Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Test In Which I Figure Out Tables In Blogger


A ha! The issue is line breaks. Blogger is adding BR elements when I enter a hard return. So the secret is to not put any hard returns in the table's html.

Easiest way to deal with it is to write the html first with hard breaks, such that the table structure is good, then remove the hard breaks.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Web Comics and Mondays

I don't buy into that "Monday Blues" thing. At all. Weekends are every bit as busy as week days, so the shift from Sunday to Monday isn't that big a deal.

Given that, look at the posting schedules for web comics. Here, I've prepared a handy chart of the web comics I read regularly...
See a pattern? Every web comic posts on Mondays! Why is that? I understand why the dailies (Sheldon) and week-dailies (PVP, Evil, Starslip) would all post on Monday, but why the others?

Seems like a traffic opportunity to me: someone oughta start posting a weekly on Tuesdays.

(BTW, I couldn't find a good way to add links to each line in the table, so here they are...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bank of America, Merrill, and Questions

Apparently I'm not the only one wondering about those revelations that Bank of America was pressured into buying Merrill Lynch.

But my questions are pretty basic compared to what's being asked now. Donald Luskin and others are starting to wonder if TARP might not be altogether illegal.

(h/t Insta)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Who Is James Wood?

He's director of the University of Utah Bureau of Business and Economic Research. SL Trib articles have quoted him twice in the last month.

First he told Rebecca Walsh "What we don't know is how many people [the Home Run program is] going to bring into the market that would not otherwise be in the market." Then he told Lesley Mitchell that Daybreak is unique. "It's a true mixed use project, where you have a range of residential options as well as commercial choices," he said.

I think he's right about the Home Run program. Handing out $6000 checks won't do anything to stimulate new home sales, it just diverts buyers from existing homes.

The Daybreak comment sounds like paid testimony. Daybreak isn't the first mixed use project in Salt Lake, and it's not even a particularly good one.

Bank of America: Stable or Not?

This Bloomberg article confuses me.

  1. Federal regulators didn't like BoA's earnings and dividends, worrying BoA wouldn't be able to raise capital.
  2. Regulators suggested cut their dividend from $.32 to $.05 per share.
  3. The Fed pressured BoA to buy Merrill-Lynch, which they did in December.
  4. BoA lost $1.79B in Q4 '08.
  5. Merrill lost more than $15B.
  6. I don't know how much of that gets attributed to BoA's books, but it must be more than $1.79B.

It looks to me like BoA was on track to profit in Q4, and the Merrill acquisition pulled them down. If so, then BoA didn't really need a bailout at all. So some questions:

  1. If regulators were worried about BoA's stability, why pressure them to buy Merrill and take on more instability?
  2. If BoA hadn't bought Merrill, would they have needed any TARP money?
  3. Why not just prop up Merrill directly? I understand the desire to appear "capitalist", but nationalizing Merrill strikes me as less intervention than TARP.
Clearly I'm missing something.

Marriage Abandoned

HotAir's Greenroom has a compilation of several posts on the subject of marriage. The takeaway:
for my fellow Christian conservatives: we haven’t got a moral leg to stand on. Our divorce rate is identical to the national average. We allow our churches to be used as elaborate stage sets for bridezilla productions, often with just pro forma premarital counseling or sometimes none at all. When our fellow church members get divorced, we do not counsel them adequately. We fail to create a culture of marriage in our youth and twenty-somethings. We have shown massive disrespect for marriage. When we demand others respect it, it’s not surprising that we’re not taken seriously.
That's pretty strong, but I think it's on target.

I've often made a similar point, that you can't condemn gay sex as a sin and then wink at fornication and adultery. Who you choose as a partner isn't the issue. The commandments forbid sex outside marriage. I can see where this might be an argument in favor of gay marriage, but the commandments also include "multiply and replenish the earth."

If two lovers want to formalize their relationship, I've got no problem with that. If they want to tell people they're married, that's fine too. But I don't believe it's marriage, and I don't think I should be forced vis-a-vis state or Federal law to accept it as such.

Editing Posts

It's getting harder and harder to resist editing old posts. Take this para for example...
When you consider the number of collectors you have to build, as well as the number of power lines, solar looks a lot less environmentally attractive. The space-based solution goes a long way to neutralizing that issue.
Not as clear as I would like. I'd edit it this way (which I'm sure I'll want to re-edit in the future)...
When you consider how many collectors and power lines are really needed, solar looks a lot less environmentally attractive. The space-based solution goes a long way to overcoming this issue.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

If Anyone Still Doesn't Understand the Tea Party Protests...

...this is what they're about.

And judging by what I see on Fox, CNN and MSNBC, there's a lot of pundits out there who only think they understand the protests.

Attention all journalists and pundits: just because you found a few citizen protesters who couldn't express their views in front of a camera doesn't mean they don't have good reason to protest.

Attention Fox news: stop gravy training. We all know you don't give a crap about real politics, you only care about advertising revenue.

Friday, April 17, 2009

UML on Linux

Why is it so hard to find a decent UML diagram tool for Linux? Dia is difficult to use. ArgoUML's class diagram is okay, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to add a type to objects in the sequence diagram. And it's unhelpfully weighted down with namespaces, named collaborations, and packages. I don't care about that stuff, I just want to draw a simple diagram.

Visio isn't that hot either, but it used to be, before MSFT got their mitts on it. Why can't I have something like that? I suppose it's because I haven't written it for myself yet.

Salt Lake Tea Party Round-up

I've got a number of photos to post from the Salt Lake Tea Party protest at the Federal office building. But Notoriously Conservative has already posted his here. He's also posted videos of Bishop, Chaffetz, and Shurtleff addressing the crowd.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Solar Power from Orbit

So beamed solar power has been discussed for a while, but it's never been more than science fiction. It still hasn't happened, but according to MSNBC.com it's looking...imminent.

Sounds like a great technology to me, but with some caveats. The collectors would be very high efficiency (no atmosphere to deal with), but the capital expense must be enormous. Especially since they'd need to be deployed higher than most satellites (I would guess near or higher than geosynchronous, which is ~38000km), otherwise they'd suffer the same nighttime occlusion that plagues earthbound solar collectors.

Oh, and while collection would enjoy high efficiency, transmission would still have to deal with atmospheric effects. Also, transmitting megawatts through the atmosphere is bound to have side effects (I would think the heat bloom would be substantial), but maybe they've got a solution for that.

Edit: Meant to quote this...
Unlike ground-based solar arrays, space satellites could generate power 24 hours a day, unaffected by cloudy weather or Earth's day-night cycle. The capacity factor for a ground-based solar is typically less than 25 percent. In contrast, the capacity factor for a power-generating satellite is expected to be 97 percent, Marshall said.
That's the issue that virtually all solar power promoters elide. They focus on max power production, and ignore the average, not realizing that the nature of solar power and Earth's curvature require you to provision two to three times as much solar generation as you would coal- or gas-based.

When you consider the number of collectors you have to build, as well as the number of power lines, solar looks a lot less environmentally attractive. The space-based solution goes a long way to neutralizing that issue.

(And yes, I realize the article says solar's capacity factor is less than 25 percent, suggesting you'd have to build four to five times as much solar capacity. That would be true if power consumption were uniformly distributed over the 24 hours in a day. But power consumption falls significantly at night, meaning nighttime areas wouldn't be drawing as much, requiring less power capacity.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Google Addresses the Newspaper Industry

Apparently I wasn't the only one confused by yesterday's attack on Google and other news aggregators. WSJ reports that Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, addressed the Newspaper Association's annual convention today:
Mr. Schmidt noted that Google has a multi-million dollar deal to host AP content on its pages. He added that he was "a little confused by all the excitement" in the media following the AP announcement on Monday. Mr. Schmidt, however, did not directly address the AP's initiative.
How could he directly address it? It didn't include any concrete proposals. If anything, it was an acknowledgment of how far behind the times newspapers have fallen.

I'm not sure I want Google owning any more of the news business than they currently do, but newspapers should pay attention to Schmidt's message. They need some deep thinking on how their business will evolve onto the web, and they need it soon.

Mortgage Delinquencies Up Again

Reuters reports 7 percent of mortgages are more than 30 days past due, as reported by Equifax. The article doesn't mention the other credit agencies.

Equifax also reports 39.8 percent of sub-prime mortgage have fallen past due, up 23.7 percent from year.

Whoa, wait a minute: forty percent of sub-primes are delinquent?! And that's up 24 percent from last year? That means one in six sub-primes were delinquent in Q1 '08. How was this not a major problem? Why didn't we hear about it? How could anyone think sixteen percent delinquency was anything but a bad risk? And yet the GSE's, Countrywide, AIG, and the rest of the financial industry were trading derivatives of these loans as AAA investments!

Is anyone asking about this now? In all the talk about financial regulation, what's being done about sub-primes?

Edit: Fixed a spelling error in the title (grr).

Democrats May Be Smarter than Republicans

A.P. reports Roger Pearson, Democrat from Connecticut, is considering a run against Sen. Dodd in 2010. Pearson is unhappy with Dodd's handling of the finance crisis. He also has some sharp things to say about Dodd's ethics.

Pearson hasn't announced an official run yet, and it's far too soon to tell how well he would do in a primary against Dodd. But if he does defeat Dodd, then you have to give Connecticut Democrats credit for being smarter than Alaskan Republicans, who re-nominated Sen. Stevens amidst his recent corruption scandal and after he had been indicted. Stevens' case is now being thrown out, but it's good he lost his re-election bid: he's among the most corrupt scumbags that ever walked the Senate floor. Had Alaskan Republicans been principled, they would have replaced Stevens much earlier. Or if they had even been smart, they would have replaced him in 2008, and would have had a much better chance of holding that seat.

(h/t Insta)

Monday, April 6, 2009

A.P. vs. Web Aggregators

From the New York Times:
The Associated Press said on Monday that it will demand that Web sites obtain permission to use the work of The A.P. or its member newspapers, and share revenue with the news organizations, and that it will take legal action those that do not.

Associated Press executives said the policy was aimed at major search engines like Google, Yahoo and their competitors, and also at news aggregators like the Huffington Post, as well as companies that sell packaged news services. They said they do not want to stop the appearance of articles around the Web, but to exercise some control over it and to profit from it. The A.P. also said it is developing a system to track news articles online and determine whether they were used legally.
I'm confused: Are they talking about Google News or the Google search engine? Are they saying the snippets in Google News, HuffPo, and Yahoo News infringe A.P.'s copyright?

And this sounds interesting...
One goal of The A.P. and its members, [Sue Cross, VP of A.P.] said, is to make sure that the top search engine results for news are “the original source or the most authoritative source,” not a site that copied or paraphrased the work of news organization.
I see two ways to read that. Either she thinks Google and Yahoo should be the top-level news producers, or she thinks the news aggregators should modify their indexing algorithms to somehow favor the "news origination" site. I think that means she wants Google News, for example, to be able to somehow identify which news organization (e.g. NYT, WaPo, Podunk Daily News, etc.) originally broke the story and give precedence to their online article. The news aggros might not mind doing that, but does the A.P. even know which organization broke the story, and do they have the source URL? I'm guessing not.

Or is she saying Google's main search engine should weight source organization url's? If so she's crazy. Search engines by definition are site agnostic: a web site is a web site.

Meanwhile, aren't these source organizations already getting paid? Don't you have to pay A.P. to print or post any article? And as part of the deal, don't you have to print the byline? So people already know where the article came from, and can either link through to the source or search for it in (you guessed it) Google?

Alright, I'm still confused.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Summers Overlooks "Frightening" Trades

Really interesting article at TPM about Iris Mack, a former quantitative analyst at Harvard Management Corp., which manages Harvard U.'s huge endowments. She didn't like the way HMC's money managers were trading derivatives, and complained in writing to then-Harvard President Larry Summers. She was accused of making unsubstantiated accusations and subsequently fired. He now serves as Director of the National Economic Council, and provides key economic advice to President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner.

(Edit: h/t Insta.)