Sunday, August 14, 2011

Making the Most of My Last Weekend of Summer

This is the last real weekend of the summer for me. On Tuesday, my kids go back to school thanks to summer-hating grinches that run the school system. I'm looking at my list of things that I was going to get accomplished this summer. Actually, I never actually finished the list, but I did start it. I was going to get some things done this weekend, but I decided I'd watch two Youtube videos first. I think I might have picked the wrong videos.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Standard & Poors ****s America

Last week's stock market mini-crash wiped out all the gains we had made in our 401k plans for the year. Today, Standard & Poors downgraded the United States' credit rating due to inability to meaningfully address the budget deficit through the political process. The stock market has reacted by driving stocks down even further. In other words, S&P screwed you. Of course, this isn't the first time. Incompetence by S&P and the other credit rating companies was a big contributor to the financial meltdown that sucked so much wealth out of the economy and caused the Great Recession in the first place. Robert Kuttner lays into S&P in this Huffington Post editorial:

You have to hand it to Standard and Poor's. Forget their two-trillion dollar math error. The whole idea that these clowns are evaluating the creditworthiness of the United States is just loony.

For starters, these are the same people who brought us the crisis, by blessing junk sub-prime loans as AAA securities. And they did so because they were paid as consultants by the same financial scoundrels who created the securities.

The executives of the credit rating companies -- not "agencies," for these are private, profit-making, essentially unregulated companies, not public entities -- belong in prison.

Robert Kuttner was the keynote speaker in last year's National Consumer Rights Conference. This year the conference will be in Chicago on November 3-6. This is within driving range for over half of the UAWLSP staff attorneys. If you have the opportunity, you should make it a point to attend. I guarantee that you'll learn a lot.

The good news is that the Federal Reserve did not drink from S&P's fountain of Kool-aid and has held down the rates for long-term treasury bonds. If this keeps up, the rating downgrade's affect on the cost of credit for everyday loans might end up being minor or insignificant.

Friday, August 05, 2011

So you think YOU know how to Parallel Park?

Can you park between two cars with just 26cm clearance? (That's a little over 10 inches.) A German fellow named Ronny Wechselberger can do it and is now in the Guinness Book of World Records.

There are actually quite a few awesome parking videos on Youtube. Go ahead, waste your life.

From the Graphene file:
1 Box of Girl Scout Cookies = $15,000,000,000 worth of Graphene

Back in May, I posted that I thought graphene would be the "buzzword of the decade". Here's an example of why I still think that's true: a team of Rice University researchers did a demonstration experiment to see how much graphene they could extract from a single box of Girl Scout cookies. They calculated that, at current prices, they could extract $15 billion worth. That was a number they threw out with a wink and a nod. That's a theoretical quantity times today's market price. In reality when graphene can be practically extracted in such large quantities, the market price will be much, much lower.

Still, I expect that I'll be selling Girl Scout cookies for my daughter again this year, so if you want to be a billionaire, you better buy up.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr. President

Barack Obama turns 50 today. If you count the extra wear and tear of the past week, it's more like 75. Here's a picture of young Barack at Harvard, channeling Marvin Gaye. (Obama picture time/life/getty images)