Friday, August 31, 2007

On Larry Craig

I think the endless discussion is missing one real possibility: that Craig may be telling the truth.

It's hardly unknown for police to entrap someone, especially when they're trolling for perverts. We don't have any point at which Craig offered sex, discussed sex, even hinted at sex --- just a my-word-against-yours from a policeman who just "knew" that brushing his hand in a physically-impossible fashion under the edge of the stall was a proposition. And now we've got a policeman calling him a liar, threatening to arrest him for something rather more than "disorderly conduct" --- and Craig knowing that if someone has to bail him out it will be pretty awful --- and then the officer offers to let him off with disorderly, and no one will ever have to know.

I don't find it all that difficult to imagine him, in a moment of weakness or cowardice, deciding the "smart" thing to do is get it over with. Who knows if Mike Nifong is the prosecutor?

So let's be straight about this (heh): it is less than clear that Craig committed any crime. But, given what we're seeing now, would have have been wrong to think that the accusation would have destroyed his life? Was he in any position to fight?

Omniscient: Writer-Directors w/ Final Cut

'Tell me why you are here.'
'It has been decided that the Buddha must die.'
'That does not answer my question, however. Why have you come here?'
'Are you not the Buddha?'
'I have been called Buddha, and Tathagatha, and the Enlightened One, and many other things. But, in answer to your question, no, I am not the Buddha. You have already succeeded in what you set out to do. You slew the real Buddha this day.'
'My memory must indeed be growing weak, for I confess that I do not remember doing this thing.'
'The real Buddha was named by us Sugata,' replied the other. 'Before that, he was known as Rild.'
'Rild!' Yama chuckled. 'You are trying to tell me that he was more than an executioner whom you talked out of doing his job?'
'Many people are executioners who have been talked out of doing their jobs,' replied the one on the rock. 'Rild gave up his mission willingly and became a follower of the Way. He was the only man I ever knew to achieve real enlightenment.'

—Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light

”Beauty is truth,” said Keats. “Beauty is information,” says the great Russian semiotician, Juri Lotman, a formula more in tune with the modern mind. Henry James, the first truly modern novelist in the English language, did not believe that the ultimate truth about human experience could ever be established, but developed a fictional technique that loaded every rift with the ore of information.

—David Lodge, The Art of Fiction

The English-language (subtitled) version of Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s feature-film debut, begins with two title cards:
1984, East Berlin. Glasnost is nowhere in sight.
The population of the GDR is kept under strict control
by the Stasi, the East German Secret Police.
Its force of 100,000 employees and 200,000 informers
safeguards the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Its declared goal: “To know everything”.
The first thing we see Stasi Captain Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) do is press the record button on a tape recorder. He is about to interrogate a prisoner at the Temporary Detention Center in the Ministry for State Security.

You think we imprison people on a whim?


If you think our humanistic system capable of such a thing, that alone would justify your arrest.

At the end of the first phase of the interrogation the scene shifts to the Stasi College in Potsdam. Captain Wiesler is teaching interrogation technique to a group of young people. The scene shifts back and forth as the interrogation gets results (forty hours later) and the trainees ask and answer questions while their instructor takes note. At the end of the lesson there is applause from the left. Captain Wiesler’s boss, Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), is observing from an open doorway. Grubitz has stopped by because he wants Wiesler to accompany him to the theater to see a play. Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme) will be there. This is the prologue.

There is a title card bearing the name of the movie.

The main story begins at the theater. A play written by Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and starring his significant other, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), is being performed. His boss informs Captain Wiesler that to all appearances the playwright is a loyal East German. The secret policeman is immediately intrigued. He is certain the playwright is an “arrogant type” he warns his students about. He’s a challenge that the Captain suggests he’d like to take up and that, of course, is exactly what his boss, who knows him well, wants to hear. At the opening-night party the Minister tells the playwright that “people do not change” and then for the better part of two hours covering a time period of less than half a year the one man, so self-controlled and self-confident, will watch and listen and, within limits, change as events unfold and he becomes more and more bound up in the life and the future of the other.

There is also an epilogue which begins with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and through five short scenes spanning five years delivers—dare I write it—an ending as perfect as I can imagine which includes a perfect last line and a haunting last shot. Very few stories told on film or, for that matter, in any medium have been told as well. See it. See it again.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Weekly Links

My apologies. Yesterday, for the first time in I don't know how long, I had absolutely no connection to the internet. I won't have much today either, so I'm just posting this in a hurry.

9 habits to stop now.

Glacial surfing.

Analyzing hash functions.

What a wonderful world.

The best online courses.

Crows caught wielding tools to manipulate tools. Metatool use had previously been observed only in primates.

The summer reading business book list.

Raiding Bible Schools.

Linus Torvalds speaks.

10 robots that may change the world.

Burning oil may be more eco-friendly than using biofuel.

Does time-travel have a future?

Long-term food price inflation may reach record levels.

Top 40 magazine covers of the last 40 years.

The most recalled cars of 2007.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

An Effective President

In comments on the Waiting for Fred post, Chuck noted: "I like what Fred says, but I have my doubts that he would be an effective president."

Without knowing Chuck's definition of "effective", it's impossible to reply. My definition of "effective" is rather simple. Appoint strict constructionists to the bench and propose budgets that balance and represent no more than 18-20% of the GDP.

By my standard, President Bush has been fairly effective. The deficits incurred are owed to a one off event and are coming to an end. His court appointments have been as good as the pool of available candidates allows.

I realize that my definition of effective is simplistic and may suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations but I don't see McCain and Giuliani making it over even the low hurdle. I find McCain's alliance with Feingold in the passage of an act designed to provide cover for his involvement in the Keating scandal, coupled with his love of the camera and enjoyment of his 'maverick' (should be 'loose cannon') status to be simply ludicrous. Giuliani's lack of adherence to the concepts embodied in the Bill of Rights combined with his new "growth" regarding his positions on a u-pickem list of issues make belief that his appointments to the bench would be (IMO) satisfactory, impossible.

That leaves Romney and Thompson, and of the two, Thompson is more apt to beat Miz Clinton than Romney. I realize that's not a ringing endorsement or a clarion call but as The Shadow of the Beast creeps accross the land I'm sure to do better.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Peddling Fear

This week, John Mauldin's Investor Insight continues to address the subprime crisis, albeit with a guest author. This weeks episode of The Perils of Pauline spends a rather inordinate amount of time rehashing last weeks explanations of "this mess and how we got into it" in order to arrive at:
However, we have no idea exactly how long this might last. And there is reason to suspect that the present equilibrium is quite delicate.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) noted that delinquent loans have increased $6.4 billion in Q2. The number of overdue mortgage payments increased 10%. That turns out to be the largest quarterly increase since Q4 1990. RealtyTrac notes that foreclosures are now running 93% higher than one year ago.

Now consider that the underlying cause of the recent turmoil has not been addressed. Estimates put the peak of the sub-prime resets that started this all somewhere between Q4 2007 to Q1 2008.

That sounds pretty serious, doesn't it? $6.4 billion is a tidy sum, made even more tension inducing by the reference to peak resets occuring between Q4 2007 and Q1 2008. I did find it a little odd that a link wasn't provided, so I went in search of the source:
Provisions for loan losses registered a sizable increase. Insured banks and thrifts set aside $11.4 billion in loan-loss provisions during the quarter, the most since the fourth quarter of 2002. Second-quarter loss provisions were $4.9 billion (75.3 percent) more than the industry set aside in the second quarter of 2006.

Troubled real estate loans continue to accumulate. The amount of loans and leases that were noncurrent (90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) grew for the fifth quarter in a row, rising by $6.4 billion (10.6 percent). Loans secured by real estate accounted for most of the growth. Noncurrent residential mortgage loans increased by $3.1 billion (12.6 percent), and noncurrent real estate construction and development loans rose by $2.2 billion (39.5 percent).
Hmm, so we're five quarters into a seven or eight quarter event with delinquencies having risen to a $6.4 billion rate and a rough road ahead. Sounds perilous. Except... farther down in the release one finds this:
Insured deposit growth slowed. The amount of deposits insured by the FDIC had its smallest increase in 15 quarters as large banks turned to foreign deposits, which are not insured, to fund their asset growth. Total deposits at FDIC-insured institutions increased by $140.1 billion (1.8 percent), as deposits in foreign offices grew by $143.3 billion (11.9 percent), and deposits in domestic offices declined by $3.2 billion (0.05 percent).
So, dum furriners dumped an extra $143.3 billion into uninsured deposits while smart 'Murricans carefully deposited an additional $140.1 billion into insured accounts for a net gain in deposits of $280.2 billion for the quarter. Hmmm... don't these people know there's a crisis?

What about the RealtyTrac data? Well, what about it?
Doug Duncan, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, agrees there is a problem but said the RealtyTrac data is wrong.

"They were triple counting. What they were doing is they were recording each action on an individual property," Duncan said. "They are damaging the industry from a public policy standpoint."
You can test the hypothesis that RealtyTrac is peddling to a truly limited audience by going to the RealtyTrac site and reflecting for a moment upon what FREE means - and to whom it is targeted. Then try the MBA Site. T'ain't much FREE there but they aren't shooting for the ill informed "Flip This House" group, either.

There is no question concerning the "truth" of the assertion that there is a tranch, perhaps two tranches, of mortgage backed securities that have a risk level which will only be completely ascertained at about mid-year 2009. The problem which I continue to have is in supposing that the total amount of money involved is truly significant. When the tech bubble popped, more than a few vapor-ware peddlers vanished - their stock certificates only had the value of scrap paper. As this real estate bubble continues to deflate, the houses will still be there and the people who lost some of them will still be laying out a fair portion of their income to pay the cost of shelter.

The truly interesting aspect of this is what may happen in China if we actually do head into a recession. If Walmart and Home Depot actually do catch a bad case of sniffles, then the Chinese economy is going to come down with pneumonia.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Waiting for Fred

Rasmussen has a nice daily tracking summary which proves rather conclusively that an early start and a lot of hard pushing blather will gain a candidate an early sense of weariness and an empty feeling in the bank account.

I understand that there have been multiple "debates" to date, trying to live up to Shakespeare's "poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more". In the main, I believe that they have suceeded. Perhaps if someone had chained me to a chair and kept a gun to my head to induce me to watch one, I could be absolutely certain.

If I am to believe the few reports that I've bothered to read, I suppose the greatest entertainment value has been provided by Giuliani's "growth" regarding issues of interest to social conservatives. I suppose he feels that it is necessary to demonstrate the absolute shallowness of his personal convictions but I'm not at all sure that his abasement will show a positive return among those he seeks to win over. If he pushes much harder he may lose a bit of the moderate and liberal support which is all that is keeping him floating at the top.

Overall, Rasmussen's party identification spread is narrowing but it's still a very long haul to get back to the 2-3 point negative spread that would mark a competitive environment for legislative races. The Democrats have managed to blow off several toes during their very overwrought oversight farce but they haven't blown a foot off.


There's still plenty of time and they're floundering quite nicely for the moment. So are the Republicans but they don't seem to be antagonizing the electorate as much.

While eyes have been focused on who will suceed in claiming "responsibility" for a troop drawdown that has been in the cards for two years, the Social Security balance has finally tipped to the point where payments are now in excess of taxes collected. One might think that the candidates were hoping that particular red headed step child wouldn't find its way home.

But it has.

UPDATE: Scott Rasmussen himself notes that Media Analysis Is Off on GOP Race.

It's The Curse of the Empty Page - further disproof of the maxim that "something is better than nothing", especially wrt political reporting.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Remedial Lessons for the AFP

This has been making the rounds, but is so good it bears repeating. Hats off to The Dissident Frogman.

Primordial Slack: In Praise of Public Servants

Primordial Slack: In Praise of Public Servants: "If the world was a fair place, the sump-pumpers and bilge-bailers of this world would make as much as a Congressman. They do more for the public good than both houses of Congress."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

If You Really Want Something to Worry About

Try a hope based set of assumptions concerning growth in the labor force:
Overall, the Bureau expects the labor force to grow from 147.4 million in 2004 to 162.1 million in 2014, an annual growth rate of approximately 1.0 percent.
Backed by an argument:
The labor force will continue to age, with the annual growth rate of the 55-and-older group projected to be 4.1 percent, 4 times the rate of growth of the overall labor force.
Which is then self contradicted some six pages later:
Historically, structural changes have been more important than cyclical changes to the labor force 55 years and older. The continued trend in “early retirements” of the 55-and-older workforce is another structural change facing the U.S. economy. This phenomenon affects the overall labor force participation rate in a negative way, especially at a time when the early cohorts of the baby boomers have already passed into this age group and are near to retiring in vast numbers.
A "news" story lede cobbled from the data and assumptions would be truthful if it said:
A government study shows the lowest annual labor force growth since the 1950's. Worse yet, the study's already low projected rate of growth in the labor force is dependent upon an unprecedented percentage of the over 55 component of the work force remaining on the job beyond the age at which most people hope to retire.
Toss in a reference to this piece, with an "early evidence" graf and you could start a new trend in worry reporting. Toss in a "year over year increases of online help wanted ads support the contention" and you have a real forehead furrower. (Actually, the 20% increase is more a death knell for print want-ads but that would never occur to a journo.)

The bright side of this is that wage growth for the 100 million out of 132 million jobs paying less than $50K per year is going to increase rather nicely over the next decade. The down side is that Bernanke's real job is going to become more difficult with each passing quarter.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Links

The yen carry -trade is unraveling.

ZTD—getting things done the minimal way.

Make an average face.

Did life begin on comets?

Columbia's civil war is expanding.

Could a new nanoparticle be an early-warning diagnostic tool for disease?

Cross-platform Microsoft.

10 surprising uses for aspirin.

An automatic coupon notifier plugin.

The interactive map of Springfield.

Google is now aggregating social networking data (and mining it).

5,000 year old chewing gum.

Where to get free books.

64-core CPU machines are here.

Is Hugo Chavez in control?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Buffet In?


If he is, then a careful reading of the Panic of '07 that leads MHA's post just below is in order. Mauldin calls for Buffet to step in and restore confidence by buying Moody's
Second, the rating agencies need to restore their credibility. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns about 19% of Moody's. I would suggest that Mr. Buffett step in take over the company (much as he did with Salomon years ago) and put his not inconsiderable credibility on the line for all future ratings and the inevitable re-ratings that are going to be done.

The Panic of 1907 was solved by the credibility of one man, J. P. Morgan, who stepped in to provide liquidity. The Panic of 2007 is not a problem caused by lack of liquidity. It is a problem caused by lack of credibility. Morgan could (and did) provide liquidity. Buffett can (and should) provide credibility.
Countrywide isn't Moody's but Buffet would still be sending a very strong signal. Maybe even stronger than if he did buy the rest of Moody's. Remember the S & L Crisis? I recall estimates that it was a $500 billion dollar problem (it actually came to about $150 billion). That was in 1988 and the equivalent today would be $870 billion. According to Mauldin's charts (but my calculations) a 100% loss on all the Liar's mortgages would come to around $324 billion - and I think that's overstated. A 50% loss would be chump change in a $14 trillion dollar economy.

Builders already cut back to 2002 levels in '06 and are headed for 1996 levels. The total "overbuild" in SFR's looks like 500K units so we could see a building turnaround by next May. If the hysteria doesn't drive buyers into a huddle.

If Buffet actually has come in then the "bottom" has been called. We'll know in a few days.

Weekly Links

The panic of 2007. (H/T Buddy Larsen)

An awesome staircase.

How to write a book.

Saving the market or postponing doom?

Egg city sculpture.

A tutorial search engine.

Twitter as social proprioception.

Polonium at the lap dance dive.


The world's strangest laws.

A major underwater current—hitherto unknown— is discovered by Australian scientists. So much for putting the whole Earth into our global warming models.

10 sites for free legal music downloads.

How Ford's new hydrogen-powered speed record was done.

Is Iraq causing an ammunition shortage?

Russia resumes cold-war patrols.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What my cadaver is worth?

$4590.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth. From Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

Mingle2 - Dating Site

Don't go gettin' any ideas.

From the Email Archives

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter. The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups. These are known in the United States today as (1) Democrats and (2) Republicans.

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor the aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Republican party. Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the Republicans by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q's and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Democratic party. Some of these Democratic men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as girliemen.

Some noteworthy Democratic achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that Republicans provided. Over the years Republicans came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Democrats are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern Democrats like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard Democratic fare. Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men.

Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are Democrats. Democrats invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Republicans drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Republicans are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, pilots, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, athletes, Marines, and generally anyone who works productively.

Republicans who own companies try to hire other Republicans who want to work for a living.

Democrats produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production.

Democrats believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the Democrats remained in Europe when Republicans were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The one that didn't get away

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 08/20/07


Story Chat Post Comment

Monica Oswald thought she had hooked the bottom.

She was drifting for fluke at the Shrewsbury Rocks, spending a couple of hours on Friday fishing after a nursing shift, when she felt her line snag.

"When you're drifting, you know, you're going over mussel beds, you get hooked on the bottom all the time," the 45-year-old Neptune resident said Sunday.

She was hooked all right, but not on the bottom: Oswald caught a 24.3-pound fluke, a potential world and state record fish.

"I was really shocked," she said Sunday en route to another shift at Riverview Medical Center, Red Bank, where she has worked since 1990. "You never know what you're reeling up."

Oswald was fishing a Spro bucktail with a stinger hook and tipped with squid on 65-pound Power Pro braided line in 50 feet of water. When she first hooked the fluke, which measured 38 inches long, she said, it didn't move. So, thinking the jig was caught in the rocks, she backed up her boat to try to free it.

No luck. She started reeling some more, and then felt it start to move.

"Little by little I was making my way," she said, but whatever was on the other end of the line was not coming to the surface quickly. In fact, she said, she got the fish up toward the surface, but it dove away.

"I knew it wasn't a striper or a bluefish," she said, "they go ZING and they're gone. I thought maybe it was a cow-nosed ray," which Oswald said she has caught before.

Finally, after about 20 minutes or so — "you don't look at your watch when you're fighting a fish," she said — she got the fish back up to the surface and with the assistance of her friend, Eric Neuier of Ocean Township, got it in the boat.

"I thought, "Oh my God,' " she said.

The current New Jersey state record for fluke caught on rod and reel is 19 pounds, 12 ounces, set in 1953 by Walter Lubin for a fish he caught off Cape May.

The current all-tackle world record, according to the International Game Fish Association, is the 22-pound, 7-ounce fluke caught Sept. 15, 1975, by Charles Nappi.

"I've pulled up different junk from the bottom," said Oswald, a long-time angler who set the all-tackle world record for weakfish with an 18-pound, 1-ounce caught on Aug. 25, 2006. She said she's brought up things such as a shower curtain and even a fiberglass sink, so she didn't get excited by the possibility of what might be on the end of her line.

"Until you get a fish up and actually see it," it's easy to think it's something it's not, she said.

Oswald said she called Scott's Bait & Tackle in Bradley Beach, where she is a frequent customer, to tell them she was coming in with a big fish. But she had no idea, she said, that it might be a record.

"I've seen pictures of people with really big fish and I thought this was about the same as those," Oswald said.

A New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife conservation officer examined the fish on Saturday, she said, and the process of submitting the paperwork and other information needed to confirm it as both a state and world record is under way.

Roy Christensen, who owns Scott's Bait & Tackle, said in his 63 years of living in Bradley Beach he had never witnessed anything like it.

"I've never, ever seen a fluke that big," Christensen said. "They have been saying that this is the year that the fluke record could be broken, but whoever thought that the fish would be weighed in here at our shop.

"It really is unbelievable, especially with it being our 10-year anniversary here at the shop and all."

"Like anybody else, it's being at the right place at the right time," Oswald said.

Staff writer Justin Sauer contributed to this story.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Links

A lot of decent links have been accumulating lately, so there are going to be biweekly links for at least the next two weeks.

A speeding star with an enormous tail of seeds for new solar systems.

A music search engine based on listening to music not words.

Put a little water in your wavepool.

How to command respect through body language.

The collapse of a virtual bank.

A 3D image projector which is really 3D.

The beginner's guide to bitmaps.

30 online presentation tools.

Plain soap is as effective as anti-bacterial soap but without the risks.

18 tricks to make new habits stick.

The coming bandwidth shortage.

How to resign gracefully.

Endeavor's damaged tiles.

Sandwich art.

5 free gigs.

A gravitomagnetic field was produced artificially for the first time. This is very important, as it shows a strong link between the gravitational and the magnetic fields, one induced by rotating bodies. It is "the gravitational analogue of Faraday's electromagnetic induction experiment in 1831".

How to erase long-term memories without smoking dope.

4 ways to make a good decision.

The latest faster-than-light claims are wrong again.

The Fed returns to its roots.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Drama in the Stock Market

The stock market, moved initially by the subprime housing crunch, and then pushed further by what increasingly looks like a lot of bad financial shenanigans on Wall Street (cloaked in the guise of "innovation"), has been a very scary place the last few weeks, particularly last week. It is as though what initially appeared to be a flesh wound has uncovered what might be a deep cancer in the financial system. We have lost a lot of value worldwide and in particular have come smack down to where we where at the March low.

The question now, as it always is, is whether to cut the losses, hold on for the long term, or buy this dip? This is the question for all investors and traders, and there is never any easy answer. It is precisely how one answers this question that determines one's success or lack thereof. Full disclaimer: my own personal experience has mostly been a lack thereof.

There are two highly emotional opinions on this this weekend, and one can cruise the Internet to find many who are screaming "buy" and many who are screaming "sell". My own personal opinion is the same as this author's: traders should buy now, but investors should sell into the next big rally. Traders should buy now because most technical indicators are screaming buy. Investors should sell because the underpinnings of this bull market have run out of steam. India is reaching the limits of its ability to expand because of creaking infrastructure. The American consumer is played out. Who's going to buy all that junk from China and Japan? The ever-increasing price of oil and food is hurting everyone's ability worldwide to buy things, no matter how much governments may choose to hide this ugly fact by referring to "core" inflation. Finally, and most importantly, the real fear isn't there in the market yet. Read the cited article for a longish list of more reasons.

Update: Having written the above, I discovered this terrific essay in The Economist on where we stand and why. This is must reading for anybody interested in this particular drama.

Update 2 (from Buddy Larsen): "Great one-stop explanation of the "panic of 2007".

Two Terrific Recommended Shows

In case you're bored tonight and haven't seen these, check out these two BBC mini-series.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Smiley's People

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Or, mebbee not. Well, if there wasn't a real panic today, maybe there will be one tomorrow. Except.... if mortgage defaults are going to drive the economy to its knees, why didn't delinquencies jump in the first quarter? And why aren't home values in a much larger slump?

There is no denying that sales are way off, new starts are off and permits aren't improving but prices are only slipping very, very slightly on a national basis.

I may be missing something but this looks like a bottom to me. I have felt that the smash talk on home prices was a political counter to the "ownership society" for some time and I've wondered how the DEMSM would handle it through the '08 election. Fear is a good driver when the opposition controls both the Executive and the Legislative branches but shared responsibility has to cut into fear mongering.

Any bets on whether the Dems propose "save the flakes" credit legislation this fall? Moral hazard is meaningless to them, so they might make another run at it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Weekly Links

Personal jet-packs (finally!) for sale.

The BBC's Brain Story is available for free download.

"He has no idea what it's like out there!"-dot-mp3.

Overview of biodiesel and petroleum lifecycles.

Growing perfect crystals.

10 of the best natural phenomena.

Everybody wants prosthetic tails on their real heads. (Apologies to They Might Be Giants.)

Why open source works.

Heretical thoughts about science and society.

Biodiesel vs. renewable diesel.

10 tips for keeping the peace.

The beginner's guide to lock-picking.

Flexible, biodegradable batteries from carbon nanotubes.

The idea generator.

More than 60 resource sites for college students.

Europe's cheap hotels reviewed.

The world oil supply is still lagging demand in a "worrisome way".

The world's largest, most sophisticated people-tracking network.

Crowd farming.

How to solve the traveling salesman problem—use optics.

Renewable gasoline.

Update: Crystals link fixed. Thanks, Luther!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A sad day

Phil Rizzuto, Yankees Shortstop, Dies at 89

He was a gentleman. I often find myself drawn to the lights or sounds of ballgames. I just love them. Once upon a time, approximately 25 years ago, I was walking around NYC and came to Central Park where I heard the sounds of a ballgame. I tracked it down and there, sitting a folding table, microphone in hand, was Phil Rizzuto doing the play-by-play for a Little League game. I don't imagine that was anything special to a man like Mr. Rizzuto. It was, however, very special to me.

Rizzuto played an integral role on the dynastic Yankees before and after World War II. He was a masterly bunter and defensive specialist for teams that steamrolled to 10 American League pennants and nine World Series championships...

“I hustled and got on base and made the double play,” he said of his role. “That’s all the Yankees needed in those days.”

There are baseball afficianados who do not believe Phil Rizzuto worthy of his place in Hall of Fame. I am not one of them. The NY Yankees, especially of that era, would not have kept him if he weren't the best available; he hustled, got on base, and turned the DP as well as the very best of his contemporaries. Any F6 who earned nine World Series rings deserves his place in the Hall of Fame.

So far, this is the article that I think captures Phil Rizzuto best (at least to those of us who knew him only as a baseball legend and beloved sportscaster).

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rove - Signing Off or Signing Up?

There's a ton of drivel out there concerning his departure. Very little of it is worth the time expended to read the first paragraph. There is no political strategist comparable to Karl Rove operating at this time. George Bush was never a "dream" candidate. He lacks the 'Q' that made Reagan "beloved" rather than liked and his communication skills are notable more for their absence than anything else. In 1996 he beat Ann Richards, a popular incumbent, 52-47. Rove's strategy coupled with Karen Hughes communication efforts played a very large part in that victory, as they would again in 2000. In the interim, George Bush proved an excellent Governor and was rewarded by the people of Texas with a landslide victory in 1998, becoming the first Republican candidate to win re-election since Reconstruction. With the win over Kerry in 2004 Rove became the most successful strategist of the past forty years.

There's a chance that he might be hanging up his spurs but it's not a chance that I would lay any money on. Joe Trippi fleeced John Dean for $5 million in an effort that got a lot of wunderkind press but not one delegate.

I sincerely hope that the Dark Lord cashes in for a multiple of that $5 million number in 2008. And that he extends his win streak to 5-0, of course.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

THUMP - Did Somebody Drop Another Shoe?

Anthony Watts granted Steve McIntyre the opportunity to further explicate the meaning of the rather small change by GISS that his discovery of Hansen's error necessitated. (Watermelons have knocked McIntyre's site off line for the non.) It's an enjoyable read, especially after having waded through numerous comments by warmermongers deprecating the importance of the discovery, mainly by belittling both the minimal size of the adjustment necessitated by McIntyre's discovery and by rather fulsome statements concerning the "fact" that measurements in other countries provide ample trustworthy verification of increased warming.

Which is all well and good, except for the rather discomforting accusation that some of the claims regarding the homogeneity of the record in at least one major country are fabricated. McIntyre provides some insight as to the potential importance of the alledged fabrication.

If this keeps up the warmermongers are going to start sounding like the Black Knight insisting that "it's just a flesh wound".

Saturday, August 11, 2007


My blogging has obviously been very light of late. In addition to native laziness and a sudden lack of interest in the Internet, it derives from my having found and bought a house in the Seattle area during the last couple of weeks. Business considerations have made it possible and desirable to relocate to the "Eastside". In addition to buying the house, it has been necessary to rent out the old house, find a couple of new jobs, and transition out of the old jobs.

I have spent nearly 12 years in Boulder, the longest I have lived in one place in my entire life. It has become home for me. I am naturally reluctant to be leaving a place that feels familiar and comfortable. Moreover, it is an economically unwise time to sell a house in depressed Boulder and buy one in still-booming Seattle. Yet it became a choice of moving into some entirely new stimulating and challenging areas (machine-learning applications) or retiring early. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. Given a choice of life or a version of the alternative, I always choose life.

I am a person who has never chosen the center. I have always preferred to live on the peripheries. I never wanted to be in New York, Boston, DC, or LA, each a center in its own way. Now I am headed right smack into one of the two Meccas of my industry. It is exciting and frightening. The new job will be very high-profile and very difficult. It is highly likely that each of you reading this blog, together with millions of other people, will find themselves using my work at some point. No engineer could ever resist that.

I find it singular that three of the contributors to this blog, people who have never met in person, now find themselves individually making their way to the State of Washington for one reason or another. Does it mean we will all soon be voting for Maria Cantwell and glad to do so? Hopefully we can all get together for some coffee during the long wet winter nights.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Steampunk in the Wall Street Journal

Damned Denialists....

Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre aren't "climate scientists". Every warmer in the world will tell you that. 'Denialist' is the kindest appellation that a watermelon would ever utter in denouncing the heresy against a loving Gaia committed by these two, for they have shattered an honored shibboleth, destroyed a beloved icon, broken a revered amulet, for they have forced NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies to rerank the hottest years in the US, thus putting to rest Mann's claim that "there is a 95 to 99% certainty that 1998 was the hottest year in the last one thousand years".

They also succeeded in making Kerry supporter James Hansen (the NASA guy who claimed the Bush administration was "silencing" him in a month where he gave thirty interviews) look like... well, there just isn't a kind way of putting it. Dr. Hansen appears to have a very good reason to refuse to "show his work".

Not bad for a couple of fellows without the proper "credentials".

UPDATE: "I've been told that has been disabled by a DDOS attack. It may be a week before it's back up." - That's Steve McIntyre in comments at Anthony Watts backup blog, where Anthony has posted the CA announcement piece. Why backup blog? Well, is down too.

The Congregatio pro Doctrina Gaia Fidei are certainly busy laddies.

UPDATE: Steyn provides additional analysis of the propaganda impact (or lack thereof) of the revisions. The warmmongers need to update their own propaganda to reflect the changes. You have to admire the footwork used in booting the ball forward to 2009 - and then tossing in enough caveats to hide an elephant
"Over the 100-year timescale, the main change is going to come from greenhouse gases that will dominate natural variability, but in the coming 10 years the natural internal variability is comparable,"
I'll bet that if I rub a little of that on my sore elbow it will clear it right up.

Go And Sin No More


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Today's Online Quiz

You Are 100% Feminist

You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man).
You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.

Weekly Links

Periodic mass extinctions explained.

Removing scratches from CDs and DVDs.

350 TV channels for your browser.

Brain circuitry for 3D vision discovered.

Free lunar Apollo films online.

Best Facebook apps for college students.

46 productivity tips for freelancers.

Now orangutans are talking in sign language.

Housing collapse has a long ways to go.

Images al-Qaida releases to the media are heavily manipulated, statistical forensics show.

First armed robots on patrol.

Is diesel causing hardening-of-the-arteries?

Unix/Linux cheat sheet.

How healthy is the economic engine?

50 best movie robots.

How swearing works.

Neutrinos travelling backward through time may be the key to a theory of everything.

Zimbabwe's economic meltdown.

Toke up, become psychotic.

The flying machines of 1885.

The Minsky Moment.

Are you ready for your chipping?

The downside of diversity.

Whopper cosmic pileup.

Woody Allen on Ingmar Bergman.

8 million old bacteria lives.

Monday, August 06, 2007



"Some new proxy data has recently emerged from studies of tree rings in Northern Scandinavia. In part because of the cold temperatures there, wood residues from the last 7,000 years have been well preserved at the bottom of muddy lakes. From that, Finnish researchers have been able to reconstuct a temperature record covering that period."

Read it, and the PDF they link.

New Michael Yon post is up

After fueling the trucks in the convoy, we headed to Baghdad to get the food. The trucks took an exit down a route that we did not follow, because it had not been cleared of bombs. Sometimes bombs are so large they are buried under roads using earthmoving machines and sit for months waiting for someone just like us, taking a shortcut only to get launched to God. The shortcut caused an hour difference in arrival times, and the break in contact led to frustrating hours of additional delay, tooling around Baghdad trying to find the warehouse, and re-establishing contact with all the trucks. But if there were any huge bombs waiting for us, we avoided them, and this dispatch got written.
When are these guys going to learn to ask directions? The rest is Here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Are We Ready For This? If So, Why?

A Union for bloggers.

Creativity is wonderful. But impulsiveness often breeds solutions when there are, in fact, no problems. I believe this is just such a case.

Just who the H*ll would be bargaining with such a group? And for what would they be bargaining? What leverage might such a group have?

So many questions. So few answers.

A WASLing We Go

A number of my grandchildren are attending public schools in Washington (two year trial). Washington is attempting to comply with the NCLB (and its antecedents) testing requirements through the institution of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). The State Legislature (AKA as the Washington State Home for Microencephalics) determined that passage of the WASL in the senior year of high school was going to be a prerequisite for graduation. Well, they did until a precursor test was given last year to high school sophomores with the result being a failure rate of more than 50% on the math portion, at which point the legislators took the bull by the horns, grasped the nettle and punted the ball off the field. Thirteen years and $100 million just weren't enough for the educrats to dumb down the tests that actually require specific knowledge and correct answers to the point where half the kids can bluff their way through as they do with reading and writing.

Should parents in Washington wish to determine why young Festus and Marigold can't add, they need look no farther than the front page of the Sample math WASL questions of the Port Angeles School District where they will find writing rather than basic computational skill holding the preeminent position:

Why Students Should Write in Math Class

Writing should be an integral part of teaching all subjects. Writing is used as a tool to help students think about ideas.

Progress has been slow in the area of writing in mathematics. Mathematics is seen as a subject that communicates through the manipulation of symbols in orderly ways, not as one that uses words to express ideas. This view is unfortunate - and misleading.

The process of writing requires gathering, organizing, and clarifying thoughts. It demands finding out what you know and don't know. It calls for thinking clearly. Similarly, doing mathematics depends on gathering, organizing, and clarifying thoughts, finding out what you know and don't know, and thinking clearly. Although the final representation of a mathematical pursuit looks very different from the final product of a writing effort, the mental journey is, at its base, the same - making sense of an idea and presenting it effectively.

Writing can assist math instruction in two ways - by helping children make sense of mathematics and by helping teachers understand what children are learning.

My grandchildren are not in the Port Angeles district but the district in which they live takes precisely the same attitude, elevating written communication to the point where I've been spending time concocting arithmetic drills so that my granddaughter can enter the fifth grade having mastered the basic multiplication tables. I'm not a big fan of rote learning but there are foundational elements to arithmetic which both lend themselves to that method and are truly basic. How far can any individual go in math without having mastered the very elementary basics? How much weight should clarity in expression be given in assessing an incorrect answer to 6 X 8?

Beyond that, why in the world would anyone whose IQ exceeds the two digit threshold trust an educrat whose writing skills permit this gargle:
Progress has been slow in the area of writing in mathematics. Mathematics is seen as a subject that communicates through the manipulation of symbols in orderly ways, not as one that uses words to express ideas. This view is unfortunate - and misleading.

I understand that the educrat who generated that drivel was shooting low based upon his perception of the intelligence of the intended audience but the quality of communication on a peer to peer basis between educrats is no better. If there were pain receptors in brain cells, an intelligent person would be screaming in agony before finishing the first paragraph of most of the garbage which passes for "communication" between educrats. Unless they were wholly in tune with 'progressive thought', in which case they would swoon over the careful attention paid to the 'disadvantaged' coupled with the even more careful attention paid to the claim of 'if we were just adequately funded'.

What comes after the progs have successfully dumbed down kids to the point where they believe that larger numbers are always oppressors of smaller numbers? That 15 has an unfair advantage over 10 and there is no way to fix it because if 10 were given 3 of 15's ill gotten advantage of 5 then 13 could still lord it over 12? Will they, perhaps, be encouraged to turn to credentialed "experts" for to resolve such apparently insoluble problems?

I'm not sure that our experiment with public schools will make it to two full years.

UPDATE: If I possessed a functioning brain cell to call my very own, I would have checked into Kitchen Table Math where Catherine Johnson continues to slug it out. One pass through and I now have 3 sites for decent math primers.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Starlings: twilight landing

Amazing video of thousands of starlings settling in for the night. And here are photos of various starling flight formations .

Weekly Links

Is your ISP altering your webpages without your knowledge?

Magnetic levitation wind turbines.

The lowest PEG ratios in the West.

Free audio books.

The plug-in Prius revealed.

10 ways to sharpen your concentration.

Time may not exist.

The great wall of money.

5 things you never knew you could print out.

Collected works of Friedrich Nietzsche, free. German archive.

The best sand sculptures.

Program learns baby talk in any language.

Hitachi's advanced visual search engine.

Google's architecture.

Is energy demand set to increase?

Satire illegal in New Zealand.

10 ways to entertain young children for pocket change.

Chips in the brain.

Sex for the motherland. Why didn't they have these when I was a teen?

Evolutionary algorithms are surpassing human designers.

What Goldman Sachs has.

Graphene paper is stronger than nanotubes.

Viking treasure hoard discovered. Items from as far away as Afghanistan were transported by the Vikings to northern England.

Pink solar cells to produce energy at one quarter the cost.

Dolphins are smart.

The abandoned West.

Do smart people have less sex?