Monday, February 23, 2009

Krugman Suggests "Pre-Privatization"

Well a blog called Calculated Risks suggests it, but Krugman writes about it in this NYTimes article. Basically he says that the FDIC has been taking over insolvent (read: not enough cash) banks at a rate of about 2 per week. They take them, expose all their bad loans, debts, etc. and then resell them to the private sector. This is exactly what we need right now as these big banks are basically dead man walking banks, just waiting for the other shoe to drop. That's why they aren't lending (they can't - no money) and why we are beginning to see a stagnating economy.

I guess we could just let the private sector take care of it, as we can see from the last 8 years how well leaving the banking industry free to their own accords really seems to do the trick. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Love British Slang

My new favorite word:

squiffy (adj.)- to be slightly intoxicated

She's been out with a couple of people for a drink after work, and she's a bit squiffy.

The Great Divide (Theory v. Engineering)

Anne has been in town again this past week, which is nice as always. Last time, I didn't have a chance to talk to her about grad school, careers, physics, and all that jazz- so I've tried to step it up a notch. Some of you may or may not know this, but I personally feel like my 3 years in physics grad school was a 100% complete waste of my time. The degree didn't increase my job prospects, salary, or knowledge. It didn't increase my network of people in business. It didn't really get me much better at teaching (though I have to admit it did on certain levels). None of these very important career skills were encouraged- actually I'd say that they were discouraged for the sake of research. Sure I got much better at solving 4 dimensional partial differential equations using tensor notation (I'm not joking here), but does that really do anything for you besides massage one's already over-blown ego? 

I suppose it does if you are planning on going into the blossoming and ever increasing field of high-energy particle physics, or maybe if you are studying the Big Bang, Inflationary Theory, and Black Holes- but I've never really been interested in that fringe theorizing. Here's the thing about physics that seperates it from philosophy- experiment. Something goes from being a mathematical theory to a physical principle through the mode of experiment. YET, the theorists typically get all of the glory and experimentalists get all of the money (read- funding).  

The one thing that I keep coming back to is the fact that theory, experiement, and engineering are inseparably inner-twined. They all work together in this great big community to create the Next Great Thing- the problem is that professors chest bumping and inflated egos always get in the way. The theorists yell, "It's all about a good Theory!" The experimentalists yell, "You've got to test it to be certain!" The engineers yell, "You better build the damn thing first!" The thing that I find remarkable is that very few people realize just how depenant each group is on the other groups. The theorists think up shit that no one has thought of before, the experiementalists think of ways to make that made up shit into some kind of physical reality, and the engineers actually take metal and bits of glass, put it together and turn the machine on. 

Anyway, here's a great blog from a Stanford professor who seems to get it. 

Oh and one more note along the career lines and why you shouldn't go into science grad school: I make ~$10k less than the bottom 25% of dental hygenists (country average, not Bay Area). My degree = 7-8 years, their degree = 2 the math. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bitterness and an Onslaught of the Darkness

Very rarely does a passage in a book hit me over the head so hard as to insue a bout of the Darkness. The Darkness being a word that Liz and I have picked up to describe feelings of ill will towards one's self, and a general poopy-ness that accompanies the Darkness. I was reading this section from High Fidelity, and it sent me into a tail-spin. A right ol' nasty spin to be perfectly honest about it. I've been debating on posting this at all, as I generally try to keep a sunny disposition even in the face of Life's bullshit, but this is just too good, too succint to ignore, and to be honest the impact it has had is reason enough to put it into the open. I read this to my friends who were over this weekend trying to describe any funkiness that they were sensing from me, and they all agreed that this is some pretty dark shit- you've been warned:

     "I guess you could see it as bitterness, if you wanted to. I don't think of myself as bitter, but I have disappointed myself; I thought I was going to turn out to be worth a bit more than this, and maybe that disappointment comes out all wrong. It's not just the work; it's not just the thirty-five and single thing, although none of this helps. It's ... oh, I don't know. Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself when you were a kid? Or pictures of famous people when they were kids? It seems to me that they can either make you happy or sad. There's a lovely picture of Paul McCartney as a little boy, and the first time I saw it, it made me feel good: all that talent, all that money, all those years of blissed-out domesticity, a rock-solid marriage and lovely kids, and he doesn't even know it yet. But then there are others- JFK and all the rock deaths and fuck-ups, people who went mad, people who came off the rails, people who murdered, who made themselves or other people miserable in ways too numerous to mention - and you think, stop right there! This is as good as it gets!
     Over the last couple of years, the photos of me when I was a kid, the ones that I never wanted old girlfriends to see ... well, they've started to give me a little pang of something - not unhappiness, exactly, but some kind of quiet, deep regret. There's one of me in a cowboy hat, pointing a gun at the camera, trying to look like a cowboy but failing, and I can hardly bring myself to look at it now. [...] I keep wanting to apologize to the little guy: 'I'm sorry, I've let you down. I was the person who was supposed to look after you, but I blew it: I made wrong decisions at bad times, and I turned you into me.'" 

-Nick Hornsby "High Fidelity"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Evolution? Meh

A recent Gallup poll shows that the majority of Americans either do not believe in evolution, or don't really have an opinion. The breakdown is that 39% believe in evolution, 36% have no opinion, and 25% do not believe in evolution. Wow. That means that 1 in 4 people in America thinks that God poofed us out of thin air. *POOF* Man. Scary...

"I mean you gotta have an opinion." (John Travolta in Pulp Fiction before he shoots Marvin in the face- sorry couldn't resist.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Nothing Like a Sucker Punch...

...on the way out the door. 

It appears that employers are disputing unemployment claims in record numbers (as a percentage of the claims). Just one more shot to the belly of the average worker. I just can't believe this, as if losing your job isn't bad enough, but to have that same employer turn their back on you in your time of need is just wrong. Not to mention, the company pays taxes to cover these benefits- it gets it's taxable revenue from the work you have done at that company- to deny you those funds is like stealing the money you put in that fund. 

How much longer are we the working class, the proletariat, going to put up with less overall wealth, less free time to ourselves, less family time, less healthcare, and less of the good life than our own parents had? Meanwhile, we twiddle our thumbs with a dumb- OH GEE- look on our faces while we get burned and pillaged by the aristocracy...we need to step up and say no more!

Link- Washington Post

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Plenary Indulgence

This week the Catholic church has decided to re-instate a pre-1960s Vatican rule of plenary indulgence. 

Again, from Wikipedia:

"An indulgence, in Roman Catholic theology, is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. The indulgence is granted by the church after the sinner has confessed and received absolution.[1] The belief is that indulgences draw on the storehouse of merit acquired by Jesus' sacrifice and the virtues and penances of the saints.[2] They are granted for specific good works and prayers.[2]

Indulgences replaced the severe penances of the early church,[2] or, to express it more exactly, they replaced the shortening of those penances that was allowed at the intercession of those imprisoned and those awaiting martyrdom for the faith.[3]"

That doesn't mean very much to me, so I dug a bit deeper. Basically, the Church thinks that they can be the middle man between the ultra-good and the ultra-bad. They take some of the good that is done, and allocate what bad that it should cancel out. Hence, the part about "the intercession of those imprisoned and those awaiting martyrdom." Now, the thing that I've always heard about (specifically from Nick) is how these indulgences were abused by the Catholic Church. From what I understand, they would let the super rich get away with murder (literally) as long as they paid up the cash, they would receive a document stating that they had been absolved of their sins and in the eyes of the Church, would still get entrance to heaven. In this way, the Church paid for many of it's cathedrals and monestaries. 

Here's the rub, isn't God the ultimate judge and jury? I mean, sure Peter's the one at the gate with the key, but doesn't he get the list from the big man himself? What happened to vengance shall be mine? I just find it interesting that the Church thinks of itself as the broker of morality. I guess I shouldn't really be suprised. I do have to say that I don't like this new Pope. Trying to drag the Church back to the good ol' days just seems wrong on so many levels. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quote - High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

"It's only just beginning to occur to me that it's important to have something going on somewhere, at work or at home, otherwise you're just clinging on. If I lived in Bosnia, then not having a girlfriend wouldn't seem like the most important thing in the world, but here in Crouch End it does. You need as much ballast as possible to stop you floating away; you need people around you, things going on, otherwise life is like some film where the money ran out, and there are no sets, or locations, or supporting actors, and it's just one bloke on his own staring into the camera with nothing to do and nobody to speak to, and who'd believe in this character then?"

This book is full of great paragraphs. I highly recommend reading it to anyone. There's much more to the main character, Rob, than you get from Cusak in the film (which is also one of my favorites). 

Monday, February 09, 2009

In a Taqueria Near-by

Click on this picture to see the full image, as the detail is really interesting. This is one of those pictures that looks like two different pictures. I have always thought that these are rather fun. This particular taqueria has something like 4 or 5 of these pictures. This was my favorite. 

Friday, February 06, 2009

Pass It Already!


With the number of economists screaming at the top of their lungs that the gov't NEEDS to act now, you'd think that this would be a done deal. I read today that the Republicans are trying to cut out things like Food Stamps (proven to be one of the most efficient vehicles for economic stimulus b/c the money will be spent immediately), Head Start, Public Transportation, and replace it with things like Defense construction, tax breaks (which have been shown to do very little as people save that money instead of spend it). 

And, based on the above image, even the media is trying to screw this up by not having equal coverage of both sides of the debate. So much for that "liberal" media eh? 

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

US passes Germany in Wind Production

This really is possible everyone, it just takes a commitment. 

US Passes Germany for #1 producer of winder power- SciAm

Guzman - Mapped

This is an interesting website called dynatree. Using phone/address records, the map out the frequency of your last name across the country. Obviously, with a Mexican name like Guzman, one would expect California and Texas to lead the pack. Was interesting to see Michigan fall into the top 10. 

Update: A better link here. 

Monday, February 02, 2009

IRS Report on the Top 400

IRS Top 400 Earners-through 2006

Here's some highlights:

They average $263 million per year income, of which 63% is from capital gains. 

Over the six years of the Bush administration, their income DOUBLED! What's worse is as a percentage of the total wealth in the country, the top 400 earners went from just under 1% (0.81%) up to about 1.33%- meaning that an extra half of a percent of the TOTAL wealth in the country went into the hands of 400 people, meanwhile average income of the middle class remained flat (and actually decreased when you account for inflation).

Through the capital gains tax, some crazy deductions, and political lubrication, the top 400 earners in this country only pay an average of 17.2% in tax. 

So let me see here, I make approximately 0.017% of what these people average, and I pay ~25% or 7.8% MORE in taxes then they do. Woah!

Only in America!