout the day from the Humane Society and tri-city dog rescues.

Stuff

I feel like I'm in some sort of holding pattern right now. I'm still waiting on some of the details for my new job, like when I'll be working, how much I will be making; unimportant details like that. The joys of being in a start-up.

Financially, last week wasn't a good week for many people. WaMu failed, which doesn't seem to have slowed the flood of credit card applications they send us. One would think that a bank on the edge of insolvency would back off on the unsolicited credit card offers. Anyway, one of our banks, Chase, bought up their assets. This is by far the largest bank failure in US history even adjusting for inflation. And it ain't over yet.

The markets, at least here in the US, continue to diddle around, just like our "leaders," with most indices slightly up yesterday. The rest of the world is in the toilet. Obviously their view of the ability of the Washington brain trust is somewhat less rosey than Wall Street's. The US mint has suspended sales of gold coins in the face of massive demand. I still can't believe that I didn't grab a sack when it was $300/ounce.

Last bit of good news; the only bright spot in the economy doesn't seem to be quite so bright.

Well, soon I'll be off to stand around at work. If the rumors are true, I'm getting out just in time.

Slow week at work

It was pretty slow at work this week. Monday I was busy playing catch up from being off for 10 days, but other than that .... SLOW! I think the only thing I sold this week was for some past clients -- 11nt pkg to the Bahamas -- they are staying at the Atlantis.

Tonite I worked on "assembling" some of my Stampin' Up stamps. I got Ric to help since I was having a hard time peeling off the backing. In case anybody is interested, I am going to try my hand at selling Stampin' Up things. To be "active" and allowed to place orders, I have to sell a minimum of $300/quarter. I'm hoping this quarter will be no problem -- after that, we will see how it goes. I have two girls at work that are ready with their orders totalling almost $100. I left a catalog with a friend in Michigan and sent two to my Mom to take to her old workplace. Maybe, just maybe......

Ric and I are scheduled on a 4nt cruise at the end of September 2009 -- a Baja Mexico itinerary with Royal Caribbean. If anyone wants to join us (and my Mom and godmother), just let me know. Deposit is $100 per person and is refundable until final payment in July. (For those that don't know -- I work at AAA as a travel agent here in Prescott.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Anatomy of a Fail

Jerry Pournelle provides a good summary of how we ended up in this mess. If it sounds like a lot of smart people took leave of their senses, then you get an "A" for reading comprehension. Nothing that has happened in the last year was surprising to anyone other than those who were responsible for the mess. The result was predictable and was predicted. Repeatedly, and by people in much higher places than a grumpy blogger.

Meanwhile, as Rome burns, our moral defectives in Washington fiddle. If these people are all that stands between us and ruin, we are truly doomed.

Oh, and that little country just east of here that we try to ignore? You know, the one with nukes and spaceships that work and 20% of the world population and an economy based on making things? China, I think it's called? Anyway, they just suspended banking activity with US banks. Probably not important. In fact, forget I even mentioned it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Be Mad. And Scared.

The stock market dithered around all day while avoiding the Apocalypse. I'm predicting that it will stay down for the week without some very good news. Short of finding $4 trillion in gold hidden under the floor of the Oval office, I can't imagine what good news there possibly could be. The federal government's $700 billion didn't seem to cheer anyone up. Warren Buffet threw $5 billion at Goldman Sachs to no obvious effect. It certainly won't help that the Treasury Secretary said today that average Americans "should be angry and... should be scared." That'll send the market up for sure.

Meanwhile, China prepares to do something that America will be incapable of doing in a little over a year: launch humans into space. The shuttle is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2010 and assuming everything goes according to plan, its replacement won't be ready until 2015. And we know that NASA projects never come in late. Or over budget.

So remember: Be Mad. Be Scared. Let's all put on our best, scared Grrrrr! face, forget about the vanishing value of our homes and retirement funds, and hit the mall!

WooHoo!

As Ric already mentioned -- he is finally getting out of the bakery. The bonuses are full time and some Saturdays off -- plus a bit closer to our apartment. So my walk home after I "take him to work" on Sat won't be as bad. I swear that last incline from one of the hotels to our place kills me each week. Maybe I need to go walk it everyday like Ric does ......

Home for lunch and a Koegel bologna sandwich. Thanks so much to my Mom for getting me some bologna and hot dogs for my trip back to AZ. Ric was laughing at me when we had the hotdogs on Sunday --- I think I was moaning in pleasure. I certainly miss my Koegels!!!!!!

Quick Update

In about 45 minutes, I'll be heading off to work and giving notice. Again. This time, no matter what, I am done with the bakery. It won't be a two-week notice; more like barely a week. The cafe manager wants everyone there October 1st so we can all practice what we are supposed to do for a couple days, then we open for real on October 6th. The job is supposed to be full time, five days a week. The cafe is closed on Sunday, so I'll have at least one day off with Debbie every week, and I'll also get the occasional Saturday. Plus, the hourly rate is at least the same as I get now if not slightly better. Of course the best benefit is not working for a neurotic female.

Here's a quote for the day. It was from the McCain election staff, but it could have been uttered by any politician or their handlers:
To the extent that the comments of members of our staff are misinterpreted, they shouldn't be read into as anything otherwise.

Moral defectives. Every. Last. One.

The market is currently in slightly negative territory, but doing a lot of bouncing around. Today is the tipping point, IMO. Meanwhile, the Treasury department is still trying to convince the market that $700 billion > $4 trillion. For some reason, no one is buying it.

Well, gotta get ready for work.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ka-Boom!

Not even the promise of unlimited government bailouts could keep the market positive today. Monday's are usually gloomy days on Wall Street, so the key will be what happens tomorrow and Wednesday. If the Dow closes below 10,000, I'm not sure enough money can be printed to save the day.

Oil and gold are on the way back up. No big surprise there given the market.

Surprisingly enough, no one seems to care much about global warming now that the value of their house is dropping, and their investments are vanishing along with their jobs. So it's probably non-news that South Africa is having the coldest weather ever recorded. Because we know that global warming causes freak snow storms, right?

Gotta go; dinner is ready.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Debbie's Home!

Doing my happy dance!

I finally finished Nixonland. Whew. It was tough sledding at 750 pages of small type and lots of names to keep track of. But very much worth the effort. If you have a week or two of spare time, I would recommend both Before the Storm and Nixonland. Any respect you have for presidential politics will be gone long before you are done, but better informed and cynical than ignorant and a patsy. IMO, of course.

Speaking of politics and sausages, Fred Reed has a new essay up about the presidential election. This is what universal sufferage gets you; lowest-common-denominator politicians. If you want smart politicians, you have to limit the franchise to smart voters. How that's been done has historically been rife with abuses, but better a good system with abuses than a bad system with abuses (because there will always be abuse).

(This is going to be one of those posts, so you may want to settle in. I have been so focused on off-line reading that I have a lot of pent-up blogging.)

The Palin e-mail hack does appear to have a political angle, but so far it looks more like college pranking. But the question remains why state business was being discussed using a Yahoo e-mail account that can be "hacked" by providing answers that can be found on Google. Which of course leads to the question of how someone that stupid gets to be VP. See above.

This week will be studied in history classes in the next generation. What has happened is significant in ways very few realize. The politicians respond predictably; that is to say as the moral defectives they all are. Every action that has been taken to "fix" this crises will only make it worse. Sure the markets got a nice little bounce that erased the two days of losses, but it's all smoke and mirrors. You simply cannot shrug off the disappearance of $4 Trillion in wealth. If you can really call the house of cards known as the US economy "wealth" without doing violence to the English language:
An enormous hoax has been perpetrated on global financial markets during the past 10 years. An American economy based on opening containers from China and selling the contents at Wal-Mart, or trading houses back and forth, provides scant profitability. Where the underlying profitability of the American economy was poor, financial engineering managed to transform thin profits into apparently fat ones through the magic of leverage.

The income of American consumers might have stagnated, but the price of their houses doubled during 1998-2007 thanks to the application of leverage to mortgage finance. The profitability of American corporations might have slowed, but the application of leverage in the form of mergers and acquisitions financed with junk bonds multiplied the thin band of profitability.

"Leverage" is just a fancy Wall Street word for debt. Massive debt. More debt than can ever be repaid in one's life-time. More:
As I wrote on May 20, the proximate cause of the Great Crash is the enhancement of poor returns to capital through leverage. The decline of returns to capital, though, stemmed from a global imbalance of supply and demand for capital in response to the rapid aging of the world population. The aging pensioners of Europe and Asia must find young people to pay interest into their pensions, and they do not have enough young people at home. Germans aged 15 to 24, on the threshold of family formation, comprise only 12% of the country's population today and will fall to only 8% by 2030. But one-fifth of Germans now are on the threshold of retirement and half will be there by mid-century.

Systemic problems literally being papered over. And over, and over, and over.

And of course, government intervention in capitalist markets is what has caused every bit of this, so guess what the solution is, according to left-wing French "intellectuals." Yep. I'm not sure how to translate "tree-hugging granola-eaters" into French. (Babblefish says "arbre-├ętreindre le granola-mangeur" but, even though my last French class was 25 years ago, I don't think that's even close.) The British have several... um... "colorful metaphors" for the French in general, but even I won't put them in a general blog post.

If you want to know how it can all go so wrong when our best and brightest are supposed to be running the show, the answer is The Black Swan. I haven't read that book yet, but it's moved to the top of my to-be-read list after last week. I have some catching up around here that will take me a few days, but I will be at the library looking for it by mid-week. In the meantime, here is an essay by the author on the relation between the misuse of statistics and the current financial melt-down:
Statistical and applied probabilistic knowledge is the core of knowledge; statistics is what tells you if something is true, false, or merely anecdotal; it is the "logic of science"; it is the instrument of risk-taking; it is the applied tools of epistemology; you can't be a modern intellectual and not think probabilistically—but... let's not be suckers. The problem is much more complicated than it seems to the casual, mechanistic user who picked it up in graduate school. Statistics can fool you. In fact it is fooling your government right now. It can even bankrupt the system (let's face it: use of probabilistic methods for the estimation of risks did just blow up the banking system).

Good stuff. It's long, but worth the slog for gems like this:
If you are leveraged, errors blow you up; if you are not, you can enjoy life.

And we remember what leverage is, right? Debt is slavery with lipstick, to paraphrase one potential world leader.

And just to wrap things up with a little more reading material, here is a review of Charles Murray's new book, Real Education. Charles Murray was co-author of Bell Curve, a book so hated by liberal academics that many didn't even have to read it to know they hated every word of it.

OK. I have carpel tunnel now, so I'll stop.

Hiding Under the Covers

[I've been trying to post this for two days; Blogger has been having some sort of mental breakdown.]

Maybe I should just stay in bed with the covers over my head. Sure the stock market went up, but only because the federal government announce that from now on, all banking risk would be assumed by the taxpayers, while the banks would be able to keep all the profit. Great deal for a very small group of people and major suck-age for the rest of us. The end of the world as we know it, indeed.

Another bad day at the bakery sales-wise. I was busy for some reason that no one could explain and ended up working two hours later than normal, but one person was told today that they would be cut from full time to part time. I have a feeling I may get the chop soon if I don't get out first.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hey from Michigan

I love this time of year here in Michigan --- it has been (mostly) great weather while I've been here this week. Some of the trees are just starting to turn colors ---- temps in the mid 70's during the day and down to mid 50's at night -- almost perfect. I took a long walk in "our woods" yesterday --- yeah, mine and what was mine --- but it was nice. I will miss it during the fall.

But realistically -- we weren't getting back to Michigan that much; we didn't want to spend the money to improve the cabin, sink a well, and bring in real electricity to the cabin. That old saying is true most of the time -- you need money to make money. My "grand plans" were to improve the cabin as mentioned above and then rent it out most of the year --- "Backwoods Retreat" -- so we could make our money back, pay taxes, pay propane and electric costs and start bringing in some money. Oh well --- somebody else can have those plans.

Yesterday I bombed out (almost 100%) of trying to find some friends at their homes. 3 of the 4 places -- nobody was home when I stopped -- so I left notes. The 4th place, they were just loading up the truck to go to TC -- so I got to peek in the back seat to see our newest "honorary grandchild" (who was asleep) and say Hi and hope to see ya Friday sometime. Oh well -- next time I might try to do more planning --- but what fun is that?! I love to surprise people. :-)

As Ric mentioned --- I have the cabin/shed all cleaned out --- mostly because Don decided to help out. He decided it was best to load up everything out of the shed into his trailer and take it to his place. Then he will contact the grandkids (and whomever) some weekend to come over and go through our stuff to see what they want and can use. Just remember ---- it is a long term loan -- do NOT sell our stuff -- and if we want it back for some reason --- it is ours. No --- I"m not bitter --- just wanted to do things my way. I am thankful that I didn't have to put some of the stuff in the back of my rental car ---- might have been interesting to explain all the cobwebs and bugs! LOL

A (Mostly) Bad Day

The good part of today was my job interview this morning at the cafe. I think it went pretty well. I'll know something Saturday. Fingers crossed.

Another bad day at the bakery. We didn't have any real customers after 2pm, and damn few before that. Get home and jump on the internet to find that the Dow is now down 800 points on the week and every credit market indicator is in the red zone.

Then we have Palin's private e-mail account hacked. This could be interesting in many ways. First of all, the hacking itself is clearly illegal, and it looks as if there were enough tracks left behind to track back to the hackers. A lot of that depends on the competence of the FBI, and we know their record on tech crime can be best described as "uneven." Who is at the end of the trail is also interesting to speculate about. If he/she has even the most tenuous connection to the Obama camp.... Then there is the issue of what was in Palin's personal e-mail account. All e-mails that concern government business are, by law, required to be sent from a government account so there is a permanent record. From all appearances, Palin has been conducting government business through her personal Yahoo account.

So depending on what comes of this, one side may get a big surge, or they may just deliver simultanious death blows to each other.

Moral defectives to the last person.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gun-Totin' Skank Ho

I know that I don't work for a very smart person, and that most of her "friends" are fellow travelers of the left side of the bell curve, but yesterday was unbearable. I literally had to walk away from my job and get out of hearing for 20 minutes or so.

The title, of course, refers to the bakery owner's brilliant label for Sarah Palin, which was repeated endlessly all through her conversation with her "friend." Highlight of the conversation:

"She's killed all those animals," said without a trace of irony while piling bloody roast beef on a sandwich.

Which was the point I had to just walk away. Again, I have no doubt that Palin is as much a moral defective as any other politician. And I am sure the press will dig up all sorts of ugly things from her and her family's past, some of which may even turn out to be true. But I can't shake the feeling that this outpouring of pure hate from the feminazi granola-eaters is exactly what McCain was banking on. The fact that the feminazi granola-eaters are playing their part so perfectly and so loudly says all you need to know about their intellect.

Federal Take-Over

The federal government now owns AIG, as well as Freddie and Fannie. I'm sure they will do for the financial sector of the economy what they have done for education. At least the Federal Reserve didn't continue its policy of destroying our currency, which prevented a repeat of Monday's Wall Street blood bath and allowed oil to slip below my $100 floor. (Nobody actually makes investment decisions based on my spewage here, right?) Not that we will see any effect at the pump with 25% of our refining capacity knocked off-line. And to repeat again: the systemic problems remain.

I need to spend some time finding out just how hard it is to off-shore money.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Disasters

Financial disaster on Wall Street to go along with the natural disaster in Texas.

Business at the bakery has been a disaster for the last couple weeks. Every day, I think to myself that it can't possibly get any worse, then it does. I interview Wednesday for a job at a place that is supposed to be opening soon. Another restaurant, but I should be OK during the four or five months of the new-restaurant buzz.

No other disasters to report. Debbie is still in Michigan. All the big stuff is out of the cabin and shed. She will be there taking care of the small stuff and giving the cabin a bit of a cleaning before we close on the sale at the end of the month.

Speaking of the sale, October 1 will mark the first time we have not owned real estate in the 20 years we have been married. I'm looking forward to it.

Well, I was going to get to bed early tonight, but that isn't very likely ast it is already tomorrow.

[Update: just found a page of live web cams on Galveston Island. Most of them went off-line around 10am local time on Friday, probably when the power failed. The web site is displaying that last image from each of the cameras.]

[Update: Found some good photos of Galveston. OK, to bed. Really.]

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A New Record

Yesterday, the "world ends on September 10th" beat out "Debbie's boob job" for the most unique visitors in one day by a score of 106 to 98, marking the first time since having this blog that we hit triple digits.

Of course, we barely broke 10 visitors for today....

Doomsday

It's here. September 10th. The day the world has been dreading. Be sure to tell your family that you love them because this could be the last time you ever see them.

Um, er. Wait. Lets see; how many of those pesky time zones are there between Arizona and Switzerland? Ah. Oh. It was flipped on over seven hours ago?

Huh.

What if the world ended and no one noticed?

I expect to see our traffic stats plummet. Does that qualify as the end of the world?

A Little of Everything

It's late and I should be in bed instead of blogging, but I'm blogging instead of in bed. Don't expect the rest of this to make a lot more sense.

The federal government took over Freddie Mac and Fannie May over the weekend. The Congressional Budget Office, essentially the CPA's for the federal government, is of the opinion that the cost of doing so should be included in the federal budget. The Bush administration "appeared to be caught by surprise." God help us. Nothing good can come of this.

Oil appears to be finding a new "normal" around $100/barrel. The systemic problems of rapidly increasing demand as the rest of the world tries to catch up to the West, remain. Current prices are simply a new floor from which oil prices will take their next leap in 18 months.

Camille Paglia has a lot of very interesting things to say about the November elections, Sarah Palin, and the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard response of the fruits and nuts on the left. Not that I really care; all politicians are moral defectives who will say anything to get elected/re-elected, yet never do anything other than the bidding of the recipients of the government's $8.5 billion a day.

See? I really should be sleeping instead of blogging.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Obsession

Out of the last 100 visitors to this site, only 17 didn't come here from a Google search about the world ending on September 10.

So I guess I won't be an internet superstar on September 11.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that I won't have to work every Saturday and Sunday. The bad news is that it's because the restaurant job evaporated. At least the owner figured out that she couldn't afford to replace an unpaid intern with a paid employee before the bakery owner found my replacement.

So I'll be staying at the bakery for now. I may be working more on Saturday's, but I've heard that line before.

And the hits keep coming. Our numbers from the last week are running about double the number of readers we normally see on this site, all trying to find out if the world is going to end on September 10.

To judge by the screams from liberals, you would think the world already ended. Palin has all the feminazi's and granola-eaters in a complete lather. I stood in the back of the bakery Thursday listening to the owner and two women customers denouncing Palin as a "redneck" and "just a horrible person." The three of them kept at it for at least 20 minutes. Which probably tells you everything you need to know. Here's how I see it: everyone assumes that the taint of George Bush will make it difficult for any Republican to win an election for dog catcher, let alone President. So if McCain gets thumped in November, no big deal. Obama will get the presidency by virtue of people voting against Bush or staying home. But if McCain wins, it will be a huge upset and Obama threw away what should have been a cake walk. Can't lose for McCain, can't win for Obama. And Palin makes a McCain win far more likely than it was a week ago.

Not that any of it matters. The system is in place and no one will ever get near that big leather chair at 1600 Pensylvania Avenue that has plans for any substantive change. The government is spending $8.5 billion a day. Does any rational person believe that those who directly benefit from that money are going to stand by while someone takes away the rice bowl?

Or maybe I'm suffering a Chomsky overload....

Saturday, September 06, 2008

"Here I Come to Save the Day!"

Mighty Mouse has nothing on these bozos. And the Fed has turned into the piggy bank of first resort. Meanwhile, unemployment is up, and foreclosures are up. But at least oil is falling back close to $100.

In completely unrelated news, this site continues to be pounded by people Google-ing about the end of the world. All the activity has driven us up to the third spot in the search results. Today, I was reading up a little on the LHC just to see if it was still on schedule and learned something very interesting. Everyone is worried about what will happen when the LHC is fired up and starts smashing protons, but there is just one thing: Not a single proton will be smashed on September 10; they will just be doing a few laps around the track. So even if the doomsayers are correct and the high-energy collisions do produce earth-eating black holes, it won't be happening until sometime late in October or early November.

So I guess the message is that if you are going to be a doomsayer, at least get the date right.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Paranoia Runs Deep

In the last three days, we have had nearly 100 hits from all over the world, with most finding us by Googling some version of "world ends september 10" and hitting this entry. Of course, the more clicks, the higher that blog entry gets in the Google listings, making it more likely that the next person will wind up here.

Still hasn't reached the level of traffice we got from "debbie's boob job" several years ago, but we still have a week to go.

Not much happening here other than reading and watching movies. Microsoft managed to mangle Media Player somewhere along the way so that when you watch an mpeg video file, the music volume is normal, but speech is nearly inaudible. I assume that as most speech is on the center-front speaker, with music and sound effects on the right-left front-rear speakers, there is some problem with the surround sound settings. I didn't have the patience to dig very far, so I just installed the Windows version of VLC. I wasn't much impressed with its quality of video playback when I ran it under Ubuntu a couple years ago, and I have seen nothing to change my opinion of the current version. At the time, I wasn't sure if the video problem was VLC or Ubuntu, but given that it's no better under Windows, I'm guessing the issue is with VLC. But it will do for now, and it fixed the audio problem. I may yet poke around in the control panel and try to fix Media Player, but I'm not in any hurry.

Speaking of audio, I made another upgrade to our entertainment system. Up until yesterday, I had the laptop's headphone jack plugged into the TV's audio. It worked, but there was a great deal of distortion. For five years or so, I've owned and Edirol UA-1A (essentially an external sound card that plugs into a USB port), but I didn't have a cable to mate the UA-1A's left-right RCA jacks to the stereo 1/8" plug on the TV. I literally had every other audio cable you can imagine except that one. Yesterday, I finally stopped at the Radio Shack that I walk by every day on the way home from work and picked up the appropriate cable. The difference is unbelievable. I had considered getting some external, powered studio monitors to upgrade the TV's audio, but now I'm not sure that I will bother. Anyway, getting the audio sorted out means that we are left with getting a magic black box that will let us wirelessly print to our laser printer in the office, and finding another magic black box that will give us the full native resolution of our TV (1920x1080) from our laptop. I expect the first to be easy, the second to be nearly impossible.

It's also time to sort out our disk space situation. I'm currently running two half-terabyte SATA drives in MX-1 enclosures and an aging 60 gig Western Digital Passport. Files are sort of scattered around with a big xcopy job that copies every file to at least one other place. Not an ideal system, and the Western Digital has been running continuously for six or seven years. I'm seriously considering a Drobo with two 1-terebyte drives plus my two half-terabyte drives. The Drobo uses its own version of RAID to prevent data loss if one of the drives craps out, so I would be able to ditch my xcopy backup system and use more of my disk space for data instead of backups. But all that will have to wait for funding; the Drobo itself plus a couple 1 terabyte drives is running around $700.

Well, time for bed.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More Randomness from Arizona

I didn't end up being needed at the restaurant on Saturday, and I was offered Monday off from the bakery, which I jumped at. So we had Saturday evening, all day Sunday, and all day Monday available. And we did....

Mostly nothing.

And it was wonderful. I finished up Perlstein's After the Storm and started on another collection of Chomsky. Thanks to a quick jaunt to the library, I have Perlstein's Nixonland on deck followed by Pournelle's Exile - and Glory and Niven's Fleet of Worlds that I purchased with a gift card. Debbie has been burning up about three books a day. I figure at the rate we've been going so far in 2008, we will rip through 250+ books by the end of the year. I think that's a record even for us. We also watched several movies: Batman Begins (which we own), Definitely, Maybe, Fools Gold, and I Am Legend (all Amazon UnBox rentals). And I caught up with a week of Internet reading. So not a bad weekend in terms of productivity. Maybe "nothing" isn't really accurate. More like nothing that involved us moving from the couch.

Meanwhile, reality intrudes in the form of another bank failure, and concern grows that the federal agency that insures deposits will run out of cash before this is all over. But, hey! Gas is "only" $3.53.

In other energy news, at least some on the internet are very excited about Nanosolar putting every coal and nuclear power plant out of business. Small problem; as many point out continuously, indirect sun in the morning, evening, and the six months of winter in the higher latitudes doesn't produce much power; there isn't much sun when it's cloudy, and even less at night. While ground-based solar may well become important for peak loads during the daytime (running all the air conditioners in Phoenix at noon, for example), I will predict that ground-based solar will never be a major contributor to base load. Now, roll up a bunch of those panels and shoot them up to geo-stationary orbit....

And people are starting to figure out that burning food is stupid, but burning weeds (or, in this case, algae) may make sense (you will have to scroll down a bit to get to the part about algae). Algae yields very high amounts of vegetable oil per acre, which can be burned in diesel engines.

Well, after I post this and update the Currently Reading and Recently Read lists, it's back to Chomsky.