Finally, a solution to the Euro crisis

The Europeans have come up with a solution to the Euro crisis: threaten S&P and Moody’s. After all, if no one is allowed to point out that the emperor has no clothes, who’s going to notice?

Meanwhile, everyone with any sense is dumping Greek and now Portuguese debt as fast as they can. Hint to traders: now is the time to dump all of your Icelandic, Irish, Italian, and Spanish bonds, assuming you can find anyone foolish enough to buy them. Fools are quickly becoming harder to find. If someone offered me that junk at $0.10 on the dollar, I’d flee screaming.

To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, Greece, which is about the size and population of Ohio, is now close to $600 billion in debt. But the situation is actually much worse than those figures indicate. Ohio has a robust economy. Greece has no economy to speak of, and no prospect of developing one. Think of Greece as Ohio with a Soviet-style economy and you won’t be far off the mark. And Portugal, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Spain aren’t much better.

People are now talking about “partial default” and “temporary default”. There’s nothing partial or temporary about it. We’re looking at default default. One morning in the not-too-distant future, we’ll awaken to news that the dominoes are toppling and the Euro has gone down the tubes. Count on it.

Young American tennis players

I periodically despair about the state of tennis in the US. For decades, we regularly produced a crop of world-class players, fromĀ  Tilden and Vines and Budge and Kramer to Schroeder and Riggs and Gonzalez and Trabert to Ashe and Smith and Connors and McEnroe and Agassi and Sampras. And that’s just the men.

But for the last ten years or more we haven’t had any truly first-rate players on the pro tour. The best we can come up with are players like Roddick and the Williams sisters, decent players but not true greats. So I’m always glad to see up-and-coming young players like Kiah.

The video is from about a year ago, when she was still 15. She has several other videos posted, showing her serving and so on. Watching her play, I’d guess she’d play about even with most fair-to-middling 15-year-old male tennis players–those good enough to make the tennis team at a large high school–although that’ll change over the next couple of years, as the boys continue to get faster and stronger, while she doesn’t. If I’d played her when I was 15, I certainly wouldn’t have taken the match lightly. I’d probably have beaten her four matches in five, and maybe even five in five, but this girl has enough tools to be dangerous.

I hope there are a whole lot more like her out there.


A day in the life

Here’s a wonderful post from Abbie Smith, AKA ERV. You probably need to be a working scientist to appreciate it fully, but Abbie gives a great description of her working day as a grad student down in the pits of bench science, where everything is easy but even the easy things are difficult.

Incidentally, don’t let Abbie’s LOLcat prose turn you off. It’s just how she writes blog entries, with various affectations such as refusing to use apostrophes in contractions. I’m not sure why she does that. When we exchange email, she writes fluent and literate English prose. Perhaps it’s because Abbie likes to be underestimated by creationists and other anti-science folks. When they do that, which they do regularly, they are making a serious mistake. Abbie has a first-rate brain and the heart of a pit bull.

Colin visits his old pack

After dinner last night, Barbara and I loaded Colin up and drove over to see his original family. Their daughter, Ashlynn, had really wanted to see Colin, but at the last minutes she was invited to go to Carowinds with friends, so Colin missed seeing her again. Here’s Colin with Scarlett.

Colin with Scarlett
Colin with Scarlett

And here’s Minnie, Colin’s mom. She’s a smooth-coat, as is Colin, and his markings are very similar to hers. She’s a fast mover, and almost impossible to shoot a good image of, even with the low shutter latency of a DSLR.

Minnie, Colin's mom
Minnie, Colin's mom

Although he did eventually get snout-to-snout with Minnie and two of his remaining siblings, Colin was quite timid and subdued. He didn’t seem sorry when we left. It wasn’t until later that Barbara mentioned he might have been worried that we were going to leave him there. He was carsick (again) on the ride home, but as soon as he got back home he started acting normally again. We promised Colin we’d never leave him anywhere, or if we did that we’d always come back to get him.

Portugal topples

Here’s the best take I’ve found this morning on the impending collapse of the Eurozone, although, if anything, it’s still much too optimistic. The beginning of the end, indeed. Things are much nearer the end of the end than the beginning. We can only hope that the federal government and US banks throw no more money down this rathole.

If I had to guess, I’d say the three I’s, Ireland, Iceland (a provisional EU country), and Italy, will be next, followed shortly by Spain, then Belgium and France. Germany and the UK will be the last major EU countries standing, and even they aren’t too stable. Poor Switzerland. The only one of them with any sense.

Death of SciBlogs

Yesterday, PZ Myers announced the death of SciBlogs. No surprise there. SciBlogs has always been fragile. It nearly collapsed a year ago, with the “PepsiGate scandal”, when many of its most popular bloggers left to go elsewhere. Fortunately for SciBlogs, PZ Myers decided to keep his Pharyngula blog on SciBlogs. If he’d left then, SciBlogs would have collapsed quickly, since PZ’s blog by itself accounted for the majority of SciBlog’s traffic.

But in the last year things have not improved for SciBloggers. Apparently, they get next to no support, their suggestions and complaints are met with dead silence, and their paychecks arrive late or never. The root of the problem is that Seed Media, the owners of SciBlogs, have never been any good at selling ads on SciBlogs. I run AdBlock Plus, so I’ve never seen an ad on SciBlogs, but I’m told that the only ads they run are a motley collection of garbage ads for stuff like psychics, dating services, and politicians. Not a good fit for their subject matter, to say the least.

Fortunately, as SciBlogs implodes, it appears that some of their best bloggers have found new homes with the much more prestigious Scientific American blogs and possibly the National Geo blogs. The details about who’s going where aren’t yet clear.

I emailed my favorite SciBlogger, Abbie Smith, yesterday to offer her an emergency landing site if she temporarily found herself blog-homeless. She replied with thanks, but said (as I expected) that her blog was being picked up by another science blogging service.

Meanwhile, it appears that PZ and Ed Brayton have decided to combine forces and self-publish their blogs. Apparently, the restrictions imposed by SciAm blogs were too onerous for them. SciAm was willing to let the SciBlogs refugees blog about whatever topics they wanted–including atheism, evolution, and other topics that generate a lot of heat–but would not allow f-bombs and other strong language. That’s a reasonable restriction, given that SciAm blogs targets schools, but I understand why PZ and Ed decided to opt out of SciAm blogs.

Abbie would have been welcome to go along with them, but she decided that SciAm or National Geo would be a better fit for her. Of course, Abbie writes mostly about science, which can’t be said for many of the current SciBloggers.

Good money after bad

Yesterday, only two days after the final $17 billion of the first Greek bailout was approved for release, S&P announced that it would declare Greece in default if the French and German national banks carried through on their plan to roll over maturing Greek bonds by using the proceeds from those maturing bonds to purchase new 30-year Greek bonds. That deal was to be carefully structured, including tightly restricted trading of those bonds to prevent them from immediately losing all of their nominal value, which of course in a free market would occur immediately after they were issued.

The simple fact is that Greece is bankrupt. Everyone knows that, but the EU is striving mightily to conceal it because when the Greek domino topples the rest of the Euro economy quickly follows. French and particularly German taxpayers have had enough, watching their wealth being pillaged to subsidize Greece. Everyone knows that once Greece collapses it will soon be followed by Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain, with Belgium and then France itself not far behind.

So the EU pretends desperately that none of this is happening. Hiding their heads in the sand is obviously not an effective solution. Unfortunately, there is no effective solution.

If Germany and the UK have any sense, they’ll withdraw from the EU and return to their national currencies.

4 July ????

A new Marist poll provides some stunning figures. Presumably, every American knows that 4 July is Independence Day, but only 58% of Americans know which year America declared its Independence. Among American adults younger than 30 years old, that figure drops to 31%. Overall, about a quarter of Americans don’t know from which country America declared its Independence.

What have public schools been doing for the last 40 or 50 years? In 1971, the year I graduated from high school, nearly any high school graduate could associate events for numerous years. Just naming the year was sufficient: 323 BCE, 44 BCE, 476, 1066, 1492, 1588, 1776, 1812, 1815, 1854, 1860, 1876, 1914, 1929, 1939, 1941, just to name a few.

In 1971, an average high school student would have been able to associate significant historical events with at least a dozen of those years, if not all of them. In 2011, I doubt that public high school graduates from the last ten years could, on average, associate significant events with a quarter of those years, if that many.

It would be interesting to do a simple comparison using such a metric between public high school students and homeschooled students. I’d predict that the homeschool students would kick ass.