Monday, 30 July 2012

07:29 – Barbara and her sister organized a party yesterday for their dad’s 90th birthday. They rented a meeting room at a local convention center and had the food catered. I shot a few minutes of video. Barbara shot lots of stills. Our friends Paul and Mary were there, and Paul was kind enough to bring along his camera and shoot stills as well. So today I’ll transfer a few GB of still images to the hard drive for Barbara to select among, as well as start on transferring and editing the video.


17:13 – I’ve mentioned it many times before, but, thanks to Barbara, here it is in Living Color. The Mary Chervenak Fist of Death. Mary pretends to think I’m teasing her when I tell her that I fear her anger, but I’m entirely serious. I mean, look at the size difference. I’m barely twice her size. If I were ten times her size, I’d still flee in terror when she threatens the Fist of Death.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

08:51 – We finished watching series two of Downton Abbey the other night. It’s essentially a remake of the superb Upstairs, Downstairs, and is just as good. The series is set during WWI, and they obviously took great pains to get the details right. The only striking anomaly was in the trench scenes in France, where the trenches were so shallow that the men’s heads protruded above grade. In reality, unless bedrock prevented it, trenches were dug deep, often eight feet or more, with a firing step for the men to stand on while repelling assaults.

We’ve also started watching Parenthood on Netflix streaming. It’s well-written and has an excellent cast. And there are lots of women worth watching, particularly the beautiful and charming Joy Bryant. The really annoying thing about this series is that one of the characters, a young boy, is diagnosed with Asperger’s, and all of the characters, including the doctor and therapist who are “treating” him, constantly act and talk as though there is something “wrong with him”. The reality, of course, is that people with Asperger’s are disproportionately represented among scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and entrepreneurs.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

17:01 – We were under a severe thunderstorm warning yesterday afternoon. About 1600, the storm blew through, with about 1.5″ (3.75 cm) of rain in less than 10 minutes and winds gusting to probably 50 to 60+ MPH (80 to 100 KPH). We had no damage to speak of to our home and yard, but a lot of big trees went down around the neighborhood. Our power went off when the storm hit and remained off until about 0120 this morning. Our cable TV/phone/broadband service just came back up, a bit more than 24 hours after it went down.


Friday, 27 July 2012

07:50 – This Chick-fil-A thing is getting ridiculous. As far as I remember, I’ve never eaten there, and now that I know that the company is owned by a bunch of anti-gay bigots, I never will. But for the government to deny the company the right to open a restaurant is a gross abuse of government power, and a clear violation of the First Amendment.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the polarization of American politics has become so extreme that people are arguing about whether a fast-food franchise should be allowed to open a new restaurant to serve chicken nuggets. Now, if Chick-fil-A were refusing to hire gay or divorced people, or if it were refusing to sell chicken nuggets to gay or divorced people, or if it were buying only heterosexual, married chickens, that’d be one thing. But no one has suggested that they’re doing any of those things. So the proper response here isn’t to use the force of law to prevent them from opening new restaurants. The proper response is simply to refuse to buy any of their products.


Thursday, 26 July 2012

12:09 – We’re still in the process of building kits for inventory for the August/September rush. I find myself thinking about things I’d never considered, such as “how high can I stack these things without crushing the bottom boxes?” It’s also interesting to watch the piles of boxes of components diminish as we build kits, converting bunches of miscellaneous boxes to stacks of neatly organized shipping boxes.

A few months ago, the city replaced our recycling bins with large roll-out carts, and reduced pick-up frequency from weekly to every other week. At the time, we thought we’d never fill that cart in just two weeks, but with recycling component boxes we end up filling it to the brim every time. And Barbara still occasionally has to make a cardboard run to drop off a truckload of flattened boxes at the recycling center.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

09:29 – The economic news continues to get worse, with both the UK and US numbers tanking. Nearly the whole world, it seems, is determined to spend massively more than it can afford. There will be a reckoning. It will not be pretty.

It amazes me that people casually treat sovereign indebtedness figures of 100% and more of GDP as though they’re no real cause for concern. People tell me that families run similar or higher debt levels when they buy a house. But there’s a huge difference. When a family buys a house, they’re going into debt to purchase an asset. Over the course of 15 to 30 years, they devote a significant percentage of their “family GDP” to paying down that debt. And when they pay off that mortgage they are out of debt and own a valuable asset. With countries, on the other hand, the debt is structural. They are not going into debt to purchase an asset, and they are not paying the debt down. The converse, in fact; they’re adding more debt every year. And even if they do eventually pay it down, they’re left with no asset.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

09:48 – Spain has as much as said that it will require a full bailout imminently, although as a sop to their pride they’re calling their request a “bridging loan”. A bridge to nowhere. And Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands have as much as said that they’re finished subsidizing Greece. The next couple of months are going to be interesting, in the sense of the old Chinese curse.

What I find amusing is that nearly everyone is missing the point. They blame the so-called “austerity” measures for crushing the economies of the bailed-out countries. In reality, they’re misattributing the symptoms of the underlying disease to side effects of the treatment. The tanking economies of these countries are in the toilet not because of the mild austerity measures being enforced on them, but as a result of a decade or more of irresponsible spending and assuming commitments that were and are impossible to meet.

Austerity measures on the level necessary would in fact solve the problems. They would also reduce Greece, Portugal, Spain, and eventually Italy to the living standards of third-world countries. But that reduction in living standards is inevitable no matter what is or isn’t done. These countries partied on borrowed money for a decade. Now the money has run out, and no one is willing to lend them more. It reminds me of the days shortly after the Cuban revolution, when the USSR was heavily subsidizing Cuba.

Cuba: Send money!
USSR: Tighten belts!
Cuba: Send belts!


Monday, 23 July 2012

10:24 – The eurozone train wreck continues, with Spanish benchmark 10-year bond yields now at 7.6% and climbing, and Italian yields well over 6%. Even more concerning is that Spain’s efforts to make it look as though the market is still supporting their debt auctions by offering only small face amounts at short maturities have failed miserably. Spanish short-term debt yields are now over 6%, a strong indication that Spain is about to lose all access to market funding. In effect, it already has. Right now, only speculators willing to risk their money for short periods at very high yields are buying Spanish debt. The market as a whole is much too risk-averse to put money into Spanish bonds, or indeed leave it in Spanish banks. That giant sucking sound you hear is billions of euros a day leaving Spain. And Italy isn’t doing much better. They’ve just announced that they may not be able to start the new school year this autumn because they don’t have the money to do so.


Meanwhile, Barbara and I are still building science kits. We just added 30 biology kits to inventory, and are most of the way through building 60 more chemistry kits. After that, we’ll build the first batch of 30 forensic science kits, and then start immediately on new batches of biology and chemistry kits.


13:05 – Wow. The NCAA let Penn State off with a slap on the wrist. What would have been an appropriate NCAA penalty for a university guilty of covering up institutionalized child rape under the auspices of the athletic program? How about expulsion from the NCAA? Not just football, but all sports. Permanently. The entire Penn State athletic program should have been eradicated and the corpse left to rot as a warning to others.


14:11 – As usual, Pat Condell gets right to the heart of the matter. American Dhimmi