Wednesday, August 31, 2005

More on the Oil Issue/Hurricane Katrina. This morning the WSJ lead article is about the impact of Katrina on oil and gasoline prices; they are, of course, "sharply higher".

"October crude-oil futures settled at a new nominal record of $69.81 a barrel in Nymex [New York Mercantile Exchange] trading, up $2.61 for the day, or 3.9%"

But note this:

"The record remains the $39.50 barrel price reached in April 1980, equivalent to $95.26 when adjusted for inflation."

Years ago I had a client who lived in a very nice home in the Florida Keys. He had made a good bit of money in real estate out West, and retired to Florida in his early fifties. His view was that hurricanes were great for the Keys. He said it blew away all of the shoddy construction and what was rebuilt was all to the good.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Oil "Crisis". A front page article in the WSJ Monday explains "Why Oil's Surge Hasn't Damped Global Growth." It makes some interesting points.

In contrast with past "oil shocks", this "surge in oil prices stems more from global economic vigor - the strong demand for oil from China and the U.S. - rather than producers' manipulative tightening of supply or fears about Middle East conflicts disrupting supply."

"While oil prices during the surge have hit highs in nominal terms, the peak price in inlfation-adjusted terms would be over $90 in April 1980."

"Oil prices are now $16.50 a barrel above their May levels. Although the U.S. economy in 2004 was more than twice the size it was in 1979, the Energy Department says the nation consumed only 9% more petroleum, primarily because it has become more energy-efficieint."
Amateur Radio Beep Beep. I know, dear reader, you have been thirsting for another post on amateur radio, so here is one on the topic of amateur radio beacons.

As you may recall, one can communicate by radio on certain frequencies with those who live below the horizon. This is because of the ionosphere, layers of ionized atoms that surround the earth. Those atoms are ionized when the UV radiation from the sun hits them, knocking off electrons and creating charged particles. When one transmits a radio-frequency (RF) signal with a given wave-length, that signal will radiate toward the horizon, "bounce" or refract off the ionosphere, and end up on the other side of the horizon. If the part of the ionosphere in question is high enough, then the RF signal will bounce pretty far. After it comes down on the other side of the horizon, the radio signal may bounce off the earth and be sent up into the ionosphere a second time, and so on, all the way around to the other side of the earth or maybe all the way around to where the signal originated. This bouncing and refracting off the ionosphere is called propagation. But you knew that.

Sometimes, though, the sun doesn't do its job and no propagation on a given band is taking place. Its a bit like the weather. (One part of the amateur radio hobby is devoted to keeping track of and forecasting propagation. I know you would like to hear more about that sort of thing, but you will have to wait for another post, unless I get a life in the meanwhile, in which case you will never hear from me again.)

So here I am, turning on my radio, and I hear no one. No signals are coming in. Hhhmm, I might say, the band is "dead" or "down". Propagation is not working. Bad sun, bad, bad sun.

Or maybe not. Maybe everybody else went to the beach. Or maybe everyone else is listening too. How does one know?

Well, there is another part of the hobby, where people set up radio beacons. A beacon is a transmitter, usually run by a computer program, that transmits a signal every so often on a given frequency and gives its call sign or identifying letter/number combination. If you are tuning around and pick up that signal and you know where that transmitter is, then you know that the band is not dead. You know that propagation is working, unless the beacon is located next door and not over the horizon.

The Northern California DX Foundation, with the help of an agency connected with the UN, has set up a network of beacons all around the world. These beacons coordinate their signals and each beacon transmits for, say, 10 seconds, one after another, on the same frequency. So, you tune the receiver to the subject frequency and then listen. It is unlikely that you will hear all the beacons as the signals emanate from around the world. But unless the band is completely dead, you will hear one or more.

For example, recently I tuned to the beacon on 20 meters, a popular amateur radio band. I heard the beacon at the UN in New York, then the beacon in Northern Canada, then the beacon in Hawaii, and then the beacon in Venezuela. During the rest of the cycle, I heard nothing, even though the beacons in other parts of the world were taking their turns.

Furthermore, each beacon in this network does not simply broadcast its call sign, it also follows its call sign with a series of dashes (or "dahs" as we CW operators say). The first dash is broadcast at 100 watts, the second at 10 watts, the third at 1 watt, and the forth at .1 watt. This will give you information not only on whether there is propagation on the band, but also how good it is. I can usually hear at least the first two dashes.

Now isn't that just about the most interesting thing you have learned all day?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Seniors Behaving Badly This morning posts an article about "seniors" living together without benefit of marriage. These people are often widows and widowers or divorcees. The justification for not marrying given by these couples is financial: that one or the other of them (usually the female)will give up pension, health, or alimony benefits, arising from her earlier marriage, if she marries again.

Dad's children certainly approve. Here is someone to take care of the old man, so the kids can go about their own business, and the new soul mate will have none of the marital rights that arise when a couple is wed, either in the event of a break up or in the event of death, so the inheritance is safe.

I say "Dad's children" because in my experience it is often the male who is the older and the more economically powerful. Furthermore, there are relatively fewer of these "free males" in the senior demographic than "free females", so they are in a better bargaining position already. Once again, women are apt to make bad decisions to avoid loneliness or to reclaim something lost and apparently found again.

Just think of the social consequences of this practice. The elders are tossing marriage aside because of short term monetary gain. They don't live in a vacuum but in a kith and kin community that not only spreads out horizontally, but is also two and sometimes three generations deep. What would the elder male's son and daughter-in-law say, when his granddaughter comes home on Spring break wth her boy friend and they want to sleep in her room? "Gee, Mom, don't be such a prude, look at Gramps for heaven's sake!"

Let's see, voices in the homosexual community want to marry, elder voices in the heterosexual community want not to. Say again why Jesus came?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Special Links for Sean. First, there is the addition to our link list, Sean. There it is, see it? Right at the TOP.

And there is this.
Sucker Punched by Katrina. Two hours ago the power came back on. It had been down since Thursday evening about 7:30, after Katrina took a turn to the left, drawing a bead on Miami Springs and other points along a diagonal that cut the county from the NE corner to the SW. Awe and anxiety competed as Thursday night we watched the spectacle out of our unshuttered front windows (which face the north) and the glass doors to our back porch (which face the south and which, unlike the front windows, are specially constructed to be hurricane proof).

As already reported, the eye of the storm passed over us, and gave us about 45 minutes of strange calm. It was still light, and we walked outside. The wind had been blowing from the west when the eye came by. When it left, the wind came barreling in from the east, and seemed to be much stronger and harsher. The word from the weather people on the radio (our Grundig portable with the battery you crank) was that the "backside" of Katrina was where it got nasty. They were right.

But we fared far better than the people S of us, down below Kendall in the Homestead, Redlands, Country Walk area, which suffered so much during Andrew. Instead of wind damage, the problem there was flooding. The forecasters had predicted that Katrina would be a "rain event" rather than a "wind event", but it turned out to be both. Flooding in parts of Dade, and sailboats piled up one on top of the other in Dinner Key and Crandon Park (where I kept my sailboat, when I had one.)

We lost a small tree, and a coconut palm we are growing blew over, which we should be able to prop up. With the fridge down, we lost some food. Carol, however, not one to allow a minute to go by without doing productive work, took the opportunity to clean the fridge - it's definitely "sparkle city" now. Other than the bearable misery of heat and humidity (which reminded me of growing up in Miami Springs, before central air, heck, before wall units at our socio-economic level). I actually enjoyed sleeping with the windows open, a little breeze, no top sheet, short PJs. Just the way it was, once upon a time. Carol did not see the charm in it.

Lesson learned, though. When the hurricane warnings go up, then we will batten down, regardless of where we think its going, regardless of the "category".

As to the Voice of Miami Springs, I did not get on the air. I had the means to do so, with my 5 watt CW transceiver and a lead-acid battery. But didn't. Next time, maybe.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Update
I spoke with both mom and dad earlier today. Apparently things were a little worse with the storm than the parents predicted--but all is well. The eye passed right over 1190 Dove and the surrounding winds took out a small tree and quite a few large branches and that antenna dad left on the roof (but I think it's ok). The folks are without power, so everything in the freezer is thawing (quick! eat those bananas!) and so Paul Stokes is temporarily disconnected from the online world. The question remains: what sort of ham capabilities does he have without electricity?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I will not settle.
Here's a picture of our living on Brookstown now featuring Macon and Kellsey's old furniture, which I bought from them before they moved to Texas. As you can see, it looks quite nice in the new place, and I am very happy to have it. Owning this furniture has been a bit wearing on my young soul, however, which is apparently not ready to become encumbered by living room sets and other worldly possesions. What if I want to pick up and move accross the country or the ocean next year? What will I do with all this stuff? Perhaps you'll see this picture on e-bay at some point.
Hurricane Katrina: Going Bare on Dove Avenue. 5:30 PM EDST I guess its just hurricane fatigue, but for the first time in 20 years we decided not to "board up" and are going through this hurricane without bringing the lawn furniture inside, putting up the shutters, parking the cars up close to the house. The wind is whipping the trees outside, and there it is for us to behold in all its splendor. (In times past, all the windows and doors were covered with the aluminum panels we keep stored in the garage until these storms approach.)

The only concession I made to this one was to go up on the roof and lower the telescoping mast down into itself, so it sticks up 10 feet instead of thirty. It is guyed to edge of the roof.

When the wind blows just the right way, the front door, when not shuttered, will make a noise when a gust hits it. Its a little like someone knocking. Not only is that happening, but the door from the garage to the living room is making that noise, which is strange. The garage door is not an outside door. Its into the garage.

We are fatigued and/or blase because this is a Category 1 storm, and it was supposed to go in at the Broward/Palm Beach County line. Well, it is not doing that; it is going into Downtown Ft. Lauderdale, which is about 10 miles closer to us. The radar shows us in the midst of the lower hemisphere. We are getting right now gusts that I would say reach about 45 mph. They should increase for the next few hours. But still a Category 1, and on the lower end of that category.
Forbes 09/05/2005 Issue. I have been reading this magazine for 20+ years, and recommend it. Here is a run-down of what I thought was particularly good in this issue.

1. China Syndrome. About Michael Allen, who invests in China and describes his ups and downs with selling hi-fi equipment into the US market from factories he and a group built in China. This article is on Forbes' website.

2. Chemistry Lesson. About Jurgen Hambrecht and BASF, the German chemical company. You have probably seen BASF's commercials on TV and asked, "What is the point of these commercials". Now we know. I read Forbes for some guidance on stocks to invest in. (You now know why I am so wealthy, have my own jet, and only come to work to blog.) I may buy some BASF.

3. B-Schools - Part Time Fever. A timely article in light of Walter's interest in going to B-School. The thesis of this article is that it makes more sense for many young people to go to B-School part time and to continue to work because of the opportunity costs of going full time. Lists the "Top Part-Time Business Schools", and well as the Top U.S. Business Schools. Interesting description of someone who did distance learning at Chicago from Redmond, Washington. See also the article on China "putting the squeeze on US business schools" with its own B-Schools; includes a list of "The Top Foreign Business Schools."

Also articles about coffee futures, the tech future of India, and a counselor who helps CEO's deal with their "inner jerk"(Sounds like a good idea for lawyers and judges).
Justin Cleared! I knew it couldn't be true. This is so refreshing!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson. What an embarrassment.

He should stick to hurricanes.
No Death Penalty for Rudolph. A Georgia court sentenced the man who set the bomb during the Atlanta Olympics, killing an innocent and wounding others, later hid in the NC mountains and was finally captured. He received life imprisonment. Unlike the case with Kansas and the BTK killer, Georgia has a death penalty. A report in the New York Times states:

Prosecutors had agreed not to seek the death penalty if Mr. Rudolph pleaded guilty and revealed the whereabouts of about 250 pounds of dynamite he had cached in the North Carolina woods.

In July, Rudolph made a deal with prosecutors in Birmingham and avoided the death penalty there for killing an off duty police officer with a bomb.

Is Rudolph less culpable than Rader, the BTK killer? As demented as Rader seems and as horrible as his crimes were, one has to question whether morally there is any difference between him and a bomber who is likely to kill just about anyone who may be walking by. One crime is quite personal and focused, the other cruelly unconcerned about who the victim might be. To borrow a phrase from a former governor of Alabama, I don't think there is a dime's worth of difference between either crime.

Rudolph portrayed himself as a devout Christian, according to one report, interested in fighting abortion.

But, according to the NYT article:

[P]rosecutors took exception to his contention that the Olympics bombing was a protest of legalized abortion. David E. Nahmias, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said that investigators had spoken to almost everyone who had ever known Mr. Rudolph and he had not mentioned abortion. "He was full of openly expressed hatred for the federal government, law enforcement, African-Americans, Jews, Hollywood, there's a whole list of things," Mr. Nahmias said. "The one thing that there was virtually no evidence of is that he had expressed an opinion on abortion."

Some Christian.
What's Wrong with Starbucks? New drug developed to counter the effects of sleep deprivation. And at Wake-Forest to boot.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Where's the Shame? Paris dumps Tinkerbell.
Michael Yon: Online Magazine
Credit Instapundit for putting me onto this blog. Michael Yon is embedded with an Army unit in Mosul, Iraq. His dispatches are quite good and offer a fascinating account of what is happening.

Just thought I'd pass this link on (I know, I know. I ended a sentence with a preposition.).

Friday, August 19, 2005

No Death Penalty for the BTK Killer? As I read last week about the sentencing hearing for Dennis Rader, the BTK murderer, I was interested to see life sentences and not death penalties. I checked on that and found that last year the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional.

I found reading the reports on the sentencing hearing painful, because they went into some detail on who and how he killed. Frankly, I could not complete reading those articles. If there ever were a case for imposing the death penalty, this would be it, whatever your views might be on that sort of sentence.

In light of this case, it does not bode well for the "independent judiciary" that the lack of a death penalty in Kansas arises from judicial action and not legislative action. I have seen no mention in the MSM of this issue, that the BTK judge could not impose the death penalty because of what the state's supreme court earlier held, and I am waiting to see the issue mentioned elsewhere. Perhaps I missed it. In any event, it adds fuel to the fire that is beginning to break out about how insulated judges are from the reach of the democratic process.

Let it rage.

Update and Correction: No death penalty applied in the BTK case because the crimes occurred prior to Kansas' 1994 death penalty law. It was the 1994 law that the state's supreme court held unconsitutional last year. The Kansas death penalty law prior to 1994, enacted in the 1970s, had been held unconsitutional under the US Supreme Court's decision in Furman va. Georgia. See a history of Kansas' death penalty laws here. The Furman case dealt with a Georgia death penalty case, but it overturned the death penalty statutes of every other state in the union. So there was no death penalty for murder in Kansas at the time of the BTK murders. We cannot know whether that made any difference to Rader as he dealt with his victims or contemplated whether to commit his crimes in the first place.

By the way, accorinding to at least one report, Rader was a church going Lutheran.
Andy Stanley. A friend of mine gave me a sermon tape of this young, Atlanta minister the other day. He preaches about "being good enough" to get to heaven. It was aimed at the younger generation, and was well done. You can listen to this minister at the North Point Community Church website. The website has a bookstore that sells sermon collections and single sermons. My friend particularly likes a series on the Ten Commandments. But this single sermon looks interesting. If you would like to borrow the tape my friend loaned me, I am sure he would be happy for me to send it to you (although I will check with him first.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The 100 People. Bernard Goldberg's book about misbehaving people is a best seller. Here is the list

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Good Questions - Part II
Reading the WSJ today, I came across this editorial (for subscribers) that is along the same lines as Macon's post below, primarily regarding the (lack of) support for women's rights in Iraq (and, oddly enough, in Canada, according to the editorial).

"It seems strange to associate the context of Canada with that of Iraq, but a closer look at the arguments used to reassure the demonstrating women in both countries reveals the similar ordeals that Muslim women in both countries must go through to secure their rights. It shows how their legitimate and serious worries are trivialized, and how vulnerable and alone they are. It shows how the Free World led by the U.S. went to war in Iraq, allegedly to bring liberty to Iraqis, and is compromising the basic rights of women in order to meet a random date. It shows how the theory of multiculturalism in Western liberal democracies is working against women in ethnic and religious minorities with misogynist practices. It shows the tenacity of many imams, mullahs and self-made Muslim radicals to subjugate women in the name of God. Most of all, it shows how many of those who consider themselves liberal or left-wing see their energy levels rise when it comes to Bush-bashing, but lose their voice when women's rights are threatened by religious obscurantism."

It's far too easy to point the hypocritical finger at the multicultural Western liberal, but what about the Church? What role should it play?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Dressing for Success.

This article in the NYT is well worth the read.

Admittedly, Ben Stein, the writer, is a lawyer who lives in New York City, but I think he has a point that applies in Miami, Austin, Charlotte, Dallas, Columbia, whereever. Young men in the business world need to dress like grown-ups.

One thing I like about Austin is that it is a liberterian place as far as style is concerned. So it should be OK to depart from the open-shirt, shorts - dungaree wardrobe approach. Some young men I know clean up really well.

I would extend this idea to hair cuts. Look around for a good hair cutter, either a barber or someone in a beauty salon. Keep looking till you find the right person. Spend the money on a good cut, and spend the money at last twice a month.

Try this out with the next mall bureaucrat you have to deal with.
Semper Fi!

"The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank GOD for the United States Marine Corps."

-- [Atrributed to] Eleanor Roosevelt, 1945

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Amplifier! Into the Breech!!

Regarding the deluge of treasonous "war" movies coming out this fall from Hollywood, Jason Apuzzo writes:

"At some point, conservatives need to raise capital, pick up cameras and start making movies of their own - much like Mel Gibson did with "The Passion". And conservatives need to do this not simply to 'rebut' the other side, but to add depth and imagination to what has become a wasteland of popular entertainment."

Apuzzo's article at describes what we will be seeing in theaters this fall. Its not going to be pretty.

As for me and my house, we will take names, studios, producers, directors, and actors, and they will not see a cent of our money.
George Carlin on Martha Stewart

"Boy I feel a lot safer now that she is behind bars. O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant are still walking around. So is Osama bin Laden. But the law takes one woman in America, who is willing to cook, clean and work in the yard, and haul her off to jail!"

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Good Questions
I've been wondering these things for a while and, as usually happens, I waited long enough for someone else to crystalize them and write them out. Today, that someone is Christopher Hitchens on
The United States is awash in human rights groups, feminist organizations, ecological foundations, and committees for the rights of minorities. How come there is not a huge voluntary effort to help and to publicize the efforts to find the hundreds of thousands of "missing" Iraqis, to support Iraqi women's battle against fundamentalists, to assist in the recuperation of the marsh Arab wetlands, and to underwrite the struggle of the Kurds, the largest stateless people in the Middle East? Is Abu Ghraib really the only subject that interests our humanitarians? . . . . Isn't there a single drop of solidarity and compassion left over for the people of Iraq, after three decades of tyranny, war, and sanctions and now an assault from the vilest movement on the face of the planet? Unless someone gives me a persuasive reason to think otherwise, my provisional conclusion is that the human rights and charitable "communities" have taken a pass on Iraq for political reasons that are not very creditable. And so we watch with detached curiosity, from dry land, to see whether the Iraqis will sink or swim. For shame.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Alpha and Beta.

"In the rarefied atmosphere of academic investment finance literature, alpha and beta define the two components of investment returns. In simple terms, beta measures market return such as that incurred from passive (index) investing. Alpha measures the value added (or subtracted) accruing from investor skill. Positive alpha is return generated in excess of a specific benchmark without taking more risk than the benchmark.

"For investors, finding managers who consistently can produce alpha is like the search for the Holy Grail . . .

"One benefit of alpha is that it is not highly correlated with beta."

"Even if the speculator ultimately makes money, they may not "win" in the context that they took on more risk than they should have to obtain the return."

From the August 2005 edition of Investment Update, a publication of Mellon Bank.

I have been reading this investment piece for many years. (I receive many of them each month from various banks, investment and brokerage houses.) Its author, H. Vernon Winters, is simply excellent. Lately, I see that he has been joined by a co-author, Christopher Sheldon, so Mr. Winters must be looking a retirement somewhere in the future. When that happens, it will be a pity for us laymen.
Guess which country.

"[A] full blown Islamist insurgency, sustained by thousands of young Muslim men with military training now resident in this country."

Answer here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The NCAA at Work.

This just in.

The NCAA has advised that any college basketball team that would otherwise qualify for the March Madness tournament will be disqualified if it is uses a religiously sensitive mascot. The NCAA is responding to pressure from the American Society of Witches and Sorcerers , Inc., out of someplace near Chapel Hill and a Kansas based Santeria sect.
Air America, the New York Times, and the Bronx Boys & Girls Club. Air America is the radio network that leftists put together to combat the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world. The Arizona Republic reports that one of Air America's supporters who was the development officer of the Bronx Boys and Girls Club arranged a $400,000 loan from the club to Air America, as well as a loan for himself. The scandal within this scandal is that the New York Times has not reported a word about it, according to the article in the Arizona newspaper.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"About a Boy". Viewed this with Carol, Walter, and Morgan this weekend. Its been out a few years, but I had not seen it. We see several people "get saved" in this movie. The entire Gospel is laid out here, or so it seems to me. Am I so buried in Christianity that I see it where it isn't? Is the director a stealth Christian? Is common grace at work?

The agent of salvation, the Christ figure, is a little boy, who is persecuted and then finally virtually "crucified" by his classmates during a talent show in an act of love for his mother, a sad single mom so miserable and self-involved that she attemps suicide earlier in the movie and doesn't deserve his sacrifice a bit. The little boy is very strong, single minded, and focused. You consider the aged hippie he has for a mother and the absence of an earthly father, and you have to ask just where did the boy come from?

The most interesting figure is High Grant's "Everyman". Selfish, but brutally honest with himself. The movie opens with him knowing exactly who he is, a "no one", a state in which he is apparently satisfied and whose main activity is "shagging" women. That is, until he meets "the boy", joins him in the vitual cruxifiction ("I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me . . .") and thereafter is able to connect with the beautiful, Madonna-like single mom with whom he had earlier started to fall in love but from whom he had turned away convinced of unworthiness.

It ends with a supper on Christmas Eve among a community full of hitherto broken people from broken relationships, people now in community, in a sort of church, enjoying one another, and bursting with promise.
Way Far. Couldn't sleep last night, so I got up around midnight and got on 20 meters. Worked Vlado in Belgrade, whose call sign is YU1RN.
Credit Reports: The Federal Trade Commission now allows us to obtain free credit reports once every 12 months. Click here to order yours. Florida and Texas residents can get theirs now. Alas, us NC residents must wait until Sept 1.

This is not a "teaser" link to some credit monitoring service, but if you like, you can send me $19.95/month for the rest of your life. Or you can sponsor me in my efforts to raise money for the Barnabas Center, which is a Christ-centered counseling center here in Charlotte. Your tax-deductible gift allows them to offer a sliding fee scale for services so that no one is denied access to the professional counseling they need. Click here for more info.