Saturday, December 13, 2008


OK, so I'm watching a rerun of Will Ferrel as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman on TBS and this scene comes up. Cracked me up. It's worth repeating:

Work Ethic

I had Friday off of work and really enjoyed not going in. The more I think about it I could get used to not going into work - alot. Maybe all the time. Probably wouldn't even take me all that long to get used to a non-work routine. Kindof suits my natural tendencies.

Spent the day trying to record some loops into Ableton Live, a music software I'm learning a bit that seems to offer some very cool jamming opportunities.

Here's a little sample tune I was messing around with. Here's the download link if that works better.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gandhi quote

I was reading a blog and came across this Gandhi quote regarding happiness. I've never really seen it put this way:

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cool word for the day - Quintessence

I saw the word "quintessence" in a forum the other day... It was used completely incorrectly there - they meant coincidence but said their spell-checker lead them to quintessence instead - but nevertheless I thought "what a cool word" when I saw it.

Here's on on quintessence. there are lots of definitions given, but the common theme is one of "the purest and most concentrated essence of something."

Historically it seems to have roots as the 5th and essential element that permeates everything - after earth, air, fire, and water.

op-ed by Willaim Ayers

I found this interesting. The "Bill Ayers" from the political campaign - violent Vietnam war protester on relationship with Obama from the New York Times. It's the first comment I've seen from him.

From the op-ed:

There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.

President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore. We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.

For reference if interested: Here's Obama's website's statement on Ayers along with lots of press sources cited.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jupiter and Venus

If you're like me, leaving work sortof zombified and staring up at the night sky as you walk out to your car in the dark, you've noticed these two really bright stars up in the sky. Turns out they're Venus and Jupiter and there's this very cool photo on astronomy pic of the day showing them with the moon actually passing in front.

Additionally, you've probably heard about the meteor that lit up the sky over Canada that was caught on film. Here's the video. Way cool.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Depression talk

Economic depression that is...

There's lots of discussion of the 1930s and the great depression as folks muster comparisons to the current economic situation. What I find interesting and don't quite "buy" is the conclusion that somehow a war is the way out of a depression.

I find it hard to understand how if we put all our efforts into a bombs that explode, into machines that destroy each other, into lives that are extinguished - that somehow all that destruction equals good news for the economy.

I guess essentially I'm questioning the statement repeated over and over that reinforces the view that war is good for the economy, and that WWII actually brought us out of the depression.

The Danger: If it is widely believed that war spending - or any kind of spending for that matter - produces economic benefits, then we're likely to not require spending to be tied to "productive" spending or spending that is expected to have positive economic benefits.

I can fill up canisters with gunpowder all day, and sell them to someone who blows them up at the end of the day - and I've created economic growth, but I haven't really produced anything. Similarly, I'm afraid we can bail out companies all day, we can cause alot of activity, but if they all disappear at the end of the day have we really produced anything? (or even worse - what if these hulking dying companies survive only to prolong a death whose time has come?)

I hope the large economic federal spending that we'll be injecting into the economy in the coming year or years tries to remain focused on "productive" outcomes. Whatever we spend it on, make sure it exists in a viable way at the end of the day. And I'm not necessarily sure I'm against large upheaval and turnover in the economy. Creative destruction can be good and often is necessary to clear the landscape for new ideas. The dinosaurs had to go before I could be here to write this. (and I'm not making a value judgment here - maybe the dinosaur's blog could've been far more interesting if he'd have survived instead).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ableton screenshots

Here's my arrangement view. (note some of the loops don't end nicely at the end of the 8th bar due to where I punched in/out on the loop record - hope this isn't issue)

Here's my current session view. (note no loops showing in the scenes currently)

Here's where after positioning I think I can see what you're talking about, but maybe I need to upgrade so I'll have enough to scenes to make that work. It is pretty dang slick if it'll do that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The year in movies - 2008

I'm not a big movie goer, but 2008 may have a set a theatre viewing record for me - 4 movies! I'm highly selective - so pay attention! This is movie news you can use!

Iron Man. Pretty good super hero movie - especially the first part. The end gets a bit crazy, but character development in this is better than you often get in these type films. It won't make you think, but it has it's moments.

Wall-E. This is a movie I actually wanted to go see based solely on the trailers. The movie is way-good. One of the better I've ever seen. Here's a post from earlier in the year.

Juno. I saw this movie this year, and I think I saw it in a theatre, so I'm counting it. A really good film. Off-balance but memorable for the quirky characters and qualities they have.

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I really didn't know what was going on, but my wife wanted to go see this. Don't be surprised if you don't understand why everybody's fighting. (My theory: they needed an excuse for action scenes). I remember watching the cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was little and this is a sequel set many years later. It just didn't make any sense to me. My suggestion: watch a rerun of something else on cable instead.

Not seen in the theatre, but one more I'd like to see: I've asked my wife to request Tropic Thunder from Netflix. Seems hard to go wrong with Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, and Jack Black.

So there you have it. That's pretty much all you need to know about movies over the past 12 months. Not much else worth mentioning from what I can tell.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Try this for a Chili recipe

Talked to my Dad and he said I needed to post some. I haven't had much to post about recently so I thought I'd put a chili recipe up. I made this for work the other day and at least some of the folks in the office ate it. It's a variation on my Mom's base recipe.

1 lb ground beef
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato soup
1 can black beans
(if you like more beans, add 2nd can of red kidney beans)
small can mushrooms
2 teaspoons of chili powder
couple stalks of diced celery if you have fresh, if not a healthy does of celery flakes will work. I like what celery does for chili
small diced onion
some shakes of crushed red pepper (the stuff you sprinkle on pizzas) for a little bite - suggestion from my Aunt Helen
spaghetti if you like spaghetti in your chili.
a shot or two of ketchup

I think that's about it...

Brown the hamburger, with the onions mixed in. Throw the mushrooms in too at this point if you have them (and celery also if you're using the celery stalks) and fry them up so they're softer.

When that's ready add the other stuff to the pot. When it starts bubbling, turn the heat to a lower setting and let it simmer for a while, maybe 30 minutes to an hour. If it's too thick add a bit of water.

That's pretty much it. Add some cheese and Zesta crackers and eat it. Maybe dunk in a grilled cheese sandwich or pimento cheese for accompaniment.

Is W still president?

If so, where is he or the administration on anything that is going on in the country right now? Not that I expect ideas from him or his administration at this point, but do you get the impression they've washed their hands of this mess and are not wanting to try to do anything so they can blame the incoming administration for everything?

I like to stay away from politics, but I can't help but feel things are completely rudderless at the moment.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A new president

And now the weight of the country sits upon your shoulders. Alone. Both your mother and father died long ago. Your grandmother died earlier in the week. It's odd that an entire country gives their support and elects you their leader, yet you can still feel so alone.

As election results become clearer reality sinks in. You will be the next president of the United States. The weight pressing down is different from that felt by most that have preceded you.... You've not just been elected as a leader - you're more. You've become the embodiment of America's hopes, dreams and aspirations. You no longer own your own identity - but in the election process have become an Idea - an idea not unlike America itself, representing expectations of America and even the world itself. You have become a little bit of the better parts of each of us and have become a symbol of what America can be.

It's an impossible standard, but I'm pleased you'll have the opportunity.

Congratulations president-elect Barack Obama.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ableton Live images

just some images to assist with a forum post

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Purple Tomato

Check out this purple tomato

Apparently they're rich in the same antioxidants that make fruits like blackberries and blueberries popular health foods.

In tests with mice, these tomatoes greatly increased the lifespan of mice bred to be genetically predisposed to cancer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Warren Buffett op-ed

Warren Buffett is one of my favorite investor personalities, and he recently did an op-ed discussing why he's buying stocks now.

If prices keep looking attractive, my non-Berkshire net worth will soon be 100 percent in United States equities.


A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.


This may be the coolest illusion I've ever seen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm still here...

... but with the economy acting the way it is I'm wondering why I bother saving in the first place. No, I'm not broke yet, but markets like this just make you want to go out an buy a big screen TV so at least you can watch the country go down the drain in High Definition! At least I used to be able to afford one - maybe not now.

Actually looked at the 401K today and was surprised I was only down 26% so far this year - although it's probably closer to 30% after today!

At least I'm in a country of such abundance that I can shrug my shoulders and go on with things.

It reminds me of my good buddy Marcus Aurelius

3.10 Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see…

and this little quote, which while not intended for markets like this might apply:
8.20 Nature is like someone throwing a ball in the air, gauging it’s rise and arc – and where it will fall. And what does the ball gain as it flies upward? Or lose when it plummets to earth?
What does the bubble gain from its existence? Or lose by bursting?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

And you thought you were having a bad day

It just goes from bad to worse.

article is courtesy a south Mississippian I work with.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

sample shiny texture

readers please ignore: The image shows the shiny/reflective base skin texture. The base skin texture on the bottom left of the paint window is the one used. (this post is a sample being used as a reference in a spore forum)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Funny Financial Quote

S.E.C. Concedes Oversight Flaws Fueled Collapse

From the NYTimes:

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a longtime proponent of deregulation, acknowledged on Friday that failures in a voluntary supervision program for Wall Street’s largest investment banks had contributed to the global financial crisis, and he abruptly shut the program down.

(and later on in the article - and what I find funny)

On one level, the commission’s decision to end the regulatory program was somewhat academic, because the five biggest independent Wall Street firms have all disappeared.

The Fed and Treasury Department forced Bear Stearns into a merger with JPMorgan Chase in March. And in the last month, Lehman Brothers went into bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs changed their corporate structures to become bank holding companies, which the Federal Reserve regulates.

Anyhow, found it funny. Not all regulation is bad regulation - especially when insurance is behind the system - be it financial/banking system, or the healthcare system. Active players in a fully competitive free-market environment will find ways to game the system, and good regulations try to limit that. (Yes, I work in the risk management industry and see regularly ways people try to get around the intentions we put in place to minimize risk).

By the way, here's another good article in the NYTimes about Goldman Sach's close call - along with some interesting perspective on leverage.

EDIT: Adding another - a good op-ed by Ben Stein "In Financial Food Chains, Little Guys Can’t Win"

First, I am furious at what the traders, speculators, hedge funds and the government have done to everyone who is saving and investing for retirement and future security.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Earth and moon from a distance

Whoa. I was looking at images on the the Astronomy Picture of the Day's website over the past month or so (I used to check this almost daily but haven't been checking as closely recently), and I came upon this excellent series of photos from a probe from a distance of around 31 million miles looking back at the earth and moon.

The image apparently contains both visable and infrared data, but it's striking how small the earth and orbit of the moon look from this perspective. Very cool. I think we're looking at mostly Africa and the Atlantic ocean as they rotate in the images.

First picture of probably extrasolar planet

"Though over 300 extrasolar planets have been found using other techniques, this picture likely represents the first direct image of a planet belonging to a star similar to the Sun. " - Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, September 19, 2008

Oprah article

I don't really know much about Oprah or her show, but I find it interesting that Oprah has a huge following from the women in Saudi Arabia due to her story of overcoming adversity to achieve success. I think this story provides sine interesting insights.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dogs catch the yawns

Cool story on how dogs can "catch" the yawns from people.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Brian Greene on the Large Hadron Collider

A NYTimes article by physicist Brian Greene regarding what scientists are hoping to find with the Large Hadron Collider that recently became operational.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Large Hadron Rap

A friend of mine who works on the space station linked me into this rap about the Large Hadron Collider. It's pretty funny but at the same time talks about what they're trying to discover and how they're doing it.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Check out this Kaleidoscope. Just drag parts into the 'radar' area and watch

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Swamp Thing - Spore

Another Spore Creation - a swamp creature



Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Spore Creature

So I'm spending too much time building Spore creatures, but this may be my favorite yet.

He's called a Night Smother

Here's a litte video of him in action:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More Spore

Check out my Artillery Beast. The Creature Creator is just too much fun...

He's got venom shooters of some sort in his cannons, and they shoot a good distance.

Here's a pic of him gettin down -

Sunday, August 3, 2008

good eating

Been eating pretty good over the past several days.

I went up to my dad's during the week, and he grilled out some of the better steaks I'd had in a long time. Ribeye's with nice tender meat. Very good.

Another day he cooked up some walleye he'd caught fresh a few days earlier. It was also good.

Then today I grilled up something called country style ribs that I picked up on sale at the Food Lion. I was walking by the meat case checking out the marked down items and noticed four pieces of what I'd call "hunks of meat" for lack of a better term. I figures they're only $2.50, how bad could they be?

Well I grilled them today and they were awesome. I think they were beef - tasted somewhat like what I get at Famous Daves - and I'm not sure of the cut, but they didn't have bones in them like ribs. Very thick cuts though. I cooked them slow on the grill - cooked for about an hour at least - but I'll be having those again (once I finish the other 3 leftover pieces that I've got now).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Spore Creature Creator

I've been getting into the new Spore Creature Creator recently. I'm excited to see how the full game is when it comes out in about 6 weeks. Spore is designed by the Will Wright, who also designed "Sim City" - one of my favorite games

Anyhow, my nephew and I worked on this scorpion together today (and Dad suggested we make it black because he saw a scorpion on TV today that was black). We didn't know much about scorpions so I did a google image search to refine things a bit, especially to help get the posture and leg positioning right. Anyhow, here's what our scorpion creature looks like.

And while you're at it, check out this more "fun" creature just made with the Spore creature creator. Here's the the description:
"Born with his powerful supply of dilithium crystals, this little fellow explores strange new worlds, seeks out new life and new civilizations, and boldly goes where no man has gone before."

.. but you gotta click to see him.

Here's some of the other creatures I've been working on.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell on UFOs

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell on UFOs. I think the interviewer does a poor job of extracting specifics during the interview on British radio, but nonetheless another piece info for consideration.

19 tomatoes

19 tomatoes - it sounds like a drama - a secret stash with each tomato having it's own tale to tell, but no - they're all just normal vegetables that'll end up in my belly.

I went out and pulled 19 tomatoes off of our 2 Roma tomato plants this morning. We've been grabbing 2 or 3 at a time for a while now, but this is the first really big batch to be ready. I love slicing the Romas in half, salting the sides a bit and eating them that way. There are lots others out there that are just a day or two away also. It's about to the point where I really don't have to worry about running out.

We also have 1 cherry tomato growing, but it seems to want to come "in" later than the Romas. There are lots of green ones one it, but they're not ripening much - no reds one on it right now. I've had a handful of ripe cherry tomatoes so far this year, but the plant is just slower to develop.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Black Holes and Gravity

Interesting. I hadn't thought of this perspective regarding the same mass of a star and black hole, the small size of black holes allows for stronger gravity to be felt at very close distances.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Star Wars

This video has been watched over 8.2 million times on YouTube. It's a 3 year old's movie review of Star Wars.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Volume level and compression in recordings

I was listening to CDs the other day as I spent most of the day building a solar oven (more on the solar oven later).

I probably listened to 8 CDs or so, and I happened to notice the difference in volume levels and compression present in recent recordings vs. older recording. In particular I was rocking out to Abba - yes it can be done - and the dynamics in the music were considerably wider than that present in today's music.

Even the "quiet" parts of today's tunes have an overall loudness far in excess of even the loudest choruses in music from 20-30 years ago. The net result is that most of today's music starts out almost clipping (in the red) and stays there for almost the entire album. I actually like the big loud compressed sound of today's music in doses, but over the course of an album it's fatiguing on the ears. The choruses can't get louder than the verses - everything starts of as loud as it can possibly be.

It reminded me a little bit of what Stevie Ray Vaughan meant in a comment about how he tried too hard to have a big show - wanted to blow everybody's socks off.... He couldn't do it. To make the music work he had to just let it come to him nice and easy. He couldn't rush the blues for it to work. In a similar way it's like today's music is trying too hard to impress me from the get go - hitting me in the face from the first measure and keep hitting until the album's over 45 minutes later.

When you get a chance put in some old CDs - stuff like Steve Miller, Abba, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison - and mix in with some newer stuff. You'll probably easily hear what I'm talking about. The older mixes have more room to breath. The newer mixes just come at you hard the entire time - even when they're trying to be quiet they're still amazingly loud.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Skyscrapers Dubai

Look at this impressive photo of Dubai taken from what will be the tallest building in the world. (hat tip to the Agitator).

I'm not sure if it's a real photo or artists interpretation (Not sure if the new skyscraper being built is that tall yet, but still - very cool photo.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just keep quiet

NYTimes: In China, those whose children die in school collapses during the earthquake call for an investigation. Some are arrested.

Nobody knows the grounds for his arrest, but many people have the same idea. Mr. Zhang said, “It may be because the schools collapsed, and so many children died.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Boone Pickens Plan

Check out this energy plan by Boone Pickens. It's nice and even somewhat inspiring to see someone from the energy community coming forward with some productive alternatives other than "drill more oil."

Essentially he's saying to take the 22% of natural gas that currently goes to electric generation and replace it with wind power. Then move the natural gas to fuel vehicles. Here's a 4 minute video.

Here's a web page version of the business case.


As part of my efforts to lose as much money in the market as quickly as possible I posted another stunning success with my recent purchase of PRXI - Premier exhibitions. In less than 2 months I successfully lost just over 24% in this holding. To lock in my losses I made my sell today.

Who said markets were efficient? This academic exercise being tested in my portfolio is living proof of market inefficiency. Everything I buy is able to go down in value.

Happy investing to all. Next time I want to buy a stock I'm going to punch myself in the gut to remind myself of what I'm getting myself into. :-)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Marcus Aurelius

I haven't posted a Marcus Aurelius quotation in a while.

More from Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations", Gregory Hayes' translation:

6.42 All of us are working on the same project. Some consciously, with understanding; some without knowing it…. Some of us work in one way, and some in others. And those who complain and try to obstruct and thwart things – they help as much as anyone. The world needs them all.
6.43 Does the sun try to do the rain’s work?

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emporer from 161-180 A.D. Read more from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Alright. I'm a nerd, but I went to see Pixar's new movie "WALL-E" the other day and I've gotta say it's one of the better movies I've seen.

That I wanted to go see the movie says something, because I "never" go to the movies voluntarily, but I'd seen a Wall-E trailer and something about it said this was a special kind of movie.

I can't put my finger on what made the story work so well, but I'm hard pressed to recall any movie where the main character's word count can be tallied on your fingers. Sci-Fi stories often can create a fresh perspective and that's part of the magic, but I think it's rare that a character's actions define almost everything that he is. Wall-E can't explain himself, so his actions have to do all of his talking, and in his actions we see our better selves. Perhaps the lack of dialogue allows us more freedom to interpret in our own way.

But underneath the story of a lonely robot, there's a deeper story of loss that resonates. I think a key observation that we see on multiple levels is that once something special is lost, no matter how hard we try we might not be able to get it back.

Bottom line. Go see this if you haven't. It'll make you a whole lot happy. It'll make you a little bit sad. It'll make you think a little bit too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hookworms and Allergies

This is gross, but this study seems to indicate the hookworm infections seem to reduce allergic symptoms like asthma.

The idea is that allergies are a result of an immune system that is over-reactive, and something produced by the parasites helps suppress the immune response. As a side effect of the immune system attacking the worms less stridently, it also responds less to other allergens that make our eyes water, nose run, and airways contract.

The idea here is to try and figure out how the worms reduce the immune response, but many people say just give them a few worms and see no adverse effects. It's still seems gross though...

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Just got back from a trip to Chicago. Some observations from the trip and about hotels:

1. There's way too much traffic up there. Mapquest said the trip from Northbrook to Midway Airport should take 47 minutes. Actual time: about 2 hours. And there was nothing unusual about the drive. No accidents, no abnormal construction. It looks like the 30 mile trip is about that way every day - at least between 3:00 and about 5:15. Seems like alot of people are making that trip though.

2. It's flat-out wrong for hotels to put out the $2.50 candy bars, peanuts or chips right there in your room where you're tempted by them. It's an accident waiting to happen. Luckily I stopped by the grocery and had my own snacks, so when I'd get tempted by the Snickers in the little wicker basket, I'd just eat one of my own instead.

3. Have you ever wondered why some hotels put 6 pillows on the bed? Three or four are always in the floor come morning. And what is the big tube thing they put with the pillows? And why the half blanket on the foot of the bed that always slides in the floor? What do you do with it? I guess just pile all that stuff in the chair so you can't sit in it.

4. Is there a law that says no hotel can use a basic shower head and faucet control? Where do some hotels get these things? Without testing, your guess is good as mine as to hot vs. cold, and sometimes what should even be push/pulled/twisted/turned to make the water "go". I guess some folks like fancy shower heads too, but I'm guessing these fancy showers are just justification for the room charge.

5. My room actually had an exposed electrical outlet so I could plug in the iron. Usually the plugs are hidden and I've got to go crawling around and moving furniture. Why?

6. Does anyone read the USA Today they throw under your door each morning? I'm guessing circulation is overstated by at least 50%.

7. I can't handle TV remote controls. It is possible to flip channels for an hour when I should just be going to sleep.

couple new stocks

and when I got back from Chicago I learned a couple of my limit orders fired on Monday. I now have small positions in auction company Sotheby's (BID), and graphics card maker Nvidia (NVDA). Taking small bites only.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Diamond Semiconductors

I was reading an article in the NYTimes today about advances in synthetic diamonds and got curious about a comment about uses in manufacturing and semiconductors.

The information about use as semi-conductors was very interesting. As anybody who works with PC knows, the speed of silicon based chips like Intel/AMD are limited in processing speed by the heat they generate. They'll essentially burn up if they get too hot. To prevent that we put fans on the processor to cool things, or use other creative solutions, like water cooling or storing the PC in fridge for the ambitious over-clockers.

This link shows a big silicon crystal being grown, and the chips for computers are designed from wafers which are then thinly sliced from the big crystal - similar to slicing bologna from a big tube of meat.

It turns out diamond would be a far better semiconductor for chip use if it could similarly be grown in such a crystalline structure with enough impurities to allow passing of electricity. Apparently diamond processors could run at far higher speeds because they deal with the temperature issues much better without damaging the chip. And researchers are having success growing small crystals now (1 inch wafers).

On the intrigue in the diamond business and about the De Beers diamond cartel read this Wired story.

Something else interesting. Bacteria can survive under the huge pressures at which diamonds are formed.

In another surprising discovery, Hemley found that two common bacteria, including the intestinal microorganism E. coli, can survive under colossal pressure. He and his colleagues placed the organisms in water and then ratcheted up the diamond anvil. The water solution soon turned into a dense form of ice. Nevertheless, about 1 percent of the bacteria survived, with some bacteria even skittering around. Hemley says the research is more evidence that life as we know it may be capable of existing on other planets within our solar system....

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bumper Sticker

This is good. Stuff White People Like. Bumper Stickers
Here's a snippet:

It is a fact that white people will never turn down an opportunity to enlighten other people on the correct way to think. While this is very easy to do through email or face to face conversation, it is exceptionally difficult to do while driving a car. Fortunately for white people there is a solution that is both popular and ineffective: bumper stickers.

Read the whole thing. Great observations

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tired of losing money

Anybody else out there tired of losing money in the market? Seems like every time I get my hopes up that the market has bottomed out - down it goes again.

My new investing strategy is on the verge of becoming: buying a big tank, filling it up with gasoline, and just letting it sit for a year, like a collectible. Some people collect baseball cards or shot glasses - I'll collect "vintage" gasoline. Unfortunately I removed the swimming pool several years ago so I can't store the gas there. And that just sounds like a freak gasoline accident waiting to happen... cannonball anyone? Next year I might be swimming in a 50% profit.

And speaking of freak gasoline accidents... Any Zoolander fans?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shades of 45

I heard "Shades of 45" once from the music video over 20 years ago - back when I was in high school. It was probably late at night when some of the less popular videos got shown, because if it was more popular I would've seen it again. I never heard the song or saw the video again until now - Through the magic of google.

It was just one of those tunes that stuck in my head, and I thought I'd probably never hear again. Listening again 20 years later it has quite a bit more keyboard going on than I recall, but I I know this is the right song from the chorus. It definitely has that Mister Mister thing going on which was popular back then.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Trish wrote about comedians today and linked to a Mitch Hedberg video on her blog. Here's some Steven Wright

Sunday, June 1, 2008

RFK funeral train in NYTimes

The NYTimes has a multimedia piece by the photographer Paul Fusco who rode on Robert Kennedy's funeral train in 1968 - and discusses the images of all the people lined up along the tracks along the way. I wasn't born yet, but I had no idea.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Robotic Arm

You've got to watch what Dean Kaman (Segway inventor) has developed now. This robotic arm is incredible in what it can do. This seems worlds ahead of anything I've ever seen.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Stock Buy

I made my first trade in 2 or 3 months when I bought some PRXI Premier Exhibitions yesterday. They're a small company and it's a small buy for me. The specialize in museum-style exhibitions that travel from city to city - notably the Titanic exhibition and the controversial Bodies exhibition that shows disected human anatomy. Discover magazine did an article on the Bodies exhibition and I was amazed at some of the photos in the article.

The sourcing of the specimens from a Chinese teaching hospital is at the center of the controversy with the company. I think this is why stock is down along with high expenses in the most recent quarter.

From a business standpoint, I like the numbers a lot and can see continued growth in shows of this kind. ROE is at 27%, revenue growth is crazy, up to $61 million 2/08 vs. 6.9million at 2/09. The multilple on the stock is only PE of 12 right now. I guess companies like this have to continue to build interesting exhibits that will attract visitors - kindof like TV or movie companies, but it doesn't look particularly expensive right now.

I'm counting on their ability to reign in costs which are growing faster than revs and eating into profits in recent quarter. Their growth rate will help them, but they've gotta keep eye on profitability. From the recent transcript it sounds like they're experiencing some growth pains as they transition more company owned venues and increased/more professional staff.

The new liquid gold

Used cooking oil is selling for $2.50 per gallon. Restaurant thefts on the rise.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


It's been a long depressing run for stocks - for at least the past 9 months or so. Despite losing money, I find I've been bored with investments over the past couple months, and I wonder if that means better things are ready to come?

I've noticed in the past that if I'm too interested in what's happening that it's not good. I wonder if being bored with events means the contrary?

I'm a little gun shy due to several picks I've made performing poorly in the downturn, but there are signs of life - or at least stabilization - in the kinds of stocks I like to invest in.

Discover Environment Newsletter

Discover's Environmental Newsletter had a couple interesting articles today.

A solution to water shortage problems you're hearing about across the country.

A solution for heavy polluting small engines. Apparently one 2-stroke engine creates the same amount of pollution as 30-50 4-stroke engines like we have in cars.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Asimov - The Last Question

I'm not much of a fiction reader, but Isaac Asimov was one of my favorites when I was growing up. Apparently he felt this short story was his best. I read Asimov's The Last Question a few weeks ago and thought it was well worth passing on.

3 day weekend

Over the weekend I got to visit with my Dad, Grandma, nephews, and brother/sister in law. Mostly I was entertainment for my nephew Jay though (about 5yr old).

- played with legos, building spaceships and spaceports.
- played baseball.
- watered Dad's flowers
- played in the sand / made a bunch of mud
- "painted" (Jay calls it painting when we put the barbecue sauce on the hamburgers.
- raced, but as slow as we could if that makes any sense.
- watched Indy and NASCAR (his favorite driver Jeff Gordon finished 4th)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Restaurant name

I was thinking that a good name for Mexi-talian restaurant should be called "Que Pasta"

Google Doodle

I thought these variations on the Google logo designed by school students were pretty cool. Check them out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

OK Go - Here It Goes Again

I came across this video on YouTube and had to post. I first saw it a long while ago, but it's still a fun watch. It's one of the more creative music videos I've seen.

I've gotta make a music video at some point before I go.

OK Go - Here It Goes Again

Monday, May 19, 2008


We had a departmental review at work, and one of the things we got burned on was measurement. Now I'm a numbers guy and have as many metrics as the next guy, but it seems to me there's alot about what I do at work that isn't necessarily measurable, at least given metrics I can get at.

The issue to me is that if I reduce my work to things that I can measure, I think it leaves out a lot of worthwhile activities. Specific activities are measurable, like a lot of lead generation, delivery, and sell-through - I can track results from that. But how do you measure/place a value on less well defined activities? What's the value of all these agent meetings and consultations we've been having? How do you track the value of a 4 hour meeting without it being overwhelmed by all the other things that happen in the business over the course of a year? It seems worthwhile, and attendees say we have some of the better meetings they've been to - but can I measure the value of all the work? I'm not sure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

China Earthquake

I was reading a NYTimes article about the recent major earthquake in China. The article mentioned significant threat of flooding due to landslides and blocked waterways.

I looked online for more information and came across this before/after river photo. We're not talking about a small clog in a waterway - the river is flat-out gone.

And look at these wedding photos from right before/after the quake - very lucky they weren't in the church.

Here are some photos of the devestation and rescue efforts. Some buildings were literally reduced to gravel.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Interesting view of India by a traveller

As many are aware, I'm invested in a couple IT stocks with their core operations in India Cognizant Tech and Infosys), however I don't know much about the country other than what I occasionally read in newspaper articles or the random book. Much of what I read indicates observers sees India as considerably more limited in economic potential than China due to government controls and issues with infrastructure.

This blog by Derek Sivers gives a different view that I found particularly interesting - and different from many observations I've heard. India is making do, but in a different way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2 players, 1 guitar

I'd never seen two people play the same guitar and thought this was pretty cool

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Solar Eclipse

See this astronomy pic of the day from a few days ago. It's a solar eclipse in Antartica.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Aerial Planting

I hadn't heard of this. Planting the rice fields by plane.

During planting season, usually from late April to mid-May, many pilots work 15-hour days, seven days a week, strafing hundreds of flooded acres per day. A busy rice flier might make as many as 100 takeoffs and landings a day along narrow dirt airstrips cut between paddies.

Auctions at storage units

Mortgage strains lead to folks loosing their stuff when they can't pay the storage bills.

An interesting observation in the story:

Mr. Grossman cut locks on 87 units in March but, as many people paid at the last minute, ended up auctioning only 21 of them in April. Both numbers were down from a year ago, he said, suggesting “the worst is behind us.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Why is intelligence as rare as it is?

In the lab, intelligence is shown to often cause a decrease in survivability. See this article from the NYTimes: "Lots of Animals Learn, but Smarter isn't always better."

Forming neuron connections may cause harmful side effects. It is also possible that genes that allow learning to develop faster and last longer may cause other changes.

Friday, May 2, 2008

US Manufacturing output -surprise to me.

It's always enlightening when an unchallenged assumption I hold about the world is found to be wrong. It creates one of those moments when you go "hmmmm".

In this case I was reading this op-ed in the New York Times by David Brooks titled "The Cognitive Revolution" when I came across this quote:

the U.S.’s share of global manufacturing output has actually increased slightly since 1980.

I read that and I paused... That can't possibly be right. Everybody just "knows" US manufacturing is dying.

So of course I started googling around and found this link reporting that real value added manufacturing in the US is at 22.4% of the world output - slightly higher than it was a decade ago. Interesting. The same paper points out however that while manufacturing output has continued to increase, manufacturing employment has continued to fall due in part to efficiency gains and technology. It takes less people to produce more stuff.

The article is really worth a read. At least I found it helpful.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tater Tots

I was at work the other day and got to wondering how Tater Tots were made. (They ordered Pizza Hut pizza delivered for the department, and it came with some Cheesy Tater Tots as a side.)

Anyhow, I got to thinking that I probably couldn't make a Tater Tot myself. I figured if I diced up a bunch of potatoes, pressed them together, and tried to fry them that I'd just end up with a mess of a bunch of little potato flakes that wouldn't hold form.

So I got to looking and here's how they recommend making Tater Tots. It sounds like to make them you've got to boil the potatoes a bit in advance, shred them, mix in a little flour, and then pack them into shape before dropping in the cooking oil.

And while you're at it, check out Darth Tater

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Planted some tomatoes

Welp, we planted 3 tomato plants today, 2 Romas and 1 Cherry tomato. Hopefully we'll have better luck than last year.

Two years ago we had an excellent results with only 2 plants. We really had more tomatoes than we could eat.

Last year results weren't so good though. I think the heat was too much for them. We had planted them in pots like the year before, but they just didn't produce much at all. I think the combination of the pots and the heat kept the roots too warm for proper growth.

This year, we planted 2 plants in the ground and 1 in a pot, and placed them in different places (hot evening sun, a cooler area, and an in between area). I dosed them up with Miracle Grow, so we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pointless post

I don't really have much to say today, but I'm seeing too many political advertisements pop up on the blog, so I've got to post something completely irrelevant to get them to go away.

I was in the great city of Atlanta most of last week, and helped my brother move into his new house over the weekend, but the real point of this pointless post is to see if you've ever seen a dancing walrus or seen a cat play something called a theramin?

Now get back to your meetings!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More Marcus Aurelius

I was reading on Derek Sivers Blog (founder of something about span of control and your span of influence, and that we basically shouldn't worry about things we have no influence over.

The quotes below from Marcus Aurelius remind me of that observation:

8.4 You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they’ll still go on doing it.

7.71 It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.

-from Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations", Gregory Hayes' translation. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emporer from 161-180 A.D. Read more from Wikipedia.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New paintings

Sorry for not posting much over the past couple weeks. I've been traveling around and haven't had the opportunity. A couple of new paintings purchased from ebay had arrived in the mail while I was gone. I really like them and wanted to share the images.

The first is "The Tulip Fairy" by Sarah Kinan

The second is "Harp and Birds" by Sam Richard

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Over time, I've read far too many stories like this about a mistaken police raid gone bad. When somebody busts down your front door down without warning, often in the middle of the night, you shouldn't be put in the position of responding rationally and timidly. There's gotta be a better way because it puts alot of people, both police and citizens in high risk situations, and as Malcolm Gladwell points out in "Blink" - forces us to make split second reactions.

I've had my home alarm go off in the middle of the night more than once and let's just say I wasn't thinking clearly either time.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Eight Queens

I got sidetracked today when I came upon this game called "The Eight Queens" on Yahoo Games today. The idea is simple. Find a placement for Eight Queens on a chessboard so that none of the eight queens can attack each other.

The solution was a little tough for me. I couldn't keep all the placements straight in my head. If you're having trouble with placements and have Microsoft Excel, I put together a file that may help you find the solution. This is a problem that for me was much easier to crack once I had the right tool to help me visualize the board. Try it a few times to see if you can find the answer without the spreadsheet, but if you need help, click here for the EightQueens.xls file.

Odd Dream

The immigration post below reminded me of a dream I had this morning - one of those early morning convoluted dreams that become very verbal as more parts of your brain start to wake up. I actually awakened after dreaming this as it's somewhat shocking to learn what parts of your mind are thinking on their own when your conscious, singular "mind" isn't in command.

Anyhow, the statement in the dream that woke me up was part of a conversation that went approximately like this:

"You can get upset about illegal immigration all you want, but people are still going to eat at Mexican restaurants."

I woke up with a little smile on my face, because I eat at Mexican restaurants in town regularly, and I've found myself sometimes wondering how many of the mostly spanish-speaking staff are here legally. To make a big deal out of it seems hypocritical because in the end there's no doubt I'm going to keep going back for the Spicy Beef Burrito or the Fajitas Jalisco.


Here's an interesting article regarding the difficulties and dangers long time legal immigrants may face when applying for citizenship.

From the article:

Dr. Pedro Servano always believed that his journey from his native Philippines to the life of a community doctor in Pennsylvania would lead to American citizenship.

But the doctor, who has tended to patients here in the Susquehanna Valley for more than a decade, is instead battling a deportation order along with his wife.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Look at this close-up of the Mars moon Phobos.

Long Term market returns

I got an email from AAII today detailing the long term performance of the market vs. bonds over the past 10 years. If the link is accessible the full info is here:

10 year returns (I assume these are annualized returns over past 10 yrs, but not sure. Also not sure of how benchmarks are defined.)

Large cap stocks 3.43%
Mid Cap stocks 8.48%
Small Cap stocks 5.70%
International stocks 5.60%
Emerging Markets 13.06%

Intermediate Bonds 6.67%
Short Term Bonds 5.70%

It's very interesting to me that bonds have performed comparably to most equity classes over the past 10 years.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I've been looking at getting me a looper to mess around with a bit as I'm writing songs, and I went to YouTube to see what some guys were doing with a few of the loopers on the market.

Here's what one fellow named ricoloop did with the Boss RC-20. Give it time. He builds a whole song over the course of the video.

This one was good too. I like the hollow-body tone

Saturday, April 5, 2008 is a very cool website that presents you with historical stock charts and lets you pick which way the stock should move based purely on price and volume data.

Once you start, it's hard to stop.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spring weeds

Well. The lawn was growing like a weed, or maybe more appropriately the weeds were growing where my lawn should be. I'm pretty lazy when it comes to yard work as readers will remember.

The first mowing of the year comes with a bit of suspense because of the silent collusion regarding early-season-lawn-care that everyone on the street takes part in. Nobody likes to mow, and there's really no peer pressure unless somebody else has already mowed. So you never want to be that first mower. The longer everybody puts off that first cutting - the better. Heck, with enough spine we could all probably get used to living in hay fields.

I've been proud of my street so far this spring. No "early mowers" to speak of. Live and let live I say. I'm actually a bit ashamed to say that I was one of the first mowers on the street this year. I feel like I need to apologize to my neighbors who were doing so good - but I had a serious case of shaggy weed going on in the front yard. Unfortunately I've probably set a chain of unfortunate events into motion. I can almost hear engines small engines whirring.

Todays mowing nearly didn't happen though. I got home from work around 6:30 and went out to get the push-mower ready. I had to clean the air filter (I use the mower to mulch leaves in the fall, and the air filter is always clogged at spring), and I rotated out the spark plug - which seems to help the thing start each spring. Put some gas in the tank. I was ready to go.

I pulled and pulled on the starter rope. Pump a little gas in there. Keep pulling.... OK 3 minutes of pulling the starter rope is enough. Take a break. Let it set. Stupid mower. Sometimes letting it sit a few minutes helps. Get some Diet Dew. Go back out. Pull for another minute. Still nothing. Wait a minute? Did I put the spark plug wire back on?

So I pop the spark plug wire on and pull again. By now the wife is watching me flail around trying to get the thing going. Pump a little bit of gas in. Pull again. Bingo! With a puff a black smoke we're off to the races.

The sun is going down before I can get done, but there's still a sense of accomplishment. Because after you've mowed, most people will confuse your mangy yard of weeds with a smooth green lawn. Especially your slacker neighbors who haven't mowed yet.

Here's my wife's take on it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perspective Illusion

This is one of the better illusions I've seen in a while.

Friday, March 28, 2008

just earthlings

This is an interesting line of thought about why aliens might not find us all that interesting after all - despite all the Hollywood movies about space invasions.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Messages from soldiers in Iraq

This is one of the better articles I've read in a long time. It's a collection of posts, emails, and blogs posted by U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq. Its a long article, but take the time. You need to read these.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Dog

I work on the 8th floor of an office building, so I can look down onto a neighboring street that has some homes on it. While I was at work today making copies, I was staring out the window waiting on the machine. Down below a man had stepped out of his back door and a his dog - looked like a big Labrador retriever - was following him out to a little "out building".

The dog's tail was swatting back-and-forth, like the funnest thing in the world was walking to this little building. The man got to the building, unlocked the door, and went in. The dog stood back with his tail wagging and proceeded to circle the building, sniffing around the edges, making a full circle, and then coming back to look in the door that was left open. The dog stood there tail still wagging and finally walked in.

I was swapping out different pages that I was needing copies of, but the next time I looked up they were back out of the building. The man was walking through the yard picking up something. The dog was running around in the vicinity, sniffing here and there, finding things to pee on, running back to check in with the owner, and running off to somewhere else.

More copies. I look up again. The man is now digging around in a small little garden plot. This must've been huge fun to the dog who is there watching intently - tail still going crazy.

It struck me while I was making copies, not really wanting to be there - it struck me that this dog was having the time of his life just being a dog - just doing what dogs do. I'd never been envious of a dog, but I was today. And I wandered what I'd be doing if I just did whatever it is that people are supposed to do.

Later in the day as I was working my mind would wander and I'd check back to see what fun the dog was having, but I didn't see him anymore after that. Wherever he was I bet his tail was wagging.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

At Bear Stearns - a life's work gone

This article details the aftermath of the Bear Stearns collapse.

“My life has been flushed down the drain,” said one person.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Marcus Aurelius for the day - 2.7

More from Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations", Gregory Hayes' translation:

2.7 Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time – even when hard at work.

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emporer from 161-180 A.D. Read more from Wikipedia. His "Meditations" resemble extremely insightful pep talks to himself for focusing his energy in running the empire as well as he can.


I'm reading a book right now about the Dalai Lama. He spoke recently on the violence against his people by the Chinese, and the long/slow choking out of Tibetan culture that is underway.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Endeavor Night Launch

Wow! Look at the image of the night launch of Endeavor from last week.

The money pit of the insurgency

This is a good read. See the attached article from the NYTimes that details how up to 1/3 or Iraq's oil money is being diverted due corruption - some of it to fuel the insurgency.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More Google Maps

I've sortof gotten hooked on google maps over the past couple of days and have taken interest in looking at other parts of the world. As I was zooming in on an area of Dubai I saw this formation. After zooming in further I found that it's actually a series of buildings that all seem to be oddly built along the same horizontal plane.

I also saw this large square pattern as I was moving around nearby. As I expolore the area there seem to be a lot of structures built in a similar pattern.

I'm not sure what this is. It seems to be a large "track" cut into the land, but doesn't appear to be paved, and doesn't appear to lead anywhere. There seem to be hardly any structures around it at all. (edit: I take that back, there may be a road surface on closer inspection. I think you can see a car in the upper right curve of the middle loop of the path. If you find the car you'll see a tower just to the southeast - also in the middle of nowhere).

Over along the eastern coast is one of the more beautifully designed parking lots I've ever seen. The picture was taken on a day when there weren't many cars there, and it adds to the effect.

Any idea what's going on here? Possibly building up coastal land?

Whoa, then farther south along the coast I come upon this feature. Definitely man-made. Another one is here just a bit further south.

Maybe the best commercial I've ever seen

I saw this commercial on TV this morning and looked it up on YouTube. It may be the best commercial I've ever seen. It's Louis Vuitton advetisement - but I'm not sure what it has to do with fashion.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cruising Google Maps

I was cruising Google Maps and just started to jump to locations.

Fun with maps. Where am I?

Location 1

Location 2

Location 3

Location 4

Location 5

Location 6 Hint I've never seen more railroad tracks in my life than here.

And isn't this odd
? It's near Fort Pickens in FL

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


The library called today letting us know that (use your best female voice): "A patron at this number has an item that is ready to be picked up. Please come to the library to pick up the item."

Wahoo. Another couple books to read. I've been running low on good reading material. The first one is called "The Black Swan: The impact of the highly improbable" and the second is "The Next Great Thing: The Sun, the Stirling Engine and the drive to change the world."

My writer-wife thinks these sound like snooze-fests and makes a snoring sound as she reads the titles off the library website. I can't imagine what she's thinking, but I've been looking forward to these.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Sometimes I feel like the engineer here.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Solar Thermal Power Plants

I found this article in the NYTimes about solar thermal power interesting. With high energy costs they're starting to build some of these plants in the deserts in the west. The plants focus the sun's energy onto a liquid, heating it, and using the steam to drive turbines. The article indicates there's a lot of energy to be had here (comparable to nuclear plants), the build times are short, and demand is high.

Anyhow, it's worth a read if you're interested.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

If at first you don't succeed...

This is too funny. (edit: I think some photo-shopping here)

This is good too.

And here's something you'll probably never see.

And installing the new covered bridge.

...and one more. Don't flinch.

Market Psychology

I've been taking a beating in quite a few of my stock positions during this prolonged market draw-down. In the past few days I found myself considering selling a position not because I thought it was a bad investment, but because I thought it might just keep on going down for no good reason. In the past I've found these type of thoughts on my part tend to mark the gut check moments that indicate bottoms might be near.

I've been distracted from the market for quite a while with my work, so perhaps I haven't been paying as much attention to happenings as I should, but I'm beginning to wonder if the people getting out now are thinking like me and might be selling just because "it's going down." It's dangerous to try to out-think the market, but I do think psychology matters quite a bit, and I'm wondering if there may be quite a few others who are starting to throw their hands up wondering why the selling persists in some companies that seem to be good values to me.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Marcus Aurelius for the day - 12.4

More from Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations", Gregory Hayes' translation:

12.4 It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emporer from 161-180 A.D. Read more from Wikipedia.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Lake Nyos CO2 eruption

I had never heard of the Lake Nyos disaster that occurred in 1986. Scientists aren't sure of the cause (this was an unknown phenomenon), but apparently a magma pocket beneath the lake had been leaching carbon dioxide into the deep water of the lake over a long time. At the lake depths the co2 disolves into the water and builds up under high pressure. Apparently something disturbed the water, perhaps a landslide or something churning the water, causing the c02 to de-pressurize, and explode violently. After the eruption the huge cloud of C02 gas released surged into the surrounding valleys, killing over 1700 people and thousands of livestock. The story really has the felling of a biblical disaster.

A reporter who visited the site after the disaster describes what he learned and saw. From his telling:

Survivors of the disaster recounted that at about 9pm on Thursday August 21, 1986, there was a powerful explosion in the lake after villagers had complained it had been boiling for five days. About three minutes after explosion, a violent wind started blowing from the lake to the south, invading the village of Fang, Chah, lower Nyos and Subum. The gas they said, was too hot and suffocated all living things. All those affected had burns on their bodies.

Here are some survivor stories from the Smithsonian Magazine.
scattered about lay the bodies of Suley’s children, 31 other members of her family and their 400 cattle. Suley kept trying to shake her lifeless father awake. “On that day there were no flies on the dead,” says Che. The flies were dead too.

Here's the Wikipedia article.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Here's a funny cartoon.

Real Life vs. Politics.

This is a funny observation too.

I also found this "Kids say the darndest things" page entertaining.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


This will make sense about half way through. Pretty incredible, lots of practice to make this video.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I was listening to some physicists explaining Einstein's equation E=MC^2 ==> Energy equals mass times the square of a maximum velocity squared ==> on this PBS site

Apparently, Einstein initially expressed the equation as M=E/(C^2), and several physicists state that this form of the equation gets more to the heart of what Einstein was communicating - that Mass is a function of the energy of an object. That as you add more energy to an object, you increase its mass, and similarly, when you take away energy you decrease its mass.

I thought these clips, in particular, were good:

Sheldon Glashow
The mass of 2 Hydrogen atoms and an Oxygen atom separately is a little bit more than those atoms combined into water H2O, because the H2O molecule is a lower energy state than the separate elements (you have to apply energy to separate Hydrogen and Oxygen.)

Frank Wilczek
Most of the mass of matter as we know it comes from energy. I can't quite get my mind around his comments, but I think he's saying matter by itself doesn't have much mass - but that it's the energy content of that matter that gives it its "heft".

Alan Guth
"What does the speed of light(C^2) have to do with Mass and Energy? Why is this maximum velocity in the equation?"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Immune system video

Watch your body's immune system in action. If I'm understanding correctly, the video is showing a white blood cell chasing down a staph bacterium.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The chimp has a better memory than me

Watch this. It may change the way you think about what's going on in the mind of animals. Watch.

Growth in Dubai

Look at the growth that's going on over in Dubai. All that change in less than 20 years.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Identical Twins

Identical twins aren't genetically identical.

"The youngest set of twins had the most identical genomes. Genetically, the oldest twins were the least alike."

It seems while they start out the same, differences in gene expression over time result in slight differences creeping in over time. Scientists indicate this is why one identical twin may get a hereditary disease and the other not.

Here's another article

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Militarization of Space

I'm thinking it's already here. It sounds like there are cover operations of all kinds, but given that so much US military tech revolves around usage of satellites, its not surprising

A couple of recent stories that sound like doubles for military tests:
Shooting down falling satellite

Shooting projectiles at the moon

Crab Nebula

The Astronomy Picture of the Day website has a fine image of the crab nebula up today. This nebula formed as the result of a supernova in 1054 that was recorded by Chinese astronomers. According to Chinese records the supernova was visible during daylight for 23 days.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cake cutting puzzle

This requires a bit of a twist in thinking. Picture a birthday cake. Cut the cake into 8 pieces using only 3 cuts.

Here's the source article with a link to the solution.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ocean Foam

I've never heard of this, but take a look at these pics of ocean foam in Australia

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I am _so_ glad that Congress is going to have more steroid hearings tomorrow. I'm driving home from work today and all they can seem to talk about is Roger Clemens and more hearings in front of congress.

What has elevated the topic of steroids in sports to the level that athletes get subpoenas to come to testify in front of congress?

Do I care? Well, in a small way, if for no other reason than I don't want athletes to have to risk their health to compete.

Is this something congress should be dealing with? I fail to see the relevance.

I guess it's a matter of emphasis. Of all the bad things people can do and not end up ridiculed on TV in front of congress, why should we single out steroids in sports? It seems too much like harassment to me, intended to humiliate rather than seek any kind of truth.

Maybe it'd be more fun if all the congressmen who get to grandstand about steriods have to testify publicly under oath about their own indiscretions or poor decisions ... And then have friends (or enemies) show up to give conflicting testimony.

That'd be a hearing worth watching, and it'd probably put an end to these silly things.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

CTSH transcript of conf. call

Cognizant Technology's conference call transcript is here.

Very strong results and outlook is strong. This combined with the previous call from Infosys INFY (posted a while back) makes me think the upside in these companies will begin to reveal itself. These have been beaten down on economic fears, but it's just not showing up in their outlook or results. I'm long both, and CTSH is my largest individual holding, but I'm very optimistic going forward based on what I'm hearing.

Warren Buffett video

This Warren Buffett video includes a wide range of observations. Here's a quote I liked:
"The most important thing about investing is not how big your circle of competence is, it's on understanding where the perimeter is so that you don't get outside of it."

Coca Cola Super Bowl Commercial

Coca Cola Super BOwl Commercial: Parade Balloon

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Monday, February 4, 2008

odds and ends

There was this roadrunner, coyote, and a phone booth in the middle of the desert...

and while you're at it let the poor dog out.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

IT environment in Businessweek

As readers are aware, I have a long position in several IT services companies including Cognizant and Infosys. Here's an article from Businessweek that does pretty good job of summarizing market conditions right now.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Marcus Aurelius for the day - 4.24

Here's some more from my favorite Roman Emperor.

4.24 “If you seek tranquility, do less.” Or more accurately, do what is essential… Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment “Is this necessary?”
Marcus Aurelius – Meditations from Gregory Hayes’ translation

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Blues

Here's a list of blues cliches. While I'm a Stevie Ray Vaughan fan, otherwise I'm not big into blues, but these "rules of blues" are pretty good.

A sample:

Make your own Blues name Starter Kit: a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Melon, Kiwi, etc.) c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.) For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jackleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")

My blues name will here-to-for be "Achy Grape Grant"

Hand Art and Pennies

Look at these. Impressive artwork incorporating a hand in every image. It took me a while to figure out how it was done on a couple.

And if you ever have some free time and a lot of pennies lying around, you might give this a try. I almost can't believe it can be built. Check out this tower. Or this.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Barack Obama

I try to keep political issues off this board, but I feel compelled to post that I've made up my mind to support Barack Obama's presidential campaign and have even done something I've never done before - donated money in support.

Simply put, he inspires me - and even though he's young and doesn't have the experience of some candidates - I think we need to give a visionary like him a chance. There's an upside with Barack that I can't see in the other candidates.


This Doodle page is kindof fun. Different things you draw will have different physics associated.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Civil War timeline

Learning something new: I was looking at the timeline from this Civil War website and learned that Abraham Lincoln was shot only 4 days after Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomatox - and that many confederate forces didn't surrender until after Lincoln had died.

Note this final photo of Lincoln taken the day he was shot.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Arkansas Trip

Had a business trip to Arkansas over the past several days. I visited Northwest Arkansas for the first time - Fayetteville /Bentonville area.

It's pretty country up there - actually kindof odd geography to encounter mountains and rocky cliffs after driving for so long through flat, fairly featureless, farm country. There are some striking views on the drive up I-540. I was up there for a meeting on Monday and it started sleeting. I got out of town just in time. I understand they closed the interstate for about 7 hours shortly after I left town. Because of the terrain there are lots of elevated bridges that will ice quickly when temperatures drop. I passed a wreck of about 4-5 cars on my way south on a particularly long and inclined bridge that backed up traffic considerably in the opposite direction.

Some other things about the trip
- On Sunday I arrived in Little Rock at about 7:00. The hotel front door was locked. I had to call the hotel on the cell phone to let me in. I then went to get something to eat and two of the restaurants I tried to stop at had already locked their doors before 8:00 on a Sunday night. Very odd evening.
- I get back to the hotel Monday night and my room card doesn't work. I was beginning to get the feeling they didn't want me there.
- I passed a "Toad Suck Park" somewhere between Little Rock and NW Arkansas. If I had time I would've stopped just to have said I was there. Maybe bought a T-Shirt.
- I think I passed a dead chicken on the side of the interstate. I can't say I've ever done that either.
- My meals were pretty lame. Sunday: Taco Bell. Monday: McDonalds and Papa Johns. Tuesday: Conoco. The Conoco might've been the best food of the entire bunch - I love those gas station potato wedges. And those cookies at the Double Tree were pretty good too.

Glad to be home now though. That's a lot of driving.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Insurance searches on google

I work as a market analyst in the insurance industry, and found this information about web searches from Google Trends to be interesting regarding car and home insurance shopping search in the US on the web.

Trend history for searches "car insurance" and "home insurance"

In "Car Insurance"
- Note the consistent decline in searches in the last 3-4 months of every year for the past 4 years.
- overall search volume in 2007 seems a bit lower than 2004 to 2006 - this would be consistent with the feeling in the market in 2007 that maybe there's not as much shopping going on, and would confirm suspicions that there's not as much organic shopping going on when there's not much rate activity happening. It's a "soft market" right now.
- July/August seems to consistently see a little spike in searches - correlates with high production months for major insurers.

- note far lower volume of "home insurance" searches, and less degree of seasonality (although home insurance searches seem to fall off the last few months of the year like auto.

Anyhow, I know this is off topic for this blog, but I was looking at this for work and it seemed pretty interesting to me, thought it might be for the readers here also.