Wednesday, 13 July 2011

08:55 – When I started using WordPress, I decided to try using topic-oriented posts for a couple of weeks to see how they worked out. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not. With my old static weekly pages, I’d often post a short update during the day, sometimes only a sentence or two. That’s awkward with topic-oriented posts, not least because it makes it difficult for readers to keep track of comments.

I thought about creating one post per week and updating it daily, but that would be extremely awkward both for me and for readers. So I decided to go to day-oriented posts, one per day, or at least one per day that I post anything at all. I’ll try this for a week or two to see how it works out. If it works better than the topic-oriented posts, I’ll just continue doing it indefinitely.


The Euro crisis continues and deepens. Overnight, Irish debt was cut to junk status, which means it’s now impossible for Ireland to sell bonds in the private markets, as they’d planned to do.

Meanwhile, Italy seems to have fallen off a cliff. Italy had until recently avoided the ire of the bond markets, largely because although its debt is gigantic, something like €1.8 trillion, its current deficit is relatively small. (Spain has exactly the opposite problem: its debt is relatively small, but its current deficit is huge.)

Although Italy is striving mightily to address its economic problems, the best they’ve been able to come up with in austerity measures is a proposal to reduce the current deficit by €10 billion per year for the next four years. So, they currently owe about €1,800 billion, and they propose to reduce current deficit spending by €10 billion per year? That means they’ll still be spending more than they take in, thereby increasing their total existing debt.

For Italy, the elephant in the room is that a huge chunk of its debt, more than €200 billion, comes due next year and will have to be refinanced if Italy is not to default. The chance that Italy will be able to refinance €200 billion privately is nil, which means they’ll need a government bailout. The problem is that the EU can’t afford such a massive bailout, particularly coming on the heels of bailouts for Greece, Portugal, and Ireland.


The reaction to Netflix’s massive price increase has been uniformly negative. When I read the announcement on the Netflix blog, there were something like 3,800 comments from subscribers. Reading only the first page, it seems that they’re about 98%+ negative, with most posters threatening to drop Netflix.

And do what? It’s not like there are any good alternatives. Some people threatened to return to cable TV. Yeah, right. To avoid a price jump from $10 to $16/month they’re going to sign up for cable TV? For $16/month they’ll be lucky to get basic cable.

Many mentioned Amazon Prime streaming, so I went over to take a look at what Amazon had to offer. Not much. I checked the first ten titles in our Netflix instant queue. Amazon had none of them. So I checked 11 through 20. Amazon had none of them, either.

Thinking that maybe there was little overlap between Netflix and Amazon, and that Amazon might have a bunch of titles that weren’t available on Netflix, I started checking Amazon streaming by categories. Nope. There was nothing there that we hadn’t either already watched or had in the Netflix queue. Eyeballing it, I’d estimate that Amazon has maybe 5% of the titles that Netflix does.

The only place that Amazon seemed to have some advantage was in recent movie titles, which Barbara and I pretty much don’t care about. It seems that Amazon prime must appeal to people who like watching new stuff. We prefer watching good stuff, regardless of its age.


09:30 – Boy, am I glad that I decided to use USPS instead of UPS for shipping kits. Yesterday, UPS delivered a box that was supposed to contain eight dozen Sharpie markers. It looked like the UPS truck had run over the box before it delivered it. Barbara found it when she was taking Colin out after dinner, and shouted back to me that there was a really crushed up box on the front porch.

I suppose the good news is that 92 of the 96 markers were actually in the box. The bad news is that the box was crushed and beaten to a pulp and apparently leaked four of the markers. Not surprising, since of the eight Sharpie boxes inside the shipping box, six of them were crushed open and I had maybe 30 Sharpie markers rattling around loose in the shipping box. Fortunately, the remaining markers appear undamaged.

Then this morning I got email from UPS, with the heading “UPS Exception Notification”. In the body of the message, it explained the reason:

Exception Reason: MECHANICAL FAILURE OCCURRED

In other words, the shipping box must have broken (or been torn to shreds by some UPS machine), scattering my eight dozen 9V batteries all over the floor at some UPS site.

This is by no means the first and second time UPS has done this on my shipments. It happens pretty regularly. I’m not sure why, because it almost never happens with USPS or FedEx.