Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hate Groups Hate Obama

On the one hand this is a bit of a no-brainer. On the other, it's one heck of a strong pro-Obama bit of news. With very few exceptions, if you want to get public support behind you, having the KKK oppose you is a good thing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More on bipartisanship

Again, I think that talk of bipartisanship is idiotic drivel. Bipartisanship is not, generally, good. We need an opposition party, and we need the party in charge to be in charge. If Dems pass bills that Repubs like, then we end up with the same crap no matter who is in charge, and what the hell is the point of having two parties?!?

If there are any concessions to the minority, out of power and dumped-by-the-public, GOP party by Democrats then it is, so far as I'm concerned, bipartisan. Any. The voting doesn't matter. The country is behind the Democrats right now. If the GOP wants to be obstructionist then that is their prerogative and probably their duty, but they should expect nothing they want as a result. Despite that, the stimulus, and probably most other bills that get through, will have concessions to some GOP members. In the real world that will make those bills far more bipartisan than the GOP will likely deserve (if stimulus voting is any indication).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New England Seafood

Can be hazardous to your health. I was in Newport, Rhode Island, and had some seafood at an ostensibly nice restaurant. Five hours later I was quite violently ill. After finishing dinner, I felt fine, even got in a short workout and soaked in the hotel hot tub before going to bed. I woke up 2.5 hours later, and didn't sleep much after that with many trips to the bathroom.

The details are not for the faint of heart, so I'll gloss over... While lying in pain, between cursing about having to get up and bolt for the bathroom for one thing or another, I was in awe of our bodies' ability to deal with such a problem. I ate something bad for me, and when it got into my blood stream and my immune system mobilized, the first thing it did was evacuate everything from my entire digestive tract. Not pleasant, and the fact that it persisted for a couple days possibly a bit overkill, but terribly effective never-the-less.

Then there are the other side effects that followed. Namely fever and a runny nose. The fever is an easy but still pretty neat indication that things are working properly. Immune system activity burns calories, and the wasted portion is heat. Also, many bacteria have a temperature window at which they thrive, and even a few degrees elevation can slow them up enough to make clean-up easier (just think how sluggish you feel when it's 90F and 90% humidity out). The runny nose, in this case is a defense mechanism. With the body fighting off one intruder, it ups the defense to keep another from getting in.

All told the body is a pretty amazing feat of evolution.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Harley Davidson: Too Expensive

Harley Davidson motorcycles are quintessential Americana. An instrument of freedom to the outsiders.

They look mean, they sound angry, and they go fast. They also cost $12-$30k...for a motorcycle.

I understand that many motorcycle riders are out to make a statement, but with the current cost of Harley, the main statement is "I can afford to spend more on a motorcycle that I ride like 1000 miles a year than most people spend on the car they use for daily transportation." And that isn't exactly a renegade message to get behind. I like Harleys, and I like motorcycles, and once I get settled into my house, I will be getting a motorcycle...but not a Harley.

A motorcycle is, at most, half a car. Smaller engine, simpler transmission, two wheels/brakes, and near zero body work or safety features. They are ideal commuters: great gas mileage, easy to find parking for. While the safety issue is overblown by many, it is also real. Of course it is exacerbated by an overabundance of overlarge vehicles operated by overly-distracted drivers (who are likely content in their distraction because of the safety of their vehicles, which are actually the most dangerous on the everyone else).

The new Harley Sportster comes in at a reasonable price and with a look to appeal to younger riders. At over $8k, however, it is still an expensive motorcycle.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Interesting little article

And by little I mean very long (for the intertubes). It talks about geographic demographics of the crash, and potentially of the recovery. Interesting read, I hope it isn't entirely correct.

Go read.

Also Krugman has another, and it didn't make me like him more this time. He can be kind of shrill.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I wonder if they'll ever get it...

I know I've bitched before about the fact that free market capitalism works very well for every aspect of the economy except the money side (banks, brokerages, insurance...the entire financial sector), and on occasion I stumble across a similar sentiment, like that expressed by David Ignatius here.

There are many metaphors possible, but when it comes to the financial industry there are two real workable options, both regulatory in nature: make them smaller and competitive, or federalize the banking and probably insurance sides and let the rest fail on occasion as is their wont.

I'm pretty sure neither will be played out because it is in the financial interests of those in charge of this crap to do neither.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Must Make Bacon Explosion

Yea, the site is called "This is why you're fat"and it is full of pictures of supposedly disgustingly bad for you foods. The link I took to get there warned not to go if you had just or were about to eat. It made me hungry.

Yes, many of the items shown are heart-attack inducing globs of all things bad for you (like the bacon cheeseburger on a Krispy Kreme donut), and some are kind of disturbing and not very tempting (bacon cookies?), but many are acceptable as part of a meal, and some could even be healthy. Case in point: the Super Tuber, which is a hot dog in a baked potato, sliced up and covered in chili...except the pic shows that the chili is almost entirely beans, and even with the hot dog in there, if you prepare that at home, appearance aside, it could be a very healthy meal (if you could buy said from a vendor it likely has too much salt and sugar, but that's often true).

Mostly, however, they are just funny. A Tombstone pizza vending machine, a corndog pizza, and my favorite: the Bacon Explosion. I fully intend to make that one some day, if only so that I can do a basket weave of bacon.

While most of the items listed are very reflective of the title, the main reason why we are fat is not what we eat, but how much, and that is reflected in the most disgusting pics on the site. A slice of chocolate dipped cheesecake on a stick is fine is fine on occasion, four after a huge meal? Not so muich.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Michael Phelps Should Retract His Apology.

Seriously. He smoked pot; who cares? I can't believe this crap is news. Real problems abound (even absent the economy) and people actually care that some famous person took a bong hit? And for that matter, marijuana is still a schedule 1 narcotic?

This phrase is overused and generally toxic to productive dialog but...

Anyone who still believes that marijuana should be illegal is an idiot.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I like Krugman more each time I read him

Maybe it's because he agrees with me (or, as he is the Nobel laureate economist, I should say I agree with him, or most accurately that our opinions are in agreement as there is no one from another here).

This stimulus is tepid at best, and is as weak as it is because Obama (whom I voted for and support) decided that the fanciful notion of "bipartisanship" was more important than being effective and, as far as the American people are concerned based on how they voted, correct.

(And, yes, I know other economists have issues with Krugman, and I don't blame them, but he does do something I wish more academic/science types did: leave the academic side out of mass media public discourse. Incidentally I really don't think that either the free market people or Keynesians are correct, but that there is a happy middle ground between them.)

Sunday, February 08, 2009


This person. Yes, she is losing her house, and yes, the agreement she is offering the bank is probably a better deal for them than forcing her into foreclosure, but there is quite a bit of effort placed in getting an emotional reaction (sympathy for a hand-out) for what was a bad, bad, horrible, business decision on her part. The living near her daughter, and talk about "that's what houses cost" in the area, and how others did this, and probably worst of all that this "isn't about money. It's about closed off hearts," is utter crap, to put it nicely.

Now, I can appreciate people--the large majority of whom are not financially savvy--being convinced that it is a good idea to finance an $800k home with 10% down using an interest only ARM and a HELOC* to cover the difference by crooked banks, realtors and brokers. But someone who claims to be a capable businesswoman should know better. This was a gamble. She lost. Of course the banks did too, and it probably is in their best interest to take what she is offering, but with all of that emotional crap in her arguments, I really just think she is trying to game the system.

There are real victims of this economic downturn. She is not one of them.

*ARM = adjustible rate mortgage, HELOC = home equity line of credit

I'm soon to be a homeowner

So that's it. Not terribly large, but plenty of house for me (or really for a family of 4). There was about zero chance that I would get a price I wanted for anything but my lease is running out, rates are low (which makes prices higher) and the whole homebuyer credit thing, which is being sweetened by the stimulus package bouncing between houses of Congress. In the end I'm happy enough with the price to buy.

Like I've said before, I do not expect this place to jump by 20% in value in one year, or even five. I will build equity the old fashioned way: by paying down the principle on the mortgage. Crazy, I know. I'll also probably make a few changes/do some work on the place, though nothing big right away. I have to figure some things out and recover my losses from the sale first.

It's a good time to buy if you want to buy a house in large part because it's still a crappy time to buy if you are an investor. The credit thing possibly becoming permanent will sweeten the deal, but it will also inflate prices (much like low interest rates do). If the Senate version is the final one then it will really inflate prices--it's bigger and can be claimed by all (primary) home buyers, not just first timers. Fortunately it still shuts out investors (I think).

I will probably have more pics to put up, and changes that will happen and such as time goes by, but the blog title still applies (though my long absence seems to have lost what readers I had).

Saturday, February 07, 2009

$10 for a meal is cheap???

So CNN has a crazy little thing on family meals for under $10.

I know, it is family meals, not for one, but still. The idea that a home cooked dinner for 4 that cost $10 is really cheap is a bit dicey. There are so many good, tasty, healthy meals that can qualify at that cost that it really isn't much of a hurdle to get over. In fact, go through and see that some include a glass of wine or shrimp and you know that they were far more concerned with a price that allowed luxury than they were with really keeping the cost down. Maybe that was the point but still...

Carrots (or bell pepper), celery, and onion are cheap and can serve as the foundation of a vast variety of meals: soups, stir fry, pasta dishes, salads. Carbs are almost always inexpensive too, and if you go with brown rice instead of white, sweet potatoes instead of regular, and other good grains like oats, bulgar (wheat), barley then you get good nutrition along with the calories. Protein is the pricey bit. Generally your options are legumes (beans, lentils--really cheap--peanuts less so) eggs, canned something (like tuna), or some deal on an already inexpensive cut of meat (pork shoulder, whole chicken/turkey), but on the other hand you don't need much protein in any given meal. One pound of meat is 4 servings worth. Cutting that meat into a soup with beans or lentils can make it go even further.

If you are looking for luxury in your meals you are not likely too concerned with cost because cheap meals can be very tasty without adding high cost ingredients.