Friday, December 12, 2014

Strandbeests - wind powered creatures

Creative Stuff:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

story: Alzheimers is type 3 diabetes

Interesting story - I hadn't heard this link before.   Evidence that Alzheimer's might be related to diabetes - at least as a correlated factor, and perhaps as contributing.  The connecting factor being that the brain has many insulin receptors governing brain glucose uptake.

Interesting read in any event.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Human Powered Helicopter

I just happened across this video of human powered helicopter called Gamera II, from the University of Maryland.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thirsty Tomatoes

Here's how the tomatoes looked after I got back over the weekend.  This was going on their second day without me watering them:

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Here's some of the first red tomatoes from this year.   They're looking to be pretty good.

The ones above are bigger than I grew last year.  Home Depot was out of the little ones that I like.  Below are some smaller greener Romas from extra plants that my uncle Danny brought to my Dad.  They should be coming in pretty soon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

HFT hearings

I'm watching the high frequency trading hearings on C-Span that likely arose from information published in Michael Lewis's "Flashboys" book that should arouse serious concerns from anyone who reads it.  I'm a fan of Brad Katsuyama who's talked about in the book who built a new exchange IEX to try to create more fair markets.

During the hearings, it is amazing to me how Sen Ron Johnson is willfully unconcerned during these hearings, and it's so frustrating to watch him try to get the panelists to say something other than what they're saying, and he seems to suggest that to even bring attention to these issues hurts investor confidence in the markets.  The panelists give an answer in conflict with his preferred answer, and he repeatedly tries to ask it a different way to get a different answer.  Much effort to create a case of: "there's nothing to see here, lets move along."

This is very much a case of diffuse harms (investors) vs. concentrated interests (hft firms, exchanges, brokers).

EDIT:  Thomas Farley, president of NYSE Group, actually just testified that part of the existing market structure (maker-taker pricing where brokers get paid for their orderflow) creates conflicts of interest in the market and he would be in favor of reducing/removing them.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Throwing out the old boom box

I'm going to have to throw out the old GE boom box.   My brother got this back when Michael Jackson was coming out with the Thriller album, around December 1983.   I ended up taking it from him when I went to college.

The radio still works on it, but the tape deck started dragging pretty badly a few years back, and today I checked and it doesn't work at all.   Model was GE cassette recorder 3-5257A.  I'm going to sound old, but they really don't make them like this anymore.  In my opinion, people would buy more boom boxes again if they were built solidly like this one.  I never got another because the one's in the stores seemed so cheap in comparison.  In particular, this one made excellent recordings - I'd use it to record song ideas mostly and that's something the newer consumer decks got progressively worse at over time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I've spent a considerable amount of time researching this, and I've concluded there is an optimal way to make a BLT sandwich.  Specifically - it'll taste quite a bit better based on how you assemble the ingredients.

Now, first off, my BLT includes bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, American cheese, a fried egg w/ some onions blended into it, and toast.  Here's one assembled:

But here's the key point:  It matters how you order the components on the sandwich  Simply putting the ingredients together randomly will make your sandwich less than what it could be.  It just won't taste as good.

So when you arrange a BLT sandwich, I suggest this ordering - from bottom to top between the two pieces of toast.   The bottom being the bottom of the sandwich as you are eating it - so that it's closer to your tongue.
1.  MAYO:  putting the mayo here is much better than putting mayo on the top of the sandwich.  I sometimes would mistakenly put mayo on the top piece of toast and wonder why my sandwich was no good.  Put the mayo on the bottom.
2.  TOMATOES:  put the tomatoes on the mayo near the bottom of the sandwich.  I like slicing little Roma or cherry tomatoes best because they keep longer and might have more flavor, but any tomato will do.  Keep it at the bottom.  The sandwich will taste drier if you don't put the tomato at the bottom.
3.  BACON:  Yes.  Put the bacon on top of the mayo and tomato.  As you eat the mayo, tomato, and bacon will all merge together and taste best in this order.  You can try it, but I think if you put the lettuce or other ingredients "between" any of these 3 ingredients, it won't taste as good.  Usually the bacon is coming out of the skillet at this point in time during sandwich assembly, so it's straight from the frying pan onto the sandwich.
4. CHEESE:  I put a half slice of American cheese on top of the bacon, broken in two pieces.  I think it helps hold the sandwich together as the cheese melts, and it just tastes good there.
5.  FRIED EGG w/ ONIONS.  I used to not put an egg on the sandwich, but found out I like it this way.  As I pull the bacon out of the skillet I put an egg in, and toss in some chopped onions with it while it is cooking.  I crack the yolk and mix the onion pieces with the egg and it all cooks into a single fried egg "patty".  The onions make a difference.  When the egg is done I put it on top of the cheese, which I think it melts to to help hold everything together.
6.  LETTUCE: The lettuce is best put on the top of the sandwich.  I think partially - I like the texture of the lettuce, and it'll still give a good crunch on the top of the sandwich without interfering with all the good stuff at the bottom.  Also - if you put the lettuce in the middle of the sandwich things will slide around like crazy.  Lettuce has a high viscosity I guess.  Don't believe me?  Try putting the lettuce in the middle of the sandwich - you'll have a wreck on your hands, and the lettuce anywhere but at the top will make your sandwich taste less good.

And the final point to reiterate.  Make sure you eat with layer 1 on the bottom closest to your tongue when eating, and layer 6 toward the roof of your mouth.  

That's pretty much it. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Job creators and Business

I hadn't posted in a while, and for some reason the thought about something I read a while back was floating around in my head today.  It relates to the phrase of "job creators" that we hear in political discourse.  I think too often that phrase is thrown around loosely and "job creators" gets equated with all business, even big established businesses who on net are shrinking workforce.

Now, obviously we shouldn't have issue with businesses shrinking work forces as needed to stay competitive, but at the same time we should probably make the distinction that pro-business policies are not necessarily the same as pro job creation policies.   What follows probably makes the distinction that pro-small business policies should be favored if job creation is the goal.

So I google around and find this article "Picking on the Job Creators"that points out for the 3 year period of data he looked at in summer of 2012 companies w/ 500 or more employees had decreasing net employment.  All of the net 2.6 million new jobs created over that time were on net from companies with less than 500 employees

I decided to look at the FRED data series on non-farm payrolls to see if things have changed.  All of the following charts are from that data  First I looked at the data series in totality from 1-2005 to 3-2014, and employment growth is shown in the following:

In the above we clearly see that over the entire time period of the data (05-present) we see that all the net job creation is coming from business with less than 500 employess, and 72% of job creation is coming from businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Below is what the picture looks like in annual terms from 2005 to 2013.  Interestingly, we've started to see the large businesses grow employment again beginning in 2010.   In particular note the employment changes as we moved through the financial crisis that started in the last half of 2007, and whose effects were primarily seen in employment data changes in 2008 and 2009.

So the thought I have looking at this is - so what has happened since 2008?  What size of business has been a net job creator for 2008 forward?  What businesses are creating jobs to replace those lost since the financial crisis?

So now lets look at the key time period from 2008 where employment growth turned decidedly negative in every business size, and pull that forward to present.

Alright, so now we see that since 2008 the small businesses of 1-49 employees have created the vast majority of jobs, more than replacing those that were lost in 08-09.  Interestingly businesses of 50-499 employees have still not climbed out of the hole they dug in 2008-09.  Same for businesses of size 500-999.   Interestingly the largest businesses that employ 1000 or more people have increased employment some now, and are part of the net job creator statistic.

Is this a good thing?  I really can't say.  My guess is these jobs are not as good as the jobs that were lost.  I have no data on that, just a suspicion.  I do think the data still points, however, to accommodative policy for small businesses if policy-makers are wanting to support employment growth.  And it's probably good for us to specifically think about small businesses of less than 50 employees when we hear the conversation about "job creation."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Using Doppler Effect helps find lost plane's path

Jet Fell Into Ocean With All Lost, Premier Says

NY Times quote:  "Guided by a principle of physics called the Doppler effect, the company, Inmarsat, analyzed tiny shifts in the frequency of the plane’s signals to infer the plane’s flight path and likely final location. The method had never before been used to investigate an air disaster, officials said."

Here's a story from cnn with a more detail on using the ping data off of satellites that revealed slight expansion or compression of the signal as the plane moved while it was transmitting.
CNN quote: "If you sit at a train station and you listen to the train whistle -- the pitch of the whistle changes as it moves past. That's exactly what we have," explained CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers, who has studied Doppler technology. "It's the Doppler effect that they're using on this ping or handshake back from the airplane. They know by nanoseconds whether that signal was compressed a little -- or expanded -- by whether the plane was moving closer or away from 64.5 degrees -- which is the longitude of the orbiting satellite."

Edit:  Here's an interesting map from the BBC showing projected path at varying speeds.  Just eyeballing things seems like course changes were designed to avoid radar - especially turning south after out of site even of military radars.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why are mango seeds so big?

My wife brought back a mango from the grocery store the other day.  Mangos are a fairly large fruit, but when I cut it open I find the seed itself is about 3 1/2" to 4" long based on the mango I had.

So I'm sitting here wondering why the seed is as big as it is?  My thinking runs along these lines:  Seeds of most fruits are smaller because the fruit itself "wants" to be eaten, go through the digestive track of some animal, and wind up in a pile of manure that will give a new plant - in this case a mango tree - a fertile place to grow.  But in this case the seed seems particularly hard to eat.

So I'm considering the unpleasantness of not only swallowing a mango seed, but also the unpleasantness of passing a mango seed - and I'm thinking something much larger than me must've at one time or the other led to such relatively huge seeds.   Admittedly, I guess it's possible that human cultivation has increased the size of the seed and as a parallel result the seed got bigger, but there are many large fruits which tend to have small seeds, so it seems unless the tendency for large seed was there to begin with that human cultivation would've gradually selected for smaller seeds when possible (or even seedless like grapes or watermelons). 

Now mangos are tropical, common in India, Bangledesh, and the Phillipines per wikipedia, so I'm wondering what huge tropical animal used to or currently eats mangos and can pass the seeds.  Elephants I guess come to mind, but why would a plant restrict itself to requiring animals the size of elephants to eat it.  It seems the natural course of events would favor smaller seeds in a fruit so more animals that are smaller than elephants could swallow and pass.  So I guess I'm a little confused by the large size of this seed.  It doesn't make sense that a super-sweet fruit that attracts insects and animals would have such a huge seed - and it's difficult to understand the benefit of the huge seed.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Stock Update

Thought I'd update things.  I sold my position in CHRW at loss today after what I felt was a pretty bad conference call.  This company has been excellent in the past, and may be in the future, but I just didn't like what I was hearing.  I had waited a long time for it to come into price range and was thinking it'd be one I bought and held for a long time.

Overall I've added some positions since last time.  Here's what things look like now.

INTC Intel - still my largest holding, but it's just not moving, and seems like results keep getting pushed out into the future.  It pays a nice dividend, but I'm expecting some capital gains at some point.
BRK.B - Berkshire Hathaway
CMI Cummins
NEU NewMarket
CTSH Cognizant Tech
OUTR Outerwall (Coinstar) - recently announced very good results
QCOM Qualcom - I'm glad I picked them up as a rider to INTC.  They're executing better.
LQDT Liquidity Services.  A new position from a while back. Good report recently
CHKP Checkpoint software
GEOS Geospace - a new position from a while back.  I'm down on this one so far but like what I heard in the conference call.
VMI Valmont Industries
SNI Scripps Networks
CF   CF Industries
PETM PetSmart.  A new position from a couple weeks back.
AFL  AFLAC.  A new position.  I normally try to stay away from financial companies (with exception of BRK.B), but this looked good to me and I sortof understand the insurance market.
FFIV  F5 Networks
HFC  Holly Frontier
TCX  Tucows.  This was a small position for me that I hadn't listed, but it has grown into a decent size - enough to list it here.
 DE  Deere and co.  Relatively new addition.
GES  Guess.  I've had this a long time for dividend and what I thought would be cap appreciation, but it really hasn't done much and retail trends don't seem favorable to me.

Other smaller positions include: TIVO, CRUS, DHX, PETS

Saturday, February 1, 2014

R&D tax credit quote in conference call

I thought this was a pretty funny quote in the recent NewMarket conference call.  

From the call: "That being said, as we speak, Congress has not yet renewed the tax credit for R&D for 2014. If Congress does not pass the credit, each quarter next year will have an additional tax, which represents the absence of that credit. We get about $3 million a year of R&D credits. This seems to be a bit of a pattern though, where Congress eventually passes the credit, but often is late in the year and made retroactive to the beginning."

It ties in well to how Lawrence Lessig says congress builds in dependencies in the tax code as opportunities to raise campaign money.  Instead of making something permanent in law, like a permanent "R&D" tax credit, congress will instead make it annually renewable and use it as a lever to raise money for campaign contributions.

Interesting - I didn't realize this, but Lessig did a TED talk on this very topic re: influence of money in campaigns.  Really good stuff starts around 7minute mark.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Excellent Creative Commons images on Pixabay

I do a little bit of graphic design, and often I find I need just a background image of some type.  Often I'm  building a banner highlighting one of my wife's new books - so often the image is not central - it's just to set the right tone (at the beach, nature, sunshine sunset, etc).  I often don't need the "perfect" photo - heck often I use vacation photos that I've taken myself if they work - but sometimes you need a pic of somewhere you've never been - or just an artistic abstract background.  

Anyhow, a website that I've found very useful is Pixabay .  This website contains some very high quality creative commons licensed work (usually CC0 licensing which means you can use without worrying about licensing restrictions) and the site is searchable and easy to use.  And Pixabay is not just for background images.  If you need an image that sits front and center - you very well could find something here - although anything with peoples faces/expressions is going to be in short supply - likely due to the legal signoffs around using photos/likenesses.  Still - very useful site with great pictures.

I've uploaded some of my own photos there for usage (my photography isn't the best, but it might be helpful to some folks).  Several of my submissions have gotten rejected, so they just don't take any old photo - so only the good stuff makes it onto the site.  For folks like me who want a community to contribute to as well as be able to use a few photos for what little graphic design uses I have - is excellent. 

Here's a few pics I've uploaded to the site
Cicada Shell Macro
Cool Flower and Butterfly Tongue Macro
A Wooly Worm Macro