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.