Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finger Lap joints. Without a table saw

The one weakness of the radial arm saw it that it won't do fingerlap joints. On a table saw it's straight forward, install the dado head and cut the fingers holding the work vertical against the miter gauge. It's impossible on a radial arm saw, which is what graces my shop.
So, can you do them with a router? Yes. First you need a router table, something all true router fans have or make sooner or later. Mine has a 3/4" plywood top and the router cutter pokes up thru the top. With a fence to guide the work it's a poor man's shaper. The work is 5/16" thick, a straight 3/8" cutter sticking up 3/8" makes nice 3/8" by 3/8" fingers.
For the fingerlap joints we take the top off the router table and put a 3/4" dado across the top to accept a miter gauge. Used the miter off the band saw. Needed a couple of passes and a shim before the miter gauge slide freely. Then we put a finger in the miter gauge to space the fingers and go for it. Works. Good fit. Knock off for happy hour feeling very organized and wood crafty.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fix the fuel shortage, Drill, Its the American way

We have an oil shortage, every one agrees on that. The traditional American answer to this sort of problem is to fix it. We consume 20 million barrels per day. Reserves in Alaska and off shore are estimated in the billions of barrels. Enough to fuel our vehicles and heat our houses for generations. So why not do the obvious thing and drill for oil?
The tradition of America is to press on, and fix the problem. We have been doing this since the Revolution. Got a problem with British men '0 war blockading New York? Invent an submarine with 18th century technology and go out to sink them. Got a rebel ironclad out sinking the Union fleet? Get plans for an even more advanced ironclad from the greatest naval architect of the age and rush a vessel into action in 90 days from keel laying to combat on the Chesapeake. Want to keep California in the Union? Lay a steam railroad clear across the continent. And then dig a canal across Panama. Want to stop German subs from sinking allied ships? Lay a minefield clean across the North Sea from Scotland to Norway. Got implacable Nazi and Facist enemies? Invent a superweapon so advanced that it wasn't even in science fiction. Need to convince the world that democratic capitalism is the way to fly? Build a moon rocket and send men to the moon.
In America, when we have a problem, we fix it. We have a very simple problem now, not enough oil. So lets get cracking and fix it. We need to drill off shore, drill in Alaska, develop oil shale and get on with it.
All the "alternate energy" in the world won't fuel my car or heat my house.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Winning Iraq is bad for McCain?

I heard a couple a Sunday pundits say this. General Petraeus is thinking about (not committed to yet, but thinking about) sending more troops home 'cause things are getting better in Iraq. McCain didn't, (and isn't going to) look this gift horse in the teeth. Everyone wants the war over and the troops home as soon as possible.
The pundits take on this? "Now that McCain is talking about bringing troops home there is no difference between him and Obama." They didn't mention the little matter of who was right on the surge, which even the NY Times now admits, won the war. McCain pushed for the surge while Obama spoke against it.
Take your pick for commander in chief.

Consumer spending keeps the economy going?

They say it every day, consumer spending, consumer confidence, retail sales and economic stimulus checks are the backbone of the economy. If consumers stop consuming the great depression comes out of the closet and eats us all. Scary.
Particularly as you can get most necessities of life, save food, at yard sales and thrift stores for pennies on the dollar. If everyone started doing this, (or just postponing the purchase of new stuff) we could see a big drop in consumer spending. Me, I have acquired a band saw, a VCR, a stereo receiver, a chandelier, wall sconces, tableware, clothes, a Minolta 35mm camera, lots of books and videos, lumber, skis, and hand tools in just the last two years. Satisfying that urge to buy stuff for very little money.
Can the economy withstand the shock if everyone did it?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dawn over Marblehead

The New York Times finally admits things are getting better in Iraq.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The world according to Sam "Eyebrows" Donaldson

"The mortgage crisis isn't caused by Fanny and Freddie, it's all those low life salesmen pushing unaffordable mortgages on poor people who don't know any better" said Sam on the ABC Sunday pundit show.
This is the long time TV newsie, bane of Republican presidents, talking. Talking through his hat. Only because Fanny and Freddie and some brain dead brokerage houses buy toxic waste mortgages do the low life salesmen bother to sell them.
When a borrower defaults on his mortgage the lender takes a big loss. Repossessing the house doesn't help the lender. They won't be able to sell it either. Borrowers with more than two brain cells firing will attempt to sell the house before giving it to the bank. The banks only foreclose on the houses that won't sell. But, if the lender has sold the mortgage to Fanny or Freddie or a brokerage house, he doesn't care, he doesn't own it anymore. The low life salesmen only exist because there are bigger suckers (Fanny, Freddie and the brokerages) out there. Turn them off and mortgage lending (and house prices) will return to reality.
When Sam blames lowlife salesmen instead of the real villains, it shows how ignorant the newsies are.

Speculation Regulation?

The details and language of the proposed bill are obscure, so we don't really know what will happen if they do pass it. But, will it work? Or will the speculators, day traders, and buyers merely move to a friendlier overseas market? London or Dubai or Tokyo or wherever. The United States isn't the only commodities market in the world.
Remember Sarbanes-Oxley? It tightened up corporate governance and finance and added a terrible load of paperwork. Since Sarbox, new public offerings of stock and merger/acquisition activity left Wall St and settled down in London.
Can you say "shoot yourself in the foot"?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

After a $5 trillion bailout, do we need Fanny&Freddie any more?

The rationale for Fanny and Freddie is they can borrow money more cheaply than banks can. The downside to Fanny and Freddie is when they blow it, we taxpayers take one helluva hit. We could go back to financing houses the old fashioned way, with bank depositors money. Of course for that to work, banks would have to pay decent interest on savings deposits, which they don't do anymore.
Nowadays, to get decent interest, investors have to go thru Wall St whiz kids, who take their money and buy weird bonds that put money into banks to make mortgages with. And sometimes the weird bonds don't pay off. In olden times investors simply deposited their money in a reliable bank. We could go back to that. It would put a lot of Wall St whiz kids out of work, but they could get real jobs in sales, manufacturing and new product design. Finance isn't a real job, it's parasitic.
For 6% mortgages the banks could pay depositors 5% interest. For the depositors it's good money, as good as they get on "mortgage backed securities", and with FDIC protection to boot. Unlike subprime mortgage backed securities.
So, why not rein in Fanny & Freddie? Prohibit them from buying anything but real mortgages, no mortgage backed securities. Set a limit on their liabilities, about equal to their current ones. Demand they raise capital equal to 5% of outstanding liabilities before they can take on any more debt. Insist upon the borrowers putting up 5% of property value. Insist that the borrowers live on the property. Each borrower gets only ONE mortgage on ONE property. Don't do mortgages on McMansions. Lower the mortgage limit to $500,000, any house costing more is a luxury house and fat cat buyers will have to get a private bank mortgage. Appraise each property with in-house appraisers who have to personally sign the appraisal. Fire them when they inflate the value of any property. Never do a mortgage for more than the appraised value. Prohibit them from making campaign contributions (aka bribes) to elected officials. Limit salary and bonus to less than $1 million a year for senior management/every employee. Prohibit payment to consultants for anything.

The left cannot let it go

Woke up as usual to Vermont Public Radio, except, just for this day I set the radio to chime in at 0400 in the morning. At that early hour, VPR is channeling the BBC world service. And the BBC is running a story about the Rosenburg espionage case. Groovy. The Rosenburgs, Ethel and Julius, were sent the the gas chamber 50 years ago. The jury convicted them of passing the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Soviets. The judge felt that giving the deadliest weapon in history to our mortal enemies justified the death penalty. Fifty years ago the left conducted a furious defense of the Rosenburgs to little effect. But why is the leftist BBC bringing up the story again? Events of half a century ago are not news. There are plenty of current stories with a good leftist slant they could have run instead.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Driving to Brooklyn

College is finally over for the year. I drove to Brooklyn from Franconia to pick up son and his stuff. The stuff level was so high I borrowed a real 3/4 ton Chevy pickup to do the job. It's about 300 miles each way. Traffic was light until I hit Connecticut. Then it got real heavy, 10 mph creep&beep along shoreline Conn. Turnpike. Trucks galore, all crawling along with the rest of us. You'd think some of them would be going piggy back on the trains just to save diesel fuel.
New York State continues it's distinguished career of illiterate, missing, and worthless road signage. Not sign one for the Whitestone Bridge off I95. I got pushed over Throgs Neck bridge while looking for signs to Whitestone. Not the end of the world, but not a real confidence builder either. Arrived around noon after driving thru rain showers. Took three hours to schlep all the stuff down from the fifth floor and tie a tarp over the top. Trip back was long. Didn't get in til after midnight. It rained and a lot of wet got under the tarp. Truck used 44 gallons of gas for $180. Round trip on Amtrak is a lot less than that. Truck only gets 16.4 mpg even with a very tall gear and a V6. My Caddy DeVille does a lot better at 27 mpg. I guess the truck has more frontal area, a worse drag coefficient and more weight to push up hills. Today the yard is full of drying stuff.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chevy Camaro

Nice set of pictures here. Not a bad looking car. Wouldn't mind buying one just for the cool of the thing. I have to wonder about the horsepower claims on the V6. 300 horse from 217 cubic inches is 1.4 horsepower per cubic inch. That's a lot. Used to be hot rodders were doing well to obtain one horse per cubic inch and still have an engine smooth enough to drive in the street and pass inspection. I notice the V6 has double over head cams, 11.3:1 compression and the 300 horse is only obtained at 6400 RPM. The overhead cams are what lets the engine rev up that high. In the old days a push rod V6 wouldn't rev to 5000 RPM, the valves would float long before 5000 RPM was reached. Getting an 11.3:1 compression engine to run on regular gas is a trick for which Chevy is to be complimented.
Weight is 3750-3860 pounds for the various models. Wasn't clear about the weight of the V8. If the heaviest 3860 pound car has the V8, then Chevy has done a nice job keeping the weight down. It may be,since the V8 is optional at extra cost, the weight figures shown are for the 300 hp V6. That makes power to weight 12 pounds/horsepower with the V6, which is very hot indeed. My 99 Caddy Deville is about 18 pounds/hp and offers sparkling acceleration. The Camaro at 12 pounds/hp will be a hellova lot hotter. The V8 at 422 horse is overkill for anything but racing.
Gas mileage (26 mpg) is disappointing. The Deville gets 27 mpg highway. You would think a lighter car with a smaller engine would do better than a 10 year old Caddy. Not that anyone buying a hot rod like this really cares about a few mpg, but still.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

AlGore on Meet the Press

Tom Brokaw interviewed Al at length this morning. Al is still beating the drum for "alternate energy". Mostly he made those innocous comments about "moving forward" and "thinking outside the box", stuff that contains no real information but sounds good. He now wants the entire economy converted over to solar electric and electric cars. Al said all we need is better electrical transmission lines to move the juice from producer to user. What Al didn't say is that you can only transmit electricity 500 miles before the line losses get so bad that it isn't worth it. Nor did he explain how to heat your house on alternate energy. Nor did explain where the batteries for electric cars are coming from. Current battery technology (lead acid) is only good enough for golf carts. The only difference between a golf car and an electric car is better batteries.
But Al is opposed to oil drilling because only running out of oil will drive Americans to the enlightenment of true greenness. Freezing to death in the dark is very enlightening.
Brokaw asked Al about his lavish energy hog of house, and Al said "I buy electricity from "green" producers and that makes it alright." He also claimed his house uses "geothermal" power which is a stretch, there are no volcanic hotspots in Tennessee. He probably means he has a heat pump working off a heat exchanger buried in the lawn. That's nothing new, I had one in a cheap garden apartment in Mississippi back in the 1960's.
Al again claimed that science is on his side, even though the American Physical Society declared that man made global warming is not scientifically accepted just last week. That means a small majority of physicists think man made global warming is balony, but a sizable minority still believes in it. If the majority were larger, they would have used stronger language to condemn man made global warming. Opinions of physicists counts, global warming is a heat transfer problem, which is squarely in the domain of physics.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Those that can't do, complain

Our energetic Democratic US reps, Hodes and Shea Porter, are complaining that the Low Income Heating Emergence Assistance Program (LIHEAP) bill pushed thru by Senator Judd Greg isn't big enough, according to the Union Leader. Greg's bill is $5 billion, the dems are whining because it isn't $9 billion. Jeeze, do something right, and they complain that it isn't better. Hodes and Shea Porter ought to be passing bills rather than complaining about those that do pass bills.
Of the $5 billion, some $50 million will come to NH. Divide $50 million by $2400 (my estimated oil bill for this winter) and that is enough to help 20,000 families. That's a start. Drop the restrictions on oil drilling and watch the price of heating oil come down. Then it will help even more families. Where are Hodes and Shea Porter on dropping oil drilling restrictions?

Tomatoes acquitted.

The Federal Drug Adminstration (FDA) finally admitted that the salmonella outbreak wasn't caused by tomatoes. I'm sure this brings great joy to the nation's tomato farmers. They were minded their own business, growing America's favorite veggie, when a few federal paper pushers caused them $100 million in losses. That's enough to bankrupt a lot of farmers.
FDA hasn't said just why they pointed the finger at tomatoes, but I can guess. They asked victims what they ate before contracting salmonella, and surprise, every one mentioned tomatoes. They are America's favorite veggie after all. I'm sure every one also reported drinking water too.
We ought to demand actual detection of a pathogen in real food before the government is allowed to declare crops to be infected and ruin farmers. Real food means food actually offered for sale, not weeds or plant cuttings or farm wastes. Actual detection means a real laboratory , running a standard test from a standard handbook, files a written lab report, on company letterhead, signed and dated by the person conducting the test.
As it is, the tomato farmers ought to sue the FDA. Go for damages, punitive damages, gross negligence.

Friday, July 18, 2008

USAF takes flak over luxury aircraft cabins

This ain't new. USAF had VIP kits for the C-141's at Dover AFB back in 1968. I saw them. There were two. A VIP kit was the size of a large travel trailer/small house trailer and fit inside a C-141 jet transport. Inside the VIP kit were cushy chairs, soft carpets, good china and silver ware, a galley, a bar, every thing to make a long flight comfortable. Even back then the VIP kits were "controversial", and kept pretty quiet. I can remember a base commander getting uncomfortable when I told him the auditors had been poking around the VIP kits.
Far as this taxpayer and veteran is concerned, VIP kits are a waste of taxpayer's money. VIP's ought to travel commercial, in coach, just like us citizens.

The north country need some real radio stations

Up here, north of Franconia notch, is a radio wasteland. The FM stations have innoucous and short playlists of goldie oldies. The tunes repeat after a few hours. Not bad tunes, but after hearing it six times we are ready for something else. Nobody plays anything that isn't at least 25 years old. We can't get Rush at all. No NH rabblerousers akin to Boston's Howie Carr. For that matter we can't get Howie either. No local news, no Concord news, hardly any local ads.
There is plenty of spectrum on AM and FM for new stations up here if anyone wanted to try it. Think about hearing local weather (not the Boston weather) , a summary of legislation going thru the mill in Concord, North country news. Skiing stories. Maybe some up to date tunes, especially from real bands as opposed to the boy bands/girl bands. There are a lot of drivers on the road up here, surely enough listeners to attract some paying advertisers.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wesley Clark bad mouths John McCain

General Wesley Clark (US Army Ret.) was trashing John McCain's wartime service as "just another fighter pilot". And stating that his service in high command was far more relevant to the task of President than McCain's.
I served too. I was on the flight line, a junior avionics officer, supervising my men every morning. I saw the pilots man their planes, strap in and take off every morning. Same pilots, day after day.
Flying combat into North Viet Nam was incredibly dangerous. My wing lost a plane a day, for the first 90 days I was on base. As each pilot strapped in and lowered the canopy he knew that someone wasn't going the make it back that day. And it might well be him. The pilots of those lost aircraft either died in their aircraft from the impact of SAM's and ground fire, or died during ejection, or were taken captive by the North Vietnamese. Captivity was brutal, and long lasting. A very few, very lucky, fliers were plucked from the jungle by rescue helicopters before the North Vietnamese got to them.
Knowing the odds of death or captivity were high, the air crew kept on flying. So, call McCain what you like, but remember that he was brave. Brave to fly the missions in the first place, and brave under enemy captivity.

We can drill our way out of oil shortages

Announcement of American projects to explore for oil in the continental shelf, Alaska, Colorado oil shale, just about anywhere, will drop the price of crude, and do so in a matter of days. Even if the project won't come on line years. The outrageous crude oil prices are caused by fear, fear that oil will be unobtainable without a contract. Users have to get crude oil, or go out of business. So they pay six kinds of prices for it. Everyone can see demand going up and up, and production struggling to stay level, let alone grow.
Once the world sees the Americans committing to a large scale oil project, it will come to believe that more oil is out there, and oil will be available. America has a rep for pulling technological rabbits out of hats that is unmatched. America is the land that invented telegraph, telephone, oil wells, electric light bulbs, aircraft, nuclear energy, moon landings, polio vaccines, integrated circuits, microprocessors and more. An Exxon-Mobil announcement of an oil project that will come on line in 2009 and produce a couple of million barrels a day would have instant credibility. In part because the Americans are experts in this kind of thing and in part because American companies must be honest, 'cause the SEC will crucify them for flim flamming investors if they are dishonest.
Just one good oil strike will go far to convince the world's nervous oil consumers that more oil will be available in the future.
And, despite T. Boone Pickens TV ads, we can drill out way out of the shortage. US consumption is 20 million barrels per day. The undrilled resources are estimated in the billions of barrels. Twenty billion barrels is three years of supply. Two hundred billion barrels is thirty years of supply.

Kilowatts are not Kilowatt-hours.

Heard two pieces about alternate energy this morning. Both of them described the size of the device as so many kilowatts. In both cases they should have said kilowatt hours. Most reporters are too dumb to read their own electric bills.
Kilowatts measures the rate of using electricity. A 100 watt (0.1 KW) light bulb uses electricity faster than a 60 watt (0.06 KW) light bulb. But you pay for electricity by the kilowatt hour. An ordinary two slice toaster draws a kilowatt. but it has the toast nice and brown in a minute so it doesn't draw all that much electricity overall. You'd have to toast 60 batches of toast in order to consume a kilowatt hour.
If you are thinking of buying a solar electric rig, you want to know both numbers. Kilowatt hours per day tells you how much money you save using your solar power as opposed to buying juice from the electric company. Kilowatts tells you the heaviest load the rig can power. For example if your air conditioner needs 3 kilowatts to work, it would be nice if your solar electric rig could produce 3 KW to power the AC.
The kilowatt-hour rating of a rig can be estimated from the kilowatt rating. The sun stays up 12 hours (on average) so each day it will produce 12 times the kilowatt rating. So a 1 kilowatt solar collector will furnish 12 kilowatt-hours in the course of a day. Up here the electric company will furnish 12 kilowatt-hours for $2.40. If the solar electric rig costs $7000 (as quoted in the NPR piece) it will take 8 years for the electricity produced to pay for the rig.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Naked short selling. Modern financial sin

Heard the phase "naked short selling" on the radio this morning. New one on me. Visions of middle aged stock brokers pole dancing on conference room tables passed thru my mind. The Vermont Public Radio story alleged that short selling was responsible for the fall of Fannie and Freddie. This sounded so juicy that I googled for it, and found definitions.
Apparently ordinary short selling (selling a stock you don't own, waiting for the price to fall, and buying it at the lower price to deliver to the previous buyer) is now "naked" short selling. It isn't illegal per se, at least not in the US, but the SEC frowns on the practice. They prefer "covered" short selling, where in the seller "borrows" the stock, sells it, and then buys it back later to repay the lender of the stock. Naked short selling for the purpose of effecting a stock's market price is forbidden. Another one of those highly effective laws. "No your honor, I never intended for my short sale of two million shares to lower the price of ..." More welfare for lawyers.
Even in this day and age of gigahertz computers, sellers have three business days to deliver the stock to the seller. That's three days to allow the stock price to fall and make the short sale profitable. If the SEC really wanted to make short selling go away, they could shorten up the delivery time to something reasonable like three hours after the market closes for the day. And prohibit paying over the money before delivery of the stock.
There is a small number of "failure to deliver" events in the ordinary course of business. You could clamp down on that with stiffer penalties. Taking money and not delivering stock is straight out fraud.
As for Fannie and Freddie, whose stock is in the tank. Both companies have lost a lot of money this year and everyone expects them to loose a lot more in the future. Stocks are only worth owning if they are expected to go up in price. If the company is loosing money, its stock isn't going up, everyone knows this. So stockholders sell while the stock is still worth something.

We don't have enough troops in Afghanistan

"because all the troops are in Iraq. Barack Obama said that on TV yesterday. Not true. If we don't have enough troops for Afghenistan, it means the Army isn't big enough. Or too many Army troops are paper pushers, button pushers and REMF's, and not enough are infantry. We only have 130K troops in Iraq. Compared to WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War I, that's nothing. We need an Army /Marine Corps big enough to deploy 250K troops overseas.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obama on Iraq

Watched Obama on TV today. He started out, lambasted the war, decried the expense, blamed just about everyone. I'm saying out loud to the TV, "Come on, tell me what you going to DO about it." Finally Obama got around to saying he would withdraw American troops. If you are into tea leaf reading, he did NOT restate the "one brigade a month" timetable, but I think that's nit picking. He did say clearly that he would pull the Army out.
Obama claims he is turning Iraq over to the Iraqi government. I think he's turning Iraq over to Al Quada.
Just to show he is tough, Obama promised to reenforce Afghanistan.

My internet blackout, Part 2

So, after the very nice Time Warner service man called, Trusty Desktop ran fine til bedtime. This morning, I powered him up, and lo and behold, it was just as broke, and broke the same way, as before the service guy arrived. Same deal, the laptop (Angry Pierre) worked and Trusty Desktop didn't. After a couple of hours of messing around, I finally disabled the Zone Alarm firewall. Presto, internet came back.
So, I used Add/Remove Programs to zap Zone Alarm for good. Turned on the less effective built in Windows firewall. In actual fact the Netgear router is a very good firewall, and hackers/crackers/spyware and such get stopped by the router. I checked the Zone Alarm logfile and it hadn't seen an attack since it had been installed. So, for now, bye bye Zone Alarm. Been running Zone Alarm for years and years, without trouble, but looks like it's broke now.

Fannie & Freddie

Ray Suarez was interviewing US Rep. Barney Frank on the news hour last night. Barney was defending the Fannie & Freddie bailout. They got into the history, and Barney was very firm that the entire disaster was caused by a lack of regulation, and of course he, the democratic party and the US house had pushed for appointment of a regulator. The evil Republicans in the Senate had failed to approve Barney's pet regulation bill, and so the Fannie & Freddie disaster was all the fault of Republicans.
A regulator was going to save Fannie & Freddie? A clueless back seat driver overseeing company management is going to raise their stock value, sell their bonds and prevent a wave of foreclosures? Maybe in Barney's universe. Barney is very smart, very liberal, Jewish, and from Brookline Masschusetts, a town that makes the People's Republic of Cambridge look conservative.
As it is, looks like Fannie and Freddie's $5 TRILLION dollars of debt is going to be added to the existing $9 TRILLION dollars of the existing federal debt. Scary. That's an unbalanced budget that will never quit.
The other option would be to tell the Fannie and Freddie bond holders that they won't get paid, they are out $5 TRILLION bucks. That will make a load of unhappy investors, pension funds, banks, builders, real estate brokers and every one in the housing business. Law suits will go on for 50 years. Without Fannie and Freddie, banks will have to relearn how to do mortgages and attract depositors, and mortgage money will be very hard to get. It will damage the credit of the United States, making it harder to sell US treasury bonds to the Chinese. All in all, the "let 'em crash" option is even scarier than absorbing $5 trillion of debt.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My broadband connection just came back

It was Thursday last week, I powered up my trusty desktop, and oops, no internet. So I did the usual thing, pull the plug to the cable modem and the Netgear router, and then plug 'em in again. No dice. Hmm, maybe the network is down? Sometime after lunch I decide to wade thru the voice mail hell that is calling for technical assistance. My first calls get to pleasant sounding but clueless young ladies at an overseas call center. Some persistence gets me through to the service center in Maine. The lady at the service center says the network is OK, and then she interrogates my modem remotely and it says it's OK, but "the receive signal is a little weak". We schedule a service call for Monday.
I decide to keep blogging on Word. Bloggable ideas are getting scarce, and if I don't write 'em down when they occur to me, I forget them.
Monday morning arrives. I decide to double check. I pull my daughter's discarded laptop out from under the bed and plug it directly into the router. Bingo, beatup laptop logs on immediately and I can catch up on Instapundit. Wow. maybe it isn't the cable modem stuff.
Trusty Desktop is connected via a wireless card. I had a cable built into the house, but I never used it, 'cause the electrician didn't crimp a connector on the end and I found I could buy the wireless card for less than the proper crimping tool for the RJ-45 connector used on LAN cables. I snip the connector off a spare LAN cable and splice it onto the cable to the desktop. Strip, twist together, solder, and insulate with heatshrink tubing. There is an industry standard for the color codes of the 8 wires inside LAN cables, you just have to match up the colors.
Plug the newly spliced cable in, go upstairs, and try the desktop again. The task bar icon shows "connected" on the wired LAN, and I can ping the router box. But, still can't get on the net. So I have one computer that gets on the net and a second one that won't. Arrgh.
About this time the Time Warner service guy pulls up in a van. He pulls a brand new cable modem out of his truck and installs it. The new modem is about half the size of the old one, and presumably has spiffier semiconductors inside it. It powers up and bingo, BOTH computers now can get on the net. Dunno how that happened, but it did.
Logic says that if one computer can get on the net, the cable modem is OK. So, either that ain't so, or the desktop just decided to stop being cranky, or something. Let's see how long things last.
So I posted the last few days of blog ideas a few minutes ago, and how it's time to catch up on the email.

Political talk that ain’t worth your time.

I watched a long TV discussion between Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the house, and E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist. Dionne would review various political ideas and classify them as “liberal” or “neo conservative”. He didn’t discuss the goodness or badness of the ideas, he just attempted to label the ideas he liked “liberal” and the ideas he didn’t like as “neo-conservative”. Newt did somewhat better, he did try to bring the debate around to real things, such as the decision to disband the Iraqi army, but Dionne wasn’t having any. He didn’t want to talk about the merits of ideas; he just wanted the viewers to agree with his ideas about good and bad. In short, Dionne was not willing to reach out to voters and citizens and appeal to their heads. He appeals to their partisanship.

So do all the TV talking heads who use the phrase “flip flop”. They are not attacking the ideas on the merits; they are accusing the speaker of going back on his sworn word. So does Obama when he rails against “Bush’s third term”. If he doesn’t like ideas, why not explain why he doesn’t like them?

Words of the Weasel, Pt 8

“Passed” or “passed away”. It’s all over the tube this weekend in connection with Tony Snow. Why can’t the TV people just say “died”?

They don’t do car ads they was they used to

I’m watching a short clip on “Speed” the car lover’s cable channel. The camera pans back and forth over a Ferrari 3300. The hood is raised, we see the fine Italian power plant, the manual transmission, the suspension parts, in short the nuts and bolts of this hot car. Then we get some shots on the road. For a point of difference, this particular Ferrari is painted grey, rather than the proper red, but the nondescript color lets the good lines of the styling show to advantage. Bottom line, after watching a 5 minute TV show/infomercial I am ready to own and drive a Ferrari.

The show cuts to commercial. A camera looks down on a blue car pulled into the gas pumps. We watch the fuel hose slip out of the fill pipe and slink down to let the air out of the rear tire. “Gas pumps hate us” “Chevrolet Cobalt” and “36 MPG” float across the screen. Cute, but it doesn’t sell the car to me, not the way the Ferrari piece sold that Ferrari. The top camera angle shows little of the vehicle. I’m left wondering “is that car

Wall Streeter opines upon the sub prime mortgage disaster

Ethan Penner, “a pioneer in real estate finance” shared his thinking with us on yesterday’s Wall St Journal op-ed page. He laments the fall of “securitization” and the business model for large sections of Wall St. He feels that credit rating agencies are completely capable of assessing the worth and risk of mortgage backed securities. Right there, we can see the difference between the Wall St world and the real world. A home mortgage is a sound investment only if the borrower[s] are both willing and capable to make their payments until the either they sell and move, or they pay the mortgage off. No way can a paper pusher in an office at Moody’s Investor Services have the faintest idea about the stability of a borrower. An experienced loan officer conducting a face to face interview with the borrowers can make a pretty good call (most of the time) but without that personal contact with the borrowers, you don’t have a clue. To say nothing of inspecting the property to see if its sale value is somewhere close to the amount of the loan. If the borrowers cannot/will not make their mortgage payments, the lender is going to take a huge loss. After foreclosure, the lender has to sell the property to get any money back. If the house was salable, the owners would have sold it to pay off the mortgage. Only the unsalable properties get as far as foreclosure.

Then Mr. Penner explains the difficulties doing thirty year mortgages with depositor’s funds with can be withdrawn at will. He blames the 1980’s savings and loan (S&L) disaster on depositors withdrawing their money from the S&L’s. In actual fact, the S&L’s went broke after Congress repealed the laws that restricted S&L’s to doing home mortgages. They used this new freedom to play the stock and commodities markets. Being unsophisticated newbies, the S&L’s got taken to the cleaners by sharp/dishonest salesmen. In the real world, a bank, even a junior bank like an S&L, can increase deposits by paying depositors higher interest.

Mr. Penner’s suggests a new system where the bank keeps owner ship of the mortgage, and issues some sort of trick bond to raise cash to do more mortgages. He doesn’t understand that, with or without trickery, such a bond works just like the ordinary bonds issued by ordinary companies every day. Investors buy ordinary corporate bonds based on the reputation of the issuer and the interest rate promised. The “securitized mortgage bonds” that fueled the sub prime lending spree, and of which Mr. Penner is so fond, were “backed” by the mortgages. Starting last summer, investors learned that the “backing” was worth no more than the underlying mortgages were worth, and surprise surprise, those mortgages turned out to be worthless.

A basic fact of mortgage lending, the lender has to borrow the funds for LESS interest than that charged for the mortgage. Today my local band is offering 30 year fixed rate mortgages for 6 and a fraction %. That means no way can an investor in mortgages make more than 6 and a fraction %. Mr. Penner states that investors could earn mid to high teens and that wasn’t very appetizing. This is the sort of thing a mortgage backed security salesman might say.

One Man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter

Taxpayer funded National Public Radio (NPR) is calling the FARC “rebels” rather than terrorists. Doesn’t matter that FARC has been kidnapping for ransom, holding hostages chained to jungle trees for years, drug dealing, and murdering anyone who gets in their way. Doesn’t matter that the government of Columbia, against whom they “fighting”, is democratically elected and enjoys solid popular support. No matter, NPR likes the FARC and supports them, calling them by the romantic label “rebels” rather than calling them terrorists, which they are.

Let’s hope the Columbian armed forces are able to defeat the FARC in short order.

The Price of Gasoline is going down

Heard that on the BBC just this evening. Wonder what world they are reporting from?

Let’s Move to France

The clock radio came on as usual this morning, tuned to NPR. I let it play for a while before facing up to the awfulness of getting out of bed. The commentator was waxing lyrical about the French health care system. He talked and talked, and he made France sound like the most civilized and humane place in the world.

Except he failed to mention a single number. Such as the life expectancy and infant mortality rates in France, as compared with other places. Such as the cost of health care. The US is spending 16% of gross national product on health care. This is a shameful amount of money going to drug companies, insurance companies, hospitals and doctors. Hell we only spend 4% of GNP on defense. The medical community is sucking up four times as much money as the old military industrial complex.

The Europeans only spend 8% of GNP on health care, half what we spend. But NPR didn’t mention this fact, and said nothing about any possible restrictions upon expensive treatments this might cause. This reporter was convinced the French have it right and the Americans have it wrong without bothering to explain to us listeners why he felt this way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Aviation Week calls for Air Force Cleanup

This is Aviation Week, the old time, highly respected, very well informed trade journal of aerospace, airlines, and the Air Force. We have a serious industrial player bashing the military part of the famous military industrial complex.
They mention the recent Boeing-EADS tanker procurement fiasco, the not-so-recent Boeing tanker lease problem, the two protests over the award of the combat search and rescue copter, the loose nuclear weapons blunder, serious cost overruns on satellite programs. Then there is crony linked contract to promote the Thunderbirds, and charges of religious proselytizing at the Air Force Academy. And footdragging in supplying unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) support to the ground forces in Iraq. The iceing on the cake was lobbying Congress to fund more F22 fighters after the Administration had decided to put the money into things of real use in the real war we are fighting.
That last got the Defense Secretary to fire both the Chief of Staff, and the Secretary of the Air Force. Aviation Week is calling for more blood, namely firing the officers responsible for the other screwups.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How to save GM?

GM is close to doomed. The stock is down around $10, which makes the entire company, once the biggest corporation in the world, worth only $5 billion. Sales are down, they don't have cars that people want to buy, the price of gas has destroyed demand for SUV's and pickup trucks. They will burn through the rest of their cash in a year or so.
The Wall St Journal opined that only the development of desirable bread and butter sedans would save them. There's something to that, if you are going to be a car company, you have to have cars that people like. But better is to invent a new car type. Lee Iacocca did this repeatedly in his career. He fathered the Mustang, the K cars, the the minivan. GM needs someone like Iacocca who has a feel for the market and creates things that sell. Rick Waggoner ain't that guy, he barely knows where the ignition key goes, let alone what makes a hot selling car.
GM ought to try making a two seat micro Corvette. Do a very small, low cost, two seat sports car. Figure out some way to get surfboards, snowboards or skis into it, or onto it. A roof rack, a fold down rear window , a pass through from the trunk to the cockpit, something. Make it light, offer a 5 speed manual, a 4 cylinder engine, get the gas milege up over 30, get the front rear weight distribution 50-50, give it the pizazz of the 'Vette at a third the price point.
Second new car, the micro hauler. A car in the Cobalt class that somehow allows the owner to get 4*8 sheet goods back from the lumber yard or furniture back from the auction. Doesn't have to seat more than two, but must handle the cargo, and be cheaper and less thirsty than a minivan.

Real Solar Energy (as opposed to imaginary solar)

The don't drill, no nukes, conservationists get all excited about "Solar" with out ever explaining what "Solar" is. For most of us, in the lower 48, real solar energy comes from home heating or cooling. Shining in through windows the sun pours a lot of heat into a house. In the winter, this is all to the good. In the summer, it makes the air conditioner draw more expensive electricity. Every window needs a sun shade, positioned to let the low winter sun shine in, and shade the window from the high summer sun. The sunshade needs no moving parts, and in fact properly designed eaves do the job very well.
Here in New Hampshire, I have enough solar gain through the windows that my furnace stays off during the winter day. With the solar gain, my furnace gets through the winter on about the same amount of fuel as my car uses all year. Without the solar gain, my furnace oil costs might double.
Home buyers ought to check the sunshade/eaves/awnings situation on the windows before falling in love with the house. In heating country, a good house faces south to get more sun. In air conditioning country, the house ought to face north for more shade. If buyers cared about these things then builders would furnish them.
The technology of building to take advantage of the sun has been well understood since the days of the Roman Empire. Where as solar electric technology still lacks decent batteries to give you electric lights after the sun goes down.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

So where do the pundits stand on Iraq?

Listened to the Sunday pundits, Stephanopolis on ABC. The talking heads spent a lot of time explaining how Barack Obama was changing, or must change, his position on Iraq. Last firm word from Obama himself, broadcast on TV a couple a days ago, was, (paraphrased) "I will withdraw the Army from Iraq as soon as possible (ASAP)".
It's pretty clear the talking heads. even democratic talking heads, are calling for Obama to change his policy, and keep enough troops in Iraq to win the war. So far, I haven't heard Obama himself say this, but it's clear the pundits want him to.

Words of the Weasel, Part 7

"Flip Flop" a derogatory term applied to any any policy statement made by any politician. Rather than summarize the policy statement, and perhaps muster reasons for and against it, the reporters simply brand the statement a "flip flop", implying the speaker is a slippery customer who has gone back on his sworn word.
This shows ignorance, and partisan bias on the reporters part. Few reporters actually understand policy issues. Or any other issues for that matter. Most reporters are political partisans who view their job as supporting their politicians and badmouthing the other side's politicians. So, when at a loss for anything real to say (the usual case) reporters simply brand the policy statement a "flip flop".
Question: would you like a political leader so narrow minded that he never changed his mind on anything?

Barack Obama called for "service" from high school and college students. Quoted in the Rocky Mountain News.

"Just as we teach math and writing, arts and athletics, we need to teach young Americans to take citizenship seriously. Study after study shows that students who serve do better in school, are more likely to go to college, and more likely to maintain that service as adults. So when I'm President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year. This means that by the time you graduate college, you'll have done 17 weeks of service."

Service? Such as providing food, fuel, transportation, communication, manufactured goods, raw materials and entertainment to society? People who perform these real services hold "jobs" and they even get paid to do so. Is Mr. Obama suggesting students hold part time jobs? Or join the Armed Services part time?

In my youth I participated in American Friends Service Committee work projects in Philadelphia. At the time it seemed like a worthy cause, but looking back on it, I doubt that anything we did on work weekends was as helpful as real paying jobs for those people would have been.

Real service is a paying job.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Federal Flood Insurance

Floods are different from house fires. The chance of a house fire is about the same for every house in the country. Thus the premiums of the many go to make the few fire victims whole again. Everyone buys fire insurance and thus there is enough money to pay out the claims. Floods are different. Property too close to the water and too low is the only property liable to flooding. Therefore, only the few on the flood plains buy flood insurance, and sooner or later, they all have losses. Commercial insurance companies figured this out many years ago and now refuse to offer flood coverage.
A great cry went up from all the waterfront property owners. Congress critters heard the cry and Uncle Sam began offering flood insurance to all comers. Despite hefty premiums, federal flood insurance racks up heavy losses to the taxpayer. The program is really a taxpayer subsidy to waterfront home owners. Availability of flood insurance has subsidized a lot of construction in flood prone areas that should not have been built in, and paid for the inevitable rebuilding after the predictable flood.
As a taxpayer I see no reason for my tax dollars to pay people who build houses in flood prone locations. Every one would be better off building on higher ground, of which there is an enormous amount. No body needs to build on the river bank. If people want to build there, fine, but I don't want to be taxed for it.
A new flood insurance bill is floating thru the Congress at this very minute. If it is impossible to vote it down, how about limiting the payout to ONE flood. The flood victim gets paid off, but his flood insurance is canceled, and the site goes on a list of "too flood prone to insure" properties. If the owner rebuilds on the same site, it is at his risk, not mine. It's a free country, and people are free to build where ever they want. But I shouldn't have to pay for other peoples risky decisions.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Iraq casualties less than Afghanistan casualties

Looks like peace is breaking out in Iraq. US casualties have dropped below those in Afghanistan. Ever trustworthy MSM imply that Afghanistan is getting worse, although they don't bother to supply any numbers to support their viewpoint. Is the glass half full or half empty?

Words of the Weasel, Part 6

"Progressive". We used to call them liberals, in fact Republicans and Rush still do. Liberal policies have been less than successful over the years, so the liberals now call themselves progressives, while advocating the same old stuff. They hope the name change will disguise them well enough to get them elected.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Are the tomatoes innocent of all salmonella?

A couple of weeks ago I posted doubts about the guilt of tomatoes in the salmonella scare. Seems now the FDA is having second thoughts. They have admitted to Fox News that they don't have a clue, and the slamonella cases are still coming in. Great work. I'm sure the tomato farmers appreciate it.