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.

15 thoughts on “Wednesday, 13 July 2011”

  1. I like your date based idea rather than topic based. One reason I have watched the site since the beginning is that the discussions range all over the place. While I don’t agree with everything you say, in general I find them interesting. That said, I prefer your old format to the Word Press format.

    Rick in Portland

  2. Bob,

    I must say that I have not been particularly keen about the topic based structure. I was much happier with the old structure here and on Jerry’s site. It seems like a case of the software wanting to force you to work the “correct” way.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. I still like the old format, but the one-a-day is a good idea.

    Am I correct that Ikonboard is no longer supported, and there are no decent alternatives?

    The Permit Raj in India struck again this morning. I went through hell and high water to set up a bank account, lining up a half dozen ducks in a row so that I wouldn’t have to be in their physical presence to sign the papers — the other director could do that. The corporation had to pass a resolution to such effect and deliver it in notarized format to the bank. News came in this morning that, you guessed it, they need my physical presence to sign the papers! On top of which was more BS about wiring funds into the account: FDI regulations and such. Grrrrrr!

    I shouldn’t have opened the email until I’d had my coffee and cigarettes…. :angry:

  4. Yes, Ikonboard is a dead product, and there wasn’t really a good way to get the data from it into an alternative. I hope the one-a-day will work out.

  5. The reaction to Netflix’s massive price increase has been uniformly negative.

    Not entirely. The stock is up 2.65% today, as of this writing.

  6. There is a way to have a ‘weekly’ view (in date order – oldest to newest) for those that miss the old ‘one-week-per-page’ view. Take a look at Dr Pournelle’s site (www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor ) at the View, View-Weekly menu choice (and Mail, Mail-Weekly menu choice).

    Bob: I got the template add-in file that you can use, if you want.

  7. Roy, yes, I should have said among subscribers, although even there it’s not “uniformly negative”. I, for example, don’t mind a bit. I actually want to pay more because Netflix will use additional revenues to buy streaming rights for more stuff.

    Rick, thanks, but that’s trying to shoehorn a bit too much into one blog entry, in my opinion. Not least, I’d have each weekly entry assigned to most or all of my categories, which makes them useless for searching.

  8. Clarifiaction: The ‘weekly’ view takes all of the posts of a week, and organizes them into a Sun-Sat order. Still individual posts, just ordered oldest to newest.

  9. Quite like the new layout because it does RSS, but also if one post per day and edits, does that flag up as updated to an RSS reader? If not, I’ll miss posts.

  10. oh, another thought, can we register on this comment system ? I can see a Log In but not a register – obviously some people have achieved this, as they have photos and potentially .sigs and able to edit comments?

  11. new format works for me – I think it’ s more a case of adapting styles rather than one way being better or worse than the other

  12. Here’s another vote in favor of the daily topic scheme. I might actually want to comment on more than one topic. Like this:

    I’m keeping both NetFlix plans for the time being, but the disc plan is on life support. And I would gladly pay more to get streaming of all titles.

  13. I attribute problems at UPS to the fact that they are heavily unionized and the unions prevailed in a labor action within recent memory (1997).

    BTW, no one talks about this much outside the phone company, but the largest union employer, AT&T, and their workforce’s representatives are renegotiating next year with possible strike dates set for April (legacy SBC and PacBell) and August (BellSouth). Plan accordingly.

  14. I recently got netflix in Australia for my Apple TV 2 and would be happy to pay much more (8 bucks for Netflix, 5 bucks for a VPN) than I am now for the privilege. Along with itunes for newer releases I have 99% of my viewing needs covered.

    This means that I now no longer have to find my viewing from less legitimate means.

    I’m perfectly happy to pay for content and itunes and Netflix make this easy to do so. Although would like to see itunes charging far less for older movies (3 bucks for The Breakfast Club from 1988 is just ridiculous).

  15. “That said, I prefer your old format to the Word Press format.

    Rick in Portland”

    Amen brother! I guess we can’t turn back time but I found Ikonboard better in all respects.

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