Friday, September 30, 2011


NHPR ran a piece this morning wailing about funding for UNH. The president of the joint said they were only a few million short this year and it would (of course) get worse next year.
I have a few questions for UNH.
1. How many non teachers (administrators,janitors,secretaries, assistants and such) do they have on the payroll? That oughta be less than 5% of payroll.
2. Do their tenured professors teach 3 classes each term?
3. Do the students handle routine housekeeping, sweeping the floors, mowing the grass, shoveling snow, shelving books and washing dishes?
4. Do they fully utilize their expensive classrooms by conducting class on Saturdays as well as Monday thru Friday?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


It's been a week since I last heard the Post Office whining about running out of other people's money. Seems like those 44 cent stamps have driven a lot of folk to paying their bills on line. Apparently bills are the only first class mail left, no body writes letters anymore, we telephone or email.
I am gonna miss that mailman (oops lettercarrier). He brings me the daily Wall St Journal, Netflix, the Economist, Commentary, Woodworkers Journal, and the Littleton Record. As many bits get into my house from those Netflix DVD's as come in on my sluggish broadband. On the other hand I wouldn't really miss the Franconia Post Office, I only buy stamps there to pay the bills with. I could buy them in Littleton no problem.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Formats Available

Blogger has just offered a "change the look and feel" of your blog feature. At least that's what I think they are talking about. I looked at some of the options and decided to leave things as they are. What do you all think?
By the way, Blogger's picture load/edit process sucks. You cannot see your photos as you write the captions, and Blogger moves text around randomly which is why the captions don't come out under the right photos.

Leaf season is starting

The Echo lake parking lot. From the shore of the lake you can hear your voice reflect back from the granite cliffs in the background. We are in Franconia Notch State Park, which is best known for the Cannon Mt. ski resort.

Mittersill Inn Driveway. That one red tree was peak a couple of days ago when I took this photo. It's turning brown now.

The Mittersill Inn, a vast ski place high up in Franconia Notch. Built right after WWII by Baron Hubert Von Pantz, an Austrian nobleman from Mittersill Austria.

The Franconia Notch Bike trail, northern end, looking north. The bike trail runs many miles to come out at the Flume on the south side of the notch. Great ride.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Terra Nova

New TV show on Fox. Watched the two hour premiere last night. Story opens in a bad future, the air is so polluted they wear oxygen masks, the sky is yellow, food is running out, drastic population control measures are in place. Paul Erlich's "Population Bomb" mixed with greenie nightmares. The family (husband, wife, three children) escape by stepping thru a star gate like machine, and with a flash of light they are elsewhere, 85 million years into the past. We, the audience, are given to believe it is a one way trip.
Elsewhere is a frontier village complete with metal palisade, armored personnel carriers(APC), energy weapons, and model suburban housing inside the stockade. It's run by a compelling and hard core old guy with a gray beard named Taylor. Taylor has dinosaurs, rebels, and stupid teenage colonists to keep him busy.
Dialog can be dumbass. "Do you think we did the right thing?" wife asks husband after taking a one-way trip to elsewhere. Doesn't matter if it was or was not the right thing to do, you did it, and there is no way back.
Teenage son demonstrates proper teenage rebelliousness right off by skipping first day orientation class. He is picked up by a native chick who takes him on a "OTG" (outside the gate) expedition. The native teenagers have a still hidden in the woods, they proceed to get smashed and turned into dinobait. Native chick, (no name was given) turns out to be tough and crusty Taylor's daughter. She has inherited her old man's leadership qualities and is the dominant member of the teenage gang and has teenage son well under control. The show ends with a dino attack on the APC the teenagers have taken refuge in, and a rescue with lots of zap-zap of energy weapons.
Could have been better in the plot, dialog, and characterization departments, but I think I will watch the next episode.

Perry as a Pinata

Those Republican debaters have been whacking away at Rick Perry. But the things they whack the hardest on I have trouble with.
Perry as governor signed a Texas law to grant children of illegal immigrants the right to attend Texas state universities at resident's rates. Sure, that deviates from a hard line policy of making life tough for illegals. But I find it hard to get worked up about letting teenagers attend a state university at a price they can afford. I have a lot of sympathy for immigrants of all kinds, and letting a teenager get a college degree is a good deal for everyone. College degrees make productive, loyal, citizens who stay out of trouble, pay their taxes and raise families. That's all OK in my book.
Then Perry was talking about securing the border by patrolling it on the ground from SUV's and in the air from Piper Cubs. He was attacked for this and denounced as "anti fence". Dumb and dumber. Fences don't keep people out, people keep people out.
Then Michelle Bachmann jumped all over Perry about Guardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine that became mandatory on Perry's watch. Far as I know, Guardasil works, it's a little costly, but I didn't see requiring a vaccination as any different from all the other shots they require to attend public school. But they beat Perry about the head and shoulders over that one.
Heh, I'm not the worlds greatest Perry fan, matter of fact I sent someone else a campaigh contribution. But if we are going to trash a guy, let us do it over something real. These issues are pure BS.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Air Force gets suckered again.

From Aviation Week discussing the tanker job Boeing just won from Airbus:
" a master schedule , which outlines KC-46A milestones and the progress in developing the commercial Boeing 767-2C, a new aircraft that will be he baseline platform. The aircraft was a "catalogue" item, meaning it has been offered to customers but not yet developed, thus the Air Force will be its launch customer.
The 767-2C is based on the -200ER airplane and included Boeing 787 digital displays,main deck cargo door, and freighter equipment and auxiliary fuel tanks. "

Tranlation: Boeing got the government to pay the research and development costs of a new version of the decades old 767. None of this was necessary for the tanker mission, a run of the production line 767 would work just fine without all this extra engineering work at taxpayer expense.

"The FAA and the Air Force are also working to "streamline" the certification process so that tasks only need be done once for both authorities,"

And, the standard 767 was type certified by the FAA decades ago. Since we are redoing large parts of the aircraft we have to do type certification all over again.

"Boeing plans to conduct a major review of the 767-2C configuration by the end of November with a preliminary design review for the KC-46A in March. A critical design review of the KC-46A is slated for the summer of 2013 and of the -2C four months prior;"

And we plan to spend a two years messing around before we start to build the planes. If the Air Force had insisted upon the standard 767, production could start today. The Air Force has allowed the program to slip two years just to be nice to Boeing. Boeing gets a new commercial product on taxpayer money. The Air Force gets bupkis.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Piece of Cake

A BBB Masterpiece theater miniseries from long ago. I got the first two episodes on one DVD from Netflix. It's WWII, with an RAF fighter squadron, a Spitfire squadron, none of your sluggish Hurricanes or bombers; Spitfires, the hottest plane the RAF ever flew.
The squadron moves to France in 1939, settles into a French chateau, and fly the Spitfires off the chateau tennis courts. The Spitfires are real, lovingly maintained and restored to better than new condition. The paint is flawless and glossy, waxed and gleams in the sun. Those Spitfires are in better condition than any of the jet fighters in my USAF unit during the Viet Nam war. The squadron officers dress for dinner, mess dress and take lessons in table manners from the squadron adjutant. In my USAF unit, the pilots went to dinner at the Officer's club in olive drab flight suits. Maintenance officers (like me) turned up in shade 1505 Class B uniforms. I don't think we had a mess dress uniform in the entire country.
The RAF squadron has some real turkeys for officers and gentlemen, the most offensive of which would have be court martialed in USAF. One goes thru a dead man's effects looking for money to pay a gambling debt. That would have led to a lynching in USAF.
The sets, costumes, and airplanes are first class. Too bad the rest of the show, plot, dialog, acting, and characterization is low speed. The actors mumble with strong British accents which renders half the dialog incomprehensible to Yankee viewers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Grass Seed, fine print thereon

I bought a 1 pound bag of grass seed down at Wally Mart, to reseed the big dirt patch the town water guys left in the front lawn after replacing the watershutoff valve.
On the back of the bag, in the fine print I read:

"Warning! Treated seed. Do not use for feed, food, or oil purposes. Store away from feed and foodstuffs. Do not use bag or container for refilling with food stuff. Keep out of reach of children.

"Precautionary information for treated seed.
Wear long sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and waterproof gloves when handling treated seed. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. Remove contaminated clothing and wash before reuse.

Damn. All that for just grass seed. This is the kinda warning they put on Agent Orange.

Warp Drive

A paper has been released reporting faster than light neutrinos. Not much faster, but faster. Speaking as an old Trekkie, bring it on. If this holds up, it may lead to faster than light spaceships, communicators, and a science fiction style future.
Speaking as an engineer with 40 years of practical experience, let's recheck the calibration of their instruments.

Shut down the goverment over corporate welfare?

The Senate just killed a bill to fund the US government for another few weeks. According to the TV news, a bit of corporate welfare, money for green car research, was ommitted and the money moved over to FEMA for disaster relief.
Apparently the democratic Senate is willing to start another "fund the government" showdown over a measely billion or so for green pork. Intelligence seems to have left DC for a long vacation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

USAF's lessons from Procurement Blunders

Cover story on this week's issue of Aviation Week. They are talking about the great tanker disaster which has been running for 10 years. It started with a plan to lease new tankers from Boeing, continued with a high Pentagon procurement official pleading guilty to steering plum jobs to Boeing, an award of the tanker job overturned by appeal, a second bidding for new tankers awarded to Boeing. Talk about incompetent and crooked, it doesn't get much worse than that.
So what did the Air Force learn from this decade long disaster? Well, some high level civilians were fired. The new Air Force secretary Mike Donley tells Aviation Week that the Pentagon has hired nearly 10,000 new procurement civilians, who can now do "should cost" estimates. This is only important on sole source jobs. If there are competing bids, you just take the lowest bid, that's what the job should cost. Sounds like Donley is getting ready to do more sole source procurement.
Then there were some surprising statements by Donley. Such as "We had some conversations with Boeing AFTER then contract award, obviously as the were starting to put together their initial estimates." Wow! Donley apparently isn't aware that he is supposed to settle on price BEFORE awarding a contract.
Or "Working on the requirements process was one of the outcomes there on which we took some action. Limiting out appetite in that requirements process was an important step." No kidding.
The Air Force is notorious for putting fancy gadgets on planes that don't work, cannot be made to work, and are not needed to fly the mission.
Does not sound like Air Force procurement has learned much over the years.
I still remember my first job with defense contractor Raytheon. We had a big two story building. First floor was engineering, labs, shops, storerooms, the stuff to build product with. Second floor was all "contracts", paper pushers to make the government procurement people happy. Raytheon had as many people pushing paper as they did doing the work. That's gotta be expensive.

DADT but what about UCMJ?

The Washington radio was loaded with pieces about "the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell". Interviews with gay ex soldiers, pontificating, story after story. NPR was vastly in favor.
Question: Are we talking about revising the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)? Back when I was in the service, there was a punitive article making sodomy a crime to be punished as a court martial shall direct. Did they drop the sodomy article out of the UCMJ? The happy talkers on the radio never mentioned this issue. Most of them probably don't even know what the UCMJ is, let alone what it says.
Until and unless the sodomy article is dropped, gays in the military have a sword hanging over their heads. I assume they know this. They will be in trouble if they don't.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Radio still really sucks.

We listened to FM radio all the way down and all the way back. All they have is NPR, goldie oldie and soft rock stations, mixed with a few "all-ads-all-the-time" stations. NPR is OK but they have a one hour news spiel that repeats every hour. You hear it once, and that's enough. What do you listen to for the rest of the trip? We did hear the disk jockey on one station say that this was the first time in her career that a station manager had expressed any interest in music what so ever. This might explain why FM programming is so boring.
Then there was the college station with a student disk jockey who turned the treble all the way down and the bass all the way up to give his voice a deep and breathy sound. Too bad that he came out of the Mercury's speakers sounding like mumble-rumble-mumble and I couldn't understand a word of what he said against the humming of the car and the whine of the tires.

Rahman Noodle Place?

Would you believe a snazzy Washington eatery that features Rahman noodles? Daughter insisted that the place was good and the noodles were good too. And she was right. Big bowls with long noodles and other good stuff like pork in a very tasty sauce. They are on the north side of H street, near 13th st in Washington Northeast. Close to the Rock and Roll hotel.
By the way, H street is all newly spiffed up, and has brand new trolley car tracks embedded in the street. The trolleys oughta be cool when they get running. The tracks are down, I'm told the trolley cars them selves have been delivered. They still need to string the overhead trolley wire, and I'm told they have to straighten out some right of way issues with Amtrak, but if the funding holds up they might be running trolley cars on H street some day.


Being an old Civil War buff, I drove up to the Antietam battlefield on Monday. It's in Maryland, about an hour's drive from DC, and very close to the Virginia border. Lee was invading the North (Maryland remained in the Union despite being south of the Mason Dixon line). Lee was north and west of both Washington and Baltimore, and threaten to capture either or both cities. Taking Baltimore would have been nearly as good as taking Washington, the only route to Washington ran thru Baltimore.
The land out in western Maryland is low and rolling, a lot of open fields, cut by little streams, sunken roads, and woodlots. From Union headquarters you cannot see the entire battle field. McClellan must have relied upon messengers to learn where his units were and where the enemy was. Messengers are slow, apt to get lost or shot, or forget to pass on vital information. Battlefield command could be difficult back then.
Terrain features played decisive roles. I saw the Bloody lane where the Confederates mowed down the Union infantry. It's just a one lane wagon track, sunk about a man's height below the fields. The banks slope up at about 30 degrees. Standing in the road, the confederates were protected from rifle fire, and could load and fire and do it again. There is a contemporary photograph showing the field in front of the Bloody Lane covered with Union dead.
Then there is Burnside's Bridge over the Antietam creek. Burnside's entire corps of 9000 men took from 9 AM til 1 PM to force their way across this bridge against 2500 Confederate defenders. Burnside was something of a chucklehead. He never realized that Antietam Creek is shallow enough to wade across. Burnside could have waded across on a broad front and overwhelmed the confederates in less than an hour. Concentrating on crossing the bridge held Burnside up and cost terrible losses.
Antietam was a very important battle. It came after a year of defeats at the hands of Lee and Jackson. Lee felt strong enough to invade the Union rather than just standing on the defensive in Virginia. But despite a bloody year of losses, the Union was able the throw a strong army right into Lee's path, and make frontal attacks on Lee's lines. Lee was driven back to Virginia only a few miles from the Virginia border.
Antietam was the victory upon which Lincoln hung the Emancipation Proclamation. He had been ready to issue it earlier that year, but his cabinet pointed out that proclaiming freedom for slaves after a summer of military defeats would look like a desperation move on the part of the Union. It would be seen as an attempt to raise a slave insurrection in the South after conventional warfare had failed. As it was, after a solid (if costly) Union victory, the Emancipation Proclamation announced the adherence of the Union to the principle of the Declaration of Independence ("All men are created equal").

The Open Road

Drove down to DC and back this weekend. From New Hampshire that's six states. We did the traditional thru New York City and down the Jersey Turnpike to the Delaware Memorial Bridge route. Except for New York, the road conditions are excellent. Vermont is resurfacing I91 again, laying fresh black asphalt on top of fresh black asphalt. Vermont still has some porkulus money to spend. Ignore those NPR pieces about how America's infrastructure is falling to pieces. The Interstates in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic are in fine shape.
New York was a mess. Some lanes on the George Washington bridge were closed and that backed up traffic on the Cross Bronx expressway clear back to Coop City. That cost us an hour of walking pace traffic jam. It was so bad we took the Tappan Zee bridge on the way back.
Someone is spending some bucks on mile markers. All the way down Vermont and across Massachusetts we have fresh new mile markers, marking every tenth of a mile. They are growing in size, this years growth of mile markers are 12 inch by 18 inch, nearly the size of a speed limit sign. They are planting them on US 302, a secondary road in the Northern kingdom. These are new, we didn't used to have them. Some nanny state agency is pushing them and I have know idea where the money is coming from.
Once we get down into New Jersey the truck traffic is HEAVY. Like maybe one fifth of the vehicles are trucks. Full of freight, going to customers. There must be some life left in the economy to keep all those trucks loaded. If all that freight went by rail the railroads would be rich beyond measure.
Americans don't drive American cars any more, at least not the 6 passenger V8 rear drive sedans and station wagons of yore. Mostly they drive dinky four door sedans painted gray and made in Japan. Some SUV's, some minivans, lotta pickup trucks, but the little gray econo boxes are the majority vehicle. My Mercury Grand Marquis handled the trip in comfort and style.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bad ideas never die

Last year we managed to kill the New Hampshire casino gambling bill. It took a lot of doing, but we did it in the house. Major objections to NH casinos are the tackiness will offend tourists, the gambling revenues come from sucker citizens who lack the self discipline to avoid gambling away the rent money, and the mob connections of casino operators and personnel.
Well, it's like a snake, gambling is coming up again in the NH legislature. NHPR was cheering that on this morning. Just 'cause a snake is lying on the floor and not moving much doesn't mean it's dead. You have to cut a snake up into six inch lengths to make sure you killed it.
The pro gambling people think casino's will pay rivers of tax money which they will dedicate to their favorite causes, health and human services, education, the environment, what ever. Every one has a favorite cause they want my tax money to pay for.

Blogging may be light

I'm going on a long road trip starting tomorrow. I'll do some catchup when I get back next week

New building?

Solyndra, a startup, was constructing a new factory building on a new site before they went belly up.
Wow. All the famous startups around here got started renting existing, old and shabby, industrial space, old mill buildings. Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) got started in an old woolen mill in Maynard MA. New buildings are expensive, and probably a lot of that $535 million US taxpayer loan guarantee went into construction.
Maybe Solyndra failed because it's principles were spendthrifts?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hot Products create demand

As we struggle thru Great Depression 2.0, everyone laments the "lack of demand" i.e. people aren't buying stuff. If only they say, people would spend more, we would be on the road to recovery.
Target Stores cut some deal with a hot Italian designer to do some really nice clothes that Target would sell at typical Target prices (low). The stuff was so good that eager shoppers bought up every thing on the store shelves and crashed the web site trying to order over the web.
That's the answer to the lack of demand, offer desirable product. Even a big bland box store like Target can pack 'em in with the right merchandise. People will spend money for the right stuff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Antibiotic residues in Pork?

USDA announced tighter limits or more inspections of pork looking for "antibiotic residues" that might be harmful if eaten.
No mention of breeding up an antibiotic resistant version of the andromeda strain by feeding penicillin and other antibiotics to farm animals. A common practice but very dangerous. The damn bugs learn how to survive antibiotics. A lot of antibiotics that worked just fine when I was a child are no longer effective, the bugs have learned to resist them.
Bad enough that we over prescribe antibiotics for humans. Worse is feeding them to farm animals by the pound. Sooner or later an antibiotic resistant bug will jump from animals to humans (swine flu anyone). The farmers claim that the antibiotics make the animals grow faster and bigger and squawk whenever someone suggests limiting antibiotic use.
Anyhow, I don't see a problem with "antibiotic residues" in pork, that could not be solved by banning the use of antibiotics as feed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Demand, the fix for Great Depression 2.0

70% of the US economy is consumer spending. Right now the consumers have stopped spending, which means that companies cannot sell their products. Which means they lay off workers and stop buying parts.
To get the consumers to spend again, we need some new and attractive products that everybody "just has to have." Let's start with a look at the US auto industry, as a vast consumer producer.
The US car companies haven't introduced a new type of car since Lee Iaccoca invented the minivan back in the 1980's. They used to introduce new types of cars every few years, the station wagon in 1954, the compact cars in 1959, the pony cars in 1964, the SUV and the minivan later. Each new car resulted in a shower of sales. Then Detroit went to sleep and now they don't even bother with yearly restyle anymore. They used to restyle and announce "all new" cars every September. The suits in Detroit lack the stones to do that anymore, for fear that a new design that doesn't sell will be blamed on them.
How about a "mini hauler". A small car that somehow can carry furniture home from the auction or sheetrock back from the lumber year. Perhaps a hatchback with a really really big hatch, perhaps a detachable roof. What we want is a low price car that can get you to work, and haul stuff, smaller and more agile that an F150 pickup.
How about a commuter's hot rod? All the car has to do is get one person to work in some style, and with enough power and handling for rush hour on Rt 128. Maybe even four on the floor. A small car, with a small engine that gets 30 mpg and yet is still fun to drive. Give it one passenger seat just in case the lucky owner has a significant other, and it's somewhere to put a few bags of groceries.
How about a skier's sled? Comes with a stylish factory ski rack guaranteed not to separate at 80 mph full of expensive skis. Plus a good snow car, front wheel drive, traction control, an out side air temp gauge so you can tell if that black patch on the asphalt is a puddle or an ice patch. Good ground clearance for pushing into unplowed parking lots. Big fat tires to float you over snow. You could sell it to boarders and bikers too.
A snow country hot rod. Something as jazzy as a Mustang or Camaro, that would get around in winter. I used to lust after a new Camaro until a friend came up skiing in one. That car got stuck in my driveway, got stuck in the Cannon Mt driveway, couldn't climb the hill into my mother's place. After that weekend it came clear that if I bought something like that everyone would just laugh at it (and me) in snow country. Shouldn't be too hard to do. Good styling, 50/50 weight distribution, front wheel drive, big fat tires, reasonable engine power, say 300 horse.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 according to NPR

It's Sunday, a morning that NPR uses for spiritual pieces. They don't do religion these days, but they feel that Sunday ought to be different from their all-politics-all-the-time fare. So they did a long piece on 9/11, about how it was connected to (they didn't come right out and say caused by) some obscure fault in American souls. And it led to a long dark time of reduced civil liberties at home and evil ass kicking overseas.
Needless to say I don't agree with that "interpretation" (distortion) of the last ten years. In fact, we suffered an unprovoked attack in time of peace that caused 3000 deaths. That's worse than Pearl Harbor. We got serious about it, and struck back with some heavy blows. Al Quada is a shadow of it's 2001 self, we killed Bin Ladin, we overthrew Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. Not a bad score all things considered.

The horse business

According to the Wall St Journal, 14805 race horses were sold at auction, for $617 million last year. Damn, that's a lot of money for horses. Of course, I'm not into horse racing. If we were talking motor racing, now that's different, I could relate.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Suvival of the lucky

How smart are spiders? Every up and coming web spinner needs to get a web spun so he/she can eat. Some lucky spiders spin in a workable corner and raise a good looking, bug catching web over night. Less lucky spiders try to spin a web from my eaves to my deck railing. It's a web too far, no spider has that much silk in his little bottom, plus people on the deck wreck the web by merely bending their elbows (as in lifting a beer can to their lips).
I watched a number of small junior spiders starting web spins. They were jumping off from my deck sun umbrella, into the air, trailing silk behind themselves. Could they know if the breeze would take them to a nearby anchoring point from which a successful web could be spun? I doubt it, I think they just leap off into the air and hope for the best.
So, I think the survival spiders, those that spin a good web, are the ones lucky enough to land on a nearby anchor spot when they leap into the unknown air. Most of 'em miss, and expend their limited supply of silk on blind alleys. Then they starve to death.
Which is too bad. I'm basically on the spider's side. They eat mosquitoes which is a very good thing and to be encouraged.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

GOP Debate

I watched it for about an hour before falling asleep in front of the tube. Looks like Rick Perry and Mitt Romney got all the airtime, the other candidates were just stage decoration. The moderators sucked. Nobody committed hari kari on live TV.


NPR ran a piece on apprenticeships this morning. They talked about the need for more trained workers, and speculated that apprenticeships were the way to train them. Some incredible percent of Germans are apprentices. Sounded good.
They did not talk about the real reason American companies don't do more training, the fear that expensively trained apprentices will then quit and take a better paying job with someone else.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Regulation. It hits everything

NPR was running a piece on a new website that connected travelers with homeowners renting out rooms. Air B&B they called them selves. It seemed interesting, and apparently successful. One Air B&B user reported she had a waiting list, and was making enough money that she could give up waitressing and do B&B full time. Sounds cool, money can be made. What's not to like?
Then NPR rained on the parade. B&B owners were being required to obtain hotelier licenses, pay a rooms tax, suffer inspection, and generally get regulated to death. Arrg.

Home refinance to fix Great Depression 2.0

Yesterday's Wall St Journal had a piece on home refinancing. With home mortgage rates in the cellar (4% !!) people could refinance and reduce their monthly mortgage payments. They estimated that refinancing from a 6% mortgage to a 4% mortgage could save the borrower several thousand dollars a year. Not bad.
In the past, consumers have rushed out and spent such savings. The Keynesians see a massive home refinancing creating the demand needed to get the economy growing again. Other, saner, commenters think the consumers would use the windfall savings to pay down credit card debt, or just put it in the bank rather than spending it.
Me, I think American consumers are rational. In these times of layoffs and job losses, the rational thing to do is save the money in case of job loss. Which can happen to anyone, anytime. And the consumers know it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Consumer Confidence

The official US govt index of consumer confidence has been sinking, with the steepest decline coming right after the Washington debt limit kerfuffle of a couple a weeks ago. NPR commented about this on the morning talk show. The gist of the radio piece was "Oh dear, those terrible Republicans, they got the consumers all upset and now they won't spend money and Great Depression 2.0 will never end."
The way I see it, the Republicans made the country, voters, consumers and even a few politicians realize that the US govt is broke and getting more broke every day. A fact the news media had been concealing from the public. There is now a chance to do something before the United States of America gets flushed down the same drain the Greeks are swirling down. Wising up the public is a good thing.

Computer Models.

A computer model is actually a computer program that computes future results. The most famous computer models out there are the ones predicting global warming. There are many of the models and they have been criticized from many angles.
Without going into specific criticisms, remember, a computer model will predict what the programmer wants it to predict. If the model makes undesired predictions, the programmer assumes there is something wrong with the program and makes changes to fix the problem. I used to program for my day job, and I wrote a computer model or two over the years. Neither model produced the desired (right) answers first time I ran the code. One had a bug that I fixed, and the other never did give the "right" answers. That one showed us that a design approach we liked was never gonna work, and we changed the design. Thank goodness we were open minded enough to listen to the model and not waste money going down a blind alley.
But you gotta watch those computer models. Basically models will tell you, what you want to hear. Or what the programmer wanted you to hear. The Hadley CRU climate model, leaked to the web last year, had a single line of code that "scaled" (boosted) recent temperatures to produce the "hockey stick" graph of temperature over time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nova on "Climate Change"

Watched a three hour rerun of Nova last night, the three shows on human evolution. Actually three one hour shows rebroadcast back to back on Vermont public TV. Not bad stuff, they described some newly discovered human fossils that I had never heard of. They described the rise and 2 million year existence of a human precursor with a chimpanzee size brain, but who walked upright. The famous fossil Lucy was a member of this group.
They glossed over some things. They described the Neanderthal DNA sequencing, including creation of the Neanderthal genotype. Neanderthals are very close to modern man DNA wise. Then they said very few Neanderthal genes exist in modern humans. If Neanderthal and human genotypes are very similar, how can you tell which genes are Neanderthal and which are modern? This was used to support the idea that modern humans "out competed" (wiped out) Neanderthal man, as opposed to the less blood thirsty idea that modern man interbred with Neanderthals and so absorbed them. They made no mention of some fossils that surely look half modern and half Neanderthal. I saw one such fossil on display in the Peabody museum some years ago. I ought to go back and see if it's still on display.
And they seemed obsessed with climate change. Every few minutes they described massive and life threatening climate changes over the last 10 million years. With one exception they didn't connect climate change with human evolutionary progress, but they sure let us know that climate change was out there and to be feared. The one connect that makes sense is walking upright. That seems a perfectly reasonable adaptation for a tree climbing, tree living ape, when the lush tropical jungle dries out to grass lands, where you gotta walk and run to get around, as opposed to Tarzan style swinging thru the treetops on handy vines (brachiation I believe they call it). But other than that one idea, the connection between massive climate changes and human evolution was left unclear. But they sure let you know about all that dreadful climate changing.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Missed Confederate opportunity

Been reading John Keegan's Civil War. Keegan spends a good deal of time discussing strategy, as in what strategy would win the war. Keegan points out that Confederate forces in border state Kentucky could have attacked Cincinnati, and pushed north thru Ohio to Lake Eire, cutting the Union in half. It's only 150 miles from Cincinnati on the Ohio River to Toledo on Lake Eire. As far as Keegen can see, the Confederates never thought of this strategy. The closest they came was Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, which could have threatened both Washington and Baltimore. It resulted in the battle of Gettysburg, a Union victory. Had Lee prevailed at Gettysburg, he would have been in a position to do the Union great harm.
Keegan is making the point that the successful Civil War strategy involved cutting the opponent into pieces. Grant and Sherman's capture of the Mississippi cut Texas off. Sherman's march to the sea cut the remainder of the Confederacy in half.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cannot comment on my own blog!!!

I saw, read, and enjoyed several comments posted within the last couple of days. I attempted to reply to all of them. For reasons unknown, blogger refused to post my comments. I'll let you know when I get my commenting privileges back.

The Double Negative

"I ain't got no time." Bugaboo of English teachers every where. If you believe in mathematical logic, then you understand that negating a negative makes it positive. A hard concept from 8th grade math class. If A is a proposition then not A is the opposite. If A is true, not A is false. And not not A is true.
And yet the double negative persists in speech. That's because it seems natural that two negatives make the negation stronger.
"I ain't got time" doesn't sound as emphatic as "I ain't got no time".
But the English teachers of the world are united in condemning the double negative and their view is likely to stick.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Green Crony Capitalism

A green solar panel company, Solyndra, received $500 million in Federal loan guarantees. It declared bankruptcy today, leaving us taxpayers stuck with the bill. Company is laying off 1100 workers. Hmm. $500 million over 1100 workers, that's about $500,000 per worker, no wonder they are dead meat.
They got the loan guarantees 'cause no one in the private sector would loan 'em money without. The private sector guys had it figured just right, Solyndra was a money loser. Why did Obama put up my tax money when experts said Solyndra was a loser? Should Uncle ever guarantee any one's loans?