Monthly Archives: January 2010

Thoughts on the State of the Union Address

There’s a lot I don’t understand about the economy depicted in Fallout 3. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland near Washington, DC some 200 years after a nuclear war between the US and China. There’s no central government, so you have a bunch of individual settlements and scavengers who wander between them. It’s a perfect example of Adam Smith’s Invisible Mutated Hand.

Except the law of supply and demand doesn’t appear to work. I’ve accumulated tremendous amounts of junk over ten hours of play (approximately 0.001% of the game). I’ve flooded the market with scrap metal and lunchboxes and toy cars, yet the price hasn’t collapsed. At this point I should be paying people to take them off of my hands.

Worse, every vendor and shopkeeper offers me the same prices for my scavenged loot. There’s no arbitrage possible, and no recognition that some communities might find water scarce while others need food. I can only assume that the world of Fallout 3 isn’t really a libertarian’s wet dream. Either there’s a secret monopolistic group setting world prices or in reality there’s a cabal that’s organized everyone into a command economy.

Speaking of food, no one seems to be growing any. There’s never any rain, either. I assume everyone’s living off of 200-year-old boxes of irradiated Dandy Boy Apples and Salisbury Steak.

Oh, right, Obama’s State of the Union address. Most everything of interest had already been leaked, and the speech covered the expected themes: economy, energy, and bipartisanship. I wasn’t expecting his comments on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; I thought he’d all but abandoned his drive to repeal it. Other than that, though, it all comes down to follow-through. It was a fine speech delivered well, but I’m more interested in what the government does than what it says.

Your New Word for the Day

It is: backpfeifengesicht.

It is pronounced: back-FIFE-en-guh-zeekst.

It means: a face badly in need of a punching (roughly).

Usage: Did you hear what Pat Robertson said about Haiti? Man, has he got a backpfeifengesicht.

Trust the Germans to come up with a single word that perfectly sums up a more complex concept.

(And thanks to Mike G. for teaching me the word.)

Friday Night Videos on Friday: Marching Band

This one’s for Jeff McClure, and anyone else who’s ever willingly watched a DCI show.

I’m enough of a marching band nerd that my first thought was, “Why aren’t they marching on a football field?” There is an answer, one which will become immediately obvious upon watching the video.

For those of you who prefer words to images, here’s OK Go explaining why you can’t embed their videos on your blog via YouTube.

An everything update in one post!

As Stephen posted earlier today: Life! it is busy! We have a wounded hot water heater that we’re dealing with. I have a root canal scheduled for Tuesday. My blood pressure has been crazy high and I’m dealing with that. And in and around all these other things, we’re trying to get Eli’s birthday party plans worked out and still carry on the day to day business of life. I’ve remarked a few times that I have no idea how I’d hold down a full time job what with all the work I do and this is definitely one of the busy times.

But we’ve still had some fun lately. Behold: The nearly six year old spoon boy!

And his crime fighting buddy: Orange Girl!

If that’s not enough to scare the evil pants off of the bad dudes, here is the even scarier formation: Tower of Granades! to get the bad guys attention. Stephen is welding the pickle-pult for full defensive action.

How do I fight crime, you ask? Well, I bore them to death with tales of organizing my office and photos of cross stitch projects. See below!

Here is The Fortunate Traveler as I packed it up this past week. I’m moving on to a new stitching project so I wanted to show off the progress I made over the past four months.

This is the box of thread I worked out of for Traveler. I remember when I organized this box I thought it was the largest project I’d ever undertake. I was so very wrong.

My next project is Starry Night as reproduced by Golden Kite. This is one of my favorite pieces of art and I’ve wanted to work on it for a while. Several companies have done a repro but none of them get it right like Golden Kite. I got the pattern for Christmas.

The box on the left is thread I had to purchase for this project. The box on the right is thread I already had. I also had to purchase another box like the one on the right to hold all the thread.

The second box I purchased holds about 1/3 of the regular colors and then 2/3s of the box is blended colors. What is a blended color? Take two colors, separate the individual six strands of each and them combine one strand out of each two. Makes for a beautiful color set. Starry Night has 88 blended threads. I know, because I’ve numbered the cards for easy reorganization. Getting the thread wound took three separate nights of work.

Previously, I’ve kept track of my blended threads on the symbol card by sticking the needle through the card next to the symbol. It makes for a very messy symbol chart! The needles then fall out and I end up trashing thread because I don’t know what the colors on the needle are. So blending the threads on their own cards before I start stitching is a new method for me. I can already tell it will, at the very least, be neater than my earlier setup.

Fabric! I bought a slightly undersized piece of linen to use. It was 40% off and I decided that if I ever actually got the piece finished it would have to have fabric sewn to it so it could be stretched anyway. I stitched about 30 stitches and realized two things: I needed to stop and pre-blend all the thread AND I desperately needed Aida fabric.

I’ve not used Aida much in the past few years. It’s the fabric you use when you start stitching. It’s heavier, starchier, and even the best quality Aida doesn’t look as good as the lowest quality linen. However, for this project, I realized that it would go much faster if I wasn’t counting holes in the linen to get the stitches right. Also, since the finished piece is solid stitches the fabric wasn’t going to show anyway.

That ruler? Inside the frame in the center of the fabric? It’s seven inches long. That piece of fabric is 36 inches by 31 inches. The finished piece will be 29 1/2 inches wide by 24 inches high.

I got it all stretched on the frame last night and almost, almost got the 30 stitches done I’d made earlier in the week on the linen.

Are you dead yet? A couple of photos of the office since it looks so amazing right now.

The monument to paper! Notice I have labeled all the drawers!

New boxes! New books! New labels! I might be able to actually find things! Crazy talk!

Locations Versus People

It’s another one of those times where we’re buried in stuff to do, so here’s a realization I had a while back: thanks to cell phones, calling someone has changed from calling a location to calling that person specifically. Phones are no longer location-dependent, they’re people dependent. I can’t think of the last time I called a phone and had to say, “Hi, is So-and-so there?”

Is this a good thing?

Everything is Different Now

As usual we spent our Christmas vacation in Arkansas. You may recall that Liza had her first milkshake last year in Arkansas. Her reaction?

Liza, tired yet still drinking on her milkshake

We didn’t go back to the Purple Cow, but we did go to Cheeburger Cheeburger, another retro diner that serves milkshakes. What was Liza’s reaction this year?

Liza still loves milkshakes

At least Eli did different things this year.

Eli in a dog cage

I hope your holiday season was full of exciting new experiences as well!

Daughter of Curse You, Opposable Thumbs

When we first moved Liza from crib to toddler bed, everything went well. In fact, it went amazingly well: she slept through the night, and when she woke up and was ready to come out, she knocked on the wall until we came and let her out.

Then she discovered that she can open the door herself.

We found this out last week, when at 4 in the morning Misty and I woke up to discover Liza standing beside our bed, staring at us like she was auditioning to be one of the Children of the Corn With Optional Pacifier Attachment. She was no longer content to wake up and wallow in her luxurious bed. Now she wanted to be up and active!

Since she and Eli are binary stars, doomed to orbit about each other, she now gets up at 5:30 or so and goes into his room. She wakes him up and they both get in his bed to “sleep” some more, where by “sleep” I mean giggle incessantly. Then they start playing, soon shrieking loudly. Just this week at 6 AM I awoke to Liza’s high-pitched cries of “¡Arriba!” and “¡Abajo!” If the live Dora the Explorer show ever comes to Huntsville, I’m going to buy a ticket just so I can punch Ms. Marquez in her nose.

We’ve got a bunch of those doorknob covers that are supposed to make it hard for toddlers to open doors. Is it wrong to put one on the inside of her door? Because right now I’m thinking I need to correct evolution’s egregious mistake of giving her thumbs.

Finding the Boundaries of Greed

Yesterday on NPR, Robert Siegel spoke to Steven Hall, Managing Director of an executive compensation company, about how the investment banks Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase are giving its employees some $47 billion in bonuses.

SIEGEL: Well, it’s reported that Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have combined, that is, have set aside $47 billion for bonuses. They know how unpopular these bonuses are with the public. Why so much pay in bonuses?

Mr. HALL: Well, first of all, I guess I have difficulty understanding a number like $47 billion. All of those zeros get me a little cock-eyed in terms of thinking about it. The way in which that total number is derived, though, is based on a sharing of the profits that the employees generate for shareholders.

You know, I sometimes help people think about big numbers. Let’s see what we can do with this one. That $47 billion is about $150 for every man, woman, and child in the US, or enough for three weeks’ worth of groceries. Gosh, when you put it like that, it’s peanuts!

Or maybe we should look at it per employee of those three companies. They’ve got some 300,000 people among them, so that works out to be $160,000 per employee, a mere four times the US per capita income in 2008!

Another way of looking at $47 billion is that it’s close to the TARP funds the three banks accepted in the last year or so. Why, no wonder Steven can’t comprehend such a large number!

But he feels the pain of those poor executives who are having to take a lot of their bonus in the form of company stock.

SIEGEL: Well, the banks, evidently, will pay more of the bonuses in stock -that’s obliging some pressure from the government. How much of a difference should it make if somebody who’s getting a million or two in a bonus this month gets it in the form of stock as opposed to cash?

Mr. HALL: Well, I think for some people – were they to get a bonus and if they were expecting the cash in order to be able to live on it, pay schooling for children, pay for that second home, pay other expenses that they have – finding that you’re not going to get the cash could be a little bit of a surprise.

Every once in a while, Misty and I will realize that we’re complaining about problems that 99% of the world’s population would love to have. When we do, we say, “Ohmygosh, my latte is too foamy!” to recognize that we’re being douches and should stop. I think I may replace that phrase with, “How will we pay for our second home?”

Mr. HALL: Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of interesting to think about. And, again, I feel for the problems that are going on here. But if [the banks] decided not to pay a banker as much money, how does that help someone on Main Street?

C’mon, people, what else could they do with that money? It’s not like they could invest it back into small businesses, or offer others the same low rates that the Fed has offered them! It’s either bonuses or they have to put that money in mattresses in all of their offices, and do you know how many mattresses you’d have to buy to stash $47 billion? There’s no other option!

Right, right, I’m being overly frothy. There’s no need for me to start handing out torches and pitchforks, even if I do like my nifty portable pitchtorch — it’s fire plus stabby in one handy package! After all, I’m sure the people involved can see why people are upset —

Mr. HALL: I wish people would understand that it is a very difficult world that we’re all going through right now, and I don’t make the rules. But I do try and report honestly on what I see going on out there.

You know what, never mind. Mr. Hall, I have a pitchtorch right here with your name on it.