Archive for July, 2011

Business, Economics, and the Debt Ceiling Crisis

July 30, 2011

I just got back from the International Academy of Business and Public Administration Disciplines (IABPAD) conference in Hawaii. All the economists there were aghast at what Congress is doing to the US economy. These are people who teach at business colleges and are presumably pro-business. Indeed, many of them came from the business world before taking up teaching. One paper, done well before this insanity started, looked at what influences the rate of consumer savings in the US. This is important because we are a consumer-based economy. While a certain amount of saving is a good thing, if it gets too high, that acts as a drag on growth. They found that the two most important factors impacting the savings rate — the percentage of personal income that gets saved — were personal net worth and the general interest rate. If net worth was up, spending was up. On the other hand, if interest rates were up, spending was down.

What has this to do with today? (more…)

Genetic research confirms that non-Africans are part Neanderthal

July 29, 2011

From EurekAlert.

This is true. I am seeing this happen myself. Well, in a way. Not the whole exchange of genetic material part, but close enough. It happens like this:

A bunch of Anatomically Modern Humans moves into our neighborhood from somewheres up north a small while ago. Now, if you ask anyone around the karst, they will tell you that I am a hard hominid to impress, but even I have to admit that the new AMH’s are in a range that includes awesome. They are tall and erect, and their warmskins do not smell at all. Not like Uncle Tok’s. You can tell when he is anywhere within two or maybe even three sprints, just by the smell. But back to these AMH’s — they have this way of putting rocks in a circle so their fire does not escape, and they pile rocks up in front of their caves so the smilodons do not get in, and their spearheads are to die for! They make anything you can think of out of rock, and a few edged objects of indeterminate purpose, as well. They are true rock stars. (more…)

Oatmeal au Vin

July 22, 2011

We continue our saga of the search for unblandified oatmeal. In the experiment-before-last, faithful readers will remember, we tried Oatmeal Miso. A touch of ponzu and it worked quite well. This time we try wine. Not your high class drinking wine, admittedly, but a standard sort of table plonk. Vin exceedingly ordinaire.

I didn’t think this would work out too well with the instant oats (too winey), or for breakfast, so I used the cook-for-a-long-time rolled oats and made it for lunch. (What? You don’t spend two hours over lunch, with wine? You’ve never been assigned to NATO then, mein Freund.) One third of a cup of oats, one third of a cup of wine, two-thirds of a cup of water. Cook for 20min as per.

Taste. Not bad. Just barely not too much wine. Next time I’ll make it a third of a cup(minus). Needs something. Shook in a couple tablespoons of shredded cheddar, no egg. (Note: next time, do this directly you take it off the stove, while it’s still at maximum hot.)

Very good. Another keeper.

The Stars Just Got Further Out of Reach

July 22, 2011

I am a child of the Space Age. I was in junior high when Sputnik was launched. I lived my high school years on Vandenberg AFB, watching the Atlas, Titan, and Discoverer launches from my back yard, and rooting around at the dump for discarded rocket parts. One summer, I worked on a construction crew, building the roads around Vandenberg’s SLC6 launch site. I watched the Apollo 11 Moon landing on a small B&W TV in DaNang, VietNam, and the Apollo 13 coverage on BBC in Mildenhall, England. Although I never attended a Shuttle launch, I am roughly of the same generation as the father in this now-famous photo pair: UPDATE: Sorry, they took down the photos.

Father and Son: STS-1 and STS-135, by Chris Bray

Father and Son: STS-1 and STS-135, by Chris Bray

It’s hard to describe what it was like, growing up in that environment. (more…)

Picture Stories from Earth: Tsunami Destruction

July 18, 2011

This one’s not as much fun as the first Picture Story from Earth. Google updates its imagery as new sources become available, and it runs its street view vehicles when and as it can. The street view is rarely the same day as the overhead.

In Japan, Google ran its street view cars through parts of the area destroyed by the tsunami, but not all of them. In some cases, you can look at the current overhead, and then at the same view from street level, pre-tsunami. It makes the tragedy more personal. The two photos below are from Ishinomaki, one of the harder-hit cities.

First, we have the street view, taken just after the camera car has turned a corner.

Ishinomaki Before the Tsunami.

The car is parked next to a building with a blue roof (out of the frame on the right), and the second building on the left has a false front on the roof.

Here is the same location, post-tsunami. You can see the two buildings on the left but most of the rest have been destroyed. The location is 38d 25m 09.46s N / 141d 19m 16.88s E

Ishinomaki After the Tsunami.

Of course, through the History feature, you can toggle the overhead to before and after the tsunami, but, to me, the ground view is more immediate.

12 August UPDATE:
Culture Japan has a much better set of image pairs.


July 17, 2011

Here is an interesting take on the future impact of barcodes on society. I can already attest that the combination of barcodes, smartphones, and the Internet have had on my family.

Recently, my wife ordered a bunch of stuff, that was delivered in three big boxes by UPS. Unlike most firms, the company she was dealing with didn’t email us that the stuff was on its way, and therefore also didn’t give us a UPS tracking number. Two boxes showed up at our door, on Wednesday, requiring a signature. We knew there had to be another box, but we had no idea of the status. Barcodes to the rescue.

I whipped out my trusty ‘droid, and scanned the tracking number on one of the labels. The scanner app offered to search for that number, and found it on UPS. Following the link showed the shipment, the fact that two boxes had been delivered, and that the third was indeed at the sorting facility, awaiting final transport. It came the next day.

All of this was done without reference to the company, or phone calls and fighting with clueless service desk people. One scan, one search, and we’re done.

Oatmeal ‘n Egg

July 16, 2011

Taking Kurt’s suggestion, I tried Penny De Los Santos’ savory oatmeal recipe for an early morning breakfast. It’s very simple, very good, but to my mind, the original recipe is kindof cheating.

Basically, you make oatmeal the normal way, then stir in high quality olive oil, flaky sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper — so far so good — but then you go off and fry an egg and shave some flakes from a good aged sharp cheddar cheese and put that on top. It’s like you are having a fried egg and cheese breakfast, with oatmeal. My goal in these experiments is to have something you stir into your oatmeal, either before or after cooking. So, let’s see what we can do with the idea. (more…)

Fun with vocabulary 2

July 14, 2011

I was rewatching Moshidora last week. The opening theme is quite nice, and has a cute play on words. The Japanese use a lot of English loan words, including nooto, ノート (with a stretched vowel pronounced something like, not for a notebook. On the other hand, their own similar words have different meanings: の (no) is a possessive, and 音 (oto) is a sound. Yume means dream. So the opening line of the song: yume, yume no oto, is talking about the sound of a dream in a dream notebook.

Moshidora, The Anime

July 8, 2011

Moshidora, more properly Moshi Kōkō Yakyū no Joshi Manager ga Drakkā no “Management” o Yondara, or “What If a Female Student Manager of a High School Baseball Team Reads Drucker’s Management?” is about…well, read the title again.

This is a replacement for an earlier post, now that I’ve watched all ten episodes. As I said originally, I like it, but not so much because of the baseball as because of how they try to bend traditional baseball concepts and traditional management concepts so that they overlap.

Baseball and Management

I mean, baseball and management theory. What’s not to like?

Happy Tanabata

July 7, 2011

Tanabata, — pronounced, as far as I can tell, as TAnabata, not tonaBAta, and at eighth-note speed — is also known as The Festival of the Weaver, and celebrates the two sky-bound lovers, Orihime (Altair) and Hikoboshi (Vega), forever separated by the river of the Milky Way. The festival is held on the seventh day of the seventh month, which is July 7th, 2011 in the modern calendar, or August 8th, 2011, in the Japanese lunisolar calendar.

Wikipedia print of Tanabata in Old Edo, 1852

Traditionaly, people write wishes for improved skills on pieces of paper called tanzaku, and attach them to bamboo stalks, as this picture from Muza-chan shows.

Tanzaku tree at the Asakusa Shrine. From

For Tanabata festivals, people, and others, also dress up in lightweight kimonos, called yakuta yukata.

In Season 2 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Haruhi points out that it takes light 16 years to get to Altair and 22 years to get to Vega, so it will take that long to get the wishes answered (they’re gods, so the answers, of course, are instantaneous).

Picture Stories from Earth: Tinker AWACS

July 2, 2011

Google Earth is a bigger time sink than With their ‘street view’ function, you can be a virtual tourist almost anywhere in the world. People tend to think of GE as a collection of satellite photos, but that’s not totally true. Sure, central Siberia is likely to be old LandSat imagery, but more civilized places have plenty of ‘air breather’ imagery, from mapping companies and the like.

Today, BoingBoing pointed out a shot of Tinker AFB, OK, that shows an E-3A AWACS taking off. The mapping plane that captured the event was evidently flying in the same direction as the runway (170 degrees, according to the markings, almost straight south), and the frame timer was working fast enough to capture a number of shots of the AWACS as it climbed away.

EA-3 AWACS Takeoff from Tinker AFB

Seen on the right are a C-130, three KC-135 tankers, a B-52, and another AWACS. You can tell the AWACS because of the black and white saucer on top of the plane. That holds the airborne radar system.

The fun thing is, there’s another seven shots of the AWACS bird as it climbs away from the field. You can see them by clicking on [view larger map] on the BB post, or you could go to Google Earth and look up Tinker AFB yourself.

Happy Æfterra Liþa

July 1, 2011

That’s “After Litha”. The Anglo-Saxons — who spoke Old English (although they probably didn’t call it that) — occupied and ruled Britain from about 449 to 1066. They used a solar/lunar calendar, which does not work well with the passage of the months of the modern calendar (although Bede mapped them that way). Two of their ‘months’ were doubled: Aere Yule/Aefter Yule fell on either side of their Yule festival, sometime around the end of December (or the winter solstice, or Christmas). Aere Litha/Aeftera Litha came six months later, close to the end of June/beginning of July. Since it is likely that the Angles and the Saxons and the Jutes (oh, my) started a month at the first crescent of the new moon, this year we might expect Aeftera Litha to begin on the 1st or 2d of July. Just in case you were wondering, next month, August, is Wéodmónaþ, or Weed Month. Since the seasons of England are much like those of the coastal NorthWest, all of my Portland reader can take comfort in knowing that others have had the same problems.

Anglo-Saxon history is a topic for another post, but I’ll just note that you can get an idea of the scale of their achievement by adding a thousand years to an A-S date, to map it into more modern history. So they arrived in England at the invite of Vortigern in 449 (->1449 almost fifty years before Columbus) and were destroyed in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (->2066, over fifty years from now). This country has a way to go before we better their record.