Saturday, March 18, 2006

Is the Cause of Global Warming in the Stars?

Global warming seems to be one of the most significant long-term problems (along with terrorism) the world faces today. Thus, I always keep my eyes peeled for new insights into the issue. There are ultimately three questions we must answer:
  • Is the current global warming in fact a long-term trend or a short-term blip in millions of years of temperature swings the earth has experienced?
  • Is the current global warming caused by human behavior?
  • Are there positive externalities (to use an economic term) to global warming? In other words, are there benefits to global warming that no one mentions?

The linked news article addresses only the second issue, suggesting that cosmic rays are the cause of today's global warming:

University of Ottawa science professor Jan Veizer says high-energy cosmic rays, originating from stars across the expanse of space, are hitting Earth's atmosphere in ways that cause the planet to cycle through warm and cold periods.

Dr. Veizer goes on to say:

"Empirical observations on all time scales point to celestial phenomena as the principal driver of climate," Veizer wrote in his paper, "with greenhouse gases acting only as potential amplifiers."

The cost of assuming that people create global warming when that assumption is mistaken could be enormous. Billions of dollars of new government programs, new restrictions on economic growth, population control programs, ... . Where it would all stop is difficult to say.

Imagine everyone's standard of living in steep decline as job #1 worldwide becomes stopping global warming. Then picture the world as an overcooked french fry even after all those frantic efforts to send a "chill out" message to the planet.

I'm old enough to remember the predictions by scientists in the 1970s: a new ice age. Will global warming eventually fade from memory the way those predictions have?


Friday, March 17, 2006

QuickTake: I Wish I Had a Billion Dollars

Maybe I could just print a few billion dollar bills, like the guy in the linked article.

Too bad there's no pictures of the billion dollar bill in the story. Of course, if I print my own, then they can look however I want them to look. Maybe I'll put my picture on the front. Would a bank teller notice? Nah.


QuickTake: Senate Votes to Raise Debt Limit

The news media had a field day alarming Americans with the news that the U.S. debt limit was raised by Congress tp $9 trillion. The idea that everyone--man, woman, and child--owes $30,000 to someone else when the overall federal debt is alloted proportionally seemed to catch the fancy of reporters.

The fact is that the debt finances both government consumption, some of it worthy and some of it wasteful, plus government investment. People are getting something for their money, although it may not always be what they want. Most importantly, however, realize that the debt is not $30,000 per year. The $30,000 represents the accumulated per capita debt. I seem to recall that this number was about $26,000 five or six years ago.

Maybe stories on debt should also mention the increase in private debt, such as mortgage and credit card debt, when they bring up the public debt. Oh, and another thing, it would make sense to state the debt in real terms, meaning adjusted for inflation.

I guess it's too easy just to write an alarming headline and dash off a story.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

QuickTake: Anybody Can Be Beautiful!

This post comes under the heading of "Is it fraud?" Beauty sells, but what if that beauty is enhanced? There's deception going on, even if it doesn't rise to the level of fraud.

First, take a look at the linked web site. Click on a thumbnail of any of the beautiful ladies (and a few guys). Once you see your selected picture full size, run your cursor across the photo to see what the lady looked like before the photo was retouched. Alicia Keyes is a good one. See Alicia glowing in perfection, then see Alicia complete with a mild case of acne.

Now I know why some celebrities exhibit an unreal, almost unimaginable beauty. I hope the folks who doctor the photos are well paid. They deserve it.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

QuickTake: Picture of a Ticking Time Bomb: The Hayward Fault Line

This picture of the Hayward fault line is one of three pictures of Bay Area fault lines in the linked story. When the big quake comes, scientists predict 155,000 housing units will be destroyed. I don't have my New Orleans statistics in front of me, but I do know that the Bay Area is more heavily populated than the Big Easy. A big quake could make the Katrina disaster look like small potatoes. Can FEMA come up with 155,000 trailers overnight?

Much devastation and misery await. Of course, there's a good reason to build a city on the fault line. That reason is also clearly seen in the picture. The large, safe harbor is a world leader in shipping.

What I want to know is how will the bloggers on the left blame George Bush for the quake! They'll try. And one other question: We name hurricanes, why not earthquakes?

Just asking.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Iceland Gives Up Gasoline!

Iceland is a picturesque country, judging from the picture above. It's also a country whose government has decided to totally eliminate dependence on oil. Picturesque, and a leader in the transition to an oil-free future.

Heating? The whole country is one boiling cauldron of hot water. You see, Iceland was formed by volcanoes and those volcanoes are still at work heating vast amounts of water. Low-cost hot water heating for homes and businesses keeps the people toasty warm during the long, cold winter. That same water turns giant turbines that supply the country with electricity. That only leaves gasoline.

Now the Icelanders (Icelandics?) get creative. They're turning water into hydrogen to be used as a fuel to run the country's vehicles. Hydrogen fuel is three times as expensive as gasoline, but vehicles get three times the mileage, so the cost balances out.

The timetable for creating this oil-free society? Mid-century.

Heck, by that time, the world may have run out of oil anyway. That's the peak oil argument that's made its way into debates over energy policy. Click here if you want to read an apocalyptic vision of life without oil. Warning: The author doesn't paint a pretty picture of life in the future. Bear in mind, though, that 30 some odd years ago the scientists making up the Club of Rome predicted the world would be out of everything by now. Wrong!

Then again, if you like apocalyptic visions of the future, there's always a TV preacher or a science fiction writer to scare the pants off everyone. Economists, you know those devils practicing "the dismal science," would paradoxically keep their wits and smile a cheerful smile even if it could absolutely be proved that the world was running out of resources. The ability of science to find and develop substitutes, the incentives provided by profit, and a resilient market economy have proven effective in the past in promoting ever higher standards of living. Thus, the post-oil era might not be so bad after all.

Of course, a happy ending isn't what the apocalypse crowd is selling. Will Iceland show the way to a happy energy future? Time will tell.


Bush: U. S. Government to Go Out of Business

President George W. Bush gives the finger to Wal-Mart. "Better prices and a better selection," said the President about the government's going out of business sale.

President Bush has announced that the federal government is going out of business.

"The U.S. government, America's place for law and order since 1776, has lost its lease, and everything must go, go, go," Bush said. "But our loss is your gain, and make no mistake: You, the people, would be crazy to miss out on these amazing closeout bargains."

The Washington-based government, which hasn't shown a profit in five years and carries the highest debt in its history, was ultimately driven out of business by costly overhead and cheap foreign competitors. As a result, Bush said, everything—from flag stands and Capitol cafeteria flatware to legislation dating from the early days of the republic—will be marked down 30 to 90 percent.

"Get yourself a piece of history, or just stock up on your favorite items—whatever it is, chances are we've got it," said Bush, wearing a 10-gallon hat and standing before a chroma-key background of the National Mall as a list of federal items and their discounted prices scrolled down the screen. "But act fast, because deals like these will not last."

According to surveys, the American people, by a 2 to 1 margin, report that they will not miss the government. The same survey reports that close to half of all Americans would like to see China as their next government. As one citizen put it, "Our old government was always getting into wars and taxes were too high. If the Chinese can produce a government as good as their electronics, then I think most Americans would welcome another Chinese import--government by China. Of course, that assumes the price is right."


Let Them Eat Cake--The French Soup Nazi Says Soup is Racist

I never knew that soup could be racist. But France has decided that pork soup is, so it's been banned. That's right, banned. If you were hoping to taste a delicious bowl of pork soup (ugh!) on your next vacation in France, better think again and settle for crepe suzettes or that other gourmet delicacy, french fries! What's going on here?

It seems some charities were feeding France's hungry homeless and poor, offering them a tasty bowl of pork soup at no cost. The problem?

Protesters have accused the groups of deliberate discrimination against Jews and Muslims, who do not eat the meat.

Thus, local governments in some parts of France have banned pork soup.

My comment: Nobody was being forced to eat anything, right? So, think about where we are going with this line of thought. The Hindus of India don't eat the cow, so let's ban hamburgers. And of course, hot dogs are made of pork, so let's ban those. Pork sausage for breakfast? Fuggidaboutit!

Am I the only one who thinks a government that has the power to ban pork soup is a government with too much power? "Laissez faire forever," Adam Smith might say.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Buy an American Car and Save an American Job?

We traditionalists wish only the best for Ford and GM. Competition is good, providing consumers with more choices and lower prices, other things equal.

These American car brands have fallen upon hard times recently, though. With high-cost labor and older, less productive factories, compared to their Japanese counterparts, the American companies have struggled to earn a profit. There's even talk that they could go under, like venerable old Studebaker did in 1966.

It's gratifying to see that American cars do pretty well in the J. D. Power quality ratings. There's Lincoln, Buick, and Cadillac ahead of Infiniti, and not too far behind Lexus. And, it looks like Nissan, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, and Isuzu, Japanese brands all, have a bit of catching up to do with the iron that Detroit pumps out.

Since a lot of the Japanese companies now build their vehicles in the USA, I don't know how many, if any, jobs a person might save by buying an American brand. What a person would save by buying a Ford or Chevy is tradition. If that has any value to you, then act accordingly.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Official Web Site: NORAD Tracks Santa 2005

Keeping up with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve is a tough job, but our government's up to the task. Check out Santa's progress this year by clicking on the link in the title of this post.

Merry Christmas to all!


Liberals Demand Santa Take the Bus!

In what has to be the most ridiculous news item this Christmas season, Mr. S. Claus of the North Pole has come under fire by the British government for the pollution caused by his annual Christmas eve deliveries.

It has been calculated that Santa's team of nine reindeer would emit methane with a global warming impact equivalent to more than 40,600 tonnes of greenhouse gases ...

A lump of coal in the Christmas stockings to all who support moving Santa out of his sleigh and into public transportation. Says Britain's Liberal Democrat transport spokesman:

... the best Christmas present for the environment would be if Santa took the bus, which would keep his total emissions output down to just 10,980 tonnes ...

Answer me this, Mr. Government Bureaucrat: Do you also want to slaughter Vixen, Blixen, Rudolph, and the rest? After all, they keep emitting that methane gas even when not pulling Santa's sleigh.

WAIT! I'm not sure I want an answer to that question. After all, you're a government bureaucrat, which means you haven't an ounce of common sense.

And a Merry Christmas to ya!


CD Baby, Keep the Music Coming

I've been reading a lot lately about the changing economics of the music business. While I still buy the big, black plastic, two-sided CDs sold at thrift stores, which I play on one of my vintage record players (aka, my stereo), downloads off the Internet appear to be killing off CDs, just as cassette tapes killed the mass production of vinyl records, and in turn CDs killed cassettes. I'm hopeful, for the sake of music lovers, that the outcome will be more choices for the consumer.

Which brings me to CD Baby. That's their logo above. While looking for more information on who did the vocals on the original version of All I Want for Christmas is You, one of the best Christmas songs ever, I discovered that independent recording artists have a way of getting their music out to their fans.

The artists supply the CDs, which are then marketed by CD Baby. Instead of a dollar or so a copy sold by major labels, the artist receives $5 or $6 per sale from CD Baby. Looking over the web site, I see a lot of help being offered to new artists and to older artists who are unable to get a recording contract these days. Oh, if only John Denver were alive to get on board.

With over 116,000 artists to pick from, CB Baby is capitalism at its finest--an endeavor worth supporting. Check it out. Oh, I should add that CD Baby is keeping up with the changes in the technology of music delivery. They can help get an artist on the music download sites. By the time I wear out my collection of "albums," it won't matter. There'll be another technology that'll have replaced downloads. A possible candidate? Check out Mercora.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blogging Helps Reduce Information Overload?

Here's a different take on blogging. On the one hand we know that blogging has exploded in popularity, with millions of new blogs to discover, bookmark, and keep up with. OK, so blogging offers intriguing glimpses into the day's events, filtered through the minds of bloggers, but at the cost of investing the time to read them.

On the other hand, bloggers tend to specialize their interests, thus breaking the massive information flows generated in today's world into manageable bite size chunks:

"Bloggers actually act like filters for the day's news, for the day's gossip and commentary," researcher Darren Sharp says.

"They actually tailor the mass of information that is out there into a scale that's really fit for human consumption."

Still feeling the effects of information overload?

Darren Sharp's final words of advice are perhaps among the simplest to adopt. "Sometimes, it pays to switch off the computer and go for a walk on the beach," he says.

Now, if only I had a beach to go for a walk on. Oh well, the backyard will just have to do.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Man's Best Friend--Fidocam to Combat Crime

I've often thought that if I were sent to Iraq to serve in a combat zone, I'd just as soon have my pit bull, Pup, as a partner as to have a human backing me up. Dogs aren't called man's best friend for no reason, right?

The dog in the picture illustrates the job assigned to Sammy and Zara, German Shepherds in the service of the Northumbria Police in Britain. Cops in Britain are unarmed, even four-legged ones. However, the tool strapped to the dog's head is a camera and transmitter. This dog's "mission impossible"? Enter a building and scope out the situation, sending pictures back to the police.

Police Chief Jim Soutar reports the following qualifications are sought in these canine recruits:

We're looking for dogs with above average drive who can operate under stressful conditions.

Two-legged cops probably need the same qualifications.

No mention is made in the linked article about the cost of hiring these canine crimefighters. One can only surmise that dog biscuits are cheaper than human wages and that the dogs don't demand two weeks of paid vacation every year.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Proof of Global Warming?

The upper picture shows the Boulder glacier in 1988. The lower picture is the exact same scene as it appeared in 1932.

Where'd the ice go? This example may or may not constitute proof of global warming since it's only one spot on a very big earth. We also can't conclude that man caused the ice to melt, either.

Something caused the ice to melt, though. I'd like conclusive evidence of just exactly what. Maybe the scientists will come up with the evidence in the future. I'll pay attention to the news.

In the meantime, economists are also thinking about the economic, as opposed to ecological, effects of global warming. Remember the Oklahoma Dust Bowl in the 1930s? You've seen pictures in the history books of the effects of the prolonged drought and the human misery that climate change created. But humans are resilient. And Mother Earth has a way of healing herself. Today's Oklahoma landscape and economy is nothing like its 1930s version. That's a good thing for the land and people of Oklahoma.

I wonder if there's anything good about a warmer earth. Higher crop yields and a longer growing season to feed hungry mouths? Just wondering. One thing we don't have to wonder about is whether humans will adapt to climate change. They've been doing that for thousands of years. So, maybe I won't lose sleep over global warming. At least not tonight, when the low here in south Texas is going to plunge into the 20s. Brrr!


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bigger Vehicle, Bigger Tax Credit--Does It Make Sense?

The Honda Insight: 57 mpg, but a relatively meager $1,450 tax credit for purchasers

Tax credits are intended to encourage specific kinds of behavior by subsidizing them. The linked article in Wired poses an interesting economic issue, one deeply intertwined with politics. It seems that tax breaks designed to reward purchasers of fuel efficient vehicles fail to correlate exactly with a vehicle's miles per gallon. Thus, consumers who purchase some SUVs will receive larger tax credits than purchasers of hybrids, according to a study done by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

The amount of each tax credit is computed according to a formula, which takes into account a vehicle's improved fuel economy, measured against competitors in its class. Thus, the 57 mpg Honda Insight hybrid automobile offers a $1,450 tax credit, while buyers of the 36 mpg Ford Escape hybrid SUV receive a $2,600 credit.

The ACEEE's own research shows that the correlation between miles per gallon and the size of the tax credit is in general positive. The logic for a greater credit of the Escape is also well grounded, since the Escape will save more gallons of gas each year for its purchasers than will the Insight. What's the problem?


Gay Gene or Gay Germ?--Is Homosexuality an Infection?

When I was a kid my father came down with stomach ulcers. In those days, the doctors believed that ulcers were caused by worry and spicy foods. Thus, a good part of his medical treatment involved instructions to "Relax, be happy, don't worry," and "Avoid spicy foods." Today, we know that the advice he was given was worthless, at least as it relates to treating ulcers. The reason is that it is now known with certainty that stomach ulcers are caused by a germ.

The courageous scientist who battled the medical establishment to prove that ulcers are caused by a germ was Gregory Cochran. For years his theory was ridiculed until the proof that he was right was so overwhelming that it couldn't be ignored. Now, we treat stomach ulcers with antibiotics and other medicines targeted at the causitive germ.

Well, Mr. Cochran, an independent physicist, is at it again. And taking a lot of heat.

While conventional science seems hell-bent on proving the existence of a gay gene, Mr. Cochran theorizes that such a gene would have been bred out of existence, had it ever existed. His hypothesis, so far untested, is that homosexuality is the result of an infection of some sort, possibly viral in origin. Biology professor Paul W. Ewald has teamed with Mr. Cochran to make something of the hypothesis.

What Cochran suspected about homosexuality, he and his colleague now believe to be true for a large number of conditions—namely, that microbes, not genes, are responsible for them. Ewald and Cochran’s innovation is to consider disease from the perspective of human evolution. If your mother is obsessed with knowing when you are going to give her some grandchildren, then you are more or less familiar with the traditional perspective of human evolution: You were put on this earth to reproduce. Anything that gets in the way of reproduction is a problem that you better be prepared to explain. To judge the size of such a problem, evolutionary biologists assess its "fitness cost"—that is, the damage it does to your chances of procreating.

Genes with a substantial fitness cost do appear from time to time. Every so often a cell makes a mistake while copying its DNA—a mistake known as a random mutation—and this mutation may give rise to a gene harmful to the person carrying it. But in such a case, according to evolutionary theory, the new disease-causing gene would vanish after a hundred generations or so, gradually but inexorably, because damaged organisms reproduce less often and less prolifically than healthy ones. (There is an exception: Some disease-causing genes simultaneously provide a protective benefit—such as the gene for sickle-cell anemia, which also happens to ward off malaria.) The higher its fitness cost, the faster a gene disappears.

The math is unforgiving. If a genetic trait has a fitness cost of just 1 percent, it will sink to the very low rate of a random mutation after only 100 generations. Over the course of human evolution—roughly 800,000 generations so far—a trait would vanish even if its fitness cost were as low as 0.001 percent. According to the best available estimates, however, 3 to 4 percent of men and 1 to 2 percent of women in the United States are exclusively homosexual. That’s a lot of homosexuals. Too many, Cochran and Ewald believe, for the condition to be genetic.

This web site shows the results of an opinion poll about the cause of sexual orientation. Poll results show that most people believe sexual orientation results from a person's environment or some aspect of his or her upbringing. The gay gene theory has been gaining ground, however, because of publicity given to papers that suggest the existence of a gay gene.

One question for Cochran and Ewald is that even if it is eventually proved that gayness is caused by a germ, would gays welcome a cure for that infection? The web site linked in the previous paragraph mentions the Bible's explanation for homosexual conduct, which is Satanic demons that enter the body and cause people to "sin." Perhaps gays would welcome proof of the cause of homosexuality, so long as the scientists prescription doesn't involve exorcism. That burden of "sin" that is laid on gays by the Bible must be a tough burden to carry around all your life!


Sunday, November 13, 2005

JC's GirlsGirlsGirls--Three Beauties Stand Up for Jesus




They say that God works in mysterious ways. Porn surfers might agree.

JC's GirlsGirlsGirls, Tanya, Lori, and Heather have a trick or two up their collective sleeves, no pun intended. The sight of the glamour shots above, taken from, might lead a body to think that more revealing sights await those who click deeper into the web site. No way! What is there are the personal stories of three lovlies who've found Jesus.

These beautiful women are on a mission to minister to those enslaved by sexual addiction. From the women of porn to the males who thrive on consuming it, these girls say, "Jesus loves you. Repent."

They're not exactly what you expect when you think of Christians on a mission. You'll never mistake them for Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. However, they offer a Christian message. Let's hear it in their own words. From the pen of Lori we learn:

Our whole goal when we began was simply to get the message out to people in the sex industry that when they are ready to come to God, he will not turn his back on them. This is still our goal…so this means that even if a girl never enters the door of a church, a huge accomplishment has been achieved in helping her get the message that God forgives no matter what she has done! God is using us to get this message out way faster than we anticipated.

Heather adds:

As a successful Vegas stripper, I lived life to the extreme. I partied with celebrities, traveled, and found pleasure in the lifestyle that stripping provided. However, deep down inside I was terrified to die. Feeling like I would eventually pay the price for the life I lived, I began “bargaining” with God. Unfortunately, no one ever reached out to me, so I started seeking God on my own. I found a local church but went not telling anyone of my past, afraid that people would judge me. I learned slowly that God does not want Christians to judge others but calls them to love. Knowing this, I began to open up and share even though I knew I was being judged. I began to help my Christian friends realize that judging others is wrong, and God doesn’t like it.

My hope is to open the doors of churches to make room for all people including porn stars, strippers, and men addicted to strippers or porn.

JC's Girls is the second-highest rated video at Craveonline. Again, don't expect a skin show. The video is a profile of the ministering by JC's GirlsGirlsGirls shown on the TV program, A Current Affair.

Sex appeal is used to sell everything from new cars to toilet paper. Why not Jesus?


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

QuickTake: Survey--One in Five Teens Have Own Blog

We have a gender gap here, folks. Females are more likely to blog than males. Do I sense a government affirmative action initiative coming to assist the males? Nah. The blogging gap will remain a fact of life, I fear. Males are playing video games while females are blogging. Maybe that's just nature taking its course.

From my own experience, blogging keeps my writing skills honed. Thus, I predict that young women's writing skills will outpace those of young men. If writing skills matter in today's economy (and I think they do), then look for young women to have a leg up in the job market.


Blondes--Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

A rather Freudian view of blondness, I would say.

The Village Voice is young, hip, and multicultural. Michael Musto, who is one of their more thought-provoking regular contributors, has this to say about a certain type of young, blonde celebrity:

A surfeit of pesky peroxide addicts who had face-lifts at age 12 and turned their abortions into handbags has made things so oppressively dumb-tastic that Charlize Theron has to wear boils and a modified babushka to elevate herself from the tragically superficial morass into respectability (though ever a trouper, she bravely still sports luscious blond locks).

I swear on my obsolete Uggs that dumb blonds are, like, officially over. It's just not cute anymore to watch people who, thanks to raging insecurity issues, insist on being both stick-thin (because they want to look "good") and camera-hoggingly self-humiliating. The spectacle of boobs popping out, drug dribble leaking out, and vaginas wearing out, all in the name of career advancement, was extremely amusing for a while, but everyone's too smart to stand by and applaud this sideshow any longer, especially if they can't get close enough to grab some.

You can't say the man minces words, can you?


Invitation to a Divorce

Marriage is a bedrock institution of society. Yet, about half of American marriages fail to last a lifetime. It seems inevitable in that light that a book like How to Throw a Divorce Party would come along. Here's the skinny on what's going on:

The parties seem mostly designed for women, particularly since the author of the book on the trend, Los Angeles writer Christine Gallagher, has been selling it through her website

Women spend thousands on bands and play games like "Pin the Blame on the Spouse". There's also often a divorce party cake and of course the cocktail: Marriage on the Rocks.

My reaction? How many other failures in life could we celebrate? Let's see: Getting kicked out of college, getting thrown in jail, getting fired from a good job, running over the neighbor's cat, ...

The list of party opportunities is endless, right? Pardon me, though, if I don't feel like celebrating any of the above with you.

In a rejoinder to her critics, the author says,

It's the one sort of life-changing event we have no help with. We need a ritual. We need to surround ourselves with our friends and family and say, 'Hey, it's OK. We support you. We still love you.

OK, maybe she has a point, but a revamped Irish wake might not be the best venue to provide that support. Thus, if any of my friends come looking for a shoulder to cry on after a divorce, I think I'll refrain from suggesting a party.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Negative Real Interest Rates--A Sign of the Inflationary Times

Can you identify with my dilemma? I was tired of my bank accounts paying as little as 0.75 percent interest. What to do? Hit the Internet, of course, and search for a safe alternative that offered a more appealing interest rate.

The real interest rate is computed as: nominal interest rate minus inflation rate. With inflation recently running at about 5 percent as measured by the CPI, and the nominal rates (the rates as stated by the bank) on my accounts at about one percent on average, then the real interest rate I've been receiving has been about minus 4 percent.

Inflation is like a thief, robbing a person's savings of its purchasing power. How to foil the thief was the question to which I needed a solution.

After looking high and low at various mutual funds and other alternatives, I found the Series I savings bond page on the Internet. These bonds absolutely guarantee the purchaser that the real rate of interest will be positive (although modestly so). How can that guarantee be made? The government adjusts the nominal interest rate on the series I bonds by adding the inflation rate over the last six months to a modest real interest rate. From November 1, 2005 until April 1, 2006 the I bonds will pay 6.73 percent interest. I couldn't find a secure investment with a better return.

The interest rate will be reset next April 1. If the inflation rate is lower, then the interest on my bonds will be lower. If the inflation rate is higher, then the interest rate on my bonds will be higher. I wish I could lock in the 6.73 interest rate for several years, but that's not the way these bonds work.

I bonds are an example of indexing for inflation. The U.S. Treasury also offers individuals another indexed bond called TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Security). You can read about the differences between TIPs bonds and I bonds on the TreasuryDirect web page. In a nutshell, the TIPS is a marketable bond whose price might be higher or lower than the price you paid for it when you bought it. That price will be higher if interest rates turn lower in the future, but will be lower if interest rates go higher. Changes in the price of the bond compensate bond purchasers for changes in interest rates. There are also differences in the tax treatment of interest earnings between TIPs bonds and I bonds that made the I bonds more attractive to me.

Bottom line question: How much longer will banks get away with paying negative real interest rates to savers?


Monday, November 07, 2005

QuickTake: This Woman Up for Bids

Deborah can be had for $600,000, house included.

Clever gal is Deborah. She's reaped a lot of attention by offering her house and herself on eBay for $600,000. As she puts it, the house is worth approximately that much in the Denver housing market, but she herself is "priceless."

This scheme is another in the long line of creative, attention-getting uses of eBay. Deborah (no last name is given on her web site) is looking for a good relationship with a good man, but her efforts to find that man in more conventional ways have proven fruitless.

If you're a man between 40 and 60, well educated, and like animals, maybe you'll want to submit a bid. I've shown you Deborah, but you'll have to visit her web site to see the house.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

QuickTake: A New Use for Superglue?

Will the company use this incident in its advertising?

According to this story, Gail O'Toole of Murrysville, Pennsylvania should be on every man's "Do Not Date, Do Not Call, Avoid at All Costs" list. When her boyfriend, Kenneth Slaby, broke up with her she extracted revenge by supergluing his genitals to his abdomen while he slept. O'Toole pleaded guilty to a misdemenor and served six months probabation. Presumably Slaby received attention from a hospital sufficient to make his genitals operational again.

Wasn't it Shakespeare who wrote, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"? As for O'Toole, I suggest she write a book called "One Hundred and One Uses for Superglue You Never Thought of Before."


QuickTake: Squirrels Hooked on Crack?

Squirrels should stick to nuts and avoid crack!

You know that drugs are epidemic when charming little park squirrels become hooked on the hidden rocks of crack cocaine stashed away by crackheads. Such is the case in parks in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Now, the unfortunate squirrels of London appear to be the next victims.

Let's hope that gangs of dope-addicted squirrels don't start carrying signs that say "Will work for food" in order to raise money to buy more of the stuff!


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

QuickTake: Honda's Going to the Dogs

Product differentiation--Honda style

A car designed for the dog lover. Honda's got it, as you can see in the picture. That glove compartment doesn't contain gloves, but a dachshund. The glove compartment is designed to hold your pet in safety. So is the popup crate by the back seat.

The W.O.W. Concept vehicle, which stands for wonderful, openhearted wagon, isn't for sale yet. But, we know that carmakers test the public's interest by showing their latest concepts at car shows. To take a look at the W.O.W in person get yourself over to the Tokyo Auto Show.


QuickTake: The Unofficial Bill Gates Website

Watch Out When You Drive Through Albuquerque or the Police'll Get Ya

When you're the richest man in the world, it stands to reason you'll be the target of unwanted attention. That's part of the price of celebrity. Case in point: The "Unofficial" Bill Gates Website. In his mugshot photos, Bill was clearly a lot younger and I'll bet a lot less wealthy than he is now. I wonder if he'd be treated the same today as he was then if he were pulled over for speeding.

Enough idle speculation. The point of this post? If you want to know more about Bill Gates or Microsoft, the Unofficial web site is a good place to start.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Stop the Cruelty--Boycott France Now!

The dogs and puppies in the picture were used as live shark bait. The practice is common on Reunion Island, which is controlled by France. Kittens are also used for this purpose.

The Sea Island Conservation Society is trying to stop the barbaric practice you're seeing in this post. Would you like to help stop this cruelty? This page has the addresses of public officials who have the power to stop it.

In the meantime, my advice is "Boycott all things French."


Monday, October 03, 2005

Melissa Says: Firemen Suck!

I'm presenting this story verbatim from the NOLA web site. It tells one woman's horrific encounter with a group of firemen during the worst of Hurricane Katrina. While this story played out in St. Bernard parish, the lessons about the lying, cheating, stealing, and worse by so called "public servants" could apply anywhere in America. Just because someone wears a uniform doesn't make them a "hero," contrary to the crap dispensed to delude unthinking, gullible Americans after 9/11.

Melissa's story: Escape from Arabi

Melissa Sass of Arabi writes:
My husband and I stayed behind in our home in Arabi with 3 dogs. We were fine until the final hours of the storm. That's when the water came in. We went up in the attic, hacked a hole in the roof, and hoisted the dogs out first due to the fact that the water would saturate the ceiling and they would fall through.After the storm, we went out on the roof and waited to be rescued. About 9 hours later, a man named Jigger in a boat came by and saved us. We saved several other families that night. He brought us to the levee and told us to go to the Domino Sugar Refinery, they are using it as a shelter.

It was too dark to go to the refinery and they had standing water. I knocked on a door and a man let my husband and I sleep on his balcony on the second floor. The next day, we walked to the refinery and waited several hours to get in. An employee of the refinery brought us in by bulldozer through the water. Once in, we saw there was about 100 people there, pets and people.

There was about 25 firemen from the St. Bernard Fire Department. They were awful. The fought all the time, they yelled about how they didn't want to share the food and water with us. It wasn't until the chief came in that they changed their tunes. He calmed them down and rationalized.

But still, some firemen were still horrible to the survivors. They were taking showers and not telling people where the showers were. They kept all the food and water by them, so if you was thirsty or hungry, you needed to go and ask them for something, and when you did, they acted so mean. People started to leave to the Superdome and to the West Bank on buses and boats.

About four days there, the firemen left. They took ALL the food and water with them. In order to get any food/water, while they were loading up, you had to go and take the food and water from them! They didn't even offer to take anyone with them. People asked to go, but they stated that there was no more room for anyone.

After the firemen left, it was peaceful. No one fought, no one was on edge. A day later, some firemen came back for the food and water that was left behind. People at the refinery fought for it and won the battle. Nothing physical, but very verbal. The firemen had guns, but that didn't change the way others felt, that was our livelihood!

On Saturday, my husband and I (with one dog left, one jumped out the boat as we were being taken off the roof, and one ran away) boarded a tug boat and was brought to St. Charles Parish where we were greated by the nicest police officers ever! We met our family there and now we are trying to get our lives together.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

QuickTake: Will Gothic Lolitas Catch On in the USA?

It's called the gothic lolita look. It's supposedly big in Japan. Will it catch on elsewhere?

Fashion is pretty unpredictable, so I won't venture a guess. What I can say is that if the look does catch on, lots of money is going to spent updating wardrobes.

Isn't that what Keynesian economics is about? More consumption spending is good for the economy. Since fashion changes so often, the world of fashion helps to keep that marginal propensity to consume high.

The downside? Critics of fashion point to the social waste associated with planned obsolescence. Would it be better to spend to solve social problems or spend on a new look? Ultimately, it's consumers who will decide.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Imagine Life and Love 27,000 Years Ago

Twins interred 27,000 years ago Posted by Picasa

Sometimes it's pretty easy to empathize with the pain and joy of earlier generations. We have written records of suffering and happiness, going back several thousands years. Through the written word, we can stand beside Socrates in ancient Athens as he defended himself against trumped up charges of corrupting the youth. We can feel his pain as he drank the hemlock to comply with his death sentence. Technology makes it even easier to feel the pain of others. Through television, we can see for ourselves the sadness of Americans as they said goodbye to a fallen president in November of 1963.

It's a lot harder to turn back the hands of time 27,000 years and understand the feelings of people of that era. We have no written records of them. Nothing to tell us who they were. Of course, in a basic sense, we know who they were. Our ancestors!

The picture in this post might make it a tad easier to realize that pre-historic people had feelings too. Twenty-seven thousand years ago, when Neanderthals were giving way to modern homo sapiens, these twin newborns were lovingly buried on a beautiful hillside overlooking the Danube River in what is today Austria.

Their tiny bodies were covered with the shoulder blade of a wooly mammoth to protect them as they journeyed into eternity. Beads were placed in their graves. Someone loved them very much.

Who was their mother? What became of her? Did she have other children? We'll never know much more than that somebody cared. Maybe that's enough.