Wednesday, January 31, 2007

 

Buy Me on HGTV

HGTV, channel 229 on DirecTv, has a show out of Canada called Buy Me. What I like about this show is it is not the usual HGTV- everything is easy about buying and selling a house. For the next week at 7.30 p.m. Chicago time Buy Me has budget breakers week. People who have put too much money into their homes and are now cash poor and house rich.

Monday, January 29, 2007

 

I'm back from my vacation

...and I need a vacation.

The Dominican Republic lived up to its sunny reputation and provided many days of warm weather. A good time was had by all most especially my mother in law who was just happy to see my wife but was overwhelmed by the all-inclusive resort in which we spent the last 6 days of our trip. I did not have such a great trip. Partly my fault but partly not. It is normal to want to stay on vacation and even to be a little happy about returning home but I was ecstatic to leave and return to Chicago and this is why.

Before we left I had been dealing with one of those colds that will not go away. On top of that I got an ear infection, I believe from using the steam shower in our new apartment. I went to the doctor and got some ear drops and a super bug zapping antibiotic which just about did the trick before we left for the D.R. On arrival my feet decided to swell up which made walking a joy. Eventually, I got ahold of 600 mg. ibuprofen when the pain made sitting in a van seem like the Bataan death march. We spent the first ten days in the capital of Santo Domingo at a B&B run by a friend of my mother. It is right in the heart of the colonial zone so lots of sightseeing and shopping to keep the wife and MIL happy. Unfortunately, the beds were a mattress on a wooden board and my back was not responding well. Thank G_d I brought the BenGay! I slathered that on after I hobbled out of bed every morning and was mostly pain free, besides the feet, for the rest of the day.

The second part of the vacation at the resort was something we were all looking forward to. Santo Domingo was very humid due to an unseasonable amount of rain and it was slightly uncomfortable. The resort was nice. It had been a Hilton resort in November but by the time we arrived it was owned by a Dominican bank. I noticed a few things that were not up to snuff. The service and the food were not part of that. On my second day my feet were deflating and I was feeling pretty good so I decided to get a massage to loosen up. Big mistake. The woman giving the massage took my left arm and moved over my head then she gave it a healthy yank which, according to my doctor, either tore or aggravated my rotator cuff. I am looking at four to six weeks of recovery if I am lucky. Surgery if I'm not. At least the pain is subsiding due to anti-inflamatories and Tylenol w/ codeine. Yeah drugs!

Sitting was not a problem but it was almost impossible to lie down comfortably. When you are on the beach that is all you want to do. On top of that I caught a cold the day before we left. So You can see why I was happy to leave. My sneezy, aching self is feeling better. I think I will take a week off to recover from this vacation.

 

Justice: Sometimes overzealous, sometimes not

First off we have a boy who seems to be the victim of a prosecutor on a mission. Sound familiar? The kid downloaded some naughty pictures that included a worm which deposited kiddy porn on his harddrive. The kicker is the defense is trying to get the computer from the police to prove that it was a worm and not deliberately downloaded but the prosecutor tried to block them.

On the not so zealous side of justice is the Sandy Burgler case taken up by John Fund of the WSJ. He asks the question: why was Berger given a break by the Bush Justice Department? Why hasn't Berger taken the polygraph he was required to?

My question: why is the Bush administration playing dumb when it comes to Democratic misdeeds? Once again they aren't playing offense when they could and perhaps buy a little airtime from the MSMs relentless negativism.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

 

Frank Miller commits career suicide

Ever wonder what it sounds like when someone speaks truth to power? Listen to this interview of the creator of Sin City. (Via LGF and HotAir.)

P.S. His criticism of Bush is right on.

Friday, January 26, 2007

 

A PETA Escapee?


I don't know. But a few days ago marked the 3rd anniversary for the beginning of Diego's new life as he found a permanent home away from the animal shelter that rescued him. A no-kill shelter based in Chicago (but with contacts in other cities) that would round up animals scheduled to be euthanized and find homes for them picked up Diego at the 11th hour in a shelter in West Virginia and brought him here. He slept in a cage for the next three months until he found a home.

I thought a cake would be more appropriate for celebration but Diego is a big fan of ground beef so he opted for that instead.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

 

The Shoe Fits But I Like What I See

Based on the uniforms this Super Bowl is a draw.

It's been over ten years since we had two teams this good in the Super Bowl. Bears versus Colts rivals Steelers versus Cowboys for two teams with excellent uniforms facing eachother for the championship. In my opinion you can't rank the uniforms from first to last but rather place in tiers based on how good they are.

It's not hard to design a good uniform but it seems pretty easy for some teams to design a bad one. Clip art logo, trendy color schemes (adding black or dark blue just because you can) or hip 'swooshes' or streaks or whatever instead of stripes make the uniforms worse.

Here is my assessment of the current 32 uniforms and a few comments:

Excellent:
Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Some simple designs here but bold color schemes. You don't have to over do things. Colts look good in just blue and white. Giants and Jets made a great improvement a few years back to earn their way in this category.

Good:

Washington Redskins, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers.

Dolphins and Lions opted for the addition of black and blue that kept them from the top tier.

Fair:

Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams.

Bengals' tiger pattern is good but there is a little too much going on elsewhere. Seahawks blue is cool but it is too much of one color, Rams opted for a trendy color switch a few years ago that was not an upgrade.

Poor:
Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings.

Vikings and Cardinals were Excellent last year but this year opted to add some color streaks that look silly.

Lousy:

Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers.


Friday, January 19, 2007

 

Global Chicago Warming

I'm not a big fan of cold weather but I have had to deal with it here in Chicago and I don't want to move. I do like the Fall season and some Christmas snow so I don't want to switch to a tropical climate here but I do have some suggestions to make things better.

I can deal with November and December as the arey but January through April needs to warm up a bit. I'm pretty much done with Winter right now so if we could fast forward to Spring that would be good. How about making January temperatures in the 40's and 50's. I know 70 would be better but I don't want to get too greedy. We can start in the 40's and then work our way up from there. February 50's, March 60's, then April 60's - 70's and on into Summer. That's my plan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

 

Iraq Now and From Now On

Michelle Malkin has a new article on her trip to Iraq.

The troops I met scoff at peace activists' efforts to "bring them home now." But they are just as critical of the Bush administration and Pentagon's missteps

I have thought along those same lines though it is difficult for me to get a good feel for the situation on the ground as my only source of information is really the blogosphere. The ugly images the MSM displays don't really tell me anything I don't already know. There is violence in Iraq.

Instapundit links to this Foreign Policy post by Donald Stoker regarding Bush's policy changes for Iraq:

Combating an insurgency typically requires 8 to 11 years. But the administration has done such a poor job of managing U.S. public opinion, to say nothing of the war itself, that it has exhausted many of its reservoirs of support. One tragedy of the Iraq war may be that the administration's new strategy came too late to avert a rare, decisive insurgent victory.

In his 60 Minutes interview aired last Sunday the president noted that he was trying to do more to get the message out to the public, hence the interview. Stoker was right. The administration has done a poor job of managing public opinion and that needs to change. The images and opinions displayed and expressed by the MSM are not a true picture of the situation at hand and Bush needs to get that message out. His 60 Minutes piece might have been a start but not much was accomplished there. I don't think Bush wants to engage the press in a fight but he might not have a choice. They are not giving the public a fair take on Iraq and Bush needs to confront that directly.

One of the more important statements in Bush's speech last week was that the rules of engagement will change. Bush gave only a sentence or two to this topic but was clear that the troops would not have to deal with the current restrictions when fighting terrorists. This problem has been brought up several times before and though I'm happy to see it addressed it seems it should have been done right from the beginning.

Friday, January 12, 2007

 

Wide Awake in Seattle

A little fairness and honesty seems inconvenient for Al Gore and his movie:

The school board in this suburb south of Seattle has restricted showings of Al Gore's movie on global warming, including requiring that it be balanced with an adequate opposing viewpoint...

"We have to ensure that our schools are not being used to politically indoctrinate anyone," said board member Dave Larson, who with Barney and board member Charlie Hoff voted Tuesday for the requirements.

Emphasis mine. School boards everywhere need more like Mr. Larson.


"I am shocked that a school district would come to this decision," the movie's co-producer, Laurie David, said in a prepared statement. "There is no opposing view to science, which is fact, and the facts are clear that global warming is here, now."


Laurie David does not seem interested in presenting all the facts. Like the existence of an opposing view, for one.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

 

New 8 GB Flash memory stick from Sony

I just bought my Mom a Sony DSC-W70 camera at 7.2 mega pixels has better photo quality than in needed by the human eye. The memory stick was a measly 32 mbs so I replaced it with a 1 gb pro duo that I had bought last year and misplaced. Do'h, those things ain't cheap. The 1 gb allows for a ridiculous amount of photos and about 44 minutes of video recording. You're going to run out of battery life before you run out of memory. Now Sony has the the 8 gb memory stick pro duo; it must be translated from Japanese because it sounds so awkward in English. (Via Kotaku.)

2000 thousand songs on a flash memory chip that barely weighs two ounces. Transfer that chip between your PS3 and Sony Ericsson phone and you can have your music library with you all the time. At $300 it is a little pricey but wait a year...and then get the 32 gb stick for the same price.

Monday, January 08, 2007

 

All Duke all the time

Do you want to know what one the evil Lacrosse playing rapists has been doing with his time? That's right, HE IS DOING COMMUNITY SERVICE! That animal. Also, the first civil lawsuit that seems to have been provoked by the rape case is here and it has to do with a bad grade. "I can't pass this guy, he plays Lacrosse!"

Speaking of double standards. Tears go a long way in court but it depends on who is doing the crying. I've never heard of the 'he walked into my knife' defense. Must be a British thing.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

 

Duke Invites Lacrosse Players Involved in Alleged Rape Case Back to Campus

Or, Duke attempts to not get sued.


Now with the approach of a new term, we believe that circumstances warrant that we strike this balance differently. At this point, continued extension of the administrative leave would do unwarranted harm to your educational progress.

I hope these guys can resume their lives on campus. If one good thing comes out of this I am sure being falsely accused of rape has caused them to grow up fast with a new appreciation for freedom and the opportunities that a school like Duke affords them. And I am not being sarcastic by inferring the opportunity to have the P.C. elements on campus rush to judge them.

Diego: North Carolina native Ben Folds comments (from 2001) in Rockin' the Suburbs (which he makes a joke of since he is a goof):

Let me tell y'all what it's like
Being male, middle-class and white
It's a bitch, if you don't believe
Listen up to my new CD....

In a haze these days
I pull up to the stop light
I can feel that something's not right
I can feel that someone's blasting me with hate And bass
Sendin' dirty vibes my way
'Cause my great great great great Grandad
Made someones' great great great great Grandaddies slaves
It wasn't my idea...

Y'all don't know what it's like
Being male, middle class and white
It gets me real pissed off, it makes me wanna say...

 

Stagnant Real Estate Market Affects GDP

The following was taking from John Maudlin's weekly eletter (His book is on Amazon) covering the economy. It was written by Barry Ritholtz. Sorry no link. I have discussed the twin bubbles in stocks and real estate before. Mr. Ritholtz quantifies the effect of unlocking home equity has had on consumer spending. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP and even a small decline will have a large effect on the economy.

The boom had a positive impact on jobs, and the income and spending that goes along with it. And the wealth effect it created was very real. But the most significant impact to the economy was Mortgage Equity Withdrawal (MEW) and the Consumer spending it enabled. This has been the single biggest element of the economic expansion. Without it, the nation would have had a flat to 1% GDP, and be on the verge of a recession.

Consider what MEW had been like in the past: For most of the 1990s, the Net Equity pulled out by homeowners - either through sales, or through home equity refinancing - were fairly modest. It accounted for ~$25 billion dollars per quarter, and was about ~1% of disposable personal income.

After slumping in the late '80s and early '90s, home prices began to rise modestly. By the late 1990s, gains had returned to the historical mean. That allowed some withdrawal of equity. But even then, it remained a relatively modest amount, at $25-50B per quarter - about 2% of disposable income. Given the total GDP of the US is $12.3 trillion (2005), this amounted to only a small blip on the economic radar screen.

The impact of MEW began to accelerate once the Fed cut rates so spectacularly. By mid-2002, the quarterly average MEW was north of $100 billion - that's greater than 4% of disposable income, up nearly 400% since 1997. By 2003, those quarterly numbers were $150 billion and 6%.

Then, things exploded in 2004, as quarterly withdrawals were almost 1/4 trillion dollars, and MEW hit a peak - it was over 10% of disposable personal income. To put that into context, that's a 1000% gain since 10 years before in 1995. (see chart below)

MEW, Net Extraction and Percentage of Disposable Personal Income

Graphic courtesy of Calculated Risk

What was the impact of MEW on the economy? It was absolutely essential to the expansion. Without it, the economy would have been expanding at a 1% rate - or worse. The psychological impact of this anemic growth could very likely have caused that double-dip recession the Fed had feared.

Consider the following chart of annual GDP. It is calculated with and without MEW, using data from the Federal Reserve. The amount of MEW is calculated via the Greenspan-Kennedy method (Note that the statistical system developed by Fed economist James Kennedy and former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan is not officially recognized by the Fed).

Using Greenspan's estimate of approximately 50% of MEW flowing through to personal consumption, it is possible to estimate the impact of MEW on GDP. As the chart below shows, the impact on the economy has been nothing short of breathtaking. Since rates hit their lows in 2003, Mortgage Equity Withdrawal has been responsible for more than 75% of GDP growth:


Graphic courtesy of Calculated Risk
(*2006 estimates)

This is a radical change from prior periods. In the second half of the 1990s, equity extraction was good for "only" about 25% of GDP growth (plus or minus). In the current cycle, it is three times that.

And, it is falling. As rates have ticked up, two things have happened: equity extraction has trended downwards; it had fallen to $113.5 billion in Q3 2006. This is off by ~50% from the 2004/05 peaks. It is no surprise that GDP has trended downwards along with MEW.

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Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four the sequel features the Silver Surfer, former Herald of Galactus. According to Wikipedia, Galactus will be making an appearence as well.

Galactus will appear in the upcoming movie Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer which is due to be released in 2007. Tom Rothman, chairman of Fox, stated in an interview that Galactus will look similar to the original comics. He also stated that "fans will not be disappointed". There is still no news of who shall play and/or voice him.


I think I should play Galactus. I might not be omnipotent but I am omnivorous. Enjoy the trailer.

 

I'm back

Actually, I was back online on the 29th because I mistook my Comcast hookup with the DirecTv. DirecTv is becoming a major pain in the butt. Now they want written permission from the landlord to drill into the building on top of the fact that they have fewer HD channels than Comcast. Good thing they are the only ones offering Russian language channels in Chicago. Hear that Comcast? You offer them in the suburbs. Ugh.

So enjoy this scientific video with topical punch line.


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