Monday, March 29, 2010

Computer Vouchers / Subsidies

Here's an interesting study on the effect of vouchers to purchase computers given to low income households. It turns out they're mostly used to play more video games - and actually kids grades dropped because they were spending more time playing video games. Use for homework was negligible. In fact the subsidies let the low income households play more games than the higher income households.

So if you ask me what I think about internet subsidies for low income households - nah - let's not go there. Not exactly the kind of social equity to be looked for.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Social Insecurity

From the NYTimes today:

Social Security to See Payout Exceed Pay-In This Year

Presuming I make it there - 27 years to go for me under current rules. I've almost assumed it'll be gone by the time I got old, but it would be nice if the program were reformed so that all that money I'm paying into the system (I think it's @14-15% of income) leaves something for me. There's alot of my generation that won't have any pensions left, and the stock market savings aren't going to be sufficient- especially the way the market's been behaving recently.

I'd worry more, but the solutions are not painful - raising qualifying age for benefits comes to mind. Raising the Social Security tax is distateful to me though - fix the program using current revenue base from the working population.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Harry Houdini died

From Harry Houdini's obituary in the 1926 New York times - FULL STORY CLICK HERE. Lots of details of his life are included also.

According to statements made by the physicians, the playful punches he received in Montreal were the direct cause of Houdini's death, for one of the blows caused the appendix to burst, saturating his system with poison.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Too many scientists?

I love articles like this that challenge the conventional wisdom. In this case the article argues that the perception that there is a shortage of science, math, engineering and research talent in the U.S is entirely incorrect. In fact it argues the opposite: That large numbers of PHD grads in scientific fields have great difficulty finding work related to their field of study.

Here's the story from Scientific American. It's well worth a read.


many observers believe that the existing system of research by professors who constantly produce large numbers of scientists unlikely to achieve their career aspirations is near collapse. The real crisis in American science education is not young Americans’ inability to learn, or the schools’ inability to teach, but a distorted job market’s inability to provide them careers worthy of their abilities.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Market structure and high speed intenet

Here's interesting article on the growing power of cable monopolies over high speed internet access - and why our internet costs much more than other places in the world. I didn't realize that our costs were so much higher.

Here's the story.

It sounds like a building monopolies local in high speed internet is leading to a breakup scenario similar to the AT&T long distance monopoly breakup from back in 1982.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

World's tallest building - Burg Khalifa in Dubai

I was reading an article in the NYTimes that folks are beginning to move into the world's newest tallest building in Dubai - the Burg Kahlifa. If you're interested in the history of tall structures (going way back in time) and building techniques the article is an interesting read.

Here's a link with details of the building and a very cool photo. It really is a sleek and cool looking building. I don't know why, but these man-made marvels capture my imagination:

Here's a pretty cool video showing the opening cermony:

an AP story:

And an impressive video from the observation deck

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Planet X

Back in grade school or middle school I remember reading about the hypothesis of an additional large undiscovered but massive object in our solar system with an orbit far out beyond Pluto.

This idea comes back to life in this story that argues that the orbit of one of the recently discovered large "dwarf planets" (Sedna) can't readily be explained given known solar system objects.

In particular note this graphic that is linked in the story showing the relative distance and difference in orbit from the other solar system objects.

Sedna's location doesn't make sense.

"Sedna shouldn't be there," said Brown. "There's no way to put Sedna where it is. It never comes close enough to be affected by the Sun, but it never goes far enough away from the Sun to be affected by other stars."

Perhaps a massive unseen object is responsible for Sedna's mystifying orbit, its gravitational influence keeping Sedna fixed in that far-distant portion of space.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Toyota stats

Thought this was interesting regarding the Toyota recall.

Walking a mile or driving while using a cell phone are riskier.

From the article:

The accelerator problem is adding about six deaths every year.... Bottom line, it is important to keep risks in perspective," Fischbeck said. "The stuck accelerator problem does make driving riskier and needs to be fixed. But at the same time, the increased risk is very small.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fun commercial

I don't play the lotto - but I love this song ("More than a feeling" by Boston) and was cracking up at the commercial.

Now I gotta go jump in a big pit of balls.

Observation of the Day

Those that know me are often shocked by my Ninja-like reflexes, but sometimes even those are not enough. Have you ever noticed that despite your quickest reflexes, when you drop Nachos on your shirt it only takes a split second for them to soak in and leave a stain?

I was also spotted walking around Hobby Lobby today with a spot on my belly.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sold the rest of Garmin GRMN

I sold the rest of my Garmin GRMN position this morning. This is one of those stocks that looks so cheap to me on the metrics and their financial position is excellent, but I'm starting to buy into the idea that their business is trapped by new on-coming smartphone technology and they might not have a way out. I'm hesitant to write GRMN off because to me stand-alone navigation systems just seem so easy and make alot of sense, but the more I talk to fans of i-phones and google-phones I'm less sure of the future. I don't get really "get" what's going on here - but alot of people really seem to love their way expensive cell phone plans and - at least to me - "complicated" phones/multipurpose devices.

This is probably dangerous to me as one of my larger holdings at the moment is RIMM - makers of the Blackberry - and it looks very cheap to me also and growth is still there - but I'm keeping my eye open on it also.

I don't really have any other good ideas for where to put the proceeds right now, so I'll have to start some research for new companies.