Saturday, 29 October 2011

10:04 – Barbara continues to improve. She’s even taking Colin for short walks down the block and yesterday while I wasn’t looking she rolled the trash cart back down the driveway. She goes to the doctor next week for a follow-up visit, and I suspect he’ll approve her to drive again and return to work. She’s going stir-crazy here. Of course, Colin is going to be a problem because he’s now used to having her home all day every day.

Yesterday I finished up the group of lab sessions on microorganisms and started on a group of lab sessions on genetics. Right now, I’m working on a lab about Mendelian traits and inheritance. There are actually relatively few pure Mendelian traits in humans, but one of them is a classic. The ability to taste phenylthiocarbamide.

Fortunately, I also did a self-sanity check. Beginning biology students often make the false assumption that dominant and recessive Mendelian traits correlate to the percentages of individuals in a population that exhibit the dominant and recessive phenotypes. In other words, a high percentage of individuals exhibit the dominant phenotype and a much small percentage the recessive phenotype. A moment’s thought establishes that’s not the case, at least for anyone who’s aware that Huntington’s disease is a dominant Mendelian trait.

But I made that exact false assumption with regard to Colin and his prick ears, assuming that floppy ears in dogs are Mendelian dominant and prick ears recessive. In fact, floppy ears are a recessive Mendelian trait. The fact that probably only one in ten thousand Border Collies has prick ears doesn’t indicate that prick ears are recessive, but merely that Border Collie breeders have selectively bred a population of Border Collies that are almost entirely recessive with respect to ear conformation. (Not that they were selecting for ear type specifically, but sometimes something you don’t care about one way or the other is part of the package that you’re breeding for.)

Now the only problem is that I don’t remember either Colin’s mother or father having prick ears. Hmmm.

10:42 – Duncan was a giant among Border Collies, standing about 4″ (10 cm) taller than other large males and weighing half again as much despite the fact that there was no fat on him. When Duncan was two or three years old, we took him to a Carolina Border Collie Rescue event held at a farm owned by one of the volunteers. There was a large open field and a herd of about 100 Border Collies running around in it. We could pick out Duncan instantly because he towered above all of the other BCs, except one who was even larger than he was. (Despite the fact that Duncan was registered purebred, we always suspected that he might have some English Shepherd in his bloodlines.)

Barbara just got out a photo of Duncan standing on our front porch that showed the line of his back was at the line of mortar above the seventh row of bricks. She then took Colin out on the front porch while I stood back to see the level of his back relative to the bricks. At eight months old, Colin is already taller than Duncan was as an adult. He’s going to be a very big boy.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

10:05 – Colin is really a Fearsome Predator now. This morning, he caught a chipmunk. Six times. The first time, the chipmunk froze. Colin pounced on it, and came up with it in his mouth. I shouted, “Drop it!” and he did, whereupon the chipmunk ran for its life. Colin gave it a headstart (seriously) and then overran it in about five steps, again coming up with it in his mouth. Again, he dropped it and it ran under a pile of leaves. He grabbed it again. This went on until he’d grabbed it six times. I’ve heard it said that Border Collies have had all the kill instinct bred out of them, and it’s obviously true. Despite the fact that he had it in his fangs repeatedly, he never bit down on it. The last time he dropped it, the chipmunk staggered away slowly and I dragged Colin away from it. I hope the chipmunk was just stunned rather than injured, but I’ll go out and look for it later.

Barbara is doing extremely well. This morning, she tried using my four-footed cane, which I need only for balance, particularly at night. I’ll borrow it back when I take Colin for a walk, but otherwise she’s welcome to use it. She’s still sleeping on the sofa, and will keep the walker frame for use at night if she needs to get up and also as a physical barrier to keep Colin from jumping up on her.

I just officially transferred my Kindle to Barbara. I connected it via USB and deleted dozens of titles I knew she wouldn’t want to read, but that still left her with 140 titles to sort through and decide whether or not she wants them. Most of those are free or $0.99 ebooks that I downloaded from Amazon because they sounded like something she might like. If she finds some authors/series that she enjoys we’ll buy the rest of the titles in that series, assuming they’re not outrageously priced.

Overall, I think the Kindle is nearly perfect. The exception is that its file management sucks dead lifeforms through a small tubular object. The fundamental problem is that Kindle uses a flat file structure unless you use its incredibly awkward organization tools. I should be able to create a directory structure on my hard drive and copy individual titles into that directory structure. If I then copy that directory structure to the Kindle, the directories should show up as top-level categories that contain the individual books. It doesn’t work that way. If, for example, I create a directory called “Downie, Ruth”, copy her four Medicus books into it, and then copy that directory to the Kindle, the four books show up as individual titles at the top level. In order to categorize them, I have to create a category named “Downie, Ruth” (or whatever) with the Kindle’s tiny little keyboard, go find each book, and manually transfer it to the new category. That takes lots of keystrokes and lots of time. It sucks. Nor is calibre any help. I can use it to organize the titles with no problem, but according to the calibre docs, Kindle makes no provision for transferring that organized structure via USB. The only consolation is that the Nook is just as suckful. Apparently, the only company that gets it is Sony, whose ebook readers support transferring organized structures. Still, I’ll never buy a Sony product, so there’s no use worrying about it.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

09:25 – Barbara is doing well, and Colin is delighted that she’s home. The only thing I’m dreading now is Barbara returning to work after Colin having several weeks to get used to having her full-time attention. He’s always demonic on Mondays, after having her home for just two days, so I suspect he’ll take a long time to adjust after she finally returns to work.

The news is full of articles about Netflix’s reversal of its split. The general attitude seems to be that Reed Hastings is incompetent and that Netflix has made huge mistakes from which it may not recover. My attitude is that it’s a mistake to assume that a smart guy like Hastings has suddenly turned stupid. Everyone seems to think that the decrease in Netflix’s subscriber base is a Very Bad Thing, which simply shows that most people can’t think. Netflix may have lost something like 3% of its subscribers, true. But those 3% were mostly subscribers that Netflix didn’t want, ones that were actually costing it money rather than contributing to its profits. Ones like me, in other words.

If Netflix had left its pricing unchanged and somehow still gotten rid of those 3% of undesirable subscribers, they’d have increased their profits. As it is, they also increased their prices, which means many of the remaining 97% of their subscribers are paying significantly more than they had been. Much of that increase will be spent on licensing additional programming–Netflix has added about 3,500 new TV episodes in just the last couple of weeks–but no doubt some of it will go to the bottom line. Netflix will be much more profitable than they otherwise would have been. Which is why it’s stupid that the stock price crashed. It should have skyrocketed. And it likely will, once the market realizes what just happened. As I said, Hastings is a very smart guy.

11:00 – I just ordered a cane for Barbara from Costco. She’s currently using a walker frame that belonged to my mom, but she’ll probably be off it and using a cane before too much longer.

We actually had a big argument about which cane model to buy. She ended up getting her way, and I ordered her a plain old cane-cane for about $18 with shipping. I tried to convince her to go with an upgraded model with a built-in 12-gauge shotgun, but she flatly refused. So I went to Plan B, and tried to convince her to go with a model with a built-in 32″ (81 cm) sword blade. She wouldn’t go for that, either, so I went to Plan C and tried to convince her to get one with a built-in tear gas dispenser. No dice. So she’s getting just a plain old cane-cane.

11:53 – Barbara has been using the regular toilet since she came home, so we moved the potty-chair frame into the shower in our master bath for her to sit on while she showers. I didn’t want to move it, so I just took a shower in the downstairs bathroom, next to my lab. There was already soap, regular shampoo, and so on in that shower, but I happened to notice a bottle of oatmeal and baking soda shampoo with a picture of a pretty Golden Retriever on the front. It promised a smooth and glossy coat, so I decided to give it a try. Sure enough, when I came upstairs, Barbara commented, “You sure have a smooth and glossy coat”. Or something like that.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

09:37 – Our friends Mary and Paul dropped by for a visit yesterday evening. I asked them if they were attending the sunrise service this morning. They both use iPhones and iPods, you see, and this morning is the third day. Steve is risen.

Paul has drunk the Kool-Aid more than Mary, I think. He commented that he liked his iPhone, but he really liked his iPod. Where else, he asked, could one get a pocket-size music player? Barbara and I pointed out that she had one connected to her car audio system right now, a Sansa model. Yes, he said, but where can you get music to load on it? Barbara pointed out that she had several thousand tracks converted to MP3 that she’d ripped from her CDs, about a thousand of which were on her Sansa player at the moment. I added that if he wanted to buy music on-line he could visit Amazon, which has a huge selection with often better prices, and has never had copy protection.

I really don’t understand all the eulogizing. Not only did Jobs never do anything to help the advance of personal technology; much of what he did hurt it. He went from selling overpriced, underpowered PCs to selling overpriced music players and tracks to selling overpriced cellphones. Everything he ever did was aimed at pillaging his customers’ wallets and locking them into his “walled garden”. And, no, I haven’t forgotten the Apple ][, which deserves at best an asterisk in PC history.

Laundry this morning, with work interspersed on the biology lab book. Right now, I’m working on the chapter on cells and unicellular organisms. I’m just starting a session on making culturing media and filling Petri dishes and slant tubes with agar gel medium and test tubes with broth medium. We’ll use the Petri dishes in the following session to culture bacteria, after which we’ll isolate selected species and grow pure cultures of them in slant tubes and eventually broth tubes. We’ll then flood Petri dishes with broth culture to grow bacterial “lawns”, which can then be used for antibiotic sensitivity testing.

I’ve thought seriously about recommending that readers avoid culturing environmental bacteria and instead purchase pure cultures of known-harmless bacteria from Carolina Biological Supply or wherever. The issue is that there are a lot of pathogenic bacteria floating around in the wild. Ordinarily, they’re harmless, because our bodies defenses can deal with small numbers of them. But culturing them produces large numbers of them, so one must take care to avoid being exposed to them. With proper technique, the danger is nearly non-existent, but some danger does still exist. We’ll minimize that by using a simple beef or chicken broth and sucrose nutrient mixture and culturing at room temperature rather than body temperature. Those factors favor growth of bacteria that prefer the lower temperature, which is to say not most pathogens.

Of course, we’ll subsequently be using forced selection to breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria from those original cultures, and if you don’t want wild pathogens floating around the room, you really don’t want drug-resistant wild pathogens floating free. Of course, we could temper that risk by using antibiotics that are not usually used in humans, such as neomycin, sulfadimethoxine, and so on. We can also take steps to minimize exposure risk, including wearing an N100 mask, misting the area with Lysol spray and so on. On balance, I think I’ll do the lab with environmental bacteria, but warn readers that for complete safety they should purchase a known-harmless culture as their starting point.

Colin is still very much a puppy. Barbara had dinner out yesterday, so I made myself a bowl of tuna shock. Except that I didn’t have any tuna or any shock, so I just put a can of olives (less the can and lid) and a can of Costco chicken chunks (less the can and lid) in a big bowl and then added a large glop of mayonnaise. I’d eaten about a third of it when the doorbell rang. I got up to answer it, first warning Colin not to touch my food. When I got back a moment later, he had his snout in my bowl. Fortunately, he hadn’t eaten much of it, so I finished the rest.

Friday, 7 October 2011

10:37 – I’ve just had my first report of shipping damage on a kit, in this case a broken thermometer. The buyer wanted to know if there was anywhere local that she could buy another one. I apologized for the inconvenience, and told her I’d get a replacement in the mail this afternoon, which should arrive Monday. It surprised me that it would even occur to her that the breakage was her problem.

That is, perhaps, a commentary on the declining level of customer service among many American companies. Not all, by any means. Companies like LL Bean and Costco do well, in no small part because their policy is to treat their customers (and employees) as they themselves would want to be treated. That used to be the norm for American businesses: “The customer is always right.” That’s the type of business I patronize, and I’ve always known that when I started a business, that’s the way I’d treat my own customers.

Doing so is simple enlightened self-interest. Treat customers badly, and they’ll never buy from you again. They’ll also tell everyone they know of their experience. Treat customers right, and you’ve made a friend for life. They’ll continue buying from you, and they’ll recommend you to their friends.

Solving a problem for a customer at no expense to them often involves incurring a cost, so “results-oriented” short-term thinkers consider it foolish to take a loss rather than charge the customer again. In fact, that small short-term loss nearly always translates into a much greater long-term profit. For example, one person who bought one of our kits emailed me to say that she’d spilled one of the chemicals, and asked if she could buy another bottle. Sure, I could have charged her for the replacement bottle and shipping costs, and she wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But instead I just shipped her a replacement bottle without charge. Counting the item itself, as well as time, packaging, and shipping costs, that might’ve cost me $10 or $12. But that small loss translates into a very happy customer. She’ll tell her friends, and some of those friends may in turn become new customers.

13:37 – Colin is closely related to both Duncan and Malcolm, with several recent ancestors in common, so it’s no surprise that Colin shares many of Duncan’s and Malcolm’s personality traits. Colin is much nearer in personality to Duncan than Malcolm in most respects, and I was reminded of one of them a minute ago, when I gave Colin a dog treat.

Malcolm would eat anything we were eating, without hesitation. Pickles, celery, anything. In fact, Malcolm would eat anything we offered him. That made it very easy to give him pills. Hold down the pill to him, and he’d take it gently and swallow it without question. Duncan, on the other hand, was almost insulting. He’d beg when we were eating, but if we offered him some of what we were eating, he’d sniff it thoroughly before eating it, just to make sure. I actually had a conversation with Duncan about this, explaining that he was insulting us by implication, suggesting that something good enough for humans might not be good enough for him.

And Colin is much like Duncan in that respect. I just went into the kitchen to refill my Coke, and decided to give Colin a dog treat. He watched me take down the container from the shelf. He knows that container is full of dog treats. He sat on command, waiting for the treat. When I held it down to him, he spent two or three seconds sniffing it before he took it. Just like Duncan.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

08:24 – Building science kits uses labels by the thousands. I’m down to my last box of Avery 5160 labels (1″ x 2-5/8″, 30 per sheet), so I went looking yesterday for a good on-line source. Actually, the labels I use are Maco rather than Avery, because the Avery labels are priced outrageously even at a discount.

I can buy five boxes of Maco ML-3000 labels of 100 sheets each (15,000 total labels) from Maco for $60, or $12/box including shipping, but I decided to look elsewhere. I found the same labels at another on-line vendor for $7.43 per box, but shipping was $17 on one box. So I added more boxes for a total of 5 boxes and found that shipping was still $17. Apparently, most of that $17 is a handling charge, so I wondered what else I might need that I could add to the order.

I’d bought a Brother HL-3070CW color laser printer just for printing labels. I remembered that the Brother manual said the printer included “starter” toner cartridges, so I figured I might need replacements soon. I checked the manual and found that the HL-3070CW requires TN210-series cartridges, with the black cartridge rated at 2,200 pages and the cyan, yellow, and magenta cartridges rated at 1,400 pages each. Each of those costs $60 or so on-line, so replacing the toner would cost about $240. Fortunately, I checked the manual again before I ordered toner cartridges. The starter cartridges are all rated for 1,000 pages. Given that I’m using that printer only for printing kit labels, those starter cartridges are probably less than 20% used.

Colin peed on the bed again last night, for the third or fourth time. Barbara warned him the last time he did that that the next time he did it that she’d get rid of him. He doesn’t seem to believe her. So, I have two more loads of laundry to do mid-week, but I guess that’s just part of having a puppy.

I think most of the problem is that Colin doesn’t get enough activity. I do what I can, but I simply don’t have time to spend all day outside with him as he’d like. Yesterday during the day I took him on ten short walks, down to the corner and back, and sometimes down to both corners and back. That’s a total of about two miles (three kilometers). At a brisk walk, that takes maybe five or six minutes each time, for a total of roughly an hour. Of course, while I got in two miles, Colin was running back and forth and around in circles each time, so he probably got in at least three or four. Still, it’s not enough for a 7-month-old Border Collie puppy.

I’m still hard at work on the biology lab book, as well as prototyping the biology kit.

13:43 – Well, that was interesting. The street vacuuming truck just passed our house. In the past, that was always a standard dump truck with a huge vacuum assembly on the back and a swinging hose that’s maybe half a meter in diameter. There were three crew, one driver and two guys walking along the curb, one swinging the hose back and forth to suck up leaves and dirt, and the second with a rake to position stuff for the hose guy and free up stuff that was matted and clumped. This time, it was a different-looking truck, still obviously a dump truck, but with the vacuum equipment looking more integrated with the vehicle. There was only one crew, the driver.

What interested me was the steering arrangement. The driver was in what would normally be the passenger seat, so I just assumed the truck was right-hand drive. But then as it got closer I realized that it was both right- and left-hand drive, with a steering wheel on each side. Presumably there’s some kind of mechanism to select which steering wheel and pedals are operative, but perhaps it’s set up like a B-17, with two complete sets of controls, both of which work simultaneously.

Monday, 5 September 2011

10:04 – Costco run with Paul and Mary yesterday, followed by dinner. The safety officer for Mary’s company is retiring, and Mary has been appointed to serve that role. As she says, this following a week in which their lab facility experienced an earthquake and a hurricane. Not to mention a plague of locusts.

Colin’s pictures will appear in the biology lab book, in the chapter on genetics and inheritance. This image of Colin at 10 weeks old shows him with full drop ears, a common (and genetically dominant) form.

This image shows Colin at 28 weeks old, by which time his ears have assumed their final fully-erect (prick) form.

I’m using these images to illustrate two ear forms, one dominant and one recessive, and tightly-cropped head shots of these two images in a table to illustrate what puppies a breeding pair of Border Collies with different ear traits can be expected to have. (Colin’s parents are both flip/drop-eared, which means they’re both dominant-recessive with respect to prick ears. If they had eight puppies, which they did, one would expect on average two of those puppies to have prick ears, which was indeed the result.)

16:01 – Geez. I just alerted Jerry Coyne to a free science book deal on Amazon, and almost forgot to tell my own readers about it. The book is Eugene V. Koonin’s The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution. It’s regularly priced at $69.99, print or Kindle, and is currently on sale for $0.00 for Kindle. If you’re interested in this subject, grab while the grabbing is good, because these sales often last 24 hours or less.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

09:16 – There was little good news last week on the euro crisis. Even the euro cheerleaders are starting to get depressed.

Even Goldman Sachs Now Expects A Tremendous Financial Collapse

Incidentally, when I mentioned this article to Barbara, I pronounced “Sachs” as “socks”. She said she’d thought it was pronounced “sax”. I told her I really didn’t know, but as a German name I thought it should be pronounced “socks”. That’s nothing unusual. People look at me funny when I pronounce Bayer (as in aspirin) to rhyme with “buyer” or Julius Caesar with the J as a Y, the C as a K, the ae as a long eye, and the last syllable beginning with a hard ess rather than a zee.

We had a strong thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. Apparently, a tree fell over on a power line or something, because we were without power from about 1615 to 2045. Like all of our young Border Collies, Colin doesn’t pay much attention to thunderstorms. Except yesterday he did, because we had a couple of very close, very loud strikes. Those scared him, but once things returned to a dull roar he was back to normal.

I’m doing laundry this morning, and we’re working on assembling two or three dozen more chemistry kits. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, because we don’t have room to store all that much finished inventory. Once I get more shelves up, we’ll probably still assemble them two or three dozen at a time, because I have to leave room for biology kits, and eventually forensics kits, AP chemistry kits, and so on. All of which require not just room to store finished goods inventory, but also room for component inventory.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

08:24 – Thanks to everyone who comment on Colin’s image. Several people even sent me modified versions with adjustments to color balance and brightness. The image was shot in open shade, so the cool color balance is accurate. The image is straight out of the camera, with no adjustments other than cropping

As to Colin’s ears, yes, they always stick up like that. Some of the neighbors call Colin “Hat Dog”, because he usually keeps the inner edges of his ears pressed together, resulting in what looks like a triangular peaked cap. As you might expect, Colin’s hearing is superb. (The US government invited Colin to join the distant early-warning line, but he declined.) It’s funny watching him in the evening, lying on his side on the den floor, napping. One ear sticks straight up. Whenever he hears a sound, the ear rotates to localize the sound.

If you own any euro-denominated instruments, now would be a good time to dump them. Next Wednesday, the German Federal Constitutional Court rules on whether Germany contributing to the EFSF and euro bailouts violates the terms of the Maastricht Treaty, the founding document of the EU, and potentially even more damaging to the euro, whether Merkel’s actions so far violate the German constitution. Given that the Maastricht Treaty explicitly prohibits EU nations from assuming debts of other EU nations, the first decision should be a slam-dunk, which in itself would be enough to destroy the euro. If the court also decides that Merkel’s actions have been in violation of the German constitution, it’s really game over.

Meanwhile, a credible rumor has it that Greece has hired a US law firm in preparation for leaving the eurozone and defaulting on its debts. Greek officials strongly deny this rumor, but what else could they say? Given that the second Greek bailout now looks almost certain to fail to gain approval, particularly with Finland’s unrelenting demands for collateral now proving an insuperable obstacle to the bailout going forward, the Greeks are left with few alternatives.

We’ve finished building a batch of chemistry kits that should hold us at least through the middle of this month, if not all the way through the month. That means I need to get purchase orders issued for the components to build more kits. While I’m at it, I’ll order enough components to build a small batch of the biology kits. The contents of that kit are semi-finalized, although there may be minor additions as I continue to work on the biology book.

09:34 – If you’re at all interested in self-publishing a novel, you should read this article on Joe Konrath’s blog. In it, he gives away the secret that has allowed him to sell hundreds of thousands of ebooks.

Well, I guess I can give the secret away here as well. It’s persistence. At the beginning of one summer when I was in junior high school, I decided to learn to play tennis. I took my racket and a can of balls to the tennis courts, where I found a bunch of kids my age and older hacking around. They looked terrible. There was no resemblance to the tennis players I’d seen on TV. None of them could hit a backhand to save his life. Their serves looked spastic. I decided there was no way that I’d step on a court until I was a lot better than they were.

So I took my racket and can of balls to my former elementary school, which was only a block away. It had a nice vacant parking lot of smooth asphalt abutting the featureless brick wall of the school. I started hitting balls off that backboard. When I returned the next day, I had a yardstick and a small can of black paint with me. I measured off the width of the singles court (27 feet, 8.23 meters) and painted hashmarks on the mortar of the brick wall. The tennis net is 3’6″ at the posts and 3′ at the center line, so I compromised and choose the line of mortar that was about 3’2″ off the ground, which I painted black. That gave me something to aim for.

For the rest of that summer, I made the five-minute walk from my house to the school almost every day to hit balls off that wall. Some days I had only 30 minutes or an hour available for practice. Other days, I’d spend hours hitting balls. Forehands, backhands, and serves. Flat, topspin, and backspin. Cross-court and down the line. I must have hit 100,000 balls without ever setting foot on a tennis court.

Come September and the start of the school year, I decided I was finally ready to play tennis. Not surprisingly, I usually won, even when playing guys who were on the high school tennis team. In tennis, persistence pays off, just as it does in writing.

Friday, 26 August 2011

09:30 – Colin loves sticks, and we always try to keep a “good stick” on hand. That is, one that’s solid wood and maybe a cm or two in diameter by 30 or 40 cm long. Yesterday, I let Colin off leash while I rolled the yard cart from the curb to the back yard and rolled the trash cart up to the curb. He ran around our and our neighbors’ back yards while I was doing that, and when he returned he didn’t have his good stick. So, while I was taking him for a walk, I looked for another good stick. I found what looked like an ideal candidate, but when I picked it up it was rotten and weighed next to nothing.

Which got me to thinking about Steve Jobs, who has just retired as CEO of Apple. Even with Jobs’ retirement, the value of Apple’s outstanding stock is still greater than the cumulative value of Europe’s 91 large banks. Like the stick I rejected, Europe’s banks appear solid but are actually rotten and lightweight.

The main problem is that those banks have huge exposure to Eurozone sovereign debt. Due to an accounting oddity, sovereign debt, regardless of its actual solidity, is always considered to be default-proof, and so is carried on balance sheets at nominal value. The reality is very different, of course. A bank that holds, say, €1 billion of Greek sovereign debt even now carries that debt on its balance sheet as a €1 billion asset. Current yields on 2-year Greek debt are getting very close to 50%, which means that debt should be written down on balance sheets to a small fraction of nominal, if not written off entirely. But the banks haven’t done that, for Greek, Portuguese, and Irish debt or any of the other peripheral sovereign debt, let alone “core” Eurozone debt issued by France or Belgium. The ridiculous bank “stress test” done a couple of months ago estimated that Europe’s largest 91 banks would require only about €2.4 billion to meet capitalization requirements. The reality is that they’ll need more like €150 billion to meet even the minimum requirements with rosy assumptions including high EU growth and no sovereign defaults.

Back in the real world, the truth is that all or nearly all of those banks are already bankrupt, and the EU no longer has the ammunition to do anything about that. The ECB is already bent completely out of its intended shape, engaging in legally-questionable if not outright illegal purchases of sovereign bonds and accepting essentially worthless paper as collateral. In effect, the ECB itself is in deep trouble, with its nominal balance sheet having no relation to reality. Making matters worse, as the EU lender of last resort, the ECB is now attempting to do what the banks themselves should be doing. The situation in the EU is so bad now that banks no longer trust each other. Banks with a temporary surplus would ordinarily do overnight loans of those surplus funds to other banks, earning some interest in the process. Instead, those banks are depositing the excess funds with the ECB, earning only tiny amounts of interest on them.

So it’s true. The ECB and Europe’s commercial banks are rotten sticks. Even Colin wouldn’t touch them.

I just got orders for the last two chemistry kits I had already built, so we’ll build another dozen or so kits this weekend. We’re still in pretty good shape in terms of components to build more kits, but once this batch of components runs out it looks like we’ll have to increase the price of the kits by $10 or so to cover increased costs. I hate to do that, because we’re trying to keep the kits as affordable as possible, but anyone who thinks these massive so-called “quantitative easings” don’t affect prices doesn’t understand economics. The true definition of inflation is “an increase in the money supply”, and quantitative easing is simply a weasel phrase for inflating the currency. That shows up sooner or later, usually sooner, in the prices we pay for everything.