Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bailout deal apparently reached

You know how the Democrats are the evil party and the Republicans are the stupid party? How when they come together and do something both evil and stupid its called bipartisanship?

Here goes: Deal reached on financial markets bailout From the Detroit News:
Congressional leaders and the Bush administration reached a tentative deal early Sunday on a landmark bailout of imperiled financial markets whose collapse could plunge the nation into a deep recession.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the $700 billion accord just after midnight but said it still has to be put on paper.

"We've still got more to do to finalize it, but I think we're there," said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who also participated in the negotiations in the Capitol.
The report is very short on details and hopefully we'll find more about what we've just had done to us shortly (likely too late to do anything about it), but for now hang on its going to be an interesting ride.

Housing crunch causes and bailout follies

Speaking of crashing like the housing market, here's a decent video as to one of the causes of the current mess.

The cause outlined in the video -- the Democrats revamping of the CRA and pushing banks to lend to those who could not really afford home loans in the first place is not the only reason, but it does seem to be the spark that began the fire. Once the CRA and government led housing boom started, then coupled with the irrational belief that houses would always go up dramatically in value encouraging both quick flips and people buying homes they couldn't afford hoping the increase in value would let them refinance and have massive equity growth, we got to where we are today.

Once this irrational belief was fixed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac encouraged ARMs and 100% loans to get more people owning houses causing values to rise as demand went up. Investment bankers went along, coupling this with quick sales of loans and then repackaging them into securities that were sold to others and it got worse from there as they then leveraged these securities beyond any rational limit.

In short, the government and high-finance wizards played with our money, got rich on bonuses (or campaign contributions and sweetheart loans in the case of the politicians), and we're left to clean up the mess. Sorry but the bailout is ridiculous in its current form, and even more ridiculous that Frank and Senator Dodd (both recipients of Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac largess and proponents of the policies that caused this mess)are inserting into the bill that 20% of the returns from the bailout does not go back to the taxpayers (or even the government) but to housing advocates such as ACORN - you know the people who helped start this mess in the first place. Nice.

More fun with Vista

This computer is crashing like the housing market -- with no bailout in sight. Everytime Windows does an automatic update, on the next shutdown and startup it fails to boot, requiring a hard turnoff then it starts windows repair and then works.

In search of a remedy I contacted HP technical support. After describing the issue here was their "brilliant" solution -- turn off windows automatic updates.

Anyone see the problem with this "solution"? While it will stop the system from crashing on a weekly basis, now if I manually update I expect it to crash again.. its not a solution but a problem avoidance technique.

I beginning to think the problem is Windows Defender update as that seems to be what was updated yesterday before the system crashed again. Anyone know if Defender updates are known for this problem?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fun looking back on finances

Its always interesting to look at the financial prognostications of yesteryear in light of the present.

Take Start Late Finish Rich for example. Itsa a good book and I'm reading it now. Written in 2004 it was a darn good book for the time, full of good advice in lots of ways some of which still hold true, such as not being wasteful in your spending, money management, general targets in terms of how much to save, the importance of tax sheltered retirement accounts, but wow, some of the info:

Such as: the investment return projections are based on 10% annual returns from the stock market - good luck with that. We haven't seen that kind of return in a long time. He also fails to point out that when you have a 50% loss in the market for example, you need a 100% growth to just get back to where you started from.

The real estate advice was great pre-crash but he sure didn't anticipate this mess. His book is full of 0 down mortgages, buying houses for flippage etc. Ie buy it and watch the ridiculous amount of appreciation make you wealthy. The problem is that kind appreciation was anomalous - great if you were doing it then and got out, but otherwise once the music stops you're in trouble. Combine this with banks and mortgagees all doing the same approach on this belief of unsustainable returns as normal, couple it with a little regulatory capture from Freddie Mac and Fannie May and you get the mess we're in now.

Its a good read but the current state of the market and real estate fracas just made large chunks of the book historical curiosities.

The wild vistas of Vista

So after 8 years of my home computer I decide its time to upgrade. The olde computer was built by Scott Reschke of Frag Center (If you're ever in East Lansing and like to play computer games his place is the place to go). It gave great service but lately is developing an atittude and it is getting slow.

Unfortunately he's not building custom machines anymore and he gave me a few suggestions as to what to get.

I end up purchasing an HP Pavilion, AMD Athlon dual core with 4gb ram, 500 GB hard drive and a monitor that came with the package that is ridiculously big in size. Looks nice. It also comes with Vista 64 Home Premium on board. So far so good.

Plug it in and go, and we start having problems:

1. Adobe flash player if installed as a plugin to Firefox 3.0.1, or even downloaded direct from Adobe's website and then installed crashes Vista completely - we're talking the black screen of death, Vista repair runs and removes it and the computer restarts. This was not a fluke as I tried it multiple times and same result each time - install flash player and the computer gets it. Interestingly, and weirdly enough, flash player exists and works just fine in IE with no ill effects and it is not removed in the repair. Since I really like Firefox, this is a major annoyance.

2. Thunderbird - Vista seems to pluck Thunderbird's feathers, I install it, copy over the mail, and it looks like its working, after some tweaking. I then upgrade Thunderbird from 0.7.2 to the latest version and it stops working cold. Still have not resolved this one and my mail archive is stuck in it, which is not good.

3. Vista 64 is not backward compatible with a lot of my programs - my old, paid off, lovingly functional Photoshop 7 and Premiere 6.5 will not work so I'm going to eventually have to buy replacements for what was some darn nice and comfy software, and I hesitate to try and install my old reliable Microsoft Office 2000.
Thankfully Canon is on the ball and their camera software has an upgrade you can download as the software that comes with the SD1000 flips out on Vista 64, so that critical bit works for the pictures at least.

4. Every so often Vista does an automatic update of some Microsoft Vista or related product in the background and without notice, the machine restarts and bamn - back to the black screen of death with a required manual shutdown, windows repair and it sometimes repairs it and sometimes it takes everything short of lethal force to get it back to rights. I can find no log entries of these errors so it is a pain to track down what is causing it. In short this operating system is way less stable that XP and that is simply unacceptable and aggravating.

On the upside:

A. It is much, much faster than my old machine. I can actually multitask without slowing everything to a crawl. Working with video I've shot is a lot quicker. There is a real speed difference and it seems to handle memory leacks much better.

B. Installation of hardware is real nice, great ability to pull drivers, my Suunto Vyper Dive computer USB cable was recognized no problem, which is a huge improvement over the install process for it in XP. Wireless setup is a snap, adding peripherals like the camera, USB Hard drive is similarly easy etc, they've clearly improved the driver architecture.

C. Most of my applications and data transferred over with no issues.

So its a toss up. The lack of stability is the real killer though and certainly adds to the discomfort level as you never know for sure that when you turn it off you can get it back on again. If it was stable with a few issues is one thing, the instability however is not giving me warm feelings toward Vista 64.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Democrats Panicking over Palin

McCain made an inspired choice when he selected Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate.

In one fell swoop he energized Republicans and made them excited about the campaign, after being unenthusiastic having McCain the ultra-moderate in charge. He not only succeeded in exciting Republicans and naming a very capable first woman as the first vice presidential candidate of the two major parties, but he also was able to have the Democrats collectively and figuratively wet their pants in panic.

An erudite, capable, conservative and Republican woman? suddenly Barack's "safe" and uninspired choice of business-as-democrat-usual Joe Biden lost its appeal and any gains Biden brought to the ticket were well and truly blasted away. Democrats see the race, which is by any reasoned analysis theirs to lose, beginnning to well, lose.

This of course brought out a series of quite nasty attacks on Palin.

One of the stranger attacks was brought by Michigan Governor Granholm's husband Dan Mulhern after stating "This girl is going to go through a lot and does she know what she's putting her family through". -- The old women with kids should stay at home canard -- brought to you by a Democrat no less. And not just any Democrat -- as noted by Michigan Republican chair Saul Anuzis "One wonders if Dan Mulhern forgot the fact that he's only got a job because he's married to the governor, who also happens to be a working mom," Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis said. Oops. Its funny that it is the Republicans that are "breaking the glass ceiling" so to speak and the Dems, the self-proclaimed party of feminism that is coming forth with all the old chauvinist remarks.

For a darn good analysis of the reasons why the Dems are losing it over Palin. See this article by Victor Davis Hanson (who not only is a great commentator but is a fantastic classical historian -- if you like ancient history his books are must-read material) -- Works and Days: Target Palin.

This election just got interesting.

Friday, September 05, 2008

How em-Bear-rasing!

It must suck to be a pot-grower, especially in this situation. You put all that time into developing a major pot growing operation and a Black bear chases you away. Dude . . . . . (Must have been a Boulder U student pot growing operation):
Black bear busts secret Utah pot farm
Investigators say a large black bear raided a clandestine marijuana growing operation so often that it chased the grower away.
Deputies found food containers ripped apart and strewn everywhere, cans with bear teeth marks, claw marks and bear prints across the Garfield County camp on Tuesday.

...the operation on Boulder Mountain included 4,000 "starter" sacks of pot and 888 young plants.

"This particular bear apparently was not going to give up and basically chased these marijuana farmers away," (Sheriff) Perkins said. "Our county is so tough on drugs that even the wildlife are getting in on the action."

Apparently that Bear now has a serious case of the munchies....

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Saturday - Wreck Dives

On Saturday we awoke at 4:30 and piled in the car and were on the road by 5.

After stopping at an open diner in a small town on the way for a filling breakfast we drove into port Sanilac and the marina nice an early .

Once again we went with Rec and Tec Dive Charters - simply the best.

We first dove the North Star. A steel steamship that was 300' long. It was built in 1888 in Cleveland, OH. The ship is in two pieces but lies in an upright position. The pilot house is intact. The wreck is located about 5.5 miles SE of Port Sanilac and 10 miles NE of Lexington. The ship sank in 1908, after a collision with its sister ship the Northern Queen.

Visibility was bad, about 10 feet or so for this dive and my camera does not yet have external strobes so the pictures did not come out well at all.

Lagniappe's Keeper had a little issue and we had to break the dive off early and get back to the boat. A nice wreck and I hope to return again when there is better visibility to truly appreciate its enormity.

After a surface interval we went to the Regina. I had first dove the Regina earlier in the year.

This time we had company on the wreck -

Quite a few other dive boats came by to dive the wreck and after our surface interval we headed on down.

The visibility was considerably worse than it was back in May, again about 10-20 feet or so. There was also a nice current flowing from the stern towards the bow so getting back to the boat anchored on the stern (by the rudder for you non-nautical types out there) after the dive took a bit of work.

The dive however was worth it.

Here's Lagniappe's Keeper by the wondefully huge propellor and rudder of the ship.

Here he is right above the rudder -

A porthole by the stern -

We also checked out the huge smokestack lying beside the ship and peeered into the great crack in the ship's hull.

Here I am hanging out -

After making our way kicking back to the stern thought the very visible current (particles in the water were really flying by, sadly opposite to the direction we wanted to go) we did our nice slow ascent and returned on board without incident. A great way to end the day.

Simply an excellent couple of wreck dives,Rec and Tec has never disappointed yet. On the charter we met some very nice divers from the Ford Sea Lancers Dive Club that had the other 8 of ten spots on this trip. A good bunch of divers to be in the water alongside with.

Then the long trip back to my house for a festive BBQ with the family and folks.

Labor Day Weekend Friday

Took off work early as Lagniappe's Keeper came into town from far off West Virginia.

This meant it would be a weekend of shooting, diving, drinking and general catching up.

Lagniappe's Keeper brought his toys with him:

Yes we got to shoot the 1919, and there was much rejoicing, as well as bullets whizzing downrange and copious gunsmoke. His malfunctioning dehumidifier suffered the wrath of 30-06. At the range someone had thoughtfully left some kevlar armor panels, and they impressively actually did hold up against machinegun fire quite nicely from about a hundred yards away --- for awhile -- which was quite impressive. Eventually however it succumbed and will plague him no more, indeed the dehumidifier ended up well air conditioned.

I had my Uzi and took my new CMMG AR15 with my new Meprolight reflex sight out for the first time. The Meprolight reflex is simply amazing. It is Israeli designed, and it shows. All you do is put the dot on the target and it is hit. Quick target acquisition, excellent accuracy and my first serious optic -- Highly recommended.

Lagniappe's keeper also brough this new #5 MK1 Jungle Carbine, which was lots of fun to shoot and proved to be a nice handy accurate rifle firing the powerful 303 British cartridge.

Of course all that shooting meant a lot of cleaning so once home we cleaned the rifles well, while sipping upon adult beverages and watching Season 1 of Burn Notice - a real good show.

Lots of fun and then we prepped for the wreck dives set for Saturday.