Sunday, January 24, 2010

Whale Song

I have not real comment here other than I find this piece of data on the songs of blue whales quite interesting:

The best records exist for the whales off California, and they showed that the whales sing at a frequency 31% lower than they did in the 1960s, when blue whales around the world had been commercially hunted to the brink of extinction.

The article notes that the frequency of blue whale song has been decreasing over time in all areas of the world. Read the article for conjecture on the "why" - but it may simply be that higher populations of blue whales means their song doesn't have to travel as far to reach others so they can sing at a lower frequency and still be heard over other noises in the ocean.

Pre-filled tax forms

Here's a neat idea. A pre-filled tax return with the income information that the government already has. Makes alot of sense to me - seems that a big portion of the work of creating a tax return is transferring data from paper forms that the govt. already has regarding income. Data here says in a test run in California it's far cheaper to process than how it's currently done.

Politically this is a tough go though - as tax return is big business - and making it easier to file reduces the money the tax preperation business could earn on the "easy" returns.

Anyhow, I thought this was a good idea: Why Can’t the I.R.S. Help Fill in the Blanks?

Thursday, January 21, 2010


These are good for a funny read if you have a while:

Some of my favorites





Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Retiring my old clock radio

My Grandmother, "Mom Mim," got me this clock radio back when I was in about the third grade. If I'm not mistaken it was a birthday gift. Note the faux wood that was all the rage back then. It was packed with features like a digital clock with green numbers, an AM/FM radio, as well as an alarm (with snooze!) that I could switch to either wake me with the radio playing or just have it buzz at me. It's probably @1980 model clock if I had to guess

It's been a good clock for me, but it's now time to retire it. The radio on/off long ago broke long ago (although I could listen to the radio using the snooze button), and alot of the buttons were sticky, but the alarm switch was still functional so I've used it up to now - probably for nearly 30 years - as I'm almost 40 yrs old. Lately the alarm switch has started slipping too and won't stay on, so I'm going to have to retire it.

It's strange the thoughts you attach to something old that spans different parts of your life, and it's really kindof sad to decommission the old clock. My youngest memories of the clock are of twisting the radio dial and listening to all the different radio channels out there. When I was young I remember finding the oldies channel in Louisville and listening to all the old rock-n-roll songs I'd never heard. That was back in the day when the announcer would introduce the songs, or break in at the end of the song to tell you who the artist was. Near the clock I kept a notebook paper list of my favorite oldies songs as I learned them. Songs like Don McLean's "American Pie", Otis Reddings "Sitting by the Dock of the Bay", The Turtles "Happy Together", Tommy Roe "Dizzy", or The McCoy's "Hang on Sloopy." The list gradually grew very long and I remember trying to rank the songs every once in a while. The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" always ended near the top of my list.

Looking at the clock also makes me think of waking up very early for certain trips, like getting up early to go on my first "caving" trip one weekend with teachers and friends at elementary school, or getting up early to go on my first fishing trip that used a boat at Lake Cumberland.

In college it kept me on schedule I guess, although I gotta admit I almost never made it to that 8:00 chemistry class. I could blame my roomate Kyle, but we were just too lazy for our own good. Luckily the bookstore had good study guides and we made it through fine, but as a lesson to all youngsters out there: Never schedule an 8:00 college class - you won't make it. The 7:30 labs on Friday were mandatory or we probably wouldn't have made it to those either.

As I've grown older the clock has always been there glowing dimly by my head almost every night. I'd gotten so good at turning the alarm off that I could almost do it without waking up. Maybe that's why I usually tend to be a little late for work.

But mainly I think I like the old clock because it was a gift from my grandmother. I was a little fella when she got it for me, but in a way it represents the support and expectations that helped me get from there to here over the course of 30-odd years.

My wife got me a new alarm clock today. Makes me wonder what new thoughts I'll attach to it. What stories it will preside over. And I wonder whether it'll outlast me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Guantanamo guard meets up with released inmates

Here's an interesting story about a Guantanamo guard meeting up with some released Guantanamo prisoners - story from the BBC.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Idealization of childhood

Strangely I saw this posted on the economics blog marginal revolution, but I think it probably hits on a truism that we remember the that past more favorably than it was. It's a Daily Show clip, so it's a a bit politically charged, so ignore if it's not your cup of tea, but I think it does show how easy it is to overlook the progress our country has made in many areas through idealization of the past.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

I've noticed something...

It's pretty dang cold outside. Roads are a little bit slick. Some snow on the ground. Very weird. Peace, Captain Obvious

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Afghan Intelligence criticism

In this BBC report, U.S. top military intelligence officer Major General Michael T. Flynn is highly critical of our intelligence efforts in Afghanistan. I found the degree of candor surprising:

He says "the vast intelligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which US and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade. Ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the correlations between various development projects and the levels of cooperation among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers".

Nitty Gritty of credit and debit cards

Here's an interesting piece on the behind-the-scenes costs to retailers and to you of using credit and debit cards.

- @0.7% of purchase price is a fee
- 1% to 3% interchange fee that goes to banks

the National Retail Federation says the interchange fees cost households an average of $427 in 2008.
- amount varies depending on credit or debit
- amount varies depending on whether you sign your debit/ or punch in your debit card PIN

Retailers say they inevitably have to pass along costs. Is the convenience worth it? Would you pay differently if your bill was different based on how you paid? Do the agreements that prevent vendors from charging different cash/debit/credit prices distort consumer habits (rhetorical)?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chris Johnson - going for 2000 rushing

Even though the game doesn't mean much, I'm enjoying watching Chris Johnson for the Titans make a run for 2000 rushing yards for the season in today's game vs. Seattle. He's already broken Marshall Faulk's "total yards from scrimmage" today, and claimed the franchise's rushing record from Earl Campbell. He's only about 20 yards from 2000 yds rushing as I'm typing. Hoping he gets there.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Star Wars Capitalists

The Empire rings the opening bell on wall street.